Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
By Baroness Orczy
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
CHAPTER I PARIS: SEPTEMBER, 1792
A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in
name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures,
animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate. The
hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade,
at the very spot where, a decade later, a proud tyrant raised an undying
monument to the nation's glory and his own vanity.
During the greater part of the day the guillotine had been kept busy at
its ghastly work: all that France had boasted of in the past centuries,
of ancient names, and blue blood, had paid toll to her desire for
liberty and for fraternity. The carnage had only ceased at this late
hour of the day because there were other more interesting sights for
the people to witness, a little while before the final closing of the
barricades for the night.
And so the crowd rushed away from the Place de la Greve and made for the
various barricades in order to watch this interesting and amusing sight.
It was to be seen every day, for those aristos were such fools! They
were traitors to the people of course, all of them, men, women, and
children, who happened to be descendants of the great men who since the
Crusades had made the glory of France: her old NOBLESSE. Their ancestors
had oppressed the people, had crushed them under the scarlet heels of
their dainty buckled shoes, and now the people had become the rulers
of France and crushed their former masters--not beneath their heel, for
they went shoeless mostly in these days--but a more effectual weight,
the knife of the guillotine.
And daily, hourly, the hideous instrument of torture claimed its many
victims--old men, young women, tiny children until the day when it would
finally demand the head of a King and of a beautiful young Queen.
But this was as it should be: were not the people now the rulers of
France? Every aristocrat was a traitor, as his ancestors had been before
him: for two hundred years now the people had sweated, and toiled,
and starved, to keep a lustful court in lavish extravagance; now the
descendants of those who had helped to make those courts brilliant
had to hide for their lives--to fly, if they wished to avoid the tardy
vengeance of the people.
And they did try to hide, and tried to fly: that was just the fun of
the whole thing. Every afternoon before the gates closed and the market
carts went out in procession by the various barricades, some fool of
an aristo endeavoured to evade the clutches of the Committee of Public
Safety. In various disguises, under various pretexts, they tried to slip
through the barriers, which were so well guarded by citizen soldiers
of the Republic. Men in women's clothes, women in male attire, children
disguised in beggars' rags: there were some of all sorts: CI-DEVANT
counts, marquises, even dukes, who wanted to fly from France, reach
England or some other equally accursed country, and there try to rouse
foreign feelings against the glorious Revolution, or to raise an army
in order to liberate the wretched prisoners in the Temple, who had once
called themselves sovereigns of France.
But they were nearly always caught at the barricades, Sergeant Bibot
especially at the West Gate had a wonderful nose for scenting an aristo
in the most perfect disguise. Then, of course, the fun began. Bibot
would look at his prey as a cat looks upon the mouse, play with him,
sometimes for quite a quarter of an hour, pretend to be hoodwinked by
the disguise, by the wigs and other bits of theatrical make-up which hid
the identity of a CI-DEVANT noble marquise or count.
Oh! Bibot had a keen sense of humour, and it was well worth hanging
round that West Barricade, in order to see him catch an aristo in the
very act of trying to flee from the vengeance of the people.
Sometimes Bibot would let his prey actually out by the gates, allowing
him to think for the space of two minutes at least that he really
had escaped out of Paris, and might even manage to reach the coast of
England in safety, but Bibot would let the unfortunate wretch walk about
ten metres towards the open country, then he would send two men after
him and bring him back, stripped of his disguise.
Oh! that was extremely funny, for as often as not the fugitive would
prove to be a woman, some proud marchioness, who looked terribly comical
when she found herself in Bibot's clutches after all, and knew that
a summary trial would await her the next day and after that, the fond
embrace of Madame la Guillotine.
No wonder that on this fine afternoon in September the crowd round
Bibot's gate was eager and excited. The lust of blood grows with its
satisfaction, there is no satiety: the crowd had seen a hundred noble
heads fall beneath the guillotine to-day, it wanted to make sure that it
would see another hundred fall on the morrow.
Bibot was sitting on an overturned and empty cask close by the gate
of the barricade; a small detachment of citoyen soldiers was under his
command. The work had been very hot lately. Those cursed aristos were
becoming terrified and tried their hardest to slip out of Paris: men,
women and children, whose ancestors, even in remote ages, had served
those traitorous Bourbons, were all traitors themselves and right
food for the guillotine. Every day Bibot had had the satisfaction of
unmasking some fugitive royalists and sending them back to be tried
by the Committee of Public Safety, presided over by that good patriot,
Robespierre and Danton both had commended Bibot for his zeal and Bibot
was proud of the fact that he on his own initiative had sent at least
fifty aristos to the guillotine.
But to-day all the sergeants in command at the various barricades
had had special orders. Recently a very great number of aristos had
succeeded in escaping out of France and in reaching England safely.
There were curious rumours about these escapes; they had become very
frequent and singularly daring; the people's minds were becoming
strangely excited about it all. Sergeant Grospierre had been sent to
the guillotine for allowing a whole family of aristos to slip out of the
North Gate under his very nose.
It was asserted that these escapes were organised by a band of
Englishmen, whose daring seemed to be unparalleled, and who, from sheer
desire to meddle in what did not concern them, spent their spare time in
snatching away lawful victims destined for Madame la Guillotine. These
rumours soon grew in extravagance; there was no doubt that this band of
meddlesome Englishmen did exist; moreover, they seemed to be under
the leadership of a man whose pluck and audacity were almost fabulous.
Strange stories were afloat of how he and those aristos whom he rescued
became suddenly invisible as they reached the barricades and escaped out
of the gates by sheer supernatural agency.
No one had seen these mysterious Englishmen; as for their leader, he
was never spoken of, save with a superstitious shudder. Citoyen
Foucquier-Tinville would in the course of the day receive a scrap of
paper from some mysterious source; sometimes he would find it in the
pocket of his coat, at others it would be handed to him by someone in
the crowd, whilst he was on his way to the sitting of the Committee of
Public Safety. The paper always contained a brief notice that the band
of meddlesome Englishmen were at work, and it was always signed with a
device drawn in red--a little star-shaped flower, which we in England
call the Scarlet Pimpernel. Within a few hours of the receipt of this
impudent notice, the citoyens of the Committee of Public Safety would
hear that so many royalists and aristocrats had succeeded in reaching
the coast, and were on their way to England and safety.
The guards at the gates had been doubled, the sergeants in command had
been threatened with death, whilst liberal rewards were offered for the
capture of these daring and impudent Englishmen. There was a sum of five
thousand francs promised to the man who laid hands on the mysterious and
elusive Scarlet Pimpernel.
Everyone felt that Bibot would be that man, and Bibot allowed that
belief to take firm root in everybody's mind; and so, day after day,
people came to watch him at the West Gate, so as to be present when he
laid hands on any fugitive aristo who perhaps might be accompanied by
that mysterious Englishman.
"Bah!" he said to his trusted corporal, "Citoyen Grospierre was a fool!
Had it been me now, at that North Gate last week . . ."
Citoyen Bibot spat on the ground to express his contempt for his
"How did it happen, citoyen?" asked the corporal.
"Grospierre was at the gate, keeping good watch," began Bibot,
pompously, as the crowd closed in round him, listening eagerly to his
narrative. "We've all heard of this meddlesome Englishman, this accursed
Scarlet Pimpernel. He won't get through MY gate, MORBLEU! unless he
be the devil himself. But Grospierre was a fool. The market carts were
going through the gates; there was one laden with casks, and driven by
an old man, with a boy beside him. Grospierre was a bit drunk, but he
thought himself very clever; he looked into the casks--most of them, at
least--and saw they were empty, and let the cart go through."
A murmur of wrath and contempt went round the group of ill-clad
wretches, who crowded round Citoyen Bibot.
"Half an hour later," continued the sergeant, "up comes a captain of
the guard with a squad of some dozen soldiers with him. 'Has a cart gone
through?' he asks of Grospierre, breathlessly. 'Yes,' says Grospierre,
'not half an hour ago.' 'And you have let them escape,' shouts the
captain furiously. 'You'll go to the guillotine for this, citoyen
sergeant! that cart held concealed the CI-DEVANT Duc de Chalis and all
his family!' 'What!' thunders Grospierre, aghast. 'Aye! and the driver
was none other than that cursed Englishman, the Scarlet Pimpernel.'"
A howl of execration greeted this tale. Citoyen Grospierre had paid for
his blunder on the guillotine, but what a fool! oh! what a fool!
Bibot was laughing so much at his own tale that it was some time before
he could continue.
"'After them, my men,' shouts the captain," he said after a while,
"'remember the reward; after them, they cannot have gone far!' And with
that he rushes through the gate followed by his dozen soldiers."
"But it was too late!" shouted the crowd, excitedly.
"They never got them!"
"Curse that Grospierre for his folly!"
"He deserved his fate!"
"Fancy not examining those casks properly!"
But these sallies seemed to amuse Citoyen Bibot exceedingly; he laughed
until his sides ached, and the tears streamed down his cheeks.
"Nay, nay!" he said at last, "those aristos weren't in the cart; the
driver was not the Scarlet Pimpernel!"
"No! The captain of the guard was that damned Englishman in disguise,
and everyone of his soldiers aristos!"
The crowd this time said nothing: the story certainly savoured of the
supernatural, and though the Republic had abolished God, it had not
quite succeeded in killing the fear of the supernatural in the hearts of
the people. Truly that Englishman must be the devil himself.
The sun was sinking low down in the west. Bibot prepared himself to
close the gates.
"EN AVANT the carts," he said.
Some dozen covered carts were drawn up in a row, ready to leave town,
in order to fetch the produce from the country close by, for market the
next morning. They were mostly well known to Bibot, as they went through
his gate twice every day on their way to and from the town. He spoke
to one or two of their drivers--mostly women--and was at great pains to
examine the inside of the carts.
"You never know," he would say, "and I'm not going to be caught like
that fool Grospierre."
The women who drove the carts usually spent their day on the Place de la
Greve, beneath the platform of the guillotine, knitting and gossiping,
whilst they watched the rows of tumbrils arriving with the victims the
Reign of Terror claimed every day. It was great fun to see the aristos
arriving for the reception of Madame la Guillotine, and the places close
by the platform were very much sought after. Bibot, during the day,
had been on duty on the Place. He recognized most of the old hats,
"tricotteuses," as they were called, who sat there and knitted, whilst
head after head fell beneath the knife, and they themselves got quite
bespattered with the blood of those cursed aristos.
"He! la mere!" said Bibot to one of these horrible hags, "what have you
He had seen her earlier in the day, with her knitting and the whip of
her cart close beside her. Now she had fastened a row of curly locks to
the whip handle, all colours, from gold to silver, fair to dark, and she
stroked them with her huge, bony fingers as she laughed at Bibot.
"I made friends with Madame Guillotine's lover," she said with a coarse
laugh, "he cut these off for me from the heads as they rolled down. He
has promised me some more to-morrow, but I don't know if I shall be at
my usual place."
"Ah! how is that, la mere?" asked Bibot, who, hardened soldier that
he was, could not help shuddering at the awful loathsomeness of this
semblance of a woman, with her ghastly trophy on the handle of her whip.
"My grandson has got the small-pox," she said with a jerk of her thumb
towards the inside of her cart, "some say it's the plague! If it is, I
sha'n't be allowed to come into Paris to-morrow." At the first mention
of the word small-pox, Bibot had stepped hastily backwards, and when the
old hag spoke of the plague, he retreated from her as fast as he could.
"Curse you!" he muttered, whilst the whole crowd hastily avoided the
cart, leaving it standing all alone in the midst of the place.
The old hag laughed.
"Curse you, citoyen, for being a coward," she said. "Bah! what a man to
be afraid of sickness."
"MORBLEU! the plague!"
Everyone was awe-struck and silent, filled with horror for the loathsome
malady, the one thing which still had the power to arouse terror and
disgust in these savage, brutalised creatures.
"Get out with you and with your plague-stricken brood!" shouted Bibot,
And with another rough laugh and coarse jest, the old hag whipped up her
lean nag and drove her cart out of the gate.
This incident had spoilt the afternoon. The people were terrified of
these two horrible curses, the two maladies which nothing could cure,
and which were the precursors of an awful and lonely death. They hung
about the barricades, silent and sullen for a while, eyeing one another
suspiciously, avoiding each other as if by instinct, lest the plague
lurked already in their midst. Presently, as in the case of Grospierre,
a captain of the guard appeared suddenly. But he was known to Bibot, and
there was no fear of his turning out to be a sly Englishman in disguise.
"A cart, . . ." he shouted breathlessly, even before he had reached the
"What cart?" asked Bibot, roughly.
"Driven by an old hag. . . . A covered cart . . ."
"There were a dozen . . ."
"An old hag who said her son had the plague?"
"Yes . . ."
"You have not let them go?"
"MORBLEU!" said Bibot, whose purple cheeks had suddenly become white
"The cart contained the CI-DEVANT Comtesse de Tourney and her two
children, all of them traitors and condemned to death."
"And their driver?" muttered Bibot, as a superstitious shudder ran
down his spine.
"SACRE TONNERRE," said the captain, "but it is feared that it was that
accursed Englishman himself--the Scarlet Pimpernel."
CHAPTER II DOVER: "THE FISHERMAN'S REST"
In the kitchen Sally was extremely busy--saucepans and frying-pans were
standing in rows on the gigantic hearth, the huge stock-pot stood in
a corner, and the jack turned with slow deliberation, and presented
alternately to the glow every side of a noble sirloin of beef. The two
little kitchen-maids bustled around, eager to help, hot and panting,
with cotton sleeves well tucked up above the dimpled elbows, and
giggling over some private jokes of their own, whenever Miss Sally's
back was turned for a moment. And old Jemima, stolid in temper and
solid in bulk, kept up a long and subdued grumble, while she stirred the
stock-pot methodically over the fire.
"What ho! Sally!" came in cheerful if none too melodious accents from
the coffee-room close by.
"Lud bless my soul!" exclaimed Sally, with a good-humoured laugh, "what
be they all wanting now, I wonder!"
"Beer, of course," grumbled Jemima, "you don't 'xpect Jimmy Pitkin to
'ave done with one tankard, do ye?"
"Mr. 'Arry, 'e looked uncommon thirsty too," simpered Martha, one of
the little kitchen-maids; and her beady black eyes twinkled as they met
those of her companion, whereupon both started on a round of short and
Sally looked cross for a moment, and thoughtfully rubbed her hands
against her shapely hips; her palms were itching, evidently, to come in
contact with Martha's rosy cheeks--but inherent good-humour prevailed,
and with a pout and a shrug of the shoulders, she turned her attention
to the fried potatoes.
"What ho, Sally! hey, Sally!"
And a chorus of pewter mugs, tapped with impatient hands against the oak
tables of the coffee-room, accompanied the shouts for mine host's buxom
"Sally!" shouted a more persistent voice, "are ye goin' to be all night
with that there beer?"
"I do think father might get the beer for them," muttered Sally,
as Jemima, stolidly and without further comment, took a couple of
foam-crowned jugs from the shelf, and began filling a number of pewter
tankards with some of that home-brewed ale for which "The Fisherman's
Rest" had been famous since that days of King Charles. "'E knows 'ow
busy we are in 'ere."
"Your father is too busy discussing politics with Mr. 'Empseed to worry
'isself about you and the kitchen," grumbled Jemima under her breath.
Sally had gone to the small mirror which hung in a corner of the
kitchen, and was hastily smoothing her hair and setting her frilled cap
at its most becoming angle over her dark curls; then she took up
the tankards by their handles, three in each strong, brown hand, and
laughing, grumbling, blushing, carried them through into the coffee
There, there was certainly no sign of that bustle and activity which
kept four women busy and hot in the glowing kitchen beyond.
The coffee-room of "The Fisherman's Rest" is a show place now at the
beginning of the twentieth century. At the end of the eighteenth, in the
year of grace 1792, it had not yet gained the notoriety and importance
which a hundred additional years and the craze of the age have since
bestowed upon it. Yet it was an old place, even then, for the oak
rafters and beams were already black with age--as were the panelled
seats, with their tall backs, and the long polished tables between,
on which innumerable pewter tankards had left fantastic patterns of
many-sized rings. In the leaded window, high up, a row of pots of
scarlet geraniums and blue larkspur gave the bright note of colour
against the dull background of the oak.
That Mr. Jellyband, landlord of "The Fisherman's Rest" at Dover, was
a prosperous man, was of course clear to the most casual observer. The
pewter on the fine old dressers, the brass above the gigantic hearth,
shone like silver and gold--the red-tiled floor was as brilliant as the
scarlet geranium on the window sill--this meant that his servants were
good and plentiful, that the custom was constant, and of that order
which necessitated the keeping up of the coffee-room to a high standard
of elegance and order.
As Sally came in, laughing through her frowns, and displaying a row
of dazzling white teeth, she was greeted with shouts and chorus of
"Why, here's Sally! What ho, Sally! Hurrah for pretty Sally!"
"I thought you'd grown deaf in that kitchen of yours," muttered Jimmy
Pitkin, as he passed the back of his hand across his very dry lips.
"All ri'! all ri'!" laughed Sally, as she deposited the freshly-filled
tankards upon the tables, "why, what a 'urry to be sure! And is your
gran'mother a-dyin' an' you wantin' to see the pore soul afore she'm
gone! I never see'd such a mighty rushin'" A chorus of good-humoured
laughter greeted this witticism, which gave the company there present
food for many jokes, for some considerable time. Sally now seemed in
less of a hurry to get back to her pots and pans. A young man with
fair curly hair, and eager, bright blue eyes, was engaging most of her
attention and the whole of her time, whilst broad witticisms anent Jimmy
Pitkin's fictitious grandmother flew from mouth to mouth, mixed with
heavy puffs of pungent tobacco smoke.
Facing the hearth, his legs wide apart, a long clay pipe in his
mouth, stood mine host himself, worthy Mr. Jellyband, landlord of
"The Fisherman's Rest," as his father had before him, aye, and his
grandfather and great-grandfather too, for that matter. Portly in build,
jovial in countenance and somewhat bald of pate, Mr. Jellyband was
indeed a typical rural John Bull of those days--the days when our
prejudiced insularity was at its height, when to an Englishman, be he
lord, yeoman, or peasant, the whole of the continent of Europe was a den
of immorality and the rest of the world an unexploited land of savages
There he stood, mine worthy host, firm and well set up on his limbs,
smoking his long churchwarden and caring nothing for nobody at home, and
despising everybody abroad. He wore the typical scarlet waistcoat, with
shiny brass buttons, the corduroy breeches, and grey worsted stockings
and smart buckled shoes, that characterised every self-respecting
innkeeper in Great Britain in these days--and while pretty, motherless
Sally had need of four pairs of brown hands to do all the work that
fell on her shapely shoulders, worthy Jellyband discussed the affairs of
nations with his most privileged guests.
The coffee-room indeed, lighted by two well-polished lamps, which hung
from the raftered ceiling, looked cheerful and cosy in the extreme.
Through the dense clouds of tobacco smoke that hung about in every
corner, the faces of Mr. Jellyband's customers appeared red and pleasant
to look at, and on good terms with themselves, their host and all the
world; from every side of the room loud guffaws accompanied pleasant,
if not highly intellectual, conversation--while Sally's repeated giggles
testified to the good use Mr. Harry Waite was making of the short time
she seemed inclined to spare him.
They were mostly fisher-folk who patronised Mr. Jellyband's coffee-room,
but fishermen are known to be very thirsty people; the salt which they
breathe in, when they are on the sea, accounts for their parched throats
when on shore, but "The Fisherman's Rest" was something more than a
rendezvous for these humble folk. The London and Dover coach started
from the hostel daily, and passengers who had come across the Channel,
and those who started for the "grand tour," all became acquainted with
Mr. Jellyband, his French wines and his home-brewed ales.
It was towards the close of September, 1792, and the weather which had
been brilliant and hot throughout the month had suddenly broken up; for
two days torrents of rain had deluged the south of England, doing its
level best to ruin what chances the apples and pears and late plums had
of becoming really fine, self-respecting fruit. Even now it was beating
against the leaded windows, and tumbling down the chimney, making the
cheerful wood fire sizzle in the hearth.
"Lud! did you ever see such a wet September, Mr. Jellyband?" asked Mr.
He sat in one of the seats inside the hearth, did Mr. Hempseed, for he
was an authority and important personage not only at "The Fisherman's
Rest," where Mr. Jellyband always made a special selection of him as a
foil for political arguments, but throughout the neighborhood, where
his learning and notably his knowledge of the Scriptures was held in
the most profound awe and respect. With one hand buried in the capacious
pockets of his corduroys underneath his elaborately-worked, well-worn
smock, the other holding his long clay pipe, Mr. Hempseed sat there
looking dejectedly across the room at the rivulets of moisture which
trickled down the window panes.
"No," replied Mr. Jellyband, sententiously, "I dunno, Mr. 'Empseed, as I
ever did. An' I've been in these parts nigh on sixty years."
"Aye! you wouldn't rec'llect the first three years of them sixty, Mr.
Jellyband," quietly interposed Mr. Hempseed. "I dunno as I ever see'd an
infant take much note of the weather, leastways not in these parts, an'
"I"'ve lived 'ere nigh on seventy-five years, Mr. Jellyband."
The superiority of this wisdom was so incontestable that for the moment
Mr. Jellyband was not ready with his usual flow of argument.
"It do seem more like April than September, don't it?" continued Mr.
Hempseed, dolefully, as a shower of raindrops fell with a sizzle upon
"Aye! that it do," assented the worthy host, "but then what can you
'xpect, Mr. 'Empseed, I says, with sich a government as we've got?"
Mr. Hempseed shook his head with an infinity of wisdom, tempered
by deeply-rooted mistrust of the British climate and the British
"I don't 'xpect nothing, Mr. Jellyband," he said. "Pore folks like us is
of no account up there in Lunnon, I knows that, and it's not often as I
do complain. But when it comes to sich wet weather in September, and all
me fruit a-rottin' and a-dying' like the 'Guptian mother's first born,
and doin' no more good than they did, pore dears, save a lot more Jews,
pedlars and sich, with their oranges and sich like foreign ungodly
fruit, which nobody'd buy if English apples and pears was nicely
swelled. As the Scriptures say--"
"That's quite right, Mr. 'Empseed," retorted Jellyband, "and as I says,
what can you 'xpect? There's all them Frenchy devils over the Channel
yonder a-murderin' their king and nobility, and Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox
and Mr. Burke a-fightin' and a-wranglin' between them, if we Englishmen
should 'low them to go on in their ungodly way. 'Let 'em murder!' says
Mr. Pitt. 'Stop 'em!' says Mr. Burke."
"And let 'em murder, says I, and be demmed to 'em." said Mr. Hempseed,
emphatically, for he had but little liking for his friend Jellyband's
political arguments, wherein he always got out of his depth, and had but
little chance for displaying those pearls of wisdom which had earned for
him so high a reputation in the neighbourhood and so many free tankards
of ale at "The Fisherman's Rest."
"Let 'em murder," he repeated again, "but don't lets 'ave sich rain in
September, for that is agin the law and the Scriptures which says--"
"Lud! Mr. 'Arry, 'ow you made me jump!"
It was unfortunate for Sally and her flirtation that this remark of
hers should have occurred at the precise moment when Mr. Hempseed
was collecting his breath, in order to deliver himself one of those
Scriptural utterances which made him famous, for it brought down upon
her pretty head the full flood of her father's wrath.
"Now then, Sally, me girl, now then!" he said, trying to force a
frown upon his good-humoured face, "stop that fooling with them young
jackanapes and get on with the work."
"The work's gettin' on all ri', father."
But Mr. Jellyband was peremptory. He had other views for his buxom
daughter, his only child, who would in God's good time become the owner
of "The Fisherman's Rest," than to see her married to one of these young
fellows who earned but a precarious livelihood with their net.
"Did ye hear me speak, me girl?" he said in that quiet tone, which no
one inside the inn dared to disobey. "Get on with my Lord Tony's supper,
for, if it ain't the best we can do, and 'e not satisfied, see what
you'll get, that's all."
Reluctantly Sally obeyed.
"Is you 'xpecting special guests then to-night, Mr. Jellyband?" asked
Jimmy Pitkin, in a loyal attempt to divert his host's attention from the
circumstances connected with Sally's exit from the room.
"Aye! that I be," replied Jellyband, "friends of my Lord Tony hisself.
Dukes and duchesses from over the water yonder, whom the young lord and
his friend, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, and other young noblemen have helped
out of the clutches of them murderin' devils."
But this was too much for Mr. Hempseed's querulous philosophy.
"Lud!" he said, "what do they do that for, I wonder? I don't 'old not
with interferin' in other folks' ways. As the Scriptures say--"
"Maybe, Mr. 'Empseed," interrupted Jellyband, with biting sarcasm, "as
you're a personal friend of Mr. Pitt, and as you says along with Mr.
Fox: 'Let 'em murder!' says you."
"Pardon me, Mr. Jellyband," feebly protested Mr. Hempseed, "I dunno as I
But Mr. Jellyband had at last succeeded in getting upon his favourite
hobby-horse, and had no intention of dismounting in any hurry.
"Or maybe you've made friends with some of them French chaps 'oo they
do say have come over here o' purpose to make us Englishmen agree with
their murderin' ways."
"I dunno what you mean, Mr. Jellyband," suggested Mr. Hempseed, "all I
"All "I" know is," loudly asserted mine host, "that there was my friend
Peppercorn, 'oo owns the 'Blue-Faced Boar,' an' as true and loyal an
Englishman as you'd see in the land. And now look at 'im!--'E made
friends with some o' them frog-eaters, 'obnobbed with them just as if
they was Englishmen, and not just a lot of immoral, Godforsaking furrin'
spies. Well! and what happened? Peppercorn 'e now ups and talks of
revolutions, and liberty, and down with the aristocrats, just like Mr.
'Empseed over 'ere!"
"Pardon me, Mr. Jellyband," again interposed Mr. Hempseed feebly, "I
dunno as I ever did--"
Mr. Jellyband had appealed to the company in general, who were
listening awe-struck and open-mouthed at the recital of Mr. Peppercorn's
defalcations. At one table two customers--gentlemen apparently by their
clothes--had pushed aside their half-finished game of dominoes, and had
been listening for some time, and evidently with much amusement at
Mr. Jellyband's international opinions. One of them now, with a quiet,
sarcastic smile still lurking round the corners of his mobile mouth,
turned towards the centre of the room where Mr. Jellyband was standing.
"You seem to think, mine honest friend," he said quietly, "that these
Frenchmen,--spies I think you called them--are mighty clever fellows
to have made mincemeat so to speak of your friend Mr. Peppercorn's
opinions. How did they accomplish that now, think you?"
"Lud! sir, I suppose they talked 'im over. Those Frenchies, I've 'eard
it said, 'ave got the gift of gab--and Mr. 'Empseed 'ere will tell you
'ow it is that they just twist some people round their little finger
"Indeed, and is that so, Mr. Hempseed?" inquired the stranger politely.
"Nay, sir!" replied Mr. Hempseed, much irritated, "I dunno as I can give
you the information you require."
"Faith, then," said the stranger, "let us hope, my worthy host, that
these clever spies will not succeed in upsetting your extremely loyal
But this was too much for Mr. Jellyband's pleasant equanimity. He burst
into an uproarious fit of laughter, which was soon echoed by those who
happened to be in his debt.
"Hahaha! hohoho! hehehe!" He laughed in every key, did my worthy host,
and laughed until his sided ached, and his eyes streamed. "At me!
hark at that! Did ye 'ear 'im say that they'd be upsettin' my
opinions?--Eh?--Lud love you, sir, but you do say some queer things."
"Well, Mr. Jellyband," said Mr. Hempseed, sententiously, "you know what
the Scriptures say: 'Let 'im 'oo stands take 'eed lest 'e fall.'"
"But then hark'ee Mr. 'Empseed," retorted Jellyband, still holding his
sides with laughter, "the Scriptures didn't know me. Why, I wouldn't so
much as drink a glass of ale with one o' them murderin' Frenchmen, and
nothin' 'd make me change my opinions. Why! I've 'eard it said that them
frog-eaters can't even speak the King's English, so, of course, if any
of 'em tried to speak their God-forsaken lingo to me, why, I should spot
them directly, see!--and forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes."
"Aye! my honest friend," assented the stranger cheerfully, "I see that
you are much too sharp, and a match for any twenty Frenchmen, and here's
to your very good health, my worthy host, if you'll do me the honour to
finish this bottle of mine with me."
"I am sure you're very polite, sir," said Mr. Jellyband, wiping his eyes
which were still streaming with the abundance of his laughter, "and I
don't mind if I do."
The stranger poured out a couple of tankards full of wine, and having
offered one to mine host, he took the other himself.
"Loyal Englishmen as we all are," he said, whilst the same humorous
smile played round the corners of his thin lips--"loyal as we are, we
must admit that this at least is one good thing which comes to us from
"Aye! we'll none of us deny that, sir," assented mine host.
"And here's to the best landlord in England, our worthy host, Mr.
Jellyband," said the stranger in a loud tone of voice.
"Hi, hip, hurrah!" retorted the whole company present. Then there was a
loud clapping of hands, and mugs and tankards made a rattling music
upon the tables to the accompaniment of loud laughter at nothing in
particular, and of Mr. Jellyband's muttered exclamations:
"Just fancy ME bein' talked over by any God-forsaken
furriner!--What?--Lud love you, sir, but you do say some queer things."
To which obvious fact the stranger heartily assented. It was certainly
a preposterous suggestion that anyone could ever upset Mr. Jellyband's
firmly-rooted opinions anent the utter worthlessness of the inhabitants
of the whole continent of Europe.
CHAPTER III THE REFUGEES
Feeling in every part of England certainly ran very high at this time
against the French and their doings. Smugglers and legitimate traders
between the French and the English coasts brought snatches of news from
over the water, which made every honest Englishman's blood boil, and
made him long to have "a good go" at those murderers, who had imprisoned
their king and all his family, subjected the queen and the royal
children to every species of indignity, and were even now loudly
demanding the blood of the whole Bourbon family and of every one of its
The execution of the Princesse de Lamballe, Marie Antoinette's young
and charming friend, had filled every one in England with unspeakable
horror, the daily execution of scores of royalists of good family, whose
only sin was their aristocratic name, seemed to cry for vengeance to the
whole of civilised Europe.
Yet, with all that, no one dared to interfere. Burke had exhausted all
his eloquence in trying to induce the British Government to fight the
revolutionary government of France, but Mr. Pitt, with characteristic
prudence, did not feel that this country was fit yet to embark
on another arduous and costly war. It was for Austria to take the
initiative; Austria, whose fairest daughter was even now a dethroned
queen, imprisoned and insulted by a howling mob; surely 'twas not--so
argued Mr. Fox--for the whole of England to take up arms, because one
set of Frenchmen chose to murder another.
As for Mr. Jellyband and his fellow John Bulls, though they looked
upon all foreigners with withering contempt, they were royalist and
anti-revolutionists to a man, and at this present moment were furious
with Pitt for his caution and moderation, although they naturally
understood nothing of the diplomatic reasons which guided that great
By now Sally came running back, very excited and very eager. The joyous
company in the coffee-room had heard nothing of the noise outside, but
she had spied a dripping horse and rider who had stopped at the door
of "The Fisherman's Rest," and while the stable boy ran forward to take
charge of the horse, pretty Miss Sally went to the front door to greet
the welcome visitor. "I think I see'd my Lord Antony's horse out in the
yard, father," she said, as she ran across the coffee-room.
But already the door had been thrown open from outside, and the next
moment an arm, covered in drab cloth and dripping with the heavy rain,
was round pretty Sally's waist, while a hearty voice echoed along the
polished rafters of the coffee-room.
"Aye, and bless your brown eyes for being so sharp, my pretty Sally,"
said the man who had just entered, whilst worthy Mr. Jellyband came
bustling forward, eager, alert and fussy, as became the advent of one of
the most favoured guests of his hostel.
"Lud, I protest, Sally," added Lord Antony, as he deposited a kiss on
Miss Sally's blooming cheeks, "but you are growing prettier and prettier
every time I see you--and my honest friend, Jellyband here, have hard
work to keep the fellows off that slim waist of yours. What say you, Mr.
Mr. Waite--torn between his respect for my lord and his dislike of that
particular type of joke--only replied with a doubtful grunt.
Lord Antony Dewhurst, one of the sons of the Duke of Exeter, was in
those days a very perfect type of a young English gentlemen--tall, well
set-up, broad of shoulders and merry of face, his laughter rang loudly
wherever he went. A good sportsman, a lively companion, a courteous,
well-bred man of the world, with not too much brains to spoil his
temper, he was a universal favourite in London drawing-rooms or in the
coffee-rooms of village inns. At "The Fisherman's Rest" everyone knew
him--for he was fond of a trip across to France, and always spent a
night under worthy Mr. Jellyband's roof on his way there or back.
He nodded to Waite, Pitkin and the others as he at last released Sally's
waist, and crossed over to the hearth to warm and dry himself: as he did
so, he cast a quick, somewhat suspicious glance at the two strangers,
who had quietly resumed their game of dominoes, and for a moment a look
of deep earnestness, even of anxiety, clouded his jovial young face.
But only for a moment; the next he turned to Mr. Hempseed, who was
respectfully touching his forelock.
"Well, Mr. Hempseed, and how is the fruit?"
"Badly, my lord, badly," replied Mr. Hempseed, dolefully, "but what
can you 'xpect with this 'ere government favourin' them rascals over in
France, who would murder their king and all their nobility."
"Odd's life!" retorted Lord Antony; "so they would, honest Hempseed,--at
least those they can get hold of, worse luck! But we have got some
friends coming here to-night, who at any rate have evaded their
It almost seemed, when the young man said these words, as if he threw a
defiant look towards the quiet strangers in the corner.
"Thanks to you, my lord, and to your friends, so I've heard it said,"
said Mr. Jellyband.
But in a moment Lord Antony's hand fell warningly on mine host's arm.
"Hush!" he said peremptorily, and instinctively once again looked
towards the strangers.
"Oh! Lud love you, they are all right, my lord," retorted Jellyband;
"don't you be afraid. I wouldn't have spoken, only I knew we were among
friends. That gentleman over there is as true and loyal a subject of
King George as you are yourself, my lord saving your presence. He is
but lately arrived in Dover, and is setting down in business in these
"In business? Faith, then, it must be as an undertaker, for I vow I
never beheld a more rueful countenance."
"Nay, my lord, I believe that the gentleman is a widower, which no doubt
would account for the melancholy of his bearing--but he is a friend,
nevertheless, I'll vouch for that--and you will own, my lord, that who
should judge of a face better than the landlord of a popular inn--"
"Oh, that's all right, then, if we are among friends," said Lord Antony,
who evidently did not care to discuss the subject with his host. "But,
tell me, you have no one else staying here, have you?"
"No one, my lord, and no one coming, either, leastways--"
"No one your lordship would object to, I know."
"Who is it?"
"Well, my lord, Sir Percy Blakeney and his lady will be here presently,
but they ain't a-goin' to stay--"
"Lady Blakeney?" queried Lord Antony, in some astonishment.
"Aye, my lord. Sir Percy's skipper was here just now. He says that my
lady's brother is crossing over to France to-day in the DAY DREAM, which
is Sir Percy's yacht, and Sir Percy and my lady will come with him as
far as here to see the last of him. It don't put you out, do it, my
"No, no, it doesn't put me out, friend; nothing will put me out, unless
that supper is not the very best which Miss Sally can cook, and which
has ever been served in 'The Fisherman's Rest.'"
"You need have no fear of that, my lord," said Sally, who all this while
had been busy setting the table for supper. And very gay and inviting
it looked, with a large bunch of brilliantly coloured dahlias in the
centre, and the bright pewter goblets and blue china about.
"How many shall I lay for, my lord?"
"Five places, pretty Sally, but let the supper be enough for ten at
least--our friends will be tired, and, I hope, hungry. As for me, I vow
I could demolish a baron of beef to-night."
"Here they are, I do believe," said Sally excitedly, as a distant
clatter of horses and wheels could now be distinctly heard, drawing
There was a general commotion in the coffee-room. Everyone was curious
to see my Lord Antony's swell friends from over the water. Miss Sally
cast one or two quick glances at the little bit of mirror which hung
on the wall, and worthy Mr. Jellyband bustled out in order to give
the first welcome himself to his distinguished guests. Only the two
strangers in the corner did not participate in the general excitement.
They were calmly finishing their game of dominoes, and did not even look
once towards the door.
"Straight ahead, Comtesse, the door on your right," said a pleasant
"Aye! there they are, all right enough." said Lord Antony, joyfully;
"off with you, my pretty Sally, and see how quick you can dish up the
The door was thrown wide open, and, preceded by Mr. Jellyband, who was
profuse in his bows and welcomes, a party of four--two ladies and two
gentlemen--entered the coffee-room.
"Welcome! Welcome to old England!" said Lord Antony, effusively, as he
came eagerly forward with both hands outstretched towards the newcomers.
"Ah, you are Lord Antony Dewhurst, I think," said one of the ladies,
speaking with a strong foreign accent.
"At your service, Madame," he replied, as he ceremoniously kissed the
hands of both the ladies, then turned to the men and shook them both
warmly by the hand.
Sally was already helping the ladies to take off their traveling cloaks,
and both turned, with a shiver, towards the brightly-blazing hearth.
There was a general movement among the company in the coffee-room. Sally
had bustled off to her kitchen whilst Jellyband, still profuse with his
respectful salutations, arranged one or two chairs around the fire. Mr.
Hempseed, touching his forelock, was quietly vacating the seat in
the hearth. Everyone was staring curiously, yet deferentially, at the
"Ah, Messieurs! what can I say?" said the elder of the two ladies, as
she stretched a pair of fine, aristocratic hands to the warmth of the
blaze, and looked with unspeakable gratitude first at Lord Antony, then
at one of the young men who had accompanied her party, and who was busy
divesting himself of his heavy, caped coat.
"Only that you are glad to be in England, Comtesse," replied Lord
Antony, "and that you have not suffered too much from your trying
"Indeed, indeed, we are glad to be in England," she said, while her
eyes filled with tears, "and we have already forgotten all that we have
Her voice was musical and low, and there was a great deal of calm
dignity and of many sufferings nobly endured marked in the handsome,
aristocratic face, with its wealth of snowy-white hair dressed high
above the forehead, after the fashion of the times.
"I hope my friend, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, proved an entertaining
travelling companion, madame?"
"Ah, indeed, Sir Andrew was kindness itself. How could my children and I
ever show enough gratitude to you all, Messieurs?"
Her companion, a dainty, girlish figure, childlike and pathetic in its
look of fatigue and of sorrow, had said nothing as yet, but her eyes,
large, brown, and full of tears, looked up from the fire and sought
those of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, who had drawn near to the hearth and to
her; then, as they met his, which were fixed with unconcealed admiration
upon the sweet face before him, a thought of warmer colour rushed up to
her pale cheeks.
"So this is England," she said, as she looked round with childlike
curiosity at the great hearth, the oak rafters, and the yokels with
their elaborate smocks and jovial, rubicund, British countenances.
"A bit of it, Mademoiselle," replied Sir Andrew, smiling, "but all of
it, at your service."
The young girl blushed again, but this time a bright smile, fleet and
sweet, illumined her dainty face. She said nothing, and Sir Andrew too
was silent, yet those two young people understood one another, as young
people have a way of doing all the world over, and have done since the
"But, I say, supper!" here broke in Lord Antony's jovial voice, "supper,
honest Jellyband. Where is that pretty wench of yours and the dish of
soup? Zooks, man, while you stand there gaping at the ladies, they will
faint with hunger."
"One moment! one moment, my lord," said Jellyband, as he threw open the
door that led to the kitchen and shouted lustily: "Sally! Hey, Sally
there, are ye ready, my girl?"
Sally was ready, and the next moment she appeared in the doorway
carrying a gigantic tureen, from which rose a cloud of steam and an
abundance of savoury odour.
"Odd's life, supper at last!" ejaculated Lord Antony, merrily, as he
gallantly offered his arm to the Comtesse.
"May I have the honour?" he added ceremoniously, as he led her towards
the supper table.
There was a general bustle in the coffee-room: Mr. Hempseed and most of
the yokels and fisher-folk had gone to make way for "the quality," and
to finish smoking their pipes elsewhere. Only the two strangers stayed
on, quietly and unconcernedly playing their game of dominoes and sipping
their wine; whilst at another table Harry Waite, who was fast losing his
temper, watched pretty Sally bustling round the table.
She looked a very dainty picture of English rural life, and no wonder
that the susceptible young Frenchman could scarce take his eyes off her
pretty face. The Vicomte de Tournay was scarce nineteen, a beardless
boy, on whom terrible tragedies which were being enacted in his own
country had made but little impression. He was elegantly and even
foppishly dressed, and once safely landed in England he was evidently
ready to forget the horrors of the Revolution in the delights of English
"Pardi, if zis is England," he said as he continued to ogle Sally with
marked satisfaction, "I am of it satisfied."
It would be impossible at this point to record the exact exclamation
which escaped through Mr. Harry Waite's clenched teeth. Only respect
for "the quality," and notably for my Lord Antony, kept his marked
disapproval of the young foreigner in check.
"Nay, but this IS England, you abandoned young reprobate," interposed
Lord Antony with a laugh, "and do not, I pray, bring your loose foreign
ways into this most moral country."
Lord Antony had already sat down at the head of the table with the
Comtesse on his right. Jellyband was bustling round, filling glasses and
putting chairs straight. Sally waited, ready to hand round the soup.
Mr. Harry Waite's friends had at last succeeded in taking him out of
the room, for his temper was growing more and more violent under the
Vicomte's obvious admiration for Sally.
"Suzanne," came in stern, commanding accents from the rigid Comtesse.
Suzanne blushed again; she had lost count of time and of place whilst
she had stood beside the fire, allowing the handsome young Englishman's
eyes to dwell upon her sweet face, and his hand, as if unconsciously,
to rest upon hers. Her mother's voice brought her back to reality once
more, and with a submissive "Yes, Mama," she took her place at the
CHAPTER IV THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
They all looked a merry, even a happy party, as they sat round the
table; Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and Lord Antony Dewhurst, two typical
good-looking, well-born and well-bred Englishmen of that year of grace
1792, and the aristocratic French comtesse with her two children, who
had just escaped from such dire perils, and found a safe retreat at last
on the shores of protecting England.
In the corner the two strangers had apparently finished their game; one
of them arose, and standing with his back to the merry company at the
table, he adjusted with much deliberation his large triple caped coat.
As he did so, he gave one quick glance all around him. Everyone was busy
laughing and chatting, and he murmured the words "All safe!": his
companion then, with the alertness borne of long practice, slipped on to
his knees in a moment, and the next had crept noiselessly under the oak
bench. The stranger then, with a loud "Good-night," quietly walked out
of the coffee-room.
Not one of those at the supper table had noticed this curious and silent
manoeuvre, but when the stranger finally closed the door of the
coffee-room behind him, they all instinctively sighed a sigh of relief.
"Alone, at last!" said Lord Antony, jovially.
Then the young Vicomte de Tournay rose, glass in hand, and with the
graceful affection peculiar to the times, he raised it aloft, and said
in broken English,--
"To His Majesty George Three of England. God bless him for his
hospitality to us all, poor exiles from France."
"His Majesty the King!" echoed Lord Antony and Sir Andrew as they drank
loyally to the toast.
"To His Majesty King Louis of France," added Sir Andrew, with solemnity.
"May God protect him, and give him victory over his enemies."
Everyone rose and drank this toast in silence. The fate of the
unfortunate King of France, then a prisoner of his own people, seemed to
cast a gloom even over Mr. Jellyband's pleasant countenance.
"And to M. le Comte de Tournay de Basserive," said Lord Antony, merrily.
"May we welcome him in England before many days are over."
"Ah, Monsieur," said the Comtesse, as with a slightly trembling hand she
conveyed her glass to her lips, "I scarcely dare to hope."
But already Lord Antony had served out the soup, and for the next few
moments all conversation ceased, while Jellyband and Sally handed round
the plates and everyone began to eat.
"Faith, Madame!" said Lord Antony, after a while, "mine was no idle
toast; seeing yourself, Mademoiselle Suzanne and my friend the Vicomte
safely in England now, surely you must feel reasurred as to the fate of
Monsieur le Comte."
"Ah, Monsieur," replied the Comtesse, with a heavy sigh, "I trust in
God--I can but pray--and hope . . ."
"Aye, Madame!" here interposed Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, "trust in God by all
means, but believe also a little in your English friends, who have sworn
to bring the Count safely across the Channel, even as they have brought
"Indeed, indeed, Monsieur," she replied, "I have the fullest confidence
in you and your friends. Your fame, I assure you, has spread throughout
the whole of France. The way some of my own friends have escaped from
the clutches of that awful revolutionary tribunal was nothing short of a
miracle--and all done by you and your friends--"
"We were but the hands, Madame la Comtesse . . ."
"But my husband, Monsieur," said the Comtesse, whilst unshed tears
seemed to veil her voice, "he is in such deadly peril--I would never
have left him, only . . . there were my children . . . I was torn between
my duty to him, and to them. They refused to go without me . . . and you
and your friends assured me so solemnly that my husband would be safe.
But, oh! now that I am here--amongst you all--in this beautiful, free
England--I think of him, flying for his life, hunted like a poor beast
. . . in such peril . . . Ah! I should not have left him . . . I should not
have left him! . . ."
The poor woman had completely broken down; fatigue, sorrow and emotion
had overmastered her rigid, aristocratic bearing. She was crying gently
to herself, whilst Suzanne ran up to her and tried to kiss away her
Lord Antony and Sir Andrew had said nothing to interrupt the Comtesse
whilst she was speaking. There was no doubt that they felt deeply for
her; their very silence testified to that--but in every century, and
ever since England has been what it is, an Englishman has always felt
somewhat ashamed of his own emotion and of his own sympathy. And so
the two young men said nothing, and busied themselves in trying to hide
their feelings, only succeeding in looking immeasurably sheepish.
"As for me, Monsieur," said Suzanne, suddenly, as she looked through a
wealth of brown curls across at Sir Andrew, "I trust you absolutely, and
I KNOW that you will bring my dear father safely to England, just as you
brought us to-day."
This was said with so much confidence, such unuttered hope and belief,
that it seemed as if by magic to dry the mother's eyes, and to bring a
smile upon everybody's lips.
"Nay! You shame me, Mademoiselle," replied Sir Andrew; "though my life
is at your service, I have been but a humble tool in the hands of our
great leader, who organised and effected your escape."
He had spoken with so much warmth and vehemence that Suzanne's eyes
fastened upon him in undisguised wonder.
"Your leader, Monsieur?" said the Comtesse, eagerly. "Ah! of course,
you must have a leader. And I did not think of that before! But tell me
where is he? I must go to him at once, and I and my children must throw
ourselves at his feet, and thank him for all that he has done for us."
"Alas, Madame!" said Lord Antony, "that is impossible."
"Because the Scarlet Pimpernel works in the dark, and his identity is
only known under the solemn oath of secrecy to his immediate followers."
"The Scarlet Pimpernel?" said Suzanne, with a merry laugh. "Why! what a
droll name! What is the Scarlet Pimpernel, Monsieur?"
She looked at Sir Andrew with eager curiosity. The young man's face
had become almost transfigured. His eyes shone with enthusiasm;
hero-worship, love, admiration for his leader seemed literally to glow
upon his face. "The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mademoiselle," he said at last
"is the name of a humble English wayside flower; but it is also the
name chosen to hide the identity of the best and bravest man in all the
world, so that he may better succeed in accomplishing the noble task he
has set himself to do."
"Ah, yes," here interposed the young Vicomte, "I have heard speak of
this Scarlet Pimpernel. A little flower--red?--yes! They say in
Paris that every time a royalist escapes to England that devil,
Foucquier-Tinville, the Public Prosecutor, receives a paper with that
little flower designated in red upon it. . . . Yes?"
"Yes, that is so," assented Lord Antony.
"Then he will have received one such paper to-day?"
"Oh! I wonder what he will say!" said Suzanne, merrily. "I have heard
that the picture of that little red flower is the only thing that
"Faith, then," said Sir Andrew, "he will have many more opportunities of
studying the shape of that small scarlet flower."
"Ah, monsieur," sighed the Comtesse, "it all sounds like a romance, and
I cannot understand it all."
"Why should you try, Madame?"
"But, tell me, why should your leader--why should you all--spend your
money and risk your lives--for it is your lives you risk, Messieurs,
when you set foot in France--and all for us French men and women, who
are nothing to you?"
"Sport, Madame la Comtesse, sport," asserted Lord Antony, with his
jovial, loud and pleasant voice; "we are a nation of sportsmen, you
know, and just now it is the fashion to pull the hare from between the
teeth of the hound."
"Ah, no, no, not sport only, Monsieur . . . you have a more noble motive,
I am sure for the good work you do."
"Faith, Madame, I would like you to find it then . . . as for me, I
vow, I love the game, for this is the finest sport I have yet
encountered.--Hair-breath escapes . . . the devil's own risks!--Tally
ho!--and away we go!"
But the Comtesse shook her head, still incredulously. To her it seemed
preposterous that these young men and their great leader, all of them
rich, probably wellborn, and young, should for no other motive than
sport, run the terrible risks, which she knew they were constantly
doing. Their nationality, once they had set foot in France, would be
no safeguard to them. Anyone found harbouring or assisting suspected
royalists would be ruthlessly condemned and summarily executed, whatever
his nationality might be. And this band of young Englishmen had, to her
own knowledge, bearded the implacable and bloodthirsty tribunal of the
Revolution, within the very walls of Paris itself, and had snatched away
condemned victims, almost from the very foot of the guillotine. With a
shudder, she recalled the events of the last few days, her escape from
Paris with her two children, all three of them hidden beneath the hood
of a rickety cart, and lying amidst a heap of turnips and cabbages, not
daring to breathe, whilst the mob howled, "A la lanterne les aristos!"
at the awful West Barricade.
It had all occurred in such a miraculous way; she and her husband had
understood that they had been placed on the list of "suspected persons,"
which meant that their trial and death were but a matter of days--of
Then came the hope of salvation; the mysterious epistle, signed with
the enigmatical scarlet device; the clear, peremptory directions; the
parting from the Comte de Tournay, which had torn the poor wife's heart
in two; the hope of reunion; the flight with her two children; the
covered cart; that awful hag driving it, who looked like some horrible
evil demon, with the ghastly trophy on her whip handle!
The Comtesse looked round at the quaint, old-fashioned English inn, the
peace of this land of civil and religious liberty, and she closed her
eyes to shut out the haunting vision of that West Barricade, and of the
mob retreating panic-stricken when the old hag spoke of the plague.
Every moment under that cart she expected recognition, arrest, herself
and her children tried and condemned, and these young Englishmen, under
the guidance of their brave and mysterious leader, had risked their
lives to save them all, as they had already saved scores of other
And all only for sport? Impossible! Suzanne's eyes as she sought those
of Sir Andrew plainly told him that she thought that HE at any rate
rescued his fellowmen from terrible and unmerited death, through a
higher and nobler motive than his friend would have her believe.
"How many are there in your brave league, Monsieur?" she asked timidly.
"Twenty all told, Mademoiselle," he replied, "one to command, and
nineteen to obey. All of us Englishmen, and all pledged to the same
cause--to obey our leader and to rescue the innocent."
"May God protect you all, Messieurs," said the Comtesse, fervently.
"He had done that so far, Madame."
"It is wonderful to me, wonderful!--That you should all be so brave, so
devoted to your fellowmen--yet you are English!--and in France treachery
is rife--all in the name of liberty and fraternity."
"The women even, in France, have been more bitter against us aristocrats
than the men," said the Vicomte, with a sigh.
"Ah, yes," added the Comtesse, while a look of haughty disdain and
intense bitterness shot through her melancholy eyes, "There was that
woman, Marguerite St. Just for instance. She denounced the Marquis de
St. Cyr and all his family to the awful tribunal of the Terror."
"Marguerite St. Just?" said Lord Antony, as he shot a quick and
apprehensive glance across at Sir Andrew.
"Marguerite St. Just?--Surely . . ."
"Yes!" replied the Comtesse, "surely you know her. She was a leading
actress of the Comedie Francaise, and she married an Englishman lately.
You must know her--"
"Know her?" said Lord Antony. "Know Lady Blakeney--the most fashionable
woman in London--the wife of the richest man in England? Of course, we
all know Lady Blakeney."
"She was a school-fellow of mine at the convent in Paris," interposed
Suzanne, "and we came over to England together to learn your language.
I was very fond of Marguerite, and I cannot believe that she ever did
anything so wicked."
"It certainly seems incredible," said Sir Andrew. "You say that she
actually denounced the Marquis de St. Cyr? Why should she have done such
a thing? Surely there must be some mistake--"
"No mistake is possible, Monsieur," rejoined the Comtesse, coldly.
"Marguerite St. Just's brother is a noted republican. There was some
talk of a family feud between him and my cousin, the Marquis de St. Cyr.
The St. Justs are quite plebeian, and the republican government employs
many spies. I assure you there is no mistake. . . . You had not heard
"Faith, Madame, I did hear some vague rumours of it, but in England no
one would credit it. . . . Sir Percy Blakeney, her husband, is a very
wealthy man, of high social position, the intimate friend of the Prince
of Wales . . . and Lady Blakeney leads both fashion and society in
"That may be, Monsieur, and we shall, of course, lead a very quiet
life in England, but I pray God that while I remain in this beautiful
country, I may never meet Marguerite St. Just."
The proverbial wet-blanket seemed to have fallen over the merry little
company gathered round the table. Suzanne looked sad and silent; Sir
Andrew fidgeted uneasily with his fork, whilst the Comtesse, encased
in the plate-armour of her aristocratic prejudices, sat, rigid and
unbending, in her straight-backed chair. As for Lord Antony, he looked
extremely uncomfortable, and glanced once or twice apprehensively
towards Jellyband, who looked just as uncomfortable as himself.
"At what time do you expect Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney?" he contrived
to whisper unobserved, to mine host.
"Any moment, my lord," whispered Jellyband in reply.
Even as he spoke, a distant clatter was heard of an approaching coach;
louder and louder it grew, one or two shouts became distinguishable,
then the rattle of horses' hoofs on the uneven cobble stones, and the
next moment a stable boy had thrown open the coffee-room door and rushed
"Sir Percy Blakeney and my lady," he shouted at the top of his voice,
"they're just arriving."
And with more shouting, jingling of harness, and iron hoofs upon the
stones, a magnificent coach, drawn by four superb bays, had halted
outside the porch of "The Fisherman's Rest."
CHAPTER V MARGUERITE
In a moment the pleasant oak-raftered coffee-room of the inn became the
scene of hopeless confusion and discomfort. At the first announcement
made by the stable boy, Lord Antony, with a fashionable oath, had jumped
up from his seat and was now giving many and confused directions to poor
bewildered Jellyband, who seemed at his wits' end what to do.
"For goodness' sake, man," admonished his lordship, "try to keep
Lady Blakeney talking outside for a moment while the ladies withdraw.
Zounds!" he added, with another more emphatic oath, "this is most
"Quick Sally! the candles!" shouted Jellyband, as hopping about from
one leg to another, he ran hither and thither, adding to the general
discomfort of everybody.
The Comtesse, too, had risen to her feet: rigid and erect, trying to
hide her excitement beneath more becoming SANG-FROID, she repeated
"I will not see her!--I will not see her!"
Outside, the excitement attendant upon the arrival of very important
guests grew apace.
"Good-day, Sir Percy!--Good-day to your ladyship! Your servant, Sir
Percy!"--was heard in one long, continued chorus, with alternate more
feeble tones of--"Remember the poor blind man! of your charity, lady and
Then suddenly a singularly sweet voice was heard through all the din.
"Let the poor man be--and give him some supper at my expense."
The voice was low and musical, with a slight sing-song in it, and
a faint SOUPCON of foreign intonation in the pronunciation of the
Everyone in the coffee-room heard it and paused instinctively, listening
to it for a moment. Sally was holding the candles by the opposite door,
which led to the bedrooms upstairs, and the Comtesse was in the act of
beating a hasty retreat before that enemy who owned such a sweet musical
voice; Suzanne reluctantly was preparing to follow her mother, while
casting regretful glances towards the door, where she hoped still to see
her dearly-beloved, erstwhile school-fellow.
Then Jellyband threw open the door, still stupidly and blindly hoping to
avert the catastrophe, which he felt was in the air, and the same low,
musical voice said, with a merry laugh and mock consternation,--
"B-r-r-r-r! I am as wet as a herring! DIEU! has anyone ever seen such a
"Suzanne, come with me at once--I wish it," said the Comtesse,
"Oh! Mama!" pleaded Suzanne.
"My lady . . . er . . . h'm! . . . my lady! . . ." came in feeble accents
from Jellyband, who stood clumsily trying to bar the way.
"PARDIEU, my good man," said Lady Blakeney, with some impatience, "what
are you standing in my way for, dancing about like a turkey with a sore
foot? Let me get to the fire, I am perished with the cold."
And the next moment Lady Blakeney, gently pushing mine host on one side,
had swept into the coffee-room.
There are many portraits and miniatures extant of Marguerite St.
Just--Lady Blakeney as she was then--but it is doubtful if any of these
really do her singular beauty justice. Tall, above the average, with
magnificent presence and regal figure, it is small wonder that even the
Comtesse paused for a moment in involuntary admiration before turning
her back on so fascinating an apparition.
Marguerite Blakeney was then scarcely five-and-twenty, and her beauty
was at its most dazzling stage. The large hat, with its undulating and
waving plumes, threw a soft shadow across the classic brow with the
aureole of auburn hair--free at the moment from any powder; the sweet,
almost childlike mouth, the straight chiselled nose, round chin, and
delicate throat, all seemed set off by the picturesque costume of the
period. The rich blue velvet robe moulded in its every line the graceful
contour of the figure, whilst one tiny hand held, with a dignity all
its own, the tall stick adorned with a large bunch of ribbons which
fashionable ladies of the period had taken to carrying recently.
With a quick glance all around the room, Marguerite Blakeney had taken
stock of every one there. She nodded pleasantly to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes,
whilst extending a hand to Lord Antony.
"Hello! my Lord Tony, why--what are YOU doing here in Dover?" she said
Then, without waiting for a reply, she turned and faced the Comtesse and
Suzanne. Her whole face lighted up with additional brightness, as she
stretched out both arms towards the young girl.
"Why! if that isn't my little Suzanne over there. PARDIEU, little
citizeness, how came you to be in England? And Madame too?"
She went up effusive to them both, with not a single touch of
embarrassment in her manner or in her smile. Lord Tony and Sir Andrew
watched the little scene with eager apprehension. English though they
were, they had often been in France, and had mixed sufficiently with the
French to realise the unbending hauteur, the bitter hatred with which
the old NOBLESSE of France viewed all those who had helped to contribute
to their downfall. Armand St. Just, the brother of beautiful Lady
Blakeney--though known to hold moderate and conciliatory views--was
an ardent republican; his feud with the ancient family of St. Cyr--the
rights and wrongs of which no outsider ever knew--had culminated in the
downfall, the almost total extinction of the latter. In France, St.
Just and his party had triumphed, and here in England, face to face with
these three refugees driven from their country, flying for their lives,
bereft of all which centuries of luxury had given them, there stood a
fair scion of those same republican families which had hurled down a
throne, and uprooted an aristocracy whose origin was lost in the dim and
distant vista of bygone centuries.
She stood there before them, in all the unconscious insolence of beauty,
and stretched out her dainty hand to them, as if she would, by that one
act, bridge over the conflict and bloodshed of the past decade.
"Suzanne, I forbid you to speak to that woman," said the Comtesse,
sternly, as she placed a restraining hand upon her daughter's arm.
She had spoken in English, so that all might hear and understand; the
two young English gentlemen, as well as the common innkeeper and
his daughter. The latter literally gasped with horror at this foreign
insolence, this impudence before her ladyship--who was English, now that
she was Sir Percy's wife, and a friend of the Princess of Wales to boot.
As for Lord Antony and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, their very hearts seemed to
stand still with horror at this gratuitous insult. One of them uttered
an exclamation of appeal, the other one of warning, and instinctively
both glanced hurriedly towards the door, whence a slow, drawly, not
unpleasant voice had already been heard.
Alone among those present Marguerite Blakeney and the Comtesse de
Tournay had remained seemingly unmoved. The latter, rigid, erect and
defiant, with one hand still upon her daughter's arm, seemed the very
personification of unbending pride. For the moment Marguerite's sweet
face had become as white as the soft fichu which swathed her throat, and
a very keen observer might have noted that the hand which held the tall,
beribboned stick was clenched, and trembled somewhat.
But this was only momentary; the next instant the delicate eyebrows were
raised slightly, the lips curved sarcastically upwards, the clear blue
eyes looked straight at the rigid Comtesse, and with a slight shrug of
"Hoity-toity, citizeness," she said gaily, "what fly stings you, pray?"
"We are in England now, Madame," rejoined the Comtesse, coldly, "and I
am at liberty to forbid my daughter to touch your hand in friendship.
She beckoned to her daughter, and without another look at Marguerite
Blakeney, but with a deep, old-fashioned curtsey to the two young men,
she sailed majestically out of the room.
There was silence in the old inn parlour for a moment, as the rustle of
the Comtesse's skirts died away down the passage. Marguerite, rigid as
a statue followed with hard, set eyes the upright figure, as it
disappeared through the doorway--but as little Suzanne, humble and
obedient, was about to follow her mother, the hard, set expression
suddenly vanished, and a wistful, almost pathetic and childlike look
stole into Lady Blakeney's eyes.
Little Suzanne caught that look; the child's sweet nature went out
to the beautiful woman, scarcely older than herself; filial obedience
vanished before girlish sympathy; at the door she turned, ran back to
Marguerite, and putting her arms round her, kissed her effusively; then
only did she follow her mother, Sally bringing up the rear, with a final
curtsey to my lady.
Suzanne's sweet and dainty impulse had relieved the unpleasant tension.
Sir Andrew's eyes followed the pretty little figure, until it had quite
disappeared, then they met Lady Blakeney's with unassumed merriment.
Marguerite, with dainty affection, had kissed her hand to the ladies, as
they disappeared through the door, then a humorous smile began hovering
round the corners of her mouth.
"So that's it, is it?" she said gaily. "La! Sir Andrew, did you ever see
such an unpleasant person? I hope when I grow old I sha'n't look like
She gathered up her skirts and assuming a majestic gait, stalked towards
"Suzanne," she said, mimicking the Comtesse's voice, "I forbid you to
speak to that woman!"
The laugh which accompanied this sally sounded perhaps a trifled forced
and hard, but neither Sir Andrew nor Lord Tony were very keen observers.
The mimicry was so perfect, the tone of the voice so accurately
reproduced, that both the young men joined in a hearty cheerful "Bravo!"
"Ah! Lady Blakeney!" added Lord Tony, "how they must miss you at the
Comedie Francaise, and how the Parisians must hate Sir Percy for having
taken you away."
"Lud, man," rejoined Marguerite, with a shrug of her graceful shoulders,
"'tis impossible to hate Sir Percy for anything; his witty sallies would
disarm even Madame la Comtesse herself."
The young Vicomte, who had not elected to follow his mother in her
dignified exit, now made a step forward, ready to champion the Comtesse
should Lady Blakeney aim any further shafts at her. But before he could
utter a preliminary word of protest, a pleasant though distinctly inane
laugh, was heard from outside, and the next moment an unusually tall and
very richly dressed figure appeared in the doorway.
CHAPTER VI AN EXQUISITE OF '92
Sir Percy Blakeney, as the chronicles of the time inform us, was in this
year of grace 1792, still a year or two on the right side of thirty.
Tall, above the average, even for an Englishman, broad-shouldered and
massively built, he would have been called unusually good-looking,
but for a certain lazy expression in his deep-set blue eyes, and that
perpetual inane laugh which seemed to disfigure his strong, clearly-cut
It was nearly a year ago now that Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart., one of the
richest men in England, leader of all the fashions, and intimate friend
of the Prince of Wales, had astonished fashionable society in London
and Bath by bringing home, from one of his journeys abroad, a beautiful,
fascinating, clever, French wife. He, the sleepiest, dullest, most
British Britisher that had ever set a pretty woman yawning, had secured
a brilliant matrimonial prize for which, as all chroniclers aver, there
had been many competitors.
Marguerite St. Just had first made her DEBUT in artistic Parisian
circles, at the very moment when the greatest social upheaval the
world has ever known was taking place within its very walls. Scarcely
eighteen, lavishly gifted with beauty and talent, chaperoned only by
a young and devoted brother, she had soon gathered round her, in
her charming apartment in the Rue Richelieu, a coterie which was as
brilliant as it was exclusive--exclusive, that is to say, only from one
point of view. Marguerite St. Just was from principle and by conviction
a republican--equality of birth was her motto--inequality of fortune
was in her eyes a mere untoward accident, but the only inequality she
admitted was that of talent. "Money and titles may be hereditary,"
she would say, "but brains are not," and thus her charming salon was
reserved for originality and intellect, for brilliance and wit, for
clever men and talented women, and the entrance into it was soon looked
upon in the world of intellect--which even in those days and in those
troublous times found its pivot in Paris--as the seal to an artistic
Clever men, distinguished men, and even men of exalted station formed a
perpetual and brilliant court round the fascinating young actress of
the Comedie Francaise, and she glided through republican, revolutionary,
bloodthirsty Paris like a shining comet with a trail behind her of all
that was most distinguished, most interesting, in intellectual Europe.
Then the climax came. Some smiled indulgently and called it an artistic
eccentricity, others looked upon it as a wise provision, in view of the
many events which were crowding thick and fast in Paris just then, but
to all, the real motive of that climax remained a puzzle and a mystery.
Anyway, Marguerite St. Just married Sir Percy Blakeney one fine day,
just like that, without any warning to her friends, without a SOIREE DE
CONTRAT or DINER DE FIANCAILLES or other appurtenances of a fashionable
How that stupid, dull Englishman ever came to be admitted within
the intellectual circle which revolved round "the cleverest woman in
Europe," as her friends unanimously called her, no one ventured
to guess--golden key is said to open every door, asserted the more
Enough, she married him, and "the cleverest woman in Europe" had linked
her fate to that "demmed idiot" Blakeney, and not even her most intimate
friends could assign to this strange step any other motive than that of
supreme eccentricity. Those friends who knew, laughed to scorn the idea
that Marguerite St. Just had married a fool for the sake of the worldly
advantages with which he might endow her. They knew, as a matter of
fact, that Marguerite St. Just cared nothing about money, and still less
about a title; moreover, there were at least half a dozen other men in
the cosmopolitan world equally well-born, if not so wealthy as Blakeney,
who would have been only too happy to give Marguerite St. Just any
position she might choose to covet.
As for Sir Percy himself, he was universally voted to be totally
unqualified for the onerous post he had taken upon himself. His chief
qualifications for it seemed to consist in his blind adoration for her,
his great wealth and the high favour in which he stood at the English
court; but London society thought that, taking into consideration his
own intellectual limitations, it would have been wiser on his part had
he bestowed those worldly advantages upon a less brilliant and witty
Although lately he had been so prominent a figure in fashionable English
society, he had spent most of his early life abroad. His father, the
late Sir Algernon Blakeney, had had the terrible misfortune of seeing
an idolized young wife become hopelessly insane after two years of happy
married life. Percy had just been born when the late Lady Blakeney
fell prey to the terrible malady which in those days was looked upon as
hopelessly incurable and nothing short of a curse of God upon the entire
family. Sir Algernon took his afflicted young wife abroad, and there
presumably Percy was educated, and grew up between an imbecile mother
and a distracted father, until he attained his majority. The death of
his parents following close upon one another left him a free man, and
as Sir Algernon had led a forcibly simple and retired life, the large
Blakeney fortune had increased tenfold.
Sir Percy Blakeney had travelled a great deal abroad, before he brought
home his beautiful, young, French wife. The fashionable circles of the
time were ready to receive them both with open arms; Sir Percy was rich,
his wife was accomplished, the Prince of Wales took a very great liking
to them both. Within six months they were the acknowledged leaders of
fashion and of style. Sir Percy's coats were the talk of the town, his
inanities were quoted, his foolish laugh copied by the gilded youth at
Almack's or the Mall. Everyone knew that he was hopelessly stupid, but
then that was scarcely to be wondered at, seeing that all the Blakeneys
for generations had been notoriously dull, and that his mother died an
Thus society accepted him, petted him, made much of him, since his
horses were the finest in the country, his FETES and wines the most
sought after. As for his marriage with "the cleverest woman in Europe,"
well! the inevitable came with sure and rapid footsteps. No one pitied
him, since his fate was of his own making. There were plenty of young
ladies in England, of high birth and good looks, who would have been
quite willing to help him to spend the Blakeney fortune, whilst
smiling indulgently at his inanities and his good-humoured foolishness.
Moreover, Sir Percy got no pity, because he seemed to require none--he
seemed very proud of his clever wife, and to care little that she took
no pains to disguise that good-natured contempt which she evidently felt
for him, and that she even amused herself by sharpening her ready wits
at his expense.
But then Blakeney was really too stupid to notice the ridicule with
which his wife covered him, and if his matrimonial relations with the
fascinating Parisienne had not turned out all that his hopes and his
dog-like devotion for her had pictured, society could never do more than
vaguely guess at it.
In his beautiful house at Richmond he played second fiddle to his clever
wife with imperturbable BONHOMIE; he lavished jewels and luxuries of
all kinds upon her, which she took with inimitable grace, dispensing the
hospitality of his superb mansion with the same graciousness with which
she had welcomed the intellectual coterie of Paris.
Physically, Sir Percy Blakeney was undeniably handsome--always
excepting the lazy, bored look which was habitual to him. He was always
irreproachable dressed, and wore the exaggerated "Incroyable" fashions,
which had just crept across from Paris to England, with the perfect
good taste innate in an English gentleman. On this special afternoon in
September, in spite of the long journey by coach, in spite of rain and
mud, his coat set irreproachably across his fine shoulders, his hands
looked almost femininely white, as they emerged through billowy frills
of finest Mechline lace: the extravagantly short-waisted satin coat,
wide-lapelled waistcoat, and tight-fitting striped breeches, set off his
massive figure to perfection, and in repose one might have admired so
fine a specimen of English manhood, until the foppish ways, the affected
movements, the perpetual inane laugh, brought one's admiration of Sir
Percy Blakeney to an abrupt close.
He had lolled into the old-fashioned inn parlour, shaking the wet off
his fine overcoat; then putting up a gold-rimmed eye-glass to his lazy
blue eye, he surveyed the company, upon whom an embarrassed silence had
"How do, Tony? How do, Ffoulkes?" he said, recognizing the two young
men and shaking them by the hand. "Zounds, my dear fellow," he added,
smothering a slight yawn, "did you ever see such a beastly day? Demmed
With a quaint little laugh, half of embarrassment and half of sarcasm,
Marguerite had turned towards her husband, and was surveying him from
head to foot, with an amused little twinkle in her merry blue eyes.
"La!" said Sir Percy, after a moment or two's silence, as no one offered
any comment, "how sheepish you all look . . . What's up?"
"Oh, nothing, Sir Percy," replied Marguerite, with a certain amount of
gaiety, which, however, sounded somewhat forced, "nothing to disturb
your equanimity--only an insult to your wife."
The laugh which accompanied this remark was evidently intended to
reassure Sir Percy as to the gravity of the incident. It apparently
succeeded in that, for echoing the laugh, he rejoined placidly--
"La, m'dear! you don't say so. Begad! who was the bold man who dared to
Lord Tony tried to interpose, but had no time to do so, for the young
Vicomte had already quickly stepped forward.
"Monsieur," he said, prefixing his little speech with an elaborate bow,
and speaking in broken English, "my mother, the Comtesse de Tournay de
Basserive, has offenced Madame, who, I see, is your wife. I cannot ask
your pardon for my mother; what she does is right in my eyes. But I am
ready to offer you the usual reparation between men of honour."
The young man drew up his slim stature to its full height and looked
very enthusiastic, very proud, and very hot as he gazed at six foot odd
of gorgeousness, as represented by Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart.
"Lud, Sir Andrew," said Marguerite, with one of her merry infectious
laughs, "look on that pretty picture--the English turkey and the French
The simile was quite perfect, and the English turkey looked down with
complete bewilderment upon the dainty little French bantam, which
hovered quite threateningly around him.
"La! sir," said Sir Percy at last, putting up his eye glass and
surveying the young Frenchman with undisguised wonderment, "where, in
the cuckoo's name, did you learn to speak English?"
"Monsieur!" protested the Vicomte, somewhat abashed at the way his
warlike attitude had been taken by the ponderous-looking Englishman.
"I protest 'tis marvellous!" continued Sir Percy, imperturbably, "demmed
marvellous! Don't you think so, Tony--eh? I vow I can't speak the French
lingo like that. What?"
"Nay, I'll vouch for that!" rejoined Marguerite, "Sir Percy has a
British accent you could cut with a knife."
"Monsieur," interposed the Vicomte earnestly, and in still more broken
English, "I fear you have not understand. I offer you the only posseeble
reparation among gentlemen."
"What the devil is that?" asked Sir Percy, blandly.
"My sword, Monsieur," replied the Vicomte, who, though still bewildered,
was beginning to lose his temper.
"You are a sportsman, Lord Tony," said Marguerite, merrily; "ten to one
on the little bantam."
But Sir Percy was staring sleepily at the Vicomte for a moment or two,
through his partly closed heavy lids, then he smothered another yawn,
stretched his long limbs, and turned leisurely away.
"Lud love you, sir," he muttered good-humouredly, "demmit, young man,
what's the good of your sword to me?"
What the Vicomte thought and felt at that moment, when that long-limbed
Englishman treated him with such marked insolence, might fill volumes
of sound reflections. . . . What he said resolved itself into a single
articulate word, for all the others were choked in his throat by his
"A duel, Monsieur," he stammered.
Once more Blakeney turned, and from his high altitude looked down on the
choleric little man before him; but not even for a second did he seem to
lose his own imperturbable good-humour. He laughed his own pleasant
and inane laugh, and burying his slender, long hands into the capacious
pockets of his overcoat, he said leisurely--"a bloodthirsty young
ruffian, Do you want to make a hole in a law-abiding man? . . . As for
me, sir, I never fight duels," he added, as he placidly sat down and
stretched his long, lazy legs out before him. "Demmed uncomfortable
things, duels, ain't they, Tony?"
Now the Vicomte had no doubt vaguely heard that in England the fashion
of duelling amongst gentlemen had been surpressed by the law with a
very stern hand; still to him, a Frenchman, whose notions of bravery and
honour were based upon a code that had centuries of tradition to back
it, the spectacle of a gentleman actually refusing to fight a duel was a
little short of an enormity. In his mind he vaguely pondered whether
he should strike that long-legged Englishman in the face and call him
a coward, or whether such conduct in a lady's presence might be deemed
ungentlemanly, when Marguerite happily interposed.
"I pray you, Lord Tony," she said in that gentle, sweet, musical voice
of hers, "I pray you play the peacemaker. The child is bursting with
rage, and," she added with a SOUPCON of dry sarcasm, "might do Sir Percy
an injury." She laughed a mocking little laugh, which, however, did
not in the least disturb her husband's placid equanimity. "The British
turkey has had the day," she said. "Sir Percy would provoke all the
saints in the calendar and keep his temper the while."
But already Blakeney, good-humoured as ever, had joined in the laugh
"Demmed smart that now, wasn't it?" he said, turning pleasantly to the
Vicomte. "Clever woman my wife, sir. . . . You will find THAT out if
you live long enough in England."
"Sir Percy is right, Vicomte," here interposed Lord Antony, laying a
friendly hand on the young Frenchman's shoulder. "It would hardly be
fitting that you should commence your career in England by provoking him
to a duel."
For a moment longer the Vicomte hesitated, then with a slight shrug
of the shoulders directed against the extraordinary code of honour
prevailing in this fog-ridden island, he said with becoming dignity,--
"Ah, well! if Monsieur is satisfied, I have no griefs. You mi'lor', are
our protector. If I have done wrong, I withdraw myself."
"Aye, do!" rejoined Blakeney, with a long sigh of satisfaction,
"withdraw yourself over there. Demmed excitable little puppy," he added
under his breath, "Faith, Ffoulkes, if that's a specimen of the goods
you and your friends bring over from France, my advice to you is, drop
'em 'mid Channel, my friend, or I shall have to see old Pitt about it,
get him to clap on a prohibitive tariff, and put you in the stocks an
"La, Sir Percy, your chivalry misguides you," said Marguerite,
coquettishly, "you forget that you yourself have imported one bundle of
goods from France."
Blakeney slowly rose to his feet, and, making a deep and elaborate bow
before his wife, he said with consummate gallantry,--
"I had the pick of the market, Madame, and my taste is unerring."
"More so than your chivalry, I fear," she retorted sarcastically.
"Odd's life, m'dear! be reasonable! Do you think I am going to allow my
body to be made a pincushion of, by every little frog-eater who don't
like the shape of your nose?"
"Lud, Sir Percy!" laughed Lady Blakeney as she bobbed him a quaint and
pretty curtsey, "you need not be afraid! 'Tis not the MEN who dislike
the shape of my nose."
"Afraid be demmed! Do you impugn my bravery, Madame? I don't patronise
the ring for nothing, do I, Tony? I've put up the fists with Red Sam
before now, and--and he didn't get it all his own way either--"
"S'faith, Sir Percy," said Marguerite, with a long and merry laugh, that
went echoing along the old oak rafters of the parlour, "I would I
had seen you then . . . ha! ha! ha! ha!--you must have looked a pretty
picture . . . and . . . and to be afraid of a little French boy . . . ha!
ha! . . . ha! ha!"
"Ha! ha! ha! he! he! he!" echoed Sir Percy, good-humouredly. "La,
Madame, you honour me! Zooks! Ffoulkes, mark ye that! I have made my
wife laugh!--The cleverest woman in Europe! . . . Odd's fish, we must
have a bowl on that!" and he tapped vigorously on the table near him.
"Hey! Jelly! Quick, man! Here, Jelly!"
Harmony was once more restored. Mr. Jellyband, with a mighty effort,
recovered himself from the many emotions he had experienced within the
last half hour. "A bowl of punch, Jelly, hot and strong, eh?" said
Sir Percy. "The wits that have just made a clever woman laugh must be
whetted! Ha! ha! ha! Hasten, my good Jelly!"
"Nay, there is no time, Sir Percy," interposed Marguerite. "The skipper
will be here directly and my brother must get on board, or the DAY DREAM
will miss the tide."
"Time, m'dear? There is plenty of time for any gentleman to get drunk
and get on board before the turn of the tide."
"I think, your ladyship," said Jellyband, respectfully, "that the young
gentleman is coming along now with Sir Percy's skipper."
"That's right," said Blakeney, "then Armand can join us in the merry
bowl. Think you, Tony," he added, turning towards the Vicomte, "that the
jackanapes of yours will join us in a glass? Tell him that we drink in
token of reconciliation."
"In fact you are all such merry company," said Marguerite, "that I trust
you will forgive me if I bid my brother good-bye in another room."
It would have been bad form to protest. Both Lord Antony and Sir Andrew
felt that Lady Blakeney could not altogether be in tune with them at the
moment. Her love for her brother, Armand St. Just, was deep and touching
in the extreme. He had just spent a few weeks with her in her English
home, and was going back to serve his country, at the moment when death
was the usual reward for the most enduring devotion.
Sir Percy also made no attempt to detain his wife. With that perfect,
somewhat affected gallantry which characterised his every movement, he
opened the coffee-room door for her, and made her the most approved and
elaborate bow, which the fashion of the time dictated, as she sailed
out of the room without bestowing on him more than a passing, slightly
contemptuous glance. Only Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, whose every thought since
he had met Suzanne de Tournay seemed keener, more gentle, more innately
sympathetic, noted the curious look of intense longing, of deep and
hopeless passion, with which the inane and flippant Sir Percy followed
the retreating figure of his brilliant wife.
CHAPTER VII THE SECRET ORCHARD
Once outside the noisy coffee-room, alone in the dimly-lighted passage,
Marguerite Blakeney seemed to breathe more freely. She heaved a deep
sigh, like one who had long been oppressed with the heavy weight of
constant self-control, and she allowed a few tears to fall unheeded down
Outside the rain had ceased, and through the swiftly passing clouds, the
pale rays of an after-storm sun shone upon the beautiful white coast of
Kent and the quaint, irregular houses that clustered round the Admiralty
Pier. Marguerite Blakeney stepped on to the porch and looked out to sea.
Silhouetted against the ever-changing sky, a graceful schooner, with
white sails set, was gently dancing in the breeze. The DAY DREAM it was,
Sir Percy Blakeney's yacht, which was ready to take Armand St. Just back
to France into the very midst of that seething, bloody Revolution which
was overthrowing a monarchy, attacking a religion, destroying a society,
in order to try and rebuild upon the ashes of tradition a new Utopia, of
which a few men dreamed, but which none had the power to establish.
In the distance two figures were approaching "The Fisherman's Rest":
one, an oldish man, with a curious fringe of grey hairs round a rotund
and massive chin, and who walked with that peculiar rolling gait which
invariably betrays the seafaring man: the other, a young, slight figure,
neatly and becomingly dressed in a dark, many caped overcoat; he was
clean-shaved, and his dark hair was taken well back over a clear and
"Armand!" said Marguerite Blakeney, as soon as she saw him approaching
from the distance, and a happy smile shone on her sweet face, even
through the tears.
A minute or two later brother and sister were locked in each other's
arms, while the old skipper stood respectfully on one side.
"How much time have we got, Briggs?" asked Lady Blakeney, "before M. St.
Just need go on board?"
"We ought to weigh anchor before half an hour, your ladyship," replied
the old man, pulling at his grey forelock.
Linking her arm in his, Marguerite led her brother towards the cliffs.
"Half an hour," she said, looking wistfully out to sea, "half an hour
more and you'll be far from me, Armand! Oh! I can't believe that you are
going, dear! These last few days--whilst Percy has been away, and I've
had you all to myself, have slipped by like a dream."
"I am not going far, sweet one," said the young man gently, "a narrow
channel to cross--a few miles of road--I can soon come back."
"Nay, 'tis not the distance, Armand--but that awful Paris . . . just now
. . ."
They had reached the edge of the cliff. The gentle sea-breeze blew
Marguerite's hair about her face, and sent the ends of her soft lace
fichu waving round her, like a white and supple snake. She tried to
pierce the distance far away, beyond which lay the shores of France:
that relentless and stern France which was exacting her pound of flesh,
the blood-tax from the noblest of her sons.
"Our own beautiful country, Marguerite," said Armand, who seemed to have
divined her thoughts.
"They are going too far, Armand," she said vehemently. "You are a
republican, so am I . . . we have the same thoughts, the same enthusiasm
for liberty and equality . . . but even YOU must think that they are
going too far . . ."
"Hush!--" said Armand, instinctively, as he threw a quick, apprehensive
glance around him.
"Ah! you see: you don't think yourself that it is safe even to speak of
these things--here in England!" She clung to him suddenly with strong,
almost motherly, passion: "Don't go, Armand!" she begged; "don't go
back! What should I do if . . . if . . . if . . ."
Her voice was choked in sobs, her eyes, tender, blue and loving, gazed
appealingly at the young man, who in his turn looked steadfastly into
"You would in any case be my own brave sister," he said gently, "who
would remember that, when France is in peril, it is not for her sons to
turn their backs on her."
Even as he spoke, that sweet childlike smile crept back into her face,
pathetic in the extreme, for it seemed drowned in tears.
"Oh! Armand!" she said quaintly, "I sometimes wish you had not so many
lofty virtues. . . . I assure you little sins are far less dangerous
and uncomfortable. But you WILL be prudent?" she added earnestly.
"As far as possible . . . I promise you."
"Remember, dear, I have only you . . . to . . . to care for me. . . ."
"Nay, sweet one, you have other interests now. Percy cares for
you . . ."
A look of strange wistfulness crept into her eyes as she murmured,--
"He did . . . once . . ."
"But surely . . ."
"There, there, dear, don't distress yourself on my account. Percy is
very good . . ."
"Nay!" he interrupted energetically, "I will distress myself on your
account, my Margot. Listen, dear, I have not spoken of these things to
you before; something always seemed to stop me when I wished to question
you. But, somehow, I feel as if I could not go away and leave you now
without asking you one question. . . . You need not answer it if you
do not wish," he added, as he noted a sudden hard look, almost of
apprehension, darting through her eyes.
"What is it?" she asked simply.
"Does Sir Percy Blakeney know that . . . I mean, does he know the part
you played in the arrest of the Marquis de St. Cyr?"
She laughed--a mirthless, bitter, contemptuous laugh, which was like a
jarring chord in the music of her voice.
"That I denounced the Marquis de St. Cyr, you mean, to the tribunal that
ultimately sent him and all his family to the guillotine? Yes, he does
know. . . . . I told him after I married him. . . ."
"You told him all the circumstances--which so completely exonerated you
from any blame?"
"It was too late to talk of 'circumstances'; he heard the story from
other sources; my confession came too tardily, it seems. I could no
longer plead extenuating circumstances: I could not demean myself by
trying to explain--"
"And now I have the satisfaction, Armand, of knowing that the biggest
fool in England has the most complete contempt for his wife."
She spoke with vehement bitterness this time, and Armand St. Just, who
loved her so dearly, felt that he had placed a somewhat clumsy finger
upon an aching wound.
"But Sir Percy loved you, Margot," he repeated gently.
"Loved me?--Well, Armand, I thought at one time that he did, or I should
not have married him. I daresay," she added, speaking very rapidly, as
if she were about to lay down a heavy burden, which had oppressed her
for months, "I daresay that even you thought--as everybody else did--that
I married Sir Percy because of his wealth--but I assure you, dear,
that it was not so. He seemed to worship me with a curious intensity of
concentrated passion, which went straight to my heart. I had never
loved any one before, as you know, and I was four-and-twenty then--so
I naturally thought that it was not in my nature to love. But it has
always seemed to me that it MUST be HEAVENLY to be loved blindly,
passionately, wholly . . . worshipped, in fact--and the very fact that
Percy was slow and stupid was an attraction for me, as I thought he
would love me all the more. A clever man would naturally have other
interests, an ambitious man other hopes. . . . I thought that a fool
would worship, and think of nothing else. And I was ready to respond,
Armand; I would have allowed myself to be worshipped, and given infinite
tenderness in return. . . ."
She sighed--and there was a world of disillusionment in that sigh.
Armand St. Just had allowed her to speak on without interruption: he
listened to her, whilst allowing his own thoughts to run riot. It
was terrible to see a young and beautiful woman--a girl in all but
name--still standing almost at the threshold of her life, yet bereft
of hope, bereft of illusions, bereft of all those golden and fantastic
dreams, which should have made her youth one long, perpetual holiday.
Yet perhaps--though he loved his sister dearly--perhaps he understood:
he had studied men in many countries, men of all ages, men of every
grade of social and intellectual status, and inwardly he understood what
Marguerite had left unsaid. Granted that Percy Blakeney was dull-witted,
but in his slow-going mind, there would still be room for that
ineradicable pride of a descendant of a long line of English gentlemen.
A Blakeney had died on Bosworth field, another had sacrified life
and fortune for the sake of a treacherous Stuart: and that same
pride--foolish and prejudiced as the republican Armand would call
it--must have been stung to the quick on hearing of the sin which lay
at Lady Blakeney's door. She had been young, misguided, ill-advised
perhaps. Armand knew that: her impulses and imprudence, knew it
still better; but Blakeney was slow-witted, he would not listen to
"circumstances," he only clung to facts, and these had shown him Lady
Blakeney denouncing a fellow man to a tribunal that knew no pardon:
and the contempt he would feel for the deed she had done, however
unwittingly, would kill that same love in him, in which sympathy and
intellectuality could never have a part.
Yet even now, his own sister puzzled him. Life and love have such
strange vagaries. Could it be that with the waning of her husband's
love, Marguerite's heart had awakened with love for him? Strange
extremes meet in love's pathway: this woman, who had had half
intellectual Europe at her feet, might perhaps have set her affections
on a fool. Marguerite was gazing out towards the sunset. Armand could
not see her face, but presently it seemed to him that something which
glittered for a moment in the golden evening light, fell from her eyes
onto her dainty fichu of lace.
But he could not broach that subject with her. He knew her strange,
passionate nature so well, and knew that reserve which lurked behind
her frank, open ways. They had always been together, these two, for their
parents had died when Armand was still a youth, and Marguerite but a
child. He, some eight years her senior, had watched over her until her
marriage; had chaperoned her during those brilliant years spent in the
flat of the Rue de Richelieu, and had seen her enter upon this new life
of hers, here in England, with much sorrow and some foreboding.
This was his first visit to England since her marriage, and the few
months of separation had already seemed to have built up a slight, thin
partition between brother and sister; the same deep, intense love
was still there, on both sides, but each now seemed to have a secret
orchard, into which the other dared not penetrate.
There was much Armand St. Just could not tell his sister; the political
aspect of the revolution in France was changing almost every day; she
might not understand how his own views and sympathies might become
modified, even as the excesses, committed by those who had been his
friends, grew in horror and in intensity. And Marguerite could not speak
to her brother about the secrets of her heart; she hardly understood
them herself, she only knew that, in the midst of luxury, she felt
lonely and unhappy.
And now Armand was going away; she feared for his safety, she longed for
his presence. She would not spoil these last few sadly-sweet moments by
speaking about herself. She led him gently along the cliffs, then down
to the beach; their arms linked in one another's, they had still so much
to say that lay just outside that secret orchard of theirs.
CHAPTER VIII THE ACCREDITED AGENT
The afternoon was rapidly drawing to a close; and a long, chilly English
summer's evening was throwing a misty pall over the green Kentish
The DAY DREAM had set sail, and Marguerite Blakeney stood alone on the
edge of the cliff over an hour, watching those white sails, which bore
so swiftly away from her the only being who really cared for her, whom
she dared to love, whom she knew she could trust.
Some little distance away to her left the lights from the coffee-room of
"The Fisherman's Rest" glittered yellow in the gathering mist; from time
to time it seemed to her aching nerves as if she could catch from thence
the sound of merry-making and of jovial talk, or even that perpetual,
senseless laugh of her husband's, which grated continually upon her
Sir Percy had had the delicacy to leave her severely alone. She supposed
that, in his own stupid, good-natured way, he may have understood that
she would wish to remain alone, while those white sails disappeared into
the vague horizon, so many miles away. He, whose notions of propriety
and decorum were supersensitive, had not suggested even that an
attendant should remain within call. Marguerite was grateful to her
husband for all this; she always tried to be grateful to him for his
thoughtfulness, which was constant, and for his generosity, which really
was boundless. She tried even at times to curb the sarcastic, bitter
thoughts of him, which made her--in spite of herself--say cruel,
insulting things, which she vaguely hoped would wound him.
Yes! she often wished to wound him, to make him feel that she too held
him in contempt, that she too had forgotten that she had almost loved
him. Loved that inane fop! whose thoughts seemed unable to soar beyond
the tying of a cravat or the new cut of a coat. Bah! And yet! . . . vague
memories, that were sweet and ardent and attuned to this calm summer's
evening, came wafted back to her memory, on the invisible wings of the
light sea-breeze: the tie when first he worshipped her; he seemed so
devoted--a very slave--and there was a certain latent intensity in that
love which had fascinated her.
Then suddenly that love, that devotion, which throughout his courtship
she had looked upon as the slavish fidelity of a dog, seemed to vanish
completely. Twenty-four hours after the simple little ceremony at old
St. Roch, she had told him the story of how, inadvertently, she had
spoken of certain matters connected with the Marquis de St. Cyr before
some men--her friends--who had used this information against the
unfortunate Marquis, and sent him and his family to the guillotine.
She hated the Marquis. Years ago, Armand, her dear brother, loved Angele
de St. Cyr, but St. Just was a plebeian, and the Marquis full of
the pride and arrogant prejudices of his caste. One day Armand, the
respectful, timid lover, ventured on sending a small poem--enthusiastic,
ardent, passionate--to the idol of his dreams. The next night he was
waylaid just outside Paris by the valets of Marquis de St. Cyr, and
ignominiously thrashed--thrashed like a dog within an inch of his
life--because he had dared to raise his eyes to the daughter of the
aristocrat. The incident was one which, in those days, some two years
before the great Revolution, was of almost daily occurrence in France;
incidents of that type, in fact, led to bloody reprisals, which a few
years later sent most of those haughty heads to the guillotine.
Marguerite remembered it all: what her brother must have suffered in
his manhood and his pride must have been appalling; what she suffered
through him and with him she never attempted even to analyse.
Then the day of retribution came. St. Cyr and his kin had found their
masters, in those same plebeians whom they had despised. Armand and
Marguerite, both intellectual, thinking beings, adopted with the
enthusiasm of their years the Utopian doctrines of the Revolution,
while the Marquis de St. Cyr and his family fought inch by inch for the
retention of those privileges which had placed them socially above their
fellow-men. Marguerite, impulsive, thoughtless, not calculating the
purport of her words, still smarting under the terrible insult her
brother had suffered at the Marquis' hands, happened to hear--amongst
her own coterie--that the St. Cyrs were in treasonable correspondence
with Austria, hoping to obtain the Emperor's support to quell the
growing revolution in their own country.
In those days one denunciation was sufficient: Marguerite's few
thoughtless words anent the Marquis de St. Cyr bore fruit within
twenty-four hours. He was arrested. His papers were searched: letters
from the Austrian Emperor, promising to send troops against the Paris
populace, were found in his desk. He was arraigned for treason against
the nation, and sent to the guillotine, whilst his family, his wife and
his sons, shared in this awful fate.
Marguerite, horrified at the terrible consequences of her own
thoughtlessness, was powerless to save the Marquis: his own coterie, the
leaders of the revolutionary movement, all proclaimed her as a heroine:
and when she married Sir Percy Blakeney, she did not perhaps altogether
realise how severely he would look upon the sin, which she had so
inadvertently committed, and which still lay heavily upon her soul. She
made full confession of it to her husband, trusting his blind love for
her, her boundless power over him, to soon make him forget what might
have sounded unpleasant to an English ear.
Certainly at the moment he seemed to take it very quietly; hardly, in
fact, did he appear to understand the meaning of all she said; but what
was more certain still, was that never after that could she detect the
slightest sign of that love, which she once believed had been wholly
hers. Now they had drifted quite apart, and Sir Percy seemed to have
laid aside his love for her, as he would an ill-fitting glove. She tried
to rouse him by sharpening her ready wit against his dull intellect;
endeavouring to excite his jealousy, if she could not rouse his love;
tried to goad him to self-assertion, but all in vain. He remained the
same, always passive, drawling, sleepy, always courteous, invariably a
gentleman: she had all that the world and a wealthy husband can give to
a pretty woman, yet on this beautiful summer's evening, with the white
sails of the DAY DREAM finally hidden by the evening shadows, she felt
more lonely than that poor tramp who plodded his way wearily along the
With another heavy sigh, Marguerite Blakeney turned her back upon the
sea and cliffs, and walked slowly back towards "The Fisherman's Rest."
As she drew near, the sound of revelry, of gay, jovial laughter, grew
louder and more distinct. She could distinguish Sir Andrew Ffoulkes'
pleasant voice, Lord Tony's boisterous guffaws, her husband's
occasional, drawly, sleepy comments; then realising the loneliness of
the road and the fast gathering gloom round her, she quickened her steps
. . . the next moment she perceived a stranger coming rapidly towards
her. Marguerite did not look up: she was not the least nervous, and "The
Fisherman's Rest" was now well within call.
The stranger paused when he saw Marguerite coming quickly towards him,
and just as she was about to slip past him, he said very quietly:
"Citoyenne St. Just."
Marguerite uttered a little cry of astonishment, at thus hearing her
own familiar maiden name uttered so close to her. She looked up at the
stranger, and this time, with a cry of unfeigned pleasure, she put out
both her hands effusively towards him.
"Chauvelin!" she exclaimed.
"Himself, citoyenne, at your service," said the stranger, gallantly
kissing the tips of her fingers.
Marguerite said nothing for a moment or two, as she surveyed with
obvious delight the not very prepossessing little figure before her.
Chauvelin was then nearer forty than thirty--a clever, shrewd-looking
personality, with a curious fox-like expression in the deep, sunken
eyes. He was the same stranger who an hour or two previously had joined
Mr. Jellyband in a friendly glass of wine.
"Chauvelin . . . my friend . . ." said Marguerite, with a pretty little
sigh of satisfaction. "I am mightily pleased to see you."
No doubt poor Marguerite St. Just, lonely in the midst of her grandeur,
and of her starchy friends, was happy to see a face that brought back
memories of that happy time in Paris, when she reigned--a queen--over
the intellectual coterie of the Rue de Richelieu. She did not notice
the sarcastic little smile, however, that hovered round the thin lips of
"But tell me," she added merrily, "what in the world, or whom in the
world, are you doing here in England?"
"I might return the subtle compliment, fair lady," he said. "What of
"Oh, I?" she said, with a shrug of the shoulders. "Je m'ennuie, mon ami,
that is all."
They had reached the porch of "The Fisherman's Rest," but Marguerite
seemed loth to go within. The evening air was lovely after the storm,
and she had found a friend who exhaled the breath of Paris, who knew
Armand well, who could talk of all the merry, brilliant friends whom
she had left behind. So she lingered on under the pretty porch, while
through the gaily-lighted dormer-window of the coffee-room sounds of
laughter, of calls for "Sally" and for beer, of tapping of mugs, and
clinking of dice, mingled with Sir Percy Blakeney's inane and mirthless
laugh. Chauvelin stood beside her, his shrewd, pale, yellow eyes fixed
on the pretty face, which looked so sweet and childlike in this soft
English summer twilight.
"You surprise me, citoyenne," he said quietly, as he took a pinch of
"Do I now?" she retorted gaily. "Faith, my little Chauvelin, I should
have thought that, with your penetration, you would have guessed that an
atmosphere composed of fogs and virtues would never suit Marguerite St.
"Dear me! is it as bad as that?" he asked, in mock consternation.
"Quite," she retorted, "and worse."
"Strange! Now, I thought that a pretty woman would have found English
country life peculiarly attractive."
"Yes! so did I," she said with a sigh, "Pretty women," she added
meditatively, "ought to have a good time in England, since all the
pleasant things are forbidden them--the very things they do every day."
"You'll hardly believe it, my little Chauvelin," she said earnestly,
"but I often pass a whole day--a whole day--without encountering a
"No wonder," retorted Chauvelin, gallantly, "that the cleverest woman in
Europe is troubled with ENNUI."
She laughed one of her melodious, rippling, childlike laughs.
"It must be pretty bad, mustn't it?" she asked archly, "or I should not
have been so pleased to see you."
"And this within a year of a romantic love match . . . that's just the
difficulty . . ."
"Ah! . . . that idyllic folly," said Chauvelin, with quiet sarcasm, "did
not then survive the lapse of . . . weeks?"
"Idyllic follies never last, my little Chauvelin . . . They come upon us
like the measles . . . and are as easily cured."
Chauvelin took another pinch of snuff: he seemed very much addicted
to that pernicious habit, so prevalent in those days; perhaps, too, he
found the taking of snuff a convenient veil for disguising the quick,
shrewd glances with which he strove to read the very souls of those with
whom he came in contact.
"No wonder," he repeated, with the same gallantry, "that the most active
brain in Europe is troubled with ENNUI."
"I was in hopes that you had a prescription against the malady, my
"How can I hope to succeed in that which Sir Percy Blakeney has failed
"Shall we leave Sir Percy out of the question for the present, my dear
friend?" she said drily.
"Ah! my dear lady, pardon me, but that is just what we cannot very well
do," said Chauvelin, whilst once again his eyes, keen as those of a
fox on the alert, darted a quick glance at Marguerite. "I have a most
perfect prescription against the worst form of ENNUI, which I would have
been happy to submit to you, but--"
"There IS Sir Percy."
"What has he to do with it?"
"Quite a good deal, I am afraid. The prescription I would offer, fair
lady, is called by a very plebeian name: Work!"
Chauvelin looked at Marguerite long and scrutinisingly. It seemed as
if those keen, pale eyes of his were reading every one of her thoughts.
They were alone together; the evening air was quite still, and their
soft whispers were drowned in the noise which came from the coffee-room.
Still, Chauvelin took a step or two from under the porch, looked
quickly and keenly all round him, then seeing that indeed no one was
within earshot, he once more came back close to Marguerite.
"Will you render France a small service, citoyenne?" he asked, with a
sudden change of manner, which lent his thin, fox-like face a singular
"La, man!" she replied flippantly, "how serious you look all of a
sudden. . . . Indeed I do not know if I WOULD render France a small
service--at any rate, it depends upon the kind of service she--or
"Have you ever heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Citoyenne St. Just?"
asked Chauvelin, abruptly.
"Heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel?" she retorted with a long and merry
laugh, "Faith man! we talk of nothing else. . . . We have hats 'a la
Scarlet Pimpernel'; our horses are called 'Scarlet Pimpernel'; at the
Prince of Wales' supper party the other night we had a 'souffle a la
Scarlet Pimpernel.' . . . Lud!" she added gaily, "the other day I ordered
at my milliner's a blue dress trimmed with green, and bless me, if she
did not call that 'a la Scarlet Pimpernel.'"
Chauvelin had not moved while she prattled merrily along; he did not
even attempt to stop her when her musical voice and her childlike laugh
went echoing through the still evening air. But he remained serious and
earnest whilst she laughed, and his voice, clear, incisive, and hard,
was not raised above his breath as he said,--
"Then, as you have heard of that enigmatical personage, citoyenne, you
must also have guessed, and know, that the man who hides his identity
under that strange pseudonym, is the most bitter enemy of our republic,
of France . . . of men like Armand St. Just."
"La!" she said, with a quaint little sigh, "I dare swear he is. . . .
France has many bitter enemies these days."
"But you, citoyenne, are a daughter of France, and should be ready to
help her in a moment of deadly peril."
"My brother Armand devotes his life to France," she retorted proudly;
"as for me, I can do nothing . . . here in England. . . ."
"Yes, you . . ." he urged still more earnestly, whilst his thin fox-like
face seemed suddenly to have grown impressive and full of dignity,
"here, in England, citoyenne . . . you alone can help us. . . .
Listen!--I have been sent over here by the Republican Government as
its representative: I present my credentials to Mr. Pitt in London
to-morrow. One of my duties here is to find out all about this League
of the Scarlet Pimpernel, which has become a standing menace to France,
since it is pledged to help our cursed aristocrats--traitors to their
country, and enemies of the people--to escape from the just punishment
which they deserve. You know as well as I do, citoyenne, that once they
are over here, those French EMIGRES try to rouse public feeling against
the Republic . . . They are ready to join issue with any enemy bold
enough to attack France . . . Now, within the last month scores of these
EMIGRES, some only suspected of treason, others actually condemned by
the Tribunal of Public Safety, have succeeded in crossing the Channel.
Their escape in each instance was planned, organized and effected by
this society of young English jackanapes, headed by a man whose brain
seems as resourceful as his identity is mysterious. All the most
strenuous efforts on the part of my spies have failed to discover who
he is; whilst the others are the hands, he is the head, who beneath this
strange anonymity calmly works at the destruction of France. I mean
to strike at that head, and for this I want your help--through him
afterwards I can reach the rest of the gang: he is a young buck in
English society, of that I feel sure. Find that man for me, citoyenne!"
he urged, "find him for France."
Marguerite had listened to Chauvelin's impassioned speech without
uttering a word, scarce making a movement, hardly daring to breathe. She
had told him before that this mysterious hero of romance was the talk of
the smart set to which she belonged; already, before this, her heart and
her imagination had been stirred by the thought of the brave man, who,
unknown to fame, had rescued hundreds of lives from a terrible, often an
unmerciful fate. She had but little real sympathy with those haughty
French aristocrats, insolent in their pride of caste, of whom the
Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive was so typical an example; but
republican and liberal-minded though she was from principle, she hated
and loathed the methods which the young Republic had chosen for
establishing itself. She had not been in Paris for some months; the
horrors and bloodshed of the Reign of Terror, culminating in the
September massacres, had only come across the Channel to her as a faint
echo. Robespierre, Danton, Marat, she had not known in their new guise
of bloody judiciaries, merciless wielders of the guillotine. Her very
soul recoiled in horror from these excesses, to which she feared her
brother Armand--moderate republican as he was--might become one day the
Then, when first she heard of this band of young English enthusiasts,
who, for sheer love of their fellowmen, dragged women and children, old
and young men, from a horrible death, her heart had glowed with pride
for them, and now, as Chauvelin spoke, her very soul went out to the
gallant and mysterious leader of the reckless little band, who risked
his life daily, who gave it freely and without ostentation, for the sake
Her eyes were moist when Chauvelin had finished speaking, the lace at
her bosom rose and fell with her quick, excited breathing; she no longer
heard the noise of drinking from the inn, she did not heed her husband's
voice or his inane laugh, her thoughts had gone wandering in search of
the mysterious hero! Ah! there was a man she might have loved, had he
come her way: everything in him appealed to her romantic imagination;
his personality, his strength, his bravery, the loyalty of those
who served under him in that same noble cause, and, above all, that
anonymity which crowned him, as if with a halo of romantic glory.
"Find him for France, citoyenne!"
Chauvelin's voice close to her ear roused her from her dreams. The
mysterious hero had vanished, and, not twenty yards away from her, a man
was drinking and laughing, to whom she had sworn faith and loyalty.
"La! man," she said with a return of her assumed flippancy, "you are
astonishing. Where in the world am I to look for him?"
"You go everywhere, citoyenne," whispered Chauvelin, insinuatingly,
"Lady Blakeney is the pivot of social London, so I am told . . . you see
everything, you HEAR everything."
"Easy, my friend," retorted Marguerite, drawing herself up to her full
height and looking down, with a slight thought of contempt on the small,
thin figure before her. "Easy! you seem to forget that there are six
feet of Sir Percy Blakeney, and a long line of ancestors to stand
between Lady Blakeney and such a thing as you propose."
"For the sake of France, citoyenne!" reiterated Chauvelin, earnestly.
"Tush, man, you talk nonsense anyway; for even if you did know who this
Scarlet Pimpernel is, you could do nothing to him--an Englishman!"
"I'd take my chance of that," said Chauvelin, with a dry, rasping little
laugh. "At any rate we could send him to the guillotine first to cool
his ardour, then, when there is a diplomatic fuss about it, we can
apologise--humbly--to the British Government, and, if necessary, pay
compensation to the bereaved family."
"What you propose is horrible, Chauvelin," she said, drawing away from
him as from some noisome insect. "Whoever the man may be, he is brave
and noble, and never--do you hear me?--never would I lend a hand to such
"You prefer to be insulted by every French aristocrat who comes to this
Chauvelin had taken sure aim when he shot this tiny shaft. Marguerite's
fresh young cheeks became a touch more pale and she bit her under lip,
for she would not let him see that the shaft had struck home.
"That is beside the question," she said at last with indifference. "I
can defend myself, but I refuse to do any dirty work for you--or for
France. You have other means at your disposal; you must use them, my
And without another look at Chauvelin, Marguerite Blakeney turned her
back on him and walked straight into the inn.
"That is not your last word, citoyenne," said Chauvelin, as a flood of
light from the passage illumined her elegant, richly-clad figure, "we
meet in London, I hope!"
"We meet in London," she said, speaking over her shoulder at him, "but
that is my last word."
She threw open the coffee-room door and disappeared from his view,
but he remained under the porch for a moment or two, taking a pinch of
snuff. He had received a rebuke and a snub, but his shrewd, fox-like
face looked neither abashed nor disappointed; on the contrary, a curious
smile, half sarcastic and wholly satisfied, played around the corners of
his thin lips.
CHAPTER IX THE OUTRAGE
A beautiful starlit night had followed on the day of incessant rain: a
cool, balmy, late summer's night, essentially English in its suggestion
of moisture and scent of wet earth and dripping leaves.
The magnificent coach, drawn by four of the finest thoroughbreds in
England, had driven off along the London road, with Sir Percy Blakeney
on the box, holding the reins in his slender feminine hands, and beside
him Lady Blakeney wrapped in costly furs. A fifty-mile drive on a
starlit summer's night! Marguerite had hailed the notion of it
with delight. . . . Sir Percy was an enthusiastic whip; his four
thoroughbreds, which had been sent down to Dover a couple of days
before, were just sufficiently fresh and restive to add zest to the
expedition and Marguerite revelled in anticipation of the few hours of
solitude, with the soft night breeze fanning her cheeks, her thoughts
wandering, whither away? She knew from old experience that Sir Percy
would speak little, if at all: he had often driven her on his beautiful
coach for hours at night, from point to point, without making more than
one or two casual remarks upon the weather or the state of the roads. He
was very fond of driving by night, and she had very quickly adopted his
fancy: as she sat next to him hour after hour, admiring the dexterous,
certain way in which he handled the reins, she often wondered what went
on in that slow-going head of his. He never told her, and she had never
cared to ask.
At "The Fisherman's Rest" Mr. Jellyband was going the round, putting
out the lights. His bar customers had all gone, but upstairs in the snug
little bedrooms, Mr. Jellyband had quite a few important guests: the
Comtesse de Tournay, with Suzannne, and the Vicomte, and there were two
more bedrooms ready for Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and Lord Antony Dewhurst, if
the two young men should elect to honour the ancient hostelry and stay
For the moment these two young gallants were comfortably installed
in the coffee-room, before the huge log-fire, which, in spite of the
mildness of the evening, had been allowed to burn merrily.
"I say, Jelly, has everyone gone?" asked Lord Tony, as the worthy
landlord still busied himself clearing away glasses and mugs.
"Everyone, as you see, my lord."
"And all your servants gone to bed?"
"All except the boy on duty in the bar, and," added Mr. Jellyband with a
laugh, "I expect he'll be asleep afore long, the rascal."
"Then we can talk here undisturbed for half an hour?"
"At your service, my lord. . . . I'll leave your candles on the dresser
. . . and your rooms are quite ready . . . I sleep at the top of the house
myself, but if your lordship'll only call loudly enough, I daresay I
"All right, Jelly . . . and . . . I say, put the lamp out--the fire'll
give us all the light we need--and we don't want to attract the
"Al ri', my lord."
Mr. Jellyband did as he was bid--he turned out the quaint old lamp that
hung from the raftered ceiling and blew out all the candles.
"Let's have a bottle of wine, Jelly," suggested Sir Andrew.
"Al ri', sir!"
Jellyband went off to fetch the wine. The room now was quite dark, save
for the circle of ruddy and fitful light formed by the brightly blazing
logs in the hearth.
"Is that all, gentlemen?" asked Jellyband, as he returned with a bottle
of wine and a couple of glasses, which he placed on the table.
"That'll do nicely, thanks, Jelly!" said Lord Tony.
"Good-night, my lord! Good-night, sir!"
The two young men listened, whilst the heavy tread of Mr. Jellyband was
heard echoing along the passage and staircase. Presently even that sound
died out, and the whole of "The Fisherman's Rest" seemed wrapt in sleep,
save the two young men drinking in silence beside the hearth.
For a while no sound was heard, even in the coffee-room, save the
ticking of the old grandfather's clock and the crackling of the burning
"All right again this time, Ffoulkes?" asked Lord Antony at last.
Sir Andrew had been dreaming evidently, gazing into the fire, and seeing
therein, no doubt, a pretty, piquant face, with large brown eyes and a
wealth of dark curls round a childish forehead.
"Yes!" he said, still musing, "all right!"
Lord Antony laughed pleasantly as he poured himself out another glass of
"I need not ask, I suppose, whether you found the journey pleasant this
"No, friend, you need not ask," replied Sir Andrew, gaily. "It was all
"Then here's to her very good health," said jovial Lord Tony. "She's
a bonnie lass, though she IS a French one. And here's to your
courtship--may it flourish and prosper exceedingly."
He drained his glass to the last drop, then joined his friend beside the
"Well! you'll be doing the journey next, Tony, I expect," said Sir
Andrew, rousing himself from his meditations, "you and Hastings,
certainly; and I hope you may have as pleasant a task as I had, and as
charming a travelling companion. You have no idea, Tony. . . ."
"No! I haven't," interrupted his friend pleasantly, "but I'll take your
word for it. And now," he added, whilst a sudden earnestness crept over
his jovial young face, "how about business?" The two young men drew
their chairs closer together, and instinctively, though they were alone,
their voices sank to a whisper.
"I saw the Scarlet Pimpernel alone, for a few moments in Calais," said
Sir Andrew, "a day or two ago. He crossed over to England two days
before we did. He had escorted the party all the way from Paris,
dressed--you'll never credit it!--as an old market woman, and
driving--until they were safely out of the city--the covered cart,
under which the Comtesse de Tournay, Mlle. Suzanne, and the Vicomte lay
concealed among the turnips and cabbages. They, themselves, of course,
never suspected who their driver was. He drove them right through a line
of soldiery and a yelling mob, who were screaming, 'A bas les aristos!'
But the market cart got through along with some others, and the Scarlet
Pimpernel, in shawl, petticoat and hood, yelled 'A bas les aristos!'
louder than anybody. Faith!" added the young man, as his eyes glowed
with enthusiasm for the beloved leader, "that man's a marvel! His cheek
is preposterous, I vow!--and that's what carries him through."
Lord Antony, whose vocabulary was more limited than that of his friend,
could only find an oath or two with which to show his admiration for his
"He wants you and Hastings to meet him at Calais," said Sir Andrew,
more quietly, "on the 2nd of next month. Let me see! that will be next
"It is, of course, the case of the Comte de Tournay, this time; a
dangerous task, for the Comte, whose escape from his chateau, after he
had been declared a 'suspect' by the Committee of Public Safety, was a
masterpiece of the Scarlet Pimpernel's ingenuity, is now under sentence
of death. It will be rare sport to get HIM out of France, and you will
have a narrow escape, if you get through at all. St. Just has actually
gone to meet him--of course, no one suspects St. Just as yet; but after
that . . . to get them both out of the country! I'faith, 'twill be a
tough job, and tax even the ingenuity of our chief. I hope I may yet
have orders to be of the party."
"Have you any special instructions for me?"
"Yes! rather more precise ones than usual. It appears that the
Republican Government have sent an accredited agent over to England,
a man named Chauvelin, who is said to be terribly bitter against our
league, and determined to discover the identity of our leader, so that
he may have him kidnapped, the next time he attempts to set foot in
France. This Chauvelin has brought a whole army of spies with him, and
until the chief has sampled the lot, he thinks we should meet as seldom
as possible on the business of the league, and on no account should talk
to each other in public places for a time. When he wants to speak to us,
he will contrive to let us know."
The two young men were both bending over the fire for the blaze had died
down, and only a red glow from the dying embers cast a lurid light on
a narrow semicircle in front of the hearth. The rest of the room lay
buried in complete gloom; Sir Andrew had taken a pocket-book from his
pocket, and drawn therefrom a paper, which he unfolded, and together
they tried to read it by the dim red firelight. So intent were they upon
this, so wrapt up in the cause, the business they had so much at heart,
so precious was this document which came from the very hand of their
adored leader, that they had eyes and ears only for that. They lost
count of the sounds around them, of the dropping of the crisp ash from
the grate, of the monotonous ticking of the clock, of the soft, almost
imperceptible rustle of something on the floor close beside them. A
figure had emerged from under one of the benches; with snake-like,
noiseless movements it crept closer and closer to the two young men, not
breathing, only gliding along the floor, in the inky blackness of the
"You are to read these instructions and commit them to memory," said Sir
Andrew, "then destroy them."
He was about to replace the letter-case into his pocket, when a tiny
slip of paper fluttered from it and fell on to the floor. Lord Antony
stooped and picked it up.
"What's that?" he asked.
"I don't know," replied Sir Andrew.
"It dropped out of your pocket just now. It certainly does not seem to
be with the other paper."
"Strange!--I wonder when it got there? It is from the chief," he added,
glancing at the paper.
Both stooped to try and decipher this last tiny scrap of paper on which
a few words had been hastily scrawled, when suddenly a slight noise
attracted their attention, which seemed to come from the passage beyond.
"What's that?" said both instinctively. Lord Antony crossed the room
towards the door, which he threw open quickly and suddenly; at that very
moment he received a stunning blow between the eyes, which threw him
back violently into the room. Simultaneously the crouching, snake-like
figure in the gloom had jumped up and hurled itself from behind upon the
unsuspecting Sir Andrew, felling him to the ground.
All this occurred within the short space of two or three seconds, and
before either Lord Antony or Sir Andrew had time or chance to utter a
cry or to make the faintest struggle. They were each seized by two
men, a muffler was quickly tied round the mouth of each, and they
were pinioned to one another back to back, their arms, hands, and legs
One man had in the meanwhile quietly shut the door; he wore a mask and
now stood motionless while the others completed their work.
"All safe, citoyen!" said one of the men, as he took a final survey of
the bonds which secured the two young men.
"Good!" replied the man at the door; "now search their pockets and give
me all the papers you find."
This was promptly and quietly done. The masked man having taken
possession of all the papers, listened for a moment or two if there were
any sound within "The Fisherman's Rest." Evidently satisfied that this
dastardly outrage had remained unheard, he once more opened the door and
pointed peremptorily down the passage. The four men lifted Sir Andrew
and Lord Antony from the ground, and as quietly, as noiselessly as they
had come, they bore the two pinioned young gallants out of the inn and
along the Dover Road into the gloom beyond.
In the coffee-room the masked leader of this daring attempt was quickly
glancing through the stolen papers.
"Not a bad day's work on the whole," he muttered, as he quietly took off
his mask, and his pale, fox-like eyes glittered in the red glow of the
fire. "Not a bad day's work."
He opened one or two letters from Sir Andrew Ffoulkes' pocket-book,
noted the tiny scrap of paper which the two young men had only just had
time to read; but one letter specially, signed Armand St. Just, seemed
to give him strange satisfaction.
"Armand St. Just a traitor after all," he murmured. "Now, fair
Marguerite Blakeney," he added viciously between his clenched teeth, "I
think that you will help me to find the Scarlet Pimpernel."
CHAPTER X IN THE OPERA BOX
It was one of the gala nights at Covent Garden Theatre, the first of the
autumn season in this memorable year of grace 1792.
The house was packed, both in the smart orchestra boxes and in the pit,
as well as in the more plebeian balconies and galleries above. Gluck's
ORPHEUS made a strong appeal to the more intellectual portions of the
house, whilst the fashionable women, the gaily-dressed and brilliant
throng, spoke to the eye of those who cared but little for this "latest
importation from Germany."
Selina Storace had been duly applauded after her grand ARIA by her
numerous admirers; Benjamin Incledon, the acknowledged favourite of the
ladies, had received special gracious recognition from the royal box;
and now the curtain came down after the glorious finale to the second
act, and the audience, which had hung spell-bound on the magic strains
of the great maestro, seemed collectively to breathe a long sigh of
satisfaction, previous to letting loose its hundreds of waggish and
frivolous tongues. In the smart orchestra boxes many well-known faces
were to be seen. Mr. Pitt, overweighted with cares of state, was finding
brief relaxation in to-night's musical treat; the Prince of Wales,
jovial, rotund, somewhat coarse and commonplace in appearance, moved
about from box to box, spending brief quarters of an hour with those of
his more intimate friends.
In Lord Grenville's box, too, a curious, interesting personality
attracted everyone's attention; a thin, small figure with shrewd,
sarcastic face and deep-set eyes, attentive to the music, keenly
critical of the audience, dressed in immaculate black, with dark hair
free from any powder. Lord Grenville--Foreign Secretary of State--paid
him marked, though frigid deference.
Here and there, dotted about among distinctly English types of beauty,
one or two foreign faces stood out in marked contrast: the haughty
aristocratic cast of countenance of the many French royalist EMIGRES
who, persecuted by the relentless, revolutionary faction of their
country, had found a peaceful refuge in England. On these faces sorrow
and care were deeply writ; the women especially paid but little heed,
either to the music or to the brilliant audience; no doubt their
thoughts were far away with husband, brother, son maybe, still in peril,
or lately succumbed to a cruel fate.
Among these the Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive, but lately arrived
from France, was a most conspicuous figure: dressed in deep, heavy black
silk, with only a white lace kerchief to relieve the aspect of mourning
about her person, she sat beside Lady Portarles, who was vainly trying
by witty sallies and somewhat broad jokes, to bring a smile to the
Comtesse's sad mouth. Behind her sat little Suzanne and the Vicomte,
both silent and somewhat shy among so many strangers. Suzanne's eyes
seemed wistful; when she first entered the crowded house, she had
looked eagerly all around, scanning every face, scrutinised every box.
Evidently the one face she wished to see was not there, for she settled
herself quietly behind her mother, listened apathetically to the music,
and took no further interest in the audience itself.
"Ah, Lord Grenville," said Lady Portarles, as following a discreet
knock, the clever, interesting head of the Secretary of State appeared
in the doorway of the box, "you could not arrive more "A" PROPOS. Here
is Madame la Comtesse de Tournay positively dying to hear the latest
news from France."
The distinguished diplomat had come forward and was shaking hands with
"Alas!" he said sadly, "it is of the very worst. The massacres continue;
Paris literally reeks with blood; and the guillotine claims a hundred
victims a day."
Pale and tearful, the Comtesse was leaning back in her chair, listening
horror-struck to this brief and graphic account of what went on in her
own misguided country.
"Ah, monsieur!" she said in broken English, "it is dreadful to hear all
that--and my poor husband still in that awful country. It is terrible
for me to be sitting here, in a theatre, all safe and in peace, whilst
he is in such peril."
"Lud, Madame!" said honest, bluff Lady Portarles, "your sitting in a
convent won't make your husband safe, and you have your children to
consider: they are too young to be dosed with anxiety and premature
The Comtesse smiled through her tears at the vehemence of her friend.
Lady Portarles, whose voice and manner would not have misfitted a
jockey, had a heart of gold, and hid the most genuine sympathy and most
gentle kindliness, beneath the somewhat coarse manners affected by some
ladies at that time.
"Besides which, Madame," added Lord Grenville, "did you not tell me
yesterday that the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel had pledged their
honour to bring M. le Comte safely across the Channel?"
"Ah, yes!" replied the Comtesse, "and that is my only hope. I saw Lord
Hastings yesterday . . . he reassured me again."
"Then I am sure you need have no fear. What the league have sworn, that
they surely will accomplish. Ah!" added the old diplomat with a sigh,
"if I were but a few years younger . . ."
"La, man!" interrupted honest Lady Portarles, "you are still young
enough to turn your back on that French scarecrow that sits enthroned in
your box to-night."
"I wish I could . . . but your ladyship must remember that in serving
our country we must put prejudices aside. M. Chauvelin is the accredited
agent of his Government . . ."
"Odd's fish, man!" she retorted, "you don't call those bloodthirsty
ruffians over there a government, do you?"
"It has not been thought advisable as yet," said the Minister,
guardedly, "for England to break off diplomatic relations with France,
and we cannot therefore refuse to receive with courtesy the agent she
wishes to send to us."
"Diplomatic relations be demmed, my lord! That sly little fox over
there is nothing but a spy, I'll warrant, and you'll find--an I'm much
mistaken, that he'll concern himself little with such diplomacy, beyond
trying to do mischief to royalist refugees--to our heroic Scarlet
Pimpernel and to the members of that brave little league."
"I am sure," said the Comtesse, pursing up her thin lips, "that if this
Chauvelin wishes to do us mischief, he will find a faithful ally in Lady
"Bless the woman!" ejaculated Lady Portarles, "did ever anyone see such
perversity? My Lord Grenville, you have the gift of gab, will you please
explain to Madame la Comtesse that she is acting like a fool. In your
position here in England, Madame," she added, turning a wrathful and
resolute face towards the Comtesse, "you cannot afford to put on the
hoity-toity airs you French aristocrats are so fond of. Lady Blakeney
may or may not be in sympathy with those Ruffians in France; she may or
may not have had anything to do with the arrest and condemnation of St.
Cyr, or whatever the man's name is, but she is the leader of fashion
in this country; Sir Percy Blakeney has more money than any half-dozen
other men put together, he is hand and glove with royalty, and your
trying to snub Lady Blakeney will not harm her, but will make you look a
fool. Isn't that so, my Lord?"
But what Lord Grenville thought of this matter, or to what reflections
this comely tirade of Lady Portarles led the Comtesse de Tournay,
remained unspoken, for the curtain had just risen on the third act of
ORPHEUS, and admonishments to silence came from every part of the house.
Lord Grenville took a hasty farewell of the ladies and slipped back into
his box, where M. Chauvelin had sat through this ENTR'ACTE, with his
eternal snuff-box in his hand, and with his keen pale eyes intently
fixed upon a box opposite him, where, with much frou-frou of silken
skirts, much laughter and general stir of curiosity amongst the
audience, Marguerite Blakeney had just entered, accompanied by her
husband, and looking divinely pretty beneath the wealth of her golden,
reddish curls, slightly besprinkled with powder, and tied back at the
nape of her graceful neck with a gigantic black bow. Always dressed in
the very latest vagary of fashion, Marguerite alone among the ladies
that night had discarded the crossover fichu and broad-lapelled
over-dress, which had been in fashion for the last two or three years.
She wore the short-waisted classical-shaped gown, which so soon was
to become the approved mode in every country in Europe. It suited her
graceful, regal figure to perfection, composed as it was of shimmering
stuff which seemed a mass of rich gold embroidery.
As she entered, she leant for a moment out of the box, taking stock of
all those present whom she knew. Many bowed to her as she did so, and
from the royal box there came also a quick and gracious salute.
Chauvelin watched her intently all through the commencement of the third
act, as she sat enthralled with the music, her exquisite little hand
toying with a small jewelled fan, her regal head, her throat, arms and
neck covered with magnificent diamonds and rare gems, the gift of the
adoring husband who sprawled leisurely by her side.
Marguerite was passionately fond of music. ORPHEUS charmed her to-night.
The very joy of living was writ plainly upon the sweet young face, it
sparkled out of the merry blue eyes and lit up the smile that lurked
around the lips. She was after all but five-and-twenty, in the hey day
of youth, the darling of a brilliant throng, adored, FETED, petted,
cherished. Two days ago the DAY DREAM had returned from Calais, bringing
her news that her idolised brother had safely landed, that he thought of
her, and would be prudent for her sake.
What wonder for the moment, and listening to Gluck's impassioned
strains, that she forgot her disillusionments, forgot her vanished
love-dreams, forgot even the lazy, good-humoured nonentity who had made
up for his lack of spiritual attainments by lavishing worldly advantages
He had stayed beside her in the box just as long as convention demanded,
making way for His Royal Highness, and for the host of admirers who in
a continued procession came to pay homage to the queen of fashion. Sir
Percy had strolled away, to talk to more congenial friends probably.
Marguerite did not even wonder whither he had gone--she cared so little;
she had had a little court round her, composed of the JEUNESSE DOREE of
London, and had just dismissed them all, wishing to be alone with Gluck
for a brief while.
A discreet knock at the door roused her from her enjoyment.
"Come in," she said with some impatience, without turning to look at the
Chauvelin, waiting for his opportunity, noted that she was alone, and
now, without pausing for that impatient "Come in," he quietly slipped
into the box, and the next moment was standing behind Marguerite's
"A word with you, citoyenne," he said quietly.
Marguerite turned quickly, in alarm, which was not altogether feigned.
"Lud, man! you frightened me," she said with a forced little laugh,
"your presence is entirely inopportune. I want to listen to Gluck, and
have no mind for talking."
"But this is my only opportunity," he said, as quietly, and without
waiting for permission, he drew a chair close behind her--so close
that he could whisper in her ear, without disturbing the audience, and
without being seen, in the dark background of the box. "This is my only
opportunity," he repeated, as she vouchsafed him no reply, "Lady Blakeney
is always so surrounded, so FETED by her court, that a mere old friend
has but very little chance."
"Faith, man!" she said impatiently, "you must seek for another
opportunity then. I am going to Lord Grenville's ball to-night after the
opera. So are you, probably. I'll give you five minutes then. . . ."
"Three minutes in the privacy of this box are quite sufficient for me,"
he rejoined placidly, "and I think that you will be wise to listen to
me, Citoyenne St. Just."
Marguerite instinctively shivered. Chauvelin had not raised his voice
above a whisper; he was now quietly taking a pinch of snuff, yet there
was something in his attitude, something in those pale, foxy eyes, which
seemed to freeze the blood in her veins, as would the sight of some
deadly hitherto unguessed peril. "Is that a threat, citoyen?" she asked
"Nay, fair lady," he said gallantly, "only an arrow shot into the air."
He paused a moment, like a cat which sees a mouse running heedlessly
by, ready to spring, yet waiting with that feline sense of enjoyment of
mischief about to be done. Then he said quietly--
"Your brother, St. Just, is in peril."
Not a muscle moved in the beautiful face before him. He could only see
it in profile, for Marguerite seemed to be watching the stage intently,
but Chauvelin was a keen observer; he noticed the sudden rigidity of the
eyes, the hardening of the mouth, the sharp, almost paralysed tension of
the beautiful, graceful figure.
"Lud, then," she said with affected merriment, "since 'tis one of your
imaginary plots, you'd best go back to your own seat and leave me enjoy
And with her hand she began to beat time nervously against the cushion
of the box. Selina Storace was singing the "Che faro" to an audience
that hung spellbound upon the prima donna's lips. Chauvelin did not
move from his seat; he quietly watched that tiny nervous hand, the only
indication that his shaft had indeed struck home.
"Well?" she said suddenly and irrelevantly, and with the same feigned
"Well, citoyenne?" he rejoined placidly.
"About my brother?"
"I have news of him for you which, I think, will interest you, but first
let me explain. . . . May I?"
The question was unnecessary. He felt, though Marguerite still held her
head steadily averted from him, that her every nerve was strained to
hear what he had to say.
"The other day, citoyenne," he said, "I asked for your help. . . .
France needed it, and I thought I could rely on you, but you gave me
your answer. . . . Since then the exigencies of my own affairs and
your own social duties have kept up apart . . . although many things have
happened. . . ."
"To the point, I pray you, citoyen," she said lightly; "the music is
entrancing, and the audience will get impatient of your talk."
"One moment, citoyenne. The day on which I had the honour of meeting
you at Dover, and less than an hour after I had your final answer, I
obtained possession of some papers, which revealed another of those
subtle schemes for the escape of a batch of French aristocrats--that
traitor de Tournay amongst others--all organized by that arch-meddler,
the Scarlet Pimpernel. Some of the threads, too, of this mysterious
organization have come into my hands, but not all, and I want you--nay!
you MUST help me to gather them together."
Marguerite seemed to have listened to him with marked impatience; she
now shrugged her shoulders and said gaily--
"Bah! man. Have I not already told you that I care nought about your
schemes or about the Scarlet Pimpernel. And had you not spoken about my
brother . . ."
"A little patience, I entreat, citoyenne," he continued imperturbably.
"Two gentlemen, Lord Antony Dewhurst and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes were at
'The Fisherman's Rest' at Dover that same night."
"I know. I saw them there."
"They were already known to my spies as members of that accursed league.
It was Sir Andrew Ffoulkes who escorted the Comtesse de Tournay and her
children across the Channel. When the two young men were alone, my spies
forced their way into the coffee-room of the inn, gagged and pinioned
the two gallants, seized their papers, and brought them to me."
In a moment she had guessed the danger. Papers? . . . Had Armand been
imprudent? . . . The very thought struck her with nameless terror. Still
she would not let this man see that she feared; she laughed gaily and
"Faith! and your impudence pases belief," she said merrily. "Robbery
and violence!--in England!--in a crowded inn! Your men might have been
caught in the act!"
"What if they had? They are children of France, and have been trained by
your humble servant. Had they been caught they would have gone to jail,
or even to the gallows, without a word of protest or indiscretion; at
any rate it was well worth the risk. A crowded inn is safer for these
little operations than you think, and my men have experience."
"Well? And those papers?" she asked carelessly.
"Unfortunately, though they have given me cognisance of certain names
. . . certain movements . . . enough, I think, to thwart their projected
COUP for the moment, it would only be for the moment, and still leaves
me in ignorance of the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
"La! my friend," she said, with the same assumed flippancy of manner,
"then you are where you were before, aren't you? and you can let me
enjoy the last strophe of the ARIA. Faith!" she added, ostentatiously
smothering an imaginary yawn, "had you not spoken about my
brother . . ."
"I am coming to him now, citoyenne. Among the papers there was a letter
to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, written by your brother, St. Just."
"That letter shows him to be not only in sympathy with the enemies of
France, but actually a helper, if not a member, of the League of the
The blow had been struck at last. All along, Marguerite had been
expecting it; she would not show fear, she was determined to seem
unconcerned, flippant even. She wished, when the shock came, to be
prepared for it, to have all her wits about her--those wits which had
been nicknamed the keenest in Europe. Even now she did not flinch. She
knew that Chauvelin had spoken the truth; the man was too earnest, too
blindly devoted to the misguided cause he had at heart, too proud of his
countrymen, of those makers of revolutions, to stoop to low, purposeless
That letter of Armand's--foolish, imprudent Armand--was in Chauvelin's
hands. Marguerite knew that as if she had seen the letter with her own
eyes; and Chauvelin would hold that letter for purposes of his own,
until it suited him to destroy it or to make use of it against Armand.
All that she knew, and yet she continued to laugh more gaily, more
loudly than she had done before.
"La, man!" she said, speaking over her shoulder and looking him full and
squarely in the face, "did I not say it was some imaginary plot. . . .
Armand in league with that enigmatic Scarlet Pimpernel! . . . Armand busy
helping those French aristocrats whom he despises! . . . Faith, the tale
does infinite credit to your imagination!"
"Let me make my point clear, citoyenne," said Chauvelin, with the same
unruffled calm, "I must assure you that St. Just is compromised beyond
the slightest hope of pardon."
Inside the orchestra box all was silent for a moment or two. Marguerite
sat, straight upright, rigid and inert, trying to think, trying to face
the situation, to realise what had best be done.
In the house Storace had finished the ARIA, and was even now bowing in
her classic garb, but in approved eighteenth-century fashion, to the
enthusiastic audience, who cheered her to the echo.
"Chauvelin," said Marguerite Blakeney at last, quietly, and without
that touch of bravado which had characterised her attitude all along,
"Chauvelin, my friend, shall we try to understand one another. It seems
that my wits have become rusty by contact with this damp climate. Now,
tell me, you are very anxious to discover the identity of the Scarlet
Pimpernel, isn't that so?"
"France's most bitter enemy, citoyenne . . . all the more dangerous, as
he works in the dark."
"All the more noble, you mean. . . . Well!--and you would now force
me to do some spying work for you in exchange for my brother Armand's
safety?--Is that it?"
"Fie! two very ugly words, fair lady," protested Chauvelin, urbanely.
"There can be no question of force, and the service which I would ask of
you, in the name of France, could never be called by the shocking name
"At any rate, that is what it is called over here," she said drily.
"That is your intention, is it not?"
"My intention is, that you yourself win the free pardon for Armand St.
Just by doing me a small service."
"What is it?"
"Only watch for me to-night, Citoyenne St. Just," he said eagerly.
"Listen: among the papers which were found about the person of Sir
Andrew Ffoulkes there was a tiny note. See!" he added, taking a tiny
scrap of paper from his pocket-book and handing it to her.
It was the same scrap of paper which, four days ago, the two young
men had been in the act of reading, at the very moment when they were
attacked by Chauvelin's minions. Marguerite took it mechanically and
stooped to read it. There were only two lines, written in a distorted,
evidently disguised, handwriting; she read them half aloud--
"'Remember we must not meet more often than is strictly necessary. You
have all instructions for the 2nd. If you wish to speak to me again, I
shall be at G.'s ball.'"
"What does it mean?" she asked.
"Look again, citoyenne, and you will understand."
"There is a device here in the corner, a small red flower . . ."
"The Scarlet Pimpernel," she said eagerly, "and G.'s ball means
Grenville's ball. . . . He will be at my Lord Grenville's ball
"That is how I interpret the note, citoyenne," concluded Chauvelin,
blandly. "Lord Antony Dewhurst and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, after they were
pinioned and searched by my spies, were carried by my orders to a lonely
house in the Dover Road, which I had rented for the purpose: there they
remained close prisoners until this morning. But having found this tiny
scrap of paper, my intention was that they should be in London, in time
to attend my Lord Grenville's ball. You see, do you not? that they must
have a great deal to say to their chief . . . and thus they will have an
opportunity of speaking to him to-night, just as he directed them to do.
Therefore, this morning, those two young gallants found every bar
and bolt open in that lonely house on the Dover Road, their jailers
disappeared, and two good horses standing ready saddled and tethered in
the yard. I have not seen them yet, but I think we may safely conclude
that they did not draw rein until they reached London. Now you see how
simple it all is, citoyenne!"
"It does seem simple, doesn't it?" she said, with a final bitter attempt
at flippancy, "when you want to kill a chicken . . . you take hold of
it . . . then you wring its neck . . . it's only the chicken who does
not find it quite so simple. Now you hold a knife at my throat, and a
hostage for my obedience. . . . You find it simple. . . . I don't."
"Nay, citoyenne, I offer you a chance of saving the brother you love
from the consequences of his own folly."
Marguerite's face softened, her eyes at last grew moist, as she
murmured, half to herself:
"The only being in the world who has loved me truly and constantly
. . . But what do you want me to do, Chauvelin?" she said, with a world
of despair in her tear-choked voice. "In my present position, it is
"Nay, citoyenne," he said drily and relentlessly, not heeding that
despairing, childlike appeal, which might have melted a heart of stone,
"as Lady Blakeney, no one suspects you, and with your help to-night I
may--who knows?--succeed in finally establishing the identity of the
Scarlet Pimpernel. . . . You are going to the ball anon. . . . Watch
for me there, citoyenne, watch and listen. . . . You can tell me if you
hear a chance word or whisper. . . . You can note everyone to whom Sir
Andrew Ffoulkes or Lord Antony Dewhurst will speak. You are absolutely
beyond suspicion now. The Scarlet Pimpernel will be at Lord Grenville's
ball to-night. Find out who he is, and I will pledge the word of France
that your brother shall be safe."
Chauvelin was putting the knife to her throat. Marguerite felt herself
entangled in one of those webs, from which she could hope for no escape.
A precious hostage was being held for her obedience: for she knew that
this man would never make an empty threat. No doubt Armand was already
signalled to the Committee of Public Safety as one of the "suspect";
he would not be allowed to leave France again, and would be ruthlessly
struck, if she refused to obey Chauvelin. For a moment--woman-like--she
still hoped to temporise. She held out her hand to this man, whom she
now feared and hated.
"If I promise to help you in this matter, Chauvelin," she said
pleasantly, "will you give me that letter of St. Just's?"
"If you render me useful service to-night, citoyenne," he replied with a
sarcastic smile, "I will give you that letter . . . to-morrow."
"You do not trust me?"
"I trust you absolutely, dear lady, but St. Just's life is forfeit to
his country . . . it rests with you to redeem it."
"I may be powerless to help you," she pleaded, "were I ever so willing."
"That would be terrible indeed," he said quietly, "for you . . . and for
Marguerite shuddered. She felt that from this man she could expect no
mercy. All-powerful, he held the beloved life in the hollow of his hand.
She knew him too well not to know that, if he failed in gaining his own
ends, he would be pitiless.
She felt cold in spite of the oppressive air of opera-house. The
heart-appealing strains of the music seemed to reach her, as from a
distant land. She drew her costly lace scarf up around her shoulders,
and sat silently watching the brilliant scene, as if in a dream.
For a moment her thoughts wandered away from the loved one who was in
danger, to that other man who also had a claim on her confidence and her
affection. She felt lonely, frightened for Armand's sake; she longed
to seek comfort and advice from someone who would know how to help and
console. Sir Percy Blakeney had loved her once; he was her husband; why
should she stand alone through this terrible ordeal? He had very little
brains, it is true, but he had plenty of muscle: surely, if she provided
the thought, and he the manly energy and pluck, together they could
outwit the astute diplomatist, and save the hostage from his vengeful
hands, without imperilling the life of the noble leader of that gallant
little band of heroes. Sir Percy knew St. Just well--he seemed attached
to him--she was sure that he could help.
Chauvelin was taking no further heed of her. He had said his cruel
"Either--or--" and left her to decide. He, in his turn now, appeared to
be absorbed in the sour-stirring melodies of ORPHEUS, and was beating
time to the music with his sharp, ferret-like head.
A discreet rap at the door roused Marguerite from her thoughts. It
was Sir Percy Blakeney, tall, sleepy, good-humoured, and wearing that
half-shy, half-inane smile, which just now seemed to irritate her every
"Er . . . your chair is outside . . . m'dear," he said, with his most
exasperating drawl, "I suppose you will want to go to that demmed ball.
. . . Excuse me--er--Monsieur Chauvelin--I had not observed you. . . ."
He extended two slender, white fingers toward Chauvelin, who had risen
when Sir Percy entered the box.
"Are you coming, m'dear?"
"Hush! Sh! Sh!" came in angry remonstrance from different parts of
the house. "Demmed impudence," commented Sir Percy with a good-natured
Marguerite sighed impatiently. Her last hope seemed suddenly to have
vanished away. She wrapped her cloak round her and without looking at
"I am ready to go," she said, taking his arm. At the door of the box
she turned and looked straight at Chauvelin, who, with his CHAPEAU-BRAS
under his arm, and a curious smile round his thin lips, was preparing to
follow the strangely ill-assorted couple.
"It is only AU REVOIR, Chauvelin," she said pleasantly, "we shall meet
at my Lord Grenville's ball, anon."
And in her eyes the astute Frenchman, read, no doubt, something which
caused him profound satisfaction, for, with a sarcastic smile, he took
a delicate pinch of snuff, then, having dusted his dainty lace jabot, he
rubbed his thin, bony hands contentedly together.
CHAPTER XI LORD GRENVILLE'S BALL
The historic ball given by the then Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs--Lord Grenville--was the most brilliant function of the year.
Though the autumn season had only just begun, everybody who was anybody
had contrived to be in London in time to be present there, and to shine
at this ball, to the best of his or her respective ability.
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales had promised to be present.
He was coming on presently from the opera. Lord Grenville himself had
listened to the two first acts of ORPHEUS, before preparing to receive
his guests. At ten o'clock--an unusually late hour in those days--the
grand rooms of the Foreign Office, exquisitely decorated with exotic
palms and flowers, were filled to overflowing. One room had been set
apart for dancing, and the dainty strains of the minuet made a soft
accompaniment to the gay chatter, the merry laughter of the numerous and
In a smaller chamber, facing the top of the fine stairway, the
distinguished host stood ready to receive his guests. Distinguished men,
beautiful women, notabilities from every European country had already
filed past him, had exchanged the elaborate bows and curtsies with him,
which the extravagant fashion of the time demanded, and then, laughing
and talking, had dispersed in the ball, reception, and card rooms
Not far from Lord Grenville's elbow, leaning against one of the console
tables, Chauvelin, in his irreproachable black costume, was taking a
quiet survey of the brilliant throng. He noted that Sir Percy and Lady
Blakeney had not yet arrived, and his keen, pale eyes glanced quickly
towards the door every time a new-comer appeared.
He stood somewhat isolated: the envoy of the Revolutionary Government of
France was not likely to be very popular in England, at a time when the
news of the awful September massacres, and of the Reign of Terror and
Anarchy, had just begun to filtrate across the Channel.
In his official capacity he had been received courteously by his English
colleagues: Mr. Pitt had shaken him by the hand; Lord Grenville had
entertained him more than once; but the more intimate circles of London
society ignored him altogether; the women openly turned their backs upon
him; the men who held no official position refused to shake his hand.
But Chauvelin was not the man to trouble himself about these social
amenities, which he called mere incidents in his diplomatic career. He
was blindly enthusiastic for the revolutionary cause, he despised all
social inequalities, and he had a burning love for his own country:
these three sentiments made him supremely indifferent to the snubs he
received in this fog-ridden, loyalist, old-fashioned England.
But, above all, Chauvelin had a purpose at heart. He firmly believed
that the French aristocrat was the most bitter enemy of France; he would
have wished to see every one of them annihilated: he was one of those
who, during this awful Reign of Terror, had been the first to utter the
historic and ferocious desire "that aristocrats might have but one head
between them, so that it might be cut off with a single stroke of the
guillotine." And thus he looked upon every French aristocrat, who
had succeeded in escaping from France, as so much prey of which the
guillotine had been unwarrantably cheated. There is no doubt that those
royalist EMIGRES, once they had managed to cross the frontier, did their
very best to stir up foreign indignation against France. Plots without
end were hatched in England, in Belgium, in Holland, to try and induce
some great power to send troops into revolutionary Paris, to free King
Louis, and to summarily hang the bloodthirsty leaders of that monster
Small wonder, therefore, that the romantic and mysterious personality of
the Scarlet Pimpernel was a source of bitter hatred to Chauvelin. He and
the few young jackanapes under his command, well furnished with money,
armed with boundless daring, and acute cunning, had succeeded in
rescuing hundreds of aristocrats from France. Nine-tenths of the
EMIGRES, who were FETED at the English court, owed their safety to that
man and to his league.
Chauvelin had sworn to his colleagues in Paris that he would discover
the identity of that meddlesome Englishman, entice him over to France,
and then . . . Chauvelin drew a deep breath of satisfaction at the very
thought of seeing that enigmatic head falling under the knife of the
guillotine, as easily as that of any other man.
Suddenly there was a great stir on the handsome staircase, all
conversation stopped for a moment as the majordomo's voice outside
"His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and suite, Sir Percy Blakeney,
Lord Grenville went quickly to the door to receive his exalted guest.
The Prince of Wales, dressed in a magnificent court suit of
salmon-coloured velvet richly embroidered with gold, entered with
Marguerite Blakeney on his arm; and on his left Sir Percy, in gorgeous
shimmering cream satin, cut in the extravagant "Incroyable" style, his
fair hair free from powder, priceless lace at his neck and wrists, and
the flat CHAPEAU-BRAS under his arm.
After the few conventional words of deferential greeting, Lord Grenville
said to his royal guest,--
"Will your Highness permit me to introduce M. Chauvelin, the accredited
agent of the French Government?"
Chauvelin, immediately the Prince entered, had stepped forward,
expecting this introduction. He bowed very low, whilst the Prince
returned his salute with a curt nod of the head.
"Monsieur," said His Royal Highness coldly, "we will try to forget
the government that sent you, and look upon you merely as our guest--a
private gentleman from France. As such you are welcome, Monsieur."
"Monseigneur," rejoined Chauvelin, bowing once again. "Madame," he
added, bowing ceremoniously before Marguerite.
"Ah! my little Chauvelin!" she said with unconcerned gaiety, and
extending her tiny hand to him. "Monsieur and I are old friends, your
"Ah, then," said the Prince, this time very graciously, "you are doubly
"There is someone else I would crave permission to present to your Royal
Highness," here interposed Lord Grenville.
"Ah! who is it?" asked the Prince.
"Madame la Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive and her family, who have but
recently come from France."
"By all means!--They are among the lucky ones then!"
Lord Grenville turned in search of the Comtesse, who sat at the further
end of the room.
"Lud love me!" whispered his Royal Highness to Marguerite, as soon as he
had caught sight of the rigid figure of the old lady; "Lud love me! she
looks very virtuous and very melancholy."
"Faith, your Royal Highness," she rejoined with a smile, "virtue is like
precious odours, most fragrant when it is crushed."
"Virtue, alas!" sighed the Prince, "is mostly unbecoming to your
charming sex, Madame."
"Madame la Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive," said Lord Grenville,
introducing the lady.
"This is a pleasure, Madame; my royal father, as you know, is ever glad
to welcome those of your compatriots whom France has driven from her
"Your Royal Highness is ever gracious," replied the Comtesse with
becoming dignity. Then, indicating her daughter, who stood timidly by
her side: "My daughter Suzanne, Monseigneur," she said.
"Ah! charming!--charming!" said the Prince, "and now allow me, Comtesse,
to introduce you, Lady Blakeney, who honours us with her friendship. You
and she will have much to say to one another, I vow. Every compatriot of
Lady Blakeney's is doubly welcome for her sake . . . her friends are our
friends . . . her enemies, the enemies of England."
Marguerite's blue eyes had twinkled with merriment at this gracious
speech from her exalted friend. The Comtesse de Tournay, who lately had
so flagrantly insulted her, was here receiving a public lesson, at
which Marguerite could not help but rejoice. But the Comtesse, for whom
respect of royalty amounted almost to a religion, was too well-schooled
in courtly etiquette to show the slightest sign of embarrassment, as the
two ladies curtsied ceremoniously to one another.
"His Royal Highness is ever gracious, Madame," said Marguerite,
demurely, and with a wealth of mischief in her twinkling blue eyes,
"but there is no need for his kind of mediation. . . . Your amiable
reception of me at our last meeting still dwells pleasantly in my
"We poor exiles, Madame," rejoined the Comtesse, frigidly, "show our
gratitude to England by devotion to the wishes of Monseigneur."
"Madame!" said Marguerite, with another ceremonious curtsey.
"Madame," responded the Comtesse with equal dignity.
The Prince in the meanwhile was saying a few gracious words to the young
"I am happy to know you, Monsieur le Vicomte," he said. "I knew your
father well when he was ambassador in London."
"Ah, Monseigneur!" replied the Vicomte, "I was a leetle boy then . . .
and now I owe the honour of this meeting to our protector, the Scarlet
"Hush!" said the Prince, earnestly and quickly, as he indicated
Chauvelin, who had stood a little on one side throughout the whole of
this little scene, watching Marguerite and the Comtesse with an amused,
sarcastic little smile around his thin lips.
"Nay, Monseigneur," he said now, as if in direct response to the
Prince's challenge, "pray do not check this gentleman's display of
gratitude; the name of that interesting red flower is well known to
me--and to France."
The Prince looked at him keenly for a moment or two.
"Faith, then, Monsieur," he said, "perhaps you know more about our
national hero than we do ourselves . . . perchance you know who he is.
. . . See!" he added, turning to the groups round the room, "the ladies
hang upon your lips . . . you would render yourself popular among the
fair sex if you were to gratify their curiosity."
"Ah, Monseigneur," said Chauvelin, significantly, "rumour has it in
France that your Highness could--an you would--give the truest account
of that enigmatical wayside flower."
He looked quickly and keenly at Marguerite as he spoke; but she betrayed
no emotion, and her eyes met his quite fearlessly.
"Nay, man," replied the Prince, "my lips are sealed! and the members of
the league jealously guard the secret of their chief . . . so his fair
adorers have to be content with worshipping a shadow. Here in England,
Monsieur," he added, with wonderful charm and dignity, "we but name
the Scarlet Pimpernel, and every fair cheek is suffused with a blush of
enthusiasm. None have seen him save his faithful lieutenants. We know
not if he be tall or short, fair or dark, handsome or ill-formed; but we
know that he is the bravest gentleman in all the world, and we all feel
a little proud, Monsieur, when we remember that he is an Englishman.
"Ah, Monsieur Chauvelin," added Marguerite, looking almost with defiance
across at the placid, sphinx-like face of the Frenchman, "His Royal
Highness should add that we ladies think of him as of a hero of old . . .
we worship him . . . we wear his badge . . . we tremble for him when he
is in danger, and exult with him in the hour of his victory."
Chauvelin did no more than bow placidly both to the Prince and to
Marguerite; he felt that both speeches were intended--each in their
way--to convey contempt or defiance. The pleasure-loving, idle Prince he
despised: the beautiful woman, who in her golden hair wore a spray of
small red flowers composed of rubies and diamonds--her he held in the
hollow of his hand: he could afford to remain silent and to wait events.
A long, jovial, inane laugh broke the sudden silence which had fallen
over everyone. "And we poor husbands," came in slow, affected accents
from gorgeous Sir Percy, "we have to stand by . . . while they worship a
Everyone laughed--the Prince more loudly than anyone. The tension
of subdued excitement was relieved, and the next moment everyone was
laughing and chatting merrily as the gay crowd broke up and dispersed in
the adjoining rooms.
CHAPTER XII THE SCRAP OF PAPER
Marguerite suffered intensely. Though she laughed and chatted, though
she was more admired, more surrounded, more FETED than any woman there,
she felt like one condemned to death, living her last day upon this
Her nerves were in a state of painful tension, which had increased a
hundredfold during that brief hour which she had spent in her husband's
company, between the opera and the ball. The short ray of hope--that she
might find in this good-natured, lazy individual a valuable friend and
adviser--had vanished as quickly as it had come, the moment she found
herself alone with him. The same feeling of good-humoured contempt which
one feels for an animal or a faithful servant, made her turn away with
a smile from the man who should have been her moral support in this
heart-rending crisis through which she was passing: who should have been
her cool-headed adviser, when feminine sympathy and sentiment tossed her
hither and thither, between her love for her brother, who was far away
and in mortal peril, and horror of the awful service which Chauvelin had
exacted from her, in exchange for Armand's safety.
There he stood, the moral support, the cool-headed adviser, surrounded
by a crowd of brainless, empty-headed young fops, who were even now
repeating from mouth to mouth, and with every sign of the keenest
enjoyment, a doggerel quatrain which he had just given forth. Everywhere
the absurd, silly words met her: people seemed to have little else to
speak about, even the Prince had asked her, with a little laugh, whether
she appreciated her husband's latest poetic efforts.
"All done in the tying of a cravat," Sir Percy had declared to his
clique of admirers.
"We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?--Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel"
Sir Percy's BON MOT had gone the round of the brilliant reception-rooms.
The Prince was enchanted. He vowed that life without Blakeney would be
but a dreary desert. Then, taking him by the arm, had led him to the
card-room, and engaged him in a long game of hazard.
Sir Percy, whose chief interest in most social gatherings seemed to
centre round the card-table, usually allowed his wife to flirt, dance,
to amuse or bore herself as much as she liked. And to-night, having
delivered himself of his BON MOT, he had left Marguerite surrounded by
a crowd of admirers of all ages, all anxious and willing to help her to
forget that somewhere in the spacious reception rooms, there was a long,
lazy being who had been fool enough to suppose that the cleverest woman
in Europe would settle down to the prosaic bonds of English matrimony.
Her still overwrought nerves, her excitement and agitation, lent
beautiful Marguerite Blakeney much additional charm: escorted by a
veritable bevy of men of all ages and of most nationalities, she called
forth many exclamations of admiration from everyone as she passed.
She would not allow herself any more time to think. Her early, somewhat
Bohemian training had made her something of a fatalist. She felt that
events would shape themselves, that the directing of them was not in her
hands. From Chauvelin she knew that she could expect no mercy. He had
set a price on Armand's head, and left it to her to pay or not, as she
Later on in the evening she caught sight of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and Lord
Antony Dewhurst, who seemingly had just arrived. She noticed at once
that Sir Andrew immediately made for little Suzanne de Tournay, and that
the two young people soon managed to isolate themselves in one of the
deep embrasures of the mullioned windows, there to carry on a long
conversation, which seemed very earnest and very pleasant on both sides.
Both the young men looked a little haggard and anxious, but otherwise
they were irreproachably dressed, and there was not the slightest sign,
about their courtly demeanour, of the terrible catastrophe, which they
must have felt hovering round them and round their chief.
That the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel had no intention of abandoning
its cause, she had gathered through little Suzanne herself, who spoke
openly of the assurance she and her mother had had that the Comte de
Tournay would be rescued from France by the league, within the next few
days. Vaguely she began to wonder, as she looked at the brilliant and
fashionable in the gaily-lighted ball-room, which of these worldly men
round her was the mysterious "Scarlet Pimpernel," who held the threads
of such daring plots, and the fate of valuable lives in his hands.
A burning curiosity seized her to know him: although for months she had
heard of him and had accepted his anonymity, as everyone else in society
had done; but now she longed to know--quite impersonally, quite apart
from Armand, and oh! quite apart from Chauvelin--only for her own sake,
for the sake of the enthusiastic admiration she had always bestowed on
his bravery and cunning.
He was at the ball, of course, somewhere, since Sir Andrew Ffoulkes
and Lord Antony Dewhurst were here, evidently expecting to meet their
chief--and perhaps to get a fresh MOT D'ORDRE from him.
Marguerite looked round at everyone, at the aristocratic high-typed
Norman faces, the squarely-built, fair-haired Saxon, the more gentle,
humorous caste of the Celt, wondering which of these betrayed the power,
the energy, the cunning which had imposed its will and its leadership
upon a number of high-born English gentlemen, among whom rumour asserted
was His Royal Highness himself.
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes? Surely not, with his gentle blue eyes, which were
looking so tenderly and longingly after little Suzanne, who was being
led away from the pleasant TETE-A-TETE by her stern mother. Marguerite
watched him across the room, as he finally turned away with a sigh, and
seemed to stand, aimless and lonely, now that Suzanne's dainty little
figure had disappeared in the crowd.
She watched him as he strolled towards the doorway, which led to a small
boudoir beyond, then paused and leaned against the framework of it,
looking still anxiously all round him.
Marguerite contrived for the moment to evade her present attentive
cavalier, and she skirted the fashionable crowd, drawing nearer to the
doorway, against which Sir Andrew was leaning. Why she wished to get
closer to him, she could not have said: perhaps she was impelled by an
all-powerful fatality, which so often seems to rule the destinies of
Suddenly she stopped: her very heart seemed to stand still, her eyes,
large and excited, flashed for a moment towards that doorway, then as
quickly were turned away again. Sir Andrew Ffoulkes was still in the
same listless position by the door, but Marguerite had distinctly seen
that Lord Hastings--a young buck, a friend of her husband's and one of
the Prince's set--had, as he quickly brushed past him, slipped something
into his hand.
For one moment longer--oh! it was the merest flash--Marguerite paused:
the next she had, with admirably played unconcern, resumed her walk
across the room--but this time more quickly towards that doorway whence
Sir Andrew had now disappeared.
All this, from the moment that Marguerite had caught sight of Sir Andrew
leaning against the doorway, until she followed him into the little
boudoir beyond, had occurred in less than a minute. Fate is usually
swift when she deals a blow.
Now Lady Blakeney had suddenly ceased to exist. It was Marguerite
St. Just who was there only: Marguerite St. Just who had passed her
childhood, her early youth, in the protecting arms of her brother
Armand. She had forgotten everything else--her rank, her dignity, her
secret enthusiasms--everything save that Armand stood in peril of
his life, and that there, not twenty feet away from her, in the small
boudoir which was quite deserted, in the very hands of Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes, might be the talisman which would save her brother's life.
Barely another thirty seconds had elapsed between the moment when Lord
Hastings slipped the mysterious "something" into Sir Andrew's hand, and
the one when she, in her turn, reached the deserted boudoir. Sir Andrew
was standing with his back to her and close to a table upon which stood
a massive silver candelabra. A slip of paper was in his hand, and he was
in the very act of perusing its contents.
Unperceived, her soft clinging robe making not the slightest sound upon
the heavy carpet, not daring to breathe until she had accomplished her
purpose, Marguerite slipped close behind him. . . . At that moment he
looked round and saw her; she uttered a groan, passed her hand across
her forehead, and murmured faintly:
"The heat in the room was terrible . . . I felt so faint . . . Ah! . . ."
She tottered almost as if she would fall, and Sir Andrew, quickly
recovering himself, and crumpling in his hand the tiny note he had been
reading, was only apparently, just in time to support her.
"You are ill, Lady Blakeney?" he asked with much concern, "Let me . . ."
"No, no, nothing--" she interrupted quickly. "A chair--quick."
She sank into a chair close to the table, and throwing back her head,
closing her eyes.
"There!" she murmured, still faintly; "the giddiness is passing off.
. . . Do not heed me, Sir Andrew; I assure you I already feel better."
At moments like these there is no doubt--and psychologists actually
assert it--that there is in us a sense which has absolutely nothing to
do with the other five: it is not that we see, it is not that we hear
or touch, yet we seem to do all three at once. Marguerite sat there with
her eyes apparently closed. Sir Andrew was immediately behind her,
and on her right was the table with the five-armed candelabra upon it.
Before her mental vision there was absolutely nothing but Armand's face.
Armand, whose life was in the most imminent danger, and who seemed to
be looking at her from a background upon which were dimly painted
the seething crowd of Paris, the bare walls of the Tribunal of Public
Safety, with Foucquier-Tinville, the Public Prosecutor, demanding
Armand's life in the name of the people of France, and the lurid
guillotine with its stained knife waiting for another victim . . .
Armand! . . .
For one moment there was dead silence in the little boudoir. Beyond,
from the brilliant ball-room, the sweet notes of the gavotte, the
frou-frou of rich dresses, the talk and laughter of a large and merry
crowd, came as a strange, weird accompaniment to the drama which was
being enacted here. Sir Andrew had not uttered another word. Then it was
that that extra sense became potent in Marguerite Blakeney. She could
not see, for her two eyes were closed, she could not hear, for the noise
from the ball-room drowned the soft rustle of that momentous scrap of
paper; nevertheless she knew--as if she had both seen and heard--that
Sir Andrew was even now holding the paper to the flame of one of the
At the exact moment that it began to catch fire, she opened her eyes,
raised her hand and, with two dainty fingers, had taken the burning
scrap of paper from the young man's hand. Then she blew out the flame,
and held the paper to her nostril with perfect unconcern.
"How thoughtful of you, Sir Andrew," she said gaily, "surely 'twas your
grandmother who taught you that the smell of burnt paper was a sovereign
remedy against giddiness."
She sighed with satisfaction, holding the paper tightly between her
jewelled fingers; that talisman which perhaps would save her brother
Armand's life. Sir Andrew was staring at her, too dazed for the moment
to realize what had actually happened; he had been taken so completely
by surprise, that he seemed quite unable to grasp the fact that the slip
of paper, which she held in her dainty hand, was one perhaps on which
the life of his comrade might depend.
Marguerite burst into a long, merry peal of laughter.
"Why do you stare at me like that?" she said playfully. "I assure you
I feel much better; your remedy has proved most effectual. This room is
most delightedly cool," she added, with the same perfect composure,
"and the sound of the gavotte from the ball-room is fascinating and
She was prattling on in the most unconcerned and pleasant way, whilst
Sir Andrew, in an agony of mind, was racking his brains as to the
quickest method he could employ to get that bit of paper out of that
beautiful woman's hand. Instinctively, vague and tumultuous thoughts
rushed through his mind: he suddenly remembered her nationality, and
worst of all, recollected that horrible tale anent the Marquis de St.
Cyr, which in England no one had credited, for the sake of Sir Percy, as
well as for her own.
"What? Still dreaming and staring?" she said, with a merry laugh, "you
are most ungallant, Sir Andrew; and now I come to think of it, you
seemed more startled than pleased when you saw me just now. I do
believe, after all, that it was not concern for my health, nor yet a
remedy taught you by your grandmother that caused you to burn this tiny
scrap of paper. . . . I vow it must have been your lady love's last
cruel epistle you were trying to destroy. Now confess!" she added,
playfully holding up the scrap of paper, "does this contain her final
CONGE, or a last appeal to kiss and make friends?"
"Whichever it is, Lady Blakeney," said Sir Andrew, who was gradually
recovering his self-possession, "this little note is undoubtedly mine,
and . . ." Not caring whether his action was one that would be styled
ill-bred towards a lady, the young man had made a bold dash for the
note; but Marguerite's thoughts flew quicker than his own; her actions
under pressure of this intense excitement, were swifter and more sure.
She was tall and strong; she took a quick step backwards and knocked
over the small Sheraton table which was already top-heavy, and which
fell down with a crash, together with the massive candelabra upon it.
She gave a quick cry of alarm:
"The candles, Sir Andrew--quick!"
There was not much damage done; one or two of the candles had blown
out as the candelabra fell; others had merely sent some grease upon the
valuable carpet; one had ignited the paper shade aver it. Sir Andrew
quickly and dexterously put out the flames and replaced the candelabra
upon the table; but this had taken him a few seconds to do, and those
seconds had been all that Marguerite needed to cast a quick glance at
the paper, and to note its contents--a dozen words in the same distorted
handwriting she had seen before, and bearing the same device--a
star-shaped flower drawn in red ink.
When Sir Andrew once more looked at her, he only saw upon her face alarm
at the untoward accident and relief at its happy issue; whilst the tiny
and momentous note had apparently fluttered to the ground. Eagerly
the young man picked it up, and his face looked much relieved, as his
fingers closed tightly over it.
"For shame, Sir Andrew," she said, shaking her head with a playful
sigh, "making havoc in the heart of some impressionable duchess, whilst
conquering the affections of my sweet little Suzanne. Well, well! I do
believe it was Cupid himself who stood by you, and threatened the entire
Foreign Office with destruction by fire, just on purpose to make me drop
love's message, before it had been polluted by my indiscreet eyes. To
think that, a moment longer, and I might have known the secrets of an
"You will forgive me, Lady Blakeney," said Sir Andrew, now as calm as
she was herself, "if I resume the interesting occupation which you have
"By all means, Sir Andrew! How should I venture to thwart the love-god
again? Perhaps he would mete out some terrible chastisement against my
presumption. Burn your love-token, by all means!"
Sir Andrew had already twisted the paper into a long spill, and was once
again holding it to the flame of the candle, which had remained alight.
He did not notice the strange smile on the face of his fair VIS-A-VIS,
so intent was he on the work of destruction; perhaps, had he done
so, the look of relief would have faded from his face. He watched the
fateful note, as it curled under the flame. Soon the last fragment fell
on the floor, and he placed his heel upon the ashes.
"And now, Sir Andrew," said Marguerite Blakeney, with the pretty
nonchalance peculiar to herself, and with the most winning of smiles,
"will you venture to excite the jealousy of your fair lady by asking me
to dance the minuet?"
CHAPTER XIII EITHER--OR?
The few words which Marguerite Blakeney had managed to read on the
half-scorched piece of paper, seemed literally to be the words of Fate.
"Start myself tomorrow. . . ." This she had read quite distinctly; then
came a blur caused by the smoke of the candle, which obliterated the
next few words; but, right at the bottom, there was another sentence,
like letters of fire, before her mental vision, "If you wish to speak
to me again I shall be in the supper-room at one o'clock precisely."
The whole was signed with the hastily-scrawled little device--a tiny
star-shaped flower, which had become so familiar to her.
One o'clock precisely! It was now close upon eleven, the last minuet
was being danced, with Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and beautiful Lady Blakeney
leading the couples, through its delicate and intricate figures.
Close upon eleven! the hands of the handsome Louis XV. clock upon its
ormolu bracket seemed to move along with maddening rapidity. Two hours
more, and her fate and that of Armand would be sealed. In two hours she
must make up her mind whether she will keep the knowledge so cunningly
gained to herself, and leave her brother to his fate, or whether
she will wilfully betray a brave man, whose life was devoted to his
fellow-men, who was noble, generous, and above all, unsuspecting. It
seemed a horrible thing to do. But then, there was Armand! Armand, too,
was noble and brave, Armand, too, was unsuspecting. And Armand loved
her, would have willingly trusted his life in her hands, and now, when
she could save him from death, she hesitated. Oh! it was monstrous;
her brother's kind, gentle face, so full of love for her, seemed to
be looking reproachfully at her. "You might have saved me, Margot!" he
seemed to say to her, "and you chose the life of a stranger, a man you
do not know, whom you have never seen, and preferred that he should be
safe, whilst you sent me to the guillotine!"
All these conflicting thoughts raged through Marguerite's brain, while,
with a smile upon her lips, she glided through the graceful mazes of the
minuet. She noted--with that acute sense of hers--that she had succeeded
in completely allaying Sir Andrew's fears. Her self-control had
been absolutely perfect--she was a finer actress at this moment, and
throughout the whole of this minuet, than she had ever been upon the
boards of the Comedie Francaise; but then, a beloved brother's life had
not depended upon her histrionic powers.
She was too clever to overdo her part, and made no further allusions to
the supposed BILLET DOUX, which had caused Sir Andrew Ffoulkes such an
agonising five minutes. She watched his anxiety melting away under her
sunny smile, and soon perceived that, whatever doubt may have crossed
his mind at the moment, she had, by the time the last bars of the
minuet had been played, succeeded in completely dispelling it; he never
realised in what a fever of excitement she was, what effort it cost her
to keep up a constant ripple of BANAL conversation.
When the minuet was over, she asked Sir Andrew to take her into the next
"I have promised to go down to supper with His Royal Highness," she
said, "but before we part, tell me . . . am I forgiven?"
"Yes! Confess, I gave you a fright just now. . . . But remember, I am
not an English woman, and I do not look upon the exchanging of BILLET
DOUX as a crime, and I vow I'll not tell my little Suzanne. But now,
tell me, shall I welcome you at my water-party on Wednesday?"
"I am not sure, Lady Blakeney," he replied evasively. "I may have to
leave London to-morrow."
"I would not do that, if I were you," she said earnestly; then seeing
the anxious look reappearing in his eyes, she added gaily; "No one can
throw a ball better than you can, Sir Andrew, we should so miss you on
He had led her across the room, to one beyond, where already His Royal
Highness was waiting for the beautiful Lady Blakeney.
"Madame, supper awaits us," said the Prince, offering his arm to
Marguerite, "and I am full of hope. The goddess Fortune has frowned so
persistently on me at hazard, that I look with confidence for the smiles
of the goddess of Beauty."
"Your Highness has been unfortunate at the card tables?" asked
Marguerite, as she took the Prince's arm.
"Aye! most unfortunate. Blakeney, not content with being the richest
among my father's subjects, has also the most outrageous luck. By the
way, where is that inimitable wit? I vow, Madam, that this life would be
but a dreary desert without your smiles and his sallies."
CHAPTER XIV ONE O'CLOCK PRECISELY!
Supper had been extremely gay. All those present declared that never had
Lady Blakeney been more adorable, nor that "demmed idiot" Sir Percy more
His Royal Highness had laughed until the tears streamed down his cheeks
at Blakeney's foolish yet funny repartees. His doggerel verse, "We seek
him here, we seek him there," etc., was sung to the tune of "Ho! Merry
Britons!" and to the accompaniment of glasses knocked loudly against
the table. Lord Grenville, moreover, had a most perfect cook--some wags
asserted that he was a scion of the old French NOBLESSE, who having lost
his fortune, had come to seek it in the CUISINE of the Foreign Office.
Marguerite Blakeney was in her most brilliant mood, and surely not a
soul in that crowded supper-room had even an inkling of the terrible
struggle which was raging within her heart.
The clock was ticking so mercilessly on. It was long past midnight,
and even the Prince of Wales was thinking of leaving the supper-table.
Within the next half-hour the destinies of two brave men would be pitted
against one another--the dearly-beloved brother and he, the unknown
Marguerite had not tried to see Chauvelin during this last hour; she
knew that his keen, fox-like eyes would terrify her at once, and incline
the balance of her decision towards Armand. Whilst she did not see him,
there still lingered in her heart of hearts a vague, undefined hope that
"something" would occur, something big, enormous, epoch-making, which
would shift from her young, weak shoulders this terrible burden of
responsibility, of having to choose between two such cruel alternatives.
But the minutes ticked on with that dull monotony which they invariably
seem to assume when our very nerves ache with their incessant ticking.
After supper, dancing was resumed. His Royal Highness had left, and
there was general talk of departing among the older guests; the young
were indefatigable and had started on a new gavotte, which would fill
the next quarter of an hour.
Marguerite did not feel equal to another dance; there is a limit to the
most enduring of self-control. Escorted by a Cabinet Minister, she had
once more found her way to the tiny boudoir, still the most deserted
among all the rooms. She knew that Chauvelin must be lying in wait
for her somewhere, ready to seize the first possible opportunity for a
TETE-A-TETE. His eyes had met hers for a moment after the 'fore-supper
minuet, and she knew that the keen diplomat, with those searching pale
eyes of his, had divined that her work was accomplished.
Fate had willed it so. Marguerite, torn by the most terrible conflict
heart of woman can ever know, had resigned herself to its decrees.
But Armand must be saved at any cost; he, first of all, for he was her
brother, had been mother, father, friend to her ever since she, a tiny
babe, had lost both her parents. To think of Armand dying a traitor's
death on the guillotine was too horrible even to dwell upon--impossible
in fact. That could never be, never. . . . As for the stranger, the
hero . . . well! there, let Fate decide. Marguerite would redeem her
brother's life at the hands of the relentless enemy, then let that
cunning Scarlet Pimpernel extricate himself after that.
Perhaps--vaguely--Marguerite hoped that the daring plotter, who for so
many months had baffled an army of spies, would still manage to evade
Chauvelin and remain immune to the end.
She thought of all this, as she sat listening to the witty discourse
of the Cabinet Minister, who, no doubt, felt that he had found in Lady
Blakeney a most perfect listener. Suddenly she saw the keen, fox-like
face of Chauvelin peeping through the curtained doorway.
"Lord Fancourt," she said to the Minister, "will you do me a service?"
"I am entirely at your ladyship's service," he replied gallantly.
"Will you see if my husband is still in the card-room? And if he is,
will you tell him that I am very tired, and would be glad to go home
The commands of a beautiful woman are binding on all mankind, even on
Cabinet Ministers. Lord Fancourt prepared to obey instantly.
"I do not like to leave your ladyship alone," he said.
"Never fear. I shall be quite safe here--and, I think, undisturbed . . .
but I am really tired. You know Sir Percy will drive back to Richmond.
It is a long way, and we shall not--an we do not hurry--get home before
Lord Fancourt had perforce to go.
The moment he had disappeared, Chauvelin slipped into the room, and the
next instant stood calm and impassive by her side.
"You have news for me?" he said.
An icy mantle seemed to have suddenly settled round Marguerite's
shoulders; though her cheeks glowed with fire, she felt chilled and
numbed. Oh, Armand! will you ever know the terrible sacrifice of pride,
of dignity, of womanliness a devoted sister is making for your sake?
"Nothing of importance," she said, staring mechanically before her, "but
it might prove a clue. I contrived--no matter how--to detect Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes in the very act of burning a paper at one of these candles, in
this very room. That paper I succeeded in holding between my fingers
for the space of two minutes, and to cast my eyes on it for that of ten
"Time enough to learn its contents?" asked Chauvelin, quietly.
She nodded. Then continued in the same even, mechanical tone of voice--
"In the corner of the paper there was the usual rough device of a small
star-shaped flower. Above it I read two lines, everything else was
scorched and blackened by the flame."
"And what were the two lines?"
Her throat seemed suddenly to have contracted. For an instant she felt
that she could not speak the words, which might send a brave man to his
"It is lucky that the whole paper was not burned," added Chauvelin, with
dry sarcasm, "for it might have fared ill with Armand St. Just. What
were the two lines citoyenne?"
"One was, 'I start myself to-morrow,'" she said quietly, "the other--'If
you wish to speak to me, I shall be in the supper-room at one o'clock
Chauvelin looked up at the clock just above the mantelpiece.
"Then I have plenty of time," he said placidly.
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
She was pale as a statue, her hands were icy cold, her head and heart
throbbed with the awful strain upon her nerves. Oh, this was cruel!
cruel! What had she done to have deserved all this? Her choice was made:
had she done a vile action or one that was sublime? The recording angel,
who writes in the book of gold, alone could give an answer.
"What are you going to do?" she repeated mechanically.
"Oh, nothing for the present. After that it will depend."
"On whom I shall see in the supper-room at one o'clock precisely."
"You will see the Scarlet Pimpernel, of course. But you do not know
"No. But I shall presently."
"Sir Andrew will have warned him."
"I think not. When you parted from him after the minuet he stood
and watched you, for a moment or two, with a look which gave me to
understand that something had happened between you. It was only natural,
was it not? that I should make a shrewd guess as to the nature of that
'something.' I thereupon engaged the young man in a long and
animated conversation--we discussed Herr Gluck's singular success in
London--until a lady claimed his arm for supper."
"I did not lose sight of him through supper. When we all came upstairs
again, Lady Portarles buttonholed him and started on the subject of
pretty Mlle. Suzanne de Tournay. I knew he would not move until Lady
Portarles had exhausted on the subject, which will not be for another
quarter of an hour at least, and it is five minutes to one now."
He was preparing to go, and went up to the doorway where, drawing
aside the curtain, he stood for a moment pointing out to Marguerite the
distant figure of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes in close conversation with Lady
"I think," he said, with a triumphant smile, "that I may safely expect
to find the person I seek in the dining-room, fair lady."
"There may be more than one."
"Whoever is there, as the clock strikes one, will be shadowed by one
of my men; of these, one, or perhaps two, or even three, will leave for
France to-morrow. ONE of these will be the 'Scarlet Pimpernel.'"
"I also, fair lady, will leave for France to-morrow. The papers found at
Dover upon the person of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes speak of the neighborhood
of Calais, of an inn which I know well, called 'Le Chat Gris,' of a
lonely place somewhere on the coast--the Pere Blanchard's hut--which
I must endeavor to find. All these places are given as the point where
this meddlesome Englishman has bidden the traitor de Tournay and others
to meet his emissaries. But it seems that he has decided not to send his
emissaries, that 'he will start himself to-morrow.' Now, one of these
persons whom I shall see anon in the supper-room, will be journeying
to Calais, and I shall follow that person, until I have tracked him to
where those fugitive aristocrats await him; for that person, fair lady,
will be the man whom I have sought for, for nearly a year, the man whose
energies has outdone me, whose ingenuity has baffled me, whose audacity
has set me wondering--yes! me!--who have seen a trick or two in my
time--the mysterious and elusive Scarlet Pimpernel."
"And Armand?" she pleaded.
"Have I ever broken my word? I promise you that the day the Scarlet
Pimpernel and I start for France, I will send you that imprudent letter
of his by special courier. More than that, I will pledge you the word of
France, that the day I lay hands on that meddlesome Englishman, St. Just
will be here in England, safe in the arms of his charming sister."
And with a deep and elaborate bow and another look at the clock,
Chauvelin glided out of the room.
It seemed to Marguerite that through all the noise, all the din of
music, dancing, and laughter, she could hear his cat-like tread, gliding
through the vast reception-rooms; that she could hear him go down the
massive staircase, reach the dining-room and open the door. Fate HAD
decided, had made her speak, had made her do a vile and abominable
thing, for the sake of the brother she loved. She lay back in her
chair, passive and still, seeing the figure of her relentless enemy ever
present before her aching eyes.
When Chauvelin reached the supper-room it was quite deserted. It had
that woebegone, forsaken, tawdry appearance, which reminds one so much
of a ball-dress, the morning after.
Half-empty glasses littered the table, unfolded napkins lay about, the
chairs--turned towards one another in groups of twos and threes--very
close to one another--in the far corners of the room, which spoke of
recent whispered flirtations, over cold game-pie and champagne; there
were sets of three and four chairs, that recalled pleasant, animated
discussions over the latest scandal; there were chairs straight up in a
row that still looked starchy, critical, acid, like antiquated dowager;
there were a few isolated, single chairs, close to the table, that spoke
of gourmands intent on the most RECHERCHE dishes, and others overturned
on the floor, that spoke volumes on the subject of my Lord Grenville's
It was a ghostlike replica, in fact, of that fashionable gathering
upstairs; a ghost that haunts every house where balls and good suppers
are given; a picture drawn with white chalk on grey cardboard, dull and
colourless, now that the bright silk dresses and gorgeously embroidered
coats were no longer there to fill in the foreground, and now that the
candles flickered sleepily in their sockets.
Chauvelin smiled benignly, and rubbing his long, thin hands together, he
looked round the deserted supper-room, whence even the last flunkey had
retired in order to join his friends in the hall below. All was silence
in the dimly-lighted room, whilst the sound of the gavotte, the hum
of distant talk and laughter, and the rumble of an occasional coach
outside, only seemed to reach this palace of the Sleeping Beauty as the
murmur of some flitting spooks far away.
It all looked so peaceful, so luxurious, and so still, that the keenest
observer--a veritable prophet--could never have guessed that, at this
present moment, that deserted supper-room was nothing but a trap laid
for the capture of the most cunning and audacious plotter those stirring
times had ever seen.
Chauvelin pondered and tried to peer into the immediate future. What
would this man be like, whom he and the leaders of the whole revolution
had sworn to bring to his death? Everything about him was weird and
mysterious; his personality, which he so cunningly concealed, the power
he wielded over nineteen English gentlemen who seemed to obey his every
command blindly and enthusiastically, the passionate love and submission
he had roused in his little trained band, and, above all, his marvellous
audacity, the boundless impudence which had caused him to beard his most
implacable enemies, within the very walls of Paris.
No wonder that in France the SOBRIQUET of the mysterious Englishman
roused in the people a superstitious shudder. Chauvelin himself as he
gazed round the deserted room, where presently the weird hero would
appear, felt a strange feeling of awe creeping all down his spine.
But his plans were well laid. He felt sure that the Scarlet Pimpernel
had not been warned, and felt equally sure that Marguerite Blakeney had
not played him false. If she had . . . a cruel look, that would have
made her shudder, gleamed in Chauvelin's keen, pale eyes. If she had
played him a trick, Armand St. Just would suffer the extreme penalty.
But no, no! of course she had not played him false!
Fortunately the supper-room was deserted: this would make Chauvelin's
task all the easier, when presently that unsuspecting enigma would enter
it alone. No one was here now save Chauvelin himself.
Stay! as he surveyed with a satisfied smile the solitude of the room,
the cunning agent of the French Government became aware of the peaceful,
monotonous breathing of some one of my Lord Grenville's guests, who, no
doubt, had supped both wisely and well, and was enjoying a quiet sleep,
away from the din of the dancing above.
Chauvelin looked round once more, and there in the corner of a sofa,
in the dark angle of the room, his mouth open, his eyes shut, the sweet
sounds of peaceful slumbers proceedings from his nostrils, reclined the
gorgeously-apparelled, long-limbed husband of the cleverest woman in
Chauvelin looked at him as he lay there, placid, unconscious, at peace
with all the world and himself, after the best of suppers, and a smile,
that was almost one of pity, softened for a moment the hard lines of the
Frenchman's face and the sarcastic twinkle of his pale eyes.
Evidently the slumberer, deep in dreamless sleep, would not interfere
with Chauvelin's trap for catching that cunning Scarlet Pimpernel. Again
he rubbed his hands together, and, following the example of Sir Percy
Blakeney, he too, stretched himself out in the corner of another
sofa, shut his eyes, opened his mouth, gave forth sounds of peaceful
breathing, and . . . waited!
CHAPTER XV DOUBT
Marguerite Blakeney had watched the slight sable-clad figure of
Chauvelin, as he worked his way through the ball-room. Then perforce she
had had to wait, while her nerves tingled with excitement.
Listlessly she sat in the small, still deserted boudoir, looking out
through the curtained doorway on the dancing couples beyond: looking
at them, yet seeing nothing, hearing the music, yet conscious of naught
save a feeling of expectancy, of anxious, weary waiting.
Her mind conjured up before her the vision of what was, perhaps at this
very moment, passing downstairs. The half-deserted dining-room, the
fateful hour--Chauvelin on the watch!--then, precise to the moment, the
entrance of a man, he, the Scarlet Pimpernel, the mysterious leader, who
to Marguerite had become almost unreal, so strange, so weird was this
She wished she were in the supper-room, too, at this moment, watching
him as he entered; she knew that her woman's penetration would at once
recognise in the stranger's face--whoever he might be--that strong
individuality which belongs to a leader of men--to a hero: to the
mighty, high-soaring eagle, whose daring wings were becoming entangled
in the ferret's trap.
Woman-like, she thought of him with unmixed sadness; the irony of that
fate seemed so cruel which allowed the fearless lion to succumb to the
gnawing of a rat! Ah! had Armand's life not been at stake! . . .
"Faith! your ladyship must have thought me very remiss," said a voice
suddenly, close to her elbow. "I had a deal of difficulty in delivering
your message, for I could not find Blakeney anywhere at first . . ."
Marguerite had forgotten all about her husband and her message to
him; his very name, as spoken by Lord Fancourt, sounded strange and
unfamiliar to her, so completely had she in the last five minutes lived
her old life in the Rue de Richelieu again, with Armand always near her
to love and protect her, to guard her from the many subtle intrigues
which were forever raging in Paris in those days.
"I did find him at last," continued Lord Fancourt, "and gave him your
message. He said that he would give orders at once for the horses to be
"Ah!" she said, still very absently, "you found my husband, and gave him
"Yes; he was in the dining-room fast asleep. I could not manage to wake
him up at first."
"Thank you very much," she said mechanically, trying to collect her
"Will your ladyship honour me with the CONTREDANSE until your coach is
ready?" asked Lord Fancourt.
"No, I thank you, my lord, but--and you will forgive me--I really am too
tired, and the heat in the ball-room has become oppressive."
"The conservatory is deliciously cool; let me take you there, and then
get you something. You seem ailing, Lady Blakeney."
"I am only very tired," she repeated wearily, as she allowed Lord
Fancourt to lead her, where subdued lights and green plants lent
coolness to the air. He got her a chair, into which she sank. This long
interval of waiting was intolerable. Why did not Chauvelin come and tell
her the result of his watch?
Lord Fancourt was very attentive. She scarcely heard what he said, and
suddenly startled him by asking abruptly,--
"Lord Fancourt, did you perceive who was in the dining-room just now
besides Sir Percy Blakeney?"
"Only the agent of the French government, M. Chauvelin, equally fast
asleep in another corner," he said. "Why does your ladyship ask?"
"I know not . . . I . . . Did you notice the time when you were there?"
"It must have been about five or ten minutes past one. . . . I wonder
what your ladyship is thinking about," he added, for evidently the fair
lady's thoughts were very far away, and she had not been listening to
his intellectual conversation.
But indeed her thoughts were not very far away: only one storey below,
in this same house, in the dining-room where sat Chauvelin still on the
watch. Had he failed? For one instant that possibility rose before as a
hope--the hope that the Scarlet Pimpernel had been warned by Sir Andrew,
and that Chauvelin's trap had failed to catch his bird; but that hope
soon gave way to fear. Had he failed? But then--Armand!
Lord Fancourt had given up talking since he found that he had no
listener. He wanted an opportunity for slipping away; for sitting
opposite to a lady, however fair, who is evidently not heeding the most
vigorous efforts made for her entertainment, is not exhilarating, even
to a Cabinet Minister.
"Shall I find out if your ladyship's coach is ready," he said at last,
"Oh, thank you . . . thank you . . . if you would be so kind . . . I
fear I am but sorry company . . . but I am really tired . . . and,
perhaps, would be best alone."
But Lord Fancourt went, and still Chauvelin did not come. Oh! what
had happened? She felt Armand's fate trembling in the balance . . . she
feared--now with a deadly fear that Chauvelin HAD failed, and that the
mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel had proved elusive once more; then she knew
that she need hope for no pity, no mercy, from him.
He had pronounced his "Either--or--" and nothing less would content him:
he was very spiteful, and would affect the belief that she had wilfully
misled him, and having failed to trap the eagle once again, his
revengeful mind would be content with the humble prey--Armand!
Yet she had done her best; had strained every nerve for Armand's sake.
She could not bear to think that all had failed. She could not sit
still; she wanted to go and hear the worst at once; she wondered even
that Chauvelin had not come yet, to vent his wrath and satire upon her.
Lord Grenville himself came presently to tell her that her coach was
ready, and that Sir Percy was already waiting for her--ribbons in
hand. Marguerite said "Farewell" to her distinguished host; many of
her friends stopped her, as she crossed the rooms, to talk to her, and
exchange pleasant AU REVOIRS.
The Minister only took final leave of beautiful Lady Blakeney on the
top of the stairs; below, on the landing, a veritable army of gallant
gentlemen were waiting to bid "Good-bye" to the queen of beauty
and fashion, whilst outside, under the massive portico, Sir Percy's
magnificent bays were impatient pawing the ground.
At the top of the stairs, just after she had taken final leave of her
host, she suddenly saw Chauvelin; he was coming up the stairs slowly,
and rubbing his thin hands very softly together.
There was a curious look on his mobile face, partly amused and wholly
puzzled, as his keen eyes met Marguerite's they became strangely
"M. Chauvelin," she said, as he stopped on the top of the stairs, bowing
elaborately before her, "my coach is outside; may I claim your arm?"
As gallant as ever, he offered her his arm and led her downstairs. The
crowd was very great, some of the Minister's guests were departing,
others were leaning against the banisters watching the throng as it
filed up and down the wide staircase.
"Chauvelin," she said at last desperately, "I must know what has
"What has happened, dear lady?" he said, with affected surprise. "Where?
"You are torturing me, Chauvelin. I have helped you to-night . . . surely
I have the right to know. What happened in the dining-room at one
o'clock just now?"
She spoke in a whisper, trusting that in the general hubbub of the crowd
her words would remain unheeded by all, save the man at her side.
"Quiet and peace reigned supreme, fair lady; at that hour I was asleep
in one corner of one sofa and Sir Percy Blakeney in another."
"Nobody came into the room at all?"
"Then we have failed, you and I?"
"Yes! we have failed--perhaps . . ."
"But Armand?" she pleaded.
"Ah! Armand St. Just's chances hang on a thread . . . pray heaven, dear
lady, that that thread may not snap."
"Chauvelin, I worked for you, sincerely, earnestly . . . remember . . ."
"I remember my promise," he said quietly. "The day that the Scarlet
Pimpernel and I meet on French soil, St. Just will be in the arms of his
"Which means that a brave man's blood will be on my hands," she said,
with a shudder.
"His blood, or that of your brother. Surely at the present moment you
must hope, as I do, that the enigmatical Scarlet Pimpernel will start
for Calais to-day--"
"I am only conscious of one hope, citoyen."
"And that is?"
"That Satan, your master, will have need of you elsewhere, before the
sun rises to-day."
"You flatter me, citoyenne."
She had detained him for a while, mid-way down the stairs, trying to get
at the thoughts which lay beyond that thin, fox-like mask. But Chauvelin
remained urbane, sarcastic, mysterious; not a line betrayed to the poor,
anxious woman whether she need fear or whether she dared to hope.
Downstairs on the landing she was soon surrounded. Lady Blakeney never
stepped from any house into her coach, without an escort of fluttering
human moths around the dazzling light of her beauty. But before she
finally turned away from Chauvelin, she held out a tiny hand to him,
with that pretty gesture of childish appeal which was essentially her
own. "Give me some hope, my little Chauvelin," she pleaded.
With perfect gallantry he bowed over that tiny hand, which looked so
dainty and white through the delicately transparent black lace mitten,
and kissing the tips of the rosy fingers:--
"Pray heaven that the thread may not snap," he repeated, with his
And stepping aside, he allowed the moths to flutter more closely round
the candle, and the brilliant throng of the JEUNESSE DOREE, eagerly
attentive to Lady Blakeney's every movement, hid the keen, fox-like face
from her view.
CHAPTER XVI RICHMOND
A few minutes later she was sitting, wrapped in cozy furs, near Sir
Percy Blakeney on the box-seat of his magnificent coach, and the four
splendid bays had thundered down the quiet street.
The night was warm in spite of the gentle breeze which fanned
Marguerite's burning cheeks. Soon London houses were left behind, and
rattling over old Hammersmith Bridge, Sir Percy was driving his bays
rapidly towards Richmond.
The river wound in and out in its pretty delicate curves, looking like
a silver serpent beneath the glittering rays of the moon. Long shadows
from overhanging trees spread occasional deep palls right across the
road. The bays were rushing along at breakneck speed, held but slightly
back by Sir Percy's strong, unerring hands.
These nightly drives after balls and suppers in London were a source
of perpetual delight to Marguerite, and she appreciated her husband's
eccentricity keenly, which caused him to adopt this mode of taking
her home every night, to their beautiful home by the river, instead of
living in a stuffy London house. He loved driving his spirited horses
along the lonely, moonlit roads, and she loved to sit on the box-seat,
with the soft air of an English late summer's night fanning her face
after the hot atmosphere of a ball or supper-party. The drive was not a
long one--less than an hour, sometimes, when the bays were very fresh,
and Sir Percy gave them full rein.
To-night he seemed to have a very devil in his fingers, and the coach
seemed to fly along the road, beside the river. As usual, he did not
speak to her, but stared straight in front of him, the ribbons seeming
to lie quite loosely in his slender, white hands. Marguerite looked at
him tentatively once or twice; she could see his handsome profile, and
one lazy eye, with its straight fine brow and drooping heavy lid.
The face in the moonlight looked singularly earnest, and recalled to
Marguerite's aching heart those happy days of courtship, before he had
become the lazy nincompoop, the effete fop, whose life seemed spent in
card and supper rooms.
But now, in the moonlight, she could not catch the expression of the
lazy blue eyes; she could only see the outline of the firm chin, the
corner of the strong mouth, the well-cut massive shape of the forehead;
truly, nature had meant well by Sir Percy; his faults must all be laid
at the door of that poor, half-crazy mother, and of the distracted
heart-broken father, neither of whom had cared for the young life
which was sprouting up between them, and which, perhaps, their very
carelessness was already beginning to wreck.
Marguerite suddenly felt intense sympathy for her husband. The moral
crisis she had just gone through made her feel indulgent towards the
faults, the delinquencies, of others.
How thoroughly a human being can be buffeted and overmastered by Fate,
had been borne in upon her with appalling force. Had anyone told her a
week ago that she would stoop to spy upon her friends, that she would
betray a brave and unsuspecting man into the hands of a relentless
enemy, she would have laughed the idea to scorn.
Yet she had done these things; anon, perhaps the death of that brave man
would be at her door, just as two years ago the Marquis de St. Cyr had
perished through a thoughtless words of hers; but in that case she was
morally innocent--she had meant no serious harm--fate merely had stepped
in. But this time she had done a thing that obviously was base, had done
it deliberately, for a motive which, perhaps, high moralists would not
As she felt her husband's strong arm beside her, she also felt how much
more he would dislike and despise her, if he knew of this night's work.
Thus human beings judge of one another, with but little reason, and
no charity. She despised her husband for his inanities and vulgar,
unintellectual occupations; and he, she felt, would despise her still
worse, because she had not been strong enough to do right for right's
sake, and to sacrifice her brother to the dictates of her conscience.
Buried in her thoughts, Marguerite had found this hour in the
breezy summer night all too brief; and it was with a feeling of keen
disappointment, that she suddenly realised that the bays had turned into
the massive gates of her beautiful English home.
Sir Percy Blakeney's house on the river has become a historic one:
palatial in its dimensions, it stands in the midst of exquisitely
laid-out gardens, with a picturesque terrace and frontage to the river.
Built in Tudor days, the old red brick of the walls looks eminently
picturesque in the midst of a bower of green, the beautiful lawn, with
its old sun-dial, adding the true note of harmony to its foregrounds,
and now, on this warm early autumn night, the leaves slightly turned to
russets and gold, the old garden looked singularly poetic and peaceful
in the moonlight.
With unerring precision, Sir Percy had brought the four bays to a
standstill immediately in front of the fine Elizabethan entrance hall;
in spite of the late hour, an army of grooms seemed to have emerged
from the very ground, as the coach had thundered up, and were standing
Sir Percy jumped down quickly, then helped Marguerite to alight. She
lingered outside a moment, whilst he gave a few orders to one of his
men. She skirted the house, and stepped on to the lawn, looking out
dreamily into the silvery landscape. Nature seemed exquisitely at peace,
in comparison with the tumultuous emotions she had gone through: she
could faintly hear the ripple of the river and the occasional soft and
ghostlike fall of a dead leaf from a tree.
All else was quiet round her. She had heard the horses prancing as they
were being led away to their distant stables, the hurrying of servant's
feet as they had all gone within to rest: the house also was quite
still. In two separate suites of apartments, just above the magnificent
reception-rooms, lights were still burning, they were her rooms, and
his, well divided from each other by the whole width of the house, as
far apart as their own lives had become. Involuntarily she sighed--at
that moment she could really not have told why.
She was suffering from unconquerable heartache. Deeply and achingly
she was sorry for herself. Never had she felt so pitiably lonely, so
bitterly in want of comfort and of sympathy. With another sigh she
turned away from the river towards the house, vaguely wondering if,
after such a night, she could ever find rest and sleep.
Suddenly, before she reached the terrace, she heard a firm step upon the
crisp gravel, and the next moment her husband's figure emerged out of
the shadow. He too, had skirted the house, and was wandering along the
lawn, towards the river. He still wore his heavy driving coat with the
numerous lapels and collars he himself had set in fashion, but he had
thrown it well back, burying his hands as was his wont, in the deep
pockets of his satin breeches: the gorgeous white costume he had worn
at Lord Grenville's ball, with its jabot of priceless lace, looked
strangely ghostly against the dark background of the house.
He apparently did not notice her, for, after a few moments pause, he
presently turned back towards the house, and walked straight up to the
He already had one foot on the lowest of the terrace steps, but at her
voice he started, and paused, then looked searchingly into the shadows
whence she had called to him.
She came forward quickly into the moonlight, and, as soon as he saw
her, he said, with that air of consummate gallantry he always wore when
speaking to her,--
"At your service, Madame!" But his foot was still on the step, and in
his whole attitude there was a remote suggestion, distinctly visible to
her, that he wished to go, and had no desire for a midnight interview.
"The air is deliciously cool," she said, "the moonlight peaceful and
poetic, and the garden inviting. Will you not stay in it awhile; the
hour is not yet late, or is my company so distasteful to you, that you
are in a hurry to rid yourself of it?"
"Nay, Madame," he rejoined placidly, "but 'tis on the other foot the
shoe happens to be, and I'll warrant you'll find the midnight air more
poetic without my company: no doubt the sooner I remove the obstruction
the better your ladyship will like it."
He turned once more to go.
"I protest you mistake me, Sir Percy," she said hurriedly, and drawing a
little closer to him; "the estrangement, which alas! has arisen between
us, was none of my making, remember."
"Begad! you must pardon me there, Madame!" he protested coldly, "my
memory was always of the shortest."
He looked her straight in the eyes, with that lazy nonchalance which
had become second nature to him. She returned his gaze for a moment,
then her eyes softened, as she came up quite close to him, to the foot
of the terrace steps.
"Of the shortest, Sir Percy! Faith! how it must have altered! Was it
three years ago or four that you saw me for one hour in Paris, on
your way to the East? When you came back two years later you had not
She looked divinely pretty as she stood there in the moonlight, with the
fur-cloak sliding off her beautiful shoulders, the gold embroidery on
her dress shimmering around her, her childlike blue eyes turned up fully
He stood for a moment, rigid and still, but for the clenching of his
hand against the stone balustrade of the terrace.
"You desired my presence, Madame," he said frigidly. "I take it that it
was not with the view to indulging in tender reminiscences."
His voice certainly was cold and uncompromising: his attitude before
her, stiff and unbending. Womanly decorum would have suggested
Marguerite should return coldness for coldness, and should sweep past
him without another word, only with a curt nod of her head: but womanly
instinct suggested that she should remain--that keen instinct, which
makes a beautiful woman conscious of her powers long to bring to her
knees the one man who pays her no homage. She stretched out her hand to
"Nay, Sir Percy, why not? the present is not so glorious but that I
should not wish to dwell a little in the past."
He bent his tall figure, and taking hold of the extreme tip of the
fingers which she still held out to him, he kissed them ceremoniously.
"I' faith, Madame," he said, "then you will pardon me, if my dull wits
cannot accompany you there."
Once again he attempted to go, once more her voice, sweet, childlike,
almost tender, called him back.
"Your servant, Madame."
"Is it possible that love can die?" she said with sudden, unreasoning
vehemence. "Methought that the passion which you once felt for me would
outlast the span of human life. Is there nothing left of that
love, Percy . . . which might help you . . . to bridge over that sad
His massive figure seemed, while she spoke thus to him, to stiffen still
more, the strong mouth hardened, a look of relentless obstinacy crept
into the habitually lazy blue eyes.
"With what object, I pray you, Madame?" he asked coldly.
"I do not understand you."
"Yet 'tis simple enough," he said with sudden bitterness, which seemed
literally to surge through his words, though he was making visible
efforts to suppress it, "I humbly put the question to you, for my slow
wits are unable to grasp the cause of this, your ladyship's sudden new
mood. Is it that you have the taste to renew the devilish sport which
you played so successfully last year? Do you wish to see me once more
a love-sick suppliant at your feet, so that you might again have the
pleasure of kicking me aside, like a troublesome lap-dog?"
She had succeeded in rousing him for the moment: and again she looked
straight at him, for it was thus she remembered him a year ago.
"Percy! I entreat you!" she whispered, "can we not bury the past?"
"Pardon me, Madame, but I understood you to say that your desire was to
dwell in it."
"Nay! I spoke not of THAT past, Percy!" she said, while a tone of
tenderness crept into her voice. "Rather did I speak of a time when you
loved me still! and I . . . oh! I was vain and frivolous; your wealth and
position allured me: I married you, hoping in my heart that your great
love for me would beget in me a love for you . . . but, alas! . . ."
The moon had sunk low down behind a bank of clouds. In the east a soft
grey light was beginning to chase away the heavy mantle of the night.
He could only see her graceful outline now, the small queenly head, with
its wealth of reddish golden curls, and the glittering gems forming the
small, star-shaped, red flower which she wore as a diadem in her hair.
"Twenty-four hours after our marriage, Madame, the Marquis de St. Cyr
and all his family perished on the guillotine, and the popular rumour
reached me that it was the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney who helped to send
"Nay! I myself told you the truth of that odious tale."
"Not till after it had been recounted to me by strangers, with all its
"And you believed them then and there," she said with great vehemence,
"without a proof or question--you believed that I, whom you vowed you
loved more than life, whom you professed you worshipped, that "I" could
do a thing so base as these STRANGERS chose to recount. You thought I
meant to deceive you about it all--that I ought to have spoken before I
married you: yet, had you listened, I would have told you that up to the
very morning on which St. Cyr went to the guillotine, I was straining
every nerve, using every influence I possessed, to save him and his
family. But my pride sealed my lips, when your love seemed to perish,
as if under the knife of that same guillotine. Yet I would have told you
how I was duped! Aye! I, whom that same popular rumour had endowed with
the sharpest wits in France! I was tricked into doing this thing, by men
who knew how to play upon my love for an only brother, and my desire for
revenge. Was it unnatural?"
Her voice became choked with tears. She paused for a moment or two,
trying to regain some sort of composure. She looked appealingly at him,
almost as if he were her judge. He had allowed her to speak on in her
own vehement, impassioned way, offering no comment, no word of sympathy:
and now, while she paused, trying to swallow down the hot tears that
gushed to her eyes, he waited, impassive and still. The dim, grey light
of early dawn seemed to make his tall form look taller and more rigid.
The lazy, good-natured face looked strangely altered. Marguerite,
excited, as she was, could see that the eyes were no longer languid,
the mouth no longer good-humoured and inane. A curious look of intense
passion seemed to glow from beneath his drooping lids, the mouth was
tightly closed, the lips compressed, as if the will alone held that
surging passion in check.
Marguerite Blakeney was, above all, a woman, with all a woman's
fascinating foibles, all a woman's most lovable sins. She knew in a
moment that for the past few months she had been mistaken: that this
man who stood here before her, cold as a statue, when her musical voice
struck upon his ear, loved her, as he had loved her a year ago: that his
passion might have been dormant, but that it was there, as strong, as
intense, as overwhelming, as when first her lips met his in one long,
maddening kiss. Pride had kept him from her, and, woman-like, she meant
to win back that conquest which had been hers before. Suddenly it seemed
to her that the only happiness life could ever hold for her again would
be in feeling that man's kiss once more upon her lips.
"Listen to the tale, Sir Percy," she said, and her voice was low, sweet,
infinitely tender. "Armand was all in all to me! We had no parents, and
brought one another up. He was my little father, and I, his tiny mother;
we loved one another so. Then one day--do you mind me, Sir Percy? the
Marquis de St. Cyr had my brother Armand thrashed--thrashed by his
lacqueys--that brother whom I loved better than all the world! And his
offence? That he, a plebeian, had dared to love the daughter of the
aristocrat; for that he was waylaid and thrashed . . . thrashed like a
dog within an inch of his life! Oh, how I suffered! his humiliation had
eaten into my very soul! When the opportunity occurred, and I was able
to take my revenge, I took it. But I only thought to bring that proud
marquis to trouble and humiliation. He plotted with Austria against his
own country. Chance gave me knowledge of this; I spoke of it, but I did
not know--how could I guess?--they trapped and duped me. When I realised
what I had done, it was too late."
"It is perhaps a little difficult, Madame," said Sir Percy, after
a moment of silence between them, "to go back over the past. I have
confessed to you that my memory is short, but the thought certainly
lingered in my mind that, at the time of the Marquis' death, I entreated
you for an explanation of those same noisome popular rumours. If that
same memory does not, even now, play me a trick, I fancy that you
refused me ALL explanation then, and demanded of my love a humiliating
allegiance it was not prepared to give."
"I wished to test your love for me, and it did not bear the test. You
used to tell me that you drew the very breath of life but for me, and
for love of me."
"And to probe that love, you demanded that I should forfeit mine
honour," he said, whilst gradually his impassiveness seemed to leave
him, his rigidity to relax; "that I should accept without murmur or
question, as a dumb and submissive slave, every action of my
mistress. My heart overflowing with love and passion, I ASKED for no
explanation--I WAITED for one, not doubting--only hoping. Had you
spoken but one word, from you I would have accepted any explanation and
believed it. But you left me without a word, beyond a bald confession of
the actual horrible facts; proudly you returned to your brother's house,
and left me alone . . . for weeks . . . not knowing, now, in whom
to believe, since the shrine, which contained my one illusion, lay
shattered to earth at my feet."
She need not complain now that he was cold and impassive; his very
voice shook with an intensity of passion, which he was making superhuman
efforts to keep in check.
"Aye! the madness of my pride!" she said sadly. "Hardly had I gone,
already I had repented. But when I returned, I found you, oh, so
altered! wearing already that mask of somnolent indifference which you
have never laid aside until . . . until now."
She was so close to him that her soft, loose hair was wafted against
his cheek; her eyes, glowing with tears, maddened him, the music in her
voice sent fire through his veins. But he would not yield to the magic
charm of this woman whom he had so deeply loved, and at whose hands
his pride had suffered so bitterly. He closed his eyes to shut out the
dainty vision of that sweet face, of that snow-white neck and graceful
figure, round which the faint rosy light of dawn was just beginning to
"Nay, Madame, it is no mask," he said icily; "I swore to you . . . once,
that my life was yours. For months now it has been your plaything . . .
it has served its purpose."
But now she knew that the very coldness was a mask. The trouble, the
sorrow she had gone through last night, suddenly came back into her
mind, but no longer with bitterness, rather with a feeling that this man
who loved her, would help her bear the burden.
"Sir Percy," she said impulsively, "Heaven knows you have been at pains
to make the task, which I had set to myself, difficult to accomplish.
You spoke of my mood just now; well! we will call it that, if you will.
I wished to speak to you . . . because . . . because I was in trouble
. . . and had need . . . of your sympathy."
"It is yours to command, Madame."
"How cold you are!" she sighed. "Faith! I can scarce believe that but
a few months ago one tear in my eye had set you well-nigh crazy. Now I
come to you . . . with a half-broken heart . . . and . . . and . . ."
"I pray you, Madame," he said, whilst his voice shook almost as much as
hers, "in what way can I serve you?"
"Percy!--Armand is in deadly danger. A letter of his . . . rash,
impetuous, as were all his actions, and written to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes,
has fallen into the hands of a fanatic. Armand is hopelessly compromised
. . . to-morrow, perhaps he will be arrested . . . after that the
guillotine . . . unless . . . oh! it is horrible!" . . . she said, with a
sudden wail of anguish, as all the events of the past night came rushing
back to her mind, "horrible! . . . and you do not understand . . . you
cannot . . . and I have no one to whom I can turn . . . for help . . . or
even for sympathy . . ."
Tears now refused to be held back. All her trouble, her struggles, the
awful uncertainty of Armand's fate overwhelmed her. She tottered, ready
to fall, and leaning against the tone balustrade, she buried her face in
her hands and sobbed bitterly.
At first mention of Armand St. Just's name and of the peril in which he
stood, Sir Percy's face had become a shade more pale; and the look of
determination and obstinacy appeared more marked than ever between his
eyes. However, he said nothing for the moment, but watched her, as her
delicate frame was shaken with sobs, watched her until unconsciously his
face softened, and what looked almost like tears seemed to glisten in
"And so," he said with bitter sarcasm, "the murderous dog of the
revolution is turning upon the very hands that fed it? . . . Begad,
Madame," he added very gently, as Marguerite continued to sob
hysterically, "will you dry your tears? . . . I never could bear to see a
pretty woman cry, and I . . ."
Instinctively, with sudden overmastering passion at the sight of her
helplessness and of her grief, he stretched out his arms, and the next,
would have seized her and held her to him, protected from every evil
with his very life, his very heart's blood. . . . But pride had the
better of it in this struggle once again; he restrained himself with a
tremendous effort of will, and said coldly, though still very gently,--
"Will you not turn to me, Madame, and tell me in what way I may have the
honour to serve you?"
She made a violent effort to control herself, and turning her
tear-stained face to him, she once more held out her hand, which he
kissed with the same punctilious gallantry; but Marguerite's fingers,
this time, lingered in his hand for a second or two longer than was
absolutely necessary, and this was because she had felt that his hand
trembled perceptibly and was burning hot, whilst his lips felt as cold
"Can you do aught for Armand?" she said sweetly and simply. "You have so
much influence at court . . . so many friends . . ."
"Nay, Madame, should you not seek the influence of your French friend,
M. Chauvelin? His extends, if I mistake not, even as far as the
Republican Government of France."
"I cannot ask him, Percy. . . . Oh! I wish I dared to tell you . . . but
. . . but . . . he has put a price on my brother's head, which . . ."
She would have given worlds if she had felt the courage then to tell him
everything . . . all she had done that night--how she had suffered and
how her hand had been forced. But she dared not give way to that impulse
. . . not now, when she was just beginning to feel that he still loved
her, when she hoped that she could win him back. She dared not make
another confession to him. After all, he might not understand; he might
not sympathise with her struggles and temptation. His love still dormant
might sleep the sleep of death.
Perhaps he divined what was passing in her mind. His whole attitude was
one of intense longing--a veritable prayer for that confidence, which
her foolish pride withheld from him. When she remained silent he sighed,
and said with marked coldness--
"Faith, Madame, since it distresses you, we will not speak of it. . . .
As for Armand, I pray you have no fear. I pledge you my word that he
shall be safe. Now, have I your permission to go? The hour is getting
late, and . . ."
"You will at least accept my gratitude?" she said, as she drew quite
close to him, and speaking with real tenderness.
With a quick, almost involuntary effort he would have taken her then in
his arms, for her eyes were swimming in tears, which he longed to kiss
away; but she had lured him once, just like this, then cast him aside
like an ill-fitting glove. He thought this was but a mood, a caprice,
and he was too proud to lend himself to it once again.
"It is too soon, Madame!" he said quietly; "I have done nothing as yet.
The hour is late, and you must be fatigued. Your women will be waiting
for you upstairs."
He stood aside to allow her to pass. She sighed, a quick sigh of
disappointment. His pride and her beauty had been in direct conflict,
and his pride had remained the conqueror. Perhaps, after all, she had
been deceived just now; what she took to be the light of love in his
eyes might only have been the passion of pride or, who knows, of hatred
instead of love. She stood looking at him for a moment or two longer. He
was again as rigid, as impassive, as before. Pride had conquered, and he
cared naught for her. The grey light of dawn was gradually yielding
to the rosy light of the rising sun. Birds began to twitter; Nature
awakened, smiling in happy response to the warmth of this glorious
October morning. Only between these two hearts there lay a strong,
impassable barrier, built up of pride on both sides, which neither of
them cared to be the first to demolish.
He had bent his tall figure in a low ceremonious bow, as she finally,
with another bitter little sigh, began to mount the terrace steps.
The long train of her gold-embroidered gown swept the dead leaves off
the steps, making a faint harmonious sh--sh--sh as she glided up, with
one hand resting on the balustrade, the rosy light of dawn making an
aureole of gold round her hair, and causing the rubies on her head and
arms to sparkle. She reached the tall glass doors which led into the
house. Before entering, she paused once again to look at him, hoping
against hope to see his arms stretched out to her, and to hear his voice
calling her back. But he had not moved; his massive figure looked the
very personification of unbending pride, of fierce obstinacy.
Hot tears again surged to her eyes, as she would not let him see them,
she turned quickly within, and ran as fast as she could up to her own
Had she but turned back then, and looked out once more on to the
rose-lit garden, she would have seen that which would have made her own
sufferings seem but light and easy to bear--a strong man, overwhelmed
with his own passion and his own despair. Pride had given way at last,
obstinacy was gone: the will was powerless. He was but a man madly,
blindly, passionately in love, and as soon as her light footsteps had
died away within the house, he knelt down upon the terrace steps, and in
the very madness of his love he kissed one by one the places where her
small foot had trodden, and the stone balustrade there, where her tiny
hand had rested last.
CHAPTER XVII FAREWELL
When Marguerite reached her room, she found her maid terribly anxious
"Your ladyship will be so tired," said the poor woman, whose own eyes
were half closed with sleep. "It is past five o'clock."
"Ah, yes, Louise, I daresay I shall be tired presently," said
Marguerite, kindly; "but you are very tired now, so go to bed at once.
I'll get into bed alone."
"But, my lady . . ."
"Now, don't argue, Louise, but go to bed. Give me a wrap, and leave me
Louise was only too glad to obey. She took off her mistress's gorgeous
ball-dress, and wrapped her up in a soft billowy gown.
"Does your ladyship wish for anything else?" she asked, when that was
"No, nothing more. Put out the lights as you go out."
"Yes, my lady. Good-night, my lady."
When the maid was gone, Marguerite drew aside the curtains and threw
open the windows. The garden and the river beyond were flooded with rosy
light. Far away to the east, the rays of the rising sun had changed the
rose into vivid gold. The lawn was deserted now, and Marguerite looked
down upon the terrace where she had stood a few moments ago trying in
vain to win back a man's love, which once had been so wholly hers.
It was strange that through all her troubles, all her anxiety for
Armand, she was mostly conscious at the present moment of a keen and
Her very limbs seemed to ache with longing for the love of a man who
had spurned her, who had resisted her tenderness, remained cold to her
appeals, and had not responded to the glow of passion, which had caused
her to feel and hope that those happy olden days in Paris were not all
dead and forgotten.
How strange it all was! She loved him still. And now that she looked
back upon the last few months of misunderstandings and of loneliness,
she realised that she had never ceased to love him; that deep down in
her heart she had always vaguely felt that his foolish inanities, his
empty laugh, his lazy nonchalance were nothing but a mask; that the real
man, strong, passionate, wilful, was there still--the man she had loved,
whose intensity had fascinated her, whose personality attracted her,
since she always felt that behind his apparently slow wits there was
a certain something, which he kept hidden from all the world, and most
especially from her.
A woman's heart is such a complex problem--the owner thereof is often
most incompetent to find the solution of this puzzle.
Did Marguerite Blakeney, "the cleverest woman in Europe," really love a
fool? Was it love that she had felt for him a year ago when she married
him? Was it love she felt for him now that she realised that he still
loved her, but that he would not become her slave, her passionate,
ardent lover once again? Nay! Marguerite herself could not have told
that. Not at this moment at any rate; perhaps her pride had sealed her
mind against a better understanding of her own heart. But this she did
know--that she meant to capture that obstinate heart back again. That
she would conquer once more . . . and then, that she would never lose him
. . . . She would keep him, keep his love, deserve it, and cherish
it; for this much was certain, that there was no longer any happiness
possible for her without that one man's love.
Thus the most contradictory thoughts and emotions rushed madly through
her mind. Absorbed in them, she had allowed time to slip by; perhaps,
tired out with long excitement, she had actually closed her eyes and
sunk into a troubled sleep, wherein quickly fleeting dreams seemed but
the continuation of her anxious thoughts--when suddenly she was roused,
from dream or meditation, by the noise of footsteps outside her door.
Nervously she jumped up and listened; the house itself was as still
as ever; the footsteps had retreated. Through her wide-open window the
brilliant rays of the morning sun were flooding her room with light. She
looked up at the clock; it was half-past six--too early for any of the
household to be already astir.
She certainly must have dropped asleep, quite unconsciously. The noise
of the footsteps, also of hushed subdued voices had awakened her--what
could they be?
Gently, on tip-toe, she crossed the room and opened the door to listen;
not a sound--that peculiar stillness of the early morning when sleep
with all mankind is at its heaviest. But the noise had made her nervous,
and when, suddenly, at her feet, on the very doorstep, she saw something
white lying there--a letter evidently--she hardly dared touch it. It
seemed so ghostlike. It certainly was not there when she came upstairs;
had Louise dropped it? or was some tantalising spook at play, showing
her fairy letters where none existed?
At last she stooped to pick it up, and, amazed, puzzled beyond measure,
she saw that the letter was addressed to herself in her husband's large,
businesslike-looking hand. What could he have to say to her, in the
middle of the night, which could not be put off until the morning?
She tore open the envelope and read:--
"A most unforeseen circumstance forces me to leave for the North
immediately, so I beg your ladyship's pardon if I do not avail myself of
the honour of bidding you good-bye. My business may keep me employed for
about a week, so I shall not have the privilege of being present at
your ladyship's water-party on Wednesday. I remain your ladyship's most
humble and most obedient servant, PERCY BLAKENEY."
Marguerite must suddenly have been imbued with her husband's slowness
of intellect, for she had perforce to read the few simple lines over and
over again, before she could fully grasp their meaning.
She stood on the landing, turning over and over in her hand this curt
and mysterious epistle, her mind a blank, her nerves strained with
agitation and a presentiment she could not very well have explained.
Sir Percy owned considerable property in the North, certainly, and he
had often before gone there alone and stayed away a week at a time; but
it seemed so very strange that circumstances should have arisen between
five and six o'clock in the morning that compelled him to start in this
Vainly she tried to shake off an unaccustomed feeling of nervousness:
she was trembling from head to foot. A wild, unconquerable desire
seized her to see her husband again, at once, if only he had not already
Forgetting the fact that she was only very lightly clad in a morning
wrap, and that her hair lay loosely about her shoulders, she flew down
the stairs, right through the hall towards the front door.
It was as usual barred and bolted, for the indoor servants were not yet
up; but her keen ears had detected the sound of voices and the pawing of
a horse's hoof against the flag-stones.
With nervous, trembling fingers Marguerite undid the bolts one by one,
bruising her hands, hurting her nails, for the locks were heavy and
stiff. But she did not care; her whole frame shook with anxiety at the
very thought that she might be too late; that he might have gone without
her seeing him and bidding him "God-speed!"
At last, she had turned the key and thrown open the door. Her ears had
not deceived her. A groom was standing close by holding a couple of
horses; one of these was Sultan, Sir Percy's favourite and swiftest
horse, saddled ready for a journey.
The next moment Sir Percy himself appeared round the further corner
of the house and came quickly towards the horses. He had changed his
gorgeous ball costume, but was as usual irreproachably and richly
apparelled in a suit of fine cloth, with lace jabot and ruffles, high
top-boots, and riding breeches.
Marguerite went forward a few steps. He looked up and saw her. A slight
frown appeared between his eyes.
"You are going?" she said quickly and feverishly. "Whither?"
"As I have had the honour of informing your ladyship, urgent, most
unexpected business calls me to the North this morning," he said, in his
usual cold, drawly manner.
"But . . . your guests to-morrow . . ."
"I have prayed your ladyship to offer my humble excuses to His Royal
Highness. You are such a perfect hostess, I do not think I shall be
"But surely you might have waited for your journey . . . until after
our water-party . . ." she said, still speaking quickly and nervously.
"Surely this business is not so urgent . . . and you said nothing about
"My business, as I had the honour to tell you, Madame, is as unexpected
as it is urgent. . . . May I therefore crave your permission to go.
. . . Can I do aught for you in town? . . . on my way back?"
"No . . . no . . . thanks . . . nothing . . . But you will be back soon?"
"Before the end of the week?"
"I cannot say."
He was evidently trying to get away, whilst she was straining every
nerve to keep him back for a moment or two.
"Percy," she said, "will you not tell me why you go to-day? Surely I, as
your wife, have the right to know. You have NOT been called away to the
North. I know it. There were no letters, no couriers from there before
we left for the opera last night, and nothing was waiting for you when
we returned from the ball. . . . You are NOT going to the North, I feel
convinced. . . . There is some mystery . . . and . . ."
"Nay, there is no mystery, Madame," he replied, with a slight tone of
impatience. "My business has to do with Armand . . . there! Now, have I
your leave to depart?"
"With Armand? . . . But you will run no danger?"
"Danger? I? . . . Nay, Madame, your solicitude does me honour. As you
say, I have some influence; my intention is to exert it before it be too
"Will you allow me to thank you at least?"
"Nay, Madame," he said coldly, "there is no need for that. My life is at
your service, and I am already more than repaid."
"And mine will be at yours, Sir Percy, if you will but accept it, in
exchange for what you do for Armand," she said, as, impulsively, she
stretched out both her hands to him. "There! I will not detain you
. . . my thoughts go with you . . . Farewell! . . ."
How lovely she looked in this morning sunlight, with her ardent hair
streaming around her shoulders. He bowed very low and kissed her hand;
she felt the burning kiss and her heart thrilled with joy and hope.
"You will come back?" she said tenderly.
"Very soon!" he replied, looking longingly into her blue eyes.
"And . . . you will remember? . . ." she asked as her eyes, in response
to his look, gave him an infinity of promise.
"I will always remember, Madame, that you have honoured me by commanding
The words were cold and formal, but they did not chill her this time.
Her woman's heart had read his, beneath the impassive mask his pride
still forced him to wear.
He bowed to her again, then begged her leave to depart. She stood on one
side whilst he jumped on to Sultan's back, then, as he galloped out of
the gates, she waved him a final "Adieu."
A bend in the road soon hid him from view; his confidential groom had
some difficulty in keeping pace with him, for Sultan flew along in
response to his master's excited mood. Marguerite, with a sigh that was
almost a happy one, turned and went within. She went back to her room,
for suddenly, like a tired child, she felt quite sleepy.
Her heart seemed all at once to be in complete peace, and, though it
still ached with undefined longing, a vague and delicious hope soothed
it as with a balm.
She felt no longer anxious about Armand. The man who had just ridden
away, bent on helping her brother, inspired her with complete confidence
in his strength and in his power. She marvelled at herself for having
ever looked upon him as an inane fool; of course, THAT was a mask worn
to hide the bitter wound she had dealt to his faith and to his love. His
passion would have overmastered him, and he would not let her see how
much he still cared and how deeply he suffered.
But now all would be well: she would crush her own pride, humble it
before him, tell him everything, trust him in everything; and those
happy days would come back, when they used to wander off together in the
forests of Fontainebleau, when they spoke little--for he was always a
silent man--but when she felt that against that strong heart she would
always find rest and happiness.
The more she thought of the events of the past night, the less fear had
she of Chauvelin and his schemes. He had failed to discover the identity
of the Scarlet Pimpernel, of that she felt sure. Both Lord Fancourt
and Chauvelin himself had assured her that no one had been in
the dining-room at one o'clock except the Frenchman himself and
Percy--Yes!--Percy! she might have asked him, had she thought of it!
Anyway, she had no fears that the unknown and brave hero would fall in
Chauvelin's trap; his death at any rate would not be at her door.
Armand certainly was still in danger, but Percy had pledged his word
that Armand would be safe, and somehow, as Marguerite had seen him
riding away, the possibility that he could fail in whatever he undertook
never even remotely crossed her mind. When Armand was safely over in
England she would not allow him to go back to France.
She felt almost happy now, and, drawing the curtains closely together
again to shut out the piercing sun, she went to bed at last, laid
her head upon the pillow, and, like a wearied child, soon fell into a
peaceful and dreamless sleep.
CHAPTER XVIII THE MYSTERIOUS DEVICE
The day was well advanced when Marguerite woke, refreshed by her long
sleep. Louise had brought her some fresh milk and a dish of fruit, and
she partook of this frugal breakfast with hearty appetite.
Thoughts crowded thick and fast in her mind as she munched her grapes;
most of them went galloping away after the tall, erect figure of her
husband, whom she had watched riding out of sight more than five hours
In answer to her eager inquiries, Louise brought back the news that the
groom had come home with Sultan, having left Sir Percy in London. The
groom thought that his master was about to get on board his schooner,
which was lying off just below London Bridge. Sir Percy had ridden thus
far, had then met Briggs, the skipper of the DAY DREAM, and had sent the
groom back to Richmond with Sultan and the empty saddle.
This news puzzled Marguerite more than ever. Where could Sir Percy be
going just now in the DAY DREAM? On Armand's behalf, he had said. Well!
Sir Percy had influential friends everywhere. Perhaps he was going to
Greenwich, or . . . but Marguerite ceased to conjecture; all would be
explained anon: he said that he would come back, and that he would
remember. A long, idle day lay before Marguerite. She was expecting a
visit of her old school-fellow, little Suzanne de Tournay. With all
the merry mischief at her command, she had tendered her request for
Suzanne's company to the Comtesse in the Presence of the Prince of Wales
last night. His Royal Highness had loudly applauded the notion, and
declared that he would give himself the pleasure of calling on the two
ladies in the course of the afternoon. The Comtesse had not dared to
refuse, and then and there was entrapped into a promise to send little
Suzanne to spend a long and happy day at Richmond with her friend.
Marguerite expected her eagerly; she longed for a chat about old
school-days with the child; she felt that she would prefer Suzanne's
company to that of anyone else, and together they would roam through the
fine old garden and rich deer park, or stroll along the river.
But Suzanne had not come yet, and Marguerite being dressed, prepared to
go downstairs. She looked quite a girl this morning in her simple muslin
frock, with a broad blue sash round her slim waist, and the dainty
cross-over fichu into which, at her bosom, she had fastened a few late
She crossed the landing outside her own suite of apartments, and stood
still for a moment at the head of the fine oak staircase, which led to
the lower floor. On her left were her husband's apartments, a suite of
rooms which she practically never entered.
They consisted of bedroom, dressing and reception room, and at the
extreme end of the landing, of a small study, which, when Sir Percy did
not use it, was always kept locked. His own special and confidential
valet, Frank, had charge of this room. No one was ever allowed to go
inside. My lady had never cared to do so, and the other servants, had,
of course, not dared to break this hard-and-fast rule.
Marguerite had often, with that good-natured contempt which she had
recently adopted towards her husband, chaffed him about this secrecy
which surrounded his private study. Laughingly she had always declared
that he strictly excluded all prying eyes from his sanctum for fear they
should detect how very little "study" went on within its four walls: a
comfortable arm-chair for Sir Percy's sweet slumbers was, no doubt, its
most conspicuous piece of furniture.
Marguerite thought of all this on this bright October morning as she
glanced along the corridor. Frank was evidently busy with his master's
rooms, for most of the doors stood open, that of the study amongst the
A sudden burning, childish curiosity seized her to have a peep at Sir
Percy's sanctum. This restriction, of course, did not apply to her, and
Frank would, of course, not dare to oppose her. Still, she hoped that
the valet would be busy in one of the other rooms, that she might have
that one quick peep in secret, and unmolested.
Gently, on tip-toe, she crossed the landing and, like Blue Beard's wife,
trembling half with excitement and wonder, she paused a moment on the
threshold, strangely perturbed and irresolute.
The door was ajar, and she could not see anything within. She pushed it
open tentatively: there was no sound: Frank was evidently not there, and
she walked boldly in.
At once she was struck by the severe simplicity of everything around
her: the dark and heavy hangings, the massive oak furniture, the one or
two maps on the wall, in no way recalled to her mind the lazy man about
town, the lover of race-courses, the dandified leader of fashion, that
was the outward representation of Sir Percy Blakeney.
There was no sign here, at any rate, of hurried departure. Everything
was in its place, not a scrap of paper littered the floor, not a
cupboard or drawer was left open. The curtains were drawn aside, and
through the open window the fresh morning air was streaming in.
Facing the window, and well into the centre of the room, stood a
ponderous business-like desk, which looked as if it had seen much
service. On the wall to the left of the desk, reaching almost from floor
to ceiling, was a large full-length portrait of a woman, magnificently
framed, exquisitely painted, and signed with the name of Boucher. It was
Marguerite knew very little about her, except that she had died abroad,
ailing in body as well as in mind, while Percy was still a lad. She must
have been a very beautiful woman once, when Boucher painted her, and as
Marguerite looked at the portrait, she could not but be struck by the
extraordinary resemblance which must have existed between mother and
son. There was the same low, square forehead, crowned with thick, fair
hair, smooth and heavy; the same deep-set, somewhat lazy blue eyes
beneath firmly marked, straight brows; and in those eyes there was the
same intensity behind that apparent laziness, the same latent passion
which used to light up Percy's face in the olden days before his
marriage, and which Marguerite had again noted, last night at dawn, when
she had come quite close to him, and had allowed a note of tenderness to
creep into her voice.
Marguerite studied the portrait, for it interested her: after that she
turned and looked again at the ponderous desk. It was covered with a
mass of papers, all neatly tied and docketed, which looked like accounts
and receipts arrayed with perfect method. It had never before struck
Marguerite--nor had she, alas! found it worth while to inquire--as to
how Sir Percy, whom all the world had credited with a total lack of
brains, administered the vast fortune which his father had left him.
Since she had entered this neat, orderly room, she had been taken
so much by surprise, that this obvious proof of her husband's strong
business capacities did not cause her more than a passing thought of
wonder. But it also strengthened her in the now certain knowledge that,
with his worldly inanities, his foppish ways, and foolish talk, he was
not only wearing a mask, but was playing a deliberate and studied part.
Marguerite wondered again. Why should he take all this trouble? Why
should he--who was obviously a serious, earnest man--wish to appear
before his fellow-men as an empty-headed nincompoop?
He may have wished to hide his love for a wife who held him in contempt
. . . but surely such an object could have been gained at less sacrifice,
and with far less trouble than constant incessant acting of an unnatural
She looked round her quite aimlessly now: she was horribly puzzled, and
a nameless dread, before all this strange, unaccountable mystery, had
begun to seize upon her. She felt cold and uncomfortable suddenly in
this severe and dark room. There were no pictures on the wall, save the
fine Boucher portrait, only a couple of maps, both of parts of France,
one of the North coast and the other of the environs of Paris. What did
Sir Percy want with those, she wondered.
Her head began to ache, she turned away from this strange Blue Beard's
chamber, which she had entered, and which she did not understand. She
did not wish Frank to find her here, and with a fast look round, she
once more turned to the door. As she did so, her foot knocked against a
small object, which had apparently been lying close to the desk, on the
carpet, and which now went rolling, right across the room.
She stooped to pick it up. It was a solid gold ring, with a flat shield,
on which was engraved a small device.
Marguerite turned it over in her fingers, and then studied the engraving
on the shield. It represented a small star-shaped flower, of a shape she
had seen so distinctly twice before: once at the opera, and once at Lord
CHAPTER XIX THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
At what particular moment the strange doubt first crept into
Marguerite's mind, she could not herself have said. With the ring
tightly clutched in her hand, she had run out of the room, down the
stairs, and out into the garden, where, in complete seclusion, alone
with the flowers, and the river and the birds, she could look again at
the ring, and study that device more closely.
Stupidly, senselessly, now, sitting beneath the shade of an overhanging
sycamore, she was looking at the plain gold shield, with the star-shaped
little flower engraved upon it.
Bah! It was ridiculous! she was dreaming! her nerves were overwrought,
and she saw signs and mysteries in the most trivial coincidences. Had
not everybody about town recently made a point of affecting the device
of that mysterious and heroic Scarlet Pimpernel?
Did she herself wear it embroidered on her gowns? set in gems and enamel
in her hair? What was there strange in the fact that Sir Percy should
have chosen to use the device as a seal-ring? He might easily have
done that . . . yes . . . quite easily . . . and . . . besides . . . what
connection could there be between her exquisite dandy of a husband,
with his fine clothes and refined, lazy ways, and the daring plotter who
rescued French victims from beneath the very eyes of the leaders of a
Her thoughts were in a whirl--her mind a blank . . . She did not see
anything that was going on around her, and was quite startled when a
fresh young voice called to her across the garden.
"CHERIE!--CHERIE! where are you?" and little Suzanne, fresh as a
rosebud, with eyes dancing with glee, and brown curls fluttering in the
soft morning breeze, came running across the lawn.
"They told me you were in the garden," she went on prattling merrily,
and throwing herself with a pretty, girlish impulse into Marguerite's
arms, "so I ran out to give you a surprise. You did not expect me quite
so soon, did you, my darling little Margot CHERIE?"
Marguerite, who had hastily concealed the ring in the folds of her
kerchief, tried to respond gaily and unconcernedly to the young girl's
"Indeed, sweet one," she said with a smile, "it is delightful to have
you all to myself, and for a nice whole long day. . . . You won't be
"Oh! bored! Margot, how CAN you say such a wicked thing. Why! when we
were in the dear old convent together, we were always happy when we were
allowed to be alone together."
"And to talk secrets."
The two young girls had linked their arms in one another's and began
wandering round the garden.
"Oh! how lovely your home is, Margot, darling," said little Suzanne,
enthusiastically, "and how happy you must be!"
"Aye, indeed! I ought to be happy--oughtn't I, sweet one?" said
Marguerite, with a wistful little sigh.
"How sadly you say it, CHERIE. . . . Ah, well, I suppose now that you
are a married woman you won't care to talk secrets with me any longer.
Oh! what lots and lots of secrets we used to have at school! Do you
remember?--some we did not even confide to Sister Theresa of the Holy
Angels--though she was such a dear."
"And now you have one all-important secret, eh, little one?" said
Marguerite, merrily, "which you are forthwith going to confide in me.
Nay, you need not blush, CHERIE." she added, as she saw Suzanne's pretty
little face crimson with blushes. "Faith, there's naught to be ashamed
of! He is a noble and true man, and one to be proud of as a lover, and
. . . as a husband."
"Indeed, CHERIE, I am not ashamed," rejoined Suzanne, softly; "and it
makes me very, very proud to hear you speak so well of him. I think
maman will consent," she added thoughtfully, "and I shall be--oh! so
happy--but, of course, nothing is to be thought of until
papa is safe. . . ."
Marguerite started. Suzanne's father! the Comte de Tournay!--one
of those whose life would be jeopardised if Chauvelin succeeded in
establishing the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
She had understood all along from the Comtesse, and also from one or two
of the members of the league, that their mysterious leader had pledged
his honour to bring the fugitive Comte de Tournay safely out of France.
Whilst little Suzanne--unconscious of all--save her own all-important
little secret, went prattling on, Marguerite's thoughts went back to the
events of the past night.
Armand's peril, Chauvelin's threat, his cruel "Either--or--" which she
And then her own work in the matter, which should have culminated at one
o'clock in Lord Grenville's dining-room, when the relentless agent
of the French Government would finally learn who was this mysterious
Scarlet Pimpernel, who so openly defied an army of spies and placed
himself so boldly, and for mere sport, on the side of the enemies of
Since then she had heard nothing from Chauvelin. She had concluded that
he had failed, and yet, she had not felt anxious about Armand, because
her husband had promised her that Armand would be safe.
But now, suddenly, as Suzanne prattled merrily along, an awful horror
came upon her for what she had done. Chauvelin had told her nothing, it
was true; but she remembered how sarcastic and evil he looked when she
took final leave of him after the ball. Had he discovered something
then? Had he already laid his plans for catching the daring plotter,
red-handed, in France, and sending him to the guillotine without
compunction or delay?
Marguerite turned sick with horror, and her hand convulsively clutched
the ring in her dress.
"You are not listening, CHERIE," said Suzanne, reproachfully, as she
paused in her long, highly interesting narrative.
"Yes, yes, darling--indeed I am," said Marguerite with an effort,
forcing herself to smile. "I love to hear you talking . . . and your
happiness makes me so very glad. . . . Have no fear, we will manage to
propitiate maman. Sir Andrew Ffoulkes is a noble English gentleman; he
has money and position, the Comtesse will not refuse her consent. . . .
But . . . now, little one . . . tell me . . . what is the latest news
about your father?"
"Oh!" said Suzanne with mad glee, "the best we could possibly hear. My
Lord Hastings came to see maman early this morning. He said that all is
now well with dear papa, and we may safely expect him here in England in
less than four days."
"Yes," said Marguerite, whose glowing eyes were fastened on Suzanne's
lips, as she continued merrily:
"Oh, we have no fear now! You don't know, CHERIE, that that great and
noble Scarlet Pimpernel himself has gone to save papa. He has gone,
CHERIE . . . actually gone . . ." added Suzanne excitedly, "he was in
London this morning; he will be in Calais, perhaps, to-morrow . . . where
he will meet papa . . . and then . . . and then . . ."
The blow had fallen. She had expected it all along, though she had tried
for the last half-hour to delude herself and to cheat her fears. He had
gone to Calais, had been in London this morning . . . he . . . the
Scarlet Pimpernel . . . Percy Blakeney . . . her husband . . . whom she had
betrayed last night to Chauvelin.
Percy . . . Percy . . . her husband . . . the Scarlet Pimpernel . . . Oh!
how could she have been so blind? She understood it all now--all at once
. . . that part he played--the mask he wore . . . in order to throw dust
in everybody's eyes.
And all for the sheer sport and devilry of course!--saving men, women
and children from death, as other men destroy and kill animals for the
excitement, the love of the thing. The idle, rich man wanted some aim
in life--he, and the few young bucks he enrolled under his banner, had
amused themselves for months in risking their lives for the sake of an
Perhaps he had meant to tell her when they were first married; and then
the story of the Marquis de St. Cyr had come to his ears, and he had
suddenly turned from her, thinking, no doubt, that she might someday
betray him and his comrades, who had sworn to follow him; and so he had
tricked her, as he tricked all others, whilst hundreds now owed their
lives to him, and many families owed him both life and happiness.
The mask of an inane fop had been a good one, and the part consummately
well played. No wonder that Chauvelin's spies had failed to detect, in
the apparently brainless nincompoop, the man whose reckless daring and
resourceful ingenuity had baffled the keenest French spies, both in
France and in England. Even last night when Chauvelin went to Lord
Grenville's dining-room to seek that daring Scarlet Pimpernel, he only
saw that inane Sir Percy Blakeney fast asleep in a corner of the sofa.
Had his astute mind guessed the secret, then? Here lay the whole awful,
horrible, amazing puzzle. In betraying a nameless stranger to his fate
in order to save her brother, had Marguerite Blakeney sent her husband
to his death?
No! no! no! a thousand times no! Surely Fate could not deal a blow like
that: Nature itself would rise in revolt: her hand, when it held that
tiny scrap of paper last night, would have surely have been struck numb
ere it committed a deed so appalling and so terrible.
"But what is it, CHERIE?" said little Suzanne, now genuinely alarmed,
for Marguerite's colour had become dull and ashen. "Are you ill,
Marguerite? What is it?"
"Nothing, nothing, child," she murmured, as in a dream. "Wait a moment
. . . let me think . . . think! . . . You said . . . the Scarlet
Pimpernel had gone today . . . ?"
"Marguerite, CHERIE, what is it? You frighten me. . . ."
"It is nothing, child, I tell you . . . nothing . . . I must be alone
a minute--and--dear one . . . I may have to curtail our time together
to-day. . . . I may have to go away--you'll understand?"
"I understand that something has happened, CHERIE, and that you want
to be alone. I won't be a hindrance to you. Don't think of me. My maid,
Lucile, has not yet gone . . . we will go back together . . . don't think
She threw her arms impulsively round Marguerite. Child as she was, she
felt the poignancy of her friend's grief, and with the infinite tact of
her girlish tenderness, she did not try to pry into it, but was ready to
She kissed Marguerite again and again, then walked sadly back across
the lawn. Marguerite did not move, she remained there, thinking . . .
wondering what was to be done.
Just as little Suzanne was about to mount the terrace steps, a groom
came running round the house towards his mistress. He carried a sealed
letter in his hand. Suzanne instinctively turned back; her heart told
her that here perhaps was further ill news for her friend, and she felt
that poor Margot was not in a fit state to bear any more.
The groom stood respectfully beside his mistress, then he handed her the
"What is that?" asked Marguerite.
"Just come by runner, my lady."
Marguerite took the letter mechanically, and turned it over in her
"Who sent it?" she said.
"The runner said, my lady," replied the groom, "that his orders were
to deliver this, and that your ladyship would understand from whom it
Marguerite tore open the envelope. Already her instinct told her what it
contained, and her eyes only glanced at it mechanically.
It was a letter by Armand St. Just to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes--the letter
which Chauvelin's spies had stolen at "The Fisherman's Rest," and which
Chauvelin had held as a rod over her to enforce her obedience.
Now he had kept his word--he had sent her back St. Just's compromising
letter . . . for he was on the track of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Marguerite's senses reeled, her very soul seemed to be leaving her body;
she tottered, and would have fallen but for Suzanne's arm round her
waist. With superhuman effort she regained control over herself--there
was yet much to be done.
"Bring that runner here to me," she said to the servant, with much calm.
"He has not gone?"
"No, my lady."
The groom went, and Marguerite turned to Suzanne.
"And you, child, run within. Tell Lucile to get ready. I fear that I
must send you home, child. And--stay, tell one of the maids to prepare a
travelling dress and cloak for me."
Suzanne made no reply. She kissed Marguerite tenderly and obeyed without
a word; the child was overawed by the terrible, nameless misery in her
A minute later the groom returned, followed by the runner who had
brought the letter.
"Who gave you this packet?" asked Marguerite.
"A gentleman, my lady," replied the man, "at 'The Rose and Thistle' inn
opposite Charing Cross. He said you would understand."
"At 'The Rose and Thistle'? What was he doing?"
"He was waiting for the coach, your ladyship, which he had ordered."
"Yes, my lady. A special coach he had ordered. I understood from his man
that he was posting straight to Dover."
"That's enough. You may go." Then she turned to the groom: "My coach and
the four swiftest horses in the stables, to be ready at once."
The groom and runner both went quickly off to obey. Marguerite remained
standing for a moment on the lawn quite alone. Her graceful figure
was as rigid as a statue, her eyes were fixed, her hands were tightly
clasped across her breast; her lips moved as they murmured with pathetic
"What's to be done? What's to be done? Where to find him?--Oh, God!
grant me light."
But this was not the moment for remorse and despair. She had
done--unwittingly--an awful and terrible thing--the very worst crime, in
her eyes, that woman ever committed--she saw it in all its horror. Her
very blindness in not having guessed her husband's secret seemed now
to her another deadly sin. She ought to have known! she ought to have
How could she imagine that a man who could love with so much intensity
as Percy Blakeney had loved her from the first--how could such a man
be the brainless idiot he chose to appear? She, at least, ought to have
known that he was wearing a mask, and having found that out, she should
have torn it from his face, whenever they were alone together.
Her love for him had been paltry and weak, easily crushed by her own
pride; and she, too, had worn a mask in assuming a contempt for him,
whilst, as a matter of fact, she completely misunderstood him.
But there was no time now to go over the past. By her own blindness she
had sinned; now she must repay, not by empty remorse, but by prompt and
Percy had started for Calais, utterly unconscious of the fact that
his most relentless enemy was on his heels. He had set sail early that
morning from London Bridge. Provided he had a favourable wind, he would
no doubt be in France within twenty-four hours; no doubt he had reckoned
on the wind and chosen this route.
Chauvelin, on the other hand, would post to Dover, charter a vessel
there, and undoubtedly reach Calais much about the same time. Once in
Calais, Percy would meet all those who were eagerly waiting for the
noble and brave Scarlet Pimpernel, who had come to rescue them from
horrible and unmerited death. With Chauvelin's eyes now fixed upon his
every movement, Percy would thus not only be endangering his own life,
but that of Suzanne's father, the old Comte de Tournay, and of those
other fugitives who were waiting for him and trusting in him. There was
also Armand, who had gone to meet de Tournay, secure in the knowledge
that the Scarlet Pimpernel was watching over his safety.
All these lives and that of her husband, lay in Marguerite's hands;
these she must save, if human pluck and ingenuity were equal to the
Unfortunately, she could not do all this quite alone. Once in Calais she
would not know where to find her husband, whilst Chauvelin, in stealing
the papers at Dover, had obtained the whole itinerary. Above every
thing, she wished to warn Percy.
She knew enough about him by now to understand that he would never
abandon those who trusted in him, that he would not turn his back from
danger, and leave the Comte de Tournay to fall into the bloodthirsty
hands that knew of no mercy. But if he were warned, he might form new
plans, be more wary, more prudent. Unconsciously, he might fall into a
cunning trap, but--once warned--he might yet succeed.
And if he failed--if indeed Fate, and Chauvelin, with all the resources
at his command, proved too strong for the daring plotter after all--then
at least she would be there by his side, to comfort, love and cherish,
to cheat death perhaps at the last by making it seem sweet, if they died
both together, locked in each other's arms, with the supreme happiness
of knowing that passion had responded to passion, and that all
misunderstandings were at an end.
Her whole body stiffened as with a great and firm resolution. This she
meant to do, if God gave her wits and strength. Her eyes lost their
fixed look; they glowed with inward fire at the thought of meeting him
again so soon, in the very midst of most deadly perils; they sparkled
with the joy of sharing these dangers with him--of helping him
perhaps--of being with him at the last--if she failed.
The childlike sweet face had become hard and set, the curved mouth was
closed tightly over her clenched teeth. She meant to do or die, with
him and for his sake. A frown, which spoke of an iron will and unbending
resolution, appeared between the two straight brows; already her plans
were formed. She would go and find Sir Andrew Ffoulkes first; he was
Percy's best friend, and Marguerite remembered, with a thrill, with what
blind enthusiasm the young man always spoke of his mysterious leader.
He would help her where she needed help; her coach was ready. A change
of raiment, and a farewell to little Suzanne, and she could be on her
Without haste, but without hesitation, she walked quietly into the
CHAPTER XX THE FRIEND
Less than half an hour later, Marguerite, buried in thoughts, sat inside
her coach, which was bearing her swiftly to London.
She had taken an affectionate farewell of little Suzanne, and seen the
child safely started with her maid, and in her own coach, back to town.
She had sent one courier with a respectful letter of excuse to His Royal
Highness, begging for a postponement of the august visit on account of
pressing and urgent business, and another on ahead to bespeak a fresh
relay of horses at Faversham.
Then she had changed her muslin frock for a dark traveling costume and
mantle, had provided herself with money--which her husband's lavishness
always placed fully at her disposal--and had started on her way.
She did not attempt to delude herself with any vain and futile hopes;
the safety of her brother Armand was to have been conditional on the
imminent capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel. As Chauvelin had sent her
back Armand's compromising letter, there was no doubt that he was quite
satisfied in his own mind that Percy Blakeney was the man whose death he
had sworn to bring about.
No! there was no room for any fond delusions! Percy, the husband whom
she loved with all the ardour which her admiration for his bravery
had kindled, was in immediate, deadly peril, through her hand. She had
betrayed him to his enemy--unwittingly 'tis true--but she HAD betrayed
him, and if Chauvelin succeeded in trapping him, who so far was unaware
of his danger, then his death would be at her door. His death! when with
her very heart's blood, she would have defended him and given willingly
her life for his.
She had ordered her coach to drive her to the "Crown" inn; once there,
she told her coachman to give the horses food and rest. Then she ordered
a chair, and had herself carried to the house in Pall Mall where Sir
Andrew Ffoulkes lived.
Among all Percy's friends who were enrolled under his daring banner,
she felt that she would prefer to confide in Sir Andrew Ffoulkes. He had
always been her friend, and now his love for little Suzanne had brought
him closer to her still. Had he been away from home, gone on the mad
errand with Percy, perhaps, then she would have called on Lord Hastings
or Lord Tony--for she wanted the help of one of these young men, or she
would indeed be powerless to save her husband.
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, however, was at home, and his servant introduced
her ladyship immediately. She went upstairs to the young man's
comfortable bachelor's chambers, and was shown into a small, though
luxuriously furnished, dining-room. A moment or two later Sir Andrew
He had evidently been much startled when he heard who his lady visitor
was, for he looked anxiously--even suspiciously--at Marguerite, whilst
performing the elaborate bows before her, which the rigid etiquette of
the time demanded.
Marguerite had laid aside every vestige of nervousness; she was
perfectly calm, and having returned the young man's elaborate salute,
she began very calmly,--
"Sir Andrew, I have no desire to waste valuable time in much talk. You
must take certain things I am going to tell you for granted. These will
be of no importance. What is important is that your leader and comrade,
the Scarlet Pimpernel . . . my husband . . . Percy Blakeney . . . is in
Had she the remotest doubt of the correctness of her deductions, she
would have had them confirmed now, for Sir Andrew, completely taken by
surprise, had grown very pale, and was quite incapable of making the
slightest attempt at clever parrying.
"No matter how I know this, Sir Andrew," she continued quietly,
"thank God that I do, and that perhaps it is not too late to save him.
Unfortunately, I cannot do this quite alone, and therefore have come to
you for help."
"Lady Blakeney," said the young man, trying to recover himself,
"I . . ."
"Will you hear me first?" she interrupted. "This is how the matter
stands. When the agent of the French Government stole your papers that
night in Dover, he found amongst them certain plans, which you or your
leader meant to carry out for the rescue of the Comte de Tournay and
others. The Scarlet Pimpernel--Percy, my husband--has gone on this
errand himself to-day. Chauvelin knows that the Scarlet Pimpernel
and Percy Blakeney are one and the same person. He will follow him to
Calais, and there will lay hands on him. You know as well as I do the
fate that awaits him at the hands of the Revolutionary Government of
France. No interference from England--from King George himself--would
save him. Robespierre and his gang would see to it that the interference
came too late. But not only that, the much-trusted leader will also have
been unconsciously the means of revealing the hiding-place of the Comte
de Tournay and of all those who, even now, are placing their hopes in
She had spoken quietly, dispassionately, and with firm, unbending
resolution. Her purpose was to make that young man trust and help her,
for she could do nothing without him.
"I do not understand," he repeated, trying to gain time, to think what
was best to be done.
"Aye! but I think you do, Sir Andrew. You must know that I am speaking
the truth. Look these facts straight in the face. Percy has sailed for
Calais, I presume for some lonely part of the coast, and Chauvelin is on
his track. HE has posted for Dover, and will cross the Channel probably
to-night. What do you think will happen?"
The young man was silent.
"Percy will arrive at his destination: unconscious of being followed he
will seek out de Tournay and the others--among these is Armand St. Just
my brother--he will seek them out, one after another, probably, not
knowing that the sharpest eyes in the world are watching his every
movement. When he has thus unconsciously betrayed those who blindly
trust in him, when nothing can be gained from him, and he is ready to
come back to England, with those whom he has gone so bravely to save,
the doors of the trap will close upon him, and he will be sent to end
his noble life upon the guillotine."
Still Sir Andrew was silent.
"You do not trust me," she said passionately. "Oh God! cannot you see
that I am in deadly earnest? Man, man," she added, while, with her tiny
hands she seized the young man suddenly by the shoulders, forcing him
to look straight at her, "tell me, do I look like that vilest thing on
earth--a woman who would betray her own husband?"
"God forbid, Lady Blakeney," said the young man at last, "that I should
attribute such evil motives to you, but . . ."
"But what? . . . tell me. . . . Quick, man! . . . the very seconds are
"Will you tell me," he asked resolutely, and looking searchingly into
her blue eyes, "whose hand helped to guide M. Chauvelin to the knowledge
which you say he possesses?"
"Mine," she said quietly, "I own it--I will not lie to you, for I wish
you to trust me absolutely. But I had no idea--how COULD I have?--of the
identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel . . . and my brother's safety was to be
my prize if I succeeded."
"In helping Chauvelin to track the Scarlet Pimpernel?"
"It is no use telling you how he forced my hand. Armand is more than a
brother to me, and . . . and . . . how COULD I guess? . . . But we waste
time, Sir Andrew . . . every second is precious . . . in the name of God!
. . . my husband is in peril . . . your friend!--your comrade!--Help me to
Sir Andrew felt his position to be a very awkward one. The oath he had
taken before his leader and comrade was one of obedience and secrecy;
and yet the beautiful woman, who was asking him to trust her, was
undoubtedly in earnest; his friend and leader was equally undoubtedly in
imminent danger and . . .
"Lady Blakeney," he said at last, "God knows you have perplexed me, so
that I do not know which way my duty lies. Tell me what you wish me to
do. There are nineteen of us ready to lay down our lives for the Scarlet
Pimpernel if he is in danger."
"There is no need for lives just now, my friend," she said drily; "my
wits and four swift horses will serve the necessary purpose. But I must
know where to find him. See," she added, while her eyes filled with
tears, "I have humbled myself before you, I have owned my fault to you;
shall I also confess my weakness?--My husband and I have been estranged,
because he did not trust me, and because I was too blind to understand.
You must confess that the bandage which he put over my eyes was a very
thick one. Is it small wonder that I did not see through it? But last
night, after I led him unwittingly into such deadly peril, it suddenly
fell from my eyes. If you will not help me, Sir Andrew, I would still
strive to save my husband. I would still exert every faculty I possess
for his sake; but I might be powerless, for I might arrive too late,
and nothing would be left for you but lifelong remorse, and . . . and
. . . for me, a broken heart."
"But, Lady Blakeney," said the young man, touched by the gentle
earnestness of this exquisitely beautiful woman, "do you know that what
you propose doing is man's work?--you cannot possibly journey to Calais
alone. You would be running the greatest possible risks to yourself, and
your chances of finding your husband now--were I to direct you ever so
carefully--are infinitely remote.
"Oh, I hope there are risks!" she murmured softly, "I hope there are
dangers, too!--I have so much to atone for. But I fear you are mistaken.
Chauvelin's eyes are fixed upon you all, he will scarce notice me.
Quick, Sir Andrew!--the coach is ready, and there is not a moment to be
lost. . . . I MUST get to him! I MUST!" she repeated with almost savage
energy, "to warn him that that man is on his track. . . . Can't you
see--can't you see, that I MUST get to him . . . even . . . even if it be
too late to save him . . . at le
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