Less than half an hour later, Marguerite, buried
in thoughts, sat inside her coach, which was bearing her swiftly
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
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 himself appeared.
He had evidently been much startled when he heard
who his lady visitor was, for he looked anxiously--even suspiciously--at
Marguerite, whilst performing the elaborate bows before her, which
the rigid etiquette of the time demanded.
Marguerite had laid aside every vestige of nervousness;
she was perfectly calm, and having returned the young man's elaborate
salute, she began very calmly,--
"Sir Andrew, I have no desire to waste valuable
time in much talk. You must take certain things I am going to
tell you for granted. These will be of no importance. What is
important is that your leader and comrade, the Scarlet Pimpernel.
. .my husband. . . Percy Blakeney. . .is in deadly peril."
Had she the remotest doubt of the correctness
of her deductions, she would have had them confirmed now, for
Sir Andrew, completely taken by surprise, had grown very pale,
and was quite incapable of making the slightest attempt at clever
"No matter how I know this, Sir Andrew," she
continued quietly, "thank God that I do, and that perhaps it is
not too late to save him. Unfortunately, I cannot do this quite
alone, and therefore have come to you for help."
"Lady Blakeney," said the young man, trying to
recover himself, "I. . ."
"Will you hear me first?" she interrupted. "This
is how the matter stands. When the agent of the French Government
stole your papers that night in Dover, he found amongst them certain
plans, which you or your leader meant to carry out for the rescue
of the Comte de Tournay and others. The Scarlet Pimpernel--Percy,
my husband--has gone on this errand himself to-day. Chauvelin
knows that the Scarlet Pimpernel and Percy Blakeney are one and
the same person. He will follow him to Calais, and there will
lay hands on him. You know as well as I do the fate that awaits
him at the hands of the Revolutionary Government of France. No
interference from England--from King George himself--would save
him. Robespierre and his gang would see to it that the interference
came too late. But not only that, the much-trusted leader will
also have been unconsciously the means of revealing the hiding-place
of the Comte de Tournay and of all those who, even now, are placing
their hopes in him."
She had spoken quietly, dispassionately, and
with firm, unbending resolution. Her purpose was to make that
young man trust and help her, for she could do nothing without
"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
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
"Will you tell me," he asked resolutely, and
looking searchingly into her blue eyes, "whose hand helped to
guide M. Chauvelin to the knowledge which you say he possesses?"
"Mine," she said quietly, "I own it--I will not
lie to you, for I wish you to trust me absolutely. But I had no
idea--how COULD I have?--of the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
. .and my brother's safety was to be my prize if I succeeded."
"In helping Chauvelin to track the Scarlet Pimpernel?"
"It is no use telling you how he forced my hand.
Armand is more than a brother to me, and. . .and. . .how COULD
I guess?. . . But we waste time, Sir Andrew. . .every second is
precious. . .in the name of God!. . .my husband is in peril. .
.your friend!--your comrade!--Help me to save him."
Sir Andrew felt his position to be a very awkward
one. The oath he had taken before his leader and comrade was one
of obedience and secrecy; and yet the beautiful woman, who was
asking him to trust her, was undoubtedly in earnest; his friend
and leader was equally undoubtedly in imminent danger and. . .
"Lady Blakeney," he said at last, "God knows
you have perplexed me, so that I do not know which way my duty
lies. Tell me what you wish me to do. There are nineteen of us
ready to lay down our lives for the Scarlet Pimpernel if he is
"There is no need for lives just now, my friend,"
she said drily; "my wits and four swift horses will serve the
necessary purpose. But I must know where to find him. See," she
added, while her eyes filled with tears, "I have humbled myself
before you, I have owned my fault to you; shall I also confess
my weakness?--My husband and I have been estranged, because he
did not trust me, and because I was too blind to understand. You
must confess that the bandage which he put over my eyes was a
very thick one. Is it small wonder that I did not see through
it? But last night, after I led him unwittingly into such deadly
peril, it suddenly fell from my eyes. If you will not help me,
Sir Andrew, I would still strive to save my husband. I would still
exert every faculty I possess for his sake; but I might be powerless,
for I might arrive too late, and nothing would be left for you
but lifelong remorse, and. . .and. . .for me, a broken heart."
"But, Lady Blakeney," said the young man, touched
by the gentle earnestness of this exquisitely beautiful woman,
"do you know that what you propose doing is man's work?--you cannot
possibly journey to Calais alone. You would be running the greatest
possible risks to yourself, and your chances of finding your husband
now--where I to direct you ever so carefully--are infinitely remote.
"Oh, I hope there are risks!" she murmured softly,
"I hope there are dangers, too!--I have so much to atone for.
But I fear you are mistaken. Chauvelin's eyes are fixed upon you
all, he will scarce notice me. Quick, Sir Andrew!--the coach is
ready, and there is not a moment to be lost. . . . I MUST get
to him! I MUST!" she repeated with almost savage energy, "to warn
him that that man is on his track. . . . Can't you see--can't
you see, that I MUST get to him. . .even. . .even if it be too
late to save him. . .at least. . . to be by his side. . .at the
"Faith, Madame, you must command me. Gladly would
I or any of my comrades lay down our lives for our husband. If
you WILL go yourself. . ."
"Nay, friend, do you not see that I would go mad
if I let you go without me." She stretched out her hand to him.
"You WILL trust me?"
"I await your orders," he said simply.
"Listen, then. My coach is ready to take me to
Dover. Do you follow me, as swiftly as horses will take you. We
meet at nightfall at `The Fisherman's Rest.' Chauvelin would avoid
it, as he is known there, and I think it would be the safest.
I will gladly accept your escort to Calais. . .as you say, I might
miss Sir Percy were you to direct me ever so carefully. We'll
charter a schooner at Dover and cross over during the night. Disguised,
if you will agree to it, as my lacquey, you will, I think, escape
"I am entirely at your service, Madame," rejoined
the young man earnestly. "I trust to God that you will sight the
DAY DREAM before we reach Calais. With Chauvelin at his heels,
every step the Scarlet Pimpernel takes on French soil is fraught
"God grant it, Sir Andrew. But now, farewell.
We meet to-night at Dover! It will be a race between Chauvelin
and me across the Channel to-night--and the prize--the life of
the Scarlet Pimpernel."
He kissed her hand, and then escorted her to
her chair. A quarter of an hour later she was back at the "Crown"
inn, where her coach and horses were ready and waiting for her.
The next moment they thundered along the London streets, and then
straight on to the Dover road at maddening speed.
She had no time for despair now. She was up and
doing and had no leisure to think. With Sir Andrew Ffoulkes as
her companion and ally, hope had once again revived in her heart.
God would be merciful. He would not allow so appalling
a crime to be committed, as the death of a brave man, through
the hand of a woman who loved him, and worshipped him, and who
would gladly have died for his sake.
Marguerite's thoughts flew back to him, the mysterious
hero, whom she had always unconsciously loved, when his identity
was still unknown to her. Laughingly, in the olden days, she used
to call him the shadowy king of her heart, and now she had suddenly
found that this enigmatic personality whom she had worshipped,
and the man who loved her so passionately, were one and the same:
what wonder that one or two happier Visions began to force their
way before her mind? She vaguely wondered what she would say to
him when first they would stand face to face.
She had had so many anxieties, so much excitement
during the past few hours, that she allowed herself the luxury
of nursing these few more hopeful, brighter thoughts. Gradually
the rumble of the coach wheels, with its incessant monotony, acted
soothingly on her nerves: her eyes, aching with fatigue and many
shed and unshed tears, closed involuntarily, and she fell into
a troubled sleep.
to Chapter 21 - SUSPENSE
toTable of Contents page