The weariest nights, the longest days, sooner or
later must perforce come to an end.
Marguerite had spent over fifteen hours in such
acute mental torture as well-nigh drove her crazy. After a sleepless
night, she rose early, wild with excitement, dying to start on
her journey, terrified lest further obstacles lay in her way.
She rose before anyone else in the house was astir, so frightened
was she, lest she should miss the one golden opportunity of making
When she came downstairs, she found Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes sitting in the coffee-room. He had been out half an hour
earlier, and had gone to the Admiralty Pier, only to find that
neither the French packet nor any privately chartered vessel could
put out of Dover yet. The storm was then at its fullest, and the
tide was on the turn. If the wind did not abate or change, they
would perforce have to wait another ten or twelve hours until
the next tide, before a start could be made. And the storm had
not abated, the wind had not changed, and the tide was rapidly
Marguerite felt the sickness of despair when
she heard this melancholy news. Only the most firm resolution
kept her from totally breaking down, and thus adding to the young
man's anxiety, which evidently had become very keen.
Though he tried to hide it, Marguerite could
see that Sir Andrew was just as anxious as she was to reach his
comrade and friend. This enforced inactivity was terrible to them
How they spend that wearisome day at Dover, Marguerite
could never afterwards say. She was in terror of showing herself,
lest Chauvelin's spies happened to be about, so she had a private
sitting-room, and she and Sir Andrew sat there hour after hour,
trying to take, at long intervals, some perfunctory meals, which
little Sally would bring them, with nothing to do but to think,
to conjecture, and only occasionally to hope.
The storm had abated just too late; the tide
was by then too far out to allow a vessel to put off to sea. The
wind had changed, and was settling down to a comfortable north-westerly
breeze--a veritable godsend for a speedy passage across to France.
And there those two waited, wondering if the
hour would ever come when they could finally make a start. There
had been one happy interval in this long weary day, and that was
when Sir Andrew went down once again to the pier, and presently
came back to tell Marguerite that he had chartered a quick schooner,
whose skipper was ready to put to sea the moment the tide was
From that moment the hours seemed less wearisome;
there was less hopelessness in the waiting; and at last, at five
o'clock in the afternoon, Marguerite, closely veiled and followed
by Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, who, in the guise of her lacquey, was
carrying a number of impedimenta, found her way down to the pier.
Once on board, the keen, fresh sea-air revived
her, the breeze was just strong enough to nicely swell the sails
of the FOAM CREST, as she cut her way merrily towards the open.
The sunset was glorious after the storm, and
Marguerite, as she watched the white cliffs of Dover gradually
disappearing from view, felt more at peace and once more almost
Sir Andrew was full of kind attentions, and she
felt how lucky she had been to have him by her side in this, her
Gradually the grey coast of France began to emerge
from the fast-gathering evening mists. One or two lights could
be seen flickering, and the spires of several churches to rise
out of the surrounding haze.
Half an hour later Marguerite had landed upon
French shore. She was back in that country where at this very
moment men slaughtered their fellow-creatures by the hundreds,
and sent innocent women and children in thousands to the block.
The very aspect of the country and its people,
even in this remote sea-coast town, spoke of that seething revolution,
three hundred miles away, in beautiful Paris, now rendered hideous
by the constant flow of the blood of her noblest sons, by the
wailing of the widows, and the cries of fatherless children.
The men all wore red caps--in various stages
of cleanliness--but all with the tricolor cockade pinned on the
left-side. Marguerite noticed with a shudder that, instead of
the laughing, merry countenance habitual to her own countrymen,
their faces now invariably wore a look of sly distrust.
Every man nowadays was a spy upon his fellows:
the most innocent word uttered in jest might at any time be brought
up as a proof of aristocratic tendencies, or of treachery against
the people. Even the women went about with a curious look of fear
and of hate lurking in their brown eyes; and all watched Marguerite
as she stepped on shore, followed by Sir Andrew, and murmured
as she passed along: "SACRES ARISTOS!" or else "SACRES ANGLAIS!"
Otherwise their presence excited no further comment.
Calais, even in those days, was in constant business communication
with England, and English merchants were often seen on this coast.
It was well known that in view of the heavy duties in England,
a vast deal of French wines and brandies were smuggled across.
This pleased the French BOURGEOIS immensely; he liked to see the
English Government and the English king, both of whom he hated,
cheated out of their revenues; and an English smuggler was always
a welcome guest at the tumble-down taverns of Calais and Boulogne.
So, perhaps, as Sir Andrew gradually directed
Marguerite through the tortuous streets of Calais, many of the
population, who turned with an oath to look at the strangers clad
in English fashion, thought that they were bent on purchasing
dutiable articles for their own fog-ridden country, and gave them
no more than a passing thought.
Marguerite, however, wondered how her husband's
tall, massive figure could have passed through Calais unobserved:
she marvelled what disguise he assumed to do his noble work, without
exciting too much attention.
Without exchanging more than a few words, Sir
Andrew was leading her right across the town, to the other side
from that where they had landed, and the way towards Cap Gris
Nez. The streets were narrow, tortuous, and mostly evil-smelling,
with a mixture of stale fish and damp cellar odours. There had
been heavy rain here during the storm last night, and sometimes
Marguerite sank ankle-deep in the mud, for the roads were not
lighted save by the occasional glimmer from a lamp inside a house.
But she did not heed any of these petty discomforts:
"We may meet Blakeney at the `Chat Gris,'" Sir Andrew had said,
when they landed, and she was walking as if on a carpet of rose-leaves,
for she was going to meet him almost at once.
At last they reached their destination. Sir Andrew
evidently knew the road, for he had walked unerringly in the dark,
and had not asked his way from anyone. It was too dark then for
Marguerite to notice the outside aspect of this house. The "Chat
Gris," as Sir Andrew had called it, was evidently a small wayside
inn on the outskirts of Calais, and on the way to Gris Nez. It
lay some little distance from the coast, for the sound of the
sea seemed to come from afar.
Sir Andrew knocked at the door with the knob
of his cane, and from within Marguerite heard a sort of grunt
and the muttering of a number of oaths. Sir Andrew knocked again,
this time more peremptorily: more oaths were heard, and then shuffling
steps seemed to draw near the door. Presently this was thrown
open, and Marguerite found herself on the threshold of the most
dilapidated, most squalid room she had ever seen in all her life.
The paper, such as it was, was hanging from the
walls in strips; there did not seem to be a single piece of furniture
in the room that could, by the wildest stretch of imagination,
be called "whole." Most of the chairs had broken backs, others
had no seats to them, one corner of the table was propped up with
a bundle of faggots, there where the fourth leg had been broken.
In one corner of the room there was a huge hearth,
over which hung a stock-pot, with a not altogether unpalatable
odour of hot soup emanating therefrom. On one side of the room,
high up in the wall, there was a species of loft, before which
hung a tattered blue-and-white checked curtain. A rickety set
of steps led up to this loft.
On the great bare walls, with their colourless
paper, all stained with varied filth, there were chalked up at
intervals in great bold characters, the words: "Liberte--Egalite--Fraternite."
The whole of this sordid abode was dimly lighted
by an evil-smelling oil-lamp, which hung from the rickety rafters
of the ceiling. It all looked so horribly squalid, so dirty and
uninviting, that Marguerite hardly dared to cross the threshold.
Sir Andrew, however, had stepped unhesitatingly
"English travellers, citoyen!" he said boldly,
and speaking in French.
The individual who had come to the door in response
to Sir Andrew's knock, and who, presumably, was the owner of this
squalid abode, was an elderly, heavily built peasant, dressed
in a dirty blue blouse, heavy sabots, from which wisps of straw
protruded all round, shabby blue trousers, and the inevitable
red cap with the tricolour cockade, that proclaimed his momentary
political views. He carried a short wooden pipe, from which the
odour of rank tobacco emanated. He looked with some suspicion
and a great deal of contempt at the two travellers, muttering
"SACRRRES ANGLAIS!" and spat upon the ground to further show his
independence of spirit, but, nevertheless, he stood aside to let
them enter, no doubt well aware that these same SACCRES ANGLAIS
always had well-filled purses.
"Oh, lud!" said Marguerite, as she advanced into
the room, holding her handkerchief to her dainty nose, "what a
dreadful hole! Are you sure this is the place?"
"Aye! `this the place, sure enough," replied
the young man as, with his lace-edged, fashionable handkerchief,
he dusted a chair for Marguerite to sit on; "but I vow I never
saw a more villainous hole."
"Faith!" she said, looking round with some curiosity
and a great deal of horror at the dilapidated walls, the broken
chairs, the rickety table, "it certainly does not look inviting."
The landlord of the "Chat Gris"--by name, Brogard--had
taken no further notice of his guests; he concluded that presently
they would order supper, and in the meanwhile it was not for a
free citizen to show deference, or even courtesy, to anyone, however
smartly they might be dressed.
By the hearth sat a huddled-up figure clad, seemingly,
mostly in rags: that figure was apparently a woman, although even
that would have been hard to distinguish, except for the cap,
which had once been white, and for what looked like the semblance
of a petticoat. She was sitting mumbling to herself, and from
time to time stirring the brew in her stock-pot.
"Hey, my friend!" said Sir Andrew at last, "we
should like some supper. . . . The citoyenne there," he added,
"is concocting some delicious soup, I'll warrant, and my mistress
has not tasted food for several hours.
It took Brogard some few minutes to consider
the question. A free citizen does not respond too readily to the
wishes of those who happen to require something of him.
"SACRRRES ARISTOS!" he murmured, and once more
spat upon the ground.
Then he went very slowly up to a dresser which
stood in a corner of the room; from this he took an old pewter
soup-tureen and slowly, and without a word, he handed it to his
better-half, who, in the same silence, began filling the tureen
with the soup out of her stock-pot.
Marguerite had watched all these preparations
with absolute horror; were it not for the earnestness of her purpose,
she would incontinently have fled from this abode of dirt and
"Faith! our host and hostess are not cheerful
people," said Sir Andrew, seeing the look of horror on Marguerite's
face. "I would I could offer you a more hearty and more appetising
meal. . .but I think you will find the soup eatable and the wine
good; these people wallow in dirt, but live well as a rule."
"Nay! I pray you, Sir Andrew," she said gently,
"be not anxious about me. My mind is scarce inclined to dwell
on thoughts of supper."
Brogard was slowly pursuing his gruesome preparations;
he had placed a couple of spoons, also two glasses on the table,
both of which Sir Andrew took the precaution of wiping carefully.
Brogard had also produced a bottle of wine and
some bread, and Marguerite made an effort to draw her chair to
the table and to make some pretence at eating. Sir Andrew, as
befitting his ROLE of lacquey, stood behind her chair.
"Nay, Madame, I pray you," he said, seeing that
Marguerite seemed quite unable to eat, "I beg of you to try and
swallow some food--remember you have need of all your strength."
The soup certainly was not bad; it smelt and tasted
good. Marguerite might have enjoyed it, but for the horrible surroundings.
She broke the bread, however, and drank some of the wine.
"Nay, Sir Andrew," she said, "I do not like to
see you standing. You have need of food just as much as I have.
This creature will only think that I am an eccentric Englishwoman
eloping with her lacquey, if you'll sit down and partake of this
semblance of supper beside me."
Indeed, Brogard having placed what was strictly
necessary upon the table, seemed not to trouble himself any further
about his guests. The Mere Brogard had quietly shuffled out of
the room, and the man stood and lounged about, smoking his evil-smelling
pipe, sometimes under Marguerite's very nose, as any free-born
citizen who was anybody's equal should do.
"Confound the brute!" said Sir Andrew, with native
British wrath, as Brogard leant up against the table, smoking
and looking down superciliously at these two SACRRRES ANGLAIS.
"In Heaven's name, man," admonished Marguerite,
hurriedly, seeing that Sir Andrew, with British-born instinct,
was ominously clenching his fist, "remember that you are in France,
and that in this year of grace this is the temper of the people."
"I'd like to scrag the brute!" muttered Sir Andrew,
He had taken Marguerite's advice and sat next
to her at table, and they were both making noble efforts to deceive
one another, by pretending to eat and drink.
"I pray you," said Marguerite, "keep the creature
in a good temper, so that he may answer the questions we must
put to him."
"I'll do my best, but, begad! I'd sooner scrag
him than question him. Hey! my friend," he said pleasantly in
French, and tapping Brogard lightly on the shoulder, "do you see
many of our quality along these parts? Many English travellers,
Brogard looked round at him, over his near shoulder,
puffed away at his pipe for a moment or two as he was in no hurry,
"Ah!" said Sir Andrew, carelessly, "English travellers
always know where they can get good wine, eh! my friend?--Now,
tell me, my lady was desiring to know if by any chance you happen
to have seen a great friend of hers, an English gentleman, who
often comes to Calais on business; he is tall, and recently was
on his way to Paris--my lady hoped to have met him in Calais."
Marguerite tried not to look at Brogard, lest
she should betray before him the burning anxiety with which she
waited for his reply. But a free-born French citizen is never
in any hurry to answer questions: Brogard took his time, then
he said very slowly,--
"Yes, to-day," muttered Brogard, sullenly. Then
he quietly took Sir Andrew's hat from a chair close by, put it
on his own head, tugged at his dirty blouse, and generally tried
to express in pantomime that the individual in question wore very
fine clothes. "SACRRE ARISTO!" he muttered, "that tall Englishman!"
Marguerite could scarce repress a scream.
"It's Sir Percy right enough," she murmured,
"and not even in disguise!"
She smiled, in the midst of all her anxiety and
through her gathering tears, at the thought of "the ruling passion
strong in death"; of Percy running into the wildest, maddest dangers,
with the latest-cut coat upon his back, and the laces of his jabot
"Oh! the foolhardiness of it!" she sighed. "Quick,
Sir Andrew! ask the man when he went."
"Ah yes, my friend," said Sir Andrew, addressing
Brogard, with the same assumption of carelessness, "my lord always
wears beautiful clothes; the tall Englishman you saw, was certainly
my lady's friend. And he has gone, you say?"
"He went. . .yes. . .but he's coming back. .
.here--he ordered supper. . ."
Sir Andrew put his hand with a quick gesture
of warning upon Marguerite's arm; it came none too sone, for the
next moment her wild, mad joy would have betrayed her. He was
safe and well, was coming back here presently, she would see him
in a few moments perhaps. . . . Oh! the wildness of her joy seemed
almost more than she could bear.
"Here!" she said to Brogard, who seemed suddenly
to have been transformed in her eyes into some heavenborn messenger
of bliss. "Here!--did you say the English gentleman was coming
The heaven-born messenger of bliss spat upon
the floor, to express his contempt for all and sundry ARISTOS,
who chose to haunt the "Chat Gris."
"Heu!" he muttered, "he ordered supper--he will
come back. . . SACRRE ANGLAIS!" he added, by way of protest against
all this fuss for a mere Englishman.
"But where is he now?--Do you know?" she asked
eagerly, placing her dainty white hand upon the dirty sleeve of
his blue blouse.
"He went to get a horse and cart," said Brogard,
laconically, as with a surly gesture, he shook off from his arm
that pretty hand which princes had been proud to kiss.
"At what time did he go?"
But Brogard had evidently had enough of these
questionings. He did not think that it was fitting for a citizen--who
was the equal of anybody--to be thus catechised by these SACRRES
ARISTOS, even though they were rich English ones. It was distinctly
more fitting to his newborn dignity to be as rude as possible;
it was a sure sign of servility to meekly reply to civil questions.
"I don't know," he said surlily. "I have said
enough, VOYONS, LES ARISTOS!. . .He came to-day. He ordered supper.
He went out.--He'll come back. VOILA!"
And with this parting assertion of his rights
as a citizen and a free man, to be as rude as he well pleased,
Brogard shuffled out of the room, banging the door after him.
to Chapter 23 - HOPE
toTable of Contents page