"Faith, Madame!" said Sir Andrew, seeing that Marguerite seemed
desirous to call her surly host back again, "I think we'd better
leave him alone. We shall not get anything more out of him, and
we might arouse his suspicions. One never knows what spies may
be lurking around these God-forsaken places."
"What care I?" she replied lightly, "now I know
that my husband is safe, and that I shall see him almost directly!"
"Hush!" he said in genuine alarm, for she had
talked quite loudly, in the fulness of her glee, "the very walls
have ears in France, these days."
He rose quickly from the table, and walked round
the bare, squalid room, listening attentively at the door, through
which Brogard has just disappeared, and whence only muttered oaths
and shuffling footsteps could be heard. He also ran up the rickety
steps that led to the attic, to assure himself that there were
no spies of Chauvelin's about the place.
"Are we alone, Monsieur, my lacquey?" said Marguerite,
gaily, as the young man once more sat down beside her. "May we
"As cautiously as possible!" he entreated.
"Faith, man! but you wear a glum face! As for
me, I could dance with joy! Surely there is no longer any cause
for fear. Our boat is on the beach, the FOAM CREST not two miles
out at sea, and my husband will be here, under this very roof,
within the next half hour perhaps. Sure! there is naught to hinder
us. Chauvelin and his gang have not yet arrived."
"Nay, madam! that I fear we do not know."
"What do you mean?"
"He was at Dover at the same time that we were."
"Held up by the same storm, which kept us from
"Exactly. But--I did not speak of it before,
for I feared to alarm you--I saw him on the beach not five minutes
before we embarked. At least, I swore to myself at the time that
it was himself; he was disguised as a CURE, so that Satan, his
own guardian, would scarce have known him. But I heard him then,
bargaining for a vessel to take him swiftly to Calais; and he
must have set sail less than an hour after we did."
Marguerite's face had quickly lost its look of
joy. The terrible danger in which Percy stood, now that he was
actually on French soil, became suddenly and horribly clear to
her. Chauvelin was close upon his heels; here in Calais, the astute
diplomatist was all-powerful; a word from him and Percy could
be tracked and arrested and. . .
Every drop of blood seemed to freeze in her veins;
not even during the moments of her wildest anguish in England
had she so completely realised the imminence of the peril in which
her husband stood. Chauvelin had sworn to bring the Scarlet Pimpernel
to the guillotine, and now the daring plotter, whose anonymity
hitherto had been his safeguard, stood revealed through her own
hand, to his most bitter, most relentless enemy.
Chauvelin--when he waylaid Lord Tony and Sir
Andrew Ffoulkes in the coffee-room of "The Fisherman's Rest"--had
obtained possession of all the plans of this latest expedition.
Armand St. Just, the Comte de Tournay and other fugitive royalists
were to have met the Scarlet Pimpernel--or rather, as it had been
originally arranged, two of his emissaries--on this day, the 2nd
of October, at a place evidently known to the league, and vaguely
alluded to as the "Pere Blanchard's hut."
Armand, whose connection with the Scarlet Pimpernel
and disavowal of the brutal policy of the Reign of Terror was
still unknown to his countryman, had left England a little more
than a week ago, carrying with him the necessary instructions,
which would enable him to meet the other fugitives and to convey
them to this place of safety.
This much Marguerite had fully understood from
the first, and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes had confirmed her surmises.
She knew, too, that when Sir Percy realized that his own plans
and his directions to his lieutenants had been stolen by Chauvelin,
it was too late to communicate with Armand, or to send fresh instructions
to the fugitives.
They would, of necessity, be at the appointed
time and place, not knowing how grave was the danger which now
awaited their brave rescuer.
Blakeney, who as usual had planned and organized
the whole expedition, would not allow any of his younger comrades
to run the risk of almost certain capture. Hence his hurried note
to them at Lord Grenville's ball--"Start myself to-morrow--alone."
And now with his identity known to his most bitter
enemy, his every step would be dogged, the moment he set foot
in France. He would be tracked by Chauvelin's emissaries, followed
until he reached that mysterious hut where the fugitives were
waiting for him, and there the trap would be closed on him and
There was but one hour--the hour's start which
Marguerite and Sir Andrew had of their enemy--in which to warn
Percy of the imminence of his danger, and to persuade him to give
up the foolhardy expedition, which could only end in his own death.
But there WAS that one hour.
"Chauvelin knows of this inn, from the papers
he stole," said Sir Andrew, earnestly, "and on landing will make
straight for it."
"He has not landed yet," she said, "we have an
hour's start on him, and Percy will be here directly. We shall
be mid-Channel ere Chauvelin has realised that we have slipped
through his fingers.
She spoke excitedly and eagerly, wishing to infuse
into her young friend some of that buoyant hope which still clung
to her heart. But he shook his head sadly.
"Silent again, Sir Andrew?" she said with some
impatience. "Why do you shake your head and look so glum?"
"Faith, Madame," he replied, "`tis only because
in making your rose-coloured plans, you are forgetting the most
"What in the world do you mean?--I am forgetting
nothing. . . . What factor do you mean?" she added with more impatience.
"It stands six foot odd high," replied Sir Andrew,
quietly, "and hath name Percy Blakeney."
"I don't understand," she murmured.
"Do you think that Blakeney would leave Calais
without having accomplished what he set out to do?"
"You mean. . .?"
"There's the old Comte de Tournay. . ."
"The Comte. . .?" she murmured.
"And St. Just. . .and others. . ."
"My brother!" she said with a heart-broken sob
of anguish. "Heaven help me, but I fear I had forgotten." "Fugitives
as they are, these men at this moment await with perfect confidence
and unshaken faith the arrival of the Scarlet Pimpernel, who has
pledged his honour to take them safely across the Channel.
Indeed, she had forgotten! With the sublime selfishness
of a woman who loves with her whole heart, she had in the last
twenty-four hours had no thought save for him. His precious, noble
life, his danger--he, the loved one, the brave hero, he alone
dwelt in her mind.
"My brother!" she murmured, as one by one the
heavy tears gathered in her eyes, as memory came back to her of
Armand, the companion and darling of her childhood, the man for
whom she had committed the deadly sin, which had so hopelessly
imperilled her brave husband's life.
"Sir Percy Blakeney would not be the trusted,
honoured leader of a score of English gentlemen," said Sir Andrew,
proudly, "if he abandoned those who placed their trust in him.
As for breaking his word, the very thought is preposterous!"
There was silence for a moment or two. Marguerite
had buried her face in her hands, and was letting the tears slowly
trickle through her trembling fingers. The young man said nothing;
his heart ached for this beautiful woman in her awful grief. All
along he had felt the terrible IMPASSE in which her own rash act
had plunged them all. He knew his friend and leader so well, with
his reckless daring, his mad bravery, his worship of his own word
of honour. Sir Andrew knew that Blakeney would brave any danger,
run the wildest risks sooner than break it, and with Chauvelin
at his very heels, would make a final attempt, however desperate,
to rescue those who trusted in him.
"Faith, Sir Andrew," said Marguerite at last,
making brave efforts to dry her tears, "you are right, and I would
not now shame myself by trying to dissuade him from doing his
duty. As you say, I should plead in vain. God grant him strength
and ability," she added fervently and resolutely, "to outwit his
pursuers. He will not refuse to take you with him, perhaps, when
he starts on his noble work; between you, you will have cunning
as well as valour! God guard you both! In the meanwhile I think
we should lose no time. I still believe that his safety depends
upon his knowing that Chauvelin is on his track."
"Undoubtedly. He has wonderful resources at his
command. As soon as he is aware of his danger he will exercise
more caution: his ingenuity is a veritable miracle."
"Then, what say you to a voyage of reconnaissance
in the village whilst I wait here against his coming!--You might
come across Percy's track and thus save valuable time. If you
find him, tell him to beware!--his bitterest enemy is on his heels!"
"But this is such a villainous hole for you to
"Nay, that I do not mind!--But you might ask
our surly host if he could let me wait in another room, where
I could be safer from the prying eyes of any chance traveller.
Offer him some ready money, so that he should not fail to give
me word the moment the tall Englishman returns."
She spike quite calmly, even cheerfully now,
thinking out her plans, ready for the worst if need be; she would
show no more weakness, she would prove herself worthy of him,
who was about to give his life for the sake of his fellow-men.
Sir Andrew obeyed her without further comment.
Instinctively he felt that hers now was the stronger mind; he
was willing to give himself over to her guidance, to become the
hand, whilst she was the directing hand.
He went to the door of the inner room, through
which Brogard and his wife had disappeared before, and knocked;
as usual, he was answered by a salvo of muttered oaths.
"Hey! friend Brogard!" said the man peremptorily,
"my lady friend would wish to rest here awhile. Could you give
her the use of another room? She would wish to be alone."
He took some money out of his pocket, and allowed
it to jingle significantly in his hand. Brogard had opened the
door, and listened, with his usual surly apathy, to the young
man's request. At the sight of the gold, however, his lazy attitude
relaxed slightly; he took his pipe from his mouth and shuffled
into the room.
He then pointed over his shoulder at the attic
up in the wall.
"She can wait up there!" he said with a grunt.
"It's comfortable, and I have no other room."
"Nothing could be better," said Marguerite in
English; she at once realised the advantages such a position hidden
from view would give her. "Give him the money, Sir Andrew; I shall
be quite happy up there, and can see everything without being
She nodded to Brogard, who condescended to go
up to the attic, and to shake up the straw that lay on the floor.
"May I entreat you, madam, to do nothing rash,"
said Sir Andrew, as Marguerite prepared in her turn to ascend
the rickety flight of steps. "Remember this place is infested
with spies. Do not, I beg of you, reveal yourself to Sir Percy,
unless you are absolutely certain that you are alone with him."
Even as he spoke, he felt how unnecessary was
this caution: Marguerite was as calm, as clear-headed as any man.
There was no fear of her doing anything that was rash.
"Nay," she said with a slight attempt at cheerfulness,
"that I can faithfully promise you. I would not jeopardise my
husband's life, nor yet his plans, by speaking to him before strangers.
Have no fear, I will watch my opportunity, and serve him in the
manner I think he needs it most."
Brogard had come down the steps again, and Marguerite
was ready to go up to her safe retreat.
"I dare not kiss your hand, madam," said Sir
Andrew, as she began to mount the steps, "since I am your lacquey,
but I pray you be of good cheer. If I do not come across Blakeney
in half an hour, I shall return, expecting to find him here."
"Yes, that will be best. We can afford to wait
for half an hour. Chauvelin cannot possibly be here before that.
God grant that either you or I may have seen Percy by then. Good
luck to you, friend! Have no fear for me."
Lightly she mounted the rickety wooden steps
that led to the attic. Brogard was taking no further heed of her.
She could make herself comfortable there or not as she chose.
Sir Andrew watched her until she had reached the curtains across,
and the young man noted that she was singularly well placed there,
for seeing and hearing, whilst remaining unobserved.
He had paid Brogard well; the surly old innkeeper
would have no object in betraying her. Then Sir Andrew prepared
to go. At the door he turned once again and looked up at the loft.
Through the ragged curtains Marguerite's sweet face was peeping
down at him, and the young man rejoiced to see that it looked
serene, and even gently smiling. With a final nod of farewell
to her, he walked out into the night.
to Chapter 24 - THE DEATH-TRAP
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