Marguerite's aching heart stood still. She
felt, more than
she heard, the men on the watch preparing for the fight.
told her that each, with sword in hand, was crouching, ready for
The voice came nearer and nearer; in the vast
these lonely cliffs, with the loud murmur of the sea below, it
impossible to say how near, or how far, nor yet from which direction
came that cheerful singer, who sang to God to save his King, whilst
he himself was in such deadly danger. Faint at first, the
voice grew louder and louder; from time to time a small pebble
detached itself apparently from beneath the firm tread of the
singer, and went rolling down the rocky cliffs to the beach below.
Marguerite as she heard, felt that her very life
away, as if when that voice drew nearer, when that singer became
entrapped. . .
She distinctly heard the click of Desgas' gun
close to her. . . .
No! no! no! no! Oh, God in heaven! this
cannot be! let Armand's
blood then be on her own head! let her be branded as his murderer!
let even he, whom she loved, despise and loathe her for this,
but God! oh God! save him at any cost!
With a wild shriek, she sprang to her feet, and
the rock, against which she had been cowering; she saw the little
red gleam through the chinks of the hut; she ran up to it and
fell against its wooden walls, which she began to hammer with
clenched fists in an almost maniacal frenzy, while she shouted,--
"Armand! Armand! for God's sake fire! your leader
he is coming! he is betrayed! Armand! Armand! fire
in Heaven's name!"
She was seized and thrown to the ground.
She lay there moaning, bruised, not caring, but still half-sobbing,
"Percy, my husband, for God's sake fly!
Armand! Armand! why don't you fire?"
"One of you stop that woman screaming," hissed
Chauvelin, who hardly could refrain from striking her.
Something was thrown over her face; she could
not breathe, and
perforce she was silent.
The bold singer, too, had become silent, warned,
no doubt, of
his impending danger by Marguerite's frantic shrieks. The
sprung to their feet, there was no need for further silence on
part; the very cliffs echoed the poor, heart-broken woman's screams.
Chauvelin, with a muttered oath, which boded no
good to her,
who had dared to upset his most cherished plans, had hastily shouted
the word of command,--
"Into it, my men, and let no one escape from that
The moon had once more emerged from between the
darkness on the cliffs had gone, giving place once more to brilliant,
silvery light. Some of the soldiers had rushed to the rough,
door of the hut, whilst one of them kept guard over Marguerite.
The door was partially open; on of the soldiers
pushed it further,
but within all was darkness, the charcoal fire only lighting with
a dim, red light the furthest corner of the hut. The soldiers
automatically at the door, like machines waiting for further orders.
Chauvelin, who was prepared for a violent onslaught
within, and for a vigorous resistance from the four fugitives,
cover of the darkness, was for the moment paralyzed with astonishment
when he saw the soldiers standing there at attention, like sentries
on guard, whilst not a sound proceeded from the hut.
Filled with strange, anxious foreboding, he, too,
went to the
door of the hut, and peering into the gloom, he asked quickly,--
"What is the meaning of this?"
"I think, citoyen, that there is no one there
one of the soldiers imperturbably.
"You have not let those four men go?" thundered
menacingly. "I ordered you to let no man escape alive!--Quick,
after them all of you! Quick, in every direction!"
The men, obedient as machines, rushed down the
towards the beach, some going off to right and left, as fast as
feet could carry them.
"You and your men will pay with your lives for
citoyen sergeant," said Chauvelin viciously to the sergeant who
been in charge of the men; "and you, too, citoyen," he added turning
with a snarl to Desgas, "for disobeying my orders."
"You ordered us to wait, citoyen, until the tall
arrived and joined the four men in the hut. No one came,"
"But I ordered you just now, when the woman screamed,
in and let no one escape."
"But, citoyen, the four men who were there before
gone some time, I think. . ."
"You think?--You?. . ." said Chauvelin, almost
fury, "and you let them go. . ."
"You ordered us to wait, citoyen," protested the
"and to implicitly obey your commands on pain of death.
"I heard the men creep out of the hut, not many
we took cover, and long before the woman screamed," he added,
Chauvelin seemed still quite speechless with rage.
"Hark!" said Desgas suddenly.
In the distance the sound of repeated firing was
Chauvelin tried to peer along the beach below, but as luck would
have it, the fitful moon once more hid her light behind a bank
of clouds, and he could see nothing.
"One of you go into the hut and strike a light,"
he stammered at last.
Stolidly the sergeant obeyed: he went up to the
and lit the small lantern he carried in his belt; it was evident
the hut was quite empty.
"Which way did they go?" asked Chauvelin.
"I could not tell, citoyen," said the sergeant;
straight down the cliff first, then disappeared behind some boulders."
"Hush! what was that?"
All three men listened attentively. In the
far, very far
distance, could be heard faintly echoing and already dying away,
the quick, sharp splash of half a dozen oars. Chauvelin
took out his
handkerchief and wiped the perspiration from his forehead.
"The schooner's boat!" was all he gasped.
Evidently Armand St. Just and his three companions
to creep along the side of the cliffs, whilst the men, like true
soldiers of the well-drilled Republican army, had with blind
obedience, and in fear of their own lives, implicitly obeyed
Chauvelin's orders--to wait for the tall Englishman, who was the
They had no doubt reached one of the creeks which
jut far out
to see on this coast at intervals; behind this, the boat of the
DREAM must have been on the lookout for them, and they were by
now safely on board the British schooner.
As if to confirm this last supposition, the dull
boom of a gun
was heard from out at sea.
"The schooner, citoyen," said Desgas, quietly;
It needed all Chauvelin's nerve and presence of
mind not to
give way to a useless and undignified access of rage. There
was no doubt now, that once again, that accursed British head
had completely outwitted him. How he had contrived to reach
the hut, without being seen by one of the thirty soldiers who
guarded the spot, was more than Chauvelin could conceive.
That he had done so before the thirty men had arrived on the cliff
was, of course, fairly clear, but how he had come over in Reuben
Goldstein's cart, all the way from Calais, without being sighted
by the various patrols on duty was impossible of explanation.
It really seemed as if some potent Fate watched over that daring
Scarlet Pimpernel, and his astute enemy almost felt a superstitious
shudder pass through him, as he looked round at the towering cliffs,
and the loneliness of this outlying coast.But
surely this was reality! and the year of grace 1792: there were
no fairies and hobgoblins about. Chauvelin and his thirty
men had all heard with their own ears that accursed voice singing
"God save the King," fully twenty minutes AFTER they had all taken
cover around the hut; by that time the four fugitives must have
reached the creek, and got into the boat, and the nearest creek
was more than a mile from the hut.
Where had that daring singer got to? Unless
Satan himself had
lent him wings, he could not have covered that mile on a rocky
in the space of two minutes; and only two minutes had elapsed
between his song and the sound of the boat's oars away at sea.
He must have remained behind, and was even now hiding somewhere
about the cliffs; the patrols were still about, he would still
be sighted, no doubt. Chauvelin felt hopeful once again.
One or two of the men, who had run after the fugitives,
now slowly working their way up the cliff: one of them reached
Chauvelin's side, at the very moment that this hope arose in the
astute diplomatist's heart.
"We were too late, citoyen," the soldier said,
"we reached the
beach just before the moon was hidden by that bank of clouds.
boat had undoubtedly been on the look-out behind that first creek,
mile off, but she had shoved off some time ago, when we got to
beach, and was already some way out to sea. We fired after
her, but of course, it was no good. She was making straight
and quickly for the schooner. We saw her very clearly in
"Yes," said Chauvelin, with eager impatience,
"she had shoved off
some time ago, you said, and the nearest creek is a mile further
"Yes, citoyen! I ran all the way, straight
to the beach,
though I guessed the boat would have waited somewhere near the
creek, as the tide would reach there earliest. The boat
must have shoved off some minutes before the woman began to scream."
"Bring the light in here!" he commanded eagerly,
as he once
more entered the hut.
The sergeant brought his lantern, and together
the two men
explored the little place: with a rapid glance Chauvelin noted
contents: the cauldron placed close under an aperture in the wall,
and containing the last few dying embers of burned charcoal, a
couple of stools, overturned as if in the haste of sudden departure,
then the fisherman's tools and his nets lying in one corner, and
beside them, something small and white.
"Pick that up," said Chauvelin to the sergeant,
this white scrap, "and bring it to me."
It was a crumpled piece of paper, evidently forgotten
the fugitives, in their hurry to get away. The sergeant,
much awed by the citoyen's obvious rage and impatience, picked
the paper up and handed it respectfully to Chauvelin.
"Read it, sergeant," said the latter curtly.
"It is almost illegible, citoyen. . .a fearful
scrawl. . ."
"I ordered you to read it," repeated Chauvelin,
The sergeant, by the light of his lantern, began
the few hastily scrawled words.
cannot quite reach you, without risking your lives
and endangering the success of your rescue. When you receive
this, wait two minutes, then creep out of the hut one by one,
turn to your left sharply, and creep cautiously down the
cliff; keep to the left all the time, till you reach the first
rock, which you see jutting far out to sea--behind it in the
creek the boat is on the look-out for you--give a long, sharp
whistle--she will come up--get into her--my men will row you
to the schooner, and thence to England and safety--once on
board the DAY DREAM send the boat back for me, tell my men
that I shall be at the creek, which is in a direct line
opposite the `Chat Gris' near Calais. They know it.
be there as soon as possible--they must wait for me at a safe
distance out at sea, till they hear the usual signal. Do
delay--and obey these instructions implicitly."
"Then there is the signature, citoyen," added
the sergeant, as
he handed the paper back to Chauvelin.
But the latter had not waited an instant.
One phrase of the
momentous scrawl had caught his ear. "I shall be at the
creek which is in a direct line opposite the `Chat Gris' near
Calais": that phrase might yet mean victory for him. "Which of
you knows this coast well?" he shouted to his men who now one
by one all returned from their fruitless run, and were all assembled
once more round the hut.
"I do, citoyen," said one of them, "I was born
in Calais, and
know every stone of these cliffs."
"There is a creek in a direct line from the `Chat
"There is, citoyen. I know it well."
"The Englishman is hoping to reach that creek.
He does NOT
know every stone of these cliffs, he may go there by the longest
way round, and in any case he will proceed cautiously for fear
of the patrols. At any rate, there is a chance to get him
yet. A thousand francs to each man who gets to that creek
before that long-legged Englishman."
"I know of a short cut across the cliffs," said
and with an enthusiastic shout, he rushed forward, followed closely
by his comrades.
Within a few minutes their running footsteps had
died away in the distance. Chauvelin listened to them for a moment;
the promise of the reward was lending spurs to the soldiers of
the Republic. The gleam of hate and anticipated triumph
was once more apparent on his face.
Close to him Desgas still stood mute and impassive,
for further orders, whilst two soldiers were kneeling beside the
prostrate form of Marguerite. Chauvelin gave his secretary
a vicious look. His well-laid plan had failed, its sequel
was problematical; there was still a great chance now that the
Scarlet Pimpernel might yet escape, and Chauvelin, with that unreasoning
fury, which sometimes assails a strong nature, was longing to
vent his rage on somebody.
The soldiers were holding Marguerite pinioned
to the ground,
though, she, poor soul, was not making the faintest struggle.
Overwrought nature had at last peremptorily asserted herself,
and she lay there in a dead swoon: her eyes circled by deep purple
lines, that told of long, sleepless nights, her hair matted and
damp round her forehead, her lips parted in a sharp curve that
spoke of physical pain.The cleverest woman
in Europe, the elegant and fashionable
Lady Blakeney, who had dazzled London society with her beauty,
her wit and her extravagances, presented a very pathetic picture
of tired-out, suffering womanhood, which would have appealed to
any, but the hard, vengeful heart of her baffled enemy.
"It is no use mounting guard over a woman who
is half dead,"
he said spitefully to the soldiers, "when you have allowed five
who were very much alive to escape."
Obediently the soldiers rose to their feet.
"You'd better try and find that footpath again
for me, and
that broken-down cart we left on the road."
Then suddenly a bright idea seemed to strike him.
"Ah! by-the-bye! where is the Jew?"
"Close by here, citoyen," said Desgas; "I gagged
him and tied
his legs together as you commanded."
From the immediate vicinity, a plaintive moan
Chauvelin's ears. He followed his secretary, who led the
way to the
other side of the hut, where, fallen into an absolute heap of
dejection, with his legs tightly pinioned together and his mouth
gagged, lay the unfortunate descendant of Israel.
His face in the silvery light of the moon looked
ghastly with terror: his eyes were wide open and almost glassy,
and his whole body was trembling, as if with ague, while a piteous
wail escaped his bloodless lips. The rope which had originally
been wound round his shoulders and arms had evidently given way,
for it lay in a tangle about his body, but he seemed quite unconscious
of this, for he had not made the slightest attempt to move from
the place where Desgas had originally put him: like a terrified
chicken which looks upon a line of white chalk, drawn on a table,
as on a string which paralyzes its movements.
"Bring the cowardly brute here," commanded Chauvelin.
He certainly felt exceedingly vicious, and since
he had no
reasonable grounds for venting his ill-humour on the soldiers
who had but too punctually obeyed his orders, he felt that the
son of the
despised race would prove an excellent butt. With true French
contempt of the Jew, which has survived the lapse of centuries
even to this day, he would not go too near him, but said with
biting sarcasm, as the wretched old man was brought in full light
of the moon by the two soldiers,--
"I suppose now, that being a Jew, you have a good
"Answer!" he again commanded, as the Jew with
seemed too frightened to speak.
"Yes, your Honour," stammered the poor wretch.
"You remember, then, the one you and I made together
when you undertook to overtake Reuben Goldstein, his nag and
my friend the tall stranger? Eh?"
"B. . .b. . .but. . .your Honour. . ."
"There is no `but.' I said, do you remember?"
"Y. . .y. . .y. . .yes. . .your Honour!"
"What was the bargain?"
There was dead silence. The unfortunate
man looked round at
the great cliffs, the moon above, the stolid faces of the soldiers,
and even at the poor, prostate, inanimate woman close by, but
"Will you speak?" thundered Chauvelin, menacingly.
He did try, poor wretch, but, obviously, he could
not. There was no doubt, however, that he knew what to expect
from the stern man before him.
"Your Honour. . ." he ventured imploringly.
"Since your terror seems to have paralyzed your
Chauvelin sarcastically, "I must needs refresh your memory.
agreed between us, that if we overtook my friend the tall stranger,
before he reached this place, you were to have ten pieces of gold."
A low moan escaped from the Jew's trembling lips.
"But," added Chauvelin, with slow emphasis, "if
me in your promise, you were to have a sound beating, one that
would teach you not to tell lies."
"I did not, your Honour; I swear it by Abraham.
"And by all the other patriarchs, I know.
are still in Hades, I believe, according to your creed, and cannot
help you much in your present trouble. Now, you did not
fulful your share of the bargain, but I am ready to fulfil mine.
Here," he added, turning to the soldiers, "the buckle-end of your
two belts to this confounded Jew."
As the soldiers obediently unbuckled their heavy
belts, the Jew set up a howl that surely would have been enough
bring all the patriarchs out of Hades and elsewhere, to defend
descendant from the brutality of this French official.
"I think I can rely on you, citoyen soldiers,"
Chauvelin, maliciously, "to give this old liar the best and soundest
beating he has ever experienced. But don't kill him," he
"We will obey, citoyen," replied the soldiers
He did not wait to see his orders carried out:
he knew that he
could trust these soldiers--who were still smarting under his
rebuke--not to mince matters, when given a free hand to belabour
"When that lumbering coward has had his punishment,"
to Desgas, "the men can guide us as far as the cart, and one of
can drive us in it back to Calais. The Jew and the woman
after each other," he added roughly, "until we can send somebody
for them in the morning. They can't run away very far, in
their present condition, and we cannot be troubled with them just
Chauvelin had not given up all hope. His
men, he knew, were
spurred on by the hope of the reward. That enigmatic and
audacious Scarlet Pimpernel, alone and with thirty men at his
heels, could not reasonably be expected to escape a second time.
But he felt less sure now: the Englishman's audacity
baffled him once, whilst the wooden-headed stupidity of the soldiers,
and the interference of a woman had turned his hand, which held
all the trumps, into a losing one. If Marguerite had not
taken up his time, if the soldiers had had a grain of intelligence,
if. . .it was a long "if," and Chauvelin stood for a moment quite
still, and enrolled thirty odd people in one long, overwhelming
anathema. Nature, poetic, silent, balmy, the bright moon,
the calm, silvery sea spoke of beauty and of rest, and Chauvelin
cursed nature, cursed man and woman, and above all, he cursed
all long-legged, meddlesome British enigmas with one gigantic
The howls of the Jew behind him, undergoing his
sent a balm through his heart, overburdened as it was with revengeful
malice. He smiled. It eased his mind to think that
some human being at least was, like himself, not altogether at
peace with mankind.
He turned and took a last look at the lonely bit
where stood the wooden hut, now bathed in moonlight, the scene
of the greatest discomfiture ever experienced by a leading member
of the Committee of Public Safety.
Against a rock, on a hard bed of stone, lay the
figure of Marguerite Blakeney, while some few paces further on,
the unfortunate Jew was receiving on his broad back the blows
of two stout leather belts, wielded by the stolid arms of two
sturdy soldiers of the Republic. The howls of Benjamin Rosenbaum
were fit to make the dead rise from their graves. They must
have wakened all the gulls from sleep, and made them look down
with great interest at the doings of the lords of the creation.
"That will do," commanded Chauvelin, as the Jew's
more feeble, and the poor wretch seemed to have fainted away,
"we don't want to kill him."
Obediently the soldiers buckled on their belts,
one of them
viciously kicking the Jew to one side.
"Leave him there," said Chauvelin, "and lead the
quickly to the cart. I'll follow."
He walked up to where Marguerite lay, and looked
down into her
face. She had evidently recovered consciousness, and was
feeble efforts to raise herself. Her large, blue eyes were
the moonlit scene round her with a scared and terrified look;
rested with a mixture of horror and pity on the Jew, whose luckless
fate and wild howls had been the first signs that struck her,
returning senses; then she caught sight of Chauvelin, in his neat,
dark clothes, which seemed hardly crumpled after the stirring
events of the last few hours. He was smiling sarcastically,
and his pale eyes peered down at her with a look of intense malice.
With mock gallantry, he stooped and raised her
to his lips, which sent a thrill of indescribable loathing through
Marguerite's weary frame.
"I much regret, fair lady," he said in his most
"that circumstances, over which I have no control, compel me to
leave you here for the moment. But I go away, secure in
the knowledge that I do not leave you unprotected. Our friend
Benjamin here, though a trifle the worse for wear at the present
moment, will prove a gallant defender of your fair person, I have
no doubt. At dawn I will send an escort for you; until then,
I feel sure that you will find him devoted, though perhaps a trifle
Marguerite only had the strength to turn her head
heart was broken with cruel anguish. One awful thought had
returned to her mind, together with gathering consciousness: "What
had become of Percy?--What of Armand?"
She knew nothing of what had happened after she
cheerful song, "God save the King," which she believed to be the
signal of death.
"I, myself," concluded Chauvelin, "must now very
leave you. AU REVOIR, fair lady. We meet, I hope,
soon in London. Shall I see you at the Prince of Wales garden
party?--No?--Ah, well, AU REVOIR!--Remember me, I pray, to Sir
And, with a last ironical smile and bow, he once
her hand, and disappeared down the footpath in the wake of the
soldiers, and followed by the imperturbable Desgas.
to Chapter 31 - THE ESCAPE
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