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The Scarlet Pimpernel
By Baroness Orczy

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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

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 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 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 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

"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 precious!"

"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?"

She nodded.

"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 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--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 least."

"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 detection."

"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 with danger."

"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

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.



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