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The Scarlet Pimpernel Baroness Emmuska Orczy


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She need not complain now that he was cold and impassive; his very voice shook with an intensity of passion, which he was making superhuman efforts to keep in check.

"Aye! the madness of my pride!" she said sadly. "Hardly had I gone, already I had repented. But when I returned, I found you, oh, so altered! wearing already that mask of somnolent indifference which you have never laid aside until. . .until now."

She was so close to him that her soft, loose hair was wafted against his cheek; her eyes, glowing with tears, maddened him, the music in her voice sent fire through his veins. But he would not yield to the magic charm of this woman whom he had so deeply loved, and at whose hands his pride had suffered so bitterly. He closed his eyes to shut out the dainty vision of that sweet face, of that snow-white neck and graceful figure, round which the faint rosy light of dawn was just beginning to hover playfully.

"Nay, Madame, it is no mask," he said icily; "I swore to you. . .once, that my life was yours. For months now it has been your plaything. . .it has served its purpose."

But now she knew that the very coldness was a mask. The trouble, the sorrow she had gone through last night, suddenly came back into her mind, but no longer with bitterness, rather with a feeling that this man who loved her, would help her bear the burden.

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"Sir Percy," she said impulsively, "Heaven knows you have been at pains to make the task, which I had set to myself, difficult to accomplish. You spoke of my mood just now; well! we will call it that, if you will. I wished to speak to you. . .because. . .because I was in trouble. . .and had need. . .of your sympathy."

"It is yours to command, Madame."

"How cold you are!" she sighed. "Faith! I can scarce believe that but a few months ago one tear in my eye had set you well-nigh crazy. Now I come to you. . .with a half-broken heart. . .and. . . and. . ."

"I pray you, Madame," he said, whilst his voice shook almost as much as hers, "in what way can I serve you?"

"Percy!--Armand is in deadly danger. A letter of his. . . rash, impetuous, as were all his actions, and written to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, has fallen into the hands of a fanatic. Armand is hopelessly compromised. . .to-morrow, perhaps he will be arrested. . . after that the guillotine. . .unless. . .oh! it is horrible!". . . she said, with a sudden wail of anguish, as all the events of the past night came rushing back to her mind, "horrible!. . .and you do not understand. . .you cannot. . .and I have no one to whom I can turn. . .for help. . .or even for sympathy. . ."

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The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Emmuska Orczy

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