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|The Scarlet Pimpernel||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
|Page 5 of 6||
Suzanne made no reply. She kissed Marguerite tenderly and obeyed without a word; the child was overawed by the terrible, nameless misery in her friend's face.
A minute later the groom returned, followed by the runner who had brought the letter.
"Who gave you this packet?" asked Marguerite.
"A gentleman, my lady," replied the man, "at `The Rose and Thistle' inn opposite Charing Cross. He said you would understand."
"At `The Rose and Thistle'? What was he doing?"
"He was waiting for the coach, you ladyship, which he had ordered."
"Yes, my lady. A special coach he had ordered. I understood from his man that he was posting straight to Dover."
"That's enough. You may go." Then she turned to the groom: "My coach and the four swiftest horses in the stables, to be ready at once."
The groom and runner both went quickly off to obey. Marguerite remained standing for a moment on the lawn quite alone. Her graceful figure was as rigid as a statue, her eyes were fixed, her hands were tightly clasped across her breast; her lips moved as they murmured with pathetic heart-breaking persistence,--
"What's to be done? What's to be done? Where to find him?--Oh, God! grant me light."
But this was not the moment for remorse and despair. She had done--unwittingly--an awful and terrible thing--the very worst crime, in her eyes, that woman ever committed--she saw it in all its horror. Her very blindness in not having guessed her husband's secret seemed now to her another deadly sin. She ought to have known! she ought to have known!
How could she imagine that a man who could love with so much intensity as Percy Blakeney had loved her from the first--how could such a man be the brainless idiot he chose to appear? She, at least, ought to have known that he was wearing a mask, and having found that out, she should have torn it from his face, whenever they were alone together.
Her love for him had been paltry and weak, easily crushed by her own pride; and she, too, had worn a mask in assuming a contempt for him, whilst, as a matter of fact, she completely misunderstood him.
But there was no time now to go over the past. By her own blindness she had sinned; now she must repay, not by empty remorse, but by prompt and useful action.
Percy had started for Calais, utterly unconscious of the fact that his most relentless enemy was on his heels. He had set sail early that morning from London Bridge. Provided he had a favourable wind, he would no doubt be in France within twenty-four hours; no doubt he had reckoned on the wind and chosen this route.
Chauvelin, on the other hand, would post to Dover, charter a vessel there, and undoubtedly reach Calais much about the same time. Once in Calais, Percy would meet all those who were eagerly waiting for the noble and brave Scarlet Pimpernel, who had come to rescue them from horrible and unmerited death. With Chauvelin's eyes now fixed upon his every movement, Percy would thus not only be endangering his own life, but that of Suzanne's father, the old Comte de Tournay, and of those other fugitives who were waiting for him and trusting in him. There was also Armand, who had gone to meet de Tournay, secure in the knowledge that the Scarlet Pimpernel was watching over his safety.
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|The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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