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Part III Baroness Emmuska Orczy

XXXVIII Capitulation

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Chauvelin made no immediate reply. He 'paused awhile, hesitating. Would Sir Percy Blakeney be ready--if his own safety demanded it--to sacrifice the man who had betrayed him? In the momentous "either--or" that was to be put to him, by-and-by, would he choose his own life and leave Armand St. Just to perish? It was not for Chauvelin--or any man of his stamp--to judge of what Blakeney would do under such circumstances, and had it been a question of St. Just alone, mayhap Chauvelin would have hesitated still more at the present juncture.

But the friend as hostage was only destined to be a minor leverage for the final breaking-up of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel through the disgrace of its chief. There was the wife--Marguerite Blakeney--sister of St. Just, joint and far more important hostage, whose very close affection for her brother might prove an additional trump card in that handful which Chauvelin already held.

Blakeney paid no heed seemingly to the other's hesitation. He did not even look up at him, but quietly drew pen and paper towards him, and made ready to write.

"What do you wish me to say?" he asked simply.

"Will that young blackguard answer your purpose, citizen Chauvelin?" queried Heron roughly.

Obviously the same doubt had crossed his mind. Chauvelin quickly re-assured him.

"Better than any one else," he said firmly. "Will you write at my dictation, Sir Percy?

"I am waiting to do so, my dear sir."

"Begin your letter as you wish, then; now continue."

And he began to dictate slowly, watching every word as it left Blakeney's pen.

"'I cannot stand my present position any longer. Citizen Heron, and also M. Chauvelin--, Yes, Sir Percy, Chauvelin, not Chambertin ... C, H, A, U, V, E, L, I, N.... That is quite right--' have made this prison a perfect hell for me.'"

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Sir Percy looked up from his writing, smiling.

"You wrong yourself, my dear M. Chambertin!" he said; "I have really been most comfortable."

"I wish to place the matter before your friends in as indulgent a manner as I can," retorted Chauvelin dryly.

"I thank you, sir. Pray proceed."

"... a perfect hell for me,'" resumed the other. "Have you that? ... 'and I have been forced to give way. To-morrow we start from here at dawn; and I will guide citizen Heron to the place where he can find the Dauphin. But the authorities demand that one of my followers, one who has once been a member of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, shall accompany me on this expedition. I therefore ask you'--or 'desire you' or 'beg you'--whichever you prefer, Sir Percy ..."

"'Ask you' will do quite nicely. This is really very interesting, you know."

"... 'to be prepared to join the expedition. We start at dawn, and you would be required to be at the main gate of the house of Justice at six o'clock precisely. I have an assurance from the authorities that your life should be in-violate, but if you refuse to accompany me, the guillotine will await me on the morrow.'"

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El Dorado
Baroness Emmuska Orczy

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