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|The Scarlet Pimpernel||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
|Page 4 of 10||
She looked divinely pretty as she stood there in the moonlight, with the fur-cloak sliding off her beautiful shoulders, the gold embroidery on her dress shimmering around her, her childlike blue eyes turned up fully at him.
He stood for a moment, rigid and still, but for the clenching of his hand against the stone balustrade of the terrace.
"You desired my presence, Madame," he said frigidly. "I take it that it was not with the view to indulging in tender reminiscences."
His voice certainly was cold and uncompromising: his attitude before her, stiff and unbending. Womanly decorum would have suggested Marguerite should return coldness for coldness, and should sweep past him without another word, only with a curt nod of her head: but womanly instinct suggested that she should remain--that keen instinct, which makes a beautiful woman conscious of her powers long to bring to her knees the one man who pays her no homage. She stretched out her hand to him.
"Nay, Sir Percy, why not? the present is not so glorious but that I should not wish to dwell a little in the past."
He bent his tall figure, and taking hold of the extreme tip of the fingers which she still held out to him, he kissed them ceremoniously.
"I' faith, Madame," he said, "then you will pardon me, if my dull wits cannot accompany you there."
Once again he attempted to go, once more her voice, sweet, childlike, almost tender, called him back.
"Your servant, Madame."
"Is it possible that love can die?" she said with sudden, unreasoning vehemence. "Methought that the passion which you once felt for me would outlast the span of human life. Is there nothing left of that love, Percy. . .which might help you. . .to bridge over that sad estrangement?"
His massive figure seemed, while she spoke thus to him, to stiffen still more, the strong mouth hardened, a look of relentless obstinacy crept into the habitually lazy blue eyes.
"With what object, I pray you, Madame?" he asked coldly.
"I do not understand you."
"Yet `tis simple enough," he said with sudden bitterness, which seemed literally to surge through his words, though he was making visible efforts to suppress it, "I humbly put the question to you, for my slow wits are unable to grasp the cause of this, your ladyship's sudden new mood. Is it that you have the taste to renew the devilish sport which you played so successfully last year? Do you wish to see me once more a love-sick suppliant at your feet, so that you might again have the pleasure of kicking me aside, like a troublesome lap-dog?"
She had succeeded in rousing him for the moment: and again she looked straight at him, for it was thus she remembered him a year ago.
"Percy! I entreat you!" she whispered, "can we not bury the past?"
"Pardon me, Madame, but I understood you to say that your desire was to dwell in it."
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|The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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