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|The Scarlet Pimpernel||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
|Page 4 of 6||
"Nothing, nothing, child," she murmured, as in a dream. "Wait a moment. . .let me think. . .think!. . .You said. . .the Scarlet Pimpernel had gone today. . . . ?"
"Marguerite, CHERIE, what is it? You frighten me. . . ."
"It is nothing, child, I tell you. . .nothing. . .I must be alone a minute--and--dear one. . .I may have to curtail our time together to-day. . . . I may have to go away--you'll understand?"
"I understand that something has happened, CHERIE, and that you want to be alone. I won't be a hindrance to you. Don't think of me. My maid, Lucile, has not yet gone. . .we will go back together. . .don't think of me."
She threw her arms impulsively round Marguerite. Child as she was, she felt the poignancy of her friend's grief, and with the infinite tact of her girlish tenderness, she did not try to pry into it, but was ready to efface herself.
She kissed Marguerite again and again, then walked sadly back across the lawn. Marguerite did not move, she remained there, thinking. . .wondering what was to be done.
Just as little Suzanne was about to mount the terrace steps, a groom came running round the house towards his mistress. He carried a sealed letter in his hand. Suzanne instinctively turned back; her heart told her that here perhaps was further ill news for her friend, and she felt that poor Margot was not in a fit state to bear any more.
The groom stood respectfully beside his mistress, then he handed her the sealed letter.
"What is that?" asked Marguerite.
"Just come by runner, my lady."
Marguerite took the letter mechanically, and turned it over in her trembling fingers.
"Who sent it?" she said.
"The runner said, my lady," replied the groom, "that his orders were to deliver this, and that your ladyship would understand from whom it came."
Marguerite tore open the envelope. Already her instinct told her what it contained, and her eyes only glanced at it mechanically.
It was a letter by Armand St. Just to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes--the letter which Chauvelin's spies had stolen at "The Fisherman's Rest," and which Chauvelin had held as a rod over her to enforce her obedience.
Now he had kept his word--he had sent her back St. Just's compromising letter. . .for he was on the track of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Marguerite's senses reeled, her very soul seemed to be leaving her body; she tottered, and would have fallen but for Suzanne's arm round her waist. With superhuman effort she regained control over herself--there was yet much to be done.
"Bring that runner here to me," she said to the servant, with much calm. "He has not gone?"
"No, my lady."
The groom went, and Marguerite turned to Suzanne.
"And you, child, run within. Tell Lucile to get ready. I fear that I must send you home, child. And--stay, tell one of the maids to prepare a travelling dress and cloak for me."
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|The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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