The Secret Orchard
Once outside the noisy coffee-room, alone in the dimly-lighted passage, Marguerite Blakeney seemed to breathe more freely. She heaved a deep sigh, like one who had long been oppressed with the heavy weight of constant self-control, and she allowed a few tears to fall unheeded down her cheeks.
Outside the rain had ceased, and through the swiftly passing clouds, the pale rays of an after-storm sun shone upon the beautiful white coast of Kent and the quaint, irregular houses that clustered round the Admiralty Pier. Marguerite Blakeney stepped on to the porch and looked out to sea. Silhouetted against the ever-changing sky, a graceful schooner, with white sails set, was gently dancing in the breeze. The Day Dream it was, Sir Percy Blakeneys yacht, which was ready to take Armand St. Just back to France into the very midst of that seething, bloody Revolution which was overthrowing a monarchy, attacking a religion, destroying a society, in order to try and rebuild upon the ashes of tradition a new Utopia, of which a few men dreamed, but which none had the power to establish.
In the distance two figures were approaching The Fishermans Rest: one, an oldish man, with a curious fringe of grey hairs round a rotund and massive chin, and who walked with that peculiar rolling gait which invariably betrays the seafaring man: the other, a young, slight figure, neatly and becomingly dressed in a dark, many caped overcoat; he was clean-shaved, and his dark hair was taken well back over a clear and noble forehead.
Armand! said Marguerite Blakeney, as soon as she saw him approaching from the distance, and a happy smile shone on her sweet face, even through the tears.
A minute or two later brother and sister were locked in each others arms, while the old skipper stood respectfully on one side.
How much time have we got, Briggs, asked Lady Blakeney, before M. St. Just need go on board?
We ought to weigh anchor before half an hour, your ladyship, replied the old man, pulling at his grey forelock.
Linking her arm in his, Marguerite led her brother towards the cliffs.
Half an hour, she said, looking wistfully out to sea, half an hour more and youll be far from me, Armand! Oh! I cant believe that you are going, dear! These last few dayswhilst Percy has been away, and Ive had you all to myself, have slipped by like a dream.
I am not going far, sweet one, said the young man gently, a narrow channel to crossa few miles of roadI can soon come back.
Nay, tis not the distance, Armandbut that awful Paris just now
They had reached the edge of the cliff. The gentle sea-breeze blew Marguerites hair about her face, and sent the ends of her soft lace fichu waving round her, like a white and supple snake. She tried to pierce the distance far away, beyond which lay the shores of France: that relentless and stern France which was exacting her pound of flesh, the blood-tax from the noblest of her sons.
Our own beautiful country, Marguerite, said Armand, who seemed to have divined her thoughts.
They are going too far, Armand, she said vehemently. You are a republican, so am I we have the same thoughts, the same enthusiasm for liberty and equality but even you must think that they are going too far
Hush! said Armand, instinctively, as he threw a quick, apprehensive glance around him.
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