Marguerite Blakeney had watched the slight sable-clad figure of Chauvelin, as he worked his way through the ball-room. Then perforce she had had to wait, while her nerves tingled with excitement.
Listlessly she sat in the small, still deserted boudoir, looking out through the curtained doorway on the dancing couples beyond: looking at them, yet seeing nothing, hearing the music, yet conscious of naught save a feeling of expectancy, of anxious, weary waiting.
Her mind conjured up before her the vision of what was, perhaps at this very moment, passing downstairs. The half-deserted dining-room, the fateful hourChauvelin on the watch!then, precise to the moment, the entrance of a man, he, the Scarlet Pimpernel, the mysterious leader, who to Marguerite had become almost unreal, so strange, so weird was this hidden identity.
She wished she were in the supper-room, too, at this moment, watching him as he entered; she knew that her womans penetration would at once recognise in the strangers facewhoever he might bethat strong individuality which belongs to a leader of mento a hero: to the mighty, high-soaring eagle, whose daring wings were becoming entangled in the ferrets trap.
Woman-like, she thought of him with unmixed sadness; the irony of that fate seemed so cruel which allowed the fearless lion to succumb to the gnawing of a rat! Ah! had Armands life not been at stake!
Faith! your ladyship must have thought me very remiss, said a voice suddenly, close to her elbow. I had a deal of difficulty in delivering your message, for I could not find Blakeney anywhere at first
Marguerite had forgotten all about her husband and her message to him; his very name, as spoken by Lord Fancourt, sounded strange and unfamiliar to her, so completely had she in the last five minutes lived her old life in the Rue de Richelieu again, with Armand always near her to love and protect her, to guard her from the many subtle intrigues which were forever raging in Paris in those days.
I did find him at last, continued Lord Fancourt, and gave him your message. He said that he would give orders at once for the horses to be put to.
Ah! she said, still very absently, you found my husband, and gave him my message?
Yes; he was in the dining-room fast asleep. I could not manage to wake him up at first.
Thank you very much, she said mechanically, trying to collect her thoughts.
Will your ladyship honour me with the contredanse until your coach is ready? asked Lord Fancourt.
No, I thank you, my lord, butand you will forgive meI really am too tired, and the heat in the ball- room has become oppressive.
The conservatory is deliciously cool; let me take you there, and then get you something. You seem ailing, Lady Blakeney.
I am only very tired, she repeated wearily, as she allowed Lord Fancourt to lead her, where subdued lights and green plants lent coolness to the air. He got her a chair, into which she sank. This long interval of waiting was intolerable. Why did not Chauvelin come and tell her the result of his watch?
Lord Fancourt was very attentive. She scarcely heard what he said, and suddenly startled him by asking abruptly,
Lord Fancourt, did you perceive who was in the dining-room just now besides Sir Percy Blakeney?
Only the agent of the French Government, M. Chauvelin, equally fast asleep in another corner, he said. Why does your ladyship ask?
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