Marguerite up in the loft had not moved. She had made a solemn promise to Sir Andrew not to speak to her husband before strangers, and she had sufficient self-control not to throw herself unreasoningly and impulsively across his plans. To sit still and watch these two men together was a terrible trial of fortitude. Marguerite had heard Chauvelin give the orders for the patrolling of all the roads. She knew that if Percy now left the “Chat Gris”—in whichever direction he happened to go—he could not go far without being sighted by some of Captain Jutley’s men on patrol. On the other hand, if he stayed, then Desgas would have time to come back with the half-dozen men Chauvelin had specially ordered.

The trap was closing in, and Marguerite could do nothing but watch and wonder. The two men looked such a strange contrast, and of the two it was Chauvelin who exhibited a slight touch of fear. Marguerite knew him well enough to guess what was passing in his mind. He had no fear for his own person, although he certainly was alone in a lonely inn with a man who was powerfully built, and who was daring and reckless beyond the bounds of probability. She knew that Chauvelin would willingly have braved perilous encounters for the sake of the cause he had at heart, but what he did fear was that this impudent Englishman would, by knocking him down, double his own chances of escape; his underlings might not succeed so well in capturing the Scarlet Pimpernel, when not directed by the cunning hand and the shrewd brain, which had deadly hate for an incentive.

Evidently, however, the representative of the French Government had nothing to fear for the moment, at the hands of his powerful adversary. Blakeney, with his most inane laugh and pleasant good-nature, was solemnly patting him on the back.

“I am so demmed sorry …” he was saying cheerfully, “so very sorry … I seem to have upset you … eating soup, too … nasty, awkward thing, soup … er … Begad!—a friend of mine died once … er … chocked … just like you … with a spoonful of soup.”

And he smiled shyly, good-humouredly, down at Chauvelin.

“Odd’s life!” he continued, as soon as the latter had somewhat recovered himself, “beastly hole this … ain’t it now? La! you don’t mind?” he added, apologetically, as he sat down on a chair close to the table and drew the soup tureen towards him. “That fool Brogard seems to be asleep or something.”

There was a second plate on the table, and he calmly helped himself to soup, then poured himself out a glass of wine.

For a moment Marguerite wondered what Chauvelin would do. His disguise was so good that perhaps he meant, on recovering himself, to deny his identity: but Chauvelin was too astute to make such an obviously false and childish move, and already he too had stretched out his hand and said pleasantly,—

“I am indeed charmed to see you, Sir Percy. You must excuse me—h’m—I thought you the other side of the Channel. Sudden surprise almost took my breath away.”

“La!” said Sir Percy, with a good-humoured grin, “it did that quite, didn’t it—er—M.—er—Chaubertin?”

“Pardon me—Chauvelin.”

“I beg pardon—a thousand times. Yes—Chauvelin of course. … Er … I never could cotton to foreign names. …”

He was calmly eating his soup, laughing with pleasant good-humour, as if he had come all the way to Calais for the express purpose of enjoying supper at this filthy inn, in the company of his arch-enemy.

For the moment Marguerite wondered why Percy did not knock the little Frenchman down then and there—and no doubt something of the sort must have darted through his mind, for every now and then

  By PanEris using Melati.

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