his lazy eyes seemed to flash ominously, as they rested on the slight figure of Chauvelin, who had now quite recovered himself and was also calmly eating his soup.

But the keen brain, which had planned and carried through so many daring plots, was too far-seeing to take unnecessary risks. This place, after all, might be infested with spies; the innkeeper might be in Chauvelin’s pay. One call on Chauvelin’s part might be bring twenty men about Blakeney’s ears for aught he knew, and he might be caught and trapped before he could help or, at least, warn the fugitives. This he would not risk; he meant to help the others, to get them safely away; for he had pledged his word to them, and his word he would keep. And whilst he ate and chatted, he thought and planned, whilst, up in the loft, the poor, anxious woman racked her brain as to what she should do, and endured agonies of longing to rush down to him, yet not daring to move for fear of upsetting his plans.

“I didn’t know,” Blakeney was saying jovially, “that you … er … were in holy orders.”

“I … er … hem …” stammered Chauvelin. The calm impudence of his antagonist had evidently thrown him off his usual balance.

“But, la! I should have known you anywhere,” continued Sir Percy, placidly, as he poured himself out another glass of wine, “although the wig and hat have changed you a bit.”

“Do you think so?”

“Lud! they alter a man so … but … begad! I hope you don’t mind my having made the remark? … Demmed bad form making remarks. … I hope you don’t mind?”

“No, no, not at all—hem! I hope Lady Blakeney is well,” said Chauvelin, hurriedly changing the topic of conversation.

Blakeney, with much deliberation, finished his plate of soup, drank his glass of wine, and, momentarily, it seemed to Marguerite as if he glanced quickly all round the room.

“Quite well, thank you,” he said at last, drily. There was a pause, during which Marguerite could watch these two antagonists who, evidently in their minds, were measuring themselves against one another. She could see Percy almost full face where he sat at the table not ten yards from where she herself was crouching, puzzled, not knowing what to do, or what she should think. She had quite controlled her impulse by now of rushing down and disclosing herself to her husband. A man capable of acting a part, in the way he was doing at the present moment, did not need a woman’s word to warm him to be cautious.

Marguerite indulged in the luxury, dear to every tender woman’s heart, of looking at the man she loved. She looked through the tattered curtain, across at the handsome face of her husband, in whose lazy blue eyes, and behind whose inane smile, she could now so plainly see the strength, energy, and resourcefulness which had caused the Scarlet Pimpernel to be reverenced and trusted by his followers. “There are nineteen of us ready to lay down our lives for your husband, Lady Blakeney,” Sir Andrew had said to her; and as she looked at the forehead, low, but square and broad, the eyes, blue, yet deep-set and intense, the whole aspect of the man, of indomitable energy, hiding, behind a perfectly acted comedy, his almost superhuman strength of will and marvellous ingenuity, she understood the fascination which he exercised over his followers, for had he not also cast his spells over her heart and her imagination?

Chauvelin, who was trying to conceal his impatience beneath his usual urbane manner, took a quick look at his watch. Desgas should not be long: another two or three minutes, and this impudent Englishman would be secure in the keeping of half a dozen of Captain Jutley’s most trusted men.

“You are on your way to Paris, Sir Percy?” he asked carelessly.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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