The Elusive Pimpernel
V : Sir Percy and His Lady
To all appearances he had not changed since those early days of matrimony, when his
young wife dazzled London society by her wit and by her beauty, and he was one of the
many satellites that helped to bring into bold relief the brilliance of her presence, of her
sallies and of her smiles.
His friends alone, mayhap--and of these only an intimate few --had understood that
beneath that self-same lazy manner, those shy and awkward ways, that half-inane, half-
cynical laugh, there now lurked an undercurrent of tender and passionate happiness.
That Lady Blakeney was in love with her own husband, nobody could fail to see, and in
the more frivolous cliques of fashionable London this extraordinary phenomenon had oft
been eagerly discussed.
"A monstrous thing, of a truth, for a woman of fashion to adore her own husband!" was
the universal pronouncement of the gaily-decked little world that centred around Carlton
House and Ranelagh.
Not that Sir Percy Blakeney was unpopular with the fair sex. Far be it from the veracious
chronicler's mind even to suggest such a thing. The ladies would have voted any
gathering dull if Sir Percy's witty sallies did not ring from end to end of the dancing hall,
if his new satin coat and 'broidered waistcoat did not call for comment or admiration.
But that was the frivolous set, to which Lady Blakeney had never belonged.
It was well known that she had always viewed her good-natured husband as the most
willing and most natural butt for her caustic wit; she still was fond of aiming a shaft or
two at him, and he was still equally ready to let the shaft glance harmlessly against the
flawless shield of his own imperturbable good humour, but now, contrary to all
precedent, to all usages and customs of London society, Marguerite seldom was seen at
routs or at the opera without her husband; she accompanied him to all the races, and even
one night-- oh horror!--had danced the gavotte with him.
Society shuddered and wondered! tried to put Lady Blakeney's sudden infatuation down
to foreign eccentricity, and finally consoled itself with the thought that after all this
nonsense could not last, and that she was too clever a woman and he too perfect a
gentleman to keep up this abnormal state of things for any length of time.
In the meanwhile, the ladies averred that this matrimonial love was a very one-sided
affair. No one could assert that Sir Percy was anything but politely indifferent to his
wife's obvious attentions. His lazy eyes never once lighted up when she entered a ball-
room, and there were those who knew for a fact that her ladyship spent many lonely days
in her beautiful home at Richmond whilst her lord and master absented himself with
persistent if unchivalrous regularity.