The Scarlet Pimpernel
XXVII. On The Track
Never for a moment did Marguerite Blakeney hesitate. The last sounds outside
the "Chat Gris" had died away in the night. She had heard Desgas giving orders
to his men, and then starting off towards the fort, to get a reinforcement of a
dozen more men: six were not thought sufficient to capture the cunning
Englishman, whose resourceful brain was even more dangerous than his valour
and his strength.
Then a few minutes later, she heard the Jew's husky voice again, evidently
shouting to his nag, then the rumble of wheels, and noise of a rickety cart
bumping over the rough road.
Inside the inn, everything was still. Brogard and his wife, terrified of Chauvelin,
had given no sign of life; they hoped to be forgotten, and at any rate to remain
unperceived: Marguerite could not even hear their usual volleys of muttered
She waited a moment or two longer, then she quietly slipped down the broken
stairs, wrapped her dark cloak closely round her and slipped out of the inn.
The night was fairly dark, sufficiently so at any rate to hide her dark figure from
view, whilst her keen ears kept count of the sound of the cart going on ahead.
She hoped by keeping well within the shadow of the ditches which lined the road,
that she would not be seen by Desgas' men, when they approached, or by the
patrols, which she concluded were still on duty.
Thus she started to do this, the last stage of her weary journey, alone, at night,
and on foot. Nearly three leagues to Miquelon, and then on to the Pere
Blanchard's hut, wherever that fatal spot might be, probably over rough roads:
she cared not.
The Jew's nag could not get on very fast, and though she was wary with mental
fatigue and nerve strain, she knew that she could easily keep up with it, on a hilly
road, where the poor beast, who was sure to be half-starved, would have to be
allowed long and frequent rests. The road lay some distance from the sea,
bordered on either side by shrubs and stunted trees, sparsely covered with
meagre foliage, all turning away from the North, with their branches looking in the
semi-darkness, like stiff, ghostly hair, blown by a perpetual wind.
Fortunately, the moon showed no desire to peep between the clouds, and
Marguerite hugging the edge of the road, and keeping close to the low line of
shrubs, was fairly safe from view. Everything around her was so still: only from
far, very far away, there came like a long soft moan, the sound of the distant sea.