El Dorado HTML version
The Bitterest Foe
That same evening Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, having announced his intention of
gleaning further news of Armand, if possible, went out shortly after seven o'clock,
promising to be home again about nine.
Marguerite, on the other hand, had to make her friend a solemn promise that she
would try and eat some supper which the landlady of these miserable apartments
had agreed to prepare for her. So far they had been left in peaceful occupation of
these squalid lodgings in a tumble-down house on the Quai de la Ferraille, facing
the house of Justice, the grim walls of which Marguerite would watch with wide-
open dry eyes for as long as the grey wintry light lingered over them.
Even now, though the darkness had set in, and snow, falling in close, small
flakes, threw a thick white veil over the landscape, she sat at the open window
long after Sir Andrew had gone out, watching the few small flicks of light that
blinked across from the other side of the river, and which came from the windows
of the Chatelet towers. The windows of the Conciergerie she could not see, for
these gave on one of the inner courtyards; but there was a melancholy
consolation even in the gazing on those walls that held in their cruel, grim
embrace all that she loved in the world.
It seemed so impossible to think of Percy--the laughter-loving, irresponsible,
light-hearted adventurer--as the prey of those fiends who would revel in their
triumph, who would crush him, humiliate him, insult him--ye gods alive! even
torture him, perhaps--that they might break the indomitable spirit that would mock
them even on the threshold of death.
Surely, surely God would never allow such monstrous infamy as the deliverance
of the noble soaring eagle into the hands of those preying jackals! Marguerite--
though her heart ached beyond what human nature could endure, though her
anguish on her husband's account was doubled by that which she felt for her
brother--could not bring herself to give up all hope. Sir Andrew said it rightly;
while there was life there was hope. While there was life in those vigorous limbs,
spirit in that daring mind, how could puny, rampant beasts gain the better of the
immortal soul? As for Armand--why, if Percy were free she would have no cause
to fear for Armand.
She sighed a sigh of deep, of passionate regret and longing. If she could only
see her husband; if she could only look for one second into those laughing, lazy
eyes, wherein she alone knew how to fathom the infinity of passion that lay within
their depths; if she could but once feel his--ardent kiss on her lips, she could
more easily endure this agonising suspense, and wait confidently and
courageously for the issue.
She turned away from the window, for the night was getting bitterly cold. From
the tower of St. Germain l'Auxerrois the clock slowly struck eight. Even as the
last sound of the historic bell died away in the distance she heard a timid
knocking at the door.
"Enter!" she called unthinkingly.