The Elusive Pimpernel HTML version

X : Lady Blakeney's Rout
There are several accounts extant, in the fashionable chronicles of the time, of the
gorgeous reception given that autumn by Lady Blakeney in her magnificent riverside
Never had the spacious apartments of Blakeney Manor looked more resplendent than on
this memorable occasion--memorable because of the events which brought the brilliant
evening to a close.
The Prince of Wales had come over by water from Carlton House; the Royal Princesses
came early, and all fashionable London was there, chattering and laughing, displaying
elaborate gowns and priceless jewels dancing, flirting, listening to the strains of the string
band, or strolling listlessly in the gardens, where the late roses and clumps of heliotrope
threw soft fragrance on the balmy air.
But Marguerite was nervous and agitated. Strive how she might, she could not throw off
that foreboding of something evil to come, which had assailed her from the first moment
when she met Chauvelin face to face.
That unaccountable feeling of unreality was still upon her, that sense that she, and the
woman Candeille, Percy and even His Royal Highness were, for the time being, the
actors in a play written and stage-managed by Chauvelin. The ex-ambassador's humility,
his offers of friendship, his quietude under Sir Percy's good-humoured banter, everything
was a sham. Marguerite knew it; her womanly instinct, her passionate love, all cried out
to her in warning: but there was that in her husband's nature which rendered her
powerless in the face of such dangers, as, she felt sure, were now threatening him.
Just before her guests had begun to assemble, she had been alone with him for a few
minutes. She had entered the room in which he sat, looking radiantly beautiful in a
shimmering gown of white and silver, with diamonds in her golden hair and round her
exquisite neck.
Moments like this, when she was alone with him, were the joy of her life. Then and then
only did she see him as he really was, with that wistful tenderness in his deep-set eyes,
that occasional flash of passion from beneath the lazily-drooping lids. For a few minutes-
-seconds, mayhap-- the spirit of the reckless adventurer was laid to rest, relegated into the
furthermost background of this senses by the powerful emotions of the lover.
Then he would seize her in his arms, and hold her to him, with a strange longing to tear
from out his heart all other thoughts, feelings and passions save those which made him a
slave to her beauty and her smiles.
"Percy!" she whispered to him to-night when freeing herself from his embrace she looked
up at him, and for this one heavenly second felt him all her own. "Percy, you will do