The Elusive Pimpernel HTML version

XIV : The Ruling Passion
In the meanwhile silence had fallen over the beautiful old manorial house. One by one the
guests had departed, leaving that peaceful sense of complete calm and isolation which
follows the noisy chatter of any great throng bent chiefly on enjoyment.
The evening had been universally acknowledged to have been brilliantly successful.
True, the much talked of French artiste had not sung the promised ditties, but in the midst
of the whirl and excitement of dances, of the inspiring tunes of the string band, the
elaborate supper and recherche wines, no one had paid much heed to this change in the
programme of entertainments.
And everyone had agreed that never had Lady Blakeney looked more radiantly beautiful
than on this night. She seemed absolutely indefatigable; a perfect hostess, full of
charming little attentions towards every one, although more than ordinarily absorbed by
her duties towards her many royal guests.
The dramatic incidents which had taken place in the small boudoir had not been much
bruited abroad. It was always considered bad form in those courtly days to discuss men's
quarrels before ladies, and in this instance, those who were present when it all occurred
instinctively felt that their discretion would be appreciated in high circles, and held their
tongues accordingly.
Thus the brilliant evening was brought to a happy conclusion without a single cloud to
mar the enjoyment of the guests. Marguerite performed a veritable miracle of fortitude,
forcing her very smiles to seem natural and gay, chatting pleasantly, even wittily, upon
every known fashionable topic of the day, laughing merrily the while her poor, aching
heart was filled with unspeakable misery.
Now, when everybody had gone, when the last of her guests had bobbed before her the
prescribed curtsey, to which she had invariably responded with the same air of easy self-
possession, now at last she felt free to give rein to her thoughts, to indulge in the luxury
of looking her own anxiety straight in the face and to let the tension of her nerves relax.
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes had been the last to leave and Percy had strolled out with him as far
as the garden gate, for Lady Ffoulkes had left in her chaise some time ago, and Sir
Andrew meant to walk to his home, not many yards distant from Blakeney Manor.
In spite of herself Marguerite felt her heartstrings tighten as she thought of this young
couple so lately wedded. People smiled a little when Sir Andrew Ffoulkes' name was
mentioned, some called him effeminate, other uxorious, his fond attachment for his pretty
little wife was thought to pass the bounds of decorum. There was no doubt that since his
marriage the young man had greatly changed. His love of sport and adventure seemed to
have died out completely, yielding evidently to the great, more overpowering love, that
for his young wife.