The Elusive Pimpernel HTML version
XVI : The Passport
The rhythmic clapper of oars roused Marguerite from this trance-like swoon.
In a moment she was on her feet, all her fatigue gone, her numbness of soul and body
vanished as in a flash. She was fully conscious now! conscious that he had gone! that
according to every probability under heaven and every machination concocted in hell, he
would never return from France alive, and that she had failed to hear the last words which
he spoke to her, had failed to glean his last look or to savour his final kiss.
Though the night was starlit and balmy it was singularly dark, and vainly did Marguerite
strain her eyes to catch sight of that boat which was bearing him away so swiftly now:
she strained her ears, vaguely hoping to catch one last, lingering echo of his voice. But all
was silence, save that monotonous clapper, which seemed to beat against her heart like a
rhythmic knell of death.
She could hear the oars distinctly: there were six or eight, she thought: certainly no fewer.
Eight oarsmen probably, which meant the larger boat, and undoubtedly the longer
journey ... not to London only with a view to posting to Dover, but to Tilbury Fort, where
the "Day Dream" would be in readiness to start with a favourable tide.
Thought was returning to her, slowly and coherently: the pain of the last farewell was still
there, bruising her very senses with its dull and heavy weight, but it had become numb
and dead, leaving her, herself, her heart and soul, stunned and apathetic, whilst her brain
was gradually resuming its activity.
And the more she thought it over, the more certain she grew that her husband was going
as far as Tilbury by river and would embark on the "Day Dream" there. Of course he
would go to Boulogne at once. The duel was to take place there, Candeille had told her
that ... adding that she thought she, Marguerite, would wish to go with him.
To go with him!
Heavens above! was not that the only real, tangible thought in that whirling chaos which
was raging in her mind?
To go with him! Surely there must be some means of reaching him yet! Fate, Nature, God
Himself would never permit so monstrous a thing as this: that she should be parted from
her husband, now when his life was not only in danger, but forfeited already ... lost ... a
precious thing all but gone from this world.
Percy was going to Boulogne ... she must go too. By posting at once to Dover, she could
get the tidal boat on the morrow and reach the French coast quite as soon as the "Day
Dream." Once at Boulogne, she would have no difficulty in finding her husband, of that
she felt sure. She would have but to dog Chauvelin's footsteps, find out something of his