The Scarlet Pimpernel HTML version

XVI. Richmond
A few minutes later she was sitting, wrapped in cozy furs, near Sir Percy
Blakeney on the box-seat of his magnificent coach, and the four splendid bays
had thundered down the quiet street.
The night was warm in spite of the gentle breeze which fanned Marguerite's
burning cheeks. Soon London houses were left behind, and rattling over old
Hammersmith Bridge, Sir Percy was driving his bays rapidly towards Richmond.
The river wound in and out in its pretty delicate curves, looking like a silver
serpent beneath the glittering rays of the moon. Long shadows from overhanging
trees spread occasional deep palls right across the road. The bays were rushing
along at breakneck speed, held but slightly back by Sir Percy's strong, unerring
These nightly drives after balls and suppers in London were a source of
perpetual delight to Marguerite, and she appreciated her husband's eccentricity
keenly, which caused him to adopt this mode of taking her home every night, to
their beautiful home by the river, instead of living in a stuffy London house. He
loved driving his spirited horses along the lonely, moonlit roads, and she loved to
sit on the box-seat, with the soft air of an English late summer's night fanning her
face after the hot atmosphere of a ball or supper-party. The drive was not a long
one--less than an hour, sometimes, when the bays were very fresh, and Sir
Percy gave them full rein.
To-night he seemed to have a very devil in his fingers, and the coach seemed to
fly along the road, beside the river. As usual, he did not speak to her, but stared
straight in front of him, the ribbons seeming to lie quite loosely in his slender,
white hands. Marguerite looked at him tentatively once or twice; she could see
his handsome profile, and one lazy eye, with its straight fine brow and drooping
heavy lid.
The face in the moonlight looked singularly earnest, and recalled to Marguerite's
aching heart those happy days of courtship, before he had become the lazy
nincompoop, the effete fop, whose life seemed spent in card and supper rooms.
But now, in the moonlight, she could not catch the expression of the lazy blue
eyes; she could only see the outline of the firm chin, the corner of the strong
mouth, the well-cut massive shape of the forehead; truly, nature had meant well
by Sir Percy; his faults must all be laid at the door of that poor, half-crazy mother,
and of the distracted heart-broken father, neither of whom had cared for the
young life which was sprouting up between them, and which, perhaps, their very
carelessness was already beginning to wreck.