The Scarlet Pimpernel HTML version

XXII. Calais
The weariest nights, the longest days, sooner or later must perforce come to an
Marguerite had spent over fifteen hours in such acute mental torture as well-nigh
drove her crazy. After a sleepless night, she rose early, wild with excitement,
dying to start on her journey, terrified lest further obstacles lay in her way. She
rose before anyone else in the house was astir, so frightened was she, lest she
should miss the one golden opportunity of making a start.
When she came downstairs, she found Sir Andrew Ffoulkes sitting in the coffee-
room. He had been out half an hour earlier, and had gone to the Admiralty Pier,
only to find that neither the French packet nor any privately chartered vessel
could put out of Dover yet. The storm was then at its fullest, and the tide was on
the turn. If the wind did not abate or change, they would perforce have to wait
another ten or twelve hours until the next tide, before a start could be made. And
the storm had not abated, the wind had not changed, and the tide was rapidly
drawing out.
Marguerite felt the sickness of despair when she heard this melancholy news.
Only the most firm resolution kept her from totally breaking down, and thus
adding to the young man's anxiety, which evidently had become very keen.
Though he tried to hide it, Marguerite could see that Sir Andrew was just as
anxious as she was to reach his comrade and friend. This enforced inactivity was
terrible to them both.
How they spend that wearisome day at Dover, Marguerite could never afterwards
say. She was in terror of showing herself, lest Chauvelin's spies happened to be
about, so she had a private sitting-room, and she and Sir Andrew sat there hour
after hour, trying to take, at long intervals, some perfunctory meals, which little
Sally would bring them, with nothing to do but to think, to conjecture, and only
occasionally to hope.
The storm had abated just too late; the tide was by then too far out to allow a
vessel to put off to sea. The wind had changed, and was settling down to a
comfortable north-westerly breeze--a veritable godsend for a speedy passage
across to France.
And there those two waited, wondering if the hour would ever come when they
could finally make a start. There had been one happy interval in this long weary
day, and that was when Sir Andrew went down once again to the pier, and