The Scarlet Pimpernel HTML version

XXVIII. The Pere Blanchard's Hut
As in a dream, Marguerite followed on; the web was drawing more and more
tightly every moment round the beloved life, which had become dearer than all.
To see her husband once again, to tell him how she had suffered, how much she
had wronged, and how little understood him, had become now her only aim. She
had abandoned all hope of saving him: she saw him gradually hemmed in on all
sides, and, in despair, she gazed round her into the darkness, and wondered
whence he would presently come, to fall into the death-trap which his relentless
enemy had prepared for him.
The distant roar of the waves now made her shudder; the occasional dismal cry
of an owl, or a sea-gull, filled her with unspeakable horror. She thought of the
ravenous beasts--in human shape--who lay in wait for their prey, and destroyed
them, as mercilessly as any hungry wolf, for the satisfaction of their own appetite
of hate. Marguerite was not afraid of the darkness, she only feared that man, on
ahead, who was sitting at the bottom of a rough wooden cart, nursing thoughts of
vengeance, which would have made the very demons in hell chuckle with delight.
Her feet were sore. Her knees shook under her, from sheer bodily fatigue. For
days now she had lived in a wild turmoil of excitement; she had not had a quiet
rest for three nights; now, she had walked on a slippery road for nearly two
hours, and yet her determination never swerved for a moment. She would see
her husband, tell him all, and, if he was ready to forgive the crime, which she had
committed in her blind ignorance, she would yet have the happiness of dying by
his side.
She must have walked on almost in a trance, instinct alone keeping her up, and
guiding her in the wake of the enemy, when suddenly her ears, attuned to the
slightest sound, by that same blind instinct, told her that the cart had stopped,
and that the soldiers had halted. They had come to their destination. No doubt on
the right, somewhere close ahead, was the footpath that led to the edge of the
cliff and to the hut.
Heedless of any risks, she crept up quite close up to where Chauvelin stood,
surrounded by his little troop: he had descended from the cart, and was giving
some orders to the men. These she wanted to hear: what little chance she yet
had, of being useful to Percy, consisted in hearing absolutely every word of his
enemy's plans.
The spot where all the party had halted must have lain some eight hundred
meters from the coast; the sound of the sea came only very faintly, as from a
distance. Chauvelin and Desgas, followed by the soldiers, had turned off sharply