The Scarlet Pimpernel HTML version
IX. The Outrage
A beautiful starlit night had followed on the day of incessant rain: a cool, balmy,
late summer's night, essentially English in its suggestion of moisture and scent of
wet earth and dripping leaves.
The magnificent coach, drawn by four of the finest thoroughbreds in England,
had driven off along the London road, with Sir Percy Blakeney on the box,
holding the reins in his slender feminine hands, and beside him Lady Blakeney
wrapped in costly furs. A fifty-mile drive on a starlit summer's night! Marguerite
had hailed the notion of it with delight. . . . Sir Percy was an enthusiastic whip; his
four thoroughbreds, which had been sent down to Dover a couple of days before,
were just sufficiently fresh and restive to add zest to the expedition and
Marguerite revelled in anticipation of the few hours of solitude, with the soft night
breeze fanning her cheeks, her thoughts wandering, whither away? She knew
from old experience that Sir Percy would speak little, if at all: he had often driven
her on his beautiful coach for hours at night, from point to point, without making
more than one or two casual remarks upon the weather or the state of the roads.
He was very fond of driving by night, and she had very quickly adopted his fancy:
as she sat next to him hour after hour, admiring the dexterous, certain way in
which he handled the reins, she often wondered what went on in that slow-going
head of his. He never told her, and she had never cared to ask.
At "The Fisherman's Rest" Mr. Jellyband was going the round, putting out the
lights. His bar customers had all gone, but upstairs in the snug little bedrooms,
Mr. Jellyband had quite a few important guests: the Comtesse de Tournay, with
Suzannne, and the Vicomte, and there were two more bedrooms ready for Sir
Andrew Ffoulkes and Lord Antony Dewhurst, if the two young men should elect
to honour the ancient hostelry and stay the night.
For the moment these two young gallants were comfortably installed in the
coffee-room, before the huge log-fire, which, in spite of the mildness of the
evening, had been allowed to burn merrily.
"I say, Jelly, has everyone gone?" asked Lord Tony, as the worthy landlord still
busied himself clearing away glasses and mugs.
"Everyone, as you see, my lord."
"And all your servants gone to bed?"
"All except the boy on duty in the bar, and," added Mr. Jellyband with a laugh, "I
expect he'll be asleep afore long, the rascal."