The Scarlet Pimpernel HTML version

XII. The Scrap Of Paper
Marguerite suffered intensely. Though she laughed and chatted, though she was
more admired, more surrounded, more FETED than any woman there, she felt
like one condemned to death, living her last day upon this earth.
Her nerves were in a state of painful tension, which had increased a hundredfold
during that brief hour which she had spent in her husband's company, between
the opera and the ball. The short ray of hope--that she might find in this good-
natured, lazy individual a valuable friend and adviser--had vanished as quickly as
it had come, the moment she found herself alone with him. The same feeling of
good-humoured contempt which one feels for an animal or a faithful servant,
made her turn away with a smile from the man who should have been her moral
support in this heart-rending crisis through which she was passing: who should
have been her cool-headed adviser, when feminine sympathy and sentiment
tossed her hither and thither, between her love for her brother, who was far away
and in mortal peril, and horror of the awful service which Chauvelin had exacted
from her, in exchange for Armand's safety.
There he stood, the moral support, the cool-headed adviser, surrounded by a
crowd of brainless, empty-headed young fops, who were even now repeating
from mouth to mouth, and with every sign of the keenest enjoyment, a doggerel
quatrain which he had just given forth. Everywhere the absurd, silly words met
her: people seemed to have little else to speak about, even the Prince had asked
her, with a little laugh, whether she appreciated her husband's latest poetic
"All done in the tying of a cravat," Sir Percy had declared to his clique of
"We seek him here, we seek him there, Those Frenchies seek him
everywhere. Is he in heaven?--Is he in hell? That demmed, elusive
Sir Percy's BON MOT had gone the round of the brilliant reception-rooms. The
Prince was enchanted. He vowed that life without Blakeney would be but a
dreary desert. Then, taking him by the arm, had led him to the card-room, and
engaged him in a long game of hazard.
Sir Percy, whose chief interest in most social gatherings seemed to centre round
the card-table, usually allowed his wife to flirt, dance, to amuse or bore herself as
much as she liked. And to-night, having delivered himself of his BON MOT, he
had left Marguerite surrounded by a crowd of admirers of all ages, all anxious
and willing to help her to forget that somewhere in the spacious reception rooms,
there was a long, lazy being who had been fool enough to suppose that the