An Hour More

The Day Dream bobbed lightly on the sparkling water in the early morning sunlight. Marguerite wondered again if the time, only a few hours before, when the sea and sky were lost in one tragic, lonely darkness, could have been but a horrible nightmare.

She leaned back against Percy's shoulder and took his hand in her own, as if to assure herself that he was truly there beside her.

The boat pulled up alongside the yacht. A row of smiling faces appeared above the railing of the Day Dream's deck.

"It seems we have arrived m'dear," Percy said, rising to his feet and drawing her up with him. His blue eyes shone merrily at her as he added with a smile, "And if I am not mistaken there is a certain Armand St. Just aboard whom madam is very anxious to see."

Marguerite tilted her head back and saw Armand's face gazing down at her in shock from over the ship's rail.

Percy moved to lift her but she protested. "Nay, Percy. I can get myself off the boat alright."

Nevertheless, he hovered beside her, his strong arms ready to catch her if she stumbled, as she made her way to the edge of the boat and scaled the ladder. Once on the deck of the Day Dream, she collapsed into her brother's arms.

"Marguerite! What in Heaven's name are you doing here?" Armand exclaimed, hugging her to him even as he spoke, while she clung tightly to his neck.

"Lady Blakeney has done us the honor of joining us on and assisting us in this adventure," Percy said in his accustomed lazy tone.

There was something different in that tone however, which caused Armand to look up swiftly and then down again at Marguerite. Her large eyes were fixed on Sir Percy's face which was lighted by a happy smile. Armand seldom saw Percy's real smile. In the meetings of the league his chief was always serious and focused and this, his true smile was very different from the inane one he usually wore.

A spar creaked overhead and Percy looked up, the spell broken. "If you will excuse me," he said with a bow. "I must get myself out of these rags." He gestured disparagingly at his Jew's garb. "I know I leave you in good hands my lady."

He went below deck and Armand half led, half carried Marguerite to a seat within the shade of the sail. A deckhand brought her water which she drank eagerly.

"Marguerite, Little Mother, how is it you are here?" Armand asked again, once she had drunk her fill and leaned against him wearily.

"It is a long story Armand. Perhaps Sir Andrew may tell you about it. I confess I am too tired to talk."

She gestured to the young man who was just then approaching.

"Certainly Margo. I did not think." Armand said soothingly. "I will help you below, where you can rest."

Sir Andrew, coming up beside them, offered Marguerite his arm and she was supported to the stairwell between them.

"I expect a full explanation from you Ffoulkes, as to how my sister found herself in such a dangerous situation." Armand said, only half in jest.

"Do not be hard on him Armand." Marguerite said, giving Sir Andrew a grateful smile. "Sir Andrew has been my loyal protector and companion throughout this trying journey. I would not be dissuaded from embarking upon it and so he endangered his own life and risked the anger of his chief to accompany me."

"I am entirely undeserving of your praise Lady Blakeney. But," with sudden earnestness, "I am very happy that all has turned out well."

"As am I Sir Andrew." There was a catch in her voice, despite the brightness of her smile, as she released his arm and followed her brother down the steep flight of stairs and into the cabin below.

Sir Andrew bowed low, and there was a certain moisture about his own eyes as he turned away.

The cabin Marguerite found herself in was a large one. Its walls were lined with upholstered benches, upon which blankets and pillows were tidily arranged. The middle of the room was occupied by a large table with several chairs drawn up about it.

"This is the gentlemen's cabin." Armand told her. "We all stretch out on these benches when we need to sleep. It also doubles as a dining room. But this is hardly a private place. Percy's cabin is through that door. I think you would be most comfortable there." He spoke hesitantly, not quite sure just where his beloved sister stood with her husband.

"I will go in alone. Thank you dearest." Marguerite told him, pressing his hands in farewell and kissing his cheek tenderly.

She knocked and Percy's voice came briskly, "Enter."

She pushed open the door and saw a small room with a large bed and a small cupboard and desk, which articles took up almost the entirety of the tiny room.

Percy turned from buttoning up his vest to greet the newcomer.

"Armand said this would be the best place to rest Percy. May I come in and avail myself of the opportunity?"

"Certainly m'dear. Dem me but I should have suggested it myself." Percy came towards her as he spoke and took her hand. He led her to the bed where she lay down upon the pillows and stretched out her throbbing feet.

Percy stood quietly for a moment, looking at her, and Marguerite felt she must say something.

"It is so good to lay down on a real bed. And such a comfortable one too. You have redecorated since last I was on board."

"I am glad you approve Madam." He smiled a little wryly. "Whenever we have guests belonging to the fairer sex aboard the Daydream I resign this cabin to them and make my berth with the gentlemen yonder." He waved in the direction of the door.

"How very gallant of you." Marguerite said teasingly.

"Well I can't very well put them with the gentlemen or the crew, now can I?"

"No indeed. Most improper."

"Well there you have it Madam." He smiled playfully as he spoke and moved to sit at the foot of the bed.

His eyes fell on her bruised and scratched feet and he lifted one and gently removed the torn and muddied stocking. "Poor little feet," he said, his tone becoming very gentle.

"They do not hurt so much now."

"They should be bandaged nevertheless." Percy disappeared for a moment into the larger cabin. He reappeared a moment later with a bowl of water and a roll of bandages.

"Since there is no lady's maid aboard you shall have to make do with me." He told her with a smile.

"I confess I do not want you out of my sight Percy."

"Nor I you my dear," very gently.

"But what of your own wounds?" Marguerite asked suddenly, when a moment of silence had passed in which Percy began gently rubbing the dirt and blood away from her right foot.

"Never mind them sweetheart. They do not pain me at all anymore."

"How are you so strong?" she whispered.

"I have many supports. Yourself not the least." He smiled brightly as he spoke and lifted her foot to press a kiss to one of the cuts which it had endured for his sake.

Her eyes filled with sudden tears. "Percy, how could I not have known. I could have helped you… or at least pulled away the mask from your face when we were alone and given you rest from your masquerade. Instead I almost killed you."

Her tears were falling freely now and he rose quickly and moved to sit beside her. Drawing her into his arms he whispered, "Margo, my love, forgive me for not trusting you. I will never doubt you again."

"What have I done to deserve you?" Marguerite cried in distress, burying her face in his sleeve and sobbing bitterly.

"This is what you have done for me," brushing the hem of her skirt aside to reveal the poor feet once more.

"I did nothing but cause you to be beaten."

"Sweetheart, when I saw you safe and well, any sufferings suddenly became as nothing." His voice dropped to a husky whisper. "That moment, when you recognized me and ran to my side, was the happiest moment of my life."

"It was the happiest moment of mine as well." Marguerite brushed away her tears and smiled as she spoke. "At our wedding I was determined to reveal the true Percy Blakeney. I was not so blind then that I could not see that you were more than you professed. But this morning I saw you, unmasked, as you truly are, for the first time in my life."

"Are you disappointed with the result of your conquest?" He asked, speaking playfully once again.

But Marguerite, gazing into his blue eyes, spoke with great seriousness as she replied, "I am more humbled by you and prouder of who you are then words could ever tell."

Percy lifted a hand and brushed away a glittering tear which still hung on Marguerite's long lashes. Marguerite's breath caught in her throat and Percy drew back a little. He opened his mouth as if to speak but hesitated. Marguerite smiled suddenly, a tender, sparkling smile.

"Percy? Will you do something for me?"

"I am yours to command my lady."

She drew closer to him and whispered softly. "Will you kiss me now?"

"Faith my lady, I thought you'd never ask."