Chapter Two: To Aid
The Daydream rose and fell silently with the ocean swells, save for the occasional noise of a creaking rope. Upon the deck, a few young men had assembled, leaning against rigging and mast, obviously waiting intently for something to come. A sound, not unlike thunder, had reached their ears. It was the sound of gunshots echoing through the night.
"Do you think those gunshots are for Percy and Tony?" one of them murmured.
"Hush! Marguerite is coming!"
The young man turned and noted the truth of his companion's words, for a graceful young woman was making her way up from below deck, and came to join them in their watch. She could see the concern on their faces that they were making gallant attempts to disguise but she said nothing. It was not yet time for the rescue party to rejoin them and so therefore easier to hope that all would be well.
It was Sir Andrew who sighted the returning boat first, making its way toward them in the dark waters of the English Channel. Not long after that, as the boat drew nearer, it became evident that the boat only held the two children and three men, when there should have been four men. Marguerite's heart froze, but she refused to let herself panic until she knew for certain what the present situation was to be. The boat bumped gently against the side of the yacht and the men on deck aided in hoisting up the passengers.
Marguerite noted immediately that her husband was not among them and, eager for news, hastened to Lord Tony's side the instant he set foot on deck and delivered his young charges to another member of their league. Sir David Holte, and Lord Everingham, the two oarsmen of the small craft, wore expressions of a terribly grim nature, and Tony looked as though he had just come back from a battle that he was particularly anxious to go back and finish, this time to win.
"Tony," Marguerite said, voicing the question that was upon every mind of the group waiting on deck, "Where is Percy?"
Tony murmured some brief words to Sir Andrew before replying. "Lady Blakeney, don't worry," he said hastily, hoping that saying these words first would somehow make the rest of what he had to say less terrible, "Things went wrong. Chauvelin and his men were after us. Percy led them on after him so that the children could escape. Now they are safe and my duty is done toward them and I and any man who will join me are free to return to shore and give Percy every ounce of aid we may provide. Aye, even to lay down our very lives. Percy is quite compromised and time is of the essence."
Andrew was now rounding up the men on board and issuing soldier's disguises. A bundle was thrust at Dewhurst.
"I shall come with you!" Marguerite cried.
"No, stay with the girls," Tony blurted in consternation, "the danger is too great for you to come with us. Percy would not hear of it and I doubt we even know what our plan shall be once we reach shore. I could not put your life in jeopardy in such a reckless endeavor-,"
"Reckless or not he is my husband!" Marguerite hissed, "And if there is some small thing I may do to help him I want to be there to do it or to die by his side! The children will be fine, there will be those upon the ship to tend them-,"
"You have no disguise."
"It is dark, I will put on an old cloak and make the best of it."
"Lady Blakeney-" Dewhurst protested.
"Lord Dewhurst!" Marguerite countered, desperate to suceed, "If you do not let me ride with you in your boat then I will swim to shore or die trying in the attempt. If the situation is as grave as you say it is"
There was just enough moonlight to illuminate the fire in Marguerite Blakeney's eyes and reveal the determination that had set in her jaw and mouth. She was not a woman to be gainsaid.
Six uniformed men comprising every league member present on board ship swarmed out of the ship's cabin, looking quite the squad of Revolutionary soldiers, and clambered over the side of the yacht into the rowboat. Andrew stood at the bow and called up, "Dewhurst! Be quick man!"
Tony turned in indecision and replied, "What of Lady Blakeney?"
Andrew looked up and his eyes caught Marguerite's. A knowing look born of past experience passed between the two and he nodded. "Let her come."
"Very well," Tony said, and added aside to himself, "I will regret this, I know I will. God, let it not be that I must reunite her with a dead husband, as I greatly fear I shall."
Marguerite readied herself so rapidly that not an instant was lost because of her. Every man by now had been apprised of the situation and it was a seemingly interminable time before they reached the shore.
"Any plan yet?" Marguerite murmured to Sir Andrew as they stepped ashore and secured the boat.
"Nothing grand," he replied, "We must attempt to reach Percy, perhaps cause a convenient disturbance or ruse that will enable us to shake the French off his trail. Which way Dewhurst?
"The last I saw, and judging by what I have heard, they went this way," Tony gestured into the darkness.
"Quick then!" Andrew beckoned.
They set off at a brisk jog, Marguerite keeping pace well for she was strong and could run if needed, and made their way through woods, finally gaining the coastal road which took them directly through a small fishing village. Here they slowed their pace to a walk and Marguerite walked a little ways ahead, thus hoping to avoid casting suspicion upon the league's disguise. Suddenly, a man mounted upon a galloping horse charged through the darkness and into the dimly lit village.
"To arms! To arms!" The officer in uniform cried out from atop his horse as he rode. "Citizen Chauvelin has the Scarlet Pimpernel on the run and every man is called to help him! To arms!" A few ragged soldiers here and there were beginning to join him.
"This could be our chance," Sir Andrew Ffoulkes whispered hurriedly to Dewhurst, "At any rate, if we join the party, we're sure to find Blakeney sooner than if we seek him like this, and what better way to invent a ruse than to comprise half of Chauvelin's supposedly trustworthy men?"
"You there!" the officer cried suddenly, pointing to the disguised league members, "Come! Every man is needed. What are your orders?"
"It looks like we have little choice now," Tony murmured to his friend. "We are guards, Citizen!" he called to the officer.
"You can be spared to come with us then! I shall take charge of you, come! We must be off!"
Perhaps, if the flock of gathering villagers had not taken the care of bringing numerous lanterns outside with them so that they might the better see the action taking place, or perhaps, if the wind had not gusted so strongly just at that time, forcing Marguerite to struggle with her hood and thus turn to face the light, events may have taken a different turn. But as it was, there was a great deal of light on the street, and Marguerite did turn to face it, just as one of the ragged soldiers happened to be looking her way. And strangely, as things would happen, the man recognized her.
"There is the English Spy's wife!" he cried, pointing an accusing finger at her.
Galveston and Glynde surged forward from the league members and made as though they seized Marguerite, hoping to somehow keep the situation under control.
"Can you be sure?" The officer asked the soldier.
"Aye, I have kept watch on her once before on Citizen Chauvelin's orders to detain her. I would know her anywhere. Let her deny it if she can!"
There seemed little point in contesting the matter. Marguerite knew she had little in the way of identification to prove herself otherwise, and besides, an alternative plan was beginning to form in her mind.
"She could be useful." The officer decided, "You two keep her under guard in that inn yonder until we hear what Citizen Chauvelin would like to do about her."
Galveston and Glynde saluted the officer and led Marguerite in the direction of the inn as the rest of the soldiers, league members, and the officer made their way off into the darkness.
"Let us take you back to the Daydream," Glynde offered.
"No," Marguerite said quietly. "I believe this will work well. If Chauvelin believes I am in his power, when quite the opposite is true it could lead to the gaining of useful information. Take me to the inn, pretend to guard me, and let Chauvelin through if he desires an audience. If the situation takes a turn for the worse we shall abandon this plan and make our escape as best we can."
Glynde and Galveston exchanged looks of resignation. It seemed protesting had made little effect on Marguerite before, and was equally as unlikely to be effective now. Reluctantly, therefore, they followed through with the ruse and saw Lady Blakeney situated comfortably in a warm room