He no longer said: “She does not love me—would she have betrayed me else?” He felt the clinging, trustful touch of her hand, and knew that, with all her faults, her great sin and her lasting sorrow, her woman’s heart, Heaven’s most priceless treasure, was indeed truly his.
And she knew that he had forgiven—nay, that he had naught to forgive —for Love is sweet and tender, and judges not. Love is Love—whole, trustful, passionate. Love is perfect understanding and perfect peace.
And so they followed their escort whithersoever it chose to lead them.
Their eyes wandered aimlessly over the mist-laden landscape of this portion of deserted Paris. They had turned away from the river now, and were following the Rue des Arts. Close by on the right was the dismal little hostelry, “La Cruche Cassee,” where Sir Percy Blakeney lived. Deroulede, as they neared the place, caught himself vaguely wondering what had become of his English friend.
But it would take more than the ingenuity of the Scarlet Pimpernel to get two noted prisoners out of Paris to-day. Even if...
The word of command rang out clearly and distinctly through the rain-soaked atmosphere.
Deroulede threw up his head and listened. Something strange and unaccountable in that same word of command had struck his sensitive ear.
Yet the party had halted, and there was a click as of bayonets or muskets levelled ready to fire.
All had happened in less than a few seconds. The next moment there was a loud cry:
“A moi, Deroulede! ’tis the Scarlet Pimpernel!”
A vigorous blow from an unseen hand had knocked down and extinguished the nearest street lantern.
Deroulede felt that he and Juliette were being hastily dragged under an adjoining doorway even as the cheery voice echoed along the narrow street.
Half-a-dozen men were struggling below in the mud, and there was a plentiful supply of honest English oaths. It looked as if the men of the National Guard had fallen upon one another, and had it not been for those same English oaths perhaps Deroulede and Juliette would have been slower to understand.
“Well done, Tony! Gadzooks, Ffoulkes, that was a smart bit of work!”
The lazy, pleasant voice was unmistakable, but, God in heaven! where did it come from?
Of one thing there could be no doubt. The two men despatched by Santerne were lying disabled on the ground, whilst three other soldiers were busy pinioning them with ropes.
What did it all mean?
“La, friend Deroulede! you had not thought, I trust, that I would leave Mademoiselle Juliette in such a demmed, uncomfortable hole?”
And there, close beside Deroulede and Juliette, stood the tall figure of the Jacobin orator, the bloodthirsty Citizen Lenoir. The two young people gazed and gazed, then looked again, dumfounded, hardly daring to trust their vision, for through the grime-covered mask of the gigantic coal-heaver a pair of merry blue eyes was regarding them with lazy-amusement.