In the midst of them all stood the tall, athletic figure of the bold adventurer who had planned this impudent coup.
“La! we’ve got so far, friends, haven’t we?” he said cheerily, “and now for the immediate future. We must all be out of Paris to-night, or the guillotine for the lot of us to-morrow.”
He spoke gaily, and with that pleasant drawl of his which was so well known in the fashionable assemblies of London; but there was a ring of earnestness in his voice, and his lieutenants looked up at him, ready to obey him in all things, but aware that danger was looming threateningly ahead.
Lord Anthony Dewhurst, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, and Lord Hastings, dressed as soldiers of the National Guard, had played their part to perfection. Lord Hastings had presented the order to Santerre, and the three young bucks, at the word of command from their chief, had fallen upon and overpowered the two men whom the commandant of Paris had despatched to look after the prisoners.
So far all was well. But how to get out of Paris? Everyone looked to the Scarlet Pimpernel for guidance.
Sir Percy now turned to Juliette, and with the consummate grace which the elaborate etiquette of the times demanded, he made her a courtly bow.
“Mademoiselle de Marny,” he said, “allow me to conduct you to a room, which though unworthy of your presence will, nevertheless, enable you to rest quietly for a few minutes, whilst I give my friend Deroulede further advice and instructions. In the room you will find a disguise, which I pray you to don with all haste. La! they are filthy rags, I own, but your life and—and ours depend upon your help.”
Gallantly he kissed the tips of her fingers, and opened the door of an adjoining room to enable her to pass through; then he stood aside, so that her final look, as she went, might be for Deroulede.
As soon as the door had closed upon her he once more turned to the men.
“Those uniforms will not do now,” he said peremptorily; “there are bundles of abominable clothes here, Tony. Will you all don them as quickly as you can? We must all look as filthy a band of sansculottes to-night as ever walked the streets of Paris.”
His lazy drawl had deserted him now. He was the man of action and of thought, the bold adventurer who held the lives of his friends in the hollow of his hand.
The four men hastily obeyed. Lord Anthony Dewhurst—one of the most elegant dandies of London society—had brought forth from a dank cupboard a bundle of clothes, mere rags, filthy but useful.
Within ten minutes the change was accomplished, and four dirty, slouchy figures stood confronting their chief.
“That’s capital!” said Sir Percy merrily.
“Now for Mademoiselle de Marny.”
Hardly had he spoken when the door of the adjoining room was pushed open, and a horrible apparition stood before the men. A woman in filthy bodice and skirt, with face covered in grime, her yellow hair, matted and greasy, thrust under a dirty and crumpled cap.