"Parbleu," Sylvia frowed. "Where am I to go?"
"Paris, Mam'zelle Justinian."
The singer flinched almost imperceptibly.
"Where is Mam'zelle Carfax?" Lady Hastings asked gently. "You usually bring your interpreter."
"She is not well, Madame, and this time--" She paused, searching for the right words in English. "I wish to be alone."
Lady Hastings leaned back slightly in her seat. "Since you are so skilled as an actress, during this mission you will need to put those skills to use more than anything else."
"Now, we have the list of executions for Friday--since there is another plague scare, there will only be one tumbril-ful of prisoners taken to the guillotine in the Place de la Greve; and our success will hinge entirely on you...
Sylvia Justinian stared at her reflection in the tiny hand-mirror Lady Hastings had given her.
Her feminine charms had been wiped away by makeup, her auburn hair pressed flat against her head underneath a sandy-blonde wig. A tight corset had changed her build from a curvaceous one to something more angular; padding and a heavy cape made her a broad-shouldered creature. Although her buckled shoes had a large heel, she was informed she would be riding horseback, so her height didn't matter overmuch. Her clothes--a simple but fashionable jacket and vest, cravat, and knee breeches-
She had become Sir Percival Blakeney.
"With that makeup and the wig, the resemblance is uncanny," Lady Hastings observed.
"Uncanny?" Sylvia frowned.
"It's--oh--never mind. But you look very like him, Sylvia."
She smiled, and the smile was disconcertingly like Sir Percy's. Lady Hastings felt her blood chill slightly, but conquered the feeling and strode over to the small table where the map of Paris sat.
"Now, the League needs to take the prisoners from here--" she indicated the Temple prison-- "to here--" indicating the League's rendezvous point. "But there are guards positioned at the halfway point."
She pointed out a particular street close to the East Gate.
"You will need to ride ahead of the group and distract the guards; hopefully, enough of them will pursue you that the remainder is easy for the Pimpernel to deal with."
"Je comprends." (I understand.)
Lady Hastings handed Sylvia her hat. "Good luck, my friend."
* * * * *
Sergeant Bibot looked around, every sense alert.
Chauvelin had said three o'clock. The tall Englishman ought to be here by now...
Wait a moment. Yes, there he was--tall and straight on his horse, clattering down the street with impunity.
Bibot gestured to his men.
And the Englishman broke into a gallop.
"After him!" cried the sergeant.
The mounted escort spurred their horses on; those on foot, excited by the prospect of catching the Scarlet Pimpernel, ran as fast as they could go. Bibot himself refused to lose sight of that tall, straight figure, pelting across the cobbled road after the aristo.
Sylvia rounded a corner and practically fell off her horse, landing on her knees with a loud WHUMP that knocked the wind out of her. Wrapping herself tightly in her cloak, she curled against a wall, gasping and choking for air.
Get out of Paris alive...
Percy Blakeney didn't notice the figure until his foot caught on it and sent him sprawling.
He landed hard, but quickly picked himself up, affecting an air of foppish indifference.
"Pardon," mumbled a French voice.
"Now see here," Percy retorted, "I'd hope that--"
And then he took a closer look.
"See here," he whispered, "who are you--and what are you doing with--with my face?"
Sir Percy's head spun as he stared into the even blue eyes of this... this other.
No... yes... no... it looked so like him, and yet something was different. Something he couldn't define.
"Sir Percy, I advise retreat," the alter said. In fautless English, and in his voice, no less!
"Who are you?" he repeated.
"Someone who knows you and would die to protect you."
He realised the voice sounded feminine.
She continued: "The gendarmes are after you. After us. We must hurry."
Note that we, Percy thought, and nodded.
"Do you have a place to go?"
"No, but I can certainly give them hell for leather trying to find one."
He had to laugh.
"Come with me...mademoiselle, I assume? It would be rather awkward for me to call you M1sieur Blakeney, although that is what you appear fixed on appearing as."
She smiled faintly. "Sir Percy, I would fain reveal my identity to you, but I have a duty to carry out today... namely, saving your skin and that of your rescue team. If you can
offer me assistance along with, as you put it, 'A place to go'...
He helped her up.
"Both at your disposal, Mademoiselle Moi."
This time, it was she who laughed. "Sir, to paraphrase an old proverb, if it has an English accent and the bearing of an Englishwoman..."
"Very well. Miss Me, then."
He decided that the boarding-house in the nearby alley would serve well as a temporary shelter, and turned their way accordingly.
"If the gendarmes are pursuing you, miss...or me...I am not even going to TRY to get to the root of the matter at the moment... then I too advise retreat. This way."
There was a moment of silence as they walked. Then: "Sir Percy..."
She shook her head, blond ponytail bobbing.
"It"s nothing. The temptation to reveal myself is too delicious."
He smiled, just a little. "I would pray you give into that temptation... but I suppose if you intended to you would have done so."
By now they had reached the door of the house. He unlocked it and ushered her in.
"Are we to remain here, then?" she asked, looking around.
"At least until the gendarmes have passed."
"And until we can get to the East Gate."
Oh, so she'd been planning this?
"I can get us both to safety from there."
"I can take care of myself, mlle," he retorted.
She smiled, a secret smile. "You have much still to learn about those who would help you."
"So I am gathering."
There was a short silence. Then he decided to dare:
"Perhaps you would like to take off that exceptional disguise? It does not make for safety, as you have no doubt had cause to discover..."
"I would like to... but I do not know that I trust myself."
"You know the face that hides beneath the makeup..."
This was news.
"Twould make for an awkward moment, and a breach in the safety of the several... organizations... I associate with. Usually I wear a mask."
He sat on the filthy floor and looked up into her blue eyes, so like his own.
"I see. How much would you endanger your friends if you could remove that mask for me, Mademosielle?"
She crouched beside him. "That depends upon you, Sir Percy."
He looked at her, waiting.
"I need your word that you will question little and talk even less."
For a long moment he hesitated, measuring her, then nodded.
"You have it."
First her hat came off, then the wig, and then long dark-auburn hair came rippling down. The makeup soon disappeared into a handkerchief, and indeed, he knew that face
His eyes widened.
"Hello, Percy. Your eyes do not decieve you..."
My dearest Marguerite,
Ton mari reviendra!* My darling, once again, I have come back safe to Calais. This time a whole
tumbril-full of men and women shall travel to England with me, and then I promise you two whole weeks
snugly concealed in our Dover cottage together.
Before I forget--you remember when I told you that you had a double, back in Paris? I have met the
girl--this time she had the impudence to impersonate yours truly; the demmed cheek!--and, if she consents,
I shall be bringing her to Richmond shortly so that you two can meet. (Although, I must confess, I will
be sorely tempted to get her up like you again, so that I may see your lovely face more often--just as I
do in my dreams.)
Remember I love you, my sweet, more than I can ever express, and I can hardly wait until I step off
the Day Dream and into your tender arms. As Shakespeare wrote so long ago, "My love is as boundless as the
sea: The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite."
Until I have the chance to give my love to you in person,
Believe it to be most constant, clear, and true in your
P.S. Armand sends his fondest regards, and wishes to inform you that the Parisian stage feels your absence
keenly. (Though not so much as I do!)
*Your husband will return!
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