Lady Robin Shaddows walked slowly out of Lady Hastings’ box. She felt rather overwhelmed with the mission. Lady Hastings had told her that she alone would be responsible for protecting the Scarlet Pimpernel from discovery. A certain lord distantly related to her father had managed to gain a very incriminating document which detailed the next mission of the Pimpernel. If that information landed in certain hands the Pimpernel would be known, and exposed to the French. That would not only place him in danger, but also those working for him and the innocents he so valiantly tried to save.
Lady Robin reached her own box, and smiled distractedly at its occupants.
“Oh, dearest, there you are!” Lady Emma Willoby called happily.
Robin went and sat back down in her seat.
“I was beginning to fear you had deserted us.”
“I am sorry I disappeared on you, but I just felt the need to get some air.”
Lying to her best friend did not come easily to Robin, so she played with her fingers in her lap.
“I understand. Lord Blacksmore’s prattling would make anyone seek some air.”
Emma uttered about the tall gentleman who had entered their box shortly before Robin had left. Emma watched Robin carefully. Having known Robin all her life, Emma was aware when she was trying to hide something. She would try to get it out of Robin, if it seemed that Robin was in over her head.
“Did you meet anyone you know while in the hall?”
Naturally Emma knew that Robin should not have gone unescorted in the hall, but Emma was never one to go by the proprieties, especially now that she had married and had more freedom herself. Besides she knew that Robin was capable of handling herself in most unpleasant situations. Actually, after having seen Robin in action she rather pitied the poor foolish male who tried to take advantage of her. Despite her petite stature Robin had the heart of a lioness when necessary.
“No, I met no one in the hall.”
Robin could manage that lie, since it was the truth; she had met Lady Hastings in her box, not the hall. Heaven help her if Emma decided to continue questioning her though. Fortunately for Robin, intermission was over and the lights were being dimmed, signaling that the opera was about to continue.
During the opera, Robin found her eyes continuously drifting to where Sir Reginald Hogarth was sitting. She watched the middle aged, corpulent man as he lasvisciously eyed the singer.
How on earth am I going to pull this off?
she thought to herself. Not only did she have to get the document back, but discredit him so that Chauvelin’s emissaries won’t believe him in the future.
The first step was to figure out what his plans for that night were. She waited impatiently for the concert to end. Finally, the time came for her party to leave, she distractedly listened to the conversations taking place around her, but her main focus was to get close to Hogarth. She could vaguely make out his rotund form as he moved through the crowds. She picked up her pace a bit more, allowing the crowd to swallow her, and separate herself from her group. She breathed a sigh of relief when she managed to catch up to him, and was close enough to hear him call for a hackney, and tell the driver to take him to a notorious gaming hall. She watched as he managed to pull himself into the carriage. She could tell that he had already imbibed in some wine, and thanked her fortune that Reginald was greatly influenced by vice.
As she waited for her party to catch up with her she began to formulate a plan. She needed to find away into Reginald’s hotel room. Fortunately Lady Hastings had managed to discover which hotel he was staying at. That would save her a lot of time, for as it was she was planning to have a busy night, if she were to succeed in locating the document, and she absolutely must find when and where the rendezvous between Reginald and Chauvelin’s minions would take place.
"Oh Robin, we thought we had lost you,” Lady Emma said upon seeing her.
“Not really, I happened to get a bit lost in that crowd though. If I were a couple of inches taller I do believe you would have seen me, but, alas, as small as I am I get lost easy.”
She smiled.
“Well, the important thing is that we are all together again.” Lady Emma replied, more curious than ever to know what Robin was up to.
Lady Robin and Lady Emma climbed into Emma’s carriage. Robin noticed that ever so often Emma would look at her with a puzzled look on her fair face. She knew Emma suspected something, but she wasn’t sure about how to distract her. How was she to manage an excuse without raising even more suspicions? Oh bother, there was nothing for it but to go with the time honoured excuse.
“How odd. You never get headaches,” Emma smiled. “I remember you giving your family them often though. Is there anything you want to share with me?”
Robin had lied her way out of many a scrape she had got herself into while in Scotland, but with Emma it was very hard to do. As much as she wanted to confide in her best friend, she just couldn’t risk it. Too many people were counting on her.
“ It is rather odd, I agree. I much prefer being the instigator to such maladies than the recipient. I truly can’t think of anything to tell you, however, if there is something you would like to share, I would be more than happy to sit up a while longer...”
“No, dear, I just thought that perhaps there was something you did want to talk about, but since I am wrong, why don’t you go along to bed?”
Robin nodded and headed to the stairs. She walked slowly up the big stair case until she saw Emma leave the room. Then she ran up the rest of the stairs like a complete hoyden.
In her room she turned down the sheets and stuffed her pillow under the sheets so that someone would think she was asleep. She had already dismissed her maid, telling the good soul that she would get changed herself tonight.
Lady Hastings had told her that the hotel Hogarth was staying at was in town. Lady Hastings had given her the directions to the hotel as well as the room number. She needed a way to get to his room to search his belongings. She quietly opened her door, and peeked out. All was quiet. She was hoping that the servants had all retired, as she snuck down the back stairs. Her luck continued to hold as she slipped out the back door undetected.
She ran a couple blocks away and then hailed a hackney. She had the driver let her out a block before the hotel. She paid him and waited for him to drive away, and then assessed her situation. She had to discover a way to get into the hotel undetected. She figured the best way was to pose as a servant.
She saw a street urchin about 12 years old, and called to him. She told himthat she needed to borrow a maid’s uniform, and asked him if he thought he could find one. After giving the boy a coin and promising him more when he returned with the uniform, she waited for him to come back.
He returned back to her rather quickly and told her that no one even spotted him. She smiled and gave him the coin and watched him run off. She walked towards the rear of the hotel where the stable was kept. Fortunately it was quiet,and she was able to find an empty stall where she could get changed. She did so quickly not wanting to be caught in that embarrassing predicament, and headed towards the hotel. She entered the rear entrance and quietly walked into the kitchen.
There were a lot of servants milling around in the kitchen so no one really noticed her. She made it to the front room and heard the sounds of a rather nasty brawl taking place in the tap room. The man who had been assigned to watch the desk was walking quickly to the room either to help break it up, or watch. She wasn’t sure which since he was smiling. Sighing with relief Robin looked for the keys. Finding the one to Hogarth’s room she quickly pulled it off the ring, and slipped it into her apron pocket.
She ran quickly up the front stairs and walked quickly down the hallway making sure she kept her head down so that if anyone came into the hall they would hopefully not recognize her. She looked around one last time when she reached his room, and then slipped into the room. She searched the room making sure that she kept everything where she found it. She couldn’t have him suspect someone was on to him before she completed her mission. She saw that there was a costume hanging on the chair in the corner. It was a navy blue domino, with a white sword embroidered on the back. There was an ornate crown and a mask. She was puzzled as to what Hogarth had planned.
Lady Hastings had told her that he had no real friends in town, only acquaintances that shared his lust for gaming and wenching. She knew he wasn’t accepted by the ton, so she wondered where he was going. Robin continued to search the room until she found a chest under the bed. She tried to open it but it was locked. Pulling a pin from out of her hair she wiggled it in the lock until she heard a decisive click. Smiling at her achievement she opened the box. Inside there were stacks of gaming debts, bills, and notes from money lenders.
Well, now she knew what motivated Reginald to betray the Pimpernel. She found the letter from the Scarlet Pimpernel detailing his next mission. Also there was the note from the French emissaries informing him that they would meet the next night at the greenhouse during the Everleigh’s masked ball, at 1 am. It mention that he was to be on time for they didn’t have the time to wait for him for they had to return to France immediately. Apparently the French men were suspicious of the validity of Hogarth’s claim, and possibly suspected a trap. That was perfect for her plan. All she had to do was make sure that he didn’t make it to the meeting.
Chauvelin’s minions would suspect that either Hogarth was trapping them or a fraud. Either way she would win, and the Scarlet Pimpernel would be safe. She left the note in the chest, so that Hogarth did not become suspicious.
She scanned the room briefly making sure that everything was as Hogarth left it, and then slipped out of the room. She quickly ran down the back stairs and slipped out the same door she had used to get in.
No one stopped her as she made her way back to the stable and changed back into her own clothes. She kept the uniform since she thought she might need it again on some future assignment, and walked briskly down a couple blocks in the mist before hailing another hackney to take her home. She sneaked back into the house and to her room before collapsing on her bed.
The next day Robin awoke early; during the night she had determined her course of action. Time was of the essence, and so she had to make each moment count. She was able to slip out of the house before Emma or anyone else noticed her departure. She tied the satchel she had brought to her saddle, and mounted her horse. She rode until she reached an inn that was far enough outside of town for it to be too likely she would encounter anyone that may recognize her. She smiled for the inn truly was perfect.
"The Boar’s Head Inn” she murmured, “well, Sir Reginald certainly did resemble a boar.”
Then she grimaced as she thought about what she had to do for this mission. This was truly the most distasteful assignment she had. She grabbed onto her resolve, and walked determinedly into the Inn. The proprietor, a tall thin elderly man with a warm smile, introduced himself. She liked him immediately.
“Hello Mr. Meldon,” she greeted him warmly.
She knew that she was breaking countless rules of society during this mission but she cared not. The Guild needed her, and that is what she must focus on.
“I am Mrs. Hildreth, and I would like to procure a room for tonight.”
She put down half the money for a quiet room for her and her husband. She confided to him that she was newly married. Fingering her ring, and looking downcast she told Mr. Meldon that she was trying to entice her husband away from the town so that they could spend more time together.
She informed him that she was going to try persuade him to come away with her after a masked ball they were to attend that night. She tried to look young and lost so that the she would gain the sympathies of the proprietor. She even managed to make her eyes water, although she was disgusted at herself for that but she figured it would be the least of the things that she would be disgusted with in this mission.
“Would it be possible for me to see the room that we will have? I would like to leave my satchel there if it would be fine with you?”
“Certainly,” Mr. Meldon promptly agreed, offering to show her the room himself.
She inspected the room, and then went into the changing room and placed her satchel in a spot where she hoped no one would notice. She came back into the bedroom, and asked if she could leave her horse there, for she felt very tired and would like to perhaps hire one of his coachmen to take her back.
As she was departing she shook his hand and thanked him, “ You truly have been most kind.”
“It is my honor, Mrs. Hildreth. Might I be so bold as to hope that everything turns out the way you wish it?”
“Thank you sir. I shall be indebted to you.”
She then climbed into the hackney, and leaned back against the cushions. She dozed briefly, and was woken abruptly when the carriage pulled to a stop in front of Lady Emma’s home.
Upon her arrival she was greeted by Lady Emma herself,
“Where on earth have you been?”
“I am sorry, I had a few errands to run this morning. It was most urgent.”
“Dearest, I know that there is something havey cavey going on. I just want you to know that I do respect your right to go forth on your own, but I don’t want you to forget that I will help you in anything. No questions asked. I promise. So, please promise you won’t get in too deep with out reaching for me.”
Robin, very touched by Emma’s gesture, hugged her tightly, and whispered, “I promise, and I assure you that what I do is for a common good.”
“I believe you. I just had to say it, so maybe I can rest easier.”
Emma smiled.
“I promise if everything goes as I plan, then by tomorrow things will hopefully be back to normal.”
Robin stepped back, “Now “I’m famished! May I be so bold as to hope that you have not yet partaken of your tea?”
Emma smiled, “I was just about to ring for it myself, having given up on waiting for you."
Robin was thankful that she and Emma were able to have a lively conversation which kept Robin from dwelling on the next part of the mission. Her light- hearted air also helped to allay Emma’s concerns.
“Now, I need to go upstairs and get some rest. I didn’t get much sleep last night that blasted headache-” One Sir Reginald Hogarth to be precise, she thought disdainfully, “kept me up.”
“You do seem a bit drawn, why don’t we stay home tonight?” Emma suggested.
“There is no need for you to miss out on the musicale. I know how much you enjoy those. I will probably just continue reading Much Ado About Nothing. I do so feel an affinity to the character of Beatrice.”
“If you are sure?” Emma asked tentatively.
“Certainly I will probably even go to bed early, so you needn’t bother looking in on me.
She spent the rest of the time preparing for the night ahead. She pulled out her chest and took out a blonde wig. She placed it on the bed, then she went about trying to make a costume for herself. She pulled out a deep purple gown, and adjusted the bodice so that it was much lower, and shortened the sleeves.
She made a few more adjustments, then studied her watch. It was going on six. She looked again in the chest that contained things she would use for Guild missions, and found a mask. She put that on the bed.
Then she pulled out a small box that was full of vials. Some with liquids in them, and others with powders. She pulled out a vial that contained a powder that was marked “Sleeping Draft”.
Alongside the vials she kept one of her prized possessions, a poison ring. She took that out and placed it and the vial on her dresser. She measured out the appropriate amount of powder, and carefully sifted it into the ring’s hidden compartment.
She then took out her cape and slipped the vial into the pocket of her cape. She then called her maid to have a bath brought up. While waiting for her bath she nervously paced her room, going over what she was going to do and say.
She scented the bath water with some rose petals and allowed herself the luxury of spending a few moments enjoying the bath.
Finally she stepped out, and put on the dress. She was a bit uncomfortable with how much cleavage she had exposed, but it was a masquerade and her plan was to seduce the repulsive man. She put on her wig, and made sure that all of her red hair was completely hidden. She sprayed a rose scent in her hair. Studying her figure in the mirror it was all she could do not to blush. Although she knew such outfits were often worn, she still felt rather uncomfortable.
“This is a good cause,” she reminded herself before her insecurities would make her back out.
She had told her maid that she was retiring early that evening and not to disturb her. She grabbed her cape, and, placing her mask in her reticule, she slipped out of her room. She ran lightly down the stairs, and slipped into the study. She knew that there would still be servants in the kitchen at that hour. She opened the window, and slipped out. She pushed the window almost all the way close, leaving enough space for her to be able to sneak back in later. She hailed a hackney and told the driver to let her off a block before the Everleigh’s home.
She looked at her watch, and saw that it was almost eleven pm. She placed her mask on. She stepped out of the carriage and paid the driver, and then walked swiftly to the back of the Everleigh’s house. Hoping that no foot pads approach her, she kept her pace swift.
She approached the garden quietly, noticing that several amorous couples had already taken advantage of the dark night. She noticed the doors in to the ballroom were opened and she stepped in. She scanned the room as she walked to the cloak room. She wasn’t able to spot him. She hoped that he wouldn’t just come for the meeting. If so then she would be in trouble. She placed her cape down, and re-entered the ball. She looked around quickly and noticed that although the dance floor was well lit, there were numerous darkened corners to encourage flirtatious couples.
She finally noticed Sir Reginald. He was standing in the corner eyeing a beautiful dancer. He had a glass of wine that was mostly empty in his hand. Thanking her fortune that he had already started drinking, she approached a servant and acquired two glasses of wine. She stood in a darkened corner herself and slipped the powder from her ring into one of the glasses. She knew it would take a half an hour before Reginald would start feeling the effects. So during that time she would have to flirt outrageously with him. She swilled the drink with the powder in it and then walked over to him, swaying her hips seductively.
Sir Reginald noticed her, and so she smiled alluringly over to him. As she approached, she introduced herself.
“Hello, Sir Reginald, I hope you aren’t offended, but I was hoping you would share a drink or two with me. I am Mrs. Hildreth,” she said as she extended the glass to him.
He accepted, smiling at his good fortune that this beautiful creature was standing before him.
“Why, I couldn’t think of anything more enjoyable then getting to know such a beautiful woman better, and toasting the fate that brought us together.”
He smiled wolfishly.
Robin nearly choked, but controlled herself. She smiled
”Oh, la, Sir, with my mask on how could you tell I am beautiful, “ Robin said tapping him flirtatiously on his arm.
“Oh, I can tell,” he said, eyeing her cleavage, ”Trust me,” he said, taking a sip of his wine.
“Why, sir, that is so sweet of you. Goodness knows that my husband doesn’t seem to think so.”
“Husband? So you are married, Mrs. Hildreth.?” he asked nervously.
She could tell that he was not brave enough to face an irate husband over dueling pistols.
“Yes, although my husband likes to rusticate in the country. So I am free to enjoy my time in London,” she said huskily.
“Your husband doesn’t like London?” he persisted.
“Not at all, and he claims that the trip to town would jeopardize his health. I fear he is rather old,” she sighed.
“Oh, how lonely for you..” he replied, obviously not viewing Mr. Hildreth as a threat.
“Oh, it is. Especially during the nights,” she sighed, “For example, I had to come to this ball all by myself.”
Sir Reginald puffed himself up, “Well, my dear, you have met me, and I would like nothing better than to escort you to any function you would like.”
He took another big sip of his wine.
Robin watched him carefully, waiting. Still no effects other than he was getting a bit flushed. She suspected that came from having too much wine prior to her glass. She continued flirting with him, giving him many hints that she was opened to a liaision between them.
Finally she could tell he was getting rather groggy. He seemed as if he could barely keep his eyes open. She knew she couldn’t risk him passing out in the middle of the ball, so she said
“Well Reggie, I think you are just about the most considerate man I have met during my stay here.”
She took another sip from her glass, this time a large one. She needed to fortify herself for what she was about to do. She leaned closer to him, so that she could whisper in his ear,
“The lighting is truly horrid in here, and I would love to see my gallant knight much better. Would you be interested in going someplace a bit more.... private?”
She then kissed him on his cheek.
“No... I mean that is...” he paused when he studied her crestfallen features, and full pouting lips. ”I was supposed to do something tonight,” he finished, befuddled.
“Oh, what is that? Maybe when you are done....” she asked petulantly.
“Damned if I can remember. I think I was supposed to have met someone,” he said, clearly confused.
“Why, silly, perhaps you were supposed to meet me. It was fate, darling,” she whispered.
She felt the wine she had sipped begin to rise back up her throat. She took a few calming breaths, while she waited for his response.
“Well, perhaps it was," he said lustfully. “How about you show me what is beneath that....mask?” he said, meanwhile eyeing her body enthusiastically.
“Ah, well, you will be able to see that, and a lot more, if you come with me,” she said as she ran her fingers up and down his arm.
“Well, then lead on, my little vixen,” he said his words beginning to slur.
She smiled encouragingly at him believing that soon he would be asleep. They gathered their belongings from the cloak room, and when she noticed that he wasn’t too stable on his feet, she had a servant help him into the hackney.
She gave the directions to the driver, and then laughingly entered the carriage. She prayed that the drugs would take effect soon since they were in an enclosed carriage, and she was playing the part of a complete harlot. She knew that Reginald would not think she was beyond a bit more physical contact while in the carriage.
Fortunately, although he did not completely pass out, she was able to manage his advances by playing a tease, and promising him that when they got to their destination that he would have no regrets.
Finally they arrived at the Boar’s Head Inn. She pulled out her watch and noticed that it was about 12:30. She was feeling a bit muddle-headed from the wine.
She was hoping that she would not have to drink much more. She was also hoping that the drugs would completely take effect soon. While a servant was helping Reginald get out of the carriage, Robin proceeded inside.
“Hello, Mr. Meldon.”
“Good evening, Mrs. Hildreth. I am glad to see you again.”
“Thank you. I am afraid I may be a bit of a bother. I fear that my husband became a bit inebriated while at the party. I may need some help getting him up to our room,” she said in the voice of a much tried wife. “That shouldn’t be a problem,” he said, smiling sympathetically.
“Thank you. Here is the rest of the money I owe you. Plus a bit extra for the trouble. I have one more favor to ask of you, Mr. Meldon.”
“Anything, Mrs. Hildreth.”
“Well I know that my husband will not be content until he has another bottle of wine. The thing is, that I would ask that you only allow one bottle of wine be brought up.”
She didn’t want to risk having a servant interrupt when she was searching for the note. And she certainly wanted to limit the amount of alcohol she consumed this night. She definitely needed to have her wits about her.
Before he could answer, Reginald entered the inn. He was singing a bawdy song rather loudly, and eyeing Robin as though she were a favorite dish of his.
Mr. Meldon came out from behind the desk and whispered, “I will make sure there is only one bottle."
Then he went over to the servant, and had a few words with him. The next thing she knew was that the servant was helping Reginald to their room. Robin was puzzled, surely Hogarth should have been out by now. She knew she had given him the right amount of drugs. This was certainly a conundrum. Maybe because he was such a large man he needed more drugs. Well, she certainly wasn’t going to take any more chances. Once they got inside, Reginald ordered a bottle of wine to be sent up. The servant looked at her, and she nodded.
Fortunately, Reginald hadn’t noticed for he was taking off his mask and domino. He turned back around and said, ”Now, my little one, why don’t you show me that delectable body of yours.”
Inwardly she flinched, but was able to cover it by saying huskily, “We must wait for the wine.”
“Nonsense, we can start without the wine”,he pulled her into his arms and started kissing her neck, and throat.
Robin felt nauseous. She was repulsed by the feel of his hands on her body. She would definitely spend a long time getting over this night.
“Men are such pigs” she thought while trying to figure out her next step. Fortunately there was a tap on the door, and she jumped.
“So anxious, my pretty? Never fear, soon we won’t be interrupted.”
He took a step away as he bid for the servant to enter.
“Why don’t you get ready that bed ready for us while I pour ourselves some wine?”
She went to the wine and pulled out the vial. Knowing her situation was dire, she doubled the amount of powder she put in his glass. Hoping that this would work, and that she didn’t kill him, she handed him the glass.
raised her glass to his, and toasted, “To a wonderful night!” She drank half the glass, and was pleased when she saw he drank even more than her.
“I simply can’t wait,” she said sipping from her glass.
She saw that he finished his, and silently screamed, “When will it take effect!”
She thought he was beginning to look very confused.
She suggested huskily, ”Why don’t you go ahead and get ready for me? I’ll just be a moment getting out of this dress."
She leaned closer to him, and whispered, “Why don’t you close your eyes and wait for me?”
She hoped that that would help him fall asleep quicker. She swayed on out of the room, definitely feeling the effects of the alcohol. She knew she had drunk it too quickly. She waited anxiously by the door, listening. Finally she heard the sound of the bed creaking as his massive weight landed on top of it. Then a few moments later she heard snoring.
She quietly opened the door, and peeked into the room. Sir Reginald was sound asleep lying naked on the bed, but thank goodness half covered. She shuddered and groaned.
“How disgusting”, she thought, “Why is it that no matter how ghastly a male looks he still persists in believing any woman would swoon to have him?!”
She went to his clothes and sorted through them until she found the Scarlet Pimpernel’s note. She put it in her reticule, and took the bottle of wine. She sprinkled a few drops on him so that he would believe he had been in a drunken stupor which in a way he was. She poured the rest of the bottle out the window, and placed it on the floor beside him.
Then she wrinkled the sheets next to him, hoping to lead him to believe he had a wonderful night. She took off her garter and placed it in the middle of the floor. The other one she put under the sheets. She then went back and changed out of the gown. She took her bag, and other belongings and left the room after studying it to make sure everything was in order. She looked at her watch; it was two am. There was no way for Reginald to make the meeting that night.
Since several people saw him willingly leave with her, she doubted that Chauvelin’s minions would trust Hogarth again. She had succeeded she had gotten the document and had managed to discredit Sir Reginald. She slipped out of the room, and ran lightly down the back stairs. She quickly mounted her horse, and rode off into the night, smiling at her success at her first mission without the help of other Guilders.    

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