Lark glanced sideways at Duncan MacLeod, the handsome Scottman's that
was a good friend of the Wingfield's. An expert woodsman, MacLeod was
frequently Sir George Wingfield's hunting companion. But not today.
"I think I have a suggestion," MacLeod spoke in his thick Scottish accent. "Lark and I can go inside and distract the guards, while you stay out here and take the family to the big guy."
Lark couldn't help but stifle a laugh. Duncan had been referring to Percival Blakeney as 'the big guy' ever since he joined the Violet Guild. It was obvious he held Sir Percy in high esteem, just like the others.
"Agreed," said Eliza, "but how are you planning to distract all those guards? There's well over ten guarding the door alone. Once you're actually inside, there will be even more to deal with."
Duncan grinned devilshly.
"Don't fret, Lady Eliza, I have thought up the perfect illusion." He ducked into the shadows. Lark exchanged one final glance with Eliza and followed him down the block. "Mr. MacLeod, before anything is done, can you please explain to me what your plan is?"
"No need for formalities," said Duncan, turning his head to flash her his 100 watt smile. "Just Duncan will do."
"Well then......Duncan, what does this plan call for? Nothing too ridiculous I hope. It was bad enough the last time I was here. If any of your plan calls for crying and babbling on about fru fru, count me out."
"No need to worry about a thing yet, my dear. All you need to do is stay hidden."
She followed him across the street. Together they walked in the dark besides the prison. Ahead they could see a flickering lantern and the low rumble of men's voices.
"Stay here." Duncan instructed her suddenly. "I'll be right back."
Lark didn't hesitate, she simply stayed against the building, drawing her cloak more tightly around her shoulders. The early morning hours always seemed so much colder in France. Duncan ran out from his hiding spot, jumping around frantically.
"I've caught the Scarlet Pimpernel!" he shrieked in French, waving his arms in the air. "I caught him, I say!"
The guards seemed unamused.
"Idiot," muttered one. Lark worried that Duncan wouldn't be able to trick them, but the Scotsman seemed to have no intention of giving up.
"Tis a miracle!" Duncan yelped. His French was flawless, Sir Wingfield often joked that Mr. MacLeod spoke the language better than the French themselves.
"You must help me! I trapped him in my stable, but I'm afraid he might escape. He's tricky sort of fellow, this Pimpernel."
The guards snickered.
"What's he look like then?"
"He's tall," began Duncan, "and ugly. It's hard to say exactly. After all, it IS dark." "Is your stable far from here?"
"No, not at all! It's around the corner! Please hurry, citizens! He may make a hole in my stable and all my horses will escape!"
"Alright," the head guard agreed. "Take us to your stable, citizen. You there," he added, pointing at a solider. "Stay behind and keep a close watch."
"Yes, sir!" the chosen one barked.
"Hurry, hurry!" Duncan encouraged, starting backwards down the street. In a neat formation, the soldiers followed the hysterical Scotsman down the street and around the corner. Lark was only slightly relieved. What to do about the one remaining guard.....?? Her mind raced, but only a million useless ideas swarmed in her head.
Then, just before she was about to give up and go back to Lady Eliza for help, she realized exactly what she had to do.
Duncan led the foolish soldiers over to a stable two blocks from the prison. It was an abandoned building, and it would do perfectly.
"Is this it?" barked the head soldier.
"Yes," whispered Duncan, cowering in fear, "go on ahead."
"This is it for you, Pimpernel!" called the lead guard with a sinister laugh. He threw open the door to the stable and marched inside, the others right behind him. Duncan moved closer to the door.
"Have you got him yet?"
"I don't see a thing!" one of the men exclaimed. "There's not even a horse, let alone the Pimpernel!"
Before any of the men could think about escaping, Duncan shut the door and locked it.
With a satisfied smile, he hurried up the block to rejoin his comrade.
"Oh help me! I feel faint!"
Lark stumbled in front of the jail, a hand to her forehead.
The guard seemed concerned.
"Do you require a doctor, Miss?"
She leaned dangerously towards him, and fell into his waiting arms. The keys to the prison jingled from his belt, and were now within easy reach.
"Oh, no, thank you, sir," she said, trying to keep her French informal.
"I shall be quite alright. It's all the excitement, you see," she babbled, slipping the keys from his belt and into her own pocket. "I believe I just laid eyes upon the infamous Scarlet Pimpernel!"
The soldier was taken back.
"The Pimpernel? Where?"
"Down there," she said, pointing in the direction Duncan had run off in.
"It was just awful. He was single handedly cutting down ten French soldiers!"
The soldier's face paled. In a second he had helped Lark stand up once again.
"The Pimpernel destroying the French, you say? How many blocks?"
"At least ten," she assured him, "perhaps more."
Forgetting all about his watch and everything else, the soldier headed down towards the endangered French. Just as he had disappeared among the shadows, Duncan came jogging up, a triumphant grin doing his handsome face.
"How did you rid of the last one?" he inquired as she fumbled for the keys.
"I took him for the idiot I knew he was," she explained, unlocking the main entrance. Duncan opened the door a crack, quickly peeked inside and closed the door again.
"Three guards," he reported. One in the middle of the room, the other two at the far end."
"Well, what do you propose we do?"
He grinned devilishly.
"I have yet another plan."
Lark was not pleased with Mr. MacLeod's idea, but it was a cunning plan,
and she had no other choice but to follow it.
'This had better work', she thought as she waited for Duncan to be ready.
"Ready?" he mouthed to her. She swallowed nervously and nodded. MacLeod slapped himself across the face as hard as he could, leaving his own hand print.
Lark screamed bloody murder and cried out, "Unhand me, you filthy pig!" In French, of course.
Duncan yelled back in the same romantic language, "Nonsense, you useless wench! You've run away for the last time!"
"What's going on out- mmmffph!" the soldier that had come to see about the commotion was silenced before he could finish his sentence. The strong Scotsman had him in a headlock, and a minute later, the man fell unconcious.
"Hurry up," Lark encouraged as Duncan dragged the Frenchman around the corner into an ally way. "We're running out of time."
MacLeod emerged a few minutes later, dressed in the French soldiers uniform. Lark broke into muffled laughter. The costume was much too short on him.
"Shut up," muttered Duncan. He held out his hand to her. "The keys."
She handed them over and watched him disappear into the jail from behind the partially open door.
"Who are you?" asked a raspy French voice.
"Relief" snapped Duncan, "your shift's over." The other soldier checked the time. "We still have two more hours."
"Well, Citizen Chauvelin told me to relieve you now."
The soldiers were hesitant.
"What happened to your uniform?"
"They didn't have my size," explained MacLeod, "now go on home."
"You're going to take over our shift by yourself?" asked one.
"Where's Pierre?" asked the other.
Duncan was obviously getting irritated. Their time was running out. "Pierre ran after some citizen who was disturbing the peace. When he returns, he will help me with the shift."
The soldiers were satisfied with this explanation, said goodnight to Duncan, and left.
When they were out of sight. Lark went inside to join Duncan who was unlocking the cell holding the Marquis and his boys. The Scotsman was also trying frantically to explain the situation to them. When everything was clear, the five took the back door out and headed into the ally Lady Hastings was waiting in. As Lark approached, her own smile faded when she saw the solemn expression on the woman's face....