When Terror Comes Full Circle
Chapter 3: Aiding the Enemy
She would have fallen asleep like this, had she possessed the strength; but all energy had left her at this point. She felt as if she were a mere robot, a shell of what had once been Lucille Ffoulkes-Chauvelin, acting out a tragedy that had been written out for her long ago.
When presently her eyes grew dry--there are only so many tears that can be shed at one time--she remembered how very little time there was; composing herself, she made up her mind what had to be done. There was no doubt in her mind what she was going to do now; the question was if she were to do it alone, or not.
She unfolded the sash reverently, and wrapped it about her own waist, tying it in a knot on the side; were anyone to see her, the sash might allay some suspicion. At any rate she knew she could not part with it. She took one of his long coats from the wardrobe and enveloped herself in it to hide her light-colored clothing from prying eyes, and felt in her kerchief for the little note Andrew had left with her.
You know where we will be . . . he had written. She patted it for courage gently.
My dear brother and my trusted friend, I need both your help now . . . I pray to God that you will give it!
As silent as a cat in pursuit of a night's meal, she crept out into the streets of Nimes and bent her steps toward the temporary--always temporary--lodgings of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Two silent men occupied the tiny room at this moment; no more than that. The squalid apartment had seen as many as seven occupants at once in the past few days, sleeping where they could, speaking in breathless whispers to one another. Now, the silence of the two men seemed nearly deafening in comparison.
One of the men paced the room nervously, unconsciously avoiding the boards he knew would creak. The expression on his face, just barely visible by moonlight, spoke of acute anxiety and conflicting thoughts in a tortured brain. He was her brother.
The other man, of course, was her trusted friend. He sat in some semblance of a chair, still as night, watching his friend and lieutenant pace like a man awaiting important news, fidget like a man awaiting a verdict.
"What keeps her . . ." Sir Andrew Ffoulkes whispered at long intervals to his leader, worried. Sir Percy Blakeney made no reply; he knew exactly what kept her. Who kept her. And he knew that she would only come to them when he was taken away.
But it would have done no good to tell Andrew this.
The night was well advanced when the finally heard the firm knock on the door. Percy rose quietly and crossed the room to answer the knock.
"Qui va la?"
"La soeur de l'étoile."
Lucy knew all about the Pimpernel's passwords, his way of knowing whether it was one of his own men at the door, or a spy. Not long after the League had been formed, such a secret code was created out of necessity. Percy was "l'amorce rouge," Tony was "l'épée," Hastings was "la cannette," and so forth; every member of the League had his own appellation. Andrew was known as "l'étoile."
So she had needed to say no more than a simple declaration of being "the star's sister" to let both Percy and Andrew know that she was no spy. Percy let her in sombrely.
Her cheeks were streaked with tear stains, her eyes red, raw, and blank. She waited until the door had been shut securely behind her to look up at Percy mutely; she saw there exactly what she expected.
"You know why I have come."
He nodded. "I know you would not have come for any other reason."
Andrew, in all his brotherly concern for her, was a little confused by their enigmatic talk. "Yes, of course," he said quickly; "you have come so we can get you out of France . . ."
She shook her head sadly, brushing his cheek. "No. I will not--I cannot leave."
"Don't be foolish. Of course you can . . . what prevents you, now that you are with us . . ."
Without a word, she took off the long black coat--his coat, he hadn't even noticed it until now--and he saw the sash around her waist. That simple clue was enough for him to guess the truth.
He had never held Chauvelin in any sort of high regard other than the sort of respect one has for a mortal enemy; he had never understood how his own sister could find something to love in the man. But he didn't have to understand just now; he knew that she did. In unbridled compassion, he took her hand comfortingly, pulling her into his protective embrace.
More than anything, he wanted what he could not have; the power to wipe away her grief.
"They have taken him, Andrew," she whispered. "He knew it was coming, and he made me hide from them . . . he kept me from being arrested. He kept me safe, brother."
Eventually she broke away from his arms, and turned to Percy resolutely. "You know why I have come," she repeated. "You must do this for me, Percy . . . please. Yes, I know how many he has sent to unmerited death; I know that the way you see it, he probably deserves his fate more than anyone else; but I don't care. All that matters to me is that I cannot live if he is not at my side. Though I would walk, talk, and breathe, I would never live again. You must help him, for my sake."
Percy sighed sadly. "You know I cannot make promises, Lucy."
"I don't ask for a promise from you. I ask that you try."
"He's sure to be heavily guarded . . . I'm not sure how much can be done . . ."
She took one step closer to him, ready to lay down her trump card in this tragic game that neither side wanted to play. "For my sake, Percy, please . . . remember Sophie . . . he hasn't even seen her . . ." She swallowed hard on a lump in her throat that wouldn't go away. "His little daughter, Percy . . ."
Softly, he smiled at her reassuringly, grasping the hand not claimed by her brother. "I will try, Lucy," he whispered. "For you, and for pretty Sophie. I will try."