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A Clear Conscience

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To lynndyre - I am glad you requested this because I hadn't read Eldorado before and it's such a good book.

He gives them a good fight - no, he pretends to give Chauvelin's men a good fight. They tie ropes around him; "Not so tightly, pray," he says, and they ignore him. The Republic declares a public holiday; the Scarlet Pimpernel has been captured.

The cell is guarded by a number of soldiers that can only be described as complimentary. He recognizes the cell as Marie Antoinette's; that seems fitting. She used to sit here and watch for a glimpse of that child whom Percy has just saved. That poor innocent child is worth a few days in jail.

It's only a few hours past sunset, when he attempts to lie down, that the guard hits his bayonet against the wall and shouts, "Where is the child?"

Percy raises an eyebrow.

"You may sleep when you tell us where the brat is."

"I shall do no such thing."

The guard laughs.

At first he thinks they plan to starve him, but they do bring him meals, if meager ones. A far cry from dinner with the Princes of Wales. He's starting to see brief hallucinations. Armand taking the oath of loyalty to the League. Suzanne de Tournay saying "I do" to Andrew. Marguerite at Richmond, begging him to help her brother.

He sits with his back to the wall. After a few days without sleep, his head droops of its own accord. Sometimes he corrects himself; sometimes one of the guards rushes in banging and yelling. Percy tries to avoid the latter. The fewer times they ask him the location of the Dauphin, the better the chances that he won't slip up and answer the question.

He has faith that if Chauvelin sends him to the guillotine, the League will rescue him. After all, they've never lost yet.

Chauvelin enters the cell. "Citoyen, your wife will be visiting you today."

Percy refuses to react outwardly, but his heart leaps. The time he waits for her arrival feels three times as long as it in fact is. Her pale face and shadowed eyes, which show only a fraction of the agony she must feel, pierce his heart. He jokes about being shaved, although he really is glad for it.

He's even more glad that her visit gives him the bit of energy required to strike a blow to the man who insults her.

If he dies, he will die with his honor intact and meet God with a clear conscience.

Even after Marguerite leaves, he's still there for days longer. He doesn't know how many; he tries to count them by Heron's visits yet he manages to lose count.

Obstinate. Pig-headed. Stubborn. Determined. How is Chauvelin, keeping a man from sleeping for seventeen days, any less stubborn than Sir Percy Blakeney?

He notices Chauvelin ducking his head in shame, and he feels it as a moment of triumph. La, but it is a wonderful thing to have an enemy! And such a stupid one, too. Sometimes, while pretending to be a fop, Percy asks himself what Chauvelin would do, and then does exactly that.

He pretends to give in, all the while hoping that Heron and Chauvelin will accept being led instead of being told, worrying that they won't.

But they do, and they let him sleep; he collapses in a rather un-English, ungentlemanly fashion.

He takes the carriage reins in his hands, and he thinks that it's a very lucky chance that he learned this in England, before he knew there would ever be a Reign of Terror. It seems to be one of the few things the rich and the poor have in common, that they both use the reins, even though it is for very different purposes.

Marguerite in her anguish tells him that they are in heaven, and he laughs with joy, for he has finally succeeded. The trick he has played and her and Armand is not a nice one, but he knows they will forgive him for it.

Once they are on board the Day Dream, he must first change into some decent clothes – a fresh shirt and coat, white silk cravat, satin breeches, and polished black boots. The outfil makes him feel as much of an actual human being as those three days of sleep. “Well now, how do I look?” he asks Marguerite as she settles herself in his lap.

“As handsome as ever, my dear,” she replies.

“Does my face look all right? No hollows around the eyes?”

“Yes, in fact, there is a bit of a shadow under your eyes.”

“La! I suppose that if I must appear in public in England, I shall have to paint my face.”

She laughs. “Can you not simply say that you were feeling poorly?”

“I suppose that would be true, strictly speaking. La! I hope I shall never have to repeat that imprisonment. I wish, dear heart,” and his expression turnsquite serious, “I wish that there was no guillotine.”

“And so do I.”

“I do so hate that I must put you through such worry.”

“Nay, do not apologize,” she tells him. “If it were not for such adventures, I should never have learned how courageous and clever you truly were, and I would not love with all the passion that I do now.”

“Ah, my dear Marguerite!” He kisses her for an astonishingly long time.
Soon enough they are back in England, home at beautiful Richmond. There are parties to attend and balls to plan and calls to make. Even as Marguerite lies next to her peacefully sleeping husband, she knows that his return to Paris is inevitable. So long as any old man or blameless woman is at risk of the blade dropping down upon their neck, he will throw himself and his friends back into danger – and enjoy every situation he finds himself in.

He knows how to love his fellow man so well.