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The Garden Party

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"Can I believe otherwise?"

 

For a moment she wanted to run from him, to quit this scene of gaiety for a solitary nook where she could grieve over everything she had just lost. Her reputation in society, her friendship with Suzanne.

 

Her husband.

 

Ever since they were married she had been puzzled by his play of the fool in private as well as in public. Since they had exchanged vows she had never felt so alone, so cut off from him when he had promised her sincerity. That in time, she would come to learn about the man behind the mask.

 

Now she had a chance to remove that mask. To recover him. To recover the love between them. A part of her feared that if she left for the solitude the rest of her desperately sought, she would lose him once more, this time perhaps forever.

 

"Baron de Batz had a letter from his informer the day of the soiree," she began, taking a breath to keep her composure. "He tried to burn it, but a fragment fell away and I retrieved it. It was from St Cyr. He had learned that the dauphin was in the Temple. Before I had time to comprehend what was in my hand, Chauvelin came upon me. I hid in my gown. Later I kept it with your letters. I caught Chauvelin rifling through them one day. He confronted me over the note, accusing me of treason. He then promised to keep silent over it until I had decided what to do.

 

"When he found out about our engagement, he broke his promise. He declared that he would have St Cyr arrested. There was nothing I could do. I had no idea that he would put my name on the warrant."

 

All the while she had spoken, he had stood before her, his gaze upon her, his eyes as cold as steel. Now as she found the courage to meet them, she saw them soften. His hand came to her cheek, brushing away a tear.

 

"That was deliberate," he said at last, his hand still upon her cheek. "He knew that the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney would be an excellent asset in his search for the scarlet pimpernel."

 

"I would never aid in his capture," she uttered fiercely. "His actions are brave, noble and just. I may support the ideals of the revolution, but not the bloodlust, not the murders."

 

"Would you aid him, if you could?" Percy asked her.

 

"Yes, I would," she vowed, "and I sure Armand would too."

 

"He already does," Percy said as he begun to stroke her cheek. "And now you will too."

 

She stilled, barely daring to believe what she was hearing. "Percy, are you..."

 

"You yearned to know the man behind the mask, my darling," he replied. "Now that you do, what do you make of him?"

 

"I see the man whom I encountered the first night we met," she uttered, her eyes never leaving his. "A brave and noble saviour."

 

"And can you forgive him for keeping this secret from you for so long?" he asked.

 

"There is nothing to forgive," she answered honestly. "He knew of my beliefs, my connection to Chauvelin. It would have been a risk."

 

"One I would have taken," he said, "if I had not listened to Baron de Batz, I would have told you that night."

 

"But you have told me now," she reminded him. "So I am resolved not to waste any further time in confusion and grief. Do we need to be here any longer?"

 

"The league can probably conceal our absence," he allowed.

 

"Then let us go," she proposed.