The Elusive Pimpernel

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The Elusive Pimpernel

by Baroness Orczy

Contents

I. Paris: 1793 II. A Retrospect III. Ex-Ambassador Chauvelin IV. The Richmond Gala V. Sir Percy and His Lady VI. For the Poor of Paris VII. Premonition VIII. The Invitation IX. Demoiselle Candeille X. Lady Blakeney's Rout XI. The Challenge XII. Time Place Conditions XIII. Reflections XIV. The Ruling Passion XV. Farewell XVI. The Passport XVII. Boulogne XVIII. No. 6 XIX. The Strength of the Weak XX. Triumph XXI. Suspense XXII. Not Death XXIII. The Hostage XXIV. Colleagues XXV. The Unexpected XXVI. The Terms of the Bargain XXVII. The Decision XXVIII. The Midnight Watch XXIX. The National Fete XXX. The Procession XXXI. Final Dispositions XXXII. The Letter XXXIII. The English Spy XXXIV. The Angelus XXXV. Marguerite

Chapter I : Paris: 1793

There was not even a reaction.

On! ever on! in that wild, surging torrent; sowing the wind of anarchy, of terrorism, of lust of blood and hate, and reaping a hurricane of destruction and of horror.

On! ever on! France, with Paris and all her children still rushes blindly, madly on; defies the powerful coalition,--Austria, England, Spain, Prussia, all joined together to stem the flow of carnage, -- defies the Universe and defies God!

Paris this September 1793!--or shall we call it Vendemiaire, Year I. of the Republic?--call it what we will! Paris! a city of bloodshed, of humanity in its lowest, most degraded aspect. France herself a gigantic self-devouring monster, her fairest cities destroyed, Lyons razed to the ground, Toulon, Marseilles, masses of blackened ruins, her bravest sons turned to lustful brutes or to abject cowards seeking safety at the cost of any humiliation.

That is thy reward, oh mighty, holy Revolution! apotheosis of equality and fraternity! grand rival of decadent Christianity.

Five weeks now since Marat, the bloodthirsty Friend of the People, succumbed beneath the sheath-knife of a virgin patriot, a month since his murderess walked proudly, even enthusiastically, to the guillotine! There has been no reaction--only a great sigh! ... Not of content or satisfied lust, but a sigh such as the man-eating tiger might heave after his first taste of long-coveted blood.

A sigh for more!

A king on the scaffold; a queen degraded and abased, awaiting death, which lingers on the threshold of her infamous prison; eight hundred scions of ancient houses that have made the history of France; brave generals, Custine, Blanchelande, Houchard, Beauharnais; worthy patriots, noble-hearted women, misguided enthusiasts, all by the score and by the hundred, up the few wooden steps which lead to the guillotine.

An achievement of truth!

And still that sigh for more!

But for the moment,--a few seconds only,--Paris looked round her mighty self, and thought things over!

The man-eating tiger for the space of a sigh licked his powerful jaws and pondered!

Something new!--something wonderful!

We have had a new Constitution, a new Justice, new Laws, a new Almanack!

What next?

Why, obviously!--How comes it that great, intellectual, aesthetic Paris never thought of such a wonderful thing before?

A new religion!

Christianity is old and obsolete, priests are aristocrats, wealthy oppressors of the People, the Church but another form of wanton tyranny.

Let us by all means have a new religion.

Already something has been done to destroy the old! To destroy! always to destroy! Churches have been ransacked, altars spoliated, tombs desecrated, priests and curates murdered; but that is not enough.

There must be a new religion; and to attain that there must be a new God.

"Man is a born idol-worshipper."

Very well then! let the People have a new religion and a new God.

Stay!--Not a God this time!--for God means Majesty, Power, Kingship! everything in fact which the mighty hand of the people of France has struggled and fought to destroy.

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