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THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
By Baroness Orczy
I. PARIS: SEPTEMBER, 1792 II. DOVER: "THE FISHERMAN'S REST" III. THE REFUGEES IV. THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL V. MARGUERITE VI. AN EXQUISITE OF '92 VII. THE SECRET ORCHARD VIII. THE ACCREDITED AGENT IX. THE OUTRAGE X. IN THE OPERA BOX XI. LORD GRENVILLE'S BALL XII. THE SCRAP OF PAPER XIII. EITHER XIV. ONE O'CLOCK PRECISELY! XV. DOUBT XVI. RICHMOND XVII. FAREWELL XVIII. THE MYSTERIOUS DEVICE XIX. THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL XX. THE FRIEND XXI. SUSPENSE XXII. CALAIS XXIII. HOPE XXIV. THE DEATH XXV. THE EAGLE AND THE FOX XXVI. THE JEW XXVII. ON THE TRACK XXVIII. THE PERE BLANCHARD'S HUT XXIX. TRAPPED XXX. THE SCHOONER XXXI. THE ESCAPE
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
CHAPTER I PARIS: SEPTEMBER, 1792
A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate. The hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade, at the very spot where, a decade later, a proud tyrant raised an undying monument to the nation's glory and his own vanity.
During the greater part of the day the guillotine had been kept busy at its ghastly work: all that France had boasted of in the past centuries, of ancient names, and blue blood, had paid toll to her desire for liberty and for fraternity. The carnage had only ceased at this late hour of the day because there were other more interesting sights for the people to witness, a little while before the final closing of the barricades for the night.
And so the crowd rushed away from the Place de la Greve and made for the various barricades in order to watch this interesting and amusing sight.
It was to be seen every day, for those aristos were such fools! They were traitors to the people of course, all of them, men, women, and children, who happened to be descendants of the great men who since the Crusades had made the glory of France: her old NOBLESSE. Their ancestors had oppressed the people, had crushed them under the scarlet heels of their dainty buckled shoes, and now the people had become the rulers of France and crushed their former masters--not beneath their heel, for they went shoeless mostly in these days--but a more effectual weight, the knife of the guillotine.
And daily, hourly, the hideous instrument of torture claimed its many victims--old men, young women, tiny children until the day when it would finally demand the head of a King and of a beautiful young Queen.
But this was as it should be: were not the people now the rulers of France? Every aristocrat was a traitor, as his ancestors had been before him: for two hundred years now the people had sweated, and toiled, and starved, to keep a lustful court in lavish extravagance; now the descendants of those who had helped to make those courts brilliant had to hide for their lives--to fly, if they wished to avoid the tardy vengeance of the people.
And they did try to hide, and tried to fly: that was just the fun of the whole thing. Every afternoon before the gates closed and the market carts went out in procession by the various barricades, some fool of an aristo endeavoured to evade the clutches of the Committee of Public Safety. In various disguises, under various pretexts, they tried to slip through the barriers, which were so well guarded by citizen soldiers of the Republic. Men in women's clothes, women in male attire, children disguised in beggars' rags: there were some of all sorts: CI-DEVANT counts, marquises, even dukes, who wanted to fly from France, reach England or some other equally accursed country, and there try to rouse foreign feelings against the glorious Revolution, or to raise an army in order to liberate the wretched prisoners in the Temple, who had once called themselves sovereigns of France.