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THE room was close and dark, filled with the smoke from a defective chimney.
A tiny boudoir, once the dainty sanctum of imperious Marie Antoinette; a faint and ghostly odor, like unto the perfume of specters, seemed still to cling to the stained walls, and to the torn Goblin tapestries.
Everywhere lay the impress of a heavy and destroying hand: that of the great and glorious Revolution.
In the mud-soiled corners of the room a few chairs, with brocaded cushions rudely torn, leant broken and desolate against the walls. A small footstool, once gilt-legged and satin-covered, had been overturned and roughly kicked to one side, and there it lay on its back, like some little animal that had been hurt, stretching its broken limbs upwards, pathetic to behold.
From the delicately wrought Buhl table the silver inlay had been harshly stripped out of its bed of shell.
Across the Lunette, painted by Boucher and representing a chaste Diana surrounded by a bevy of nymphs, an uncouth hand had scribbled in charcoal the device of the Revolution: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite ou la Mort; while, as if to give a crowning point to the work of destruction and to emphasize its motto, someone had decorated the portrait of Marie Antoinette with a scarlet cap, and drawn a red and ominous line across her neck.
And at the table two men were sitting in close and eager conclave.
Between them a solitary tallow candle, unsnuffed and weirdly flickering, threw fantastic shadows upon the walls, and illumined with fitful and uncertain light the faces of the two men.
How different were these in character! One, high cheek-boned, with coarse, sensuous lips, and hair elaboratelyand carefully powdered, the other pale and thin-lipped, with the keen eyes of a ferret and a high, intellectual forehead, from which the sleek brown hair was smoothly brushed away.
The first of these men was Robespierre, the ruthless and incorruptible demagogue, the other was Citizen Chauvelin, ex-ambassador of the Revolutionary Government at the English Court.
The hour was late, and the noises from the great, seething city preparing for sleep came to this remote little apartment in the now deserted Palace of the Tuileries merely as a faint and distant echo.
It was two days after the Fructidor Riots. Paul Deroulede and the woman, Juliette Marny, both condemned to death, had been literally spirited away out of the cart which was conveying them from the Hall of Justice to the Luxembourg Prison, and news had just been received by the Committee of Public Safety that at Lyons the Abbey du Mesnil, with the ci-devant Chevalier d'Egremont and the latter's wife and family, had effected a miraculous and wholly incomprehensible escape from the northern prison.
But this was not all. When Arras fell into the hands of the Revolutionary army, and a regular cordon was formed round the town so that not a single Royalist traitor might escape, some three-score women and children, twelve priests, the old aristocrats Chermeail, Delleville and Galipaux, and many others, managed to pass the barriers and were never recaptured.
Raids were made in the suspected houses: in Paris chiefly, where the escaped prisoners might have found refuge--or, better still, where their helpers and rescuers might still be lurking. Foucquier Tinville, Public Prosecutor, led and conducted these raids, assisted by that bloodthirsty vampire, Merlin. They heard of a house in the Rue de l'Ancienne Comedie, where an Englishman was said to have lodged for two days.
They demanded admittance, and were taken to the rooms where the Englishman had stayed. These were bare and squalid, like hundreds of other rooms in the poorer quarters of Paris. The landlady, toothless and grimy, had not yet tidied up the one where the Englishman had slept; in fact, she did not know he had left for good.
He had paid for his room a week in advance, and came and went as he liked, she explained to Citizen Tinville. She never bothered about him, as he never took a meal in the house, and he was only there two days. She did not know her lodger was English until the day he left. She thought he was a Frenchman from the South, as he certainly had a peculiar accent when he spoke.
"It was the day of the riots," she continued; "he would go out, and I told him I did not think that the streets would be safe for a foreigner like him: for he always wore such very fine clothes, and I made sure that the starving men and women of Paris would strip them off his back when their tempers were roused. But he only laughed. He gave me a bit of paper and told me that if he did not return I might conclude that he had been killed, and if the Committee of Public Safety asked me questions about him, I was just to show the bit of paper and there would be no further trouble."
She had talked volubly, more than a little terrified at Merlin's scowls, and the attitude of Citizen Tinville, who was known to be very severe if anyone committed any blunders.
But the Citizeness--her name was Brogard, and her husband's brother kept an inn in the neighborhood of Calais--the Citizeness Brogard had a clear conscience. She held a license from the Committee of Public Safety for letting apartments, and she had always given due notice to the Committee of the arrival and departure of her lodgers. The only thing was that if any lodger paid her more than ordinarily well for the accommodation, and he so desired it, she would send in the notice conveniently late, and conveniently vaguely worded as to the description, status, and nationality of her more liberal patrons.
This had occurred in the case of her recent English visitor.
But she did not explain it quite like that to Citizen Foucquier Tinville or to Citizen Merlin.
However, she was rather frightened, and produced the scrap of paper which the Englishman had left with her, together with the assurance that when she showed it there would be no further trouble.
Tinville took it roughly out of her hand, but would not glance at it. He crushed it into a ball and then Merlin snatched it from him with a coarse laugh, smoothed out the creases on his knee, and studied it for a moment.
There were four lines of what looked like poetry, written in a language which Merlin did not understand. English, no doubt.
But what was perfectly clear, and easily comprehended by anyone, was the little drawing in the corner, done in red ink, and representing a small, star-shaped flower.
Then Tinville and Merlin both cursed loudly and volubly, and, bidding their men follow them, turned away from the house in the Rue de l'Ancienne Comedie and left its toothless landlady on her own doorstep still volubly protesting her patriotism and her desire to serve the Government of the Republic.
Tinville and Merlin, however, took the scrap of paper to Citizen Robespierre, who smiled grimly as he in his turn crushed the offensive little document in the palm of his well-washed hand.
Robespierre did not swear. He never wasted either words or oaths; but he slipped the bit of paper inside the double lid of his silver snuff-box, and then he sent a special messenger to Citizen Chauvelin in the Rue Corneille, bidding him come that same evening, after ten o'clock, to room No. 16 in the ci-devant Palace of the Tuileries.
It was now half-past ten, and Chauvelin and Robespierre sat opposite one another in the ex-boudoir of Queen Marie Antoinette, and between them on the table, just below the tallow candle, was a much-creased, exceedingly grimy bit of paper.
It had passed through several unclean hands before Citizen Robespierre's immaculately white fingers had smoothed it out and placed it before the eyes of ex-ambassador Chauvelin.
The latter, however, was not looking at the paper, he was not even looking at the pale, cruel face before him. He had closed his eyes, and for a moment had lost sight of the small, dark room, of Robespierre's ruthless gaze, of the mud-stained walls, and greasy floor. He was seeing, as in a bright and sudden vision, the brilliantly lighted salons of the Foreign Office in London, with beautiful Marguerite Blakeney gliding queen-like on the arm of the Prince of Wales.
He heard the flutter of many fans, the frou-frou of silk dresses, and above all the din and sound of dance music he heard an inane laugh and an affected voice repeating the doggerel rhyme that was even now written on that dirty piece of paper which Robespierre had placed before him:
"We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere!
Is he in heaven, is he in hell,
That demmed elusive Pimpernel?"
It was a mere flash! One of memory's swiftly effaced pictures, when she shows us for the fraction of a second indelible pictures from out our past. Chauvelin, in that same second, while his own eyes were closed and Robespierre's fixed upon him, also saw the lonely cliffs of Calais, heard the same voice singing "God save the King!" the volley of musketry, the despairing cries of Marguerite Blakeney; and once again he felt the keen and bitter pang of complete humiliation and defeat.
|4||The Richmond Gala||24|
|5||Sir Percy and His Lady||35|
|6||For the Poor of Paris||41|
|10||Lady Blakeney's Rout||68|
|12||Time - Place - Conditions||84|
|14||The Ruling Passion||102|
|19||The Strength of the Weak||145|
|26||The Terms of the Bargain||207|
|28||The Midnight Watch||221|
|29||The National Fete||230|
|33||The English Spy||261|
Posted March 25, 2012
I laughed throughout the whole story! I thought that it was so funny how the Scarlet Pimpernel acted. I've read practically the whole series of the Scarlet Pimpernel but none of them are as funny as this one. The whole series is well made, entertaining and fun, but not as funny as this one. Read it. You won't regret it.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 15, 2014
This book is one of the best books i have ever read!!!!! It tells of the true devotion Sir Percy has for his wife. This is probably the best love story i have ever read. I would definately recommend this book to anyone who loves romance novels.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 12, 2013
Posted February 21, 2010
I Also Recommend:
Very romantic and intriguing. I had no idea how in the world the Pimpernel was going to get out of the web that Chauvelin set up for him, but of course he always outwits the ex-ambassador. I enjoy the Scarlet Pimpernel adventures very much and think that Baroness Orczy had such a wonderful imagination.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 15, 2009
This is my second foray into Pimpernel literature. This is actually the third book chronologically. I'm not sure yet how episodic the story works out...this is evidently taking place after the first novel but I didn't feel like I missed out on anything by skipping the second book. It also didn't really feel like much would have been missed by skipping the first book (although the first did involve more character development of the core characters). I would recommend reading the first novel first, especially if you know nothing about the Pimpernel story, but I don't think it's vital.
This Pimpernel adventure was a fun read and well worth reading. Orczy's writing style is fluid and easy to read and follow and her characters are vivid and interesting. The plot of this book was very intriguing. The Pimpernel is pitted against his enemy from the first novel, the French agent Chauvelin. Chauvelin has been given one final chance from Robespierre to catch the Pimpernell with the ultimatum that the world will either be rid of the Pimpernel or Chauvelin by the end of the adventure.
The plot that Chauvelin comes up with to capture the Pimpernel is fairly diabolical and truly seems foolproof. It stands as evidence of Orczy's creative ingenuity and the fullness of her characters, especially as each intricate detail plays out. It exposes Chauvelin's arrogance and his prideful desire for personal and lasting vengeance. I was very satisfied with the machinations of the plot until I realized that the remaining pages were growing few and I began to anticipate a potentially dissatisfying ending.
Upon finally reaching the climactic wrap up to the adventure, I admit to being somewhat disappointed in the way things played out. Though honestly, I expected an even worse ending based on how tightly she had tied the net around our hero. I saw little hope for an exciting and viable escape (and I doubt it's any spoiler to anyone that the hero had to escape). The solution provided wasn't entirely satisfactory in my mind, but it worked out well enough, especially considering the era in which the events took place.
Before I wrap up this report, I want to comment on one of the things that this novel does that I especially enjoy. In many of the novels I've read, the central heroic character is very close to the reader. We are often either right on the shoulder or even within the head of our heroic protagonist. However, in the case of Pimpernel, Orczy plays with this concept and puts us inside the head of many of the peripheral characters, even some of the very minor characters, but never lets us truly get inside the mind of the titular hero. It reminds me vaguely of the way Conan Doyle keeps us from directly knowing the inner workings of Holmes' mind. In the same way, we find ourself aligned closely with Marguerite's fears and Chauvelin's scheming, but we never align ourselves directly with the heroic thoughts of the Pimpernel. This adds to the suspense in wondering just how he could possibly escape the tightly woven trap laid for him.
I think I enjoyed this book better than the first Pimpernel story, but they were both a lot of fun. I hope to be able to track down more of them to read. They're a great bit of fun for any fan of historical adventure combined with a touch of humor.
Posted April 6, 2008
This book is fantastic! The perfect sequel to THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL! It has everything the first book contained: adventure, romance, wit, and suspense. If you enjoyed THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL at all, you should rad this sequel containing the same characters.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 17, 2010
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Posted January 27, 2009
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Posted March 21, 2011
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Posted January 28, 2010
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