Sir Percy Hits Back

( 1 )


On the spot where the Hotel Moderne now rears its more ambitous head,
there stood at that time a cottage with sloping red-tiled roof and
white-washed walls. It was owned by one Baptiste Portal, an old
peasant of the Dauphine, who ...
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Sir Percy Hits Back

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On the spot where the Hotel Moderne now rears its more ambitous head,
there stood at that time a cottage with sloping red-tiled roof and
white-washed walls. It was owned by one Baptiste Portal, an old
peasant of the Dauphine, who dispensed refreshments to travellers and
passers-by, as his father and grandfather had done before him, in the
shape of somewhat thin vin du pays and an occasional glass of eau-de-
vie, while he spent his slack time chiefly in grumbling at the fact
that the new posting-inn on the high road had taken all his trade
away. He did not see the necessity of the posting-inn, did not old
Baptiste, nor for that matter that of the high-road or the post-
chaise. Before all these new notions had come into the heads of the
government people up in Paris, travellers had been content to come
squelching through the mud on the back of a good horse, or come
ploughing through inches of dust in the old coche. So why not now? And
was not the old wine of Les Amandiers as good and better than the
vinegar dispensed at the more pretentious posting-inn? The place was
called Les Amandiers because at the back of the house there were two
anaemic almond-trees with gaunt, twisted arms which covered themselves
in the spring with sickly blooms, and in the summer with dust. In the
front of the house, up against the white-washed wall, there was a
wooden bench on which Baptiste's priveleged customers were wont to sit
on fine evenings, to drink their vin du pays and join the old man in
his wholesale condemnation of the goverment "up in Paris" and its new-
fangled ways. From this vantage-point a glorious view was obtained
over the valley of the Bueche, and beyond Laragne as far as the peaks
of Pelvoux: whilest to the right towered in the distance the grand old
citadel of Sisteron with its turets and fortifications dating from the
fourteenth century, and the stately church of Notre Dame. But views
and winding rivers, snowy peaks, and medieval fortresses did not
interest Baptiste Portal's customers nearly as much as the price of
almonds or the alarming increase in the cost of living.

Now, on this particular afternoon in May the mistral was blowing
mercilessly across the valley from over the snows of Pelvoux, and the
cold and the dust had driven all of good Portal's customers indoors.
The low-raftered room, decorated with strings of onions which hung
from the ceiling together with a bunch or two of garlic, of basil and
other pot-herbs, and perfumed also with the aroma of the pot-au-feu
simmering in the kitchen, had acquired just that right atmosphere,
cosy, warm, and odorous, beloved of every true man born in the
Dauphine. It was a memorable afternoon, remembered long afterwards and
retold by the gossips of Sisteron and Laragne in all its dramatic
details. But at this hour, nothing more dramatic had occurred than the
arrival of a detachment of soldiers, under the command of an under-
officer, who had come up from Orange, so they said, in order to fetch
away the young men who were wanted for the army. They had demanded
supper and shelter for the night.

Of course soldiers, as soldiers, were very much disapproved of by
those worthies of Sisteron who frequented Les Amandiers, more
especially now when what they did was to fetch away the young men for
cannon-fodder, to fight the English and prolong this awful war which
caused food to be so dear and hands for harvesting so scarce. But, on
the other hand, soldiers, as company, were welcome. They brought news
of the outside world, most of it bad, it is true--nothing good did
happen anywhere these days--but news nevertheless. And though at the
recital of what went on in Paris, in Lyons, or even as near as Orange,
the guillotine, the tumbrils, the wholesale slaughter of tyrants and
aristos, one shuddered with horror and apprehension, there were always
the lively tales of barrack-life to follow, the laughter, the ribald
song, and something of life seemed to infiltrate into this sleepy
half-dead corner of the old Dauphine.

The soldiers--there were a score of them--occupied the best place in
the room, as was only fitting; they sat squeezed tightly against one
another like dried figs in a box, on the two benches on either side of
the centre trestle table. Old Baptiste Portal sat with them, beside
the officer. Some kind of lieutenant this man appeared to be, or other
subaltern: but, oh dear me! these days one could hardly tell an
officer from the rag-tab and bob-tail of the army, save for the fact
that he wore epaulettes. Now this man--but there! What was the use of
comparing these ruffians with the splendid officers of the King's
armies in the past?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568497334
  • Publisher: Buccaneer Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 810,696
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.78 (h) x 1.05 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Intense and moving sequel

    Fleurette is a simple girl who delights in her fiancee, 'M'sieu Amédé', and her darling but eternally absent father Bibi. The revolution seems far away, until a neighboring aristocratic family is threatened. Suddenly, Fleurette is swept up in a power play which condemns her for a traitor.

    With his innocent daughter inextricably trapped by the system he had helped to create, Armand Chauvelin must turn to his bitter enemy, the Scarlet Pimpernel . . .

    Although I have not read very many of the sequels at this point (only four), this is by far my favorite. Orczy's Chauvelin is much more of a villain in the books than he has been in the films and the musicals. Sir Percy Hits Back is the first book, and perhaps the ONLY one, which allows Chauvelin to be a real, compassionate man with a personal life. His devotion to Fleurette is beautiful, and the novel really won my sympathy for a character who is often merely a dastardly and dangerous villain. One of the reasons I loved this book so much, was that it showed a completely different side of my favorite SP villain. Chauvelin is a man of many emotions and loves. Does he love Fleurette as much as the revolutionary cause? Baroness Orczy writes a story of a wonderful man unfortunately warped by obsession and revenge. It is only when the most precious person in his life is in danger, do we see a pitiful, scared side of a fabulously written villain. This book is highly recommended.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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