Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership





Title: Sir Percy Leads the Band
Author: Emmuska Orczy
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0602721.txt
Edition: 1
Language: English
Character set encoding: Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted: July 2006
Date most recently updated: July 2006

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html


To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au


Sir Percy Leads the Band
Emmuska Orczy




Book I - The ABB



1--THE KING ON HIS TRIAL

The Hall of the Pas Perdus, the precincts of the House of Justice, the
corridors, the bureaux of the various officials, judges and advocates
were all thronged that day as they had been during all the week, ever
since Tuesday when the first question was put to the vote: "Is Louis
Capet guilty of conspiring against liberty?" Louis Capet! Otherwise
Louis XVI, descendant of a long line of kings of the Grand Monarque of
Saint Louis, himself the anointed, the crowned King of France! And
now! Arraigned at the bar before his fellow-men, before his one-time
devoted subjects, or supposedly devoted, standing before them like any
criminal, accused not of murder, or forgery or theft, but of
conspiring against liberty.

A king on his trial! And for his life! Let there be no doubt about
that. It is a matter of life or death for the King of France. There
has been talk, endless talk and debate in the Hall of Justice ever
since the eleventh day of December  over a month ago now when Louis
first appeared before the bar of the Convention. Fifty-seven questions
were put to the accused. "Louis Capet, didst thou do this, that or the
other? Didst thou conspire against liberty?" Louis to all the
questions gave the simple reply: "No! I did not do that, nor did I do
the other. If I did, it was in accordance with the then existing laws
of France."

For a whole month and more this went on during the short December days
when the snowfall, rain or fog obscured what there was of daylight,
and the shades of evening wrapped the big hall, and all that it
contained of men's passions and men's cruelty, in gloom. Then the
candles were lighted and flickered in the draught till the clerk went
the round with the snuffers and shipped off from each candle a bit of
the thread that held the light. And the light flickered on, till
judges and jury and advocates were weary, and filed out of the Hall of
Justice, and the candles were finally snuffed out, extinguished by
destiny and the vengeful hands of men.

A king on his trial! Heavens above, what a stupendous event! One that
had only occurred once before in history  a hundred and fifty years
ago when Charles I, King of England, stood at the bar before his
people and Parliament, accused by them of conspiring against their
liberty. What the end would be, no one doubted for a moment. The
paramount significance of the tragedy, the vital importance of what
was at stake was reflected in the grave demeanour of the crowd that
gathered day after day inside the precincts of the House of Justice.
Men of all ages, of all creeds, of every kind of political opinion
foregathered in the Salle des Pas Perdus, waited mostly in silence for
scraps of news that came filtering through from the hall where a king
 once their King  was standing his trial.

They waited for news, longing to see the end of this nerve-racking
suspense, yet dreading to hear what the end would be.

On the Monday evening, one month after the opening of this momentous
trial, the fifty-seven questions were finally disposed of. Advocate
Barrre in a three-hours' speech, summed up the case and then invited
Louis Capet to withdraw. And Louis the unfortunate, once Louis XVI,
King of France, now just Louis Capet, was taken back to the Temple
prison where, separated from his wife and children, he could do
nothing but await with patience and resignation the final issue of his
judges' deliberations, and assist his legal counsels in the
preparation of his defence.

And on Tuesday the 15th of January, 1793, the question of whether a
King of France was guilty or not guilty of conspiracy was put to the
vote. Not one question but three questions were put forward, each to
be voted on separately and by every one of the seven hundred and
forty-nine members of the National Convention. Is Louis Capet guilty
of conspiring against liberty? Shall the sentence pronounced by the
National Convention be final, or shall appeal be made to the people?
If Louis Capet be found guilty, what punishment should be meted out to
him? The first two questions were disposed of on the Tuesday. By
midday Louis Capet had been voted guilty by an immense majority. The
second question took rather longer; the afternoon wore on, the shades
of a mid-winter evening blotted out the outside world and spread its
gloomy mantle over this assembly of men, gathered here to indict their
King and to pronounce sentence upon him. It was midnight before the
voting on this second question was ended. By a majority of two to one
the House decided that its verdict shall be final and that no appeal
shall be made to the people. Such an appeal would mean civil war, cry
the Extremists, the loud and turbulent Patriots, while the Moderates,
the Girondins, will have it that the people must not be ignored. But
they are outvoted two to one, and at the close of this memorable
Tuesday, Louis Capet stands definitely guilty of conspiring against
the liberty of the people, and whatever sentence the National
Convention may pronounce upon him shall be final, without appeal.

The loud and turbulent Patriots are full of hope. Marat, the people's
friend, has apostrophized them from his bed of sickness, lashed them
with his biting tongue: "O crowd of chatterers, can you not act?" And
they are going to act. Let the third question be put to the vote, and
the whole world shall see that Patriots can act as well as talk. So on
this Wednesday, January 16th, 1793, they muster up in full force and
swarm over the floors of the Salle des Pas Perdus, and of the
corridors and committee rooms of the House of Justice. But somehow
they are no longer turbulent now. Certain of triumph they appear
almost overawed by the immensity of the tragedy which they have
brought to a head.

Beyond the precincts of the Hall of Justice, the whole of Paris stands
on the tiptoe of expectation. It is a raw midwinter day. The city is
wrapped in a grey fog, through which every sound of voice or traffic
becomes muffled, as if emitted through cotton-wool. Like the noisy
elements inside the hall, the people of Paris wait in silence, hushed
into a kind of grim stupefaction at this stupendous thing which is
going on inside there, and which they, in a measure, have brought
about.

In the hall itself the seven hundred and forty-nine deputies are all
at their posts. After some talk and "orders of the day" put forward by
one Patriot or another, Danton's proposal that the Convention shall
sit in permanent session till the whole business of Louis Capet is
finished and done with, is passed by a substantial majority. After
which the voting on the third question begins. It is close on eight
o'clock in the evening. The ushers in loud shrill voices call up the
deputies by name and constituency, one by one: summon each one to
mount the tribune and say, on his soul and conscience, what punishment
shall be meted out to the accused. And one by one seven hundred and
forty-nine men then mounted the tribune, said their say, justified
their verdict and recorded their vote. The whole of that night and
subsequent days and nights, from Wednesday evening until Friday
afternoon, the procedure went on. Evening faded into night, night
yielded to day and day to night again while a king's life hung in the
balance. In the grey light of day, through the weary hours of the
night, the three portentous words came muffled through the thin
curtain of fog which pervaded the hall and dimmed the feeble
flickering light of candles. Death! Banishment! Imprisonment till
peace with the rest of Europe be signed. The word that came most often
from the tribune was death, though often tempered with weak
recommendations for mercy; but all day Thursday and most of Friday the
balance trembled between banishment and death. Through the curtain of
fog or through the gloom of night the deputies looked like phantoms
moving from their seats to the tribune and back again to their seats,
there to snatch a few moments of restless sleep. Some of the votes
were never in doubt, Robespierre's for instance, or that of Danton who
disdained to justify his verdict; he stood only for one minute on the
tribune, just long enough to say curtly: "La Mort sans phrases!" then
resumed his seat, folded his arms and went quietly to sleep. "Death
without so much talk!" Why talk? Louis Capet has got to die, so why
argue?

Was there ever so strange a proceeding? Eyewitnesses, men like Sieys
and Roland, have described the scene as one of the most remarkable
ever witnessed in the history of the Revolution, and the moment when
Philippe d'Orlans, now nicknamed Philippe galit, and own kinsman of
the accused, boldly voted death on his soul and conscience, the most
tense in any history. A strange proceeding indeed! Philippe d'Orlans
the traitor, the profligate, casting his vote against his kinsman; and
up in the galleries among a privileged crowd a number of smartly
dressed ladies, flaunting their laces and tricolour cocades and
munching chocolates, while the honourable deputies who had already
recorded their votes came to entertain them with small talk and bring
them ices and refreshments. Some have cards and bins and prick down
the deaths or banishments or imprisonments as they occur, something
like race-cards on which with many a giggle they record their bets.
Here in the galleries there is quite an element of fashion. No gloom
here, no sense of foreboding or impending tragedy. Smart ladies! The
beautiful Troigne de Mricourt, the austere Madame Roland, the
youthful Teresia Cabarrus. But down below men grow more and more
weary, more and more like phantoms in the hazy light. Many have fallen
asleep and the ushers have much ado to shake them and send them up to
vote.

At dusk on Friday evening the voting was done. The secretaries sorted
the papers and made the count. When this was over President Vergniaud
demanded silence. And in a hush so profound that the rustle of a silk
dress up in the gallery caused every one to give a start, he made the
solemn declaration: "In the name of the Convention I declare that the
punishment it pronounces on Louis Capet is that of death."



2  SENTENCE

Scarcely were the words out of the President's mouth than the King's
advocates came running in. They lodged a protest in his name. They
demanded delay and appeal to the people. The latter was promptly
rejected  unanimously. Appeal to the people had been put to the vote
last Tuesday, and been definitely settled then. Delay might be
granted, but for the moment nothing more could be done. Every one was
sick to death of the whole thing. Nerve-racked. To-morrow should
decide.

And it did. Delay or no delay? Patriots said "No." Philippe d'Orlans,
kinsman of the accused, said "No!" A few said "Yes!" But finally,
during the small hours of Sunday morning, that point  perhaps the
grimmest of the lot-was also settled. "No delay! Death within twenty-
four hours." The final count showed a majority of seventy.

The Minister of Justice was sent to the Temple to break the news to
the accused. To his credit be it said that he did not like the errand.
"What a horrible business!" he was heard to say. But Louis received
the news calmly, as a king should. He asked for a delay of three days
to prepare himself for death, also for a confessor. The latter request
was granted on condition that the confessor should be a man of the
Convention's own choosing: but not delay. The verdict had been: "Death
within twenty-four hours." There could be no question of respite.

Paris that Sunday morning woke to the news and was appalled. It had
been expected, but there are events in this world that are expected,
that are known to be certain to come, and yet when they do come they
cause stupefaction. And Paris was stupefied. The Extremists rejoiced:
the rowdy elements went about shouting "Vive la Libert!" waving
tricolour flags, carrying spikes crowned with red caps, but Paris as a
whole did not respond. It pondered over the verdict, and shuddered at
the murder of Lepelletier, the deputy who had put forward the
proposal: "No delay! Death within twenty-four hours!" His proposal had
been carried by a majority of seventy. It was then two o'clock in the
morning, and he went on to Fvrier's in the Palais Royal to get some
supper. He had finished eating and was paying his bill, when he was
suddenly attacked by an unknown man, said to have once belonged to the
King's Guard, who plunged a dagger in the deputy's breast shouting:
"Regicide! Take that!" and in the confusion that ensued made good his
escape. Paris asked itself: "Why this man rather than another?" And
the six hundred and ninety-six deputies who had voted for death
without a recommendation for mercy shut themselves up in their
apartments, being in fear of their lives.

The cafs and restaurants, on the other hand, did a roaring trade all
that day, Sunday. Paris, though stupefied, had to be fed, and did feed
too, and talked  only in whispers  but talked nevertheless. Groups
lingered over their coffee and fine, and said the few things that were
safe to say, in view of those turbulent Patriots who proclaimed every
man, woman or child to be a traitor who showed any sympathy for the
"conspirator" Louis Capet. There was also talk of war. England...
Spain. Especially England, with Burke demanding sanctions against the
regicide Republic. It could only be a matter of days now before she
declared war. She had been itching to do so ever since Louis Capet had
been deprived of his throne. Ambassador Chauvelin was still in London,
but soon he would be recalled and his papers handed courteously to
him, for undoubtedly war was imminent. English families residing in
France were preparing to leave the country. Many, scenting trouble,
had already sent their wives and children home and the packet-boats
from Boulogne and Havre had been crowded day after day this week past.

But a good many stayed on: men in business, journalists or merely
idlers. They mostly dined at Fvrier's in the Palais Royal, the
restaurant  la mode, where those deputies who were most in the public
eye could always be met with on a Sunday. Robespierre and his friend
Desmoulins, the elegant Saint-Just, President Vergniaud and others
dined there regularly, and foreign newspaper correspondents frequented
the place in the hope of picking up bits of gossip for their journals.
On this particular Sunday there were about a dozen strangers gathered
round the large table in the centre, where a somewhat meagre dinner
was being served in view of the existing shortage of provisions and
the penury that already stalked the countryside and more particularly
the cities. Certainly here in the heart of Paris it would have been
very injudicious to spread a rich repast in a frequented restaurant,
in full view of hungry vagrants who might gather outside, under the
arcades, smash windows and grab what they could off the tables. But in
spite of the meagreness of the fare, good temper was not lacking round
the board where the strangers were sitting. Most of them were English
and they tackled the scraggy meat and thin wine put before them, with
that happy-go-lucky tolerance that is so essentially English.

"What say you to beef with mustard?" one of the men quoted while he
struggled with a tough piece of boiled pork garnished with haricot
beans.

"I like it passing well," his neighbour completed the quotation, "but
for the moment I have a fancy for a Lancashire hot-pot, such as my old
lady makes at home."

"Well!" broke in a man obviously from the north, "Sunday at my home is
the day for haggis, and with a wineglassful of good Scotch whiskey
poured over it, I tell you, my friends..." He did not complete the
sentence, but by way of illustrating his meaning he just smacked his
lips, and attacked the tough bit of pork with almost savage vigour.

Two men were sitting together at a table close by. One of the said,
speaking in French with a contemptuous shrug:

"These English! Their one subject of conversation is food."

The other, without commenting on this, merely remarked:

"You understand English then, Monsieur le Baron?"

"Yes. Don't you?"

"I never had any lessons," the other replied vaguely.

The two men were a strange contrast, both in appearance and in speech.
The one who had been addressed as Monsieur le Baron  it was not yet a
crime to use a title in Republican France  was short and broad-
shouldered. He had a florid face, sensual lips and prominent eyes. He
spoke French with a hardly perceptible guttural accent, which to a
sensitive ear might have betrayed his German or Austrian origin. His
manner and way of speaking were abrupt and fussy: his short, fat hands
with the spatulated fingers were for ever fidgeting with something,
making bread pellets or drumming with obvious nervosity on the table.
The other was tall, above the average at any rate in this country: his
speech was deliberate, almost pedantic in its purity of expression
like a professor delivering a lecture at the Sorbonne: his hands,
though slender, betrayed unusual strength. He scarcely ever moved
them. Both men were very simply dressed, in black coats and cloth
breeches, but while Monsieur le Baron's coat fitted him where it
touched, the other's complete suit was nothing short of a masterpiece
of the tailor's art.

Just then there rose a general clatter in the room: chairs scraping
against tiled floor, calls for hats and coats, comprehensive leave-
takings, and more or less noisy exodus through the swing-doors.
Robespierre and Desmoulins as they went out passed the time of day
with Monsieur le Baron.

"Eh bien, de Batz," Robespierre said to him with a laugh, "I have won
my bet, haven't I? Louis Capet has got his deserts."

De Batz shrugged his fat shoulders.

"Not yet," he retorted dryly.

When those two had gone, and were immediately followed by Vergniaud
and Saint-Just, he who was called de Batz leaned back in his chair and
gave a deep sigh of relief.

"Ah!" he said, "the air is purer now that filthy crowd has gone."

"You appeared to be on quite friendly terms with Monsieur Robespierre
anyway," the other remarked with a cool smile.

"Appearances are often deceptive, my dear Professor," de Batz
retorted.

"Ah?"

"Now take your case. I first met you at a meeting of the Jacobin Club,
or was it the Feuillants? I forget which of those pestiferous
gatherings you honoured with your presence; but anyway, had I only
judged by appearances I would have avoided you like the plague, like I
avoid that dirty crowd of assassins...."

"But you were there yourself, Monsieur le Baron," the Professor
observed.

"I went out of curiosity, my friend, as you did and as a number of
respectable-looking people did also. I sized up those respectable
people very quickly. I had no use for them They were just the sort of
nincompoops whom Danton's oratory soon turns into potential regicides.
But I accosted you that evening because I saw that you were
different."

"Why different?"

"Your cultured speech and the cleanliness of your collar."

"You flatter me, sir."

"We talked of many things at first, if you remember. We touched on
philosophy and on the poets, on English rhetoric and Italian art: and
I went home that night convinced that I had met a kindred spirit, whom
I hoped to meet again. When you entered this place an hour ago, and
honoured me by allowing me to sit at your table, I felt that Chance
had been benign to me."

"Again you flatter me, sir."

The Professor had hardly moved a muscle, while de Batz indulged first
in reminiscences and then in flattery. He appeared unconscious of the
other's growing excitement, sat leaning back in his chair, one slender
hand framed in spotless cambric resting on the table. And all the time
his eyes watched under heavy lids the exodus of the various clients of
the restaurant, as one by one they finished their dinner, paid their
bill, picked up hat and coat and passed out in to the fast gathering
gloom. And somehow one felt that nothing escaped those eyes, that they
saw everything, and noted everything even though their expression
never changed.

The room in the meanwhile had soon become deserted. There remained
only de Batz and the Professor at one table, and in the farther corner
a group of three men, two of whom were playing dominoes and the third
reading a newspaper. De Batz' restless eyes took a quick survey of the
room, then he leaned over the table and fixed his gaze on the other's
placid face.

"I propose to flatter you still more, my friend," he said, sinking his
voice to a whisper. "Nay! I may say to honour you...."

"Indeed?"

"By asking you to help me...."

"To do what?"

"To save the King."

"A heavy task, sir."

"But not impossible. Listen. I have five hundred friends who will be
posted to-morrow in different houses along the route between the
Temple and the Place de la Rvolution. At a signal from me, they will
rush the carriage in which only His Majesty and his confessor will be
sitting, they will drag the King out of it, and in the mle smuggle
him into a house close by, all the inhabitants of which are in my pay.
You are silent, sir?" De Batz went on, his thick, guttural voice
hoarse with emotion. "Of what are you thinking?" he added impatiently,
seeing that the other remained impassive, almost motionless.

"Of General Santerre," the Professor replied, "and his eighty thousand
armed men. Are they also in your pay?"

"Eighty thousand?" de Batz rejoined with a sneer: "Bah!"

"Do you doubt the figure?"

"No! I do not. I know all about Santerre and his eighty thousand armed
men, his bristling cannons that are already being set up on the Place
de la Rvolution, and his cannoneers who will stand by with match
burning. But you must take surprise into consideration. The
unexpected. The sudden panic. The men off their guard. As a matter of
fact, I could tell you of things that occurred before my very eyes
when that dare-devil Englishman whom they call the Scarlet Pimpernel
snatched condemned prisoners from the very tumbrils that took them to
execution. Surely you know about that?"

"I do," the Professor put in quietly, "but I don't suppose that those
tumbrils were escorted by eighty thousand armed men. There is such a
thing in this world as the impossible, you know, Monsieur le Baron:
things that are beyond man's power to effect."

"Then you won't help me?"

"You have not yet told me what you want me to do."

"I am not going to ask you to risk your life," de Batz said, trying to
keep the suspicion of a sneer out of his tone. "There are five hundred
of us for that and one more or less wouldn't make any difference to
our chance of success. But there is one little matter in which you
could render our cause a signal service, and incidentally help to save
His Majesty the King."

"What may that be, sir?"

A pause, after which de Batz resumed with seeming irrelevance:

"There is an Irish priest, the Abb Edgeworth, you have met him
perhaps?"

"Yes! I know him."

"He is known by renown to the King. The Convention, as perhaps you are
aware, has acceded to His Majesty's desire for a confessor, but those
inhuman brutes have made it a condition that that confessor shall be
of their own choosing. We know what that means. Some apostate priest
whose presence would distress and perhaps unnerve His Majesty when he
will have need of all his courage. You agree with me?"

"Of course."

"Equally, of course, we want some one to be by the side of His Majesty
during that harrowing drive from the Temple, and to prepare and
encourage him for the coup which we are contemplating."

De Batz paused a moment, his restless eyes still studying the placid
face of the Professor. At one moment it almost seemed as if he
regretted having said so much. But the mood only lasted a moment or
two. De Batz prided himself on his knowledge of men, and there was
nothing in the grave demeanour and laconic speech of this elegant
personage before him to arouse the faintest suspicion of Jacobinism.
So after a time he resumed:

"The Abb Edgeworth is the man we want for this mission. His loyalty
is unquestioned, so is his courage. Clry, the King's devoted valet,
has tried to get in touch with him, and so have His Majesty's
advocates, but they failed to find him. He is hiding somewhere in
Paris, that we know. Until fairly recently he was a lecturer at the
Sorbonne. I understand that you too, Monsieur le Professeur, have
graced that seat of learning. Anyway, I thought that you might make
inquiries in that direction. If you succeed," de Batz concluded, his
voice thick with excitement, "you will have done your share in saving
our King."

There was a moment's pause while de Batz, taking out his handkerchief
from his pocket, wiped his moist hands and his forehead which was
streaming with perspiration. Seeing that the Professor still sat
silent and impassive he said, with obvious impatience:

"Surely you are not hesitating, Monsieur le Professeur! A little thing
like that! And for such a cause! I would scour Paris myself, only that
my hands are full. And my five hundred adherents--"

"You should apply to one of them, Monsieur le Baron," the other broke
in quietly.

Monsieur le Baron gave a jump.

"You don't mean to say that you hesitate?" he uttered in a hoarse
whisper.

"I do more than that Monsieur le Baron. I refuse."

"Refuse?...ref-"

De Batz was choking. He passed his thick finger round the edge of his
cravat.

"To lend a hand in dragging the Abb Edgeworth into this affair."

De Batz' florid face had become the colour of beet-root. He stretched
out his hand and clenched his fist as if he meant to strike that
urbane milksop in the face. However, he thought better of that. A
fracas in a public place was not part of his programme. His hand
unclenched, but it closed round the stem of a wineglass and snapped it
in two. The Professor scarcely moved. In the far corner the man who
had been reading put down his paper and glanced round lazily, while
one of the domino players paused in his game, with one piece between
his fingers and a look of indifferent curiosity in his eyes.

De Batz was striving to control his temper: under his breath he
muttered the words "Poltroon! Coward!" once or twice. Aloud he said:

"You are afraid?"

"I am a man of peace," the Professor replied.

"I don't believe it," de Batz protested. "No man with decent feeling
in him would refuse to render this service. Good God, man! You are not
risking your life, not like I and my friends are willing to do. You
can help us, I know. You must have a reason  a valid reason  for
refusing to do so. As I say, you wouldn't be risking your life...."

"Not mine, but that of an innocent and a good man."

"What the devil do you mean?"

"You are proposing to throw Abb Edgeworth to the wolves."

"I am not. I am proposing to give him the chance of doing his bit in
the work of saving the life of his King. He will thank me on his knees
for this."

"He probably would, for he is of the stuff that martyrs are made. But
I will not help you to send him to his death."

With that he rose, ready to go, and reached for his hat and coat. They
hung on a peg just above de Batz' head, and de Batz made no movement
to get out of the way.

"Don't go, man," he said earnestly, "not yet. Listen to me. You don't
understand. It is all perfectly easy. In less than an hour I shall
know who the apostate priest is whom the Convention are sending to His
Majesty. I know all those fellows. Most of them are in my pay. They
are useful, if distinctly dirty, tools. To substitute our abb for the
man chosen by the Convention will entail no risk, present no
difficulties, and will cost me less than the price of a good dinner.
Now what do you say?

"What I said before," the other rejoined firmly. "Whoever accompanies
Louis XVI to the guillotine, if he be other than the one chosen by the
Convention, will be a marked man. His life will not be worth twelve
hours' purchase!"

"The guillotine? The guillotine?" De Batz retorted hotly. "Who talks
of the guillotine and of Louis XVI in one breath? I tell you, man,
that our King will never mount the steps of the guillotine. There are
five hundred of us, worth a hundred thousand of Santerre's armed men,
who will drag him out of the clutches of those assassins."

"May I have my coat?" was the Professor's quiet rejoinder.

His calmness brought de Batz' temper to boiling-point. He jumped to
his feet, snatched down the Professor's coat from its peg and threw it
down with a vicious snarl on the nearest chair. The Professor,
seemingly quite unperturbed, picked it up, put it on and with a polite
"Au revoir, Monsieur le Baron!" to which the latter did not deign to
respond, he walked quietly out of the restaurant.



3  THE LEAGUE

It was about an hour or two later. In a sparsely furnished room on the
second floor of an apartment house in the Rue du Bac five men had met:
four of them were sitting about on more or less rickety chairs, while
the fifth stood by the window, gazing out into the dusk and on the
gloomy outlook of the narrow street. He was tall above the average,
was this individual, still dressed in the black, well-tailored suit
which he had worn during his dinner in company with the Austrian Baron
at Fvrier's, and which suggested a professional man: a professor
perhaps, at the university.

The outlook through the window was indeed gloomy. Dusk was quickly
fading into night. A pitiless north-easterly wind drove the shower of
sleet against the window-panes and howled down the chimney, driving
the smoke from the small iron stove in gusts into the room. The five
men were silent for the moment: indeed the only sound that penetrated
to this dreary-looking apartment just now was the howling wind and the
patter of the sleet against the windows. But outside depression did
not apparently weigh on the spirits of the men. There was no look of
despondency on their faces, rather the reverse, they looked eager and
excited, and the back of the tall man in black with the broad
shoulders and narrow hips suggested energy rather than dejection.
After a time he turned away from the window and found a perch on the
edge of a broken-down truckle bed that stood in a corner of the room.

"Well!" he began addressing the others collectively, "you heard what
that madman said?"

"Most of it," one of them replied.

"He has a crack-brained scheme of stirring up five hundred madcaps
into shouting and rushing the carriage in which the King will be
driven from prison to the scaffold. Five hundred lunatics egged on by
that candidate for Bedlam, trying to reach that carriage which will be
escorted by eighty thousand armed men! It would be ludicrous if it
were not so tragic."

"One wonders," remarked one of them, "who those wretched five hundred
are."

"Young royalists," the other replied, "all of them known to the
Committees. As a matter of fact, I happen to know that most of them,
if not all, will receive a visit from the police during the early
hours of the morning, and will not be allowed to leave their
apartments till after the execution of the King."

"Heavens, man!" the eldest of the four men exclaimed, "how did you
know that?"

"It was quite simple, my dear fellow, and quite easy. The crowd filed
out, as you know, directly the final verdict was proclaimed. It was
three o'clock in the morning. Everybody there was almost delirious
with excitement. No one took notice of anybody else. The President and
the other judges went into the refreshment-room which is reserved for
them. You know the one I mean. It is in the Tour de Csar, at the back
of the Hall of Justice. It has no door, only an archway. There was
still quite a crowd moving along the corridors. I got as near the
archway as I could, and I heard Vergniaud give the order that every
inhabitant of the city, known to have royalist or even moderate
tendencies, must be under police surveillance in their own apartments
until midday."

"Percy, you are wonderful!" the young man exclaimed fervently.

"Tony, you are an idiot!" the other retorted with a laugh.

"Then we may take it that our Austrian friend's scheme will just
fizzle out like a damp squib?"

"You had never thought, had you, Blakeney, that we..."

"God forbid!" Sir Percy broke in emphatically. "I wouldn't risk your
precious lives in what common sense tells me is an impossible scheme.
It may be quixotic. I dare say it is; but what in Heaven's name does
that megalomaniac hope to accomplish? To break through a cordon of
troops ten deep? Folly, of course! But even supposing he and his five
hundred did succeed in approaching the carriage, what do they hope to
do afterwards? Do they propose to fight the entire garrison of the
city which is a hundred and thirty thousand strong? Does he imagine
for a moment that the entire population of Paris will rise as one man
and suddenly take up the cause of king-ship? Folly, of course! Folly
of the worst type, because the first outcome of a hand-to-hand fight
in the streets would be the murder of the King in the open street, by
some unknown hand. Isn't that so?"

They all agreed. Their chief was not in the habit of talking lengthily
on any point. That he did so on this occasion was proof how keenly he
felt about the whole thing. Did he wish to justify before these
devoted followers of his, his inaction with regard to the condemned
King? I do not think so. He was accustomed to blind obedience  that
was indeed the factor that held the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel so
indissolubly together  and three of the four men who were here with
him to-day, Lord Anthony Dewhurst, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and Lord
Hastings, were his most enthusiastic followers.

Be that as it may, he did speak lengthily on this occasion, and placed
before his friends a clear expos of the situation on the morrow as
far as any attempt at rescuing the King was concerned. But there was
something more. The others knew there was something else coming, or
their chief would not have given them the almost imperceptible signal
when he left the restaurant to wait for him in this squalid apartment,
which had for some time been their accustomed meeting place. They
waited in silence and presently Sir Percy spoke again:

"Putting, therefore, aside the question of the King whose fate, of
course, horrifies us all, the man we have got to think of now is that
unfortunate priest whom de Batz wants to drag forcibly into his
scheme, and who will surely lose his head if our League does not
intervene."

"The Abb Edgeworth?" one of them said.

"Exactly. Edgeworth is of Irish extraction, which adds to our interest
in him. Still! that isn't the point. He is a very good man, who has
worked unremittingly in the slums of Paris. Anyway, we are not going
to throw him to the wolves, are we?"

They all nodded assent. And Ffoulkes added: "Of course not, if you say
so, Percy."

"I shall know towards morning whether de Batz has arranged to
substitute him for the man whom the Convention has chosen as confessor
for the King. As soon as I do get definite information about that I
will get in touch with you. We will take our stand at seven o'clock on
the Place de la Rvolution, at the angle of the Rue galit which used
to be the Rue Royale. That will be the nearest point we can get to the
guillotine. After the King's head has fallen there will be an immense
commotion in the crowd and a rush for those horrible souvenirs which
the executioner will sell to the highest bidder. It makes one's gorge
rise even to think of that. But it will be our opportunity. Between
the five of us we'll soon get hold of Edgeworth and get him to
safety."

"Where do you think of taking him?" Lord Tony asked.

"To Choisy. You remember the Levets?"

"Of course. I like old Levet. He is a sportsman."

"I like him too," Sir Andrew added, "and I am terribly sorry for the
poor old mother. I don't mind the girl either, but I don't trust that
sweetheart of hers."

"Which one?" Blakeney queried with a smile. "Pretty little Blanche
Levet has quite a number."

"Ffoulkes means that doctor fellow," here interposed the youngest of
the three men, Lord St. John Devinne, who had sat silent and obviously
morose up to now, taking no part in the conversation between his chief
and his other friends. He was a good-looking, tall young man of the
usual high-bred English type, and could have been called decidedly
handsome but for a certain look of obstinacy coupled with weakness,
which lurked in his grey eyes and was accentuated by the somewhat
effeminate curve of his lips.

"Pradel isn't a bad sort really," Sir Andrew responded. "Perhaps a
little too fond of spouting about Libert, galit, and the rest of
it.

"I can't stand the brute," Devinne muttered sullenly. "He is always
talking and arguing and telling the unwashed crowds what fine fellows
they really are, if only they knew it, and what good times they are
going to have in the future."

He shrugged and added with bitter contempt:

"Libert? galit? What consummate rot!"

"Well!" Sir Percy interposed in his quiet, incisive voice, "isn't
there just something to be said for it? The under-dog has had a pretty
bad time in France. He is snarling now, and biting. But Pradel  I
know him  is an intellectual, he will never be an assassin."

Devinne shrugged again and murmured: "I am not so sure about that,"
while Lord Tony broke in with his cheery laugh and said:

"I'll tell you what's the matter with our friend Pradel."

"What?" Sir Andrew asked.

"He is in love."

"Of course. With little Blanche Levet."

"Not he. He is in love with Ccile de la Rodire."

This was received with derision and incredulity.

"What rubbish!" Sir Andrew said.

"Not really?" Hastings queried.

But Blakeney assented: "I am afraid it's true."

While Devinne broke in hotly: "He wouldn't dare!"

"There's nothing very daring in being in love, my dear fellow," Sir
Percy remarked dryly.

"Then why did you say you were afraid it was true," the other
retorted.

"Because that sort of thing invariably leads to trouble even in these
days."

"Can you see Madame la Marquise," was Sir Andrew Ffoulkes' somewhat
bitter comment on the situation, "and her son Franois, if they should
happen to find out that the village doctor is in love with
Mademoiselle de la Rodire?"

"I can," Devinne remarked spitefully. "There would be the good old
story, which I must say has something to be said for it: a sound
thrashing for Monsieur Pradel at the hands of Monsieur le Marquis, and..."

He paused, and a dark flush spread over his good-looking face.
Chancing to look up he had met his chief's glance which rested upon
him with an expression that was difficult to define. It was good-
humoured, pitying, slightly sarcastic, and, anyway, reduced the
obstinate young man to silence.

There was silence for a moment or two. Somehow Lord St. John Devinne's
attitude, his curt argument with the chief, seemed to have thrown a
kind of damper on the eagerness of the others. Blakeney after a time
consulted his watch and then said very quietly:

"It is time we got back to business."

At once they were ready to listen. The word "business" meant so much
to them: excitement, adventure, the spice of their lives. Only Devinne
remained silent and sullen, never once looking up in the direction of
his chief.

"Listen, you fellows," Blakeney now resumed in his firm, most
authoritative tone, "if you hear nothing from me between now and to-
morrow morning, it will mean that they have roped in that unfortunate
abb. Well! We are not going to allow that. He is a splendid chap, who
does a great deal of good work among the poor, and if he allows
himself to be roped in, it will be from an exaggerated sense of duty.
Anyway, if you don't hear from me, we'll meet, as I said, at seven
o'clock sharp at the angle of the Rue galit and the Place de la
Rvolution. After that, all you'll have to do will be to stick to me
as closely as you can, and if we get separated we meet again at
Choisy. Make yourselves look as demmed a set of ruffians as you can.
That shouldn't be difficult."

Again he paused before concluding:

"If, on the other hand, the King is not to accompanied to the scaffold
by the Abb Edgeworth, I will bring or send word to you here, not
later than five o'clock in the morning. Remember that my orders to you
all for the night are: don't get yourselves caught. If you do, there
will be trouble for us all."

The others smiled. He then nodded to them, said briefly: "That is all.
Good night! Bless you!" and the next moment was gone. The others
listened intently for a while, trying to catch the sound of his
footsteps down the stone staircase, but none came, and they went over
to the window and looked out into the street. Through the fog and
driving sleet they could just perceive the tall figure of their chief
as he went across the road and then disappeared in the night.

With one accord three gallant English gentlemen murmured a fervent:
"God guard him!" But Devinne still remained silent, and after a little
while went out of the room.

Lord Tony said, speaking to both the others:

"Do you trust that fellow Devinne?" and then added emphatically: "I do
not."

My Lord Hastings shook his head thoughtfully.

"I wonder what is the matter with him."

"I can tell you that," Lord Tony observed. "He is in love with
Mademoiselle de la Rodire. He met her in Paris five years ago, before
all this revolutionary trouble had begun. Her mother and, of course,
her brother won't hear of her marrying a foreigner, any more than a
village doctor, and Devinne, you know, is a queer-tempered fellow. He
cannot really look on that fellow Pradel as a serious rival, and yet,
as you could see just now, he absolutely hates him and vents his
spleen upon him. His attitude to the chief I call unpardonable. That
is why I do not trust him."

Whereupon Sir Andrew murmured under his breath: "If we have a traitor
in the camp, then God help the lot of us."



4  JANUARY 21ST

The streets of Paris on that morning were silent as the grave: only at
the gate of the Temple prison, when the King stepped out into the
street, accompanied by the Abb Edgeworth, and entered the carriage
that was waiting for him, were there a few feeble cries of "Mercy!
Mercy!" uttered mostly by women. No other sound came from the crowd
that had assembled round the Temple gate. All along the route, too,
there was silence. No one dared speak or utter a cry of compassion,
for every man was in terror of his neighbour, who might denounce him
as a traitor to the Republic. The windows of all the houses were
closed, and no face was to be seen at them, peering out into the
street. Eighty thousand men at arms stood aligned between the prison
and the Place de la Rvolution, where the guillotine awaited the royal
victim of this glorious revolution. Through that cordon no man or body
of men could break, and at every street corner cannons bristled and
the cannoneers stood waiting with match burning, silent and motionless
like stone statues rather than men. Nor was there sound of wheel
traffic along the streets, only the rumble of one carriage, in which
sat the descendant of sixteen kings, about to die a shameful death by
the sentence of his people. Louis sat in the carriage listening to
Abb Edgeworth who read out to him the Prayers for the Dying.

At the angle of the Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle and the Rue de la Lune on
a hillock made up of debris from recent excavations, a short, stout,
florid man was standing, wrapped in a dark cape. It was the Baron de
Batz. He had been standing here for the past three hours, trying
vainly to keep himself warm by stamping his feet on the frozen ground.
Two hours ago a couple of young men came down the narrow Rue de la
Lune and joined the lonely watcher. There was some whispered
conversation between the three of them, after which they all remained
silent at their post, and from the height on which they stood they
scanned the crowd to right and left of them with ever-increasing
anxiety. But there was no sign of any of the five hundred accomplices
who were to aid de Batz in his crazy scheme of saving the King. As a
matter of fact, de Batz didn't know that in the early hours of the
morning most of those five hundred had been roused from sleep by
peremptory knocks at their door. A couple of gendarmes had then
entered their apartment with orders to keep them under observation,
and not to allow them outside their houses until past midday. De Batz
and the two friends who were with him now had spent the night talking
and scheming in a tavern on the Boulevard and thus escaped this
domiciliary visit. They could not understand what had happened, and as
time went on they fell to cursing their fellow-conspirators for their
treachery or cowardice. Time went on, leaden-footed but inexorable.
From the direction of the Temple prison there had already come the
ominous sound of the roll of drums, soon followed by the rumble of
carriage wheels.

Fog and sleet blurred the distant outline of the Boulevard, but soon
through the vaporous mist de Batz and his friends could perceive the
vanguard of the military cortge. First the mounted gendarmerie,
barring the whole width of the street, then the grenadiers of the
National Guard, then the artillery, followed by the drummers, and
finally the carriage itself, hermetically closed with shutters against
the windows, and round it and behind it more and more troops, more
cannon and drummers and grenadiers. De Batz and his friends saw the
march past. Luckily for them their five hundred adherents were not
there to shout and wave their arms and attempt to break through a
cordon of soldiery stronger than any that had ever marched through the
streets of a city before. The three men were soon submerged in the
crowd that moved and surged in the direction of the Place de la
Rvolution.

Here in front of the guillotine the carriage came to a halt. The Place
de la Rvolution behind the troops was crowded with idlers who were
trying to get a view of the awe-inspiring spectacle. It was a great
thing to see a king on trial for his life. It was a still greater
thing to see him die.

The carriage door was opened. General Santerre commanded a general
beating of drums as the King of France mounted the steps of the
guillotine. The Abb Edgeworth was close beside his King, still
murmuring the Prayers for the Dying.

It was all over in a moment. Louis tried to say a few words to his
people protesting his innocence, but Santerre cried "Tambours!" once
more and the roll of drums drowned those last words of the dying
monarch. The axe fell. There sere shouts of "Vive la Rpublique!"
there were caps raised on bayonets, hats were waved, and an excited
crowd made a rush for the scaffold as the executioner held up the dead
monarch's head. Handkerchiefs were dipped in the blood. Locks of hair
were cut off the head and sold by the executioner for pieces of
silver. There followed half an hour of frantic excitement, during
which men shrieked and women screamed, men tumbled over one another
trying to rush up the steps of the guillotine, and were hurled down
again by the executioner and his aides, while missiles of every kind
flew over the heads of this singing, waving, tumultuous mob. The din
was incessant and drowned the intermittent roll of drums and the
shouts of command from the officers to the soldiery.

And throughout all this uproar the Abb Edgeworth remained on his
knees, on the spot where last he had a sight of his King, and had
urged this son of St. Louis to mount serenely up to heaven. He paid no
attention to all the wild screaming and roaring, or to the occasional
cries: "A la lanterne le calotin!" which were hurled threateningly at
his calm kneeling figure.

"A moi le calotin!" came at one time with a roar like that of an
unchained bull, quite close to his ear.

"Non,  moi!"

" moi!  moi!"

It just went through the abb's mind that some in the crowd were
thirsting for his blood, that they would presently drag him to the
guillotine, and that he would be sent to his death in just the same
way as his King had been. But the thought did not frighten him. He
went on mumbling his prayers, until suddenly he felt himself seized
round the shoulders and lifted off his knees, while a frantic crowd
still cried: "A la lanterne le calotin!" in the intervals of roaring
with laughter. The last thing he heard was a shout from the
executioner: "I sell Capet's breeches for twenty livres, his coat for
thirty  his shoes..."

In the excitement of security these relics the tumultuous crowd forgot
the calotin, so wild a rush was there for the platform of the
guillotine, where the gruesome auction was about to take place. The
abb by now was only half conscious. He felt the pushing and the
jostling all round him, and then a heavy cloak or shawl was wrapped
all round him, through which all the hideous sounds became more and
more muffled and subdued, till they ceased altogether, and he finally
completely lost consciousness.

On the Place de la Rvolution, this half-hour of frantic excitement
gradually passed away. Presently the troops departed and the crowd
gradually dispersed. Men returned to their usual avocations, went to
restaurants and cafs, bought, sold and bartered, as if this 21st day
of January, 1793, had not been one of the most stupendous ones in the
whole course of history.

In the Hall of the Convention members of the Government rubbed their
hands together, and deputies called to one another across the room
"C'est fait, c'est fait!" "It is done!" The great thing is done. A
king has died on the scaffold like a common criminal for having
conspired against the liberty of his people.

It was not until evening that the Convention in Committee decided that
the priest who had received the last confessions of Louis Capet had
better be put out of the way. He was not the man whom the Government
had chosen for the purpose. Who knows what strange and uncomfortable
things Louis Capet may have confided to him at the last? Anyway, he
was better dead than alive, the committee decided, and the police was
instructed to proceed at once with his arrest.

But somehow or other in the turmoil which immediately followed the
execution of Louis Capet, the Abb Edgeworth had disappeared.



5  THE LEVETS OF CHOISY

The Levet family at this time was composed of four members. The old
man Charles  he was actually not more than fifty but had always been
known as "old Levet" as against his eldest son "young Levet," of whom
more anon. The old man, then, was by profession a herbalist; his work
took him out into the meadows and the mountains and along the river-
banks to collect the medicinal herbs required by the druggists. This
kind of life  lonely of necessity for the most part  had made him
silent and introspective. He had lived with Nature and knew her every
mood: nothing in her frightened him: frosts, snows, thunderstorms were
his friends. He did not fear them: he communed with them. Outside
nature, two loves had filled his life: his wife and his eldest son.
"Young Levet," who was a lieutenant in the Royal Guard, was killed
while defending the Tuileries attacked by the mob in August '92. "Old
Levet" was never the same man after that. Sparing of words before, he
became taciturn and morose. His wife never recovered from the shock.
She had a paralytic stroke and had hovered between life and death ever
since, unable to speak, unable to move, her great, dark eyes alone
reflecting the mental anguish which news from Paris of the horrors of
the Revolution caused to her enfeebled mind. Both she and her husband,
like their beloved eldest son, were ardent royalists, and poor
Henriette Levet had very nearly died when she heard other members of
her family or friends speak of the trial of the King and the
possibility of his death.

The second and now only son of the Levets, Augustin, was a priest,
attached to Saint-Sulpice. Like his father, he was sparing of words
save in the exercise of his calling. Whatever time he was able to
spare from his duties in the parish, he spent with his mother, reading
to her from books of devotion or the Lives of Saints, in a dull,
dispassionate voice from which the poor sick woman did not seem to
derive much comfort. On the other hand, Blanche, the daughter of the
Levets, did her best to bring an atmosphere not exactly of
cheerfulness, as that seemed impossible, but of distraction and of
brightness into the Levet household. She was pretty, not yet twenty,
and young men gathered round her like flies round a honey-pot. Her
brother's constant admonitions that she should take life seriously had
little effect on her mercurial temperament. In order not to come in
conflict with her family and most of the friends who frequented her
father's house, she professed, enthusiasm for the royalist cause, and
as she had a quick, inventive brain she knew how to exhibit loyalty
for the King and horror at his misfortunes. But it was all very much
on the surface; her political views, such as they were, did not
interfere with her ready acceptance of the homage of young men of
avowedly revolutionary opinions such, for instance, as Louis Maurin,
the young lawyer who was very much in love with Blanche and very much
in awe of her papa, two reasons which caused him to keep his way of
thinking to himself. "Old Levet" did not actually forbid Louis Maurin
the house, but he did not encourage the young man's visits; however,
when he did come, which was as often as he dared, Louis was very
discreet, and Blanche's provocative smile caused him to endure
patiently the old man's wrathful glances, whenever politics cropped up
as subject of conversation.

As a matter of fact, Blanche did no more than flirt with young Maurin,
as she did with anything that wore breeches and avowed admiration for
her. The youth of Choisy mostly did. All except the local doctor,
Simon Pradel of Provenal parentage, erudite, good-looking, athletic,
and immensely popular in the commune where, with a small fortune left
to him by an uncle whom he had never seen, he had founded and endowed
a hospital for sick children. He came frequently to the house in his
capacity as doctor to Madame Levet: the poor woman's large eyes spoke
the welcome that her lips could not utter, and he was the only man
with whom "old Levet" cared to have what he called a talk, which meant
that he listened with sympathy and even an occasional smile to what
the young doctor had to say.

Blanche did more than listen on those occasions, and both with smiles
and glances she showed Pradel that his visits were welcome, although,
as with all her admirers, she did no more than flirt with this one
also. But strangely enough, the young man remained impervious to the
spoilt beauty's blandishments, and his manner towards her was no
different from that which he displayed towards Marie Bachelier, the
maid of all work. In Choisy itself Pradel was called by some a
misanthrope and even a woman-hater, but there were others who declared
that they had seen Dr. Pradel roaming o' nights in the purlieus of the
Chteau de la Rodire, in the hope, so they said, of catching a
glimpse of Mademoiselle Ccile. Some of this tittle-tattle did not
fail to reach pretty Blanche Levet's ears, and it is an
uncontrovertible axiom that pique will always enkindle love. Jealousy
too played its part in this sudden wakening of Blanche's
unsophisticated heart. Certain it is that what had been at first
little else than warm-hearted sympathy for the young doctor became
something very like infatuation, almost in the turn of a hand.



6  NEWS

This 21st day of January had been one of unmitigated terror and
despair for the inmates of the Levets' house at Choisy. Old Levet had
gone out quite early in the morning. With snow on the ground and a fog
lying thick over the river and the meadows he could not gather herbs
and simples and follow his usual avocation. What he wanted above all,
however, was to be alone, and then to wander into the town in search
of news. News!! What this day and its destined terrible event meant to
a man of Levet's convictions can scarcely be conceived. To him the
execution of the King of France by the sentence of the people was
nothing short of sacrilege, a crime only one degree less impious than
that committed on Calvary. Old Levet wanted to be the first to hear
the news. Unless a miracle happened at the eleventh hour he knew that
it would surpass in horror anything that had ever occurred before in
history. And he knew that he would have to break that news to his
wife. If he didn't tell her, she would guess, and when she knew she
would surely die.

And so the old man  really old now though he was no more than fifty 
wandered out into the streets of Choisy alone, communing with himself,
trying all in vain to steel himself against the awful blow that was
sure to fall. All the morning he wandered aimlessly. But at ten
o'clock he came to a halt. There was something in the air that told
him that the awesome deed was accomplished: it was a distant rumbling
that sounded like a roll of thunder; but Levet knew in his heart that
it was the roll of drums, announcing to the world that the head of a
King of France had fallen under the guillotine. And in his heart he
felt acute physical pain, and a sudden intense hatred for the people
all around him. They knew just as well as he did what had happened.
Some of them had paused with finger uplifted, listening to that
something in the air which was quite undefinable. There was a caf
close by. The proprietor had taken down the shutters a quarter of an
hour ago. Customers had quickly flocked in. There was quite a crowd in
there. And suddenly when that distant roll had died away, those inside
set up a loud cheer. It was taken up by a few passers-by while others
stood still, mute, as if awe had turned them to stone. Old Levet fled
down the street. It led to the river and the bridge. At the bridge-
head he stopped. There was a corner-stone there; he sat down on it and
waited. He had risen very early in the morning, and when he opened the
front door of his house, he saw a note weighted down with a stone
lying on the doorstep. He stooped and picked it up and read it, well
knowing where the note came from. He had had several like it before,
usually giving him instructions how to help in a deed of mercy. He had
always been ready to help and to obey those instructions, for they
came from a man whom he only knew vaguely as a professor at some
university, but whom he respected above all men he had ever come
across. Charles Levet had always given what help he could, often at
considerable risk to himself.

The note to-day also gave him instructions, very simple ones this
time. All it said was: "Wait at the bridge-head from noon till dusk."
It was only ten o'clock as yet, but old Levet didn't care. What were
hours to him, now that such an awful calamity had sullied the fair
name of France for ever? He was numb with cold and fatigue, but he
didn't care. He just sat there, waiting and watching, with lack-lustre
eyes, the stream of traffic go by over the bridge. Crowds were
returning from Paris on foot, on horse-back or in cabriolets. They had
been up in the capital "to see the show." They were talking and
laughing quite naturally, as if they had been to a theatre or a race-
meeting. Old Levet drew his cape closer round his shoulders, and
closed his aching eyes. The cold had made him drowsy.

A distant church clock had struck four when out of the crowd of
passers-by two figures detached themselves and made straight for the
corner-stone where old Levet was sitting, waiting patiently. A tall
figure and a short one: two men, both dressed in black and wrapped in
heavy capes against the cold. Levet shook himself out of his torpor.
The taller of the two men helped him struggle to his feet, and then
said:

"This is the Abb Edgeworth, Charles. He was with His Majesty until
the last."

"We'll go straight home," Levet responded simply. "It is cold here,
and Monsieur l'Abb is welcome."

Without another words the three men started to walk back through the
town. It was characteristic of Levet that he made no further comment,
nor did he ask a question. He walked briskly, ahead of the other two,
looking neither to right nor left. The priest appeared to be in a
state of exhaustion; his tall friend held him tightly by the arm, to
enable him to walk at all. At a distance of some hundred metres or so
from his house old Levet came to a halt. He waited till the other came
close to him, then he said simply:

"My wife is very ill. She knows nothing yet. Perhaps she guesses. But
I must prepare her. Will you wait here?"

It was quite dark now, and the fog very dense. Levet's shrunken figure
was quickly lost to view.



7  MONSIEUR LE PROFESSEUR

The Levet's house stood about four metres back from the road, behind a
low wall which was surmounted by an iron railing. An iron grille gave
access to a tiny front garden, intersected by a narrow brick path
which led to the front door. Charles Levet went into the house,
closing the door noiselessly. He took of his cloak, and went straight
into the sitting-room. It adjoined his wife's bedroom. The double
communicating doors were wide open, and he could see the invalid
stretched out on her bed, with her thin arms spread outside the
coverlet. Her great dark eyes looked agonizingly expectant. Her son
Augustin was on his knees beside the bed, murmuring half-audible
prayers. As soon as she caught sight of her husband, she guessed that
all was over, and the unforgivable crime had been committed. Old Levet
knew that she guessed. He came quickly to the bedside. An ashen-grey
hue spread over the dying woman's face, and a film gathered over her
eyes.

"The doctor," old Levet commanded, speaking to his son.

"Too late," Augustin responded without rising from his knees; "her
soul has fled to God!" He turned over a page in his book of devotion
and began reciting the Prayers for the Dead.

Levet stooped and kissed his dead wife's forehead. Then he reverently
closed her eyes. The shock, even though she had expected it, had
killed her. The death of her eldest son had stretched her on a bed of
sickness, the death of her King had brought about the end. The horror
of the deed, the knowledge of the appalling sacrilege had snapped the
attenuated thread that held her to life.

Levet broke in, with some impatience, on his son's orisons:

"Where is your sister?" he asked.

"She went out a few moments ago to fetch Pradel. I could see that my
mother was passing away, so I sent her."

"She shouldn't have gone out alone at night, in this fog, too...."

"She wasn't alone," the young priest rejoined, "Louis Maurin was with
her."

At mention of the name the old man flared up: "You don't mean to tell
me that, to-day of all days, that renegade was in my house?"

Augustin gave an indifferent shrug. His father went on with unabated
vehemence: "With your mother lying on the point of death, Augustin,
you should not have allowed this outrage."

"Communion with the dying," the priest retorted, "was of greater
import than political quarrels. Maurin didn't stay long," he went on;
"I had to send for Pradel, I wanted him to go. But Blanche insisted on
going herself. But what does it all matter, Father? In face of what
happened to-day, what does anything matter in this sinful world?"

This was the only indication Augustin Levet gave that he, too, felt
acutely the horror of the crime that had been committed that morning,
and had been the direct cause of his mother's death. Having said that
much, he resumed his orisons, and in the room where the dead woman lay
there fell a solemn silence, only broken by the dull sound of the
young priest's muttered prayers.

Charles Levet remained standing, silent and almost motionless by the
bedside of his dead wife. Then he turned abruptly and went through the
sitting-room out into the street. Some two hundred metres up the road
he came on Blakeney and the priest who were waiting for him. The
latter by now was scarcely able to stand; he was leaning heavily
against the Englishman's shoulder.

Levet said simply: "My wife is dead," and then added: "Come, Monsieur
l'Abb, you are welcome! And you too, Monsieur le Professeur."

Between them the two men supported the tottering footsteps of the
abb, almost carried him, in fact, as far as the grille. Here the
three men came to a halt, and Blakeney said:

"I think Monsieur l'Abb will be all right now. When he has had some
food and a short rest, he will be able to come with me as far as the
chteau. Monsieur le Marquis will look after him the rest of the night
and," he added speaking to the priest, "we hope within the next
twenty-four hours, Monsieur l'Abb, to have you well on the way to
permanent safety."

"I don't know," the abb murmured feebly, "how to show my gratitude to
you, sir. You and your friends were heroic in dragging me away from
that cruel mob. I don't even know who you are  yet you saved my life
at risk of your own  why you did it I cannot guess-"

"Don't try, Monsieur l'Abb," Blakeney broke in quietly, "and reserve
your gratitude for my friend Charles Levet, without whose loyalty my
friends and I would have been helpless."

He gave Levet's hand a friendly squeeze and opened the grille for the
two men to pass through. He waited a moment or two till they reached
the front door, and was on the point of turning to go when he was
confronted by two figures which had just emerged out of the fog. One
of them was Blanche Levet. Blakeney raised his hat and she exclaimed:

"If it isn't Monsieur le Professeur? Why! What are you doing in
Choisy, Monsieur, at this time of night?"

She turned to her companion and went on still lightly and
inconsequently:

"Louis, don't you know Monsieur le Professeur-"

"D'Arblay," Blakeney put in, as Blanche had paused, not knowing the
name of her father's friend, who had always been referred to in the
house as Monsieur le Professeur. "No," he continued, turning to the
young lawyer, "I have not yet had the honour of meeting Monsieur  I
mean Citizen-"

"Maurin," Blanche broke in, "Louis Maurin, and now you know each
other's names, will you both come in and-"

"Not now, Mademoiselle," Blakeney said, "Madame Levet is too ill to-"

"My mother is dead," Blanche rejoined quietly. "I went to fetch
Docteur Pradel, because Augustin wished me to, but I knew then already
that she was dead."

She spoke without any emotion. Evidently no great tie of filial love
bound her to her sick mother.

She murmured a quick "Good night," however. Blakeney held the grille
open for her, and she ran swiftly into the house.

The two men waited a moment or two until they heard the door of the
house close behind the young girl. Then Maurin said:

"Are you going back to Choisy, Citizen?" When Blakeney replied with a
curt "Yes!" the lawyer continued: "May I walk with you part of the
way? I am going into the town myself."

On the way down the street Louis Maurin did most of the talking. He
spoke of the great event of the day, but did so in a sober, quiet
manner. Evidently he did not belong to the Extremist Party, or an any
rate did not wish to appear as anything but a moderate and patriotic
Republican. Blakeney answered in mono-syllables. He knew little, he
said, about politics; science, he said, was a hard taskmaster who
monopolized all his time. Arrived opposite the Caf Tison on the
Grand' Place, he was about to take his leave when Maurin insisted that
they should drink a fine together. Blakeney hesitated for a few
seconds; then he suddenly made up his mind and he and the young lawyer
went into the caf together.

Louis Maurin had begun to interest him.



8  MAURIN THE LAWYER

There was quite a crowd in the caf. A number of idlers and quidnuncs
had drifted out by now from Paris, bringing with them news of the
great event and of the minor happenings that clustered round it.
Lepelletier, the rich and noted deputy who had voted for "Death with
no delay," had been assassinated by an unknown and fanatical royalist
while he sat at dinner in a fashionable restaurant. His funeral would
be on the morrow. Philippe d'Orlans, now known as Philippe galit,
Louis Capet's own cousin, had driven in a smart cabriolet to the Place
de la Rvolution, and watched his kinsman's head fall under the
guillotine. "A good patriot, what?" was the universal comment on his
attitude. The priest who had been with Capet to the last had
mysteriously disappeared at the very moment when, in the Hall of
Justice, a decree had been promulgated ordering his arrest. He was, it
seems, a dangerous conspirator whom traitors in the pay of Austria had
sent to the Temple prison as a substitute for the priest chosen by the
Convention to attend on Louis Capet. This news was received with
execration. But the priest could not have gone far. The police would
soon get him, and he would then pay his second visit to Madame la
Guillotine with no chance of paying her a third.

That was the general trend of conversation in the Caf Tison: the
telling of news and the comments thereon. Louis Maurin and Blakeney
had secured a table in a quiet corner of the room; they ordered coffee
and fine, and the lawyer told the waiter to bring him pen, ink and
paper. These were set before him. He said a polite "Will you excuse
me?" to his vis--vis before settling down to write. When he had
finished what appeared to be a longish letter, he slipped it into an
envelope, closed and addressed it, and then summoned the waiter back.
He handed him the letter, together with some small money, and said
peremptorily:

"There is a commissionaire outside. Give him this and tell him to take
it at once to the Town Hall."

The waiter said: "Yes, Citizen!" and went out with the letter, after
which short incident the two men sat on silently opposite one another
for a time, sipping their coffee and fine, watching the bustling crowd
around them, and listening to the chatter, the comments and
expressions of approval and disapproval more or less ear-splitting, as
the news the quidnuncs brought were welcome or the reverse.

And suddenly Maurin came out with an abrupt question:

"Who was that with old Levet just now, Monsieur le Professeur?" he
asked. "Do you happen to know? He was dressed like a priest. I am sure
I saw a cassock."

He blurted this out in a loud, rasping voice, almost as if he felt
irritated by Monsieur le Professeur's composure and desired to upset
it. He did not know, astute lawyer through he was, that he was sitting
opposite a man whom no power on earth could ever ruffle or disturb.
The man to him was just a black-coated worker like himself, professor
at some university or other, a Frenchman, of course, judging from his
precise and highly cultured speech.

"I saw no one," Blakeney replied simply. "Perhaps it was a priest
called in to attend Madame Levet. You heard Mademoiselle Blanche say
that her mother was dying."

"Dead, I understood," Maurin commented dryly. "But Levet, anyhow, had
no need to send for a priest. His own son is a calotin."

"Indeed? Then it must have been the doctor."

"The doctor? No, Blanche and I went to fetch Docteur Pradel, but he
was not in."

Maurin remained silent for a minute or two and then said decisively:

"I am sure  or nearly sure that it was not Pradel. Of course the fog
was very dense and I may have been mistaken. But I don't think I was.
At any rate..."

He paused, and thoughtfully sipped his coffee over the rim of his cup;
he seemed to be watching his vis--vis very intently.

Suddenly he said:

"I shall be going to the Town Hall presently. Will you accompany me,
Monsieur le Professeur?"

"To the Town Hall?" I regret, but I..."

"It won't take up much of your time," the young lawyer insisted, "and
your presence would be very helpful to me."

"How so?"

"As a witness."

"Would you mind explaining? I don't quite understand."

Maurin called for another fine, drank it down at a gulp and went on:

"Should I be boring you, Monsieur le Professeur, if I were to tell you
something of my own sentimental history. You are, I know, an intimate
friend of the Levets, and my story is closely connected with theirs.
Shall I be boring you?" he reiterated.

"Not in the least," Blakeney answered courteously.

The younger man leaned across the table and lowering his voice to a
whisper he began:

"I love Blanche Levet. My great desire is to make her my wife.
Unfortunately her father hates me like poison. Though I am a moderate,
if convinced Republican, he classes me with all those he calls
assassins and regicides." He paused a moment, then once more insisted:
"You are quite sure that this does not bore you, Monsieur le
Professeur?"

"Quite sure," Blakeney replied.

"You are very kind. I was hoping to enlist your sympathy, perhaps your
co-operation, because Blanche has often told me that old Levet has a
great regard for you."

"And I for him."

"Quite so. Now, my dear Professeur," the lawyer went on
confidentially, "when I saw just now old Levet introducing a man
surreptitiously into his house, a scheme suggested itself to me which
fervently hope will bring about my union with the woman of my choice.
I cannot tell you what put it into my head that Levet was acting
surreptitiously, all I know is that the thought did occur to me, and
that it gave rise in my mind to the scheme which, with your
permission, I will now put before you, with a view to soliciting your
kind co-operation. Will you allow me to proceed?"

"Please do," Blakeney responded. "You interest me enormously."

"You are very kind."

Once more the lawyer paused. The noise in the room made conversation
difficult. He leaned farther over the table, and went on still in a
subdued tone of voice:

"Whether the man who was with Charles Levet just now, and whom he took
into his house, was a genuine priest or not, I neither know nor care.
He may be the fugitive Abb Edgeworth for aught it matters to me. I am
practically certain that it wasn't the doctor, but anyway he is just a
pawn in the close game which I propose to play, a game, the ultimate
stakes of which are my future welfare and success of my career. Old
Levet has more money than you would think," he added unblushingly,
"and Blanche, besides being very attractive  I am really in love with
her  will have a considerable dot, whilst I...."

He gave a significant shrug and added: "Well! We understand one
another, do we not, Monsieur le Professeur? With us black-coated
workers money is the only ladder to success."

"Quite so," Blakeney assented imperturbably.

"Anyway, what I am going to do is this. I have just sent a letter to
the Chief of Section at the Town Hall, denouncing the Levet family as
harbouring a traitor in their house. I enjoy a great deal of prestige
with our local authorities and they will take my word for it that the
Levets' guest is a dangerous conspirator against the Republic. Now do
you guess my purpose?"

"Not exactly."

"It is really quite simple. Just think for a moment how we shall all
stand within the next few hours. Levet, his daughter, his son and his
guest arrested. I, Louis Maurin, using my influence with the
authorities to get the family liberated. Levet's gratitude expressed
by granting me his daughter's hand in marriage. Surely you can see how
splendidly it will all work."

"Not quite," Blakeney remarked after a slight pause.

"Where's the hitch?"

"I was thinking of the guest. Will your influence be extended towards
his liberation also?"

"Oh!" the lawyer replied airily, "I am not going to trouble myself
about him. If nothing is proved against him, if he is really just a
constitutional priest called in to administer the sacraments to a
dying woman, he will get his release without interference on my part."

"He may not."

The lawyer shrugged. "Anyway, he will have to take his chance. My dear
friend," he went on with an affected sigh, "a great many heads will
fall within the next few days, weeks, months perhaps; are we not on
the eve of far bigger things than have occurred as yet? One head more
or less...what does it matter?"

To this Blakeney made no immediate reply; and presently the young
lawyer resumed, putting all the persuasiveness he could command into
his tone:

"You will not refuse me your co-operation, will you, Monsieur le
Professeur."

"You will pardon me," Blakeney responded, "but you have not yet told
me what you desire me to do."

"Just for the moment, only to come with me as far as the Town Hall,
and bear witness to the fact that old Levet introduced a man
surreptitiously into his house this afternoon."

"But I don't know that he did."

Maurin shrugged. "Does that matter," he queried blandly, "between
friends?"

Then, as Monsieur le Professeur made no comment on this amazing
suggestion, he continued glibly:

"It is all perfectly simple, my dear Professeur, as you will see, and
nothing that will happen need upset your over-sensitive conscience. I
will merely call upon you to confirm with a word or two, my statement
that Charles Levet introduced some one furtively into his house, at
the very time when his wife was breathing her last. There will be no
question of an oath or anything of the sort, just a few words. But we
will both insist that Levet's actions were furtive. Won't we? I can
reckon on you for this, can I not, my dear friend? I may call you my
friend, may I not?"

"If you like."

"You really are most kind. And you will plead my cause with old Levet
when my marriage with Blanche comes on the tapis presently, won't you,
my friend? Funnily enough I felt you were going to be my friend the
moment I sat down at this table opposite to you. But then Blanche had
often spoken to me about you, and in what high regard her father held
you...Well!" he concluded, after he had paused for breath for a
few seconds, "what do you say?" and his eyes glowing and eager,
fastened themselves on the other's face.

By way of an answer Blakeney rose.

"That the doors of the Town Hall will be closed against us, unless we
hurry," he replied with a smile.

Maurin drew a deep sigh of satisfaction.

"Then you really are coming with me?" he exclaimed, and jumped to his
feet. He beckoned to the waiter, and there ensued a friendly little
dispute as to who should pay the bill, a dispute from which the lawyer
gracefully retired, leaving his newly-found friend to settle both the
bill and the gratuity. While he reached for his had and cloak he just
went on talking, talking as if something in his brain had let loose a
veritable flood-gate of eloquence. He talked and he talked, and never
noticed that Monsieur le Professeur, in the interval of settling with
the waiter, had scribbled a few lines on the back of the bill, and
kept the crumpled bit of paper in the hollow of his hand. He piloted
the voluble talker through the shrieking and gesticulating crowd as
far as the door.

The next moment the two men were out in the Place. The fog seemed more
dense than ever. As the Town Hall was at some distance from the Caf
Tison they started to walk briskly across the wide-open space. It was
almost deserted, every one having taken refuge against the cold and
the damp in the brilliantly-lighted restaurants and cafs: all except
a group of three or four slouchy-looking fellows clad in the
promiscuous garments affected by the irregular Republican Guard. They
were standing outside the Caf Tison, very much in the way of the
customers who went in or out, and had to be jostled and pushed aside
by Monsieur le Professeur before he and Louis Maurin could get past.



9  ORDERS FROM THE CHIEF

Maurin was walking on ahead while he and Monsieur le Professeur
crossed the Grand' Place. In the centre of the open space there was at
that time a monumental fountain to which a short flight of circular
steps gave access. In addition to the fog, a sharp frost now made
progress difficult. The ground, covered with a thin layer of half-
melted snow, was very slippery, especially around the fountain which,
though not playing at this hour, had been going all day, and had
scattered spray all around, so that the steps and the pavement around
it were covered with a sheet of ice.

Maurin was treading warily. He nearly slipped at one point, and was
just in time to save himself from falling. He called out a quick "Take
care!" to his companion. But the warning came, apparently, just a few
seconds too late, for in answer to his call there came a sudden cry,
accompanied by a few vigorous swear words, quite unlike the usual
pedantic speech of Monsieur le Professeur. The lawyer turned round at
once and saw that learned gentleman sprawling on the ground.

"Whatever has happened?" he queried with ill-disguised impatience.

It was pretty obvious. Monsieur le Professeur lay, groaning, across
the steps.

"Can't you get up?" the lawyer asked tartly.

"I'll try," the other replied. Apparently he made a genuine effort to
rise, but fell back again groaning piteously.

"But," Maurin insisted with distinct acerbity, "I have to be at the
Town Hall before six. It is ten minutes to now, and it is a good step
down to the Rue Haute. Can't you make an effort?"

"I'm afraid not. I think I have broken my ankle. I couldn't walk,
unless you supported me."

"Then we should get to the Town Hall too late," the other retorted.
"What's to be done?"

"You go, my friend, and I will follow as soon as I can. I dare say I
can enlist the assistance of a passer-by to find me a cabriolet, and
you can keep the Chief of Section talking till I come."

"Well, if you don't mind being left..."

"No, no! You go! I'll come along as quickly as possible."

"There's a fellow coming this way now. Shall I call him?"

"Thank you. If you will."

He seemed in great pain, and unable to move. A man in blouse and
tattered breeches, apparently one of the irregular Republican Guard
who had been hanging round the caf, loomed out of the fog, and came
slouching along towards the fountain. Maurin hailed him.

"My friend is hurt," he said quickly; "will you look after him and
bring him to the Town Hall as soon as you can? He will pay you well."

The man came nearer. He mumbled something about a cabriolet.

"Yes, yes!" Maurin acquiesced eagerly. "Try and get one. Don't wait!
Run!"

After which peremptory order he turned once more to Monsieur le
Professeur.

"You will not fail me, will you?" he insisted.

"No, no! I'll be with you as soon as I can. I promise."

Whereupon the lawyer finally went his way. He fog soon wrapped him up,
out of sight, for he crossed the Place now almost at a run. How
surprised, not to say gravely disturbed, he would have been, if he had
been gifted with second sight, and seen Monsieur le Professeur rise at
once and without any effort to his feet, apparently quite unhurt. The
fellow in blouse and tattered breeches was quite close to him again,
and asked anxiously:

"You are not really hurt, are you, Percy?"

"Of course not, you idiot," Blakeney replied with a light laugh. "Tell
me! Have the others gone?"

"Tony and Hastings went straight to the Levets, according to your
orders. I suppose you scribbled the note while you were in the caf."

"As best I could. You deciphered it all right?"

"Yes! Tony and Hastings will take charge of the abb. The three of us
are dressed in these rags as Irregulars of the Republican Guard. Tony
has actually got a tricolour scarf round his middle. He and Hastings
will formally arrest the abb and take him at once to La Rodire.
Devinne went first to headquarters to change into his own clothes and
then will go on straight to the chteau in a cabriolet to prepare the
Marquise and his family for the arrival of the priest. Hastings or
Tony will try to get in a word with old man Levet to assure him that
everything is by your orders. That is right, isn't it?"

"Quite all right. Now you go on to the chteau yourself, my good
fellow, and wait for me there. Tell the others as soon as they have
seen the abb safely in the bosom of the La Rodire family, to take up
their stand with you just outside the chteau gates. I will be there
too as soon as I possibly can."

"Right!"

"You know your way?"

"I'll find it."

And so they parted: one going to the right, the other to the left.
Both were soon swallowed up by the fog. A cabriolet came lumbering
along presently. Blakeney hailed him, and ordered the driver to take
him to the Town Hall.



10  THE ABB EDGEWORTH

Chance favoured the two members of the League of the Scarlet
Pimpernel, my Lord Hastings and Lord Anthony Dewhurst. They had their
orders from the chief and went straight to the Levets' house, and it
was Levet himself who opened the door to them in answer to their ring
at the outside bell. Briefly they told him who had sent them and what
their orders were, and the old man went at once in search of his
guest. The Abb Edgeworth had in the meanwhile enjoyed Charles Levet's
hospitality: he had had food, a little drink and a short rest, but he
still appeared dazed and aghast, as if moonstruck and awed by
everything that had happened to him since dawn  the sudden call to
attend his King, that terrible drive through Paris with the population
silent and the clatter of thousands of armed men all around! Then the
supreme moment when he had seen his King strapped to that hideous
guillotine. He had made a crowning effort to smother his own horror
and indignation and to speak to the martyred King a last word of
encouragement: he had raised the crucifix and called out in a loud
voice: "Son of St. Louis, ascend to heaven!" Nor had he faltered while
that heinous crime was committed, which called to Heaven for
vengeance, the crime that could never hope for forgiveness, the sin
against the Holy Ghost!

After that everything had been turmoil and confusion: he had tried to
concentrate on his devotions, to recite the Prayers for the Dead, but
all round him men shouted and women shrieked, and sacrilegious hands
were laid on the dead body of his King. He tried to pray, for he was
not afraid, although there were shouts of "A la lanterne, le calotin!"
He was not afraid. He was ready to follow the son of St. Louis on the
path to heaven. Rough hands seized him, and dragged him down the steps
of the guillotine. Hideous faces leered at him from above. He must
have partly lost consciousness when he felt himself raised on powerful
shoulders and thought that he was being taken straight to the nearest
lamp-post with a halter round his neck.

The next thing he remembered was walking through the fog, in company
with a man who held him up while he walked: the man, apparently, who
had rescued him from the howling mob. And then the warmth and comfort
of this hospitable house: kind voices uttering words of welcome, a
warm drink, a bed on which to stretch his aching limbs. And now this
kind old man telling him that all was well: powerful friends would
take him to La Rodire where he would be received with open arms, and
where he could remain until such time as a more permanent refuge could
be found for him. The abb was bewildered. Who, he asked, were those
wonderful friends who had rescued him at peril of their own lives, and
now continued their work of mercy? But Levet couldn't tell him. He
spoke vaguely of a man who was professor at a university and seemed to
have marvellous courage, and limitless resources. He himself had only
known him a little while. Who he was, he couldn't say. He came and
went mysteriously and equally mysteriously would invariably be on the
spot when innocent men, women or children's lives were threatened. His
dead wife had looked upon the man as a messenger from heaven. There
was no time to say more just now. Old Levet urged the abb to hurry.

A moment or two later he was standing once again at the gate of his
house, watching three figures move away up the road. They looked like
shadows in the fog. One of them was the Abb Edgeworth. Levet didn't
know the others. They had spoken to him in French, bringing a message
from that mysterious Professor whom his dead wife had looked on as a
messenger from heaven.

"Be sure," the priest had said when he finally took leave of his kind
host, "be sure that he has a mandate from God."

These two who were emissaries of the Professor, had spoken French with
a foreign accent. Levet thought they must have been English. But then
it seemed incredible that foreigners would take any interest in the
sufferings of Frenchmen who were loyal to their King. Englishmen
especially. Why should they care? This awful revolution over here had
nothing to do with them. Some people went so far as to assert that the
English would soon declare war against France  that is to say, not
against France but against this abominable Republic which had
established itself on a foundation of outrage and murder. Anyway, it
was all quite inexplicable. Old Levet went indoors, very perplexed and
shaking his head. He went straight into the room where his wife lay
dead. Earlier in the day he had helped his daughter to set lighted
candles at the head and foot of the bed and to dispose sprays of some
everlasting shrub round the inert body of her who had been his life's
companion for twenty-five years. Her hands were now reverently clasped
round a crucifix.

Augustin was still in the room when Levet entered. He was talking in a
subdued tone to a tall young man who had a tablet in his hand on which
he was apparently making notes with a point of black lead. He was
dressed in black from head to foot, with plain white frills at throat
and wrists: he wore high boots, and his own hair, innocent of wig, was
tied at the nape of the neck with a black bow. Apparently Levet knew
that he was there, for he took no notice of him when he entered the
room.

The young man, however, at once put tablet and pencil into his pocket
and turned as if to go.

"Don't go, Pradel," Levet said curtly; "supper will be ready
directly."

"If you will pardon me, Monsieur Levet," the other responded, "I will
just say good night to Mademoiselle Blanche. I have been summoned to
the chteau, and am already rather late.

"Some one ill up there?" the old man queried.

"Seemingly."

"Who is it?"

"They didn't tell me. Monsieur le Marquis's pet dog perhaps," the
young doctor added with stinging bitterness, "or his favourite horse."

Levet made no remark on this. He moved to his wife's bedside, and
Simon Pradel after bidding him and Augustin good night, went out of
the room.

Blanche was in the sitting-room, apparently waiting for him.

"You are not going, Simon?" she asked eagerly as soon as he came
through the door.

"I am afraid I must, Mademoiselle."

"Can't you stay and have supper with us?" she insisted so earnestly
this time, that her voice shook a little and a few tears gathered in
her eyes.

"I am sorry," he replied gently, "but I really must go."

"Why?"

He gave a slight shrug. "Professional visit, Mademoiselle," he said.

"You are going to the chteau," she retorted.

"What makes you say that?" he countered with a smile.

"You have your best clothes on, and your finest linen."

His smile broadened. It was a pleasant smile, which lent to his
somewhat stern face a great deal of charm. He looked down ruefully at
his well-worn suit of black.

"I have only this one," he said, "and I have great regard for clean
linen."

Blanche said nothing for a moment or two. She was very obviously
fighting a wave of emotion which caused her lips to quiver, and tears
to gather thick and fast in her eyes. And all at once she moved up,
close to him, and placed a hand on his arm.

"Don't go to the chteau, Simon," she entreated.

"My dear, I must. Madame la Marquise might be ill. Besides..."

"Besides what?" And as Simon didn't reply to this challenge, she went
on vehemently: "You only go there because you hope to have a word or
two with Ccile de la Rodire. You, a distinguished medical man, with
medals and degrees from the great universities of Europe, you demean
yourself by attending on these people's horses and dogs like any
common veterinary lout. Have you no pride, Simon? And all the time you
must know that that aristocrat's daughter can never be anything to
you."

Pradel remained silent during this vehement tirade. He appeared
detached and indifferent, as if the girl's lashing words were not
addressed to him. Only the smile had vanished from his face leaving it
rather pale and stern. When Blanche had finished speaking, chiefly
because the words were choked in her throat, she sank into a chair and
dissolved in tears. She cried and sobbed in a veritable paroxism of
grief. Pradel waited in silence till the worst of that paroxism had
passed, then he said gently:

"Mademoiselle Blanche, I am sure you meant kindly by me, when you
struck at me with so much contempt and cruelty. I assure you that I
bear you no ill-will for what you said just now. With your permission
I will call in to-night on my way back from the chteau to see how
your dear father is bearing up. Frankly, I am a little anxious about
him. He is no age, but he has a tired heart, and he has had a great
deal to endure to-day. Good night, Mademoiselle."

After he had gone Blanche remained for quite a long while, as if
prostrate with grief. She was not crying now, but sobs, the aftermath
of a flood of tears, shook her shoulders intermittently. Her head
ached furiously, and she lay back in the chair, with eyes closed,
almost in a state of torpor. From this she was presently aroused by
her brother Augustin who came out from his dead mother's room, and
seeing the girl there  asleep, as he thought  he said with some
acerbity:

"Have you forgotten that it is supper-time, Blanche?"

Blanche roused herself sufficiently to go into the kitchen and order
supper to be brought in at once. They all sat down to table and the
old man said grace before he served the soup. They had just begun to
eat, when a cabriolet drove up to the grille. A vigorous pull at the
outside bell caused old Levet to rise. The family only kept one maid
of all work and she was busy dishing up, so he went himself to the
door as he most usually did: before he had time to reach the grille,
the bell was pulled again.

"I wonder who that can be," Blanche remarked.

"Whoever it is seems in a great hurry," observed her brother.

Old Levet opened the door. Louis Maurin stepped over the threshold. He
appeared breathless with excitement. Before Levet could formulate a
question he thrust the old man back into the vestibule, exclaiming:

"Ah! My good friend! Such a calamity! Thank God I am just in time."

"In time for what?" Levet muttered. He had disliked the lawyer at all
times, for he looked on him as a traitor and now a regicide, but never
had he hated him so bitterly as he did to-day.

"I chanced to be at the Town Hall," Maurin went on, still
breathlessly, "and heard that there is an order out for your arrest
and I am afraid that the order includes your family  and your guest,"
he concluded significantly.

Levet appeared to take the news with complete indifference. The mock
arrest of the Abb Edgeworth by two emissaries of Monsieur le
Professeur had assured him that the priest at any rate had nothing to
fear. He gave a slight shrug and said quietly:

"Let them arrest me and my family, if they want to. We are willing to
share the fate of our King."

"Don't talk like that, my dear friend," the lawyer admonished
earnestly; "such talk has become really dangerous now. And you have
your son and daughter to think of."

"They are of one mind with me," Levet retorted gruffly, "and if that
is all you have come to say..."

Instinct of hospitality, which with old Levet amounted to a virtue,
did prevent his ordering this "traitor" summarily out of his house.

"I came from pure motives of friendship," the young man rejoined, in a
tone of gentle reproach, "to warn you of what was impending. The
matter is far more serious than you seem to realize."

"I needed no warning. Loyal people like ourselves must be prepared
these days for any calamity."

"But there is your guest..." Maurin put in.

"My guest? What guest?"

"The man you brought to your house this afternoon. The authorities
have got to know of this surreptitious visit. It has aroused their
suspicion. Hence the order for your arrest  and his."

Old Levet gave another shrug.

"There's no one here." He said coolly, "except my son and daughter and
the maid."

"Come, come, my dear friend," the lawyer retorted, and his tone became
more reproachful, and more gentle like that of a father admonishing
his obstinate child, "you must not incriminate yourself by denying
indisputable facts. I myself saw you introducing a stranger into your
house, and your friend the professor can also bear witness to this."

"I tell you there's no stranger here," old Levet reasserted harshly.
"And now I pray you to excuse me. My family waits with supper for me."

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when the sound of a rumble of
wheels accompanied by the tramping of measured footsteps was heard
approaching the house. There was a cry of "Halt!" outside the grille
and then the usual summons: "In the name of the Republic!" The grille
was thrust open, there was more tramping of heavy feet over the stone
path to the house, and loud banging on the massive front door.

"What did I tell you?" Maurin queried. He pushed past old Levet and
strode quickly across the vestibule to the dining-room, where at the
sound of that ominous call Blanche and Augustin had jumped to their
feet. The lawyer put one finger to his lips and murmured rapidly:

"Do not be afraid. I am watching over you all. You have nothing to
fear. But tell me quickly, where is the stranger?"

"The stranger?" Augustin responded "What stranger?"

"You know quite well," the other retorted. "Your father's guest, whom
he brought here this afternoon."

"There has been no one here all day," Augustin rejoined quietly. "My
mother died. Docteur Pradel was here to certify. There has been no one
else."

Maurin turned sharply to the girl.

"Blanche," he said earnestly, "tell me the truth. Where is your
father's guest?"

"Augustin has told you, Louis," she replied, "there is no one here but
ourselves."

"They will search the house, you know," he insisted.

"Let them."

"And question your maid."

"She can only tell them the truth."

The lawyer was decidedly nonplussed. Looking about him, he could not
help noticing that only three places were laid round the table, and
that there were only three half-empty soup plates, there, while the
tureen stood on the sideboard.

Through the door, which was ajar, he could hear old Levet give
categorical replies to the questions which the sergeant of the guard
put to him.

"There is no one here."

"Only the doctor came this afternoon."

"He came to certify."

"My son and daughter are at supper. My wife is dead. You can question
the maid."

Maurin spoke once more to Blanche.

"Mademoiselle," he entreated, "for your own sake, tell me the truth."

"I have told you," she reasserted, "there is no one here except
ourselves."

The lawyer smothered the harsh word which came to his lips: he said
nothing more, however, turned on his heel and went out of the room.

"What is all this?" he asked curtly of the sergeant.

"You know best, Citizen Lawyer," was the soldier's equally curt reply.

"I?" Maurin retorted unblushingly. "What the devil has it got to do
with me?"

"Well! It was you, I understand, who denounced these people."

"That is a lie.
"
"Who did then?"

"A friend of the family, Professor d'Arblay."

"Where is he?"

"He had an accident in the road. Sprained his ankle. He had to drive
home."

"Where is his home?"

"I don't know. I hardly know him."

"But you were with him in the Town Hall. You were seen coming out of
the Chief Commissary's cabinet."

"I was there on professional business," the lawyer retorted tartly,
"and you have no right to question me like that. I had nothing to do
with this denunciation, as I have the honour of being on friendly
terms with this family. And I may as well tell you that I shall use
all the influence I possess to clear the whole of this matter up. So
you had better behave decently while you are in this house. It won't
be good for you if you do not."

He raised his voice and spoke peremptorily like one accustomed to be
listened to with deference. But the sergeant seemed unimpressed. All
he said was:

"Very well, Citizen. You will act, no doubt, as you thing best in your
own interests. I have only my duty to perform."

He gave a quick order to two of his men, who immediately stepped
forward and took up their stand one on each side of Charles Levet. The
sergeant then crossed the vestibule, and taking no further notice of
the lawyer, he went into the dining-room. Blanche and Augustin had
resumed their seats at the table. Blanche sat with her chin cupped in
her hand. Augustin, his eyes closed, his fingers twined together,
seemed absorbed in prayer. In the background Marie, the maid of all
work, stood agape like a frightened hen.

The sergeant took a comprehensive survey of the room. He was a stolid-
looking fellow, obviously a countryman and not over-endowed with
intelligence, and he gave the impression that what he lacked in
personality he strove to counterbalance by bluster: the sort of
bumpkin, in fact, whom the Revolution had dragged out of obscurity and
thrust into some measure of prominence, and who was determined to make
the most of his unexpected rise to fortune. He took no further notice
of the lawyer, cleared his throat, and announced with due pompousness:

"In the name of the Republic!"

He then unfolded a paper which he had in his hand, and continued:

"I have here a list of all the inmates of this house, as given to the
Chief of Section this afternoon, either by Citizen Maurin or his
friend the Professor with the sprained ankle, whose address is not
known. I will read aloud the names on this list, and each one of you
on hearing your name, say the one word. 'Present' and stand at
attention. Now then!"

He then proceeded to read and to interpolate comments of his own after
every name.

"Charles Levet, herbalist! We have got him safely already. Henriette
his wife! She is dead, I understand. Augustin Levet, priest!...Why
don't you answer?" he interposed peremptorily as Augustin had not made
the required reply, "and why don't you rise? Have you also got a
sprained ankle?"

Augustin then rose obediently and spoke the word:

"Present."

"Blanche Levet, daughter of Charles," the soldier continued.

"Present."

"Marie Bachelier, aide mnage."

"Here I am, Citizen Sergeant," quoth Marie, nearly scared out of her
wits.

"And a guest, identity unknown," the soldier concluded. "Where is he?"
He rolled up the paper and thrust it into his belt.

"Where is the guest?" he reiterated gruffly, and still receiving no
answer, he asked once more: "Where is he?"

He looked round from one to the other, rolling his eyes and clearing
his throat in a manner destined to impress these "traitors."

Augustin thereupon said emphatically: "There is no one here." And
Blanche shook her pretty head and declared: "No one has been here all
day except Citizen Maurin and the Citizen Doctor."

By way of a response to these declarations the sergeant of the
Republican Guard turned on his heel and called to the small squad who
were standing at attention, some in the vestibule, some outside the
front door. To Blanche and Augustin he merely remarked: "We'll soon
see about that." And to old Levet, who was standing patiently between
the two soldiers, seemingly quite unmoved by what was going on in his
house, he said sternly:

"I am about to order this house to be searched. So let me warn you,
Citizen Levet, that if any stranger is found on your premises, it will
be a far more serious matter for you and your family than if you had
given him up of your own accord."

Old Levet merely shook his head and reiterated simply:

"There is no one here."

The sergeant then ordered his men to proceed with the search. It was
thorough. The soldiers did not mince matters. They even invaded the
room where Henriette Levet lay dead. They looked under her bed and
lifted the sheet which covered her. Old Levet stood by, while this
sacrilege was being committed, a silent figure as rigid as the dead.
In the dining-room Augustin had once more taken refuge in prayer,
while Blanche, half-dazed by all that she had gone through, sank back
into a chair, her elbows resting on the table, and her eyes staring
into vacancy.

Louis Maurin, as soon as the soldiers were out of the way, came and
sat down opposite the young girl. He had remained silent and aloof
while this last short episode was going on, but now he leaned over the
table and began talking in an impressive whisper:

"Do not be afraid, Mademoiselle Blanche," he said. "I give you my word
that nothing serious will happen to your father or to any of you, even
if this meddlesome sergeant should discover your anonymous friend in
this house. Please, please," he went on earnestly, as Blanche was
obviously on the point of renewing her protest that there was no one
here, "please say no more. I do firmly believe that you know nothing
of what happened here this afternoon. As for your father  Well! You
know he is very silent and secretive. He may be sheltering some one
who has come under the ban of the authorities. But I insist that you
do not worry your pretty head about him, or about yourself and
Augustin. I have a great deal of influence at the Commissariat and I
give you my word that not later than to-morrow you will all be sitting
having supper round this table. There now, let me see you smile. I
tell you I can, and will, make the safety of those you care for a
personal matter with the authorities. It might prove a little more
difficult if your father has been sheltering some one surreptitiously
instead of giving him up at once to the guard, but even so I can do
it. My word on it, Mademoiselle Blanche."

He was very persuasive and very earnest. The ghost of a smile flitted
round Blanche's pretty mouth.

"You are very kind, Louis," she said.

"I would do anything for you, Mademoiselle," the young man responded
earnestly.

She sighed and murmured: "I cannot understand the whole thing."

"What can't you understand, Mademoiselle?"

"Monsieur le Professeur. He seemed such a friend. Do you really think
that it was he?"

"Who caused all this trouble, you mean?"

"Yes!"

"Well! I am not sure," Maurin replied vaguely. "One never knows. He
may be a spy of the revolutionary government and he may have denounced
your father. They are very clever, those fellows. They worm themselves
into your confidence, and then betray you for a mere pittance. I wish
your father had not made such a friend of him. But as I assured you
just now, Mademoiselle, you have no cause for worry. While I live, no
possible harm shall come to you or to your family. You do trust me,
don't you?"

She murmured a timid "Yes!" and gave him her hand, which he raised to
his lips.

The soldiers in the meanwhile had continued their search on the floor
above. The noise of heavy footsteps, of furniture being dragged out of
place, of banging on walls and cupboards, disturbed the serenity of
this house which at the moment, with its mistress lying dead, should
have been an abode of peace. Whilst this loud chatter went on
overhead, Maurin shot searching glances at the young girl to see if
she betrayed any anxiety for the guest whom he firmly believed to be
still in the house. But Blanche remained seemingly unmoved and, much
to his chagrin, Maurin was forced to come to the conclusion that he
had brought a squad of Republican Guards out on a fool's errand and
that his well-laid plan would end in a manner not altogether to his
credit, and not in accordance with his hopes.

A few moments later the sergeant and his men came clattering
downstairs again, all of them obviously ill-tempered at having been
dragged out of barracks at this hour and in such abominable weather.
The sergeant kicked the dining-room door open with his boot, and
addressed the lawyer in a harsh, almost insulting tone:

"I don't know what you were thinking of, Citizen Lawyer," he said,
"when you stated before the Chief of Section that a suspicious
stranger was lurking in this house. We have searched it from attic to
cellar and there's no one in it except the family, one of whom is
dead, and the others seemingly daft. At any rate, I can't get anything
out of them. I don't know if you can."

"It's no business of mine, as you well know, Citizen Sergeant," Maurin
responded coolly, "to question these people, any more than it is your
business to question me. I attend to my duties, you had better attend
to yours."

"My duty is to arrest the inmates of this house," the soldier
countered, "and if they are wise they will come along quietly. Now
then you," he added, addressing them all collectively: "Charles Levet,
Augustin and Blanche Levet, and Marie Bachelier, I have a carriage
waiting for you. Go and get ready quickly. I don't want to waste any
more time."

Obediently and silently Blanche and Augustin made for the door.
Blanche called to the maid who seemed by now more dead than alive.

"But this is an outrage," Maurin suddenly interposed vehemently, "you
cannot leave the dead un-guarded. Some one must remain in the house to
prevent any sacrilege being committed."

The sergeant shrugged. "Sacrilege?" he put in with a sneer. "What is
sacrilege? And why shouldn't the dead woman be alone in the house. She
can't run away. Anyway, if you feel like that, Citizen Lawyer, why
don't you stay and look after her? Come on!" he concluded roughly,
addressing the others, "didn't you hear me say I didn't want to waste
any more time?"

He marshalled the three out of the room. As Blanche went past the
lawyer, she threw him an appealing glance. He murmured under his
breath: "I will look after her. I promise you."

Ten minutes later Charles Levet with his son and daughter and the maid
were seated in the chaise, and were driven under arrest to the Town
Hall, there to be charged with treason  or intended treason  against
the Republic.



11  THE MORNING AFTER

But the very next day all was well. Charles Levet with his daughter
and son, and the maid, had certainly passed a very uncomfortable night
in the cells of the municipal prison, and the next morning had been
conducted before the Chief of Section, where they had to submit to a
searching examination. And here things did not go any too well.
Charles Levet was taciturn and obstinate, Blanche voluble and tearful,
and Augustin detached, and Marie the maid was so scared that she said
first one thing then another, and all things untrue. The Chief of
Section was impatient. He was desirous of doing the right thing, but
he was a local man and the Levets were people of his own class:
nothing "aristocratic" about them and, therefore, not likely to plot
against the Republic, or to favour fugitive aristos. Indeed, he was
very much annoyed that Maurin the lawyer  a personal friend of his
and also of his own class  should have taken it upon himself to make
incriminating statements against the Levets. To have indicted the
Levet family for treason would have been a very unpopular move in
Choisy where the old herbalist was highly respected and his pretty
daughter courted by half the youth of the commune.

After the interrogation of the accused, the worthy Chief of Section
had an interview with Maurin. The latter, as supple as an eel,
wriggled out of his awkward position with his usual skill, and in a
few movements had succeeded in persuading his friend that he,
individually, had nothing to do with the false accusation brought
against the Levets. He had, he said, been foolish enough to listen to
the insinuations brought against these good people by a men whom he
had met casually that day. A professor, so he understood, at the
University of Grenoble.

"But why," the chief asked with some acerbity, "did you allow yourself
to be led by the nose, by a man whom you hardly knew at all?"

"I said," the lawyer responded, "that I had met him casually that day,
but I had often heard old Levet speak about him. He seemed to be a
friend of the family and so-"

"A friend?" the other broke in. "But you say that it was he who
denounced these people."

"It was."

"How do you make that out?"

"Between you and me, my friend," the lawyer replied confidentially, "I
have come to the conclusion that that so-called university professor
was just an agent provocateur, in other words, a spy of the
government. There are a good many of those about, so I am told: the
Convention makes use of them to ferret out obscure conspiracies, and
treasonable associations. They get a small pittance for every plot
they discover, and so much for every head that they bring to the
guillotine."

"And so you think that this Professor-"

"Was just such another. I do. I met him outside the Levet's house. He
took me by the arm, and led me to the Caf Tison, where he began his
long story of how he had seen old Levet bring a man surreptitiously
into the house. I, of course, thought it my duty to let you know at
once. You would have blamed me if I had not, wouldn't you?"

"Of course."

The Chief of Section remained silent for a moment. Chin in hand, he
reflected over the whole affair. He could not altogether dismiss the
fact from his mind that some one, either his friend Maurin, or the
mysterious professor had seen a stranger enter the Levets' house; and
all afternoon yesterday there were persistent rumours that the priest
who had attended Louis Capet to the last had unaccountably
disappeared, even whilst the Convention at a special sitting of its
Committee had ordered his arrest.

"One thing is very certain," Maurin now put in persuasively; "when
your squad came to arrest the Levets there was no one in the house but
themselves."

"They may have smuggled some one out."

"Where to, my friend?" the lawyer argued. And he added lightly: "Now
you are crediting old Levet with more brains than he has got."

He paused a moment, then finally went on:

"I don't know what you feel about it all, my good man, but I am
convinced in my own mind that Charles Levet had no other visitor in
his house...except, of course, Docteur Pradel," he added as if in
an afterthought.

"Ah, yes! Docteur Pradel...I hadn't thought about him."

"Nor had I...Till just now...."

Maurin rose and stretched out his hand to his friend who shook it
warmly.

"Well!" He said glibly, "will you allow me to convey the good news to
the Levets?"

"What good news?"

"That you have gone into the matter and have decided that the charge
of treason against them has not been proved."

"Yes!" the chief responded after a moment's hesitation, "you may go
and tell them that if you wish. I won't follow up the matter just now
 but, of course, I shall bear it in mind. In the meanwhile," he
concluded as he saw his friend to the door, "I will just send for
Docteur Pradel and have a talk with him."

Louis Maurin came away from that interview much elated. He had gained
his point, and a very little clever wordy manipulation on his part
would easily convince the Levets that they owed their freedom to him.
The Professeur had fortunately kept out of the way. Maurin devoutly
hoped that he really had broken his ankle and would be laid up for
some days; by that time his wooing of the lovely Blanche, with the
consent of her irascible papa, would be well on the way to a happy
issue. But there was another matter that added greatly to his elation,
and this was that he had put a spoke in the wheel of Simon Pradel, the
one man in Choisy who, in his opinion, might prove a serious rival in
the affections of Blanche. He was far to astute not to have scented
this rivalry before now, and Blanche herself had unwittingly given his
sharp eyes, more than one indication of the state of her feelings
toward the young doctor.

Well! a rival out of the way is better than one who is constantly on
the spot, and since times were getting troublesome now, it would not
be difficult to keep a man out of the way  permanently  once the
breath of suspicion touched him.

Everything then was for the best in the best possible world, and Louis
Maurin made his way to the prison cells where the Levet family were
still awaiting their fate, there to tell them that he and no one else
had persuaded the Chief of Section to order their immediate
liberation. Whether he quite succeeded in so persuading them, is
somewhat doubtful, certainly as far as Charles Levet was concerned,
for the old man remained as taciturn as ever in spite of the young
man's eloquent protestations, whilst Augustin murmured something about
good deeds being their own reward. But their lack of enthusiasm was
countered by Blanche's outspoken gratitude. With tears in her eyes she
thanked Louis again and again for all that he had done for them.

"We all tried to be brave," she said, "but, frankly, I for one was
very frightened; as for poor Marie, she spent the night lamenting and
calling on all the saints to protect her."

Later, when they reached the portal of the prison-house she said to
her father:

"Let us drive home, Father. I am so anxious to know if everything has
been all right in the house, with maman lying there alone."

It was a bright, frosty morning, but a thin layer of snow still lay on
the ground. In this outlying part of the town, there were few passers-
by and no cabriolets in sight, but a poor wretch in thin blouse and
tattered breeches stood shivering in the middle of the road. He was an
old man with arched back and wrinkled, grimy face; from under his
shabby red cap wisps of white hair fluttered in the wind. His teeth
were chattering as he murmured a prayer for charity. Maurin called to
him:

"See if you can find a cabriolet, Citizen, and bring it along. You
might get one in the Place Verte and there will be five sous for you.
We'll wait for it at that tavern over the way."

The man raised a finger to his forelock and shuffled off in the
direction of the Place Verte, his sabots made no sound on the thin
carpet of snow.

"What misery, mon Dieu," Blanche sighed while she watched the old
caitiff's retreating figure. "And this is what they call Equality and
Fraternity. Can't anything be done for a poor wretch like that? He
seems almost a cripple with that humped back."

"He could go to the Assistance Publique," Maurin replied dryly, "but
some of these fellows seem to prefer begging in the streets. This one,
I should say, has been a soldier in-"

He was about to say "in Louis Capet's army," but with Charles Levet
within hearing, he thought better of it. This was obviously not the
moment to irritate the old man.

"Come and drink a mug of hot ale with me while we wait," he suggested
cheerily to the whole party. They were all very cold, having only had
a meagre prison breakfast in the early hours of the morning: a small
tavern over the way, at a short distance looked inviting. Old Levet
would have demurred: he wore his most obstinate expression: but
Blanche was obviously both weary and cold and the maid looked ready to
faint with inanition; even Augustin cast longing eyes across the road.
Louis Maurin without another word led the way. Levet followed
reluctantly, the others with alacrity, and presently they were all
seated at a table in a small stuffy room that reeked of lamp-oil and
stale food, but sipping with gusto the hot ale which the land-lord,
surly and out-at-elbows, had placed before them.



12  A FALSE MOVE

It was after the first ten minutes of desultory conversation among the
party, that Louis Maurin made what he called afterwards the greatest
mistake of his life. Indeed, he often cursed himself afterwards for
that twinge of jealousy, coupled with boastfulness, which prompted him
to speak of Simon Pradel at all. It was just one of those false moves
which even an experienced chess-player might make with a view to
protecting his queen, only to find himself checkmated in the end.
Little did the astute lawyer guess that by a few words carelessly
spoken he was actually precipitating the ruin of his cherished hopes
and helping to bring about that extraordinary series of events which
caused so many heartburnings, set all the quidnuncs of Choisy
gossiping and remained the chief topic of conversation round local
firesides for many weeks to come.

Blanche had drunk the ale, said a few pleasant words to Maurin,
chaffed her brother and the maid, and relapsed into silence. Maurin,
who was feeling at peace with all the world and very pleased with
himself, queried after a time:

"Thoughtful, Mademoiselle?"

It seemed almost as if she had dropped to sleep for she gave no sign
of response, and Maurin insisted.

"Of what are you thinking, Mademoiselle?"

She roused herself, gave a shrug, a sigh, a feeble smile and replied:

"Friends."

"Why friends?" he asked again.

"I was just wondering how many of our friends will have to suffer as
we did last night...as innocently I mean...arrest...
imprisonment...anxiety.... These are terrible times, Louis!"

"And there are worse to come, Mademoiselle," he declared
ostentatiously; "happy those who have powerful friends to save them
from disaster."

This hint was obvious, but neither old Levet nor Augustin responded to
it. It was left for Blanche to say:

"You have been very kind, Louis."

Silence once more, until Augustin remarked:

"We were, of course, innocent."

"That helped a little, of course," Maurin was willing to admit, "but
you have no idea how obstinate the Committee are, once there has been
actual denunciation of treason. And we must always remember those poor
wretches who for a miserable pittance will ferret out the secrets of
some who have not been clever enough to keep their political opinions
to themselves."

"I supposed it was one of those wretches who trumped up a charge
against us," Blanche remarked.

"Undoubtedly. And I had all the difficulty in the world  in fact I
had to pledge my good name  before I could persuade the Chief of
Section that the charge was trumped up."

He paused a moment, then added self-complacently: "I shall find it
still more difficult in the case of Simon Pradel, I'm afraid."

Blanche gave a start.

"Simon?" she queried. "What about Simon?"

"Didn't you know?"

"Know what?"

Already Maurin realized that he had made a false move when he
mentioned Pradel. Blanche all at once had become the living
representation of eager, feverish anxiety. Her cheeks were aflame, her
eyes glittered, her voice positively quavered when she insisted on
getting an explanation from the lawyer.

"Why don't you answer, Louis? What is there to know about Simon?"

Why, oh, why had he brought the doctor's name on the tapis? He had
done it primarily for his own glorification, and in order to stand
better and better with the Levets because of his influence and his
zeal. Never had he intended to rouse dormant passion in the girl by
speaking of the danger which threatened Pradel. Women are queer, he
commented with bitterness to himself. Let a man be sick or in any way
in need of their help, and at once he becomes an object of interest,
or, as in this case, simple friendship at once flames into love.

Old Levet, who had hardly opened his mouth all this while, and had
seemed to be too deeply absorbed in his own thoughts to take notice
what was said around him, now put in a word:

"Don't worry, my girl," he said; "Simon is no fool, and there is no
one in Choisy who would dare touch him."

By this time, Maurin had succeeded in turning his thoughts in another
direction. Self-reproach gave place to his usual self-complacency and
self-exaltation. He had made a false move, but he thanked his stars
that he was in a position to retrieve it.

"I am afraid you are wrong there, Monsieur Levet," he observed
unctuously. "As a matter of fact, I happen to know that the Section
has its eye on Docteur Pradel His mysterious comings and goings
yesterday, and his constant visits at the Chteau de la Rodire, which
often extend late into the night, have aroused suspicion, and, as you
know, from suspicion to denunciation there is only one step  and that
one sometimes leads as far as the guillotine. However, as I had the
pleasure of telling you just now, I will do my best for the doctor,
seeing that he is your friend."

"And that he is innocent," Blanche asserted vehemently. "There was
nothing mysterious about Simon's comings and goings yesterday. He only
goes to the chteau when he is sent for professionally, nor does he
extend his visits late into the night."

Maurin shrugged.

"I can only repeat what I have been told, Mademoiselle," he said, "I
can assure you..."

He felt that he had made another false move by saying that which was
sure to arouse the girl's jealousy. Indeed, he was beginning to think
that luck had not attended him in the manner he had hoped, and was
quite relieved when the sound of shuffling sabots over the sanded
floor cut this awkward conversation short. Maurin looked round to see
the old beggar of a while ago standing in the middle of the room,
waiting at a respectful distance till he was spoken to.

Maurin queried sharply:

"What do you want?"

The man raised a hand stiff with cold to his white forelock.

"The cabriolet, Citizen," he murmured.

The poor wretch seemed unable to say more than that. With trembling
finger he pointed to the door behind him. A ramshackle vehicle drawn
by a miserable nag was waiting outside. Levet paid for the drinks and
the whole party made their way to the door. At the last, when the
family had crowded into the cabriolet, old Levet pressed a piece of
silver into the beggar's shaky hand.

Maurin remained in the road outside the tavern until the vehicle had
disappeared at a turning of the street. He was not the man ever to
admit, even to himself, that he was in the wrong, but in this case he
had, perhaps, been somewhat injudicious, and he felt that he must take
an early opportunity to retrieve whatever blunder he may have
committed. Blanche was very young, he commented to himself; she
scarcely knew her own mind, and Pradel was the man whom she met most
constantly. But after this, gratitude would be sure to play in
important rle in the girl's attitude towards the friend who had
helped her and her family out of a very difficult situation. Maurin
prided himself on the fact that he had persuaded the girl, if not the
others, that it was his influence and his alone that had brought about
their liberation after a few hours' detention. She was already
inclined to be grateful and affectionate for that. It would be his
task after this to work unceasingly on her emotions and to his own
advantage.

And reflecting thus, lawyer Maurin made final tracks for home.




BOOK II - THE DOCTOR



13  THE CHTEAU DE LA RODIRE

It had always been a stately chteau ever since the day when Luc de la
Rodire, returning from the war with Holland after the peace of
Ryswick, received this quasi-regal residence at the hands of Louis XIV
in recognition for his gallantry in the field. It was still stately in
this year 1793, even though it bore the indelible marks of four years
of neglect following the riots of 1789 when the populace of Choisy,
carried away by the events up in Paris and the storming of the
Bastille, and egged on by paid agitators, marched in a body up to the
chteau, smashed a quantity of furniture and a few windows and
mirrors, tore curtains down and carpets up, ransacked the larders and
cellars, and then marched down again with lusty shouts of the new
popular cry: "A la lanterne les aristos!"

Luckily, Madame la Marquise with her son and daughter were absent on
that day: they had gone up to Paris for the funeral of Monsieur le
Marquis. Whether it was the emptiness of the house, or its atmosphere
of faded flowers, stale incense, and burnt-out candles, which dampened
the ebullient spirits of the crowd, it is impossible to say. Certain
it is that after they had done what mischief they could on the ground
floor, and then marched upstairs to the monumental ballroom, where
they found lackeys and valets busy sweeping up dead floral wreaths,
they felt awed all of a sudden: something of their old beliefs, of
their respect for the dead, of all that these burnt-out candles and
stale incense stood for kept them silent and subdued, even though such
things had by government decree been denounced as superstition, and
unworthy the dignity of man.

They had come up to the chteau determined to demand all sorts of
things-they didn't know exactly what-and as there was no one there to
give satisfaction to these demands, and the paid agitator had, as
usual, kept carefully out of the way, these poor people felt very like
a lot of dogs who had taken to the water, hoping to find something to
play with, and merely succeeding in getting very wet.

But the mischief was done, and when the young Marquise with Madame,
his mother, and Mademoiselle Ccile returned to La Rodire three days
later, they found the chteau in the state in which the riotous crowd
had left it; the stately hall on the ground floor, the banqueting
room, the monumental staircase, the cellars and the larders, were a
mass of wreckage. The terrified personnel of lackeys and female
servants had run away, leaving the ballroom where their late master
had lain dead, still a litter of dead flowers and linen cloths, of
torn lace and stumps of wax candles. Only Paul Leroux and his wife
Marie had remained. They were old people-very old-who had served feu
Monsieur le Marquis and his father and mother before him, first as
kitchen wench and scullion then on through the hierarchy of maid and
valet, to that of butler and housekeeper. They had never known any
other home but La Rodire: if they left it, they would not have known
where to go: they had no children, no family, no kindred. And so they
stayed on, after the mob had cleared away, and one by one the chteau
staff-young and old, indoors and out of doors, garden and stable-men-
had packed up their belongings and betaken themselves to their own
homes wherever these might be. Paul and Marie stayed on and did their
best to feed the horses and dogs that had been left behind, and to get
a few rooms tidy and warm for the occupation of Madame la Marquise.
And thus the widow and the young Marquis and Mademoiselle Ccile found
them and their devastated home. Marie had prepared a meagre supper,
Paul had brushed his clothes and polished his shoes, and placed such
pieces of silver on the table as had escaped the attention of the mob.
He wore his white gloves and served his young master and the family
with the same solemnity as he had done, when half a dozen footmen were
in attendance round the dinner-table.

Madame la Marquise, herself a scion of the old French noblesse, was
far too proud to display her feelings before her servants, or before
her children. She bore herself with marvellous courage during the
terrible trial of this first evening in the wrecked chteau. Nor did
she lose any of her dignity during the years that followed. In that
attitude she emulated those of her own class with whom the watchword
seemed to be not to let those assassins in the government know how
bitterly they felt the repeated onslaughts on their property and on
their privileges. Not one of them believed, in those early days of the
Revolution, that such a state of tyranny and mob-law could persist,
and secretly most of them-especially the older generation-nursed
thoughts of exemplary retaliation. But the years rolled on and tyranny
and mob-law did persist, and hopes of retribution had perforce to give
way to a kind of proud indifference in the men and silent resignation
in the women: but in the same way as tyranny and hatred grew in
intensity in those who for centuries had been little else than
bondslaves to the privileged classes, so did contempt for them and
their accession to power continue to dwell in the hearts of the
aristocrats. Where the latter had felt condescension and often kindly
tolerance toward their subordinates, as in the case of Madame la
Marquise, they had now, for the most part, nothing but lofty scorn for
those whom they looked on as spoliators and assassins. The middle
classes, those at any rate who professed liberal ideas, however
moderate, they treated with contumely far worse than before: the local
lawyer, the local doctor, the artist, the musician, all those in fact
who were to a certain extent still dependent on them for their living,
they still kept at arm's length: as for their actual dependants, the
workers on their estate, or in the towns, they were the rabble in
their sight, plagues which God sent down to earth to punish France for
her sins.

To this attitude there were, of course, many and often pathetic
exceptions. There were men and women, high-born, bred in every
conceivable luxury, and now reduced to comparative poverty, who could
always be called upon to assist those who were poorer than themselves.
Ccile de la Rodire was one of them, so was the old Marquise to a
certain extent, though in a more detached and aloof way. There were
some even who had real understanding for the conditions that had
brought about the present social upheaval, but these belonged for the
most part to the younger generation: the old found it wellnigh
impossible to accommodate themselves to the new order of things, which
had made them subservient to those whom they had been bought up to
regard as inferior products of God's creative scheme.

Madame la Marquise scarcely ever went out of doors and never beyond
the park gates. She had a horror of meeting people who in the past
would have curtsied or bowed low as she went past, and now merely
nodded-nodded!-in a surly kind of way, or, if they spoke at all, would
perhaps say: "Good day, Citizeness." Citizeness! At least that is what
she thought would occur if she set foot outside the house. So she
remained most of the day in her boudoir doing crochet-work, or else
turning out drawers full of beautiful laces and garments which she
patted with loving hands, and put away again in soft paper with
sachets of lavender. She invariably wore black, dresses from past days
which she happened to have, some with hooped and quilted skirts,
others with sacques, the rich silk of which had survived the wear and
tear of years. She no longer wore powder on her hair, because she had
used up the last box about a year ago, and when she desired Marie to
buy her some more, Marie said that the commodity could no longer be
bought. Madame did not ask why; she guessed, and thereafter wore
elaborate caps of old lace which she fashioned herself, and which
entirely covered her hair.

Thanks to the goodwill of Paul and Marie some semblance of order had
been brought into the devastated part of the chteau: broken window-
panes were replaced and torn carpets and curtains put out of sight. In
the stables most of the horses and valuable dogs were sold or
destroyed: Monsieur le Marquis only kept a couple of sporting dogs and
two or three horses for his own use. Then, as the winter grew severe
and fuel and food became scarce and dear, three pairs of willing hands
were recruited from Choisy to supplement the exiguous staff of the
once luxurious household. These willing hands, two outdoor men to help
in the garden and stables and a girl in the house were now called
aides-mnage, the appellation servant or groom being thought
derogatory to the dignity of free-born citizens of France. Even then,
special permission for employing these aides had to be obtained from
the government: and this was only granted in consideration of the fact
that Paul and Marie Leroux were old and infirm, and that it was they
and not the ci-devants who required help.

This, then was the house to which the Abb Edgeworth was conducted in
the evening of that horrible day when he had seen his anointed King
perish on the guillotine like a common criminal. Ever since that early
hour in the morning when he had been called in to administer the
sacraments to the man who had once been Louis XVI, King of France, he
had lived in a constant state of nerve-strain, and as the afternoon
and evening wore on he felt that strain more and more acutely. Towards
seven o'clock two men who looked more like cut-throats than any
voluntary revolutionary guards the abb had ever seen had conducted
him to La Rodire. Before he started out with them old Levet had
assured him that everything was being done to ensure his safety: the
same powerful and generous friend who had rescued him from the hands
of a howling mob had further engineered the final means for his escape
out of France.

The old priest accepted this explanation in perfect faith and trust.
He assured his kind host that he was not the least bit afraid. He had
gone through such a terrible experience that nothing could occur now
to frighten him. Nor did anything untoward happen on the way. He got
very tired stumping up the rugged track which was a short cut to the
chteau. The monumental gates, no longer closed against intruders,
were wide open. The abb and his escort passed through unchallenged
and walked up the stately avenue. The front door of the mansion was
opened to them by Paul, who stood by deferentially in his threadbare
but immaculately brushed suit of black, whilst the old priest stepped
over the threshold.

Tired though he was the abb did not fail to turn immediately in order
to express his gratitude to the two enigmatic ruffians who had guided
his footsteps so carefully, but they had gone. Their footsteps in the
clumsy sabots echoed down the long avenue for a time but they
themselves had already disappeared in the gloom. Later on an attempt
was made to overtake them, but perhaps the attempt was too desultory
to lead to any result: anyway, no trace was found of these pseudo-
revolutionaries about whom the abb knew as little as anybody.

But this is by the way. The priest who by now was on the verge of
exhaustion both mentally and physically, sank into an armchair which
Paul offered him, and here he waited patiently with eyes closed and
lips murmuring a feeble prayer while his arrival was being announced
to Monsieur le Marquis.

A few moments later a young man came running down the stairs with arms
outstretched, shouting a welcome even before he had caught sight of
the priest.

Franois de la Rodire was the only son of the late Marquis. He had
inherited the title and estates four years ago on the death of his
father; he was a well-set-up, athletic-looking youth, who might have
been called handsome but for an arrogant, not to say cruel, expression
round his thin-lipped mouth, and a distinctly receding chin. He was
dressed with utmost elegance, in the mode that had prevailed before
the present regime of equality had made tattered breeches, threadbare
coats and soiled linen, the fashion.

The abb rose at once to greet him.

"We were expecting you, Monsieur l'Abb," the young man said cheerily.
"My mother and sister are upstairs. I hope you are not too tired."

The abb was certainly tired, but he contrived to smile and to ask
with some surprise:

"You were expecting me? But how could you know...?"

"It is all a long story, Father," Franois de la Rodire replied
thoughtfully; "we are all of us under its spell for the moment. But
never mind about that now. We'll tell you all about it when you have
had supper and a rest."

The welcome which Madame la Marquise extended to the priest was no
less cordial than that of her son. The Abb Edgeworth, by virtue of
his holy office, and because he had been privileged to attend the
royal martyr during the last hours of his life, stood on an altogether
different plane in the eyes of Madame than the rest of the despicable
bourgeoisie. Thus Mademoiselle Ccile, her daughter, was ceremoniously
presented to Monsieur l'Abb, and so was the young English gentleman,
my lord Devinne, a friend of the family, who had ridden over from
Paris that afternoon, bringing news of the terrible doings there. He
had, it seems, also brought tidings of the Abb Edgeworth's early
arrival at La Rodire.

It was while the family and their guest were seated round the supper-
table that Mademoiselle Ccile related to the priest the mysterious
occurrence which had puzzled them all since morning.

"It was all so wonderful!" she explained, "and I cannot tell you,
Father, how excited I am, because the first intimation we had that you
were coming was addressed to me."

"To you, Mademoiselle?"

"Yes! to me," she replied, "and you shall judge for yourself whether
the whole thing is not enough to excite the most placid person, and I
am anything but placid. Early this morning," she continued, "when I
took my usual walk in the park, I saw down the avenue a scrubby-
looking man coming slowly towards me from the direction of the gate.
He was at some distance from where I was so I didn't really see him
well, but somehow I knew that he had nothing to do with our own small
staff. We are accustomed nowadays," she added with a pathetic little
sigh, "to all sorts of people invading our privacy. This man, however,
was obviously doing no harm; he just walked along, quite slowly, with
his hands in his pockets, looking neither to right nor left. I didn't
take any more notice of him until he came to one of the stone seats in
the avenue. Then I saw him take a paper out of his pocket and lay it
down on the seat, after which he gave me a distinct sign, drawing my
attention to the paper; he then turned and went back the way he came
and I lost sight of him behind the shrubbery."

She paused a moment, almost out of breath with excitement, then she
went on: "You may imagine, Father, how I hurried to the seat and
picked up the mysterious message. Here it is," she said and drew from
the folds of her fichu a crumpled piece of paper. "I have not parted
from it since I picked it up and read its contents. Listen what it
says: 'The Abb Edgeworth, vicare of St. Andr, who accompanied the
King of France to the scaffold will claim your hospitality to-day for
the night.' Look at it, Monsieur l'Abb. Isn't it extraordinary? I
have shown it to maman, of course, and to Franois. They couldn't
understand at all where it came from, until milord Divinne threw a
still more puzzling light on the whole thing."

She held the paper out to the priest who took it from her, put his
spectacles on his nose and glanced down on the mysterious note.

"It certainly is very curious," he said, "and it is not signed."

"Only with a rough drawing of a small scarlet flower," the girl
observed. The priest handed the paper back to her. She took it, folded
it together almost reverently and replaced it in the folds of her
fichu. The abb turned to the young Englishman:

"And you, milord," he asked, "can actually throw some light on the
sender of this anonymous message?"

"Not exactly that," Devinne protested, "but I can tell you this: that
small scarlet flower is a device adopted by the chief of a band of
English gentlemen who have pledged themselves to save innocent men and
women and children from the tragic fate that befell the King of France
to-day."

The old priest hastily crossed himself.

"May God forgive the sacrilege," he murmured. Then he went on: "But
what a high ideal, milord! Saving the innocent! And Englishmen, you
say? Are you a member of that heroic band yourself?"

"I have that honour."

"And your chief? Who is he?"

"Ah!" Devinne replied, "that is our secret  and his."

"Your pardon, milord! I had not thought to be indiscreet. The whole
thing simply amazes me. It is so wonderful to do such noble deeds, to
risk one's life for the sake of others who may be nothing to you, and
do it all unknown, probably unthanked! And to think that I owe my life
to such men as you, milord, to your friends and to your chief! And
that little red flower? It is a Scarlet Pimpernel, is it not?"

"Yes!"

"I seem to have heard something about it. But only vaguely. The police
here speak of an anonymous English spying organization."

"We do no spying, Monsieur l'Abb. The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
has nothing to do with politics."

"I am sure it has not. But I understand that even the government is
greatly disturbed by its activities, and has offered a large reward
for the apprehension, milord, of your chief. But God will protect him,
never fear."

It was after this that the old priest seemed to collapse. He gave a
gasp and sank back in his chair in a faint. Franois de la Rodire
hastily called to Paul, and together the two men carried the old man
upstairs to the room which had been prepared for him, and put him to
bed. When they came back and explained that Monsieur l'Abb appeared
to be very ill, Madame la Marquise gave orders to Paul that Dr. Pradel
be fetched at once.

"The doctor is in the house now, Madame la Marquise," Paul observed.

"Doing what?" Madame asked.

"I sent for him, Maman," Franois put in; "Stella needed a purge and
Csar got a splinter in his paw. But I thought he would be gone by
now."

"And why hasn't he gone?"

"Marie had one of her bad attacks of rheumatism, Madame la Marquise,
and Berthe the kitchen girl had a poisoned finger. The doctor has been
seeing to them."

"Tell him to go up to Monsieur l'Abb at once," Franois commanded.

When Paul had gone, he turned to Lord Devinne.

"This is very unfortunate," he said. "I do hope it won't be a long
affair. I don't mind the abb being here, say, a day or two, but you
didn't say anything about his being a sick man."

"I didn't know that he was," the Englishman observed.

"Your wonder chief should have told you," the other retorted with
obvious ill-humour. "It won't be over-safe either for maman or for the
rest of us to be harbouring a man who is under the ban of this
murdering government. Believe me, milord, I-"

He was interrupted by the opening of the door and the entrance of
Simon Pradel Madame la Marquise gave him a gracious nod, and Ccile a
kindly glance. Franois, on the other hand, did not take the trouble
to greet him.

"It is upstairs you have got to go," he said curtly; "a friend of ours
who was here at supper was suddenly taken ill."

Simon took no notice of the insolence of the young man's tone. He only
frowned slightly, took his professional tablet and pencil from his
pocket and asked:

"What is the name of your friend, Monsieur le Marquis?"

"His name has nothing to do with you," the other retorted tartly.

"I am afraid it has, Monsieur le Marquis. I am bound by law to report
to the local Section every case I attend within this area."

Madame la Marquise sighed and turned her head away; the word "Section"
or "law" invariably upset her. But Franois suffered contradiction
badly, especially on the part of this fellow Pradel whom he knew to
hold democratic if not revolutionary views.

"You can go and report to the devil," he said with growing
exasperation. He was still in a fume over the affair of the abb's
inconvenient sickness, and now, what he considered presumption on the
part of this purveyor of pills and purges, turned his annoyance into
fury.

"Either," he went on, not attempting to control his temper, "either
you go and attend to my guest upstairs or you clear out of my house in
double quick time."

There was not much meekness in Simon Pradel either. The arrogance of
these aristocrats exasperated him just as much as his own attitude
exasperated them. His face went very white, and he was on the point of
making a retort which probably would have had unpleasant consequences
for everyone concerned when he caught a glance, an appealing glance,
levelled at him out of Ccile's beautiful eyes.

"Our friend is old, Monsieur le Docteur," she said gently, "and very
ill. I am sure he will tell you his name himself, for he has no reason
to hide it."

The glance and the words froze the sharp retort on Pradel's lips. He
succeeded in keeping his rising temper under control and without
another word, and just a slight inclination of the head he went out of
the room. Franois on the other hand made no attempt to swallow his
wrath: he turned on his sister and said acidly:

"You were a fool, Ccile. What that fellow wanted was a sound
thrashing: your amiability will only encourage him in his insolence.
All his like ought to have tasted the whip-last long ago. If they had,
we shouldn't be in the plight we are in to-day. Don't you agree with
me, Maman?" he concluded, appealing to his stately mother.

But Madame la Marquise who was very much upset by the incident had
already sailed out of the room.



14  AN OUTRAGE

It was at daybreak the following morning that Simon Pradel left the
chteau. He had spent the whole night at the bedside of the Abb
Edgeworth, fighting a stubborn fight against a tired heart, which
threatened any moment to cease beating. The old priest was hardly
conscious during all those hours, only swallowing mechanically at
intervals the cordials and restoratives which the doctor forced
between his lips. Just before six he rallied a little. His first
request was for a priest to hear his confession.

"You are no longer in danger now," Pradel said to him gently.

But the abb insisted.

"I must see a priest," he said; "it is three days since I made
confession."

"You have nothing on your conscience, I am sure, Monsieur l'Abb, and
I am afraid of too much mental effort for you."

"Concern at being deprived of a brother's ministrations will be worse
for me than any effort," the old man declared with serene obstinacy.

There was nothing for it but to humour the sick man. Pradel
immediately thought of Augustin Levet and decided to go and fetch him.
He collected his impedimenta, left instructions with the woman who was
in charge of the invalid, and made his way, with much relief, out of
this inhospitable chteau. The morning was clear and cold, the sun
just rising above the woods of Charenton, flooded the valley with its
pale, wintry light. In the park one or two labourers were at work and
in the stableyard away to the left Pradel saw three men, one of whom,
a groom, was holding a horse by the bridle which another, presumably
Lord Devinne was about to mount; the third had his back turned towards
the avenue and Pradel couldn't see who it was. He was walking quickly
now in the direction of the gate, and suddenly became aware of a
woman's figure walking in the same direction as himself, some distance
ahead of him. For the moment he came to a halt, and stood stockstill,
hardly crediting his own eyes. It was not often that such a piece of
good fortune came his way. The joy of meeting Mademoiselle Ccile,
alone, of speaking with her unobserved, had only occurred twice during
these last twelve months when first he had learned to love her.

Pradel was no fool. He knew well enough that his love was absolutely
hopeless: that is to say he had known it until recently when the
greatest social upheaval the world had ever seen, turned the whole
fabric of society topsy-turvy. He would hardly have been human if he
had not since then begun, not exactly to hope, but to wonder.
Opposition on the part of these arrogant patricians who constituted
Mademoiselle Ccile's family would probably continue, but there was no
knowing what the next few months, even weeks, might bring in the way
of drawing these aristocrats out of their fortresses of pride, and
leaving them more completely at the mercy of the much despised middle
class.

Pradel, of course, didn't think of all this at the moment when he saw
Ccile de la Rodire walking alone in the park. He only marvelled at
his own good fortune and hastened to overtake her. She was wrapped in
an ample cloak from neck to ankles, but its hood had fallen away from
her head and that same wintry sun that glistened on the river, touched
the loose curls above her ears and made them shine like tiny streaks
of gold.

All down the length of the avenue there were stone seats at intervals;
the last of these was not very far from the entrance gate. Ccile came
to a halt beside it, looked all round her almost, Pradel thought, as
if she was expecting some one, and then sat down. At sound of the
young man's footsteps she turned, and seeing him she rose, obviously a
little confused. He came near, took off his hat, bowed low and said
smiling:

"Up betimes, Mademoiselle?"

"The sunrise looked so beautiful from my window," she murmured, "I was
tempted."

"I don't wonder. This morning air puts life into one."

Ccile sat down again. Without waiting for permission Simon sat down
beside her.

"I might echo your question, Monsieur le Docteur," the girl resumed
with a smile: "Up betimes?"

"Not exactly, Mademoiselle. As a matter of fact I am ready for bed
now."

"You have been up all night?"

"With my patient."

"The dear old man! How is he?"

"Better now. But he has had a bad night."

"And you were with him all the time?"

"Of course."

"That was kind. And," the girl added with a smile, "did he confess to
you?"

"No. But I guessed."

"Was he raving then, in delirium?"

"No. He was very weak, but quite conscious."

"Then how could you guess?"

"He is a priest, for he has a tonsure. He is a fugitive since his name
was withheld. It was not very difficult."

"You won't..." she implored impulsively.

"Mademoiselle!" he retorted with gentle reproach. "I know. I know,"
she rejoined quickly. "I ought not to have asked. You would not be
capable of such a mean action. Everyone knows how noble and generous
you always are, and you must try and forgive me."

She gave a quaint little sigh, and added with a curious strain of
bitterness:

"We all seem a little unhinged these days. Nothing seems the same as
it was just a few years ago. Our poor country has gone mad and so have
we, in a way. But," she resumed more evenly, "I must not keep you from
your rest. You lead such a busy life, you must not overtire yourself."

"Rest?" he exclaimed involuntarily. "Overtire myself? As if there was
anything in the world...."

He contrived to check himself in time. The torrent of words which were
about to rise from his heart to his lips would have had consequences,
the seriousness of which it had been difficult to overestimate. Ccile
de la Rodire was woman enough to realize this also, but womanlike
too, she didn't want the interview to end abruptly like this. So she
rose and turned to walk towards the gate. He followed, thinking the
while how gladly he would have lingered on, how gladly he would have
prolonged this tte--tte which to her probably was banal enough but
which for him had been one of the happiest moments of his lonely life.
Ccile, however, said nothing till they reached the postern gate. Here
she came to a standstill, and while he was in the act of opening the
gate, she stretched her hand out to him.

"Am I forgiven?" she asked, and gave him a glance that would have
addled a stoic's brain. What could a man in love do, but bend the knee
and kiss the little hand. It was a moment of serenity and of peace,
with the wintry sun touching the bare branches of sycamore and
chestnut with its silvery light. Out of the depths of the shrubbery
close by there came the sound of pattering tiny feet, the scarce
perceptible movements of small rodents on the prowl. Then the beating
of a horse's hoof in the near distance on the frozen ground, and a
man's voice saying:

"A pleasant journey, my friend, and come and see us soon again,"
followed almost immediately by a loud curse and a shout:

"What is that lout doing there?"

Ccile snatched her had away, and turned frightened eyes in the
direction whence the shout had come. But before Simon Pradel could
jump to his feet, before Ccile could intervene, the young doctor was
felled to the ground by a stunning blow from a riding-crop on the top
of his head. All he heard as his senses reeled was Ccile's cry of
horror and distress and her brother's infuriated shouts of "How dare
you? How dare you?"

The crop was raised again and another blow came down, this time on the
unfortunate young doctor's shoulders. But Pradel was not quite
conscious now: he felt dizzy and sick and utterly helpless. All he
could do was to put up one arm to shield his head from being hit
again. He could just see Ccile's little feet beneath her skirt, and
the edge of her cloak: he heard her agonized cry for help and Lord
Devinne's voice called out:

"Franois! For God's sake stop! You might kill him."

He tried to struggle to his feet, cursing himself for his
helplessness, when suddenly a curious sound came from somewhere close
by. Was it from the shrubbery, or from the road opposite? Or from the
cypress trees that stood sentinel outside the park gates? Impossible
to say: but it had a curious paralysing effect on every one there, on
that madman blind with fury as well as on his helpless victim. And yet
the sound had nothing terrifying in it; it was just a prolonged,
drawly, rather inane laugh; but the fact that it appeared to come from
nowhere in particular and that there was no one in sight who could
possibly have laughed at this moment, lent to the sound something
peculiarly eerie. The age of superstition had not yet died away.
Franois's curses froze on his lips, his cheeks became ashen grey, his
arm brandishing the crop remained poised above his head as if suddenly
turned to stone.

"What was that?" he continued to murmur.

"Some yokel in the road," Lord Devinne suggested, and then added
lightly: "Anyway, my friend, it saved you from committing a murder."

The spell only lasted a few moments. Already Franois had recovered
his senses, and with them, his rage.

"Committed a murder?" he retorted roughly. "I wish I had killed the
brute."

He turned to his sister. "Come, Ccile!" he commanded.

She wouldn't come; she desired nothing else but to minister to the
stricken man. He was lying huddled up on the ground and a gash across
his forehead caused the blood to stream down his face; he had quite
lost consciousness. Franois gave the prone, helpless form a vicious
kick.

"Franois," the girl cried, herself roused to fury by his cowardice,
"I forbid you...."

"And I swear to you that I will kill him, unless you come away with me
at once."

He seized the girl by the wrist and tried to drag her away. The light
of mania was in his eyes. His own fury had inflamed his blood,
superstitious terror had also done its work, and the whole atmosphere
of revolutionary France, materialized as it were in this low-born
bourgeois who had dared to make love to the daughter of an aristocrat,
completed the addling of his brain, so that by now he really was not
quite sane.

Ccile, horrified and indignant and afraid that the boy might do some
greater mischief still, turned to Lord Devinne and said coolly:

"Milord, my brother is not responsible for his actions, so I must look
to you to act as a Christian and a gentleman. If you need help, please
call to Antoine in the stables. He will attend to Docteur Pradel,
until he is able to get home."

She gave him a curt not. Indeed, she did not attempt to conceal the
contempt which she felt for his attitude during the whole of this
infamous episode, for with the exception of the one call to Franois:

"For God's sake, that's enough! you might kill him!" he had stood
there beside his horse, with the reins over his arm, seemingly quite
detached and indifferent to the abominable outrage perpetrated on a
defenceless man. Even now as Franois by sheer force succeeded in
dragging his sister away, he made a movement as if to get to horse
again, until he met a last look from Ccile and apparently thought it
better to make some show of human feeling.

"I'll get Antoine to give me a hand," he said, and leading his horse,
he turned in the direction of the stables.

Chance, however, intervened. Antoine did not happen to be in the
stables at the moment. Devinne tethered his horse in the yard, and
then, after a few seconds' hesitation, he seemed to make up his mind
to a certain course, and made his way round the shrubbery back to the
chteau. His train of thought during those few seconds had been: "If I
don't see Ccile now, she will brood over the whole thing, and imagine
all sorts of things that didn't really happen."

Paul opened the door to him. He asked to see Mademoiselle. Paul took
the message upstairs, but returned with a word from Mademoiselle that
she was not feeling well and couldn't see anybody. Devinne sent up
again, and again was refused. He asked when he might have the
privilege of calling and was told that Mademoiselle could not say
definitely. It would depend on the state of her health.

Useless to insist further. Devinne, very much chagrined, went back the
way he came, feeling anything but at peace with the world in general
and in particular with Simon Pradel, who was the primary cause of all
this trouble. Back in the stable yard he found Antoine at work there;
but all he did was to mount his horse and ride away without saying a
word about a man lying unconscious by the roadside. However, when he
rode past the gate he noted, rather to his surprise, that there was no
sign of Simon Pradel.

"That sort of riff-raff is very tough," was my Lord Devinne's mental
comment, as he put his horse to a trot down the road.



15  ALARMING NEWS

When Simon Pradel came back to complete consciousness, he found
himself sitting propped up against a willow tree by the side of the
little stream that runs winding its turbulent way for three or four
hundred metres parallel with the road. His cloak was wrapped round him
and his hat was at the back of his head. His head ached furiously and
it took him some time to collect his senses and to remember what had
happened. He put his hand to his forehead: it encountered a
handkerchief tied round it underneath his hat.

Then he remembered everything, and insane fury took possession of him
body and soul. Nothing would do but he must at once wreak vengeance on
the coward who had reduced him to such a humiliating pass. He was
strong, he was athletic, far more so than that effete young Marquis
who had caught him unawares and struck him from behind before he had a
chance of defending himself. All sorts of fantastic schemes, the
result of fever in his blood, presented themselves to his mind while
he struggled to his feet and, still rather giddy and stiff, made for
the road, and thence toward the gate of the chteau. How he could best
get a private interview with Franois de la Rodire at a spot where
the young miscreant could not call anyone to his aid, was the puzzle
that, for the moment, defied solution. The order had probably been
given already that if he, Pradel, called at the chteau, the door
should be slammed in his face. And he laughed aloud with rage and
bitterness at thought that the man whose worthless life he could
squeeze out with his own powerful hands was so hemmed in, even in
these days, that nothing but mere chance would deliver him up to his
victim's just revenge.

It was his own outburst of laughter that brought back to the young
doctor's mind the curious incident which, as a matter of fact, had
probably saved his life. There was not knowing to what lengths that
madman would have gone in his senseless rage, had not that eerie
laughter roused the echoes of the dawn and paralysed his murderous
arm. But Pradel had no more idea than the others whence that laugh had
come; all he knew was that it had saved his life, and that it remained
as mysterious, as unaccountable as the fact that here he was, propped
against a willow tree by the side of the stream, with his forehead
bandaged, his hands and face wiped clean of blood and his clothes
carefully freed from dirt. He did remember, but only vaguely, that he
had been lifted off the ground by arms that seemed to be very
powerful, and that he was being carried along in those same arms, he
supposed across the road. There was also a moment when though semi-
conscious, he seemed to hear that quaint laugh again, but this he put
down to the figment of a dream. This new train of thought, however,
did in a measure abate the worst of his fury. From thence to
remembering more and more of the events of the morning was only a
question of time. A few seconds, and he remembered Ccile, the beloved
hand extended to him the kindly glance, the delicious tte--tte in
the avenue. And he also remembered the Abb Edgeworth and the old
man's earnest request for the ministrations of a brother priest and
his own determination to fetch Augustin Levet for this task.

Vengeance, then, would have to wait for that mere chance which might
never come. God Himself had said "Vengeance is mine. I will repay!"
What then?

With a last shrug of bitter contempt at his own impotence, Pradel
turned his back finally on that chteau of evil. He was on the point
of wending his way down the rough track, which is a short cut into
Choisy, when he saw a shabbily dressed little man who seemed to be
lurking desultorily at the angle of the road. He took no notice,
however, not even when he became aware that as soon as he himself had
started to follow the track, the man immediately turned and went
leisurely down the other way.

Walking downhill on slippery frozen ground was a painful process, with
every step a jar, and every movement a strain on aching limbs: but
will-power is a sturdy crutch, and so many different thoughts were
running riot in Simon Pradel's mind that hey left no room in his brain
for self-pity. Less than an hour later he was outside the Levets'
house, ringing the front door bell. There was no answer. He rang again
and again. It seemed strange, he thought, that there should be no one
astir in the house to watch over the dead. Old Levet with his habit of
wandering about the countryside was a very early riser, so was Marie
the maid. Augustin, of course, might have gone to church, but there
was Blanche also; surely the two women would not have left the dead
unguarded.

Vaguely apprehensive, not knowing what to think, Simon thought he
would go to the church close by where he knew the Levets worshipped,
hoping to find Augustin there. As he turned out of the gate he met the
Widow Dupont, a neighbour of the Levets, who, at sight of him, threw
up her arms and exclaimed:

"Ah, Citizen Doctor, what a calamity!"

Pradel frowned inquiringly.

"Calamity? What calamity?"

"Didn't you know?"

"Know what?"

"The poor Levets! And the citizeness lying there dead, all alone! I
and my girl would have gone in and kept watch as is only fitting, but
we didn't know about it all until afterwards; and then the house was
shut up like you see it now."

She talked on with the volubility peculiar to her kind. It was some
time before Simon could get in a word edgeways:

"But, in God's name, what has happened?" he broke in at last.

"They were arrested last night."

"Arrested?"

"And they are all going to be guillotined," the worthy widow
concluded, with that curious mixture of awe and complacency so
characteristic of a certain type of countrywoman. "All of them! Poor
old Levet, his saintly son, pretty little Blanche and Marie, the maid.
Not that I would care about Marie as a maid. She is a good girl, but
she is not thorough in her work, if you know what I mean-"

At this point she broke off, for she had caught sight of the bandage
round the doctor's head:

"But you are hurt, Citizen Doctor!" she exclaimed. "Do come inside and
let me-"

"It is nothing, Citizeness," he retorted impatiently; "only a false
step on a slippery road. But-"

"One has to be so careful on a day like this, and I say that some of
the roads about here are a disgrace to-"

"I know, I know. But tell me, how do you know all this, about the
Levets? Did you see it happen?"

"No, Citizen, I did not. But I did see Citizen Maurin, the lawyer,
afterwards-after they had all gone, that is, in a carriage and pair
and lots of soldiers. I asked Citizen Maurin if they were really going
to be guillotined, one never knows what may happen these days: like
that poor King now-I should say Louis Capet-one never knows. Does
one?"

But Pradel had heard enough. With a hasty word of thanks to the
voluble widow, he turned and walked rapidly up the street. It was no
use trying to find Augustin now, but he went into the nearest church,
saw the cur, asked him or his coadjutor to go at once to La Rodire
to see a sick man, and then, anxious to get first-hand news, he went
on to Maurin's office. There he was told by the servant that the
citizen lawyer was out for the moment but was expected back for
djeuner. It was now close on ten o'clock and there would be two hours
to kill; time enough to go back home, swallow a cup of coffee and get
some rest before attending to his correspondence and professional
work. As he walked away from Maurin's house, Simon happened to look
back and was the shabby little man of a while ago go up to the front
door and ring the bell. The same servant opened the door, but the
shabby little man was at once admitted.



16  RUMOUR AND COUNTER-RUMOUR

There is nothing like a village or a small provincial town for
disseminating news. Within a few hours of its occurrence it was known
all over Choisy that a dastardly outrage had been committed on the
person of the much-beloved and highly respected citizen, Dr. Pradel,
by the ci-devant Marquis de la Rodire up at the chteau. Some of
these rumours went even so far as to assert that it was a case of
murder: this, however, was later on automatically contradicted, when
Dr. Pradel was seen crossing the Grand' Place, looking pale and severe
but certainly not dead.

Whence and how the rumour originated nobody knew but by the evening it
was all over the place and the principal subject of conversation at
street corners and in the cafs. Even the tragic event of the day
before was relegated to the background while various versions of the
story, more or less contradictory, went from mouth to mouth. Louis
Maurin was one of the first to hear of it, and it made him very angry
indeed. His aide-mnage, Henri, related to a crony afterwards that the
citizen lawyer had had two visits from a seedy-looking individual, who
often came to the office on business but whom he, Henri, didn't know
by name. It was during this man's second visit that the citizen lawyer
had flown into a rage. Henri had been quite frightened, and though he
was not the least inquisitive by nature, he could not help overhearing
what went on in the office.

"You consummate fool..." he heard his employer say.

And: "You told me to spread any rumours that were derogatory to him .
. ."

Then again: "This is not derogatory, you idiot...it will just make
a hero of him..."

All of which was very mysterious, as the crony was bound to admit.
What a pity that the worthy aide-mnage could not hear more. It seems
that the seedy-looking individual went away soon afterwards, looking
very down in the mouth.

No wonder that Louis Maurin was furious. Everything he had planned
recently for his wooing of Blanche Levet seemed to be going wrong. To
spread rumours that were derogatory to Pradel's moral character was
one thing. Blanche would be sure to hear of it, so would old Levet,
and there was a good chance that the doctor would, in consequence, be
forbidden the house. But to represent the man as the victim of
aristocratic brutality and arrogance, to give, in fact, the whole
incident a political significance, was to excite any young girl's
imagination in favour of what she would call a martyr to his
convictions. For that is the turn which the rumour had now taken. Dr.
Pradel, so said the gossips, had professed liberal views: the ci-
devants up at the chteau, enraged at the execution of Louis Capet,
had lost all sense of restraint, and had vented their fury on the
first victim who came to their hand. In the cafs and at street
corners there was talk among the hot-headed youths of Choisy to go up
to La Rodire in a body and extract vengeance from those insolent
aristos for the outrage committed on a respected member of the
community. If this project was put into execution Simon Pradel would,
of course, at once become the most important personage in Choisy. He
would be elected mayor without doubt, even perhaps member of the
Convention; a second Danton or Robespierre, there was no knowing. In
spite of the cold on this frosty January evening, Maurin perspired
profusely at the prospect of seeing Blanche dazzled by the doctor's
glory, and old Levet thinking it prudent perhaps to have such a
progressive politician for his son-in-law.

The thought was maddening. Maurin didn't feel that he could endure it
in solitude with only that fool of an aide-mnage for company. He saw
the rosy future which he had mapped out for himself turning to darkly
gathering clouds. It was now seven o'clock. The Levets would be at
supper. He, Maurin, had every excuse for calling on them, to inquire
after their health after the trying ordeals of the past twenty-four
hours, and to offer his services in connexion with the funeral
arrangements which could no longer be delayed.

Well wrapped up in a cosy mantle, the lawyer sallied forth. The Levets
were at supper when he arrived. He was quite observant enough to note
at once that there was an element of disturbance in the family circle.
Blanche had evidently been crying: her eyes were heavy, and her cheeks
aflame. She had pushed aside her plate of soup untasted. Augustin,
serene and detached as usual, with his breviary propped up against a
glass in front of him, was quietly finishing his, whilst Charles
Levet's expression of face was inscrutable. Maurin had a shrewd
suspicion, however, of what went on in the old royalist's mind.
Pradel, in a sense, was his friend, and he was probably shocked at the
story of the outrage, but deep down in his heart, the herbalist had
kept a feeling of loyalty not only to his King, but to the seigneur.
He had been born and bred in this loyalty, and in the belief that a
seigneur, an aristocrat who was the prop and mainstay of the throne
could do no wrong, or if he did, there was certainly a reason and an
explanation for his misdoing. Augustin would look upon the outrage as
the will of God, or a visitation of the devil, and would pray humbly
and earnestly that Monsieur le Marquis de la Rodire be forgiven for
his outburst of temper. Only Blanche would be indignant. Maurin's
egoism merely attributed this to casual interest in a friend, the
thought that the girl was seriously in love with the doctor, he
dismissed as disturbing and certainly unlikely.

He had always prided himself on his tact. It was only his tact, so he
believed, that enabled him ever to enter this house as a welcome
guest, even though his political views were as abhorrent to old Levet
as the plague. He entered the room now with hand out-stretched and an
air of debonnaire geniality, coupled with the solemnity due to a house
wherein its mistress lay dead. He was asked to sit down and was
offered a glass of wine. He talked of funeral arrangements, connected
with legal formalities; he asked after every one's health, professed
to be the bearer of official apologies for the family's arrest and
detention, and apparently was not aware that his volubility was
countered by silence on the part of his three listeners. Blanche still
looked very distressed, in fact, she seemed to have the greatest
difficulty in restraining her tears. Maurin was on the point of
broaching the subject of Pradel, when there was a ring at the bell.

"That'll be the Citizen Doctor," Marie remarked, and went waddling off
like a duck to open the door.

"I'll see him outside," old Levet said, as he rose from the table.
"Come Augustin!" he called to his son.

To Maurin, who had been watching Blanche keenly, it seemed as if it
had been at a sign from her that her father had called to Augustin and
with him had gone out of the room. A moment or two later he could hear
two of the men talking together in the passage after which all three
went into the sitting-room. There was no mistaking the expression in
the girl's face now. It was all eagerness and excitement, and in her
eyes there was just that look which only comes in a woman's eyes when
the man she loves is near. Maurin cursed himself for his lack of
judgement. He should have guessed which way the land lay and played
his cards differently. It was not by involving Pradel in political
imbroglios that he would succeed in turning Blanche against him. There
were other means by which the budding love of a young and
inexperienced girl could be changed first to pique and thence perhaps
to hatred. And pique would surely throw Blanche into the arms of the
man who knew how to play his cards well, that man, of course, being
himself.

Fortunately Louis Maurin did, in his own estimation, hold the trump
card now, and he made up his mind to play it at once. He nodded in the
direction whence the sound of men talking came as a faint and confused
murmur, and said blandly:

"Our young friend in there has got over his trouble of this morning
quite quickly. He-"

"Don't speak of that outrage, Louis," Blanche broke in vehemently; "I
can't bear it."

"My dear," he retorted suavely, "I was only going to say, that, like
most men who are in love, he seems willing to endure both physical and
moral humiliation, for the sake of the short glimpses he has of the
lady of his choice. I don't blame him. We are all of us like that, you
know, all of us who know what love is. I would endure anything for
your sake, Blanche...even blows."

"And now you are talking nonsense," the girl rejoined dryly. "There
was no question of love in the unprovoked insult which that abominable
aristo put upon Simon."

The lawyer gave a light shrug and echoed with something of a sneer:

"Unprovoked? My dear Blanche!"

"Certainly it was unprovoked. Simon had been sitting up with a sick
man all night. He was returning home in the small hours of the morning
when that devil of a Marquis, coward as well as a bully, fell on him
from behind and knocked him senseless before he could defend himself."

Maurin gave a superior little smile.

"A very pretty story, my dear. May I ask from whom you had it?"

"Every one in Choisy will tell you the same. Every detail is known-"

"No, dear, not every detail; nor will every one in Choisy tell the
pretty tale, for there is a man who stood by while the whole episode
was going on, and who saw everything from the beginning."

"Some liar, I suppose," she retorted.

"No, not a liar. A man of integrity, of position, an official, in
fact."

"And what did he tell you?"

Maurin smiled once more. Imperceptibly this time. Blanche plied him
with questions. She wanted to know. She did not, as older women would
have done, refuse to hear another word that might prove derogatory to
the man she loved.

"Simon Pradel, my dear Blanche, was discovered by Franois de la
Rodire making love to his sister, in the early dawn...after a
night spent at the chteau, but not with a sick man. He was, in fact,
kneeling at Mademoiselle's feet, kissing her hand in farewell. No
wonder the ci-devant lost his temper."

"It's not true!" the girl cried, hot with indignation.

"I pledge you my word that it is," the lawyer responded calmly.

Already Blanche had jumped to her feet. She went to the door, threw it
open, and pointed to it with a dramatic gesture.

"Out of the house, Citizen Louis Maurin," she said, speaking as calmly
as he had done, "and never dare set foot into it again. You are a liar
and a traducer and I hate you worse than any one I have ever known in
all my life."

She remained standing by the door, a forbidding, almost a tragic
figure. Maurin remained for a time where he was, his eyes fixed upon
her, pondering within himself what he should do. The girl's sudden
revulsion had struck him with dismay. It was so unexpected. Once again
Fate, or a false move on his part perhaps, had upset all his plans.

For the moment, however, there was nothing for him to do but to obey.
He rose slowly, picked up his had and coat and went to the door.
Striding past the girl he made her a low bow. As soon as he had gone
through the door she slammed it to behind him.



17  TIMELY WARNING

It was in the early morning of the day following the outrage on Dr.
Pradel that a cabriolet, more ramshackle perhaps than any that plied
in Choisy, turned into the great gates of La Rodire and came to a
halt at the front door of the chteau. A tall man, dressed in sober
black, alighted from the vehicle and rang the outside bell. To Paul
who opened the door to him, the tall man gave his name as d'Arblay,
Professor at the University of Louvain in Belgium, and added that he
desired to speak with Monsieur l'Abb.

Paul was a little doubtful: one had to be so careful nowadays with so
many spies of that murdering government about. The visitor looked
respectable enough, but there was never any knowing, and Paul thought
it wisest to shut the door in the "Professor's" face whilst he went to
consult his better half. Marie too was doubtful. For months past now,
no visitor had called at the chteau, and, of course, one never did
know. In the end the two old people decided that the only thing to do
as to report the whole matter to Monsieur le Marquis, and he would
decide whether the "Professeur" was to be introduced into Monsieur
l'Abb's presence or not.

To their astonishment Monsieur le Marquis was overjoyed when he heard
of the visit, and commanded that Monsieur le Professeur be shown at
once into his own private room. Never had Monsieur le Marquis shown
such condescension towards a member of the despised "bourgeoisie," and
Paul ushered in the visitor with as much deference as he would have
shown to one who had a handle to his name.

Franois de la Rodire was indeed more than condescending. He greeted
the tall Professor most cordially.

"Your visit is more than welcome, sir," he said. "I have been
expecting it ever since yesterday at noon, when I received one of
those mysterious messages signed with the device of a small red flower
which have already puzzled us. You, I suppose, know all about it."

"All?" the Professor replied. "Not exactly, Monsieur le Marquis. But I
have been asked to call here in a cabriolet for Monsieur l'Abb
Edgeworth, and to drive with him as far as Vitry, where friends of his
who are of Belgian nationality, and therefore safe from interference
by the revolutionary government, will convey him safely to the
frontier."

Franois could not help being impressed by the grave and dignified
demeanour of this learned man, as well as by his exquisitely cut
clothes and fine linen. Of course one didn't look on these people as
one's equals. In spite of their erudition they had neither the
culture, nor certainly the traditions, that made of one's own caste a
privileged class; but this man seemed certainly superior to most of
his kind. To begin with he spoke French with a precision that amounted
to pedantry, and this was strange in a Belgian: their French was
usually execrable. Then there was something almost noble in the man's
bearing. He had not been asked to sit-of course not, in the august
presence of Monsieur le Marquis-and stood there in an attitude of
singular grace. He was tall and obviously powerful, and he had
beautiful hands, one of which rested on the ivory knob of his cane.
There was nothing Belgian about all that either, the Belgians being
for the most part short and stocky and, with their Flemish ancestry
were of a very different fibre to the aristocracy of France. Puzzled,
Franois remarked casually:

"You are Belgian, are you not, Professor?"

"Cosmopolitan would be a better word, Monsieur le Marquis," the other
replied coolly. "I trust Monsieur l'Abb is in a better state of
health. The journey might be trying for an invalid."

"Oh! he is much better. Much, much better," Franois replied, then
went on in a confidential manner: "Entre nous, my good Professor, his
being ill here was somewhat inconvenient, not to say dangerous for the
safety of Madame la Marquise and all of us. I shall really be thankful
to have him out of the way."

"I am sure. Especially in view of the fact that the people down in
Choisy are none too friendly towards your family."

"Oh! the riff-raff down in Choisy do not frighten me. Riff-raff! that
is all they are. They shout and yell and break a window or two. They
did it once before, you know, four years ago. I was away at the time,
or I would have put a few charges of shot into their vile bodies. I
shall, too, and without compunction, if they dare show their ugly
faces inside my gates. No! no, I am not afraid of that rabble. Let
them come. They will get their deserts."

"It is sometimes best to be prepared."

"I am prepared. With powder and shot. The first man who sets foot on
the perron is a dead man, so are all who follow him."

"Retreat before a powerful enemy is sometimes more prudent and often
more brave than assured resistance."

"You mean run away before the canaille. Not I. I'll see them all in
hell first."

"I was thinking of Madame la Marquise and Mademoiselle Ccile."

"Then, pray," Franois retorted, with supreme arrogance, "cease
thinking of aught but your own business, which is to look after the
welfare of Monsieur l'Abb Edgeworth."

With that, he turned his back on his visitor and stalked out of the
room, leaving the Professor standing there motionless, a thoughtful
look in his deep blue eyes and a sarcastic curl round his firm lips. A
moment or two later Paul came in.

"Monsieur l'Abb is waiting to see Monsieur le Professeur," he said.

The latter gave a short, impatient sigh and followed Paul out of the
room. His interview with the old priest was short. The abb with that
patient acceptance of fate which he had shown since the one
catastrophic event two days ago, was ready to follow this unknown
friend as he had followed the two ruffianly guards the other day from
the Levets' home to the chteau. He made his adieux to the family who
had so generously sheltered him, expressed his thanks to them, as well
as to Paul and Marie, who had looked after him, and finally stepped
into the cabriolet which he understood would take him on to Vitry
first, there to meet Belgian friends who would drive him by coach to
the frontier. Monsieur le Professeur sat by his side and drove with
him for about a kilometre or so; he then called to the driver to stop,
alighted from the vehicle and bade the old priest farewell.

"The friends, Monsieur l'Abb," he said finally, "who will take care
of you at Vitry and convey you to the frontier, are kind and generous.
The head of the family has held an official position in Paris for the
Belgian Government. He has a safe-conduct for you. Try and think of no
one but yourself until you are over the border. God guard you."

He then spoke a word or two to the driver which the abb failed to
hear. There were two men on the box. One of them now got down and took
his seat under the hood of the carriage. He looked something of a
ruffian, but the abb did not mind his looks. He was used to friendly
ruffians by now. He took a last look at the mysterious Professor, saw
him standing bareheaded at the side of the road, his black cloak
wrapped round his tall figure, one slender hand resting on the knob of
his cane, his face a reflection of lofty thoughts within a noble soul.

It was a face and form the Abb Edgeworth knew that he would never
forget, even though he was destined never to see them again. As the
driver whipped his nag, the priest murmured a prayer to God to bless
and guard this mysterious friend to whom he owned his safety and his
life.



18  IMPENDING TROUBLE

Three days had gone by since the incidents at la Rodire, and
excitement in Choisy over the outrage on Dr. Pradel was working itself
up to fever-pitch. In the evenings, men and women who had been at work
in the government factories all day, would pour out in their hundreds
and invade the cafs and restaurants, eager to hear further details of
the abominable assault which by now had inflamed the passions of every
adult in the commune. A devilish aristocrat had shown his hatred and
contempt for the people by making a cowardly attack on one of the most
respected citizens of Choisy, on a man who spent his life and fortune
in ministering to the poor and doing good to every man, woman or child
who called to him for help. Such an affront called aloud for
vengeance. It was directed against the people, against the rights and
privileges of every free-born citizen of France.

And paid agitators came down from Paris, and stood at street corners
or on the tables in cafs and restaurants and harangued the excited
crowds that readily enough gathered round them to hear them speak.

"Why, I ask you, Citizens," they would demand in ringing tones, "why
did Louis Capet's head fall like that of a common criminal under the
guillotine, a few days ago? Because he had conspired against the
people. Conspired against our liberties: against yours, Citizens, and
against mine. Judges and jury found him guilty, and pronounced death
sentence upon him. King or ex-King, I didn't matter. He was found
guilty by his fellow-men of having conspired against the people and he
was punishment by death. Then why, I ask you," the impassioned orator
would then go on, "why should those ci-devants up at La Rodire not be
punished also? The outrage which they have committed against the whole
of our commune, and our commune must pronounce judgement upon them, by
virtue of the sovereignty of the people of France."

Rapturous applause and shouts of "Vive la Rpublique" and "Vive" all
sorts of other things greeted the peroration. "The sovereignty of the
people" were magic words which always stirred the blood of every self-
respecting citizen. They were spoken by men who knew how to work on
the passions of poor, ignorant folk whose lot through life had been
one of continuous struggle against misery and starvation, and whom it
was easy enough to persuade that by the overthrow of all existing
dynastic rights, the millenium for the humble and the lowly would
surely come. They were men employed by the revolutionary government
for the sole purpose of stirring up trouble in places where the bulk
of the inhabitants appeared placid and contented with their lot. Such
a place was this small commune of Choisy, where people like the Levets
lived the simple life, following their own avocations without the
usual show of discontent, and where men like Simon Pradel set the
example of quiet, unassuming generosity.

And this was a grand opportunity for sowing seeds of anarchy and
turbulence beloved by the government, seeds that had already brought
forth wholesale massacres in Paris, and the tragedy of January 21st.
So the men who were sent down by the government to make trouble, got
their opportunity now. They enticed the crowds into cafs and
restaurants, and standing on tables, throwing their arms about, they
talked and they harangued and shouted: "Down with the aristos!" till
these humble folk, intoxicated by promises of a millenium and a life
of ease and plenty, took up the cry and shouted: "Down with the
aristos! To hell with La Rodire and the whole brood up at the
chteau!"

The chief centre of this growing agitation was the restaurant Tison
adjoining the caf of the same name on the Grand' Place; a great
number of people, women as well as men, usually crowded in there in
the evenings because it was known that the hero of the hour, Dr.
Pradel, usually took his supper in the restaurant. People wanted to
see him, to shake him by the hand and to explain to him how ready
everyone was in Choisy to avenge his wrongs on those arrogant ci-
devants up at La Rodire.

Unfortunately Simon Pradel did not see eye to eye with that agitated
crowd. He resented his own impotence bitterly enough, but he didn't
want other people-certainly not a lot of rioters-to make trouble up at
the chteau and, God help them, strike perhaps at Mademoiselle Ccile
whilst trying to punish her brother. Up to now he had succeeded in
keeping the more aggressive hotheads within bounds. He had a great
deal of influence with his fellow-citizens, was very highly respected
and they did listen to him when he first begged, then commanded them
to mind their own business and let him manage his own. In this,
strangely enough, he had an ally in a man he detested, Louis Maurin,
the lawyer, who appeared just as anxious as he was himself to put a
stop to the insane project advocated by the agents of the government;
this was to march in a body to La Rodire, there to loot or destroy
the contents of the chteau as had already been done once, four years
ago, and if not actually to murder the family of aristos, at any rate
to give them a wholesome freight followed by exemplary punishment.

After Louis Maurin had ignominiously turned out of the Levets' house
by Blanche, he did not attempt to set foot in it again. He took to
frequenting the restaurant Tison more assiduously than ever before,
there to use what influence he possessed to moderate the inflammatory
harangues of the agitators, since he was hand in glove with most of
these gentlemen. As a matter of fact the last thing in the world
Maurin desired was an armed raid on La Rodire with Simon Pradel the
centre of an admiring crowd, and the glorification of the one man who
stood in the way of his cherished matrimonial schemes.

"You don't want to set the whole commune by the ears, Citizen Conty,"
he argued with the orator who had just ended an impassioned harangue
amidst thunderous applause. "It is too soon for that sort of thing.
The government wants you to incite the people to patriotism, to
inflame their love for their country, not to work on this silly
sentiment for one man, who, before you can put a stop to it, would
become a sort of hero of the commune, be elected mayor and presently
be sent to the Convention, there to become a dictator and rival to
Robespierre or Danton, and what will you gain by that? Whereas if you
will only bide your time..."

"Well, what should I gain by biding my time according to you, Citizen
Lawyer?"

"Give those aristos up at the chteau enough rope, and presently you
will be able to denounce them and get a big reward if they are
condemned. I have known as much as twenty livres being paid for the
apprehension of a ci-devant Marquis and thirty for his women-folk. As
for a prominent citizen like that fellow Pradel, I know that I can get
you fifty livres the day he is brought to trial for treason."

The other man shrugged, spat and gave a coarse laugh.

"Do you hate him so much as all that, Citizen Lawyer?" he queried.

"I do not hate Docteur Pradel," Maurin replied loftily, "more than I
do all traitors to the Republic, and I know that Pradel is a traitor."

"How do you know that?"

"He is constantly up at the chteau. He puts his professional pride in
his pocket and gives purges to the ci-devants' horses and dogs. And do
you know why he was thrashed the other morning? Because he had spent
the night with the wench Ccile, and was bidding her a fond farewell
in the early dawn, when they were both caught in a compromising
position by her brother, who took the law in his own hands and broke
his riding-crop over the shoulders of the amorous young doctor."

Conversation was difficult in this atmosphere of noisy excitement.
Maurin sat down at a table and asked Citizen Conty to join him in a
plate of soup to be followed by onion pie. He had had no supper yet,
and was hungry, but Choisy had done badly lately in the matter of
provisions. It was too close to Paris to get the pick of the market
and the commune had to be content with what was left over from the
capital. In the farther corner of the crowded restaurant a small
troupe of musicians were scraping the catgut, blowing down brass
instruments and banging on drums to their own obvious satisfaction,
for they made a great noise, wagged their heads and perspired
profusely while they supplemented their ear-splitting attempts at a
tune by singing lustily in accompaniment. They had struck up the
opening bars of the old French ditty:

                     "Il tait une bergre.

                     Et ron et petit pataplon."

The young people took it up:

                     "Il tait une bergre.

                     Qui gardait ses moutons ton, ton.

                     Qui gardait ses moutons."

The older folk also joined in till the low-raftered room was filled
with a deafening uproar that would effectually have drowned any
further attempt at oratory on the part of Citizen Conty and his like.

"These cursed catgut scrapers," the latter cried in exasperation.
"I'll have them turned out. One can't do anything with these fools
while this row is going on."

He stood up on his chair and tried to shout, but while he shouted the
crowd bellowed:

                     "El-le fit du fromage.

                     Et ron et ron petit pataplon.

                     El-le fit du fromage.

                     Du lait de ses moutons, to-ton.

                     Du lait de ses moutons."

The leader of the band was particularly active. Where he had got his
fiddle from it was difficult to imagine: it gave forth sounds now
creaking, now wheezing, anon screeching or howling and always
discordant, provoking either laughter or the throwing of miscellaneous
missiles at his head. They were all of them a scrubby lot, these
musicians, unwashed, unshaved, in ragged breeches above their bare
legs, shoes down-at-heel or else sabots, and grubby Phrygian caps
adorned with tricolour cocades on their unkempt heads. They called
themselves an itinerant orchestra whom the proprietor of the
restaurant had enticed into the place under promise of a hot supper,
and they were obviously doing their best to earn it:

                     "Le chat qui la regarde.

                     Et ron et ron petit pataplon."

"That rascal over there should be made to do honest work," Conty
grunted, after he had made several vain attempts to shout the
musicians down. "I call it an outrage on the country for a big hulking
fellow like that to scrape a fiddle and ogle the girls when he should
be training to fight the English."

"To fight the English?" Maurin interposed. "What do you mean,
Citizen?"

He and Conty had a tureen of hot soup on the table between them. Each
dipped into it with a big ladle and filled up his plate to the rim.
The soup was very hot and they blew on their spoons before conveying
them to their mouths.

The musicians lifted up their cracked voices with a hoot and a cheer,
whilst the chorus took up the lively tune:

                     "Le chat qui la regarde

                     D'un petit air fripon, pon, pon.

                     D'un petit air fripon.
"
and the leader of the band, suiting the action to the word, cast side
glances on the girls with an air as roguish as that of the cheese-
maker's cat.

"What do you mean, Citizen Conty," the young lawyer reiterated, "by
talking about fighting the English?"

"Just what I say," Conty replied. "We shall be at war with those
barbarians before the month is out."

"Who told you that?"

"You'll hear of it, Citizen Lawyer. Ill news travels apace."

"But how did you know?" Maurin insisted.

"We government agents," Conty observed loftily, "know these things
long before you ordinary people do."

"But..."

"As a matter of fact," the other now condescended to explain, "I was
in Paris this morning. I met a number of deputies. There will be a
debate about the whole affair in the Convention to-night. Citizen
Chauvelin," he went on confidentially, "is back from London since the
twenty-first. His work over there is finished, and he is travelling
round the country on propaganda work for the government. Secret
service, you know. I spoke with him. He told me he would be in Choisy
to-night to have a look round. Now, you see," Conty concluded, as he
attacked the savoury onion pie, "why I want to get all these fools
into the right frame of mind. We want to show Paris what Choisy can
do. What?"

"Chauvelin?" Maurin mused. "I've heard about him."

"And you'll see him presently. A clever fellow, but hard as steel. He
was sent to England to represent our government, but he didn't stay
long, and, name of a dog, how he does hate the English!"

The musicians had just led off with the last verse of the popular
ditty:

                     "La bergre en colre.

                     Et ron, et ron, petit pataplon.
"
when Conty jumped to his feet, and with a hasty: "There he is!" pushed
his way through the crowd towards the door.

Armand Chauvelin, ex-envoy of the revolutionary government at the
Court of St. James, had just returned from England, a sadder and wiser
man: somewhat discredited perhaps, owing to his repeated failures in
bringing the noted English spy, known as the Scarlet Pimpernel, to
book but nevertheless still standing high in the Councils of the
various Committees, not only because of his great abilities, but
because of his well-known hatred for the spy who had baffled him. He
was still an important member of the Central Committee of Public
Safety, and as such both respected and feared wherever he went.

Conty, the political agitator, was all obsequiousness when greeting
this important personage. He conducted Citizen Chauvelin to the table
where Louis Maurin had also finished eating, presented him to the
lawyer, after which the two men pressed the newcomer to partake of
supper as their guest. Chauvelin refused. He was not staying in Choisy
this night, having other business to attend to, he said, in the Loiret
district. He wouldn't even sit down. Despite his small, spare figure,
he looked strangely impressive in his quietude, and, dressed as he was
in sober black, amidst this noisy, excited crowd, many inquisitive
glances were turned on him as he stood there. His thin white hands
were clasped behind his back and he was listening to the answers which
Conty and Maurin gave him in reply to his inquiries about the temper
of the people in Choisy, and to their story of the outrage perpetrated
on Docteur Pradel by the ci-devant Marquis up at La Rodire. This
story interested him; he encouraged Conty in his efforts to keep the
excitement of the populace at boiling point, and to inflame as far as
possible the hatred of the people against the aristos. An armed raid
on the chteau, he thought, would be a good move, if properly
engineered, and as he intended to be back in Choisy in a couple of
days, he desired the project to be put off until his return.

"Those aristos at La Rodire interest me," he said. "There is an old
woman, you say?"

"Yes," Conty informed him; "the ci-devant Marquise, the mother of the
present young cub who thrashed Docteur Pradel."

"And there is a girl? A young girl?"

"Yes, Citizen, and two old aides-mnage. But they are harmless
enough."

"It would be so much better-" Maurin ventured to say.

"I was not asking your opinion, Citizen Lawyer," Chauvelin broke in
haughtily. "What I've said, I've said. Prepare the way, Citizen
Conty," he went on, "and as soon as I am back in Choisy I will let you
know. If I mistake not," he added under his breath, almost as if he
didn't wish the others to hear what he was saying, "we shall have some
fun over that raid at La Rodire. An old woman, a young girl, two old
servants! The very people to arouse the sympathy of our gallant
English spies."

He nodded to the two men and turned to go. The crowd in the small
restaurant was more dense than ever. People were sitting on the
tables, the side-boards, and on top of one another. The musicians had
just played the last bar of the favoured tune, the chorus of which was
bawled out by the enthusiastic crowd, to the accompaniment of
thunderous handclaps and banging of miscellaneous tools on any surface
that happened to be handy:

                     "La bergre en colre.

                     Tua son petit chanton, ton, ton.

                     Tua son petit chanton."

Chauvelin had real difficulty in pushing his way through the dense
throng. The vociferous shouts that filled the low room with a clamour
that was deafening made him quite giddy. He would have liked to put
his hands to his ears, but he had need of his elbows to get along at
all. He felt dazed, what with the noise and the smell of stale food
and of unwashed humanity; at any rate, he put his curious experience
down to an addled state of his brain, for while he was being pushed
and jostled, and only saw individual faces through a kind of haze made
of dust and fumes, he suddenly felt as if a pair of eyes, one pair
only, was looking at him out of the hundreds that were there. Of
course, it was only a hallucination: he was sure it was, and yet for
some reason or other he felt a cold shiver running down his spine. He
tried to recapture the glance of those eyes, but no one now in the
crowd seemed to be looking at him. The musicians had finished playing,
or rather they tried to finish playing, but their audience wouldn't
allow them to. Every one was shouting at the top of his voice:

"Il tait une bergre."

They wanted the whole of the six verses all over again.

Chauvelin got as far as the door, was on the point of opening it when
a sound-the sound he hated more than any on earth-reached his ear
above the din: it was a loud, prolonged, rather inane burst of
laughter. Chauvelin did not swear, nor did he shiver again: his nerves
were suddenly quite steady, and if he could have translated his
thoughts into words, he would have said with a chuckle: "I was right,
then! and you are here, my gallant friend, at your old tricks again.
Well, since you wish it,  nous deux once more, and I think I may
promise you some fun, as you call it, at La Rodire."



19  THE LEAGUE

Although Choisy is only twelve or fifteen kilometres from Paris, it
was in those days just a small provincial town, with its Htel de
Ville and its Committee of Public Safety sitting there, its Grand'
Place, its ancient castle then used as a prison, and its famous bridge
across the Seine. To the south and west of the Grand' Place there were
two or three residential streets with a few substantial, stone-built
houses, the homes of professional men, or of tradespeople who had
retired on a competence, and farther along a few isolated, poorer-
looking houses, such a one as old Levet's lying back from the road
behind a small grille and a tiny front garden. But all these features
only covered a small area, round which stretched fields and spinneys,
with here and there a cottage for the most part roofless and derelict.

It was in one of these dilapidated cottages which stood in a meadow
about half-way between Choisy and the height on which was perched the
Chteau de la Rodire, that what looked like a troupe of itinerant
musicians had sought shelter against the cold. They had made up a fire
in the wide open hearth; the smoke curled up the chimney, and they sat
round with their knees drawn up to their chins and their arms
encircling their knees. It was the middle of the morning. The wintry
dawn had been fine, but already its beauty had gone: ugly grey clouds
gathered overhead, and a few thin flakes of snow were beginning to
fall. The men sitting there appeared to be waiting for something or
someone. They didn't say much: one or two of them were smoking clay-
pipes, others were munching bits of stale bread or scraps of cheese
which they drew out of their pockets. There were four of them
altogether inside the cottage, and one sat outside on a broken-down
stool propped against the wall, apparently on the watch. They all
looked as if they had just donned such garments as they happened to
picked up in an old clothes dealer's shop-a blouse, or a knitted vest,
sabots or shoes down at heel, and breeches very much the worse for
wear. In a corner of the room a number of musical instruments were
piled up, a miscellaneous collection of violin, guitar, trumpet and
drum. Precariously perched on top of this pile of rubbish sat Sir
Percy Blakeney, Bart., the most fastidious dandy fashionable London
had ever known, the arbiter of elegance, the friend of the Prince of
Wales, the adored of every woman in England. He too was unwashed,
unkempt, unshaved, his slender hands, those hands a queen had once
termed exquisite, were covered with grime, his nails were in the
deepest mourning. He wore a tattered blouse, sabots stuffed with straw
on his bare feet, threadbare breeches and on his head a Phrygian cap
which had once been red. At the moment he was scraping a fiddle,
drawing from it wailing sounds that provoked loud groans from his
friends and an occasional missile hurled at his head.

"Percy, if you don't leave off..." one of them threatened, and
shied a mouldy piece of cheese at his chief.

"What will you do if I don't?" Sir Percy countered, and successfully
dodged the missile, "for I am not going to leave off. I must get this
demmed tune right, as we surely will be made to play it presently."

He went on scraping the opening bars of the new "Marseillaise."

"We are in for some fine sport, I imagine, what?" Lord Anthony
Dewhurst remarked, and dug his teeth into a hard apple, which he had
just extracted from his breeches' pocket.

"Tony," one of the others demanded-it was my Lord Hastings, "where did
you get that apple?"

"My sweetheart gave it me. She stole it from her neighbour's garden .
. ."

My Lord Tony got no further. He was attacked all at once from three
sides. Three pairs of hands were stretched out to wrest the apple from
him.

They were just a lot of schoolboys on the spree, these men, enjoying
this life of voluntary penury and intense discomfort, sometimes even
of starvation and always of short-commons, for it was not always
thought advisable for the type of ragamuffin that they appeared to be
to buy sufficient food in the markets, in places where the movements
of every man, woman and child were known and reported to the police.
But they didn't mind. They loved it all. It was such sport, they said,
and all in the wake of their chief whom they would follow to the
death.

"We are in for some fine sport!" Lord Tony had declared, before the
attack on his apple was launched. He held it up at arm's length,
trying to rescue it from his assailants who made grabs at it and
invariably got in one another's way, until a firm hand finally seized
it and Blakeney's pleasant drawly voice was raised to say:

"I'll toss you all for this precious thing...what there is left of
it."

Sir Andrew Ffoulkes won the toss, and the apple, which had suffered
wreckage during the fight, was finally hurled at the head of the
revered chief, who had resumed his attempts at getting a tune out of
his cracked fiddle. A distant church clock had struck eleven a few
minutes ago. The man on the watch outside put his head in at the door
and announced curtly:

"Here he comes."

And presently Devinne came in. He was dressed in his ordinary clothes
with dark coat, riding breeches and boots. His face wore a sullen look
and he scarcely glanced either at his friends or at his chief, just
flung himself on the ground in front of the fire and muttered between
his teeth:

"God! I'm tired!"

After a moment or two while no one else spoke he added as if
grudgingly:

"I'm sorry I'm late, Percy. I had to put up my horse and..."

"Listen to this, you fellows," Blakeney said with a chuckle as he
scraped his fiddle and extracted from it a wailing version of the
"Marseillaise."

Young Devinne jumped to his feet, strode across the floor and snatched
the fiddle out of Blakeney's hand.

"Percy!" he cried hoarsely.

"You don't like it my dear fellow? Well I don't blame you, but-"

"Percy," the young man rejoined, "you've got to be serious...you
have got to help me...it is all damnable...damnable...I
shall go mad if this goes on much longer...and if you don't help
me."

He was obviously beside himself with excitement, strode up and down
the place, his had pressed tightly, against his forehead. The words
came tumbling out through his lips, whilst his voice was raucous with
agitation.

Blakeney watched him for a moment or two without speaking. His face
through all the grime and disfigurement wore that expression of
infinite sympathy and understanding of which he, of all men, appeared
to hold the secret, the understanding of other people's troubles and
difficulties, and that wordless sympathy which had so endeared him to
his friends.

"Help you, my dear fellow," he now said. "Of course, we'll all help
you, if you want us. What are we here for but to help each other, as
well as those poor wretches who are in trouble through no fault of
their own?"

Then, as Devinne said nothing for the moment, just continued to pace
up and down, up and down like a trapped feline, he went on:

"Tell us about it, boy. It is this La Rodire business, isn't it?"

"It is. And a damnable business it will be, unless..."

"Unless what?"

"Unless you do something about it in double quick time. Those ruffians
in Choisy are planning mischief. You knew that two days ago, and you
have done nothing. I wanted to go up to La Rodire to warn them of
what was in the wind. I could have done it yesterday, gone up there
this morning. It wouldn't have interfered with any of your plans: and
it would have meant all the world to me. But what did you do: You took
me along with Stowmarries to drive that old abb as far as Vitry, a
job any fool could have done."

"But you did it so admirably, my dear fellow," Sir Percy put in
quietly, when young Devinne paused for want of breath. He had come to
a halt in front of his chief, glaring at him with eyes that held
anything but deference; his face was flushed, beads of perspiration
stood on his forehead and glued his matted hair to his temples.

"Percy...!" he cried, not trying to disguise his exasperation. But
Blakeney went on still quite quietly:

"You did the fool's job, as you call it, as admirably as you have
always done everything the League set you to do; and you did it
because you happen to have been born a gentleman and the son of a very
great gentleman who honoured me with his friendship, and because you
have always remembered that you swore to me on your word of honour
that, while we are all of us engaged on the business of the League,
you would obey me in all things."

"An oath of that sort," the young man retorted vehemently, "does not
bind a man when-"

"When he is in love, and the woman he loves is in danger..." Sir
Percy broke in gently. "That is what you were going to say, was it
not, lad?"

He rose and put a kindly hand on Devinne's shoulder.

"Don't think I don't understand, my dear fellow," he said earnestly.
"I do. God knows I do. But you know that the word of honour of an
English gentleman is a big thing. A very, very big thing and a very
hard one sometimes. So hard that nothing on earth can break it: but if
by the agency of some devil, that word should get broken, then honour
is irretrievably shattered too."

"Now tell me," he resumed more lightly, "did you on your way back from
Vitry call on Charles Levet and tell him that the Abb Edgeworth is by
now safely on his way to the Belgian frontier?"

Devinne looked sullen.

"I forgot," he said curtly.

The others-Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, Lord Anthony Dewhurst, my Lord
Hastings-had not spoken one word since Devinne had come into the room.
Sir Philip Glynde (he was the son of the head of the great banking
firm Glynde & Col, of Throgmorton Street), who had been on the watch
outside, was leaning against the door-jamb, whilst keeping an eye on
the road. He too was silent like the others and, like the others, his
face expressed something like horror. It is a little difficult to
estimate in these less romantic times, the depth of feeling that all
these young men had for Percy Blakeney. It was a feeling akin to
reverence, and the love they bore him had no resemblance to any love
that any man has ever felt for another...and this because that
love had its foundation in admiration for the character of the man:
his extraordinary selflessness, his perfect disregard of personal
danger and the cheerfulness with which he sacrificed everything, his
personal comfort, even his love for his wife, in the cause of
suffering humanity. And now to think that this boy...this...
this young muckworm daring to...to what?...to defy their
chosen chief...? It was unthinkable. Sir Andrew thought it
sacrilege, Lord Tony unsportsmanly; Hastings would have struck him in
the face, and Glynde would have taken him by the scruff of his neck
and thrown him out into the road.

Blakeney gave a quaint little laugh:

"Gad! That is a pity," he said. "Fancy forgetting a little thing like
that. But we have no control over our memory, have we? Well, dear lad,
you have a long walk before you, so you'd best start right away now.
Tell Charles Levet that the abb is now with some Belgian friends who
are looking after him. I promised the old man that I would let him
know, he has been very good to us, and we must keep in touch with him.
I have an idea that he and his family may have need of us one day."

Devinne still looked sulky.

"You want me to go to the Levets' house? Now?"

"Well, you did forget to call in on your way. Didn't you?"

"Then don't expect me back here-I shall go straight on to La Rodire."

There was a slight pause, during which no human sound disturbed the
kind of awed hush that had fallen over this squalid, derelict place.
Blakeney had scarcely made a movement when young Devinne thus flung
defiance in his face. Only Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, the man who perhaps
among all the others knew every line around the mouth of his chief,
and every expression in the deep-set lazy blue eyes, noted a certain
stiffening of the massive figure, and a tightening of the firm lips.
But this only lasted for a few seconds. The very next moment Blakeney
threw back his head and his prolonged inimitable laugh raised the echo
of the dilapidated walls. The humour of the situation had tickled his
fancy. This boy!!...Well!...It was absolutely priceless. Those
flaming eyes, the obstinate mouth, the attitude of a schoolboy in the
act of defying his schoolmaster, and half afraid of the cane in the
dominie's hand seemed to him ludicrous in the extreme.

"My dear fellow," he said, and once again the friendly hand was laid
on Devinne's shoulder, and the kindliest of lazy blue eyes looked down
on this contumacious boy, "you really are a marvel. But don't let me
keep you," he went on airily. "I don't suppose the Levets will invite
you to dinner, and if they don't it will be hours before you are there
and back and able to get something to eat. Anyway, you will meet us
again in the restaurant, without fail, at one o'clock."

This, of course, was a command. Blakeney had been standing between
Devinne and the direct access to the door. He now stepped a little to
one side, leaving the way free for the young man to go out. There was
an awkward moment. Devinne, half-ashamed but still half-defiant, would
not meet the chief's gently ironical glance. The others said nothing,
and after a minute or two, he finally strode out of the cottage. A
thin layer of snow lay on field and road, and deadened the sound of
his footsteps. Glynde after a time put his head in at the door.

"He is out of sight," he announced.

Lord Hastings jumped to his feet.

"My turn to watch," he said. "Glynde is frozen stiff."

"Never mind about the watch now," Sir Percy interrupted. "We are
fairly safe here, and there are one or two things I want to talk over
with you fellows."

With a gesture of the hand he seemed to dismiss Devinne and the boy's
incipient rebellion out of his mind and to ask the others to forget
also. They were willing enough to do this for the time being; there
was nothing in the world they enjoyed more than to talk things over
with the chief. Hunger, cold, discomfort, even dirt were all forgotten
when they could squat round on the floor and hear him tell them of
those wonderful adventures which he planned and which had for their
aim the rescue of innocent men, women and children, from the hands of
an administration that knew neither mercy, justice nor restraint;
adventures, full of danger and excitement, which had become as the
breath of life to them all.

"We are agreed, are we not?" Blakeney resumed, as soon as he held
their full attention, "that for the next day or two we must
concentrate on those wretched people up at La Rodire. Monsieur le
Marquis Franois we care nothing about, it is true, but there is the
old lady, there is the young girl and there are the two old people who
have been faithful servants and are, therefore, just as much in danger
as their masters. We cannot leave Franois out of our calculations
because neither his mother nor his sister would go away without him.
So it will be five people-not to say six-whom we shall have to get
over to England as soon as danger becomes really imminent. That might
be even no later than this evening. We shall be up there with the
riotous crowd during the afternoon, and we shall have our fiddle, our
trumpets and our drums, not to mention our melodious voices with which
we can always divert their thoughts from unprofitable mischief, to
some equally boisterous but less dangerous channels. You all know the
ropes now: we have played that game successfully before and can do it
again, what?"

There was unanimous assent to the project.

"Yes, by gad!" came from one of them.

"It is a game I particularly affection," from another.

"Always makes me think of tally-ho!"-this from the keen sportsman,
Lord Anthony Dewhurst.

And: "Go on, Percy! This is violently exciting,"-from them all.

The fire had burned itself out; no one thought of feeding it; for one
thing there was no more fuel. The wind drove in by the rickety door
and unglazed window; they were shivering with cold, these young
exquisites, but they were hard as nails, and certainly they didn't
care. Excitement kept them warm. They were just like schoolboys
looking forward to a raid on a neighbour's orchard, and they hung
breathless on the lips of the man, their leader, who had planned the
adventure for them.

"We'll bide our time, of course," Blakeney now continued. "Our
friends, the worst of the hotheads, once they have accomplished their
purpose and asserted their rights and privileges to make themselves
unpleasant to the aristos, will turn their backs on La Rodire, their
spirits slightly dampened perhaps. They will then crowd into the
nearest cabaret, there is one close to the chteau, they will talk
things over, eat and drink and allow those hellish agitators to talk
their heads off, while we shall continue to addle their brains with
strains of sentimental music. And all the time we'll be watching the
opportunity for action. Of course, during the course of a long
afternoon a number of incidents are certain to occur which we cannot
foresee and which will either aid or hinder us. You know my favourite
motto, to take Chance by the one hair on his head and force him to do
my bidding. In a small place like this by far our best plan will be to
proceed once more to La Rodire as soon as the crowd has made its way
back to Choisy and we find the coast fairly clear. We'll go in the
guise of a squad of Gendarmerie Nationale and there arrest Monsieur le
Marquis, his mother, his sister and the two faithful old servants.
With a little luck, those tactics are sure to succeed."

He paused a moment, striding up and down the narrow room, a set look
on his face. His followers who watched him waited in silence, knowing
that through that active brain the plan for the daring rescue of those
innocents was gradually being elaborated and matured. After a time
Blakeney resumed.

"I am not taking Devinne with us at any time this afternoon. The crowd
up at the chteau is certain to deal harshly with the family, and if
Mademoiselle Ccile is rough-handled he might do or say something rash
which would compromise us all. So I shall send him to our headquarters
outside Corbeil, to instruct Galveston and Holte to have horses ready
and generally to be prepared for our arrival with a certain number of
refugees, among whom there will be two ladies. Galveston is very
expert in making all arrangements, I know I can trust him and Holte to
do the necessary as far as lies in their power."

"At what time do you think you will carry the whole thing through,
Percy?" one of the others asked. "The arrest, I mean, and the flight
from La Rodire?"

"I cannot tell you that just yet. Sometime during the night, of
course. I would prefer the early dawn for many reasons, if only for
the sake of the light. The night might be very dark, bad for fast
driving. But I will give you instructions about that later. It will
only be by hearing the talk around us that I shall be able to decide
finally. I shall also have to ascertain exactly how much help mine
host of the cabaret will be willing to give us."

"You mean the cabaret on the Corbeil road, not far from La Rodire?"

"A matter of two or three hundred yards, yes. It boasts of the poetic
sign: 'The Dog Without a Tail' I have been in touch with mine host and
his Junoesque wife already."

"Percy, you are wonderful!"

"Glynde, you are an ass."

Laughter all round and then Blakeney resumed once more:

"There will also be Pradel to consider."

"Pradel?" one of them asked. "Why?"

"If we leave him here, we'd only have to come back and get him later.
They'll have him, you may be sure of that. He has one or two bitter
enemies, as men of his outstanding worth always have, and there are
always petty jealousies both male and female that make for mischief.
Anyhow, he is too fine a fellow to be left for these wolves to devour.
But I shall be better able to judge of all this after I have gauged
the temper of the crowd both at la Rodire and afterwards."

"That young Marquis was a fool not have got away before now."

"He wouldn't hear of it. You know their ways. They are all alike. Some
of them quite fine fellows, but they have not yet learned to accept
the inevitable, and the women, poor dears, have no influence over
their menfolk."

"Then we are going up to La Rodire with the crowd, I take it," Lord
Hastings observed.

"Certainly we are."

"You haven't forgotten, Percy, by any chance...?" Sir Andrew
suggested.

"I think not. You mean, my dear friend Monsieur Chambertin, beg
pardon, Chauvelin?" Blakeney rejoined gaily. "No, by gad, I had not
forgotten him. I am pining for his agreeable society. I wonder now
whether during his last stay in London he has learned how to tie his
cravat as a gentleman should."

"Percy! will you be..." Lord Tony hazarded.

"Careful, was the word you were going to say, eh, Tony? Of course, I
won't be careful, but I give you my word that my friend Chambertin is
not going to get me--not this time."

A soft look stole into his deep-set eyes. It seemed as if he had seen
a vision of his exquisite wife Marguerite wandering lonely and
anxious, in her garden at Richmond waiting for him, her husband and
lover, who was her one absorbing thought, whilst he...She too was
his absorbing thought, the great thought, that filled his mind and
warmed his heart: but it was not all-absorbing. Foremost in his mind
were all those innocents, little children, men and women, young and
old who, unknown to themselves seemed to call to him, to stretch out
imploring arms towards him for comfort and for help: those were the
moments when Marguerite's lovely face appeared blurred by the rain of
tears shed in devastated homes and inside prison walls, and when he,
the adoring husband and devoted lover, dismissed with a sigh of
longing, all thoughts of holding her in his arms.

Such a moment was the present one, when the name of his deadly enemy
recalled as on a transient picture, his life of happiness and of ease
in England: the garden at Richmond, his beautiful wife, the many
friends, and a sigh of longing for it all came involuntarily to his
lips. But the moment was very brief. A few seconds only went by, and
Sir Percy Blakeney was once more the Scarlet Pimpernel, the man of
action and of heroic self-sacrifice, the leader with so forceful a
personality that he was able to hold nineteen men to his will,
obedient to his commands, ready to face every kind of danger, even to
meet death at a word from him.

"And now," he said, his voice perfectly firm and incisive, "it is time
that we collected our goods and saw whether our friends down at Choisy
are ready for the fight."

They set to, to collect their musical instruments, their fiddles and
drums and trumpets. Just for a moment the glamour of the coming
adventure faded before one hideous fear of which not one of them had
ever spoken yet, but which troubled them all.

Blakeney was humming the tune of the "Marseillaise."

"I wish I could remember the words of the demmed thing," he said.
"What comes after: 'Aux armes, citoyens!?' Ffoulkes, you ought to
know."

Sir Andrew replied almost gruffly: "I don't," and Lord Tony called
suddenly to his chief:

"Percy."

"Yes! What is it?"

"That fellow, Devinne..."

"What about him?"

"You don't trust him, do you?"

"The son of old Gery Rudford, the straightest rider to hounds I ever
knew? Of course I trust him."

"I wish you wouldn't," Hastings put in.

"The father may have been a sportsman," Glynde added; "the son
certainly is not."

"Don't say that, my dear fellow," Blakeney rejoined; "it sounds like
treason to the rest of us. The boy is all right. Just mad with
jealousy, that's all. He has offended his lady love and she will have
nothing more to do with him. I dare say he is sorry that he behaved
quite so badly the other morning. I'll admit that he did behave like a
cad. He is only a boy, and jealousy...well! we know what a bad
counsellor jealousy can be. But between that and doing what you all
have in your minds...Egad! I'll not believe it!"

Hastings murmured savagely: "He'd better not."

Sir Philip Glynde nearly punched a hole in the drum, trying to express
his feelings, and Lord Tony muttered a murderous oath. Sir Andrew
alone said nothing. He knew-they all did, in fact-that Blakeney was
one of those men who are so absolutely loyal and straight, that they
simply cannot conceive treachery in a friend. Not one of them trusted
Devinne. It was all very well making allowances for a boy thwarted in
love, but there had been an expression in this one's face which
suggested something more sinister than petty jealousy, and though
nothing more was said at the moment, they all registered a vow to keep
a close eye on his movements until this adventure in Choisy, which
promised to be so exciting, had come to a successful issue, and they
were all back in England once more, when they hoped to enlist Lady
Blakeney's support in persuading Percy not to rely on young Devinne
again.



20  A LIKELY ALLY

Heavy hearted and still sullen and rebellious, St. John Devinne,
familiarly known as Johnny, made his way through the town to the
Levets' house. All sorts of wild schemes chased one another through
his brain, schemes which had the one main objective in view to see
Ccile de la Rodire, and, by giving her and her family warning of the
mischief contemplated against them by the rabble of Choisy, to worm
himself once more into her good graces and regain the love which he
had forfeited so foolishly. Indeed, he had every hope of achieving
this happy state of things through the fact that it was obviously
Simon Pradel who had inflamed the temper of his fellow-citizens, by
posing as the heroic victim of his own political opinions. Devinne
himself was so convinced of Pradel's rle in the affair, that he did
not think he would have the slightest difficulty in persuading even
Ccile that that abominable doctor was the instigator of all the
coming trouble, in order to be revenged on her bother for the well-
deserved thrashing which he had received.

Chance has a very funny way of shuffling the cards in the game of
life. Here were two men, Louis Maurin, the French lawyer, and Lord St.
John Devinne, son of an English Duke, both deadly enemies of Simon
Pradel, the local doctor, who hardly knew either of them but who was
looked upon by both as a serious rival to their love, a rival who must
incontinently be swept out of the way. Maurin desired his moral and
physical downfall in order to find his way clear for the wooing of
Blanche Levet, whilst Devinne had reluctantly come to the conclusion
that Ccile de la Rodire had so far demeaned herself as to fall in
love with the fellow. She certainly had turned her back on him.

Devinne, ever since that fatal morning, and unless he now took strong
measures on his own behalf, he might lose all chance of ever winning
her.

These thoughts, as well as certain contumacious ones against the
discipline imposed on him by "the chief," kept the young man's mind
busy while he made his way through the town. Snow was falling in thin
flakes: it was very cold, and there were few people about. It was then
just past twelve o'clock: at half-past the workers in the government
factory would be coming out and cafs and restaurants would soon be
filled to overcrowding.

The new calendar with its Sans-Culottides, its Republican years and
its Dcadis, had not yet been evolved, and this was still Sunday-not a
Christian Sunday, surely, but just a Day of Rest, with factories
closed in the afternoon and hours during which paid agitators and
government spies could find work for idle hands to do and thoughts of
mischief for empty heads to plan. Devinne hurried along, hoping to
deliver his message at the Levets and be well on the way to La Rodire
before the crowd had been stirred into an organised march on the
chteau. He pulled the collar of his greatcoat up to his ears and his
had down to meet it, for the wind blowing right across the Grand'
Place was cutting. At the angle of the Rue Verte he suddenly became
aware of the man who at the moment was foremost in his thoughts. Simon
Pradel was standing at the corner of the street, talking to a girl
whose head was swathed in a shawl. Devinne thought that in her he
recognized Levet's daughter, whom he had once seen at the chteau. She
was talking heatedly and appeared distressed, for her voice shook as
she spoke, and she had one hand on Pradel's arm as if she were either
entreating or restraining him. As he went past them, Devinne heard the
girl say:

"Don't go up there, Simon! Those aristos hate you. They will only
think that you are fawning on then.... Don't go, Simon.... You
will regret it, and they will despise you for it...they will . .
."

She seemed to be working herself up into a state of excitement and
kept on raising her voice until it sounded quite shrill.

Pradel tried to pacify her. "Hush, my dear," he said; "don't talk so
loud: anyone might hear you."

But she was not to be pacified:

"I don't care who hears me," she retorted; "those aristos are devils
who deserve all they will get. Why should you care what happens to
them?...You only care because you are in love with Ccile...."

She burst into tears. Pradel put an arm round her shoulders.

"And now you talk like a foolish child...."

Devinne had instinctively halted within earshot, but now he was in
danger of being seen and this he did not wish, so, rather reluctantly,
he turned and went his way. It was too soon yet to gauge the
importance of what he had heard, but already he felt that in this
girl, who was obviously half crazy with jealousy, he might find a
useful ally, should he fail to obtain an interview with Ccile on his
own initiative. In any case, she must have the same desire that he
had, namely, to keep Ccile and Pradel apart. This thought elated him,
and it was with a more springy step that he strode briskly down the
Rue Verte and after a few minutes rang the outside bell of the Levets'
house.

Charles Levet opened the door to him, received the message sent to him
by his friend Professor d'Arblay, expressed his satisfaction at
hearing that Monsieur l'Abb Edgeworth was safely on his way to
Belgium, asked his visitor to join the family at dinner, and on the
latter's courteous refusal, bade him a friendly farewell. Back the
other side of the gate. Devinne paused a moment to reconsider the
whole situation. Should he continue his protest against an irksome
discipline, which he felt was incompatible with his dignity as a man
of action and of thought, or should he make a virtue of necessity,
meet Blakeney and the others in the Restaurant Tison, hear their plans
and then act in accordance with his own schemes and in his own
interest?

On the whole he felt inclined to adopt the latter course He didn't
want to quarrel with Blakeney, not just yet, nor yet with the others
who were all influential and popular men about town, who might, if the
split came, make his position extremely uncomfortable in London. There
was nothing he desired more at the moment than to extricate himself
from the entanglement of the League, but he was wise enough to realise
that if this was done at this juncture, he would, on his return to
England, find the doors of more than one smart hostess closed against
him. So for the moment there was nothing for it but to keep his
appointment with Percy and the others in the Restaurant Tison, and in
any case learn what plans were being evolved for this afternoon. If
nothing was going to be done right away for the safety of Ccile, then
he would act on his own. To this he had fully made up his mind. All
this would mean going back now to that horrible cottage and getting
once more into those filthy rags which he had come to hate, but he
didn't really care now that he knew he could count on the co-operation
of a jealous woman, whom he had heard cry out in a voice shrill with
emotion: "You only care because you are in love with Ccile!"




BOOK III - MADEMOISELLE



21  CITIZEN CHAUVELIN

It must not be thought for a moment that authority as represented by
the Gendarmerie Nationale, regular or volunteer, in any way approved,
let alone aided and abetted, the insurrectionary movements that were
such a feature of the first two years of the Revolution. Authority did
not even wink at them, did its best, in fact, to put a stop to these
marches and raids on neighbouring chteaux which only ended in a
number of broken heads, in loot and unnecessary violence, and a severe
remonstrance from the government who had its eye on all property owned
by ci-devants and strongly disapproved of its wanton destruction at
the hands of an irresponsible mob.

Thus it was that as soon as Simon Pradel became aware of the imminence
of the mischief contemplated against the aristos up at La Rodire, and
thinking only of Ccile and her safety, he went straight to the Hotel
de Ville and drew the attention of the Chief Commissary of the
Gendarmerie to what was in the wind.

"Citizen Conty," he explained, "has inflamed everyone's temper to such
an extent that there is hardly a man or woman in Choisy to-day who
will not march up to La Rodire, and, even if they do not commit
murder, will certainly destroy a great deal of property which rightly
belongs to the nation."

He was clever enough to know that it was this argument that would
prevail. The Chief Commissary looked grave. He was mindful of his own
position, not to say his own head, and therefore took the one drastic
course which was most likely to minimise the mischief. He gave it out
through a proclamation blazoned by the town crier, that by order of
the government there would be no Day of Rest this Sunday, and that the
work in the factories would be carried on as usual. This meant that
four-fifths of the male population of Choisy and one-third of its
womenfolk would be kept at work until seven o'clock in the evening and
that the plans for the afternoon's holiday would have to be
considerably modified or abandoned altogether.

There was a great deal of dissatisfaction and much murmuring over
this, but no man was bold enough to suggest revolt against a
government degree. Anything approaching disobedience was very
dangerous these days. The armaments factory of Choisy was one of the
most important of its kind in Northern France. Every one knew, of
course, that war with England was imminent, and to hamper the
government at this juncture by shortage of arms was to court disaster,
if not death.

In the Restaurant Tison, which was to be the starting point for the
march on La Rodire, turbulence had given place to gloom. Even the
troupe of musicians who were working with a will to try and revive
drooping spirits failed to bring about that state of excitement so
essential to the success of the proposed plan. Citizen Conty, too, had
received his orders. "Let the people simmer down," the Chief
Commissary had commanded, "the government does not want a riot in
Choisy just now." Conty didn't care one way or the other. He was paid
to carry out government orders, and knew how to steer clear of trouble
if these happened to be contradictory. Louis Maurin the lawyer had
assured him that in the end it would pay him better to give the
aristos at La Rodire a little more rope, and, when the time was ripe,
to denounce them as traitors, and if the accusation held and they were
actually condemned he, Conty, would then be paid for his services at
the usual rate: twenty, thirty livres, even fifty. Of course, there
was Citizen Chauvelin to reckon with, an influential man and member of
the new Committee of Public Safety who had unlimited powers, and
Citizen Chauvelin had distinctly said that he desired a row at La
Rodire not later than this day; he had even murmured under his
breath: "We shall have some fun over that raid at La Rodire," and had
added something about "English spies," which at the time-it was two
days ago-had greatly intrigued Citizen Conty.

The latter fully expected Chauvelin to put in an appearance in the
restaurant, and there to give him final orders as to who should be
obeyed in this case, a member of the Committee of Public Safety, or a
mere Chief Commissary of Gendarmerie. It was close on two o'clock
already. The factory bell calling the workers back would ring in half
an hour, and Conty was getting anxious.

As time went on the general depression of spirits became more and more
accentuated. Even the popular tunes, "Il tait une bergre," or "Sur
le pont d'Avignon," failed to bring forth the usual lusty response.
The people sat at table, finishing their meagre fare, whispering,
planning and grumbling. It would have been such fun to march in a body
to La Rodire as one had done four years ago, and there was always
something to pick up in a place of that sort, something for the larder
or the cellar, not to mention things that one could sell presently to
the Jew pedlars from Paris. And this afternoon would have been a
perfect opportunity for the expedition. It was cold, and snow had
ceased to fall. If one only could have made a start at two o'clock,
one would have had a couple of hours daylight for the affair. Now, as
things were, with work at the factory kept up till seven o'clock, what
could anyone do? It would be pitch dark at five, with no moon and
possibly a heavy fall of snow; and what was more: if the whole thing
was put off those aristos up at La Rodire would certainly be warned
by then of what awaited them and would get themselves safely out of
the way. That was the general drift of conversation round the trestle
tables of the Restaurant Tison. Conty could hear them all talking. He
glanced repeatedly up at the clock hoping to see the trim figure of
Citizen Chauvelin appear in the doorway. Once the workers had gone
back to the factory it would be too late to carry out the original
plan, which had been approved of by Chauvelin, and Conty didn't relish
the idea of having to shoulder the responsibility of what might or
might not occur in that case. He would have preferred to receive final
orders from a member of an influential committee, one who alone could
issue orders over the head of the Chief Commissary.

It was then with a feeling of intense relief that precisely at twenty
minutes past two he saw the sable-clad figure of Chauvelin working his
way towards him through the crowd.

"Well? And what have you done?" Chauvelin queried curtly, and refused
the chair which Conty had obsequiously offered him.

"You have heard the proclamation, Citizen?" Conty responded; "about
work at the factory this afternoon?"

"I have. But I am asking you what you have done."

"Nothing, Citizen. I was waiting for you."

"You didn't carry out my orders?"

"I hadn't any, Citizen."

"Two days ago I gave you my commands to prepare the way for an armed
raid on the chteau as soon as I was back in Choisy. Yesterday I sent
you word that I would be back to-day. But I see no sign of a raid
being orgainzed either by you or anyone else."

"The decree was only promulgated a couple of hours ago. All the able-
bodied men and women will have to go back to work in a few minutes;
there was nothing to be done."

"How do you mean? There was nothing to be done? What about all these
people here? I can see at least a hundred that do not work in the
factory, more than enough for what I want."

Conty gave a contemptuous shrug.

"The halt and the maimed," he retorted acidly; "the weaklings and the
women. I thought every moment you would come, Citizen Chauvelin, and
issue a counter decree giving the workers their usual Day of Rest. As
you didn't come, I didn't know what to do."

"So you let them all get into the doldrums."

"What could I do, Citizen?" Conty reiterated sullenly. "I had no
orders."

"You had no initiative, you mean? If you had you would have realized
that if half the population of Choisy will in a moment or two go to
work, the other half will still be here and ready for any mischief."

"Those bumpkins...!"

"Yes, louts and muckworms and cinderwenches. And let me tell you,
Citizen Conty, that it is not for you to sneer at such excellent
material, rather see that you utilize it as I directed you to do in
the name of the government who know how to punish slackness as well as
to reward energy."

Having said this, Chauvelin turned his back abruptly on the
discomfited Conty and made for the door. Even as he did so an outside
bell clanged out the summons for the workers to return to the factory.
There was a general hubbub, chairs pushed aside and scraping against
the stone floor, the tramp of feet all making for the door, voices
shouting from one end of the room to the other. And right through the
din, there came to Chauvelin's ears, at the very moment that he passed
through the swing-doors, a sound that dominated ever other, just a
prolonged merry, irritatingly inane laugh.

Muttering and grumbling, the workers filed out of the restaurant, and
in straggling groups made their way across the Grand' Place. A few
remained behind-a couple hundred or so: there was Hector the cobbler,
who had lost a leg last year at Valmy, and Marius the wig-maker, who
had only one hand where-with to ply his trade; and there was Jean, who
suffered from epilepsy, and Anatole, who was half-witted, and Jacques,
who was just a dwarf. There were men who were over fifty, and youths
who were not yet fourteen, and, of course, there were the women. Conty
looked about him, and in his mind agreed with what Citizen Chauvelin
had said. Here was excellent material for a well-organized
insurrection, and now that the responsibility was no longer his, he
would know how to utilize it.

Hardly had the last able-bodied man gone out of the place than Citizen
Conty had climbed on the top of the table, and begun his harangue by
apostrophizing the musicians.

"What mean you, rascals," he cried lustily, "by scraping your fiddles
to give us nothing but sentimental ballads fit only for weaklings to
hear? Our fine men have gone to work for their country, and here you
are trying to make us sing about shepherdesses and their cats.
Mordieu! have you never heard of the air that every patriotic
Frenchman should know, an air that puts fire into our blood, not
water: 'Allons enfants de le patrie! Le jour de gloire est arriv!'"

At first the people did not take much notice of Conty; the men had
gone and there was nothing much to do but go back to one's own hovels
and mope there till they returned. But when presently the musicians,
in response to the speaker's challenge, took up the strains of the
revolutionary song, they straightened out their backs, turned about
the better to hear the impassioned oratory which now poured from
Citizen Conty's lips.

"Citizens," he bellowed, while the musicians stopped playing so as not
to drown his voice, "while our able-bodied men toil and moil to forge
the arms wherewith the soldiers of France will smite the enemies of
our beloved country, shall we who cannot join them in this noble work
sit still and do nothing to rid France of those other enemies of hers
who are far more insidious and far more dangerous to her safety than
the English or the Dutch? You know to what enemies I refer! It is to
those ci-devants, noble seigneurs, to those aristos who for years,
nay, for centuries, battened on the misery and the toil of the people,
who grew richer and fatter year by year, while you and your fathers
and your grandfathers before you starved so that they might eat, bore
misery and disease so that they might wallow in good food and sprawl
in down beds."

Murmurs of approval greeted this somewhat confused metaphor, while the
musicians at a sign from Conty once more struck up the martial strain:

"Contre nous de la tyrannie.

L'tendard sanglant est lev!"

Conty put up his hand. Once again the musicians paused and once again
the orator raised his voice, certain now that he held the attention of
his audience. But this time he did not bellow. He began quietly with
hardly any emphasis, to explain to them just how in the past the rich
had lived and the poor had suffered, how they had all worked hard in
order to provide the aristos up in their chteau with all those
luxuries of which they themselves had not even a conception. They, the
women, had worked their fingers to the bone sewing and washing and
scrubbing; the men had endured kicks from horses, bites from dogs,
thrashings from their masters, had contracted sickness, lost a limb or
an eye, all in the service of aristos who had never done anything to
alleviate their woes.

At the first mention of a chteau, the crowd began to prick up its
ears. They knew all about a chteau. There was La Rodire up on the
hill whither they would all have marched this afternoon had not the
aristos cajoled the Chief Commissary into ordering the men to go to
work even on the Day of Rest.

"Aux armes, citoyens!

Chargez vos bataillons!"

The musicians seemed a little uncertain of the tune at this point, but
what did it matter? The crowd was getting into the right mood, and a
hundred lusty throats soon put them in the right way.

"Chargez vos bataillons!" they sang, and banged on the tables with
their hands or any tools that were handy.

Conty was in his element. He held all these poor, half-starved people
in a fever by the magic of his oratory, and he would not allow their
fever to cool down again. From an abstract reference to any chteau to
the actual mention of La Rodire did not take him long. Now he was
speaking of Dr. Pradel, the respected citizen of Choisy, the friend of
the poor, who dared to express his political opinions in the presence
of those arrogant ci-devants, and what had happened? He had been
insulted, outraged, thrashed like a dog!

"And you, Citizens," he once more bellowed, "though the government has
not called upon you to fashion bayonets and sabres, are you going to
sit still and allow your sworn enemies, the enemies of France, to ride
rough-shod over you now that our glorious revolution has levelled all
ranks and brought the most exalted heads down under the guillotine?
You have no sabres or bayonets, it is true, but you have your scythes
and your axes and you have your fists. Are you going to sit still, I
say, and not show those traitors up there on the hill that there is
only one sovereignty in the world that counts and which they must
obey, the sovereignty of the people?"

The magic words had their usual effect. A perfect storm of applause
greeted them, and all at once they began to sing: "Allons enfants de
la patrie!" and the musicians blew their trumpets and banged their
drums and soon there reigned in the restaurant the sort of mighty row
beloved by agitators.



22  AT THE CHTEAU

It did not take Conty long after that to persuade a couple of hundred
people who were down in the dumps and saw no prospect of getting out
of them that it was their duty to go at once to the Chteau de la
Rodire and show these arrogant ci-devants that when the sovereignty
of the people was questioned, it would know how to turn the tables on
those who dared to flout it. The fact that he quite omitted to explain
how the sovereignty of the people had in this particular instance been
assailed did not weigh with his unsophisticated audience in the least.
They had nothing on earth to do this afternoon, and they were told
that it was their patriotic duty to march to La Rodire and there to
make themselves as unpleasant as possible, so why in the world should
they hesitate?

Headed at first by Citizen Conty himself they all trooped out of the
Restaurant Tison, after the manner of those determined Amazons who had
marched from Paris to Versailles and there insisted on seeing the ci-
devant royal family-Louis Capet, his wife and his two children-and on
making their presence felt there, in spite of Bodyguards. So most of
what was left of the population of Choisy assembled on the Grand'
Place, there formed itself into a compact body and started to march
through the town, and thence up the hill, headed by a band of
musicians who had sprung up from nowhere a few days ago and had since
then greatly contributed to the gaiety inside the cafs and
restaurants by their spirited performance of popular airs. On this
great occasion they headed the march with their fiddles and trumpets
and drum. There were five of them altogether and their leader, a great
hulking fellow who should have been fighting for his country instead
of scraping the catgut, was soon very popular with the crowd. His
rendering of the "Marseillaise" might be somewhat faulty, but he was
such a lively kind of vagabond that he put every one into good humour
long before they reached the chteau.

And they remained in rare good humour. For them this march, this
proposed baiting of the aristos was just an afternoon's holiday,
something to take them out of themselves, to help them to forget their
misery, their squalor, the ever-present fear that conditions of life
would get worse rather than better. Above all, it lured them into the
belief that this glorious revolution had done something stupendous for
them-they didn't quite know what, poor things, but there it was: the
millennium, so the men from Paris kept on assuring them. Admittedly,
this stupendous thing, this millennium, was already overdue, but these
exciting expeditions and telling those arrogant ci-devants a few home
truths, made it easier to wait for the really happy days to come, and
so the insurrectionary march on La Rodire progressed merrily. It is a
fact that insurrection, as an art, carried on by an unruly mob, was
the direct product of the Revolution in France. It was revolutionary
France that first invented and then perfected the art of insurrection.
There was no such thing before 1789, when the crowd stormed the
Bastille and reduced it, as a besieging army would reduce an enemy
fort. And the movement has to a great extent retained its perfection
only in France, probably because it suits the impulsive French
temperament better than the temperament of other nations.

Actually a mob-an angry mob-say in England, in Russia or Germany, is
usually just a mass of dull, tenacious and probably vindictive
humanity; but in France, even during the fiercest days of revolution,
there was always an element of inventiveness, almost of genius, in the
crowd of men and women that went hammering at the gates of chteaux,
insisted on seeing its owners, even when, as in Versailles, these were
still their King and Queen, and devised a score of ways of humiliating
and baiting them without necessarily resorting to violence. Thus, a
French mob is unlike any other in the world.

And so it was in this instance with the hundred or two of women and
derelicts who marched up the hill to La Rodire. In the wake of an
unwashed, out-at-elbows, raffish troupe of musicians. They stumped
along, those, at any rate, who were able-bodied, shouting and singing
snatches of the "Marseillaise," not feeling the cold, which was
bitter, nor the fatigue of breasting the incline up to the chteau, on
a road slippery with ice and snow. They were as lively as they could
be, not knowing exactly what they were going to do once they got up
there and came face to face with the ci-devant Marquis and Marquise,
for whom they had worked in the past and from whom they had received
alternately many kindnesses and many blows. Those who were lame or
otherwise feeble, such as Hector the cobbler or Jean the epileptic,
stumped along, too, but more slowly, and soon there was a straggling
group that fell away from the main body, a group made up of all the
derelicts in Choisy who had lost a limb or an eye, were half-witted,
or otherwise incapable, but nevertheless were as lively, as expectant
of fun, as were their more favoured fellow-citizens.

And right in the rear of them all there walked two men. One of them
was Citizen Conty, the paid agent of the government; the other was
small and spare, was dressed from head to foot in sober black, his
voluminous black cloak effectually concealing the tri-colour scarf
which he wore round his waist. He never spoke to his companion while
they both trudged up the road in the wake of the crowd, but now and
then he would throw quick, searching glances on the surrounding
landscape and up at the cloud-covered sky, almost as if he were
seeking to wrest from the heavens or the earth some secret which
Nature alone could reveal. This was Citizen Chauvelin, at one time
representative of the revolutionary government at the English Court,
now a member of the newly constituted Committee of Public Safety the
most powerful organization in the country, created for the suppression
of treason and the unmasking of traitors and of spies.

At the top of the hill there, where the narrow footpath abuts on the
main road, the two men came to a halt. Chauvelin said curtly to his
companion:

"You may go back now, Citizen Conty."

Conty was only too thankful to obey; he turned down the path and was
soon out of sight and out of earshot.

Chauvelin walked on in the direction of the chteau. The crowd was a
long way ahead now, even the stragglers had caught up with them, and
there was lusty cheering when the gates of La Rodire first came into
view.

Chauvelin came to a halt once more. There was no one in sight, and the
perfect quietude of the place was only disturbed by the sound of
revellings gradually dying away in the distance. Chauvelin now gave a
soft, prolonged whistle, and a minute or two later a man in the
uniform of the Gendarmerie Nationale, but wrapped in a huge cloak from
head to foot so that his accoutrements could not be seen, came out
cautiously from the thicket close by. Chauvelin beckoned to him to
approach.

"Well, Citizen Sergeant," he demanded, "did you notice any man who
might be that damnable English spy?"

"No, Citizen, I can't say that I did. I was well placed, too, and
could see the whole crowd file past me, but I couldn't spot any man
who appeared abnormally tall or who looked like an Englishman."

"I expect you were too dense to notice," Chauvelin retorted dryly.
"But, anyway, it makes no matter. I will spot him soon enough. As soon
as I do I will give you the signal we agreed on. You remember it?"

"Yes, Citizen. A long whistle twice and then one short one."

"How many men have you got?

"Thirty, Citizen, and three corporals."

"Where are they?"

"Twenty, with two corporals, in the stables. Ten with one corporal in
the coach-house."

"Any outdoor workers about? Grooms or gardeners?"

"Two gardeners, Citizen, and one in the stables."

"They understand?"

"Yes, Citizen. I have promised them fifty livres each if they keep
their eyes and mouth shut, and certain arrest and death if they do
not. They are terrified and quite safe to hold their tongue."

"My orders, Citizen Sergeant, are that the men remain where they are
till they hear the signal, two prolonged whistles, followed by one
short one. Like this"-and he took a toy whistle out of his waistcoat
pocket and blew softly into it, twice and once again, in the manner
which he had described.

"As soon as they hear the whistle, but not before, they are to come
out of their hiding-place and make their way in double quick time to
the house. Ten men with one corporal will then take up their stand
outside each of the three entrances of the chteau. You know where
these are?"

"Quite well, Citizen."

"No one must be allowed to go out of the chteau until I give the
order."

"I quite understand, Citizen."

"It will be the worse for you if you do not. I suppose the men know
that we are after that damnable English spy who calls himself the
Scarlet Pimpernel?"

"They know it, Citizen."

"And that there is a government reward of fifty livres for every
soldier of the Republic who aids in his capture?"

"The men are not likely to shirk their duty, Citizen."

"Very well, then. And now about the aristos up there. There is the ci-
devant Marquis with his mother and sister, also two aides-mnage who
are not ashamed to serve those traitors to their country. Those five,
then will be under arrest, but remain in the chteau till we are ready
for them. I will give you further orders as to them. We shall convey
them under escort to Choisy some time between the later afternoon,
after we have packed the rabble off, and early dawn to-morrow; I have
not decided which but will let you know later. You have a coach
handy?"

"Yes, Citizen. There is a cabaret close by here, farther up the road.
We put up the coach there in the yard, and left two of our men in
charge. The place is quiet and quite handy."

"That is all, Citizen Sergeant. You may go and transmit my orders to
your corporals. As soon as you have done that, go as unobtrusively as
you can into the house. No one will notice you. They will all be busy
baiting the aristos by then. Keep as near as you can to the room where
the crowd is at its thickest-the noise will guide you-and wait for me
there. Well? What is it now?" Chauvelin went on as the man seemed in
no hurry to go.

"Could I order something for the men to keep themselves warm? It is
bitterly cold in those stables. The roof is out of repair and-"

"Something?" the other broke in tartly. "What do you mean by
'something'?"

"A drop of eau-de-vie...the cabaret is quite close-"

"Certainly not," Chauvelin rasped out; "half the men would be drunk by
the time I wanted them. They can stamp their feet to keep themselves
warm. Nobody would hear them with all that row going on."

There was nothing for it but to obey. Citizen Chauvelin, of the
committee of Public Safety, was not the man one could ever argue or
plead with. The sergeant, resigned and submissive, saluted and turned
on his heel. He walked away in the direction of the stables. Chauvelin
remained for quite a long while standing there alone, his thoughts
running riot in his brain. Twice the Scarlet Pimpernel had slipped
through his fingers since that memorable night four months ago at Lord
Grenville's ball in London when he, Chauvelin, had first realized that
that daring adventurous spy was none other than Sir Percy Blakeney,
the arbiter of fashion, the seemingly inane fop who kept London
society in a perpetual ripple of laughter at his foolish antics, the
most fastidious exquisite in sybaritic England.

"You were part of that unwashed crowd in the Restaurant Tison, my fine
friend," he murmured to himself, "for I heard you laugh and felt your
eyes daring to mock me again. Mock me? Aye! but not for long, my
gallant fellow. The trap is laid and you won't escape me this time,
let me assure you of that, and it will be your 'dear Monsieur
Chambertin' who will mock you when you are brought down and gagged and
trussed like a fowl ready for roasting."



23  THE RIGAUDON

Now then "allons enfants de la patri-i-i-e." The crowd in a high state
of excitement had pushed open the great gates of excitement had pushed
open the great gates of La Rodire-these were never bolted these days-
and marched up the stately avenue bordered by a double row of gigantic
elms which seemed to be waving and nodding their majestic crowns at
sight of the motley throng. Ahead of them all marched the musicians,
blowing with renewed gusto into their brass trumpets or sending forth
into the frosty atmosphere prolonged rolls of drums. Only the fiddler
was not in his usual place. He had dropped back on the other side of
the gate in order to fit a fresh length of catgut on his violin to
replace a broken one. But he was not missed at this juncture, for the
other musicians appeared bent on proving the fact that a fiddle was
not of much value as a noise-maker when there were trumpets and drums
in the orchestra.

Up the crowd marched and mounted the perron steps to the front door of
the mansion. They pulled the chain and the bell responded with a loud
clang-once, twice and three times. They were themselves making such a
noise, shouting and singing, that probably poor old Paul, rather
scared but trying to be brave, did not actually hear the bell.
However, he did hear it after a time and with shaking knees and
trembling voice went to get his orders from Monsieur le Marquis. By
this time those in the forefront of the crowd had tugged so hard at
the bell-pull that it snapped and came down with a clatter on the
marble floor of the perron; whereupon they set to with their fists and
nearly brought the solid front door down with their hammerings and
their kicks. They didn't hear Paul's shuffling footsteps coming down
the great staircase, nor yet his drawing of the bolts, so that when
after a minute or two, while they were still hammering and kicking,
the door was opened abruptly, the foremost in the ranks tumbled over
one another into the hall. This caused great hilarity. Hurrah! Hurrah!
This was going to be a wonderful afternoon's holiday! Onward children
of la patrie, the day of glory has certainly arrived. Striving,
pushing, laughing, singing, waving arms and stamping feet, the bulk of
the crowd made its way up the grand staircase. Poor old Paul! As well
attempt to stem the course of an avalanche as to stop this merry,
jostling crowd from going where it listed. Some of them indeed
wandered into the reception-rooms to right and left of the hall, the
larger and smaller dining-rooms, the library, the long gallery and so
on, but they found nothing worth destroying. They were not in a mood
to smash windows or tear up books, and treasures of art and vertu had
long since been put away in comparative safety. There certainly were a
few pieces of furniture standing about, looking aloof and solitary
under their dust-sheets, and one or two of the women with the French
instinct for turning everything into money, turned these over and
over, trying to appraise their value. But soon there came from the
floor above such prolonged laughter and such hilarious shouts, that
curiosity got the better of greed and the quest after loot was soon
abandoned.

Upstairs the rest of the merry party, after wandering from room to
room, arrived in the grand salon where close on four years ago now the
remains of the late Marquis de la Rodire had rested for three days
before being removed for internment in Paris. On that occasion they
had all come to a halt, awed in spite of themselves, by the somewhat
eerie atmosphere of the place, the dead flowers, the torn laces, the
smell of guttering candles and of stale incense. The crowd to-day,
more jaunty than they were then, had also come to a halt, but only for
a few moments. They stared wide-eyed at the objects ranged against the
walls, the gilded consols, the mirrors, the crystal sconces and the
chairs, and presently they spied the platform whereon in the happy
olden days the musicians used to stand playing dance music for
Monsieur le Marquis and his guests. The spinet was still there and the
desk of the conductor, and a number of stands in gilded wood which
were used for holding the pieces of music.

Amid much excitement and laughter the musicians were called up to
mount the platform. This they were quite willing to do, but where was
the leader, the fiddler with the grimy face and toothless mouth whose
stentorian voice would have raised the dead? A small group who had
wandered up to the window saw him stumping up the avenue. They gave a
warning shout, the window was thrown open, and cries of "Allons! hurry
up!" soon galvanized him into activity. He was lame, and dragged his
left leg, but the infirmity did not appear to worry him. As soon as he
had reached the perron he started scraping his fiddle. He was met at
the foot of the staircase by an enthusiastic throng who carried him up
shoulder high, and dropped him down all of a heap on the musician's
platform. And a queer sight did this vagabond orchestra look wielding
their ramshackle fiddles and trumpets and drumsticks. What a sight to
stir the imagination of any thinking man who in the past had seen and
heard the private orchestra of Monsieur le Marquis de la Rodire,
dressed in their gorgeous uniforms covered with gold lace, under the
conductorship perhaps of a Mozart or a Grtry. But the stirrings of
imagination were the last things that troubled this hilarious crowd
to-day. With much laughter and clapping of hands they ordered the
musicians to play a rigaudon. Jacques, the son of the butcher of
Choisy, a lad of thirteen with a humped back and the stature of a
dwarf, was known to be a great adept at the dance and so was Victoire,
the buxom wife of the cabaretier round the corner. They were commanded
to perform and together they stepped forward, a comical pair, for
Jacques's head only reached as high as Victoire's massive hip and his
short arm could not conveniently encircle her waist.

The musicians struck up "Sur le Pont d'Avignon," the only dance tune
they knew, and that one none too well.

         "Sur le pont d'Avignon.

         On y danse, on y danse.

         Sur le pont d'Avignon.

         On y danse tout en rond."

And Jacques, with his dwarfish hand on Victoire's ample waist, stamped
his feet and whirled the lady of large proportions round and round in
the mazes of the dance. She was perspiring profusely and her small
eyes deeply encased in flesh shone with excitement, whilst Jacques's
impish face wore the expression of a young satyr.

It was at this point that the outbursts of laughter rose to such a
high pitch that the thrifty housewives down below were tempted to
abandon their loot. What had caused the uproar was the sudden
appearance of the ci-devant Marquis through what seemed to be a hole
in the wall. As a matter of fact this was a door masked by tapestry
which gave first on a vestibule and thence on a small boudoir where
Madame la Marquise had been sitting with Franois and Ccile, and with
poor Marie huddled up in a corner like a frightened rabbit, all fully
expecting that the tumultuous crowd would soon tire, and content
itself as it had done four years ago with breaking a few windows,
carrying off what portable furniture there was left in the salon, and
ending its unpleasant visitation in the cellar and the larder, where
there was little enough to tempt its greed.

Franois de la Rodire was facing the rabble with a riding-whip. For a
time his sister was able to restrain him from such a palpable act of
folly, but presently the sound of ribald laughter coming from the
grand salon where his father had once lain in state, surrounded by
flowers and ecclesiastical appurtenances, so outraged him that he lost
all control over himself and all sense of prudence. He shook off
Ccile's detaining hand, and strode out of the room. Madame la
Marquise had offered no protest or advice; she was one of those women,
the product of generations of French high-born ladies who, entrenched
as it were in their own dignity, never gave a single thought to such a
matter as a social upheaval. "It will all pass away," was their dictum
"God will punish them all in His own time!" So she turned a deaf ear
to the rioting of the rabble, and went on with her crochet work with
perfect serenity.

Ccile, on the other hand, was all for conciliation. She knew her
brother's violent temper and genuinely feared for his safety should he
provoke the crowd, who at present seemed good-tempered enough, either
by word or gesture. She followed him into the vestibule, and saw him
take a riding-whip off the wall and throw open the narrow door which
gave on the grand salon. The moment he did that the uproar in the
salon which had been deafening up to now suddenly died down. Complete
silence ensued, but only for a few seconds; the next moment Franois
had closed the door behind him and at once the hubbub in the next room
rose louder than ever and there came a terrific outburst of hilarious
shouting and laughter and vigorous clapping of hands. Ccile stood
there listening, terrified and undecided, longing to go to her
brother's assistance, yet feeling the futility of any intervention on
her part should the crowd turn ugly. For the moment they appeared
distinctly amused, for the laughter went on louder than ever, and it
was accompanied by the measured stamping of feet, the clapping of
hands and the strains of dance music. What was going on in there?
Ccile, terrified at first, felt a little more re-assured. She
couldn't hear her brother's voice, and apparently the people were
enjoying themselves, for they were dancing and laughing and the music
never ceased. At last anxiety got the better of prudence. Tentatively
she in her turn opened the communicating door, and exactly the same
thing happened that had greet Franois de la Rodire's appearance in
the crowded salon. Absolute silence for a few seconds, and then a
terrific, uproarious shout.

What Ccile saw did indeed turn her almost sick with horror, for there
was her brother in the middle of the room, dishevelled, with his
necktie awry and his cheeks the colour of ashes, in the centre of a
ring made up of the worst type of ragamuffins and cinderwenches she
had ever seen, all holding hands and twirling round and round him to
the tune of a wild rigaudon. His riding-whip was lying broken in half
across the threshold at Ccile's feet. The crowd had seized upon him
directly they were aware of his presence, torn the whip out of his
hand, broken it and thrown it on the floor. They had dragged him and
pushed him to the centre of the room, formed a ring round him, shouted
injurious epithets and made rude gestures at him; and the more pale he
got with rage, the more helpless he found himself, the louder was
their laughter and the wilder their dance.

Ccile felt as if she were paralysed. She couldn't move, her knees
were shaking under her, and before she could recover herself two women
had seized her, one by each hand, and dragged her across the room,
where she was thrust into the centre of another ring of uproarious
females who danced and capered round her, holding hands and laughing
at her obvious terror. It was all like a terrible nightmare. Ccile,
trying in vain to control herself, could only put her hands up to her
face so as to hide from the mocking crowd the blush of indignation and
shame that flooded her cheeks at the sound of the obscene words that
men and women, apparently all in right good-humour, flung at her,
while they danced what seemed to the poor girl like a saraband of
witches. Suddenly she heard a cry:

"Make her dance, Jacques! Make the aristo step it with you! I'll
warrant she has never danced the rigaudon with such a handsome partner
before."

And Ccile was conscious first of a whiff of garlic, then of a clammy
hand seizing her own, and finally of a shoulder pressed against her
side and of an arm around her waist. With a shudder she looked down
and saw the grinning, puckish face and misshapen, dwarfish body of
Jacques, the son of the local butcher, whom she had often befriended
when he was baited by boys bigger and stronger than himself. He was
leering up at her and clinging to her waist, trying to make her foot a
measure with him. Now unlike her brother, Ccile de la Rodire was
possessed of a good deal of sound common sense. She knew well enough
that to try and run one's head against a stone wall could only result
in bruises, if not worse. Here they were, both of them, she and
Franois, not to mention maman, at the mercy of a couple of hundred
people who, though fairly good-tempered at the moment, might soon turn
ugly if provoked. She rather felt as if she had been thrust into a
cage full of wild beasts and that to humour them was the only chance
of safety. She looked about her helplessly, hoping against hope that
she might encounter a face that was neither cruel nor mocking, and in
her heart prayed, prayed to God to deliver her from this nightmare.

And then suddenly the miracle happened. It was a miracle in very
truth, for there in the wide-open doorway was the one man in the
world, her world, on whom she could rely, the man who alone next to
God could save her from this awful humiliation. Pradel! Simon Pradel!
He looked flushed and anxious; he was panting as if he had been
running hard for goodness knows how long. His dark, deep-set eyes
roamed rapidly round the room till they encountered hers. Thank God!
Thank God, that he was here! The scar across his forehead where
Franois had hit him still showed crimson across the pale, damp skin,
but is eyes were kind and reassuring. Hers were fastened on him with a
look of appeal, and in a moment he was half across the room, pushing
his way towards her through the crowd.

All at once the crowd saw him. Dr. Pradel! Simon! their Simon! The
hero of the hour! A lusty cheer roused the echo of the vast hall at
sight of him. Now indeed would the fun be fast and furious! Pradel, in
the meanwhile, had reached the centre of the room, he broke through
the cordon that surrounded Ccile, quite good-naturedly but very
firmly he thrust Jacques the butcher's son on one side, took hold of
the girl's trembling hand and put his strong arms round her waist.

"Allons," he shouted to the musicians, "put some verve into your
playing. 'Tis I will dance the rigaudon with the aristo!"

Nothing loth, the musicians blew their trumpets and beat their drums
with renewed vigour:

         "Sur le pont d'Avignon.

         On y danse, on y danse.

         Sur le pont d'Avignon.

         On y danse tout en rond!"

A hundred couples were formed and soon they were all of them dancing
and singing, not hoarsely or stridently, but just with immense gusto,
as if they desired nothing else but enjoy a real jollity.

"Try to smile," Pradel whispered in Ccile's ear. "Be brave! don't
show that you are afraid!"

Ccile said: "I am not afraid." And indeed, with her hand in his, she
tripped the rigaudon step by step and was no longer afraid. It seemed
to her as if with Pradel's nearness the nightmare had become just a
dream. Everything now was gay, almost happy. Cruelty and mockery, the
desire to humiliate had faded from the faces of the crowd. Every one
was smiling at everybody else. One woman called out loudly across the
room to Ccile: "Well chosen, my pretty! Our Simon will make you a
fine husband! And you will give France some splendid sons!"

"Smile!" Pradel commanded. "Smile to them and nod! For God's sake,
smile!"

And Ccile smiled and nodded while the cry was taken up. "Our Simon
and the aristo! And a quiverful of handsome sons! Hurrah! Hurrah!"

In this wild saturnalia even Franois de la Rodire was forgotten. He
was pushed on one side like a useless piece of furniture and collapsed
into the nearest chair, half fainting with the exertion of keeping
some semblance of control over himself. What he had suffered in the
way of humiliation during the past quarter of an hour was
unbelievable, and now to see his sister Mademoiselle de la Rodire
made to demean herself by dancing with that purveyor of pills and
purges, whom Franois would gladly have strangled, and to be forced to
hear name coupled with that of this impudent upstart, seemed more than
he could endure.

It was he who suddenly became aware of a curiously incongruous figure
of a man who at this point was working his way unobtrusively through
the throng. Short, spare, dressed in sober black from head to foot, he
had the tricolour scarf round his waist. No one in the crowd took any
notice of him. Only Franois saw him, and in spite of the tell-tale
tricolour scarf which proclaimed the man to be in the service of the
revolutionary government, he felt that some sort of rescue from this
devil's carnival could be effected through one who at any rate looked
as if he had washed and brushed his clothes. Franois tried to attract
his attention, but the man walked quietly on, till he was quite close
to the spot where Ccile was trying bravely to keep up the rle of
good-humour and even gaiety which Pradel had enjoined her to assume.
She continued to step it, wondering how all this would end. She saw
the little man in black wind his way in and out among the dancers, and
she saw the leader of the musicians, the unkempt, unshaved, toothless
fiddler step down from the platform and always playing his fiddle,
follow on the heels of the little man in black. She was so fascinated
by the sight of those two figures in such strange contrast one to the
other, one so spruce and trim, the other so grimy, one so stern and
the other grinning all over his face, that she lost step and had to
cling with both hands to her partner's arm.

Then it was that there occurred the strangest of all the strange
events of this memorable day. The little man in black was now quite
close to her, and the fiddler was immediately behind him and Ccile
watched them both, fascinated. All of a sudden the fiddler threw back
his head and laughed. Such curious laughter it was, quite merry, but
somehow it suggested the merriment of a fool. Ccile stared at the
man, for there was something almost eerie about him now, and Pradel
too stared at him as amazed, as fascinated as was the girl herself,
for the fiddler had thrown down his fiddle.

He straightened his back and stretched out his arms till he appeared
preternaturally tall, like a Titan or like a Samson about to shatter
the marble pillars of the old chteau, and to hurl them down with a
thunderous crash in the midst of the revellers.

The little man in black also stared at the fiddler, and very slowly
the whole expression of his face underwent a change, from surprise to
horror and thence to triumph mixed with a kind of awe. His thin lips
curled into a mocking smile and through them there came words spoken
in English, a language which Ccile understood. What he said was:

"So, my valiant Scarlet Pimpernel, we meet again at last!" and at the
same time he put his hand in his waistcoat pocket and drew out what
looked like an ordinary whistle which he was about to put to his mouth
when the fiddler, with another outburst of inane laughter, knocked it
out of his hand.

For the space of less than two seconds, breathless hush fell on the
merry-making throng. The crashing of the fiddle as it was hurled to
the floor, the strange outburst of laughter, the rattle of the whistle
as it fell, had reduced everyone to silence. But now a wild shout
broke in on this chastened mood.

"A spy! a spy!" the fiddler cried in a stentorian voice. "We are
betrayed. We shall be massacred! Sauve qui peut!"

And with a sudden stretch of his powerful arms he picked up the little
man in black and threw him over his shoulder as if he were a bale of
goods and ran with his struggling and kicking burden across the room
towards the door. And all the time he continued to shout: "A spy! a
spy! We shall be massacred! Remember Paris last September!" And the
crowd took up the cry as a crowd will, for are not one hundred humans
the counterpart of one hundred sheep? They took up the cry and
shouted: "A spy! A spy!" and ran in a body helter-skelter on the heels
of the fiddler and his sable-clad load, out of the room across the
marble vestibule, down the grand staircase and down below that,
through the servants' old quarters, through the kitchen and the
pantry, the wash-house and the buttery, and down by the winding
staircase which led to the cellar. And behind him there was the crowd,
no longer good-tempered now, or intent on holiday-making, but a real
rabble this time, and a frightened crowd at that, jostling, pushing,
tumbling over one another. An angry crowd is fearsome, but a
frightened crowd is worse, for it is ready for anything-bloodshed,
carnage, butchery. No one knew that better than the victim of this
amazing aggression. He, Chauvelin, had often himself provoked a crowd
into committing murder. Now he was utterly helpless; struggle and kick
as he might, he was held as in a steel vice over those powerful
shoulders, head down, with the blood hammering away in his temples, a
wounded fox with a pack of hounds on his trail. What was going to
happen to him? Would this enemy throw him to those hounds, who would
surely tear him to pieces. At the top of the stairs, outside the grand
salon, he had caught sight, but only dimly, of the sergeant flattened
against the wall, as scared as any hunted animal. He had tried to
shout to him: "The signal! the signal!" but he felt that his voice
never reached the soldier's ears.

And still that awful crowd! the women! Nom d'un chien, the women!!
Chauvelin could thank his stars that his merciless captor ran so fast
that he left those terrifying Mnads at a good distance behind him.
But what in the devil's name was going to happen to him? He learned it
soon enough. Arrived at the bottom of the stone stairs, the acrid
smell of wine and alcohol and dankness struck his nostrils. He raised
his head as much as he could, and saw a yawning door ahead of him.
Earlier in the afternoon a few among the ragamuffins had found their
way down to the cellar. But the cellar was empty of liquor, and they
went away, cursing and leaving the door wide open. Chauvelin felt
himself carried in through that door and then thrown none too gently
down on a heap of dank straw. The next moment he heard that horrible,
hideous, hated laugh, the mocking words: "A bientt, my dear Monsieur
Chambertin!" Then the banging to of a heavy door, the pushing of
bolts, the clang of a chain and the grating of a rusty key in the
lock, and nothing more. He was crouching on a heap of damp straw, in
almost total darkness, sore in body, humiliated to the very depths of
his soul, burning with rage and the very bitterness of his
disappointment.

He could only hear vaguely what went on the other side of the door.
Murmurs and shouts, a few hoarse cries. Was that abominable rabble
demanding its right to commit the murder for which their sadistic
spirits clamoured? Chauvelin was not physically a coward, but he was
afraid of a mob, because he had more than once seen one at its worst.
Furious. Hysterical. Unchecked. Crawling on hands and knees, he drew
close to the door, and cowered there, his ear glued to it. The only
word he could distinguish was "Key!" The were demanding the key, and
apparently were being refused. Was Sir Percy Blakeney defending the
life of his most bitter enemy? Or was it that he himself wished to
commit the murder which would rid him for ever of his inveterate foe?
Huddled up against the door, his teeth chattering, his knees shaking,
Chauvelin was not left long in doubt. The voice of Sir Percy rose and
fell. He was talking. Talking and laughing, and soon the crowd forgot
its ill-humour and its hysteria; he talked to them and presently they
listened. He laughed and they laughed with him. And after a time they
allowed themselves to be persuaded. The spy was safe under lock and
key, so their friend the fiddler assured them; then why not leave him
there? There would always be time later on to give him his deserts.
And in the meanwhile would it not be wise to see if there were not
more spies about the house and then go back and continue the fun? The
music. The dancing. Why not? The day was young yet.

Chauvelin couldn't hear any of that, but he guessed it all. He had
seen the Scarlet Pimpernel at that kind of work before. Grimy, sans-
culotte, outwardly a real muckworm, but eloquent, persuasive, able by
some subtle magic to sway a crowd as no one in Chauvelin's experience
had ever done. He could see him in his mind's eye, standing with his
back to the cellar door, with massive legs apart and arms
outstretched, facing the crowd as he always faced any and every danger
that threatened him, full of resource and of impudence. The wretched
prisoner was conscious that the crowd had once more been swayed by
this daring adventurer, as others had been swayed by him in Boulogne
and in Paris, at Asnires and Moisson. Chauvelin saw those scenes pass
before his mind's eye as in a dream, and as in a dream he heard the
heavy footsteps treading once more the stone steps, but up this time
to the floor above. He heard the talking and the laughter growing more
and more indistinct and finally dying away altogether. The rabble had
gone, but what was to become of him now? Would he be left to die of
inanition, shut up in a cellar like a savage dog or cat? No! he felt
quite sure that he need not fear that kind of revenge at the hands of
the man whom he had pursued with such relentless hate. Instinctively
he did pay this tribute to the most gallant foe he had ever pitted his
wits against.

What then? He was left wondering. For how long he did not know. Was it
for a few minutes of several hours? When presently he heard the rusty
key grate once more in the lock, and once more he dragged himself away
from the door. A shaft of yellow light from a lantern cut through the
gloom of his prison, the door was opened, and that hateful mocking
voice said:

"Company for you, my dear Monsieur Chambertin!" And a bundle which
turned out to be a man wrapped in a cloak and wearing the uniform of
the Gendarmerie Nationale was thrust into the cellar, and landed on
the damp straw beside him. The humble sergeant of gendarmerie had
fared no better than the powerful and influential member of the
Committee of Public Safety.



24  A STRANGE PROPOSAL

After a time Ccile gradually felt as if she had suddenly wakened from
an ugly dream, during which every one of her senses had been put to
torture. Her eyes, her hears, her nostrils had been outraged by evil
smells and ribald words, and the wild antics of King Mob. Then all at
once silence, almost peace. The sound of those unruly masses,
shouting, singing, stumping, was gradually dying away. A few
stragglers, yielding to curiosity, were even now going out of the
room. In another remote corner Franois was struggling to his feet. He
appeared dazed and like a man broken in body and spirit. He staggered
as far as the tapestried door which led to vestibule and boudoir; as
he did so his foot knocked against his broken riding-whip. He stared
down at it vacantly, as if he did not know what it was and why it was
there, and then passed through the door and closed it behind him.

Pradel and Ccile were alone.

They were both silent. Constrained. She wanted to say something to
him, but somehow the words would not come. She knew so little about
this man who had, as a matter of fact, saved her reason. At one moment
during this wild saraband she had felt as if she were going mad. Then
he had come and a sense of security had descended into her soul. But
why she should have felt comforted, she couldn't say. She knew that he
loved her, at any rate had loved her until that awful hour when he had
suffered a terrible outrage at her brother's hands. He couldn't
continue to love her after that. Could not. He must hate her and all
her family. But if he did, why had he come running all the way from
Choisy and stopped this hysterical multitude from doing her bodily
harm? There was no ignoring the fact that he had come running along
all the way from Choisy, and that he had saved her and maman and
Franois from disaster. Then why did he look so aloof, so entirely
indifferent? His face was quite expressionless; only that horrid scar
showed up on his pale forehead. She hated the sight of that scar, but
couldn't help looking at it and thinking: "How he must hate us all!"
Of course, he belonged to the party that deposed the King and
proclaimed the Republic; that, in fact, was Franois's chief grievance
against him. She had never heard him discuss politics, and she and
maman lived such a secluded life she didn't know much of what went on.
She hated all murderers and regicides-oh! regicides above all!-but
somehow she didn't believe that Pradel was one of these. Even before
the beginnings of this awful revolution he had always spent most of
his time-and people said half his private fortune-in doing good to the
needy and keeping up the children's hospital in Choisy. Ccile knew
all that. She had even done her best in a small way in the past to
help him with some of his charitable work when knowledge of it came
her way. No, no, a man of that type was no murderer, no regicide. But
it was all very puzzling. Especially as he neither spoke nor moved,
apparently leaving the initiative to her.

At last she was able to take it. She mastered her absurd diffidence
and steadied her voice as best she could.

"I wish I knew how to thank you, Monsieur le Docteur," she said. "You
saved my reason. I think if you had not interfered when you did I
should have gone mad."

"Not so bad as that, citizeness, I think," he responded with the ghost
of a smile.

Ccile liked his smile. It was kind. But she hated his calling her
"citizeness." She stiffened at the word and went on more coolly:

"You have remarkable influence over the people here. They love you."

"They are not a bad crowd really," he said and then added after a
second's pause: "Not yet."

"It is strange how they followed that fiddler. Did you see him?"

"Yes!"

"To me he did not seem human. More like a giant out of a fairy-tale.
Did you hear what that funny little man in black said to him?"

"I heard, Citizeness. But, unfortunately, I did not understand. He
spoke in English, I think."

"Yes! and he called the fiddler 'my valiant Scarlet Pimpernel.'"

"What is that?"

"You have never heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel?"

"Only as a mythical personage."

"He really does exist though. It was he, who-"

She paused abruptly, for she had been on the point of naming the Abb
Edgeworth and his escape from La Rodire. No news of the safety of the
old priest had as yet been received and until it was definitely known
that he was safe in Belgium, the secret of the escape must on no
account be revealed. To Ccile's astonishment, however, Pradel himself
alluded to it.

"Who engineered the escape of our mutual friend, Abb Edgeworth, you
mean?"

"You knew?"

"I only guessed."

"And I can tell you definitely that it was the English spy whom they
call the Scarlet Pimpernel who made every arrangement for the abb's
safety."

"Then why do you call him a spy? An ugly word, meseems, for the noble
work which he does."

"You are right there, Monsieur le Docteur. It is always fine to serve
your country, or to serve humanity in whichever way seems to you best.
I only used the word 'spy' because the Scarlet Pimpernel, so I have
heard said, is never seen as himself, but always in disguise. That is
why I thought that the fiddler-"

"Yes, Citizeness?"

She shook her head.

"No, no," she said, "it can't be. He made no attempt to save me from
those awful women. I suppose he does not think that we up here are in
immediate danger. Do you think that we are?" she added abruptly and
raised eyes shining with sudden fear up at Pradel.

He made no reply. What could he say? As a matter of fact it was all
over Choisy that the arrest of the aristos up at La Rodire was only a
question of hours. That was why he had come running up to the chteau,
not so much in terror for her of a boisterous crowd, as of the decree
of the Committee of Public Safety, and the inevitable Gendarmerie
Nationale.

"I don't mind for myself," Ccile went on after a moment or two, "but
maman and...and...Franois...I know you hate him, and I
dare say he deserves your hatred. But he is my brother...and maman
...You don't think they would dare do anything to maman?...do
you?"

She couldn't go on for tears were choking her. She turned away, half
ashamed that he should see those tears, and walked across to the
window. She stood in the embrasure for a time looking out at first
into vacancy, then gradually becoming aware of what was going on down
below. The perron and the long avenue were all thronged with that same
abominable multitude who had insulted and humiliated her before the
advent of Pradel. They were all going away in a body now, quite good-
tempered, rather noisy, still singing and shouting. The shades of
evening were drawing in fast. It was close on five o'clock, and they
were all going home ready to tell of their many adventures to the
workers when they came out of the factories, and to the few who had
not been fortunate enough to join in the revels of this memorable
afternoon. Five o'clock and it was half-past three when first that
unruly mass of humanity had invaded the chteau. One hour and a half
of mental torture. To Ccile it seemed an eternity. And now they were
going away. Silence would once more reign in the ancestral home of the
La Rodires, silence but not peace, for terror of death would from
this hour be always present within its walls, the nameless dread which
holds its greatest sway o' nights, banishes sleep, and rears its head
at every chance word spoken by careless lips: arrest, denunciation,
imprisonment, the guillotine.

The guillotine! In a way one had dreaded it for years, but only in a
vague way, as something horrible that happened to others, to one's
friends, even to one's King, but not to oneself. But now here it was,
as it were, at one's very door. And there was maman to think of who
was old, and Franois who was rash....

"Citizeness!"

Citizeness! Another of those chance words that brought the nameless
dread striking at one's heart. It roused Ccile de la Rodire out of
her sombre mood. The noise of the crowd below was growing fainter and
fainter. Most of the rioters were out of sight already. They had gone
quietly enough, and now only a few laggards, men who were lame and
women who were feeble, could be seen making their way down the avenue
in the fast gathering gloom.

"Citizeness!"

The voice was kindly, rather hoarse, perhaps, and authoritative, but
kindly nevertheless. Pradel had come up close to her. He it was who
had spoken the chance word. Ccile turned to him.

"Yes, Monsieur le Docteur?"

"You asked me a straight question just now, and I ought to have
answered it at once, knowing you to be proud and brave. But I wanted
you to collect yourself a little. You are young and have gone through
a great deal. Naturally enough, you are slightly unnerved. At the same
time I feel that it is best for you and for you all that you should
know the truth."

"The truth?"

"The authorities at Choisy have decided on the arrest of your mother,
your brother, yourself and your two servants. Directly I learned their
decision I ran up here to see what I, as a single individual, could do
to save you. I was on my way up already, because I knew that I could
do a great deal to prevent a lot of irresponsible women and weaklings
from doing more than, perhaps, frightening you, and I would have been
here earlier only I could not leave the hospital, where I was
attending a really serious case. I thank Heaven that I could not leave
sooner, and that I was obliged to call in at the Town Hall, where I
learned, by the merest chance, that the Committee of Public Safety had
ordered your arrest at the instance of one of its members, the order
to executed within the next twenty-four hours."

Ccile had listened to all this without making any movement or any
sign that she understood the meaning of what Pradel had just told her.
She had turned to face him and while he talked, her glance never
wavered. She looked him straight in the eyes. It was quite dark in the
room now, only here in the window embrasure the last lingering evening
light sent its dying shaft on the slim figure of Dr. Pradel. Never for
one second did Ccile de la Rodire doubt that he spoke the truth.

She could not have explained even to herself how it was she knew, but
she was absolutely convinced that when he spoke of this awful danger
of death to those she cared for, he was speaking the truth.

For some time after Pradel had finished speaking Ccile said nothing
and made no movement. Slowly the purport of what he said penetrated
into her brain. Arrest! Within twenty-four hours! It meant death, of
course. The guillotine for them all. For maman and Franois and for
Paul and Marie. The guillotine! The horrible thing that happened to
others, even to the King. And now to oneself!

Pradel waited, of course, for her to speak. The world for him, as for
her, had faded from his ken. Time was standing still. Every thing
around them was wrapped in darkness, was merged in a stupendous
silence. And suddenly through the silence there came a curious sound,
the harsh scraping of catgut on a common fiddle:

         "Au clair de la lune

         Mon ami Pierrot!"

The old ditty played very much out of tune by an inexperienced hand
loosened the strain on Ccile's nerves. She was so young, had been so
happy till this awful calamity had descended upon them all. It had
begun four years ago with the death of her father whom she had adored,
and then the home-coming after his funeral and finding the home a
wreck and all the old servants gone except Paul and Marie. Then the
murder of the King. And now this. Surely, surely something could be
done to save those she loved from disaster and death.

"Docteur Pradel," she murmured appealingly, "can nothing be done?"

"Yes, Citizeness," he replied coldly; "something can be done, and it
rests with you. I have told you the worst, but I earnestly believe
that it is in my power to get you and your family and your two
servants out of this trouble. If I am right in this belief, then I
shall thank God on my knees for the privilege of being of service to
you. May I proceed?"

"If you please, Monsieur."

"I am afraid that what I am about to say will shock you, wound you,
perhaps, in your most cherished prejudices. Believe me, if I could see
any other way of averting this terrible calamity, I would take it. I
have, as perhaps you know, a certain amount of influence in the
commune, not great enough, alas! to obtain a safe-conduct for you and
those you care for now that an order for your arrest has been issued
by an actual member of the Committee of Public Safety, but I could
demand one for my wife."

Ccile could not suppress a gasp nor smother a cry:

"Your wife, Monsieur?"

"I pray you do not misunderstand me," Pradel rejoined calmly, even
though at the sound of that cry of protest a shadow had spread over
his face, leaving it more wan, more stern, too, than it had been
before. "By a recent decree of the existing government marriage
between citizens of this country only means going before the Mayor of
the Commune and there reciting certain formulas which will bind them
in matrimony for as long or as short a time as they desire. Should you
decide to go through this ceremony with me, I swear to you that never
through any fault of mine will you have cause to regret it. Once you
are nominally my wife, I, as an important member of this commune, can
protect you, your family and your servants until such time as I find
it expedient and safe to convey you all out of this unfortunate
country into Switzerland or Belgium, where you could remain until
these troublesome times are past. Until then you will all live under
my roof as honoured guests. I am a busy man, hardly ever at home. You
will hardly ever see me; you need never speak to me unless you wish.
And now, with your permission, I will leave you to think it all over
quietly and, perhaps, to consult with your family. To-morrow at ten
o'clock I will be back to receive your answer. We will then either go
at once to the Mairie or I will offer you and the citizeness, your
mother, my respectful adieux."

And he was gone. Ccile never heard him cross the room to go
downstairs. All she heard were the strains of that ramshackle fiddle
and the soft, wordless humming of the old, old tune:

         "Ma chandelle est morte.

         Je n'ai plus de feu.

         Oubre moi ta porte.

         Pour l'amour de Dieu!"

Well! the door was open for her to pass through from the fear of death
to promised security for all those whom she loved. Oh! if it had only
been a question of herself, she would not have wasted a moment's
reflection on that outrageous proposition.

Outrageous? Was it really outrageous? A proposition couched in terms
of dignified respect, and one calculated to safeguard the lives of all
those she cared for, could not in all fairness be stigmatized as
outrageous. Bold, perhaps, unique certainly: no girl, she supposed,
had ever had such a remarkable proposal of marriage. But then the man
who made it was nothing if not bold, and the situation was, of course,
unique. Nor did she doubt him for an instant. From the first there had
been something in his attitude and in the way he spoke that bore the
imprint of absolute truth. No, she assuredly did not doubt him. The
danger, she knew, was real enough; the way out of it she was
convinced, was the only one possible. She was quite sorry now that
Pradel had gone so quickly. There were so many thing she would have
liked to have asked him. The decision which she would have to make was
one that should be made on the spur of the moment. The delay would
give her a long, sleepless night and a great deal of nerve strain. And
then there was the great question. Should she consult maman or
confront her with the accomplished fact? And there was Franois, too.
He, with the impulse of youth and prejudice, would say: "Better death
than dishonour," and would continue to look on the transaction as a
perpetual blot on the escutcheon of the la Rodires.

It was all terribly puzzling. A deep, deep sigh came from Ccile's
heart, not a sorrowful sigh really. She did not understand her own
feelings. Not entirely. All she knew was that she wished Pradel had
not gone away quite so quickly.

She thought, anyhow, that she had best go back to maman now. As a
matter of fact, she ought not to have left maman alone quite so long.
But maman had Franois with her, as well as Marie and Paul too,
probably. Whereas she, Ccile, was alone. She had no one to advise
her, no one to help her analyse that strange mixture inside of her, of
doubt and fear and, yes, elation, which was so unaccountable, so
strange, so different to anything she had ever felt before. And why
had Pradel made such a proposition to her? He loved her. She was woman
enough to know that, then why...? why not...? Again she sighed,
longed somehow to be older, more experienced in the ways of men...
or the ways of lovers.

And what in God's name was she going to say to maman and to Franois?




BOOK IV - THE TRAITOR



25  MUTINY

In the meanwhile the cabaret up the road was doing a roaring trade. A
goodly number of revellers, not satisfied with the excitement of the
afternoon, had turned in there for a drink and a gossip. There was
such a lot to talk about, and the company quickly formed itself into
groups round separate tables, some talking over one thing, some
another. Jacques the butcher's boy was there; he was baited for having
allowed his partner, the aristo, to be taken from him by the citizen
doctor.

"He was handsomer than you, Jacques," he was told; "that's what it
was."

And Jacques, full of vanity, as many undersized boys and girls often
are, declared most emphatically that he would bring the aristo to her
knees, and that within the next three days.

"How wilt thou do that, thou ugly young moke?" he was asked, all in
good humour.

"I shall make her marry me," he replied, puffing out his chest like a
small turkey-cock.

Laughter all round, then some one queried:

"Thou'll make love to the aristo?"

"I will."

"And ask her in marriage?"

"Yes!"

"And if she says 'No!'"

"If she does, I'll warn her that I will go straight to the Chief
Commissary and denounce her and her family as traitors, which will
mean the guillotine for the lot of them. So what now?" he concluded
with a ludicrous air of triumph.

"A splendid idea, Jacques," a lusty voice cried gaily, and a none-too-
gentle hand gave the boy a vigorous slap on the back. "And we'll play
a march at thy wedding."

It was the fiddler who had just come in with the other musicians. It
seems they had accompanied the bulk of the crowd part of the way down
to Choisy, and then felt woefully thirsty, and came to the "Chien sans
Queue," which was so much nearer for a drink than the first cabaret
down the other way. They certainly looked very weary, very grubby and
very dry, which was small wonder, seeing that they had been on the go,
marching with the crowd and blowing their trumpets, since before noon.
Apparently, poor things, they had no money for though they professed
to have mouths as dry as lime-kilns, they did not order drinks, but
took their stand in a corner of the room and proceeded to tune up
their instruments, which means that they made the kind of noise one
usually associates in concert halls with tuning up, but when they had
finished the process and started to play what might be called a tune,
the sounds which their instruments emitted had no relation whatever to
correct harmony. They seemed, however, to please the unsophisticated
ears of the audience, or else, perhaps, the mood for song and gaiety
had not yet passed away altogether; certain it is that when the ever-
popular "Il tait une bergre," was struck up, the chorus was taken up
with the former gusto and there was much clapping of hands and banging
of tin mugs on the tables. But when the woes of the shepherdess and
her cat had been proclaimed in song from beginning to end once, twice
and three times and the musicians, more weary and thirsty than ever,
deputed their fiddler to go round and hold out his phrygian cap in a
mute appeal for sous wherewith to pay for drinks, the whole crowd
suddenly discovered that it was getting late and that wives and
mothers were waiting for them at home. And there was a chorus
something like this:

"Who would have thought it was supper-time?"

"And such a dark night, too."

"If I don't get home, my old woman will be as cross as a she-cat."

"Art thou coming my way, Henri?"

And one by one, or in groups of threes and fours they all filed out of
the "Chien sans Queue." Only six sous had been thrown into the
Phrygian cap. Polycarpe the landlord stood at his own front door for
some time exchanging a few last words with his departing customers.
His wife, the Junoesque Victoria, was clearing away the empty mugs in
the taproom. The fiddler put his long arm round her capacious waist
and drew her, giggling and smirking, on his knee. She smacked his face
with elephantine playfulness.

"You couldn't run about with me on your shoulder," she said, "as you
did with that poor little man this afternoon."

"He was just a dirty spy," the fiddler retorted, "but if you will
challenge me, my Juno, I will have a try with you also."

"Take me upstairs, then, to my room," she said, with a simper. "I am
dog-tired after all that dancing and Polycarpe can finish clearing
away."

"What will you give me if I do?"

"Free drinks, my beauty," she replied, and pinched his cheeks with her
plump fingers, "if you do not drop me on the way."

To her great amazement and no less to her delight the fiddler did
heave her up, not as if she were a feather or even a bale of goods
certainly, but he did hold her in his arms and carry her not only to
the door, but up the narrow staircase, whence she directed him to her
bedroom, where she demanded to be deposited on the bed, which gave a
loud creak under her goodly weight. She laughed when she saw him give
a loud puff of exhaustion.

"I weigh a hundred kilos," she said with some pride.

"I am sure you do," he was willing to admit. But at the provocative
glance which the bouncing lady now threw him he took incontinently to
his heels. As he was going down the stairs he heard her shouting to
her husband.

"Polycarpe! He carried me all the way upstairs in his arms. There's a
man for you!"

Polycarpe was standing at the foot of the stairs. His face wore an
expression of comical amazement. He was small and spare, had a head as
bald as an egg, and tired, purple-rimmed eyes.

"Give the musicians free drinks all round," the lady commanded.

Thus it was that presently five tired musicians were seated round one
of the tables in a corner of the taproom of the cabaret "Le Chien sans
Queue." With them was Citizen Polycarpe the landlord who, for the
moment, was sprawling across the table, his head buried in his arms
and snoring like a grampus. The fiddler bent over him, turned his head
over and with delicate, if very grimy finger, lifted the lid of one of
his eyes.

"As drunk as a lord," he declared; "that stuff is very potent."

He had a smallish bottle in his hand which he now slipped back into
his pocket.

"And the gargantuan lady upstairs," he went on, "is sleeping the sleep
of the just. So as soon as Devinne is here we can get on with
business."

"He is here," one of the others said, "I am sure I heard his footsteps
outside."

He rose and went to the door, called out softly into the night:
"Devinne! All serene!"

A minute or two later St. John Devinne came in. He was dressed in
ordinary clothes, had clean face and hands, but though normally he
would not by his appearance have attracted any attention, here in this
squalid tap-room in the midst of his friends all grimy and clad in
nothing but rags, he looked strangely conspicuous and, as it were, out
of key. A pair of lazy eyes, slightly sarcastic in expression, looked
him up and down. Devinne caught the glance and something of a blush
mounted to his cheeks, nor did he after that meet the eyes of his
chief. He took his seat at the table, edging away as far as he could
from the sprawling form of Polycarpe the landlord.

"May I know what has happened this afternoon?" he asked curtly.

"Of course you may, my dear fellow," Blakeney replied. "Here," he
added, and pushed a mug and jug of wine nearer to St. John, "have a
drink."

"No, thanks."

Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, that young dandy, was busy polishing a tin
trumpet. He looked up from his work, glanced up at the chief who gave
him a slight nod, whereupon he proceeded to give a short succinct
account of the stirring events at the chteau.

"I thought something of the sort was in the wind," Devinne said with
dry sarcasm, "or I should not have been sent up to Paris on that
futile errand."

There was complete silence for a moment or two after that. Lord Tony's
fist clenched until the knuckles shown smooth and white. Glynde was
seen to swallow hard as if to choke words that had risen to his
throat. They all looked up at their chief who had not moved a muscle,
had not even frowned. Now he gave a light little laugh.

"Do have a drink, Johnny," he said; "it will do you good."

Sir Andrew blew a subdued blast in his tin trumpet and Tony, Glynde
and Hastings only swore under their breath. But the tension was eased
for the moment, and Blakeney presently resumed:

"The errand, lad," he rejoined simply, "was not futile. One of us had
to let Galveston and Holte know that they will have to meet us at
headquarters on the St. Gif-Le Perrey Road any time within the next
twenty-four hours. You would have been wiser, I think, for their sakes
as well as your own, to have assumed some inconspicuous disguise, but
you have got through all right, I take it, so we won't say any more
about that."

"Yes! I got through all right," Devinne mumbled sulkily. "I am not a
fool."

"I am sure you are not, dear lad," Blakeney responded still very
quietly, though to any one who knew him as intimately as did Sir
Andrew Ffoulkes or Lord Tony, there was just a soupon of hardness now
in the tone of his usually pleasant voice. "You were spared, at any
rate, the painful sight of seeing your friends up at La Rodire baited
by that unruly crowd."

"Yes! Damn them!"

"And then you know, Johnny, you are nothing of a musician really. Now
you should have heard Ffoulkes on his trumpet, or Hastings who played
second fiddle; they were demmed marvellous, I tell you. If I were not
afraid of waking my Juno upstairs, I would give you a specimen of our
performance, right up to the time when our friend Monsieur Chambertin
appeared upon the scene."

"By the way," Lord Tony now put in, "what did you do ultimately with
that worthy man?"

"I locked him and his sergeant up in the cellar. It won't hurt them to
starve for a bit. We'll arrange for them to be let out as soon as we
feel that they cannot do us any harm."

"I suppose I shall be told off to do that," Devinne muttered
peevishly.

"That's an idea, Johnny," Blakeney responded with imperturbable good
humour. "Splendid! But cheer up, lad. We have splendid work before us.
When dawn breaks over the hills yonder, we will be out for sport which
is fit for the gods. Sport which you all love. Break-neck rides across
country, with those poor innocents to save from the wolves who will be
howling at us close to our heels. By gad! you will all feel like gods
yourselves. You will have lived, all of you. Lived, I tell you! My
God! I thank Thee for the chance! That is what you will say."

As the ringing voice of the light-hearted adventurer resounded against
the rafters of the old tap-room, landlord Polycarpe raised his head
for a moment, looked around him with bleary eyes, then dropped his
head down again and emitted a thunderous snore. They all laughed like
so many schoolboys, the atmosphere became, as it were, surcharged with
the spirits of these young dare-devils, ready to hazard their lives in
the pursuit of what Blakeney had called a sport fit for the gods. And
so magnetic was the personality of their leader, the greatest and most
selfless knight-errant that ever graced the pages of history, that
even Devinne the rebellious felt its power and listened spell-bound to
the stirring projects of his chief.

Sir Percy now stood in his favourite attitude leaning against the
wall, facing the five glowing pairs of eyes, his own fixed on
something that he alone saw, something beyond these four squalid
walls, the open country perhaps, the break-neck ride that lay ahead of
him and his followers, or was it the flower-garden of Richmond, the
banks of the Thames, the blue eyes of Marguerite calling to him,
asking him to come back to her arms? He threw up his head and laughed.
Yes! his adored wife was calling to him even now, but so were those
innocents up at the chteau, three women, an old man, up at La
Rodire, and there were others, too, children! God in heaven! One
couldn't allow children, women, old men to be butchered without doing
what one could do to help them. Marguerite, my beloved, you must wait!
I will come back to you, all in good time, when I have done the work
which destiny, or was it God Himself? has mapped out for me.

"You remember," he began after a few moments during which he seemed to
be collecting his thoughts, "that there came a time when I allowed the
crowd to get ahead of me and I remained behind ostensibly to put a new
string on my fiddle. I hid in the dense shrubbery just inside the
gates, and after a few minutes, five, perhaps I heard the welcome
voice of our dear Monsieur Chauvelin. He gave that egregious agitator
Conty the go-by, then he called to a soldier who had evidently been
waiting for him, and gave him instructions for his well-conceived
damnable plot which embraced the arrest of the whole La Rodire family
and their two faithful servants, as well as the capture of mine humble
self. I could hear every word he said. I learned that a squad of
gendarmerie, thirty in number, was posted in the stables, and that at
a certain signal given by my engaging friend, the men were to make
their way up to the chteau and there to await further orders. As soon
as this pair of blackguards had parted company, Chauvelin to go
straight to the chteau, and the sergeant to transmit his orders, I
slipped out of the gate and came on here.

"Worthy landlord Polycarpe is, of course, an old friend of ours. The
place was deserted for the moment. I got him to open a couple of
jorums of wine, into which I poured a good measure of this potent
stuff, which that splendid fellow Barstow of York gave me recently.
Look at old Polycarpe. You can see what a wonderful sleep it induces.
With a jorum in each hand, my fiddle and a bunch of mugs, slung over
my shoulder, I made my way to the stables, where, as you may well
suppose, I was made extremely welcome. I stayed just long enough to
see the wine poured out and handed round, then out I slipped, locking
the stable and coach-house doors after me. Then back I went to join
the merry throng in the chteau. The rest you know, and so much for
the past. Now for the future. Give me some of this abominable vinegar
to drink and I'll go on."

One of them poured out the wine, another handed him the mug. He drank
it down and did not even make a wry face. Probably he had not the
slightest notion what landlord Polycarpe's thin local wine tasted
like. Anyway, he did go on.

"Just before dawn we'll go up to La Rodire. I have the key of the
stables in my pocket, and I want to give those nice soldiers another
drink. That will keep them quiet till far into the morning. By that
time we shall be well away. We'll divest some of them of their
accoutrements, which will save us the trouble of going all the way to
headquarters to get our own. I have thought the matter well over and,
as I said this morning, I am quite positive that in this part of the
country, and far from a large city, a mock arrest is by far our best
plan. Fortune has favoured us, let me tell you, for there is a coach
and a pair here in the yard. I learned this also while I was
eavesdropping. It was designed to accommodate the five prisoners. Now
it will serve the same purpose for us with two of us on the box and
the others freezing on the top, for it will be cold, I tell you. As
soon we have effected the arrest, we'll make for the St. Gif-Le Perrey
road. At St. Gif, Galveston and Holte will be at our usual quarters,
ready with fresh horses to continue the journey to the coast."

"Then we don't start till dawn?" one of them asked.

"Just before dawn. The night will, I am afraid, be very dark, except
at rare intervals, for there is a heavy bank of clouds coming over the
mountains. We want the light, as we shall have to drive like the devil
until well past Le Perrey.

"And we make for the coast?"

"For that little hole Trouville, this side of the Loire. You remember
it Ffoulkes? But we'll talk all that over before I leave you."

"You are not coming all the way?"

"No, only as far as St. Gif. Directly I have seen you all safely on
the road I shall have to turn my attention to one other prisoner, and
that will be a difficult task. I don't mean that it will be so
materially, but Pradel, I feel, will be obstinate. He has his hospital
here, and his poor patients. How am I going to persuade him that
anyhow when those murderers have done away with him, his hospital and
his poor patients will still have to exist somehow?"

While the chief spoke and the others hung as usual breathless on his
lips, Devinne's expression of face became more and more glowering. A
dark frown deepened between his eyes. Once or twice he tried to speak,
but it was not until Blakeney paused that he suddenly banged his fist
on the table.

"Pradel?" he cried. "What the devil do you mean?"

"Just what I said, my dear fellow," Sir Percy replied, with just the
slightest possible lifting of his eyebrows. "The others understood.
Why not you?"

"The others? The others? I don't care about the others. All I know is
that that insolent brute Pradel-"

Up went Blakeney's slender, commanding hand.

"Do not call that man a brute, my lad. He is a fine fellow, and his
life is in immediate danger, though he does not know it. He has a
bitter and very influential enemy in the lawyer Maurin, who has put up
a trumpery charge against him. I learned as lately as last night that
his arrest has been finally decided on by the Chief Commissary and is
only a matter of a couple of days, till enough false evidence, I
suppose, has been collected against him."

"Well! and why not?" Devinne retorted hotly.

"There is no time to go into that now, my dear fellow," Blakeney
replied with unruffled patience.

"Why not?"

At sound of this curt challenge to their chief, at the defiant tone of
the boy's voice, the others lost all patience, and there was a chorus
which should have been a warning to Devinne, that though Blakeney
himself was as usual extraordinarily patient and understanding, they
in a body, Ffoulkes, Tony, Hastings, Glynde, would not tolerate
effrontery, let alone insubordination.

"You young cub!"

"Insolent worm! Wait till you feel my glove on your face."

"By gad! I'll wring his neck!" were some of the threats and epithets
they hurled at Devinne. But the latter was now in one of those
obstinate moods that opposition soon turns into open revolt, and this,
in spite of the fact that Percy now put a firm, but still friendly,
hand on his shoulder.

"If I didn't know, lad, what is at the back of your mind," he said
gently, "I might remind you once again that you promised me obedience,
just like the others, in all matters connected with our League. We
should never accomplish the good work which we have all of us
undertaken if there was mutiny in our small camp."

Devinne shook the kindly hand off his shoulder.

"Oh! you'll never understand," he muttered glumly.

"What? That you are in love with Ccile de la Rodire and jealous of
Simon Pradel?"

"Don't talk of love, Blakeney. You don't know what it means."

A slight pause. Only a second or two, while a curious shadow seemed to
flit over those deep-set eyes that held such a wealth of suppressed
emotion in their glance, of sorrow and of doubt and of visions of
ecstasy that mayhap the daring adventurer would never taste again. He
gave a quick sigh and said simply:

"Perhaps not, dear lad. You may be right. But we are not here to
discuss matters of sentiment, and the knife which I am now about to
wield will cut into your wounded vanity, and, I fear me, will hurt
terribly. Ccile de la Rodire," he went on, and now his tone was very
firm and he spoke very slowly, letting every word sink into the boy's
consciousness, "is not and never will be in love with you. She is half
in love with Pradel already-"

Devinne jumped to his feet.

"And that's a lie-" he cried hoarsely, and would have said more only
that Glynde struck him full on the mouth.

The others, too, were beside themselves with fury. They laid rough
hands on his shoulders. Lord Tony flung an insult in his face, and
Hastings called out:

"On your knees, you-"

Blakeney alone remained quite undisturbed. He only spoke when Hastings
and Tony between them had nearly forced Devinne down on his knees;
then he said with a light laugh:

"Leave the boy alone, Hastings. You too, Tony. Four against one is not
a sporting proposition, is it?"

He took Devinne firmly under the arm, helped him to raise himself, and
said quietly:

"You are not quite yourself just now, are you Johnny? Come out into
the fresh air a bit. It will do you good."

Devinne tried to shake himself free, but held in Percy's iron grip, he
was compelled to move with him across the room. The others naturally
did not interfere. They were nursing their indignation, while they
watched their chief lead the recalcitrant Johnny out of the room.

"I would like to scrag the brute," Glynde muttered savagely.

"I hope to God Percy does not trust him too far," Sir Andrew added.

"You know what he is," was Lord Tony's comment; "he is so straight,
such a sportsman himself, that he simply cannot see treachery in
others. The old duke, St. John's father, is a splendid old fellow,
rides as straight to hounds as any man I know. Percy is his friend,
and he cannot conceive that this young cub is anything but a chip of
the old block."

"Shall I go out and wring his neck?" was my Lord Hastings's terse
suggestion.

As this excellent solution of the present difficulty could not very
well be acted upon, these loyal souls could do naught else but await
the return of their chief. They fell to talking over the stirring
events of the day and the still more stirring events that were to
come.

Now and then they cast anxious looks in the direction of the door,
wherever St. John Devinne's rasping voice reached their ears.



26  OPEN REVOLT

Outside, in the cold frosty night, a strange clash of wills was taking
place with the issue never for a moment in doubt. Devinne, goaded by
jealousy, had lost all sense of proportion and all sense of loyalty
and honour. It was not only a question of a lover's hatred for a rival
whom he still affected to despise, it was also jealousy of the power
and influence of his chief, against whose orders he was determined to
rebel.

St. John Devinne was an only son. His father, the old Duke of Rudford,
a fine old sportsman as every one acknowledged, had been inordinately
proud of a boy born to him when he was past middle age. His mother did
her best to spoil the child. She gave in to every one of his many
caprices. When presently he went to school she loaded him with
presents both of money and of "tuck," with the result that he became a
little king among his schoolmates. As his housemaster was a bachelor,
there was just a housekeeper in charge who was clever enough to earn
the good graces of the fond mother, and accepted quite unblushingly
every bribe offered to her to pay special attention to young St. John
and to favour him in every way she could. The boy came down from
Harrow rather more spoilt and certainly more arrogant than he was when
he went up.

There followed, however, a rather better time for him morally, when he
came under the direct influence of his father. He became quite a good
sportsman, rode straight to hounds, was a fine boxer and fencer.
During the fashionable seasons in London and in Bath he was a great
favourite with the ladies, for he was an amusing talker and an elegant
partner in the minuet. When in '90 Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart.,'
accompanied by his beautiful young wife, made his dazzling entry in
English society after a long sojourn in France, he became St. John
Devinne's beau ideal. The boy's one aim in life was to emulate that
perfect gentlemen in all things. And when, after a time, he was
actually admitted into the intimate circle of young exquisites of whom
Sir Percy was the acknowledged leader, he felt that life could hold no
greater happiness for him.

Then the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel was formed and in August '91
St. John Devinne was enrolled as a member and swore the prescribed
oath of allegiance, secrecy and obedience to the chief. From certain
correspondence that came to light subsequently, it has been
established that Blakeney first spoke of his scheme for the
establishment of the League with the old Duke, for there is a letter
still extant written by the latter to his friend Percy, in which he
says:

   "Alas, that my two enemies old age and rheumatism prevent my
becoming a member of that glorious League which you are contemplating.
Gladly would I have sworn allegiance and obedience to you, my dear
Percy, whom I love and respect more than any man I have ever known. If
you on the other hand do really bear me the affection which you have
expressed so beautifully in your letter to me, then allow my boy St.
John to be one of your followers and to take what should have been my
place by your side, proud to obey you in all things and swearing
allegiance to you, second only to that which he owes to his King."

St. John Devinne participated in the rescue of Mariette Joly and Henri
Chanel in Paris, in that of the Tourmon-d'Agenays in the forest of
Epone, and in two or three other equally daring and successful
adventures. He was always looked upon by the others as thoroughly
loyal and a good sportsman. Only Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, that truest of
all true friends, never really trusted him.

That, then, was the man who in these early days of '93 had gradually
allowed his boyish vices to get the better of his finer nature. The
devils of arrogance, obstinacy and rebellion against authority had
been the overlords that presided over his development from youth to
manhood. They were held in check during the first few months of an
adventurous life, fuller and more glorious than he had ever dreamed
of, but those three devils in him had got the upper hand over him
again.

"You may talk as much as you like, Percy," he said, when he found
himself alone with his chief, "you will never induce me to lend a hand
in that wild scheme of yours."

"What wild scheme do you mean, Johnny?"

"Risking all our lives to save that upstart from getting his deserts."

"You are still alluding to Simon Pradel?"

"Of course I am. You don't know him as I do. You weren't there when he
thrust his attentions on Ccile de la Rodire and was soundly thrashed
by Franois for his pains."

"As it happens, my dear fellow, I was there and I saw and heard
everything that went on. You gave me the lie just now when I told you
what I know to be a fact, that Ccile de la Rodire is half in love
with Simon Pradel. Hers is a simple, thoroughly fine nature which
could not help being touched by the man's silent devotion to her. He
has a scheme for saving her and her family from disaster, very much,
in my opinion, at risk of his own life."

"A scheme?" Devinne retorted with a sneer. "He has a scheme, too, has
he?"

"A scheme," Blakeney rejoined earnestly, "which has for its keystone
his marriage with Mademoiselle Ccile."

"The devil!"

"No, not the devil, my dear fellow, only the little pagan god who has
had a shot at you, too, with his arrow, but has not, methinks, wounded
you very deeply."

"Anyhow, Ccile would not marry without her family's consent and they
would never allow such a damnable msalliance."

"The word has not much meaning with us in England these days when
foreign princes and dukes earn their living as best they can. And as I
have already told you, our League has taken Simon Pradel under its
protection along with the la Rodire family."

"You mean that you have taken him under your protection."

"Put it that way if you like."

"And that...in England-"

"In England, too, of course. Don't we always look after our protgs
once we have them over there?"

"Then let me tell you this, Blakeney," Devinne retorted, emboldened
probably by the patient way in which his chief continued to speak with
him. He was being treated like a child, certainly, but like a child of
whom the stern schoolmaster was half afraid. "Let me tell you this,
now that we are alone and those bullies in there are not here to
interfere, that I resent your hectoring me in the manner you have done
these last few days. You talk a lot about honour and obedience and all
that sort of thing, but I am not a child and you are not a
schoolmaster. I will do all I can to help you save Ccile de la
Rodire and her mother, even her brother, though I care less for him
than for a brass farthing. But help save Pradel I will not, and that
is my last word."

Blakeney had let him talk on without interruption. Perhaps he wished
to probe the entire depth of the boy's disloyalty, or perhaps he was
just wondering what he could say to his friend's only son to bring him
back to the path of honour. Blakeney himself was a man of infinite
understanding. During these past two years he had mixed with men and
women who belonged to the lowest dregs of society; in the pursuit of
his aims he had associated with potential assassins, as well as with
misguided fools, and he had such a love of humanity that he had
sometimes found it in his heart to sympathize with those whom misery
and starvation had turned into criminals. But the case of St. John
Devinne was altogether different. Here was a gentleman, a sportsman
who almost within the turn of a hand had become blind to the dictates
of honour and seemed ready to break his sworn word. To Percy Blakeney,
in whose heart the worship of honour was second only to that which he
offered to God, the whole circumstance of this boy's attitude was
absolutely incomprehensible. He tried with all the patience at his
command to understand or sympathize or, at any rate, to find some sort
of an explanation for what seemed to him an inconceivable situation.
He said very quietly:

"Look here, Johnny, you tell me that you will not lend a hand in
saving Pradel, that you intend, in fact, to go against my orders,
which means going back on your word of honour. Now that is a very big
thing to do, as I told you once before. I won't qualify it any other
way, I'll just say that it is a big thing. Will you then tell me why
you think of doing it? What is your excuse? Or explanation? You'll
want a cast-iron one, my dear fellow, you know, to make me understand
it."

Devinne shrugged.

"Excuse? I might refuse to give you one, for I don't admit your right
to question me like this. But I will try and remember that we were
friends once, and, as far as I am concerned, we can go on being
friends. I have two cast-iron reasons why I refuse to risk my life in
order to save Pradel, who is my enemy. He has tried to alienate
Ccile's love from me. Thank Heaven, he has not succeeded, but he has
tried and will go on trying, once he is out of this country, in safety
in England. And you expect me to help him in that? You must think I am
a fool. My second reason is that in my opinion we must concentrate on
saving Madame la Marquise and Mademoiselle Ccile, Franois, too, if
you insist, but to hamper ourselves with those two old servants, not
to mention that damned doctor fellow, is sheer madness to my mind, and
I contend that I can make better use of my life than lose it perhaps
in the pursuit of such folly."

Blakeney had listened to all this tirade in perfect quietude, never
once turning his eyes away from the speaker's face. He couldn't see
him very clearly because the shadows of the night were deep and dark,
but he had manoeuvred so as to get Devinne within the feeble shaft of
light which struck across from the tap-room through the narrow,
uncurtained window. Thus he could watch the sneer which curled round
the young man's lips and now and then catch the expression of scorn or
defiance which distorted his good-looking face. But he made no
movement to punish with a blow the insults which this young miscreant
dared to fling at his chief. He had himself well in hand; only those
who loved him would have been aware of the stiffening of his massive
figure and seen the slender hands tightly clenched.

Now that Devinne had paused for lack of breath and still panting with
excitement, Blakeney gave him answer, with utmost calm, never once
raising his voice.

"I thank you, my good fellow, for this explanation. I am beginning to
understand now. As to your last remark, that is as may be. A man must
judge for himself what his own life is worth, and to what use he can
put it. It is impossible for any members of the League to arrange for
you to return to England for at least another day or two. I am taking
it that you would prefer to travel alone rather than in the company of
those whom we are going to do our utmost to save from death. If I can
possibly arrange it, I will get in touch with Everingham and Aincourt,
who know nothing of your treachery-"

"Percy!" the other cried in angry protest.

"Who know nothing of your treachery," Blakeney reiterated with
deliberate emphasis. "If they did," he added, with a short laugh,
"they would possibly wring your neck."

"You needn't worry about me," Devinne retorted sullenly. "I can look
after myself."

"Then do, my good fellow. It is the best thing you can do. Good
night."

He went up to the door, but paused there, his hand on the latch, his
eyes turned once more to the comrade who had turned renegade. It
almost seemed as if he still entertained the hope that a sudden
revulsion of feeling would bring the son of his old friend back to his
side, back to the path of honour and loyalty which he had sworn to
follow, back to that life of self-sacrifice and love of humanity which
they had all pledged themselves to pursue. Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart.,
that beau ideal of every dandy in London, looked strangely
incongruous, almost weird, standing there by the cabaret door, in rags
and tatters, with grimy unshaven face, a dirty Phrygian cap over his
unkempt hair, his slender hand, which duchesses liked to fondle,
covered with soot and dust. Yet also strangely commanding, the living
presentation of a brave man brought face to face with some hideous
monster, a ghoul in the very existence of which he had never believed
up till now and whose very presence was a pollution.

Did some feeling akin to shame assail St. John Devinne then? It is
impossible to say. Certain it is that without another word or backward
glance he started to walk away down the hill. And Blakeney with a
bitter sigh went to rejoin his comrades in the tap-room. They asked
him no questions, for they guessed, if only vaguely, what had
happened, and that after this they would have to face that most deadly
of all dangers a traitor in the camp.

"If we have a traitor in the camp," Sir Andrew Ffoulkes had once said,
"then God help the lot of us."



27  TREACHERY

It is a little difficult to analyse the feelings of a man like St.
John Devinne, for he was not really by nature an out and out
blackguard. Vanity more than anything else was at the root of his
present dishonourable actions. He imagined himself more deeply in love
with Ccile de la Rodire than he had ever been before and more deeply
than he actually was. Love, in a man of Devinne's type does not really
mean much, except the satisfaction of vanity, and, looking back on the
pages of history in every civilized land, one cannot help but admit
that vanity in men and women has caused more mischief, more misery and
greater disasters than any other frailty to which humanity is heir.

And so it was with this man who now was striding rapidly along the
snow-covered road which leads down to Choisy. He was not aware of the
time, nor of the cold, nor of the roughness of the road. At every
dozen steps or so he stumbled over the slippery ground. Once or twice
he measured his length in the ditch, but he didn't care. He had set a
purpose in his mind, the best part of the night in which to carry it
through and nothing else mattered. Nothing. At the cost of dishonour
he had made up his mind that he would not lend a hand in any adventure
that had for its object the rescue of Simon Pradel from the fate which
apparently was waiting for him. Well, if it did, that was his look
out, his own fault, too, for daring to court intimacy with his
superiors and incurring thereby the enmity of this proletarian
government. There was just one thing to be put down to the credit of
this young traitor, and that is that mixed with his desire to leave
Pradel to his fate, there was also the conviction that the only to
ensure Ccile's safety was by concentrating on her and perhaps her
mother, and leaving every other issue to take care of itself.

He had formed a plan, of course, and all the way between the heights
of La Rodire and the outskirts of Choisy, running when he could,
stumbling often, falling more than once, he elaborated this plan. He
covered the ground quickly enough, for the way was downhill all the
time and it was no longer very dark, now that a pale moon shed its
cold silvery light on the carpet of snow. Somewhere in the far
distance a church clock struck the half-hour. Half-past eight it must
be, reckoned Devinne, and the Levets would have finished supper. There
was their house just in sight. Now for a lucky chance to find the girl
alone, the girl who in an access of jealousy as great as his own had
cried out: "You only care because you are in love with Ccile!" He
paused a moment outside the grill in order to shake the snow and dirt
off his clothes, to straighten his hat and adjust his cravat. Then he
walked up to the front door and rang the bell. It was old man Levet
who opened the door. Devinne raised his hat and said:

"I have come with a message from Professeur D'Arblay. May I enter?"

"Certainly, Monsieur," the old man replied, and as soon as Devinne
stood beside him in the vestibule he added: "What can I do for
Professeur d'Arblay?"

"The message is actually for your daughter, Monsieur Levet. But if you
wish I will deliver it to you."

"I will call my daughter," was Levet's simple response. He called to
Blanche, who came out from the kitchen, a dishcloth still in her hand.
Seeing a stranger, she quickly put the dishcloth down and wiped her
hands on her apron.

"What is it, Father?" she asked.

"A message for you from Professeur d'Arblay. If you want me, you can
call. Monsieur," he added, with a slight bow to Devinne, "at your
service."

He went in to the sitting-room. Blanche and Devinne were alone. She
turned anxious, inquiring eyes on him. He said:

"It is very important and urgent, Mademoiselle. It means life and
death to Madame la Marquise up at the chteau and to Mademoiselle
Ccile."

He noted with satisfaction that at the mention of Ccile's name the
young girl's figure appeared to stiffen, and that an expression almost
of hostility crept into her eyes. She was silent for a moment or two.
Then she turned and said coldly:

"Will you come in here, Monsieur?" and led the way into the small
dining-room, closing the door behind him. Chance, then, was bestowing
her favours upon the traitor. He could talk to the girl undisturbed.
Everything else would be easy. She offered him a chair by the table
and sat down opposite him with a small oil-lamp between them, and
Devinne, who studied her face closely, did not fail to see that the
look of cold hostility still lingered in her eyes, and that her lips
were tightly pressed together.

"I had best come at once to the point, Mademoiselle," he began, "for
my time is short. The question which I must put to you first of all is
this: would you have sufficient courage to go up to La Rodire to-
night? I would accompany you, but only as far as the gate, and you
would then go on to the chteau and transmit Professeur d'Arblay's
message to Mademoiselle Ccile."

Blanche hesitated a moment, then she said coldly:

"That depends, Monsieur."

"On what?"

"I must know something more about the message."

"You shall, Mademoiselle, you shall. But first will you tell me this?
Have you ever heard speak of the Scarlet Pimpernel?"

"Only vaguely."

"What have you heard?"

"That he is a dangerous English spy. The sworn enemy of our country.
His activities, they say, chiefly consist in helping traitors to
escape from justice."

"Would you be very surprised, then, to learn that Professeur d'Arblay
is none other than the Scarlet Pimpernel himself?"

Once again Blanche paused before she answered. When she did, she spoke
very slowly, almost as if she were searching her memory for facts
which had been relegated up to now to the back of her mind.

"No, it would not surprise me. I always looked on Professeur d'Arblay
as somewhat mysterious. Father liked him, and they often had long
talks together, and maman, pauvre maman! looked upon him, I often
thought, as a messenger of God. As a matter of fact, I never knew his
name till quite lately, the day when the King was executed and the
Abb Edgeworth-"

"Yes? The Abb Edgeworth? You know about him and his escape from the
mob who tried to murder him?"

"Yes. It was Professeur d'Arblay who brought him to this house."

"It was the Scarlet Pimpernel, Mademoiselle."

"The Scarlet Pimpernel?" the girl murmured, "and you know him,
Monsieur?"

"I am English, Mademoiselle, and we Englishmen all know him. We work
together in the secret service of our country. I told him that I
should be going past your house this evening, so he asked me to bring
you the message which he desires you to convey to Mademoiselle de la
Rodire."

"A verbal message?"

"No. I will write it if you will allow me. It would not have been over
safe for a lonely wayfarer as I was to carry a compromising paper
about his person. There are many spies and vagabonds about."

"But when we go up to La Rodire?"

"I am going down into Choisy first, and will hire a chaise. We will
drive up to the chteau, with a couple of men on the box."

Blanche looked intently at the young man for a second or two, then she
rose, fetched paper, ink and a pen from a side table and placed them
before him.

"Will you write your message, Monsieur?" she said simply.

"Will you promise to take it? he retorted.

"I will make no promise. It will depend on the message."

"Then I must take the chance that it meets with your approval," he
decided, and with a smile he took up the pen and began to write.
Blanche, her elbow resting on the table, her chin cupped in her hand,
watched him while he wrote a dozen lines. In the end he made a rough
drawing which looked like a device.

"What is that? she asked.

"The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mademoiselle, a small five-petalled flower. We
always use it in our service."

"May I see what you have written?"

"Certainly."

He handed her the paper; she glanced down on it and frowned.

"It is in English," she remarked.

"Yes! my written French is very faulty. But Mademoiselle Ccile will
understand."

"But I do not."

"Shall I translate?"

"If you please."

She handed him back the missive and he translated it as he read:

    "Mademoiselle.
"


         "Will you and your august family honour the League of the
Scarlet Pimpernel by accepting its protection. Your arrest is only a
question of hours. A coach waits for you outside your gate. It will
convey you and Madame la Marquise with all possible speed to a place
of safety and then return to fetch Monsieur le Marquis, your two
servants and Docteur Simon Pradel."

The girl gave a violent start.

"Simon Pradel?"

"You know him, Mademoiselle?"

"Yes!...yes!...I know him.... But why?"

"He and Mademoiselle Ccile have arranged to get married as soon as
they are in England."

"It's not true!" Blanche exclaimed vehemently. She then appeared to
make an effort to control herself and went on more quietly: "I mean .
. . Docteur Pradel has so many interests here...I cannot imagine
that he would leave them and become an exile in England...even if
his life were in danger, which I pray to God is not the case."

"I can reassure you as to that, Mademoiselle," Devinne said with deep
earnestness. "Only to-day did I hear that the charge of treason
preferred against the doctor before the Chief Commissary has been
dismissed as non-proven. He is held in high esteem in the commune, and
like yourself, I cannot believe that he would leave his philanthropic
work over here except under constraint."

"What do you mean by constraint?" the girl asked, frowning.

He gave a smile and a shrug.

"Well!" he rejoined, "we all know that when a woman is in love, and
sees that her lover is not as ardent as she would wish, she will
exercise pressure, which a mere man cannot always resist."

"Then you do not think-" the girl cried impulsively, and quickly
checked herself, realizing that she was giving herself away before a
stranger. A blush, that was almost one of shame, flooded her cheeks,
and tears of mortification came to her eyes.

"I don't know what you will think of me, Monsieur..." she murmured.

"Only that you are a wonderfully loyal friend, Mademoiselle, and that
you are grieved to see a man of Docteur Pradel's worth throw up his
career for a futile reason. After all, these troublous days will soon
be over. Mademoiselle de la Rodire will then return from England, and
if she and the doctor are still of the same mind, they could be
affianced then."

Blanche's eager, inquiring eyes searched the young man's face, almost
as if she tried to gather in its expression comfort and hope in this
awful calamity which threatened to ruin her life. Simon Pradel gone
from her for ever, married to Ccile de la Rodire, permanently
settled in England probably! What would life be worth to her after
that? She saw before her as in a vision, a long vista of years without
Simon's companionship, without the hope of ever winning his love, of
feeling his arms round her, or his kiss upon her mouth.

She felt a clutch cold as ice upon her heart, tearing at its strings
till she could have cried out with the physical pain of it. She
shuddered and murmured involuntarily under her breath: "If I could
only see him once more."

There followed a few moments silence, while Devinne scrutinized the
girl's face, aware though he was too young to be a serious
psychologist, of the terrible battle which her better nature was
waging against pride and jealousy. He had no cause now to doubt the
issue of the conflict. Blanche Levet would be his ally in the act of
treachery which he was about to commit. Ignorant and unsuspecting, she
did not realize that she was on the point of sacrificing the man she
loved, and depriving him of the protection of the one man who had
resolved to save him. Jealousy won the day by letting her fall
headlong into the trap which a traitor had so cunningly set for her.
She was about to become the instrument which would deliver Simon
Pradel into the hands of the revolutionary government.

"I will tell you what I can do, Mademoiselle," Devinne resumed after a
time, "and I hope my plan will meet your wishes. I am going straight
into Choisy now, and will call on Docteur Pradel and use all the
eloquence I possess to persuade him to put off his journey to England,
at any rate for a few days. I shall be able to assure him that in his
case it is not a matter of life and death, whilst, in any event,
Mademoiselle de la Rodire and her family are perfectly safe under the
gis of the Scarlet Pimpernel. And then I hope to bring you news
within the hour that your friend will do nothing rash until after he
has seen you again."

Blanche listened to him with glowing eyes. In every line of her pretty
face the speaker could trace the mastery of hope over the doubts and
fears of a while ago.

"You really would do that for me, Monsieur?" she exclaimed, and
clasped her little hands together, while tears of emotion and
gratitude gathered in her eyes.

"Of course I would, Mademoiselle. I shall only be doing what our brave
Scarlet Pimpernel himself would have suggested."

Blanche's heart now felt so warm, so full of joy that she broke into a
happy little laugh.

"It is my turn to write," she said almost gaily, and took up the pen
and drew paper towards her. She only wrote a few lines:

    "My Dear Simon.

         "The bearer of this note is a gallant English gentleman who
was instrumental in saving the Abb Edgeworth from being murdered by
the mob. You know all about that, don't you? And cannot wonder
therefore, that I beg you to trust him in everything he may tell you."

She signed the short missive with her name, strewed sand over the wet
ink, folded the paper into a small compass and handed it to Devinne,
who rose as he took it from her.

"I will fly on the wings of friendship, Mademoiselle," he said, and
picked up his hat. "On my return I will pay my respects to Monsieur
Levet. Will you tell him everything, and prepare him for the visit of
adieu? Au revoir, Mademoiselle."

She went to the door and opened it for him.

"God guard you, Monsieur!" she said fervently, "and send an angel from
heaven to watch over you, on your errand of mercy."

She accompanied him to the front door. As he was passing out into the
cold and gloom, she asked navely:

"Your name, Monsieur? You never told me your name."

"My name is Collin, Mademoiselle," he replied with hardly a moment's
hesitation, "a humble satellite of the brilliant Scarlet Pimpernel."



28  CHECK

Everything then had worked out to the entire satisfaction of this
young traitor, who, unlike Judas, had no qualms of conscience for his
shameful betrayal of his comrades and his chief. Not yet, at any rate.
He had, of course, no intention of interviewing his enemy Pradel: in
fact, he blotted the doctor entirely out from his scheme. It was good
to think of him as remaining behind in Choisy while the girl whom he
planned to marry was safely on her way to England without any help
from him.

"What becomes of that miserable upstart after that I neither know nor
care," was the substance of Devinne's reflections as he strode quickly
downhill into town. A few minor details suggested themselves to him
that would make his plan work more smoothly. He would stop the chaise
at the smaller grille of La Rodire, the one opposite to the main
gate, which gave on the narrow and less frequented cross-road to
Alfort. Blanche Levet would take his message to Ccile, help her and
Madame la Marquise to put a few things together, and accompany them to
the chaise. She would have strict injunctions when going through the
park with the two ladies to talk and move as if they were merely
taking a stroll for the sake of fresh air. He certainly could reckon
on Blanche to follow his instructions to the letter, she had as much
at stake as he had himself, and jealousy, coupled with the desire to
keep Simon Pradel in France, would be a powerful goad.

With the two ladies safely inside the chaise, he would then drive
along to St. Gif as far as headquarters, where Galveston and Holte
would be on the look-out for the chief and the refugees. This was a
derelict house which had once been a wayside hostelry in the
prosperous coaching days, but it had long fallen into disrepair, the
landlord and his family having fled the country at the outbreak of the
Revolution. It was now used as headquarters by the League whenever its
activities required the presence of its members in this part of
France. It had the great advantage of stables and barns which, though
in the last stages of dilapidation, offered some sort of shelter for
man and beast. Three or four horses were usually kept there in case
they were wanted, and two members of the League took it in turns to
remain in charge. There was always of course, a certain element of
risk in all that, but what were risks and dangers to these young
madcaps but the very spice of their lives?

Luck had favoured St. John Devinne from the start, since it was he who
had been deputed to seek out Galveston and Holte, who were in charge
at St. Gif, and give them the chief's instructions for the provision
of horses, of fresh disguises and above all of passports, some of them
forged, others purchased from venal officials or merely stolen, of
everything, in fact, that was required to ensure the success of the
expedition that was contemplated for the rescue of the La Rodires and
their servants and their ultimate flight to England. Mention had been
made of the coach, but not of the likely number of its occupants nor
of the size of the escort, and whether it would be headed by the chief
himself or not. Galveston was to remain on the lookout at headquarters
with horses ready saddled, and Holte was to make for Le Perrey with
all speed and make provision there for relays.

And chance continued to favour the traitor's plans.

He had no difficulty in hiring a coach in the town, giving himself out
as an American merchant, a friend of General La Fayette, desirous to
join a ship at St. Nazaire, and having no time to lose. The first halt
would be made at Dreux. Is manner, his well-cut clothes, his money of
which he was not sparing, gave verisimilitude to his story and enabled
him to secure what he wanted. He required, he said, an extra man on
the box beside the driver, as his sister would be travelling with him;
he understood that the road past Le Perrey was lonely, and she was
inclined to be nervous. His papers were in order, as papers in the
possession of members of the League always were, and forty minutes
after his departure from the Levets' house he was back there again and
ringing the bell at the front door.

Blanche was on the look-out for him. As soon as she had opened the
door he stretched both his hands out to her, and in a quick whisper
said:

"Everything is well! I have seen Docteur Pradel. He laughed the idea
to scorn that he was in any danger, and assured me that he had no
intention of emigrating. Not just yet, at all events. I did not
mention Mademoiselle de la Rodire's name, but he himself spoke of you
and announced his intention of coming over to see you to-morrow."

The girl was dumb with emotion. All she could do was to allow her hand
to respond to the pressure of his. He asked permission to pay his
respects to Monsieur Levet. But father, it seems, was not in a mood to
see anyone just now.

"I told him about the message which I was to take up to Mademoiselle,"
Blanche explained, "and he quite approved of my doing it. I told him
that you were escorting me and that you were a friend of Professeur
d'Arblay. This he already knew. He had also guessed, before I told
him, that Professeur d'Arblay was in reality the Scarlet Pimpernel."

"Did you mention Docteur Pradel, also?"

"No, I did not. That is a matter which will remain between Simon and
myself. I shall be eternally grateful to you for what you have done
for him. But for you he would have made shipwreck of his life. Now he
will, I know, take up its threads with is usual energy as soon as all
this matter is past and forgotten."

"You are the best friend any man ever had," Devinne concluded as he
escorted the girl to the coach; "Docteur Pradel is indeed a lucky
man."

To himself he added: "And I hope that my luck will hold out to the
end, and that Ccile and I will be well on the way to England before
those two meet again."

Devinne ordered the driver to pull up on the Alfort road at a couple
of hundred metres from the small grille of La Rodire. Grilles and
gates were never bolted these days, by an order of the government
which decreed that all parks and pleasure grounds were as much the
property of the people as those aristos who had stolen them, and that
every citizen had the right to use them for pleasure or convenience.
Devinne jumped out of the chaise and helped Blanche to alight.
Together they walked up to the grille, and the girl passed through
into the park. The young man remained standing by the low wall close
to the gate in the shadow of tall bordering trees. He strained his
ears to listen to Blanche's light footstep treading the frozen ground.
The road was quite deserted, and the moon had hidden her pale face
behind a bank of clouds. Only the pale face behind a bank of clouds.
Only a pawing and snorting of the horses in the near distance broke
the silence of the night. Wrapped in his cloak Devinne appeared, but
as part of the shadows that enveloped him. A dark, motionless figure.

A distant church clock struck eleven and then a quarter past. Devinne
thought of all those men whom Blakeney, with his usual recklessness,
had rendered helpless with drugged wine, of Chauvelin cursing in his
dank prison, and of Blakeney himself and his satellites in the squalid
hostelry the other side of the part, still discussing and elaborating
the marvellous plan of rescue, which they little thought was
frustrated already. And, thinking of all that, the young traitor felt
wonderfully elated, proud of himself for the ease with which he had
gone athwart the schemes of the invincible Scarlet Pimpernel, proud,
too, of the fact that his nerves were perfectly calm, that he felt
neither compunction nor fear. His heart beat perhaps a little faster
than usual, but that was all.

Nearly half an hour went by before his ear once more caught the sound
of a light footstep treading the frozen garden path. One step only. He
heard it a long way off, but tripping very quickly. Running now. It
must, he thought, be Blanche returning for something she may have
forgotten or, perhaps, with a message for him from the chteau. It was
Blanche, of course. The clouds overhead rolled slowly away. The pale
light of the moon revealed the dark figure of the young girl against
the white background of frozen lawn. And she was running. Running. She
was alone, and Devinne felt that his heart suddenly froze inside his
breast. He held open the grille. Blanche almost fell into his arms.

"They have gone," she gasped.

"Gone? Who?"

"All of them. There is no one in the chteau. Not a soul. The doors
are all left open. I ran upstairs, downstairs, everywhere. There is no
one. Madame la Marquise, Monsieur, Mademoiselle Ccile, Paul, Marie.
They have all gone. What does it mean?"

Aye! What did it mean, but the one thing? The one awful terrible
thing, that it was his treachery that had been frustrated by the man
whom he had betrayed. What had happened exactly, he could not
conjecture. The plan was to effect the mock arrest of the La Rodires
in the early dawn, and it was not yet midnight. Had suspicion of
treachery lurked in the mind of the Scarlet Pimpernel? He was not the
man to change his plans once he had mapped them out, for every phase
of them fitted one into the other, like the pieces of those puzzles
that children love to play with. Or had a real arrest been effected by
soldiers of the Republic? Had Chauvelin contrived to escape? To
liberate the men imprisoned in the stables? To order the arrest of the
aristos, pending the capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel? Anything may
have occurred during these past three hours, and Devinne almost hoped
that this last conjecture would prove to be the solution of the
appalling riddle that faced him now. With half an ear he heard Blanche
Levet tell him of her further adventures in the chteau.

"It seemed peopled with ghosts," she said, "for when I ran down into
the sous-sol, I heard strange sounds proceeding from the cellar.
Groans and curses they sounded like. But I was frightened and ran
upstairs again. I lost my head, I think, and lost time, too, by
running towards the great gate. Then I met Antoine. He is the groom,
you know. He said to me: 'They've all gone: Monsieur le Marquis,
Madame and Mademoiselle, and Paul and Marie. They walked down the
avenue and went through this gate. They didn't see me.' I asked him
which way they went," Blanche continued, "and he said: 'Up Corbeil
way; about an hour ago, it was.' But before I could ask him any more
questions he was gone. Then I ran back to tell you."

As Devinne said nothing, Blanche began to cry.

"What are we going to do now?" she asked, and tried to swallow her
tears.

Devinne roused himself from his torpor. What a chivalry there was left
in him urged him first of all to see to the girl's safety.

"We'll drive back to your house, of course. Come."

He took hold of her arm and led her back to the chaise. She climbed in
and he gave instructions to the driver.

"Straight back to Citizen Levet's house in the Rue Micheline."

Not a word was spoken between the two of them on the way home.
Blanche's delicate form was trembling as if in a fit of ague. A name
and eager questions were forming on her lips, but for some in
explicable reason she felt averse to uttering them. It was only when
the chaise drew up outside her house, and Devinne, after he had
escorted her to the front door, was taking his leave of her, that she
spoke the name that was foremost in her thoughts.

"Docteur Pradel?"

But apparently he didn't hear her, for he made no reply. The next
moment the door was opened. Old Levet had been sitting up, waiting for
his daughter. At sight of her he took hold of her hand and drew her
into the house. She turned to say a last word to Devinne, but he had
already crossed the short path that led to the gate. Blanche could
hear his voice speaking to the driver, but it was dark and she could
not see him. The next moment there was the crack of the driver's whip,
the jingle of harness, the snorting of horses and finally, the rumble
of wheels. She was left with heart full of anxiety and fear for the
man she loved. Many hours must go by before she could hope to glean
information as to what had happened to him. And here was her father
waiting to hear what had occurred at the chteau. She tried to tell
him, but she knew so little. The family had gone, that was all she
knew. Were they under arrest, awaiting trial, and perhaps, death? Or
was their mysterious departure connected in any way with that strange
personage the Scarlet Pimpernel?

In either case, where was Simon now? In the cells of the Old Castle,
awaiting the same fate as Ccile and the others? Or was he on his way
to England and to safety, gone out of her life for ever?

"Yes, Father," she murmured in answer to old Levet's command that she
should go to bed now and give him further details on the morrow: "I
will go to bed now. I am very tired."

Wearily she crept up the stairs.



29  CHECKMATE

Devinne did not re-enter the chaise. He gave money to the two men, the
driver saluted with his whip, clicked his tongue, whipped up his
horses, and the vehicle went rattling down the cobbled street, leaving
the young man standing by the Levets' gate. And here he remained for
several minutes, until he heard the clock in the tower of the Town
Hall strike midnight. This seemed to shake him out of his trance-like
state. He started to walk up the street in an aimless sort of way. The
whole town appeared deserted. Shutters tightly closed everywhere. Not
a soul in sight. Two cats, chasing one another, raced across his path.
But not a human sound to break the stillness of the night. Only
caterwauling, weird sounds of prowling felines, and a bitter north-
easterly wind moaning and groaning through the leafless trees of the
Avenue Lafayette, and splitting of tiny dried branches, the cracking
and shivering of woodwork shaken by the blast.

Devinne shivered. He was inured to cold weather as a rule; considered
himself hard as nails, and he had on a thick mantle, but, somehow, he
felt the cold to-night right in the marrow of his bones, right into
the depth of his heart. Still walking aimlessly, he reached the Grand'
Place. There on the right were the Caf Tison and the Restaurant, the
scene of one of Blakeney's maddest frolics. Blakeney! the leader, the
comrade, the friend whom he, St. John Devinne, was about to betray! He
had not betrayed him yet. He had tried to thwart his plans...and
had failed, but he had done this from the sole desire to ensure the
safety of the girl he loved. He had worked himself up into the belief
that by dragging others into the rescue, Blakeney was jeopardizing the
success of his plan. It might fail and Ccile's precious life be
imperilled. No! there was no betrayal of a friend in that.
Insubordination, perhaps, which Percy, in his arrogance, termed
dishonour, but it was not betrayal. If his own plan had succeeded, the
League and its chief, or for a matter of that, the other refugees,
would not have been any worse off, save for the failure of relays at
Le Perrey, perhaps, which might have held up the flight, but only for
a time; and that was all. His plan, however, had failed. He had been
forestalled. How? Why? By what devilish agency, he did not know. But
he was no longer in doubt now. The more he thought about it all, the
more convinced he was that it was Blakeney who had forestalled him as
a counter-blast to his insubordination. And a coach driven at
breakneck speed was even now outstripping the wind on the road to St.
Gif and Le Perrey.

An insensate rage took possession of Devinne's soul, for he had
remembered Pradel. Pradel in that same carriage with Ccile, under the
gis of the Scarlet Pimpernel, who had never failed in a single one of
his undertakings. Pradel and Ccile! The thought was maddening. It
hammered in the young man's brain like blows from a weighted stick.
Pradel and Ccile! Thrown together in England under the protection of
Sir Percy Blakeney, the friend of the Prince of Wales, and arbiter of
style and fashion. And then marriage. Of course, the marriage would
follow. In England fellows like this Pradel, doctors, lawyers, and so
on, were often held in high esteem, and if His Royal Highness
approved, the marriage would come about as a matter of course.

Devinne felt that he was going mad. He still wandered aimlessly up one
street and down another, like a Judas meditating treachery. He turned
into the Rue Haute, and there was the Town Hall. The tower clock had
just struck one. For an hour he had been roaming the streets like
this. He was cold and very tired. He came to a halt now opposite the
municipal building, and leaning against a wall, he stared up at the
imposing faade. The place was closed for the night. It would not open
probably before eight o'clock. Seven hours to kill while that
hammering in his brain went on, driving him to insanity.

He didn't know where Pradel lived or he would have gone there, rung
the bell, asked to see the doctor. If he was in, he would kill him.
That would be the best way out of this trouble. Kill him and get away.
Nobody would know. But if Pradel was gone, that would mean that he was
on his way to England with Ccile and the others, under the protection
of the League, and he, Devinne, would have no longer any compunction
in doing what he had already made up his mind to do. No compunction
now, and no remorse in the future.

After a time he turned his back on the Town Hall, and on the Rue
Haute, crossed the Grand' Place once more, and almost against his will
his footsteps led him in the direction of the derelict cottage, the
headquarters of the League, where he had first dreamt of mutiny and
Glynde and the others had been ready to knock him down. There it was,
looming out of the darkness, a pale, moon mist covered, outlined its
broken walls and tumbledown chimney. Devinne went in, groping his way
for the tinder-box, knowing where it was always kept. His fingers came
in contact with it. It was in its usual place, so was the piece of
tallow candle in its pewter sconce. He struck a light, put it to the
wick and then looked about him. The familiar place was just the same
as it always was. Devinne half expected to see Ffoulkes and Tony and
the others squatting round the fire, and to hear the voice of his
chief, chaffing, laughing. Laughing? Surely there was still an echo of
that laughter lingering within these dilapidated walls. Devinne put
his hands quickly up to his ears, fearful lest they caught a sound
which, of a certainty, would shatter the last shred of reason in his
brain. He picked up the guttering candle and holding it high above his
head he wandered round the room. Seeking for what? He couldn't say.
Unless it was for the broken fragments of an English gentleman's
honour.

What he did come across was a pile of garments in one corner. Coats,
hats, phrygian caps, rags, tattered bits of uniforms and
accoutrements, the whole paraphernalia so often used in the pursuit of
those stirring adventures the like of which he would never witness
again after he had accomplished his final purpose. He would have to
make his way back to England unaided by his comrades, lacking the
advice of his chief. Well, he had papers and money, both of which
would help him on his route. He had gained experience, too, under the
guidance of the Scarlet Pimpernel, of how to travel through a country
seething with insurrection and suspicious of strangers. He spoke the
language well. Oh! he would get on all right without help from anyone.
His clothes, perhaps, were rather too tidy and too well-tailored for
the adventurous journey. He turned over the pile of garments. Found
what he wanted. Clothes, boots and hat such as a well-to-do farmer
might wear going from market-place to market-place. He would hire a
cabriolet when he could, or a cart; avoid big cities and frequented
roads. Oh, yes! he had experience now, he would get on all right.

He dressed himself up in the clothes he had selected. In this too, he
had experience, gained through the teaching of a veritable master in
the art of disguise: he knew the importance of minor details, the
discarding of a fine linen shirt, the use of mud and sand to hide the
delicacy of the hands and face. By the time the tallow candle ceased
to flicker and died out, he had become the well-to-do farmer right
down to his skin. He was left in total darkness, his eyes were heavy
with want of sleep and his head ached furiously. There were yet some
hours to live through before the dawn when he could make his way back
to Choisy and the Town Hall. So he threw himself down on the pile of
garments and tried to woo sleep which refused to come. His brain was
so alert that all through the night he heard the tower clock strike
every hour. Sleep does not come when the mind is busy evolving a plan
of treason and dishonour. Seven o'clock. Aching in every limb, half-
perished with cold, my Lord St. John Devinne, Earl Welhaven, son and
heir of the Duke of Rudford, went forth on an errand, which, for
perfidy, was perhaps only rivalled once, nineteen hundred years ago.
He has sworn to himself that he would have no compunction, if, on
calling at Pradel's house, he was told that the doctor had gone away.
He didn't know where Pradel lived, but it was morning now and he would
find out.

His first objective was the Caf Tison, for, besides being cold, he
was also hungry. These sort of places, mostly new to provincial towns,
usually opened their doors very early, and were frequented by men and
women on their way to work: here for a few sous they could get a plate
of hot soup, or, if they were more sophisticated, a cup of coffee.
Devinne, in his rough clothes and with grimy hands and face, attracted
no attention. There were a dozen or so workmen sitting at different
tables noisily consuming their crote-au-pot. The Englishman sat down
and ordered coffee. This he sipped slowly and munched a piece of stale
bread. The municipal offices in the Town Hall, he was told on inquiry,
opened at eight o'clock. He then asked to be directed to the house of
Docteur Pradel.

"Rue du Chemin Neuf, Citizen," some one told him, "corner of the Rue
Verte. You will find him at home for certain."

Devinne paid his account and went out. He no longer felt cold now or
stiff. His blood was tingling all over his body, only his finger-tips
felt like lumps of ice. But nothing physical mattered now. Revenge for
humiliation endured, satisfaction over a successful rival, were all
that counted at this hour. He found the house at the corner of the Rue
du Chemin Neuf. A painted sign hung before the door stating that
Citizen Docteur Pradel de la Facult de Paris lived here and received
callers between the hours of eight and ten in the morning, and two and
three in the afternoon. Devinne rang the bell, a middle-aged woman
opened the door.

"The Citizen Doctor?" he demanded.

"He is not in," the woman answered curtly.

"Not in?"

"As I have told you, Citizen."

"Where can I find him? It is for an urgent case."

"I cannot tell you, Citizen. The doctor was sent for late last night
for an urgent case. He has not yet returned."

The woman was apparently become impatient and was on the point of
closing the door in the visitor's face, when something in the
expression of his eyes seemed to arouse her compassion, for she added,
not unkindly:

"It is probably a confinement, Citizen. These cases often keep the
doctor out all night. He was fetched away in a cabriolet. I expect him
back every moment. Would you care to wait?"

While Devinne parleyed with her a few callers had assembled on the
doctor's doorstep. He thanked the woman, but no, he would not wait. He
would have liked to ask one more question, but thought better of it
and, turning on his heel, went his way.

Why should he wait? What for? Pradel had gone and Percy had done his
worst. It was up him, Devinne, now to show that arrogant chief of a
league of sycophants, who was the better man.



30  DISHONOUR

Although it was only a few minutes after eight, Devinne found the
waiting-hall of the municipal building crowded with visitors waiting
for an interview with the Chief Commissary. Men and women of all
sorts, country bumpkins and townsfolk, ragamuffins scantily clothed,
shivering with cold, business men in threadbare coats, women with a
child in their arms and another clinging to their skirts.

When Devinne entered he was told to give in his name to a clerk who
sat making entries at a desk. On the spur of the moment he gave his
name as Collin and his nationality as Canadian.

"Your occupation?" the clerk asked him curtly.

"Farmer."

"What are you doing in Choisy?"

"I will explain it to the Citizen Commissary."

The clerk looked up at him and said peremptorily: "You will explain it
to me, and state your business with the Citizen Commissary."

"My business is secret," Devinne retorted; "the Commissary himself
will tell you so. Give me pen and paper," he demanded, "and I will
write it down."

The clerk appeared to hesitate. He scrutinized the face of the visitor
for a moment or two and seemed on the point of meeting the demand with
a definite refusal, when something in the expression of this Canadian
farmer's face caused him to change his mind. He pushed a paper towards
Devinne and held out his own pen to him.

Pen in hand Devinne paused a moment, seeking for the right words
wherewith to arrest the attention of the Chief Commissary. Finally he
wrote:

"Citizen Chauvelin and a squad of Republican Guard are held in
durance, the writer will tell you where. The aristos up at La Rodire
have made good their escape. The writer will tell you how."

He put down the pen, read the missive through, was satisfied that it
was to the point, strewed sand over the wet ink, then demanded curtly:

"Wax."

The clerk gave him the wax, he took his ring off his finger and sealed
the note down. When handing it over to the clerk, he slipped a gold
coin into the latter's hand. This settled the matter. The clerk became
at once quite amenable, almost obsequious.

"One moment, Citizen," he said; "I will see to it that the Chief
Commissary receives you without delay."

A few minutes later St. John Devinne was sitting in the Chief
Commissary's private office, opposite that important personage, once
again giving his name, nationality and occupation, which the
Commissary duly noted down.

"Mathieu Collin, Citizen Commissary. Of Canadian nationality and
French parentage. Spent most of my life farming in Canada, hence my
foreign intonation in speaking your language."

The Commissary was fingering Devinne's note, the seal of which he had
broken. He read and re-read it two or three times over, gave the
Canadian farmer a searching glance, then said:

"And you have come to give me certain information relating to Citizen
Chauvelin, member of the Committee of Public Safety?"

"Yes!"

"What is it?"

"As I have had the honour to inform you in my note, Citizen Chauvelin
and a squad of Republican Guard are prisoners since yesterday
afternoon."

"Where?"

"In the Chteau de la Rodire. Citizen Chauvelin and a sergeant of the
Guard in the cellar, the men in the stables."

"But who dared to arrest Citizen Chauvelin?" the Commissary queried,
almost beside himself with horror at this amazing statement.

"He was not arrested, Citizen. He was just thrust into the cellar with
the sergeant and locked in."

"But by whom?" the other insisted.

"By the Scarlet Pimpernel."

"The devil!" cried the Commissary, and gave a mighty jump, causing
every article on his desk to rattle.

"No, Citizen, not the devil, the Scarlet Pimpernel."

"One and the same."

"Not exactly. We do not believe in the devil in this free and
enlightened country, but the Scarlet Pimpernel really does exist. He
is just a spy in the pay of the English Government, and has set
himself the task of aiding the enemies of the Republic to escape from
justice. It was in order thus to aid the aristos up at La Rodire that
he and his followers, among whom must be reckoned that abominable
traitor Docteur Pradel, plied the soldiers with drugged wine, and when
they were helpless locked them up in the stables, then proceeded to
kidnap Citizen Chauvelin."

The Chief Commissary appeared almost ludicrous in the excess of his
stupefaction; he puffed and he snorted like an old seal, took out his
handkerchief and mopped his perspiring brow.

"And do you mean to tell me," he gasped, "that all this is true?"

"As I live, Citizen."

"And...and...the citizen doctor...? You mentioned him just
now. Surely-"

"I called Pradel an abominable traitor," Devinne asserted firmly, "for
I know him to be a follower of the Scarlet Pimpernel."

"But how do you know all that Citizen...er...Collin? What
proof have you-?"

"I will tell you, Citizen Commissary," Devinne replied, but got no
further, because the clerk came in at the moment and announced that
Citizen Maurin had just come into the building and desired to speak
with the Chief Commissary. The latter gave a great sigh of relief.
Lawyer Maurin was a man of resource. His advice in this terrible
emergency would be invaluable. The harassed Commissary gave orders
that Citizen Maurin be admitted at once, and no sooner had the lawyer
entered the room and the door been closed behind him than he was put
au fait of the appalling event. The whole story was retold by the
Canadian farmer at command of the Commissary-the soldiers of the Guard
drugged and locked up in the stables, a member of the Committee of
Public Safety kidnapped and held in durance in the cellar, and finally
the escape from justice of the ci-devant La Rodires when the order of
their arrest had already been signed, and all through the agency of
that limb of Satan, the English spy, the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel,
and his followers, including that abominable traitor, Docteur Pradel.

It was Maurin's turn to give a jump.

"Pradel?" He then added more soberly: "What makes you think that the
citizen doctor is a member of the English gang of spies?"

"The simple fact," Devinne replied, "that he, too, has fled from
justice, which he knew was about to overtake him and punish him for
his crime."

"What do you mean?"

"Only this. All that I have told you I learned through listening to
the talk of a group of vagabonds in the cabaret of the Chien sans
Queue on the Corbeil road. They were musicians who had scraped their
catgut and blown their trumpets all afternoon up at La Rodire. I was
one of the crowd who had gone up there to see the fun, and then
adjourned to the Chien sans Queue for a mug of ale. The vagrants were
talking in whispers. I caught a word or two. To my astonishment those
ragamuffins were speaking English, which I, as a Canadian, know well.
I edged closer to them and heard every word they said. That is how I
know everything and how I knew all about their plans. And," he
concluded, with slow emphasis, measuring every word, "they spoke of
Pradel as being a member of their gang and of their resolve to take
him along with the la Rodires to England."

After Devinne had finished speaking there fell a stillness over this
banal office, in the center of which, round the desk littered with
papers and paraphernalia, three men sat pondering over what would
follow the amazing events of the previous night. The Chief Commissary
perspired more freely than ever and kept on muttering in tones almost
of despair:

"What are we going to do? Nom d'un nom, what are we going to do?"

Maurin said nothing. He was thinking. Thing very deeply indeed, and at
the same time trying to keep a mask of indifference over his face, so
as not to allow that fool of a Commissary to guess that he felt
neither doubt nor bewilderment at this turn of events, but only
satisfaction. Pradel, his enemy, was disarmed. No longer could he be a
rival in the affections of Blanche Levet. Neither as an migr flying
to England to save his skin, nor standing at the bar of the Hall of
Justice under an accusation of treasonable association with a gang of
English spies, could he ever hope to capture the glamour which had
dazzled an unsophisticated young girl. And when the Commissary
reiterated his complaint for the third time: "Non d'un nom, what am I
to do?" the lawyer responded dryly:

"It is too late to do anything now. That wily Scarlet Pimpernel with
his drove of traitors and aristos will be half-way to the coast by
now."

"Not so bad as that, Citizen Lawyer," Devinne put in. "They will have
to make a forced halt at Le Perrey for relays. Of course, they will
drive like Satan himself as far as there, but the coach with its heavy
load will be slow of progress."

A ray of hope glistened in the eyes of the Commissary at this
suggestion.

"You are certain about Le Perrey?" he asked.

"Quite certain. I heard the gang discuss the question of relays and
the enforced halt there. At any rate, it might be worth your while,
Citizen Commissary," he went on in an insinuating manner, "to send a
squad of mounted men in pursuit. They could get fresh horses at Le
Perrey and ride like the wind. They are bound to come up with the
lumbering coach."

"Do you know which route they mean to take, beyond Le Perrey?"

"Yes, I do. They will make straight for Dreux, Pont Audemer and
Trouville. The Scarlet Pimpernel has established headquarters all
along that route and it is the nearest way from here to the coast."

The Commissary brought his fist down with a crash upon the desk.

"Pardieu!" he said lustily. "Citizen Collin is right. There is time
and to spare to be at the heels of these cursed spies. What say you,
Citizen Lawyer?"

But the citizen lawyer really didn't care one way or the other.
Whether Pradel was caught in the company of English spies, or was
still in Choisy, when of a surety he would be arrested for treason on
the evidence of this Canadian farmer, mattered nothing to Louis
Maurin, the prospective husband of Blanche Levet. He gave a shrug of
indifference and said casually: "You must do as you thing best,
Citizen Commissary."

The latter by way of an answer tinkled his hand-bell furiously. The
clerk entered, looking scared.

"Send Citizen Captain Cabel to me at once," the Commissary commanded.
He was feeling decidedly better. Much relieved. He mopped his still
streaming forehead, picked up a pen and started tap-tapping it against
the top of the desk. And while he did so a look of absolute beatitude
crept slowly all over his face. He had just remembered that a reward
of five hundred louis was offered by the government for the capture of
the Scarlet Pimpernel.

To Captain Cabel, who entered the office a few minutes later, he gave
quick orders:

"A gang of English spies, probably in disguise, and escorting a coach
in which are the aristos from La Rodire, are speeding towards the
coast by way of Le Perrey, Dreux and Pont Audemer. They will probably
make for Trouville. Take a mounted squad of sixteen picked men and
ride like hell in pursuit. The leader of the gang is the famous
Scarlet Pimpernel. There is a reward of five hundred louis for his
apprehension. Fifty louis will be for you if you get him and another
twenty to be distributed among the men. Lose no time, Citizen Captain;
your promotion and your whole future depend on your success."

Captain Cabel, dumb with emotion, gave the salute, and turning on his
heel, marched out of the room. There was no mistaking the expression
of his face as he did so. If it was humanly possible to accomplish
such a thing, he would bring that audacious Scarlet Pimpernel back to
Choisy in chains. The Commissary rubbed his hands together with glee.
He had never done a better morning's work in all his life. Five
hundred, or what would be left of it after he had shared it with the
captain and the men, was a fortune in these days of penury. Yes, Chief
Commissary Lacaune had reason to be elated. He rose and with an
inviting gesture begged his distinguished visitors to join him in a
vin d'honneur at the Caf Tison.

Maurin accepted with pleasure. He liked to be on friendly terms with
the Commissary, who was the most important personage in the Commune.
But Devinne asked politely to be excused. He was heartily sick of all
these people, the like of whom in his own country he would not have
touched with a barge pole. He longed to be back in England, where
rabble such as ruled France to-day would be sent to gaol for venality
and corruption. He took his leave with as polite a bow as he could
force himself to make. The Commissary tinkled his bell, the clerk re-
entered and ushered Citizen Collin out of the place.

Maurin gazed thoughtfully on the door that had closed behind the
pseudo Canadian farmer.

"A strange person that," he remarked to his friend Lacaune. "Do you
suppose he spoke the truth?"

The Commissary gave a gasp. He did not relish this sudden onslaught on
his newly risen hopes.

"I'll soon ascertain," he replied tartly, "for I'll send up to La
Rodire to liberate Citizen Chauvelin and the men from durance. If
they are not there, it will give the lie to our Canadian; in which
case--" he went on, and completed the sentence by drawing the edge of
his hand across his throat.

"And, anyway, I am having him watched. You may be sure of that, my
friend." After which he gave a short laugh and added lightly:

"But I am more than hopeful that my men will find the distinguished
member of the Committee of Public Safety locked up in the cellar of
the Chteau, as our friend the Canadian has truly informed us."

With that the worthy Commissary took his friend the lawyer by the arm
and together the two compeers adjourned for a vin d'honneur at the
Caf Tison.




BOOK V - THE CHIEF



31  THE DREAM

To Ccile de la Rodire that January day and night always seemed to
her afterwards more like a dream than a reality. She certainly lived
through those twenty-four hours more intensely than she had ever lived
before. It seemed as if everything that the world could hold of
emotion and excitement all came to her during that short space of
time.

There was that awful rioting to begin with, the invasion of her
stately home by that turbulent mob who shouted and sang and danced,
and mocked and baited her in a manner that for years to come would
always bring a rush of blood to her cheeks. And then the amazing,
appalling and mysterious figure of that fiddler, who had suddenly
grown in stature, and become a sort of giant, endowed with superhuman
strength. She could see him at any time just by closing her eyes,
stretching out his immense arms and picking up that small, sable-clad
man as if he were a bale of goods, throwing him over his shoulder and
carrying him away through the hall and down the grand staircase,
followed by the yelling and cheering crowd. Ccile could see it all as
a vision. Never would she forget it. She had by that time been worked
up to such a pitch of excitement that the whole world appeared as if
it tottered round her, and that at any moment she and all that awful
rabble would be engulfed in the debris of the chteau.

After that intensely vivid picture, what followed was more dim and
equally unreal. She remembered seeing poor Franois, who was nothing
but a wreck of his former proud self, dragging himself out of the room
and desiring her to come with him. But this she did not do. She
remained in the great hall where a strange silence reigned after the
din and hurly-burly of a while ago. The shades of evening were drawing
in and she was alone with Simon Pradel. He talked to her at great
length in a quiet measured voice, and she listened. He told her of the
danger in which she stood, she and all those she cared for. Strangely
enough it never entered her head to doubt him. He said so, therefore
it must be true. He then pointed out to her the way, the one and only
way by which she could save maman and Franois and faithful old Paul
and Marie from that awful, awful guillotine. Again she listened, and
never doubted him for an instant. There was to be a mock marriage. She
would have to bear his name, and nothing more, until such time as
France and the people of France were granted a return to sanity. She
and maman and Franois, and the two old servants, would have to live
under his roof and accept his hospitality, for his name and his house
would be a protection for them all against danger of death.

After that he went away and she was left alone to ponder over these
matters. Since then so many more things had happened that she had no
time to analyse her feelings. But now she was alone and she could
think things over, all those things that seemed so like a dream. One
thing was certain. After Pradel had left her, she did not feel
altogether unhappy. Very excited, yes, but not unhappy. She had gone
back to maman and Franois. Maman was quite placid, doing her usual
crochet-work, not the least bit interested in hearing what had
happened during those two hours of nightmare when what she termed the
lowest dregs of humanity had polluted the old chteau with their
presence. Franois tired out with emotion which he had been forced to
suppress for so long, sat by sulky and taciturn, obviously pondering
on what he could do to have his revenge.

All was quiet in the chteau then. After a time Paul and Marie
gathered their old wits together and prepared and served supper for
the family. It was taken almost in silence, all three of them being
absorbed in thoughts they could not share one with the other. At nine
o'clock they all assembled for prayers in the small boudoir, and at
half-past nine came bedtime, and Paul was on the point of going
downstairs to put out lights and bolt the front door, when the sound
of heavy footsteps coming up the grand staircase caused terror to
descend once again like a thundercloud upon these five unfortunates.
Franois cursed under his breath as was his wont. Madame la Marquise
raised aristocratic eyebrows, and, with a sigh of resignation, resumed
her crochet-work. Marie shrank into a remote corner of the room, while
Ccile strained her ears to listen to those footsteps which had halted
on the threshold of the grand salon for a moment, only to resume their
march in the direction of the concealed door of the boudoir.

What did it all mean? Pradel had, of course, warned her of danger, but
had also declared that danger was not imminent. He was to call for her
to-morrow morning at ten o'clock and go with her to the mairie where,
if she consented, the formalities connected with the new form of civil
marriage would immediately take place. She, Ccile de la Rodire,
would after that become nominally Madame Simon Pradel, and maman and
the others would be safe against such awful contingencies as those
ominous footsteps now fore-shadowed. Paul, with the instinct of the
old retainer, set to guard the welfare of his masters, slipped out
into the vestibule ready to face a whole crowd of miscreants, if they
dared interfere with them. Before closing the door behind him he said
to Franois in a half-audible whisper:

"While I parley with them, Monsieur le Marquis, take the ladies down
the back staircase to the sous-sol. I will say that Marie and I are
alone in the chteau, and that you all drove away an hour ago in the
direction of Corbeil."

Franois saw the force of this advice. There were several good hiding-
places in the vast area below the ground. There was even an
underground passage which led to a dependency of the chteau, where
the laundry, the buttery and so on were situated. At any rate the
advice was worth taking.

"Come, Maman," he said curtly to his mother, and with scant ceremony
took crochet-needle and wool out of her hands, even while from the
grand salon there rang out the harsh word of command:

"Open in the name of the Republic!"

"How did those devils know where we were," Franois muttered between
his teeth: "and how did they find the door behind the tapestry?"

There was no time, however, to speculate over that. Suddenly there was
a terrific bang, a deal of cursing and swearing and an agonizing cry
of protest from Paul. The door had been broken open. Madame la
Marquise, aided by her son and Ccile, was struggling to rise, but she
was old and heavy. She got entangled in the wool and fell back in her
chair dragging Ccile down with her.

Paul now slipped back into the room, but remained standing with his
back to the door, holding it against the intruders.

"Quick, Madame la Marquise," he urged in a hoarse whisper, "the
staircase."

It was too late. Franois wasted a few moments in fumbling in a drawer
for a pistol and seeing that it was loaded, and he had just got the
ladies as far as the opposite door, when Paul was violently thrown
forward and sent sprawling right across the room. Four men pushed
their way in. They wore shabby military uniforms and each carried a
pistol. Franois levelled his, but one of the men who appeared to be
the sergeant in command said sharply in a tone of authority:

"Put that down or I give the order to fire."

By way of a retort Franois cocked his pistol It was promptly knocked
out of his hand, and he was left standing like an animal at bay,
glaring at the soldiers, the ladies and the old servants crowding
round him. Even his facility for cursing and swearing had deserted
him. Madame la Marquise was speechless and dignified. She would not
allow that rabble to think that she was afraid. Paul and Marie took
refuge in murmuring their prayers. Ccile alone kept a level head.

When the sergeant rapped out the order:

"Arrest these people in the name of the Republic," and all four men
stepped forward, each to put a hand on her and those she cared for,
she said, with as much pride as she could call to her aid:

"I pray you not to put hands on us. We will follow you quietly."

And seeing that the sergeant then gave a sign to his men to step back
again, she added:

"I hope you will allow Madame la Marquise and myself, also our maid,
to put a few things together which we may need."

"I regret, Citizeness," the sergeant replied firmly, but not unkindly;
"time is short and my orders are strict. I have a coach waiting
outside to convey you to Choisy without a moment's delay. Your
requirements will be attended to to-morrow."

"But my man..." Madame la Marquise protested. They were the first
words she had uttered since this unwarrantable incursion by these
insolent plebeians into her privacy, but she did not get any further
with what she would have liked to say. She had a great deal of
dignity, had this foolish old lady, and a goodly measure of sound
French common sense. The fact that the sergeant stood by like a wooden
dummy, obviously just a slave to his duty, with no feeling or humanity
in him, helped her to realize that neither resistance, nor hauteur nor
abuse, would be of the slightest use. The insolent plebeians stood now
for Fate, inexorable Fate, and the decree of le bon Dieu who had
chosen to inflict this calamity on her and her children, and against
whose commandments there was no appeal.

Ccile did not speak again either. She picked up a shawl and wrapped
it round her mother. She looked a pathetic little figure in her thin
silk dress. The small room was warm with a wood fire burning in the
grate, but it looked as if she would have to go and face a long drive
with no protection against the cold save her lace fichu. She heard the
sergeant say curtly:

"There are shawls and wraps in plenty downstairs, Citizeness."

That seemed a strange thing for a revolutionary soldier to say, for
they had not the reputation of being considerate to state prisoners.
Ccile glanced up at the sergeant, her lips framing a word of two of
gratitude, but he stood back in the shadow and she could not see his
face.

Franois had remained silent all this time, with still that look as of
a baffled tiger in his eyes. His teeth were tightly clenched, so were
his fists. Ccile was thankful that he did not make matters worse by
indulging in violent curses or loud abuse. At one moment he made a
movement and raised his fist as if he meant to strike that insolent
sergeant in the face first and then make a dash for freedom, but
immediately four arms were raised and four pistols were levelled at
him. Madame la Marquise said dryly: "No use my son. You would, anyhow,
have to leave me behind."

Each of the soldiers now took a prisoner by the arm. The sergeant
leading the way with Madame la Marquise and poor old Marie left to
follow on alone. The small procession then marched out of the room in
close formation. They traversed the wide salon and descended the grand
staircase. Staircase and hall were only dimly lighted by one oil-lamp
and placed in a convenient spot on a consol table. Ccile was walking
immediately behind her mother. In the dim light she could vaguely see
the tall sergeant walking in front of her. She could see his broad
shoulders, one arm and the hand which held a pistol; the rest of him
was in shadow.

Down in the hall, on the centre table-a masterpiece of Italian art
left untouched after two raids by riotous mobs, because of its size
and weight-there was a pile of rugs and coats and shawls. Madame la
Marquise and Franois took it as a matter of course that these things
should have been provided for their comfort by the same men, police or
military, who had chosen this late evening hour for the arrest of
three women and two men against whom no accusation of treason had yet
been formulated. Marie fussed round her old mistress with shawl and
mantle, and Paul round his young master with a thick coat. Ccile saw
the sergeant pick up a cloak and hood. He came behind her and put it
round her shoulders. She looked up at him while he did this and met
his eyes, kind, deep-set eyes they were, with heavy lids, and In their
depths a gentle look of humour which for some unaccountable reason
gave her a feeling of confidence.

But there was no time now to ponder over things, however strange they
might appear. Within a very few moments all five of them, maman,
Franois, the two servants and Ccile herself were bundled out of the
front door and into a coach which was waiting at the bottom of the
perron. A man, dressed like the others in military uniform, stood at
the horses' heads. He stepped aside when all the prisoners were
installed in the coach. Looking through the carriage window Ccile was
the sergeant talking for a moment to one of the men; he then climbed
up to the box-seat and took the reins. It was very dark, and the
carriage lanterns had not been lighted. One of the men led the horses
all the way down the avenue and through the main gate. The others had
evidently climbed up to the roof, for there was much heavy tramping
overhead.

Surely all that had been a dream. It couldn't all have happened, not
just like that and not in the space of a few hours. And the dream did
not stop there.

There were more happenings all through the night and the next day, all
of which partook of the character of a dream. Outside the main gate of
La Rodire the coach did not turn in the direction of Choisy, but to
the right. It went on for a little while and then drew up. Some one
lighted the carriage lanterns, and after that the horses went on at a
trot. Ccile, whenever she looked out of the window, saw the snow-
carpeted road gliding swiftly past. The moon had come out again and
the road glistened like a narrow sheet of white crystals.



32  STRATAGEM

Ccile was wide awake for a long time. Her mother was asleep in the
farther corner of the carriage, so was Franois, who sat between them,
leaning against the back cushions. Paul and Marie had spent some time
murmuring their prayers until they, too, fell asleep. She herself must
have dozed off at one time, for presently she was roused with a jerk
when the coach wheels went rattling over cobblestones. This must be
St. Gif, she thought, for she could see houses and shuttered shops on
either side and an occasional street lamp. At one time there was a
peremptory call of "Halt!" followed by some parleying between the
sergeant-driver and what was probably a police patrol. Ccile caught
the words "citizen" and "papers" and "only my duty, Citizen Sergeant."
And presently the call:

"Right. Pass on."

And the wearying drive went on along the jolting road. Progress was
slow, because the ground was slippery for the horses, and the night
intermittently very dark when heavy snow-laden clouds driven by the
north-easterly wind obscured the pale face of the moon. The coach went
lumbering on for hours and hours, an eternity, so it seemed to the
unfortunate inmates, until presently the first streak of a cold grey
dawn came creeping in through the carriage windows. After which the
pace became less slow. The ground was, of course, as slippery as
before, but there was obviously a very firm hand on the reins, and
nothing untoward occurred to interrupt progress.

It was not yet daylight when once again the carriage wheels rattled
over a cobbled street. There were gleams of light to be seen through
shuttered windows on either side, and here and there a passer-by: men
in blouses, women with shawls over their heads. Le Perrey in all
probability, thought Ccile. The others were still asleep. Poor maman,
she must be terribly stiff and tired, and Franois looked more dead
than alive. Paul and Marie were muttering even in their sleep, words
that were prayers to God or protests against the cruel fate that
befell their master and mistress. Ccile had no idea whither they were
being driven, or whether this flight through the night would end in
safety or disaster. Fortunately maman was obviously not thinking on
the matter at all, whilst Franois effectually hid his own doubts and
fears behind a mask of sullen indifference.

Le Perrey was soon left behind, and after a time the coach was again
pulled up, this time in open country. There was a good deal of
scrambling overhead, and a minute or two later the carriage door was
opened and a pleasant, cultured voice said:

"I am afraid there is a piece of rough ground to walk over. Can you do
it, Mademoiselle?"

This, of course, was still part of the dream. Ccile heard herself
replying: "Yes, I can," and then adding tentatively: "But maman-"

And the pleasant voice responded: "I will carry Madame la Marquise if
she will allow me. Will you and Monsieur le Marquis descend,
Mademoiselle?"

Whereupon Ccile obeyed without demur. It seemed quite natural that
she should. Franois appeared to dazed to raise his voice. He got
down, and was followed by Paul and Marie, still mumbling prayers to le
bon Dieu. Madame la Marquise did not apparently care what happened to
her. She allowed herself to be lifted out of the coach without protest
and Ccile heard that same pleasant voice saying in English:

"Cloaks and rugs, Tony, for the ladies, and, Hastings and Glynde, take
the coach a couple of kilometres down that other road. Take out the
horses and bring them along with you to headquarters."

She understood what was said, though not quite all. A man put a shawl
round her shoulders, over her cloak, whilst another busied himself by
wrapping a rug round maman, who was lying snugly in the arms of the
tall sergeant. After which the little procession was formed, the
sergeant on ahead carrying maman, who was no light weight. Franois
came next with Paul and Marie, and finally she, Ccile walked between
two soldiers, one of whom had her by the elbow to guide her over the
rough ground, while the other, after a minute or two, performed the
same kindly office to poor old Marie.

And walking thus, in the rear of the little procession, the girl all
at once understood what was happening. These soldiers had nothing to
do with the Gendarmerie Nationale, the uniform of which they only wore
as a disguise. They were friends who were helping them all to escape
from death, the same friends who had saved the Abb Edgeworth from
that awful, awful guillotine. And the sergeant on ahead was none other
than the fiddler who had carried that small sable-clad form of a man
on his shoulder as if he were a bale of goods, and was carrying maman
now as if she were a child. She gazed almost awestruck on the
silhouette of that broad back ahead of her, for if her conjectures
were correct, then that pseudo-fiddler or pseudo-sergeant was none
other than the legendary Scarlet Pimpernel himself.

After which surmises and reflections Ccile de la Rodire was entirely
unconscious of the roughness of the road, of cold or hunger. She
became like a sleep-walker, moving without consciousness. Presently a
solid mass loomed out of the frosty mist. It was a house with trees
clustered round it. Its aspect, as it gradually was revealed to her,
appeared familiar to Ccile, but her brain was too tired to ponder
over this. The place looked deserted, the house in a state of
dilapidation. It had evidently been suddenly abandoned and left to the
mercy of rust and decay. The time-worn faade and crumbling stonework
told the usual pitiable tale of summary arrest and its awful
corollary.

The way up to the front door was along a short drive bordered by
Lombardy poplars. There was a low perron of three or four steps. To
Ccile's intense astonishment she presently perceived that the place
was not deserted, as she thought, for two men were standing on the
perron. At sight of the approaching party they came down the steps,
and called out in English: "All well?" to which her own escort replied
lustily: "Splendid!" They stood aside while the pseudo-sergeant
carried Madame la Marquise into the house. The others, including
herself, followed him. He crossed a narrow vestibule and went into
what might have been a small salon at one time, but now presented a
shocking spectacle of wreckage: windows broken, doors off their
hinges, panelling stripped from the walls. There was no furniture in
the room except a few chairs, a horsehair sofa and a kitchen table.
The only cheerful thing about the place, and that was very cheerful
indeed, was a log fire in the open hearth. In spite of the broken
window the room was deliciously warm.

The sergeant deposited maman on the sofa, asked her in perfect French
how she felt, and on receiving a grateful smile in response, he turned
to Ccile.

"And now, Mademoiselle," he said, "We will get you some hot wine,
after which you can all have a short rest. But I am afraid we must
make a fresh start within the hour, and I shall have to ask you and
Madame la Marquise, as well as Monsieur le Marquis, to don the country
clothes which you will find the chest in the next room, together with
all requirements to make yourselves look as like as possible to a
company of worthy yokels and bumpkins on their way to the nearest
market town. One of us will, with your permission, put the finishing
touches on your disguise."

And the next moment he was gone, leaving behind him an atmosphere of
cheerfulness and of security. Even Franois reacted to that. The
ladies trooped into the next room, burning with curiosity to see the
dresses which they were ordered to wear. Maman said quite seriously:
"I think God has sent one of His angels to protect us." Marie murmured
a fervent: "Amen!"

But Ccile didn't speak. She was under the spell of the marvellous
discovery she had made, namely, that maman, she and Franois, all of
them, in fact, had been rescued from death by that marvel of God's
creation, the Scarlet Pimpernel.



33  THE BALD PATE OF CHANCE

How surprised they would all have been could they have seen through
the dilapidated walls of this ramshackle abode their rescuers sitting
on the table in what was presumably the kitchen. They were sipping hot
wine and talking over their impressions of this last glorious
adventure. Their noses and hands were blue with the cold, and they
were all going through the process of getting shaved. One of them had
served the fugitives with the hot wine, and presently they were joined
by Glynde and Hastings.

"Where did you leave the coach?" the chief asked them as soon as they
appeared.

"Do you know Moulins?" Glynde responded.

"Quite well."

"Just the other side of it. Past the church. We rode back, of course,
and Hastings was nearly thrown when his horse slipped on a sheet of
ice."

"No other accident?"

"No."

"Good. Now, any news here?" He turned to my Lord Galveston.

"Yes. Rather strange. When Holte and I got here about an hour ago, we
saw to our surprise smoke coming out of one of the chimneys. To make a
long story short, we found that a vagabond had quartered himself in
the place. We couldn't very well turn him out, and we felt that he was
less dangerous here than at large. So we let him stay where he was."

"And where is he now?"

"In the room next to this with a fire, a chair and a bottle of wine."

"Let's have a look at him."

Blakeney and Galveston went into the room to have a look at the
intruder. He was just a miserable wreck of humanity, of the type
found, alas! all too frequently on the high roads these days. There
were a few dying embers in the hearth and three empty bottles on the
floor beside it.

"The miserable muckworm," my Lord Galveston muttered and swore
lustily; "he has ferreted out our stores and stolen two bottles of our
best."

The "miserable muckworm," however, was impervious to his lordship's
curses. He was squatting on the floor, his head resting precariously
on the hard seat of the chair, fast asleep.

Galveston was for shaking the fellow up and throwing him out of the
place. But Blakeney took his friend by the arm and dragged him back
forcibly into the kitchen.

"You lay a hand on that gossoon at your peril," he said, with his
infectious laugh. "Do you know what he really is?"

"No, I do not."

"He is the one hair on the bald pate of Chance which you and Holte
have enabled me to seize."

"I don't understand."

"No, but you will by and by. Is there a key to that door?"

"Yes, on the inside."

"Get it, my dear fellow, will you? Then lock the door and give me the
key."

"Everything all right here?" he asked, turning to Holte (Viscount
Holte of Frogham, familiarly known as "Froggie").

"I think everything."

"Horses?"

"With the two out of the coach we have six. Those here are quite
fresh."

"And vehicles?"

"Two light carts. Covered."

"Good. Tony, you must take charge. You and Hastings on one cart.
Glynde and Galveston on the other. I want Froggie to remain here with
four horses which we shall want later. You fellows must drive by way
of Dreux to that little village we all know they call Trouville. Avoid
the main road and you will find the side tracks quite safe. Tony has
all the necessary papers. I bought them of a poor caitiff in Choisy
who works in the commissariat, and, as a matter of fact, the country
on this side of the Loire is not yet infested by that murdering
Gendarmerie Nationale. When you get to Trouville make straight for the
Cabaret Le Paradis, a filthy hole, but the landlord is my friend to
the death. He is noted in the district as a rabid revolutionary, but,
as a matter of fact, he battens on me and is exceedingly rich. He is
grimy and stinks of garlic like the devil, but he'll look after you
till I come, which won't be long. Of course, there are risks. You all
know them and are prepared to face them. Bless you all."

There was silence amongst them after that for a moment or two. Four of
them there had one name on their lips which they were loth to utter-
Devinne. But Jimmy Holte and Tom Galveston, knowing nothing of the
young traitor's mutiny, asked where he was.

"Back in Choisy," the chief replied simply.

There were one or two more details of the expedition to discuss. The
present military uniforms must be discarded and simple country clothes
donned.

"I have already told the ladies about that," Blakeney explained, "and
I imagine you will find the whole party quite excited to play their
rle of country bumpkins. Froggie, who is such a dandy, will see that
they have not forgotten any important detail. Madame la Marquise is
quite capable of playing the part of a labourer's wife with a dainty
patch under her left eye and her finger-nails carefully tended."

"But what are you going to do, Percy?"

"Ffoulkes and I have a little piece of business to transact here. He
doesn't know it yet-that is why he looks such an ass, ain't it,
Ffoulkes? But he'll know presently. As a matter of fact, we are going
back to Choisy to get hold of Pradel. He must be in a tight corner by
now, poor fellow. But that one hair on the bald pate of Chance is
going to work miracles for us. I have all sorts of plans in my head
and Ffoulkes and I are going to have a rattling day, eh, Ffoulkes?"

"I am sure we are if you say so," Sir Andrew replied simply.

After which the party broke up on a note of gaiety and excitement. The
refugees were found to have donned the required disguises. Madame la
Marquise looked an old market woman to the life, Ccile was a very
presentable cinder-wench, and even Franois had taken pains to enter
into the spirit of the adventure and was as grimy and as unkempt as
any vagabond might be. A few small details here and there suggested by
my Lord Holte and the transformation from aristos to out-at-elbows
patriots was complete, which does not by any means tend to suggest
that elegance of mien is entirely a matter of clothes and cleanliness,
but that it goes very near it.

The start was made at nine o'clock. Two covered carts had been got
ready and their drivers were waiting in the road. Madame la Marquise
was again carried over the rough ground by the pseudo-sergeant, who to
her mind was more than ever a messenger from God. The whole party was
bundled in the tow carts, the drivers cracked their whips and away
they went.

The last picture that Ccile saw when she ventured to peep round the
hood of the cart remained engraved in her memory for the rest of her
life. This was the tall figure of the pseudo-sergeant standing by the
road-side, his slender hand up to the salute, looking for all the
world like one of those representations of the heroes of old which she
had admired in the museums of Paris-tall, erect, a leader of men, the
mysterious and elusive Scarlet Pimpernel.



34  THE ENGLISH SPY

Long before midday the whole of Choisy was seething with excitement.
All sorts of rumours had been flying about for the past two hours and
now they had received confirmation, and the most amazing happenings
ever known even in these revolutionary times were freely discussed in
the open streets, in every home and more especially in the cafs and
restaurants of the commune.

It seems that no less a personage than Citizen Chauvelin, who, it
appears, was an influential member of the Committee of Public Safety,
had been discovered in the Chteau de la Rodire, locked up with a
sergeant of the Gendarmerie Nationale in the cellar, and that thirty
men of the same military corps were found to have been locked up in
the adjoining stables. And the person who had single-handed
perpetrated this abominable outrage was none other than that legendary
English spy, that messenger of the devil known as the Scarlet
Pimpernel. And would you believe it, he was the fiddler who with his
band of musicians had played the rigaudon all the afternoon at the
chteau! Of course everybody remembered how he had shouted: "A spy! A
spy!" and "We shall all be massacred. Remember Paris!" and how he had
picked a little man up as if he were a bale of goods and had carried
him on his shoulder down the stairs and locked him up in the cellar.
Well, that little man was no spy at all, but a very important
personage indeed, member of the Committee of Public Safety, Citizen
Chauvelin. The men of the Gendarmerie Nationale, when they were
liberated from the stables, had hardly recovered from a drugged sleep.
A large jorum of wine and a number of empty mugs all containing the
dregs of some potent drug were scattered about the floor. The men knew
nothing of what had happened to them. They understood that Citizen
Chauvelin, under whose orders they were, had sent them some wine to
keep them warm. They were not fully in their senses yet when presently
they were marched back to Choisy, there to give an account of how they
came to have neglected their duty in such a flagrant manner by
drinking and falling asleep.

These remarkable events, however, were not by any means the only ones
that excited the population of Choisy almost to frenzy. There was the
rumour, now amounting to a certainty, of what had happened to the
citizen Dr. Simon Pradel. It appears that he had been out all night,
having been called to a serious maternity case in the late evening. By
the time he was free it was past nine o'clock and he went straight to
the hospital situated about three kilometres outside Choisy in the
little village of Manderieu. His regular time for attending there was
seven o'clock, so he went straight there without going home first.
But, mark what happened-and this was authentic-Dr. Pradel, founder and
chief supporter of this hospital for sick children, was refused
admission into the building. The gates were held by armed sentinels
who crossed their bayonets in front of him. On his demanding an
explanation an officer came across the forecourt and coolly informed
him that the government had taken over the hospital, that no doctor,
save those nominated by the National Convention, would be allowed to
practise there, and that if there were any reclamations to be made,
these must be addressed directly to them.

Of course no one could say exactly what Citizen Pradel thought of this
insult to the dignity of his profession. What was known, however, was
that he went straight back to Choisy and lodged a formal protest with
the Chief Commissary at the Town Hall against what he called this
outrageous action on the part of the government. It was also known
that he was there and then put under arrest and conveyed under escort
back to Manderieu, there to remain in charge of the Commissary of the
Commune, until such time as it was decided what course should be taken
with regard to conduct that was nothing short of an insult directed
against the Republic. As a matter of fact, those in the know asserted
with a wink that the Chief Commissary of the district desired to hand
over the responsibility of dealing with Citizen Pradel to his
subordinate at Manderieu. The young doctor was so well known in Choisy
that there was no knowing what the populace, already in ebullition
over the incidents of La Rodire, might not do when it heard of the
arrest of their popular townsman.

But even this extraordinary event paled before what really and truly
was the most astonishing, the most marvellous, the most miraculous and
most unexpected of all. The English spy, the mysterious and elusive
Scarlet Pimpernel, who for over two years had led the police of France
by the nose, who was the greatest and most dangerous enemy the
Republic had yet known, was captured, caught on his way to the coast.
Yes! captured, laid by the heels, trussed and manacled, and was now
under lock and key in the dungeons of the old castle. And there was a
big reward to come from the government for his apprehension. Five
hundred louis to be divided between the Chief Commissary, who had
ordered the pursuit, Captain Cabel co-operated in it with unexampled
valour. What had actually happened was this: Captain Cabel at the head
of a squad of Gendarmerie Nationale was in hot pursuit of the spy and
the aristos from La Rodire who were fleeing from justice. Half-way
between St. Gif and Le Perrey, they spied coming towards them, two
horsemen who were riding like the wind. Captain Cabel, seized with
suspicion, drew his men across the road, and was on the point of
crying "Halt," when the two horsemen suddenly drew rein at a distance
of not more than three metres, throwing their horses on their
haunches. They, too, wore the uniform of the Gendarmerie Nationale,
and one of them had a man riding on the pillion behind him.

"We've got him!" this man cried in a stentorian voice.

"Got whom?" the captain countered.

"The English spy! the Scarlet Pimpernel!"

"No!"

"Yes!"

"Where is he?"

"On the pad of my saddle."

The captain raised himself on his stirrups and beheld a kind of
vagabond with head hanging down on his chest and blood streaming from
his forehead. His legs were firmly secured together under the horse's
belly and his arms were tied with a rope round the soldier's waist.

"What?" he cried in amazement, "that beggarly tramp, the Scarlet
Pimpernel?"

"Beggarly tramp forsooth? He and his gang fought like ten thousand
devils. There were eight of us. Six are now in hospital at Le Perrey
with battered heads and broken bones. I downed him at last by giving
him a crack on the head with the but end of my pistol. When the others
saw him fall, they turned and fled taking their wounded with them."

"Wasn't there a coach?

"Yes. Stuffed full of aristos. We saw that first and ordered them to
halt, when were suddenly attacked from the rear, and while we fought
for our lives, the coach was driven away. But," the man concluded with
a shout of triumph, "we have got the leader of the gang, and we are
taking him to Choisy to get the reward. Do not bar the way, Citizen
Captain."

He set spurs to his horse, but Cabel and his squad did not move.

"One moment," the captain commanded. "Where do you come from?"

"From Dreux, of course," the other responded, and pointed to his
regimental number on his collar. "And we are going to Choisy."

"By whose orders?" Cabel asked.

"The Citizen Commissary at Dreux."

"What orders did he give you?"

"To keep a sharp look out for a gang of English spies, disguised, of
course, who are known to be in the neighbourhood, and, if we find
them, to convey them under arrest to Choisy."

"And do you know who I am?"

"Yes! The captain commanding the second division of the Gendarmerie
Nationale."

"Very well then, listen to my orders. You will immediately transfer
your prisoner to the saddle of my sergeant here, and you and your
comrade can go back to Dreux and report."

For a moment it seemed as if the other would refuse to obey. He and
his comrade even turned their horses as if ready to gallop back the
way they came, but at a word of command from the captain, the squad
closed in round them and no doubt they realized the futility of
rebellion. Within a very short time "the English spy" was transferred
to the sergeant's saddle. The captain watched the operation with a
grin of satisfaction. Here was luck indeed! He recalled the words
wherewith the Chief Commissary had finally dismissed him: "Lose no
time, Citizen Captain, your promotion and your whole future depend on
your success."

And here were promotion, reward, success, all within his grasp and
without striking a blow. His name would ring throughout the length and
breadth of the land as the saviour of the Republic, the man who had
captured the Scarlet Pimpernel.

The squad was reformed, and soon the horses were put to a trot,
leaving those two others in apparent discomfort in the middle of the
road. Not a head was turned to see or an ear strained to hear what
they said. If it had, a strange sound would have come wafted over the
frosty air, a prolonged and ringing laugh, and a resonant voice
calling gaily in a language not often heard in these parts:

"That's done it, eh, Ffoulkes? Gad! I never spent such a pleasant
half-hour in my life. Now, hell for leather, dear lad. I know a short
cut across those fields, which will save us at least four miles."

But Captain Cabel and the men of his squad heard nothing of that
ringing laughter and resonant voice. They were trotting merrily along
the hard road back to Choisy, bearing in triumph, on the pillion of
the sergeant's saddle, the unconscious form of a beggarly vagabond who
was none other than the daring English spy the Scarlet Pimpernel.



35  AN UNWELCOME GUEST

To say that the news of the arrest of Dr. Pradel caused agitation in
Choisy would be to understate the true facts. The whole commune had
been seething with excitement all day, and by the time the street
lamps were lighted and the munition workers had trooped out of the
factories, excitement had turned to frenzy. A frenzy fostered partly
by indignation but mostly by fear. If the citizen doctor, as good a
young man as any one could wish to see, as straight, as loyal, as
generous, could without any warning see the bread taken out of his
mouth, could be cast into prison without as much as an accusation
being brought against him, could, nom d'un nom be brought to trial and
perhaps to death, then what chance had any respectable citizen, father
of a family perhaps, of escaping out of the clutches of such a
relentless government? Guillotine to the right of them, guillotine to
the left, guillotine and threat of guillotine all the time. Life would
soon not be worth an hour's purchase. As for liberty, was there such a
thing as liberty these days? Liberty to starve, yes, to send your sons
to be slaughtered in wars against the foreigners, but slavery in
everything else, and one trembled more fearfully these days before the
Chief Commissary of the Committee of Public Safety, than one did in
the past before those arrogant aristos.

Of course, none of these mutterings and grumblings reached the ears of
the powers that be. They were all done in a whisper, for one never
knew where government spies plied their dirty trade, nor in what
disguise, witness the citizen doctor who was obviously a victim to one
of that canaille. So everything that was said was said in a whisper,
whilst furtive glances of contempt were cast on the inscriptions that
decorated the portals of every public building: Libert, Fraternit,
Egalit.

Liberty, I ask you!

As usual the Restaurant and Caf Tison were the chief centre of
grumblings and discontent. Pradel! the doctor! the man who looked
after one when one was ill and after the children! What was going to
happen to the children when Pradel was no longer there? Oh! if one
only dared!...

But one didn't dare, that was the trouble. All one could do was to
troop down to Manderieu and there learn for certain what was happening
to Pradel. It was evening now, nearly six o'clock. But no matter. It
was dark, but every one knew the road to Manderieu. And so the company
trooped out in a body from the Restaurant Tison. As they all emerged
out into the Grand' Place, they called to their friends, and to casual
passers-by to join them. "Art coming, Jean? And thou, Pierre?"

"Whither are you going?"

"The Manderieu. The hospital is closed."

"I know."

"And Docteur Pradel a prisoner in the Commissariat."

"I know, but what can we do?"

"Let's go and see, anyway."

The three kilometres to Manderieu were soon get over. The little
village, usually so tranquil, had also caught the excitement which was
raging in the town. In the market-place where stood the hospital and
the Commissariat of Police, a small knot of country folk had
assembled, some by the gates of the hospital, where sentinels stood on
the watch, and others in front of the Commissariat. It was a silent
crowd. Only now and again was a voice raised to murmur or to curse.
The place was only dimly lighted by a couple of oil-lamps at the
hospital gates and one over the portal of the Commissariat. The crowd
from Choisy joined in now with the villagers of Manderieu. After this
fusion, silence was broken more frequently, but the attitude of
Pradel's sympathizers remained subdued. They were sorry enough for
him, and they were indignant, but they were also very much afraid.
None of them quite knew what it was that had brought them out in a
body to Manderieu, except perhaps the desire to ascertain just what
was happening to the citizen doctor and to the children's hospital. A
man down in the Restaurant Tison, they didn't know who he was, had
urged them to it. "After all," he had said, "things might not be so
bad as they seem. Docteur Pradel may not have been arrested and the
hospital may not be closed." But the hospital was closed and the
country folk of Manderieu declared that the doctor was a prisoner in
the Commissariat.

"Let us ask and make sure," some one in the crowd suggested to his
neighbour. And, as is the way with crowds, the suggestion was taken
up. It traveled from mouth to mouth until there were quite two hundred
malcontents who kept on reiterating: "Let us make sure," while others
just muttered: "Doc Pradel. Doc Pradel. Where is Doc Pradel?"

The Commissary was beginning to feel worried. Manderieu was a quiet
little hole where such things as turbulent crowds and rioters were
unknown. The holding of the popular doctor in durance pending further
instructions had been thrust upon him and he had been promised by his
superior that he would be relieved of responsibility by nightfall,
when the prisoner would be conveyed, under escort, back to Choisy. But
here it was six o'clock and Dr. Pradel was still the unwelcome guest
of Citizen Delorme, Commissary of Manderieu. The latter in his
distress sent a mounted messenger over to Choisy with a hurriedly
written note to his chief, demanding that the prisoner be removed from
the village as quickly as possible. But half an hour, at least, must
elapse before the return of the messenger, and in the meanwhile the
crowd had concentrated in front of the Commissariat and was striking
terror in the heart of Citizen Delorme by its persistent parrot-cry of
"Doc Pradel! Doc Pradel! We want to see Doc Pradel!" After a time the
cry was accompanied by boos and hisses and banging of fists and sabots
against the door of the Commissariat.

Delorme now was like Bluebeard's wife of the fairy tale. He had posted
two of his gendarmes at the entrance of the village, at a point where
a narrow side street led to the back of the Commissariat, with orders
to intercept any messenger or escort from Choisy, take them round to
the back gate of the building, then fetch the prisoner from the lock-
up and hand him over to the escort for conveyance to the city. And
like Bluebeard's wife, the unfortunate Commissary might have called in
his agony of mind: "Sister Anne, Sister Anne, is no one coming down
the road?"

His sergeant of the guard suggested his going to the door and talking
to the people. Delorme demurred. He did not relish facing the crowd.
There were a lot of loose stones lying about, one of them might be
hurled at his head.

"Sister Anne! Sister Anne!" He didn't use these words exactly, but the
sentiment that prompted the words he did use were the same as those
that caused Bluebeard's wife to call to her sister in the depths of
her terror and distress. In the end he had to come to a decision. Some
kind of risk had to be taken, flying stones or the certain
disapprobation of his superiors, if things went wrong with the
prisoner or the crowd got beyond control. The thought of such
disapprobation gave the unfortunate Commissary an unpleasant feeling
round the neck.

"Sister Anne! Sister Anne! is no one coming down the road?"



36  DUPED

At about this same hour in the late afternoon of this cold January
day, Citizen Lacaune, Chief Commissary of Choisy, was going through a
far more lamentable experience than that which befell his subordinate
at Manderieu. He had had two hours of absolute bliss when Captain
Cabel presented himself at the Town Hall with the marvellous, the
miraculous, the amazing news that he had really and truly succeeded in
capturing that damnable English spy, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and had
brought him into Choisy strapped to the pillion of the sergeant's
saddle, wounded and nearly dead, after a terrific fight wherein he,
Cabel, and his squad had displayed prodigies of valour. The worthy
Commissary nearly had a fit of apoplexy when he heard this wonderful
news. He gave the order that the notorious spy, safely bound and
gagged, be brought into his office and thrown down like a bale of
refuse in a corner of the room. He gazed with awe not unmixed with
astonishment at the helpless form of what seemed at first sight to be
that of a drunken vagabond. Like Cabel himself, his first feeling was
one of doubt that this miserable wreck of humanity could be the daring
adventurer whose name was dreaded throughout the whole country and who
had led the entire police force of the Republic for three years by the
nose. It was only after he had learned from the captain the whole
story of the amazing capture, the coach crammed full of escaping
aristos, of the attack and desperate fighting, that his doubts were
finally set at rest. Every one knew, of course, that spies are the
scum of the earth, and English spies more ignoble than those of any
other land. He ordered two of his gendarmes to stand guard over the
prisoner and then sent word of the joyful news to Citizen Chauvelin,
Member of the Committee of Public Safety. The latter was at the moment
nursing his wrath and humiliation in the house of Citizen Maurin, the
lawyer, who had offered him hospitality after his liberation from the
cellar of La Rodire.

Chauvelin had not only suffered humiliation for close on four-and-
twenty hours, but also bodily pain, lying on damp straw in an
atmosphere of stale alcohol and decaying corpses of rats and mice. He
had spent a few hours in bed, nursed devotedly by the lawyer, always
on the look out for a chance to secure for himself influential
friends. The news of the capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel was real
balm for his mental and bodily ills.

"I pray you, Citizen, come at once," the Chief Commissary had written
in his hurried message. "I am keeping the prisoner here under guard so
that you may have the satisfaction of seeing him yourself. I must say
he is not attractive to look at, nor does he inspire one with awe. A
big hulking fellow who looks like an unwashed mudlark. I had no
thought that a reputable government would employ such canaille even as
a spy."

A big hulking fellow who looks like an unwashed mudlark? How well did
that description fit in with Chauvelin's recollections of the several
disguises so cleverly assumed by that prince of dandies, Sir Percy
Blakeney, Bart. He could have laughed aloud, as that reckless Scarlet
Pimpernel was ever wont to do, when he remembered Mantes and Limours
and Levallois-Pret, the trial of Henri Chanel and Mariette Joly, the
coal-heaver, the drunken lout of the Cabaret de la Libert, the
fiddler at La Rodire and the countless other times when he had been
baffled by that pastmaster in the art of disguise. A big hulking
fellow who looks like an unwashed mudlark may have raised doubts in
the mind of the Chief Commissary of Choisy, but not in his. He sent
word to Citizen Lacaune that he would be round at the Town Hall within
half an hour, and while he rose and dressed himself, he forced his
mind not to dwell on the triumph which awaited him there, for he felt
that if he thought on it too much he would surely go mad with joy.

Then, of course, came the catastrophe. As soon as Citizen Chauvelin
arrived at the Town Hall he was ushered with every mark of respect
into the office of the Chief Commissary. It was a large room, lighted
by an oil-lamp which hung from the ceiling and a couple of wax candles
on the centre desk. In a far corner, to which the light did not
penetrate, Chauvelin perceived the vague outline of a human form lying
prone behind two men in uniform with fixed bayonets. His enemy! A deep
sigh of contentment, of joy and of triumph escaped his breast. The
excitement of the moment was almost more than he could bear. His hands
were cold as ice and his temples throbbed with heat. He tried to
appear calm, to show dignity and aloofness while receiving the
deferential greeting of the Chief Commissary, and a brief report of
the circumstances under which the amazing capture was effected. Then
at last he felt free, free to gaze on the humiliation and the
helplessness of the man who had so often brought him to shame. He
picked up a candle and walked with a firm step across the room. The
prisoner lay on his side, his head turned to the wall. He was bound
round and round his whole body with a rope. Chauvelin stooped, holding
the candle high, and with his thin, claw-like hand turned the man's
head towards the light.

He gave one cry, like that of a man-eating tiger when robbed of its
prey, and the heavy candlestick fell with a loud clatter on the floor.
Then he turned like a fury on the Chief Commissary, who was standing
by his desk, rubbing his hands complacently together, a smile of
beatitude on his face.

"You oaf!" he cried out hoarsely. "You fool! You...you...!"

Words failed him. Lacaune's face was a picture of complete
bewilderment, until Citizen Chauvelin finally almost spat out the
words at him:

"This lout is not the Scarlet Pimpernel."

There followed a dead silence. The Commissary felt that his senses
were reeling. He trembled as if suddenly stricken with ague and sank
into a chair to save himself from falling. The candle sent a stream of
wax on the carpet; Chauvelin stamped on it viciously with his foot.

"Not the Scarlet Pimpernel?" Lacaune contrived to murmur at last.

"Any idiot would have known that," the other retorted savagely.

"But...but," the Commissary stuttered, "the captain-"

"I don't know what lies the captain told you, but they were deliberate
lies, and he and you and the whole pack of you will suffer for this
blunder."

With that he strode out of the room, thrusting aside the obsequious
clerk, whilst Citizen Lacaune, Chief Commissary of Choisy, remained
sunk in his chair in a state of collapse.

When presently the messenger from Manderieu was ushered into his
presence, he was not in a fit state to give instructions to anyone.
What he needed was first a tonic for his shattered nerves and then
guidance as to what in the world he was to do now to save his own
neck. The clerk who had introduced the messenger casually mentioned
the name of Pradel, whereupon the Chief Commissary contrived to pull
himself somewhat together. Pradel! Yes, something might be done with
regard to Pradel, now in durance at Manderieu, a man of distinction
who was both noted and popular. If a charge of treason could be proved
against him, and he was brought to justice, the credit of it would be
ascribed to the zeal of the Chief Commissary, and it would effectively
counterbalance such accusations as Citizen Chauvelin would in his
wrath formulate against all those connected with this unfortunate
affair. The risk of rioting in the city, following an unpopular
arrest, appeared as nothing compared with this new terrible
eventuality.

Lacaune remembered the talk he had earlier in the day with Louis
Maurin, the lawyer, and the Canadian farmer. The latter had certainly
denounced Pradel as being in league with the Scarlet Pimpernel, and
Maurin had confirmed the charge. With a little luck, then, all might
yet be well. Chief Commissaries in outlying districts had before now
received important promotion through indicting notable personages in
their district and bringing them to justice. Then why not he? His
first move, then, was to send Delorme's messenger back to Manderieu
with written orders to send Dr. Pradel at once under escort to Choisy;
he then gave instructions to his clerk to seek out first Citizen
Maurin, the lawyer, and tell him that his presence at the Town Hall
was urgently required, and then the Canadian farmer named Collin, who
had sent in a request for a special travelling permit and would
probably be waiting at the Caf Tison till summoned to come and get
them.



37  ACCUSING SPECTRES

It was close on midday before the rumour of the arrest of Dr. Pradel
reached the ears of St. John Devinne. He had spent the morning in
planning and making active preparations for his journey first to Paris
and thence to England. Although he, like every member of the League,
was well provided by his chief with papers requisite for travelling
across France, he, Devinne, had never done that journey by himself,
nor had he done it since France and England were actually in a state
of war, when difficulties that usually confronted travellers of
foreign nationality would be considerably increased. Against that he
flattered himself that he had made friends with the Chief Commissary
and the staff at the Town Hall, and that he could apply there for
special permits and papers that would greatly facilitate his movements
across country, and this he did. The clerk received him most affably,
took his petition in to the Chief Commissary and came back with the
reply from his chief that Citizen Collin's request would be complied
with as soon as the papers could be got ready. But, as in all official
matters in France these days, the getting the papers ready took a
considerable amount of time. Devinne had no fixed abode in Choisy. He
did not feel that he could go again to the derelict cottage, so full
of memories, and was compelled in consequence to kill time as best he
could in one of the smaller cafs of the town. And here it was that he
first heard the rumour of the closing of the hospital at Manderieu and
of the arrest of Dr. Pradel.

He heard it with unmixed satisfaction. Blakeney's plans, then, had
been brought to naught. Pradel was not being conveyed to England in
the company of Ccile de la Rodire, and the almighty Scarlet
Pimpernel had failed in his purpose. Failed lamentably, despite his
arrogance and belief in himself. Devinne could have stood up on a
table and shouted for joy. As to what would be the ultimate fate of
that upstart Pradel, he cared not one jot. Anyway, he would be parted
from Ccile for ever. Time after that did not seem to hang quite so
heavily on the young traitor's hands. He went two or three times over
to the Town Hall to see about his papers, but he was still put off
with vague assurances that they were being got ready. All in good
time.

Then, in the early part of the evening, he heard the great news, the
wonderful, miraculous news which spread through the little city like
wildfire. The English spy, the daring and mysterious Scarlet
Pimpernel, had been captured by Citizen Captain Cabel of the
Gendarmerie Nationale, captured and brought to Choisy, wounded and
bound with cords, and was even now in the Town Hall pending his
incarceration in the Old Castle. It must be said with truth that
Devinne did not receive this news with the same satisfaction as he had
that of Pradel's arrest. Something stirred within the depths of his
soul which he could not have defined. He certainly could not have
shouted for joy. It was not joy that he felt. Not elation. Not
triumph. Was it the first stirring of remorse or of shame? He, St.
John Devinne, Earl Welhaven, son and heir of the Duke of Rudford, the
greatest gentleman, the finest sportsman that ever sat a horse, had
done a deed of darkness which for infamy had not had a parallel for
close on two thousand years. And as he sat there in this squalid caf,
he fell to wondering whether if, amongst that rag-tag and bob-tail
round him, there was one man base enough to have done what he did. He
was before his eyes a vision of the friend he had betrayed, light-
hearted, debonair, the perfect type of an English gentleman, now lying
bound with cords at the mercy of a proletarian government that knew no
compunction.

So insistent was the vision and so harrowing, that he felt he could
bear it no longer. He tried to visualize Ccile, the woman for whose
sake he had committed this vilest of crimes, but her picture evaded
him, and when his mind's eye caught sight of her fleeting image, she
was looking down on him with horror and contempt. There rose in him
the desire to obliterate these phantasma, to saturate his brain with a
narcotic that would rid him of their obsession. He ordered eau de vie,
and drank till he felt a warm glow coursing through his veins, and his
sight became so blurred that he could no longer see those accusing
spectres. Soon he felt hilarious. Avaunt ye ghosts! ye vengeful
apparitions with your flaming swords! Come pride, come triumph! The
arrogant school-master, the tyrannical dictator has been effectually
downed. Let us laugh and sing and dance, enjoy every moment of life as
this half-starved rabble was doing, pending the inevitable day when
that all-embracing guillotine would hold them in her arms.

St. John Devinne was not quite sober, nor was he very drunk when a
couple of hours later he became aware of a certain agitation among the
customers of the caf. Words which at first had no meaning for him
were bandied to and fro. Men rose from the tables at which they had
been sitting and joined others, and remained with them in compact
groups talking in whispers, gesticulating, ejaculating: "Impossible!"
or "Who told thee?" together with plenty of cursing and mutterings.
Excitement became more intense when Andr the street-cleaner came
running in, brandishing his broom and shouting: "It is true. True. The
man they have got is not the English spy." And those last words: "not
the English spy," were taken up by others, until the low-raftered room
seemed to ring from corner to corner with them. Devinne sat up and
pricked up his ears, demanding a class of cold water and drank it down
at a gulp. Yes! some one was just saying: "Where didst hear all this,
Andr?"

And the street-cleaner explained with volubility: "I have it from the
clerk of the Town Hall himself. He was talking to the citizen captain
and telling him, as he valued his neck, to go into hiding somewhere,
anywhere, at once, if he could. It seems that the Member of the
Committee of Public Safety who was locked up in the cellar of La
Rodire has sworn that every man connected with the affair would be
sent to the guillotine within twenty-four hours."

Devinne never could have said afterwards what exactly were his
feelings when he heard this news. It must have been relief, of course,
to a certain extent. His crime was none the less heinous, of course,
but, at any rate, the spectral vision of his friend, Percy Blakeney,
lying at the mercy of a crowd of savage brutes thirsting for his
blood, would no longer haunt him. He rose, paid for his drinks and
with somewhat uncertain steps made for the door and the open. Here he
paused a moment, leaning against the wall. His temples were throbbing,
and at the back of his mind there stirred the recollection of those
papers and the travelling permit which were to be delivered to him at
the Town Hall. As soon as the cold, frosty air had revived him, he
made his way to the Commissariat, hoping to get speech with the Chief
Commissary or, at any rate, with the clerk.

But to his chagrin he found the gates closed and sentinels posted to
warn off all visitors. Impossible to gain access even to the
courtyard. An amiable passer-by, noting his distress, volunteered the
information that the Citizen Commissary had given orders that no one
was to be admitted inside the Town Hall under any circumstances
whatever.

"I suppose you have heard the news, citizen," the passer-by continued
affably. "It will be a regular cataclysm for all the officials in
Choisy when the Committee of Public Safety gets hold of the affair . .
."

But Devinne listened no further. He suddenly had the feeling as if a
trap was closing in upon him. Not that he was actually frightened, for
he had not yet realized that his position after this might become
serious, but he did suddenly remember that when he had applied for the
special travelling permit he had been made to deposit his existing
passport at the Commissariat, but he had done it under a promise from
his friend the Chief Commissary that all his papers and the special
permit would be delivered to him in due course. But there was the
question now, would this friend be in a position to keep his word with
this awful cataclysm hanging over his head.

Anyway, there was nothing that could be done to-night. It was close on
nine o'clock, and the various cafs did not of a certainty offer any
attraction, with their squalor, their abominable coffee and their
jabbering crowds. But there was always the derelict cottage which,
though not very attractive either, did, at any rate, offer shelter for
the night, and Devinne turned his footsteps thither, hoping that he
might get a few hours' sleep, free from the nightmare that had haunted
him for the past four-and-twenty hours. The place looked very much the
same as it had done when he left it in the morning, the candle and
tinder were in their usual place, but as soon as he had struck a light
he got the impression that some one had been in the place during the
day-was it Blakeney, by any chance?-surely not, for he must be half-
way to Trouville by now with the refugees. There had always been the
possibility of the cottage being invaded by vagabonds or even by the
police. Certain it was that some one had been here, for the pile of
garments in the corner had been disturbed, and on looking round
Devinne spied on the floor near the empty hearth, a bottle of wine,
half empty, and beside it a mug with dregs in the bottom. The place as
a night-shelter would obviously not be safe. Devinne blew out the
candle and made his way out once more, and then turned his steps back
in the direction of Choisy.

There was a fairly decent inn in the Rue Verte. Devinne secured a room
there. He was quite thankful now that he had been obliged to seek
night quarters elsewhere than in the cottage, for he was badly in need
of what the derelict cottage could not offer him, namely, a good wash.



38  SISTER ANNE

And all this time the tumult in the neighboring little village of
Manderieu had been growing in intensity, and Citizen Delorme,
Commissary, was at his wits' end and in a state bordering on despair.
Then suddenly, when the crowd was on the point of storming the
Commissariat, "Sister Anne," in the form of one of the gendarmes whom
Delorme had posted at the entrance to the village, came running in
with the welcome news that Chief Commissary Lacaune had sent an escort
round with written orders to convey Dr. Pradel immediately to Choisy.
Even Bluebeard's wife could not have felt greater relief than did the
harassed Commissary.

"Where," he asked, "is the escort now?"

"At the back, Citizen," came the quick answer. "Waiting at the gate."

"On horseback?"

"Yes, Citizen."

"How many men?"

"Only two, but they are stalwarts. The Chief Commissary sent word that
they would be sufficient. They have a third horse on the lead."

"Quite right. Quite right. Let the prisoner be smuggled out very
quietly by the back way-he'll make no trouble, I'll warrant-and let
him be handed over to the Chief Commissary's men. After that, we shall
have peace in Manderieu, please God-"

He checked himself abruptly. On the spur of the moment, much relieved
at the conclusion of this tense situation, he had forgotten that the
Government had decreed by law that God no longer existed. Delorme, a
loyal servant of the Republic, hoped that the gendarme had not heard
his pious ejaculation.

Five minutes later, satisfied that his unwelcome guest had been duly
handed over to the men from Choisy, and was well on the way to the
city, he made up his mind to face the noisy crowd outside. No sooner
he had commanded the door of the Commissariat to be opened than he was
greeted with hoots and boos, and a first shower of loose stones,
which, fortunately, failed to hit him. The gendarmes then charged into
the crowd and thrust it back some way down the place, whilst
Commissary Delorme's voice went ringing across the market-square.

"Citizens all," he bellowed at the top of his voice, "you are mistaken
in thinking that Docteur Pradel is in my charge. By order of my
superior he was conveyed to Choisy some time ago."

As was to be expected, this assertion was received with incredulity.
There were more boos and hisses, and one stone flung by a practised
hand hit and broke a window. The crowd then stormed the Commissariat,
and made their way down to the lock-up, where they found the door wide
open and the captive bird very obviously flown. They also wandered in
and out of the offices and the private rooms of the Commissary, but,
not finding the man they sought, they went away again in a subdued
mood, some to their own homes in Manderieu, others to more distant
Choisy. They all shook their heads thoughtfully when they went past
the hospital and past the two sentinels at its gate.

It was some time later, when the small village had re-assumed its air
of tranquility and one by one windows and shutters had been closed for
the night, that the watchman asked leave to say a word to the Citizen
Commissary. The clock in the market-place had not long before struck
ten. The Commissary was in his nightshirt, about to get into bed, but
he ordered the watchman to come up.

"Well? What is it?"

"Only this, Citizen Commissary," the man said, and held up a grimy
piece of paper.

"What's that?"

"I don't know, Citizen. A letter, I think. I was doing my round and
had got as far as the cross-road, when a man of the Gendarmerie
Nationale gave me the paper and said: 'Take this to the Citizen
Commissary; he will reward you for your pains, and here is something
for your trouble.' And he gave me a silver franc."

Delorme took the paper and turned it round and round between his
fingers. There was something queer, almost eerie about this missive,
sent at this hour of the night.

"How long ago was this?" he asked.

"About half an hour, I should say. I finished my round and then came
on here. Is it all right, Citizen?"

"Yes," the Commissary replied curtly. "You may go."

Only when the watchman had gone did Delorme unroll the mysterious
missive. It turned out to be nothing but a hoax. There were four lines
of what looked like verse, but as these were written in a foreign
language which he, Delorme, did not understand, the joke, if joke
there was, failed to amuse him. The only thing that interested him was
a rough device at the end, by way of a signature possibly. It
represented a small five-petalled flower and had been limned in red
chalk.

The worthy Commissary put the note on one side, thinking that,
perhaps, on the morrow he might meet a learned man who was conversant
with foreign tongues. He would show the funny message to him.

After that he got into bed, snuffed out the candle, and went
peacefully to sleep.



39  THE CANADIAN

Chief Commissary Lacaune had spent a restless night. His mind was not
altogether at ease when he thought over the happenings of the past
eventful day. The tragic farce of the pseudo Scarlet Pimpernel, and
his capture by that dolt Cabel, weighed heavily on his soul. As for
the wrath of Citizen Chauvelin, whenever Lacaune thought of that a
cold shiver would course down the length of his spine. Somehow he had
a presentiment which drove away sleep from his weary lids. A prevision
of worse calamities yet to come.

And whey they came, which they did early in the morning, they proved
to be more dire than he had anticipated. No sooner had he settled down
to work in his office than his clerk brought in the staggering news
that the two men of the Gendarmerie Nationale whom he, Lacaune, had
dispatched in the course of the evening to Manderieu in response to an
urgent request from his subordinate, had been discovered half an hour
ago, lying bound and gagged in a field a hundred or so metres from the
roadside, half-way between Choisy and Manderieu. The third man, who
belonged to the village gendarmerie and had been Delorme's messenger,
was found a couple of hundred metres farther on in a field the
opposite side of the road. He had started from Choisy a quarter of an
hour before the other two. All three men, when freed from their bonds,
told the same pitiable tale. They were attacked in the dark by what
they supposed were common footpads, when there were no passers-by on
the road. The rogues had suddenly jumped out from behind a clump of
trees and were on them before they had a chance of defending
themselves. Commissary Delorme's messenger had been quickly knocked
out. He was alone. The other two vowed that they had put up a good
fight, but the miscreants were armed with pistols, while they only had
their cutlasses, which they never had a chance of drawing. They were
dragged out of their saddles by a man who was a veritable giant for
strength, and knocked on the head so that they lost consciousness and
remembered nothing more till they found themselves in the field,
trussed like fowls and frozen stiff. Their horses were nowhere to be
seen.

The three men were ushered into the presence of the Chief Commissary,
but they could only reiterate their story. They supposed that robbery
was the object of the attack, but none of them carried anything of
value. One certainly had the written order of the Chief Commissary
tucked in his belt, but that would be of no use to highway robbers; at
any rate, it had disappeared, supposedly been lost in the scuffle.

At first the incident, grave as it seemed, could not be called
staggering. Three valuable horses were lost, and there were two
desperate footpads at large, but that was all. On the other hand
Commissary Delorme over at Manderieu was doubtless fretting and
fuming, waiting for the orders which had not come, and Chief
Commissary Lacaune now set to at once to re-indite the order to his
subordinate that the prisoner Pradel be at once sent under escort to
Choisy. He had just finished writing this out when another messenger
from Manderieu came riding in with the report from the Commissary of
the happenings of the evening before. After a graphic account of the
riots which had disturbed the peace of the little village and had only
been quelled by his, Delorme's presence of mind and courage in facing
the irate mob, the Commissary went onto say:

"You may imagine, Citizen, how thankful I was when your men arrived on
the scene with your orders to deliver the prisoner to them. I am glad
to be rid of him, as the people here would never have quietened down
while they knew that Pradel was held in durance in the Commissariat. I
presume you have him locked up in the Old Castle and can but hope that
the citizens of Choisy will prove less choleric over the incarceration
of their favourite leech than the country-folk of Manderieu."

Chief Commissary Lacaune had to read these last lines over and over
again before their full significance entered his brain. When it did he
was on the verge of an attack of apoplexy. What in the devil's name
did it all mean, and where in h--was Pradel? The escort whom he,
Lacaune, had sent to fetch him, had been put out of action before they
ever got to Manderieu. Then what happened? Where did it happen? and
what had become of Simon Pradel? Ah! if he ever put hands on that
stormy petrel again, the guillotine would not be robbed of its prey.
But in the meanwhile, what was to be done? He sent a mounted carrier
in haste to Manderieu to ask for fuller details. The courier returned
in less than half an hour with a further report from the Commissary,
stating that the prisoner, Dr. Simon Pradel, was duly handed over to
the two men of the Gendarmerie Nationale on a written order from the
Chief Commissary himself. To prove his assertion, Citizen Delorme
enclosed the order which one of the soldiers had handed over to him.
Moreover, he respectfully would ask his chief why his own messenger
had been detained in Choisy; he wanted all his men in Manderieu, as
the temper of the village folk was far from reassuring.

This second report, on the face of it, only made matters worse. Chief
Commissary Lacaune thought that both he and his subordinate were going
mad. Who were the two men of the Gendarmerie Nationale who had come to
fetch away the prisoner? How did the written order come into their
hands? What had they done with Pradel once they had got him? Was he.
Lacaune, awake or dreaming?

Luckily for him, his friend Louis Maurin presented himself just then.
At any rate, here was a sane man with whom one could talk things over
fearlessly. But the lawyer was in an unhelpful mood. He appeared
entirely indifferent as to the whereabouts of Simon Pradel.

"My good friend," he said with a shrug, "your stormy petrel, as you
rightly call him, is on his way to England by now, you may be sure,
and a good thing too. Let him be, I say. Once he is in the land of
fogs and savages, he can do no more mischief. If you start running
after him you will only get yourself into more trouble...like you
did yesterday. Let him be."

"But why should you say that he is on his way to England?"

"I am sure he is."

"But two of my men fetched him away from Manderieu."

"They were not your men at all."

"Who were they?"

"The English spies."

"You don't mean-?"

"The Scarlet Pimpernel whom that fool Cabel failed to lay by the
heels, and who has tricked you, my friend, as he has tricked our
police and our spies all over the country for nigh on two years. Yes!
that's the man I mean, and if I were you I would make the best of what
has happened and leave others to fish in those turbid waters."

At mention of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Chief Commissary Lacaune felt
thoroughly uncomfortable. Since the establishment of a free-thinking
and enlightened government, one had to be rational, what? Had to be a
man and not a weakling with mind full of superstitious nonsense such
as the calotins used to put into one in the past days. But nom de nom!
there was something unpleasantly mysterious about this elusive English
spy. Here one day, across country the next. A regular will-o'-the-
wisp. He slipped through one's fingers when one thought one had him
and trouble awaited any man who ever came across him. Lacaune drew a
deep sigh.

"You may be right, my friend," he said, "but it goes against the grain
and against my duty to let things be. I have always been a faithful
servant of the Republic, and I will not rest till I get tot the bottom
of this extraordinary occurrence. I am already in bad odour with the
Committee of Public Safety over that unfortunate affair yesterday, and
I feel that nothing but zeal will save me from disaster."

"Well, you will act as you think best," the lawyer said, and rose to
take his leave, "but, believe me-"

He was interrupted by the entrance of the clerk who handed him a
letter which had just come from the Committee of Public Safety,
sitting in special session at Sceaux, the capital of the department.
He asked at the same time if the Citizen Commissary would receive
Citizen Collin, who had come to inquire about his papers.

"Collin? Collin?" the jaded Commissary exclaimed, and fingered with
obvious apprehension the letter from the Committee of Public Safety.
Did it contain good or bad news for him? A threat? A warning? Or what?
To the clerk he said: "Tell Citizen Collin to wait." And when the
clerk had gone he turned to his friend.

"It was that Canadian, or whatever he is, who led me into sending
Cabel after that cursed English spy. I believe that it was all a
conspiracy to lead me off the scent, and that this man Collin is the
prime mover in it all. But I'll have him under lock and key at once.
I'll send him to join that ruffian who impersonated the Scarlet
Pimpernel and led us all by the nose."

After which piece of oratory, delivered with all the spite which he
felt against everything and everybody, he at last made up his mind to
read the letter which had been sent to him from Sceaux. First he
looked at the superscription. The letter was signed "Armand Chauvelin,
Member of the Committee of Public Safety," and its contents were the
following:

    "Citizen Commissary.

      "We, the Committee of Public Safety, sitting in extraordinary
session at Sceaux, desire you to send over to us for special enquiry
the man who impersonated the English spy and was brought a prisoner to
you in the course of yesterday. Our sittings are held in the Mairie.
If you have any other prisoner or suspect of note in your district,
send him also. The bearer of this note is in our employ. He knows just
what to do. Your responsibility ceases with the handing over of the
prisoner or prisoners to him."

Lacaune held the missive out to his friend, the lawyer. His hand was
shaking with excitement. His face was beaming both with joy and with
triumph. There was not a word of threat or warning in the letter. It
was quite simple, official, almost friendly; it showed, in fact, that
he had not forfeited the confidence of his superiors since it left it
to his direction to send along "any other prisoner or suspect in his
district." Here was relief indeed after the torturing fears of the
past twelve hours.

"My friend! my friend!" he cried, and rubbed his hands gleefully
together. "I feel a new man for all is well."

He took pen and paper and wrote a few words rapidly.

"What are you going to do?" Maurin asked.

"Send that damned Canadian too before the Committee of Public Safety
for special inquiry."

He tinkled his bell, and on the entrance of the clerk, handed him the
paper he had just written.

"Here," he said, "is an order for the arrest of the man, Collin. See
it carried out, then send the messenger from Sceaux in to me."

The lawyer now finally took his leave. The matter of the Canadian and
the pseudo Scarlet Pimpernel did not interest him in the least. With
Pradel out of the way he cared about nothing else. Left to himself,
Commissary Lacaune strode up and down the room, unable for sheer
excitement to sit still. At one moment he pricked up his ears when he
heard a tumult and some shouting outside his door. "The Canadian is
giving trouble," he muttered complacently to himself.

Presently the messenger was ushered in. He was a sober, fine-looking
official dressed in dark clothes. He wore a hat of the new sugar-loaf
shape which he took off when he entered. He also turned back the lapel
of his coat to show the badge which he wore indicative of his status
as representative or employee of the government. Lacaune addressed him
curtly:

"Who gave you this letter?"

"Citizen Chauvelin."

"You know its contents."

"Yes, Citizen."

"Your orders are to convey a certain prisoner to Sceaux."

"That is so."

"Are you riding or driving?"

"Driving, Citizen Commissary. I have requisitioned a cart with a hood
and a couple of good horses from a guard just outside this city.
Citizen Chauvelin said he did not wish the prisoner to be seen."

"A very wise precaution. Now listen. One prisoner will be handed over
to you here. Keep a special eye on him, he is dangerous. There is
another whom you will go and fetch at the Old Castle. One of my men
will accompany you as far as there with an order from me that the
prisoner be delivered over to you."

"I understand, Citizen."

"Would you like an escort as far as Sceaux?"

"Not unless you desire to send one, Citizen Commissary. But it is not
necessary. I am well armed and so is the driver."

"Very good, then. You can go."

The man saluted, turned on his heel and went out. The Commissary wrote
out the order to be taken to the Old Castle, gave it to his clerk and
then went to the window from which he had a view of the street. He saw
a cart with hood up, standing outside the gates. A pair of horses were
harnessed to the cart, they looked strong and fresh. After a moment or
two he saw the Canadian being brought across the courtyard by two
soldiers. He was in chains, wrist to ankle both sides of him, and was
apparently only just able to walk. Obviously he had given trouble. His
clothes were torn, his hair dishevelled, and his knuckles stained with
blood. The soldiers did not deal any too gently with him, and bundled
him like a bale of goods into the cart. The government representative
watched the proceedings with an official eye. When had had satisfied
himself that the prisoner was safely out of mischief, he beckoned to
one of the soldiers to sit on the tailboard of the cart while he
himself took his seat beside the driver. The latter flicked his whip
and away they went down the Rue Haute.

Chief Commissary Lacaune watched all these doings with utmost
satisfaction. He strode back to his desk, turned a few papers over,
but he felt too excited to settle down to business. He thought a glass
of wine would do him good; he picked up his hat and coat and went out,
telling his clerk that he would be back in an hour.

He didn't go straight to Tyson's for his glass of wine, being tempted
to stroll down as far as the Old Castle and see that miserable ruffian
who had hood-winked him take his place, also in chains, by the side of
that cursed Canadian. He was just in time to see this pleasing
spectacle; there is always something very soothing to the nerves to
witness the discomfiture of one's enemies. Citizen Lacaune exchanged a
few affable words with the government official, gave orders that the
two prisoners be chained one to the other for additional safety, and
when this was done, he went with a light, springy step to enjoy a
quiet half-hour with a glass of wine at the Caf Tison.



40  REMORSE

Under the hood of the cart, St. John Devinne gradually came to the
consciousness that this was in very truth the end of his inglorious
life. Shame and remorse both held him in their grip, and not only
because he had staked his honour on a despicable gamble and lost, but
also because he had at last realized the utter baseness of what he had
done. Visions of happy days under the leadership of a man who was the
bravest of the brave, who sacrificed his comfort, his happiness, even
his love, in order to succour the helpless and the innocent, to follow
whom was in itself a glory, tortured him with the knowledge that they
could never come again. They were past for ever because of his own
black treachery and there was nothing now ahead of him save darkness,
and in the end a shameful death.

It was not of death itself that he was afraid, but of the awful, awful
shame of it all, and of this racking remorse which might unnerve him
when the end came. That Chief Commissary had played him false, trapped
him like a noxious feline, and here he was now lying like a captive
beast driven to the slaughter-house, chained to a malodorous mudlark-
he, St. John Devinne, Earl Welhaven, son and heir of the Duke of
Rudford! Oh, the shame, the shame of it all! He ached in every limb,
his ankles and wrists were bleeding under the weight of the irons. The
close proximity of his grimy companion made him feel sick. The cold
was intense. Devinne trembled under a thick cloak that had been thrown
over him at one time, he did not recollect when. The day wore on with
agonizing slowness. At first Devinne had wondered whither he was being
driven, but soon he knew that he really didn't care. The ultimate end
of his journey would anyhow be the guillotine, so what did the halts
on the way matter? There were one or two halts, probably in order to
give the horses a drink and a rest. Several villages were passed on
the way, and at one time the cart rattled over what obviously was a
cobbled street, at the end of which the driver pulled up. There was a
good deal of talking and shouting. Apparently fresh horses were being
put to. Presently Devinne heard subdued voices quite close to him in a
rapid colloquy:

"You know the way, Citizen?"

"Quite well. I thank you."

"You will find good accommodation there for the night. Tell landlord
Freson I sent you. Henri Gros, that's my name. He will do the best for
you."

"And what do I owe you, Citizen Gros?"

"Twenty gold louis, Citizen. That will be for the two horses and the
cart. And if you ever bring them back this way and the horses are in
good condition, I will buy the lot back from you."

There followed obsequious thanks, from which Devinne gathered that the
bargain had been concluded. Vaguely he wondered why it had been made.
A change of driver apparently as well as of horses, but what did it
all matter to him? Somewhere in the town a clock struck three. The
shades of evening were beginning to draw in and through a chink in the
hood Devinne saw that snow was falling.

After many hearty "Good-byes" and "Bon voyages" a fresh start was
made. Soon the road became very rough and the jostling of the cart
added greatly to Devinne's discomfort. He felt terribly tired and
drowsy, but too ill to get any sleep. Everything around him now seemed
to be very still; the only sounds that reached his ears were the clap-
clap of the horse's hoofs over the snow-covered road and the
stertorous breathing of his fellow-captive. Weary almost to death,
Devinne fell into a trance-like somnolence. What roused him was the
presence of someone bending over him and the sound of the grating of a
steel file near his ankle. The cart was at a standstill and it was
getting dark; only the feeble glow of a small storm-lantern threw a
narrow circle of light round where his foot was. The pain of it was
almost intolerable, even when after a few minutes he felt those heavy
irons lifted away from his ankle. Through half-closed eyes he saw a
dark form bending to the task. As soon as his ankles were free,
dexterous fingers, armed with the file, started working on the irons
on his wrists.

Devinne thought that he was either delirious or dreaming. A sense of
well-being spread right through him when those horrible irons were
removed, and presently an arm was passed under his shoulders and the
neck of a bottle was pushed into his mouth. He took a great gulp, a
firey liquid flowed down his throat, he coughed and spluttered and
then fell back in a real state of unconsciousness.

Again he woke, this time feeling a different man. His ankles and
wrists were free and he was not nearly so cold. He sat up and looked
about him. The vehicle was still at a dead stop, and the night was
fast drawing in. All that Devinne could perceive through the gloom was
the body of his fellow-captive being lifted out of the cart by a pair
of powerful arms; the head was just vanishing beyond the tail-board.
Then he heard footsteps, heavy measured footsteps receding into the
distance. For a long time he was alone in the semi-darkness, sitting
up with his legs drawn up and his arms encircling his knees. He wanted
to think, but couldn't. His mind was at a standstill, as it is in a
dream.

All was silence around him, save for those footsteps treading the
snow-covered earth, receding at first, then a pause while he heard
nothing at all, and then the same footsteps returning. His heart was
beating furiously. He tried to call out, but the one word which he
longed to utter was smothered in his throat. It was the name of the
friend whom he had betrayed and who had risked his life to save him.
He could vaguely discern through the gloom the familiar tall form
mounting the driver's seat and picking of the reins, and after that
just the broad back, a solid mass hardly distinguishable now. He had
never felt quite so alone in his life, not even during that night in
the derelict cottage when he had planned his abominable treachery. He
had the company of his thoughts then, black, ugly thoughts and
torturing visions of past joys and future ignominious triumphs. Now he
had nothing, just that indistinct shadow in front of him which seemed
to be fading, fading into the gloom like his hopes, like his honour
and his joy of life.

There was still a faint pale light in the sky when the cart turned
abruptly to the left and then went plodding over very rough ground.
Devinne crept on hands and knees to the tail-board, and squatting on
his heels, he peeped out under the hood. Even in the gathering
darkness the place looked familiar. Away on his right he could see the
dim lights of what appeared to be a small city, but the cart was
driven round it, always over very rough ground, gradually leaving
those city lights behind. And suddenly Devinne realized where he was.
The small city was Le Perrey, and he was being driven to the lonely
house which was the headquarters of the League of the Scarlet
Pimpernel.

The cart drew up, and he heard a distant shout: "Hallo!" immediately
followed by an eager question: "All well?" It was the voice of David
Holte, familiarly known as Froggie. He was over at the house and came
running along, swinging a lantern.

Whereupon there came the answer in a voice which Devinne thought he
would never hear again.

"All well!"

The next moment he saw Blakeney through the gloom standing by the side
of the car.

"Can you get down?" he asked, "or shall I give you a hand?"

Devinne was still squatting on his heels, but he couldn't move. Not at
first. His eyes, peered through the darkness, trying to say Blakeney's
face.

"Percy..." he murmured, but could say no more, for an aching sob
had risen to his throat.

"Easy, lad," Blakeney responded; "pull yourself together. Froggie
knows nothing."

Froggie was within earshot now. He began to talk. Devinne did not at
once catch what he said, for all his senses were numb. But he did make
an effort to drag himself out of the cart.

Holte greeted him with an exuberant: "Hello, Johnnie!" and Blakeney
said: "Devinne is a bit stiff; he was badly knocked about at Choisy."

Whereupon Holte took Devinne by the arm and turned with him towards
the house.

"Are you staying the night?" he asked of the chief.

"Yes. We can't make much headway this weather. The snow may give over
after midnight and the moon may come out. If she does not, we'll start
in the early dawn. Get along, Froggie," he went on; "I'll see to the
horses. I suppose you've got something for us to eat."

"Yes," the other called out over his shoulder. "Stale bread and a
piece of pig's meat, and I can hot up some sour wine for you. I've
been to market this morning."

Blakeney took the horses round to the back while Holte guided
Devinne's footsteps up to the house. He was one of those men who
couldn't stop talking, and immediately he began: "You know, of
course," and "Blakeney told you, I suppose." This, that and the other.
Devinne, who knew nothing, only listened with half an ear. Presently
he found himself sitting in front of a wood fire with Holte still
talking volubly.

And then Blakeney came in. He asked:

"At what time did Ffoulkes and Pradel come through?"

"In the early morning, I couldn't say exactly when. My watch has
stopped, curse it!"

"They had no adventures?"

"None. I soon had the fresh horses ready for them, you know, the ones
from the coach, and off they went again. I made Ffoulkes tell me how
you got the Frenchman away. He seemed a nice fellow, I thought. Very
quiet. But, begad! according to Ffoulkes, the way you engineered that
affair was-"

"Perfectly simple," Blakeney broke in quickly. "You are a good fellow,
Froggie, but you talk too much. Suppose you get us something to eat.
Devinne is famished and so am I."

"All right! All right!" Holte retorted good-humouredly and turned to
go. But at the door he halted.

"I'll tell you all about it, Johnnie," he said, "just as I had it from
Ffoulkes. I tell you it was nothing short of-"

He was interrupted by his own hat being hurled at his head, and his
chief's voice saying peremptorily:

"And if you don't go and get that luxurious supper, I'll put you in
irons for insubordination."

Holte went and the two men were alone. He who had done to his friend
the greatest possible injury any man could do to another, was now face
to face with the chief whom he had betrayed. Blakeney went over to the
window and gazed out into the darkness and the thickly falling snow.
Devinne rose and went across the room. He put out his hand.
Tentatively. It was moist and shaking. He took Percy's hand which was
hanging by his side, that slender hand which had so often grasped his
in friendship, and with a heart-rending sob laid his hot forehead
against it.

"Percy!" he murmured, "for God's sake, say something."

"What shall I say, dear lad?" Blakeney responded, and gently
disengaged his hand. "That I could not bear to see an English
gentleman, the son of my old friend, thrown to those hyenas."

"How you must despise me!"

"I despise no one, Johnnie. I have seen too much of sorrow, misguided
enthusiasm, even of crime, not to understand many, many things I had
not even dreamed of before."

"Crime? There is no worse crime in the world than mine."

"And no worse punishment, lad, than what you will endure."

"God, yes!" Devinne said fervently. "Then why did you risk your
precious life to save my miserable one?"

Blakeney broke into his infectious laugh.

"Why? Why? I don't know, Johnnie. Ask Ffoulkes-he will give you a
sentimental reason. Ask Tony and he will say it is for the love of
sport, and I am not sure that good old Tony wouldn't be right after
all. Thanks to you, lad, I have had one of the most exhilarating runs
across country I have ever had in my life."

Devinne sank into a chair and buried his face in his hands.

"How they will all loathe the sight of me," he murmured.

"Well, you will have to put up with that, my good fellow, and with
other things as well. Anyway, your father knows nothing and never
will. After that...Well! England is at war with France, so you
will know what to do."

"Percy...I..."

"Easy now. Here's Holte coming with his banquet."

And the three of them sat down to a sumptuous meal of pig's meat and
stale bread and drank hot wine, which put warmth into them. Blakeney
was at his merriest.

"You should have seen," he said to Holte, "that miserable catiff who,
much against his will, impersonated the Scarlet Pimpernel. The one
thing I shall regret to my dying day is that I was not present when my
dear Monsieur Chambertin first gazed on his beautiful countenance and
saw that it was not that of his friend, Sir Percy Blakeney."

Holte did a great deal of talking, and asked numberless questions, but
Devinne, with aching soul and aching body, soon made his way to one of
the other rooms in the house where there was a truckle bed on which he
had slept more than once in the happy olden days.

He sat down on the edge of it, and burying his head in his hands, he
sobbed like a child.



41  EPILOGUE

Often, after the curtain has been rung down on the last act of a play,
comedy or drama, one would wish to peep through and see what is going
on on the darkened stage. A moment ago it was full of light, of
animation, of that tense atmosphere which pervades the closing scene
of a moving story, and now there are only the scene-shifters moving
about like ghosts through the dimmed light, the stage-manager talking
to the carpenter or the electricians, the minor rles still chattering
in the wings, or the principals hurrying to their dressing-rooms.

In the same way it seems to me that one would wish to see just once
more those actors who each in their individual way have played their
part in that strange drama which had for its chief characters a young
traitor and a light-hearted adventurer, reckless of his life, a true
sportsman who in a spirit of sublime devilry achieved one of the
noblest exploits it has ever been the good fortune of an historian to
relate.

Thus it is possible to have a peep at the minor rles, to see Monsieur
le Docteur Pradel and Ccile, his pretty young wife, in their humble
home in the village of Kensington. They are supremely happy, but are
as poor as the proverbial church mice, as poor as all those
unfortunate French men and women whom a lucky chance has enabled to
find a refuge in hospitable England-chance or the devotion of a man
whose real identity they will never discover. Sometimes one among them
who is over-sensitive, perhaps, will feel a thrill when meeting a pair
of lazy, good-natured blue eyes, the true expression of which is
veiled behind heavy lids. Such a one is Ccile Pradel who, when she
meets those eyes, or hears the timbre of a quaint rather inane laugh,
will suddenly recall a day of torment in the old chteau of La
Rodire, a dance, the music of the rigaudon, a fiddler with grimy face
and ringing voice and strange compelling eyes. The same voice? The
same eyes? No! no! it couldn't be! And she would look up almost with
apology for those foolish thoughts on the magnificent figure of Sir
Percy Blakeney, Bart., the friend of the Prince of Wales, the most
exquisite dandy that ever graced a ballroom, the most inane fop that
ever caused society to laugh.

And she would see the greatest ladies in the land crowd round him,
smirk and flirt their fans, entreating him to repeat the silly
doggerel which he vowed had come to him as an inspiration while tying
his cravat:

   "We seek him here, we seek him there.

   Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.

   Is he in heaven! Is he in h-ll?

   That demmed elusive Pimpernel."

He would recite this for the entertainment of his admirers with many
airs and graces which of a certainty could only belong to a man who
had no thought save of vanity and pleasure.

More often than not the talk in ballrooms would be of the Scarlet
Pimpernel and his exploits, and Sir Percy Blakeney, who usually was
half asleep in a chair whenever the subject cropped up, was dragged
out of his slumbers by the ladies and asked with many a jest what he
thought of the national hero. Whereupon he would endeavour to be
polite and to smother a yawn, whilst he gave reply:

"Excuse me, ladies, but on my honour I would prefer not to think of
that demmed fellow."

And he would turn to a group of friends and call to them:

"Come Froggie, Ffoulkes, you too, Tony, a manly game of hazard, what?
while the ladies sit around and worship a cursed shadow."

No, no, a thousand times no! this empty-headed dandy, this fool, this
sybarite, could never have been the grimy out-at-elbows fiddler who
slung a man over his shoulder as if he were a bundle of shavings, or
the sergeant who carried maman in his arms over rough ground from the
coach to the lonely house by the roadside. But the next moment, as Sir
Percy Blakeney strode out of the room, Ccile would catch a quick
glance which flew to him from the deep violet eyes of Lady Blakeney,
his exquisite wife, and another which that perfect grand dame
exchanged with His Royal Highness, and Ccile Pradel, who owed her
life to the Scarlet Pimpernel, was left wondering. Wondering!

Still peeping through the curtain which has fallen on the last act of
the drama one likes to see little Blanche Levet as a young matron now,
married to a well-to-do and kindly fellow who stands well with the
authorities that are in power after the terrible days of the Terror
and the fall of Robespierre. There are times when memories and regrets
become over-poignant, and she sheds tears over the bundle of tiny
garments which she has fashioned in view of a happy eventuality, just
as there are times when Dr. Pradel would gladly exchange the life of
peace in England for one of activity in Choisy and in his beloved
hospital in Manderieu. But with him regrets soon vanish, whereas with
Blanche they will always abide.

And one last peep at St. John Devinne, home on leave after the English
victory over the French at Valenciennes, and kneeling by the death-bed
of his father. Percy Blakeney stands beside him. Some of the last
words the old man spoke were:

"Percy, you will look after the boy, won't you? He is headstrong, but
his heart is in the right place, and, thank God! his honour is
intact."



THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia