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|The Scarlet Pimpernel||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
|Page 3 of 5||
"Because the Scarlet Pimpernel works in the dark, and his identity is only known under the solemn oath of secrecy to his immediate followers."
"The Scarlet Pimpernel?" said Suzanne, with a merry laugh. "Why! what a droll name! What is the Scarlet Pimpernel, Monsieur?"
She looked at Sir Andrew with eager curiosity. The young man's face had become almost transfigured. His eyes shone with enthusiasm; hero-worship, love, admiration for his leader seemed literally to glow upon his face. "The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mademoiselle," he said at last "is the name of a humble English wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do."
"Ah, yes," here interposed the young Vicomte, "I have heard speak of this Scarlet Pimpernel. A little flower--red?--yes! They say in Paris that every time a royalist escapes to England that devil, Foucquier-Tinville, the Public Prosecutor, receives a paper with that little flower dessinated in red upon it. . . . Yes?"
"Yes, that is so," assented Lord Antony.
"Then he will have received one such paper to-day?"
"Oh! I wonder what he will say!" said Suzanne, merrily. "I have heard that the picture of that little red flower is the only thing that frightens him."
"Faith, then," said Sir Andrew, "he will have many more opportunities of studying the shape of that small scarlet flower."
"Ah, monsieur," sighed the Comtesse, "it all sounds like a romance, and I cannot understand it all."
"Why should you try, Madame?"
"But, tell me, why should your leader--why should you all--spend your money and risk your lives--for it is your lives you risk, Messieurs, when you set foot in France--and all for us French men and women, who are nothing to you?"
"Sport, Madame la Comtesse, sport," asserted Lord Antony, with his jovial, loud and pleasant voice; "we are a nation of sportsmen, you know, and just now it is the fashion to pull the hare from between the teeth of the hound."
"Ah, no, no, not sport only, Monsieur. . .you have a more noble motive, I am sure for the good work you do."
"Faith, Madame, I would like you to find it then. . .as for me, I vow, I love the game, for this is the finest sport I have yet encountered.--Hair-breath escapes. . .the devil's own risks!--Tally ho!--and away we go!"
But the Comtesse shook her head, still incredulously. To her it seemed preposterous that these young men and their great leader, all of them rich, probably wellborn, and young, should for no other motive than sport, run the terrible risks, which she knew they were constantly doing. Their nationality, once they had set foot in France, would be no safeguard to them. Anyone found harbouring or assisting suspected royalists would be ruthlessly condemned and summarily executed, whatever his nationality might be. And this band of young Englishmen had, to her own knowledge, bearded the implacable and bloodthirsty tribunal of the Revolution, within the very walls of Paris itself, and had snatched away condemned victims, almost from the very foot of the guillotine. With a shudder, she recalled the events of the last few days, her escape from Paris with her two children, all three of them hidden beneath the hood of a rickety cart, and lying amidst a heap of turnips and cabbages, not daring to breathe, whilst the mob howled, "A la lanterne les aristos!" at the awful West Barricade.
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|The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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