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|The Scarlet Pimpernel||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
|Page 4 of 5||
It had all occurred in such a miraculous way; she and her husband had understood that they had been placed on the list of "suspected persons," which meant that their trial and death were but a matter of days--of hours, perhaps.
Then came the hope of salvation; the mysterious epistle, signed with the enigmatical scarlet device; the clear, peremptory directions; the parting from the Comte de Tournay, which had torn the poor wife's heart in two; the hope of reunion; the flight with her two children; the covered cart; that awful hag driving it, who looked like some horrible evil demon, with the ghastly trophy on her whip handle!
The Comtesse looked round at the quaint, old-fashioned English inn, the peace of this land of civil and religious liberty, and she closed her eyes to shut out the haunting vision of that West Barricade, and of the mob retreating panic-stricken when the old hag spoke of the plague.
Every moment under that cart she expected recognition, arrest, herself and her children tried and condemned, and these young Englishmen, under the guidance of their brave and mysterious leader, had risked their lives to save them all, as they had already saved scores of other innocent people.
And all only for sport? Impossible! Suzanne's eyes as she sought those of Sir Andrew plainly told him that she thought that HE at any rate rescued his fellowmen from terrible and unmerited death, through a higher and nobler motive than his friend would have her believe.
"How many are there in your brave league, Monsieur?" she asked timidly.
"Twenty all told, Mademoiselle," he replied, "one to command, and nineteen to obey. All of us Englishmen, and all pledged to the same cause--to obey our leader and to rescue the innocent."
"May God protect you all, Messieurs," said the Comtesse, fervently.
"He had done that so far, Madame."
"It is wonderful to me, wonderful!--That you should all be so brave, so devoted to your fellowmen--yet you are English!--and in France treachery is rife--all in the name of liberty and fraternity."
"The women even, in France, have been more bitter against us aristocrats than the men," said the Vicomte, with a sigh.
"Ah, yes," added the Comtesse, while a look of haughty disdain and intense bitterness shot through her melancholy eyes, "There was that woman, Marguerite St. Just for instance. She denounced the Marquis de St. Cyr and all his family to the awful tribunal of the Terror."
"Marguerite St. Just?" said Lord Antony, as he shot a quick and apprehensive glance across at Sir Andrew.
"Marguerite St. Just?--Surely. . ."
"Yes!" replied the Comtesse, "surely you know her. She was a leading actress of the Comedie Francaise, and she married an Englishman lately. You must know her--"
"Know her?" said Lord Antony. "Know Lady Blakeney--the most fashionable woman in London--the wife of the richest man in England? Of course, we all know Lady Blakeney."
"She was a school-fellow of mine at the convent in Paris," interposed Suzanne, "and we came over to England together to learn your language. I was very fond of Marguerite, and I cannot believe that she ever did anything so wicked."
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|The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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