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Part I Baroness Emmuska Orczy

II Widely Divergent Aims

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Table Of Contents: El Dorado

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Thus it was that more than a year had gone by before Armand St. Just--an enthusiastic member of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel--was able to do aught for its service. He had chafed under the enforced restraint placed upon him by the prudence of his chief, when, indeed, he was longing to risk his life with the comrades whom he loved and beside the leader whom he revered.

At last, in the beginning of '94 he persuaded Blakeney to allow him to join the next expedition to France. What the principal aim of that expedition was the members of the League did not know as yet, but what they did know was that perils--graver even than hitherto--would attend them on their way.

The circumstances had become very different of late At first the impenetrable mystery which had surrounded the personality of the chief had been a full measure of safety, but now one tiny corner of that veil of mystery had been lifted by two rough pairs of hands at least; Chauvelin, ex-ambassador at the English Court, was no longer in any doubt as to the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, whilst Collot d'Herbois had seen him at Boulogne, and had there been effectually foiled by him.

Four months had gone by since that day, and the Scarlet Pimpernel was hardly ever out of France now; the massacres in Paris and in the provinces had multiplied with appalling rapidity, the necessity for the selfless devotion of that small band of heroes had become daily, hourly more pressing. They rallied round their chief with unbounded enthusiasm, and let it be admitted at once that the sporting instinct--inherent in these English gentlemen-- made them all the more keen, all the more eager now that the dangers which beset their expeditions were increased tenfold.

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At a word from the beloved leader, these young men--the spoilt darlings of society--would leave the gaieties, the pleasures, the luxuries of London or of Bath, and, taking their lives tn their hands, they placed them, together with their fortunes, and even their good names, at the service of the innocent and helpless victims of merciless tyranny. The married men--Ffoulkes, my Lord Hastings, Sir Jeremiah Wallescourt--left wife and children at a call from the chief, at the cry of the wretched. Armand-- unattached and enthusiastic--had the right to demand that he should no longer be left behind.

He had only been away a little over fifteen months, and yet he found Paris a different city from the one he had left immediately after the terrible massacres of September. An air of grim loneliness seemed to hang over her despite the crowds that thronged her streets; the men whom he was wont to meet in public places fifteen months ago--friends and political allies--were no longer to be seen; strange faces surrounded him on every side-- sullen, glowering faces, all wearing a certain air of horrified surprise and of vague, terrified wonder, as if life had become one awful puzzle, the answer to which must be found in the brief interval between the swift passages of death.

Armand St. Just, having settled his few simple belongings in the squalid lodgings which had been assigned to him, had started out after dark to wander somewhat aimlessly through the streets. Instinctively he seemed to be searching for a familiar face, some one who would come to him out of that merry past which he had spent with Marguerite in their pretty apartment in the Rue St. Honore.

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El Dorado
Baroness Emmuska Orczy

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