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|The Scarlet Pimpernel||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
LORD GRENVILLE'S BALL
|Page 2 of 4||
Small wonder, therefore, that the romantic and mysterious personality of the Scarlet Pimpernel was a source of bitter hatred to Chauvelin. He and the few young jackanapes under his command, well furnished with money, armed with boundless daring, and acute cunning, had succeeded in rescuing hundreds of aristocrats from France. Nine-tenths of the EMIGRES, who were FETED at the English court, owed their safety to that man and to his league.
Chauvelin had sworn to his colleagues in Paris that he would discover the identity of that meddlesome Englishman, entice him over to France, and then. . .Chauvelin drew a deep breath of satisfaction at the very thought of seeing that enigmatic head falling under the knife of the guillotine, as easily as that of any other man.
Suddenly there was a great stir on the handsome staircase, all conversation stopped for a moment as the majordomo's voice outside announced,--
"His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and suite, Sir Percy Blakeney, Lady Blakeney."
Lord Grenville went quickly to the door to receive his exalted guest.
The Prince of Wales, dressed in a magnificent court suit of salmon-coloured velvet richly embroidered with gold, entered with Marguerite Blakeney on his arm; and on his left Sir Percy, in gorgeous shimmering cream satin, cut in the extravagant "Incroyable" style, his fair hair free from powder, priceless lace at his neck and wrists, and the flat CHAPEAU-BRAS under his arm.
After the few conventional words of deferential greeting, Lord Grenville said to his royal guest,--
"Will your Highness permit me to introduce M. Chauvelin, the accredited agent of the French Government?"
Chauvelin, immediately the Prince entered, had stepped forward, expecting this introduction. He bowed very low, whilst the Prince returned his salute with a curt nod of the head.
"Monsieur," said His Royal Highness coldly, "we will try to forget the government that sent you, and look upon you merely as our guest--a private gentleman from France. As such you are welcome, Monsieur."
"Monseigneur," rejoined Chauvelin, bowing once again. "Madame," he added, bowing ceremoniously before Marguerite.
"Ah! my little Chauvelin!" she said with unconcerned gaiety, and extending her tiny hand to him. "Monsieur and I are old friends, your Royal Highness."
"Ah, then," said the Prince, this time very graciously, "you are doubly welcome, Monsieur."
"There is someone else I would crave permission to present to your Royal Highness," here interposed Lord Grenville.
"Ah! who is it?" asked the Prince.
"Madame la Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive and her family, who have but recently come from France."
"By all means!--They are among the lucky ones then!"
Lord Grenville turned in search of the Comtesse, who sat at the further end of the room.
"Lud love me!" whispered his Royal Highness to Marguerite, as soon as he had caught sight of the rigid figure of the old lady; "Lud love me! she looks very virtuous and very melancholy."
"Faith, your Royal Highness," she rejoined with a smile, "virtue is like precious odours, most fragrant when it is crushed."
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|The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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