All the League taken--- ALL? Impossible that the information could be false; unthinkable that it should be true.  Captured they undoubtedly were, however, and among them were the best beloved of many of those here gathered, this Violet Guild.
     Pale faces, a muddle of hushed questions,--- and a glum, furtive-looking figure in the corner taking it all in. They were comforting one another. Though burdened with sorrows of their own, they sought first for the well-being of their friends.  It was this compassion that had first attracted the watcher to their ranks, for here indeed lay fraternite in its true sense, one of the ideals which his own revolution-torn country had embraced--- or purported to embrace.
     "Fraternity has become fratricide", he mused sourly. "Equality--- yes, the equality of the grave!  And Liberty?  A catchword merely, one to set the mobs howling for the kill".
  Yet here, the ideal lived uncorrupted. Among these English, the veriest enemies of his country!  He shut his eyes tightly, biting his lip in consternation.
     He was still lost in his thoughts when a sudden voice behind him made
him start. "M'sieur Delatour?"
     Turning, he looked into a face he didn't recognize--- a face that bore a slightly mocking expression.
  "And why are you standing there in the corner? Have you been naughty?"
     Before the Frenchman could stammer a reply, the Guildmember motioned briskly.
"The Lady Hastings asks a word with you."
     The leader of the Violet Guild was in earnest conversation with a dark-haired friend, but extended a hand to Delatour as he reached her side.  He bowed over the hand, straightened, tried to meet her eyes.
"My deepest sympathies, Madame," he murmured.  "But pray do not despair.  I shall endeavor to secure the prisoners' release, though it cost mine own life's blood--"
     He stopped, shocked by the near-smirk on the face of the mocking-eyed one, and saw that Lady Hastings herself was trying to suppress a smile.
     "What, alone?  That won't be required of you. La,M'sieur, you have much to learn, if I dare say it, about teamwork."
     Delatour held his tongue. Obviously his English was faulty; he had never been a teamster, and was puzzling about what exactly he was expected to learn concerning such, when his hostess spoke again.
     "Come, now," she continued in a gentler tone. "Your courage is not in doubt, but those who effect this rescue must needs know at least some of the League members by sight."
     Here, the friend behind Lady Hastings whispered urgently into her ear, but she only shook her head. 
"We must trust one another at this point," she said, "since each of us has a vital part to play.  M'sieur Delatour--- I understand that your lodgings in Paris have a private entrance, on a quiet street."
     Marvelling at the extent of her knowledge, the Frenchman could only nod.
     "Should the escape succeed, they can hardly stand about in the street afterwards. There are eighteen of them, and not a few of us. It is possible that some will be injured---" here, her voice caught slightly-- "and only in groups of two and three could they be spirited from the city.  There are safe houses, some maintained by the Pimpernel himself, but not all may be available when we require them.  Might we impose upon your hospitality at need?"
"Twould be an honor, Madame." 
(He'd hoped for something that involved more derring-do, and suspected he comprised but the outermost layer of contingency.)  In this time of calamity, however, there was far more at stake than a young gentleman's self-importance. The wisdom of the decision was apparent; as a newcomer, Delatour was as yet an unknown quantity in the equasion. Readily he committed the details to memory. His hostess excused herself, and moved to put an arm around the trembling shoulders of one who looked to be no more than a child.

     Speaking when spoken to, darting a green-eyed glance nervously here and there, the unobtrusive presence went largely unnoticed. Already the turbulence within him was being quelled by a quiet resolve.
     So many fair faces! So many courageous hearts! And yes, some of them were recognizable as performers he'd actually seen onstage!  This one had, he was certain, played Iphigenia at the Comedie-Francaise, and that one--- hadn't it been she who'd begged for the old man's life in "The Virtuous Tribune"?  (a wretched play, whose only saving grace was its winsome ingenue)
By the time the meeting dispersed, Olivier Delatour had learned the names of most of his fellow Guilders, had actually held his own in a verbal exchange with Mocking-Eyes (his mind continued to call her by that name), and his melancholy face was lit with the shy glimmering of a smile.
     It was gone soon enough, of course.

     People DID still smile in Paris--- a good many, if you wanted to add in the bloodthirsty leers, the death-grimaces, the grinning of countless disembodied skulls. The man in the hired carriage had no wish to add them in, had no wish to think about them.  In his memory the gathering hovered yet, and the instructions he'd received: "After sunset, the shade to be three-quarters drawn if there be danger. Wait for a knock that sounds like so; call 'in a moment' if all is safe."  And there was something else, too---
     As if in answer, an enormous dray-cart bore down on the carriage from a side street.  Delatour craned his neck to see the teamster sitting high on the box, guiding the horses. There was something to be learned from him---
     Sacre tonnere! It could scarcely be the language!
     The apartment might be styled a duplex in a later time. It was a nice place, and he'd been lucky to get it.  Somehow, he'd managed to hold onto it, too, even in the leanest of times.  He hired a housekeeper when he could afford to. At present, he couldn't.
     Inside, at last! The little valise slid to the floor, the slender figure drooped with fatigue.  After sunset, the leader had said, and it was still only afternoon.  His pocket watch showed four-o'-clock.  Perhaps there'd be time to stock some foodstuffs, else his hospitality would be spare indeed. 
     The road had left him dusty and disreputable-looking.  Needing a shave, too, he decided, running a hand across his chin.  (He had grown a beard once--- a piratical red, it had come in. He'd looked like an idiot. His brother had laughed---) No tears! Do not think such thoughts! 
     He made his way upstairs, to the washstand beside the curtained bed.  Good! There was still a little water left. Off came coat, waistcoat and shirt, but one sleeve refused to release his hand. He shook it.  Harder--- still no hand. Diable, he'd become stupid; his handkerchief was crammed into the sleeve.  He tossed it onto the washstand, the shirt onto the bed. 
Splashing water on his face, his arms, he felt better. The razor looked somewhat dull, but---well.  It was dull, too, and---eh! There, he'd cut himself. He pressed the handkerchief to his jaw until the bleeding stopped.
          He was wiping off the soap when he heard the knocking. Too early! Had something happened?
  "A moment!" he called down the stairs.
Hurry, hurry! Vite! Snatch the shirt off the bed, throw it on. My hand is stuck in the sleeve again! --still clutching the handkerchief--- stuff it into a breeches pocket! Shoving his arm through the sleeve, hurtling down the stairs, and again the knocking---     
---His hand was already on the latch, his heart beating like a radish--- RABBIT'S--- Ah, dread, his English was leaving his brain--- but it wouldn't be necessary, he realized.
     The individual on the doorstep was known to him, after a fashion--- one of the satellites of Hurlot, the Section chief.  The stolid build, the doughy jowls, that infernal clay pipe of his--- yes, Colbert, that was the man's name. he'd tricked himself out in the most appalling hat!  Befeathered it was, as though all the fowl of the air had deemed his head an appropriate place to die.  Delatour stared.
     Despite his pleasure at the obvious admiration in the other's regard, Colbert was undeterred from his purpose.
"Watch out for the quiet ones, they always have something to hide", Hurlot had told him often enough. (Would that it might be a cache of gold!) ---and wasn't it the juiciest stroke of Fortune that one of the lads at the tavern had seen this pup returning home?  Now Colbert intended to turn this to advantage, gaining entry with a cunning pretext. 
"My pipe's gone out, Citizen. Spare a coal?"
     "I've only just come in. I haven't laid a fire yet."
     "Well, now! What are neighbors for, eh?"
He strode past the smaller man, the plumed monstrosity jostling against the door frame.  It was too top-heavy for the peg, so Colbert dropped it onto an end table, displacing a small clutter of theater programs.
     Delatour would have to give the danger signal.  In this, at least, luck was with him.  The blind had been down throughout his absence; raising it to the three-quarter mark was a natural-seeming gesture.  Let in a bit of light and all.  But the light would be lessening soon, and those good, brave people--- were they even now risking their lives?
     When he turned to his uninvited guest, the latter was using his theater programs for kindling!  The printed images of the great Talma! Half his collection--- oh, no, not Marguerite St. Just!   But yes, she too was shrivelling in the flames. A gasp of dismay escaped him, unfortunately timed. It turned into a smothered cough as Colbert's pipe, lit now, gave forth a vile odor.
     Its owner was delighted with his own cleverness. While Delatour was gawping at the window, Colbert had managed a peek up the chimney, as well as a few pokes with a stick. No gold, nothing unusual, but he wasn't done yet.  He'd try a subtle question.
  "Been travelling, have you?"
     A nod. (Blast him!)  He'd been hoping for a denial, to catch this sneak in a lie.  He was certainly hiding something; look how pale he was, how nervous! And he'd come to the door without even a waistcoat, shirttail hanging to his knees, and puffing like a grampus!
     With the warning in place, Delatour could afford to play his visitor's game.  The man wanted conversation? Fine, provided it was short. 
"You'll give friend Hurlot my regards?"
     "Hurlot--- met with a misfortune", replied the other, rolling his eyes heavenward in lugubrious mock-piety.
     "Ah-- dommage." Hurlot had been a lout and a bully; he wouldn't be missed, but to his credit, he'd never worn such a hat. Gad, the thing was hideous. Its presence, however, was now comprehensible.  It was a caricature of some officials' headgear.  Colbert apparently meant to succeed the ward boss, and this would be his method of creating an image for the sans-culottes, of a man of authority.  (Or of exciting their pity for his bad taste!)
      The conversation limped and hobbled. Outside, the shadows lengthened. Inside, the atmosphere thickened. Colbert was growing impatient.  He'd been here before with Hurlot and the lads, collecting Patriotic Contributions For the Glorious Republic. A fine dwelling, this, far more suitable for a family man like himself, a soon-to-be Section chief, than for this cat-eyed little cockerel!  Look at him twiddling about there. Thinks he's too good to offer an honest patriot a drink, and probably an aristo sympathizer to boot!  Well, he'd had enough of subtlety.  He'd loosen this fellow's tongue, or loosen his bones, and it didn't matter which!
     "Now, look here, my lad!" Colbert stood, wafting a miasma of smoke, garlic, ancient cheese, and rotten teeth directly into his companion's face.  "Something's up with you, and I mean to know what it is!"
     Struggling not to breathe, Delatour wondered if the man meant to murder him. 
"Try it," he thought, "and I'll aim my fall toward that feathered abomination of yours, and in crushing it, render a final service to the world of aesthetics!"
     But his body's demand for air asserted itself just then, forcing him to inhale.  Then he doubled over, coughing desperately, even clutching at his tormentor to keep from falling on the floor.  With his free hand, he fumbled into his pocket for his handkerchief, instinctively covering his mouth.
     Colbert's eyes bulged.  He took a step back.  Then another.  His slabby face went grey, as he stared at the handkerchief, all splotched and spotted with blood.
     "You should have SAID you were consumptive," he rasped. Suddenly, the apartment was the last place he wanted to be.  Something to hide indeed!
     "I'm not---" choked the man on the floor, but Colbert was already outside, hadn't even closed the door behind him.
     "Wait!"  Delatour rose to his feet.  "You forgot your hat----"   
   But there was no answer.

     Sunset. The room was aired out somewhat, the street checked, and the blind discreetly shut in the preliminary sign of safety.  No one would trouble his friends if they came here. Colbert himself would warn folks away.
     The air was still somewhat close. Delatour was exhausted, hoarse, and a little dizzy, but that was all right. He reached for the object on the end table.  It was said that burnt feathers were a remedy for giddiness----

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