A murmur of bewildered excitement rippled around the room.  Isabella heard several muttered oaths and exclamations from her seat in the rear of the parlour.
 "Zounds, but this is a strange turn of events!"
   "What possible danger can the Pimpernel be in, here in England?"
  "Sounds like this will be a very unusual mission, indeed."
  I really must try to learn some names, Isabella silently chided herself. It certainly would be nice to know who some of these people are.
  When the excitement subsided, Lady Hastings continued.
  "It seems as if Chauvelin has decided to attack from a different angle this time.  We have received information that he has ordered one of his men to come here, to England, disguised as an escaped aristocrat.  He then has instructions to infiltrate the League itself.  Once he has done that, he will have access to all of the League's plans and thus, when the Pimpernel moves next, Chauvelin will be waiting for him.  That, my friends, we cannot allow."
  "Can't we have Lord Hastings alert the League to be wary of any and all new prospects?" came a voice from the center of the room.
  "No, no," someone else countered.  "Then we'd have the League sitting on their hands, waiting for something that might not happen for months.  No, we have to go after the infiltrator himself."
  Isabella was glad she had chosen a seat in the back of the room, for she was beginning to fell shy, awkward, and not a little awed in the presence of so many experienced Guilders.  As the newest member of the Guild, she was half frightened, half wild with excitement at the prospect of her first mission, and she felt it was wisest for her to keep quiet, either until she was spoken to or until she could be sure her voice wouldn't shake.
  As she listened to the discussion, she found herself indulging in daydreams.  How quickly the last year had passed!  Only a year ago she was in Paris, placed on the "suspect" list because, plebian though she was, she loathed the misguided Revolution and its hideous methods.
 Then came the note, with the implicit, if ambiguous, instructions, signed with the distinctive red flower that was so feared in France.  It seemed like the next moment that she had found herself in England, safe under the protection of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.  Then, after a hazy year of society balls and parties, she received yet another ambiguous note, signed and sealed this time with a purple flower. The next thing she knew, she had pledged to follow, help, and protect the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and now she sat in a parlour planning how to save the League from imminent danger!  How different it all was from. . .
  "Mademoiselle de Roche."
 Isabella shook herself out of her musings, rebuking herself for not paying attention, and turned toward Lady Hastings.
  "Yes, my lady."
  "You are new to the Guild, and so your first assignment will be small.  We know that the man Chauvelin sent has not yet arrived in England.  Whoever he is, he will no doubt be eager to make it known that he is an escaped aristocrat. Mademoiselle, have yourself driven to Dover and lodge at "The Fisherman's Rest" for one week.  The infiltrator will most likely arrive in England in the next few days.  Tell the owner you wish to spend a week on the coast to calm your nerves, or something like that.  There at the inn, watch for any stranger who loudly professes himself to be an escaped aristocrat.  When you are sure you have found the impostor, come back to London immediately and let us know who he is.  We will take care of the rest."
  Isabella nodded nervously.  It was time for her to prove herself. .
. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  Isabella stepped down from her carriage, staring at the small inn called "The Fisherman's Rest."  She took a deep breath and resolved herself to her task.  It was time.
  "Good sir, could you provide me with a room for the next week?" she inquired of the short, aging man who came out of the inn to greet her with a confidence she never knew she possessed.  "I have been ailing, and I wish to revive myself with the fresh air for a few days."
  "Of course, mademoiselle," answered the man, whose name was Jellyband. "I'll lead you up to it myself."
  The roon was quite satisfactory, and as she surveyed it approvingly, she had an idea.  "Good Jellyband, could you also provide me with a small, private sitting-room, where I can sit during the day in quiet, away from the bustle and activity of the coffee-room?  I will pay you quite well, you can be sure."
  "Of course, mademoiselle."  
He showed Isabella a small room, adjoining the coffee-room.
  This will be an excellent place, Isabella thought.  She could sit and listen for the infiltrator, without having to answer any embarrassing questions about her purpose, sitting in the coffee-room without an escort.
 I only hope I won't die of boredom. . .
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  She sat reading a book in the small room.  At least, she pretended to read it; she was always half-listening for any suspicious sound in the next room. She had to pretend to do something, so that she did not arouse suspicions among the staff.  But she always kept one ear turned toward the door.  These evenings had proved to be very tiring for Isabella - keeping up a constant air of cheerfulness, while always listening for any sign of the impostor.  And the week was almost up; she began to think that she had been of no help whatsoever to the Guild.
 That thought lowered her spirits more than anything ever could.  She had wanted so much to help!  And now it seemed she would not have a chance. . .
  "Innkeeper!  Hey, innkeeper!  Ale for a weary traveler!" she heard from the next room.  Something about the voice set off an alarm in Isabella's head. There was something about it that seemed strange. . .the request had been proclaimed too loudly, or. . .  Isabella quietly rose from her chair and moved closer to the door to hear better.
  "And where have you traveled from, sir?" Jellyband asked the stranger.
  "From over the Channel, friend innkeeper.  I have just been able to escape from imprisonment in Paris as a condemned aristocrat, and I am happy to find myself safe and sound in England," replied the stranger with a strong French accent.
  Isabella's heart began to beat faster.  Something was definitely wrong about him. . .
  "Yes, friend," the stranger continued cheerfully, "I have been able to evade the embrace of Madame la Guillotine herself.  I am so happy to have escaped, I should like to help others have the same good fortune.  Do you know how I can contact the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel?"
  Of course!  Isabella suddenly realized why his voice had caused her such alarm.  He could not be the aristocrat he claimed to be; his accent was distinctly common!  He must be the French agent, for no one else in their right mind would have inquired about contacting the League in such a loud voice.  She listened long enough to discover that he claimed the name of Marquis Jaques de Marche, and then retired to her room, making preparations to leave as soon as it was light.  After all, she had most urgent news for Lady Eliza Charlotta Hastings and the Violet Guild. . .

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