~*You Are My Home*~
By Mlle Elizibeth Bouchard
' You are my home, you make me strong, and in this world of strangers, I belong to someone'I dodged in between people as I made my way down the crowded streets of Paris, my basket swinging from my arm. I greeted the other aristocrats as I passed them, but paid more attention to the poorer people.
"Bonjour, Nichole!" The raglady called out to me.
"Bonjour, Madame Fabrece!" I answered. Although my family and I were considered to be aristocrats, I never hesitated to talk with the kind old lady. "How is business today for you?" I asked.
"As well as it ever is."
"I have been needing a new bottom for my trinkets box. Perhaps you could supply me?"
She smiled. "I think I have just the piece for it." She dug through her cart and pulled out a piece of scarlet velvet.
"Will this do?"
"Yes, it is beautiful!" I paid the woman and tucked the fabric into my basket. Madame Fabrece looked at the money I had given her and gasped.
"Mademoiselle Nichole, I cannot take this much for such a small piece of fabric!"
I laughed. "I think it is high time someone paid you for simply being put on this earth. In God's eyes, we are all equal, and just because society separates us doesn't mean we should all ignore each other. Bonjour, Madame Fabrece!"
"Take care of yourself, ma cherie."
I waved and ran off, skittering out of the way of carts and horses. As I was walking up to my door, (for if Maman would throw a fit is she saw me running) someone ran into me, knocking me backwards and my basket from my arm. I smiled and said, trying to be kind, "I'm terribly sorry, Monsieur, I..."
Then I recognized the man who had run into me. "Citizen Chauvelin! I'm terribly sorry! Please, forgive me!" (Although I knew that the agent of the Republic had feelings for me in the past, being an aristocrat, one could never be too careful.) Chauvelin smiled, something I had rarely seen him do.
"It was entirely my fault, Mademoiselle Nichole." He helped me up. "Will you be attending the next feast for Madame Guillotine?"
I jerked my hand away. "Who would want to? Last week you slaughtered my best friend, how am I to know that today you will not be executing my cousins? Good day, Monsieur Chauvelin." I turned to go inside, but Chauvelin grabbed my arm and jerked me back around.
"In case you have forgotten, Mademoiselle, I am a citizen of the Republic and will be addressed as one."
"Oh, forgive me," I replied, the sarcasm dripping from my words. "My mistake." Pulling out of his grasp, I went inside and shut and locked the door. Hearing someone in the parlor, I looked inside the room. Although I could only see his back, I recognized the young man in an instant.
"Armand!" I greeted him. He turned around.
"Nichole!" We embraced. "How I have missed you so."
"Why do you have to leave so often, Monsieur St. Just? Does Marguerite really miss you that much?" I teased him. In his eyes, for a moment I thought I could see fear cross his eyes, but only for a split second. Then, he was the Armand I knew so well.
"You know very well how close I am to my sister!" He tried to defend himself, but I knew his weak spots. His love for his sister was immense, and I could see why. Lady Blakeney, as she was now called because she was married, was an old friend of mine from school. Long before we had stormed the Bastille together and even longer before the period when Madame Guillotine had began feasting on our fellow aristocrats in the name of justice.
Armand had realized I was teasing him and was laughing. I joined him, the sound wonderful to our ears that were so used to the sound of Madame Guillotine's blade coming down. When we both regained our composure, he took my hand and kissed it,
"I'm sorry, but I must be going. I wanted to make sure that you were still here before going back to England."
"And what did you think? We had been carted off to the guillotine? I wouldn't be surprised if we had been!" He looked so serious for a moment that I thought I had upset him.
"Armand? Is something wrong?" I touched his cheek. He reached up and held my hand there for a few moments.
"Nichole," he said, very slowly, "There has been talk that your father might been denounced soon." I looked at him.
"I heard some of Robespierre's men speak of it. Nichole, you must leave France before it is too late!"
"How could we leave? If they are planning on taking us to prison wouldn't they...wait. When did you hear this? And why did you only say I should leave? Do you not care for my family?"
"I heard them on my way over. I was coming to see you anyway. Nichole, I care for your family greatly. But when I warned your father before you came in, he laughed. You must leave on your own, or with your siblings and your mother."
"Where would I go? France is my home...I suppose Maman's relatives in England could take us in..."
He shook is head. "Citizen Chauvelin" (the name was said with the greatest disrespects, and I couldn't agree more) "has spies all over England. You wouldn't be safe. You could stay with my sister and Percy! You know how much they both like you and your family!"
"I...I... Armand, I don't know! How long would you say we should have before they come?"
"A day at most."
"I'll tell you tomorrow morning at 7:00. All right?"
Armand didn't look satisfied with this answer, the reason being because he and I cared so much for each other. He kissed my hand once more and bid me farewell.
Not five minutes after Armand had left, there was a pounding at the door. Cecile, my youngest sister, ran to answer it. I followed her. When she pulled the door opened, I felt my face go pale. Filling up the doorway, stood Chauvelin with fully costumed guards behind him. I prayed it wasn't true. But, deep down, I knew it was.
"Mademoiselle Bouchard," he said, addressing me no longer with his usual respect that he showed towards me, "Please go and fetch your father."
Trying to keep calm, for both my sister and I were scared out of our wits, I replied with some respect, while mentally trying to convince my hands to stop shaking, "Certainly, Citizen Chauvelin. Won't you come in?" Although I now thought this man lower than dirt, I still had some of my manners. After giving my sister a glance telling her to show him and his henchmen into the parlor, I went to close the door. Standing across the street, I saw Armand standing with a look of terror on his handsome face. I smiled at him, trying to reassure the man who loved me that I would be fine. He smiled back briefly, though the smile was forced, and ran off down the street, acting like he was looking for someone. I shut the door and quickly ran up the stairs to my father's study. I knocked.
"Go away." My father's voice came through the solid wood. I stood my ground, trying to be brave even though my terror showed in my voice.
"Papa, Citizen Chauvelin is here to see you." The door flew open. Papa's face was completely ashen, much like mine had been a few moments before.
The look on his face told me I needn't answer. I willed myself not to cry, for both he and I and most likely Armand knew why Chauvelin was at our house. My family was to be sent to the guillotine.
We sat, clinging to each other, as the guard called the names of the heads for Madame Guillotine that day.
"Marquis de Bouchard and family."
As they loaded the family before us into the carts, I studied Papa's face. The noble features wore an expression that I had never before seen on that face. Defeat. My father was defeated. Crying silent tears, I hugged him before they tied my hands and roughly loaded my family and I with the others awaiting the sharp teeth of Madame Guillotine.
We waited for what seemed like hours as victim after victim was called to meet their fates. I watched as my proud Maman, who had kissed each of us and told us to be brave, always brave, was sacrificed in the name of justice. I watched as my dear sisters, Chloe and Cecile, followed my mother. I watched my handsome brother, Pierre, hold his head high until it fell. I watched until it was only me and my father left.
A guard pushed past where I was standing, knocking into me in the progress. I felt something being slipped into my bound hands. I could hardly keep from singing with joy. It was all I could do to keep a fearful expression on my face. I had received the sacred item that everyone waiting for Madame Guillotine hopes to receive. I had been given a scarlet pimpernel. I was going to be rescued.
'But wait,' I reminded myself, 'Maman and the children already were called. Does that mean...' "Marquis de Bouchard." the guard called out. My father turned to me.
"Nichole, I saw. Please, now that you are going to live, please try to find Armand and apologize for me. He tried to help us and I ignored his warnings. He's a wonderful boy, and I give you both my blessings. May God bless you and keep you safe. I love you."
That was the first time Papa had ever said those words to me, though I said them often to him.
"I love you too, Papa!" I didn't try to stop the tears that flowed freely down my face as one of the bravest men I knew was lead to his first and final meeting with the goddess of justice.
"I love you, Papa," I whispered as the blade came down. "I love you."
"Nichole Bouchard?" came a voice from behind me. I turned around. There stood two guards and an old beggar.
"It's her, " one of the guards said.
"What do you want with me?"
"Do not worry. We are from the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Has your family been called yet?"
"Blast. I told you that was him, Andrew! Mademoiselle Bouchard, is there any one left besides yourself?"
I slowly shook my head, my blond curls coming free of the rag that now held them instead of the silk ribbon that usually held the huge mass.
"Then could you get inside this bag? We'll take you in our cart." I nodded my agreement, eyeing the 'guard' that had not spoken yet. He looked strangely familiar, yet I did not know where I would have seen one of the Pimpernel's men. I stepped inside the bag and felt myself being lifted and carried, then gently set into the back of a farm wagon. Half of me wanted to stay and follow my family to heaven, but I desperately wanted to find Armand. I had also promised Papa I would.
'Besides,' I told myself, 'They're dead and there's nothing you can do about it.'
I didn't convince myself to stop crying, though. I felt the bag being loosed, then pulled off my face.
It was the silent guard, and now I knew why he looked so familiar. With the tri-cornered hat off, I could recognize the handsome face I knew so well.
"Armand!" I whispered as I fell into his outstretched arms. He pulled the bindings off of my wrists, and the old beggar sitting in the seat of the cart turned around and pulled off his hat... and wig?
"Good day, Mademoiselle Bouchard. It has been too long since we last met!" Percy greeted me warmly. Yes, it was none other than my beloved Armand's brother-in-law.
"Percy? You and Armand? You help the Scarlet Pimpernel?" Percy and Armand exchanged looks, then the other guard pulled off his hat and it was Sir Andrew Ffoulkes who was driving the cart.
"Andrew?" My jaw dropped upon recognizing Percy's friend and finding out that Armand, Andrew, and Percy all helped the Scarlet Pimpernel. "You all help him?"
Now Andrew was the one who exchanged looks with Percy.
"Actually, Nichole..." Armand started, then looked to Percy for help.
"Nichole, I am the Scarlet Pimpernel." Percy stated.
"But I want to help! You rescued me, now why can't I help you?" I argued with Percy. After we arrived back in England, I was trying to convince Percy to let me help him. But he wouldn't let me.
"Nichole, Armand would have my head..."
I shot him a look. He decided to re-phrase his sentence, which was a wise idea, considering what I had just been through. "Armand would never forgive me if something happened to you!"
"You let Marie help! Why can't I help her? I helped her in Paris, I am most capable of helping her now!"
Percy paused. "You do have a point..." he began, but was cut off by Armand bursting through the door.
"Percy?!? How can you even consider letting her go back to Paris? Are you insane?"
Percy just smiled. "How long have you been listening, my dear boy?"
Armand sighed. "I've heard every word you said, Percival, just like when you were first forming the League. Now, please, how can you even think of letting her go back to where they already tried to guillotine her once? If they catch her..." He paused and looked at me. "Nichole, I..." He trailed off. I smiled. He was so sweet and caring, no wonder Marguerite loved her brother so much. I took his hand.
"Armand, asking me not to do this is like asking Robespierre to stop the guillotine. He won't stop, and I won't stop until you let me help." The last few words were directed at Percy. He sighed.
"Alright, you can help. We could use someone to help Marie and Tussand with the costumes and disguises."
"Thank you!" I hugged him.
"Percy," Armand began, but stopped himself. He looked at me. "Nichole, are you sure you would endanger yourself to help us? Are you sure you want to do this?" I nodded. "Why do you and my sister always get your ways?"
I laughed. Percy did too, then turned to me.
"Alright Nichole, tomorrow you can sail back to France with Armand, Marguerite, and I."
* * *
"Wait for my signal," Percy told us who were waiting in the abandoned theater, the Comédie Francaise. "Then Ozzy, Ben, Hal, and Farleigh will switch with the guards, and then Armand, Dewhurst, Elton and I will get the Marquis and his family out of the prison. Everyone else, " he continued, nodding to the remaining men, Marie and I, "Stay here and prepare for tomorrow's rescue. Alright? Let me go first, and then you follow by twos and threes, so not to draw Chauvelin's attention. Our dear friend is getting frantic over us escaping him last Sunday. We gave no reasons for him to think we would use this theater once more for our hideout, but let's not chance it. Follow in 10 minutes. "
I turned back to Hal and put the finishing touches on his soldier disguise, while Marie and her husband Tussand worked on Ben and Ozzy. Finishing with Hal, who scurried up the stairs with the other three men with him, I turned around to find Armand, who was disguised as an old beggar, had put his costume on, only to find it was several inches too long. It was the same outfit Percy had been wearing when he, Armand and Ben rescued me, and Percy is several inched taller that my dear Armand. He looked so funny I couldn't resist laughing.
"Come, get up there, " I motioned to the stool that I needed him to stand on so I could adjust his cloak. I talked with Marie over my shoulder as we both worked.
"Did you hear how the paper described Percy yesterday? " she asked me. I laughed.
"Yes, now he's an old German hermit who wanted some excitement! " I finished with Armand and gave him a pat on the hand. "There, you're all done. Now please, do try not to get yourself arrested, alright? Our friend "Shovelin" wouldn't be too happy when Percy rescued you. "
I had affectionately taken to calling the son of awhore Percy s nickname for him, especially when I had heard how much he hated it. Armand kissed my cheek.
"Don't worry, my dear Mademoiselle Nichole, I will be fine. "
I hugged him, and watched as he ran up the stairway leading to the street, the rest of the Bounders in tow. Marie came up beside me and squeezed my arm.
"Do not worry, Nichole. He is a smart boy. He has never even come close to meeting Chauvelin's goddess of justice. "
I gave her a look, similar to the one I had given Percy over almost the same thing. She winced, remembering the time both Armand and Marguerite were almost executed. They were on the stairs leading to the actual guillotine when Percy had come.
"Well, almost never came close. Don't worry! " she said, trying to reassure me.
But I couldn't help worrying. And the next second I knew why. Turning around to go back to our work, we found Chauvelin and 10 armed guards behind us, hauling Armand, Hal, Ben, Ozzy, Farleigh, and Tussand, whom they had snuck up on while Marie and I were talking, all of the men bound and gagged.
"Well, well, isn t Madame Guillotine going to have a feast today?” Chauvelin sneered. I took a step towards him.
I tried to get near enough to slap that sneering face, but Marie held me back.
“It will only make him angrier!” she whispered urgently to me. Chauvelin came and stood before me and Marie, staring at my face so intently that I felt he could see right through me.
“I see you still have your feistiness, Nichole,” he whispered.
“Monsieur, we are not friends. Especially not after what you did to my family. So please, to you my name is Mademoiselle Bouchard.” His eyes narrowed.
“Well, perhaps we can change that. You,” he said, turning and advancing on Hal, “Where is that d***d Scarlet Pimpernel? Where is Percy?!?”
Hal refused to speak, even after Chauvelin threatened him with the guillotine. That idiot, I thought to myself, Does Chauvelin honestly think that the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, the men who dance with death everyday, are actually going to be afraid of him?
Having no success with Hal, Chauvelin moved on to Ozzy, Armand, Marie, and everyone else, getting no replies. He turned around slowly to look at me, a fire burning in his eyes that no one, including me, had ever seen before. He took a step towards me, then another, until he was towering in front of me. I was actually kind of scared of him, he looked so powerful.
He is, I reminded myself.
After standing in silence for a few moments, he asked, no, demanded, in barely more than a whisper, “Mademoiselle Bouchard. I will give you one final chance to live. If you refuse, you will follow your friends to the guillotine. Now, where is PERCY?!?” His voice becoming louder with each word, until yelling on Percy s name. I held my head high.
“Monsieur, you already tried to behead me once. I am not afraid of you or your precious guillotine. Do you honestly think I would actually even consider betraying Percy? No, I will die before I tell you.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Armand mouthing “Good girl” to me. Tussand nodded. Marie squeezed my arm in praise. We all stood for a few minutes while Chauvelin fumed. Then he spoke.
“Fine. All of you could have saved your own lives by answering a simple question. Because you refuse, you will be sent to the prison to await your fates.” He snapped his fingers at the guards. “Bind those two,” he ordered, motioning to Marie and I, still standing to one side. I allowed myself to be bound, wondering what Percy would do when he found out what had happened to us. I knew Percy and a handful of men had escaped, but for how long were they safe?
I snapped out of my thought as my loosely tied ribbon completely fell off, allowing my blond curls to fall into my face. I flipped them out of my eyes, accidentaly stepping on the toes of one of the guards. He thought I had done it intentionally, and was enraged. “B***h!” he called me as he pushed me roughly to the floor, his hand raised and ready to strike. I heard Armand yell and Marie scream, both of them realizing at the same time I did that I could not defend myself, courtesy of my tied hands. I braced myself and awaited the blow. It never came. I looked up to find Chauvelin standing over me, facing of with the guard. After giving the young soldier a look that could have made even Percy back away in terror, he turned to me and helped me stand up. Picking my hair ribbon off the ground, he pulled my hair back from my face and tied it securely. I curtsied my thanks, for no matter how I tried, I would never be able to say thank you to that man. Chauvelin nodded, accepting my thanks, and turned back to the guard.
“If I ever catch you, or any one of you, for that matter, daring to raise your hand to one of these ladies, you will find yourself waiting to be executed.”
Marie, the other female he was referring to, gave me a look that clearly said He beheads innocent children, girls, and women everyday, but he throws a fit over striking a lady?
I shrugged. Chauvelin turned back to me.
“My deepest apologies, Mademoiselle,” he said. He then gave the order for us to be loaded in to the waiting carriages that would take us to where ever he was going to hold us. Upon finding myself in the same carriage with Chauvelin and Armand, I leaned up against Armand and looked out the window. The buildings we were passing didn t look anything like the ones on the way to the prison where the aristos waiting for the guillotine were taken. I think that it occurred to me at the same time that it occurred to Armand that we didn t know where he was taking us. We looked at each other, realizing, as we listened to the rattle of the several carriages grow softer, that we were being taken somewhere different than the rest of the League. I bit my lip. Armand smiled, trying to reassure me, for he couldn t say anything in front of Chauvelin, and also, he had a gag in his mouth, like I did. We simply sat next to each other, praying for us to be rescued.
Onward ho to the conclusion!
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