In the turbulent, morbid days just preceding the Reign of Terror, when
heads rolled with unmeasured brutality as commonly as the tumbrels that
carried agonized souls to, and dripping corpses from, Madame de la
Guillotine, the doomed cried with one pitiable voice towards England,
where lay their last hope of earthly salvation: The Scarlet Pimpernel
and his hardy, blessed little league.
Deep in the corrupted heart of Paris, in fetid dungeons, where huddled
captives breathed foul air and saw only their fellow wretched through
vague, dusty dimness that cannot honestly be termed sunlight, a small,
torn slip of paper fluttered through the single window slit into the
dainty, grime-caked hands of Francoise du Mauriat.
Francoise du Mauriat, who had had the misfortune to marry a Marquis,
whose youth, beauty, innocence the Revolution had ripped from her and
mounted on a pike among the heads of her kinsmen, now, with young son
and aged father, waited in dumb terror in a stinking pit for the day
when a red-capped, delusional madman would sign his name to her death
sentence. With sunken eyes and dull black curls, which used to shine in
elegance above puffed sleeves and becoming jewelry, she anticipated her
fate. At times, she prayed for a speedy end to starvation and
suffering; at other times, she resolved to endure for the sake of her
companions, neither of whom could exist on his own, now that the Marquis
had gone before them. Yes, the Marquis…Gilbert du Mauriat, having
recognized oppression and discontentment in the population throughout
his father's time, had only just acquired the authority to undertake
their reversal, but the bourgeoisie, embittered by generations of
suffering, took matters into its own callused, bloodied hands and took
an axe to the family tree. Few branches remained, shuddering, broken,
scattered in the mud amongst the worms.
Francoise unfolded the scrap, staring blankly
for a moment at its
contents, allowing her tortured brain to analyze and absorb the words.
Hunger and shock overpowered her briefly; her aching head whirled, and,
in her unsteadiness, she fell against the unyielding, mold-ridden stone
wall. Within seconds, she recovered her composure and knelt at her
"Mon Dieu!" whispered the ailing man weakly,
as Francoise closed his
trembling fist over that blood-red, star-shaped flower which she pressed
into his palm, that emblem of The Scarlet Pimpernel which all of the
thousands of shivering shackled prayed for until their final moments,
but only a precious few could possibly receive.
Henri du Mauriat peered at his grandfather's
curious expression, at the
silent tears streaming from the old man's cloudy, tired eyes, at the
frailty of the clenched hand which held the missive, and he struggled to
comprehend what had passed to cause this alteration in the manners of
his family. The child abandoned his position in the rotting, rancid
hay scattered over the filthy floor of the infested cell and stood,
tugging anxiously at his mother's skirt with doll-like fingers, gazing
up into the tragic visage of his widowed mother with light, angelic eyes
possessed of heartbreaking naiveté in the midst of a ruthless, hateful
"Qu'est-ce que c'est, Maman? Est-ce
que Papa va retourner? Qu'est-ce
qu'il y a?"
Francoise burst into adoring tears at her son's words.
Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart., his wife on his arm, loped down High Street
in apparent ease and inanity, and only Marguerite recognized his offhand
comments as detailing his newest escapade, to be carried out the
"Odd's fish! How time flies!" he exclaimed casually, glancing at his
pocket-watch, "Nearly four o'clock already. This aristocrat is rather
in need of some victuals. What say you to The Fisherman's Rest and a
good, solid, absolutely British tea?"
Marguerite assented with a loving smile to both the suggestion of tea
and the plan to depart Dover at four o'clock the next morning to make
the most of the turning tide.
"Begad, m'dear," Percy continued, "have you heard from Armand lately?
He's not gotten himself thrown into jail, has he?"
"Has he, Sir Percy?" asked Marguerite ironically, to acknowledge that
she understood, "He has not written me for at least two weeks." So her
brother would purposely cast himself into jail, probably to identify and
accompany a few fortunate souls out of the prison by whatever method
Percy deemed appropriate, given the circumstances. But how?
As the pair moved through the crowd, turning a corner towards the coast
and The Fisherman's Rest, Percy spotted a disagreeable acquaintance of
his parading by the milliner's with overstated importance from the
golden tips of his boots to the hideously flounced cravat cascading from
his fleshy chins. "I say, Lord Fotherdill," Sir Percy observed,
inspecting the man's attire with an amused air, "From whhoooooomm did
you exhuuuuumme that cravat? Wouldn't be caught dead in it, man!"
Marguerite, without disguise, burst into mirthful peals of contagious
laughter at her brilliant husband's rather gruesome pun; donning his
standard foppish mask, Sir Percy joined her with that half shy, half
foolish chuckle which characterized his little act, a joke which he and
his beloved wife now shared since the events of the previous year had
removed the misunderstanding which had forced a rift between the two.
"If you have the inclination, and you certainly ought," Percy
suggested, drawing a card from his coat, "you must visit one of my
tailors. Let me read some of their names to you: Algernon
Warfflebeak-Smith, Horsey de Horsey, Gervase Ainslie Williams,
Elphinstone Fortesque Hitchbins, and Mr. Robert Jones."
The cleverest woman in Europe instantly understood her husband's
meaning from the preposterous list of haberdashers he had invented:
"tailors" referred to prisoners, and Percy planned to summon his
designated escapees by substituting their names into the register of
those to be executed, and thereby remove them from prison.
The insulted fellow writhed in fury, his huffy girth held all the more
pompous, his multitudinous jowls undulating over his stiff neck-tie as
he sputtered vehemently, "Insupportable!"
Lady Blakeney tossed her golden head. "Quite," she quipped with an
impish smirk, recognizing Percy's low esteem for the man and adding her
quick wit to the assault. "I shall order my husband to be polite to
you, sir. Why, I have never in my life seen a better dressed boar!"
Sir Percy turned to his wife placidly, holding his quizzing glass to
one lazy blue eye. "Do you really think him a bore, m'dear?
Personally, I find him most intriguing!"
Lord Fotherdill quaked with indignation, his flushed cheeks puffing
noticeably as he vainly attempted to check his seething anger. "I
swear, Blakeney," he promised viciously, his comic appearance fading,
"If I ever get my hands on you or your bloody wife, I'll—"
His outward calm only slightly ruffled by the venomous outburst,
although Marguerite saw through to his inner turmoil, Percy raised his
eyebrows and interrupted the man's frightfully meaningful vow. "What?
Threatening to put your hands on my wife? You wretch!" he scolded
good-humoredly, "Gad, old boy, she's quite off limits."
The couple, bidding their adieus, resumed
their walk towards The
Fisherman's Rest, leaving Lord Fotherdill next to the milliner's, rigid
Lady Blakeney rustled elegantly along in a
high-waisted summer gown,
tapping the cobbles occasionally with her beribboned stick, and turning
over the recent conversation in her mind with flickering regret.
"Perhaps," she mused, her eyes fixed ahead,
"we should not have mocked
him so, Sir Percy. He really had not offended us at all." She looked
to her husband for his answer; Percy laughed one dry, bitter "ha," and
thrust his ornamental walking stick forcefully before him with each long
"Do not waste your prized pity on Lord Fotherdill, m'dear," he
advised. "Bestow it upon those who more deserve it." Percy pointed at
nothing with his stick and returned his voice to its standard
exaggeration of poshness as he continued. "Take my friend Frank, for
instance, and his family. Not grandfather nor father nor son ever
wronged a soul, and yet all have been jailed, charged with crimes that,
not only did they not commit, but they had attempted to set right.
Demmed unjust. Poor Frank."
Sir Percy, ever a gentleman, held the door of The Fisherman's Rest wide
for his lovely French wife, who graciously mounted the step and passed
through with a nod for her splendidly-attired husband.
"Halloa, my good Jelly!" Percy greeted the innkeeper with warmth,
clasping and shaking his hand vigorously. "Tea and scones for my wife
and me, if you would be so kind!"
The simple Jellyband smiled broadly, made
a slight courteous bow to Lady
Blakeney, who acknowledged him, and, with a flutter of his hand,
indicated a comfortable, private dining room to which he then led the assenting Blakeneys.
A more spacious room, it boasted worn, embroidered chair cushions, lace
tablecloths, a remarkably unobstructed view of the sea, and a refreshing
breeze wandering in from the open window at the far end, where waited a
setting for two. Without much regard for the worn, embroidered chair
cushions, Percy, having escorted his wife to her own seat, flopped his
tall, handsome self down lethargically, stretched his long legs to the
side, and gazed absently out the window. Marguerite dismissed Jellyband
with a fond nod, and he shuffled from the room to commission Sally in
"Oh, Jelly," Percy called after the departing host, whose face
momentarily appeared around the door. "If Ffoulkes or Lord Tony happens
to saunter in, do please conduct them to us here, wot?"
Honest Jellyband responded, "I'll do that, Sir," and, bowing himself
out, touching his forehead, "Sir Percy, Lady Blakeney." The innkeeper
disappeared once more, and calls to his daughter faded with the soft
click of the door's latch.
Marguerite raised her childlike eyes to her husband in expectant
curiosity, and he, remarking her, presently continued the litany
concerning his unfortunate friend Frank. Throughout this encoded
speech, Marguerite could not conceal her admiration for Percy and his
daring exploits. A disguised Scarlet Pimpernel to drive the tumbrel,
Armand to release the bonds, the cart to divert into an alley, the
rescued to escape Paris over the Seine and across the Channel aboard the
Day Dream—a brilliantly simple plan, really.
As Percy revealed the final details of the ploy, Jellyband interrupted
the Blakeneys with a delightful platter of scones and a pot of tea.
Armand St. Just kept to the shadows as he
slunk along a blood-soaked
Paris rue, a daunting task when a hundred torches from a plundering,
murderous mob illuminated the city, sparking as violently as the
vengeful eyes of the red-capped peasants who carried them, marching in
time with the bitter "Marseillaise," the beat hammered out on the
slippery cobbles by the butts of rifles and ends of pikes. A thunderous
roar of approval arose from the crowd, as an ill-fated man jerked
mechanically by his neck on a lantern-rope above them, flailing,
sputtering, spitting red from his mouth where it oozed down his chin,
until he finally twitched subtly, relaxing, only to be torn down and
severed by a revolutionary's dull kitchen knife. The "patriots" raged
on with their stained scythes, convinced that "l'arbre de la liberte ne
croit qu'arrose par le sang des tyrans." The tree of liberty grows only
when sprinkled with the blood of tyrants.
Silently, ever so carefully, so as to remain as inconspicuous as
possible, Armand followed, intent on his object. Silently, ever so
carefully, he pursued another figure, a figure brightened by the
flickering of the flaming branch in hand, darkened by sin and hatred and
betrayal in heart.
Percy, Lord Tony, and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, all disguised, ran
recklessly amongst the gruesome throng through the streets of Paris,
shouting "liberte, egalite, fraternite!" as ferociously as the rest.
They had a method to their madness, however, in that the mob carried
them past the jail in question, past the square in question—where the
fearsome guillotine hungered for more and the tumbrel would be destined
not to arrive and unload its victims—past the river in question, past
all the locations with which familiarity would be essential to the
success of the League's mission, to the survival of the du Mauriats. As
bullets split the air, shattering windows and felling anyone in their
way, revolutionary or no, Percy recalled his wife's words to him at
their parting, as Percy boarded the Day Dream, leaving Marguerite alone
on the dock. "Bon chance, mon mari. And be careful, darling," she had
cautioned, concern creasing her brow and creeping into her childlike
eyes and mouth, as he bowed and kissed her hand ceremoniously. "Gad,
m'dear," he had chuckled, "I always am."
Letting fall its torch to sputter and die in the mud of the gutter, the
figure turned down a narrow tunnel, breaking from the mob, slipping away
unnoticed, save by one. Hugging the brick wall of the shadowy passage,
the figure retreated, enshrouded in a billowing cloak from which it drew
a cylindrical object which reflected the red glare of the Parisians'
torches and appeared, for a moment, aflame itself. Amidst the
bellowings and beltings of the riotous crowd, Armand St. Just skirted
the human rapids and flattened himself against the wall next to the
tunnel, where moments earlier he had remarked the figure disappear,
headed, he assumed, for Robespierre's base—a ramshackle, shuttered stone
building in a courtyard where the tunnel terminated. The dull roar of
the mob, ubiquitous and hollow against the cobbles of the open
courtyard, drowned neither the drip of stale, dirty water from roofs
into barrels, nor the swift click-swish of the cloaked figure crossing
towards a house at the far end. Armand, ducking into the courtyard,
noted the building carefully and crept yet closer as the unknown figure
mounted the building's steps and made to enter. Too late did Armand
catch sight of the weapon the figure held, too late did he attempt
flight; the head turned, the arm pointed, the finger wrenched the
trigger. Amidst the pounding of the "Marseillaise," the shatter of
glass through the streets, the animal shrieks that cut to the heart, the
cry of agony and surprise that arose from the throat of one
insignificant man as a molten bullet tore into his flesh went inaudible,
melting into the Paris night.
"Good God, Armand!" breathed Percy in shock, as the fellow in question,
his shirt bloodied from his right shoulder to the cuff where red coursed
down his limp hand, stumbled into the cellar of Le Poisson Vert, an inn
to which the League had shifted its French base. Momentarily unsure of
what course to take, Percy rambled pointlessly, "We were only just about
to leave in search of you!"
With a tiny outward breath and a slight totter, St. Just collapsed.
Instantly, Percy and Sir Andrew rushed to him, lifting him and issuing
orders to Tony, who raced frantically to locate the items requested and
deliver them to his honored leader. "Water, cloths, salt, brandy!"
Percy accepted the rag thrust into his hand without a word, never
turning his eyes from his fallen brother-in-law, mopping Armand's
glistening brow and stemming the flow of blood from the young man's
"Obviously," observed a grave Sir Percy Blakeney to the revived Armand,
as the Scarlet Pimpernel cleaned his comrade's gunshot wounds
delicately, "You are quite unable to assist us in this or any other
rescue for the time being. You had better return to England as soon as
possible and get yourself some medical attention, my good man!" he
continued with a half-hearted chuckle, vainly attempting to assuage the
terror that darted across Armand's face. "Lud, old chap! How did you
manage to have this done to you?"
Grimacing as Percy applied a saltwater-soaked cloth to his ravaged,
slippery shoulder, Armand groaned a semi-intelligible reply before
faintness overcame him again: "It was…the one they call Sang Rouge…"
Percy leaned back in his chair in cogitation and let Armand's sweaty
Lord Antony Dewhurst, loyal and trustworthy to the death, but never
noted for a wide mastery of language, advanced hesitantly. "Songgrooge,
did he say?"
Sir Percy tapped the long, pale fingers of his right hand on the chair
arm and resumed tending Armand, shaking his head and correcting his
friend. "No, Tony," he said grimly, "Sang Rouge. Red blood."
"Hastings!" Percy interjected abruptly, betraying no emotions, only
urgency and determination, "Can you manage to take Armand across the
Channel tonight in the Day Dream and return by tomorrow evening?"
Without a second thought, Lord Hastings donned a ragged cloak and
cocked his tricornered revolutionary hat, an expression of stony resolve
stealing over his person as he promised "I'll not fail you, Percy. Your
schooner's the finest ever to take on those perilous waters."
Percy paused, leaning back as if startled and staring at Hastings with
a hint of amusement in his handsome features, while a foolish grin
spread over them. "I hope you don't mean to imply that my boat leaks?"
joked The Scarlet Pimpernel, lapsing briefly into his foppish disguise.
The ambiance of the somber room lightened, and, with a hearty, somewhat
forced laugh, Sir Percy stood, clapped Hastings solidly on the back, and
sent him off to ready a rapid carriage for the purpose of the wounded
Armand's conveyance to Calais.
"Men," Percy mentioned soberly, the moment the door had shut behind
Hastings, "some re-arrangements are in order."
The crisp metallic clink of boot spurs on the dungeon stones roused
Francoise du Mauriat from a fitful dream in which she looked on,
helpless, as Madame de la Guillotine, in the height of her gruesome
glory, claimed one soul after another—her husband, her dearest friend,
her sister, her brother, her cousins, her father, and finally her own,
innocent, darling child—under a keen, shimmering blade.
The door swung open on its rusted hinges, wailing in grief, mourning
for the condemned, denounced lives which would be publicly cut short on
that, the thirteenth of July, 1793. A tall, brawny soldier, nearly as
dirty himself as the prisoners he would soon conduct from the room,
unrolled the dreaded daily scroll, longer than the previous day's; to
the revolutionaries, the scroll contained merely names to be read off,
one by one, no more human than the paper the black ink marred with those
legendary titles of France. The soldier spat contemptuously at the
fallen aristos, grinding his saliva into the hay at his feet with all
the grace and refinement of a truffle pig, and began to recite the list.
"The former Comte de Giverney, the former Comtess de Giverney!" he
Two figures rose silently from the corner,
clinging to each other, tears
streaming down faces that told of suffering and hopelessness, but
standing rigid and proud in the face of degradation, shame, and death.
Several revolutionaries seized the couple hatefully, the doorway
swallowed them, the soldiers herded them to the waiting tumbrels to be
paraded through the streets and submitted to the attacks of a twisted
"Mademoiselle Cassandre Jean-Pierre, who sheltered an aristocrat!"
"The former Baron Guillame Legrand!"
"Madame Therese-Helene Bernard, plotter against la Republique!"
"Monsieur Hercule-Robert Toulouse!"
Francoise flinched at her father's name; suddenly,
her mind went blank,
every last flicker of denial and disbelief vanished.
"Henri du Mauriat!"
Her son's name rang in her ears, and, instinctively,
she clutched him to
her heart in one final, motherly effort to shield him from the harsh
realities of the world.
"The former Marquise, Francoise du Mauriat!"
Helping her ailing father to his feet, Francoise
led the ghost-like trio
to the steps and out of the prison, their first true glimpse of the
world for over a year—a hungry tumbrel crowded with wearied, broken
spirits. Food for Madame de la Guillotine. Francoise boarded the
tumbrel and closed her eyes.
"Odd's life," Percy muttered under his breath as his gaze fixed on a
familiar face at the gate: a dark-haired Frenchman, nearer forty than
thirty, of small stature, but with a brutal countenance, viciously
assigning a cluster of soldiers their posts. "Citoyen Chauvelin. What
a charming surprise." A look of unwavering determination, a look almost
recalcitrant, appeared upon the hero's face, setting his jaw and
hardening his eyes.
Sir Andrew, the tumbrel's driver, heard but did not acknowledge his
leader's comment, and the Scarlet Pimpernel hurriedly removed his
bayonet from the barrel of his stolen rifle and forced its deadly tip
deep into the knot of rope that bound Francoise's hands behind her
back. As the hindrances loosened, the woman's eyes snapped open and her
head around, but the disguised Percy hushed the question upon her lips
and she resumed her defiant pose, indicating, with an inclination of her
head, the boy at her side. Stealthily, straining to keep his balance in
the rattling, bouncing vehicle, the Scarlet Pimpernel simultaneously
sliced Henri's bonds and clapped a hand over the child's mouth to
silence any betraying outburst. He then moved to the old man.
"Proceed…as usual," the tall guardsman commissioned the driver, as the
cart approached a cul-de-sac on the left. "And we'll pray for good
luck!" he added, in British.
"Yah!" Sir Andrew cried to the horses. Percy fired his rifle into the
air, but in the courtyard, the place of the guillotine, the sound echoed
from all directions, causing the wide-eyed horses to alternately shy and
rear. In the confusion which followed, Sir Andrew managed to back the
tumbrel into the alley, all the while feigning fury at the
"uncontrollable" horses. Percy and the freed aristocrats hastened
through a cellar door— the cellar door to Le Poisson Vert—and,
abandoning his post to the tumultuous crowd, Sir Andrew mingled with the
revolutionaries and soon joined his leader, his disappearance
The closing door muffled the din from the streets, and Andrew descended
five steps into the wine cellar, where Percy and the du Mauriats
exchanged their telltale outfits for red caps, wooden shoes, and other
ragged peasant garb.
The Scarlet Pimpernel, transformed from disdainful guard to
fish-monger, scrubbed his face to redden it, preparing the family for
the hazards which awaited. "I must be perfectly frank with you. Our
plan has gone somewhat awry, my friends, and none of us knows what is to
come. But I give you my solemn word, as a servant of my God, my
country, and my king, that whatever the perils, the League will
sacrifice itself to the last drop of its blood to keep you from harm and
remove you from France. We shall be forced to take our chances with the
gatesmen: we have no ruse to smuggle you through, but have courage and
do not, under any circumstances, diverge from our goal. I cannot
pretend that you are safe. Nay, nor can I assure you that this mission
will leave you alive, but I can claim, and I believe it with all my
soul, that these men you see around you, in whom you must place your
fullest trust, comprise the finest, most lion-hearted, most capable
little band in all of Europe.
"And now," he continued, taking in the old tricotess (Toulouse), the
young wine maker's wife (Francoise) stained with red, and the sack of
potatoes (Henri) that stood before him, "We depart, and may God go with
The potato-sack on her lap, the aged tricotess knitted patiently in the
pushcart, her trembling hands and weak eyes encumbering her work so that
she dropped more stitches than she completed as the cart rumbled toward
the gates in care of the wine maker's wife. Following close behind, the
stooped fishmonger plied his odorous trade. As the common-place group
approached their salvation—their passage out of Paris—the fishmonger
halted, quivered almost imperceptibly, and, shuffling forward, caught
the young wife on the shoulder.
"Les poissons, Citoyenne!" he urged her, delaying the cart's progress,
"Achetez un poisson! Beware, Madame,"
he added under his breath, a dire
warning clouding his handsome blue eyes, "We approach an enemy."
"Qui est-ce?" whispered Francoise, and then, louder, as she pushed the
cart onward, inspired with some inexplicable burst of courage, "Non,
Citoyen, merci. Nous sommes tres pauvre."
Yet again, the red-faced fishmonger pursued her, his tenacious grip on
her wrist halting her in her tracks, freezing her heart; when The
Scarlet Pimpernel, who never quailed from any peril, hesitated, the
danger must be unspeakable indeed. "Mais, Citoyenne, je suis tres
pauvre aussi! Je connais que vous avez faim! Let us delay a moment,
Madame. I must think, I must think of what we should do… D~~
Chauvelin! D~~ him! He's not left the gate!"
"This is mad!" muttered Sir Andrew. "We can't just stand here, Chief:
that would make us appear more suspect than heading straight for the
Percy scratched at the mane of bedraggled curls that hid his own
smooth, fair hair, racking his brains for a solution to the deadly
labyrinth in which he had led the du Mauriats and his faithful league.
Suddenly, a spark lit his face, and a hint of his old, inane grin curled
the edges of his lips. "I have it, my friends! It's a gamble, but I
think I have it! Buy some fish, Madame, and carry it as close to the
guard's noses as possible. Take some for your tricotess and sack of
potatoes as well."
Francoise complied without question, wrinkling her nose slightly at the
repulsive stench of rotting fish that subsequently assaulted her
delicate senses. Upon The Pimpernel's urging, and calling upon every
nerve in her elegant frame, Francoise pushed the cart forward towards
the portal beyond which lay her liberation from that warped "republic,"
that frenzied kingdom which boasted la guillotine as its monarch and
With a grating command, the gate sentry brought the little band to a
halt and demanded their papers of identification, which the wine maker's
wife provided readily.
"Suzanne Pepin, wine maker's wife," the guard read, and the sable-clad
Chauvelin, standing next to him, surveyed the troupe warily, like some
pale-eyed panther poised to strike. Continued the sentry, "Marie
Larousse, widow. Claude Larousse, coal-heaver, and Alexandre Herbert,
Sniffing daintily and pointing an accusing finger at this last
individual, Chauvelin queried suspiciously, "For what reason, Citoyen,
do you leave Paris?"
The Scarlet Pimpernel's eyes twinkled merrily
as he displayed a set of
uneven, blackened teeth to his bitterest enemy and waved un poisson in
the air under the fiend's nose. "Why, Jacques, I'm going fishing!"
Chauvelin paused, snarled contemptuously at the rancid fish, and waved
the party on; as the fishmonger's boot crossed the threshold, however, a
calm, succinct, cruel order passed Chauvelin's lips, and a soldier
called the fellow back to the gate. The most minute of flinches shook
Percy's stooped form, and he wheeled slowly on his tattered boot heel,
an air of annoyance o'erspreading his features as the Englishman boldly
met the stare of the darkly forbidding figure to whom the Committee of
General Safety entrusted the task of his capture.
Smirking diabolically, a wordless Chauvelin beckoned him to return.
With a shrug of his broad, powerful shoulders, Sir Percy Blakeney,
Bart., obeyed, and the gates shut behind him with a hollow clang.
His dedication to his honored leader compelled Sir Andrew to continue
as planned, conducting the du Mauriats to Calais, where the Day Dream
lay moored and ready to transport them all to England. Aware that Percy
would not have them abandon their cause for any sake, especially to
rescue their chief, Ffoulkes rallied the escapees and pressed on,
although his own tormented mind churned as violently as theirs. The
cart rattled down the road for three quarters of an hour, pushed most of
the way by Sir Andrew, before it arrived in a grove of trees where Lord
Antony Dewhurst sat patiently atop a carriage which would convey them to
the desired location.
Upon catching sight of the approaching cart and its occupants, Tony met
them in the road. Sir Andrew silenced his unspoken question with a
telling glance, which indicated that the story would be revealed in its
entirety en route to Calais. With a nod, good Tony handed Francoise
into the coach, unpacked poor little Henri from his potato sack, and
supported the fragile old man until he situated himself comfortably at
his daughter's side.
Andrew shut the door, and the two faithful members of the League of the
Scarlet Pimpernel hoisted themselves onto the driver's box and passed
not a word between them until the carriage had been some time on its
way, untroubled by delays. Andrew ventured a comment first.
"Well, he's alive, as far as I know. Lud!" he sighed, at once awed and
depressed, "Whoever would have thought that that ruse would succeed."
"The fish. The guards refrained from closer inspection of us because
we all reeked of spoiled fish. They accepted our certificates of
identification at first, but they withheld Percy's and called him back
the moment he had stepped out of the foul, blood-soaked capital," spat
Andrew, slapping the reins dispiritedly. "There was nothing I could do
without jeopardizing all our lives."
A pause ensued, but Tony broke it with a sincere,
utterance. "Are you re-entering that hell, or am I?"
The carriage bounced along the dock in Calais, and Sir Andrew and Lord
Tony dismounted at Percy's swift schooner, which rocked pleasantly on
the shining water, unconcerned with its captain's plight.
"Halloa, my good fellows!" called an unmistakable voice from the deck,
causing Andrew to whirl from the coach door, which, thankfully, he had
not yet opened. "I'm thrilled that you've made it safely!" continued
Percy jovially, striding out to his dedicated followers. "So sorry I
couldn't accompany you, but I was forced to take a different road, you
see. Demmed inconvenient!" he added, with a nonsensical chuckle.
"A lucky escape," Percy later explained in the below-decks of the Day
Dream, pouring each of his friends a glass of port. "The soldiers
marched me by the lodgings of one Jean Paul Marat, the infamous radical
revolutionary, and as we passed the door, the cry went up that he had
been murdered—stabbed to death—and in his bath, of all places! Quite a
ruckus ensued, and I broke away and tore out the nearest gate. All the
soldiers had rushed to apprehend the villain, and no one troubled me,
not even the chap whose horse I stole. Poor Citizen Chambertin," Percy
finished lightly, brushing a speck of dust off his immaculate lace cuff
as he purposely mispronounced Chauvelin's name, "lost me again, and due
to such a demmed coincidence as is beyond my realm of comprehension!"
"And to what murderous Jacques do we owe your life?" put in Lord Tony,
sipping from his glass as the Day Dream crossed the channel for England.
Percy paused from re-shelving the port to raise an eyebrow at Dewhurst,
as if the man should already have heard the truth. "Lud love me! You
had better to say 'what murderous Jacqueline,' my dear Tony." Blakeney
sat and reclined lazily at the table. "It was a woman, one Charlotte
Corday." The Scarlet Pimpernel raised his glass and, gazing up into its
sparkling contents, red as a dripping guillotine blade, proposed a
toast. "To Citizeness Charlotte Corday," he said, "who upon this day,
the thirteenth of July, in the year of our Lord seventeen ninety-three,
preserved the life of The Scarlet Pimpernel."
Sir Andrew and Lord Tony followed suite. "To Charlotte Corday. May God
have mercy on her soul."