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Title: The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel
Author: Emmuska Orczy
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Language: English
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Date first posted: July 2006
Date most recently updated: July 2006

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The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel
Emmuska Orczy

Chapter I

At an angle of the Rue de la Monnaie where it is intersected by the
narrow Passage des Fves there stood at this time a large three-
storied house, which exuded an atmosphere of past luxury and grandeur.
Money had obviously been lavished on its decoration: the balconies
were ornamented with elaborately carved balustrades, and a number of
legendary personages and pagan deities reclined in more or less
graceful attitudes in the spandrels round the arches of the windows
and of the monumental doorway. The house had once been the home of a
rich Austrian banker who had shown the country a clean pair of heels
as soon as he felt the first gust of the revolutionary storm blowing
across the Rue de la Monnaie. That was early in '89.

After that the mansion stood empty for a couple of years. Then, when
the housing shortage became acute in Paris, the revolutionary
government took possession of the building, erected partition walls in
the great reception and ballrooms, turning them into small apartments
and offices which it let to poor tenants and people in a small way of
business. A concierge was put in charge. But during those two years
for some reason or other the house had fallen into premature and rabid
decay. Within a very few months an air of mustiness began to hand over
the once palatial residence of the rich foreign financier. When he
departed, bag and baggage, taking with him his family and his
servants, his pictures and his furniture, it almost seemed as if he
had left behind him an eerie trail of ghosts, who took to wandering in
and out of the deserted rooms and up and down the monumental
staircase, scattering an odour of dry-rot and mildew in their wake.
And although, after a time, the lower floors were all let as offices
to business people, and several families elected to drag out their
more or less miserable lives in the apartments up above, that air of
emptiness and of decay never ceased to hang about the building, and
its walls never lost their musty smell of damp mortar and mildew.

A certain amount of life did, of course, go on inside the house.
People came and went about their usual avocations: in one compartment
a child was born, a wedding feast was held in another, old women
gossiped and young men courted: but they did all this in a silent a
furtive manner, as if afraid of rousing dormant echoes; voices were
never raised above a whisper, laughter never rang along the corridors,
nor did light feet run pattering up and down the stairs.

Far be it from any searcher after truth to suggest that this
atmosphere of silence and of gloom was peculiar to the house in the
Rue de la Monnaie. Times were getting hard all over France--very hard
for most people, and hard times whenever they occur give rise to great
silences and engender the desire for solitude. In Paris all the
necessities of life--soap, sugar, milk--were not only very dear but
difficult to get. Luxuries of the past were unobtainable save to those
who, by inflammatory speeches, had fanned the passions of the ignorant
and the needy, with promises of happiness and equality for all. Three
years of this social upheaval and of the rule of the proletariat had
brought throughout the country more misery than happiness. True! the
rich--a good many of them--had been dragged down to poverty or exile,
but the poor were more needy than they had been before. To see the
King dispossessed of his throne, and the nobles and bourgeois either
fleeing the country or brought to penury might satisfy a desire for
retribution, but it did not warm the body in winter, feed the hungry
or clothe the naked. The only equality that this glorious Revolution
had brought about was that of wretchedness, and an ever-present dread
of denunciation and of death. That is what people murmured in the
privacy of their homes, but did not dare to speak of openly. No one
dared speak openly these days, for there was always the fear that
spies might be lurking about, that accusations of treason would
follow, with the inevitable consequences of summary trial and the

And so the women and the children suffered in silence, and the men
suffered because they could do nothing to alleviate the misery of
those they cared for. Some there were lucky enough to have got out of
this hell upon earth, who had shaken the dust of their unfortunate
country from their shoes in the early days of the Revolution, and had
sought--if not happiness, at any rate peace and contentment in other
lands. But there were countless others who had ties that bound them
indissolubly to France--their profession, their business, or family
ties--they could not go away: they were forced to remain in their
native land and to watch hunger, penury and disease stalk the
countryside, whilst the authors of all this misfortune lived a life of
ease in the luxurious homes, sat round their well-filled tables, ate
and drank their fill and spent their leisure hours in spouting of
class-hatred and of their own patriotism and selflessness. The
restaurants of the Rue St. Honor were thronged with merry-makers
night after night. The members of the proletarian government sat in
the most expensive seats at the Opra and the Comdie Franaise and
drove in their barouches to the Bois, while flaunting their democratic
ideals by attending the sittings of the National Assembly stockingless
and in ragged shirts and breeches. Danton kept open house at d'Arcy-
sur-Aube: St. Just and Desmoulins wore jabots of Mechlin lace, and
coats of the finest English cloth: Chabot had a sumptuous apartment in
the Rue d'Anjou. They say to it, these men, that privations and
anxiety did not come nigh them. Privations were for the rabble, who
was used to them, and for aristos and bourgeois, who had never known
the meaning of want: but for them, who had hoisted the flag of
Equality and Fraternity, who had freed the people of France from the
tyranny of Kings and nobles, for them luxury had become a right,
especially if it could be got at the expense of those who had enjoyed
it in the past.

In this year 1792 Matre Bastien de Croissy rented a small set of
offices in the three-storied house in the Rue de la Monnaie. He was at
this time verging on middle age, with hair just beginning to turn
grey, and still an exceptionally handsome man, despite the lines of
care and anxiety round his sensitive mouth and the settled look of
melancholy in his deep-set, penetrating eyes. Bastien de Croissy had
been at one time one of the most successful and most respected members
of the Paris bar. He had reckoned royal personages among his clients.
Men and women, distinguished in art, politics or literature, had
waited on him at his sumptuous office on the Quai de la Mgisserie.
Rich, good-looking, well-born, the young advocate had been fted and
courted wherever he went: the King entrusted him with important
financial transactions: the duc d'Ayen was his most intimate friend:
the Princesse de Lamballe was godmother to his boy, Charles-Lon. His
marriage to Louise de Vandeleur, the only daughter of the
distinguished general, had been one of the social events of that
season in Paris. He had been a great man, a favourite of fortune until
the Revolution deprived him of his patrimony and of his income. The
proletarian government laid ruthless hands on the former, by forcing
him to farm out his lands to tenants who refused to pay him any rent.
His income in a couple of years dwindled down to nothing. Most of his
former clients had emigrated, all of them were now too poor to need
legal or financial advice.

Matre de Croissy was forced presently to give up his magnificent
house and sumptuous offices on the Quai. He installed his wife and
child in a cheap apartment in the Rue Picpus, and carried on what
legal business came his way in a set of rooms which had once been the
private apartments of the Austrian banker's valet. Thither he trudged
on foot every morning, whatever the weather, and here he interviewed
needy bourgeois, groaning under taxation, or out-at-elbows tradesmen
on the verge of bankruptcy. He was no longer Matre de Croissy, only
plain Citizen Croissy, thankful that men like Chabot or Bazire reposed
confidence in him, or that the great Danton deigned to put some legal
business in his way. Where six clerks had scarcely been sufficient to
aid him in getting through the work of the day, he had only one now--
the faithful Reversac--who had obstinately refused to take his cong,
when all the others were dismissed.

"You would not throw me out into the street to stave, would you,
Matre?" had been the young man's earnest plea.

"But you can find other work, Maurice," de Croissy had argued, not
without reason, for Maurice Reversac was a fully qualified lawyer, he
was young and active and of a surety he could always have made a
living for himself. "And I cannot afford to pay you an adequate

"Give me board and lodging, Matre," Reversac had entreated with
obstinacy: "I want nothing else. I have a few louis put by: my clothes
will last me three or four years, and by that time..."

"Yes! by that time..." Matre de Croissy sighed. He had been hopeful
once that sanity would return presently to the people of France, that
this era of chaos and cruelty, of persecution and oppression, could
not possibly last. But of late he had become more and more despondent,
more and more hopeless. When Frenchmen, after having deposed their
anointed king, began to talk of putting him on his trial like a common
criminal, it must mean that they had become possessed of the demon of
insanity, a tenacious demon who would not easily be exorcised.

But Maurice Reversac got his way. He had board and lodging in the
apartment of the Rue Picpus, and in the mornings, whatever the
weather, he trudged over to the Rue de la Monnaie and aired, dusted
and swept the dingy office of the great advocate. In the evenings the
two men would almost invariably walk back together to the Rue Picpus.
The cheap, exiguous apartment meant home for both of them, and in it
they found what measure of happiness their own hearts helped them to
attain. For Bastien de Croissy happiness meant home-life, his love for
his wife and child. For Maurice Reversac it meant living under the
same roof with Josette, seeing her every day, walking with her in the
evenings under the chestnut trees of Cour de la Reine.

A little higher up the narrow Passage des Fves there stood at this
same time a small eating-house, frequented chiefly by the mechanics of
the Government workshops close by. It bore the sign: "Aux Trois
Singes." Two steps down from the street level gave access to it
through a narrow doorway. Food and drink were as cheap here as
anywhere, and the landlord, a man named Furet, had the great merit of
being rather deaf, and having an impediment in his speech. Added to
this was the fact that he had never learned to read or write. These
three attributes made of Furet an ideal landlord in a place where men
with empty bellies and empty pockets were wont to let themselves go in
the matter of grumbling at the present state of affairs, and at the
device "Libert, Fraternit, galit" which by order of the
revolutionary government was emblazoned outside and in every building
to which the public had access.

Furet being deaf could not spy: being mute he could not denounce.
Figuratively speaking men loosened their belts when they sat at one of
the trestle tables inside the Cabaret des Trois Singes, sipped their
sour wine and munched their meal of stale bread and boiled beans. They
loosened their belts and talked of the slave-driving that went on in
the Government workshops, the tyranny of the overseers, the ever-
increasing cost of living, and the paucity of their wages, certain
that Furet neither heard what they said nor would be able to repeat
the little that he heard.

Inside the cabaret there were two tables that were considered
privileged. They were no tables properly speaking, but just empty
wine-casks, standing on end, each in a recess to right and left of the
narrow doorway. A couple of three-legged stools accommodated two
customers and two only in each recess, and those who wished to avail
themselves of the privilege of sitting there were expected to order a
bottle of Furet's best wine. This was one of those unwritten laws
which no frequenter of the Three Monkeys every thought of ignoring.
Furet, though an ideal landlord in so many respects, could turn nasty
when he chose.

On a sultry evening in the late August of '92, two men were sitting in
one of these privileged recesses in the Cabaret des Trois Singes. They
had talked earnestly for the past hour, always sinking their voices to
a whisper. A bottle of Citizen Furet's best wine stood on the cask
between them, but though they had been in the place for over an hour,
the bottle was still more than half full. They seemed too deeply
engrossed in conversation to waste time in drink.

One of the men was short and thick-set with dark hair and marked
Levantine features. He spoke French fluently but with a throaty accent
which betrayed his German origin. Whenever he wished to emphasise a
point he struck the top of the wine-stained cask with the palm of his
fleshy hand.

The other man was Bastien de Croissy. Earlier in the day he had
received an anonymous message requesting a private meeting in the
Cabaret des Trois Singes. The matter, the message averred, concerned
the wellfare of France and the safety of the King. Bastien was no
coward, and the wording of the message was a sure passport to his
confidence. He sent Maurice Reversac home early and kept the
mysterious tryst.

His anonymous correspondent introduced himself as a representative of
Baron de Batz, well known to Bastien as they agent of the Austrian
Government and confidant of the Emperor, whose intrigues and schemes
for the overthrow of the revolutionary government of France had been
as daring in conception as they were futile in execution.

"But this time," the man had declared with complete self-assurance,
"with your help, cher matre, we are bound to succeed."

And he had elaborated the plan conceived in Vienna by de Batz. A
wonderful plan! Neither more nor less than bribing with Austrian gold
some of the more venal members of their own party, and the restoration
of the monarchy.

Bastien de Croissy was sceptical. He did not believe that any of the
more influential Terrorists would risk their necks in so daring an
intrigue. Other ways--surer ways--ought to be found, and found quickly
for the King's life was indeed in peril: not only the King's but the
Queen's and the lives of all the Royal family. But the Austrian agent
was obstinate.

"It is from inside the National Convention that M. le Baron wants
help. That he must have. If he has the co-operation of half a dozen
members of the Executive, he can do the rest, and guarantee success."

Then, as de Croissy still appeared to hesitate, he laid his fleshy
hand on the advocate's arm.

"Voyons, cher matre," he said, "you have the overthrow of this
abominable Government just as much at heart as M. le Baron, and we
none of us question your loyalty to the dynasty."

"It is not want of loyalty," de Croissy retorted hotly, "that makes me

"What then?"

"Prudence! lest by a false move we aggravate the peril of our King."

The other shrugged.

"Well! of course," he said, "we reckon that you, cher matre, know the
men with whom we wish to deal."

"Yes!" Bastien admitted, "I certainly do."

"They are venal?"





"For their own pockets, yes."

"Well then?"

There was a pause. A murmur of conversation was going on all round.
Some of Furet's customers were munching noisily or drinking with a
gurgling sound, others were knocking dominoes about. There was no fear
of eavesdropping in this dark and secluded recess where two men were
discussing the destinies of France. One was the emissary of a foreign
Power, the other an ardent royalist. Both had the same object in view:
to save the King and his family from death, and to overthrow a
government of assassins, who contemplated adding the crime of regicide
to their many malefactions.

"M. le Baron," the foreign agent resumed with increased persuasiveness
after a slight pause, "I need not tell you what is their provenance.
Our Emperor is not going to see his sister at the mercy of a horde of
assassins. M. le Baron is in his council: he will pay twenty thousand
louis each to any dozen men who will lend him a hand in this affair."

"A dozen?" de Croissy exclaimed, then added with disheartened sigh:
"Where to find them!"

"We are looking to you, cher matre."

"I have no influence. Not now."

"But you know the right men," the agent argued, and added
significantly: "You have been watched, you know."

"I guessed."

"We know that you have business relations with members of the
Convention who can be very useful to us."

"Which of them had you thought of?"

"Well! there is Chabot, for instance: the unfrocked friar."

"God in Heaven!" de Croissy exclaimed: "what a tool."

"The end will justify the means, my friend," the other retorted drily.
Then he added: "And Chabot's brother-in-law Bazire."

"Both these men," de Croissy admitted, "would sell their souls, if
they possessed one."

"Then there's Fabre d'Eglantine, Danton's friend."

"You are well informed."

"What about Danton himself?"

The Austrian leaned over the table, eager, excited, conscious that the
Frenchman was wavering. Clearly de Croissy's scepticism was on the
point of giving way before the other's enthusiasm and certainty of
success. It was such a wonderful vista that was being unfolded before
him. France free from the tyranny of agitation! the King restored to
his throne! the country once more happy and prosperous under a stable
government as ordained by God! So thought de Croissy as he lent a more
and more willing ear to the projects of de Batz. He himself mentioned
several names of men who might prove useful in the scheme; names of
men who might be willing to betray their party for Austrian gold.
There were a good many of these: agitators who were corrupt and venal,
who had incited the needy and the ignorant to all kinds of barbarous
deeds, not from any striving after a humanitarian ideal, but for what
they themselves could get out of the social upheaval and its attendant

"If I lend a hand in your scheme," de Croissy said presently with
earnest emphasis, "it must be understood that their first aim is the
restoration of our King to his throne."

"Of course, cher matre, of course," the other asserted equally
forcibly. "Surely you can believe in M. le Baron's disinterested

"What we'll have to do," he continued eagerly, "will be to promise the
men whom you will have chosen for the purpose, a certain sum of money,
to be paid to them as soon as all the members of the Royal family are
safely out of France... we don't want one of the Royal Princesses to
be detained as hostage, do we?... Then we can promise them a further
and larger sum to be paid when their Majesties make their state re-
entry into their capital."

There was no doubt by now that Matre de Croissy's enthusiasm was
fully aroused. He was one of those men for whom dynasty and the right
of Kings amounted to a religion. For him, all that he had suffered in
the past in the way of privations and loss of wealth and prestige was
as nothing compared with the horror which he felt at sight of the
humiliations which miscreants had imposed upon his King. To save the
King! to bring him back triumphant to the throne of his forbears, were
thoughts and hopes that filled Bastien de Croissy's soul with intense
excitement. It was only with half an ear that he listened to the
foreign emissary's further scheme: the ultimate undoing of that herd
of assassins. He did not care what happened once the great goal was
attained. Let those corrupt knaves of whom the Austrian Emperor stood
in need thrive and batten on their own villainy, Bastien de Croissy
did not care.

"You see the idea, do you not, cher matre?" the emissary was saying.

"Yes! oh yes!" Bastien murmured vaguely.

"Get as much letter-writing as you can out of the black-guards. Let us
have as much written proof of their venality as possible. Then if ever
these jackals rear their heads again, we can proclaim their turpitude
before the entire world, discredit them before their ignorant dupes,
and see them suffer humiliation and die the shameful death which they
had planned for their King."

The meeting between the two men lasted well into the night. In the
dingy apartment of the Rue Picpus Louise de Croissy sat up, waiting
anxiously for her husband. Maurice Reversac, whom she questioned
repeatedly, could tell her nothing of Matre de Croissy's whereabouts,
beyond the fact that he was keeping a business appointment, made by a
new client who desired to remain anonymous. When Bastien finally came
home, he looked tired, but singularly excited. Never since the first
dark days of the Revolution three years ago had Louise seen him with
such flaming eyes, or heard such cheerful, not to say optimistic words
from his lips. But he said nothing to her about his interview with the
agent of Baron de Batz, he only talked of the brighter outlook in the
future. God, he said, would soon tire of the wickedness of men: the
present terrible conditions could not possibly last. The King would
soon come into his own again.

Louise was quickly infused with some of his enthusiasm, but she did
not worry him with questions. Hers was one of those easy-going
dispositions that are willing to accept things as they come without
probing into the whys and wherefores of events. She had a profound
admiration for and deep trust in her clever husband: he appeared
hopeful for the future--more hopeful than he had been for a long time,
and that was enough for Louise. It was only to the faithful Maurice
Reversac that de Croissy spoke of his interview with the Austrian
emissary, and the young man tried very hard to show some enthusiasm
over the scheme, and to share his employer's optimism and hopes for
the future. Maurice Reversac, though painstaking and a very capable
lawyer, was not exactly brilliant: against that his love for his
employer and his employers family was so genuine and so great that it
gave him what amounted to intuition, almost a foreknowledge of any
change, good or evil, that destiny had in store for them. And as he
listened to Matre de Croissy's earnest talk, he felt a strange
foreboding that all would not be well with this scheme: that somehow
or other it would lead to disaster, and all the while that he sat at
his desk that day copying the letters which the advocate had dictated
to him--letters which were in the nature of tentacles, stretched out
to catch a set of knaves--he felt an overwhelming temptation to throw
himself at his employer's feet and beg him not to sully his hands by
contact with this foreign intrigue.

But the temptation had to be resisted. Bastien de Croissy was not the
type of man who could be swayed from his purpose by the vapourings of
his young clerk, however devoted he might be. And so the letters were
written--half a score in all--requests by Citizen Croissy of the Paris
bar for private interviews with various influential members of the
Convention on matters of urgency to the State.

Chapter II

More than a year had gone by since then, and Bastien de Croissy had
seen all his fondly cherished hopes turn to despair one by one. There
had been no break in the dark clouds of chaos and misery that
enveloped the beautiful land of France. Indeed they had gathered,
darker and more stormy than before. And now had come what appeared to
be the darkest days of all--the autumn of 1793. The King, condemned to
death by a majority of 48 in an Assembly of over 700 members, had paid
with his life for all the errors, the weaknesses, the
misunderstandings of the past: the unfortunate Queen, separated from
her children and from all those she cared for, accused of the vilest
crimes that distorted minds could invent, was awaiting trial and
inevitable death.

The various political parties--the factions and the clubs--were vying
with one another in ruthlessness and cruelty. Danton the lion and
Robespierre the jackal were at one another's throats; it still meant
the mere spin of a coin as to which would succeed in destroying the
other. The houses of detention were filled to overflowing, while the
guillotine did its grim work day by day, hour by hour, without
distinction of rank or sex, or of age. The Law of the Suspect had just
been passed, and it was no longer necessary for an unfortunate
individual to do or say anything that the Committee of Public Safety
might deem counter-revolutionary, it was sufficient to be suspected of
such tendencies for denunciation to follow, then arrest and finally
death with but the mockery of a trial, without pleading or defence.
And while the Terrorists were intent on destroying one another the
country was threatened by foes without and within. Famine and disease
stalked in the wake of persecution. The countryside was devastated,
there were not enough hands left to till the ground and the cities
were a prey to epidemics. On the frontier the victorious allied armies
were advancing on the sacred soil of France. The English were pouring
in from Belgium, the Russians came across the Rhine, the Spaniards
crossed the gorges of the Pyrenees, whilst the torch of civil war was
blazing anew in La Vende.

Danton's cry: "To arms!" and "La Patrie is in danger!" resounded from
end to end of the land. It echoed through the deserted cities and over
the barren fields, while three hundred thousand "Soldiers of Liberty"
marched to the frontiers, ill-clothed, ill-shod, ill-fed, to drive
back the foreign invader from the gates of France. An epic, what?
Worthy of a holier cause.

Those who were left behind, who were old, or weak, or indispensable,
had to bear their share in the defence of La Patrie. France was
transformed into an immense camp of fighters and workers. The women
sewed shirts and knitted socks, salted meat and stitched breeches, and
looked after their children and their homes as best they could. France
came first, the home was a bad second.

It was then that little Charles-Lon fell ill. That was the beginning
of the tragedy. He had always been delicate, which was not to be
wondered at, seeing that he was born during the days immediately
preceding the Revolution, at the time when the entire world, such as
Louise de Croissy had known it, was crumbling to dust at her feet. She
never thought he would live, the dear, puny mite, the precious son,
whom she and Bastien had longed for, prayed for, by year until this
awful winter when food became scarce and poor, and milk was almost

Kind old Doctor Larousse said it was nothing serious, but the child
must have change of air. Paris was too unhealthy these days for
delicate children. Change of air? Heavens above! how was it to be got?
Louise questioned old Citizen Larousse:

"Can you get me a permit, doctor? We still have a small house in the
Isre district, not far from Grenoble. I could take my boy there."

"Yes. I can get you a permit for the child--at least, I think so--
under the circumstances."

"And one for me?"

"Yes, one for you--to last a week."

"How do you mean to last a week?"

"Well, you can get the diligence to Grenoble. It takes a couple of
days. Then you can stay in your house, say, fourty-eight hours to see
the child installed. Two days to come back by diligence..."

"But I couldn't come back."

"I'm afraid you'll have to. No one is allowed to be absent from
permanent domicile more than seven days. You know that, Citizeness,

"But I couldn't leave Charles-Lon."

"Why not? There is not very much the matter with him. And country

Louise was losing her patience. How obtuse men are, even the best of

"But there is no one over there to look after him," she argued.

"Surely a respectable woman from the village would..."

This time she felt her temper rising. "And you suppose that I would
leave this sick baby in the care of a stranger?"

"Haven't you a relation who would look after him? Mother? Sister?"

"My mother is dead. I have no sisters. Nor would I leave Charles-Lon
in anyone's care but mine."

The doctor shrugged. He was very kind, but he had seen this sort of
thing so often lately, and he was powerless to help.

"I am afraid..." he said.

"Citizen Larousse," Louise broke in firmly, "you must give me a
certificate that my child is too ill to be separated from his mother."

"Impossible, Citizeness."

"Won't you try?"

"I have tried--for others--often, but it's no use. You know what the
decrees of the Convention are these days... no one dares..."

"And I am to see my child perish for want of a scrap of paper?"

Again the old man shrugged. He was a busy man and there were others.
Presently he took his leave: there was nothing that he could do, so
why should he stay? Louise hardly noticed his going. She stood there
like a block of stone, a carved image of despair. The wan cheeks of
the sick child seemed less bloodless than hers.


Josette Gravier had been standing beside the cot all this time.
Charles-Lon's tiny hand had fastened round one of her fingers and she
didn't like to move, but she had lost nothing of what was going on.
Her eyes, those lovely deep blue eyes of hers that seemed to shine, to
emit light when she was excited, were fixed on Louise de Croissy. She
had loved her and served her ever since Louise's dying mother, Madame
de Vadeleur, confided the care of her baby daughter to Madame Gravier,
the farmer's wife, Josette's mother, who had just lost her own new-
born baby, the same age as Louise. Josette, Ma'me Gravier's first-
born, was three years old at the time and, oh! how she took the little
new-comer to her heart! She and Louise grew up together like sisters.
They shared childish joys and tears. The old farmhouse used to ring
with their laughter and the patter of their tiny feet. Papa Gravier
taught them to ride and to milk the nanny-goats; they had rabbits of
their own, chickens and runner-ducks.

Together they went to the Convent school of the Visitation to learn
everything that was desirable for young ladies to know, sewing and
embroidery, calligraphy and recitation, a smattering of history and
geography, and the art of letter-writing. For there was to be no
difference in the education of Louise de Vandeleur, the motherless
daughter of the distinguished general, aide-de-camp to His Majesty,
and of Josette Gravier, the farmer's daughter.

When, in the course of time, Louise married Bastien de Croissy, the
eminent advocate at the Paris bar, Josette nearly broke her heart at
parting from her lifelong friend.

Then came the dark days of '89. Papa Gravier was killed during the
revolutionary riots in Grenoble; maman died of a broken heart, and
Louise begged Josette to come and live with her. The farm was sold,
the girl had a small competence; she went up to Paris and continued to
love and serve Louise as she had done in the past. She was her comfort
and her help during those first terrible days of the Revolution: she
was her moral support now that the shadow of the guillotine lay
menacing over the household of the once successful lawyer. La Patrie
in danger claimed so many hours of her day; she, too, had to sew
shirts and stitch breeches for the "Soldiers of Liberty," but her
evenings, her nights, her early mornings were her own, and these she
devoted to the service of Louise and of Charles-Lon.

She had a tiny room in the apartment of the Rue Picpus, but to her
loving little heart that room was paradise, for here, when she was at
home, she had Charles-Lon to play with, she had his little clothes to
wash and to iron, she saw his great dark eyes, so like his mother's
fixed upon her while she told him tales of romance and of chivalry.
The boy was only five at this time, but he was strangely precocious
where such tales were concerned, he seemed to understand and
appreciate the mighty deeds of Hector and Achilles, of Bayard and Joan
of Arc, the stories of the Crusades, of Godfrey de Bouillon and
Richard of the Lionheart. Perhaps it was because he felt himself to be
weak and puny and knew with the unexplainable instinct of childhood
that he would never be big enough or strong enough to emulate those
deeds of valour, that he loved to hear Josette recount them to him
with a wealth of detail supplied by her romantic imagination.

But if Charles-Lon loved to hear these stories of the past, far more
eagerly did he listen to those of to-day, and in the recounting of
heroic adventures which not only had happened recently, but went on
almost every day, Josette's storehouse of hair-raising narratives was
well-nigh inexhaustible. Through her impassioned rhetoric he first
heard of the heroic deeds of that amazing Englishman who went by the
curious name of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Josette told him about a number
of gallant gentlemen who had taken such compassion on the sufferings
of the innocent that they devoted their lives to rescuing those who
were persecuted and oppressed by the tyrannical Government of the day.
She told him how women and children, old or feeble men, dragged before
a tribunal that knew of no issue save the sentence of death, were
spirited away out of prison walls or from the very tumbrils that were
taking them to the guillotine, spirited away as if by a miracle, and
through the agency of this mysterious hero whose identity had always
remained unknown, but whose deeds of self-sacrifice were surely writ
large in the book of the Recording Angel.

And while Josette unfolded these tales of valour, and the boy listened
to her awed and silent, her eyes would shine with unshed tears, and
her lips quiver with enthusiasm. She had made a fetish of the Scarlet
Pimpernel: had enshrined him in her heart like a demi-god, and this
hero-worship grew all the more fervent within her as she found no
response to her enthusiasm in the bosom of her adopted family, only in
Charles-Lon. She was too gentle and timid to speak openly of this
hero-worship to Matre de Croissy, and Louise, whom she adored, was
wont to grow slightly sarcastic at the expense of Josette's imaginary
hero. She did not believe in his existence at all, and thought that
all the tales of miraculous rescues set down to his agency were either
mere coincidence or just the product of a romantic girl's fantasy. As
for Maurice Reversac--well! little Josette thought him too dull and
unimaginative to appreciate the almost legendary personality of the
Scarlet Pimpernel, so, whenever a fresh tale got about the city of how
a whole batch of innocent men, women and children had escaped out of
France on the very eve of their arrest or condemnation to death,
Josette kept the tale to herself, until she and Charles-Lon were
alone in her little room, and she found response to her enthusiasm in
the boy's glowing eyes and his murmur of passionate admiration.

When Charles-Lon's chronic weakness turned to actual, serious anemia,
all the joy seemed to go out of Josette's life. Real joy, that is; for
she went about outwardly just as gay as before, singing, crooning to
the little invalid, cheering Louise and comforting Bastien, who spoke
of her now as the angel in the house. Every minute that she could
spare she spent by the side of Charles-Lon's little bed, and when no
one was listening she would whisper into his ear some of the old
stories which he loved. Then if the ghost of a smile came round the
child's pallid lips, Josette would feel almost happy, even though she
felt ready to burst into tears.

And now, as soon as the old doctor had gone, Josette disengaged her
hand from the sick child's grasp and put her arms around Louise's

"We must not lose heart, Louise chrie," she said. "There must be a
way out of this impasse."

"A way out?" Louise murmured. "Oh, if I only knew!"

"Sit down here, chrie, and let me talk to you."

There was a measure of comfort even in Josette's voice. It was low and
a trifle husky; such a voice as some women have whose mission in life
is to comfort and to soothe. She made Louise sit down in the big
armchair; then she knelt down in front of her, her little hands
clasped together and resting in Louise's lap.

"Listen, Louise chrie," she said with great excitement.

Louise looked down on the beautiful eager face of her friend; the soft
red lips were quivering with excitement; the large luminous eyes were
aglow with a strange enthusiasm. She felt puzzled, for it was not in
Josette's nature to show so much emotion. She was always deemed quiet
and sensible. She never spoke at random, and never made a show of her
fantastic dreams.

"Well, darling?" Louise said listlessly: "I am listening. What is it?"

Josette looked up, wide-eyed and eager, straight into her friend's

"What we must do, chrie," she said with earnest emphasis, "is to get
in touch with those wonderful Englishmen. You know who I mean. They
have already accomplished miracles on behalf of innocent men, women
and children, of people who were in a worse plight than we are now."

Louise frowned. She knew well enough what Josette meant: she had often
laughed at the girl's enthusiasm over this imaginary hero, who seemed
to haunt her dreams. But just now she felt that there was something
flippant and unseemly in talking such fantastic rubbish: dreams seemed
out of place when reality was so heart-breaking. She tried to rise to
push Josette away, but the girl clung to her and would not let her go.

"I don't know what you are talking about, Josette," Louise said coldly
at last. "This is not the time for jest, or for talking of things that
only exist in your imagination."

Josette shook her head.

"Why do you say that, Louise chrie? Why should you deliberately close
your eyes and ears to facts--hard, sober, solid facts that everybody
knows, that everybody admits to be true? I should have thought," the
girl went on in her earnest, persuasive way, "that with this terrible
thing hanging over you--Charles-Lon getting more and more ill, till
there's no hope of his recovery..."

"Josette!! Don't!" Louise cried out in an agony of reproach.

"I must," Josette insisted with quiet force: "it is my duty to make
you look straight at facts as they are; and I say, that with this
terrible thing hanging over us, you must cast off foolish prejudices
and open your mind to what is the truth and will be your salvation."

Louise looked down at the beautiful, eager face turned up to hers. She
felt all of a sudden strangely moved. Of course Josette was talking
nonsense. Dear, sensible, quiet little Josette! She was simple and not
at all clever, but it was funny, to say the least of it, how
persuasive she could be when she had set her mind on anything. Even
over small things she would sometimes wax so eloquent that there was
no resisting her. No! she was not clever, but she was extra-ordinarily
shrewd where the welfare of those she loved was in question. And she
adored Louise and worshipped Charles-Lon.

Since the doctor's visit Louise had felt herself floundering in such a
torrent of grief that she was ready to clutch at any straw that would
save her from despair. Josette was talking nonsense, of course. All
the family were wont to chaff her over her adoration of the legendary
hero, so much so, in fact, that the girl had ceased altogether to talk
about him. But now her eyes were positively glowing with enthusiasm,
and it seemed to Louise, as she gazed into them, that they radiated
hope and trust. And Louise was so longing for a ray of hope.

"I suppose," she said with a wan smile, "that you are harping on your
favourite string."

"I am," Josette admitted with fervour.

Then as Louise, still obstinate and unbelieving, gave a slight shrug
and a sigh, the girl continued:

"Surely, Louise chrie, you have heard other people besides me--
clever, distinguished, important people--talk of the Scarlet

"I have," Louise admitted: "but only in a vague way."

"And what he did for the Maillys?"

"The general's widow, you mean?"

"Yes. She and her sister and the two children were simply snatched
away from under the very noses of the guard who were taking them to

"I did hear something about that," was Louise's dry comment; "but..."

"And of about the de Tournays?" Josette broke in eagerly.

"They are in England now. So I heard."

"They are. And who took them there? The Marquis was in hiding in the
woods near his property: Mme. de Tournay and Suzanne were in terror
for him and in fear for their lives. It was said openly that their
arrest was imminent. And when the National Guard went to arrest them,
Mm. de Tournay and Suzanne were gone, and the Marquis was never found.
You've said it yourself, they are in England now."

"But Josette darling," Louise argued obstinately, "there's nothing to
say in all those stories that any mysterious Englishman had aught to
do with the Maillys and the Tournays."

"Who then?"

"It was the intervention of God."

Josette shook her pretty head somewhat sadly.

"God does not intervene directly these days, my darling," she said;
"He chooses great and good men to do His bidding."

"And I don't see," Louise concluded with some impatience, "I don't see
what the Maillys or the Tournays have to do with me and Charles-Lon."

But at this Josette's angelic temper very nearly forsook her.

"Don't be obtuse, Louise," she cried hotly. "We don't want to get in
touch with the Maillys or the Tournays. I never suggested anything so
ridiculous. All I mean was that they and hundreds--yes, hundreds--of
others owe their life to the Scarlet Pimpernel."

Tears of vexation rose from her loving heart at Louise's obduracy. She
it was who tried to rise now, but this time Louise held her down: Poor
Louise! She did so long to believe--really believe. Hope is such a
precious thing when the heart is full to bursting of anxiety and
sorrow. And she longed for hope and for faith: the same hope that made
Josette's eyes sparkle and gave a ring of sanguine expectation to her

"Don't run away, Josette," she pleaded. "You don't know how I envy you
your hero-worship and your trust. But listen, darling: even if your
Scarlet Pimpernel does exist--see, I no longer say that he does not--
even if he does, he knows nothing about us. How then can he

Josette drew a sigh of relief. For the first time since the hot
argument had started she felt that she was gaining ground. Her faith
was going to prevail. Louise's scepticism had changed: the look of
despair had gone and there was a light in her eyes which suggested
that hope had crept at last into her heart. The zealot had vanquished
the obstinacy of the sceptic, and Josette having gained her point
could speak more calmly now.

She shook her head and smiled.

"Don't you believe it, chrie," she said gently.

"Believe what?"

"That the Scarlet Pimpernel knows nothing about you. He does. I am
sure he does. All you have to do is just to invoke him in your heart."

"Nonsense, Josette," Louise protested. "You are not pretending, I
suppose, that this Englishman is a supernatural being?"

"I don't know about that," said the young devotee, "but I do know that
he is the bravest, finest man that ever lived. And I know also that
wherever there is a great misfortune or a great sorrow he appears like
a young god, and at once care and anxiety disappear, and grief is
turned to joy."

"I wish I could have your faith in miracles, my Josette."

"You need not call it a miracle. The good deeds of the Scarlet
Pimpernel are absolutely real."

"But even so, my dear, what can we do? We don't know where to find
him. And if we did, what could he do for us--for Charles-Lon?"

"He can get you a permit to go into the country with Charles-Lon, and
to remain with him until he is well again."

"I don't believe that. Nothing short of a miracle can accomplish that.
You heard what the doctor said."

"Well, I say that the Scarlet Pimpernel can do anything! And I mean to
get in touch with him."

"You are stupid, Josette."

"And you are a woman of little faith. Why don't you read your Bible,
and see what it says there about faith?"

Louise shrugged. "The Bible," she said coolly, "tells us about moving
mountains by faith, but nothing about finding a needle in a haystack
or a mysterious Englishman in the streets of Paris."

But Josette was now proof against her friend's sarcasm. She jumped to
her feet and put her arms round Louise.

"Well!" she rejoined, "my faith is going to find him, that's all I
know. I wish," she went on with a comic little inflection of her
voice, "that I had not wasted this past hour in trying to put some of
that faith into you. And now I know that I shall have to spend at
least another hour driving it into Maurice's wooden head."

Louise smiled. "Why Maurice?" she asked.

"For the same reason," the girl replied, "that I had to wear myself
out in order to break your obstinacy. It will take me some time
perhaps, as you say, to find the Scarlet Pimpernel in the streets of
Paris. I shall have to be out and about a great deal, and if I had
said nothing to any of you, you and Maurice and even Bastien would
always have been asking me questions: where I had been? why did I go
out? why was I late for dinner? And Maurice would have gone about
looking like a bear with a sore head, whenever I refused to go for a
walk with him. So of course," Josette concluded navely, "I shall have
to tell him."

Louise said nothing more after that: she sat with clasped hands and
eyes fixed into vacancy, thinking, hoping, or perhaps just praying for

But Josette having had her say went across the room to Charles-Lon's
little bed. She leaned over him and kissed him. He whispered her name
and added feebly: "Tell me some more... about the Scarlet Pimpernel...
when will he come... to take me away... to England?"

"Soon," Josette murmured in reply: "very soon. Do not doubt it, my
precious. God will send him to you very soon."

Then without another word to Louise she ran quickly out of the room.

Chapter III

Josette had picked up her cape and slung it round her shoulders; she
pulled the hood over her fair curls and ran swiftly down the stairs
and out into the street. Thoughts of the Scarlet Pimpernel had a way
of whipping up her blood. When she spoke of him she at once wanted to
be up and doing. She wanted to be up and doing something that would
emulate the marvellous deeds of that mysterious hero of romance--deeds
which she had heard recounted with bated breath by her fellow-workers
in the Government workshops where breeches were stitched and stockings
knitted by the hundred for the "Soldiers of Liberty," marching against
the foreign foe.

Josette on this late afternoon had to put in a couple of hours at the
workshop. At six o'clock when the light gave out she would be free;
and at six o'clock Maurice Reversac would of a certainty be outside
the gates of the workshop waiting to escort her first for a walk along
the Quai or the Cour la Reine and then home to cook the family supper.

She came out of the workshop on this late afternoon with glowing eyes
and flaming cheeks, and nearly ran past Maurice without seeing him as
her mind was so full of other things. She was humming a tune as she
ran. Maurice was waiting for her at the gate, and he called to her. He
felt very happy all of a sudden because Josette seemed so pleased to
see him.

"Maurice!" she cried, "I am so glad you have come."

Maurice, being young and up to his eyes in love, did not think of
asking her why she should be so glad. She was glad to see him and that
was enough for any lover. He took hold of her by the elbow and led her
through the narrow streets as far as the Quai and then over to Cour la
Reine, where there were seats under the chestnut trees from which the
big prickly burrs were falling fast, and split as they fell, revealing
the lovely smooth surface of the chestnuts, in colour like Josette's
hair; and as the last glimmer of daylight faded into evening the
sparrows in the trees kicked up a great shindy, which was like a paean
of joy in complete accord with Maurice's mood.

Nor did Maurice notice that Josette was absorbed; her eyes shone more
brightly than usual, and her lips, which were so like ripe fruit, were
slightly parted, and Maurice was just aching for a kiss.

He persuaded her to sit down: the air was so soft and balmy--lovely
autumn evening with the scent of ripe fruit about; and those sparrows
up in the chestnut trees did kick up such a shindy before tucking
their little heads under their wings for the night. There were a few
passers-by--not many--and this corner of old Paris appeared singularly
peaceful, with a whole world of dreams and hope between it and the
horrors of the Revolution. Yet this was the hour when the crowds that
assembled daily on the Place de la Barrire du Trne to watch the
guillotine at its dread work wandered, tired and silent, back to their
homes, and when rattling carts bore their gruesome burdens to the
public burying-place.

But what are social upheavals, revolutions or cataclysms to a lover
absorbed in the contemplation of his beloved? Maurice Reversac sat
beside Josette and could see her adorable profile with the small tip-
tilted nose and the outline of her cheek so like a ripe peach. Josette
sat silent and motionless at first, so Maurice felt emboldened to put
out a timid hand and take hold of hers. She made no resistance and he
thought of a surety that he would swoon with joy because she allowed
that exquisite little hand to rest contented in his great rough palm.
It felt just like a bird, soft and warm and fluttering, like those
sparrows in up the trees.

"Josette," Maurice ventured to murmur after a little while, "you are
glad to see me... you said so... didn't you, Josette?"

She was not looking at him, but he didn't mind that, for though the
twilight was fast drawing in he could still see her adorable profile--
that delicious tip-tilted nose and the lashes that curled like a
fringe of gold over her eyes. The hood had fallen back from her head
and the soft evening breeze stirred the tendrils of her chestnut-
coloured hair.

"You are so beautiful, Josette," Maurice sighed, "and I am such a
clumsy lout, but I would know how to make you happy. Happy! My God! I
would make you as happy as the birds--without a care in the world. And
all day you would just go about singing--singing--because you would
have forgotten by then what sorrow was like."

Encouraged by her silence he ventured to draw a little nearer to her.

"I have seen," he murmured quite close to her ear, "an apartment that
would be just the right setting for you, Josette darling: only three
rooms and a little kitchen, but the morning sun comes pouring in
through the big windows and there is a clump of chestnut trees in
front in which the birds will sing in the spring from early dawn while
you still lie in bed. I shall have got up by then and will be in the
kitchen getting some hot milk for you; then I will bring you the warm
milk, and while you drink it I shall sit and watch the sunshine play
about in your hair."

Never before had Maurice plucked up sufficient courage to talk at such
length, usually when Josette was beside him he was so absorbed in
looking at her and longing for her that his tongue refused him
service; for these were days when true lovers were timid and la jeune
fille was an almost sacred being, whose limpid soul no profane word
dared disturb, and Maurice had been brought up by an adoring mother in
these rigid principles. This cruel and godless Revolution had, indeed,
shattered many ideals and toughened the fibres of men's hearts and
women's sensibilities, else Maurice would never have dared thus to
approach the object of his dreams--her whom he hoped one day to have
for wife.

Josette's silence had emboldened him, and the fact that she had
allowed her hand to rest in his all this while. Now he actually dared
to put out his arm and encircle her shoulders; he was, in fact,
drawing her to him, feeling that he was on the point of stepping
across the threshold of Paradise, when slowly she turned her face to
him and looked him straight between the eyes. Her own appeared puzzled
and there was a frown as of great perplexity between her brows.

"Maurice," she asked, and there was no doubt that she was both puzzled
and astonished, "are you, perchance, trying to make love to me?"

Then, as he remained silent and looked, in his turn, both bewildered
and hurt, she gave a light laugh, gently disengaged her hand and
patted him on the cheek.

"My poor Maurice!" she said, "I wish I had listened sooner, but I was
thinking of other things...."

When a man had had the feeling that he has actually reached the gates
of Paradise and that a kindly Saint Peter was already rattling his
keys so as to let him in--when he has felt this for over half an hour
and then, in a few seconds, is hurtled down into an abyss of
disappointment, his first sensation is as if he had been stunned by a
terrific blow on the head, and he becomes entirely tongue-tied.

Bewildered and dumb, all Maurice could do was to stare at the adorable
vision of a golden-haired girl whom he worshipped and who, with a
light heart and a gay laugh, had just dealt him the most cruel blow
that any man had ever been called upon to endure.

The worst of it was that this adorable golden-haired girl had
apparently no notion of how cruel had been the blow, for she prattled
on about the other things of which she had been thinking quite
oblivious of the subject-matter of poor Maurice's impassioned

"Maurice dear," she said, "listen to me and do not talk nonsense."

Nonsense!! Ye gods!

"You have got to help me, Maurice, to find the Scarlet Pimpernel."

Her beautiful eyes, which she turned full upon him, were aglow with
enthusiasm--enthusiasm for something in which he had no share. Nor did
he understand what she was talking about. All he knew was that she had
dismissed his pleading as nonsense, and that with a curious smile on
her lips she was just turning a knife round and round in his heart.

And, oh, how that hurt!

But she also said that she wanted his help, so he tried very hard to
get at her meaning, though she seemed to be prattling on rather

"Charles-Lon," she said, "is very ill, you know, Maurice dear--that
is, not so very ill, but the doctor says he must have change of air or
he will perish in a decline."

"A doctor can always get a permit for a patient in extremis..."
Maurice put in, assuming a judicial manner.

"Don't be stupid, Maurice!" she retorted impatiently. "We all know
that the doctor can get a permit for Charles-Lon, but he can't get
one for Louise or for me, and where is Charles-Lon to go with neither
of us to look after him?"

"Then what's to be done?"

"Try and listen more attentively, Maurice," she retorted. "You are not
really listening."

"I am," he protested, "I swear I am!"


"Really, Josette--with both ears and all the intelligence I've got."

"Very well, then. You have heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel, haven't

"We all have--in a way."

"What do you mean by 'in a way'?"

"Well, no one is quite sure if he really exists, and..."

"Maurice, don't, in Heaven's name, be stupid! You must have brains or
Matre de Croissy could not do with you as his confidential clerk. So
do use your brains, Maurice, and tell me if the Scarlet Pimpernel does
not exist, then how did the Maillys get away--and the Frontenacs--and
the Tournays--and--and...? Oh, Maurice, I hate your being so stupid!"

"You have only got to tell me, Josette, what you wish me to do," poor
Maurice put in very humbly, "and I will do it, of course."

"I want you to help me find the Scarlet Pimpernel."

"Gladly will I help you, Josette; but won't it be like looking for a
needle in a haystack?"

"Not at all," this intrepid little Joan of Arc asserted. "Listen,
Maurice! In our workshop there is a girl, Agnes Minet, who was at one
time in service with a Madame Carr, whose son Antoine was in hiding
because he was threatened with arrest. His mother didn't dare write to
him lest her letters be intercepted. Well, there was a public letter-
writer who plied his trade at the corner of the Pont-Neuf--a funny old
scarecrow he was--and Agnes, who cannot write, used sometimes to
employ him to write to her fianc who was away with the army. She says
she doesn't know exactly how it all happened--s he thinks the old
letter-writer must have questioned her very cleverly, or else have
followed her home one day--but, anyway, she caught herself telling him
all about Antione Carr and took him and his mother safely out of

She paused a moment to draw breath, for she had spoken excitedly and
all the time scarcely above a whisper, for the subject-matter was not
one she would have liked some evil-wisher to hear. There were so many
spies about these days eager for blood-money--the forty sous which
could be earned for denouncing a "suspect."

Maurice, fully alive to this, made no immediate comment, but after a
few seconds he suggested: "Shall we walk?" and took Josette by the
elbow. It was getting dark now: the Cour la Reine was only poorly-
lighted by a very few street lanterns placed at long intervals. They
walked together in silence for a time, looking like young lovers
intent on amorous effusions. The few passers-by, furtive and
noiseless, took no notice of them.

"Antoine Carr's case is not the only one, Maurice," Josette resumed
presently. "I could tell you dozens of others. The girls in the
workshop talk about it all the time when the superintendent is out of
the room."

Again she paused, and then went on firmly, stressing her command: "You
have got to help me, you know, Maurice."

"Of course I will, Josette," Maurice murmured. "But how?"

"You must find the public letter-writer who used to have his pitch at
the corner of the Pont-Neuf."

"There isn't one there now. I went past..."

"I know that. He has changed his pitch, that's all."

"How shall I know which is the right man? There are a number of public
letter-writers in Paris."

"I shall be with you, Maurice, and I shall know, I am sure I shall
know. There is something inside my heart which will make it beat
faster as soon as the Scarlet Pimpernel is somewhere nigh. Besides..."

She checked herself, for involuntarily she had raised her voice, and
at once Maurice tightened his hold on her arm. In the fast-gathering
gloom a shuffling step had slided furtively past them. They could not
clearly see the form of this passer-by, only the vague outline of a
man stooping under a weight which he carried over his shoulders.

"We must be careful, Josette..." Maurice whispered softly.

"I know--I was carried away. But, Maurice, you will help me?"

"Of course," he said.

And though he did not feel very hopeful he said it fervently, for the
prospect of roaming through the streets of Paris in the company of
Josette in search of a person who might be mythical and who certainly
would take a lot of finding, was of the rosiest. Indeed, Maruice hoped
that the same mythical personage would so hide himself that it would
be many days before he was ultimately found.

"And when we have found him," Josette continued glibly, once more
speaking under her breath, "you shall tell him about Louise and
Charles-Lon, and that Louise must have a permit to take the poor sick
baby into the country and to remain with him until he is well."

"And you think...?"

"I don't think, Maurice," she said emphatically, "I know that the
Scarlet Pimpernel will do the rest."

She was like a young devotee proclaiming the miracles of her patron
saint. It was getting very dark now and at home Louise and Charles-
Lon would be waiting for Josette, the angel in the house.
Mechanically and a little sadly Maurice led the girl's footsteps in
the direction of home. They spoke very little together after this: it
seemed as if, having made her profession of faith, Josette took her
loyal friend's co-operation for granted. She did not even now realise
the cruelty of the blow which she had dealt to his fondest hopes. With
the image of this heroic Scarlet Pimpernel so firmly fixed in her
mind, Josette was not likely to listen to a declaration of love from a
humble lawyer's clerk, who had neither deeds of valour nor a handsome
presence wherewith to fascinate a young girl so romantically inclined.

Thus they wandered homewards in silence--she indulging in her dreams,
and he nursing a sorrow that he felt would be eternal. Up above in the
chestnut trees the sparrows had gone to roost. Their paean of joy had
ceased, only the many sounds of a great city not yet abed broke in
silence of the night. Furtive footsteps still glided well-nigh
soundlessly by; now and then there came a twitter, a fluttering of
wings from above, or from far away the barking of a dog, the banging
of a door, or the rattling of cart-wheels on the cobble-stones. And
sometimes the evening breeze would give a great sigh that rose up into
the evening air as if coming from hundreds of thousands of prisoners
groaning under the tyranny of bloodthirsty oppressors, of a government
that proclaimed Liberty and Fraternity from the steps of the

And at home in the small apartment of the Rue Picpus, Josette and
Maurice found that Louise had cried her eyes out until she had worked
herself into a state of hysteria, while Matre de Croissy, silent and
thoughtful, sat in dejection by the bedside of his sick child.

Chapter IV

The evening was spent--strangely enough--in silence and in gloom.
Josette, who a few hours before had thought to have gained her point
and to have brought both hope and faith into Louise's heart, found
that her friend had fallen back into that state of dejection out of
which nothing that Josette said could possibly drag her. Josette put
this down to Bastien's influence. Bastien too had always been
skeptical about the Scarlet Pimpernel, didn't believe in his existence
at all. He somehow confused him in his mind with that Austrian agent
Baron de Batz, of whom he had had such bitter experience. De Batz,
too, had been full of schemes for rescuing the King, the Royal family,
and many a persecuted noble, threatened with death, but months had
gone by and nothing had been done. The mint of Austrian money promised
by him was never forthcoming. De Batz himself was never on the spot
when he wanted. In vain had Bastien de Croissy toiled and striven his
hardest to bring negotiations to a head between a certain few members
of the revolutionary government who were ready to accept bribes, and
the Austrian emissaries who professed themselves ready to pay. Men
like Chabot and Bazire, and Fabre d'Eglantine had been willing enough
to negotiate, though their demands became more and more exorbitant as
time went on and the King's peril more imminent: even Danton had
thrown out hints that in these hard times a man must live, so why not
on Austrian money, since French gold was so scarce? but somehow, when
everything appeared to be ready, and greedy palms were already
outstretched to receive the promised bribes, the money was never
there, and de Batz, warned of his peril if he remained in France, had
fled across the border.

And somehow the recollection of that intriguer was inextricably mixed
up in de Croissy's mind with the legendary personality of the Scarlet

"Josette is quite convinced of his existence," Louise had said to her
husband that afternoon, when they stood together in sorrow and tears
beside the sick-bed of Charles-Lon, "and that he can and will get me
the permit to take our darling away into the country."

But Bastien shook his head, sadly and obstinately.

"Don't lure yourself with false hopes, my dear," he said. "Josette is
an angel, but she is also a child. She dreams and persuades herself
that her dreams are realities. I have had experience of such dreams

"I know," Louise rejoined with a sigh.

Hers was one of those yielding natures, gentle and affectionate, that
can be swayed one way or the other by an event, sometimes by a mere
word; and yet at times she would be strangely obstinate, with the
obstinacy of the very weak, or of the feather-pillow that seems to
yield at the touch only to regain it's own shape the next moment.

A word from Bastien and all the optimism which Josette's ardour had
implanted in her heart froze again into scepticism and discouragement.

"If we cannot save Charles-Lon," she said, "I shall die."

Twenty-four hours had gone by since then, and to-day Bastien de
Croissy sat alone in the small musty office of the Rue de la Monnaie.
He had sent his clerk, Maurice Reversac, off early because he was a
kindly man and had not forgotten the days of his own courtship, and
knew that the happiest hours of Maurice's day were those when he could
meet Josette Gravier outside the gate of the Government workshop and
take her out for a walk.

De Croissy had also sent Maurice away early because he wanted to be
alone. A crisis had arisen in his life with which he desired to deal
thoughtfully and dispassionately. His child was ill, would die,
perhaps, unless he, the father, could contrive to send him out of
Paris into the country under the care of his mother. The tyranny of
this Government of Liberty and Fraternity had made this impossible; no
man, woman or child was allowed to be absent from the permanent
domicile without a special permit, which was seldom, if ever, granted;
not unless some powerful leverage could be found to force those
tyrants to grant the permit.

Now Bastien de Croissy was in possession of such a leverage. The
question was: had the time come at last to make use of it? He now sat
at his desk and a sheaf of letters were laid out before him. These
letters, if rightly handled, would, he knew, put so much power into
his hands that he could force some of the most influential members of
the government to grant him anything he chose to ask.

"Get as much letter-writing as you can out of the black-guards," the
Austrian emissary had said to him during that memorable interview in
the Cabaret des Trois Singes, and de Croissy had acted on this advice.
On one pretext or another he had succeeded in persuading at any rate
three influential members of the existing Government to put their
demands in writing. Bastien had naturally carefully preserved these
letters. De Batz was going to use them for his own ends: as a means
wherewith to discredit men who proclaimed their disinterestedness and
patriotism from the housetops, and not only to discredit them, "but to
make them suffer the same humiliation and the same shameful death
which they had planned for their King." These also had been the
emissary's words at that fateful interview; and de Croissy had kept
the letters up to now, not with a view to using them for his own
benefit, or for purposes of blackmail, but with the earnest hope that
one day chance would enable him to use them for the overthrow and
humiliation of tyrants and regicides.

But now events had suddenly taken a sharp turn. Charles-Lon might die
if he was not taken out of the fever-infested city, and Louise, very
rightly, would not trust the sick child in a stranger's hands. And if
Charles-Lon were to die, Louise would quickly follow the child to his

Bastien de Croissy sat for hours in front of his desk with those
letters spread out before him. He picked them up one by one, read and
re-read them and put them down again. He rested his weary head against
his hand, for thoughts weighed heavily on his mind. To a man of
integrity, a high-minded gentleman as he had always been, the
alternative was a horrible one. On one side there was that hideous
thing, blackmail, which was abhorrent to him, and on the other the
life of his wife and child. Honour and conscience ruled one way, and
every fibre of his heart the other.

The flickering light of tallow candles threw grotesque shadows on the
whitewashed walls and cast fantastic gleams of light on the handsome
face of the great lawyer, with its massive forehead and nobly
sculptured profile, on the well-shaped hands and hair prematurely

The letter which he now held in his hand was signed "Franois Chabot,"
once a Capuchin friar, now a member of the National Convention and one
of Danton's closest friends, whose uncompromising patriotism had been
proclaimed on the housetops both by himself and his colleagues.

And this is what Franois Chabot had written not much more than a year
ago to Matre de Croissy, advocate:

"My friend, as I told you in our last interview, I am inclined to
listen favourably to the proposals of B. If he really disposes of the
funds of which he boasts, tell him that I can get C. out of his
present impasse and put him once more in possession of the seat which
he values. Further, I and the others can keep him in a guarantee that
nothing shall happen (say) for five years to disturb him again. But
you can also tell B. that his proposals are futile. I shall want
twenty thousand on the day that C. enters his house in the park.
moreover, your honorarium for carrying this matter through must be
paid by B. My friends and I will not incur any expense in connection
with it."

Bastien de Croissy now took up his pen and a sheet of paper, and after
a moment's reflection he transcribed the somewhat enigmatic letter by
substituting names for initials, and intelligible words for those that
appeared ununderstandable. The letter so transcribed now began thus:

"My friend, as I told you in our last interview, I am inclined to
listen favourably to the proposals of de Batz. If he really disposes
of the funds of which he boasts, tell him that I can get the King out
of his present impasse and put him once more in possession of his

The rest of the letter he transcribed in the same way: always
substituting the words "the King" for "C." and "de Batz" for "B."; his
house in the park Matre de Croissy transcribed as "Versailles."

The whole text would now be clear to anybody. Bastien then took up a
number of other letters and transcribed these in the same way as he
had done the first: then he made two separate packets of the whole
correspondence; one of these contained the original letters, and these
he slipped in the inside pocket of his coat, the other he tied loosely
together and put it away with other papers in his desk. He then locked
the desk and the strong box, turned out the lights in the office and
finally went home.

His mind was definitely made up.

The same evening Bastien made a clean breast of all the circumstances
to Louise. Maurice was there and Josette of course, and there was
little Charles-Lon, who lay like a half-animate bird in his mother's

For Maurice the story was not new. He had known of the first interview
between de Croissy and the Austrian emissary, he had watched the
intrigue developing step by step, through the good offices of the
distinguished advocate. As a matter of fact he had more than once
acted as messenger, taking letters to and fro between the dingy
offices of the Rue de la Monnaie and the sumptuous apartments of the
Representatives of the People. He had spoken to Chabot, the unfrocked
friar who lived in unparalleled luxury in the Rue d'Anjou, dressed in
town like a Beau Brummel, but attended the sittings of the National
Convention in a tattered coat and shoes down at heel, his hair
unkempt, his chin unshaven, his hands unwashed, in order to flaunt
what he was pleased to call his democratic ideals. He saw Bazire,
Chabot's brother-in-law, who hired a mudlark to enact the part of
pretended assassin in order that he might raise the cry: "The
royalists are murdering the patriots!" (As it happened, the pretended
assassin did not turn up at the right moment, and Bazire had been left
to wander alone up and down the dark cul-de-sac waiting to receive the
stab that was to exalt him before the Convention as the victim of his
ardent patriotism.) Maurice had interviewed Fabre d'Eglantine,
Danton's most intimate friend, who was only too ready to see his palm
greased with foreign gold, and even the ruthless and impeccable Danton
had to Maurice's knowledge nibbled at the sweet biscuit held to his
nose by the Austrian agent.

All these men Maurice Reversac had known, interviewed and despised.
But he had also seen the clouds of bitterness and disappointment
gather in Bastien de Croissy's face: he guessed more than he actually
knew how one by one all the hopes born of that first interview in the
Cabaret des Trois Singes had been laid to dust. The continued
captivity of the Royal family, the severance of the Queen from her
children had been the first heavy blows dealt to those fond hopes. The
King's condemnation and death completely shattered them. Maurice dared
not ask what the Austrian was doing, or what final preposterous
demands had come from the Representatives of the People, which had
caused the negotiations to be finally broken off. For months now the
history of those negotiations had almost been forgotten. As far as
Maurice was concerned he had ceased to think of them, he only
remembered the letters that had passed during that time, as incidents
that might have had wonderful consequences, but had since sunk into
the limbo of forgetfulness.

To Louise and Josette, on the other hand, the story was entirely new.
Each heard it with widely divergent feelings. Obviously to Louise it
meant salvation. She listened to her husband with glowing eyes, her
lips were parted, her breath came and went with almost feverish
rapidity, and every now and then she pressed Charles-Lon closer and
closer to her breast. Never for a moment did she appear in doubt that
here was complete deliverance from every trouble and every anxiety.
Indeed the only thing that seemed to trouble her was the fact that
Bastien had withheld this wonderful secret from her for so long.

"We might have been free to leave this hell upon earth long before
this," she exclaimed with passionate reproach when Bastien admitted
that he had hesitated to use such a weapon for his own benefit.

"It looks so like blackmail," Bastien murmured feebly.

"Blackmail?" Louise retorted vehemently. "Would you call it murder if
you killed a mad dog?"

Bastien gave a short, quick sigh. The letters were to have been the
magic key wherewith to open the prison door for his King and Queen:
the mystic wand that would clear the way for them to their throne.

"Is not Charles-Lon's life more precious than any King's?" Louise
protested passionately.

And soon she embarked on plans for the future. She would take the
child into the country, and presently, if things didn't get any
better, they would join the band loyal migrs who led a precarious
but peaceful existence in Belgium or England; Josette and Maurice
would come with them, and together the would all wait for those better
times which could not now be very long in coming.

"There is nothing," she declared emphatically, "that these men would
dare refuse us. By threatening to send those letters to the Moniteur
or any other paper we can force them to grant us permits, passports,
anything we choose. Oh, Bastien!" she added impetuously, "why did you
not think of all this before?"

Josette alone was silent. She alone had hardly uttered a word the
whole evening. In silence she had listened to Bastien's exposition of
the case, and to Maurice's comments on the situation, and she remained
silent while Louise talked and reproached and planned. She only spoke
when Bastien, after he had read aloud some of the more important
letters, gathered them all together and tied them once more into a
packet. He was about to slip them into his coat pocket when Josette
spoke up.

"Don't do that, Bastien," she said impulsively, and stretched out her
hand for the packet.

"Don't do what, my dear?" de Croissy asked.

"Let Louise take charge of the letters," the girl pleaded, "until
those treacherous devils are ready to give you the permits and safe-
conducts in exchange for them. You can show your transcriptions to
them at first: but they wouldn't be above sticking a knife into you in
the course of conversation, and rifling your pockets if they knew you
had the originals on you at the time."

Bastien couldn't help smiling at the girl's eagerness, but he put the
packet of letters into her outstretched hand.

"You are right, Josette," he said: "you are always right. The angel in
the house! What will you do with them?"

"Sew them into the lining of Louise's corsets," Josette replied.

And she never said another word after that.

Chapter V

Louise de Croissy stood by the window and watched her husband's tall
massive figure as he strode down the street on his way to the Rue de
la Monnaie. When he had finally disappeared out of her sight Louise
turned to Josette.

Unconsciously almost, and certainly against her better judgement,
Josette felt a strange misgiving about this affair. She hadn't slept
all night for thinking about it. And this morning when Bastien had set
off so gaily and Louise seemed so full of hope she still felt
oppressed and vaguely frightened. There is no doubt that intense love
does at times possess psychic powers, the power usually called "second
sight." Josette's love for Louise and what she called her "little
family" was maternal in its intensity and she always averred that she
knew beforehand whenever a great joy was to come to them and also had
a premonition of any danger that threatened them.

And somehow this morning she felt unable to shake off a consciousness
of impending doom. She, too, had watched at the window while Bastien
de Croissy started out in the direction of the Rue de la Monnaie,
there to pick up the packet of transcriptions and then to go off on
his fateful errand; and when he had turned the angle of the street and
she could no longer see him she felt more than ever the approach of

These were the last days of September: summer had lingered on and it
had been wonderfully sunny all along. In the woods the ash, the oak
and the chestnut were still heavy with leaf and thrushes and
blackbirds still sang gaily their evening melodies, but to-day the
weather had turned sultry: there were heavy clouds up above that
presaged a coming storm.

"Why, what's the matter, Josette chrie?" Louise asked anxiously, for
the girl, as she gazed out into the dull grey light, shivered as if
with cold and her pretty face appeared drawn and almost haggard. "Are
you disappointed that your mythical Scarlet Pimpernel will not, after
all, play his heroic rle on our stage?"

Louise said this with a light laugh, meaning only to chaff, but
Josette winced as if she had been stung, and tears gathered in her

"Josette!" Louise exclaimed, full of contrition and of tenderness. She
felt happy, light-hearted, proud too, of what Bastien could do for
them all. Though the morning was grey and dismal, though there were
only scanty provisions in the house--aye! even though Charles-Lon lay
limp and listless in his little bed, Louise felt that on this
wonderful day she could busy herself about her poor dingy home,
singing to herself with joy. She, like Bastien himself, had never
wished to emigrate, but at times she had yearned passionately for the
fields and the woods of the Dauphin where her husband still owned the
family chteau and where there was a garden in which Charles-Lon
could run about, where the air was pure and wholesome so that the
colour could once more tinge the poor lamb's wan cheeks.

She could not understand why Josette was not as happy as she was
herself. Perhaps she was depressed by the weather, and sure enough
soon after Bastien started the first lightning-flash shot across the
sky, and after a few seconds there came the distant rumble of thunder.
A few heavy drops fell on the cobble-stones and then the rain came
down, a veritable cataract, as if the sluices of heaven had suddenly
been opened. Within a few minutes the uneven pavements ran with muddy
streams and an unfortunate passer-by, caught in the shower, buttoned
up their coat collars and bolted for the nearest doorway. The wind
howled down the chimneys and rattled the ill-fitting window-panes. No
wonder that Josette's spirits were damped by this dismal weather!

Louise drew away from the window, sighing: "Thank God, I made Bastien
put on his thick old coat!" Then she sat down and called Josette to
her. "You know, chrie," she said, and put loving arms round the
girl's shoulders, "I didn't mean anything unkind about your hero: I
was only chaffing. I loved your enthusiasm and your belief in
miracles; but I am more prosy than you are, chrie, and prefer to pin
my faith on the sale of compromising letters rather than on deeds of
valour performed by a mythical hero."

To please Louise, Josette made a great effort to appear cheerful;
indeed, she chided herself for her ridiculous feeling of depression,
which had no reason for its existence and only tended to upset Louise.
She pleaded a headache after a sleepless night.

"I lay awake," she said, with an effort to appear light-hearted,
"thinking of the happy time we would all have over in the Dauphin. It
is so lovely there in the late autumn when the leaves turn to gold."

The rest of the morning Josette was obliged to spend in the Government
workshops sewing shirts for the "Soldiers of Liberty," so presently
when the storm began to subside she put on her cloak and hood, gave
Charles-Lon a last kiss and hurried off to work. She had hoped to get
her allotted task done by twelve o'clock, when Maurice could meet her
and they could sally forth together in search of fresh air under the
trees of Cour la Reine. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, she was
detained in the workshop along with a number of other girls until a
special consignment of shirts was ready for packing. When she was
finally able to leave the shop it was past one o'clock and Maurice was
not waiting at the gate.

She hurried home for her midday meal, only to hear from Louise that
Bastien and Maurice had already been and gone. They had snatched a
morsel of food and hurried away again, for they had important work to
do at the office. Louise was full of enthusiasm and full of hope.
Bastien, she said, had seen Fabre d'Eglantine, also Chabot and Bazire,
and had already entered into negotiations with them for the exchange
of the compromising letters against permits for himself and his
family--which would, of course, include Josette and Maurice--to take
up permanent domicile on his estate in the Dauphin. Bastien and
Maurice, after they had imparted this joyful news and had their
hurried meal, had gone back to the office. It seems that after the
three interviews were over and Bastien was back at the Rue de la
Monnaie, Franious Chabot had called on him with a ponderous document
which he desired put into legal jargon that same afternoon.

"It will take them several hours to get through with the work," Louise
went on to explain, "and when it is ready Maurice is to take the
document to Citizen Chabot's apartment in Rue d'Anjoy; so I don't
suppose we shall see either of them before supper-time. Bastien says
he was so amused when Chabot called at the office. His eyes were
roaming round the room all the time. I am sure he was wondering in his
mind where Bastien kept the letters, and I am so thankful, Josette
darling, that we took your advice and have them here in safe-keeping.
Do you know, Bastien declares that if those letters were published to-
morrow Chabot and the lot of them, not even excepting the great
Danton, would find themselves at the bar of the accused, and within
the hour their heads would be off their shoulders? And serve them
right, the murdering, hypocritical devils!"

After which she unfolded to her darling Josette her plans for leaving
this hateful Paris within the next twenty-four hours. Dreams and
hopes! Louise was full of them just now: strange that to Josette the
whole thing was like a nightmare.

Chapter VI

In the late afternoon Josette had again to go back to the workshop to
put in a couple of hours' more sewing. She left Louise in the
apartment, engrossed in sorting out the necessary clothes required for
the journey, and singing merrily like a bird. Bastien and Maurice were
not expected home for some hours. Charles-Lon was asleep.

It was past eight o'clock and quite dark when Josette finally returned
home to the Rue Picpus for the evening. Under the big port-cochre of
the apartment house she nearly fell into the arms of Maurice Reversac,
who apparently was waiting for her.

"Oh, Maurice!" she cried, "how you frightened me!" And then, "What are
you doing here?"

Instead of replying he took her by the wrist and drew her to the foot
of the main staircase, away from the concierge's lodge, where in an
angle of the wall they could be secure from prying ears and eyes. Here
Maurice halted, but he still clung to her wrist, and leaned against
the wall as if exhausted and breathless.

"Maurice, what is it?"

The staircase was in almost total darkness, only a feeble light
filtrated down from an oil-lamp fixed on one of the landings above.
Josette could not see her friend's face, but she felt the tremor that
shook his arm and she heard the stertorous breath that struggled
through his lips. The sense of doom, of some calamity that threatened
them all, the nameless foreboding that had haunted her all day held
her heart in an icy grip.

"Maurice!" she insisted.

At last he spoke; he murmured his employer's name.

"Matre de Croissy..."

Josette could scarcely repress a cry:


He shook his head.

"Not...? Dead...? When? How? What is it, Maurice? In God's name, tell



She clapped her hand to her mouth and dug her teeth into it to smother
the scream which would have echoed up the well of the stairs. Louise's
apartment was only up two flights. She would have heard.

"Tell me!" Josette gasped rather than spoke. She did not really
understand. What Maurice had just said was so impossible.
Inconceivable! She had expected a cataclysm.... Yes. All day she had
felt like the dread hand of Doom hovering over them all. But not this!
In Heaven's name, not this! Murdered? Bastien? Why, Maurice must be
crazy! And she said it aloud, too.

"You are crazy, Maurice!"

"I thought I was just now."

"You've been dreaming," she insisted. For still she did not believe.

"Murdered, I tell you! Dead!"


"In the office...."

"Then let us go...."

She wanted to run... out... at once, but Maurice got hold of her and
held her so that she could not go.

"Wait, Josette! Let me tell you first."

"Let me go, Maurice! I don't believe it. Let me go!"

Maurice had already pulled himself together. He had contrived to
steady his voice, and now, with a perfectly firm grip, he pulled
Josette's hand under his arm and led her out into the street. There
would be no holding her back if she was determined to go. The rain-
storm had turned to a nasty drizzle and it was very cold. The few
passers-by who hurried along the narrow street had their coat collars
buttoned closely round their necks. A very few lights glimmered here
and there in the windows of the houses on either side. Street lamps
were no longer lighted these days in the side streets for reasons of

Out in the open Maurice put his arm round Josette's shoulder and
instinctively she nestled against him. Almost paralysed with horror,
she was shivering with cold and her teeth were chattering, but there
was a feeling of comfort and of protection in Maurice's arm which
seemed to steady her. Also she wanted to hear every word that he said,
and he did not dare raise his voice above a whisper. They walked as
fast as the unevenness of the cobble-stones allowed, and now and then
they broke into a run; and all the while, in short jerky sentences,
Maurice tried to tell the girl something of what had happened.

"Matre de Croissy," he said, "had an interview with Citizen Chabot in
the morning.... While he was there Chabot sent for Bazire... and after
that the three of them went together to Danton's lodgings..."

"You weren't with them?"

"No... I was waiting at the office. Presently Matre de Croissy came
back alone. He was full of hope... the interview had gone off very
well... better than he expected... Chabot and Bazire were obviously
terrified out of their lives... Matre de Croissy had left them with
Danton, and come on to the office..."

"Yes! and then?"

"About half an hour later, Chabot called at the office... alone... he
brought a document with him... did Madame tell you?"

"Yes! yes!..."

"He stayed a little while talking... talking... explaining the
document... a very long one... of which he wanted three copies made...
with additions... and so on.... He wanted the papers back by

Maurice seemed to be gasping for breath. His voice was husky as if his
throat were parched. It was difficult to talk coherently while
threading one's way through the narrow streets, and once or twice he
forced Josette to stand still for a moment or two, to rest against the
wall while she listened.

"We went home to dinner after Chabot had gone..." Maurice went on
presently. "I can't tell you just how I felt then... a kind of
foreboding you know..."

"Yes, I know," she said, "I felt it too... last night..."

"Something in that devil's eyes had frightened me... but you know
Matre de Croissy... he won't listen... once he has made up his
mind... and he laughed at me when I ventured on a word of warning...
you know..."

"Oh, yes!" Josette sighed, "I know!"

"We went back to the office together after dinner. Matre de Croissy
worked on the document all afternoon. It was ready just when the light
gave out. He gave me the paper and told me to take it to Citizen
Chabot. I went. Chabot kept me waiting, an hour or more. It was nearly
eight o'clock when I got back to the office. The front door was ajar.
I remember thinking this strange. I pushed open the door..."

He paused, and suddenly Josette said quite firmly:

"Don't tell me, Maurice. I can guess."

"What, Josette?'

"Those devils got you out of the way. They meant to filch the letters
from Bastien. They killed him in order to get the letters."

"The two rooms," Maurice said, "looked as if they had been shattered
by an earthquake."

"They broke everything so as to get the letters, and they killed him

They had reached the house in the Rue de la Monnaie. It looked no
different than it had always done. Grim, grey, dilapidated. Inside the
house there was that smell of damp and of mortar like in a vault.
Apparently no one knew anything as yet about what had occurred on the
second floor where Citizen Croissy, the lawyer, had his office. No one
challenged the young man and the girl as they hurried up the stairs.
Josette as she ran was trembling in every limb, but she knew that the
time had come for calmness and for courage, and with a mighty effort
she regained control over her nerves. She was determined to be a help
rather than a hindrance, even though horror had gripped her like some
live and savage beast by the throat so that she scarcely could
breathe, and turned the dread in her heart to physical nausea.

Maurice had taken the precaution of locking the front door of the
office, but he had the key in his pocket. Before inserting it in the
keyhole he paused to take another look at Josette. If she had faltered
the least bit in the world, if he had perceived the slightest swaying
in her young firm body, he would have picked her up in his arms where
she stood and carried her away--away from that awful scene behind the

He could not see her face, for the stairs were very dark, but through
a dim and ghostly light he perceived the outline of her head and saw
that she held it erect and her shoulders square. All he said was:

"Shall we go to the Commissariat first?"

But she shook her head. He opened the door and she followed him in.
The small vestibule was in darkness, but the door into the office was
open, and here the light from the oil-lamp which dangled from the
ceiling revealed the prone figure of Bastien de Croissy on the floor,
his torn clothing and the convulsive twist of his hands. A heavy
crowbar lay close beside the body, and all around there was a litter
of broken furniture, wood, glass, a smashed inkstand with the ink
still flowing out of it and staining the bit of faded carpet; sand and
dbris of paper and of string and the smashed drawers of the bureau.
The strong-box was also on the floor with its metal door broken open
and money and papers scattered around. Indeed, the whole place did
look as if it had been shattered by an earthquake.

But Josette did not look at all that. All she saw was Bastien lying
there, his body rigid in the last convulsive twitching of death. She
prayed to God for the strength to go near him, to kneel beside him and
say the prayers for the dead which the Church demanded. Maurice knelt
down beside her, and they drew the dead man's hands together over his
breast, and Josette took her rosary from her pocket and wound it round
the hands; then she and Maurice recited the prayers for the dead: she
with eyes closed lest if she continued to look she fell into a swoon.
She prayed for Bastien's soul, and she also prayed for guidance as to
what she ought to do now that Bastien was gone: for Louise was not
strong and after this she would have no one on whom to lean, only on
her, Josette.

When she and Maurice had finished their prayers they sought among the
dbris for the two pewter candlesticks that used to stand on the
bureau. Maurice found them presently; they were all twisted, but not
broken, and close by there were the pieces of tallow candle that had
fallen out of their sconces. He straightened them out, and with a
screw of paper held to the lamp he lighted the candles and Josette
placed them on the floor, one on each side of the dead man's head.

After which she tiptoed out of the room. Maurice extinguished the
hanging lamp; he followed Josette out through the door and locked it
behind him.

Then the two of them went silently and quickly down the stairs.

Chapter VII

Louise de Croissy lay on the narrow horse-hair sofa like a log. Since
Josette had broken the terrible news to her, more than twenty-four
hours ago, she had been almost like one dead: unable to speak, unable
to eat or sleep. Even Charles-Lon's childish cajoleries could not
rouse her from her apathy.

For twenty-four hours she had lain thus, silent and motionless, while
Josette did her best to keep Charles-Lon amused and looked after his
creature comforts as best she could. She adored Louise, but somehow at
this crisis she could not help feeling impatient with the other
woman's nervelessness and that devastating inertia. After all, there
was Charles-Lon to think of; all the more now as the head of the
family had gone. Josette still had her mind set on finding the Scarlet
Pimpernel, who of a truth was the only person in the world who could
save Louise and Charles-Lon now. Josette had no illusions on the
score of the new danger which threatened these two. Bastien had been
murdered by Terrorists because he would not give up the letters that
compromised them without getting a quid pro quo. They had killed him
and ransacked his rooms. They might have ordered his arrest--it was so
easy these days to get an enemy arrested--but no doubt feared that he
might have a chance of speaking during his trial and revealing what he
knew. Only dead men tell no tales.

But the letters had not been found, and at this hour there was a
clique of desperate men who knew that their necks were in peril if
those letters were ever made public. Josette had no illusions. Sooner
or later, within a few hours perhaps, those men would strike at
Louise. There would be a perquisition, arrest probably, and possibly
another murder. She wanted Louise to destroy the letters, they had
been the cause of this awful cataclysm, but at the slightest hint
Louise had clutched at her bosom with both hands as if she would guard
the letters with her life. The next evening when Josette came home she
found Louise already in bed; it was the first time she had moved from
that narrow horse-hair sofa since the girl had broken the news to her.
She had laid out her clothes on a chair, with her corsets
ostentatiously spread out on the top of the other things as if to
invite attention. The packet of letters was no longer inside the
lining. Josette noticed this at once, also that Louise was feigning
sleep and was watching her through half-closed lids.

With well-assumed indifference Josette went about her business in the
house, smoothed Louise's pillow, kissed her and Charles-Lon good-
night, and then got into bed. But she did not get much sleep, tired to
death though she was. She foresaw the complications. Louise had some
fixed idea about those letters, the result of shock no doubt, and was
clinging to them with the obstinacy of the very weak. She had hidden
them and meant to keep their hiding-place a secret, even from Josette.
No doubt her nerves had to a certain extent given way, for in spite of
her closed eyes as she lay on her bed there was that expression of
cunning in her face which is peculiar to those whose minds are

Josette and Maurice had spent most of that day at the Commissariat of
Police. It was a terrible ordeal from the first to last. The airless
room that smelt of dirt and humanity, the patient crowd of weary men
and women waiting their turn to pass into the presence of the
Commissary, the suspense of the present and the horror of the past
nearly broke down Josette's fortitude. Nearly, but not quite; for she
had Maurice with her, and it was wonderful what comfort she derived
from his nearness. She had always been so self-reliant, so accustomed
to watch over those she cared for, and cater for their creature
comforts, that Maurice Reversac's somewhat diffident ways, his timid
speech and dog-like devotion had tempered her genuine affection for
him with a slight measure of contempt. She could not help but admire
his loyalty to his employer and his disinterestedness and felt bound
to admit that he was clever and learned in the law, else Bastien would
not have placed reliance on his judgement, as he often did, but all
the time she had the feeling that morally and physically he was a
weakling, the ivy that clung rather than the oak that supported.

But since this awful trouble had come upon her, how different it all
was. Josette felt just as self-reliant as in the past, for Louise and
Charles-Lon were more dependent on her than ever before, but there
was Maurice now, a different Maurice altogether, and he had become a

When their turn came to appear before the Commissary, Josette, having
Maurice at her side, did not feel frightened. They both gave their
names and address in a clear voice, showed their papers and identity,
and gave a plain and sincere account of the terrible events of the day
before. Citizen Croissy, the well-known advocate, had been foully
murdered in his office in the Rue de la Monnaie. It was their duty as
citizens of the Republic to report this terrible fact to the
Commissariat of the section.

The Commissary listened, raised his eyebrows, toyed with a paper-
knife; his face was a mask of complete incredulity.

"Why should you talk of murder?" he asked.

Maurice mentioned the crowbar, the ransacked room, the scattered
papers, the broken strong-box. It was clearly a case of murder for
purposes of robbery.

"Any money missing?" the Commissary asked.


"Eh bien!" he remarked with a careless shrug. "You see?"

"The murder had a political motive, Citizen Commissary," Josette put
in impulsively, "the assassins were not after money, but after certain

"Now you are talking nonsense," the Commissary broke in curtly.
"Murder? What fool do you suppose would resort to murder nowadays?" He
checked himself abruptly, for he was on the point of letting his
tongue run away with him. What he had very nearly said, and certainly
had implied, was that no fool would take the risk and trouble of
murder these days when it was so easy to rid oneself of an enemy by
denouncing him as "suspect of treason" before the local Committee of
Public Safety. Arrest, trial, and the guillotine would then follow as
a matter of course, and one got forty sous to boot as a reward for
denouncing a traitor. Then why trouble to murder?

No wonder the Commissary checked himself in time before he had said
all this: men in office had been degraded before now, if not worse,
for daring to criticise the decrees of this paternal Government.

"I'll tell you what I will do, Citizeness," he said, speaking more
particularly to Josette because her luminous blue eyes were fixed upon
his, and he was a susceptible man; "I don't believe a word of your
story, mind! but I will visit the scene of that supposed murder, and
listen on the spot to the depositions of witnesses. Then we'll see."

"There were no witnesses to the crime, Citizen Commissary," Josette

Whereupon the Commissary swore loudly, blustered and threatened all
false accusers with the utmost penalties the law could impose.
Witnesses? There must be witnesses. The concierge of the house... the
other lodgers... anyway he would see, and if in the end it was
definitely proved that this tale of assassination and political crime
was nothing but a cock-and-bull story, well! let all false witnesses
look to their own necks... that was all.

"You will appear before me to-morrow," were the parting words with
which the Commissary dismissed Maurice and Josette from his presence.

No wonder that after that long and wearisome day, Josette should have
lain awake most of the night a-thinkin-g. It was very obvious that
nothing would be done to bring the murderers of Bastien to justice.
Perhaps she had been wrong after all to speak of "political motives"
in connection with the crime: she had only moral proofs for her
assertion, and those devils who had perpetrated the abominable deed
would be all the more on the alert now, and Louise's peril would be
greater even that before.

"Holy Virgin," she murmured navely in her prayers, "help me to find
the Scarlet Pimpernel!"

On the following morning, Louise, though still listless and apathetic,
rose and dressed herself without saying a word. Josette with an aching
heart could not help noticing that her face still wore an expression
of cunning and obstinacy, and that her eyes were still dry: Louise
indeed had not shed a single tear since the awful truth had finally
penetrated to her brain, and she had understood that Bastien had been
foully murdered because of the letters.

With endearing words and infinite gentleness Josette did her best to
soften the poor woman's mood. She drew her to Charles-Lon's bedside
and murmured some of the nave prayers which when they were children
together they had learned at the Convent of the Visitation. Her own
soulful blue eyes were bathed in tears.

"Don't try and make me cry, Josette," Louise said. These were the
first words she had spoken for thirty-six hours, and her voice sounded
rasping and harsh. "If I were to shed tears now I would go on crying
and crying till my eyes could no longer see and then they would close
in death."

"You must not talk of death, Louise," Josette admonished gently,
"while you have Charles-Lon to think of."

"It is because I think of him," Louise retorted, "that I don't want to

But of the letters not a word, though Josette, by hint and glance,
asked more than one mute question.

"Bastien would rather have seen your tears, Louise," she said with a
tone of sad reproach.

"Perhaps he will--from above--when I stand by his graveside... but not
now--not yet."

Louise, however, never did stand by her husband's graveside; that
morning when Maurice and Josette went to the Commissariat in order to
obtain permission for the burial of Citizen Croissy, they were curtly
informed that the burial had already taken place, and no amount of
questioning, of entreaty and of petitions elected any further
information, save that the body had been disposed of by order of what
was vaguely designated as "the authorities"; which meant that it had
probably been thrown in the fosse commune of the Jardin de Picpus--the
old convent garden--the common grave where no cross or stone could
mark the last resting-place of the once brilliant and wealthy advocate
of the Paris bar. The reason, curtly given, for this summary procedure
was that it was the usual one in the case of suicides.

Thus was the foul murder of the distinguished lawyer classed as a case
of suicide. It was useless to protest and to argue; only harm would
come to Louise and Charles-Lon if either Maurice or Josette entered
into any discussion on the subject. As soon as they opened their
mouths they were roughly ordered to hold their peace. Maurice Reversac
was commanded to accompany the Citizen Substitute to the office of the
Rue de la Monnaie, there to complete certain formalities in connection
with the goods and chattels belonging to "the suicide," and then
officially to give up the keys of the apartment.

Chapter VIII

Josette in her nave little prayers had implored the Holy Virgin to
aid her in finding the Scarlet Pimpernel. She was convinced that
nothing could save Louise and Charles-Lon from Bastien's awful fate
save the intervention of her mysterious hero, but the last two days
had been so full of events that it had been quite impossible for her
to begin her quest for the one man on whom in this dark hour she could
pin her faith. Maurice, on the other hand, had promised that he would
do his best, and this was all the more wonderful as he had not the
same faith as Josette in the existence of the heroic Englishman.
Nevertheless, in order to please and cheer her, and in the intervals
of running from pillar to post, from the Rue de la Monnaie to the
Commissariat and back again, he did seriously set to work to get on
the track of the public letter-writer who was wont to ply his trade at
the corner of the Pont-Neuf and who was supposed to be in touch with
the Scarlet Pimpernel himself.

Maurice knew all the highways and by-ways of old Paris--the small
eating-houses and estaminets where it was possible to enter into
casual conversation with simple everyday folk who would suspect no
harm in discreet inquiries. Thus he came quite by chance on the track
of what he thought might be a clue. There was, it seems, in a distant
quarter of the city near the Batignolles, a funny old scarecrow who
had set up his tent and carried on his trade of letter-writing for
those who were too illiterate or too prudent to put pen to paper
themselves. Not that Maurice believed for a moment that the scarecrow
in question had anything to do with a band of English aristos, but he
thought that the running him to earth, the walk across Paris, even
though the weather was at its vilest, would take Josette out of
herself for an hour or so, and turn her thoughts into less gloomy

Josette readily agreed, and while Maurice was away on his melancholy
errand in the Rue de la Monnaie, she promised that she would wait for
him at the Commissariat de Police, and then they could sally forth
together in quest of the hero of her dreams.

The waiting-room of the Commissariat was large and square. The walls
had at some remote time been white-washed; now they and the ceiling
were of a dull grey colour, and all around there was a dado-line of
dirt and grease made by the rubbing of innumerable shoulders against
the lime. On the wooden benches ranged against the walls, patient,
weary-looking women sat, some with shawls over their heads, others
shivering in thin bodice and kirtle, and all hugging bundles or
babies. One of them made room for Josette, who sat down beside her
preparing to wait. There were a number of men, too, mostly in ragged
breeches and tattered coats, who hung about in groups whispering and
spitting on the floor, or sitting on the table: nearly all of them
were either decrepit or maimed. A few children scrambled in the dirt,
getting in everybody's way. The place was almost unendurably stuffy,
with a mingled odour of boiled cabbage, wet clothes and damp mortar;
only from time to time when the outside door was opened for someone to
go in or out did a gust of cold air come sweeping through the room.
Josette wished she had arranged to meet Maurice somewhere else; she
didn't think she could wait much longer in this dank atmosphere. She
felt very tired, too, and the want of air made her feel drowsy.

The sound of a familiar voice roused her from the state of semi-torpor
into which she had fallen, blinking and rather dazed, she looked about
her. Old Doctor Larousse had just come in. He had a bundle of papers
in his hand and looked fussy and hurried.

"A dog's life!" he muttered in the face of anyone who listened to him.
"All these papers to get signed and more than half an hour to wait,
maybe, in this filthy hole!"

Josette at sight of him jumped up and intercepted him at the moment
when two or three others tried to get a word with him. All day
yesterday she had wished to get in touch with the old doctor, and
again this morning, not so much because of Charles-Lon, but because
she was getting seriously anxious about Louise. Citizen Larousse had
been away from home for the past twenty-four hours: Josette had called
at his rooms two or three times during the day, but always in vain.

Now she pulled the old man by the sleeve, forced him to listen to her.

"Citizen Doctor," she demanded, "at what hour can you come to the Rue
Picpus and see Citizeness Croissy, who is seriously ill?"

Larousse shook her hand off his arm with unusual roughness: he was a
kindly man, but apparently very harassed this morning.

"At what hour--at what hour?" he muttered petulantly. "Hark at your
impudence, Citizeness! At no hour, let me tell you--not to-day,
anyhow! I am off to Passy as soon as I can get these cursed papers

"Citizen Doctor, think of the widow! Her mind is nearly deranged. She

"Many of us want things these days, little Citizeness," the old man
said more gently, for Josette's deep blue eyes were fixed upon him and
they were irresistible--would have been irresistible, that is, if he,
Larousse, had not been quite so worried this morning. "I, for one,
want to get to Passy, where my wife is ill with congestion of the
lungs, and I shall not leave her bedside until she is well or..."

He shrugged his shoulders. He was a kind-hearted man really, but for
two days he had been anxious about his wife. Josette Gravier was
pretty, very pretty; she had large blue eyes that looked like a
midnight sky in June when she was excited or eager or distressed, and
there were delicate golden curls round her ears which always made old
Larousse think of the days of his youth, of those summer afternoons
when he was wont to wander out in the woods around Fontaine-bleau with
his arm round a pretty girl's waist--just such a girl as Josette. But
to-day? No, he was not in a mood to think of the days of his youth,
and he had no use for pretty girls with large blue reproachable eyes.
He was much too worried to be cajoled.

"You will have to find another doctor, little Citizeness," he
concluded gruffly, "or else wait a day or two."

"How can I wait a day or two," she retorted, "with Citizeness Croissy
nigh to losing her reason? Can't you imagine what she has gone

The old man shrugged. He had seen so much misery, so much sorrow and
pain, it was difficult to be compassionate to all. There had never
been but One in this world who had compassion for the whole of
humanity, and humanity repaid Him by nailing Him to a cross.

"We have to go through a lot these days, Citizeness," the old man
said, "and I do not think that your friend will lose her reason. One
is apt to let one's anxiety magnify such danger. I'll come as soon as
I can."

"How soon?"

"Three or four days--I cannot tell."

"But in the meanwhile, Citizen Doctor, what shall I do?"

"Give her a soothing draught."

"To what purpose? She is calm--too calm-"

"Find another doctor."

"How can I? It takes days to obtain a permit to change one's doctor.
You know that well enough, Citizen."

The girl now spoke with bitter dejection and the old man with growing
impatience. He had freed himself quickly enough from the subtle spell
of the girl's beauty: the weight of care and worry had again descended
on him and hardened his heart. A queue had formed against the door
which led to the Commissary's private office, and the old doctor
feared that he would lose his turn if he did not immediately take his
place in the queue. The papers had got to be signed and he was longing
to get away to Passy, where his wife lay sick with congestion. He
tried to shake off Josette's grip on his arm, but she would not let

"Can you get me a permit," she pleaded, "to change our doctor?"

Oh, those permits--those awful, tiresome, cruel permits, without which
no citizen of this free Republic could do anything save die! Permit to
move, permit for bread, permit for meat or milk, permit to call in a
doctor, a midwife or an undertaker! Permits, permits all the time!

The crowd in the room, indifferent at first, had begun to take notice
of this pretty girl's importunate demands. They were here, all of
them, in quest of some permit or other, the granting of which depended
on the mood of the official who sat at his desk the other side of the
door. If the official was harassed and tired he would be disobliging,
refuse permit after permit: to a sick woman to see a doctor, to an
anaemic child to receive more milk, to a man to take work beyond a
certain distance from his home. He could be disobliging if he chose,
for full powers were vested in him. Such were the ways of the glorious
Republic which had for its motto: Liberty and Fraternity. Such was the
state of slavery into which the citizens of the free Republic had
sunk. And as Josette insisted, still clinging to the doctor's arm, the
men shrugged and some of them sneered. They knew that old Larousse
could not get the permit for which she craved. It took days to obtain
any kind of a permit: there were yards of red tape to measure out
before anything of the sort could be obtained, even if the Commissary
was in one of his best moods. They were all of them sorry for the girl
in a way, chiefly because she was so pretty, but they thought her
foolish to be so insistent. The women gazed on her and would have
commiserated with her, only that they had so many troubles of their
own. And they were all so tired, so tired of hanging about in this
stuffy room and waiting their turn in the queue. It was so hard to
worry over other people's affairs when one was tired and had countless
worries of one's own.

Now someone came out of the inner room and the queue moved on. Josette
was suddenly separated from the doctor, who was probably thankful to
be rid of her; with a deep sigh of dejection she went back to her seat
on the bench. A few glances of pity were still cast on her, but
presently the queue was able to move on again and she was soon
forgotten. No one took any more notice of her. The men whispered among
themselves, the women, fagged and silent, stood waiting for their turn
to go in. Only one man seemed to take an interest in Josette: a tall
ugly fellow with one leg who was leaning against the wall with his
crutches beside him. He was dressed in seedy black with somewhat
soiled linen at throat and wrist, and his hair, which was long and
lanky, was tied back at the nape of the neck with a frayed-out back
ribbon. He wore no hat, his shoes were down at heel and his stockings
were in holes. By the look of him he might have been a lawyer's clerk
fallen on evil days.

Josette did not at first notice him, until presently she had that
peculiar feeling which comes to one at times that a pair of eyes were
fixed steadily upon her. She looked up and encountered the man's
glance, then she frowned and quickly turned her head away, for the
seedy-looking clerk was very ugly, and she did not like the intentness
with which he regarded her. Much to her annoyance, however, she
presently became conscious that he had gathered up his crutches and
hobbled towards her. The crowd made way for him, and a few seconds
later he stood before her, leaning upon his crutches.

"Your pardon, Citizeness," he said, and his voice was certainly more
pleasing than his looks, "but I could not help hearing just now what
you said to Citizen Larousse... about your friend who is sick... and
your need of a doctor..."

He paused, and Josette looked up at him. He appeared timid and there
certainly was not a suspicion of insolence in the way he addressed
her, but he certainly was very ugly to look at. His face was the
colour of yellow wax, and on his chin and cheeks there was a three
days' growth of beard. His eyebrows were extraordinarily bushy and
overshadowed his eyes, which were circled with purple as if from the
effects of a blow. So much of his countenance did Josette take in at
the first glance, but his voice had certainly sounded kindly, and poor
little Josette was so devoured with anxiety just now that any show of
kindness went straight to her heart.

"Then you must also have heard, Citizen," she said, "that Doctor
Larousse could do nothing for my friend."

"That is why," the man rejoined, "I ventured to address you,
Citizeness. I am not a doctor, only a humble apothecary, but I have
some knowledge of medicine. Would you like me to see your friend?"

He had gradually dropped his voice until in the end he was hardly
speaking above his breath. Josette felt strangely stirred. There was
something in the way in which this man spoke which vaguely intrigued
her and she couldn't make out why he should have spoken at all. She
looked him straight in the eyes; her own were candid, puzzled,
inquiring. If only he were less ugly, his skin less like parchment and
his chin free from that stubby growth of a beard...

"I could come now," he said again. Then added with a light shrug, "I
certainly could do your friend no harm just by seeing her, and I know
of a cordial which works wonders on overstrung nerves."

Josette could never have told afterwards what it was that impelled her
to rise then and to say:

"Very well, Citizen. Since you are so kind, will you come with me and
see my sick friend?"

She made her way to the door and he followed her, working his way
through the crowd across the room on his crutches. It was he who,
despite his infirmities, opened the door and held it for the girl to
pass through. It was close on midday. It had ceased raining and the
air was milder, but heavy-laden clouds still hung overhead and the
ill-paved streets ran with yellow-coloured mud.

Josette thought of Maurice as she started to walk in the direction of
the Rue Picpus. She walked slowly because of the maimed man who
hobbled behind her on his crutches, covering the ground in her wake,
however, with extraordinary sureness and speed. She thought of
Maurice, wondering what he would think of this adventure of hers, and
whether he would approve. She was afraid that he would not. Maurice
was cautious--more cautious than she was--and that very morning he had
warned her to be very circumspect in everything she said and did, for
Louise's sake and Charles-Lon's.

"Those devils," he had said to her just before they left home, "are
sure to have their eye on Madame de Croissy. They haven't found the
letters, but they know that they exist, and will of a surety have
another try at getting possession of them."

"We must try and leave Madame alone as seldom as possible," he had
said later on. "Unless I am detained over this awful business I will
spend most of my day with her while you are at the workshop."

Apparently Maurice had been detained by the authorities, so Josette
imagined, for he should have come to meet her at the Commissariat
before now, but when he got there presently and found her gone he
would probably conclude that she had been tired of waiting and had
already gone home--and he would surely follow.

All the while that Josette's thoughts had run on Maurice, she had
heard subconsciously the tap-tap of the man's crutches half a dozen
paces or so behind her; then her thoughts had gone a-roaming on the
terrible past, the dismal present, the hopeless future. What, she
thought, would become of Louise and Charles-Lon after this appalling
tragedy? Matre de Croissy's property in the Dauphin brought in
nothing: it was administered by a faithful soul who had been bailiff
on the estate for close on half a century, and he just contrived to
collect a sufficiency of money by the sale of timber and agricultural
produce to pay for necessary repairs and stop the buildings and the
land from going to rack and ruin, but there was nothing left over to
pay as much as the rent of the miserable apartment in the Rue Picpus,
let alone clothes and food. Matre de Croissy had been able to make a
paltry income by his profession; but now? What was to become of his
widow and of his child?

And Josette's thoughts of the future had been so black, so dismal and
so absorbing that she was very nearly knocked down by a passing cart.
The curses of the driver and the shouts of the passers-by brought her
back to present realities, and these included the nearness of her
maimed companion. She turned to look for him, but he was nowhere to be
seen. She stood by for quite a long time at the angle of the street,
thinking perhaps that he had fallen behind and would presently
overtake her. But she waited in vain. There was no sign of the strange
creature in the seedy black with the one leg and the crutches, the
ugly face and gentle voice.

Quite against her will and her better judgement Josette felt vaguely
dismayed and disappointed. What could this sudden disappearance mean
of a man who had certainly forced his companionship upon her? Why had
he gone with her thus far and then vanished so unaccountably? Did he
really intend to visit Louise, or was his interest in her only a blind
so as to attach himself to Josette? But if so what could be his
object? All these thoughts and conjectures were very disturbing. There
was always the fear of spies and informers present in every man or
woman's mind these days, and Josette remembered Maurice's warning to
be very circumspect, and she wished now that she had insisted on
waiting at the Commissariat for Maurice's return before she embarked
on this adventure with the mysterious stranger.

And then she suddenly remembered that just before coming up to the
Pont-Neuf the maimed man had hobbled up close to her and asked:

"But whither are we going, Citizeness?"

And that she had replied:

"To No. 43, in the Rue Picpus, Citizen. My friend has an apartment
there on the second floor."

And now she wished she had not given a total stranger such explicit

Chapter IX

The rest of the day dragged on in its weary monotony. Josette had
spent an hour with Louise at dinner-time, when she had tried again, as
she had done in the past ten days, to rouse the unfortunate woman from
her apathy. She did not tell her about the seedy apothecary with the
one leg, who had thrust himself into her company only to vanish as
mysteriously as he had appeared. She was beginning to feel vaguely
frightened about that man: his actions had been so very strange that
the conviction grew upon her that he must be some sort of Government

Maurice Reversac also came in for a hurried meal at midday, and
Josette spoke to him about the man at the Commissariat who had
insisted on coming with her to visit Louise and then disappeared as if
the cobble-stones of the great city had swallowed him up. Maurice, who
was always inclined to prudence, wished that Josette had not been
quite so free in her talk with the stranger. He dreaded those
Government spies who undoubtedly would be detailed to watch the family
of the murdered man; but whatever fears assailed him he kept them
buried in his heart and indeed did his best to reassure Josette. But
he did beg her to be more than ordinarily cautious. He stayed talking
with her for a little while and then went away.

It was too late now to trudge all the way to the Batignolles in search
of the public letter-writer, and Maurice, well aware of Josette's
impetuosity at the bare mention of the Scarlet Pimpernel, thought it
best to say nothing to her to-night on the subject. He was trying to
put what order he could in the affairs of the late advocate, and to
save what could possibly be saved out of the wreckage of his fortune
for the benefit of the widow and the child.

"I have been promised a permit," he said, "to go down into the
Dauphin for a day or two. I can then see the bailiff and perhaps make
some arrangement with him by which he can send Madame a small revenue
from the estate every month. Then, if they let me carry on the

"Do you think they will?"

Maurice shrugged.

"One never knows. It all depends if lawyers are scarce now that they
have killed so many. There is always some litigation afoot."

Finally he added, with a great show of confidence which he was far
from feeling:

"Don't lose heart, Josette chrie. Every moment of my life I will
devote to making Madame and the boy comfortable because I know that is
the way to make you happy."

But Josette found it difficult not to lose heart. She was convinced in
her own mind that danger greater than ever now threatened Louise
entirely because of her, Josette's, indiscretion, and that the maimed
man of the Commissariat whom she had so foolishly trusted was nothing
but a Government spy.

The truth did not dawn upon her, not until many hours later, after she
had spent her afternoon as usual at the workshop and then came home in
the late afternoon.

As soon as Josette entered the living-room she knew that the miracle
had happened--the miracle to which she had pinned her faith, for which
she had hoped and prayed and striven. She had left Louise lying like a
log on the sofa, silent, dry-eyed, sullen, with Charles-Lon, quietly
whimpering in his small bed. She found her a transformed being with
eyes bright and colour in her cheeks. But it was not this sudden
transformation of her friend, nor yet Louise's cry: "Josette chrie!
You were right and I was wrong to doubt." It was something more
subtle, more intangible, that revealed to this ardent devotee that the
hero of her dreams had filled the air with the radiance of his
personality, that he had brought joy where sorrow reigned, and
security and happiness where unknown danger threatened. Louise had run
up to Josette as soon as she heard the turn of the latch-key in the
door. She was laughing and crying, and after she had embraced Josette
she ran back into the living-room and picked Charles-Lon up in her
arms and hugged him to her breast.

"My baby," she murmured, "my baby! He will get strong and well and we
shall be delivered from this hateful country."

Then she put Charles-Lon down, threw herself on the sofa, and burying
her face in her arms she burst into tears. She cried and sobbed; her
shoulders quivered convulsively. Josette made no movement towards her:
it was best that she should cry for a time. The reaction from a state
of dull despair had evidently been terrific, and the poor woman's
over-wrought nerves would be all the better for this outlet of tears.
How could Josette doubt for a moment that the miracle had happened?

As soon as she was a little more calm, Louise dried her eyes, then she
drew a much-creased paper from the pocket of her skirt and without a
word held it out to Josette. It was a letter written in a bold clear
hand and was addressed to Citizeness Croissy at No. 43, Rue Picpus, on
the second floor, and this is what it said:

  "As soon as you receive this, believe that sincere friends are
working for your safety. You must leave Paris and France immediately,
not only for the boy's health's sake, but because very serious danger
threatens you and him if you remain. This evening at eight o'clock
take your boy in your arms and an empty market basket in your hand.
Your concierge will probably challenge you; say that you are going to
fetch your bread ration which you omitted to get this morning because
of the bad weather. If the concierge makes a remark about your having
the child with you, say that the Citizen Doctor ordered you to take
him out as soon as the rain had ceased. Do not on any account hasten
downstairs or through the porte-cochre, just walk quietly as if in
truth you were going to the baker's shop. Then walk quietly along the
street till you come to the district bakery. There will probably be a
queue waiting for rations at the door. Take your place in the queue
and go in and get your bread. In the crowd you will see a one-legged
man dressed in seedy black. When he walks out of the shop, follow him.
Divest yourself of all fear. The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel will
see you safely out of Paris and out of France to England or Belgium,
whichever you wish. But the first condition for your safety and that
of the child is implicit trust in the ability of the League to see you
through, and, as a consequence of trust, implicit obedience."

The letter bore no signature, but in the corner there was a small
device, a star-shaped flower drawn in red ink. Josette murmured under
her breath:

"The Scarlet Pimpernel! I knew that he would come."

Had she been alone she would have raised the paper to her lips, that
blessed paper on which her hero's hand had rested. As it was she just
held it tight in her hot little palm, and hoped that in her excitement
Louise would forget about it and leave it with her as a precious

"And of course you will come with me and Charles-Lon, Josette

Louise had to reiterate this more than once before the sense of it
penetrated to Josette's inner consciousness. Even after the third
repetition she still looked vague and ununderstanding.

"Josette chrie, of course you will come."

"But, Louise, no! How can I?" the girl murmured.

"How do you mean, how can you?"

Josette held up the precious letter.

"He does not speak of me in this."

"The English League probably knows nothing about you, Josette."

"But he does."

"How do you know?"

Josette evaded the direct question. She quoted the last few words of
the letter:

"As a consequence of trust, implicit obedience."

"That does not mean..."

"It means," Josette broke in firmly, "that you must follow the
directions given you in this letter, word for word. It is the least
you can do, and you must do it for the sake of Charles-Lon. I am in
no danger here, and I would not go if I were. Maurice will be here to
look after me."

"You are talking nonsense, chrie. You know I would not go without

"You would sacrifice Charles-Lon for me?"

Then as Louise made no reply--how could she?--Josette continued with
simple determination and unshaken firmness:

"I assure you, Louise chrie, that I am in no danger. Maurice cannot
go away while he has Bastien's affairs to look after. He wouldn't go
if he could, and it would be cowardly to leave him all alone here to
look after things."

"But, Josette..."

"Don't say anything more about it, Louise. I am in no danger and I am
not going. And what's more," she added softly, "I know that the
Scarlet Pimpernel will look after me. Don't be afraid, he knows all
about me."

And not another word would she say.

Louise, no doubt, knew her of old. Josette was one of those dear,
gentle creatures whom nothing in the world could move once she was set
on a definite purpose--especially if that purpose had in it the
elements of self-sacrifice. The time, too, was getting on. It was
already past seven o'clock. Louise busied herself with Charles-Lon,
putting on him all the warm bits of garments she still possessed.
Josette was equally busy warming up some milk, the little there was
over the fire in the tiny kitchen.

At eight o'clock precisely Louise was ready. She prepared to gather
the child in her arms. Josette had a big shawl ready to wrap round
them both: she thrust the empty market basket over Louise's arm. Her
heart ached at thought of this parting. God alone knew when they would
meet again. But it all had to be done, it all had to be endured for
the sake of Charles-Lon. Louise had declared her intention of going
to England rather than to Belgium. She would meet a greater number of
friends there.

"I will try and write to you, Josette chrie," she said. "My heart is
broken at parting from you, and I shall not know a happy hour until we
are together again. But you know, ma chrie, that Bastien was always
convinced that this abominable Revolution could not last much longer;
and--who knows?--Charlets-Lon and I may be back in Paris before the
year is out."

She was, perhaps, too excited to feel the sorrow of parting quite as
deeply as did Josette. Indeed, Louise was in a high state of
exultation, crying one moment and laughing the next, and the hand with
which she clung to Josette was hot and dry as if burning with fever.
Just at the last she was suddenly shaken with a fit of violent
trembling, her teeth chattered and she sank into a chair, for her
knees were giving way under her.

"Josette!" she gasped. "You do not think, perchance...?"

"What, chrie?"

"That this... this letter is all a hoax? And that we--Charles-Lon and
I--are walking into a trap?"

But Josette, who still held the letter tightly clasped in her hand,
was quite sure that it was not a hoax. She recalled the seedy
apothecary at the Commissariat and his gentle voice when he spoke to
her, and there had been a moment when his steady gaze had drawn her
eyes to him. She had not thought about it much at the time, but since
then she had reflected and remembered the brief but very strange spell
which seemed to have been cast over her at the moment. No, the letter
was not a hoax. Josette would have staked her life on it that it was
dictated, or perhaps even written, by the hero of her dreams.

"It is not a trap, Louise," she said firmly, "but the work of the
finest man that ever lived. I am as convinced as that I am alive that
the one-legged man in seedy black whom you will see in the bakery is
the Scarlet Pimpernel himself."

It was Josette who lifted Charles-Lon and placed him in Louise's
arms. A final kiss to them both and they were gone. Josette stood in
the middle of the room, motionless, hardly breathing, for she tried to
catch the last sound of Louise's footsteps going down the stairs. It
was only after she had heard the opening and closing of the outside
door of the house that she at last gave way to tears.

Just like this Josette had cried when Louise, after her marriage to
Bastien de Croissy, left the little farm in the Dauphin in order to
take up her position as a great lady in Paris society. The wedding had
taken place in the small village church, and everything had been done
very quietly because General de Vandeleur, Louise's father, had only
been dead a year and Louise refused to be married from the house of
one of her grand relations. Papa and Maman Gravier and Josette were
the three people she had cared for most in all the world until Bastien
came along, and she had the sentimental feeling that she wished to
walk straight out of the one house where her happy girlhood had been
passed into the arms of the man to whom she had given her heart.

The wedding had been beautiful and gay, with the whole village hung
about with flags and garlands of flowers; and previous to it there had
been all the excitement of getting Louise's trousseau together, and of
journeys up to Paris in order to try on the wedding gown. And Josette
had been determined that no tears or gloomy looks from her should cast
a shadow over her friend's happiness. It was when everything was over,
when Louise drove away in the barouche en route for Paris, that
Josette was suddenly overwhelmed with the sorrow which she had tried
to hold in check for so long. Then as now she had thrown herself down
on the sofa and cried out her eyes in self-pity for her loneliness.
But what was the loneliness of that day in comparison with what it was
now? In those days Josette still had her father and mother: there were
the many interests of the farm, the dogs, the cows, haymaking,
harvesting. Now there was nothing but dreariness ahead. Dreariness and
loneliness. No one to look after, no one to fuss over. No Charles-Lon
to listen to tales of heroism and adventure. Only the Government
workshop, the girls there with their idle chatter and their reiterated
complaints: only the getting up in the morning, the munching of stale
food, the stitching of shirts, and the going to bed at night!

Josette thought of all this later on when bedtime came along, and she
knelt beside Charles-Lon's empty cot and nearly cried her eyes out.
Nearly but not quite, for presently Maurice came home. And it was
wonderful how his presence put a measure of comfort in Josette's
heart. Somehow the moment she heard the turn of his latchkey in the
door, and his footsteps across the hall, her life no longer appeared
quite so empty. There was someone left in Paris after all, who would
need care and attention and fussing over when he was sick; his future
would have to be planned, suitable lodgings would have to be found for
him, and life generally re-ordained according to the new conditions.

And first of all there was the excitement of telling Maurice all about
those new conditions.

Even before he came into the room Josette had jumped to her feet and
hastily dried her eyes. But he saw in a moment that she had been

"Josette!" he cried out, "what is it?"

"Take no notice, Maurice," Josette replied, still struggling with her
tears, "I am not really crying... it is only because I am so... ever
so happy!"

"Why? What has happened?"

"He came, Maurice," she said solemnly, "and they have gone."

Of course Maurice could not make head or tail of that.

"He? They?" he murmured frowning. "Who came, and who has gone?"

She made him sit down on the ugly horse-hair sofa and she sat down
beside him and told him about everything. Her dreams had turned to
reality, the Scarlet Pimpernel had come to take Louise and Charles-
Lon away out of all this danger and all this misery: he had come to
take them away to England where Louise would be safe, and Charles-Lon
would get quite well and strong.

"And left you here!" Maurice exclaimed involuntarily, when Josette
paused, out of breath, after she had imparted the great and glorious
news: "gone to safety and left you here to face..."

But Josette with a peremptory gesture put her small hand across his

"Wait, Maurice," she said, "let me tell you."

She drew the precious letter from under her fichu--Louise,
fortunately, had not demanded its return--and she read its contents
aloud to Maurice.

"Now you see!" she concluded triumphantly, and fixed her glowing eyes
on the young man.

"I only see," he retorted almost roughly, "that they had no right to
leave you here... all alone."

"Not alone, Maurice," she replied; "are you not here... to take care
of me?"

That, of course, was a heavenly moment in Maurice's life. Never had
Josette--Josette who was so independent and self-reliant--spoken like
this before, never had she looked quite like she did now, adorable
always, but more so with that expression of dependence and appeal in
her eyes. The moment was indeed so heavenly that Maurice felt unable
to say anything. He was so afraid that the whole thing was not real,
that he was only dreaming, and that if he spoke the present rapture
would at once be dispelled. He felt alternately hot and cold, his
temples throbbed. He tried to express with a glance all that went on
in his heart. His silence and his looks did apparently satisfy
Josette, for after a moment or two she explained to him just what her
feelings were about the letter.

"The Scarlet Pimpernel demands trust and obedience, Maurice," she said
with nave earnestness. "Well! would that have been obedience if
Louise had lugged me along with her? He doesn't mention me in the
letter. If he had meant me to come, he would have said so."

With this pronouncement Maurice had perforce to be satisfied; but one
thing more he wanted to know: what had become of the letters? But
Josette couldn't tell him. Ever since Bastien's death, Louise had
never spoken of them, or given the slightest hint of what she had done
with them.

"Let's hope she has destroyed them," Maurice commented with a sigh.

The next day they spent in hunting for new lodgings for Maurice.
Strange! Josette no longer felt lonely. She still grieved after Louise
and Charles-Lon, but somehow life no longer seemed as dreary as she
thought it would be.

Chapter X

Louise, in very truth, was much too excited to feel the pang of
parting as keenly as did Josette, and ever since Charles-Lon had
fallen sick she had taken a veritable hatred to Paris and her dingy
apartment in the Rue Picpus. The horror of her husband's death had
increased her abhorrence of the place, and now hatred amounted to

Therefore it was that she went downstairs with a light heart on that
memorable evening of September. She had Charles-Lon in her arms and
carried the empty market basket, with her ration card laid
ostentatiously in it for anyone to see. The concierge was in the
doorway of his lodge and asked her whither she was going. These were
not days when one could tell a concierge to mind his own business, so
Louise replied meekly:

"To the bakery, Citizen," and she showed the man her ration card.

"Very late," the concierge remarked drily.

"The weather has been so bad all day..."

"Too bad even now to take the child out, I imagine."

"It has left off raining," Louise said still gently, "and the poor
cabbage must have some fresh air; the Citizen Doctor insisted on

She felt terribly impatient at the delay, but did not dare appear to
be in a hurry, whilst the concierge seemed to derive amusement at
keeping her standing beside his lodge. He knew her for an aristo, and
many there were in these days who found pleasure in irritating or
humiliating those who in the past had thought themselves their

However, this ordeal, like so many others, did come to an end after a
time; the concierge condescended to open the porte-cochre and Louise
was able to slip out into the street. It had certainly left off
raining, but it was very cold and damp underfoot. Louise trudged on as
fast as she could, her thin shoes squelching through the mud.
Fortunately the bakery was not far, and soon she was able to take her
place in the queue outside the shop. There was no crowd at this hour:
a score of people at the most, chiefly women. Louise's anxious glance
swept quickly over them and at once her heart gave a jump, for she had
caught sight of a maimed man on crutches, dressed in back as the
mysterious letter had described. He was ahead of her in the queue, and
she saw him quite distinctly when he entered the shop, and stood for a
moment under the lantern which hung above the door. But his face she
could not clearly see, for he wore a black hat with a wide brim: a hat
as shabby as his clothes. Presently he disappeared inside the shop,
and Louise did not see him again until she herself had been to the
counter and been served with her ration of bread. Then she saw him
just going out of the shop and she followed as soon as she could.

There were still a good many people in the street, and just over the
road there were two men of the Republican Guard on duty, set there to
watch over the queue outside the licensed bakeries. Some of the people
there were still waiting their turn, others were walking away, some in
one direction, some in another. But there was no sign anywhere of the
one-legged man. Louise stood for a moment in the ill-lighted street,
perturbed and anxious, wondering in which direction she ought to go;
her heart seemed to sink into her shoes, and she was desperately
tired, too, from standing so long with the child in her arms. But with
those men of the Republican Guard watching her she did not like to
hesitate too long and, thoroughly heart-sick now and nigh unto
despair, she began to fear that the letter and all her hopes were only
idle dreams. Almost faint with fatigue and disappointment she had just
turned her weary footsteps towards home when suddenly she heard the
distant tap-tap of crutches on the cobble-stones.

With a deep sigh of relief Louise started at once to walk in the
direction whence came the welcome sound. The tap-tap kept on slightly
ahead of her, so all she had to do was to follow as closely as she
could. With Charles-Lon asleep in her arms she had trudged on thus
for about ten minutes, turning out of one street and into another,
when suddenly the tap-tap ceased. The maimed man had paused beside an
open street door; when Louise came up with him he signed to her to

She hadn't the least idea where she was, but from the direction in
which she had gone she conjectured that it was somewhere near the
Temple. There were not many people about, and though on the way she
had gone past more than one patrol of the National Guard, the men had
taken no notice of her; she was just a poor woman with a child in her
arms and a ration of bread in her basket; nor had they paid any heed
to the maimed, seedy-looking individual hobbling along on crutches.

Now as Louise passed through the open door her guide whispered rapidly
to her:

"Go up two flights of stairs and knock at the door on your right."

Strangely enough, Louise had no hesitation in obeying; though she had
no idea where she would find herself she felt no fear. Perhaps she was
too tired to feel anything but a longing for rest. She went up the two
flights of stairs and knocked at the door which her guide had
indicated. It was opened by a rough-looking youngish man in ragged
clothes, unshaved, unkempt, who blinked his eyes as if he had just
been roused out of sleep.

"Is it Madame de Croissy?" he asked, and Louise noted that he spoke
French with a foreign accent; also the word "Madame" was unusual these
days. This, of course, reassured her. Her thoughts flew back to
Josette and the girl's firm belief in the existence of the Scarlet

The young man led the way through a narrow ill-lit passage to a room
where Louise's aching eyes were greeted with the welcome sight of a
table spread with a cloth on which were laid a knife and fork, a place
and a couple of mugs. There was also a couch in a corner of the room
with a pillow on it and a rug. It was rather cold and a solitary
tallow candle shed a feeble, vacillating light on the bare whitewashed
walls and the blackened ceiling, but Louise thought little of all
this; she sank down on a chair by the table, and the young man then
said to her in his quaint stilted French:

"In one moment, Madame, I will bring you something to eat, for you
must be very hungry; and we also have a little milk for the boy. I
hope you won't mind waiting while I get everything ready for you."

He went out of the room before Louise had found sufficient energy to
say "Thank you." She just sat there like a log, her purple-rimmed eyes
staring into vacancy. Charles-Lon, who, luckily, had been asleep all
this time, now woke and began to whimper. Louise hugged him to her
bosom until the tousled young ruffian reappeared presently, carrying a
tray on which there was a dish and a jug. Louise felt almost like
swooning when a delicious smell of hot food and steaming milk tickled
her nostrils. The young man had poured out a mugful of milk for
Charles-Lon, and while the child drank eagerly Louise made a great
effort to murmur an adequate "Thank you."

"It is not to me, Madame," the man retorted, "that you owe thanks. I
am here under orders. You, too, I am afraid," he went on with a smile,
"will have to submit to the will of my chief."

"Give me the orders, sir," Louise rejoined meekly. "I will obey them."

"The orders are that you eat some supper now and then have a good rest
until I call you in the early morning. You will have to leave here a
couple of hours before the dawn."

"Charles-Lon and I will be ready, sir. Anything else?"

"Only that you get a good sleep, for to-morrow will be wearisome.
Good-night, Madame."

Before Louise could say another word the young man had slipped out of
the room.

Charles-Lon slept peacefully all night cuddled up against his mother,
but Louise lay awake for hours, thinking of her amazing adventure. She
was up betimes, and soon after a distant church clock struck half-past
four there was a knock at the door. Her young friend of the evening
before had come to fetch her; he looked as if he had been up all
night, and certainly he had not taken off his clothes. Louise picked
Charles-Lon up, and with him in her arms she followed her friend down
the stairs. Outside she found herself in a narrow street: it was quite
dark because the street lanterns had already been extinguished and
there was not yet a sign of dawn in the sky. Through the darkness
Louise perceived the vague silhouette of a covered cart such as the
collectors of the city's refuse used for their filthy trade. A small
donkey was harnessed to the cart and it was bring driven apparently by
a woman.

Neither the woman nor the young man spoke at the moment, but the
latter intimated to Louise by a gesture that she must step into the
cart. Only for a few seconds did she hesitate. The cart was indeed
filthy and reeked of all sorts of horrible odours calculated to make
any sensitive person sick. A kindly voice whispered in her ear:

"It cannot be helped, Madame, and you must forgive us: anyway, it is
no worse than the inside of one of their prisons."

Her friend now took Charles-Lon from her, and summoning all her
courage she stepped into the cart. The child was then handed back to
her and she gathered herself and him into a heap under the awning. She
wanted to assure her friend that not only was she prepared for
anything, but that her heart was full of gratitude for all that was
being done for her. But before she could speak a large piece of
sacking was thrown right over her, and over the sacking a pile of
things the nature of which the poor woman did not venture to guess. As
she settled herself down, as comfortably as she could, she came in
contact with what appeared to be a number of bottles.

A minute or two later with much creaking of wheels and many a jerk the
cart was set in motion. It went jogging along over the cobble-stones
of the streets of Paris at foot pace, while under the awning,
smothered by a heap of all sorts of vegetable refuse, Louise de
Croissy had sunk into a state of semi-consciousness.

Chapter XI

She was roused from her torpor by the loud cry of "Halte!" The cart
came to a standstill and Louise, with sudden terror gripping her
heart, realised that they had come to one of the gates of Paris where
detachments of National Guard, officered by men eager for promotion,
scrutinised every person who ventured in or out of the city.

The poor woman, crouching under a heap of odds and ends, heard the
measured tramp of soldiers and a confused murmur of voices. Through a
chink in the awning she could see that the grey light was breaking
over this perilous crisis of her life. Presently a gruff commanding
voice rose above the shrill croaky tones of a woman, whom Louise
guessed to be the drive of the cart. The gruff voice when first it
reached Louise's consciousness was demanding to see what there was
underneath the awning. She could do nothing but hug the child closer
to her breast, for she knew that within the next few seconds her life
and his would tremble in the balance. She hardly dared to breathe; her
whole body was bathed in a cold sweat. Heavy footsteps, accompanied by
short, shuffling ones, came round to the back of the cart, and a few
seconds later the end flap of the awning was thrust aside and a wave
of cold air swept around inside the cart. Some of it penetrated to
poor Louise's nostrils, but she hardly dared to breathe. She knew that
her fate and that of Charles-Lon would be decided within the next few
minutes perhaps.

The gruff voice was evidently that of one in authority.

"Anyone in there?" it demanded, and to the unfortunate woman it seemed
as if the heap of rubbish on the top of her was being prodded with the
point of a bayonet.

"No one now, Citizen Officer," a woman's shrill voice responded,
obviously the voice of the old hag who was driving the cart: "that's
my son there, holding the donkey's head. He can't speak, you know,
Citizen... never could since birth... tongued-tied as the saying is.
But a good lad... can't gossip, you see. And here's his passport and

There was some rustle of papers, one or two muttered words and then
the woman spoke again:

"I'm picking up my daughter and her boy at Champerret presently," she
said: "their passports and permits are all in order too, but I haven't
got them here."

"Where are you going then all of you?" the gruff voice asked, and
there was more rustle of papers and a tramping of feet. The passports
were being taken into the guard-room to be duly stamped.

"Only as far as Clichy, Citizen Officer. It says so on the permit. See
here, Citizen. 'Permit for Citizeness Ruffin and her son Pierre to
proceed to Clichy for purposes of business!' That's all in order is it
not, Citizen Officer?"

"Yes! yes! that's all in order all right. And now let's see what you
have got inside the cart."

"All in order... of course it is..." the old woman went on, cackling
like an old hen; "you don't catch Mre Ruffin out of order with
authorities. Not her. Passports and permits, everything always in
order, Citizen Officer. You ask any captain at the gates. They'll tell
you. Mother Ruffin is always in order... always... in order..."

And all the while the old hag was shifting and pushing about the heap
of rubbish that was lying on the top of the unfortunate Louise.

"It's not a pleasant business, mine, Citizen Officer," she continued
with a doleful sigh; "but one must live, what? Citizen Arnould--you
know him, don't you, Citizen? Over at the chemical works--he buys all
my stuff from me."

"Filthy rubbish, I call it," the officer retorted; "but don't go
wasting my time, mother. Just shift that bit of sacking, and you can
take your stuff to the devil for aught I care."

Louise, trembling with fear and horror, still half-smothered under the
pile of rubbish, was on the point of losing consciousness. Fortunately
Charles-Lon was still asleep and she was able to keep her wits
sufficiently about her to hold him tightly in her arms. Would the
argument between the soldier and the old hag never come to an end?

"I am doing my best, Citizen Officer, but the stuff is heavy," the
woman muttered; "and all my papers in order I should have thought...
Mother Ruffin's papers always are in order, Citizen Officer.... Ask
any captain of the guard... he'll tell you..."

"Nom d'un nom," the soldier broke in with an oath, "are you going to
shift that sacking or shall I have to order the men to take you to the

"The guard-room? Me? Mre Ruffin, known all over the country as an
honest patriot? You'd get a reprimand, Citizen Officer--that's what
you would get for taking Mre Ruffin to the guard-room. Bien! bien!
don't lose your temper, Citizen Officer... no harm meant.... Here!
can't one of your men give me a hand?... But... I say...."

A click of glass against glass followed: Louise remembered the bottles
that were piled up round her. After this ominous click there was a
moment's silence. Sounds from the outside reached Louise's
consciousness: men talking, the clatter of horses' hoofs, the rattle
of wheels, challenge from the guard, cries of "Halte!" distant murmurs
of people talking, moving, even laughing, whilst she, hugging Charles-
Lon to her breast, marvelled at what precise moment she and her child
would be discovered and dragged out of this noisome shelter to some
equally noisome prison. The woman had ceased jabbering: the click of
glass seemed to have paralysed her tongue; but only for a moment: a
minute or so later her shrill voice could be heard again.

"You won't be hard on me will you, Citizen Officer?" she said

"Hard?" the soldier retorted. "That'll depend on what you've got under

"Nothing to make a fuss over, Citizen Officer: a poor widow has got to
live, and..."

There was another click of glass--several clicks, then a thud, the
bottles tumbling one against the other, then the officer's harsh voice
saying with a laugh:

"So! that's it! is it? Absinthe? What? You old reprobate! No wonder
you didn't want me to look under that sacking."

"Citizen Officer, don't be hard on a poor widow..."

"Poor widow indeed? Where did you steal the stuff?"

"I didn't steal it, Citizen Officer... I swear I didn't."

"How many bottles have you got there?"

"Only a dozen, Citizen..."

"Out with them."

"Citizen Officer..."

"Out with them I say..."

"Yes, Citizen," the old woman said meekly with an audible snuffle.

She sprawled over the back of the cart, pushed some of the rubbish
aside and Louise was conscious of the bottles being pulled out from
round and under her. She heard the soldier say:

"Is that all?"

"One dozen, Citizen Sergeant. You can see for yourself."

The woman dropped down to the ground. Louise could hear her snuffling
the other side of the awning. After which there came a terrible
moment, almost the worst of this awful and protracted ordeal. The
officer appeared to have given an order to one of the soldiers, who
used the end of his bayonet for the purpose of ascertaining whether
there were any more bottles under the sacking. What he did was to bang
away with it on the pile of rubbish that still lay on the top of
Louise; some of the bangs hit Louise on the legs: one blow fell
heavily on one of her ankles. The courage with which she endured these
blows motionless and in silence was truly heroic. Her life and
Charles-Lon's depended on her remaining absolutely still. And she did
remain quite still, hugging the child to her breast, outwardly just
another pile of rubbish on the floor of the cart. The boy was
positively wonderful, he seemed to know that he must not move or utter
a sound. Though he must have been terrified, he never cried, but just
clung to his mother, with eyes tightly closed. Louise in fact came to
bless the very noisomeness of the refuse which lay on top of her, for
obviously the soldier did not like to touch it with his hands.

"I get most of my stuff from the hospitals," Louise could hear the old
hag talking volubly to the officer; "you can see for yourself,
Citizen, it is mostly linen which has been used for bandages... sore
legs you know and all that... Citizen Arnould over at the chemical
works gives me good money for it. It seems they make paper out of the
stuff. Paper out of linen I ask you... brown or red paper I should
say, for you should see some of it... and all the fever they've got in
the wards now... yellow fever if not worse..."

"There! that'll do, Mother Ruffin," the officer broke in roughly: "all
your talk won't help you. You've got to pay for taking the stuff
though, and you know it... and there'll be a fine for trying to

There followed a loud and long-winded protests on the part of the old
hag; but apparently the officer was at the end of his tether and would
listen to none of it, although he did seem to have a certain measure
of tolerance for the woman's delinquency.

"You come along quietly, Mother," he said in the end, "it will save
you trouble in the end."

He called to his men, and snuffling, cackling, protesting, the old
woman apparently followed them quietly in the direction of the guard-
room. At any rate Louise heard nothing more. For a long, long time she
did not hear anything. The reaction after the terror of this past half
hour was so great that she fell into a kind of torpor; the noises of
the street only came to her ears through a kind of fog. The only
feeling she was conscious of was that she must hold Charles-Lon
closely to her breast.

How long this state of numbness lasted she did not know. She had lost
count of time; and she had lost the use of her limbs. Her ankle where
she had been hit with the flat of the soldier's bayonet had ached
furiously at first: now she no longer felt the pain. Charles-Lon, she
thought, must have gone to sleep, for she could just feel his even
breathing against her breast.

Suddenly she was aroused by the sound, still distant, of the woman's
shrill voice. It drew gradually nearer.

"Now then, Pierre, let's get on," the old hag was shrieking as she
came along.

Pierre, whoever he was, had apparently remained at the donkey's head
all this time. Louise from the first had suspected that he was none
other than her friend of the tousled head; but who that awful old hag
with the snuffle and the cackling voice she could not even conjecture.
But she was content to leave it at that. Apparently those wonderful
and heroic Englishmen employed strange tools in their work of mercy.
At the moment she felt far too tired and too numb even to marvel at
the amazing way in which that old woman had hoodwinked the officer of
the guard. As Louise returned to consciousness she could hear vaguely
in the distance the soldiers laughing and chaffing and the woman
muttering and grumbling:

"Making a poor woman pay for an honest trading... a scandal I call

"Oh, la mre!" the soldiers shouted amidst loud laughter, "bring us
some more of that absinthe to-morrow."

"Robbers! thieves! brigands!" the woman ejaculated shrilly, "catch me
again coming this way..."

She apparently busied herself with putting the bottles--or some of
them at any rate--back into the cart: after which the flap of the
awning was again lowered: there was much creaking and shaking of the
cart; soon it was once more set in motion; to the accompaniment of
more laughter and many ribald jokes on the part of the soldiers, who
stood watching the departure of the ramshackle vehicle and its scrubby

Anon the creaking wheels resumed their jolting, axle-deep in mud, over
the country roads riddled with ruts. But of this Louise de Croissy now
knew little or nothing. She had mercifully once more ceased to think
or feel.

Chapter XII

Days of strange adventures followed, adventures that never seemed
real, only products of a long dream.

There was that halt on the wayside in the afternoon of the first day,
with Paris a couple of leagues and more behind. The end flap of the
awning was pulled aside and the horrible weight lifted from Louise's
inert body. Glad of the relief and of the breath of clean air, she
opened her eyes, then closed them again quickly at sight of the
hideous old woman whose scarred and grimy face was grinning at her
from the rear of the cart. A dream figure in very truth, or a
nightmare! But was she not the angel in disguise who, by dint of a
comedian's art, had hoodwinked the sergeant at the gate of Paris and
passed through the jealously guarded barriers with as much ease as if
her passengers in that filthy cart had been provided with the safest
of passports?

Yet, strive how she might, Louise could see nothing in that ugly and
ungainly figure before her that even remotely suggested a heroine or
an angel. She gave up the attempt at fathoming the mystery, and
allowed herself and Charles-Lon to be helped out of the cart and,
with a great sigh of gladness, she sank down on the mossy bank by the
roadside, and ate of the bread and cheese which the hag had placed
beside her, together with a bottle of milk for the boy.

When she and Charles-Lon had eaten and drunk and she had taken in as
much fresh country air as her lungs would hold, she looked about her,
intending to thank that extraordinary old woman for her repeated
kindness, but the latter was nowhere to be seen; also the donkey was
no longer harnessed to the cart. Somewhere in the near distance there
was a group of derelict cottages and, chancing to look that way,
Louise saw the woman walking towards it and leading the donkey by the

She never again set eyes on that old hag. Presently, however, a rough
fellow clad in a blue smock, who looked like a farm labourer, appeared
upon the scene; he was leading a pony, and as soon as he caught
Louise's glance he beckoned to her to get back into the cart.
Mechanically she obeyed, and the man lifted Charles-Lon and placed
him in his mother's arms. He harnessed the pony to the cart, and once
more the tumble-down vehicle went lumbering along the muddy country
lanes. Fortunately, though the sky was grey and the wind boisterous,
the rain held off most of the time. For three days and nights they
were on the road, sleeping when they could, eating whatever was
procurable on the way. They never once touched the cities, but avoided
them by circuitous ways; always a pony, or sometimes a donkey, was
harnessed to the cart, but the same rough-looking farm labourer held
the reins the whole time. Two or three times a day he would get down,
always in the vicinity of some derelict building or other into which
he would disappear, and presently he would emerge once more leading a
fresh beast of burden. Once or twice he would be accompanied on those
occasions by another man as rough-looking as himself, but for the most
part he would attend to the pony or donkey alone.

There were some terrible moments during those days, moments when
Louise felt that she must choke with terror. Her heart was in her
mouth, for patrols of soldiers would come riding or marching down the
road, and now and again there would be a cry of "Halte!" and a brief
colloquy would follow between the Sergeant in command and the driver
of the cart. But apparently--thank God for that--the cart and its
rustic driver appeared too beggarly and insignificant to arouse
suspicion or to engage for long the attention of the patrols.

The worst moment of all occurred in the late afternoon of the third
day. The driver had turned the cart off the main road into a narrow
lane which ran along the edge of a ploughed field. It was uphill work
and the pony had done three hours' work already, dragging the rickety
vehicle along muddy roads. Its pace got slower and slower. The wind
blew straight from the north-east, and Louise felt very sick and cold,
nor could she manage to keep Charles-Lon warm: the awning flapped
about in the wind and let in gusts of icy draught all round.

When presently the driver pulled up and came round to see how she
fared, she ventured to ask him timidly whether it wouldn't be possible
to find some sheltered spot where they could all spend the night in
comparative warmth for the child. At once the man promised to do his
best to find some derelict barn or cottage. He turned into a ploughed
field and soon disappeared from view. Louise remained shivering in the
cart with Charles-Lon hugged closely to her under her shawl. She had
indeed need of all her faith in the wonderful Scarlet Pimpernel to
keep her heart warm, while her body was racked with cold.

She had no notion of time, of course; and sundown meant nothing when
all day the sky had been just a sheet of heavy, slate-coloured clouds.
A dim grey light still hung over the dreary landscape, while slowly
the horizon veiled itself in mist. The driver had been gone some time
when Louise's sensitive ears caught the distant sound of horses' hoofs
splashing in the mud of the road. It was a sound that always terrified
her. Up to now nothing serious had happened, but it was impossible to
know when some meddlesome or officious Sergeant might with questions
and suspicions shatter at one fell swoop all the poor woman's hopes of
ultimate safety. The patrol--for such it certainly was--was coming at
a fair speed along the main road. Perhaps, thought Louise, the
soldiers would ride past the corner of the lane and either not see the
cart or think it not worth investigating. Bitterly she reproached
herself for her want of endurance. If she had not sent the driver off
to go in search of a shelter for the night, he would have driven on at
least another half kilometre and then surely the cart would not have
been sighted from the road. And, what's more, she would not have been
alone to face this awful contingency.

For contingency it certainly was. Anything--the very worst--might
happen now, for the man was not there to answer harsh questions with
gruff answers, he was not there with his ready response and his
amazing knack of averting suspicions. Louise was alone and she heard
the squad of soldiers turn into the lane. Her heart seemed to cease
beating. A moment or two later the man in command cried "Halte!" and
himself drew rein close to the rear of the cart.

"Anyone there?" he queried in a loud voice.

Oh! for an inspiration to know just what to say in reply!

"There's someone under there," the soldier went on peremptorily; "who
is it?"

More dead than alive, Louise was unable to speak.

The Sergeant then gave the order! "Allons! just see who is in there;
and," he added facetiously, "lets hear where the driver of this
elegant barouche has hidden himself."

There was some clatter and jingle of metal: the sound of men
dismounting, the pawing and snorting of horses. Through the chinks in
the awning Louise could perceive the dim light of a couple of dark
lanterns like two yellow eyes staring. Then the awning in the rear of
the cart was raised, the lantern lit up the interior and Louise was
discovered crouching in the distant corner on a pile of sacking,
hugging Charles-Lon.

"Oh! la petite mre!" the Sergeant called out not unkindly: "come out
and lets have a look at you."

Louise crawled out of the darkness, still hugging Charles-Lon. The
evening was drawing in. She wondered vaguely if anything in her
appearance would betray that she was no rustic, but an unfortunate,
fleeing the country. She looked wearied to death, dishevelled and
grimy. The Sergeant leaning down from his saddle peered into her face.

"Who is in charge of your barouche, petite mre?" he asked.

"My--my--husband," Louise contrived to stammer through teeth that were

"Where is he?"

"Gone to the village... to see if we can get... a bed... for the

"Hm!" said the Sergeant. And after a moment or two: "Suppose you let
me see your papers."

"Papers?" Louise murmured.

"Yes! Your passports, what?"

"I haven't any papers."

"How do you mean you haven't any papers?" the Sergeant retorted, all
the kindliness gone out of his voice.

"My husband..." Louise stammered again.

"Oh! you mean your husband has got your papers?"

Louise, no longer able to utter a sound, merely nodded.

"And he's gone to the village?"

Another nod.

"Where is the village?"

Louise shook her head.

"You mean you don't know?"

The man paused for a moment or two. Clearly there was something
unusual in this helpless creature stranded in the open country with a
child in her arms, and no man in sight belonging to her.

"Well!" he said after a moment or two, during which he vainly tried to
peer more closely in Louise's face, "you'll come along with us now,
and when your husband finds the barouche gone he will know where to
look for you."

"You get into your carriage, petite mre," he added; "one of the men
will drive you."

So shaken and frightened was Louise that she could not move. Her knees
were giving way under her. Two men lifted her and Charles-Lon into
the cart. They were neither rough nor unkind--family men perhaps with
children of their own--or just machines performing their duty. Louise
could only wonder what would happen next. Crouching once more in the
cart, she felt it give a lurch as one man scrambled into the driver's
seat. He took the reins and clicked his tongue, and the pony had just
answered to a flick of the whip when from the ploughed field there
came loud cries of "Oh!" coming right out of the evening mist. Louise
didn't know if she could feel relief or additional terror when she
heard that call. It was her rustic friend coming back at full speed.
He was running, and came to a halt in the lane breathless and
obviously exhausted.

"Sergeant," he cried, gasping for breath, "give a hand... on your life
give a hand... a fortune, Sergeant, if we get him now."

The soldier, taken aback by the sudden appearance of this madman--he
thought of him as such--fell to shouting: "What's all this?" and had
much ado to hold his horse, which had shied and reared at the strident
noise. The other soldiers--there were only four of them--were in a
like plight, and for a moment or two there was a good deal of
confusion which the quickly gathering darkness helped to intensify.

"What's all this?" the Sergeant queried again as soon as the confusion
subsided. "Here! you!" he commanded: "are you the owner of this
aristocratic vehicle!"

"I am," the man replied.

"And is that your wife and child inside?"

"They are. But in Satan's name, Sergeant..."

"Never mind about Satan now. You just get into your stylish vehicle
and turn your pony's head round; you are coming along with me."

"Where to?"

"To Abbeville, parbleu. And if your papers are not in order..."

"If you go to Abbeville, Sergeant," the man declared, still panting
with excitement, "you lose the chance of a lifetime... there's a
fortune for you and me and these honest patriots waiting for us in the
middle of this ploughed field."

"The man's mad," the Sergeant declared. "Allons, don't let's waste any
more time. En evant!"

"But I tell you I saw him, Citizen Sergeant," the man protested.

"Saw whom? The devil?"

"Worse. The English spy."

It was the Sergeant's turn to gasp and to pant.

"The English spy?" he exclaimed.

"Him they call the Scarlet Pimpernel!" the man asserted hotly.

"Where?" the Sergeant cried. And the four men echoed excitedly!

The man pointed towards the ploughed field.

"I went to look for a shelter for the night for my wife and child. I
came to a barn. I heard voices. I drew near. I peeped in. Aristos I
tell you. A dozen of them. All talking gibberish. English, what? And
drinking. Drinking. Some of them were asleep on the straw. They mean
to spend the night there."

He paused, breathless, and pressed his grimy hands against his chest
as if every word he uttered caused him excruciating pain. The words
came from his throat in short jerky sentences. Clearly he was on the
verge of collapse. But now the Sergeant and his men were as eager, as
excited as he was.

"Yes! yes! go on!" they urged.

"They are there still," the man said, trying to speak clearly: "I saw
them. Not ten minutes ago. I ran away, for I tell you they looked like
devils. And one of them is tall... tall like a giant... and his

"Never mind his eyes," the Sergeant broke in gruffly: "I am after
those English devils. There's a reward of ten thousand livres for the
capture of their chief... and promotion..." he added lustily.

He turned his horse round in the direction of the field, and called
loudly "Allons!"

The driver halloed after him.

"But what about me, Citizen Sergeant?"

"You can follow. In what direction did you say?"

"Straight across," the man replied. "See that light over there... keep
it on your right... and then follow the track... and there's a gap in
the hedge..."

But the Sergeant was no longer listening. No doubt visions of ten
thousand livres and fortune rising to giddy heights rose up before him
out of the fast-gathering gloom. He was not going to waste time. The
men followed him, as eager as the jingle of their accouterments, the
creaking of damp leather, the horses snorting and pawing the wet
earth. The flap of the awning had been lowered again: she couldn't see
anything, but she heard the welcome sounds, and no longer felt the

"My baby, my baby," she murmured, crooning to Charles-Lon, "I do
believe that God is on our side."

The cart moved along. She didn't know in which direction. The pony was
going at foot-pace: probably the driver was leading it, for the
darkness now was intense--the welcome darkness that enveloped the
wanderers as in a black shroud. At first Louise could not help
thinking of that Sergeant and the soldiers. What would they do when
they found that they had been hoodwinked? They would scour the
countryside of course to find traces of the cart. Would they succeed
in the darkness of the night? She dared not let her thoughts run on
farther. All she could do was to press Charles-Lon closer and closer
to her heart and to murmur over and over again: "I do believe that God
is on our side."

He was indeed, for the night passed by and there was no further sign
of the patrol. After a time the cart came to a standstill and the
driver came round, and helped her and Charles-Lon to descend. They
all sheltered in the angle of a tumble-down wall which had once been
part of a cottage. The man wrapped some sacking round Louise and the
child and she supposed she slept, for she remembered nothing more
until the light of dawn caused her to open her eyes.

The next day they came in sight of Calais. The driver pulled up and
bade Louise and the child descend. Louise knew nothing of this part of
France. It appeared to her unspeakably dreary and desolate. The earth
was of a drab colour, so different to the rich reddish clay of the
Dauphin, and instead of the green pastures and golden cornfields,
still scrubby grass grew in irregular tufts here and there. The sky
was grey and there was a blustering wind which brought with it a smell
of fish and salt water. The stunted trees, with their branches all
tending away from the sea, had the mournful appearance of a number of
attenuated human beings who were trying to run away and were held back
by their fettered feet. Calais lay far away on the right, and there
was only one habitation visible in this desolate landscape. This was a
forlorn and dilapidated-looking cottage on the top of the cliff to the
west: its roof was all crooked on the top like a hat that has been
blown aside by the wind. The driver pointed to the cottage and said to

"That is our objective now, Madame, but I am afraid it has to be
reached on foot. Can you do it?"

This was the first time that the man spoke directly to Louise. His
voice was serious and kindly, nevertheless she was suddenly conscious
of a strange pang of puzzlement and doubt--almost of awe: for the man
spoke in perfect French, the language of a highly educated man. Yet he
had the appearance of a rough country boor: his clothes were ragged,
he wore neither shirt nor stockings: of course his unshaved cheeks and
chin added to his look of scrubbiness and his face and hands were far
from clean. At first, when he replaced the horrible old hag on the
driver's seat of the cart, Louise had concluded that he was one of
that heroic band of Englishmen who were leading her and Charles-Lon
to safety, but this conclusion was soon dispelled when the man spoke
to the several patrols of soldiers who met them on the way. She had
heard him talk to them, and also the night before, during those
terrible moments in the lane; and he had spoken in the guttural patois
peculiar to the peasantry of Northern France.

But now, that pleasant, cultured voice, the elegant diction of a
Parisian! Louise did not know what to make of it. Had she detected the
slightest trace of a foreign accent she would have understood, and
gone back to her first conclusion, that here was one of those heroic
Englishmen of whom Josette was wont to talk so ecstatically. But a
French gentleman, masquerading in country clothes, what could it mean?

The poor woman's nerves were so terribly on edge that one emotion
would chase away another with unaccountable speed. For the past few
hours she had felt completely reassured--almost happy--but now, just a
few words uttered by this man whom she had learned to trust sent her
back into a state of panic, and the vague fears which she had
experienced when first she left her apartment in the Rue Picpus once
more reared their ugly heads. It was stupid of course! A state
bordering on madness! But Louise had not been quite normal since the
tragic death of Bastien.

And suddenly she clutched at her skirt, in the inner pocket of which
she had stowed the packet of letters which already had cost Bastien de
Croissy his life. But the letters were no longer there. She searched
and searched, but the packet had indubitably gone. Then she was seized
with wild panic. Pressing the child to her bosom she turned as if to
fly. Whither she knew not, but to fly before the hideous arms of those
vengeful Terrorists were stretched out far enough to get hold of

But before she had advanced one step in this wild career a strange
sound fell upon her ear, a sound that made her pause and look vaguely
about her to find out how it was that le bon Dieu had sent this
heaven-born protector to save her and the boy. The sound was just a
pleasant mellow laugh, and then the same kindly voice of a moment ago
said quietly:

"This is yours, I believe, Madame."

Instinctively she turned like a frightened child, hardly daring to
look. Her glance fell first on the packet of letters which she had
missed and which was held out to her by a very grimy yet strangely
beautiful hand: from the hand her eyes wandered upwards along the
tattered sleeve and the bent shoulder to the face of the driver who
had been the silent companion of her amazing three days' adventure.
And out of that face a pair of lazy deep-set blue eyes regarded her
with obvious amusement, whilst the aftermath of that pleasant mellow
laugh still lingered round the firm lips.

With her eyes fixed upon that face, which seemed like a mask over a
mystical entity, Louise took the packet of letters. Her trembling lips
murmured an awed "Who are you?" whereat the strange personage replied
lightly, "For the moment your servant, Madame, only anxious to see you
safely housed in yonder cottage. Shall we proceed?"

All Louise could do was to nod and then set off as briskly as she
could, so as to show this wonderful man how ready she was to follow
him in all things. He had already taken the pony out of the cart and
set Charles-Lon on its back. The cart he left by the roadside, and he
walked beside the pony steadying Charles-Lon with his arm. Thus the
little party climbed to the top of the cliff. It was very heavy going,
for the ground was soft and Louise's feet sank deeply into the sand;
but she dragged herself along bravely, although she felt like a
somnambulist, moving in a dream-walk to some unknown, mysterious
destination, a heaven peopled by heroic old hags and rough labourers
with unshaven cheeks and merry, lazy eyes. The cottage on the cliff
was not so dilapidated as it had appeared in the distance. The man
brought the pony to a halt and pushed open the door. Louise lifted
Charles-Lon down and followed her guide into the cottage. She found
herself in a room in which there was a table, two or three chairs and
benches, and an iron stove in which a welcome fire was burning. Two
men were sitting by the fire and rose as Louise, half-fainting with
fatigue, staggered into the room. Together they led her to an inner
room where there was a couch, and on this she sank breathless and
speechless. Charles-Lon was then laid beside her: the poor child
looked ghastly, and Louise, with a pitiable moan, hugged him to her
side. One of the men brought her food and milk, whilst the other
placed a pillow to her head. Louise, though only half-conscious at
this moment, felt that if only she had the strength she would have
dragged herself down on her knees and kissed the hands of those rough-
looking men in boundless gratitude.

She remained for some time in a state of torpor, lying on the couch
holding the boy closely to her. The door between the two rooms was
ajar: a welcome warmth from the iron stove penetrated to the tired
woman's aching sinews. A vague murmur of voices reached her semi-
consciousness. The three men whom she regarded as her saviours were
talking together in whispers. They spoke in English, of which Louise
understood a few sentences. Now and again that pleasant mellow laugh
which she had already heard came to her ears, and somehow it produced
in her a sense of comfort and of peace. One of the three men, the one
with the mellow laugh, seemed to be in command of the others, for he
was giving them directions of what they were to do with reference to a
boat, a creek and a path down the side of a cliff, and also to a
signal with which the others appeared to be familiar.

But the voices became more and more confused; the gentle murmur, the
pleasant roar of the fire acted as a lullaby, and soon Louise fell
into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter XIII

A pleasant, cultured voice, speaking French with a marked foreign
accent, roused Louise out of her sleep. She opened her eyes still
feeling dazed and not realising for the moment just where she was. One
of the young men whom she had vaguely perceived the night before was
standing under the lintel of the door.

"I hope I haven't frightened you, Madame," he now said, "but we ought
to be getting on the way."

It was broad daylight, with a grey sky heavy with clouds that
threatened rain, and a blustering wind that moaned dismally down the
chimney. From the distance came the regular booming of the breakers
against the cliffs. It was a sound Louise had never heard in her life
before and she could not help feeling alarmed at the prospect of going
on the sea with Charles-Lon so weak and ill, even though salvation
and hospitable England lay on the other side. But she had made up her
mind that however cowardly she felt in her heart of hearts, she would
bear herself bravely before her heroic friends. As soon as the young
man had gone, she made herself and the boy ready for the journey--the
Great Unknown as she called it with a shudder of apprehension.

There was some warm milk and bread for her and Charles-Lon on the
table in the other room. She managed to eat and drink and then said
bravely: "We are quite ready now, Monsieur."

The young man guided her to the front door of the house. Here she
expected to see once more the strange and mysterious man who had
driven her all the way from Paris in the ramshackle vehicle and who
throughout four long wearisome days and nights had never seemed to
tire, and never lost his ready wit and resourcefulness in face of
danger from the patrols of the National Guard.

Not seeing him or the cart she turned to her new friend.

"What has happened to our elegant barouche?" she asked with a smile,
"and the pony?"

"They wouldn't be much use down the cliff-side, Madame," he replied;
"I hope you are not too tired to walk..."

"No, no! of course not, but..."

"And one of us will carry the boy."

"I didn't mean that," she rejoined quickly.

"What then?"

"The... driver who brought us safely here... he was so kind... so...
so wonderful... I would love to see him again... if only to thank

The young man remained silent for a minute or two, then when Louise
insisted, saying: "Surely I could speak to him before we go?" he said
rather curtly, she thought: "I am afraid not, Madame."

She would have liked to have insisted still more urgently, thinking it
strange that this young man should speak so curtly of one who deserved
all the eulogy and all the recognition that anyone could give for his
valour and ingenuity, but somehow she had the feeling that for some
obscure reason or other the subject of that wonderful man was
distasteful to her new friend, and that she had better not inquire
further about him. Anyway, she was so surrounded by mysteries that one
more or less did not seem to matter.

Just then she caught sight of another man who was coming up the side
of the cliff. He kept his head bent against the force of the wind,
which was very boisterous and made going against it very difficult.
Soon he reached the top of the cliff. He greeted Louise with a
pleasant "Bonjour, Madame," uttered with a marked English accent.
Indeed to Louise he looked, just like the other, a fine, upstanding
young foreigner, well-groomed despite the inclemency of the weather
and the primitiveness of his surroundings. The two men exchanged a few
words together which Louise did not understand, after which one of
them said, "En route!" and the other added in moderately good French,
"I hope you are feeling fit and well, Madame; you have another tiring
day before you."

Louise assured him that she was prepared for any amount of fatigue; he
then took Charles-Lon in his arms; his friend took hold of Louise by
the elbow, and led the way down the cliff, carefully guiding her
tottering footsteps.

At the foot of the cliff the little party came to a narrow creek, and
Louise perceived a boat hidden in a shallow cave in the rock. Guided
by her friends Louise crept into the cave, and stepped into the boat.
The young men made her as comfortable as they could and gently laid
Charles-Lon in her arms. Except for gentle words of encouragement to
the little boy now and then, they spoke very little, and Louise, who
by now was in a kind of somnambulistic state, could only nod her
thanks when one or the other of them asked if she felt well, or
offered her some scanty provisions for herself and Charles-Lon.

The party sat in the boat during the whole of the day, until it was
quite dark. In this distance far out at sea Louise's aching eyes
perceived from time to time ships riding on the waves. Charles-Lon
was frightened at first, and crouched against his mother, and when the
waves came tumbling against the rocks and booming loudly he hid his
little head under her shawl. But after a time the reassuring voices of
the young Englishmen coupled with boyish curiosity induced him to look
at the ships; he listened to childish sea-faring yarns told by one or
the other of them: soon he became interested and, like his mother,
felt no longer afraid.

Poor Louise, was, of course, terribly ignorant of all matters
connected with the sea, as she had never been as much as near it in
her life. She only knew vaguely the meaning of the word tide, and when
the young men spoke of "waiting for the tide" before putting out to
sea, she did not know what they meant. She fell to wondering whether
they would all presently cross La Manche in the tiny rowing boat which
was not much bigger than those in which she and Josette with papa and
maman Gravier were wont in the olden days to go out for picnics on the
Isre. But she asked no questions. Indeed by now she felt that she had
permanently lost the use of her tongue.

Soon the evening began to draw in. A long twilight slowly melted into
the darkness of a moonless night. Looking towards the sea it seemed to
Louise that she was looking straight at a heavy black curtain--like a
solid mass of gloom. The wind continued unabated, and now that she
could no longer see the sea, and only heard its continuous roar,
Louise once more felt that hideous, cold fear grinding at her heart.
Those terrifying waves seemed to come nearer and nearer to the
sheltering cave, while the breakers broke on the stony beach with a
sound like thunder. As was quite natural, her terror communicated
itself to the child. He refused to be comforted, and though the two
men did all they could to soothe him, and one of them knelt
persistently beside Louise, whispering words of encouragement in the
child's ear, poor little Charles-Lon continued to shiver with terror.

Through the dismal howling of the wind and the booming of the waves no
other sound penetrated to Louise's ears. After a while the young men
too remained quite silent: they were evidently waiting for the signal
of which they had spoken together the night before.

What that signal was Louise did not know. She certainly heard no
strange sound, but the men did evidently hear something, for, suddenly
and without a word, they seized their oars and pushed the boat off and
out of the cave. This was perhaps on the whole the most terrifying
moment in Louise's extraordinary adventure. The boat seemed to be
plunging straight into a wall of darkness. It rocked incessantly, and
poor Louise felt horribly sick. Presently she felt that she was being
lifted to her feet and held in a pair of strong arms which carried her
upwards through the darkness, whither she knew not at the time, but a
little while later it occurred to her that perhaps she had died of
fright, and that as of a matter of fact she had not awakened in
Paradise. She was lying between snow-white, lavender-scented sheets,
her aching head rested on a downy pillow, and a kindly voice was
persuading her to sip some hot-spiced wine, which she did. It
certainly proved to be delicious.

And there was Charles-Lon sitting opposite to her on the knee of a
ruddy-faced, tow-haired sailor who was holding a mug of warm milk to
the child's trembling lips. All that and more did indeed confirm
Louise's first impression that this was not the cruel, hard world with
which she was all too familiar, but rather an outpost of Paradise--if
not the blessed heavens themselves.

The movement of the ship, alas! made Louise feel rather sick after a
time, and this was an unpleasant and wholly earthly sensation which
caused her to doubt her being in the company of angels. But indeed she
was so tired that soon she fell asleep, in spite of the many strange
noises around and above her, the creaking of wood, the soughing of the
wind and the lashing of the water against the side of the ship.

When she woke after several hours' sleep the pale rosy light of dawn
came creeping in through the port-hole. It was in very truth a rosy
dawn, an augury of the calm and beauty that was now in store for the
long-suffering woman. She was in England at last, she and her child:
together they were safe from those assassins who had done Bastien to
death and would probably have torn Charles-Lon from her breast before
they sent her to the guillotine.

Le Bon Dieu had indeed been on their side.

Chapter XIV

And while Louise lived through the palpitating events of those fateful
days Josette Gravier was quietly taking up the threads of life again.
They were not snapped; they had only slipped for a few hours out of
her hands, and life, of course, had to go on just the same. She would
be alone after this in the apartment of the Rue Picpus: the small
rooms, the tiny kitchen seemed vast now that all those whom Josette
had cared for had gone. Strangely enough she was not anxious about
Louise's fate; her faith was so immense, her belief in the Scarlet
Pimpernel so absolute that she was able to go through the days that
followed in comparative peace of mind whilst looking forward to
Maurice's return.

He had obtained a permit lasting six or seven days to visit the de
Croissy estates in the Dauphin. The permit had been granted before
Louise's departure was known to the authorities, or probably she and
Charles-Lon, as sole heirs of Bastien de Croissy, would have been
classed as migrs: all their property would then be automatically
confiscated and no one but Government officials allowed to administer
it. Maurice spent five days of his leave in the diligence between
Paris and Grenoble, and one in consultation with the old bailiff on
the Croissy estate, trying to extract from him a promise that he would
send to Mademoiselle Gravier on behalf of Madame de Croissy a small
sum of money every month for rent and the bare necessities of life.
Maurice hoped that after Josette had paid the rent out of this money
she would contrive to send the remainder over to England as soon as
she knew where to find Louise.

Josette had a little money of her own which she kept in her stocking,
and she also received a few sous daily pay for the work which she did
in the Government shops--stitching, knitting, doing up parcels for the
"Soldiers of Liberty" who were fighting on the frontiers against the
whole of Europe and keeping the great armies of Prussia and Austria at
bay. If the rent of the apartment could be paid with monies sent from
the Croissy estate, Josette was quite sure that she could live on her
meagre stripend. Penury in the big cities, and especially in Paris,
was appalling just now. Sugar and soap were unobtainable, and the
scarcity of bread was becoming more and more acute. Queues outside the
bakeries began to assemble as early as four o'clock in the morning to
wait for the distribution of two ounces of bread, which was all that
was allowed per person per day; and the two ounces consisted for the
most part of bran and water. The baker favoured Josette because of her
pretty face, but she was obliged to go for her ration very early in
the morning because she had to be at the workshop by eight o'clock,
and if she queued up later in the day Citizen Loquin would sometimes
run out of bread before all his customers were served.

When Maurice came back from Grenoble life for Josette became more
cheerful. He had found a tiny room for himself under the roof of
another house in the Rue Picpus and had at once fallen back into his
old habit of calling for Josette in the late afternoon at the
Government shop when the day's work was done, and together the two of
them would go arm-in-arm for a walk up the Champs lyses or sometimes
as far as the Bois. Maurice would bring what meagre provisions they
could afford for their supper, and they would sit under the chestnut
trees, now almost shorn of leaves and munch sour bread and dig their
young teeth into an apple. Sometimes they would stroll into the town
to see the illuminations, for there were illuminations on more than
one day every week. What the wretched poverty-stricken, tyrant-ridden
citizens of Paris rejoiced for on those evenings heaven alone knew!
Certain it is that though tallow and grease were scarce, innumerable
candles and lamps were lit, time after time, on some pretext or other,
such as the passing of some decree which had a momentary popularity,
or the downfall of a particular member of the Convention who had--
equally momentarily--become unpopular with the mob. Such occasions
were marked, in addition to the brilliant lighting of the city, by a
great deal of noise and cheering, as an ill-clad, ill-fed mob thronged
the streets, cheering their Robespierre or their Danton, and booing
all the poor wretches who had been decreed traitors to the Republic on
that day, and whose trial, condemnation and death on the guillotine
would--just as night inevitably follows day--follow within twenty-four

Maurice and Josette, jostled by the crowd, neither booed nor cheered:
they seldom knew what the rejoicings and illuminations were for, but
the movement, the lights and the noise took them out of themselves and
caused them to forget for an hour or two the ever-growing problem of
how to go on living. Once or twice when Maurice had carried through
successfully a bit of legal business, he would buy a couple of tickets
for the theatre, and he and Josette would listen enthralled to the
sonorous verses of Corneille or Racine as declaimed by Citizen Talma,
or laugh their fill over the drolleries of Mascarille or Monsieur

Sunday had been officially abolished by decree of the Convention in
the new calendar, but Decadi came once every ten days with a half-
holiday for Josette; then, if the day was fine, the two of them would
hire a boat and Maurice would row up the river as far as Suresnes, and
he and Josette would munch their sour bread and their apples under the
trees by the towpath, and watched the boats gliding up and down the
Seine and long for the freedom to drift downstream away from the noise
and turmoil of the city, and away from the daily horrors of the
guillotine and countless deaths of innocents which would for ever
remain a stain on the fair fame of the country which they loved.

Maurice had never spoken again of love to Josette. He was not an
ordinary lover, for he had intuition, and his love was entirely
unselfish. So few lovers have a direct apprehension of the right
moment for declaring their feelings; those that have this supreme gift
will often succeed where others less sensitive will fail because they
have not approached the loved one when she was in a receptive mood.
Maurice knew that his hour had not yet come. Josette was still in a
dream-state of adoration for a hero whom she had never seen. She was
too young and too unsophisticated to analyse her own feelings; too
ignorant of men and of life to take Maurice altogether seriously. As a
friend or a brother she cared for him more than she had ever cared for
another living soul, not excepting Louise; she trusted him, she relied
on him: had she not said on that never-to-be-forgotten occasion: "Are
you not here to take care of me?" But for the time being her thoughts
were too full of that other man's image to add idealism to her
affection. And so even though these autumn days were calm and sweet,
though the wood-pigeons still cooed in the forests and the black-birds
whistled in the chestnut trees, Maurice did not speak of love to
Josette; although at times he suffered so acutely from her
ingenuousness that tears would well up to his eyes and the words which
he forced himself not to utter nearly choked him; yet he did not tell
her how he loved her, and how he ached with the longing to take her in
his arms, to bury his face in her golden curls, or press his burning
lips on her sweet, soft mouth.

He was happy in this, that he was in a measure working for her; all
her little pleasure, all the small delicacies which he brought her,
and which she munched with the relish of a young animal, came to her
through his exertions. He had automatically slipped into his late
employer's practice. It did not amount to much, but he was a fully
qualified advocate, and as clerk to Citizen Croissy, had become known
to the latter's clients. A part of the money which he earned he put by
for madame because he considered that it was her due, but there was
always a little over which Maurice set aside for the joy of giving
Josette some small treat--tickets at the theatre, an excursion into
the country, or an intimate little dinner at one of the cheap
restaurants. Strange, indeed, that in the midst of the most awful
social upheaval the world has ever known, life for many, like Josette
Gravier and Maurice Reversac, could go on in such comparative calm.

Three weeks and more went by before Josette had any news of Louise.
But one evening when she came home after her walk with Maurice she
found that a letter had been thrust under the door of the apartment.
It was from Louise.

  "My Josette chrie (it said).

  "We are in England, Charles-Lon and I, and the man who has wrought
this miracle is none other than the mysterious hero of whom you have
so often dreamed. I have received word that this letter will reach
you. That word was signed with the device which stands for courage and
self-sacrifice--a small scarlet flower, my Josette, the Scarlet
Pimpernel. I am completely convinced now that I owe my salvation and
that of Charles-Lon to your English hero. Here in England no one
doubts it. He is the national hero, and people speak of him with bated
breath as of a godlike creature, whom only the elect have been
privileged to meet in the flesh. It is generally believed that he is a
high-born English gentleman who devotes his life to saving the weak
and the innocent from the murderous clutches of those awful Terrorists
in France. He has a band of followers, nineteen in number, who obey
his commands without question, and under his leadership constantly
risk their precious lives in the cause of humanity. It is difficult to
understand why they do this: some call it the sublimity of self-
sacrifice, others the love of sport and adventure, innate in every
Englishman. But God alone can judge of motives.

  "My darling Josette, you will be happy to know that we are at peace
and comfortable now, my poor lamb and I, though my heart is filled
with sorrow at being parted from you. Daily do I pray to God that you
may come to me some day soon. Remember me to Maurice. He is a brave
and loyal soul. I will not tell you of the hopes which I nurse for
your future and his. You will have guessed these long ago. I am afraid
that he would refuse to come away from Paris just yet, but if you can,
Josette, would join me here in England--and you can do that any day
with the aid of the Scarlet Pimpernel--we could bide our time quietly
until the awful turmoil has subsided, which, by God's will, it soon
must, and then return to France, when you and Maurice could be happily

  "As to my adventures from the moment when I left our apartment with
Charles-Lon in my arms until the happy hour when we landed here in
England I can tell you nothing. My lips are sealed under a promise of
silence, and implicit obedience to the wishes of my heroic rescuers is
the only outward token of my boundless gratitude that I can offer

  "But I can tell you something of our arrival in Dover. I was still
very sea-sick, but the feeling of nausea left me soon after I had set
food on solid ground. We walked over to a delightful place, a kind of
tavern it was, though not a bit like our cafs or restaurants. Later
on when I was rested, I made a note of the sign which was painted on a
shield outside the door; it was 'The Fisherman's Rest,' and, in
English, such places are called inns. I have prayed God ever since I
crossed that threshold that you, my Josette chrie might see it one

  "Here for the first time since I left Paris I came in contact with
people of my own sex. The maid who showed me to a room where I could
wash and rest was a sight for sore eyes: so clean, so fresh, so happy!
So different to our poor girls in France nowadays--underfed, ill-
clothed, in constant terror of what the near future might bring. These
little maids over here go about their work singing--singing, chie!
Just think of it! Of late I have never heard anyone sing except you!

  "We spent the best part of the day at 'The Fisherman's Rest.' In the
afternoon we posted to Maidstone, where we now are the guests of some
perfectly charming English people. I cannot begin to tell you, chrie,
of the kindness and hospitality of these English families who take us
in, poor migrs, feed us and clothe us and look after us until such
time as we can get resources of our own. I wish our good Maurice could
send me a remittance from time to time, but that, I know, is
impossible. But I will try to get some needlework to do; you know how
efficient I was always considered, even at the convent, in sewing and
embroidery. I do not wish to be a burden longer than I can help to my
over-kind hosts.

  "How this letter will reach you I know not, but I know that it will
reach you, because a day or two ago the post brought me a mysterious
communication saying that any letter of mine sent to the Bureau des
migrs, Fitzroy Square, London, will be delivered to any address in
France. This is only one of the many wonderful happenings that have
occurred since I left Paris. It seems such a long time ago now, and
our little apartment in the Rue Picpus seems so far, so very far away.
I have forgotten nothing. Josette chrie, even though my memory has
been overclouded by all the strange events which have befallen me. So
little have I forgotten that many a time and very bitterly have I
reproached myself that I lent such an inattentive ear when you spoke
to me about the mysterious English hero who goes by the name of the
Scarlet Pimpernel, and of his no less heroic followers. Had I believed
in you and them sooner, my Bastien might be beside me even now. The
Scarlet Pimpernel, my Josette, is real, very real indeed. He and his
nineteen lieutenants have saved the lives of hundreds of innocents:
his name here is on everybody's lips, but no one knows who he is. He
works in the dark, under that quaint appellation, and those of us who
owe our lives to him have, so far as we know, never set eyes on him.

  "Well! it is a problem the solution of which I shall probably never
know. All I can do is to keep sacred in my heart the memory of all
that that man has done for me.

  "That is all, my Josette. I hope and pray to Almighty God that some
day soon it may be your good fortune to come to me--to come to England
under the tender care of the man whom you have almost deified. When
that happy day comes you will find your Louise's arms stretched out in
loving welcome.

  "Your devoted friend.


  "P.S.--I still have the letters."

Josette could scarcely read the welcome missive to the end. Her eyes
were dim with tears. She loved Louise as she had always done, and she
adored Charles-Lon, and somehow this letter, coming from far-off
England, quickened and accentuated the poignancy of parting: she spent
many hours sitting at the table under the lamp with Louise's letter
spread out before her. One sentence in it she read over and over
again, for it expressed just what she herself felt in her heart for
the hero of her dreams: "All I can do," Louise had written, "is to
keep sacred the memory of all that that man has done for me."

Chapter XV

Josette had read on so late into the night and been so excited over
what she read that sleep had quite gone out of her eyes. She could not
get to sleep for thinking of Louise and her adventures, of the Scarlet
Pimpernel, and also of Maurice Reversac. Poor Maurice! Whatever
happened he would have his burden to bear here in Paris. For the sake
of the dead, and because of Louise and Charles-Lon, he must carry on
his work and trust to God to see him safely through.

That day, for the first time since his return from the Dauphin,
Maurice was not at his usual place outside the gate of the workshop,
waiting for Josette to come out. Josette, slightly disappointed, knew,
of course, that it must be the exigencies of business that had kept
him away. But when the evening hour came and again no Maurice at the
gate, Josette was anxious. Before she went home she went over to
Maurice's lodgings down the street to inquire from the concierge if,
perchance, Maurice was ill. She knew that nothing but illness could
possibly have kept him from his evening walk with her, or from sending
her a message. But the concierge had seen and heard nothing of Maurice
since morning when he started off as usual for the office.

Nothing would do after that but Josette must go off, then and there,
to the Rue de la Monnaie. She had not been near the place since that
awful day when she saw Matre de Croissy lying dead in his devastated
office; and when she turned the angle of the street and saw at a
hundred paces farther along the porte-cochre of the house where the
terrible tragedy had occurred, she was suddenly overcome with an awful
prescience of doom. So powerful was this sense of forewarning that she
could no longer stand on her feet, but was obliged to lean against the
nearest wall while trying to conquer sheer physical nausea. A
horrible, nameless terror assailed her: she was trembling in every
limb. However, after a few moments she regained control over herself,
chided herself for her weakness, and walked with comparative coolness
to the porte-cochre, which had not yet been closed for the night.

Again that awful feeling of giddiness and nausea. The house had always
worn that dismal air of desolation and decay with a pervading odour of
damp mortar and putrid vegetables. Josette knew its history: she knew
that it had once been the fine abode of a rich foreign banker who had
fled the country at the first outbreak of the Revolution, that it had
stood empty for two or three years, then been appropriated by the
State, a concierge put in office, and the house let out in apartments
and offices. She had often been to the house and always disliked the
sight of it, its air of emptiness despite the fact that most of the
apartments were inhabited: the courtyard and stairs looked to her as
if they were peopled by ghosts.

Josette went up to the concierge's lodge and asked if Citizen Reversac
were still in his office. The concierge eyed her with a quizzical
glance. He had seen the pretty girl in the company of Citizen Reversac
before now. His sweetheart, no doubt--ah, well! these things were of
every-day occurrence these days. Mothers lost their sons, wives their
husbands: it was no good grieving over other people's troubles or
commiserating over their misfortunes.

"Citizen Reversac was here this morning, little Citizeness," the
concierge said in response to Josette's reiterated question, "but...
you know..."


"He was arrested this morning-"


"Easy, easy, little Citizeness," the concierge rejoined quickly, and
with outstretched hand steadied Josette, who looked as if she would
measure her length outside his lodge. "These things," he added with a
shrug, "happen every day. Why, my own sister less than a week ago..."

Josette did not hear what he said. He went rambling on about his
sister whose only son had been arrested, and who was breaking her
heart this very day because the boy had been guillotined.

"He was not a bad lad either, my nephew; and a good patriot; but
there! one never knows."

"One never knows!" Josette murmured mechanically, stupidly, staring at
the concierge with great unseeing eyes. The man felt really sorry for
the girl. She was so very pretty, that mouth of hers had been
fashioned for smiles, those blue eyes made only to shine with
merriment, and those chestnut curls to tempt a man to sin. Ah, well,
one never knows! These things happened every day!

Chapter XVI

How Josette reached home that evening she never knew. She seemed to
have spent hours and hours in repeating to herself: "It cannot be
true!" and "It must be a mistake."

"He has done nothing!" she murmured from time to time, and then: "In a
few days they will set him free again! They must! He has done nothing!
Such an innocent!"

But in her heart she knew that innocents suffered these days as often
as the guilty. Only a short time ago she had been called on to fill
the rle comforter. She could not help thinking of Louise and of that
awful tragedy which was the precursor of the present cataclysm. But
now she had to face this trouble alone: there was no one in whom she
could confide, no one who could give her a word of advice or comfort.
And when she found herself alone at last in the apartment of the Rue
Picpus, where every stick of furniture, every door and every wall
reminded her of those whom she loved and proclaimed her present
loneliness, she realised the immensity of that cataclysm. She felt
that with Maurice gone she had nothing more to live for. The
dreariness of days without his kindly voice to cheer her, his loving
arm to guide her, was inconceivable. It looked before her like a
terrifying nightmare. And she pictured to herself Maurice's surprise
and indignation at his arrest, his protestations of innocence, his
final courage in face of the inevitable. She thought of him in one of
the squalid overcrowded prisons, thinking of her, linking his hands
tightly together in a proud attempt to appear unconcerned, indifferent
to his fate before his fellow-prisoners.

Maurice! Josette never knew till now how she cared for him. Love?...
No! She did not know what love was, nor did she believe that the
desperate ache which she had in her heart at thought of Maurice had
anything to do with the love that poets and authors spoke about. On
the contrary, she thought that what she felt for Maurice was far
stronger and deeper than the thing people called "love." All she knew
was that she suffered intensely at this moment, that his image haunted
her in a way it had never done before. She recalled every moment that
of late she had spent with him, every trick of his voice, every
expression of his face: his kind grey eyes, the gentle smile around
his lips, the quaint remarks he would make at times which had often
made her laugh. Above all, she was haunted at this hour with the
remembrance of a mellow late summer's evening when she chaffed him
because he had spoken to her of love. How sad he was that evening,
whilst she never thought for a moment that he had been serious.

"Maurice! Maurice!" she cried out in her heart; "if those devils take
you from me I shall never know a happy hour again."

But it was not in Josette's nature to sit down and mope. Her instinct
was to be up and doing, whatever happened and however undecipherable
the riddle set by Fate might be. And so in this instance also. The
arrest of Maurice was in truth the knock-down blow: at this juncture
Josette could not have imagined a more overwhelming catastrophe. As
she was alone in the apartment she indulged in the solace of tears.
She cried and cried till her eyes were inflamed and her head ached
furiously: she cried because of the intense feeling of loneliness and
desolation that gave her such a violent pain in her heart which
nothing but a flood of tears seemed able to still. But having had her
cry, she pulled herself together, dried her tears, bathed her face,
then sat down to think or, rather, to remember. With knitted brows and
concentrated force of will she tried to recall all that Bastien de
Croissy had said to Louise the evening when first he spoke of the
letters and she, Josette suggested stitching the packet in the lining
of Louise's corsets. These letters were more precious than any jewels
on earth, for they were to be the leverage wherewith to force certain
influential members of the Convention to grant Louise a permit to take
her child into the country, to remain with him and nurse him back to
health and strength. The possession of those letters had been the
cause of Bastien de Croissy's terrible death. They were seriously
compromising to certain influential representatives of the people,
proofs probably of some black-hearted treason to their country. The
possession of them was vitally important to their writers, so
important that they chose the way of murder rather than risk
revelation. A man on trial, a man condemned to death might have the
chance of speaking. It is only the dead who cannot speak.

So now for the knowledge of who were the writers of the letters. And
Josette, her head buried in her hands, tried to recall every word
which Bastien had spoken the night before his death, while she,
Josette, sat under the light of the lamp, stitching the precious
packet into the lining of Louise's corsets. But unfortunately at one
moment during the evening her mind, absorbed in the facts themselves,
had been less retentive than usual. Certain it is that at this
desperately critical moment she could not recall a single name that
Bastien had mentioned, and after his death, Louise, with the obstinacy
of the half-demented, had guarded the letters with a kind of fierce
jealousy; she had taken them to England with her, with what object God
only knew--probably none! Just obstinacy and without definite

It was in the small hours of the morning that Josette had an
inspiration. It was nothing less, and it so comforted her that she
actually fell asleep, and as soon as she was washed and dressed ran
out into the street. She ran all the way to the corner of the Pont des
Arts, where vendors of old books and newspapers had their booths. She
bought a bundle of back numbers of Le Moniteur and, hugging it under
her cape, she ran back to the Rue Picpus.

The Moniteur gave the reports of the sittings of the Convention day by
day, the debates, the speeches. Josette, whilst sitting by herself the
night before with her mind still in a whirl with the terrible news of
Maurice's arrest, had not been able to recall a single name mentioned
by Bastien in connection with the letters, but with the back numbers
of the Moniteur spread out before her, with the names of several
members of the Convention staring at her in print, the task of
reconstructing the conversation for that night became much easier. For
instance, she did remember Louise exclaiming at one moment: "But he is
Danton's most intimate friend!" and Bastien saying then: "All three of
them are friends of Danton."

And shrewd little Josette concentrated on the Moniteur until she came
upon the report of a debate in the Convention over a proposition put
forward by Citizen Danton. Who were his friends? Who his supporters?
he had a great number, for he was still at the height of his
popularity: they agreed and debated and perorated, and Josette while
she read, mrumured their names repeatedly to herself: "Desmoulins,
Desmoulins, Desmoulins--no! that wasn't it. Hrault, Hrault de
Schelles--no! Delacroix--no, again no! Chabot?... Chabot...?" And
slowly memory brought the name back to her mind--Chabot! That was one
of the names! Chabot, Danton's friend. "Yes!" Bastien had said at one
moment, "an unfrocked Capuchin friar!" and Louise had uttered an
exclamation of horror. Chabot! that certainly was one of the names.
And Josette read on; taxed her memory, forced it to serve her purpose.
More names which meant nothing, and then one that stood out! Fabre
d'Eglantine--Danton's most intimate friend! Chabot and Fabre--two
names! And then a third one--Bazire! Josette had paid no attention at
the time. She had heard Bastien mention those names, but only vaguely,
and her brain had only vaguely registered them; but now they came
back. Memory had served her a good turn.

Fabre, Chabot, Bazire! Josette had no longer any doubt as to who the
men were who had written the letters, letters that were the powerful
leverage wherewith to force them to grant whatever might be asked of
them: a permit for Louise, freedom for Maurice Reversac.

Josette had not been sufficiently care-free up to now to note that the
weather was like, but now, with a sense almost of gladness in her
heart, she threw open the window and looked up at the sky. She only
had a small glimpse of it because the Rue Picpus was narrow and the
houses opposite high, but she did have a glimpse of clear blue, the
blue of which Paris among all the great cities of Europe can most
justifiably boast, translucent and exhilarating. The air was mild.
There was no trace of wintry weather, of rain or of cold. The sun was
shining and she, Josette, was going to drag Maurice out of the talons
of those revolutionary birds of prey.

From far away came the dismal sound of the bell of St. Germain,
booming out the morning hour. Another day had broken over the
unfortunate city, another day wherein men waged a war to the death one
against the other, wherein they persecuted the innocent, heaped crime
upon crime, injustice upon injustice, flouted religion and defied God;
another day wherein ruled the devils of hate and dolour, of
tribulation and of woe. But Josette did no longer think of devils or
of sorrow. She was going to be the means of opening the prison gates
for Maurice.

Chapter XVII

Since the day when Charlotte Corday forced her way into the apartment
of Citizen Marat and plunged a dagger into the heart of that
demagogue, the more prominent members of the revolutionary government
were wont to take special precautions to guard their valuable lives.

Thus the conventionnel Franois Chabot in his magnificent apartment in
the Rue d'Anjou made it a rule that every person desirous of an
interview with him must be thoroughly searched for any possible
concealed weapon before being admitted to his august presence. The
unfrocked friar proclaimed loudly his patriotism, declared his
readiness to die a martyr like Marat, but he was taking no risks. He
had married a very rich and very beautiful young wife. Whilst
professing in theory the most rigid sans-culottism, he lived in the
greatest possible luxury, ate and drank only of the best, wore fine
clothes, and surrounded himself with every comfort that his wife's
money could buy.

Josette did indeed appear as a humble suppliant when, having mounted
the carpeted stairs which led up to the first floor of that fine house
in the Rue d'Anjou, she found herself face to face with a stalwart
janitor at the door of Franois Chabot's apartment.

"Your business?" he demanded.

"To speak with Citizen Chabot," Josette replied.

"Does the Citizen expect you?"

"No, but when he knows of the business which has brought me here he
will not refuse to see me."

"That is as it may be, but you cannot pass this door without stating
your business."

"It is private, and for Citizen Chabot's private ear alone."

The stalwart looked down on the dainty figure before him. Being a man
he looked down with considerable pleasure, for Josette in her neat
kirtle and well-fitting bodice, her frilled muslin cap perched
coquettishly on her chestnut curls, was exceedingly pleasant to look
on. Her blue eyes did not so much as demand that her wish to speak
with Citizen Chabot should not be peremptorily denied.

The janitor pulled himself up and his waistcoat down, passed his hand
over his bristly cheek, hemmed and hawed and cleared his throat, then,
unable apparently to resist the command of those shining eyes any
longer, he said finally:

"I will see what can be done, Citizeness."

"That is brave of you," Josette said demurely, and then added: "Where
shall I wait?" which translated into ordinary language meant: "You
would not surely allow me to wait outside the door where any passer-by
might behave in an unseemly manner towards me?"

At any rate this was how the janitor interpreted Josette's simple
query. He opened the door on the thickly carpeted, richly furnished
vestibule and said: "Wait here, Citizeness."

Josette went in. It was years since she had seen such beautiful
furniture, such tall mirrors and rich gildings, years since she had
trodden on such soft carpets, and these were the days when woman had
to go shoeless, and children died for want of nourishment, whilst men
like Chabot preached equality and fraternity, and loudly proclaimed
the simplicity and abnegation of their lives. Josette's astonishment
at all this luxury caused her to open wide her eyes, and when those
blue eyes were opened wide, men, even the most stalwart, became like

"Sit down there, Citizeness," the magnificent janitor said, "whilst I
go and inquire if the Citizen Representative will see you."

Josette sat down and waited. Two or three minutes later the janitor
returned. As soon as he caught sight of Josette he shook his head,
then said:

"Not unless you will state your business. And," he added, "you know
the rule: no one is admitted to speak with any Representatives of the
People without being previously searched."

"Give me pen and paper," Josette rejoined, "that I may state my
business in writing."

When the man brought her pen and paper she wrote:

"Dead men tell no tales, but the written words endure."

She folded the paper, then demanded wax and a seal. Presumably the man
couldn't read, but one never knew. A seal was safer and Chabot himself
would be grateful to her for having thought of it. A few moments later
she found herself in a small room, bare of furniture or carpet, into
which the janitor had ushered her after he had taken her written
message to the Citizen Representative. A middle-aged woman, who was
probably the housekeeper, passed her rough hands all over Josette's
young body, dived into her shoes, under her muslin fichu, and even
under her cap. Satisfied that there was no second Charlotte Corday
intent on assassination, she called the janitor back and handed an
indignant if silent Josette back to him. The audience could now be
granted with safety.

Such were the formalities attendant upon a request for an audience
with one of the representatives of the people in this glorious era of
Equality and Fraternity.

Chapter XVIII

Franois Chabot was at this time about forty years of age. A small,
thin, nervy-looking creature with long nose, thick lips, arched
eyebrows above light brown eyes, and a quantity of curly hair which
swept the top of his high coat-collar at the back, covering it with
grease. He was dressed in the height of fashion, with a very short
waist and long tails to his coat. His neck was swathed in a high stock
collar, and his somewhat receding chin rested on a voluminous jabot of
muslin and lace.

Josette, who had been ushered into his presence with so much ceremony,
eyed him with curiosity, for she had heard it said of Representative
Chabot that he affected to attend the sittings of the Convention in a
tattered shirt, with bare legs and wearing a scarlet cap. In fact, it
was said of him that he owed most of his popularity to this display of
cynicism: also, that he, like his brother-in-law Bazire, had before
now paid a hired assassin to dig a knife between his ribs in order to
raise the cry among his friends in the Convention: "See! the counter-
revolutionists are murdering the patriots. Marat first, now the
incorruptible Chabot. Whose turn will it be next?"

But Josette, though remembering all this, was in no mood to smile. Did
not this damnable hypocrite hold Maurice's life in his ugly hands?
Those same hands--large, bony, with greyish nails and spatulated
fingers--were toying with the written message which Josette had sent
in to him. They were perhaps the hands that had dealt the fatal blow
to Bastien de Croissy. Josette glanced on them with horror and then
quickly drew her eyes away.

The janitor had motioned her to a seat, then he retired, closing the
door behind him. Josette was alone with the Citizen Representative. He
was sitting at a large desk which was littered with papers, and she
sat opposite to him. He now raised his pale, shifty eyes to her, and
she returned his searching glance fearlessly. He was obviously
nervous; cleared his throat to give himself importance, and shifted
his position once or twice. The paper which he held between two
fingers and pointed towards Josette rustled audibly.

"Your name?" he asked curtly after a time.

"Josephine Gravier," she replied.

"And occupation?"

"Seamstress in the Government workshops. I was also companion and
housekeeper in the household of Matre Croissy..."


"...until the day of his death."

There was a pause. The man was as nervous as a cat. He made great
efforts to appear at ease, and above all to control his voice, which
after that first "Ah!" had sounded hoarse and choked.

The handsome Boule clock on the mantelpiece, obviously the spoils of a
raid on a confiscated chteau, struck the hour with deliberate
majesty. Chabot shifted his position again, crossed and uncrossed his
legs, pushed his chair father away from the bureau, and went on
fidgeting with Josette's written message, crushing it between his

"Advocate Croissy," he said at last with an effort, "committed
suicide, I understand."

"It was said so, Citizen."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Nothing beyond what I said."

They were like duellists, these two, measuring their foils in a
preliminary passage of arms. Chabot's glance had in it now something
malevolent, cruel... the cruelty of a coward who is not sure yet of
what it is he has to fear.

Suddenly he said, holding up the crumpled bit of paper:

"Why did you send me this?"

"To warn you, Citizen," Josette replied quite quietly.

"Of what?"

"That certain letters of which you and others are cognisant have not
been destroyed."

"Letters?" Chabot demanded roughly. "What letters?"

"Letters written by you, Citizen Representative, to Matre de Croissy,
which prove you to be a shameless hypocrite and a traitor to your

She had shot this arrow at random, but at once she had the
satisfaction of knowing that the shaft had gone home. Chabot's sallow
cheeks had become the colour of lead, his thick lips quivered visibly.
A slight scum appeared at the corner of his mouth.

"It's all a lie!" he protested, but his voice sounded forced and
hollow. "An invention of that traitor Croissy."

"You know best, Citizen Representative," Josette retorted simply.

Chabot tried to put on an air of indifference.

"Croissy," he said as calmly as he could, "told you a deliberate lie
if he said that certain letters of mine were anything but perfectly
innocent. I personally should not care if anybody read them..."

He paused, then added: "If that is all you wished to tell me, my girl,
the interview can end here."

"As you desire, Citizen," Josette said, and made as if to rise.

"Stay a moment," Chabot commanded. "Merely from idle curiosity I would
like to know where those famous letters are. Can you perchance tell

"Oh, yes," she replied. "They are in England and out of your reach,
Citizen Representative."

"What do you mean by 'in England'?"

"Just what I say. When the widow of Matre de Croissy went to England
with her boy she took the packet of letters with her."

"She fled from Paris, I know," Chabot retorted, still trying to
control his fury. "I know it. I had the report. That cursed English
spy...!" He checked himself; this girl's slightly mocking glance was
making a havoc of his nerves.

"The letters, such as they are, are probably destroyed by now," he
said as coolly as he could.

"They are not destroyed."

"How do you know?"

Josette shrugged. Would she be here if the letters had been destroyed?

"Why did the woman Croissy run away like a traitor?"

"Her child was sick. It was imperative he should leave Paris for a
healthier spot."

"I know. Croissy told me that tale. I didn't then believe a word of
it. It was just blackmail, nothing more." Then as Josette was once
more silent he reiterated roughly: "Why did the woman Croissy leave
Paris in such haste? Why should she have taken the letters with her?
You say she did, but I don't believe it."

"Perhaps she was afraid, Citizen."

"Afraid of what? Only traitors need be afraid."

"Afraid of... committing suicide like her husband."

This shaft, too, went straight home. Every drop of blood seemed to ebb
from the man's face and left it ashen grey. His pale eyes wandered all
round in the room as if in search of a hiding-place from that straight
accusing glance. For the next minute or two he affected to busy
himself with the papers on his desk, whilst the priceless Boule clock
on the mantelshelf ticked away several fateful seconds.

Then he said abruptly, with an attempt at unconcern:

"Ah, bah! little woman. You think yourself very shrewd, what? No doubt
you have some nice little project of blackmail in that pretty head of
yours. But if you really did know all about the letters you speak of
so glibly, you would also be aware that I am the man least concerned
in them. There are others whose names apparently are unknown to you
and who..."

"Their names are not unknown to me, Citizen Representative," Josette
broke in with unruffled calm.

"Then why the hell haven't you been to them! Is it because you know
less than you pretend?"

"If you, Citizen, do not choose to bargain with me, I will certainly
go to Citizen Bazire and Fabre d'Eglantine, but in that case..."

At mention of the two names Chabot had given a visible start: a
nervous twitching of his lips showed how severely he had been hit. He
still tried to bluster by reiterating gruffly:

"In that case?"

"I am treating separately with the writers of each individual letter,"
Josette said firmly. "Those who do not choose to bargain with me must
accept the consequences."

"Which are?"

"Publication of the letters in the Moniteur, in Pre Duchesne and
other newspapers. They will make good reading, Citizen

"You little devil!"

He had jumped to his feet, and with clenched fists resting upon the
bureau he leaned across, staring into her face. His pale brown eyes
had glints in them now of cold, calculating cruelty. Had he dared he
would have seized this weak woman by the throat and torn the life out
of her, slowly, brutally, with hellish cunning until she begged for

"You devil!" he reiterated savagely. "You forget that I can make you
suffer for this."

Josette gave her habitual shrug.

"You certainly can," she said calmly. "You can do the same to me as
you did to Matre de Croissy. But not even a second murder will put
you in possession of the letters."

Never for a moment had the girl lost her presence of mind. She knew
well enough what she risked when she came to beard this hyena in his
lair; but it was the only way to save Maurice. She had thought it all
out and had deliberately chosen it. Throughout the interview she had
remained perfectly calm and self-possessed; and now, when for the
first time she had the feeling that she was winning the day, she still
remained demure and apparently unmoved. But Chabot was pacing up and
down the room like a caged beast, kicking savagely at anything that
was in his way. At one moment it seemed as if he was on the point of
giving way to his fury, of being willing to risk everything, even his
own neck, for the satisfaction of his revenge. During that fateful
moment Josette's life did indeed hang in the balance, for already the
man's hand was on the bell-pull. Another second and he was ready to
send for his stalwart and to order him to summon the men of the
National Guard who were always on duty in the streets outside the
dwellings of the Representatives of the People: to summon the guard
and order this woman to be thrown into the most noisome prison of the
city, where mental and physical torture would punish her for her

With his hand on the bell-pull Chabot looked round and encountered the
cool, unconcerned glance of a pair of eyes as deeply blue as the
midnight sky in June, and other thoughts and desires, more foul than
the first, distorted his ugly face. Had he read aught in those eyes
but contempt and self-confidence the dark spirits that haunted this
house of evil would have had their way with him. But it was the girl's
evident complete sell-assurance that made him pause... pause long
enough to gauge the depth of the abyss into which he would fall if
those compromising letters were by some chance given publicity.

He let go of the bell-pull and came back to his place by the bureau.
He sat down and, leaning back in his chair, he allowed a minute or two
to go by while he regained control over himself. Knitting his bony
hands together he twisted them until all the finger-joints cracked. He
took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the cold sweat from his

Then at last he spoke:

"You said just now, Citizeness," he rejoined with enforced calm,
trying to emulate the girl's sell-assurance and her show of contempt,
"that when the widow Croissy ran away to England she took certain
letters with her. Is that it?"

"Yes. She did."

"How do you know that?"

"She has told me so... in a letter."

"A letter from England?"


"And that's a lie! How could you get a letter from England? We are at
war with that accursed country, and..."

"Do not let us discuss the point, Citizen Representative. Let me
assure you that the letters in question are in England: the Citizeness
Croissy has not destroyed them--she has told me so. If you agree to my
terms I will bring you the letters, otherwise they will be sent to the
Moniteur and other newspapers for publication. And that," Josette
added firmly, "is my last word."

"What are your terms?"

"First, a safe-conduct to enable me to travel to England without

Chabot gave a harsh, ironical laugh.

"To travel to England? Fine idea, in very truth! Go to England and
stay in England, what? And from thence make long noses at Franois
Chabot, what? who was fool enough to let you hoodwink him!"

"Had you not best listen to me, Citizen Representative, before you
jump to conclusions?"

"I listen. Indeed, I am vastly interested in your nave project, my
engaging young friend."

"My price for placing letters, which you would give your fortune to
possess, in your hands, Citizen, is the liberty and life of one,
Maurice Reversac, who was clerk to Matre de Croissy."

Chabot sneered. "Your lover, I suppose."

"What you choose to suppose is nothing to me. I have named my price
for the letters."

Chabot, his elbow resting on the table, his chin cupped in his hand,
was apparently wrapped in thought. He was contemplating that greatly
daring woman who had delivered her ultimatum with no apparent
consciousness of her danger. He could silence her, of course: send her
to the guillotine, her and her lover, Reversac; but she seemed so sure
that he would not do this that her assurance became disconcerting. The
same reason which had stayed his and his friends' hands when they
discussed the advisability of having Bastien de Croissy summarily
arrested held good in this girl's case also. There was always the
possibility of her getting a word in during her trial--a word which
might prove the undoing of them all. How far was she telling the truth
at this moment? How far was she lying in order to save her lover?
These were the questions which Franois Chabot was putting to himself
while he contemplated the beautiful woman before him.

And whilst he gazed on her she seemed slowly to vanish from his
vision, both she and his luxurious surroundings, the costly furniture,
the carpets, all the paraphernalia of his sybaritic life. Instead of
this there appeared to his mental consciousness the Place de la
Barrire du Trne, with the guillotine towering above a sea of faces.
He saw himself mounting the fatal steps; he saw the executioner, the
glint on the death-dealing knife, the horrible basket into which great
and noble heads had often rolled at his, Chabot's, bidding. He heard
the roll of drums ordered by Sauterre, the cries of execration of the
mob, the strident laugh of those horrible hags who sat knitting and
jabbering while the knife worked up and down, up and down.... A hoarse
cry nearly escaped him. He passed his bony fingers under his choker
for he felt stifled and sick...

The vision vanished. The girl was still sitting opposite to him,
demure and silent--curse her!--waiting for him to speak. And looking
on her he knew that he must have those letters or he would never know
a moment's peace again. Once he had them, once he felt entirely safe,
he would have his revenge. Let her look to herself, the miserable
trollop! She will have brought her fate upon herself.

He said! "I'll give you the safe-conduct. You can start for England

"I will start to-morrow," she rejoined coolly. "I still must speak
with Citizens Fabre and Bazire."

"I can make that right with them. You need not see them."

"I must have their signatures on the safe-conduct as well as yours,
Citizen Chabot."

"You shall have them."

He was searching among the litter on his desk for the paper which he
wanted. These men always had forms of safe-conduct made out with blank
spaces for the name of a relation or friend who happened to be in
trouble and hoped to leave the country before trouble materialised.
Chabot found what he wanted. The paper was headed:



"Laissez passer."

"Your name?" he asked once more.

"Josephine Madeleine Marie Gravier."

And Chabot, with a shaking hand, wrote these names in the blank space
left for the purpose.

"Your residence?"

"Forty-three Rue Picpus."

"Your age?"


"The color of your eyes?"

She looked at him and in the blank space he wrote the word "Blue"; and
farther on he made note that the hair was burnished copper, her chin
small, her teeth even.

When he had filled in all the blank spaces he stewed the writing with
sand; then he said, "You can come and fetch this this evening."

"It will be signed?"

"By myself and by Citizens Fabre and Bazire."

"Then I will start to-morrow."

"You have money?"

"Yes, I thank you."

"When do you return?"

"It will take me a week probably to get to England and a week or more
to come back. It will be close on three weeks, Citizen Representative,
before your mind is set at rest."

He shrugged and sneered:

"And in the meanwhile, your lover..."

"In the meanwhile, Citizen," Josette broke in firmly, "See to it that
Maurice Reversac is safe and well. If on my return he is not there to
greet me, if, in fact, you play me false in any way, it is the
Moniteur who will have the letters, not you."

Chabot rose slowly from his chair. He stood for a moment quite still
beside the desk, his spatulated fingers spread out upon the table-top.
All his nervousness, his fury, his excitement seemed suddenly to drop
away from him. His ugly face wore an air of cunning, almost of
triumph, and there was a hideous leer around his thick lips. He
appeared to be watching Josette intently while she rose, shook out her
kirtle, smoothed down her fichu and straightened her cap. As she
turned towards the door he said slowly:

"We shall see!" he added with mock courtesy, "Au revoir, little

A few minutes later Josette was speeding up the street on her way

Chapter XIX

Later in the day a meeting took place in the bare white-washed room of
the Clud des Cordeliers between three members of the National
Convention--Franois Chabot, Claude Bazire and Fabre d'Eglantine--and
an obscure member of the Committee of Public Safety named Armand
Chauvelin. This man had at one time been highly influential in the
councils of the revolutionary government; before the declaration of
war he had been sent to England as secret envoy of the Republic; but
conspicuous and repeated failures in various missions which had been
entrusted to him had hopelessly ruined his prestige and hurled him
down from his high position to one of almost ignoble dependence. Many
there were who marvelled how it had come to pass that Armand Chauvelin
had kept his head on his shoulders: "The Republic," Danton had
thundered more than once from the tribune, "has no use for failures."
It is to be supposed, therefore, that the man possessed certain
qualities which made him useful to those in power: perhaps he was in
possession of secrets which would have made his death undesirable. Be
that as it may, Chauvelin, dressed in seedy black, his pale face
scored with lines of anxiety, his appearance that of a humble servant
of these popular Representatives of the People, sat at one end of the
deal table, listening with almost obsequious deference to the words of
command from the other three.

He only put in a word now and again, for he had been summoned in order
to take orders, not to give advice.

"The girl," Chabot said to him, "lives at No. 43 in the Rue Picpus.
She will leave Paris to-morrow. You will shadow her from the moment
that she leaves the house: never lose sight of her as you value your
life. She is going to England; you will follow her. You have been in
England before, Citizen Chauvelin," he added with a sarcastic grin,
"so I understand, and are acquainted with the English tongue."

"That is so, Citizen Representative."

Chauvelin's eyes were downcast; not one of the three caught the feline
gleam of hate that shot through their pale depths.

"Your safe-conduct is all in order. The wench will probably make for
Trport and take boat there for one of the English ports. It is up to
you to board the same ship as she does. You must assume what disguise
seems most suitable at the time. Our friend here, Fabre d'Eglantine,
has been the means of finding you an English safe-conduct which was
taken from one of that accursed nation who was trying to cross over
our frontier from Belgium: he was an English spy. Our men caught and
shot him; his papers remained in their hands: one of these was a safe-
conduct signed by the English Minister of Foreign Affairs. Those
stupid English don't usually trouble about passports or safe-conducts.
They welcome the migrs from France, and often among those traitors
one or other of our spies have got through. Still, this document will
probably serve you well, and you can easily make up to appear like the
description of the original holder. Here are the two passports.
Examine them carefully first, then I or one of my friends will give
you further instructions."

Chabot handed two papers to Chauvelin across the table. Chauvelin took
them, and for the next few minutes was absorbed in a minute
examination of them. One bore the signature of Fabre d'Eglantine, who
was representative for a section of Paris: it was counter-signed by
Franois Chabot (Seine et loire) and by Claud Bazire (Cte d'Or). The
second paper bore the seal of the English Foreign Office and was
signed by Lord Grenville himself. It was made out in the name of
Malcolm Russel Stone, and described the bearer of the safe-conduct as
short and slight, with brown hair and a pale face--a description, in
fact, which could apply to twenty men out of a hundred. It had the
advantage of not being a forgery, but was a genuine passport issued to
an unfortunate Secret Service man since dead. As Chabot had said, the
English authorities cared little, if anything, about passports;
nevertheless, the present one might prove useful.

Chauvelin folded the two papers and put them in the inside pocket of
his coat.

"So far, so good," he said drily. "I await your further instructions,
Citizen Representative."

Chabot was the spokesman of the party. He was, perhaps, sunk more
deeply than the other two in the morass of treachery and veniality
which threatened to engulf them all. He it was who had summoned this
conference and who had thought of Armand Chauvelin as the man most
likely to be useful in this terrible emergency.

"He has a character to redeem," he had said to his friends when first
the question was mooted of setting a sleuth-hound on the girl's
tracks: "he speaks English, he knows his way about over there..."

"He failed signally," Bazire objected, "over that affair of the
English spies."

"You mean the man they call the Scarlet Pimpernel?"


"Chauvelin has sworn to lay him by the heels."

"But has never succeeded."

"No; but Robespierre tells me that he is the most tenacious tracker of
traitors they have on the Committees--a real bloodhound, what!"

Thus it was that Chauvelin had been called in to confer on the best
means of circumventing a simple girl in the fateful undertaking she
had in view. Four men to defeat one woman in her purpose! What chance
would she have to accomplish it?

"It is on the return journey, my friend," Chabot was saying, "that
your work will effectually begin. This wench, Josette Gravier, is
going to England for the sole purpose of getting hold of a certain
packet of letters--seven in all--which are now in the possession of a
woman named Croissy, the widow of the lawyer Croissy who--er--
committed suicide a month or so ago. You recollect?"

"I do recollect perfectly," Chauvelin remarked blandly.

Chabot cleared his throat, fidgeted in his usual nervous manner, but
took good care not to encounter Chauvelin's quizzical glance.

"Those letters," he said after a moment or two, "were written by me
and my two friends here in the strictest confidence to Croissy, who
was acting as our lawyer at the time. None of us dreamed that he would
turn traitor. Well, he did, and no doubt was subsequently stricken
either with remorse or fright, for after threatening us all with the
betrayal of our confidence he took his own miserable life."

Chabot paused, apparently highly satisfied with his peroration.
Chauvelin, silent and with thin white hands folded in front of him,
waited calmly for him to continue. But his pale steely eyes were no
longer downcast: their glance, bitterly ironical, was fixed on the
speaker, and there was no mistaking the question which that glance
implied. "Why do you take the trouble to tell me those lies?" those
eyes seemed to ask. No wonder that none of the three blackguards dared
to look him straight in the face!

"I think," Chabot resumed after a time with added pompousness, "that I
have told you enough to make you appreciate the importance of the task
which we propose to entrust to you. My friends and I must regain
possession of those confidential letters, but we look to you, Citizen
Chauvelin, to put us in possession of them and not to the wench
Gravier--you understand?"


"She is nothing but a trollop and a baggage who has shamelessly
resorted to blackmail in order to save her gallant from justice. She
has put a dagger at my throat--at the throat of my two friends here--
and her dagger is more deadly than the one with which the traitor
Charlotte Corday pierced the noble heart of Marat..."

He would have continued in this eloquent strain had not his brother-
in-law, Bazire, put a restraining hand on his shoulder. Armand
Chauvelin, with his arms tightly clasped over his chest, his thin legs
crossed, his pale eyes looking up at the ceiling, presented a perfect
picture of irony and contempt. The others dared not resent this
attitude. They had need of this man for the furtherance of their
schemes. Revenge was what they were looking for now. The wench had
indeed put a dagger to their throats, and for this they were
determined to make her suffer; and there was no man alive with such a
marvellous capacity for tracking an enemy and bringing him to book as
Armand Chauvelin, in spite of the fact that he had failed so signally
in bringing the greatest enemy of the revolutionary government to the
guillotine. In this he certainly had failed. Not one of his
colleagues, not one of the three who had need of his services now,
knew how the recollection of that failure galled him. He was thankful
for this mission which would take him to England once more. He had
heart-breaking ill luck over his adventures with the Scarlet
Pimpernel, but luck might take a turn at any time, and, anyway, he was
the only man in his own country who had definitely identified the
mysterious hero with that ballroom exquisite Sir Percy Blakeney. Given
a modicum of luck it was still on the cards that he, Chauvelin, might
yet be even with his arch-enemy whilst he was engaged in dogging the
footsteps of Josette Gravier. That wench was just the type of
"persecuted innocent" that would appeal to the chivalrous nature of
the elusive Sir Percy.

Yes! on the whole Chauvelin felt satisfied with his immediate
prospects, and as soon as Chabot had ceased perorating he put a few
curt questions to him.

"When does the girl start?" he asked.

"To-morrow," Chabot replied. "I have told her to call at my house this
evening for her safe-conduct."

"It is made out in the name of...?'

"Josephine Gravier."

"Josephine Gravier," Chauvelin iterated slowly; "and the safe-conduct
is signed...?"

"By myself, by my friend Fabre and my brother-in-law Claude Bazire."

Chauvelin then rose and said: "That is all I need know for the
moment." He paused a moment as if reflecting and then added: "Oh! by
the way, I may need a man by me whom I can trust--a man who will give
me a hand in an emergency, you understand; who will be discreet and
above all obedient."

"I see no objection to that," Chabot said and turned to his
colleagues: "do you?"

"No. None," they all agreed.

"Do you know the right sort of man?" one of them asked.

"Yes! Auguste Picard," was Chauvelin's reply: "a sturdy fellow, ready
for any adventure. He is attached to the gendarmerie of the VIIIth
section at the moment, but he can be spared--Picard would suit me
well: he is never troubled with unnecessary scruples," he added with a
curl of the lip.

"Auguste Picard. Why not?"

They all agreed as to the suitability of Auguste Picard as a satellite
to their friend Chauvelin.

"So long as he is told nothing," one of them remarked.

"Why, of course," Chauvelin hastened to reassure them all. He then
concluded with complacency: "You may rest assured, my friends, that in
less than a month the letters will be in your hands."

Chabot and the others sighed in unison: "The devil speed you, friend
Chauvelin." One of them said: "Not one of us will know a moment's
peace until your return."

On which note of mutual confidence they parted. Chauvelin went his
way; the other three stayed talking for a little while at the club;
other members strolled in from time to time, Danton among them. The
great man himself was none too easy over this affair of the letters
which had been recounted to him by his satellite Fabre d'Eglantine. He
was not dead sure whether his own name was mentioned or not in the
correspondence between de Batz and Croissy. He had at the time been
unpleasantly mixed up in those Austrian intrigues, and it was part of
de Batz' game to compromise them and thus bring about the downfall of
the revolutionary Government and the restoration of the King. Chabot,
Fabre and Bazire were in it up to the neck, but the moment mud-
slinging began, any of their friends might get spattered with the
slime. Robespierre, the wily jackal, was only waiting for an
opportunity to be at Danton's throat, to wrest from him that
popularity which for the time being made him the master of the
Convention. It would indeed be a strange freak of Destiny if the
downfall of the great Danton--the lion of the Revolution--were brought
about through the intervention of a woman, a chit of a girl more
feeble even than Charlotte Corday, whose dagger had put an end to
Marat's career.

"But we can leave all that with safety in Armand Chauvelin's hands,"
was the sum-total of the confabulation between the four men before
they bade one another good-night.

Chapter XX

The small diligence which had left Les Andelys in the early morning
rattled into the courtyard of the Auberge du Cheval Blanc in Rouen
soon after seven o'clock in the evening. It had encountered bad
weather the whole of the way: torrential rain lashed by gusty north-
westerly winds made going difficult for the horses. The roads were
fetlock-deep in mud: on the other hand, the load had been light--two
passengers in the front compartment and only four in the rear, and
very little luggage on top.

In the rear of the coach the four passengers had sat in silence for
the greater part of the journey, the grey sky and dreary outlook not
being conducive to conversation. The desolation of the country, due to
lack of agricultural labour, was apparent even along the fertile
stretch of Normandy. The orchard trees were already bare of leaves and
bent their boughs to the fury of the blast; their naked branches,
weighted with the rain, were stretched out against the wind like the
great gaunt arms of skinny old men suffering from rheumatism and doing
their best to run away.

Of the two female travellers one looked like the middle-aged wife of
some prosperous shopkeeper. She had rings on her fingers and a gold
brooch was pinned to her shawl. Her hands were folded above the handle
of a wicker basket out of which she extracted, from time to time,
miscellaneous provisions with which she regaled herself on the
journey. At one moment when the other woman who sat next to her,
overcome with sleep, fell up against her shoulder, she drew herself up
with obvious disgust and eyed the presumptuous creature up and down
with the air of one unaccustomed to any kind of familiarity.

This other woman was Josette Gravier, en route for England, all alone,
unprotected, ignorant of the country she was going to, of the
districts she would have to traverse, of the sea which she had never
seen and of which she had a vague dread; but her courage kept up by
the determination to get to England, to wrest the letters from Louise
de Croissy and, with them in her hand, to force those influential
Terrorists into granting life and liberty to Maurice. It was Josette
Gravier who, overcome with sleep, had fallen against the shoulder of
her fellow-traveller, but it was a very radically transformed Josette;
not disguised, but transformed from the dainty, exquisite apparition
she always was into an ugly, dowdy, uncouth-looking girl unlikely to
attract the attention of those young gallants who are always ready for
an adventure with any pretty woman they might meet on the way. She had
dragged her hair out of curl, smeared it with grease till it hung in
lankish strands down her cheeks and brows; over it she wore a black
cap, frayed and green with age, and this she had tied under her chin
with a tired bit of back ribbon. She had rubbed her little nose and
held it out to the blast till the tip was blue: she hunched up her
shoulders under a tattered shawl, and forced her pretty mouth to wear
an expression of boredom and discontent. What she could not hide
altogether was the glory of her eyes, but even so she contrived to dim
their listre by appearing to be half asleep the whole of the way. Like
the other woman she kept her basket of provisions on her lap, and at
different times she munched bits of stale bread and cheese and drank
thin-looking wine out of a bottle, after which she passed the back of
her hand over her mouth and nose and left marks of grease on her chin
and cheeks.

Altogether she looked a most unattractive bit of goods, and this,
apparently, was the opinion of the two male travellers who sat
opposite, for after a quick survey of their fellow-passengers they
each settled down in their respective corners and whiled away the
dreary hours of the long day by sleep. They did not carry provisions
with them, but jumped out of the diligence for refreshments whenever
the driver pulled up outside some village hostelry on the way.

At the Auberge du Cheval Blanc in Rouen everyone had to get down. The
diligence went no farther, but another would start early the next
morning and, in all probability, would reach Trport in the late
afternoon. Josette, like the other travellers, was obliged to go to
the Commissariat of the town for the examination of her papers before
she could be allowed to hire a bed for the night. Her safe-conduct was
in order, which seemed greatly to astonish the Chief Commissary, for
he eyed with some curiosity this bedraggled, uncouth female who
presented a permit signed by three of the most prominent members of
the National Convention.

"Laissez passer la citoyenne Josephine Gravier age de vingt ans
demeurant a Paris Villieme section Rue Picpus No. 43, etc., etc...."

It was all in order; the Commissary countersigned the safe-conduct,
affixed the municipal seal to it and handed it back to Josette. She
had been the last of the travellers to present her papers at the desk;
she took them now from the Commissary and turned to go out of the
narrow stuffy room when a man's voice spoke gently close to her:

"Can I direct you to a respectable hostelry, Citizeness?"

Josette glanced up and encountered a pair of light-coloured eyes that
looked kindly and in no way provokingly at her: they were the eyes of
one of her fellow-travellers who had entered the diligence at Les
Andelys and had sat in the corner opposite to her, half asleep, taking
no notice of anything or anybody. He was a small, thin man with pale
cheeks and a sad, or perhaps discontented, expression round his thin
lips: his hair was lank and plentifully streaked with grey. He was
dressed in seedy black and looked quite insignificant and not at all
the kind of man to scare a girl who was travelling alone.

Josette thanked him for his kindness:

"I have engaged a bed at the Cheval Blanc," she said, "which I am
assured is a model of respectability: I shall be sharing a room with
some of the maids at the hostelry, and the charge for this
accommodation is not high. All the same," she added politely, "I thank
you, sir, for your kind offer."

She was about to turn away when he spoke again:

"I am journeying to England, and if I can be of service there I pray
you to command me."

It did not occur to Josette at the moment to wonder how this stranger
came to know that she was journeying to England, but she could not
help asking him who he was and why he should trouble about her.

"Before the war," he replied, "my business used often to take me to
England and I was able to master its difficult language. Now, alas! my
business is at an end, but I have friends over the water and, like
yourself, I was lucky enough to obtain a permit to visit them."

Once more Josette thanked him: he seemed so very kind; but at the
outset of her journey she had made up her mind very firmly not to
enter into conversation with anyone, not to trust anyone, least of all
one of her own nationality. She had no idea as yet of the difficulties
which she might encounter when she landed in a strange country.
Indeed, she had undertaken this journey without any thought of
possible failure, but wariness and discretion were the rules of
conduct which she had imposed on herself and to which she was
determined to adhere rigidly. Having thanked her amiable friend, she
bade him Good-night and hastened back to the hostelry.

She didn't see him again on the following morning when she took ticket
for the diligence that was to take her to Trport. An altogether
different set of people were her fellow-travellers on this stage of
her journey: they were a noisy crowd--three men and two women besides
herself in the rear compartment of the coach; so they were rather
crowded and jammed up against one another. Josette, being small and
unobtrusive, was pushed into a corner by the other women, who were
large and stout and took up a lot of room. Talk was incessant, chiefly
on the recent incidents at Nantes. Carrier, the abominable butcher,
had been recalled, but his successors had carried on his infamous
work. The war in the Vende had drawn to its close: those who took
part in it fell victims to their loyalty to the throne; their wives
and children were murdered wholesale. Travellers who had come from
those parts spoke of this with bated breath. Only a few had escaped
butchery, and this through the agency of some English spies--so 'twas
said--whose activities throughout Brittany had baffled the
revolutionary government. One man especially, who went, it seems, by
the strange name of a small scarlet flower, had been instrumental in
effecting the escape of a number of women and children out of the
plague-ridden prisons of Nantes, where such numbers of them died of
disease and inanition even while the guillotine was being prepared for

Josette, huddled up in the corner of the compartment, listened to
these tales with a beating heart. Ever since she had started on this
fateful journey she had wondered in her mind whether somewhere or
other, in a moment of distress or difficulty, she would suddenly find
that unseen hand was there to succour or to help, whether she would
hear a comforting voice to cheer her on her way, or catch unexpectedly
a glance from eyes that, whilst revealing nothing to the uninitiated,
would convey a world of meaning to her.

Now the tales that she heard dispelled any such hope. Women and
children in greater distress than herself were claiming the aid and
time of the gallant Scarlet Pimpernel. It was sad and terribly
disappointing that she would not see him as she had so confidently
hoped. Only in her dreams would she see him as she had done hitherto.
The rumble of the coach-wheels, the heavy atmosphere made her drowsy:
she shrank farther still into her corner and slept and dreamed; she
dreamed of the gallant English hero and also of Maurice--Maurice who
was so unselfish, so self-effacing, who was suffering somewhere in a
dingy prison, pining for his little friend Josette, wondering,
perhaps, what had become of her, and eating his heart out with anxiety
on her account. And somehow in her dream Josette saw the English hero
less clearly than she used to do; his imaginary face and form slowly
faded and grew dim and were presently merged in the presentment of
Maurice Reversac, who looked sad and ill--so sad and ill that
Josette's heart ached for him in her sleep, and that her lips murmured
his name "Maurice!" with exquisite longing and tenderness.

Chapter XXI

Whenever Josette's thoughts in after years reverted to her memorable
journey to England, she never felt that it had been real. It was all
so like a dream: her start from Paris in the early morning; the
diligence; the first halt at the barrier; the examination of the
passports; and then the incessant rumble of wheels, the rain beating
against the windows, the gusts of wind, the atmosphere reeking of
stale provisions, of damp cloth and of leather; the murmur of voices;
the halts outside village hostelries; the nights in the auberge at
Meulan and Les Andelys, at Rouen and Trport; and her fellow-
travellers. They were nothing but dream figures, and it was only when
she closed her eyes very tight that Josette could vaguely recall their
faces: the prosperous shopman's wife with her rings and her gold
brooch and her wicker basket; the crowd in the diligence between Rouen
and Trport who chattered incessantly about the English spy and the
horrors of Nantes; her neighbour, who squeezed her into a corner until
she could hardly breathe; and then the small, thin man--he, surely,
was nothing but a figure in a dream!

Dreams, dreams! they must all have been dreams! All those events,
those happenings which memory had never properly recorded, they were
surely only dreams; and all the way across the Channel she sat as in a
dream: she saw other travellers being very seasick, and there was,
indeed, a nasty gale blowing from the south-west, but it was a
favourable wind for the packet-boat to Dover and she made excellent
going, whilst to Josette the fresh sea air, the excitement of seeing
the white cliffs of England looming out of the mist, the sense of
contentment that she was nearing the end of her journey and that her
efforts on behalf of Maurice would surely be crowned with success were
all most welcome after the stuffiness and dreariness of those days
passed in the diligence.

And how bright and lovely England seemed to her! It was indeed a dream
world into which she had drifted. People looked happy and free! Yes,
free! There was no look of furtiveness or terror on their faces; even
children had shoes and stockings on their feet, and not one of them
had that look of disease and hunger so prevalent--alas!--in
revolutionary France. Peace and contentment reigned everywhere; ay! in
spite of the war-clouds that hung over the land. And Josette's heart
ached when she thought of her own beautiful country, her beloved
France, which was all the more dear to all her children for the
terrible time she was going through.

Poor little Josette! She felt very forlorn and very much alone when
she stood on the quay at Dover with her modest little bundle and her
wicker basket which contained all her worldly possessions. For the
first time she realised the magnitude of the task which she had
imposed on herself when all around her people talked and talked and
she could not understand one word that was said. Never before had she
been outside France, never before had she heard a language other than
her native one. She felt as if she had been dropped down from
somewhere into another world and knew not yet what would become of
her, a stranger among its denizens. Frightened? Only a little,
perhaps, was she frightened, but firm, nevertheless, in her resolve to
succeed. But what had seemed like such a simple proposition in Paris
looked distinctly complicated now.

She was forlorn and alone--and all round her people bustled and
jostled; not that anyone was unkind--far from it--they but were all of
them busy coming and going, collecting luggage, meeting friends,
asking for information. She, Josette, was the only one who, perforce,
was tongue-tied--a pathetic little figure in short kirtle, shawl and
frayed-out black cap, with lanky hair and a red nose and a smear
across one cheek, for much against her will tears would insist on
coming to her eyes and they made the smear when they would roll down
her face.

The crowd presently thinned out a bit: Josette could see these or
those fellow-passengers hurrying hither or thither, either followed by
a porter carrying luggage or shouldering their own valise. They all
seemed to know where they were going; she alone was doubtful and
ignorant. Indeed, she had never thought it would be as bad as this.

And suddenly a kind voice reached her ear:

"Can I be of service now, Mademoiselle? We all have to report at the
constable's office, you know."

Just for the moment it seemed to Josette as if le bon Dieu had just
taken pity on her and sent one of His angels to look after her. And
yet it was only the thin little man in seedy black who had spoken, and
there was nothing angelic about him. He had his papers in his hand and
quite instinctively she took hers out from inside her bodice and gave
them to him.

"Will you come with me, Mademoiselle," he went on to say, "in case
there is a little difficulty about your safe-conduct being entirely
made out by the French Government, with which the English are at war!
They welcome the migrs as a matter of course; still, there might be
a little trouble. But if you will come with me I feel sure I can see
you through."

Josette gave him a look of trust and of gratitude out of her blue
eyes. How could she help fancying that here was one of those English
heroes of whom she had always dreamed and who were known in the
remotest corners of France as angels of rescue to those unfortunates
who were forced to flee from their own country and take refuge in
hospitable England? Dreams! dreams! Could Josette Gravier be blamed
for thinking that here were her dreams coming true? When she felt
miserable, helpless and forlorn, a hand was suddenly stretched out to
help her over her difficulties. Of course she did not think that this
pale-faced little man was the hero of her dreams--she had always
thought of the Scarlet Pimpernel as magnificently tall and superbly
handsome; but then she had also thought of him as mysterious and
endowed with mystic powers that enabled him to assume any kind of
personality at will. There was enough talk about him among the girls
in the government workshops: how he had driven through the barriers of
Paris disguised as an old hag in charge of a refuse-cart in which the
Marquis de Tournay and his family lay hidden: and there were other
tales more wonderful still. Then why could he not diminish his stature
and become a pale-faced little man who spoke both English and French
and conducted her, Josette, to an office where he exhibited an English
passport which evidently satisfied the official in charge not only as
to his own identity, but also as to that of the girl with him?

Who but a hero of romance would have the power so to protect the weak
as to smooth out every difficulty that beset Josette Gravier's path
after her landing in England, from the finding her a respectably
hostelry where she could spend the night to guiding her the next
morning to the Bureau des migrs Franais in Dover, where he obtained
for her all the information she wanted about her beloved Louise?
Louise, indeed, lived and worked not very far from Dover, in a town
called Maidstone, to which a public coach plied that very day. And
into this coach did Josette Gravier step presently in the company of
her new guardian angel, the thin-faced, pale-eyed little man with the
soft voice, whose mysterious hints and utterances, now that she fell
into more intimate conversation with him, clearly indicated that if he
was not actually the Scarlet Pimpernel himself, he was, at any rate,
very closely connected with him.

Chapter XXII

Louise de Croissy was sitting in the bow-window of the small house in
Milsom Street in the city of Maidstone when, looking up from her
embroidery frame, she saw Josette Gravier coming down the street in
the company of a little man in black who was evidently pointing out
the way to her. Louise gave one cry of amazement, jumped up from her
chair, and in less than half a minute was out in the street, with arms
outstretched and a cry of "Josette! My darling one!" on her lips.

The next moment Josette was in her arms.

"Josette! My little Josette! I am not dreaming, am I? It really is

But Josette, overcome with fatigue and emotion, could not yet speak.
She let Louise lead her to the house. She appeared half-dazed; but
when they came to the door she turned to look for the guiding angel
who had brought her safely within sight of her beloved Louise. All she
could see of him was his back in the seedy black coat a hundred yards
away, hurrying down the street.

Louise was devoured with curiosity; question after question tumbled
out of her mouth.

"Josette chrie, how did you come? And all alone? And who was that
funny little man in black? What made you come? Why, why didn't you let
me know?"

Josette had sunk into the armchair which Louise had dragged for her
beside the fire--a lovely fire glowing with coal, the flames dancing
as if with joy and putting life and warmth into the girl's stiffened
limbs. And Louise, kneeling beside her, holding her little cold hands,
went on excitedly:

"Of course you mustn't talk now, chrie, and you must not heed my
silly questions. But imagine my amazement! I thought I was dreaming. I
had been thinking of you, too, all these days... and to think of you
here and now.... What will Charles-Lon say when he sees you?... He is
getting so strong and well and..."

Then she jumped to her feet, struck her forehead with her hand and

"But what a fool I am to keep on chattering when you are so weary and
cold, my darling!... Just wait a few minutes and close your eyes and I
will get you some lovely hot tea. Everyone here in England drinks tea
in the afternoon... At first I couldn't get used to it... I hadn't
drunk tea for years, and then not often--only when I had a headache...
but I soon got the way of it.... No, no! I won't chatter any more....
Just sit still, chrie, and I'll bring you something you'll like."

She trotted off, eager, excited and longing desperately to hear how
Josette had come to travel alone all the way to England; through the
instrumentality of that marvellous Scarlet Pimpernel, she decided
within herself; and her active brain worked round and round,
conjecturing, imagining all sorts of possibilities. "I wonder what has
become of poor Maurice Reversac?" she mused at one moment.

She delighted on preparing the tea for Josette and prided herself in
the way she made it--one spoonful of tea for each cup and one for the
pot--and in the English way of making toast with butter on it. How
Josette will love that! Darling, darling Josette! Life from now on
would be just perfect; no more loneliness; no more anxiety for
Charles-Lon. The angel of the house was present once more.

And in the little sitting-room, ensconced in the big winged chair,
Josette Gravier sat with eyes closed, still living in her dream. Was
it not marvellous how le bon Dieu had brought her safely to Louise;
The events of her journey passed before her mental vision like a
kaleidoscope of many shapes and colours. It seemed almost impossible
to realise that all these things had truly happened to her, Josette
Gravier, and that she was really here in England instead of in the
dingy Rue Picpus or stitching away at the Government workshops. And
thoughts of the workshop brought back a vision of Maurice, and terror
gripped her heart because of what might be happening to him--terror,
and then a great feeling of joy because she remembered what she was
able to do for him. Maurice to her had become as a child, as Charles-
Lon was to Louise, a being dependent on her for love and, in a sense,
for protection.

It was a wonderful thing, in very truth, to be sitting in a large,
comfortable easy-chair beside a lovely fire here in England, and to be
drinking tea and eating pain grill with delicious butter on it; and,
above all, to have Louise sitting beside her and watching her with
loving eyes whilst she ate and drank. Tea was lovely! Like Louise, she
had not tasted it for years; it was a luxury unknown in France these
terrible times, and even in the happy olden days in the farm by the
Isre or in the convent school of the Visitation Josette had only been
given tea when she had a headache.

After a little while she felt wonderfully comforted; she knew that
Louise was consumed with curiosity and, in all conscience, she could
not delay satisfying her.

"Can you not guess why I am here, Louise?" she asked abruptly.

"Of course I can, chrie!" Louise replied. "You came to England for
the same reason that I did--to get away from those abominable

But Josette shook her head.

"Should I have run away," she asked, "and left Maurice out there

"I don't understand, chrie. Where is Maurice?"

"In prison."


"He was arrested two days before I left Paris."

"But on what grounds?"

Josette gave a sigh and a shrug; she stared dreamily into the fire.

"Does one ever know?" she murmured, and then added: "I suppose that
Maurice's connection with Bastien disturbed the complacency of some of
those devils. They didn't know how much he knew--about those letters."

"The letters?"

"Yes--the letters. You have still got them, Louise?"

"Of course."

A deep sigh of relief came from little Josette's anxious heart. She
turned her large, luminous eyes on her friend.

"That is why I came to England, chrie--to fetch those letters."

"Josette!" Louise exclaimed, "what do you mean?"

"Just that. Maurice has been arrested--you know what that means: a
week or a fortnight in some dank prison, then the mockery of a trial,
and, finally, the guillotine..."


" le bon Dieu inspired me and gave me courage. I thought of the
letters. In order to try and get hold of them, men like Chabot and
Fabre went to the length of murder. Fortunately you had taken them
away with you. I thought and thought until I remembered the names of
those black-guards who had written them and who had murdered Bastien.
Then I went to call on them."

"You--my little timid Josette?"

"Yes. I went and I was no longer timid. I went, first of all, to that
horrible man Chabot. I told him that those compromising letters of his
were still in existence and that I knew where they were. Then I
proposed by bargain: complete immunity for Maurice with a safe-conduct
to enable him to leave France as soon as I had retrieved the letters
and placed them in the hands of their writers."

"You did that, Josette?"

"I did it for Maurice."

"But that was just the bargain which my poor Bastien proposed to those
same men, and in consequence of it..."

"...they murdered him in cold blood. I know that."

"Then how could you...?"

"I ran that risk, I know," Josette replied calmly; "but I also knew by
then that possession of those letters had become a question of life
and death to those assassins. I threatened them with the immediate
publication of the letters in the Moniteur if anything happened to
Maurice or to me. They didn't know where the letters were; all I told
them was that they were in England and that you had kept them. Anyway,
they gave me a safe-conduct to go to England and come back. And here I
am, my Louise, and if you will give me the letters I will start on my
journey back the day after to-morrow."

Louise made no immediate reply: she was staring at her little friend--
the frail, modest girl who all alone and sustained only by her own
courage had undertaken such a dangerous task for the sake of the man
she loved. For, in truth, Louise was forced to the conclusion that
Josette's heart, unbeknown to herself, had been touched at last by
Maurice Reversac's devotion. Only a woman in love could accomplish
what Josette Gravier had done, could so calmly face difficulties and
dangers and be ready to face them again without rest or respite.
Neither did Josette speak; she was once more staring into the fire,
and the dancing flames showed her visions of Maurice suffering in
prison and longing for her.

"Josette darling," Louise said after a time, "you cannot possibly
start on another long journey just yet."

"Why not?"

"You must have a few days' rest. You are so tired..."

Josette gave a slight shrug.


"I cannot imagine how you ever found me--I mean, so quickly. Did you
go to London?"

"No, I didn't have to."

"Then, how...?"

"A kind friend helped me."

"A friend? Who was it?"

"I don't know. He was a fellow-passenger first in the diligence and
then on board ship."

"A stranger?"

"Why, yes! but you cannot imagine how kind he was. When I landed on
the quay at Dover I felt terribly lonely and helpless; indeed, I don't
know what was to become of me. Everything was horribly strange, and
then I couldn't understand a word anyone said..."

"I know. I felt just like that at first, although, of course, I was in
the hands of friends. I told you--in my letter..."

"I thought of you, Louise, and of the wonderful friends who were
looking after you. What were they like, darling?"

"It is not easy to describe people, and I was terribly over-wrought at
the time, but the two friends whom we met in the cottage on the cliffs
and who took us across the sea in that beautiful ship were good-
looking young English gentlemen. One was fair, the other had brown
hair, and..."

"Was not one of them quite small and thin, with a very pale face and
light-coloured eyes...?"

"No, dear, nothing like that."

"That was what my friend looked like. He spoke to me first at Rouen,
and then again at Dover when I felt so lost I didn't know what to do.
He took me to a nice hostelry where I could hire a bed for the night.
Then the next morning he went with me to the Bureau des migrs, where
they spoke French and where they looked up your name and told me where
to find you. After that we took the coach for this town. My thin
friend with the pale face arranged everything, and when we arrived in
this city he walked through the streets with me to show me where you
lived; and then--and then, while I ran to embrace you, darling, he
hurried away. But I hope and pray that I may meet him again so that I
can thank him properly for all the help he gave me."

"Do you think you will?"

"I think so. He told me that he would be in Dover for a couple of days
and that a packet-boat would be leaving for Trport on Thursday at two
o'clock in the afternoon. That is the day after to-morrow. He said he
would look out for me on the quay. So you see..."

"Josette darling," Louise exclaimed impulsively, "you must be wary of

"But of course, Louise, I am wary--very wary. Whenever I spent the
night in a hostelry, although I really had enough money to pay for a
private room, I always chose to share one with other women or girls. I
wouldn't sleep alone in a strange room for anything, although I did so
long for privacy sometimes. But if you saw that insignificant little
man, Louise, you would know that I had nothing to fear from him."

"I wonder who he is?"

"Sometimes I think..." Josette murmured.

"What, darling?"

"Oh, you will only laugh!"

"Not I. And I know what you were going to say."


"That you think he has some connection with the Scarlet Pimpernel."

"Well, don't you?"

"I don't know, dear. You see the members of the League of the Scarlet
Pimpernel with whom I came in contact were all English."

"My thin friend with the pale face might be a French member of the
League. How otherwise can you explain his kindness to me?"

"I cannot explain it, chrie. Everything that happened to me was so
wonderful that I am ready to accept all your theories of the
supernatural powers of the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel. But now,
darling, we have chatted quite long enough. You are tired and you must
have a rest. After that we'll have supper and you shall go to bed
early, if you must leave me again so soon..."

"I must Louise, I must. And you understand, don't you?"

"I suppose I do; but it will break my heart to part from you again."

"I have to think of Maurice," Josette said softly.

"You love him, Josette?"

"I don't know," the girl replied with a sigh. "At one time I thought
that my heart and soul belonged to the mysterious hero whom perhaps I
would never see; but since Maurice has been in danger I have

"What, chrie?"

"That he is dear, very dear to me."

Chapter XXIII

It seemed so strange to be back in France once more, to hear again
one's own tongue spoken and to understand everything that was said.

Josette, standing in the queue outside the Commissariat of Police at
Rouen with the same little bundle and the same wicker basket in her
hand, waiting to have her safe-conduct examined and stamped, was a
very different person to the forlorn young creature who had felt so
bewildered and so terribly lonely at Dover.

She had had two very happy days with Louise. Her arrival, her first
sight of the beloved friend had been unalloyed joy; sitting by a cosy
fire with Louise quite close to her and holding her hand brought back
memories of the happiest days of her childhood. Then there was
Charles-Lon looking so bright and bonny, with colour in his cheeks
and all his pathetic listlessness gone. In a way, Josette had not
altogether liked England; the grey clouds, the misty damp atmosphere
were so unlike the brilliant blue skies of France and the sparkling
clear air of her native Dauphin that went to the head like wine; but,
then, that atmosphere was pure and wholesome, Charles-Lon's bright
eyes testified to that: he no longer suffered from the poisonous air
of Pairs; and Louise, even in this short time, seemed to have
recovered the elasticity of youth.

Yes! it had been a happy, a very happy time, brightened still further
by thoughts of what she, Josette, was doing for Maurice. On the very
first evening Louise had given her the sealed packet containing the
precious letters: the precious, precious packet which would purchase
Maurice's life and liberty. Josette turned it over and over in her
hands, and gazed down on the seals and on the wrapper as if her eyes
could pierce them.

"What are you looking at so intently, darling?" Louise asked with a

"I didn't recognise the seals," Josette replied.

"It must be the one that Bastien used at the office. I never looked
closely at the impress before."

"You've never opened the packet?"

"Never. And it never left me since the moment I left our apartment."

"You had it inside your corsets?"

"In the big pocket inside my skirt; and at night I always slipped it
under my pillow, or under whatever happened to be my pillow."

"That is what I will do, of course."

"Only once," Louise resumed after a moment or two, "I had a bad scare:
one of the last days of our journey. We had reached the desolate
region of the Artois and I was terribly, terribly tired. I remembered
that the night before I had slipped the letters into my pocket as
usual, nevertheless, when we halted the next day and the driver helped
me out of the cart, I felt for the packet and imagine my horror when I
found it was gone! A wild panic seized me: I don't know why, but I
just turned ready to run away. I was suddenly convinced that I had
been lured to this lonely spot for the sake of the letters and that
Charles-Lon and I would now be murdered. However, I hadn't gone far
when the kindest voice imaginable, accompanied by a delicious soft
laugh, called me back and, my dear Josette, imagine my joy and
surprise when I saw our driver coolly holding the packet out to me!"

"The driver?"

"Yes! I will leave you to guess who he was, just as I did."

They talked by the fire half the day and late into the night, dreaming
dreams of happy times to come when that awful revolutionary government
would be forced to give way to a spirit of good-will, charity and
order--the true birthright of the French nation. Indeed, it had all
been a very happy time, and those two days at Maidstone went by like a
dream. And now Josette was back, in France on the last stage but one
of her journey to Paris. Within three, at most four days, Maurice
would be free, and together they would come out to this fair land of
England, for it would not be safe to remain in France any longer. Here
they would wait for the happy days that were sure to come: Maurice
would find work to do, for he was clever and brave, and he would
surely earn enough to support himself; then, just as they had always
done in Pairs, they would wander together in the English woods, those
lovely woods about Maidstone of which Josette had had a passing
glimpse. In a few short months spring would come and the birds in
England, just like those in France, would all be nesting, and under
the trees the ground would be carpeted with snowdrops and anemones
just as it was at Fontainebleau. And if Maurice's heart was still
unchanged, if the same words of love came to his lips which he had
spoken before that awful tragedy had darkened both their lives, then
she, Josette, would no longer laugh at him. She would listen silently
and reverently to an avowal which she knew now would give her infinite
happiness; and she would say "Yes!" to his request that she should
become his wife, and together they would steal away in the very early
morning to some little English church, and here before God's altar
they would swear love and fealty to one another.

Dreams, dreams, which now of a surety would soon become a glowing
reality; and all the way since she had left Maidstone in the coach and
after she had cried her fill over parting from Louise, Josette had
thoughts only of Maurice; and now and then her little hand went up to
her bosom, where inside her corsets rested that precious packet;
whereupon a look of real joy would gleam out of her eyes, and not even
the devices wherewith she had contrived to make her pretty face seem
almost ugly could altogether mar its beauty then.

Chapter XXIV

The little man with the pale sad face whom Josette looked on as a
friend had been most kind and helpful at Dover. He had met Josette on
the quay, helped her with her safe-conduct, saw her on the boat for
Trport, and promised that he would meet her again on the journey,
probably at Rouen; he himself was bound for Calais, but he would be
posting from there to Rouen, and if he was lucky he would get the
diligence there for Paris.

Many a time during the next forty-eight hours had Josette longed for
his company, not so much because she was lonely, but because the whole
way from Dover she had been somewhat worried with the attentions of a
stranger, and those attentions had filled her with vague mistrust. She
had first caught sight of him on the packet-boat, striding up and down
the deck with a swaggering, rolling gait. He was clad like a sailor
and ogled all the women as he strode past them--Josette especially--
and when he caught a woman's eye a hideous squint further disfigured
his ugly face. Somehow she had felt uncomfortable under his glance.
Then at Trport he had seemed to keep an eye on her, and when she
boarded the diligence he took a seat in the same compartment and sat
opposite to her. He certainly did not molest her in any way, but she
felt all the time conscious of his presence. He was very big and fat
and entered into conversation with any of the other passengers who
were willing to listen to him, telling tall sea yarns and expatiating
on his own prowess in various adventures of which, according to his
own showing, he was the hero. Oddly enough, he was a native of
Nantes--so he informed one of his fellow-travellers--and had been in
port there quite recently. Josette, at this, pricked up her ears, and,
sure enough, the sailor had something to say about those English spies
and their activity in helping aristos and other traitors to evade

"Citizen Carrier," the man had gone on with a dry laugh which revealed
some ugly gaps between his teeth, "grows livid with rage at the bare
mention of English spies, and lashes about him with a horse-whip like
an infuriated tiger with its tail. Only the other day..."

And there followed a long and involved story of how a whole family of
aristos--an old man and his grand-children--were spirited away out of
the prison of Le Bouffay, how and when nobody ever knew; and Carrier
was in such a rage that he had an epileptic fit on the spot. To all
this Josette listened eagerly; but all the same she couldn't bear that
ugly fat sailor and was vaguely afraid of him.

Josette felt quite happy and relieved when at Rouen she caught sight
once more of her pale-faced little friend. She had been lucky enough
to fall in on the way with two pleasant women--a mother and daughter--
who were ready to share a room with her in the Traverne du Cheval
Blanc, and thither the three women repaired after the necessary visit
at the Commissariat. It was here that Josette saw her friend again. He
was standing in the little hall talking to a rough-looking fellow to
whom he appeared to be giving instructions.

When he encountered Josette's glance, he gave her a nod and an
encouraging smile.

Josette and the two women went into the public dining-room, where
several of the smaller tables were already occupied. In the centre of
the room there was one long table, and round it two people were
sitting, waiting for supper to be served. They were for the most part
a rough-looking crowd of men who were making a good deal of noise. The
three women, however, were fortunate enough to find an unoccupied
small table in a quiet corner where they could have their meal in

From where Josette sat she could see the door and watch the people
coming in and going out. Two diligences had arrived in Rouen within
the hour: the one from Trport and the other from Paris, and a great
number of weary and hungry travellers trooped into the public room,
demanding supper. The big fat sailor was among these, and Josette was
thankful that there was no seat available at her own table, for
already she had seen the glance wherewith he had sought to catch her
eye, and she had felt quite a cold wave of dread creep down her spine
at sight of that ugly face with the leer and the hideous squint.

However, after that first searching glance round the room the fat
sailor took no more notice of her; he lolled up to the centre table
and sat down. He ate a hearty supper and continued to regale the rest
of the company with his ridiculous tall yarns.

Half-way through supper Josette had the joy of seeing her small, pale-
faced friend come into the room. He, too, gave a searching glance all
round the room, and when he caught sight of Josette he gave her
another of his pleasant smiles. Somehow at sight of him she felt
comforted. Later on she could not help noticing with what deference
everyone at the Cheval Blanc had welcomed the insignificant-looking
little man. The landlord, his wife and daughter all came bustling into
the room and, in a trice, had prepared and laid a separate table for
him in a corner by the hearth. Though the table d'hte supper was
practically over by then, they brought him steaming hot soup and after
that what was obviously a specially prepared dish. Some of the
travellers remarked on this and whispered among themselves, but quite
unconsciously, no doubt, the deference shown by the landlord and his
family communicated itself to them, and the rowdy hilarity of awhile
ago gave place to more sober and less noisy conversation.

Only the fat sailor tried for a time to foist his impossible tales on
the company, but as no one appeared eager now to listen to him he
subsided presently and remained silent and sulky, squinting at the
new-coming and moodily picking his teeth. Josette could not help
watching him--he was so very ugly and so very large, with his great
loose paunch pressed against the table and the hideous black gaps in
his mouth; and then those eyes which seemed to be looking both ways at
once, one across the other and in no particular direction.

Presently he rose. Josette could not help watching him. She saw him
pick up the pepper-pot and toy with it for a moment or two; then, with
it in his hand, he lolled across to where Josette's little friend was
quietly eating his supper. The latter didn't look up; continued to
eat, even while that impudent sailor man stood looking down on him for
a moment or two. On the part of a person of consideration this
indifference would have seemed strange in the olden days, but now when
mudlarks such as this ugly sailor were the virtual rulers of France it
was never safe to resent their familiarity or even their impertinence.

The next moment, with slow deliberation, the sailor put the pepper-pot
down in front of the stranger, and Josette saw her friend's pale eyes
travel upwards from the pepper-pot to the ugly face leering down on
him, and she could have sworn that he gave a start and that his thin
hands were suddenly clenched convulsively round his knife and fork;
also that his pale cheeks took on a kind of grey, ashen hue. No one
apparently noticed any of this except Josette, who was watching the
two men. She could only see the broad back of the sailor, saw him give
a shrug and heard something like a mocking laugh ring across the room.

A second or two later the sailor had lolled out of the door, and
Josette might have thought she had imagined the whole scene but for
the expression on her little friend's face. It still looked ghastly,
and suddenly he put down his knife and fork and strode very quickly
out of the room. What happened after that she didn't know, as her
friend did not come back to finish his supper, and very soon the two
women who were sharing a room with her gave the signal to go upstairs
to bed.

The room which the three of them had secured for the night was at the
top of the house under the roof. There were two beds in it: a large
one in the far corner of the room which the mother and daughter
claimed for themselves and a very small truckle bed for Josette which
stood across the embrasure of the dormer window between it and the
door. Josette, as was her wont, took the precaution of placing the
precious packet of letters underneath her pillow; having said her
prayers she slid between the coarse sheets and composed herself for
sleep. Her room companions, who had the one and only candle by the
side of their bed, soon put the light out, and presently their even
breathing proclaimed that they had already travelled far in the land
of Nod. At first it seemed pitch-dark in the room, for outside the
weather was rough and no light whatever came through the dormer
window; but presently a tiny gleam became apparent underneath the
door. It came from the lamp which was kept alight all night in the
vestibule down below for the convenience of belated travellers.
Josette welcomed the little gleam; her eyes soon became accustomed to
what had become semi-gloom; she felt secure and comforted, and after a
few minutes she, too, was fast asleep.

What woke her so suddenly she did not know, but wake she did, and for
a while she lay quite still, with eyes wide open, her heart pounding
away inside her and her hand seeking the precious packet underneath
her pillow. At the far end of the room the two women were obviously
asleep: one of them snoring lustily. And suddenly Josette perceived
that the narrow streak of light under the door had considerably
widened and had become triangular in shape; indeed, it was widening
even now; she also perceived that there was now an upright shaft of
light which also widened and widened as slowly, very slowly, the door
swung open.

Josette in an instant sat straight up in bed and gave a cry which
roused her room mates out of their sleep. From where they lay they
couldn't see the door, but they called out: "What is it?"

"The door!" Josette gasped in a hoarse whisper, and then, "The light!
the light!"

The women had a tinder-box on a chair near their bed: they fumbled for
it whilst Josette's wide, terror-filled eyes remained fixed on the
door. It was half-open now, but by whose hand? impossible to say, for
there was no one to be seen. But it seemed to Josette's terrified
senses as if she heard a furtive footstep making its way across the
narrow landing and down the rickety stairs.

The older woman from her bed asked rather crossly:

"What is it frightened you, little Citizeness?"

Her daughter was still trying to get a light from the tinder-box,
which, as was very usual these days, refused to work.

Josette gave a gasp and murmured under her breath: "The door...
someone opened it... I heard..."

"Did you see anyone?"

"I don't know... but the door is open and I heard..."

"The latch didn't go home," the woman said more testily. "That's what
it was. I noticed last night it didn't look very safe. The draught
blew the door open..."

She settled herself back on her pillow. Her daughter gave up trying to
get a light and said as testily as her mother:

"Go and shut it, Citizeness; put a chair to hold it if you are
frightened and lets get to sleep again."

For a few moments after that Josette remained silent, sitting up in
bed, staring at the door. Some evil-doer, she was sure, had tried it
and perhaps, scared by her cry and by the women talking, had slunk
away again. Certainly there was no one behind the door now. For a time
it remained half-open just as it was and then it swayed gently in the
draught and creaked on its rusty hinges. The two women had already
turned over and were snoring peaceably once more. What could Josette
do but chide herself for her fears? But impossible, of course, to go
to sleep again with one's nerves on edge and that door swinging and
creaking all the time; so Josette crept out of bed and tiptoed across
the floor with the intention of closing the door. She moved about as
softly as she could so as not to wake the others again. With her hand
on the latch she ventured to peep out on the landing. The feeble
glimmer emitted by the lamp down below cast a dim yellowish light up
the well of the stairs. The house appeared very still, save for the
sounds of the stertorous breathings which came from one or other of
the rooms on the various floors where tired travellers were sleeping.
Outside a dog barked. Josette listened for a moment or two for that
furtive footstep which she had heard before, but everything appeared
perfectly peaceful and very still. She closed the door very gently and
then she groped for a chair to prop against it, when suddenly there
came a loud bang right behind her and a terrific current of air swept
across the room; the door was once more torn open, quite wide this
time, and continued to rattle and to creak. The chair fell out of
Josette's hand and she remained standing in her shift, shivering with
cold and fright, with her kirtle flapping about her bare legs and her
hair blowing into her eyes. The women woke and grumbled, asked with
obvious irritation why the Citizeness didn't go to bed and let others
sleep in peace.

Josette's heart was beating so fast that she could neither speak nor
move; the weather outside was fairly rough and the draught took her
breath away.

"Close the window!" the younger woman shouted to Josette. "The wind
has blown it open."

At last Josette was able to get her bearings; she turned to the window
and saw that in effect it was wide open and that wind and rain were
beating in. She had to climb over her bed in order to get to the
window and to secure it.

"I call it sheer robbery," the older woman muttered, half-asleep, "to
put honest women in such a ramshackle hole."

But neither she nor her daughter offered to lend a hand to Josette,
who, buffeted by the rough weather, had great difficulty in fastening
the window. When she had done that she had to climb over her bed again
in order to close the door; thus several minutes went by before peace
reigned once more in the attic room. Josette crept back to bed. Her
first thought was for the precious packet: she slid her hand under the
pillow to feel for it, but the packet was no longer there.

With an agonising sinking of the heart, in a state not so much of
panic as of despair, she turned and ran just as she was in shift and
kirtle without stockings or shoes out of the room and down the stairs,
crying: "Thief! thief! thief!" She reached the bottom of the stairs
without meeting anyone: she ran across the passage and the vestibule
to the front door, tried to open it, but it was locked and bolted. She
tore at the handle and at the bolts, still calling wildly: "Thief!
thief!" in a voice broken by sobs.

Gradually the whole house was aroused. Doors were heard to open, testy
voices wanted to know what all this noise was about. The night
watchman came out of the public room, blinking his eyes. Mine host
came along from his room down the passage, cursing and swearing at all
this disturbance.

"Name of a name! Who is the miscreant who dares to disturb the peace
of this highly respectable hostelry?"

Then he caught sight of Josette, who was still fumbling with the door
and crying, "Thief! thief!" in a tear-choked voice. Her bare arms and
her shoulders were wet, her clothes were wet, her wet hair fell all
over her face.

"Name of a dog, wench!" the landlord thundered, and seized the
disturber of the peace by the wrist, "what are you doing here? And
pray why aren't you in bed where every respectable person should be at
this hour?"

It was a blessing in disguise that Josette should be held so firmly by
the wrist else she would certainly have measured her length on the
floor. Her senses were reeling. Through the gloom she saw angry faces
glowering at her. Quite a small crowd had collected in the vestibule:
a crowd of angry men roused from their slumbers, clad in whatever
garments they happened to have slept in; the women for the most part
did not venture beyond the doorway of their rooms, and peeped out
thence with eyes heavy with sleep to see what was happening. At sight
of Josette most of them murmured:

"A trollop no doubt, caught in some turpitude."

The irate landlord gave Josette's arm a shake: "What were you doing
here?" he demanded, "little str-"

He was going to say an ugly word, but just at the moment Josette
raised her eyes to his, and Josette's eyes were bathed in tears and
they had such an expression of childlike innocence in them that the
worthy landlord could think of nothing but of the Madonna whose lovely
image had been banished from the village church where he had been
baptised and had made his first Communion, and which was now closed
because the good cur of the village had refused to conform to the
mockery of religion which an impious Government was striving to force
upon the people: and looking into Josette's eyes, the landlord's
thoughts flew back to the Madonna, before whose picture he had
worishipped as a child. How, then, could he speak an ugly word in this
innocent angel's ear?

"You have got to tell me, you know," he said somewhat sheepishly, "why
you are not in your room and asleep." He paused a moment while Josette
made a great effort to collect her scattered senses; ashamed of her
bare legs and shoulders she tried to get farther back into the gloom.

Someone in the crowd remarked: "Perhaps she is a sleep-walker and had
a nightmare."

But at this suggestion Josette shook her head.

"Did something frighten you, little Citizeness?" the landlord asked
quite kindly.

Josette now found her voice again.

"Yes!" she said slowly, swallowing hard, for the last thing she wanted
to do was to cry before all these people. "I woke very suddenly. I
could see the door. It was being pushed open slowly from outside. I
cried out. Then I heard footsteps shuffling down the stairs."

"Impossible!" the landlord said.

"I heard nothing," commented someone.

"Nor I," added another.

"I did hear a bang," remarked a third, "not many minutes ago."

"There was a bang," Josette went on slowly. "While I was closing the
door the window flew open behind me. I went to shut it. Then the door
flew open, and I went to shut it too. When I crept back to bed I
found--oh, mon Dieu! mon Dieu!"

"What is it? What happened?" they all asked.

"A packet of letters," she replied, "more precious to me than life

"Not stolen?"


"Where were they?"

"Underneath my pillow."

"And you say that when you went back to bed those letters..."

"Were not there."

"Impossible!" the landlord reiterated obstinately.

One of the men said, "The thief, whoever he was, must still be in the
house then, since the front door is bolted on the inside."

"What about the back door?" another suggested.

Several of them, under the lead of the night watchman, went to
investigate the back door. It was bolted and barred the same as the
front door.

"I knew it was," the night watchman said somewhat illogically. "I
pushed all the bolts in myself all over the house and saw to all the

He felt that Josette's story reflected adversely upon his zeal.

"The thief must still be in the house," Josette murmured mechanically.

"Impossible!" the landlord reiterated for the third time.

The glances cast on Josette became anything but kind, and though the
landlord and some of the men were under the influence of her innocent
blue eyes, the women from their respective doorways had a good deal to
say. One of them started the ball rolling by muttering:

"It's all a pack of lies."

After which the others went at it hammer and tongs. Women are like
that. Let some vixen give a lead and there is no stopping the flow of
evil tongues. Poor Josette felt this hostility growing around her. It
added poignancy to her distress over the letters. Indeed, the little
crowd had as usual behaved like sheep; after the first doubt had been
cast on Josette's story hardly anyone believed her. The theory of her
being a sleep-walker was incontinently rejected: she was just a little
strumpet roaming through the house at night in search of adventure. In
vain did she weep and protest; in vain did she beg that her room mates
be questioned as to the truth of her story: those two women refused to
leave their bed, where they lay with their heads smothered under the
blanket, wishing to God they had never set foot in this abominable
hostelry. Josette, overcome with misery and with shame, had shrunk
back into a dark angle of the vestibule, trying with all her might to
overcome her terror of all these angry faces, and, above all, to
swallow her tears. In her heart she prayed as she had never prayed
before that le bon Dieu, her patron saint and her guardian angel might
guide her with safety out of this awful pass. The landlord stood by,
undecided, scratching his head.

"It is a matter for the police, I say." It was a woman who made this
suggestion. It was quickly taken up by others, for, indeed, this
seemed the easiest solution to the present difficulty; after which
everybody would be able to go back to bed and go through the rest of
the night in peace.

"I agree," one of the men said. "Let the wench be taken to the nearest
Commissariat of Police."

And then a funny thing happened.

The suggestion that the disturber of the peace should be taken to the
Commissariat of Police was received with approval, especially by the
women. Some of the men were rather doubtful, and there ensued quite a
considerable hubbub and a good deal of argument: the women holding to
their opinion with loud, shrill voices, the men muttering and cursing.

The landlord stood by scratching his head, not knowing what to do: the
casting vote as to Josette's fate would of course rest with him.

And suddenly a quiet vote broke in on the hubbub, saying

"Certainly not. Never shall it be said that a respectable citizeness
of the Republic had been put to the indignity of being dragged before
the police in the middle of the night."

It was the voice of one accustomed to command and to being obeyed--
very quiet and low but peremptory. A small, thin man with pale face
and hard penetrating eyes pressed his way through the small crowd.
Unlike the rest of them he had slipped on his coat over his shirt, he
had stockings on and shoes, and his hair was brushed back tidily.
Under his coat and round his waist he wore a tricolour sash. The
landlord gave a big sigh of relief: he was truly thankful that
decision in this difficult case was taken out of his hands. The girl's
story certainly sounded very lame... but, then, she had such lovely
blue eyes... and her little mouth--well, well! Anyway, he would not
have the unpleasant task of taking her to the police on an ugly
charge. The others were all deeply impressed by the little man's
authority and by his tricolour sash--badge of service under the
Government. As for Josette, she just clasped her tiny hands together
and gazed on that insignificant, pale-faced little man as would a
devotee upon her favourite saint; her eyes were bathed in tears, her
lips already murmured words of gratitude, but actually she was not yet
able to speak.

"Where is your wife, landlord?" the little man went on to say in the
same peremptory tone.

"At your service, Citizen," the woman replied for herself. She had
slipped her bare feet into her shoes and she had on her kirtle and a
shawl round her shoulders. Unlike the female guests of the hostelry,
she felt that this matter concerned her, and she had dressed herself
ready in case of an emergency.

"You will give Citizeness Gravier a bed in your daughter's room, where
she will, I hope, spend the rest of the night in peace." So spake the
little man with the tricolour sash, and it was marvellous with what
alacrity his orders were obeyed. That tricolour sash did indeed work
wonders! And now he added curtly: "Remember that the Citizeness is
under the special protection of the Central Committee of Public

Josette could only stare at him with wide-open eyes that looked of a
deep luminous blue in this half-light. The little man caught her
glance and came over to her. He took her limp, moist hand in his and
patted it gently:

"Try and get a little rest now, little woman," he said kindly. "You
shall have your letters back, I promise you, even if," he added with a
curious smile, "even if we have to set the whole machinery of the law
going in order to recover them for you."

He said this so lightly and with so much confidence that Josette felt
comforted and almost reassured; indeed, her unsophisticated heart was
so full of gratitude that instinctively like a child she raised the
thin, clawlike hand which patted her own to her lips. She was on the
point of imprinting a kiss upon it when from somewhere in the house
there resounded a tremendous crash as of falling furniture. It was
immediately followed by loud and prolonged laughter. All the heads
were turned towards the stairs as the noise seemed to have come from
somewhere above.

"What in the world...?" and other expressions of amazement came to
everyone's lips.

"I believe it's that drunken sailor," someone remarked.

"Let me get at him," the landlord said grimly, and pushed his way
through the small crowd in the direction of the stairs.

"It can't be him," the night watchman asserted. "I let him out myself
by the back door two hours ago and bolted the door after him."

But the little man with the tricolour scarf had snatched his hand out
of Josette's grasp. For a moment it seemed as if he was about to join
the landlord in his quest after the sailor, but apparently he thought
better of it; probably he felt that it would be beneath the dignity of
a Government official to chase a mudlark up and down the stairs of a
tavern; besides which he well knew in his heart of hearts that no
sailor or mudlark would be found inside the house. The laughter had
come from outside--there must be an open window somewhere--and its
ringing tone was only too familiar to this same Government official
with the pale sad face and the badge of office round his waist: it
came from a personage that had always proved elusive, whenever the
utmost resources of his enemy's intelligence were set to work to run
him to earth.

The only thing to do now in this present crisis--for crisis it
certainly would prove to be--was to think things over very carefully,
to lay plans so secretly and so carefully that no power on earth could
counter them. The girl, Josette Gravier, was a magnificent pawn in the
game that was to follow the events of this night, just the sort of
pawn that would appeal to the so-called chivalry of those damnable
English spies: a decoy--what?

So the little man, whose pale face reflected something of the inward
rage that tortured him at this moment, turned fiercely on the small
crowd of quidnuncs who still stood about quizzing and whispering, and
with a peremptory wave of the arm ordered everyone off to bed. They
immediately scattered like sheep. The landlord's wife took hold of
Josette's hand.

"Come along, little girl," she said; "there is a nice couch in
Annette's room: you'll sleep well on that."

"And remember, both of you," the little man said in the end when
Josette meekly allowed herself to be led away, "that you are
responsible with your lives--your lives," he iterated emphatically,
"for the safety of Citizeness Gravier."

The man and woman both shuddered: their ruddy faces became sallow with
terror. They understood the threat well enough, even though the
amazing turn which the events of this night had taken was past their

Silent and obedient the little crowd had dispersed. They all slunk
back to bed, there to exchange surmises, conjectures, gossip with
their respective room mates. Josette lay down on the couch in
Annette's room. She could not sleep, for her brain was working all the
time and her heart still beating with the many emotions to which she
had succumbed this night. There were moments when, lying here in the
darkness, she doubted and feared. That was because of the tricolour
sash and the authority which her friend seemed to wield. Before his
appearance in this new guise of authority she had almost persuaded
herself that he was intimately connected with the hero of her dreams,
but there was no reconciling the badge of officialdom of the Terrorist
Government with the personality of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Nevertheless, it was this same little man who had saved her from the
ill-will of all those horrid people who said such awful things about
her and threatened her with the police. It was he who had given her a
solemn promise that the precious letters would be restored to her; so
what was an ignorant, unsophisticated girl like Josette Gravier to
make of all these mysteries? What she did do was to turn her thoughts
to Maurice. Surely le bon Dieu would not be so cruel as to snatch from
her the means by which she could demand his life and liberty. Surely
not at this hour when she was so near her goal.

And in a private room on the floor above, Citizen Chauvelin was pacing
up and down the floor, with hands clasped tightly behind his back, his
pale face set, his thin lips murmuring over and over again:

"Now then,  nous deux once more, my gallant Scarlet Pimpernel."

After a time there came a knock at the door. In response to a
peremptory "Entrez!" a rough-looking fellow in jersey and breeches
undone at the knee came into the room. He had a sealed packet in his
large, grimy hands, and this he handed to Chauvelin.

Neither of the men spoke for some time. The man had remained standing
in the middle of the room waiting for the other to speak, while
Chauvelin sat at the table, his thin delicate hands toying with the
packet, his pale eyes hiding their expression of triumph behind their
blue-veined lids.

The silence threatened to become oppressive. The newcomer was the
first to break it. He pointed a grimy finger at the sealed packet in
Chauvelin's hand.

"That is what you wanted," he asked, "was it not, Citizen?"

"Yes," the other replied curtly.

"It was difficult to get. If I had known..."

"Well!" Chauvelin broke in impatiently; "the wind and rain helped you,
didn't they?"

"But if I had been caught..."

"You weren't. So why talk about it?"

"And I injured my knee climbing down again from that cursed window,"
Picard muttered with a surely glance at his employer.

"Your knee will mend," Chauvelin rejoined curtly; "and you have earned
good money."

He gave a quiet chuckle at recollection of the night's events. He and
Picard. The open door. The open window. The draught. Josette in her
shift and kirtle struggling with the door while Picard stole in at the
window, and he, Chauvelin, tip--toed noiselessly back down the stairs.
Yes! the whole thing had worked wonderfully well, better even than he
had hoped. It had been a perfect example of concerted action.

Picard was waiting for his money. Chauvelin gave him the promised two
hundred livres--a large sum in these days. The man tried to grumble,
but it was no use, and after a few moments he slouched, still
grumbling, out of the room.

For close on half an hour after that did Chauvelin remain sitting at
the table, toying with the stolen packet. There was a lighted candle
on the table, its feeble light flickered in the draught. Chauvelin's
pale, expressive eyes were fixed upon the seals. He did not break
them, for it was part of the tortuous scheme which he had evolved that
these seals should remain intact. He looked at them closely, wondering
whose hand had fixed them there: Bastien de Croissy's probably, who
had been murdered for his pains, or else the wife's before she
entrusted the packet to Josette. The seals told him nothing, and he
did not mean to break them: he laid the precious packet down on the
table. Then he opened the table drawer. Out of it he took a small lump
of soft wax. With the utmost care he took an impression of one of the
seals: he examined his work when it was done and was satisfied that it
was well done. He then returned the wax impression into the table
drawer and locked it.

The stolen packet he slipped into the breast pocket of his coat, and
he laid the coat under the mattress in the adjoining room. After which
he went to bed.

Chapter XXV

The imaginative brain that invented the torment meted out to Damocles
could not in very truth have invented torture more unendurable. Poor
old Damocles! All he wanted was to taste for a time the splendour and
joys of kingship, and Dionysius, the tyrant King of Sicily, thought to
gratify his whim and his own sense of humour by giving the ambitious
courtier charge of the kingdom for a while.

So good old Damocles ascended the throne which he had coveted and
licked his chops in anticipation of all the luxury that was going to
be his, until suddenly he perceived that a sword was hanging over his
head by nothing but a hair from a horse's tail. Now we must take it,
though legend doesn't say so, that this sword followed the poor man
about wherever he went, else all he need have done was to wonder
through his kingdom and avoid sitting immediately under that blessed
sword. As to how the business of the horse's hair was accomplished,
say in an open field, is perhaps a little difficult to imagine.

Be that as it may, three worthy Representatives of the People in the
autumn of 1793 did in very truth go about their avocations with,
figuratively speaking, a sword of doom hanging over their heads.

Three weeks had gone by since Chabot's memorable interview with
Josette Gravier, and there was no news of her, no news of Armand
Chauvelin, no news, alas! of those compromising letters which were
enough to send the whole batch of them to the guillotine.

The Club of the Cordeliers had of late lost a great deal of its
prestige, and consequently was not frequented by the most influential
members of the Government: it was, therefore, an admirable meeting-
place for those who desired to talk things over in the peace and quiet
of the club's deserted rooms. Many a time in the past weeks did those
three reprobates, quaking in their shoes, hold conclave among
themselves, trying to infuse assurance and even hope into one another.
Sometimes the great Danton would join them, knowing well that if his
three satellites fell, he, too, would be involved in the general
dbcle that would ensue. Late into the night they would sit and talk,
wondering what had become of the little she-devil who had dared to
threaten them, hoping against hope that one of the many accidents
attendant on a voyage across France had put an end to her.

Then one day there came a letter from Citizen Chauvelin. It was sent
to Franois Chabot, the unfrocked monk turned traitor, renegade and
Terrorist, as being the most deeply involved in the affair of the
compromising letters. With trembling fingers Chabot broke the seals of
this welcome message, for he had already recognised the thin Italian
calligraphy of the writer: he was alone in his luxuriously furnished
study. At first he could hardly see what he was doing: the words of
the letter danced before his eyes, the blood rushed up to his temples,
and the paper rustled in his trembling hands. Then slowly he was able
to decipher the writing. The first sentence that he read caused him to
utter a gurgle of joy: "I have the girl here..."

That was good news indeed. Chabot closed his eyes so as to savour all
the more thoroughly the intense joy produced to him by this message.
With the girl in his power Chauvelin could have no possible difficulty
in getting hold of the letters as well. Now Chabot came to think of
it, it was strange that his colleague chose this enigmatic way of
commencing his letter. The girl! Yes! the girl was well enough! But
what about the letters? He suddenly felt uncomfortable... vaguely
frightened of he knew not what. He blinked his eyes once or twice
because they had become blurred, and beads of perspiration stood out
at the roots of his hair and trickled down his nose. Then at last he
settled down to read, and this is what Citizen Armand Chauvelin had
written to him from Rouen:

  "Citizen and Dear Colleague.
  "I have the girl here under my eye, and by this you will gather that
my mission has been successfully accomplished. I am now in Rouen at
the hostelry of the Cheval Blanc, under the same roof as the little
blackmailer. So for I have done nothing about the letters. I can get
hold of them any moment, but there are other very grave matters that
command my attention. Owing to the inclement weather the diligence
cannot ply for some days, and this enforced delay suits my purpose
admirably, for I do not wish to leave Rouen just now. The wench cannot
in any case escape me and, if you will believe me, I have such high
quarry close to my hand that I cannot leave this city until I have
secured it. This is not a personal matter but one that affects the
very safety of the Republic: how, then, could I risk that by deserting
my post? You must try and read between the lines, and then explain the
matter to all those who are involved in the affair of the Croissy
letters. As I have already told you, I can, of course, get hold of the
letters at any time, and I suggest that you give me leave in that case
to destroy them before any further mischief is wrought. If you agree
to this wise course, send me a courier immediately to the hostelry of
the Cheval Blanc here in Rouen. But I beg of you not to delay. There
are inimical powers at work here of which you can have no conception,
and if, as I believe, the safety of the Republic is as dear to you as
it is to me, you will be ready to fall in with my views."

Franois Chabot read and re-read this letter, which did certainly in
some of its phrases appear ambiguous. What, for instance, did
Chauvelin mean by the closing sentence? To Chabot it seemed to contain
a veiled threat, and there were other points, too....

That evening the four men sat in a corner of the club-room in a very
different mood to that of the past few weeks. There they were--
Franois Chabot (Loire et Cher), Fabre d'Eglantine (Paris) and Claud
Bazire (Cte d'Or), as unprincipled a lot of rascals as ever defamed
the country of their birth. The great Danton had joined them at their
earnest request--not so much a scoundrel he, as an infuriated wild
animal, smarting under many wrongs, lashing out savagely against
guilty and innocent alike, and with old ideals long since laid in the

"I would not trust that old fox farther than I could see him," Danton
had said as soon as the matter of Chauvelin's letter had been put
before him.

"But he can get hold of the letters at any time--there's no doubt
about that," one of the others remarked.

"He has probably got them inside his coat pocket by now," the great
man retorted, "ready to sell them or use them for his own ends."

"Then what had one better do?"

"Let us send a courier over to Rouen," Fabre d'Eglantine suggested,
"with orders to Citizen Chauvelin to come to Paris immediately."

"Suppose he refuses?" Danton said with a shrug.

"He wouldn't dare...."

"And would you dare threaten him if he really has the letters and
holds them over you?"

They were silent after that because they knew quite well--in fact had
just realised it for the first time--that it was Armand Chauvelin now
instead of Bastien de Croissy or Josette Gravier who held the sword of
Damocles over their heads.

After a time Chabot murmured, looking to the great Danton for guidance
now that the emergency appeared more fateful than before: "What shall
we do, then?"

"If you take my advice," Danton said, and strove to appear as if the
whole matter did not greatly concern him, "if you take my advice, one
of you will go straight to Rouen, see Citizen Chauvelin and get the
packet of letters straight from the girl. After that the sooner the
wretched things are destroyed the better."

That seemed sound advice, and after discussion it was decided to act
upon it, Franois Chabot declaring his willingness, in spite of the
weather, to journey to Rouen by special coach on the morrow.

Chapter XXVI

From Meulon, where he spent the night, Chabot sent a courier with a
letter over to Rouen to prepare Chauvelin for his arrival.

"Devoured with impatience," (he wrote) "I am coming in person to
receive the precious letters from your hands and discuss with you the
terms of your reward, which my friends and I are determined shall be
as great as your service to our party."

An ironic smile twisted Chauvelin's thin lips when he read this short
epistle. The events had not turned out any differently to what he had
expected. Those cowardly fools over there were, in fact, playing into
his hands.

He had been interrupted by the courier in an important work which had
demanded a great deal of time and skill. Five days had gone by since
poor little Josette had been robbed of her precious letters, and to-
day Chauvelin was sitting at the table in the private room which he
still occupied in the hostelry of the Cheval Blanc. Though it was
daylight there was a lighted candle on the table, and when the courier
arrived, Chauvelin's deft fingers had been busy making up a small
parcel which looked like a packet of letters and which he had been
engaged in sealing down with red wax and a brand-new seal.

When the courier was announced he blew out the candle and threw the
packet into the table-drawer.

Now that he was alone again he took the packet out of the drawer, and
then drew another out of the breast-pocket of his coat. The two
packets now lay side by side on the table. Chauvelin applied himself
sedulously to a final examination of them. To all intents and purposes
they were exactly alike. None but a specially trained eye could detect
the slightest difference in them. In shape, in size, in the soiled and
crumpled appearance of the outside covering, in the disposition of the
five seals they were absolutely interchangeable. It was only to
Chauvelin's lynx-like eyes that the difference in the seals was
apparent. A very minute difference indeed in the sharpness and
clearness of the impress.

He gave a deep sigh of satisfaction. All was well. The work of die-
sinking had been admirably done from the wax impression of the
original, by a skilled workman of Rouen. Chauvelin could indeed be
satisfied: his deep-laid scheme was working admirably: he could await
the arrival of Chabot with absolute calm and the certainty that his
own delicate hands held all the threads of as neat an intrigue as he
had ever devised for the ultimate undoing of his own most bitter

He slipped the two packets inside his coat pockets; the original one
stolen from under the pillow of Josette Gravier he thrust against his
breast, the other he put into a side pocket. After which he settled
his sharp features into an expression of kindliness and went in search
of Josette.

He knew just where to find her, sitting on the bench under the
chestnut trees--that beautiful avenue which had once formed part of
the old convent garden of the Ursulines, driven away by the relentless
edicts of the revolutionary government. The mediaeval building, still
splendid in its desolation, showed already signs of decay. The garden
was untended, the paths overgrown with weeds, the grass rank and
covered with a carpet of fallen leaves, the statuary broken, but
nothing could mar the beauty of the age-old trees, of the chestnuts
already half-denuded of leaves. And the vista over the river was
beautiful, with the two islands and the sleepy backwater, and the
sight of the ships gliding with such stately majesty down-stream
towards the sea. The place was not lonely, for the riverside was a
favourite walk of the townsfolk, and on the quay boatmen plied their
trade of letting pleasure boats out on hire. The convent itself had
been turned into a communal school for the children of Rouennais
soldiers who were fighting for their country, and, after school hours
or during recreation time, crowds of children trooped out of the
building and ran playing up and down the avenue. Indeed, Josette did
not come here for solitude: she liked to watch the children and the
passers-by and, anyway, it was nicer than sitting in that stuffy
public room of the hostelry where prying eyes scanned her none too

Her pale-faced little friend had insisted that she should continued to
share a room with the landlord's daughter: this room had no egress
save through the larger one occupied by the landlord himself and his
wife, and Josette was quite aware that her friend had made these
people responsible for her safety as well as for her comfort. This, of
course, had greatly reassured her, and his promise that he would get
the letters back for her had cheered her up--especially for the first
twenty-four hours. She had such implicit faith not only in his
friendship, but also, since that fateful night, in his power; but for
that tricolour sash she would have felt happier still, but somehow she
didn't like to think of that kind, sad, gentle creature as a member of
a government of assassins.

This was the fifth day that Josette had spent in Rouen, waiting and
hoping almost against hope. Once or twice she had caught sight of her
friend either in the garden or while he wandered along the riverside,
with head bent, hands clasped behind his back, evidently wrapped in
thought. When he passed by in front of Josette he always looked up and
gave her an encouraging smile. And then, again, she saw him in the
public room at meal-times, and always he gave her a smile and a nod.

Then yesterday, here in the old garden, he came and sat down beside
her under the chestnut tree, and he was so gentle and so kind that she
was tempted to confide in him. She told him about the contents of the
stolen packet--about the letters, the possession of which had cost
brave Bastien de Croissy his life, and about her own journey to
England in order to get the letters from Louise. And as he listened
with so much attention and sympathy she went so far as to tell him
about Maurice, and how it had been the object of her journey--nay! the
object of her life--to use the letters as Bastien had intended to use
them: as a leverage to obtain what she desired more than anything in
the world--the life and liberty of Maurice Reversac.

"I am not afraid of what I mean to do," she concluded. "I have already
bearded Citizen Chabot once, and I know that I can get from him
everything I want..." She paused and added with a sigh of longing, "if
only I have those letters...!"

Her friend had been more than kind after that, and so confident and
reassuring that she slept that night more soundly and peacefully than
she had done since she arrived in Rouen.

"Have no doubt whatever, little one," he had said in the end. "You
shall have your precious letters back very soon."

And then, to-day, even while she sat at her accustomed place under the
chestnut tree, and with dreamy glance watched the people coming and
going up and down the riverside all intent on affairs of their own,
heedless of this poor little waif with the gnawing anxiety in her
heart, she suddenly caught sight of the little man coming towards her
with a light, springy step. Somehow, directly she saw his face, she
knew that he was the bearer of good news. And so it turned out to be.
Even before he came close to her he thrust his hand into the side
pocket of his coat and she guessed that he had the letters. She could
not repress a cry of joy which caused the passers-by to cast
astonished glances at the pretty wench, but she paid no heed to them.
She was so excited that she jumped up and ran to her friend. He had
indeed drawn the sealed packet from the pocket of his coat, and now he
actually put it into her hands. It was so wonderful--almost
unbelievable. Josette pressed the packet against her cheek and her
young palpitating bosom--the precious, precious packet! She was so
happy, so marvellously, so completely happy! She didn't care who
watched her; just like a child she spread out her arms and would have
hugged that kind peerless friend to her breast only that he put up a
warning hand, for, in truth, she was attracting too much attention
from the quidnuncs on the quay. At once she asked his pardon for her

"I am so happy," she murmured 'twixt laughter and tears, "so happy! I
was forgetting..."

"I told you I would get the letters for you, didn't I?" he said, and
with kindly indulgence patted her trembling little hands.

"And I shall pray God every day of my life," she responded, sinking
her voice to a whisper, "to give you due reward."

"So long as you are happy, my child..."

"I could fall at your feet now," she murmured earnestly, "and thank
you on my knees."

None but a hardened, stony heart as that which beat in the Terrorist's
breast could have resisted the charm, the exquisite sentiment of this
beautiful woman's gratitude. To his enduring shame, be it said that
Chauvelin felt neither remorse nor pity as he looked on the lovely
young face with the glowing eyes and tender mouth quivering with
emotion. His tortuous schemes would presently land her on the hideous
platform of the guillotine; that beautiful head with the soft chestnut
curls would presently fall into the ghoulish basket which already had
received so many lovely heads. What cared he? All these people--men,
women, young and old--were so many pawns in the game which he had
devised; and he, Chauvelin, was still engaged in moving the pieces: he
still had his hold on the pawns. Away with them if they proved to be
in the way or merely useless. It was more often than not a scramble as
to which party would push the other up the steps of the guillotine.

Chauvelin sat himself down quite coolly on the bench and, with a sneer
round his lips which he took care the girl should not see, he watched
her as she tucked the precious packet away underneath her fichu.

"I have further good news for you, Citizeness," he said as soon as she
had sat down beside him.

"More good news!" she exclaimed; then pulled herself together and
turned big inquiring eyes on her friend: "I won't hear it," she said
resolutely, "until I know your name."

He gave a light shrug and a laugh: "Suppose you call me Armand," he
replied, "Citizen Armand."

"Is that your name?"

"Why, yes?"

Josette murmured the name once or twice to herself.

"It will be easier like this for me," she said with nave seriousness,
"when I pray to le bon Dieu for you. And now," she went on gaily,
"Citizen Armand, I am ready for your news."

"It is just this: you won't need to go to Paris."

"What do you mean?"

"Just what I say. A courier has just come from Meulon with news that
Franois Chabot, representative of the people, will be in Rouen this


"So you see..."

"Yes... I see," she murmured, awed at the prospect of this unexpected

"It all becomes so much safer," he hastened to reassure her. "I
succeeded in getting that packet back for you this time, but I could
not journey all the way to Paris with you, and you might have been
robbed again."

"Oh, I see--I do see!" Josette sighed. "Isn't it wonderful?"

She felt rather bewildered. It was all so unexpected and not a little
startling. Instinctively her hand sought the packet in the bosom of
her gown. She drew it out. The outside wrapper was very soiled and
crumpled--it had been through so many hands--but the seals were

"I wouldn't break the seals if I were you, little girl," Chauvelin
said. "It will be better for you, I think, also for your friend--
what's his name?--Reversac, isn't that it?--if the Citizen
Representative is allowed to think that you have not actually read
those compromising letters. It will make him less ill-disposed towards
you personally. Do you see what I mean?"

"I think I do, but even if I didn't," Josette added navely, "I should
do as you tell me."

No compunction, no pity for this guileless child who trusted him!
Chauvelin patted her on the shoulder:

"That's brave!" was all he said. He appeared ready to go, but Josette
put a timid hand on his arm.

"Citizen Armand..."

"Yes? What is it now?"

"Shall I see you before..."

"Before the arrival of Franois Chabot?"


"I will certainly let you know, and see you if I can.... By the way,"
he added as if in after-thought, "would it not be wiser for you to
leave the packet with me until this evening?... No?" he went on with a
smile as Josette quickly crossed her little hands over her bosom as if
some powerful instinct had suddenly prompted her not to part again
from her precious possession. "No...? Well, just as you like, my
child; but take care of them: those spies and thieves are still about,
you know."


"Of course. Surely you guessed that your letters were not stolen by
ordinary thieves?'

"No, I did not. I just thought..."


"That being a sealed packet a thief would think that it contained

"Enough to warrant such an elaborate plot," Chauvelin remarked drily,
"and you so obviously not a wealthy traveller?"

"I hadn't thought of that. But, then, of course, Citizen Armand, you
must know who stole the packet since..."

"Since I got it back for you? I do know, of course."

"Who was it?" Josette asked and gazed on Chauvelin with wide-open
frightened eyes.

"If I were to tell you, you wouldn't understand."

"I think I would," she murmured. "Try me!"

"Well," he replied, sinking his voice to a whisper, "did you happen to
notice on the first evening you arrived here a big man dressed as a
sailor, who made himself conspicuous in the public room of the Cheval

"Yes, I did--a horrid man, I thought. But surely he...?"

"That man, who I admit wore a clever disguise, is the head of an
English organisation whose aim is the destruction of France."

"You don't mean...?" she gasped.

Chauvelin nodded. "I see," he said, "that you have heard of those
people. They call themselves the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel and,
under the pretence of chivalry and benevolence, are nothing but a
pestilential pack of English spies who take money from both sides--
their own Governments or ours whichever suits their pocket."

"I'll not believe it!" Josette protested hotly.

"Did you not notice that night as soon as I entered the room that the
fat sailor beat a hasty retreat?"

"I noticed," she admitted, "that he did leave the public room soon
after you sat down to supper."

"I sent the police after him then, but he had a marvellous faculty for
disappearing when he is afraid for his own skin."

"I'll not believe it!" Josette protested again, thinking of Louise's
letter and of the hero of her dreams. "Had it not been for the Scarlet

"Your friend Louise de Croissy," Chauvelin broke in with a sneer,
"would have never reached England--I know that. Did I not tell you
just now that pretence of chivalry is one of that man's stock-in-
trade? No doubt he wanted to get Citizeness Croissy away, thinking
that she would leave the letters with you: when he realised that you
hadn't them and that you were journeying to England obviously in order
to get them, he followed you. I know he did, and I did my best to
circumvent him. I befriended you as far as I could, for he dared not
approach you while I was on the watch."

"Oh, I know," Josette sighed, "you have been more than kind."

She felt as if she were floundering in a morass of doubt and misery,
tortured by suspicion, wounded in her most cherished ideals. Ignorant,
unsophisticated as she was, how could she escape out of this sea of
trouble? How could she know whom to trust or in whom to believe? This
friend had been so kind, so kind! The precious letters had been stolen
from her and he had got them back. Without him where would she be at
this hour? Without him she would have nothing wherewith to obtain life
and liberty for Maurice. Tears welled up to her eyes; never, perhaps,
had she felt quite so unhappy, because never before had she been
brought up in such close contact with all that was most hideous in
life--treachery and deceit. She turned her head away because she was
half-ashamed of her tears. After all, what was the destruction of an
illusion in these days when one saw all one's beliefs shattered, all
one's ideals crumbled to dust? Josette had almost deified the Scarlet
Pimpernel in her mind, and Louise's letter had confirmed her belief in
his wonderful personality with the fascinating mystery that surrounded
it and the almost legendary acts of bravery and chivalry which
characterised it. If any other man had spoken about her hero in the
way this pale-faced little friend of hers had done she would have
dubbed him a liar and done battle for her ideal; but she owed so much
to Citizen Armand, he had been such a wonderful friend, such a help in
all her difficulties, and now, but for him, she would have been in the
depths of despair.

He was wrong--Josette was certain that he was wrong--in his estimate
of the Scarlet Pimpernel, but never for a moment did she doubt his
sincerity. She owed him too much to think of doubting him. Whatever he
said--and his words had been like cruel darts thrust into her heart--
he had said because he was convinced of the truth, and he had spoken
only because of his friendship for her. Even now he seemed to divine
her thoughts and the reason of her tears.

"It is always sad," he said gently, "to see an illusion shattered; but
think of it like this, my child: you have lost a--shall I say friend,
though I do not like to misuse the word?--who in very truth had no
existence save in your imagination; against that you have found one
who, if I may venture to say so, has already proved his worth by
restoring to you the magic key which will open the prison doors for
the man you love. Am I not right in supposing that Maurice Reversac is
that lucky man?"

Josette nodded and smiled up at the hypocrite through her tears.

"I hadn't meant to tell you so much," he said, rising ready to go,
"only that I felt compelled to warn you. The man who stole your
letters once will try to do so again, and I might not be able to
recover them a second time."

It was getting late afternoon now, the shadows were deep under the
trees, but on the river twilight lingered still. The girl sat with her
head bent, her fingers interlocked and hot tears fell upon her hands.
The kind friend who had done so much for her was still standing there
about to go, and she could not find it in her heart to look up into
his face and to speak the words of gratitude which his marvellous
solicitude for her should have brought so readily to her lips. Her
thoughts were far away with Louise in her pretty room in England,
telling her story of the astounding prowess of the Scarlet Pimpernel,
his resourcefulness, his devotion, the glamour that surrounded his
mysterious personality in his own country; how could all that be true
if this kind and devoted friend over here did not deceive himself and
her? And if he did not, then were all the tales she had heard tell of
the mystic hero nothing but legends or lies?

A confused hum of sounds was in her ears; the boatmen gossiping on the
quay, the shuffling footsteps of passers-by the shrieks and laughter
of children up and down the avenue and, suddenly through it all, a
stentorian voice chanting the first strains of the Marseillaise
completely out of tune. Josette felt rather than saw Citizen Armand
give a distinct start: she looked up just in time to see him cross
over rapidly to the quay. The ear-splitting song had come from that
direction. The boatmen were all laughing and pointing to a boat just
putting off the shore, in which a fat sailor in tattered coat and
shiny black hat thrust at the back of his head was plying the oars. He
it was who was singing so intolerably out of tune; his voice resounded
right across the intervening space: even when he reached midstream and
headed toward the islands, some of the stentorian notes echoed down
the avenue. Josette couldn't help smiling. Was that the man who had
stolen the letters from under her pillow--the dangerous spy whom it
took all her friend's ingenuity to track? Could, in fact, that ugly
uncouth creature, with the lank hair, the tattered clothes and the
toothless mouth, be the mysterious and redoubtable Scarlet Pimpernel?

Josette could not help laughing to herself at the very thought.
Citizen Armand must indeed be moonstruck to think of connecting that
buffoon with the most gallant figure of all times. She glanced
anxiously about her to find her friend Armand, for she wanted to speak
with him again, to convince him how wrong he was, how utterly mistaken
he had been. All at once her big sea of troubles ebbed away. She felt
happy and light-hearted once more. Her illusions were not shattered:
she could still worship her ideal and yet retain her affection for the
sad-faced and kindly man who had befriended her. She was happy--oh, so
happy!--and her lips were ready now to speak the words of gratitude.

But look where she might, there was no longer any sign of Citizen

Chapter XXVII

It was now eight o'clock in the evening. An hour ago a post-chaise had
driven into the courtyard of the Cheval Blanc and from it descended
Citizen Franois Chabot, Representative of the People for the
department of Loire et Cher. He had been received by the landlord of
the tavern with all the honours due to his exalted station and to his
influence, and had supped in the public room in the company of that
pale-faced little man who had already created so much attention in the
hostelry and who went by the name of Citizen Armand.

Josette sitting at another table in a dark angle of the room watched
the two men with mixed feelings in her heart. She couldn't eat any
supper, for inwardly she was terribly excited. The hour had come when
all her efforts on behalf of Maurice would come to fruit. Her friend
had sent her word that he would summon her when the Citizen
Representative was ready to receive her, so she waited as patiently as
she could. Watching Chabot she recalled every moment of her first
interview with him; she had been perfectly calm and self-possessed
then, and she would be calm now when she found herself once more face
to face with him. Though ignorant and unsophisticated, Josette was no
fool. She knew well what risk she ran by consenting to meet Chabot
here in Rouen with the letters actually upon her person. Events had
turned out differently from what she had planned. She had meant to
meet Chabot in Paris on neutral ground, conducts for herself and
Maurice safely put away. Here it was different.

Danger? There always was danger in coming in conflict with these men
who ruled France by terror and the ever-present threat of the
guillotine, but there was also that other danger, the risk of the
precious letters being stolen again during the final stage of the
journey, and no chance of getting them back a second time. Even so,
Josette would perhaps have refused to meet Chabot till she could do so
in Paris had it not been for Citizen Armand; but it never entered her
mind that this faithful and powerful friend would not be there to
protect her and to see fair play.

As on that other occasion in the luxurious room of the Rue d'Anjou she
was not the least afraid: it was only the waiting that was so trying
to her nerves. While she made pretence to eat her supper she tried to
catch her friend's eye, but he was deeply absorbed in conversation
with Chabot. Once or twice the latter glanced in her direction, then
turned back to Armand with a sneer and a shrug.

After supper the two men went out of the room together, and Josette
waited quietly for the summons from her friend. At last it came.
Looking up, she saw him standing in the doorway: he beckoned to her
and she followed him out of the room. She was absolutely calm now, as
calm as she had been during the first interview when the precious
letters were not yet in her possession. Now she felt the paper
crackling against her bosom--the golden key her friend had called the
packet, which would open the prison gates for Maurice.

Armand conducted her to a small room at the back of the house, one
which had been put at the disposal of the Citizen Representative by
the landlord, who probably used it in a general way as a place where
he could receive his friends with the privacy which the public room
could not offer. It was sparsely furnished with a deal table covered
by a faded cloth, on which past libations had left a number of sticky
stains: on the table a bottle of ink, a mangy quill pen, a jar of sand
and a couple of pewter sconces in which flickered and guttered the
tallow candles. There were a few chairs ranged about the place and a
wooden bench, all somewhat rickety, covered in grime and innocent of
polish. From a small iron stove in an angle of the room a wood fire
shed a welcome glow. The only nice bit of furniture in the place was
an old Normandy grandfather clock, standing against the wall and
ticking away with solemn majesty. There was only one window, and that
was shuttered and bolted. The walls had once been whitewashed: they
were bare of ornament save for a cap of liberty roughly drawn in red
just above the clock and below it the device of the Terrorist
Government: "Libert, galit, Fraternit." Recently a zealous hand
had chalked up below this the additional words: "Ou la mort."

When Chauvelin ushered Josette into this room Chabot was sitting at
the table. The girl came forward and without waiting to be asked she
sat down opposite of Chabot and waited for him to speak. She looked
him fearlessly in the face, and he returned her glance with an
unmistakable sneer. Chauvelin, who had followed Josette into the room,
now put the question:

"Shall I go, or would you like me to stay?"

Josette, looking up at him, did not know to whom he had addressed the
question, but in case it was to her she hastened to say: "Do please
stay, Citizen Armand."

Chauvelin then sat down on the bench against the wall behind Josette,
but facing his colleague. For a minute or two no one spoke, and the
only sound that broke the fateful silence was the solemn ticking of
the old clock. Then Chabot said abruptly:

"Well, little baggage, so you've been in England, I understand."

"Yes, Citizen, I have," Josette replied coolly.

Chabot, his ugly head on one side, was eyeing her quizzically, his
thick lips were curled in a sneer. He picked up the pen from the table
and toyed with it: stroked his unshaven chin with the quill.

"Let me see," he went on slowly, "what exactly was the object of your

"To get certain letters, Citizen," she rejoined, unmoved by his
attitude of contempt, "which you were anxious to possess."

"H'm!" was Chabot's curt comment. Then he added drily, "Ah! I was
anxious to possess those letters, was I?"

"You certainly were, Citizen."

"And it was in order to relieve my anxiety that you travelled all the
way to England, what?"

"We'll put it that way if you like, Citizen Representative."

The girl's coolness seemed to exasperate Chabot as it had done in
their first interview. Even now at this hour when she was entirely in
his power, when his scheme of vengeance against this impudent baggage
had matured to such perfection, he could not control that feeling of
irritation against his victim, and he envied his colleague over there
who sat looking perfectly placid and entirely at his ease. Suddenly he

"Where are those letters, Citizeness?"

"I have them here," she answered with disconcerting coldness.

"Let's see them," he commanded.

But she was not to be moved into easy submission.

"You remember, Citizen," she said, "under what conditions I agreed to
hand you over the letters?'

"Conditions?" he retorted with a harsh laugh. "Conditions? Say, I have
forgotten those conditions. Will you be so gracious as to let me hear
them again?"

"I told you, Citizen Representative," Josette proceeded wearily, for
she was getting tired of this word play, "I told you at the time; I
want a safe-conduct in the name of Maurice Reversac and one in mine to
enable us both to quit this country and travel whither we please."

"Is that all?"

"Enough for my purpose. Shall we conclude, Citizen Representative? You
must be as tired as I am of all this quibble."

"You are right there, you impudent trollop!" Chabot snapped at her
with a short laugh. "Give me those letters!"

Then as she made no answer, only glanced at him with contempt and
shrugged, he iterated hoarsely:

"Did you hear me? Give me those letters!"

"Not till I have the safe-conducts written out and signed by your

"So that's it, is it?" Chabot snarled, and leaned right across the
table, peering into her face. He looked hideous in the dim, unsteady
light of the candles, with his thick lips quivering, a slight scum
gathering at the corners of his mouth and his thin face bilious and
sallow with rage. Thus he remained for the space of a minute, gloating
over his triumph. The wench was in his power--nothing could save her
now; the vengeance for which he had thirsted was his at last; but
there was exquisite pleasure in the anticipation of it, in looking at
that slender neck so soon to be severed by the knife of the
guillotine, on that dainty head with its wealth of golden curls soon
to fall into the gruesome basket while those luminous eyes were closed
in death-agony.

"Ah!" he murmured hoarsely, "you thought you had Franois Chabot in
your power, you little fool, you little idiot! You thought that you
could frighten him, torture him with doubts and fears? You triple,
triple fool!"

His voice rose to a shriek: he jumped to his feet and, thumping the
table with the palm of his hand, he shouted: "Here! Guard! A moi!"

The door flew open: two men of the Republican Guard appeared under the
lintel, and there were others standing in the passage. Josette saw it
all. While Chabot was raving and spitting venom at her like an angry
serpent she had kept hold on herself. She was not frightened because
she knew that Armand, her friend, was close by and that Chabot, even
though, or perhaps because he was a Representative of the People would
not dare to commit a flagrant act of treachery before his colleague:
would not dare to provoke her, Josette Gravier, into revealing the
existence of letters compromising to himself here and now. But when
the door flew open and she caught sight of the soldiers, she jumped to
her feet and turned to the friend to whom she looked so confidently
for protection. Chabot now was laughing loudly; with head thrown back
he laughed as if his sides would split.

"You little fool!" he continued to snarl. "You egregious little
idiot!" He paused, and then commanded: "Search her!" The two soldiers
advanced. Josette stood quite still and did not utter a single cry.
Her great eyes were fixed on her friend--the friend who was playing
her false, who had already betrayed her. At first her glance had
pleaded to him: "Save me!" Her dark blue eyes, dark as a midsummer's
night, had seemed to say: "Are you not my friend?" But gradually
entreaty gave place to horror and then to a stony stare; for Citizen
Armand, the friend and protector who had wormed himself into her
secrets, gained her trust and stolen her gratitude, sat there silent
and unmoved, stroking his chin with his talon-like fingers, an
enigmatic smile round his thin lips. Slowly Josette averted her gaze:
she turned from the treacherous friend to the gloating enemy. The
soldiers now stood one on each side of her--she could actually feel
their breath upon her neck; the hand of one of them fell upon her
shoulder. With a smothered cry of revolt she shook it off and
deliberately took the packet of letters from inside her bodice and
laid it on the table.

A hoarse sigh of satisfation broke from Chabot's throat. His thick,
coarse hand closed over the fateful packet; the soldiers stood by like
wooden dummies, one on each side of Josette.

"Can I go now?" the girl asked.

Chabot threw her a mocking glance.

"Go?" he mimicked with a sneer. Then the sarcasm died on his lips, and
his ugly face, which he thrust forward within an inch of hers, became
distorted with a look of almost bestial rage. "Go? No, you evil-minded
young jade--you are not going. Like a born idiot you have placed
yourself in my power. For the past month you have been laughing at me
and my friends in your sleeve, relishing like a debauched little
glutton the torment which you were inflicting upon us. Well, it is our
turn to laugh at you now, and laugh we will while you rot in gaol, you
and your lover, aye! rot, until the day on which your heads fall under
the guillotine will be welcomed by you as the happiest one of your

Except that she recoiled with the feeling of physical disgust when the
man's venom-laden breath fanned her cheeks, Josette had not departed
for one moment from her attitude of absolute calm. The moment that
earthly protection failed her and the friend whom she trusted proved
to be a traitor, she knew that she and Maurice were lost. Nothing on
earth could save either of them now from whatever fate these assassins
chose to mete out to them. She prayed to le bon Dieu to give her
courage to bear it all and, above all, she prayed for strength not to
let this monster see what she suffered. The name of Maurice thrown at
her with such cruelty had made her wince. It was indeed for Maurice's
sake that she suffered most acutely. She had built such high hopes--
such fond and foolish hopes apparently--on what she could do for him
that the disappointment did for the moment seem greater than she could

She no longer looked at the betrayer of her trust: in her innocent
mind she thought that he must be overwhelmed with shame at his own
cowardice. Le bon Dieu alone would know how to punish him.

At a sign from Chabot the soldiers each placed a hand once more upon
the girl's shoulder. They waited for another sign to lead her away.
Their officer was standing in the doorway: Chabot spoke to him.

"What accommodation have they got in this city," he asked with a leer
at Josette and a refinement of cruelty worthy of the murderer of
Bastien de Croissy, "for hardened criminals?"

"There is the town jail, Citizen," the man replied.

"Safe, I suppose?"

"Very well guarded, anyway. It is built underneath the town hall."

"Who is in charge?'

"I am, Citizen, with a score of men."

"And in the town hall?"

"There is a detachment of the National Guard under the command of
Captain Favret."

"Quartered there?"

"Yes, Citizen."

Chabot gave another harsh laugh and a shrug.

"That should be enough to guard a wench," he said, "but one never
knows--you men are such fools..."

While he spoke Chabot had been idly fingering the packet, breaking the
seals one by one. Now the outside wrapper fell apart and disclosed a
small bundle of letters--letters...? Letters? Chabot's hand shook as
he took up each scrap of paper and unfolded it, and while he did so
every drop of blood seemed to be drained from his ugly face and his
bilious skin took on a grey ashen hue; for the packet contained only
scraps of paper folded to look like letters with not a word on any of
them. Chabot's eyes as he looked down on those empty scraps seemed to
start out of his head: his face had been distorted before, now it
seemed like a mask of death--grey, parchment-like, rigid. He raised
his eyes and fixed them on Josette, while one by one the scraps of
paper fluttered out of his hand.

But Josette herself was no longer the calm, self-possessed woman of a
moment ago. When Chabot fingered the fateful packet and broke the
seals one by one, when the outside wrapper fell apart and disclosed
what should have been the famous letters, a cruel stab went through
her heart at the thought of how different it would all have been if
only the man she had trusted had not proved to be a Judas. Then
suddenly she saw there here were no letters, only empty scraps of
paper: her amazement was as great as that of her tormentor himself.
She had received that packet from Louise: she had never parted from it
since Louise placed it in her hands--never. But, of course... the last
five days... the theft... the miraculous recovery... Oh, mon Dieu! mon
Dieu! what did it all mean? Her brain was in a whirl. She could only
stare and stare on those scraps of paper which fell out of Chabot's
bony hands one by one.

No one spoke: the soldiers stood at attention, waiting for further
orders. At the end of the room the old grandfather clock ticked away
the minutes with slow and majestic monotony. At last a husky groan
came from Chabot's quivering lips. He pointed a finger at Josette and
then at the papers on the table.

"So," he murmured in a hoarse whisper, "you thought to fool me again?"

"No, no!" she protested involuntarily.

"You thought," he insisted in the same throaty voice, "to extract a
safe-conduct from me and to fool me with these worthless scraps..."

He paused and then his voice rose to a shriek.

"Where are the letters?" he shouted stridently.

"I don't know," Josette protested. "I swear I do not know."

"Bring me those letters now," he iterated, "or by Satan..."

Once more he paused, for the words had died on his lips; indeed, how
could he threaten his victim further when already he had promised her
all the torments, mental and physical, that it was in his power to
inflict. "Or by Satan..." What further threat could he utter? Jail?
Death for her and her lover? What else was there?

"Bring me those letters!" he snarled, like a wild cat robbed of its
prey, "or I'll have you branded, publicly whipped. I'll have you--I--I
thank my stars that we've not given up in France all means of
punishing hell-hounds like you."

"I cannot give you what I haven't got, Citizen," Josette declared
calmly, "and I swear to you that I believed that the letters were in
the packet which I have given you."

"You lie! You..."

Chabot turned to the officer-in-charge. "Take the strumpet away and
remember..." He checked himself and for the next few moments swore and
blasphemed; then suddenly changing his tone he said to Josette:

"Listen, little Citizeness; I was only trying to frighten you," and
the tiger's snarl became a tabby's purr. "I can see that you are a
clever wench. You thought you would fool poor old Chabot, did you not?
Thought you would have a bit of a game with him, what?"

He tiptoed round the table till he stood close to Josette; he thrust
his grimy finger under her chin, forced her to raise her head: "Pretty
dear!" he ejaculated, and pursed his thick lips as if to frame a kiss.
But it must be supposed that something in the girl's expression of
face caused him to spare her this final outrage: or did he really wish
to cajole her? Certain it is that he contented himself with leering at
her and ogling the sweet pale face which would have stirred compassion
in any heart but that of a fiend.

"So now you've had your fun," he resumed with an artful chuckle, "and
we are where we were before, eh? You are going to give me the letters
which you went all the way to England to fetch, and I will give you a
perfectly bee-ee-autiful safe-conduct for yourself and that handsome
young lover of yours--lucky dog!--so that you can go and cuddle and
kiss each other wherever you like. Now, I suppose you have hidden
those naughty letters somewhere in your pretty little bed and we'll
just go there together to fetch them, what?"

Josette made no reply and no movement. What could she do or say? She
had only listened with half an ear to that abominable hypocrite's
cajolries. She had no more idea than he had what had become of the
letters, or how it was that a packet in appearance exactly like the
one which Louise had given her came to be substituted for the original
one. She guessed--but only in a vague way--that Citizen Armand had
something to do with the substitution, but she could not imagine what
his object could possibly have been. While she stood mute and in an
absolute whirl of conjecture and of doubt, Chabot waxed impatient.

"Now then, you little baggage," he said, and already he had dropping
his insinuating tone, "don't stand there like a wooden image. Do not
force me to send you marching along between two soldiers. Lead the way
to your room. My friend and I will follow."

"I have already told you, Citizen," Josette maintained firmly, "I know
nothing about any packet except the one which I have given you."

"It's a lie!"

"The truth, so help me God! And," she added solemnly, "I do still
believe in God."


It was just an ejaculation of baffled rage and disappointment. For the
next few seconds Chabot, with his hands behind his back, paced up and
down the narrow room like a caged panther. He came to a halt presently
in front of his colleague.

"What would you do, friend Chauvelin," he asked him, "if you were in
my shoes?"

Chauvelin, during all this time, had remained absolutely quiescent,
sitting on the bench immediately behind Josette. It was difficult
indeed to conjecture if he had taken in all the phases of the scene
which had been enacted in this room in the last quarter of an hour:
Chabot's violence, Josette's withering contempt had alike left him
unmoved. At one time it almost looked as if he slept: his head was
down on his breast, his arms were crossed, his eyes closed. But now
when directly interpellated by his colleague he seemed to rouse
himself and glanced up at the angry face before him.

"Eh?" he queried vaguely. "What did you say, Citizen Representative?"

"Don't go to sleep, man!" the other retorted furiously. "Your neck and
mine are in jeopardy while that baggage is allowed to defy me. What
shall I do with her?"

"Keep her under guard and perquisition in her room: 'tis simple
enough." And Chauvelin's lips curled in a sarcastic smile.

"Perquisition? Why, yes of course! The simplest thing, is it not?" And
Chabot turned to the officer once more. "Sergeant," he commanded,
"some of you go find the landlord of this hostelry. Order him to
conduct you to the room occupied by the girl Gravier. You will search
that room and never leave it until you have found a sealed packet
exactly like the one which she laid on the table just now. You

"Yes, Citizen."

"Then go; and remember," he added significantly, "that packet must be
found or there'll be trouble for your for lack of zeal."

"There will be no trouble," the soldier retorted drily.

He turned on his heel and was about to march off with his men when
Chauvelin said in a whisper to his friend:

"I would go with them if I were you. You'll want to see that the
packet is given to you with the seals unbroken, what?"

"You are right, my friend," the other assented. He signalled to the
sergeant, who stood at attention and waited for the distinguished
Representative to go out of the room in front of him. In the doorway
Chabot turned once more to Chauvelin:

"Look after the hussy while I'm gone," he said, and nodded in the
direction of Josette. "I'm leaving some men outside to guard her."

"Have no fear," Chauvelin responded drily; "she'll not run away."

Chabot strode out of the room; the sergeant followed him, and some of
the men fell into step and marched in their wake up the passage.

"You can wait outside, Citizen Soldiers!" Chauvelin said to the two
men who were standing beside Josette. He had his tricolour scarf on,
so there was no questioning his command: the soldiers fell back,
turned and marched out of the room, closing the door behind them. And
between those four white-washed walls Josette was now alone with

Chapter XXVIII

"Was I not right, little one, to carry out that small deception?"

If at the moment when Mother Eve was driven out from the Garden of
Eden she had suddenly heard the serpent's voice whispering: "Was I not
right to suggest your eating that bit of apple?" she would not have
been more astonished than was Josette when that gentle, insinuating
voice reached her ears.

She woke as from a dream--from a kind of coma into which she had been
plunged by despair. She turned and encountered the kindly familiar
glance of Citizen Armand, sitting cross-legged, unmoved on the bench,
his head propped against the wall. In the feeble light of the
guttering candles he appeared if anything paler than usual, and very
tired. Josette gazed on him tongue-tied and puzzled, indeed more
puzzled than she had ever felt before during these last few days so
full of unexplainable events. As she did not attempt to speak he
continued after a moment's pause:

"But for the substitution which I thought it best to effect, your
precious letters would now be in the hands of that rogue, and nothing
in the world could have saved you and your friend Reversac from
death." And again he continued: "The situation would be the same as
now but we shouldn't have the letters."

He thrust his long thin hand into the inner pocket of his coat and
half drew out a packet, wrapped and sealed just as was the other which
had contained the pretended letters. Josette gave a gasp, and with her
habitual, pathetic gesture pressed her hands against her heart. It had
begun to beat furiously. She would have moved only that Armand put a
finger quickly to his lips.

"Sh-sh!" he admonished, and slipped the packet back inside his coat.

There was a murmur of voices outside; one of the soldiers cleared his
throat, others shuffled their feet. There were sounds of whisperings,
of movements and heavy footsteps the other side of the closed door--
reminders that watch was being kept there by order of the Citizen
Representative. Josette sank her voice to a whisper:

"And you did that...? For me...? Whilst I..."

"Whilst you called me a traitor and a Judas in your heart," he
concluded with a wan smile. "Let's say no more about it."

"You may forgive me... I cannot...."

"Don't let's talk of that," he resumed with a show of impatience. "I
only wished you to know that the reason why I didn't interfere between
Chabot and yourself was because in the existing state of our friend's
temper my interference would have been not only useless but harmful to
you and your friend. All I could do was to maneuver him into ordering
the perquisition in your room and get him to superintend it so as to
have the chance of saying these few words to you in private."

"You are right, as you always have been, Citizen Armand," Josette
rejoined fervently. "I cannot imagine how I ever came to doubt you."

As if in response to her unspoken request he rose and came across the
room to her, gave her the kindest and most gentle of smiles and patted
her shoulder.

"Poor little girl!" he murmured softly.

She took hold of his hand and managed to imprint a kiss upon it before
he snatched it away.

"You have been such a wonderful friend to me," she sighed. "I shall
never doubt you again."

"Even though I were to put your trust to a more severe test than
before?" he asked.

"Try me," she rejoined simply.

"Suppose I were to order your arrest... now?... It would only be for a
few days," he hastened to assure her.

"I would not doubt you," she declared firmly.

"Only until I can order young Reversac to be brought here."


"Yes! For your ultimate release I must have you both here together.
You understand?"

"I think I do."

"While one of you is here and the other in Paris, complications can so
easily set in, and those fiends might still contrive to play us a
trick. But with both of you here, and the letters in my hands, I can
negotiate with Chabot for your release and for the necessary safe-
conducts. After which you can take the diligence together to Trport
and be in England within three days."

"Yes! yes! I do understand," Josette reiterated, tears of happiness
and gratitude welling to her eyes. "And I don't mind prison one little
bit, dear Citizen Armand," she added navely. "Indeed I don't mind
anything that you order me to do. I do trust you absolutely.

"I'll try and make it as easy for you as I can, and with luck I hope
to have our friend Reversac here within the week."

Excited and happy, not the least bit frightened, and without the
slightest suspicion, Josette saw Chauvelin go to the door, open it and
call to the soldiers who were on guard in the passage. She heard him
call: "Which of you is in command here?" She saw one of them step
briskly forward; heard his smart reply: "I am, Citizen!" and finally
her friend's curt command:

"Corporal, you will take this woman, Josephine Gravier, to the
Commissariat of Police. You will give her in charge of the Chief
Commissary with orders that she be kept under strict surveillance
until further orders." He then came across to the table, took up the
quill pen that was lying there and a printed paper out of his pocket,
scribbled a few words, signed his name and strewed the writing with
sand. The tallow candles had now guttered so low, and emitted such a
column of black smoke, that he could hardly see: he tried to re-read
what he had written and was apparently satisfied, for he handed the
paper to the soldier, saying curtly:

"This will explain to the Chief Commissary that the order for this
arrest is issued by a member of the Third Sectional Committee of
Public Safety--Armand Chauvelin--and that I hereby denounce Josephine
Gravier as suspect of treason against the Republic."

The corporal--a middle-aged man in somewhat shabby uniform--took the
paper and stood at attention, while Chauvelin, with a peremptory
gesture, beckoned to Josette to fall in with the men. Loyal and
trusting until the end, the girl even forbore to throw a glance on the
treacherous friend who was playing her this cruel trick: she even went
to the length of appearing overcome with terror, indeed she played to
perfection the rle of an unfortunate aristo confronted with treason
and preparing for death.

"Now then, young woman," the corporal commanded curtly. Three men were
waiting in the passage. With faltering steps and her face buried in
her hands, Josette allowed herself to be led out of the room. The
corporal was the last to go; the door fell to behind him with a bang.
Chauvelin stood for a moment in the centre of the room, listening. He
heard the brief word of command, the tramp of heavy feet along the
passage in the direction of the front door, the shooting of bolts and
rattle of chains. He rubbed his pale, talon-like hands together, and a
curious smile played round his thin lips.

"You'll have your work cut out, my gallant Pimpernel," he murmured to
himself, "to get the wench away. And even if you do, her lover is
still in Paris, and what will you do about him? I think this time..."
he added complacently.

Then he paused and once more lent an attentive ear to the sounds that
came to him from the other side of the house; to the banging and
stamping, the thuds and thunderings, the loud and strident shoutings
and medley of angry voices, all gradually merging into a terrific

And as he listened the enigmatic smile on his lips turned to a
contemptuous sneer.

Chapter XXIX

It was late in the evening by now and most of the clients of the
hostelry had already retired for the night. Awakened by the terrible
hubbub some of them had ventured outside their doors, only to find
that the corridors and stairs were patrolled by soldiers, who promptly
ordered them back into their rooms. On the downstairs floor the
landlord and his wife, in the room adjoining the one on which their
daughter had shared with Josette Gravier, had been rudely ordered to
give up all keys and on peril of their lives not to interfere with the
soldiers in the discharge of their duty. The Representative of the
People, who had arrived at the hostelry that very evening, appeared to
be in a towering rage: he it was who ordered a rigorous search of both
the rooms, the landlord vaguely protesting against this outrage put
upon his house.

He and his family were, however, soon reduced to silence, as were the
guests on the floors above, and the stamping and the banging, the
thuds and thunderings, the shouts and imprecations were confined to
the two rooms in the house where a squad of soldiers, under the
command of their sergeant and egged on by Chabot, carried on a
perquisition with ruthless violence.

Within a quarter of an hour there was not a single article of
furniture left whole in the place. The men had broken up the flooring,
pulled open every drawer, smashed every lock; they had ripped up the
mattresses and pillows and pulled the curtains down from their rods.
Chabot, stalking about from one room to the other with great strides
and arms akimbo, cursed the soldiers loudly for their lack of zeal.

"Did I not say," he bellowed like a raging bull, "that those letters
must be found?"

The sergeant was at his wits' ends. The two rooms did, indeed, look in
the feeble light of the hanging lamp above as if a Prussian cannon had
exploded in their midst. The landlord with his wife and daughter
cowered terror-stricken in a corner.

"Never," they protested with sobs, "never has such an indignity been
put upon this house."

"You should not have taken in such baggage," Chabot retorted roughly.

"Citizen Chauvelin gave orders..."

"Never mind about Citizen Chauvelin. I am giving you orders, here and

He strode across the room and came to a halt in front of the three
unfortunates. They struggled to their feet and clung to one another in
terror before the fearsome Representative of the People. Indeed,
Chabot at this moment, with face twisted into a mask of fury, with
hair hanging in fantastic curls over his brow, with eyes bloodshot and
curses spluttering out of his quivering lips, looked almost inhuman in
his overwhelming rage.

"The hussy who slept here...?" he demanded.

"Yes, Citizen?"

"She had a sealed packet--a small packet about the size of my

"Yes, Citizen."

"What did she do with it?"

"It was stolen from her, Citizen Representative, the first night she
slept in this house," the landlord explained, his voice quaking with

"So she averred," the woman put in trembling.

"Did any of you see it?"

They all three shook their heads.

"The girl didn't sleep in this room that night, Citizen," the woman
explained. "She shared a room with two female travellers who left the
next day on the diligence. Citizen Chauvelin then gave orders for her
to sleep in my daughter's room and made us responsible for her

Chabot glanced over his shoulder at the sergeant.

"Find out in the morning," he commanded, "at the Commissariat all
about the female travellers and whither they went, and report to me."
He then turned back to the landlord. "And do you mean to tell me that
none of you saw anything of that sealed packet supposed to have been
stolen? Think again," he ordered roughly.

"I never set eyes on it, Citizen," the man declared.

"Nor I, I swear it!" both the two women averred.

Chabot kept the wretched family in suspense for a few minutes after
that, gloating over their misery and their fear of him, while his
bloodshot eyes glared into their faces. Behind him the sergeant now
stood at attention, waiting for further orders. There was nothing to
be done, since every nook and cranny had been ransacked, and short of
pulling down the walls no further search was possible. But Chabot's
lust of destruction was not satisfied. He had the feeling at this
moment that he wanted to set fire to the house and see it burned to
the ground, together with that elusive packet of letters which meant
more than life to him.

"Sergeant!" he cried, and was on the point of giving the monstrous
order when a quiet, dry voice suddenly broke in:

"There are other ways than fire and brimstone, my friend, of
recovering what you desire to possess."

Chabot swung round with an angry snarl and saw Armand Chauvelin
standing in the doorway, a placid, slender figure in sober black with
inscrutable face and smooth unruffled hair.

"The hussy?" Chabot yelled, his voice husky with choler.

"She is safer than she was when you left her half an hour ago, for
I've had her arrested and sent to the Commissary of the district under
a denunciation from me. She is safe there for the present, but she
certainly won't be for long if you spend your time raving and swearing
and pulling the house down about our ears."

"What the devil do you mean--she won't be safe for long? Why not?"

"Because," Chauvelin replied with earnest significance, "there are
influences at work about here which will be exerted to their utmost
power to get the wench out of your clutches."

"I care nothing about the wench," Chabot muttered under his breath.
"It's those accursed letters..."

"Exactly," Chauvelin broke in quietly, "the letters."

Chabot was silent for a moment or two, swallowing the blasphemies that
forced themselves to his lips. He glared with mixed feelings of wrath
and vague terror into those pale, deep-set eyes that regarded him with
unconcealed contempt. Something in their glance seemed to hypnotise
him and to weaken his will. After a time his own glance fell; he
cleared his throat, tugged at his waistcoat and passed his grimy,
moist palm over his curly hair. And in order to gain further control
over his nerves he buried his hands in his breeches pockets and
started once more to pace up and down the room. The soldiers had lined
up the passage outside: their sergeant had stepped back against the
doorway and was doing his best not to smile at the Citizen
Representative's discomfiture.

"You are right," Chabot said at last to Chauvelin with a semblance of
calm. "We must talk the matter of letters over before we can decide
what we do with the baggage."

Then he turned to the sergeant.

"Which are the men who took the wench to the Commissariat?" he asked.

"I don't think they are back, Citizen," the sergeant replied.

"Don't think!" Chabot snarled. "Go and find out."

The man moved away and Chabot called after him:

"Report to me in the public room--you'll find me there."

He gave a sign to Chauvelin. "Let's go!" he said curtly. "The sight of
this room makes me see red."

He did not throw another glance on the unfortunate landlord and his
family, the victims of his unreasoning rage. They stood in the midst
of their devastated room looking utterly forlorn, not knowing yet if
they had anything more to fear. The house appeared singularly still
after the uproar of a while ago, only the measured tread of soldiers
patrolling the corridors echoed weirdly through the gloom.

Chabot stalked on ahead of his colleague and made his way to the
public room. There he threw himself into a convenient chair and
sprawled across the nearest table, ordering the man in charge to bring
him a bottle of wine. Then he called loudly to his colleague to come
and join him.

But Chauvelin did not respond to the call. He turned into the small
private room where the fateful interview had just taken place. He
closed the door, locked and bolted it. He then went across to the
window and examined its shutter. It was barred as before. There was no
fear that he would be interrupted in the task which now lay before
him. The candles had burned down almost to their sockets: Chauvelin
picked up the snuffers and trimmed the wicks. Then he sat down at the
table and drew the original sealed packet out of his breast pocket.

The time had come to break the seals. There was no longer any reason
to keep the packet intact. The first act in the drama which he had
devised for his own advancement and the destruction of his powerful
enemy had been a brilliant success. The wench Josette Gravier and her
lover were both in prison--one in Rouen, the other in Paris. Such a
situation would of a certainty arouse the sympathy of the Scarlet
Pimpernel and induce him to exert that marvellous ingenuity of his for
the rescue of the two young people. But this time Chauvelin was more
accurately forewarned than he had ever been before. All he need do was
keep a close eye on the wench; the English spy, however elusive he
might be, must of necessity attempt to get in touch with the girl, and
unless he had the power of rendering himself invisible, his capture
was bound to follow. It may safely be said that no fear of failure
assailed Chauvelin at this hour. He considered his enemy as good as
captured already. It would be a triumph for his perseverance, his
inventive genius and his patriotism! Once more he would become a power
in the land, the master of these men--these venal cowardly fools--who
would again fawn at his feet after this and suffer at his hands for
all the humiliation they had heaped upon him these past two years.

The compromising letters would be an additional weapon wherewith to
chastise these arrogant upstarts--not excluding the powerful Danton
himself, perhaps not even Robespierre. Armand Chauvelin saw himself on
the very pinnacle of popularity, the veritable ruler of France. To
what height of supreme power could not he aspire, who had brought such
an inveterate enemy of revolutionary France to death?

And all the while that these pleasant thoughts, these happy
anticipations ran through Armand Chauvelin's mind, his delicate hands
toyed with the packet of letters--the keystone that held together the
edifice of his future. He fingered it lovingly as he had done many a
time before. Here it was just as it had been when Picard placed it in
his hands: he had never broken the seals, never seen its contents,
never set eyes on the letters which caused men like Chabot, Bazire,
and Fabre d'Eglantine and even the popular Danton to tremble for their
lives. But now that the first act of the little comedy which he had
devised had been successfully enacted in this very room, he felt that
he could indulge his natural curiosity to probe into the secrets of
these men. He felt eager and excited. These letters might reveal
secrets that would be a still more powerful leverage than he had hoped
for the fulfilment of his ambition.

His fingers shook slightly as they broke the seals. The wrapper fell
apart just as that other had done in Chabot's hands, and the contents
were revealed to Chauvelin's horror-filled gaze. For here were no
letters either; like the wrapper and like the seals the contents were
the same as those which had turned Citizen Chabot from a human being
into a raging beast: scraps of paper made to appear like letters--
nothing more!

Chauvelin stared at them and stared; his pale, deep-set eyes were
aflame, his temples throbbed, his whole body shook as with ague. What
did the whole thing mean? Where did this monstrous deception begin?
What was the initial thread which bound this amazing conspiracy
together? Did it have its origin in Bastien de Croissy's tortured
brain--in that of his despairing widow? Or did that seemingly
guileless girl after all...? But no! this, of course, was nonsense.
Chauvelin passed his trembling hand over his burning forehead. He felt
as if he had been stunned by a heavy blow on the head. Idly he allowed
the scraps of paper to glide in and out between his fingers. There was
not a word written on any of them. Mere empty scraps of paper!... All
save one!... Mechanically Chauvelin picked that one up... it was
soiled and creased, more so than the others. He passed his hand over
it to smooth it out. The candles were guttering and smoking again.. he
could hardly see... his eyes, too, were dim--not with tears, of
course; just with a kind of film which threw a crimson blur over
everything. He was compelled to blink once or twice before he could
decipher the words on that one scrap of paper. He did succeed in the
end, but only read the first few words:

"We seek him here..."

That maddening doggerel, the sight of which had so often been to him
the precursor of some awful disaster! For the first time in his career
Chauvelin felt a sense of discouragement. He had been so full of hope
only a few minutes ago--so full of certainty. This awful
disappointment came like a terrific, physical crash upon his aching
head. With arms stretched out upon the table, that one scrap of paper
crushed in his hand, he thought of the many failures which had
gradually brought him down from his exalted rank to one of
humiliation. Calais, Boulogne, Paris, Nantes, and many more--and now
this! He had felt it coming when his enemy had so impudently faced him
in the public room of this hostelry. The big fat sailor--that
unmistakable laugh--the pepper-pot to remind him of his greatest
discomfiture over at the Chat Gris in Calais: these and more all
seemed to flit past Chauvelin's fevered brain in this moment of bitter
disappointment. He had even ceased to think of Josette, communing only
with the past. The minutes sped by; the old Normandy clock ticked
away, majestic and indifferent.

A few minutes later Chabot's clamorous voice broke in on the lonely
man's meditations. He roused himself from his apathy, threw a quick
glance around. Then as the familiar voice drew nearer and nearer he
gathered the scraps of paper hastily together and thrust them in his
pocket out of sight. He went to the door and opened it just in time to
meet his colleague, whose walk was not as steady as it had been when
rage alone had governed his movements. Since then a bottle of red wine
and one of heady Normandy cider had gone to his head; his lips sagged
and his eyes were bleary. Lurching forward he nearly fell into
Chauvelin's arms.

"I have been waiting for you for half an hour," the latter said with a
show of reproach. "What in the world have you been doing?"

"I was in a high fever," Chabot muttered thickly. "A raging thirst I
had--must have a drink..."

"Sit down there," Chauvelin commanded, for the man could hardly stand.
"We must have more light."

"Yes... more light... I hate this gloom..."

Chabot fell into a chair; he stretched his arms over the table and
buried his head in the crook of his elbow, and was soon breathing
audibly. Chauvelin looked down on him with bitter contempt. What a
partner in this great undertaking which he already had in mind!
However, there was nothing for it now... this drunken lout was the
only man who could lend him a hand in this juncture. He clapped his
hands, and after a moment or two the maid in charge appeared.
Chauvelin ordered her to bring more candles and a jug of cold water.

Chabot was snoring. With scant ceremony Chauvelin dashed the water
over his head. The maid retired, grinning.

"What in hell...?" Chabot cried out, thus rudely awakened from his

The cold water had partially sobered him. He blinked for a time into
the fluttering candle-light, the water dripping down the tousled
strands of his hair and the furrows of his cheeks.

"We've got to review the situation," Chauvelin began drily.

He sat down opposite Chabot, leaning his elbows on the table, his thin
veined hands tightly clasped together.

"The situation?" Chabot iterated dully. "Yes, by Satan!... that
hussy... what?"

"Never mind about the hussy now! You are still anxious, I imagine,
that certain letters which gravely compromise you and your party do
not fall into the hands, say, of the Moniteur or the Pre Duchesne for

Chauvelin spoke slowly and deliberately so as to allow every word to
sink into the consciousness of that sot. In this he succeeded, for at
mention of those fateful letters the last cloud of drunkenness seemed
to vanish from the man's sodden brain. Rage and fear had once more
sole possession of him.

"You swore," he countered roughly, "that you would get those

"And so I will," Chauvelin returned calmly, "but you must do your best
to help."

"You have allowed yourself to be hoodwinked by a young baggage--

"If you take up that tone with me, my friend," Chauvelin suddenly said
in a sharp, peremptory tone, fixing his colleague with a stern eye, "I
will throw up the sponge at once and let the man who now has the
letters do his damndest with them."

The threat had the same effect on Chabot as the douche of cold water.
He swallowed his choler and said almost humbly:

"What is it you want me to do?"

"I'll tell you. First, about the packet of letters..."

"Yes!... the packet of letters--the real packet.... Who has it--where
is it?... I want to know..." And with each phrase he uttered Chabot
beat on the table with the palm of his hand, while Chauvelin's quick
brain was at work on the last phases of his tortuous scheme.

"I'll tell you," he replied quietly, "who stole the packet of letters
from the girl Gravier. It was the English spy who is known under the
name of 'The Scarlet Pimpernel.'"

"How do you know?"

"Never mind how I know: I do know. Let that be sufficient! But as true
as that you and I are alive at this moment the Scarlet Pimpernel has
those letters in his possession..."

"And he can send the lot of us to the guillotine?" Chabot interposed
in a raucous whisper.

"He certainly will," Chauvelin retorted drily, "unless..."

"Unless what? Speak, man, unless you wish to see me fall dead at your

"...unless we can capture him, of course."

"But they say he is as elusive as a ghost. Why, you yourself..."

"I know that. He is not as elusive as you think. I have tried--and
failed--that is true. But never before have I had the help of an
influential man like you."

Chabot bridled at the implied flattery.

"I'll help you," he said, "of course."

"Then listen, Citizen. Although we have not got the letters, we hold
what we might call the trump card in this game..."

"The trump card?"

"Yes, the girl Gravier. I told you I had ordered her arrest..."

"True, but..."

"She is at the present moment at the Commissariat, under strict

Chabot jumped to his feet, glared into his colleague's pale face and
brought his heavy fist crashing down upon the table.

"You lie!" he shrieked at the top of his voice. "She is not at the

Chauvelin shrugged.

"Where, then?" he asked coolly.

"The devil knows--I don't!"

It was Chauvelin's turn to stare into his colleague's eyes. Was the
man still drunk, or had he gone mad?

"You'd oblige me, Citizen," he said coolly, "by not talking in

"Riddles?" the other mocked. "Tscha! I tell you that that bit of
baggage whom you ordered to be taken to the Commissariat never got
there at all."

"Never got there?" Chauvelin queried with a frown. "You are joking,

"Joking, am I? Let me tell you this: the sergeant and the soldiers
whom I sent to inquire after the wench came back half an hour ago and
this is what they reported: neither the soldiers nor the hussy were
seen at the Commissariat..."

"But where...?"

"Where the wench is no one knows. The Commissary at once sent out a
patrol. They found the four soldiers in the public garden behind the
St. Ouen, their legs tied together by their belts, their caps doing
duty as gags in their mouths; but not a sign of the girl."


"The soldiers were interrogated. They are all under arrest now, the
cowardly traitors! They declared that while they crossed the garden on
their way to the Commissariat they were suddenly attacked from behind
without any warning. They had seen no one and hadn't heard a sound:
the place was pitch dark and entirely deserted. It seems that the
lights have been abolished in this God-forsaken city every since oil
and tallow got so dear, and the townsfolk avoid going through the
garden, as it is the haunt of every evil-doer in Rouen. The men swore
that they did their best to defend themselves, but that they were
outnumbered and outclassed. Anyway, the miscreants, whoever they were,
brought them down, bound and gagged them and then made off in the
darkness, taking the wench with them."

"But didn't the men see anything? Were they footpads who attacked
them, or--or...?"

"The devil only knows! Two of the soldiers declared that they were
attacked by men in the same uniform that they wore themselves, and one
thought that he recognised a sailor whom he had seen about on the quay
the last day or two--a huge, powerful fellow, whose fist would fell an


"Anyway, the hell-hounds made off in the direction of the river."

"Ah?" Chauvelin remarked again.

"Why do you say 'Ah?' like that?" Chabot queried roughly. "Do you know
anything of this affair?"

"No, but it does confirm what I said just now."

"What's that?"

"That those infernal English spies are at work here."

"Why do you say that?"

"Everything points to it: the mode of attack, the disappearance of the
girl, the big sailor. Footpads would not have attacked soldiers with
empty pockets, nor would they have carried off a girl who has neither
friends nor relations to pay ransom for her."

"That's true."

"When did the sergeant tell you all this?"

"Not so long ago--might be a quarter of an hour..."

"Why didn't you let me know at once?"

"It was none of your business. I am here to give orders, not you."

"And what orders did you give? You didn't seem to be in a fit
condition to give any orders at all."

"Rage at being baffled again went to my head. If you had not taken it
upon yourself to order that girl's arrest..."

"You were about to tell me," Chauvelin broke in harshly, "what orders
you gave to the sergeant."

"I ordered them to bring the four delinquents here, as I wish to
interrogate them."

"Well--and are they here?"

"Wait, Citizen--all in good time! The sergeant had to go to the
Commissariat--then he would have to..."

"I know all that," the other interrupted impatiently. He went to the
door and opened it, clapped his hands and waited until the night-
watchman came shuffling along the corridor.

"As soon as the sergeant returns," he said to the man, "bring him in

Chabot opened his mouth in order to protest; he was jealous of his
prerogatives as a Representative of the People, a position of far
greater authority than a mere member of the Committee of Public
Safety. But there was something in Chauvelin's quiet assumption of
command that overawed him and he felt shrunken and insignificant under
the other's contemptuous glance. His ugly mouth closed with a snap,
and he saw the watchman depart with a glowering look in his eyes. He
sat down again by the table and stared stupidly into vacancy; his
clumsy fingers toyed with the objects on the table; his thin legs were
stretched straight out before him. Now and then he glanced towards the
open door and listened to the several sounds which still resounded
through the house.

Although the guests had been peremptorily ordered to keep to their
rooms they could not be prevented from moving about and whispering
among themselves, since sleep had become impossible. The uproar of a
while ago, when furniture was being smashed and floors and walls were
battered, had awakened them all from their first sleep. Since then
vague terror and the ceaseless tramping of soldiers who patrolled the
house had kept everyone on the alert. The unfortunate landlord and his
family had taken refuge in a vacant room, but for them, more so than
for any of their clients, sleep was impossible.

Thus, a constant, if subdued, hubbub reigned throughout the house.
Chabot seemed to find a measure of comfort in listening to it all.
Like so many persons who profess atheism, he was very superstitious,
and all the talk about the mysterious spy, who worked in the dark and
was as elusive as a ghost, had exacerbated his nerves. Chauvelin, on
the other hand, paced up and down the room; his thin hands were
tightly clasped behind his back, his head was down on his chest. His
busy mind was ceaselessly at work. Obviously he had lost the first
round in this new game which he had engaged in against the Scarlet
Pimpernel. And not only that: he had lost what he had so aptly termed
the trump card in the game. Josette Gravier was just the type of
female in distress who would appeal to the adventurous spirit of Sir
Percy Blakeney: while she was a prisoner in Rouen the Scarlet
Pimpernel would not vacate the field, and there would have been a good
chance of laying him by the heels. There was none now that the girl
was in safety, for Chauvelin knew from experience that there was no
getting prisoners like her out of the clutches of the Scarlet
Pimpernel, once that prince of adventures had them under his guard.

Indeed, the Terrorist would have felt completely baffled but for one
fact--yet another trump card which he still held and which if
judiciously played...

At this point his reflections were interrupted by the arrival of the
sergeant, followed by the four delinquent soldiers. This time
Chauvelin made no attempt to interfere. Let Chabot question the men if
he wished. He, Chauvelin, knew everything they could possibly say. He
listened with half an ear to the interrogatory, only catching a word
or a phrase here and there: "We saw nothing... we heard nothing....
They were on us like a lightning flash.... Yes, we had our bayonets...
impossible to use them.... It was dark as pitch.... They wore the
uniform of the National Guard... the same as ours, at least as far as
one could see in the dark.... All except one, and he looked like a
boatman... a huge fellow with a powerful fist... I had seen him on the
quay before... and here in the public room.... How could we use our
bayonets?... They were dressed the same as we were.... They hit about
with their fists... the big sailor felled me down... and me too... I
saw stars.... So did I.... When I recovered my legs were tied together
and my woollen cap was stuffed into my mouth..." and more in the same

The city gates being closed after dark no one could possibly pass them
before dawn on the morrow, but there was always the river and no end
to the ingenuity and daring of the Scarlet Pimpernel. But there was
that last trump card--the ace, Chauvelin fondly hoped.

When Chabot finally dismissed the soldiers the two men once more put
their heads together.

"There is not much we can do about the girl Gravier," Chauvelin
remarked drily. "Luckily, we hold the man Reversac. It is with him we
can deal now."

"The girl's lover?" the other asked.

"Of course."

"I see what you mean."

"Lucky that you do," Chauvelin mocked. "You know where he is, I

"In the Abbaye. I had him taken there myself. A stroke of genius,
methinks," he added complacently, "to have the fellow arrested."

"Well, you have had a pretty free hand these last few weeks while that
cursed English spy turned his attention to our friend Carrier at

"I suppose the death of all those priests and women appealed to
him.... As for me..."

"So did Josette Gravier as your victim appeal to him, and so will
Maurice Reversac."

"Thank our friend Satan, we've got him safe enough!"

"Yes, he is our trump card," Chauvelin concluded, "and we must play
him for all he is worth."

He renewed his pacing up and down the room, while Chabot, quite sober
now but with not two ideas in his muddled brain, stared stupidly in
front of him.

"Paris will not do," Chauvelin resumed after a little while, mumbling
to himself rather than speaking to his colleague. That damned
Pimpernel has too many spies and friends there and hidden lairs we
know nothing about.

"Eh? What did you say?" Chabot queried tartly.

"I said that we must get Reversac away from Paris."

"Why? We've got him safe enough."

"You have not," Chauvelin asserted forcefully. He came to a halt the
other side of the table, and fixing his pale eyes on Chabot asked him:
"Have you ever asked Fouquier-Tinville how many prisoners have escaped
from Paris alone through the agency of the Scarlet Pimpernel?"

"No, but..."

"Considerably over two hundred since the beginning of this year."

"I don't believe it!"

"It's true, I tell you; and the same number from Nantes. Carrier is at
his wits' end."

"Carrier is a fool."

"Perhaps. But you understand now why I want to get Reversac away from
Paris. By dint of bribery if nothing else, the Scarlet Pimpernel will
drag him out of your clutches."

Chabot reflected for a moment, and Chauvelin, guessing the workings of
his mind, added with earnest significance:

"If we lose Reversac we shall have nothing to offer in exchange for
the letters."

"The letters..." Chabot murmured vaguely.

"Yes," Chauvelin remarked drily: "you haven't found them, have you?"

By way of a reply Chabot uttered a savage oath.

"Where the girl is, there are the letters," the other went on, "get
that into your head, and the letters are in the possession of the
English spies. Now remember one thing, my friend: while we hold the
girl's lover we can still get the letters, by offering a safe-conduct
in exchange for them. And incidentally--don't forget that--we have the
chance of laying our hands on the Scarlet Pimpernel, for whose capture
there is a reward of ten thousand livres."

As Chabot had exhausted his vocabulary of curses he relieved his
feelings this time by blaspheming.

"Ten thousand," he ejaculated.

"Not to mention the glory."

"Damn the glory! But I hate to let the baggage and her lover go."

"You need not."

"How do you mean--I need not? You've just mentioned safe-conducts..."

"So I did. But I can endorse those with a secret sign. It is known to
every chief Commissary in France and nullifies every safe-conduct."

"Splendid!" Chabot exclaimed and beat the table with the palm of his
hand. "Splendid!" he exclaimed and jumped to his feet. "Now I begin to

The two men exchanged rles for the moment. It was Chabot now who
paced up and down the room, mumbling to himself, while Chauvelin sat
down at the table and with idle hands toyed with the quill pen, the
snuffers, or anything that was handy. Presently Chabot came to a
standstill in front of him.

"You want to get Reversac away from Paris?" he asked.


"And bring him here?"


"The journey down will be dangerous if, as you say, the English spies
are on the war-path."

"We must minimise the danger as far as we can."


"A strong escort. And there will be the additional chance of capturing
the Scarlet Pimpernel."

"You think he will be sure to try and get at Reversac?"

"Absolutely certain."

"And forewarned is forearmed, what?"


"Splendid!" Chabot reiterated gleefully.

"And if we succeed in capturing one or more of those confounded spies,
just think how marvellous our position will be with regard to the
letters. We shall have something to bargain with, eh?"

"The Scarlet Pimpernel himself?"

"The whole damned crowd of them, as well as the girl and her lover!"

"You can have the lot," Chabot ejaculated, "so long as I have the
accursed letters!"

"If you follow my instructions, point by point," Chauvelin concluded,
"I can safely promise you those."

They sat together for another hour after that, elaborating Chauvelin's
plan, lingering over every detail, leaving nothing to chance, gloating
over the victory which they felt was assured.

It was midnight before they finally went to bed. And at break of day
Chabot was already posting for Paris armed with instructions from
Chauvelin to the secret agents of the Committee of Public Safety.

Chapter XXX

Snow lay thick on the ground; it was heavy going up the hills and
slippery coming down. In an ordinary way the diligence between Meulon
and Rouen would have ceased to ply in weather as severe as this.
Already at Meulon, when an early start was made, the clouds had looked
threatening. "We'll have more snow, for sure," everyone had declared,
the driver included, who muttered something about its being madness to
attempt the journey with those leaden-coloured clouds hanging

But in spite of these protests and warnings a start was made in the
early dawn. Such were the orders of Citizen Representative Chabot
(Loire et Cher), who was travelling in the diligence, and his word, of
course, was law. Outside the hostelry of the Mouton Blanc a small
crowd had gathered despite the early hour, to watch the departure of
the diligence. All along people, who stood about at a respectful
distance because of the soldiers, declared that this was no ordinary
diligence. Though it was one of the small ones with just the coup and
the rotonde, it was drawn by four horses with postilion and all the
banquette behind the driver was unoccupied, although the awning was
up, and this was odd, declared the gaffers, because the banquette
places being the cheapest, three of four passengers usually crowded
there, under the lee, too, of the luggage piled upon the top.

In the coup sat the Citizen Representative himself, and he had that
compartment entirely to himself. In the rotonde there was a young man
sitting between two soldiers in uniform, and three other men were on
the seats opposite. Moreover, and this was the most amazing
circumstance of all, what looked at first sight like the usual pile of
luggage on the top was no luggage at all, but three men lying huddled
up under the tarpaulin, wrapped in greatcoats, for it was bitterly
cold up there.

No! It decidedly was on ordinary diligence. And it was under strong
escort, too: six mounted men under the command of an officer--a
captain, what? So not only was the traveller in the coup a great
personage, but the prisoner must also be one of consequence, for no
sooner was he installed with the soldiers in the rotonde than the
blinds were at once drawn down, nor was anyone allowed to come nigh
the vehicle after that. Naturally all this secrecy and the unusual
proceedings created further amazement still, but those quidnucs who
came as near as they dared were quickly and peremptorily ordered back
by the soldiers: and later in the day, at Vernon outside the Boule
d'Or, two boys, who had after the manner of such youngsters succeeded
in crawling underneath the coach, were caught when on the point of
stepping on the foot-board. The captain in command of the guards
seized them both by the ears and ordered them to be soundly flogged
then and there, which was done by a couple of soldiers with a will and
the buckle end of their belts. The howls that ensued and the sudden
report of a pistol-shot, discharged no one could ever tell whence,
startled the horses into a panic. The leaders reared, the ostler
unable to hold them fell, and fortunately rolled over unhurt in the
snow. A more serious catastrophe was just averted through the presence
of mind of a passer-by, a poor old vagabond shivering with cold, who
did not look as if he had any vitality in him, let alone the pluck to
seize the near leader by the bridle as he did and bring the frightened
team to a standstill.

The driver and the postilion were having a drink of mulled cider at
the moment that all this commotion was going on. They came rushing out
of the hostelry just in time to witness the prowess of that miserable
old man. The driver was gracious enough to murmur approbation, and
even the captain of the guard had something pleasant to say.

It had been so very neatly done.

"I was a stud-groom once," the old man explained with a self-
deprecating shrug, "in the house of aristos. 'Tis not much I don't
know about horses."

The captain tendered him a few sous.

"This is for your pains, Citizen," he said, and nodded in the
direction of the hostelry close by: "you'd better go in there and get
a hot drink."

"Thank you kindly, Citizen Captain," the man rejoined as his thin
hands, blue with cold, closed over the money. He seemed loth to go
away from the horses. They were fine, strong beasts, relays just taken
up here and very fresh. The poor man had evidently spoken the truth:
there was not much he did not know about horses. One could see that
from the way he looked at them and handled them, adjusting a buckle
here and there, fondling the beasts' manes, their ears and velvety
noses, inspecting their fetlocks and their shoes.

"Good smith's work here," he said approvingly, tapping one shoe after

"That's all right, my man," the Captain broke in impatiently. "We must
be off now. You go and get your drink."

The vagabond demurred and looked down with a rueful glance on his
ragged clothes.

"I can't go in there," he said with a woebegone shake of the head,
"not in these rags. The landlord doesn't like it," he went on,
"because of other customers...."

The Captain gave a shrug. He didn't really care what happened to that
wretched caitiff. Indeed, he was anxious to get away as he had been
ordered by the Citizen Representative to make Gaillon before dark.
Citizen Chabot was not a man to be lightly disobeyed, and as he had
suffered much from cold and discomfort his temper throughout this
journey had been of the vilest. So losing no more time the Captain now
turned on his heel and went to give orders to his men. The young
postilion, more charitably disposed, perhaps, towards the poor wretch,
or in less of a hurry to make a start, said:

"I'll bring you out a drink, old gaffer," and he ran back into the
hostelry, leaving the driver and the whilom stud-groom to exchange
reminiscences of past aristo stablings. He returned after a couple of
minutes with a mug of steaming cider in his hand.

"Here you are, Citizen," he said.

The vagabond took the mug but seemed in no hurry to drink. He had a
fit of coughing and swayed backwards and forwards on his long legs as
if already he had a drop too much. The driver, in the meanwhile, took
the opportunity of administering correction to the ostler for failing
to hold the horses properly when they shied, and for rolling about in
the snow when he should have held on tightly to the bridles.

"Call yourself a stableman," he said contemptuously while the
postilion stood by, grinning: "why, look at this poor man here..."

But the "poor man here" seemed in a sorry plight just now. The
coughing fit shook him so that the steaming cider squirted out of the

"Let me hold the mug for you, old man," the postilion suggested.

"You drink it, Citizen," the man said between gasps. "I can't. It
makes me sick."

Nothing loth, the postilion had a drink, was indeed on the point of
draining the mug when the driver with a "Here! I say!" took the mug
from him and drank the remainder of the cider down.

Chabot put his head out of the window: "Now then, over there!" he
called out with a loud curse. And "En avant!" came in peremptory
command from the captain of the guard. The driver made ready to climb
up on the box when the old vagabond touched him on the shoulder: "You
wouldn't give me a lift," he suggested timidly, "would you, Citizen?"

"Not I," the other retorted gruffly. "I daren't... not without
orders." And he nodded in the direction of the captain.

"He wouldn't know," the poor man whispered. "When you move off I'll
climb on the step. I'll keep close behind you and hide in the
banquette under cover of the luggage. They couldn't see from the
back.... My home is in Gaillon and it's three leagues to walk in this
damnable weather!"

He looked so sick and so miserable that the driver hesitated. He was
possessed of bowels of compassion, even though he was a paid servant
of the most cruel, most ruthless government in the world. But despite
his feelings of pity for a fellow-creature he would probably have
refused point-blank to take up an extra passenger without permission
but for the fact that he was not feeling very well just then. That
last mugful of steaming cider, coupled with the action of the cold
frosty air, had sent the blood up to his head. His temples began to
throb furiously and he felt giddy; indeed he had some difficulty in
climbing up to his box and never noticed that the vagabond was so
close on his heels. Fortunately the Captain at the rear of the coach
noticed nothing: he and the soldiers were busy getting to horse. As
for Chabot, he had once more curled himself up in the corner of the
coup and was already fast asleep.

Once installed on the box with the reins in his hands the driver felt
better, but even so he was comforted by the knowledge that the ex-
stud-groom had installed himself behind him. The man was so handy with
horses--far more handy than that young postilion--and if that giddy
feeling were to return...

It did, about half a league beyond Vernon. That awful sense of
giddiness and unconquerable drowsiness! And it was not a moment ago
that he had noticed the postilion's strange antics on his horse, his
swaying till he nearly fell, and the rolling of his head.

"What the devil can it be?" he muttered to himself when that nasty
sick feeling seemed completely to master him. What a comfort it was to
feel a pair of strong hands take the reins out of his. Whose those
hands were he was too sleepy to guess, and it was so pleasant, so
restful, to close one's eyes and to sleep. Daylight was fast drawing
in, and with twilight down came the snow: not large, heavy, smooth
flakes by nasty thin sleet, which a head wind drove straight into
one's face, and which fretted and teased the horses already over-
excited by certain judicious touches of the whip. As for the
postilion, it was as much as he could do to keep his seat. It was only
the instinct of self-preservation that kept him on the horse's back at

It was a bad time, too, for the soldiers. They had to keep their heads
down against the wind and the driven snow, and to put spur to their
horses at the same time, for the diligence, which had lumbered along
slowly enough up to now, had taken on sudden speed, and the team
galloped up every hill it came to in magnificent style.

Chabot once more thrust his head out of the window and shouted:
"Hol!" He had been asleep ever since that halt at Vernon, but this
abrupt lurching of the coach had not only wakened him but also
frightened him.

"Why the hell are you driving like a fury?" he cried. But the head
wind drowned his shouts and his reiterated cries of "Hol!"

The horses did not relax speed. Someone was holding the reins who knew
how and when to urge them on, and the sensitive creatures responded
with a will to the expert touch. It was as much as the mounted men
could do to keep up with the coach.

It was not until the Captain chanced to look that way and caught sight
of the Citizen Representative's head out of the coup window, and of
his arms gesticulating wildly, that he called out "Hatle-l!"
whereupon the diligence came immediately to a standstill. Instinct
caused driver and postilion to pull themselves together, for the
Citizen Representative's voice, husky with rage and fear, was raised
above the howling of the wind.

"Tell that fool," he yelled, "not to drive like a fury! He will have
us in the ditch directly."

"It is getting dark," the driver made effort to retort, "and this
infernal snow is fretting the horses. We must make Gaillon soon."

"At least you know your way, Citizen?" the captain asked.

"Know my way?" the other mumbled. "Haven't I been on this road for
over fifteen years?"

"En avant, then!" the captain ordered once more.

The horses tossed their heads in the keen, cold air, and forward
lurched the clumsy diligence. The driver clicked his tongue and made a
feeble attempt at cracking his whip. It was not so much giddy that he
felt now but more intolerably sleepy than before.

"Give me back the reins, Citizen," a soothing voice whispered in his
ear. The driver thought it might be the devil who had spoken, for who
else could it be in this infernal weather and this blinding snow? Who
but a devil would want to drive this cursed diligence? But he really
didn't care... devil or no he was too infernally sleepy to resist, and
the reins were taken out of his hands as before and firmly held above
his head. He ventured on a peep round under the awning of the
banquette, but all he could see was a pair of legs, set wide apart,
with the strong knees that looked as if chiselled in stone, and the
powerful hands holding the reins. He remembered the vagabond who
climbed up to the banquette behind him and had apparently escaped the
officer's notice.

"That old vagabond," he muttered to himself, and then added
grudgingly: "He does know how to handle horses."

Another three leagues at galloping speed. But twilight was now sinking
into the arms of night. Whoever was holding the reins had the eyes of
a cat, for the postilion was mouse. But surely Gaillon would not be
far. From Vernon it was only a matter of three leagues altogether, and
why was the river on the left and not on the right of the road? And
why was it so narrow, more like the Eure than the Seine? Its slender
winding ribbon gleamed through the bare branches of the willow trees,
its icy surface defying the gloom.

"Where the hell...!" the driver mumbled to himself from time to time
as his bleary eyes roamed over the landscape. Some little way ahead a
few cottages and a church with a square tower loomed out of the snow,
the tiny windows blinking like sleepy eyes through the sparse
intervening trees. But this was certainly not Gaillon. The driver
rubbed his eyes. He was suddenly very wide awake. He snatched at the
reins, held them tight and the team came to a halt, the steam rising
like a cloud from their quivering cruppers. The captain swore and
called loudly: "En avant!" and then: "Is this Gaillon?" He rode up
abreast of the driver. "Is this Gaillon?" he iterated, pointing to the
distant village.

"No, it's not," the driver replied. "At least..."

"Then where the devil are we?"

And the driver scratched his head and vowed he was damned if he knew!

"Must have taken the wrong turning," he said ruefully.

"You said you been on this road for over fifteen years."

"But not," the driver growled, "in such confounded weather." He went
on muttering about the usual way of diligences... they did not ply in
the winter, save in settled weather... sometimes one was caught in a
snowstorm, but not often... and it was not fit for horses with all
that snow on the ground... it had been madness to start from Mantes
this morning and expect to make Gaillon by night-fall. And more to
this effect, while the officer with eyes trying to pierce the gloom
was evidently debating within himself whether he should beard the
irate Representative of the People and rouse him from sleep.

"Where did you miss your road?" he asked roughly. And: "Can't we go

"The only turning I know," the driver muttered, "is close to Vernon.
We should have to go back three leagues..."

This time the captain blasphemed. Curses were no longer adequate.

"What's the name of that village?" he queried when he had exhausted
most of his vocabulary. "Do you know?"

The driver did not.

"Is there a hostelry where we can commandeer shelter for the night?"

"Sure to be," the other rejoined.

"En avant, then!"

The driver did a good deal more muttering and grumbling and hard
swearing when he heard the captain say finally: "The Citizen
Representative will have something unpleasant to say to you about this

Something unpleasant! Something unpleasant! He, too, would have
something unpleasant to say to that old vagabond who did know all
about horses and nothing about the way to Gaillon. Where they were
now, the devil knew! He himself had been on the main road for fifteen
years. Paris, Mantes, Vernon, Rouen, he knew all about them; and his
home was in Paris; how, then could he be supposed to know anything of
these country roads and God-forsaken villages? Le Roger it was,
probably, in which case he, the driver, had vaguely heard of a dirty
hole there where bed and supper might be found. As for stabling for
all these horses.... If he dared he would denounce that old vagabond
for getting them into this trouble, but he was afraid of the
punishment which, of course, he deserved for having taken the man on
board without permission.

But the time would come, and very soon too, when the shoulders of the
old villain would smart under the whip, so thought the driver as he
clutched that whip with special gusto, and then cracked it and clicked
his tongue. And the team made another fresh start--in darkness this
time and with the wind howling as the lumbering vehicle sped in the
teeth of the gale. The snow swirled round the heads of men and beasts
and stung their faces as with myraids of tiny whip-lashes. Another ten
minutes of this intolerable going through the ever-increasing gloom,
with heads bent against the storm and stiffened hands clutching at the
sodden reins. Then at last the driver's eyes were gladdened by the
sight of a scaffolded pole on which dangled the dismal creakings an
iron lantern: its feeble light revealed the sign beneath: Le Bout du

The End of the World! An appropriate as well as a welcome sign. A
desolate conglomeration of isolated cottages, two or three barns
grouped at some distance round the tumble-down auberge seemed all
there was of the village, with the ice-bound river winding around it
and a background of snow-covered fields.

The driver pulled up and looked about him with misgivings and choler.
It didn't seem as if a good supper and comfortable beds could be got
in this God-forsaken hole. There was only one thing to look forward to
with glee, and that was the castigation to be administered to that
infernal vagabond. There was any amount of noise and confusion going
on to drown the howls of the victim--what with the soldiers
dismounting, the horses fretting and stamping, chains rattling, hinges
creaking, doors banging, the Representative of the People yelling and
cursing and calling for the landlord, a rushing and a running and a
swearing as the landlord came racing out of the auberge.

The driver called over his shoulder: "Now then, down you get!"

But there came no sign or movement from the banquette. The driver
peered through the darkness and under the awning, but of a certainty
the miserable vagabond was not there. Down clambered the driver in
double quick time; he paid no heed to the orders shouted at him, to
the curses from the irate Representative of the People; he pushed his
way through the crowd of soldiers, he jostled the prisoner and the
passengers: he even fell up against the sacrosanct person of Citizen
Representative Chabot. Like a lunatic he ran hither and thither,
peering in every angle, every barn, behind every tree, but there was
no sign of that old rogue who had sprung out of the snow at Vernon
only to disappear in the darkness around the Bout du Monde.

The End of the World! In very truth, had not such an action been
forbidden by decree of the National Convention, the driver, when he
finally realised that the man had really and truly vanished, would of
a certainty have crossed himself.

The devil couldn't do more, what?

Chapter XXXI

There was, of a truth, a great deal of confusion and any amount of
cursing and swearing before men and beasts, not to mention the coach
and saddlery, were housed under in this poverty-stricken village and
wholly inadequate at the hostelry itself. There were close on a score
of men all requiring bed and supper and eleven horses to stable and to
feed. The resourses of the Bout du Monde were nowhere near equal to
such a strain.

The landlord, indeed, was profuse in apologies. Never, never before
had his poor house been honoured by such distinguished company. Le
Roger was right off the main Paris-Rouen road; seldom did a coach come
through the village at all, let alone with so numerous an escort: as
for a diligence with a team and postilion, such a thing hadn't been
seen here within memory of the oldest inhabitant. Sometimes travellers
on horse-back bound for Elboeuf chose this route rather than the
longer one by Gaillon, but...

At this point Chabot, fuming with impatience, broke in on the
landlord's topographical dissertation and curtly ordered him to
prepare the best food the house could muster for himself and the
captain of the guard, together with a large jug of mulled cider. As
for the rest of the party, they would have to make shift with whatever
there was.

The captain and the landlord then worked with a will. There was a
large thatched barn at some distance from the Bout du Monde where all
the horses were presently jostled in, and such hay and fodder as could
be mustered in the village was all commandeered by the soldiers for
the poor tired beasts. A couple of men were told off to watch over
them. Under the roof of another small barn close by and open to the
four winds the coach and saddlery was then stowed. So far, so good. As
for the men, they swarmed all over the small hostelry, snatching at
what food they could get, raiding the outhouse for wood wherewith to
pile up a good fire in the public room, where presently, after their
scanty meal of lean pork, hard bread and dry beans, they would finally
curl themselves up on the floor in their military cloaks, hoping to
get some sleep.

The wretched prisoner was among them. No one had troubled to give him
any food or drink. As presumably he was being taken to Rouen in order
to be guillotined there was not much object in feeding him. But orders
were very strict as to keeping watch over him; and the soldiers of the
guard were commanded to take it in turns, two by two, all through the
night to keep an eye on him. At the slightest disturbance all the men
were to be aroused, the prisoner's safety being a matter of life and
death for them all. Having given these orders and uttered these
threats, Representative Chabot, in company of the captain, followed
the landlord up a flight of rickety stairs to the floor above, where
they were served with supper in a private room under the sloping roof.
In this room, which was not much more than a loft, there was a truckle
bed hastily made up for the Citizen Representative, and in the corner
a mattress and pillow for the Citizen Captain. This was the best the
landlord could muster for the distinguished personages who were
honouring his poor house, and anyway, a good fire was roaring in the
iron stove, and the place was away from the noise and confusion of the
overcrowded public room.

Chabot's temper was at its worst. Having eaten and drunk his fill, he
lay down on the truckle bed and tried to get some sleep; but ne'er a
wink did he get. All night he tossed about, furious with everything
and everybody. From time to time he tumbled out of bed to throw a log
on the fire, for it was very cold: he made as much noise as he could
then and tramped heavily once or twice up and down the room so as to
wake the captain, who was snoring lustily. During moments of fitful
slumber he was haunted by a ghostlike procession of all those who had
contributed to his present discomfort: he dreamed of the time, not far
distant he hoped, when he would belabour them with tongue and whip-
lash to his heart's content. There was the hussy Josette Gravier, who
had dared to threaten and then to hoodwink him; there was her lover,
Reversac, the wretched prisoner downstairs, who, luckily, could not
possibly escape the guillotine; there was, too, that fool of a driver
who had landed him, Franois Chabot, Representative of the People, in
this God-forsaken hole, and the captain of the guard, whose persistent
snoring chased away even the semblance of sleep. Even his colleague,
Chauvelin, were he here, should not escape the trouncing.

The hours of the night went by leaden-footed. At the slightest noise
Chabot would rouse himself from his hard pillow and sit up in bed,
listening. The prisoner--that valuable hostage for the return of the
letters--was well guarded, but the very importance of his safety
further exacerbated Chabot's nerves. But nothing happened, and after a
while the silence of the night fell on the Bout du Monde.

At last in the distance and through the silence a church clock struck
six. It was still quite dark; only the fire in the iron stove shed a
modicum of light with its glow into the room. The getting away of the
coach with its mounted escort would certainly take some time and,
anyway, as he, Chabot, could not sleep there was no reason why anyone
else should. He jumped out of bed and roused the captain.

"Why, what's the time?" the latter queried, his eyes still heavy with

"Damn the time!" Chabot retorted roughly. "'Tis, anyway, late enough
for you to stop snoring and begin to see to things."

Very ill-humoured, but not daring to murmur, the captain rose and
pulled on his boots. One slept in one's clothes these days, especially
on a journey like this; and there was, of course, no question of
washing at the Bout du Monde save, perhaps, at the pump outside, and
it was much too cold for that. The captain's toilet on this occasion
meant slipping on his coat, fastening his belt and smoothing his hair;
and it all had to be done in the dark. He peeped out of the window.

"The wind has dropped," he remarked, "but there's a lot more snow to
come down."

"Anyway," Chabot rejoined, "we start whatever the weather."

He, too, had pulled on his boots, but was still in his shirt-sleeves,
and his coarse curly hair stood out from his head in tufts like an
ill-combed poodle dog. He took to marching up and down the room,
striding about in the darkness and swearing hard when he barked his
shins against a chair. As the captain went out of the room he called
to him:

"Tell the landlord to bring candles and a large jug of hot cider with
plenty of spice in it."

He resumed his walk up and down the room, varying his oaths with
blasphemies, and spat on the floor in the intervals of picking his
teeth. He went to the door once or twice and listened to the confused
sounds which came from below. A score of men roused from sleep, the
inevitable swearing and shouting and tramping up and down the passage.
The dormer window in this room gave on the back of the house where it
was comparatively quiet; but after a time Chabot heard the men's
voices down there, the jingle of their spurs and their heavy footsteps
as they went off evidently to see to the horses. The barn where the
horses were stabled was at some little distance in the village, and
Chabot congratulated himself that he had roused that lazy lout of an
officer in good time. He was hungry and cold in spite of the fire in
the room, and swore copiously at the landlord when the latter brought
him the jug of steaming cider and a couple of lighted candles. The
remnants of last night's supper were still on the table; he pushed the
dirty plates and dishes impatiently on one side, then poured himself
out a mugful of hot drink while the landlord excused himself on the
plea that he had such a lot to do with so big a crowd in his small
house. Should his daughter come up and attend to the distinguished
Representative's commands?

But Chabot was, above all, impatient to get away.

"We must make Rouen before dark," he said tartly, "and the days are so
short. I want no attention. You go and speed up the men and give a
hand with the horses so that we can make a start within the hour."

He drank the cider and felt a little better, but he could not sit
still. After marching up and down the room again once or twice he went
to the window and tried to peer out, but the small panes were thick
with grime and framed in with snow and it was pitch-dark outside. His
nerves were terribly on edge and he cursed Chauvelin for having
expected him to undertake this uncomfortable journey alone. Then there
was the responsibility about the prisoner and this perpetual talk of
English spies. "Bah!" he muttered to himself as if to instill courage
into himself: "a score of these louts I've got here can easily grapple
with them."

Then why this agonising nervousness, this unconquerable feeling of
impending danger? Suddenly he felt hot: the blood had rushed to his
head, beads of perspiration gathered on his forehead. He went to the
window and unlatched it, but the cold rush of air made him shiver. He
feared that he was sickening for a fever. He tried to close the window
again, but the latch was stiff with rust and his fingers soon became
numb with the cold.

"Curse the blasted thing!" he swore between his teeth as he fumbled
with the latch.

"Let me do it for you, Citizen," a pleasant voice said close to his

Chabot swung round on his heel, smothering a cry of terror. A man--
tall, broad-shouldered, dressed in sober black that fitted his
magnificent figure to perfection--was in the act of closing the
window. With firm dexterous fingers he got the latch into position.

"There! that's better now, is it not, my dear Monsieur? I forget your
name," he said with a light laugh. Then added: "So now we can talk."

He brushed one slender hand against the other and with a lace-edged
handkerchief flicked the dust off from his coat.

"Dirty place, this End of the World, what?" he remarked.

Chabot, tongue-tied and terror stricken, had collapsed upon the
truckle bed. He gazed on this tall figure which he could only vaguely
distinguish in the gloom. Like the driver of the diligence a while
ago, he would have crossed himself if he dared, for this, of a surety,
must be Lucifer: tall, slender, in black clothes that melted and
merged into the surrounding darkness, allowing the flickering
candelight to play upon a touch of white at throat and wrist and on
the highly polished leather of the boot.

"Who are you?" he gasped after a time, for the stranger had not moved,
and Chabot felt that all the while a pair of eyes, cold and mocking,
were fixed upon him from out of the gloom. "Who are you?" he
reiterated under his breath.

"The devil you think I am," the other responded lightly, "but won't
you come and sit down?"

He motioned towards a chair by the table.

"I haven't much time, I'm afraid; and," he went on lightly, "you'll be
more comfortable than on that hard bed."

Then as Chabot made no effort to move, but sat there, one hand resting
on the bed, the glow of the firelight upon him, the stranger remarked:

"Why, look at your hand, my dear Monsieur What's-your-name; it looks
as if you had dipped it in a sanguinary mess."

Mechanically Chabot looked down on his hand to which the stranger was
now pointing. In that crimson glow it certainly looked as if...
Hastily he withdrew it and rubbed it against his coat. Then, as if
impelled by some unknown force, he rose and made a movement towards
the table, but stopped half-way and suddenly made a dash for the door.
But the stranger forestalled him, had him by the wrist before he could
seize the latch, and with a grip that was irresistible drew him back
to the table and forced him down upon a chair. He sat down opposite to
him on the other side of the table and reiterated quietly:

"Now we can talk."

Chabot up to this moment was absolutely convinced that this was the
devil made manifest. His education, conducted within the narrow limits
of a seminary, had in a way prepared him for such a possibility, and
during the brief years which he spent as a Capuchin friar he had had
every belief implanted into him of demons and evil spirits, and
maternal hell and bottomless pit. Cold, terror, discomfort of every
sort all helped to unnerve him. Fascinated, he watched that tall dark
figure, pouring with white slender hand the mulled cider into a mug
and handing it over to him.

"Drink this, man," came the mellow voice out of the darkness, "and
pull yourself together. We have no time to lose."

Chabot took the mug, but set it down on the table untasted.

"Well," the stranger said lightly, "as you like; but try and listen to
me. I am not a manifestation of your familiar as you suppose, only a
plain English gentleman. I happen to have in my possession certain
letters which in a moment of carelessness you were rash enough to
write to a certain Bastien de Croissy..."

At mention of "letters" Chabot uttered a hoarse cry: his fingers went
up to his necktie, for her suddenly felt as if he would choke. "You!"
he murmured, "you...?"

"Yes! I, at your service; I know all about those letters, for that is
what you were about to say, was it not?"

He held Chabot with his eyes, and Chabot was fascinated by that
glance. The eyes held him and he tried to defy them, made a supreme
effort to pull himself together. Slowly it dawned upon him that here
was no devil made manifest, but rather an enemy who was trying to hit
at him to hoodwink him about those letters as that young baggage had
tried to do. Another of her lovers probably--yes! that was it: an
English lover picked up in England recently: one of those spies,
perhaps, of whom his friend Armand Chauvelin was often wont to talk,
but certainly another lover, and if he, Chabot, was fool enough to
bargain he would be made a fool of once more. This thought had the
effect of soothing his nerves: he suddenly felt quite calm. That
choking sensation was gone; he took up the mug of cider and drank it
down. His hand was perfectly steady; and he was in no hurry. The
captain would be back directly and together they would laugh over the
discomfiture of this fool when he found himself securely bound with
cords in the company of the other prisoner, Maurice Reversac, the
hussy's latest lover.

It was all very easy and very amusing. No! there was no hurry. In
fact, this hour would have been very dull and very long but for this
diversion. The candles were guttering and Chabot took the snuffers and
used them very efficiently and deliberately. He pretended not to
notice the stranger's nonchalant attitude, sitting there opposite to
him, with his arms resting on the table and his very clean white hands

"That wick would be all the better for another snick," he remarked;
and Chabot tried to imitate his careless manner by saying: "You think
so, Citizen?" and carefully trimmed the offending wick.

He really was enjoying every moment of this unexpected interview. How
stupid he had been to be so scared! The devil, indeed! Just an English
jackanape who had put his head in the lion's jaw previous to laying it
under the knife of the guillotine; moreover, a spy could be shot
without trial within the hour, in fact, and the captain could see to
it that this one didn't talk. He, the captain, would be back directly,
and, anyway, there were at least a dozen men in the public room down
below, so what was there to fear when all was well and quite amusing?

The stranger had made no movement. Chabot leaned over the table,
resting his head in his hand.

"You know, Mr. the Englishman," he said with a well-assumed unconcern,
"that you have vastly interested me."

"I am glad," rejoined the other.

"About those letters, I mean."


"Now I should be very curious to know just how you came to be in
possession of them."

"I will gratify your curiosity with all the pleasure in life," the
stranger replied. "I took them out of the pocket of Madame de Croissy
while she was asleep."

"Nonsense!" Chabot retorted with an assumption of indifference,
although the name de Croissy had grated unpleasantly on his ear. "What
in the world had the Widow Croissy got to do with any supposed letters
of mine?"

"You forget, my dear sir," the Englishman retorted blandly, "that the
letters were written by yourself to that lady's husband; that in order
to obtain possession of them you murdered that unfortunate man in a
peculiarly cruel and cowardly manner; the lady thereupon was persuaded
for obvious reasons to leave for England, taking the letters with

"Bah! I've heard that story before."

"Have you now?" the stranger remarked with an engaging smile. "Isn't
that funny?"

"Not nearly so funny as your lie that you took those letters--whatever
they were--out of the woman's pocket, and that she never noticed the

"How very clever of you to say that, my dear Citizen What's-your-name:
a masterpiece, I call it, of skillful cross-examination. You would
have made a wonderful advocate at any bar." He gave a short laugh, and
Chabot spat like a cat that's being teased. "As a matter of fact," the
stranger resumed, quite unperturbed, "the lady certainly might have
noticed her loss. You were right there. But, you see, I took the
precaution of substituting a sealed packet exactly similar to the one
I had stolen and placed it in the lady's pocket."

Then as Chabot made no reply, was obviously thinking over what his
next move should be in this singular encounter, the Englishman

"In fact, you will observe, Sir, that my process was identical to the
one employed by our mutual friend Chambertin when he stole what he
thought was the precious packet of letters from little Josette Gravier
and substituted for it another contrived by himself to look exactly
similar. I am very fond really of Monsieur Chambertin; for a clever
man he is sometimes such a silly fool, what?"

"Chambertin?" Chabot queried, frowning.

"Beg pardon--I should say Chauvelin."

"Do you pretend that it was he?"

"Why, of course. Who else?"

"And that he had those damned letters?"

"No, no, my dear Monsieur What-d'you-call-yourself," the stranger
retorted with a light laugh. "I have those blessed--not damned--
letters here, as I had the honour of explaining to you just now."

And with his elegant, slender hand he tapped the left breast of his
coat. Chabot watched him for a moment or two under beetling brows. The
man's coolness, his impudence had irritated him, and while he had
thought that he was playing a cat's game with a mouse, somehow the
rles of cat and mouse had come to be reversed. But it had lasted too
long already. It was time to put an end to it, and the moment was
entirely opportune, for just then Chabot's ears were pleasantly
tickled by the sound of the captain's voice down below ordering the
landlord to bring him some hot cider. He had evidently returned from
the barn, leaving the men to feed and saddle the horses.

Chabot chuckled at thought of the stranger's discomfiture when
presently the caption would come tramping up the stairs, and, in
anticipation of coming triumph, he fixed his antagonist with what he
felt was a searching as well as an ironic glance.

"Suppose," he began slowly, "that before going any further you show me
those supposed letters."

"With all the pleasure in life," the Englishman responded blandly. And
to Chabot's intense amazement he drew out of his breast-pocket a small
sealed packet exactly similarly in appearance to the one which poor
little Josette Gravier had so trustingly kept in the bosom of her
gown. Chabot chortled at sight of it.

"Will you break the seals, Monsieur the Englishman?" he queried with
withering sarcasm, "or shall I?"

But already the stranger's finely shaped hands were busy with the
seals. Chabot, his ugly face still wearing a sarcastic expression,
drew the candles closer. Soon the seals were broken, the wrapper fell
apart and displayed, not scraps of paper this time, but just a few
letters, written by diverse hands. Chabot felt as if his eyes would
drop out of his head as he gazed. The flickering candles illumined the
topmost letter with its unmistakable signature--his own--Franois
Chabot. And there were others: he remembered every one of them, gazed
on the tell-tale signatures--his--Bazire's--Fabre's.

"Name of a dog!" he cried, and made a quick grab for the letters. But
the stranger's hands, delicate and slender though they were, were
extraordinarily firm and quick. In a moment he had the letters all
together, the wrapper round them, a piece of twine, picked out of the
devil knew whence, holding the packet once more securely together.
Chabot could not take his eyes off him. He watched him as if
hypnotised, mute, blind to all else save that calm, high-bred face
with the firm lips and the humorous twinkle in the eyes. But when he
saw the stranger on the point of putting the packet back inside his
coat, he cried, hoarse with passion: "Give me those letters!"

"All in good time, my dear sir. First, as I have already had the
honour to remark, we must have a good talk."

Chabot rose slowly to his feet. The captain's voice rising from the
public room below, the tramp of the soldiers' feet, his whole
surroundings recalled him to himself. Fool that he was to fear
anything from this insolent nincompoop!

"I give you one last chance," he said very quietly, even though he
could not disguise the tremor of his voice. "Either you give me those
letters now--at once--in which case you can go from here a free man
and to the devil if you choose; or..."

At this same moment the sound of several voices was wafted upwards.
Some of the soldiers had apparently assembled somewhere underneath the
window and were talking over some momentous happening. Chabot and the
stranger could hear snatches of what they said:

"Luckily the horses were not..."

"The wind unfortunately..."

"The saddles are..."

"So is the coach..."

"What in the world are we going..."

"Better see what the Citizen Captain..."

And so on, until after a time they moved away to the front entrance of
the house, which was right the other side. The stranger was smiling
while he lent an attentive ear. But Chabot only thought of the fact
that now the guard would soon be assembled inside the house. Twenty
trained men to cope with this insolent spy. His pale yellow eyes
gleamed in the dim light like those of a cat. He was gloating over his
coming triumph, licking his chops like a greedy cur in sight of food.

"Or," he concluded between clenched teeth, "I'll call the captain of
the guard and have you shot as a spy within the hour."

By way of reply the stranger rose slowly from the table. To Chabot's
excited fancy he appeared immensely tall: terrifying in his air of
power and physical strength, and instinctively this scrubby worm, this
cowardly assassin, this unfrocked friar cowered before the tall,
commanding figure of the stranger in abject terror of his own
miserable life. He edged round the table, while the Englishman
deliberately walked to the window; then he made a dart for the door,
expecting every second to feel that steel-like grip once more upon his
arm. With his hand already on the latch he looked over his shoulder at
his enemy, who was at the moment engaged in opening the window. The
gust of wind that ensued was so strong that Chabot could not pull the
door open; moreover, his hands were shaking and his knees felt as if
they were about to give way under him: only later did he become aware
that the door was locked. He heard the stranger give a curious call,
like that of sea-mews who are wont to circle about the Pont-Neuf in
Paris when the winter is very severe. The call was responded to in the
same way from below, whereupon the stranger flung the packet out of
the window. Three words were wafted upwards, words with a foreign
sound which Chabot could not understand. Subsequently he averred that
one of those words sounded something like "Raitt!" and the other like
"Fouk's!" but of course that was nonsense.

The stranger then went back to the table and sat down. Once more he
reiterated the irritating phrase which so exasperated the Terrorist:
"Now we can talk."

Chabot fumbled with the door-knob. He had just heard the men trooping
back into the house.

"No use, my friend," the stranger remarked drily. "I locked that door
when I came in. And here's the key," he added, and put the rusty old
key down on the table.

"Come and sit down," he resumed after a second or two as Chabot had
not moved, had in fact seemed glued to that locked door; "or shall I
have to come and fetch you?"

"You devil! You hound! You abominable..." Chabot muttered
inarticulately. "Get me back those letters or..."

"Come and sit down," the other reiterated coolly. "You have exactly
five minutes in which to save your skin. My friend is still outside,
just under the window; if within the next five minutes he hears no
signal from me he will speed to Paris with those letters, and three
days after that they will be published in every newspaper in the city
and shouted from every house-top in France."

"It's not true," Chabot muttered huskily. "He cannot do it. He
couldn't pass the gates of Paris."

"Would you care to take your chance of that?" the stranger retorted
blandly. "If so, here's the key... call your guard... do what you damn
well like...."

He laughed, a pleasant infectious laugh, full of the joy of living
through this perilous, exciting adventure, full of self-assurance, of
arrogance, as you will, a laugh to gladden the hearts of the brave and
to strike terror in those of the craven.

"One minute nearly gone," he renewed, and from his breeches pocket
drew a jewelled watch attached to a fob, and this he held out for the
other man to see.

Birds and rabbits, 'tis averred, are so attracted by the python which
is about to gulp them down that they do not attempt to flee from him
but become hypnotised, and of themselves draw nearer and nearer to the
devouring jaws. In very truth there was nothing snake-like about the
tall Englishman with the merry, lazy eyes and the firm mouth so often
curled in a pleasant smile, but Chabot was just like a hypnotised
rabbit. He crossed the room slowly, very slowly, and presently sat
down opposite his tormentor.

"Nearly two minutes gone out of the five," the latter said, "and I
verily believe I can hear your friend the captain's footfall in the
hall below."

It was then that Chabot had an inspiration. In this moment of crushing
humiliation and of real peril he remembered that his friend Chauvelin,
saw him as in a vision sitting with him in the small private room of
the Cheval Blanc at Rouen. What did he say when there was talk of the
prisoner Reversac and his sweetheart Josette? Something about safe-
conducts for them to be offered in exchange for the letters. Safe-
conducts? And in his quiet, incisive voice Chauvelin had added, "I can
endorse those with a secret sign. It is known to every Chief
Commissary in France and nullifies every safe-conduct."

Yes, that was it: "Nullifies every safe-conduct." And Chauvelin knew
the secret sign as did every Chief Commissary in France. So now to
play one's cards carefully, and above all not to show fear; on no
account to show that one was afraid.

And Chabot, sitting at the table, stroked his scrubby chin and said:

"I suppose what you want is a safe-conduct for some traitor or other,

But the inspiration proved only to be a mirage and the sense of
triumph very short-lived. The very next moment Chabot's fond hopes
were rudely dashed to the ground, for the stranger replied, still

"No, my friend, I want no safe-conduct endorsed by you or your
colleague with a secret sign to render them valueless."

And Chabot fell back in his chair; he was sweating at every pore. He
marvelled if after all his first impression had not been the true one;
since this man appeared to be a reader of thought was he not truly the
devil incarnate?

"What is it you do want?" he uttered, choking and gasping.

"That you unlock that door--here's the key--and call to the gallant
captain of the guard."

He held the key out to Chabot, who, fascinated, hypnotised, took it
from him.

"Go and unlock that door, Monsieur What's-your-name, and call your
friend the captain."

Slowly, as if moved by some unseen and compelling power, Chabot
tottered towards the door. The stranger spoke to him over his
shoulder: "When he comes you will tell him that you desire someone to
go over to the village to the house of Citizen Pailleron with a
message from you. Pailleron has a nice covered wagonette which he uses
for the purpose of his trade as carrier between here and Elboeuf. Your
messenger will explain to him that Citizen Representative Franois
Chabot requires the wagonette immediately for his personal use. A sum
in compensation will be given to him before a start is made."

Chabot made a final effort to turn on his tormentor: "This is
madness!" he cried. "I'll not do it. If I call the captain it will be
to have you shot..."

"Another minute gone," quoth the stranger blandly, "and I am sure the
captain is coming up the stairs."

"You hellish fiend!"

"My friend down below will be wondering if he should speed for Paris

The key grated in the lock. Chabot's trembling hands were fumbling
with the latch.

"Come! that is wise," the Englishman said, "but for you own sake I
entreat you to command your nerves. The captain is coming up. You will
explain to him about the wagonette, also that you will be leaving here
within the hour in the company of two friends, one of them being the
young man, Maurice Reversac, at present detained through an
unfortunate misunderstanding, and the other your humble servant."

Chabot was like a whipped cur with its tail between its legs. He slunk
away from the door and came back across the room, and, like a whipped
cur, he made a final effort to bite the hand that smote him.

"You must think me a fool..." he began, trying to swagger.

"I do," the other broke in blandly. "But that is not the point. The
point is that I am looking to you to effect the ultimate rescue of two
innocent young people out of your murderous clutches. Josette Gravier
is in comparative safety for the moment, and Maurice Reversac is close
at hand. I propose to convey them to Havre and see them safely on
board an English ship en route for our shores, which you must admit
are more hospitable than yours. For this expedition your help, my dear
Monsieur What's-your-name, will be invaluable, so you are coming with
us, my friend, in Citizen Pailleron's wagonette, and I myself will
have the honour to drive you. And when we are challenged at the gates
of any city, or commune, or at a bridge-head, you will show the guard
your pretty face and reveal your identity as Representative of the
People in the National Convention and stand upon your rights as such
to free passage and no molestation for yourself, your driver and your
son--we'll call Maurice Reversac your son for convenience' sake--and
at Elboeuf, as well as at Dieppe, on the quay or at any barrier your
pleasant countenance and your gentle, authoritative voice will command
the obsequiousness they deserve. So I pray you," he concluded with
perfect suavity, "call the captain of the guard and explain to him all
that is necessary. We ought soon to be getting on the way."

He leaned back in his chair, gave a slight yawn, then rose, and from
his magnificent height looked down on the cringing figure of the
unfrocked friar. Chabot tried vainly to collect his thoughts, to make
some plan, to think, to think, my God! to think of something, and
above all to gather courage from the fact that this man, this
abominable spy, this arrogant devil, was still in his power: now, at
this moment, he could still hand him over to be shot at sight... or
else at Rouen; with Chauvelin waiting for him, he could... he could...

But the other, as if divining his thoughts, broke in on them by
saying: "You could do nothing at Rouen, my friend, for let me assure
you that within twenty-four hours my friend who now has your letters
in his possession will be on his way to Paris, there to deliver them
at the offices of the Moniteur and of Pre Duchnese, unless I myself
desire him to hand them over to you."

"And if I yield to your cowardly threats," Chabot hissed between his
teeth, "if I lend myself to this dastardly comedy, how shall I know
that your associate, as vile a craven as yourself, will give me the
letters in the end?"

"You can't know that, my friend," the other retorted simply, "for I
cannot expect such as you to know the meaning of a word of honour
spoken by an English gentleman."

"How shall I know if I do get the letters that none have been kept

"That's just it: you can't know. But remember, my friend, that there
is one thing you do know with absolute certainty, and that is, if my
plan to save those two young people fails, if I do not myself request
my friend to give up the letters to you, then as sure as we are both
alive at this moment those letters will be published in every news-
sheet throughout France; your name will become a byword for everything
that is most treacherous and most vile, and not even the dirtiest
mudrake in the country will care to take you by the hand."

The stranger had spoken with unwonted earnestness, all the more
impressive for the flippant way in which he had carried on the
conversation before. Chabot, always a bully, was nothing if not a
coward. Any danger to himself reduced him to a wriggling worm. That
his peril was great he knew well enough, and he had realised at last
that there was no threat that he could utter which would shake that
cursed English spy from his purpose.

There was a moment of tense silence in the room, whilst the captain's
footsteps were heard slowly coming up the stairs. The stranger gave a
gay little laugh and sat down once more opposite his writhing victim.
He poured out two mugfuls of cider, and the moment that the door was
thrown open he was saying with easy familiarity:

"Your good health, my dear Franois, and to our proposed journey

He held the white-livered recreant with his magnetic eyes and made as
if to raise the mug to his lips; then he paused and went on lightly:

"By the way, did you happen to see the Moniteur the day before
yesterday? It had a scathing attack, inspired of certainty by Couthon,
against Danton and some of his methods."

Chabot clenched his teeth. At this moment he would have sold his soul
to the devil for the power to slay this over-weening rapscallion.

The captain, seeing the Citizen Representative in conversation with a
friend, halted respectfully at the door. He stood at attention, until
Chabot looked round at him with tired, bleary eyes.

"What is it, Citizen Captain?" he inquired in a thick, tired voice,
while the stranger, as if suddenly aware of the officer's presence,
rose courteously from the table.

"I have to report, Citizen Representative," the captain replied, "that
during the night certain miscreants found their way to the coach and
saddlery, to which they did a good deal of mischief."

"Mischief? What mischief?" Chabot muttered inarticulately, while the
stranger gave a polite murmur of sympathy.

"They've cut the saddle-girths, the reins and the stirrup-leathers,
and the spokes of two of the coach wheels are broken right across. The
damage will take more than a day to repair."

"I hope, Citizen Captain," the stranger said affably, "that you have
laid hands on the rascals."

"Alas, no! the mischief was done at night. The barn lies some way back
from this house; no one heard anything. The ruffians got clean away."

Chabot was speechless; not only had the quantity of spiced cider got
into his head, but rage and despair had made him dumb.

"My dear Franois," the Englishman commented with good-humoured
urbanity, "this is indeed unfortunate for all these fine soldiers who
will have to spend a day or two in this God-forsaken hole. I know what
that means," he went on, turning once more to the captain, "as I have
been through such experience before, travelling on my business in
these outlying parts."

"Ah! You know Le Roger then, Citizen?" the captain asked.

"I have been here once before. I am a commercial traveller, you know,
and go about the country a good deal. I only arrived last night from
St. Pierre half an hour after you did, and was happy to hear that my
old friend Franois Chabot was putting up for the night. Then luckily
I happened to bespeak Citizen Pailleron's covered wagonette to take me
on to-day to Louviers, but it will be a pleasure as well as an honour
for me to drive the Citizen Representative to Rouen if he desires."

"It will be heavy going."

"Perhaps, but my friend Pailleron has excellent horses which he will
let me have."

"This is indeed lucky," the captain assented.

Still he seemed to hesitate. As Chabot remained tongue-tied, the
stranger touched him lightly on the shoulder.

"It is lucky, is it not, my dear Franois?" he asked.

Chabot looked up at his tormentor. "Go to hell!" he murmured under his

"The Citizen Captain is waiting for orders, my friend."

"You give them, then."

The stranger gave a light laugh. "I am afraid the cider was rather
heady," he explained to the officer. "Will you be so good, captain, as
to send round to Citizen Pailleron and let him know that the
Representative of the People is ready to start. I believe the snow has
left off for the moment; we can make Louviers before noon."

There was nothing in this to rouse the captain's suspicions. The
Citizen Representative, though suffering perhaps from an excess of
hot, spiced drink, nodded his head as if to confirm the order given by
his friend. That this tall stranger was his friend there could be no
doubt; the two of them were conversing amicably when he, the captain,
first entered the room. And it certainly was the most natural
conclusion for any man to come to, that so distinguished a personage
as the Representative of the People in the National Convention would
not wish to remain snowed up in this desolate village for two days at
least, but would gladly avail himself of the means of transit offered
to him by a friend. And certainly whatever doubt the officer might
have had in his mind was finally dissipated when the stranger spoke
again to Citizen Chabot.

"My dear Franois," he said, once more touching the other on the
shoulder, "you have forgotten to speak to our friend the captain about
the young man, Reversac."

"The prisoner?" the captain asked.

"Even him."

"He is quite safe at this moment in the public room, and we..."

"That's just the point," the stranger rejoined; and, unseen by the
captain, he tightened his grip on Chabot's shoulder. "Do, my dear
Franois, explain to the Citizen Captain..."

Chabot winced under the grip, which seemed like a veritable strangle-
hold upon his will-power. He had not an ounce of strength left in him,
either moral or physical, to resist. It was as much as he could do to
mutter a few words and to gaze with bleared vision on his smiling

"Do explain, my dear Franois," the latter insisted.

Chabot brought the palm of his hand down with a crash upon the table.

"Damn explanations!" he snapped savagely. "The prisoner Reversac comes
with me. That's enough."

And as the captain, momentarily taken off his balance by this
unexpected command, still stood by the door, Chabot shouted at him:
"Get out!"

It was the stranger who, with perfect courtesy, went to the door and
held it open for the officer to pass out.

"That cider was much too heady," he said, dropping his voice to a
whisper, "but the Citizen Representative will be all right when he
gets into the cold air." After which he added, "He does not wish to
lose sight of the prisoner, and I shall be there to look after them

"Well! It is not for me to make comment," the soldier remarked drily,
"so long as the Citizen Representative is satisfied..."

"Oh! He is quite satisfied, I do assure you. You are satisfied, are
you not, you dear old Franois?"

But even while he asked this final question he quickly closed the door
on the departing soldier, for in very truth the blasphemies which
Chabot uttered after that would have polluted even the ears of an old
Republican campaigner.

Chapter XXXII

Less than half an hour later a covered wagonette to which a couple of
sturdy Normandy horses were harnessed drew up outside the front door
of the Bout de Monde. The word had soon enough gone round the village
and among the men that the Representative of the People was leaving Le
Roger in company of a friend, taking the prisoner with him.

He came out of the hostelry wrapped in his big coat. He looked neither
to right nor left, nor did he acknowledge the respectful salutes of
the landlord and his family assembled at the door to bid him good-bye.
The prisoner, hatless, coatless and shivering with cold, was close
behind him. But it was the Representative's friend who created most
attention. He was very tall and wore the finest of clothes. It was
generally whispered among the quidnuncs that he was a commercial
traveller who had made much money by smuggling French brandy into

While Franois Chabot and the prisoner stowed themselves away as best
they could under the hood of the wagonette, the stranger climbed up on
the box and took the reins. He clicked his tongue, tickled the horses
with his whip, and the light vehicle bumped along the snow-covered
road and was soon lost to sight.

Grey dawn was breaking just then; the sky was clear and gave promise
of a fine sunny day. The men who had formed the escort for the
diligence and those who had travelled inside in order to guard the
prisoner sat around the fire in the public room in the intervals
between scanty meals, and discussed the amazing adventures of the past
twenty-four hours. They had begun, so it was universally admitted,
with the mysterious report of a pistol outside the hostelry at Vernon
and the strange appearance of the whilom stud-groom who looked such a
miserable tramp. What happened on the road after that no one could
aver with any certainty, for the driver, who knew himself to be
heavily at fault, never said a word about having taken the tramp
aboard on the banquette, and allowing the reins to slip out of his
hands into the more capable ones of the stud-groom.

Indeed, while the others talked the driver seemed entrenched in
complete dumbness. He drank copiously, and as he was known to become
violent in his cups he was left severely alone. The damage done in the
night to the coach and saddlery had further aggravated his ill-homour.
He put it all down to spite directed against him by some power of evil
made manifest in the person of that cursed vagabond. It was supposed
that the villagers had set themselves the task to bring the miscreants
to book, but the hours sped by and nothing was discovered that would
lead to such a happy result. The snow all round the barn where coach
and saddlery had been stowed had been trampled down so heavily that it
was impossible to determine in which direction the rapscallions had
made good their escape.

Chapter XXXIII

To Franois Chabot the journey between Le Roger and the coast was
nothing less than a nightmare. He was more virtually the prisoner of
that impudent English spy than any aristo had ever been in the hands
of Terrorists. And while thoughts and plans and useless desires went
hammering through his fevered brain, the wagonette lumbered along on
the snow-covered road, and on the driver's seat in front of him sat
the man who was the cause of his humiliation and his despair. Oh, for
the courage to end it all and plunge a knife into that broad back! But
what was the good of wishing, for there was that terrible threat
hanging over him of the letters to be published where all who wished
could read, and the certainty of disgrace with the inevitable
guillotine? Chabot could really thank his stars that he did not happen
to have a knife handy. He might surely, in a moment of madness, have
killed his tormentor and also the young man who sat squeezed beside
him in the interior of the wagonette.

They reached Louvier's at noon. At the entrance to the city they were
challenged by the sentry at the gate. The Englishman jumped down from
the box. At a mere sign from him Chabot showed his papers of

"Franois Chabot, Representative of the People in the National
Convention for the department of Loire et Cher..."

He declared the young man sitting next to him to be his son, and the
other a friend under his own especial protection. The sentry stood at
attention: the officer gave the word:

"Pass on in the name of the Republic!"

A nightmare, what? or else an outpost of hell!

They avoided Rouen, made a circuit of the town and turned into a
country lane. Presently the driver pulled up outside a small, somewhat
dilapidated house, which lay perdu in the midst of a garden all
overgrown with weeds, and surrounded by a wall broken down in many
places and with a low iron gate dividing it from the road. He jumped
down from the box, fastened the reins to a ring in the wall; then,
with his usual impudent glance, peeped underneath the hood of the
wagonette. He thrust a parcel and a bottle into Chabot's lap and said

"Eat and drink, my friend. Monsieur Reversac and I have business
inside the house."

The whilom prisoner stepped out of the wagonette and together the two
men went inside the house. One or two people passed by while Chabot
sat shivering in the draughty vehicle. He ate and drank, for he was
hungry and thirsty, but he had entirely ceased to think by now. He no
longer felt that he was a real live man, but only an automaton made to
move and to speak through the touch of a white slender hand and the
glance of a pair of lazy deep-set blue eyes.

Many minutes went by before he heard the rickety door of the old house
creak upon its hinges. The two men came down the path towards the
wagonette, but they were not alone. There was a girl with them, and
Chabot uttered a hoarse cry as he recognised the baggage, Josette
Gravier, who had made a fool of him and was now a witness of his

This, perhaps, was the most galling experience of all. He, the
arrogant bully who had planned the destruction of these innocents, was
now the means of their deliverance and their happiness. He closed his
eyes so as not to see the triumph which he felt must be gleaming in

How little he understood human nature! Josette and Maurice had no
thought of their enemy, none of the terrible torments which they had
endured; their thoughts were of one another, of their happiness in
holding each other by the hand; above all, of their love. In the hours
of sorrow and peril of death they had realised at last the magnitude
of that love, the joy that would be theirs if it pleased God to unite
them in the end.

And this happiness they had now attained, and owed it to the brave man
who had been the hero of Josette's dreams. When first she discovered
his identity, when she knew that she owed her rescue to him, and when
to-day he had suddenly walked into the old house where she had been
patiently waiting for him under the care of a kindly farmer and his
wife, she would gladly, if he had allowed it, have knelt at his feet
and kissed his hands in boundless gratitude.

For these two, also, the journey seemed like a dream, but it was a
dream of earthly Paradise; hand in hand they sat and hardly were
conscious of the presence of that ugly, ungainly creature huddled up,
silent and motionless, in a corner of the wagonette.

For them, too, he was just an automaton, moved at will by the
mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel. He only bestirred himself when the
wagonette was challenged at a bridge-head or the barriers of a
commune; then, in answer to a demand from the sentry, he would poke
his ugly head, toneless voice recite his name and quality. And Josette
and Maurice invariably giggled when they heard themselves described as
the son and daughter of that hideous man, and that tall, handsome
stranger as his friend.

The sentry then would give the word:

"Pass on in the name of the Republic!" and the wagonette, driven by
the mysterious stranger, would once more lumber along on its way.

The journey was broken at a small hostelry, about half a league beyond
Elboeuf. The food was scanty and ill-cooked, the beds were hard, the
place squalid, the rooms cold; but the idea of sleeping under the same
roof with Maurice made Josette in her narrow truckle-bed feel as if
she were in heaven.

When they neared the coast of the first tang of the sea coming to
Josette's nostrils brought with it recollections of that former
journey which she had undertaken all alone for Maurice's sake. And
when, presently, they came into Havre, and after the usual formalities
at the gates of the city were able to leave the wagonette, these
recollections turned to vivid memories. Guided by the tall mysterious
stranger, they walked along the quay, whilst the past unrolled itself
before Josette's mental vision like an ever-changing kaleidoscope. She
remember Citizen Armand, heard again his suave, lying tongue, met his
pale eyes with their treacherous, deceptive glance. And she snuggled
up close to Maurice, and he put his arm round her to guide her down
the bridge to the packet-boat, which was on the point of starting for

To follow them thither were a sorry task. Many French men and women
there were these days--Louise de Croissy and little Charles-Lon among
them--who, fleeing from the terrors of a Government of assassins,
found refuge in hospitable England. Helped by friends, made welcome by
thousands of kindly hearts, the eked out their precarious existence by
working in fields or factories until such time as the return of law
and order in their own beautiful country enabled them to go back to
their devastated homes.

Heureux la peuple qui n'a pas d'histoire. Of Maurice and Josette
Reversac there is nothing further to record, save the fulfulment of
their love-dream and their happiness.

Chapter XXXIV

"And now we'll go and get those blessed letters."

Sir Percy Blakeney, known to the world as the Scarlet Pimpernel, had
stood on the quay watching the packet-boat sailing down the mouth of
the river. His arm was linked in that of Franois Chabot, once a
Capuchin friar, now Representative of the People in the National
Convention. He held Chabot by the arm, and Chabot stood beside him and
also watched the boat gliding out of the range of his vision.

The nightmare was not yet ended, for there was the journey back to
Rouen in the wagonette with himself, Franois Chabot, chained to the
chariot wheel of his ruthless conqueror.

A halt was made on the road outside the same old house where they had
picked up Josette Gravier. This time Sir Percy bade Chabot follow him
into the house. How it all happened Chabot never knew. He never could
remember how it came about that presently he found himself fingering
those fateful letters: they were all there--three written by himself,
two written by his brother-in-law, Bazire, and two by Fabre
d'Eglantine--seven letters: mere scraps of paper; but what a price to
pay for their possession! An immense wave of despair swept over the
recreant. Perhaps at this hour the whole burden of his crimes weighed
down his miserable soul and it received its first consciousness of
inevitable retribution. The wretch spread his arms out on the table
and, laying down his head, he burst into abject tears.

When the paroxysm of weeping was over and he looked about him the tall
mysterious stranger was gone.

It was twilight of one of the most dismal days of the year. Looking up
at the window, Chabot saw the leaden snow-laden clouds sweeping across
the sky. Heavy flakes fell slowly, slowly. All round him absolute
silence reigned. The house apparently was quite deserted. He staggered
rather than walked to the door. He tramped across the path to the low
gate in the wall. Here he stood for a moment looking up and down the
narrow road and the heavy snowflakes covered his shoulders and his
tufty, ill-kempt hair. There was no sign of the wagonette beyond the
ruts made by the wheels in the snow, and for a long time not a soul
came by. Presently, however, a couple of men--farm-labourers they were
by the look of them--came along and Chabot asked them:

"Where are we?"

The men stopped and in the twilight peered curiously at this hatless
man, half-covered with snow.

"What do you mean by 'Where are we?'" one of them asked.

"Just what I am asking," Chabot replied in that same dead tone of
voice. "Which is the nearest town or village? I am stranded here and
there is no one in this house."

The men seemed surprised.

"No one there?"

"Not a soul."

"Farmer Marron and his wife still live here," one of the men said,
"two days ago, and they had a wench with them for a little while."

"They must have gone to Elboeuf where the old grandmother lives," the
other suggested. "I know they talked of it."

"Elboeuf?" Chabot queried. "How far is that?"

A league and a quarter, and it was getting dark and snow was falling
fast. It was so cold, so cold! and Chabot was very tired.

"Well, good-night, Citizen," the men called out to him. "We are going
part of the way to Elboeuf. Would you like to join us?"

A league and a quarter, and Chabot was so tired.

"No, thank you, Citizens," he murmured feebly. "I'll tramp thither to-

He turned on his heel and went back into the lonely house. The arch-
fiend who had brought him hither had seemingly left him some
provisions and a bottle of sour wine. There was a fire in the room and
upstairs in a room above there was a truckle bed and on it a couple of

Chabot curled himself up in these and fell into a fitful sleep.

The next day he tramped to Elboeuf and the day after that took coach
for Rouen to meet his colleage Armand Chauvelin and give him the
trouncing he deserved, for it was because of him, his intrigues and
his wild talk of the Scarlet Pimpernel, that he, Franois Chabot, had
been brought to humiliation and despair. The interview between the two
men was brief and stormy. They parted deadly enemies.

A week later Chabot was back in his luxurious apartment in the Rue
d'Anjou and a month later he perished on the guillotine. He had been
denounced as suspect by Armand Chauvelin of the Committee of Public
Safety for having on the 15 Frimaire an II de la Rpublique connived
at the escape of two traitors condemned to death: Josette Gravier and
Maurice Reversac, and for having failed to bring to justice the
celebrated spy known as the Scarlet Pimpernel


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