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The Scarlet Pimpernel
By Baroness Orczy

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In the kitchen Sally was extremely busy--saucepans and
frying-pans were standing in rows on the gigantic hearth, the huge
stock-pot stood in a corner, and the jack turned with slow
deliberation, and presented alternately to the glow every side of a
noble sirloin of beef. The two little kitchen-maids bustled around,
eager to help, hot and panting, with cotton sleeves well tucked up
above the dimpled elbows, and giggling over some private jokes of
their own, whenever Miss Sally's back was turned for a moment. And
old Jemima, stolid in temper and solid in bulk, kept up a long and
subdued grumble, while she stirred the stock-pot methodically over the

"What ho! Sally!" came in cheerful if none too melodious
accents from the coffee-room close by.

"Lud bless my soul!" exclaimed Sally, with a good-humoured
laugh, "what be they all wanting now, I wonder!"

"Beer, of course," grumbled Jemima, "you don't `xpect Jimmy
Pitkin to `ave done with one tankard, do ye?"

"Mr. `Arry, `e looked uncommon thirsty too," simpered Martha,
one of the little kitchen-maids; and her beady black eyes twinkled as
they met those of her companion, whereupon both started on a round of
short and suppressed giggles.

Sally looked cross for a moment, and thoughtfully rubbed her
hands against her shapely hips; her palms were itching, evidently, to
come in contact with Martha's rosy cheeks--but inherent good-humour
prevailed, and with a pout and a shrug of the shoulders, she turned
her attention to the fried potatoes.

"What ho, Sally! hey, Sally!"

And a chorus of pewter mugs, tapped with impatient hands
against the oak tables of the coffee-room, accompanied the shouts for
mine host's buxom daughter.

"Sally!" shouted a more persistent voice, "are ye goin' to be
all night with that there beer?"

"I do think father might get the beer for them," muttered
Sally, as Jemima, stolidly and without further comment, took a couple
of foam-crowned jugs from the shelf, and began filling a number of
pewter tankards with some of that home-brewed ale for which "The
Fisherman's Rest" had been famous since that days of King Charles.
"`E knows `ow busy we are in `ere."

"Your father is too busy discussing politics with Mr. `Empseed to worry
'isself about you and the kitchen," grumbled Jemima under her breath.

Sally had gone to the small mirror which hung in a corner of
the kitchen, and was hastily smoothing her hair and setting her
frilled cap at its most becoming angle over her dark curls; then she
took up the tankards by their handles, three in each strong, brown
hand, and laughing, grumbling, blushing, carried them through into the
coffee room.

There, there was certainly no sign of that bustle and activity
which kept four women busy and hot in the glowing kitchen beyond.

The coffee-room of "The Fisherman's Rest" is a show place now
at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the end of the
eighteenth, in the year of grace 1792, it had not yet gained the
notoriety and importance which a hundred additional years and the
craze of the age have since bestowed upon it. Yet it was an old
place, even then, for the oak rafters and beams were already black
with age--as were the panelled seats, with their tall backs, and the
long polished tables between, on which innumerable pewter tankards had
left fantastic patterns of many-sized rings. In the leaded window,
high up, a row of pots of scarlet geraniums and blue larkspur gave the
bright note of colour against the dull background of the oak.

That Mr. Jellyband, landlord of "The Fisherman's Reef" at
Dover, was a prosperous man, was of course clear to the most casual
observer. The pewter on the fine old dressers, the brass above the
gigantic hearth, shone like silver and gold--the red-tiled floor was
as brilliant as the scarlet geranium on the window sill--this meant
that his servants were good and plentiful, that the custom was
constant, and of that order which necessitated the keeping up of the
coffee-room to a high standard of elegance and order.

As Sally came in, laughing through her frowns, and displaying
a row of dazzling white teeth, she was greeted with shouts and chorus
of applause.

"Why, here's Sally! What ho, Sally! Hurrah for pretty Sally!"

"I thought you'd grown deaf in that kitchen of yours," muttered Jimmy
Pitkin, as he passed the back of his hand across his very dry lips.

"All ri'! all ri'!" laughed Sally, as she deposited the
freshly-filled tankards upon the tables, "why, what a `urry to be
sure! And is your gran'mother a-dyin' an' you wantin' to see the pore
soul afore she'm gone! I never see'd such a mighty rushin'"
A chorus of good-humoured laughter greeted this witticism,
which gave the company there present food for many jokes, for some
considerable time. Sally now seemed in less of a hurry to get back to
her pots and pans. A young man with fair curly hair, and eager,
bright blue eyes, was engaging most of her attention and the whole of
her time, whilst broad witticisms anent Jimmy Pitkin's fictitious
grandmother flew from mouth to mouth, mixed with heavy puffs of
pungent tobacco smoke.

Facing the hearth, his legs wide apart, a long clay pipe in
his mouth, stood mine host himself, worthy Mr. Jellyband, landlord of
"The Fisherman's Rest," as his father had before him, aye, and his
grandfather and greatgrandfather too, for that matter. Portly in
build, jovial in countenance and somewhat bald of pate, Mr. Jellyband
was indeed a typical rural John Bull of those days--the days when our
prejudiced insularity was at its height, when to an Englishman, be he
lord, yeoman, or peasant, the whole of the continent of Europe was a
den of immorality and the rest of the world an unexploited land of
savages and cannibals.

There he stood, mine worthy host, firm and well set up on his
limbs, smoking his long churchwarden and caring nothing for nobody at
home, and despising everybody abroad. He wore the typical scarlet
waistcoat, with shiny brass buttons, the corduroy breeches, and grey
worsted stockings and smart buckled shoes, that characterised every
self-respecting innkeeper in Great Britain in these days--and while
pretty, motherless Sally had need of four pairs of brown hands to do
all the work that fell on her shapely shoulders, worthy Jellyband
discussed the affairs of nations with his most privileged guests.

The coffee-room indeed, lighted by two well-polished lamps,
which hung from the raftered ceiling, looked cheerful and cosy in the
extreme. Through the dense clouds of tobacco smoke that hung about in
every corner, the faces of Mr. Jellyband's customers appeared red and
pleasant to look at, and on good terms with themselves, their host and
all the world; from every side of the room loud guffaws accompanied
pleasant, if not highly intellectual, conversation--while Sally's
repeated giggles testified to the good use Mr. Harry Waite was making
of the short time she seemed inclined to spare him.

They were mostly fisher-folk who patronised Mr. Jellyband's
coffee-room, but fishermen are known to be very thirsty people; the
salt which they breathe in, when they are on the sea, accounts for
their parched throats when on shore. but "The Fisherman's Rest" was
something more than a rendezvous for these humble folk. The London
and Dover coach started from the hostel daily, and passengers who had
come across the Channel, and those who started for the "grand tour,"
all became acquainted with Mr. Jellyband, his French wines and his
home-brewed ales.

It was towards the close of September, 1792, and the weather
which had been brilliant and hot throughout the month had suddenly
broken up; for two days torrents of rain had deluged the south of
England, doing its level best to ruin what chances the apples and
pears and late plums had of becoming really fine, self-respecting
fruit. Even now it was beating against the leaded windows, and
tumbling down the chimney, making the cheerful wood fire sizzle in the

"Lud! did you ever see such a wet September, Mr. Jellyband?"
asked Mr. Hempseed.

He sat in one of the seats inside the hearth, did Mr.
Hempseed, for he was an authority and important personage not only at
"The Fisherman's Rest," where Mr. Jellyband always made a special
selection of him as a foil for political arguments, but throughout the
neighborhood, where his learning and notably his knowledge of the
Scriptures was held in the most profound awe and respect. With one
hand buried in the capacious pockets of his corduroys underneath his
elaborately-worked, well-worn smock, the other holding his long clay
pipe, Mr. Hempseed sat there looking dejectedly across the room at the
rivulets of moisture which trickled down the window panes.

"No," replied Mr. Jellyband, sententiously, "I dunno, Mr.
'Empseed, as I ever did. An' I've been in these parts nigh on sixty

"Aye! you wouldn't rec'llect the first three years of them sixty,
Mr. Jellyband," quietly interposed Mr. Hempseed. "I dunno as I ever
see'd an infant take much note of the weather, leastways not in these
parts, an' _I_'ve lived `ere nigh on seventy-five years, Mr. Jellyband."

The superiority of this wisdom was so incontestable that for the moment
Mr. Jellyband was not ready with his usual flow of argument.

"It do seem more like April than September, don't it?"
continued Mr. Hempseed, dolefully, as a shower of raindrops fell with
a sizzle upon the fire.

"Aye! that it do," assented the worth host, "but then what can you `xpect,
Mr. `Empseed, I says, with sich a government as we've got?"

Mr. Hempseed shook his head with an infinity of wisdom,
tempered by deeply-rooted mistrust of the British climate
and the British Government.

"I don't `xpect nothing, Mr. Jellyband," he said. "Pore folks
like us is of no account up there in Lunnon, I knows that, and it's
not often as I do complain. But when it comes to sich wet weather in
September, and all me fruit a-rottin' and a-dying' like the `Guptian
mother's first born, and doin' no more good than they did, pore dears,
save a lot more Jews, pedlars and sich, with their oranges and sich
like foreign ungodly fruit, which nobody'd buy if English apples and
pears was nicely swelled. As the Scriptures say--"

"That's quite right, Mr. `Empseed," retorted Jellyband, "and
as I says, what can you `xpect? There's all them Frenchy devils over
the Channel yonder a-murderin' their king and nobility, and Mr. Pitt
and Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke a-fightin' and a-wranglin' between them, if
we Englishmen should `low them to go on in their ungodly way. `Let
'em murder!' says Mr. Pitt. `Stop `em!' says Mr. Burke."

"And let `em murder, says I, and be demmed to `em." said Mr.
Hempseed, emphatically, for he had but little liking for his friend
Jellyband's political arguments, wherein he always got out of his
depth, and had but little chance for displaying those pearls of wisdom
which had earned for him so high a reputation in the neighbourhood and
so many free tankards of ale at "The Fisherman's Rest."

"Let `em murder," he repeated again, "but don't lets `ave sich rain in
September, for that is agin the law and the Scriptures which says--"

"Lud! Mr. `Arry, `ow you made me jump!"

It was unfortunate for Sally and her flirtation that this
remark of hers should have occurred at the precise moment when Mr.
Hempseed was collecting his breath, in order to deliver himself one of
those Scriptural utterances which made him famous, for it brought down
upon her pretty head the full flood of her father's wrath.

"Now then, Sally, me girl, now then!" he said, trying to force
a frown upon his good-humoured face, "stop that fooling with them
young jackanapes and get on with the work."

"The work's gettin' on all ri', father."

But Mr. Jellyband was peremptory. He had other views for his buxom
daughter, his only child, who would in God's good time become the owner
of "The Fisherman's Rest," than to see her married to one of these
young fellows who earned but a precarious livelihood with their net.

"Did ye hear me speak, me girl?" he said in that quiet tone,
which no one inside the inn dared to disobey. "Get on with my Lord
Tony's supper, for, if it ain't the best we can do, and `e not
satisfied, see what you'll get, that's all."

Reluctantly Sally obeyed.

"Is you `xpecting special guests then to-night, Mr.
Jellyband?" asked Jimmy Pitkin, in a loyal attempt to divert his
host's attention from the circumstances connected with Sally's exit
from the room.

"Aye! that I be," replied Jellyband, "friends of my Lord Tony
hisself. Dukes and duchesses from over the water yonder, whom the
young lord and his friend, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, and other young
noblemen have helped out of the clutches of them murderin' devils."

But this was too much for Mr. Hempseed's querulous philosophy.

"Lud!" he said, "what do they do that for, I wonder? I don't
'old not with interferin' in other folks' ways. As the Scriptures

"Maybe, Mr. `Empseed," interrupted Jellyband, with biting
sarcasm, "as you're a personal friend of Mr. Pitt, and as you says
along with Mr. Fox: `Let `em murder!' says you."

"Pardon me, Mr. Jellyband," febbly protested Mr. Hempseed, "I
dunno as I ever did."

But Mr. Jellyband had at last succeeded in getting upon his
favourite hobby-horse, and had no intention of dismounting in any

"Or maybe you've made friends with some of them French chaps
'oo they do say have come over here o' purpose to make us Englishmen
agree with their murderin' ways."

"I dunno what you mean, Mr. Jellyband," suggested Mr.
Hempseed, "all I know is--"

"All _I_ know is," loudly asserted mine host, "that there was
my friend Peppercorn, `oo owns the `Blue-Faced Boar,' an' as true and
loyal an Englishman as you'd see in the land. And now look at
'im!--'E made friends with some o' them frog-eaters, `obnobbed with
them just as if they was Englishmen, and not just a lot of immoral,
Godforsaking furrin' spies. Well! and what happened? Peppercorn `e
now ups and talks of revolutions, and liberty, and down with the
aristocrats, just like Mr. `Empseed over `ere!"

"Pardon me, Mr. Jellyband," again interposed Mr. Hempseed feebly,
"I dunno as I ever did--"

Mr. Jellyband had appealed to the company in general, who were
listening awe-struck and open-mouthed at the recital of Mr.
Peppercorn's defalcations. At one table two customers--gentlemen
apparently by their clothes--had pushed aside their half-finished game
of dominoes, and had been listening for some time, and evidently with
much amusement at Mr. Jellyband's international opinions. One of them
now, with a quiet, sarcastic smile still lurking round the corners of
his mobile mouth, turned towards the centre of the room where Mr.
Jellyband was standing.

"You seem to think, mine honest friend," he said quietly,
"that these Frenchmen,--spies I think you called them--are mighty
clever fellows to have made mincemeat so to speak of your friend Mr.
Peppercorn's opinions. How did they accomplish that now, think you?"

"Lud! sir, I suppose they talked `im over. Those Frenchies,
I've `eard it said, `ave got the gift of gab--and Mr. `Empseed `ere
will tell you `ow it is that they just twist some people round their
little finger like."

"Indeed, and is that so, Mr. Hempseed?" inquired the stranger

"Nay, sir!" replied Mr. Hempseed, much irritated, "I dunno as
I can give you the information you require."

"Faith, then," said the stranger, "let us hope, my worthy
host, that these clever spies will not succeed in upsetting your
extremely loyal opinions."

But this was too much for Mr. Jellyband's pleasant equanimity.
He burst into an uproarious fit of laughter, which was soon echoed by
those who happened to be in his debt.

"Hahaha! hohoho! hehehe!" He laughed in every key, did my
worthy host, and laughed until his sided ached, and his eyes streamed.
"At me! hark at that! Did ye `ear `im say that they'd be upsettin'
my opinions?--Eh?--Lud love you, sir, but you do say some queer

"Well, Mr. Jellyband," said Mr. Hempseed, sententiously, "you know
what the Scriptures say: `Let `im `oo stands take `eed lest `e fall.'"

"But then hark'ee Mr. `Empseed," retorted Jellyband, still
holding his sides with laughter, "the Scriptures didn't know me. Why,
I wouldn't so much as drink a glass of ale with one o' them murderin'
Frenchmen, and nothin' `d make me change my opinions. Why! I've `eard
it said that them frog-eaters can't even speak the King's English, so,
of course, if any of `em tried to speak their God-forsaken lingo to
me, why, I should spot them directly, see!--and forewarned is
forearmed, as the saying goes."

"Aye! my honest friend," assented the stranger cheerfully, "I
see that you are much too sharp, and a match for any twenty Frenchmen,
and here's to your very good health, my worthy host, if you'll do me
the honour to finish this bottle of mine with me."

"I am sure you're very polite, sir," said Mr. Jellyband,
wiping his eyes which were still streaming with the abundance of his
laughter, "and I don't mind if I do."

The stranger poured out a couple of tankards full of wine, and
having offered one to mine host, he took the other himself.

"Loyal Englishmen as we all are," he said, whilst the same humorous
smile played round the corners of his thin lips--"loyal as we are,
we must admit that this at least is one good thing which comes to
us from France."

"Aye! we'll none of us deny that, sir," assented mine host.

"And here's to the best landlord in England, our worthy host,
Mr. Jellyband," said the stranger in a loud tone of voice.

"Hi, hip, hurrah!" retorted the whole company present. Then
there was a loud clapping of hands, and mugs and tankards made a
rattling music upon the tables to the accompaniment of loud laughter
at nothing in particular, and of Mr. Jellyband's muttered

"Just fancy ME bein' talked over by any God-forsaken
furriner!--What?--Lud love you, sir, but you do say some queer things."

To which obvious fact the stranger heartily assented. It was
certainly a preposterous suggestion that anyone could ever upset Mr.
Jellyband's firmly-rooted opinions anent the utter worthlessness of
the inhabitants of the whole continent of Europe.



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