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The Scarlet Pimpernel
By Baroness Orczy

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It took Marguerite some time to collect her scattered senses;
the whole of this last short episode had taken place in less than a
minute, and Desgas and the soldiers were still about two hundred yards
away from the "Chat Gris."

When she realised what had happened, a curious mixture of joy
and wonder filled her heart. It all was so neat, so ingenious.
Chauvelin was still absolutely helpless, far more so than he could
even have been under a blow from the fist, for now he could neither
see, nor hear, nor speak, whilst his cunning adversary had quietly
slipped through his fingers.

Blakeney was gone, obviously to try and join the fugitives at
the Pere Blanchard's hut. For the moment, true, Chauvelin was
helpless; for the moment the daring Scarlet Pimpernel had not been
caught by Desgas and his men. But all the roads and the beach were
patrolled. Every place was watched, and every stranger kept in sight.
How far could Percy go, thus arrayed in his gorgeous clothes, without
being sighted and followed?
Now she blamed herself terribly for not having gone down to
him sooner, and given him that word of warning and of love which,
perhaps, after all, he needed. He could not know of the orders which
Chauvelin had given for his capture, and even now, perhaps. . .

But before all these horrible thoughts had taken concrete form
in her brain, she heard the grounding of arms outside, close to the
door, and Desgas' voice shouting "Halt!" to his men.

Chauvelin had partially recovered; his sneezing had become
less violent, and he had struggled to his feet. He managed to reach
the door just as Desgas' knock was heard on the outside.

Chauvelin threw open the door, and before his secretary could
say a word, he had managed to stammer between two sneezes--

"The tall stranger--quick!--did any of you see him?"

"Where, citoyen?" asked Desgas, in surprise.

"Here, man! through that door! not five minutes ago."

"We saw nothing, citoyen! The moon is not yet up, and. . ."

"And you are just five minutes too late, my friend," said
Chauvelin, with concentrated fury.

"Citoyen. . .I. . ."

"You did what I ordered you to do," said Chauvelin, with
impatience. "I know that, but you were a precious long time about it.
Fortunately, there's not much harm done, or it had fared ill with you,
Citoyen Desgas."

Desgas turned a little pale. There was so much rage and
hatred in his superior's whole attitude.

"The tall stranger, citoyen--" he stammered.

"Was here, in this room, five minutes ago, having supper at
that table. Damn his impudence! For obvious reasons, I dared not
tackle him alone. Brogard is too big a fool, and that cursed
Englishman appears to have the strength of a bullock, and so he
slipped away under your very nose."

"He cannot go far without being sighted, citoyen."


"Captain Jutley sent forty men as reinforcements for the
patrol duty: twenty went down to the beach. He again assured me that
the watch had been constant all day, and that no stranger could
possibly get to the beach, or reach a boat, without being sighted."

"That's good.--Do the men know their work?"
"They have had very clear orders, citoyen: and I myself spoke
to those who were about to start. They are to shadow--as secretly as
possible--any stranger they may see, especially if he be tall, or
stoop as if her would disguise his height."

"In no case to detain such a person, of course," said
Chauvelin, eagerly. "That impudent Scarlet Pimpernel would slip
through clumsy fingers. We must let him get to the Pere Blanchard's
hut now; there surround and capture him."

"The men understand that, citoyen, and also that, as soon as a
tall stranger has been sighted, he must be shadowed, whilst one man is
to turn straight back and report to you."

"That is right," said Chauvelin, rubbing his hands, well

"I have further news for you, citoyen."

"What is it?"

"A tall Englishman had a long conversation about
three-quarters of an hour ago with a Jew, Reuben by name, who lives
not ten paces from here."

"Yes--and?" queried Chauvelin, impatiently.

"The conversation was all about a horse and cart, which the
tall Englishman wished to hire, and which was to have been ready for
him by eleven o'clock."

"It is past that now. Where does that Reuben live?"

"A few minutes' walk from this door."

"Send one of the men to find out if the stranger has driven
off in Reuben's cart."

"Yes, citoyen."

Desgas went to give the necessary orders to one of the men.
Not a word of this conversation between him and Chauvelin had escaped
Marguerite, and every word they had spoken seemed to strike at her
heart, with terrible hopelessness and dark foreboding.

She had come all this way, and with such high hopes and firm
determination to help her husband, and so far she had been able to do
nothing, but to watch, with a heart breaking with anguish, the meshes
of the deadly net closing round the daring Scarlet Pimpernel.

He could not now advance many steps, without spying eyes to
track and denounce him. Her own helplessness struck her with the
terrible sense of utter disappointment. The possibility of being the
slightest use to her husband had become almost NIL, and her only
hope rested in being allowed to share his fate, whatever it might
ultimately be.

For the moment, even her chance of ever seeing the man she
loved again, had become a remote one. Still, she was determined to
keep a close watch over his enemy, and a vague hope filled her heart,
that whilst she kept Chauvelin in sight, Percy's fate might still be
hanging in the balance.

Desgas left Chauvelin moodily pacing up and down the room,
whilst he himself waited outside for the return of the man whom he had
sent in search of Reuben. Thus several minutes went by. Chauvelin
was evidently devoured with impatience. Apparently he trusted no one:
this last trick played upon him by the daring Scarlet Pimpernel had
made him suddenly doubtful of success, unless he himself was there to
watch, direct and superintend the capture of this impudent Englishman.

About five minutes later, Desgas returned, followed by an
elderly Jew, in a dirty, threadbare gaberdine, worn greasy across the
shoulders. His red hair, which he wore after the fashion of the
Polish Jews, with the corkscrew curls each side of his face, was
plentifully sprinkled with grey--a general coating of grime, about his
cheeks and his chin, gave him a peculiarly dirty and loathsome
appearance. He had the habitual stoop, those of his race affected in
mock humility in past centuries, before the dawn of equality and
freedom in matters of faith, and he walked behind Desgas with the
peculiar shuffling gait which has remained the characteristic of the
Jew trader in continental Europe to this day.

Chauvelin, who had all the Frenchman's prejudice against the
despised race, motioned to the fellow to keep at a respectful
distance. The group of the three men were standing just underneath
the hanging oil-lamp, and Marguerite had a clear view of them all.

"Is this the man?" asked Chauvelin.

"No, citoyen," replied Desgas, "Reuben could not be found, so
presumably his cart has gone with the stranger; but this man here
seems to know something, which he is willing to sell for a

"Ah!" said Chauvelin, turning away with disgust from the
loathsome specimen of humanity before him.

The Jew, with characteristic patience, stood humbly on one
side, leaning on the knotted staff, his greasy, broad-brimmed hat
casting a deep shadow over his grimy face, waiting for the noble
Excellency to deign to put some questions to him.

"The citoyen tells me," said Chauvelin peremptorily to him,
"that you know something of my friend, the tall Englishman, whom I
desire to meet. . .MORBLEU! keep your distance, man," he added
hurriedly, as the Jew took a quick and eager step forward.

"Yes, your Excellency," replied the Jew, who spoke the
language with that peculiar lisp which denotes Eastern origin, "I and
Reuben Goldstein met a tall Englishman, on the road, close by here
this evening."

"Did you speak to him?"

"He spoke to us, your Excellency. He wanted to know if he
could hire a horse and cart to go down along the St. Martin road, to a
place he wanted to reach to-night."

"What did you say?"

"I did not say anything," said the Jew in an injured tone,
"Reuben Goldstein, that accursed traitor, that son of Belial. . ."

"Cut that short, man," interrupted Chauvelin, roughly, "and go
on with your story."

"He took the words out of my mouth, your Excellency: when I
was about to offer the wealthy Englishman my horse and cart, to take
him wheresoever he chose, Reuben had already spoken, and offered his
half-starved nag, and his broken-down cart."

"And what did the Englishman do?"

"He listened to Reuben Goldstein, your Excellency, and put his
hand in his pocket then and there, and took out a handful of gold,
which he showed to that descendant of Beelzebub, telling him that all
that would be his, if the horse and cart were ready for him by eleven

"And, of course, the horse and cart were ready?"

"Well! they were ready for him in a manner, so to speak, your
Excellency. Reuben's nag was lame as usual; she refused to budge at
first. It was only after a time and with plenty of kicks, that she at
last could be made to move," said the Jew with a malicious chuckle.

"Then they started?"

"Yes, they started about five minutes ago. I was disgusted
with that stranger's folly. An Englishman too!--He ought to have
known Reuben's nag was not fit to drive."

"But if he had no choice?"

"No choice, your Excellency?" protested the Jew, in a rasping
voice, "did I not repeat to him a dozen times, that my horse and cart
would take him quicker, and more comfortably than Reuben's bag of
bones. He would not listen. Reuben is such a liar, and has such
insinuating ways. The stranger was deceived. If he was in a hurry,
he would have had better value for his money by taking my cart."

"You have a horse and cart too, then?" asked Chauvelin, peremptorily.

"Aye! that I have, your Excellency, and if your Excellency wants
to drive. . ."

"Do you happen to know which way my friend went in Reuben Goldstein's cart?"

Thoughtfully the Jew rubbed his dirty chin. Marguerite's heart was
beating well-nigh to bursting. She had heard the peremptory question;
she looked anxiously at the Jew, but could not read his face beneath
the shadow of his broad-brimmed hat. Vaguely she felt somehow as if
he held Percy's fate in his long dirty hands.

There was a long pause, whilst Chauvelin frowned impatiently
at the stooping figure before him: at last the Jew slowly put his hand
in his breast pocket, and drew out from its capacious depths a number
of silver coins. He gazed at them thoughtfully, then remarked, in a
quiet tone of voice,--

"This is what the tall stranger gave me, when he drove away
with Reuben, for holding my tongue about him, and his doings."

Chauvelin shrugged his shoulders impatiently.

"How much is there there?" he asked.

"Twenty francs, your Excellency," replied the Jew, "and I have
been an honest man all my life."

Chauvelin without further comment took a few pieces of gold
out of his own pocket, and leaving them in the palm of his hand, he
allowed them to jingle as he held them out towards the Jew.

"How many gold pieces are there in the palm of my hand?" he asked quietly.

Evidently he had no desire to terrorize the man, but to conciliate him,
for his own purposes, for his manner was pleasant and suave. No doubt
he feared that threats of the guillotine, and various other persuasive
methods of that type, might addle the old man's brains, and that he would
be more likely to be useful through greed of gain, than through terror
of death.

The eyes of the Jew shot a quick, keen glance at the gold in
his interlocutor's hand.

"At least five, I should say, your Excellency," he replied obsequiously.

"Enough, do you think, to loosen that honest tongue of yours?"

"What does your Excellency wish to know?"

"Whether your horse and cart can take me to where I can find my friend
the tall stranger, who has driven off in Reuben Goldstein's cart?"

"My horse and cart can take your Honour there, where you please."

"To a place called the Pere Blanchard's hut?"

"Your Honour has guessed?" said the Jew in astonishment.

"You know the place?"

"Which road leads to it?"

"The St. Martin Road, your Honour, then a footpath from there to the cliffs."

"You know the road?" repeated Chauvelin, roughly.

"Every stone, every blade of grass, your Honour," replied the Jew quietly.

Chauvelin without another word threw the five pieces of gold
one by one before the Jew, who knelt down, and on his hands and knees
struggled to collect them. One rolled away, and he had some trouble
to get it, for it had lodged underneath the dresser. Chauvelin
quietly waited while the old man scrambled on the floor, to find the
piece of gold.

When the Jew was again on his feet, Chauvelin said,--

"How soon can your horse and cart be ready?"

"They are ready now, your Honour."


"Not ten meters from this door. Will your Excellency deign to look."

"I don't want to see it. How far can you drive me in it?"

"As far as the Pere Blanchard's hut, your Honour, and further
than Reuben's nag took your friend. I am sure that, not two leagues
from here, we shall come across that wily Reuben, his nag, his cart
and the tall stranger all in a heap in the middle of the road."

"How far is the nearest village from here?"

"On the road which the Englishman took, Miquelon is the
nearest village, not two leagues from here."

"There he could get fresh conveyance, if he wanted to go further?"

"He could--if he ever got so far."

"Can you?"

"Will your Excellency try?" said the Jew simply.

"That is my intention," said Chauvelin very quietly, "but
remember, if you have deceived me, I shall tell off two of my most
stalwart soldiers to give you such a beating, that your breath will
perhaps leave your ugly body for ever. But if we find my friend the
tall Englishman, either on the road or at the Pere Blanchard's hut,
there will be ten more gold pieces for you. Do you accept the bargain?"

The Jew again thoughtfully rubbed his chin. He looked at the money
in his hand, then at this stern interlocutor, and at Desgas, who
had stood silently behind him all this while. After a moment's pause,
he said deliberately,--

"I accept."

"Go and wait outside then," said Chauvelin, "and remember to
stick to your bargain, or by Heaven, I will keep to mine."

With a final, most abject and cringing bow, the old Jew
shuffled out of the room. Chauvelin seemed pleased with his
interview, for he rubbed his hands together, with that usual gesture
of his, of malignant satisfaction.

"My coat and boots," he said to Desgas at last.

Desgas went to the door, and apparently gave the necessary orders, for
presently a soldier entered, carrying Chauvelin's coat, boots, and hat.

He took off his soutane, beneath which he was wearing close-fitting
breeches and a cloth waistcoat, and began changing his attire.

"You, citoyen, in the meanwhile," he said to Desgas, "go back
to Captain Jutley as fast as you can, and tell him to let you have
another dozen men, and bring them with you along the St. Martin Road,
where I daresay you will soon overtake the Jew's cart with myself in
it. There will be hot work presently, if I mistake not, in the Pere
Blanchard's hut. We shall corner our game there, I'll warrant, for
this impudent Scarlet Pimpernel has had the audacity--or the
stupidity, I hardly know which--to adhere to his original plans. He
has gone to meet de Tournay, St. Just and the other traitors, which
for the moment, I thought, perhaps, he did not intend to do. When we
find them, there will be a band of desperate men at bay. Some of our
men will, I presume, be put HORS DE COMBAT. These royalists are
good swordsmen, and the Englishman is devilish cunning, and looks very
powerful. Still, we shall be five against one at least. You can
follow the cart closely with your men, all along the St. Martin Road,
through Miquelon. The Englishman is ahead of us, and not likely to
look behind him."

Whilst he gave these curt and concise orders, he had completed
his change of attire. The priest's costume had been laid aside, and
he was once more dressed in his usual dark, tight-fitting clothes. At
last he took up his hat.

"I shall have an interesting prisoner to deliver into your
hands," he said with a chuckle, as with unwonted familiarity he took
Desgas' arm, and led him towards the door. "We won't kill him
outright, eh, friend Desgas? The Pere Blanchard's hut is--an I
mistake not--a lonely spot upon the beach, and our men will enjoy a
bit of rough sport there with the wounded fox. Choose your men well,
friend Desgas. . .of the sort who would enjoy that type of sport--eh?
We must see that Scarlet Pimpernel wither a bit--what?--shrink and
tremble, eh?. . .before we finally. . ." He made an expressive
gesture, whilst he laughed a low, evil laugh, which filled
Marguerite's soul with sickening horror.

"Choose your men well, Citoyen Desgas," he said once more, as
he led his secretary finally out of the room.



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