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The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel eBook

Baroness Emma Orczy
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 229 pages of information about The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

At daybreak we heard them going out by the front door, and their footsteps disappearing toward Calais.  We found their discarded uniforms lying in the coffee-room.  They must have entered Calais by daylight, when the gates were opened—­just like other peaceable citizens.  No doubt they had forged passports, just as they had stolen uniforms.

Our maid-of-all-work released us from our terrible position in the course of the morning, and we released the soldiers of the 9th Regiment of the Line, whom we found bound and gagged, some of them wounded, in the outhouse.

That same afternoon we were arrested, and here we are, ready to die if we must, but I swear that I have told you the truth, and I ask you, in the name of justice, if we have done anything wrong, and if we did not act like loyal and true citizens, even though we were pitted against an emissary of the devil?

IV

THE OLD SCARECROW

Nobody in the quartier could quite recollect when it was that the new Public Letter-Writer first set up in business at the angle formed by the Quai des Augustins and the Rue Dauphine, immediately facing the Pont Neuf; but there he certainly was on the 28th day of February, 1793, when Agnes, with eyes swollen with tears, a market basket on her arm, and a look of dreary despair on her young face, turned that selfsame angle on her way to the Pont Neuf, and nearly fell over the rickety construction which sheltered him and his stock-in-trade.

“Oh, mon Dieu! citizen Lepine, I had no idea you were here,” she exclaimed as soon as she had recovered her balance.

“Nor I, citizeness, that I should have the pleasure of seeing you this morning,” he retorted.

“But you were always at the other corner of the Pont Neuf,” she argued.

“So I was,” he replied, “so I was.  But I thought I would like a change.  The Faubourg St. Michel appealed to me; most of my clients came to me from this side of the river—­all those on the other side seem to know how to read and write.”

“I was just going over to see you,” she remarked.

“You, citizeness,” he exclaimed in unfeigned surprise, “what should procure a poor public writer the honour of—­”

“Hush, in God’s name!” broke in the young girl quickly as she cast a rapid, furtive glance up and down the quai and the narrow streets which converged at this angle.

She was dressed in the humblest and poorest of clothes, her skimpy shawl round her shoulders could scarce protect her against the cold of this cruel winter’s morning; her hair was entirely hidden beneath a frilled and starched cap, and her feet were encased in coarse worsted stockings and sabots, but her hands were delicate and fine, and her face had that nobility of feature and look of patient resignation in the midst of overwhelming sorrow which proclaimed a lofty refinement both of soul and of mind.

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