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EL DORADO

By Baroness Orczy




FOREWORD

There has of late years crept so much confusion into the mind of the
student as well as of the general reader as to the identity of the
Scarlet Pimpernel with that of the Gascon Royalist plotter known to
history as the Baron de Batz, that the time seems opportune for setting
all doubts on that subject at rest.

The identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel is in no way whatever connected
with that of the Baron de Batz, and even superficial reflection will
soon bring the mind to the conclusion that great fundamental differences
existed in these two men, in their personality, in their character, and,
above all, in their aims.

According to one or two enthusiastic historians, the Baron de Batz was
the chief agent in a vast network of conspiracy, entirely supported by
foreign money - both English and Austrian - and which had for its object
the overthrow of the Republican Government and the restoration of the
monarchy in France.

In order to attain this political goal, it is averred that he set
himself the task of pitting the members of the revolutionary Government
one against the other, and bringing hatred and dissensions amongst them,
until the cry of "Traitor!" resounded from one end of the Assembly of
the Convention to the other, and the Assembly itself became as one vast
den of wild beasts wherein wolves and hyenas devoured one another and,
still unsatiated, licked their streaming jaws hungering for more prey.

Those same enthusiastic historians, who have a firm belief in the
so-called "Foreign Conspiracy," ascribe every important event of the
Great Revolution - be that event the downfall of the Girondins, the
escape of the Dauphin from the Temple, or the death of Robespierre - to
the intrigues of Baron de Batz. He it was, so they say, who egged the
Jacobins on against the Mountain, Robespierre against Danton, Hebert
against Robespierre. He it was who instigated the massacres of
September, the atrocities of Nantes, the horrors of Thermidor, the
sacrileges, the noyades: all with the view of causing every section of
the National Assembly to vie with the other in excesses and in cruelty,
until the makers of the Revolution, satiated with their own lust, turned
on one another, and Sardanapalus-like buried themselves and their orgies
in the vast hecatomb of a self-consumed anarchy.

Whether the power thus ascribed to Baron de Batz by his historians is
real or imaginary it is not the purpose of this preface to investigate.
Its sole object is to point out the difference between the career of
this plotter and that of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

The Baron de Batz himself was an adventurer without substance, save that
which he derived from abroad. He was one of those men who have nothing
to lose and everything to gain by throwing themselves headlong in the
seething cauldron of internal politics.

Though he made several attempts at rescuing King Louis first, and
then the Queen and Royal Family from prison and from death, he never
succeeded, as we know, in any of these undertakings, and he never once
so much as attempted the rescue of other equally innocent, if not quite
so distinguished, victims of the most bloodthirsty revolution that has
ever shaken the foundations of the civilised world.

Nay more; when on the 29th Prairial those unfortunate men and women were
condemned and executed for alleged complicity in the so-called "Foreign
Conspiracy," de Batz, who is universally admitted to have been the
head and prime-mover of that conspiracy - if, indeed, conspiracy there
was - never made either the slightest attempt to rescue his confederates
from the guillotine, or at least the offer to perish by their side if he
could not succeed in saving them.

And when we remember that the martyrs of the 29th Prairial included
women like Grandmaison, the devoted friend of de Batz, the beautiful
Emilie de St. Amaranthe, little Cecile Renault - a mere child not sixteen
years of age - also men like Michonis and Roussell, faithful servants
of de Batz, the Baron de Lezardiere, and the Comte de St. Maurice,
his friends, we no longer can have the slightest doubt that the Gascon
plotter and the English gentleman are indeed two very different persons.

The latter's aims were absolutely non-political. He never intrigued
for the restoration of the monarchy, or even for the overthrow of that
Republic which he loathed.

His only concern was the rescue of the innocent, the stretching out of a
saving hand to those unfortunate creatures who had fallen into the nets
spread out for them by their fellow-men; by those who - godless, lawless,
penniless themselves - had sworn to exterminate all those who clung to
their belongings, to their religion, and to their beliefs.

The Scarlet Pimpernel did not take it upon himself to punish the guilty;
his care was solely of the helpless and of the innocent.

For this aim he risked his life every time that he set foot on French
soil, for it he sacrificed his fortune, and even his personal happiness,
and to it he devoted his entire existence.

Moreover, whereas the French plotter is said to have had confederates
even in the Assembly of the Convention, confederates who were
sufficiently influential and powerful to secure his own immunity, the
Englishman when he was bent on his errands of mercy had the whole of
France against him.

The Baron de Batz was a man who never justified either his own ambitions
or even his existence; the Scarlet Pimpernel was a personality of whom
an entire nation might justly be proud.




CONTENTS

PART I
I IN THE THEATRE NATIONAL
II WIDELY DIVERGENT AIMS
III THE DEMON CHANCE
IV MADEMOISELLE LANGE
V THE TEMPLE PRISON
VI THE COMMITTEE'S AGENT
VII THE MOST PRECIOUS LIFE IN EUROPE
VIII ARCADES AMBO
IX WHAT LOVE CAN DO
X SHADOWS
XI THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
XII WHAT LOVE IS
XIII THEN EVERYTHING WAS DARK
XIV THE CHIEF
XV THE GATE OF LA VILLETTE
XVI THE WEARY SEARCH
XVII CHAUVELIN
XVIII THE REMOVAL
XIX IT IS ABOUT THE DAUPHIN
XX THE CERTIFICATE OF SAFETY
XXI BACK TO PARIS
XXII OF THAT THERE COULD BE NO QUESTION
XXIII THE OVERWHELMING ODDS

PART II
XXIV THE NEWS
XXV PARIS ONCE MORE
XXVI THE BITTEREST FOE
XXVI IN THE CONCIERGERIE
XXVIII THE CAGED LION
XXIX FOR THE SAKE OF THAT HELPLESS INNOCENT
XXX AFTERWARDS
XXXI AN INTERLUDE
XXXII SISTERS
XXXIII LITTLE MOTHER
XXXIV THE LETTER

PART III
XXXV THE LAST PHASE
XXXVI SUBMISSION
XXXVII CHAUVELIN'S ADVICE
XXXVIII CAPITULATION
XXXIX KILL HIM!
XL GOD HELP US ALL
XLI WHEN HOPE WAS DEAD
XLII THE GUARD-HOUSE OF THE RUE STE. ANNE
XLIII THE DREARY JOURNEY
XLIV THE HALT AT CRECY
XLV THE FOREST OF BOULOGNE
XLVI OTHERS IN THE PARK
XLVII THE CHAPEL OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE
XLVIII THE WANING MOON
XLIX THE LAND OF ELDORADO




PART I.



CHAPTER I. IN THE THEATRE NATIONAL

And yet people found the opportunity to amuse themselves, to dance and
to go to the theatre, to enjoy music and open-air cafes and promenades
in the Palais Royal.

New fashions in dress made their appearance, milliners produced fresh
"creations," and jewellers were not idle. A grim sense of humour, born
of the very intensity of ever-present danger, had dubbed the cut of
certain tunics "tete tranche," or a favourite ragout was called "a la
guillotine."

On three evenings only during the past memorable four and a half years
did the theatres close their doors, and these evenings were the ones
immediately following that terrible 2nd of September the day of the
butchery outside the Abbaye prison, when Paris herself was aghast with
horror, and the cries of the massacred might have drowned the calls of
the audience whose hands upraised for plaudits would still be dripping
with blood.

On all other evenings of these same four and a half years the theatres
in the Rue de Richelieu, in the Palais Royal, the Luxembourg, and
others, had raised their curtains and taken money at their doors.
The same audience that earlier in the day had whiled away the time
by witnessing the ever-recurrent dramas of the Place de la Revolution
assembled here in the evenings and filled stalls, boxes, and tiers,
laughing over the satires of Voltaire or weeping over the sentimental
tragedies of persecuted Romeos and innocent Juliets.

Death knocked at so many doors these days! He was so constant a guest in
the houses of relatives and friends that those who had merely shaken him
by the hand, those on whom he had smiled, and whom he, still smiling,
had passed indulgently by, looked on him with that subtle contempt born
of familiarity, shrugged their shoulders at his passage, and envisaged
his probable visit on the morrow with lighthearted indifference.

Paris - despite the horrors that had stained her walls had remained a
city of pleasure, and the knife of the guillotine did scarce descend
more often than did the drop-scenes on the stage.

On this bitterly cold evening of the 27th Nivose, in the second year of
the Republic - or, as we of the old style still persist in calling it,
the 16th of January, 1794 - the auditorium of the Theatre National was
filled with a very brilliant company.

The appearance of a favourite actress in the part of one of Moliere's
volatile heroines had brought pleasure-loving Paris to witness this
revival of "Le Misanthrope," with new scenery, dresses, and the
aforesaid charming actress to add piquancy to the master's mordant wit.

The Moniteur, which so impartially chronicles the events of those times,
tells us under that date that the Assembly of the Convention voted on
that same day a new law giving fuller power to its spies, enabling them
to effect domiciliary searches at their discretion without previous
reference to the Committee of General Security, authorising them to
proceed against all enemies of public happiness, to send them to prison
at their own discretion, and assuring them the sum of thirty-five livres
"for every piece of game thus beaten up for the guillotine." Under that
same date the Moniteur also puts it on record that the Theatre National
was filled to its utmost capacity for the revival of the late citoyen
Moliere's comedy.

The Assembly of the Convention having voted the new law which placed the
lives of thousands at the mercy of a few human bloodhounds, adjourned
its sitting and proceeded to the Rue de Richelieu.

Already the house was full when the fathers of the people made their way
to the seats which had been reserved for them. An awed hush descended
on the throng as one by one the men whose very names inspired horror and
dread filed in through the narrow gangways of the stalls or took their
places in the tiny boxes around.

Citizen Robespierre's neatly bewigged head soon appeared in one of
these; his bosom friend St. Just was with him, and also his sister
Charlotte. Danton, like a big, shaggy-coated lion, elbowed his way into
the stalls, whilst Sauterre, the handsome butcher and idol of the people
of Paris, was loudly acclaimed as his huge frame, gorgeously clad in the
uniform of the National Guard, was sighted on one of the tiers above.

The public in the parterre and in the galleries whispered excitedly; the
awe-inspiring names flew about hither and thither on the wings of the
overheated air. Women craned their necks to catch sight of heads which
mayhap on the morrow would roll into the gruesome basket at the foot of
the guillotine.

In one of the tiny avant-scene boxes two men had taken their seats long
before the bulk of the audience had begun to assemble in the house. The
inside of the box was in complete darkness, and the narrow opening which
allowed but a sorry view of one side of the stage helped to conceal
rather than display the occupants.

The younger one of these two men appeared to be something of a stranger
in Paris, for as the public men and the well-known members of the
Government began to arrive he often turned to his companion for
information regarding these notorious personalities.

"Tell me, de Batz," he said, calling the other's attention to a group
of men who had just entered the house, "that creature there in the green
coat - with his hand up to his face now - who is he?"

"Where? Which do you mean?"

"There! He looks this way now, and he has a playbill in his hand. The
man with the protruding chin and the convex forehead, a face like a
marmoset, and eyes like a jackal. What?"

The other leaned over the edge of the box, and his small, restless eyes
wandered over the now closely-packed auditorium.

"Oh!" he said as soon as he recognised the face which his friend had
pointed out to him, "that is citizen Foucquier-Tinville."

"The Public Prosecutor?"

"Himself. And Heron is the man next to him."

"Heron?" said the younger man interrogatively.

"Yes. He is chief agent to the Committee of General Security now."

"What does that mean?"

Both leaned back in their chairs, and their sombrely-clad figures were
once more merged in the gloom of the narrow box. Instinctively, since
the name of the Public Prosecutor had been mentioned between them, they
had allowed their voices to sink to a whisper.

The older man - a stoutish, florid-looking individual, with small, keen
eyes, and skin pitted with small-pox - shrugged his shoulders at
his friend's question, and then said with an air of contemptuous
indifference:

"It means, my good St. Just, that these two men whom you see down
there, calmly conning the programme of this evening's entertainment, and
preparing to enjoy themselves to-night in the company of the late M. de
Moliere, are two hell-hounds as powerful as they are cunning."

"Yes, yes," said St. Just, and much against his will a slight shudder
ran through his slim figure as he spoke. "Foucquier-Tinville I know; I
know his cunning, and I know his power - but the other?"

"The other?" retorted de Batz lightly. "Heron? Let me tell you, my
friend, that even the might and lust of that damned Public Prosecutor
pale before the power of Heron!"

"But how? I do not understand."

"Ah! you have been in England so long, you lucky dog, and though no
doubt the main plot of our hideous tragedy has reached your ken, you
have no cognisance of the actors who play the principal parts on this
arena flooded with blood and carpeted with hate. They come and go, these
actors, my good St. Just - they come and go. Marat is already the man
of yesterday, Robespierre is the man of to-morrow. To-day we still have
Danton and Foucquier-Tinville; we still have Pere Duchesne, and your
own good cousin Antoine St. Just, but Heron and his like are with us
always."

"Spies, of course?"

"Spies," assented the other. "And what spies! Were you present at the
sitting of the Assembly to-day?"

"I was. I heard the new decree which already has passed into law. Ah! I
tell you, friend, that we do not let the grass grow under our feet these
days. Robespierre wakes up one morning with a whim; by the afternoon
that whim has become law, passed by a servile body of men too terrified
to run counter to his will, fearful lest they be accused of moderation
or of humanity - the greatest crimes that can be committed nowadays."

"But Danton?"

"Ah! Danton? He would wish to stem the tide that his own passions
have let loose; to muzzle the raging beasts whose fangs he himself has
sharpened. I told you that Danton is still the man of to-day; to-morrow
he will be accused of moderation. Danton and moderation! - ye gods!
Eh? Danton, who thought the guillotine too slow in its work, and armed
thirty soldiers with swords, so that thirty heads might fall at one
and the same time. Danton, friend, will perish to-morrow accused of
treachery against the Revolution, of moderation towards her enemies;
and curs like Heron will feast on the blood of lions like Danton and his
crowd."

He paused a moment, for he dared not raise his voice, and his whispers
were being drowned by the noise in the auditorium. The curtain, timed
to be raised at eight o'clock, was still down, though it was close on
half-past, and the public was growing impatient. There was loud stamping
of feet, and a few shrill whistles of disapproval proceeded from the
gallery.

"If Heron gets impatient," said de Batz lightly, when the noise had
momentarily subsided, "the manager of this theatre and mayhap his leading
actor and actress will spend an unpleasant day to-morrow."

"Always Heron!" said St. Just, with a contemptuous smile.

"Yes, my friend," rejoined the other imperturbably, "always Heron. And
he has even obtained a longer lease of existence this afternoon."

"By the new decree?"

"Yes. The new decree. The agents of the Committee of General Security,
of whom Heron is the chief, have from to-day powers of domiciliary
search; they have full powers to proceed against all enemies of
public welfare. Isn't that beautifully vague? And they have absolute
discretion; every one may become an enemy of public welfare, either by
spending too much money or by spending too little, by laughing to-day
or crying to-morrow, by mourning for one dead relative or rejoicing over
the execution of another. He may be a bad example to the public by
the cleanliness of his person or by the filth upon his clothes, he may
offend by walking to-day and by riding in a carriage next week; the
agents of the Committee of General Security shall alone decide what
constitutes enmity against public welfare. All prisons are to be opened
at their bidding to receive those whom they choose to denounce; they
have henceforth the right to examine prisoners privately and without
witnesses, and to send them to trial without further warrants; their
duty is clear - they must 'beat up game for the guillotine.' Thus is the
decree worded; they must furnish the Public Prosecutor with work to do,
the tribunals with victims to condemn, the Place de la Revolution
with death-scenes to amuse the people, and for their work they will
be rewarded thirty-five livres for every head that falls under the
guillotine Ah! if Heron and his like and his myrmidons work hard and
well they can make a comfortable income of four or five thousand livres
a week. We are getting on, friend St. Just - we are getting on."

He had not raised his voice while he spoke, nor in the recounting of
such inhuman monstrosity, such vile and bloodthirsty conspiracy against
the liberty, the dignity, the very life of an entire nation, did he
appear to feel the slightest indignation; rather did a tone of amusement
and even of triumph strike through his speech; and now he laughed
good-humouredly like an indulgent parent who is watching the naturally
cruel antics of a spoilt boy.

"Then from this hell let loose upon earth," exclaimed St. Just hotly,
"must we rescue those who refuse to ride upon this tide of blood."

His cheeks were glowing, his eyes sparkled with enthusiasm. He looked
very young and very eager. Armand St. Just, the brother of Lady
Blakeney, had something of the refined beauty of his lovely sister, but
the features though manly - had not the latent strength expressed in
them which characterised every line of Marguerite's exquisite face. The
forehead suggested a dreamer rather than a thinker, the blue-grey eyes
were those of an idealist rather than of a man of action.

De Batz's keen piercing eyes had no doubt noted this, even whilst
he gazed at his young friend with that same look of good-humoured
indulgence which seemed habitual to him.

"We have to think of the future, my good St. Just," he said after a
slight pause, and speaking slowly and decisively, like a father rebuking
a hot-headed child, "not of the present. What are a few lives worth
beside the great principles which we have at stake?"

"The restoration of the monarchy - I know," retorted St. Just, still
unsobered, "but, in the meanwhile - "

"In the meanwhile," rejoined de Batz earnestly, "every victim to
the lust of these men is a step towards the restoration of law and
order - that is to say, of the monarchy. It is only through these violent
excesses perpetrated in its name that the nation will realise how it is
being fooled by a set of men who have only their own power and their own
advancement in view, and who imagine that the only way to that power is
over the dead bodies of those who stand in their way. Once the nation is
sickened by these orgies of ambition and of hate, it will turn against
these savage brutes, and gladly acclaim the restoration of all that
they are striving to destroy. This is our only hope for the future, and,
believe me, friend, that every head snatched from the guillotine by
your romantic hero, the Scarlet Pimpernel, is a stone laid for the
consolidation of this infamous Republic."

"I'll not believe it," protested St. Just emphatically.

De Batz, with a gesture of contempt indicative also of complete
self-satisfaction and unalterable self-belief, shrugged his broad
shoulders. His short fat fingers, covered with rings, beat a tattoo upon
the ledge of the box.

Obviously, he was ready with a retort. His young friend's attitude
irritated even more than it amused him. But he said nothing for the
moment, waiting while the traditional three knocks on the floor of the
stage proclaimed the rise of the curtain. The growing impatience of the
audience subsided as if by magic at the welcome call; everybody settled
down again comfortably in their seats, they gave up the contemplation of
the fathers of the people, and turned their full attention to the actors
on the boards.



CHAPTER II. WIDELY DIVERGENT AIMS

This was Armand S. Just's first visit to Paris since that memorable day
when first he decided to sever his connection from the Republican party,
of which he and his beautiful sister Marguerite had at one time been
amongst the most noble, most enthusiastic followers. Already a year and
a half ago the excesses of the party had horrified him, and that was
long before they had degenerated into the sickening orgies which were
culminating to-day in wholesale massacres and bloody hecatombs of
innocent victims.

With the death of Mirabeau the moderate Republicans, whose sole and
entirely pure aim had been to free the people of France from the
autocratic tyranny of the Bourbons, saw the power go from their clean
hands to the grimy ones of lustful demagogues, who knew no law save
their own passions of bitter hatred against all classes that were not as
self-seeking, as ferocious as themselves.

It was no longer a question of a fight for political and religious
liberty only, but one of class against class, man against man, and
let the weaker look to himself. The weaker had proved himself to
be, firstly, the man of property and substance, then the law-abiding
citizen, lastly the man of action who had obtained for the people that
very same liberty of thought and of belief which soon became so terribly
misused.

Armand St. Just, one of the apostles of liberty, fraternity, and
equality, soon found that the most savage excesses of tyranny were being
perpetrated in the name of those same ideals which he had worshipped.

His sister Marguerite, happily married in England, was the final
temptation which caused him to quit the country the destinies of which
he no longer could help to control. The spark of enthusiasm which he
and the followers of Mirabeau had tried to kindle in the hearts of an
oppressed people had turned to raging tongues of unquenchable flames.
The taking of the Bastille had been the prelude to the massacres of
September, and even the horror of these had since paled beside the
holocausts of to-day.

Armand, saved from the swift vengeance of the revolutionaries by the
devotion of the Scarlet Pimpernel, crossed over to England and enrolled
himself under the banner of the heroic chief. But he had been unable
hitherto to be an active member of the League. The chief was loath to
allow him to run foolhardy risks. The St. Justs - both Marguerite and
Armand - were still very well-known in Paris. Marguerite was not a woman
easily forgotten, and her marriage with an English "aristo" did not
please those republican circles who had looked upon her as their queen.
Armand's secession from his party into the ranks of the emigres had
singled him out for special reprisals, if and whenever he could be got



Online LibraryEmmuska OrczyEl Dorado, an adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel → online text (page 1 of 29)