El Dorado [Scarlet Pimpernel Series, Vol. 2]
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by Baroness Orczy
Category: Historical Fiction/Romance
Description: by Baroness Emma Orczy Scarlet Pimpernel, Vol. 2 Though Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney are reconciled, he still works behind the scenes to rescue doomed French aristocrats. This time it is his wife's dear brother, Armand St.Just and the woman he loves who are in danger. Can Sir Percy rescue them in the guise of his alter-ego, the Scarlet Pimpernel without anyone finding out his true identity?
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net/ebooksonthe.net, 1918 book
eBookwise Release Date: March 2010
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [539 KB]
Reading time: 349-488 min.
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 jewelers were not idle. A grim sense of humor, born of the very intensity of ever-present danger, had dubbed the cut of certain tunics "tete tranche," or a favorite ragout was called "a la guillotine."
On three evenings only during the past memorable four and a half years did the theaters 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 theaters 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 favorite 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, authorizing 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 captain 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 recognized 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 program of this evening's entertainment, and preparing to enjoy themselves tonight in the company of the late M. de Moliere, are two hell-hounds as powerful as they are cunning."