Volume Two containing two adventures: The ‘Elusive Pimpernel’ & ‘ Eldorado’
Sir Percy Blakeney is not to be taken too seriously. In late 18th century England he is little more than a man given to trivial pleasures, an aristocratic and wealthy fop, unconcerned with politics or events on the other side of the English Channel where the France of the Bourbons has been violently swept away by the zealots of revolution. What is it to Sir Percy that the ‘Reign of Terror’ has cast its shadow over all of France, or that the heads of innocents fall daily into the baskets of the guillotines of the Convention? Nothing? Well no, for Sir Percy is leading a double life with a dangerous secret identity. He is in reality the complete opposite of his apparently ‘true’ self. He is ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’, an expert swordsman, a master of disguise, a dare-devil, quick-thinking escape artist and, together with his band of like-minded adventurers, a man on a mission to rescue those unjustly condemned to die. So successful is he in this endeavour that soon ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ is famous as an heroic defender of the weak and oppressed, and notorious as an opponent of the officers and agents of the revolution (including the dastardly Citizen Chauvelin) who are determined, at all costs, to bring him to account on the ‘national razor’. They seek him here, there and everywhere but catching ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ is quite another matter! In creating this fictional hero, Baroness Orczy (1865-1947) has given her readership a thrilling character in a unique series of historical, action-packed romps whose popularity is destined to endure. All the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ adventures have been gathered together by Leonaur in a coordinated collection of good value volumes.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Silence reigned in the narrow cell for a few moments, whilst two human jackals stood motionless over their captured prey.
A savage triumph gleamed in Chauvelin’s eyes, and even Héron, dull and brutal though he was, had become vaguely conscious of the great change that had come over the prisoner.
Blakeney, with a gesture and a sigh of hopeless exhaustion had once more rested both his elbows on the table; his head fell heavy and almost lifeless downward in his arms.
“Curse you, man!” cried Héron almost involuntarily. “Why in the name of hell did you wait so long?”
Then, as the prisoner made no reply, but only raised his head slightly, and looked on the other two men with dulled, wearied eyes, Chauvelin interposed calmly:
“More than a fortnight has been wasted in useless obstinacy, Sir Percy. Fortunately, it is not too late.”
“Capet?” said Héron hoarsely, “tell us, where is Capet?”
He leaned across the table, his eyes were bloodshot with the keenness of his excitement, his voice shook with the passionate desire for the crowning triumph.
“If you’ll only not worry me,” murmured the prisoner; and the whisper came so laboriously and so low that both men were forced to bend their ears close to the scarcely moving lips; “if you will let me sleep and rest, and leave me in peace—”
“The peace of the grave, man,” retorted Chauvelin roughly; “if you will only speak. Where is Capet?”
“I cannot tell you; the way is long, the road—intricate.”
“I’ll lead you to him, if you will give me rest.”
“We don’t want you to lead us anywhere,” growled Héron with a smothered curse; “tell us where Capet is; we’ll find him right enough.”
“I cannot explain; the way is intricate; the place off the beaten track, unknown except to me and my friends.”
Once more that shadow, which was so like the passing of the hand of Death, overspread the prisoner’s face; his head rolled back against the chair.
“He’ll die before he can speak,” muttered Chauvelin under his breath. “You usually are well provided with brandy, Citizen Héron.”
The latter no longer demurred. He saw the danger as clearly as did his colleague. It had been hell’s own luck if the prisoner were to die now when he seemed ready to give in. He produced a flask from the pocket of his coat, and this he held to Blakeney’s lips.
“Beastly stuff,” murmured the latter feebly. “I think I’d sooner faint—than drink.”
“Capet? where is Capet?” reiterated Héron impatiently.
“One—two—three hundred leagues from here. I must let one of my friends know; he’ll communicate with the others; they must be prepared,” replied the prisoner slowly.
Héron uttered a blasphemous oath.
“Where is Capet? Tell us where Capet is, or—”
He was like a raging tiger that had thought to hold its prey and suddenly realised that it was being snatched from him. He raised his fist, and without doubt the next moment he would have silenced forever the lips that held the precious secret, but Chauvelin fortunately was quick enough to seize his wrist.
“Have a care, citizen,” he said peremptorily; “have a care! You called me a fool just now when you thought I had killed the prisoner. It is his secret we want first; his death can follow afterwards.”
“Yes, but not in this d—d hole,” murmured Blakeney.
“On the guillotine if you’ll speak,” cried Héron, whose exasperation was getting the better of his self-interest, “but if you’ll not speak then it shall be starvation in this hole—yes, starvation,” he growled, showing a row of large and uneven teeth like those of some mongrel cur, “for I’ll have that door walled in tonight, and not another living soul shall cross this threshold again until your flesh has rotted on your bones and the rats have had their fill of you.”
The prisoner raised his head slowly, a shiver shook him as if caused by ague, and his eyes, that appeared almost sightless, now looked with a strange glance of horror on his enemy.
“I’ll die in the open,” he whispered, “not in this d—d hole.”
“Then tell us where Capet is.”
“I cannot; I wish to God I could. But I’ll take you to him, I swear I will. I’ll make my friends give him up to you. Do you think that I would not tell you now, if I could.”
Héron, whose every instinct of tyranny revolted against this thwarting of his will, would have continued to heckle the prisoner even now, had not Chauvelin suddenly interposed with an authoritative gesture.
“You’ll gain nothing this way, citizen,” he said quietly; “the man’s mind is wandering; he is probably quite unable to give you clear directions at this moment.”
“What am I to do, then?” muttered the other roughly.
“He cannot live another twenty-four hours now and would only grow more and more helpless as time went on.”
“Unless you relax your strict regime with him.”
“And if I do we’ll only prolong this situation indefinitely; and in the meanwhile, how do we know that the brat is not being spirited away out of the country?”
The prisoner, with his head once more buried in his arms, had fallen into a kind of torpor, the only kind of sleep that the exhausted system would allow. With a brutal gesture Héron shook him by the shoulder.
“He,” he shouted, “none of that, you know. We have not settled the matter of young Capet yet.”
Then, as the prisoner made no movement, and the chief agent indulged in one of his favourite volleys of oaths, Chauvelin placed a peremptory hand on his colleague’s shoulder.