An adventure of the 20th century and eight Scarlet Pimpernel tales
The numerous ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ stories, set in the turbulent times of the French Revolution at the close of the 18th century, were phenomenally popular with their readers. However, their author, Baroness Orczy, despite the success Sir Percy Blakeney had brought her, could sometimes not resist diversifying from her well-loved central theme, including in her telling of the adventures of one of Sir Percy’s ancestors in the novels ‘The Laughing Cavalier’ and its sequel ‘The First Sir Percy’. In this present volume, however, Baroness Orczy introduces us to one of the Pimpernel’s descendents, his great, great grandson. Set in the 20th century after the First World War, this novel features a new character, Peter Blakeney, a famous cricket player, who follows his long-time friend and lost love Rosemary to Hungary. There he involves himself in plots, spying, mysteries and intrigue as he attempts to save his mother’s family and rescue Rosemary from a double agent. Business as usual for a Pimpernel! The second book in this final volume of the Leonaur ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ series returns to the escapades of the iconic Pimpernel himself as he battles to save the innocent from the blade of the guillotine in a collection of eight riveting shorter stories.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Then there came a cry like that of a wounded beast, and Maurus Imrey jumped to his feet. With head down, he charged into the soldiers just like an infuriated bull. Of course, he was seized at once, dragged back, forced down into a chair, where, with arms gripped by the soldiers, he launched forth a torrent of invective and abuse, and now and then, when he succeeded in freeing one of his arms, he hit out to right and left with his fist.
One of the soldiers, who appeared to be in command, spoke to him with cold deliberation:
“You are behaving like a fool, M. le Comte,” he said. “For let me tell you that if you interfere with my men in the execution of their duty I will take you along, too.”
Maurus’s answer to this sound piece of advice was a fresh torrent of vituperation. He shook himself free from the hands that held him down, raised a menacing fist, and cried hoarsely:
“If you dare to touch me, you miserable—”
But suddenly stronger arms than those of the soldiers were thrown around him and forced him back into the chair. They were his wife’s arms. Elza Imrey throughout all this had thought of nothing but the danger to Philip. The humiliation of this descent upon her house, the insolent attitude of the soldiers, this bringing home the fact of alien occupation and alien government, hardly affected her. Her one thought was Philip. The danger to Philip doubled and trebled by his father’s ungoverned temper. And, my God, if he should strike one of the soldiers! So, she held Maurus down, held her hand across his mouth; and Rosemary could hear her whispering in a thick, choked voice:
“Maurus, in God’s name! Maurus, keep quiet! Maurus, for Philip’s sake, hold your tongue!”
He struggled desperately, but she held him as only a mother can hold that which threatens her child. The soldier looked on with a sardonic smile. When Maurus at last was forced into silence, he shrugged his shoulders and said dryly:
“You are very wise, madame, to keep M. le Comte’s temper in check for him. My orders are that if any resistance is offered to take all three of you along. I need not tell you that after that you two will be sent packing out of the country, and your son—”
A cry from Elza broke into his complacent speech. At once she became humble, cringing, all the pride of the aristocrat was submerged in the devastating anxiety of the mother. She still held Maurus down, for she dared not loosen her hold on him, but she turned a tear-stained face, pathetic-looking in its expression of appeal, toward the Roumanian.
“You must not take any notice of his lordship, captain,” she said, trying in vain to speak lightly and to steady her voice. “You—you have known him for years, haven’t you? You remember—he was always a little excitable—you used to amuse yourselves—you and your brother officers—by making him angry with one of the peasants, and seeing the men’s terror of him? You remember,” she reiterated, with the same pathetic effort at conciliation, “when we were at Tusnàd and you were in garrison at Sinaia, you used to motor over for luncheons and balls and—”
“It is not a part of a soldier’s duty, madame,” the young soldier broke in curtly, “to remember such incidents. If M. le Comte will cease to insult my men, we will leave him in peace. Otherwise you both come with me.”
He turned sharply on his heel and spoke with one of his men. Apparently, he was willing to give Maurus Imrey time to make up his mind what he would do. Rosemary still could hear Elza’s voice thick and hoarse with anxiety:
“Maurus, in the name of Heaven—” The same refrain, the same reiterated prayer for submission, the one thing that would help to make Philip’s lot easier. They could not do anything to Philip, of course. What had the poor lad done? Nothing. The mother racked her brain, thinking, thinking what he had done. Nothing. He had taken the oath of allegiance to the new king. Next year he would do his military service, a perfect hell; but Philip had never grumbled. And he had never joined in with those senseless political groups who met at night in out-of-the-way places about Cluj and dreamed dreams of freeing Hungary one day, Philip had never done anything so foolish. This cloud, therefore, would blow over. It was all a mistake, a misunderstanding. With silence and submission, it would all blow over.
But Philip all along had never said a word. The first inkling that he had of this sudden danger that threatened him was the grip of a heavy hand upon his shoulder. Breathless with the dance, he had not made a movement or uttered a word of protest. His great, dark gipsy eyes wandered defiantly from the captain’s face to those of the men, but he asked no questions. He knew well enough what had happened.
Two days ago he had ridden over to Cluj with certain newspaper articles in his pocket. He had given them to Anna. Together the cousins had spent one of those happy days which seemed to compensate them for all the risks they ran. Well, he had been suspected, spied upon and followed. The strain of fatalism which ran through his veins with the gipsy blood of his forbear bade him to accept the inevitable. Slowly his dark face became composed, his lips ceased to twitch, and the roaming glance of his dark eyes became fixed. Rosemary, looking up, saw the glance fixed upon her. In it she read the word: “Anna!” Philip was pleading to her mutely, desperately, for Anna. And this intuition which came to her when she met Philip’s glance gave her the power to shake off the torpor that had invaded her limbs when the dance ceased so suddenly and she had fallen backwards into Jasper’s arms.
Like Philip himself, she saw what had happened. The spies, the ride to Cluj, the articles given to Anna. And now the arrest of Philip and the deadly peril that threatened the girl.