The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
VI. How Jean Pierre Met The Scarlet Pimpernel
As told by Himself
Ah, monsieur! the pity of it, the pity! Surely there are sins which le bon Dieu Himself
will condone. And if not--well, I had to risk His displeasure anyhow. Could I see them
both starve, monsieur? I ask you! and M. le Vicomte had become so thin, so thin, his tiny,
delicate bones were almost through his skin. And Mme. la Marquise! an angel, monsieur!
Why, in the happy olden days, before all these traitors and assassins ruled in France, M.
and Mme. la Marquise lived only for the child, and then to see him dying--yes, dying,
there was no shutting one's eyes to that awful fact--M. le Vicomte de Mortain was dying
of starvation and of disease.
There we were all herded together in a couple of attics--one of which little more than a
cupboard--at the top of a dilapidated half-ruined house in the Rue des Pipots--Mme. la
Marquise, M. le Vicomte and I--just think of that, monsieur! M. le Marquis had his
chateau, as no doubt you know, on the outskirts of Lyons. A loyal high-born gentleman;
was it likely, I ask you, that he would submit passively to the rule of those execrable
revolutionaries who had murdered their King, outraged their Queen and Royal family,
and, God help them! had already perpetrated every crime and every abomination for
which of a truth there could be no pardon either on earth or in Heaven? He joined that
plucky but, alas! small and ill-equipped army of royalists who, unable to save their King,
were at least determined to avenge him.
Well, you know well enough what happened. The counter-revolution failed; the
revolutionary army brought Lyons down to her knees after a siege of two months. She
was then marked down as a rebel city, and after the abominable decree of October 9th
had deprived her of her very name, and Couthon had exacted bloody reprisals from the
entire population for its loyalty to the King, the infamous Laporte was sent down in order
finally to stamp out the lingering remnants of the rebellion. By that time, monsieur, half
the city had been burned down, and one-tenth and more of the inhabitants--men, women,
and children--had been massacred in cold blood, whilst most of the others had fled in
terror from the appalling scene of ruin and desolation. Laporte completed the execrable
work so ably begun by Couthon. He was a very celebrated and skilful doctor at the
Faculty of Medicine, now turned into a human hyena in the name of Liberty and
M. le Marquis contrived to escape with the scattered remnant of the Royalist army into
Switzerland. But Mme la Marquise throughout all these strenuous times had stuck to her
post at the chateau like the valiant creature that she was. When Couthon entered Lyons at
the head of the revolutionary army, the whole of her household fled, and I was left alone
to look after her and M. le Vicomte.