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Chapter XXVII. The Fructidor Riots
Many accounts, more or less authentic, have been published of the events
known to history as the "Fructidor Riots."
But this is how it all happened: at any rate it is the version related some few days
later in England to the Prince of Wales by no less a personage than Sir Percy
Blakeney; and who indeed should know better than The Scarlet Pimpernel
Déroulède and Juliette Marny were the last of the batch of prisoners who were
tried on that memorable day of Fructidor.
There had been such a number of these, that all the covered carts in use for the
conveyance of prisoners to and from the Hall of Justice had already been
despatched with their weighty human load; thus it was that only a rough wooden
cart, hoodless and rickety, was available, and into this Déroulède and Juliette
were ordered to mount.
It was now close on nine o'clock in the evening. The streets of Paris, sparsely
illuminated here and there with solitary oil lamps swung across from house to
house on wires, presented a miserable and squalid appearance. A thin, misty
rain had begun to fall, transforming the ill-paved roads into morasses of sticky
The Hall of Justice was surrounded by a howling and shrieking mob, who, having
imbibed all the stores of brandy in the neighbouring drinking bars, was now
waiting outside in the dripping rain for the express purpose of venting its pent-up,
spirit-sodden lust of rage against the man whom it had once worshipped, but
whom now it hated. Men, women, and even children swarmed round the principal
entrances of the Palais de Justice, along the bank of the river as far as the Pont
au Change, and up towards the Luxembourg Palace, now transformed into the
prison, to which the condemned would no doubt be conveyed.
Along the river-bank, and immediately facing the Palais de Justice, a row of
gallows-shaped posts, at intervals of a hundred yards or more, held each a
smoky petrol lamp, at a height of some eight feet from the ground.
One of these lamps had been knocked down, and from the post itself there now
hung ominously a length of rope, with a noose at the end.
Around this improvised gallows a group of women sat, or rather squatted, in the
mud; their ragged shifts and kirtles, soaked through with the drizzling rain, hung
dankly on their emaciated forms; their hair, in some cases grey, and in others
dark or straw-coloured, clung matted round their wet faces, on which the dirt and
the damp had drawn weird and grotesque lines.
The men were restless and noisy, rushing aimlessly hither and thither, from the
corner of the bridge, up the Rue du Palais, fearful lest their prey be conjured
away ere their vengeance was satisfied.
Oh, how they hated their former idol now! Citizen Lenoir, with his broad
shoulders and powerful, grime-covered head, towered above the throng; his
strident voice, with its raucous, provincial accent, could be distinctly heard above