The Elusive Pimpernel HTML version
I : Paris: 1793
There was not even a reaction.
On! ever on! in that wild, surging torrent; sowing the wind of anarchy, of terrorism, of
lust of blood and hate, and reaping a hurricane of destruction and of horror.
On! ever on! France, with Paris and all her children still rushes blindly, madly on; defies
the powerful coalition,--Austria, England, Spain, Prussia, all joined together to stem the
flow of carnage, -- defies the Universe and defies God!
Paris this September 1793!--or shall we call it Vendemiaire, Year I. of the Republic?--
call it what we will! Paris! a city of bloodshed, of humanity in its lowest, most degraded
aspect. France herself a gigantic self-devouring monster, her fairest cities destroyed,
Lyons razed to the ground, Toulon, Marseilles, masses of blackened ruins, her bravest
sons turned to lustful brutes or to abject cowards seeking safety at the cost of any
That is thy reward, oh mighty, holy Revolution! apotheosis of equality and fraternity!
grand rival of decadent Christianity.
Five weeks now since Marat, the bloodthirsty Friend of the People, succumbed beneath
the sheath-knife of a virgin patriot, a month since his murderess walked proudly, even
enthusiastically, to the guillotine! There has been no reaction--only a great sigh! ... Not of
content or satisfied lust, but a sigh such as the man-eating tiger might heave after his first
taste of long-coveted blood.
A sigh for more!
A king on the scaffold; a queen degraded and abased, awaiting death, which lingers on
the threshold of her infamous prison; eight hundred scions of ancient houses that have
made the history of France; brave generals, Custine, Blanchelande, Houchard,
Beauharnais; worthy patriots, noble-hearted women, misguided enthusiasts, all by the
score and by the hundred, up the few wooden steps which lead to the guillotine.
An achievement of truth!
And still that sigh for more!
But for the moment,--a few seconds only,--Paris looked round her mighty self, and
thought things over!
The man-eating tiger for the space of a sigh licked his powerful jaws and pondered!