The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel HTML version
VII. Out Of The Jaws Of Death
Being a fragment from the diary of Valentine Lemercier, in the possession of her great-
We were such a happy family before this terrible Revolution broke out; we lived rather
simply, but very comfortably, in our dear old home just on the borders of the forest of
Compiegne. Jean and Andre were the twins; just fifteen years old they were when King
Louis was deposed from the throne of France which God had given him, and sent to
prison like a common criminal, with our beautiful Queen Marie Antoinette and the Royal
children, and Madame Elizabeth, who was so beloved by the poor!
Ah! that seems very, very long ago now. No doubt you know better than I do all that
happened in our beautiful land of France and in lovely Paris about that time: goods and
property confiscated, innocent men, women, and children condemned to death for acts of
treason which they had never committed.
It was in August last year that they came to "Mon Repos" and arrested papa, and maman,
and us four young ones and dragged us to Paris, where we were imprisoned in a narrow
and horribly dank vault in the Abbaye, where all day and night through the humid stone
walls we heard cries and sobs and moans from poor people, who no doubt were suffering
the same sorrows and the same indignities as we were.
I had just passed my nineteenth birthday, and Marguerite was only thirteen. Maman was a
perfect angel during that terrible time; she kept up our courage and our faith in God in a
way that no one else could have done. Every night and morning we knelt round her knee
and papa sat close beside her, and we prayed to God for deliverance from our own
afflictions, and for the poor people who were crying and moaning all the day.
But of what went on outside our prison walls we had not an idea, though sometimes poor
papa would brave the warder's brutalities and ask him questions of what was happening
in Paris every day.
"They are hanging all the aristos to the street-lamps of the city," the man would reply
with a cruel laugh, "and it will be your turn next."
We had been in prison for about a fortnight, when one day--oh! shall I ever forget it?--we
heard in the distance a noise like the rumbling of thunder; nearer and nearer it came, and
soon the sound became less confused, cries and shrieks could be heard above that
rumbling din; but so weird and menacing did those cries seem that instinctively--though
none of us knew what they meant--we all felt a nameless terror grip our hearts.
Oh! I am not going to attempt the awful task of describing to you all the horrors of that
never-to-be-forgotten day. People, who to-day cannot speak without a shudder of the