The Scarlet Pimpernel HTML version
III. The Refugees
Feeling in every part of England certainly ran very high at this time against the
French and their doings. Smugglers and legitimate traders between the French
and the English coasts brought snatches of news from over the water, which
made every honest Englishman's blood boil, and made him long to have "a good
go" at those murderers, who had imprisoned their king and all his family,
subjected the queen and the royal children to every species of indignity, and
were even now loudly demanding the blood of the whole Bourbon family and of
every one of its adherents.
The execution of the Princesse de Lamballe, Marie Antoinette's young and
charming friend, had filled every one in England with unspeakable horror, the
daily execution of scores of royalists of good family, whose only sin was their
aristocratic name, seemed to cry for vengeance to the whole of civilised Europe.
Yet, with all that, no one dared to interfere. Burke had exhausted all his
eloquence in trying to induce the British Government to fight the revolutionary
government of France, but Mr. Pitt, with characteristic prudence, did not feel that
this country was fit yet to embark on another arduous and costly war. It was for
Austria to take the initiative; Austria, whose fairest daughter was even now a
dethroned queen, imprisoned and insulted by a howling mob; surely 'twas not--so
argued Mr. Fox--for the whole of England to take up arms, because one set of
Frenchmen chose to murder another.
As for Mr. Jellyband and his fellow John Bulls, though they looked upon all
foreigners with withering contempt, they were royalist and anti-revolutionists to a
man, and at this present moment were furious with Pitt for his caution and
moderation, although they naturally understood nothing of the diplomatic reasons
which guided that great man's policy.
By now Sally came running back, very excited and very eager. The joyous
company in the coffee-room had heard nothing of the noise outside, but she had
spied a dripping horse and rider who had stopped at the door of "The
Fisherman's Rest," and while the stable boy ran forward to take charge of the
horse, pretty Miss Sally went to the front door to greet the welcome visitor. "I
think I see'd my Lord Antony's horse out in the yard, father," she said, as she ran
across the coffee-room.
But already the door had been thrown open from outside, and the next moment
an arm, covered in drab cloth and dripping with the heavy rain, was round pretty
Sally's waist, while a hearty voice echoed along the polished rafters of the coffee-