Lord Tonys Wife

Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Lord Tony's Wife
by Baroness Orczy

Prologue: Nantes, 1789

Book One
Bath, 1793
The Moor
The Bottom Inn
The Assembly Room
The Father
The Nest
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Road to Porishead
The Coast of France
Book Two
Nantes, December 1793
The Tiger's Lair
Le Bouffay
The Fowlers
The Net
The Message of Hope
The Rat Mort
The Fracas in the Tavern
The English Adventurers
The Proconsul
Lord Tony

Nantes, 1789
'Tyrant! tyrant! tyrant!'
It was Pierre who spoke, his voice was hardly raised above a murmur, but there was such an intensity of passion expressed in his face, in the fingers of his hand which closed slowly and convulsively as if they were clutching the throat of a struggling viper, there was so much hate in those muttered words, so much power, such compelling and awesome determination that an ominous silence fell upon the village lads and the men who sat with him in the low narrow room of the auberge des Trois Vertus.
Even the man in the tattered coat and threadbare breeches, who -- perched upon the centre table-- had been haranguing the company on the subject of the Rights of Man, paused in his peroration and looked down on Pierre half afraid of that fierce flame of passionate hate which his own words had helped to kindle.
The silence, however, had only lasted a few moments, the next Pierre was on his feet, and a cry like that of a bull in a slaughter-house escaped his throat.
'In the name of God!' he shouted, 'let us cease all that senseless talking. Haven't we planned enough and talked enough to satisfy our puling consciences? The time has come to strike, mes amis, to strike I say, to strike at those cursed aristocrats, who have made us what we are-- ignorant, wretched, downtrodden -- senseless clods to work our fingers to the bone, our bodies till they break so that they may wallow in their pleasures and their luxuries! Strike, I say!' he reiterated while his eyes glowed and his breath came and went through his throat with a hissing sound. 'Strike! as the men and women struck in Paris on that great day in July. To them the Bastille stood for tyranny-- and the tyrant cowered, cringed, made terms-- he was frightened at the wrath of the people! That is what happened in Paris! That is what must happen in Nantes. The chateau of the duc de Kernogan is our Bastille! Let us strike at it to-night, and if the arrogant aristocrat resists, we'll raze his house to the ground. The hour, the day, the darkness are all propitious. The arrangements hold good. The neighbours are ready. Strike, I say!'
He brought his hard fist crashing down upon the table, so that mugs and bottles rattled: his enthusiasm had fired all his hearers: his hatred and his lust of revenge had done more in five minutes than all the tirades of the agitators sent down from Paris to instil revolutionary ideas into the slow-moving brains of village lads.
'Who will give the signal?' queried one of the older men quietly.
'I will!' came in lusty response from Pierre.
He strode to the door, and all the men jumped to their feet, ready to follow him, dragged into this hot-headed venture by the mere force of one man's towering passion. They followed Pierre like sheep -- sheep that have momentarily become intoxicated --sheep that have become fierce -- a strange sight truly-- and yet one that the man in the tattered coat who had done so much speechifying lately watched with eager interest and presently related with great wealth of detail to M. de Mirabeau the champion of the people.
'It all came about through the death of a pair of pigeons,' he said.
The death of the pigeons, however, was only the spark which set all these turbulent passions ablaze. They had been smouldering for half a century, and had been ready to burst into flames for the past decade.
Antoine Melun, the wheelwright, who was to have married Louise, Pierre's sister, had trapped a pair of pigeons in the woods of M. le duc de Kernogan. He had done it to assert his rights as a man-- he did not want the pigeons. Though he was a poor man, he was no poorer than hundreds of peasants for miles around: but he paid imposts and taxes until every particle of profit which he gleaned from his miserable little plot of land went into the hands of the collectors, whilst M. le duc de Kernogan paid not one sou towards the costs of the State, and he had to live on what was left of his own rye and wheat after M. le duc's pigeon ahd had their fill of them.
Whereupon Antoine was arrested for poaching and thieving: he was tried at Nantes under the presidency of M. le duc de Kernogan, and ten minutes ago while the man in the tattered coat was
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