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Sir Percy Hits Back by Emma Orczy

Sir Percy Hits Back


subjects: Historical Fiction

series: The Pimpernel (#12)

  • EPUB 326 KB

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The League is up to their old tricks again, but this time they have the help of a local simple girl from the country, Fleurette. When she and her love fall into danger for her help, the League decides these two innocents must be rescued as well. But matters are complicated when the Pimpernel discovers that Fleurette is none other than Citizen Chauvelin’s only child! Will Chauvelin stop his relentless pursuit for revenge? Can Blakeney live up to the code of his own honor and help his greatest enemy in a common cause? Will Fleurette ever reach safety?!

354 pages with a reading time of ~5.50 hours (88684 words), and first published in 1927. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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On the spot where the Hôtel Moderne now rears its more ambitious head, there stood at that time a cottage with sloping red-tiled roof and white-washed walls. It was owned by one Baptiste Portal, an old peasant of the Dauphiné, who dispensed refreshments to travellers and passers-by, as his father and grandfather had done before him, in the shape of somewhat thin vin du pays and an occasional glass of eau-de-vie, while he spent his slack time chiefly in grumbling at the fact that the new posting-inn on the high-road had taken all his trade away. He did not see the necessity of the posting-inn, did not old Baptiste, nor for a matter of that of the high-road or the post-chaise. Before all these new notions had come into the heads of the government people up in Paris, travellers had been content to come squelching through the mud on the back of a good horse, or come ploughing through inches of dust in the old coche. So why not now? And was not the old wine of Les Amandiers as good and better than the vinegar dispensed at the more pretentious posting-inn? The place was called Les Amandiers because at the back of the house there were two anæmic almond-trees with gaunt, twisted arms which covered themselves in the spring with sickly blooms, and in the summer with dust. In front of the house, up against the white-washed wall, there was a wooden bench on which Baptiste’s privileged customers were wont to sit on fine evenings, to drink their vin du pays and join the old man in his wholesale condemnation of the government “up in Paris” and its new-fangled ways. From this vantage-point a glorious view was obtained over the valley of the Buëche, and beyond Laragne as far as the peaks of Pelvoux: whilst to the right towered in the distance the grand old citadel of Sisteron with its turrets and fortifications dating from the fourteenth century, and the stately church of Notre Dame. But views and winding rivers, snowy peaks and mediæval fortresses did not interest Baptiste Portal’s customers nearly as much as the price of almonds or the alarming increase in the cost of living.

Now on this particular afternoon in May the mistral was blowing mercilessly across the valley from over the snows of Pelvoux, and the cold and the dust had driven all the good Portal’s customers indoors. The low-raftered room, decorated with strings of onions which hung from the ceiling together with a bunch or two of garlic, of basil and other pot-herbs, and perfumed also with the aroma of the pot-au-feu simmering in the kitchen, had acquired just that right atmosphere, cosy, warm and odorous, beloved of every true man born in Dauphiné. It was a memorable afternoon, remembered long afterwards and retold by the gossips of Sisteron and Laragne in all its dramatic details. But at this hour, nothing more dramatic had occurred than the arrival of a detachment of soldiers, under the command of an under-officer, who had come up from Orange, so they said, in order to fetch away the young men who were wanted for the army. They had demanded supper and shelter for the night.

Of course soldiers, as soldiers, were very much disapproved of by those worthies of Sisteron who frequented Les Amandiers, more especially now when what they did was to fetch away the young men for cannon-fodder, to fight the English and prolong this awful war which caused food to be so dear and hands for harvesting so scarce. But on the other hand, soldiers as company were welcome. They brought news of the outside world, most of it bad, it is true–nothing good did happen anywhere these days–but news nevertheless. And though at the recital of what went on in Paris, in Lyons or even as near as Orange, the guillotine, the tumbrils, the wholesale slaughter of tyrants and aristos, one shuddered with horror and apprehension, there were always the lively tales of barrack-life to follow, the laughter, the ribald song, and something of life seemed to filtrate into this sleepy half-dead corner of old Dauphiné.

The soldiers–there were a score of them–occupied the best place in the room, as was only fitting; they sat squeezed tightly against one another like dried figs in a box, on the two benches on either side of the centre trestle table. Old Baptiste Portal sat with them, beside the officer. Some kind of lieutenant this man appeared to be, or other subaltern; but oh dear me! these days one could hardly tell an officer from the rag-tag and bobtail of the army, save for the fact that he wore epaulettes. Now this man–but there! what was the use of comparing these ruffians with the splendid officers of the King’s armies in the past?

This one certainly was not proud. He sat with his men, joked, drank with them, and presently he convened friend Portal to a glass of wine: “A la santé,” he added, “de la République, and of Citizen Robespierre, the great and incorruptible master of France!”