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The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel has disguised themselves as a group of shabby second-rate musicians, in order to save an innocent family from death. But Citizen Chauvelin is hot on their heels, and still looking for revenge against his bitter enemy. The Pimpernel’s plans are, however, complicated by betrayal of a trusted League member. Can the Pimpernel save the innocent family? Will Chauvelin have his revenge at last? Can Sir Percy escape death and dismay after treachery and betrayal?
315 pages, with a reading time of ~5.0 hours (78,952 words), and first published in 1936. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2016.
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The Hall of the Pas Perdus, the precincts of the House of Justice, the corridors, the bureaux of the various officials, judges and advocates were all thronged that day as they had been during all the week, ever since Tuesday when the first question was put to the vote: “Is Louis Capet guilty of conspiring against liberty?” Louis Capet! otherwise Louis XVI, descendant of a long line of kings of the Grand Monarque of Saint Louis, himself the anointed, the crowned King of France! And now! Arraigned at the bar before his fellow-men, before his one-time devoted subjects, or supposedly devoted, standing before them like any criminal, accused not of murder, or forgery or theft, but of conspiring against liberty.
A king on his trial! And for his life! Let there be no doubt about that. It is a matter of life or death for the King of France. There has been talk, endless talk and debate in the Hall of Justice ever since the eleventh day of December–over a month ago now when Louis first appeared before the bar of the Convention. Fifty-seven questions were put to the accused. “Louis Capet, didst thou do this, that or the other? Didst thou conspire against liberty?” Louis to all the questions gave the simple reply: “No! I did not do that, nor did I do the other. If I did, it was in accordance with the then existing laws of France.”
A king on his trial! Heavens above, what a stupendous event! One that had only occurred once before in history–a hundred and fifty years ago when Charles I, King of England, stood at the bar before his people and Parliament, accused by them of conspiring against their liberty. The end of that was regicide. And now once again a king stood before his people accused of conspiring against their liberty. What the end would be, no one doubted for a moment. The paramount significance of the tragedy, the vital importance of what was at stake was reflected in the grave demeanour of the crowd that gathered day after day inside the precincts of the House of Justice. Men of all ages, of all creeds, of every kind of political opinion foregathered in the Salle des Pas Perdus, waited mostly in silence for scraps of news that came filtering through from the hall where a king–once their King–was standing his trial.
They waited for news, longing to see the end of this nerve-racking suspense, yet dreading to hear what the end would be.
On the Monday evening, one month after the opening of this momentous trial, the fifty-seven questions were finally disposed of. Advocate Barrére in a three-hours’ speech, summed up the case and then invited Louis Capet to withdraw. And Louis the unfortunate, once Louis XVI, King of France, now just Louis Capet, was taken back to the Temple Prison where, separated from his wife and children, he could do nothing but await with patience and resignation the final issue of his judges’ deliberations, and assist his legal counsels in the preparation of his defence.
And on Tuesday the 15th of January, 1793, the question of whether a King of France was guilty or not guilty of conspiracy was put to the vote. Not one question but three questions were put forward, each to be voted on separately and by every one of the seven hundred and forty-nine members of the National Convention. Is Louis Capet guilty of conspiring against liberty? Shall the sentence pronounced by the National Convention be final, or shall appeal be made to the people? If Louis Capet be found guilty what punishment should be meted out to him? The first two questions were disposed of on the Tuesday. By midday Louis Capet had been voted guilty by an immense majority. The second question took rather longer; the afternoon wore on, the shades of a midwinter evening blotted out the outside world and spread its gloomy mantle over this assembly of men, gathered here to indict their King and to pronounce sentence upon him. It was midnight before the voting on this second question was ended. By a majority of two to one the House decided that its verdict shall be final and that no appeal shall be made to the people. Such an appeal would mean civil war, cry the Extremists, the loud and turbulent Patriots, while the Moderates, the Girondins will have it that the people must not be ignored. But they are outvoted two to one and at the close of this memorable Tuesday, Louis Capet stands definitely guilty of conspiring against the liberty of the people and whatever sentence the National Convention may pronounce upon him shall be final, without appeal.