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
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
"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
"Aye, and bless your brown eyes for being so
sharp, my pretty Sally," said the man who had just entered, whilst
worthy Mr. Jellyband came bustling forward, eager, alert and fussy,
as became the advent of one of the most favoured guests of his
"Lud, I protest, Sally," added Lord Antony, as
he deposited a kiss on Miss Sally's blooming cheeks, "but you
are growing prettier and prettier every time I see you--and my
honest friend, Jellyband here, have hard work to keep the fellows
off that slim waist of yours. What say you, Mr. Waite?"
Mr. Waite--torn between his respect for my lord
and his dislike of that particular type of joke--only replied
with a doubtful grunt.
Lord Antony Dewhurst, one of the sons of the
Duke of Exeter, was in those days a very perfect type of a young
English gentlemen--tall, well set-up, broad of shoulders and merry
of face, his laughter rang loudly whereever he went. A good sportsman,
a lively companion, a courteous, well-bred man of the world, with
not too much brains to spoil his temper, he was a universal favourite
in London drawing-rooms or in the coffee-rooms of village inns.
At "The Fisherman's Rest" everyone knew him--for he was fond of
a trip across to France, and always spent a night under worthy
Mr. Jellyband's roof on his way there or back.
He nodded to Waite, Pitkin and the others as
he at last released Sally's waist, and crossed over to the hearth
to warm and dry himself: as he did so, he cast a quick, somewhat
suspicious glance at the two strangers, who had quietly resumed
their game of dominoes, and for a moment a look of deep earnestness,
even of anxiety, clouded his jovial young face.
But only for a moment; the next he turned to
Mr. Hempseed, who was respectfully touching his forelock.
"Well, Mr. Hempseed, and how is the fruit?"
"Badly, my lord, badly," replied Mr. Hempseed,
dolefully, "but what can you `xpect with this `ere government
favourin' them rascals over in France, who would murder their
king and all their nobility."
"Odd's life!" retorted Lord Antony; "so they
would, honest Hempseed,--at least those they can get hold of,
worse luck! But we have got some friends coming here to-night,
who at any rate have evaded their clutches."
It almost seemed, when the young man said these
words, as if he threw a defiant look towards the quiet strangers
in the corner.
"Thanks to you, my lord, and to your friends,
so I've heard it said," said Mr. Jellyband.
But in a moment Lord Antony's hand fell warningly
on mine host's arm.
"Hush!" he said peremptorily, and instinctively
once again looked towards the strangers.
"Oh! Lud love you, they are all right, my lord,"
retorted Jellyband; "don't you be afraid. I wouldn't have spoken,
only I knew we were among friends. That gentleman over there is
as true and loyal a subject of King George as you are yourself,
my lord saving your presence. He is but lately arrived in Dover,
and is setting down in business in these parts."
"In business? Faith, then, it must be as an undertaker,
for I vow I never beheld a more rueful countenance."
"Nay, my lord, I believe that the gentleman is
a widower, which no doubt would account for the melancholy of
his bearing--but he is a friend, nevertheless, I'll vouch for
that-and you will own, my lord, that who should judge of a face
better than the landlord of a popular inn--"
"Oh, that's all right, then, if we are among
friends," said Lord Antony, who evidently did not care to discuss
the subject with his host. "But, tell me, you have no one else
staying here, have you?"
"No one, my lord, and no one coming, either,
"No one your lordship would object to, I know."
"Who is it?"
"Well, my lord, Sir Percy Blakeney and his lady
will be here presently, but they ain't a-goin' to stay--"
"Lady Blakeney?" queried Lord Antony, in some
"Aye, my lord. Sir Percy's skipper was here just
now. He says that my lady's brother is crossing over to France
to-day in the Day Dream, which is Sir Percy's yacht, and
Sir Percy and my lady will come with him as far as here to see
the last of him. It don't put you out, do it, my lord?"
"No, no, it doesn't put me out, friend; nothing
will put me out, unless that supper is not the very best which
Miss Sally can cook, and which has ever been served in `The Fisherman's
"You need have no fear of that, my lord," said
Sally, who all this while had been busy setting the table for
supper. And very gay and inviting it looked, with a large bunch
of brilliantly coloured dahlias in the centre, and the bright
pewter goblets and blue china about.
"How many shall I lay for, my lord?"
"Five places, pretty Sally, but let the supper
be enough for ten at least--our friends will be tired, and, I
hope, hungry. As for me, I vow I could demolish a baron of beef
"Here they are, I do believe," said Sally excitedly,
as a distant clatter of horses and wheels could now be distinctly
heard, drawing rapidly nearer.
There was a general commotion in the coffee-room.
Everyone was curious to see my Lord Antony's swell friends from
over the water. Miss Sally cast one or two quick glances at the
little bit of mirror which hung on the wall, and worthy Mr. Jellyband
bustled out in order to give the first welcome himself to his
distinguished guests. Only the two strangers in the corner did
not participate in the general excitement. They were calmly finishing
their game of dominoes, and did not even look once towards the
"Straight ahead, Comtesse, the door on your right,"
said a pleasant voice outside.
"Aye! there they are, all right enough." said
Lord Antony, joyfully; "off with you, my pretty Sally, and see
how quick you can dish up the soup."
The door was thrown wide open, and, preceded
by Mr. Jellyband, who was profuse in his bows and welcomes, a
party of four--two ladies and two gentlemen--entered the coffee-room.
"Welcome! Welcome to old England!" said Lord
Antony, effusively, as he came eagerly forward with both hands
outstretched towards the newcomers.
"Ah, you are Lord Antony Dewhurst, I think,"
said one of the ladies, speaking with a strong foreign accent.
"At your service, Madame," he replied, as he
ceremoniously kissed the hands of both the ladies, then turned
to the men and shook them both warmly by the hand.
Sally was already helping the ladies to take
off their traveling cloaks, and both turned, with a shiver, towards
the brightly-blazing hearth.
There was a general movement among the company
in the coffee-room. Sally had bustled off to her kitchen whilst
Jellyband, still profuse with his respectful salutations, arranged
one or two chairs around the fire. Mr. Hempseed, touching his
forelock, was quietly vacating the seat in the hearth. Everyone
was staring curiously, yet deferentially, at the foreigners.
"Ah, Messieurs! what can I say?" said the elder
of the two ladies, as she stretched a pair of fine, aristocratic
hands to the warmth of the blaze, and looked with unspeakable
gratitude first at Lord Antony, then at one of the young men who
had accompanied her party, and who was busy divesting himself
of his heavy, caped coat.
"Only that you are glad to be in England, Comtesse,"
replied Lord Antony, "and that you have not suffered too much
from your trying voyage."
"Indeed, indeed, we are glad to be in England,"
she said, while her eyes filled with tears, "and we have already
forgotten all that we have suffered."
Her voice was musical and low, and there was
a great deal of calm dignity and of many sufferings nobly endured
marked in the handsome, aristocratic face, with its wealth of
snowy-white hair dressed high above the forehead, after the fashion
of the times.
"I hope my friend, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, proved
an entertaining travelling companion, madame?"
"Ah, indeed, Sir Andrew was kindness itself.
How could my children and I ever show enough gratitude to you
Her companion, a dainty, girlish figure, childlike
and pathetic in its look of fatigue and of sorrow, had said nothing
as yet, but her eyes, large, brown, and full of tears, looked
up from the fire and sought those of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, who
had drawn near to the hearth and to her; then, as they met his,
which were fixed with unconcealed admiration upon the sweet face
before him, a thought of warmer colour rushed up to her pale cheeks.
"So this is England," she said, as she looked
round with childlike curiosity at the great hearth, the oak rafters,
and the yokels with their elaborate smocks and jovial, rubicund,
"A bit of it, Mademoiselle," replied Sir Andrew,
smiling, "but all of it, at your service."
The young girl blushed again, but this time a
bright smile, fleet and sweet, illumined her dainty face. She
said nothing, and Sir Andrew too was silent, yet those two young
people understood one another, as young people have a way of doing
all the world over, and have done since the world began.
"But, I say, supper!" here broke in Lord Antony's
jovial voice, "supper, honest Jellyband. Where is that pretty
wench of yours and the dish of soup? Zooks, man, while you stand
there gaping at the ladies, they will faint with hunger."
"One moment! one moment, my lord," said Jellyband,
as he threw open the door that led to the kitchen and shouted
lustily: "Sally! Hey, Sally there, are ye ready, my girl?"
Sally was ready, and the next moment she appeared
in the doorway carrying a gigantic tureen, from which rose a cloud
of steam and an abundance of savoury odour.
"Odd's life, supper at last!" ejaculated Lord
Antony, merrily, as he gallantly offered his arm to the Comtesse.
"May I have the honour?" he added ceremoniously,
as he led her towards the supper table.
There was a general bustle in the coffee-room:
Mr. Hempseed and most of the yokels and fisher-folk had gone to
make way for "the quality," and to finish smoking their pipes
elsewhere. Only the two strangers stayed on, quietly and unconcernedly
playing their game of dominoes and sipping their wine; whilst
at another table Harry Waite, who was fast losing his temper,
watched pretty Sally bustling round the table.
She looked a very dainty picture of English rural
life, and no wonder that the susceptible young Frenchman could
scarce take his eyes off her pretty face. The Vicomte de Tournay
was scarce nineteen, a beardless boy, on whom terrible tragedies
which were being enacted in his own country had made but little
impression. He was elegantly and even foppishly dressed, and once
safely landed in England he was evidently ready to forget the
horrors of the Revolution in the delights of English life.
"Pardi, if zis is England," he said as he continued
to ogle Sally with marked satisfaction, "I am of it satisfied."
It would be impossible at this point to record
the exact exclamation which escaped through Mr. Harry Waite's
clenched teeth. Only respect for "the quality," and notably for
my Lord Antony, kept his marked disapproval of the young foreigner
"Nay, but this is England, you abandoned
young reprobate," interposed Lord Antony with a laugh, "and do
not, I pray, bring your loose foreign ways into this most moral
Lord Antony had already sat down at the head
of the table with the Comtesse on his right. Jellyband was bustling
round, filling glasses and putting chairs straight. Sally waited,
ready to hand round the soup. Mr. Harry Waite's friends had at
last succeeded in taking him out of the room, for his temper was
growing more and more violent under the Vicomte's obvious admiration
"Suzanne," came in stern, commanding accents
from the rigid Comtesse.
Suzanne blushed again; she had lost count of
time and of place whilst she had stood beside the fire, allowing
the handsome young Englishman's eyes to dwell upon her sweet face,
and his hand, as if unconsciously, to rest upon hers. Her mother's
voice brought her back to reality once more, and with a submissive
"Yes, Mama," she took her place at the supper table.
to Chapter IV - THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
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