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The first and most successful in the Baroness’s series of books that feature Percy Blakeney, who leads a double life as an English fop and a swashbuckling rescuer of aristocrats,The Scarlet Pimpernelwas the blueprint for what became known as the masked-avenger genre. As Anne Perry writes in her Introduction, the novel “has almost reached its first centenary, and it is as vivid and appealing as ever because the plotting is perfect. It is a classic example of how to construct, pace, and conclude a plot. . . . To rise on the crest of laughter without capsizing, to survive being written, rewritten, and reinterpreted by each generation, is the mark of a plot that is timeless and universal, even though it happens to be set in England and France of 1792.”“Arguably the best adventure story ever published and certainly the most influential that appeared during the early decades of the twentieth century.”—Gary HoppenstandBaroness Emmuska Orczy (1865-1947), an only child of Austro-Hungarian nobles, lived most of her life in London, where she built her reputation as an established novelist, playwright, and artist. Also a success on stage, her most famous novel,The Scarlet Pimpernel, spawned a series of books featuring its cast of characters.Chapter I
Paris: September 1792
A surging, seething, murmuring crowd, of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate. The hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade, at the very spot where, a decade later, a proud tyrant raised an undying monument to the nation’s glory and his own vanity.
During the greater part of the day the guillotine had been kept busy at its ghastly work: all that France had boasted of in the past centuries, of ancient names, and blue blood, had paid toll to her desire for liblĂ6
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