Bibot [one of the Captains guarding the gates out of Paris], during the day, had been on duty on the Place. He recognised most of the old hags, 'tricoteuses', as they were called, who sat there and knitted whilst head after head fell beneath the knife, and they themselves got quite bespattered with the blood of those cursed aristos.
'Hè, le mére!' said Bibot to one of these horrible hags, 'what have you got there?'
He had seen her earlier in the day, with her knitting and the whip of her cart closed beside her. Now she had fastened a row of curly locks to the whip handle, all colours, from gold to silver, fair to dark, and she stroked them with her, huge bony fingers as she laughed at Bibot.
'I made friends with Madam Guillotine's lover', she said with a course laugh, 'he cut these off for me from the heads as they rolled down'.
Bibot lets her through the gates out of Paris when she tells him that her grandson is in her cart with suspected smallpox. Shortly afterwards a captain of the guard appeared suddenly.
'A cart ...' he shouted, breathlessly, even before he had reached the gates.
'What cart?' asked Bibot, roughly.
'Driven by an old hag ... A cart ... A covered cart ...'
'There were a dozen ...'
'An old hag who said her son had the plague?'
'You have not let them go?'
'Morbleu!' said Bibot, whose purple cheeks had suddenly become white with fear.
'The cart contained the ci-devant Comtess de Tournay and her two children, all of them traitors and condemned to death.''And their driver?' muttered Bibot, as a superstitious shudder ran down his spine.
'Sacré tonnerre', said the captain, 'but it is feared that it was the accursed Englishman himself - the Scarlet Pimpernel.'
|Richard E Grant|
The Scarlet Pimpernel, as far as I am concerned