The year was 1793. The beloved Royal family was dead; executed at the cruel hand of the peasants who now ruled France. Everywhere there was turmoil, chaos, mistrust and fear.
Maximilien Robespierre and his committee were in charge and death and terror were in the air. My beloved family had all been arrested and executed by the guillotine at Place de la Revolution; except for Papa and myself.
Papa had escaped arrest because he had secretly travelled to the coastal village of Plevenon to arrange for our exit to Britain by Pimpernel’s ‘agents’.
All the maids and servants except Adele ran away on the day of my family’s arrest, taking as much as they could with them.
I was in hiding. Adele my trusted maid knew I was there. I spent most of my time in hiding for fear that the `mob’ would return for more and find me. Dressed like peasants Adele and I would sneak out at nights to forage for food. I pretended to be Adele’s mute sister so no one could tell my class by my speech. In truth I was Princess Dvinier.
When my father Le Comte Dvinier returned from his tryst three days later he found me and only me. His family was gone. He howled in pain and distress. I gave him the account of how with only minutes to spare my beloved brother Tristan had hidden me – there was only room for one in the base of Maman and Papa’s walnut four poster bed.
I was his one consolation in this time of terror. We had no time to lose because that very night we were to be collected by the Pimpernel. I pleaded with Adele to accompany us, but she chose to return to her family farm in Auxerre.
That night we stayed on the lookout for a one eyed ragged man in a garbage cart at the back gate. Through subterfuge and stealth we had somehow managed to hoard some gold which we would use to pay for our escape.
We kept ourselves in readiness. Disguised as ragged peasants, we waited.
The minutes passed by so slowly.
We could not light candles or lamps. We had a dinner of hard bread and cheese; no wine of course, that was all gone. At dusk and almost simultaneously we heard two things. At the back gate we heard a cart draw up, there was a one eyed man in an old rickety garbage cart; and at the front gate was a loud drunken revolutionary `hunting’ party looking for aristocratic `enemies of the revolution’ to take to the Bastille.
Keeping to the shadows, Papa and I scurried out the back door and into the cart. We hid in a hollow space under the seats.
This time the ‘hunting’ party had torches and I think they would have found us or burnt us out this time.
My life, it seemed had again been spared by only a few minutes.
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