THE REIGN OF TERROR
THE REIGN OF TERROR
G. A. HENTY
MY DEAR LADS
This time only a few words are needed for the story speaks for
itself. My object has been rather to tell you a tale of interest
than to impart historical knowledge for the facts of the dreadful
time when "the terror" reigned supreme in France are well known to
all educated lads. I need only say that such historical allusions as
are necessary for the sequence of the story will be found correct
except that the Noyades at Nantes did not take place until a somewhat
later period than is here assigned to them.
CHAPTER I A Journey to France
"I don't know what to say my dear."
"Why surely James you are not thinking for a moment of letting
"Well I don't know. Yes I am certainly thinking of it though I
haven't at all made up my mind. There are advantages and disadvantages."
"Oh but it is such a long way and to live among those French people
who have been doing such dreadful things attacking the Bastille
and as I have heard you say passing all sorts of revolutionary
laws and holding their king and queen almost as prisoners in
"Well they won't eat him my dear. The French Assembly or the
National Assembly or whatever it ought to be called has certainly
been passing laws limiting the power of the king and abolishing
many of the rights and privileges of the nobility and clergy; but
you must remember that the condition of the vast body of the French
nation has been terrible. We have long conquered our liberties
and indeed never even in the height of the feudal system were the
mass of the English people more enslaved as have been the peasants
"We must not be surprised therefore if in their newly-recovered
freedom they push matters to an excess at first; but all this will
right itself and no doubt a constitutional form of government
somewhat similar to our own will be established. But all this is
no reason against Harry's going out there. You don't suppose that
the French people are going to fly at the throats of the nobility.
Why even in the heat of the civil war here there was no instance
of any personal wrong being done to the families of those engaged
in the struggle and in only two or three cases after repeated
risings were any even of the leaders executed.
"No; Harry will be just as safe there as he would be here. As to
the distance it's nothing like so far as if he went to India for
example. I don't see any great chance of his setting the Thames
on fire at home. His school report is always the same - 'Conduct
fair; progress in study moderate' - which means as I take it that
he just scrapes along. That's it isn't it Harry?"
"Yes father I think so. You see every one cannot be at the top
of the form."
"That's a very true observation my boy. It is clear that if there
are twenty boys in a class nineteen fathers have to be disappointed.
Still of course one would like to be the father who is not
"I stick to my work" the boy said; "but there are always fellows
who seem to know just the right words without taking any trouble
about it. It comes to them I suppose."
"What do you say to this idea yourself Harry?"
"I don't know sir" the boy said doubtfully.
"And I don't know" his father agreed. "At anyrate we will sleep
upon it. I am clear that the offer is not to be lightly rejected."
Dr. Sandwith was a doctor in Chelsea. Chelsea in the year 1790
was a very different place to Chelsea of the present day. It was a
pretty suburban hamlet and was indeed a very fashionable quarter.
Here many of the nobility and personages connected with the court
had their houses and broad country fields and lanes separated it
from the stir and din of London. Dr. Sandwith had a good practice
but he had also a large family. Harry was at Westminster going
backwards and forwards across the fields to school. So far he had
evinced no predilection for any special career. He was a sturdy
well-built lad of some sixteen years old. He was as his father
said not likely to set the Thames on fire in any way. He was as
undistinguished in the various sports popular among boys in those
days as he was in his lessons. He was as good as the average but
no better; had fought some tough fights with boys of his own age
and had shown endurance rather than brilliancy.
In the ordinary course of things he would probably in three or four
years' time have chosen some profession; and indeed his father
had already settled in his mind that as Harry was not likely to
make any great figure in life in the way of intellectual capacity
the best thing would be to obtain for him a commission in his
Majesty's service as to which with the doctor's connection among
people of influence there would not be any difficulty. He had
however said nothing as yet to the boy on the subject.
The fact that Harry had three younger brothers and four sisters
and that Dr. Sandwith who was obliged to keep up a good position
sometimes found it difficult to meet his various expenses made
him perhaps more inclined to view favourably the offer he had
that morning received than would otherwise have been the case. Two