The Elusive Pimpernel
XX : Triumph
The day that Citizen Chauvelin's letter was received by the members of the Committee of
Public Safety was indeed one of great rejoicing.
The Moniteur tells us that in the Seance of September 22nd, 1793, or Vendemiaire 1st of
the Year I. it was decreed that sixty prisoners, not absolutely proved guilty of treason
against the Republic--only suspected- -were to be set free.
Sixty! ... at the mere news of the possible capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
The Committee was inclined to be magnanimous. Ferocity yielded for the moment to the
elusive joy of anticipatory triumph.
A glorious prize was about to fall into the hands of those who had the welfare of the
people at heart.
Robespierre and his decemvirs rejoiced, and sixty persons had cause to rejoice with them.
So be it! There were plans evolved already as to national fetes and wholesale pardons
when that impudent and meddlesome Englishman at last got his deserts.
Wholesale pardons which could easily be rescinded afterwards. Even with those sixty it
was a mere respite. Those of le Salut Public only loosened their hold for a while, were
nobly magnanimous for a day, quite prepared to be doubly ferocious the next.
In the meanwhile let us heartily rejoice!
The Scarlet Pimpernel is in France or will be very soon, and on an appointed day he will
present himself conveniently to the soldiers of the Republic for capture and for
subsequent guillotine. England is at war with us, there is nothing therefore further to fear
from her. We might hang every Englishman we can lay hands on, and England could do
no more than she is doing at the present moment: bombard our ports, bluster and threaten,
join hands with Flanders, and Austria and Sardinia, and the devil if she choose.
Allons! vogue la galere! The Scarlet Pimpernel is perhaps on our shores at this very
moment! Our most stinging, most irritating foe is about to be delivered into our hands.
Citizen Chauvelin's letter is very categorical:
"I guarantee to you, Citizen Robespierre, and to the Members of the Revolutionary
Government who have entrusted me with the delicate mission ..."
Robespierre's sensuous lips curl into a sarcastic smile. Citizen Chauvelin's pen was every
florid in its style: "entrusted me with the delicate mission," is hardly the way to describe
an order given under penalty of death.