The Elusive Pimpernel
XXII : Not Death
Two days of agonizing suspense, of alternate hope and despair, had told heavily on
Her courage was still indomitable, her purpose firm and her faith secure, but she was
without the slightest vestige of news, entirely shut off from the outside world, left to
conjecture, to scheme, to expect and to despond alone.
The Abbe Foucquet had tried in his gentle way to be of comfort to her, and she in her turn
did her very best not to render his position more cruel than it already was.
A message came to him twice during those forty-eight hours from Francois and Felicite, a
little note scribbled by the boy, or a token sent by the blind girl, to tell the Abbe that the
children were safe and well, that they would be safe and well so long as the Citizeness
with the name unknown remained closely guarded by him in room No. 6.
When these messages came, the old man would sigh and murmur something about the
good God: and hope, which perhaps had faintly risen in Marguerite's heart within the last
hour or so, would once more sink back into the abyss of uttermost despair.
Outside the monotonous walk of the sentry sounded like the perpetual thud of a hammer
beating upon her bruised temples.
"What's to be done? My God? what's to be done?"
Where was Percy now?
"How to reach him! ... Oh, God! grant me light!"
The one real terror which she felt was that she would go mad. Nay! that she was in a
measure mad already. For hours now,--or was it days? ... or years? ... she had heard
nothing save that rhythmic walk of the sentinel, and the kindly, tremulous voice of the
Abbe whispering consolations, or murmuring prayers in her ears, she had seen nothing
save that prison door, of rough deal, painted a dull grey, with great old-fashioned lock,
and hinges rusty with the damp of ages.
She had kept her eyes fixed on that door until they burned and ached with well-nigh
intolerable pain; yet she felt that she could not look elsewhere, lest she missed the golden
moment when the bolts would be drawn, and that dull, grey door would swing slowly on
its rusty hinges.
Surely, surely, that was the commencement of madness!