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The Elusive Pimpernel

XXIV : Colleagues
As soon as the door had closed behind Marguerite, there came from somewhere in the
room the sound of a yawn, a grunt and a volley of oaths.
The flickering light of the tallow candles had failed to penetrate into all the corners, and
now from out one of these dark depths, a certain something began to detach itself, and to
move forward towards the table at which Chauvelin had once more resumed his seat.
"Has the damned aristocrat gone at last?" queried a hoarse voice, as a burly body clad in
loose-fitting coat and mud-stained boots and breeches appeared within the narrow circle
of light.
"Yes," replied Chauvelin curtly.
"And a cursed long time you have been with the baggage," grunted the other surlily.
"Another five minutes and I'd have taken the matter in my own hands.
"An assumption of authority," commented Chauvelin quietly, "to which your position
here does not entitle you, Citizen Collot."
Collot d'Herbois lounged lazily forward, and presently he threw his ill- knit figure into
the chair lately vacated by Marguerite. His heavy, square face bore distinct traces of the
fatigue endured in the past twenty-four hours on horseback or in jolting market waggons.
His temper too appeared to have suffered on the way, and, at Chauvelin's curt and
dictatorial replies, he looked as surly as a chained dog.
"You were wasting your breath over that woman," he muttered, bringing a large and
grimy fist heavily down on the table, "and your measures are not quite so sound as your
fondly imagine, Citizen Chauvelin."
"They were mostly of your imagining, Citizen Collot," rejoined the other quietly, "and of
your suggestion."
"I added a touch of strength and determination to your mild milk-and- water notions,
Citizen," snarled Collot spitefully. "I'd have knocked that intriguing woman's brains out
at the very first possible opportunity, had I been consulted earlier than this."
"Quite regardless of the fact that such violent measures would completely damn all our
chances of success as far as the capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel is concerned," remarked
Chauvelin drily, with a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders. "Once his wife is dead, the
Englishman will never run his head into the noose which I have so carefully prepared for
him."
 
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