The Elusive Pimpernel
XXV : The Unexpected
Chauvelin heaved a deep sigh of satisfaction when Collot d'Herbois finally left him to
himself. He listened for awhile until the heavy footsteps died away in the distance, then
leaning back in his chair, he gave himself over to the delights of the present situation.
Marguerite in his power. Sir Percy Blakeney compelled to treat for her rescue if he did
not wish to see her die a miserable death.
"Aye! my elusive hero," he muttered to himself, "methinks that we shall be able to cry
quits at last."
Outside everything had become still. Even the wind in the trees out there on the ramparts
had ceased their melancholy moaning. The man was alone with his thoughts. He felt
secure and at peace, sure of victory, content to await the events of the next twenty-four
hours. The other side of the door the guard which he had picked out from amongst the
more feeble and ill-fed garrison of the little city for attendance on his own person were
ranged ready to respond to his call.
"Dishonour and ridicule! Derision and scorn!" he murmured, gloating over the very
sound of these words, which expressed all that he hoped to accomplish, "utter abjections,
then perhaps a suicide's grave ..."
He loved the silence around him, for he could murmur these words and hear them
echoing against the bare stone walls like the whisperings of all the spirits of hate which
were waiting to lend him their aid.
How long he had remained thus absorbed in his meditations, he could not afterwards
have said; a minute or two perhaps at most, whilst he leaned back in his chair with eyes
closed, savouring the sweets of his own thoughts, when suddenly the silence was
interrupted by a loud and pleasant laugh and a drawly voice speaking in merry accents:
"The lud live you, Monsieur Chaubertin, and pray how do you propose to accomplish all
these pleasant things?"
In a moment Chauvelin was on his feet and with eyes dilated, lips parted in awed
bewilderment, he was gazing towards the open window, where astride upon the sill, one
leg inside the room, the other out, and with the moon shining full on his suit of delicate-
coloured cloth, his wide caped coat and elegant chapeau-bras, sat the imperturbably Sir
"I heard you muttering such pleasant words, Monsieur," continued Blakeney calmly, "that
the temptation seized me to join in the conversation. A man talking to himself is ever in a
sorry plight ... he is either a mad man or a fool ..."