The Elusive Pimpernel
XVIII : No. 6
Consciousness returned very slowly, very painfully.
It was night when last Marguerite had clearly known what was going on around her; it
was daylight before she realized that she still lived, that she still knew and suffered.
Her head ached intolerably: that was the first conscious sensation which came to her; then
she vaguely perceived a pale ray of sunshine, very hazy and narrow, which came from
somewhere in front of her and struck her in the face. She kept her eyes tightly shut, for
that filmy light caused her an increase of pain.
She seemed to be lying on her back, and her fingers wandering restlessly around felt a
hard paillasse, beneath their touch, then a rough pillow, and her own cloak laid over her:
thought had not yet returned, only the sensation of great suffering and of infinite fatigue.
Anon she ventured to open her eyes, and gradually one or two objects detached
themselves from out the haze which still obscured her vision.
Firstly, the narrow aperture--scarcely a window--filled in with tiny squares of coarse,
unwashed glass, through which the rays of the morning sun were making kindly efforts to
penetrate, then the cloud of dust illumined by those same rays, and made up--so it seemed
to the poor tired brain that strove to perceive--of myriads of abnormally large molecules,
over-abundant, and over-active, for they appeared to be dancing a kind of wild saraband
before Marguerite's aching eyes, advancing and retreating, forming themselves into
groups and taking on funny shapes of weird masques and grotesque faces which grinned
at the unconscious figure lying helpless on the rough paillasse.
Through and beyond them Marguerite gradually became aware of three walls of a narrow
room, dank and grey, half covered with whitewash and half with greenish mildew! Yes!
and there, opposite to her and immediately beneath that semblance of a window, was
another paillasse, and on it something dark, that moved.
The words: "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite ou la Mort!" stared out at her from somewhere
beyond those active molecules of dust, but she also saw just above the other paillasse the
vague outline of a dark crucifix.
It seemed a terrible effort to co-ordinate all these things, and to try and realize what the
room was, and what was the meaning of the paillasse, the narrow window and the stained
walls, too much altogether for the aching head to take in save very slowly, very
Marguerite was content to wait and to let memory creep back as reluctantly as it would.
"Do you think, my child, you could drink a little of this now?"