The Scarlet Pimpernel
XXVI. The Jew
It took Marguerite some time to collect her scattered senses; the whole of this
last short episode had taken place in less than a minute, and Desgas and the
soldiers were still about two hundred yards away from the "Chat Gris."
When she realised what had happened, a curious mixture of joy and wonder
filled her heart. It all was so neat, so ingenious. Chauvelin was still absolutely
helpless, far more so than he could even have been under a blow from the fist,
for now he could neither see, nor hear, nor speak, whilst his cunning adversary
had quietly slipped through his fingers.
Blakeney was gone, obviously to try and join the fugitives at the Pere Blanchard's
hut. For the moment, true, Chauvelin was helpless; for the moment the daring
Scarlet Pimpernel had not been caught by Desgas and his men. But all the roads
and the beach were patrolled. Every place was watched, and every stranger kept
in sight. How far could Percy go, thus arrayed in his gorgeous clothes, without
being sighted and followed? Now she blamed herself terribly for not having gone
down to him sooner, and given him that word of warning and of love which,
perhaps, after all, he needed. He could not know of the orders which Chauvelin
had given for his capture, and even now, perhaps . . .
But before all these horrible thoughts had taken concrete form in her brain, she
heard the grounding of arms outside, close to the door, and Desgas' voice
shouting "Halt!" to his men.
Chauvelin had partially recovered; his sneezing had become less violent, and he
had struggled to his feet. He managed to reach the door just as Desgas' knock
was heard on the outside.
Chauvelin threw open the door, and before his secretary could say a word, he
had managed to stammer between two sneezes--
"The tall stranger--quick!--did any of you see him?"
"Where, citoyen?" asked Desgas, in surprise.
"Here, man! through that door! not five minutes ago."
"We saw nothing, citoyen! The moon is not yet up, and . . ."
"And you are just five minutes too late, my friend," said Chauvelin, with