The Elusive Pimpernel HTML version

XIX : The Strength of the Weak
"M. L'Abbe! ..." said Marguerite gravely.
"Yes, mon enfant."
The old man looked up from his breviary, and saw Marguerite's great earnest eyes fixed
with obvious calm and trust upon him. She had finished her toilet as well as she could,
had shaken up and tidied the paillasse, and was now sitting on the edge of it, her hands
clasped between her knees. There was something which still puzzled her, and impatient
and impulsive as she was, she had watched the abbe as he calmly went on reading the
Latin prayers for the last five minutes, and now she could contain her questionings no
"You said just now that they set you to watch over me ..."
"So they did, my child, so they did ..." he replied with a sigh, as he quietly closed his
book and slipped it back into his pocket. "Ah! they are very cunning ... and we must
remember that they have the power. No doubt," added the old man, with his own, quaint
philosophy, "no doubt le bon Dieu meant them to have the power, or they would not have
it, would they?"
"By 'they' you mean the Terrorists and Anarchists of France, M. L'Abbe. ... The
Committee of Public Safety who pillage and murder, outrage women, and desecrate
religion. ... Is that not so?"
"Alas! my child!" he sighed.
"And it is 'they' who have set you to watch over me? ... I confess I don't understand ..."
She laughed, quite involuntarily indeed, for in spite of the reassurance in her heart her
brain was still in a whirl of passionate anxiety.
"You don't look at all like one of 'them,' M. l'Abbe," she said.
"The good God forbid!" ejaculated the old man, raising protesting hands up toward the
very distant, quite invisible sky. "How could I, a humble priest of the Lord, range myself
with those who would flout and defy Him."
"Yet I am a prisoner of the Republic and you are my jailer, M. l'Abbe."
"Ah, yes!" he sighed. "But I am very helpless. This was my cell. I had been here with
Francois and Felicite, my sister's children, you know. Innocent lambs, whom those fiends
would lead to slaughter. Last night," he continued, speaking volubly, "the soldiers came
in and dragged Francois and Felicite out of this room, where, in spite of the danger before