The Elusive Pimpernel HTML version
XXI : Suspense
In his memorable interview with Robespierre, the day before he left for England,
Chauvelin had asked that absolute power be given him, in order that he might carry out
the plans for the capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel, which he had in his mind. Now that he
was back in France he had no cause to complain that the revolutionary government had
grudged him this power for which he had asked.
Implicit obedience had followed whenever he had commanded.
As soon as he heard that a woman had been arrested in the act of uttering a passport in
the name of Celine Dumont, he guessed at once that Marguerite Blakeney had, with
characteristic impulse, fallen into the trap which, with the aid of the woman Candeille, he
had succeeded in laying for her.
He was not the least surprised at that. He knew human nature, feminine nature, far too
well, ever to have been in doubt for a moment that Marguerite would follow her husband
without calculating either costs or risks.
Ye gods! the irony of it all! Had she not been called the cleverest woman in Europe at
one time? Chauvelin himself had thus acclaimed her, in those olden days, before she and
he became such mortal enemies, and when he was one of the many satellites that
revolved round brilliant Marguerite St. Just. And to-night, when a sergeant of the town
guards brought him news of her capture, he smiled grimly to himself; the cleverest
woman in Europe had failed to perceive the trap laid temptingly open for her.
Once more she had betrayed her husband into the hands of those who would not let him
escape a second time. And now she had done it with her eyes open, with loving,
passionate heart which ached for self- sacrifice, and only succeeded in imperilling the
loved one more hopelessly than before.
The sergeant was waiting for orders. Citizen Chauvelin had come to Boulogne, armed
with more full and more autocratic powers than any servant of the new republic had ever
been endowed with before. The governor of the town, the captain of the guard, the fort
and municipality were all as abject slaves before him.
As soon as he had taken possession of the quarters organized for him in the town hall, he
had asked for a list of prisoners who for one cause or another were being detained
pending further investigations.
The list was long and contained many names which were of not the slightest interest to
Chauvelin: he passed them over impatiently.
"To be released at one," he said curtly.