The Elusive Pimpernel HTML version

III : Ex-Ambassador Chauvelin
Robespierre had quietly waited the while. He was in no hurry: being a night-bird of very
pronounced tastes, he was quite ready to sit here until the small hours of the morning
watching Citizen Chauvelin mentally writhing in the throes of recollections of the past
few months.
There was nothing that delighted the sea-green Incorruptible quite so much as the aspect
of a man struggling with a hopeless situation and feeling a net of intrigue drawing
gradually tighter and tighter around him.
Even now, when he saw Chauvelin's smooth forehead wrinkled into an anxious frown,
and his thin hand nervously clutched upon the table, Robespierre heaved a pleasurable
sigh, leaned back in his chair, and said with an amiable smile:
"You do agree with me, then, Citizen, that the situation has become intolerable?"
Then as Chauvelin did not reply, he continued, speaking more sharply:
"And how terribly galling it all is, when we could have had that man under the guillotine
by now, if you had not blundered so terribly last year."
His voice had become hard and trenchant like that knife to which he was so ready to
make constant allusion. But Chauvelin still remained silent. There was really nothing that
he could say.
"Citizen Chauvelin, how you must hate that man!" exclaimed Robespierre at last.
Then only did Chauvelin break the silence which up to now he had appeared to have
forced himself to keep.
"I do!" he said with unmistakable fervour.
"Then why do you not make an effort to retrieve the blunders of last year?" queried
Robespierre blandly. "The Republic has been unusually patient and long-suffering with
you, Citizen Chauvelin. She has taken your many services and well-known patriotism
into consideration. But you know," he added significantly, "that she has no use for
worthless tools."
Then as Chauvelin seemed to have relapsed into sullen silence, he continued with his
original ill-omened blandness:
"Ma foi! Citizen Chauvelin, were I standing in your buckled shoes, I would not lose
another hour in trying to avenge mine own humiliation!"