The Elusive Pimpernel HTML version
XXVI : The Terms of the Bargain
Less than three minutes later, there came to Chauvelin's expectant ears the soft sound
made by a woman's skirts against the stone floor. During those three minutes, which had
seemed an eternity to his impatience, he had sat silently watching the slumber--affected
or real--of his enemy.
Directly he heard the word: "Halt!" outside the door, he jumped to his feet. The next
moment Marguerite had entered the room.
Hardly had her foot crossed the threshold than Sir Percy rose, quietly and without haste
but evidently fully awake, and turning towards her, made her a low obeisance.
She, poor woman, had of course caught sight of him at once. His presence here,
Chauvelin's demand for her reappearance, the soldiers in a small compact group outside
the door, all these were unmistakable proofs that the awful cataclysm had at last occurred.
The Scarlet Pimpernel, Percy Blakeney, her husband, was in the hands of the Terrorists
of France, and though face to face with her now, with an open window close to him, and
an apparently helpless enemy under his hand, he could not--owing to the fiendish
measures taken by Chauvelin-- raise a finger to save himself and her.
Mercifully for her, nature--in the face of this appalling tragedy --deprived her of the full
measure of her senses. She could move and speak and see, she could hear and in a
measure understand what was said, but she was really an automaton or a sleep-walker,
moving and speaking mechanically and without due comprehension.
Possibly, if she had then and there fully realized all that the future meant, she would have
gone mad with the horror of it all.
"Lady Blakeney," began Chauvelin after he had quickly dismissed the soldiers from the
room, "when you and I parted from one another just now, I had no idea that I should so
soon have the pleasure of a personal conversation with Sir Percy. ... There is no occasion
yet, believe me, for sorrow or fear. ... Another twenty-four hours at most, and you will be
on board the 'Day-Dream' outward bound for England. Sir Percy himself might perhaps
accompany you; he does not desire that you should journey to Paris, and I may safely say,
that in his mind, he has already accepted certain little conditions which I have been
forced to impose upon him ere I sign the order for your absolute release."
"Conditions?" she repeated vaguely and stupidly, looking in bewilderment from one to
"You are tired, m'dear," said Sir Percy quietly, "will you not sit down?"