The Elusive Pimpernel HTML version
XXVII : The Decision
Once more the two men were alone.
As far as Chauvelin was concerned he felt that everything was not yet settled, and until a
moment ago he had been in doubt as to whether Sir Percy would accept the infamous
conditions which had been put before him, or allow his pride and temper to get the better
of him and throw the deadly insults back into his adversary's teeth.
But now a new secret had been revealed to the astute diplomatist. A name, softly
murmured by a broken-hearted woman, had told him a tale of love and passion, which he
had not even suspected before.
Since he had made this discovery he knew that the ultimate issue was no longer in doubt.
Sir Percy Blakeney, the bold adventurer, ever ready for a gamble where lives were at
stake, might have demurred before he subscribed to his own dishonour, in order to save
his wife from humiliation and the shame of the terrible fate that had been mapped out for
her. But the same man passionately in love with such a woman as Marguerite Blakeney
would count the world well lost for her sake.
One sudden fear alone had shot through Chauvelin's heart when he stood face to face
with the two people whom he had so deeply and cruelly wronged, and that was that
Blakeney, throwing aside all thought of the scores of innocent lives that were at stake,
might forget everything, risk everything, dare everything, in order to get his wife away
there and then.
For the space of a few seconds Chauvelin had felt that his own life was in jeopardy, and
that the Scarlet Pimpernel would indeed make a desperate effort to save himself and his
wife. But the fear was short-lived: Marguerite--as he had well foreseen--would never
save herself at the expense of others, and she was tied! tied! tied! That was his triumph
and his joy!
When Marguerite finally left the room, Sir Percy made no motion to follow her, but
turned once more quietly to his antagonist.
"As you were saying, Monsieur? ..." he queried lightly.
"Oh! there is nothing more to say, Sir Percy," rejoined Chauvelin; "my conditions are
clear to you, are they not? Lady Blakeney's and your own immediate release in exchange
for a letter written to me by your own hand, and signed here by you--in this room-- in my
presence and that of sundry other persons whom I need not name just now. Also certain
money passing from my hand to yours. Failing the letter, a long, hideously humiliating
sojourn in the Temple prison for your wife, a prolonged trial and the guillotine as a happy
release! ... I would add, the same thing for yourself, only that I will do you the justice to
admit that you probably do not care."