The Elusive Pimpernel HTML version

XXXI : Final Dispositions
To Chauvelin the day had been one of restless inquietude and nervous apprehension.
Collot d'Herbois harassed him with questions and complaints intermixed with threats but
thinly veiled. At his suggestion Gayole had been transformed into a fully-manned, well-
garrisoned fortress. Troops were to be seen everywhere, on the stairs and in the passages,
the guard-rooms and offices: picked men from the municipal guard, and the company
which had been sent down from Paris some time ago.
Chauvelin had not resisted these orders given by his colleague. He knew quite well that
Marguerite would make no attempt at escape, but he had long ago given up all hope of
persuading a man of the type of Collot d'Herbois that a woman of her temperament would
never think of saving her own life at the expense of others, and that Sir Percy Blakeney,
in spite of his adoration for his wife, would sooner see her die before him, than allow the
lives of innocent men and women to be the price of hers.
Collot was one of those brutish sots--not by any means infrequent among the Terrorists of
that time--who, born in the gutter, still loved to wallow in his native element, and who
measured all his fellow-creatures by the same standard which he had always found good
enough for himself. In this man there was neither the enthusiastic patriotism of a
Chauvelin, nor the ardent selflessness of a Danton. He served the revolution and fostered
the anarchical spirit of the times only because these brought him a competence and a
notoriety, which an orderly and fastidious government would obviously have never
offered him.
History shows no more despicable personality than that of Collot d'Herbois, one of the
most hideous products of that utopian Revolution, whose grandly conceived theories of a
universal levelling of mankind only succeeded in dragging into prominence a number of
half-brutish creatures who, revelling in their own abasement, would otherwise have
remained content in inglorious obscurity.
Chauvelin tolerated and half feared Collot, knowing full well that if now the Scarlet
Pimpernel escaped from his hands, he could expect no mercy from his colleagues.
The scheme by which he hoped to destroy not only the heroic leader but the entire
League by bringing opprobrium and ridicule upon them, was wonderfully subtle in its
refined cruelty, and Chauvelin, knowing by now something of Sir Percy Blakeney's
curiously blended character, was never for a moment in doubt but that he would write the
infamous letter, save his wife by sacrificing his honour, and then seek oblivion and peace
in suicide.
With so much disgrace, so much mud cast upon their chief, the League of the Scarlet
Pimpernel would cease to be. THAT had been Chauvelin's plan all along. For the end he