Chapter 7: Citizen Chauvelin

The room was very decrepit and bare. Among it's few furnishings were an ancient, dejected looking, cupboard at one side of the room, and a small, battered table in the center of the room, which had two equally woebegone looking chairs around it. Also, on the opposite side of the wall from the cupboard there was a open fireplace with a weather-beaten clock above it and to the side of that, a nondescript old painting. There were two men sitting at the table and one of them, a small man with claw like hands and very pale, steely eyes, was just saying to the other man:

"Is everything clear, Citizen Devereux?"

"Quite clear, Citizen," replied the taller, dark haired soldier

"You have enjoyed a very successful career so far, Captain, it would be a pity for you lose everything in one days work, now wouldn't it?"

"Yes, it would, Citizen Chauvelin."

"And believe me, you could very easily lose much more than your career if you ruin my plans. The infamous Scarlet Pimpernel is not an enemy to be taken lightly. If you lose him, well, you know what will happen. On the other hand, if you succeed... let's just say there will be a reward beyond your wildest dreams, plus the knowledge that you have done an inestimable service to the Republic."

"I will do my best. But what if this Englishman of yours doesn't make an appearance? What if he suspects?"

"You have not seen 'this Englishman' at work before Citizen Devereux. He is cunning, and no fool. But he would never lose the chance of rescuing someone merely because he thought that there might be a trap. He actually appears to derive even more pleasure from doing what he calls 'sport' when there is someone to try his wits against."

"At least you don't think he will show up till later, do you?"

"With him you can never know quite what to expect. For that very reason we must take all precautions. The building is completely surrounded?"

"At this very moment four of my best men are waiting outside the building."

"They all understand what they stand to gain or lose?"

"Yes, Citizen."

"You must be wary of everyone. The Scarlet Pimpernel can come an many guises, a cart-driver, coal-heaver, even an old woman! Trust no one."

"I understand."

"Why do I very much doubt that? So few actually realize how ingenious he is."

"But ,Citizen, surely I--"

"Surly you are far more clever?!" Chauvelin said sarcastically "Surely you can outwit the man who has dealt defeat after defeat to me," he continued bitterly.
The Captain listened with deference and respect, for although Chauvelin had fallen much in power and prestige, he still could instill in men a sense of his authority. And so he listened on. Then he said:

"I am sure it wasn't your fault, he was just lucky, that's all."

"Well then luck, as you call it, and our enigmatical friend here, must be very familiar with each other indeed, for him to escaped unscathed so many times... I don't even know why I am telling you all this," he said crossly. "You just won't understand until you've brushed shoulders with him at least once. And now, you must join your men at their posts. I will join you as soon as I my carriage arrives."

"Carriage, Citizen? Wouldn't it be much easier to just--"

"You grow stupider by the minute, Citizen Devereux. I am beginning to think you altogether unfit for this assignment. Of course it would be easier to just get a horse out of the stables and go immediately, but you see, the Scarlet Pimpernel and I know each other far to well for me to go unnoticed if I were to parade myself around in open view! Then even the slight chance we do have now would be all but lost. We would loose the element of surprise."

"I see your point, Sir."

After that Citizen Devereux, seeing how impatient and restless Chauvelin grew, stood and prepared to depart. As Chauvelin rose, the most unexpected noise met their ears. It was the sound of a laugh, a merry inane laugh, filled with the pleasure of living. Only a laugh, and yet in a minute Chauvelin was on his feet and with a bound he was at the door, face ashen. He jerked open the door hastily- no one, but as he opened the door something white fluttered to his feet. He stooped to pick it up. It was a letter. He opened it and began to read. It took him only a minute and when he had finished there wasn't a look of surprise of any kind on his face, but there was a look of deep, embittered hatred. Taken aback and confused, Guerin asked timidly:

"What is it?"

Face hard and set, Chauvelin answered:

"We have just had visit from the Scarlet Pimpernel."

"Then it's all off?" he said, with not a little relief in his voice, for all this business about this English spy were beginning to tell on his nerves. "I mean, he heard our plans and all, so he won't come." Exasperatedly, Chauvelin replied angrily:

"Him not coming should be the least of your worries. Don't you remember any our conversation? He enjoys this. It's only sport for him. He'll be there, I'd bet my life upon it."

He crumpled the piece of paper he had been holding, and threw it on the ground as he left the room. Curious as to how he knew it was the Englishman, Guerin picked it up. To his puzzlement it was only a short poem. It reads as follows:

They seek him here, they seek him there.
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven or is he in hell?
That demmed elusive Pimpernel!

At the end of the poem there was the device of a small scarlet flower.

~*~

As Chauvelin passed through the hallway and then down the stairs he thought long and hard about this his most irritating and trying adversary. He had come to hate him with such vehemence as few have ever felt. Maybe this time, was what he kept telling himself. Hope had seemed to die completely out of him when he had heard that all too familiar inane joyful laugh. What made each fresh defeat he suffered sting all the more painfully was the fact that he had once held him in his grasp. He could have crushed him then and there. And he would have, if only that fool Héron had not lost the young Capet and then delayed the execution! If he had only killed him then... If he had, he wouldn't be in disgrace now, of no consequence to the Republic anymore. He wouldn't have sunk so low as to be scarcely remembered - Oh, but he was remembered! As the man who had failed so many times to bring one of the Republic's most detested enemies to the Guillotine. But for his reputation he cared little enough now, it was revenge he longed for. It was in this very city he had last tasted the sweetness of revenge, maybe he would taste it again - soon. And this time he wouldn't hesitate even for a moment once he held him in his power.

By this time he had reached the street corner where he had ordered his carriage to be brought. Just a few days ago he had hired a new driver because his old one was far to slow, never arriving on time. Besides he had felt that there was something wrong with the man. He had somehow reminded him of Sir Percy, though he didn't know quite in what way. Not a dandy at all, hardly clean, and yet... Well, he was gone now, and so he needn't be worried about a spy being his driver. His new driver had been recommended to him as a very hard working, honest fellow, who pretty much kept to himself. That was exactly what he wanted. But blast it all! Why wasn't he here?! He watched Devereux leave, and still no carriage. Finally, five minutes later (though in his impatience it seemed like five hours), the carriage appeared. The footman alighted and opened the door for the fuming representative. After he was inside they drove away after Captain Devereux.

©Blakeney Manor, 2005