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The Ballpoint Pimpernel

A parody not to be taken seriously, by any means

Chapter 2

The dean of the Honors College, James Hopson, stormed into his office, followed closely by his personal secretary, Alain Chambertin. He was angry, and he took it out on the first person in sight.

"Well, Chambertin, what happened in there?" he bellowed.

Despite Hopson's threatening tone, Chambertin stayed calm. Alain Chambertin was not a man to be upset easily, but woe to the man who crossed him. He became dangerous when angry.

"Monsieur Hopson, someone obviously tampered with the sound system," he said quietly, with a slight accent. Hopson banged his fist down on the desk.

"Can't you drop the accent for one minute? And stop calling me 'monsieur'!" he yelled.

"As I have told you before, I do not speak with an accent by my own choice. And I call you 'monsieur' because it is a title of respect in my native language. If you wish me to stop respecting you, that can be arranged," Chambertin said calmly. Hopson wasn't listening.

"Give me a full report of what happened. And quickly, so I don't have to listen to your God-forsaken accent for long," he said.

Chambertin sighed, willing himself to stay calm at the remembrance of the day's debacle.

"The assembly began easily enough, and everything seemed to go smoothly until about halfway through the presentation. All of a sudden the speaker's voice began to be projected through the sound system an octave higher than normal, making him sound ridiculous. He tapped the microphone, and it then dropped his voice to an octave lower than normal, which made him sound even more ridiculous. Then the podium collapsed at his feet. When I looked for a new microphone, they were all gone. We had no choice other than to cancel the assembly." He was turning red in spite of himself. "The university and the Honors College have been embarrassed and our recruiting has been irreparably harmed. The saboteurs must be found and punished . . . severely."

Hopson let loose a number of expletives. "What's that in your hand?"

"Something I found on top of the pod--err, what used to be the podium. A poem of sorts--it's our only clue." He tossed it onto the desk.

*It would be a shame if incidents like this began to drive away prospective students, wouldn't it? And yet that may very well happen, if you don't start loosening your hold on the Honors Students. I suggest you begin by leaving their mail uncensored. Take my suggestion, or else you might with later on that you had.

Seek me not here, seek me not there,
For you will not find me anywhere.
When will I return? You can't ever tell;
I am the Ballpoint Pimpernel.*

Hopson swore again, his face beet-red. "Chambertin," he yelled, "if you value your job, you'll find this Ballpoint Pimpernel and hand him over to me to deal with personally. I'll show this rascal what it means to anger me . . ."

But for once it was Chambertin who wasn't listening. His mind was far away, long ago in his family history, with his ancestor, one Armand Chauvelin, in 1792 Paris.

Armand Chauvelin was a high official in the French Revolutionary Government then, and it was his task to capture an enigmatical person who was rescuing condemned aristocrats from their deserved fate. The man wreaked havoc on the government for two years, always just out of Chauvelin's grasp. Chauvelin did capture him, on a few occasions, but he always escaped. What made it worse was that Chauvelin knew even the name of this man, almost from the beginning, and could never catch him. He knew that the man who called himself the Scarlet Pimpernel was an English aristocrat named Sir Percy Blakeney.

Though the name Chauvelin had been corrupted through mispronounciation to Chambertin, Alain Chambertin had always considered himself a Chauvelin at heart. And it seemed he had now been given the same task his ancestor had over 200 years ago. He vowed that he would not fail, like his unfortunate ancestor had.

The League of the Ballpoint Pimpernel met that night in Abigail's room. They spoke in whispers that couldn't be detected even by a chance listener at the door.

"Good job on the sound system today, David," Abigail said.

"Ah, it's nothing," he said. "Just a matter of crossing a few wires."

"As long as you don't cross the wrong wires and blow the whole place up," Jenny said. They all chuckled.

"Abigail, are you sure it's a good idea to leave that paper behind?" John asked. "Someone might recognize your handwriting."

"It's not enough to just get their attention. They have to know why. And besides, I wrote it with my left hand." She demonstrated on a piece of paper. "Nobody will ever recognize that." She burned up the paper. "By the way, it's a good idea if you all burn my notes to you, so nobody will find them and connect you to this thing. The last thing we need is our own disappearing."

"I hope this works, Abigail," Michele said. "What if they don't bend?"

"We'll just have to convince them to, I suppose. It's unpleasant to have to resort to such destructive means, but do you really think they'd ever listen to a petition without force behind it? I think not."

"Besides, that's already been tried," Stephanie said. "Nobody's seen the petitioners since, of course."

"All in all, good work, everyone," Abigail said. "We'll give them a few days to think about it, then if they've done nothing, we'll step it up a bit. I'll send you a note when it's time for the next 'incident.'"

"Wait a minute, before you go," Patricia spoke up. "I've got news from the main office." She had been doing volunteer work in the dean's office to keep an eye on their adversary. "Hopson has already put a man on our trail. His secretary, Alain Chambertin."

Abigail froze for a moment or two. She suddenly remembered one of her ancestors in England, Sir Percy Blakeney, who rescued aristocrats from the French Government in the late eighteenth century under the pseudonym of the Scarlet Pimpernel. His main adversary had been a Citoyen Chauvelin, but to infuriate him, Blakeney had always mispronounced the name Chambertin.

"Abigail? Are you still there?" she heard Matt say. She shook herself out of her musings.

"Yes, I'm fine. All of you should watch out for this Chauvelin--" why had she said that?--"this Chambertin, and be careful. In fact, take the act a step further when he's around. It'll confuse him. Any more questions? Okay, meeting adjourned." She paused, then said a little louder, "I've got to study for that test next week!"

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