When Terror Comes Full Circle
Chapter 2: Retribution
Armand Chauvelin, as a representative of the Government of the Republic of France, was required to travel to many different areas of the country to perform his duties. Of necessity, then, he had kept rooms in several towns other than his rooms in Paris and the beloved Lou Mas. He had such an apartment waiting for him in Nimes.
It was thither that he and Lucy directed their steps when they finally quit the deserted carriage, hoping to find there a place of refuge.
It was apparently too much to hope for.
Chauvelin heard the men of the Garde Nationale searching his rooms even on the stairs. They both knew what it meant: the local authorities had been notified that Citizen Chauvelin, hereafter to be known as the ci-devant Marquis de Chauvelin (for he had once been an aristocrat, no wonder he had turned traitor like the rest!), was to be arrested on sight, and so all the rooms and lodgings he had ever held were to be searched thoroughly for "evidence of treason." Evidence which would of a certainty be found in abundance, for soldiers of the Republic were taught to be efficient in these matters; if there was no concrete evidence, they could certainly make it up for themselves.
This was not a time for many words. A firm, peremptory gesture was enough, and this time there was no argument. Somehow they both felt that there was nothing else to be done.
Lucy slipped into the shadow of an empty doorway, and Armand Chauvelin calmly went to face his pursuers.
"Can I help you, citizens?" His voice was steady, his tone quietly authoritative; even now he meant to show them he was not intimidated by this fate the Republic had chosen for him.
The soldiers were an enthusiastic lot, and they knew their work well; once Chauvelin had made himself known in the doorway of his own apartment, they lost no time in seizing him and making sure he was well aware that he was "arrested in the name of the Republic, under charges of treason brought against your person by members of the National Assembly and . . ." He could have recited the contents of the arrest warrant back to them all, word for word. He had issued so many of them himself.
Lucy watched, mesmerized, from the enveloping darkness she hid in, as the soldiers roughly searched his person for papers--they found that enigmatic note the Pimpernel had left with him at their last meeting, which couldn't have done him any good--and succeeded in turning the remainder of the apartment inside out and upside down for their own pleasure. While they were thus occupied, one of the soldiers was holding Chauvelin at the point of his bayonet; Chauvelin seemed unconcerned with the melee centering around him.
At this point a little explanation is necessary. From the nature of their persons and the reasons they had for moving in the dangerous circles of revolutionary France, Lucy and Chauvelin as husband and wife had been forced to use alternate means of communication--means that nobody but they understood--several times, when speech or the written word would have been too dangerous for one or both of them. Theirs was a relationship based so much on chance meetings and fleeting glances; it was imperative that they develop a rudimentary language of signals, one to another.
Just as the soldiers made a movement to tie Chauvelin's hands behind his back, he nonchalantly made a curious affectation, almost imperceptible unless you were looking for it to happen. And Lucy was.
He touched the sash he wore, the revolutionary sash of officialism he wore with such pride, at the very spot where it crossed his heart; and then he followed the line of the fabric down to the knot lower down, seemingly straightening it. Then he quite placidly placed his hands behind his back for the soldiers to tie, and they led him down the stairs and out the front door of the building, to be incarcerated in the local prison along with many of those he had condemned to death only days before.
Lucy waited until she was sure they had all gone and no one was left behind in the rooms; then she slowly and quietly emerged from the darkness and entered the rooms of her beloved. Every piece of furniture that could be moved had been overturned and smashed to bits; the ashes from the little stove in the corner were strewn across the floor; every window had been broken, and the night wind whistled through the splintered panes. Only in the bedroom did she find furniture undisturbed, the bed and the wardrobe; two ponderous structures too heavy to overturn, and so they had been left alone, although the bedclothes had been stripped off and tossed into the floor. Mechanically, she opened the doors of the wardrobe to find several suits of his familiar black, hanging in a neat row; surprisingly, they had not disturbed these. And there, sitting neatly folded on the shelf, was what she had been looking for all along.
She took the sash from the shelf--it was not his official one, for he had been wearing that, but rather the ceremonial sash he had worn when he visited the English court two years ago, and still wore at state functions--and held it gently to her face. She breathed in deeply, imagining that she could even now detect him in the smell of the delicate fabric; holding it against her cheek, she numbly sat down on the bed. For the space of thirty seconds, she was absolutely motionless; then she lay down on the mattress, silently sobbing into the cherished sash.
That one motion he had made as they arrested him meant something very important; he had touched the object that represented the one thing he loved as much as she, at the very place where that ardent, enthusiastic love was kept.
One last time, he had told her that he loved her.