When Terror Comes Full Circle
Chapter 4: Give And Ye Shall Receive
"Welcome to the prison of La Mort Républicaine, citizen." Two strong and enthusiastic soldiers of the Republic made Chauvelin to stand, with his hands tightly bound behind his back, and face Citizen Geradier. Chauvelin would have faced the man on his own, but the guards relished the opportunity to push him around, so they were handling him as roughly as they possibly could. Geradier approved of this wholeheartedly.
"Looks a little different from the inside of the cells, does it not?" Geradier asked with a malicious grin. "I'm sure this whole experience has been quite enlightening for you, Citizen Chauvelin . . ."
"Quite." Chauvelin glared at the man steadily. "I'm sure you have a reason for this, citizen . . . state your point."
One of the soldiers pulled his arms as far back from the shoulder as they could go in retaliation for the remark--or perhaps just to make him gasp in pain. Geradier laughed at his discomfort.
"Very well . . . I will be brief, then. You know something, a secret that you have kept to yourself jealously for nearly two years, it is said . . . the Republic was willing to let you keep that secret as long as you were faithful in its service. But now, you will no longer be allowed to withhold this from us. You will tell me, now, the name of the man known as the Scarlet Pimpernel."
Chauvelin said nothing. It was true, he wanted nothing more than to see the Pimpernel in prison--but by HIS hand, and no one else's. And he knew, instinctively, that Lucy was in Sir Percy's care at this very moment; if he were captured . . .
And so he kept silent.
"Silent, Chauvelin?" Geradier growled, as it became apparent that Chauvelin wasn't going to give him the answer he wanted. Scowling, he walked up to Chauvelin until he stood chest-to-chest with him, and glared into the prisoner's stubborn eyes. Then he viciously drew a dagger and slashed Chauvelin across the chest.
Chauvelin shut his eyes and clenched his teeth tightly, but he made no sound.
"The wound is not deep, citizen," Geradier whispered. "Barely a scratch . . . but every time I ask you to tell me the man's name, and you refuse, the wound will get deeper . . . and deeper . . . a man could die from a deep chest wound, you know . . ."
Chauvelin opened his eyes again, with a contemptuous stare for the citizen. His glance was enough to tell Geradier what he thought of the threat.
"What is the man's name, Chauvelin?" he asked again, his voice almost too soft to hear. Chauvelin bit his lip to fight back against the pain as he answered.
"He calls himself the Scarlet Pimpernel, citizen."
Geradier curled his lip with a vicious growl, and slashed down with the dagger once more, into the same gash as before. Just a bit deeper.
Chauvelin's lip began to bleed.
"They've taken him to Paris."
"Already? They're not wasting time."
Percy shook his head, sighing. Things were moving very fast. Almost too fast for him to think . . .
"Take Lucy to the coast," he whispered wearily. "She'll be much safer on the ship than in Paris."
"No!" She remembered to keep her voice low, but it was no less emphatic. "I won't. I'm going to Paris with you--I want to be close to him."
Percy turned on her, almost sharply, the look in his eyes commanding. "The way things are going, it may be a matter of days. We won't have time later to get you to safety. Wait on the ship--you'll be safe and comfortable there; when you are safe, I can give all my efforts to him."
She pouted, thinking. "Fine," she said at last, resigned, "but I'm not happy about it."
Percy half-smiled. "I know you're not." He kissed her on the cheek, and she left the room to get her things.
"Take her in the cart," he ordered his lieutenant, "and send for Tony and Hastings; then ride back to Paris and meet me at ‘L'Arbre Noir' four nights hence . . . and what we can do from there, we can only guess at."
Chauvelin lay in a heap on the floor, too exhausted to move.
"Tell me his name, citizen." The question came again, unceasing. He began to laugh, half-mad. It had not taken a long time for the wound to become infected, and perhaps the fever was controlling him . . .
"I am a weaver, am I not?" he mumbled. "I wove a net for him, you know, a net of truth and lies. It was a good net, and the lies were so intermingled with the truth that even the weaver couldn't tell them apart; so I knew it would catch him. And it did--but he did not stay caught. He knew this secret that I did not; the net cannot hold those who can separate its cords! He knew what was truth and what was a lie, and so he slipped through my fingers before I ever held him in my grasp. Who could have told that I would one day fall into my own net, eh?"
He turned over, groaning, until he was sitting against the wall, facing Geradier.
"It won't hold me long. I know the secret now. As soon as I can distinguish truth from lies again, I will be free of it . . . and of you."
Growling, Geradier took a single step forward, knife raised to strike; but he thought better of it. One more cut might kill him . . . and he didn't want that; he wanted him to stand trial, to face his humiliation and the blade of the guillotine like any common traitor . . . he grinned maliciously, aiming a kick to Chauvelin's side instead.
"Enjoy life while you can," he murmured smoothly. "You stand trial . . . tomorrow."
He threw the knife on the ground beside Chauvelin and left the cell, barely sparing a glance for the old hunchback at the door who carried the lantern . . .