When Terror Comes Full Circle
Chapter 7: It Will Be Difficult
It took some time to wash the wound, and it was good that Chauvelin was unconscious--had he been awake, it would have hurt him terribly. But at last, the dirt and debris was cleared away, and clean strips of linen were wrapped around the wounded citizen's chest, tightly but not constrictingly, to staunch the blood flow.
It would take time, Percy theorized, but the wound would eventually close.
Chauvelin did not wake until they reached Abbeville, and the first thing he noticed was the bandages against his skin. Which indicated, of course, that he had been stripped to the waist by his enemy in order to tend to the wound.
He sighed, irritated at the thought, as he turned groggy eyes to the figure on the opposite seat.
"I can think of a few things I'd like to say to you, had I the breath . . ."
"There are many things that must be said."
Percy's quiet, frank tone surprised Chauvelin; it was a different tone than he'd ever heard from the Englishman before. After a moment of baffled silence, he asked the first question on his mind:
"Where is Lucy?"
"On the Day Dream. She was out of Paris before the trial began--it was safer that way."
Chauvelin nodded. Of this, at least, he approved. Slowly, he tried to lift one hand to push the heavy curtain aside and look out the small window at his right; but his strength wasn't quite enough, and he had to let his arm fall to his side again. With an impatient sigh, he cursed his own weakness in his mind.
"In what direction are we travelling?"
Percy kept his eyes firmly on Chauvelin, returning his hate with equally strong dislike--yes, and even contempt. "North, of course."
Trying to sit up from his reclining position, Chauvelin shifted his weight onto his right arm. "To Holland?"
Chauvelin paused, deep in thought. "What would I do in England," he murmured quietly, unable to make his words sound quite as scornful as he hoped to. Instead, they came out despairing, and sorrowful.
"You'll live," Percy said sternly. "There is a woman waiting on a ship near Calais for you who, for some strange reason I cannot comprehend, can't--or won't--live without you; and I won't have her dying simply because you didn't feel life was worth living in such a backwards, fog-ridden country as the one she and I call home."
"I don't suppose it would pass through your brain that I might feel the same way," Chauvelin spit out with what was left of his strength. "I didn't say I wasn't going to live in England. There's just nothing I can do there--I'd spend my life in cursed idleness . . . I can promise you, no one will hire a Frenchman for any sort of honest work, not after this war."
"You're a lawyer," Percy said simply. Chauvelin stared at him blankly.
"Yes. Your point being?"
"If you really feel you have to work to live--and I assure you, it's not necessary, Lucy is quite a wealthy woman in her own right, but as you wish--there are plenty of clients for you in England. Frenchmen, fugitives or outcasts from their country . . . like yourself."
A brief wince was the only visible evidence of emotional pain on Chauvelin's face, fleeting and quick. "What need would aristos have of legal counsel?"
"Not only aristocrats are driven from French shores these days. Much more often, the emigres are common people, fallen out of favor with the Republican government . . . and they sometimes find themselves in situations they don't understand, and get themselves arrested on some minor charge or another . . . they can't speak English, and most English barristers won't represent them anyway . . ."
Slowly, Chauvelin began to nod. "Yes." He shifted again, and gasped in pain. Percy leaned forward quickly and pulled the man's open shirt apart to look at the blood-soaked bandages.
"You need fresh ones," he commented shortly. "Can you remove your shirt?"
Glaring at him, Chauvelin commenced to do just that--but had to stop, to his chagrin, before one arm was out of its sleeve. Percy took it the rest of the way off, as Chauvelin shut his eyes and willed himself to bear the indignity.
"You're too weak still," Percy said idly as he washed the wound, and this time Chauvelin felt the sharp agony of the water. "They nearly killed you with that damnable knife."
The pain wearied him, and suddenly he felt very tired. "I have more will to live than you think," he muttered as he began drifting to sleep again . . .
Sighing, Percy began to wrap fresh pieces of cloth around his erstwhile enemy's chest. "I hope so," he murmured. "You're going to need it before this is over . . ."
The moon hung low in the sky, glistening on the ever-moving waters of the Channel, when a dark, silent carriage stopped on the cliffs above. A tall, massive figure stepped out, then turned and aided a smaller, thinner figure that seemed to have difficulty in standing on his feet; two other men who had been on the box followed behind, ready to lend help if need be. Together, slowly (because the thin one had to be helped considerably in taking each step, and required many stops), they descended a path to the beach below--where a small boat waited.
Nearly two years ago, he had carried his wife down this very path, over these very cliffs . . . the man he helped down the path now had been there, bent on the destruction of them both . . .
Chance throws such irony in our path every now and then. The two men showed no indication of recognizing its fleeting presence.
By the time they reached the boat, Chauvelin was so exhausted that he was forced to recline in an uncomfortable position in the bottom while the others rowed; he simply couldn't sit up, much less pull an oar through the choppy waters. This gave him a very poor view of his surroundings, but an excellent view of things above him.
He contemplated the moon for about half an hour, for that was all he could see. Then, at last, a mast; a sail; and finally, the railing of a ship came into view. An intricately carved railing . . . with an anxious face peering over the side . . .
Lucy covered her mouth quickly, to stifle the cry of relief that had instinctively come when she at last sighted her husband. He was without his coat, dressed in a simple shirt and breeches, that looked like bits of rags themselves . . . and there was a horrible dark stain on his chest . . .
Her cry of relief turned to a cry of horror and of dismay.
They lifted him up and over the side of the ship, into her waiting arms, immediately; they knew, woman though she was, she would greet any who dared exit that rowboat before he was safely on the ship with many a blow of the fist.
"Armand! my love!" she sobbed, as two crewmen helped her to lay him down on the deck. "What did they do to you . . ."
"It's only . . . a wound," Chauvelin gasped, touching the tears that rolled down her cheeks tenderly. "It will heal, Lucy."
Swallowing hard, Lucy glanced up at Percy, who nodded solemnly. Yes, it would heal.
"There's a bed in the cabin below," he said quietly. "He'd be better off there until we reach Dover . . ."
Tears falling afresh, she whispered a glad "Thank you," and he nodded again with a little sigh. This wasn't going to be easy for anyone . . . but he was at least willing to try.
She bent over to help Chauvelin to his feet, and felt another pair of arms bear him up on the other side; looking up, she met her brother's eyes gratefully, with a little laugh born of her relief.
The cabin was small, with hardly enough room for three, but they made the best of it; soon after the ship weighed anchor, Chauvelin was lying on the mattress, more comfortable than he'd been in days, and Lucy was at his side.
"So many times," he said softly, "I was sure you were there with me . . . it sounds crazy, I know. But I felt you, Lucy . . . I almost heard you, at times . . . I was delirious with fever, of course. Once, in the streets of Paris, when Blakeney's men were all around me, I fell to the ground, half-conscious; I could have sworn I heard you whisper to me, ‘Hang on,' as they hauled me to my feet again, and I knew I could . . ."
"Shhh," she warned, smoothing his dark hair away from his face. It needed grooming, as did the rest of him. She would have to ask Percy later about what exactly they had done to him to get him out of Paris; but for now, she cared for nothing but to be beside him, comforting him, and glorying in their happiness.
Andrew looked back over his shoulder once as he left the cabin, just barely hearing what they said. He smiled a little. Sometimes it only takes a few simple words to revive a man's spirit in times of trial.
"I must look a sight," Chauvelin said, almost laughing. "My official sash was stripped from me at the prison, of course, and I lost my coat and waistcoat when I donned this ragged disguise . . . it's just as well, they were in tatters anyhow. I shall have to purchase new clothes in London, I suppose."
"Until then," Lucy said with a smile, "you can wear these." She opened the doors of the tiny wardrobe to retrieve a clean suit of clothes.
He looked at them for a moment. "You've been in my apartment, dear."
"Certainly." Gently, she began to take off his shirt to change the bloody linen underneath . . . he was not bothered by the action this time. "I brought three suits . . . and one more thing." Unfolding the black coat, she revealed a colorful bit of fabric hidden in the folds.
Chauvelin looked at her reproachfully. "I don't need that, Lucy. It was foolish of you."
"Nonsense. The sash served me two purposes: one, to avert suspicion from myself in the street; and two, as something of you that I could have with me. I couldn't bear to part with it . . . I don't think you could either, though you won't admit it." She pressed a kiss to his lips, silent and earnest, and the tears began again. "I was so frightened."
"So was I," he admitted, grasping her fingers tightly. He needed to hold on to her, after being so certain he had lost her forever.
"Will you be all right?" she asked anxiously, gazing into his eyes. "I know that your wound will heal, but . . . there are other wounds . . ." She trailed off, not daring to further explore that delicate subject.
He smiled weakly, glancing at the door, the men on the deck beyond. "I know. I know. But I won't be alone . . ." He kissed her fingertips, one by one, a token of both adoration and possession at once. "With you, I'll manage, somehow."
Lucy grinned, a bright twinkle in her eye. "Let me help you off with those trousers, my love . . ."
And a peal of rich baritone laughter echoed from the cabin, startling the men on the ship and resounding off the welcome cliffs of Dover harbor.