Chauvelin listened to all these explanations with some impatience. The child was nothing to him, but the Scarlet Pimpernel had desired to rescue it from out of the clutches of the Leridans; had risked his all— and lost it—in order to effect that rescue! That in itself was a sufficient inducement for Chauvelin to interest himself in the execution of Marat’s vengeance, whatever its original mainspring may have been.
At any rate, now he felt satisfied that the child was safe, and that the Leridans were impervious to threats or bribes which might land them on the guillotine.
All that they would own to was to being afraid.
“Afraid of what?” queried Chauvelin sharply.
That the brat may be kidnapped...stolen. Oh! he could not be decoyed...they were too watchful for that! But apparently there were mysterious agencies at work. ...
“Mysterious agencies!” Chauvelin laughed aloud at the suggestion. The “mysterious agency” was even now rotting in an obscure cell at the Abbaye. What other powers could be at work on behalf of the brat?
Well, the Leridans had had a warning!
“A letter,” the man said gruffly. “But as neither my wife nor I can read—”
“Why did you not speak of this before?” broke in Chauvelin roughly. “Let me see the letter.”
The woman produced a soiled and dank scrap of paper from beneath her apron. Of a truth she could not read its contents, for they were writ in English in the form of a doggerel rhyme which caused Chauvelin to utter a savage oath.
“When did this come?” he asked. “And how?”
“This morning, citizen,” the woman mumbled in reply. “I found it outside the door, with a stone on it to prevent the wind from blowing it away. What does it mean, citizen?” she went on, her voice shaking with terror, for of a truth the citizen Representative looked as if he had seen some weird and unearthly apparition.
He gave no reply for a moment or two, and the two catiffs had no conception of the tremendous effort at self-control which was hidden behind the pale, rigid mask of the redoubtable man.
“It probably means nothing that you need fear,” Chauvelin said quietly at last. “But I will see the Commissary of the Section myself, and tell him to send a dozen men of the Surete along to watch your house and be at your beck and call if need be. Then you will feel quite safe, I hope.”
“Oh, yes! quite safe, citizen!” the woman replied with a sigh of genuine relief. Then only did Chauvelin turn on his heel and go his way.