Chauvelin started and rose from his chair when he heard the key turn in the lock, and he realised that it was time. He was to be taken to the guillotine like a common traitor, just as all those people who he had sent to death himself. He swore that he would keep his dignity until the bitter end. That was all he could hope for now.
"Blakeney!" he exclaimed as he lifted his gaze and saw sir Percy Blakeney stand before him, and he tried to keep calm even though he was completely bewildered by the sight of his enemy.
"The very same, my dear monsieur Chaubertin..." Percy said, but then he silenced. "I apologise. I really should not taunt you in the moment of your despair."
"Is that not why you have come?" Chauvelin asked bitterly.
He could not think of any greater humiliation than to stand before his enemy in this moment. Without a doubt, Percy had come to taunt him before his execution, to finally have his revenge. The revolution was dead and the Scarlet Pimpernel had won. He had evaded all the traps that had been lain out before him through the years, and now he stood here before his enemy in the moment of his triumph.
"Of course not, my dear fellow!" Percy said and smiled, but then his face became serious. "I have come to tell you that your daughter and the man she loves have been saved from the guillotine and taken to England. They are now at Blakeney manor with my dear wife, and she will have her revenge for all the wrongs you have done her by giving your daughter all her love and kindness."
"Thank God..." Chauvelin whispered, unable to hold back his emotions when Percy had mentioned his daughter.
"Perhaps you thought that I was lying when I promised you to save her?" Percy asked placidly.
"I did not dare to believe it..." Chauvelin murmured. "But I was willing to give my life for the possibility that you would hold your word."
"Your daughter will be forever grateful."
"But why did you save Fleurette? She means nothing to you."
"What can I say? She means just as little or just as much as everyone else I have ever saved."
"But why did you do this? You hate me!
A laugh escaped Percy, and he looked thoughtfully at Chauvelin.
"I do not hate you. But I do pity you. When your daughter's life was in danger, all your ideals and your proud republic did not mean one jot anymore. Everything you have believed in is a lie, and the only thing that means anything is the love you have for your daughter.
"I know that..." Chauvelin whispered, and his face was deadly pale.
"I do not take it personally that you wanted to drag me to the guillotine and watch my head fall under its knife, but what you did to my wife is another matter. However, she will not let the past haunt her. She is with child, and soon also I will know what it is to be a father."
"My congratulations..." Chauvelin murmured. He had to force himself to speak as his pride and years of hatred held back the words of gratitude that he wanted to utter. "I thank you, sir Percy" he finally said, and it felt strange to call his old enemy by his first name, as if he were a friend. "I cannot express how happy I am that my daughter is safe. Thanks to you, I can die in peace."
"I am glad that I have been able to be of service, and I can only pray to God that he will have mercy upon your soul."
"Do you believe that I deserve mercy?"
"That is not up to me to decide" Percy said kindly.
Chauvelin knew that Percy was about to leave him, and he dreaded the moment when he once again would be alone. This strange man who had once been his mortal enemy was the only one who had given him any words of kindness since his arrest.
"Tell Fleurette that I love her" he murmured.
"I will" Percy said, his eyes full of compassion. "Just wait a minute" he added and went up to Chauvelin. He untied his cravat, and then he tied it again with an elegant knot.
"There!" Percy said and smiled. "If you are going to the guillotine, at least your cravat should be properly tied."
Chauvelin smiled, and he even felt a bit lighter at heart when he thought of how Percy had always complained about his cravats and his bad sense of fashion.
"And now, I bid you farewell. Have courage!" Percy said and put a comforting hand on Chauvelin's shoulder.
Then he turned around to leave, and the door of the cell was closed and locked behind him. When Chauvelin later that morning stood on the schaffold, he thought of sir Percy Blakeney, this strange man who was the only one who had showed him kindness in the moment of his despair. And he thought of his daughter, and he prayed to God that he would look after her. But then again, it was hardly necessary. The Scarlet Pimpernel already had.