The Many Mini Misadventures of M. Chauvelin
By Lady Leeanne
Co-written by Polingly
Author's Notes: This story was co-written and edited by my sister Polly. Or polingly. This is probably the first of a long series of short stories. Already there are ideas for a sequel... (OH NOOOO! But who can resist picking on Chauvelin? ;) )
Disclaimer: This is not mine; the characters belong to Baroness Orczy. One random quote belongs to Peter Pan, and I must give thanks to P. G. Wodehouse and Jerome K. Jerome for influencing my humor. The only thing I own is a miscellaneous chamber maid. Thank you!
Title: The Many Mini Misadventures of M. Chauvelin
By: Lady Leeanne (Co-written and edited by polingly)
"The Super Secret Paper
Chauvelin charged up the stairs, two at a time. Panic and perspiration covered his pale face. He threw himself against the door at the top, remembering belatedly that it was locked. Rubbing his shoulder with one hand, he fished his key out of his pocket with the other, swearing as he panted.
That morning when he had gone to the offices, he had been extraordinarily pleased with himself. Business had been progressing marvelously. Robespierre had even granted him a bonus. Every morning that week, six extra helpless citizens, of Chauvelin's choice, would kindly relinquish their heads for the good of society.
It was immensely satisfying. He had even sighed happily to himself as he walked along.
But the moment he tripped through the door, things took a turn for the worse.
Robespierre caught sight of him...and his face lit up.
"Ah, Chauvelin! Just the man I wanted to see!" He leaped up, scattering papers right and left.
The only time Robespierre was ever glad to see anyone was when he was about to accuse them of treason.
Chauvelin loosened his cravat.
Robespierre brushed a gray hair off of Chauvelin's shoulder. "Do you remember that paper I gave you, several months back?"
"Paper?" Chauvelin squeaked, his mind gone blank.
"Oh, you know the" —he gave Chauvelin a confidential nudge in the ribs— "Super Secret Paper."
"Oh. That paper." Now he remembered. "The one you told me to...guard with my life and all that."
"Yes...that one." He waved an imperious quill pen. "Fetch it. I crave it."
Chauvelin returned to the present. Why me, he thought, beginning to sweat. He wished now that he'd read this Super Secret Paper. Then he'd at least have been able to forge a believable copy.
His pale eyes scanned his room. He racked his brain, trying to remember the Super Secret Hiding Place he had reserved for this particular document.
"Hm...under the mattress? No, too clichéd. In the mattress? Too inconvenient; I'd remember that. In the safe? Certainly not; I only keep forged papers in there."
He paced the room.
Where else? The bookshelf looked promising, but then, so did the wardrobe. Come to think of it... His feverish eyes focused on the promising stack of boxes on top of the wardrobe. He closed his eyes and pictured the paper peacefully snuggled between two framed portraits of his great-uncle Beizlet and his great-aunt Bernadette. Relatives he was trying to forget.
He stood under the shadow of the wardrobe and felt his height, or lack of it, deeply. He searched the room for something to stand on. Unfortunately, all of his chairs had been "donated" to the Revolutionary Tribunal.
"Long live the Republic," he muttered as he sized up the sofa.
A rocking chair stepped out from the shadows. "Ah, the cleverness of me," he thought as he towed it over.
He scaled the rocker and reached up to seize the boxes. Victory was in sight until a porcelain vase loomed overhead.
The smug smile disappeared. His muscles froze.
He came to his senses some time later amidst a pile of wreckage and an overturned rocking chair. He groaned, rubbed his aching temples, and began to sift through the contents of the boxes.
No Super Secret Paper.
Well, he'd try his drawers.
Piles of black underwear later, he sat back and irritably surveyed the mess. His foot had fallen asleep. Three overturned drawers lay on the floor. The mess was not going anywhere. And the Super Secret Paper was nowhere to be found.
There was a knock on the door.
"Robespierre!" he choked.
He jumped to his feet, became entangled in several yards of cravats, stubbed both big toes against two drawers, and, cursing, he fell to the floor. He managed to hobble to the door, attempting to form what he hoped were believable lies and excuses.
"Who is it?" he said cautiously.
"Chambermaid," shrieked an ear-splitting voice through the oak paneling.
Chauvelin scowled. "What do you want?"
"What?" shrieked the voice.
"What—do—you—want?" Chauvelin bellowed.
The door began to open. "WHAT?" yelled the voice in Chauvelin's ear.
He found himself looking into the red face of a young, unintelligent looking girl. She beamed at him. He scowled at her.
"You shouldn't do that you know," she said, patting his cheek, "your face might freeze that way."
He deepened his scowl. "It already has," he growled.
She looked over his shoulder with curiosity. "Well. You've made a big mess."
"Really?" Chauvelin said through his teeth, "I hadn't noticed."
"Really?" said the chambermaid, goggling. "Well. I never."
"Citizeness," said Chauvelin in his sweetest, between the teeth voice, "As you can see, I am quite busy. I've lost something of great importance..." He began to escort her forcibly through the door
"But, wait!" she shrieked, nearly deafening him. "I came up here to tell you something!"
"Then SPIT IT OUT!"
She took a very deep breath. "You see, I was downstairs making some cabbage and tomato soup—fresh out of the tumbrel, you know—so anyway, I was doing that, and I realized I need to toss some pepper in it, for flavoring purposes and all that, so I went over to the cupboard and I opened it—really I did—and I looked in, looking for the pepper you know, and I found it behind a...a book—a cookbook, actually—and then I heard a really loud crash upstairs, and I thought you might have hurt yourself—actually, I was hoping you did but...um, never mind—so the book—um, the cookbook—"
"Citizeness..." Chauvelin gritted out, "You are wasting my time."
She looked flustered. "Oh, b-b-but it all comes in later. I think."
"Really?" He began to close the door on her flushed face.
"But it's YOUURS!" she wailed.
"WHAT'S MINE?" he screamed back at her.
"Th-the cookbook!" she whimpered. "I had every intention of giving it back, you know—only borrowed it because—"
"All right," he said, struggling for patience, "give me the cookbook and please...GET OUT!"
She hurriedly pulled the cookbook out of a capacious pocket, Chauvelin snatched it from her, and shoved her out amidst protests of, "I meant to give it back, really I did! You mustn't think I wouldn't give it back, really you mustn't! Ohhh, don't send me to the guillotine, dear Monsieur Chauvelin..."
"CITIZEN!" he shouted, and slammed the door.
"You know," said a drawly voice from the window, "That's really a very impolite way to treat young ladies. No wonder they dislike you so much."
Chauvelin spun around and caught sight of the lazy, perfectly calm, completely unperturbed, unruffled, irritating Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart. Something in Chauvelin's head exploded red. He could take no more of this. He stormed towards the suddenly petrified figure of Sir Percy Blakeney. "Get out of my window!" He slammed it down where the blond head had been a moment before, taking time to relish the sight of the femininely white hands clutching the windowsill, roared, "I'M BUSY!" and swept the curtains closed.
He even forgot to realize that he'd come as close to guillotining the Scarlet Pimpernel as he probably ever would.
He looked down at the book in his hand. Super Secret Recipes for Dummies. That did it. He hurled it away from him with all his strength. It hit the wall with a satisfying thud and slid to the floor with its pages splayed out, still in one piece. Well. He'd have to do it again. He picked it up, about to vent all his rage on the poor defenseless book...and a light blue paper fell out. He stared at in shock. He picked it up. He flipped it over. Robespierre's seal was on the back.
He kissed it. He danced. He almost cried. Then was flying down the street towards Robespierre's offices. Wouldn't Robespierre be pleased with him.
Robespierre looked up as he entered breathless.
"Took you long enough," said Robespierre. He chuckled. "I was hoping you hadn't lost it. It's been in my family for years..."
Chauvelin was incredulous. "What do you mean, your family?"
"Open it; you'll find out," said Robespierre mysteriously.
Chauvelin broke the seals and read: Granny's Super Secret Fudge Bars.
Chauvelin turned purple.
Robespierre laughed on several different keys. "I came across a blue paper last night; it reminded me of the good old days...did I just say that? Uh...I mean, the good old days when my grandma was alive, of course. And I..."
Chauvelin did not wait to hear more. He stormed out of the room. His fingers were twitching. To kill something. Anyone. Granny, preferably.
Robespierre called after him, "You can have one as soon as you make them for me..."
The air was oppressively hot in Chauvelin's chambers when he returned. He stalked to the window and threw it open. As he cooled, he took note of a row of eight deep scratch marks on the windowsill.
He smiled. He righted the overturned rocking chair, sat down, leaned his head back, and sighed. Life was still good.