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Title: A Marriage Under the Terror
Author: Wentworth, Patricia
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                              _A Marriage
                           Under the Terror_


                                  _By_
                          _Patricia Wentworth_



                          G. P. Putnam’s Sons
                          New York and London
                          Knickerbocker Press
                                  1910



                            COPYRIGHT, 1910
                                   BY
                          G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS


                         Published, April, 1910
                          Reprinted, May, 1910



                   The Knickerbocker Press, New York



                             Advertisement


To _A Marriage Under the Terror_ has been awarded in England the first
prize in the Melrose Novel Competition, a competition that was not
restricted to first stories.  The distinguished literary reputation of
the three judges—Mrs. Flora Annie Steel, Miss Mary Cholmondeley, and
Mrs. Henry de la Pasture—was a guaranty alike to the contestants and to
the public that the story selected as the winner would without question
be fully entitled to that distinction.  In consequence, many authors of
experience entered the contest, with the result that the number of
manuscripts submitted was greater than that in the competition
previously conducted by Mr. Melrose.

Among such a number of good stories individual taste must always play an
important part in the decision.  It is, therefore, no small tribute to
the transcendent interest of the winning novel that, though the judges
worked independently, each selected _A Marriage Under the Terror_ as the
most distinctive novel in the group.



                                CONTENTS


CHAPTER

      I. A Purloined Cipher
     II. A Forced Entrance
    III. Shut out by a Prison Wall
     IV. The Terror Let Loose
      V. A Carnival of Blood
     VI. A Doubtful Safety
    VII. The Inner Conflict
   VIII. An Offer of Friendship
     IX. The Old Ideal and the New
      X. The Fate of a King
     XI. The Irrevocable Vote
    XII. Separation
   XIII. Disturbing Insinuations
    XIV. A Dangerous Acquaintance
     XV. Sans Souci
    XVI. An Unwelcome Visitor
   XVII. Distressing News
  XVIII. A Trial and a Wedding
    XIX. The Barrier
     XX. A Royalist Plot
    XXI. A New Environment
   XXII. At Home and Afield
  XXIII. Return of Two Fugitives
   XXIV. Burning of the Château
    XXV. Escape of Two Madcaps
   XXVI. A Dying Woman
  XXVII. Betrayal
 XXVIII. Inmates of the Prison
   XXIX. Through Darkness to Light



                      A MARRIAGE UNDER THE TERROR



                               CHAPTER I

                           A PURLOINED CIPHER


It was high noon on a mid-August morning of the year 1792, but Jeanne,
the waiting-maid, had only just set the coffee down on the small table
within the ruelle of Mme de Montargis’ magnificent bed.  Great ladies
did not trouble themselves to rise too early in those days, and a beauty
who has been a beauty for twenty years was not more anxious then than
now to face the unflattering freshness of the morning air.  Laure de
Montargis stirred in the shadow of her brocaded curtains, put out a
white hand for the cup, sipped from it, murmured that the coffee was
cold, and pushed it from her with a fretful exclamation that made Jeanne
frown as she drew the tan-coloured curtains and let in the mid-day
glare. Madame had been up late, Madame had lost at faro, and her
servants would have to put up with Heaven alone knew how many megrims in
consequence.

"Madame suffers?" inquired Jeanne obsequiously, but with pursed lips.

The lady closed her eyes.  Laying her head back against the delicately
embroidered pillows, she indicated by a gesture that her sufferings
might be taken for granted.

"Madame has the migraine?" suggested the soft, rather false-sounding
voice.  "Madame will not receive?"

"Heavens! girl, how you pester me," said the Marquise sharply.

Then, falling again to a languid tone, "Is there any one there?"

Jeanne smiled with malicious, averted face as she poured rose-water from
a silver ewer into a Sévres bowl, and watched it rise, dimpling, to the
flower-wreathed brim.

"There is M. le Vicomte as usual, Madame, and Mme la Comtesse de Maillé,
who, learning that Madame was but now awakened, told me that she would
wait whilst I inquired if Madame would see her."

"Good Heavens! what an hour to come," said the lady, with a peevish air.

"Madame la Comtesse seemed much moved.  One would say something had
occurred," said Jeanne.

The Marquise raised her head sharply.

"—And you stand chattering there?  Just Heaven! The trial that it is to
have an imbecile about one! The glass quickly, and the rouge, and the
lace for my head.  No, not that rouge,—the new sort that Isidore brought
yesterday;—arrange these two curls,—now a little powder.  Fool! what
powder is this?"

"Madame’s own," submitted Jeanne meekly.

The suffering lady raised herself and dealt the girl a sounding box on
the ear.

"Idiot! did I not tell you I had tired of the perfume, and that in
future the white lilac powder was the only one I would use?  Did I not
tell you?"

"Yes, Madame"—but there was a spark beneath the waiting-maid’s
discreetly dropped lids.

The Marquise de Montargis sat bolt upright, and contemplated her
reflection in the wide silver mirror which Jeanne was steadying.  Her
passion had brought a little flush to her cheeks, and she noted
approvingly that the colour became her.

"Put the rouge just here, and here, Jeanne," she ordered, her anger
subsiding;—then, with a fresh outburst—"Imbécile, not so much!  One does
not have the complexion of a milkmaid when one is in bed with the
migraine; just a shade here now, a nuance.  That will do; go and bring
them in."

She drew a rose-coloured satin wrap about her, and posed her head, in
its cloud of delicate lace, carefully. Her bed was as gorgeous as it
well might be.  Long curtains of rosy brocade fell about it, and a
coverlid of finest needlework, embroidered with bunches of red and white
roses on a white satin ground, was thrown across it.  The carved pillars
showed cupids pelting one another with flowers plucked from the garlands
that wreathed their naked chubbiness.

Madame de Montargis herself had been a beauty for twenty years, but a
life of light pleasures, and a heart incapable of experiencing more than
a momentary emotion had combined to leave her face as unlined and almost
as lovely as when Paris first proclaimed her its reigning queen of
beauty.

She was eminently satisfied with her own looks as she turned languidly
on her soft pillows to greet her friends.

Mme de Maillé bent and embraced her; M. le Vicomte Sélincourt stooped
and kissed her gracefully extended hand.  Jeanne brought seats, and
after a few polite inquiries Mme de Maillé plunged into her news.

"Ma chère amie!" she exclaimed, "I come to tell you the good news.  My
daughter and her husband have reached England in safety."  Tears filled
her soft blue eyes, and she raised them to the ceiling with a gesture
that would have been affected had her emotion been less evidently
sincere.

"Ah! chère Comtesse, a thousand felicitations!"

"My dear, I have been on thorns, I have not slept, I have not eaten, I
have wept rivers, I have said more prayers in a month than my confessor
has ever before induced me to say in a year.  First I thought they would
be stopped at the barriers, and then—then I pictured to myself a hundred
misfortunes, a thousand inconveniences! I saw my Adèle ill, fainting
from the fatigues of the road; I imagined assaults of brigands,
shipwrecks, storms,—in short, everything of the most unfortunate,—ah! my
dear friends, you do not know what a mother suffers,—and now I have the
happiness of receiving a letter from my dearest Adèle,—she is well; she
is contented.  They have been received with the greatest amiability,
and, my friends, I am too happy."

"And your happiness is that of your friends," bowed the Vicomte.

Mme de Montargis’ congratulations were polite, if a trifle perfunctory.
The convenances demanded that one should simulate an interest in the
affairs of one’s acquaintances, but in reality, and at this hour of the
day, how they did bore one!  And Marie de Maillé, with her soft airs,
and that insufferable Adèle of hers, whom she had always spoilt so
abominably.  It was a little too much!  One had affairs of one’s own.
With the fretful expression of half an hour before she drew a letter
from beneath her pillow.

"I too have news to impart," she said, with rather a pinched smile.
"News that concerns you very closely, M. le Vicomte," and she fixed her
eyes on Sélincourt.

"That concerns me?"

"But yes, Monsieur, since what concerns Mademoiselle your betrothed must
concern you, and closely, as I said."

"Mademoiselle my betrothed, Mlle de Rochambeau!" he cried quickly.  "Is
she then ill?"

Mme de Montargis smiled maliciously.

"Hark to the anxious lover!  But calm yourself, my friend, she is
certainly not ill, or she would not now be on her way to Paris."

"To Paris?"

"That, Monsieur, is, I believe, her destination."

"What?  She is coming to Paris now?" inquired Mme de Maillé with
concern.

The Marquise shrugged her shoulders.

"It is very inconvenient, but what would you?" she said lightly; "as you
know, dear friend, she was betrothed to M. le Vicomte when she was a
child.  Then my good cousin, the Comte de Rochambeau, takes it into his
virtuous head that this world, even in his rural retreat, is no longer
good enough for him, and follows Madame, his equally virtuous wife, to
Paradise, where they are no doubt extremely happy.  Until yesterday I
pictured Mademoiselle almost as saintly and contented with the holy
Sisters of the Grace Dieu Convent, who have looked after her for the
last ten years or so.  Then comes this letter; it seems there have been
riots, a château burned, an intendant or two murdered, and the good nuns
take advantage of the fact that the steward of Rochambeau and his wife
are making a journey to Paris to confide Mademoiselle to their care, and
mine.  It seems," she concluded, with a little laugh, "that they think
Paris is safe, these good nuns."

"Poor child, poor child!" exclaimed Mme de Maillé in a distressed voice;
"can you not stop her, turn her back?"

The Marquise laughed again.

"Dear friend, she is probably arriving at this minute. The Sisters are
women of energy."

"At least M. de Sélincourt is to be congratulated," said Mme de Maillé
after a pause; "that is if Mademoiselle resembles her parents.  I
remember her mother very well,—how charming, how spirituelle, how
amiable! I knew her for only too short a time, and yet, looking back, it
seems to me that I never had a friend I valued more."

"My cousin De Rochambeau was crazy about her," reflected Mme de
Montargis; "he might have married anybody, and he chose an Irish girl
without a sou. It was the talk of Paris at the time.  He was the
handsomest man at Court."

"And Aileen Desmond the loveliest girl," put in Mme de Maillé
thoughtlessly; then, observing her hostess’s change of expression, she
coloured, but continued—"They were not so badly matched, and," with a
little sigh, "they were very happy.  It was a real romance."

Mme de Montargis’ eyes flashed.  Twenty years ago beautiful Aileen
Desmond had been her rival at Court. Now that for quite a dozen years
gossip had coupled her name with that of the Vicomte de Sélincourt, was
Aileen Desmond’s daughter to take her mother’s place in that bygone
rivalry?

Mme de Maillé, catching her glance, wondered how it would fare with any
defenceless girl who came between Laure de Montargis and her lover.  She
was still wondering whilst she made her farewells.

When M. le Vicomte had bowed her out he came moodily back to his place.

"It is very inconvenient, Madame," he said pettishly.

"You say so," returned the lady.

"Pardon, Madame, it was you who said so."

The Marquise laughed.  It was not a pleasant laugh.

"Of course it was I," she cried.  "Who else?  It is hardly likely that
M. le Vicomte finds a rich bride inconvenient."

Sélincourt’s face changed a little, but he waved the words away.

"Mademoiselle is nothing to me," he asserted. "Chère amie, do you
suspect, do you doubt the faithful heart which for years has beaten only
for one beloved object?"

The lady pouted, but her eyes ceased to sparkle.

"And that object?" she inquired, with a practised glance.

"Angel of my life—need you ask?"

It was indeed unnecessary, since a very short acquaintance with this
fervid lover was sufficient to assure any one that his devotion to
himself was indeed his ruling and unalterable passion; perhaps the
Marquise was aware of this, and was content to take the second, but not
the third place, in his affections.  She looked at him coquettishly.

"Ah," she said, "you mean it now, now perhaps, Monsieur, but when she
comes, when you are married?"

"Eh, ma foi," and the Vicomte waved away his prospective marriage vows
as lightly as if they were thistle-down, "one does not marry for love;
the heart must be free, not bound,—and where will the free heart turn
except to the magnet that has drawn it for so long?"

Madame extended a white, languid hand, and Monsieur kissed it with more
elegance than fervour.  As he was raising his head she whispered
sharply:

"The new cipher, have you got it?"

He bent lower, and kissed the fair hand again, lingeringly.

"It is here, and I have drafted the letter we spoke of; it must go this
week."

"The Queen is well?"

"Well, but impatient for news.  There is an Austrian medicine that she
longs for."

"Chut!  Enough, one is never safe."

"Adieu, then, m’amie."

"Adieu, M. le Vicomte."

Monsieur took his leave with an exquisite bow, and all the forms that
elegance prescribed, and Madame lay back against her pillows with closed
eyes, and the frown which she never permitted to appear in society.
Jeanne threw a sharp glance at her as she returned from closing the door
upon Sélincourt.  Her ears had made her aware of whispering, and now her
eyes showed her a small crumpled scrap of paper, just inside the ruelle
of Madame’s bed.  A love-letter?  Perhaps, or perhaps not.  In any case
the correspondence of the mistress is the perquisite of the maid, and as
Jeanne came softly to the bedside she covered the little twisted note
with a dexterous foot, and, bending to adjust the rose-embroidered
coverlid, secured and hid her prize.  In a moment she had passed behind
the heavy curtains and was scanning it with a practised eye—an eye that
saw more than the innocent-seeming figures with which the white paper
was dotted.  Jeanne had seen ciphers before, and a glance sufficed to
show her the nature of this one, for at the foot of the draft was a row
of signs and figures, mysterious no longer in the light of the key that
stood beneath them.  Apparently Jeanne knew something about secret
correspondence too, for there in the shadow behind the curtain she
nodded and smiled, and once even shook her fist towards the unconscious
Marquise.  Next moment she was again in evidence, and but for that paper
tucked away inside her bodice she would have found her morning a hard
one.  Madame wished this, Madame wished that; Madame would have her
forehead bathed, her feet rubbed, a thousand whims complied with and a
thousand fancies gratified. Soft-voiced and deft, Jeanne moved
incessantly to and fro on those small, neatly-shod feet, which she
sometimes compared not uncomplacently with those of her mistress, until,
at last, at the latter end of all conceivable fancies there came one for
repose,—the rosy curtains were drawn, and Jeanne was free.

Half an hour later a deftly-cloaked figure stood before a table at which
a dark-faced man wrote busily—a paper was handed over, a password asked
and given.

"Is it enough now?" asked Jeanne the waiting-maid. And the dark-faced
man answered, without looking up, "It is enough—the cup is full."



                               CHAPTER II

                           A FORCED ENTRANCE


Mademoiselle de Rochambeau had been a week in Paris, but as yet she had
tasted none of its gaieties—for gaieties there were still, even in these
clouding days when the wind of destiny blew up the storm of the Terror.
The King and Queen were prisoners in the Temple, many of the noblesse
had emigrated, but what remained of the Court circles still met and
talked, laughed, gamed, and flirted, as if there were no deluge to come.
To-day Mme de Montargis received, and Mlle de Rochambeau, dressed by a
Parisian milliner for the first time, was to be presented to her
cousin’s friends.

She had not even seen her betrothed as yet,—that dim figure which she
had contemplated for so many years of cloistered monotony, until it had
become the model upon which her dreams and hopes were hung. Now that the
opening of the door might at any moment reveal him in the flesh, the
dreams wore suddenly thin, and she was conscious of an overpowering
suspense. She hoped for so much, and all at once she was afraid.
Husbands, to be sure, were not romantic, not the least in the world,
and, according to the nuns, it would be the height of impropriety to
wish that they should be. One married because it was the convenable
thing to do, but to fall in love,—fi donc, Mademoiselle, the idea! Aline
laughed, for she remembered Sister Séraphine’s face, all soft and
shocked and wrinkled, and then in a minute she was grave again.  Dreams
may be forbidden, but when one is nineteen they have a way of recurring,
and it is certain that Mlle de Rochambeau’s heart beat faster than
Sister Séraphine would have approved, as she stood by Mme de Montargis’
gilded chair and heard the servant announce "M. le Vicomte de
Sélincourt."

He kissed Madame’s hand; and then hers.  A sensation that was almost
terror caught the colour from her face.  Was this little, dark, bowing
fop the dream hero? His eyes were like a squirrel’s—black, restless,
shallow—and his mouth displeased her.  Something about its puckered
outline made her recoil from the touch of it upon her hand, and the
Marquise, glancing at her, saw all the young face pale and distressed.
She smiled maliciously, and reflected on the folly of youth and the kind
connivance of Fate.

Sélincourt, for his part, was well enough satisfied. Mademoiselle was
too tall for his taste, it was true; her beautifully shaped shoulders
and bust too thin; but of those dark grey Irish eyes there could be no
two opinions, and his quick glance approved her on the whole.  She would
play her part as Mme la Vicomtesse very creditably when a little modish
polish had softened her convent stateliness, and for the rest he had no
notion of being in love with his bride.  It was long, in fact, since his
small, jaded heart had beaten the faster for any woman, and his eyes
left her face with a genuine indifference which did not escape either
woman.

"Mademoiselle, I felicitate Paris, and myself," he said, with a formal
bow.  Mademoiselle made him a stately reverence, and the long-dreamed-of
meeting was over.

He turned at once to her cousin.

"You have written to our friend, Madame?"

"I wrote immediately, M. le Vicomte."

He lowered his voice.

"The paper with the cipher on it, did I give you my copy as well as your
own?"

"But no, mon ami.  Why, have you not got it?"

Sélincourt raised his shoulders.

"Certainly not, since I ask if you have it," he returned.

Madame’s delicate chin lifted a little.

"And when did you find this out?" she asked.

"I had no occasion to use the code until yesterday, and then..." the
lift of his shoulders merged into a decided shrug.

The Marquise turned away with a slight frown.  It was annoying, but then
the Vicomte was always careless, and no doubt the paper would be found;
it must be somewhere, and her guests were assembling.

Of such stuff were the conspirators of those days,—triflers, fops, and
flirts; men who mislaid the papers which meant life and death to them
and to a hundred more; women who chattered secrets in the hearing of
their lackeys and serving-maids, unable to realise that these were
listeners more dangerous than the chairs and tables of their gaily
furnished salons.  What wonder that of all the aristocratic plots and
counterplots of the Revolution there was not one but perished immature?
Powdered nobles and painted dames, they played at conspiracy as they
played at love and hate, played with gilded counters instead of sterling
gold, and in the end they paid the reckoning in blood.

Meanwhile Madame received.

The gay, softly lighted salon filled apace.  Day was still warm outside,
but the curtains were drawn, and clusters of wax candles, set in
glittering chandeliers, threw their becoming light upon the bare
shoulders of the ladies and lent the rouge a more natural air.

Play was the order of the day, the one real passion which held that
world.  Life and death were trifles, birth and marriage a jest, love and
hate the flicker of shadow and sunshine over shallow waters; but the
gambler could still feel joy of gain or rage of loss, and the faro table
demanded an earnestness which religion was powerless to evoke.  Mlle de
Rochambeau stood behind her cousin’s chair.  The scene fascinated,
interested, excited her.  The swiftly passing cards, the heaps of gold,
the flushed faces, the half-checked ejaculations, all drew and enchained
her attention; for this was the great world, and these her future
friends.

At first the game itself was a mystery, but by degrees her quick wits
grasped the principle, and she watched with a breathless interest.
Madame de Montargis won and won.  As the rouleaux of gold grew beside
her, she slid them into an embroidered bag, where her monogram shone in
pearls and silver and was wreathed by clustering forget-me-nots.

Now she was not in such good luck.  She knit her brows, set her teeth
into the full lower lip, pouted ominously,—and cheated.  Quite
distinctly Mademoiselle saw her change a card, and play on smilingly, as
the change brought fickle fortune to her side once more. Aline de
Rochambeau’s hand went up to her throat with a nervous gesture.  She
wore around it a single string of pearls—milk-white, and of great value.
In her surprise and agitation she caught sharply at the necklet, and in
a moment the thread snapped, and the pearls rolled here and there over
the polished floor.  Aileen Desmond had worn them last, a dozen years
before, and the silken string had had time to rot since then.

The players took no notice, but Mademoiselle de Rochambeau gave a soft
little cry and went down on her knees to pick up her pearls.  The
greater number were to her hand, but a few had rolled away to the corner
of the room.  Mademoiselle put what she had picked up into her muslin
handkerchief, and slipped it into her bosom.  Then she went timidly
forward, casting her looks here, there, and everywhere in search of the
three pearls which she still missed.  She found one under the fold of a
heavy curtain, and as she bent to pick it up she heard voices in the
alcove it screened, and caught her own name.

"The little Rochambeau"—just like that.

It was a woman’s voice, very clear, and a little shrill, and then a man
said:

"She is not bad—she has eyes, and a fine shape, and a delicate skin.
Laure de Montargis will be green with jealousy."

The woman laughed, a high, tinkling laugh, like the trill of a guitar.

"The faithful Sélincourt will be straining at his leash," pursued the
same voice.  "It is time he ranged himself; and, after all, he has given
her twelve years."

Another ripple of laughter.

"What a gift!  Heaven protect me from the like. He is tedious enough for
an hour, and twelve years!—that poor Laure!"

"Chère Duchesse, she has permitted herself distractions."  Here the
voice dropped, but Aline caught names and shuddered.  She rose,
bewildered and confused, and as she crossed the room and took her
station near Madame again, her eyes looked very dark amidst the pallour
of her face.  The hand that knotted the fine handkerchief over the last
of her pearls shook more than a little, and at a sudden glance of
Sélincourt’s she looked down, trembling in every limb.  M. de
Sélincourt, her betrothed, and Laure de Montargis, her cousin,—lovers.
But Laure was married.  M. de Montargis was with the Princes,—his wife
had spoken of him only that day. Oh, kind saints, what wickedness was
this?

Aline’s brain was in a whirl, but through her shocked bewilderment
emerged a very definite horror of the sallow-faced, shifty-eyed
gentleman whom she had been taught to regard as her future husband.  She
shuddered when she remembered that he had kissed her hand, and furtively
she rubbed the place, as if to efface a stain.  If she had been less
taken up with her own thoughts, she would have noticed that whereas the
room appeared to have grown curiously quiet, there was a strange sound
of trampling, and a confused buzz of speech outside. Suddenly, however,
the door was burst open, and a frightened lackey ran in, followed by
another and another.

"Madame—a Commissioner—and a Guard—oh, Madame!" stammered one and
another.

Mme de Montargis raised her arched eyebrows and stared at the foremost
man in displeased silence.  He fell back muttering incoherently, and she
turned her attention to the game once more.  But her guests hesitated,
and ceased to play, for behind the lackey came a little procession of
three, and with it some of the desperate reality of life seemed to enter
that salon of the artificial.  A Commissioner of the Commune walked
first, with broad tri-coloured sash above an attire sufficiently rough
and disordered to bear witness to his ardent patriotism.  His lank black
hair hung unpowdered to his shoulders, and his fat, sallow face wore an
expression of mingled dislike and complacency.  He was followed by two
blue-coated National Guards, who looked curiously about them and smelled
horribly of garlic.

Madame’s gaze dwelt on them with a surprised resentment that did not at
all distinguish between the officer and his subordinates.

"Messieurs, this intrusion—" she began, and on the instant the
Commissioner was by her side.

"Ci-devant Marquise de Montargis, you are my prisoner," and rough as his
voice came his hand upon her shoulder.  With a fashionable oath
Sélincourt drew his sword, and a woman screamed.

("It was the La Rivière," said Mme de Montargis afterwards.  "I always
knew she had no breeding.")

M. le Commissionaire had a fine dramatic sense.  He experienced a most
pleasing conviction of being in his element as he signed to the nearest
of his underlings, and the man, without a word, drew back the heavy
crimson curtains which screened the window towards the street.

The afternoon sun poured in, turning the candle-light to a cheap tawdry
yellow, and with it came a sound which I suppose no one has yet heard
unmoved—the voice of an angry crowd.  Oaths flew, foul words rose, and
above the din sounded a shrill scream of—"The Austrian spy, bring out
the Austrian spy!" and with a roar the crowd took up the word, "To the
lantern, to the lantern, to the lantern!"

There was no uncertainty about that voice, and at that, and the
Commissioner’s meaning gesture, Sélincourt’s sword-arm dropped to his
side again.  If Madame turned pale her rouge hid it, and her manner
continued calm to the verge of indifference.  When the shouting outside
had died down a little she turned politely to the man beside her.

"Monsieur, your hand incommodes me; if you would have the kindness to
remove it"; and under her eye, and the faint, stinging sarcasm which
flavoured its glance, he coloured heavily and withdrew a pace.  Then he
produced a paper, drawing from its rustling folds fresh confidence and a
return to his official bearing.

"The ci-devant Vicomte de Sélincourt," he said in loud, harsh tones;
and, as Sélincourt made a movement, "You, too, are arrested."

"But this is an outrage," stammered the Vicomte, "an outrage, fellow,
for which you shall suffer.  On what charge—by what authority?"

The man shrugged fat shoulders across which lay the tri-colour scarf.

"Charge of treasonable correspondence with Austria," he said shortly;
"and as to authority, I am the Commune’s delegate.  But, ma foi,
Citizen, there is authority for you if you don’t like mine," and, with a
gesture which he admired a good deal, he waved an arm towards the
street, where the clamour raged unchecked.  As he spoke a stone came
flying through the glass, and a sharp splinter struck Sélincourt upon
the cheek, drawing blood, and an oath.

"You had best come with me before those outside break in to ask why we
delay," said the delegate meaningly.

Madame de Montargis surveyed her guests.  She was too well-bred to smile
at their dismay, but something of amusement, and something of scorn,
lurked in her hazel eyes.  Then, with her usual slow grace, she took
Sélincourt’s arm, and walked towards the door, smiling, nodding,
curtsying, speaking here a few words and there a mere farewell, whilst
the Commissioner followed awkwardly, spitting now and then to relieve
his embarrassment, and decidedly of the opinion that these aristocrats
built rooms far too long.

"Chère Adèle, ’t is au revoir."

"Marquise, I cannot express my regrets."

"Nay, Duchesse, mine is the discourtesy, though a most unintentional
one.  I must rely upon the kindness of my friends to forgive it me."

Aline de Rochambeau walked after her cousin, but participated in none of
the farewells.  She felt cold and very bewildered; her only instinct to
keep close to the one protector she knew.  To stay behind never occurred
to her.  In the vestibule Madame de Montargis paused.

"Dupont!" she called sharply, and the stout major-domo of the
establishment emerged from a group of frightened servants.

"Madame—" Dupont’s knees were shaking, but he contrived a presentable
bow.

Madame’s eyes had lost their smile, but the scorn remained.  She spoke
aloud.

"Discharge those three fools who ran in just now, and see that in future
I have lackeys who know their place," and with that she walked on again.
All the way down the grand staircase the noise of the mob pursued them.
In the vestibule more of the Guard waited with an officer, and yet
another Commissioner.  The three men in authority conferred for a
moment, and then the Commissioners hurried their prisoners to a side
door where a fiacre stood waiting.  They passed out, and behind them the
door was shut and locked.  Then, for the first time, Madame seemed to be
aware of her cousin’s presence.

"Aline—little fool!—go back—but on the instant—"

"Ma cousine——"

"Go back, I say.  Mon Dieu, Mademoiselle, what folly!"

The girl put her hand on the door, tried it, and said, in a low, shaking
voice:

"But it is locked——"

"Decidedly, since those were my orders," growled the second
Commissioner.  "What’s all this to-do? Who ’s this, Renard?  Send her
back."

"But I ask you how?" demanded Renard, "since the door is locked inside,
and—Heavens, man, they are coming this way!"

Lenoir uttered an imprecation.

"Here, get in, get in!" he shouted, pushing the girl as he spoke.  "It
is the less matter since the house and all effects are to be sealed up.
Get in, I say, or the mob will be down on us!"

Madame gave him a furious glance, and took her seat beside her trembling
cousin.  Sélincourt and Renard followed.  Lenoir swung himself to the
box-seat, and the fiacre drove off noisily, the sound of its wheels on
the rough cobble-stones drowning by degrees the lessening outcries of
the furious crowd behind.



                              CHAPTER III

                       SHUT OUT BY A PRISON WALL


The fiacre drew up at the gate of La Force.  M. le Vicomte de Sélincourt
got down, bowed politely, and assisted Madame de Montargis to alight.
He then gave his hand to her cousin, and the little party entered the
prison.  Mme la Marquise walked delicately, with an exaggeration of that
graceful, mincing step which was considered so elegant by her admirers.
She fanned herself, and raised a scented pomander ball to her nostrils.

"Fi donc!  What an air!" she observed with petulant disgust.

Renard of the dramatic soul shrugged his shoulders. It was vexing not to
be ready with a biting repartee, but he was consoled by the conviction
that a gesture from him was worth more than many words from some lesser
soul.  His colleague Lenoir—a rough, coarse-faced hulk—scowled fiercely,
and growled out:

"Eh, Mme l’Aristocrate, it has been a good enough air for many a poor
devil of a patriot, as the citizen gaoler here can tell you, and turn
and turn about’s fair play."  And with that he spat contemptuously in
Madame’s path, and scowled again as she lifted her dainty petticoats a
trifle higher but crossed the inner threshold without so much as a
glance in his direction.

Bault, the head gaoler of La Force, motioned the prisoners into a dull
room, used at this time as an office, but devoted at a later date to a
more sinister purpose, for it was here in days to come—days whose shadow
already rested palpably upon the thick air—that the hair of the
condemned was cut, and their arms pinioned for the last fatal journey
which ended in the embraces of Mme Guillotine.

Bault opened the great register with a clap of the leaves that betokened
impatience.  He was a nervous man, and the times frightened him; he
slept ill at nights, and was irritable enough by day.

"Your names?" he demanded abruptly.

Mme de Montargis drew herself up and raised her arched eyebrows,
slightly, but quite perceptibly.

"I am the Marquise de Montargis, my good fellow," she observed, with
something of indulgence in her tone.

"First name, or names?" pursued Citizen Bault, unmoved.

"Laure Marie Josèphe."

"And you?" turning without ceremony to the Vicomte.

"Jean Christophe de Sélincourt, at your service, Monsieur.  Quelle
comédie!" he added, turning to Mme de Montargis, who permitted a slight,
insolent smile to lift her vermilion upper lip.  Meanwhile the
Commissioners were handing over their papers.

"Quite correct, Citizens."  Then, with a glance around, "But what of
this demoiselle?  There is no mention of her that I can see."

Lenoir laughed and swore.

"Eh," he said, "she was all for coming, and I dare say a whiff of the
prison air, which the old Citoyenne found so trying, will do her no
harm."

Bault shook a doubtful head, and Renard threw himself with zeal into the
role of patriot, animated at once by devotion to the principles of
liberty, and loyalty to law and order.

"No, no, Lenoir; no, no, my friend.  Everything must be done in order.
The Citoyenne sees now what comes of treason and plots.  Let her be
warned in time, or she will be coming back for good.  For this time
there is no accusation against her."

He spoke loudly, hand in vest, and felt himself every inch a Roman; but
his magniloquence was entirely lost on Mademoiselle, for, with a cry of
dismay, she caught her cousin’s hand.

"Oh, Messieurs, let me stop!  Madame is my guardian, my place is with
her!"

Mme de Montargis looked surprised, but she interrupted the girl with
energy.

"Silence then, Aline!  What should a young girl do in La Force?  Fi
donc, Mademoiselle!"—as the soft, distressed murmur threatened to break
out again,—"you will do as I tell you.  Mme de Maillé will receive you;
go straight to her at the Hotel de Maillé.  Present my apologies for not
writing to her, and—

"Sacrebleu!" thundered Lenoir furiously, "this is not Versailles, where
a pack of wanton women may chatter themselves hoarse.  Send the young
one packing, Bault, and lock these people up.  Are the Deputies of the
Commune to stand here till nightfall listening to a pair of magpies?
Silence, I say, and march!  The old woman and the young one, both of you
march, march!"

He laid a large dirty hand on Mlle de Rochambeau’s shoulder as he spoke,
and pushed her towards the door. As she passed through it she saw her
cousin delicately accepting M. de Sélincourt’s proffered arm, whilst her
left hand, flashing with its array of rings, still held the sweet
pomander to her face.  Next moment she was in the street.

Her first thought was for the fiacre which had conveyed them to the
prison, but to her despair it had disappeared, and there was no other
vehicle in sight.

As she stood in hesitating bewilderment, she was aware of the sound of
approaching wheels, and looking up she saw three carriages coming, one
behind the other, at a brisk pace.  There were three priests in the
first, one of them so old that all the solicitous assistance of the two
younger men was required to get him safely down the high step and
through the gate.  In the second were two ladies, whose faces seemed
vaguely familiar.  Was it a year or only an hour ago that they had
laughed and jested at Mme de Montargis’ brilliant gathering?  They
looked at her in the same half uncomprehending manner, and passed on.
The last carriage bore the De Maillé crest, but a National Guard
occupied the box-seat in place of the magnificent coachman Aline had
seen the day before, when Mme de Maillé had taken her old friend’s
daughter for a drive through Paris.

The door of the chariot opened, and Mme De Maillé, pale, almost
fainting, was helped out.  She looked neither to right nor left, and
when Aline started forward and would have spoken, the National Guard
pushed her roughly back.

"Go home, go home!" he said, not unkindly; "if you are not arrested,
thank the saints for it, for there are precious few aristocrats as lucky
to-day"; and Aline shrank against the wall, dumb with perturbation and
dismay.

As in a dream she listened to the clang of the prison gate, the roll of
departing wheels, and it was only when the last echo died away that the
mist which hung about her seemed to clear, and she realised that she was
alone in the deserted street.

Alone!  In all her nineteen years she had never been really alone
before.  As a child in her father’s château, as a girl in her
aristocratic convent, she had always been guarded, sheltered, guided,
watched.  She had certainly never walked a yard in the open street, or
been touched by a man’s hand, as the Commissioner Lenoir had touched her
a few minutes since.  She felt her shoulder burn through the thin muslin
fichu that veiled it so discreetly, and the blood ran up, under her
delicate skin, to the roots of the curling hair, where gold tints showed
here and there through the lightly sprinkled powder.

It was still very hot, though so late in the afternoon, and the sun,
though near its setting, shot out a level ray or two that seemed to make
palpable the strong, brooding heat of the evening.

Aline felt dazed, and so faint that she was glad to support herself
against the rough prison wall.  When she could control her trembling
thoughts a little, she began to wonder what she should do.  She had only
been a week in Paris, she knew no one except her cousin, the Vicomte,
and Mme de Maillé, and they were in prison—they and many, many more.
For the moment these frowning walls stood to her for home, or all that
she possessed of home, and she was shut outside, in a dreadful world,
full of unknown dangers, peopled perhaps with persons who would speak to
her as Lenoir had done, touch her even,—and at that she flushed again,
shuddered and looked wildly round.

A very fat woman was coming down the street,—the fattest woman Mlle de
Rochambeau had ever seen, yes, fatter even than Sister Josèphe, she
considered, with that mechanical detachment of thought which is so often
the accompaniment of great mental distress.

She wore a striped petticoat and a gaily flowered gown, the sleeves of
which were rolled up to display a pair of huge brown arms.  She had a
very broad, sallow face, and little pig’s eyes sunk deep in rolls of
crinkled flesh.  Aline gazed at her, fascinated, and the woman returned
the look.  In truth, Mlle de Rochambeau, with her rose-wreathed hair,
her delicate muslin dress, her fichu trimmed with the finest
Valenciennes lace, her thin stockings and modish white silk shoes, was a
sufficiently arresting figure, when one considered the hour and the
place.  The fat woman hesitated a moment, and in that moment
Mademoiselle spoke.

"Madame——"

It was the most hesitating essay at speech, but the woman stopped and
swung her immense body round until she faced the girl.

"Eh bien, Ma’mselle," she said in a thick, drawling voice.

Mademoiselle moistened her dry lips and tried again.

"Madame—I do not know—can you tell me,—oh! you look kind, can you tell
me what to do?"

"What to do, Ma’mselle?"

"Oh yes, Madame, and—and where to go?"

"Where to go, Ma’mselle?"

"Yes, Madame."

"But why, Ma’mselle?"

When anything terrible happens to the very young, they are unable to
realise that the whole world does not know of their misfortune.  Thus to
Mlle de Rochambeau it appeared inconceivable that this woman should be
in ignorance of so important an event as the arrest of the Marquise de
Montargis and her friends.  It was only when, to a puzzled expression,
the woman added a significant tap of the gnarled forefinger upon the
heavy forehead, and, with a shrug of voluminous shoulders, prepared to
pass on, that it dawned upon her that here perhaps was help, and that it
was slipping away from her for want of a little explanation.

"Oh, Madame," she exclaimed desperately, "do listen to me.  I am Mlle de
Rochambeau, and it is only a week since I came to Paris to be with my
cousin, the Marquise de Montargis, and now they have arrested her, and I
have nowhere to go."

A sound of voices came from behind the great gate of the prison.

"Walk a little way with me," said the fat woman abruptly.  "There will
be more than you and me in this conversation if we loiter here like
this.  Continue, then, Ma’mselle—you have nowhere to go?  But why not to
your cousin’s hotel then?"

"My cousin would have had me do so, but the Commissioners would not
permit it.  Everything must be sealed up they said, the servants all
driven out, and no one to come and go until they had finished their
search for treasonable papers.  My cousin is accused of corresponding
with Austria on behalf of the Queen," Mlle de Rochambeau remarked
innocently, but something in her companion’s change of expression
convicted her of her imprudence, and she was silent, colouring deeply.

The fat woman frowned.

"Madame, your cousin, had a large society; her friends would protect
you."

Aline shook her head.

"I don’t know who they are, Madame.  Mme de Maillé, to whom my cousin
commended me, is also in prison, and others too,—many others, the driver
of the carriage said.  I have nowhere to go, nowhere to go, nowhere at
all, Madame."

"Sainte Vierge!" exclaimed the fat woman.  The ejaculation burst from
her with great suddenness, and she then closed her lips very tightly and
walked on for some moments in silence.

"Have you any money?" was her next contribution to the conversation, and
Mademoiselle started and put her hand to her bosom.  Until this moment
she had forgotten it, but the embroidered bag containing her cousin’s
winnings reposed there safely enough, neighboured by her broken string
of pearls.  She drew out the bag now and showed it to her companion, who
gave a sort of grunt, and permitted a new crease, expressive of
satisfaction, to appear upon her broad countenance.

"Eh bien!" she exclaimed.  "All is easy.  Money is a good key,—a very
good key, Ma’mselle.  There are very few doors it won’t unlock, and mine
is not one,—besides the coincidence!  Figure to yourself that I was but
now on my way to ask my sister, who is the wife of Bault, the head
gaoler of La Force, whether she could recommend me some respectable
young woman who required a lodging.  I did not look, it is true, for a
noble demoiselle,"—here the smooth voice took a tone which caused
Mademoiselle to glance up quickly, but all she saw was a narrowing of
the eyes above a huge impassive smile, and the flow of words
continued,—"la, la, it is all one to me, if the money is safe.  There is
nothing to be done without money."

Mlle de Rochambeau drew a little away from her companion.  She was
unaccustomed to so familiar a mode of speech, and it offended her.

The little, sharp eyes flashed upon her as she averted her face, and the
voice dropped back into its first tone.

"Well then, Ma’mselle, it is easily settled, and I need not go to my
sister at all to-night.  It grows dark so early now, and I have no fancy
for being abroad in the dark; but one thing and another kept me, and I
said to myself, ’Put a thing off often enough, and you’ll never do it at
all.’  My cousin Thérèse was with me, the baggage, and she laughed; but
I was a match for her. ’That’s what you’ve done about marriage,
Thérèse,’ I said, and out of the shop she bounced in as fine a temper as
you’d see any day.  She’s a light thing, Thérèse is; and, bless me, if I
warned her once I warned her a hundred times!  Always gadding
abroad,—and her ribbons—and her fal-lals—and the fine young men who were
ready to cut one another’s throats for her sake!  No, no, that’s not the
way to get a husband and settle oneself in life.  Look at me.  Was I
beautiful?  But certainly not.  Had I a large dot?  Not at all.  But
respectable,—Mon Dieu, yes!  No one in all Paris can say that Rosalie
Leboeuf is not respectable; and when Madame, your cousin, comes out of
prison and hears you have been under my roof, I tell you she will be
satisfied, Ma’mselle. No one has ever had a word to say against me.  I
keep my shop, and I pay my way, even though times are bad. Regular money
coming in is not to be despised, so I take a lodger or two.  I have one
now, a man.  A man did I say?  An angel, a patriot, a true patriot; none
of your swearing, drinking, hiccupping, lolloping loafers, who think if
they consume enough strong liquor that the reign of liberty will come
floating down their throats of itself.  He is a worker this one; sober
and industrious is our Citizen Dangeau, and a Deputy of the Commune,
too, no less."

Mlle de Rochambeau, slightly dazed by this flow of conversation, felt a
cold chill pass over her. Commissioners of the Commune, Deputies of the
Commune! Was Paris full of them?  And till this morning she had never
heard of the Commune; it had always been the King, the Court; and now,
to her faint senses, this new word brought a suggestion of fear, and she
seemed for a moment to catch a glimpse of a black curtain vibrating as
if to rise.  Behind it, what?  She reeled a little, gasped, and caught
at her companion’s solid arm.  In a moment it was round her.

"Courage, Ma’mselle, courage then!  See, we are arrived.  It is better
now, eh?"

Mademoiselle drew a long breath, and felt her feet again.  They were in
an alley crowded with small third-rate shops, and so closely set were
the houses that it was almost dark in the narrow street.  Mme Leboeuf
led the way into one of the dim entrances, where a strong mingled odour
of cabbages, onions, and apples proclaimed the nature of the commodities
disposed of.

"Above, it will be light enough still," asserted Rosalie between her
panting breaths.  "This way, Ma’mselle; one small step, turn to the
left, and now up."

They ascended gradually into a sort of twilight, until suddenly a sharp
turn in the stair brought them on to a landing with a fair-sized window.
Opposite was a gap in the dingy line of houses, and through this gap
shone the strong red of the setting sun.

Mlle de Rochambeau looked out, first at the gorgeous pageant in the sky,
and then, curiously, at the strangeness of her new surroundings.  She
saw a tangle of mean slums, streets nearly all gutter, from which rose
sounds of children squabbling, cats fighting, and men swearing. Suddenly
a woman shrieked, and she turned, terrified, to realise that a man was
passing them on his way down the stair.

She caught a momentary but very vivid impression of a tall figure
carried easily, a small head covered with short, dark, curling hair, and
a pair of eyes so blue and piercing that her own hung on them for an
instant in surprise before they fell in confusion.  The owner of the
eyes bowed slightly, but with courtesy, and passed on. Madame Leboeuf
was smiling and nodding.

"Good evening, Citizen Dangeau," she said, and broke, as he passed, into
renewed panegyrics.



                               CHAPTER IV

                          THE TERROR LET LOOSE


Jacques Dangeau was at this time about eight-and-twenty years of age.
He was a successful lawyer, and an ardent Republican, a friend of
Danton, and a fairly prominent member of the Cordeliers’ Club.

Under a handsome, well-controlled exterior he concealed an unbounded
enthusiasm and a passionate devotion to the cause of liberty.  When
Dangeau spoke, his section listened.  He carried always in his mind a
vision of the ideal State, in the service of which a race should be
trained from infancy to the civic virtues, inflamed with a pure ambition
to spend themselves for humanity.  He saw mankind, shedding brutishness
and self, become sober, law-abiding, just;—in a word, he possessed those
qualities of vision and faith without which neither prophet nor reformer
can influence his generation.  Dangeau had the gift of speech, and,
carried on a flood of burning words, some perception of the ultimate
Ideal would rise upon the hearts of even the most degraded among his
hearers.  For the moment they too felt the glow of a reflected altruism,
and forgot that to them, and to their fellows, the Revolution meant
unpunished pillage, theft recognised, and murder winked at.

As Dangeau walked through the darkening streets his heart burned in him.
The events of the last month had brought the ideal almost within grasp.
The grapes of liberty had been trodden long enough in the vats of
oppression.  Now the long ferment was nearing its close, and the time
approached when the wine of life should be free to all; and that
glorious moment of anticipation held no dread of intoxication or excess.
Truly a patriot might be hopeful at this juncture.  Capet and his
family, sometime unapproachable, lay prisoners now, in the firm grip of
the Commune, and the possession of such hostages enabled Paris to laugh
at the threats of foreign interference.  The proclamation of the
Republic was only a matter of weeks, and then—renewed visions of a
saturnian reign,—peace and plenty coupled with the rigid virtues of old
Rome,—rose glowingly before his eyes.

As he entered the Temple gates he came down to earth with a sigh.  He
was on his way to take his turn of a duty eminently distasteful to
him,—that of guarding the imprisoned King and his family.  As a patriot
he detested Louis the Tyrant, as a man he despised Louis the man; but
the spectacle of fallen greatness was disagreeable to his really
generous mind, and he was of sufficiently gentle habits to revolt from
the position of intrusive familiarity into which he was forced with
regard to the women of the party.

The Tower of the Temple, where the unfortunate Royal Family of France
were at this time confined, was to be reached only by traversing the
Palace of the same name, and crossing the court and garden where the
work of demolishing a mass of old houses, which encroached too nearly
upon Capet’s prison, was still proceeding. Patriotic ardour had seen a
spy behind every window, a concealed courtier in every niche; so the
buildings were doomed, and falling fast, whilst from the debris arose a
strong enclosing wall pierced by a couple of guarded entries.  Broken
masonry lay everywhere, and Dangeau stumbled precariously as he made his
way over the rubble.  The workmen had been gone this half-hour, but as
he halted and called out, a man with a lantern advanced and piloted him
to the Tower.

The Commune was responsible for the prisoners of the Temple, and the
actual guarding of them was delegated to eight of its Deputies.  These
were on duty for forty-eight hours at a stretch, and were relieved by
fours every twenty-four hours.

As Dangeau entered the Council-room, those whose term of duty was
finished were already leaving.  The office of gaoler was an unpopular
one, and most men, having once satisfied their curiosity about the
prisoners, were very unwilling to approach them again.  The sight of
misfortune is only pleasing to a mind completely debased, and most of
these Deputies were worthy men enough.

Dangeau was met almost on the threshold by a fair-haired, eager-looking
youth, who hailed him warmly as Jacques, and, linking his arm in his,
led him, unresisting, into the deep embrasure of the window.

"What is it, Edmond?" inquired Dangeau, an unusually attractive smile
lighting up his rather grave features. It was plain that this young man
roused in him an amused affection.

"Nothing," said Edmond aloud, "but it is so long since I saw you.  Have
you been dead, buried, or out of Paris?"

"Since the arm you pinched just now is reasonably solid flesh and blood,
you may conclude that during the past fortnight Paris has been rendered
inconsolable by my absence," said Dangeau, laughing a little.

Edmond Cléry threw an imperceptible glance at his fellow-Commissioners.
Two being always with the prisoners, there remained four others, and of
these a couple were playing cards at the wine-stained table, and two
more lounged on the doorstep smoking a villanously rank tobacco and
talking loudly.

Certainly no one was in the least interested in the conversation of
Citizens Dangeau and Cléry.  Yet for all that Edmond dropped his voice,
not to a whisper, but to that smooth monotone which hardly carries a
yard, and yet is distinctly audible to the person addressed. In this
voice he asked:

"You have not been to the Club?"

Dangeau shook his head.

"Nor seen Hébert, Marat, Jules Dupuis?"

An expression of distaste lifted Dangeau’s finely cut lip.

"I have existed without that felicity," he observed, with a slightly
sarcastic inflexion.

"Then you have been told—have heard—nothing?"

"My dear Edmond, what mysteries are these?"

Edmond Cléry leaned a little closer, and dropped his voice until it was
a mere tenuous thread.

"They have decided on a massacre," he said.

"A massacre?"

"Yes, of the prisoners."

"Just Heaven!  No!"

"It is true.  Things have fallen from Hébert once or twice.  He and
Marat have been closeted for hours—the devil’s own alliance that—and the
plan is of their hatching.  Two days ago Hébert spoke at the Club.  It
was late, Danton was not there.  They say—"  Cléry hesitated, and stole
a glance at his companion’s set face,—"they say he wishes to know
nothing."

"A lie," said Dangeau very quietly.

"I don’t know.  There, Jacques, don’t look at me like that!  How can I
tell?  I tell you my brain reels at the thought of the thing."

"What did Hébert say?  He spoke?"

"Yes; said the people must be fleshed,—there was not sufficient
enthusiasm.  Paris as a whole was quiescent, apathetic.  This must be
changed, an elixir was needed.  What?  Blood,—blood of traitors,—blood
of aristocrats,—oppressors of the people.  Bah!—you can fancy the rest
well enough."

"Did any one else speak?"

"Marat said the Jacobins were with us."

"Robespierre?"

"In it, of course, but would n’t dirty those white hands for the world,"
said Cléry, sneering.

"No one opposed it?"

"Oh, yes, but hooted down almost at once.  You know Dupuis’s bull voice?
It did his friends a good turn, bellowing slackness, lack of patriotism,
and so on.  I wish you had been there."

Dangeau shook his head.

"I could have done nothing."

"Ah, but you could; there ’s no one like you, Jacques. Danton thunders,
and Marat spits out venom, and Hébert panders to the vile in us, but you
really make us see an ideal, and wish to be more worthy of it.  I said
to Barrassin, ’If only Dangeau were here we should be spared this
shame.’"

The boy’s face flushed as he spoke, but Dangeau looked down moodily.

"I could have done nothing," he repeated.  "If they spoke as openly as
that it is because their plans are completed.  Did you hear any more?"

Edmond looked a little confused.

"Not there,—but—well, I was told,—a friend told me,—it was for
to-morrow," and he looked up to find Dangeau’s eyes fixed steadily on
him.

"A friend, Edmond?  Who?  Thérèse?"

Cléry coloured hotly.

"Why not Thérèse, Jacques?"

"Oh, if you like to play with gunpowder it’s no business of mine,
Edmond; but the girl is Hébert’s mistress, and as dangerous as the
devil, that’s all.  And so she told you that?"

Cléry nodded, a trifle defiantly.

"To-morrow," said Dangeau slowly; "where?"

"At all the prisons.  One or two of the gaolers are warned, but I do not
believe they will be able to do anything."

Dangeau was thinking hard.

"They sent me away on purpose," he said at last.

"Curse them!" said Cléry in a shaking voice.

Dangeau did not swear, but he nodded his head as who should say Amen,
and his face was bitter hard.

"Is anything intended here?" he asked sharply.

"No, not from head-quarters; but Heaven knows what may happen when the
mob tastes blood."

Dangeau gave a short laugh.

"Why, Jacques?" said Cléry, surprised.

"Why, Edmond," repeated Dangeau sardonically, "I was thinking that it
would be a queer turn for Fate to play if you and I were to die
to-morrow, fighting in defence of Capet against the people."

"You would do that?" asked Edmond.

"But naturally, my friend, since we are responsible for him."

He had been leaning carelessly against the wall, but as he spoke he
straightened himself.

"Our friends upstairs will be getting impatient," he said aloud.  "Who
takes the night duty with me?"

Cléry was about to speak, but received a warning pressure of the arm.
He was silent, and Legros, one of the loungers, came forward.

Dangeau and he went out together.  Upstairs silence reigned.  The two
Commissioners on duty rose with an air of relief, and passed out.  The
light of a badly trimmed oil-lamp showed that the little party of
prisoners were all present, and Dangeau saluted them with a grave
inclination of the head that was hardly a bow. His companion, clumsily
embarrassed, shuffled with his feet, spat on the floor, and lounged to a
seat.

The Queen raised her eyebrows at him, and, turning slightly, smiled and
nodded to Dangeau.  Mme Elizabeth bowed abstractedly and turned again to
the chessboard which stood between her and her brother.  Mme Royale
curtsied, but the little Dauphin did not raise his head from some
childish game which occupied his whole attention.  His mother, after
waiting a moment, called him to her and, laying one of her long delicate
hands on his petulantly twitching shoulder, observed gently:

"Fi donc, my son; did you not see these gentlemen enter?  Bid them good
evening!"

The child tossed his head, but as his father’s gaze met him, he hung it
down again, saying in a clear childish voice, "Good evening, Citizens."

Mme Elizabeth’s colour rose perceptibly at the form of address, but the
Queen smiled, and, giving the boy’s shoulder a little tap of dismissal,
she turned to Dangeau.

"We forget our manners in this solitude, Monsieur," she said in her
peculiarly soft and agreeable voice.  Then after a pause, during which
Dangeau, to his annoyance, felt that his face was flushing, "It is
Monsieur Dangeau, is it not?"

"Citizen Dangeau, at your service."

Marie Antoinette laughed; the sound was pleasing but disturbing.  "Oh,
my good Monsieur, I am too old to learn these new forms of address.  My
son, you see, is quicker"; the arch eyes clouded, the laugh dropped to a
sigh, then rippled back again into merriment.  "Only figure to yourself,
Monsieur, that I have had already to learn one new language, for when I
came to France as a bride, all was strange—oh, but so strange—to me.  I
had hard work, I do assure you; and that good Mme de Noailles was a
famous task-mistress!"

"Should it be harder to learn simplicity?" said Dangeau, a faint tinge
of bitterness in his pleasant voice.

"Why, no, Monsieur," returned the Queen, "it should not be.  My liking
has always been for simplicity. Good bread to eat, fresh water to drink,
and a clean white dress to wear,—with these things I could be very well
content.  But, alas! Monsieur, the last at least is lacking us; and
simplicity, though a cardinal virtue now, does not of itself afford an
occupation.  Pray, Monsieur Dangeau, could you not ask that my sister
and I should be permitted the consolation of needlework?"

Dangeau coloured.

"The Commune has already decided against needle-work," he said rather
curtly.

"But why then, Monsieur?"

"Because we all know that the needle may be used instead of the pen, and
that it is as easy to embroider treason on a piece of stuff as to write
it on paper," he replied, with some annoyance.

The Queen gave a little light laugh.

"Oh, de grace!  Monsieur," she said, "my sister and I are not so clever!
But may we not at least knit? There is nothing treasonable in a few pins
and a little wool, is there, M. le Député?"

Dangeau shook his head doubtfully.  Consciousness of the Queen’s
fascination rendered his outward aspect austere, and even ungracious.

"I will ask the Council," was all he permitted himself to say, but was
thanked as charmingly as though he had promised some great concession.
This did not diminish his discomfort, and he was acutely conscious of
Mme Elizabeth’s frown, and of a coarse grunt from Legros.

The prisoners did not keep late hours.  Punctually at ten the King rose,
embraced Mme Royale, kissed his sister’s forehead and the Queen’s hand,
and retired to his own apartment, accompanied by M. le Dauphin, his
valet, and the Deputy Legros.  The Queen, Mme Elizabeth, and Mme Royale
busied themselves for a moment with putting away the chessmen, and a
book or two that lay about.  They then proceeded to their own quarters,
which consisted of two small rooms opening from an ante-chamber.  There
Marie Antoinette embraced her sister and daughter, and they separated
for the night.  Dangeau was obliged to enter each apartment in turn, in
order to satisfy himself that all was in order, after which he locked
both doors, and drew a pallet-bed across that which led to the Queen’s
room. Here he stretched himself, but it was long ere he slept, and his
thoughts were very bitter.  No Jacobin of them all could go as far as he
in Republican principles.  To him the Republic was not only the best
form of government, but the only one under which the civic virtues could
flourish.  It was his faith, his ardent religion, the inspiration of his
life and labours, and it was this faith which he was to see clouded,
this religion defiled, this inspiration befouled,—and at the hands of
his co-devotees, Hébert, Marat, and their crew.  They worshipped at the
same altar, but they brought to it blood-stained hands, lives foul with
license, and the smoking blood of tortured sacrifices.

Paris let loose on the prisoners!  He shuddered at the thought.  Once
the tiger had tasted blood, who could assuage his thirst?  There would
be victims enough and to spare.  Curled fops of the salons; scented
exquisites of the Court; indolent, luxurious priests; smooth-skinned,
bright-eyed women; children foolish and unthinking.  He saw the sea of
blood rise and rise till it engulfed them all.

Strange that he should think of the girl he had seen for an instant on
Rosalie’s stairway.  How uneasily she had looked at him, and with what a
rising colour. How young she seemed, how delicately proud.  Her face
stayed with him as he sank into a sleep, vexed by prophetic dreams.

The next morning passed uneasily.  It was a hot, cloudless day, and the
small room in which the prisoners were confined became very oppressive.
The King spent a part of the time in superintending the education of his
son, and whilst thus engaged certainly appeared to greater advantage
than at any other time.  The child was wayward, wilful, and hard to
teach; but the father’s patience appeared inexhaustible, and his method
of imparting information was not only painstaking, but attractive.

The Princesses read or conversed.  Presently the King got up and began
pacing the room.  It was a habit of his, and, after glancing at him once
or twice, Mme Elizabeth rose and joined him.  Now and then they stood at
the window and looked out.  The last few houses to be demolished were
falling fast, and the King amused himself by speculating on the
direction likely to be taken by each crashing mass of masonry.  He made
little wagers with his sister, was chagrined when he lost, and pleased
out of all reason when he won.  Dangeau’s lip curled a little as he
watched the trivial scene, and perhaps the Queen read his thought, for
she said smilingly:

"Prisoners learn to take pleasure in small things, Monsieur"; and
Dangeau bit his lip.  The quick intuition, the arch glance, confused
him.

"All things are comparative," continued Marie Antoinette.  "When I had
many amusements and occupations, I would not have turned my head to
remark what now constitutes an event in my monotonous day. Yesterday a
workman hurt his foot, and I assure you, Monsieur, that we all regarded
him with as much interest as if he had been a dear friend.  Trifles have
ceased to be trifles, and soon I shall look out for a mouse or a spider
to tame, as I have heard of prisoners doing."

"I cannot imagine even the loneliest of unfortunates caring for a
spider," said Dangeau, with a smile.

"No, Monsieur, nor I," returned the Queen.  She seemed about to speak
again, and, indeed, her lips had already opened, when, above the crash
of the falling masonry, there came the heavy boom of a gun.  Dangeau
started up.  It came again, and yet a third time.

"It is the alarm," said Legros stolidly.

Immediately there was a confused noise of voices, shouting, footsteps.
Dangeau and his colleague pressed forward to the window.  The workmen
were throwing down their tools; here a group stood talking,
gesticulating, there half a dozen were running,—all was confusion.

Louis had recoiled from the window.  His great face was a sickly yellow,
and the sweat stood in large beads upon the skin.

"Is there danger?  What is it?" he stammered, and caught at the table
for support.

Mme Royale sat still, her long, mournful features steadily composed.
She neither moved nor cried out, but Dangeau saw the thin, unchildish
shoulders tremble. Mme Elizabeth embraced first her brother, and then
her sister, demanding protection for them in agitated accents. Only the
Queen appeared unmoved.  She had risen and, passing her arm through that
of her husband, rapidly addressed a few words to him in an undertone.
Inaudible to others, they had an immediate effect upon him, for he
retired to the back of the room, sat down, and drew his little son upon
his knee.

The Queen then turned to the Commissioners.

"What is it, Messieurs?" she asked.  "Is there danger?"

"I don’t know," answered Legros bluntly.

Dangeau threw her a reassuring glance.

"It is a street riot, I think," he said calmly.  "It is probably of no
consequence; and in any case, Madame, we are here to protect you, with
our lives if necessary. You may be perfectly assured of that."

The Queen thanked him with an earnest look and resumed her seat.  The
noise outside decreased, and presently the routine of the day fell
heavily about them once more.

If Dangeau were disturbed in mind his face showed nothing, and if he
found the day of an interminable length he did not say so.  When the
evening brought him relief, he found the Council in considerable
excitement.  The prisons had been raided, "hundreds killed," said one.
"Bah! only one or two, nothing to speak of," maintained another.

Edmond Cléry looked agitated.

"It is only the beginning," he whispered, as he passed his friend.  He
was on duty with the prisoners, so further conversation was impossible;
but Dangeau’s sleep in the Council-room was not much sounder than that
of the night before in the Queen’s ante-chamber.



                               CHAPTER V

                          A CARNIVAL OF BLOOD


September the third dawned heavy with murky clouds, out of which climbed
a sun all red, like a ball of fire.  The mists of the autumn morning
caught the tinge, but no omens could add to the tense foreboding which
wrapt the city.  It needed no signs in the sky to prophesy a day of
terror.

At La Force a crowded court-yard held those of the prisoners who had
escaped the previous day’s massacre. They had been driven from their
cells at dawn, and, after an hour or two of strained anticipation, had
gathered into their accustomed coteries.  Mme de Lamballe, who had heard
the mob howling for her blood, sat placidly beautiful.  Now and then she
spoke to a friend, but for the most part she kept her eyes on the tiny
copy of _The Imitation of Christ_ which was found in her blood-stained
clothes later on in that frightful day.  Others, less devout, or less
alarmed, were gossipping, chattering, even laughing, or playing cards,
as if La Force were Versailles, and the hands on the clock of Time had
never moved for the last four years.

Mme de Maillé was gone.  Her hacked corpse still lay in its pool of
blood, her dead eyes stared unburied at the lowering sky; but Mme de
Montargis sat in her old place, her attendant Vicomte at her side.  If
her face was pale the rouge hid it, and at least her smile was as ready,
her voice as careless, as ever.  Bault, the gaoler, stared as he passed
her.

"These aristocrats!" he muttered; "any honest woman would be half-dead
of fright after yesterday, and what to-day will bring, Heaven knows!  I
myself, mille diables!  I myself, I shake, my hand trembles, I am in the
devil’s own sweat,—and there she sits, that light woman, and laughs!"

As he passed into his own room, his wife caught him by the arm——

"Jean, Jean, mon Dieu, Jean!  They are coming back!"  He strained his
ears, listening, gripping his wife, as she gripped him.

"It is true," he murmured hoarsely.

A sullen, heavy drone burdened the air.  It was like the sound of the
rising tide on a day of storm,—far off, but nearer, every moment nearer,
nearer, until it drowned the thumping of the frightened pulses which
beat so loudly at his ears.  A buzz as of infernal bees,—its component
parts, laughter of hell, audible lust of cruelty, just retribution
clamorous, and the cry of innocent blood shed long ago.  All this, blent
with the howl of the beast who scents blood, made up a sound so awful,
that it was small wonder that the sweat dripped heavily from the brow of
Bault, the gaoler, or that his wife clung to his arm, praying him to
think of their children.

To his honour be it said that he risked his life, and more than his
life, to save some two hundred of his prisoners, but for the rest—their
doom was sealed.

It had been written long ago, in letters of cumulative anguish, when the
father of Mme de Montargis had torn that shrieking peasant bride from
her husband’s side on their marriage-day, when her grandfather hanged at
his gates the starving wretches who clamoured over-loudly for release
from the gabelle,—hardly a noble family in France but had some such
record at their backs, signs in an alphabet that was to spell "The
Terror."  At the hands of the fathers was sown the seed of hate, and the
doom of the reaping came fast upon their children.

King Mob was at his revels, but he must needs play a ghastly comedy with
the victims.  There should be a trial for each, a really side-splitting
affair.  "A table, Bault," and up with the judges, three of them,
wrapped in a drunken dignity, a chair apiece, a bonnet rouge on each
august head; and prisoner after prisoner hurried up, and interrogated.
A look was enough for some, a word too much for others.  Here and there
a lucky answer drew applause, and won a life, but for the most part came
the sentence, "A l’Abbaye,"—and straightway off went the condemned to
the inviolable cloisters of death.

Mme de Montargis came up trippingly upon the Vicomte de Sélincourt’s
arm.  Their names were enough—both stank in the nostrils of the crowd.
There was a shout of "Austrians, Austrian spies! take them away, take
them out!"

"To the Abbaye," bawled the reverend judges, and Madame made them a
little curtsey.  This was better than she expected.

"I thank you, Messieurs," she murmured; and then to the Vicomte: "Mon
ami, we are in luck.  The Abbaye can hardly be more incommodious than La
Force."

"Quelle comédie!" responded Sélincourt, with a shrug, and with that the
door before them opened.

Let us give them the credit of their qualities.  That open door gave
straight into hell,—an inferno of tossing pikes which dripped with
blood, dripped to a pavement red and slippery as a shambles, whilst a
hoarse, wild-beast roar, full of oaths, and lust, and savage violence,
broke upon their ears.

If Mme de Montargis hesitated, it was for the hundredth part of a second
only.  Then she raised her scent-ball carelessly to her nostrils, and
the hand that held it did not shake.

"Tiens, mon ami," she said, "your comedy becomes tragedy.  I never
thought it my rôle, but it seems le bon Dieu thinks otherwise"; and with
that she stepped daintily out on to the reeking cobble-stones.  One is
glad to think that the first pike-thrust was well aimed, and that it was
an unconscious form that went down to the mire and blood below.

The beautiful Lamballe was just behind.  They say she knew she was going
to her death.  There is a tale of a dream—God! what a dream!—an augury,
what not?  Heaven knows no great degree of prescience was required.  She
turned very pale, her eyes on her book until the last moment, when she
slipped it into her pocket, with one of those unconscious movements
dictated by a brain too numb to work otherwise than by habit.  She met
the horror with dilated eyes,—eyes that glazed to a faint before death
struck her.  Nature was merciful, and death a boon, for over her corpse
began a carnival of lust and blood so hideous that imagination staggers
at it, and history veils it in shuddering generalities.  No need to
dwell upon its details.

What concerns us is that, having her head upon a pike, and the mutilated
body trailing by the heels, the whole mad mob set off to the Temple, to
show Marie Antoinette her friend, and to serve the Queen as they had
served the Princess.

It was between twelve and one in the day that news of what was passing
came to the Temple.  It was the fat Butin who brought it.  He came in on
the Council panting, gasping, dripping with the moisture of heat and
fear.  All his broad, scarlet face was drawn, and his lips, under the
bristling moustache, were pale—a thing very strange and arresting.  It
was plain that he had news of the first importance, but it was some time
before he could speak.  When his voice came it was all out of key, and
his whole portly body quivered with the effort to control it.

"Hell is out, Citizens!" were his first connected words. Then—"Oh! they
are mad, they are mad, and they are just behind me.  Close the gates
quickly, or they ’ll be through!"

A bewildered group emitted Dangeau.

"What has happened, Citizen?" he asked steadily. "A riot?  Like
yesterday?"

"Like yesterday?  No, ma foi, Citizen!  Yesterday was child’s play, a
mere nothing; to-day they murder every one, and when they have murdered
they tear in pieces.  They have assassinated the Lamballe, and they are
coming here for Capet’s wife!"

"How many?" asked Dangeau sharply.

"How do I know!" and fat Butin wrung his hands.  "The streets are full
of them, leaping, and howling, and shouting like devils.  Does the
Citizen suppose I stayed to count them?—I, the father of a family!"

The Citizen supposed nothing so unlikely; in fact, his questions asked,
he was not thinking of Butin at all. His brain was working quickly,
clearly.  Already he saw his course marked out, and, as a consequence,
he assumed that command of the situation which is always ceded to the
man who sees his way before him whilst his fellows walk befogged.

He sat at the table and wrote two notes, despatching one to the
President of the Legislative Council and the other to the General
Council of the Commune.

Then he announced their contents, speaking briefly and with complete
assurance.

"I have written asking for six members of the Assembly and six of the
Council, popular men who will assist us to control the mob.  We shall,
of course, defend the prisoners with our lives if necessary, but there
must be no fighting unless as a last recourse.  Where is the captain of
the Guard?"

The officer came forward, saluting.

"You have—how many men?"

"Four hundred, Citizen."

"You can answer for them—their discipline, their nerve?"

"With my life!"

"Very well, attend to your instructions.  Both sides of the great gates
are to be opened."

"Opened, Citizen?" stammered the captain, whilst a murmur of
dissatisfaction ran through the room.

Dangeau’s brows made a dangerous straight line.

"Opened," he repeated emphatically.  "Between the outer and inner doors
you will draw up a double line of your steadiest men—unarmed."

It was only the officer’s look which protested this time, but it quailed
before Dangeau’s glance of steel.

"You will place a strong guard beyond, out of sight. These men will be
fully armed.  All corridors, passages, and courts leading to the Tower
will be held in sufficient force, but not a man is to make so much as a
threatening gesture without orders.  You will be so good as to carry out
these instructions without delay.  I shall join you at the gate."

The captain swung away, and Dangeau turned to his colleagues.

"I propose to try to bring the people to reason," he said; "if they will
hear me, I will speak to them.  If not—we can only die.  The prisoners
are a sacred trust, but to have to use violence in defending them would
be fatal in the extreme, and every means must be taken to obviate the
necessity.  Legros, you are a popular man, and you, Meunier; meet the
mob, fraternise with the leaders, promote a feeling of confidence.  They
must be led to feel that it is our patriotism which denies them, and not
any sentiment of sympathy with tyrants."

There was a low murmur of applause as Dangeau concluded.  He had acted
so rapidly that these slow-thinking bourgeois had scarcely grasped the
necessity for action before his plan was laid before them, finished to
the last detail.

As he left the room, he had a last order to give: "Tell Cléry and
Renault to keep the prisoners away from the windows"; and with that was
on his way to the gates.

His instructions were being carried out expeditiously enough.  The great
gates stood wide, and he passed towards them through a double row of the
National Guard.  A sharp, scrutinising glance appeared to satisfy him.
These were what he wanted—men who could face a mob, unarmed, as coolly
as if they were on parade; men who would obey orders without thought or
question. They stood, a solid embodiment of law and order, discipline,
and decorum.

Dangeau took off his tri-coloured sash, borrowed a couple more, knotted
them together, suspended them across the unbarred entrance, and, having
requisitioned a chair, sat down on it, and awaited the arrival of the
mob.

He had not long to wait.

They came, heralded by a dull, hideous roar: no longer the tiger howl of
the unfleshed beast, but the devilish mirth of the same beast, full fed,
but not yet sated, and of mood wanton as well as murderous.  It would
still kill, but with a refinement of cruelty.  The pike-thrust was not
enough.  It would not suffice them to butcher the Queen,—she must first
kiss the livid lips of their other victim; she must be stripped,
insulted, dragged alive through the Paris streets.

In this new mood they had stopped on their way to the Temple, broken
into the trembling Clermont’s shop, and forced that skilful barber to
dress the Princesse de Lamballe’s exquisite hair and rouge the bloodless
cheeks.

The hair was piled high, and wreathed with roses; roses bloomed in the
dead cheeks, beneath the lifeless violet of the loveliest eyes in
France.  Only the mouth drooped livid, ghastly, drained of delight.
Clermont had done what he could.  Even terror could not rob his fingers
of their skill, but, as he muttered to himself, with shaking lips, "Am
I, le bon Dieu, to make the dead live?"  Rouge and rose-wreathed hair
made Death more ghastly still, but the mob was satisfied, and tossing
him a diamond buckle for his pains, they swung off again, the head
before them.

It was thus that Dangeau saw them come.  For a moment the blood ran
thick and turgid through his brain, the next it cleared, and, though his
heart beat fast, it was with the greatest appearance of calm that he
mounted his improvised rostrum, and held up his hand in a gesture
demanding silence.

The mob swept on unheeding; nearer, nearer, right on without check or
pause, to the fragile ribbon that alone barred their way.  Had Dangeau
changed colour, had his eye flickered, or that outstretched arm quivered
ever so little, they would have been on him—over him, and another
massacre would have been written on the stained pages of History.

But Dangeau stood motionless; an unbearable tension held him rigid.  His
steady eyes—like steel with the sun on it—fixed the leader of the
mob;—fixed him, held him, stopped him.  A bare yard from the gates, the
man who held the head aloft slackened speed, hesitated, and finally came
to a standstill so close to Dangeau that a little of the scented powder
in the Princess’s hair fell down and whitened the sleeve of his
outstretched arm.  Like sheep, the silly crowd behind checked as their
leader checked, and stopped as he had stopped.

Dangeau and he stood looking at one another.  The man was a giant, black
and hairy, stripped to the waist and a-reek with blood.  Under a
villainous, low brow his hot, small eyes winked and glared, shifted, and
fell at last before the steadier gaze.

Dangeau turned a little, beckoning with his hand, and there was a
momentary lull in the chorus of shouts, oaths, and obscene songs.

"What do you want?" he shouted.

The mob renewed its wild-beast howl.

Dangeau beckoned again.

"Let your leader speak," he called; and as the ruffian with the head was
pleased to second his suggestion, he obtained a second interval in the
storm.

"What do you want?" he asked again, and received this time an answer,
couched in language too explicit to be transcribed, but the substance of
which was that the Capet woman was to kiss her precious friend.

"And then?" Dangeau’s speech fell cold and clear as ice upon the heated
words of the demagogue.

"And then, aha! then—"  She was to be taught what the people’s vengeance
meant.  For how many years had they toiled that she might have her
sport? Now she should make sport for them, and then they would tear her
limb from limb, show her traitorous heart to Paris, where she had lived
so wantonly; burn her vile body to ashes.

Again that high, cool voice——

"And then?"

The ruffian scowled, spat viciously, and swore.

"Then, then—a thousand devils!  What did the Citizen mean with his ’and
then’?  He supposed that they should go home until there was another
tyrant to kill."

"And then—shall I tell you what then?—will you hear me, Dangeau?  Some
of you know me," and his eye lit on a wizened creature who danced
horribly about the headless corpse.

"Antoine, have you forgotten the February of two years ago?"

The ghastly object ceased its strange rhythmic movements, stared a
moment, and broke into voluble speech.

"’T is a patriot, this Dangeau, I say it—I whom he saved from prison.
Listen to him.  He has good, strong words.  Tell us then, Citizen, tell
us what we’re to do," and he capered nearer, catching at Dangeau’s chair
with fingers horribly smeared.

Silence fell, and, after a very slight pause, Dangeau leaned forward and
began to speak in a low, confidential tone.

"All here are patriots, are they not?  Not a traitor amongst you,
citizens all, proved and true.  You have struck down the enemies of
France, and now you ask what next?"  His voice rose suddenly and
thrilled over the vast concourse.

"Citizens of Paris, the whole world looks to you—the nations of Europe
stand waiting.  They look to France because it is the cradle of the new
religion,—the religion of humanity.  France, revolted from under the
hand of her tyrants, rises to give the law to all future generations.
With us is the rising sun, whose beams shed liberty, justice, equality;
and on this splendid dawn all eyes are fixed."

"They shall see us crush the tyrants!" bellowed the crowd.

"They shall see it," repeated Dangeau, and the words rang like an oath.
"Europe shall see it, the World shall see it.  But, friends, shall we
not give them a spectacle worthy of their attention, read them a lesson
that shall stand on the page of History for ever?  Shall we not take a
little time in devising how this lesson may be most plainly taught?
Shall a few patriots,—earnest, sincere, passionately devoted to liberty
it is true, but unauthorised by France, or by the duly delegated
authority of the people,—shall a few weak men, in an outburst of
virtuous indignation putting a tyrant to death, shall this impress the
waiting peoples?  Will they not say, ’France did not will it—the people
did not will it—it was the work of a few’?  Will they not say this?  On
the other side, see—a crowded hall, the hall of the people’s delegates.
They judge and they condemn, and Justice draws her sword.  In the eye of
the day, in the face of the world, before the whole people, there falls
the tyrant’s head.  Then would not Europe tremble?  Then would not
thrones based on iniquity totter, tyrants fall, and the universal reign
of liberty begin?"

The crowd swayed, hypnotised by the rolling voice, for Dangeau had the
tones that thrill, that stir, that soothe.  We do not always understand
the fame of dead-and-gone orators.  Their periods leave us cold, their
arguments do not move us, their words seem no more eloquent than
another’s; and yet, in their day, these men swept a whirlwind of
emotion, colour, life, conviction, into their hearers’ hearts.  Theirs
was the gift of temperament and tone.  As the inspired musician plays
upon his instrument, so they on theirs,—that oldest and most sensitive
instruments of all, the human heart.

Dangeau’s voice pealed out above the throng.  He took the biggest words,
the most extravagant phrases, the cheapest catchwords of the day, and
blended them with the magic of his voice to an irresistible spell.
Suddenly he changed his key.  The mob was listening, their attention
gained,—he could give them something more than a vague magniloquence.

"Frenchmen!" he said earnestly, "do we oppose you with arms?  Do we
threaten, do we resist you?  No, for I am most certain that there is not
a man among you who would be turned from his purpose by fear,—Frenchmen
do not feel so mean a sentiment,—but is there a Frenchman here who is
not always ready to listen to the sacred dictates of reason?  Hear me
then."

Somewhere inside Dangeau’s brain a little mocking devil laughed, but the
crowd applauded,—a fine appetite for flattery characterises the monster
Demos,—it was pleased, and through its thousand mouths it clamorously
demanded more.

"I stand here to make that appeal to your reason, which I am assured
cannot fail.  First, I would point out to you that these prisoners are
not only prisoners of ours, but hostages of France.  Look at our
frontiers: England threatens from the sea, Austria and Spain from the
south; but their hands are tied, Citizens, their hands are tied.  They
can threaten and bluster, but they dare take no steps which would lead
to the sacrifice of the tyrant and his brood.  Wait a little, my
friends; wait a little until our brave Dumouriez has won us a battle or
two, and then the day of justice may dawn."

He paused a moment, and, gauging his audience, cried quickly:

"Vive Dumouriez!  Vive l’armée!"

Half a dozen voices echoed him at first, but in a minute the cry was
taken up on the outskirts of the crowd, and came rolling to the front in
a storm of cheers.

Dangeau let it have its course, then motioned for silence, and got it.

"France owes much to Dumouriez," he said.  "We are a nation of soldiers,
and we can appreciate his work. Let us support him, then, and do nothing
to embarrass him in his absence.  Let him first drive the invaders of
France back across her insulted frontiers, and then—"  He was
interrupted by a howl of applause, but he got the word again directly.

"Citizens of Paris," he called, "your good name is in your own keeping.
They are some who would be glad to see it lost.  There are some, I will
name no names, who are jealous of the pre-eminence of our beautiful
Paris.  They would be glad of an excuse for moving the seat of
government.  I name no names, I make no accusations, but I know what I
know."

"Name them, name them!—down with the traitors!" shouted the mob.

"They are those who bid you destroy the prisoners," returned Dangeau
boldly.  "They are those who urge you to lay violent hands on a trust
which is sacred, because we have received it from the hands of the
people. They are those who wish to represent you to the world as
incapable of governing, blind with passion.  Shall this be said?"

A shout of denial went up.

"Citizens of Paris, you have elected us your representatives.  You have
reposed in us this sacred trust. If we abuse it, you have your remedy.
The Nation which elected can degrade; the men who have placed in us
their confidence can withdraw that confidence; but whilst we hold it, we
will deserve it, and will die in its defence."

The crowd shook with applause, but there were dissenting voices.  One or
two of the leaders showed dark, ominous faces; the huge man with the
head scowled deepest, he seemed about to speak, and eyed Dangeau’s chair
as if he contemplated annexing it.

None knew better than Dangeau how fickle a thing is a crowd’s verdict,
or how easily it might yet turn against him.  He laid his hand on the
grimy shoulder beside him.

"To show the confidence that we repose in you, I suggest that this
citizen, and five of his colleagues, shall be admitted into the garden;
you shall march round the Tower if you will, and it will be seen that it
is only your own patriotism and self-control that safeguards the
prisoners, and not any force opposed to you."

This proposal aroused great enthusiasm.  Dangeau, who was fully aware of
the risks he ran in making it, hastily whispered to two of the
Commissioners sent him in response to his appeal to the Commune, bidding
them remain at the gate and keep the mob in a good temper, whilst he
himself accompanied the ringleaders.

It was a strange and horrifying procession that took its way through
palace rooms which had looked upon many scenes of vice but none so awful
as this.

Dangeau, a guard or two, six filthy, reeking creatures, drawn from the
lowest slums, steeped in wickedness as in blood; the exquisite head,
lovely to the last, set on a dripping pike; the white, insulted body,
stripped to the dust and mire of Paris; the frightful odour of gore
diffused by all, made up a total effect of horror unparalleled in any
age.

To the last day of Dangeau’s life it remained a recurrent nightmare.  He
was young, he had lived a clean, honest life, he had respected women,
nourished his soul on ideals, and now——

At the time he felt nothing,—neither disgust nor horror, nausea nor
shame.  It was afterwards that two things contended for possession of
his being—sheer physical sickness, and a torment of outraged
sensibility. He had vowed himself to the service of Humanity, and he had
seen Humanity desecrate its own altar, offering upon it a shameful and
bloody sacrifice.  Just now it was fortunate that feeling was in
abeyance, and that it was the brain in Dangeau, and not the conscience,
that held sway.  All of him, except that lucid brain, lay torpid,
stunned, asleep; but in its cells thought flashed on thought, seizing
here an impulse, there an instinct, bending them to the will, absorbing
them in its designs.

All the way the butchers talked.  One of them fancied himself a wit.
Fortunately for posterity his jests have not been preserved.  Another
gave a detailed and succinct account of every person murdered by him. A
third sang filthy songs.  Dangeau’s brain ordered him not to offend
these bestial companions, and in obedience to it he nodded, questioned,
appeared to commend.

Arrived at the garden, the whole company took up the chorus of the song,
and began to march round the Tower, holding the head aloft and calling
on the Queen to come and look at it.

Those of the workmen who still remained at their posts came gaping
forward—some of them joined the tune; the excitement rose, and cries of
"The Austrian, the Austrian; give us the Austrian!" began to be heard.

Within there was a dead silence.  The little group of prisoners were
huddled together at the farther side of the room.  Mme Elizabeth held
her rosary, and her pale lips moved incessantly.  One of the
Commissioners, Renault, a strong, heavy-featured man, stood impassively
by the window watching the progress of events, whilst Cléry, his eager
young face flushed with excitement, was trying to keep up a conversation
with the Princesses in order to prevent the terrifying voices from
without reaching their ears.  Although no one could be ignorant of what
was passing, they seconded his attempts bravely.  Marie Antoinette was
the most successful. She preserved that social instinct which covers
under an airy web the grimmest and most evident facts. Death was such a
fact,—vastly impolite, entirely to be ignored; and so the Queen
conversed smilingly, even whilst the mother’s eye rested in anguish upon
her children.

Suddenly even her composure was shattered.

There was a loud shout of "Come out, Austrian! Look, Austrian!" and a
shape appeared at the window—a head, omen of imminent tragedy.  That
head had shared the Queen’s pillow, those drawn lips had smiled for her,
those heavy lids closed over eyes whose beauty to her had been the
lovely, frank affection which beamed from them.  Thus, in this fearful
shape, came the intimation of that friendship’s close.

Cléry sprang up with a cry of "Don’t look!" but he was too late.  With a
hoarse sound, half cry, half strained release of breath too frantically
held, the Queen shrank back.

In that moment her face went grey and hollow, her death-mask showed
prophetic, but after that one movement, that one cry, she sat quite
still and made no sound.  Mme Royale had fainted, and Elizabeth knelt
beside her shuddering and weeping.

Renault’s great shoulders blocked the window, and even as he pressed
forward the head was withdrawn.

Down below a second crisis was being fought through. Dangeau began to
feel the strain of that scene by the Temple gates; his nervous energy
was diminished, and the dreadful six were straining at the leash.  They
howled for the Austrian, they bellowed forth threats, they vociferated.
One of them caught Dangeau by the shoulder and levelled a red pike at
his head; but for a moment the steely composure of the eyes held him,
and the next a friendly hand struck down the weapon.

"It is Dangeau, our Dangeau, the people’s friend!" shouted his rescuer,
a powerful workman.  "I am of his section," and he squeezed him in a
grimy embrace.

Dangeau, released, sprang on a heap of rubble, and made his final
effort.

"Hé, mes braves!" he cried, "it is growing late; half Paris knows your
deeds, it is true, but how many are still ignorant?  Will you let
darkness overtake you with your trophies yet undisplayed?  Away, let the
other quarters hear of your triumphs.  Vaunt them before the Palais
Royal, and let the Tuileries, so often defiled by the Tyrant’s presence,
be purified now by these relics, evidence of the people’s power!"

As he ceased, his words were taken up by all present.

"To the Palais Royal!  To the Tuileries!" they howled.

Dangeau, not only saved, but a hero,—so fickle a thing is the mood of
the sovereign people,—was cheered, embraced, carried across the
court-yard, and with difficulty permitted to remain behind; whilst the
whole mob, singing, shouting, and dancing, took its frenzied course
towards the royal palaces.



                               CHAPTER VI

                           A DOUBTFUL SAFETY


Mlle de Rochambeau knelt by her open window.  She had been praying, but
for a long time her lips had not moved, and now it seemed as if their
numbness had invaded her heart, and lay there deadening fear, emotion,
sorrow, all,—all except that heavy beating, to which she listened half
unconsciously, as though it were a sound from some world which hardly
concerned her.

She had not left the little room at all.  On the first day she had been
put off civilly enough.

"Rest a little, Ma’mselle, rest a little; to-morrow I will make my
sister a little visit, and you shall accompany me.  To-day I am busy,
and without me you would not be admitted to the prison."

But when to-morrow came, there were at first black looks, then impatient
words, and finally the key turned in the lock and hours of terrifying
solitude.  The one small window overlooked a dark and squalid street
where the refuse of the neighbourhood festered.  It was noisy and
malodorous, and she sickened at every sense.  The sounds, the smells,
the sight of the wizened, wicked-looking children, who fought, and
swore, and scrabbled in the noisome gutter below, all added to her
growing apprehension.

Closing the cracked pane she retreated to the farther corner of the
attic, and again slow hours went by.

About noon a distant roar startled her to the window once more.  Nothing
was to be seen, but the sound came again, and yet again; increasing each
time in violence, and becoming at last a heavy, continuous boom.

There is scarcely anything so immediately terrifying as that dull mutter
of a city in tumult.  Mlle de Rochambeau’s smooth years supplied her
with no experience by which to measure the threat of that far uproar,
and yet every nerve in her body thrilled to it and cried danger!  It was
then that she began to pray. The afternoon wore on, and she grew faint
as well as frightened.  Rosalie Leboeuf had set coffee and coarse bread
before her in the early morning, but that was now many hours since.

The sun was near to setting when a loud shouting arose in the street
below, shocking her from the dizzy quiescence into which she had fallen.
Looking out, she saw that the children had scattered, pushed aside by
rapidly gathering groups of their elders.  Every house appeared to be
disgorging an incredible number of people, and in their midst swayed a
very large man, extremely drunk, and half naked.  Such clothes as he
possessed appeared to have been torn and rent in a most amazing manner,
and scraps of them depended fantastically from naked shoulders and
battered belt.  His swarthy head retained its bonnet rouge, whose
original colour was dyed, here and there, a deeper and more portentous
crimson.

He waved great windmills of arms, and talked loudly in a thick guttural
voice, adding strange gestures and stranger oaths.  A sort of
fascination kept Mademoiselle’s eyes riveted upon him, and presently she
began to catch words—phrases.

"Dear holy Virgin!  what was he saying?—Impossible—impossible,
impossible!"  And then quite suddenly her shocked brain yielded to the
truth.  There had been a massacre of the prisoners—this man had been
there; he was recounting his exploits, boasting of the number he had
killed.

"Mother most merciful, protect! save!—"  But the ghastly catalogue ran
on.  They say that in those days many claimed the murderer’s praise who
had never acted the murderer’s part.  Men with hands innocent of blood
daubed themselves horribly, and went home boasting of unimaginable
horrors, guiltless the while as the children who hung eagerly on the
tale.  There was a madness abroad,—a fearful, epidemic madness that
seized its thousands, and time and again set Paris reeking like a
shambles and laughing wantonly in the face of outraged Europe.

Whether Jean Michel were innocent or not, his conversation was equally
horrifying.  Mlle de Rochambeau listened to it, shaking.  The things
said were inconceivable, and mercifully some of them passed over her
innocence leaving it unbruised, save for a gradually accumulating weight
of horror.

Suddenly she caught her cousin’s name—"that wanton, the Montargis,
damned Austrian spy," the man called her, and added Sélincourt’s name to
hers with a foul oath.

"I struck them, I!  My pike was the first!" he shouted.  Then drawing a
scrap of reeking linen from his belt he waved it aloft, proclaiming,
"This is her blood!" and looked around him for applause.

It was too much.  A gasp broke from the girl’s rigid lips, a damp dew
from her brow.  The twilight quivered—turned to darkness—then broke into
a million sparks of flame, and a merciful oblivion overtook her.

Jean Michel may be left to the tender mercies of Louison his wife, a
little woman and a venomous, having that command over her husband which
one sees in the small wives of large men.  Having haled him home, she
burned his precious trophy, and poured much cold water on his hot and
muddled head.  Afterwards she gave her tongue free course, and we may
consider that Jean Michel had his deserts.

When Mlle de Rochambeau shuddered back again to consciousness, the room
was dark.  Outside, quiet reigned, and a beautiful blue dusk, just
tinged with starlight.  She dragged herself up into a half-sitting,
half-kneeling position, and looked long and tremblingly into the
tranquil depths above.  All was peace and a cool purity, after the red
horror of the day.  The lights of the city looked friendly; they spoke
of homes, of children, of decent comfort and ordered lives, and over all
brooded the great sapphire glooms of the darkening ether and the lights
of the houses of God.  A strange calm slid into her soul—the hour held
her—life and death were twin points in a fathomless, endless stretch of
peace eternal.

The flesh no longer enchained her—weak with shock and fasting, it
released its grip, and the freer spirit peered forth into the
immensities.

Aline’s body lay motionless, but her soul floated in a calm sea of
light.

How long this lasted she did not know, but presently she became aware
that she was listening to some rather distant sound.  It came slowly
nearer, and resolved itself into a man’s heavy step, which mounted the
narrow stairway, and paused ominously beside her door.  Some of the
strange calm from which she came still wrapped her, but her heart began
to beat piteously.  Her hearing seemed preternaturally acute, and she
was aware of a pause, of one or two quickly drawn breaths, and then the
dull sound of a groan—such a sound as may come from a man utterly weary
and forespent when he imagines himself alone.  The pause, the groan were
over even as she listened, and the door opposite hers closed sharply
upon Jacques Dangeau.

A throb of relief shook her back into normal humanity. It was, of
course, the man she had seen on the stairs, and all at once she was
conscious of immense fatigue; her head sank lower and lower, the
darkness closed upon her, and she slept.

Rosalie stumbled over her an hour later, and took fright when the girl
just stirred, and no more.  She had intended her young aristocrat to
pass a chastening day. Fasting was good for the soul, it rendered young
girls amenable, and Rosalie wished to come to terms with this friendless
but not unmoneyed demoiselle whom chance, luck, or some other god of her
rather mixed beliefs had thrown her way.  She had not, however, meant to
leave the girl quite so long without food, but sallying out in quest of
news she had been detained by her trembling sister, whose timid soul saw
no safety anywhere in all red, raving Paris.

Rosalie set down her light and bent over the sleeping girl.  A shrewd
glance showed her a drawn fatigue of feature and a collapsed discomfort
of attitude beyond anything she was prepared for.

"Tett, tett!" she grunted; "that Michel—could she have heard him?  It is
certainly possible.  Well, well, there will be no talk to-night, that ’s
a sure thing. Here, Ma’mselle!  Ma’mselle!"

Mlle de Rochambeau opened her eyes, but only to close them again.  The
lids hung half shut, and under them lay heavy violet streaks.  This was
slumber that was half a swoon, and with a shrug of her vast shoulders,
and a mental objurgation of the tenderness of aristocrats, Rosalie set
herself to getting a cup of strong hot broth down the girl’s throat.

Mademoiselle moaned and gasped, but when a sip or two had been chokingly
swallowed, she raised her head and took the warm drink eagerly.  She was
about to sink back again into her old position when she felt strong arms
about her, and capable hands loosened her dress and pulled off shoes and
stockings.  With a sigh of content, she felt herself laid down on the
bed, her head touched a pillow, some one covered her, and she fell again
upon a deep, deep, dreamless sleep.

It was high noon before she awoke, and then it was to a sense of
bewildered fatigue beyond anything she had ever experienced.  She lay
quite still, and watched the little patch of sky which showed above the
roofs of the houses opposite.  It was very blue, and small glittering
clouds raced quickly across it.  Slowly, slowly as she looked, yesterday
came back to her, but with a strange remoteness, as if it had all
happened too long ago to weep for.  A great shock takes us out of time
and space.  Emotion crystallises and ceases to flow along its accustomed
channels.  Aline de Rochambeau was never to forget the experience she
had just passed through, but for the time being it seemed too far away
to pierce the numbness round her heart.

A cry in the street did something; her cheek paled, and Rosalie coming
noisily in found her sitting up in bed with wide, frightened eyes.  She
caught at the woman’s arm and spoke in a sort of hurried whisper.

"Ah, Madame, is it true?  For Heaven’s love tell me!  Or have I had some
terrible dream?" and her voice sank, as if the sound of it terrified
her.

Rosalie’s fat shoulders went shrugging up to Rosalie’s thick, red ears.

"Is what true?" she asked.  "It is certainly true that you have slept
fourteen hours, no less; long enough to dream anything.  They called it
laziness when I was young, my girl."

Mlle de Rochambeau joined both hands about her wrist.  "Tell me—only
tell me, Madame—I heard—oh, God!—I heard a man in the street—he
said"—shuddering—"he said the prisoners were all murdered—and my
cousin—oh, my poor cousin!"  Words brought her tears, and she covered
her face from Rosalie’s convincing nod.

"As to all the prisoners, for that I cannot answer, but certainly there
are some hundreds less of the pestilent aristocrats than there were.  As
to your cousin, the ci-devant Marquise de Montargis, she ’s as dead as
mutton."

Aline looked up—she was not stupid, and this woman’s altered tone was
confirmation enough without any further words.  Two days ago, it had
been "Ma’mselle," and the respectful demeanour of a servant, smiles and
smooth words had met her, and now that rough "my girl" and these brutal
words! Rosalie Leboeuf was no pioneer.  Had some terrible change not
taken place, she would never have dared to speak and look as she was
looking and speaking now.

Mademoiselle had not the Rochambeau blood for nothing.  She drew herself
up, looked gravely in the woman’s face, and said in a fine, cold voice:

"I understand, Madame.  Is it permitted to ask what you propose to do
with me?"

Rosalie stared insolently.  Then planting herself deliberately on a
chair, she observed:

"It is certainly permitted to ask, my little aristocrat—certainly; but I
should advise fewer airs and graces to a woman who has saved your life
twice over, and that at the risk of her own."

Mademoiselle was silent, and Rosalie took up her parable.  "Where would
you have been by now, if I had not brought you home with me?  There ’s
many a citizen who would have been glad to find a cage for a pretty
stray bird like you, and how would that have suited you—eh?  Better
rough words from respectable Rosalie Leboeuf than shameful kisses from
Citizen Such-a-one.  And yesterday—if I had whispered yesterday,
’Montargis is dead, but there’s a chick of the breed roosting in my
upper room,’ as I might very well have done, very well indeed, and kept
your money into the bargain—what then, Miss Mealy-mouth?  Have you a
fancy for being stripped and dragged at a cart’s tail through Paris, or
would you relish being made to drink success to the Revolution in a
brimming mug of aristocrats’ blood?  Eh!  I could tell you tales, my
girl, such tales that you ’d never sleep again, and that’s what I ’ve
saved you from, and do I get thanks—gratitude? Tush! was that ever the
nobles’ way?"

"Madame—I am—grateful," said Mademoiselle faintly.  Her lips were ashen,
and the breath came with a gasp between every word.

"Grateful—yes, indeed, I should think you were grateful," responded
Rosalie, her keen eyes on the girl’s ghastly face.  With a little nod,
she decided that she had frightened her enough.  "I want more than your
’Madame, I’m grateful,’" and as she mimicked the faltering tones the
blood ran back into Mademoiselle’s white cheeks.  "So far we have talked
sentiment," she continued, with a complete change of manner. Her
brutality slipped from her, and she became the bargaining bourgeoise.

"Let us come to business."

"With all my heart, Madame."

"Tut—no Madame—Citoyenne, or Rosalie.  Madame smells of treason,
disaffection, what not.  What money have you?"

"Only what I showed you yesterday."

"But you could get more?"

"I do not think so, I know nothing of my affairs—but there was a good
deal in that bag.  I put it—yes, I ’m sure I did—under the pillow.  Oh,
Madame, my money ’s not here!  The bag is gone!"

"Té! té! té!" went Rosalie’s tongue against the roof of her mouth; "gone
it is, and for a very good reason, my little cabbage, because Rosalie
Leboeuf took it!"

"Madame!"

"Ma’mselle!" mimicked the rough voice.  "It is the little present that
Ma’mselle makes me—the token of her gratitude.  Hein! do you say
anything against that?"

Mademoiselle was silent.  She was reflecting that she still had her
pearls, and she put a timid hand to her bosom.  A moment later, she sank
back trembling upon her pillow.  The pearls were gone.  It was not for
nothing that Rosalie had undressed her the night before.  She bit her
lip, constraining herself to silence; and Rosalie, twinkling
maliciously, maintained the same reserve.  She was neither a cruel nor a
brutal woman, though she could appear both, if she had an end to gain,
as she had now.

She meant Mlle de Rochambeau no harm, and honestly considered that she
had earned both gold and pearls.  Indeed, who shall say that she had
not? Girls had to be managed, and were much easier to deal with when
they had been well frightened.  When she was well in hand, Rosalie would
be kind enough, but just now, a touch of the spur, a flick of the whip,
was what was required—and yet not too much, for times changed so
rapidly, and who knew how long the reign of Liberty would last?  She
must not overdo it.

"Well now, Citoyenne," she said suddenly, "let us see where we are.  You
came to Paris ten days ago. Who brought you?"

"The Intendant and his wife," said Mademoiselle.

"And they are still in Paris?"  (The devil take this Intendant!)

"No; they returned after two days.  I think now that they were
frightened."

"Very likely.  Worthy, sensible people!" said Rosalie, with a puff of
relief.  "And you came to the Montargis? Well, she ’s dead.  Are you
betrothed?"

Aline turned a shade paler.  How far away seemed that betrothal kiss
which she had rubbed impatiently from her reluctant hand!

"I was fiancée to M. de Sélincourt."

"That one?  Well, he’s dead, and damned too, if he has his deserts,"
commented Rosalie.  "Hm, hm—and you knew no one else in Paris?"

"Only Mme de Maillé—she remembered my mother."

"An old story that—she is dead too," said Rosalie composedly.  "In
effect, it appears that you have no friends; they are all dead."

Aline shrank a little, but did not exclaim.  In this nightmare-existence
upon which she had entered, it was as natural that dreadful things
should happen as until two days ago it had seemed to her young optimism
impossible.

Rosalie pursued the conversation.

"Yes, they are all dead.  I gave myself the trouble of going to see my
sister this morning on purpose to find out.  Marie is a poor soft
creature; she cried and sobbed as if she had lost her dearest friends,
and Bault, the great hulk, looked as white as chalk.  I always say I
should make a better gaoler myself—not that I ’m not sorry for them,
mind you, with all that place to get clean again, and blood, as every
one knows, the work of the world to get out of things."

Mademoiselle shuddered.

"Oh!" she breathed protestingly, and then added in haste, "They are all
dead, Madame, all my friends, and what am I to do?"

Rosalie crossed her arms and swayed approvingly. Here was a suitable
frame of mind at last—very different from the hoity-toity airs of the
beginning.

"Hein! that is the question, and I answer it this way.  You can stay
here, under my respectable roof, until your friends come forward; but of
course you must work, or how will my rent be paid?  A mere trifle, it is
true, but still something; and besides the rent there will be your
ménage to make.  For one week I will feed you, but after that it is your
affair, and not mine.  Even a white slip of a girl like you requires
food.  The question is, what can you do to earn it?"

Mademoiselle de Rochambeau coloured.

"I can embroider," she said hesitatingly.  "I helped to work an altar
cloth for the Convent chapel last year."

Rosalie gave a coarse laugh.

"Eh—altar cloths!  What is the good of that? Soon there will be no
altars to put them on!"

"I learned to embroider muslin too," said Mademoiselle hastily.  "I
could work fine stuffs, for fichus, or caps, or handkerchiefs, perhaps."

Rosalie considered.

"Well, that’s better, though you ’ll find it hard to fill even your
pinched stomach out of such work; but we can see how it goes.  I will
bring you muslin and thread, and you shall work a piece for me to see.
I know a woman who would buy on my recommendation, if it were well
done."

"They said I did it well," said Mademoiselle meekly. Her eyes smarted
suddenly, and she thought with a desperate yearning of comfortable
Sister Marie Madeleine, or even the severe Soeur Marie Mediatrice. How
far away the Convent stillness seemed, and how desirable!

"Good," said Rosalie; "then that is settled.  For the rest, I cannot
have Mlle de Rochambeau lodging with me.  That will not go now.  What is
your Christian name?"

"Aline Marie."

"Aline, but no—that would give every donkey something to bray over.
Marie is better—any one may be Marie.  It is my sister’s name, and my
niece’s, and was my mother’s.  It is a good name.  Well, then, you are
the Citoyenne Marie Roche."

Mademoiselle repeated it, her lip curling a little.

"Fi donc—you must not be proud," remarked Rosalie the observant.  "You
are Marie Roche, you understand, a simple country girl, and Marie Roche
must not be proud.  Neither must she wear a fine muslin robe and a silk
petticoat or a fichu trimmed with lace from Valenciennes.  I have
brought you a bundle of clothes, and you may be glad you had Rosalie
Leboeuf to drive the bargain for you.  Two shifts, these good warm
stockings, a neat gown, with stuff for another, to say nothing of comb
and brush, and for it all you need not pay a sou!  Your own clothes in
exchange, that is all.  That is what I call a bargain!  Brush the powder
from your hair and put on these clothes, and I ’ll warrant you ’ll be
safe enough, as long as you keep a still tongue and do as I bid you."

"Thank you," said Mademoiselle, with an effort. Even her inexperience
was aware that she was being cheated, but she had sufficient
intelligence to know herself completely in the woman’s power, and enough
self-control to bridle her tongue.

Rosalie, watching her, saw the struggle, inwardly commended the victory,
and with a final panegyric on her own skill at a bargain she departed,
and was to be heard stumping heavily down the creaking stair.

As soon as she was alone Aline sprang out of bed. Most of her own
clothes had been removed, she found, and she turned up her nose a little
at the coarse substitutes.  There was no help for it, however, and on
they went.  Then came a great brushing of hair, which was left at last
powderless and glossy, and twisted into a simple knot.  Finally she put
on the petticoat, of dark blue striped stuff, and the clean calico gown.
There was a tiny square of looking-glass in the room, cracked relic of
some former occupant, and Aline peeped curiously into it when her
toilette was completed.  A young girl’s interest in her own appearance
dies very hard, and it must be confessed that the discovery that her new
dress was far from unbecoming cheered her not a little. She even smiled
as she put on the coarse white cap, and turned her head this way and
that to catch the side view; but the smile faded suddenly, and the next
moment she was on her knees, reproaching herself for a hard heart, and
praying with all dutiful earnestness for the repose of her cousin’s
soul.



                              CHAPTER VII

                           THE INNER CONFLICT


September passed on its eventful way.  Dangeau was very busy; there were
many meetings, much to be discussed, written, arranged, and on the
twenty-first the Assembly was dissolved, and the National Convention
proclaimed the Republic.

Dangeau as an elected member of the Convention had his hands full
enough, and there was a great deal of writing done in the little room
under the roof. Sometimes, as he came and went, he passed his pale
fellow-lodger, and noted half unconsciously that as the days went on she
grew paler still.  Her gaze, proud yet timid, as she stood aside on the
little landing, or passed him on the narrow stair, appealed to a heart
which was really tender.

"She is only a child, and she looks as if she had not enough to eat," he
muttered to himself once or twice, and then found to his half-shamed
annoyance that the child’s face was between him and his work.

"You are a fool, my good friend," he remarked, and plunged again into
his papers.

He burned a good deal of midnight oil in those days, and Rosalie
Leboeuf, whose tough heart really kept a soft corner for him, upbraided
him for it.

"Tiens!" she said one day, about the middle of October, "tiens!  The
Citizen is killing himself."

Dangeau, sitting on the counter, between two piles of apples, laughed
and shook his head.

"But no, my good Rosalie—you will not be rid of me so easily, I can
assure you."

"H’m—you are as white as a girl,—as white as your neighbour upstairs,
and she looks more like snow than honest flesh and blood."

Dangeau, who had been wondering how he should introduce this very
subject, swung his legs nonchalantly and whistled a stave before
replying.  The girl’s change of dress had not escaped him, and he was
conscious, and half ashamed of, his curiosity.  Rosalie plainly knew
all, and with a little encouragement would tell what she knew.

"Who is she, then, Citoyenne?" he asked lightly.

"Eh! the Citizen has seen her—a slip of a white girl.  Her name is Marie
Roche, and she earns just enough to keep body and soul together by
embroidery."

Dangeau nodded his head.  He did not understand why he wished to gossip
with Rosalie about this girl, but an idle mood was on him, and he let it
carry him whither it would.

"Why, yes, Citoyenne, I know all that, but that does n’t answer my
question at all.  Who _is_ Marie Roche?"

Rosalie glanced round.  Indiscretion was as dear to her soul as to
another woman’s, and it was not every day that one had the chance of
talking scandal with a Deputy.  To do her justice, she was aware that
Dangeau was a safe enough recipient of her confidences, so after
assuring herself that there was no one within earshot, she abandoned
herself to the enjoyment of the moment.

"Aha!  The Citizen is clever, he is not to be taken in!  Only figure to
yourself, then, Citizen, that I find this girl, a veritable aristocrat,
weeping at the gates of La Force, weeping, mon Dieu, because they will
not keep her there with her friends!  Singular, is it not? I bring her
home, I am a mother to her, and next day, pff—all her friends are
massacred, and what can I do? I have a charitable heart, I keep her,—the
marmot does not eat much."

Dangeau enjoyed his Rosalie.

"She earns nothing, then?" he observed, with a subdued twinkle in his
eye.

"Oh, a bagatelle.  I assure you it does not suffice for the rent; but I
have a good heart, I do not let her starve"; and Rosalie regarded the
Deputy with an air of modest virtue that sat oddly upon her large,
creased face.

"Excellent Rosalie!" he said, with a soft, half-mocking inflection.

She bridled a little.

"Ah, if the Citizen knew!" she said, with a toss of the head, which,
aiming at the arch, merely achieved the elephantine.

"If it is a question of the Citoyenne’s virtues, who does not know
them?" said Dangeau.  He made her a little bow, and kept the sarcasm out
of his voice this time.  He was thinking of his little neighbour’s look
of starved endurance, and contrasting her mentally with the well-fed
Rosalie.  He had not much confidence in the promptings of the latter’s
heart if they countered the interests of her pocket.  Suddenly a plan
came into his head, and before he had time to consider its possible
drawbacks, he found himself saying:

"Tell me, then, Citoyenne, does this Marie Roche write a good hand?"

"H’m—well, I suppose the nuns in that Convent of hers taught her
something, and as it was neither baking nor brewing, it may have been
reading and writing," said Rosalie sharply.  "Does the Citizen wish her
to write him a billet-doux?"

To Dangeau’s annoyed surprise he felt the colour rise to his cheeks as
he answered:

"Du tout, Citoyenne, but I do require an amanuensis, and I thought your
protégée might earn my money as well as another.  I imagine that much
fine embroidery cannot be done in the evenings, and it would be then
that I should require her services."

"The girl is an aristocrat," said Rosalie suspiciously.

Dangeau laughed.

"Are you afraid she will contaminate me?" he asked gaily.  "I shall set
her to copy my book on the principles of Liberty.  Desmoulins says that
every child in France should get it by heart, and though I do not quite
look for that, I hope there will be some to whom it means what it has
meant for me.  Your little aristocrat shall write it out fair for the
press, and we shall see if it will not convert her."

"It will take too much of her time," said Rosalie sulkily.

"A few hours in the evening.  It will save her eyes and pay better than
that embroidery of hers, which as you say barely keeps body and soul
together.  I hope we shall be able to knit them a little more closely,
for at present there seems to be a likelihood of a permanent divorce
between them."

Rosalie looked a little alarmed.

"Yes, she looks ill," she muttered; "and as you say it would be only for
an hour or two."

"Yes, for the present.  I am out all day, and it is necessary that I
should be there.  I write so badly, you see; your little friend would
soon get lost amongst my blots if she were alone, but if I am there, she
asks a question, I answer it—and so the work goes on."

"H’m—" said Rosalie; "and the pay, Citizen?"

Dangeau got down from the counter, laughing.

"Citoyenne Roche and I will settle that," he said, a little maliciously;
"but perhaps, my good Rosalie, you would speak to her and tell her what
I want?  It would perhaps be better than if I, a stranger, approached
her on the subject.  She looks timid—it would come better from you."

Rosalie nodded, and caught up her knitting, as Dangeau went out.  On the
whole, it was a good plan.  The girl was too thin—she did not wish her
to die.  This would make more food possible, and at the same time entail
no fresh expense to herself.  Yes, it was decidedly a good plan.

"It is true, I have a charitable disposition," sighed Rosalie.

Dangeau went on his way humming a tune.  The lightness of his spirits
surprised him.  The times were anxious.  New Constitutions are not born
without travail.  He had an arduous part to play, heavy responsible work
to do, and yet he felt the irrational exhilaration of a schoolboy, the
flow of animal spirits which is induced by the sudden turn of the tide
in spring, and the uplifted heart of him who walks in dreams.  All this
because a girl whom he had seen some half-dozen times, with whom he had
never spoken, whose real name he did not know, was going to sit for an
hour or two where he could look at her, copy some pages of his, which
she would certainly find dull, and take money, which he could ill spare,
to bring a little more colour into cheeks whose pallor was beginning to
haunt his sleep.

Dangeau bit his lip impatiently.  He did not at all understand his own
mood, and suddenly it angered him.

"The girl is an aristocrat—nourished on blind superstition, cradled in
tyranny," said his brain.

"She is only a child, and starved," said his heart; and he quickened his
steps, almost to a run, as if to escape from the two voices.  Once at
the Convention business claimed him altogether, Marie Roche was
forgotten, and it was Dangeau the patriot who spoke and listened, took
notes and made suggestions.  It was late when he returned, and he
climbed the stair somewhat wearily.  He was aware of a reaction from the
unreasoning gaiety of the morning.  It seemed cold and cheerless to come
back night after night to an empty room and an uncompanioned evening,
and yet he could remember the time, not so long ago, when that dear
solitude was the birthplace of burning dreams, and thoughts dearer than
any friend.

He had not felt so dull and dreary since the year of his mother’s death,
his first year alone in life, and once or twice he sighed as he lighted
a lamp and bent to the heaped-up papers which littered his table.  Half
an hour later, a low knocking at the door made him pause.

"Enter!" he called out, expecting to see Rosalie.

The door opened rather slowly, and Mlle de Rochambeau stood hesitating
on the threshold.  Her eyes were wide and dark with shyness, but her
manner was prettily composed as she said in her low, clear tones:

"The Citizen desires my services as a secretary? Rosalie told me you had
asked her to speak to me——"

Dangeau sprang up.  His theory of universal equality, based upon
universal citizenship, was slipping from him, and he found himself
saying:

"If Mademoiselle will do me so much honour."

Mademoiselle’s beautifully arched eyebrows rose a little.  What manner
of Deputy was this?  She had observed and liked the gravity of his face
and the distant courtesy of his manner, or utmost privation would not
have brought her to accept his offer; but she had not expected
expressions of the Court, or a bow that might have passed at Versailles.

"I am ready, Citizen," she said, with a faint smile and a fainter
emphasis on the form of address.

For the second time that day Dangeau flushed like a boy.  He was glad
that a table had to be drawn nearer the lamp, a chair pushed into
position, ink and paper fetched.  The interval sufficed to restore him
to composure, and Mademoiselle being seated, he returned to his papers
and to silence.

When the first page had been transcribed, Mademoiselle brought it over
to him.

"Is that clear, and as you wish it, Citizen?"

"It is very good indeed, Citoyenne"; and this time his tongue remembered
that it belonged to a Republican Deputy.  If Mademoiselle smiled, he did
not see it, and again the silence fell.  At ten o’clock she rose.

"I cannot give you more time than this, I fear, Citizen," she said, and
unconsciously her manner indicated that an audience was terminated.  "My
embroidery is still my ’cheval de bataille,’ and I fear it would suffer
if my eyes keep too late hours."

Her low "Good-night," her scarcely hinted curtsey passed, even whilst
Dangeau rose, and before he could reach and open the door, she had
passed out, and closed it behind her.  Dangeau wrote late that night,
and waked later still.  His thoughts were very busy.

After some evenings of silent work, he asked her abruptly:

"What is your name?"

Mademoiselle gave a slight start, and answered without raising her head:

"Marie Roche, Citizen."

"I mean your real name."

"But yes, Citizen"; and she wrote a word that had to be erased.

Dangeau pushed his chair back, and paced the room. "Marie Roche neither
walks, speaks, nor writes as you do.  Heavens!  Am I blind or deaf?"

"I have not remarked it," said Mademoiselle demurely. Her head was bent
to hide a smile, which, if a little tremulous, still betokened genuine
amusement—amusement which it certainly would not do for the Citizen to
perceive.

"Then do you believe that I am stupid, or"—with a change of tone—"not to
be trusted?"

Mademoiselle de Rochambeau looked up at that.

"Monsieur," she said in measured tones, "why should I trust you?"

"Why should you trust Rosalie Leboeuf?" asked Dangeau, with a spice of
anger in his voice.  "Do you not consider me as trustworthy as she?"

"As trustworthy?" she said, a little bitterly.  "That may very easily
be; but, Monsieur, if I trusted her, it was of necessity, and what law
does necessity know?"

"You are right," said Dangeau, after a brief pause; "I had no right to
ask—to expect you to answer."

He sat down again as he spoke, and something in his tone made
Mademoiselle look quickly from her papers to his face.  She found it
stern and rather white, and was surprised to feel herself impelled
towards confidence, as if by some overwhelming force.

"I was jesting, Monsieur," she said quickly; "my name is Aline de
Rochambeau, and I am a very friendless young girl.  I am sure that
Monsieur would do nothing that might harm me."

Dangeau scarcely looked up.

"I thank you, Citoyenne," he said in a cold, constrained voice; "your
confidence shall be respected."

Perhaps Mademoiselle was surprised at the formality of the
reply,—perhaps she expected a shade more response.  It had been a
condescension after all, and if one condescended, one expected
gratitude.  She frowned the least little bit, and caught her lower lip
between her white, even teeth for a moment, before she bent again to her
writing.

Dangeau’s pen moved, but he was ignorant of what characters it traced.
There is in every heart a moment when the still pool becomes a living
fountain, because an angel has descended and the waters are divinely
troubled.  To Jacques Dangeau such a moment came when he felt that Aline
de Rochambeau distrusted him, and by the stabbing pain that knowledge
caused him, knew also that he loved her.  When he heard her speak her
name, those troubled waters leapt towards her, and he constrained his
voice, lest it should call her by the sweet name she herself had just
spoken—lest it should terrify her with the resonance of this new
emotion, or break treacherously and leave her wondering if he were gone
suddenly mad.

He forced his eyes upon the page that he could not see, lest the new
light in them should drive her from her place.  He kept his hand
clenched close above the pen, lest it should catch at her dress—her
hand—the white, fine hand which wrote with such clear grace, such
maidenly quiet, and all the while his heart beat so hard that he could
scarcely believe she did not hear it.

Ten o’clock struck solemnly, and Mademoiselle began to put away her
writing materials in her usual orderly fashion.

"You are going?" he stammered.

"Since it is the hour, Citizen," she answered, in some surprise.

He held the door, and bowed low as she passed him.

"Good-night, Citizen."

"Good-night, Citoyenne."

Mlle de Rochambeau passed lightly out.  He heard her door close, and
shut his own.  He was alone.  A torrent as of emotion sublimed into fire
swept over him, and soul and body flamed to it.  He paced the room
angrily.  Where was his self-control, his patriotism, his determination
to live for one only Mistress, the Republic of his ardent dreams?  A
shocked consciousness that this aristocrat, this child of the enemy, was
more to him than the most ardent of them, assaulted his mind, but he
repulsed it indignantly.  This was a madness, a fever, and it would
pass.  He had led too solitary a life, hence this girl’s power to
disturb him.  Had he mixed more with women he would have been safe,—and
suddenly he recalled Rosalie’s handsome cousin, the Thérèse of his
warning to young Cléry.  She had made unmistakable advances to him more
than once, but he had presented a front of immovable courtesy to her
inviting smiles and glances.  Certainly an affair with her would have
been a liberal education, he reflected half scornfully, half whimsically
disgusted, and no doubt it would have left him less susceptible.  Fool
that he was!

Far into the night he paced his room, and continued the mental struggle.
Love comes hardly to some natures, and those not the least noble.  A man
trained to self-control, master of his own soul and all its passions,
does not without a struggle yield up the innermost fortress of his
being.  He will not abdicate, and love will brook no second place.  The
strong man armed keepeth his house, but when a stronger than he cometh—
All that night Dangeau wrestled with that stronger than he!

It was some days before the evening task was interrupted again.  If
Dangeau could not speak to her without a thousand follies clamouring in
him for utterance, he could at least hold his tongue.  Once or twice the
pen in those resolute fingers flagged, and his eyes rested on his
secretary longer than he knew.  Heavy shadows begirt her.  The low roof
sloped to the gloom of the unlighted angles in the wall.  Outside the
lamp-light’s contracted circle, all seemed strange, unformed, grotesque.
Weird shadows hovered in the dusk background, and curious flickers of
light shot here and there, as the ill-trimmed flame flared up, or
suddenly sank. The yellow light turned Mademoiselle’s hair to burnished
gold, and laid heavy shadows under her dark blue eyes. Its wan glow
stole the natural faint rose from her cheeks and lips, giving her an
unearthly look, and waking in Dangeau a poignant feeling, part spiritual
awe, part tender compassion for her whiteness and her youth, that
sometimes merged into the wholly human longing to touch, hold, and
comfort.

Once she looked up and caught that gaze upon her. Her face whitened a
little more, and she bent rather lower over her writing, but afterwards,
in her own room, she blushed angrily, and wondered at herself, and him.

What a look!  How dared he?  And yet, and yet—there was nothing in it to
scare the most sensitive maidenliness, not a hint of passion or desire.

Out of the far-away memories of her childhood, Aline caught the
reflection of that same look in other eyes—the eyes of her beautiful
mother, haunted as she gazed by the knowledge that the little much-loved
daughter must be left to walk the path of life alone, unguarded by the
tender mother’s love.  Those eyes had closed in death ten years before,
but at the recollection Aline broke into a passionate weeping, which
would not be stilled.  One of her long-drawn sobs reached waking ears
across the way, and Dangeau caught his own breath, and listened.  Yes,
again,—it came again.  Oh God! she was weeping!  The unfamiliar word
came to his lips as it comes to those most unaccustomed in moments of
heart strain.

"O God, she is in trouble, and I cannot help her!" he groaned, and in
that moment he ceased to fight against his love.  To himself he ceased
to matter.  It was of her, of the beloved, of the dear sadness in her
voice, of the sweet loneliness in her eyes that he thought, and
something like a prayer went up that night from the heart of a man who
had pronounced prayer to be a degrading superstition.  Long after Aline
lay sleeping, her wet lashes folded peacefully over dreaming eyes, he
waked, and thought of her with a passion of tenderness.



                              CHAPTER VIII

                         AN OFFER OF FRIENDSHIP


It was some nights later that Mlle de Rochambeau, copying serenely
according to her wont, came across something which made her eyes flash
and her cheeks burn.  So far she had written on without paying much heed
to the matter before her, her pen pursuing a mechanical task, whilst her
thought merely followed its clear, external form, gracing it with fine
script and due punctuation.  At first, too, the strangeness of her
situation had had its share in absorbing her mind, but now she was more
at her ease, and began, as babies do, to take notice.  Custom had set
its tranquillising seal upon her occupation, and perhaps a waking
interest in Dangeau set her wondering about his work.  Certain it is
that, having written as the heading of a chapter "Sins against Liberty,"
she fell to considering the nature of Liberty and wondering what might
be these sins against it, which were treated of, as she began to
perceive, in language theological in its fervour of denunciation.
Dangeau had written the chapter a year ago, in a white heat of fury
against certain facts which had come to his knowledge; and it breathed a
very ardent hatred towards tyrants and their rule, towards a hereditary
aristocracy and its oppression.  Mlle de Rochambeau turned the leaf, and
read—"a race unfit to live, since it produces men without honour and
justice, and women devoid of virtue and pity."  She dropped the sheet as
if it burned, and Dangeau, looking up, found her eyes fixed on him with
an expression of proud resentment, which stung him keenly.

"What is it?" he asked quickly.

She read the words aloud, with a slow scorn, which went home.

"And Monsieur believes that?" she said, with her eyes still on his.

Dangeau was vexed.  He had forgotten the chapter. It must read like an
insult.  So far had love taken him, but he would not deny what he had
written, and after all was it not well she should know the truth, she
who had been snatched like some pure pearl from the rottenness and
corruption of her order?

"It is the truth," he said; "before Heaven it is the truth."

"The truth—this?" she said, smiling.  "Ah no, Monsieur, I think not."

The smile pricked him, and his words broke out hotly.

"You are young, Citoyenne, too young to have known and seen the
shameless wickedness, the crushing tyranny, of this aristocracy of
France.  I tell you the country has bled at every pore that vampires
might suck the blood, and fatten on it, they and their children.  Do you
claim honour for the man who does not shame to dishonour the hearths of
the poor, or pity for the woman who will see children starving at her
gate that she may buy herself another string of diamonds—hard and cold
as her most unpitiful heart?"

"Oh!" said Mademoiselle faintly.

"It is the truth—the truth.  I have seen it—and more, much, much more.
Tales not fit for innocent girls’ ears like yours, and yet innocent
girls have suffered the things I dare not name to you.  This is a race
that must be purged from among us, with sweat of blood, and tears if
needs be, and then—let the land enjoy her increase.  Those who toiled as
brutes, oppressed and ground down below the very cattle they tended,
shall work, each man for his own wife and children, and the prosperity
of the family shall make the prosperity of France."

Mlle de Rochambeau listened impatiently, her finely cut mouth quivering
with anger, and her eyes darkening and deepening from blue to grey.
They were those Irish eyes, of all eyes the most changeable: blue under
a blue sky, grey in anger, and violet when the soul looked out of
them—the beautiful eyes of beautiful Aileen Desmond.  They were very
dark with her daughter’s resentment now.

"Monsieur says I am young," she cried, "but he forgets that I have lived
all my life in the country amongst those who, he says, are so oppressed,
so enslaved.  I have not seen it.  Before my parents died and I went to
the Convent, I used to visit the peasants with my mother.  She was an
angel, and they worshipped her. I have seen women kiss the fold of her
dress as she passed, and the children would flock to her, like chickens
at feeding-time.  Then, my father—he was so good, so just.  In his
youth, I have heard he was the handsomest man at Court; he had the royal
favour, the King wished for his friendship, but he chose rather to live
on his estates, and rule them justly and wisely.  The meanest man in his
Marquisate could come to him with his grievance and be sure it would be
redressed, and the poorest knew that M. le Marquis would be as
scrupulous in defence of his rights as in defence of his own honour. And
there were many, many who did the same.  They lived on their lands, they
feared God, they honoured the King.  They did justly and loved mercy."

Dangeau watched her face as it kindled, and felt the flame in her rouse
all the smouldering fires of his own heart.  The opposition of their
natures struck sparks from both.  But he controlled himself.

"It is the power," he said in a sombre voice; "they had too much
power—might be angel or devil at will. Too many were devil, and brought
hell’s torments with them.  You honour your parents, and it is well, for
if they were as you speak of them, all would honour them. Do you not
think Liberty would have spoken to them too?  But for every seigneur who
dealt equal justice, there were hundreds who crushed the poor because
they were defenceless.  For every woman who fostered the tender lives
around her, there were thousands who saw a baby die of starvation at its
starving mother’s breast with as little concern as if it had been a
she-wolf perishing with her whelps, and less than if it were a case of
one of my lord’s hounds and her litter."

Mademoiselle felt the angry tears come sharply to her eyes.  Why should
this man move her thus?  What, after all, did his opinions matter to
her?  She chid her own imprudence in having lent herself to this
unseemly argument.  She had already trusted him too much.  A little
tremour crept over her heart—she remembered the September madness, the
horror, and the blood,—and the colour ebbed slowly from her cheeks as
she bent forward and took her pen again.

Dangeau saw her whiten, and in an instant his mood changed.  Her hand
shook, and he guessed the cause. He had frightened her; she did not
trust him.  The thought stabbed very deep, but he too fell silent, and
resumed his work, though with a heavy heart.  When she rose to go, he
looked up, hesitated a moment, and then said:

"Citoyenne."

"Yes, Citizen."

"Citoyenne, it would be wiser not to express to others the sentiments
you have avowed to-night.  They are not safe—for Marie Roche."

"No, Citizen."

Mademoiselle’s back was towards him, and he had no means of discovering
how she took his warning.

"That process of purging, of which I spoke, goes forward apace," he
continued slowly; "those who have sinned against the people must expiate
their sins, it may be in blood."

"Yes, Citizen."

Something drove him on—that subtle instinct which drives us all at
times, the desire to probe deeply, to try to the uttermost.

"They and their innocent children, perhaps," he said gloomily, and her
own case was in his mind.  "What do your priests say—is it not ’to the
third and fourth generation’?"

She turned and faced him then, very pale, but quite composed.  There was
no coward blood in her.

"You are trying to tell me that you will denounce me," she said quietly.

The words fell like a thunderbolt.  All the blood in Dangeau’s body
seemed to rush violently to his head, and for a moment he lost himself.
He was by her side, his hands catching at her shoulders, where they lay
heavy, shaking.

"Look me in the face and say that again!" he thundered in the voice his
section knew.

"Ah!" cried Mademoiselle,—"what do you mean, Monsieur?  This is an
outrage, release me!"

His hands fell, but his eyes held hers.  They blazed upon her like
heated steel, and the anger in them burned her.

"Ah! you dare not say it again," he said very low.

"Monsieur, I dare."  Her gaze met his, and a strange excitement
possessed her.  She would have been less than woman had she not felt her
power—more than woman had she not used it.

Dangeau spoke again, his voice muffled with passion. "You dare say I,
Jacques Dangeau, am a spy, an informer, a betrayer of trust?"

Mademoiselle’s composure began to return.  This man shook when he
touched her; she was stronger than he. There was no danger.

"Not quite that, Citizen," she said quietly.  "But I did not know what a
patriot might consider his duty."

He turned away, and bent over his table, arranging a paper here, closing
a drawer there.  After a few moments he came to where she stood, and
looked fixedly at her for a short time.  His former look she had met,
but before this her eyes dropped.

"Citoyenne," he said slowly, "I ask your pardon. I had hoped that—"  He
paused, and began again.  "I am no informer—you may have reliance on my
honour and my friendship.  I warned you because I saw you friendless and
inexperienced.  These are dangerous times—times of change and
development.  I believe with all my heart in the goal towards which we
are striving, but many will fall by the way—some from weakness, some by
the sword.  I was but offering a hand to one whom I saw in danger of
stumbling."

His altered tone and grave manner softened Aline’s mood.  "Indeed,
Citizen," she cried on the impulse, "you have been very kind to me.  I
am not ungrateful—I have too few friends for that."

"Do you count me a friend, Citoyenne?"

Mademoiselle drew back a shade.

"What is a friend—what is friendship?" she said more lightly.

And Dangeau sought for cool and temperate words.

"Friendship is mutual help, mutual good-will—a bond which is rooted in
honour, confidence, and esteem.  A friend is one who will neither be
oppressive in prosperity nor faithless in adversity," he said.

"And are you such a friend, Citizen?"

"If you will accept my friendship, you will learn whether I am such a
friend or not."

The measured words, the carefully controlled voice, emboldened
Mademoiselle.  She threw a searching glance at the dark, downcast
features above her, and her youth went out to his.

"I will try this friendship of yours, Citizen," she said, with a little
smile, and she held out her hand to him.

Dangeau flushed deeply.  His self-control shook, but only for a moment.
Then he raised the slim hand, and, bending to meet it, kissed it as if
it had been the Queen’s, and he a devout Loyalist.

It was Aline’s turn to wake and wonder that night, acting out the little
scene a hundred times.  Why that flame of sudden anger—that tempest
which had so shaken her?  What was this power which drew her on to
experiment, to play, with forces beyond her understanding?  She felt
again the weight of his hands upon her, her flesh tingled, and she
blushed hotly in the darkness.  No one had ever touched her so before.
Wild anger woke in her, and wilder tears came burning to her burning
cheeks.  Truly a girl’s heart is a strange thing.  The shyest maid will
weave dream-tales of passionate love, in which she plays the heroine to
every gallant hero history holds or romance presents.  Their dream
kisses leave her modesty untouched, their fervent speeches bring no
faintest flush to her virgin cheeks. Comes then an actual lover, and all
at once is changed. The garment of her dreams falls from her, and leaves
her naked and ashamed.  A look affronts, a word offends, and a touch
goes near to make her swoon.

Aline lay trembling at her thoughts.  He had touched, had held her.  His
strong hands had bruised the tender flesh.  She had seen a man in
wrath—had known that it was for her to raise or quell the storm.  And
then that kiss—it tingled yet, and she threw out her hand in protest.
All her pride rose armed.  She, a Rochambeau, daughter of as haughty a
house as any France nourished, to lie here dreaming because a bourgeois
had kissed her hand!—this was a scourge to bring blood.  It certainly
brought many tears, and at the last she knelt for a long while praying.
The waters of her soul stilled at the familiar words of peace, and
settled back into a virgin calm.  As yet only the surface had been
ruffled by the first breath which heralded the approaching storm.  It
had rippled under the touch, tossed for an hour, flung up a drop or two
of salt, indignant spray, and sunk again to sleep and silence.  Below,
the deeps lay all untroubled, but in them strange things were moving.
For when she slept she dreamed a strange dream, and disquieting.  She
thought she was at Rochambeau once more, and she wondered why her heart
did not leap for joy, instead of being heavy and troubled, beyond
anything she could remember.

The sun was sinking, and all the fields lay golden in the glory, but she
was too weary to heed.  Her feet were bare and bleeding, her garments
torn and scanty, and on her breast lay a little moaning babe.  It
stretched slow, groping hands to her and wailed for food, and her heart
grew heavier and darker with every step she took. Suddenly Dangeau stood
by her side.  He was angry, his voice thundered, his look was flame, and
in loud, terrible tones he cried, "You have starved my child, and it is
dead!"  Then she thought he took the baby from her arms, and an angel
with a flaming sword flew out of the sun, and drew her
down—down—down....

She woke terrified, bathed in tears.  What a dream! "Holy Mary, Mother
and Virgin, shield me!" she prayed, as she crouched breathless in the
gloom.  "The powers of darkness—the powers of evil!  Let dreams be far
and phantoms of the night—bind thou the foe. His look, his fearful look,
and his deep threatening voice like the trump of the Angel of Judgment!
Mary, Virgin, save!"

Thoughts wild and incoherent; prayers softening to a sob, sobs melting
again into a prayer!  Loneliness and the midnight had their way with
her, and it was not until the tranquillising moon shot a silver ray into
the small dark room that the haunting agony was calmed, and she sank
into a dreamless sleep.



                               CHAPTER IX

                       THE OLD IDEAL AND THE NEW


It was really only on four evenings of the week that Dangeau was able to
avail himself of Mlle de Rochambeau’s services.

On Sundays she took a holiday both from embroidery and copying, and on
Mondays and Thursdays he spent the evening at the Cordeliers’ Club.

It was on a Saturday that Dangeau had stormed, proffered friendship, and
kissed Mademoiselle’s hand, so that during the two days that followed
both had time to calm down, to experience a slight revulsion of feeling,
and finally to feel some embarrassment at the thought of their next
meeting.

On Tuesday Dangeau was in his room all the afternoon. He had some
important papers to read through, and when he had finished them, felt
restless, yet disinclined to go out again.

It was still light, but the winter dark would fall in half an hour, and
the evening promised to be wet and stormy.  A gust of wind beat upon the
window now and again, leaving it sprayed with moisture.  Dangeau stood
awhile looking out, his mood grey as the weather. Some one not far off
was singing, and he opened his window, and leaned idly out to see if the
singer were visible.  The sound at once grew faint, almost to
extinction, and latching the casement he fell to pacing his room.  By
the door he paused, for the sound was surely clearer.  He turned the
handle and stood listening, for Mademoiselle’s door was ajar, and from
within her voice came sweetly and low.  He had an instant vision of how
she would look, sitting close to the dull window, grey twilight on the
shining head bent over the fine white work as she sang to keep the
silence and the loneliness from her heart.  The song was one of those
soft interminable cradle songs which mothers sing in every country
place, rocking the full cradle with patient rhythmic foot, the while
they spin or knit, and every word came clear to a lilting air:

    "She sat beneath the wayside tree,
    Et lon, lon, lon, et la, la, la—
    She heard the birds sing wide and free,
      Hail Mary, full of grace!

    "She had no shelter for her head,
    Et lon, lon, lon, et la, la, la,
    Except the leaves that God had spread—
      Hail Mary, full of grace!

    "Down flew the Angel Gabriel,
    Et lon, lon, lon, et la, la, la,
    He said, ’Maid Mary, greet thee well!’
      Hail Mary, full of grace!"

The song was interrupted for a moment, but he heard her hum the tune.
To the lonely man came a swift, holy thought of what it would be to see
her rock a child to that soft air in a happy twilight, no longer
solitary. He heard her move her chair and sigh a little as she sat down
again.  The daylight died as if with gasps for breath palpably
withdrawn:

    "She laid her Son in the oxen’s stall,
    Et lon, lon, lon, et la, la, la—
    Herself she did not rest at all,
      Hail Mary, full of grace!"

Another pause, another sigh, and then the sound of steps moving about
the room.  Then the door was shut, and with a little smile half tender,
half impatient, Dangeau turned to his work again.

When the evening was come, and Mademoiselle was in her place, he asked
her suddenly:

"What do you do with yourself on Sunday?"

"I take a holiday, Citizen," she answered demurely, and without looking
up.

"But what do you do with your holiday, Citoyenne," said Dangeau,
persistent.

Mademoiselle smiled a little and blushed a little, smile and blush alike
reproving his curiosity, but after a slight hesitation she said:

"I go to one of the great churches."

"And when you are there?"

"Is it the Catechism?" ventured Mademoiselle, and then went on hastily,
"I say my prayers, Citizen."

"And could you not say them at home?"

"Why, yes, and I do, Citizen, but I go to hear the Mass; and then the
church is so solemn, and big, and beautiful.  Others are praying round
me, and I feel my prayers are heard."

Dangeau frowned and then broke out impatiently:

"That idea of prayer—it is so selfish—each one asking, asking, asking.
I do not find that ennobling!"

"Is it so selfish to ask for patience and courage, then, Citizen?"

"And is that what you pray for?" he asked, arrested by something in her
tone.

Aline’s colour rose high under his softened look, and she inclined her
head without speaking.

"That might pass," said Dangeau reflectively.  "I do not believe in
priests, or an organised religion, but I have my own creed.  I believe
in one Supreme Being from whom flows that tide which we call Life when
it rises in us, and Death when it ebbs again to Him.  If the creature
could, by straining towards the Creator, draw the life-tide more
strongly into his own soul, that would be worthy prayer; but to most
men, what is religion?—a mere ignoble system of reward or punishment,
fit perhaps for children, or slaves, but no free man’s creed."

"What would you give them instead, Citizen?" asked Mademoiselle
seriously.

"Reason," cried Dangeau; "pure reason.  Teach man to reason, and you
lift him above such degrading considerations.  Even the child should not
be punished, it should be reasoned with; but there—"  He paused, for
Mademoiselle was laughing a soft, irrepressible laugh, that filled the
small, low room.

"Oh, Citizen, forgive me," she cried; "but you reminded me of something
that happened when I was a child.  I do not quite know whether the story
fits your theory or mine, but I will tell it you, if you like."

"If it fits my theory, I shall annex it unscrupulously, of that I give
you fair warning," said Dangeau, laughing. "But tell it to me first, and
we will dispute about it afterwards."

Aline leaned back in her upright chair, and a little remembering smile
came into her eyes.

"Well, Citizen, you must know that I was only nine years old when I went
to the Convent, and I was a spoilt child, and gave the good nuns a great
deal of trouble, I am afraid.

"The sister in charge of us was Sister Marie Josèphe, and we were very
fond of her; but when we were naughty, out came a birch rod, and we were
soundly punished.

"Now Sister Marie Josèphe was not strong; she suffered much from pain in
her head, and sometimes it was so bad that she was obliged to be alone,
and in the dark.  When this happened, Sister Géneviève took her place,
and Sister Géneviève was like you, Citizen; she believed in the efficacy
of pure reason!  If under her regime there was a crime to be punished,
then there was no birch rod forthcoming, but instead, a very long,
dreary sermon—an hour by the clock, at least—and at the end a very limp,
discouraged sinner, usually in tears. But, Citizen, it was ennuyant,
most terrible ennuyant, and much, much worse than being whipped; for
that only lasted a minute, and then there were tears, kisses, promises
of amendment, and a grand reconciliation. Well, I must tell you that I
had a great desire to see the moon rise over the hill behind us.  Our
windows looked the other way, and as it was winter time we were all
locked in very early.  Adèle de Matignon dared me to get out.  I
declared I would, and I watched my time.  I am sure Sister Marie Josèphe
must have been very much surprised by my frequent and tender inquiries
after her health at that time.

"’Always a little suffering, my child,’ she would say, and then I would
whisper to Adèle, ’We must wait.’

"At last, however, a day came when the good sister answered, ’Ah, it
goes better, thanks to the Virgin,’ and I told Adèle that it would be
for that evening.  Well, I got out.  I climbed through a window, and
down a pear tree.  I scratched my hands, and fell into some bushes, and
after all there was no moon!  The night was cloudy and presently it
began to rain.  I assure you, Citizen, I was very well punished before I
came up for judgment. Of course I was discovered, and, to my horror,
found myself in the hands of Sister Géneviève.  ’But where is Sister
Marie Josèphe?’ I sobbed.  ’Ah, my child!’ said Sister Géneviève mildly,
’this wickedness of yours has brought on one of her worst attacks, and
she is suffering too much to come to you.’  I cried dreadfully, for I
was very much discouraged, and felt that one of Sister Géneviève’s
sermons would remove my last hope in this world.  She did not know what
to make of me, I am sure, but I had to listen to more pure reason than I
had ever done before, and I assure you, Citizen, that it gave me a
headache almost as bad as poor Sister Marie Josèphe’s."

Mademoiselle laughed again as she finished her tale, and looked at
Dangeau with arch, malicious eyes.  He joined her laughter, but would
have the last word; for,

"See, Citoyenne," he said, "see how your tale supports my theory, and
how fine a deterrent was the pure reason of Sister Géneviève as compared
with the birch rod of Sister Marie Josèphe!"

"But if it is a punishment, then your theory falls to the ground, since
you were to do away with all reward and punishment!" objected Aline.

Dangeau’s eyes twinkled.

"You are too quick," he said in mock surrender.

Mademoiselle took up her pen.

"I am very slow over my work," she answered, smiling.  "See how I waste
my time!  You should scold me, Citizen."

They wrote for awhile, but Dangeau’s pen halted, the merriment died out
of his face, leaving it stern and gloomy.  These were no times to foster
even an innocent gaiety.  Abruptly he began to speak again.

"You see only flowers and innocence upon your altars, but I have seen
them served by cruelty, blood, and lust."

Aline looked up, startled.

"I could not tell you the tales I know—they are not fit."  His brow
clouded.  "My mother was a good woman, good and religious.  I have still
a reverence for what she reverenced; I can still worship the spirit of
her worship, though I have travelled far enough since she taught me at
her knee.  I have seen too many crimes committed in the name of
Religion," and he broke off, leaning his head upon his hand.

Mlle de Rochambeau’s eyes flashed.

"And in the name of Liberty, none?" she asked with a sudden ring in her
voice.

A vision of blood and horror swept between them. Dangeau saw in memory
the gutters of Paris awash with the crimson of massacre.  Dead, violet
eyes in a severed head pike-lifted stared at him from the gloom, and
under his gaze he thought they changed, turned greyer, darker, and took
the form and hue of those which Aline raised to his.  He shuddered
violently, and answered in a voice scarcely audible:

"Yes, there have been crimes."

Then he looked up again, snatching his thoughts back to control.

"Liberty is only a name, as yet," he said; "we have taken away the
visible chain which manacled the body, but an invisible one lies deep,
and corroded, fettering the heart and will, and as it rusts into decay
it breeds a deadly poison there.  The work of healing cannot be done in
a day.  There can be no true liberty until our children are cradled in
it, educated in it, taught to hold it as the air, without which they
cannot breathe.  That time is to come, but first there will be much
bitterness, much suffering, much that is to be deplored.  You may well
pray for strength and patience," he continued, after a momentary pause,
"for we shall all need them in the times that are coming."

Slowly, but surely, the spirit of the two great Republican Clubs was
turning to violence and lust of power. Hébert, Marat, and Fouquier
Tinville were rising into prominence—fatal, evil stars, driven on an
orbit of mad passion.

Robespierre’s name still stood for moderation, but there was, at times,
an expression on his livid face, a spark in his haggard eyes, which left
a more ominous impression than Marat’s flood of vituperation or
Tinville’s calculating cruelty.

Dangeau’s heart was very heavy.  The splendid dawn was here—the dawn
longed for, looked for, hoped for through so many hours of blackest
night—and behold, it came up redly threatening, precursor, not of the
full, still day of peace, but of some Armageddon of wrath and fury.  The
day of peace would come, must come, but who could say that he would live
to see it?  There were times when it seemed unutterably far away.

A dark mood was upon him.  He could not write, but stared gloomily
before him.  That anxiety, that quickened sense of all life’s sadness
and dangers which comes over us at times when we love, possessed him
now.  How long would this young life, which meant he was afraid to gauge
how much to him, be safe in the midst of this fermenting city?  Her
innocence stabbed his soul, her delicate pride caught at his
heart-strings.  How long could the one endure?  How soon might not the
other be dragged in the dust?  Rosalie he knew only too well.  She would
not betray the girl, but neither would she go out of her own safe way to
protect her; and she was venal, narrow, and hard.

He did not kiss Mademoiselle’s hand to-night, but he took it for a
moment as she passed, and stood looking down at it as he said:

"If God is, He will bless you."

Mademoiselle’s heart beat violently.

"And you too, Citizen," she murmured, with an involuntary catch of the
breath.

"Do you pray for me?" he asked, filled with a new emotion.

"Yes, Citizen," she said, in a very low voice.

Dangeau was about to speak again—to say he knew not what—but with her
last words she drew her hand gently away, and was gone.  He stood where
she had left him, breathing deeply.  Suddenly the gloom that lay upon
him became shot with light, and hope rose trembling in his heart.  He
felt himself strong—a giant.  What harm could touch her under the shield
of his love?  Who would dare threaten what he would cherish to the
death?  In this new exultation he flung the window wide, and leaned out.
A little snow had fallen, and the heaviness of the air was relieved.
Now it came crisp and vigorous against his cheek.  Far above, the clouds
made a wide ring about the moon.  Serenely tranquil she floated in the
space of clear, dark sky, and all the night was irradiated as if by
thoughts of peace.



                               CHAPTER X

                           THE FATE OF A KING


December was a month of turmoil and raging dissensions.  Faction fought
faction, party abused party, and all was confusion and clamour.  In the
great Hall of the Convention, speaker succeeded speaker, Deputy after
Deputy rose, and thundered, rose, and declaimed, rose, and vituperated.
Nothing was done, and in every department of the State there reigned a
chaos indescribable.  "Moderation and delay," clamoured the Girondins,
smooth, narrow Roland at their head, mouthpiece, as rumour had it, of
that beautiful philosopher, his wife.  "To work and have done with it,"
shouted the men of the Mountain, driving their words home with sharp
accusations of lack of patriotism and a desire to favour Monarchy.

On the 11th of the month, the Hall had echoed to the Nation’s indictment
of Louis Capet, sometime King of France.

On the 26th, Louis, still King in his own eyes, made answer to the
Nation’s accusation by the mouth of his advocate, the young Désèze.

For three hours that brave man spoke, manfully striving against the
inevitable, and, having finished a most eloquent speech, threw his whole
energies into obtaining what was the best hope of the King’s
friends—delay, delay, delay, and yet again delay.

The matter dragged on and on.  Every mouthing Deputy had his
epoch-making remarks to make, and would make them, though distracted
Departments waited until the Citizen Deputies should have finished
judging their King, and have time to spare for the business of doing the
work they had taken out of his hands; whilst outside, a carefully
stage-managed crowd howled all day for bread, and for the Traitor Veto’s
head, which they somehow imagined, or were led to imagine, would do as
well.

The Mountain languished a little without its leader, who was absent on a
mission to the Low Countries, and, Danton’s tremendous personality
removed, it tended to froth of accusation and counter-accusation, by
which matters were not at all advanced.  At the head of his Jacobins sat
Robespierre, as yet coldly inscrutable, but amongst the Cordeliers there
was none to replace Danton.

In the early days of January, the Netherlands gave him back again, and
the Mountain met in conclave—its two parties blended by the only man who
could so blend them.  The long Committee-room was dark, and though it
was not late, the lamps had been lighted for some time.  Under one of
them a man sat writing.  His straight, unnaturally sleek hair was
brushed carefully back from a forehead of spectral pallor.  His narrow
lips pressed each other closely, and he wrote with an absorbed
concentration which was somehow not agreeable to witness.

Every now and then he glanced up, and there was a hinted gleam of red—a
mere spark not yet fanned into flame—behind the shallows of his eyes.
The lamp-light showed every detail of his almost foppish dress, which
was in marked contrast to his unpleasing features, and to the custom of
his company; for those were days when careful attire was the
aristocrat’s prerogative, and clean linen rendered a patriot gravely
suspect.

By the fire two men were talking in low voices—Hébert, sensual, swollen
of body, flat and pale of face; and Marat, a misshapen, stunted creature
with short, black, curling hair, pinched mouth, and dark, malignant
gaze.

"We get no further," complained Hébert, in a dull, oily voice, devoid of
ring.

Marat shrugged his crooked shoulders.

"We are so ideal, so virtuous," he remarked viciously. "We were so
shocked in September, my friend; you should remember that.  Blood was
shed—actually people were killed—fie then! it turns our weak stomachs.
We look askance at our hands, and call for rose-water to wash them in."

"Very pretty," drawled Hébert, pushing the fire with his foot.  "There
are fools in the world, and some here, no doubt; but after all, we all
want the same thing in the end, though some make a boggle at the price.
I want power, you want power, Danton wants it, Camille wants it, and so
does even your piece of Incorruptibility yonder, if he would come out of
his infernal pose and acknowledge it."

Robespierre looked up, and down again.  No one could have said he heard.
It was in fact not possible, but Hébert grew a faint shade yellower, and
Marat’s eyes glittered maliciously.

"Ah," he said, "that’s just it—just the trouble. We all want the same
thing, and we are all afraid to move, for fear of giving it to some one
else.  So we all sit twiddling our thumbs, and the Gironde calls the
tune."

Hébert swore, and spat into the fire.

"Now Danton is back, he will not twiddle his thumbs for long," he said;
"that is not at all his idea of amusing himself.  He is turning things
over—chewing the cud.  Presently, you will see, the bull will bellow,
and the whole herd will trot after him."

"Which way?" asked Marat sarcastically.

"H’m—that is just what I should like to know."

"And our Maximilian?"

"What does he mean?  What does he want?" Hébert broke out uneasily,
low-voiced.  "He is all for mildness and temperance, justice and
sobriety; but under it—under it, Marat?"

Marat’s pointed brows rose abruptly.

"The devil knows," said he, "but I don’t believe Maximilian does."

Robespierre looked up again with calm, dispassionate gaze.  His eye
dwelt on the two for a moment, and dropped to the page before him.  He
wrote the words, "Above all things the State"—and deep within him the
imperishable ego cried prophetic, "L’État, c’est moi!"

The room began to fill.  Men came in, cursing the cold, shaking snow
from their coats, stamping icy fragments from their frozen feet.  The
fire was popular. Hébert and Marat were crowded from the place they had
occupied, and a buzz of voices rose from every quarter.  Here and there
a group declaimed or argued, but for the most part men stood in twos and
threes discussing the situation in confidential tones.

If intellect was less conspicuous than in the ranks of the Gironde, it
was by no means absent, and many faces there bore its stamp, and that of
ardent sincerity.  For the most part they were young, these men whose
meeting was to make History, and they carried into politics the excesses
and the violence of youth.

Here leaned Hérault de Séchelles, one of the handsomest men in France;
there, declaiming eagerly, to as eager a circle of listeners, was St.
Just with that curious pallor which made his face seem a mere
translucent mask behind which there burned a seven-times-heated flame.

"I say that Louis can claim no rights as a citizen. We are fighting, not
trying him.  The law’s delays are fatal here.  One day posterity will be
amazed that we have advanced so little since Cæsar’s day.  What—patriots
were found then to immolate the tyrant in open Senate, and to-day we
fear to lift our hands! There is no citizen to-day who has not the right
that Brutus had, and like Brutus he might claim to be his country’s
saviour!  Louis has fought against the people, and is now no longer a
Frenchman, but a stranger, a traitor, and a criminal!  Strike, then,
that the tocsin of liberty may sound the birth hour of the Nation and
the death hour of the Tyrant!"

"It is all delay, delay," said Hérault gloomily to young Cléry.  "Désèze
works hard.  Time is what he wants—and for what?  To hatch new treasons;
to get behind us, and stab in the dark; to allow Austria to advance, and
Spain and England to threaten us!  No, they have had time enough for
these things.  It is the reckoning day.  Thirty-eight years has Louis
lived and now he must give an account of them."

"My faith," growled Jean Bon, shaking his shaggy head, to which the
winter moisture clung, "My faith, there are citizens in this room who
will take matters into their own hands if the Convention does not come
to the point very shortly."

"The Convention deliberates," said Hérault gloomily, and Jean Bon
interrupted him with a brutal laugh—

"Thunder of Heaven, yes; talk, talk, talk, and nothing done.  We want a
clear policy.  We want Danton to declare himself, and Robespierre to
stop playing the humanitarian, and say what he means.  There has been
enough of turning phrases and lawyers’ tricks.  Louis alive is Louis
dangerous, and Louis dead is Louis dust; that’s the plain truth of it."

"He is of more use to us alive than dead, I should say," cried Edmund
Cléry impetuously.  "Are we in so strong a position as to be able with
impunity to destroy our hostages?"

Hébert, who had joined the group, turned a cold, remembering eye upon
him.

"Austria does not care for Capet," he said scornfully; "Antoinette and
the boy are all the hostages we require. Austria does not even care
about them very much; but such as they are they will serve.  Capet must
die," and he sprang on a bench and raised his voice:

"Capet must die!—I demand his blood as the seal of Republican liberty.
If he lives, there will be endless plots and intrigues.  I tell you it
is his life now, or ours before long.  The people is a hard master to
serve, my friends.  To-day they want a Republic, but to-morrow they may
take a fancy to their old plaything again. ’Limited Monarchy!’ cries
some fool, and forthwith on goes Capet’s crown, and off go our heads!  A
smiling prospect, hein, mes amis?"

There was a murmur, part protest, part encouragement.

Hébert went on:

"Some one says deport him; he can do no more harm than the Princes are
doing already.  Do you perhaps imagine that a man fights as well for his
brother’s crown as for his own?  The Princes are half-hearted—they are
in no danger, the crown is none of theirs, their wives and children are
at liberty; but put Capet in their place, and he has everything to gain
by effort and all to lose by quiescence.  I say that the man who says
’Send Capet out of France’ is a traitor to the Republic, and a
Monarchist at heart!  Another citizen says, ’Imprison him, keep him shut
up out of harm’s way.’  Out of harm’s way—that sounds well enough, but
for my part I have no fancy for living over a powder magazine. They plot
and conspire, these aristocrats.  They do it foolishly enough, I grant
you, and we find them out, and clap them in prison.  Now and then there
is a little blood-letting.  Not enough for me, but a little.  Then what?
More of the breed at the same game, and encore, and encore.  Some day,
my friends, we shall wake up and find that one of the plots has
succeeded.  Pretty fools we should look if one fine morning they were
all flown, our hostages—Capet, the Austrian, the proud jade Elizabeth,
and the promising youth.  Shall I tell you what would be the next thing?
Why, our immaculate generals would feel it their duty to conclude a
peace with profits. There would be an embracing, a fraternising, a
reconciliation on our frontiers, and hand in hand would come Austria and
our army, conducting Capet to his faithful town of Paris.  It is only
Citizen Robespierre who is incorruptible—meaner mortals do not pretend
to it.  In our generals’ place, I myself, I do not say that I should not
do the same, for I should certainly conclude that I was being governed
by a parcel of fools, and that I should do well to prove my own sanity
by saving my head."

Danton had entered as Hébert sprang up.  His loose shirt displayed the
powerful bull-neck; his broad, rugged forehead and deep-set passionate
eyes bespoke the rough power and magnetism of his personality.  He came
in quietly, nodding to a friend here and there, his arm through that of
Camille Desmoulins, who, with dark hair tossed loosely from his
beautiful brow, and strange eyes glittering with a visionary light, made
an arresting figure even under Danton’s shadow.

In happier days the one might have been prophet, ruler, or statesman;
the other poet, priest, or dreamer of ardent dreams; but in the storm of
the Red Terror they rose, they passed, they fell; for even Danton’s
thunder failed him in the face of a tempest elemental as the crash of
worlds evolving from chaos.

He listened now, but did not speak, and Camille, at his side, flung out
an eager arm.

"The man must die!" he shouted in a clear, ringing voice.  "The people
call for his blood, France calls for his blood, the Convention calls for
his blood.  I demand it in the sacred name of Liberty.  Let the scaffold
of a King become the throne of an enduring Republic!"

Robespierre looked up with an expression of calm curiosity.  These wild
enthusiasms, this hot-blooded ardour, how strange, how inexplicable, and
yet at times how useful.  He leaned across the table and began to speak
in a thin, colourless voice that somehow made itself heard, and enforced
attention.

"Capet has had a fair trial at the hands of a righteous and
representative Assembly.  If the Convention is satisfied that he is
innocent, maligned perhaps by men of interested motives"—there was a
slight murmur of dissent—"or influenced to unworthy deeds by those
around him, or merely ignorant—strangely, stupidly ignorant—the
Convention will judge him.  But if he has sinned against the Nation, if
he has oppressed the people, if he has given them stone for bread, and
starvation for prosperity—if he has conspired with Austria against the
integrity of France in order to bolster up a tottering tyranny, why,
then"—he paused whilst a voice cried, "Shall the people oppressed
through the ages not take their revenge of a day?" and an excited chorus
of oaths and execrations followed the words—"why, then," said the thin
voice coldly, "still I say, the Convention will judge him."

Maximilian Robespierre took up his pen and wrote on. Something in his
words had fanned the scattered embers into flame, and strife ran high.
Jules Dupuis, foul-mouthed and blasphemous, screamed out an edged
tirade. Jean Bon boomed some commonplace of corroboration. Marat spat
forth a venomous word or two.  Robespierre folded the paper on which he
wrote, and passed the note to Danton at his elbow.  The great head bent,
the deep eyes read, and lifting, fixed themselves on Robespierre’s pale
face.  It was a face as strange as pale.  Below the receding brow the
green, unwinking eyes held steady. The red spark trembled in them and
smouldered to a blaze.

Danton looked strangely at him for a moment, and then, throwing back his
great shoulders and raising his right hand high above the crowd, he
thundered:

"Citizens, Capet must die!"

A roar of applause shook the room, and drowned the reverberations of
that mighty voice—Danton’s voice, which shook not only the Mountain on
which he stood, and from which he fell, but France beyond and Europe
across her frontiers.  It echoes still, and comes to us across the years
with all the man’s audacious force, his pride of patriotism, and
overwhelming energy! raised it now, and beckoning for silence——

"We are all agreed," he cried, "Louis is guilty, and Louis must die.  If
he lives, there is not a life safe in all France.  The man is an open
sore on the flesh of the Constitution, and it must be cut away, lest
gangrene seize the whole.  Above all there must be no delay.  Delay
means disintegration; delay means a people without bread, and a country
without government.  Neither can wait.  Away with Louis, and our hands
are free to do all that waits to be done."

"The frontiers—Europe—are we strong enough?" shouted a voice from the
back.

Danton’s eyes blazed.

"Let Europe look to herself.  Let Spain, Austria, and England look to
themselves.  The rot of centuries is ripe at last.  Other thrones may
totter, and other tyrants fall. Let them threaten—let them threaten, but
we will dash a gage of battle at their feet—the bloody head of the
King!"

At that the clamour swallowed everything.  Men cheered and embraced.
There was shouting and high applause.

Danton turned from the riot and fell into earnest talk with Robespierre.
In Hébert’s ear Marat whispered:

"As you said.  The bull has roared, and we all follow."

"All?" asked Hébert significantly.

"Some people have an inexplicable taste for being in the minority," said
Marat, shrugging.

"As, for instance?"

"Our young friend Dangeau."

"Ah, that Dangeau," cursed Hébert, "I have a grudge against him."

"Very ungrateful of you, then," said Marat briskly; "he saved Capet and
his family at a time when it suited none of us that they should die.  We
want a spectacle—something imposing, public, solemn; something of a
fête, not just a roaring crowd, a pike-thrust or two, and pff! it is all
over."

"It is true."

"See you, Hébert, when we have closed the churches, and swept away the
whole machinery of superstition, what are we going to give the people
instead of them? I say La République must have her fêtes, her holidays,
her processions, and her altars, with St. Guillotine as patron saint,
and the good Citizen Sanson as officiating priest.  We want Capet’s
blood, but can we stop there? No, a thousand times!  Paris will be
drunk, and then, in a trice, Paris will be thirsty again.  And the
oftener Paris is drunk, the thirstier she will be, until——"

"Well, my friend?"  Hébert was a little pale; had he any premonition of
the day when he too should kneel at that Republican altar?

Marat’s face was convulsed for a moment.

"I don’t know," he said, in sombre tones.

"But Dangeau," said Hébert after a pause, "the fellow sticks in my
gorge.  He is one of your moral idealists, who want to cross the river
without wetting their feet.  He has not common-sense."

"Danton is his friend," said Marat with intention.

"And it’s ’ware bull.’"

"I know that.  See now if Danton does not pack him off out of Paris
somewhere until this business is settled."

"He might give trouble—yes, he might give trouble," said Marat slowly.

"He is altogether too popular," grunted Hébert.

Marat shrugged his shoulders.

"Oh, popularity," he said, "it’s here to-day and gone to-morrow; and
when to-morrow comes——"

"Well?"

"Our young friend will have to choose between his precious scruples and
his head!"

Marat strolled off, and Jules Dupuis took his place.  He came up in his
short puce coat, guffawing, and purple-faced, his loose skin all creased
with amusement.

"Hé, Hébert," he chuckled, "here ’s something for the Père Duchesne,"
and plunged forthwith into a scurrilous story.  As he did so, the door
opened and Dangeau came in.  He looked pale and very tired, and was
evidently cold, for he made his way to the fireplace, and stood leaning
against it looking into the flame, without appearing to notice what was
passing.  Presently, however, he raised his head, recognising the two
men beside him with a curt nod.

Hébert appeared to be well amused by Dupuis’ tale.  Its putrescent
scintillations stimulated his jaded fancy, and its repulsive dénouement
evoked his oily laugh.

Dangeau, after listening for a moment or two, moved farther off, a
slight expression of disgust upon his face.

Hébert’s light eyes followed him.

"The Citizen does not like your taste in wit, my friend," he observed in
a voice carefully pitched to reach Dangeau’s ear.

Dupuis laughed grossly.

"More fool he, then," he chuckled.

"You and I, mon cher, are too coarse for him," continued Hébert in the
same tone.  "The Citizen is modest.  Tiens!  How beautiful a virtue is
modesty! And then, you see, the Citizen’s sympathies are with these
sacrés aristocrats."

Dangeau looked up with a glance like the flash of steel.

"You said, Citizen—?" he asked smoothly.

Hébert shrugged his loosely-hung shoulders.

"If I said the Citizen Deputy had a tender heart, should I be incorrect?
Or, perhaps, a weak stomach would be nearer to the truth.  Blood is such
a distressing sight, is it not?"

Dangeau looked at him steadily.

"A patriot should hold his own life as lightly as he should hold that of
every other citizen sacred until the State has condemned it," he said
with a certain quiet disgust; "but if the Citizen says that I sympathise
with what has been condemned by the State, the Citizen lies!"

Hébert’s eyes shifted from the blue danger gleam. Bully and coward, he
had the weakness of all his type when faced.  He preferred the
unresisting victim and could not afford an open quarrel with Dangeau.
Danton was in the room, and he did not wish to offend Danton yet.  He
moved away with a sneer and a mocking whisper in the ear of Jules
Dupuis.

Dangeau stood warming himself.  His back was straighter, his eye less
tired.  The little interchange of hostilities had roused the fire in his
veins again, and for the moment the cloud of misgiving which had
shadowed him for the last few days was lifted.  When Danton came across
and clapped him on the shoulder, he looked up with the smile to which he
owed more than one of his friends, since to a certain noble gravity of
aspect it lent a very human, almost boyish, warmth and glow.

"Back again, and busy again?" he said, turning.

"Busier than ever," said Danton, with a frown.  He raised his shoulders
as if he felt a weight upon them. "Once this business of Capet’s is
arranged, we can work; at present it’s just chaos all round."

Dangeau leaned closer and spoke low.

"I was detained—have only just come.  Has anything been done—decided?"

"We are unanimous, I think.  I spoke, they all agreed.  Robespierre is
with us, and his party is well in hand.  Death is the only thing, and
the sooner the better."

Dangeau did not speak, and Danton’s eye rested on him with a certain
impatience.

"Sentiment will serve neither France nor us at this juncture," he said
on a deep note, rough with irritation. "He has conspired with Austria,
and would bring in foreign troops upon us without a single scruple.
What is one man’s life?  He must die."

Dangeau looked down.

"Yes, he must die," he said in a low, grave voice, and there was a
momentary silence.  He stared into the fire, and saw the falling embers
totter like a mimic throne, and fall into the sea of flame below.  A
cloud of sparks flew up, and were lost in blackness.

"Life is like that," he said, half to himself.

Danton walked away, his big head bent, the veins of his throat swollen.



                               CHAPTER XI

                          THE IRREVOCABLE VOTE


Danton returned was Danton in action.  Force possessed the party once
more and drove it resistless to its goal.  Permanent Session was moved,
and carried—permanent Session of the National Convention—until its near
five hundred members had voted one by one on the three all-important
questions: Louis Capet, is he guilty, or not guilty?  Shall the
Convention judge him, or shall there be a further delay, an appeal to
the people of France?  If the Convention judges, what is its
judgment—imprisonment, banishment, or death?

Forthwith began the days of the Three Votings, stirring and dramatic
days seen through the mist of years and the dust-clouds raised by
groping historians. What must they have been to live through?

It was Wednesday evening, January 16, and lamps were lit in the Hall of
the Convention, but their glow shone chiefly on the tribune, and beyond
there crowded the shadows, densely mysterious.  Vergniaud, the
President, wore a haggard face—his eyes were hot and weary, for he was
of the Gironde, and the Gironde began to know that the day was lost.  He
called the names sonorously, with a voice that had found its pitch and
kept it in spite of fatigue; and as he called, the long procession of
members rose, passed for an instant to the lighted tribune, and voted
audibly in the hearing of the whole Convention.  Each man voted, and
passed again into the shadow.  So we see them—between the dark past and
the dark future—caught for an instant by that one flash which brands
them on history’s film for ever.

Loud Jacobin voices boomed "Death," and ranted of treason; epigrams were
made to the applause of the packed galleries.  For the people of Paris
had crowded in, and every available inch of room was packed.  Here were
the _tricoteuses_—those knitting women of the Revolution, whose steel
needles were to flash before the eyes of so many of the guillotine’s
waiting victims, before the eyes indeed of many and many an honourable
Deputy voting here to-night.  Here were swart men of St. Antoine’s
quarter—brewers, bakers, oilmen, butchers, all the trades—whispering,
listening, leaning over the rail, now applauding to the echo, now
hissing indignantly, as the vote pleased or displeased them.  Death
demanded with a spice of wit pleased the most—a voice faltering on a
timorous recommendation to mercy evoked the loudest jeers.

Dangeau sat in his place and heard the long, reverberating roll of
names, until his own struck strangely on his ear.  He rose and mounted
into the smoky, yellow glare of the lamps that swung above the tribune.
Vergniaud faced him, dignified and calm.

"Your vote, Citizen?" and Dangeau, in clear, grave reply:

"Death, Citizen President."

Here there was nothing to tickle the waiting ears above, and he passed
down the steps again in silence, whilst another succeeded him, and to
that other another yet.  All that long night, and all the next long day,
the voices never ceased.  Now they rang loud and full, now low and
hesitating; and after each vote came the people’s comment of applause,
dissent, or silence.

Dangeau passed into one of the lower galleries reserved for members and
their friends.  His limbs were cramped with the long session, and his
throat was parched and dry; coffee was to be had, he knew, and he was in
quest of it.  As he got clear of the thronged entrance, a strange sight
met his eye, for the gallery resembled a box at the opera, infinitely
extended.

Bare-necked women flashed their diamonds and their wit, chattering,
laughing, and exchanging sallies with their friends.

Refreshments were being passed round, and Deputies who were at leisure
bowed, and smiled, and did the honours, as if it were a place of
amusement, and not a hall of judgment.

A bold, brown-faced woman, with magnificent black eyes, her full figure
much accentuated by a flaring tricolour sash, swept to the front of the
gallery, and looked down.  In her wake came a sleepy, white-fleshed
blonde, mincing as she walked.  She too wore the tricolour, and
Dangeau’s lips curled at the desecration.

"Philippe is voting," cried the brown woman loudly. "See, Jeanne, there
he comes!"

Dangeau looked down, and saw Philippe Égalité, sometime Philippe
d’Orleans, prince of the blood and cousin of the King, pass up the
tribune steps.  Under the lamps his face showed red and blotched, his
eyes unsteady; but he walked jauntily, twisting a seal at his fob.  His
attire bespoke the dandy, his manner the poseur.  Opposite to Vergniaud
he bowed with elegance, and cried in a voice of loud effrontery, "I vote
for Death."

Through the Assembly ran a shudder of recoil. Natural feeling was not
yet brayed to dust in the mortar of the Revolution, and it thrilled and
quickened to the spectacle of kinsman rising against kinsman, and the
old blood royal of France turning from its ruined head publicly, and in
the sight of all men.

"It is good that Louis should die, but it is not good that Philippe
should vote for his death.  Has the man no decency?" growled Danton at
Dangeau’s ear.

Long after, when his own hour was striking, Philippe d’Orleans protested
that he had voted upon his soul and conscience—the soul whose existence
he denied, and the conscience whose voice he had stifled for forty
years. Be that between him and that soul and conscience, but, as he
descended the tribune steps, Girondin, Jacobin, and Cordelier alike drew
back from him, and men who would have cried death to the King’s cousin,
cried none the less, "Shame on Égalité!"

Only the bold brown woman and her companion laughed.  The former even
leaned across the bar and kissed her hand, waving, and beckoning him.

Dangeau’s gaze, half sardonically curious, half disgusted, rested upon
the scene.

"All posterity will gaze upon what is done this day," he said in a low
voice to Danton—"and they will see this."

"The grapes are trodden, the wine ferments, and the scum rises,"
returned Danton on a deep, growling note.

"Such scum as this?"

"Just such scum as this!"

Below, one of the Girondins voted for imprisonment, and the upper
galleries hissed and rocked.

"Death, death, death!" cried the next in order.

"Death, and not so much talk about it!"

"Death, by all means death!"

The blonde woman, Jeanne Fresnay, was pricking off the votes on a card.

"Ah—at last!" she laughed.  "I thought I should never get the hundred.
Now we have one for banishment, ten for imprisonment, and a hundred for
death."

The brown Marguerite Didier produced her own card—a dainty trifle tied
with a narrow tricolour ribbon.

"You are wrong," she said—"it is but eight for imprisonment.  You give
him two more chances of life than there is any need to."

"That’s because I love him so well.  Is he not Philippe’s cousin?"
drawled the other, making the correction.

Philippe himself leaned suddenly between them.

"I should be jealous, it appears," he said smoothly. "Who is it that you
love so much?"

The bare white shoulders were lifted a little farther out of their very
scanty drapery.

"Eh—that charming cousin Veto of yours.  Since you love him so well, I
am sure I may love him too.  May I not?"

Philippe’s laugh was a little hoarse, though ready enough.

"But certainly, chère amie," he said.  "Have I not just proved my
affection to the whole world?"

Mademoiselle Didier laughed noisily and caught him by the arm.

"There, let him go," she said with impatience.  "At the last he bores
one, your good cousin.  We want more bonbons, and I should like coffee.
It is cold enough to freeze one, with so much coming and going."

Again Dangeau turned to his companion.

"An edifying spectacle, is it not?" he asked.

Danton shrugged his great shoulders.

"Mere scum and froth," he said.  "Let it pass.  I want to speak to you.
You are to be sent on mission."

"On mission?"

"Why, yes.  You can be useful, or I am much mistaken. It is this way.
The South is unsatisfactory. There is a regular campaign of newspaper
calumny going on, and something must be done, or we shall have trouble.
I thought of sending you and Bonnet.  You are to make a tour of the
cities, see the principal men, hold public meetings, explain our aims,
our motives.  It is work which should suit you, and more important than
any you could do in Paris at present."

Dangeau’s eyes sparkled; a longing for action flared suddenly up in him.

"I will do my best," he said in a new, eager voice.

"You should start as soon as this business is over."  Danton’s heavy
brow clouded.  "Faugh!  It stops us at every turn.  I have a thousand
things to do, and Louis blocks the way to every one.  Wait till my hands
are free, and you shall see what we will make of France!"

"I will be ready," said Dangeau.

Danton had called for coffee, and stood gulping it as he talked.  Now,
as he set the cup down, he laid his hand on Dangeau’s shoulder a moment,
and then moved off muttering to himself:

"This place is stifling—the scent, the rouge.  What do women do in an
affair of State?"

In Dangeau’s mind rose a vision of Aline de Rochambeau, cool, delicate,
and virginal, and the air of the gallery became intolerable.  As he went
out in Danton’s wake, he passed a handsome, dark-eyed girl who stared at
him with an inviting smile.  Lost in thought, he bowed very slightly and
was gone.  His mind was all at once obsessed with the vision he had
evoked.  It came upon him very poignantly and sweetly, and yet—yet—that
vote of his, that irrevocable vote.  What would she say to that?

Duty led men by strange ways in those strange days. Only of one thing
could a man take heed—that he should be faithful to his ideals, and
constant in the path which he had chosen, even though across it lay the
shadows of disillusion and bitterness darkening to the final abyss.
There could be no turning back.

The dark girl flushed and bit an angrily twitching lip as she stared
after Dangeau’s retreating figure.  When Hébert joined her, she turned
her shoulder on him, and threw him a black look.

"Why did you leave me?" she cried hotly.  "Am I to stand here alone, for
any beast to insult?"

"Poor, fluttered dove," said Hébert, sneering.  He slid an easy arm
about her waist.  "Come then, Thérèse, no sulks.  Look over and watch
that fool Girondin yonder. He ’s dying, they say, but must needs be
carried here to vote for mercy."

As he spoke he drew her forward, and still with a dark glow upon her
cheeks she yielded.



                              CHAPTER XII

                               SEPARATION


Rosalie Leboeuf sat behind her counter knitting. Even on this cold
January day the exertion seemed to heat her.  She paused at intervals,
and waved the huge, half-completed stocking before her face, to produce
a current of air.  Swinging her legs from the counter, and munching an
apple noisily, was a handsome, heavy-browed young woman, whose fine high
colour and bold black eyes were sufficiently well known and admired
amongst a certain set.  An atmosphere of vigour and perfect health
appeared to surround her, and she had that pose and air which come from
superb vitality and complete self-satisfaction.  If the strait-laced
drew their skirts aside and stuck virtuous noses in the air when Thérèse
Marcel was mentioned, it was very little that that young woman cared.

She and Rosalie were first cousins, and the respectable widow Leboeuf
winked at Thérèse’s escapades, in consideration of the excellent and
spicy gossip which she could often retail.

Rosalie was nothing if not curious; and just now there was a very
savoury subject to hand, for Paris had seen her King strip to the
headsman, and his blood flow in the midst of his capital town.

"You should have been there, ma cousine," said Thérèse between two bites
of her apple.

"I?" said Rosalie in her thick, drawling way.  "I am no longer young
enough, nor slim enough, to push and struggle for a place.  But tell me
then, Thérèse, was he pale?"

Thérèse threw away the apple core, and showed all her splendid teeth in
a curious feline mixture of laugh and yawn.

"Well, so-so," she said lazily; "but he was calm enough.  I have heard
it said that he was all of a sweat and a tremble on the tenth of August,
but he did n’t show it yesterday.  I was well in front,—Heaven be
praised, I have good friends,—and his face did not even twitch when he
saw the steel.  He looked at it for a moment or two,—one would have said
he was curious,—and then he began to speak."

Rosalie gave a little shudder, but her face was full of enjoyment.

"Ah," she breathed, leaning forward a little.

"He declared that he died innocent, and wishing France—nobody knows
what; for Santerre ordered the drums to be beaten, and we could not hear
the rest.  I owe him a grudge, that Santerre, for cutting the spectacle
short.  What, I ask you, does he imagine one goes to the play in order
to miss the finest part, and I with a front place, too!  But they say he
was afraid there would be a rescue.  I could have told him better.  We
are not fools!"

"And then——?"

"Well, thanks to the drums, you couldn’t hear; but there was a
whispering with the Abbé, and Sanson hesitating and shivering like a cat
with a wet paw and the gutter to cross.  Everything was ready, but it
seems he had qualms—that Sanson.  The National Guards were muttering,
and the good Mère Garnet next to me began to shout, ’Death to the
Tyrant,’ only no one heard her because of Santerre’s drums, when
suddenly he bellowed, ’Executioner, do your duty!’ and Citizen Sanson
seemed to wake up.  It was all over in a flash then; the Abbé whispered
once, called out loudly, and pchtt! down came the knife, and off came
the head.  Rose Lacour fainted just at my elbow, the silly baggage; but
for me, I found it exciting—more exciting than the theatre.  I should
have liked to clap and call ’Encore!’"

Rosalie leaned back, fanning, her broad face a shade paler, whilst the
girl went on:

"His eyes were still open when Sanson held up the head, and the blood
went drip, drip, drip.  We were all so quiet then that you could hear
it.  I tell you that gave one a sensation, my cousin!"

"Blood—ouf!" said Rosalie; "I do not like to see blood.  I cannot digest
my food after it."

"For me, I am a better patriot than you," laughed Thérèse; "and if it is
a tyrant’s blood that I see, it warms my heart and does it good."

A shudder ran through Rosalie’s fat mass.  She lifted her bulky knitting
and fanned assiduously with it.

Her companion burst into a loud laugh.

"Eh, ma cousine, if you could see yourself!" she cried.

"It is true," said Rosalie, with composure, "I grow stouter; but at your
age, Thérèse, I was slighter than you.  It is the same with us all—at
twenty we are thin, at thirty we are plump, and at forty—"  She waved a
fat hand over her expansive form and shrugged an explanatory shoulder,
whilst her small eyes dwelt with a malicious expression on Thérèse’s
frowning face.

The girl lifted the handsomest shoulders in Paris. "I am not a stick,"
she observed, with that ready flush of hers; "it is these thin girls,
whom one cannot see if one looks at them sideways, who grow so stout
later on. I shall stay as I am, or maybe get scraggy—quel horreur!"—and
she shuddered a little—"but it will not be yet awhile."

Rosalie nodded.

"You are not thirty yet," she said comfortably, "and you are a fine
figure of a woman.  ’T is a pity Citizen Dangeau cannot be made to see
it!"

Up went Thérèse’s head in a trice, and her bold colour mounted.

"Hé!"—she snorted contemptuously—"is he the world?  Others are not so
blind."

There was a pause.  Rosalie knitted, smiling broadly, whilst Thérèse
caught a second apple from a piled basket, and began to play with it.

"He is going away," said Rosalie abruptly, and Thérèse dropped the
apple, which rolled away into a corner.

"Tctt, tctt," clicked Rosalie, "you have an open hand with other folk’s
goods, my girl!  Yes, certainly Citizen Dangeau is going away, and why
not?  There is nothing to keep him here that I know of."

"For how long?" asked Thérèse, staring out of the window.

"One month, two, three—how do I know, my cabbage? It is business of the
State, and in such matters, you should know more than I."

"When does he go?"

"To-morrow," said Rosalie cheerfully, for to torment Thérèse was a most
exhilarating employment, and one that she much enjoyed.  It vindicated
her own virtue, and at the same time indulged her taste for gossip.

Thérèse sprang up, and paced the small shop with something wild in her
gait.

"Why does he go?" she asked excitedly.  "He used to smile at me, to look
when he passed, and now he goes another way; he turns his head, he
elbows me aside. Does he think I am one of those tame milk-and-water
misses, who can be taken up one minute and dropped the next?  If he
thinks that, he is very much mistaken. Who has taken him from me?  I
insist on knowing; I insist that you tell me!"

"Chut," said Rosalie, with placid pleasure, "he never was yours to take,
and that you know as well as I."

"He looked at me," and Thérèse’s coarse contralto thrilled tragically
over the words.

"Half Paris does that."  Rosalie paused and counted her stitches.  "One,
two, three, four, knit two together. Why not? you are good to look at.
No one has denied it that I know of."

"He smiled."  Her eyes glared under the close-drawn brows, but Rosalie
laughed.

"Not if you looked at him like that, I ’ll warrant; but as to smiling—he
smiles at me too, dear cousin."

Thérèse flung herself into a chair, with a sharp-caught breath.

"And at whom else?  Tell me that, tell me that, for there is some
one—some one.  He thinks of her, he dreams of her, and pushes past other
people as if they were posts.  If I knew, if I only knew who it was——"

"Well?" said Rosalie curiously.

"I ’d twist her neck for her, or get Mme Guillotine to save me the
trouble," said Thérèse viciously.

As she spoke, the door swung open, and Mlle de Rochambeau came in.  She
had been out to make some trifling purchase, and, nervous of the
streets, she had hurried a good deal.  Haste and the cold air had
brought a bright colour to her cheeks, her eyes shone, and her breath
came more quickly than usual.

Thérèse started rudely, and seeing her pass through the shop with the
air of one at home, she started up, and with a quick spring placed
herself between Mademoiselle and the inner door.

For a moment Aline hesitated, and then, with a murmured "Pardon,"
advanced a step.

"Who are you?" demanded Thérèse, in her roughest voice.

Rosalie looked up with an expression of annoyance. Really Thérèse and
her scenes were past bearing, though they were amusing, for a little.

"I am Marie Roche," said Mademoiselle quietly.  "I lodge here, and work
for my living.  Is there anything else you would like to ask me?"

Thérèse’s eyes flashed, and she gave a loud, angry laugh.

"Eh—listen to her," she cried, "only listen.  Yes, there is a good deal
I should like to ask—amongst other things, where you got that face, and
those hands, if your name is Marie Roche.  Aristocrat, that is what you
are—aristocrat!" and she pushed her flushed face close to Mademoiselle’s
rapidly paling one.

"Chut, Thérèse!" commanded Rosalie angrily.

"I say she is an aristocrat," shouted Thérèse, swinging round upon her
cousin.

"Fiddlesticks," said Rosalie; "the girl’s harmless, and her name’s her
own, right enough."

"With that face, those hands?  Am I an imbecile?"

"Do I know, I?" and Rosalie shrugged her mountainous shoulders.  "Bah,
Thérèse, what a fuss about nothing. Is it the girl’s fault if her mother
was pretty enough to take the seigneur’s fancy?"

The scarlet colour leapt into Mademoiselle’s face. The rough tones, the
coarse laugh with which Rosalie ended, and which Thérèse echoed,
offended her immeasurably, and she was far from feeling grateful for the
former’s interference.  She pushed past her opponent, and ran up the
stairs without pausing to take breath.

Meanwhile Thérèse turned violently upon her cousin.

"Aristocrat or not, she has taken Dangeau from me," she screamed, with
the sudden passion which makes her type so dangerous.  "Why did you not
tell me you had a girl in the house?—though what he can see in such a
pinched, mincing creature passes me.  Why did you not tell me, I say?
Why?  Why?"

"Eh, ma foi! because you fatigue me, you and your tempers," said Rosalie
crossly.  "Is this your house, par exemple, that I must ask you before I
take any one to live in it?  If the man likes you, take him, and
welcome.  I am not preventing you.  And if he does n’t like you, what
can I do, I?  Am I to say to him, ’Pray, Citizen Dangeau, be careful you
do not speak to any girl, except my cousin Thérèse?’  It is your own
fault, not mine.  Why did n’t you marry like a respectable girl, instead
of taking Heaven knows how many lovers? Is it a secret?  Bah! all Paris
knows it; and do you think Dangeau is ignorant?  There was Bonnet, and
Hébert, and young Cléry, and who knows how many since.  Ciel! you tire
me," and Rosalie bent over her knitting, muttering to herself, and
picking fiercely at dropped stitches.

Thérèse picked up an apple and swung it from one hand to another, her
brows level, the eyes beneath them dangerously veiled.  Some day she
would give herself the pleasure of paying her cousin Rosalie out for
that little speech.  Some day, but not to-day, she would tear those fat,
creased cheeks with her nails, wrench out a few of the sleek black
braids above, sink strangling fingers into the soft, fleshy rolls below.
She gritted her teeth, and slipped the apple deftly to and fro.
Presently she spoke in a tolerably natural voice:

"It is not every one who is so blind, voyez-vous, ma cousine."

As she spoke, Dangeau came through the shop door. He was in a
hurry—these were days of hurry—and he hardly noticed that Rosalie was
not alone, until he found Thérèse in his path.  She was all bold smiles,
and a glitter of black eyes, in a moment.

"The Citizen forgets an old friend."

"But no," he returned, smiling.

"It is so long since we met, that I thought the Citizen might have
forgotten me."

"Is it so long?" asked Dangeau innocently; "surely I saw you somewhere
lately.  Ah, I have it—at the trial?"

"Ah, then you remember," cried Thérèse, clapping her hands.

Dangeau nodded, rather puzzled by her manner, and Rosalie permitted
herself an audible chuckle.  Thérèse turned on her with a flash, and as
she did so Dangeau bowed, murmured an excuse, and passed on.  This time
Rosalie laughed outright, and the sound was like a spark in a
powder-magazine.  Red rage, violent, uncontrollable, flared in Thérèse’s
brain, and, all considerations of prudence forgotten, she launched
herself with a tigress’s bound straight at her cousin’s ponderous form.

She had reckoned without her host.

Inside those fat arms reposed muscles of steel, behind those small pig’s
eyes lay a very cool, ruthless, and determined brain, and Thérèse felt
herself caught, held, propelled across the floor, and launched into the
street, all before she could send a second rending shriek after her
first scream of fury.

Rosalie closed and latched the door, and sank panting, perspiring, but
triumphant, into her seat again.

"Be calm," she observed, between her gasps; "be wise, and go home.  For
me, I bear no malice, but for you, my poor Thérèse, you will certainly
die in an apoplexy some fine day if you excite yourself so much. Ouf—how
out of breath I am!"

Thérèse stood rigid, her face convulsed with fury, her heart a black
whirlpool of all the passions; but when Rosalie looked up again, after a
vigorous bout of fanning, she was gone, and, with a sigh of relief, the
widow Leboeuf settled once more to her placid morning’s work.

The past fortnight had gone heavily for Mlle de Rochambeau.  Since the
days of the votings she had not seen Dangeau, for he had only returned
late at night to snatch a few hours’ sleep before the earliest daylight
called him to his work again.  She heard his step upon the stair, and
turned from it, with something like a shudder.  What times! what times!
For the inconceivable was happening—the impossible had come to pass.
What, was the King to die, and no one lift a hand to help?  In open day,
in his own capital?  Surely there would be a sign, a wonder, and God
would save the King.  But now—God had not saved him—he was dead.  All
the previous day she had knelt, fasting, praying, and weeping, one of
many hundreds who did likewise; but the knife had fallen, the blood
royal was no longer inviolate—it flowed like common water, and was
swallowed by the common earth.  A sort of numb terror possessed Aline’s
very soul, and the little encounter with Thérèse gave it a personal
edge.

As she sat, late into the evening, making good her yesterday’s stint of
embroidery, there came a footstep and a knocking at her door, and she
rose to open it, trembling a little, and yet not knowing why she
trembled since the step was a familiar one.

Dangeau stood without, his face worn and tired, but an eager light in
his eyes.

"Will you spare me a moment?" he asked, motioning to his open door.

"Is it about the copying?" she said, hesitating.

"The copying, and another matter," he replied, and stood aside, holding
the door for her to pass.  She folded her work neatly, laid it down, and
came silently into his room, where she remained standing, and close to
the door.

Dangeau crossed to his table, asked her a trifling question or two about
the numbering of the thickly written pages before him, and then paused
for so long a space that the constraint which lay on Mademoiselle
extended itself to him also, and rested heavily upon them both.

"I am going away to-morrow," he said at last.

"Yes, Citizen."  It was her first word to him for many days, and he was
struck by the altered quality of the soft tones.

They seemed to set him infinitely far away from her and her concerns,
and it was surprising how much that hurt him.

Nevertheless he stumbled on:

"I am obliged to go; you believe that, do you not?"

"But, yes, Citizen."  More distant still the voice that had rung
friendly once, but behind the distance a weariness that spurred him.

"You are very friendless," he said abruptly.  "You said that I might be
your friend, and the first thing that I do is to desert you.  If I had
been given a choice—but one has obligations—it is a trust I cannot
shirk."

"Monsieur is very good to trouble himself about me," said Mademoiselle
softly.  "I shall be safe.  I am not afraid.  See then, Citizen, who
would hurt me?  I live quietly, I earn my bread, I harm no one.  What
has any one so insignificant and poor as I to be afraid of? Would any
one trouble to harm me?"

"God forbid!" said Dangeau earnestly.  "Indeed, I think you are safe, or
I would not go.  In a month or six weeks, I shall hope to be back again.
I do not know why I should be uneasy."  He hesitated.  "If there were a
woman you could turn to, but there—my mother died ten years ago, and I
know of no one else. But if a man’s help would be of any use to you, you
could rely on Edmond Cléry—see, I will give you his direction.  He is
young, but very much my friend, and you could trust him.  Show him
this"—he held out a small, folded note—"and I know he will do what he
can."

Mademoiselle’s colour was a little tremulous.  His manner had taken
suddenly so intimate, so possessive, a shade.  Only half-conscious that
she had grown to depend on him for companionship and safety, she was
alarmed at discovering that his talk of her being alone, and friendless,
could bring a lump into her throat, and set her heart beating.

"Indeed, Monsieur, there is no need," she protested, answering her own
misgivings as much as his words. "I shall be safe.  There is no one to
harm me."

He put the note into her hand, and returned to the table, where he
paused, looking strangely at her.

"So young, so friendless," beat his heart, "so alone, so unprotected.
If I spoke now, should I lose all?  Is she old enough to have learned
their accursed lesson of the gulf between man and man—between loving man
and the woman beloved?  Surely she is too lonely not to yearn towards
shelter."  He made a half step towards her, and then checked himself,
turning his head aside.

"Mademoiselle," he said earnestly, "you are very much alone in the
world.  Your order is doomed—it passes unregretted, for it was an evil
thing.  I do not say that every noble was bad, but every noble was
nourished in a system that set hatred between class and class, and the
outcome of that antagonism has been hundreds of years’ oppression, lust,
starvation, a peasantry crushed into bestiality by iniquitous taxes, and
an aristocracy, relieved of responsibility, grown callous to suffering,
sunk in effeteness and vice.  There is a future now for the peasant,
since the weight is off his back, and his children can walk erect, but
what future is there for the aristocrat?  I can see none.  Those who
would survive, must out from their camp, and set themselves to other
ways of thought, and other modes of life."  He paused, and glanced at
her with a dawning hope in his eyes.

Mademoiselle de Rochambeau raised her head a little, proudly.

"Monsieur, I am of this order of which you speak," she said, and her
voice was cold and still.

"You were of them, but now, where are they?  The links that held you to
them have been wrenched away. All is changed and you are free—the
daughter of the new day of Liberty."

"Monsieur, one cannot change one’s blood, one’s race. I am of them."

"But one can change one’s heart, one’s faith," he cried hotly; and at
that Mademoiselle’s hand went to her bosom, as if the pressure of it
could check the quick fluttering within.

"Not if one is Rochambeau," she said very low.

There was an instant’s pause, whilst she drew a long breath, and then
words came to her.

"Do you know, Monsieur, that for seven hundred years my people have kept
their faith, and served the King and their order?  In all those years
there have been many men whom you would call bad men—I do not defend
them—there have been cruel deeds done, and I shudder at them, but the
worst man of them all would have died in torments before he would have
accepted life at the price of honour, or come out from his order because
it was doomed.  That I think is what you ask me to do.  I am a
Rochambeau, Monsieur."

Her voice was icy with pride, and behind its soft curves, and the
delicate colour excitement painted there, her face was inexorably set.
The individuality of it became as it were a transparent veil, through
which stared the inevitable attributes of the race, the hoarded instinct
of centuries.

Dangeau’s heart beat heavily.  For a moment passion flared hot within
him, only to fall again before her defenceless youth.  But the breath of
it beat upon her soul, and troubled it to the depths.  She stood
waiting, not knowing how to break the spell that held her motionless.
Something warned her that a touch, a movement, might unchain some force
unknown, but dreadful. It was as if she watched a rising sea—the long,
long heaving stretch, as yet unflecked with foam, where wave after wave
towered up as if about to break, yet fell again unbroken.  The room was
gone in a mist—there was neither past nor future.  Only an eternal
moment, and that steadily rising sea.

Suddenly broke the seventh wave, the wave of Fate.

In the mist Dangeau made an abrupt movement.

"Aline!" he said, lifting his eyes to her white face. "Aline!"

Mademoiselle de Rochambeau felt a tremor pass over her; she was
conscious of a mastering, overwhelming fear.  Like something outside
herself, it caught her heart, and wrung it.

"No, no," said her trembling lips; "no, no."

With that he was beside her, catching her unresisting hand.  Cold as ice
it lay in his, and he felt it quiver.

"Oh, mon Dieu, are you afraid of me—of me?" he cried, in a hoarse
whisper.

She tried to speak, but could not; something choked the sound, and she
only stood there, mechanically focussing all her energies in an effort
to stop the shivering, which threatened to become unbearable.

"Aline," he said again, "Aline, look at me."

He bent above her, nearer, till his face was on a level with her own,
and his eyes drew hers to meet them. And his were full of all sweet and
poignant things—love and home, and trust, and protection—they were warm
and kind, and she so cold, and so afraid.  It seemed as if her soul must
go out to him, or be torn in two.  Suddenly her fear of him had changed
into fear of her own self.  Did a Rochambeau mate thus?  She saw the red
steel, wet with the King’s life, the steel weighted by the word of this
man, and his fellows.  She saw the blood gush out and flow between them
in a river of separation.  To pass it she must stain her feet—must stain
her soul, with an uncleansable rust.  It could not be—Noblesse oblige.

She caught her hand from his and put it quickly over her eyes.

"No, no, no—oh no, Monsieur," she cried, in a trembling whisper.

He recoiled at once, the light in his face dying out.

"It is no, for always?" he asked slowly.

She bent her head.

"For always, and always, and always?" he said again. "All the years, all
the ways wanting you—never reaching you?  Think again, Aline."

She rested her hand against the door and took a step away.  It was more
than she could bear, and a blind instinct of escape was upon her, but he
was beside her before she could pass out.

"Is it because I am what I am, Jacques Dangeau, and not of your order?"
he asked, in a sharp voice.

The change helped her, and she looked up steadily.

"Monsieur, one has obligations—you said it just now."

"Obligations?"

"And loyalties—to one’s order, to one’s King."

"Louis Capet is dead," he said heavily.

"And you voted for his death," she flashed at him, voice and eye like a
rapier thrust.

He raised his head with pride.

"Yes, Mademoiselle, I voted for his death."

"That is a chasm no human power can bridge," she said, in a level voice.
"It lies between us—the King’s death, the King’s blood.  You cannot pass
to come to me—I may not pass to come to you."

There was an infinite troubled loneliness behind the pride in her eyes,
and it smote him through his anger.

"Adieu, Mademoiselle," he said in a low, constrained voice.  He neither
touched her hand, nor kissed it, but he bowed with as much proud
courtesy as if he had been her equal in pride of race.  "Adieu,
Mademoiselle."

"Adieu, Monsieur."

She passed out, and heard the door close harshly behind her.  It shut
away—ah, what?  The Might-have-been—the Forbidden—Eden perhaps?  She
could not tell.  Bewildered, and exhausted, she fell on her knees in the
dark by her narrow bed, and sobbed out all the wild confusion of her
heart.



                              CHAPTER XIII

                        DISTURBING INSINUATIONS


February came in dreary, and bleak, and went out in torrents of rain.
For Aline de Rochambeau a time of dull loneliness, and reaction, of hard
grinding work, and insufficient food.  She had to rise early, and stand
in a line with other women, before she could receive the meagre dole of
bread, which was all that the Republic One and Indivisible would
guarantee its starving citizens.  Then home again, faint and weary, to
sit long hours, bent to catch the last, ultimate ray of dreary light,
working fingers sore, and tired eyes red, over the fine embroidery for
which she was so thankful still to find a sale.

All these wasted morning hours had to be made up for in the dusk and
dark of the still wintry evenings. With hands stiff and blue, she must
thread the fine needle, and hold the delicate fabric, working on, and
on, and on.  She did not sing at her work now, and the silence lay
mournfully upon her heart.

    "No tread on the stair, no passing step across the way.
    What slow, long days—what empty, halting evenings."


Rosalie eyed her with a half-contemptuous pity in those days, but times
were too hard for the pity to be more than a passing indulgence, and she
turned to her own comfortable meals without a pang.  Times were hard,
and many suffered—what could one do?

"For me, I do not see that things are changed so wonderfully," sighed
brown little Madeleine Rousse, Rosalie’s neighbour.

Mlle de Rochambeau and she were standing elbow to elbow, waiting for the
baker to open his doors, and begin the daily distribution.

"We were hungry before, and we are hungry now. Bread is as scarce, and
the only difference is that there are more mouths to feed."

Her small face was pinched and drawn, and she sighed heavily, thinking
of five clamouring children at home.

"Eh, Madeleine," cried Louison Michel, wife of that redoubtable
Septembrist, Jean, the butcher.  "Eh, be thankful that your last was not
twins, as mine was. There was a misfortune, if you like, and I with six
already!  And what does that great stupid oaf of mine say but, ’Hé,
Louison, what a pity it was not three!’  ’Pity,’ said I, and if I had
been up and about, I warrant you I ’d have clouted him well; ’pity,
indeed, and why?’  Well, and what do you think—you ’d never guess.
’Oh,’ says he, with a great sheep’s grin on his face, ’we might have
called them Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.’  And there he stood as
if he had said something clever. My word!  If I was angry!  ’The
charming idea, my friend,’ I said.  ’I who have to work for them, whilst
you make speeches at your section, what of me?  Take that, and that,’
said I, and I threw what was handy at him—Liberty, Equality, and
Fraternity, indeed!"

Madeleine sighed again, but an impudent-faced girl behind Aline
whispered in her ear, "Jean Michel has one tyrant from whom the Republic
cannot free him!"

Louison’s sharp ears caught the words, or a part of them, and she turned
with a swing that brought her hand in a resounding slap upon the girl’s
plump cheek, which promptly flamed with the marks of five bony fingers.

"Eh—Ma’mselle Impudence, so a wife mayn’t keep her own husband in order?
Perhaps you ’d like to come interfering?  Best put your fingers in some
one else’s pies, and leave mine alone."

The girl sobbed angrily, and Louison emitted a vicious little snort,
pushing on a pace as the distribution began, and the queue moved slowly
forward.

A month before Mlle de Rochambeau would have shrunk and caught her
breath, but now she only looked, and looked away.

At first these hours in the open street were a torture to the sensitive,
gently-bred girl.  Every eye that lighted upon her seemed to be
stripping off her disguise, and she expected the tongue of every
passer-by to proclaim and denounce her.

After the shock of the September massacres, it was impossible for her to
realise that the greater part of those she encountered were plain,
hungry, fellow-creatures, who cared little about politics, and much
about their daily bread, but after a while she found she was one of a
crowd—a speck, a dust mote, and that courage of the crowd, that
sloughing of the individual, began to reassure her.  She lost the
sensation of being alone, the centre of observing eyes, and took her
place as one of the great city’s humble workers, waiting for her share
of its fostering; and she began to find interest in the scenes of
tragedy and comedy which those hours of waiting brought before her.  The
long standing was fatiguing, but without the fresh air and enforced
companionship of these morning hours, she would have fared worse than
she did.  Brains of coarser fibre than hers gave way in those days, and
the cells of the Salpêtrière could tell a sadder tale than even the
prisons of Paris.

One day of drenching rain, as she stood shivering, her thin dress
soaked, her hair wet and dripping, a heavy-looking, harpy-eyed creature
stared long and curiously at her.  The wind had caught Aline’s hair, and
she put up her slim hand smoothing it again.  As she did so, the woman’s
eyes took a dull glare and she muttered:

"Aristocrat."

Terror teaches the least experienced to dissemble, and Mademoiselle had
learned its lesson by now.  Her heart bounded, but she managed a
tolerably natural shrug of the shoulders, and answered in accents
modelled on those of Rosalie:

"My good mother, I?  The idea!  I—but that amuses me," and she laughed;
but the woman gave a sort of growl, shook her dripping head, and
repeated hoarsely:

"Aristocrat, aristocrat," in a sort of chant, whilst the rain, following
the furrows of the grimy, wrinkled cheeks, gave her an expression at
once bleared and malignant.

"It is Mère Rabotin," said the woman at Mademoiselle’s side.  "She is a
little mad.  They shot her son last tenth of August, and since then she
sees aristocrats and tyrants everywhere."

The old woman threw her a wicked glance.

"In you, I see nothing but a fat cow, whose husband beats her," she
remarked venomously, and a laugh ran down the line, for the woman
crimsoned, and held her tongue, being a rather stupid, garrulous
creature destined to be put out of action at once by a sharp retort.

"But this"—pursued Mère Rabotin, fingering Mademoiselle’s shrinking
hand—"this is an aristocrat’s hand. Fine and white, white and fine, and
why, because it has never worked, never worked as honest hands do, and
every night it has bathed in blood—ah, that is a famous whiteness, mes
amis!"

Mademoiselle drew her hand away with a shudder, but recovering her
self-possession, she held it up, still with that careful laugh.

"Why, Mère Rabotin," she cried, "see how it is pricked and worn.  I work
it to the bone, I can tell you, and get little enough even then."

"Aristocrat, aristocrat," repeated the hag, watching her all the time.
"Fine white hands, and a black heart—blue blood, and a light name—no
mercy or pity. Aristocrat!"

All the way it kept up, that half-mad drone.  The women in front and
behind shrugged impatient shoulders, staring a little, but not caring
greatly.

Mademoiselle kept up her pose, played the poor seamstress, and played it
well, with a sigh here, and a laugh there, and all the time in her ears
the one refrain:

"Aristocrat, aristocrat!"

She came home panting, and lay on her bed listening for she knew not
what, for quite an hour, before she could force her trembling fingers to
their work again. Next day she stayed indoors, and starved, but the
following morning hunger drove her out, and she went shaking to her
place in the line of waiting citizens.  The woman was not there, and she
never saw her again. After awhile she ceased to feel alarmed.  The
feeling of being watched and stared at, wore off, and life settled down
into a dull monotony of work, and waiting.

It was in these days that Rosalie made up her quarrel with Thérèse
Marcel; and upon the reconciliation began a gradual alteration in the
elder woman’s habits.  There were long absences from the shop, after
which she would return flushed, and queer-eyed, to sit muttering over
her knitting, and these absences became more and more frequent.

Mlle de Rochambeau, returning with her daily dole of bread, met her one
day about to sally forth.

Thérèse was with her, and saluted Mademoiselle with a contemptuous
laugh.

"Are you coming with us, Mlle White-face?" she called.

Aline shook her head with a civil smile.

"There are two women in to-day’s batch—I have been telling Rosalie.  She
did n’t mean to come, but that fetched her.  She has n’t seen a woman
kiss Madame Guillotine yet, but the men find her very attractive, eh,
Rosalie?"

Rosalie’s broad face took on a dull flush, and her eyes became suddenly
restless.

"Eh, Marie," she said, in a queer, thick voice. "Come along then—you sit
and work all day, and in the end you will be ill.  Every one must take a
holiday some time, and it is exciting, this spectacle; I can tell you it
is exciting.  The first time I was like you, I said no, I can’t, I
can’t; but see you, I could think of nothing else, and at last, Thérèse
persuaded me.  Then I sat, and shivered—yes, like a jelly—and saw ten
knives, and ten heads, and half a dozen Citizen Sansons—but after that
it went better, and better.  Come, then, and see for yourself, Marie,"
and she put a heavy hand on the girl’s shrinking shoulder.

White-faced, Aline recoiled.

"Oh, Citoyenne," she breathed, and shrank away.

Thérèse laughed loud.

"Oh, Citoyenne, Citoyenne," she mimicked.  "Tender flower, pretty lamb,
but the lamb’s throat comes to the butcher’s knife all the same," and
her eyes were wicked behind their mockery.

"Have you heard any news of that fine lover of yours, since he rode
away," she went on.

"I have no lover," answered Mademoiselle, the blood flaming into her
thin cheeks.

"You are too modest, perhaps?" sneered Thérèse.

"I have not thought of such things."

"Such things—just hear her!  What? you have not thought of Citizen
Dangeau, handsome Citizen Dangeau, and he living in the same house, and
closeted with you evening after evening, as our good Rosalie tells me?
Does one do such things without thinking?"

Mademoiselle’s flush had faded almost as it had risen, leaving her white
and proud.

"Citoyenne, you are in error," she said quietly.  "I am a poor girl with
my bread to earn.  The Citizen employed me to copy a book he had
written.  He paid well, and I was glad of the money."

"I dare say you were"—and Thérèse’s coarse laugh rang out—"so he paid
you well, and for copying, for copying—that was it, my pious Ste.
Nitouche.  Copying? Haha—I never heard it called that before!"

Mademoiselle turned haughtily away, only a deepening of her pallor
showed that the insult had reached her, but Rosalie caught her cousin’s
arm with an impatient—"Tiens, Thérèse, we shall be late, we shall not
get good places," and they went out, Thérèse still laughing noisily.

"Vile, vile, shameless woman," thought Aline, as she stood drawing long
breaths before her open window.

The strong March wind blew in and seemed to fan her hot anger and shame
into a blaze.  "How dare she—how dare she!"

Woman-like, she laid the insult to Dangeau’s account. It was another
stone added to the wall which she set herself night and day to build
between them.  It rose apace, and this was the coping-stone.  Now,
surely, she was safe.  Behind such a wall, so strong, so high, how could
he reach her?  And yet she was afraid, for something moved in the
citadel, behind the bastion of defence—something that fluttered at his
name, that ached in loneliness, and cried in the night—a traitor, but
her very heart, inalienable flesh and blood of her.  She covered her
face, and wrestled, as many a time before, and after awhile she told
herself—"It is conquered," and with a smile of self-scorn sat down again
to her task too long delayed.

Outside, Paris went its way.  Thousands were born, and died, and
married, and betrothed, in spite of scarce bread, war on the frontiers,
and prisons full to bursting.

The Mountain and the Gironde were only held from one another’s throats
by Danton’s strong hand; but though their bickerings fill the
historian’s page, under the surface agitation of politics, the vast
majority of the population went its own way, a way that varies very
little under successive forms of government, since the real life of a
people consists chiefly of those things about which historians do not
write.

Tragedy had come down and stalked the streets of Paris, but there were
thousands of eyes which did not see her.  Those who did, talked loudly
of it, and so it comes that we see the times through their eyes, and not
through those of the silent and the blind.

In the south Dangeau made speech after speech.  He wrote to Danton from
Lyons:


"This place smoulders.  Words are apt to prove oil on the embers.  There
are 900 prisoners, and constant talk of massacre.  Chalier is a
firebrand, the Mayor one of those moderate persons who provoke
immoderate irritation in others.  We are doing our best."


Danton frowned heavily over the curt sentences, drawing those black
brows of his into a wrathful line. He turned to other letters from other
Deputies, all telling the same weary tale of jangle and discord, strife
and clamour of parties unappeased and unappeasable. Soon he would be at
death-grips with the Gironde—force opposed to philosophy, action to
eloquence, and philosophic eloquence would go to the guillotine shouting
the Marseillaise.

His feet were set upon a bloody path, and one from which there was no
returning.  All Fate’s force was in him and behind him, and he drove
before it to his doom.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                        A DANGEROUS ACQUAINTANCE


It was in April that Fate began to concern herself with Mlle de
Rochambeau once more.  It was a day of spring’s first exquisite
sweetness—air like new-born life sparkling with wayward smiles, as the
hurrying sunbeams glanced between one white cloud and the next; scent of
all budding blossoms, and that good smell of young leafage and the wet,
fecund earth.

On such a day, any heart, not crushed quite dumb and dry, must needs
sparkle a little too, tremble a little with the renewal of youth, and
sing a little because earth’s myriad voices call for an echo.

Aline put on her worn print gown with a smile, and twisted her hair with
a little more care than usual. After all, she was young, time passed,
and life held sunshine, and the spring.  She sang a little country air
as she passed to and fro in the narrow room.

Outside it was delicious.  Even in the dull street where she took her
place in the queue the air smelled of young flowering things, and
touched her cheeks with a soft, kissing breath, that brought the tender
colour into them.  Under the bright cerulean sky her eyes took the shade
of dark forget-me-nots.

It was thus that Hébert saw her for the first time—one of Fate’s
tricks—for had he passed on a dull, rainy, day, he would have seen
nothing but a pale, weary girl, and would have gone his way unnoticing,
and unremembered, but to-day that spring bloom in the girl’s heart
seemed to have overflowed, and to sweeten all the air around her.  The
sparkle of the deep, sweet, Irish eyes met his cold, roving glance, and
of a sudden changed it to an ugly, intent glitter.  He passed slowly by,
then paused, turned, and passed again.

When he went by for the second time, Aline became aware of his presence.
Before, he had been one of the crowd, and she an unnoticed unit in it,
but now, all at once, his glance seemed to isolate her from the women
about her, and to set her in an insulting proximity to himself.

She looked down, coldly, and pressed slowly forward. After what seemed
like a very long time, she raised her eyes for a moment, only to
encounter the same fixed, insolent stare, the same pale smile of thick,
unlovely lips.

With an inward shudder she turned her head, feeling thankful that the
queue was moving at a good rate, and that the time of waiting was nearly
over.  It was not until she had secured her portion that she ventured to
look round again, and, to her infinite relief, the coast was clear.
With a sigh of thankfulness she turned homewards, plunging her thoughts
for cleansing into the fresh loveliness of the day.

Suddenly in her ear a smooth, hateful voice:

"Why do you hurry so, Citoyenne?"

She did not look up, but quickened her pace.

"But, Citoyenne, a word—a look?"

Hébert’s smile broadened, and he slipped a dexterous arm about the slim
waist, and bent to catch the blue glance of her eyes.  Experience taught
him that she would look up at that.  She did, with a flame of contempt
that he thought very becoming.  Blue eyes were apt to prove insipid when
raised, but the critic in him acknowledged these as free from fault.

"Citizen!" she exclaimed, freeing herself with an unexpectedly strong
movement.  "How dare you!  Oh, help me, Louison, help me!"

In the moment that he caught her again she had seen the small, wiry
figure of Jean Michel’s wife turn the corner.

"Louison, Louison Michel!" she called desperately.

Next moment Hébert was aware of some one, under-sized and shrivelled
looking, who whirled tempestuously upon him, with an amazing flow of
words.

"Oh, my Ste. Géneviève!  And is a young girl not to walk unmolested to
her home. Bandit! assassin! tyrant! pig! devil! species of animal, go
then—but on the instant—and take that, and that, to remember an honest
woman by,"—the first "that" being a piece of his hair torn forcibly out,
and thrown into his perspiring face, and the second, a most superlative
slap on the opposite cheek.

He was left gasping for breath and choking with fury, whilst the
whirlwind departed with as much suddenness as it had come, covering the
girl’s retreat with shaken fist, and shrill vituperation.

After a moment he sent a volley of curses in her wake.  "Fury!
Magaera!" he muttered.  "So that is Jean Michel’s wife!  If she were
mine, I ’d wring her neck."

He thought of his meek wife at home, and laughed unpleasantly.

"For the rest, she has done the girl no good by interfering."  This was
unfortunately the case.  Hébert’s eye had been pleased, his fancy taken;
but a few passing words, a struggle may be, ending in a kiss, had been
all that was in his thought.  Now the bully in him lifted its head,
urging his jaded appetite, and he walked slowly after the women until he
saw Mademoiselle leave her companion, and enter Rosalie’s shop.  An ugly
gleam came into his eyes—so this was where she lived!  He knew Rosalie
Leboeuf by sight and name; knew, too, of her cousinship with his former
mistress, Thérèse Marcel, and he congratulated himself venomously as he
strolled forward and read the list of occupants which, as the law
demanded, was fixed on the front of the house at a distance of not more
than five feet from the ground:


"Rosalie Leboeuf, widow, vegetable seller, aged forty-six.  Marie Roche,
single, seamstress, aged nineteen. Jacques Dangeau, single, avocat, aged
twenty-eight,"—and after the last name an additional notice—"absent on
business of the Convention."


Hébert struck his coarse hands together with an oath. Dangeau—Dangeau,
now it came back to him.  Dangeau was infatuated with some girl, Thérèse
had said so. He laughed softly, for Thérèse had gone into one of her
passions, and that always amused him.  If it were this girl?  If it
were—if it only were, why, what a pleasure to cut Dangeau out, and to
let him find on his return that the bird had flown to a nest of Hébert’s
feathering.

There might be even more in it than that.  The girl was no common
seamstress; pooh—he was not stupid—he could see as far into a brick wall
as others.  Even at the first glance he had seen that she was different,
and when her eyes blazed, and she drew herself from his grasp, why, the
aristocrat stood confessed.  Anger is the greatest revealer of all.

Madame la Roturière may dress her smiling face in the mode of Mme
l’Aristocrate; may tune her company voice to the same rhythm; but put
her in a passion, and see how the mud comes boiling up from the depths,
and how the voice so smooth and suave just now, rings out in its native
bourgeois tones.

Hébert knew the difference as well as another, and his thoughts were
busy.  Aristocrat disguised, spelled aristocrat conspiring, and a
conspiring aristocrat under the same roof as Jacques Dangeau, what did
that spell?

He rubbed his pale fat hands, where the reddish hair showed sickly, and
strolled away thinking wicked thoughts.  Plots were the obsession of the
day, and, to speak the truth, there were enough and to spare, but
patriot eyes were apt to see double, and treble, when drunk with
enthusiasm, and to detect a conspirator when there was only a victim.
Plots which had never existed gave hundreds to the knife, and the
populace shouted themselves into a wilder delirium.

Did the price of bread go up?  Machinations of Pitt in England.  Did two
men quarrel, and blows pass? "Monarchist!" shouted the defeated one, and
presently denounced the other.

Had a woman an inconvenient husband, why, a cry of "Austrian Spy!" and
she might be comfortably rid of him for ever.

Evil times for a beautiful, friendless girl upon whom gross Hébert cast
a wishful eye!

He walked into the shop next day, and accosted Rosalie with Republican
sternness of manner.

"Good-day, Citoyenne Leboeuf."

Rosalie was fluttered.  Her nerves were no longer quite so reliable as
they had been.  Madame Guillotine’s receptions were disturbing them, and
in the night she would dream horribly, and wake panting, with her hands
at her fat throat.

"Citizen Hébert," she murmured.

He bent a cold eye upon her, noting a beaded brow.

"You have a girl lodging here—Marie Roche?"

"Assuredly, Citizen."

"I must speak to her alone."

Rosalie rallied a little, for Hébert had a certain reputation, and
Louison had not held her tongue.

"I will call her down," she said, heaving her bulky form from its place.

"No, I will go up," said Hébert, still with magisterial dignity.

"Pardon me, Citizen Deputy, she shall come down."

"It is an affair of State.  I must speak privately with her," he
blustered.

Rosalie’s eyes twinkled; her nerves were steadying. They had begun to
require constant stimulation, and this answered as well as anything
else.

"Bah," she said.  "I shall not listen to your State secrets.  Am I an
eavesdropper, or inquisitive?  Ask any one.  That is not my character.
You may take her to the farther end of the shop, and speak as low as you
please, but, she is a young girl, this is a respectable house, and see
her alone in her room you shall not, not whilst she is under my care."

"That privilege being reserved for my colleague, Citizen Dangeau,"
sneered Hébert.

"Tchtt," said Rosalie, humping a billowy shoulder—"the girl is virtuous
and hard-working, too virtuous, I dare say, to please some people.  Yes,
that I can very well believe," and her gaze became unpleasantly
pointed—"Well, I will call her down."

She moved to the inner door as she spoke, and called up the stair:
"Marie!  Marie Roche!  Descend then; you are wanted."

Hébert stood aside with an ill grace, but he was quite well aware that
to insist might, after yesterday’s scene, bring the whole quarter about
his ears, and effectually spoil the ingenious plans he was revolving in
his mind.

He moved impatiently as Mademoiselle delayed, and, at the sound of her
footstep, started eagerly to meet her.

She came in quite unsuspiciously, looking at Rosalie, and at first
seeing no one else.  When Hébert’s movements brought him before her, she
turned deadly white, and a faintness swept over her.  She caught the
door, fighting it back, till it showed only in that change of colour,
and a rather fixed look in the dark blue eyes.

Hébert checked a smile, and entrenched himself behind his office.

"You are Marie Roche, seamstress?"

"Certainly, Citizen."

"Father’s and mother’s names?"

"By what right do you question me?" the voice was icy with offence, and
Rosalie stirred uneasily.

"It is the Citizen Deputy Hébert; answer him," she growled—and Hébert
commended her with a look.

Really this was amusing—the girl had spirit as well as beauty.
Decidedly she was worth pursuing.

"Father’s and mother’s names?" he repeated.

Mademoiselle bit her lip, and gave the names she had already given when
she took out her certificate of Citizenship.

They were those of her foster-parents, and had she not had that
rehearsal, she might have faltered, and hesitated.  As it was, her
answer came clear and prompt.

Hébert scowled.

"You are not telling the truth," he observed in offensive tones,
expecting an outburst, but Mlle de Rochambeau merely looked past him
with an air of weary indifference.

"I am not satisfied," he burst out.  "If you had been frank and open,
you would have found me a good friend, but I do not like lies, and you
are telling them. Now I am not a safe person to tell lies to, not at
all—remember that.  My friendship is worth having, and you may choose
between it and my enmity, my virtuous Citoyenne."

Mademoiselle raised her delicate eyebrows very slightly.

"The Citizen does me altogether too much honour," she observed, her
voice in direct contradiction to her words.

"Tiens," he said, losing self-control, "you are a proud minx, and pride
goes before a fall.  Are you not afraid? Come," dropping his voice, as
he caught Rosalie’s ironical eye—"Come, be a sensible girl, and you
shall not find me hard to deal with.  I am a slave to beauty—a smile, a
pleasant look or two, and I am your friend. Come then, Citoyenne Marie."

Mademoiselle remained silent.  She looked past Hébert, at the street.
Rosalie got up exasperated, and pulled her aside.

"Little fool," she whispered, "can’t you make yourself agreeable, like
any other girl.  Smile, and keep him off.  No one wants you to do more.
The man ’s dangerous, I tell you so, I——  You ’ll ruin us all with your
airs and graces, as if he were the mud under your feet."

Aline turned from her in a sudden despair.

"I am a poor, honest girl, Citizen," she said imploringly. "I have no
time for friendship.  I have to work very hard, I harm nobody."

"But a friend," suggested Hébert, coming a little closer, "a friend
would feel it a privilege to do away with that necessity for hard work."

Mademoiselle’s pallor flamed.  She turned sharply away, feeling as if
she had been struck.

"Good-day, Citizen," she said proudly; "you have made a mistake," and
she passed from Rosalie’s detaining hand.

Hébert sent an oath after her.  He was most unmagisterially angry.
"Fool," he said, under his breath—"Damned fool."

Rosalie caught him up.

"He is a fool who wastes his time trying to pick the apple at the top of
the tree, when there are plenty to his hand," she observed pointedly.

He swore at her then, and went out without replying.

From that day a period of terror and humiliation beyond words set in for
Mlle de Rochambeau.  Hebert’s shadow lay across her path, and she feared
him, with a sickening, daily augmenting fear, that woke her gasping in
the night, and lay on her like a black nightmare by day.

Sometimes she did not see him for days, sometimes every day brought him
along the waiting queue, until he reached her side, and stood there
whispering hatefully, amusing himself by alternately calling the
indignant colour to her cheeks, and replacing it by a yet more indignant
pallor.

The strain told on her visibly, the thin cheeks were thinner, the dark
eyes looked darker, and showed unnaturally large and bright, whilst the
violet stains beneath them came to stay.

There was no one to whom she could appeal.  Rosalie was furious with her
and her fine-lady ways.  Louison, and the other neighbours, who could
have interfered to protect her from open insult, saw no reason to meddle
so long as the girl’s admirer confined himself to words, and after the
first day Hébert had not laid hands on her again.

The torture of the man’s companionship, the insult of his look, were
beyond their comprehension.

Meanwhile, Hébert’s passing fancy for her beauty had changed into a
dull, malignant resolve to bend, or break her, and through her to injure
Dangeau, if it could possibly be contrived.

Women had their price, he reflected.  Hers might not be money, but it
would perhaps be peace of mind, relief from persecution, or even
life—bare life.

After the first few days he gave up the idea of bringing any set
accusation against Dangeau.  The man was away, his room locked, and
Rosalie would certainly not give up the key unless a domiciliary visit
were paid—a thing involving a little too much publicity for Hébert’s
taste.  Besides, he knew very well that rummage as he might, he would
find no evidence of conspiracy.  Dangeau was an honest man, as he was
very well aware, and he hated him a good deal the more for the
inconvenient fact.  No, it would not do to denounce Dangeau without some
very plain evidence to go upon.  The accuser of Danton’s friend might
find himself in an uncommonly tight place if his accusations could not
be proved.  It would not do—it was not good enough, Hébert decided
regretfully; but the girl remained, and that way amusement beckoned as
well as revenge.  If she remained obstinate, and if Dangeau were really
infatuated, and returned to find her in prison, he might easily be
tempted to commit some imprudence, out of which capital might be made.
That was a safer game, and might prove just as well worth playing in the
end.  Meanwhile, was the girl Marie Roche, and nothing more?  Did that
arresting look of nobility go for nothing, or was she playing a part?
If Rosalie knew, Thérèse might help.  Now how fortunate that he had
always kept on good terms with Thérèse.

He took her a pair of gold ear-rings that evening, and whilst she set
them dangling in her ears, he slipped an arm about her, and kissed her
smooth red cheek.

"Morbleu!" he swore, "you ’re a handsome creature, Thérèse; there ’s no
one to touch you."

"What do you want?" asked Thérèse, with a shrewd glance into his
would-be amorous eyes.

"What, ma belle?  What should I want?  A kiss, if you ’ll give it me.
Ah! the old days were the best."

Thus Hébert, disclaiming an ulterior motive.

Thérèse frowned, and twitched away from him.

"Ma foi, Hébert, am I a fool?" she returned, with a shrug.  "You ’ve
forgotten a lot about those same old days if you think that.  I ’ll help
you if I can, but don’t try and throw sand in my eyes, or you ’ll get
some of it back, in a way that will annoy you"; and her black eyes
flared at him in the fashion he always admired. He thought her at her
best like that, and said so now.

"Chut!" she said impatiently.  "What is it that you want?"

Hébert considered.

"You see your cousin sometimes, the widow Leboeuf, who has the shop in
the rue des Lanternes?"

"I see her often enough, twice—three times a week at present."

"Could you get something out of her?"

"Not if she knew I wanted to.  Close as a miser’s fist, that’s what
Rosalie is, if she thinks she can spite you; but just now we are very
good friends—and, well, I dare say it might be done.  Depends what it is
you want to know."

Hébert looked at her keenly.

"Perhaps you can tell me," he said, watching her face.  "That girl who
lodges there, who is she?  What is her name—her real name?"

In a flash Thérèse was crimson to the hair, and he had her by the wrist,
swinging her round to face him.

"Oho!" she cried, laughing till the new ear-rings tinkled, "so that’s
it—that’s the game?  Well, if you can give that stuck-up aristocrat the
setting-down I ’ve promised her ever since I first saw her, I ’m with
you."

Hébert pounced on one word, like a cat.

"Aristocrat?  Ah!  I thought so," he said, his breathing quickening a
little.  "Who is she, then, ma mie?"

Thérèse regarded him with a little scorn.  She did not care who got
Hébert, since she had done with him herself, but what, _par exemple_,
did he see in a pale stick like that—and after having admired her,
Thérèse? Certainly men were past understanding.

She lolled easily on the arm of the chair.

"I ’ve not an idea, but I dare say I could find out—that is, if Rosalie
knows."

"Well, when you do, there ’ll be a chain to match the ear-rings," said
Hébert, his arm round her waist again.

All the same, April had passed into May before Thérèse won her chain.

It was in the time between that Hébert haunted Mlle de Rochambeau’s
footsteps, and employed what he considered his most seductive arts,
producing only a sensation of shuddering defilement from which neither
prayer nor effort could free her thoughts.  One day, goaded past
endurance, she left Dangeau’s folded note at the door of Cléry’s
lodging.  When it had left her hand, she would have given the world to
have it back. How could she speak to a man of this shameful pursuit of
Hébert?  How, having put Dangeau out of her life, could she use his
help, and appeal to his friend?  And yet, how endure the daily shame,
the nightly agony of remembering those smooth, poisonous whispers, that
pale, dreadful smile?  She cried her eyes red and swollen, and Edmond
Cléry, looking up from a bantering exchange of compliments with Rosalie,
wondered as she came in, first if this could be she, and then at his
friend’s taste.  He permitted himself a complacent memory of Thérèse’s
glowing cheeks and supple curves, and commended his own choice.
Rosalie’s needles clicked amiably.  She liked young men, and this was a
personable one.  What a goose this girl was, to be sure!—like a
frightened rabbit with Hébert, and now with this amiable young man,
shrinking, white-faced!  Bah! she had no patience with her.

Edmond bowed smilingly.

"My homage, Citoyenne," he said.

Aline forced a "Bonjour, Citizen," and then fell silent again.  Ah! why
had she left the note—why, why, why?

Cléry began to pity her plight, for there was something chivalrous in
him which rose at the sight of her obvious unhappiness, and he gave the
impulse rein.

"Will you not tell me how I can serve you?" he said in his gentlest
voice.  "It will be both a pleasure and an honour."

Aline raised her tired eyes to his, and read kindness in the open
glance.

"You are very good," she said slowly, and looked past him with a
hesitating air.

Rosalie was busy serving at the moment, and a shrill argument over the
price of cabbage was in process. She stepped closer, and spoke very low.

"Citizen Dangeau said I might trust you, Citizen."

"Indeed you may; I am his friend and yours."

Even then the colour rose a little at this linking of their names.  The
impulse towards confidence increased.

"I am in trouble, Citizen, or I should not have asked your help.  There
is a man who follows, insults me, threatens even, and I am without a
protector."

"Not if you will confide that honour to me," said Cléry quickly.

She smiled faintly.

"You are very good."

"But who is it?  Tell me his name, and I will see that you are not
molested in future."

"It is the Citizen Deputy Hébert," faltered Aline, all her terror
returning as she pronounced the hateful name.

Clary’s brows drew close, and a long whistle escaped his lips.

"Oho, Hébert," he said,—"Hébert; but there, Citoyenne, do not be
alarmed, I beg of you.  Leave it to me"; after which he made his adieux
without conspicuous haste, leaving Rosalie much annoyed at having missed
most of the conversation.

Two days later, Hébert came foaming in on Thérèse. When he could speak,
he swore at her.

"See here, Thérèse, if you ’ve a hand in setting Cléry at me, let me
warn you.  I ’ll take foul play from no woman alive, without giving as
good as I get, and if there ’s any of your damned jealousy at work, you
she-devil, I ’ll choke you as soon as look at you, and with a great deal
more pleasure!"

Thérèse stepped up to him and fixed her great black eyes on his pale,
twitching ones.

"Don’t be so silly, Hébert," she said steadily, though her colour rose.
"What is it all about?  What has young Cléry done to you?  It ’s rather
late in the day for you to start quarrelling."

"Did you flatter yourself it was about you?" said Hébert brutally.  "Not
much, my girl; I’ve fresher fish to fry.  But he came up to me an hour
ago, and informed me he had been looking for me everywhere to tell me my
pursuit of that pattern of virtue, our good Dangeau’s mistress, must
cease, or I ’d have him to reckon with, and what I want to know is, have
you a hand in this, or not?"

Thérèse was heavily flushed, and her eyes curiously veiled.

"What!  Cléry too?" she said in a deep whisper. "Dangeau, and you, and
Cléry.  Eh!  I wish her joy of my cast-off clouts.  But she shall
pay—Holy Virgin, she shall pay!"

Hébert caught her by the shoulder and shook it.

"What are you muttering?  I ask you a plain question, and you don’t
answer it.  What about Cléry—did you set him on?"

She threw back her head at that, and gave a long, wild laugh.

"Imbécile!" she screamed.  "I?  Do you hate him? Well, think how I must
love him when he too goes after this girl—goes to her from me, from
swearing I am his goddess, his inspiration?  Ah!"—she caught at her
throat,—"but at least I can give you his head.  The fool—the fool to
betray a woman who holds his life in her hands!  Here is what the
imbecile wrote me only a week ago.  Read, and say if it ’s not enough to
give him to the embraces of the Guillotine?"

The paper she thrust at Hébert came from her bosom, and when he had read
it his dull eyes glittered.

"’The King’s death a crime—perhaps time not ripe for a Republic.’
Thérèse, you ’re worth your weight in gold.  I don’t think Edmond Cléry
will write you any more love-letters."

Thérèse drew gloomily away.

"And the girl?" she asked, with a shiver.

"That, my dear, was to depend on what you could find out about her,"
Hébert reminded her.

His own fury had subsided, and he threw himself into a chair.  Thérèse
made an abrupt movement.

"There is nothing more to find out.  I have it all."

"You ’ve been long enough getting it," said Hébert, sitting up.

"Well, I have it now, and I told you all along that Rosalie was more
obstinate than a mule.  She has been in one of her silent moods; she
would go to all the executions, and then, instead of being a pleasant
companion, there she would sit quite mum, or muttering to herself.
Yesterday, however, she seemed excited.  There was a large batch told
off, three women amongst them, and one of them shrieked when Sanson took
her kerchief off.  That seemed to wake Rosalie up.  She got quite red,
and began to talk as if she had a fever."

"It is one you have caught from her, then," said Hébert impatiently.
"The news, my girl, the news! What do I care for your cousin and her
tantrums?"

Thérèse looked dangerous.

"Am I your cat’s-paw, Hébert?" she said.  "Pah! do your own dirty
work—you ’ll get no more from me."

Hébert cursed his impatience—fool that he was not to remember Thérèse’s
temper!

He forced an ugly smile.

"Oh, well, as you please," he said.  "Let the girl go. There are other
fish in the sea.  Best let Cléry go too, and then they can make a match
of it, unless she should prefer Dangeau."

His intent eyes saw the girl’s face change at that. "A thousand devils!"
she burst out.  "Why do you plague me, Hébert?  Be civil and play fair,
and you ’ll get what you want."

"Come, come, Thérèse," he said soothingly.  "We both want the same
thing—to teach a stuck-up baggage of an aristocrat a lesson.  Let’s be
friends again, and give me the news.  Is it any good?"

"Good enough," said Thérèse, with a sulky look,—"good enough to take her
out of my way, if I say the word.  Why, she ’s a cousin of the ci-devant
Montargis, who got so prettily served on the third of September."

"What?" exclaimed Hébert.

"Ah! you never guessed that, and you ’d never have got it out of
Rosalie; for she ’s as close as the devil, and I believe has a sneaking
fondness for the girl."

"The Montargis!" repeated Hébert, rubbing his hands, slowly.  This was
better than he expected.  No wonder the girl went in terror!  He had
heard the Paris mob howl for the blood of the Austrian spy, and he knew
that a word now would seal her fate.

"Her name?" he demanded.

"Rochambeau—Aline de Rochambeau.  She only clipped the tail off, you
see, and with a taste that way, she should have no objection to a head
clipping—eh, my friend?" said Thérèse, with a short laugh.

Hébert went off with his plans made ready to his hand.  It pleased him
to be able to ruin Cléry, since Cléry had crossed his path; and besides,
it would terrify the girl, and annoy Dangeau, who had a liking for the
boy.  It was inconceivable that he should have been so imprudent as to
trust a woman like Thérèse, but since he had been such a fool he must
just pay for it with his head.

The truth was that Cléry during his service at the Temple had been
strangely impressed, like many another, by the bearing of the
unfortunate Royal Family, and had conceived a young, whole-hearted
adoration for the Queen, which did not, unfortunately for himself,
interfere with his wholly mundane passion for Thérèse Marcel.  In a
moment of extraordinary imprudence he made the latter his confidante,
never doubting that her love for himself would make her a perfectly safe
one.  Poor lad! he was to pay a heavy price for his trust.

On the day following Hébert’s interview with Thérèse he was arrested,
and after a short preliminary examination, which revealed to him her
treachery and his dangerous position, he was lodged in the Abbaye.

His arrest made some little stir in his own small world.  Thérèse
herself brought the news of it to the rue des Lanternes.  Her eyes were
very bright and hard as she glanced round the shop, and she laughed
louder than usual, as she threw out broad hints as to her own share in
the matter, for she liked Rosalie to know her power.

"I think you are a devil, Thérèse," said the fat woman gloomily.

"So others have said," returned Thérèse, with a wicked smile.

Mlle de Rochambeau took the blow in deadly silence. Hope was dead in her
heart, and she prayed earnestly that she alone might suffer, and not
have the wretchedness of feeling she had drawn another into the net
which was closing around her.

Hébert dallied yet a day or two, and then struck home.  Aline was
hurrying homewards, her ears strained for the step she had grown to
expect, when all in a minute he was there by her side.

She turned on him with a sudden resolve.

"Citizen," she said earnestly, "why do you persecute me?  What have I
done to you—to any one?  Surely by now you realise that this pursuit is
useless?"

"The day that I realise that will be a bad day for you," said Hébert,
with malignant emphasis.

The threat brought her head up, with one of those movements of mingled
pride and grace which made him hate and covet her.

"I have done no wrong—what harm can you do me?" she said steadily.

"I have interest with the Revolutionary Tribunal—you may have heard of
the arrest of our young friend Cléry?  Ah!  I thought so,"—as her colour
faded under his cruel gaze.

She shrank a little, but forced her voice to composure. "And does the
Revolutionary Tribunal concern itself with the affairs of a poor girl
who only asks to be allowed to earn her living honestly?"

Hébert smiled—a smile so wicked that she realised an impending blow, and
on the instant it fell.

"It would concern itself with the affairs of Mlle de Rochambeau, cousin
of the ci-devant Marquise de Montargis, who, if my memory serves me
right, was arrested on a charge of treasonable correspondence with
Austria, and who met a well-deserved fate at the hands of an indignant
people."  He leaned closer as he spoke, and marked the instant
stiffening of each muscle in the white face.

For a moment her heart had stopped.  Then it raced on again at a deadly
speed.  She turned her head away that he might not see the terror in her
eyes, and a keen wind met her full, clearing the faintness from her
brain.

She walked on as steadily as she might, but the smooth voice was still
at her ear.

"You are in danger.  My friendship alone can save you.  What do you hope
for?  The return of your lover Dangeau?  I don’t think I should count on
that if I were you, my angel.  Once upon a time there was a young man of
the name of Cléry—Edmond Cléry to be quite correct—yes, I see you know
the story.  No, I don’t think your Dangeau will be of any assistance to
you when I denounce you, and denounce you I most certainly shall, unless
you ask me not to, prettily, with your arms round my neck, shall we
say—eh, Citoyenne Marie?"

As he spoke there was a rumble of wheels, and a rough cart came round
the corner towards them.  He touched her arm, and she looked up
mechanically, to see that it held from eight to ten persons, all
pinioned, and through her own dull misery she was aware of pity stirring
at her heart, for these were prisoners on their way to the Place de la
Revolution.

One was an old man, very white and thin, his scanty hair straggling
above a stained, uncared-for coat, his misty blue eyes looking out at
the world with the unseeing stare of the blind or dying.  Beside him
leaned a youth of about fifteen, whose laboured breath spoke of the
effort by which he preserved an appearance of calm. Beyond them was a
woman, very handsome and upright. Her hair, just cut, floated in short,
ragged wisps about her pale, set face.  Her lips moved constantly, her
eyes looked down.  Hébert laughed and pointed as the cart went by.

"That is where you ’ll be if I give the word," he whispered.  "Choose,
then—a place there, or a place here,"—and he made as if to encircle her
with his arm,—"choose, ma mie."

Aline closed her eyes.  All her young life ran hotly in her veins, but
the force of its recoil from the man beside her was stronger than the
force of its recoil from death.

"The Citizen insults me when he assumes there is a choice," she said,
with cold lips.

"The prison is so attractive then?  The embraces of the Guillotine so
preferable to mine—hein?"

"The Citizen has expressed my views."

Hébert cursed and flung away, but as she moved on he was by her side
again.

"After all," he said, "you may change your mind again.  Until to-morrow,
I can save you."

"Citizen, I shall never change my mind.  There is no choice; it is
simply that."

An inexorable decision looked from her face, and carried conviction even
to him.

"One cannot save imbeciles," he muttered as he left her.

Mademoiselle walked home with an odd sense of relief.  Now that the
first shock was over, and the danger so long anticipated was actually
upon her, she was calm. At least Hébert would be gone from her life.
Death was clean and final; there would be no dishonour, no soiling of
her ears by that sensual voice, nor of her eyes by those evil glances.

She knelt and prayed for a while, and sat down to her work with hands
that moved as skilfully as before.

That night she slept more peacefully than she had done for weeks.  In
her dreams she walked along a green and leafy lane, birds sang, and the
sky burned blue in the rising sun.  She walked, and breathed blissful
air, and was happy.

Out of such dreams one awakes with a sense of the unreality of everyday
life.  Some of the glamour clings about us, and we see a mirage of
happiness instead of the sands of the Desert of Desolation.  Is it only
mirage, or some sense sealed, except at rarest intervals?—a sense before
whose awakened exercise the veil wears thin, and from behind we catch
the voices of the withdrawn, we feel the presence of peace, and garner a
little of the light of Eternity to shed a glow on Time.

Aline woke happily to a soft May dawn.  Her dream lay warm against her
heart and cherished it.

In the evening she was arrested and taken to the prison of the Abbaye.



                               CHAPTER XV

                               SANS SOUCI


In after days Aline de Rochambeau looked back upon her time in prison as
a not unpeaceful interlude between two periods of stress and terror.
After loneliness unspeakable, broken only by companionship with the
coarse, the dull, the cruel, she found herself in the politest society
of France, and in daily, hourly contact with all that was graceful,
exquisite, and refined in her own sex,—gallant, witty, and courteous in
the other.

When she joined the other prisoners on the morning after her arrest, the
scene surprised her by its resemblance to that ill-fated reception which
had witnessed at once her debut and her farewell to society.  The
dresses were a good deal shabbier, the ladies’ coiffures not quite so
well arranged, but there was the same gay, light talk, the same bowing
and curtsying, the same air of high-bred indifference to all that did
not concern the polite arts.

All at once she became very acutely conscious of her bourgeoise dress
and unpowdered hair.  She felt the roughness of her pricked fingers, and
experienced that painful sense of inferiority which sometimes afflicts
young girls who are unaccustomed to the world.  The sensation passed in
a flash, but the memory of it stung her not a little, and she crossed
the room with her head held high.

The old Comtesse de Matigny eyed her through a tortoise-shell lorgnette
which bore a Queen’s cipher in brilliants, and had been a gift from
Marie Antoinette.

"Who is that?" she demanded, in her deep, imperious tones.

"Some little bourgeoise, accused of Heaven knows what," shrugged M. de
Lancy.

The old lady allowed hazel eyes which were still piercing to rest for a
moment longer on Aline.  Then they flashed mockingly on M. le Marquis.

"My friend, you are not as intelligent as usual.  Did you see the girl’s
colour change when she came in? When a bourgeoise is embarrassed, she
hangs her head and walks awkwardly.  If she had an apron on, she would
bite the corner.  This girl looked round, and flushed,—it showed the
fine grain of her skin,—then up went her head, and she walked like a
princess.  Besides, I know the face."

A slight, fair woman, with tired eyes which looked as if the colour had
been washed from them by much weeping, leaned forward.  She was Mme de
Créspigny, and her husband had been guillotined a fortnight before.

"I have seen her too, Madame," she said in an uninterested sort of way,
"but I cannot recall where it was."

Mme la Comtesse rapped her knee impatiently with a much-beringed hand.

"It is some one she reminds me of," she said at last—"some one long ago,
when I was younger.  I never forget a face, I always prided myself on
that.  It was at Court—long ago—those were gay days, my friends. Ah!  I
have it.  La belle Irlandaise, Mlle Desmond, who married—  Now, who did
Mlle Desmond marry? It is I who am stupid to-day.  It is the cold, I
think."

"Was it Henri de Rochambeau?" said De Lancy.

She nodded vivaciously.

"It was—yes, that was it, and I danced at their wedding, and dreamed on
a piece of the wedding-cake. I shall not say of whom I dreamed, but it
was not of feu M. le Comte, for I had never seen him then.  Yes, yes,
Henri de Rochambeau, and la belle Irlandaise. They were a very
personable couple, and why they saw fit to go and exist in the country,
Heaven alone knows—and perhaps his late Majesty, who did Mme de
Rochambeau the honour of a very particular admiration."

"And she objected, chère Comtesse?"  De Lancy’s tone was one of pained
incredulity.

Chère Comtesse shrugged her shoulders delicately.

"What would you?" she observed.  "She was as beautiful as a picture, and
as virtuous as if Our Lady had sat for it.  It even fatigued one a
little, her virtue."

Her own had bored no one—she had not permitted it any such social
solecism.

"I remember," said De Lancy; "they went down to Rochambeau, and expired
there of dulness and each other’s unrelieved society."

Mme de Créspigny had been looking attentively at Aline.  "Now I know who
the girl is," she said.  "It is the girl who disappeared, who was
supposed to have been massacred.  I saw her at Laure de Montargis’
reception the day of the arrests, and I remember her now.  Ah! that poor
Laure——"

She shuddered faintly.  De Lancy became interested.

"But she accompanied her cousin to La Force and perished there."

"She must have escaped.  I am sure it is she.  She had that way of
holding her head—like a stag—proud and timid."

"It was one of her mother’s attractions," said the Comtesse.  "Mlle
Desmond was, however, a great deal more beautiful.  Her daughter, if
this girl is her daughter, has only that trick, and the eyes—yes, she
has the lovely eyes," as Aline turned her head and looked in their
direction.  "M. de Lancy, do me the favour of conducting her here, and
presenting her to me."

The little old dandy clicked away on his high heels, and in a moment
Mademoiselle was aware of a truly courtly bow, whilst a thin, shaky
voice said gallantly:

"We rejoice to welcome Mademoiselle to our society."

She curtsied—a graceful action—and Madame de Matigny watching, nodded
twice complacently. "Bourgeoise indeed!" she murmured, and pressed her
lips together.

"You are too good, Monsieur," said Mademoiselle.

Only four words, but the voice—the composure.

"Madame la Comtesse is right, as always; she is certainly one of us,"
thought De Lancy.

"Madame la Comtesse de Matigny begs the honour of your acquaintance," he
pursued; "she had the pleasure of knowing your parents."

"Monsieur?"

"Do I not address Mlle de Rochambeau?"

Surprise, and a sense of terror at hearing her name, so long concealed,
brought the colour to her face.

"That is my name," she murmured.

"She is always right—she is wonderful," repeated the Marquis to himself,
as he piloted his charge across the room.

He made the presentation in form.

"Madame la Comtesse, permit that I present to you Mademoiselle de
Rochambeau."

Aline bent to the white, wrinkled hand, but was raised and embraced.

"You resemble your mother too closely to be mistaken by any one who had
the happiness of her acquaintance," said a gracious voice, and thereon
ensued a whole series of introductions.  "M. le Marquis de Lancy, who
also knew your parents."

"Mme de Créspigny, my granddaughter Mlle Marguerite de Matigny."

A delightful sensation of having come home to a place of safety and
shelter came over Aline as she smiled and curtsied, forgetting her poor
dress and hard-worked fingers in the pleasure of being restored to the
society of her equals.

"Sit down here, beside me," commanded Mme de Matigny.  She had been a
great beauty as well as a great lady in her day, and she spoke with an
imperious air that fitted either part.  "Marguerite, give Mademoiselle
your stool."

Aline protested civilly, but Mlle Marguerite, a little dark-eyed
creature, with a baby mouth, dropped a soft whisper in her ear as she
rose:

"Grandmamma is always obeyed—but on the instant," and Aline sat down
submissively.

"And now, racontez donc, mon enfant, racontez," said the old lady,
"where have you been all these months, and how did you escape?"

Embarrassing questions these, but to hesitate was out of the question.
That would at once point to necessity for concealment.  She began,
therefore, and told her story quite simply, and truly, only omitting
mention of her work with Dangeau.

Mme de Matigny tapped her knee.

"But, enfin, I do not understand.  What is all this? Why did you not
appeal to your cousin’s friends, to Mme de St. Aignan, or Mme de
Rabutin, for example?"

"I knew only the names, Madame," said Aline, lifting her truthful eyes.
"And at first I thought all had perished.  I dared not ask, and there
was no one to tell me."

"Poor child," the hand stopped tapping, and patted her shoulder kindly.
"And this Rosalie you speak of, what was she?"

"Sometimes she was kind.  I do not think she meant me any harm, and at
least she saved my life once."

When she came to the story of her arrest, she faltered a little.  The
old eyes were so keen.

"What do they accuse you of?  You have done nothing?"

"Oh, chère Comtesse, is it then necessary that one should have done
anything?" broke in Adèle de Créspigny, a little bitter colour in that
faded voice of hers. "Have you done anything, or I, or little Marguerite
here?"

Madame fanned herself, her manner slightly distant. She was not
accustomed to be interrupted.

"They say I wrote letters to emigrés, to my son Charles, in fact.
Marguerite also.  It is a crime, it appears, to indulge in family
feeling.  But, you, you, Mademoiselle, did not even do that."

"No," said Aline, blushing.  "It was ... it was that the Citizen Hébert
found out my real name—I do not know how—and denounced me."

Her downcast looks filled in enough of the story for those penetrating
eyes.

"Canaille!" said the old lady under her breath, and then aloud:

"You are better here, with us.  It is more convenable," and once more
she patted the shoulder, and that odd sense of being at home brought
sudden tears to Aline’s eyes.

A few days later a piece of news reached her.  She and Marguerite de
Matigny sat embroidering the same long strip of silk.  They had become
close friends in the enforced daily intimacy of prison life, and the
luxury of possessing a friend with whom she could revive the old,
innocent, free talk of convent times was delightful in the extreme to
the lonely girl, forced too soon into a self-reliance beyond her years.

Mlle Marguerite looked up from the brilliant half-set stitch, and
glanced warily round.

"Tiens, Aline," she said, putting her small head on one side, "I heard
something this morning, something that concerns you."

Aline grew paler.  That all news was bad news was one axiom which the
events of the last few months had graved deeply on her heart.
Marguerite saw the tremor that passed over her, and made haste to be
reassuring.

"No, no, ma belle, it is nothing bad.  Stupid that I am!  It is that
these wretches outside have been fighting amongst themselves, and your
M. Hébert has been sent to prison.  I hope he likes it," and she took a
little vicious stitch which knotted her yellow thread, and confused the
symmetrical centre of a most gorgeous flower.  "There, I have tangled my
thread again, and grandmamma will scold me.  I shall say it was the
fault of your M. Hébert."

"Please don’t call him _my_ M. Hébert," said Aline proudly.  Marguerite
laid down her needle.

"Aline, why did he denounce you?"

"Ah, Marguerite, don’t talk of him.  You don’t know what a wretch—" and
she broke off shuddering.

"No, but I should like to know.  I can see you could tell tales—oh, but
most exciting ones!  Why did he do it?  He must have had some reason; or
did he just see you, and hate you, like love at first sight, only the
other way round?"

Mlle de Rochambeau assumed an air of prudence and reproof.

"Fi donc, Mlle de Matigny, what would your grandmother say to such
talk?"

Marguerite made a little, wicked _moue_.

"She would say—it was not convenable," she mimicked, and laid a coaxing
hand on her friend’s knee. "But tell me then, Aline, tell me what I want
to know—tell me all about it, all there is to tell.  I shall tease and
tease until you do," she declared.

"Oh, Marguerite, it is too dreadful to laugh about."

"If one never laughed, because of dreadful things, why, then, we should
all forget how to do it nowadays," pouted Marguerite.  "But, see then,
already I cry—" and she lifted an infinitesimal scrap of cambric to her
dancing eyes.

Mlle de Rochambeau laughed, but she shook her head, and Marguerite gave
her a little pinch.

"Wicked one," she said; "but I shall find out all the same.  All my life
I have found out what I wanted to, yes, even secrets of grandmamma’s,"
and she nodded mischievously; but Aline turned back to the original
subject of the conversation.

"Are you sure he is in prison?" she asked anxiously.

"Yes, yes, quite sure.  The Abbé Loisel said so when he came this
morning.  I heard him say to grand-mamma, ’The wolves begin to tear each
other.  It is a just retribution.’  And then he said, ’Hébert, who edits
that disgrace to the civilised world, the _Père Duchesne_, is in
prison.’  Oh, Aline, would n’t it have been fun if he had been sent
here?"

Aline’s hand went to her heart.

"Oh, mon Dieu!" she said quickly.

Marguerite made round baby eyes of wonder.

"You _are_ frightened of him," she cried.  "He must have done, or said,
something very bad to make you look like that.  If you would tell me
what it was, I should not have to go on worrying you about him, but as
it is, I shall have to make you simply hate me.  I know I shall," she
concluded mournfully.

"Oh, child, child, you don’t understand," cried Mlle de Rochambeau,
feeling suddenly that her two years of greater age were twenty of bitter
experience.  Her eyes filled as she bent her burning face over the
embroidery, whilst two large tears fell from them and lay on the petals
of her golden flower like points of glittering dew.

Marguerite coloured, and looked first down at the floor and then up at
her friend’s flushed face.

"Oh, Aline!" she breathed, "was it really that?  Oh, the wretch!  And
when you wouldn’t look at him he revenged himself?  Ouf, it makes me
creep.  No wonder you feel badly about it.  The villain!" she stamped a
childish foot, and knotted her thread again.

"Oh dear, it will have to be cut," she declared, "and what grandmamma
will say, the saints alone know."

Aline took the work out of the too vehement hands, and spent five
minutes in bringing order out of a sad confusion.  "Now it is better,"
she said, handing it back again; "you are too impatient, little one."

"Ah, ’twas not my fault, but that villain’s.  How could I be calm when I
thought of him?  But you are an angel of patience, ma mie.  How can you
be so quiet and still when things go wrong?"

"Ah," said Mademoiselle with half a sigh, "for eight months I earned my
living by my work, you know, and if I had lost patience when my thread
knotted I should have had nothing to eat next day, so you see I was
obliged to learn."

Mme de Matigny came by as she ended, and both girls rose and curtsied.
She glanced at the work, nodded her head, and passed on, on M. de
Lancy’s arm. For the moment chattering Marguerite became decorous Mlle
de Matigny—a _jeune fille, bien élevée_.  In her grandmother’s presence
only the demurest of glances shot from the soft brown eyes, only the
most dutiful and conventional remarks dropped from the pretty, prudish
lips—but with Aline, what a difference!  Now, the stately passage over,
she leaned close again above the neglected needle.

"Dis donc, Aline!  You were betrothed, were you not, to that poor M. de
Sélincourt?  Were you inconsolable when he was killed?  Did you like
him?"

The ambiguous "aimer" fell from her lips with a teasing inflection.

"He is dead," reproved Mlle de Rochambeau.

"Tiens, I did not say he was alive!  But did you; tell me?  What did it
feel like to be betrothed?"

"Ask Mme de Matigny what is the correct feeling for a young girl to have
for her betrothed," said Aline, a hint of bitterness behind her smile.

"De grêce!" and Marguerite’s plump hands went up in horror.  "See then,
Aline, I think it would be nice to love—really to love—do you not think
so?"

Mlle de Rochambeau shook her head with decision. Something in the light
words had stabbed her, and she felt an inward pain.

"I do not see why one should not love one’s husband," pursued Marguerite
reflectively.  "If one has to live with some one always, it would be far
more agreeable to love him.  But it appears that that is a very
bourgeoise idea, and that it is more convenable to love some one else."

"Oh, Marguerite!"

"Yes, yes, I tell you it is so!  Here one hears everything.  They cannot
send one out of the room when the conversation begins to grow
interesting.  There is Mme de Créspigny—she is in our room—she weeps
much in the night, but it is not because of her husband, oh no; it is
for M. le Chevalier de St. Armand, who was guillotined on the same day."

"Hush, Marguerite, you should not say such things."

"But if they are true, and this is really true, for when they brought
her the news she cried out ’Etienne’ very loud, and fainted.  M. de
Créspigny was our cousin, so I know all his names.  There is no Etienne
amongst them," and she nodded wisely.

"Oh, Marguerite!"

"So you see it is true.  I find that odious, for my part, though, to be
sure, what could she do if she loved him?  One cannot make oneself love
or not love.  It comes or it goes, and you can only weep like Mme de
Créspigny, unless, to be sure, one could make shift to laugh, as I think
I shall try to do when my time comes."

Mlle de Rochambeau looked up with a sudden flame in her eyes.

"It is not true that one cannot help loving," she said quickly.  "One
can—one can.  If it is a wrong love it can be crushed, and one forgets.
Oh, you do not know what you are talking about, Marguerite."

Marguerite embraced her.

"And do you?" she whispered slyly.

Girls’ talk—strange talk for a prison, and one where Death stood by the
entrance, beckoning one and another.

One day it was M. de Lancy who was called away in the midst of a
compliment to his "Chère Comtesse," called to appear at Fouquier
Tinville’s bar, and later, at that of another and more merciful Judge.

The next, Mme de Créspigny’s tired eyes rested for the last time upon
prison walls, and she went out smiling wistful good-byes, to follow
husband and lover to a world where there is neither marrying nor giving
in marriage.

As each departed, the groups would close their ranks, and after a
moment’s pause would talk the faster and more lightly, until once more
the summons came, and again one would be taken and one left.

This was one side of prison society.  On the other a group of devout
persons kept up the forms of convent life, just as the coterie of Mme de
Matigny did those of the salon.  The Abbé de Nérac, the Abbé Constantin,
and half a dozen nuns were the nucleus of this second group, but not all
were ecclesiastics or religious.  M. de Maurepas, the young soldier,
with the ugly rugged face and good brown eyes, was of their number, and
devout ladies not a few, who spent their time between encouraging one
another in the holy life, and hours of silent prayer for those in the
peril of trial and the agony of death.

Their conversations may still be read, and breathe a piety as exquisite
as it is natural and touching.  To both these groups came daily the Abbé
Loisel, bringing to the one news of the outside world, and to the other
the consolations of religion.  Mass was said furtively, the Host
elevated, the faithful communicated, and Loisel would pass out again to
his life of hourly peril, moving from hiding-place to hiding-place, and
from plot to plot, risking his safety by day to comfort the prisoners,
or to bless the condemned on their way to the scaffold, and by night to
give encouragement to some little band of aristocrats who thought they
could fight the Revolution.

Singular mixture of conspirator and saint, his courage was undoubted.
The recorded heroisms of the times are many, those unrecorded more, and
his strange adventures have never found an historian.

Outside the Gironde rocked, tottered, and fell. Imprisoned Hébert was
loose again.  Danton struck for the Mountain, and struck right home.
First arrest, then prison, and lastly death came upon the men who had
dreamed of ruling France.  The strong man armed had kept the house,
until there came one stronger than he.

So passed the Girondins, first of the Revolution’s children to fall
beneath the Juggernaut car they had reared and set in motion.



                              CHAPTER XVI

                          AN UNWELCOME VISITOR


Mlle de Rochambeau shared a small, unwholesome cell with three other
women.  One of them, Mme de Coigny, a young widow, had lately given
birth to a child, a poor, fretful little creature whose wailings added
to the general discomfort.

Mme Renard, the linen draper’s wife, tossed her head, and complained
volubly to whoever would listen, that she got no sleep at nights, since
the brat came.  She had been a great man’s mistress, and was under
arrest because he had emigrated.  Terrified to death, she bewailed her
lot continually, was sometimes fawning, sometimes insolent to her
aristocratic companions, and always very disdainful of the fourth
inmate, a stout Breton peasant, with a wooden manner which concealed an
enormous respect for the company in which she found herself.  She told
her rosary incessantly, when not occupied with the baby, who was less
ill at ease in her accustomed arms than with its frail, young mother.

One night Mademoiselle awoke with a start.  She thought she was being
called, and listened intently.  A little light came through the grated
window—moonlight, but sallow, and impure, as if the rays were infected
by the heaviness of the atmosphere.  It served, however, to show the
heavy immobility of Marie Kérac’s form as she lay, emitting unmistakable
snores, the baby caught in her left arm and sleeping too.  A dingy beam
fell right across Mme Renard’s face.  It had been pretty enough, in a
round dimpled way, but now it looked heavy and leaden, showing lines of
fretful fear, even in sleep.

Out of the darkness in the corner there came a long-drawn sigh, and then
a very low voice just breathed the words, "Mademoiselle de Rochambeau,
are you awake?"  Aline sat up.

"Is it you, Madame de Coigny?" she asked, a little startled, for both
sigh and voice had a vague unearthliness that seemed to make the night
darker. The Bretonne’s honest breathing was a reassuring sound.

"Yes!" said the low voice.

"Are you ill—can I do anything for you?"

There was a rustling movement and a dim shape emerged from the shadow.

"If I might lie down beside you for a while.  The little one went so
peacefully to sleep with that good soul, that I had not the heart to
take her back, and it is lonely—mon Dieu, it is lonely!"

Aline made room on the straw pallet, and put an arm round the cold,
shrinking figure.

"Why, you are chilled," she said gently, "and the night is quite warm."

"To-morrow I shall be colder," said Mme de Coigny in a strange whisper.

"My dear, what do you mean?"

Something like a shiver made the straw rustle.

"I am not afraid.  It is only that I cannot get warm"; then turning her
face to Aline she whispered, "they will come for me to-morrow."

"No, no; why should you think so?  How can you know?"

"Ah, I know—I know quite well—and I am glad, really.  I should have been
glad to die before the little one came, for then she would have been
safe too.  Now she has this business of life before her, and, see you, I
find life too sad, at all events for us women."

"Life is not always sad," said Aline soothingly.

"Mine has been sad," said Mme de Coigny.  "May I talk to you a little?
We are of the same age, and to-night—to-night I feel so strange, as if I
were quite alone in some great empty place."

"Yes, talk to me, and I will put my arms round you. There!  Now you will
be warmer."

Another shiver shook the bed, and then the low voice began again.

"I wanted to be a nun, you know.  When I was a child they called me the
little nun, and always I said I would be one.  Then when I was eighteen,
my elder sister died, and I was an heiress, and they married me to M. de
Coigny."

"Did you not want to marry him?"

"Nobody thought of asking me, and, mon Dieu, how I cried, and wept, and
tortured myself.  I thought I was a martyr, no less, and prayed that I
might die.  It was terrible!  By the time the wedding-day came, M. de
Coigny must have wondered at his bride, for my face was swollen with
weeping, and my eyes red and sore," and she gave a little ghost of a
laugh.

"Was he kind to you?"

"Yes, he was kind"—there was a queer inflection in the low tone—"and
almost at once he was called away for six months, and I went back to my
prayers, and tried to fancy myself a nun again.  Then he came back, and
all at once, I don’t know how, something seemed to break in my heart,
and I loved him.  Mon Dieu, how I loved him!  And he loved me,—that was
what was so wonderful."

"Then you were happy?"

"For a month—one little month—only one little month—" she broke off on a
sob, and clung to Aline in the dark.  "They arrested us, took us to
prison, and when I would have gone to the scaffold with him, they tore
me away, yes, though I went on my knees and prayed to them.  ’The
Republic does not kill her unborn citizens,’ they said; and they sent me
here to wait."

"You will live for the poor little baby," whispered Aline, her eyes full
of tears, but Mme de Coigny shook her head.

"No," she said quietly; "it is over now.  To-morrow they will take me
away."

She lay a little longer, but did not talk much, and after a while she
slipped away to her own mattress, and Aline, listening, could hear that
she slept.

In the morning she made no reference to what had passed, but when Aline
left the cell to go to Mme de Matigny’s room she thought as she passed
out that she heard a whispered "Adieu," though on looking round she saw
that Mme de Coigny’s face was bent over the child, whom she was rocking
on her knee.

She went on her way, walking fast, and lifting her skirts carefully, for
the passages of the Abbaye were places of indescribable noisomeness.
About half-way down, the open door of an empty cell let a little light
in upon the filth and confusion, and showed the bestial, empurpled face
of a drunken turnkey, who lay all along a bench, sleeping off the
previous night’s excesses.  As Aline hastened, she saw a man come down
the corridor, holding feebly to the wall.  Opposite the empty cell he
paused, catching at the jamb with shaking fingers, and lifting a face
which Mademoiselle de Rochambeau recognised with a little cry of shocked
surprise.

"M. Cléry!" she exclaimed.

Edmond Cléry could hardly stand, but he forced a pitiful parody of his
old, gay laugh and bow.

"Myself," he said, "or at least as much of me as the ague has left."

Just inside the cell was a rough stool, and Aline drew it quickly
forward.  He sank down gratefully, leaning against the door-post, and
closing his eyes for a moment.

"Oh," said Mademoiselle, "how ill you look; you are not fit to walk
alone."

He gave her a whimsical glance.

"So it appears," he murmured, "since De Maurepas, you, and my own legs
are all of the same story.  Well, he will be after me in a few moments,
that good Maurepas, and then I shall get to my room again."

"I think I know M. de Maurepas a little," said Aline; "he is very
religious."

Cléry gave a faint laugh.

"Yes, we are strange room-mates, he and I.  He prays all the time and I
not at all, since I never could imagine that le bon Dieu could possibly
be interested in my banal conversation; but he is a good comrade, that
Maurepas, in spite of his prayers."

"But, Monsieur, how come you to be so ill?  If you knew how I have
reproached myself, and now to see you like this—oh, you cannot tell how
I feel."

Cléry found the pity in her eyes very agreeable.

"And why reproach yourself, Citoyenne; it is not your fault that my cell
is damp."

"No, no, but your arrest; to think that I should have brought that upon
you.  Had I known, I would have done anything rather than ask your
help."

"Ah, then you would have deprived me of a pleasure. Indeed, Citoyenne,
my arrest need not trouble you; it was due, not to your affairs, but my
own."

"Ah, M. Cléry, is that true?" and her voice spoke her relief.

"I should be able to think better of myself if it were not," said Cléry
a little bitterly.  "I was a fool, and I am being punished for my folly.
Dangeau warned me too.  When you see him again, Citoyenne, you may tell
him that he was right about Thérèse."

"Thérèse—Thérèse Marcel?" asked Aline, shrinking a little.

"Ah—you know her!  Well, I trusted her, and she betrayed me, and here I
am.  Dangeau always said that she was dangerous—the devil’s imitation of
a woman, he called her once, and you can tell him that he was quite
right."

Aline averted her eyes, and her colour rose a shade. For a moment her
heart felt warm.  Then she looked back at Cléry, and fell quickly upon
her knees beside him, for he was gasping for breath, and falling
sideways from the stool.  She managed to support him for the moment, but
her heart beat violently, and at the sound of footsteps she called out.
To her relief, M. de Maurepas came up quickly.  If he felt any surprise
at finding her in such a situation, he was too well-bred to show it.

"Do not be alarmed," he said hastily.  "He has been very ill, but this
is only a swoon; he should not have walked."  Then, "Mademoiselle, move
your arm, and let me put mine around him, so—now I can manage."

He lifted Cléry as he spoke, and carried him the length of the corridor.

"Now, if Mademoiselle will have the goodness to push the door a little
wider," and he passed in and laid Cléry gently down.

Mademoiselle hesitated by the door for a minute.

"He looks so ill, will he die?" she said.

"Not of this," returned M. de Maurepas; then, after a moment’s pause,
and with a grave smile, "Nor at all till it is God’s will,
Mademoiselle."

Mlle de Rochambeau spent the morning with Marguerite. On her return to
her own cell she found an empty place.  Mme de Coigny was gone, and the
little infant wailed on the peasant woman’s lap.

Cléry was better next day.  On the third Aline met M. de Maurepas in the
corridor.  He was accompanied by a rough-looking turnkey, and she was
about to pass without speaking, but their eyes met, and on the impulse
she stopped and asked:

"How is M. Cléry to-day?"

The young soldier looked at her steadily.

"He has—he has moved on, Mademoiselle," he returned, something of
distress in his tone.

The turnkey burst into a loud, brutal laugh.

"Eh, that was the citizen with the ague?  At the last he shook and shook
so much that he shook his head off—yes—right out of the little window,
where his friend is now going to look for it," and he clapped De
Maurepas on the shoulder with a dingy, jocular hand.

Aline drew a sharp breath.

"Oh, no," she said involuntarily, but De Maurepas bent his head in grave
assent.

"Is this so pleasant a camp that you grudge me my marching orders?" he
asked; and as they passed he looked back a moment and said, "Adieu,
Mademoiselle."

She gave him back the word very low, and he smiled again, a smile that
irradiated his rough features and steady brown eyes.  "Indeed, I think I
go to ’Him,’" he said, and was gone.

Aline steadied herself against the wall, and closed her eyes for a
moment.  She had conceived a sincere liking for the young soldier; Cléry
had done her a service, and now both were gone, and she still left.  And
yet she knew that Hébert was loose again.  When she had first heard of
his release she spent days of shuddering apprehension, but as the time
went on she began to entertain a trembling hope that she was forgotten,
as happened to more than one prisoner in those days.

Hébert was loose again, but, for a time at least, with hands too full of
public matters, and brain too occupied with the struggle for existence,
to concern himself with matters of private pleasure or revenge.

It was the middle of June before he thought seriously of Mlle de
Rochambeau.

"Dangeau is returning," said Danton one morning, and Hébert’s dormant
spite woke again into full activity.

At the Abbaye, the hot afternoon waned; a drowsy stillness fell upon its
inmates.  Mme de Matigny dozed a little.  She had grown older in the
past few weeks, but her glance was still piercing, and she woke at
intervals with a start, and let it rest sharply upon her little circle,
as if forbidding them to be aware of Juno nodding.

Marguerite and Aline sat together: Aline half asleep with her head in
her friend’s lap, for Mme de Coigny’s baby had died at dawn, and she had
been up all night tending it, and now fatigue had its way with her.

Suddenly a turnkey stumbled in.  He had been drinking, and stood
blinking a moment as, coming from the dark corridor, he met the level
sunlight full.  Then he called Mlle de Rochambeau’s name, and as she
awoke with a sense of startled amazement Marguerite flung soft arms
about her.

"Ah, ma mie, ma belle, ma bien aimée!" she cried, sobbing.

"Chut!" said the man, with a leer.  "She ’d rather hear that from some
one else, I take it, my little Citoyenne.  If I ’m not mistaken there ’s
some one ready enough.  There ’s no need to cry this time, since it is
only to see a visitor that I want the Citoyenne.  There ’s a Citizen
Deputy below with an order to see her, so less noise, please, and
march."

The blood ran back to Aline’s cheek.  Only two days back the Abbé had
mentioned Dangeau’s name, and had said he was returning.  If it should
be he?  The thought flashed, and was checked even as it flashed, but she
followed the man with a step that was buoyant in spite of her fatigue.
Then in the gaoler’s room—Hébert!

Just a moment’s pause, and she came forward with a composure that hid
God knows what of shrinking, maidenly disgust.

Hébert was not attractive to look at.  His garments were dusty and
wine-stained, his creased, yellow linen revealing a frowsy and unshaven
chin, where the reddish hair showed unpleasantly upon the fat,
unwholesome flesh.  He laughed, disclosing broken teeth.

"It was not I whom you expected, hein Citoyenne," he said, with
diabolical intuition.  "He gets tired easily, you see, our good Jacques
Dangeau, and lips that have been kissed too often don’t tempt him any
more."

His leer pointed the insult, and an intolerable burning invaded every
limb, but she steadied herself against the wall, and leaned there, her
head still up, facing him.

"Did you think I had forgotten you too?" he pursued, smiling odiously.
"Ah!  I see you did me that injustice, but you do not know me, ma belle.
Mine is such a faithful heart.  It never forgets, never; and it always
gets what it wants in the end.  I have been in prison too, as you may
have heard—yes, you did?  And grieved for me, pretty one, that I am sure
of.  A few rascals crossed my path and annoyed me for the moment. Where
are they now?  Trembling under arrest.  Had they not detained me, I
should have flown to you long ago; but I trust that now you acquit me of
the discourtesy of keeping a lady waiting.  I am really the soul of
politeness."

There was a pause.  Mademoiselle held to the wall, and kept her eyes
away from his face.

"Your affair comes on to-morrow," he said, with a brisk change of tone.

For the moment she really felt a sense of thankfulness. So she was
delivered from the unbearable affront of this man’s presence what did
death matter?

Hébert guessed her thoughts.

"Rather death than me, hein?" he said, leaning closer.  "Is that what
you are thinking, Ma’mselle White-face?"

Her eyes spoke for her.

"I can save you yet," he cried, angered by her silence.  "A word from me
and your patriotism is above reproach.  Come, you ’ve made a good fight,
and I won’t say that has n’t made me like you all the better. I always
admire spirit; but now it’s time the play was over.  Down with the
curtain, and let’s kiss and make friends behind it."

Mademoiselle stood silent, a helpless thing at bay.

"You won’t, eh?" and his tone changed suddenly. "Very well, my pretty
piece of innocence; it’s Fouquier Tinville to-morrow, and then the
guillotine,—but"—his voice sank savagely—"my turn first."

She quivered in a sick horror.  "What did he mean; what could he do?
Oh, Mary Virgin!"

His face came very close with its pale, hideous smile.

"Come to me willingly, and I ’ll save your life and set you free when I
’ve had enough of you.  Remain the obstinate pig you are, and you shall
come all the same, but the guillotine shall have you next day."

Her white lips moved.

"You cannot—" she breathed almost inaudibly. Her senses were clouding
and reeling, but she clutched desperately at that one thought.  Some
things were impossible.  This was one of them.  Death—yes, and oh,
quickly, quickly; no more of this torture.  But this new, monstrous
threat—no, no, dear God! no, such a thing could not, could not happen!

The room was all mist, swirling, rolling mist out of which looked
Hébert’s eyes.  Through it sounded his voice, his laugh.

"Cannot, cannot—fine words, my pretty, fine words. When one has friends,
good friends, one can do a good deal more than you think, and instead of
finding yourself in the Conciergerie between sentence and execution, I
can arrange quite nicely that you should be in these loving arms of
mine.  Aha, my dear!  What do you say now?  Will you hear reason, or
no?"

The mist covered everything now, and the wall she leaned against seemed
to rock and give.  She spread out her hands, and with a gasp fell
waveringly, first to her knees, and then sideways upon the stones in a
dead faint.



                              CHAPTER XVII

                            DISTRESSING NEWS


Dangeau entered Paris next morning.  His mission had dragged itself out
to an interminable length.  Even now he returned alone, his colleague,
Bonnet, having been ordered to remain at Lyons for the present, whilst
Dangeau made report at headquarters. The cities of the South smouldered
ominously, and were ready at a breath to break into roaring flame.  Even
as Dangeau rode the first tongues of fire ran up, and a general
conflagration threatened.  Of this he rode to give earnest warning, and
his face was troubled and anxious, though the outdoor life had given it
a brown vigour which had been lacking before.

He put up his horse at an inn and walked to his old quarters with a warm
glow rising in his breast; a glow before which all misgivings and
preoccupations grew faint.

He had not been able to forget the pale, proud aristocrat, who had
claimed his love so much against his will and hers; but in his days of
absence he had set her image as far apart as might be, involving himself
in the press of public business, to the exclusion of his thoughts of
her.  But now—now that he was about to see her again, the curtain at the
back of his mind lifted, and showed her standing—an image in a
shrine—unapproachably radiant, unforgettably enchanting, unalterably
dear, and all the love in him fell on its knees and adored with hidden
face.

He passed up the Rue des Lanternes and beheld its familiar features
transfigured.  Here she had walked all the months of his absence, and
here perhaps she had thought of him; there in the little room had
mingled his name with her sweet prayers.  He remembered hotly the night
he had asked her if she prayed for him, and her low, exquisitely
tremulous, "Yes, Citizen."

He drew a long, deep breath and entered the small shop.

It was dark coming in from the glare, but he made out Rosalie in her
accustomed seat, only it seemed to him that she was huddled forward in
an unusual manner.

"Why, Citoyenne!" he cried cheerfully, "I am back, you see."

Rosalie raised her head and stared at him, and she seemed to be coming
back with difficulty from a great distance.  As his eyes grew used to
the change from the outer day he looked curiously at her face.  There
was something strange, it seemed to him, about the sunken eyes; they had
lost the old shrewd look, and were dull and wavering.  For a moment it
occurred to him that she had been drinking; then the heavy glance
changed, brightening into recognition.

"You, Citizen?" she said, with a sort of dull surprise.

"Myself, and very glad to be back."

"You are well, Citizen?"

"And you, I fear, suffering?"

Rosalie pulled herself together.

"No, no," she protested, "I am well too, quite well. It is only that the
days are dull when there is no spectacle, and I sit there and think, and
count the heads, and wonder if it hurt them much; and then it makes my
own head ache, and I become stupid."

Dangeau shuddered lightly.  A gruesome welcome this.

"I would not go and see such things," he said.

"Sometimes I wish—" began Rosalie, and then paused; a red patch came on
either sallow cheek.  "It is too ennuyant when there is nothing to
excite one, voyez-vous?  Yesterday there were five, and one of them
struggled.  Ah, that gave me a palpitation!  They say it was n’t an
aristocrat.  _They_ all die alike, with a little stretched smile and
steady eyes—no crying out—I find that tiresome at the last."

"Why, Rosalie," said Dangeau, "you should stay at home as you used to.
Since when have you become a gadabout?  You will finish by having bad
dreams and losing your appetite."

Rosalie looked up with a sort of horrid animation.

"Ah, j’y suis déjà," she said quickly.  "Already I see them in the
night.  A week ago I wake, cold, wet—and there stands the Citizen Cléry
with his head under his arm like any St. Denis.  Could I eat next
day?—Ma foi, no!  And why should he come to me, that Cléry?  Was it I
who had a hand in his death? These revenants have not common-sense.  It
is my cousin Thérèse whose nights should be disturbed, not mine."

Dangeau looked at her steadily.

"Come, come, Rosalie," he said, "enough of this—Edmond Cléry’s head is
safe enough."

"Yes, yes," nodded Rosalie, "safe enough in the great trench.  Safe
enough till Judgment day, and then it is Thérèse who must answer, and
not I.  It was none of my doing."

"But, Rosalie—mon Dieu! what are you saying—Edmond——?"

"Why, did you not know?"

"Woman!—what?"

"Ask Thérèse," said Rosalie with a sullen look, and fell to plaiting the
border of her coarse apron.

"Rosalie!"

His voice startled her, and her mood shifted.

"Yes, to be sure, he was a friend of yours, and it is bad news.  Ah, he
’s dead, there ’s no doubt of that. I saw it with my own eyes.  He had
been ill, and could hardly mount the steps; but in the end he smiled and
waved his hand, and went off as bravely as the best of them.  It is a
pity, but he offended Thérèse, and she is a devil.  I told her so; I
said to her, ’Thérèse, I think you are a devil,’ and she only laughed."

Dangeau could see that laugh,—red, red lips, and white, even teeth, and
all the while lips that had kissed hers livid, dabbled with blood.  Oh,
horrible!  Poor Cléry, poor Edmond!

He gave a great shudder and forced his thoughts away from the vision
they had evoked, but he sought voice twice before he could say:

"All else are well?"

She looked sullen again, and shrugged her shoulders.

"Ma foi, Citizen, Paris does not stand still."

He bit his lip.

"But here, in this house?"

"I am well, I have said so before."

He turned as if to go.

"And the Citoyenne Roche?"  He had his voice in hand now, and the
question had a careless ring.

"Gone," said Rosalie curtly.

In a flash that veil of carelessness had dropped.  His hand fell heavily
upon her shoulder.

"Gone—where?" he asked tensely.

"Where every one goes these days, these fine days. To prison, to the
guillotine.  They all go there."

For a moment Dangeau’s heart stood still, then laboured so that his
voice was beyond control.  It came in husky gasps.  "Dead—she is dead.
Oh, mon Dieu, mon Dieu!"

Rosalie was rocking to and fro, counting on her fingers.  His emotion
seemed to please her, for she gave a foolish smile.

"She has a little white neck, very smooth and soft," she muttered.

A terrible sound broke from Dangeau’s ghastly lips; a sound that
steadied for a moment the woman’s tottering mind.  She looked up
curiously, as if recalling something, smoothed the hair from her
forehead, and touched the rigid hand which lay upon her shoulder.

"Tiens, Citizen," she said in a different tone, "she is not dead yet";
and the immense relief gave Dangeau’s anger rein.

"Woman!" he said violently, "what has happened? Where is she?  At
once——"

Rosalie twitched away her shoulder, shrinking back against the wall.
This blaze of anger kept her sane for the moment.

"She is in prison, at the Abbaye," she said.  Under the excitement her
brain cleared, and she was thinking now, debating how much she should
tell him.

"Since when?"

"A month—six weeks—what do I know?"

"How came she to be arrested?"

"How should I know, Citizen?"

"Did you betray her?  You knew who she was. Take care and do not lie to
me."

"I lie, I—Citizen!  But I was her best friend, and when that beast
Hébert came hanging round——"

"Hébert?"

"She took his fancy, Heaven knows why, and you know her proud ways.  Any
other girl would have played with him a little, given a smile or two,
and kept him off; but she, with her nose in the air, and her eyes
looking past him, as if he was n’t fit for her to see,—why, she made him
feel as if he were the mud under her feet, and what could any one
expect?  He got her clapped into the Abbaye, to repent at leisure."

Dangeau was a man of clean lips, but now he called down damnation upon
Hébert’s black soul with an earnestness that frightened Rosalie.

"What more do you know?  Tell me at once!"

She turned uneasily from the look in his eyes.

"She will be tried to-day."

"You are sure?"

"Thérèse told me, and she and Hébert are thick as thieves again."

"What hour?  Dieu!  what hour?  It is ten o’clock now."

"Before noon, I think she said, but I can’t be sure of that."

"You are lying?"

"No, no, Citizen—I do not know—indeed I do not."

He saw that she was speaking the truth, and turned from her with a
despairing gesture.  As he stumbled out of the shop he knocked over a
great basket of potatoes, and Rosalie, with a sort of groan of relief,
went down on her knees and began to gather them up.  As the excitement
of the scene she had been through subsided her eyes took that dull glaze
again.  Her movements became slower, and she stared oddly at the brown
potatoes as she handled them.

"One—two—three," she counted in a monotonous voice, dropping them into
the basket.  At each little thud she started slightly, then went on
counting.

"Four—five—six—seven—eight—" Suddenly she stared at them heavily.
"There’s no blood," she muttered, "no blood."

Half an hour later Thérèse found her with a phlegmatic smile upon her
face and idle hands folded over something that lay beneath her coarse
apron.

"Come along then, Rosalie," she called out impatiently.  "Have you
forgotten the trial?—we’ve not too much time."

"Ah!" said Rosalie, nodding slowly; "ah, the trial."

Thérèse tapped impatiently with her foot.

"Come then, for Heaven’s sake! or we shall not get places."

"Places," said Rosalie suddenly; "what for?"

"Ma foi, if you are not stupid to-day.  The trial, I tell you, that
Rochambeau girl’s trial—white-faced little fool.  Ciel! if I could not
play my cards better than that," and she laughed.

Rosalie’s hands were hidden by her apron.  One of them clutched
something.  The fingers lifted one by one, and in her mind she counted,
"One—two—three—four—five"—and then back again—"One—two—three—four—five—"
Thérèse was staring at her.

"What’s the matter with you to-day?" she said. "Are you coming or no?
It will be amusing, Hébert says; but if you prefer to sit here and sulk,
do so by all means.  For me, I go."

She turned to do so, but Rosalie was already getting out of her chair.

"Wait then, Thérèse," she grumbled.  "Is no one to have any amusement
but you?  There, give me your arm, come close.  Now tell me what’s going
to happen?"

"Oh, just the trial, but I thought you wanted to see it.  For me, I
always think it makes the execution more interesting if one has seen the
trial also."

"Dangeau is back," said Rosalie irrelevantly.

Thérèse laughed loud.

"He has a fine welcome home," she said.  "Well, are you coming, for I
’ve no mind to wait?"

"It is only the trial," said Rosalie vaguely.  "Just a trial—and what is
that?  I do not care for a trial, there is no blood."

She laughed a little and rocked, cuddling what lay beneath her apron.

"Just a trial," she muttered; "but whose trial did you say?"

Thérèse lost patience.  She stamped on the floor.

"What, again?  What the devil is the matter with you to-day?  Are you
drunk?"

Rosalie turned her big head and looked at her cousin. They were standing
close together, and her left hand, with its strong, stumpy fingers,
closed like a vice upon the girl’s arm.

"No, I ’m not drunk, not drunk, Thérèse," she said in a thick voice.

Thérèse tried to shake her off.

"Well, you sound like it, and behave like it, you old fool," she said
furiously.  "Drunk or crazy, it’s all one.  Let go of me, I shall be
late."

"Yes," said Rosalie, nodding her head—"yes, you will be late, Thérèse."

"Va, imbécile!" cried the girl in a passion.

As she spoke she hit the nodding face sharply, twitching violently to
one side in the effort to free her arm.

The ponderous hand closed tighter, and Thérèse, turning again with a
curse, saw that upon Rosalie’s heavily flushed face that stopped the
words half-way, and changed them to a shriek.

"Oh, Mary Virgin!" she screamed, and saw the hidden right hand come
swinging into sight, holding a long, sharp knife such as butchers use at
their work. Her eyes were all black, dilated pupil, and she choked on
the breath she tried to draw in order to scream again. Oh, the hand! the
knife!

It flashed and fell, wrenched free and fell again, and Thérèse went
down, horribly mute, her hands grasping in the air, and catching at the
basket across which she fell.

She would scream no more now.  The knife clattered to the floor from
Rosalie’s suddenly opened hand, and, as if the sound were a signal,
Thérèse gave one convulsive shudder, which passed with a gush of
crimson.

Rosalie went down on her knees, and gathered a handful of the brown
tubers from the piled basket.  She had to push the corpse aside to get
at them, and she did it without a glance.

Then she threw the potatoes back into the basket one by one.  She wore a
complacent smile.  Her eyes were intent.

"Now, there is blood," she said, nodding as if satisfied.  "Now, there
is blood."



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                         A TRIAL AND A WEDDING


Of the hours that passed after that death-like swoon of hers Mlle de
Rochambeau never spoke. Never again could she open the door behind which
lurked madness, and an agony such as women have had to bear, time and
again, but of which no woman whom it has threatened can speak.  Hébert
had given his orders, and she was thrust into an empty cell, where she
lay cowering, with hidden face, and lips that trembled too much to pray.

Hébert’s threat lay in her mind like a poison in the body.  Soon it
would kill—but not in time, not soon enough.  She could not think, or
reason, and hope was dead.  Something else had come in its place, a
thing unformulated and dreadful, not to be thought of, unbelievable, and
yet unbearably, irrevocably present.

Oh, the long, shuddering hours, and yet, by a twist of the tortured
brain, how short—how brief—for now she saw them as barriers between her
and hell, and each as it fell away left her a thing more utterly
unhelped.

When they brought her out in the morning, and she stepped from the dark
prison into the warm, sunny daylight, she raised her head and looked
about her a little wonderingly.

Still a sun in the sky!  Still summer shine and breath, and beautiful
calm space of blue ethereal light above.  A sort of stunned bewilderment
fell upon her, and she sat very still and quiet all the way.

Inside the hall citizens crowded and jostled one another for a place;
plump, respectable mothers of families, cheek by jowl with draggled
wrecks of the slums, moneyed shopkeepers, tattered loafers, a wild-eyed
Jacobin or two, and everywhere women, women, women.  Women with their
children, lifting a round-eyed starer high to see the white-faced
aristocrat go past; women with their work, whose chattering tongues kept
pace with the clattering needles; women fiercer and more cruel than men,
to whom death and blood and anguish were become a stimulant more fatally
potent than any alcohol.

There were men there too, gaping, yawning, telling horrible tales, men
whose hands had dripped innocent blood in September.  There was a reek
of garlic, the air was abominably hot and close, and wherever citizens
could get an elbow free one saw a mopping of greasy faces going forward.

As Mademoiselle de Rochambeau was brought in, a sort of growling murmur
went round.  The crowd was in a dangerous mood: on the verge of ennui,
it wanted something fresh—a sauce piquante to its daily dish—and here
was only another cursed aristocrat with nothing very remarkable about
her.

She looked round, not curiously, but in some vague, helpless fashion,
which might have struck pity from hearts less inured to suffering.  On
the raised stage to which they had brought her there were a couple of
rough tables.  At the nearest of the two sat a number of men, very dirty
and evil-eyed—Fouquier Tinville’s carefully packed jury; and at the
farther one, Herman, the great tow-haired Judge President, with his
heavy air of being half asleep; and Tinville himself, the Public
Prosecutor, low-browed, with retreating chin—Renard the Fox, as a
contemporary squib has it, the perpetrator of which lost his head for
his pains.  Behind him lounged Hébert, hands in pockets, light eyes
roving here and there.  She saw him and turned her head away with the
wince of a trapped animal, looking through a haze of misery to the sea
of faces below.

There is a peculiar effluence from any large body of people.  Their
encouragement, or their hostility, radiates from them, and has an
overwhelming influence upon the mind.  When the crowd cheers how quickly
enthusiasm spreads, until, like a rising tide, it covers its myriad
human grains of sand!  And a multitude in anger?—No one who has heard it
can forget!

Imagine, then, one bruised, tormented human speck, girl in years, gently
nurtured, set high in face of a packed assemblage, every upturned face
in which looked at her with appraising lust, bloodthirsty cruelty, or
inhuman curiosity.  A wild panic unknown before swept in upon her soul.
She had not thought it could feel again, but between Hébert’s glance,
which struck her like a shameful blow, and all these eyes staring with
hatred, her reason rocked, and she felt a scream rise shuddering from
the very centre of her being.

Those watching saw both slender hands catch suddenly at the white
throat, whilst for a minute the darkened eyes stared wildly round; then,
with a supreme effort, she drew herself up, and stood quietly, and if
the blood beat a mad tune on heart and brain, there was no outward sign,
except a pallor more complete, and a tightening of the clasped, fallen
hands that left the knuckles white.

It was thus, after months of absence, that Dangeau saw her again, and
the rage and love and pity in his heart boiled up until it challenged
his utmost self-control to keep his hands from Hébert’s throat.

Hébert smiled, but uneasily.  This was what he had planned—wished
for—and yet—  Face to face with Dangeau again, he felt the old desire to
slink past, and get out of the range of the white, hot anger in the eyes
that for a moment seemed to scorch his face.

Dangeau had come in quietly enough, and stood first at the edge of the
crowd, by the steps which led to the raised platform on which accused
and judges were placed. He had shot his bolt, had made a vain effort to
see Danton, and was now come here to do he knew not what.

Mademoiselle looking straight before her, with eyes that now saw
nothing, was not aware of his presence, as in a strained, far-away voice
she answered the questions Fouquier Tinville put to her.

"Your name?"

"Aline Marie de Rochambeau."

"You are a cousin of the late ci-devant and conspirator Montargis?"

"Yes."

A sort of howl went up from the back of the room, where a knot of filthy
men stood gesticulating.

"And you were betrothed to that other traitor Sélincourt?"

"Yes."

The answers dropped almost indifferently from the scarcely parted lips,
but she shrank and swayed a little, as a second shout followed her
reply, and she caught curses, cries for her death, and a woman’s scream
of, "Down with Sélincourt’s mistress!  Give her to us! Throw her down!"

Tinville waved for silence and gradually the noise lessened, the
audience settling down with the reflection that perhaps it would be a
pity to cut the play short in its first act.

"You have conspired against the Republic?"

"No."

"But I say yes," said Tinville loudly.  "Citizen Hébert discovered you
under an assumed name.  Why did you take a name that was not your own if
you had no intention of plotting?  Are honest citizens ashamed of their
names?"

Dangeau swung himself on to the platform and came forward.

"Citizen President," he said quietly.  "I claim to represent the
accused, who has, I see, no counsel."

Herman looked up stupidly, a vague smile on his broad, blond face.

"We have done away with counsel for the defence," he observed, with a
large, explanatory wave of the hand. "It took too much time.  The
Revolutionary Tribunal now has increased powers, and requires only to
hear and to be convinced of the prisoners’ crimes.  We have simplified
the forms since you went south, Citizen."

Fouquier Tinville glanced at him with venomous intention.  "And the
Citizen delays us," he said politely.

Aline had let one only sign of feeling escape her,—a soft, quick gasp as
Dangeau came within the contracting circle of her consciousness,—but the
sound reached him and came sweetly to his ears.

He turned again to Herman.

"But you still hear witnesses, or whence the conviction?" he said in a
carefully controlled voice.

"It is Dangeau, our Dangeau!" shouted a woman near the front.  "Let him
speak if he wants to: what does he know of the girl?"

He recognised little Louison, hanging to her big husband’s arm, and sent
her a smiling nod of thanks.

"Witnesses, by all means," shrugged Tinville, to whom Hébert had been
whispering.  "Only be quick, Citizen, and remember it is a serious thing
to try to justify a conspirator."  He turned and whispered back, "He ’ll
talk his head off if we give him the chance—devil speed him!" then
leaned across the table and inquired:

"What do you know of the accused?"

"I know her motive for changing her name."

"Oh, you know her motive—eh?"

Dangeau raised his voice.

"A patriotic one.  She came to Paris, she witnessed the corruption and
vice of aristocrats, and she determined to come out from among them and
throw in her lot with the people."

Mademoiselle turned slowly and faced him.  Now if she spoke, if she
demurred, if she even looked a contradiction of his words, they were
both lost—both.

His eyes implored, commanded her, but her lips were already opening, and
he could see denial shaping there, denial which would be a warrant of
death, when of a sudden she met Hébert’s dull, anxious gaze, and,
shuddering, closed her lips, and looked down again at the uneven, dusty
floor.  Dangeau let out his breath with a gasp of relief, and spoke once
more.

"She called herself Marie Roche because her former name was hateful to
her.  She worked hard, and went hungry.  I call on Louison Michel to
corroborate my words."

Hébert raised a careless hand, and instantly there was a clamour of
voices from the back.  He congratulated himself in having had the
forethought to install a claque, as they listened to the cries of,
"Death to the aristocrat! Down with the conspirator!  Death!  Death!"

Dangeau turned from the bar to the people.

"Citizens," he cried, "I turn to you for justice. What did they say in
the bad old days?—’The King’s voice is God’s voice,’ and I say it
still."  The clamour rose again, but his voice dominated it.

"I say it still, for, though the King is dead, a new king lives whose
reign will never end,—the Sovereign People,—and at their bar I know
there will be equal justice shown, and no consideration of persons.  Why
did Capet fall?  Why did I vote for his death?  Because of oppression
and injustice.  Because there was no protection for the weak—no hearing
for the poor.  But shall not the People do justice?  Citizens, I appeal
to you—I am confident in your integrity."

A confused uproar followed, some shouting, "Hear him!" and others still
at their old parrot-cry of, "Death! Death!"

Above it all rang Louison’s shrill cry:

"A speech, a speech!  Let Dangeau speak!" and by degrees it was taken up
by others.

"The girl is innocent.  Will you, just Citizens, punish her for a name
which she has discarded, for parents who are dead, and relations from
whom she shrank in horror?  I vouch for her, I tell you—I, Jacques
Dangeau.  Does any one accuse me?  Does any one cast a slur upon my
patriotism?  I tell you I would cut off my right hand if it offended
those principles which I hold dearer than my life; and saying that, I
say again, I vouch for her."

"All very fine that," called a man’s voice, "but what right have you to
speak for her, Citizen?  Has n’t the girl a tongue of her own?"

"Yes, yes!" shouted a big brewer who had swung himself to the edge of
the platform, and sat there kicking his heels noisily.  "Yes, yes!  it
’s all very well to say ’I vouch for her,’ but there ’s only one woman
any man can vouch for, and that’s his wife."

"What, Robinot, can you vouch for yours?" screamed Louison; and a roar
of laughter went up, spiced by the brewer’s very evident discomfort.

"Yes, what’s she to you after all?" said another woman.

"A hussy!" shrieked a third.

"An aristocrat!"

"What do you know of her, and how do you know it?"

"Explain, explain!"

"Death, death to the aristocrat!"

Dangeau sent his voice ringing through the hall:

"She is my betrothed!"

A momentary hush fell upon the assembly.  Hébert sprang forward with a
curse, but Tinville plucked him back, whispering, "Let him go on; that
’ll damn him, and is n’t that what you want?"

Again Aline’s lips moved, but instead of speaking she put both hands to
her heart, and stood pressing them there silently.  In the strength of
that silence Dangeau turned upon the murmuring crowd.

"She is my betrothed, and I answer for her.  You all know me.  She is an
aristocrat no longer, but the Daughter of the Revolution, for it has
borne her into a new life.  All the years before she has discarded.
From its mighty heart she has drawn the principles of freedom, and at
its guiding hand learned her first trembling steps towards Liberty.  In
trial of poverty, loneliness, and hunger she has proved her loyalty to
the other children of our great Mother.  Sons and Daughters of the
Republic, protect this child who claims to be of your line, who holds
out her hands to you and cries: ’Am I not one of you?  Will you not
acknowledge me? brothers before whom I have walked blamelessly, sisters
amongst whom I have lived in poverty and humility.’"

He caught Mademoiselle’s hand, and held it up.

"See the fingers pricked and worn, as many of yours are pricked and
worn.  See the thin face—thin as your daughters’ faces are thin when
there is not food for all, and the elder must go without that the
younger may have more.  Look at her.  Look well, and remember she comes
to you for justice.  Citizens, will you kill your converts?  She gives
her life and all its hopes to the Republic, and will the Republic
destroy the gift? Keep the knife to cut away the alien and the enemy. Is
my betrothed an alien?  Shall my wife be an enemy? I swear to you that,
if I believed it, my own hand would strike her down!  If there is a
citizen here who does not believe that I would shed the last drop of my
heart’s blood before I would connive at the danger of the Republic, let
him come forward and accuse me!"

"Stop him!" gasped Hébert.

Fouquier Tinville shrugged his shoulders, as he and Herman exchanged
glances.

"No, thanks, Hébert," he said coolly.  "He’s got them now, and I ’ve no
fancy for a snug position between the upper and the nether millstone.
After all, what does it matter?  There are a hundred other girls" and he
spat on the dirty floor.

Undoubtedly Dangeau had them, for in that pause no one spoke, and his
voice rang out again at its full strength:

"Come forward then.  Do any accuse me?"

There was a prolonged hush.  The jury growled amongst themselves, but no
one coveted the part of spokesman.

Once Hébert started forward, cleared his throat, then reflected for a
moment on Danton and his ways—reflected, too, that this transaction
would hardly bear the light of day, cursed the universe at large, and
fell back into his chair choking with rage.

It appeared that no one accused Dangeau.  Far in the crowd a pretty
gipsy of a girl laughed loudly.

"Handsome Dangeau for me!" she cried.  "Vive Dangeau!"

In a minute the whole hall took it up, and the roof rang with the
shouting.  The girl who had laughed had been lifted to her lover’s
shoulders, and stood there, flushed and exuberant, leading the cheers
with her wild, shrill voice.

When the noise fell a little, she waved her arms, crying, with a peal of
laughter:

"Let’s have a wedding, a wedding, mes amis!  If she ’s the Daughter of
the Revolution, let the Revolution give away the bride, and we ’ll all
say Amen!"

The crowd’s changed mood tossed the new suggestion into instant
popularity.  The girl’s cry was taken up on all sides, there was
bustling to and fro, laughter, gossip, whispering, shouting, and general
jubilation.  A fête, a spectacle—something new—oh, but quite new.  A
trial that ended in the bridal of the victim, to be sure one did not see
that every day.  That was romantic.  That made one’s heart beat.  Well,
well, she was in luck to get a handsome lover instead of having her head
sliced off.

"Vive Dangeau!  Vive Dangeau and the Daughter of the Revolution!"

Up on to the platform swarmed the crowd, laughing, gesticulating,
pressing upon the jury, and even jostling Fouquier Tinville himself.

Hébert bent to his ear in a last effort, but got only a curse and a
shrug for his pains.

"I tell you, he ’s got them, and no human power can thwart them now."

"You should have shut his mouth!  Why in the devil’s name did you let
him speak?"

"You wanted him to compromise himself, and it seemed the easiest way.
He has the devil’s own luck. Hark to the fools with their ’Vive
Dangeau!’  A while ago it was ’Death to the aristocrat!’ and now it ’s
’Dangeau and the Daughter of the Revolution!’"

"Speak to them,—do something," insisted Hébert.

"Try it yourself, and get torn to pieces," retorted the other.  "The
girl ’s not my fancy.  Burn your own fingers if you want to."

Dangeau was at the table now.

"We await the decision of the Tribunal," he said, with a hint of sarcasm
in the quiet tones.

Fouquier Tinville’s eyes rested insolently upon him.

"Our Sovereign has decided, it seems," he said. "For me—I throw up the
prosecution."

Hébert flung away with an oath, and Herman bent stolidly and wrote
against the interrogatory the one word, "Acquitted."

It stood out black and bold in his gross scrawl, and as he threw the
sand on it, Dangeau turned away with a bow.

Some one was being pushed through the crowd—a dark man in civil dress,
but with the priest’s look on his sallow, nervous face.  Dangeau
recognised the odd, cleft chin and restless eyes of Latour, the
Constitutional curé of St. Jean.

"A wedding, a wedding!" shouted the whole assembly, those at the back
crying the more loudly, as if to make up by their own noise for not
being able to hear what was passing on the platform.

"A wedding, a wedding!" shrieked the same women who, not half an hour
ago, had raised the howl for the aristocrat’s blood.

"Bride, bridegroom, and priest," laughed the gipsy-eyed girl.  "What
more do we want?  The Citizen President can give away the bride, and I
’ll be brides-maid. Set me down then, Réné, and let ’s to work."

Her lover pushed a way to the front and lifted her on to the stage.  She
ran to Mademoiselle and began to touch her hair and settle the kerchief
at her throat, whilst Aline stood quite, quite still, and let her do
what she would.

She had not stirred since Dangeau had released her hand, and within her
every feeling and emotion lay swooning.  It was as if a black tide had
risen, covering all within.  Upon its dark mirror floated the reflection
of Hébert’s cruel eyes, and loose lips that smiled upon a girl’s shamed
agony.  If those waters rose any higher they would flood her brain and
send her mad with horror, Dangeau’s voice seemed to arrest the tide, and
whilst he spoke the reflection wavered and grew faint.  She listened,
knowing what he said, as one knows the contents of a book read long ago;
but it was the voice itself, not the words carried on it, that reached
her reeling brain and steadied it.

All at once a hand on her hair, at her breast; a girl’s eyes shining
with excitement, whilst a shrill voice whispered, "Saints! how pale you
are!  What! not a blush for the bridegroom?"  Then loud laughter all
around, and she felt herself pushed forward into an open space.

A ring had been formed around one of the tables; men and women jostled
at its outskirts, pushed one another aside, and stood on tiptoe, peeping
and applauding. In the centre, Dangeau with his tricolour sash;
Mademoiselle, upon whose head some one had thrust the scarlet cap of
Liberty; and the priest, whose eyes looked back and forth like those of
a nervous horse. He cleared his throat, moistened his dry lips, and
began the Office.  After a second’s pause, Dangeau took the bride’s hand
and did his part.  Cold as no living thing should be, it lay in his,
unresisting and unresponsive, whilst his was like his mood—hotly
masterful.  After one glance he dared not trust himself to look at her.
Her white features showed no trace of emotion, her eyes looked straight
before her in a calm stare, her voice made due response without tremor
or hesitation.  "Ego conjugo vos," rang the tremendous words, and they
rose from their knees before that strange assembly, man and wife in the
sight of God and the Republic.

"Kiss her then, Citizen," laughed the bridesmaid, slipping her arm
through Dangeau’s, and he touched the marble forehead with his lips.
The first kiss of his strong love, and given and taken so.  Fire and ice
met, thrust into contact of all contacts the most intimate. How strange,
how unbearable!  Fraught with what presage of disaster.

"Now you may kiss me," said the bridesmaid, pouting. "Réné isn’t
looking; but be quick, Citizen, for he ’s jealous, and a broken head
would n’t be a pleasant marriage gift."

Like a man in a dream he brushed the glowing cheek, and felt its warmth.

Yes, so the living felt; but his bride was cold, as the week-old dead
are cold.



                              CHAPTER XIX

                              THE BARRIER


After the wedding, what a home-coming!  Dangeau had led his pale bride
through the cheering, applauding crowd, which followed them to their
very door, and on the threshold horror met them—for the floor was
dabbled with blood.  Thérèse’s corpse lay yet in the house, and a
voluble neighbour told how Rosalie had murdered her cousin, and had been
taken, raving, to the cells of the Salpêtrière.  The crowd was all agog
for details, and, taking advantage of the diversion, Dangeau cleared a
path for himself and Aline.  He took her to her old room and closed the
door.  The silence fell strangely.

"My dearest, you are safe.  Thank God you are safe," he said in broken
tones.

She looked straight before her with an expression deeper than that which
is usually called unconscious, her eyes wide and piteous, like those of
a child too badly frightened to cry out.  He took her cold hands and
held them to his breast, chafing them gently, trying to revive their
warmth, and she let him do it, still with that far-away, unreal look.

"My dear, I must go," he said after a moment.  "For both our sakes I
must see Danton at once, before any garbled tale reaches his ear.  I
will see that there is some one in the house.  Louison Michel would come
I think.  There is my report to make, letters of the first importance to
be delivered; a good deal of work before me, in fact.  But you will not
be afraid now?  You are safer than any woman in Paris to-day.  You will
not be nervous?"

She shook her head slightly, and drew one hand away in order to push the
hair from her forehead.  The gesture was a very weary one, and Dangeau
would have given the world to catch her in his arms.

"So tired, my heart," he said in a low voice; and as a little quiver
took her, he continued quickly: "I will find Louison; she came here with
us, and is sure not to be far away.  She will look after you, and bring
you food, and then you should sleep.  I dare not stay."

He kissed the hand which still lay passively in his and went out
hurriedly, not trusting himself to turn and look at her again lest he
should lose his careful self-control and startle her by some wild
outpouring of love, triumph, and thankfulness.

Aline heard his footsteps die away, listening with strained attention
until the last sound melted into a tense silence.  Then she looked
wildly round, her breast heaved distressfully, and tottering to the bed
she fell on it face downwards, and lay there in a stunned fatigue of
mind and body that left no place for thought or tears. Presently came
Louison, all voluble eagerness to talk of the wedding and the murder,
especially the latter.

"And to think that it was Jean’s knife!  Holy Virgin, if I had known
what she came for!  There she sat, and stared, and stared, until I told
her she had best be going, since I, at least, had no time to waste.
Yesterday, that was; and this morning when Jean seeks his knife it is
gone,—and the noise, and the fuss.  ’My friend,’ I said, ’do I eat
knives?’ and with that I turned him out, and all the while Rosalie had
it.  Ugh! that makes one shudder.  Not that that baggage Thérèse was any
loss, but it might as well have been you, or me.  When one is mad they
do not distinguish.  For me, I have said for a long time that Rosalie’s
mind was going, and now it is seen who is right.  Well, well, now
Charlotte will come round.  Mark my words, Charlotte will be here bright
and early to-morrow, if not to-night.  It will be the first time she has
set foot here in ten years.  She hated Rosalie like poison,—a
stepmother, only a dozen years older than herself, and when the old man
died she cleared out, and has never spoken to Rosalie since the funeral.
But she ’ll be round now, mark my words."

Aline lay quite still.  She was just conscious that Louison was there,
talking a great deal, and that presently she brought her some hot soup,
which it was strangely comfortable to swallow.  The little woman was not
ungentle with her, and did not leave her until the half-swoon of fatigue
had passed into deep sleep.  She herself was to sleep in the house.
Dangeau had asked her to, saying he might be late, and she had promised,
pleased to be on the spot where such exciting events had taken place,
and convinced that it would be for the health of her husband’s soul to
have the charge of the children for once.

It was very late before Dangeau came home.  If the French language holds
no such word, his heart supplied it, for the first time in all the long
years during which there had been no one to miss him going, or look for
him returning.  Now the little room under the roof held the long-loved,
the despaired-of, the unattainably-distant,—and she was his, his wife,
caught by his hands from insult and from death.  Outside her door he
hesitated a moment, then lifted the latch with a gentle touch, and went
in reverently.  The moon was shining into the room, and one long beam
trembled mistily just above the bed, throwing upon the motionless form
below a light like that of the land wherein we walk in dreams.  Aline
was asleep.  She lay on her side, with one hand under her cheek, and her
loosened hair in a great swathe across the bosom that scarcely seemed to
lift beneath it, so deep the tranced fatigue that held her.

The moon was still rising, and the beam slid lower, lower; now it
silvered her brow,—now showed the dark, curled lashes lying upon a cheek
white with that translucent pallor—sleep’s gift to youth.  Her chin was
a little lifted, the soft mouth relaxed, and its tender curve had taken
a look at once pitiful and pure, like that of a child drowsing after
pain.  Her eyelids were only half-closed, and he was aware of the
sleeping blue within, of the deeper stain below; and all his heart went
out to her in a tremulous rapture of adoration which caught his breath,
and ran in fire through every vein.  How tired she was, and how deeply
asleep,—how young, and pure.

A thought of Hébert rose upon his shuddering mind, and involuntarily
words broke from him—"Ah, mon Dieu!" he said, with heaving chest.

Aline stirred a little; a slow, fluttering sigh interrupted her
breathing, as she withdrew the hand beneath her cheek and put it out
gropingly.  Then she sighed again and turned from the light, nestling
into the pillow with a movement that hid her face.  If Dangeau had gone
to her then, knelt by the bed, and put his arms about her, she might
have turned to his protecting love as instinctively as ever child to its
mother.  But that very love withheld him.  That, and the thought of
Hébert.  If she should think him such another!  Oh, God forbid!

He looked once more, blessed her in his soul, and turned away.

In the morning he was afoot betimes.  Danton had set an early hour for
the conclusion of the business between them, and it was noon past before
he returned.

In the shop he found a pale, dark, thin-lipped woman, engaged in an
extremely thorough scrubbing and tidying of the premises.  She stopped
him at once, with a grin—

"I ’ll have no loafing or gossiping here, Citizen"; and received his
explanation with perfect indifference.

"I am Charlotte Leboeuf.  I take everything over. Bah! the state the
house is in!  Fitter for pigs than Christians.  For the time you may
stay on.  You have two rooms, you say?"

"Yes, two, Citoyenne."

"And you wish to keep them?  Well, I have no objection.  Later on I
shall dispose of the business, but these are bad times for selling; and
now, if the Citizen will kindly not hinder me at my work any more for
the present."  She shrugged her shoulders expressively, adding, as she
seized the broom again, "Half the quarter has been here already, but
they got nothing out of me."

Aline had risen and dressed herself.  Rosalie had left her room just as
it was on the day of her arrest, and the dust stood thick on table,
floor, and window-sill. Mechanically she began to set things straight;
to dust and arrange her few possessions, which lay just as they had been
left after the usual rummage for treasonable papers.

Presently she found the work she had been doing, a stitch half taken,
the needle rusty.  She cleaned it carefully, running it backwards and
forwards through the stuff of her skirt, and taking the work, she began
to sew, quickly, and without thought of anything except the neat, fine
stitches.

At Dangeau’s knock, followed almost immediately by his entrance, her
hands dropped into her lap, and she looked up in a scared panic of
realisation.  All that she had kept at bay rushed in upon her; the
little tasks which she had set as barriers between her and thought fell
away into the past, leaving her face to face with her husband and the
future.

He crossed the floor to her quickly, and took her hands.  He felt them
tremble, and put them to his lips.

"Aline, my dearest!" he said in a low, vibrating voice.

With a quick-caught breath she drew away from him, sore trouble in her
eyes.

"Wait!" she panted.  Oh, where was her courage? Why had she not thought,
planned?  What could she say?  "Oh, please wait!"

There was a long pause, whilst he held her hands and looked into her
face.

"There is something—something I must tell you," she murmured at last,
her colour coming and going.

The pressure upon her hands became suddenly agonising.

"Ah, mon Dieu! he has not harmed you?  Aline, Aline—for God’s sake——"

She said, "No, no," hastily, relieved to have something to answer,
wondering that he should be so moved, frightened by the great sob that
shook him.  Then—

"How do you know about—him?" and the words came hardly from her.

"Rosalie," he said, catching at his self-control,—"Rosalie told me—curse
him—curse him!  Thank God you are safe.  He cannot touch you now.  What
is it, then, my dear?" and the voice that had cursed Hébert seemed to
caress her.

"If you know—that"—the word came on a shudder—"you know why I did—what I
did—yesterday.  But no—I forget; no one knew it all, no one knew the
worst. I could n’t say it, but now I must—I must."

"My dear, leave it—leave it.  Why should you say anything?"

But she took a long breath and went on, speaking very low, and
hurriedly, with bent head, and cheeks that flamed with a shamed, crimson
patch.

"He is a devil, I think; and when I said I would die, he said—oh, mon
Dieu!—he said his turn came first, he had friends, he could get me into
his power after I was condemned."

Dangeau’s arm went up—the arm with which he would have killed Hébert had
he stood before him—and then fell protectingly about her shoulders.

"Aline, let him go—don’t think of him again.  You are safe—Death has
given you back to me."  But she shrank away.

"Oh, Monsieur," she said, with a quick gasp, "it was not death that I
feared—indeed it was not death.  I could have died, I should have died,
before I betrayed—everything—as I did yesterday.  I should have died,
but there are some things too hard to bear.  Oh, I do not think God can
expect a woman to bear—that!"  Again the deep shudder shook her.  "Then
you came, and I took the one way out, or let you take it."

"Aline!"

"No, no," she cried,—"no, no, you must understand—surely you understand
that there is too much between us—we can never be—never be—oh, don’t you
understand?"

Dangeau’s face hardened.  The tenderness went out of it, and his eyes
were cold as steel.  How cruelly she was stabbing him she did not know.
Her mind held dazed to its one idea.  She had betrayed the honour of her
race, to save her own.  That red river of which she had spoken long
months before, it lay between them still, only now she had stained her
very soul with it.  But not for profit of safety, not for pleasure of
love, not even for life, bare life, but to escape the last, worst insult
life holds—insult of which it is no disgrace to be afraid.  She must
make that clear to him, but it was so hard, so hard to find words, and
she was so tired, so bruised, she hungered so for peace.  How easy to
yield, to take life’s sweetness with the bitterness, love’s promise with
love’s pain!  But no, it were too base; the bitterness and the pain were
her portion.  His part escaped her.

When he spoke his changed voice startled her ears.

"So it comes to this," he said, with a short, bitter laugh; "having to
choose between me and Hébert, you chose me.  Had the choice lain between
me and death, you would have gone to the guillotine without soiling your
fingers by touching me."

She looked at him—a bewildered, frightened look.

Pain spurred him on.

"Oh, you make it very clear, my wife.  Ah! that makes you wince?  Yes,
you are my wife, and you have just told me that you would rather have
died than have married me.  Yesterday I kissed your forehead. Is there a
stain there?  Suppose I were to kiss you now?  Suppose I were to claim
what is mine?  What then, Aline, what then?"

A look she had never seen before was in his eyes, as he bent them upon
her.  His breath came fast, and for a moment her mind was terrified by
the realisation that her power to hold, to check him, was gone.  This
was a new Dangeau—one she had never seen.  She had been so sure of him.
All her fears had been for herself, for that rebel in her own heart; but
she had thought her self-control could give the law to his, and had
never for a moment dreamed that his could break down thus, leaving her
face to face with—what?  Was it the brute?

She shrank, waiting.

"I am your husband, Aline," he said in a strange voice.  "I could compel
your kisses.  If I bade you come to me now, what then?  Does your Church
not order wives to obey their husbands?"

She looked at him piteously.

"Yes, Monsieur."

"Yes, Monsieur?  Very well, then, since I order it, and the Church tells
you to obey me, come here and kiss me, my wife."

That drew a shiver from her, but she came slowly and stood before him
with such a look of appeal as smote him through all his bitter anger.

"You will obey?"

She spoke, agonised.

"You can compel me.  Ah! you have been good to me—I have thought you
good—you will not——"

He laid his hands heavily upon her shoulders and felt her shrink.  Oh
death—the pain of it!  He thought of her lying in the moonlight, and the
confiding innocence of her face.  How changed now!—all drawn and
terrified. Hébert had seen it so.  He spoke his thought roughly.

"Is that how you looked at him?" he said, bending over her, and she felt
her whole body quiver as he spoke. She half closed her eyes, and looked
about to swoon.

"Yes, I can compel you," he said again, low and bitterly.  "I can compel
you, but I ’m not Hébert, Aline, and I shan’t ask you to choose between
me and death."  He took his hands away and stepped back from her,
breathing hard.

"I kissed you once, but I shall never kiss you again. I shall never
touch you against your will, you need not be afraid.  That I have loved
you will not harm you,—you can forget it.  That you must call yourself
Dangeau, instead of Roche, need not matter to you so greatly.  I shall
not trouble you again, so you need not wish you had chosen my rival,
Death.  Child, child! don’t look at me like that!"

As he spoke Aline sank into a chair, and laying her arms upon the table,
she put her head down on them with a sharp, broken cry:

"Oh God, what have I done—what have I done?"

Dangeau looked at her with a sort of strained pity. Then he laughed
again that short, hard laugh, which comes to some men instead of a sob.

"Mlle de Rochambeau has married out of her order, but since her plebeian
husband quite understands his place, quite understands that a touch from
him would be worse than death, and since he is fool enough to accept
this proud position, there is not so much harm done, and you may console
yourself, poor child."

Every word stabbed deep, and deeper.  How she had hurt him—oh, how she
had hurt him!  She pressed her burning forehead against her trembling
hands, and felt the tears run hot, as if they came from her very heart.

Dangeau had reached the door when he turned suddenly, came back and laid
his hand for a moment on her shoulder.  Even at that moment, to touch
her was a poignant and wonderful thing, but he drew back instantly, and
spoke in a harsh tone.

"One thing I have a right to ask—that you remember that you bear my
name, that you bear in mind that I have pledged my honour for you.  You
have been at the Abbaye; I hear the place is honeycombed with plots. My
wife must not plot.  If I have saved your honour, remember you hold
mine.  I pledged it to the people yesterday, I pledged it to Danton
to-day."

Aline raised her head proudly.  Her eyes were steady behind the brimming
tears.

"Monsieur, your honour is safe," she said, with a thrill in her voice.

Dangeau gazed long at her—something of the look upon his face with which
a man takes his farewell of the beloved dead.  Then his whole face set
cool and hard, and without another word he turned and strode out, his
dreamed-of home in ruins—love’s ashes heaped and dusty on the cold and
broken hearth.



                               CHAPTER XX

                            A ROYALIST PLOT


Charlotte Leboeuf was one of the people who would certainly have set
cleanliness above godliness, and she sacrificed comfort to it with a
certain ruthless pleasure.  The house she declared to be a sty,
impossible to cleanse, but she would do her best, and her best
apparently involved a perpetual steam of hot water, and a continual reek
of soap-suds.  Dangeau put up more than one sigh at the shrine of the
absent Rosalie as he stumbled over pails and brooms, or slipped on the
damp floor.  For the rest, the old life had begun again, but with a
dead, dreary weight upon it.

Dangeau at his busy writing, at his nightly pacings, and Aline at her
old task of embroidering, felt the burden of life press heavily, chafed
at it for a moment, perhaps, and turned again with a sigh to toil,
unsweetened by that nameless something which is the salt of life.  Once
he ventured on a half-angry remonstrance on the long hours of stitching,
which left her face so pale and her eyes so tired.  It was not necessary
for his wife, he began, but at the first word so painful a colour
stained her cheek, eyes so proudly distressed looked at him between
imploring and defiance, that he stammered, drew a long breath, and
turned away with a sound, half groan, half curse.  Aline wept bitterly
when he was gone, worked harder than before, and life went drearily
enough for a week or so.

Then one day in July Dangeau received orders to go South again.  He had
known they would come, and the call to action was what he craved, and
yet what to do with the girl who bore his name he could not tell.

He was walking homewards, revolving a plan in his mind, when to his
surprise he saw Aline before him, and not alone.  Beside her walked a
man in workman’s dress, and they were in close conversation.  As he
caught sight of them they turned down a small side street, and after a
moment’s amazed hesitation he took the same direction, walking slowly,
but ready to interfere if he saw cause.

Earlier in the afternoon, Aline having finished her work, had tied it up
neatly and gone out.  The streets were a horror to her, but she was
obliged to take her embroidery to the woman who disposed of it, and on
these hot days she craved for air.  She accomplished her business, and
started homewards, walking slowly, and enjoying the cool breeze which
had sprung up.  As she turned out of the more frequented thoroughfares,
a man, roughly dressed, passed her, hung on his footsteps a little, and
as she came up to him, looked sharply at her, and said in a low voice,
"Mlle de Rochambeau?"

She started, her heart beating violently, and was about to walk on, when
coming still nearer her, he glanced all round and rapidly made the sign
of the cross in the air.  With a sudden shock she recognised the Abbé
Loisel.

"It is M. l’Abbé?" she said in a voice as low as his own.

"Yes, it is I.  Walk on quietly, and do not appear to be specially
attentive.  I saw you last at the Abbaye, how is it that I meet you
here?"

A slight colour rose to Aline’s cheek.  Her tone became distant.

"I think you are too well informed as to what passes in Paris not to
know, M. l’Abbé," she said.

They came out into a little crowd of people as she spoke, and he walked
on without replying, his thoughts busy.

Part saint, part conspirator, he had enough of the busybody in his
composition to make his position as arch manipulator of Royalist plots a
thoroughly congenial one.  In Mlle de Rochambeau he saw a ravelled
thread, and hastened to pick it up, with the laudable intention of
working it into his network of intrigue.  They came clear of the press,
and he turned to her, his pale face austerely plump, his restless eyes
hard.

"I heard what I could hardly believe," he returned. "I heard that Henri
de Rochambeau’s daughter had bought her life by accepting marriage with
an atheist and a regicide, a Republican Deputy of the name of Dangeau."

Aline bit her lip, her eyes stung.  She would not justify herself to
this man.  There was only one man alive who mattered enough for that,
but it was bitter enough to hear, for this was what all would say.  She
had known it all along, but realisation was keen, and she shrank from
the pictured scorn of Mme de Matigny’s eyes and from Marguerite’s
imagined recoil.  She walked on a little way before she could say
quietly:

"It is true that I am married to M. Dangeau."

But the Abbé had seen her face quiver, and drew his own conclusions.  He
was versed in reading between the lines.

"Mme de Matigny suffered yesterday," he said with intentional
abruptness, and Aline gave a low cry.

"Marguerite—not Marguerite!" she cried out, and he touched her arm
warningly.

"Not quite so loud, if you please, Madame, and control your features
better.  Yes, that is not so bad. And now allow me to ask you a
question.  Why should Mlle de Matigny’s fate interest the wife of the
regicide Dangeau?"

"M. l’Abbé, for pity’s sake, tell me, she is not dead—little
Marguerite?"

"Not this time, Madame, but who knows when the blow will fall?  But
there, it can matter very little to you."

"To me?" She sighed heavily.  "It matters greatly. M. l’Abbé; I do not
forget my friends.  I have not so many that I can forget them."

"You remember?"

"Oh, M. l’Abbé!"

"And you would help them?"

"If I could."

He paused, scrutinising her earnest face.  Then he said slowly:

"You bought your life at a great price, and something is due to those
whom you left behind you in peril whilst you went out to safety.  I knew
your father.  It is well that he is dead—yes, I say that it is well; but
there is an atonement possible.  In that you are happy. From where you
are, you can hold out a hand to those who are in danger; you may do
more, if you have the courage, and—if we can trust you."

His keen look dwelt on her, and saw her face change suddenly, the eager
light go out of it.

"M. l’Abbé, you must not tell me anything," she said quickly, catching
her breath; for Dangeau’s voice had sounded suddenly in her memory:

"I have pledged my honour"; and she heard the ring of her own
response—"Monsieur, your honour is safe."  She had answered so
confidently, and now, whatever she did, dishonour seemed imminent,
unavoidable.

"You have indeed gone far," he said.  "You must not hear—I must not
tell.  What does it mean?  Who forbids?"

Aline turned to him desperately.

"M. l’Abbé, my hands are tied.  You spoke just now of M. Dangeau, but
you do not know him.  He is a good man—an honourable man.  He has
protected me from worse than death, and in order to do this he risked
his own life, and he pledged his honour for me that I would engage in no
plots—do nothing against the Republic.  When I let him make that pledge,
and what drove me to do so, lies between me and my own conscience.  I
accepted a trust, and I cannot betray it."

"Fine words," said Loisel curtly.  "Fine words. Dutiful words from a
daughter of the Church.  Let me remind you that an oath taken under
compulsion is not binding."

"He said that he had pledged his honour, and I told him that his honour
was safe.  I do not break a pledge, M. l’Abbé."

"So for a word spoken in haste to this atheist, to this traitor stained
with your King’s blood, you will allow your friends to perish, you will
throw away their lives and your own chance of atoning for the scandal of
your marriage—" he began; but she lifted her head with a quick, proud
gesture.

"M. l’Abbé, I cannot hear such words."

"You only have to raise your voice a little more and you will hear no
more words of mine.  See, there is a municipal guard.  Tell him that
this is the Abbé Loisel, non-juring priest, and you will be rid of me
easily enough.  You will find it harder to stifle the voice of your own
conscience.  Remember, Madame, that there is a worse thing even than
dishonour of the body, and that is damnation of the soul.  If you have
been preserved from the one, take care how you fall into the other. What
do you owe to this man who has seduced you from your duty?  Nothing, I
tell you.  And what do you owe to your Church and to your order?  Can
you doubt?  Your obedience, your help, your repentance."

The Abbé had raised his voice a little as he spoke. The street before
them was empty, and he was unaware that they were being followed.  A
portion of what he said reached Dangeau’s ears, for the prolonged
conversation had made him uneasy, and he had hastened his steps.  Up to
now he had caught no word of what was passing, but Aline’s gestures were
familiar to him, and he recognised that lift of the head which was
always with her a signal of distress.  Now he had caught enough, and
more than enough, and a couple of strides brought him level with them.
Aline started violently, and looked quickly from Dangeau to the priest,
and back again at Dangeau.  He was very stern, and wore an expression of
indignant contempt which was new to her.

"Good-day, Citizen," he said, with a sarcastic inflexion. "I will
relieve you of the trouble of escorting my wife any farther."

Loisel was wondering how much had been overheard, and wished himself
well out of the situation.  He was not in the least afraid of going to
prison or to the guillotine, but there were reasons enough and to spare
why his liberty at the present juncture was imperative. One of the many
plots for releasing the Queen was in progress, and he carried upon him
papers of the first importance.  It was to serve this plot that he had
made a bid for Aline’s help.  In her unique position she might have
rendered priceless services, but it was not to be, and he hastened to
extricate himself from a position which threatened disaster to his
central scheme.

"Good-day," he returned with composure, and was moving off, when Dangeau
detained him with a gesture.

"One moment, Citizen.  I neither know your name nor do I wish to know
it, but it seemed to me that your conversation was distressing to my
wife.  I very earnestly deprecate any renewal of it, and should my
wishes in the matter be disregarded I should conceive it my duty to
inform myself more fully—but I think you understand me, Citizen?"

So this was the husband?  A strong man, not the type to be hoodwinked,
best to let the girl go; but as the thoughts flashed on his mind, he was
aware of her at his elbow.

"M. l’Abbé," she said very low, "tell Marguerite—tell her—oh! ask her
not to think hardly of me.  I pray for her always, I hope to see her
again, and I will do what I can."

She ran back again, without waiting for a reply, and walked in silence
by Dangeau’s side until they reached the house.  He made no attempt to
speak, but on the landing he hesitated a moment, and then followed her
into her room.

"Danton spoke to me this morning," he said, moving to the window, where
he stood looking out.  "They want me to go South again.  Lyons is in
revolt, and is to be reduced by arms.  Dubois-Crancy commands, but
Bonnet has fallen sick, and I am to take his place."

Aline had seated herself, and picked up a strip of muslin.  Under its
cover her hands clasped each other very tightly.  When he paused she
said: "Yes, Monsieur."

"I am to start immediately."

"Yes, Monsieur."

He swung round, looked at her angrily for a moment, and then stared
again into the dirty street.

"It is a question of what you are to do," he said impatiently.

"I?  But I shall stay here.  What else is there for me to do?"

"I cannot leave you alone in Paris again."

"Monsieur?"

"What!" he cried.  "Have you forgotten?" and she bent to hide her sudden
pallor.

"What am I to do, then?" she asked very low.  Her submission at once
touched and angered him.  It allured by its resemblance to a wife’s
obedience, and repelled because the resemblance was only mirage, and not
reality.

"I cannot have you here, I cannot take you with me, and there is only
one place I can send you to—a little place called Rancy-les-Bois, about
thirty miles from Paris.  My mother’s sisters live there, and I should
ask them to receive you."

"I will do as you think best," murmured Aline.

"They are unmarried, one is an invalid, and they are good women.  It is
some years since I have seen them, but I remember my Aunt Ange was
greatly beloved in Rancy.  I think you would be safe with her."

A vision of safety and a woman’s protection rose persuasively before
Aline, and she looked up with a quick, confiding glance that moved
Dangeau strangely. She was at once so rigid and so soft, so made for
love and trusting happiness, and yet so resolute to repel it. He bit his
lip as he stood looking at her, and a sort of rage against life and fate
rose hotly, unsubdued within him.  He turned to leave her, but she
called him back, in a soft, hesitating tone that brought back the days
of their first intercourse.  When he looked round he saw that she was
pale and agitated.

"Monsieur!" she stammered, and seemed afraid of her own voice; and all
at once a wild stirring of hope set his heart beating.

"What is it?  Won’t you tell me?" he said; and again she tried to speak
and broke off, then caught her courage and went on.

"Oh, Monsieur, if you would do something!"

"Why, what is it you want me to do, child?"

That was almost his old kind look, and it emboldened her.  She rose and
leaned towards him, clasping her hands.

"Oh, Monsieur, you have influence—" and at that his brow darkened.

"What is it?" he said.

"I heard—I heard—"  She stopped in confusion. "Oh! it is my friend,
Marguerite de Matigny.  Her grandmother is dead, and she is alone.
Monsieur, she is only seventeen, and such a pretty child, so gay, and
she has done no harm to any one.  It is impossible that she could do any
harm."

"I thought you had no friends?"

"No, I had none; but in the prison they were good to me—all of them.
Old Madame de Matigny knew my parents, and welcomed me for their sakes;
but Marguerite I loved.  She was like a kitten, all soft and caressing.
Monsieur, if you could see her, so little, and pretty—just a child!"
Her eyes implored him, but his were shadowed by frowning brows.

"Is that what the priest told you to say?" he asked harshly.

"The priest——"

"You ’d lie to me," he broke out, and stopped himself. "Do you think I
didn’t recognise the look, the tone? Did he put words into your mouth?"

Her eyes filled.

"He told me about Marguerite," she said simply. "He told me she was
alone, and it came into my heart to ask you to help her.  I have no one
to ask but you."

The voice, the child’s look would have disarmed him, but the words he
had overheard came back, and made his torment.

"If it came into your heart, I know who put it there," he said.  "And
what else came with it?  What else were you to do?  Do you forget I
overheard?  If I thought you had lent yourself to be a tool, to
influence, to bribe—mon Dieu, if I thought that——"

"Monsieur!" but the soft, agitated protest fell unheard.

"I should kill you—yes, I think that I should kill you," he said in a
cold, level voice.

She moved a step towards him then, and if her voice had trembled, her
eyes were clear and untroubled as they met his full.

"You shall not need to," she said quietly, and there was a long pause.

It was he who looked away at last, and then she spoke.

"I asked you at no one’s prompting," she said softly. "See, Monsieur,
let there be truth between us.  That at least I can give, and will—yes,
always.  He, the man you saw, asked me to help him, to help others, and
I told him no, my hands were tied.  If he had asked for ever, I must
still have said the same thing; and if it had cut my heart in two, I
would still have said it.  But about Marguerite, that was different.
She knows nothing of any plots, she is no conspirator.  I would not ask,
if it touched your honour.  I would not indeed."

"Are you sure?" he asked in a strange voice, and she answered his
question with another.

"Would you have pledged your honour if you had not been sure?"

He gave a short, hard laugh.

"Upon my soul, child, I think so," he said, and the colour ran blazing
to her face.

"Oh, Monsieur, I keep faith!" she cried in a voice that came from her
heart.

Her outstretched hands came near to touching him, and he turned away
with a sudden wrench of his whole body.

"And it is hard—yes, hard enough," he said bitterly, and went out with a
mist before his eyes.



                              CHAPTER XXI

                           A NEW ENVIRONMENT


Madelon Pinel stood by the window of the inn parlour, and looked out
with round shining eyes. She was in a state of pleasing excitement, and
her comely cheeks vied in colour with the carnation riband in her cap,
for this was her first jaunt with her husband since their marriage, and
an expedition from quiet Rancy to the eight-miles-distant market-town
was a dissipation of the most agreeable nature.  The inn looked out on
the small, crowded Place, where a great traffic of buying and selling,
of cheapening and haggling was in process, and she chafed with
impatience for her husband to finish his wine, and take her out into the
thick of it again.  He, good man, miller by the flour on his broad
shoulders, stood at his ease beside her, smiling broadly.  No one, he
considered, could behold him without envy; for Madelon was the
acknowledged belle of the countryside, and well dowered into the
bargain.  Altogether, a man very pleased with life, and full of pride in
his married state, as he lounged beside his pretty wife, and drank his
wine, one arm round her neat waist.

With a roll and a flourish the diligence drew up, and Madelon’s
excitement grew.

"Ah, my friend, look—look!" she cried.  "There will be passengers from
Paris.  Oh!  I hope it is full. No—what a pity!  There are only four.
See then, Jean Jacques, the fat old man with the nose.  It is redder
than Gargoulet’s and one would have said that was impossible.  And the
little man like a rat.  Fie! he has a wicked eye, that one—I declare he
winked at me"; and she drew back, darting a virtuously coquettish glance
at the unperturbed Jean Jacques.

"Not he," he observed with complete tranquillity. "Calm thyself,
Madelon.  Thou art no longer the prettiest girl in Rancy, but a sober
matron.  Thy winking days are over."

"My winking days!" exclaimed Madelon,—"my winking days indeed!"  She
tossed her head with feigned displeasure and leaned out again,
wide-eyed.

A third passenger had just alighted, and stood by the door of the
diligence holding out a hand to some one yet unseen.

"Seigneur!" cried Madelon maliciously; "look there, Jean Jacques, if
that is not a fine man!"

"What, the rat?" grinned the miller.

"No, stupid!—the handsome man by the door there, he with the tricolour
sash.  Ciel! what a sash!  What can he be, then,—a Deputy, thinkest
thou?  Oh, I hope he is a Deputy.  There, now there is a woman getting
out—he helps her down, and now he turns this way.  They are coming in.
Eh! what blue eyes he has!  Well, I would not have him angry with me,
that one; I should think his eyes would scorch like lightning."

"Eh, Madelon, how you talk!"

"There, they are on the step.  Hold me then, Jean Jacques, or I shall
fall.  Do you think the woman is his wife?  How white she is!—but quite
young, not older than I.  And her hair—oh, but that is pretty!  I wish I
had hair like that—all gold in the sun."

"Thy hair is well enough," said the enamoured Jean Jacques.  "There,
come back a little, Madelon, or thou wilt fall out.  They are coming
in."

Madelon turned from the window to watch the door, and in a minute
Dangeau and Aline came in.  For a moment Aline looked timidly round,
then seeing the pleasant face and shining brown eyes of the miller’s
wife, she made her way gratefully towards her, and sat down on the rough
bench which ran along the wall.  Madelon disengaged herself from her
husband’s arm, gave him a little push in Dangeau’s direction, and sat
down too, asking at once, with a stare of frank curiosity:

"You are from Paris?  All the way from Paris?"

"Yes, from Paris," said Aline rather wearily.

"Ciel!  That is a distance to come.  Are you not tired?"

"Just a little, perhaps."

"Paris is a big place, is it not?  I have never been there, but my
father has.  He left the inn for a month last year, and went to Paris,
and saw all the sights.  Yes, he went to the Convention Hall, and heard
the Deputies speak.  Would any one believe there were so many of them?
Four hundred and more, he said.  Every one did not believe
him,—Gargoulet even laughed, and spat on the floor,—but my father is a
very truthful man, and not at all boastful.  He would not say such a
thing unless he had seen it, for he does not believe everything that he
is told—oh no!  For my part, I believed him, and Jean Jacques too.  But
imagine then, four hundred Deputies all making speeches!"

Aline could not help laughing.

"Yes, I believe there are quite as many as that.  My husband is one of
them, you know."

"Seigneur!" exclaimed Madelon.  "I said so.  Where is that great stupid
of mine?  I said the Citizen was a Deputy—at once I said it!"

"Why, how did you guess?"

"Oh, by the fine tricolour sash," said Madelon naively; "and then there
is a look about him, is there not?  Do you not think he has the air of
being a Deputy?"

"I do not know," said Aline, smiling.

"Well, I think so.  And now I will tell you another thing I said.  I
said that he could be angry, and that then I should not like to meet his
eyes, they would be like blue fire.  Is that true too?"

Aline was amused by the girl’s confiding chatter.

"I do not think he is often angry," she said.

"Ah, but when he is," and Madelon nodded airily. "Those that are angry
often—oh, well, one gets used to it, and in the end one takes no notice.
It is like a kettle that goes on boiling until at last the water is all
boiled away.  But when one is like the Citizen Deputy, not angry
often—oh, then that can be terrible, when it comes!  I should think he
was like that."

"Perhaps," said Aline, still smiling, but with a little contraction of
the heart, as she remembered anger she had roused and faced.  It did not
frighten her, but it made her heart beat fast, and had a strange
fascination for her now.  Sometimes she even surprised a longing to heap
fuel on the fire, to make it blaze high—high enough to melt the ice in
which she had encased herself.

Then her own thought startled her, and she turned quickly to her
companion.

"Is that your husband?" she asked, for the sake of saying something.

"Yes, indeed," said Madelon.  "He is a fine man, is he not?  He and the
Citizen Deputy are talking together.  They seem to have plenty to
say—one would say they were old friends.  Yes, that is my Jean Jacques;
he is the miller of Rancy-les-Bois.  We have travelled too, for Rancy is
eight miles from here, and a road to break your heart."

"From Rancy—you come from Rancy?" said Aline, with a little, soft,
surprised sound.

"Yes, from Rancy.  Did I not say my father kept the inn there?  But I
have been married two months now"; and she twisted her wedding ring
proudly.

"I am going to Rancy," said Aline on the impulse.

"You, Citoyenne?" and Madelon’s brown eyes became completely round with
surprise.

Aline nodded.  She liked this girl with the light tongue and honest red
cheeks.  It was pleasant to talk to her after four hours of tense
silence, during the most part of which she had feigned sleep, and even
then had been aware of Dangeau’s eyes upon her face.

"Yes," she said.  "Does that surprise you so much? My husband goes South
on mission, and I am to stay with his aunts at Rancy.  They have written
to say that I am welcome."

"Oh!" cried Madelon quickly.  "Then I know who you are.  Stupid that I
am, not to have guessed before! All the world knows that the Citoyennes
Desaix have a nephew who is a Deputy, and you must be his wife—you must
be the Citoyenne Dangeau."

"Yes," said Aline.

"To be sure, if I had seen the Citoyenne Ange, she would have told me
you were coming; but it is ten days since I saw her to speak to—there
has been so much to do in the house.  She will be pleased to have you.
Both of them will be pleased.  If they are proud of the nephew who is a
Deputy—Seigneur!" and Madelon’s plump brown hands were waved high and
wide to express the pride of Dangeau’s aunts.

"Yes?" said Aline again.

"But of course.  It is a fine thing nowadays, a very fine thing indeed.
All the world would turn out to look at him if he came to Rancy.  What a
pity he must go South!  Have you been married long?"

Aline was vexed to feel the colour rise to her cheeks as she answered:

"No—not long."

"And already he must leave you!  That is hard—yes, I find that very
hard.  If Jean Jacques were to go away, I should certainly be
inconsolable.  Before one is married it is different; one has a light
heart, one is quick to forget.  If a man goes, one does not care—there
are always plenty more.  But when one is married, then it is another
story; then there is something that hurts one at the heart when they are
not there—n’est-ce pas?"

Aline turned a tell-tale face away, and Madelon edged a little nearer.

"Later on, again, they say one does not mind so much. There are the
children, you see, and that makes all the difference.  For me, I hope
for a boy—a strong, fat boy like Marie my sister-in-law had last year.
Ah! that was a boy! and I hope mine will be just such another. If one
has a girl, one feels as if one had committed a bêtise, do you not think
so?—or"—with a polite glance at the averted face—"perhaps you desire a
girl, Citoyenne?"

Aline felt an unbearable heat assail her, for suddenly her old dream
flashed into her mind, and she saw herself with a child in her arms—a
wailing, starving child with sad blue eyes.  With an indistinct murmur
she started up and moved a step or two towards the door, and as she did
so, Dangeau nodded briefly to the miller, and came to meet her.

"We are fortunate," he said,—"really very fortunate. These worthy people
are the miller of Rancy and his wife, as no doubt she has told you.  I
saw you were talking together."

"Yes, it is strange," said Aline.

"Nothing could have been more convenient, since they will be able to
take you to my aunt’s very door.  I have spoken to the miller, and he is
very willing.  Nothing could have fallen out better."

"And you?" faltered Aline, her eyes on the ground.

"I go on at once.  You know my orders—’to lose no time.’  If it had been
necessary, I should have taken you to Rancy, but as it turns out I have
no excuse for not going on at once."

"At once?" she repeated in a little voice like a child’s.

He nodded, and walked to the window, where he stood looking out for a
moment.

"The horses are in," he said, turning again.  "It is time I took my
seat."

He passed out, saluting Pinel and Madelon, who was much elated by his
bow.

Aline followed him into the square, and saw that the other two
passengers were in their places.  Her heart had begun to beat so
violently that she thought it impossible that he should not hear it, but
he only threw her a grave, cold look.

"You will like perhaps to know that your friend’s case came on yesterday
and that she was set free.  There was nothing against her," he said,
with some constraint.

"Marguerite?"

"Yes, the Citoyenne Matigny.  She is free.  I thought you would be glad
to know."

"Yes—yes—oh, thank you!  I am glad!"

"You will tell my aunts that my business was pressing, or I should have
visited them.  Give them my greetings.  They will be good to you."

"Yes—the letter was kind."

"They are good women."  He handed her a folded paper.  "This is my
direction.  Keep it carefully, and if you need anything, or are in any
trouble, you will write."  His voice made it an order, not a request,
and she winced.

"Yes," she said, with stiff lips.

Dangeau’s face grew harder.  If it were only over, this parting!  He
craved for action—longed to be away—to be quit of this intolerable
strain.  He had kept his word, he had assured her safety, let him be
gone out of her life, into such a life as a man might make for himself,
in the tumult and flame of war.

"Seigneur!" said Madelon, at the window.  "See, Jean Jacques,"—and she
nudged that patient man,—"see how he looks at her!  Ma foi, I am glad it
is not I! And with a face as if it had been cut out of stone, and there
he gets in without so much as a touch of the hand, let alone a kiss!  Is
this the way of it in Paris?"

"Thou must still be talking, Madelon," said Jean Jacques, complacently.

"Well, I should not like it," shrugged Madelon pettishly.

"No, I ’ll warrant you wouldn’t," said the miller, with a grin and a
hearty kiss.

At four o’clock the business and pleasure of the market-day were over,
and the folk began to jog home again.  Aline sat beside Madelon on the
empty meal-sacks, and looked about her with a vague curiosity as they
made their way through the poplar-bordered lanes, bumping prodigiously
every now and then, in a manner that testified to the truth of Madelon’s
description of the road.

It was one of the days that seems to have drawn out all summer’s beauty,
whilst keeping yet faint memories of spring, and hinting in its breadth
of evening shade at autumn’s mellowness.

Madelon chattered all the way, but Aline’s thoughts were too busy to be
distracted.  She thought continually of the smouldering South and its
dangers, of the thousand perils that menaced Dangeau, and of the bitter
hardness of his face as he turned from her at the last.

Jean Jacques let the reins fall loose after a while, and turning at his
ease, slipped his arm about his wife’s waist and drew her head to his
shoulder.  Aline’s eyes smarted with sudden tears.  Here were two happy
people, here was love and home, and she out in the cold, barred out by a
barrier of her own raising.  Oh! if he had only looked kindly at the
last!—if he had smiled, or taken her hand!

They came over the brow of a little hill, and dipped towards the wooded
pocket where Rancy lay, among its trees, watched from half-way up the
hill by an old grey stone château, on the windows of which the setting
sun shone full, showing them broken and dusty.

"Who lives in the château?" asked Aline suddenly.

"No one—now," returned Jean Jacques; and Madelon broke in quickly.

"It was the château of the Montenay but a year ago.—Now why dost thou
nudge me, Jean Jacques?—A year ago, I say, it was pillaged.  Not by our
own people, but by a mob from the town.  They broke the windows and the
furniture, and hunted high and low for traitors, and then went back
again to where they came from.  There was nobody there, so not much harm
done."

"De Montenay?" said Aline in a low voice.  How strange!  So this was why
the name of Rancy had seemed familiar from the first.  They were of her
kin, the De Montenay.

"Yes, the De Montenay," said Madelon, nodding. "They were great folk
once, and now there is only the old Marquise left, and she has
emigrated.  She is very old now, but do you know they say the De
Montenay can only die here?  However ill they are in a foreign place,
the spirit cannot pass, and I always wonder will the old Marquise come
back, for she is a Montenay by birth as well as by marriage?"

"Eh, Madelon, how you talk!" said Jean Jacques, with an uneasy lift of
his floury shoulders.  He picked up the reins and flicked the mare’s
plump sides with a "Come up, Suzette; it grows late."

Madelon tossed her head.

"It is true, all the same," she protested.  "Why, there was M. Réné,—all
the world knows how she brought M. Réné here to die."

"Chut then, Madelon!" said the miller, in a decided tone this time; and,
as she pouted, he spoke over his shoulder in a low voice, and Aline
caught the words, "Ma’mselle Ange," whereon Madelon promptly echoed
"Ma’mselle" with a teasing inflexion.

Jean Jacques became angry, and the back of his neck seemed to well over
the collar of his blouse, turning very red as it did so.

"Tiens, Citoyenne Ange, then.  Can a man remember all the time?" he
growled, and flicked Suzette again. Madelon looked penitent.

"No, no, my friend," she said soothingly; "and the Citoyenne here
understands well enough, I am sure. It is that my father is so good a
patriot," she explained, "and he grows angry if one says Monsieur,
Madame, or Mademoiselle any more.  It must be Citizen and Citoyenne to
please him, because we are all equal now. And Jean Jacques is quite as
good a patriot as my father—oh, quite; but it is, see you, a little hard
to remember always, for after all he has been saying the other for
nearly forty years."

"Yes, it is hard always to remember," Aline agreed.

They came down into the shadow under the hill, and turned into the
village street.  The little houses lay all a-straggle along it, with the
inn about half-way down. Madelon pointed out this cottage and that,
named the neighbours, and informed Aline how many children they had.
Jean Jacques did not make any contribution to the talk until they were
clear of the houses, when he raised his whip, and pointing ahead, said:

"Now we are almost there—see, that is the house, the white one amongst
those trees"; and in a moment Aline realised that she was nervous, and
would be very thankful when the meeting with Dangeau’s aunts should be
over.  Even as she tried to summon her courage, the cart drew up at the
little white gate, and she found herself being helped down, whilst
Madelon pressed her hands and promised to come and see her soon.

"The Citoyenne Ange knows me well enough," she said, laughing.  "She
taught me to read, and tried to make me wise, but it was too hard."

"There, there, come, Madelon.  It is late," said the miller.  "Good
evening, Citoyenne.  Come up, Suzette"; and in a moment Aline was alone,
with her modest bundle by her side.  She opened the gate, and found
herself in a very pretty garden.  The evening light slanted across the
roof of the small white house, which stood back from the road with a
modest air.  It had green shutters to every window, and green creepers
pushed aspiring tendrils everywhere.  The garden was all aflash with
summer, and the air fragrant with lavender, a tall hedge of which
presented a surface of dim, sweet greenery, and dimmer, sweeter bloom.
Behind the lavender was a double row of tall dark-eyed sunflowers, and
in front blazed rose and purple phlox, carnations white and red, late
larkspur, and gilly-flowers.

Such a feast of colour had not been spread before Aline’s town-wearied
eyes for many and many a long month, and the beauty of it came into her
heart like the breath of some strong cordial.  At the open door of the
house were two large myrtle trees in tubs.  The white flowers stood
thick amongst the smooth dark leaves, and scented all the air with their
sweetness.  Aline set down her bundle, and went in, hesitating, and a
murmur of voices directing her, she turned to the right.

It was dark after the evening glow outside, but the light shone through
an open door, and she made her way to it, and stood looking in, upon a
small narrow room, very barely furnished as to tables and chairs, but
most completely filled with children of all ages.

They sat in rows, some on the few chairs, some on the floor, and some on
the laps of the elder ones.  Here and there a tiny baby dozed in the lap
of an older girl, but for the most part they were from three years old
and upwards.

All had clean, shining faces, and on the front of each child’s dress was
pinned a tricolour bow, whilst on the large corner table stood a coarse
pottery jar stuffed full of white Margaret daisies, scarlet poppies, and
bright blue cornflowers.  Aline frowned a little impatiently and tapped
with her foot on the floor, but no one took any notice.  A tall lady
with her back to the door was apparently concluding a tale to which all
the children listened spellbound.

"Yes, indeed," Aline heard her say, in a full pleasant voice,—"yes,
indeed, children, the dragon was most dreadfully fierce and wicked.  His
eyes shot out sparks, hot like the sparks at the forge, and flames ran
out of his mouth so that all the ground was scorched, and the grass
died.—Jeanne Marie, thou little foolish one, there is no need to cry.
Have courage, and take Amelie’s hand. The brave youth will not be
harmed, because of the magic sword.—It was all very well for the dragon
to spit fire at him, but he could not make him afraid.  No, indeed!  He
raised the great sword in both hands, and struck at the monster.  At the
first blow the earth shook, and the sea roared.  At the second blow the
clouds fell down out of the sky, and all the wild beasts of the woods
roared horribly, but at the third blow the dragon’s head was cut clean
off, and he fell down dead at the hero’s feet.  Then the chains that
were on the wrists and ankles of the lovely lady vanished away, and she
ran into the hero’s arms, free and beautiful."

A long sigh went up from the rows of children, and one said regretfully:

"Is that all, Citoyenne?"

"That is all the story, my children; but now I shall ask questions.
Félicité, say then, who is the young hero?"

A big, sharp-eyed girl looked up, and said in a quick sing-song, "He is
the glorious Revolution and the dragon."

"Chut then,—I asked only for the hero.  It is Candide who shall tell us
who is the dragon."

Every one looked at Candide, who, for her part, looked at the ceiling,
as if seeking inspiration there.

"The dragon is—is—

"Come then, my child, thou knowest."

"Is he not a dragon, then?" said Candide, opening eyes as blue as the
sky, and quite as devoid of intelligence.

"Little stupid one,—and the times I have told thee! What is it, then,
that the glorious Revolution has destroyed?"

She paused, and half a dozen arms went up eagerly, whilst as many voices
clamoured:

"I know!"—"No, ask me!"—"No, me, Citoyenne!"—"No, me!"—"Me!"

"What!  Jeanne knows?  Little Jeanne Marie, who cried?  She shall say.
Tell us, then, my child,—who is the dragon?"

Jeanne looked wonderfully serious.

"It is the tyranny of kings, is it not, chère Citoyenne?"

"Very good, little one.  And the lovely lady, who is the lovely lady?"

"France—our beautiful France!" cried all the children together.

Aline pushed the door quite wide and stepped forward, and as she came
into view all the children became as quiet as mice, staring, and nudging
one another.

At this, and the slight rustle of Aline’s dress, Ange Desaix turned
round, and uttered a cry of surprise. She was a tall woman, soft and
ample of arm and bosom, with dark, silvered hair laid in classic fashion
about a very nobly shaped head.  Her skin was very white and soft, and
her hazel eyes had a curious misty look, like the hollows of a hill
brimmed with a weeping haze that never quite falls in rain.  They were
brooding eyes, and very peaceful, and they seemed to look right through
Aline and away to some place of dreams beyond.  All this was the
impression of a moment—this, and the fact that the tall figure was all
in white, with a large breast-knot of the same three-coloured flowers as
stood in the jar.  Then the motherly arms were round Aline, at once
comfortable and appealing, and Mlle Desaix’ voice said caressingly, "My
dear niece, a thousand welcomes!"

After a moment she was quietly released, and Ange Desaix turned to the
children.

"Away with you, little ones, and come again to-morrow. Louise and Marthe
must give up their bows, but the rest can keep them."

The indescribable hubbub of a party of children preparing for departure
arose, and Ange said smilingly, "We are late to-day, but on market-day
some are from home, and like to know the children are safe with me."

As she spoke a little procession formed itself.  Each child passed
before Mlle Desaix, and received a kiss and a smile.  Two little girls
looked very downcast. They sniffed loudly as they unpinned their ribbon
bows and gave them up.

"Another time you will be wise," said Ange consolingly; and Louise and
Marthe went out hanging their heads.

"They chattered, instead of listening," explained Mlle Desaix.  "I do
not like punishments, but what will you?  If children do not learn
self-control, they grow up so unhappy."

There was an alluring simplicity in voice and manner that touched the
child in Aline.  To her own surprise she felt her eyes fill with
tears—not the hot drops which burn and sting, but the pleasant water of
sympathy, which refreshes the tired soul.  On the impulse she said:

"It is good of you to let me come here.  I—I am very grateful, chère
Mademoiselle."

Ange put a hand on her arm.

"You will say ’ma tante,’ will you not, dear child? Our nephew is dear
to us, and we welcome his wife. Come then and see Marthe.  She suffers
much, my poor Marthe, and the children’s chatter is too much for her, so
I do not take them into her room, except now and then.  She likes to see
little Jeanne sometimes, and Candide, the little blue-eyed one.  Marthe
says she is like Nature—unconsciously stupid—and she finds that
refreshing, since like Nature she is so beautiful.  But there, the child
is well enough—we cannot all be clever."

Mlle Desaix led the way through the hall and up a narrow stair as she
spoke.  Outside a door on the landing above she paused.

"But where, then, is Jacques—the dear Jacques?"

"After all he could not come," said Aline.  "His orders were so
strict,—’to press on without any delay,’—and if he had lost the
diligence, it would have kept him twenty-four hours.  He charged me with
many messages."

"Ah," said Mlle Ange, "it will be a grief to Marthe. I told her all the
time that perhaps he would not be able to come, but she counted on it.
But of course, my dear, we understand that his duty must come
first—only," with a sigh, "it will disappoint my poor Marthe."

She opened the door as she spoke, and they came into a room all in the
dark except for the afterglow which filled the wide, square window.  A
bed or couch was drawn up to the open casement, and Aline took a quick
breath, for the profile which was relieved against the light was
startlingly like Dangeau’s as she had seen it at the coach window that
morning.

Ange drew her forward.

"See then, Marthe," she said, "our new niece is come, but alas, Jacques
was not able to spare the time. Business of the Republic that could not
wait."

Marthe Desaix turned her head with a sharp movement—a movement of
restless pain.

"How do you do, my dear niece," she said, in a voice that distinctly
indicated quotation marks.  "As to seeing, it is too dark to see
anything but the sky."

"Yes, truly," said Ange; "I will get the lamp.  We are late to-night,
but the tale was a long one, and I knew the market folk would be late on
such a fine evening."

She went out quickly, and Aline, coming nearer to the window, uttered a
little exclamation of pleasure.

"Ah, how lovely!" she said, just above her breath.

The window looked west through the open end of the hollow where Rancy
lay, and a level wash of gold held the horizon.  Wing-like clouds of
grey and purple rested brooding above it, and between them shone the
evening star.  On either side the massed trees stood black against the
glow, and the scent of the lavender came up like the incense of peace.

Marthe Desaix looked curiously at her, but all she could see was a slim
form, in the dusk.

"You find that better than lamplight?" she asked.

"I find it very beautiful," said Aline.  "It is so long since I saw
trees and flowers, and the sun going down amongst the hills.  My window
in Paris looked into a street like a gutter, and one could only see, oh,
such a little piece of sky."

As she spoke Ange came in with a lamp, which she set beside the bed; and
immediately the glowing sky seemed to fade and recede to an immeasurable
distance. In the lamplight the likeness which had startled Aline almost
disappeared.  Marthe Desaix’ strong, handsome features were in their
original cast almost identical with those of her nephew, but seen full
face, they were so blanched and lined with pain that the resemblance was
blurred, and the big dark eyes, like pools of ink, had nothing in common
with Dangeau’s.

Aline herself was conscious of being looked up and down.  Then Marthe
Desaix said, with a queer twist of the mouth:

"You did not live long in Paris, then?"

"It seemed a long time," said Aline.  "It seems years when I try to look
back, but it really is n’t a year yet."

"You like the country?"

"Yes, I think so," faltered Aline, conscious of having said too much.

"Poor child," said Ange.  "It is sad for you this separation.  I know
what you must feel.  You have been married so short a time, and he has
to leave you. It is very hard, but the time will pass, and we will try
and make you happy."

"You are very good," said Aline in a low voice. Then she looked and saw
Mlle Marthe’s eyes gazing at her between perplexity and sarcasm.

When Aline was in bed, Ange heard her sister’s views at length.

"A still tongue ’s best, my Ange, but between you and me"—she shrugged
her shoulders, and then bit her lip, as the movement jarred her—"there
is certainly something strange about ’our new niece,’ as you call her."

"Well, she is our nephew’s wife," said Ange.

"Our nephew’s wife, but no wife for our nephew, if I’m not much
mistaken," returned Marthe sharply.

"I thought she looked sweet, and good."

"Good, good—yes, we ’re all good at that age!  Bless my soul, Ange, if
goodness made a happy marriage, the devil would soon have more holidays
than working days."

"Ma chérie, if any one heard you!"

"Well, they don’t, and I should n’t mind if they did. What I do mind is
that Jacques should have made a marriage which will probably break his
heart."

"But why, why?"

"Oh, my Angel, if you saw things under your nose as clearly as you do
those that are a hundred years away, you would n’t have to ask why."

"I saw nothing wrong," said Ange in a voice of distress.

"I did not say the girl was a thief, or a murderess," returned Marthe
quickly.  "No, I ’ll not tell you what I mean,—not if you were to ask me
on your knees,—not if you were to beg it with your last breath."

Ange laughed a little.

"Well, well, dearest, perhaps I shall guess.  Good-night, and sleep
well."

"As if I ever slept well!"

"Poor darling!  Poor dearest!  Is it so bad to-night? Let me turn the
pillow.  Is it a little better so?"

"Perhaps."  Then as Ange reached the door:

"Angel!"

"What is it then, chérie?"

Mlle Marthe put a thin arm about her sister’s neck and drew her close.

"After all, I will tell you."

"Though I did not beg it on my knees?"

"Chut!"

"Or with my last breath?"

"Very well, then; if you do not wish to hear——"

"No, no; tell me."

"Well then, Ange, she is noble—that girl."

"Oh no!"

"I am sure of it.  The mystery, her coming here. Why has she no
relations, no friends?  And then her look, her manner.  Why, the first
tone of her voice made me start."

"Oh no, he would not——"

"Would not?" scoffed Marthe.  "He ’s a fool in love, and I suppose she
was in danger.  I tell you, I suspected it at once when his letter came.
There, go to bed, and dream of our connection with the aristocracy. My
faith, how times change!  It is an edifying world."

She pushed Ange away, and lay a long time watching the stars.



                              CHAPTER XXII

                           AT HOME AND AFIELD


Aline slept late in the morning after her arrival. Everything was so
fresh, and sweet, and clean that it was a pleasure just to lie between
the lavender-scented sheets, and smell the softness of the summer air
which came in at the open casement.  She had meant to rise early, but
whilst she thought of it, she slept again, drawn into the pleasant peace
of the hour.

When she did awake the sun was quite high, and she dressed hastily and
went down into the garden. Here she was aware of Mlle Ange, basket on
arm, busily snipping, cutting, and choosing amongst the low herbs which
filled this part of the enclosure.  She straightened herself, and turned
with a kind smile and kiss, which called about her the atmosphere of
home. The look and touch seemed things at once familiar and comfortable,
found again after many days of loss.

"Are you rested then, my dear?" asked the pleasant voice.  "Yesterday
you looked so tired, and pale.  We must bring some roses into those
cheeks, or Jacques will surely chide us when he comes."

On the instant the roses were there, and Aline stood transfigured; but
they faded almost at once, and left her paler than before.

Mlle Ange opened her basket, and showed neat bunches of green herbs
disposed within.

"I make ointments and tinctures," she said, "and to-day I must be busy,
for some of the herbs I use are at their best just now, and if they are
not picked, will spoil.  All the village comes to me for simples and
salves, so that between them, and the children, and my poor Marthe, I am
not idle."

"May I help?" asked Aline eagerly; and Mlle Ange nodded a pleased "Yes,
yes."

That was a pleasant morning.  The buzz of the bees, the scent of the
flowers, the warm freshness of the day—all were delightful; and
presently, to watch Ange boiling one mysterious compound, straining
another, distilling a third, had all the charm of a child’s new game.
Life’s complications fell back, leaving a little space of peace like a
fairy ring amongst new-dried grass. Mlle Marthe lay on her couch
knitting, and watching. Every now and again she flashed a remark into
the breathless silence, on which Ange would look up with her sweet
smile, and then turn absently to her work again.

"There is then to be no food to-day?" said Marthe at last, her voice
calmly sarcastic.

Ange finished counting the drops she was transferring from one
mysterious vessel to another.

"Eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve—what was that you said, chérie?"

"Nothing, my dear.  Angels, of course, are not dependent on food, and
Jacques is too far away to prosecute us if we starve his wife."

"Oh, tres chère, is it so late?  Why did you not say?  And after such a
night, too—my poor dearest. See, I fly.  Oh, I am vexed, and to-day too,
when I told Jeanne I would make the omelette."

Marthe’s eyebrows went up, and Ange turned in smiling distress to Aline.

"She will be so cross, our old Jeanne!  She loves punctuality, and she
adores making omelettes; but then, see you, she has no gift for making
an omelette—it is just sheer waste of my good eggs—so to-day I said I
would do it myself, in your honour."

"And mine," observed Marthe, with a click of the needles.  "Jeanne’s
omelettes I will not eat."

"Oh, tres chère, be careful.  She has such ears, she heard what you said
about the last one, and she was so angry.  Aline must come with me now,
or I dare not face her."

They went down together and into the immaculate kitchen, where Jeanne,
busily compounding a pie, turned a little cross, sallow face upon them,
and rose, grumbling audibly, to fetch eggs and the pan.

"That good Jeanne," said Ange in an undertone, "she has all the virtues
except a good temper.  Marthe says she is like food without salt—all
very good and wholesome, but so nasty; but she is really attached to us
and after twenty years thinks she has a right to her temper."

Here, the returning Jeanne banged down a dish, and clattered with a
small pile of spoons and forks.

Ange Desaix broke an egg delicately, and watched the white drip from the
splintered shell.

"Things are beautiful, are they not, little niece? Just see this gold
and white, and the speckled shell of this one, and the pink glow shining
here.  One could swear one saw the life brooding within, and here I
break it, and its little embryo miracle, in order to please a taste
which Jeanne considers the direct temptation of some imp who delights to
plague her."

She laughed softly, and putting the egg-shells on one side, began to
chop up a little bunch of herbs.

"An omelette is very much like a life, I think," she said after a
moment.  "No two are alike, though all are made with eggs.  One puts in
too many herbs, and the dish is bitter; another too few, and it is
tasteless. Or we are impatient, and snatch at life in the raw; or idle,
and burn our mixture.  It is only one here and there who gets both
matter and circumstance right."

Jeanne was hovering like an angry bird, and as Mlle Desaix’ voice became
more dreamy, and her eyes looked farther and farther away into space,
she twitched out a small, vicious claw of a hand, and stealthily drew
away the bowl that held the eggs.

"One must just make the most of what one has," Ange was saying.  Was she
thinking of that sudden blush and pallor of a few hours back, or of her
sister’s words the night before?

"If one’s lot is tasteless, one must flavour it with cheerfulness; and
if it is bitter, drink clear water after it, and forget."

Aline shivered a little, and then, in spite of herself, she smiled.
Jeanne had her pan on the fire, and a sudden raw smell of burning rose
up, almost palpably. The mistress of the house came back from her dreams
with a start, looked wildly round, and missed her eggs, her herbs, her
every ingredient.  "Jeanne! but truly, Jeanne!" she cried hotly; and as
she spoke the little figure at the fire whisked round and precipitated a
burnt, sodden substance on to the waiting dish.

"Ma’mselle is served," she said snappishly, but there was a glint of
triumph in her eye.

"No, Jeanne, it is too much," said Ange, flushing; whereat Jeanne merely
picked up the dish and observed:

"If Ma’mselle will proceed into the other room, I will serve the
dejeuner.  Ma’mselle has perhaps not remarked that it grows late."

After which speech Mlle Desaix walked out of the room with a fine
dignity, and the smell of the burnt omelette followed her.

Then began a time of household peace and quiet healing, in which at
first Aline rested happily.  In this small backwater, life went on very
uneventfully,—birth and death in the village being the only happenings
of note,—the state of Jeanne’s temper the most pressing anxiety, since
Mlle Marthe’s suffering condition was a thing of such long standing as
to be accepted as a matter of course, even by her devoted sister.

Of France beyond the hills—of Paris, only thirty miles away—they heard
very little.  The news of the Queen’s trial and death did penetrate, and
fell into the quiet like a stone into a sleeping pond.  All the village
rippled with it—broke into waves of discussion, splashes of lamentation,
froth of approval, and then settled again into its wonted placidity.

Aline felt a pang of awakening.  Whilst she was dreaming here amongst
the peace of herby scents and the drowse of harvesting bees, tragedy
still moved on Fate’s highways, and she felt sudden terror and the sting
of a sharp self-reproach.  She shrank from Mlle Ange’s kind eyes of
pity, touched—just touched—with an unfaltering faith in the necessity
for the appalling judgment.  The misty hazel eyes wept bitterly, but the
will behind them bowed loyally to the decrees of the Revolution.

"There ’s no great cause without its victim, no new faith without
bloodshed," she said to Marthe, with a kindling glance.

"I said nothing, my dear," was the dry reply.

Ange paced the room, brushing away hot tears.

"It is for the future, for the new generations, that we make these
sacrifices, these terrible sacrifices," she cried.

"Oh, my dear!" said Marthe quickly, and then added with a shrug: "For
me, I never felt any vocation for reforming the world; and if I were
you, my Angel, I would let it alone.  The devil has too much to do with
things in general, that is my opinion."

"There is nothing I can do," said Ange, at her saddest.

"Thank Heaven for that!" observed her sister piously. "But I will tell
you one thing—you need not talk of noble sacrifices and such-like toys
in front of Jacques’s wife."

"I would not hurt her," said Ange; "but, chérie, she is a Republican’s
wife—she must know his views, his aims.  Why, he voted for the King’s
death!"

"Just so," nodded Marthe: "he voted for the King’s death.  I should keep
a still tongue, if I were you."

"You still think——?"

"Think?" with scorn.  "I am sure."

A few days later there was a letter from Dangeau, just a few lines.  He
was well.  Lyons still held out, but they hoped that any day might end
the siege.  He begged to be commended to his aunts.  Aline read the
letter aloud, in a faltering voice, then laid it in her lap, and sat
staring at it with eyes that suddenly filled, and saw the letters now
blurred, now unnaturally black and large.  Mlle Ange went out of the
room, leaving her alone under Marthe’s intent regard; but for once she
was too absorbed to heed it, and sat there looking into her lap and
twisting her wedding-ring round and round. Marthe’s voice broke crisply
in upon her thoughts.

"So he married you with his mother’s ring?"

She started, covering it quickly with her other hand.

"Is it?  No, I didn’t know," she murmured confusedly. Then, with an
effort at defence: "How do you know, Mademoiselle Marthe?"

"How does one know anything, child?  By using one’s eyes, and putting
two and two together.  Sometimes they make four, and sometimes they
don’t, but it ’s worth trying.  The ring is plainly old, and my sister
wore just such another; and after her death Jacques wore it too, on his
little finger.  He adored his mother."

The scene of her wedding flashed before Aline.  At the time she had not
seemed to be aware of anything, but now she distinctly saw the priest’s
hand stretched out for the ring, and Dangeau’s little pause of
hesitation before he took it off and gave it.

Marthe’s brows were drawn together.

"Now, did he give it her for love, or because there was need for haste?"
she was thinking, and decided: "No, not for love, or he would have told
her it was his mother’s."  And aloud she said calmly: "You see, you were
married in such a hurry that there was no time to get a new one."

Aline looked up and spoke on impulse.

"What did he tell you about our marriage?" she asked.

"My dear, what was there to tell?  He wrote a few lines—he does not love
writing letters, it appears—he had married a young girl.  Her name was
Marie Aline Roche, and he commended her to our protection."

"Was that all?"

"Certainly."

"Then do you think I had better tell you more?" said Aline unsteadily.

Marthe looked at her with a certain pity in her glance.

"You did not learn prudence in an easy school," she said slowly, and
then added: "No, better not; and besides, there ’s not much need—it’s
all plain enough to any one who has eyes."

Dangeau’s letter of about this date to Danton contained a little more
information than that he sent his wife.

"The scoundrels have thrown off the mask at last," he wrote in a
vigorous hand, which showed anger. "Yesterday Précy fought under the
fleur-de-lys.  Well, better an open enemy, an avowed Royalist, than a
Girondist aping of Republican principles, and treachery under the
surface.  France may now guess at what she has been saved by the fall of
the Gironde.  They hope for reinforcements here.  Our latest advices are
that Sardinia will not move.  As to Autichamp, he promises help, and
instigates plots from a judicious distance; but he and his master,
Artois, feel safer on any soil but that of France, and I gather that he
will not leave Switzerland at present.  Losses on both sides are
considerable.  To give the devil his due, Précy has the courage of ten,
and we never know when he will be at our throats.  Very brilliant work,
those sallies of his.  I wish we had half a dozen like him."

On the ninth of October Lyons fell, and the fiat of the Republic went
forth.  "Lyons has no longer a name among cities.  Down with her to the
dust from which she rose, and on the bloodstained site let build a
pillar bearing these warning words: ’Lyons rebelled against the
Republic: Lyons is no more.’"

Forthwith terror was let loose, and the town ran blood, till the shriek
of its torment went up night and day unceasingly, and things were done
which may not be written.

At this time Dangeau’s letters ceased, and it was not until Christmas
that news of him came again to Rancy. Then he wrote shortly, saying he
had been wounded on the last day of the siege, and had lain ill for
weeks, but was now recovered, and had received orders to join Dugommier,
the Victor of Toulon, on his march against Spain.  The letter was short
enough, but something of the writer’s longing to be up and away from
reeking Lyons was discernible in the stiff, curt sentences.

In truth the tide of disgust rose high about him, and raise what
barriers he would, it threatened to break in upon his convictions and
drown them.  News from Paris was worse and worse.  The Queen’s trial
sickened, the Feast of Reason revolted him.

Down with tyrants, but for liberty’s sake with decency! Away with
superstition and all the network of priests’ intrigues; but, in the
outraged name of reason, no more of these drunken orgies, these feasts
which defied public morality, whilst a light woman postured half naked
on the altar where his mother had worshipped.  This nauseated him, and
drew from his pen an imprudently indignant letter, which Danton frowned
over and consigned to the flames.  He wrote back, however, scarcely less
emphatically, though he recommended prudence and a still tongue.

"Mad times these, my friend, but decency I will have, though all Paris
runs raving.  It’s a fool business, but you ’d best not say so.  Take my
advice and hold your tongue, though I ’ve not held mine."

Dangeau made haste to be gone from blood-drenched Lyons, and to wipe out
his recollections of her punishment in the success which from the first
attended Dugommier’s arms.

Spain receded to the Pyrenees; and over the passes in wild wet weather,
stung by the cold, and tormented by a wind that cut like a sword of ice,
the French army followed.

Here, heroism was the order of the day.  If in Paris, where Terror
stalked, men were less than men and worse than brutes, because possessed
by some devil soul, damned, and dancing, here they were more than men,
animated by a superhuman courage and persistence.  Yet, terrible puzzle
of human life, the men were of the same breed, the same stuff, the same
kin.

Antoine, shouting lewd songs about a desecrated altar, or watching with
red, cruel eyes the death-agony of innocent women and young boys, was
own brother to Jean, whose straw-shod feet carried his brave, starving
body over the blood-stained Pyrenean passes, and who shared his last
crust cheerfully with an unprovided comrade.  One mother bore and nursed
them both, and both were the spiritual children of that great Revolution
who bore twin sons to France—Licence and Liberty. Nothing gives one so
vivid a picture of France under the Terror as the realisation that to
find relief from the prevailing horror and inhumanity one must turn to
the battlefields.

The army fought with an empty stomach, bare back, and bleeding feet, and
Dangeau found enough work to his hand to occupy the energies of ten men.
The commissariat was disgraceful, supplies scant, and the men lacking of
every necessary.

Having made inquiries, he turned back to France, and ranged the South
like a flame, gathering stores, ammunition, arms, shoes—everything, in
fact, of which that famished but indomitable army stood in such dire
need.  Summary enough the methods of those days, and Dangeau’s way was
as short a one as most, and more successful than many.

He would ride into a town, establish himself at the inn, and send for
the Mayor, who, according as his nature were bold or timid, came
blustering or trembling. France had no king, but the tricoloured
feathers on her Commissioner’s hat were a sign of power quite as
autocratic as the obsolete fleur-de-lys.

Dangeau sat at a table spread with papers, wrote on for a space, and
then—

"Citizen Mayor, I require, on behalf of the National Army, five hundred
(or it might be a thousand) pairs of boots, so many beds, such and such
provisions."

"But, Citizen Commissioner, we have them not."

Dangeau consulted a notebook.

"I can give you twenty-four hours to produce them, not more."

"But, Citizen, these are impossibilities.  We cannot produce what we
have not got."

"And neither can our armies save your throats from being cut if they are
unprovided.  Twenty-four hours, Citizen Mayor."

According to his nature, the Mayor swore or cringed.

"It is impossible."

Dangeau drew out a list.  The principal towns of the South figured on it
legibly.  Setting a thick mark against one name, he fixed his eyes upon
the man before him.

"Have you considered, Citizen," he said sternly, "that what is grudged
to France will be taken by Spain? Also, it were wiser to yield to my
demands than to those of such an embassy as the Republic sent to Lyons.
My report goes in to-night."

"Your report?"

"Non-compliance with requisitions is to be reported to the Convention
without delay.  I have my orders, and you, Citizen Mayor, have yours."

"But, Citizen, where am I to get the things?"

Dangeau shrugged his shoulders.

"Is it my business?  But I see you wear an excellent pair of shoes, I
see well-shod citizens in your streets—you neither starve nor lie on the
ground.  Our soldiers do both.  If any must go without, let it be the
idle. Twenty-four hours, Citizen Mayor."

And in twenty-four hours boots, beds, and provisions were forthcoming.
Lyons had not been rased for nothing, and with the smell of her burning
yet upon the air, the shriek of her victims still in the wintry wind, no
town had the courage to refuse what was asked for.  Protestingly they
gave; the army was provided, and Dangeau, shutting his ears to Paris and
her madness, pressed forward with it into Spain.



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                        RETURN OF TWO FUGITIVES


"Aline, dear child!"

"Yes, dear aunt."

"I do not think I will leave Marthe to-day, the pain is so bad; but I do
not like to disappoint old Mère Leroux.  No one’s hens are laying but
mine, and I promised her an egg for her fête day.  She is old, and old
people are like children, and very little pleases or makes them
unhappy."

Aline folded her work.

"Do you mean you would like me to go?  But of course, dear aunt."

"If you will, my child.  Take your warm cloak, and be back before
sundown; and—Aline——"

"Yes," said Aline at the door.

"If you see Mathieu Leroux, stop and bid him ’Good-day.’  Just say a
word or two."

"I do not like Mathieu Leroux," observed Aline, with the old lift of the
head.

Mlle Ange flushed a little.

"He has a good heart, I ’m sure he has a good heart, but he is
suspicious by nature.  Lately Madelon has let fall a hint or two.  It
does not do, my child, to let people think one is proud, or—or—in any
way different."

Aline’s eyes were a little startled.

"What, what do you mean?" she asked.

"Child, need you ask me that?"

"Oh!" she said quickly.  "What did Madelon say?"

"Very little.  You know she is afraid of her father, and so is Jean
Jacques.  It was to Marthe she spoke, and Marthe says Mathieu Leroux is
a dangerous man; but then you know Marthe’s way.  Only, if I were you, I
should bid him ’Good-day,’ and say a friendly word or two as you pass."

As Aline walked down to the village at a pace suited to the sharpness of
the February day, Mlle Ange’s words kept ringing in her head.  Had Mlle
Marthe warned her far more emphatically, it would have made a slighter
impression; but when Ange, who saw good in all, was aware of impending
trouble, it seemed to Aline that the prospect was threatening indeed.
All at once the pleasant monotony of her life at Rancy appeared to be at
an end, and she looked into a cloudy and uncertain future, full of the
perils from which she had had so short a respite.

When she came to the inn door and found it filled by the stout form of
Mathieu Leroux she did her best to smile in neighbourly fashion; but her
eyes sank before his, and her voice sounded forced as she murmured,
"Bonjour, Citizen."

Leroux’ black eyes looked over his heavy red cheeks at her.  They were
full of a desire to discover something discreditable about this stranger
who had dropped into their little village, and who, though a patriot’s
wife, displayed none of the signs by which he, Leroux, estimated
patriotism.

"Bonjour," he returned, without removing his pipe.

Aline struggled with her annoyance.

"How is your mother to-day?" she inquired.  "My aunt has sent her a
new-laid egg.  May I go in?"

"Eh, she ’s well enough," he grumbled.  "There is too much fuss made
over her.  She ’ll live this twenty years, and never do another stroke
of work.  That’s my luck. A strong, economical, handy wife must needs
die, whilst an old woman, who, you ’d think, would be glad enough to
rest in her grave, hangs on and on.  Oh, yes, go in, go in; she ’ll be
glad enough to have some one to complain to."

Aline slipped past him, frightened.  He had evidently been drinking, and
she knew from Madelon that he was liable to sudden outbursts of passion
when this was the case.

In a small back room she found old Mère Leroux crouched by the fire,
groaning a little as she rocked herself to and fro.  When she saw that
Aline was alone, she gave a little cry of disappointment.

"And Mlle Ange?" she cried in her cracked old voice.

"My aunt Marthe is bad to-day; she could not leave her," explained
Aline.

"Oh, poor Ma’mselle Marthe—and I remember her straight and strong and
handsome; not a beauty like Ma’mselle Ange, but well enough, well
enough.  Then she falls down a bank with a great stone on top of her,
and there she is, no better than an old woman like me, who has had her
life, and whom no one cares for any more."

"Oh, Mère Leroux, you should n’t say that!"

"It’s true, my dear, true enough.  Mathieu is a bad son, a bad son.
Some day he ’ll turn me out, and I shall go to Madelon.  She ’s a good
girl, Madelon; but when a girl has got a husband, what does she care for
an old grandmother?  Now Charles was a good son.  Yes, if Charles had
lived—but then it is always the best who go."

"You had another son, then?" said Aline, bringing a wooden stool to the
old woman’s side.

"Yes, my son Charles.  Ah, a fine lad that, and handsome.  He was M.
Réné’s body servant, and you should have seen him in his livery—a fine,
straight man, handsomer than M. Réné.  Ah, well, he fretted after his
master, and then he took a fever and died of it, and Mathieu has never
been a good son to me."

"M. Réné died?" asked Aline quickly, for the old woman had begun to cry.

Mère Leroux dried her eyes.

"Ah, yes; there ’s no one who knows more about that than I.  He was in
Paris, and as he came out of M. le duc de Noailles’s Hôtel, he met M. de
Brézé, and M. de Brézé said to him, ’Well, Réné, we have been hearing of
you,’ and M. Réné said, ’How so?’  ’Why,’ says M. de Brézé (my son
Charles was with M. Réné, and he heard it all), ’Why,’ says M. de Brézé,
’I hear you have found a guardian angel of quite surpassing beauty. May
I not be presented to her?’  Then, Charles said, M. Réné looked straight
at him and answered, ’When I bring Mme Réné de Montenay to Paris, I will
present you.’  M. de Brézé shrugged his shoulders, and slapped M. Réné
on the arm.  ’Oho,’ said he, ’you are very sly, my friend.  I was not
talking of your marriage, but of your mistress.’

"Then M. Réné put his hand on his sword, and said, still very quietly,
’You have been misinformed; it is a question of my marriage.’  Charles
said that M. de Brézé was flushed with wine, or he would not have
laughed as he did then.  Well, well, well, it’s a great many years ago,
but it was a pity, a sad pity.  M. de Brézé was the better swordsman,
and he ran M. Réné through the body."

"And he died?" said Aline.

"Not then; no, not then.  It would have been better like that—yes, much
better."

"Oh, what happened?"

"Charles heard it all.  The surgeon attended to the wound, and said that
with care it would do well, only there must be perfect quiet, perfect
rest.  With his own ears he heard that said, and the old Marquise went
straight from the surgeon to M. Réné’s bedside, and sat down, and took
his hand.  Charles was in the next room, but the door was ajar, and he
could hear and see.

"’Réné, my son,’ she said, ’I hear your duel was about Ange Desaix.’ M.
Réné said, ’Yes, ma mere.’  Then she said very scornfully, ’I have
undoubtedly been misinformed, for I was told that you fought because—but
no, it is too absurd.’

"M. Réné moved his hand.  He was all strapped up, but his hand could
move, and he jerked it, thus, to stop his mother; and she stopped and
looked at him.  Then he said, ’I fought M. de Brézé because he spoke
disrespectfully of my future wife.’  Yes, just like that he said it; and
what it must have been to Madame to hear it, Lucifer alone knows, for
her pride was like his. There was a long silence, and they looked hard
at each other, and then Madame said, ’No!’—only that, but Charles said
her face was dreadful, and M. Réné said ’Yes!’ almost in a whisper, for
he was weak, and then again there was silence.  After a long time Madame
got up and went out of the room, and M. Réné gave a long sigh, and
called Charles, and asked for something to drink.  Next day Madame came
back.  She did not sit down this time, but stood and stared at M. Réné.
Big black eyes she had then, and her face all white, as white as his.
’Réné,’ she said, ’are you still mad?’ and M. Réné smiled and said, ’I
am not mad at all.’  She put her hand on his forehead.  ’You would
really do this thing?’ she said.  ’Lower our name, take as wife what you
might have for the asking as mistress?’  M. Réné turned in bed at that,
and between pain and anger his voice sounded strong and loud.  ’Whilst I
am alive, there ’s no man living shall say that,’ he cried. ’On my soul
I swear I shall marry her, and on my soul I swear she is fit to be a
king’s wife.’

"Madame took her hand away, and looked at it for a moment.  Afterwards,
when Charles told me, I thought, did she wonder if she should see blood
on it?  And then without another word she went out of the room, and gave
orders that her carriages were to be got ready, for she was taking M.
Réné to Rancy."

"Oh, no!" said Aline.

"Yes, my dear, yes; and she did it too, and he died of the journey—died
calling for Mlle Ange."

"Oh, did she come?"

"Charles fetched her, and for that Madame never forgave him."

"Oh, how dreadful!"

"Yes, yes, it is sad; but it would have been a terrible mésalliance.  A
Montenay and his steward’s daughter! No, no, it would not have done; one
does not do such things."

Aline got up abruptly.

"Oh, I must go," she said.  "I promised I would not be long.  See, here
is the egg."

"You are in such a hurry," mumbled the old woman, confused.  She was
still in the past, and the sudden change of subject bewildered her.

"I will come again," said Aline gently.

When she was clear of the inn she walked very fast for a few moments,
and then stopped.  She did not want to go home at once—the story she had
just heard had taken possession of her, and she wanted to be alone to
adjust her thoughts, to grow accustomed to kind placid Mlle Ange as the
central figure of such a tragedy. After a moment’s pause she took the
path that led to the château, but stopped short at the high iron gates.
Beyond them the avenue looked black and eerie.  Her desire to go farther
left her, and she leaned against the gates, taking breath after the
climb.

The early dusk was settling fast upon the bare woods, and the hollow
where the village lay below was already dark and flecked with a light or
two.  Above, a little yellowish glow lurked behind the low, sullen
clouds.

It was very still, and Aline could hear the drip, drip of the moisture
which last night had coated all the trees with white, and which to-night
would surely freeze again.  It was turning very cold; she would not
wait. It was foolish to have come, more than foolish to let an old
woman’s words sting her so sharply—"One does not do such things."  Was
it her fancy that the dim eyes had been turned curiously upon her for a
moment just then?  Yes, of course, it was only fancy, for what could
Mère Leroux know or suspect?  She drew her cloak closer, and was about
to turn away when a sound startled her.  Close by the gate a stick
cracked as if it had been trodden on, and there was a faint brushing
sound as of a dress trailing against the bark of a tree.  Aline peered
into the shadows with a beating heart, and thought she saw some one
move.  Frightened and unnerved, she caught at the scroll-work of the
gate and stared open-eyed, unable to stir; and again something rustled
and moved within.  This time it was plainly a woman’s shape that flitted
from one tree to the next—a woman who hid a moment, then leaned and
looked, and at last came lightly down the avenue to the gate.  Here the
last of the light fell on Marguerite de Matigny’s face, showing it very
white and hollow-eyed.  Aline’s heart stood still.  Could this be flesh
and blood?  Marguerite here?  Not in the flesh, then.

"Marguerite," she breathed.

Marguerite’s hand came through the wrought-work and caught at her.  It
was cold, but human, and Aline recovered herself with a gasp.

"Marguerite, you?"

"And Aline, you?  I looked, and looked, and thought ’t was you, and at
last I thought, well, I ’ll risk it.  Oh, my dear!"

"But I don’t understand.  Oh, Marguerite, I thought you were a ghost."

"And wondered why I should come here?  Well, I ’ve some right to, for my
mother was a Montenay. Did you not know it?"

"No.  But what brings you here, since you are not a ghost, but your very
own self?"

"Tiens, Aline, I have wished myself any one or anything but myself this
last fortnight!  You must know that when I was set free—and oh, ma
chérie, I heard it was your husband who saved me, and of course that
means you——"

"Not me," said Aline quickly.  "He did it.  Who told you?"

"The Abbé Loisel.  He knows everything—too much, I think!  I don’t like
him, which is ungrateful, since he got me out of Paris."

"Did he?  Where did you go then?"

"Why, to Switzerland, to Bâle, where I joined my father; and then,
then—oh, Aline, do you know I am betrothed?"

"My dear, and you are happy?"

Marguerite screwed up her face in an unavailing attempt to keep grave,
but after a moment burst out laughing.

"Why, Aline, he is so droll, and a countryman of your own.  Indeed, I
believe he is a cousin, for his name is Desmond."

"And you like him?"

"Oh, I adore him," said Mlle Marguerite calmly. "Aline, if you could see
him!  His hair—well, it’s rather red; and he has freckles just like the
dear little frogs we used to find by the ponds, Jean and I, when we were
children; and his eyes are green and droll—oh, but to make you die of
laughing——"

"He is not handsome, then?" said Aline, laughing too.

"Oh no, ugly—but most adorably ugly, and tall, and broad; and oh, Aline,
he is nice, and he says that in Ireland I may love him as much as I
please, and no one will think it a breach of decorum."

"Marguerite, you are just the same, you funny child!"

"Well, why not—it’s not so long since we saw each other, is it?  Only a
few months."

"I feel as if it were centuries," said Aline, pressing her hands
together.

"Ah, that’s because you are married.  Ciel! that was a sensation, your
marriage.  They talked—yes, they talked to split your ears.  The things
they said——"

"And you?"

"You are my friend," said Mlle de Matigny with decision.  "But I must go
on with my story. Well, I was at Bâle and betrothed, and then my father
and Monsieur my fiancé set off to join the Princes, leaving me with Mme
de Montenay, my great-aunt, who is ever so old, and quite, quite mad!"

"Oh, Marguerite!"

"Yes, but she is.  Imagine being safe in Bâle, and then coming back
here, all across France, just because she could not die anywhere but at
the Château de Montenay in Rancy-les-Bois."

"She has come back?"

"Should I be here otherwise?" demanded Marguerite pathetically.  "And
the journey!—What I endured!—for I saw guillotines round every corner,
and suspicious patriots on every doorstep.  It is a miracle that we are
here; and now that we have come, it is all very well for Madame my aunt,
who has come here to die, and requires no food to accomplish that end;
but for me, I do not fancy starving, and we have nothing to eat in the
house."

"Oh, my poor dear!  What made you come?"

"Could I let her come alone?  She is too old and too weak; but I ought
to have locked the door and kept the key—only, old as she is, she can
still make every one do as she wants."

"You are not alone?"

"Jean and Louise, her old servants, started with us; but Jean got
himself arrested.  Poor Jean, he could not pretend well enough."

"And Louise?"

"Oh, Louise is there, but she is nearly as old as Madame."

"You must have food," said Aline decidedly.  "I will bring you some."

"Oh, you angel!" exclaimed Marguerite, kissing her through the bars.
"When you came I was standing here trying to screw up my courage to go
down to the inn and ask for some."

"Oh, not the inn," said Aline quickly; "that’s the last place to go.  I
’m afraid there ’s danger everywhere, but I ’ll do what I can.  Go back
to the château, and I ’ll come as soon as possible."

"Yes, as soon as possible, please, for I am hungry enough to eat you, my
dear.  See, have n’t I got thin—yes, and pale too?  I assure you that I
have a most interesting air."

"Does M. my cousin find pallor interesting?" inquired Aline teasingly.

"No, my dear; he has a bourgeois’s taste for colour. He compared me once
to a carnation, but I punished him well for that.  I stole the vinegar,
and drank enough to make me feel shockingly ill.  Then I powdered my
cheeks, and then—then I talked all the evening to M. de Maillé!"

"And my cousin, M. le Chevalier, what did he do?"

Marguerite gave an irrepressible giggle.

"He went away, and I was just beginning to feel that perhaps he had been
punished enough, when back he came, very easy and smiling, with a sweet
large and beautiful bouquet of white carnations, and with an elegant bow
he begged me to accept them, since white was my preference, though for
his part he preferred the beauteous red that blushed like happy love!"

"And then?"

Marguerite’s voice became very demure.

"Poor grandmamma used to say life was compromise, so I compromised; next
morning I did not drink vinegar, and I wore a blush pink bud in my hair.
M. le Chevalier was pleased to admire it extravagantly."

Aline ran off laughing, but she was grave enough before she had gone
very far, for certainly the situation was not an easy one.  She racked
her brains for a plan, but could find none; and when she came in, Mlle
Marthe’s quick eyes at once discerned that something was wrong.

"What is it, child?" she said hastily.  "Was Mathieu rude?"

"My dear, how late you are," said Mlle Ange, looking up from her
needlework.

"Not Mathieu?" continued Marthe.  "What has happened, Aline?  You have
not bad news?  It is not Jacques?" and her lips grew paler.

"No, no, ma tante."

"What is it, then?  Speak, or—or—why, you have been to the château!" she
said abruptly, as Aline came into the lamplight.

"Why, Marthe, what makes you say that?" said Ange, in a startled voice.

"The rust on her cloak—see, it is all stained.  She has been leaning
against the iron gates.  What took you there, and what has alarmed you?"

"I—I saw——"

"A ghost?" inquired Marthe with sharp sarcasm.

Ange rose up, trembling.

"Oh, she has come back!  I know it, I have felt it! She has come back,"
she cried.

"Ange, don’t be a fool," said Marthe, but her eyes were anxious.

"Speak then, Aline, and tell us what you saw."

"It is true, she has come back," said Aline, looking away from Mlle
Ange, who put her hands before her eyes with a little cry and stood so a
full minute, whilst Marthe gave a harsh laugh, and then bit her lip as
if in pain.

"Come back to die?" Ange said at last, very low. "Alone?"—and she turned
on Aline.

"No, a niece is with her.  It was she whom I saw.  I knew her in
Paris—in prison; and, ma tante, they have no food in the house, and I
said I would take them some."

"No food goes from this house to that," said Marthe loudly, but Ange
caught her hand.

"Oh, we can’t let them starve."

"And why not, Angel, why not?  The old devil! She has done enough
mischief in the world, and now that her time has come, let her go.  Does
she expect us, us, to weep for her?"

"No, no; but I can’t let her starve—you know I can’t."

Marthe laughed again.

"No, perhaps not, but I could, and I would."  She paused.  "So you ’d
heap coals of fire—feed her, save her, eh, Angel?"

"Oh, Marthe, don’t!  For the love of God, don’t speak to me like
that—when you know—when you know!"

Marthe pulled her down with an impulsive gesture that drew a groan from
her.

"Ah, Ange," she said in a queer, broken voice; and Ange kissed her
passionately and ran out of the room.

There was a long, heavy pause.  Then Marthe said:

"So you’ve heard the story?  Who told you?"

"Mère Leroux, to-night."

"And a very suitable occasion.  Who says life is not dramatic?  So Mère
Leroux told you, and you went up to the château to see if it was
haunted, and it was. Ciel, if those stones could speak!  But there ’s
enough without that—quite enough."

She was silent again, and after awhile Mlle Ange came back, wrapped in a
thick cloak and carrying a basket.

Aline started forward.

"Ma tante, I may come too?  It is so dark."

"And the dark is full of ghosts?" said Ange Desaix, under her breath.
"Well, then, child, you may come. Indeed, the basket is heavy, and I
shall be glad of your help."

Outside, the night had settled heavily, and without the small lantern
which Mlle Ange produced from under her cloak, it would have been
impossible to see the path. A little breeze had risen and seemed to
follow them, moaning among the leafless boughs, and rustling the dead
leaves below.  They walked in silence, each with a hand on the heavy
basket.  It was very cold, and yet oppressive, as if snow were about to
fall or a storm to break.  Mlle Ange led the way up a bridle-path, and
when the grey pile of the château loomed before them she turned sharply
to the left, and Aline felt her hand taken.  "This way," whispered Ange;
and they stumbled up a broken step or two, and passed through a long,
shattered window.  "This way," said Ange again.  "Mon Dieu, how long
since I came here!  Ah, mon Dieu!"

The empty room echoed to their steps and to that low-voiced exclamation,
and the lantern light fell waveringly upon the shadows, driving them
into the corners, where they crowded like ghosts out of that past of
which the room seemed full.

It was a small room, and had been exquisite.  Here and there a moulded
cupid still smiled its dimpled smile, and clutched with plump, engaging
fingers at the falling garland of white, heavy-bloomed roses which
served it for girdle and plaything.  In one corner a tattered rag of
brocade still showed that the hangings had been green.  Ange looked
round mournfully.

"It was Madame’s boudoir," she said slowly, with pauses between the
sentences.  "Madame sat here, by the window, because she liked to look
out at the terrace, and the garden her Italian mother had made. Madame
was beautiful then—like a picture, though her hair was too white to need
powder.  She had little hands, soft like a child’s hands; but her eyes
looked through you, and at once you thought of all the bad things you
had ever done or thought.  It was worse than confession, for there was
no absolution afterwards." She paused and moved a step or two.

"I sat here.  The hours I have read to her, or worked whilst she was
busy with her letters!"

"You!" said Aline, surprised.

"Yes, I, her godchild, and a pet until—come then, child, until I forgot
I was on the same footing as cat or dog, petted for their looks, and
presumed to find a common humanity in myself and her.  Ah, Marraine, it
was you who made me a Republican.  Oh, my child, pride is an evil god to
serve!  Don’t sacrifice your life to him as mine was sacrificed."

She crossed hastily to the door as she spoke, and they came through a
corridor to the great stairs, where the darkness seemed to lie in solid
blocks, and the faint lantern light showed just one narrow path on which
to set their feet.  And on that path the dust lay thick; here drifted
into mounds, and there spread desert-smooth along the broad, shallow
steps, eloquent of desolation indescribable.  But on the centre of the
grey smoothness was a footmark—very small and lonely-looking. It seemed
to make the gloom more eerie, the stillness more terrible, and the two
women kept close together as they went up the stair.

At the top another corridor, and then a door in front of which Ange
hesitated long.  Twice she put out her hand, and twice drew back, until
at last it was Aline who lifted the latch and drew her through the
doorway. Darkness and silence.

Across that room, and to another.  Darkness and silence still.  At the
third door Ange came forward again.

"It is past," she said, half to herself, and went in before Aline.

Whilst the west was all in darkness, this long east room fronted the
rising moon, and the shimmer of it lay full across the chamber, making
it light as day. Here the dust had been lately disturbed, for it hung
like a mist in the air, and its shining particles floated all a-glitter
in the broad wash of silver.  Full in the moonlight stood a great
canopied bed, its crimson hangings all wrenched away, and trailing to
the dusty floor, where they lay like some ineffaceable stain of rusting
blood. On the dark hearth a handful of sticks burned to a dull red ash,
and between fire and moon there was a chair. It stood in to the hearth,
as if for warmth, but aslant so that the moon shaft lay across it.

Ange set down the lantern and took a quick step forward, crying,
"Madame!"  Something stirred in the tattered chair, something grey
amongst the grey of the shadows.  It was like the movement of the roused
spider, for here was the web, all dust and moonshine, and here, secret
and fierce, grey and elusive, lurked the weaver. The shape in the chair
leaned forward, and the oldest woman’s face she had ever seen looked at
Aline across the moted moonlight.  The face was all grey; the bony ridge
above the deep eye-pits, the wrinkled skin that lay beneath, the
shrivelled, discoloured lips—plainly this was a woman not only old, but
dying.  Then the lids lifted, and Aline could have screamed, for the
movement showed eyes as smoulderingly bright as the sudden sparks which
fly up from grey ash that should be cold, but has still a heart of flame
if stirred.  They spoke of the indomitable will which had dragged this
old, frail woman here to die.

Through the silence came a mere thread of a voice—

"Who is it?"

"I am Ange Desaix."

The shrivelled fingers picked at the shrouding shawl. Aline, watching
uneasily, saw the pinched face fall into a new arrangement of wrinkles.
The mouth opened like a pit, and from it came an attenuated sound.  With
creeping flesh she realised that this was a laugh—Madame was laughing.

"Ange Desaix, Ange Desaix,—Réné’s Angel.  Oh, la belle comédie!"

"Madame!" the sound came like a sob, and in a flash Aline guessed how
long it was since any one had named Réné de Montenay before this woman
who had loved him.  After the silence of nearly forty years it stabbed
her like a sword thrust.

Again that faint sound like the echo of laughter long dead:

"My compliments, Mlle Desaix.  Will you not be seated, and let me know
to what I owe the pleasure of this visit?  But you are not alone.  Who
is that with you?  Come here!"

Aline crossed the room obediently.

"Who are you?" said the faint voice again, and the burning eyes looked
searchingly into her face.

Something stirred in Aline.  This old wreck of womanhood was not only of
her order, but of her kin.  Before she knew it she heard her own voice
say:

"I am Aline de Rochambeau."

Ange Desaix gave a great start.  She had guessed,—but this was
certainty, and the shock took her breath. From the chair a minute, tiny
hand was beckoning.

"Rochambeau, Rochambeau.  I know all the Rochambeau—Réné de Rochambeau
was my first cousin, for I was a Montenay born, you know.  He and his
brother were the talk of the town when I was young. They married the
twin heiresses of old M. de Vivonne, and every one sang the catch which
M. de Coulanges made—

    Fiers et beaux, les Rochambeau;
    Fiere et bonnes, les belles Vivonne.’

Whose daughter are you?"

Aline knelt by the chair and kissed the little claw where a diamond
shone from the gold circlet which was so much too loose.

"Réné de Rochambeau was my grandfather," she said.

"Well, he would have thought you a pretty girl. Beauty never came amiss
to a Rochambeau, and you have your share.  We are kinsfolk,
Mademoiselle, and in other circumstances, I should have wished—have
wished—" she drew her hand away impatiently and put it to her head.
"Who said that Ange Desaix was here?  Why does she come now?  Réné is
dead, and I have no more sons; I am really a little at a loss."

The words which should have sounded pathetic came in staccato mockery,
and Aline sprang up in indignation, but even as she moved Mlle Ange
spoke.

"Let the past alone, Madame," she said slowly. "Believe, if you can,
that I have come to help you. You are not alone?"

"I have Louise, but she—really, I forget where she is at present, but
she is not cooking, for we have nothing to cook.  It is as well that I
have come here to die, since for that there are always conveniences.
One dies more comfortably chez soi.  In fact, unless one had the honour
of dying on the field of battle, there is to my mind something bourgeois
about dying in a strange place. At least, it has never been our habit.
Now I recollect when Réné was dying—dear me, how many years ago it is
now?"

"It is thirty-seven years ago," said Ange Desaix in low muffled tones.

"Thank you, Mademoiselle, you are quite correct. Well, thirty-seven
years ago, you, with that excellent memory of yours, will recall how I
brought my son Réné here, that he might die at home."

"Yes," said Ange.  "You brought him home that he might die."

The slight change of words was an accusation, and there was a moment’s
silence, broken by an almost inaudible whisper from Mlle Ange.

"Thirty-seven years.  Oh, mon Dieu!"

The tremulous grey head moved a little, bent forward, and was propped by
a shaking hand, but Madame’s eyes shone unalterably amused.

"Yes, my dear Ange, he died—unmarried; and I had the consolations of
religion, and also of knowing that a mésalliance is not possible in the
grave."

Ange Desaix started forward with a sob.

"And have you never repented, Madame, have you never repented?  Never
thought that you might have had his children about your knees?  That
night, when I saw him die, I said, ’God will punish,’ and are you not
punished?  You have neither son nor grandson; you are childless as I am
childless; you are alone and the last of your line!"

The sudden fire transfigured her, and she looked like a prophetess.
Madame de Montenay stared at her and fell to fidgeting with her shawl.

"I am too old for scenes," she said fretfully.  "Réné was a fool—a fool.
I never interfered with his amusements, but marriage—that is not an
affair for oneself alone.  Did he think I should permit?  But it is
enough, he is dead, and I think you forget yourself, Ange Desaix, when
you come to my house and talk to me in such a strain.  I should like to
be alone."

The old imperious note swelled the thin voice; the old imperious gesture
raised the trembling hand.  Even in her recoil Aline felt a faint thrill
of admiration as for something indomitable, indestructible.

Ange swept through the door.

"Ah!" she said with a long shuddering breath, "ah, mon Dieu! mon Dieu!"
All her beautiful dreamy expression was gone.  "Ah! what a coward I am;
even now, even now she frightens me, cows me," and she leaned panting
against the wall, whilst Aline closed the door.

Out of the darkness Marguerite came trembling.

"Aline, what is it?" she whispered.  "I heard you, and came as far as
the door, and then, Holy Virgin, is n’t she terrible?  She makes me cold
like ice, and her laugh, it ’s—oh, one does not know how to bear it!"

Mlle Ange turned, collecting herself.

"Is it Louise?" she asked.

"No, I am Marguerite de Matigny.  Louise is in the corridor."

"Let us come away from here," said Aline, taking the lantern, and they
hastened through the two dark rooms, meeting Louise at the farthest
door.  She was a tall, haggard woman, with loose grey hair and restless,
terrified eyes.  Mlle Ange drew her aside, whispering, and after a
moment the fear went out of her face, leaving a sallow exhaustion in its
place.

"It is a miracle," she was saying as Aline and Marguerite joined them.
"The saints know how we got here.  I remember nothing, I am too tired;
and Madame,—how she is not dead!  Nothing would hold her, when the
doctor told her she had a mortal complaint.  If you know Madame, you
will know that she laughed.  ’Mon Dieu,’ she said to me, ’I have had one
mortal complaint for ten years now, and that is old age, but since he
says I have another, no doubt he is right, and the two together will
kill me.’  Then she said, ’Pack my mail, Louise, for I do not choose to
die here, where no one has ever heard of the Montenay.’  ’But,
Mademoiselle,’ I said, and Madame shrugged her shoulders. ’But the
Terror,’ I said, and indeed, Ma’mselle, I went on my knees to her, but
if you think she cared!  Not the least in the world, and here we are,
and God knows what comes next!  I am afraid, very much afraid,
Ma’mselle."

"Yes, and so am I," whispered Marguerite, pinching Aline’s arm.  "It is
really dreadful here.  La tante mad, and this old house all ghosts and
horrors, and nothing to eat, it is triste,—yes, I can tell you it is
triste."

"We will come again," said Aline, kissing her, "and at least there is
food here."

"Yes, take the basket, Louise," said Mlle Ange, "and now we must go."

"Oh, no, don’t go," cried Marguerite.  "Stay just a little—" but Louise
broke in——

"No, no, Ma’mselle, let them go.  Madame would not be pleased.  I
thought I heard her call just now."  She shrugged her shoulders
expressively, and Marguerite released her friend with a little sobbing
kiss.

"Come, Aline," said Mlle Ange with dignity, and they went down the
echoing stair in silence.

Neither spoke for a long while.  Then amongst the deeper shadows of the
wood Aline heard a curiously strained voice say:

"So you are Rochambeau, and noble?"

"Yes."

"Marthe said so from the first; she is always right."

"Yes."

A little pause, and then Ange said passionately:

"What made you give that name?  Are you ashamed to be called Dangeau?"

"She was so old, and of my kin; I said the name that she would know.
Oh, I do not know why I said it," faltered Aline.

"Does he know it, Jacques?"

"Yes, oh yes!"

"He knew before you were married?"

"Yes, always; he has been so good."

"So good, and you his wife, and could deny his name! I do not understand
you, Aline de Rochambeau."

Aline flushed scarlet in the darkness.  Her own name spoken thus seemed
to set a bruise upon her heart.

"It was not that," she cried: "I do not know why I said it, but it was
not to deny—him."

Her voice sank very low, and something in it made Ange halt a moment and
say:

"Aline, do you love Jacques?"

Aline’s hand went to her breast.

"Yes," she said under her breath, and thought the whole wood echoed with
the one soft word.

"And does he know that too?" The questioning voice had sunk again to
gentleness.

"No, no—oh, no."

"Poor child," said Agnes Desaix, and after that they spoke no more.



                              CHAPTER XXIV

                         BURNING OF THE CHÂTEAU


Mlle Marthe lay in the dusk frowning and knitting her brows until they
made a straight dark line over her restless eyes.  A sense of angry
impotence possessed her and found expression in a continual sharp
movement of head and hand; the stabbing physical pain evoked was sheer
relief to the strained mind.  Two days had now passed since the first
expedition to the château, and every hour of them had seemed more
heavily weighted with impending danger. Nothing would persuade Mme de
Montenay to move, or Ange to leave her to her fate.  Louise was tearful,
and useless; Marguerite, a lonely child, terrified of the great shadowed
rooms, and clinging eagerly to her friend;—a complication, in fact,
which roused Mlle Marthe’s anger more than all the rest, since even her
resolution recoiled from the abandonment of a young girl, who had no
share in Mme de Montenay’s obstinacy. Marthe fretted, turned a little,
groaned, and bit her lip.

As the door opened she looked up sharply, but it was only Jeanne, who
came to ask her if she should light the lamp, and got a snappish "No!"
for answer.

"It is dark, Ma’mselle," she said.

"I will wait till they come in."

"Eh—it ’s queer weather, and a queer time of day to be out," muttered
Jeanne sulkily.

"Madame is young; she needs exercise," said Marthe, prompted by
something in the woman’s tone.

"Ah, yes, exercise," said Jeanne in a queer voice, and she went out,
shutting the door sharply.  Mlle Marthe’s thoughts kept tone with the
darkening sky. Her eyes watched the door with an anxious stare.  When at
last Ange and Aline came in snow-sprinkled and warm, her temper was
fretted to a sharp edge, and she spoke with quick impatience.

"Mon Dieu, how long you have been!  If you must go, you must, but there
is no occasion to stay and stay, until I am beside myself with wondering
what has happened!"

Ange threw off her wet cloak and bent to kiss her sister.  "Oh, my
dearest, has it been so long?" she said.  "Why, I thought we were being
so quick, and that you would commend us.  We did not wait at all, only
gave the food to Louise and came straight back. Has the pain been bad
then, my poor darling?  Have you wanted anything?"

Marthe pushed her away with an angry jerk.

"What I want is a way out of this abominable situation," she exclaimed.
"If you had any common-sense, Ange—the slightest instinct of
self-preservation—but no, you will sacrifice all our lives to that
wicked old woman, and then flatter yourself that you have done something
to be proud of.  Come here to die, has she? Heavens, she ’ll outlive us
all, and then go happy in the thought that she has contrived to do a
little more mischief before the end!"

Ange winced, but only said gently:

"Dearest, don’t."

"There, Ange, I ’ve no patience!  I tell you we are all on the brink of
ruin.  Madelon has been here."

"Madelon?  Ah, the dear child.  It is so long since I have really seen
her.  I am sorry to have missed her. Was she well?"

Mlle Marthe caught her sister’s hand and pressed it until she cried out,
"Marthe, you are hurting me!"

"Ange!  Sometimes I could swear at you!  For Heaven’s sake think of
yourself for a few moments, or if that is asking too much, think of
Aline, think of me. Madelon came here because her father sent her!"

"Her father sent her!  Marthe, dearest, don’t—that hurts."

"I mean it to.  Yes, her father——"

"But why.  I don’t understand."

Aline had been lighting the lamp.  She looked up now, and the yellow
flare showed the trouble in her face.

"Oh, ma tante," she breathed.

"Yes, child.  Ange, wake up; don’t you realise?"

"Mathieu suspects?" asked Aline quickly.  "But how?"

"He saw you take the path to the château the other day.  Saw, or thought
he saw, a light in the west wing last night, and sent Madelon to find
out how much we knew.  A mischief-maker Mathieu, and a bad man,—devil
take him."

"Oh, Marthe, don’t.  Madelon,—Madelon is as true as steel."

"Oh, yes, but mightily afraid of her father.  She sat here with her
round cheeks as white as curds, and cried, and begged me not to tell her
anything;—as if I should be such a fool."

"Ah, poor Madelon," said Ange, "she must not distress herself like that,
it is so bad for her just now."

Marthe ground her teeth.

"Ange, I won’t have it—I won’t.  I tell you all our lives are at stake,
and you discuss Madelon’s health."

"My dearest, don’t be vexed; indeed, I am trying to think what can be
done."

"Now, Ange, listen to me.  If you will go on with this mad business,
there is only one thing to be done. I have thought it all out.  They
must do with as little as possible, and you must not go there oftener
than once in four days.  You will go at eleven o’clock at night when
there is no one abroad, and Louise will meet you half-way and take the
basket on.  There must be no other communication of any sort: you hear
me, Aline?"

"Yes," said Aline, "I think you are quite right."

"That is always a consolation."  Marthe’s voice took a sarcastic tone.
"Now, Ange, do you agree?"

"If you really think——"

"Why, yes, I do.  Ange, I ’m a cross animal, but I can’t see you throw
your life away and not say a word. I ’m a useless cripple enough, but I
have the use of my tongue.  Will you promise?"

"Well—yes."

"That’s right.  Now for goodness let’s talk about something else.  If
there ’s going to be trouble it will come, and we need n’t go over and
over it all before it does come.  Aline, do, for the love of heaven,
remember that I cannot bear the light in my eyes like that. Put the lamp
over here, behind me, and then you can take a book and read aloud so as
to give us all a chance of composing our minds."

Aline waked late that night.  All the surface calm in her had been
broken up by the events of the last few days.  The slight sprinkling of
snow had ceased, but there was a high wind abroad, and as it complained
amongst the stripped and creaking woods, it seemed to voice the yearning
that strained the very fibres of her being.

She stood at midnight and looked out.  Very high and pale rode the moon,
and the driving cloud wrack swept like shallow, eddying water across the
one clear space of sky in which she queened it.  All below was dense,
dull, cloud mass, darkening to the hill slope, and the black sighing
woodland.  Thoughts drove in her brain, like the driving cloud.  Sadness
of life, imminence of death, shortness of love.  She had seen an ugly
side of ancestral pride in these two days, and suddenly she glimpsed a
vision of herself grown old and grey, looking back along the
interminable years to the time when she had sacrificed youth and love.
Then it would be too late.  Life was irrevocable; but now—now? She threw
open her window and leaned far out, drawing the strong air into her
lungs, whilst the wind caught her hair and spread it all abroad.  The
spirit of life, of youth, cried to her, and she stretched her arms wide
and mingled her voice with its voice. "Jacques!" she called under her
breath, "Jacques!" and then as suddenly she drew back trembling and hid
her face in her cold hands.

She did not know how the time passed after that, but when she looked up
again there was a faint glow in the sky.  She watched it curiously,
thinking for a moment that it was the dawn, and then aware that morning
must still be far away.

A tinge of rose brightened the cloud bank over the hill, and at its edge
the ether showed blue.  Then quite suddenly a tongue of fire flared
above the trees and sank again.  As the flames rose a second time Ange
Desaix was in the room.

"Aline!  The château!  It is on fire!" she cried. "Oh, mon Dieu, what
shall we do?"

They ran out, wrapped hastily in muffling cloaks, and as they climbed
the hill Ange spoke in gasps.

"They must have seen it in the village before we did.  All the world
will be there.  Oh, that poor child!  God help us all!"

"Oh, come quickly!" cried Aline, and they took hands and ran.  The slope
once mounted, the path so dark a few hours back was illuminated.  A red,
unnatural dusk filled the wood, and against it the trees stretched great
black groping arms.  The sky was like the reflection from some huge
furnace, and all the way the fire roared in the rising wind.

"How could it have happened?  Do you think,—oh, do you suppose this is
what she meant to do?" Aline asked once, and Ange gave a sort of sob as
she answered:

"Oh, my dear, God knows,—but I ’m afraid so," and then they pushed on
again in silence.

They came out of the bridle-path into the cypress walk that led to
Madame’s Italian garden.  At a turn the flaming building came into view
for the first time. South and east it burned furiously, but the west
front, that which faced them, was still intact, though the smoke eddied
about it, and a dull glare from the windows spoke of rooms beyond that
were already in the grip of the flames.  Between low hedges of box the
two pressed on, and climbed the terrace steps.

Here the heat drove to meet them full of stinging particles of grit.
The hot blast dried the skin and stung the eyes.  The wind blew strongly
from the east, but every now and then it veered, and then the fire
lapped round the corner and was blown out in long dreadful tongues,
which licked the walls as if tasting them, and threw a crimson glare
along the dark west wing.  Great sparks like flashes of flame flew high
and far, and the dense reek made breathing painful.

"Look!" said Aline, catching her companion by the arm, and pointing.
From where they stood the broad south terrace was full in view, and the
fire lighted it brilliantly.  Below it, where the avenue ceased, was a
small crowd of dark gesticulating figures, intent on the blazing pile.

"They can’t see us," said Ange; "but come this way, here, where the
statue screens us."

They paused a moment, leaning against the pedestal where a white Diana
lifted an arrow against the glare. Then both cried out simultaneously,
for driven by a sudden gust the smoke wreaths parted, and for a moment
they saw at a window above them a moving whiteness,—an arm thrust out,
only to fall again, and hang with fatal limpness across the sill.

"Ah, it was Marguerite," cried Aline with catching breath.  "I saw her
face.  Marguerite!  Marguerite!"

"Hush!" said Mlle Ange.  "It is no use calling. She has fainted.  Thank
God she came this way. There is a stair if I could only find it.  Once I
knew it well enough."

As she spoke she hurried into the smoke, and Aline followed, gasping.

"Your cloak over your face, child, and remember you must not faint."

How they gained the boudoir, Aline hardly knew, but she found herself
there with the smoke all round, pressing on her like a solid thing,
blinding, stinging, choking.  Ahead of her Mlle Ange groped along the
wall.  Once she staggered, but with a great effort kept on, and at last
stopped and pressed with all her strength.

In the darkness appeared a darker patch, and then, just as Aline’s
throbbing senses seemed about to fail her, she felt her hand caught, she
was pulled through a narrow opening, her feet felt steps, mounted
instinctively, and her lungs drew in a long, long breath of relief, for
here the smoke had hardly penetrated, and the air, though heavy, was
quite fit to breathe.  For a moment they halted and then climbed on.
The stair went steeply up, wound to the left, and ceased.  Then again
Ange stood feeling for the catch with fingers that had known it well
enough in the dead days.  Now they hesitated, tried here and there,
failed of the secret, and went groping to and fro, until Aline’s blood
beat in her throat, and she could have cried out with fear and
impatience.  The moment seemed interminable, and the smoke mounted
behind them in ever-thickening whirls.

"It was here, mon Dieu, what has become of it?  So many years ago, but I
thought I could have found it blindfold.  Réné showing me,—his hand on
mine—ah, at last," and with that the murmuring voice ceased, and the
panelling slipped smoothly back, letting in more smoke, to press like a
nightmare upon their already labouring lungs.  Through it the window
showed a red square, against which was outlined a white, huddled shape.
It was Marguerite, who lay just as she had fallen, head bowed, one hand
thrust out, the other at her throat.  Ange and Aline stood by her for a
moment leaning from the window, and taking in what air they might, and
then the confusion and the stumbling began once more, only this time
they had a weight to carry, and could shield neither eyes nor lungs from
the pervading smoke.  Twice they stopped, and twice that dreadful roar
of the fire, a roar that drowned even the heavy beat of their burdened
pulses, drove them on again, until at last they stumbled out upon the
terrace, and there halted, gasping terribly.  The intolerable heat
dripped from them in a black sweat, and for a while they crouched
trembling in every limb.  Then Ange whispered with dry lips:

"We must go on.  This is not safe."

They staggered forward once more, and even as they did so there was a
most appalling crash, and the flames rushed up like a pyramid to heaven,
making all the countryside light with a red travesty of day.  Urged by
terror, and with a final effort, they dragged Marguerite down the steps,
and on, until they sank at last exhausted under a cypress which watched
the pool where the fountain played no more.

In a minute or two Aline recovered sufficiently to wet the hem of her
cloak and bathe Marguerite’s face. This and the cold air brought her to
with a shudder and a cry.  She sat up coughing, and clung to Aline.

"Oh, save me, save me!"

"Chérie, you are saved."

"And they are burnt.  Oh, Holy Virgin, I shall see it always."

"Don’t talk of it, my dear!"

"Oh, I must.  I saw it, Aline; I saw it!  There was a little thread of
fire that ran up Louise’s skirt, like a gold wire.  Oh, mon Dieu!  They
are burnt."

"Madame?" asked Ange, very low.

"Yes, yes; and Louise, poor Louise!  I was so cross with her last night;
but I did n’t know.  I would n’t have been if I had known.  Oh, poor
Louise!"

"Tell us what happened, my dear, if you can."

"Oh, I don’t know."  Marguerite hid her face a moment, and then spoke
excitedly, pushing back her dishevelled hair.  "I woke up with the smoke
in my throat, and ran in to la tante’s room.  She had n’t gone to bed at
all.  There she was in her big chair, sitting up straight, Louise on her
knees begging her to get up, and all between the boards of the floor
there was smoke coming up, as if there were a great fire underneath."

"Underneath!  It began below, then?"

"Yes, Aline, she did it herself!  She must have crept down and set light
in ever so many places.  Yes, it is true, for she boasted of it.  ’Ange
Desaix says I am the last of the Montenay.  Very well, then; she shall
see, and the world shall see, how Montenay and I will go together!’
That is what she said, and Louise screamed, ’Save yourself, Ma’mselle!’
But la tante nodded and said, ’Yes, if you have wings, use them, by all
means.’  It was like some perfectly horrid dream.  I ran through the
rooms to see if I could get down the stairs, but they were all in a
blaze.  Then I ran back again; but when I was still some way from the
door I saw that the fire was coming up through the floor.  Louise gave
one great scream, but la tante just sat and smiled, and then the floor
gave way, and they went down with a crash.  Oh, Aline—Aline!"

"Oh, Marguerite, my dear—and you?"

Marguerite shuddered.

"I ran across the corridor and into the farthest room, and the smoke
came after me, and I fainted, and then you came and saved me."

"Hush! there is some one coming," said Mlle Ange in a quick whisper.

They crouched down and waited breathlessly.  Then, after an agonised
struggle, Marguerite coughed, and at once a dark figure bore down on
them.

"Thank the Saints I have found you," said Madelon’s voice.

Aline sprang up.

"Madelon—you?  How did you know?"

"Ah!  Bah—I saw you when you crossed the terrace. I saw you were
carrying some one.  Is it Madame?"

"No, no; a girl—younger than we are.  Oh, Madelon, you will help us?"

"Well, at least I won’t harm you—you know that; but you are safe enough,
so far, for no one else saw you. They were all watching to see the roof
fall in over there to the right, and I should have been watching too,
only that my cousin Anne had just been scolding me so for being there at
all.  She said my baby would have St. John’s fire right across his face.
She herself has a red patch over one eye, and only because her mother
would sit staring at the embers.  Well, I thought I would be prudent, so
I bade Jean Jacques look instead of me, and turned my head the other
way, and, just as the flames shot up, I saw you cross the terrace and go
down the steps.  And now, what are you going to do with Mademoiselle?"

This most pertinent question took them all aback, and Marguerite looked
up with round, bewildered eyes; she certainly had no suggestions to
make.  At last Mlle Ange said slowly:

"She must come home with us."

"Impossible!  No, no, that would never do, dear Ma’mselle."

"But there is nothing else to be done."

"Oh, there must be.  Why, you could not hide an infant in your house.
Everything is known in the village,—and—I should not trust Jeanne
overmuch."

"Madelon!  Jeanne?  She has been with us a life-time."

"Maybe, but she hates the Montenay more than she loves you and Mlle
Marthe.  Also, she is jealous of Madame here,—and—in fact, she has
talked too much already."

"Then what is to be done?" asked Ange distractedly. She was trembling
and unnerved.  That a man’s foes could be they of his own household, was
one of those horrible truths which now came home to her for the first
time.  "Jeanne," she kept repeating; "no, it is not possible that Jeanne
would do anything to harm us."

Madelon drew Aline aside.

"Jeanne is an old beast," she said frankly.  "I always said so; but
until the other day I did not think she was unfaithful.  Now,—well, I
only tell you that my father said she had given him ’valuable
information.’  What do you make of that, eh?"

"What you do," said Aline calmly.

"Well, then, what next?"

"What do you advise?"

"Seigneur!  Don’t put it on me.  What is there to advise?"

As she spoke, with a shrug of her plump shoulders, Marguerite came
forward.  In her white undergarment, with her brown hair loose and
curling, and her brown eyes brimmed with tears, she looked like a
punished child.  Even the smuts on her face seemed to add somehow to the
youth and pathos of her appearance.

"Oh, Aline," she said, with a half sob, "where am I to go?  What am I to
do?"  And in a moment the mother in Madelon melted in her.

"There, there, little Ma’mselle," she said quickly, "there ’s nothing to
cry about.  You shall come along with me, and if I can’t give you as
fine a bed as you had in this old gloomy place, at any rate it will be a
safer one, and, please the Saints, you ’ll not be burnt out of it."

"No, no, Madelon, you mustn’t," said Mlle Ange.

"And why not, chère Ma’mselle?"

"The danger—your father—your good husband.  It would not be fair.  I
will not let you do what you have just said would be so dangerous."

"Dangerous for you, but not for me.  Who is going to suspect me?  As to
Jean Jacques, you need n’t be afraid of him.  Thank God he is no
meddler, and what I do is right in his eyes."

"Dear child, he is a good husband; but—but just now you should not have
anxiety or run any risks."

Madelon laughed, and then grew suddenly grave.

"Ah, you mean my baby.  Why, you are just like Anne; but there,
Ma’mselle, do you really think le bon Dieu would let my baby suffer
because I tried to help poor little Ma’mselle here, who does n’t look
much more than a baby herself?"

Ange kissed her impulsively.

"God bless you, my dear," she said.  "You are a good woman, Madelon."

"Well, then, it is settled.  Here, take my cloak, Ma’mselle.  What is
your name?  Ma’mselle Marguerite, then—no, not yours; it is much better
that you should not come into the matter any more, Ma’mselle Ange, nor
you, Madame.  Ma’mselle Marguerite will put on my cloak and come along
with me, and as quickly as possible, since Jean Jacques will be getting
impatient."

"Where is he, then?" asked Aline.

"Oh, yonder behind the big cypress.  I left him there to keep a look-out
and tell us if any one came this way. He has probably gone to sleep, my
poor Jean Jacques. It took me a quarter of an hour to wake him, the
great sleepy head.  He had no desire to come, not he, and will be only
too thankful to be allowed to go back to bed again."

"Now, Ma’mselle, are you ready?"

They went off together into the shadows, and Ange and Aline took their
way home to remove the smoke and grime, and to tell Mlle Marthe the
events of the night.



                              CHAPTER XXV

                         ESCAPE OF TWO MADCAPS


"Well, it is a mercy, only what’s to happen next?" said Mlle Marthe in
the morning.

"I don’t know," said Aline doubtfully.

Marthe caught her sister’s hand.

"Now, Ange, promise me to keep out of it, and you, Aline, I require you
to do the same.  Madelon is a most capable young woman, and if she and
Jean Jacques can’t contrive something, yes, and run next to no risk in
doing so, you may be sure that you won’t do any better.  The sooner the
girl is got out of the place the better, and while she ’s here, for
Heaven’s sake act with prudence, and don’t go sniffing round the secret,
like a dog with a hidden bone, until every one knows it’s there."

"My dearest, you forget we can’t desert Madelon."

"My dear Ange, you may be a good woman, but sometimes I think you ’re a
bit of a fool.  Don’t you see that Madelon is not in the least danger as
long as you keep well away from her?  Who does Mathieu suspect? Us.
Well, and if you and Aline are always in Madelon’s pocket, do you think
he will put it all down to an interest in that impending infant of hers?
He ’s not such a fool,—and I wish to Heaven you weren’t."

This adjuration produced sufficient effect to make Mlle Ange pass
Madelon on the road that very afternoon with no more than a dozen words
on either side.

"Approve of me," she said laughingly on her return. "It was really very,
very good of me, for there were a hundred things I was simply dying to
say."

Mlle Marthe was pleased to smile.

"Oh, you can be very angelic when you like, my Angel.  Kindly remember
that goodness is your rôle, and stick to this particular version of it."

"Madelon says the poor child is rested.  She has put her in the loft
where she stored her winter apples."

"Sensible girl.  Now you would have given her the best bed, if it meant
everybody’s arrest next moment."

"Oh, if it pleases you to say so, you may, but I ’m not really quite so
foolish as you try to make me out. Mathieu thinks everyone was burnt."

"Well, one hoped he would.  For Heaven’s sake keep out of the whole
matter, and he ’ll continue to think so."

"Yes, I will.  I see you are right, dearest.  Jean Jacques has a plan.
After a few days he thinks he could get her out of the place.  Madelon
would not tell me more."

"Oho, Mademoiselle Virtue, then it was Madelon who was good, not you."

"We were both good," asserted Ange demurely.

After that there were no further confidences between Madelon and the
ladies of the white house.  If they met on the road, they nodded, passed
a friendly greeting, and went each on her own way without further words.

Ten days went by and brought them to the first week of March.  It came
in like the proverbial lamb, with dewy nights which sparkled into tender
sunny days. The brushwood tangles reddened with innumerable buds; here
and there in the hedgerow a white violet appeared like a belated
snowflake, and in the undergrowth primrose leaves showed fresh and
green.  Aline gave herself up to these first prophecies of spring.  She
roamed the woods and lanes for hours, finding in every budded tree, in
every promised flower, not only the sweetest memories of her childhood,
but also, God knows what, of elusive beckoning hopes that played on the
spring stirring in her blood, as softly as the Lent breeze, which
brought a new blush to her cheek.  One exquisite afternoon found her
still miles from home.  So many birds were singing that no one could
have felt the loneliness of the countryside.  She turned with regret to
make her way towards Rancy, taking here a well-known and there an
unfamiliar path.  Nearer home she struck into the woods by a new and
interesting track.  It wandered a good deal, winding this way and that
until she lost her bearings and had no longer any clear notion of what
direction she was taking.  Presently a sweetness met her, and with a
little exclamation of pleasure she went on her knees before the first
purple violets of the year.  It seemed a shame to pick, but impossible
to leave them, and by searching carefully she obtained quite a bunch,
salving her conscience with the thought of what pleasure they would give
Mlle Marthe, who seemed so much more suffering of late.

"It is the spring—it will pass," Ange said repeatedly.

Aline walked on, violets in hand, wondering why the spring, which
brought new life to all Nature, should bring—she caught herself up with
a shiver—Death? Of course there was no question of death.  How foolish
of her to think of it, but having thought, the thought clung until she
dwelt painfully upon it, and every moment it needed a stronger effort to
turn her mind away.  So immersed was she that she did not notice at all
where she was going.  The little path climbed on, pursued a tortuous
way, and suddenly brought her out to the east of the château, and in
full view of its ruined pile, where the blackened mass of it still
smoked faintly, and one high skeleton wall towered gaunt and bare, its
empty window spaces like the eyeless stare of a skull.

The sun was behind it, throwing it into strong relief, and the sight
brought back the sort of terror which the place had always had for
Aline.  She walked on quickly, skirting the ruins and keeping to the
outer edge of the wide terraces, on her way to the familiar bridle-path,
which was her quickest way home.  When she came into the Italian garden
she paused, remembering the nightmare of that struggle for Marguerite’s
life.  The pool with its low stone rim reflected nothing more terrible
than sunset clouds now, but she still shuddered as she thought how the
smoke and flame had woven strange spirals on its clear, passive mirror.
She stooped now, and dipped her violets in the water to keep them fresh.
Her own eyes looked back at her, very bright and clear, and she smiled a
little as she put up a hand to smooth a straying curl.  Then, of a
sudden she saw her own eyes change, grow frightened.  A step sounded on
the path behind her, and another face appeared in the pool,—a man’s
face—and a stranger’s.

Aline got up quickly and turned to see a tall young man in a
riding-dress, who slapped his boot with a silver-headed cane and
exclaimed gallantly:

"Venus her mirror, no less!  Faith, my lady Venus, can you tell me where
I have the good fortune to find myself?"

His voice was a deep, pleasant one, but it carried Aline back oddly to
her convent days, and it seemed to her that she had heard Sister Marie
Séraphine say, "Attention, then, my child."

Then she remembered that Sister Marie Séraphine in religion was Nora
O’Connor in the world, and realised that it was the kindly Irish touch
upon French consonants and vowels which she had in common with this
young man, who was surely as unlike a nun as he could be.  She looked at
him with great attention, and saw red unpowdered hair cut to a soldier’s
(or a Republican’s) length, a face all freckles, and queer twinkling
eyes, a great deal too light for his skin.

"Monsieur my cousin, or I ’m much mistaken," she said to herself, but
aloud she answered:

"And do you not know where you are then, Citizen?"

"I know where I want to be, but I hope I have n’t got there," said the
young man, coming closer.

"And why is that, Citizen?"

He made a quick impatient gesture.

"Oh, a little less of the Citizen, my dear.  I know I ’m an ugly devil,
but do I look like a Jacobin?"

Aline was amazed at his recklessness.

"Monsieur is a very imprudent person," she said warningly.

"Monsieur would like to know where he is," responded the young man,
laughing.

She fixed her eyes on him.

"You are at Rancy-les-Bois, Monsieur."

He bit his lip, made a half turn, and indicated the blackened ruins
above them.

"And this?"

"This is, or was, the Château de Montenay."

In a minute all the freckles seemed to be accentuated by the pallor of
the skin below.  The hand that held the cane gripped it until the
knuckles whitened.  He stared a minute or two at the faintly rising
vapour that told of heat not yet exhausted, and then said sharply:

"When was it burned?"

"Ten days ago."

"Any—lives—lost?"

"It is believed so," said Aline, watching him.

He put his hand to his face a moment, then let it fall, and stood rigid,
his queer eyes suddenly tragic, and Aline could not forbear any longer.

"Marguerite is safe," she cried quickly and saw him colour to the roots
of his hair.

"Marguerite—mon Dieu!  I thought she was gone!" and with that he sat
down on the coping, put his head down upon his arms, and a long sobbing
breath or two heaved his broad shoulders in a fashion that at once
touched and embarrassed Aline.

She drew nearer and watched uneasily, her own breathing a little quicker
than usual.  A woman’s tears are of small account to a woman, but when a
man sobs, it stirs in her the strangest mixture of pity, repulsion,
gentleness, and contempt.

"She is quite safe," she repeated nervously, whereupon the young man
raised his head, exclaiming in impulsive tones:

"And a thousand blessings on you for saying it, my dear," whilst in the
same moment he slipped an arm about her waist, pulled her a little down,
and before she could draw back, had kissed her very heartily upon the
cheek.

It had hardly happened before she was free, and a yard away, with her
head up, and a look in her eyes that brought him to his feet, flushing
and bowing.

"I ask a thousand pardons," he stammered.  "Indeed if it had been the
blessed Saint Bridget herself that gave me that news, I ’d have kissed
her, and meant no disrespect.  For it was out of hell you took me, with
the best word I ever heard spoken.  You see, when I found Marguerite
gone with that old mad lady, her aunt, I was ready to cut my throat,
only I thought I ’d do more good by following her.  Then when I saw
these ruins, my heart went cold, till it was all I could do to ask the
name.  And when you said it, and I pictured her there under all these
hot cinders—well, if you ’ve a heart in you, you ’ll know what I felt,
and the blessed relief of hearing she was safe.  Would n’t you have
kissed the first person handy yourself, now?"

He regarded her with such complete earnestness that Aline could hardly
refrain from smiling.  She bent her head a little and said:

"I can understand that Monsieur le Chevalier did not know what he was
doing."

He stared.

"What, you know me?"

"And do you perhaps think that I go about volunteering information about
Mlle de Matigny to every stranger I come across?  Every one is not so
imprudent as M. Desmond."

"I ’ll not deny my name, but that I ’m imprudent—yes, with my last
breath."

Aline could not repress a smile.

"Do you talk to all strangers as you did to me?" she inquired.

"Come, now, how do you think I got here?" he returned.

"I am wondering," she said drily.

"Well, it ’s a simple plan, and all my own.  When I see an honest face I
let myself go, and tell the whole truth.  Not a woman has failed me yet,
and if I ’ve told the moving tale of my pursuit of Marguerite to one
between this and Bâle, I ’ve told it to half a dozen."

Aline gasped.

"Oh, it ’s a jewel of a plan," he said easily, "and much simpler than
telling lies.  There are some who can manage their lies, but mine have a
way of disagreeing amongst themselves that beats cock-fighting.  No, no,
it ’s the truth for me, and see how well it ’s served me. So now you
know all about me, but I ’ve no notion who you are."

"I am a friend of Marguerite’s, fortunately," she said, "and, I believe,
M. le Chevalier, that I am a cousin of yours."

Mr. Desmond looked disappointed.

"My dear lady, it would be so much more wonderful if you were n’t.  You
see my great-grandfather had sixteen daughters, besides sons to the
number of eight or so, and between them they married into every family
in Europe, or nearly every one.  Marguerite is n’t a cousin, bless her.
Now, I wonder, would you be a grand-daughter of my Aunt Elizabeth, who
ran away with her French dancing-master, in the year of grace 1740?"

The blood of the Rochambeau rose to Aline’s cheeks in a becoming blush,
as she answered with rather an indignant negative.

"No?" said Mr. Desmond regretfully.  "Well, then, a pity it is too, for
never a one of my Aunt Elizabeth’s descendants have I met with yet, and
I ’m beginning to be afraid that she was so lost to all sense of the
family traditions as to die without leaving any."

"If she so far forgot," Aline began a little haughtily, and then,
remembering, blushed a very vivid crimson, and was silent.

"Well, well, I ’m afraid she did," sighed Mr. Desmond; "and now I come
to think of it you ’ll be Conor Desmond’s granddaughter, he that was
proscribed, and racketed all over Europe.  His daughter married a M.
de—Roche—Roche——"

"Rochambeau, Monsieur.  Yes, I was Aline de Rochambeau."

"Was?" said Mr. Desmond curiously, and then fell to whistling.

"Oh, my faith, yes, I remember,—Marguerite told me," and there was a
slight embarrassed pause which Desmond broke into with a laugh.

"After all, now, that kiss was not so out of place," he said, with a
twinkle in his green eyes.  "Cousins may kiss all the world over."

His glance was too frank to warrant offence, and Aline answered it with
a smile.

"With Monsieur’s permission I shall wait until I can kiss Madame ma
cousine," she said, and dropped him a little curtsey.

Mr. Desmond sighed.

"I wish we were all well out of this," he said gloomily; "but how in the
devil’s name, or the saints’ names, or any one else’s name, we are to
get out of it, I don’t know.  Well, well, the sooner it’s tried the
better; so where is Marguerite, Madame my cousin?"

Aline considered.

"I can’t take you to her without asking leave of the friend she is
with," she said at last; "but if you will wait here I will go and speak
to her, and come back again when we have talked things over.  We shall
have to wait till it is quite dark, and you ’ll be careful, won’t you?"

"I will," said Mr. Desmond, without hesitation.  He kissed his hand to
Aline as she went off, and she frowned at him, then smiled to herself,
and disappeared amongst the trees, walking quickly and wondering what
was to come next.

At eleven o’clock that night a council of four sat in the apple loft at
the mill.  Marguerite, perched on a pile of hay, was leaning against
Aline, who sat beside her.  Every now and then she let one hand fall
within reach of Mr. Desmond, who, reclining at her feet, invariably
kissed it, and was invariably scolded for doing so.  Madelon sat on the
edge of the trap-door, her feet supported by the top rungs of the ladder
which led to the barn below.  She and Aline were grave, Marguerite
pouting, and Mr. Desmond very much at his ease.

"But what plan have you?" Aline was asking.

"Oh, a hundred," he said carelessly.

Marguerite pulled her hand away with a jerk.

"Then you might at least tell us one," she said.

"Ah, now I ’d tell you anything when you look at me like that," he said
with fervour.

"Then, tell me.  No, now,—at once."

He sat up and extracted a paper from his waistcoat pocket.  It set forth
that the Citizen Lemoine and his wife were at liberty to travel in
France at their pleasure.

"In France," said Aline.

"Why, yes, one can’t advertise oneself as an emigré. Once on the
frontier, one must make a dash for it,—it’s done every day."

"But it says his wife," objected Marguerite, "and I ’m not your wife."

"And I ’m not Lemoine, but it does n’t hurt my conscience to say I
am,—not in the least," returned Mr. Desmond.

"But I can’t go with you like that," she protested. "What would
grandmamma have said?"

Mr. Desmond gave an ironical laugh.  "Your sainted grandmamma is past
knowing what we do, and we ’re past the conventions, my dear," he
observed, but she only sat up the straighter.

"Indeed, Monsieur, you may be, but I ’m not.  Why, there was Julie de
Lérac, who escaped with her brother’s friend.  It was when I was in
prison, and I heard what grandmamma and the other ladies said of her.
Nothing would induce me to be spoken of like that."

"But your life depends on it.  Marguerite, don’t you trust me?"

"Why, of course; but that has nothing to do with it."

"But, my dearest child, what is to be done?  You can’t stay here, and we
can’t be married here, so the only thing to be done is to get away, and
then we ’ll be married as soon as your father will allow it.  My aunt
Judith’s money has come in the very nick of time, for now we ’ll be able
to go back to the old place.  Ah, you ’ll love Ireland."

Marguerite tapped with her foot.

"Why can’t we be married now?" she said quickly.

Madelon, who had been listening in silence, started and looked up, but
did not speak.

"Impossible," said Mr. Desmond; and Aline whispered:

"My dear, you could n’t."

"Why not?  There is a priest here."

"You could n’t trust him.  He has taken the oath to the Convention,"
said Aline.

"Well but—Madelon, you told me of him; tell them what you said.  Do you
think he would betray us?"

"How do I know?" said Madelon, with a frown.  "I do not think so, but
one never knows.  It is a risk."

"I don’t mind the risk."

"To us all," continued Madelon bluntly.  "I am thinking of more than
you, little Ma’mselle."

"Who is this priest?" asked Desmond.  "What do you know of him?"

"What I know is from my husband’s cousin, Anne Pinel, who is his
housekeeper.  He took the oath, and ever since he has a trouble on his
mind, and walks at night, sometimes all night long.  At first Anne would
get up and listen, and then she would hear groans and prayers, and once
he called out: ’Judas!  Judas!  Judas!’ so that she was frightened, and
went back to her bed and put her hands over her ears.  Now she takes no
notice, she is so used to it."

"There!" cried Marguerite.  "Poor man, if he can torment himself in such
a way he would not put a fresh burden on his conscience by betraying us.
Besides, why should he?  I have a beautiful plan."

"Well?"

"We shall start at night; and first we will go to the priest’s house,
and I shall throw pebbles at his window. He will open, and I shall say,
’Mon père, here are two people who wish to be married.’

"Yes! and he ’d want to know why?"

"Of course, and I shall say, ’Mon père, we are escaping for our lives,
and we wish to be married because I am a jeune fille bien élevée, and my
grandmamma would turn in her grave at the thought of my crossing France
alone with ma fiancé; and then he will marry us, and we shall walk away
again, and go on walking until we can’t walk any more."

"Marguerite, what folly!" cried Aline, and Madelon nodded her head.

"It’s a beautiful plan!" exclaimed Mr. Desmond. He had his betrothed’s
hand in his once more, and was kissing it unrebuked.  "My dear, we were
made for each other, for it’s a scheme after my own heart! Madame, my
cousin, will you come with us?"

"Oh, yes, as chaperon, and then we needn’t bother about getting
married," said Marguerite, kissing her.

"That’s not what I meant at all," observed Mr. Desmond reproachfully,
and Aline was obliged to laugh.

"No, no, ma mie; not even to keep you out of so mad a scrape," she said,
and Madelon nodded again.

"No, no," she echoed.  "That would be a pretty state of affairs.  There
is Citizen Dangeau to be thought of. Deputies’ wives must not emigrate."

Aline drew away from Marguerite, and caught Madelon by the arm.

"What’s to be done?" she asked.

"Why, let them go."

"But the plan ’s sheer folly."

Madelon shrugged.

"Madame Aline," she said in a low voice, "look at them.  Is it any use
talking? and we waste time. Once I saw a man at a fair.  There was a
rope stretched between two booths, and he walked on it.  Then a woman in
the crowd screamed out, ’Oh, he will fall!’ and he looked down at her,
went giddy, and fell.  He broke his leg; but if no one had called out he
would not have fallen."

"You mean?"

"It will be like walking on the rope for Monsieur and little Ma’mselle
Marguerite, all the way until they get out of France.  If they think
they can do it,—well, they say God helps those who cannot help
themselves, and perhaps they will get across safely; but if they get
frightened, if they think of the danger, they will be like the man who
looked down and grew giddy, and pouf!—it will be all over."

"But this added risk——"

"I do not think there is much risk.  The curé is timid; for his own sake
he will say nothing.  If Anne hears anything, she will shut her ears;
and, Madame Aline, the great thing is for them to get away.  I tell you,
I am afraid of my father.  He watches us.  I do not like his eyes."

She broke off, looking troubled; and Desmond stopped whispering to
Marguerite and turned to them.

"Well, you good Madelon, we shall be off your mind to-morrow.  Tell us
where this curé lives; set us in the way, and we ’ll be off as soon as
may be.  My dear cousin, believe me that frown will bring you lines ten
years before they are due.  Do force a smile, and wish us joy."

"To-night!" exclaimed Aline.

"Yes, that’s best," said Madelon decidedly.  "Little Ma’mselle knows
that she has been a welcome guest, but she ’s best away, and that ’s the
truth.  If we had n’t been watched, Jean Jacques would have driven her
out in the cart a week ago."

"Watched!  By whom?" Desmond’s eyes were alert.

"By my father, Mathieu Leroux, the inn-keeper."

"Ah! well, we ’ll be away by morning—in fact we ’ll be moving now.
Marguerite is ready.  Faith, now I ’ve found the comfort of travelling
without mails, I ’m ready to swear I ’ll never take them again."

"I ’m not," said Marguerite, with a whimsical glance at her costume,
which consisted of an old brown skirt of Madelon’s, a rough print
bodice, and a dark, patched cloak, which covered her from head to foot.
They stole out noiselessly, Madelon calling under her breath to the yard
dog, who sniffed at them in the darkness, and then lay down again with a
rustle of straw.

Afterwards Aline thought of the scene which followed as the most
dreamlike of all her queer experiences. The things which she remembered
most vividly were Marguerite’s soft ripple of laughter, half-childish,
half-nervous, as she threw a handful of pebbles at the curé’s window,
and the moonlight glinting on the pane as the casement opened.  What
followed was like the inconsequent and fantastic dramas of sleep.

The explanations—the protests, the curé’s voice ashake with timidity,
until at last his fear of immediate discovery overbore his terror of
future consequences, and he began to murmur the words which Aline had
heard last in circumstances as strange, and far more terrifying. For
days she wondered to herself over the odd scene: Desmond with his head
bent towards his betrothed, and his deep voice muffled; and Marguerite
pledging herself childishly—taking the great vows, and smiling all the
time.  Only at the very end she turned and threw her arms round Aline,
holding her as if she would never leave go, and straining against her
with a choked sob or two.

"No, no, I can’t go—I can’t!" she murmured, but Aline wrenched herself
away.

"Marguerite, for God’s sake!" she said.  "It is too late,—you must go";
and as Desmond stepped between them Marguerite caught his arm and held
it in a wild grip.

"Oh, you’ll save me!"  And for once Aline was thankful for his tone of
careless ease——

"My jewel, what a question!  Why, we ’re off on our honeymoon.  ’T is a
most original one.  Well, we must go.  Good-bye, my cousin," and he took
Aline’s hand in a grip that surprised her.

"I’ll not forget what you’ve done," he said, and kissed it; and so,
without more ado, they were gone, and Aline was alone in the chequered
moonlight before the priest’s house, where the closed window spoke of
the haste with which M. le Curé withdrew himself from participation in
so perilous an affair.



                              CHAPTER XXVI

                             A DYING WOMAN


Next day brought it home to Madelon how true her forebodings had been.
Noon brought her a visit from her father, and nothing would serve him
but to go into every hole and corner.  He alleged a wish to admire her
housewifery, but the dark brow with which he accompanied her, and the
quick, suspicious glances which he cast all round, made Madelon thank
every saint in the calendar that the fugitives were well on the road,
and that she had removed every trace of their presence betimes.

"Mon Dieu, Madame Aline!" she said afterwards, "when he came to the
apple loft he seemed to know something.  There he stood, not speaking,
but just staring at me, like a dog at a rat-hole.  I tell you, I thanked
Saint Perpetua, whose day it was, that the rats were away!"  In the end
he went away, frowning, and swearing a little to himself, and quiet days
set in.

No news was good news, and no news came; presently Aline stopped being
terrified at every meeting with the inn-keeper, or the curé, and then
Mlle Marthe became so ill that all interests centred in her sick-room.
Her malady, which had remained stationary for so long, began to gain
ground quickly, and nights and days of agony consumed her strength, and
made even the sister to whom she was everything look upon Death as the
Angel not of the Sword, but of Peace.

One day the pain ebbed with the light, and at sunset she was more
comfortable than she had been for a long while.  Aline persuaded Mlle
Ange to go and lie down for a little, and she and Marthe were alone.

"The day is a long time going," said Marthe after a silence of some
minutes.

"Yes, the days are lengthening."

"And mine are shortening,—only I ’m an unreasonable time over my dying.
It’s a trial to me, for I liked to do things quickly.  I suppose no one
has ever known what it has been to me to see Jeanne pottering about her
work, or Ange moving a chair, or a book, in her slow, deliberate way;
and now that it’s come to my turn I ’m having my revenge, and inflicting
the same kind of annoyance on you."

She spoke in a quick, toneless voice, that sounded very feeble,—almost
as if the life going from her had left it behind as a stranded wreck of
sound.

Aline turned with a sob.

"Heavens, child! did you think I did n’t know I was going, or that I
expected you to cry over me?  You ’ve been a butt for my sharp tongue
too often to be heart-broken when there ’s a chance of your being left
in peace."

"Oh, don’t!" said Aline, choking; and something in voice and face
brought a queer look to the black, mocking eyes.

"What, you really care a little?  My dear, it’s too amiable of you.
Why, Aline,"—as the girl buried her face in her hands,—"why, Aline!"

There was a pause, and then the weak voice went on again:

"If you do care at all—if I mean anything at all in your life—then I
will ask you one thing.  What are you doing to Jacques?"

"Was that why you hated me?" said Aline quickly.

"Oh, hate?  Well, I never hated you, but—Yes, that was it.  He and Ange
are the two things I ’ve had to love, and though I don’t suppose he
thinks about me twice a year, still his happiness means more to me than
it does—well, to you."

"Oh, that’s not true!" cried Aline on a quick breath.

Marthe Desaix looked sharply at her.

"Aline," she said, "how long are you going to break his heart and your
own?"

"I don’t know," whispered the girl.  "There’s so much between us.  Too
much for honour."

"Too much for pride, Aline de Rochambeau," said Marthe with cruel
emphasis, and her own name made Aline wince.  It seemed a thing of hard,
unyielding pride; a thing her heart shrank from.

"Listen to me.  When he is dead over there in Spain, what good will your
pride do you?  Women who live without love, or natural ties, what do
they become? Hard, and sour, and bitter, like me; or foolish, and
spiteful, and soft, and petty.  I tell you, I could have shed the last
drop of my blood, worked my fingers to the raw stump, for the man I
loved.  I ’d have borne his children by the roadside, followed him
footsore through the world, slept by his side in the snow, and thought
myself blessed.  But to me there came neither love nor lover.  Aline,
can you live in other people’s lives, love with other women’s hearts,
rear and foster other mothers’ children as Ange does?  That is the only
road for a barren woman, that does not lead to desert places and a land
dry as her heart.  Can you take my sister’s road?  Is there nothing in
you that calls out for the man who loves you, for the children that
might be yours?  Is your pride more to you than all this?"

Aline looked up steadily.

"No," she said, "it is nothing.  I would do as you say you would have
done, but there was one thing I thought I could not do.  May I tell you
the whole story now?  I have wished to often, but it is hard to begin."

"Tell me," said Marthe; and Aline told her all, from the beginning.

When she had finished she saw that Marthe’s eyes were closed, and moved
a little to rise, thinking that she had dropped asleep.  But as she did
so the eyes opened again, and Marthe said fretfully, "No, I heard it
all.  It is very hard to judge, very hard."

Aline looked at her in alarm, for she seemed all at once to have grown
very old.

"Yes, it is hard.  Life is so difficult," she went on slowly—weakly, "I
’m glad to be going out of it—out into the dark."

Aline kissed her hand, and spoke wistfully:

"Is it all so dark to you?"

"Why yes, dark enough—cold enough—lonely enough. Is n’t it so to you?"

"Not altogether, ma tante."

"What, because of those old tales which you believe? Well, if they
comfort you, take comfort from them.  I can’t."

"But Mlle Ange—believes?"

Marthe frowned impatiently.

"Who knows what Ange believes?  Not she herself. She is a saint to be
sure, but orthodox?  A hundred years ago she would have been lucky if
she had escaped Purgatory fire in this life.  She is content to wander
in vague, beautiful imaginings.  She abstracts her mind, and calls it
prayer; confuses it, and says she has been meditating.  I am not like
that.  I like things clear and settled, with a good hard edge to them.
I should have been the worker and Ange the invalid,—no, no! what am I
saying?  God forgive me, I don’t mean that."

"You would not like to see M. le Curé?" said Aline timidly.  The
question had been on her lips a hundred times, but she had not had the
courage to let it pass them.

Mlle Marthe was too weak for anger, but she raised her eyebrows in the
old sarcastic way.

"Poor man," she said, "he needs absolution a great deal more than I do.
He thinks he has sold his soul, and can’t even enjoy the price of it.
After all, those are the people to pity—the ones who have courage for
neither good nor evil."

She lay silent for a long while then, and watched the sunset colours
burn to flame, and fade to cold ash-grey.

Suddenly Aline said:

"Ma tante."

"Well?"

"Ma tante, do you think he loves me still?"

"Why should he?"

The girl took her breath sharply, and Mlle Marthe moved her head with an
impatient jerk.

"There, there, I ’m too near my end to lie.  Jacques is like his mother,
he has n’t the talent of forgetfulness."

"He looked so hard when he went away."

"Little fool, if he had smiled he would have forgotten easily enough."

Aline turned her head aside.

"Listen to me," said Mlle Marthe insistently.  "What kind of a man do
you take your husband to be, good or bad?"

"Oh, he is good—don’t I know that!  What would have become of me if he
had been a bad man?" said the girl in a tense whisper.

"Then would you not have him follow his conscience? In all that is
between you has he not acted as a man should do?  Would you have him do
what is right in your eyes and not in his own; follow your lead, take
the law from you?  Do you, or does any woman, desire a husband like
that?"

Aline did not answer, only stared out of the window. She was recalling
the King’s death, Dangeau’s vote, and her passion of loyalty and pain.
It seemed to her now a thing incredibly old and far away, like a tale
read of in history a hundred years ago.  Something seemed to touch her
heart and shrivel it, as she wondered if in years to come she would look
back as remotely upon the love, and longing, which rent her now.

There was a long, long silence, and in the end Mlle Marthe dozed a
little.  When Ange came in, she found her lying easily, and so free from
pain that she took heart and was quite cheerful over the little
sick-room offices.  But at midnight there was a change,—a greyness of
face, a labouring of failing lungs,—and with the dawn she sighed heavily
once or twice and died, leaving the white house a house of mourning.

Mlle Ange took the blow quietly, too quietly to satisfy Aline, who would
rather have seen her weep. Her cold, dreamy composure was somehow very
alarming, and the few tears she shed on the day they buried Marthe in
the little windy graveyard were dried almost as they fell.  After that
she took up all her daily tasks at once, but went about them
abstractedly.

Even the children could not make her smile, or a visit to the grave draw
tears.  The sad monotony of grief settled down upon the household, the
days were heavy, work without zest, and a wet April splashed the
window-panes with torrents of warm, unceasing rain.



                             CHAPTER XXVII

                                BETRAYAL


In the early days of April the wind-swept, ice-tormented Pyrenees had
been exchanged for the Spanish lowlands, vexed by the drought and heat
of those spring days.  If the army had suffered from frostbite and
pneumonia before, it groaned now under a plague of dysentery, but it was
still, and increasingly, victorious.  An approving Convention sent
congratulatory messages to Dugommier, who enjoyed the
distinction—somewhat unusual for a general in those days—of having been
neither superseded nor recalled to suffer an insulting trial and an
ignoble death.

France had a short way with her public servants just then.  Was an army
in retreat?  To Paris with the traitor who commanded it.  Was an
advantage insufficiently followed up?  To the guillotine with the
officer responsible.  Dumouriez saved his head by going to Austria with
young Égalité at his heels, but many and many a general who had led the
troops of France looked out of the little window, and was flung into the
common trench, to be dust in dust with nobles, great ladies, common
murderers, and the poor Queen herself.  Closer and closer shaved the
national razor, heavier and heavier fell the pall upon blood-soaked
Paris.  Marat, long since assassinated, and canonised as first Saint of
the New Calendar, with rites of an impiety quite indescribable, would,
had he lived, have seen his prophecy fulfilled.  Paris had drunk and was
athirst again, and always with that drunkard’s craving which cannot be
allayed—no, not by all the floods of the infernal lake.  Men were no
longer men, but victims of a horrible dementia.  Listen to Hébert
demanding the Queen’s blood.

"Do you think that any of us will be able to save ourselves?" he cries.
"I tell you we are all damned already, but if my blood must flow, it
shall not flow alone.  I tell you that if we pass, our passing shall
devastate France, and leave her ruined and bloody, a spectacle for the
nations!"  And this at the beginning of the Terror!

A curious thought comes to one.  Are these words, instinct with pure,
fate-driven tragedy, the fruit of Hébert’s mind—Hébert gross with Paris
slime, sensual, self-seeking, flushed with evil living? or is he, too,
unwillingly amongst the prophets, mouthpiece only of an immutable law,
which, outraged by him and his like, pronounces thus an irrevocable
doom?

Well might Danton write—"This is chaos, and the worlds are a-shaping.
One cannot see one’s way for the red vapour.  I am sick of it—sick.
There is nothing but blood, blood, blood.  Camille says that the
infernal gods are athirst.  If they are not glutted soon there will be
no blood left to flow.  They may have mine before long.  Maximilian eyes
my head as if it irked him to see it higher than his own.  If it were
off he would seem the taller.  I am going home to Arles—with my wife.
The spring is beautiful there, and the Aube runs clean from blood.  It
were better to fish its waters than to meddle with the governing of
men."

Dangeau sighed heavily as he destroyed the letter. Surely the strong
hand would be able to steer the ship to calmer waters, and yet there was
a deep sense of approaching fatality upon him.

His fellow-Commissioner was of Robespierre’s party,—a tall man,
wonderfully thin, with grizzled hair, and a nose where the bony ridge
showed yellow under the tight skin.  He had a cold, suspicious eye,
light grey, with a green under-tinge, and was, as Dangeau knew beyond a
doubt, a spy both on himself and on Dugommier.  There came an April day
full of heat, and sullen with brooding thunder.  Dangeau in his tent,
writing his report, found the pen heavy in his hand, and for once was
glad of the interruption, when Vibert’s shadow fell across the entrance,
and his long form bent to enter at the low door.

"Ah, come in," he said, pushing his inkstand away; and Vibert, who had
not waited for the invitation, sat down and looked at him curiously for
a moment.  Then he said:

"A courier from Paris came in an hour ago."

Dangeau stretched out his hand, but the other held his papers close.

"There is news,—weighty news," he continued; and Dangeau felt his
courage leap to meet an impending blow.

"What news?" he asked, quite quietly, hand still held out.

"You are Danton’s friend?"

"As you very well know, Citizen."

Vibert flung all his papers on the table.

"You ’ll be less ready to claim his friendship in the future, I take
it," he said, with a sudden twang of steel in his voice.  Dangeau turned
frightfully pale, but the hand that reached for the letters was
controlled.

"Your meaning, Citizen?"

Vibert’s strident laugh rang out.

"Danton was—somebody, and your friend.  Danton is—a name and nothing
more.  Once the knife has fallen there is not a penny to choose between
him and any other carrion.  A good riddance to France, and all good
patriots will say ’Amen’ to that."

"Patriots!" muttered Dangeau, and then fell to reading the papers with
bent head and eyes resolutely calm.  When he looked up no one would have
guessed that he was moved, and the sneering look which dwelt upon his
face glanced off again.  He met Vibert’s eyes full, his own steady with
a cold composure, and after a moment or two the thin man shuffled with
his feet, and spat noisily.

"Well," he said, "Robespierre for my money; but, of course, Danton was
backing you, and you stand to lose by his fall."

"Ah," said Dangeau softly, "you think so?"

He looked to the open door of the tent as he spoke. The flap was rolled
high to let in the air, and showed a slope, planted with vines in stiff
rows, and, above, a space of sky.  This seemed to consist of one low,
bulging cloud, dark with suppressed thunder, and in the heavy bosom of
it a pulse of lightning throbbed continually.  With each throb the play
of light grew more vivid, whilst out of the distance came a low,
answering boom, the far-off heart-beat of the storm.  Dangeau’s eyes
rested on the prospect with a strange, sardonic expression.  Danton was
dead, and dead with him all hopes that he might lead a France, purged
terribly, and regenerate by fire and blood, to her place as the first,
because the freest, of nations.  Danton was dead, and Paris adrift,
unrestrained, upon a sea of blood.  Danton was dead, and the last,
lingering, constructive purpose had departed from a confederacy given
over to a mere drunken orgy of destruction—slaves to an ignoble passion
for self-preservation.  To Dangeau’s thought death became suddenly a
thing honourable and to be desired.  From the public services of those
days it was the only resignation, and he saw it now before him,
inevitable, more dignified than life beneath a squalid yoke.  All the
ideals withered, all the idols shattered, youth worn through, patriotism
chilled, disenchantment, disintegration, decay,—these he saw in sombre
retrospect, and nausea, long repressed, broke upon him like a flood.

A flash brighter than any before shot in a vicious fork across the
blackening sky, and the thunder followed it close, with a crash that
startled Vibert to his feet.

Dangeau sat motionless, but when the reverberations had died away, he
leaned across the table, still with that slight smile, and said:

"And what do you say of me in your report, Vibert?"

Still dazed with the noise, the man stared nervously.

"My report, Citizen?"

"Your report, Vibert."

"My report to the Convention?"

Dangeau laughed, with the air of a man who is enjoying himself.  After
the dissimulation, the hateful necessity for repression and evasion,
frankness was a luxury.

"Oh, no, my good Vibert, not your report to the Convention.  It is your
report to Robespierre that I mean.  I have a curiosity to know how you
mean to put the thing.  ’Emotion at hearing of Danton’s death,’ is that
your line, eh?"

"Citizen——"

"What, protestations?  Really, Vibert, you underrate my intelligence.
Shall I tell you what you said about me last time?"

Vibert shifted his eyes to the door, and seemed to measure his distance
from it.

"What I said last time, Citizen?" he stammered. Once out of the tent he
knew he could break Dangeau easily enough, but at present, alone with a
man who he was aware must be desperate, he felt a creeping in his bones,
and a strong desire to be elsewhere.

Dangeau’s lip lifted.

"Be reassured, my friend.  I am not a spy, and I really have no idea
what it was that you said, though now that you have been so obligingly
transparent I think I might hazard a guess.  It would be a pity if this
week’s report were to contain nothing fresh. Robespierre might even be
bored—in the intervals of killing his betters."

Vibert’s lips closed with a snap.  Here was recklessness, here was
matter enough to condemn a man who stood firmer than Dangeau.

Dangeau leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs.

"You agree with me that that would be a pity? Very well then, you may
get out your notebook and write the truth for once.  Tell the
incorruptible Maximilian that he is making the world too unpleasant a
place for any self-respecting Frenchman to care about remaining in it,
and, if that is not enough, you can inform him that Danton’s blood will
yet call loud enough to bid him down to hell."

There was no emotion at all in his voice.  He spoke drily, as one
stating facts too obvious to require any stress of tone, or emphasis.

Vibert was puzzled, but his nerves were recovering, and he wrote
defiantly, looking up with a half-start at every other word as if he
expected to see Dangeau’s arm above him, poised to strike.

Dangeau shrugged his shoulders.

"You needn’t be afraid," he said, with hard contempt.  "You are too
obviously suited to the present débâcle for me to wish to remove you
from it.  No doubt your time will come, but I have no desire to play
Sanson’s part."

Vibert winced.  Perhaps he saw the red-edged axe of the Revolution
poised above him.  When, four months later, he was indeed waiting for it
to fall, they say he cursed Dangeau very heartily.

The lightning stabbed with a blinding flame, the thunder crashed scarce
a heart-beat behind, and with that the rain began.  It fell in great
gouts and splashes, with here and there a big hailstone, and for a
minute or two the air seemed full of water, pierced now by a sudden
flare of blue, and shattered again by the roar that followed.  Then, as
it had come, so it went, and in a moment the whirl of the wind swept the
sky clear again.

Vibert pulled himself together.  His long limbs had stiffened into a
curious rigidity whilst the storm was at its height, but now they came
out of it with a jerk. He thrust his notebook into the pocket which
bulged against his thin form, and under his drooping lids he sent a
queer, inquisitive glance at his companion. Dangeau was leaning back in
his chair, one arm thrown carelessly over the back of it, his attitude
one of acquiescence, his expression that of a man released from some
distasteful task.  Vibert had seen many a man under sentence of death,
but this phase piqued him, and he turned in the doorway.

"Come then, Dangeau," he said, with a would-be familiar air, "what made
you do it?  Between colleagues now?  I may tell you, you had fairly
puzzled me. When you read those papers, I could have sworn you did not
care a jot, that it was all one to you who was at the top of the tree so
you kept your own particular branch; and then, just as I was thinking
you had bested me, and betrayed nothing, out you come with your ’To hell
with Robespierre.’  What the devil took you?"

Dangeau looked at him with a strange gleam in his eyes.  The impulse to
speak, to confide, attacks us at curious moments; years may pass, a man
may be set in all circumstances that invite betrayal, he may be closeted
with some surgeon skilled in the soul’s hurts, and the impulse may not
wake,—and then, quite suddenly, at an untoward time, and to a listener
the most unlikely, his soul breaks bounds and displays its secret
springs.

Such an hour was upon Dangeau now, and he experienced its intoxication
to the full.

"My reason?" he said slowly.  "My good Vibert, is one a creature of
reason?  For me, I doubt it—I doubt it.  Look at our reasonable town of
Paris, our reasonable Maximilian, our reasonable guillotine.  Heavens!
how the infernal powers must laugh at us and our reason."

Then of a sudden the sneer dropped out of his tone, and a ring almost
forgotten came to it, and brought each word distinctly to Vibert’s ear,
though the voice itself fell lower and lower, as he spoke less and less
to the man in the tent-door and more and more to his own crystallising
thoughts.

"My reason?  Impulse,—just the sheer animal desire to strike at what
hurts.  What was reason not to do for us? and in the end we come back to
impulse again.  A vicious circle everywhere.  The wheel turns, and we
rise, fancying the stars are within our grasp.  The wheel turns on, and
we fall,—lose the stars and have our wage—a handful of bloody dust.
Louis was a tyrant, and he fell.  I had a hand in that, and said,
’Tyranny is dead.’  Dead?  Just Heaven! and in Paris to-day every man is
a tyrant who is not a victim.  Tyranny has the Hydra’s gift of
multiplying in death.  Better one tyrant than a hundred.  Perhaps
Robespierre thinks that, but God knows it is better a people should be
oppressed than that they should become oppressors."  Here his head came
up with a jerk, and his manner changed abruptly.  "And then," he
continued, with a little bow, "and then, you see, I am so intolerably
bored with your society, my good Vibert."

Vibert scowled, cursed, and went out.  Half an hour afterwards he
thought of several things he might have said, and felt an additional
rancour against Dangeau because they had not come to him at the time.  A
mean creature, Vibert, and not quick, but very apt for dirty work, and
therefore worth his price to the Incorruptible Robespierre.

Dangeau, left alone, fell to thinking.  His strange elation was still
upon him, and he felt an unwonted lightness of spirit.  He began to
consider whether he should wait to be arrested, or end now in the Roman
way. Suicide was much in vogue at the time, and was gilded with a strong
halo of heroics.  The doctrine of a purpose in the individual existence
being rejected, the Stoic argument that life was a thing to be laid down
at will seemed reasonable enough.  It appealed to the dramatic sense, a
thing very inherent in man, and the records of the times set down almost
as many suicides as executions. Dangeau had often enough maintained
man’s right to relinquish that which he had not asked to receive, but at
this crisis in his life there came up in him old teachings, those which
are imperishable, because they have their roots in an imperishable
affection.  His mother, whom he adored, had lived and died a devout
Catholic, and there came back to him now a strange, faint sense of the
dignity and purpose of the soul, of life as a trial, life as a trust.
It seemed suddenly nobler to endure than to relinquish.  An image of the
deserter flitted through his brain, to be followed by another of the
child that pettishly casts away a broken toy, and from that his mind
went back, back through the years.  For a moment his mother’s eyes
looked quite clearly into his, and he heard her voice say, "Jacques, you
do not listen."

Ah, those tricks of the brain!  How at a touch, a turn of the head, a
breath, a scent, the past rises quick, and the brain, phonograph and
photograph in one, shows us our dead again, and brings their voices to
our ears.  Dangeau saw the chimney corner, and a crooked log on the
fire.  The resin in it boiled up, and ran down all ablaze.  He watched
it with wondering, childish eyes, and heard the gentle voice at his ears
say, "Jacques, you do not listen."

It was there and gone between one breath and the next, but it took with
it the dust of years, and left the old love very fresh and tender.
Ah—the dear woman, the dear mother.  "Que Dieu te bénisse," he said
under his breath.

The current of thought veered to Aline, and at that life woke in him,
the desire to live, the desire of her, the desire to love.  Then on a
tide of bitterness, "She will be free."  Quickly came the answer, "Free
and defenceless."

He sank his head in his hands, and, for the first time for months,
deliberately evoked her image.

It seemed as if Fate were concerning herself with Dangeau’s affairs, for
she sent a bullet Vibert’s way next morning.  It ripped his scalp, and
sent him bleeding and delirious to a sick-bed from which he did not rise
for several weeks.  It was, therefore, not until late in June that
Robespierre stretched out his long arm, and haled Dangeau from his post
in Spain to Paris and the prison of La Force.

Meanwhile there was trouble at Rancy-les-Bois. Mr. and Mrs. Desmond,
after a series of most adventurous adventures, had arrived at Bâle, and
there, with characteristic imprudence, proceeded to narrate to a much
interested circle of friends and relatives the full and particular
details of their escape.  Rancy was mentioned, Mlle Ange described and
praised, Aline’s story brought in, Madelon’s part in the drama given its
full value.  Such imprudence may seem inconceivable, but it had more
than one parallel.

In this instance trouble was not long in breeding. Three years
previously Joseph Pichon of Bâle had gone Paris-wards to seek his
fortune.  Circumstances had sent him as apprentice to M. Bompard, the
watchmaker of Rancy’s market-town.  Here he stayed two years, years
which were enlivened by tender passages between him and Marie, old
Bompard’s only child.  At the end of two years M. Pichon senior died,
having lost his elder son about six months before.  Joseph, therefore,
came in for his father’s business, and immediately made proposals for
the hand of Mlle Marie.  Bompard liked the young man, Marie declared she
loved him; but the times were ticklish.  It was not the moment for
giving one’s heiress to a foreigner.  Such an action might be
unfavourably construed, deemed unpatriotic; so Joseph departed
unbetrothed, but with as much hope as it is good for a young man to
nourish.  His views were Republican, his sentiments ardent.  By the time
his own affairs were settled it was to be hoped that public matters
would also be quieter, and then—why, then Marie Bompard might become
Marie Pichon, no one forbidding.  Imagine, then, the story of the
Desmonds’ escape coming to the ears of Joseph the Republican. He burned
with interest, and, having more than a touch of the busybody, sat down
and wrote Bompard a full account of the whole affair.  Bompard was
annoyed. He crackled the pages angrily, and stigmatised Joseph as a fool
and a meddler.  Bompard was fat, and a good, kind, easy man; he desired
to live peaceably, and really the times made it very difficult.  His
first impulse was to put the paper in the fire and hold his tongue.
Then he reflected that he was not Joseph’s only acquaintance in the
place.  If the young man were to write to Jean Dumont, the Mayor’s son,
for instance, and then it was to come out that the facts had been known
to Bompard, and concealed by him.  "Seigneur!" exclaimed Bompard,
mopping his brow, which had become suddenly moist.  Men’s heads had come
off for less than that. He read the letter again, drumming on his
counter the while, with a stubby, black-nailed hand; at any rate, risk
or no risk, Madelon must not be mentioned.  He had known her from a
child; there was, in fact, some very distant connection between the
families, and she was a good, pretty girl.  Bompard was a fatherly man.
He liked to chuck a pretty girl under the chin, and see her blush, and
Madelon had a pleasant trick of it; and then, just now, all the world
knew she was expecting the birth of her first child.  No, certainly he
would hold his tongue about Madelon.  He burnt the letter, feeling like
a conspirator, and it was just as he was blowing away the last
compromising bit of ash that Mathieu Leroux walked in upon him.

They talked of the weather first, and then of the prospects of a good
apple year.  Then Mathieu harked back to the old story of the fire,
worked himself into a passion over it, noted Bompard’s confusion, and in
ten minutes had the whole story out,—all, that is, except his own
daughter’s share in it, and at that he guessed with an inward fury which
fairly frightened poor fat Bompard.

"Those Desaix!" he exclaimed with an oath.  "If I ’d had your tale six
weeks ago!  Now there ’s only Ange and the niece.  It’s like Marthe to
cheat one in the end!"

Bompard looked curiously at him.  He did not know the secret of
Mathieu’s hostility to the Desaix family. Old Mère Anne could have told
him that when Marthe was a handsome, black-eyed girl, Mathieu Leroux had
lifted his eyes high, and conceived a sullen passion for one as much
above him as Réné de Montenay was above her sister Ange.  The village
talked, Marthe noted the looks that followed her everywhere, and boiled
with pride and anger.  Then one day Mme de Montenay, coldly ignoring all
differences in the ranks below her own, said:

"So, Marthe, you are to make a match of it with young Leroux"; and at
that the girl flamed up.

"If we ’re not high enough for the Château, at least we ’re too high for
the gutter," she said, with a furiously pointed glance at Réné de
Montenay, whose eyes were on her sister.

Ange turned deadly pale, Réné flushed to the roots of his hair, Madame
bit her lip, and Charles Leroux, who was listening at the door, took
note of the bitter words, and next time he was angry with his brother
flung them at him tauntingly.  Mathieu neither forgot nor forgave them.
After forty years his resentment still festered, and was to break at
last into an open poison.

His trip to Paris had furnished him with the names and style of patriots
whose measures could be trusted not to err on the side of leniency, and
to one of these he wrote a hot denunciation of Ange Desaix and Aline
Dangeau, whom he accused of being enemies to the Republic, and traitors
to Liberty, inasmuch as they had assisted proscribed persons to
emigrate.  No greater crime existed.  The denunciation did its work, and
in a trice down came Commissioner Brutus Carré to set up his tribunal
amongst the frightened villagers, and institute a little terror within
the Terror at quiet Rancy-les-Bois.

The village buzzed like a startled hive, women bent white faces over
their household tasks, men shuffled embarrassed feet at the inn,
glancing suspiciously at one another, and all avoiding Mathieu’s hard
black eyes.  At the white house Commissioner Brutus Carré occupied Mlle
Marthe’s sunny room, whilst Ange and Aline sat under lock and key, and
heard wild oaths and viler songs defile the peaceful precincts.

Up at the mill, Madelon lay abed with her newborn son at her breast.
Strange how the softness and the warmth of him stirred her heart, braced
it, and gave her a courage which amazed Jean Jacques.  She lay, a little
pale, but quite composed, and fixed her round brown eyes upon her
father’s scowling face.  In the background Jean Jacques stood stolidly.
He was quite ready to strangle Mathieu with those strong hands of his,
but had sufficient wit to realise that such a proceeding would probably
not help Madelon.

"They were here!" vociferated Mathieu loudly. "You took them in, you
concealed them, you helped them to get away.  You thought you had
cheated me finely, you and that oaf who stands there; and you thought me
a good, easy man, one who would cover your fault because you were his
daughter.  I tell you I am a patriot, I!  If my daughter betrays the
Republic shall I shield her?  I say no, a thousand times no!"

Madelon’s clear gaze never wavered.  Her arm held her baby tight, and if
her heart beat heavily no one heard it except the child, who whimpered a
little and put groping hands against her breast.

"Then you mean to denounce me?" she said quite low.

"Denounce you!  Yes, you ’re no daughter of mine! Every one shall know
that you are a traitress."

"And my baby?" asked Madelon.

Leroux cursed it aloud, and the child, frightened by the harsh voice,
burst into a lusty wailing that took all its mother’s tender hushing to
still.

When she looked at her father again there was something very bright and
intent in her expression.

"Very well, my father," she said; "it is understood that you denounce
me.  Do you perhaps suppose that I shall hold my tongue?"

"Say what you like, and be damned to you!" shouted Mathieu.

Jean Jacques clenched his hands and took a step forward, but his wife’s
expression checked him.

"I may say what I like?" she observed.

"The more the better.  Why, see here, Madelon, if you will give evidence
against Ange Desaix and her niece, I ’ll do my best to get you off."

"Why, what has Mlle Ange to do with it?" said Madelon, open-eyed.

Leroux became speechless for a moment.  Then he swore volubly, and
cursed Madelon for a liar.

"A liar, and a damned fool!" he spluttered.  "For now I ’ll not lift a
finger for you, my girl, and when you see the guillotine ready for you,
perhaps you ’ll wish you ’d kept a civil tongue in your head."

"Enough!" said Madelon sharply.  "Let us understand each other.  If you
speak, I speak too.  If you accuse me, I accuse you."

"Accuse me, accuse me,—and of what?"

Madelon’s eyes flashed.

"You have a short memory," she said; "others will not believe it is so
short.  When I say, as I shall say, that it was you that arranged Mlle
Marguerite’s flight there will be plenty of people who will believe me."
She paused, panting a little, and Mathieu, white with passion, stared
helplessly at her.

Jean Jacques, in the background, looked from one to the other, amazed to
the point of wondering whether he were asleep or awake.  Was this
Madelon, who had been afraid of raising her voice in her father’s
presence? And what was all this about Leroux and the escape? It was
beyond him, but he opened ears and eyes to their widest.

"There is no proof!" shouted Mathieu.

"Ah, but yes," said Madelon at once; "you forget that Mlle Marguerite
gave you her diamond shoe-buckles as a reward for helping her and M. le
Chevalier to get away."

"Shoe-buckles!" exclaimed Mathieu Leroux, his eyes almost starting from
his head.

"Yes, indeed, shoe-buckles with diamonds in them, fit for a princess;
and they are hidden in your garden, my father, and when I tell the
Commissioner that, and show him where they are buried, do you think that
your patriotism will save you?"

"It is not true," gasped Mathieu, putting one hand to his head, where
the hair clung suddenly damp.

"Citizen Brutus Carré will believe it," returned Madelon steadily.

"Hell-cat!  She-devil!  You would not dare——"

"Yes, I would dare.  I will dare anything if you push me too far, but if
you hold your tongue I will hold mine," said Madelon, looking at him
over her baby’s head.  She laid her free arm across the child as she
spoke, and Leroux saw truth and determination in her eyes.

Jean Jacques began to understand.  Eh, but Madelon was clever.  A smile
came slowly into his broad face, and his hands unclenched.  After all,
there would be no strangling.  It was much better so.  Quarrels in
families were a mistake.  He conceived that the moment had arrived when
he might usefully intervene.

"It is a mistake to quarrel," he observed in his deep, slow voice.

Mathieu swung round, glaring, and Madelon closed her eyes for a moment.
There was a slight pause, during which Jean Jacques met his
father-in-law’s furious gaze with placidity.

Then he said again:

"Quarrels in families are a mistake.  It is better to live peaceably.
Madelon and I are quiet people."

Leroux gave a short, enraged grunt, and looked again at his daughter.
As he moved she opened her eyes, and he read in them an unchanged
resolve.

"I don’t want to quarrel, I ’m sure," he said sulkily.

"We don’t," observed Jean Jacques with simplicity.

"Then it is understood.  Madelon will tell no lies about me?"

"I say nothing unless I am arrested.  If that happens, I tell what I
know."

"But you know nothing," exploded Leroux.

"The shoe-buckles," said Madelon.

Leroux stared at her silently for a full minute.  Then, with an
angrily-muttered oath, he flung out of the room, shutting the door
behind him with violence.

Jean Jacques stood scratching his head.

"Eh, Madelon," he said, "you faced him grandly. But when did he get
those shoe-buckles, and how did you know about them?"

Madelon began to laugh faintly, with catching breath.

"Oh, thou great stupid," she panted; "did’st thou not understand?  There
never, never, never were any buckles at all, but he thought they were
there in his garden, and it did just as well," and with that she buried
her face in the pillow and broke into passionate weeping.

Mathieu Leroux held his tongue about his daughter and walked softly for
a day or two.  Also he took much exercise in his garden, where he dug to
the depth of three feet, but without finding anything.

Meanwhile Brutus Carré was occupied with the forms of republican
justice.  His prisoners were to be taken to Paris, since Justice lacked
implements here, and Rancy owned no convenient stream where one might
drown the accused in pairs, or sink them by the boat-load.

Ange Desaix faced him with a high look.  If her ideals were tottering,
their nobility still clung about her, wrapping her from this man’s rude
gaze.

"I was a Republican before the Revolution," she said, and her look drew
from Citizen Carré an outburst of venom.

"You are suspect, gravely suspect," he bellowed.

"But, Citizen—" and the frank gaze grew a little bewildered.

"But, Citoyenne!—but, Aristocrat!  What! you answer me, you bandy words?
Is treason so bold in Rancy-les-Bois?  Truly it’s time the wasp’s nest
was smoked out.  Take her away!" and Mlle Ange went out, still with that
bewildered look.

M. le Curé came next.  There was a high flush on his thin cheeks, and
his fingers laced and interlaced continually.

When Carré blustered at him he started, leaned forward, and tapped the
table sharply.

"I wish to speak, to make a statement," he said in a high, trembling
voice.

There was a surprised silence, whilst the priest stretched out his hand
and spoke as from the pulpit.

"My children, I have been as Judas amongst you, as Judas who betrayed
his Lord.  I desire to ask pardon of the souls I have offended, before I
go to answer for my sin."

Carré stared at him.

"Is he mad?" he asked, with a brutal laugh.

"No, not mad," said M. le Curé quietly.

"Not that it matters having a crack in a head that’s so soon to come
off," continued the Commissioner. "Take him away.  When I want to hear a
sermon I ’ll send for him"; and out went the curé.

On the road to Paris he was very quiet, sitting for the most part with
his head in his hands.  After they reached Paris, Mlle Ange and Aline
saw him no more. No doubt he perished amongst the hundreds who died and
left no sign.  As for the women, they were sent to the Abbaye, and there
waited for the end.



                             CHAPTER XXVIII

                         INMATES OF THE PRISON


It was the first week in July, and heat fetid and airless brooded over
the crowded prison.  Mlle Ange drooped daily.  To all consoling words
she made but one reply—"C’est fini"—and at last Aline gave up all
attempt at rousing her.  After all, what did it matter since they were
all upon the edge of death?

There were six people in the small, crowded cell, and they changed
continually.  No one ever returned, no one was ever released now.

Little Madame de Verdier, stumbling in half blind with tears, sat with
them through one long night unsleeping. In her hand she held always the
blotted, ill-spelled letter written at the scaffold’s foot by her only
child, a lad of thirteen.  In the morning she was fetched away, taking
to her own death a lighter heart than she could have borne towards
liberty.  In her place came Jeanne Verdier, ex-mistress of Philippe
Égalité, she who had leaned on the rail and laughed as the votes went up
for the King’s death.  Her laughing days were over now, tears blistered
her raddled skin, and she wrung her hands continually and moaned for a
priest.  When the gaoler came for her, she reeled against him, fainting,
and he had to catch her round the waist, and use a hard word before he
could get her across the threshold.  That evening the door opened, and
an old man was pushed in.

"He is a hundred at least, so there need be no scandal," said the gaoler
with a wink, and indeed the old gentleman tottered to a corner and lay
there peaceably enough, without so much as a word or look for his
companions.

In a day or two, however, he revived.  The heat which oppressed the
others seemed to suit him, and after a while he even began to talk a
little, throwing out mysterious hints of great powers, strange
influences, and what not.

Mme de Labédoyère, inveterate chatterbox, was much interested.

"He is somebody," she assured Aline, aside.  "An astrologer, perhaps.
Who knows?  He may be able to tell the future."

"I have no future," said the melancholy Mme de Vieuxmesnil with a deep
sigh.  "No one can bring back the past, not even le bon Dieu Himself,
and that is all I care for now."

The little Labédoyère shrugged her plump shoulders, and old Mme de
Breteuil struck into the conversation.

"He reminds me of some one," she said, turning her bright dark eyes upon
the old man’s face.  He was leaning against the wall, dozing, his
fine-cut features pallid with a clear yellowish pallor like dead ivory.
As she looked his eyes opened, very blue, through the mist which age and
drowsiness hung over them.  He smiled a little and sat up, rubbing his
thin hands slowly, as if they felt a chill even on that stifling
afternoon.

"The ladies do me the honour of discussing me," he said in his queer,
level voice, from which all the living quality seemed to have drained
away, leaving it steadily passionless.

"I was thinking I had seen you somewhere," said Mme de Breteuil, "and
perhaps if Monsieur were to tell me his name, I should remember."

He smiled again.

"My name is Aristide," he said, and seemed to be waiting for a
sensation.  The ladies looked at one another puzzled.  Only Mme de
Breteuil frowned a moment, and then clapped her hands.

"I have it—ah, Monsieur Aristide, it is so many years ago.  I think we
won’t say how many, but all Paris talked about you then.  They called
you the Sorcerer, and one’s priest scolded one soundly if one so much as
mentioned your name."

"Yes," said the old man with a nod.

"Well, you have forgotten it, I daresay, but I came to see you then, I
and my sister-in-law, Jeanne de Breteuil. In those days the future
interested me enormously, but when I got into the room, and thought that
perhaps I should see the devil, I was scared to death; and as to Jeanne,
she pinched me black and blue.  There was a pool of ink, and a child who
saw pictures in it."

"Oh, but how delightful," exclaimed Julie de Labédoyère.

"Not at all, my dear, it was most alarming."

"But what did he tell you?"

The old lady bridled a little.

"Oh, a number of things that would interest nobody now, though at the
time they were extremely absorbing. But one thing you told me, Monsieur,
and that was that I should die in a foreign land, and I assure you I
find it a vastly consoling prophecy at present."

"It is true," said Aristide, fixing his blue eyes upon her.

"To be sure," she continued, "you told Jeanne she would have three
husbands, and a child by each of them, all of which came most punctually
to pass; but, Monsieur, I fear now that Jeanne will have my prophecy as
well as her own, since she had the sense to leave France two years ago
when it was still possible, and I was foolish enough to stay here."

The old man shook his head and leaned back again, closing his eyes.

"What is the future to us now?" said Mme de Vieuxmesnil in a low voice.
"It holds nothing."

"Are you so sure?" asked Aristide, and she started, turning a little
paler, but Mme de Labédoyère turned on him with vivacity.

"Oh, but can you really tell the future?" she asked.

"When there is a future to tell," he said, stroking his white beard with
a thin transparent hand, and his eyes rested curiously upon her as he
spoke.  Something in their expression made old Mme de Breteuil shiver a
little.

"Even now he frightens me," she whispered to Aline, but Julie de
Labédoyère had clasped her hands.

"Oh, but how ravishing," she exclaimed.  "Tell us then, Monsieur, tell
us all our futures.  I am ready to die of dulness, and so I am sure are
these ladies.  It will really be a deed of charity if you will amuse us
for an hour."

"The future is not always amusing," said Aristide with a slight chilly
smile.  "Also," he added after a pause, "there is no child here.  I need
one to read the visions in the pool of ink."

"The gaoler has a tribe of children," said Mme de Labédoyère eagerly.
"I have a little money.  If I made him a present he would send us one."

"It must be a young child, under seven years old."

"But why?"

"The eyes, Madame, must be clear.  With conscious sin, with the first
touch of sorrow, the first breath of passion, there comes a mist, and
the visions are read no longer."

"Well, there are children enough," she answered with a shrug.  "I have
seen a little girl of about five,—Marie, I think she is called: we will
ask for her."

Almost as she spoke the door was thrown open and the gaoler entered.  He
brought another prisoner to share the already crowded room.  If Paris
streets were silent and empty, her prisons were full enough.  This was a
pale slip of a girl, with a pitiful hacking cough. She entered
listlessly, and sank down in a corner as if she had not strength to
stand.

"The end of the journey," said Aristide under his breath, but Mme de
Labédoyère was by the gaoler’s side talking volubly.

"It is only for an hour,—and see—" here something slipped from her hand
to his.  "It will be a diversion for the child, and for us, mon Dieu, it
may save our lives!  How would you feel if you were to find us all dead
one morning just from sheer ennui?"

"I don’t know that I should fret," said the man with a grin, and Mme de
Labédoyère bit her lip.

"But you will lend us Marie," she said insistently.

"Oh, if you like, and if she will come.  It is nothing to me, and she is
not of an age to have her principles corrupted," said the man, laughing
at his own wit.

He went out with a jingle of keys, and in a few minutes the door opened
once more, and a serious-eyed person of about five years old staggered
in, carrying a very fat, heavy baby, whose sleepy head nodded across her
shoulder.

She hesitated a moment and then came in, closed the door, and finally
sat down between Aline and Mlle Ange, disposing the baby upon her
diminutive lap.

"This is Mutius Scaevola," she volunteered; "my mother washes and I am
in charge.  He is very sleepy, but one is never sure.  He is a wicked
baby.  Sometimes he roars so that the roof comes off one’s head. Then my
mother says it is my fault, and slaps me."

"Give him to me," said Mlle Ange suddenly.

The serious Marie regarded her for a moment, and then allowed her charge
to be transferred to the stranger’s lap, where he promptly fell fast
asleep.

"Come here, my child," said the old gentleman in the corner, and Marie
went to him obediently.

He had poured ink into his palm, and now held it under her eyes, putting
his other arm gently round the child.

"Look now, little one.  Look and tell us what you see, and you, Madame,"
he said, beckoning to Mme de Labédoyère, "come nearer and put your hand
upon her head."

"Do you see anything, child?"

"I see ink," said Marie sedately.  "It will make your hand very dirty,
sir.  Once I got some on my frock, and it never came out.  I was beaten
for that."

"Hush, then, little one, and look into the ink. Presently there will be
pictures there.  Then you may speak and tell us what you see."

Silence fell on the small hot room.  Ange Desaix rocked softly with the
sleeping child.  She was the only one who never even glanced at the
astrologer and his pupil.

Presently Marie said:

"Monsieur, there is a picture."

"What then, say?"

"A boy, with a broom, sweeping."

He nodded gravely.

"Yes, yes.  Watch well; the pictures come."

"He has made a clean place," said the child, "and on the clean place
there is a shadow.  Ah, now it turns into a lady—into this lady whose
hand is on my head.  She stands and looks at me, and a man comes and
catches her by the neck and cuts off her hair.  That is a pity, for her
hair is very long and fine.  Why does he cut it?"

"Mon Dieu!" said Mme de Labédoyère with a sob. She released the child
and sat down by the wall, leaning against it, her eyes wide with fear.

"You asked to see the future, Madame," said the old man impassively.

"Can you show the past?" asked Mme de Vieuxmesnil, half hesitatingly.

"Assuredly.  You must touch the child, and think of what you wish to
see."

She came forward and put out her hand, but drew it quickly back again.

"No," she murmured; "it is perhaps a sin.  I am too near the end for
that, and when one cannot even confess."

"As you will," said the old man.

"And you, Madame," he turned to Aline, "is there nothing you would know;
no one for whose welfare you are anxious?"

She started, for he had read her thoughts, which were full of Dangeau.
It was months now since any word had come from him, and she longed
inexpressibly for tidings.  Lawful or unlawful, she would try this way,
since there was no other.  She laid her hand lightly on the little
girl’s head, and once more the child looked into the dark pool.

"There are so many people," she said at last.  "They run to and fro, and
wave their arms.  That makes one’s head ache."

"Go on looking," said Aristide.

"There is a lady there now.  It is this lady.  She looks very
frightened.  Some one has put a red cap on her head.  Ah—now a gentleman
comes.  He takes her hand and puts a ring on it.  Now he kisses her."

Aline drew away.  The clamour and the crowd, the hasty wedding, the cold
first kiss, all swam together in her mind.

"That is the past," she said in a low, strained voice. "Tell me where he
is now.  Is he alive?  Where is he? Shall I see him again?"

She had forgotten her surroundings, the listeners, Mme de Breteuil’s
sharp eyes.  She only looked eagerly at Aristide, and he nodded once or
twice, and laid her hand again on the child’s head.

"She shall look," he said, but Marie lifted weary eyes.

"Monsieur, I am tired," she said.

"Just this once more, little one.  Then you shall sleep," and she turned
obediently and bent again over his hand.

"I do not like this picture," she said fretfully.

"What is it?"

"I do not know.  There is a platform, with a ladder that goes up.  I
cannot see the top.  Ah—there is the lady again.  She goes up the
ladder.  Her hair is cut off, close to the head.  That is not at all
pretty, but it is the same lady, and the gentleman is there too."

"What gentleman?" asked Aline, in a clear voice.

"The same who was in the other picture, who put the ring upon your
finger and kissed your forehead.  It is he, a tall monsieur with blue
eyes.  He has no hat on, and his arms are tied behind him.  Oh, I do not
like this picture.  Need I look any more?" and her voice took a wailing
sound.

"No, it is enough," said Aline gently.

She drew the child away and sat down by Mlle Ange, who still rocked the
sleeping baby.  Marie leaned her head beside her brother’s and shut her
eyes.  Ange Desaix put an arm about her too, and she slept.

But Aristide was still looking at Aline.

"I do not understand," he said under his breath. "You have none of the
signs, none of them.  Now she,"—he indicated Mme de Labédoyère, "one can
see it at a glance.  A short life, and a death of violence, but with you
it is different.  Give me your hand."

He was within reach, and she put it out half mechanically. He looked at
it long, and then laid it back in her lap.

"You have a long life still," he said, "a long, prosperous life.  The
child was tired, she read amiss.  The sign was not for you."

Aline shook her head.  It did not seem to matter very much now.  She was
so tired.  What was death? At least, if the vision were true, she would
see her husband again.  They would forgive one another, and she would be
able to forget his bitter farewell look.

Meanwhile Dangeau waited for death in La Force. His cell contained only
one inmate, a man who seemed to have sustained some serious injury to
the head, since he lay swathed in bandages and moaned continually.

"Who is he?" he asked Defarge, the gaoler, and the man shrugged his
shoulders.

"One there is enough coil about for ten," he grumbled. "One pays that he
should have a cell to himself, and another sends him milk.  It seems he
is wanted to live, since this morning I get orders to admit a surgeon to
him.  Bah!  If he knew when he was well off, he would make haste and
die.  For me, I would prefer that to sneezing into Sanson’s basket; but
what would you?  No one is ever contented."

That afternoon the surgeon came, a brisk, round-bodied person with a
light roving hazel eye, and quick, clever hands.  He fell to his work,
and after loitering a moment Defarge went out, leaving the door open,
and passing occasionally, when he would pop his head in, grumble a
little, and pass on again.

Dangeau watched idly.  Something in the little man’s appearance seemed
familiar, but for the moment he could not place him.  Suddenly, however,
the busy hands ceased their work for a moment, and the surgeon glanced
sharply over his shoulder.  "Here, can you hold this for me?" and as
Dangeau knelt opposite to him and put his finger to steady the bandage,
he said:

"I know your face.  Where have I seen you, eh?"

"And I know yours.  My name is Dangeau."

"Aha—I thought so.  You were Edmond’s friend. Poor Edmond!  But what
would you?  He was too imprudent."

"Yes, I was Edmond Cléry’s friend," said Dangeau; "and you are his
uncle.  I met you with him once. Citizen Goyot, is it not?"

"At your service.  There, that’s finished."

"Who is he; will he live?" asked Dangeau, as the patient twitched and
groaned.

Goyot shrugged.

"He has friends who want him to live, and enemies who are almost as
anxious that he should n’t die."

"A riddle, Citizen?"

"Oh, I don’t know.  You may conceive, if you will, that his friends
desire his assistance, and that his enemies desire him to compromise his
friends."

"Ah, it is that way?"

"I did not say so," said Goyot.  "Good-day, Citizen," and he departed,
leaving Dangeau something to think about, and a new interest in his
fellow-prisoner.

Next day behold Goyot back again.  He enlisted Dangeau’s services at
once, and Defarge having left them, shutting the door this time, he
observed with a keen look:

"I ’ve been refreshing my memory about you, Citizen Dangeau."

"Indeed."

"Yes; you still have a friend or two.  Who says the days of miracles are
over?  You have been away a year and are not quite forgotten."

"And what did my friends say?" asked Dangeau, smiling a little.

"They said you were an honest man.  I said there were n’t two in Paris.
They declared you were one of them."

"Ciel, Citizen, you are a pessimist."

"Optimists lose their heads these days," said Goyot with a grimace.
"But after all one must trust some one, or one gets no further."

"Certainly."

"Well, we want to get further, that is all."

"Your meaning, Citizen?"

"Mon Dieu, must I dot all the i’s?"

"Well, one or two perhaps."

"I have a patient sicker than this," said Goyot abruptly.

"Yes?"

"France," he said in a low voice.

Dangeau gave a deep sigh.

"You are right," he said.

"Of course, it’s my trade.  The patient is very ill. Too much
blood-letting—you understand?  There ’s a gangrene which is eating away
the flesh, poisoning the whole body.  It must be cut out."

"Robespierre."

"Mon Dieu, Citizen, no names!  Though, to be sure, that one ’s in the
air.  A queer thing human nature.  I knew him well years ago.  You ’d
have said he could n’t hurt a fly; would turn pale at the mention of an
execution; and now,—well, they say the appetite comes with eating, and
life is a queer comedy."

"Comedy?" said Dangeau bitterly.  "It’s tragedy that fills the boards
for most of us to-day."

"Ah! that depends on how you take it.  Keep an eye on the ridiculous:
foster it, play for it, and you have farce.  Take things lightly, with a
turn of wit and a playful way, and it is comedy.  Tragedy demands less
effort, I ’ll admit, but for me—Vive la Comédie.  We are discussing the
ethics of the drama," he explained to Defarge, who poked his head in at
this juncture.

"Will that mend his head?" inquired the gaoler with a scowl.

"Ah, my dear Defarge, that, I fear, is past praying for; but I have
better hopes of my other patient."

"Who ’s that?" asked the man, staring.

"A lady, my friend, in whom Citizen Dangeau is interested.  A surgical
case—but I have great hopes, great hopes of curing her," and with that
he went out, smiling and talking all the way down the corridor.

Dangeau grew to look for his coming.  Sometimes he merely got through
his work as quickly as possible, but occasionally he would drop some
hint of a plot,—of plans to overthrow Robespierre.

"The patient’s friends are willing now," he said one day.  "It is a
matter of seizing the favourable moment. Meanwhile one must have
patience."

Dangeau smiled a trifle grimly.  Patience, when one’s head is under the
axe, may be a desirable, but it is not an easily cultivated, virtue.

Life had begun to look sweet to him once more.  The mood in which he had
suddenly flung defiance at Robespierre was past, and if the old, vivid
dreams came back no more, yet the dark horizon began to show a sober
gleam of hope.

Every sign proclaimed the approaching fall of Robespierre, and Dangeau
looked past the Nation’s temporary delirium to a time of convalescence,
when the State, restored to sanity, might be built up, if not towards
perfection, at least in the direction of sober statesmanship and
peaceful government.



                              CHAPTER XXIX

                       THROUGH DARKNESS TO LIGHT


So dawned the morning of the twenty-seventh of July, the 9th Thermidor
in the new Calendar of the Revolution.  A very hot, still day, with a
veiled sky dreaming of thunder.  Dangeau had passed a very disturbed
night, for his fellow-prisoner was worse.  The long unconsciousness
yielded at last, and slid through vague mutterings into a high delirium,
which tasked his utmost strength to control.  Goyot was to come early,
since this development was not entirely unexpected; but the morning
passed, and still he did not appear. By two o’clock the patient was in a
stupour again, and visibly within an hour or two of the end.  No skill
could avail him now.

Suddenly the door was thrown open, and Dangeau heard himself summoned.

"Your time at last," said Defarge, and he followed the man without a
word.  In the corridor they met Goyot, his hair much rumpled, his eyes
bright and restless with excitement.

"You?  Where are you going?" he panted.

"Where does one go nowadays?" returned Dangeau, with a slight shrug.

"No, no," exclaimed Goyot.  "It’s not possible. We had arranged—your
name was to be kept back."

"Bah," said Defarge, spitting on the ground.  "You need not look at me
like that, Citizen.  It is not my fault.  You know that well enough.
Orders come, and must be obeyed.  I ’m neither blind nor deaf.  Things
are changing out there, I ’m told, but orders are orders, and a plain
man looks no further."

Goyot caught at Dangeau’s arm.

"We’ll save you yet," he said.  "Robespierre is down.  Accused this
morning in Convention.  They ’re all at his throat now.  Keep a good
heart, my friend; his time has come at last."

"And mine," returned Dangeau.

"No, no,—I tell you there is hope.  It is only a matter of hours."

"Just so."

Defarge interposed.

"Ciel, Citizens, are we to stand here all day?  Citizen Goyot, your
patient is dying, and you had better see to him.  This citizen and I
have an engagement,—yes, and a pressing one."

An hour later Dangeau passed in to take his trial. His predecessor’s
case had taken a scant five minutes, so simple a matter had the death
penalty become.

Fouquier Tinville seated himself, his sharp features more like the fox’s
mask than ever, only now it was the fox who hears the hounds so close
upon his heels that he dares not look behind to see how close they are.
Fear does not improve the temper, and he nodded maliciously at his
former colleague.

"Name," he rapped out, voice and eye alike vicious.

With smooth indifference Dangeau repeated his names, and added with a
touch of amusement:

"You know me and my names well enough, or did once, my good Tinville."

The thin lips lifted in a snarl.

"That, my friend, was when you were higher in the world than you are
now.  Place of abode?"

Dangeau’s gaze went past him.  He shrugged his shoulders with a faintly
whimsical effect.

"Shall we say the edges of the world?" he suggested.

Fouquier Tinville spat on the floor and leaned over the table with a
yellow glitter in his eyes.

"How does it feel?" he sneered.  "The edges of the world.  Ma foi, how
does it feel to look over them into annihilation?"

Dangeau returned his look with composure.

"I imagine you may soon have an opportunity of judging," he observed.

At Tinville’s right hand a man sat drumming on the table.  Now he looked
up sharply, exhibiting a dead white face, where the lips hung loose, and
the eyes showed wildly bloodshot.

"But if one could know first," he said in a shaking voice.  "When one is
so close and looks over, one should see more than others.  I have asked
so many what they saw.  I asked Danton.  He said ’The void.’  Do you
think it is that?  As man to man now, Dangeau, do you think there is
anything beyond or not?"

Dangeau recognised him with a movement of half-contemptuous pity.  It
was Duval, the actor who had taken to politics and drink, and sold his
soul for a bribe of Robespierre’s.

Tinville plucked him down with a curse.

"Tiens, Duval, you grow too mad," he said angrily. "You and your beyond.
What should there be?"

"If there were,—Hell," muttered Duval, with shaking lips.  Tinville
banged the table.

"Am I to have all the Salpêtrière here?" he shouted. "Have n’t we cut
off enough priests’ heads yet?  I tell you we have abolished Heaven, and
Purgatory, and Hell, and all the rest of those child’s tales."

A murmur of applause ran round.  Duval’s hand went to his breast, and
drew out a flask.  He drank furtively, and leaned back again.

Dangeau was moving away, but he turned for a moment, the old sparkle in
his eyes.

"My felicitations, Tinville," he observed with a casual air.

"On what?"

Dangeau smiled politely.

"The convenience for you of having abolished Hell! It is a masterstroke.
It only remains for me to wish you an early opportunity of verifying
your statements."

"Take him out," said Tinville, stamping his foot, and Dangeau went down
the steps, and into the long adjoining room where the prisoners waited
for the tumbrils.  It was too much trouble now to take them back again
to prison, so the Justice Hall was itself the ante-chamber of the
guillotine.  It was hot, and Dangeau felt the lassitude which succeeds a
strain.  Of what use to bandy words with Fouquier Tinville, of what use
anything, since the last word lay with the strongest, and this hour was
the hour of his death?  It is very difficult for a strong man, with his
youth still vigorous in every vein, to realise that for him hope and
fear, joy and pain, struggle and endurance, are all at an end, and that
the next step is that final one into the blind and unknown pathways of
the infinite.

He thought of Robespierre, out there in the tideway fighting for his
life against the inexorable waves of Fate. Even now the water crept salt
and sickly about his mouth.  Well, if it drowned him, and swept France
clean again, what did it matter if the swirl of the tide swept Dangeau
from his foothold too?

Absorbed in thought, he took no note of his companions in misfortune.
There was a small crowd of them at the farther end of the room, a
gendarme or two stood gossiping by, and there was a harsh clipping sound
now and again, for the prisoners’ hair was a perquisite of the
concierge’s wife, and it was cut off here, before they went to the
scaffold.

The woman stood by to-day and watched it done. The perquisite was a
valuable one, and on the previous day she had been much annoyed by the
careless cutting which had ruined a magnificent head of auburn hair.
To-day she had noted that one of the women had a valuable crop, and she
was instant in her directions for its cutting.  Presently she pushed
past Dangeau and lifted the lid of a basket which hung against the wall.
His glance followed her idly, and saw that the basket was piled high
with human hair.  The woman muttered to herself as her eye rested on the
ruined auburn locks. Then she took to-day’s spoil, tress by tress, from
her apron, knotting the hair roughly together, and dropping it into the
open basket.  Dangeau watched her with a curious sick sensation.  The
contrast between the woman’s unsexed face and the pitiful relics she
handled affected him disagreeably, but beyond this he experienced a
strange, tingling sensation unlike anything in his recollection.

The auburn hair was hidden now by a bunch of gay black curls.  A long,
straight, flaxen mass fell next, and then a thick waving tress, gold in
the light, and brown in the shade, catching the sun that crossed it for
a moment, as Aline’s hair had always done.

He shuddered through all his frame, and turned away. Thank God, thank
God she was safe at Rancy!  And with that a sudden movement parted the
crowd at the other side of the room, and he looked across and saw her.

He had heard of visions in the hour of death, but as he gazed, a cold
sweat broke upon his brow, and he knew it was she herself, Aline, his
wife, cast for death as he was cast.  Her profile was towards him, cut
sharply against the blackened wall.  Her face was lifted.  Her eyes
dwelt on the patch of sky which an open window gave to view.  How
changed, O God, how changed she was!  How visibly upon the threshold.
The beauty had fallen away from her face, leaving it a mere frail mask,
but out of her eyes looked a spirit serenely touched with immortality.
It is the look worn only by those who are about to die, and look past
death into the Presence.

It was a look that drove the blood from Dangeau’s heart; a wave of
intolerable anger against Fate, of intolerable anguish for the wife so
found again, swept it back again.  He moved to go to her, and as he did
so, saw a man approach and begin to pinion her arms, whilst the opening
of a door and the roll of wheels outside proclaimed the arrival of the
tumbrils.  In the same moment Dangeau accosted the man, his last coin in
his hand.

"This for you if you will get me into the same cart as this lady, and
see, friend, let it be the last one."

What desperate relic of spent hope prompted his last words he hardly
knew, for after all what miracle could Goyot work? but at least he would
have a few more minutes to gaze at Aline before the darkness blotted out
her face.

Jean Legros, stupid and red-faced, stared a moment at the coin, then
pocketed it with a nod and grunt, and fell to tying Dangeau’s arms.  At
the touch of the cord an exclamation escaped him, and it was at this
moment that Aline, roused from her state of abstraction by something in
the voice behind her, turned her head and saw him.

They were so close together that her movement brought them into contact,
and at the touch, and as their eyes met, anguish was blotted out, and
for one wonderful instant they leaned together whilst each heart felt
the other’s throb.

"My heart!" he said, and then before either could speak again they were
being pushed forward towards the open door.

The last tumbril waited; Dangeau was thrust into it, roughly enough, and
as he pitched forward he saw that Aline behind him had stumbled, and
would have fallen but for fat Jean’s arm about her waist.  She shrank a
little, and the fellow gave a stupid laugh.

"What, have you never had a man’s arm round you before?" he said loudly,
and gave her a push that sent her swaying against Dangeau’s shoulder.
The knot of idlers about the door broke into coarse jesting, and the
bound man’s hands writhed against his bonds until the cords cut deep
into the flesh of his wrist, and the blood oozed against the twisted
rope.

Aline leaned nearer.  She was conscious only that here was rest.  Since
Mlle Ange died of the prison fever two days ago, she had not slept or
wept.  She had thought perhaps she might die too, and be saved the
knife, but now nothing mattered any more.  He was here; he loved her.
They would die together.  God was very good.

His voice sounded from far, far away.

"I thought you safe; I thought you at Rancy, oh, God!" and she roused a
little to the agony in his tone, and looked at him with those clear eyes
of hers. Through all the dreamlike strangeness she felt still the
woman’s impulse to comfort the beloved.

"God, who holds us in the hollow of His hand, knows that we are safe,"
she said, and at that he groaned "Safe!" so that she fought against the
weariness that made her long just to put her head upon his shoulder and
be at peace.

"There was too much between us," she said very low. "We could not be
together here, but we could not be happy apart.  I do not think God will
take us away from one another.  It is better like this, my dear!—it is
better."

Her voice fell on a low, contented note, and he felt her lean more
closely yet.  An agony of rebellion rent his very soul.  To love one
woman only, to renounce her, to find her after long months of pain, to
hear her say what he had hoped for only in his dreams, and then to know
that he must watch her die.  What vision of Paradise could blot this
torture out?  Powerless, powerless, powerless!  In the height of his
strength, and not able even to strike down the brute whose coarse hand
touched her, and that other brute who would presently butcher her before
his very eyes.

Then, whilst his straining senses reeled, he felt a jolt and the cart
stopped.  All about them surged an excited crowd.

There was a confused noise, women screamed.  One high, clear voice
called out, "Murderers!  Assassins!" and the crowd took up the cry with
angry insistence.

"See the old man! and the girl! ma foi, she has an angel’s face.  Is the
guillotine to eat up every one?"

The muttering rose to a growl, and the growl to a roar.  To and fro
surged the growing crowd, the horses began to back, the car tilted.
Dangeau looked round him, his heart beating to suffocation, but Aline
appeared neither to know nor care what passed.  For her the world was
empty save for they two, and for them the gate of Heaven stood wide.
She heard the song of the morning stars; she caught a glimpse of the
glory unutterable, unthinkable.

As the shouting grew, the driver of their cart cast anxious glances over
his shoulder.  All at once he stood up, waving his red cap, calling,
gesticulating.

A cry went up, "The gendarmerie, Henriot!  Henriot and the gendarmes!"
and the press was driven apart by the charge of armed horsemen.  At
their head rode Henriot, just freed from prison, flushed with strong
drink, savage with his own impending doom.

The crowd scattered, but a man sprang for an instant to the wheels of
the cart, and whispered one swift sentence in Dangeau’s ear:

"Robespierre falls; nothing can save him."

It was Goyot in a workman’s blouse, and as he dropped off again Dangeau
made curt answer.

"In time for France, if not for me.  Good-bye, my friend," and then
Goyot was gone and the lumbering wheels rolled on.

On the other side of the cart, the Abbé Delacroix prayed audibly, and
the smooth Latin made a familiar cadence, like running water heard in
childhood, and kept in some secret cell of the memory.  Beside the
priest sat old General de Loiserolles, grey and soldierly, hugging the
thought that he had saved his boy; how entirely he was not to know.
Answering his son’s name, leaving that son sleeping, he was giving him,
not the doubtful reprieve of a day, but all the years of his natural
life, since young De Loiserolles was amongst those set free by the death
of Robespierre.

As the cart stopped by the scaffold foot, he crossed himself, and
followed the Abbé to the axe, with a simple dignity that drew a strange
murmur from the crowd. For the heart of Paris was melting fast, and the
bloodshed was become a weariness.  Prisoner after prisoner went up the
steps, and after each dull thud announced the fallen axe, that long
ominous "ah" of the crowd went up.

Dangeau and Aline were the last, and when they came to the steps he
moved to go before her, then cursed himself for a coward, and stood
aside to let her pass.  She looked sweetly at him for a moment and
passed on, climbing with feet that never faltered.  She did not note the
splashed and slippery boards, nor Sanson and his assistants all grimed
and daubed from their butcher’s work, but her eye was caught by the sea
of upturned faces, all white, all eyeing her, and her head turned giddy.
Then some one touched her, held her, pulled away the kerchief at her
breast, and as the sun struck hot upon her uncovered shoulders, a
burning blush rose to her very brow, and the dream in which she had
walked was gone.  Her brain reeled with the awakening, heaven clouded,
and the stars were lost. She was aware only of Sanson’s hot hand at her
throat, and all those eyes astare to see her death.

The hand pushed her, her foot felt the slime of blood beneath it, she
saw the dripping knife, and all at once she felt herself naked to the
abyss.  In Sanson’s grip she turned wide terror-stricken eyes on
Dangeau, making a little, piteous, instinctive movement towards him, her
protector, and at that and his own impotence he felt each pulse in his
strong body thud like a hammered drum, and with one last violent effort
of the will he wrenched his eyelids down, lest he should look upon the
end.  All through the journey there had been as it were a sword in his
heart, but at her look and gesture—her frightened look, her imploring
gesture—the sword was turned and still he was alive, alive to watch her
die. In those moments his soul left time and space, and hung a tortured
point, infinitely lonely, infinitely agonised, in some illimitable
region of never-ending pain.  There was no past, no future, only
Eternity and his undying soul in anguish.  The thousand years were as a
day, and the day as a thousand years.  There was no beginning and no
end.  O God, no end!

He did not hear the crowd stir a little, and drift hither and thither as
it was pressed upon from one side; he did not see the gendarmes press
against the drift, only to be driven back again, hustled, surrounded so
that their horses were too hampered to answer to the spur.  Suddenly a
woman went down screaming under the horses’ feet, and on the instant the
crowd flamed into fury before the agonised shriek had died away.  In a
moment all was a seething, shouting, cursing welter of struggling
humanity.  The noise of it reached even Dangeau’s stunned brain, and he
said within himself, "It is over.  She is dead," and opened his eyes.

The scaffold stood like an island in a sea grown suddenly wild with
tempest, and even as he looked, the human waves of it broke in a fierce
swirl which welled up and overflowed it on every side.

Sanson, his hand on the machinery, was whirled aside, jostled, pushed,
cursed.  A fat woman, with bare, mottled arms, Heaven knows how she came
on the platform, dealt him a resounding smack on the face, and shrieked
voluble abuse, which was freely echoed.

Dangeau was surrounded, embraced, cheered, lifted off his feet, the cord
that bound his arms slashed through, and of a sudden Goyot had him round
the neck, and he found voice and clamoured Aline’s name.  The little
surgeon, after one glance at his wild eyes, pushed with him through the
surging press; they had to fight their way, and the place was slippery,
but they were through at last, through and down on their knees by the
woman who lay bound beneath the knife that Sanson’s hand was freeing
when the tumult caught him.  A dozen hands snatched her back again now,
the cords were cut, and Dangeau’s shaking voice called in her ears,
called loudly, and in vain.

"Air, give her air and room," he cried, and some pushed forwards and
others back.  The fat woman took the girl’s head upon her lap, whilst
tears rained down her crimson cheeks.

"Eh, the poor pretty one," she sobbed hysterically, and pulled off her
own ample kerchief to cover Aline’s thin bosom.  Dangeau leaned over her
calling, calling still, unaware of Goyot at his side, and of Goyot’s
voice saying insistently, "Tiens, my friend, that was a near shave, eh?"

"My wife," he muttered, "my wife—my wife is dead," and with that he
gazed round wildly, cried "No, no!" in a sharp voice, and fell to
calling her again.

Goyot knelt on the reeking boards, caught the frail wrist in that brown
skilful hand of his, shifted his grasp once, twice, a third time, shook
his head, and took another grip.  "No, she ’s alive," he said at last,
and had to say it more than once, for Dangeau took no heed.

"Aline!  Aline!  Aline!" he called in hoarse, trembling tones, and Goyot
dropped the girl’s wrist and took him harshly by the shoulder.

"Rouse, man, rouse!" he cried.  "She’s alive.  I tell you.  I swear it.
For the love of Heaven, wake up, and help me to get her away.  It’s
touch and go for all of us these next few hours.  At any moment Henriot
may have the upper hand, and half an hour would do our business, with
this pretty toy so handy."  He grimaced at the red axe above them,
"Come, Dangeau, play the man!"

Dangeau stared at him.

"What am I to do?" he asked irritably.

Goyot pressed his shoulder with a firm hand.

"Lift your wife, and bring her along after me.  Can you manage?  She
looks light enough."

It was no easy matter to come through the excited crowd, but Dangeau’s
height told, and with Aline’s head against his shoulder he pushed
doggedly in the wake of Goyot, who made his way through the press with a
wonderful agility.  Down the steps now, and inch by inch forward through
the jostling excited people.  Up a by way at last, and then sharp to the
left where a carriage waited, and with that Goyot gave a gasp of relief,
and mopped a dripping brow.

"Eh, mon Dieu!" he said; "get in, get in!"

The carriage had mouldy straw on the floor, and the musty odour of it
mounted in the hot air.

Dangeau complained of it sharply.

"A devil of a smell, this, Goyot!" and the little surgeon fixed him with
keen, watchful eyes, as he nodded acquiescence.

What house they came to, or how they came to it, Dangeau knew no more
than his unconscious wife.  She lay across his breast, white and still
as the dead, and when he laid her down on the bed in the upper room they
reached at last, she fell limply from his grasp, and he turned to Goyot
with a groan.

A soft, white-haired woman, dark-eyed and placid,—afterwards he knew her
for Goyot’s housekeeper,—tried to turn him out of the room, but he would
go no farther than the window, where he sat staring, staring at the
houses across the way, watching them darken in the gathering dusk, and
mechanically counting the lights that presently sprang into view.

Behind him Marie Carlier came and went, at Goyot’s shortly worded
orders, until at last Dangeau’s straining ears caught the sound of a
faint, fluttering sigh.  He turned then, the lights in the room dancing
before his burning eyes.  For a moment the room seemed full of the small
tongues of flame, and then beyond them he saw his wife’s eyes open
again, whilst her hand moved in feeble protest against the draught which
Goyot himself was holding to her lips.

Dangeau got up, stood a moment gazing, and then stumbled from the room
and broke into heavy sobbing. Presently Goyot brought him something in a
glass, which he drank obediently.

"Now you will sleep," said the little man in cheerful accents, and sleep
he did, and never stirred until the high sun struck across his face and
waked him to France’s new day, and his.

For in that night fell Robespierre, cast down by the Convention he had
dominated so long.  The dawn that found him shattered, praying for the
death he had vainly sought, awakened Paris from the long nightmare which
had been the marriage gift of her nuptials with this incubus.

At four o’clock on the afternoon of the 10th Thermidor, Robespierre’s
head fell under the bloody axe of the Terror, and with his last gasp the
life went out of the greatest tyranny of modern times.

When Goyot came home with the news, Dangeau’s face flamed, and he put
his hand before his eyes for a moment.

Then he went up to Aline.  She had lain in a deep sleep for many, many
hours, but towards the afternoon she had wakened, taken food, and
dressed herself, all in a strange, mechanical fashion.  She was neither
to be gainsaid nor persuaded, and Dangeau, reasonable once more, had
left her to the kind and unexciting ministrations of Marie Carlier.  Now
he could keep away no longer; Goyot followed him and the housekeeper met
them by the door.

"She is strange, Monsieur," she whispered.

"She has not roused at all?" inquired Goyot rather anxiously.

Marie shook her head.

"She just sits and stares at the sky.  God knows what she sees there,
poor lamb.  If she would weep——"

"Just so, just so," Goyot nodded once or twice. Then he turned a
penetrating look on Dangeau.

"Ha, you are all right again.  A near thing, my friend, eh?  Small
wonder you were upset by it."

"Oh, I!" said Dangeau, with an impatient gesture. "It is my wife we are
speaking of."

"Yes, yes, of course—a little patience, my dear Dangeau—yes, your wife.
Marie here, without being scientific, is a sensible woman, and it’s a
wonderful thing how common-sense comes to the same conclusions as
science.  A fascinating subject that, but, as you are about to observe,
this is not the time to pursue it. What I mean to say is, that your wife
is suffering from severe shock; her brain is overcharged, and Marie is
quite right when she suggests that tears would relieve it.  Now, my good
Dangeau, do you think you can make your wife cry?"

"I don’t know—I must go to her."

"Well, well, go.  Don’t excite her, but—dear me, Marie, how impatient
people are.  When one has saved a man’s life, he might at least let one
finish a sentence, instead of breaking away in the middle of it.  Get me
something to eat, for, parbleu, I ’ve earned it."

Dangeau had closed the door, and stood looking at his wife.

"Aline," he said, "have they told you?  We are safe—Robespierre is
dead."

Then he threw back his head, took a long, deep breath, and cried:

"It is new life—new life for France, new work for those who love her—new
life for us—for us, Aline."

Aline stood by the window, very still.  At the sound of Dangeau’s voice
she turned her head.  He saw that she was smiling, and his heart
contracted as he looked at her.

Death had come so close to her, so very close, that it seemed to him the
shadow of it lay cold and still above that strange unchanging smile; and
he called to her abruptly, with a rough tenderness.

"Aline!  Aline!"

She looked up then, and he saw then the same smile lie deep within her
eyes.  Unfathomably peaceful they were, but not with the peace of the
living.

"Won’t you come to me, my dear," he said gently, and with the simplicity
he would have used to a child.

A little shiver just stirred the stillness of her form, and she came
slowly, very slowly, across the room, and then stood waiting, and with a
sudden passion Dangeau laid both hands upon her shoulders insistently,
heavily.

He wondered had she lost the memory of the last time he had touched and
held her thus.  Then he had fought with pride and been defeated.  Now he
must fight again, fight for her very soul and reason, and this time he
must win, or the whole world would be lost.  He paused, gathering all
the forces of his soul, then looked at her with passionate uneasiness.

If she would tremble, if she would even shrink from him—anything but
that calm which was there, and shone serenely fixed, like the smile upon
the faces of the dead.

It hinted of the final secret known.

"Mon Dieu!  Aline, don’t look like that!" he cried, and in strong
protest his arms slipped lower, and drew her close to his heart that
beat, and beat, as if it would supply the life hers lacked.  She came
passively at his touch, and stood in his embrace unresisting and
unresponsive.

Remembering how she had flushed at a look and quivered at a touch, his
fears redoubled, and he caught her close, and closer, kissing her, at
first gently, but in the end with all the force of a passion so long
restrained. For now at last the dam was down, and they stood together in
love’s full flowing tide.

When he drew back, the smile was gone, and the lips that it had left
trembled piteously, as her colour came and went to each quickened
breath.

"Aline," he said, very low, "Aline, my heart!  It is new life—new life
together."

She pushed him back a pace then, and raised her eyes with a look he
never forgot.  The peace had left them now, and they were troubled to
the depths, and brimmed with tears.  Her lips quivered more and more,
the breath came from them in a great sob, and suddenly she fell upon his
breast in a passion of weeping.



                                THE END





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