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Title: Adventures of the Comte de la Muette during the Reign of Terror
Author: Capes, Bernard
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Adventures of the Comte de la Muette during the Reign of Terror" ***

 of the
 Comte de la Muette
 during the
 Reign of Terror



 _All Rights reserved_


 R. C.,





One morning I awoke in La Bourbe and looked across at Deputy
Bertrand as he lay sprawled over his truckle-bed, his black hair like
a girl’s scattered on the pillow, his eyelids glued to his flushed
cheeks, his face, all blossoming with dissipation, set into the
expression of one who is sure of nothing but of his own present
surrender to nothingness. Beside him were his clothes, flung upon a
chair, the tri-colour sash, emblematic stole of his confused ritual,
embracing all; and on a nail in the wall over his head was his
preposterous hat, the little _carte de civisme_ stuck in its band.

Casimir Bertrand (one time Casimir Bertrand de Pompignan) I had known
and been friendly with at Le Plessis. Later he had imbibed theories;
had become successively a Lameth, a Feuillant, a Jacobin--a
constitutionalist, a moderate, an extremist; had spouted in the
Faubourgs and overflowed in sectional Committee rooms; had finally
been elected to represent a corner of the States-General. I had known
him for a pious prig, a coxcomb, a reckless bon-vivant. He was always
sincere and never consistent; and now at last, in the crisis of his
engaging sans-cullotism, he had persuaded me, a proscribed royalist,
to take an advantage of his friendship by lodging with him. Then it
was that the driving-force behind his character was revealed to me. It
was militant hedonism. Like Mirabeau, he was a strange compound of
energy and voluptuousness. He turned altogether on the nerves of
excitement. He was like a clock lacking its pendulum, and he would
crowd a dozen rounds of the dial into the space of a single hour. Such
souls, racing ahead of their judgment, illustrate well the fable of
the Hare and the Tortoise; and necessarily they run themselves down
prematurely. Casimir was an epicure, with a palate that could joyfully
accommodate itself to black bread and garlic; a sensualist, with the
power to fly at a word from a hot-bed of pleasure to a dusty desert of
debate. Undoubtedly in him (did I make him the mirror to my
conscience), and in a certain Crépin, with whom I came subsequently
to lodge, and who was of the type only a step lower in the art of
self-indulgence, I had an opportunity to see reflected a very serious
canker in the national constitution.

Now he opened his eyes as I gazed on him, and shut them again
immediately. It was not his habit to be a slug-a-bed, and I recognised
that his sleep was feigned. The days of his political influence were
each pregnant of astonishing possibilities to him, and he was too
finished an epicure to indulge himself with more than the recuperative
measure of slumber--frothed, perhaps, with a bead of æsthetic
enjoyment in the long minute of waking.

“Casimir!” I called softly; but he pretended not to hear me.

“What, my friend! the sun is shining, and the eggs of the old serpent
of pleasure will be hatching in every kennel.”

He opened his eyes at that, fixed and unwinking; but he made no
attempt to rise.

“Let them crack the shells and wriggle out,” he said. “I have a fancy
they will be a poisonous brood, and that La Bourbe is pleasantly
remote from their centres of incubation.”

“Timorous! I would not lose a thrill in this orgy of liberty.”

“But if you lost----?” he checked himself, pursed his lips, and nodded
his head on the pillow.

“Jean-Louis, I saw the Sieur Julien carried to the scaffold last
night. He went foaming and raving of a plot in the prisons to release
the aristocrats in their thousands upon us. There is an adder to
reproduce itself throughout the city! Truly, as you say, the kennels
will swarm with it.”

“And many will be bitten? My friend, my friend, there is some dark
knowledge in that astute head of yours. And shall I cower at home when
my kind are in peril?”

“My faith! we all cower in bed.”

“But I am going out.”

“Be advised!” (He struggled quickly up on his elbow. His face bore a
clammy look in the sunlight.) “Be advised and lie close in your
form--like a hare, Jean-Louis--like a hare that hears the distant
beaters crying on the dogs. Twitch no whisker and prick not an ear.
Take solace of your covert and lie close and scratch yourself, and
thank God you have a nail for every flea-bite.”

“What ails thee of this day then, morose?”

“What ails this Paris? Why, the Prussians are in Verdun, and the
aristocrats must be forestalled.”

“But how, Deputy.”

“I do not know. I fear, that is all.”

“Well, there lies your sash--the talisman to such puerile emotions.”

“Return to bed, Jean-Louis. It is unwise to venture abroad in a

“It is unwiser to shelter beneath a tree.”

“But not a roof-tree. Oh, thou fool! didst thou not close thine eyes
last night on a city fermenting like a pan of dough?”

  “‘Et cette alarme universelle
  Est l’ouvrage d’un moucheron.’”

“But go your way!” he cried, and scrambled out of bed.

He walked to the little washstand with an embarrassed air, and set to
preparing our morning cup of chocolate from the mill that stood

“After all,” he said, when the fragrant froth sputtered about his
nostrils, “the proper period to any exquisite sensation is death. I
dread no termination but that put to an hour of abstinence. To die
with the wine in one’s throat and the dagger in one’s back--what could
kings wish for better?”

He handed me my cup, and sipped enjoyingly at his own.

“I am representative of a constituency,” he said, “yet a better judge
of wine than of men. The palate and the heart are associated in a
common bond. That I would decree the basis of the new religion. ‘Tears
of Christ’!--it is a vintage I would make Tallien and Manuel and
Billaud de Varennes drunk on every day.”

He laughed in an agitated manner, and glanced at me over the rim of
his cup.

“Go your way, Jean-Louis,” he repeated; “and pardon me if I call it
the right mule one. But you will walk it, for I know you. And eat your
fill of the sweet thistle-flowers before the thorns shall stab your
gullet and take all relish from the feast.”

“Casimir!” I cried in some black wonder--“this is all the language of
a villain or an hysteric----!”

I paused, stared at his twitching face, took up my hat quietly, and
left the room.

 * * * * * * *

A little frost on a foot, or a little blood. What is the significance
of either. Once the _bimbelotiers_ of the Palais Royal used to
manufacture cards of Noël, very pretty and sparkling with rime. That
was before the apotheosis of the “Third [or butterfly] State”; and
many a time, during the winter of ’84, I have seen poor vagrants of
the chosen brood, unwitting yet of the scarlet wings developing
underneath their rugged hides, ponder over the fanciful emblems in the
shop windows, and then look down with wonder at their own cracked and
bleeding toes. To whom, then, could the frost appeal in this dainty
guise? Not surely to those who must walk with bare feet? It is all the
point of view, said the philosophers. But, they added, blood is warm,
and it is well to wear socks of it if you can get no other. Put these
on and look again, and you will see differently.

Not just yet, perhaps; and in the meantime the king empties his
private purse to buy wood for the freezing people. This will warm them
into loyalty while it lasts; and they crawl out of their icy burrows,
or gather up their broken limbs on the snow beds--whereinto they have
been ground by the sleds and chariots of the wealthy that rush without
warning down the muffled streets--to build monuments of snow to the
glory of their rulers. Then by-and-by these great obelisks melt, and
add their quota to the thaw that is overwhelming what the frost has

The red socks! Now, on this wild Sunday of September, when the
monuments that bore the names of the good king and queen are collapsed
and run away some eight years, the tocsin is pealing with a clamour of
triumph from the steeples; for at last the solution of the riddle has
been vouchsafed to the “Third State,” and it knows that to acquire the
right point of view it must wear socks, not of its own blood but of
that of the aristocrats, to whom the emblems of Noël were made to

 * * * * * * *

All day I felt the pulse of the people, quickening, quickening--an
added five beats to every hour--with wonder, rage, and, at last,
terror maniacal. Paris was threatened; hard-wrung freedom was
tottering to its fall.

This Paris was a vessel of wrath on treacherous waters--manned by
revolted slaves; the crew under hatches; encompassed by enemies on
every side. What remained but to clear the decks for action,--every
hero to his post at the vast bulwarks; every son-of-a-sea-cook to
remain and poniard the prisoners lest they club their manacles and
take their captors in the rear!

At two o’clock the tocsin pealed--the signal to prepare for the fray.
From its first blaring stroke I ceased, it seemed, to be myself. I
waived my individuality, and became as much a conscript of the rising
tide of passion as a high-perched stone that the wave at last reaches
and drags down with the shingle becomes a condition of the general
uproar. I made, indeed, no subscription to this fanatical heat of
emotion; I was simply involved in it--to go with it, and perish of it,
perhaps, but never to succumb to its disordered sophistries or yield
my free soul to its influence. Possibly I had a wild idea, in the
midst of sinister forebodings, that a few such as I, scattered here
and there, might leaven the ugly mass. But I do not know. Hemmed in by
wrath and terror, thought casts its buoys and sinks into very
fathomless depths.

From the Place de Grève, along Pelletier Quay; across the Ponts au
Change and St Michel; westwards by the Rue St André des Arcs, where a
little diversion was caused by a street-singer at whom the crowd took
offence, in that he, being an insignificant buffoon, did pelt it with
its classic pretentiousness, wagging his coat-tails in contempt
thereof (“À bas, Pitou!” they shrieked; “we will dock thee of thy
sting and put thee to buzz in a stone bottle!”--and they had him
unfrocked in a twinkling and hoisted for punishment); round, with a
curve to the south, into the Rue de Bussi; thence, again westwards,
along the street of St Marguerite; finally, weathering the sinister
cape of the Abbaye St Germain, northwards into the Rue St Benoit and
up to the yard entrance of the very prison itself,--such was the long
course by which I was borne, in the midst of clamour, hate, and
revilings, some dreadful early scenes in the panorama of the
Revolution unfolded before my eyes--scenes crudely limned by crude
street artists, splashed and boltered with crimson, horrible for the
ghastly applause they evoked.

I saw and I was helpless--the block about the carriages of the
nonjurants--the desperate stroke at the _sans-culotte_ that cut the
knot of indecision--the crashing panels, the flying and flung priests.
One damnable with a sabre split a bald head, that came wavering in my
direction, like a melon, and the brains flew like its seeds. I shut my
eyes and thought, Mercy is in right ratio with the hardness of the
blow. Strike deep, poor guttersnipes, if you must strike at all!

Then began the “severe justice of the people.”

 * * * * * * *

What was I, poor philosophic _misérable_, but a germ of those germs
in that great artery of blood that the revolted system was
endeavouring to expel. I saw numbers of my kind thrown forth and
mangled in the midst of horrors unspeakable; I was borne helpless to
the heart, and was rejected to fly shuddering to remote veins of the
prison’s circulation, only to return by an irresistible attraction to
the central terror. More than once my mad expostulations brought me
into perilous notice.

“You have hard wrongs to avenge!” I shrieked; “but at least the form
of pleading has been granted you!”

“And these!” cried the killers. “Blood of God! is not Bastille
Maillard within there checking the tally of the accursed? Aristocrat
art thou!”

They bounded from me to a fresh victim thrust that moment from the
door. She came dazed into the flare of the torches--a white face with
umber hair tumbled all about it. Two gloating hounds took her under
the arm-pits; a third----

_Ciel! pour tant de rigueur, de quoi suis-je coupable?_

 * * * * * * *

I do not know whither my wanderings tended, or what space of time was
covered by them. Sooner or later I was always back at the Abbaye,
glutting my soul with assurance of its own wreck, helpless, despite my
loathing of it, to resist the attraction. What horror absorbs the moth
as it circles round the flame, I thought in those recurrent moments I
could understand.

Once, when I returned, an unwonted silence reigned about the place. A
few vampire figures, restless, phantasmal, flitted hither and thither
in the neighbourhood of the reeking shambles. But the slaughterers and
the red ladies of St Michel were retired, during an interval in the
examination, for refreshment. I heard the shrill buzz of their voices
all down the Rue St Benoit and from the wine and lemonade shops
opposite the very gates by which I stood.

I looked into the fearful yard. My God! the dead, it seemed, were
phosphorescent with the rottenness of an ancient system! Here, there,
on all sides they broke the darkness with blots of light like hideous
glow-worms--their hundred white faces the reflectors of as many lamps.

“But it is a brave illumination!” gurgled a voice at my ear.

I glanced aside in loathing. A little old woman, whose lungs barked at
every breath, stood near me. She laughed as if she would shake herself
into touchwood.

“A brave illumination!” she wheezed--“the inspiration of the girl La
Lune. She was dedicated to the Holy Mother; and her skirt! Oh, _mon
Dieu_! but it was of the azure of heaven, and now it is purple as a
strangled face; and it slaps on her ankles. But by-and-by she must
seek purification, for she is dedicated to the holy Virgin.”

“She placed these lamps?”

“She led her sisters to the committee that sits there.” (She pointed a
gnarled finger. To one side of the dreadful quadrangle a dull glow
came melancholy through some tall windows.) “She complained that
ladies who would fain enjoy the show were prevented by the darkness.
Then to each dead aristocrat they put a lamp. That was a fine
courtesy. It is not often one sees such goods brought to market.”

A wild cloud of shapes came rushing upon us with brandished weapons
and a demon skirl of voices. I thought at first that I must be the
object of their fury; but they passed us by, cursing and
gesticulating, and drove something amongst them up the yard, and
stopped and made a ring about it on the bloody stones. What was it? I
had a glimpse of two petrified faces as the little mob swept by, and a
queer constriction seized my heart. Then, all in a moment, I was
following, crying in my soul that here was something tangible for my
abased humanity to lay hold of--some excuse to indulge a passion of
self-sacrifice--some claim to a lump of ice at my feet and a lamp at
my head. The dead were so calm, the living so besotted. A miserly
theft, I thought, to take another’s blood when one’s own gluts one’s
arteries to suffocation.

I looked over the shoulders of the outermost of the group. What
horrible cantrip of Fortune had consigned this old barren weed of a
man, this white exotic of a girl, to a merciless handling by these
demons? The two were in walking dress, and not in the _déshabille_ of
prisoners. There was a lull in the systematic progress of the
butchery. Here, it would seem, was an _entr’acte_ designed only to
relieve the tedium of waiting.

A half-dozen harpies held the girl. There was a stain of red on her
ripe young lip, for I think one of the beasts had struck her; but her
face was stubborn with pride. In front of all the old wizened man, who
had been released, ran to and fro in an agony of obsequious terror.

“Yes, yes,” he quavered, “’tis a luminous sight--an admirable show!
They lie like the fallen sticks of rockets, glimmering a dying spark.
Is it not so, Carinne? Little cabbage, is it not so?”

He implored her with his feverish eyes.

“They are martyrs!” cried the girl; “and you are a coward!”

“No, no!” he wailed, and wrung his hands; and “My God! she will murder
me!” he shrieked.

Suddenly he saw, darted through the ring of ruffians, and caught the
breast of my coat with both his hands.

“Monsieur! you have nobility in your face! Tell these good souls that
I am a furious patriot and a good citizen. Monsieur, Monsieur! We walk
abroad--we are involved, unwitting, in the _mêlée_. The girl
denounces all for pigs and murderers, and, naturally, those who hear
take umbrage and force us hither.”

His dry lips vibrated; he danced up and down like a gnat on a
window-pane. All the time the women were volubly chattering and the
men cursing and pulling. They desired, it seemed, a prologue to the
second act of the tragedy; and that was bad art. But then they were as
drunk as one could wish.

“Thou art nice and dainty, _citoyenne_!” they shrieked. “See
here--thou shalt be _vivandière_ to the brave army of avengers! Tap
her an aristocrat heart and fill her a canteen that all may drink!”

The beastly proposal was not too gross for the occasion. A man lurched
forward with a jeering oath, and I--I sprang to the front too, and
took the hound by his gulping throat. There came a great noise about
me; I did not relax my hold, and some one rushed into our midst.

“What do you here!” he cried, harshly (Casimir’s voice). “Death of
God! have you orders to insult and threaten peaceable citizens who
walk abroad to see the illuminations?”

With a fierce sweep of his arms he cleared all away in front of him.
The act--the gesture, brought him to my side.

“Go--escape!” he whispered, frantically. “This, here, I will attend

“You knew, then?” I gasped out; and he fell back from me.

But I released my hold and stood panting. I was at the moment no whit
in love with life, but I dreaded by the least stubbornness to
precipitate the catastrophe that threatened that half-fainting girl.
Her Casimir gave his arm to in a peremptory manner. She clung to him,
and he led her stumbling across the yard, the little whimpering
pinch-fist scuttling in their wake. The mob spat curses after them,
but--this _intermezzo_ being no part of its programme--it respected
the Deputy’s insignia of office so far as to allow him his perquisite.

Then, with a howl of fury, it turned upon me--

“Accursed! thou dost well to dispute the people’s will!”

“See his fine monseigneur hands, washed white in a bath of milk, while
the peasants drank rotten water!”

“He will think to cow us with a look. He cannot disabuse himself of
the tradition. Down with the dog of an aristocrat!”

“But if he is Brunswick’s courier--Brunswick that would dine in Paris
on the boiling hearts of patriots!”

I was backing slowly towards the gate as they followed reviling me.
What would you? I could not help others; I would take my own destinies
in hand. Here, in deadly personal peril, I felt my feet on the good
earth once more, and found restoration of my reason in a violence of
action. There was no assistance possible. Paris this night was a
menagerie, in which all beasts of prey and of burden were released
from restraint to resolve for themselves the question of survival.

In a moment I turned and fled, and half-a-dozen came screaming after
me. I gained the gate in advance, and sped down the Rue St Benoit. One
man, lurching from a wineshop, cut at me aimlessly with a notched and
bloody sabre; but I evaded him with ease, and he fell into the midst
of the pursuers, retarding them a little. I reached the south-west
angle of the prison, where the _Place_ split up, like the blown corner
of a flag, into many little crooked ribbons of streets, and amongst
these I dived, racing haphazard, while the red-socks thudded in my
wake and my heart in my ribs. Suddenly, turning a corner, I saw the
narrow mouth of an alley gape to my left. Into it I went, like a
touched worm into its hole, and, swallowed by the blackness, stood
still. The feet pounded by; but, sooner or later, I knew the dogs must
nose back to pick up the lost scent. Then they would have me nicely in
a little _cul de sac_, like a badger in a tub.

I leaned my shoulder--to the wall, as I thought; but the wall gave to
my pressure, and I stumbled and went through it with a sliding run,
while something flapped to, grievously scoring my shins in its
passing. I was on my feet in an instant, however, and then I saw that
I had broken, by way of a swing-door, into a little dusty lobby, to
one side of which was a wicket and pay-place, and thence a flight of
wooden stairs ran aloft to some chamber from which flowed down a
feeble radiance of light.

I pushed through the wicket (not a soul was in the place, it seemed)
and went softly and rapidly up the stairs. At the top I came upon a
sight that at first astounded, then inspired me.

I was in one of those _salles de spectacle_ that were at that time as
numerous in Paris as were political clubs--a wide, low room, with an
open platform at its further end for musicians, and, round three of
its walls, a roped-in enclosure for figures in waxwork. It was these
bowelless dolls that caused me my start, and in which I immediately
saw my one little chance of salvation.

I went down the row gingerly, on tiptoe. A horn lantern, slung over
the stair-head, was the only light vouchsafed this thronged assembly
of dummies. Its rays danced weakly in corners, and lent some of the
waxen faces a spurious life. A ticket was before each
effigy--generally, as I hurriedly gathered, a quite indispensable
adjunct. I had my desperate plan; but perhaps I was too particular to
select my complete double. Here, a button or the cut of a collar were
the pregnant conditions of history. The clothes made the man, and
Mirabeau had written ‘Le Tartufe’ on the strength of a flowing wig. I
saw Necker personating our unhappy monarch in that fatal Phrygian cap
that was like the glowing peak of a volcano; stuttering Desmoulins
waving a painted twig, his lips inappropriately inseparable; the
English Pitt, with a nose blown to a point; Voltaire; Rousseau;
Beaumarchais--many of the notabilities and notorieties of our own
times--and before the last I stopped suddenly.

I would not for the world insult the author of ‘Figaro’; but it was my
distinction to be without any; and in a waxwork the ticket makes the

Pierre Augustin was represented pointing a Republican moral--in dress
a _pseudo petit-maître_--at his feet a broken watch. One recalls the
incident--at Versailles--when a grand seigneur requests the
ex-horologist to correct his timepiece for him. “Monsieur, my hand
shakes.” “_Laissez donc, monsieur!_ you belittle your professional
skill.” Beaumarchais flings the watch on the floor. “_Voilà,
monsieur!_ it is as I said!”

Now I saw my hope in this figure and (it was all a matter of moments
with me) whipped it up in my arms and ran with it to the end of the
platform. A flounce of baize hung therefrom to the floor, and into the
hollow revealed by the lifting of this I shot the invertebrate dummy,
and then scuttled back to the ropes to take its place.

There were sounds as I did so--a noise below that petrified me in the
position I assumed. My heart seemed to burr like the winding-wheel of
a mechanical doll. I pray M. Beaumarchais to forgive me that travesty
of a dignified reproof.

A step--that of a single individual--came bounding up the stair. My
face was turned in its direction. I tried to look and yet keep my eyes
fixed. The dull flapping light seconded my dissemblance; but the
occasion braced me like a tonic, and I was determined to strike, if
need were, with all the force of the pugnacious wit I represented.

Suddenly I saw a white, fearful countenance come over the
stair-head--shoulders, legs, a complete form. It was that of an ugly
stunted man of fifty, whose knees shook, whose cheeks quivered like a
blanc-mange. He ran hither and thither, sobbing and muttering to

“Quick, quick! who?--Mirabeau? A brave thought, a magnificent thought!
My God!--will they fathom it? I have his brow--his scornful air of
insistence. My God, my God!--that I should sink to be one of my own

Astounded, I realised the truth. This poltroon--the very proprietor of
the show--was in my own actual case, and had hit upon a like way out
of his predicament. I saw him seize and trundle the ridiculous
presentment of M. Mirabeau to the room end, and then fling it
hurriedly down and kick it--the insolent jackass!--under the curtain.
I saw him run back and pose himself--with a fatuous vanity even in his
terror--as that massive autocrat of the Assembly; and then, with a
clap and a roar, I heard at last the hounds of pursuit break covert
below and come yelling up the stairs.

I do not think I shook; yet it seemed impossible that they could pass
me by. There were one or two amongst them I thought I recognised as
Carinne’s captors; but they were all hideous, frantic shapes,
elf-locked, malodorous, bestial and drunk with blood. They uttered
discordant cries as they came scrambling into the room; and by a
flickering at the nape of his neck I could see that my fellow-sufferer
was unable to control the throaty rising of his agitation. Suddenly a
horrible silence befell. One of the intruders, a powerful young
ruffian of a malignant jesting humour, put his comrades back and
silenced them with an arm. His bloodshot eyes were fascinating poor
Mirabeau; slowly he raised a finger and pointed it at the creature.
The bubbles seemed to fly up the latter’s neck as if his heart were
turned into water. It was a terrible moment--then, all at once, the
whole room echoed with demon laughter.

“Mother of Christ! what cunning!”

“But, my God! he is a fine libel on the king of patriots!”

“See! the works have not run down. He twitches yet from his last

“He makes himself a show to the people. He shall be given a lamp in
the yard of the Abbaye.”

The figure fell upon its knees with a choking shriek.

“Messieurs! I acted upon my first instinct of preservation! I had no
thought, I swear it, to insult the great or to question the majesty of
the people. Messieurs, I detest aristocrats and applaud your method of
dealing with them. _Merci! merci!_ I am a poor exhibitor of waxworks;
an excellent patriot and a servant of the public.”

“But that is true!” cried a voice from the stairs. “This is little
Tic-tac, that helped to decorate the Capet’s chariot on the day of the
Hôtel de Ville.”

The mob grunted over this advocate.

“But he helped a prisoner to escape.”

(Was there another, then, in the same plight as myself?)

“Messieurs! he asked the way of me, as any stranger might!”

“_Malepeste!_ if thou tell’st us so! But thou hast dared to personate
a God!”

“Messieurs, he lent his countenance to me, as ever to the

The answer raised a roar of approbation.

“_Comme il est fin!_ take thy goose-skin! and yet we must tax thee

“Let us destroy this show that he has profaned!”

My heart seemed to shrink into itself. I suffered--I suffered; but
fortunately for a few moments only.

With the words on his lips, the fellow that had spoken slashed with
his sabre, over the kneeling showman’s head, amongst the staring
effigies. The whistle of his weapon made me blink. What did it
matter?--the end must come now.

It was not as I foresaw. The waxen head spun into the air--the figure
toppled against that standing next to it--that against its
neighbour--its neighbour against me. I saw what was my cue, and went
down in my turn, stiffly, with a dusty flop, twisting to my side as I
fell, and hoping that he whom I was bowling over in due order was rich
in padding. Nevertheless I was horribly bruised.

There was a howl of laughter.

“_Mor’ Dieu!_ but five at a blow!” cried the executioner. “This is
better than the one to fifty yonder!” and he came running to read the
names of those he had overturned.

“Necker! it is right that he should be pictured fallen.
Pitt--Beaumarchais! ha, ha, little toad! where are those patriot
muskets? in your breeches-pocket? but I will cut them out!”

Now I gave up all for lost. He stepped back to get his distance--there
came a crash by the stairway, and the room was plunged in darkness.
One of the mob had swung up his weapon over a figure, and had knocked
out the lantern with a back-handed blow.

It is the little incidents of life that are prolific as insects. The
situation resolved itself into clamour and laughter and a boisterous
groping of the company down the black stairway. In a minute the place
was silent and deserted.

I lay still, as yet awaiting developments. I could not forget that M.
Tic-tac, as a pronounced patriot, might not honour my confidence. For
my escape, it must have been as I supposed. Another victim, eluding
the murderers, had drawn them off my scent, and the showman had
effected yet a second cross-current. He was indeed fortunate to have
kept a whole skin.

Presently I heard him softly stirring and moaning to himself.

“_Misérable!_ to have dishonoured my _rôle_! Would _he_ have
succumbed thus to an accident? But I am like him--yes, I am like him,
for all they may say.”

Their mockery was the wormwood in his cup. He dragged himself to his
feet by-and-by, and felt his way across the room to recover his abused
idol. Then I would delay no longer. I rose, stepped rapidly to the
stair-head, and descended to the street. He heard me--as I knew by the
terrified cessation of his breathing,--and thought me, perhaps, a
laggard member of his late company. Anyhow he neither moved nor spoke.

The killers were at their work again. The agonised yells of the
victims followed and maddened me. But I was secure from further
pursuit, save by the dogs of conscious helplessness.

And one of these kept barking at my heel: “Carinne, that you were
impotent to defend! What has become of the child?”


It was my unhappiness in the black spring-time of the “Terror” to
see my old light acquaintance, the Abbé Michau, jogging on his way to
the Place de la Bastille. I pitied him greatly. He had pursued
Pleasure so fruitlessly all his days; and into this fatal quagmire had
the elusive flame at length conducted him. He sat on the rail of the
tumbril--a depressed, puzzled look on his face--between innocence and
depravity. Both were going the same road as himself--the harmless
white girl and the besotted priest, who shrunk in terror from giving
her the absolution she asked;--and poor Charles divided them.

He was not ever of Fortune’s favourites. He would make too fine an art
of Epicurism, and he sinned so by rule as to be almost virtuous. I
remember him with a half-dozen little axioms of his own concocting,
that were after all only morality misapplied: “To know how to forget
oneself is to be graduate in the school of pleasure.”
“Self-consciousness is always a wasp in the peach.” “The art of
enjoyment is the art of selection.” On such as these he founded his
creed of conduct; and that procured him nothing but a barren series of
disappointments. He was never successful but in extricating himself
from mishaps. The _ravissantes_ he sighed after played with and
insulted him--though they could never debase his spirit. The dishes he
designed lacked the last little secret of perfection. He abhorred
untidiness, yet it was a condition of his existence; and he could not
carry off any situation without looking like a thief. One further turn
of the wheel, and he would have been a saint in a monastery.

I can recall him with some tenderness, and his confident maxims with
amusement. That “art of selection” of his I found never so applicable
as to the choice of one’s Revolutionary landlord. It was Michau’s
_logeur_, I understand, who caused the poor Abbé to be arrested and
brought before the tribunal miscalled of Liberty, where the advocacy
of the chivalrous Chauveau de la Garde was sufficient only to procure
him the last grace of an unproductive appeal. It was the atrocity with
whom latterly I lodged who brought me to _my_ final pass.

In truth, as the letters of apartments were largely recruited from the
_valetaille_ of _émigrés_, the need of caution in choosing amongst
them was very real. M. le Marquis could not take flight in a panic
without scattering some of his fine feathers--fortunately, indeed, for
him sometimes, for they were as sops thrown to the pursuing wolves
while he sped on. Then, down would grovel public accusers, police, and
committee-men to snap at the fragments; and amongst them Bon-Jean,
Monsieur’s _valet de pied_, would secure his share, perhaps, and set
up house with it in one of the meaner faubourgs, and trade profitably
therein upon the fears of his lodgers.

Simon Mignard was the last who had the honour to entertain me; and to
that horrible little grotesque did I owe my subsequent lodgment in La
Petite Force. It was a bad choice, and, with my experience, an
unpardonable; but I was taken with a certain humour in the creature
that put me off my judgment.

For generally, indeed, this faculty of humour I found to be
antipathetic to revolution. It was to be looked upon as a mark of
social degeneration. The brute “thrown back” to his primordial state
is an animal that takes himself with the most laughterless gravity. He
resumes himself corrupt, so to speak, as one resumes the endurance of
office full of the rebellious grievance of a holiday. He returns to
the primary indulgence of instinct with a debased appetite, and that
sense of humour does not accompany him. This is why his prejudices
have the force of convictions.

“Citizen Simon,” I said one day, “I would put it to you--if
revolutionists would reconstitute society by purging the world of the
abnormal, should they not offer themselves the first holocausts to
their theories?”

“Hey?” he cried, peering over his glasses. His eye-slits were like
half-healed wounds; his face was all covered with a grey down, as if
he were some old vessel of wrath the Revolution had produced from its
mustiest blood-bin in the cellars where its passions were formerly
wont to ferment.

“Hey?” he cried. “But explain, Citizen Thibaut.”

“Why, obviously a primal simplicity cannot be taught by those who, by
their own showing, are an essential condition of degeneration.”

“You think so, my friend? But is it not he who has hunted with the
wolves can best advise the lamb whither not to stray? Set a thief to
catch a thief, but not innocence to lead innocence.”

“We are all so disinterested, eh? We must kill to purify--so long as
_we_ remain the executioners.”

“The physicians! the physicians! Some day we shall provide the tonic.”

“At this rate the physicians will have to drink it themselves.”

“Meaning the patients will fail us? Rest content. They will last our
time. The ills in the constitution of France are many. For the
resurrection--_sang Dieu_!” he cried, with a wry face, “but that is no
part of _our_ programme!”

Indeed, it was not of his. He was actuated by no passion but the
blood-sucker’s. One day he showed me a clumsy model guillotine, a foot
high, of his own contriving. The axe was a fragment of table-knife
sunk in a finger of lead, and with it he would operate upon a gruesome
little doll he had with an adjustable neck. Snip! the blade fell and
the head, and a spout of crimson gushed forth and stained the floor.

“That is a waste of good wine,” said I.

His face puckered like a toad’s eyelids.

“Is it not?” he chuckled, “of the brand drunk by the patriot Citoyenne


“_Voyez!_” he cried, with a little shriek of laughter. “It is hollow.
Often I fill it from the tap in the Place de la Bastille. My faith,
what a fountain! I love it like Dantzic brandy.”

Then it was I found his humour a little excessive to my taste; and I
severed my connection with him. He might lie; obviously he did, in
fact, about the blood; but one’s sympathies could not embrace so
stupid a falsehood. Promptly he denounced me to his section. I had
given him the courteous “you,” said he, and amongst my effects was a
box of the interdicted hair-powder.

But it is of my earlier landlord, Jacques Crépin, who for a time
influenced my fortunes quite admirably, that I desire here to speak.

Upon this rascal I happened on the evening of Lepelletier St Fargeau’s
murder in Février’s Coffee-house. It was the interminable week of the
votings on the king’s sentence. During the course of it I had many
times visited the Hall of Convention, had stayed a while to watch the
slow chain of Deputies hitching over the Tribune, with their dreary
chant, “La Mort,” that was like the response to an endless litany of
fatality intoned by the ushers; had heard the future Dictator,
spectacled, marmoset-faced, irrepressible in oratory, drone his sour
dithyrambics where a word would have sufficed; had fallen half asleep
over the phantom scene, and had imagined myself at the Comédie
Française during a performance of “Les Victimes Cloîtrées”--a
dreamy fancy to which the incessant sound of feet on boards, high up
in the “Mountain” quarter, the reverberating clap of doors, the wide
patter of voices and tinkle of laughter from bedizened _chères
amies_, pricking down the _ayes_ and _noes_ upon scented cards, the
shriller brabble of Mère Duchesse aloft with her priestesses of the
Salpêtrière, and the intermittent melodramatic drawl of the actors
moving across the stage, gave colour and coherence.

By then, I think, I was come to be graduate in Michau’s school of
Pleasure. It was impressed upon me that to think of myself was a
little to foretaste my probable martyrdom. It was philosophy more
congenial to read in the serene patriot Thibaut a disinterested sheep
fattening on the grass about the _abattoir_. My title was a
plague-spot to cover; little but the dust of my patrimony remained; I
had long disabused my mind of the dogma that manliness is necessarily
a triumphant force in the world.

Yet, a month before, I had been conscious of a little run of pity,
that was like a sloughing of the old wound of nobility. It was to see
the figure of him I had called Sire heavily seated in that same _Salle
de Manège_, his attire, appropriately, a drab surtout--the colour of
new-turned mould--his powdered hair blotted with a tonsure where he
had leaned his weary head back for rest, that lost look on his
ineffectual face--“Messieurs! this strange indignity! But doubtless
the saints will explain to me of what I am accused.”

Bah! have I not learned the “Rights of Man,” and seen them
illustrated, too, on those days of the “severe justice of the people.”
The worse the decomposition below, the thicker will be the scum that
rises to the top. But there the wholesome air shall deodorise it
by-and-by, and the waters of life be sweet to the taste again--for a
time. And in the meanwhile I browse by the _abattoir_.

On that Saturday evening, the last of the voting, I dined with
distinction at Février’s in the Palais Royal. I could still afford,
morally and materially, this little practice of self-indulgence; for
they had not yet begun to make bread of dried pease, and many of the
ardent Deputies themselves were admirable connoisseurs in meat and

While I was sitting--the whole place being in a ferment of scurry and
babble--a couple, who awakened my curious interest, entered and took a
vacant table next to mine. A withered old man it was and a young girl,
who sauntered with ample grace in his wake.

The first came down the room, prying hither and thither, bowelless and
bent like a note of interrogation. He was buttoned up to the throat in
a lank dark-green surtout, and his plain hat was tilted back from his
forehead, so as to show his eyebrows, each lifted and lost in the
creases of a dozen arched wrinkles, and the papery lids beneath them
bulging and half closed. His face was all run into grey sharpness, but
a conciliatory smile was a habit of his lips. He carried his hands
behind his back as if they were manacled there.

The girl who followed was in features and complexion cold and
beautiful. Her eyes were stone-grey under well-marked brows; her
forehead rounded from her nose like a kitten’s; the curls that escaped
from beneath her furred hood were of a rich walnut brown. She had that
colourless serenity in her face that is like snow over perfumed
flowers. Gazing on such, one longs to set one’s heart to the chill and
melt it and see the blossoms break.

Now I had at once recognised in this couple the sustainers of the
principal _rôles_ in a certain September tragedy _entr’acte_. In
these times of feverish movement the manner in which Casimir had
secured their escape was indeed an old story with me; yet, seeing them
again under these vastly improved circumstances, and remembering in
what way I had sought to assist them, my heart was moved beyond its
present custom to a feeling of sympathetic comradeship with one, at
least, of the two.

The old man chose his table.

“Sit down, wench,” said he. “My faith! we must dine, though crowns

She took her seat with a little peevish sigh.

“Though the stars fell in the street like hail, you would dine,” she

He cocked his head sideways.

“They have fallen, my Carinne. The ruin of them litters the Temple.”

She said doggedly, “_Vive le roi!_” under her breath.

“My God!” he whispered, and called the waiter.

He eyed her askance and nervously as the man came. Some distraught
admiration seemed to mingle with his apprehension of her. She sat
languid and indifferent, and even closed her eyes, with a little
disdainful smile, as he leaned down to her and ran his finger eagerly
over the various items of the bill of fare.

“Ostend oysters, carp fried in milk, sweetbread patty--that is good.
Ragout of the kidneys and combs of cocks--that is very good--Carinne,
see! the ragout! Holy saints, but my pocket! Slice of calf’s head,
turtle fashion--girl, are you listening? Be reckless. Take of all if
you will. I bid thee--thy little uncle, _ma mie_. Slice of--Carinne,
this is better than the cabbages and fried eggs of _Pierrettes_. I
will not care--I will not. Though I have to cut down trees to meet it,
the palate shall have its holiday. Slice of--_mon Dieu_, Carinne! I
ate of it once before in this very house. It melts like the manna of
the Israelites. It does not surfeit, but it forms an easy bed for the
repose of ecstasies more acute.”

The girl broke in with a little high-flung laugh.

“Not trees, but a forest,” she said. “There--choose for me. I am

“Indifferent! indifferent?--Oh, undeserving of the fine gifts of the

He turned to the waiter, his eyes still devouring the _carte_, his
lips silently busy with its contents. Presently he gave his order, sat
down, and remained fixedly gnawing a finger, his face set half in
enjoying contemplation, half in a baffled aggravation of selection.

In only one other direction did the couple appear to arouse curiosity.
The great nerve of the town was all charged with a leaping
electricity, and citizens, staid enough ordinarily, ate now and drank
under an excitement they could barely control.

But, over against me, at a little distance, were two men seated at a
table; and of these one seemed to take a like interest with mine in my

This individual, unmoved, apparently, by the general ferment, had
finished his dinner and sat sipping his Médoc luxuriously. He was a
pimple-faced man, well-nourished and sensual-looking, but with an air
of tolerant geniality about him. Ugly as Danton, he had yet a single
redeeming ornament in the shape of a quantity of rich auburn hair that
fell from his head in natural curls. Though his condition was plain to
me, and I saw that the restaurateur treated him with obsequious
deference, he appeared more self-complacent than self-sufficient, and
as if he were rather accustomed to indulge than abuse his position.
For I recognised in him the president of some sectional committee, and
that by the little plaque, printed small with the Rights of Man, that
hung as a pendant from his tricolour neck-ribbon.

Of the other at the table I took but little notice, save to remark
that he devoured his meal with the air of a man to whom good digestion
is no essential condition of politics.

Now, of a sudden, Jacques Crépin of the pendant lowered his legs,
took up his bottle and glass, and, to my extreme surprise, crossed the
room to my table and sat down by me.

He did not speak at first, being engaged in watching our neighbours,
before whom were placed at the moment the dishes of the uncle’s

Mademoiselle Carinne gave a little _Ouf!_ over hers.

“But what is this?” she said.

“It is a pig’s foot _à la_ St Menehould. Such a dish, _babouine_!”

The old rascal had taken advantage of her insensibility to procure her
one of the cheapest entries on the list.

She pushed it from her with an exclamation of disgust.

“Fie, then!” she cried. “The very hoof of a filthy swine! Wouldst thou
have me make my hunger a footstool to a pig? Take it away. I will not
touch it!”

He protested, voluble and shamefaced. She would not listen. Out of
mere wilfulness she now selected the most expensive item of the
_menu_--a partridge stewed in wine. He seemed like to cry; but she
persisted and gained her point.

“We shall be ruined!” he cried, inconsistently enough. “For a month
after our return we shall have to live on bread and boiled nettles.”

“In December, _mon oncle_? Then I am imperious for white wine of Mont

The old fellow almost shrieked.

“Carinne! Eight francs the bottle! Consider, my niece. I shall die in
Sainte Pélagie!”

The new-comer turned to me with a grin.

“Didst ever hear the like?” said he.

I nodded gravely. I was not then all inured to impertinence.

“He lacks the art of selection,” I said coldly, thinking of Michau.

He showed himself good-humouredly conscious of my manner. He leaned
towards me and murmured carelessly--

“There, of a truth, speaks Monseigneur le Comte de la Muette.”

I reached for my glass and sipped from it; but I have no doubt my hand

“The citizen does not recognise me?”

“No, by my faith.”

“I am Jacques Crépin; and formerly I served where I now dine.”

I glanced at him. Some faint remembrance of the fellow woke in me.

“M. le Comte,” he went on, in the same low voice, “once rewarded me
with a handsome vail for some trifling service. It was the lucky
louis-d’or of my fortunes. Here was a little of the means; the
Revolution was my opportunity. Now the masters serve the waiters. I
devour with my teeth what I once devoured with my eyes. You see me
president of a section; but, _pardieu_! I have no quarrel with
aristocrats of a fastidious palate. It was the contemplation of such
educated me to a right humour in gastronomy. I am indebted to monsieur
for many a delicate hint in selection.”

Again I thought of the poor Michau.

“I am honoured,” I said. “And so, M. Crépin, this is the goal of your
high republicanism?”

“My faith!” he said, with a generous chuckle, “I acknowledge it. I
have existed forty years that I may live one--perhaps no more. To
drink and to eat and to love _en prince_--I have the capacity for it
and the will. I have nursed my constitution on broken scraps. This
_fesse-Mathieu_ here offends me. Had I a fortune, I would fling it
away on a single desired dish if necessary. We have waived the right
to think of the morrow. But, how is monsieur known?”

“They call me Citizen Thibaut.”

“Citizen Thibaut, I drink to our better acquaintance. This Médoc--I
have not grudged it you in former years. Your refined appreciation of
it has many a time glorified to me my supper of stale fragments. But
for you, maybe, I had not learned the secret of its fragrance. To my
past master in epicurism I gulp a grateful toast.”

He was as good as his word.

“Citizen Crépin,” I said, “where do you live?”

“Rue de Jouy, St Antoine,” he answered.

“I seek a convenient landlord. Will you accommodate me?”

“With all my heart.”

I heard the _vieillard_ at the next table gobble and choke. I turned
my head to look, sprang to my feet, and my glass crashed on the

In that instant the room had leaped into uproar--for something
immediate, swift, and terrible had happened. It was this:

The fast-eating man at the table opposite, having finished his dinner,
was risen to pay his bill. He stood with impatient hand outstretched
as Février fumbled in his pocket for the change; and at the moment a
fellow, thick-set, stubble-bearded, dressed in a blouse and faded
cloak, strode up the room and paused by him.

“Are you Deputy Lepelletier?” said he.

The diner turned and nodded.

“You have voted in this affair of the king?”

“_Mais oui_,” said the other--“for death.”

“_Scélérat--prends ca!_” and with the word he whipped a long blade
from under his cloak and passed it into the body of the deputy. I saw
the flash and heard the piteous bleat, as also, I swear, the sound of
the flesh sucking to the steel.

Février snatched at the murderer, and was spun to the floor like a
skittle. I saw startled figures rise, chairs and tables totter, and
the one bounding amongst them. He got clear away.

Then, as the mob closed about the fallen, moaning shape, I turned with
an instinct of horror to view of my neighbours.

The old gourmet had flung himself back in his chair, his face twisted
from the sight; but mademoiselle still picked daintily at her


Early in June of the year ’93 I left Paris in company with M.
Crépin. At that time in the flower of his, somewhat mediocre,
fortunes, he had been intrusted with a mission which was entirely
after his own heart. He was to represent the Executive, in fact, in a
“sequestrating” tour through Limosin and Guienne,--or rather through
the new-found departments that had deposed those ancient
territories,--and his interest had procured me a post as his clerk or
assistant. What duties this embraced perhaps the Government would have
found it as difficult to specify as their sub-agent; but, after all,
Jacques Bonhomme emancipated was excessively conservative in the
matter of his retention of the system of complimentary sinecures. For
myself, I looked upon my appointment as the simple means to postpone
an inevitable denunciation.

Crépin and I had by then ceased to fraternise. I could never quite
learn to adapt my sympathies to a certain _mauvais ton_ that underlay
in him all the sensitiveness of the voluptuary. Also, perhaps, I was
beginning a little to resent the humourless methods of a destiny that
had not the wit, it seemed, to rebuke my innate luxuriousness but by
affecting a concern to accommodate me with house-fellows of my own
kidney. We parted on the best of terms; and he none the less attended
to my interests and, as far as possible, to my safety. To the end, I
think, he retained an admiration for the superior quality of my
epigastrium; and when his opportunity came to do me a service, he
never failed to remind me of his indebtedness to my fastidious

We left the city, travelling _en roi_, on a fine blowing afternoon. We
had our roomy carriage, with four well-blooded horses, and a postilion
to each pair. An escort of four patriots, moreover, mounted, armed,
and generally drunk, accompanied us to enforce the letter of the law.
We went out by the suburb of Passy, starting from the
Pavillon-Liberté, close by the Thuilleries,--where Crépin received
his papers of administration--and whipping along the river-bank by way
of the Port aux Pierres. Close by the gates the carriage gave a
thudding jolt, and drew up suddenly to an accompaniment of noise like
the screaming of a swollen axle.

I started up in my corner.

“What is it?” I exclaimed; but three men, risen at that moment from a
bench under some chestnut-trees, engaged my surprised attention. They
made at the postilions, it seemed, and the face of him that was
foremost twitched with a rage of nervous resentment. Their hats had
been laid beside them in the shade, and I noticed that as this
individual sprang to his feet, the powder leapt from his head as if a
musket-ball had struck it. For he was very sprucely groomed, every
hair currycombed to run parallel with its fellows; and there was a
fastidious neatness about his appearance that was like the peevish
delicacy of an invalid.

Such, indeed, he was, from more than one point of view; for he was no
other than M. Robespierre himself, dressed in the fine blue coat he
was studying to make historical, and exhibiting the weak extremes of
his nature in presence of a run-over dog.

“But this is infamous!” I heard him shrill, in a strained wavering
voice. “Thus to shock our humanity and our nerves!”

He ran to the carriage window in uncontrollable excitement. He bustled
with his shaking speech so that it was hardly audible.

“What mischief produces itself that you tear through the streets like
brigands? Messieurs--messieurs! but I say you have no right--citizens,
do you hear?”

Crépin, dismayed, muttered something about authority. The other
snapped at the word and worried it.

“Authority! there is none in this city to be careless of innocent
lives. Authority! who excuses himself to me--to the Republic--by
assuming a licence to murder under its ægis,--yes, murder, I say? You
would adopt the prerogatives of aristocrats--you are an
aristocrat--Tachereau! St Just!”

He was beside himself. His lean hands picked at the window-frame. All
the time the poor cur in the road was screeching, and the sound seemed
to jar him out of his self-control. One of his companions stepped up
to him, put a hand upon his arm, and drew him away. Quite a little mob
had gathered about us.

“_Reculez les chevaux!_” said this person to the postilions. “Complete
what you have begun.”

The horses backed the carriage once, and drew forward again, stilling
the cries. Personally I should have preferred alighting during the
operation. Robespierre ran to the trees and put his palms to his ears,
doubling himself up as if he had the toothache. The other came to the
window once more.

This was the “Apocalyptic!” of the Assembly, its most admirable type
of fanaticism. Dark and immovable as a Nubian archer in a wall
painting, he might have been represented for ever holding the taut
string and the arrow that should whistle to its mark. He was young, a
mere boy--melancholy, olive-skinned, beautiful in his way. Cold,
incorruptible, merciless, nevertheless, he--this St Just--was yet that
one of the ultra-revolutionists I could find it in me to regard
admiringly. Of all, he alone acted up to the last letter of his creed
of purification. Of all, he alone was willing to do a long life’s
reaping without wage, without even that posthumous consideration of a
niche in the “Pantheon of history.” Like the figure of Time on a
clock, he was part and parcel of the scythe with which he wrought. He
must move when the hour came--cutting right and left--and with the
last stroke of inspiration he must stop until the wheels of being
should bring him to the front once more. Truly, he was not great, but,
quite possibly, necessary; and as such, one could not but exclaim over
his faultless mechanism. He sacrificed his life to his cause, long
before it was demanded of him, and in the end flung himself to the axe
as to a kindred spirit with which his structural and destructive
genius was quite in sympathy. One must acknowledge that he made a
consistent practice of that which is the true art of reform--to know
whom to exclude from one’s system. Only, he was a little too drastic
in his exclusion; and that came from a lack of _ton_. For your fanatic
sees a reactionary in every one whose mouth opens for what reason
soever but to applaud his methods; and the sneers which his
sensitiveness regards as levelled at himself, he puts to the account
of treason against his policy.

“Citizen Crépin,” he said (for he had already identified my
companion), “for the future, if you must ride rough-shod, I would
recommend you to make the meanest your first consideration.”

“But, citizen, it was no fault of mine.”

“You have a voice to control, I presume?”--he stepped back and waved
his hand. “_Allez vous promener!_”--and the carriage jerked forward.

I shot a glance at the other as we passed. He was retired from the
scene, and he seemed endeavouring to control the agitation into which
he had been betrayed; but he looked evilly from under his jumping
eyelids at us as we went by.

We travelled cautiously until we were gone a long gunshot from the
city walls, and then Crépin put his head out of the window and cursed
on the postilions furiously.

“_Savant sacré!_” he cried, sinking back on the seat; “we are whipt
and rebuked like schoolboys. Is a Republic a seminary for street curs?
They should hoist Reason in a balloon if she is to travel. That St
Just--he will make it indictable to crack a flea on one’s thumb-nail.”

“What were they doing in that quarter of the town?”

“How should I know, Citizen Thibaut? Spinning webs under the trees,
maybe, to catch unwary flies. They and others spend much of each day
in the suburbs. It is the custom of attorneys, as it is of
story-writers, to hatch their plots in green nooks. They brood for a
week that they may speak for an hour. Robespierre comes to Passy and
Auteuil for inspiration. Couthon goes every day to Neuilly for
bagatelle. My faith, but how these advocates make morality
unattractive! A dozen lawyers amongst the elect would produce a second
revolt of the angels. That is why the devil is loath to recall them.”

“To recall them?”

“They are his ambassadors, monsieur, and it is his trouble that they
are for ever being handed their passports to quit such soil as he
would be represented on. Then they return to him for fresh
instructions; but they will not understand that human passions are not
to be controlled by rule of thumb.”

“Or sounded by depth of plumb, Crépin; and, upon my word, you are a
fine bailiff to your masters.”

Now, I have no wish to detail the processes of our monotonous journey
into the south-westerly departments, whereto--that is to say, to the
borders of Dordogne--it took us eight days to travel. We had our
excitements, our vexations, our adventures even; but these were by the
way, and without bearing on what I have set myself to relate.

One evening as we were lazily rolling along an empty country road,
making for the little walled town of Coutras, where the fourth Henry
was known to his credit once upon a time, a trace snapped, leading to
more damage and a little confusion amongst the horses. I alighted in a
hurry--Crépin, whose veins were congested with Bordeaux, slumbering
profoundly on in his corner--and finding that the accident must cause
us some small delay, strolled back along the road we had come by, for
it looked beautiful in perspective. Our escort, I may say, affecting
ignorance of our mishap, had rattled on into the dusk.

It was a night for love, or fairies, or any of those little gracious
interchanges of soul that France had nothing the art to conceive in
those years. The wind, that had toyed all day with flowers, was sweet
with a languorous and desirable playfulness; a ripening girl moon sat
low on a causeway of mist, embroidering a banner of cloud that blew
from her hands; the floating hills were hung with blots of woodland,
and to peer into the trance of sky was to catch a star here and there
like a note of music.

I turned an elbow of the road and strolled to a little bridge spanning
a brook that I had noticed some minutes earlier in passing. Leaning
over the parapet, I saw the water swell to a miniature pond as it
approached the arch--a shallow ferry designed to cool the fetlocks of
weary horses. The whole was a mirror of placidity. It flowed like a
white oil, reflecting in intenser accent the fading vault above, so
that one seemed to be looking down upon a subterranean dawn--and, “It
is there and thus,” I murmured, “the little people begin their day.”

There were rushes fringing the brook-edge, as I knew only by their
sharp reversed pictures in the blanched water-glass, and a leaning
stake in mid-stream repeated itself blackly that the hairy goblins
below might have something to scratch themselves on; and then this
fancy did so possess me that, when a bat dipt to the surface and rose
again, its reality and not its shadow seemed to flee into the depths.
At last a nightingale sang from a little copse hard by, completing my
bewitchment--and so my thraldom to dreams was nearly made everlasting.
For, it appeared, a man had come softly out of the woods behind me,
while I hung over the parapet, and was stealing towards me on tiptoe
with clubbed bludgeon.

It was a stag-beetle that saved my life--whereout of might be snatched
many little rags of reflections; for it shot whizzing and booming past
my ear and startled me to a sudden sideway jump. The fellow was almost
on my back at the moment, and could not check his impetus. He came
crack against the low wall, his club span out of his fist, and he
himself clutched, failed, and went over with a mighty splash into the
water underneath.

The ludicrous _dénoûment_ gave me time to collect my faculties. I
was at no loss for an immediate solution of the incident. The
highways, in these glorious days of fraternity, were infested with
footpads, and no farther than five miles out of Paris we had had
trouble with them. Doubtless this rascal, the carriage being out of
sight, had taken me for a solitary pedestrian.

I looked over the parapet, feeling myself master of the situation,
though I had no weapon upon me. My assailant was gathering his long
limbs together in the shallow pool. The water dragged the hair over
his eyes and ran in a stream from his bristling chin. Suddenly he saw,
drew a pistol, and clicked it at me. It was a futile and desperate
action, and calculated only to confirm my estimate of his character.

“_Ventrebleu_ and the devil!” he shouted. “Make way for me, sir.”

I waved my hand, right and left of the ferry. Should he emerge either
way, I could easily forestall him.

“You have your choice of roads,” I said, politely.

He recognised his difficulty, and turned as if to wade up stream and
escape by the fields. His fourth step brought him into deep water, out
of which he floundered snorting.

“Try under the bridge,” I said. “It is the right passage for rats.”

He cursed me volubly.

“Well, we are one to one,” said he in sudden decision, and came
splashing out on the Coutras side.

The moment he climbed up the bank I closed with him. He was fairly
handicapped by his liquid load, and out of breath and of conceit with
his luck besides. He aimed a blow at me with his pistol-butt, but I
easily avoided it and let him topple his length again--assisting him
in fact--but this time in the dust. Then I sat on him, and threatened
his head with a great stone.

“_Pouf!_” said he, panting. “I protest I am no adept at this

“Is it your only one?” said I.

“At this date, yes.”

“So--you have been an honest man? And what more can a patriot boast

I whistled and called to my companions. My prisoner looked amazed.

“You are not alone!” he exclaimed.

“By no means. My escort is round the curve of the road there.”

He seemed to collapse under me.

“_Merci, monsieur!_” he muttered, “_merci!_”

“What, in these days!”

He dared his chance of the stone, and began to struggle violently. I
doubt if I could have held him long if Crépin and one of the
postilions had not come running up to my shout. A few words were
enough to explain the situation, and we conducted the fellow to the
carriage and strapped him upon one of the horses in a way compromising
to his dignity. And so he became of our party when we moved on once

 * * * * * * *

Coutras clacks with mills and is musical with weirs. The spirit of the
warlike king yet informs its old umber walls and toppling houses. I
found it a place so fragrant with antique and with natural beauties,
that my heart wept over the present human degeneracy that vulgarised
it. It lies amongst the last distant swells, as it were, of the great
billows of the Auvergne mountains, before those swells have rolled
themselves to waste in the sombre flats of the Landes. It is the
hill-slope garden on the fringe of the moor; the resting-place of the
sea and the high-rock winds; the hostelry where these meet and embrace
and people the vineyards with baby breezes. It has grown old listening
under its great chestnuts to the sweet thunder of the Isle and the
Dronne. Its peasants, pagan in their instinct for beauty, train their
vines up the elm and walnut trees, that in autumn they may dance under
a dropping rain of grapes. At the same time, I am bound to confess
that their wine suffers for the sake of this picturesqueness.

Now, as we entered it by moonlight, it was a panic town, restless,
scurrying, lurid. The new spirit ran vile and naked in its venerable
streets; the air was poisonous with the breath of _ça ira_. For,
since we left Paris, this had happened. The Girondists were fallen and
hunted men, and Tallien and Ysabeau were at La Réole, preparing for a
descent on Bordeaux. We learned it all at the gate, and also that the
spies and agents of these scoundrels were everywhere abroad, nosing
after the escaped deputies, bullying, torturing, and denouncing.

“It would appear we are forestalled,” said Crépin, drily. “M.
Thibaut, have you a mind to rake over dead ashes? Well, I have heard
of the white wine of Bergerac. At least I will taste that before I go
to bed.”

We drove up to the Golden Lion, whither our scamps had preceded us.
Patriots hooted our prisoner as we clattered through the streets, or
whipped at him with their ramrods. The decent citizens fled before us,
and white-faced girls peeped from behind the white curtains of their
little bed-chambers, crushing the dimity against their swelling
bosoms. Oh! we were great people, I can assure you.

At the hostelry--a high, mud-coloured building, with window-places
fringed with stone, and its hill of a roof fretted thick as a
dove-cote with dormer casements--they brought to our carriage a poor
weeping maid.

“_La demoiselle des pleurs_,” said Bonnet-rouge, with a grin.

“Eh?” said Crépin.

“The _aubergiste_, citizen.”

Crépin looked at the poor creature with disfavour. Certainly she was
very plain, though quite young, and her homely face was blowzed with

“Why do you cry then, little fool?”

“Monsieur, they have taken my father to La Réole.”

“He will return, if innocent.”

“Alas! no, monsieur.”

“What! you would discredit the impartiality of the Republic?”

He stepped from the carriage, and took her by the shoulder.

“He will return, if innocent, I say; and would the law had enlarged
him before we arrived! You are in charge here, _citoyenne_?”

“But yes, monsieur.”

“A thousand devils!--and disorganised, I’ll swear; no fire in the
kitchen, no food in the larder.”

“Monsieur is in error. I go at once to serve the first monsieur of our

“The first--_sacré!_ is that also forestalled? But who is this

“The same as monsieur.”

“And dost thou know who _I_ am?”

“Alas, monsieur! You come and go, and you are all great and imperious.
But I would not with a word offend monsieur.”

“Listen, girl.” (A crowd stood about. He spoke for the benefit of
all.) “I am a high officer of the Republic, _en mission_ to rout out
the disaffected and to enforce the law. Go, and say to this citizen
that, with his permission, I will join him.”

Our rogues were unstrapping the footpad from the horse as he spoke. As
they tumbled him, half silly with his jolting and with the blows he
had received, upon his feet, the _aubergiste_ gave a faint cry.
Crépin caught her as she retreated, and twisted her about once more.

“You know this _Chevalier de la Coupe_?”

“Monsieur, I--how can I say? So many drink wine with us.”

He looked at her sternly a moment, then pushed her from him.

“For supper, the best in the house!” he called after her, and turned
to arrange for the disposition of his men and their prisoner.

By-and-by the _aubergiste_ came to conduct us to table. As we went
thither, Crépin stopped, took the girl by the chin, and looked into
her wet inflamed eyes. If the prospect of good fare exhilarated him, I
will say, also, for his credit, that I believe he had a kindly nature.

“For the future,” he said, “be discreet and make a study to command
your nerves. In these days one must look on life through the little
window of the _lunette_.”

We found our forestaller (who, by the way, had returned no answer to
Crépin’s polite message) established in the eating-room when we
entered it. He was a coarse, blotched ruffian, thick and overbearing,
and he stared at us insolently as he lay sprawled over a couple of

“So, thou wouldst share my supper?” he cried, in a rumbling, vibrant
voice. “Lie down under the table, citizen, and thou shalt have a big
plate of scraps when once my belly is satisfied.”

Crépin paused near the threshold. I tingled with secret laughter to
watch the bludgeoning of these two parvenus. But my respected chief
had the advantage of an acquired courtesy.

“You honour me beyond my expectations,” he said. “But, if I were to
break the dish over the citizen’s face, the scraps would fall the

The other scrambled to his feet with a furious grimace.

“_Canaille!_” he shouted (it was curious that I never heard an upstart
but would apply this term in a quarrel to those of his own
kidney)--“Scum! pigwash! Do you know my name, my office, my
reputation? God’s-blood! I’ve a mind to have you roasted in a fat
hog’s skin and served for the first course!”

Crépin walked up to the bully very coolly. _M. le Représentant_ had
plenty of courage in the ordinary affairs of life.

“Do I know who you are?” he said. “Why, I take you for one of those
curs that are whipt on to do the dirty work of the people’s ministers.
And do you know who I am, citizen spy? I hold my commission direct
from the Committee of Safety, with full authority of sequestration and
requisition, and no tittle of responsibility to your masters at La
Réole. If you interfere with the processes of my office, I shall have
something additional to say in my report to the chiefs of my
department, whom your highness may recognise by the names of
Billaud-Varennes and Collot-d’Herbois. If you insult me personally, I
shall thrash you with a dog-whip.”

The creature was but a huge wind-bag. I never saw one collapse so
suddenly. Crépin, it is true, had some fearful names to conjure by.

“_M. le Représentant_,” said the former, in a fallen, flabby voice,
“I have no desire to oppose or embarrass you. We need not clash if I
am circumspect. For the rest, accept my apologies for the heat I was
betrayed into through inadvertence. We have to be so careful with

He bowed clumsily. His neck was choked with a great cravat; a huge
sabre clanked on the floor beside him as he moved. He was a very ugly
piece of goods, and he bore his humiliation with secret fury, I could
perceive--the more so as the _aubergiste_ brought in the first of the
dishes during the height of the dispute.

Crépin permitted himself to be something mollified by the sight of
supper. He complimented the girl on her promptitude. The poor creature
may have been no heroine, but she was a seductive cook. We had
_potage_, most excellent, an _entrée_ of chestnut-meal _ramequins_,
roasted kid stuffed with _truffes de Périgord_ and served with sweet
wine-sauce. Also a magnificent brand of Bergerac was in evidence.

Under the influence of these generous things our table-fellow’s
insolence a little revived; but now he would rally me as the safer

“The citizen is dainty with his food.” (The fellow himself had lapped
and sucked like a pig.)

“I owe it to the cook,” said I, serenely.

“A debt of love. Thou shalt pay it her presently when the lights are

“You are an ill-conditioned hog,” said I.

He sprang, toppling, to his feet.

“Mother of God!” he stuttered, hoarsely; “this goes too far, this----”

He caught Crépin’s eye and subsided again, muttering. We were all
pretty warm with liquor; but my superior officer was grown benignant
under its influence.

“For shame, citizens!” he said, blandly, “to put a coarse accent to
this heavenly bouquet.”

He had bettered me in the philosophy of the palate. I confess it at

The other (his name, we came to know, was Lacombe--a name of infamous
notoriety in the Bordeaux business) leaned over to me presently--when
Crépin was gone from the room a moment to give a direction--with hell
glinting out of his eyes.

“_M. le Représentant’s_ fellow,” said he; “I bow to authority, but I
kick authority’s dog in the ribs if the cur molests me.”

“I don’t doubt it. It is probably the measure of your courage.”

He nodded pregnantly.

“The resurrection of France shall be in discretion. That is the real
courage to those whose overbearing impulse is to strike. We are
discreet, and we watch, and we evolve by degrees the whole alphabet of
espionage. Let us call A the language of the hands. These the frost of
poverty will stunt, the rack of labour will warp and disjoint. There
is your sign of a citizen of the people. Monsieur has very pretty
fingers and pink nails.”

“By the same token a corded fist should prove one to be a hangman.
Monsieur has a knot for every knuckle.”

He nodded again. His calmness was more deadly than his wrath.

“You spit your insults over the shoulder of your master. You think
yourself secure in your office. But there is an order of repartee
unknown to patriots, for it was hatched in the hotbeds of Versailles.”

He fell back in his chair--still eyeing me--with a grunt; then
suddenly leaned forward again.

“The alphabet,” he said, “of which B shall be designated the
penetration of disguises. Coach-drivers, colporteurs, pedlars--oh, one
may happen upon the cloven hoof amongst them all.”

I laughed, with a fine affectation of contempt. This mummy at the

There was a sound in the room. I turned my head. The little
_aubergiste_ stood at the door, weeping and wringing her hands.

“Monsieur!” she cried, “do not let it be done!”

I rose and went to the child.

“Tell me,” I said, “what is it?”

“Monsieur, the poor man that you captured! they are torturing him in
the yard.”

I pointed with my hand to a window. Without, all during our meal, had
been a confused clatter of voices and the lurid smoke of torches
rising about the glass.

“Yes,” she sobbed, quite overcome. “It is not right, monsieur. It will
bring a curse upon the place.”

I ran from the room, my blood on fire. Whatever his offence to me, I
had sooner let the rascal go than that he should fall into the hands
of drunken patriots.

The yard was a paved space scooped from the rear of the house. A well
with a windlass pierced it about the middle, and round the low wall of
this were seated a dozen red-bonnets, our own four prominent, shouting
and quarrelling and voluble as parrots. Broken bottles strewed the
ground, and here and there a torch was stuck into the chinks of the
stones, informing all with a jumping glare of red.

I pushed past two or three frightened onlookers, and rushed out into
the open.

“Where is he?” I cried in a heat. “What the devil! am I not to pass
judgment on my own!”

A moment’s silence fell. The faces of all were turned up to me,
scowling and furious. In the pause a pitiful voice came booming and
wailing up from the very bowels of the well itself.

“_Merci!_ messieurs, _merci!_ and I will conduct you to the treasure!”

I wore a sword, and I drew it and sprang to the well-mouth.

“God in heaven!” I cried, “what are you doing with him down there?”

Several had risen by this, and were set at me, snarling like dogs.

“The man is forfeit to the law!” they yelped.

“That is for the law to decide.”

“The people are the law. We sit here to condemn him while he cools his

“Send monsieur to fetch his friend up!” cried Lacombe’s voice over
their heads. “He will be dainty to wash his white fingers after a

There were cries of “Aristocrat!” Possibly they would have put the
brute’s suggestion into effect--for a tipsy patriot has no bowels--had
not Crépin at that moment run into the yard. I informed him of the
situation in a word, as he joined me by the well-side.

“Haul up the man!” he said, coolly and peremptorily. His office
procured him some respect and more fear. Our fellows had no stomach
but to obey, and they came to the windlass, muttering, and wound their
victim up to the surface. He was a pitiable sight when he reached it.
They had trussed him to the rope with a savagery to which his swollen
joints bore witness, and, with a refinement of cruelty, had cut the
bucket from under his feet, that the full weight of his body should
hang without support. In this condition they had then lowered him up
to his neck in the black water.

He fell, when released, a sodden moaning heap on the stones.

“And what was to be the end?” asked Crépin.

“Citizen _Représentant_, we could not decide; yet a show of hands was
in favour of singeing over a slow fire. Grace of God! but it would
seem the accused has forestalled the jury.”

He had not, however.

“Give him brandy,” said Crépin; “and bring him to the shed yonder,
when recovered, for the _procès verbal_.”

He took my arm, and we went off together to the place designated,--an
outbuilding half full of fagots. On the way he beckoned the crying
_aubergiste_, who had followed him into the yard, to attend us.

“For the present the man is saved,” he said to her when we were alone.
“Now, what is your interest in the rascal?”

“Monsieur, he was an honest man once.”

“Of the neighbourhood?”

She looked up at him with her little imploring red eyes.

“Come,” he said; “I owe you the debt of a grateful digestion.”

“Of the château,” she said faintly.

“What château?”

“Des Pierrettes, monsieur.”

Crépin, as I, I could see, was beating his brains for some memory
connected with the name.

“In Février’s _café_!” I said suddenly. Should it prove the same,
for the third time destiny seemed bringing me into touch with a lady
of this history.

“Ah!” he said. “But it is not on my list. In what direction does it
lie, girl?”

“Monsieur, two leagues away, off the Libourne road by the lane of the
Marron Cornu.”

“And who inhabits it?”

The poor girl looked infinitely distressed.

“It is M. de Lâge and his niece. You will not make me the instrument
to harm them, monsieur. They are patriots, I will swear. Monsieur,

“Silence, girl! What are you to question the methods of the Republic?
It is a good recommendation at least that they commission a footpad to
patrol the neighbourhood.”

“It is none of their doing. Oh, monsieur, will you not believe me? He
was an honest servant of theirs till this religion of Reason drove him
to the crooked path. And he has been dismissed this twelvemonth.”

“Harkee, wench! If I read you right, you are well quit of a

She fell to sobbing and clucking over that again; and in the midst of
her outburst the half-revived felon was hustled into the shed.

The poor broken and collapsed creature fell at Crépin’s feet and
moaned for mercy.

“Give me a day of life,” he snuffled abjectly, “and I will lead you to
the treasure.”

One of the guard pecked at his ribs with his boot.

“_Pomme de chou!_” he grunted, “have you no other song to sing but

But Crépin was looking extremely grave and virtuous.

“The prisoner is in no state to be examined,” he said. “Place him
under lock and key, with food and drink; and I will put him to the
question later.”


“_Nous y voici!_”

The carriage pulled back with a jerk, so that the prisoner Michel, who
sat opposite us, was almost thrown into our laps. One of our grimy
escort appeared at the window.

“Dog of a thief!” he growled. “Is this the turning?”

The other _sacréd_ below his breath and nodded sullenly. A vast
chestnut (the thick of its butt must have been thirty feet in
circumference) stood at the entrance to a narrow lane. Turning, with a
worrying of wheels, down the latter, we continued our journey.

Southwards from Coutras we had broken into a _plat_ of country very
wild and sterile; but now we were amongst trees again--oak, chestnut,
and walnut--that thronged the damp hollows and flung themselves over
the low hills in irresistible battalions.

Suddenly Michel bent forward and touched my companion’s knee
menacingly. The rascal was near restored to himself, and his lowering
eyes were full of gloom.

“The treasure, monsieur,” he said; “is that the condition of my

“I have said--discover it to me and thou shalt go free.”

“But I, monsieur, I also must make a condition.”

Crépin stared. The man bent still more earnestly forward.

“Mademoiselle Carinne----”

“The niece of De Lâge----?”

“She must be considered--respected. I will not have her insulted with
a look.”

“What now, Michel?”

“Oh, monsieur! you may do as you will with the old, hard man; but

“And is it for the lady’s sake thou hast forborne hitherto to
appropriate this treasure, the hiding-place of which thou wilt buy thy
life by revealing?”

“It is so. I have driven a desperate trade, starving often with this
knowledge in my breast.”

“But why?”

“How can I tell? I have known her from a child. Once she struck me
that I killed a cheeping wolf-cub she had brought from the snow; and
then she was sorry and kissed the little stupid bruise; and I swore my
arm should rot before it lost the will to protect her.”

“I will do my best.”

“But that is not enough. My God! if I were to sacrifice mademoiselle’s
_dot_ without purpose.”

“The purpose is thy life.”

“That were nothing were she dishonoured.”

I put in a serene word--

“Yet it seems you would condemn her to poverty to save your skin?”

“That is different. I should have life; and life means many
things--the power, possibly, to influence her fortunes; at least the
wash of wine again in one’s dusty throat.”

“Michel,” I said, “I must applaud you for a capital rogue.”

He stared at me sombrely, muttered, “_Je suis ce que je suis_,” and
sank back in his corner.

We were running between dark hedges at the time. Suddenly we came
among farm-buildings, a thronging dilapidated group. The byres
mouldered on their props; the flat stones of the roofs had flaked
generations of rubbish upon the weedy ground beneath.

Crépin rubbed his hands.

“It is well,” he said. “This without doubt is a skinflint.”

We turned a corner and passed the entrance to a ruined drive. Here the
tall iron gates, swinging upon massive posts of rubble-stone, had been
recently, it seemed, torn from their moorings of grass and knotted
bindweed, for the ground was scarred and the lower bars of metal hung
with rags of drooping green. Crépin’s features underwent another
change at the sight.

“But what is this?” he muttered. “Something unaccustomed--some
scare--some panic?”

He looked with sudden fury at the prisoner.

“If he has got wind of our coming--has escaped with----”

He broke off, showing his teeth and grinding his hands together. At
the moment we came in view of the château.

It was an old grey house--built of the same material as the
gate-pillars--with a high-pitched roof and little corner _tourelles_.
Once, presumably, a possession of importance, decay and neglect had
now beggared it beyond description. Yet within and without were
evidences of that vulgar miserly spirit that seeks by inadequate
tinkering to deceive with half-measures. The tangled grass of the lawn
was cut only where its untidiness would have been most in evidence,
and its litter left where it fell. Triton blew his conch from a fine
fountain basin near the middle of the plot; but the shell, threatening
to break away, had been fastened to the sea-god’s lips with a ligament
of twine that was knotted round the head. A crippled bench was propped
with a stone; a shattered ball-capital at the entrance-door held
together with a loop of wire. What restoration that was visible was
all in this vein of ludicrous economy.

But not a sign of life was about--no footstep in the grounds, no face
at any window. To all appearance the place was desolate.

We drew up at the broken stone porch. The door was already flung wide,
and we entered, with all the usual insolent clatter of “fraternity,”
an echoing hall. Here, as elsewhere, were dust and decay--inconsequent
patching and the same tawdry affectation of repair.

A shallow flight of stairs, broad and oaken, led straight up to a
little low gallery that bisected the hall like a transom. Up these
steps we scuttled, the escort driving the prisoner amongst them, and
came to a corridor from which a number of closed doors shut off the
living rooms of the house.

Suddenly Crépin put up his hand and motioned us to silence. From one
of the invisible chambers, some distance down the corridor, rose and
fell, like wind in a key-hole, a little blasphemous complaining voice.

“In the sober moonlight of my days!” we made it out to cry--“after
scaling the rough peaks of self-denial, thus to be tilted over into
the depths again by a lying Providence!”

There followed some shrill storming of nouns and epithets; then a
pause, out of which the voice snapped once more--

“I hear you, you scum of ditches--you stinking offal of the
Faubourgs--you publicans ennobled of a short-sighted Saviour!--Come
back and finish your work, and I will spit poison on you that you
shall follow me to the hell--to the hell, I say----”

The furious dragging of a chair mangled the sentence; then came a
jarring thump and a further shrieking of oaths. With one impulse we
made for the door, threw it open, and burst into the room. In the
midst of a lofty chamber lay a little man struggling on the floor, a
pretty heavy _prie-dieu_, to which he had been bound with his arms
behind his back, jerking and bobbing above him with his every kick.

“_Mais c’est une tortue!_” cried one of the crew, with a howl of

The tortoise twisted up its face, disfigured with passion. It was the
face, without doubt, of the little _fesse-Mathieu_ of Février’s

The room in which he lay was of good proportions, but furnished
meagrely, and informed with the same spirit of graceless economy as
was apparent without. For the dark ancient panels of its walls had
been smeared with some light-grey wash, and an attempt made to
decorate them with plaster wreaths and festoons in the Louis Quinze
style. The work, however, had been left unfinished, and, so far as it
went, was crude and amateurish to a degree. Obviously, here was an
example of that species of niggard that will try to cheat a dozen
trades by wringing the gist of all out of one poor factotum.

But Crépin stood with corrugated forehead; for there were other signs
in the room than those of parsimony--signs in plenty, in fact, that he
had been forestalled in his quest. Chairs and tables were overturned,
a bureau was smashed almost to pieces, great rents appeared in the
panelling of the walls, where search had been instituted, one would
judge, for secret depositories.

A savage oath exploded from _M. le Représentant’s_ lips.

“That spy--that swaggerer--that Lacombe!” he muttered, looking at me.
“He was vanished this morning--he and his ragged tail--when we rose.
He got scent, without doubt, and has played outrider to my mission of
search. If it is so; if he has found and removed--my God! but for all
his Tallien and the Committee of Bordeaux he shall dance--he shall

He turned furiously to his men.

“Put the rascal upright,” he bellowed.

A couple of them lifted and spun the chair to its legs, so that the
old man’s skull jerked against the head-rail with a clack like that of
a mill-hopper. He did not seem to notice the blow. His eyes, ever
since they had alighted on this new influx of brigands, had been set
like a fish’s--wondering and unwinking. Now they slowly travelled,
taking in Crépin, Citizen Thibaut, the escort, until they
stopped--actually, it appeared, with a click--at Michel. His mouth
puckered, and, like a ring blown by a smoker, a wavering “O!” issued
from it.

“Your _ci-devant_ servant?” said Crépin, grimly.

The old man nodded his head.

“Michel. But, yes--it is Michel.”

“Thou owest him compensation for that long tyranny of service.”

“I owe him nothing.”

“And me, citizen? Dost thou remember the Abbaye St Germain and the
killings of September?”

I struck in with the question. I was willing, I think, for the girl’s
sake, to identify myself with a past incident.

He looked at me bitterly, but with no recognition in his eyes.

“I deplore the cursed fortune,” he cried in grief, “that preserved me
but for this!”

“How now, old fool!” said Crépin, with impatience. “Thou shalt go
free when Michel has revealed to me thy secret place of hoarding.”

M. de Lâge gave the crying snarl of a wolf.

“Let him go--the ingrate and the traitor! What, Michel! dost thou
mangle the hand that gave thee soft litter for thy couch and honest
bread for thy belly? Look, Michel!--the white garlands on the walls
there! Dost thou remember how thou wrought’st them to pleasure thy
mistress--to win her from the depression she suffered in the sombre
oak and its long history of gloom? There they cling unfinished,--thy
solemn rebuke, Michel. Thy attachment to her was the one reality, thou
wouldst say, in a world of shadows, and yet the blatant fanfare of
those shadows was all that was needed to win thee from the reality.
And what is the price of thy kiss, Judas?”

The man hung his head.

“Not your life, monsieur,” he muttered.

“Nay; but only that which makes my life endurable. And the
forfeit--what is that?”

“_My_ life, monsieur.”

De Lâge drew in his breath with a cruel sound.

“_Hélas!_” he cried. “You will have to pay the penalty! the faithful
servant will have to pay the penalty!”

Crépin uttered an exclamation and strode forward.

“You have been stripped?” said he.

“Of all, monsieur, of all. There have been others here before you this
morning--fine _sans-culotte_ preachers of equality and the gospel of
distribution, whose practice, nevertheless, is to enrich the poor at
the expense of the wealthy. They were brave fellows by their own
showing; yet they must truss me here before they dared brandish the
fruits of their robbery before my eyes!”

Suddenly he was straining and screaming in his bonds, his face like a
map of some inhuman territory of the passions, branched with veins for
rivers of blood.

“Free me that I may kill some one!” he shrieked. “I am mad to groove
my fingers in flesh! The time for concessions is past. I was as wax in
their hands till they unearthed my plate, my coins, my riches. Now,

He was indeed beyond himself, a better man--or devil--in his despair
than the money-conscious craven who had palpitated over that little
“_Vive le roi!_” once upon a time.

Crépin regarded the struggling creature with harsh contempt. This
plebeian soul also was translated, but not to his moral promotion. It
was evident he had enlarged the scope of his anticipations greatly in
view of his prisoner’s promise; and his disappointment brought the
spotted side of him uppermost.

“Take the dog,” he cried in a hoarse voice (signifying Michel by a
gesture), “and whip him to the lair! At least we will look to see if
the wolves have left a bone or two for our picking.”

“_M. le Représentant_,” I ventured to say, “be just to consider that
the prisoner is by all rights my prisoner. Anyhow he has stuck to his
side of the bargain. Let me hold you in fairness responsible for his

He turned upon me like a teased bullock.

“In fairness!” he cried--“in fairness! But you presume, citizen, on
your position.”

He looked as if he could have struck me; all the beast in the man was
prominent. Then he gave the order to march, and I found myself left
alone with the little grotesque in the chair.

I was hot and indignant; but the passion of the other seemed to have
exploded itself into a rain of emotion. His dry cheeks quivered; the
tears ran down them like moisture on an old wall.

“Monsieur,” I said, softly, “I know not whether to applaud or upbraid
you. And where is Mademoiselle Carinne?”

He seemed quite broken in a moment--neither to resent nor to be
surprised at my mention of the girl’s name.

“She is fled,” he whimpered--“the little graceless cabbage is fled.”

“To safety, I hope?”

“To the devil, for all I care.”

“Monsieur, I hold your wretchedness an excuse, even if you have been
careless of----”

He caught me up, staring at me woefully.

“Careless? but, my God! I have pampered and maintained her ever since
her brown head was a crutch to my fingers; and this is how she repays

“What has she done?”

“She has condemned me to beggary for a prudish sentiment--me, in my
old forlorn age. From the first I saw that the test might come--that
she might be called upon to employ the privileges of her sex on my
behalf. Free-thought, free-love! Bah! What are they but a
self-adaptation to the ever-changing conditions of life. The spirit
need not subscribe to such mere necessities of being; and a little
gratitude at least was due to me. She has none, and for that may God
strike her dead!”

“What has she done?”

“Done!” (His voice rose to a shriek again.) “But, what has she
not?--That scoundrel Lacombe would have exchanged me my riches--my
pitiful show of tankards that he had unearthed--for her favour. She
would not; she refused to go with him; she reviled and cursed me--me
that had been her bulwark against poverty.”

“You would have sold her honour for your brazen pots?”

“Gold and silver, monsieur; and it was only a question of temporary
accommodation. In a few months she might have returned, and all would
have been well again. But honour--bah! it will survive a chin-chuck
better than loss of wealth. But she would not. She escaped from us by
a lying ruse, and they sought her far and near without avail. At the
last they robbed and maltreated me, and for that may hell seize them
and fester in their bones!”

“And in thine, thou pestilence!”

My fury and my contempt joined with a clap, like detonating acids.

“Lie there and rot!” I shouted, and so flung out of the room.

My heart blazed. That white girl--that Carinne. I could recall her
face, could picture her in her loneliness arraigned before Lacombe and
his _sans-culottes_ and his reptile prisoner--defying them all. With
some vague instinct of search directing my fury, I hurried through
room after room of the empty house. Each was like its neighbour,
vulgarised, scantily furnished, disfigured by the search that had been
conducted therein. Once I broke into the girl’s own bed-chamber (it
was hers, I will swear, by token of little feminine fancies consistent
with the character I had gifted her withal), and cursed the beasts who
had evidently made it the rallying-point of their brutal jesting. But
this, obviously, must be the last place in which to seek her, and I
quickly left it.

Not a soul did I happen upon. Of whomsoever the household had
consisted, no single individual but the old villain in the chair was
remained to brazen out the situation.

At last I made my way into the grounds once more, issuing from the
rear of the building into a patch of dense woodland that flowed up to
within fifty yards of the walls. I heard voices, and, plunging down a
moist track amongst the trees, came immediately in view of my party
returning to the house. Then I saw there were two women conducted in
its midst, and my throat jumped, and I ran forward.

At least my sudden apprehension was comforted. These crying wenches
were of the working class--comely domestics by their appearance.

Crépin stayed them all when he came up to me. The ugly look had not
left his face--was intensified on it, in fact. He stared at me,
haughty and lowering at once, and was altogether a very offensive

“Has Citizen Thibaut any further exception to take to my methods of
procedure?” he said, ironically.

I looked at him, but did not reply.

“Because,” he went on, “perhaps his permission should be asked that
these pretty citizenesses accompany me in my carriage?”

“_Mais non, monsieur--par pitié, mais non!_” cried one of the wenches
in a sobbing voice.

He bent down to her--a sicklily self-revealed animal.

“Hush, _ma petite_!” he said. “We of the Republic do not ask--we take.
Thou shalt have a brighter gown than ever De Lâge furnished for thy
shapely limbs.”

She stopped crying, and seemed to listen at that. He came erect again,
with a smile on his face and his lips licking together, and regarded
me defiantly.

“The Citizen Representative can please himself,” I said, coldly, and
pushed past them all and walked on. Crépin turned to look after me,
gave a peculiar cynical laugh, and cried “_En avant!_” to his party.

I was to read the significance of his attitude in a moment--to read it
in the dead form of Michel hanging from a tree.

I rushed back along the path, and caught the others as they issued
from the wood. Crépin heard me coming, bade his men on to the house,
and returned a pace or two to meet me. His mood asserted, he was
something inclined, I suppose, to a resumption of the better terms
between us. At any rate, his expression now was a mixture of
embarrassment and a little apprehension. But I spoke to him very
staidly and quietly--

“M. Crépin, it dawns upon me that I am slow to learn the methods of
the new morality, and that I shall never justify your choice of a

“You are going to leave me.”

“There will be the more room in the coach for monsieur’s harem.”

I made him a low bow and went off amongst the trees. He called after
me--there was some real regret in his voice--“But you will come to
harm! be wise!--monsieur!”

I paid no heed; and the thickets received and buried me.


My rupture with Crépin was the preface to a period of my life, the
details of which I could never but doubtfully piece together in my
mind. During this period I lived, but how I supported existence is a
problem that it is beyond my power to solve. I have an indistinct
memory of wandering amongst trees--always amongst trees; in light and
darkness; in drought and in dew; of scaring and being scared by
snakes, that rustled from me over patches of dead leaves; of
swallowing, in desperate phases of hunger, berries and forest fruits,
of whose properties I was as ignorant as of their names.

And, throughout, the strange thought dwelt with me, warm and
insistent, that I was the champion elect of that white Carinne with
whom I had never so much as exchanged a word. To me she was the Una of
these fathomless green depths--the virgin who had carried her
maidenhood and her pride to the Republic of the woods, where security
and an equal condition were the right of all.

This fanciful image possessed a singular fascination for me. It
glimmered behind trees; it peered through the thick interlace of
branches; I heard the paddle of its feet in mossy rills, or the low
song of its voice rising from some shadow prostrate in beds of fern.
No doubt fatigue and hunger and that sense of a long responsibility
repudiated came to work a melodious madness in my brain. For days,
loitering aimlessly under its spell, I was happy--happier, I believe,
than I had ever been hitherto. I had become a thing apart from
mankind--a faun--a reversion to the near soulless type, but with the
germ of spirit budding in me.

It was a desire to avoid a certain horror dangling over a track that
had at first driven me into the thickets, and so lost me my way. The
memory of a blot of shadow, on the sunny grass underneath that same
horror, that swayed sluggishly, like the disc of a pendulum, as the
body swayed above, got into my waking thoughts and haunted them. I
wished to put a world-wide interval between myself and the
blot--though I had seen monstrosities enough of late, God knows. But,
in the silent woods, under that enchanted fancy of my relapse to
primitive conditions, a loathing of the dead man, such as Cain might
have felt, sickened all my veins. I was done with violence--astonished
that its employment could ever have entered into the systems of such a
defenceless race as man.

But also I knew that to me, moving no longer under the ægis of
authority, the towns and the resorts of men were become quagmires for
my uncertain feet. I was three hundred miles from Paris; all my
neighbourhood was dominated by Revolutionary Committees; my chance of
escape, did once that black cuttle-fish of the “Terror” touch me with
a tentacle, a finger-snap would express. My hitherto immunity was due,
indeed, to the offices of certain friends, and a little, perhaps, to
my constitutional tendency to allow circumstances to shape my
personality as they listed. Resigned to the remotest possibilities, my
absence of affectation was in a sense my safeguard.

Here, however, far from the centre of operations, that which, under
certain conditions, had proved my protection, would avail me nothing.
A sober nonchalance, an easy manner, would be the very thyrsus to whip
these coarse provincial hinds to madness. And, finding in my new
emancipation--or intellectual decadence--an ecstasy I had not known
before, I was very tender of my life, and had no longer that old power
of indifference in me to the processes of fatality.

How long this state of exaltation lasted I do not know; but I know it
came to me all in a moment that I must eat or die. It was the
reflection of my own face, I think, in a little pool of water, that
wrought in me this first dull recrudescence of reason. The wild
countenance of a maniac stared up at me. Its hollow jaws bristled like
the withered husks of a chestnut; its lips were black with the juice
of berries; an animal _abandon_ slept in the pupils of its eyes. Ah!
it was better that reason should triumph over circumstance than that
the soul should subscribe tamely to its own disinheritance.

All in an instant I had set off running through the wood. That
privilege of man, to dare and to fail, I would not abrogate for all
the green retreats of nature.

For hours, it seemed to me, I hurried onwards. My heart sobbed in my
chest; my breath was like a knotted cord under my shirt. At last,
quite suddenly, blue sky came at me through the trunks, and I broke
from the dense covert into a field of maize, and found myself looking
down a half mile of sloping arable land upon a large town of ancient
houses, whereof at the gate opposite me the tricolour mounted guard on
the height of a sombre tower.

Now, in view of this, my purpose somewhat wavering, I sat me down in
the thick of the corn and set to wondering how I could act for the
best. I had assignats in my pocket, and a little money, yet there
could be no dealings for me in the open market. Thinking of my
appearance, I knew that by my own act I had yielded myself to the
condition of a hunted creature.

All the afternoon I crouched in patches of the higher stalks, peeping
down upon the town that, spreading up a gentle slope in the nearer
distance, lay mapped before my eyes. Sometimes desperate in my hunger,
I would snatch a head of the standing grain; but to chew and swallow
more than would just blunt the edge of my suffering would be, I knew,
to invite a worser torture. The sun beat on my head; my throat was
caked with drought. At last I could endure it no longer, but retreated
once more into the wood and waited for the shadows to lengthen.

It was early evening when I ventured into the field again and looked
down. The falling sunlight smote the town with fire from the west, so
that its walls and turrets seemed to melt in the glare and run into
long pools of shadow. But here and there wan ribbons of streets, or
patches of open places, broke up the sombreness--in vivid contrast
with it--and seemed to swarm, alone of all the dappled area, with
crawling shapes.

Of these blotches of whiteness, one flashed and scintillated at a
certain point, from some cause I could not at first fathom. Now white,
now red, it stretched across the fields a rayed beam that dazzled my
wood-haunted eyes with the witchery of its brightness.

But presently I saw the open patch whence it issued grow dark with a
press of figures. It was as if a cloth had been pulled over a dead
face; and all in a moment the strange flash fell and rose again--like
a hawk that has caught a life in its talons,--and a second time
swooped and mounted, clustered with red rays,--and a third time and a
fourth; but by then I had interpreted the writing on the wall, and it
was the “_Mene, mene_,” written on the bright blade of the guillotine
by the finger of the setting sun.

A very strange and quiet pity flowed in my veins as I looked. Here was
I resting amidst the tranquillity of a golden harvest, watching that
other harvest being gathered in. Could it be possible that any point
of my picture expressed other than the glowing serenity that was
necessary to the composition? I felt as if, in the intervals of the
flashing, each next victim must be stepping forward with a happy
consciousness of the part he was to play in the design. Then suddenly
I threw myself on my face, and crushed my palms against my mouth that
I might not shriek curses on the inexorable beauty of the heavens
above me.

I did not look again, or rise from my covert till dark was drooping
over the hillside. But, with the first full radiance of moonrise, I
got to my feet, feeling dazed and light-headed, and went straight off
in an easterly direction. My plan was to circumambulate, at a safe
distance, the walls (that could enclose no possibility of help to me
in my distress), and seek relief of my hunger in some hamlet (less
emancipated) on their farther side. If the town was Libourne, as I
believed it to be, then I knew the village of St Émilion to lie but a
single league to the south-east of it.

Walking as in a dream, I came out suddenly into the highroad, and saw
the moon-drenched whiteness of it flow down to the very closed gates
far below me. Its track was a desolate tide on which no life was
moving; for nowadays the rural population was mostly drifted or driven
into the seething market-places of the Revolution. Now my imagination
pictured this cold and silent highway a softly tumultuous stream--a
welded torrent of phantoms, mingling and pushing and hurrying, in the
midst of noiseless laughter, to beat on the town gates and cry out
murmuringly that a “suspect” was fording a channel of its upper

This fright, this fancy (one would hardly credit it) brought the sweat
out under my clothes. But it was to be succeeded by a worse. For, as I
looked, the boiling wash of moonlight was a road again, and there came
up it footsteps rhythmically clanking and unearthly--and others and
yet others, till the whole night was quick with their approach. And,
as the footfalls neared me, they ceased abruptly, and there followed
the sound of an axe ringing down in wooden grooves; and then I knew
that the victims of the evening, ghastly and impalpable, were come to
gaze upon the man who had indulged his soul, even for a moment, with
the enchantment of a prospect whose accent was their agony.

Now, assuredly, my reason was in a parlous state--when, with a whoop
that broke the spell, an owl swept above me and fled eastwards down
the sky; and I answered to its call, and crossed the road and plunged
into fields again, and ran and stumbled and went blindly on once more
until I had to pause for breath.

At last I heard the rumbling wash of water, and paused a stone’s-throw
from a river-bank; and here a weight of terror seemed to fall from me
to mark how wan and sad the real stream looked, and how human in
comparison with that other demon current of my imagining. From its
bosom a cluster of yards and masts stood up against the sky; and by
that I knew that I was come upon the Dordogne where it opened out into
a port for the once busy town of Libourne, and that if ever caution
was necessary to me it was necessary now.

I looked to my right. A furlong off the rampart of the walls swept
black and menacing; and over them, close at hand now, the silent yoke
of the guillotine rose into the moonlight. It must have been perched
upon some high ground within; and there it stood motionless, its jaws
locked in slumber. Could it be the same monster I had watched
flashing, scarlet and furious, from the hillside? Now, the ravening of
its gluttony was satisfied; Jacques Bourreau had wiped its slobbered
lips clean with a napkin. Sullenly satiate, propped against the sky,
straddling its gaunt legs over the empty trough at its feet, it slept
with lidless eyes that seemed to gloat upon me in a hideous trance.

Bah! Now all this is not Jean-Louis Sebastien de Crancé, nor even
Citizen Thibaut. It is, in truth, the half-conscious delirium of a
brain swimming a little with hunger and thirst and fatigue; and I must
cut myself adrift from the hysterical retrospection.

I hurried towards the river, running obliquely to the south-east. If I
could once win to clean water, I was prepared, in my desperation, to
attempt to swim to the opposite bank. Stumbling, and sometimes
wallowing, I made my way up a sludgy shore and suddenly came to a
little creek or cove where a boat lay moored to a post. Close by, a
wooden shanty, set in a small common garden with benches, like the
Guinguettes of Paris, rattled to its very walls with boisterous
disputation, while the shadows of men tossing wine-cups danced on its
one window-blind. I unhitched the painter of the boat, pushed the prow
from the bank, and, as the little craft swung out into the channel,
scrambled softly on board and felt for the sculls in a panic. When I
had once grasped and tilted these into the rowlocks, I breathed a
great sigh of relief and pulled hurriedly round the stern of a
swinging vessel into the cool-running waters of the Dordogne.

It was not until I had made more than half the passage to the farther
side that I would venture to pause a moment to assuage my cruel
thirst. Then, resting on my oars, I dipped in my hat and drank again
and again, until my whole system seemed to flow with moisture like a
rush. At last, clapping my sopped hat on my head, I was preparing to
resume my work, when I uttered a low exclamation of astonishment, and
sat transfixed. For something moved in the stern-sheets of the boat;
and immediately, putting aside a cloak under which it appeared he had
lain asleep, a child sat up on the bottom boards.

Now, my heart seemed to tilt like a top-heavy thing. Must this hateful
necessity be mine, then--to silence, for my own safety, this baby of
six or seven, this little comical _poupon_ with the round cropt head
and ridiculous small shirt?

He stared at me, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and suddenly began to

“_Heu! heu!_” he cried in the cheeping voice of a duckling, “_la
Grand’ Bête!_”

He took me for the mythical monster of the peasants, whose power of
assumption of any form is in ratio with the corrective ingenuity of
nurses and mothers.

“Yes,” I said, my brain leaping to an idea; “I am _la Grand’ Bête_,
and if you make a noise I shall devour you.”

His eyes were like full brown agates; his chin puckered to his lower
lip; but he crushed his little fists against his chest to stay the
coming outcry. My face relaxed as I looked at him.

“_La Grand’ Bête_ is kind to the little ones that obey him. Can you
use these sculls?”

“_Mais, oui_,” he whispered, with a soft sob; “I am the pretty little

“Very well. Now, little waterman, I shall land at the bank over there,
and then you can take the sculls and pull the boat across to the cove
again. But you must be very silent and secret about having gone with
_la Grand’ Bête_ over the river, or he will come to your bedside in
the night and devour you.”

I had been rowing gently as I talked, and now the nose of the skiff
grounded easily under a low bank. I shipped the sculls, reached
forward and took the rogue in my arms.

“Oh! but _la Grand’ Bête_ loves the good children. Be a discreet
little waterman, and thou shalt find a gold louis under thy pillow
this very day month.”

I kissed him, and, turning, caught at the knots of grass and hauled
myself up the bank. It was a clumsy disembarkation for a god, perhaps,
but my late comrade did not appear to be shaken in his faith. I
stopped and looked back at him when I had run a few yards from the
river. He was paddling vigorously away, with a professional air, and
the moonlight was shattered on his scull-blades into a rain of
diamonds. Suddenly a patrol-boat was pulled up the river across his
bows, and I half turned to fly, my heart in my mouth.

“Hullo, hullo, Jacksprat!” cried a rough voice. “What dost thou here
at this hour?”

“They were noisy in the _auberge_,” answered the childish treble, “and
I could not sleep.”

I went on my way with a smile. To have used the boat and cast it
adrift would not have prospered me so well as did this accident. Yet I
felt a shame of meanness to hear the little thing, taking its lying
cue from me, lie to the men, and I wished I had not clinched my
purchase of his silence with that promise of a louis-d’or.

Pushing boldly across a wide moon-dappled margin of grass, so thronged
with trees as to afford one good cover, I came out suddenly into a
field-track running southwards, and along this I sped at a fast pace.
But presently, seeing figures mounting towards me from the dip of a
flying slope, I dived into a belt of corn that ran on my left between
the track and the skirt of a dense wood, and lay close among the
stalks waiting for the travellers to pass. This, however, to my
chagrin, they did not; but, when they were come right over against me,
they stopped, very disputative and voluble in a breathless manner, and
lashed one another with knotty thongs of patriotism.

“But who wants virtue or moderation in a Commonwealth?”

“Dost not thou?”

“I?--I want heads--a head for every cobblestone in the Rue St Jacques.
I would walk on the brains of self-seekers. This Roland----”

“He wore strings in his shoes to rebuke the vanity of the Veto----”

“And to indulge his own. Head of a cabbage! thou wouldst weep over the
orator though he condemned thy belly to starvation. What! shall I
satisfy my hunger with a thesis on the beauty of self-denial, because,
like a drum, it has a full sound!”

“Be sure I do not defend him; but has he not practised what he

“Of a certainty, and is double-damned thereby. For know that these
austere moralists have found their opportunity to indulge a hobby--not
to avenge a people. What do _we_ want with abstinence who have
practised it all our lives? What do we want with interminable phrases
on the sublimity of duty?”

“But, thou wilt not understand that political economy----”

“Bah! I know it for the economy of words--that delicious _terminer les
débats_ of the jury that rolls another lying mouth into the basket
and makes a body the less to feed. But I tell thee, with every fall of
the axe I feel myself shifting a place nearer the rich joints at the
top of the feast.”


“That I desire is the free indulgence of my appetites. Now would not
Roland and Vergniaud and their crew shave me nicely for that
sentiment? Therefore I love to hunt them down.”

_A vieux chat jeune souris._ How indeed could these old grimalkins,
grown toothless under tyranny, digest this tough problem of virtue for
its own sake? Their food must be minced for them.

I never saw their faces; but I guessed them, by a certain croaking in
their speech, to be worn with years and suffering. Presently, to my
disgust, they had out their pipes and a flask of cognac and sat
themselves down against the edge of the corn for a mild carouse. I
waited on and on, listening to their snuffling talk, till I grew sick
with the monotony of it and the cramp of my position. They were, I
gathered, informers employed by Tallien in his search for those
escaped Deputies who were believed to be in hiding in the

At last I could stand it no longer. Move I must, for all the risk it
entailed. I set to work, very cautiously, a foot at a time, wriggling
on my belly through the corn. They took no notice, each being voluble
to assert his opinions against the other. Presently, making towards
the wood, I found the field to dip downwards to its skirt, so that I
was enabled to raise myself to a crouching position and increase my
pace. The relief was immense; I was running as the tree-trunks came
near and opened out to me.

Now, I was so weary that I thought I must sleep awhile before I
proceeded. I was pushing through the last few yards of the stalks when
a guttural snarl arrested me. Immediately, right in my path, a head
was protruded from the corn, and a bristled snout, slavering in the
moonlight, was lifted at me. I stood a moment transfixed--a long
moment, it appeared to me. The ridiculous fancy occurred to me that
the yellow eyes glaring into mine would go on dilating till presently
I should find myself embedded in their midst, like a prawn in aspic.
Then, with a feeling of indescribable politeness in my heart, I turned
aside to make a _détour_ into the wood, stepping on tiptoe as if I
were leaving a sick-room. Once amongst the trees, I penetrated the
darkness rapidly to the depth of a hundred yards, not venturing to
look behind me, and, indeed, only before in search of some reasonable
branch or fork where I might rest in safety. Wolves! I had not taken
these into my calculations in the glowing solstice of summer, and it
gave me something a shock to think what I had possibly escaped during
my unguarded nights in the forest.

At length I found the place I sought--a little natural chair of
branches high enough to be out of the reach of wild beasts, yet the
ascent thereto easy. I climbed to it, notched myself in securely, and,
my hunger somewhat comforted by the water I had drunk, fell almost
immediately into a delicious stupor.

I awoke quite suddenly, yet with a smooth swift leap to consciousness.
The angle of moonlight was now shifted to an oblique one, so that no
rays entered direct; and the space beneath me was sunk into profound
darkness. For some moments I lay in a happy trance, dully appreciative
of the indistinct shapes that encompassed me, of the smell of living
green bark near my face, of the stars embroidered into a woof of twigs
overhead. But presently, gazing down, a queer little phenomenon of
light fixed my attention, indifferently at first, then with an
increase of wonder. This spot of pink radiance waxed and waned and
waxed and waned, with a steady recurrence, on the butt of a great
tree, twenty yards away. At first it was of a strong rosy tint, but
little by little it faded till it was a mere phosphorescent blot; and
then, while I was flogging my brains to think what it could be, of a
sudden it seemed to fly down to the noise of a little grunting
explosion, and break into a shower of scarlet sparks.

At that I was betrayed into a squiggle of laughter; for my phenomenon
had in the flash resolved itself into nothing more mysterious than the
glow from the pipe of a man seated silently smoking, with his head
thrown back against the tree-foot.

“Hullo!” he exclaimed in a surprised voice, but with nothing of fear
in it; and I congratulated myself at least that the voice struck a
different note to that of either of M. Tallien’s informers.
Nevertheless, I had been a fool, and I judged it the wise policy to
slide from my perch and join my unseen companion. He made me out, I am
sure, long before I did him; yet he never moved or showed sign of

“Good evening, Jacques,” said I.

“Good morrow, rather, Jacques squirrel,” he answered.

“Is it so?”

“It is so.”

“You prefer the burrow, it seems, and I the branch.”

“No doubt we are not birds of a feather.”

“Why, truly, I seek Deputies,” I said, in a sudden inspiration.

“And I my fortune,” he answered, serenely.

“We travel by the same road, then. Have you a fragment of bread on
you, comrade?”

“If I had a loaf thou shouldst go wanting a crumb of it.”

“And why, citizen?”

“I do not love spies.”

I fetched a grimace over my miscarried ruse.

“Then wilt thou never make thy fortune in France,” I said.

He gave a harsh laugh.

“_You_ will prevent me for that word, citizen.”

I curled myself up under the tree.

“I will wait for the dawn and read thee thy fortune,” I said, “and
charge thee nothing for it but a kick to help thee on thy way.”

He laughed again at that.

“Thou provest thyself an ass,” said he, and refilled and lit his pipe
and smoked on silently.

I lay awake near him, because, churl as he appeared, I felt the
advantage of any human companionship in these beast-haunted thickets.

At last the light of dawn penetrated a little to where we rested, and
when it was broad enough to distinguish objects by, I rolled upon my
elbow and scrutinised my companion closely.

“Good morrow, then, burner of charcoal.”

He turned to me, a leering smile suspended on his lips.

“_Comment?_” said he.

“But I am a palmist, my friend, as you observe.”

He looked at his stunted and blackened fists.

“Ah! _si fait vraiment_. That is to tell my past condition of poverty,
not my fortune.”

“The rest shall come. Observe my fitness for my post. You are from the
forests of Nontron.”

He started and stared.

“Truly I have no love for spies,” he muttered, dismayed.

It was my turn to laugh. I had hazarded a bold guess. That he was from
the woods rather than from the Landes his gift of seeing through the
darkness convinced me. Then, if from the woods, why not from that part
of the province where they stretched thickest and most meet for his

“Now,” said I, “for what follows. It comes to your ears that Guienne
is hatching a fine breed of maggots from the carcasses of dead
aristocrats; that there is a feast of rich fragments toward. You will
have your share; you will eat of these aristocrats that have so long
fed on you. That is a very natural resolve. But in a Republic of
maggots, as in all other communities, there is always a proportion of
the brood that will fatten unduly at the expense of its fellows. These
despots by constitution appropriate the most succulent parts; they wax
thick and strong, and, finally, they alone of the swarm hatch out into
flies, while the rest perish undeveloped.”

“It is a cursed parable,” he said, sullenly. “I do not comprehend

“I speak of the people, my friend--of whom you are not one that will

“And why, and why?”

“You have scruples. You decry at the outset the methods of this select
clique of the Republic that has the instinct to prosper. If I
congratulate you on the possession of a conscience, I must deplore in
anticipation the sacrifice of yet another martyr to that truism which
history repeats as often as men forget it.”

“What truism, sayst thou?”

“That swinish Fortune will love the lusty bully that drains her,
though the bulk of the litter starve.”

He spat savagely on the ground.

“I do not comprehend,” he muttered again.

“Well,” I said, “at least let us hope there is an especial Paradise
reserved for the undeveloped maggots.”

He rose and stood brooding a moment; then looked away from me and
cried morosely, “Get up!”

To my astonishment, from a sort of cradle of roots to the farther side
of the tree a young girl scrambled to her feet at his call, and stood
yawning and eyeing me loweringly.

“Your daughter?” said I.

“Yes,” he answered, “she is my daughter. What then?”

I jumped up in some suppressed excitement.

“I recall my words,” I said. “You have a chance, after all, down there
in Bordeaux. And now I see that it is a thief that fears a spy.”

I pointed at the wench. She was dressed, ridiculously,
inappropriately, in a silk gown of a past fashion, but rich in
quality, and decorated with a collar of point-lace. Out of this her
dirty countenance, thatched with a villainous mop of hair, stuck
grotesquely; and the skirt of the dress had been roughly caught up to
disencumber her bare feet.

The man stamped on the ground.

“I do not fear you!” he cried furiously, “and I am no thief!”

I laughed derisively.

“But it is true!” he shouted. “A young lady we met in the woods of
Coutras would exchange it for Nannette’s _jupon_; and why the devil
should we deny her?”

My heart gave a sudden swerve.

“What was she like, this lady?” I said.

The fellow glanced sulkily askance at me.

“Does not the spy know?” he said.

“Perhaps he does. Say this demoiselle was slender and of a reasonable
height; that she had brown hair, and grey eyes under dark brows; that
her face was of a cold, transparent whiteness; that she spoke with a
certain soft huskiness in her voice.”

He cried under his breath, with a note of fright, “The devil is in
this man!”

I laughed and took off my hat and made the two a bow.

“To your quick advancement in Bordeaux!” I said.

He stared a moment, seemed to hesitate; then, roughly summoning the
girl to follow him, strode off through the wood. The moment they were
out of sight I sat down again to ponder.

Was it true, then, that these peasants had met Carinne--that they had
helped her to a disguise--for what purpose? She must have been in the
woods whilst I was there--accursed destiny that kept us apart! At
least I must return to them at once and seek her.

I broke into a queer embarrassed fit of laughter.

What self-ordained mission was this? What was my interest in the girl,
or how would she not resent, perhaps, the insolence of my
interference? She had no claim upon my protection or I upon her

Very well and very well--but I was going to seek her, nevertheless.
Such queer little threads of irresponsible adventure pulled me in
these days.

But, at first for my hunger. It was a great voice in an empty house.
It would not be refused or put off with a feast of sentiment. Eat I
must, if it was only of a hunk of sour pease-bread.

Suddenly I thought of that bestial apparition at the wood-skirt. There
had been a liquid “yong” in its snarl, as if it could not forbear the
action of gluttonous jaws even while they were setting at an intruder.
Perhaps the remains of a goat----!

I started running towards the point at which, I believed, I had
entered amongst the trees. Very shortly I emerged into the open, and
saw the cornfield shimmering violet before me in the dawn. I beat up
and down amongst the standing grain, and all in a moment came upon
that I sought. A goat it might have been (or a scapegoat bearing the
sins of the people) for anything human in its appearance. Yet it was
the body of a man--of a great man, too, in his day, I believe--that
lay before me in the midst of a trampled crib of stalks, but
featureless, half-devoured--a seething abomination.

Now, in the placid aftermath of my fortunes, I can very easily shudder
over that thought of the straits to which hunger will drive one. Then,
I only know that through all the abhorrence with which I regarded the
hideous remains, the sight of an untouched satchel flung upon the
ground beside them thrilled me with hope. I stooped, had it in my
hands, unbuckled it with shaking fingers. It was full to choking of
bread and raisins and a little flask of cognac. Probably the poor
wretch had not thought it worth his while to satisfy the needs of an
existence he was about to put an end to. For the horn handle of a
knife, the blade of which was hidden in the decaying heart of the
creature, stood out slackly from a hoop of ribs.

I withdrew into the wood, and without a scruple attacked the
provisions. It was a dry and withered feast; yet I had been
fastidiously critical of many a _service aux repas_ at Versailles that
gave me not a tithe of the pleasure I now enjoyed. And at the last I
drank to the white Andromeda whose Perseus I then and there proclaimed
myself to be.


I was back in the woods of Pierrettes, my precious satchel, still
but two-thirds emptied, slung about my shoulders, my clothes wrinkled
dry from their sopping in the waters of the Dordogne. All that day of
my finding of the food had I lain concealed in the woods; but, with
the fall of dusk, I made my way, by a long _détour_, to the
river-bank, and crossed the stream swimming and in safety. And now was
I again _la Grand’ Bête_, seeking to trace in the scent of trodden
violets the path by which my phantom Carinne had vanished.

That night I passed, warned by experience, in the branches of a tree.
With dawn of the following day I was on foot again, striking
northwards by the sun, and stretching over the encumbered miles with
all the speed I could accomplish. I had a thought in my breast, and
good fortune enabled me to put it to the proof. For, somewhere about
four o’clock as I judged, I emerged into a woodland track that I felt
convinced was the one made detestable by a dangling body; and sure
enough I came of a sudden to the fatal tree, and was aware of a cut
slack of rope hanging from a branch thereof, though the corpse itself
was removed.

Now, it behoved me to proceed with caution, which I did; yet none so
successfully but that I came plump out of the mouth of the green
passage upon M. de Lâge himself, and saw and was seen by him in a
single moment. Therefore I had nothing for it but to brazen out the

He showed no disturbance at my approach, nor, indeed, did he take any
notice of me; but he crept hither and thither, with lack-lustre eyes,
gathering nettles. I went up to him, suppressing my repugnance of the
miserable creature.

“Is mademoiselle returned?” I said outright.

He stopped in his picking, and leered up at me vaguely. He seemed
utterly broken and forlorn.

“She will not return,” he said; and resumed his task. I stood some
moments watching him. Suddenly he clasped his hands plaintively
together and looked me again in the face.

“Why did she go at all?” he said. “Can monsieur tell me, for I

He put his fingers aimlessly, like an infant, to his head.

“I had a pride in her. She was beautiful and self-willed. _Mon Dieu!_
but she would make me laugh or tremble, the rogue. Well, she is gone.”

Could it be that his every memory of his villainy was lost with his
cherished tankards?

“What a love was mine,” he murmured. “I would have denied her
nothing--in reason; and she has deserted me.”

“Monsieur,” I said, “do you remember me?”

“You, you!” he cried angrily--“what do I know or care about this Orson
that springs upon me from the green? You need to be shaved and washed,

“Undoubtedly; if monsieur would provide me with the means?”

He gave me a quick inquisitive look.

“You have a queer accent for a patriot. Well, well--it is no concern
of mine.”

Again he resumed his task, again to pause in it.

“Do you seek a service? I hear it is the case with many.”

“I seek food and a lodging for the night.”

“Eh! but can you pay for them?”

“In reason--certainly, in reason.”

“So, then?--should Georgette bring a generous basketful--bah!” he
cried suddenly, stamping irritably on the ground--“I offer you my poor
hospitality, monsieur, and” (the leer came into his eyes
again)--“should monsieur feel any scruple, a vail left on the
mantelpiece for the servants will doubtless satisfy it.”

But he had no servant left to him, it would seem. When, by-and-by, he
ushered me, with apish ceremony, into his house, I found the place
desolate and forlorn as we had left it.

“I have reduced my following,” he said, “since my niece withdrew
herself from my protection. What does a single bachelor want with an
army of locusts to devour him?”

He showed me into a little bare room on the second floor, with nothing
worthy of remark in it but an ill-furnished bedstead, and a baneful
picture on the wall that I learnt was a portrait of Carinne by

“It is a little of a travesty,” said De Lâge. “She looked in a
mirror, and painted as she saw herself therein--crooked, like a stick
dipt under water. But she was clever, for all she insisted that this
was a faithful likeness.”

I believe there were tears on his face as he left me. What a riddle
was the creature! There is a blind spot in every eye, it is said--and
the eyes are the windows of the soul.

He had supplied me with soap and water and a razor, and these I found
almost as grateful to my wants as the satchel had been. When I was
something restored to cleanliness I descended to the corridor below,
and, attracted by a sound of movement, entered one of the rooms that
opened therefrom.

Within, a young woman was engaged in laying one end of a carved-oak
table with a white napkin. She looked round as I advanced, stared,
gave a twitter of terror, and, retreating to the wall, put an arm up,
with the elbow pointed at me, as if I were something horrible in her

I had a sharp intuition; for this, I saw, was the little _aubergiste_
of the ‘Golden Lion.’

“You think me responsible for the poor rogue’s hanging?” I said.

She whispered “Yes,” with a pitiful attempt to summon her indignation
to this ordeal of fear. I went up to her and spoke gently, while she
shrunk from me.

“Georgette, my child, it is not so. You must take that on my honour,
for I am a gentleman, Georgette, in disguise.”

“In disguise?” she whispered, with trembling lips; but her eyes

“Truly, little girl; I am a wanderer now, and proscribed because I
would not lend myself to thy Michel’s punishment.”

“Oh!” she sobbed, “but it was cruel. And the Republic destroys its own
children, m’sieu’.”

“Thy father----?”

“Ah! he, at least, is back, if still under surveillance; otherwise I
should not be enabled to come daily to minister to the needs of this
poor lonely old man.”

“Now thou art a good soul, thou little _aubergiste_. And thy
ministrations are meat to him, I perceive.”

“Hush, m’sieu’! but if he were to hear? He asks no questions, he
accepts all like a child. He would die of shame were he to learn that
he owes his dinner to the gratitude of m’sieu’ his father’s

“Is he so sensitive? Thou great little Georgette! And
mademoiselle--she does not return?”

She shook her head.

“Tell me where she is, child; for I believe you know.”

“Oh!” she murmured, obviously in great distress, “m’sieu’ must not ask

I took her hands and drew her towards me.

“Look in my eyes and tell me what you see there.”

She glanced up scared and entreating.

“But, is it cruelty, false faith, the currish soul of the liar and

“No, no, m’sieu’.”

“Then is it not, rather, the honour of a gentleman, the chivalry that
would help and protect a defenceless woman cast adrift in this fearful
land of blood and licence?”

I gave her my title.

“Now,” I said, “you can cast me to the axe with a word. And where is
Mademoiselle Carinne, Georgette?”

She still hesitated. I could see the little womanly soul of her
tossing on a lake of tears.

“At least,” I said, “she will not return hither?”

“She will never return--oh, monseigneur! she will never return; and it
is not for me to say why.”

I released her hands.

“Well,” I said, “I would have helped her and have cared for her,
Georgette; but you will not let me.”

She broke forth at once at that, her arms held out and her eyes

“I will tell you, monseigneur--all that I know; and God forgive me if
I do wrong!”

“And me, Georgette, and wither me with His vengeance.”

“I will tell you, monseigneur. That night--that night after the
terror, she spent in the woods, and all the next day she hid there,
moving towards Coutras. I would go often to the Château to take to M.
de Lâge the money for our weekly bill of faggots, and--and for other
reasons; and now she watched for me and waylaid me and told me all.
Oh, m’sieu’! she was incensed--and it was not for me to judge; but M.
de Lâge is a wise man, and perhaps there is a wisdom that makes too
little account of the scruples of our sex.”

“She would not return to him? Well!”

“She would beg or starve sooner, she said; and she would begin by
asking a little food of me. Oh, m’sieu’, but the sad proud demoiselle!
My heart wept to hear her so humble to the peasant girl to whom she
had been good and gracious always in the old days of peace.”

“That is well. And where is she?”

“I cannot tell you, m’sieu’. Ah, pardon! She but waited for the night,
when I could bring her food--all that would keep and that she could
carry--and then she started on foot for the mountains of Gatine.”

“Now, _mon Dieu_! they must be twenty leagues away.”

“Twenty-five, m’sieu’, by La Roche Chalais and Mareuil. But she would
avoid the towns, and journey by way of the woods and the harsh
desolate country. Mother of God! but it makes me weep to think of her
white face and her tender feet in those frightful solitudes.”

“It is madness!”

“But indeed, m’sieu’. And, though the towns gather all to them and the
country is depopulated, there may be savages still left here and
there--swineherds, charcoal-burners, to whom that libertine

“Silence, girl! And you would have denied her a protector!”

“She bound me to silence, m’sieu’, lest her uncle should send in

“It is madness--it is madness. And what does she go to seek in the

“Ah! m’sieu’, I know not--unless it is some haven of rest where the
footstep of man is never heard.”

“Now, Georgette; will you meet me to-night where you met her, and
bring me food--for which I will pay you--and point me out the way that
Mademoiselle Carinne took at parting? I have a mind to journey to the
mountains, also, and to go by the harsh country and to start in the
dark. Will you, Georgette?”

“Pray the good God,” she said, “that it is not all a _jeu de
l’oie_”--and at that moment we heard De Lâge feebly mounting the

He entered the room and accosted me with a sort of sly courtesy that
greatly confounded me. Associations connected with my reappearance,
perhaps, had kindled the slow fuse of his memory; but the flame would
burn fitfully and in a wrong direction; and, indeed, I think the shock
of his loss (of the tankards) had quite unhinged his mind.

“Shall we fall to?” he said. “This is not Paris; yet our good country
Grisels can canvass the favour of a hungry man.”

He gave a ridiculous little laugh.

“And what have we here, girl?” he said.

“M’sieu’, it is a pasty of young partridges.”

His palate was not dulled with his wits. It foretasted the delicacy
and his eyes moistened. He lingered regretfully over the wedge he cut
for me.

“Be generous, monsieur,” he cried, with an enjoying chuckle, “and own
that you have been served none better at Véry’s. Oh, but I know my
Paris! I was there so late as September of last year, and again, on
business connected with my estate, during the month of the king’s

He blenched over some sudden half-memory; but the sight of Georgette
carrying my platter to me restored him to the business of the table.

“I know my Paris!” he cried again. “I have taken kidneys with
champagne at La Rapée’s; sheep’s feet at la Buvette du Palais;
oysters at Rocher de Cançale. Ho-ho! but does monsieur know the

“_Venite ad me omnes qui stomacho laboratis, et ego restaurabo vos!_”
I said, quoting a well-known inscription over an eating-house.

He gave a sharp little squeak.

“Eh! but monsieur has the right etymology of the _restaurateur_; he is
a man of taste and of delicacy. This poor burgundy” (he clawed up his
glass)--“it might have been Clos Vougeot de Tourton if monsieur had
not been so stringent in his sequestration.”

He favoured me with a leer--very arch and very anxious. I could only
stare. Evidently he took me, in his wandering mind, for some other
than that I was. I was to be enlightened in a moment.

It was when Georgette had left the room and we were alone. The falling
sunlight came through a curtain of vine-leaves about the window, and
reddened his old mad face. He bent forward, looking at me eagerly.

“Hush, monsieur! The plate--the tankards--the christening-cups! You
will let me have them back? My God! there was a cross, in niello, of
the twelfth century. It will bring you nothing in the markets of the
Vandals. Monsieur, monsieur! I accept your terms--hot terms, brave
terms for a bold wooer. But you must not seek to carry her with a high
hand. She knows herself, and her pride and her beauty. Hush! I can
tell you where she lies hidden. She crouches under a rosebush in the
garden, and as the petals fall, they have covered and concealed her.”

Now I understood. He was again, in his lost soul, staking Carinne
against his forfeited pots. He took me for Lacombe.

I jumped to my feet.

 * * * * * * *

And now began my second period of wandering; but under conditions
infinitely more trying than the first. Keeping to the dense woods by
day, and traversing the highways only by night, I had hitherto escaped
that which was to prove the cruellest usurer of my vigour--the
merciless blazing sun. Here, as I travelled by desolate broomy wastes;
by arid hills, from which any knob of rock projecting was hot as the
handle of an oven; by choking woods and endless winding valleys,--I
would sometimes ask myself in amazement what could be the nature of
the infatuation that for its own sake would elect to endure these
sufferings. I had not spoken to the girl. I was not authorised to
champion her cause. Strangest of all, the lack of womanly
sensitiveness she had displayed under the very ordeal of St Fargeau’s
dying groans had not prepossessed me in her favour. Yet, slowly was I
making, and would continue to make, my way to these mountains of
Limosin, in the dreamy hope of happening upon a self-willed and rather
heartless young woman, who--if we _were_ to come together--would
probably resent my intrusion as an affront. Truly an eccentric quest.

Well--I was unaccountable to myself, and of no account to others.
Maybe that last is the explanation. My world of conventions was dead,
and I lived--as I have already said--a posthumous life. Through it, no
doubt, I was drawn by shadows--attracted by the unexplainable--blown
by any wind of irresponsibility. This anarchy at least opened out
strange vistas of romance to the imaginative soul. It is odd to live
apart from, and independent of, the voice of duty. That state shall
seldom occur; but, when it does, to experience it is to something feel
the marvel of dematerialisation.

Depleted of human life; savage in its loneliness; blistered and flaked
by the sun, the country through which I travelled was yet beautiful to
a degree. Of food--by means of eking out my little supply with
chestnuts and wild berries--I had a poor sufficiency; but thirst
tortured me often and greatly. I moved slowly, threshing the land, as
it were, for traces of an ignis-fatuus that still fled before me in
fancy. And I had my frights and perils--one adventure, also; but that
I shall not in this connection relate.

Once, high up on the ridge of a valley, I saw a poor wretch, his arms
bound behind him, hurrying forward under escort of a guard. It was
evening, soft and tranquil. A cluster of mountain-peaks swam in the
long distance; the horizon was barred with a grate of glowing clouds.
Therethrough, it seemed, the consumed sun had fallen into white ashes
of mist; but the cooling furnace of the sky, to the walls of which a
single star clung like an unextinguished spark, was yet rosy with
heat; and against the rose the hillside and the figures that crowned
it were silhouetted in a sharp deep purple. How beautiful and how
voiceless! The figure fell, and his scream came down to me like a
bat’s cheep as the soldiers prodded him to rise with their bayonets.
Then I cursed the Goths that had spoiled me my picture.

Another time, lying concealed in a little hanging copse above a gorge,
I heard bleating below me and the rainy patter of feet, and peered
forth to see a flock of goats being driven down the valley. They were
shepherded by three or four ‘requisition’ men, as they were
called--patriot louts whose business it was to beat up the desolated
country for those herds of sheep or swine that had run wild for lack
of owners. Their unexpected appearance was a little lesson in caution
to me, for I had enjoyed so long an immunity from interference as to
have grown careless of showing myself in the most exposed districts.

On two occasions only was I troubled by wolves. The first was on a
morning of lassitude and fatigue, when water had failed me for many
hours. I was resting, on a heath-covered slope, within a rocky cave or
lair in the hillside. For long the sky wraiths had been loading cloud
upon cloud, till the gathered steam of the earth, finding no outlet,
seemed to scald one’s body. Then, in a moment, such a storm crashed
down as I had never before experienced. Each slam of thunder amongst
the rocks was like a port of hell flung open; the lightning, slashing
through the hail, seemed to melt and run in a marrowy-white flood that
palpitated as it settled down on the heather. But the hail! the fury
of this artillery of ice--its noise, and the frenzy of the Carmagnole
it danced! I was fortunate to be under a solid roof; and when at last
the north wind, bristling with blades, charged down the valley like
the Duke of Saxony’s Horse at Fontenoy, I thought the earth must have
slipped its course and swerved into everlasting winter.

Suddenly the mouth of the _ressui_ was blotted by a couple of shaggy
forms. They came pelting up--their tails hooked like carriage-brakes
to their bellies, their eyes blazing fear--and, seeing me within,
jerked to a rigid halt, while the stones drummed on their hides. The
next moment, cowed out of all considerations of caste, they had slunk
by me and were huddled, my very sinister familiars, at the extreme end
of the cave.

Oh, but this was the devil of an embarrassment! I had sat out sermons
that stabbed me below the belt at every second lunge; I had had
accepted offers of gallantry that I had never made; I had ridiculed
the work of an anonymous author to his face. Here, however, was a
situation that it seemed beyond my power of _finesse_ to acquit myself
of with _aplomb_. In point of fact, the moment the storm slackened, I
slipped out--conscious of the strange fancy that bristles were growing
on my thighs--and, descending hurriedly to the valley, climbed a tree.
It was only then (so base is human nature) that I waived the pretence
that the wolf is a noble animal.

But my second experience was a more finished one. Then I tasted the
full flavour of fright, and almost returned the compliment of a feast
to my company. I was padding, towards evening, over a woodland lawn,
when from a hollow at the foot of a great chestnut-tree a rumbling
snarl issuing vibrated on the strings of my sensibilities, and I saw
three or four very ugly snouts project themselves from the blackness.
I went steadily by and steadily continued my way, which without doubt
was the discerning policy to pursue. But impulse will push behind as
well as fly before reason, and presently that which affects the nerves
of motion did so frantically hustle me at the rear as to set me off
running at the top of my speed. Then the folly of my behaviour was
made manifest to me, for, glancing over my shoulder as I sped, I saw
that no fewer than five fierce brutes were come out of their lair at
the sound, and were beginning to slink in my wake.

I gave a yell that would have fetched Charon from the other side of
the Styx; my feet seemed to dance on air; I threatened to outstrip my
own breath. Still the patter behind me swelled into a race, and I
found myself ghastlily petting a thought as to the length of a wolfs
eye-tooth and the first feel of it clamped into one’s flesh. Now, of a
sudden, the wood opened out, and I saw before me the butt of a decayed
tree, and, on its farther side, a little reedy pond shining livid
under a rampart of green that hedged off the sunset. At the water I
drove, in a lost hope that the pursuit would check itself at its
margin, and, in my blind onset, dashed against a branch of the dead
tree and fell half stunned into the pool beyond. Still an inspiring
consciousness of my peril enabled me to scramble farther, splashing
and choking, until I was perhaps twenty yards from the shore; and
then, in shallow water, I sat down, my head just above the surface,
and caught at my sliding faculties and laughed. Immediately I was
myself again, and the secure and wondering spectator of a very
Walpurgis dance that was enacting for my benefit on the bank.

The five wolves appeared, indeed, to be skipping in pure amazement,
like the mountains of Judæa; but they howled in tribulation, like the
gate of Palestina. They leapt and ran hither and thither; they bit at
the air, at their flanks, at their feet; they raked their heads with
their paws and rolled on the ground in knots. At last I read the
riddle in a tiny moted cloud that whirled above them. In dashing
against the rotten branch I had, it seemed, upset a hornets’ nest
built in the old tooth of the tree, and the garrison had sallied forth
to cover my retreat.

Oh, but the braves! I raised a little pæan to them on the spot, but I
took care not to shout it. Suddenly the beasts turned tail and went
yelling back into the wood. I did not rise at once. I left the victors
time to congratulate themselves and to settle down. And at last I was
too diffident to pester them with my gratitude, and I waded sheer
across the pool (that was nowhere more than three feet deep) and
landed on its farther side.

 * * * * * * *

One day I happened upon Carinne!

That is the high note of this droning chant of retrospection.

I was walking aimlessly, the hot thirst upon me once more, when I came
out from amongst trees into a sort of forest amphitheatre of
considerable extent, whose base, like the kick in a bottle, was a
round hill, pretty high, and scattered sparsely with chestnut-trees. I
climbed the slopes toilfully, and getting a view of things from near
the summit, saw that to the north the circumference of green was
broken by the gates of a hazy valley. It was as beautiful a place as I
had ever chanced on; but its most gladdening corner to me was that
whence a little brook looped out of the forest skirt, like a timid
child coaxed from its mother’s apron, and pattering a few yards, fled
back again to shelter.

Now I would take it all in before I descended, postponing the cool
ecstasy like an epicure. I mounted to the top, and, peering between
the chestnut trunks down the farther slopes, uttered an exclamation of
surprise. A herd of swine was peacefully feeding against the fringe of
the wood, and, even as I looked, one of them, a mottled porkling,
crashed through a little rug of branches spread upon the ground and
vanished into Tartarus. Immediately his dismal screeches rebuked the
skies, and, at the sound, a girl came running out of the wood, and,
kneeling above the fatal breach, clasped her hands over her eyes and
turned away her face--a very Niobe of pigs. Seeing her thus, I
descended to her assistance; but, lost in her grief, it seemed, she
did not hear me until I was close upon her. Then suddenly she glanced
up startled,--and her eyes were the cold eyes of Carinne.


The eyes of Mademoiselle de Lâge were a merciless grey; her face
was gold-white, like a dying maple-leaf. She wore no cap on her
tumbled hair, and a coarse bistre-coloured _jupon_ was her prominent
article of attire. I knew her at once, nevertheless, though her cheeks
were a little fallen and her under-lids dashed with violet. She stared
at me as she knelt; but she made no sign that she was afraid.

“Mademoiselle is in tribulation?”

“You need not speak a swineherd so fair,” she said.

“But I honour pork with all my heart.”

She rose to her feet. She seemed to hesitate. But she never took her
eyes off me.

“Whence do you come?” she said, in her soft, deliberate voice.

“From the woods--from the wastes--from anywhere. I am proscribed and
in hiding. I am hungry, also,--and mademoiselle will give me to eat?”

“Why do you call me ‘mademoiselle’? Do you not see I am a swineherd?”

The little pig still screeched fitfully underground.

“Oh!” she cried, in sudden anguish. “Kill it, monsieur, if you know
the way, and let us dine!”

I was pleased with that “us.”

“I have no technical knowledge,” I said. “But, let us see. It is

“_Mon Dieu!_ I hope not. I had so longed to taste meat once more, and
I had heard of pitfalls. There was a hole in the ground. I covered it
over with branches, that one of these might step thereon and tumble in
and be killed. But when I heard his cries I was sorry.”

“That was a bold thought for a swineherd. And how would you tell your
tale, with one devoured? or get the little pig out of the pit? or skin
and dismember and cook it when hauled to the surface?”

“All that I had not considered.”

“But you desired to eat pork? And what would you say now to a pig’s
foot _à la_ St Menehould?”

The jest bubbled out of me; I could not withhold it. Her mind was as
quick as her speech was measured.

“Ah!” she cried, “but I remember. And you were in Février’s,

“At the table next to yours.”

“That is strange, is it not!”

She gave a little scornful shift to her shoulders.

“It is all nothing in these mad days. The question is, monsieur, if
you can put the little beast out of his pain?”

I looked into the pit. Two beady eyes, withdrawn into a fat neck,
peered up at me.

“The hole is not six feet deep, mademoiselle. His pain is all upon his

She gave a whimper of relief. Then her face fell cold again.

“It follows that we must forego our dinner. Will monsieur release the
victim of my gluttony?”

I jumped into the hole--hoisted out the small squeaker--returned to
the surface.

“_Bon jour_, monsieur!” said Carinne.

“You will dismiss me hungry, mademoiselle?”

“What claim have you upon me?”

“The claim of fraternity, citoyenne.”

She uttered a little laugh of high disdain.

“Well, rob me,” she said, “and prove yourself a true Republican.”

“I would steal nothing from you but your favour.”

“It is all bestowed on these animals. Take him you have rescued and
make yourself my debtor and go.”

“Mademoiselle, is this to be, when I have spent days--nay, I know not
how many--of hunger and thirst and weariness in the desperate pursuit
of one to whom I had vowed to offer those services of protection she
lacked elsewhere?”

Her pale eyes wondered at me.

“Do you speak of the swineherd, monsieur?” she said.

“I speak of Mademoiselle de Lâge.”

“She is very secure and in good company. And whence comes your
knowledge of, or interest in, her?”

“Shall I tell you the story?”

“Nay,” she said, with a sudden swerve to indifference; “but how does
it concern me?”

“Your uncle, mademoiselle!”

“I have none that I own.”

I was silent. She looked away from me, tapping a foot on the ground.
It was all a fight between her bitterness and her pride. With a woman
the first conquers.

“Tell me,” she said in a moment, turning upon me, “do you come from

“I come from him.”

“Commissioned to beg me to return?”

“No, mademoiselle. Nor would I insult you with such a message.”

“I can dispense with your interest in me, sir.”

Again she averted her face. Decidedly she required some knowing.
By-and-by she spoke again, without looking round and more gently--

“How does M. de Lâge bear the loss of--the loss of his treasures?”

“He is, I fear, demented by it.”

She gave a bad little laugh.

“One who would sell his honour should at least keep his wits. Well,
monsieur, I have nothing with which to reward your service of runner,

“A meal and a drink of water will repay me, mademoiselle.”

“You can help yourself. Do you think I keep a larder in the forest?”

“But you eat?”

“My table is spread under the chestnut-trees and over the bushes. I
leave its selection to my friends yonder. Sometimes they will present
me with a truffle for feast-days.”

I regarded the proud child with some quaintness of pity. This
repelling manner was doubtless a mask over much unhappiness.

“I have still something left in my satchel,” I said. “Will
mademoiselle honour me by sharing it?”

The light jumped in her eyes.

“I do not know,” she said. “What is its nature?”

“Only some raisins and a little hard bread.”

“But bread, monsieur! That I have not tasted for long. We will go to
the brook-side and sit down.”

“And the herd?”

“They will not wander. When they come to a fruitful ground they stay
there till it is stripped.”

She led the way round the hill to the little gushing stream and seated
herself on a green stone. I would not even slake my thirst until I had
spread my store on her lap. Then I lay down at her feet, like a dog,
and waited for the fragments she could spare. She ate with relish, and
took little notice of me. But presently she paused, in astonishment at

“I am eating up your dinner!” she cried.

“It gives me more pleasure to watch than to share with you.”

“Oh, fie!” she exclaimed. “But am I not a true swineherd?”

She handed me the satchel.

“It is all yours, mademoiselle.”

“Eat!” she said peremptorily. “I will not touch another mouthful.”

She leaned an elbow on her knee and her chin upon her knuckles while I
devoured what remained. Her eyes dreamed into the thronging
tree-trunks. I thought the real softness of her soul was beginning to
quicken like a February narcissus.

“But how I long for meat!” she said, suddenly.

I laughed.

“If mademoiselle will retain me in her service, I will make shift to
provide her with a dish of pork.”

She turned and looked at me.

“Is it true you have sought me out? I have no knowledge of your face.”

“It will not, like mademoiselle’s, impress itself on the imagination.
I have seen you, by chance, twice before, mademoiselle, and therefore
it follows, in the logic of gallantry, that I am here.”

She drew herself up at that word I was foolish enough to utter.

“I perceive, monsieur, that you hold the licence of your tongue a
recommendation to my service. Is this another message with the
delivery of which you would not insult me?”

“Nay, mademoiselle, I spoke the common fashion of more trivial times
than these; and I ask your pardon. It is to save you from the
possibility of insult that I have wandered and starved these many

She looked at me very gravely.

“I foresee no danger in these solitudes. I am sorry, monsieur; but I
cannot accept your service.”

She rose to her feet and I to mine.

“Mademoiselle,” I cried, “be wise to reconsider the question! A
delicate and high-born lady, solitary and defenceless amongst these
barbarous hills! But I myself, on my journey hither, have encountered
more than one perilous rogue!”

She shook her head.

“I take it as I find it. Besides, I have always a covert into which I
can slip on menace of a storm.”

“But this is madness!”

“By monsieur’s account that is the present condition of our family,”
she said, frigidly.

“See, mademoiselle--I ask nothing but that I may remain near you, to
help and protect, your guard and your servant in one.”

She made as if to go.

“You fatigue me, monsieur. It is not the part of a gentleman to impose
his company where it is not desired. You will not remain by my

“Then I shall remain nevertheless!” I cried, a little angrily. “I must
not allow mademoiselle to constitute herself the victim to a false

She left me without another word, going off to her pigs; and I flung
myself down again in a pet by the brookside.

 * * * * * * *

All that afternoon and evening I wandered about in the neighbourhood
of the little hill. I was hot and angry--after a humorous
fashion--with myself rather than with Carinne. If I had chosen to
invest my self-imposed knight-errantry with a purely fictitious order
of merit, I could hardly blame the girl for declining to recognise its
title to respect. At the same time, while I assured myself I detested
her, I could not refrain from constantly speculating as to the nature
of her present reflections. Was she still haughtily indignant at my
insistence, or inclined to secret heart-searchings in the matter of
her rather cavalier rejection of my services? Like a child, I wished
her, I think, to be a little sorry, a little unaccountably sad over
the memory of the stranger who had come and gone like a sunbeam shot
through the melancholy of her days. I wished her to have reason to
regret her unceremonious treatment of me. I did _not_ wish her to
overlook my visit altogether--and this, it would appear, was just what
she was doing.

For, when I once, somewhere about the fall of dusk, climbed softly to
the top of the hillock to get view of her, perchance, from ambush, I
was positively incensed to hear her voice coming up to me in a little
placid song or chant that was in itself an earnest of her indifference
and serenity. She sat against a tree at the foot of the slope, and all
about her, uncouthly dumped on the fallen mast, were a score of drowsy
pigs. She sang to them like Circe, while they twitched lazy ears or
snapped their little springs of tails; and the sunset poured from the
furnace-mouth of the valley and made her pale face glorious.

Now she did her beauty more justice by voice than by brush, though in
each art she was supremely artless; but there was a note of nature in
the first that was like the winter song of a robin. And presently she
trilled a little childish _chansonnette_ of the peasants that touched
me because I had some memory of it:--

  The little bonne, Marie,
    (_À moi, mon poupon!_)
  Spoke to her doll so wee:
    (_À moi, mon poupon!_)
  “Hush, little son, sweet thing!
  But wouldst thou be a king?”
    (_À moi, mon poupon!_)

  “Thy sceptre grows in the mere,”
    (_À moi, mon poupon!_)
  “Thy crown in the blossoming brere.”
    (_À moi, mon poupon!_)
  “For orb a grape shall stand
  Clutched in thy tiny hand.”
    (_À moi, mon poupon!_)

  A rose she pinned at his side,
    (_À moi, mon poupon!_)
  And one to each foot she tied;
    (_À moi, mon poupon!_)
  His cot she lined with rue,
  And she named him her _Jésus_.
    (_À moi, mon poupon!_)

I lay amongst the branches that night, with the memory of the low,
sweet voice and the strange picture in my brain. And, as I tossed,
literally, on my timber couch, a weirder fancy would come to me of the
elfish swineherd sleeping within her charmed circle of hogs--fearless
and secure--mingling her soft expression of rest with their truculent

I was up (or rather down) early; washed in the brook; breakfasted
fastidiously off beech-nuts. Then, quite undecided as to my course of
action, I loitered awhile amongst the trees, and finally came round by
the hill once more, and dwelt upon a thought to climb it and
investigate. But, as I stood in uncertainty, a shrill cry came to my
ears. It rang startlingly in that voiceless pit of green, and I
hurried at my topmost speed round the base of the mound, and came
suddenly upon a sight that met me like a blow.

Two savages, each with an arm of the girl brutally seized, were
shouldering the poor swineherd towards the trees. She cried and
struggled, disputing every step; the pigs streamed curiously in the
wake of the group. There was an obvious ugly inference to be drawn
from the sight, and I made no compromise with my discretion. I just
rushed through the herd and charged straight at one of the ruffians.

He was aware of me--they both were--before I reached him. They twisted
their heads about, and the one I made for dropped his hold of Carinne
and jumped to meet my onset, while the other hooted “_O-he! bran de
lui!_” and tightened his grip of the girl. I saw only that my
assailant was a powerful coarse _bonnet-rouge_, little-eyed, hairy as
Attila. The next instant I had dived, caught one of his ankles, and
given his furious impetus an upward direction. He went over me in a
parabola, like a ball sprung from a trap, and I heard his ribs thud on
the ground. But I had no time to give him my further attention, for,
seeing his comrade’s discomfiture, the second rascal came at me.

And now I was like to pay dearly for my temerity, for, though I was
lithe and active enough, I had not that of substance on my bones to
withstand the pounding of a couple of enraged and sanguinary giants.
The poor Carinne had sunk, for the moment unnerved, upon the ground. I
prayed God she had a knife to use on herself for a last resource. No
doubt the ruffian I had thrown would take me in the rear in a moment.
The other was bearing down upon me like a bullock. Suddenly, when come
almost within my reach, he jerked himself to so quick a halt that his
heels cut grooves in the mast. I saw his eyes dilate and glare beyond
me, and on the instant a single vibrant scream, like the shrill neigh
of a horse, rose from the ground at my back. It was the cue for an
immediate quarrelling clamour, fierce and gluttonous, such as one
hears when a bucket of wash is emptied into a sty; and if it was
lifted again, bodiless and inhuman, it might not reach through the

I had turned to look--and away again in infinite horror. Upon the
half-stunned wretch, as he lay prostrate on his back, an old ravening
boar of the herd had flung itself in fury, and with one bestial clinch
of its teeth and jerk of its powerful neck had torn out the very apple
of the man’s throat. And there atop of his victim the huge brute
sprawled, tossing its head and squeaking furiously; while the rest of
the herd, smitten with the beast-lust, ran hither and thither,
approaching, snuffing, retreating, and, through all, never ceasing in
their guttural outcry.

Now in a moment came a pause in the tumult, and I read in my
opponent’s eyes, as distinctly as though they were mirrors, that the
triumphant brute behind me was showing itself alert with consciousness
of the living prey that yet offered itself in reversion. I saw in the
man’s face amazement resolve itself into sick terror; he slipped back
into its sheath the _couteau-poignard_ he had half drawn.
“_Adieu-va!_” I shouted at him, advancing--and on the word he wheeled
about and pounded off amongst the trees as if the devil were at his

When I ran to Mademoiselle de Lâge, she was regaining in a dazed
manner her feet and her faculties.

“I must lift you--I must help you!” I cried. “Ah! do not look, but
come away! My God, what peril, when the beast in man is made manifest
to the beast in the beast!”

I put my right arm about her under hers. To touch the very stringy
texture of the _jupon_ with my hand was to find my heart queerly
lodged in my finger-tips. She came quietly with me a few paces; then
suddenly she wrenched herself free, and, turning her back upon me,
fumbled in her bosom.

“Monsieur,” she said on a little faint key, from the covert of her
hair (_Bon Dieu!_ that admirable low huskiness in her voice that made
of her every utterance a caress!),--“monsieur, he was the old brave of
my little troop. I called him my _Chevalier du Guet_. It was
inhuman--yes, it was inhuman; but he struck for his lady and rescued
her. Wilt thou not be my ambassador to decorate him for a last token
of gratitude?”

Heaven! the magnificence of her fancy! She had taken from her
shoulders her scapular, together with a little heart of chalcedonyx
that hung therefrom. This latter she detached and handed to me.

“Loop it to his ear, if thou darest,” said she.

I went quite gravely to do her bidding. What a _farceur_ of
circumstance was I become! But my breast overflowed with deference as
I approached the great pig. He had rolled from his victim and stood a
little apart, evilly humouring with his chaps a certain recollection.
He eyed me with wickedness as I advanced, and his obsequious
following, something subsided from their hysteria, seemed awaiting
their cue. I would not allow myself a second’s indecision. I walked
straight up to him--“Monsieur,” I said, “_avec l’égard le plus
profond_”--and flung the string over his ear.

Alas! the ingrate! As I retreated he threw down his head, dislodged
the trinket, smelt at and swallowed it.

The eyes in Carinne’s yet shocked face looked a pale inquiry when I
returned to her.

“Mademoiselle,” I said, “the honour would appear entirely to his

She nodded seriously.

“It is well,” she whispered; “and I hope none will rob him.”

“He shall be turned inside out first,” I said stoutly; and at that she
nodded again, and bade me to a hurried retreat.

We may have walked a mile, or even two, in a solemn silence, before my
comrade was fain to stop, in the heart of a woodland glen, and throw
herself exhausted on a bank. Then she looked up at me, her fatigued
eyes struggling yet with defiance.

“Why do you not upbraid me?” she said. “Why do you not say ‘I told you

“Because it does not occur to me.”

“Ah! you would make a fine virtue of forbearance; you would be the
patient ass to my vanity, would you not, monsieur?”

“I would let mademoiselle ride me rough-shod till I fell dead.”

“And so leave me the living monument to your nobility. But it is not
generous, monsieur, thus to rebuke me with silence.”

“I did not intend to----”

“And, after all, it was the hog that struck most effectively.”

“And that is conceded, mademoiselle; and the hog is generously

She mused up at me rebelliously.

“I do not even know your name.”

“It is Citizen Thibaut.”

“Citizen----” (she made a wry mouth of it). “Then, if I can find the
wherewithal to reward your gallantry, citizen, will you leave me to

“Mademoiselle, if only I could believe none other would impose himself
on that sweet duet!”

She shrugged her shoulders fretfully.

“Monsieur, monsieur, you assume a father’s privilege. Has my
misfortune placed me beyond the pale of courtesy? or has a swineherd
no title to the considerations of decency?”

“Nay, mademoiselle; it is that your beauty and your proud innocence
make so many appeals to both.”

My obstinacy seemed a goad to her anger.

“You exaggerate the importance of your service,” she cried. “Either of
those great strong men could have crushed you like an old nut----”

She seemed to struggle a moment with herself--without avail.

“For you are very little,” she added.

I felt myself turn pale. I made her a most profound bow.

“I will leave mademoiselle,” I said gravely, “to the only company she
can do justice to.”

“My own?” she asked. I did not answer, and I turned from her quivering
all through. I had gone but a few paces when her voice came after me.

“Monsieur, I am dying of hunger!”

_Mon Dieu!_ What a speech to grapple at the soul! I hurried hither and
thither, plucking her a meal from the earth, from the bushes. My heart
bled with a double wound.

Presently I stood before her, stern and silent. Her face, hidden in
her hands, was averted from me. Suddenly she looked up.

“The little pod holds the fattest pea,” she said, and burst into

_Petite pluie abat grand vent._

She was very sweet and humble to me by-and-by. She made me the _amende
honorable_ by calling my heart too great for my body. And at last said

“I take you for my knight, monsieur--to honour and protect, to bear
with and respect me----” and I kissed her brown hand in allegiance.


“Mademoiselle, what do you weave?”

She sat at the entrance to her sleeping-place--a hole under the
radiated roots of an ancient oak-tree. We had happened upon the
shelter in our league-long flight. It was one of those burrows--those
_logettes_ into which past generations of the hunted and proscribed
had sunk like moles. Many of our forests are honeycombed with them.
Over the opening to this, once concealed by a cunning mat of weeds and
branches, the roots had contrived a more enduring cover. Within, to
walls and floor, yet clung the remnants of brushwood with which long
ago the den had been lined.

Carinne was deftly busy over a queer contrivance--a sort of fencing
mask that she plaited from thin tendrils of a binding-weed.

“Monsieur on his high perch at night will suffer from the mosquitoes?”

“Has mademoiselle reason to think so?”

“As I think I can tell when a little ape carries a nut in his pouch.”

“Alas! but how cynical of romance are the tiny blood-suckers! They fly
on a chromatic scale, mademoiselle. Often I try to comfort myself with
the fancy that I am listening to the very distant humming of church
bells; and then comes a tiny prick, and something seems to rise from
my heart to my face, and to blossom thereon. No doubt it is the
flowers of fancy budding. And is the weed-bonnet for me?”

“I shall not want it in my burrow.”

This gave me exquisite gratification, which survived the many
inconveniences to which I was put by the bonnet falling off at night,
and my having to descend to recover it. But it soon appeared that the
least whim of this fascinating child was to be my law.

And yet what a dear lawless existence! I do not know what termination
to it we foresaw. Sooner or later the cold must drive me from my
nightly cradle; sooner or later the good fruits of the earth must
wither. In the meantime we were _grillon_ and _cigale_,--we stored
not, neither did we labour; but we chatted, and we wandered, and we
drew the marrow of every tender berry, and gnawed the rind of every
tough, without making faces.

And we quarrelled--_mon Dieu!_ but how we quarrelled! Scarce a day
passed without dispute, and this in the end it was that resolved the
situation for us. For truly my comrade was as full of moods and
whimsies as the wind--one moment a curious sweet woman; the next, and
on the prick of confidence, a pillar of salt. Yet, even as such, she
herself was ever the savour to the insults she made me swallow.

By then I was a little awakening, I think, to a consciousness that was
half fright, half ecstasy. Let me not misrepresent my meaning. I held
the honour of Mademoiselle de Lâge in high reverence; yet (and
_therefore_, also, _bien entendu_) I could not but acknowledge to
myself that in the depth of my heart was sprouting a desire for a more
particular understanding between us. This very self-confession at last
was like a terrifying surrender of independence--of
irresponsibility--of all that sweet store of philosophy I had made it
my practice to hive against the winter of old age. I saw my
tranquillity yielded to a disturbing sense of duty. I felt my feet and
my body stung by a thousand thorns as I turned into the narrow road of
self-abnegation. No more for me should gleam the rosy garland and the
wine-cup exhaling joy; but rather the olive from the branch should
stimulate my palate to caudle, and the priest sanctify my salt of life
out of all flavour.

_Aïe, Aïe!_ and what then? Why, I was forgetting that as a lady puts
the deduction before the argument, and cultivates her intuitive
perceptions by reading the _dénoûment_ of a romance after the first
chapter, so she will have decided upon the direction of that last gift
of herself while pinning her favours upon the coats of a dozen
successive hopefuls. I might humour or tease my fancy over the
presumptive flavour of that draught of matrimony, while all the time
Mademoiselle de Lâge of Pierrettes held my person and my citizenship
in frank contempt. Decidedly I was eating my chicken in the egg.

Still, the very fearless susceptibility of the child, her beauty and
her wilfulness, were so many flames to feed that fire of passion that
the strange nature of our comradeship had first kindled in my breast.
And so always before my mind’s eye I kept, or tried to keep, the
picture of the Chevalier Bayard and the Spanish ladies of Brescia.

 * * * * * * *

One day, in our wanderings, we came out suddenly upon a track of
highroad that, sweeping from us round a foreshore of desolate hills,
seemed, like a coast-current, to set some gaunt pines at a little
distance swaying as if they were the masts of ships. By then, as I
gather, we must have travelled as far north as Chalus, and were come
into regions that, by reason of their elevation, were somewhat colder
and moister than the sunny slopes we had quitted. Perhaps it was this
change of atmosphere that chilled our odd but never too ardent
relations one with the other; perhaps it was that Carinne, as I, was
at length taking alarm over the ambiguity of our position. In any case
we fell out and apart, and so followed some harsh experiences to the
pair of us.

Now we backed from the public way in fright, and, concealing ourselves
once more amongst the trees, sat down, and were for a long space
silent. The interval was a pregnant one to me, inasmuch as I was
labouring with a resolve that had been forming for days in my breast.
And at last I spoke--

“Carinne, we have been much at cross-purposes of late.”

“Have we, M. Thibaut? But perhaps it is in the order of things.”

“And that is to say that the plebeian Thibaut and the patrician De
Lâge cannot meet on a common plane?”

“You must not put words in my mouth.”

“Ah, if I might!”

“What then? It will soothe my _ennui_ to hear.”

“Not for the moment. Tell me, mademoiselle, would you renew this
comradeship were we to escape, and meet in the after-time under better
conditions of security?”

“Oh, monsieur! and would you have me wander hand in hand with you
through the gardens of the Thuilleries? or invite you to sleep upon
the tester of my bed? or open my mouth like a young bird at the
fruit-stalls, that you might pop in raspberries?”

“Unkind! I would have you meet me by chance; I would see your eyes
open to a light of pleasure; I would have you come gladly to me and
take my fingers in yours and say: ‘This is he that was my good friend
when I needed one.’”

“I will remember. And then all will clap their hands and cry ‘Bravo!’
will they not? and I shall feel a little excitement. ‘_Qu’y a-t-il_,
Jacko!’ I shall say. ‘Show the company some of the pretty tricks you
played in the woods.’”

I was silent.

“And are those the words you would put in my mouth, monsieur?” said

“I referred to the present,” I answered coldly; “and, as you take it
so, I will speak in your person as I would have you speak.
‘Jean-Louis,’ you say, ‘I am, like all sweet women, an agglomerate of
truths and inconsistencies; yet I am not, in the midst of my
wilfulness, insensible to the suffering my caprice of misunderstanding
puts you to; and, in face of the equivocal character of our
intercourse, I will forego the blindness that is a privilege of my
sex. Speak boldly, then, what lies in your heart.’”

As I spoke in some trepidation, Carinne’s face grew enigmatical with
hardness and a little pallor, and she looked steadily away from me.

“I thank you,” she said softly, “for that word ‘equivocal.’ But please
to remember, monsieur, that this ‘_intercourse_’ is none of my

“You choose to misapprehend me.”

“Oh! it is not possible,” she cried, turning sharply upon me. “You
take advantage of my condescension and of the wicked licence of the
times. Have you sought, by this elaborate process, to entrap me into a
confession of dependence upon you? Why” (she measured me scornfully
with her eyes), “I think I look over and beyond you, monsieur.”

“Now,” I said, stung beyond endurance by her words, “I pronounce you,
mademoiselle, the most soulless, as you are the most beautiful, woman
I have ever encountered. I thought I loved you with that reverence
that would subscribe to the very conditions that Laban imposed upon
Jacob. I see I was mistaken, and that I would have bartered my gold
for a baser metal. And now, also, I see, mademoiselle, that the
callousness you displayed in presence of the murdered Lepelletier,
which I had fain fancied was a paralysis of nerve, was due in effect
to nothing less vulgar than an unfeeling heart!”

She stared at me in amazement, it seemed. I was for the moment carried
quite beyond myself.

“I will leave you,” I cried, “to your better reflections--or, at
least, to your better judgment. This Thibaut will walk off the high
fever of his presumption, and return presently, your faithful and
obedient servant.”

I turned, fuming, upon my heel, and strode off amongst the trees. I
had not gone a dozen paces when her voice stayed me. I twisted myself

“Do not lift your head so high, monsieur,” she said, “or you will run
it against a mushroom and hurt yourself.”

 * * * * * * *

Insolent--cruel--fascinating! For what had I indulged this mood of
quixotry--for what permitted this intolerable child to gall my sides
with her disdain? Would it have been thus had I condescended to drive
her coquetry to bay with that toothless dog of my rank? Ah! I believe
so; and that only made the sting of her contempt the more poisonous.
It was my person that could not suffice; and truly there is no bribe
to a woman’s favour like an extra inch of weediness. She is the
escapement of the heart; but the reason she will never move till she
acquire a sense of proportion. She was designed but to put man out of
conceit with himself, and I think she was not formed of his rib but of
his spleen. Therefore the tap-root of her nature is grievance, from
which her every leaf and flower and knot and canker takes its
sustenance of misconstruction. She may bloom very fair and sweet; but
then so does the dulcamara, and to taste either is dangerous.

Thinking these thoughts, I postponed my return to the little glade
where I had left Carinne. She should believe me gone for good and all,
I vowed, and so should she suffer the first pangs of desertion. Then,
though she wished to make me feel small, no giant should figure so
great in her eyes as the moderate Thibaut.

At last, in the early glow of evening, the unquenchable yearning in my
heart would brook no longer delay. Half-shamefaced, half-stubborn, I
retraced my steps to the glen that held my all of aggravation and of

She was not there. She never came to it more. For long I would not
realise the truth. I waited, and hoped, and often circumambulated the
spot where she had rested, hurrying over a greater or less
circumference according to my distance from the centre. I called--I
entreated--perhaps in the darkness of night I wept. It was all of no
avail. She had vanished without leaving a trace, wilfully and
resentfully, and had thus decided to reward my long service of

When--after lingering about the spot for two nights and two days,
drugging a dying hope with the philtre of its own brewing--I at length
knew myself convicted of despair, a great bitterness awoke in my
breast that I should have thus permitted myself to be used and fooled
and rejected.

“She is not worthy of this vast of concern!” I cried. “I will forget
her, and resume myself, and be again the irresponsible maggot
contributing to the decay of a worm-eaten system. To taste
disenchantment! After all, that is not to drink the sea!”

But it was to eat of its fruit of ashes; and I was to carry a burden
with me that I might not forego. This in my subsequent wanderings made
my steps drag heavily, as if always I bore in the breast of my coat
the leaden image of an angel. But, nevertheless, I could muster a
pride to my aid in moments of a very desperate lassitude of the soul.

 * * * * * * *

With the opening of October I was still a solitary “rogue,” ostracised
from my herded kind. I had wandered so far north as that I saw Paris
(the ultimate goal, I felt, of my weary feet) to swim distinguishable
in the misty ken of my mind. Therefrom always seemed to emanate a
deadly but dulcet atmosphere, the attraction of which must sooner or
later overpower me. Sometimes in the night I could have thought I
heard the city’s swarming voices jangling to me down the steeper roads
of wind; sometimes the keystone of the Conciergerie would figure to me
as the lodestone to all shattered barques tossing helplessly on a
shoreless waste. For I was sick to the heart of loneliness; sick of
the brute evasion of my race; sick of my perilous immunity from all
the burning processes of that frantic drama of my times. And so I
trudged ever with my face set to the north, and the hum of the
witches’ cauldron, whose broth was compound of all heroism and all
savagery, singing phantomly in my ears.

And to this direction yet another consideration induced me. With the
approach of chillier weather the wild wood-life of the wilder
provinces asserted itself, and assumed a more menacing aspect. The
abolition of the game laws had brought about, indeed, an amazing
increase in the number of wolves and foxes; and what with these on one
side and sans-culottism on the other, I had often latterly felt myself
walking between the devil and the deep sea. Then, once upon a time, I
was joined by an odd roguish way-fellow, the obliquity of whose moral
vision I overlooked for the sake of his company; and through him was
my burden of self-dependence a little lightened.

I had sunk asleep one afternoon in a copse neighbouring on the royal
village of Cléry. Autumn is all a siesta in that mild and beautiful
district. Waking, I felt the sunlight on my eyes like a damp warm
sponge; and so with my lids gratefully closed I fell a-musing.

“To think,” I murmured, “that the twang of a beetle’s bowstring at my
ear on the old bridge outside Coutras should have been the key-note to
all this devil’s dance of mine!”

I thought I heard a faint rustle somewhere at hand--a squirrel or
coney. I paid no attention to it, but indulged my mood of
introspection. By-and-by a step came towards me, advancing boldly
amongst the trees from a distance. It approached, reached, stopped
over against me. I opened my eyes as I lay, my arms under my head, and
placidly surveyed the new-comer. He stood looking down upon me, his
fingers heaped upon the black crutch of his _bâton_, and when he saw
me awake he nodded his head in a lively manner.

“The occasion is opportune,” he said, in a quick, biting voice.

His lower jaw projected, showing a straight row of little even
teeth--like palings to keep his speech within bounds. The brightness
of his half-seen eyes belied the indolence of their lids. He wore a
jacket of sheepskin, wool outwards; and a leathern bag, stuffed with
printed broadsides, hung from his shoulder by a length of scarlet
tape. On his head was a three-cornered hat, fantastically caught up
with ribbons, and his legs and feet were encased respectively in fine
black hose and the neat pumps with buckles known as _pantoufles de

“_Comment?_” said I, without moving.

“The citizen has slept?”

“Most tranquilly.”

“The citizen has dreamt?”

“Without doubt. And he is awake.”

He made a comprehensive gesture with his stick and his hands.

“But I interpret dreams,” said he--“and at one price. I will unravel
you the visions of a politician or expound himself to Jack Hodge for
the common charge of fifty centimes.”

He bent his head towards me with an affectation of scrutiny.

“I perceive the citizen does not credit me,” he said.

“And so his eyes rebuke his scepticism, interpreter of dreams,” said
I; “for thou hast rightly construed their meaning.”

“Ah!” he murmured, raising himself and drawing in his breath. “But I
find it simple to convince the most incredulous.”

“You do?”

“Yes,” he cried, clapping his chest; “for know that thou speak’st with
Quatremains-Quatrepattes himself!”

He dwelt on the pause that followed; collapsed from it; regarded me,
it seemed, in astonishment.

“Thou hast not heard of me?”

“Again the interpreter of dreams justifies himself.”

He looked away from me, in a high manner of abstraction.

“And this is for the sunshine of fame to throw one’s shadow over half
the world!” said he.

“Maybe thy fame is at its meridian, citizen, and thy shadow
consequently a little fat blot at thy feet?”

He turned to me again.

“Oh yes,” he cried sarcastically. “I am Quatremains-Quatrepattes, and
some outside the beaten track know my name, perhaps. But possibly the
citizen has never heard even of Jean Cazotte?”

“On the contrary; I have seen and spoken with him.”

“_Par exemple!_ The man was a charlatan. He could foretell everything
but his own guillotining last year. And yet thou art ignorant--well,

He threw up his hands in deprecation; then came and sat down on the
grass beside me.

“_Cela m’est égal_, M. Quatremains-Quatrepattes,” said I.

“Ah!” he said; “but I will convince thee at once. Describe to me thy

“I dreamt I wrestled with an angel and was overthrown.”

“Thy mistress has quarrelled with and rejected thee.”

“An obvious deduction. Yet I will assure you she is no angel.”

“Canst thou say so? But we are all of the seed of Lucifer. Proceed.”

“I dreamt how a great march grew out of a single accident of sound.”

Here I was watchful of him, and I saw some relish twitch his lips. He
assumed an air of tense introspection, groping with his soul, like a
fakir, amongst the reflex images thrown upon the backs of his

“I hear a note,” he said presently, as if speaking to himself--“one
vibrant accent like the clipt song of a bullet. Is it struck from an
instrument or from any resounding vessel? It comes down the wind--it
clangs--it passes. Nay--it signifies only that some winged insect has
fled by the ear of a solitary traveller resting on an ancient bridge;
yet from that little bugle-sound shall the traveller learn to date the
processes of a long and fruitless journey.”

I broke into a great laugh.

“Most excellent!” I cried. “Thou hast an ingenuity of adaptation that
should make thy fortune--even at the very low rate of fifty centimes
the job.”

His eyebrows lifted at me.

“Why, M. Quatremains-Quatrepattes--M. Jacquemart,” said I,--“I knew
thee listening to me just now; and I heard thee steal away and come
again. It is easy to construe with the key in one’s hand.”

He was no whit abashed.

“_Cela m’est égal_,” he said serenely, echoing my words. “But I can
foretell one’s future, nevertheless, very exactly.”

“Why, so can I, if I am not to be called upon to verify my

He looked suddenly in my face.

“Thou art a disguised aristocrat.”

“Better and better. But are we not all such to ourselves? The soul is
excessively exclusive.”

“You will not consider I have earned my fee?” said he.

“Fifty times over, my friend. Will you take it in a promissory note?”

“Ah!” he cried pleasantly. “I perceive I have sown in barren soil.”

“Again you justify yourself. Yet should I be a very thicket were all
the berries I have swallowed of late to germinate in me.”

“Is that so?” said he. “But I have been a scapegoat myself----” and
thereat this extraordinary person pressed upon me some food he had
with him with an ample and courtly grace.

“This shall yield a better crop than my prophesying,” he said,
watching me as I munched.

“Of a surety,” I answered; “the full harvest of my gratitude.”

He pondered at me.

“I wish I could convince thee,” he said.

“Wherefore? Is not the evil sufficient for the day in this distracted
land? Why should one want to probe the future?”

“Because forewarned is forearmed.”

“Oh, little Quatremains-Quatrepattes! Dost thou not perceive the
paradox? How can destiny be altered by foreknowledge? If you interpret
that I am to be guillotined, and I profit by the statement to evade
such a catastrophe, how is not your prophecy stultified?”

“Why, I have no creed of predestination. The lords of life and death
are not inexorable. Sometimes, like M. St Meard, one may buy his
reprieve of them with a jest. Above all, they hate the sour fatalist
whose subscription to his own faith is a gloomy affectation.”

“Well; I think I love thee a little.”

He looked at me with a smile.

“Come with me, then. I long to give thee proof. Dost thou need a
safeguard? Thou shalt run under my wing--_ça et là_--to Paris if
thou wilt. I am popular with all. If necessity drives, thou shalt
figure as my Jack-pudding. What! thou mayst even play up to the part.
Thou hast slept in the mire; but ‘many a ragged colt makes a good

I laughed.

“Why not?” I said. “For I have played the tragic to empty houses till
I am tired.”

 * * * * * * *

Quatremains-Quatrepattes and his merry-andrew gambolled through a
score of villages on their road to Paris. I found the rascal hugely
popular, as he had boasted he was, and a most excellent convoy to my
humble craft, so perilously sailing under false colours. He was
subtle, shrewd, seasonable,--of the species whose opportunity is
accident; and perhaps no greater tribute could be paid to his deftness
than this--that he never once exposed himself to detection by me in a
question of moral fraud. “_Ton génie a la main crochue_,” I would say
to him, chuckling; but he would only respond with a rebuking silence.

Early he handed over the bag of broadsides--the revolutionary songs
and ballads (some, it must be confessed, abominably coarse)--to my
care, that so he himself might assume a lofty indifference to the
meaner processes of his business. This delighted me. It was like a new
rattling game to me to hawk my commodities amongst the crowd; to jest
and laugh with my fellows once more under cover of the droll I
represented. Shortly, I think, I became as popular as Quatremains
himself; and over this, though he loved me as a valuable auxiliary, he
began to look a little sober by-and-by, as if he dreaded I should joke
the weightier part of his commerce out of all respect.

_His_ popularity was chiefly with the village wenches. They would
gather about him at the fountains, and pay their sous open-eyed to be
expounded; or singly they would withdraw him into nooks or private
places if the case was serious.

“Citizen seër,” says Margot, “I dreamed I fell and was wounded.”

“That is good, little minette. Thou wilt pay me five sous for a fond

“Citizen seër, I dreamed I was eating of a great egg.”

“And thou shalt shortly beget a male child that shall bring thee

“How now, old Jackalent!”

There rises a shrill cackle of laughter.

“_Fi donc_, Margot! _On te le rendra de bonne heure!_”

To submit the commerce of love to the test of a little dream-manual he
carried about with him, that was Quatremains’ system. This key (it was
in manuscript) interpreted on a couple of hundred, or more, words,
from _Abel_ to _Wounds_; but affairs of the heart predominated through
the whole alphabet of nonsense. He would coach himself continually
from it in secret; but indeed a small wit and a trifle of invention
were all that was needed. Now and again I would rally him on this
petty taxing of credulity.

“How now!” he would answer. “Art thou not yet convinced?”

“By what, thou most surprising Quatremains-Quatrepattes?”

“For example, did I not foretell that Mère Grignon, whose husband was
guillotined, would be brought to bed of a child with the mark of the
_lunette_ on its throat; and were not my words verified the same

“But who knows that some one may not have bribed the nurse to score
the neck of the new-born with whipcord?”

“_Tête-bleu!_ Should I hold good my reputation and pay this nurse,
think’st thou, out of five sous?”

But the rascal had other strings to his bow, all twanging to the same
tune _de folles amours_--charms, fortune-telling, palmistry: so many
lines under the thumb, so many children; a shorter first joint to the
little than to its neighbour finger, the wife to rule the roast; a
mole on the nose, success in intrigues; a mole on the breast,
sincerity of affection. Then, too, he would tell nativities, cast
horoscopes, quarter the planets for you like an orange or like the
fruit of his imagination. There is a late picture of him often before
me as he sat in the market-place of Essonnes, a little village that
lies almost within view of the towers of Paris. A half-dozen blooming
daughters of the Revolution stood about him, their hands under their
aprons for warmth,--for it was pretty late in November, and in fact
the eve of St Catherine’s feast.

“Now,” said Quatremains, “there are seven of ye, and that is the sure
number,--for there must not be more than seven nor fewer than three;
and be certain ye are quick to my directions.” (He jingled softly in
his fists the copper harvest of his gathering.) “Are all of ye
virgins?” he cried. “If the charm fails, she who is not will be
accountable to the others.” (He scanned their hot faces like a very
Torquemada of the true faith.) “To-morrow, then,” he said, “let each
wear inside her bosom all day a sprig of myrtle. At night, assemble
together privately in a room, and, as the clock strikes eleven, take
ye each your twig and fold it in tissue-paper, having first kindled
charcoal in a chafing-dish. Thereonto throw nine hairs from the head,
and a little moon-paring of every toe- and finger-nail, as also some
frankincense, with the fragrant vapour arising from which ye shall
fumigate each her packet. Now, go to your beds, and with the stroke of
midnight compose yourselves to slumber, the envelope under the head,
and, so ye have not failed to keep silence from first to last, each
shall assuredly be made conversant in dream with her future husband.”

Oh, wonderful nature of woman, thus, in a starving France, to throw
sous into a pool for the sport of vanity!

 * * * * * * *

Quatremains smuggled me into Paris, and there, for we had no further
use of one another, our connection ceased. Thenceforwards I must live
on my wits--other than those he had taxed--and on the little pieces of
money that remained to me for feast-days. The struggle was a short
one. I had not been a fortnight in the city when the blow that I had
so long foreseen fell upon me. One day I was arrested and carried to
La Force. That, perhaps, was as well; for my personal estate was
dwindled to a few livres, and I knew no rag-picker that would be
likely to extend to me his patronage and protection.

Yet before this came about, I had one other strange little experience
that shall be related.


It was on a night of middle Vendémiaire in the year two (to affect
the whimsical jargon of the _sans-culottes_) that I issued from my
burrow with an intrepidity that was nothing more nor less than a
congestion of the sensibilities. Fear at that time having fed upon
itself till all was devoured, was converted in very many to a humorous
stoicism that only lacked to be great because it could not boast a
splendid isolation. “Suspect of being suspect”--Citizen Chaumette’s
last slash at the hamstrings of hope--had converted all men of humane
character to that religion of self-containment that can alone
spiritually exalt above the caprices of the emotions. Thousands, in a
moment, through extreme of fear became fearless; hence no man of them
could claim a signal inspiration of courage, but only that
subscription to the terms of it which unnatural conditions had
rendered necessary to all believers in the ultimate ethical triumph of
the human race.

I do not mean to say that I was tired of life, but simply that it came
to me at once that I must not hold that test of moral independence at
the mercy of any temporal tyranny whatsoever. Indeed I was still so
far in love with existence physically, as to neglect no precaution
that was calculated to contribute to the present prolonging of it. I
wore my frieze night-cap, carmagnole, sabots, and black shag spencer
with all the assumption I could muster of being to the shoddy born. I
had long learned the art of slurring a sigh into a cough or
expectoration. I could curse the stolid spectres of the tumbrils so as
to deceive all but the recording angel, and, possibly, Citizen

Nevertheless, with me, as with others, precaution seemed but a
condition of the recklessness whose calculations never extended beyond
the immediate day or hour. We lived posthumous lives, so to speak, and
would hardly have resented it, should an arbitrary period have been
put to our revisiting of the “glimpses of the moon.”

On this night, then, of early September (as I will prefer calling it)
I issued from my burrow, calm under the intolerable tyranny of
circumstance. Desiring to reconstruct myself on the principle of an
older independence, I was mentally discussing the illogic of a system
of purgation that was seeking to solve the problem of existence by
emptying the world, when I became aware that my preoccupied ramblings
had brought me into the very presence of that sombre engine that was
the concrete expression of so much and such detestable false
reasoning. In effect, and to speak without circumbendibus, I found
myself to have wandered into the Faubourg St Antoine--into the place
of execution, and to have checked my steps only at the very foot of
the guillotine.

It was close upon midnight, and, overhead, very wild and broken
weather. But the deeps of atmosphere, with the city for their ocean
bed, as it were, lay profoundly undisturbed by the surface turmoil
above; and in the tranquil _Place_, for all the upper flurry, one
could hear oneself breathe and think.

I could have done this with the more composure, had not another sound,
the import of which I was a little late in recognising, crept into my
hearing with a full accompaniment of dismay. This sound was like
licking or lapping, very bestial and unclean, and when I came to
interpret it, it woke in me a horrible nausea. For all at once I knew
that, hidden in that dreadful conduit that strong citizens of late had
dug from the Place St Antoine to the river, to carry away the ponded
blood of the executed, the wild dogs of Paris were slaking their
wolfish thirst. I could hear their filthy gutturising and the scrape
of their lazy tongues on the soil, and my heart went cold, for
latterly, and since they had taken to hunting in packs, these ravenous
brutes had assailed and devoured more than one belated citizen whom
they had scented traversing the Champs Elysées, or other lonely
space; and I was aware a plan for their extermination was even now
under discussion by the Committee of Public Safety.

Now, to fling scorn to the axe in that city of terror was to boast
only that one had adjusted oneself to a necessity that did not imply
an affectation of indifference to the fangs of wild beasts--for such,
indeed, they were. So, a suicide, who goes to cast himself headlong
into the river, may run in a panic from a falling beam, and be
consistent, too; for his compact is with death--not mutilation.

Be that as it may, I know that for the moment terror so snapped at my
heel that, under the very teeth of it, I leaped up the scaffold
steps--with the wild idea of swarming to the beam above the knife and
thence defying my pursuers, should they nose and bay me seated there
at refuge--and stood with a white desperate face, scarcely daring to
pant out the constriction of my lungs.

There followed no sound of concentrated movement; but only that
stealthy licking went on, with the occasional plash of brute feet in a
bloody mire; and gradually my turbulent pulses slowed, and I thought
myself a fool for my pains in advertising my presence on a platform of
such deadly prominence.

Still, not a soul seemed to be abroad. As I trod the fateful quarter
ten minutes earlier, the last squalid roysterers had staggered from
the wine-shops--the last gleams of light been shut upon the emptied
streets. I was alone with the dogs and the guillotine.

Tiptoeing very gently, very softly, I was preparing to descend the
steps once more, when I drew back with a muttered exclamation, and
stood staring down upon an apparition that, speeding at that moment
into the _Place_, paused within ten paces of the scaffold on which I

Above the scudding clouds was a moon that pulsed a weak intermittent
radiance through the worn places of the drift. Its light was always
more suggested than revealed; but it was sufficient to denote that the
apparition was that of a very pale young woman--a simple child she
looked, whose eyes, nevertheless, wore that common expression of the
dramatic intensity of her times.

She stood an instant, tense as Corday, her fingers bent to her lips;
her background a frouzy wall with the legend _Propriété Nationale_
scrawled on it in white chalk. Significant to the inference, the cap
of scarlet wool was drawn down upon her young _blondes_ curls--the
gold of the coveted perukes.

Suddenly she made a little movement, and in the same instant gave out
a whistle clear and soft.

Yes, it was she from whom it proceeded; and I shuddered. There below
me in the ditch were the dogs; here before me was this fearless child.

For myself, even in the presence of this angel, I dared scarcely stir.
It was unnatural; it was preposterous--came a scramble and a rush; and
there, issued from the filthy sewer, was a huge boar-hound, that
fawned on the little citoyenne, and yelped (under her breath) like a
thing of human understanding.

She cried softly, “Down, Radegonde!” and patted the monster’s head
with a pretty manner of endearment.

“Ah!” she murmured, “hast thou broken thy faith with thy hunger?
Traitor!--but I will ask no questions. Here are thy comfits. My sweet,
remember thy pedigree and thy mistress.”

She thrust a handful of sugar-plums into the great jaws. I could hear
the hound crunching them in her teeth.

What was I to do?--what warning to give? This child--this frail
wind-flower of the night--the guillotine would have devoured her at a
snap, and laughed over the tit-bit! But I, and the nameless gluttons
of the ditch!

They were there--part at least of one of those packs (recruited by
gradual degrees from the desolated homes of the proscribed--of
_émigrés_) that now were swollen to such formidable proportions as
to have become a menace and a nightly terror. The dogs were there, and
should they scent this tender quarry, what power was in a single
faithful hound to defend her against a half hundred, perhaps, of her

Sweating with apprehension, I stole down the steps. She was even then
preparing to retreat hurriedly as she had come. Her lips were pressed
to the beast’s wrinkled head. The sound of her footstep might have
precipitated the catastrophe I dreaded.

“Citoyenne! citoyenne!” I whispered in an anguished voice.

She looked up, scared and white in a moment. The dog gave a rolling

“Radegonde!” she murmured, in a faint warning tone.

The brute stood alert, her hair bristling.

“Bid her away!” I entreated. “You are in danger.”

She neither answered nor moved.

“See, I am in earnest!” I cried, loud as I durst. “The wild dogs are
below there.”

“Radegonde!” she murmured again.

“Ah, mademoiselle! What are two rows of teeth against a hundred. Send
her away, I implore you, and accept my escort out of this danger.”

“My faith!” she said at last, in a queer little moving voice, “it may
be as the citizen says; but I think dogs are safer than men.”

I urged my prayer. The beauty and courage of the child filled my heart
with a sort of rapturous despair.

“God witness I am speaking for your safety alone! Will this prevail
with you? I am the Comte de la Muette. I exchange you that confidence
for a little that you may place in me. I lay my life in your hands,
and I beg the charge of yours in return.”

I could hear her breathing deep where she stood. Suddenly she bent and
spoke to her companion.

“To the secret place, Radegonde--and to-morrow again for thy
_confiture_, thou bad glutton. Kiss thy Nanette, my baby; and, oh,
Radegonde! not what falls from the table of Sainte Guillotine!”

She stood erect, and held up a solemn finger. The hound slunk away,
like a human thing ashamed; showed her teeth at me as she passed, and
disappeared in the shadows of the scaffold.

I took a hurried step forward. Near at hand the pure loveliness of
this citoyenne was, against its surroundings, like a flower floating
on blood.

She smiled, and looked me earnestly in the face. We were but phantoms
to one another in that moony twilight; but in those fearful times men
had learned to adapt their eyesight to the second plague of darkness.

“Is it true?” she said, softly. “Monsieur le Comte, it must be long
since you have received a curtsey.”

She dropped me one there, bending to her own prettiness like a rose;
and then she gave a little low laugh. Truly that city of Paris saw
some strange meetings in the year of terror.

“I, too,” she said, “was born of the _noblesse_. That is a secret,
monsieur, to set against yours.”

I could but answer, with some concern--

“Mademoiselle, these confessions, if meet for the holy saint yonder,
are little for the ears of the devil’s advocates. I entreat let us be
walking, or those in the ditch may anticipate upon us his

“_Ma foi!_” she said, “it is true. Come, then!”

We went off together, stealing from the square like thieves.
Presently, when I could breathe with a half relief, “You will not go
to-morrow?” I said.

“To feed Radegonde! Ah, monsieur! I would not for the whole world lose
the little sweet-tooth her goodies. Each of us has only the other to
love in all this cruel city.”

“So, my child! And they have taken the rest?”

“Monsieur, my father was the rest. He went on the seventeenth
Fructidor; and since, my veins do not run blood, I think, but only
ice-water, that melts from my heart and returns to freeze again.”

I sighed.

“Nay,” she said, “for I can laugh, as you see.”

“And the dog, my poor child?”

“She ran under the tumbril, and bit at the heels of the horses. She
would not leave him, monsieur; and still--and still she haunts the
place. I go to her,--when all the city is silent I go to her, if I can
escape, and take her the sweetmeats that she loves. What of that? It
is only a little while and my turn must come, and then Radegonde will
be alone. My hair, monsieur will observe, is the right colour for the

She stayed me with a touch.

“I am arrived. A thousand thanks for your escort, Monsieur le Comte.”

We were by a low casement with a ledge before it--an easy climb from
the street. She pushed the lattice open, showing me it was unbolted
from within.

“She thinks me fast and asleep,” she said. “Some day soon, perhaps,
but not yet.”

I did not ask her who _she_ was. I seemed all mazed in a silent dream
of pity.

“It is quite simple,” she said, “when no cavalier is by to look. Will
the citizen turn his head?”

She was up in an instant, and stepping softly into the room beyond,
leaned out towards me. On the moment an evil thing grew out of the
shadow of a buttress close by, and a wicked insolent face looked into
mine with a grin.

“A sweet good-night to Monsieur le Comte,” it said, and vanished.

Shocked and astounded, I stood rooted to the spot. But there came a
sudden low voice in my ear:

“Quick, quick! have you no knife? You must follow!”

I had taken but a single uncertain step, when, from a little way down
the street we had traversed, there cut into the night a sharp
attenuated howl; and, in a moment, on the passing of it, a chorus of
hideous notes swept upon me standing there in indecision.

“My God!” I cried--“the dogs!”

She made a sound like a plover. I scrambled to the ledge and dropped
into the room beyond. There in the dark she clutched and clung to me.
For though the cry had been bestial, there had seemed to answer to it
something mortal--an echo--a human scream of very dreadful
fear,--there came a rush of feet like a wind, and, with ashy faces, we
looked forth.

They had him--that evil thing. An instant we saw his sick white face
thrown up like a stone in the midst of a writhing sea; and the jangle
was hellish. Then I closed the lattice, and pressed her face to my

He had run from us to his doom, which meeting, he had fled back in his
terror to make us the ghastly sport he had designed should be his.

How long we stood thus I know not. The noise outside was unnameable,
and I closed her ears with her hair, with my hands--nay, I say it with
a passionate shame, with my lips. She sobbed a little and moaned; but
she clung to me, and I could feel the beating of her heart. We had
heard windows thrown open down the street--one or two on the floors
above us. I had no heed or care for any danger. I was wrapt in a
fearful ecstasy.

By-and-by she lifted her face. Then the noise had ceased for some
time, and a profound silence reigned about us.

“Ah!” she said, in a faint reeling voice. “Radegonde was there; I saw

“Mademoiselle--the noble creature--she hath won us a respite.”

Her breath caught in the darkness.

“Yes,” she said. “There is a peruke that must wait.”

Suddenly she backed from me, and put the hair from her eyes.

“If you dare, monsieur, it necessitates that we make our adieux.”

“Au revoir, citoyenne. It must be that, indeed.”

She held out her hand, that was like a rose petal. I put my lips to it
and lingered.

“Monsieur, monsieur!” she entreated.

The next moment I was in the street.

 * * * * * * *

Who was my little citoyenne? Ah! I shall never know. The terror
gripped us, and these things passed. Incidents that would make the
passion of sober times, the spirit of revolution dismisses with a
shrug. To die in those days was such a vulgar complaint.

But I saw her once more, and then when my heart nestled to her image
and my veins throbbed to her remembered touch.

I was strolling, on the morning following my strange experience, in
the neighbourhood of the Champs Elysées, when I was aware of a great
press of people all making in the direction of that open ground.

“What arrives, then, citizen?” I cried to one who paused for breath
near me.

He gasped, the little morose. To ask any question that showed one
ignorant of the latest caprice of the Executive was almost to be

“Has not the citizen heard? The Committee of Safety has decreed the
destruction of the dogs.”

“The dogs?”

“Sacred Blood!” he cried. “Is it not time, when they take, as it is
said they did last night, a good friend of the Republic to supper?”

He ran on, and I followed. All about the Champs Elysées was a
tumultuous crowd, and posted within were two battalions of the
National Guard, their blue uniforms resplendent, their flint-locks
shining in their hands. They, the soldiers, surrounded the area, save
towards the Rue Royale, where a gap occurred; and on this gap all eyes
were fixed.

Scarcely was I come on the scene when on every side a laughing hubbub
arose. The dogs were being driven in, at first by twos and threes, but
presently in great numbers at a time. For hours, I was told, had half
the _gamins_ of Paris been beating the coverts and hallooing their
quarry to the toils.

At length, when many hundreds were accumulated in the free space, the
soldiers closed in and drove the skulking brutes through the gap
towards the Place Royale. And there they made a battue of it, shooting
them down by the score.

With difficulty I made my way round to the _Place_, the better to view
the sport. The poor trapped _fripons_ ran hither and thither, crying,
yelping--some fawning on their executioners, some begging to the
bullets, as if these were crusts thrown to them. And my heart woke to
pity; for was I not witnessing the destruction of my good friends?

The noise--the volleying, the howling, the shrieking of the
_canaille_--was indescribable.

Suddenly my pulses gave a leap. I knew her--Radegonde. She was driven
into the fire and stood at bay, bristling.

“Nanette!” cried a quick acid voice; “Nanette--imbecile--my God!”

It all passed in an instant. There, starting from the crowd, was the
figure of a tall sour-featured woman, the tiny tricolour bow in her
scarlet cap; there was the thin excited musketeer, his piece to his
shoulder; there was my citoyenne flung upon the ground, her arms about
the neck of the hound.

 * * * * * * *

Whether his aim was true or false, who can tell? He shot her through
her dog, and his sergeant brained him. And in due course his sergeant
was invited for his reward to look through the little window.

These were a straw or two in the torrent of the revolution.

 * * * * * * *

It was Citizen Gaspardin who accepted the contract to remove the
carcasses (some three thousand of them) that encumbered the Place
Royale as a result of this drastic measure. However, his eye being
bigger than his stomach, as the saying is, he found himself short of
means adequate to his task and so applied for the royal equipages to
help him out of his difficulty. And these the Assembly, entering into
the joke, was moved to lend him; and the dead dogs, hearsed in gilt
and gingerbread as full as they could pack, made a rare procession of
it through Paris, thereby pointing half-a-dozen morals that it is not
worth while at this date to insist on.

I saw the show pass amidst laughter and clapping of hands; and I saw
Radegonde, as I thought, her head lolling from the roof of the
stateliest coach of all. But her place should have been on the seat of

And the citoyenne, the dark window, the ripping sound in the street,
and that bosom bursting to mine in agony? Episodes, my friend--mere
travelling sparks in dead ashes, that glowed an instant and vanished.
The times bristled with such. Love and hate, and all the kaleidoscope
of passion--pouf! a sigh shook the tube, and form and colour were

But--but--but--ah! I was glad thenceforth not to shudder for my heart
when a _blonde perruque_ went by me.


Gardel--one of the most eminent and amusing rascals of my
experience--is inextricably associated with my memories of the prison
of the Little Force. He had been runner to the Marquis de Kercy; and
that his vanity would by no means deny, though it should procure his
conviction ten times over. He was vivacious, and at all expedients as
ingenious as he was practical; and, while he was with us, the
common-room of La Force was a theatre of varieties.

By a curious irony of circumstance, it fell to Madame, his former
châtelaine, to second his extravagances. For he was her
fellow-prisoner; and, out of all that motley, kaleidoscopic
assemblage, an only representative of the traditions of her past. She
indulged him, indeed, as if she would say, “In him, _mes amis_, you
see exemplified the gaieties that I was born to patronise and

She was a small, faded woman, of thirty-five or so--one of those
colourless aristocrats who, lying under no particular ban, were
reserved to complete the tale of any _fournée_ that lacked the
necessary number of loaves. It is humiliating to be guillotined
because fifty-nine are not sixty. But that, in the end, was her fate.

I recall her the first evening of my incarceration, when I was
permitted to descend, rather late, to the _salle de récréation_ of
the proscribed. She was seated, with other ladies, at the long table.
The music of their voices rippled under the vaulted ceiling. They
worked, these dear creatures--the decree depriving prisoners of all
implements and equipments not yet being formulated. Madame la Marquise
stitched proverbs into a sampler in red silk. She looked, perhaps, a
morsel slatternly for a _grande dame_, and her fine lace was torn. But
the sampler must not be neglected, for all that. Since the days she
had played at “Proverbs” (how often?) in the old paternal château,
her little philosophy of life had been all maxims misapplied. Her
sampler was as eloquent to her as was their knitting to the ladies in
the _Place du Trône_. Endowed with so noble a fund of sentiments, how
could they accuse her of inhumanity? I think she had a design to plead
“sampler” before Fouquier Tinville by-and-by.

I had an opportunity presently to examine her work. “_A laver la tête
d’un Maure on perd sa lessive._” She had just finished it--in Roman
characters, too, as a concession to the Directory. It was a
problem-axiom the Executive had resolved unanswerably--as I was bound
to tell her.

“_Comment?_” she asked, with a little sideling perk of her head, like
a robin.

“Can madame doubt? It requests the black thing to sneeze once into the
basket; and, behold! the difficulty is surmounted.”

“_Fi donc!_” she cried, and stole me a curious glance. Was I delirious
with the Revolution fever?

“Of what do they accuse you, my friend?” she said kindly, by-and-by.

“A grave offence, surely. There is little hope for me. I gave a
citizen ‘you’ instead of ‘thou.’”

“So? But how men are thoughtless! Alas!” (She treated me to a little
proverb again.) “‘The sleeping cat needs not to be aroused.’”

This was late in the evening, a little before the “lock up” hour was

Earlier, as I had entered, she lifted her eyebrows to Gardel, who
stood, her _chevalier d’honneur_, behind her chair. The man advanced
at once, with infinite courtesy, and bade me welcome, entirely in the
grand manner, to the society of La Force.

“I have the honour to represent madame. This kiss I impress upon
monsieur’s hand is to be returned.”

The ladies laughed. I advanced gravely and saluted the Marquise.

“I restore it, like a medal blessed of the holy father, sanctified a
hundredfold,” I said.

There was a mignonne seated near who was critical of my gallantry.

“But monsieur is enamoured of his own lips,” she said in a little

“Cruel!” I cried. “What should I mean but that I breathed into it all
that I have of reverence for beauty? If the citoyenne----”

There was a general cry--“A fine! a fine!”

The hateful word was interdicted under a penalty.

“I pay it!” I said, and stooped and kissed the fair cheek.

Its owner flushed and looked a little vexed, for all the general

“Monsieur cheapens his own commodities,” she said.

“Ah, mademoiselle! I know the best investments for my heart. I am a
very merchant of love. If you keep my embrace, I am well advertised.
If you return it, I am well enriched.”

The idea was enough. Gardel invented a new game from it on the spot.
In a moment half the company was rustling and chattering and romping
about the room.

M. Damézague’s “_Que ferons-nous demain matin?_”--that should have
been this vivacious Gardel’s epitaph. He could not be monotonous; he
could not be unoriginal; he could not rest anywhere--not even in his
grave. It was curious to see how he deluded la Marquise into the
belief that she was his superior.

Indeed, these prisons afforded strange illustration of what I may call
the process of natural adjustments. Accidents of origin deprived of
all significance, one could select without any difficulty the souls to
whom a free Constitution would have ensured intellectual prominence. I
take Gardel as an instance. Confined within arbitrary limits under the
old _régime_, his personality here discovered itself masterful. His
resourcefulness, his intelligence, overcrowed us all, irresistibly
leaping to their right sphere of action. He had a little learning
even; but that was no condition of his emancipation. Also, he was not
wanting in that sort of courage with which one had not condescended
hitherto to accredit lackeys. No doubt in those days one was rebuked
by many discoveries.

Yet another possession of his endeared him to all _misérables_ in
this casual ward of the guillotine. He had a mellow baritone voice,
and a _répertoire_ of playful and tender little folk-songs. Clélie
(it was she I had kissed; I never knew her by any other name) would
accompany him on the harp, till her head drooped and the _poudre
maréchale_ from her hair would glitter red on the strings--not to
speak of other gentle dew that was less artificial.

Then she would look up, with a pitiful mouth of deprecation. “_La
paix, pour Dieu, la paix!_” she would murmur. “My very harp weeps to
hear thee.”

The pathos of his songs was not in their application. Perhaps he was
quit of worse grievances than those the Revolution presented to him.
Perhaps he was happier proscribed than enslaved. At any rate, he never
fitted music to modern circumstance. His subjects were sweet,
archaic--the mythology of the woods and pastures. It was in their
allusions to a withered spring-time that the sadness lay. For, believe
me, we were all Punchinellos, grimacing lest the terror of tears
should overwhelm us.

There was a _chansonnette_ of his, the opening words of which ran
somewhat as follows:--

  “Oh, beautiful apple-tree!
   Heavy with flowers
   As my heart with love!
  As a little wind serveth
   To scatter thy blossom,
  So a young lover only
   Is needed to ravish
   The heart from my bosom.”

This might be typical of all. We convinced ourselves that we caught in
them echoes of a once familiar innocence, and we wept over our lost
Eden. Truly the indulging of introspection is the opportunity of the

To many brave souls Gardel’s peasant ballads were the requiem--

  “Passez, la Dormette,
  Passez par chez nous!”--

and so comes the rascal Cabochon, our jailer, with his lowering
_huissiers_, and the ‘Evening Gazette’ in his hand.

“So-and-so, and So-and-so, and So-and-so, to the Conciergerie.”

Then, if the runner had been singing, would succeed some little
emotions of parting--moist wistful eyes, and the echo of sobs going
down the corridor.

Yet, more often, Cabochon would interrupt a romp, to which the
condemned would supplement a jocund exit.

“_Adieu, messieurs! adieu! adieu!_ We cannot keep our countenances
longer. We kneel to Sanson, who shall shrive us--Sanson, the Abbé,
the exquisite, in whose presence we all lose our heads!”

And so the wild hair and feverish eyes vanish.

But it is of Gardel and the Marquise I speak. While many went and many
took their places, these two survived for a time. To the new, as to
the old, the rogue was unflagging in his attentions. His every respite
inspired him with fresh audacity; from each condemned he seemed to
take a certain toll of animation.

Presently Madame and her emancipated servant, with Clélie and I,
would make a nightly habit of it to join forces in a bout of
“Quadrille.” We appropriated an upper corner of the long table, and
(for the oil lamps on the walls were dismally inadequate) we had our
four wax candles all regular--but in burgundy bottles for sconces. A
fifth bottle, with no candle, but charged with the ruddier light that
illuminates the heart, was a usual accompaniment.

We chattered famously, and on many subjects. Hope a little rallied,
maybe, as each night brought Cabochon with a list innocent of our

Also we had our eccentricities, that grew dignified by custom. If, in
the game, “_Roi rendu_” was called, we paid, not with a fish, but with
a hair plucked from the head. It made Clélie cry; but not all from
loyalty. So, if the King of Hearts triumphed, its owner drank “_rubis
sur l’ongle_,” emptying his glass and tapping the edge of it three
times on his left thumb-nail.

Now, I am to tell you of the black evening that at the last broke up
our coterie--of the frantic _abandon_ of the scene, and the tragedy of
farce with which it closed.

On that afternoon Gardel sparkled beyond his wont. He made the air
electric with animation. The company was vociferous for a romp, but at
present we four sat idly talkative over the disused cards.

“M. Gardel, you remind me of a gnat-maggot.”

“How, sir?” says Gardel.

“It is without offence. Once, as a boy, I kept a tub of gold-fish. In
this the eggs of the little insect would be found to germinate. I used
to watch the tiny water-dragons come to the surface to take the air
through their tails--my faith! but that was comically like the France
of to-day. Now touch the water with a finger, and _pouf!_ there they
were all scurried to the bottom in a panic, not to rise again till
assured of safety.”

“That is not my way,” says Gardel.

“Wait, my friend. By-and-by, nearing their transformation, these mites
plump out and lose their gravity. Then, if one frights them, they try
to wriggle down; their buoyancy resists. They may sink five--six
inches. It is no good. Up they come again, like bubbles in champagne,
to burst on the surface presently and fly away.”

“And shall I fly, monsieur?”

“To the stars, my brave Gardel. But is it not so? One cannot drive you
down for long.”

“To-night, M. Thibaut” (such was my name in the prison
register)--“to-night, I confess, I am like a ‘Montgolfier.’ I rise, I
expand. I am full of thoughts too great for utterance. My
transformation must be near.”

The Marquise gave a little cry--

“_Je ne puis pas me passer de vous, François!_”

The servant--the master--looked kindlily into the faded eyes.

“I will come back and be with you in spirit,” he said.

“No, no!” she cried, volubly. “It is old-wives’ tales--the vapourings
of poets and mystics. Of all these murdered thousands, which haunts
the murderers?”

I gazed in astonishment. This passive _douillette_, with the torn
lace! I had never known her assert herself yet but through the mouth
of her henchman.

“Oh yes!” she went on shrilly, nodding her head. “Death, death, death!
But, if the dead return, this Paris should be a city of ghosts.”

“Perhaps it is,” said Gardel.

“Fie, then!” she cried. “You forget your place; you presume upon my
condescension. It is insolent so to put me to school. ‘_Ma demeure
sera bientôt le néant._’ It was Danton--yes, Danton--who said that.
He was a devil, but he could speak truth.”

Suddenly she checked herself and gave a little artificial titter. She
was not transfigured, but debased. A jealous scepticism was revealed
in every line of her features.

“And what is death to M. Gardel?” she said ironically.

“It is an interruption, madame.”

She burst forth again excitedly--

“But Danton saw further than thee, thou fool, who, like a crab,
lookest not whither thou art going, and wilt run upon a blind wall
while thine eyes devour the landscape sidelong. I will not have it. I
do not desire any continuance. My faith is the faith of eyes and ears
and lips. Man’s necessities die with him; and, living, mine are for
thy strong arm, François, and for thy fruitful service. My God! what
we pass through! And then for a hereafter of horrible retrospection!
No, no. It is infamous to suggest, foolish to insist on it.”

“But, for all that, I do,” said Gardel, steadily.

He took her outburst quite coolly--answered her with gaiety even.

I cried “_Malepeste!_” under my breath. And, indeed, my amazement was
justified. For who would have dreamed that this little colourless
draggle-tail had one sentiment in her that amounted to a conviction?
Madame Placide an atheist! And what was there of dark and secret in
her past history that drove her to this desire of extinction?

At Gardel’s answer she fell back in her chair with defiant eyes and
again that little artificial laugh. In the noisy talk of the room we
four sat and spoke apart.

“_Malappris!_” she said. “You shall justify yourself of that boldness.
Come back to me, if you go first, and I will believe.”

“Agreed!” he cried. “And for the sign, madame?”

She thought; and answered, with the grateful womanliness that redeemed

“Do me a little service--something, anything--and I shall know it is

The candles were burned half-way down in their bottles. He rose and
one by one blew them out.

“_Voilà!_” he cried gaily. “To save your pocket!”

So the little scene ended.

“M. Gardel,” I said to him presently, “you come (you will pardon me)
of the makers of the Revolution. I am curious to learn your experience
of the premonitory symptoms of that disease to which at last you have
fallen a victim.”

“Monsieur! ‘A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.’ It is an
early remembrance with me how my father cursed me that I passed my
eighth year, and so was liable to the salt-tax. My faith! I do not
blame him. Things were hard enough. But it was unreasonable to beat me
because I could not stop the march of Time. Yet we had not then
learned to worship Reason.”

“The Moloch that devours her children!”

“So it appears. But there were signs and omens for long years before.
I am of the territory of Berri, monsieur; and there all we learned to
read was between the lines. I will tell you that I heard--for I was in
service at the time” (he bowed with infinite complaisance to his
Marquise)--“how, all during the chill, dark spring that preceded the
September Massacres, _Les laveuses de la nuit_ were busy at their

“And who are they, my friend?”

“Strange, inhuman women, monsieur, who wash in the moonlight by lonely
tarns. And while they wash they wail.”

“Wash? But what?”

“Some say the winding-sheets of those who are to die during the year.”

La Marquise broke into shrill laughter.

“Poor, poor imbecile!” she cried. “Thy credulity would make but one
gulp of a gravestone. You must know these things are not, my friend.
I tell thee so--I, thy mistress. Miserable! have you nothing in your
life that not mountains of eternity could crush out the memory of?”

Again she checked herself.

“It is the one virtue of the Revolution to have decreed annihilation.”

A deputation approached us. She jumped to her feet, her pale eyes

“But, yes!” she cried, “a game, a game! I acquit myself of these
follies. It is present life I desire. Messieurs, what is it to be? To
the front, François!”

The man responded at a leap. The veins of all received the infection
of his wild humour. In a moment, chattering and pushing and giggling,
we were to take our places for “_Shadow Buff_.”

We had no sheet. The dirty drab of the wall must suffice. A stool was
placed for the guesser--not yet appointed; and la Marquise’s four
candles, relighted, were placed on the table over against it, in a
receding row like a procession of acolytes. Between the candles and
the back of the guesser the company were to pass one by one, for
identification by means of the shadows cast on the wall.

“Who shall take the stool?”

The clamour echoed up to the vaulted stonework of the roof--and died.
Cabochon’s evil face was visible at the grille.

He saw what we were at; the dull brute was sopped with drink and
bestially amiable. His key grated in the door and he stood before us,
his bodyguard supporting him, the fatal list in his hand.

“Ah!” he said, “but ‘_Shadow Buff_’ again? It is well timed. Yet I
could name some citizen shadows without sitting on the stool.”

His voice guttered like a candle. It seemed to run into greasy drops.

A wild inspiration seized me.

“_Voilà, citoyen!_” I cried. “You shall join us. You shall take your
victims from the wall!”

In a moment I had snatched the dirty rag of paper out of his hand, and
had retreated with it a few paces. I had an instant to glance down the
list before he slouched at me in sodden anger. My heart gave a queer
little somersault and came upright again.

“_Sang Dieu!_” he growled, thickly. “You do well to jest. Give me the
paper, or I’ll brain you with my keys!”

I dropped laughing upon the stool, and held the list between and under
my knees. With an oath he fell upon me. The company applauded it all
with a frenzy of mad mirth and frolic.

The struggle was brief. He rose directly, puffing and cursing, the
paper in his hand.

I affected a crestfallen good-humour.

“You might have let us have our game out,” I protested.

With his recovered authority in his hand, the rascal condescended to
some facetious tolerance.

“So!” he said; “you play a good part. They should have you for King
George in ‘Le Dernier Jugement des Rois.’ But rest content. You shall
appear on a notable stage yet, and before an audience more
appreciative than that of the Théâtre de la République.”

“And I shall know how to bow my thanks, citizen.”

“Ah!” he crowed. “I love thee! Thou shalt have thy game and sit here;
and I will pick from the flock as thou numberest its tale.”

It fell in with the reckless, dreadful humour of the times. I would
have withdrawn from the cruel jest, but it was the company of _les
misérables_ that prevented me.

Who should go first? There was a little hesitation and reluctance.

“Come, hurry!” cried Cabochon, “or I must do my own guessing!”

Suddenly a shadow glided past upon the wall.

“No, no!” I muttered.

“Name it, name it!” chuckled the jailer. The grinning _sans-culottes_
at the door echoed his demand vociferously.

“Gardel!” I murmured faintly. The leading spirit had,
characteristically, been the first to enter the breach.

“Good,” croaked Cabochon, referring to his list. “Citizen shadow, you
are marked for judgment.”

I rose hurriedly from the stool.

“I will no more of it!” I cried.

“What!--already? My faith! a nerveless judge.”

Instantly a figure pressed forward and took my place.

“Pass, pass, good people!” it cried, “and _I_ will call the tale!”

She sat there--the Marquise--her lips set in an acrid smile. Neither
look nor word did she address to her forfeited servant.

Another shadow passed.

“Darviane!” she cried shrilly.

“_Encore bien_,” roared Cabochon amidst shrieks of laughter. My God,
what laughter!

Milet, De Mérode, Fontenay--she named them all. They took their
places by the door, skipping--half-hysterical.

D’Aubiers, Monville--I cannot recall a moiety of them. It was a
destructive list. Clélie also was in it--poor Clélie, the frail, I
fear, but with the big heart. I fancied I noticed a harder ring in
Madame’s voice as she identified her.

I stood stupidly in the background. Presently I heard Cabochon--

“Enough! enough! The virtuous citizens would forestall the Executive.”

He numbered up his list rapidly, counted his prisoners. They tallied.

“To be repeated to-morrow,” he said. “It is good sport. But the
guessers, it seems, remain.”

He treated us to a grin and a clumsy bow, gave the order to form, and
carried off his new batch to the baking.

As the door clanged upon them I gave a deep gasp. I could not believe
in the reality of my respite.

For the thinned company the reaction had set in immediately: women
were flung prostrate, on the table, over the benches, wailing out
their desperate loss and misery.

Madame made her way to me. The strange smile had not left her mouth.

“You were on the list. I saw it in your face.”

“I was at the bottom--the very last.”

“But how----?”

“As Cabochon struggled with me, I turned my name down and tore it

“But the number?”

“It tallied. It was enough for him.”

“They must find it out--to-morrow, when the prisoners are arraigned.”

“Probably. And in the meantime we will drink to our poor Gardel’s

“No,” she said, shrinking back, with an extraordinary look. “If I wish
him well, I wish him eternal forgetfulness.”

It was the evening of the day succeeding. Shorn of our partners in
“Quadrille,” Madame and I had been playing “Piquet.”

We were only two, but the four lights flickered in their bottles.

La Marquise de Kercy had been musing. Suddenly she looked up. Her eyes
were full of an inhuman mockery.

“The candles!” she said, with a little laugh. “We are no longer using
them. To save my pocket, François!”

_Pouf!_ a candle went out--another, another, another; between each the
fraction of time occupied by something unseen moving round

I started to my feet with a suppressed cry.

One or two sitting near us complained of this churlish economy of wax.
They imagined I was the culprit.

“Madame!” I muttered. “Look! she is indisposed!”

Her face was white and dreadful, like a skull. Hearing my voice she
sat up.

“So! He has been guillotined!” she said.

She articulated with difficulty, swallowing and panting without stop.

“M. Thibaut, it is true, then, they say! But it was he made me kill
the child. He has more need to forget than I. Is it not appalling? If
I tell them now how I have learnt to fear, they will surely spare me.
I cannot subscribe to their doctrines--that Club of the Cordeliers. If
I tell them so--Danton being gone----”

Her voice tailed off into a hurry of pitiful sobs and cries. I
welcomed the entrance of Cabochon with his list.

Her name was first on it.

As we stood arisen, dreading some hideous scene, she fell silent quite
suddenly, got to her feet, and walked to the door with a face of

“Death is an interruption.”

“_Ma demeure sera bientôt le néant._”

Which could one hope for her, pondering only that delirious outcry
from her lips?

Possibly, indeed, she had been mad from first to last.

I had time to collect my thoughts, for--from whatever cause--Citizen
Tinville had, it appeared, overlooked me.


I was taking exercise one forenoon in the yard of the prison. It was
the last black “Prairial” of the “Terror”--the month, like the girl La
Lune, once dedicate to Mary--and its blue eyes curiously scrutinised,
as Cleopatra’s of old, the processes amongst us slaves of that poison
that is called despair.

As for myself, I yet a little consorted with Hope--the fond clinging
mistress I had dreaded to find banished with the rest of the dear
creatures whose company had long now been denied us;--for five months
had passed since my incarceration, and I was still, it seemed,

I trod the flags--fifty paces hither and thither. Going one way, I had
always before my eyes the frowzy stone rampart and barred windows of
the prison. Going the other, an execrable statue of M.
Rousseau--surmounting an altar to Liberty, the very cement of which
was marbled with the blood of the massacres--closed my perspective. To
my either hand was a lofty wall--the first giving upon the jailers’
quarters; the second dividing the men’s yard from that in which the
women were permitted to walk; and a foul open sewer, tunnelled through
the latter about its middle, traversed the entire area, and offered
the only means by which the sexes could now communicate with each

“M. Thibaut,” said a voice at my ear; and a gentleman, detaching
himself from the aimless and loitering crowd of prisoners, adapted his
pace to mine and went with me to and fro.

I knew this oddity--M. the Admiral de St Prest--though he had no
recognition of me. That, however, was small wonder. By this time I was
worse than a _sans-culotte_, by so much as that my bareness was
suggested rather than revealed. My face was sunk away from my eyes,
like soft limestone from a couple of ammonites; my ribs were loose
hoops on a decayed cask; laughter rattled in my stomach like a pea in
a whistle. Besides, I had come, I think, to be a little jealous of my
title to neglect, for I had made that my grievance against Fate.

Nevertheless, M. de St Prest and I had been slightly acquainted once
upon a time, and it had grieved me to see this red month marked by the
advent in La Force of the dubious old fop.

He had been a macaroni of Louis XV.’s Court, and the ancient _rôle_
he had never learnt to forego. The poor puppies of circumstance--the
fops of a more recent date, to whom the particular cut of a lapel
would figure as the standard of reason--bayed him in the prison as
they would have bayed him in the streets. To them, with their high
top-boots _à l’Anglaise_, poor St Prest’s spotted breeches and
knee-ribbons were a source of profound amusement. To them, affecting
the huskiness of speech of certain rude islanders (my very good
friends), his mincing falsetto was a perpetual incitement to laughter.
Swaggering with their cudgels that they called “constitutions,” they
would strike from under him the elaborate tasselled staff on which he
leaned; tossing their matted manes, they would profess to find
something exquisitely exhilarating in the complicated _toupet_ that
embraced and belittled his lean physiognomy. I held them all poor
apes; yet, I confess, it was a ridiculous and pathetic sight, this
posturing of an old wrecked man in the tatters of a bygone generation;
and it gave me shame to see him lift his plate of a hat to me with a
little stick, as the fashion was in his younger days.

“M. Thibaut,” he said, falling into step with me, “these young bloods”
(he signified with his cane a group that had been baiting him)--“they
worry me, monsieur. _Mort de ma vie!_ what manners! what a presence!
It shall need a butcher’s steel to bring their wits to an edge.”

“Oh, monsieur,” said I--“have you not the self-confidence to despise
personalities? The fool hath but a narrow world of conventions, and
everything outside it is to him abnormal. His head is a drumstick to
produce hollow sounds within a blank little area. For my part, I never
hear one holding the great up to ridicule without thinking, There is
wasted a good stone-cutter of epitaphs.”

“_Eh bien_, monsieur! but I have been accustomed to leave the study of
philosophy to my lackeys.”

He spoke in a lofty manner, waving his hand at me; and he took snuff
from a battered wooden box, and flipped his fingers to his thumb
afterwards as if he were scattering largesse of fragrance.

“So, you have a royal contempt of personalities?” he said, with a
little amused tolerance.

“Why,” said I--“I am not to be put out of conceit with myself because
an ass brays at me.”

“Or out of countenance, monsieur?”

“Oh, M. de St Prest! That would be to lose my head on small
provocation. Besides, one must admit the point of view. M. Malseigne
there surveys the world over the edge of a great stock; you, monsieur,
regard it with your chin propped upon a fine fichu. No doubt Sanson
thinks a wooden cravat _comme il faut_; and I--_fichtre!_ I cry in my
character of patriot, ‘There is nothing like the collar of a
carmagnole to keep one’s neck in place!’ Truly, M. l’Amiral, I for one
am not touchy about my appearance.”

His old eyes blinked out a diluted irony.

“And that is very natural,” he said; “but then, _mort de ma vie!_ you
are a philosopher--like him there.”

He pointed to the statue of Rousseau. The libellous block wrought in
him, it seemed, a mood of piping retrospection.

“I saw the rascal once,” he said--“a mean, common little man, in a
round wig. He was without air or presence. It was at the theatre. The
piece was one of M. de Sauvigny’s, and he sat in the author’s box, a
_loge grillée_. That was a concession to his diffidence; but his
diffidence had been too much consulted, it seemed. He would have the
grate opened, and then the house recognised and applauded him, and
finally forgot him for the _Persiffleur_. He was very angry at that,
I believe. We heard it lost the author his friendship. He accused him
of having made a show of him, and--_Mort de ma vie!_ that is to be a

He ogled and bowed to a stout kindly-looking woman who, coming from
the jailers’ quarters, passed us at the moment. It was Madame Beau,
the keeper of La Force--the only one there in authority whose sense of
humanity had not gone by the board. A ruffianly warder, leading a
great wolf-hound, preceded her. She nodded to us brightly and

“Ah, M. Thibaut! but soon we shall call you the father of La Force.”

“As you are its mother, madame.”

“Poor children. But, after all, if one considers it as a club----”

“True; where one may feast like Belshazzar. Yet, I find, one may have
a surfeit of putrid herrings, even though one is to die on the

Madame shrugged her shoulders.

“Ah, bah! the stuff is supplied by contract. I am not to blame, my
little fellows. Yet some of you manage better.” (She pointed to the
retreating hound.) “_Voilà le délinquent!_ He was caught
red-handed--discussing the bribe of a sheep’s trotter; and his
sentence is five hours in a cell.”

She nodded again and jingled her keys.

“But, yes,” she said, “consider it as a club----” and off she went
across the yard.

“A club? Oh, _mon Dieu_!” murmured St Prest.

“Well,” said I, “I am inclined to fall in with the idea. What livelier
places of sojourn are there, in these days of gravity and decorum,
than the prisons?”

He pursed his lips and wagged his old head like a mandarin.

“At least,” he said, leeringly, “she is a fine figure of a woman. She
dates, like myself, from the era of the _Bien-aimé_, when women knew
how to walk and to hold themselves; and to reveal themselves, too.
_Oh, je m’entends bien!_ I have been entertained in the _Parc aux
cerfs_, M. Thibaut.”

I could certainly believe it. This effete old carpet-admiral? Had he
ever smelt salt water? I could understand, perhaps, that he had
crossed in the packet to the land of fogs. But now he was to exhibit
himself to me in a more honourable aspect--to confess the man under
the powder and the rubbish.

We stood close by where the wall was pierced by the running sewer. The
whole yard was alive with laughter and babble; and now and again one
would leave a friend or party of triflers and, kneeling down over the
infected sink, would call some name through the opening. Then,
summoned to the other side, Lucille, poor _ange déchu_, would
exchange a few earnest pitiful words with husband or brother or lover,
and her tears, perhaps, would fall into the gushing drain and sanctify
its abomination to him. Was not that for love to justify itself in the
eyes of the most unnatural misogynist?

Now there came up to the trap a pale little fellow--the merest child.
It was little Foucaud, the son of Madame Kolly. This poor lad must be
held a man (God save him!) when misfortune overtook his family; but
the scoundrels had the grace to consign his younger brother to the
company of his mother on the woman’s side. And here, through this sink
opening, the two babes would converse in their sad little trebles two
or three times a-day.

“How now, my man?” said St Prest; for the boy stood wistfully watching
us, his hands picking together and his throat swelling. Then all at
once he was weeping.

The old fop gently patted the heaving shoulders.

“Oh, monsieur,” said the youngster, in a hoarse little voice, “the
cold of the stones is in my throat and on my chest.”

“What then, child! That is not to be guillotined.”

“But I cannot cry out so that he shall hear me; and if we do not talk
I know nothing.”

In a paroxysm of agitation he threw himself down by the sewer.

“Lolo, Lolo!” he tried to call; but his voice would not obey his will.

And then M. de St Prest did a thing, the self-sacrificing quality of
which shall be known in full, perhaps, only to the angels. He took the
lad under the arms and, lifting him away, himself knelt down in all
his nicety by the sink and put his mouth to the opening.

“The little Foucaud,” he piped, “desires to see his brother!”

Presently he looked up.

“He is here, child.”

“Oh, monsieur! will you explain that I cannot speak, and ask him how
is _maman_?”

The message was given. I heard the poor little voice answer through
the wall: “_Maman_ sends her love to you. She has not wept so much the
last night, and she has been sleeping a little. It is Lolo, who loves
you well, that tells you this.”

I assisted St Prest to rise.

“I will ask the honour,” I said, “of dusting M. l’Amiral’s coat for

 * * * * * * *

That same afternoon, as I was again, during the hour of exercise,
standing near the sewer, of a sudden I heard a most heartrending voice
calling from the other side of the wall.

“Messieurs! messieurs!” it cried. “Will no one send to me my darling?”

I dropped upon my knees (I give all honour to M. de St Prest), and,
with a shudder of nausea, lowered my face to the opening.

“Who speaks?” I said. “I am at madame’s service.”

The voice caught in a sob.

“_Je vous rends grâce_--whoever you are, I thank you from my heart.
It is my little Foucaud, my dearest, that must come to his _maman_,
and quickly.”

I answered that I would summon him, and I rose to my feet. I had no
difficulty in finding the boy. He came, white-faced and wondering, and
knelt down.

“_Maman, maman_--canst thou hear me? My throat is a little hoarse,

“Oh, my baby, my little son! Thou wilt be sweet and tender with Lolo
in the happy days that are coming. And thou wilt never forget
_maman_--say it, say it, lest her heart should break.”

God of mercy! Who was I to stand and listen to these pitiful
confidences! I drew aside, watchful only of the boy lest his grief and
terror should drive him mad. In a moment a white hand, laden with a
dark thick coil of hair, was thrust through the opening. It was all
the unhappy woman could leave her darling to remember her by. No
glimpse of her face--no touch of her lips on his. From the dark into
the dark she must go, and his very memory of her should be associated
with the most dreadful period of his life. When they came for her in
another instant, I heard the agony of her soul find vent in a single
cry: “My lambs, alone amongst the wolves!”

Kind Madame Beau was there beside me.

“Lift him up,” she whispered. “He will be motherless in an hour.”

As I stooped to take the sobbing and hysterical child in my arms, I
heard a voice speak low on the other side of the wall--

“It is only an interruption, madame.”

Gardel’s words--but the speaker!

I stumbled with my burden--recovered myself, and consigned the boy to
the good soul that awaited him. Then hurriedly I leaned down again,
and hurriedly cried, “Carinne! Carinne!”

 * * * * * * *

There was no answer. Probably the speaker had retreated when the
wretched Madame Kolly was withdrawn from the wall. I called again. I
dwelt over the noxious gutter in excitement and anguish until I was
convinced it was useless to remain. Was it this, then? that out of all
the voices of France one voice could set my heart vibrating like a
glass vessel that responds only to the striking of its single
sympathetic note? I had thought to depose this idol of an hour from
its shrine; I had cried shame upon myself for ever submitting my
independence to the tyranny of a woman, and here a half-dozen words
from her addressed to a stranger had reinfected me with the fever of

I got out a scrap of paper and wrote thereon, “_Jacob to Rachel.
Jean-Louis is still in the service of Mademoiselle de Lâge._”

I found a fragment of stick, notched the paper into the end of it, and
gingerly passed my billet through the hole in the wall. On the instant
a great voice uttered a malediction behind me, and I was jerked
roughly down upon the flags. My end of the stick dropped into the
gutter and wedged itself in slime. I looked up. Above me were Cabochon
and a yellow-faced rascal. This last wore a sword by his side and on
his head a high-crowned hat stuffed with plumes. I had seen him
before--Maillard, l’Abbaye Maillard, a hound with a keen enough scent
for blood to make himself a lusty living. He and his colleague Héron
would often come to La Force to count their victims before following
them to the scaffold.

“Plots--plots!” he muttered, shaking his head tolerantly, as if he
were rebuking a child. “See to it, Citizen Cabochon.”

The jailer fetched back the stick. The paper, however, was gone from
the end of it.

“It will be in the sewer,” said Maillard, quietly.

Cabochon had no scruples. He groped with his fingers.

“It is not here,” he said after a time, eyeing me and very malignant.

“Well,” said the other, “who is this fellow?”

“_Mordi_, Citizen President; he is a forgotten jackass that eats his
head off in the revolutionary stable.”

“_Vraiment?_ Then, it follows, his head must fall into the
revolutionary manger.”

He nodded pleasantly twice or thrice; then turned and, beckoning
Cabochon to walk by him, strode away.

I sat in particular cogitation against the wall. For the present, it
seemed, I enjoyed a distinction that was not attractive to my
fellow-prisoners; and I was left religiously to myself.

“Now,” said I aloud, “I have grown such a beard that at last the
national barber must take me in hand.”

“M. Jean-Louis,” said a voice the other side of the trap, “will you
keep me kneeling here for ever?”

I started and flung myself face downwards with a cry of joy. My heart
swelled in a moment so that it drove the tears up to my eyes.

“Carinne!” I cried, choking and half-sobbing; “is it thou indeed?”

“Creep through the little hole,” she said, “and thou shalt see.”

I laughed and I cried in a single breath.

“Say what thou wilt, _ma fillette_. Yes, I will call thee as I choose.
Didst thou hear but now? I think it is a dying man that speaks to
thee. Carinne, say after all you keep a place in your heart for the
little odd Thibaut.”

“Insidious! thou wouldst seek to devour the whole, like a little worm
in a gall.”

“To hear your voice again! We are always shadows to one another now.
As a shadow I swear that I love you dearly. Oh, _ma mie, ma mie_, I
love you so dearly. And why were you cruel to leave me for that small
gust of temper I soon repented of? Carinne! My God! she is gone away!”

“I am here, little Thibaut.”

“There is a sound in your voice. Oh, this savage unyielding wall! I
will kiss it a foot above the trap. Will you do the same on the other

“Monsieur forgets himself, I think.”

“He is light-headed with joy. But he never forgets Mademoiselle de
Lâge--not though she punished him grievously for an indifferent
offence in the forests of Chalus.”

“Jean-Louis, listen well to this: I was abducted.”

“My God! by whom?”

“By a vile citizen Representative journeying to Paris.”

“By a----”

“I had emerged from the trees after you left me, and was sitting very
passionate by the road, when he passed with his escort and discovered

I kneeled voiceless as if I were stunned.

“What would you!” said Carinne. “There was no Thibaut at hand to throw
him to the pigs. He forced me to go with him, and----”

I vented a groan that quite rumbled in the gutter; and at that her
voice came through the hole a little changed--

“Monsieur has a delicate faith in what he professes to love.”

I beat my hands on the wall. I cried upon Heaven in my agony to let me
reach through this inexorable veil of stone.

“You talked once of the wicked licence of the times. How could I know,
oh, _ma mie_! And now all my heart is melting with love and rapture.”

“But I had a knife, Jean-Louis. Well, but he was courteous to me; and
at that I told him who I was--no jill-flirt, but an unhappy waif of
fortune. Now, _mon Dieu_!--it turned out that this was the very man
that had come _en mission_ to Pierrettes.”


“No--a creature of the name of Crépin----”

I uttered a cry.

“Crépin! It was he that carried thee away?”

“Truly; and who has, for my obduracy, consigned me to prison. Ever
since, little Thibaut, ever since--now at Les Carmes; now in the Rue
de Sèvres; at last, no later than yesterday, to this ‘extraordinary
question’ of La Force.”

“Now thou art a sweet-souled Carinne! Send me something of thine
through the evil passage that I may mumble it with my lips. Carinne,
listen,”--and I told her the story of my connection with the villain.

“I would wring his neck if they would spare mine,” I said. “But, alas!
I fear I am doomed, Carinne.”

She had from me all the details in brief of my captivity. _Mon Dieu!_
but it was ecstasy this dessert to my long feast of neglect. At the
end she was silent a space; then she said very low--

“He communicates with me; but I never answer. Now I will do so, and
perhaps thou shalt not die.”


“Hush, thou small citizen! The time is up; we must talk no longer.”

I breathed all my heart out in a sigh of farewell. I thought she had
already gone, when suddenly she spoke again--

“Jean-Louis, Jean-Louis, do you hear?”


“I would have thee just the height for thine eyes to look into mine.”

“Carinne? And what should they read there?”

Again there was a pause, again I thought she had gone; and then once
more her voice came to me--

“Little Thibaut, I _did_ kiss the wall a foot above the trap.”

 * * * * * * *

“Madame Beau,” said I, “when you shall be nearing old age--that is to
say, when your present years double themselves--it is very certain
that your lines will fall in pleasant places.”

“And where will they be?” said she.

“Where, but round your fine eyes and the dimples of your mouth!”

She cried, “_Oh, qu’il est malin!_” and tapped my shoulder archly with
a great key she held in her hand.

“And what is the favour you design to ask of me?” she said.

“Firstly your permission to me to dedicate some verses to you,” said
I. “After that, that you will procure me the immediate delivery of
this little tube of paper.”

“To whom is it addressed?”

“To one Crépin, who lives in the Rue de Jouy, St Antoine.”

“_Croyez m’en!_” she cried. “Do you not see I have dropped my key?”

Then, as I stooped to pick up the instrument which she had let fall on
the pavement, “Slip the little paper into the barrel!” she muttered.

I did so; and these were the words I had written on it:--

 “_I am imprisoned in La Force for any reason or none. It concerns me
 only in that I am thereby debarred from vindicating upon your body the
 honour of Mademoiselle de Lâge. If it gives you any shame to hear
 that towards this victim of your base persecution, I, your one-time
 comrade, entertain and have long entertained sentiments of the most
 profound regard, prevail with yourself, I beseech you, to procure the
 enlargement of a lady whose only crimes--as things are judged
 nowadays--are her innocence and her beauty._

                                          “_Jean-Louis Thibaut_.”

 * * * * * * *

Of all the degradations to which we in the prison were subjected, none
equalled that that was a common condition of our nightly herding.
Then--so early as eight o’clock during the darker months--would appear
the foul Cabochon--with his satellites and three or four brace of
hounds--to drive us like cattle to our sleeping-pens. Bayed into the
corridors, from which our cells opened, we must answer to our names
bawled out by a crapulous turnkey, who held in his jerking hands, and
consulted with his clouded eyes, a list that at his soberest he could
only half decipher. He calls a name--probably of one that has already
paid the penalty. There is no answer. The ruffian bullies and curses,
while the survivors explain the matter to him. He sulkily acquiesces;
shouts the tally once more, regardless of the hiatus--of course only
to repeat the error. Amidst a storm of menaces we are all ordered out
of our rooms, and this again and yet again, perhaps, until the beast
satisfies himself or is satisfied that none is skulking, and that
nothing is in error but his own drunken vision. Then at last the dogs
are withdrawn, the innumerable doors clanged to and barred, and we are
left, sealed within a fetid atmosphere, to salve our wounded dignity
as we can with the balm of spiritual self-possession.

But now, on this particular evening, conscious of something in my
breast that overcrowed the passionless voice of philosophy, I felt
myself uplifted and translated--an essence impressionable to no
influence that was meaner than divine.

“And who knows,” I said to myself, as we were summoned from the yard,
“but that Quatremains-Quatrepattes might have pronounced Carinne to be
the bright star in my horoscope?”

“Not so fast, citizen,” growled Cabochon, who stood, list in hand, at
the door.

“Rest content,” said I; “I am never in a hurry.”

“_Par exemple!_ you grow a little rusty, perhaps, for a notable actor.
It is well, then, that you have an engagement at last.”

“To perform? And where, M. Cabochon?”

“In the Palais de Justice. That is a theatre with a fine box, citizen;
and the verdict of those that sit in it is generally favourable--to
the public.”


Was I so very small? I had the honour of a tumbril all to myself on
my journey to the Conciergerie, and I swear that I could have thought
I filled it. But Mademoiselle de Lâge was the pretty white heifer
that had caused me to puff out my sides in emulation of her large
nobility--me, yes, of whom she would have said, as the bull of the
frog, “_Il n’était pas gros en tout comme un œuf_.” Now I was
travelling probably to my grave; yet the exaltation of that interview
still dwelt with me, and I thought often of some words that had once
been uttered by a certain Casimir Bertrand: “To die with the wine in
one’s throat and the dagger in one’s back! What could kings wish for

We came down upon the sullen prison by way of the Pont au Change and
the Quay d’Horloge, and drew up at a door on the river-side. I saw a
couple of turrets, with nightcap roofs, stretch themselves, as if
yawning, above me. I saw in a wide angle of the gloomy block of
buildings, where the bridge discharged itself upon the quay, a vast
heap of newly thrown-up soil where some excavations were being
conducted; and from the mound a sort of crane or scaffold, sinisterly
suggestive of a guillotine surmounting a trench dug for its dead,
stood out against a falling crimson sky. The river hummed in its
course; above a green spot on the embankment wall a cloud of dancing
midges seemed to boil upwards like steam from a caldron. Everything
suggested to me the _mise en scène_ of a rehearsing tragedy, and then
promptly I was haled, like an inanimate “property,” into the
under-stage of that dark “theatre of varieties.”

Messieurs the jailers, it appeared, were at their supper, and would
not for the moment be bothered with me. A gush of light and a violent
voice issued from a door to one side of a stony vestibule: “Run the
rascal into La Souricière, and be damned to him!”

Thereat I was hurried, by the “blue” that was responsible for my
transfer, and an understrapper with the keys, by way of a gloomy
course--up and down--through doorways clinched with monstrous
bolts--under vaulted stone roofs where spiders, blinded by the lamp
glare, shrank back into crevices, and where all the mildew of
desolation sprouted in a poisonous fungus--along passages deeply
quarried, it seemed, into the very foundations of despair; and at last
they stopped, thrust me forward, and a door clapped to behind me with
a slam of thunder.

I stood a moment where I was and caught at my bewildered faculties. It
took me, indeed, but a moment to possess myself of them. In those days
one had acquired a habit of wearing one’s wits unsheathed in one’s
belt. Then I fell to admiring the quite unwonted brilliancy of the
illumination that pervaded the cell. It was a particularly small
chamber--perhaps ten feet by eight or so--and consequently the single
lighted candle, held in a cleft stick the butt of which was thrust
into a chink in the stones, irradiated it to its uttermost corner. The
furniture was artless in its simplicity--a tub, a broken pitcher of
water, and two heaps of foul straw. But so abominable a stench filled
the place that no doubt there was room for little else.

Now, from one of the straw beds, the figure of a man--my sole comrade
to be, it would appear--rose up as I stirred, and stood with its back
and the palms of its hands pressed against the wall. Remaining thus
motionless, the shadows blue in its gaunt cheeks, and little husks of
wheat caught in its dusty hair, it fixed me with eyes like staring

“_Défense d’entrer!_” it snapped out suddenly, and shut its mouth
like a gin.

“Oh, monsieur!” said I, “no going out, rather, for the mouse in the

He lifted one of his arms at right angles to his body, and let it drop
again to his side.

“Behold!” he cried, “the peril! Hadst thou been closer thy head had

“But thine,” said I. “Hast thou not already lost it?”

“Oh, early in the struggle, monsieur! Oh, very early! And then my soul
passed into the inanimate instrument of death and made it animate.”

“What! thou art the guillotine itself?”

“Look at me, then! Is it not obvious that I am that infernal engine,
nor less that I am informed with the _ego_ that once was my victim and
is now my familiar--being myself, in effect?”

“_Pardieu!_ this is worse than the game of ‘Proverbs.’ It rests with
thy _ego_, then, to put a period to this orgy of blood.”

He gave forth a loud wailing cry.

“I am a demon, prejudged and predestined, and the saint of the Place
du Trône is possessed with me.”

“A saint, possessed!”

He wrung his hands insanely.

“Oh!” he cried--“but is it not a fate to which damnation were
Paradise! For me, the gentle Aubriot, who in my material form had
shrunk from killing a fly--for me to thus deluge an unhappy land with
the blood of martyrs! But I have threshed my conscience with a knotted
discipline, and I know--yes, monsieur, I know--what gained me my
punishment. A cripple once begged of me a poor two sous. I hesitated,
in that I had but the one coin on me, and my nostrils yearned for
snuff. I hesitated, and the devil tripped up my feet. I gave the man
the piece and asked him a sou in change. For so petty a trifle did I
barter my salvation. But heaven was not to be deceived, and its
vengeance followed me like a snake through the grass. Ah!” (he jumped
erect) “but the blade fell within an ace of thy shoulder!”

This was disquieting enough, in all truth. Yet I took comfort from the
thought that the madman could avail himself of no more murderous
weapon than his hands.

“Now, M. Guillotin,” said I, “observe that it is characteristic of you
to lie quiescent when you are put away for the night.”

“_Nenni, nenni, nenni!_” he answered. “That may have been before the
hideous apotheosis of the instrument. Now, possessed as I am, I slash
and cut at whoever comes in my way.”

_Mon Dieu!_ but this was a wearisome lunatic! and I longed very
ardently to be left peacefully to my own reflections. I came forward
with a show of extreme fortitude.

“This demon of yourself,” I said--“you wish it to be exorcised, that
the soil of France may grow green again?”

A fine self-sacrificial rapture illumined his wild face.

“Let me be hurled into the bottomless pit,” he cried, “that so the
Millennium may rise in the east like an August sun!”

“Now,” said I, “I will commune with my soul during the night, that
perchance it may be revealed to me how the guillotine may guillotine

To my surprise the ridiculous bait took, and the poor wretch sunk down
upon his straw and uttered no further word. Crossing the cell to come
to my own heap, my foot struck against an iron ring that projected
from a flag. For an instant a mad hope flamed up in me, only to as
immediately die down. Was it probable that the “Mouse-trap”--into
which, I knew, it was the custom to put newly arrived prisoners before
their overhauling by the turnkeys and “scenting” by the dogs of the
guard--would be furnished with a door of exit as of entrance?
Nevertheless, I stooped and tugged at the ring to see what should be
revealed in the lifting of the stone. It, the latter, seemed a
ponderous slab. I raised one end of it a foot or so with difficulty,
and, propping it with the pitcher, looked to see what was underneath.
A shallow trough or excavation--that was all; probably a mere pit into
which to sweep the scourings of the cell. Leaving it open, I flung
myself down upon the mat of straw, and gave myself up to a melancholy
ecstasy of reflection.

The maniac crouched in his corner. So long as the light lasted I was
conscious of his eyes fixed in a steady bright stare upon the lifted
stone. There seemed something in its position that fascinated him.
Then, with a dropping splutter, the candle sank upon itself and was
extinguished suddenly; and straightway we were embedded in a block of

Very soon I was asleep. Ease and sensation, drink and food--how
strangely in those days one’s soul had learned to withdraw itself from
its instinctive attachments; to hover apart, as it were, from that
clumsy expression of its desires that is the body with its appetites;
and to accept at last, as radically irreclaimable, that same body so
grievously misinformed with animism. Now I could surrender to
forgetfulness, and that with little effort, all the load of emotion
and anxiety with which a savage destiny sought to overwhelm me. Nor
did this argue a brutish insensibility on my part; but only a lifting
of idealism to spheres that offered a more tranquil and serener field
for meditation.

Once during the night a single drawn sound, like the pipe of wind in a
keyhole, roused me to a half-recovery of my faculties. I had been
dreaming of Carinne and of the little pig that fell into the pit, and,
associating the phantom cry with the voluble ghosts of my brain, I
smiled and fled again to the heights.

The noise of heavily grating bolts woke me at length to the iron
realities of a day that might be my last on earth. I felt on my face
the wind of the dungeon door as it was driven back.

“Follow me, Aubriot!” grunted an indifferent voice in the opening.

Lacking a response of any sort, the speaker, who had not even put
himself to the trouble of entering the cell, cried out gutturally and

“_Holà hé, holà hé_, Citizen Aubriot Guillotin! thou art called to
operate on thyself! _Mordi, mordi, mordi!_ dost thou hear? thou art
invited to commit suicide that France may regenerate itself of thee!”

I raised my head. A burly form, topped by a great hairy face, blocked
the doorway. I made it out by the little light that filtered through a
high-up grating above me.

“_Mille démons!_” shouted the turnkey suddenly, “what is this?”

He came pounding into the cell, paused, and lifted his hands like a
benedictory priest. “_Mille démons!_” he whispered again, with his
jaw dropped.

I had jumped to my feet.

“_Pardieu!_ Mr Jailer!” said I; “the guillotine, it appears, has
anticipated upon itself that law of which it is the final expression.
The rest of us you will of necessity acquit.”

I looked down, half-dazed; but I recalled the odd sound that had
awakened me in the night. Here, then, was the explanation of it--in
this swollen and collapsed form, whose head, it seemed, was plunged
beneath the floor, as if it had dived for Tartarus and had stuck at
the shoulders.

“He has guillotined himself with a vengeance!” I exclaimed.

“But how?” said the turnkey, stupidly.

“But thus, it is obvious: by propping the slab-end on the pitcher; by
lying down with his neck over the brink of the trough; by upsetting
the vessel with a sweep of his arm as he lay. _Mon Dieu!_ see how he
sprouts from the chink like a horrible dead polypus! This is no
mouse-trap, but a gin to catch human vermin!”

“It was not to be foreseen,” muttered the man, a little scared. “Who
would have fancied a madman to be in earnest!”

“And that remark,” said I, “comes oddly from the lips of a patriot.”

He questioned me with his eyes in a surly manner.

“Bah!” I cried; “are not Robespierre, Couthon, St Just in earnest? are
not you in earnest? and do you not all put your heads into traps? But
I beg you to take me out of La Souricière.”

He had recovered his composure while I spoke.

“Come, then,” he said; “thou art wanted down below. And as to that
rascal--_Mordi_!” he chuckled, “he has run into a _cul-de-sac_ on his
way to hell; but at any rate he has saved the axe an extra notch to
its edge.”

On the threshold of the room he stopped me and looked into my face.

“How much for a _billet_?” said he.

“You have one for me?”

“That depends.”

“But doubtless you have been paid to deliver it?”

“And doubtless thou wilt pay to receive it.”

“Oh, _mon Dieu_!” said I; “but these vails! And patriots, I see, are
not so far removed from the lackeys they despise.”

“_Pardi!_” said the bulky man. “Listen to the fox preaching to the
hens! But I will lay odds that in another twelve hours thou wilt be
stripped of something besides thy purse. What matter, then! thou wilt
have thy crown of glory to carry to the Lombard-house.”

I gave him what was left to me.

“Now,” said I; and he put a scrap of paper into my hand.

I unfolded it in the dim light and read these words, hurriedly
scrawled thereon in a hand unknown to me: “_Play, if nothing else
avails, the hidden treasures of Pierrettes_.”

“Follow me, Thibaut,” said the jailer.

 * * * * * * *

As might feel a martyr, who, with a toy knife in his hand, is driven
to face the lions, so felt I on my way to the Tribunal with that
fragment of paper thrust into my breast. At one moment I could have
cried out on the travesty of kindness that could thus seek to prolong
my agony by providing me with an inadequate weapon; at another I was
reminded how one might balance oneself in a difficult place with a
prop no stronger than one’s own little finger. Yet this thin shaft of
light cutting into desperate gloom had disquieted me strangely.
Foreseeing, and prepared stoically to meet, the inevitable, I had
even--before the _billet_ was placed in my hands--felt a certain
curiosity to witness--though as an accused--the methods of procedure
of a Court that was as yet only known to me through the infamy of its
reputation. Now, however, caught back to earth with a rope of straw,
I trembled over the very thought of the ordeal to which I was invited.

Coming, at the end of melancholy vaulted passages, to a flight of
stone steps leading up to a door, I was suddenly conscious of a
droning murmur like that of hived bees. The jailer, in the act of
running the key into the lock, beckoned me to mount to him, and, thus
possessed of me, caught me under the arm-pit.

“Play thy card, then, like a gambler!” said he.

“What!” I exclaimed in astonishment.

“Ah bah!” he growled; “didst thou think delicacy kept me from reading
the message? But, fear not. Thou art too little a gudgeon for my
playing”--and he swung open the door. Immediately the hiss and patter
of voices swept upon me like rain. That, and the broad glare of
daylight after so much darkness, confused me for a moment. The next I
woke to the consciousness that at last my foot was on the precipice
path--the gangway for the passage of the pre-damned into the Salle de
la Liberté--the _arête_ of the “Montagne,” it might be called,
seeing how it served that extreme faction for a ridge most perilous to
its enemies to walk on.

This gangway skirted a wooden barricade that cut the hall at about a
third of its length. To my left, as I advanced, I caught glimpse over
the partition of the dismal black plumes on the hats of the judges, as
they bobbed in juxtaposition of evil under a canopy of green cloth. To
my right, loosely filling the body of the hall, was the public; and
here my extreme insignificance as a prisoner was negatively impressed
upon me by the indifference of those whom I almost brushed in passing,
for scarce a _poissarde_ of them all deigned to notice the little
gudgeon as he wriggled on the national hook. Then in a moment my
conductor twisted me through an opening cut in the barricade, and I
was delivered over to the Tribunal.

A certain drumming in my ears, a certain mist before my eyes, resolved
themselves into a very set manner of attention. The stark, whitewashed
walls seemed spotted with a plague of yellow faces--to my left a
throng of mean blotches, the obsequious counsel for the defence; to my
front the President and judges, in number three, like skulls decked
with hearse-plumes; to my right the jury, a very Pandora-box of
goblins, the lid left off, the evil countenances swarming over the
edge. All seemed to my excited imagination to be faces and nothing
else--drab, dirty, and malignant--ugly motes set against the staring
white of the walls, dancing fantastically in the white day-beams that
poured down from the high windows. Yet that I sought for most I could
not at first distinguish,--not until the owner of it stood erect by a
little table--placed to one side and a little forward of the judicial
dais--over which he had been leaning. Then I recognised him
instantly--Tinville, the Devil’s Advocate, the blood-boltered
vampire--and from that moment he was the court to me, judge, jury, and
counsel, and his dark face swam only in my vision like a gout of bile.

Now, I tell you, that so dramatic was this Assembly by reason of the
deadliness of purpose that characterised it, that one, though a
prisoner, almost resented the flippant coxcombry of the three
sightless busts standing on brackets above the bench. For
these--Brutus, Marat, St Fargeau (his gods quit the indignant Roman of
responsibility for entertaining such company)--being jauntily
decorated with a red bonnet apiece and a grimy cockade of the
tricolour, jarred hopelessly in the context, and made of the bloodiest
tragedy a mere clownish extravaganza. And, behold! of this
extravaganza Fouquier-Tinville, when he gave reins to his humour,
discovered himself to be the very Sannio--the rude powerful buffoon,
with a wit only for indecency.

Yet he did not at a first glance figure altogether unprepossessing.
Livid-skinned though he was, with a low forehead, which his hair,
brushed back and stiffly hooked at its ends, seemed to claw about the
middle like a black talon, there was yet little in his countenance
that bespoke an active malignancy. His large eyes had that look of
good-humoured weariness in them that, superficially, one is apt to
associate with unvindictive long-sufferingness. His brows, black also
and thick, were set in the habitual lift of suspense and inquiry. His
whole expression was that of an anxious dwelling upon the prisoner’s
words, lest the prisoner should incriminate himself; and it was only
when one marked the tigerish steadiness of his gaze and the _sooty_
projection of his under-lip over a strongly cleft chin that one
realised how the humour of the man lay all upon the evil side. For the
rest--as each detail of his personality was hammered into me by my
pulses--his black clothes had accommodated themselves to his every
ungainly habit of movement, his limp shirt was caught up about his
neck with a cravat like a rag of dowlas, and over his shoulders hung a
broad national ribbon ending in a silver medallion, with the one word
_Loi_ imprinted on it like a Judas kiss.

Thus the man, as he stood scrutinising me after an abstracted fashion,
his left arm bent, the hand of it knuckled upon the table, the
Lachesis thumb of it--flattened from long kneading of the yarn of
life--striding over a form of indictment.

The atmosphere of the court was frowzy as that of a wine-shop in the
early hours of morning. It repelled the freshness of the latter and
communicated its influence to public and tribunal alike. Over all hung
a slackness and a peevish unconcern as to business. Bench and bar
yawned, and exchanged spiritless commonplaces of speech. True enough,
a gudgeon was an indifferent fish with which to start the traffic of
the day.

At length the Public Accuser slightly turned and nodded his head.

“_Maître Greffier_,” said he, in quite a noiseless little voice,
“acquaint us of the charge, I desire thee, against this _patte-pelu_.”

_Nom de Dieu!_ here was a fine _coup d’archet_ to the overture. My
heart drummed very effectively in response.

A little black-martin of a fellow, with long coat-tails and glasses to
his eyes, stood up by the notaries’ table and handled a slip of paper.
Everywhere the murmur of Tinville’s voice had brought the court to
attention. I listened to the _greffier_ with all my ears.

“Act of Accusation,” he read out brassily, “against Jean-Louis
Sebastien de Crancé, _ci-devant_ Comte de la Muette, and since
calling himself the Citizen Jean-Louis Thibaut.”

Very well, and very well--I was discovered, then; through whose
agency, if not through Jacques Crépin’s, I had no care to learn. The
wonder to me was that, known and served as I had been, I should have
enjoyed so long an immunity from proscription as an aristocrat. But I
accused Crépin--and wrongfully, I believe--in my heart.

“Hath rendered himself answerable to the law of the 17th Brumaire,”
went on the _greffier_, mechanically, “in that he, an _émigré_, hath
ventured himself in the streets of Paris in disguise, and----”

The Public Accuser waved him impatiently to a stop. There fell a dumb

“One pellet out of a charge is enough to kill a rat,” said he,
quietly: then in an instant his voice changed to harsh and terrible,
and he bellowed at me--

“What answer to that, Monsieur _r-r-r-rat_, Monsieur _ratatouille_?”

The change of manner was so astounding that I jumped as at the shock
of a battery. Then a hot flush came to my face, and with it a dreadful
impulse to strike this insolent on the mouth. I folded my arms, and
gave him back glare for glare.

“Simply, monsieur,” I said, “that it is not within reason to accuse me
of returning to what I have never quitted.”


“The soil of France.”

“That shall not avail thee!” he thundered. “What right hast thou to
the soil that thou and thine have manured with the sacred blood of the

“Oh, monsieur!” I began--“but if you will convert my very

He over-roared me as I spoke. He was breathing himself, at my expense,
for the more serious business of the day. Positively I was being used
as a mere punching-bag on which this “bruiser” (_comme on dit à
l’Anglaise_) might exercise his muscles.

“Silence!” he shouted; “I know of what I speak! thou walk’st on a bog,
where to extricate the right foot is to engulf the left. Emigrant art
thou--titular at least by force of thy accursed rank; and, if that is
not enough, thou hast plotted in prison with others that are known.”

I smiled, awaiting details of the absurd accusation. I had formed, it
was evident, no proper conception of this court of summary
jurisdiction. The President leaned over his desk at the moment and
spoke with Tinville, proffering the latter his snuff-box. They
exchanged some words, a pantomime of gesticulation to me. As they
nodded apart, however, I caught a single wafted sentence: “We will
whip her like the Méricourt if she is obstinate.”

To what vile and secret little history was this the key! To me it only
signified that, while I had fancied them discussing a point of my
case, the two were passing confidences on a totally alien matter. At
last I felt very small; and that would have pleased Carinne.

“But, at any rate,” I thought, “the charge against me must now assume
some definite form.”

He, that dark _bouche de fer_ of the Terror, stared at me gloomily, as
if he had expected to find me already removed. Then suddenly he flung
down upon the table the paper he had in his hand, and cried
automatically, as if in a certain absence of mind, “I demand this man
of the law to which he is forfeit.”

God in heaven! And so my trial was ended. They had not even allotted
me one from the litter of mongrel counsel that, sitting there like
begging curs, dared never, when retained, score a point in favour of a
client lest the hags and the brats should hale them off to the
lamp-irons. This certainly was Justice paralysed down one whole side.

I heard a single little cry lift itself from the hall behind me and
the clucking of the _tricoteuses_. I felt it was all hopeless, but I
clutched at the last desperate chance as the President turned to
address (in three words) the jury.

“_M. l’Accusateur Public_,” I said, hurriedly, “I am constrained to
tell you that I have in my possession that which may induce you to
consider the advisability of a remand.”

The fellow stared dumfoundered at me, as if I had thrown my cap in his
face. The President hung on his charge.

“Oh!” said the former, with an ironical nicety of tone--“and what is
the nature of this magnificent evidence?”

I had out my scrap of paper, folded like a _billet-doux_.

“If the citizen will condescend to cast his eye on this?” I said.

He considered a minute. Curiosity ever fights in the bully with
arrogance. At length he made a sign to a _gendarme_ to bring him that
on which, it seemed, my life depended.

Every moment while he dwelt on the words was like the oozing of a drop
of blood to me. I had in a flash judged it best to make him sole
confidant with me in the contents of the paper, that so his private
cupidity might be excited, and he not be driven by necessity to play
the _rôle_ of the incorruptible. The instant he looked up my whole
heart expanded.

“The prisoner,” he said, “acquits his conscience of a matter affecting
the State. I must call upon you, _M. le Président_, to grant for the
present a remand.”

Oh, _mon Dieu_! but the shamelessness of this avarice! I believe the
scoundrel would have blushed to be discovered in nothing but an act of

“The prisoner is remanded to close confinement in the Convent of St
Pélagie,” were the words that dismissed me from the court; and I
swear Fouquier-Tinville’s large eyes followed me quite lovingly as I
was marched away.


At so early an hour was my trial (in the personal and suffering
sense) brought to a conclusion, that mid-day was not yet struck when
my guards delivered me over to the authorities at St Pélagie--a
one-time _communauté de filles_ in the faubourg of St Victor, and
since appropriated ostensibly to the incarceration of debtors. My
arrival, by grace of Fortune, was most happily timed; and, indeed, the
persistency with which throughout the long period of my difficulties
this capricious _coureuse_ amongst goddesses converted for my benefit
accident into opportuneness offered some excuse to me for remaining in
conceit with myself.

Now I was taken in charge by a single turnkey--the others being
occupied with their dinner--and conducted by him to the jailer’s room
to undergo that _rapiotage_, or stripping for concealed properties,
the general abuse of which--especially where women were in
question--was a scandal even in those days of shameless brutality.

As he pushed me into the little ill-lighted chamber and closed the
door hurriedly upon us, I noticed that the man’s hands shook, and that
his face was clammy with a leaden perspiration. He made no offer to
overhaul me; but, instead, he clutched me by the elbow and looked in a
half-scared, half-triumphant manner into my face.

“Pay attention,” he said, in a quick, forced whisper. “Thy arrival
accommodates itself to circumstance--most admirably, citizen, it
accommodates itself. I, that was to expect, am here alone to receive
thee. It is far better so than that I should be driven to visit thee
in thy cell.”

“I foresee a call upon my gratitude,” I said, steadily regarding him.
“That is at your service, citizen jailer, when you shall condescend to
enlighten me as to its direction.”

“I want none of it,” he replied. “It is my own to another that
procures thee this favour.”

“What other, and what favour?”

“As to the first--_en bon Français_, I will not tell thee. For the
second--behold it!”

With the words, he whipt out from under his blouse a thin, strong
file, a little vessel of oil, and a dab of some blue-coloured mastic
in paper--and these he pressed upon me.

“Hide them about thy person--hide them!” he muttered, in a fearful
voice; “and take all that I shall say in a breath!”

He glanced over his shoulder at the closed door. He was a blotched and
flaccid creature, with the staring dry hair of the tippler, but with
very human eyes. His fingers closed upon my arm as if for support to
their trembling.

“Cell thirteen--on the first floor,” he said; “that is whither I shall
convey thee. Ask no questions. Hast thou them all tight?--_Allez-vous
en, mon ami!_ A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.”


“Ah! thou must needs be talking! Cement with the putty, then, and rub
the filings over the marks.”

“I was not born yesterday. It is not _that_ I would know.”

“S-st! At nine by the convent clock, be ready to drop silently into
the cart that shall pass beneath thy window. Never mind what thou
hit’st on. A falling man does not despise a dunghill.”

I hesitated, seeking to read this patriot’s soul. Was this all a snare
to clinch my damnation? Pooh! if I had ever fancied Tinville hunted
for the shadow of a pretext, this morning’s experience should have
disabused me of the fallacy.

“Who commissions thee?” I said.

“One to whom I owe a measure of gratitude.”

“But not I?”

“From this time--yes.”

He pushed at me to go before him.

“At least,” I said, “acquaint me if it is the same that sent the

“I know nothing of any letter. _San’ Dieu!_ I begin to regret my
complaisance. This fellow will strangle us all with his long tongue.”

“But, for thyself, my friend?”

“Oh, _nom de Dieu_! I have no fear, if thou wilt be discreet--and

“And this tool--and the _rapiotage_!”

“Listen then! The thief that follows a thief finds little by the road.
We are under no obligation to search a prisoner remanded from another

Impulsively I wrung the hand of the dear sententious; I looked into
his eyes.

“The Goddess of Reason disown thee!” I said. “Thou shalt never be
acolyte to a harlot!--And I--if all goes well, I will remember. And
what is thy name, good fellow?”

“_M. un tel_,” said he, and added, “Bah! shall not thy ignorance of it
be in a measure our safeguard?”

“True,” said I. “And take me away, then. I cannot get to work too

He opened the door, peeped out, and beckoned me.

“All is well,” he whispered. “The coast is clear.”[1]

As he drove me with harsh gestures across a yard, a turnkey, standing
at a door and twirling a toothpick in his mouth, hailed him

“What perquisites, then, comrade?”

“Bah!” cried my fellow; “I have not looked. He is a bone of Cabochon’s

 * * * * * * *

With what a conflict of emotions I set to work--tentatively at first;
then, seeing how noiselessly the file ran in its oiled groove, with a
concentration of vigour--upon the bars of my window, it is not
difficult to imagine. So hard I wrought that for hours I scarce gave
heed to my growling hunger or attention to my surroundings. As to the
latter, indeed, I was by this time sensibly inured to the conditions
of confinement, and found little in my cell when I came to examine it
to distinguish it from others I had inhabited. A bench, a pitcher, a
flattened mess of straw; here and there about the stone flags marks as
if some frantic beast had sought to undermine himself a passage to
freedom; here and there, engraved with a nail or the tooth of a comb
on the plaster coating of the walls, ciphers, initials, passionate
appeals to heaven or blasphemous indecencies unnameable; in one spot
a forlorn cry: “_Liberté, quand cesseras-tu d’être un vain mot!_” in
another, in feminine characters, the poor little utterance: “_On nous
dit que nous sortirons demain_,” made so pathetic by the later
supplement underscored, “_Vain espoir!_”--with all these, or their
like, was I grievously familiar--resigned, not hardened to them, I am

The window at which I stood looked across a little-frequented
passage--the Puit d’Ermite--upon a blank wall; and was terminated with
a pretty broad sill of stone that screened my operations from casual
wayfarers in the street below. Once, peering forth as I could, with my
face pressed to the bars, I found myself to be situated so indifferent
high as that, free of the grate, I might drop to the pavement without
incurring risk of severer damage than a fractured leg or ankle,
perhaps. Obviously, every point had been considered in this trifling
matter of my escape. By whom? By him that had put me that pawn up my
sleeve in the Palais de Justice? Well, the pawn had checked the king,
it appeared; and now it must content me to continue the game with a
handkerchief over my eyes, like the great M. Philidor.

By two o’clock, having cut through a couple of the bars close by their
junction with the sill, so that a vigorous pull at both would open a
passage for me large enough to squeeze through, I was absorbed in the
careful process of cementing and concealing the evidences of my work
when I heard a sound behind me and twisted myself about with a choke
of terror. But it was my friendly jailer, come with a trencher of
broken scraps for the famished animal in the cage.

“_Corps de Christ!_” he muttered, his face white and scared--“but here
is an admirable precaution! What if I had been Fouquier-Tinville
himself, then?”

“You made no noise.”

“_Par exemple!_ I can shoot a hundredweight of bolts, it seems, so as
not to wake a weasel. I made no noise to deaf ears. But, for thyself,
monsieur--He that would steal corn must be careful his sack has no
holes in it. And now I’ll wager thou’st dusted thy glittering filings
out into the sunbeams, and a sentry, with pistols and a long musket,
pacing the cobbles down there!”

“_Soyez tranquille!_ I have all here in my pocket.”

He put down the platter, shrugged his shoulders, and came on tiptoe to
the window.

“Well, it is excellent,” he whispered grudgingly--“if only thy caution
matched thy skill.”

Then he came close up to me.

“I have news,” he muttered. “All is in preparation. It needs only that
thou play’st thy part silently and surely. A moment’s decision and the
game is thine.”

“But, the sentry, say’st thou?”

“He will be withdrawn. What, is it not the eve of the _Décadi_?[2]
To-night, the wine-shops; to-morrow, full suburbs and an empty Paris,
but for thee the Public Accuser with his questions.”

“And why should he not visit me to-day?”

“Rest assured. He hath a double baking to occupy him.”

A noise sounded in the corridor. The man put his finger to his lips,
pointed significantly at the remainder litter about the sill, stole to
the door, jangled his keys viciously and bellowed at me: “Thou shalt
have that or nothing! _Saint Sacrement_, but the dainty bellies of
these upstarts!”--and off he went, slamming the door after him, and
grumbling till he was out of hearing.

“Excellent nameless one!” I cried to myself; and so, having most
scrupulously removed every trace of my work, I fell, while attacking
with appetite the meal left for me, into a sort of luminous meditation
upon the alluring prospect half opened out to my vision.

“And whence, in the name of God,” I marvelled, “issues this unknown
influence that thus exerts itself on my behalf; and by what process of
gratitude can my jailer, in these days of a general repudiation of
obligations, have attached himself to a cause that, on the face of it,
seems a purely quixotic one?”

Then, “Oh, merciful Heaven!” I thought, “can it be possible that set
in the far haze of a narrow vista of hope, an image--to whose wistful
absorption into the Paradise of dreams I have sought to discipline
myself--yet yearns to and beckons me from the standpoint of its own
material sweetness? I see the smile on its mouth, the lift of its
arms; I hear the little cry of welcome wafted to me. My God, the cry!”

All in an instant some shock of association seemed to stun my brain.
The cry--the single cry that had issued upon my condemnation in the
hall of Justice! Had it not been the very echo of that I had once
heard uttered by a poor swineherd fallen into the hands of savages?

I got to my feet in agitation. Now, suddenly it was borne to me that
from the moment of issue of that little incisive wail a formless
wonder had been germinating in my soul. Carinne present at my
trial!--no, no, it was impossible--unless----

“Citizen, the patriots in this corridor send thee greeting.”

I started as if a bullet had flown past my ear. The voice seemed to
come from the next cell. I swept the cobwebs from my forehead.

“A thousand thanks!” I cried.

“They have dreamt that the ass cursed the thorough-bred for the
niceness of his palate,” went on the voice, “and most heartily they
commiserate thee.”

There followed a faint receding sound like laughter and the clapping
of hands. I had no idea what to say; but the voice relieved me of the

“May I ask the citizen’s name?”

“I am the Comte de la Muette.”

“_Allons donc!_”--and the information, it seemed, was passed from cell
to cell.

“Monsieur,” then came the voice, “we of the Community of the Eremites
of St Pélagie offer thee our most sympathetic welcome, and invite
thee to enrol thyself a member of our Society. Permit me, the
President, by name Marino, to have the honour of proposing thee for

“By all means. And what excludes, Monsieur le Président?”

“_D’une haleine_ (I mention it to monsieur as a matter of form), to
have been a false witness or a forger of assignats.”

“Then am I eligible.”

“Surely, monsieur. How could one conceive it otherwise! And it remains
only to ask--again as a matter of form--thy profession, thy abode, and
the cause of thy arrest.”

“Very well. My profession is one of attachment to a beautiful lady; I
live, I dare to believe, in her heart; and, for my arrest, it was
because, in these days of equality, I sought to remain master of

My answer was passed down the line. It elicited, I have the
gratification to confess, a full measure of applause.

“I have the honour to inform M. le Comte,” said the President, “that
he is duly elected to the privileges of the Society. I send him a
fraternal embrace.”

My inclination jumped with the humour of the thing. It was thus that
these unfortunates, condemned to solitary confinement, had conceived a
method of relieving the deadly tedium of their lot. Thus they passed
to one another straws of information gleaned from turnkeys or from
prisoners newly arrived. And in order to the confusion of any guard
that might overhear them, they studied, in their inter-communications,
to speak figuratively, to convey a fact through a fable, or, at the
least, to refer their statements to dreams that they had dreamt. At
the same time they formed a Society rigidly exclusive. Admitted
rascals, imprisoned in the corridor, they would by no means condescend
to notice. I had an example of this once during the afternoon, when
the whole place echoed with phantom merriment over a jest uttered by a

“M. le Comte!” cried a voice from the opposite row: “I could tell thee
a better tale than that.”

Before the speaker could follow up his words, the President hammered
at my wall.

“I beseech thee do not answer the fellow,” he said. “It is a rogue
that was suborned in the most pitiful case of the St Amaranthe.”

“Monsieur, monsieur!” exclaimed the accused; “it is a slander and a
lie. And how wouldst thou pick thy words with thy shoulder bubbling
and hissing under the branding-iron?”

“As I would pick nettles,” I said.

“I beseech thee!” cried again my neighbour the President, in a warning
voice, “this man can boast no claim to thy attention.”

The poor rascal cried out: “It is inhuman! I perish for a word of

I would have given it him; but his protests were laughed into silence.
He yelled in furious retort. His rage was over-crowed, and drifted
into sullenness.

“I dreamt I belaboured a drum,” said the President, “and it burst
under my hands.”

 * * * * * * *

Truly I did not regret the distraction this whimsical Society afforded
me. Left to myself, the fever of my mind would have corroded my very
reason, I think. To have been condemned to face those hours of tension
indescribable, with no company but that of my own thoughts, would have
proved such an ordeal as, I felt, would have gone far to render me
nerveless at the critical moment. So, responding to the dig of
circumstance in my ribs, I abandoned myself to frolic, and almost, in
the end, lapsed into the other extreme of hysteria.

But, about five o’clock, closing in from the far end of the corridor,
a swift ominous silence succeeded the jangle; and I was immediately
aware of heavy footsteps treading the cemented floor of the passage,
and, following upon these, the harsh snap of locks and the rumbling of
a deep voice--

“Follow me, De la Chatière.”

The words were the signal for a shrilling chorus of sounds--whoops,
cat-calls, verberant renderings of a whole farmyard of demoniac

“_Miau, miau_, Émile! Thou art caught in thine own springe!”

“They will ask thee one of thy nine lives, Émile!”

“Ah--bah! if he pleads as he reasons, upside-down, they will only cut
off his feet.”

“Plead thy poor sick virtue, Émile!”

“No, no! that were one _coup de tête_ that shall procure him

“What need to lie when the truth will serve! Plead thy lost virtue,
Émile, and the jury will love thee.”

“_Taisez-vous, donc!_” roared a jailer. He was answered by a shriek of
laughter. In the midst of the noise I heard the door of my
neighbouring cell flung open and Marino summoned forth. As the party
retreated: “M. le Président, M. le Président!” shouted a voice--“Art
thou going without a word? But do not, I beseech thee, in the pride of
thy promotion neglect to nominate thy successor!”

“Lamarelle, then,” answered the poor fellow, in a voice that he tried
vainly to control.

He was led away. The babble boiled over and simmered down. In a very
few moments a tense quiet had succeeded the uproar. This--due partly
to the reaction from excitement, partly to the fact that jailers were
loitering at hand--wrought in me presently a mood of overbearing
depression. I durst give no rein to my hopes or to my apprehensions,
lest, getting the bit between their teeth, they should fairly run away
with my reason. The prospect of another four hours of this mindless
inaction--hours of which every second seemed to be marked off by the
tick of a nerve--was a deplorable one, indeed.

I tramped ceaselessly to and fro in my cage, humming to myself and
assuming the habit of a philosophy that fitted me about as well as
Danton’s breeches would have done. I grimaced to my own reflections
like a coquette to her mirror. I suffered from my affectation of
self-containment as severely as though I were a tight-laced _femme à
la mode_ weeping to hear a tale of pity. The convent clock, moving
somewhere with a thunderous click as if it were the very _doyen_ of
death-watches, chimed the dusk upon me in reluctant quarters. Ghostly
emanations seemed to rise from the stones of my cell, sorrowful shapes
of the lost and the hopeless to lean sobbing in its corners. Sometimes
I could have fancied I heard a thin scratching on the walls about me,
as if the returned spectres of despair were blindly tracing with a
finger the characters they had themselves engraved thereon; sometimes,
as I wheeled to view of the dull square of the window, a formless
shadow, set against it, would appear to drop hurriedly and fold upon
itself like a bat. By the time, at last, that, despite my resolves, I
was worked up to a state of agitation quite pitiful, some little
relief of distraction was afforded me by the entrance into my cell of
a stranger turnkey, with some coarse food on a plate in his one hand,
and, in the other, a great can of water, from which he replenished my
pitcher. During the half minute he was with me a shag beast of a dog
kept guard at the door.

“Fall to, then,” growled the man; “if thou hast the stomach for
anything less dainty than fat pullets and butter.”

In effect, I had none for anything; yet I thought it the sensible
policy to take up the plate, when the fellow was withdrawn, and munch
away the drawling minutes lest I should spend them in eating out my

Other than this rascal no soul came near me. I had had, it seemed, my
full warning--my complete instructions. Yet, lacking reassurance
during this long trial of suspense, I came to feel as if all affecting
my escape must be a chimera--a fancy bred of the delirium that
precedes death.

Well, as my friendly _huissier_ might have said, Time flies, however
strong the head-wind; and at length the quarters clanged themselves
into that one of them that was the prelude to my most momentous
adventure. And immediately thereon (God absolve me for the
inconsistency!) a frantic revulsion of feeling set in, so that I would
have given all but my chance of escape to postpone the act of it
indefinite hours. Now I heard the throb of the seconds with a terror
that was like an acute accent to my agony of suspense. It grew--it
waxed monstrous and intolerable. I must lose myself in some physical
exertion if I would preserve my reason.

Suddenly a nightmare thought faced me. What if, when the time came,
the cut bars should remain stubborn to my efforts to bend them! What
if I had neglected to completely sever either or both, and that, while
I madly wrought to remedy my error, the moment should pass and with it
the means to my deliverance!

Sweating, panting, in a new reaction to the frenzy for liberty, I
sprang to the window, gripped the bars, and, with all my force,
dragged them towards me. They parted at the cuts and yielded readily.
A sideway push to each, and there would freedom gape at me.

In the very instant of settling my shoulder to the charge, I was aware
of a sound at my cell door--the cautious groping of wards in a lock.
With a suppressed gasp I came round, with my back to the tell-tale
grating, and stood like a discovered murderer.

A lance of dull light split the blackness perpendicularly.

“Open again when I tap,” said a little voice--that cracked like
thunder in my brain, nevertheless,--and the light closed upon itself.

God of all irony!--the little voice--the little dulcet undertone that
had cried _patte-pelu_ upon me in the hall of Justice! So the turnkey
had miscalculated or had been misinformed, and M. l’Accusateur Public
would not postpone the verbal satisfaction of his cupidity to the
_Décadi_. _Le limier rencontrait_; I was bayed into a corner, and my
wit must measure itself against a double row of teeth.

For an instant a mad resentment against Fate for the infernal
wantonness of its cruelty blazed up in my breast, so that I could
scarce restrain myself from bounding upon my enemy with yells of fury.
Then reason--set, contained and determined--was restored to me, and I
stood taut as a bowstring and as vicious.

A moment or two passed in silence. I could make out a dusky undefined
heap by the door. “In the dark all cats are grey.”

At length: “Who is there?” I said quietly.

The figure advanced a pace or two.

“Speak small, my friend,” it said, “as if thou wert the very voice of

This time there was no doubt. I ground my teeth as I answered: “Of
_thy_ conscience, monsieur? Then should I thunder in thy ears like a
bursting shell.”

“What is this!” said he, taking a backward step.

On my honour I could not have told him. I felt only to myself that if
this man baulked me of my liberty I should kill him with my hands. But
doubtless indignation was my bad counsellor.

“How!” he muttered, with a menacing devil in his voice. “Does the fool
know me?”

I broke into wicked laughter.

“Hear the unconscious humorist!” I cried--and the cry seemed to reel
in my throat; for on the instant, dull and fateful, clanged the first
note of the hour.

Now God knows what had urged me to this insanity of defiance, when it
was obvious that my best hope lay in throwing a sop of lies to my
Cerberus. God knows, I say; and to Him I leave the explanation. Yet,
having fallen upon this course, I can assert that not once during the
day had I felt in such good savour with myself.

He came forward again with a raging malediction.

“Thy pledge!” he hissed; “the paper--the treasure! God’s name! dost
thou know who it is thou triflest with?”

I heard the rumble of wheels over the stones down below. My very soul
seemed to rock as if it were launched on waves of air. The wheels

“Listen,” I said, in a last desperation. “It was a ruse, a lie to gain
time. I know of no treasure, nor, if I did, would I acquaint thee of
its hiding-place.”

A terrible silence succeeded. I stood with clinched hands. Had I heard
the cart move away again I should have thrown myself upon this demon
and sought to strangle him. Then, “Oh, my God! oh, my God!” he said
twice, in a dreadful strained voice, and that was all.

Suddenly he made a swift movement towards me. I stood rigid, still
with my back to the damning grate; but, come within a foot of me, he
as suddenly wheeled and went to the door.

“Open, Gamache,” he whispered, like a man winded, and tapped on the
oak: “open--I have something to say to thee.”

In another moment I was alone. I turned, and, in a frenzy of haste,
drove the bars right and left with all my force. Like a veritable ape
of destiny I leapt to the sill and looked down. A white face stared up
at me. The owner of it was already in the act of gathering his reins
together. I heard a soft tremulous _ouf!_ issue from his lips, and on
the breath of it I dropped and alighted with a thud upon something
that squelched beneath my weight. As I got to my knees, he on the
driving-board was already whipping his horses to a canter.

“Quick, quick!” he said. “Come up and sit here beside me.”

I managed to do so, though the cargo we carried gave perilous

Then at once I turned and regarded my preserver.

“Saints in heaven!” I whispered, “Crépin!”

 * * * * * * *

He was a very _sans-culotte_, and his face and eyebrows were darkened.
But I knew him.

“Well,” he said; “I am no rogue of a Talma to act a part. But what, in
God’s name, delayed thee?”


His jaw dropped at me.

“_Si fait vraiment_,” I said, and gave him the facts.

He shivered as I spoke. The instant I was done, “Get under the
canvas!” said he, in a terrible voice. “There will be hue-and-cry, and
if I am followed, we are both lost. Get under the canvas, and endure
what thou canst not cure!”

 * * * * * * *

My God! the frightfulness of that journey! of the company I lay with!
We drove, as I gathered, by the less-frequented streets, and reached
the barrier of St Jacques by way of the Rue de Biron. Here, for the
first time, we were stopped.

“_Halte là!_” bawled a tipsy voice. “What goods to declare, friend?”

“Content thyself,” I heard Crépin answer. “They bear the Government

“How, then, carrier?”

“Peep under the cart-tail, and thou shalt see.”

The gendarme lifted a corner of the canvas with his sword-point. A
wedge of light entered, and amazed my panic-stricken eyes.

“_Il est bon là!_” chuckled the fellow, and withdrew his sword. He
had noticed nothing of me; but, as we whipped to a start, he made a
playful cut at the canvas with his weapon. The blade touched my thigh,
inflicting a slight flesh-wound, and I could not forbear a spasmodic
jerk of pain. At this he cried out, “_Holà hé!_ here is a dead frog
that kicks!” and came scuttling after us. Now I gave myself up for
lost; but at the moment a frolicsome comrade hooked the runner’s ankle
with a stick, and brought the man heavily to the ground. There
followed a shout; a curse of fury, and--Fortune, it appeared, had
again intervened on my behalf.

Silence succeeded, for all but the long monotonous jolting and
pitching over savage ground. At length Crépin pulled up his horses,
and, leaning back from his seat, tossed open a flap of the canvas.

“Come, then,” he said in a queer voice. “We have won clear by the
grace of Heaven.”

I wallowed, faint and nauseated, from my horrible refuge. Sick, and in
pain of mind and body, I crept to a seat beside my companion. We were
on a dark and desolate waste. A little moon lay low in the sky. Behind
us the _enceinte_ of the city twinkled with goblin lights.

“And these?” I said, weakly, signifying our dreadful load. “Whither
dost thou carry them, Crépin?”

“Whither I carry thee, Monsieur le Comte--to the quarries under the
Plain of Mont-Rouge.”

“To unconsecrated ground?”

“What would you? The yards are glutted. The Madeleine bulges like a
pie-crust. At last by force of necessity we consecrate this, the
natural cemetery of the city, dug by itself, to the city’s patron
saint, La Guillotine.”

 * * * * * * *

“Tell me, my preserver and, as God shall quit thee, also my
friend--you received my letter?”

“Else, why art thou here?”

“But, thou hast done me an incalculable wrong!”

“And an incalculable benefit. Oh, monsieur, do I not atone?”

“To me, yes.”

“Let that pass, then. But, even there, I would not have thee underrate
my service. Have I not, to save thee, annihilated time; called in a
debt of gratitude that I kept in reversion for my own needs; suborned
the very hangman’s carter that I might help thee in thy extremity?”

“And all this is due to thee?”

“Assuredly--and for what reason? Because, in total ignorance of thy
claim to it, I took a fancy to a sweet face. Now I think you will
acknowledge, M. le Comte, that the Revolution, for all its excesses,
is capable of producing a gentleman of honour who knows how to make

“Truly, this is no small thing that you have done.”

“Truly I think thou might’st apply superlatives to it, without
extravagance. To outwit and baulk the Public Accuser--the cat-fish of
the Committee of Safety--_Dame!_ is there a hole in all Paris too
small to admit his tentacles? But I tell thee, monsieur, I am already
in the prison of my own holy namesake.”

“I would kiss thy hands, but----”

“What now?”

“My letter referred to other than myself.”

He turned and, I thought, looked at me oddly.

“In these days, what safer refuge for a woman than prison,” he said,
“provided she hath a friend at Court? Understand, monsieur, I have
found Mademoiselle de Lâge respectable lodgings, that is all.”

“Where you hold her as Lovelace held the estimable Clarisse. Crépin,
I cannot accept my life on these terms.”

The words jerked on my lips as the waggon was brought to a stand with
a suddenness that made the harness rattle. A tall figure, that seemed
to have sprung out of the earth, stood at the horses’ heads.

“Gusman,” said my companion quietly; “this is Citizen Thibaut, whom
you are to conduct to the secret lodging. Hurry, then, Thibaut.”

I got with some difficulty to the ground.

“And you?” said I.

“I go yet a mile to deliver my goods. We will discuss this matter
further, _bien entendu_, on my return.”

He flogged his cattle to an immediate canter, leaving me in all
bewilderment alone with the stranger. On every side about us, it
seemed, stretched a melancholy waste--a natural graveyard sown with
uncouth slabs of stone. The wind swayed the grasses, as if they were
foam on black water; the tide of night murmured in innumerable gulfs
of darkness.

“Come, then!” muttered the figure, and seized my hand.

We walked twenty cautious paces. I felt the clutch of brambles at my
clothes. Suddenly he put his arm about me, and, as we moved, forcibly
bent down my head and shoulders. At once I was conscious of a confined
atmosphere--damp, earthy, indescribable. It thickened--grew closer and
infinitely closer as we advanced.

Now I could walk upright; but my left shoulder rasped ever against
solid rock. The blackness of utter negation was terrible; the cabined
air an oppression that one almost felt it possible to lift from one’s
head like an iron morion. For miles, I could have fancied, we thridded
this infernal tunnel before the least little blur of light spread
itself like salve on my aching vision.

Then suddenly, like a midnight glowworm, the blur revealed itself, a
fair luminous anther of fire in a nest of rays--and was a taper
burning on the wall of a narrow chamber or excavation set in the heart
of the bed-stone.

“_Voilà ton ressui!_” exclaimed my sardonic guide; and, without
another word, he turned and left me.

I stood a moment confounded; then, with a shrug of my shoulders,
walked into the little cellar and paused again in astonishment. From a
stone ledge, on which it had been lying, it seemed, prostrate, a
figure lifted itself and, standing with its back to me, swept the long
hair from its eyes.

I stared, I choked, I held out my arms as if in supplication.

“_Mon Dieu, mon Dieu!_” I cried--“if it is not Carinne, let me die!”


She turned, the dear figure. I heard her breath catch as she leaned
forward and gazed at me. Her hair was all tumbled abroad; her sweet
scared eyes looked out of a thicket of it like little frightened birds
from a copse. She took a hurried step or two in my direction, then
cried, “_C’est un coup du ciel!_” and threw up her hands and pressed
them to her face.

I dropped my yearning arms. A needle of ice pierced my heart.

“A judgment of heaven?” I cried, sorrowfully.

The sound of my voice seemed like the very stroke of a thyrsus on her
shoulders. She broke into an agitated walk--pacing to and fro in front
of me--wringing her hands and clasping them thus to her temples. Her
shadow fled before or after her like a coaxing child.

Suddenly, to my amazement, she darted upon me, and seized and shook me
in a little fury of passion.

“_Prends cela, prends cela, prends cela!_” she cried; and then as
suddenly she released me, and ran back to her ledge, and flung herself
face-downwards thereon, sobbing as if her heart would break.

Shocked and astounded beyond measure, I followed and stood over her.

“Mademoiselle de Lâge,” I said, miserably--“of what am I guilty?”

“Of everything--of nothing! Perhaps it is I that am to blame!” she
cried in a muffled voice.

“What have I done?”

She sat up, weeping, and pressed the pain from her forehead.

“Oh, monsieur! it is not a little thing to pass twelve hours in the
most terrible loneliness--in the most terrible anxiety!”

“I do not understand.”

“You do not, indeed--the feelings of others--the wisdom of

“Mademoiselle!” I exclaimed, in all patience.

She sat, with her palms resting upon the ledge. She looked up at me
defiantly, though she yet fought with her sobs.

“It was doubtless a fine thing in your eyes this morning,” she said,
“to throw scorn to that wretch who could have destroyed you with a

I felt my breath come quickly.

“That wretch!” I whispered--“this morning?”

“It was what I said, monsieur,--the _loup-garou_ of the Salle de la
Liberté. But where one attaches any responsibility to life, one
should learn to distinguish between bravado and courage.”

I think I must have turned very pale, for a sudden concern came into
her face.

“Mademoiselle,” I said, “will persist in giving me the best reason for
holding life cheaply--that I cannot, it seems, find favour with her.”

“Was it, then, monsieur, that you yourself were your only

“Oh! give me at least the indulgence,” I cried, “to retort upon an
insolent that insults me.”

“_Grand Dieu!_” she said, mockingly; “but what a perverted heroism!
And must a man’s duty be always first towards his dignity, and
afterwards, a long way----”

She broke off, panting, and tapping her foot on the ground. I looked
at her, all mazed and dumfoundered.

“And afterwards?” I repeated. She would not continue. A little silence

“Mademoiselle,” I said at length sadly--“let me speak out what is in
my heart, and have done with it. That little cry of pity and of
protest that I heard uttered this morning when sentence was demanded
upon me in the Palais de Justice, and that I must needs now associate
with this new dear knowledge of your freedom--if I have put upon it an
unwarrantable construction, something beyond the mere expression of a
woman’s sympathy with the unfortunate--you will, I am sure, extend
that sympathy to my blindness, the realisation of which must in itself
prove my heavy punishment. If, also, I have dared to translate the
anxiety you have by your own showing suffered, here in this savage
burrow, into a sentiment more profound than that of simple concern for
an old-time comrade, you will spare my presumption, will you not, the
bitterness of a rebuke? It shall not be needed, believe me. My very

She interrupted me, rising to her feet white and peremptory.

“Not for me, monsieur--not for me! And, for _my_ associations--they
shall never be of that word with deceit!”


“But is it not so? Have you not approached my confidence in a false
guise, under a false name? Oh!” (she stamped her foot again) “cannot
you see how my condescension to the Citizen Thibaut is stultified by
this new knowledge of his rank? how to favour now what I had hitherto
held at arm’s-length would be to place myself in the worst regard of

“No, mademoiselle--I confess that I cannot;--but then I journeyed
hither in the National hearse.”

“I do not understand.”

“Why, only that there one finds a ragpicker’s head clapt upon a
monseigneur’s neck in the fraternity that is decreed to level all
distinctions. What is the advantage of a name, then, when one is
denied a tombstone?”

“Ah!” she cried, “you seek to disarm me with levity. I recognise your
habit of tolerant contempt for the mental equipment of my sex. It does
not become you, monsieur;--but what does it matter! I know already
your opinion of me, and how compound it is of disdain and disgust. I
am soulless and cruel and capricious--perhaps ill-favoured also; but
there, I think, you pronounce me inoffensive or something less. But I
would have you say, monsieur--what was Lepelletier to me? I should
have sickened, rather, to break bread with my uncle--whom heaven
induce to the shame of repentance! And I was ill that night, so that
even you might have softened in your judgment of me.”

I stood amazed at the vehemence of her speech, at the rapidity of
inconsequence with which she pelted me with any chance missile that
came to her hand. It was evident the poor child was overwrought to a
degree; and I was fixed helpless between my passionate desire to
reassure and comfort her and my sense of her repudiation of my right
to do so. Now, it happened that, where words would have availed
little, a mute appeal--the manner of which it was beyond my power to
control--was to serve the best purposes of reconciliation. For
suddenly, as I dwelt bewildered upon the wet flashing of Carinne’s
eyes, emotion and fatigue, coupled with the sick pain of my wound, so
wrought upon me that the vault went reeling and I with it. I heard her
cry out; felt her clutch me,--and then there was sense for little but
exhaustion in my drugged brain.

 * * * * * * *

“I am on the floor, Carinne?”

“On the floor, _mon ami_.”

“I am not so little a weight, you see. You tried to support me to the
bench and failed--for I know.”

“But you were a dead-weight.”

“Not dead yet, _chattemite_. Only I think I am dying.”

“No, no, little Thibaut! _À Dieu ne plaise!_ You will not be so
wicked. And what makes you think so?”

“I am so near heaven.”

“Do you mean me? But I burn.”

“Kiss me, then, and give me of your fire.”

“But, if you were to recover?”

“I would return it.”

“It is infamous. You presume upon my tenderness, that is all for your
cruel wound. Yet I do not think you are much hurt.”

“Not now, with your hand upon my heart. Tell me, Carinne--it was
Jacques Crépin that brought you here?”

“That had me conveyed hither by his deputy, Gusman. It was this
morning, after your trial. He had had me released from prison--_le
pécheur pénitent_. God had moved him to remorse, it seemed, and some
unknown--perhaps one that had overheard us in La Force--to knowledge
of our friendship,--yours and mine. He procured me my passport;
accompanied me beyond the barrier d’Enfer; committed me to the keeping
of this deadman of the quarries. He swore he would play his life
against yours--would win you to me here or perish in the attempt.
Judge then, you, of my waiting torture--my anguish of expectation in
this solitude!”

“Would win me to you! And you desired this thing? _Oh, ma mie, ma
mie!_ how, then, could you welcome me as you did?”

“I do not know.”

“And deny and abuse me and give me such pain?”

“I do not know.”

“For you love me very dearly... Carinne, I am dying!”

“I do not believe you. That trick shall not serve a second time.”

 * * * * * * *

“And what are we to do now, Carinne?”

“Thou must be asking thyself that question,” said a
voice--Crépin’s--that clanged suddenly in the vaulted labyrinth. The
man himself stood looking down upon us. Beside him the gaunt figure of
my guide held aloft a flambeau that talked with a resinous sputter.
Its flare reddened the auburn curls of the Sectional President, and
informed his dissolute face with a radiance that was like an inner
consciousness of nobility.

“My task ends here,” he said, quietly. “And shall we cry quits, M. le

I lay on the floor, my head in Carinne’s lap.

“Citizen Crépin,” I said, “thou hast acquitted thyself like a
gentleman and a man of courage. I would not wish, for thy sake, that
the risk had been less; I would not, for ours, know that it hath
involved thee in the toils.”

“We are all in the toils nowadays,” said he; “and happy the lion that
can find a mouse for his friend. To the extent of my power I have
done; yet, I warn thee, thou art not out of the wood. If the weasel
wakes to the manner of his outwitting, not a river of blood shall
divert him from the scent till he has run thee down--thee, and me
also. Oh! I desire thee, do not misapprehend the importance of my

Carinne looked up. She made an involuntary gesture with her hands.
This dear child, in her sweet surrender, became the archetype of

“Monsieur,” she said, softly, “you have stood aside so honourably, you
have made us so greatly your debtors, that you will not now stultify
your own self-sacrifice by imposing upon us a heritage of remorse? If
you are in such danger, why not remain here with us?”

He did not answer for some moments; but he shook his head very
slightly as he gazed down on us.

“As to life,” he said presently, “my compact is with the senses. There
is a higher ideal to reach to, no doubt; but _Mordi_! I confess, for
myself I cannot feel the epicure and play the ascetic. To continue in
love with virtue, one must take it only, like opium, in occasional
doses. An habitual indulgence in it degrades the picturesqueness of
its own early evoking. Perhaps it should be ethically grateful to me
to remain here to contemplate the fruit of my generosity ripening for
another’s picking. Perhaps the guillotine is awaiting me in Paris.
Well, mademoiselle, of the two evils I prefer the latter. Here, to
feed on my own self-righteousness would be to starve at the end of a
day; there, the glory of doing, of directing, of enjoying, will soon
woo me from memory of a sentiment that was no more part of my real
self than the mistletoe is part of the harsh trunk it beautifies. For
death, I do not fear it, if it will come to me passionately, like a


“Ah, mademoiselle! believe me that I can offer no higher testimony to
your worth than the assurance that I have for six months lost myself
in you!”

I looked at this ex-waiter in marvel. His dishes could never have
shown a finer polish than his manners. Moreover, in what intervals of
supplying food to others had he sat himself down to his own feast of
reason? One was accustomed in those days to hear coal-heavers
discussing Diderot, but not in the language of Diderot. I gazed on his
face and thought I saw in it a neutral ground, whereon a beast and an
angel hobnobbed in the intervals of combat.

Beside him the torch-bearer--silent, melancholy, astringent--held his
brand aloft motionless, as if his arm were a sconce of iron.

“You are hurt, monsieur?” said Crépin, suddenly referring to me.

“It is nothing--a bite, a scratch; an excuse for a pillow.”

“Ah!” (he fetched a flask from his pocket and uncorked it)--“this is
ethereal cream of mint--a liqueur I affect, in that it reminds me of
lambs, and innocence--and shepherdesses. Let us pledge one another,
like good friends, at parting! And it will confirm thy cure, monsieur,
so happily begun.”

“Mademoiselle?” he said pleadingly, and offered it to Carinne.

She touched it with her lips--I, more effectively, with mine. Crépin
cried “_Trinquons!_” and, taking a lusty pull, handed the flask to
Gusman, who drained it.

“Now,” said he, “we are united by a bond the sweetest in the
world--the sympathy of the palate. We have made of ourselves a little
rosary of wine beads.”

He put his hand lightly on Gusman’s shoulder.

“This austerity,” he said--“this Bailly of the Municipality of the
dead--I have purchased ye his favour with the one bribe to which he is
susceptible. Kings might offer him their crowns; easy maids their
honour. They should no more draw him from his reserve than Alexander
drew Diogenes from his tub. But there is a _séductrice_ to his
integrity, and the name of it is right Hollands. My faith! I would not
swear _my_ fidelity to such a frowzy mistress; but taste is a matter
of temperament. Is it not so, Jacques?”

“While the keg lasts, I will hold the safety of thy friends in pawn to

So replied the spectral figure--a voice, a phantom--the very enigma of
this charnel city of echoes.

The liqueur had revived and comforted me amazingly. I raised myself on
my elbow.

“Ah!” I cried, “if good intentions could find favour with thee, I
would make thy keg a kilderkin, Citizen Gusman!”

The figure stood mute, like a man of bronze. Crépin laughed

“He is the fast warden of these old catacombs,” he said--“the undying
worm and sole master of their intricacies. Himself hath tunnelled them
under the ground, I believe, like the tan-yard grub that bores into
poplar-trees. Silence and secrecy are his familiars; but, I tell thee,
monsieur, he will absorb Hollands till he drips with it as the roofs
of his own quarries drip with water. The keg once drained, and--if
thou renew’st it not--he will sell thee for a single measure of
schnapps. Is it not so, Jacques?”

“It is so,” said the figure, in a deep, indifferent voice.

Crépin laughed again, then suddenly turned grave, and leaned down
towards me.

“Harkee, M. le Comte!” he said, “is thy pocket well lined?”

“With good intentions, M. le Président.”

He nodded and, fetching a little bag of skin out of his breast, forced
it into my hand.

“It is all I can spare,” he said; “and with that I must acquit my
conscience of the matter.”

“If ever I live to repay thee, good fellow----”

“Ah, bah, monsieur! I owe thee for the Médoc. And now--escape if thou
seest the way open. This strange creature will be thy bond-slave while
the keg runs. Afterwards--_eh bien! C’est à toi la balle_. For food,
thou must do as others here--take toll of the country carts as they
journey to the barriers. They will not provide thee with sweetbreads
in wine; but--well, monsieur, there are fifty ways, after all, of
cooking a cabbage.”

I rose, with difficulty, to my feet. Carinne, still seated on the
floor, held her hand in mine. Something like a gentle quinsy in my
throat embarrassed my speech.

“Good citizen----” I muttered.

Crépin made a gesture with his hand and backed in a hurry.

“I desire no expression of gratitude,” he said loudly.

“Good citizen,” I repeated, “thou wouldst not rebuke our selfishness
by denying us, thy most faithful debtors, the privilege claimed by
even a minor actor in this escapade?”

“Of whom dost thou speak?”

“Of a turnkey at St Pélagie’s.”

“_Mordi!_ I drenched him once for the colic--that is all. The fool
fancied he had swallowed an eft that was devouring his entrails.”

He cried “_Portez vous bien!_” and a quick emotion, as of physical
pain, flickered over his face like a breath of air over hot coals.
Carinne was on her feet in a moment, had gone swiftly to him, and had
taken his hand.

“Monsieur,” she said, in a wet voice, “it is true that honour, like
sweet vines, may shoot from beds of corruption. God forbid that I pass
judgment on that which influences the ways of men; but only--but only,
monsieur, I hope you may live very long, and may take comfort from the
thought of the insignificance of the subject of your so great

She drooped her dear head. The other looked at her with an intense

“But, nevertheless,” he said, quietly, “it was the letter of M. le
Comte, of my honoured father Epicurus, that moved me to the sacrifice.
That is great, as you say. I never realised how great till this
moment. Yet--ah, mademoiselle! I would not sanctify it out of the
category of human passions by pretending that I was induced to it by
any sentiment of self-renunciation. Thyself should not have persuaded
me to spare thee--nor anything less, may be, than an appeal from my
preceptor in the metaphysics of the senses. I take no shame to say so.
I am not a traitor to my creed; and it would offend me to be called a

He put the girl’s hand gently away from him.

“Still,” he said, “I may not deem myself worthy to touch this flower
with my lips.”

And at that he turned and went from us, summoning Gusman to accompany
him, and crying as he vanished, “Good luck and forgetfulness to all!”

So disappeared from our lives this singular man, who persisted to the
very last in lashing me with the thong of my own twisting. We never
saw him again; once only we heard of him.

As the flash of the retreating torch glimmered into attenuation,
Carinne returned to me and sat down at my side.

“Little Thibaut,” she said softly, “he designed me so great a wrong
that I know not where to place him in my memory.”

“With the abortive children of thy fancy, Carinne; amongst the
thoughts that are ignorant of the good in themselves.”

She sighed.

“And so it was thou wast his informer as to our friendship? And why
didst thou write, Jean-Louis?”

“To urge him, by our one time intimacy, to cease his persecution of a
beautiful and most innocent lady.”

“I did not know, I did not know!” she cried; and suddenly her arms
were round my neck, and I lay in a nest of love.

“Oh! I am glad to be pretty, for the sake of the little Thibaut, that
saved me from barbarous men, and from myself, and, alas! from my
uncle! Little Thibaut, did I hurt when I beat thee? Beat me, then,
till I cry with the pain.”

She sobbed and laughed and held my face against her bosom. In the
midst, the candle on the wall dropped like a meteor, and instantly we
were immured in a very crypt of darkness.

She cried in a terrified voice: “Oh, _mon Dieu_! hold me, or I sink!”
and committed herself shuddering to my embrace.

The blackness was blind, horrible, beyond reason. We could only shut
our eyes and whisper to one another, expecting and hoping for Gusman’s
return. But he came no more that night, and by-and-by Carinne slept in
my arms.

 * * * * * * *

The glare of torch-light on my face brought me to my senses. That
sombre deadman, as Carinne called him, stood above us--visionless,
without movement, it seemed--a lurid genii presented in a swirling
drift of smoke. He might never have moved from the spot since we had
last seen him there.

“Why dost thou wake us, good friend?” said I. “Hast thou a midnight
service for the dead here?”

“It is high morning,” said he, in a voice like a funeral bell.


I sat up in amazement. Truly I had not thought of it. We had slept the
clock round; but there was no day in this hideous and melancholy

I looked down at my companion. She had slipped from my hold of her,
and lay across my knees. Her hair curled low on her forehead; her
eyelids were misted with a faint blue shadow, like the sheaths of
hyacinth buds before they open; her lips were a little parted, as Love
had left them. _Mon Dieu!_ there is no sight so tender and so pathetic
as that of a fair child asleep; and what was Carinne but a child!

In an access of emotion I bent and softly touched the lips with mine.
This infant so brave and so forlorn, whose head should have been
pillowed on flowers, whose attendants should have been the lady

“She is very pretty,” said the deadman.

“Ha, ha!” I cried. “Hast thou found it out? There shall spring a
blossom for thee yet, old Gusman, in this lifeless city of thine!”

He twirled his torch for the first time, so that it spouted fire like
a hand-grenade.

“Blossoms!” he barked. “But thou shalt know I have my garden walks
down here--bowers of mildew, parterres of fine rank funguses, royal
worms even, that have battened for centuries on the seed of men.”

He crooked his knees, so that he might stare into my face.

“Not altogether a city of the dead,” said he.

“Is it peopled with ghosts, then?”

“Very thickly, without doubt. Thou shalt see them swarm like maggots
in its streets.”

I shrugged my shoulders. The creature stood erect once more, and made
a comprehensive gesture.

“This?” he said,--“you must not judge by this. It is the Holy of
Holies, to which none has access but the High Priest of the
Catacombs--and such as he favours.”

“And what, in a rude age, keeps it sacred?”

He swept his torch right and left.

“Look, then!” said he.

We lay in a vaulted chamber hewn out of the rock. On all sides I
fancied I caught dim vision of the mouths of innumerable low tunnels
that exhaled a mist of profound night.

“Knowledge!” exclaimed the fearful man; “the age-long lore of one that
hath learnt his every footstep in this maze of oubliettes. There are
beaten tracks here and there. Here and there a fool has been known to
leave them. It may be days or weeks before I happen across his
body--the eyes slipping forward of their lids, his mouth puckered out
of shape from sucking and gnawing at the knuckles of his hands.”

“It is terrible! And none comes hither but thou?”

“I, and the beasts of blood that must not be denied. When they hunt, I
lead; therefore it is well to win my favour.”

Carinne hurriedly raised herself. She threw her arms about me.

“Oh, my husband!” she cried, “take me where I may see the sweet
daylight, if only for a moment!”

I had thought the poor child slept.

“Hush!” I murmured. “Citizen Gusman is going to show us his township!”

 * * * * * * *

By interminable corridors, so intricate that one would have thought
their excavators must have lain down to die, each at the limit of his
boring, from sheer despair of ever finding their way to the open
again, we followed the flare of the torch, our eyes smarting in its
smoke, our arms most fervently linked, Carinne’s to mine, in
inseparable devotion. Now and again I would hear my poor little friend
whisper, “Light, light!” as if her very heart were starving; and then
I would draw her face to mine and cry confidently, “It is coming, _ma
mie_!” Still on we went over the uneven ground, thridding an endless
labyrinth of death, oppressed, weighed upon, hustled by inhuman walls,
breathing and exhaling the thin black fluid that is the atmosphere of
the disembodied.

Sometimes, as if it crouched beneath a stroke, the flame of the torch
would dip and shrink under a current of gas, then leap jocund again
when the peril was swept by; sometimes the tinkle of falling water
would gladden our ears as with a memory of ancient happiness; and,
passing on, in a moment we should be bedewed with spray, and catch a
glimpse, in the glare, of a very dropping well of fire. At length, at
the turning of a corridor, Gusman called us to a halt.

He hollowed his left hand to his mouth.

“_Holà--làee--eh--h--h!_” he yelled, like a very _lutin_.

“_Là--là--là--là--làee--eh--làee--eh--làee--eh!_” was hooted
and jangled back in a tumbling torrent of sound, that seemed to issue
from the throat of a passage facing us and to shake the very roofs
with merriment. Involuntarily we shrunk against the wall, as if to
allow space to the impetuous rush we foresaw. _Mon Dieu_, the strange
illusion! Only the swarming imps of echoes, summoned to the Master
call, came hurrying forth, leaping and falling over one another,
fighting and struggling, clanging with reverberant laughter,
distributing themselves, disappearing down this or that corridor,
shouting over their shoulders as they fled--faint, fainter--till
silence settled down once more like water in the wake of a vessel.

Gusman slewed his head about--cockt as it had been to the outcry--to
view of us.

“They are lively to-day,” he said, with an unearthly distortion of his

“The echoes?”

“_C’est cela, citoyen._ So men entitle them. No doubt it is human to
think to put terror out of countenance by miscalling it.”

“How, then?”

He beckoned us to follow; plunged into the very funnel mouth that had
vomited the eerie babble; led us swiftly by a winding passage, and

“Behold!” said he, flashing his torch to and fro over the surface of a
roughly piled and cemented wall that seemed to close the entrance to a
vast recess.

“Behold!” said he, sweeping the flame to the ground at the wall-foot.

We saw a skull or two; a few scattered bones. An indescribable brassy
odour assailed our nostrils. The stones shone with an oily exudation.

“What company lies here, citizen?”

“A brave one, by my faith--a whole cemetery _en bloc_. _Comment
diable!_ shall they have fitted themselves each with his own by the
day of Judgment! They pretend to sleep, piecemeal as they were bundled
in; but utter so little as a whisper down there, and they will begin
to stir and to talk. Then if thou shout’st, as I did--my God, what a
clamour in reply! But one would have thought they had protested enough

“In what manner?”

“Ask the killers of September, thou. They are held honest men, I

“It is enough,” said I. “Lead on, Citizen Gusman, and find us a glint
of light, in the name of God!”

I glanced, with a shudder, at Carinne. Thank heaven! she had not, it
appeared, understood. So here, in one dreadful lime-cemented heap,
were massed the victims of those unspeakable days! I remembered the
Abbaye and the blood-mark on the lip of Mademoiselle de Lâge; and I
held the girl to my side, as we walked, with a pressure that was

Again the torch danced before us, and again we followed; and yet again
the deadman called us to a stop, and whirled his half-devoured brand.

“Observe well,” said he; “for it is in this quarter ye must sojourn,
and here seek refuge when warning comes.”

This time a very hill of skulls and ribs and shanks--a lifeless
crater--a Monte Testaccio of broken vessels that had once contained
the wine of life. The heap filled a wide recess and rose twenty feet
to the roof.

“The contribution of ‘Les Innocens,’” said Gusman, as if he were some
spectral minister of affairs announcing in the Convention of the dead
a Sectional subscription.

He pointed to a little closet of stone, like a friar’s cell, that
pierced the wall to one side of the heap.

“Behold your hermitage!” said he.

Carinne, clinging to me, cried, “No, no!” in a weeping voice.

“_Eh bien!_” said the creature, indifferently; “you can take or leave,
as you will.”

“We will take, citizen.”

“Look, then!” (he gripped my arm and haled me to the mound) “and note
what I do.”

There was a point--roughly undistinguishable from the rest--where a
welded mass of calcareous bone and rubbish lay upon the litter. This
was, in effect, a door in one piece, with an infant’s skull for handle
and concealed hinges of gut to one side to prevent its slipping out of
place. Removed, it revealed a black mouth opening into an inner

“Underneath lies a great box or kennel of wood,” said Gusman, “with a
manhole cut in its side; and round and over the box the stuff is
piled. At the very word of warning, creep in and close the entrance.
It is like enough ye will need it.”

“And here we are to stay?”

“That is according to your inclination.”

“But _Mor’ Dieu_, my friend! if thou wert to forget or overlook us
entombed in this oubliette?”

“_Soyez content._ I might forget thou wert lacking food, but never
that the citizen President gave thee a purse.”


“Tst, tst! Wouldst thou explore farther my city of shadows? Here the
wild quarries merge into the catacombs. Hence, a little space, thou
wilt find company and to spare;--light, also, if Mademoiselle wills.”

The poor child uttered a heart-moving sigh.

“Come, then,” said Gusman, with a shrug of his shoulders.

He preceded us the length of a single corridor, low and narrow--a mere
human mole-run. All throughout it the rock seemed to grip us, the air
to draw like wire into our lungs. And then, suddenly, we were come to
a parapet of stone that cut our path like a whitewashed hoarding. For
through a fissure in the plain above it a wedge of light entered--a
very wise virgin with her lamp shining like snow;--and under the beam
we stopped, and gazed upwards, and could not gaze enough.

But, for Carinne--she was translated! She laughed; she murmured; she
made as if she caught the sweet wash like water in her hands and
bathed her face with it.

“And now I am ready,” said she.

Then we scaled the wall, jumping to a lower terrace of rock: and
thereafter ran the corridor again, descending, but now of ample enough
width and showing a design of masonry at intervals, and sometimes
great stone supports to the roof where houses lay above. And in a
moment our path swept into a monstrous field of bones--confused,
myriad, piled up like slag about a pit-mouth; and we thridded our way
therethrough along a dusty gully, and emerged at once into a high
vaulted cavern and the view of living things.

Living things!--_Grand Dieu!_ the bats of the living Terror. They
peered from holes and alcoves; they mowed and chattered; they shook
their sooty locks at us and hailed Gusman in the jargon of the
underworld. Thieves and rogues and cowards--here they swarmed in the
warrens of despair, the very sacristans of devil-worship, the unclean
acolytes of the desecrated rock-chapels, whose books of the Gospel
were long since torn for fuel.

Out of one pestilent cavern, wherein I caught glimpse of an altar
faced with an arabesque of cemented bones, something like a dusky ape,
that clung with both hands to a staff for support, came mouthing and
gesticulating at us.

“Bread, bread!” it mumbled, working its black jaws; and it made an
aimless pick at Carinne’s skirt.

“There is for thee, then!” thundered Gusman; and he flapped his torch
into the thing’s face. The animal vented a hideous cry and shuffled
back into its hole, shedding sparks on its way as if it smouldered
like an old rag.

“Oh, _mon ami_!” whispered Carinne, in a febrile voice--“better the
den by the skulls than this!”

The deadman gave an acrid grin.

“_À la bonne heure_,” said he. “Doubtless hunger pinches. Come back,
then; and I will open my wallet and thou shalt thy purse.”

 * * * * * * *

Early in the afternoon--so far as in that rayless desolation one could
judge it to be--there broke upon our eyes the flutter of an advancing
light, upon our ears the quick secret patter of hurrying steps. These
ran up to the very opening of our lair and stopped.

“_Hide!_” said the deadman’s voice, “I hear them call me to the
search! Hide!” and, without another word, he retreated as he had come.

Carinne uttered a little shuddering “Oh!” She took my head between her
hands and kissed my lips, the admirable child. Then we emerged from
our den (the ghostliest glimmer reached us from some distant corner,
where, no doubt, Gusman had left a light burning), and stole swiftly
to the mound-foot. I felt about for the infant’s skull (the position
of which I had intensely remarked), and in a moment found it and laid
bare the aperture.

“Dive, little rabbit,” said I.

“I am within, Jean-Louis.”

I followed, feet first, and with my toes just touching bottom, reached
out and pulled the trap upon us. Then, with a feeling as if I were
wrenching off a blouse over my shoulders, I let myself back into the
hole--upon a carpet of muffling dust--and _ma bonne amie_ caught at
me, and we stood to hear our own hearts beating. Like the thick throb
of a clock in an under-room--thus, I swear, our pulses sounded to us
in that black and horrible stillness. The box had, it appeared, been
very compactly built in at the first--and before the superincumbent
litter of rubbish had been discharged over and around it--with the
strongest bones, for that these were calculated to endure, without
shifting, the onset of one hurriedly concealing himself; yet this
necessary precaution went near to stultifying itself by so helping to
exclude the air as to make breathing a labour to one confined within.
Fortunately, however, no long strain upon our endurance was demanded
of us.

Now the hunters came upon us so silently, that there, in our ghastly
prison, a spray of light, scattered through the chinks of the trap,
was our first intimation of their presence. Then, as we maddened to
see the glint withdrawn, a low voice came to our ears.

“Stop, then! What is this?”

“The dust of the Innocents, citizen.” (Gusman’s voice.)

“It is with the dust of the depraved in breeding fat maggots, is it

“Ay, so long as they can find flesh food.”

“But what if such food were concealed herein? That little _babouin_ of
St Pélagie--_peste!_ a big thigh-bone would afford him cover.”

I felt my hand carried to Carinne’s lips in the darkness.

Gusman kicked at the mound with his sabot.

“Close litter,” said he. “A man would suffocate that burrowed into

“Is that so? Rake me over that big lump yonder--_voilà!_--with the
little skull sticking from it.”

I felt my heart turn like a mountebank--felt Carinne stoop suddenly
and rise with something huddled in her hands. The astonishing child
had, unknown to me, preconceived a plan and was prepared with it on
the very flash of emergency. She leant past me, swift and perfectly
silent, and immediately the little spars of light about the trap went
out, it seemed. If in moving she made the smallest sound, it was
opportunely covered by the ragged cough that issued at the moment from
Gusman’s throat.

“_Dépêche-toi!_” said the authoritative voice. “That projecting
patch, citizen--turn it for me!”

“There is nothing here.”

“But, there, I say! No, no! _Mille tonnerres_,--I will come myself,

I heard Gusman’s breath vibrant outside the trap; heard him hastily
raise the covering an inch or two, with an affectation of labouring
perplexity. I set my teeth; I “saw red,” like flecks of blood; I
waited for the grunt of triumph that should announce the discovery of
the hole.

“It is as I told thee,” said the deadman; “there is nothing.”

I caught a note of strangeness in his voice, a suppressed marvel that
communicated itself to me. The sweat broke out on my forehead.

“H’mph!” muttered the inquisitor; and I heard him step back.

Suddenly he cried, “_En avant, plus avant!_ To thy remotest
boundaries, citizen warden! We will run the little rascal to earth

The light faded from our ken; the footsteps retreated. I passed a
shaking hand over my eyes--I could not believe in the reality of our

At length, unable any longer to endure the silence, I caught at
Carinne in the blackness.

“Little angel,” I said; “in God’s name, what didst thou do?”

She bowed her sweet face to my neck.

“Only this, Jean-Louis. I had noticed that my poor ragged skirt was
much of the colour of this heap; and so I slipped it off and stuffed
it into the hole.”

 * * * * * * *

We dwelt an hour in our horrible retreat, from time to time cautiously
lifting the trap a finger’s-breadth for air. At the end, Gusman
reappeared with his torch and summoned us to our release. He looked at
Carinne, as St Hildephonsus might have gazed on the Blessed Virgin.

“It was magnificent,” he said. “I saw at once. Thou hast saved me no
less than thyself. That I will remember, _citoyenne_, when the
opportunity serves.”

 * * * * * * *

On the third day our deadman came to us with a copy of the ‘Moniteur’
in his hand. He pointed silently to a name in the list of the latest
executed. Carinne turned to me with pitiful eyes.

“_Ah, le pauvre Crépin!_” I cried, in great emotion. “What can one
hope but that death came to him passionately, as he desired!”

 * * * * * * *

“Citizen Gusman, we are resolved. We must go forth, if it is only to
perish. We can endure this damning gloom no longer.”

He looked down on us as we sat, this genii of the torch. His face was
always framed to our vision in a lurid wreath; was the sport of any
draught that swayed the leaping fire. Submitted to daylight, his
features might have resolved themselves into expressionlessness and
immobility. To us they were ever shifting, fantastic, possessed with
the very devils of the underworld.

“Well,” he said at length--“I owe the citizeness a debt of gratitude;
but--_sang Dieu!_ after all I might repudiate it when the keg
threatened to suck dry. I am myself only when I am not myself. That
would be a paradox in the world above there, eh? At least the moment
is opportune. They hunt counter for thee, Thibaut. For the wench--she
is not in their minds, nor associated in any manner with thee. That
lends itself to an artifice. The idea tickles me. _Sang Dieu!_ Yes, I
will supply thee with a passport to Calais. Wait!”

He went from us. We knew better than to interrupt or question him; but
we held together during his absence and whispered our hopes. In less
than half an hour he returned to us, some papers grasped in his hand.

“Observe,” said he. “It is not often, after a harvest of death, that
the _glaneurs_ of the Municipality overlook a stalk; yet now and again
one will come to me. Citizen Tithon Riouffe, it appears, meditated a
descent upon _la maudite Angleterre_. He had his papers, signed and
countersigned, for himself, and for his wife Sabine, moreover. It is
lucky for you that he proved a rascal, for they shaved him
nevertheless. What Barrère had granted, St Just rendered nugatory.
But, if they took his head, they left him his passports, and those I
found in his secret pocket.”

He broke off, with a quick exclamation, and peered down at me, holding
the torch to my face.

“Mother of God!” he cried--“I will swear there is something a likeness
here! I have a mind to fetch the head and set it to thine, cheek by
jowl! _Hé bien, comment, la petite babiole_--that disturbs her! Well,
well--take and use the papers, then, and, with discretion, ye shall
win free!”

Carinne caught at the rough hand of our preserver and kissed it.

“Monsieur, thou art a deadman angel!” she cried; and broke into a
little fit of weeping.

His lids fell. I saw his throat working. He examined his hand as if he
thought something had stung it.

“Yes, she is very pretty,” he muttered. “I think I would give my life
for her.”

Then he added, vaguely: “_Chou pour chou_--I will take it out in


Citoyen Tithon Riouffe _et femme_ had yet to experience the most
extraordinary instance of that favouritism, by an after-display of
which, towards those whom she has smitten without subduing, Fortune
proclaims herself the least supernatural of goddesses. Truly, they had
never thrown into the lottery of events with a faint heart; and now a
first prize was to be the reward of their untiring persistency.

Possibly, indeed, the papers of recommendation might have sufficed of
themselves; yet that they would have carried us (having regard to our
moulting condition, poor cage-worn sparrows! and the necessary
slowness of our advance) in safety to the coast, I most strenuously

Dear God! the soughing of the May wind, the whisper of the grasses,
the liquid flutter of the stars, that were like lights reflected in a
lake! The hour of ten saw us lifted to the plain in body--to the
heavens in spirit. For freedom, we were flying from the land of
liberty; for life, from the advocates of the Rights of Man. We sobbed
and we embraced.

“Some day,” we cried to Gusman, “we will come back and roll thee under
a hogshead of schnapps!”--and then we set our faces to the north, and
our teeth to a long task of endurance--one no less, indeed, than a
sixty-league tramp up the half of the Isle de France and the whole of
Picardie. Well, at least, as in the old days, we should walk together,
with only the little rogue that laughs at locksmiths riding sedan
between us.

It was our design to skirt, at a reasonable distance, the east walls
of the city, and to strike at Pantin, going by way of Gentilly and
Bercy--the road to Meaux. Thence we would make, by a north-westerly
course, the Amiens highway; and so, with full hearts and purses
tight-belted for their hunger, for the pathetically distant sea.

And all this we did, though not as we had foreseen. We toiled onwards
in the dark throughout that first sweet night of liberty. For seven
hours we tramped without resting; and then, ten miles north of the
walls, we lay down under the lee of a skilling, and, rolled in one
another’s arms, slept for four hours like moles.

 * * * * * * *

I woke to the prick of rain upon my face. Before my half-conscious
eyes a hectic spot faded and went wan in a grey miasma like death. It
was the sun--the cheek of the virgin day, grown chill in a premature

I sat up. From the south-west, like the breath of the fatal city
pursuing us, a melancholy draft of cloud flowed and spread itself,
making for the northern horizon. It wreathed in driving swirls and
ripples, as if it were the very surface of a stream that ran above us;
and, indeed almost before we were moved to a full wakefulness, we were
as sopt as though we lay under water.

A swampy day it was to be. The drops soon fell so thickly that heaven
seemed shut from us by a skylight of blurred glass. The interval from
cloud to earth was like a glaze upon the superficies of a fire-baked
sphere. The starved clammy fields shone livid; the highway ran,
literally; the poplars that skirted it were mere leafy piles in a
lagoon. Then the wind rose, shouldering us forward and bombarding us
from the rear in recurrent volleys, till I, at least, felt like a
fugitive saurian escaping from the Deluge with my wet tail between my

I looked at my comrade, the delicate gallant lady. Her hair was
whipped about her face, her skirt about her ankles. The red cap on her
head, with which Gusman had provided her, hung over like the comb of a
vanquished cockerel. She was not vanquished, however. Her white teeth
clicked a little with the cold; but when she became conscious of my
gaze, she returned it with an ardour of the sweetest drollery.

“_Enfin, mon p’tit Thibaut_,” she said; “I prefer Liberty in her
chilly moods, though she make a _noyade_ of us.”

“It is almost come to that. With a brave effort, it seems, we might
rise to the clouds by our own buoyancy. Take a long breath, Carinne.
Canst thou swim?”

She laughed and stopped a moment, and took me by the hands.

“I should be able to,” she said; “I feel so like a fish, or a lizard,
whose skin is a little loose on his body. Am I not a dreadful sight,

“Thou art never anything but beautiful in my eyes.”

“Fie, then, fie then! cannot I see myself in them! Very small and very
ugly, Jean-Louis--an imp of black waters.”

“And I see babies in thine, Carinne. That is what the peasants call
them. And I never loved my own image so well as now. It has a little
blue sky to itself to spite the reality. It is a fairy peeping from a
flower. _Ma mie_, and art thou so very cold and hungry?”

“Truly, my teeth go on munching the air for lack of anything better.”

“It is pitiful. We must brave the next town or village to procure
food. There are no berries here, Carinne; no little conies to catch in
a springe of withe and spit for roasting on an old sabre; and if there
were, we must not stop to catch them.”

“It is true we must eat, then. The plunge has to be made--for liberty
or death. _Formez vos bataillons!_ Advance, M. le Comte, with thy
heart jumping to the hilt of thy sword!”

She cried out merrily. She was my own, my property, the soul of my
confidence; yet I could have cheered her in the face of a multitude as
(God forgive the comparison!) the mob cheered the _guenipe_ Théroigne
when she entered the Bastille.

So, once more we drove and were driven forward; and presently, six
miles north of St Denis, down we came, with stout courage, I hope,
upon the village of Écouen, and into immediate touch with that
fortune that counselled us so amiably in the crisis of our affairs.

Yet at the outset this _capricieuse_ essayed to terrify us out of all
assurance of self-confidence, and was the coquette to give us a bad
quarter of an hour before she smiled on our suit. For at the very
barrier occurred a _contretemps_ that, but for its happy adaptation by
us to circumstance, threatened to put a short end to our fugitive

We assumed a breezy deportment, under the raking scrutiny of five or
six patriot savages--mere arrogant _péagers_, down whose dirty faces
the rain trickled sluggishly like oil. Foul straw was stuft into their
clogs; over their shoulders, nipped with a skewer at the neck, were
flung frowzy squares of sacking, in the hanging corners of which they
held the flint-locks of their pieces for dryness’ sake. By the door of
the village taxing-house, that stood hard by the barrier, a
ferret-faced postilion--the only man of them all in boots--lounged,
replaiting the lash of his whip and drawing the string through his

“Graceless weather, citizens!” said I.

A squinting _bonnet-rouge_ damned me for _un âne ennuyant_.

“Keep thy breath,” said he, “for what is less obvious;” and he surlily
demanded the production of our papers.

“A good patriot,” growled another, “walks with his face to Paris.”

“So many of them have their heads turned, it is true,” whispered

The squinting man wedged his eyes upon her.

“What is that?” he said sharply--“some _mot de ralliement_? Be
careful, my friends! I have the gift to look straight into the hearts
of traitors!”

It was patent, however, that he deceived himself. He snatched the
papers rudely from me, and conned them all at cross-purposes.

“_Sacré corps!_” he snapped--“what is thy accursed name?”

“It is plain to read, citizen.”

“For a mincing aristocrat, yes. But, for us--we read only between the

“Read on them, then, the names of Citizen Tithon Riouffe and wife.”

The indolent postilion spat the string from his lips, looked up
suddenly, and came swiftly to the barrier.

“How?” said he, “what name?”

I repeated the words, with a little quaver in my voice. The man cockt
his head evilly, his eyes gone into slits.

“Oh, _le bon Dieu_!” he cried, in acrid tones, “but the assurance of
this ragged juggler!”

Carinne caught nervously at my hand.

“I do not understand the citizen,” said I, in my truculent voice.

“But I think, yes.”

“That that is not the name on the passport?”

“I know nothing of the passport. I know that thou art not Riouffe, and
it is enough.”

Squint-eyes croaked joyously.

“Come!” he said; “here is a sop to the weather.”

As for me, I could have whipped Gusman for his talk of a fortuitous

“I am Riouffe,” said I, stubbornly, “whatever thou mayst think.”

“Well, it is said,” cried the postilion. He chirped shrilly like a
ferret. “And, if thou art Riouffe, thou art a damned aristocrat; and
how art thou the better for that?”

“Bah!” I exclaimed. “What dost thou know of me, pig of a stable-boy?”

“Of thee, nothing. Of Riouffe, enough to say that thou art not he.”

“Explain, citizen!” growled a curt-spoken patriot, spitting on the
ground for full-stop.

“_Mes amis_,” cried the deplorable rogue. “Myself, I conveyed the
Citizen Tithon Riouffe to Paris in company with the Englishman. The
Englishman, within the fifteen days, returns alone. He breaks his
journey here, as you know, to breakfast at the ‘Anchor.’ But, for
Riouffe--I heard he was arrested.”

Grace of God! here was a concatenation of mishaps--as luckless a
_rencontre_ as Fate ever conceived of cruelty. My heart turned grey.
The beastly triumphant faces of the guard swam in my vision like
spectres of delirium. Nevertheless, I think, I preserved my reason
sufficiently to assume a _sang froid_ that was rather of the nature of
a fever.

“The question is,” said I, coolly, “not as to whether this lout is a
fool or a liar, but as to whether or no my papers are in order. You
will please to observe by whom they are franked.” (I remembered, in a
flash, the deadman’s statement.) “The name of the Citizen Deputy, who
assured me a safe conduct _to_ Paris, being on this return passport,
should be a sufficient guarantee that his good offices did not end
with my arrival. I may have been arrested and I may have been
released. It is not well, my friends, to pit the word of a horse-boy
against that of a member of the Committee of Public Safety.”

My high manner of assurance had its effect. The faces lowered into
some expression of chagrin and perplexity. And then what must I do but
spoil the effect of all by a childishly exuberant anti-climax.

“I will grant,” said I, “that a change in the habit of one’s dress may
confuse a keener headpiece than a jockey’s. What then! I arrive from
England; I return from Paris--there is the explanation. Moreover, in
these days of equality one must economise for the common good, and,
rather than miss my return seat in the Englishman’s carriage and have
to charter another, I follow in his track, when I find he is already
started, in the hope to overtake him. And now you would delay us here
while he stretches longer leagues between us!”

Carinne gave a little soft whimper. The postilion capered where he

“_Mes amis!_” he cried, “he speaks well! It needs only to confront him
with the Englishman to prove him an impostor.”

_Misérable!_ What folly had I expressed! It had not been sufficiently
flogged into my dull brain that the islander was here, now, in the
village! I had obtusely fancied myself safe in claiming knowledge of
him, while my secure policy was to have blustered out the situation as
another and independent Riouffe. That course I had now made
impossible. I could have driven my teeth through my tongue with
vexation. Carinne touched my hand pitifully. It almost made my heart
overflow. “Thus,” I said by-and-by to her, “the condemned forgives his
executioner,” and--“Ah, little Thibaut,” she whispered, “but you do
not know how big you looked.”

 * * * * * * *

For the moment they could not find the Englishman. He had finished his
breakfast and wandered afield. That was a brief respite; but nothing,
it seemed, to avail in the end.

In the meantime they marched us into the taxing-house, where at a
table sat a commissary of a strange figure. I had blundered
desperately; yet here, I flatter myself, I turned my faculty for
construing character to the account of retrieving my own.

In Citizen Tristan I read--and quite rightly, as events showed--a
decent burgher aggrandised, not against his will, but against the
entire lack of one. His face was shaped, and something coloured, like
a great autumn pear. It was narrow at the forehead, with restless,
ineffective eyes, and it dropped to a monstrous chin--a
self-protective evolution in the era Sainte Guillotine. Obviously he
had studied to save his neck by surrounding it with a rampart of fat.
For the rest he was very squat and ungainly; and he kept shifting the
papers on his desk rather than look at us.

“Here is a man,” thought I, “who has been promoted because in all his
life he has never learned to call anything his own.”

Our guard presented us arrogantly; the wizened post-boy laid his
charge volubly.

“Call your witness,” said I in a pet. “The case lies in a nutshell.”

My words made an impression, no doubt, though they were uttered in
mere hopeless bravado.

“But, it seems he cannot be found,” protested the commissary,

“Then,” I urged, “it is bad law to detain us.”

“You are detained on suspicion.”

“Of not being ourselves? Oh, monsieur----!”

He took me up peevishly.

“Eh, eh! _voilà ce que c’est!_ Monsieur to me? Art thou not an
aristocrat, then?”

I answered pregnantly, “The question in itself is a reflection upon
him that signed this passport.”

He looked about him like a trapped creature, dumbly entreating the
Fates for succour. It was my plain policy to harp upon the strings of
his nerves.

“Well,” said I, “a citizen commissary, I perceive, must have the
courage of his opinions; and I can only hope thine will acquit thee
when the reckoning is called.”

He shifted in his chair; he spluttered little deprecatory
interjections under his breath; he shot small furtive glances at his
truculent following. Finally he bade all but us two out of the room,
and the guard to their post at the barrier. The moment they were
withdrawn grumbling, he opened upon me with a poor assumption of

“Thou art very big with words; but here I am clearly within my

“Are not my papers in order, then?”

“It would at least appear so.”

His lids rose and fell. Patently his self-possession was an insecure

“Citizen,” I said, shaking my finger at him. “Since when hast thou
learned to set thy will in opposition to that of Barrère?”

“_Oh, nom de Dieu!_” he whimpered, in great distress; and rose and
trundled up and down the room. “I oppose nobody. I am a most unhappy
being, condemned by vile circumstance to give the perpetual lie to my

“It is an ignoble _rôle_,” said I, “and quite futile of itself.”

He paused suddenly opposite me. His fat lips were shaking; his eyes
blinked a nerveless anxiety.

“I contradict nobody,” he cried; and added afflictedly, “I suppose, if
you are Riouffe, you are Riouffe, I suppose.”

“It all lies in that,” said I.

“Then,” he cried feebly--“what the devil do you want of me?”

I could have laughed in his poor gross face.

“What, indeed,” said I. “My account with you will come later. You will
be prepared then, no doubt, to justify this detention. For me, there
remains Barrère.”

“No, no!” he cried; “I desire only to steer wide of quicksands. You
may guess, monsieur, how I am governed. This _fripon_ takes my fellows
by the ears. He gives you the lie, and you return it in his teeth.
What am I to say or think or do?”

“Is it for me to advise a commissary?”

He rumpled his limp hair desperately as he walked.

“You will not help me! You drive me to distraction!”

He stopped again.

“Are you Riouffe?” he cried.

“You have my passport, monsieur.”

“Yes, yes, I know!” he exclaimed in a frenzy; “but--Mother of God,
monsieur! do you not comprehend the post-boy to swear you are not the
Englishman’s Riouffe?”

“Confront me, then, with the Englishman.”

“He cannot be found.”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“I can only recall monsieur’s attention,” said I, “to the fact that
certain citizens, travelling under safe-conduct of a member of the
Committee of Safety, and with their papers in indisputable order, are
suffering a detention sufficiently unwarrantable to produce the
gravest results.”

The commissary snatched up his hat and ran to the door.

“Go thy ways!” he cried. “Myself, I will conduct you through the
village. For the rest, when the Englishman is found, and if he denies

He did not finish the sentence. In a moment we were all in the rainy
street. My accuser was vanished from the neighbourhood of the barrier.
A single patriot only was in evidence. This man made a feint of
bringing his musket to the charge.

“_Qui va là?_” he grunted. “_Est-ce qu’il se sauve, ce cochon!_”

Fear lent the commissary anger.

“To thy post!” he shouted. “Am I to be made answerable to every dog
that barks!”

Red-bonnet fell back muttering. We hurried forward, splashing over the
streaming cobbles. The street, by luck of weather, was entirely
deserted. Only a horseless _limonière_, standing at the porch of the
village inn, gave earnest of some prospective interest.

Suddenly I felt Carinne’s little clutch on my arm.

“The Englishman!” she whispered, in a gasp.

My teeth clicked rigid. I saw, ahead of us, a tall careless figure
lounge into the open and stop over against the door of the carriage.
At the same moment inspiration came to the commissary. His gaze was
introspective. He had not yet noticed the direction of ours. He
slapped his hand to his thigh as he hurried forward.

“_Mon Dieu!_” cried he, “it is simple. Why did I not think of it
sooner? Prove, then, thy knowledge of this Englishman by giving me his

With the very words I set off running. A startled cry, to which I paid
no heed, pursued me.

“I hold a hostage! I hold a hostage!” screamed the commissary; and
immediately, as I understood, nipped Carinne by the elbow.

But by then I was come up with the stranger. He turned and received me
straddle-legged, his eyes full of a passionless alertness. I lost not
an instant.

“Monsieur,” I panted, “we are fugitive aristocrats. In the name of
God, help us!”

I could have adored him for his reception of this astounding appeal.
He never moved a muscle.

“_Tout droit!_” said he; “but give us the tip!”

“Riouffe is dead” (his eyelids twitched at that)--“I have his
passports. I am Riouffe--and this is madame, my wife.”

Simultaneously, in the instant of my speaking, the frantic commissary
brought up Carinne, and, to a metallic clang of hoofs, our fateful
post-boy issued from the inn-yard in charge of his cattle. For a
moment the situation was absolutely complete and dramatic,--the
agonised suitor proposing; the humorous and heroic _nonchalant_
disposing; the petrified jockey, right; the hostage _chevalière_ in
the grasp of the heavy villain, left. Then all converged to the
central interest, and destroyed the admirable effectiveness of the

“Goddam milor’ the Englishman!” shrieked the commissary; “he does not
know thy name!”

The stranger put out a hand as he stood, and clapped me on the
shoulder so that I winced.

“Riouffe!” he cried, in a very bantering voice--“not know his friend
Jack Comely!” (“_ne savoir pas son ami Jack Comely--pooh!_”)

“That he will swear to, my Jack,” said I.

The commissary released Carinne, and fell back gasping.

“_Pardon! les bras m’en tombent!_” he muttered, in dismayed tones, and
went as white and mottled as a leg of raw mutton.

But the stranger advanced to Carinne, with a blush and a gallant bow.

“Madame,” said he, “I cannot sufficiently curse my impatience for
having cut you out of a stage. It was an error. _Entrez, s’il vous

He spoke execrable French, the angel! It was enough that we all
understood him. We climbed into the _limonière_; the stranger
followed, and the door was slammed to. The landlord, with a hussy or
so, gaped at the inn-door. The post-boy, making himself
infinitesimally small to the commissary, limbered up his cattle--three
horses abreast. One of these he mounted, as if it were a nightmare. In
a moment he was towelling his beasts to a gallop, to escape, one would
think, the very embarrassment he carried with him. From time to time
he turned in his saddle, and presented a scared face to our view.

“Well?” said the stranger, looking at us with a smile.

He was a fair-faced young man, bold-mouthed, and ripe with
self-assurance. His dress was of the English fashion--straight-crowned
beaver hat, with the band buckled in front, green tabinet kerchief,
claret-coloured coat tight-buttoned,--altogether a figure very spruce
and clean, like a _piqueur d’écurie_.

I regarded him in solemn amazement. The whole rapid incident had been
of a nature to make me doubt whether I was awake or dreaming.

“_Ma mie_,” said Carinne, reproachfully; “Milord awaits your

I rose a little and bowed.

“Monsieur,” said I, stupidly, “we are Jorinde and Joringel.”

 * * * * * * *

Sir Comely, a fine scapegrace, had journeyed to Paris out of curiosity
to witness a guillotining. With him, in the packet, crossed Monsieur
Tithon Riouffe, an _émigré_ returning, under safe-conduct of the
ineffective Barrère, to snatch his wife from the whirlpool. The two
gentlemen met, hobnobbed, and shared a four-wheeled carriage as far as
the tragic city, whence (as agreed between them) on a certain day of
the fifteen during which the vehicle remained at the _Remise_ at their
disposition, they--accompanied, it was to be hoped, by madame--were to
return in it to Calais. The day arrived; M. Riouffe failed to keep his
appointment. The other awaited him, so long as a certain urgency of
affairs permitted. At length--his own safety being a little
menaced--he was driven to start on the return journey alone.

All this we learned of him, and he of us the broad outline of our
story. A full confidence was the only policy possible to our dilemma.
He honoured it _en prince_.

He was quite admirably concerned to hear of the fate of his
fellow-traveller--_le malheureux chevreuil_! he called him. The
extraordinary concatenation of chances that had substituted us for
that other two did not, however, appear to strike him particularly.
But he “strapped his vitalities!” (that is, as we understood it,
“lashed himself into merriment”), in the insular manner, very often
and very loudly, over this chance presented to him of hoodwinking the

“It’s rich, it’s royal, it’s rare!” he cried, “thus to double under
the nose of the old cull of a bigwig, and to be sport in the next
county while he’s hunting for a gate through the quickset. I pledge
you my honour, monsieur, to see the two of you through with this; but,
egad! you must draw upon my portymanteau at the next post if you are
to win clear!”

_Grâces au Ciel_ for the merry brave! It was like endeavouring to
read inscriptions in the Catacombs to interpret his speech; but one
phrase he had trippingly, and that in itself was a complete index to
his character--

“_Je ne me mouche pas du pied_”--I know better than to blow my nose
with my feet.

And now, if for nothing else, I loved him for his boyish, shy, but
most considerate attitude towards Carinne.

 * * * * * * *

And thus was our escape accomplished. Winged with our passports, and
cheered to the finish by the assurance of this gay and breezy
islander, we came to the coast on a memorable afternoon, and bade
adieu for ever to the family despotism of Fraternity.

 * * * * * * *

“Tell me, _ma belle épousée_--for five days (the guests, the
property, the _protégés_--what thou wilt--of this Sir Comely, this
excellent Philippe le Bel) we have shut our eyes, here in this
immeasurable London, to our necessitous condition and the prospect
that faces us. Carinne, _mon enfant_, it is right now to discuss the
means by which we are to live.”

“I have thought of it, little Thibaut. I will paint portraits.”

I started.

“Oh!” I cried, “I am very hungry! Let us signalise this last
consumption of the poor Crépin’s purse by a feast of elegance. Be
assured his ghost will call the grace.”

We entered an inn, opportunely near the spot whither we had wandered.
It was in an important part of the town, close by the lion-surmounted
palace of some monseigneur; and coaches and berlines discharged
themselves in frequent succession in its yard. We walked into the
_salle à manger_, sat down, and endeavoured to make our wishes known
to the waiter. The room was fairly empty, but a party of half-a-dozen
young “bloods”--_hommes de bonne compagnie_--sitting at a neighbouring
table, seemed moved with a certain curiosity about us, and by-and-by
one of these rose, crossed over, and, addressing me in very good
French, asked if he could be of service in interpreting my
desires--“For,” says he, with a smile, “I perceive that monsieur is
from over the Channel.”

“Alas, monsieur!” I answered. “We are, indeed, of that foundered
vessel, _La Ville de Paris_, the worthless wreckage of which every
tide washes up on your coasts.”

Some compliments passed, and he withdrew to join his companions. A
little whispering was exchanged amongst them, and then suddenly our
dandy arose and approached us once more, with infinite complaisance.

“Monsieur,” he said, “I cannot, I find, convince my friends of the
extent to which your nation excels in the art of making salads. Would
you do us the favour to mix one for us?”

I hesitated.

“It is one of thy accomplishments,” said Madame la Comtesse, at a

It was, indeed, though she could not have known it; or that
Brillat-Savarin himself had once acknowledged me to be his master in
the art.

“I shall be charmed,” I said.

I called for oil, wine, vinegar, sweet fruits, the sauces of soy and
ketchup, caviare, truffles, anchovies, meat-gravy, and the yolks of
eggs. I had a proportion and a place for each; and while I broke the
lettuces, my company sat watching, and engaged me in some pretty
intimate conversation, asking many questions about Paris, my former
and present conditions, and even my place of abode.

I answered good-humouredly on account of my dear Philippe, who was of
the very complexion and moral of these frank rascals; and presently
they pronounced my salad such a dish as Vitellius had never conceived;
and, from their table, they drank to its author and to the beautiful
eyes of Madame la Comtesse.

It was all comical enough; but, by-and-by when, having finished our
meal, we found ourselves in the street again, Carinne thrust a folded
slip of paper into my hand.

“What is this, _mignonne_?”

“Look, then,” said she. “It was conveyed by the _élégant_ under thy

I opened and examined it. It was a note for five pounds.

“_Au diable!_” I murmured, flushing scarlet.

Carinne placed her hand on my arm. She looked up in my face very
earnest and pitiful.

“Jourdain,” she said, “makes his living by turning his knowledge of
weaving to account; De Courcy begs his by ‘_parfilage_.’ Which is the
better method, _mon ami_? Is it not well to face the inevitable
courageously by taking thy accomplishments to market?”

“I will become a salad-dresser,” said I.

 * * * * * * *

On the following day arrived a very courteous note from my
_petit-maître_ of the dining-room, entreating me, as a special
favour, to come that evening to a certain noble house and make the
salad for a large dinner-party that was to be given therein. I went,
was happy in confirming the great opinion formed of my powers, and was
delicately made the recipient of a handsome present in acknowledgment
of my services. From that moment my good little fortunes rolled up
like a snow-ball. Within a period of eighteen months I had
accumulated, by the mere “art of selection,” a sum of near a hundred
thousand francs--truly a notable little egg’s-nest.

 * * * * * * *

One morning, not so very long ago, Madame de Crancé came to me with
her eyes shining.

“Little Thibaut,” said she, “thou hast a great heart. Yet--though
doubtless thou wert right to insist that the husband should be the
bread-winner--it has grieved me to stand by and watch my own
particular gift rusting from disuse. Well, sir, for thy rebuke I have
at last a surprise for thee. Behold!” and with that she fetched a
canvas from behind her back, where she had been secreting it, and
presented it to my view.

“Is it not like?” she said, her throat swelling with joy and pride.

I made my eyes two O’s,--I “hedged,” as the sportsmen say.

“It is, indeed, _ma mie_. It is like nothing in the world except, of

I stopped, sweating with apprehension. She relieved me at once.

“Ah!” she cried, “is it not baby himself--the dear, sweet rogue! I
threw all my soul into it for thy sake.”

“Carinne!” I exclaimed, passionately grateful; “I knew I could not be

 [The End]


 “Nothing would appear to more graphically illustrate the moral
 influence of the ‘Terror’ than that common submission to a force that
 was rather implied than expressed. Now it seems a matter for marvel
 how a great many thousands of capable men, having nothing to hope from
 the intolerable tyranny that was massing them in a number of professed
 slaughter-houses, should not only have attempted no organised
 retaliation, but should, by unstiffening their necks (in a very heroic
 fashion, be it said) to be the footstools to a few monstrous bullies,
 have tacitly allowed the righteousness of a system that was destroying
 them to go by implication. Escapes from durance were, comparatively
 speaking, rare; resistance to authority scarcely ever carried beyond
 the personal and peevish limit. Yet it is a fact that many of the
 innumerable prisons--of which, from my own observation, I may instance
 St Pélagie--were quite inadequately guarded, and generally, indeed,
 open to any visitor who was prepared to ‘tip’ for the privilege of
 entry.”--Extracted from an unpublished chapter of the Count’s

 #Décadi# the Revolutionary Sabbath.--Ed.


The cover from the Dodd, Mead and Co. edition (New York, 1898) was
used for this ebook. This edition was also consulted for the changes
listed below.

Minor spelling inconsistencies (_e.g._ caldron/cauldron, say’st/sayst,
wineshop/wine-shop, etc.) have been preserved.

[Text edition only] _#_ is used to indicate bolded text.

Alterations to the text:

Convert footnotes to endnotes, and add a corresponding entry to the

Silently correct a few punctuation errors.


Change “with her priestesses of the _Salpétrière_” to _Salpêtrière_.


“cockt as it had been to the _out-cry_” to _outcry_.

[End of text]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Adventures of the Comte de la Muette during the Reign of Terror" ***