Part 3 out of 5
Juliette waited a moment or two, until the footsteps of the six men
died away up the massive oak stairs.
For the first time, since the sword of Damocles had fallen, she was
alone with her thoughts.
She had but a few moments at her command in which to devise an issue
out of these tangled meshes, which she had woven round the man she
Merlin and his men would return anon. The comedy could not be kept up
through another visit from them, and while the compromising
letter-case remained in Déroulède's private study he was in imminent
danger at the hands of his enemy.
She thought for a moment of concealing the case about her person, but
a second's reflection showed her the futility of such a move. She had
not seen the papers themselves; any one of them might be an absolute
proof of Déroulède's guilt; the correspondence might be in his
If Merlin, furious, baffled, vicious, were to order her to be
searched! The horror of the indignity made her shudder, but she would
have submitted to that, if thereby she could have saved Déroulède. But
of this she could not be sure until after she had looked through the
papers, and this she had not the time to do.
Her first and greatest idea was to get out of this room, his private
study, with the compromising papers. Not a trace of them must be found
here, if he were to remain beyond suspicion.
She rose from the sofa, and peeped through the door. The hall was now
deserted; from the left wing of the house, on the floor above, the
heavy footsteps of the soldiers and Merlin's occasional brutish laugh
could be distinctly heard.
Juliette listened for a moment, trying to understand what was
happening. Yes; they had all gone to Déroulède's bedroom, which was on
the extreme left, at the end of the first-floor landing. There might
be just time to accomplish what she had now resolved to do.
As best she could, she did the bulky leather case in the folds of her
skirt. It was literally neck or nothing now. If she were caught on the
stairs by one of the men nothing could save her or--possibly--
At any rate, by remaining where she was, by leaving the events to
shape themselves, discovery was absolutely certain. She chose to take
She slipped noiselessly out of the room and up the great oak stairs.
Merlin and his men, busy with their search in Déroulède's bedroom,
took no heed of what was going on behind them; Juliette arrived on the
landing, and turned sharply to her right, running noiselessly along
the tick Aubusson carpet, and thence quickly to her own room.
All this had taken less than a minute to accomplish. The very next
moment she heard Merlin's voice ordering one of his men to stand at
attention on the landing, but by that time she was safe inside her
room. She closed the door noiselessly.
Pétronelle, who had been busy all the afternoon packing up her young
mistress' things, had fallen asleep in an arm-chair. Unconscious of
the terrible events which were rapidly succeeding each other in the
house, the worthy old soul was snoring peaceably, with her hands
complacently folded on her ample bosom.
Juliette, for the moment, took no notice of her. As quickly and as
dexterously as she could, she was tearing open the heavy leather case
with a sharp pair of scissors, and very soon its contents were
scattered before her on the table.
One glance at them was sufficient to convince her that most of the
papers would undoubtedly, if found, send Déroulède to the guillotine.
Most of the correspondence was in the Citizen-Deputy's handwriting.
She had, of course, no time to examine it more closely, but instinct
naturally told her that it was of a highly compromising character.
She gathered the papers up into a heap, tearing some of them up into
strips; then she spread them out upon the ash-pan in front of the
large earthenware stove, which stood in a corner of the room.
Unfortunately, this was a hot day in August. Her task would have been
far easier if she had wished to destroy a bundle of papers in the
depth of winter, when there was a good fire burning in the stove.
But her purpose was firm and her incentive, the greatest that has ever
spurred mankind to heroism.
Regardless of any consequences to herself, she had but the one object
in view, to save Déroulède at all costs.
On the wall facing her bed, and immediately above a velvet-covered
prie-dieu, there was a small figure of the Virgin and Child--one of
those quaintly pretty devices for holding holy water, which the
reverent superstition of the past century rendered a necessary adjunct
of every girl's room.
In front of the figure a small lamp was kept perpetually burning.
This Juliette now took between her fingers, carefully, lest the tiny
flame should die out. First she poured the oil over the fragments of
paper in the ash-pan, then with the wick she set fire to the whole
The oil helped the paper to burn quickly; the smell, or perhaps the
presence of Juliette in the room caused worthy old Pétronelle to wake.
"It's nothing, Pétronelle," said Juliette quietly; "only a few old
letters I am burning. But I want to be alone for a few moments--will
you go down to the kitchen until I call you?"
Accustomed to do as her young mistress commanded, Pétronelle rose
without a word.
"I have finished putting away your few things, my jewel. There,
there! why didn't you tell me to burn your papers for you? You have
soiled your dear hands, and..."
"Sh! Sh! Pétronelle!" said Juliette impatiently, and gently pushing
the garrulous old woman towards the door. "Run to the kitchen now
quickly, and don't come out of it until I call you. And, Pétronelle,"
she added, "you will see soldiers about the house perhaps."
"Soldiers! The good God have mercy!"
"Don't be frightened, Pétronelle. But they may ask you questions."
"Yes; about me."
"My treasure, my jewel," exclaimed Pétronelle in alarm, "have those
"No, no; nothing has happened as yet, but, you know, in these times
there is always danger."
"Good God! Holy Mary! Mother of God!"
"Nothing 'll happen if you try to keep quite calm and do exactly as I
tell you. Go to the kitchen, and wait there until I call you. If the
soldiers come in and question you, if they try to frighten you,
remember that we have nothing to fear from men, and that our lives are
in God's keeping."
All the while that Juliette spoke, she was watching the heap of paper
being gradually reduced to ashes. She tried to fan the flames as best
she could, but some of the correspondence was on tough paper, and was
slow in being consumed. Pétronelle, tearful but obedient, prepared to
leave the room. She was overawed by her mistress' air of aloofness,
the pale face rendered ethereally beautiful by the sufferings she had
gone through. The eyes glowed large and magnetic, as if in presence of
spiritual visions beyond mortal ken; the golden hair looked like a
saintly halo above the white, immaculate young brow.
Pétronelle made the sign of the cross, as if she were in the presence
of a saint.
As she opened the door there was a sudden draught, and the last
flickering flame died out in the ash-pan. Juliette, seeing that
Pétronelle had gone, hastily turned over the few half burnt fragments
of paper that were left. In none of them had the writing remained
legible. All that was compromising to Déroulède was effectually
reduced to dust. The small wick in the lamp at the foot of the Virgin
and Child had burned itself out for want of oil; there was no means
for Juliette to strike another light and to destroy what remained. The
leather case was, of course, still there, with its sides ripped open,
an indestructible thing.
There was nothing to be done about that. Juliette after a second's
hesitation threw it among her dresses in the valise.
Then she too went out of the room.
A happy moment.
The search in the Citizen-Deputy's bedroom had proved as fruitless as
that in his study. Merlin was beginning to have vague doubts as to
whether he had been effectively fooled.
His manner towards Déroulède had undergone a change. He had become
suave and unctuous, a kind of elephantine irony pervading his
laborious attempts at conciliation. He and the Public Prosecutor would
be severely blamed for this day's work, if the popular Deputy, relying
upon the support of the people of Paris, chose to take his revenge.
In France, in this glorious year of the Revolution, there was but one
step between censure and indictment. And Merlin knew it. Therefore,
although he had not given up all hope of finding proofs of Déroulède's
treason, although by the latter's attitude he remained quite convinced
that such proof did exist, he was already reckoning upon the cat's
paw, the sop he would offer to that Cerberus, the Committee of Public
Safety, in exchange for his own exculpation in the matter.
This sop would be Juliette, the denunclator instead of Déroulède the
But he was still seeking for the proofs.
Somewhat changing his tactics, he had allowed Déroulède to join his
mother in the living-room, and had betaken himself to the kitchen in
search of Anne Mie, whom he had previously caught sight of in the
hall. There he also found old Pétronelle, whom he could scare out of
het wits to his heart's content, but from whom he was quite unable to
extract any useful information. Pétronelle was too stupid to be
dangerous, and Anne Mie was too much on the alert.
But, with a vague idea that a cunning man might choose the most
unlikely places for the concealment of compromising property, he was
ransacking the kitchen from floor to ceiling.
In the living-room Déroulède was doing his best to reassure his
mother, who, in her turn, was forcing herself to be brave, and not to
show by her tears how deeply she feared for the safety of her son. As
soon as Déroulède had been freed from the presence of the soldiers, he
had hastened back to his study, only to find that Juliette had gone,
and that the letter-case had also disappeared. Not knowing what to
think, trembling for the safety of the woman he adored, he was just
debating whether he would seek for her in her own room, when she came
towards him across the landing.
There seemed a halo around her now. Déroulède felt that she had never
been so beautiful and to him so unattainable. Something told him then,
that at this moment she was as far away from him, as if she were an
inhabitant of another, more ethereal planet.
When she saw him coming towards her, she put a finger to her lips, and
"Sh! sh! the papers are destroyed, burned."
"And I owe my safety to you!"
He had said it with his whole soul, an infinity of gratitude filled
his heart, a joy and pride in that she had cared for his safety.
But at his words she had grown paler than she was before. Her eyes,
large, dilated, and dark, were fixed upon him with an intensity of
gaze which almost startled him. He thought that she was about to
faint, that the emotions of the past half hour had been too much for
her overstrung nerves. He took her hand, and gently dragged her into
She sank into a chair, as if utterly weary and exhausted, and he,
forgetting his danger, forgetting the world and all else besides,
knelt at her feet, and held her hands in his.
She sat bolt upright, her great eyes still fixed upon him. At first
it seemed as if she could not be satiated with looking at her; he felt
as if he had never, never really seen her. She had been a dream of
beauty to him ever since that awful afternoon when he had held her,
half fainting, in his arms, and had dragged her under the shelter of
From that hour he had worshipped her: she had cast over him the magic
spell of her refinement, her beauty, that aroma of youth and innocence
which makes such a strong appeal to the man of sentiment.
He had worshipped her and not tried to understand. He would have
deemed it almost sacrilege to pry into the mysteries of her inner
self, of that second nature in her which at times mad her silent, and
almost morose, and cast a lurid gloom over her young beauty.
And though his love for her had grown in intensity, it had remained as
heaven born as he deemed her to be--the love of a mortal for a saint,
the ecstatic adoration of a St Francis for his Madonna.
Sir Percy Blakeney had called Déroulède an idealist. He was that, in
the strictest sense, and Juliette had embodied all that was best in
It was for the first time to-day, that he had held her hand just for a
moment longer than mere conventionality allowed. The first kiss on her
finger-tips had sent the blood rushing wildly to his heart; but he
still worshipped her, and gazed upon her as upon a divinity.
She sat bolt upright in the chair, abandoning her small, cold hands to
his burning grasp.
His very senses ached with the longing to clasp her in his arms, to
draw her to him, and to feel her pulses beat closer against his. It
was almost torture now to gaze upon her beauty--that small, oval
face, almost like a child's, the large eyes which at times had seemed
to be blue but which now appeared to be a deep, unfathomable colour,
like the tempestuous sea.
"Juliette!" he murmured at last, as his soul went out to her in a
passionate appeal for the first kiss.
A shudder seemed to go through her entire frame, her very lips turned
white and cold, and he, not understanding, timorous, chivalrous and
humble, thought that she was repelled by his ardour and frightened by
a passion to which she was too pure to respond.
Nothing but that one word had been spoken--just her name, an appeal
from a strong man, overmastered at last by his boundless love--and
she, poor, stricken soul, who had so much loved, so deeply wronged
him, shuddered at the thought af what she might have done, had Fate
not helped her to save him.
Half ashamed of his passion, he bowed his dark head over her hands,
and, once more forcing himself to be calm now, he kissed her
When he looked up again the hard lines in her face had softened, and
two tears were slowly trickling down her pale cheeks.
"Will you forgive me, madonna?" he said gently. "I am only a man and
you are very beautiful. No--don't take your little hands away. I am
quite calm now, and know how one should speak to angels."
Reason, justice, rectitude--everything was urging Juliette to close
her ears to the words of love, spoken by the man whom she had
betrayed. But who shall blame her for listening to the sweetest sound
the ears of a woman can ever hear--the sound of the voice of the
loved one in his first declaration of love?
She sat and listened, whilst he whispered to her those soft, endearing
words, of which a strong man alone possesses the enchanting secret.
She sat and listened, whilst all around her was still. Madame
Déroulède, at the farther end of the room, was softly muttering a few
They were all alone these two in the mad and beautiful world, which
man has created for himself--the world of romance--that world more
wonderful than any heaven, where only those may enter who have learned
the sweet lesson of love. Déroulède roamed in it at will. He had
created his own romance, wherein he was as a humble worshipper,
spending his life in the service of his madonna.
And she too forgot the earth, forgot the reality, her oath, her crime
and its punishment, and began to think that it was good to live, good
to love, and good to have at her feet the one man in all the world
whom she could fondly worship.
Who shall tell what he whispered? Enough that she listened and that
she smiled; and he, seeing her smile, felt happy.
The opening and shutting of the door roused them both from their
Anne Mie, pale, trembling, with eyes looking wild and terrified, had
glided into the room.
Déroulède had sprung to his feet. In a moment he had thrust his own
happiness into the background at sight of the poor child's obvious
suffering. He went quickly towards her, and would have spoken to her,
but she run past him up to Madame Déroulède, as if she were beside
herself with some unexplainable terror.
"Anne Mie," he said firmly, "what is it? Have those devils dared..."
In a moment reality had come rushing back upon him with full force,
and bitter reproaches surged up in his heart against himself, for
having in this moment of selfish joy forgotten those who looked up to
him for help and protection.
He knew the temper of the brutes who had been set upon his track, knew
that low-minded Merlin and his noisome ways, and blamed himself
severely for having left Anne Mie and Pétronelle alone with him even
for a few moments.
But Anne Mie quickly reassured him.
"They have not molested us much," she said, speaking with a visible
effort and enforced calmness. "Pétronelle and I were together, and
they made us open all the cupboards and uncover all the dishes. They
then asked us many questions."
"Questions? Of what kind?" asked Déroulède.
"About you, Paul," replied Anne Mie, "and about maman, and also about
--about the citizeness, your guest."
Déroulède looked at her closely, vaguely wondering at the strange
attitude of the child. She was evidently labouring under some strong
excitement, and in her thin, brown little hand she was clutching a
piece of paper.
"Anne Mie! Child," he said very gently, "you seem quite upset--as if
something terrible had happened. What is that paper you are holding,
Anne Mie gazed down upon it. She was obviously making frantic efforts
to maintain her self-possession.
Juliette at first sight of Anne Mie seemed literally to have been
turned to stone. She sat upright, rigid as a statue, her eyes fixed
upon the poor, crippled girl as if upon an inexorable judge, about to
pronounce sentence upon her of life or death.
Instinct, that keen sense of coming danger which Nature sometimes
gives to her elect, had told her that, within the next few seconds,
her doom would be sealed; that Fate would descend upon her, holding
the sword of Nemesis; and it was Anne Mie's tiny, half-shrivelled hand
which had placed that sword into the grasp of Fate.
"What is that paper? Will you let me see it, Anne Mie?" repeated
"Citizen Merlin gave it to me just now," began Anne Mie more quietly;
"he seems very wroth at finding nothing compromising against you,
Paul. They were a long time in the kitchen, and now they have gone to
search my room and Pétronelle's; but Merlin--oh! that awful man!--he
seemed like a beast infuriated with his disappointment."
"I don't know what he hoped to get out of me, for I told him that you
never spoke to your mother or to me about your political business, and
that I was not in the habit of listening at the keyholes."
"Then he began to speak of--of our guest--but, of course, there
again I could tell him nothing. He seemed to be puzzled as to who had
denounced you. He spoke about an anonymous denunciation, which reached
the Public Prosecutor early this morning. It was written on a scrap of
paper, and thrown into the public box, it seems, and..."
"It is indeed very strange," said Déroulède, musing over this
extraordinary occurrence, and still more over Anne Mie's strange
excitement in the telling of it. "I never knew I had a hidden enemy. I
wonder if I shall ever find out..."
"That is just what I said to Citizen Merlin," rejoined Anne Mie.
"That I wondered if you, or--or any of us who love you, will ever
find out who your hidden enemy might be."
"It was a mistake to talk so fully with such a brute, little one."
"I didn't say much, and I thought it wisest to humour him, as he
seemed to wish to talk on that subject."
"Well? And what did he say?"
"He laughed, and asked me if I would very much like to know."
"I hope you said No, Anne Mie?"
"Indeed, indeed, I said Yes," she retorted with sudden energy, her
eyes fixed now upon Juliette, who still sat rigid and silent, watching
every movement of Anne Mie from the moment in which she began to tell
"Would I not wish to know who is your enemy, Paul--the creature who
was base and treacherous enough to attempt to deliver you into the
hands of those merciless villains? What wrong had you done to anyone?"
"Sh! Hush, Anne Mie! you are too excited," he said, smiling now, in
spite of himself, at the young girl's vehemence over what he thought
was but a trifle--the discovery of his own enemy.
"I am sorry, Paul. How can I help being excited," rejoined Anne Mie
with quaint, pathetic gentleness, "when I speak of such base
treachery, as that which Merlin has suggested?"
"Well? And what did he suggest?"
"He did more than suggest," whispered Anne Mie almost inaudibly; "he
gave me this paper--the anonymous denunciation which reached the
Public Prosecutor this morning--he thought one of us might recognise
Then she paused, some five steps away from Déroulède, holding out
towards him the crumpled paper, which up to now she had clutched
determinedly in her hand. Déroulède was about to take it from her, and
just before he had turned to do so, his eyes lighted on Juliette.
She said nothing, she had merely risen instinctively, and had reached
Anne Mie's side in less than the fraction of a second.
It was all a flash, and there was dead silence in the room, but in
that one-hundredth part of a second, Déroulède had read guilt in the
face of Juliette.
It was nothing but instinct, a sudden, awful, unexplainable
revelation. Her soul seemed suddenly to stand before him in all its
misery and in all its sin.
It was if the fire from heaven had descended in one terrific crash,
burying beneath its devastating flames his ideals, his happiness, and
his divinity. She was no longer there. His madonna had ceased to be.
There stood before him a beautiful woman, on whom he had lavished all
the pent-up treasures of his love, whom he had succoured, sheltered,
and protected, and who had repaid him thus.
She had forced an entry into his house; she had spied upon him, dogged
him, lied to him. The moment was too sudden, too awful for him to make
even a wild guess at her motives. His entire life, his whole past, the
present, and the future, were all blotted out in this awful dispersal
of his most cherished dream. He had forgotten everything else save her
appalling treachery; how could he even remember that once, long ago,
in fair fight, he had killed her brother?
She did not even try now to hide her guilt.
A look of appeal, touching in its trustfulness, went out to him,
begging him to spare her further shame. Perhaps she felt that love,
such as his, could not be killed in a flash.
His entire nature was full of pity, and to that pity she made a final
appeal, lest she should be humiliated before Madame Déroulède and Anne
And he, still under the spell of those magic moments when he had knelt
at her feet, understood her prayer, and closing his eyes just for one
brief moment in order to shut out for ever that radiant vision of a
pure angel whom he had worshipped, turned quietly to Anne Mie.
"Give me that paper, Anne Mie," he said coldly. "I may perhaps
recognise the handwriting of my most bitter enemy."
"'Tis unnecessary now," replied Anne Mie slowly, still gazing at the
face of Juliette, in which she too had read what she wished to read.
The paper dropped out of her hand.
Déroulède stooped to pick it up. He unfolded it, smoothed it out, and
then saw that it was blank.
"There is nothing written on this paper," he said mechanically.
"No," rejoined Anne Mie; "no other words save the story of her
"What you have done is evil and wicked, Anne Mie."
"Perhaps so; but I had guessed the truth, and I wished to know. God
showed me this way, how to do it, and how to let you know as well."
"The less you speak of God just now, Anne Mie, the better, I think.
Will you attend to maman? she seems faint and ill."
Madame Déroulède, silent and placid in her arm-chair, had watched the
tragic scene before her, almost like a disinterested spectator. All
her ideas and all her thoughts had been paralysed, since the moment
when the first summons at the front door had warned her of the
imminence of the peril to her son.
The final discovery of Juliette's treachery had left her impassive.
Since her son was in danger, she cared little as to whence that danger
Obedient to Déroulède's wish, Anne Mie was attending to the old lady's
comforts. The poor, crippled girl was already feeling the terrible
reaction of her deed.
In her childish mind she had planned this way, in which to bring the
traitor to shame. Anne Mie knew nothing, cared nothing, about the
motives which had actuated Juliette; all she knew was that a terrible
Judas-like deed had been perpetrated against the man, on whom she
herself had lavished her pathetic, hopeless love.
All the pent-up jealousy which had tortured her for the past three
weeks rose up, and goaded her into unmasking her rival.
Never for a moment did she doubt Juliette's guilt. The god of love
may be blind, tradidion has so decreed it, but the demon of jealousy
has a hundred eyes, more keen than those of the lynx.
Anne Mie, pushed aside by Merlin's men when they forced their way into
Déroulède's study, had, nevertheless, followed them to the door. When
the curtains were drawn aside and the room filled with light, she had
seen Juliette enthroned, apparently calm and placid, upon the sofa.
It was instinct, the instinct born of her own rejected passion, which
caused her to read in the beautiful girl's face all that lay hidden
behind the pale, impassive mask. That same second sight made her
understand Merlin's hints and allusions. She caught every inflection
of his voice, heard everything, saw everything.
And in the midst of her anxiety and her terrors for the man she loved,
there was the wild, primitive, intensely human joy at the thought of
bringing that enthroned idol, who had stolen his love, down to earth
Anne Mie was not clever; she was simple and childish, with no
complexity of passions or devious ways of intellect. It was her
elemental jealousy which suggested the cunning plan for the unmasking
of Juliette. She would make the girl cringe and fear, threaten her
with discovery, and through her very terror shame her before Paul
And now it was all done; it had all occurred as she had planned it.
Paul knew that his love had been wasted upon a liar and a traitor, and
Juliette stood pale, humiliated, a veritable wreck of shamed humanity.
Anne Mie had triumphed, and was profoundly, abjectly wretched in her
triumph. Great sobs seemed to tear at her very heart-strings. She had
pulled down Paul's idol from her pedestal, but the one look she had
cast at his face had shown her that she had also wrecked his life.
He seemed almost old now. The earnest, restless gaze had gone from
his eyes; he was staring mutely before him, twisting between nerveless
fingers that blank scrap of paper, which had been the means of
annihilating his dream.
All energy of attitude, all strength of bearing, which were his chief
characteristics, seemed to have gone. There was a look of complete
blankness, of hopelessness in his listless gesture.
"How he loved her!" sighed Anne Mie, as she tenderly wrapped the shawl
round Madame Déroulède's shoulders.
Juliette had said nothing; it seemed as if her very life had gone out
of her. She was a mere statue now, her mind numb, her heart dead, her
very existence a fragile piece of mechanism. But she was looking at
Déroulède. That one sense in her had remained alive: her sight.
She looked and looked: and saw every passing sign of mental agony on
his face: the look of recognition of her guilt, the bewilderment at
the appalling crash, and now that hideous deathlike emptiness of his
soul and mind.
Never once did she detect horror or loathing. He had tried to save
her from being further humiliated before his mother, but there was no
hatred or contempt in his eyes, when he realised that she had been
unmasked by a trick.
She looked and looked, for there was no hope in her, not even despair.
There was nothing in her mind, nothing in her soul, but a great
Then gradually, as the minutes sped on, she saw the strong soul within
him make a sudden fight against the darkness of his despair: the
movement of the fingers became less listless; the powerful, energetic
figure straightened itself out; remembrance of other matters, other
interests than his own began to lift the overwhelming burden of his
He remembered the letter-case containing the compromising papers. A
vague wonder arose in him as to Juliette's motives in warding off,
through her concealment of it, the inevitable moment of its discovery
The thought that her entire being had undergone a change, and that she
now wished to save him, never once entered his mind; if it had, he
would have dismissed it as the outcome of maudlin sentimentality, the
conceit of the fop, who believes his personality to be irresistible.
His own self-torturing humility pointed but to the one conclusion:
that she had fooled him all along; fooled him when she sought his
protection; fooled him when she taught him to love her; fooled him,
above all, at the moment when, subjugated by the intensity of his
passion, he had for one brief second ceased to worship in order to
When the bitter remembrance of that moment of sweetest folly rushed
back to his aching brain, then at last did he look up at her with one
final, agonised look of reproach, so great, so tender, and yet so
final, that Anne Mie, who saw it, felt as if her own heart would break
with the pity of it all.
But Juliette had caught the look too. The tension of her nerves
seemed suddenly to relax. Memory rushed back upon her with tumultuous
intensity. Very gradually her knees gave beneath her, and at last she
knelt down on the floor before him, her golden head bent under the
burden of her guilt and her shame.
Déroulède did not attempt to go to her.
Only presently, when the heavy footsteps of Merlin and his men were
once more heard upon the landing, she quietly rose to her feet.
She had accomplished her act of humiliation and repentance, there
before them all. She looked for the last time upon those whom she had
so deeply wronged, and in her heart spoke an eternal farewell to that
great, and mighty, and holy love which she had called forth and then
had so hopelessly crushed.
Now she was ready for the atonement.
Merlin had already swaggered into the room. The long and arduous
search throughout the house had not improved either his temper or his
personal appearance. He was more covered with grime than he had been
before, and his narrow forehead had almost disappeared beneath the
tangled mass of his ill-kempt hair, which he had perpetually tugged
forward and roughed up in his angry impatience.
One look at his face had already told Juliette what she wished to
know. He had searched her room, and found the fragments of burnt
paper, which she had purposely left in the ash-pan.
How he would act now was the one thing of importance left for Juliette
to ponder over. That she would not escape arrest and condemnation was
at once made clear to her. Merlin's look of sneering contempt, when he
glanced towards her, had told her that.
Déroulède himself had been conscious of a feeling of intense relief
when the men re-entered the room. The tension had become unendurable.
When he saw his dethroned madonna kneel in humiliation at his feet, an
overwhelming pain had wrenched his very heart-strings.
And yet he could not go to her. The passionate, human nature within
him felt a certain proud exultation at seeing her there.
She was not above him now, she was no longer akin to the angels.
He had given no further thought to his own immediate danger. Vaguely
he guessed that Merlin would find the leather case. Where it was he
could not tell; perhaps Juliette herself had handed it to the
soldiers. She had only hidden it for a few moments, out of impulse
perhaps, fearing lest, at the first instant of its discovery, Merlin
might betray her.
He remembered now those hints and insinuations which had gone out from
the Terrorist to Juliette whilst the search was being conducted in the
study. At the time he had merely looked upon these as a base attempt
at insult, and had tortured himself almost beyond bearing, in the
endeavour to refrain from punishing that evilmouthed creature, who
dared to bandy words with his madonna.
But now he understood, and felt his very soul writhing with shame at
the remembrance of it all.
Oh yes; the return of Merlin and his men, the presence of these grimy,
degraded brutes, was welcome now. He would have wished to crowd in the
entire world, the universe and its population, between him and his
Merlin's manner towards him had lost nothing of its ironical
benevolence. There was even a touch of obsequiousness apparent in the
ugly face, as the representative of the people approached the popular
"Citizen-Deputy," began Merlin, "I have to bring you the welcome news,
that we have found nothing in your house that in any way can cast
suspicion upon your loyalty to the Republic. My orders, however, were
to bring you before the Committee of Public Safety, whether I had
found proofs of your guilt or not. I have found none."
He was watching Déroulède keenly, hoping even at this eleventh hour to
detect a look or a sign, which would furnish him with the proofs for
which he was seeking. The slightest suggestion of relief on
Déroulède's part, a sigh of satisfaction, would have been sufficient
at this moment, to convince him and the Committee of Public Safety
that the Citizen-Deputy was guilty after all.
But Déroulède never moved. He was sufficiently master of himself not
to express either surprise or satisfaction. Yet he felt both--
satisfaction not for his own safety, but because of his mother and
Anne Mie, whom he would immediately send out of the country, out of
all danger; and also because of her, of Juliette Marny, his guest,
who, whatever she may have done against him, had still a claim on his
protection. His feeling of surprise was less keen, and quite
transient. Merlin had not found the letter-case. Juliette, stricken
with tardy remorse perhaps, had succeeded in concealing it. The matter
had practically ceased to interest him. It was equally galling to owe
his betrayal or his ultimate safety to her.
He kissed his mother tenderly, bidding her good-bye, and pressed Anne
Mie's timid little hand warmly between his own. He did what he could
to reassure them, but, for their own sakes, he dared say nothing
before Merlin, as to his plans for their safety.
After that he was ready to follow the soldiers.
As he passed close to Juliette he bowed, and almost inaudibly
She heard the whisper, but did not respond. Her look alone gave him
the reply to his eternal farewell.
His footsteps and those of his escort were heard echoing down the
staircase, then the hall door to open and shut. Through the open
window came the sound of hoarse cheering as the popular Citizen-Deputy
appeared in the street.
Merlin, with two men beside him, remained under the portico; he told
off the other two to escort Déroulède as far as the Hall of Justice,
where sat the members of the Committee of Public Safety. The Terrorist
had a vague fear that the Citizen-Deputy would speak to the mob.
An unruly crowd of women had evidently been awaiting his appearance.
The news had quickly spread along the streets that Merlin, Merlin
himself, the ardent, bloodthirsty Jacobin, had made a descent upon
Paul Déroulède's house, escorted by four soldiers. Such an indignity,
put upon the man they most trusted in the entire assembly of the
Convention, had greatly incensed the crowd. The women jeered at the
soldiers as soon as they appeared, and Merlin dared not actually
forbid Déroulède to speak.
_"A la lanterne, vieux crétin!"_ shouted one of the women, thrusting
her fist under Merlin's nose.
"Give the word, Citizen-Deputy," rejoined another, "and we'll break
his ugly face. _Nous lui casserons la gueule!_"
"_A la lanterne! A la lanterne!"_
One word from Déroulède now would have caused an open riot, and in
those days self defence against the mob was construed into enmity
against the people.
Merlin's work, too, was not yet accomplished. He had had no intention
of escorting Déroulède himself; he had still important business to
transact inside the house which he had just quitted, and had merely
wished to get the Citizen-Deputy well out of the way, before he went
Moreover, he had expected something of a riot in the streets. The
temper of the people of Paris was at fever heat just now. The hatred
of the populace against a certain class, and against certain
individuals, was only equalled by their enthusiasm in favour of
They had worshipped Marat for his squalor and his vices; they
worshipped Danton for his energy and Robespierre for his calm; they
worshipped Déroulède for his voice, his gentleness and his pity, for
his care of their children and the eloquence of his speech.
It was that eloquence which Merlin feared now; but he little knew the
type of man he had to deal with.
Déroulède's influence over the most unruly, the most vicious populace
the history of the world has ever known, was not obtained through
fanning its passions. That popularity, though brilliant, is always
ephemeral. The passions of a mob will invariably turn against those
who have helped to rouse them. Marat did not live to see the waning of
his star; Danton was dragged to the guillotine by those whom he had
taught to look upon that instrument of death as the only possible and
unanswerable political argument; Robespierre succumbed to the orgies
of bloodshed he himself had brought about. But Déroulède remained
master of the people of Paris for as long as he chose to exert that
mastery. When they listened to him they felt better, nobler, less
He kept up in their poor, misguided hearts that last flickering sense
of manhood which their bloodthirsty tyrants, under the guise of
Fraternity and Equality, were doing their best to smother.
Even now, when he might have turned the temper of the small crowd
outside his door to his own advantage, he preferred to say nothing; he
even pacified them with a gesture.
He well knew that those whom he incited against Merlin now would, once
their blood was up, probably turn against him in less than
Merlin, who all along had meant to return to the house, took his
opportunity now. He allowed Déroulède and the two men to go on ahead,
and beat a hasty retreat back into the house, followed by the jeers of
_"A la lanterne, vieux crétin!"_ they shouted as soon as the hall door
was once more closed in their faces. A few of them began hammering
against the door with their fists; then they realised that their
special favourite, Citizen-Deputy Déroulède, was marching along
between two soldiers, as if he were a prisoner. The word went round
that he was under arrest, and was being taken to the Hall of Justice--
This was not to be. The mob of Paris had been taught that it was the
master in the city, and it had learned its lesson well. For the moment
it had chosen to take Paul Déroulède under its special protection, and
as a guard of honour to him--the women in ragged kirtles, the men
with bare legs and stripped to the waist, the children all yelling,
hooting, and shrieking--followed him, to see that none dared harm
Merlin waited a while in the hall, until he heard the noise of the
shrieking crowd gradually die away in the distance, then with a grunt
of satisfaction he one more mounted the stairs.
All these events outside had occurred during a very few minutes, and
Madame Déroulède and Anne Mie had been too anxious as to what was
happening in the streets, to take any notice of Juliette.
They had not dared to step out on to the balcony to see what was going
on, and, therefore, did not understand what the reopening and shutting
of the front door had meant.
The next instant, however, Merlin's heavy, slouching footsteps on the
stairs had caused Anne Mie to look round in alarm.
"It is only the soldiers come back for me," said Juliette quietly.
"Yes; they are coming to take me away. I suppose they did not wish to
do it in the presence of Mr. Déroulède, for fear..."
She had no time to say more. Anne Mie was still looking at her in
awed and mute surprise, when Merlin entered the room.
In his hand he held a leather case, all torn, and split at one end,
and a few tiny scraps of half-charred paper. He walked straight up to
Juliette, and roughly thrust the case and papers into her face.
"These are yours?" he said roughly.
"I suppose you know where they were found?"
She nodded quietly in reply.
"What were these papers which you burnt?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"As you please," she said curtly.
"What were these papers?" he repeated, with a loud obscene oath which,
however, had not the power to disturb the young girl's serenity.
"I have told you," she said: "love letters, which I wished to burn."
"Who was your lover?" he asked.
Then as she did not reply he indicated the street, where cries of
"Déroulède! Vive Déroulède!" still echoed from afar.
"Were the letters from him?"
"You had more than one lover, then?"
He laughed, and a hideous leer seemed further to distort his ugly
He thrust his face quite close to hers, and she closed her eyes, sick
with the horror of this contact with the degraded wretch. Even Anne
Mie had uttered a cry of sympathy at sight of this evil-smelling,
squalid creature torturing, with his close proximity, the beautiful,
refined girl before him.
With a rough gesture he put his clawlike hand under her delicate chin,
forcing her to turn round and to look at him. She shuddered at the
loathsome touch, but her quietude never forsook her for a moment.
It was into the power of wretches such as this man, that she had
wilfully delivered the man she loved. This brutish creature's
familiarity put the finishing touch to her own degradation, but it
gave her the courage to carry through her purpose to the end.
"You had more than one lover, then?" said Merlin, with a laugh which
would have pleased the devil himself. "And you wished to send one of
them to the guillotine in order to make way for the other? Was that
"Was that it?" he repeated, suddenly seizing one of her wrists, and
giving it as savage twist, so that she almost screamed with the pain.
"Yes," she replied firmly.
"Do you know that you brought me here on a fool's errand?" he asked
viciously; "that the Citizen-Deputy Déroulède cannot be sent to the
guillotine on mere suspicion, eh? Did you know that, when you wrote
out that denunciation?"
"No; I did not know."
"You thought we could arrest him on mere suspicion?"
"You knew he was Innocent?"
"I knew it."
"Why did you burn your love letters?"
"I was afraid that they would be found, and would be brought under the
notice of the Citizen-Deputy."
"A splendid combination, _ma foi!_" said Merlin, with an oath, as he
turned to the two other women, who sat pale and shrinking in a corner
of the room, not understanding what was going on, not knowing what to
think or what to believe. They had known nothing of Déroulède's plans
for the escape of Marie Antoinette, they didn't know what the
letter-case had contained, and yet they both vaguely felt that the
beautiful girl, who stood up so calmly before the loathsome Terrorist,
was not a wanton, as she tried to make out, but only misguided, mad
perhaps--perhaps a martyr.
"Did you know anything of this?" queried Merlin roughly from trembling
"Nothing," she replied.
"No one knew anything of my private affairs or of my private
correspondence," said Juliette coldly; "as you say, it was a splendid
combination. I had hoped that it would succeed. But I understand now
that Citizen-Deputy Déroulède is a personage of too much importance to
be brought to trial on mere suspicion, and my denunciation of him was
not based on facts."
"And do you know, my fine aristocrat," sneered Merlin viciously, "that
it is not wise either to fool the Committee of Public Safety, or to
denounce without cause one of the representatives of the people?"
"I know," she rejoined quietly, "that you, Citizen Merlin, are
determined that someone shall pay for this day's blunder. You dare not
now attack the Citizen-Deputy, and so you must be content with me."
"Enough of this talk now; I have no time to bandy words with aristos,"
he said roughly.
"Come now, follow the men quietly. Resistance would only aggravate
"I am quite prepared to follow you. May I speak two words to my
friends before I go?"
"I may never be able to speak to them again."
"I have said No, and I mean No. Now then, forward. March! I have
wasted too much time already."
Juliette was too proud to insist any further. She had hoped, by one
word, to soften Madame Déroulède's and Anne Mie's heart towards her.
She did not know whether they believed that miserable lie which she
had been telling to Merlin; she only guessed that for the moment they
still thought her the betrayer of Paul Déroulède.
But that one word was not to be spoken. She would have to go forth to
her certain trial, to her probable death, under the awful cloud, which
she herself had brought over her own life.
She turned quietly, and walked towards the door, where the two men
already stood at attention.
Then it was that some heaven-born instinct seemed suddenly to guide
Anne Mie. The crippled girl was face to face with a psychological
problem, which in itself was far beyond her comprehension, but vaguely
she felt that it was a problem. Something in Juliette's face had
already caused her to bitterly repent her action towards her, and now,
as this beautiful, refined woman was about to pass from under the
shelter of this roof, to the cruel publicity and terrible torture of
that awful revolutionary tribunal, Anne Mie's whole heart went out to
her in boundless sympathy.
Before Merlin or the men could prevent her, she had run up to
Juliette, taken her hand, which hung listless and cold, and kissed it
Juliette seemed to wake as if from a dream. She looked down at Anne
Mie with a glance of hope, almost of joy, and whispered:
"It was an oath--I swore it to my father and my dead brother. Tell
Anne Mie could only nod; she could not speak, for her tears were
"But I'll atone--with my life. Tell him," whispered Juliette.
"Now then," shouted Merlin, "out of the way, hunchback, unless you
want to come along too."
"Forgive me," said Anne Mie through her tears.
Then the men pushed her roughly aside. But at the door Juliette
turned to her once more, and said:
"Pétronelle--take care of her..."
And with a firm step she followed the soldiers out of the room.
Presently the front door was heard to open, then to shut with a loud
bang, and the house in the Rue Ecole de Médecine was left in silence.
In the Luxembourg prison.
Juliette was alone at last--that is to say, comparatively alone, for
there were too many aristocrats, too many criminels and traitors, in
the prisons of Paris now, to allow of any seclusion of those who were
about to be tried, condemned, and guillotined.
The young girl had been marched through the crowded streets of Paris,
followed by a jeering mob, who readily recognised in the gentle,
high-bred girl the obvious prey, which the Committee of Public Safety
was wont, from time to time to throw to the hungry hydra-headed dog of
Lately the squalid spectators of the noisome spectacle on the Place de
la Guillotine had had few of these very welcome sights: an aristocrat
--a real, elegant, refined woman, with white hands and proud, pale
face--mounting the steps of the same scaffold on which perished the
vilest criminals and most degraded brutes.
Madame Guillotine was, above all, catholic in her tastes, her gaunt
arms, painted blood red, were open alike to the murderer and the
thief, the aristocrats of ancient lineage, and the proletariat from
But lately the executions had been almost exclusively of a political
character. The Girondins were fighting their last upon the bloody
arena of the Revolution. One by one they fell still fighting, still
preaching moderation, still foretelling disaster and appealing to that
people, whom they had roused from one slavery, in order to throw it
headlong under a tyrannical yoke more brutish, more absolute than
There were twelve prisons in Paris then, and forty thousand in France,
and they were all full. An entire army went round the country
recruiting prisoners. There was no room for separate cells, no room
for privacy, no cause or desire for the most elementary sense of
Women, men, children--all were herded together, for one day, perhaps
two, and a night or so, and then death would obliterate the petty
annoyances, the womanly blushes caused by this sordid propinquity.
Death levelled all, erased everything.
When Marie Antoinette mounted the guillotine she had forgotten that
for six weeks she practically lived day and night in the immediate
companionship of a set of degraded soldiery.
Juliette, as she marched through the streets between two men of the
National Guard, and followed by Merlin, was hooted and jeered at,
insulted, pelted with mud. One woman tried to push past the soldiers,
and to strike her in the face--a woman! not thirty!--and who was
dragging a pale, squalid little boy by the hand.
"_Crache donc sur l'aristo, voyons!_" the woman said to this poor,
miserable litte scrap of humanity as the soldiers pushed her roughly
aside. "Spit on the aristocrat!" And the child tortured its own small,
parched mouth so that, in obedience to its mother, it might defile and
bespatter a beautiful, innocent girl.
The soldiers laughed, and improved the occasion with another insulting
jest. Even Merlin forgot his vexation, delighted at the incident.
But Juliette had seen nothing of it all.
She was walking as in a dream. The mob did not exist for her; she
heard neither insult nor vituperation. She did not see the evil, dirty
faces pushed now and then quite close to her; she did not feel the
rough hands of the soldiers jostling her through the crowd: she had
gone back to her own world of romance, where she dwelt alone now with
the man she loved. Instead of the squalid houses of Paris, with their
eternal device of Fraternity and Equality, there were beautiful trees
and shrubs of laurel and of roses around her, making the air fragrant
with their soft, intoxicating perfumes; sweet voices from the land of
dreams filled the atmosphere with their tender murmur, whilst overhead
a cloudless sky illumined this earthly paradise.
She was happy--supremely, completely happy. She had saved him from
the consequences of her own iniquitous crime, and she was about to
give her life for him, so that his safety might be more completely
Her love for him he would never know; now he knew only her crime, but
presently, when she would be convicted and condemned, confronted with
a few scraps of burned paper and a torn letter-case, then he would
know that she had stood her trial, self-accused, and meant to die for
Therfore the past few moments were now wholly hers. She had the
rights to dwell on those few happy seconds when she listened to the
avowal of his love. It was ethereal, and perhaps not altogether human,
but it was hers. She had been his divinity, his madonna; he had loved
in her that, which was her truer, her better self.
What was base in her was not truly her. That awful oath, sworn so
solemnly, had been her relentless tyrant; and her religion--a
religion of superstition and of false ideals--had blinded her, and
dragged her into crime.
She had arrogated to herself that which was God's alone--"Vengeance!"
which is not for man.
That through it all she should have known love, and learned its tender
secrets, was more than she deserved. That she should have felt his
burning kisses on her hand was heavenly compensation for all she would
have to suffer.
And so she allowed them to drag her through the sansculotte mob of
Paris, who would have torn her to pieces then and there, so as not to
delay the pleasure of seeing her die.
They took her to the Luxembourg, once the palace of the Medici, the
home of proud "Monsieur" in the days of the Great Monarch, now a
loathsome, overfilled prison.
It was then six o'clock in the afternoon, drawing towards the close of
this memorable day. She was handed over to the governor of the prison,
a short, thick-set man in black trousers and black-shag woollen shirt,
and wearing a dirty red cap, with tricolour rosette on the side of his
He eyed her up and down as she passed under the narrow doorway, then
murmured one swift query to Merlin:
"Yes," replied Merlin laconically.
"You understand," added the governor; "we are so crowded. We ought to
know if individual attention is required."
"Certainly," said Merlin, "you will be personally responsible for this
prisoner to the Committee of Public Safety."
"Any visitors allowed?"
"Certainly not, without the special permission of the Public
Juliette heard this brief exchange of words over her future fate.
No visitor would be allowed to see her. Well, perhaps that would be
best. She would have been afraid to meet Déroulède again, afraid to
read in his eyes that story of his dead love, which alone might have
destroyed her present happiness.
And she wished to see no one. She had a memory to dwell on--a short,
heavenly memory. It consisted of a few words, a kiss--the last one--
on her hand, and that passionate murmur which had escaped from his
lips when he knelt at her feet:
Citizen-Deputy Déroulède had been privately interviewed by the
Committee of Public Safety, and temporarily allowed to go free.
The brief proceedings had been quite private, the people of Paris were
not to know as yet that their favourite was under a cloud. When he had
answered all the question put to him, and Merlin--just returned from
his errand at the Luxembourg Prison--had given his version of the
domiciliary visitation in the Citizen-Deputy's house, the latter was
briefly told that for the moment the Republic had no grievance against
But he knew quite well what that meant. He would be henceforth under
suspicion, watched incessantly, as a mouse is by the cat, and pounced
upon, the moment time would be considered propitious for his final
The inevitable waning of his popularity would be noted by keen,
jealous eyes; and Déroulède, with his sure knowledge of mankind and of
character, knew well enough that his popularity was bound to wane
sooner or later, as all such ephemeral things do.
In the meanwhile, during the short respite which his enemies would
leave him, his one thought and duty would be to get his mother and
Anne Mie safely out of the country.
He thought of _her,_ and wondered what had happened. As he walked
swiftly across the narrow footbridge, and reached the other side of
the river, the events of the past few hours rushed upon his memory
with terrible, overwhelming force.
A bitter ache filled his heart at the remembrance of her treachery.
The baseness of it all was so appalling. He tried to think if he had
ever wronged her; wondered if perhaps she loved someone else, and
wished _him_ out of her way.
But, then, he had been so humble, so unassuming in his love. He had
arrogated nothing unto himself, asked for nothing, demanded nothing in
virtue of his protecting powers over her.
He was torturing himself with this awful wonderment of why she had
treated him thus.
Out of revenge for her brother's death--that was the only explanation
he could find, the only palliation for her crime.
He knew nothing of her oath to her father, and, of course, had never
heard of the sad history of this young, sensitive girl placed in one
terrible moment between her dead brother and her demented father. He
only thought of common, sordid revenge for a sin he had been
practically forced to commit.
And how he had loved her!
Yes, _loved_--for that was in the past now.
She had ceased to be a saint or a madonna; she had fallen from her
pedestal so low that he could not find the way to descend and grope
after the fragments of his ideal.
At his own door he was met by Anne Mie in tears.
"She has gone", murmured the young girl. "I feel as if I had murdered
"Gone? Who? Where?" queried Déroulède rapidly, an icy feeling of
terror gripping him by the heart-strings.
"Juliette has gone," replied Anne Mie; "those awful brutes took her
"Directly after you left. That man Merlin found some ashes and scraps
of paper in her room..."
"Yes; and a torn letter-case."
"She said that they were love letters, which she had been burning for
fear you should see them."
"She said so? Anne Mie, Anne Mie, are you quite sure?"
It was all so horrible, and he did not quite understand it all; his
brain, which was usually so keen and so active, refused him service at
this terrible juncture.
"Yes; I am quite sure," continued Anne Mie, in the midst of her tears.
"And oh! that awful Merlin said some dastardly things. But she
persisted in her story, that she had--another lover. Oh, Paul, I am
sure it is not true. I hated her because--because--you loved her so,
and I mistrusted her, but I cannot believe that she was quite as base
"No, no, child," he said in a toneless, miserable voice; "she was not
so base as that. Tell me more of what she said."
"She said very little else. But Merlin asked her whether she had
denounced you so as to get you out of the way. He hinted that--
"That I was her lover too?"
"Yes," murmured Anne Mie.
She hardly liked to look at him; the strong face had become hard and
set in its misery.
"And she allowed them to say all this?" he asked at last.
"Yes. And she followed them without a murmur, as Merlin said she
would have to answer before the Committee of Public Safety, for having
fooled the representatives of the people."
"She'll answer for it with her life," murmured Déroulède. "And with
mine!" he added half audibly.
Anne Mie did not hear him; her pathetic little soul was filled with a
great, an overwhelming pity of Juliette and for Paul.
"Before they took her away," she said, placing her thin,
delicate-looking hands on his arm. "I ran to her, and bade her
farewell. The soldiers pushed me roughly aside; but I contrived to
kiss her--and then she whispered a few words to me."
"Yes? What were they?"
"'It was an oath,' she said. 'I swore it to my father and to my dead
brother. Tell him,'" repeated Anne Mie slowly.
Now he understood, and oh! how he pitied her. How terribly she must
have suffered in her poor, harassed soul when her noble, upright
nature fought against this hideous treachery.
That she was true and brave in herself, of that Déroulède had no
doubt. And now this awful sin upon her conscience, which must be
causing her endless misery.
And, alas! the atonement would never free her from the load of
self-condemnation. She had elected to pay with her life for her
treason against him and his family. She would be arraigned before a
tribunal which would inevitably condemn her. Oh! the pity of it all!
One moment's passionate emotion, a lifelong superstition and mistaken
sense of duty, and now this endless misery, this terrible atonement of
a wrong that could never be undone.
And she had never loved him!
That was the true, the only sting which he knew now; it rankled more
than her sin, more than her falsehood, more than the shattering of his
With a passionate desire for his safety, she had sacrificed herself in
order to atone for the material evil which she had done.
But there was the wreck of his hopes and of his dreams!
Never until now, when he had irretrievably lost her, did Déroulède
realise how great had been his hopes; how he had watched day after day
for a look in her eyes, a word from her lips, to show him that she too
--his unattainable saint--would one day come to earth, and respond to
And now and then, when her beautiful face lighted up at sight of him,
when she smiled a greeting to him on his return from his work, when
she looked with pride and admiration on him from the public bench in
the assemblies of the Convention--then he had begun to hope, to
think, to dream.
And it was all a sham! A mask to hide the terrible conflict that was
raging within her soul, nothing more.
She did not love him, of that he felt convinced. Man like, he did not
understand to the full that great and wonderful enigma, which has
puzzled the world since primeval times: a woman's heart.
The eternal contradictions which go to make up the complex nature of
an emotional woman were quite incomprehensible to him. Juliette had
betrayed him to serve her own sense of what was just and right, her
revenge and her oath. Therefore she did not love him.
It was logic, sound common-sense, and, aided by his own diffidence
where women were concerned, it seemed to him irrefutable.
To a man like Paul Déroulède, a man of thought, of purpose, and of
action, the idea of being false to the thing loved, of hate and love
being interchangeable, was absolutely foreign and unbelievable. He had
never hated the thing he loved or loved the thing he hated. A man's
feelings in these respects are so much less complex, so much less
Would a man betray his friend? No--never. He might betray his
enemy, the creature he abhorred, whose downfall would cause him joy.
But his friend? The very idea was repugnant, impossible to an upright
Juliette's ultimate access of generosity in trying to save him, when
she was at last brought face to face with the terrible wrong she had
committed, _that_ he put down to one of those noble impulses of which
he knew her soul to be fully capable, and even then his own diffidence
suggested that she did it more for the sake of his mother or for Anne
Mie rather than for him.
Therefore what mattered life to him now? She was lost to him for
ever, whether he succeeded in snatching her from the guillotine or
not. He had but little hope to save her, but he would not owe his life
Anne Mie, seeing him wrapped in his own thoughts, had quietly
withdrawn. Her own good sense told her already that Paul Déroulède's
first step would be to try and get his mother out of danger, and out
of the country, while there was yet time.
So, without waiting for instructions, she began that same evening to
pack up her belongings and those of Madame Déroulède.
There was no longer any hatred in her heart against Juliette. Where
Paul Déroulède had failed to understand, there Anne Mie had already
made a guess. She firmly believed that nothing now could save Juliette
from death, and a great feeling of tenderness had crept into her
heart, for the woman whom she had looked upon as an enemy and a rival.
She too had learnt in those brief days the great lesson that revenge
belongs to God alone.
The Cheval Borgne.
It was close upon midnight.
The place had become suffocatingly hot; the fumes of rank tobacco, of
rancid butter, and or raw spirits hung like a vapour in mid-air.
The principal room in the "Auberge du Cheval Borgne" had been used for
the past five years now as the chief meeting-place of the
ultra-sansculotte party of the Republic.
The house itself was squalid and dirty, up one of those mean streets
which, by their narrow way and shelving buildings, shut out sun, air,
and light from their miserable inhabitants.
The Cheval Borgne was one of the most wretched-looking dwellings in
this street of evil repute. The plaster was cracked, the walls
themselves seemed bulging outward, preparatory to a final collapse.
The ceilings were low, and supported by beams black with age and dirt.
At one time it had been celebrated for its vast cellarage, which had
contained some rare old wines. And in the days of the Grand Monarch
young bucks were wont to quit the gay salons of the ladies, in order
to repair to the Cheval Borgne for a night's carouse.
In those days the vast cellarage was witness of many a dark encounter,
of many a mysterious death; could the slimy walls have told their own
tale, it would have been one which would have put to shame the wildest
chronicles of M. Vidoq.
Now it was no longer so.
Things were done in broad daylight on the Place de la Révolution:
there was no need for dark, mysterious cellars, in which to accomplish
deeds of murder and of revenge.
Rats and vermin of all sorts worked their way now in the underground
portion of the building. They ate up each other, and held their orgies
in the cellars, whilst men did the same sort of thing in the rooms
It was a club of Equality and Fraternity. Any passer-by was at
liberty to enter and take part in the debates, his only qualification
for this temporary membership being an inordinate love for Madame la
It was from the sordid rooms of the Cheval Borgne that most of the
denunciations had gone forth which led but to the one inevitable
They sat in conclave here, some twoscore or so at first, the rabid
patriots of this poor, downtrodden France. They talked of Liberty
mostly, with many oaths and curses against the tyrants, and then
started a tyranny, an autocracy, ten thousand times more awful than
any wielded by the dissolute Bourbons.
And this was the temple of Liberty, this dark, damp, evil-smelling
brothel, with is narrow, cracked window-panes, which let in but an
infinitesimal fraction of air, and that of the foulest, most
The floor was of planks roughly put together; now they were
worm-eaten, bare, save for a thick carpet of greasy dust, which
deadened the sound of booted feet. The place only boasted of a couple
of chairs, both of which had to be propped against the wall lest they
should break, and bring the sitter down upon the floor; otherwise a
number of empty wine barrels did duty for seats, and rough deal boards
on broken trestles for tables.
There had once been a paper on the walls, now it hung down in strips,
showing the cracked plaster beneath. The whole place had a tone of
yellowish-grey grime all over it, save where, in the centre of the
room, on a rough double post, shaped like the guillotine, a scarlet
cap of Liberty gave a note of lurid colour to the dismal surroundings.
On the walls here and there the eternal device, so sublime in
conception, so sordid in execution, recalled the aims of the so-called
club: "Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité, sinon la Mort."
Below the device, in one or two corners of the room, the wall was
further adorned with rough charcoal sketches, mostly of an obscene
character, the work of one of the members of the club, who had chosen
this means of degrading his art.
To-night the assembly had been reduced to less than a score.
Even according to the dictates of these apostles of Fraternity: _"la
guillotine va toujours"_--the guillotine goes on always. She had
become the most potent factor in the machinery of government, of this
great Revolution, and she had been daily, almost hourly fed through
the activity of this nameless club, which held its weird and awesome
sittings in the dank coffee-room of the Cheval Borgne.
The number of the active members had been reduced. Like the rats in
the cellars below, they had done away with one another, swallowed one
another up, torn each other to pieces in this wild rage for a Utopian
Marat, founder of the organisation, had been murdered by a girl's
hand; but Charon, Manuel, Osselin had gone the usual way, denounced by
their colleagues, Rabaut, Custine, Bison, who in their turn were sent
to the guillotine by those more powerful, perhaps more eloquent, than
It was merely a case of who could shout the loudest at an assembly of
the National Convention.
_"La guillotine va toujours!"_
After the death of Marat, Merlin became the most prominent member of
the club--he and Foucquier-Tinville, his bosom friend, Public
Prosecutor, and the most bloodthirsty homicide of this homicidal age.
Bosom friend both, yet they worked against one another, undermining
each other's popularity, whispering persistently, one against the
other: "He is a traitor!" It had become just a neck-to-neck race
between them towards the inevitable goal--the guillotine.
Foucquier-Tinville is in the ascendant for the moment. Merlin had
been given a task which he had failed to accomplish. For days now,
weeks even, the debates of this noble assembly had been chiefly
concerned with the downfall of Citizen-Deputy Déroulède. His
popularity, his calm security in the midst of this reign of terror and
anarchy, had been a terrible thorn in the flesh of these rabid
And now the climax had been reached. An anonymous denunciation
had roused the hopes of these sanguinary patriots. It all sounded
perfectly plausible. To try and save that traitor, Marie Antoinette,
the widow of Louis Capet, was just the sort of scheme that would
originate in the brain of Paul Déroulède.
He had always been at heart an aristocrat, and the feeling of chivalry
for a persecuted woman was only the outward signs of his secret
adherence to the hated class.
Merlin had been sent to search the Deputy's house for proofs of the
And Merlin had come back empty-handed.
The arrest of a female aristo--the probable mistress of Déroulède,
who obviously had denounced him--was but small compensation for the
failure of the more important capture.
As soon as Merlin joined his friends in the low, ill-lit,
evil-smelling room he realised at once that there was a feeling of
hostility against him.
Tinville, enthroned on one of the few chairs of which the Cheval
Borgne could boast, was surrounded by a group of surly adherents.
On the rough trestles a number of glasses, half filled with raw
potato-spirit, gave the keynote to the temper of the assembly.
All those present were dressed in the black-shag spencer, the seedy
black breeches, and down-at-heel boots, which had become recognised as
the distinctive uniform of the sansculotte party. The inevitable
Phrygian cap, with its tricolour cockade, appeared on the heads of all
those present, in various stages of dirt and decay.
Tinville had chosen to assume a sarcastic tone with regard to his
whilom bosom friend, Merlin. Leaning both elbows on the table, he was
picking his teeth with a steel fork, and in the intervals of his
interesting operation, gave forth his views on the broad principles of
Those who sat round him felt that his star was in the ascendant and
assumed the position of satellites. Merlin as he entered had grunted a
sullen "Good-eve," and sat himself down in a remote corner of the
His greeting had been responded to with a few jeers and a good many
dark, threatening looks. Tinville himself had bowed to him with mock
sarcasm and an unpleasant leer.
One of the patriots, a huge fellow, almost a giant, with heavy, coarse
fists and broad shoulders that obviously suggested coal-heaving, had,
after a few satirical observations, dragged one of the empty wine
barrels to Merlin's table, and sat down opposite him.
"Take care, Citizen Lenoir," said Tinville, with an evil laugh,
"Citizen-Deputy Merlin will arrest you instead of Deputy Déroulède,
whom he has allowed to slip through his fingers."
"Nay; I've no fear," replied Lenoir, with an oath. "Citizen Merlin is
too much of an aristo to hurt anyone; his hands are too clean; he does
not care to do the dirty work of the Republic. Isn't that so, Monsieur
Merlin?" added the giant, with a mock bow, and emphasising the
appellation which had fallen into complete disuse in these days of
"My patriotism is too well known," said Merlin roughly, "to fear any
attacks from jealous enemies; and as for my search in the
Citizen-Deputy's house this afternoon, I was told to find proofs
against him, and I found none."
Lenoir expectorated on the floor, crossed his dark hairy arms over the
table, and said quietly:
"Real patriotism, as the true Jacobin understands it, makes the proofs
it wants and leaves nothing to chance."
A chorus of hoarse murmurs of "Vive la Liberté!" greeted this harangue
of the burly coal-heaver.
Feeling that he had gained the ear and approval of the gallery, Lenoir
seemed, as it were, to spread himself out, to arrogate to himself the
leadership of this band of malcontents, who, disappointed in their
lust of Déroulède's downfall, were ready to exult over that of Merlin.
"You were a fool, Citizen Merlin," said Lenoir with slow significance,
"not to see that the woman was playing her own game."
Merlin had become livid under the grime on his face. With this
ill-kempt sansculotte giant in front of him, he almost felt as if he
were already arraigned before that awful, merciless tribunal, to which
he had dragged so many innocent victims.
Already he felt, as he sat ensconced behind a table in the far corner
of the room, that he was a prisoner at the bar, answering for his
failure with his life.
His own laws, his own theories now stood in bloody array against him.
Was it not he who had framed the indictments against General Custine
for having failed to subdue the cities of the south? against General
Westerman and Brunet and Beauharnais for having failed and failed and
And now it was his turn.
Thes bloodthirsty jackals had been cheated of their prey; they would
tear him to pieces in compensation of their loss.
"How could I tell?" he murmured roughly, "the woman had denounced
A chorus of angry derision greeted this feeble attempt at defence.
"By your own law, Citizen-Deputy Merlin," commented Tinville
sarcastically, "it is a crime against the Republic to be suspected of
treason. It is evident, however, that it is quite one thing to frame a
law and quite another to obey it."
"What could I have done?"
"Hark at the innocent!" rejoined Lenoir, with a sneer. "What could he
have done? Patriots, friends, brothers, I ask you, what could he have
The giant had pushed the wine cask aside, it rolled away from under
him, and in the fulness of his contempt for Merlin and his impotence,
he stood up before them all, strong in his indictment against
"I ask you," he repeated, with a loud oath, "what any patriot would
do, what you or I would have done, in the house of a man whom we all
_know_ is a traitor to the Republic? Brothers, friends, Citizen-Deputy
Merlin found a heap of burn paper in a grate, he found a letter-case
which had obviously contained important documents, and he asks us what
he could do!"
"Déroulède is too important a man to be tried without proofs. The
whole mob of Paris would have turned on us for having arraigned him,
for having dared lay hands upon his sacred person."
"Without proofs? Who said there were no proofs?" queried Lenoir.
"I found the burnt papers and torn letter-case in the woman's room.
She owned that they were love letters, and that she had denounced
Déroulède in order to be rid of him."
"Then let me tell you, Citizen-Deputy Merlin, that a true patriot
would have found those papers in Déroulède's, and not the woman's
room; that in the hands of a faithful servant of the Republic those
documents would not all have been destroyed, for he would have 'found'
one letter addressed to the Widow Capet, which would have proved
conclusively that Citizen-Deputy Déroulède was a traitor. That is what
a true patriot would have done--what I would have done. _Pardi!_
since Déroulède is so important a personage, since we must all put on
kid gloves when we lay hands upon him, then let us fight him with
other weapons. Are we aristocrats that we should hesitate to play the
part of jackal to this cunning fox? Citizen-Deputy Merlin, are you the
son of some ci-devant duke or prince that you dared not _forge_ a
document which would bring a traitor to his doom? Nay; let me tell
you, friends, that the Republic has no use for curs, and calls him a
traitor who allows one of her enemies to remain inviolate through his
cowardice, his terror of that intangible and fleeting shadow--the
wrath of a Paris mob."
Thunderous applause greeted this peroration, which had been delivered
with an accompaniment of violent gesture and a wealth of obscene
epithets, quite beyond the power of the mere chronicler to render.
Lenoir had a harsh, strident voice, very high pitched, and he spoke
with a broad, provincial accent, somewhat difficult to locate, but
quite unlike the hoarse, guttural tones of the low-class Parisian. His
enthusiasm made him seem impressive. He looked, in his ragged,
dust-stained clothes, the very personification of the squalid herd
which had driven culture, art, refinement to the scaffold in order to
make way for sordid vice, and satisfied lusts of hate.
A Jacobin orator.
Tinville alone had remained silent during Lenoir's impassioned
speech. It seemed to be his turn now to become surly. He sat picking
his teeth, and staring moodily at the enthusiastic orator, who had so
obviously diverted popular feeling in his own direction. And Tinville
brooked popularity only for himself.
"It is easy to talk now, Citizen--er--Lenoir. Is that your name?
Well, you are a comparative stranger here, Citizen Lenoir, and have
not yet proved to the Republic that you can do ought else but talk."
"If somebody did not talk, Citizen Tinville--is that your name?"
rejoined Lenoir, with a sneer--"if somebody didn't talk, nothing
would get done. You all sit here, and condemn the Citizen-Deputy
Merlin for being a fool, and I must say I am with you there, but..."
"_Pardi!_ tell us your 'but' citizen," said Tinville, for the
coal-heaver had paused, as if trying to collect his thoughts. He had
dragged a wine barrel to collect his thoughts. He had dragged a wine
barrel close to the trestle table, and now sat astride upon it, facing
Tinville and the group of Jacobins. The flickering tallow candle
behind him threw into bold silhouette his square, massive head,
crowned with its Phrygian cap, and the great breadth of his shoulders,
with the shabby knitted spencer and low, turned-down collar.
He had long, thin hands, which were covered with successive coats of
coal dust, and with these he constantly made weird gestures, as if in
the act of gripping some live thing by the throat.
"We all know that the Deputy Déroulède is a traitor, eh?" he said,
addressing the company in general.
"We do," came with uniform assent from all those present.
"Then let us put it to the vote. The Ayes mean death, the Noes
"Ay, ay!" came from every hoarse, parched throat; and twelve gaunt
hand were lifted up demanding death for Citizen-Deputy Déroulède.
"The Ayes have it," said Lenoir quietly, "Now all we need do is to
decide how best to carry out our purpose."
Merlin, very agreeable surprised to see public attention thus diverted
from his own misdeeds, had gradually lost his surly attitude. He too
dragged one of the wine barrels, which did duty for chairs, close to
the trestle table, and thus the members of the nameless Jacobin club
made a compact group, picturesque in its weird horror, its
uncompromising, flaunting ugliness.
"I suppose," said Tinville, who was loth to give up his position as
leader of these extremists--"I suppose, Citizen Lenoir, that you are
in position to furnish me with proofs of the Citizen-Deputy's guilt?"
"If I furnish you with such proofs, Citizen Tinville," retorted the
other, "will you, as Public Prosecutor, carry the indictment through?"
"It is my duty to publicly accuse those who are traitors to the
"And you, Citizen Merlin," queried Lenoir, "will you help the Republic
to the best of your ability to be rid of a traitor?"
"My services to the cause of our great Revolution are too well known
-" began Merlin.
But Lenoir interrupted him with impatience.
"_Pardi!_but we'll have no rhetoric now, Citizen Merlin. We all know
that you have blundered, and that the Republic cares little for those
of her sons who have failed, but whilst you are still Minister of
Justice the people of France have need of you--for bringing _other_
traitors to the guillotine."
He spoke this last phrase slowly and significantly, lingering on the
word "other," as if he wished its whole awesome meaning to penetrate
well into Merlin's brain.
"What is your advice then, Citizen Lenoir?"
Apparently, by unanimous consent, the coalheaver, from some obscure
province of France, had been tacitly acknowledged the leader of the
band. Merlin, still in terror for himself, looked to him for advice;
even Tinville was ready to be guided by him. All were at one in their
desire to rid themselves of Déroulède, who by his clean living, his
aloofness from their own hideous orgies and deadly hates, seemed a
living reproach to them all; and they all felt that in Lenoir there
must exist some secret dislike of the popular Citizen-Deputy, which
would give him a clear insight of how best to bring about his
"What is your advice?" had been Merlin's query, and everyone there
listened eagerly for what was to come.
"We are all agreed," commenced Lenoir quietly, "that just at this
moment it would be unwise to arraign the Citizen-Deputy without
material proof. The mob of Paris worship him, and would turn against
those who had tried to dethrone their idol. Now, Citizen Merlin failed
to furnish us with proofs of Déroulède's guilt. For the moment he is a
free man, and I imagine a wise one; within two days he will have
quitted this country, well knowing that, if he stayed long enough to
see his popularity wane, he would also outstay his welcome on earth
"Ay! Ay! said some of the men approvingly, whilst others laughed
hoarsely at the weird jest.
"I propose, therefore," continued Lenoir after a slight pause, "that
it shall be Citizen-Deputy Déroulède himself who shall furnish to the
people of France proofs of his own treason against the Republic."
"But how? But how?" rapid, loud and excited queries greeted this
extraordinary suggestion from the provincial giant.
"By the simplest means imaginable," retorted Lenoir with imperturbable
calm. "Isn't there a good proverb which our grandmothers used to
quote, that if you only give a man a sufficient length of rope, he is
sure to hang himself? We'll give our aristocratic Citizen-Deputy
plenty of rope, I'll warrant, if only our present Minister of
Justice," he added, indicating Merlin, "will help us in the little
comedy which I propose that we should play."
"Yes! Yes! Go on!" said Merlin excitedly.
"The woman who denounced Déroulède--that is our trump card,"
continued Lenoir, now waxing enthusiastic with his own scheme and his
own eloquence. "She denounced him. Ergo, he had been her lover, whom
she wished to be rid of--why? Not, as Citizen Merlin supposed,
because he had discarded her. No, no; she had another lover--she has
admitted that. She wished to be rid of Déroulède to make way for the
other, because he was too persistent--ergo, because he loved her."
"Well, and what does that prove?" queried Tinville with dry sarcasm.
"It proves that Déroulède, being in love with the woman, would do much
to save her from the guillotine."
"_Pardi!_ let him try, say I," rejoined Lenoir placidly. "Give him
the rope with which to hang himself."
"What does he mean?" asked one or two of the men, whose dull brains
had not quite as yet grasped the full meaning of this monstrous
"You don't understand what I mean, citizens; you think I am mad, or
drunk, or a traitor like Déroulède? _Eh bien!_ give me your attention
five minutes longer, and you shall see. Let me suppose that we have
reached the moment when the woman--what is her name? Oh! ah! yes!
Juliette Marny--stands in the Hall of Justice on her trial before the
Committee of Public Safety. Citizen Foucquier-Tinville, one of our
greatest patriots, reads the indictment against her: the papers
surreptitiously burnt, the torn, mysterious letter-case found in her
room. If these are presumed, in the indictment, to be treasonable
correspondence with the enemies of the Republic, condemnation follows
at once, then the guillotine. There is no defence, no respite. The
Minister of Justice, according to Article IX of the Law framed by
himself, allows no advocate to those directly accused of treason.
But," continued the giant, with slow and calm impressiveness, "in the
case of ordinary, civil indictments, offences against public morality
or matters pertaining to the penal code, the Minister of Justice
allows the accused to be publicly defended. Place Juliette Marny in
the dock on a treasonable charge, she will be hustled out of the court