Part 5 out of 5
"Ah, but you shall. How do you know this?"
"That I cannot tell you without betraying a confidence. Let it
suffice you that I do know it. Consider now whether in banishing
this profligate you have sufficiently avenged the honour of your
"My God, if I thought this were true...." He choked with rage,
stood shaking a moment, then strode to the door, calling.
"The truth is easily ascertained," said Madame. "Conceal yourself
in the Rittersaal, and await his coming forth. But you had best
go attended, for it is a very reckless rogue, and he has been
known aforetime to practice murder."
Whilst the Elector, acting upon this advice, was getting his men
together, Koenigsmark was wasting precious moments in Sophia's
antechamber, whilst Mademoiselle de Knesebeck apprised her
Highness of his visit. Sophia had already retired to bed, and
the amazing announcement of the Count's presence there startled
her into a fear of untoward happenings. She was overwhelmed, too,
by the rashness of this step of his, coming after the events
of yesterday. If it should be known that he had visited her
thus, terrible consequences might ensue. She rose, and with
Mademoiselle de Knesebeck's aid made ready to receive him. Yet
for all that she made haste, the precious irreclaimable moments
She came to him at last, Mademoiselle de Knesebeck following, for
"What is it?" she asked him breathlessly. "What brings you here
at such an hour?"
"What brings me?" quoth he, surprised at that reception. "Why,
your commands--your letter."
"My letter? What letter?"
A sense of doom, of being trapped, suddenly awoke in him. He
plucked forth the treacherous note, and proffered it.
"Why, what does this mean?" She swept a white hand over her eyes
and brows, as if to brush away some thing that obscured her
vision. "That is not mine. I never wrote it. How could you dream
I should be imprudent as to bid you hither, and at such an hour
How could you dream it?"
"You are right," said he, and laughed, perhaps to ease her alarm,
perhaps in sheer bitter mirth. "It will be, no doubt, the work of
our friend, Madame von Platen. I had best begone. For the rest,
my travelling chaise will wait from noon until sunset to-morrow
by the Markt Kirck in Hanover, and I shall wait within it. I
shall hope to conduct you safely to Wolfenbuttelyy."
"I will come, I will come. But go now--oh, go!"
He looked very deeply into her eyes--a valedictory glance against
the worst befalling him. Then he took her hand, bowed over it and
kissed it, and so departed.
He crossed the outer ante-room, descended the short flight of
stairs, and pushed open the heavy door of the Hall of Knights. He
passed through, and thrust the door behind him, then stood a
moment looking round the vast apartment. If he was too late to
avoid the springs of the baited trap, it was here that they
should snap upon him. Yet all was still. A single lamp on a table
in the middle of the vast chamber shed a feeble, flickering
light, yet sufficient to assure him that no one waited here. He
sighed relief, wrapped his cloak about him, and set out swiftly
to cross the hall.
But even as he passed, four shadows detached themselves from the
tall stove, resolved themselves into armed men, and sprang after
He heard them, wheeled about, flung off his cloak, and disengaged
his sword, all with the speed of lightning and the address of the
man who for ten years had walked amid perils, and learned to
depend upon his blade. That swift action sealed his doom. Their
orders were to take him living or dead, and standing in awe of
his repute, they were not the men to incur risks. Even as he came
on guard, a partisan grazed his head, and another opened his
He went down, coughing and gasping, blood dabbling his bright
golden hair, and staining the priceless Mechlin at his throat,
yet his right hand still desperately clutching his useless sword.
His assassins stood about him, their partisans levelled to strike
again, and summoned him to yield. Then, beside one of them, he
suddenly beheld the Countess von Platen materializing out of the
surrounding shadows as it seemed, and behind her the squat,
ungraceful figure of the Elector. He fought for breath.
"I am slain," he gasped, "and as I am to appear before my Maker
I swear to you that the Princess Sophia is innocent. Spare her at
least, your Highness."
"Innocent!" said the Elector hoarsely. "Then what did you now in
"It was a trap set for us by this foul hag, who . . ."
The heel of the vindictive harridan ground viciously upon the
lips of the dying man and choked his utterance. Thereafter the
halberts finished him off, and he was buried there and then, in
lime, under the floor of the Hall of Knights, under the very spot
where he had fallen, which was long to remain imbrued with his
Thus miserably perished the glittering Koenigsmark, a martyr to
his own irrepressible romanticism.
As for Sophia, better might it have been for her had she shared
his fate that night. She was placed under arrest next morning,
and Prince George was summoned back from Berlin at once.
The evidence may have satisfied him that his honour had not
suffered, for he was disposed to let the matter drop, content
that they should remain in the forbidding relations which had
existed between them before this happening. But Sophia was
uncompromising in her demand for strict justice.
"If I am guilty, I am unworthy of you," she told him. "If
innocent, you are unworthy of me."
There was no more to be said. A consistory court was assembled to
divorce them. But since with the best intentions there was no
faintest evidence of her adultery, this court had to be content
to pronounce the divorce upon the ground of her desertion.
She protested against the iniquity of this. But she protested in
vain. She was carried off into the grim captivity of a castle on
the Ahlen, to drag out in that melancholy duress another thirty-
two years of life.
Her death took place in November of 1726. And the story runs that
on her death-bed she delivered to a person of trust a letter to
her sometime husband, now King George I. of England. Seven months
later, as King George was on his way to his beloved Hanover, that
letter was placed in his carriage as it crossed the frontier into
Germany. It contained Sophia's dying declaration of innocence,
and her solemn summons to King George to stand by her side before
the judgment-seat of Heaven within a year, and there make answer
in her presence for the wrongs he had done her, for her blighted
life and her miserable death.
King George's answer to that summons was immediate. The reading
of that letter brought on the apoplectic seizure of which he died
in his carriage next day--the 9th of June, 1727--on the road to
XI. THE TYRANNICIDE
Charlotte Corday and Jean Paul Morat
Tyrannicide was the term applied to her deed by Adam Lux, her
lover in the sublimest and most spiritual sense of the word--for
he never so much as spoke to her, and she never so much as knew
of his existence.
The sudden spiritual passion which inflamed him when he beheld
her in the tumbril on her way to the scaffold is a fitting
corollary to her action. She in her way and he in his were alike
sublime; her tranquil martyrdom upon the altar of Republicanism
and his exultant martyrdom upon the altar of Love were alike
It is surely the strangest love-story enshrined in history. It
has its pathos, yet leaves no regrets behind, for there is no
might-have-been which death had thwarted. Because she died, he
loved her; because he loved her, he died. That is all, but for
the details which I am now to give you.
The convent-bred Marie Charlotte Corday d'Armont was the daughter
of a landless squire of Normandy, a member of the chetive
noblesse, a man of gentle birth, whose sadly reduced fortune may
have predisposed him against the law of entail or primogeniture--
the prime cause of the inequality out of which were sprung so
many of the evils that afflicted France. Like many of his order
and condition he was among the earliest converts to Republicanism--
the pure, ideal republicanism, demanding constitutional government
of the people by the people, holding monarchical and aristocratic
rule an effete and parasitic anachronism.
From M. de Corday Charlotte absorbed the lofty Republican
doctrines to which anon she was to sacrifice her life; and she
rejoiced when the hour of awakening sounded and the children of
France rose up and snapped the fetters in which they had been
trammelled for centuries by an insolent minority of their fellow-
In the early violence of the revolution she thought she saw a
transient phase--horrible, but inevitable in the dread convulsion
of that awakening. Soon this would pass, and the sane, ideal
government of her dreams would follow--must follow, since among
the people's elected representatives was a goodly number of
unselfish, single-minded men of her father's class of life; men
of breeding and education, impelled by a lofty altruistic
patriotism; men who gradually came to form a party presently to
be known as the Girondins.
But the formation of one party argues the formation of at least
another. And this other in the National Assembly was that of the
Jacobins, less pure of motive, less restrained in deed, a party
in which stood pre-eminent such ruthless, uncompromising men as
Robespierre, Danton,--and Marat.
Where the Girondins stood for Republicanism, the Jacobins stood
for Anarchy. War was declared between the two. The Girondins
arraigned Marat and Robespierre for complicity in the September
massacres, and thereby precipitated their own fall. The triumphant
acquittal of Marat was the prelude to the ruin of the Girondins,
and the proscription of twenty-nine deputies followed at once as
the first step. These fled into the country, hoping to raise an
army that should yet save France, and several of the fugitives
made their way to Caen. Thence by pamphlets and oratory they
laboured to arouse true Republican enthusiasm. They were gifted,
able men, eloquent speakers and skilled writers, and they might
have succeeded but that in Paris sat another man no less gifted,
and with surer knowledge of the temper of the proletariat,
tirelessly wielding a vitriolic pen, skilled in the art of
inflaming the passions of the mob.
That man was Jean Paul Marat, sometime medical practitioner,
sometime professor of literature, a graduate of the Scottish
University of St. Andrews, author of some scientific and many
sociological works, inveterate pamphleteer and revolutionary
journalist, proprietor and editor of L'Ami du Peuple, and idol of
the Parisian rabble, who had bestowed upon him the name borne by
his gazette, so that he was known as The People's Friend.
Such was the foe of the Girondins, and of the pure, altruistic,
Utopian Republicanism for which they stood; and whilst he lived
and laboured, their own endeavours to influence the people were
all in vain. From his vile lodging in the Rue de l'Ecole de
Medecine in Paris he span with his clever, wicked pen a web that
paralysed their high endeavours and threatened finally to choke
He was not alone, of course. He was one of the dread triumvirate
in which Danton and Robespierre were his associates. But to the
Girondins he appeared by far the most formidable and ruthless and
implacable of the three, whilst to Charlotte Corday--the friend
and associate now of the proscribed Girondins who had sought
refuge in Caen--he loomed so vast and terrible as to eclipse his
associates entirely. To her young mind, inflamed with enthusiasm
for the religion of Liberty as preached by the Girondins, Marat
was a loathly, dangerous heresiarch, threatening to corrupt that
sublime new faith with false, anarchical doctrine, and to replace
the tyranny that had been overthrown by a tyranny more odious
She witnessed in Caen the failure of the Girondin attempt to
raise an army with which to deliver Paris from the foul clutches
of the Jacobins. An anguished spectator of this failure, she saw
in it a sign that Liberty was being strangled at its birth. On
the lips of her friends the Girondins she caught again the name
of Marat, the murderer of Liberty; and, brooding, she reached a
conclusion embodied in a phrase of a letter which she wrote about
"As long as Marat lives there will never be any safety for the
friends of law and humanity."
From that negative conclusion to its positive, logical equivalent
it was but a step. That step she took. She may have considered
awhile the proposition thus presented to her, or resolve may have
come to her with realization. She understood that a great
sacrifice was necessary; that who undertook to rid France of that
unclean monster must go prepared for self-immolation. She counted
the cost calmly and soberly--for calm and sober was now her every
She made her packages, and set out one morning by the Paris coach
from Caen, leaving a note for her father, in which she had
"I am going to England, because I do not believe that it will be
possible for a long time to live happily and tranquilly in
France. On leaving I post this letter to you. When you receive it
I shall no longer be here. Heaven denied us the happiness of
living together, as it has denied us other happinesses. May it
show itself more clement to our country. Good-by, dear Father.
Embrace my sister for me, and do not forget me."
That was all. The fiction that she was going to England was
intended to save him pain. For she had so laid her plans that her
identity should remain undisclosed. She would seek Marat in the
very Hall of the Convention, and publicly slay him in his seat.
Thus Paris should behold Nemesis overtaking the false Republican
in the very Assembly which he corrupted, and anon should adduce a
moral from the spectacle of the monster's death. For herself she
counted upon instant destruction at the hands of the furious
spectators. Thus, thinking to die unidentified, she trusted that
her father, hearing, as all France must hear, the great tidings
that Marat was dead, would never connect her with the instrument
of Fate shattered by the fury of the mob.
You realize, then, how great and how terrible was the purpose of
this maid of twenty-five, who so demurely took her seat in the
Paris diligence on that July morning of the Year 2 of the
Republic--1793, old style. She was becomingly dressed in brown
cloth, a lace fichu folded across her well-developed breast, a
conical hat above her light brown hair. She was of a good height
and finely proportioned, and her carriage as full of dignity as
of grace. Her skin was of such white loveliness that a contemporary
compares it with the lily. Like Athene, she was gray-eyed, and,
like Athene, noble-featured, the oval of her face squaring a little
at the chin, in which there was a cleft. Calm was her habit, calm
her slow-moving eyes, calm and deliberate her movements, and calm
the mind reflected in all this.
And as the heavy diligence trundles out of Caen and takes the
open country and the Paris road, not even the thought of the
errand upon which she goes, of her death-dealing and death-
receiving mission, can shake that normal calm. Here is no wild
exaltation, no hysterical obedience to hotly-conceived impulse.
Here is purpose, as cold as it is lofty, to liberate France and
pay with her life for the privilege of doing so.
That lover of hers, whom we are presently to see, has compared
her ineptly with Joan of Arc, that other maid of France. But Joan
moved with pomp in a gorgeous pageantry, amid acclamations,
sustained by the heady wine of combat and of enthusiasm openly
indulged, towards a goal of triumph. Charlotte travelled quietly
in the stuffy diligence with the quiet conviction that her days
So normal did she appear to her travelling companions, that one
among them, with an eye for beauty, pestered her with amorous
attentions, and actually proposed marriage to her before the
coach had rolled over the bridge of Neuilly into Paris two days
She repaired to the Providence Inn in the Rue des Vieux
Augustine, where she engaged a room on the first floor, and then
she set out in quest of the Deputy Duperret. She had a letter of
introduction to him from the Girondin Barbaroux, with whom she
had been on friendly terms at Caen. Duperret was to assist her to
obtain an interview with the Minister of the Interior. She had
undertaken to see the latter on the subject of certain papers
relating to the affairs of a nun of Caen, an old convent friend
of her own, and she was in haste to discharge this errand, so as
to be free for the great task upon which she was come.
From inquiries that she made, she learnt at once that Marat was
ill, and confined to his house. This rendered necessary a change
of plans, and the relinquishing of her project of affording him a
spectacular death in the crowded hall of the Convention.
The next day, which was Friday, she devoted to furthering the
business of her friend the nun. On Saturday morning she rose
early, and by six o'clock she was walking in the cool gardens of
the Palais Royal, considering with that almost unnatural calm of
hers the ways and means of accomplishing her purpose in the
unexpected conditions that she found.
Towards eight o'clock, when Paris was awakening to the business
of the day and taking down its shutters, she entered a cutler's
shop in the Palais Royal, and bought for two francs a stout
kitchen knife in a shagreen case. She then returned to her hotel
to breakfast, and afterwards, dressed in her brown travelling-
gown and conical hat, she went forth again, and, hailing a
hackney carnage, drove to Marat's house in the Rue de l'Ecole de
But admittance to that squalid dwelling was denied her. The
Citizen Marat was ill, she was told, and could receive no
visitors. It was Simonne Everard, the triumvir's mistress--later
to be known as the Widow Marat--who barred her ingress with this
Checked, she drove back to the Providence Inn and wrote a letter
to the triumvir:
"Paris, 13th July, Year 2 of the Republic.
"Citizen,--I have arrived from Caen. Your love for your country
leads me to assume that you will be anxious to hear of the
unfortunate events which are taking place in that part of the
Republic. I shall therefore call upon you towards one o'clock.
Have the kindness to receive me, and accord me a moment's
audience. I shall put you in the way of rendering a great service
Having dispatched that letter to Marat, she sat until late
afternoon waiting vainly for an answer. Despairing at last of
receiving any, she wrote a second note, more peremptory in tone:
"I wrote to you this morning, Marat. Have you received my letter?
May I hope for a moment's audience? If you have received my
letter, I hope you will not refuse me, considering the importance
of the matter. It should suffice for you that I am very
unfortunate to give me the right to your protection."
Having changed into a gray-striped dimity gown--you observe this
further manifestation of a calm so complete that it admits of no
departure from the ordinary habits of life--she goes forth to
deliver in person this second letter, the knife concealed in the
folds of the muslin fichu crossed high upon her breast.
In a mean, brick-paved, ill-lighted, and almost unfurnished room
of that house in the Rue de l'Ecole de Medecine, the People's
Friend is seated in a bath. It is no instinct of cleanliness he
is obeying, for in all France there is no man more filthy in his
person and his habits than this triumvir. His bath is medicated.
The horrible, loathsome disease that corrodes his flesh demands
these long immersions to quiet the gnawing pains which distract
his active, restless mind. In these baths he can benumb the
torment of the body with which he is encumbered.
For Marat is an intellect, and nothing more--leastways, nothing
more that matters. What else there is to him of trunk and limbs
and organs he has neglected until it has all fallen into decay.
His very lack of personal cleanliness, the squalor in which he
lives, the insufficient sleep which he allows himself, his habit
of careless feeding at irregular intervals, all have their source
in his contempt for the physical part of him. This talented man
of varied attainments, accomplished linguist, skilled physician,
able naturalist and profound psychologist, lives in his intellect
alone, impatient of all physical interruptions. If he consents to
these immersions, if he spends whole days seated in this
medicated bath, it is solely because it quenches or cools the
fires that are devouring him, and thus permits him to bend his
mind to the work that ishis life. But his long-suffering body is
avenging upon the mind the neglect to which it has been
submitted. The morbid condition of the former is being
communicated to the latter, whence results that disconcerting
admixture of cold, cynical cruelty and exalted sensibility which
marked his nature in the closing years of his life.
In his bath, then, sat the People's Friend on that July evening,
immersed to the hips, his head swathed in a filthy turban, his
emaciated body cased in a sleeveless waistcoat. He is fifty years
of age, dying of consumption and other things, so that, did
Charlotte but know it, there is no need to murder him. Disease
and Death have marked him for their own, and grow impatient.
A board covering the bath served him for writing-table; an empty
wooden box at his side bore an inkstand, some pens, sheets of
paper, and two or three copies of L'Ami do Peuple. There was no
sound in the room but the scratch and splutter of his quill. He
was writing diligently, revising and editing a proof of the
forthcoming issue of his paper.
A noise of voices raised in the outer room invaded the quiet in
which he was at work, and gradually penetrated his absorption,
until it disturbed and irritated him. He moved restlessly in his
bath, listened a moment, then, with intent to make an end of the
interruption, he raised a hoarse, croaking voice to inquire what
might be taking place.
The door opened, and Simonne, his mistress and household drudge,
entered the room. She was fully twenty years younger than
himself, and under the slattern appearance which life in that
house had imposed upon her there were vestiges of a certain
"There is a young woman here from Caen, who demands insistently
to see you upon a matter of national importance."
The dull eyes kindle at the mention of Caen; interest quickens in
that leaden-hued countenance. Was it not in Caen that those old
foes of his, the Girondins, were stirring up rebellion?
"She says," Simonne continued, "that she wrote a letter to you
this morning, and she brings you a second note herself. I have
told her that you will not receive anyone, and . . ."
"Give me the note," he snapped. Setting down his pen, he thrust
out an unclean paw to snatch the folded sheet from Simonne's
hand. He spread it, and read, his bloodless lips compressed, his
eyes narrowing to slits.
"Let her in," he commanded sharply, and Simonne obeyed him
without more ado. She admitted Charlotte, and left them alone
together--the avenger and her victim. For a moment each regarded
the other. Marat beheld a handsome young woman, elegantly
attired. But these things had no interest for the People's
Friend. What to him was woman and the lure of beauty? Charlotte
beheld a feeble man of a repulsive hideousness, and was full
satisfied, for in this outward loathsomeness she imagined a
confirmation of the vileness of the mind she was come to blot
Then Marat spoke. "So you are from Caen, child?" he said. "And
what is doing in Caen that makes you so anxious to see me?"
She approached him.
"Rebellion is stirring there, Citizen Marat."
"Rebellion, ha!" It was a sound between a laugh and a croak.
"Tell me what deputies are sheltered in Caen. Come, child, their
names." He took up and dipped his quill, and drew a sheet of
paper towards him.
She approached still nearer; she came to stand close beside him,
erect and calm. She recited the names of her friends, the
Girondins, whilst hunched there in his bath his pen scratched
"So many for the guillotine," he snarled, when it was done.
But whilst he was writing, she had drawn the knife from her
fichu, and as he uttered those words of doom to others his own
doom descended upon him in a lightning stroke. Straight driven by
that strong young arm, the long, stout blade was buried to its
black hilt in his breast.
He looked at her with eyes in which there was a faint surprise as
he sank back. Then he raised his voice for the last time.
"Help, chere amie! Help!" he cried, and was for ever silent.
The hand still grasping the pen trailed on the ground beside the
bath at the end of his long, emaciated arm. His body sank
sideways in the same direction, the head lolling nervelessly upon
his right shoulder, whilst from the great rent in his breast the
blood gushed forth, embruing the water of his bath, trickling to
the brick-paved floor, bespattering--symbolically almost--a copy
of L'Ami du Peuple, the journal to which he had devoted so much
of his uneasy life.
In answer to that cry of his came now Simonne in haste. A glance
sufficed to reveal to her the horrible event, and, like a
tigress, she sprang upon the unresisting slayer, seizing her by
the head, and calling loudly the while for assistance. Came
instantly from the anteroom Jeanne, the old cook, the Fortress of
the house, and Laurent Basse, a folder of Marat's paper; and now
Charlotte found herself confronted by four maddened, vociferous
beings, at whose hands she may well have expected to receive the
death for which she was prepared.
Laurent, indeed, snatched up a chair, and felled her by a blow of
it across her head. He would, no doubt, have proceeded in his
fury to have battered her to death, but for the arrival of gens
d'armes and the police commissioner of the district, who took her
in their protecting charge.
The soul of Paris was convulsed by the tragedy when it became
known. All night terror and confusion were abroad. All night the
revolutionary rabble, in angry grief, surged about and kept watch
upon the house wherein the People's Friend lay dead.
That night, and for two days and nights thereafter, Charlotte
Corday lay in the Prison of the Abbaye, supporting with fortitude
the indignities that for a woman were almost inseparable from
revolutionary incarceration. She preserved throughout her
imperturbable calm, based now upon a state of mind content in the
contemplation of accomplished purpose, duty done. She had saved
France, she believed; saved Liberty, by slaying the man who would
have strangled it. In that illusion she was content. Her own life
was a small price to pay for the splendid achievement.
Some of her time of waiting she spent in writing letters to her
friends, in which tranquilly and sanely she dwelt upon what she
had done, expounding fully the motives that had impelled her,
dwelling upon the details of the execution, and of all that had
followed. Among the letters written by her during those "days of
the preparation of peace "--as she calls that period, dating in
such terms a long epistle to Barbaroux--was one to the Committee
of Public Safety, in which she begs that a miniature-painter may
be sent to her to paint her portrait, so that she may leave this
token of remembrance to her friends. It is only in this, as the
end approaches, that we see in her conduct any thought for her
own self, any suggestion that she is anything more than a
instrument in the hands of Fate.
On the 15th, at eight o'clock in the morning, her trial began
before the Revolutionary Tribunal. A murmur ran through the hall
as she appeared in her gown of grey-striped dimity, composed and
The trial opened with the examination of witnesses; into that of
the cutler, who had sold her the knife, she broke impatiently.
"These details are a waste of time. It is I who killed Marat."
The audience gasped, and rumbled ominously. Montane turned to
"What was the object of your visit to Paris?" he asks.
"To kill Marat."
"What motives induced you to this horrible deed?"
"His many crimes."
"Of what crimes do you accuse him?"
"That he instigated the massacre of September; that he kept alive
the fires of civil war, so that he might be elected dictator;
that he sought to infringe upon the sovereignty of the People by
causing the arrest and imprisonment of the deputies to the
Convention on May 31st."
"What proof have you of this?"
"The future will afford the proof. Marat hid his designs behind a
mask of patriotism."
Montane shifted the ground of his interrogatory.
"Who were your accomplices in this atrocious act?"
"I have none."
Montane shook his head. "You cannot convince anyone that a person
of your age and sex could have conceived such a crime unless
instigated by some person or persons whom you are unwilling to
Charlotte almost smiled. "That shows but a poor knowledge of the
human heart. It is easier to carry out such a project upon the
strength of one's own hatred than upon that of others." And then,
raising her voice, she proclaimed: "I killed one man to save a
hundred thousand; I killed a villain to save innocents; I killed
a savage Wild-beast to give repose to France. I was a Republican
before the Revolution. I never lacked for energy."
What more was there to say? Her guilt was completely established.
Her fearless self-ossession was not to be ruffled. Yet Fouquier-
Tinville, the dread prosecutor, made the attempt. Beholding her
so virginal and fair and brave, feeling perhaps that the Tribunal
had not had the best of it, he sought with a handful of
revolutionary filth to restore the balance. He rose slowly, his
ferrety eyes upon her.
"How many children have you had?" he rasped, sardonic, his tone a
slur, an insult.
Faintly her cheeks crimsoned. But her voice was composed,
disdainful, as she answered coldly:
"Have I not stated that I am not married?"
A leer, a dry laugh, a shrug from Tinville to complete the
impression he sought to convey, and he sat down again.
It was the turn of Chauveau de la Garde, the advocate instructed
to defend her. But what defence was possible? And Chauveau had
been intimidated. He had received a note from the jury ordering
him to remain silent, another from the President bidding him
declare her mad.
Yet Chauveau took a middle course. His brief speech is admirable;
it satisfied his self-respect, without derogating from his
client. It uttered the whole truth.
"The prisoner," he said, "confesses with calm the horrible crime
she has committed; she confesses with calm its premeditation; she
confesses its most dreadful details; in short, she confesses
everything, and does riot seek to justify herself. That, citizens
of the jury, is her whole defence. This imperturbable calm, this
utter abnegation of self, which displays no remorse even in the
very presence of death, are contrary to nature. They can only be
explained by the excitement of political fanaticism which armed
her hand. It is for you, citizens of the jury, to judge what
weight that moral consideration should have in the scales of
The jury voted her guilty, and Tinville rose to demand the full
sentence of the law.
It was the end. She was removed to the Conciergerie, the
antechamber of the guillotine. A constitutional priest was sent
to her, but she dismissed him with thanks, not requiring his
ministrations. She preferred the painter Hauer, who had received
the Revolutionary Tribunal's permission to paint her portrait in
accordance with her request. And during the sitting, which lasted
half an hour, she conversed with him quietly on ordinary topics,
the tranquillity of her spirit unruffled by any fear of the death
that was so swiftly approaching.
The door opened, and Sanson, the public executioner, came in. He
carried the red smock worn by those convicted of assassination.
She showed no dismay; no more, indeed, than a faint surprise that
the time spent with Hauer should have gone so quickly. She begged
for a few moments in which to write a note, and, the request
being granted, acquitted herself briskly of that task, then
announcing herself ready, she removed her cap that Sanson might
cut her luxuriant hair. Yet first, taking his scissors, she
herself cut off a lock and gave it to Hauer for remembrance. When
Sanson would have bound her hands, she begged that she might be
allowed to wear gloves, as her wrists were bruised and cut by the
cord with which she had been pinioned in Marat's house. He
answered that she might do so if she wished, but that it was
unnecessary, as he could bind her without causing pain.
"To be sure," she said, "those others had not your experience,"
and she proffered her bare wrists to his cord without further
demur. "If this toilet of death is performed by rude hands," she
commented, "at least it leads to immortality."
She mounted the tumbril awaiting in the prison yard, and,
disdaining the chair offered her by Sanson, remained standing, to
show herself dauntless to the mob and brave its rage. And fierce
was that rage, indeed. So densely thronged were the streets that
the tumbril proceeded at a crawl, and the people surging about
the cart screamed death and insult at the doomed woman. It took
two hours to reach the Place de la Revolution, and meanwhile a
terrific summer thunderstorm had broken over Paris, and a
torrential rain had descended upon the densely packed streets.
Charlotte's garments were soaked through and through, so that her
red smock, becoming glued now to her body and fitting her like a
skin, threw into relief its sculptural beauty, whilst a
reflection of the vivid crimson of the garment faintly tinged her
cheeks, and thus heightened her appearance of complete composure.
And it is now in the Rue St. Honore that at long last we reach
the opening of our tragic love-story.
A tall, slim, fair young man, named Adam Lux--sent to Paris by the
city of Mayence as Deputy Extraordinary to the National Convention--
was standing there in the howling press of spectators. He was an
accomplished, learned young gentleman, doctor at once of philosophy
and of medicine, although in the latter capacity he had never
practiced owing to an extreme sensibility of nature, which rendered
anatomical work repugnant to him. He was a man of a rather exalted
imagination, unhappily married--the not uncommon fate of such
delicate temperaments--and now living apart from his wife. He had
heard, as all Paris had heard, every detail of the affair, and of
the trial, and he waited there, curious to see this woman, with
whose deed he was secretly in sympathy.
The tumbril slowly approached, the groans and execrations swelled
up around him, and at last he beheld her--beautiful, serene, full
of life, a still smile upon her lips. For a long moment he gazed
upon her, standing as if stricken into stone. Then heedless of
those about him, he bared his head, and thus silently saluted and
paid homage to her. She did not see him. He had not thought that
she would. He saluted her as the devout salute the unresponsive
image of a saint. The tumbril crawled on. He turned his head, and
followed her with his eyes for awhile; then, driving his elbows
into the ribs of those about him, he clove himself a passage
through the throng, and so followed, bare-headed now, with fixed
gaze, a man entranced.
He was at the foot of the scaffold when her head fell. To the
last he had seen that noble countenance preserve its immutable
calm, and in the hush that followed the sibilant fall of the
great knife his voice suddenly rang out.
"She is greater than Brutus!" was his cry; and he added,
addressing those who stared at him in stupefaction: "It were
beautiful to have died with her!"
He was suffered to depart unmolested. Chiefly, perhaps because at
that moment the attention of the crowd was upon the executioner's
attendant, who, in holding up Charlotte's truncated head, slapped
the cheek with his hand. The story runs that the dead face
reddened under the blow. Scientists of the day disputed over this,
some arguing from it a proof that consciousness does not at once
depart the brain upon decapitation.
That night, while Paris slept, its walls were secretly placarded
with copies of a eulogy of Charlotte Corday, the martyr of
Republicanism, the deliverer of France, in which occurs the
comparison with Joan of Arc, that other great heroine of France.
This was the work of Adam Lux. He made no secret of it. The
vision of her had so wrought upon the imagination of this
susceptible dreamer, had fired his spirit with such enthusiasm,
that he was utterly reckless in yielding to his emotions, in
expressing the phrenetic, immaterial love with which in her last
moments of life she had inspired him.
Two days after her execution he issued a long manifesto, in which he
urged the purity of her motive as the fullest justification of her
act, placed her on the level of Brutus and Cato, and passionately
demanded for her the honour and veneration of posterity. It is in
this manifesto that he applies euphemistically to her deed the term
"tyrannicide." That document he boldly signed with his own name,
realizing that he would pay for that temerity with his life.
He was arrested on the 24th of July--exactly a week from the day
on which he had seen her die. He had powerful friends, and they
exerted themselves to obtain for him a promise of pardon and
release if he would publicly retract what he had written. But he
laughed the proposal to scorn, ardently resolved to follow into
death the woman who had aroused the hopeless, immaterial love
that made his present torment.
Still his friends strove for him. His trial was put off. A doctor
named Wetekind was found to testify that Adam Lux was mad, that
the sight of Charlotte Corday had turned his head. He wrote a
paper on this plea, recommending that clemency be shown to the
young doctor on the score of his affliction, and that he should
be sent to a hospital or to America. Adam Lux was angry when he
heard of this, and protested indignantly against the allegations
of Dr. Wetekind. He wrote to the Journal de la Montagne, which
published his declaration on the 26th of September, to the effect
that he was not mad enough to desire to live, and that his
anxiety to meet death half-way was a crowning proof of his
He languished on in the prison of La Force until the 10th of
October, when at last he was brought to trial. He stood it
joyously, in a mood of exultation at his approaching deliverance.
He assured the court that he did not fear the guillotine, and
that all ignominy had been removed from such a death by the pure
blood of Charlotte.
They sentenced him to death, and he thanked them for the boon.
"Forgive me, sublime Charlotte," he exclaimed, "if I should find
it impossible to exhibit at the last the courage and gentleness
that were yours. I glory in your superiority, for it is right
that the adored should be above the adorer."
Yet his courage did not fail him. Far from it, indeed; if hers
had been a mood of gentle calm, his was one of ecstatic
exaltation. At five o'clock that same afternoon he stepped from
the tumbril under the gaunt shadow of the guillotine. He turned
to the people, his eyes bright, a flush on his cheeks.
"At last I am to have the happiness of dying for Charlotte," he
told them, and mounted the scaffold with the eager step of the
bridegroom on his way to the nuptial altar.