Part 5 out of 7
therefore, allow any one to see it."
Rohan gave the required promise, but, not conceiving that the
Bohmers were included in it, he showed them the note and the Queen's
signature when they came to wait upon him with the necklace on the
In the dusk of evening a closed carriage drew up at the door of
Madame de la Motte Valois's lodging on the Place Dauphine at
Versailles. Rohan alighted, and went upstairs with a casket under
Madame awaited him in a white-panelled, indifferently lighted room,
to which there was an alcove with glass doors.
"You have brought the necklace?"
"It is here," he replied, tapping the box with his gloved hand.
"Her Majesty is expecting it to-night. Her messenger should arrive
at any moment. She will be pleased with Your Eminence."
"That is all that I can desire," he answered gravely; and sat down
in answer to her invitation, the precious casket on his knees.
Waiting thus, they talked desultorily for some moments. At last
came steps upon the stairs.
"Quick! The alcove!" she exclaimed. "You must not be seen by Her
Rohan, with ready understanding, a miracle of discretion, effaced
himself into the alcove, through the glass doors of which he could
see what passed.
The door was opened by madame's maid with the announcement:
"From the Queen."
A tall, slender young man in black, the Queen's attendant of that
other night of gems - the night of the Grove of Venus - stepped
quickly into the room, bowed like a courtier to Madame de la Motte,
and presented a note.
Madame broke the seal, then begged the messenger to withdraw for a
moment. When he had gone, she turned to the Cardinal, who stood
in the doorway of the alcove.
"That is Desclaux, Her Majesty's valet," she said; and held out to
him the note, which requested the delivery of the necklace to the
A moment later the messenger was reintroduced to receive the casket
from the hands of Madame de la Motte. Within five minutes the
Cardinal was in his carriage again, driving happily back to Paris
with his dreams of a queen's gratitude and confidence.
Two days later, meeting Bohmer at Versailles, the Cardinal suggested
to him that he should offer his thanks to the Queen for having
purchased the necklace.
Bohmer sought an opportunity for this in vain. None offered. It
was also in vain that he waited to hear that the Queen had worn
the necklace. But he does not appear to have been anxious on that
score. Moreover, the Queen's abstention was credibly explained by
Madame de la Motte to Laporte with the statement that Her Majesty
did not wish to wear the necklace until it was paid for.
With the same explanation she answered the Cardinal's inquiries in
the following July, when he returned from a three months' sojourn
And she took the opportunity to represent to him that one of the
reasons why the Queen could not yet consider the necklace quite
her own was that she found the price too high.
"Indeed, she may be constrained to return it, after all, unless
the Bohmers are prepared to be reasonable."
If His Eminence was a little dismayed by this, at least any nascent
uneasiness was quieted. He consented to see the jewellers in the
matter, and on July 10th - three weeks before the first instalment
was due - he presented himself at the Grand Balcon to convey the
Queen's wishes to the Bohmers.
Bohmer scarcely troubled to prevent disgust from showing on his
keen, swarthy countenance. Had not his client been a queen and
her intermediary a cardinal, he would, no doubt, have afforded it
"The price agreed upon was already greatly below the value of the
necklace," he grumbled. "I should never have accepted it but for
the difficulties under which we have been placed by the purchase
of the stones - the money we owe and the interest we are forced to
pay. A further reduction is impossible."
The handsome Cardinal was suave, courtly, regretful, but firm. Since
that was the case, there would be no alternative but to return the
Bohmer took fright. The annulment of the sale would bring him face
to face with ruin. Reluctantly, feeling that he was being imposed
upon, he reduced the price by two hundred thousand livres, and even
consented to write the Queen the following letter, whose epistolary
grace suggests the Cardinal's dictation:
MADAME, - We are happy to hazard the thought that our submission
with zeal and respect to the last arrangement proposed constitutes
a proof of our devotion and obedience to the orders of Your Majesty.
And we have genuine satisfaction in thinking that the most
beautiful set of diamonds in existence will serve to adorn the
greatest and best of queens.
Now it happened that Bohmer was about to deliver personally to the
Queen some jewels with which the King was presenting her on the
occasion of the baptism of his nephew. He availed himself of that
opportunity, two days later, personally to hand his letter to Her
Majesty. But chance brought the Comptroller-General into the room
before she had opened it, and as a result the jeweller departed
while the letter was, still unread.
Afterwards, in the presence of Madame de Campan, who relates the
matter in her memoirs, the Queen opened the note, pored over it a
while, and then, perhaps with vivid memories of Bohmer's threat of
"Listen to what that madman Bohmer writes to me," she said, and
read the lines aloud. "You guessed the riddles in the 'Mercure'
this morning. I wonder could you guess me this one."
And, with a half-contemptuous shrug, she held the sheet in the flame
of one of the tapers that stood alight on the table for the purpose
of sealing letters.
"That man exists for my torment," she continued. "He has always
some mad notion in his head, and must always be visiting it upon me.
When next you see him, pray convince him how little I care for
And there the matter was dismissed.
Days passed, and then a week before the instalment of 350,000 livres
was due, the Cardinal received a visit from Madame de la Motte on
the Queen's behalf.
"Her Majesty," madame announced, "seems embarrassed about the
instalment. She does not wish to trouble you by writing about it.
But I have thought of a way by which you could render yourself
agreeable to her and, at the same time, set her mind at rest. Could
you not raise a loan for the amount?"
Had not the Cardinal himself dictated to Bohmer a letter which
Bohmer himself had delivered to the Queen, he must inevitably have
suspected by now that all was not as it should be. But, satisfied
as he was by that circumstance, he addressed himself to the matter
which Madame de la Motte proposed. But, although Rohan was
extraordinarily wealthy, he had ever been correspondingly lavish.
Moreover, to complicate matters, there had been the bankruptcy of
his nephew, the Prince de Guimenee, whose debts had amounted to
some three million livres. Characteristically, and for the sake
of the family honour, Rohan had taken the whole of this burden
upon his own shoulders. Hence his resources were in a crippled
condition, and it was beyond his power to advance so considerable
a sum at such short notice. Nor did he succeed in obtaining a
loan within the little time at his disposal.
His anxieties on this score were increased by a letter from the
Queen which Madame de la Motte brought him on July 30th, in which
Her Majesty wrote that the first instalment could not be paid until
October 1st; but that on that date a payment of seven hundred
thousand livres - half of the revised price -would unfailingly be
made. Together with this letter, Madame de la Motte handed him
thirty thousand livres, interest on the instalment due, with which
to pacify the jewellers.
But the jewellers were not so easily to be pacified. Bohmer, at the
end of his patience, definitely refused to grant the postponement
or to receive the thirty thousand livres other than as on account
of the instalment due.
The Cardinal departed in vexation. Something must be done at once,
or his secret relations with the Queen would be disclosed, thus
precipitating a catastrophe and a scandal. He summoned Madame de
la Motte, flung her into a panic with his news and sent her away
to see what she could do. What she actually did would have
surprised him. Realizing that a crisis had been reached calling
for bold measures, she sent for Bassenge, the milder of the two
partners. He came to the Rue Neuve Saint-Gilles, protesting that
he was being abused.
"Abused?" quoth she, taking him up on the word. "Abused, do you
say?" She laughed sharply. "Say duped, my friend; for that is what
has happened to you. You are the victim of a swindle."
Bassenge turned white; his prominent eyes bulged in his rather
"What are you saying, madame?" His voice was husky.
"The Queen's signature on the note in the Cardinal's possession
is a forgery."
"A forgery! The Queen's signature? Oh, mon Dieu!" He stared at
her, and his knees began to tremble. "How do you know, madame?"
"I have seen it," she answered.
"But - but - "
His nerveless limbs succumbing under him, he sank without ceremony
to a chair that was opportunely near him. With the same lack of
ceremony, mechanically, in a dazed manner, he mopped the sweat
that stood in beads on his brow, then raised his wig and mopped
"There is no need to waste emotion," said she composedly. "The
Cardinal de Rohan is very rich. You must look to him. He will
Hope and doubt were blended in the question.
"What else?" she asked. "Can you conceive that he will permit
such a scandal to burst about his name and the name of the Queen?"
Bassenge saw light. The rights and wrongs of the case, and who
might be the guilty parties, were matters of very secondary
importance. What mattered was that the firm should recover the
14,000,000 livres for which the necklace had been sold; and
Bassenge was quick to attach full value to the words of Madame
de la Motte.
Unfortunately for everybody concerned, including the jewellers
themselves, Bohmer's mind was less supple. Panic-stricken by
Bassenge's report, he was all for the direct method. There was
no persuading him to proceed cautiously, and to begin by visiting
the Cardinal. He tore away to Versailles at once, intent upon
seeing the Queen. But the Queen, as we know, had had enough of
Bohmer. He had to content himself with pouring his mixture of
intercessions and demands into the ears of Madame de Campan.
"You have been swindled, Bohmer," said the Queen's lady promptly.
"Her Majesty never received the necklace."
Bohmer would not be convinced. Disbelieving, and goaded to fury,
he returned to Bassenge.
Bassenge, however, though perturbed, retained his calm. The
Cardinal, he insisted, was their security, and it was impossible
to doubt that the Cardinal would fulfil his obligations at all
costs, rather than be overwhelmed by a scandal.
And this, no doubt, is what would have happened but for that hasty
visit of Bohmer's to Versailles. It ruined everything. As a
result of it, Bohmer was summoned to wait instantly upon the Queen
in the mater of some paste buckles.
The Queen received the jeweller in private, and her greeting proved
that the paste buckles were a mere pretext. She demanded to know
the meaning of his words to Madame de Campan.
Bohmer could not rid himself of the notion that he was being trifled
with. Had he not written and himself delivered to the Queen a
letter in which he thanked her for purchasing the necklace, and had
not that letter remained unanswered - a silent admission that the
necklace was in her hands? In his exasperation he became insolent.
"The meaning, madame? The meaning is that I require payment for my
necklace, that the patience of my creditors is exhausted, and that
unless you order the money to be paid, I am a ruined man!"
Marie Antoinette considered him in cold, imperious anger.
"Are you daring to suggest that your necklace is in my possession?"
Bohmer was white to the lips, his hands worked nervously.
"Does Your Majesty deny it?"
"You are insolent!" she exclaimed. "You will be good enough to
answer questions, not to ask them. Answer me, then. Do you suggest
that I have your necklace?"
But a desperate man is not easily intimidated.
"No, madame; I affirm it! It was the Countess of Valois who - "
"Who is the Countess of Valois?"
That sudden question, sharply uttered, was a sword of doubt through
the heart of Bohmer's confidence. He stared wide-eyed a moment at
the indignant lady before him, then collected himself, and made as
plain a tale as he could of the circumstances under which he had
parted with the necklace Madame de la Motte's intervention, the
mediation of the Cardinal de Rohan with Her Majesty's signed
approval of the terms, and the delivery of the necklace to His
Eminence for transmission to the Queen.
Marie Antoinette listened in increasing horror and anger. A flush
crept into her pale cheeks.
"You will prepare and send me a written statement of what you have
just told me," she said. "You have leave to go."
That interview took place on August 9th. The 15th was the Feast of
the Assumption, and also the name-day of the Queen, therefore a
gala day at Court, bringing a concourse of nobility to Versailles.
Mass was to be celebrated in the royal chapel at ten o'clock, and
the celebrant, as by custom established for the occasion, was the
Grand Almoner of France, the Cardinal de Rohan.
But at ten o'clock a meeting was being held in the King's cabinet,
composed of the King and Queen, the Baron de Breteuil, and the
Keeper of the Seals, Miromesnil. They were met, as they believed,
to decide upon a course of action in the matter of a diamond
necklace. In reality, these puppets in the hands of destiny were
helping to decide the fate of the French monarchy.
The King, fat, heavy, and phlegmatic, sat in a gilded chair by an
ormolu-encrusted writing-table. His bovine eyes were troubled.
Two wrinkles of vexation puckered the flesh above his great nose.
Beside, and slightly behind him, stood the Queen, white and
imperious, whilst facing them stood Monsieur de Breteuil, reading
aloud the statement which Bohmer had drawn up.
When he had done, there was a moment's utter silence. Then the
King spoke, his voice almost plaintive.
"What is to be done, then? But what is to be done?"
It was the Queen who answered him, harshly and angrily.
"When the Roman purple and a princely title are but masks to cover
a swindler, there is only one thing to be done. This swindler must
be exposed and punished."
"But," the King faltered, "we have not heard the Cardinal."
"Can you think that Bohmer, that any man, would dare to lie upon
such a matter?"
"But consider, madame, the Cardinal's rank and family," calmly
interposed the prudent Miromesnil; "consider the stir, the scandal
that must ensue if this matter is made public."
But the obedient daughter of Marie Therese, hating Rohan at her
mother's bidding and for her mother's sake, was impatient of any
such wise considerations.
"What shall the scandal signify to us?" she demanded. The King
looked at Breteuil.
"And you, Baron? What is your view?"
Breteuil, Rohan's mortal enemy, raised his shoulders and flipped
"In the face of this, Sire, it seems to me that the only course is
to arrest the Cardinal."
"You believe, then - " began the King, and checked, leaving the
But Breteuil had understood.
"I know that the Cardinal must be pressed for money," he said.
"Ever prodigal in his expenditure, he is further saddled with the
debts of the Prince de Guimenee."
"And you can believe," the King cried, "that a Prince of the House
of Rohan, however pressed for money, could - Oh, it is unimaginable!"
"Yet has he not stolen my name?" the Queen cut in. "Is he not proven
a common, stupid forger?"
"We have not heard him," the King reminded her gently.
"And His Eminence might be able to explain," ventured Miromesnil.
"It were certainly prudent to give him the opportunity."
Slowly the King nodded his great, powdered head. "Go and find him.
Bring him at once!" he bade Breteuil; and Breteuil bowed and
Very soon he returned, and he held the door whilst the handsome
Cardinal, little dreaming what lay before him, serene and calm, a
commanding figure in his cassock of scarlet watered silk, rustled
forward into the royal presence, and so came face to face with the
Queen for the first time since that romantic night a year ago in
the Grove of Venus.
Abruptly the King launched his thunderbolt.
"Cousin," he asked, "what purchase is this of a diamond necklace
that you are said to have made in the Queen's name?"
King and Cardinal looked into each other's eyes, the King's
narrowing, the Cardinal's dilating, the King leaning forward in his
chair, elbows on the table, the Cardinal standing tense and suddenly
Slowly the colour ebbed from Rohan's face, leaving it deathly pale.
His eyes sought the Queen, and found her contemptuous glance, her
curling lip. Then at last his handsome head sank a little forward.
"Sire," he said unsteadily, "I see that I have been duped. But I
have duped nobody."
"You have no reason to be troubled, then. You need but to explain."
Explain! That was precisely what he could not do. Besides, what
was the nature of the explanation demanded of him? Whilst he stood
stricken there, it was the Queen who solved this question.
"If, indeed, you have been duped," she said scornfully, her colour
high, her eyes like points of steel, "you have been self-duped. But
even then it is beyond belief that self-deception could have urged
you to the lengths of passing yourself off as my intermediary - you,
who should know yourself to be the last man in France I should
employ, you to whom I have not spoken once in eight years." Tears
of anger glistened in her eyes; her voice shrilled up. "And yet,
since you have not denied it, since you put forward this pitiful
plea that you have been duped, we must believe the unbelievable."
Thus at a blow she shattered the fond hopes he had been cherishing
ever since the night of gems - of gems, forsooth! - in the Grove of
Venus; thus she laid his ambition in ruins about him, and left the
man himself half stunned.
Observing his disorder, the ponderous but kindly monarch rose.
"Come, my cousin," he said more gently, "collect yourself. Sit
down here and write what you may have to say in answer."
And with that he passed into the library beyond, accompanied by the
Queen and the two Ministers.
Alone, Rohan staggered forward and sank nervelessly into the chair.
He took up a pen, pondered a moment, and began to write. But he
did not yet see clear. He could not yet grasp the extent to which
he had been deceived, could not yet believe that those treasured
notes from Marie Antoinette were forgeries, that it was not the
Queen who had met him in the Grove of Venus and given him the rose
whose faded petals kept those letters company in a portfolio of red
morocco. But at least it was clear to him that, for the sake of
honour - the Queen's honour - he must assume it so; and in that
assumption he now penned his statement.
When it was completed, himself he bore it to the King in the
Louis read it with frowning brows; then passed it to the Queen.
"Have you the necklace now?" he asked Rohan.
"Sir, I left it in the hands of this woman Valois."
"Where is this woman?"
"I do not know, Sire."
"And the letter of authority bearing the Queen's signature, which
the jewellers say you presented to them - where is that?"
"I have it, Sire. I will place it before you. It is only now that
I realize that it is a forgery."
"Only now!" exclaimed the Queen in scorn.
"Her Majesty's name has been compromised," said the King sternly.
"It must be cleared. As King and as husband my duty is clear.
Your Eminence must submit to arrest."
Rohan fell back a step in stupefaction. For disgrace and dismissal
he was prepared, but not for this.
"Arrest?" he whispered. "Ah, wait, Sire. The publicity! The
scandal! Think of that! As for the necklace, I will pay for it
myself, and so pay for my credulous folly. I beseech you, Sire,
to let the matter end here. I implore it for my own sake, for the
sake of the Prince de Soubise and the name of Rohan, which would
be smirched unjustly and to no good purpose."
He spoke with warmth and force; and, without adding more, yet
conveyed an impression that much more could be said for the course
The King hesitated, considering. Noting this, the prudent,
far-seeing Miromesnil ventured to develop the arguments at which
Rohan had hinted, laying stress upon the desirability of avoiding
Louis was nodding, convinced, when Marie Antoinette, unable longer
to contain her rancour, broke into opposition of those prudent
"This hideous affair must be disclosed," she insisted. "It is due
to me that it should publicly be set right. The Cardinal shall
tell the world how he came to suppose that, not having spoken to
him for eight years, I could have wished to make use of his services
in the purchase of this necklace."
She was in tears, and her weak, easily swayed husband accounted her
justified in her demand. And so, to the great consternation of all
the world, Prince Louis de Rohan was arrested like a common thief.
A foolish, indiscreet, short-sighted woman had allowed her rancour
to override all other considerations - careless of consequences,
careless of injustice so that her resentment, glutted by her hatred
of the Cardinal, should be gratified. The ungenerous act was
terribly to recoil upon her. In tears and blood was she to expiate
her lack of charity; very soon she was to reap its bitter fruits.
Saint-Just, a very prominent counsellor of the Parliament, one of
the most advanced apostles of the new ideas that were to find full
fruition in the Revolution, expressed the popular feeling in the
"Great and joyful affair! A cardinal and a queen implicated in a
forgery and a swindle! Filth on the crosier and the sceptre! What
a triumph for the ideas of liberty!"
At the trial that followed before Parliament, Madame de la Motte,
a man named Reteaux de Villette - who had forged the Queen's hand
and impersonated Desclaux and a Mademoiselle d'Oliva - who had used
her striking resemblance to Marie Antoinette to impersonate the
Queen in the Grove of Venus were found guilty and sentenced. But
the necklace was not recovered. It had been broken up, and some
of the diamonds were already sold; others were being sold in London
by Captain de la Motte, who had gone thither for the purpose, and
who prudently remained there.
The Cardinal was acquitted, amid intense public joy and acclamation,
which must have been gall and wormwood to the Queen. His powerful
family, the clergy of France, and the very people, with whom he had
ever been popular, had all laboured strenuously to vindicate him.
And thus it befell that the one man the Queen had aimed at crushing
was the only person connected with the affair who came out of it
unhurt. The Queen's animus against the Cardinal aroused against her
the animus of his friends of all classes. Appalling libels of her
were circulated throughout Europe. It was thought and argued that
she was more deeply implicated in the swindle than had transpired,
that Madame de la Motte was a scapegoat, that the Queen should have
stood her trial with the others, and that she was saved only by the
royalty that hedged her.
Conceive what a weapon this placed in the hands of the men of the
new ideas of liberty - men who were bent on proving the corruption
of a system they sought to destroy!
Marie Antoinette should have foreseen something of this. She might
have done so had not her hatred blinded her, had she been less
intent upon seizing the opportunity at all costs to make Rohan pay
for his barbed witticism upon her mother. She might have been
spared much had she but spared Rohan when the chance was hers. As
it was, the malevolent echoes of the affair and of Saint-Just's
exultation were never out of her ears. They followed her to her
trial eight years later before the revolutionary tribunal. They
followed her to the very scaffold, of which they had undoubtedly
supplied a plank.
VIII, THE NIGHT OF TERROR
THE DROWNINGS AT NANTES UNDER CARRIER
The Revolutionary Committee of the city of Nantes, reinforced by
some of the administrators of the district and a few members of the
People's Society, sat in the noble hall of the Cour des Comptes,
which still retained much of its pre-republican sumptuousness. They
sat expectantly - Goullin, the attorney, president of the committee,
a frail, elegant valetudinarian, fierily eloquent; Grandmaison,
the fencing-master, who once had been a gentleman, fierce of eye
and inflamed of countenance; Minee, the sometime bishop, now
departmental president; Pierre Chaux, the bankrupt merchant; the
sans-culotte Forget, of the People's Society, an unclean, ill-kempt
ruffian; and some thirty others called like these from every walk
Lamps were lighted, and under their yellow glare the huddled company
- for the month was December, and the air of the vast room was
chill and dank - looked anxious and ill at ease.
Suddenly the doors were thrown open by an usher; and his voice rang
loud in announcement -
"The Citizen Representative Carrier."
The great man came in, stepping quickly. Of middle height, very
frail and delicate, his clay-colored face was long and thin, with
arched eyebrows, a high nose, and a loose, coarse mouth. His deeply
sunken dark eyes glared fiercely, and wisps of dead-black hair,
which had escaped the confining ribbon of his queue, hung about his
livid brow. He was wrapped in a riding-coat of bottle-green,
heavily lined with fur, the skirts reaching down to the tops of his
Hessian boots, and the enormous turned-up collar almost touching
the brim of his round hat. Under the coat his waist was girt with
the tricolour of office, and there were gold rings in his ears.
Such at the age of five-and-thirty was Jean Baptiste Carrier,
Representative of the Convention with the Army of the West, the
attorney who once had been intended by devout parents for the
priesthood. He had been a month in Nantes, sent thither to purge
the body politic.
He reached a chair placed in the focus of the gathering, which sat
in a semicircle. Standing by it, one of his lean hands resting
upon the back, he surveyed them, disgust in his glance, a sneer
curling his lip, so terrible and brutal of aspect despite his
frailness that more than one of those stout fellows quailed now
Suddenly he broke into torrential speech, his voice shrill and harsh:
"I do not know by what fatality it happens, but happen it does, that
during the month that I have been in Nantes you have never ceased
to give me reason to complain of you. I have summoned you to meet
me here that you may justify yourselves, if you can, for your
ineptitude!" And he flung himself into the chair, drawing his
fur-lined coat about him. "Let me hear from you!" he snapped.
Minee, the unfrocked bishop, preserving still a certain episcopal
portliness of figure, a certain episcopal oiliness of speech,
respectfully implored the representative to be more precise.
The invitation flung him into a passion. His irascibility, indeed,
deserved to become a byword.
"Name of a name!" he shrilled, his sunken eyes ablaze, his face
convulsed. "Is there a thing I can mention in this filthy city of
yours that is not wrong? Everything is wrong! You have failed in
your duty to provide adequately for the army of Vendee. Angers
has fallen, and now the brigands are threatening Nantes itself.
There is abject want in the city, disease is rampant; people are
dying of hunger in the streets and of typhus in the prisons. And
sacre nom! - you ask me to be precise! I'll be precise in telling
you where lies the fault. It lies in your lousy administration.
Do you call yourselves administrators? You - " He became
unprintable. "I have come here to shake you out of your torpor,
and by -- I'll shake you out of it or I'll have the blasted heads
off the lot of you."
They shivered with chill fear under the wild glare of his sunken
"Well?" he barked after a long pause. "Are you all dumb as well
It was the ruffian Forget who had the courage to answer him:
"I have told the People's Society that if the machine works badly
it is because the Citizen Carrier refuses to consult with the
"You told them that, did you, you -- liar?" screeched Carrier.
"Am I not here now to consult with you? And should I not have
come before had you suggested it? Instead, you have waited until,
of my own accord, I should come to tell you that your
administration is ruining Nantes."
Goullin, the eloquent and elegant Goullin, rose to soothe him:
"Citizen Representative, we admit the truth of all that you have
said. There has been a misunderstanding. We could not take it
upon ourselves to summon the august representative of the Sacred
People. I We have awaited your own good pleasure, and now that
you have made this manifest, there is no reason why the machine
should not work effectively. The evils of which you speak exist,
alas! But they are not so deeply rooted that, working under your
guidance and advice, we cannot uproot them, rendering the soil
fertile once more of good under the beneficent fertilizing showers
Mollified, Carrier grunted approval.
"That is well said, Citizen Goullin. The fertilizer needed by
the soil is blood - the bad blood of aristocrats and federalists,
and I can promise you, in the name of the august people, that it
shall be abundantly provided."
The assembly broke into applause, and his vanity melted to it. He
stood up, expressed his gratification at being so completely
understood, opened his arms, and invited the departmental president,
Minee, to come down and receive the kiss of brotherhood.
Thereafter they passed to the consideration of measures of
improvement, of measures to combat famine and disease. In Carrier's
view there was only one way of accomplishing this - the number of
mouths to be fed must be reduced, the diseased must be eliminated.
It was the direct, the radical, the heroic method.
That very day six prisoners in Le Bouffay had been sentenced to
death for attempting to escape.
"How do we know," he asked, "that those six include all the guilty?
How do we know that all in Le Bouffay do not share the guilt? The
prisoners are riddled with disease, which spreads to the good
patriots of Nantes; they eat bread, which is scarce, whilst good
patriots starve. We must have the heads off all those blasted
swine!" He took fire at his own suggestion. "Aye, that would be
a useful measure. We'll deal with it at once. Let some one fetch
the President of the Revolutionary Tribunal."
He was fetched - a man of good family and a lawyer, named Francois
"Citizen President," Carrier greeted him, "the administration of
Nantes has been considering an important measure. To-day you
sentenced to death six prisoners in Le Bouffay for attempting to
escape. You are to postpone execution so as to include all the
Bouffay prisoners in the sentence."
Although an ardent revolutionary, Phelippes was a logically minded
man with a lawyer's reverence for the sacredness of legal form.
This command, issued with such cynical coldness, and repudiated by
none of those present, seemed to him as grotesque and ridiculous
as it was horrible.
"But that is impossible, Citizen Representative," said he.
"Impossible!" snarled Carrier. "A fool's word. The administration
desires you to understand that it is not impossible. The sacred
will of the august people - "
Phelippes interrupted him without ceremony.
"There is no power in France that can countermand the execution of
a sentence of the law."
"No - no power!"
Carrier's loose mouth fell open. He was too amazed to be angry.
"Moreover," Phelippes pursued calmly, "there is the fact that all
the other prisoners in Le Bouffay are innocent of the offence for
which the six are to die."
"What has that to do with it?" roared Carrier. "Last year I rode
a she-ass that could argue better than you! In the name of --, what
has that to do with it?"
But there were members of the assembly who thought with Phelippes,
and who, whilst lacking the courage to express themselves, yet
found courage to support another who so boldly expressed them.
Carrier sprang up quivering with rage before that opposition. "It
seems to me," he snarled, "that there are more than the scoundrels
in Le Bouffay who need to be shortened by a head for the good of
the nation. I tell you that you are slaying the commonweal by your
slowness and circumspection. Let all the scoundrels perish!"
A handsome, vicious youngster named Robin made chorus.
"Patriots are without bread! It is fitting that the scoundrels
should die, and not eat the bread of starving patriots."
Carrier shook his fist at the assembly.
"You hear, you --! I cannot pardon whom the law condemns."
It was an unfortunate word, and Phelippes fastened on it.
"That is the truth, Citizen Representative," said Phelippes. "And
as for the prisoners in Le Bouffay, you will wait until the law
And without staying to hear more, he departed as firmly as he had
come, indifferent to the sudden uproar.
When he had gone, the Representative flung himself into his chair
again, biting his lip.
"There goes a fellow who will find his way to the guillotine in
time," he growled.
But he was glad to be rid of him, and would not have him brought
back. He saw how the opposition of Phelippes had stiffened the
weaker opposition of some of those in the assembly. If he was to
have his way he would contrive better without the legal-minded
President of the Revolutionary Tribunal. And his way he had in
the end, though not until he had stormed and cursed and reviled the
few who dared to offer remonstrances to his plan of wholesale
When at last he took his departure, it was agreed that the assembly
should proceed to elect a jury which was to undertake the duty of
drawing up immediately a list of those confined in the prisons of
Nantes. This list they were to deliver when ready to the committee,
which would know how to proceed, for Carrier had made his meaning
perfectly clear. The first salutary measure necessary to combat
the evils besetting the city was to wipe out at once the inmates of
all the prisons in Nantes.
In the chill December dawn of the next day the committee - which
had sat all night under the presidency of Goullin forwarded a list
of some five hundred prisoners to General Boivin, the commandant
of the city of Nantes, together with an order to collect them
without a moment's delay, take them to L'Eperonniere, and there
have them shot.
But Boivin was a soldier, and a soldier is not a sans-culotte. He
took the order to Phelippes, with the announcement that he had no
intention of obeying it. Phelippes, to Boivin's amazement, agreed
with him. He sent the order back to the committee, denouncing it
as flagrantly illegal, and reminding them that it was illegal to
remove any prisoner, no matter by whose order, without such an order
as might follow upon a decision of the Tribunal.
The committee, intimidated by this firmness on the part of the
President of the Revolutionary Tribunal, dared not insist, and
there the matter remained.
When Carrier learnt of it the things he said were less than ever
fit for publication. He raved like a madman at the very thought
that a quibbling lawyer should stand in the very path of him, the
august representative of the Sacred People.
It had happened that fifty-three priests, who had been brought to
Nantes a few days before, were waiting in the sheds of the entrepot
for prison accommodation, so that their names did not yet appear
upon any of the prison registers. As a solatium to his wounded
feelings, he ordered his friends of the Marat Company to get rid
Lamberty, the leader of the Marats, asked him how it should be done.
"How?" he croaked. "Not so much mystery, my friend. Fling the
swine into the water, and so let's be rid of them. There will be
plenty of their kind left in France."
But he seems to have explained himself further, and what precisely
were his orders, and how they were obeyed, transpires from a letter
which he wrote to the Convention, stating that those fifty-three
wretched priests, "being confined in a boat on the Loire, were last
night swallowed up by the river." And he added the apostrophe,
"What a revolutionary torrent is the Loire!"
The Convention had no illusions as to his real meaning; and when
Carrier heard that his letter had been applauded by the National
Assembly, he felt himself encouraged to break down all barriers of
mere legality that might obstruct his path. And, after all, what
the Revolutionary Committee as a body - intimidated by Phelippes
- dared not do could be done by his faithful and less punctilious
friends of the Marat Company.
This Marat Company, the police of the Revolutionary Committee,
enrolled from the scourings of Nantes' sans-culottism, and
captained by a ruffian named Fleury, had been called into being by
Carrier himself with the assistance of Goullin.
On the night of the 24th Frimaire of the year III (December 14, 1793,
old style), which was a Saturday, Fleury mustered some thirty of his
men, and took them to the Cour des Comptes, where they were awaited
by Goullin, Bachelier, Grandmaison, and some other members of the
committee entirely devoted to Carrier. From these the Marats
received their formal instructions.
"Plague," Goullin informed them, "is raging in the gaols, and its
ravages must be arrested. You will therefore proceed this evening
to the prison of Le Bouffay in order to take over the prisoners
whom you will march up to the Quay La Fosse, whence they will be
shipped to Belle Isle."
In a cell of that sordid old building known as Le Bouffay lay a
cocassier, an egg and poultry dealer, arrested some three years
before upon a charge of having stolen a horse, and since forgotten.
His own version was that a person of whom he knew very little had
entrusted him with the sale of the stolen animal in possession of
which he was discovered.
The story sounds familiar; it is the sort of story that must have
done duty many times; and it is probable that the cocassier was no
better than he should have been. Nevertheless Fate selected him
to be one of her unconscious instruments. His name was Leroy, and
we have his own word for it that he was a staunch patriot. The
horse business was certainly in the best vein of sans-culottism.
Leroy was awakened about ten o'clock that night by sounds that were
very unusual in that sombre, sepulchral prison. They were sounds
of unbridled revelry - snatches of ribald song, bursts of coarse,
reverberating laughter and they proceeded, as it seemed to him,
from the courtyard and the porter's lodge.
He crawled from the dank straw which served him for a bed, and
approached the door to listen. Clearly the porter Laqueze was
entertaining friends and making unusually merry. It was also to be
gathered that Laqueze's friends were getting very drunk. What the
devil did it mean?
His curiosity was soon to be very fully gratified. Came heavy steps
up the stone staircase, the clatter of sabots, the clank of weapons,
and through the grille of his door an increasing light began to beat.
Some one was singing the "Carmagnole" in drunken, discordant tones.
Keys rattled, bolts were drawn; doors were being flung open. The
noise increased. Above the general din he heard the detestable
voice of the turnkey.
"Come and see my birds in their cages. Come and see my pretty birds."
Leroy began to have an uneasy premonition that the merrymaking
portended sinister things.
"Get up, all of you!" bawled the turnkey. "Up and pack your traps.
You're to go on a voyage. No laggards, now. Up with you!"
The door of Leroy's cell was thrown open in its turn, and he found
himself confronting a group of drunken ruffians. One of these - a
red-capped giant with long, black mustaches and a bundle of ropes
over one arm suddenly pounced upon him. The cocassier was an active,
vigorous young man. But, actuated by fear and discretion, he
permitted himself tamely to be led away.
Along the stone-flagged corridor he went, and on every hand beheld
his fellow-prisoners in the same plight, being similarly dragged
from their cells and similarly hurried below. At the head of the
stairs one fellow, perfectly drunk, was holding a list, hiccupping
over names which he garbled ludicrously as he called them out. He
was lighted in his task by a candle held by another who was no less
drunk. The swaying pair seemed to inter-support one another
Leroy suffered himself to be led down the stairs, and so came to
the porter's lodge, where he beheld a half-dozen Marats assembled
round a table, with bumpers of wine before them, bawling, singing,
cursing, and cracking lewd jests at the expense of each prisoner
as he entered. The place was in a litter. A lamp had been smashed,
and there was a puddle of wine on the floor from a bottle that had
been knocked over. On a bench against the wall were ranged a number
of prisoners, others lay huddled on the floor, and all of them
Two or three of the Marats lurched up to Leroy, and ran their hands
over him, turning out his pockets, and cursing him foully for their
emptiness. He saw the same office performed upon others, and saw
them stripped of money, pocket-books, watches, rings, buckles, and
whatever else of value they happened to possess. One man, a priest,
was even deprived of his shoes by a ruffian who was in want of
As they were pinioning his wrists, Leroy looked up. He confesses
that he was scared.
"What is this for?" he asked. "Does it mean death?"
With an oath he was bidden to ask no questions.
"If I die," he assured them, "you will be killing a good republican."
A tall man with an inflamed countenance and fierce, black eyes, that
were somewhat vitreous, now leered down upon him.
"You babbling fool! It's not your life, it's your property we want."
This was Grandmaison, the fencing-master, who once had been a
gentleman. He had been supping with Carrier, and he had only just
arrived at Le Bouffay, accompanied by Goullin. He found the work
behind time, and told them so.
"Leave that fellow now, Jolly. He's fast enough. Up and fetch the
rest. It's time to be going . . . time to be going."
Flung aside now that he was pinioned, Leroy sat down on the floor
and looked about him. Near him an elderly man was begging for a cup
of water. They greeted the prayer with jeering laughter.
"Water! By Sainte Guillotine, he asks for water!" The drunken
sans-culottes were intensely amused. "Patience, my friend -
patience, and you shall drink your fill. You shall drink from the
Soon the porter's lodge was crowded with prisoners, and they were
overflowing into the passage.
Came Grandmaison cursing and swearing at the sluggishness of the
Marats, reminding them - as he had been reminding them for the last
hour - that it was time to be off, that the tide was on the ebb.
Stimulated by him, Jolly - the red-capped giant with the black
mustaches - and some others of the Marat Company, set themselves
to tie the prisoners into chains of twenty, further to ensure
against possible evasion. They were driven into the chilly
courtyard, and there Grandmaison, followed by a fellow with a
lantern, passed along the ranks counting them.
The result infuriated him.
"A hundred and five!" he roared, and swore horribly. "You have been
here nearly five hours, and in all that time you have managed to
truss up only a hundred and five. Are we never to get through with
it? I tell you the tide is ebbing. It is time to be off."
Laqueze, the porter of Le Bouffay, with whose food and wine those
myrmidons of the committee had made so disgracefully free, came to
assure him that he had all who were in the prison.
"All?" cried Grandmaison, aghast. "But according to the list there
should have been nearer two hundred." And he raised his voice to
call: "Goullin! Hola, Goullin! Where the devil is Goullin?"
"The list," Laqueze told him, "was drawn up from the register. But
you have not noted that many have died since they came - we have
had the fever here - and that a few are now in hospital."
"In hospital! Bah! Go up, some of you, and fetch them. We are
taking them somewhere where they will be cured." And then he
hailed the elegant Goullin, who came up wrapped in a cloak. "Here's
a fine bathing-party!" he grumbled. "A rare hundred of these swine!"
Goullin turned to Laqueze.
"What have you done with the fifteen brigands I sent you this
"But they only reached Nantes to-day," said Laqueze, who understood
nothing of these extraordinary proceedings. "They have not yet
been registered, not even examined."
"I asked you what you have done with them?" snapped Goullin.
"They are upstairs."
"Then fetch them. They are as good as any others."
With these, and a dozen or so dragged from sick-beds, the total was
made up to about a hundred and thirty.
The Marats, further reinforced now by half a company of National
Guards, set out from the prison towards five o'clock in the morning;
urging their victims along with blows and curses.
Our cocassier found himself bound wrist to wrist with a young
Capuchin brother, who stumbled along in patient resignation, his
head bowed, his lips moving as if he were in prayer.
"Can you guess what they are going to do with us?" murmured Leroy.
He caught the faint gleam of the Capuchin's eyes in the gloom.
"I do not know, brother. Commend yourself to God, and so be prepared
for whatever may befall."
The answer was not very comforting to a man of Leroy's temperament.
He stumbled on, and they came now upon the Place du Bouffay, where
the red guillotine loomed in ghostly outline, and headed towards
the Quai Tourville. Thence they were marched by the river the whole
length of the Quai La Fosse. Fear spreading amongst them, some
clamours were raised, to be instantly silenced by blows and
assurances that they were to be shipped to Belle Isle, where they
were to be set to work to build a fort.
The cocassier thought this likely enough, and found it more
comforting than saying his prayers - a trick which he had long
As they defiled along the quays, an occasional window was thrown
up, and an inquisitive head protruded, to be almost instantly
On the Cale Robin at last they were herded into a shed which opened
on to the water. Here they found a large lighter alongside, and
they beheld in the lantern-light the silhouettes of a half-dozen
shipwrights busily at work upon it, whilst the place rang with the
blows of hammers and the scream of saws.
Some of those nearest the barge saw what was being done. Two great
ports were being opened in the vessel's side, and over one of these
thus opened the shipwrights were nailing planks. They observed that
these ports, which remained above the water-line now that the barge
was empty, would be well below it once she were laden, and conceiving
that they perceived at last the inhuman fate awaiting them, their
terror rose again. They remembered snatches of conversation and
grim jests uttered by the Marats in Le Bouffay, which suddenly
became clear, and the alarm spreading amongst them, they writhed
and clamoured, screamed for mercy, cursed and raved.
Blows were showered upon them. In vain was it sought to quiet them
again with that fable of a fort to be constructed on Belle Isle.
One of them in a frenzy of despair tore himself free of his bonds,
profited by a moment of confusion, and vanished so thoroughly that
Grandmaison and his men lost a quarter of an hour seeking him in
vain, and would have so spent the remainder of the night but for a
sharp word from a man in a greatcoat and a round hat who stood
looking on in conversation with Goullin.
"Get on, man! Never mind that one! We'll have him later. It will
be daylight soon. You've wasted time enough already."
It was Carrier.
He had come in person to see the execution of his orders, and at
his command Grandmaison now proceeded to the loading. A ladder was
set against the side of the lighter by which the prisoners were to
descend. The cords binding them in chains were now severed, and
they were left pinioned only by the wrists. They were ordered to
embark. But as they were slow to obey, and as some, indeed, hung
back wailing and interceding, he and Jolly took them by their
collars, thrust them to the edge, and bundled them neck and crop
down into the hold, recking nothing of broken limbs. Finding this
method of embarkation more expeditious, the use of the ladder was
Among the last to be thus flung aboard was our cocassier Leroy.
He fell soft upon a heaving, writhing mass of humanity, which only
gradually shook down and sorted itself out on the bottom of the
lighter when the hatches overhead were being nailed down. Yet by
an odd chance the young Capuchin and Leroy, who had been companions
in the chain, were not separated even now. Amid the human welter
in that agitated place of darkness, the cries and wails that rang
around him, Leroy recognized the voice of the young friar exhorting
them to prayer.
They were in the stern of the vessel, against one of the sides, and
Leroy, who still kept a grip on the wits by which he had lived, bade
the Capuchin hold up his wrists. Then he went nosing like a dog,
until at last he found them, and his strong teeth fastened upon the
cord that bound them, and began with infinite patience to gnaw it
Meanwhile that floating coffin had left its moorings and was gliding
with the stream. On the hatches sat Grandmaison, with Jolly and two
other Marats, howling the "Carmagnole" to drown the cries of the
wretches underneath, and beating time with their feet upon the deck.
Leroy's teeth worked on like a rat's until at last the cord was
severed. Then, lest they should be parted in the general heaving
and shifting of that human mass, those teeth of his fastened upon
the Capuchin's sleeve.
"Take hold of me!" he commanded as distinctly as he could; and the
Capuchin gratefully obeyed. "Now untie my wrists!"
The Capuchin's hands slid along Leroy's arms until they found his
hands, and there his fingers grew busy, groping at the knots. It
was no easy matter to untie them in the dark, guided by sense of
touch alone. But the friar was persistent and patient, and in the
end the last knot ran loose, and our cocassier was unpinioned.
It comforted him out of all proportion to the advantage. At least
his hands were free for any emergency that might offer. That he
depended in such a situation, and with no illusions as to what was
to happen, upon emergency, shows how tenacious he was of hope.
He had been released not a moment too soon. Overhead, Grandmaison
and his men were no longer singing. They were moving about.
Something bumped against the side of the vessel, near the bow,
obviously a boat, and voices came up from below the level of the
deck. Then the lighter shuddered under a great blow upon the planks
of the forecastle port. The cries in the hold redoubled. Panting,
cursing, wailing men hurtled against Leroy, and almost crushed him
for a moment under their weight as the vessel heaved to starboard.
Came a succession of blows, not only on the port in the bow, but
also on that astern. There was a cracking and rending of timbers,
and the water rushed in.
Then the happenings in that black darkness became indescribably
horrible. In their frenzy not a few had torn themselves free of
their bonds. These hurled themselves towards the open ports through
which the water was pouring. They tore at the planks with desperate,
lacerated hands. Some got their arms through, seeking convulsively
to widen the openings and so to gain an egress. But outside in the
shipwrights' boat stood Grandmaison, the fencing-master, brandishing
a butcher's sword.
With derision and foul objurgations he slashed at protruding arms
and hands, thrust his sword again and again through the port into
that close-packed, weltering mass, until at last the shipwrights
backed away the boat to escape the suction of the sinking lighter.
The vessel, with its doomed freight of a hundred and thirty human
lives, settled down slowly by the head, and the wailing and cursing
was suddenly silenced as the icy waters of the Loire eddied over it
and raced on.
Caught in the swirl of water, Leroy had been carried up against the
deck of the lighter. Instinctively he had clutched at a crossbeam.
The water raced over his head, and then, to his surprise, receded,
beat up once or twice as the lighter grounded, and finally settled
on a level with his shoulders.
He was quick to realize what had happened. The lighter had gone
down by the head on a shallow. Her stern remained slightly
protruding, so that in that part of her between the level of the
water and the deck there was a clear space of perhaps a foot or a
foot and a half. Yet of the hundred and thirty doomed wretches on
board he was the only one who had profited by this extraordinary
Leroy hung on there; and thereafter for two hours, to use his own
expression, he floated upon corpses. A man of less vigorous mettle,
moral and physical, could never have withstood the ordeal of a two
hours' immersion in the ice-cold water of that December morning.
Leroy clung on, and hoped. I have said that he was tenacious of
hope. And soon after daybreak he was justified of his confidence
in his luck. As the first livid gleams of light began to suffuse
the water in which he floated, a creaking of rowlocks and a sound
of voices reached his ears. A boat was passing down the river.
Leroy shouted, and his voice rang hollow and sepulchral on the
morning stillness. The creak of oars ceased abruptly. He shouted
again, and was answered. The oars worked now at twice their former
speed. The boat was alongside. Blows of a grapnel tore at the
planking of the deck until there was a hole big enough to admit the
passage of his body.
He looked through the faint mist which he had feared never to see
again, heaved himself up with what remained him of strength until
his breast was on a level with the deck, and beheld two men in a
But, exhausted by the effort, his numbed limbs refused to support
him. He sank back, and went overhead, fearing now, indeed, that
help had arrived too late. But as he struggled to the surface the
bight of a rope smacked the water within the hold. Convulsively
he clutched it, wound it about one arm, and bade them haul.
Thus they dragged him out and aboard their own craft, and put him
ashore at the nearest point willing out of humanity to do so much,
but daring to do no more when he had told them how he came where
they had found him.
Half naked, numbed through and through, with chattering teeth and
failing limbs, Leroy staggered into the guard-house at Chantenay.
Soldiers of the Blues stripped him of his sodden rags, wrapped him
in a blanket, thawed him outwardly before a fire and inwardly with
gruel, and then invited him to give an account of himself.
The story of the horse will have led you to suppose him a ready liar.
He drew now upon that gift of his, represented himself as a mariner
from Montoir, and told a harrowing tale of shipwreck. Unfortunately,
he overdid it. There was present a fellow who knew something of the
sea, and something of Montoir, to whom Leroy's tale did not ring
quite true. To rid themselves of responsibility, the soldiers
carried him before the Revolutionary Committee of Nantes.
Even here all might have gone well with him, since there was no
member of that body with seacraft to penetrate his imposture. But
as ill-chance would have it, one of the members sitting that day
was the black-mustached sans-culotte Jolly, the very man who had
dragged Leroy out of his cell last night and tied him up.
At sight of him Jolly's eyes bulged in his head.
"Where the devil have you come from?" he greeted him thunderously.
Leroy quailed. Jolly's associates stared. But Jolly explained to
"He was of last night's bathing party. And he has the impudence
to come before us like this. Take him away and shove him back into
But Bachelier, a man who, next to the President Goullin, exerted
the greatest influence in the committee, was gifted with a sense
of humour worthy of the Revolution. He went off into peals of
laughter as he surveyed the crestfallen cocassier, and, perhaps
because Leroy's situation amused him, he was disposed to be humane.
"No, no!" he said. "Take him back to Le Bouffay for the present.
Let the Tribunal deal with him."
So back to Le Bouffay went Leroy, back to his dungeon, his fetid
straw and his bread and water, there to be forgotten again, as he
had been forgotten before, until Fate should need him.
It is to him that we owe most of the materials from which we are
able to reconstruct in detail that first of Carrier's drownings on
a grand scale, conceived as an expeditious means of ridding the
city of useless mouths, of easing the straitened circumstances
resulting from misgovernment.
Very soon it was followed by others, and, custom increasing Carrier's
audacity, these drownings - there were in all some twenty-three
noyades - ceased to be conducted in the secrecy of the night, or to
be confined to men. They were made presently to include women - of
whom at one drowning alone, in Novose, three hundred perished under
the most revolting circumstances - and even little children. Carrier
himself admitted that during the three months of his rule some three
thousand victims visited the national bathing-place, whilst other,
and no doubt more veracious, accounts treble that number of those
who received the National Baptism.
Soon these wholesale drownings had become an institution, a sort of
national spectacle that Carrier and his committee felt themselves
in duty bound to provide.
But at length a point was reached beyond which it seemed difficult
to continue them. So expeditious was the measure, that soon the
obvious material was exhausted. The prisons were empty. Yet habits,
once contracted, are not easily relinquished. Carrier would be
looking elsewhere for material, and there was no saying where he
might look, or who would be safe. Soon the committee heard a rumour
that the Representative intended to depose it and to appoint a new
one, whereupon many of its members, who were conscious of
lukewarmness, began to grow uneasy.
Uneasy, too, became the members of the People's Society. They had
sent a deputation to Carrier with suggestions for the better conduct
of the protracted campaign of La Vendee. This was a sore point
with the Representative. He received the patriots with the foulest
abuse, and had them flung downstairs by his secretaries.
Into this atmosphere of general mistrust and apprehension came the
most ridiculous Deus ex machina that ever was in the person of the
very young and very rash Marc Antoine Jullien. His father, the
Deputy Jullien, was an intimate of Robespierre's, by whose influence
Marc Antoine was appointed to the office of Agent of the Committee
of Public Safety, and sent on a tour of inspection to report upon
public feeling and the conduct of the Convention's Representatives.
Arriving in Nantes at the end of January of '94, one of Marc
Antoine's first visits happened to be to the People's Society,
which was still quivering with rage at the indignities offered by
Carrier to its deputation.
Marc Antoine was shocked by what he heard, so shocked that instead
of going to visit the Representative on the morrow, he spent the
morning inditing a letter to Robespierre, in which he set forth in
detail the abuses of which Carrier was guilty, and the deplorable
state of misery in which he found the city of Nantes.
That night, as Marc Antoine was sinking into the peaceful slumber
of the man with duty done, he was rudely aroused by an officer and
a couple of men of the National Guard, who announced to him that
he was under arrest, and bade him rise and dress.
Marc Antoine flounced out of bed in a temper, and flaunted his
credentials. The officer remained unmoved. He was acting upon
orders from the Citizen Representative.
Still in a temper, Marc Antoine hurriedly dressed himself. He would
soon show this Representative that it is not safe to trifle with
Agents of the Public Safety. The Citizen Representative should hear
from him. The officer, still unimpressed, bundled him into a waiting
carriage, and bore him away to the Maison Villetreux, on the island
where Carrier had his residence.
Carrier had gone to bed. But he was awake, and he sat up promptly
when the young muscadin from Paris was roughly thrust into his room
by the soldiers. The mere sight of the Representative sufficed to
evaporate Marc Antoine's anger, and with it his courage.
Carrier's pallor was of a grey-green from the rage that possessed
him. His black eyes smouldered like those of an animal seen in the
gloom, and his tumbled black hair, fluttering about his moist brow,
increased the terrific aspect of his countenance. Marc Antoine
shrank and was dumb.
"So," said Carrier, regarding him steadily, terribly, "you are the
thing that dares to denounce me to the Safety, that ventures to
find fault with my work!" From under his pillow he drew Marc
Antoine's letter to Robespierre. "Is this yours?"
At the sight of this violation of his correspondence with the
Incorruptible, Marc Antoine's indignation awoke, and revived his
"It is mine," he answered. "By what right have you intercepted it?"
"By what right?" Carrier put a leg out of bed. "So you question
my right, do you? You have so imposed yourself upon folk that you
are given powers, and you come here to air them, by "
"You shall answer to the Citizen Robespierre for your conduct,"
Marc Antoine threatened him.
"Aha!" Carrier revealed his teeth in a smile of ineffable
wickedness. He slipped from the bed, and crouching slightly as if
about to spring, he pointed a lean finger at his captive.
"You are of those with whom it is dangerous to deal publicly, and
you presume upon that. But you can be dealt with privily, and you
shall. I have you, and, by -- , you shall not escape me, you -- !"
Marc Antoine looked into the Representative's face, and saw there
the wickedness of his intent. He stiffened. Nature had endowed
him with wits, and he used them now.
"Citizen Carrier," he said, "I understand. I am to be murdered
to-night in the gloom and the silence. But you shall perish after
me in daylight, and amid the execrations of the people. You may
have intercepted my letters to my father and to Robespierre. But
if I do not leave Nantes, my father will come to ask an account of
you, and you will end your life on the scaffold like the miserable
assassin that you are."
Of all that tirade, but one sentence had remained as if corroded
into the mind of Carrier. "My letters to my father and to
Robespierre," the astute Marc Antoine had said. And Marc Antoine
saw the Representative's mouth loosen, saw a glint of fear replace
the ferocity in his dark eyes.
What Marc Antoine intended to suggest had instantly leapt to
Carrier's mind - that there had been a second letter which his
agents had missed. They should pay for that. But, meanwhile, if
it were true, he dare not for his neck's sake go further in this
matter. He may have suspected that it was not true. But he had
no means of testing that suspicion. Marc Antoine, you see, was
"Your father?"growled the Representative. "Who is your father?"
"The Deputy Jullien."
"What?" Carrier straightened himself, affecting an immense
astonishment. "You are the son of the Deputy Julien?" He burst
into a laugh. He came forward, holding out both his hands. He
could be subtle, too, you see. "My friend, why did you not say
so sooner? See in what a ghastly mistake you have let me flounder.
I imagined you - of course, it was foolish of me - to be a
proscribed rascal from Angers, of the same name."
He had fallen upon Marc Antoine's neck, and was embracing him.
"Forgive me, my friend!" he besought him. "Come and dine with me
to-morrow, and we will laugh over it together."
But Marc Antoine had no mind to dine with Carrier, although he
promised to do so readily enough. Back at his inn, scarce
believing that he had got away alive, still sweating with terror
at the very thought of his near escape, he packed his valise,
and, by virtue of his commission, obtained post-horses at once.
On the morrow from Angers, safe beyond the reach of Carrier, he
wrote again to Robespierre, and this time also to his father.
"In Nantes," he wrote, "I found the old regime in its worst form."
He knew the jargon of Liberty, the tune that set the patriots
a-dancing. "Carrier's insolent secretaries emulate the intolerable
haughtiness of a ci-devant minister's lackeys. Carrier himself
lives surrounded by luxury, pampered by women 'and parasites,
keeping a harem and a court. He tramples justice in the mud. He
has had all those who filled the prisons flung untried into the
Loire. The city of Nantes," he concluded, "needs saving. The
Vendean revolt must be suppressed, and Carrier the slayer of Liberty
The letter had its effect, and Carrier was recalled to Paris, but
not in disgrace. Failing health was urged as the solicitous reason
for his retirement from the arduous duties of governing Nantes.
In the Convention his return made little stir, and even when early
in the following July he learnt that Bourbotte, his successor at
Nantes, had ordered the arrest of Goullin, Bachelier, Grandmaison,
and his other friends of the committee, on the score of the
drownings and the appropriation of national property confiscated
from emigres, he remained calm, satisfied that his own position was
But the members of the Committee of Nantes were sent to Paris for
trial, and their arrival there took place on that most memorable
date in the annals of the Revolution, the 10th Thermidor (July 29,
1794, O.S.), the day on which Robespierre fell and the floodgates
of vengeance upon the terrorists were flung open.
You have seen in the case of Marc Antoine Jullien how quick Carrier
could be to take a cue. In a coach he followed the tumbril that
bore Robespierre to execution, radiant of countenance and shouting
with the loudest, "Death to the traitor!" On the morrow from the
rostrum of the Convention, he passionately represented himself as
a victim of the fallen tyrant, cleverly turning to his own credit
the Marc Antoine affair, reminding the Convention how he had
himself been denounced to Robespierre. He was greeted with applause
in that atmosphere of Thermidorean reaction.
But Nemesis was stalking him relentlessly if silently.
Among a batch of prisoners whom a chain of curious chances had
brought from Nantes to Paris was our old friend Leroy the cocassier,
required now as a witness against the members of the committee.
Having acquainted the court with the grounds of his arrest, and the
fact that for three years he had lain forgotten and without trial
in the pestilential prison of Le Bouffay, Leroy passed on to a
recital of his sufferings on that night of terror when he had gone
down the Loire in the doomed lighter. He told his tale with an
artlessness that rendered it the more moving and convincing. The
audience crowding the chamber of justice shuddered with horror,
and sobbed over the details of his torments, wept for joy over his
miraculous preservation. At the close he was applauded on all
sides, which bewildered him a little, for he had never known
anything but abuse in all his chequered life.
And then, at the promptings of that spirit of reaction that was
abroad in those days when France was awakening from the nightmare
of terror, some one made there and then a collection on his behalf,
and came to thrust into his hands a great bundle of assignats and
bank bills, which to the humble cocassier represented almost a
fortune. It was his turn to weep.
Then the crowd in the court which had heard his story shouted for
the head of Carrier. The demand was taken up by the whole of Paris,
and finally his associates of the Convention handed him over to the
He came before it on November 25th, and he could not find counsel
to defend him. Six advocates named in succession by the President
refused to plead the cause of so inhuman a monster. In a rage, at
last Carrier announced that he would defend himself. He did.
He took the line that his business in Nantes had been chiefly
concerned with provisioning the Army of the West; that he had had
little to do with the policing of Nantes, which he left entirely to
the Revolutionary Committee; and that he had no knowledge of the
things said to have taken place. But Goullin, Bachelier, and the
others were there to fling back the accusation in their endeavours
to save their own necks at the expense of his.
He was sentenced on the very anniversary of that terrible night on
which the men of the Marat Company broke into the prison of Le
Bouffay, and he was accompanied in the tumbril by Grandmaison the
pitiless, who was now filled with self-pity to such an extent that
he wept bitterly.
The crowd, which had hooted and insulted him from the Conciergerie
to the Place de Greve, fell suddenly silent as he mounted the
scaffold, his step firm, but his shoulders bowed, and his eyes upon
Suddenly upon the silence, grotesquely, horribly merry, broke the
sound of a clarinet playing the "Ca ira!"
Jerking himself erect, Carrier turned and flung the last of his
terrible glances at the musician.
A moment later the knife fell with a thud, and a bleeding head
rolled into the basket, the eyes still staring, but powerless now
to inspire terror.
Upon the general silence broke an echo of the stroke.
"Vlan!" cried a voice. "And there's a fine end to a great drowner!"
It was Leroy the cocassier. The crowd took up the cry.
IX. THE NIGHT OF NUPTIALS
CHARLES THE BOLD AND SAPPHIRA DANVELT
When Philip the Good succumbed at Bruges of an apoplexy in the early
part of the year 1467, the occasion was represented to the stout
folk of Flanders as a favourable one to break the Burgundian yoke
under which they laboured. It was so represented by the agents of
that astute king, Louis XI, who ever preferred guile to the direct
and costly exertion of force.
Charles, surnamed the Bold (le Temeraire), the new Duke of Burgundy,
was of all the French King's enemies by far the most formidable and
menacing just then; and the wily King, who knew better than to
measure himself with a foe that was formidable, conceived a way to
embarrass the Duke and cripple his resources at the very outset of
his reign. To this end did he send his agents into the Duke's Flemish
dominions, there to intrigue with the powerful and to stir up the
spirit of sedition that never did more than slumber in the hearts of
those turbulent burghers.
It was from the Belfry Tower of the populous, wealthy city of Ghent
- then one of the most populous and wealthy cities of Europe - that
the call to arms first rang out, summoning the city's forty thousand
weavers to quit their looms and take up weapons - the sword, the
pike, and that arm so peculiarly Flemish, known as the goedendag.
>From Ghent the fierce flame of revolt spread rapidly to the valley
of the Meuse, and the scarcely less important city of Liege, where
the powerful guilds of armourers and leather workers proved as ready
for battle as the weavers of Ghent.
They made a brave enough show until Charles the Bold came face to
face with them at Saint-Trond, and smashed the mutinous burgher army
into shards, leaving them in their slaughtered thousands upon the
The Duke was very angry. He felt that the Flemings had sought to
take a base advantage of him at a moment when it was supposed he
would not be equal to protecting his interests, and he intended to
brand it for all time upon their minds that it was not safe to take
such liberties with their liege lord. Thus, when a dozen of the
most important burghers of Liege came out to him very humbly in
their shirts, with halters round their necks, to kneel in the dust
at his feet and offer him the keys of the city, he spurned the
offer with angry disdain.
"You shall be taught," he told them, "how little I require your
keys, and I hope that you will remember the lesson for your own
On the morrow his pioneers began to smash a breach, twenty fathoms
wide, in one of the walls of the city, rolling the rubble into the
ditch to fill it up at the spot. When the operation was complete,
Charles rode through the gap, as a conqueror, with vizor lowered
and lance on thigh at the head of his Burgundians, into his city
of Liege, whose fortifications he commanded should be permanently
That was the end of the Flemish rising of 1467 against Duke Charles
the Bold of Burgundy. The weavers returned to their looms, the
armourers to their forges, and the glove-makers and leather workers
to their shears. Peace was restored; and to see that it was kept,
Charles appointed military governors of his confidence where he
deemed them necessary.
One of these was Claudius von Rhynsault, who had followed the Duke's
fortunes for some years now, a born leader of men, a fellow of
infinite address at arms and resource in battle, and of a bold,
reckless courage that nothing could ever daunt. It was perhaps this
last quality that rendered him so esteemed of Charles, himself named
the Bold, whose view of courage was that it was a virtue so lofty
that in the nature of its possessor there could, perforce, be
So now, to mark his esteem of this stalwart German, the Duke made
him Governor of the province of Zeeland, and dispatched him thither
to stamp out there any lingering sparks of revolt, and to rule it
in his name as ducal lieutenant.
Thus, upon a fair May morning, came Claud of Ryhnsault and his hardy
riders to the town of Middelburg, the capital of Zeeland, to take up
his residence at the Gravenhof in the main square, and thence to
dispense justice throughout that land of dykes in his master's
princely name. This justice the German captain dispensed with
merciless rigour, conceiving that to be the proper way to uproot
rebellious tendencies. It was inevitable that he should follow such
a course, impelled to it by a remorseless cruelty in his nature, of
which the Duke his master had seen no hint, else he might have
thought twice before making him Governor of Zeeland, for Charles
- despite his rigour when treachery was to be punished - was a just
and humane prince.
Now, amongst those arrested and flung into Middelburg gaol as a
result of Rhynsault's ruthless perquisitions and inquisitions was
a wealthy young burgher named Philip Danvelt. His arrest was
occasioned by a letter signed "Philip Danvelt" found in the house
of a marked rebel who had been first tortured and then hanged. The
letter, of a date immediately preceding the late rising, promised
assistance in the shape of arms and money.
Brought before Rhynsault for examination, in a cheerless hall of
the Gravenhof, Danvelt's defence was a denial upon oath that he had
ever taken or offered to take any part in the rebellion. Told of
the letter found, and of the date it bore, he laughed. That letter
made everything very simple and clear. At the date it bore he had
been away at Flushing marrying a wife, whom he had since brought
thence to Middelburg. It was ludicrous, he urged, to suppose that
in such a season - of all seasons in a man's life - he should have
been concerned with rebellion or correspondence with rebels, and,
urging this, he laughed again.
Now, the German captain did not like burghers who laughed in his
presence. It argued a lack of proper awe for the dignity of his
office and the importance of his person. From his high seat at
the Judgment-board, flanked by clerks and hedged about by
men-at-arms, he scowled upon the flaxen-haired, fresh-complexioned
young burgher who bore himself so very easily. He was a big,
handsome man, this Rhynsault, of perhaps some thirty years of age.
His thick hair was of a reddish brown, and his beardless face was
cast in bold lines and tanned by exposure to the colour of mahogany,
save where the pale line of a scar crossed his left cheek.
"Yet, I tell you, the letter bears your signature," he grumbled
"My name, perhaps," smiled the amiable Danvelt, "but assuredly not
"Herrgott!" swore the German captain. "Is this a riddle? What is
Feeling himself secure, that very foolish burgher ventured to be
"It is a riddle that the meanest of your clerks there can read for
you," said he.
The Governor's blue eyes gleamed like steel as they, fastened upon
Danvelt, his heavy jaw seemed to thrust itself forward, and a dull
flush crept into his cheeks. Then he swore.
"Beim blute Gottes!" quoth he, "do you whet your trader's wit upon
And to the waiting men-at-arms:
"Take him back to his dungeon," he commanded, "that in its quiet
he may study a proper carriage before he is next brought before us."
Danvelt was haled away to gaol again, to repent him of his pertness
and to reflect that, under the governorship of Claudius von Rhynsault,
it was not only the guilty who had need to go warily.
The Governor sat back in his chair with a grunt. His secretary, on
his immediate right, leaned towards him.
"It were easy to test the truth of the man's assertion," said he.
"Let his servants and his wife attend and be questioned as to when
he was in Flushing and when married."
"Aye," growled von Rhynsault. "Let it be done. I don't doubt we
shall discover that the dog was lying."
But no such discovery was made when, on the morrow, Danvelt's
household and his wife stood before the Governor to answer his
questions. Their replies most fully bore out the tale Danvelt had
told, and appeared in other ways to place it beyond all doubt that
he had taken no part, in deed or even in thought, in the rebellion
against the Duke of Burgundy. His wife protested it solemnly and
"To this I can swear, my lord," she concluded. "I am sure no
evidence can be brought against him, who was ever loyal and ever
concerned with his affairs and with me at the time in question.
My lord" - she held out her hands towards the grim German, and her
lovely eyes gleamed with unshed tears of supplication - "I implore
you to believe me, and in default of witnesses against him to
restore my husband to me."
Rhynsault's blue eyes kindled now as they considered her, and his
full red lips slowly parted in the faintest and most inscrutable
of smiles. She was very fair to look upon - of middle height and
most exquisite shape. Her gown, of palest saffron, edged with fur,
high-waisted according to the mode, and fitted closely to the
gently swelling bust, was cut low to display the white perfection
of her neck. Her softly rounded face looked absurdly childlike
under the tall-crowned hennin, from which a wispy veil floated
behind her as she moved.
In silence, then, for a spell, the German mercenary pondered her
with those slowly kindling eyes, that slowly spreading, indefinite
smile. Then he stirred, and to his secretary he muttered shortly:
"The woman lies. In private I may snare the truth from her."
He rose - a tall, massively imposing figure in a low-girdled tunic
of deep purple velvet, open at the breast, and gold-laced across a
white silken undervest.
"There is some evidence," he informed her gruffly. "Come with me,
and you shall see it for yourself."
He led the way from that cheerless hall by a dark corridor to a
small snug room, richly hung and carpeted, where a servant waited.
He dismissed the fellow, and in the same breath bade her enter,
watching her the while from under lowered brows. One of her women
had followed; but admittance was denied her. Danvelt's wife must
enter his room alone.
Whilst she waited there, with scared eyes and fluttering bosom, he
went to take from an oaken coffer the letter signed "Philip Danvelt."
He folded the sheet so that the name only was to be read, and came
to thrust it under her eyes.
"What name is that?" he asked her gruffly.
Her answer was very prompt.
"It is my husband's, but not the writing - it is another hand; some
other Philip Danvelt; there will be others in Zeeland."
He laughed softly, looking at her ever with that odd intentness,
and under his gaze she shrank and cowered in terror; it spoke to her
of some nameless evil; the tepid air of the luxurious room was
"If I believed you, your husband would be delivered from his prison
- from all danger; and he stands, I swear to you, in mortal peril."
"Ah, but you must believe me. There are others who can bear witness."
"I care naught for others," he broke in, with harsh and arrogant
contempt. Then he softened his voice to a lover's key. "But I might
accept your word that this is not your husband's hand, even though
I did not believe you."
She did not understand, and so she could only stare at him with those
round, brown eyes of hers dilating, her lovely cheeks blanching with
"Why, see," he said at length, with an easy, gruff good-humour, "I
place the life of Philip Danvelt in those fair hands to do with as
you please. Surely, sweeting, you will not be so unkind as to
And as he spoke his face bent nearer to her own, his flaming eyes
devoured her, and his arm slipped softly, snake-like round her to
draw her to him. But before it had closed its grip she had started
away, springing back in horror, an outcry already on her pale lips.
"One word," he admonished her sharply, "and it speaks your husband's
"Oh, let me go, let me go!" she cried in anguish.
"And leave your husband in the hangman's hands?" he asked.
"Let me go! Let me go!" was all that she could answer him,
expressing the only thought of which in that dread moment her mind
That and the loathing on her face wounded his vanity for this beast
was vain. His manner changed, and the abysmal brute in him was
revealed in the anger he displayed. With foul imprecations he drove
Next day a messenger from the Governor waited upon her at her house
with a brief note to inform her that her husband would be hanged
upon the morrow. Incredulity was succeeded by a numb, stony,
dry-eyed grief, in which she sat alone for hours - a woman entranced.
At last, towards dusk, she summoned a couple of her grooms to
attend and light her, and made her way, ever in that odd
somnambulistic state, to the gaol of Middelburg. She announced
herself to the head gaoler as the wife of Philip Danvelt, lying
under sentence of death, and that she was come to take her last
leave of him. It was not a thing to be denied, nor had the gaoler
any orders to deny it.
So she was ushered into the dank cell where Philip waited for his
doom, and by the yellow wheel of light of the lantern that hung
from the shallow vaulted ceiling she beheld the ghastly change
that the news of impending death had wrought in him. No longer
was he the self-assured young burgher who, conscious of his
innocence and worldly importance, had used a certain careless
insolence with the Governor of Zeeland. Here she beheld a man of
livid and distorted face, wild-eyed, his hair and garments in
disarray, suggesting the physical convulsions to which he had
yielded in his despair and rage.
"Sapphira!" he cried at sight of her. A sigh of anguish and he
flung himself, shuddering and sobbing, upon her breast. She put
her arms about him, soothed him gently, and drew him back to the
wooden chair from which he had leapt to greet her.
He took his head in his hands and poured out the fierce anguish of
his soul. To die innocent as he was, to be the victim of an
arbitrary, unjust power! And to perish at his age!
Hearing him rave, she shivered out of an agony of compassion and
also of some terror for herself. She would that he found it less
hard to die. And thinking this she thought further, and uttered
some of her thought aloud.
"I could have saved you, my poor Philip."
He started up, and showed her again that livid, distorted face of
"What do you mean?" he asked hoarsely. "You could have saved me,
do you say? Then - then why - "
"Ah, but the price, my dear," she sobbed.
"Price?" quoth he in sudden, fierce contempt. "What price is too
great to pay for life? Does this Rhynsault want all our wealth,
then yield it to him yield it so that I may live - "
"Should I have hesitated had it been but that?" she interrupted.
And then she told him, whilst he sat there hunched and shuddering.
"The dog! The foul German dog!" he muttered through clenched teeth.
"So that you see, my dear," she pursued brokenly, "it was too great
a price. Yourself, you could not have condoned it, or done aught
else but loathe me afterwards."
But he was not as stout-mettled as she deemed him, or else the
all-consuming thirst of life, youth's stark horror of death, made
him a temporizing craven in that hour.
"Who knows?" he answered. "Certes, I do not. But a thing so done,
a thing in which the will and mind have no part, resolves itself
perhaps into a sacrifice - "
He broke off there, perhaps from very shame. After all he was a
man, and there are limits to what manhood will permit of one.
But those words of his sank deeply into her soul. They rang again
and again in her ears as she took her anguished way home after the
agony of their farewells, and in the end they drove her out again
that very night to seek the Governor of Zeeland.
Rhynsault was at supper when she came, and without quitting the
table bade them usher her into his presence. He found her very
white, but singularly calm and purposeful in her bearing.
"May I speak to you alone?"
Her voice was as steady as her glance.
He waved away the attendants, drank a deep draught from the cup at
his elbow, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and sat back
in his tall chair to hear her.
"Yesterday," she said, "you made, or seemed to make, me a proposal."
He looked up at first in surprise, then with a faint smile on his
coarse, red mouth. His glance had read her meaning clearly.
"Look you, mistress, here I am lord of life and death. Yet in the
case of your husband I yield up that power to you. Say but the word
and I sign the order for his gaol delivery at dawn."
"I have come to say that word," she informed him.
A moment he looked up at her, his smile broadening, a flush mounting
to his cheek-bones. Then he rose and sent his chair crashing behind
him to the ground.
"Herrgott!" he grunted; and he gathered her slim, trembling body to
his massive gold-laced breast.
Soon after sunrise on the morrow she was beating at the gates of
Middelburg gaol, a paper clutched convulsively in her left hand.
She was admitted, and to the head gaoler she showed the paper that
"An order from the Governor of Zeeland for the gaol delivery of
Philip Danvelt!" she announced almost hysterically.
The gaoler scanned the paper, then her face. His lips tightened.
"Come this way," he said; and led her down a gloomy corridor to the
cell where yesterday she had seen her husband.
He threw wide the door, and Sapphira sprang in.
"Philip!" she cried, and checked as suddenly.
He lay supine and still upon the miserable pallet, his hands folded
upon his breast, his face waxen, his eyes staring glassily through
She sped to his side in a sudden chill of terror. She fell on her
knees and touched him.
"Dead!" she screamed, and, kneeling, span round questioning to face
the gaoler in the doorway. "Dead!"
"He was hanged at daybreak, mistress," said the gaoler gently.
She rocked a moment, moaning, then fell suddenly forward across her
husband's body in a swoon.
That evening she was again at the Gravenhof to see Rhynsault, and
again she was admitted - a haggard faced woman now, in whom there
was no trace of beauty left. She came to stand before the Governor,
considered him in silence a moment with a loathing unutterable in
her glance, then launched into fierce recriminations of his broken
He heard her out, then shrugged and smiled indulgently.
"I performed no less than I promised," said he. "I pledged my word
to Danvelt's gaol delivery, and was not my gaol delivery effective?
You could hardly suppose that I should allow it to be of such a
fashion as to interfere with our future happy meetings."
Before his leering glance she fled in terror, followed by the sound
of his bestial laugh.
For a week thereafter she kept her house and brooded. Then one day
she sallied forth all dressed in deepest mourning and attended by a
train of servants, and, embarking upon a flat-bottomed barge, was
borne up the river Scheldt towards Antwerp. Bruges was her ultimate
destination, of which she left no word behind her, and took the
longest way round to reach it. From Antwerp her barge voyaged on
to Ghent, and thence by canal, drawn by four stout Flemish horses,
at last to the magnificent city where the Dukes of Burgundy kept
Under the June sunshine the opulent city of Bruges hummed with
activity like the great human hive it was. For Bruges at this date
was the market of the world, the very centre of the world's commerce,
the cosmopolis of the age. Within its walls were established the
agencies of a score of foreign great trading companies, and the
ambassadors of no less a number of foreign Powers. Here on a day
you might hear every language of civilization spoken in the broad
thoroughfares under the shadow of such imposing buildings as you
would not have found together in another city of Europe. To the
harbour came the richly laden argosies from Venice and Genoa, from
Germany and the Baltic, from Constantinople and from England, and
in her thronged markets Lombard and Venetian, Levantine, Teuton,
and Saxon stood jostling one another to buy and sell.
It was past noon, and the great belfry above the Gothic Cloth Hall
in the Grande Place was casting a lengthening shadow athwart the
crowded square. Above the Babel of voices sounded on a sudden the
note of a horn, and there was a cry of "The Duke! The Duke!"