Part 4 out of 5
"If you call me Citoyenne again I shall strike you," she threatened
He looked down at her, and she had the feeling that behind the
inscrutable mask of his countenance he was laughing at her.
"It would sort well with your audacity," he made answer coolly.
She felt in that moment that she hated him, and it was a miracle
that she did not do as she had threatened, for with all her meek
looks she owned a very fiercest of tempers. She drew back a
pace or two, and her glance fell.
"I shall not trouble you in future," she vowed. "I shall not come
He bowed slightly.
"I applaud the wisdom of your resolve - Cit - Cecile. The world,
as I have said, is censorious."
She looked at him a second, then she laughed, but it was laughter
of the lips only; the eyes looked steely as daggers and as capable
"Adieu, Citizen La Boulaye," she murmured mockingly.
"Au revoir, Citoyenne Deshaix," he replied urbanely.
"Ough!" she gasped, and with that sudden exclamation of pent-up
wrath, she whisked about and went rustling to the door.
"Citoyenne," he called after her, "you are forgetting your flowers."
She halted, and seemed for a second to hesitate, looking at him
oddly. Then she came back to the table and took up her roses.
Again she looked at him, and let the bouquet fall back among the
"I brought them for you, Caron," she said, "and I'll leave them
with you. We can at least be friends, can we not?"
"Friends? But were we ever aught else?" he asked.
"Alas! no," she said to herself, whilst aloud she murmured:" I
thought that you would like them. Your room has such a gloomy,
sombre air, and a few roses seem to diffuse some of the sunshine
on which they have been nurtured."
"You are too good, Cecile'' he answered, and, for all his coldness,
he was touched a little by this thoughtfulness.
She looked up at the altered tone, and the expression of her face
seemed to soften. But before she could make answer there was
a rap at the door. It opened, and Brutus stood in the doorway.
"Citizen," he announced, in his sour tones," there is another
woman below asking to see you."
La Boulaye started, as again his thoughts flew to Suzanne, and a
dull flush crept into his pale cheeks and mounted to his brow.
Cecile's eyes were upon him, her glance hardening as she observed
these signs. Bitter enough had it been to endure his coldness
whilst she had imagined that it sprang from the austerity of his
nature and the absorption of his soul in matters political. But
now that it seemed she might have cause to temper her bitterness
with jealousy her soul was turned to gall.
"What manner of woman, Brutus?" he asked after a second's pause.
"Tall, pale, straight, black hair, black eyes, silk gown - and
savours the aristocrat a league off," answered Brutus.
"Your official seems gifted with a very comprehensive eye," said
But La Boulaye paid no heed to her. The flush deepened on his
face, then faded again, and he grew oddly pale. His official's
inventory of her characteristics fitted Mademoiselle de Bellecour
in every detail.
"Admit her, Brutus," he commanded, and his voice had a husky sound.
Then, turning to Cecile, "You will give me leave?" he said, cloaking
rude dismissal in its politest form.
"Assuredly," she answered bitterly, making shift to go. "Your visitor
is no doubt political?" she half-asked half-asserted.
But he made no answer as he held the door for her, and bowed low as
she passed out. With a white face and lips tightly compressed she
went, and half-way on the stairs she met a handsome woman, tall and
of queenly bearing, who ascended. Her toilette lacked the
elaborateness of Cecile's, but she carried it with an air which not
all the modistes of France could have succeeded in imparting to the
So dead was Robespierre's niece to every sense of fitness that,
having drawn aside to let the woman pass, she stood gazing after
her until she disappeared round the angle of the landing. Then, in
a fury, she swept from the house and into her waiting coach, and
as she drove back to Duplay's in the Rue St. Honore she was weeping
bitterly in her jealous rage.
LA BOULAYE'S PROMISE
La Boulaye remained a moment by the door after Cecile's departure;
then he moved away towards his desk, striving to master the
tumultuous throbbing of his pulses. His eye alighted on Cecile's
roses, and, scarce knowing why he did it, he picked them up and
flung them behind a bookcase. It was but done when again the door
opened, and his official ushered in Mademoiselle de Bellecour.
Oddly enough, at sight of her, La Boulaye grew master of himself.
He received her with a polite and very formal bow - a trifle
over-graceful for a patriot.
"So, Citoyenne," said he, and so cold was his voice that it seemed
even tinged with mockery, "you are come at last."
"I could not come before, Monsieur," she answered, trembling. "They
would not let me." Then, after a second's pause: "Am I too late,
Monsieur?" she asked.
"No," he answered her. "The ci-devant Vicomte d'Ombreval still
lies awaiting trial. Will you not be seated?"
"I do not look to remain long."
"As you please, Citoyenne. I have delayed Ombreval's trial thinking
that if not my letter why then his might bring you, sooner or later,
to his rescue. It may interest you to hear," he continued with an
unmistakable note of irony," that that brave but hapless gentleman
is much fretted at his incarceration."
A shadow crossed her face, which remained otherwise calm and composed
- the beautiful, intrepid face that had more than once been La
"I am glad that you have waited, Monsieur. In so doing you need
have no doubts concerning me. M. d'Ombreval is my betrothed, and
the troth I plighted him binds me in honour to succour him now."
La Boulaye looked steadily at her for a moment.
"Upon my soul," he said at last, a note of ineffable sarcasm
vibrating in his voice, "I shall never cease to admire the
effrontery of your class, and the coolness with which, in despite
of dishonourable action, you make high-sounding talk of honour and
the things to which it binds you. I have a dim recollection,
Citoyenne, of something uncommonly like your troth which you plighted
me one night at Boisvert. But so little did that promise bind you
that when I sought to enforce your fulfilment of it you broke my
head and left me to die in the road."
His words shook her out of her calm. Her bosom rose and fell, her
eyes seemed to grow haggard and her hands were clasped convulsively.
"Monsieur," she answered, "when I gave you my promise that night I
had every intention of keeping it. I swear it, as Heaven is my witness."
"Your actions more than proved it," he said dryly.
"Be generous, Monsieur," she begged. "It was my mother prevailed
upon me to alter my determination. She urged that I should be
dishonoured if I did not."
"That word again!" he cried. "What part it plays in the life of
the noblesse. All that it suits you to do, you do because honour
bids you, all to which you have bound yourselves, but which is
distasteful, you discover that honour forbids, and that you would
be dishonoured did you persist. But I am interrupting you,
Citoyenne. Did your mother advance any arguments?"
"The strongest argument of all lay here, in my heart, Monsieur,"
she answered him, roused and hardened by his scorn. "You must see
that it had become with me a matter of choosing the lesser of two
evils. Upon reflection I discovered that I was bound to two men,
and it behoved me to keep the more binding of my pledges."
"Which you discovered to be your word to Ombreval," he said, and
his voice grew unconsciously softer, for he began to realise the
quandary in which she had found herself.
She inclined her head assentingly.
"To him I had given the earlier promise, and then, again, he was
of my own class whilst you - "
"Spare me, Citoyenne," he cried. "I know what you would say. I
am of the rabble, and of little more account in a matter of honour
than a, beast of the field. It is thus that you reason, and yet,
mon Dieu! I had thought that ere now such notions had died out with
you, and that, stupid enough though your class has proved itself,
it would at least have displayed the intelligence to perceive that
its day is ended, its sun set." He turned and paced the apartment
as he spoke. "The Lilies of France have been shorn from their stems,
they have withered by the roadside, and they have been trampled into
the dust by the men of the new regime, and yet it seems that you
others of the noblesse have not learnt your lesson. You have not
yet discovered that here in France the man who was born a tiller of
the soil is still a man, and, by his manhood, the equal of a king,
who, after all, can be no more than a man, and is sometimes less.
Enfin!" he ended brusquely. "This is not the National Assembly,
and I talk to ears untutored in such things. Let us deal rather
with the business upon which you are come."
She eyed him out of a pale face, with eyes that seemed fascinated.
That short burst of the fiery eloquence that had made him famous
revealed him to her in a new light: the light of a strength and
capacity above and beyond that which, already, she had perceived
"Will you believe, Monsieur, that it cost me many tears to use you
as I did? If you but knew - " And there she paused abruptly. She
had all but told him of the kiss that she had left upon his
unconscious lips that evening on the road to Liege. "Mon Dieu how
I hated myself!" And she shuddered as she spoke.
He observed all this, and with a brusqueness that was partly assumed
he hastened to her rescue.
"What is done is done, Citoyenne. Come, let us leave reminiscences.
You are here to atone, I take it."
At that she started. His words reminded her of those of his letter.
"Monsieur La Boulaye - "
"If it is all one to you, Citoyenne, I should prefer that you call me
"Citizen, then," she amended. "I have brought with me the gems
which I told you would constitute my dowry. In his letter to me the
Vicomte suggested that - " She paused.
"That some Republican blackguard might be bribed," he concluded,
His gentleness deceived her. She imagined that it meant that he
might not be unwilling to accept such a bribe, and thereupon she
set herself to plead with him. He listened dispassionately, his
hands behind his back, his eyes bent upon her, yet betraying nothing
of his thoughts. At last she brought her prayer for Ombreval's
life to an end, and produced a small leather bag which she set upon
the table, beseeching him to satisfy himself as to the value of the
Now at last he stirred. His face grew crimson to the roots of his
hair, and his eyes seemed of a sudden to take fire. He seized that
little bag and held it in his hand.
"And so, Mademoiselle de Bellecour," said he, in a concentrated
voice, "you have learnt so little of me that you bring me a bribe
of gems. Am I a helot, that you should offer to buy my very soul?
Do you think my honour is so cheap a thing that you can have it
for the matter of some bits of glass? Or do you imagine that we
of the new regime, because we do not mouth the word at every turn,
have no such thing as honour? For shame!" He paused, his wrath
boiling over as he sought words in which to give it utterance. And
then, words failing him to express the half of what was in him, he
lifted the bag high above his head, and hurled it at her feet with
a force that sent half the glittering contents rolling about the
parquet floor. "Citoyenne, your journey has been in vain. I will
not treat with you another instant."
She recoiled before his wrath, a white and frightened thing that but
an instant back had been so calm and self-possessed. She gave no
thought to the flashing jewels scattered about the floor. Through
all the fear that now possessed her rose the consideration of this
man - this man whom she had almost confessed half-shamedly to herself
that she loved, that night on the Liege road; this man who at every
turn amazed her and filled her with a new sense of his strength and
Then, bethinking her of Ombreval and of her mission, she took her
courage in both hands, and, advancing a step, she cast herself upon
her knees before Caron.
"Monsieur, forgive me," she besought him. "I meant you no insult.
How could I, when my every wish is to propitiate you? Bethink you,
Monsieur, I have journeyed all the way from Prussia to save that man,
because my hon - because he is my betrothed. Remember, Monsieur,
you held out to me the promise in your letter that if I came you
would treat with me, and that I might buy his life from you."
"Why, so I did," he answered, touched by her humiliation and her
tears. "But you went too fast in your conclusions."
"Forgive me that. See! I am on my knees to you. Am I not humbled
enough? Have I not suffered enough for the wrong I may have done
"It would take the sufferings of a generation to atone for the wrongs I
have endured at the hands of your family, Citoyenne."
"I will do what you will, Monsieur. Bethink you that I am pleading
for the life of the man I am to marry."
He looked down upon her now in an emotion that in its way was as
powerful as her own. Yet his voice was hard and sternly governed as
he now asked her
"Is that an argument, Mademoiselle? Is it an argument likely to
prevail with the man who, for his twice-confessed love of you, has
suffered sore trials?"
He felt that in a way she had conquered him; his career, which but
that day had seemed all-sufficing to him, was now fallen into the
limbo of disregard. The one thing whose possession would render his
life a happy one, whose absence would leave him now a lasting
unhappiness, knelt here at his feet. Forgotten were the wrongs he
had suffered, forgotten the purpose to humble and to punish.
Everything was forgotten and silenced by the compelling voice of his
blood, which cried out that he loved her. He stooped to her and
caught her wrists in a grip that made her wince. His voice grew
"If you would bribe me to save his life, Suzanne, there is but one
price that you can pay."
"And that?" she gasped her eyes looking up with a scared expression
into his masterful face.
"Yourself," he whispered, with an ardour that almost amounted to
She gazed a second at him in growing alarm, then she dragged her
hands from his grasp, and covering her face she fell a-sobbing.
"Do not misunderstand me," he cried, as he stood erect over her.
"If you would have Ombreval saved and sent out of France you must
become my wife."
"Your wife?" she echoed, pausing in her weeping, and for a moment
an odd happiness seemed to fill her. But as suddenly as it had
arisen did she stifle it. Was she not the noble daughter of the
noble Marquis de Bellecour and was not this a lowly born member of
a rabble government? There could be no such mating. A shudder
ran through her. "I cannot, Monsieur, I cannot!" she sobbed.
He looked at her a moment with a glance that was almost of surprise,
then, with a slight compression of the lips and the faintest raising
of the shoulders, he turned from her and strode over to the window.
There was a considerable concourse of people on their way to the
Place de la Republique, for the hour of the tumbrils was at hand.
A half-dozen of those unsexed viragos produced by the Revolution,
in filthy garments, red bonnets and streaming hair, were marching
by to the raucous chorus of the "Ca ira!"
He turned from the sight in disgust, and again faced his visitor.
"Citoyenne," he said, in a composed voice," I am afraid that your
journey has been in vain."
She rose now from her knees, and advanced towards him.
"Monsieur, you will not be so cruel as to send me away empty-handed?"
she cried, scarce knowing what she was saying.
But he looked at her gravely, and without any sign of melting.
"On what," he asked, "do you base any claim upon me?"
"On what?" she echoed, and her glance vas troubled with perplexity.
Then of a sudden it cleared. "On the love that you have confessed
for me," she cried.
He laughed a short laugh-half amazement, half scorn.
"Mon Dieu!" he exclaimed, tossing his arms to Heaven, "a fine claim
that, as I live; a fine argument by which to induce me to place
another man in your arms. I am to do it because I love you!"
They gazed at each other now, she with a glance of strained anxiety,
he with the same look of half-contemptuous wonder. And then a
creaking rumble from below attracted his attention, and he looked
round. He moved forward and threw the window wide, letting in with
the March air an odd medley of sounds to which the rolling of drums
afforded a most congruous accompaniment.
"Look, Citoyenne," he said, and he pointed out the first tumbril,
which was coming round the corner of the Rue St. Honore.
She approached with some shrinking begotten by a suspicion of what
she was desired to see.
In the street below, among a vociferating crowd of all sorts and
conditions, the black death-cart moved on its way to the guillotine.
It was preceded by a company of National Guards, and followed by
the drummers and another company on foot. Within the fatal vehicle
travelled three men and two women, accompanied by a constitutional
priest - one of those renegades who had taken the oath imposed by
the Convention. The two women sat motionless, more like statues
than living beings, their faces livid and horribly expressionless,
so numbed were their intelligences by fear. Of the men, one stood
calm and dignified, another knelt at his prayers, and was subject,
therefore, to the greater portion of the gibes the mob was offering
these poor victims; the third, a very elegant gentleman in a green
coat and buckskin breeches, leant nonchalantly upon the rail of the
tumbril and exchanged gibes with the people. All five of them were
in the prime of life, and, by their toilettes and the air that clung
to them, belonged unmistakably to the noblesse.
One glance did Mademoiselle bestow upon that tragic spectacle, then
with a shudder she drew back, her face going deathly white.
"Why did you bid me look?" she moaned.
"That for yourself you might see," he answered pitilessly, "the
road by which your lover is to journey."
"Mon Dieu!" she cried, wringing her hands, "it is horrible. Oh!
You are not men, you Revolutionists. You are beasts of prey, tigers
in human semblance."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Great injustices beget great reactions. Great wrongs can only be
balanced by great wrongs. For centuries the power has lain with
the aristocrats, and they have most foully abused it. For centuries
the people of France have writhed beneath the armed heel of the
nobility, and their blood, unjustly and wantonly shed, has saturated
the soil until from that seed has sprung this overwhelming
retribution. Now - now, when it is too late - you are repenting;
now, when at last some twenty-five million Frenchmen have risen with
weapons in their hands to purge the nation of you. We are no worse
than were you; indeed, not so bad. It is only that we do in a little
while - and, therefore, while it lasts in greater quantity - what
you have been doing through countless generations."
"Spare me these arguments, Monsieur," she cried, recovering her
spirit. "The 'whys' and 'wherefores' of it are nothing to me. I
see what you are doing, and that is enough. But," and her voice
grew gentle and pleading, her hands were held out to him, "you are
good at heart, Monsieur; you are generous and you can be noble. You
will give me the life that I have come to beg of you; the life you
"Yes, but upon terms, Mademoiselle, and those terms you have heard."
She looked a moment into that calm, set face, into the dark grey
eyes that looked so solemn and betrayed so little of what was
"And you say that you love me?" she cried.
"Helas!" he sighed. "It is a weakness I cannot conquer.
"Look well down into your heart, M. La Boulaye," she answered him,"
and you will find how egregious is your error. You do not love me;
you love yourself, and only yourself. If you loved me you would not
seek to have me when I am unwilling. Above all things, you would
desire my happiness - it is ever so when we truly love - and you
would seek to promote it. If, indeed, you loved me you would grant
my prayer, and not torture me as you are doing. But since you only
love yourself, you minister only to yourself, and seek to win me by
force since you desire me."
She ceased, and her eyes fell before his glance, which remained
riveted upon her face. Immovable he stood a moment or two, then
he turned from her with a little sigh, and leaning his elbow upon
the window-sill, he gazed down into the crowds surging about the
second tumbril. But although he saw much there that was calculated
to compel attention, he heeded nothing. His thoughts were very busy,
and he was doing what Mademoiselle had bidden him. He was looking
into himself. And from that questioning he gathered not only that
he loved her, but that he loved her so well and so truly that - in
spite even of all that was passed - he must do her will, and deliver
up to her the man she loved.
His resolve was but half taken when he heard her stirring in the
room behind him. He turned sharply to find that she had gained the
"Mademoiselle!" he called after her. She stopped, and as she
turned, he observed that her lashes were wet. But in her heart
there arose now a fresh hope, awakened by the name by which he had
recalled her. "Whither are you going?" he asked.
"Away, Monsieur," she answered. "I was realising that my journey
had indeed been in vain."
He looked at her a second in silence. Then stepping forward:
"Mademoiselle," he said, very quietly, "your arguments have
prevailed, and it shall be as you desire. The ci-devant Vicomte
d'Ombreval shall go free."
Her face seemed to grow of a sudden paler, and for an instant she
stood still as if robbed of understanding. Then she came forward
with hands outheld.
" aid I not that you were good and generous? Said I not that you
could be noble, Monsieur?" she cried, as she caught his resisting
hand and sought to carry it to her lips. "God will bless you,
Monsieur - "
He drew his hand away, but without roughness. "Let us say no more,
Mademoiselle," he begged.
"But I will," she answered him. "I am not without heart, Monsieur,
and now that you have given me this proof of the deep quality of
your love, I - " She paused, as if at a loss for words.
"Well, Mademoiselle?" he urged her.
"I have it in my heart to wish that - that it were otherwise," she
said, her cheeks reddening under his gaze. "If it were not that I
account myself in honour bound to wed M. le Vicomte - "
"Stop!" he interrupted her. He had caught at last the drift of
what she was saying. "There is no need for any comedy, Suzanne.
Enough of that had we at Boisvert."
"It is not comedy," she cried with heat. "It was not altogether
comedy at Boisvert."
"True," he said, wilfully misunderstanding her that he might the
more easily dismiss the subject," it went nearer to being tragedy."
Then abruptly he asked her:
"Where are you residing?"
She paused before replying. She still wanted to protest that some
affection for him dwelt in her heart, although curbed (to a greater
extent even than she was aware) by the difference in their stations,
and checked by her plighted word to Ombreval. At last, abandoning
a purpose which his countenance told her would be futile:
"I am staying with my old nurse at Choisy," she answered him.
"Henriette Godelliere is her name. She is well known in the village,
and seems in good favour with the patriots, so that I account myself
safe. I am believed to be her niece from the country."
"Hum!" he snorted. "The Citoyenne Godelliere's niece from the
country in silks?"
"That is what someone questioned, and she answered that it was a
gown plundered from the wardrobe of some emigrated aristocrats."
"Have a care, Suzanne," said he. "The times are dangerous, and it
is a matter of a week ago since a man was lanterne for no other
reason than because he was wearing gloves, which was deemed an
aristocratic habit. Come, Mademoiselle, let us gather up your gems.
You were going without them some moments ago."
And down upon his knees he went, and, taking up the little bag
which had been left where he had flung it, he set himself to
restore the jewels to it. She came to his assistance, in spite of
his protestations, and so, within a moment or two, the task was
completed, and the little treasure was packed away in the bosom
of her gown.
"To-morrow," he said, as he took his leave of her at the door, "I
shall hope to bring the ci-devant Vicomte to Choisy, and I will
see that he is equipped with a laissez-passer that will carry both
of you safely out of France."
She was beginning to thank him all over again, but he cut her
short, and so they parted.
Long after she was gone did he sit at his writing-table, his head
in his hands and his eyes staring straight before him. His face
looked grey and haggard; the lines that seared it were lines of
"They say," he murmured once, thinking aloud, as men sometimes will
in moments of great stress," that a good action brings its own
reward. Perhaps my action is not a good one, after all, and that
is why I suffer."
And, burying his head in his arms, he remained thus with his sorrow
until his official entered to inquire if he desired lights.
It was towards noon of the following day when Caron La Boulaye
presented himself at the house of Duplay, the cabinet-maker in the
Rue St. Honore, and asked of the elderly female who admitted him
if he might see the Citizen-deputy Robespierre.
A berline stood at the door, the postillion at the horses' heads,
and about it there was some bustle, as if in preparation of a
departure. But La Boulaye paid no heed to it as he entered the house.
He was immediately conducted upstairs to the Incorruptible's
apartment - for he was too well known to so much as need announcing.
In answer to the woman's knock a gentle, almost plaintive voice from
within bade them enter, and thus was Caron ushered into the humble
dwelling of the humble and ineffective-looking individual whose power
already transcended that of any other man in France, and who was
destined to become still more before his ephemeral star went out.
Into that unpretentious and rather close-smelling room - for it was
bed-chamber as well as dining-room and study - stepped La Boulaye
unhesitatingly, with the air of a man who is intimate with his
surroundings and assured of his welcome in them. In the right-hand
corner stood the bed on which the clothes were still tumbled; in the
centre of the chamber was a table all littered with the disorder of
a meal partaken; on the left, by the window, sat Robespierre at his
writing-table, and from the overmantel at the back of the room a
marble counterpart of Robespierre's own head and shoulders looked
down upon the newcomer. There were a few pictures on the
whitewashed walls, and a few objects of art about the chamber, but
in the main it had a comfortless air, which may in part have
resulted from the fact that no fire had been lighted.
The great man tossed aside his pen, and rose as the door closed
after the entering visitor. Pushing his horn-rimmed spectacles up
on to his forehead he stretched out his hand to La Boulaye.
"It is you, Caron," he murmured in that plaintive voice of his.
It was a voice that sorted well with the humane man who had resigned
a judgeship at Arras sooner than pass a death-sentence, but hardly
so well with him who, as Public Prosecutor in Paris, had brought
some hundreds of heads to the sawdust. "I have been desiring to
congratulate you upon your victory of yesterday," he continued,
"even as I have been congratulating myself upon the fact that it
was I who found you and gave you to the Nation. I feared that I
might not see you ere I left."
"You are leaving Paris?" asked La Boulaye, without heeding the
compliments in the earlier part of the other's speech.
"For a few days. Business of the Nation, my friend. But you -
let us talk of you. Do you know that I am proud of you, cher Caron?
Your eloquence turned Danton green with jealousy, and as for poor
Vergniaud, it extinguished him utterly. Ma foi! If you continue as
you have begun, the day may not be far distant when you will become
the patron and I the Protege." And his weak eyes beamed pleasantly
from out of that unhealthy pale face.
Outwardly he had changed little since his first coming to Paris, to
represent the Third Estate of Artoise, saving, his cheeks were grown
more hollow. Upon his dress he still bestowed the same unpretentious
care that had always characterised it, which, in one of the most
prominent patriots of the Mountain, amounted almost to foppishness.
Blue coat, white waistcoat, silk hose and shoes buckled with silver,
gave him an elegant exterior that must have earned him many a covert
sneer from his colleagues. His sloping forehead was crowned by a
periwig, sedulously curled and powdered - for all that with the
noblesse this was already a discarded fashion.
La Boulaye replied to his patron's compliments with the best grace
he could command considering how full of another matter was his mind.
"I may congratulate myself, Maximilien," he added, "upon my good
fortune in coming before you took your departure. I have a request
to prefer, a favour to ask."
"Tut! Who talks of favours? Not you, Caron, I hope. You have but
to name what you desire, and so that it lies within my power to
accord it, the thing is yours."
"There is a prisoner in the Luxembourg in whom I am interested. I
seek his enlargement."
"But is that all?" cried the little man, and, without more ado, he
turned to his writing-table and drew a printed form from among the
chaos of documents. "His name?" he asked indifferently, as he
dipped his quill in the ink-horn and scratched his signature at
the foot of it.
"An aristocrat," said Caron, with some slight hesitancy.
"Eh?" And the arched brows drew together for an instant. "But no
matter. There are enough and to spare even for Fouquier-Tinvillle's
voracious appetite. His name?"
"The ci-devant Vicomte Antole d'Ombreval."
"Qui-ca?" The question rang sharp as a pistol-shot, sounding the
more fearful by virtue of the contrast with the gentle tones in
which Robespierre had spoken hitherto. The little man's face grew
evil. "d'Ombreval?" he cried. "But what is this man to you? It
is by your favour alone that I have let him live so long, but now - "
He stopped short. "What is your interest in this man?" he demanded,
and the question was so fiercely put as to suggest that it would be
well for La Boulaye that he should prove that interest slight indeed.
But whatever feelings may have been swaying Caron at the moment,
fear was not one of them.
"My interest in him is sufficiently great to cause me to seek his
freedom at your hands," he answered, with composure.
Robespierre eyed him narrowly for a moment, peering at him over his
spectacles which he had drawn down on to his tip-tilted nose. Then
the fierceness died out of his mien and manner as suddenly as it
had sprung up. He became once more the weak-looking, ineffectual
man that had first greeted La Boulaye: urbane and quiet, but
cold-cold as ice.
"I am desolated, my dear Caron, but you have asked me for the one
man in the prisons of France whose life I cannot yield you. He is
from Artois, and there is an old score 'twixt him and me, 'twixt
his family and mine. They were the grands seigneurs of the land on
which we were born, these Ombrevals, and I could tell you of wrongs
committed by them which would make you shudder in horror. This one
shall atone in the small measure we can enforce from him. It was
to this end that I ordered you to effect his capture. Have patience,
dear Caron, and forgive me that I cannot grant your request. As I
have said, I am desolated that it should be so. Ask me, if you
will, the life of any other - or any dozen others - and they are
yours. But Ombreval must die."
Caron stood a moment in silent dismay. Here was an obstacle upon
which he had not counted when he had passed his word to Suzanne to
effect the release of her betrothed. At all costs he must gain it,
he told himself, and to that end he now set himself to plead,
advancing, as his only argument - but advancing it with a fervour
that added to its weight - that he stood pledged to save the
ci-devant Vicomte. Robespierre looked up at him with a shade of
polite regret upon his cadaverous face, and with polite regret he
deplored that Caron should have so bound himself.
So absorbed were they, the one in pleading, the other in resisting,
that neither noticed the opening of the door, nor yet the girl who
stood observing them from the threshold.
"If this man dies," cried La Boulaye at last, "I am dishonoured.
"It is regrettable," returned Robespierre, "that you should have
pledged your word in the matter. You will confess, Caron, that it
was a little precipitate. Enfin," he ended, crumpling the document
he had signed and tossing it under the table, "you must extricate
yourself as best you can. I am sorry, but I cannot give him to you."
Caron's face was very white and his hands were clenched convulsively.
It is questionable whether in that moment he had not flung himself
upon the Incorruptible, and enforced that which hitherto he had only
besought, but that in that instant the girl stepped into the room.
"And is it really you, Caron?" came the melodious voice of Cecile.
La Boulaye started round to confront her, and stifled a curse at
the untimely interruption which Robespierre was blessing as most
"It is - it is, Citoyenne," he answered shortly, to add more shortly
still: "I am here on business with the Citizen, your uncle."
But before the girl could so much as appreciate the rebuke he
levelled at her intrusion, her uncle had come to the rescue.
"The business, however, is at an end. Take charge of this good
Caron, Cecile, whilst I make ready for my journey."
Thus, sore at heart, and chagrined beyond words, La Boulaye was
forced to realise his defeat, and to leave the presence of the
Incorruptible. But with Cecile he went no farther than the landing.
"If you will excuse me, Citoyenne," he said abstractedly, "I will
take my leave of you."
"But I shall not excuse you, Caron," she said, refusing to see his
abstraction. "You will stay to dinner - "
"I am sorry beyond measure, but - "
"You shall stay," she interrupted. "Come, Caron. It is months
since you were with us. We will make a little fete in honour of
your yesterday's triumph," she promised him, sidling up to him with
a bewitching glance of blue eyes, and the most distracting toss of
golden curls upon an ivory neck.
But to such seductions Caron proved as impervious as might a man
of stone. He excused himself with cold politeness. The Nation's
business was awaiting him; he might not stay.
"The Nation's business may await you a little longer," she declared,
taking hold of his arm with both hands, and had she left it at that
it is possible that she had won her way with him. But most
indiscreetly she added:
"Come, Caron, you shall tell me who was your yesterday's visitor.
Do you know that the sight of her made me jealous? Was it not
foolish in me?"
And now, from cold politeness, La Boulaye passed to hot impoliteness.
Roughly he shook her detaining hands from him, and with hardly so
much as a word of farewell, he passed down the stairs, leaving her
white with passion at the slight he had thereby put upon her.
The beauty seemed to pass out of her face much as the meekness was
wont to pass out of her uncle's when he was roused. Her blue eyes
grew steely and cruel as she looked after him.
"Wait, Caron," she muttered to herself, "I will cry quits with you."
And then, with a sob of anger, she turned and mounted the stairs
to her apartments.
La Boulaye sat once more in the Rue Nationale and with his head in
his hands, his elbows supported by the writing-table, he stared
before him, his face drawn with the pain and anger of the defeat he
had sustained where no defeat had been expected.
He had been so assured that he had but to ask for Ombreval's life,
and it would be accorded him; he had promised Suzanne with such
confidence - boasting almost - that he could do this, and to do it
he had pledged his word. And now? For very shame he could not go
to her and tell her that despite his fine promises despite his bold
bargaining, he was as powerless to liberate Ombreval as was she
And with reflection he came to see that even did he bear her such
a tale she would not believe it. The infinite assurance of his
power, implicit in everything that he had said to her, must now
arise in her memory, and give the lie to his present confession of
powerlessness. She would not believe him, and disbelieving him,
she would seek a motive for the words that she would deem untrue.
And that motive she would not find far to seek. She would account
his present attitude the consummation of a miserable subterfuge by
which he sought to win her confidence and esteem. She would - she
must - believe that he had but made a semblance of befriending her
so disinterestedly only that he might enlist her kindness and regard,
and turn them presently to his own purposes. She would infer that
he had posed as unselfish - as self-sacrificing, almost - only that he
might win her esteem, and that by telling her now that Robespierre
was inflexible in his resolve to send Ombreval to the guillotine,
he sought to retain that esteem whilst doing nothing for it. That
he had ever intended to save Ombreval she would not credit. She
would think it all a cunning scheme to win his own ends. And now
he bethought him of the grief that would beset her upon learning
that her journey had indeed been fruitless. He smote the table a
blow with his clenched hand, and cursed the whole Republic, from
Robespierre down to the meanest sans-culotte that brayed the Ca ira
in the streets of Paris.
He had pledged his word, and for all that he belonged to the class
whose right to honour was denied by the aristocrats, his word he
had never yet broken. That circumstance - as personified by
Maximilien Robespierre - should break it for him now was matter
enough to enrage him, for than this never had there been an occasion
on which such a breach could have been less endurable.
He rose to his feet, and set himself to pace the chamber, driven to
action of body by the agonised activity of his mind. From the
street rose the cry of the pastry-cook going his daily rounds, as
it had risen yesterday, he remembered, when Suzanne had been with
him. And now of a sudden he stood still. His lips were compressed,
his brows drawn together in a forbidding scowl, and his eyes narrowed
until they seemed almost closed. Then with his clenched right hand
he smote the open palm of the other. His resolve was taken. By
fair means or foul, with Robespierre's sanction or without it, he
would keep his word. After not only the hope but the assurance he
had given Suzanne that her betrothed should go free, he could do no
less than accomplish the Vicomte's enlargement by whatever means
should present themselves.
And now to seek a way. He recalled the free pardon to which
Robespierre had gone the length of appending his signature. He
remembered that it had not been destroyed; Robespierre had crumpled
it in his hand and tossed it aside. And by now Robespierre would
have departed, and it should not be difficult for him - the protege
and intimate of Robespierre - to gain access to the Incorruptible's
If only he could find that document and fill in the name of Ombreval
the thing would be as good as done. True, he would require the
signatures of three other Deputies; but one of these he could supply
himself, and another two were easily to be requisitioned, seeing
that already it bore Robespierre's.
And then as suddenly as the idea of the means had come to him, came
now the spectre of the consequences to affright him. How would it
fare with him on Robespierre's return? How angered would not
Robespierre be upon discovering that his wishes had been set at
naught, his very measures contravened - and this by fraud? And than
Robespierre's anger there were few things more terrible in '93. It
was an anger that shore away heads as recklessly as wayside flowers
are flicked from their stems by the idler's cane.
For a second it daunted him. If he did this thing he must seek
refuge in flight; he must leave France, abandon the career which
was so full of promise for him, and wander abroad, a penniless
fortune-hunter. Well might the prospect give him pause. Well might
it cause him to survey that pale, sardonic countenance that eyed
him gloomily from the mirror above his mantel shelf, and ask it
mockingly if it thought that Suzanne de Bellecour - or indeed, any
woman living - were worthy of so great a sacrifice.
What had she done for him that he should cast away everything for
her sake? Once she had told him that she loved him, only to betray
him. Was that a woman for whom a man should wanton his fortunes?
And then he smiled derisively, mocking his reflections in the mirror
even as he mocked himself.
"Poor fool," he muttered, "it is not for the sake of what you are to
her. Were it for that alone, you would not stir a finger to gratify
her wishes. It is for the sake of what she is to you, Caron."
He turned from the mirror, his resolve now firm, and going to the
door he called his official. Briefly he instructed Brutus touching
the packing of a valise, which he would probably need that night.
"You are going a journey, Citizen?" inquired Brutus, to which La
Boulaye returned a short answer in the affirmative. "Do I accompany
you?" inquired the official, to which La Boulaye shook his head.
At that Brutus, who, for all his insolence of manner, was very
devotedly attached to his employer, broke into remonstrances,
impertinent of diction but affectionate of tenor. He protested that
La Boulaye had left him behind, and lonely, during his mission to
the army in Belgium, and he vowed that he would not be left behind
"Well, well; we shall see, Brutus," answered the Deputy, laying his
hand upon the fellow's shoulder. "But I am afraid that this time I
am going farther than you would care to come."
The man's ferrety eyes were raised of a sudden to La Boulaye's face
in a very searching glance. Caron's tone had been laden with
"You are running way," cried the official.
"Sh! My good Brutus, what folly! Why should I run away - and from
"I know not that. But you are. I heard it in your voice. And you
do not trust me, Citizen La Boulaye," the fellow added, in a
stricken voice. "I have served you faithfully these two years, and
yet you have not learnt to trust me."
"I do, I do, my friend. You go too fast with your conclusions. Now
see to my valise, and on my return perhaps I'll tell you where I am
going, and put your fidelity to the test."
"And you will take me with you?"
"Why, yes," La Boulaye promised him, "unless you should prefer to
remain in Paris."
With that he got away and leaving the house, he walked briskly up
the street, round the corner, and on until he stood once more before
"Has the Citizen Robespierre departed yet?" he inquired of the woman
who answered his peremptory knock.
"He has been gone this hour, Citizen La Boulaye," she answered.
"He started almost immediately after you left him."
"Diable!" grumbled Caron, with well-feigned annoyance. "Quel
contretemps! I have left a most important document in his room,
and, of course, it will be locked."
"But the Citoyenne Cecile has the key," answered the woman, eager
to oblige him.
"Why, yes - naturally! Now that is fortunate. Will you do me the
favour to procure the key from he Citoyenne for a few moments,
telling her, of course, that it is I who need it?"
"But certainly, Montez, Citoyen." And with a wave of the hand
towards the stairs she went before him.
He followed leisurely, and by the time he had reached Robespierre's
door her voice floated down to him from above, calling the
Incorruptible's niece. Next he heard Cecile's voice replying, and
then a whispered conference on the landing overhead, to the
accompaniment of the occasional tinkle of a bunch of keys.
Presently the domestic returned, and unlocking the door, she held it
open for La Boulaye to pass. From her attitude it seemed to Caron
as if she were intentioned - probably she had been instructed - to
remain there while he obtained what he sought. Now he had no mind
that she should see him making his quest among the wasted papers on
the floor, and so:
"I shall not be more than a few minutes," he announced quietly. "I
will call you when I am ready to depart."
Thus uncompromisingly dismissed, she did not venture to remain, and,
passing in, La Boulaye closed the door. As great as had been his
deliberation hitherto was now the feverish haste with which he
crossed to the spot where he had seen the document flung. He caught
up a crumpled sheet and opened it out It was not the thing he sought.
He cast it aside and took up another with no better luck. To crumple
discarded papers seemed the habit of the Incorruptible, for there was
a very litter of them on the ground. One after another did Caron
investigate without success. He was on his knees now, and his
exploration had carried him as far as the table; another moment and
he was grovelling under it, still at his search, which with each
fresh disappointment grow more feverish.
Yonder - by the leg of the Incorruptible's chair - he espied the ball
of paper, and to reach it he stretched to his full length, lying
prone beneath a table in an attitude scarce becoming a Deputy of the
French Republic. But it was worth the effort and the disregard of
dignity, for when presently on his knees he smoothed out that
document, he discovered it to be the one he sought the order upon the
gaolers of the Luxembourg to set at liberty a person or persons whose
names were to be filled in, signed by Maximilien Robespierre.
He rose, absorbed in his successful find, and he pursued upon the
table the process of smoothing the creases as much as possible from
that priceless document. That done he took up a pen and attached
his own signature alongside of Robespierre's; then into the blank
space above he filled the name of Anatole d'Ombreval ci-devant
Vicomte d'Ombreval. He dropped the pen and took up the sand-box.
He sprinkled the writing, creased the paper, and dusted the sand
back into the receptacle. And then of a sudden his blood seemed to
freeze, and beads of cold sweat stood out upon his brow. There
had been the very slightest stir behind him, and with it had come a
warm breath upon his bowed neck. Someone was looking over his
shoulder. An instant he remained in that bowed attitude with head
half-raised. Then suddenly straightening himself he swung round and
came face to face with Cecile Deshaix.
Confronting each other and very close they now stood and each was
breathing with more than normal quickness. Her cheeks were white,
her nostrils dilated and quivering, her blue eyes baleful and cruel,
whilst her lips wore never so faint a smile. For a second La Boulaye
looked the very picture of foolishness and alarm. Then it seemed
as if he drew a curtain, and his face assumed the expressionless
mask that was habitual to it in moments of great tension.
Instinctively he put behind him his hands which held the paper.
Cecile's lips took on an added curl of scorn as she observed the act.
"You thief!" she said, very low, but very fiercely. "That was the
paper that you left behind you, was it?"
"The paper that I have is certainly the paper that I left behind,"
he answered serenely, for he had himself well in hand by now. "And
as for dubbing me a thief so readily" - he paused, and shrugged his
shoulders - "you are a woman," he concluded, with an air suggesting
that that fact was a conclusion to all things.
"Fool!" she blazed. "Do you think to overcome me by quibbles? Do
you think to dupe me with words and shrugs?"
"My dear Cecile he begged half-whimsically, "may I implore you to
use some restraint? Inured as I am to the unbounded licence of your
tongue and to the abandon that seems so inherent in you, let me
assure you that - "
"Ah! You can say Cecile now?" she cried, leaving the remainder of
his speech unheeded. "Now that you need me; now that you want me
to be a party to your treacherous designs against my uncle. Oh, you
can say 'Cecile' and 'dear Cecile' instead of your everlasting
"It seems I am doomed to be always misunderstood by you," he laughed,
and at the sound she started as if he had struck her.
Had she but looked in his eyes she had seen no laughter there; she
might have realised that murder rather than mirth was in his soul -
for, at all costs, he was determined to hold the paper he had been
at such pains to get.
"I understand you well enough," she cried hotly, her cheeks flaming
red of a sudden. "I understand you, you thief, you trickster. Do
you think that I heard nothing of what passed this morning between
my uncle and you? Do you think I do not know whose name you have
written on that paper? Answer me," she commanded him.
"Since you know so much, what need for any questions?" quoth he
coolly, transferring the coveted paper to his pocket as he spoke.
"And since we are so far agreed that I am not contradicting anything
you say - nor, indeed, intend to - perhaps you will see the
convenience of ending an interview that promises to be fruitless.
My dear Cecile, I am very grateful to you for the key of this room.
I beg that you will make my compliments to the Citizen your uncle
upon his return, and inform him of how thoroughly you ministered to
With that and a superb air of insouciance, he made shift to go. But
fronting him she barred his way.
"Give me that paper, sclerat," she demanded imperiously. "You shall
not go until you surrender it. Give it to me or I will call Duplay."
"You may call the devil for aught I care, you little fool," he
answered her, very pleasantly. "Do you think Duplay will be mad
enough to lay hands upon a Deputy of the Convention in the discharge
of the affairs of the Nation?"
"It is a lie!"
"Why, of course it is," he admitted sweetly. "But Duplay will not be
aware of that."
"I shall tell him."
"Tut! He won't believe you. I'll threaten him with the guillotine
if he does. And I should think that Duplay has sufficient dread of
the national barber not to risk having his toilet performed by him.
Now, be reasonable, and let me pass."
Enraged beyond measure by his persiflage and very manifest contempt
of her, she sprang suddenly upon him, and caught at the lapels of
"Give me that paper!" she screamed, exerting her entire strength in
a vain effort to boldly shake him.
Coldly he eyed this golden-haired virago now, and looked in vain
for some trace of her wonted beauty in the stormy distortion of her
"You grow tiresome with your repetitions," he answered her
impatiently, as, snatching at her wrists, he made her release her
hold. "Let me go." And with that he flung her roughly from him.
A second she staggered, then, recovering her balance and without an
instant's hesitation, she sped to the door. Imagining her intent to
be to lock him in La Boulaye sprang after her. But it seemed that
his mind had been more swift to fasten upon the wiser course than
had hers. Instead, she snatched the key and closed the door on the
inside. She wasted a moment fumbling at the lock, and even as he
caught her by the waist the key slipped in, and before he dragged
her back she had contrived to turn it, and now held it in her hand.
He laughed a trifle angrily as she twisted out of his grasp, and
stood panting before him.
"You shall not leave this room with that paper," she gasped, her
anger ever swelling, and now rendering her speech almost incoherent.
He set his arms akimbo, and surveyed her whimsically.
"My dear Cecile," quoth he, "if you will take no thought for my
convenience, I beg that, at least, you will take some for your good
name. Thousand devils woman! Will you have it said in Paris that
you were found locked in a room with me? What will your uncle -
your virtuous, prudish, incorruptible uncle - say when he learns of
it? If he does not demand a heavy price from you for so dishonouring
him, he is not the man I deem him. Now be sensible, child, and open
that door while there is yet time, and before anybody discovers us
in this most compromising situation."
He struck the tone most likely to win him obedience, and that he
had judged astutely her face showed him. In the place of the anger
that had distorted it there came now into that countenance a look
of surprise and fear. She saw herself baffled at every point. She
had threatened him with Duplay - the only man available - and he had
shown her how futile it must prove to summon him. And now she had
locked herself in with him, thinking to sit there until he should do
her will, and he showed her the danger to herself therein, which had
escaped her notice.
There was a settle close behind her, and on to this she sank, and
bending her head she opened the floodgates of her passionate little
soul, and let the rage that had so long possessed her dissolve in
tears. At sight of that sudden change of front La Boulaye stamped
his foot. He appreciated the fact that she was about to fight him
with weapons that on a previous occasion - when, however, it is
true, they were wielded by another - had accomplished his undoing.
And for all that he steeled his heart, and evoked the memory of
Suzanne to strengthen him in his purpose: he approached her with a
kindly exterior. He sat him down beside her; he encompassed her
waist with his arm, and drawing her to him he set himself to soothe
her as one soothes a wilful child. Had he then recalled what her
attitude had been towards him in the past he had thought twice
before adopting such a course. But in his mind there was no
sentiment that was not brotherly, and far from his wishes was it
to invest his action with any other than a fraternal kindness.
But she, feeling that caressing arm about her, and fired by it in
her hapless passion for this man, was quick to misinterpret him,
and to translate his attitude into one of a kindness far beyond his
dreams. She nestled closer to him; at his bidding her weeping died
down and ceased.
"There, Cecile, you will give me the key now?" he begged.
She glanced up at him shyly through wet lashes - as peeps the sun
through April clouds.
"There is nothing I will not do for you, Caron," she murmured. "See,
I will even help you to play the traitor on my uncle. For you love
me a little, cher Caron, is it not so?"
He felt himself grow cold from head to foot, and he grew sick at
the thought that by the indiscretion of his clumsy sympathy he had
brought this down upon his luckless head. Mechanically his arm
relaxed the hold of her waist and fell away. Instinctively she
apprehended that all was not as she had thought. She turned on the
seat to face him squarely, and caught something of the dismay in
his glance of the loathing almost (for what is more loathsome to a
man than to be wooed by a woman he desires not?) Gradually, inch
by inch, she drew away from him, ever facing him, and her eyes ever
on his, as if fascinated by the horror of what she saw. Thus until
the extremity of the settle permitted her to go no farther. She
started, then her glance flickered down, and she gave a sudden gasp
of passion. Simultaneously the key rang on the boards at Caron's
feet angrily flung there by Cecile.
"Go!" she exclaimed, in a suffocating voice, "and never let me see
your face again."
For a second or two he sat quite still, his eyes observing her with
a look of ineffable pity, which might have increased her disorder
had she perceived it. Then slowly he stooped, and took up the key.
He rose from the settle, and without a word - for words he realised,
could do no more than heighten the tragic banality of the situation
- he went to the door, unlocked it, and passed out.
Huddled in her corner sat Cecile, listening until his steps had died
away on the stairs. Then she cast herself prone upon the settle,
and in a frenzy of sobs and tears she vented some of the rage and
shame that were distracting her.
THE GRATITUDE OF OMBREVAL
What La Boulaye may have lacked in knowledge of woman's ways he made
up for by his knowledge of Cecile, and from this he apprehended that
there was no time to be lost if he would carry out his purpose.
Touching her dismissal of him, he permitted himself no illusions.
He rated it at its true value. He saw in it no sign of relenting
of generosity, but only a desire to put an end to the shame which
his presence was occasioning her.
He could imagine the lengths to which the thirst of vengeance would
urge a scorned woman, and of all women he felt that Cecile scorned
was the most to be feared. She would not sit with folded hands.
Once she overcame the first tempestuous outburst of her passion she
would be up and doing, straining every sense to outwit and thwart
him in his project, whose scope she must have more than guessed.
Reasoning thus, he clearly saw not only that every moment was of
value, but that flight was the only thing remaining him if he would
save himself as well as Ombreval. And so he hired him a cabriolet,
and drove in all haste to the house of Billaud Varennes, the Deputy,
from whom he sought to obtain one of the two signatures still
needed by his order of release. He was disappointed at learning
that Varennes was not at home - though, had he been able to peep an
hour or so into the future, he would have offered up thanks to
Heaven for that same Deputy's absence. His insistent and impatient
questions elicited the information that probably Verennes would be
found at Fevrier's. And so to Fevrier's famous restaurant in the
old Palais Royal went La Boulaye, and there he had the good fortune
to find not only Billaud Varennes, but also the Deputy Carnot. Nor
did fortune end her favours there. She was smiling now upon Caron,
as was proved by the fact that neither to Varennes nor Carnot did
the name of Ombreval mean anything. Robespierre's subscription of
the document was accepted by each as affording him a sufficient
warrant to append his own signature, and although Carnot asked a
question or two, it was done in an idle humour, and he paid little
attention to such replies as Caron made him.
Within five minutes of entering the restaurant, La Boulaye was in
the street again, driving, by way of the Pont Neuf, to the Luxembourg.
At the prison he encountered not the slightest difficulty. He was
known personally to the officer, of whom he demanded the person of
the ci-devant Vicomte, and his order of release was too correct to
give rise to any hesitation on the part of the man to whom it was
submitted. He was left waiting a few moments in a chamber that did
duty as a guard-room, and presently the Vicomte, looking pale, and
trembling with excitement at his sudden release, stood before him.
"You?" he muttered, upon beholding La Boulaye. But the Republican
received him very coldly, and hurried him out of the prison with
The officer attended the Deputy to the door of his cabriolet, and
in his hearing Caron bade the coachman drive to the Porte St. Martin.
This, however, was no more than a subterfuge to which he was
resorting with a view to baffling the later possibility of their
being traced. Ombreval naturally enough plied him with questions
as they went, to which La Boulaye returned such curt answers that
in the end, discouraged and offended, the nobleman became silent.
Arrived at the Porte St. Martin they alighted, and La Boulaye
dismissed the carriage. On foot he now led his companion as far as
the church of St. Nicholas des Champs, where he hired a second
cabriolet, bidding the man drive him to the Quai de la Greve.
Having reached the riverside they once more took a short walk,
crossing by the Pont au Change, and thence making their way towards
Notre Dame, in the neighbourhood of which La Boulaye ushered the
Vicomte into a third carriage, and thinking that by now they had
done all that was needed to efface their tracks, he ordered the man
to proceed as quickly as possible to Choisy.
They arrived at that little village on the Seine an hour or so later,
and having rid themselves of their conveyance, Caron inquired and
discovered the way to the house of Citoyenne Godelliere.
Mademoiselle was within, and at sound of Caron's voice questioning
the erstwhile servant who had befriended her, she made haste to
show herself. And at a word from her, Henriette admitted the two
men and ushered them into a modest parlour, where she left them
La Boulaye was the first to speak.
"I trust that I have not kept you waiting overlong, Citoyenne," he
said, by way of saying something.
"Monsieur," she answered him, with a look that was full of gratitude
and kindliness" you have behaved nobly, and to my dying day I shall
This La Boulaye deprecated by a gesture, but uttered no word as the
Vicomte now stepped forward and bore Suzanne's hand to his lips.
"Mademoiselle," said he, "Monsieur La Boulaye here was very reticent
touching the manner in which my release has been gained. But I never
doubted that I owed it to your good efforts, and that you had adopted
the course suggested to you by my letter, and bought me from the
La Boulaye flushed slightly as much at the contemptuous tone as at
the words in which Ombreval referred to the Republic.
"It is not to me but to our good friend, M. La Boulaye, that you
should address your thanks, Monsieur."
"Ah? Vraiment?" exclaimed the Vicomte, turning a supercilious eye
upon the Deputy, for with his freedom he seemed to have recovered
his old habits.
"I have not sold you to the Citoyenne," said La Boulaye, the words
being drawn from him by the other's manner. "I am making her a
present of you - a sort of wedding gift." And his lips smiled, for
all that his eyes remained hard.
Ombreval made him no answer, but stood looking from the Deputy to
Suzanne in some hesitation. The expressions which his very lofty
dignity prompted, his sense of fitness - feeble though it was -
forbade him. And so there followed a pause, which, however, was but
brief, for La Boulaye had yet something to say.
It had just come to him with a dismaying force that in the haste of
his escape from Paris with the Vicomte he had forgotten to return
to his lodging for a passport that he was fortunately possessed of.
It was a laissez-passer, signed and left in blank, with which he
had been equipped - against the possibility of the need for it
arising - when he had started upon the Convention's errand to the
Army of Dumouriez. Whilst on his way to Robespierre's house to
secure the order of release, he had bethought him of filling in
that passport for three persons, and thus, since to remain must
entail his ruin and destruction, make his escape from France with
Mademoiselle and the Vicomte. It was his only chance. Then in
the hurry of the succeeding incidents, the excitement that had
attended them, and the imperative need for haste in getting the
Vicomte to Choisy, he had put the intended return to his lodging
from his mind - overlooking until now the fact that not only must
he go back for the valise which he had bidden Brutus pack, but
also for that far more precious passport.
It now became necessary to explain the circumstances to his
companions, and in explaining them the whole affair, from
Robespierre's refusal to grant him the life of the Vicomte down
to the means to which he had had recourse, could not be kept from
transpiring. As she listened, Suzanne's expression changed into
one of ineffable wonder.
"And you have done this for me?" she cried, when at last he paused.,
"you have ruined your career and endangered your life?"
La Boulaye shrugged his shoulders.
"I spoke over-confidently when I said that I could obtain you the
Vicomte's pardon. There proved to be a factor on which I had not
counted. Nevertheless, what I had promised I must fulfil. I was
by honour bound to leave nothing undone that might result in the
Ornbreval laughed softly, but with consummate amusement.
"A sans-culotte with a sense of honour is such an anomaly - " he
began, when Mademoiselle interposed, a note of anger sounding in
"M. d'Ombreval means to pay you a compliment," she informed La
Boulaye, "but he has such an odd way of choosing his expressions
that I feared you might misunderstand him."
La Boulaye signified his indifference by a smile.
"I am afraid the ci-devant Vicomte has not yet learnt his lesson,"
said he;" or else he is like the sinner who upon recovering health
forgot the penitence that had come to him in the days of sickness.
But we have other matters to deal with, Citoyenne, and, in
particular, the matter of the passport. Fool that I am!" he cried
"I must return to Paris at once," he announced briskly. "There is
no help for it. We will hope that as yet the way is open to me, and
that I shall be permitted to go and to return unmolested. In such a
case the rest is easy - except that you will have to suffer my
company as far as the frontier."
It was Mademoiselle who accompanied him to the door.
"Monsieur," she said, in a voice that shook with the sincere
intensity of her feelings, "think me not ungrateful that I have said
so little. But your act has overwhelmed me. It is so truly noble,
that to offer you thanks that are but words, seems tome little short
of a banality."
"Tut!" he laughed. "I have not yet done half. It will be time to
thank me when we are out of France."
"And you speak so lightly of leaving France?" she cried. "But what
is to become of you? What of your career?"
"Other careers are possible in other countries," he answered, with
a lightness he did not feel. "Who knows perhaps the English or the
Prussians might be amenable to a change of government. I shall seek
to induce one or the other of them to became a republic, and then I
shall become once more a legislator."
With that, and vowing that every moment he remained their chances
of leaving France grew more slender, he took his leave of her,
expressing the hope that he might be back within a couple of hours.
Mademoiselle watched him to the garden gate, then closing the door
she returned within.
She discovered her betrothed - he whom La Boulaye had called her
lover - standing with his back to the fire, his hands clasped behind
him, the very picture of surliness. He made none of the advances
that one might look for in a man placed as he was at that moment.
He greeted her, instead, with a complaint.
"Will you permit me, Mademoiselle, to say that in this matter you
have hardly chosen the wiser course?"
"In what matter?" quoth she, at a loss to understand him.
"In the matter of my release. I advised you in my letter to
purchase my freedom. Had you done so, we should now be in a
position to start for the frontier - for you would have made a
passport a part of your bargain. Instead of this, not only are
we obliged to run the risk of waiting, but even if this fellow
should return, we shall be affronted by his company for some days
to come." And the Vicomte sniffed the air in token of disgust.
Suzanne looked at him in an amazement that left her speechless for
a moment. At last:
"And this is your gratitude?" she demanded. "This is all that you
have to say in thanks for the discomfort and danger that I have
suffered on your behalf? Your tone is oddly changed since you
wrote me that piteous, pitiable letter from Belgium, M. le Vicomte."
He reddened slightly.
"I am afraid that I have been clumsy in my expressions," he
apologised. "But never doubt my gratitude, Mademoiselle. I am more
grateful to you than words can tell. You have done your duty to me
as few women could."
The word "duty" offended her, yet she let it pass. In his monstrous
vanity it was often hopeless to make him appreciate the importance
of anything or anybody outside of himself. Of this the present
occasion was an instance.
"You must forgive me my seeming thanklessness, Mademoiselle," he
pursued. "It was the company of that sans-culotte rascal that soured
me. I had enough of him a month ago, when he brought me to Paris.
It offended me to have him stand here again in the same room with me,
and insolently refer to his pledged word as though he were a
"To whom do you refer?" quoth she.
"Ma foi! How many of them are there? Why, to this fellow, La
"So it seemed, and yet I could not believe it of you. Do you not
realise that your ingratitude approaches the base?"
He vouchsafed her a long, cold stare of amazement.
"Mordieu!" he ejaculated at last. "I am afraid that your reason has
been affected by your troubles. You seem, Mademoiselle, to be
unmindful of the station into which you have had the honour to be
"If your bearing is to be accepted as a sign that you remember it,
I will pray God that I may, indeed, forget it - completely and for
And then the door opened to admit the good Henriette, who came to
announce that she had contrived a hasty meal, and that it was served
and awaiting them.
"Diable!" he laughed. "Those are the first words of true wit that
I have heard these many days. I swear," he added, with a
pleasantness that was oddly at variance with his sullen humour of
a moment back," that I have not tasted human food these four weeks,
and as for my appetite - it is capable of consuming the whole
patrimony of St. Peter. Lead the way, my good Henriette. Come,
Facts proved how correct had been La Boulaye's anticipations of the
course that Cecile would adopt, Within a half-hour of his having
quitted the house of Billaud Varennes, she presented herself there,
and demanded to see the Deputy. Upon being told that he was absent
she determined to await his return.
And so, for the matter of an hour, she remained in the room where
the porter had offered her accommodation, fretting at the delay, and
only restrained from repairing to some other member of the Convention
by the expectation that the next moment would see Varennes arrive.
Arrive he did at last, when her patience was all but exhausted, and
excitedly she told her tale of what had taken place. Varennes
listened gravely, and cross-questioned her in his unbelief - for it
seemed, indeed, monstrous that a man of La Boulaye's position should
ruin so promising a future as was his by an act for which Varennes
could not so much as divine a motive. But her story hung together
so faithfully, and was so far borne out by the fact that Varennes
himself had indeed signed such a document as she described, that in
the end the Deputy determined to take some steps to neutralise the
harm that might have been done.
Dismissing the girl with the assurance that the matter should have
his attention, he began by despatching a courier to Robespierre at
Chartres - where he knew the Incorruptible to be. That done, he
resorted to measures for La Boulaye's detention. But this proved a
grave matter. What if, after all, that half-hysterical girl's
story should be inaccurate? In what case would he find himself if,
acting upon it in the meantime, he should order Caron's arrest? The
person of a Deputy was not one to be so lightly treated, and he
might find himself constrained to answer a serious charge in
consequence. Thus partly actuated by patriotism and the fear of
Robespierre, and partly restrained by patriotism and the fear of La
Boulaye, he decided upon a middle course: that of simply detaining
La Boulaye at his lodging until Robespierre should either return or
send an answer to his message. Thus, whilst leaving him perfect
freedom of movement within his own apartments, he would yet ensure
against his escape so that should Robespierre demand him he could
without difficulty be produced.
To this end he repaired with a sous-lieutenant and six men to La
Boulaye's house in the Rue Nationale, intending to station the
soldiers there with orders not to allow the Deputy to go out, and
to detain and question all who sought admittance to him. He
nourished the hope that the ci-devant Vicomte might still be with
La Boulaye. At the Rue Nationale, however, he was to discover that
neither Deputy nor aristocrat was to be found. Brutus informed
him that he was expecting the Citizen La Boulaye, but beyond that
he would say nothing, and he wisely determined to hold his peace
touching the valise that he had been ordered to pack and the fact
that he knew the Deputy meditated leaving Paris. Brutus had learnt
the value of silence, especially when those who sought information
were members of the Convention.
Alarmed at this further corroboration of Cecile's story of treachery
Varennes left the military at Caron's house, with orders not to
allow the Deputy to again depart if in the meantime he should happen
to return, whilst to every barrier of Paris he sent instructions to
have La Boulaye detained if he should present himself. By these
measures he hoped still to be able to provide against the
possibility of Caron's seeking to leave Paris.
But Caron had been gone over an hour, and as a matter of fact, he
was back again in Paris within a very little time of these orders
having been issued. At the Barriere d'Enfer, although recognised,
he was not molested, since the orders only, and distinctly,
concerned his departure and nowise his arrival.
Thus, not until he had reached his lodgings did he realise that
all was not as he had hoped. And even then it was only within
doors that he made the discovery,
when he found himself suddenly confronted by the sous-lieutenant,
who was idling in the passage. The officer saluted him respectfully,
and no less respectfully, though firmly, informed him that, by order
of the Citizen-deputy Billaud Varennes, he must ask him to confine
himself to his own apartments until further orders.
"But why, Citizen-officer?" La Boulaye demanded, striving to exclude
from his voice any shade of the chagrin that was besetting him.
"What do these orders mean?"
The officer was courtesy personified, but explanations he had none
to give, for the excellent reason, he urged that he was possessed
of none. He was a soldier, and he had received orders which he must
obey, without questioning either their wisdom or their justice.
Appreciating the futility of bearing himself otherwise, since his
retreat was already blocked by a couple of gendarmes, Caron
submitted to the inevitable.
He mounted leisurely to his study, and the ruin that stared him in
the eyes was enough to have daunted the boldest of men. Yet, to do
him justice, he was more concerned at the moment with the
consequences this turn of affairs might have for Mademoiselle than
with his own impending downfall. That he had Cecile to thank for
his apprehension he never doubted. Yet it was a reflection that he
readily dismissed from his mind. In such a pass as he now found
himself none but a weakling could waste time and energy in bewailing
the circumstances that had conspired to it. In a man of La
Boulaye's calibre and mettle it was more befitting to seek a means
to neutralise as much as possible the evil done.
He called Brutus and cross-questioned him regarding the attitude
and behaviour of the soldiery since their coming. He learnt that
nothing had been touched by them, and that they were acting with
the utmost discreetness, taking scrupulous care not to exceed the
orders they had received, which amounted to detaining La Boulaye
and nothing more.
"You think, then, that you might come and go unmolested?" he asked.
"I think that I might certainly go. But whether they would permit
me to return once I had left, I cannot say. "So that they will let
you pass out, that is all that signifies at the moment," said Caron.
"Should they question you, you can tell them that you are going to
dine and to fetch me my dinner from Berthon's. As a matter of fact,
I shall want you to go to Choisy with a letter, which you must see
does not fall into the hands of any of these people of the
"Give me the letter, Citizen, and trust me to do the rest," answered
the faithful Brutus.
La Boulaye searched a drawer of his writing-table for the blank
passport he required. Having found it, he hesitated for a moment
how to fill it in. At last he decided, and set down three names
- Pierre, Francois, and Julie Michael, players, going to Strasbourg
- to which he added descriptions of himself, the Vicomte, and
Mademoiselle. He reasoned that in case it should ultimately prove
impossible for him to accompany them, the passport, thus indited,
would still do duty for the other two. They could easily advance
some excuse why the third person mentioned was not accompanying
them. From this it will be seen that La Boulaye was far from
having abandoned hope of effecting his escape, either by his own
resourcefulness or by the favour of Robespierre himself, whose
kindness for him, after all, was a factor worth reckoning upon.
To Mademoiselle he now wrote as follows:
I am sending you the laissez-passer filled in for the three of
us. I am unfortunately unable to bring it myself as my
abstraction of the order of release has already been discovered,
and I am being detained pending the arrival of Robespierre. But
I am at my own lodging, and I have every hope that, either by
the use of my own wit, or else by the favour of my friend
Robespierre, I shall shortly be able to join you. I would
therefore ask you to wait a few days. But should I presently
send you word not to do so any longer, or should you hear of
events which will render it impossible for me to accompany you,
you can then set out with Ombreval, travelling under the guise
described in the passport, and informing any questioners that
the other person mentioned has been forced by ill health to
interrupt his journey. As I have said, I have every hope of
winning through my present difficulties; but should I fail to
do so, my most earnest prayer will be that you may make your
way out of France in safety, and that lasting happiness may be
your lot in whatever country you may elect to settle. You may
trust the bearer implicitly, patriotic though he may appear.
He subscribed the letter with his initials, and, having enclosed
the passport and sealed the package, he gave it to Brutus, with the
most minute instructions touching its delivery.
These instructions Brutus carried out with speed and fidelity. He
was allowed to quit the house without so much as a question, which
left his plan for readmittance the greater likelihood of succeeding.
In something less than an hour - for he hired himself a horse at
the nearest post-house - he had delivered his letter to Mademoiselle
Its contents sowed in her heart the very deepest consternation -
a consternation very fully shared by the Vicomte.
"Tenez!" he exclaimed, when he had read it. "Perhaps now you will
admit the justice of my plaint that you did not make a simple
purchase of my liberty, as I counselled you, instead of entering
into this idiotic compact with that sans-culotte."
She looked at him a moment in silence. She was suffering as it
was at the very thought that La Boulaye's life might be in danger
in consequence of what he had done for her. With reluctance had
she accepted the sacrifice of his career which he had made to serve
her. Now that it became the question of a sacrifice of life as
well she was dismayed. All the wrongs that she and hers had done
that man seemed to rise up and reproach her now. And so, when
presently she answered the Vicomte, it was no more than natural
that she should answer him impatiently.
"I thought, Monsieur, that we had already discussed and settled
" Settled it?" he echoed, with a sneer. "It seems none so easy to
settle. Do you think that words will settle it."
"By no means," she answered, her voice quivering. "It seems as if
a man's life will be required for that."
He shrugged his shoulders, and his face put on a look of annoyance.
"I hope, Mademoiselle, that you are not proposing to introduce
sentimentality. I think you would be better advised to leave that
vulgarity to the vulgar."
"I do not propose to pursue the discussion at all, Monsieur," was
her chilly answer.
"The way of woman," he reflected aloud. "Let her find that she is
being worsted in argument, and she calmly tells you that she has
no mind to pursue it. But, Mademoiselle, will you tell me at least
what you intend?"
"What do I intend?" she questioned. "What choice have we?"
"Whenever we are asked to follow a given course, we have always the
choice between two alternatives," he theorised. "We can comply,
or not comply."
"In the present instance I am afraid your rule is inapplicable.
There is no room for any alternative. We can do nothing but wait."
She looked at him impatiently, and wearily she sank on to a chair.
"Monsieur," she said, as calmly as might be," I am almost distracted
by my thoughts as it is. I don't know whether you are seeking to
complete the rout of my senses. Let me beg of you at least not to
deal in riddles with me. The time is ill-chosen. Tell me bluntly
what is in your mind, if, indeed, anything."
He turned from her peevishly, and crossed to the window. The
twilight was descending, and the little garden was looking grey in
the now pallid light. Her seeming obtuseness was irritating him.
"Surely, Mademoiselle," he exclaimed at last, "it is not necessary
that I should tell you what other course is open to us? It is a
matter for our choice whether we depart at once. We have a
passport, and - and, enfin, every hour that we remain here our
danger is increased, and our chances of escape are lessened."
"Ah!" She breathed the syllable contemptuously. "And what of La
"Pooh! he says himself that he is in no great danger. He is among
his fellows. Leave him to extricate himself. After all, it is his
fault that we are here. Why should we endanger our necks by waiting
"But surely you forget what he has done for us. You are forgetting
that he has rescued you from the guillotine, dragged you out of the
very jaws of death. Do you think that to forsake him now would be
a fair, an honest return?"
"But name of a name," rasped the Vicomte, "does he not say that he
is far from despairing? His position is not half so dangerous as
ours. If we are taken, there will be an end of us. With him matters
are far from being so bad. He is one of the rabble himself, and the
rabble will look after its own."
She rose impatiently.
"Monsieur, I am afraid the subject is not one that we may profitably
discuss. I shall obey the voice of my conscience in the matter, and
I shall wait until we hear again from La Boulaye. That is the
message I am about to return him by his servant.
The Vicomte watched her fling out of the room, and his weak face was
now white with anger. He rapped out an oath as he turned to the
"Mad!" he muttered, through-set teeth. "Mad as a sun-struck dog.
The troubles she has lately seen have turned her head - never a
difficult matter with a woman. She talks as if she had been reading
Rousseau on the 'Right of man'. To propose to endanger our lives
for the sake of that scum, La Boulaye! Ciel! It passes belief."
But it was in vain that he was sullen and resentful. Suzanne's mind
entertained no doubt of what she should do, and she had her way in
the matter, sending back Brutus with the message that she would wait
until La Boulaye communicated with her again.
That night Caron slept tranquilly. He had matured a plan of escape
which he intended to carry out upon the morrow, and with confident
hope to cradle him he had fallen asleep.
But the morrow - early in the forenoon - brought a factor with which
he had not reckoned, in the person of the Incorruptible himself.
Robespierre had returned in hot haste to Paris upon receiving
Varennes' message, and he repaired straight to the house of La
Caron was in his dressing-gown when Robespierre was ushered into
his study, and the sight of that greenish complexion and the small
eyes, looking very angry and menacing, caused the song that the
young man had been humming to fade on his lips.
"You, Maximilien!" he exclaimed.
"Your cordial welcome flatters me," sneered the Incorruptible,
coming forward. Then with a sudden change of voice: "What is that
they tell me you have done, miserable?" he growled.
It would have been a madness on Caron's part to have increased an
anger that was already mounting to very passionate heights.
Contritely, therefore, and humbly he acknowledged his fault, and
cast himself upon the mercy of Robespierre.
But the Incorruptible was not so easily to be shaken.
"Traitor that you are!" he inveighed. "Do you imagine that because
it is yours to make high sounding speeches in the Convention you
are to conspire with impunity against the Nation? Your loyalty, it
seems, is no more than a matter of words, and they that would keep
their heads on their shoulders in France to-day will find the need
for more than words as their claim to be let live. If you would
save your miserable neck, tell me what you have done with this
"He is gone," answered La Boulaye quietly.
"Don't prevaricate, Caron! Don't seek to befool me, Citizen-deputy.
You have him in hiding somewhere. You can have supplied him with
no papers, and a man may not travel out of France without them in
these times. Tell me - where is he?"
"Gone," repeated La Boulaye. "I have set him free, and he has
availed himself of it to place himself beyond your reach. More
than that I cannot tell you."
"Can you not?" snarled Robespierre, showing his teeth. "Of what
are you dreaming fool? Do you think that I will so easily see
myself cheated of this dog? Did I not tell you that rather would
I grant you the lives of a dozen aristocrats than that of this
single one? Do you think, then, that I am so lightly to be
baulked? Name of God? Who are you, La Boulaye, what are you,
that you dare thwart me in this?" He looked at the young man's
impassive face to curb his anger. "Come, Caron," he added, in a
wheedling tone. "Tell me what you have done with him?"
"I have already told you," answered the other quietly.
As swift and suddenly as it changed before did Robespierre's humour
change again upon receiving that reply. With a snort of anger he
strode to the door and threw it open.
"Citizen-lieutenant!" he called, in a rasping voice.
"Here, Citizen," came a voice from below.
"Give yourself the trouble of coming up with a couple of men. Now,
Citizen La Boulaye," he said, more composedly, as he turned once
more to the young man, "since you will not learn reason you may
mount the guillotine in his place."
Caron paled slightly as he inclined his head in silent submission.
At that moment the officer entered with his men at his heels.
"Arrest me that traitor," Maximilien commanded, pointing a shaking
finger at Caron. "To the Luxembourg with him."
"If you will wait while I change my dressing-gown for a coat,
Citizen-officer," said La Boulaye composedly, "I shall be grateful."
Then, turning to his official, "Brutus," he called, "attend me."
He had an opportunity while Brutus was helping him into his coat to
whisper in the fellow's ear:
"Let her know."
More he dared not say, but to his astute official that was enough,
and with a sorrowful face he delivered to Suzanne, a few hours
later, the news of La Boulaye's definite arrest and removal to the
At Brutus's description of the scene there had been 'twixt
Robespierre and Caron she sighed heavily, and her lashes grew wet.
"Poor, faithful La Boulaye!" she murmured. "God aid him now."
She bore the news to d'Ombreval, and upon hearing it he tossed aside
the book that had been engrossing him and looked up, a sudden light
of relief spreading on his weak face.
"It is the end," said he, as though no happier consummation could
have attended matters, "and we have no more to wait for. Shall we
set out to-day?" he asked, and urged the wisdom of making haste.
"I hope and I pray God that it may not be the end, as you so fondly
deem it, Monsieur," she answered him. "But whether it is the end
or not, I am resolved to wait until there is no room for any hope."
"As you will," he sighed wearily, "The issue of it all will probably
be the loss of our heads. But even that might be more easily
accomplished than to impart reason to a woman."
"Or unselfishness, it seems, to a man," she returned, as she swept
angrily from the room.
At the Bar of the Revolutionary Tribunal stood Deputy Caron La
Boulaye upon his trial for treason to the Nation and contravention
of the ends of justice. Fouquier-Tinvillle, the sleuth-hound
Attorney-General, advanced his charges, and detailed the nature of
the young revolutionist's crime. But there was in Fouquier-Tinvillle's
prosecution a lack of virulence for once, just as among La Boulaye's
fellows, sitting in judgment, there was a certain uneasiness, for the
Revolution was still young, and it had not yet developed that
Saturnian habit of devouring its own children which was later to
become one of its main features.
The matter of La Boulaye's crime, however, was but too clear, and
despite the hesitancy on the part of the jury, despite the unwonted
tameness of Tinvillle's invective, the Tribunal's course was
well-defined, and admitted of not the slightest doubt. And so, the
production of evidence being dispensed with by Caron's ready
concurrence and acknowledgment of the offence, the President was on
the point of formally asking the jury for their finding, when
suddenly there happened a commotion, and a small man in a blue coat
and black-rimmed spectacles rose at Tinvillle's side, and began an
impassioned speech for the defence.
This man was Robespierre, and the revolutionists sitting there
listened to him in mute wonder, for they recalled that it was upon
the Incorruptible's own charge their brother-deputy had been arrested.
Ardently did Maximilien pour out his eloquence, enumerating the many
virtues of the accused and dwelling at length upon his vast services
to the Republic, his hitherto unfaltering fidelity to the nation and
the people's cause, and lastly, deploring that in a moment of
weakness he should have committed the indiscretion which had brought
him where he stood. And against this thing of which he was now
accused, Robespierre bade the Deputies of the jury balance the young
man's past, and the much that he had done for the Revolution, and
to offer him, in consideration of all that, a chance of making
atonement and regaining the position of trust and of brotherly
affection which for a moment he had forfeited.
The Court was stirred by the address. They knew the young
sans-culotte's worth, and they were reluctant to pass sentence upon
him and to send him to the death designed for aristocrats and
traitors. And so they readily pronounced themselves willing to
extend him the most generous measure of mercy, to open their arms
and once more to clasp to their hearts the brother who had strayed
and to reinstate him in their confidence and their councils. They
pressed Robespierre to name the act of atonement by which he
proposed La Boulaye should recover his prestige, and Robespierre in
"Let him repair the evil he has done. Let him neutralise the
treachery into which a moment of human weakness betrayed him. Let
him return to us the aristocrat he has attempted to save, and we
will forget his indiscretion and receive him back amongst us with
open arms, as was the prodigal son received."
There was a salvo of applause. Men rose to their feet excitedly,
and with arms outstretched in Caron's direction they vociferously
implored him to listen to reason as uttered by the Incorruptible,
to repent him and to atone while there was yet time. They loved
him, they swore in voices of thunder, each seeking to be heard
above his neighbour's din, and it would break their hearts to find
him guilty, yet find him guilty they must unless he chose the
course which this good patriot Maximilien pointed out to him.
La Boulaye stood pale but composed, his lips compressed, his keen
eyes alert. Inwardly he was moved by this demonstration of goodwill,
this very storm of fraternity, but his purpose remained adamant, and
when at last the President's bell had tinkled his noisy judges into
silence, his voice rose clear and steady as he thanked them for
leaning to clemency on his behalf.
"Helas," he ended, "words cannot tell you how deeply I deplore that