The Gods are Athirst
by Anatole France
THE WORKS OF ANATOLE FRANCE IN AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION EDITED BY
THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
BY ANATOLE FRANCE
A TRANSLATION BY MRS. WILFRID JACKSON
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD
TORONTO: BELL &COCKBURN MCMXIV
Copyright, 1913 by JOHN LANE COMPANY
THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
Évariste Gamelin, painter, pupil of David, member of the Section du
Pont-Neuf, formerly Section Henri IV, had betaken himself at an early
hour in the morning to the old church of the Barnabites, which for
three years, since 21st May 1790, had served as meeting-place for the
General Assembly of the Section. The church stood in a narrow, gloomy
square, not far from the gates of the Palais de Justice. On the façade,
which consisted of two of the Classical orders superimposed and was
decorated with inverted brackets and flaming urns, blackened by the
weather and disfigured by the hand of man, the religious emblems had
been battered to pieces, while above the doorway had been inscribed in
black letters the Republican catchword of Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity or Death. Évariste Gamelin made his way into the nave; the
same vaults which had heard the surpliced clerks of the Congregation of
St. Paul sing the divine offices, now looked down on red-capped
patriots assembled to elect the Municipal magistrates and deliberate on
the affairs of the Section. The Saints had been dragged from their
niches and replaced by the busts of Brutus, Jean-Jacques and Le
Peltier. The altar had been stripped bare and was surmounted by the
Table of the Rights of Man.
It was here in the nave that twice a week, from five in the evening
to eleven, were held the public assemblies. The pulpit, decorated with
the colours of the Nation, served as tribune for the speakers who
harangued the meeting. Opposite, on the Epistle side, rose a platform
of rough planks, for the accommodation of the women and children, who
attended these gatherings in considerable numbers.
On this particular morning, facing a desk planted underneath the
pulpit, sat in red cap and carmagnole complete the joiner from
the Place Thionville, the citoyen Dupont senior, one of the
twelve forming the Committee of Surveillance. On the desk stood a
bottle and glasses, an ink-horn, and a folio containing the text of the
petition urging the Convention to expel from its bosom the twenty-two
members deemed unworthy.
Évariste Gamelin took the pen and signed.
I was sure, said the carpenter and magistrate, I was sure you
would come and give in your name, citoyen Gamelin. You are the
real thing. But the Section is lukewarm; it is lacking in virtue. I
have proposed to the Committee of Surveillance to deliver no
certificate of citizenship to any one who has failed to sign the
I am ready to sign with my blood, said Gamelin, for the
proscription of these federalists, these traitors. They have desired
the death of Marat: let them perish.
What ruins us, replied Dupont senior, is indifferentism. In a
Section which contains nine hundred citizens with the right to vote
there are not fifty attend the assembly. Yesterday we were eight and
Well then, said Gamelin, citizens must be obliged to come under
penalty of a fine.
Oh, ho! exclaimed the joiner frowning, but if they all came, the
patriots would be in a minority.... Citoyen Gamelin, will you
drink a glass of wine to the health of all good sansculottes?...
On the wall of the church, on the Gospel side, could be read the
words, accompanied by a black hand, the forefinger pointing to the
passage leading to the cloisters: Comité civil, Comité de
surveillance, Comité de bienfaisance. A few yards further on, you
came to the door of the erstwhile sacristy, over which was inscribed:
Gamelin pushed this door open and found the Secretary of the
Committee within; he was writing at a large table loaded with books,
papers, steel ingots, cartridges and samples of saltpetre-bearing
Greeting, citoyen Trubert. How are you?
I?... I am perfectly well.
The Secretary of the Military Committee, Fortuné Trubert, invariably
made this same reply to all who troubled about his health, less by way
of informing them of his welfare than to cut short any discussion on
the subject. At twenty-eight, he had a parched skin, thin hair, hectic
cheeks and bent shoulders. He was an optician on the Quai des Orfèvres,
and owned a very old house which he had given up in '91 to a
superannuated clerk in order to devote his energies to the discharge of
his municipal duties. His mother, a charming woman, whose memory a few
old men of the neighbourhood still cherished fondly, had died at
twenty; she had left him her fine eyes, full of gentleness and passion,
her pallor and timidity. From his father, optician and mathematical
instrument maker to the King, carried off by the same complaint before
his thirtieth year, he inherited an upright character and an
Without stopping his writing:
And you, citoyen, he asked, how are you?
Very well. Anything new?
Nothing, nothing. You can see,we are all quiet here.
And the situation?
The situation is just the same.
The situation was appalling. The finest army of the Republic
blockaded in Mayence; Valenciennes besieged; Fontenay taken by the
Vendéens; Lyons rebellious; the Cévennes in insurrection, the frontier
open to the Spaniards; two-thirds of the Departments invaded or
revolted; Paris helpless before the Austrian cannon, without money,
Fortuné Trubert wrote on calmly. The Sections being instructed by
resolution of the Commune to carry out the levy of twelve thousand men
for La Vendée, he was drawing up directions relating to the enrolment
and arming of the contingent which the Pont-Neuf, erstwhile Henri
IV, was to supply. All the muskets in store were to be handed over to
the men requisitioned for the front; the National Guard of the Section
would be armed with fowling-pieces and pikes.
I have brought you here, said Gamelin, the schedule of the
church-bells to be sent to the Luxembourg to be converted into cannon.
Évariste Gamelin, albeit he had not a penny, was inscribed among the
active members of the Section; the law accorded this privilege only to
such citizens as were rich enough to pay a contribution equivalent in
amount to three days' work, and demanded a ten days' contribution to
qualify an elector for office. But the Section du Pont-Neuf, enamoured
of equality and jealous of its independence, regarded as qualified both
for the vote and for office every citizen who had paid out of his own
pocket for his National Guard's uniform. This was Gamelin's case, who
was an active citizen of his Section and member of the Military
Fortuné Trubert laid down his pen:
Citoyen Évariste, he said, I beg you to go to the
Convention and ask them to send us orders to dig up the floor of
cellars, to wash the soil and flag-stones and collect the saltpetre. It
is not everything to have guns, we must have gunpowder too.
A little hunchback, a pen behind his ear and a bundle of papers in
his hand, entered the erstwhile sacristy. It was the citoyen
Beauvisage, of the Committee of Surveillance.
Citoyens, he announced, we have bad news: Custine has
Custine is a traitor! cried Gamelin.
He shall be guillotined, said Beauvisage.
Trubert, in his rather breathless voice, expressed himself with his
The Convention has not instituted a Committee of Public Safety for
fun. It will enquire into Custine's conduct. Incompetent or traitor, he
will be superseded by a General resolved to win the victory,and ça
He turned over a heap of papers, scrutinizing them with his tired
That our soldiers may do their duty with a quiet mind and stout
heart, they must be assured that the lot of those they leave behind at
home is safeguarded. If you are of the same opinion, citoyen
Gamelin, you will join me in demanding, at the next assembly, that the
Committee of Benevolence concert measures with the Military Committee
to succour the families that are in indigence and have a relative at
He smiled and hummed to himself: Ça ira! ça ira!...
Working twelve and fourteen hours a day at his table of unpainted
deal for the defence of the fatherland in peril, this humble Secretary
of the Sectional Committee could see no disproportion between the
immensity of the task and the meagreness of his means for performing
it, so filled was he with a sense of the unity in a common effort
between himself and all other patriots, so intimately did he feel
himself one with the Nation at large, so merged was his individual life
in the life of a great People. He was of the sort who combine
enthusiasm with long-suffering, who, after each check, set about
organizing the victory that is impossible, but is bound to come. And
verily they must win the day. These men of no account, who had
destroyed Royalty and upset the old order of things, this Trubert, a
penniless optician, this Évariste Gamelin, an unknown dauber, could
expect no mercy from their enemies. They had no choice save between
victory and death. Hence both their fervour and their serenity.
Quitting the Barnabites, Évariste Gamelin set off in the direction
of the Place Dauphine, now renamed the Place de Thionville in honour of
a city that had shown itself impregnable.
Situated in the busiest quarter of Paris, the Place had long
lost the fine stateliness it had worn a hundred years ago; the mansions
forming its three sides, built in the days of Henri IV in one uniform
style, of red brick with white stone dressings, to lodge
splendour-loving magistrates, had had their imposing roofs of slate
removed to make way for two or three wretched storeys of lath and
plaster or had even been demolished altogether and replaced by shabby
whitewashed houses, and now displayed only a series of irregular,
poverty-stricken, squalid fronts, pierced with countless narrow,
unevenly spaced windows enlivened with flowers in pots, birdcages, and
rags hanging out to dry. These were occupied by a swarm of artisans,
jewellers, metal-workers, clockmakers, opticians, printers,
laundresses, sempstresses, milliners, and a few grey-beard lawyers who
had not been swept away in the storm of revolution along with the
It was morning and springtime. Golden sunbeams, intoxicating as new
wine, played on the walls and flashed gaily in at garret casements.
Every sash of every window was thrown open, showing the housewives'
frowsy heads peeping out. The Clerk of the Revolutionary Tribunal, who
had just left his house on his way to Court, distributed amicable taps
on the cheeks of the children playing under the trees. From the
Pont-Neuf came the crier's voice denouncing the treason of the infamous
Évariste Gamelin lived in a house on the side towards the Quai de
l'Horloge, a house that dated from Henri IV and would still have
preserved a not unhandsome appearance but for a mean tiled attic that
had been added on to heighten the building under the last but one of
the tyrants. To adapt the lodging of some erstwhile dignitary of
the Parlement to the exigencies of the bourgeois and artisan
households that formed its present denizens, endless partitions and
false floors had been run up. This was why the citoyen Remacle,
concierge and jobbing tailor, perched in a sort of 'tween-decks, as low
ceilinged as it was confined in area. Here he could be seen through the
glass door sitting cross-legged on his work-bench, his bowed back
within an inch of the floor above, stitching away at a National Guard's
uniform, while the citoyenne Remacle, whose cooking stove
boasted no chimney but the well of the staircase, poisoned the other
tenants with the fumes of her stew-pots and frying-pans, and their
little girl Joséphine, her face smudged with treacle and looking as
pretty as an angel, played on the threshold with Mouton, the joiner's
dog. The citoyenne, whose heart was as capacious as her ample
bosom and broad back, was reputed to bestow her favours on her
neighbour the citoyen Dupont senior, who was one of the twelve
constituting the Committee of Surveillance. At any rate her husband had
his strong suspicions, and from morning to night the house resounded
with the racket of the alternate squabbles and reconciliations of the
pair. The upper floors were occupied by the citoyen Chaperon,
gold and silver-smith, who had his shop on the Quai de l'Horloge, by a
health officer, an attorney, a goldbeater, and several employés at the
Palais de Justice.
Évariste Gamelin climbed the old-fashioned staircase as far as the
fourth and last storey, where he had his studio together with a bedroom
for his mother. At this point ended the wooden stairs laid with tiles
that took the place of the grand stairway of the more important floors.
A ladder clamped to the wall led to a cock-loft, from which at that
moment emerged a stout man with a handsome, florid, rosy-cheeked face,
climbing painfully down with an enormous package clasped in his arms,
yet humming gaily to himself: J'ai perdu mon serviteur.
Breaking off his song, he wished a polite good-day to Gamelin, who
returned him a fraternal greeting and helped him down with his parcel,
for which the old man thanked him.
There, said he, shouldering his burden again, you have a batch of
dancing-dolls which I am going to deliver straight away to a
toy-merchant in the Rue de la Loi. There is a whole tribe of them
inside; I am their creator; they have received of me a perishable body,
exempt from joys and sufferings. I have not given them the gift of
thought, for I am a benevolent God.
It was the citoyen Brotteaux, once farmer of taxes and
ci-devant noble; his father, having made a fortune in these
transactions, had bought himself an office conferring a title on the
possessor. In the good old times Maurice Brotteaux had called himself
Monsieur des Ilettes and used to give elegant suppers which the fair
Madame de Rochemaure, wife of a King's procureur, enlivened with
her bright glances,a finished gentlewoman whose loyal fidelity was
never impugned so long as the Revolution left Maurice Brotteaux in
possession of his offices and emoluments, his hôtel, his estates and
his noble name. The Revolution swept them all away. He made his living
by painting portraits under the archways of doors, making pancakes and
fritters on the Quai de la Mégisserie, composing speeches for the
representatives of the people and giving dancing lessons to the young
citoyennes. At the present time, in his garret into which you
climbed by a ladder and where a man could not stand upright, Maurice
Brotteaux, the proud owner of a glue-pot, a ball of twine, a box of
water-colours and sundry clippings of paper, manufactured dancing-dolls
which he sold to wholesale toy-dealers, who resold them to the pedlars
who hawked them up and down the Champs-Élysées at the end of a
pole,glittering magnets to draw the little ones' eyes. Amidst the
calamities of the State and the disaster that overwhelmed himself, he
preserved an unruffled spirit, reading for the refreshment of his mind
in his Lucretius, which he carried with him wherever he went in the
gaping pocket of his plum-coloured surtout.
Évariste Gamelin pushed open the door of his lodging. It offered no
resistance, for his poverty spared him any trouble about lock and key;
when his mother from force of habit shot the bolt, he would tell her:
Why, what's the good? Folks don't steal spiders'-webs,nor my
pictures, neither. In his workroom were piled, under a thick layer of
dust or with faces turned to the wall, the canvases of his student
years,when, as the fashion of the day was, he limned scenes of
gallantry, depicting with a sleek, timorous brush emptied quivers and
birds put to flight, risky pastimes and reveries of bliss, high-kilted
goose-girls and shepherdesses with rose-wreathed bosoms.
But it was not a genre that suited his temperament. His cold
treatment of such like scenes proved the painter's incurable purity of
heart. Amateurs were right: Gamelin had no gifts as an erotic artist.
Nowadays, though he was still short of thirty, these subjects struck
him as dating from an immemorial antiquity. He saw in them the
degradation wrought by Monarchy, the shameful effects of the corruption
of Courts. He blamed himself for having practised so contemptible a
style and prostituted his genius to the vile arts of slavery. Now,
citizen of a free people, he occupied his hand with bold charcoal
sketches of Liberties, Rights of Man, French Constitutions, Republican
Virtues, the People as Hercules felling the Hydra of Tyranny, throwing
into each and all his compositions all the fire of his patriotism.
Alas! he could not make a living by it. The times were hard for
artists. No doubt the fault did not lie with the Convention, which was
hurling its armies against the kings gathered on every frontier, which,
proud, unmoved, determined in the face of the coalesced powers of
Europe, false and ruthless to itself, was rending its own bosom with
its own hands, which was setting up terror as the order of the day,
establishing for the punishment of plotters a pitiless tribunal to
whose devouring maw it was soon to deliver up its own members; but
which through it all, with calm and thoughtful brow, the patroness of
science and friend of all things beautiful, was reforming the calendar,
instituting technical schools, decreeing competitions in painting and
sculpture, founding prizes to encourage artists, organizing annual
exhibitions, opening the Museum of the Louvre, and, on the model of
Athens and Rome, endowing with a stately sublimity the celebration of
National festivals and public obsequies. But French Art, once so widely
appreciated in England, and Germany, in Russia, in Poland, now found
every outlet to foreign lands closed. Amateurs of painting, dilettanti
of the fine arts, great noblemen and financiers, were ruined, had
emigrated or were in hiding. The men the Revolution had enriched,
peasants who had bought up National properties, speculators,
army-contractors, gamesters of the Palais-Royal, durst not at present
show their wealth, and did not care a fig for pictures, either. It
needed Regnault's fame or the youthful Gérard's cleverness to sell a
canvas. Greuze, Fragonard, Houin were reduced to indigence. Prud'hon
could barely earn bread for his wife and children by drawing subjects
which Copia reproduced in stippled engravings. The patriot painters
Hennequin, Wicar, Topino-Lebrun were starving. Gamelin, without means
to meet the expenses of a picture, to hire a model or buy colours,
abandoned his vast canvas of The Tyrant pursued in the Infernal
Regions by the Furies, after barely sketching in the main outlines.
It blocked up half the studio with its half-finished, threatening
shapes, greater than life-size, and its vast brood of green snakes,
each darting forth two sharp, forked tongues. In the foreground, to the
left, could be discerned Charon in his boat, a haggard, wild-looking
figure,a powerful and well conceived design, but of the schools,
schooly. There was far more of genius and less of artificiality in a
canvas of smaller dimensions, also unfinished, that hung in the best
lighted corner of the studio. It was an Orestes whom his sister Electra
was raising in her arms on his bed of pain. The maiden was putting back
with a moving tenderness the matted hair that hung over her brother's
eyes. The head of the hero was tragic and fine, and you could see a
likeness in it to the painter's own countenance.
Gamelin cast many a mournful look at this composition; sometimes his
fingers itched with the craving to be at work on it, and his arms would
be stretched longingly towards the boldly sketched figure of Electra,
to fall back again helpless to his sides. The artist was burning with
enthusiasm, his soul aspired to great achievements. But he had to
exhaust his energy on pot-boilers which he executed indifferently,
because he was bound to please the taste of the vulgar and also because
he had no skill to impress trivial things with the seal of genius. He
drew little allegorical compositions which his comrade Desmahis
engraved cleverly enough in black or in colours and which were bought
at a low figure by a print-dealer in the Rue Honoré, the citoyen
Blaise. But the trade was going from bad to worse, declared Blaise, who
for some time now had declined to purchase anything.
This time, however, made inventive by necessity, Gamelin had
conceived a new and happy thought, as he at any rate
believed,an idea that was to make the print-seller's fortune, and the
engraver's and his own to boot. This was a patriotic pack of cards,
where for the kings and queens and knaves of the old style he meant to
substitute figures of Genius, of Liberty, of Equality and the like. He
had already sketched out all his designs, had finished several and was
eager to pass on to Desmahis such as were in a state to be engraved.
The one he deemed the most successful represented a soldier dressed in
the three-cornered hat, blue coat with red facings, yellow breeches and
black gaiters of the Volunteer, seated on a big drum, his feet on a
pile of cannon-balls and his musket between his knees. It was the
citizen of hearts replacing the ci-devant knave of hearts.
For six months and more Gamelin had been drawing soldiers with
never-failing gusto. He had sold some of these while the fit of martial
enthusiasm lasted, while others hung on the walls of the room, and five
or six, water-colours, colour-washes and chalks in two tints, lay about
on the table and chairs. In the days of July, '92, when in every open
space rose platforms for enrolling recruits, when all the taverns were
gay with green leaves and resounded to the shouts of Vive la Nation!
freedom or death! Gamelin could not cross the Pont-Neuf or pass the
Hôtel de Ville without his heart beating high at sight of the beflagged
marquee in which magistrates in tricolour scarves were inscribing the
names of volunteers to the sound of the Marseillaise. But for
him to join the Republic's armies would have meant leaving his mother
Heralded by a grievous sound of puffing and panting the old
citoyenne, Gamelin's widowed mother, entered the studio, hot, red
and out of breath, the National cockade hanging half unpinned in her
cap and on the point of falling out. She deposited her basket on a
chair and still standing, the better to get her breath, began to groan
over the high price of victuals.
A shopkeeper's wife till the death of her husband, a cutler in the
Rue de Grenelle-Saint-Germain, at the sign of the Ville de
Châtellerault, now reduced to poverty, the citoyenne Gamelin
lived in seclusion, keeping house for her son the painter. He was the
elder of her two children. As for her daughter Julie, at one time
employed at a fashionable milliner's in the Rue Honoré, the best thing
was not to know what had become of her, for it was ill saying the
truth, that she had emigrated with an aristocrat.
Lord God! sighed the citoyenne, showing her son a loaf
baked of heavy dun-coloured dough, bread is too dear for anything; the
more reason it should be made of pure wheat! At market neither eggs nor
green-stuff nor cheese to be had. By dint of eating chestnuts, we're
like to grow into chestnuts.
After a long pause, she began again:
Why, I've seen women in the streets who had nothing to feed their
little ones with. The distress is sore among poor folks. And it will go
on the same till things are put back on a proper footing.
Mother, broke in Gamelin with a frown, the scarcity we suffer
from is due to the unprincipled buyers and speculators who starve the
people and connive with our foes over the border to render the Republic
odious to the citizens and to destroy liberty. This comes of the
Brissotins' plots and the traitorous dealings of your Pétions and
Rolands. It is well if the federalists in arms do not march on Paris
and massacre the patriot remnant whom famine is too slow in killing!
There is no time to lose; we must tax the price of flour and guillotine
every man who speculates in the food of the people, foments
insurrection or palters with the foreigner. The Convention has set up
an extraordinary tribunal to try conspirators. Patriots form the court;
but will its members have energy enough to defend the fatherland
against our foes? There is hope in Robespierre; he is virtuous. There
is hope above all in Marat. He loves the people, discerns its true
interests and promotes them. He was ever the first to unmask traitors,
to baffle plots. He is incorruptible and fearless. He, and he alone,
can save the imperilled Republic.
The citoyenne Gamelin shook her head, paying no heed to the
cockade that fell out of her cap at the gesture.
Have done, Évariste; your Marat is a man like another and no better
than the rest. You are young and your head is full of fancies. What you
say to-day of Marat, you said before of Mirabeau, of La Fayette, of
Pétion, of Brissot.
Never! cried Gamelin, who was genuinely oblivious.
After clearing one end of the deal table of the papers and books,
brushes and chalks that littered it, the citoyenne laid out on
it the earthenware soup-bowl, two tin porringers, two iron forks, the
loaf of brown bread and a jug of thin wine.
Mother and son ate the soup in silence and finished their meal with
a small scrap of bacon. The citoyenne, putting her titbit
on her bread, used the point of her pocket knife to convey the pieces
one by one slowly and solemnly to her toothless jaws and masticated
with a proper reverence the victuals that had cost so dear.
She had left the best part on the dish for her son, who sat lost in
a brown study.
Eat, Évariste, she repeated at regular intervals, eat,and on
her lips the word had all the solemnity of a religious commandment.
She began again with her lamentations on the dearness of provisions,
and again Gamelin demanded taxation as the only remedy for these evils.
But she shrilled:
There is no money left in the country. The émigrés have
carried it all off with them. There is no confidence left either.
Everything is desperate.
Hush, mother, hush! protested Gamelin. What matter our
privations, our hardships of a moment? The Revolution will win for all
time the happiness of the human race.
The good dame sopped her bread in her wine; her mood grew more
cheerful and she smiled as her thoughts returned to her young days,
when she used to dance on the green in honour of the King's birthday.
She well remembered too the day when Joseph Gamelin, cutler by trade,
had asked her hand in marriage. And she told over, detail by detail,
how things had gone,how her mother had bidden her: Go dress. We are
going to the Place de Grève, to Monsieur Bienassis' shop, to see
Damiens drawn and quartered, and what difficulty they had to force
their way through the press of eager spectators. Presently, in Monsieur
Bienassis' shop, she had seen Joseph Gamelin, wearing his fine
rose-pink coat and had known in an instant what he would be at. All the
time she sat at the window to see the regicide torn with red-hot
pincers, drenched with molten lead, dragged at the tail of four horses
and thrown into the flames, Joseph Gamelin had stood behind her chair
and had never once left off complimenting her on her complexion, her
hair and her figure.
She drained the last drop in her cup and continued her reminiscences
of other days:
I brought you into the world, Évariste, sooner than I had expected,
by reason of a fright I had when I was big. It was on the Pont-Neuf,
where I came near being knocked down by a crowd of sightseers hurrying
to Monsieur de Lally's execution. You were so little at your birth the
surgeon thought you would not live. But I felt sure God would be
gracious to me and preserve your life. I reared you to the best of my
powers, grudging neither pains nor expense. It is fair to say, my
Évariste, that you showed me you were grateful and that, from childhood
up, you tried your best to recompense me for what I had done. You were
naturally affectionate and tender-hearted. Your sister was not bad at
heart; but she was selfish and of unbridled temper. Your compassion was
greater than ever was hers for the unfortunate. When the little
ragamuffins of the neighbourhood robbed birds' nests in the trees, you
always fought hard to rescue the nestlings from their hands and restore
them to the mother, and many a time you did not give in till after you
had been kicked and cuffed cruelly. At seven years of age, instead of
wrangling with bad boys, you would pace soberly along the street saying
over your catechism; and all the poor people you came across you
insisted on bringing home with you to relieve their needs, till I was
forced to whip you to break you of the habit. You could not see a
living creature suffer without tears. When you had done growing, you
turned out a very handsome lad. To my great surprise, you appeared not
to know it,how different from most pretty boys, who are full of
conceit and vain of their good looks!
His old mother spoke the truth. Évariste at twenty had had a grave
and charming cast of countenance, a beauty at once austere and
feminine, the countenance of a Minerva. Now his sombre eyes and pale
cheeks revealed a melancholy and passionate soul. But his gaze, when it
fell on his mother, recovered for a brief moment its childish softness.
She went on:
You might have profited by your advantages to run after the girls,
but you preferred to stay with me in the shop, and I had sometimes to
tell you not to hang on always to my apron-strings, but to go and amuse
yourself with your young companions. To my dying day I shall always
testify that you have been a good son, Évariste. After your father's
death, you bravely took me and provided for me; though your work barely
pays you, you have never let me want for anything, and if we are at
this moment destitute and miserable, I cannot blame you for it. The
fault lies with the Revolution.
He raised his hand to protest; but she only shrugged and continued:
I am no aristocrat. I have seen the great in the full tide of their
power, and I can bear witness that they abused their privileges. I have
seen your father cudgelled by the Duc de Canaleilles' lackeys because
he did not make way quick enough for their master. I could never abide
the Austrianshe was too haughty and too extravagant. As for the
King, I thought him good-hearted, and it needed his trial and
condemnation to alter my opinion. In fact, I do not regret the old
régime,though I have had some agreeable times under it. But never
tell me the Revolution is going to establish equality, because men will
never be equal; it is an impossibility, and, let them turn the country
upside down to their heart's content, there will still be great and
small, fat and lean in it.
As she talked, she was busy putting away the plates and dishes. The
painter had left off listening. He was thinking out a design,for a
sansculotte, in red cap and carmagnole, who was to supersede the
discredited knave of spades in his pack of cards.
There was a sound of scratching on the door, and a girl appeared,a
country wench, as broad as she was long, red-haired and bandy-legged, a
wen hiding the left eye, the right so pale a blue it looked white, with
monstrous thick lips and teeth protruding beyond them.
She asked Gamelin if he was Gamelin the painter and if he could do
her a portrait of her betrothed, Ferrand (Jules), a volunteer serving
with the Army of the Ardennes.
Gamelin replied that he would be glad to execute the portrait on the
gallant warrior's return.
But the girl insisted gently but firmly that it must be done at
The painter protested, smiling in spite of himself as he pointed out
that he could do nothing without the original.
The poor creature was dumfounded; she had not foreseen the
difficulty. Her head drooping over the left shoulder, her hands clasped
in front of her, she stood still and silent as if overwhelmed by her
disappointment. Touched and diverted by so much simplicity, and by way
of distracting the poor, lovesick creature's grief, the painter handed
her one of the soldiers he had drawn in water-colours and asked her if
he was like that, her sweetheart in the Ardennes.
She bent her doleful look on the sketch, and little by little her
eye brightened, sparkled, flashed, and her moon face beamed out in a
It is his very likeness, she cried at last. It is the very spit
of Jules Ferrand, it is Jules Ferrand to the life.
Before it occurred to the artist to take the sheet of paper out of
her hands, she folded it carefully with her coarse red fingers into a
tiny square, slipped it over her heart between her stays and her shift,
handed the painter an assignat for five livres, and wishing the
company a very good day, hobbled light-heartedly to the door and so out
of the room.
On the afternoon of the same day Évariste set out to see the
citoyen Jean Blaise, printseller, as well as dealer in ornamental
boxes, fancy goods and games of all sorts, in the Rue Honoré, opposite
the Oratoire and near the office of the Messageries, at the sign of the
Amour peintre. The shop was on the ground floor of a house sixty
years old, and opened on the street by a vaulted arch the keystone of
which bore a grotesque head with horns. The semicircle beneath the arch
was occupied by an oil-painting representing the Sicilian or Cupid the
Painter, after a composition by Boucher, which Jean Blaise's father
had put up in 1770 and which sun and rain had been doing their best to
obliterate ever since. On either side of the door a similar arched
opening, with a nymph's head on the keystone arch glazed with the
largest panes to be got, exhibited for the benefit of the public the
prints in vogue at the time and the latest novelties in coloured
engravings. To-day's display included a series of scenes of gallantry
by Boilly, treated in his graceful, rather stiff way, Leçons d'amour
conjugal, Douces résistances and the like, which scandalized
the Jacobins and which the rigid moralists denounced to the Society of
Arts, Debucourt's Promenade publique, with a dandy in
canary-coloured breeches lounging on three chairs, a group of horses by
the young Carle Vernet, pictures of air balloons, the Bain de
Virginie and figures after the antique.
Amid the stream of citizens that flowed past the shop it was the
raggedest figures that loitered longest before the two fascinating
windows. Easily amused, delighting in pictures and bent on getting
their share, if only through the eyes, of the good things of this
world, they stood in open-mouthed admiration, whereas the aristocrats
merely glanced in, frowned and passed on.
The instant he came within sight of the house, Évariste fixed his
eyes on one of the row of windows above the shop, the one on the left
hand, where there was a red carnation in a flower-pot behind a balcony
of twisted ironwork. It was the window of Élodie's chamber, Jean
Blaise's daughter. The print-dealer lived with his only child on the
first floor of the house.
Évariste, after halting a moment as if to get his breath in front of
the Amour peintre, turned the hasp of the shop-door. He found
the citoyenne Élodie within; she had just sold a couple of
engravings by Fragonard fils and Naigeon, carefully selected
from a number of others, and before locking up the assignats
received in payment in the strong-box, was holding them one after the
other between her fine eyes and the light, to scrutinize the delicate
lines and intricate curves of engraving and the watermark. She was
naturally suspicious, for as much forged paper was in circulation as
true, which was a great hindrance to commerce. As in former days, in
the case of such as copied the King's signature, forgers of the
national currency were punished by death; yet plates for printing
assignats were to be found in every cellar, the Swiss smuggled in
counterfeits by the million, whole packets were put in circulation in
the inns, the English landed bales of them every day on our coasts, to
ruin the Republic's credit and bring good patriots to destitution.
Élodie was in terror of accepting bad paper, and still more in terror
of passing it and being treated as an accomplice of Pitt, though she
had a firm belief in her own good luck and felt pretty sure of coming
off best in any emergency.
Évariste looked at her with the sombre gaze that speaks more
movingly of love than the most smiling face. She returned his gaze with
a mocking curl of the lips and an arch gleam in the dark eyes,an
expression she wore because she knew he loved her and liked to know it
and because such a look provokes a lover, makes him complain of
ill-usage, brings him to the speaking point, if he has not spoken
already, which was Évariste's case.
Before depositing the assignats in the strong-box, she
produced from her work-basket a white scarf, which she had begun to
embroider, and set to work on it. At once industrious and a coquette,
she knew instinctively how to ply her needle so as to fascinate an
admirer and make a pretty thing for her wearing at one and the same
time; she had quite different ways of working according to the person
watching her,a nonchalant way for those she would lull into a gentle
languor, a capricious way for those she was fain to see in a more or
less despairing mood. For Évariste, she bent with an air of painstaking
absorption over her scarf, for she wanted to stir a sentiment of
serious affection in his heart.
Élodie was neither very young nor very pretty. She might have been
deemed plain at the first glance. She was a brunette, with an olive
complexion; under the broad white kerchief knotted carelessly about her
head, from which the dark lustrous ringlets escaped, her eyes of fire
gleamed as if they would burn their orbits. Her round face with its
prominent cheek-bones, laughing lips and rather broad nose, that gave
it a wild-wood, voluptuous expression, reminded the painter of the faun
of the Borghese, a cast of which he had seen and been struck with
admiration for its freakish charm. A faint down of moustache
accentuated the curve of the full lips. A bosom that seemed big with
love was confined by a crossed kerchief in the fashion of the year. Her
supple waist, her active limbs, her whole vigorous body expressed in
every movement a wild, delicious freedom. Every glance, every breath,
every quiver of the warm flesh called for love and promised passion.
There, behind the tradesman's counter, she seemed rather a dancing
nymph, a bacchante of the opera, stripped of her lynx skin and thyrsus,
imprisoned, and travestied by a magician's spell under the modest
trappings of a housewife by Chardin.
My father is not at home, she told the painter; wait a little, he
will not be long.
In the small brown hands the needle travelled swiftly over the fine
Is the pattern to your taste, Monsieur Gamelin?
It was not in Gamelin's nature to pretend. And love, exaggerating
his confidence, encouraged him to speak quite frankly.
You embroider cleverly, citoyenne; but, if I am to say what
I think, the pattern you have traced is not simple enough or bold
enough, and smacks of the affected taste that in France governed too
long the ornamentation of dress and furniture and woodwork; all those
rosettes and wreaths recall the pretty, finikin style that was in
favour under the tyrant. There is a new birth of taste. Alas! we have
much leeway to make up. In the days of the infamous Louis XV the art of
decoration had something Chinese about it. They made pot-bellied
cabinets with drawer handles grotesque in their contortions, good for
nothing but to be thrown on the fire to warm good patriots. Simplicity
alone is beautiful. We must hark back to the antique. David designs
beds and chairs from the Etruscan vases and the wall-paintings of
Yes, I have seen those beds and chairs, said Élodie, they are
lovely. Soon we shall want no other sort. I am like you, I adore the
Well, then, citoyenne, returned Évariste, if you had
limited your pattern to a Greek border, with ivy leaves, serpents or
crossed arrows, it would have been worthy of a Spartan maiden ... and
of you. But you can still keep this design by simplifying it, reducing
it to the plain lines of beauty.
She asked her preceptor what should be picked out.
He bent over the work, and the girl's ringlets swept lightly over
his cheek. Their hands met and their breaths mingled. For an instant
Évariste tasted an ecstatic bliss, but to feel Élodie's lips so close
to his own filled him with fear, and dreading to alarm her modesty, he
drew back quickly.
The citoyenne Blaise was in love with Évariste Gamelin; she
thought his great ardent eyes superb no less than the fine oval of his
pale face, and his abundant black locks, parted above the brow and
falling in showers about his shoulders; his gravity of demeanour, his
cold reserve, his severe manner and uncompromising speech which never
condescended to flattery, were equally to her liking. She was in love,
and therefore believed him possessed of supreme artistic genius that
would one day blossom forth in incomparable masterpieces and make his
name world-famous,and she loved him the better for the belief. The
citoyenne Blaise was no prude on the score of masculine purity and
her scruples were not offended because a man should satisfy his
passions and follow his own tastes and caprices; she loved Évariste,
who was virtuous; she did not love him because he was virtuous, albeit
she appreciated the advantage of his being so in that she had no cause
for jealousy or suspicion or any fear of rivals in his affections.
Nevertheless, for the time being, she deemed his reserve a little
overdone. If Racine's Aricie, who loved Hippolyte, admired the
youthful hero's untameable virtue, it was with the hope of winning a
victory over it, and she would quickly have bewailed a sternness of
moral fibre that had refused to be softened for her sake. At the first
opportunity she more than half declared her passion to constrain him to
speak out himself. Like her prototype the tender-hearted Aricie, the
citoyenne Blaise was much inclined to think that in love the woman
is bound to make the advances. The fondest hearts, she told herself,
are the most fearful; they need help and encouragement. Besides, they
are so simple a woman can go half way and even further without their
even knowing it, if only she lets them fancy the credit is theirs of
the bold attack and the glorious victory. What made her more confident
of success was the fact that she knew for a certainty (and indeed there
was no doubt about it) that Évariste, before ever the Revolution had
made him a hero, had loved a mistress like any ordinary mortal, a very
unheroic creature, no other than the concierge at the Academy of
Painting. Élodie, who was a girl of some experience, quite realised
that there are different sorts of love. The sentiment Évariste inspired
in her heart was profound enough for her to dream of making him the
partner of her life. She was very ready to marry him, but hardly
expected her father would approve the union of his only daughter with a
poor and unknown artist. Gamelin had nothing, while the printseller
turned over large sums of money. The Amour peintre brought him
in large profits, the share market larger still, and he was in
partnership with an army contractor who supplied the cavalry of the
Republic with rushes in place of hay and mildewed oats. In a word, the
cutler's son of the Rue Saint-Dominique was a very insignificant
personage beside the publisher of engravings, a man known throughout
Europe, related to the Blaizots, Basans and Didots, and an honoured
guest at the houses of the citoyens Saint-Pierre and Florian.
Not that, as an obedient daughter should, she held her father's consent
to be an indispensable preliminary to her settlement in life. The
latter, early left a widower, and a man of a self-indulgent, volatile
temper, as enterprising with women as he was in business, had never
paid much heed to her and had left her to develop at her own sweet
will, untrammelled whether by parental advice or parental affection,
more careful to ignore than to safeguard the girl's behaviour, whose
passionate temperament he appreciated as a connoisseur of the sex and
in whom he recognized charms far and away more seductive than a pretty
face. Too generous-hearted to be circumspect, too clever to come to
harm, cautious even in her caprices, passion had never made her forget
the social proprieties. Her father was infinitely grateful for this
prudent behaviour, and as she had inherited from him a good head for
business and a taste for money-making, he never troubled himself as to
the mysterious reasons that deterred a girl so eminently marriageable
from entering that estate and kept her at home, where she was as good
as a housekeeper and four clerks to him. At twenty-seven she felt old
enough and experienced enough to manage her own concerns and had no
need to ask the advice or consult the wishes of a father still a young
man, and one of so easy-going and careless a temper. But for her to
marry Gamelin, Monsieur Blaise must needs contrive a future for a
son-in-law with such poor prospects, give him an interest in the
business, guarantee him regular work as he did to several artists
alreadyin fact, one way or another, provide him with a livelihood;
and such a favour was out of the question, she considered, whether for
the one to offer or the other to accept, so small was the bond of
sympathy between the two men.
The difficulty troubled the girl's tender heart and wise brain. She
saw nothing to alarm her in a secret union with her lover and in taking
the author of nature for sole witness of their mutual troth. Her creed
found nothing blameworthy in such a union, which the independence of
her mode of life made possible and which Évariste's honourable and
virtuous character gave her good hopes of forming without apprehension
as to the result. But Gamelin was hard put to it to live and provide
his old mother with the barest necessaries, and it did not seem as
though in so straitened an existence room could well be found for an
amour even when reduced to the simplicity of nature. Moreover, Évariste
had not yet spoken and declared his intentions, though certainly the
citoyenne Blaise hoped to bring him to this before long.
She broke off her meditations, and the needle stopped at the same
Citoyen Évariste, she said, I shall not care for the
scarf, unless you like it too. Draw me a pattern, please. Meanwhile, I
will copy Penelope and unravel what I have done in your absence.
He answered in a tone of sombre enthusiasm:
I promise you I will, citoyenne. I will draw you the brand
of the tyrannicide Harmodius,a sword in a wreath,and pulling out
his pencil, he sketched in a design of swords and flowers in the sober,
unadorned style he admired. And as he drew, he expounded his views of
A regenerated People, he declared, must repudiate all the
legacies of servitude, bad taste, bad outline, bad drawing. Watteau,
Boucher, Fragonard worked for tyrants and for slaves. Their works show
no feeling for good style or purity of line, no love of nature or
truth. Masks, dolls, fripperies, monkey-tricks,nothing else!
Posterity will despise their frivolous productions. In a hundred years
all Watteau's pictures will be banished to the garrets and falling to
pieces from neglect; in 1893 struggling painters will be daubing their
studies over Boucher's canvases. David has opened the way; he
approaches the Antique, but he has not yet reached true simplicity,
true grandeur, bare and unadorned. Our artists have many secrets still
to learn from the friezes of Herculaneum, the Roman bas-reliefs, the
He dilated at length on antique beauty, then came back to Fragonard,
whom he abused with inexhaustible venom:
Do you know him, citoyenne?
You likewise know good old Greuze, who is ridiculous enough, to be
sure, with his scarlet coat and his sword. But he looks like a wise man
of Greece beside Fragonard. I met him, a while ago, the miserable old
man, trotting by under the arcades of the Palais-Égalité, powdered,
genteel, sprightly, spruce, hideous. At sight of him, I longed that,
failing Apollo, some sturdy friend of the arts might hang him up to a
tree and flay him alive like Marsyas as an everlasting warning to bad
Élodie gave him a long look out of her dancing, wanton eyes.
You know how to hate, Monsieur Gamelin, are we to conclude you know
also how to lo...?
Is that you, Gamelin? broke in a tenor voice; it was the
citoyen Blaise just come back to his shop. He advanced, boots
creaking, charms rattling, coat-skirts flying, an enormous black cocked
hat on his head, the corners of which touched his shoulders.
Élodie, picking up her work-basket, retreated to her chamber.
Well, Gamelin! inquired the citoyen Blaise, have you
brought me anything new?
May be, declared the painter,and proceeded to expound his ideas.
Our playing cards present a grievous and startling contrast with
our present ways of thinking. The names of knave and king offend the
ears of a patriot. I have designed and executed a reformed,
Revolutionary pack in which for kings, queens, and knaves are
substituted Liberties, Equalities, Fraternities; the aces in a border
of fasces, are called Laws.... You call Liberty of clubs, Equality of
spades, Fraternity of diamonds, Law of hearts. I venture to think my
cards are drawn with some spirit; I propose to have them engraved on
copper by Desmahis, and to take out letters of patent.
So saying and extracting from his portfolio some finished designs in
water-colour, the artist handed them to the printseller.
The citoyen Blaise declined to take them, and turning away:
My lad, he sneered, take 'em to the Convention; they will perhaps
accord you a vote of thanks. But never think to make a sol by
your new invention which is not new at all. You're a day behind the
fair. Your Revolutionary pack of cards is the third I've had brought
me. Your comrade Dugourc offered me last week a picquet set with four
Geniuses of the People, four Liberties, four Equalities. Another was
suggested, with Sages and Heroes, Cato, Rousseau, Hannibal,I don't
know what all!... And these cards had the advantage over yours, my
friend, in being coarsely drawn and cut on wood blockswith a
penknife. How little you know the world to dream that players will use
cards designed in the taste of David and engraved à la Bartolozzi! And
then again, what a strange mistake to think it needs all this to-do to
suit the old packs to the new ideas. Out of their own heads, the good
sansculottes can find a corrective for what offends them, saying,
instead of 'king''The Tyrant!' or just 'The fat pig!' They go on
using the same old filthy cards and never buy new ones. The great
market for playing-cards is the gaming-hells of the Palais-Égalité;
well, I advise you to go there and offer the croupiers and punters
there your Liberties, your Equalities, your ... what d'ye call 'em?...
Laws of hearts ... and come back and tell me what sort of a reception
they gave you!
The citoyen Blaise sat down on the counter, filliped away
sundry grains of snuff from his nankeen breeches and looking at Gamelin
with an air of gentle pity:
Let me give you a bit of advice, citoyen; if you want to
make your living, drop your patriotic packs of cards, leave your
revolutionary symbols alone, have done with your Hercules, your hydras,
your Furies pursuing guilt, your Geniuses of Liberty, and paint me
pretty girls. The people's ardour for regeneration grows lukewarm with
time, but men will always love women. Paint me women, all pink and
white, with little feet and tiny hands. And get this into your thick
skull that nobody cares a fig about the Revolution or wants to hear
another word about it.
But Évariste drew himself up in indignant protest:
What! not hear another word of the Revolution!... But, why surely,
the restoration of liberty, the victories of our armies, the
chastisement of tyrants are events that will startle the most remote
posterity. How could we not be struck by such portents?... What! the
sect of the sansculotte Jesus has lasted well-nigh eighteen
centuries, and the religion of Liberty is to be abolished after barely
four years of existence!
But Jean Blaise resumed in a tone of superiority:
You walk in a dream; I see life as it is. Believe me,
friend, the Revolution is a bore; it lasts over long. Five years of
enthusiasm, five years of fraternal embraces, of massacres, of fine
speeches, of Marseillaises, of tocsins, of 'hang up the
aristocrats,' of heads promenaded on pikes, of women mounted astride of
cannon, of trees of Liberty crowned with the red cap, of white-robed
maidens and old men drawn about the streets in flower-wreathed cars; of
imprisonments and guillotinings, of proclamations, and short commons,
of cockades and plumes, swords and carmagnolesit grows
tedious! And then folk are beginning to lose the hang of it all. We
have gone through too much, we have seen too many of the great men and
noble patriots whom you have led in triumph to the Capitol only to hurl
them afterwards from the Tarpeian rock,Necker, Mirabeau, La Fayette,
Bailly, Pétion, Manuel, and how many others! How can we be sure you are
not preparing the same fate for your new heroes?... Men have lost all
Their names, citoyen Blaise; name them, these heroes we are
making ready to sacrifice! cried Gamelin in a tone that recalled the
print-dealer to a sense of prudence.
I am a Republican and a patriot, he replied, clapping his hand on
his heart. I am as good a Republican as you, as ardent a patriot as
you, citoyen Gamelin. I do not suspect your zeal nor accuse you
of any backsliding. But remember that my zeal and my devotion to the
State are attested by numerous acts. Here you have my principles: I
give my confidence to every individual competent to serve the Nation.
Before the men whom the general voice elects to the perilous honour of
the Legislative office, such as Marat, such as Robespierre, I bow my
head; I am ready to support them to the measure of my poor ability and
offer them the humble co-operation of a good citizen. The Committees
can bear witness to my ardour and self-sacrifice. In conjunction with
true patriots, I have furnished oats and fodder to our gallant cavalry,
boots for our soldiers. This very day I am despatching from Vernon a
convoy of sixty oxen to the Army of the South through a country
infested with brigands and patrolled by the emissaries of Pitt and
Condé. I do not talk; I act.
Gamelin calmly put back his sketches in his portfolio, the strings
of which he tied and then slipped it under his arm.
It is a strange contradiction, he said through his clenched teeth,
to see men help our soldiers to carry through the world the liberty
they betray in their own homes by sowing discontent and alarm in the
soul of its defenders.... Greeting and farewell, citoyen
Before turning down the alley that runs alongside the Oratoire,
Gamelin, his heart big with love and anger, wheeled round for a last
look at the red carnations blossoming on a certain window-sill.
He did not despair; the fatherland would yet be saved. Against Jean
Blaise's unpatriotic speeches he set his faith in the Revolution. Still
he was bound to recognize that the tradesman had some show of reason
when he asserted that the people of Paris had lost its old interest in
public events. Alas! it was but too manifest that to the enthusiasm of
the early days had little by little succeeded a widespread
indifference, that never again would be seen the mighty crowds,
unanimous in their ardour, of '89, never again the millions, one in
heart and soul, that in '90 thronged round the altar of the fédérés. Well, good citizens must show double zeal and courage, must rouse the
people from its apathy, bidding it choose between liberty and death.
Such were Gamelin's thoughts, and the memory of Élodie was a spur to
Coming to the Quais, he saw the sun setting in the distant west
behind lowering clouds that were like mountains of glowing lava; the
roofs of the city were bathed in a golden light; the windows flashed
back a thousand dazzling reflections. And Gamelin pictured the Titans
forging out of the molten fragments of by-gone worlds Diké, the city of
Not having a morsel of bread for his mother or himself, he was
dreaming of a place at the limitless board that should have all the
world for guests and welcome regenerated humanity to the feast.
Meantime, he tried to persuade himself that the fatherland, as a good
mother should, would feed her faithful child. Shutting his mind against
the gibes of the printseller, he forced himself to believe that his
notion of a Revolutionary pack of cards was a novel one and a good one,
and that with these happily conceived sketches of his he held a fortune
in the portfolio under his arm. Desmahis, he told himself, shall
engrave them. We will publish for ourselves the new patriotic toy and
we are sure to sell ten thousand packs in a month, at twenty sols
In his impatience to realize the project, he strode off at once for
the Quai de la Ferraille, where Desmahis lived over a glazier's shop.
The entrance was through the shop. The glazier's wife informed
Gamelin that the citoyen Desmahis was not in, a fact that in no
wise surprised the painter, who knew his friend was of a vagabond and
dissipated humour and who marvelled that a man could engrave so much
and so well as he did while showing so little perseverance. Gamelin
made up his mind to wait a while for his return and the woman offered
him a chair. She was in a black mood and began to grumble at the
badness of trade, though she had always been told that the Revolution,
by breaking windows, was making the glaziers' fortunes.
Night was falling; so abandoning his idea of waiting for his
comrade, Gamelin took his leave of his hostess of the moment. As he was
crossing the Pont-Neuf, he saw a detachment of National Guards debouch
from the Quai des Morfondus. They were mounted and carried torches.
They were driving back the crowd, and amid a mighty clatter of sabres
escorting a cart driving slowly on its way to the guillotine with a man
whose name no one knew, a ci-devant noble, the first prisoner
condemned by the newly constituted Revolutionary Tribunal. He could be
seen by glimpses between the guardsmen's hats, sitting with hands tied
behind his back, his head bared and swaying from side to side, his face
to the cart's tail. The headsman stood beside him lolling against the
rail. The passers-by had stopped to look and were telling each other it
was likely one of the fellows who starved the people, and staring with
eyes of indifference. Gamelin, coming closer, caught sight of Desmahis
among the spectators; he was struggling to push a way through the press
and cut across the line of march. He called out to him and clapped a
hand on his shoulder,and Desmahis turned his head. He was a young man
with a handsome face and a stalwart person. In former days, at the
Academy, they used to say he had the head of Bacchus on the torso of
Hercules. His friends nicknamed him Barbaroux because of his likeness
to that representative of the people.
Come here, Gamelin said to him, I have something of importance to
say to you, Desmahis.
Leave me alone, the latter answered peevishly, muttering some
half-heard explanation, looking out as he spoke for a chance of darting
I was following a divine creature, in a straw hat, a milliner's
wench, with her flaxen hair down her back; that cursed cart has blocked
my way.... She has gone on ahead, she is at the other end of the bridge
Gamelin endeavoured to hold him back by his coat skirts, swearing
his business was urgent.
But Desmahis had already slipped away between horses, guards, swords
and torches, and was in hot pursuit of the milliner's girl.
It was ten o'clock in the forenoon. The April sun bathed the tender
leafage of the trees in light. A storm had cleared the air during the
night and it was deliciously fresh and sweet. At long intervals a
horseman passing along the Allée des Veuves broke the silence and
solitude. On the outskirts of the shady avenue, over against a rustic
cottage known as La Belle Lilloise, Évariste sat on a wooden
bench waiting for Élodie. Since the day their fingers had met over the
embroidery and their breaths had mingled, he had never been back to the
Amour peintre. For a whole week his proud stoicism and his
timidity, which grew more extreme every day, had kept him away from
Élodie. He had written her a letter conceived in a key of gravity, at
once sombre and ardent, in which, explaining the grievance he had
against the citoyen Blaise, but saying no word of his love and
concealing his chagrin, he announced his intention of never returning
to her father's shop, and was now showing greater steadfastness in
keeping this resolution than a woman in love was quite likely to
A born fighter whose bent was to defend her property under all
circumstances, Élodie instantly turned her mind to the task of winning
back her lover. At first she thought of going to see him at the studio
in the Place de Thionville. But knowing his touchy temper and judging
from his letter that he was sick and sore, she feared he might come to
regard daughter and father with the same angry displeasure and make a
point of never seeing her again; so she deemed it wiser to invite him
to a sentimental, romantic rendezvous which he could not well decline,
where she would have ample time to cajole and charm him and where
solitude would be her ally to fascinate his senses and overcome his
At this period, in all the English gardens and all the fashionable
promenades, rustic cottages were to be found, built by clever
architects, whose aim it was to flatter the taste of the city folk for
a country life. The Belle Lilloise was occupied as a house of
light refreshment; its exterior bore a look of poverty that was part of
the mise en scène and it stood on the fragments, artistically
imitated, of a fallen tower, so as to unite with the charm of rusticity
the melancholy appeal of a ruined castle. Moreover, as though a
peasant's cot and a shattered donjon were not enough to stir the
sensibilities of his customers, the owner had raised a tomb beneath a
weeping-willow,a column surmounted by a funeral urn and bearing the
inscription: Cléonice to her faithful Azor. Rustic cots, ruined
keeps, imitation tombs,on the eve of being swept away, the
aristocracy had erected in its ancestral parks these symbols of
poverty, of decadence and of death. And now the patriot citizen found
his delight in drinking, dancing, making love in sham hovels, under the
broken vaults, a sham in their very ruin, of sham cloisters and
surrounded by a sham graveyard; for was not he too, like his betters, a
lover of nature, a disciple of Jean-Jacques? was not his heart stuffed
as full as theirs with sensibility and the philosophy of humanity?
Reaching the rendezvous before the appointed time, Évariste waited,
measuring the minutes by the beating of his heart as by the pendulum of
a clock. A patrol passed, guarding a convoy of prisoners. Ten minutes
after a woman dressed all in pink, carrying a bouquet as the fashion
was, escorted by a gentleman in a three-cornered hat, red coat, striped
waistcoat and breeches, slipped into the cottage, both so very like the
gallants and dames of the ancien régime one was bound to think with the
citoyen Blaise that mankind possesses characteristics Revolutions
A few minutes later, coming from Rueil or Saint-Cloud, an old woman
carrying a cylindrical box, painted in brilliant colours, arrived and
sat down beside Gamelin, on his bench. She put down her box in front of
her, and he saw that the lid had a turning needle fixed on it; the poor
woman's trade was to hold a lottery in the public gardens for the
children to try their luck at. She also dealt in ladies' pleasures,
an old-fashioned sweetmeat which she sold under a new name; whether
because the time-honoured title of forget-me-nots called up
inappropriate ideas of unhappiness and retribution or that folks had
just got tired of it in course of time, forget-me-nots were now
yclept ladies' pleasures.
The old dame wiped the sweat from her forehead with a corner of her
apron and broke out into railings against heaven, upbraiding God for
injustice when he made life so hard for his creatures. Her husband kept
a tavern on the river-bank at Saint-Cloud, while she came in every day
to the Champs Élysées, sounding her rattle and crying: Ladies'
pleasures, come buy, come buy! And with all this toil the old
couple could not scrape enough together to end their days in comfort.
Seeing the young man beside her disposed to commiserate with her,
she expounded at great length the origin of her misfortunes. It was all
the Republic; by robbing the rich, it was taking the bread out of poor
people's mouths. And there was no hoping for a better state of affairs.
Things would only go from bad to worse,she knew that from many
tokens. At Nanterre a woman had had a baby born with a serpent's head;
the lightning had struck the church at Rueil and melted the cross on
the steeple; a were-wolf had been seen in the woods of Chaville. Masked
men were poisoning the springs and throwing plague powders in the air
to cause diseases....
Évariste saw Élodie spring from a carriage and run forward. The
girl's eyes flashed in the clear shadow cast by her straw hat; her
lips, as red as the carnations she held in her hand, were wreathed in
smiles. A scarf of black silk, crossed over the bosom, was knotted
behind the back. Her yellow gown displayed the quick movements of the
knees and showed a pair of low-heeled shoes below the hem. The hips
were almost entirely unconfined; the Revolution had enfranchised the
waists of its citoyennes. For all that, the skirts, still puffed
out below the loins, marked the curves by exaggerating them and veiled
the reality beneath an artificial amplitude of outline.
He tried to speak but could not find his voice, and was chagrined at
his failure, which Élodie preferred to the most eloquent greeting. She
noticed also and looked upon it as a good omen, that he had tied his
cravat with more than usual pains.
She gave him her hand.
I wanted to see you, she began, and talk to you. I did not answer
your letter; I did not like it and I did not think it worthy of you. It
would have been more to my taste if it had been more outspoken. It
would be to malign your character and common sense to suppose you do
not mean to return to the Amour peintre because you had a
trifling altercation there about politics with a man many years your
senior. Rest assured you have no cause to fear my father will receive
you ill whenever you come to see us again. You do not know him; he has
forgotten both what he said to you and what you said in reply. I do not
say there is any great bond of sympathy between you two; but he bears
no malice; I tell you frankly he pays no great heed to you ... nor to
me. He thinks only of his own affairs and his own pleasures.
She stepped towards the shrubberies surrounding the Belle
Lilloise, and he followed her with something of repugnance, knowing
it to be the trysting-place of mercenary lovers and amours of a day.
She selected the table furthest out of sight.
How many things I have to tell you, Évariste. Friendship has its
rights; you do not forbid me to exercise them? I have much to say about
you ... and something about myself, if you will let me.
The landlord having brought a carafe of lemonade, she filled their
glasses herself with the air of a careful housewife; then she began to
tell him about her childhood, described her mother's beauty, which she
loved to dilate upon both as a tribute to the latter's memory and as
the source of her own good looks, and boasted of her grandparents'
sturdy vigour, for she was proud of her bourgeois blood. She related
how at sixteen she had lost this mother she adored and had entered on a
life without anyone to love or rely upon. She painted herself as she
was, a vehement, passionate nature, full of sensibility and courage,
Oh, Évariste, my girlhood was so sad and lonely I cannot but know
what a prize is a heart like yours, and I will not surrender, I give
you fair warning, of my own free will and without an effort to retain
it, a sympathy on which I trusted I might count and which I held dear.
Évariste gazed at her tenderly.
Can it be, Élodie, that I am not indifferent to you? Can I really
He broke off, fearing to say too much and thereby betray so trusting
She gave him a little confiding hand that half-peeped out of the
long narrow sleeve with its lace frillings. Her bosom rose and fell in
Credit me, Évariste, with all the sentiments you would have me feel
for you, and you will not be mistaken in the dispositions of my heart.
Élodie, Élodie, you say that? will you still say it when you know
She dropped her eyes; and he finished the sentence in a whisper:
... when you know I love you?
As she heard the declaration, she blushed,with pleasure. Yet,
while her eyes still spoke of a tender ecstasy, a quizzical smile
flickered in spite of herself about one corner of her lips. She was
And he imagines he proposed first!... and he is afraid perhaps of
Then she said to him fondly:
So you had never seen, dear heart, that I loved you?
They seemed to themselves to be alone, the only two beings in the
universe. In his exaltation, Évariste raised his eyes to the firmament
flashing with blue and gold:
See, the sky is looking down at us! It is benign; it is adorable,
as you are, beloved; it has your brightness, your gentleness, your
He felt himself one with all nature, it formed part and parcel of
his joy and triumph. To his eyes, it was to celebrate his betrothal
that the chestnut blossoms lit their flaming candles, the poplars
burned aloft like giant torches.
He exulted in his strength and stature. She, with her softer as well
as finer nature, more pliable and more malleable, rejoiced in her very
weakness and, his subjection once secured, instantly bowed to his
ascendancy; now she had brought him under her slavery, she acknowledged
him for the master, the hero, the god, burned to obey, to admire, to
offer her homage. In the shade of the shrubbery he gave her a long,
ardent kiss, which she received with head thrown back and, clasped in
Évariste's arms, felt all her flesh melt like wax.
They went on talking a long time of themselves, forgetful of the
universe. Évariste abounded mainly in vague, high thoughts, which
filled Élodie with ecstasy. She spoke sweetly of things of practical
utility and personal interest. Then, presently, when she felt she could
stay no longer, she rose with a decided air, gave her lover the three
red carnations from the flower in her balcony and sprang lightly into
the cabriolet in which she had driven there. It was a hired carriage,
painted yellow, hung on very high wheels and certainly had nothing out
of the common about it, or the coachman either. But Gamelin was not in
the habit of hiring carriages and his friends were hardly more used to
such an indulgence. To see the great wheels whirling her away gave him
a strange pang and a painful presentiment assailed him; by a sort of
hallucination of the mind, the hack horse seemed to be carrying Élodie
away from him beyond the bounds of the actual world and present time
towards a city of wealth and pleasure, towards abodes of luxury and
enjoyment, which he would never be able to enter.
The carriage disappeared. Évariste recovered his calm by degrees;
but a dull anguish remained and he felt that the hours of tender
abandonment he had just lived would never be his again.
He returned by the Champs Élysées, where women in light summer
dresses were sitting on wooden chairs, talking or sewing, while their
children played under the trees. A woman selling ladies' pleasures,
her box was shaped like a drumreminded him of the one he had
spoken to in the Allée des Veuves, and it seemed as if a whole epoch of
his life had elapsed between the two encounters. He crossed the Place
de la Révolution. In the Tuileries gardens he caught the distant roar
of a host of men, a sound of many voices shouting in accord, so
familiar in those great days of popular enthusiasm which the enemies of
the Revolution declared would never dawn again. He quickened his pace
as the noise grew louder and louder, reached the Rue Honoré and found
it thronged with a crowd of men and women yelling: Vive la République!
Vive la Liberté! The walls of the gardens, the windows, the balconies,
the very roofs were black with lookers-on waving hats and
handkerchiefs. Preceded by a sapper, who cleared a way for the
procession, surrounded by Municipal Officers, National Guards, gunners,
gendarmes, huzzars, advanced slowly, high above the backs of the
citizens, a man of a bilious complexion, a wreath of oak-leaves about
his brow, his body wrapped in an old green surtout with an ermine
collar. The women threw him flowers, while he cast about him the
piercing glance of his jaundiced eyes, as though, in this enthusiastic
multitude he was still searching out enemies of the people to denounce,
traitors to punish. As he went by, Gamelin bent his head and joining
his voice to a hundred thousand others, shouted his:
The triumphant hero entered the Hall of the Convention like Fate
personified. While the crowd slowly dispersed Gamelin sat on a stone
post in the Rue Honoré and pressed his hand over his heart to check its
wild beating. What he had seen filled him with high emotion and burning
He loved and worshipped Marat, who, sick and fevered, his veins on
fire, eaten up by ulcers, was wearing out the last remnants of his
strength in the service of the Republic, and in his own poor house,
closed to no man, welcomed him with open arms, conversed eagerly with
him of public affairs, questioned him sometimes on the machinations of
evil-doers. He rejoiced that the enemies of the Just, conspiring
for his ruin, had prepared his triumph; he blessed the Revolutionary
Tribunal, which acquitting the Friend of the People had given back to
the Convention the most zealous and most immaculate of its legislators.
Again his eyes could see the head racked with fever, garlanded with the
civic crown, the features instinct with virtuous pride and pitiless
love, the worn, ravaged, powerful face, the close-pressed lips, the
broad chest, the strong man dying by inches who, raised aloft in the
living chariot of his triumph, seemed to exhort his fellow-citizens:
Be ye like me,patriots to the death!
The street was empty, darkening with the shadows of approaching
night; the lamplighter went by with his cresset, and Gamelin muttered
Yes, to the death!
By nine in the morning Évariste reached the gardens of the
Luxembourg, to find Élodie already there seated on a bench waiting for
It was a month ago they had exchanged their vows and since then they
had seen each other every day, either at the Amour peintre or at
the studio in the Place de Thionville. Their meetings had been very
tender, but at the same time characterized by a certain reserve that
checked their expansiveness,a reserve due to the staid and virtuous
temper of the lover, a theist and a good citizen, who, while ready to
make his beloved mistress his own before the law or with God alone for
witness according as circumstances demanded, would do nothing save
publicly and in the light of day. Élodie knew the resolution to be
right and honourable; but, despairing of a marriage that seemed
impossible from every point of view and loath to outrage the prejudices
of society, she contemplated in her inmost heart a liaison that could
be kept a secret till the lapse of time gave it sanction. She hoped one
day to overcome the scruples of a lover she could have wished less
scrupulous, and meantime, unwilling to postpone some necessary
confidences as to the past, she had asked him to meet her for a lover's
talk in a lonely corner of the gardens near the Carthusian Priory.
She threw him a tender look, took his hand frankly, invited him to
share the bench and speaking slowly and thoughtfully:
I esteem you too well, Évariste, to hide anything from you. I
believe myself worthy of you; I should not be so were I not to tell you
everything. Hear me and be my judge. I have no act to reproach myself
with that is degrading or base, or even merely selfish. I have only
been weak and credulous.... Do not forget, dear Évariste, the difficult
circumstances in which I found myself. You know how it was with me; I
had lost my mother, my father, still a young man, thought only of his
own amusement and neglected me. I had a feeling heart, nature has
dowered me with a loving temper and a generous soul; it was true she
had not denied me a firm will and a sound judgment, but in those days
what ruled my conduct was passion, not reason. Alas! it would be the
same again to-day, if the two were not in harmony; I should be driven
to give myself to you, beloved, heart and soul, and for ever!
She expressed herself in firm, well-balanced phrases. She had well
thought over what she would say, having long ago made up her mind to
this confession for several reasonsbecause she was naturally candid,
because she found pleasure in following Rousseau's example, and
because, as she told herself reasonably enough:
One day Évariste must fathom a secret which is known to others as
well as myself. A frank avowal is best. It is unforced and therefore to
my credit, and only tells him what some time or other he would discover
to my shame.
Soft-hearted as she was and amenable to nature's promptings, she did
not feel herself to be very much to blame, and this made her confession
the easier; besides which, she had no intention of telling more than
was absolutely requisite.
Ah! she sighed, why did I not know you, Évariste, in the days
when I was alone and forsaken?
Gamelin had taken her request quite literally when Élodie asked him
to be her judge. Primed at once by nature and the education of books
for the exercise of domestic justice, he sat ready to receive Élodie's
As she still hesitated, he motioned to her to proceed. Then she
began speaking very simply:
A young man, who with many defects of character combined some good
qualities, and only showed the latter, found me to his taste and
courted me with a perseverance that was surprising in such a case; he
was in the flower of his youth, full of charm and the idol of a bevy of
charming women who made no attempt to hide their adoration. It was not
his good looks nor even his brilliance that appealed to me.... He
touched my heart by the tokens of true love he gave me, and I do think
he loved me truly. He was tender, impassioned. I asked no pledge save
of his heart, and alas! his heart was fickle.... I blame no one but
myself; it is my confession I am making, not his. I lay nothing to his
charge, for indeed he is become a stranger to me. Ah! believe me,
Évariste, I swear it, he is no more to me than if he had never
She had finished, but Gamelin vouchsafed no answer. He folded his
arms, a steadfast, sombre look settling in his eyes. His mistress and
his sister Julie were running together in his thoughts. Julie too had
hearkened to a lover; but, unlike, altogether unlike, he thought, the
unhappy Élodie, she had let him have his will and carry her off,
not misled by the promptings of a tender heart, but to enjoy, far from
her home and friends, the sweets of luxury and pleasure. He was a stern
moralist; he had condemned his sister and he was half inclined to
condemn his mistress.
Élodie resumed in a very pleading voice:
I was full of Jean-Jacques' philosophy; I believed men were
naturally honest and honourable. My misfortune was to have encountered
a lover who was not formed in the school of nature and natural
morality, and whom social prejudice, ambition, self-love, a false point
of honour had made selfish and treacherous.
The words produced the effect she had calculated on. Gamelin's eyes
softened. He asked:
Who was your seducer? Is he a man I know?
You do not know him.
Tell me his name.
She had foreseen the question and was firmly resolved not to answer
She gave her reasons:
Spare me, I beseech you. For your peace of mind as for my own, I
have already said too much.
Then, as he still pressed her:
In the sacred name of our love, I refuse to tell you anything to
give you a definite notion of this stranger. I will not give your
jealousy a shape to feed on; I will not bring a harassing shadow
between you and me. I have not forgotten the man's name, but I will
never let you know it.
Gamelin insisted on knowing the name of the seducer,that was the
word he employed all through, for he felt no doubt Élodie had been
seduced, cajoled, trifled with. He could not so much as conceive any
other possibility,that she had obeyed an overmastering desire, an
irresistible craving, listened to the tempter's voice in the shape of
her own flesh and blood; he could not find it credible that the fair
victim, a creature of hot passion and a fond heart, had offered herself
a willing sacrifice; to satisfy his ideal, she must needs have been
overborne by force or fraud, constrained by sheer violence, caught in
snares spread about her steps on every side. He questioned her in
guarded terms, but with a close, searching, embarrassing persistency.
He asked her how the liaison began, if it was long or short, tranquil
or troubled, under what circumstances it was broken off. And his
enquiries came back again and again to the means the fellow had used to
cajole her, as if these must surely have been extraordinary and unheard
of. But all his cross-examination was in vain. She kept her own counsel
with a gentle, deprecatory obstinacy, her lips tightly pressed together
and tears welling in her eyes.
Presently, however, Évariste having asked where the man was now, she
He has left the KingdomFrance, I mean, she corrected herself in
An émigré! ejaculated Gamelin.
She looked at him, speechless, at once reassured and disheartened to
see him create in his own mind a truth in accordance with his political
passions and of his own motion give his jealousy a Jacobin complexion.
In actual fact Élodie's lover was a little lawyer's clerk, a very
pretty lad, half Adonis, half guttersnipe, whom she had adored and the
thought of whom, though three years had gone by since, still thrilled
her nerves. Rich old women were his particular game, and he deserted
Élodie for a woman of the world of a certain age who could and did
recompense his merits. Having, after the abolition of offices, attained
a post in the Mairie of Paris, he was now a sansculotte dragoon
and the hanger-on of a ci-devant Countess.
A noble! an émigré! muttered Gamelin, whom she took good
care not to undeceive, never having been desirous he should know the
whole truth. And he deserted you like a dastard?
She nodded in answer. He clasped her to his heart:
Dear victim of the vile corruption of monarchies, my love shall
avenge his villainy! Heaven grant, I may meet the scoundrel! I shall
not fail to know him!
She turned away, at one and the same time saddened and smiling,and
disappointed. She would fain have had him wiser in the lore of love,
with more of the natural man about him, more perhaps even of the brute.
She felt he forgave so readily only because his imagination was cold
and the secret she had revealed awoke in him none of the mental
pictures that torture sensuous natures,in a word, that he saw her
seduction solely under a moral and social aspect.
They had risen, and while they walked up and down the shady avenues
of the gardens, he informed her that he only esteemed her the more
because she had suffered wrong, Élodie entertained no such high claims;
however, take him as he was, she loved him, and admired the brilliant
artistic genius she divined in him.
As they left the Luxembourg, they came upon crowds thronging the Rue
de l'Égalité and the whole neighbourhood of the Théâtre de la Nation.
There was nothing to surprise them in this; for several days great
excitement had prevailed in the most patriotic Sections; denunciations
were rife against the Orleans faction and the Brissotin plotters, who
were conspiring, it was said, to bring about the ruin of Paris and the
massacre of good Republicans. Gamelin himself a short time back had
signed a petition from the Commune demanding the expulsion of the
Just before passing under the arcade, joining the theatre to the
neighbouring house, they had to find their way through a group of
citizens en carmagnole who were listening to a harangue from a
young soldier mounted on the top of the gallery. He looked as beautiful
as the Eros of Praxiteles in his helmet of panther-skin. This
fascinating warrior was charging the People's Friend with indolence:
Marat, you are asleep, he was crying, and the federalists are
forging fetters to bind us.
Hardly had Élodie cast eyes on the orator before she turned rapidly
to Évariste and begged him to get her away. The crowd, she declared,
frightened her and she was afraid of fainting in the crush.
They parted in the Place de la Nation, swearing an oath of eternal
* * * * *
That same morning early the citoyen Brotteaux had made the
citoyenne Gamelin the magnificent present of a capon. It would have
been an act of indiscretion for him to mention how he had come by it;
as a fact, he had it of a Dame de la Halle at the Pointe
Eustache for whom he sometimes acted as amanuensis, and as everybody
knows, these Ladies of the Market cherished Royalist sympathies and
were in correspondence with the émigrés. The citoyenne
Gamelin had received the gift with heartfelt gratitude. Such dainties
were scarce ever seen then; victuals grew dearer every day. The people
feared a famine; the aristocrats, they said, wished it, and the
corner makers were at work to bring it about.
The citoyen Brotteaux, being invited to eat his share of the
capon at the midday dinner, appeared in due course and congratulated
his hostess on the rich aroma of cooking that assailed his nostrils.
Indeed a noble smell of rich, savoury broth filled the painter's
You are very obliging, sir, replied the good dame. To prepare the
digestion for your capon, I have made a vegetable soup with a slice of
fat bacon and a big beef bone. There's nothing like a marrowbone, sir,
to give soup a flavour.
The maxim does you honour, citoyenne, returned the old man.
And you will be doing wisely to put back again to-morrow and the day
after, all the week, in fact, to put back again, I say, this precious
bone in the pot, which it will continue to flavour. The wise woman of
Panzoust always did so; she used to make a soup of green cabbages with
a rind of rusty bacon and an old savorados. That is what in her
country, which is also mine, they call the medullary bone, the most
tasty and most succulent of all bones.
This lady you speak of, sir, remarked the citoyenne
Gamelin, was she not rather a saving soul, to make the same bone serve
so many times over?
Oh! she lived in a small way, explained Brotteaux, she was poor,
albeit a prophetess.
At that moment, Évariste Gamelin returned, agitated by the
confession he had heard and determined to know who was Élodie's
betrayer, to avenge at one and the same time the Republic's wrong and
his own on the miscreant.
After the usual greetings had been exchanged, the citoyen
Brotteaux resumed the thread of his discourse:
It is seldom those who make a trade of foretelling the future grow
rich. Their impostures are too soon found out and their trickery
renders them odious. But indeed we should be bound to detest them much
worse if they prophesied truly. A man's life would be intolerable if he
knew what is to befall him. He would be aware of calamities to come and
suffer their pains in advance, while he would get no joy of present
blessings whose end he would foresee. Ignorance is a necessary
condition of human happiness, and it must be owned that in most cases
we fulfil it well. We know almost nothing about ourselves; absolutely
nothing about our neighbours. Ignorance constitutes our peace of mind;
self-deception our felicity.
The citoyenne Gamelin set the soup on the table, said the
Benedicite and seated her son and her guest at the board. She stood up
herself to eat, declining the chair the citoyen Brotteaux
offered her beside him; she said she knew what good manners required of
Ten o'clock in the forenoon. Not a breath of wind. It was the
hottest July ever known. In the narrow Rue de Jérusalem a hundred or so
citizens of the Section were waiting in queue at the baker's door,
under the eye of four National Guards who stood at ease smoking their
The National Convention had decreed the maximum,and
instantly corn and flour had disappeared. Like the Israelites in the
wilderness, the Parisians had to rise before daybreak if they wished to
eat. The crowd was lined up, men, women and children tightly packed
together, under a sky of molten lead. The heat beat down on the rotting
foulness of the kennels and exaggerated the stench of unwashed,
sweating humanity. All were pushing, abusing their neighbours,
exchanging looks fraught with every sort of emotion one human being can
feel for another,dislike, disgust, interest, attraction,
indifference. Painful experience had taught them there was not bread
enough for everybody; so the late comers were always trying to push
forward, while those who lost ground complained bitterly and
indignantly and vainly claimed their rights. Women shoved and elbowed
savagely to keep their place or squeeze into a better. When the press
grew too intolerable, cries rose of Stop pushing there! while each
and all protested they could not help itit was someone else pushing
To obviate these daily scenes of disorder, the officials appointed
by the Section had conceived the notion of fastening a rope to the
shop-door which each applicant held in his proper order; but hands at
such close quarters would come in contact on the rope and a
struggle would result. Whoever lost hold could never recover it, while
the disappointed and the mischievously inclined sometimes cut the cord.
In the end the plan had to be abandoned.
On this occasion there was the usual suffocation and confusion.
While some swore they were dying, others indulged in jokes or loose
remarks; all abused the aristocrats and federalists, authors of all the
misery. When a dog ran by, wags hailed the beast as Pitt. More than
once a loud slap showed that some citoyenne in the line had
resented with a vigorous hand the insolence of a lewd admirer, while,
pressed close against her neighbour, a young servant girl, with eyes
half shut and mouth half open, stood sighing in a sort of trance. At
any word, or gesture, or attitude of a sort to provoke the sportive
humour of the coarse-minded populace, a knot of young libertines would
strike up the Ça-ira in chorus, regardless of the protests of an
old Jacobin, highly indignant to see a dirty meaning attached to a
refrain expressive of the Republican faith in a future of justice and
His ladder under his arm, a billsticker appeared to post up on a
blank wall facing the baker's a proclamation by the Commune
apportioning the rations of butcher's-meat. Passers-by halted to read
the notice, still sticky with paste. A cabbage vendor going by, basket
on back, began calling out in her loud cracked voice:
They'm all gone, the purty oxen! best rake up the guts!
Suddenly such an appalling stench of putrefaction rose from a sewer
near by that several people were turned sick; a woman was taken ill and
handed over in a fainting condition to a couple of National Guards, who
carried her off to a pump a few yards away. All held their noses, and
fell to growling and grumbling, exchanging conjectures each more
ghastly and alarming than the last. What was it? a dead animal buried
thereabouts, a dead fish, perhaps, put in for mischief's sake, or more
likely a victim of the September massacres, some noble or priest, left
to rot in a cellar.
They buried them in cellars, eh?
They got rid of 'em anywhere and anyhow.
It will be one of the Châtelet prisoners. On the 2nd I saw three
hundred in a heap on the Port au Change.
The Parisians dreaded the vengeance of these aristocrats who were
like to poison them with their dead bodies.
Évariste Gamelin joined the line; he was resolved to spare his old
mother the fatigues of the long wait. His neighbour, the citoyen
Brotteaux, went with him, calm and smiling, his Lucretius in the baggy
pocket of his plum-coloured coat.
The good old fellow enjoyed the scene, calling it a bit of low life
worthy the brush of a modern Teniers.
These street-porters and goodwives, he declared, are more amusing
than the Greeks and Romans our painters are so fond of nowadays. For my
part, I have always admired the Flemish style.
One fact he was too sensible and tactful to mentionthat he had
himself owned a gallery of Dutch masters rivalled only by Monsieur de
Choiseul's in the number and excellence of the examples.
Nothing is beautiful save the Antique, returned the painter, and
what is inspired by it. Still, I grant you these low-life scenes by
Teniers, Jan Steen or Ostade are better stuff than the frills and
furbelows of Watteau, Boucher, or Van Loo; humanity is shown in an ugly
light, but it is not degraded as it is by a Baudouin or a Fragonard.
A hawker went by bawling:
Bulletin of the Revolutionary Tribunal!... list of the
One Revolutionary Tribunal is not enough, said Gamelin, there
should be one in every town ... in every town, do I say?nay, in every
village, in every hamlet. Fathers of families, citizens, one and all,
should constitute themselves judges. At a time when the enemy's cannon
is at her gates and the assassin's dagger at her throat, the Nation
must hold mercy to be parricide. What! Lyons, Marseilles, Bordeaux in
insurrection, Corsica in revolt, La Vendée on fire, Mayence and
Valenciennes in the hands of the Coalition, treason in the country,
town and camp, treason sitting on the very benches of the National
Convention, treason assisting, map in hand, at the council board of our
Commanders in the field!... The fatherland is in dangerand the
guillotine must save her!
I have no objection on principle to make to the guillotine,
replied Brotteaux. Nature, my only mistress and my only instructress,
certainly offers me no suggestion to the effect that a man's life is of
any value; on the contrary, she teaches in all kinds of ways that it is
of none. The sole end and object of living beings seems to be to serve
as food for other beings destined to the same end. Murder is of natural
right; therefore, the penalty of death is lawful, on condition it is
exercised from no motives either of virtue or of justice, but by
necessity or to gain some profit thereby. However, I must have perverse
instincts, for I sicken to see blood flow, and this defect of character
all my philosophy has failed so far to correct.
Republicans, answered Évariste, are humane and full of feeling.
It is only despots hold the death penalty to be a necessary attribute
of authority. The sovereign people will do away with it one day.
Robespierre fought against it, and all good patriots were with him; the
law abolishing it cannot be too soon promulgated. But it will not have
to be applied till the last foe of the Republic has perished beneath
the sword of law and order.
Gamelin and Brotteaux had by this time a number of late comers
behind them and amongst these several women of the Section, including a
stalwart, handsome tricoteuse, in head-kerchief and sabots,
wearing a sword in a shoulder belt, a pretty girl with a mop of golden
hair and a very tumbled neckerchief, and a young mother, pale and thin,
giving the breast to a sickly infant.
The child, which could get no milk, was screaming, but its voice was
weak and stifled by its sobs. Pitifully small, with a pallid, unhealthy
skin and inflamed eyes, the mother gazed at it with mingled anxiety and
He is very young, observed Gamelin, turning to look at the unhappy
infant groaning just at his back, half stifled amid the crowd of new
He is six months, poor love!... His father is with the army; he is
one of the men who drove back the Austrians at Condé. His name is
Dumonteil (Michel), a draper's assistant by trade. He enlisted at a
booth they had established in front of the Hôtel de Ville. Poor lad, he
was all for defending his country and seeing the world.... He writes
telling me to be patient. But pray, how am I to feed Paul (he's called
Paul, you know) when I can't feed myself?
Oh, dear! exclaimed the pretty girl with the flaxen hair, we've
got another hour before us yet, and to-night we shall have to repeat
the same ceremony over again at the grocer's. You risk your life to get
three eggs and a quarter of a pound of butter.
Butter! sighed the citoyenne Dumonteil, why, it's three
months since I've seen a scrap!
And a chorus of female voices rose, bewailing the scarcity and
dearness of provisions, cursing the émigrés and devoting to the
guillotine the Commissaries of Sections who were ready to give
good-for-nothing minxes, in return for unmentionable services, fat hens
and four-pound loaves. Alarming stories passed round of cattle drowned
in the Seine, sacks of flour emptied in the sewers, loaves of bread
thrown into the latrines.... It was all those Royalists, and
Rolandists, and Brissotins, who were starving the people, bent on
exterminating every living thing in Paris!
All of a sudden the pretty, fair-haired girl with the rumpled
neckerchief broke into shrieks as if her petticoats were afire. She was
shaking these violently and turning out her pockets, vociferating that
somebody had stolen her purse.
At news of the petty theft, a flood of indignation swept over this
crowd of poor folks, the same who had sacked the mansions of the
Faubourg Saint-Germain and invaded the Tuileries without appropriating
the smallest thing, artisans and housewives, who would have burned down
the Palace of Versailles with a light heart, but would have thought it
a dire disgrace if they had stolen the value of a pin. The young rakes
greeted the pretty girl's loss with some ribald jokes, that were
immediately drowned under a burst of public indignation. There was some
talk of instant executionhanging the thief to the nearest lamp-post,
and an investigation was begun, where everyone spoke at once and nobody
would listen to a word of reason. The tall tricoteuse, pointing
her finger at an old man, strongly suspected of being an unfrocked
monk, swore it was the Capuchin yonder who was the cut-purse. The
crowd believed her without further evidence and raised a shout of
The old man so unexpectedly exposed to the public vengeance was
standing very quietly and soberly just in front of the citoyen
Brotteaux. He had all the look, there was no denying it, of a
ci-devant cleric. His aspect was venerable, though the face was
changed and drawn by the terrors the poor man had suffered from the
violence of the crowd and the recollection of the September days that
were still vivid in his imagination. The fear depicted on his features
stirred the suspicion of the populace, which is always ready to believe
that only the guilty dread its judgments, as if the haste and
recklessness with which it pronounces them were not enough to terrify
even the most innocent.
Brotteaux had made it a standing rule never to go against the
popular feeling of the moment, above all when it was manifestly
illogical and cruel, because in that case, he would say, the voice
of the people was the voice of God. But Brotteaux proved himself
untrue to his principles; he asseverated that the old man, whether he
was a Capuchin or not, could not have robbed the citoyenne,
having never gone near her for one moment.
The crowd drew its own conclusion,the individual who spoke up for
the thief was of course his accomplice, and stern measures were
proposed to deal with the two malefactors, and when Gamelin offered to
guarantee Brotteaux' honesty, the wisest heads suggested sending him
along with the two others to the Sectional headquarters.
But the pretty girl gave a cry of delight; she had found her purse
again. The statement was received with a storm of hisses, and she was
threatened with a public whipping,like a Nun.
Sir, said the ex-monk, addressing Brotteaux, I thank you for
having spoken in my defence. My name is of no concern, but I had better
tell you what it is; I am called Louis de Longuemare. I am in truth a
Regular; but not a Capuchin, as those women would have it. There is the
widest difference; I am a monk of the Order of the Barnabites, which
has given Doctors and Saints without number to the Church. It is only a
half-truth to refer its origin to St. Charles Borromeo; we must account
as the true founder the Apostle St. Paul, whose cipher it bears on its
arms. I have been compelled to quit my cloister, now headquarters of
the Section du Pont-Neuf, and adopt a secular habit.
Nay, Father, said Brotteaux, scrutinizing Monsieur de Longuemare's
frock, your dress is token enough that you have not forsworn your
profession; to look at it, one might think you had reformed your Order
rather than forsaken it. It is your good heart makes you expose
yourself in these austere habiliments to the insults of a godless
Yet I cannot very well, replied the ex-monk, wear a blue coat,
like a roisterer at a dance!
What I mention, Father, about your dress is by way of paying homage
to your character and putting you on your guard against the risks you
On the contrary, sir, it would be much better to inspirit me to
confess my faith. For indeed, I am only too prone to fear danger. I
have abandoned my habit, sir, which is a sort of apostasy; I would fain
not have deserted, had it been possible, the House where God granted me
for so many years the grace of a peaceable and retired life. I got
leave to stay there, and I still continued to occupy my cell, while
they turned the church and cloister into a sort of petty hôtel de
ville they called the Section. I saw, sir, I saw them hack away the
emblems of the Holy Verity; I saw the name of the Apostle Paul replaced
by a convicted felon's cap. Sometimes I was actually present at the
confabulations of the Section, where I heard amazing errors propounded.
At last I quitted this place of profanation and went to live on the
pension of a hundred pistoles allowed me by the Assembly in a stable
that stood empty, the horses having been requisitioned for the service
of the armies. There I sing Mass for a few of the faithful, who come to
the office to bear witness to the eternity of the Church of Jesus
For my part, Father, replied the other, if you care to know my
name, I am called Brotteaux, and I was a publican in former days.
Sir, returned the Père Longuemare, I was aware by St. Matthew's
example that one may look for good counsel from a publican.
Father, you are too obliging.
Citoyen Brotteaux, remarked Gamelin, pray admire the
virtues of the people, more hungry for justice than for bread; consider
how everyone here is ready to lose his place to chastise the thief.
These men and women, victims of such poverty and privation, are of so
stern a probity they cannot tolerate a dishonest act.
It must indeed be owned, replied Brotteaux, that in their hearty
desire to hang the pilferer, these folks were like to do a mischief to
this good cleric, to his champion and to his champion's champion. Their
avarice itself and their selfish eagerness to safeguard their own
welfare were motives enough; the thief in attacking one of them
threatened all; self-preservation urged them to punish him.... At the
same time, it is like enough the most part of these workmen and
goodwives are honest and keep their hands off other folk's goods. From
the cradle these sentiments have been instilled in them by their father
and mother, who have whipped them well and soundly and inculcated the
virtues through their backside.
Gamelin did not conceal the fact from his old neighbour that he
deemed such language unworthy of a philosopher.
Virtue, said he, is natural to mankind; God has planted the seed
of it in the heart of mortals.
Old Brotteaux was a sceptic and found in his atheism an abundant
source of self-satisfaction.
I see this much, citoyen Gamelin, that, while a
Revolutionary for what is of this world, you are, where Heaven is
concerned, of a conservative, or even a reactionary temper. Robespierre
and Marat are the same to you. For me, I find it strange that
Frenchmen, who will not put up with a mortal king any longer, insist on
retaining an immortal tyrant, far more despotic and ferocious. For what
is the Bastille, or even the Chambre Ardente beside Hellfire?
Humanity models its gods on its tyrants, and you, who reject the
original, preserve the copy!
Oh! citoyen! protested Gamelin, are you not ashamed to
hold such language? how can you confound the dark divinities born of
ignorance and fear with the Author of Nature? Belief in a benevolent
God is necessary for morality. The Supreme Being is the source of all
the virtues and a man cannot be a Republican if he does not believe in
God. Robespierre knew this, who, as we all remember, had the bust of
the philosopher Helvétius removed from the Hall of the Jacobins,
because he had taught Frenchmen the lessons of slavery by preaching
atheism.... I hope, at least, citoyen Brotteaux, that, as soon
as the Republic has established the worship of Reason, you will not
refuse your adhesion to so wise a religion!
I love reason, but I am no fanatic in my love, was Brotteaux's
answer. Reason is our guide and beacon-light; but when you have made a
divinity of it, it will blind you and instigate you to crime,and he
proceeded to develop his thesis, standing both feet in the kennel, as
he had once been used to perorate, seated in one of Baron d'Holbach's
gilt armchairs, which, as he was fond of saying, formed the basis of
Jean Jacques Rousseau, he proceeded, who was not without talents,
particularly in music, was a scampish fellow who professed to derive
his morality from Nature while all the time he got it from the dogmas
of Calvin. Nature teaches us to devour each other and gives us the
example of all the crimes and all the vices which the social state
corrects or conceals. We should love virtue; but it is well to know
that this is simply and solely a convenient expedient invented by men
in order to live comfortably together. What we call morality is merely
a desperate enterprise, a forlorn hope, on the part of our fellow
creatures to reverse the order of the universe, which is strife and
murder, the blind interplay of hostile forces. She destroys herself,
and the more I think of things, the more convinced I am that the
universe is mad. Theologians and philosophers, who make God the author
of Nature and the architect of the universe, show Him to us as
illogical and ill-conditioned. They declare Him benevolent, because
they are afraid of Him, but they are forced to admit that His acts are
atrocious. They attribute a malignity to him seldom to be found even in
mankind. And that is how they get human beings to adore Him. For our
miserable race would never lavish worship on just and benevolent
deities from which they would have nothing to fear; they would feel
only a barren gratitude for their benefits. Without purgatory and hell,
your good God would be a mighty poor creature.
Sir, said the Père Longuemare, do not talk of Nature; you do not
know what Nature is.
Egad, I know it as well as you do, Father.
You cannot know it, because you have not religion, and religion
alone teaches us what Nature is, wherein it is good, and how it has
been made evil. However, you must not expect me to answer you; God has
vouchsafed me, to refute your errors, neither eloquence nor force of
intellect. I should only be afraid, by my inadequate replies, of giving
you occasion to blaspheme and further reasons for hardening your heart.
I feel a strong desire to help you; yet the sole fruit of my
importunate efforts would be to....
The discussion was cut short by a tremendous shout coming from the
head of the column to warn the whole regiment of famished citizens that
the baker was opening his doors. The line began to push forward, but
very, very slowly. A National Guard on duty admitted the purchasers one
by one. The baker, his wife and boy presided over the sale, assisted by
two Civil Commissaries. These, wearing a tricoloured riband round the
left arm, saw that the customers belonged to the Section and were given
their proper share in proportion to the number of mouths to be filled.
The citoyen Brotteaux made the quest of pleasure the one and
only aim of life, holding that the reason and the senses, the sole
judges when gods there were none, were unable to conceive any other.
Accordingly, finding the painter's remarks somewhat overfull of
fanaticism, and the Monk's of simplicity, to please his taste, this
wise man, bent on squaring his behaviour with his views and relieving
the tedium of waiting, drew from the bulging pocket of his
plum-coloured coat his Lucretius, now as always his chiefest solace and
faithful comforter. The binding of red morocco was chafed by hard wear,
and the citoyen Brotteaux had judiciously erased the coat of
arms that once embellished it,three islets or, which his father the
financier had bought for good money down. He opened the book at the
passage where the poet philosopher, who is for curing men of the futile
and mischievous passion of love, surprises a woman in the arms of her
serving-women in a state bound to offend all a lover's
susceptibilities. The citoyen Brotteaux read the lines, though
not without casting a surreptitious glance at the golden pate of the
pretty girl in front of him and enjoying a sniff of the heady perfume
of the little slut's hot skin. The poet Lucretius was a wise man, but
he had only one string to his bow; his disciple Brotteaux had several.
So he read on, taking two steps forward every quarter of an hour.
His ear, soothed by the grave and cadenced numbers of the Latin Muse,
was deaf to the women's scolding about the monstrous prices of bread
and sugar and coffee, candles and soap. In this calm and unruffled mood
he reached the threshold of the bakehouse. Behind him, Évariste Gamelin
could see over his head the gilt cornsheaf surmounting the iron grating
that filled the fanlight over the door.
When his turn came to enter the shop, he found the hampers and
lockers already emptied; the baker handed him the only scrap of bread
left, which did not weigh two pounds. Évariste paid his money, and the
gate was slammed on his heels, for fear of a riot and the people
carrying the place by storm.
But there was no need to fear; these poor folks, trained to
obedience alike by their old-time oppressors and by their liberators of
to-day, slunk off with drooping heads and dragging feet.
As he reached the corner of the street, Gamelin caught sight of the
citoyenne Dumonteil, seated on a stone post, her nursling in her
arms. She sat there quite still; her face was colourless and her
tearless eyes seemed to see nothing. The infant was sucking her finger
voraciously. Gamelin stood a while in front of her, abashed and
uncertain what to do. She did not appear to see him.
He stammered something, then pulled out his pocket-knife, a
clasp-knife with a horn handle, cut his loaf in two and laid half on
the young mother's knee. She looked up at him in wonder; but he had
already turned the corner of the street.
On reaching home, Évariste found his mother sitting at the window
darning stockings. With a light laugh he put his half of the bread in
You must forgive me, mother dear; I was tired out with standing
about and exhausted by the heat, and out in the street there as I
trudged home, mouthful by mouthful I have gobbled up half of our
allowance. There's barely your share left,and as he spoke, he made a
pretence of shaking the crumbs off his jacket.
 Chambre Ardente,under the ancien régime, a tribunal
charged with the investigation of heinous crimes and having power to
burn those found guilty.
Employing a very old-fashioned locution, the citoyenne
Gamelin had declared: that by dint of eating chestnuts they would be
turning into chestnuts. As a matter of fact, on that day, the 13th
July, she and her son had made their midday dinner on a basin of
chestnut porridge. As they were finishing this austere repast, a lady
pushed open the door and the room was flooded in an instant with the
splendour of her presence and the fragrance of her perfumes. Évariste
recognised the citoyenne Rochemaure. Thinking she had mistaken
the door and meant her visit for the citoyen Brotteaux, her
friend of other days, he was already preparing to point her out the
ci-devant aristocrat's garret or perhaps summon Brotteaux and so
spare an elegant woman the task of scrambling up a mill-ladder; but she
made it clear at once that the citoyen Évariste Gamelin and no
other was the person she had come to see by announcing that she was
happy to find him at home and was his servant to command.
They were not entirely strangers to each other, having met more than
once in David's studio, in a box at the Assembly Hall, at the Jacobins,
at Venua's restaurant. On these occasions she had been struck by his
good looks and youth and interesting air.
Wearing a hat beribboned like a fairing and plumed like the
head-piece of a Representative on mission, the citoyenne
Rochemaure was wigged, painted, patched and scented. But her complexion
was young and fresh behind all these disguises; these extravagant
artificialities of fashion only betokened a frantic haste to enjoy life
and the feverishness of these dreadful days when the morrow was so
uncertain. Her corsage, with wide facings and enormous basques and all
ablaze with huge steel buttons, was blood-red, and it was hard to tell,
so aristocratic and so revolutionary at one and the same time was her
array, whether it was the colours of the victims or of the headsman
that she sported. A young officer, a dragoon, accompanied her.
Dandling her long cane by its handle of mother-o'-pearl, a tall,
fine woman, of generous proportions and ample bosom, she made the
circuit of the studio, and putting up to her grey eyes her double
quizzing-glasses of gold, examined the painter's canvases with many
smiles and exclamations of delight, admiring the handsome artist and
flattering him in hopes of a return in kind.
What, asked the citoyenne, is that pictureit is so nobly
conceived, so touchingof a gentle, beautiful woman standing by a
young man lying sick?
Gamelin told her it was meant to represent Orestes tended by his
sister Electra, and that, had he been able to finish it, it might
perhaps have been the least unsatisfactory of his works.
The subject, he went on to say, is taken from the Orestes
of Euripides. I had read, in a translation of this tragedy made years
ago, a scene that filled me with admiration,the one where the young
Electra, raising her brother on his bed of pain, wipes away the froth
that gathers on his lips, puts aside the locks that blind his eyes and
beseeches the brother she loves to hearken to what she will tell him
while the Furies are at peace for the moment.... As I read and re-read
this translation, I seemed to be aware of a kind of fog that shrouded
the forms of Greek perfection, a fog I could not drive away. I pictured
the original text to myself as more nervous and pitched in a different
accent. Feeling a keen desire to get a precise idea of the thing, I
went to Monsieur Gail, who was the Professor of Greek at the Collège de
France (this was in '91), and begged him to expound the scene to me
word by word. He did what I asked, and I then saw that the Ancients are
much more simple and homely than people think. Thus, for instance,
Electra says to Orestes: 'Dear brother, what joy it gave me to see thee
sleep! Shall I help thee to rise?' And Orestes answers: 'Yes, help me,
take me in thy arms, and wipe away the spume that still clings about my
mouth and eyes. Put thy bosom against mine and part from my brow my
tangled hair, for it blinds my eyes....' My mind still full of this
poetry, so young and vivid, ringing with these simple, strong phrases,
I sketched the picture you see there, citoyenne.
The painter, who, as a rule, spoke so sparingly of his works, waxed
eloquent on the subject of this one. At an encouraging gesture from the
citoyenne Rochemaure, who lifted her quizzing-glasses in token of
attention, he continued:
Hennequin has depicted the madness of Orestes in masterly fashion.
But Orestes appeals to us still more poignantly in his sorrow than when
he is distraught. What a fate was his! It was filial piety, obedience
to a sacred obligation, drove him to commit his dreadful deed,a sin
the gods cannot but pardon, but which men will never condone. To avenge
outraged justice, he has repudiated Nature, has made himself a monster,
has torn out his own heart. But his spirit remains unbroken under the
weight of his horrible, yet innocent crime.... That is what I would
fain have exhibited in my group of brother and sister. He stepped up
to the canvas and looked at it not without satisfaction.
Parts of the picture, he said, are pretty nearly finished; the
head and arm of Orestes, for instance.
It is an admirable composition.... And Orestes reminds me of you,
You think he is like me? exclaimed the painter, with a grave
She took the chair Gamelin offered her. The young dragoon stood
beside her, his hand on the back of the chair on which she sat. Which
showed plainly that the Revolution was an accomplished fact, for under
the ancien régime, no man would ever, in company, have touched so much
as with the tip of a finger, the seat occupied by a lady. In those days
a gentleman was trained and broken in to the laws of politeness,
sometimes pretty hard laws, and taught to understand that a scrupulous
self-restraint in public places gives a peculiar zest to the sweet
familiarity of the boudoir, and that to lose your respectful awe of a
woman, you must first have that feeling.
Louise Masché de Rochemaure, daughter of a Lieutenant of the King's
Hunt, widow of a Procureur and, for twenty years, the faithful mistress
of the financier Brotteaux des Ilettes, had fallen in with the new
ideas. She was to be seen, in July, 1790, digging the soil of the Champ
de Mars. Her strong inclination to side with the powers that be had
carried her readily enough along a political path that started with the
Feuillants and led by way of the Girondins to end on the summit of
the Mountain, while at the same time a spirit of compromise, a
passion for conversion and a certain aptitude for intrigue still
attached her to the aristocratic and anti-revolutionary party. She was
to be met everywhere,at coffee houses and theatres, fashionable
restaurants, gaming-saloons, drawing-rooms, newspaper offices and
ante-chambers of Committees. The Revolution yielded her a hundred
satisfactions,novelty and amusement, smiles and pleasures, business
ventures and profitable speculations. Combining political with amorous
intrigue, playing the harp, drawing landscapes, singing ballads,
dancing Greek dances, giving supper parties, entertaining pretty women,
such as the Comtesse de Beaufort and the actress Mademoiselle
Descoings, presiding all night long over a trente-et-un or
biribi table and an adept at rouge et noir, she still found
time to be charitable to her friends. Inquisitive and interfering,
giddy-pated and frivolous, she understood men but knew nothing of the
masses; as indifferent to the creed she professed as to the opinions
she felt bound to repudiate, understanding nothing whatever of all that
was happening in the country, she was enterprising, intrepid, and full
of audacity from sheer ignorance of danger and an unbounded confidence
in the efficacy of her charms.
The soldier who escorted her was in the heyday of youth. A brazen
helmet decorated with a panther skin and the crest set off with a
crimson cock's-comb shaded his fresh young face and displayed a long
and terrific mane that swept his back. His red jacket was cut short and
square, barely reaching to the waist, the better to show off his
elegant figure. In his girdle he carried an enormous sabre, the hilt of
which was a glittering eagle's beak. A pair of flapped breeches of sky
blue moulded the fine muscles of his legs and was braided in rich
arabesques of a darker blue on the thighs. He might have been a dancer
dressed for some warlike and dashing rôle, in Achilles at Scyros
or Alexander's Wedding-feast, in a costume designed by a pupil
of David with the one idea of accentuating every line of the shape.
Gamelin had a vague recollection of having seen him before. He was,
in fact, the same young soldier he had come upon a fortnight previously
haranguing the people from the arcades of the Théâtre de la Nation.
The citoyenne Rochemaure introduced him by name:
The citoyen Henry, Member of the Revolutionary Committee of
the Section of the Rights of Man.
She had him always at her heels,a mirror of gallantry and a living
and walking guarantee of patriotism.
The citoyenne complimented Gamelin on his talents and asked
him if he would be willing to design a card for a protégée of hers, a
fashionable milliner. He would, of course, choose an appropriate
motif,a woman trying on a scarf before a cheval glass, for
instance, or a young workwoman carrying a band-box on her arm.
She had heard several artists mentioned as competent to execute a
little matter of the sort,Fragonard fils, young Ducis, as well
as a certain Prudhomme; but she would rather apply to the citoyen
Évariste Gamelin. However, she made no definite proposal on this head
and it was evident she had mentioned the commission merely by way of
starting the conversation. In truth she had come for something quite
different. She wanted the citoyen Gamelin to do her a favour;
knowing he was a friend of the citoyen Marat, she had come to
ask him to introduce her to the Friend of the People, with whom she
desired an interview.
Gamelin replied that he was too insignificant an individual to
present her to Marat, besides which, she had no need of anyone to be
her sponsor; Marat, albeit overwhelmed with business, was not the
inaccessible person he was said to be,and, added Gamelin:
He will receive you, citoyenne, if you are in distress; his
great heart makes him compassionate to all who suffer. He will likewise
receive you if you have any revelation to make concerning the public
weal; he has vowed his days to the unmasking of traitors.
The citoyenne Rochemaure answered that she would be happy to
greet in Marat an illustrious citizen, who had rendered great services
to his country, who was capable of rendering greater still, and that
she was anxious to bring the legislator in question into relation with
friends of hers of good repute and good will, philanthropists favoured
by fortune and competent to provide him with new means of satisfying
his ardent affection for humanity.
It is very desirable, she concluded, to make the rich co-operate
in securing public prosperity.
In actual fact, the citoyenne had promised the banker
Morhardt to arrange a dinner where he and Marat should meet.
Morhardt, a Swiss like the Friend of the People, had entered into a
combination with several deputies of the Convention, Julien (of
Toulouse), Delaunay (of Angers) and the ex-Capuchin Chabot, to
speculate in the shares of the Compagnie des Indes. The game was
very simple,to bring down the price of these shares to 650 livres by
proposing motions pointing in the direction of confiscation, in order
to buy up the greatest possible number at this figure and then push
them up to 4,000 or 5,000 livres by dint of proposals of a reassuring
nature. But for Chabot, Julien, Delaunay, their little ways were too
notorious, while suspicions were rife of Lacroix, Fabre d'Églantine,
and even Danton. The arch-speculator, the Baron de Batz, was looking
for new confederates in the Convention and had advised Morhardt to
This idea of the anti-revolutionary speculators was not so
extravagant as might have been supposed at the first blush. It was
always the way of these gentry to form alliance with those in power at
the moment, and by virtue of his popularity, his pen, his character,
Marat was a power to be reckoned with. The Girondists were near
shipwreck; the Dantonists, battered by the hurricane, had lost their
hold on the helm. Robespierre, the idol of the people, was a man
jealous of his scrupulous honesty, full of suspicion, impossible to
approach. The great thing was to get round Marat, to secure his good
will against the day when he should be dictatorand everything pointed
to this consummation,his popularity, his ambition, his eagerness to
recommend heroic measures. And it might be, after all, Marat would
re-establish order, the finances, the prosperity of the country. More
than once he had risen in revolt against the zealots who were for
outbidding him in fanaticism; for some time past he had been denouncing
the demagogues as vehemently as the moderates. After inciting the
people to sack the cornerers' shops and hang them over their own
counters, he was now exhorting the citizens to be calm and prudent. He
was growing into an administrator.
In spite of certain rumours disseminated against him as against all
the other chiefs of the Revolution, these pirates of the money-market
did not believe he could be corrupted, but they did know him to be vain
and credulous, and they hoped to win him over by flattery and still
more by a condescending friendliness which they looked upon as the most
seductive form of flattery from men like themselves. They counted,
thanks to him, on blowing hot and cold on all the securities they might
wish to buy and sell, and making him serve their interests while
supposing himself to be acting solely for the public good.
Great as a go-between, albeit she was still of an age for amours on
her own account, the citoyenne Rochemaure had made it her
mission to bring together the legislator-journalist and the banker, and
in her extravagant imagination she already saw the man of the
underworld, the man whose hands were yet red with the blood of the
September massacres, a partner in the game of the financiers whose
agent she was; she pictured him drawn by his very warmth of feeling and
unsophisticated candour into the whirlpool of speculation, a recruit to
the côterie she loved of corner makers, contractors, foreign
emissaries, gamblers, and women of gallantry.
She insisted on the citoyen Gamelin taking her to see the
Friend of the People, who lived quite near, in the Rue des Cordeliers,
near the church. After some little show of reluctance, the painter
acceded to the citoyenne's wishes.
The dragoon Henry was invited to join them in the visit, but
declined, declaring he meant to keep his liberty of action, even
towards the citoyen Marat, who, he felt no doubt, had rendered
services to the Republic, but was weakening nowadays; had he not, in
his news sheet, counselled resignation as the proper thing for the
people of Paris?
And the young man, in a sweet voice, broken by long-drawn sighs,
deplored the fate of the Republic, betrayed by the men in whom she had
put her trust,Danton rejecting the notion of a tax on the rich,
Robespierre opposing the permanence of the Sections, Marat, whose
pusillanimous counsels were paralyzing the enthusiasm of the citizens.
Ah! he cried, how feeble such men appear beside Leclerc and
Jacques Roux!... Roux! Leclerc! ye are the true friends of the
Gamelin did not hear these remarks, which would have angered him; he
had gone into the next room to don his blue coat.
You may well be proud of your son, observed the citoyenne
Rochemaure, addressing the citoyenne Gamelin. He is a great
man; talent and character both make him so.
In answer, the widow Gamelin gave a good account of her son, yet
without making much boast of him before a lady of high station, for she
had been taught in her childhood that the first duty of the lowly is
humility towards the great. She was of a complaining bent, having
indeed only too good cause and finding in such jeremiads a salve for
her griefs. She was garrulous in her revelations of all the hardships
she had to bear to any whom she supposed in a position to relieve them,
and Madame de Rochemaure seemed to belong to that class. She made the
most, therefore, of this favourable opportunity and told a long and
breathless story of their distresses,how mother and son were both
dying of slow starvation. Pictures could not be sold any more; the
Revolution had killed business dead. Victuals were scarce and too dear
The good dame poured out her lamentations with all the loose-lipped
volubility her halting tongue was capable of, so as to get them all
finished by the time her son, whose pride would not brook such whining,
should reappear. She was bent on attaining her object in the shortest
possible time,that of touching a lady whom she deemed rich and
influential, and enlisting her sympathy in her boy's future. She felt
sure that Évariste's good looks were an asset on her side to move the
heart of a well-born lady. And so they were; the citoyenne
Rochemaure proved tender-hearted and was melted to think of Évariste's
and his mother's sufferings. She made plans to alleviate them; she had
rich men amongst her friends and would get them to buy the artist's
The truth is, she added, with a smile, there is still money in
France, but it keeps in hiding.
Better still, now Art was ruined, she would obtain Évariste a post
in Morhardt's bank or with the Brothers Perregaux, or a place as clerk
in the office of an army contractor.
Then she reflected that this was not what a man of his character
needed; and, after a moment's thought, she nodded in sign that she had
hit the nail on the head:
There are still several jurymen left to be appointed on the
Revolutionary Tribunal. Juryman, magistrate, that is the thing to suit
your son. I have friendly relations with the Committee of Public
Safety. I know Robespierre the elder personally; his brother frequently
sups at my house. I will speak to them. I will get a word said to
Montané, Dumas, Fouquier.
The citoyenne Gamelin, bursting with excitement and
gratitude, put a finger to her lip; Évariste was coming back into the
He escorted the citoyenne Rochemaure down the gloomy
staircase, the steps of which, whether of wood or tiled, were coated
with an ancient layer of dirt.
On the Pont-Neuf, where the sun, now near its setting, threw a
lengthened shadow from the pedestal that had borne the Bronze Horse and
was now gay with the National colours, a crowd of men and women of the
people gathered in little groups were listening to some tale that was
being told them. Consternation reigned and a heavy silence, broken at
intervals by groans and fierce cries. Many were making off at a rapid
pace in the direction of the Rue de Thionville, erstwhile Rue Dauphine;
Gamelin joined one of these groups and heard the newsthat Marat had
just been assassinated.
Little by little the tidings were confirmed and particulars became
known; he had been murdered in his bath by a woman who had come
expressly from Caen to commit the crime.
Some thought she had escaped; but the majority declared she had been
There they stood like sheep without a shepherd, thinking sadly:
Marat, the tender-hearted, the humane, Marat our benefactor, is no
longer there to guide us, Marat who was never deceived, who saw through
every subterfuge and never feared to reveal the truth!... What can we
do, what is to become of us? We have lost our adviser, our champion,
our friend. They knew very well whence the blow had come, and who had
directed the woman's arm. They groaned aloud:
Marat has been struck down by the same criminal hands that are bent
on our extermination. His death is the signal for the slaughter of all
Different reports were current, as to the circumstances of the
tragic event and the last words of the victim; endless questions were
asked concerning the assassin, all that anyone knew was that it was a
young woman sent by those traitors, the federalists. Baring teeth and
nails, the citoyennes devoted the culprit to condign punishment;
deeming the guillotine too merciful a death, they demanded this monster
of iniquity should be scourged, broken on the wheel, torn limb from
limb, and racked their brains to invent new tortures.
An armed body of National Guards was haling to the Section
headquarters a man of determined mien. His clothes were in tatters, and
streams of blood trickled down his white face. He had been overheard
saying that Marat had earned his fate by his constant incitements to
pillage and massacre, and it was only with great difficulty that the
Guards had saved him from the fury of the populace. A hundred fingers
pointed him out as the accomplice of the assassin, and threats of death
followed him as he was led away.
Gamelin was stunned by the blow. A few hot tears blistered his
burning eyes. With the grief he felt as a disciple mingled solicitude
for the popular idol, and these combined feelings tore at his
heart-strings. He thought to himself:
After Le Peltier, after Bourdon, Marat!... I foresee the fate of
the patriots; massacred on the Champ de Mars, at Nancy, at Paris, they
will perish one and all. And he thought of Wimpfen, the traitor, who
only a while before was marching on Paris, and who, had he not been
stopped at Vernon, by the gallant patriots, would have devoted the
heroic city to fire and slaughter.
And how many perils still remained, how many criminal designs, how
many treasonable plots, which only Marat's perspicacity and vigilance
could unravel and foil! Now he was dead, who was there to denounce
Custine loitering in idleness in the Camp of Cæsar and refusing to
relieve Valenciennes, Biron tarrying inactive in the Lower Vendée
letting Saumur be taken and Nantes blockaded, Dillon betraying the
Fatherland in the Argonne?...
Meantime, all about him, rose momentarily higher the sinister cry:
Marat is dead; the aristocrats have killed him!
As he was on his way, his heart bursting with grief and hate and
love, to pay a last mark of respect to the martyr of liberty, an old
countrywoman, wearing the coif of the Limousin peasantry, accosted him
to ask if the Monsieur Marat who had been murdered was not Monsieur le
Curé Mara, of Saint-Pierre-de-Queyroix.
It was the eve of the Festival, a calm, bright evening, and Élodie
hanging on Évariste's arm, was strolling with him about the Champ de
la Fédération. Workmen were hastily completing their task of
erecting columns, statues, temples, a mountain, an altar of the
Fatherland. Huge symbolic figures, Hercules (representing the people)
brandishing his club, Nature suckling the Universe from her
inexhaustible breasts, were rising at a moment's notice in the capital
that, tortured by famine and fear, was listening for the dreaded sound
of the Austrian cannon on the road from Meaux. La Vendée was making
good its check before Nantes by a series of startling victories. A ring
of fire and flame and hate was drawn about the great revolutionary
And meantime, she was preparing a superb welcome, like the sovereign
state of a vast empire, for the deputies of the primary Assemblies
which had accepted the Constitution. Federalism was on its knees; the
Republic, one and indivisible, would surely vanquish all its enemies.
Waving his arm towards the thronged expanse:
There it was, cried Évariste, that on the 17th July, '91, the
infamous Bailly ordered the people to be shot down at the foot of the
altar of the fatherland. Passavant, the grenadier, who witnessed the
massacre, returned to his house, tore his coat from his back and cried:
'I have sworn to die with Liberty; Liberty is no more, and I fulfil my
oath,'and blew out his brains.
All this time artists and peaceful citizens were examining the
preparations for the festival, their faces showing as joyless a joy in
life as their lives were dull and joyless; to their minds the mightiest
events shrank into insignificance and grew as insipid as they were
themselves. Couple by couple they went, carrying in their arms or
holding by the hand or letting them run on in front children as
unprepossessing as their parents and promising to grow up no whit
happier, who in due course would give birth to children of their own as
poor in spirit and looks as they. Yet now and again a young girl would
pass, tall and fair and desirable, rousing in young men a not ignoble
passion to possess, and in the old regret for the bliss they had
Near the École Militaire Évariste pointed out to his
companion the Egyptian statues designed by David on Roman models of the
age of Augustus, and they overheard a Parisian, an old man with
powdered hair, ejaculate to himself:
Egad! you might think yourself on the banks of the Nile!
It was three days since Élodie had seen her lover, and serious
events had befallen meantime at the Amour peintre. The
citoyen Blaise had been denounced to the Committee of General
Security for fraudulent dealings in the matter of supplies to the
armies. Fortunately for himself, the print-dealer was well known in his
Section; the Committee of Surveillance of the Section des Piques
had stood guarantee of his patriotism with the general committee and
had completely justified his conduct.
This alarming incident Élodie now recounted in trembling accents,
We are quiet now, but the alarm was a hot one. A little more and my
father would have been clapped in prison. If the danger had lasted a
few hours more, I should have come to you, Évariste, to make interest
for him among your influential friends.
Évariste vouchsafed no reply to this, but Élodie was very far from
realizing all his silence portended.
They went on hand in hand along the banks of the river, discoursing
of their mutual fondness in the phrases of Julie and Saint-Preux; the
good Jean-Jacques gave them the colours to paint and prank their love
The Municipality of Paris had wrought a miracle,abundance reigned
for a day in the famished city. A fair was installed on the Place
des Invalides, beside the Seine, where hucksters in booths sold
sausages, saveloys, chitterlings, hams decked with laurels, Nanterre
cakes, gingerbreads, pancakes, four-pound loaves, lemonade and wine.
There were stalls also for the sale of patriotic songs, cockades,
tricolour ribands, purses, pinchbeck watch-chains and all sorts of
cheap gewgaws. Stopping before the display of a petty jeweller,
Évariste selected a silver ring having a head of Marat in relief with a
silk handkerchief wound about the brows, and put it on Élodie's finger.
* * * * *
The same evening Gamelin proceeded to the Rue de l'Arbre-Sec to call
on the citoyenne Rochemaure, who had sent for him on pressing
business. She received him in her bedchamber, reclining on a couch in a
While the citoyenne's attitude expressed a voluptuous
languor, everything about her spoke of her accomplishments, her
diversions, her talents,a harp beside an open harpsichord, a guitar
on a chair, an embroidering frame with a square of satin stretched on
it, a half-finished miniature on a table among papers and books, a
bookcase in dire disorder as if rifled by the hand of a fair reader as
eager to know as to feel.
She gave him her hand to kiss, and addressed him:
Greeting, sir juryman!... This very day Robespierre the elder gave
me a letter in your favour to be handed to the President Herman, a very
well turned letter, pretty much to this effect:
I bring to your notice the citoyen Gamelin, commendable
alike for his talents and for his patriotism. I have made it my duty to
make known to you a patriot whose principles are good and his conduct
steadfast in the right line of revolution. You will not let slip the
opportunity of being useful to a Republican.... This letter I carried
there and then to the President Herman, who received me with an
exquisite politeness and signed your appointment on the spot. The thing
After a moment's pause:
Citoyenne, said Gamelin, though I have not a morsel of
bread to give my mother, I swear on my honour I accept the duties of a
juror only to serve the Republic and avenge her on her foes.
The citoyenne thought this but a cold way of expressing
gratitude and considered the sentiment high-flown. The young man was no
adept, she suspected, at graceful courtesies. But she was too great an
admirer of youth not to excuse some little lack of polish. Gamelin was
a handsome fellow, and that was merit enough in her eyes. We will form
him, she said to herself. So she invited him to her suppers to which
she welcomed her friends every evening after the theatre.
You will meet at my house men of wit and talent,Elleviou, Talma,
the citoyen Vigée, who turns bouts-rimés with a marvellous
aptitude. The citoyen François read us his 'Paméla' the other
day, the piece rehearsing at the present moment at the Théâtre de la
Nation. The style is elegant and chaste, as everything is that
comes from the citoyen François' pen. The plot is touching; it
brought tears to all our eyes. It is the young citoyenne Lange
who is to take the part of 'Paméla.'
I believe it if you say so, citoyenne, answered Gamelin,
but the Théâtre de la Nation is scarcely National and it is
hard on the citoyen François that his works should be produced
on the boards degraded by the contemptible verses of a Laya; the people
has not forgotten the scandal of the Ami des Lois....
Nay, citoyen Gamelin, say what you will of Laya; he is none
of my friends.
It was not purely out of kindness that the citoyenne had
employed her credit to get Gamelin appointed to a much envied post;
after what she had done for him and what peradventure she might come to
do for him in the future, she counted on binding him closely to her
interests and in that way securing for herself a protector connected
with a tribunal she might one day or another have to reckon with; for
the fact is, she was in constant correspondence with the French
provinces and foreign countries, and at that date such a circumstance
was ground enough for suspicion.
Do you often go to the theatre, citoyen?
As she asked the question, Henry, the dragoon, entered the room,
looking more charming than the youthful Bathyllus. A brace of enormous
pistols was passed through his belt.
He kissed the fair citoyenne's hand. Turning to him:
There stands the citoyen Évariste Gamelin, she said, for
whose sake I have spent the day at the Committee of General Security,
and who is an ungrateful wretch. Scold him for me.
Ah! citoyenne, cried the young soldier, you have seen our
Legislators at the Tuileries. What an afflicting sight! Is it seemly
the Representatives of a free people should sit beneath the roof of a
despot? The same lustres that once shone on the plots of Capet and the
orgies of Antoinette now illumine the deliberations of our law-makers.
'Tis enough to make Nature shudder.
Pray, congratulate the citoyen Gamelin, was all her answer,
he is appointed juryman on the Revolutionary Tribunal.
My compliments, citoyen! said Henry. I am rejoiced to see
a man of your character invested with these functions. But, to speak
truth, I have small confidence in this systematic justice, set up by
the moderates of the Convention, in this complaisant Nemesis that is
considerate to conspirators and merciful to traitors, that hardly dares
strike a blow at the Federalists and fears to summon the Austrian
to the bar. No, it is not the Revolutionary Tribunal will save the
Republic. They are very culpable, the men who, in the desperate
situation we are in, have arrested the flowing torrent of popular
Henry, interrupted the citoyenne Rochemaure, pass me that
scent bottle, please....
On reaching home, Gamelin found his mother and old Brotteaux playing
a game of piquet by the light of a smoky tallow-candle. At the moment
the old woman was calling sequence of kings without the smallest
When she heard her son was appointed juryman, she kissed him in a
transport of triumph, thinking what an honour it was for both of them
and that henceforth they would have plenty to eat every day.
I am proud and happy, she declared, to be the mother of a
juryman. Justice is a fine thing, and of all the most necessary;
without justice the weak would be harassed every moment of their lives.
And I think you will give right judgment, Évariste, my own boy; for
from a child I have found you just and kind-hearted in all concerns.
You could never endure wrong-doing and always tried what you could to
hinder violence. You compassionated the unfortunate and that is the
finest jewel in a juror's crown.... But tell me, Évariste, how are you
dressed in your grand tribunal?
Gamelin informed her that the judges wore a hat with black plumes,
but that the jury had no special costume, that they were dressed in
their every-day attire.
It would be better, returned the good woman, if they wore wig and
gown; it would inspire more respect. Though you are mostly dressed
carelessly, you are a handsome man and you set off your clothes; but
the majority of men need some fine feathers to make them look imposing;
yes, the jury should have wigs and gowns.
The citoyenne had heard say that the duties of a juror of the
Tribunal carried a salary; and she had no hesitation in asking the
question whether the emoluments were enough to live respectably on, for
a juryman, she opined, ought to cut a good figure in the world.
She was pleased to hear that each juror received an allowance of
eighteen livres for every sitting and that the multiplicity of crimes
against the security of the State obliged the court to sit very
Old Brotteaux gathered up the cards, rose from the table and
Citoyen, he said, you are invested with an august and
redoubtable office. I congratulate you on lending the light of your
integrity to a tribunal more trustworthy and less fallible perhaps than
any other, because it searches out good and evil, not in themselves and
in their essence, but solely in relation to tangible interests and
plain and obvious sentiments. You will have to determine betwixt hate
and love, which is done spontaneously, not betwixt truth and falsehood,
to discriminate which is impossible for the feeble mind of man. Giving
judgment after the impulses of your heart, you will run no risk of
mistake, inasmuch as the verdict will be good provided it satisfy the
passions that are your sacred law. But, all the same, if I was your
President, I should imitate Bridoie, I should appeal to the arbitrament
of the dice. In matters of justice it is still the surest plan.
Évariste Gamelin was to enter on his duties on the 14th September,
when the reorganization of the Tribunal was complete, according to
which it was henceforth subdivided into four sections with fifteen
jurors for each. The prisons were full to overflowing; the Public
Prosecutor was working eighteen hours a day. Defeats in the field,
revolts in the provinces, conspiracies, plots, betrayals, the
Convention had one panacea for them all,terror. The Gods were
The first act of the new juror was to pay a visit of ceremony to the
President Herman, who charmed him by the amiability of his conversation
and the courtesy of his bearing. A compatriot and friend of
Robespierre's, whose sentiments he shared, he showed every sign of a
feeling and virtuous temper. He was deeply attached to those humane
sentiments, too long foreign to the heart of our judges, that redound
to the everlasting glory of a Dupaty and a Beccaria. He looked with
complacency on the greater mildness of modern manners as evidenced, in
judicial matters, by the abolition of torture and of ignominious or
cruel forms of punishment. He was rejoiced to see the death penalty,
once so recklessly inflicted and employed till quite lately for the
repression of the most trifling offences, applied less frequently and
reserved for heinous crimes. For his own part, he agreed with
Robespierre and would gladly have seen it abolished altogether, except
only in cases touching the public safety. At the same time, he would
have deemed it treason to the State not to adjudge the punishment of
death for crimes against the National Sovereignty.
All his colleagues were of like mind; the old Monarchical idea of
reasons of State still inspired the Revolutionary Tribunal. Eight
centuries of absolute power had moulded the magisterial conscience, and
it was by the principles of Divine Right that the Court even now tried
and sentenced the enemies of Liberty.
The same day Évariste Gamelin sought an interview with the Public
Prosecutor, the citoyen Fouquier, who received him in the
Cabinet where he used to work with his clerk of the court. He was a
sturdily built man, with a rough voice, catlike eyes, bearing in his
pock-marked face and leaden complexion marks of the mischief wrought by
a sedentary and indoor life on a vigorous constitution adapted to the
open air and violent exercise. Towering piles of papers shut him in
like the walls of a tomb, and it was plain to see he was in his element
amid all these dreadful documents that seemed like to bury him alive.
His conversation was that of a hard-working magistrate, a man devoted
to his task and whose mind never left the narrow groove of his official
duties. His fiery breath reeked of the brandy he took to keep up his
strength; but the liquor seemed never to fly to his brain, so
clear-headed, albeit entirely commonplace, was every word he uttered.
He lived in a small suite of rooms in the Palais de Justice with his
young wife, who had given him twin boys. His wife, an aunt Henriette
and the maid-servant Pélagie made up the whole household. He was good
and kind to these women. In a word, he was an excellent person in his
family and professional relations, with a scarcity of ideas and a total
lack of imagination.
Gamelin could not help being struck unpleasantly by the close
resemblance in temper and ways of thought between the new magistrates
and their predecessors under the old régime. In fact, they were of the
old régime; Herman had held the office of Advocate General to the
Council of Artois; Fouquier was a former Procureur at the Châtelet.
They had preserved their character, whereas Gamelin believed in a
Quitting the precincts of the court, he passed along the great
gallery of the Palace and halted in front of the shops where articles
of every sort and kind were exposed for sale in the most attractive
fashion. Standing before the citoyenne Ténot's stall, he turned
over sundry historical, political, and philosophical works:The
Chains of Slavery, An Essay on Despotism, The Crimes of Queens.
Very good! he thought, here is Republican stuff! and he asked the
woman if she sold a great many of these books. She shook her head:
The only things that sell are songs and romances,and pulling a
duodecimo volume out of a drawer:
Here, she told him, here we have something good.
Évariste read the title: La Religieuse en chemise, The Nun in
Before the next shop he came upon Philippe Desmahis, who, with a
tender, conquering-hero air, among the citoyenne Saint-Jorre's
perfumes and powders and sachets, was assuring the fair tradeswoman of
his undying love, promising to paint her portrait and begging her to
vouchsafe him a moment's talk that evening in the Tuileries gardens.
There was no resisting him; persuasion sat on his lips and beamed from
his eye. The citoyenne Saint-Jorre was listening without a word,
her eyes on the ground, only too ready to believe him.
* * * * *
Wishing to familiarize himself with the awful duties imposed on him,
the new juror resolved to mingle with the throng and look on at a case
before the Tribunal as a member of the general public. He climbed the
great stairs on which a vast crowd was seated as in an amphitheatre and
pushed his way into the ancient Hall of the Parlement of Paris.
This was crammed to suffocation; some General or other was taking
his trial. For in those days, as old Brotteaux put it, the Convention,
copying the example of His Britannic Majesty's Government, made a point
of arraigning beaten Generals, in default of traitorous Generals, the
latter taking good care not to stand their trial. Not that a beaten
General, Brotteaux would add, is necessarily criminal, for in the
nature of things there must be one in every battle. But there's nothing
like condemning a General to death for giving encouragement to others.
Several had already appeared before the Tribunal; they were all
alike, these empty-headed, opinionated soldiers with the brains of a
sparrow in an ox's skull. This particular commander was pretty nearly
as ignorant of the sieges and battles of his own campaign as the
magistrates who were questioning him; both sides, prosecution and
defence, were lost in a fog of effectives, objectives, munitions and
ammunitions, marches and counter-marches. But the mass of citizens
listening to these obscure and never-ending details could see behind
the half-witted soldier the bare and bleeding breast of the fatherland
enduring a thousand deaths; and by look and voice urged the jurymen,
sitting quietly on their bench, to use their verdict as a club to fell
the foes of the Republic.
Évariste was firmly convinced of one thing,what they had to strike
at in the pitiful creature was the two dread monsters that were
battening on the fatherland, revolt and defeat. What a to-do to
discover if this particular soldier was innocent or guilty! When La
Vendée was recovering heart, when Toulon was surrendering to the enemy,
when the army of the Rhine was recoiling before the victors of Mayence,
when the Army of the North, cowering in Cæsar's Camp, might be taken at
a blow by the Imperialists, the English, the Dutch, now masters of
Valenciennes, the one important thing was to teach the Generals of the
Republic to conquer or to die. To see yonder feeble-witted muddle-pated
veteran losing himself under cross-examination among his maps as he had
done before in the plains of Northern France, Gamelin longed to yell
death! death! with the rest, and fled from the Hall of Audience to
escape the temptation.
* * * * *
At the meeting of the Section, the newly appointed juryman received
the congratulations of the President Olivier, who made him swear on the
old high altar of the Barnabites, now altar of the fatherland, to
stifle in his heart, in the sacred name of humanity, every human
Gamelin, with uplifted right hand, invoked as witness of his oath
the august shade of Marat, martyr of Liberty, whose bust had lately
been set up against a pillar of the erstwhile church, facing that of Le
There was some applause, interrupted by cries of protest. The
meeting was a stormy one; at the entrance of the nave stood a group of
members of the Section, armed with pikes and shouting clamorously:
It is anti-republican, declared the President, to carry arms at a
meeting of free citizens,and he ordered the muskets and pikes to be
deposited there and then in the erstwhile sacristy.
A hunchback, with blazing eyes and lips drawn back so as to show the
teeth, the citoyen Beauvisage, of the Committee of Vigilance,
mounted to the pulpit, now become the speakers' tribune and surmounted
by a red cap of liberty.
The Generals are betraying us, he vociferated, and surrendering
our armies to the enemy. The Imperialists are pushing forward their
cavalry around Péronne and Saint-Quentin. Toulon has been given up to
the English, who are landing fourteen thousand men there. The foes of
the Republic are busy with plots in the very bosom of the Convention.
In the capital conspiracies without number are afoot to deliver the
Austrian. At this very moment while I speak there runs a rumour
that the Capet brat has escaped from the Temple and is being borne in
triumph to Saint-Cloud by those who would fain re-erect the tyrant's
throne in his favour. The dearness of food, the depreciation of the
assignats are the direct result of manoeuvres carried out in our
own homes, beneath our very eyes, by the agents of the foreigners. In
the name of public safety I call upon the new juryman, our
fellow-citizen, to show no pity to conspirators and traitors.
As he left the tribune, cries rose among the audience: Down with
the Revolutionary Tribunal! Down with the Moderates!
A stout, rosy-faced man, the citoyen Dupont senior, a joiner
living in the Place de Thionville, mounted the Tribune, announcing that
he wished to ask a question of the new juror. Then he demanded of
Gamelin what attitude he meant to take up in the matter of the
Brissotins and of the widow Capet.
Évariste was timid and unpractised in public speaking. But
indignation gave him eloquence. He rose with a pale face and said in a
voice of suppressed emotion:
I am a magistrate. I am responsible to my conscience only. Any
promise I might make you would be against my duty, which is to speak in
the Court and hold my peace elsewhere. I have ceased to know you. It is
mine to give judgment; I know neither friends nor enemies.
The meeting, made up like all meetings of divers elements and
subject to sudden and incalculable moods, approved these sentiments.
But the citoyen Dupont returned to the charge; he could not
forgive Gamelin for having secured a post he had coveted himself.
I understand, he said, I even approve the juror's scruples. They
say he is a patriot; it is for him to examine his conscience and see if
it permits him to sit on a tribunal intended to destroy the enemies of
the Republic and resolved to spare them. There are circumstances in
which a good citizen is bound to repudiate all complicity. Is it not
averred that more than one juror of this tribunal has let himself be
corrupted by the gold of the accused, and that the President Montané
falsified the procedure to save the head of the woman Corday?
At the words the hall resounded with vehement applause. The vaults
were still reverberating with the uproar when Fortuné Trubert mounted
the tribune. He had grown thinner than ever in the last few months. His
face was pale and the cheek-bones seemed ready to pierce the reddened
skin; his eyes had a glassy look under the inflamed lids.
Citoyens, he began, in a weak, breathless voice that yet
had a strangely penetrating quality, we cannot suspect the
Revolutionary Tribunal without at the same time suspecting the
Convention and the Committee of Public Safety from which it derives its
powers. The citoyen Beauvisage has alarmed us, showing us the
President Montané tampering with the course of justice in favour of a
culprit. Why did he not add, to relieve our fears, that on the
denunciation of the Public Prosecutor, Montané has been dismissed his
office and thrown into prison?... Is it impossible to watch over the
public safety without casting suspicion on all and sundry? Is there no
talent, no virtue left in the Convention? Robespierre, Couthon,
Saint-Just, are not these honest men? It is a notable thing that the
most violent language is held by individuals who have never been known
to fight for the Republic. They could speak no otherwise if they wish
to render her hateful. Citoyens, less talk, say I, and more
work! It is with shot and shell and not with shouting that France will
be saved. One-half the cellars of the Section have not been dug up. Not
a few citizens still hold considerable quantities of bronze. We would
remind the rich that patriotic gifts are for them the most potent
guarantees. I recommend to your generosity the wives and daughters of
our soldiers who are covering themselves with glory on the frontiers
and on the Loire. One of these, the hussar Pommier (Augustin), formerly
a cellarman's lad in the Rue de Jérusalem, on the 10th of last month,
before Condé, when watering the troop horses, was set upon by six
Austrian cavalrymen; he killed two of them and brought in the others
prisoners. I ask the Section to declare that Pommier (Augustin) has
done his duty.
This speech was applauded and the Sectionaries dispersed with cries
of Vive la République!
Left alone in the nave with Trubert, Gamelin pressed the latter's
Thank you. How are you?
I? Oh! Very well, very well! replied Trubert, coughing and
spitting blood into his handkerchief. The Republic has many enemies
without and within, and our own Section counts a not inconsiderable
number of them. It is not with loud talk but with iron and laws that
empires are founded ... good night, Gamelin; I have letters to write.
And he disappeared, his handkerchief pressed to his lips, into the
* * * * *
The widow Gamelin, her cockade now and henceforth fastened more
carefully in her hood, had from one day to the next assumed a fine,
consequential air, a Republican haughtiness and the dignified carriage
suitable to the mother of a juror of the State.
The veneration for the law in which she had been brought up, the
admiration with which the magistrate's gown and cassock had from a
child inspired her, the holy terror she had always experienced at sight
of those to whom God had delegated on earth His divine right of life
and death, these feelings made her regard as an august and worshipful
and holy being the son whom till yesterday she had thought of as little
more than a child. To her simple mind the conviction of the continuity
of justice through all the changes of the Revolution was as strong as
was that of the legislators of the Convention regarding the continuity
of the State under varying systems of government, and the Revolutionary
Tribunal appeared to her every whit as majestic as any of the
time-honoured jurisdictions she had been taught to revere.
The citoyen Brotteaux showed the young magistrate an interest
mingled with surprise and a reluctant deference. His views were the
same as the widow Gamelin's as to the continuity of justice under
successive governments; but, in flat contradiction to that good lady's
attitude, his scorn for the Revolutionary Tribunals was on a par with
his contempt for the courts of the ancien régime. Not daring to express
his opinions openly and unable to make up his mind to say nothing, he
indulged in a string of paradoxes which Gamelin understood just well
enough to suspect the anti-patriotism that underlay them.
The august tribunal whereon you are soon to take your seat, he
told him on one occasion, was instituted by the French Senate for the
security of the Republic; and it was for certain a magnanimous thought
on the part of our legislators to set up a court to try our enemies. I
appreciate its generosity, but I doubt its wisdom. It would have shown
greater astuteness, it seems to me, if they had struck down in the dark
the more irreconcilable of their adversaries and won over the rest by
gifts and promises. A tribunal strikes slowly and effects more harm
than it inspires fear; its first duty is to make an example. The
mischief yours does is to unite together all whom it terrifies and make
out of a mass of contradictory interests and passions a great party
capable of common and effective action. You sow fear broadcast, and it
is terror more than courage that produces heroes; I pray, citoyen, you may not one day see prodigies of terror arrayed against you!
The engraver Desmahis, in love that week with a light o' love of the
Palais-Égalité named Flora, a brown-locked giantess, had nevertheless
found five minutes to congratulate his comrade and tell him that such
an appointment was a great compliment to the fine arts.
Élodie herself, though without knowing it she detested everything
revolutionary and who dreaded official functions as the most dangerous
of rivals, the most likely to estrange her lover's affections, the
tender Élodie was impressed by the glamour attaching to a magistrate
called upon to pronounce judgment in matters of life and death. Besides
which, Évariste's promotion as a juryman was followed by other
fortunate results that filled her loving heart with satisfaction; the
citoyen Jean Blaise made a point of calling at the studio in the
Place de Thionville and embraced the young juror affectionately in a
burst of manly sympathy.
Like all the anti-revolutionaries, he had a great respect for the
authorities established by the Republic, and ever since he had been
denounced for fraud in connection with his supplies for the army, the
Revolutionary Tribunal had inspired him with a wholesome dread. He felt
himself to be a person too much in the public eye and mixed up in too
many transactions to enjoy perfect security; so the citoyen
Gamelin struck him as a friend worth cultivating. When all was said,
one was a good citizen and on the side of justice.
He gave the painter magistrate his hand, declaring himself his true
friend and a true patriot, a well-wisher of the arts and of liberty.
Gamelin forgot his injuries and pressed the hand so generously offered.
Citoyen Évariste Gamelin, said Jean Blaise, I appeal to
you as a friend and as a man of talent. I am going to take you
to-morrow for two days' jaunt in the country; you can do some drawing
and we can enjoy a talk.
Several times every year the print-dealer was in the habit of making
a two or three days' expedition of this sort in the company of artists
who made drawings, according to his suggestions, of landscapes and
ruins. He was quick to see what would please the public and these
little journeys always resulted in some picturesque bits which were
then finished at home and cleverly engraved; prints in red or colours
were struck off from these, and brought in a good profit to the
citoyen Blaise. From the same sketches he had over-doors and panels
executed, which sold as well or better than the decorative works of
On this occasion he had invited the citoyen Gamelin to
accompany him to sketch buildings after nature, so much had the juror's
office increased the painter's importance in his eyes. Two other
artists were of the party, the engraver Desmahis, who drew well, and an
almost unknown man, Philippe Dubois, an excellent designer in the style
of Robert. According to custom, the citoyenne Élodie with her
friend the citoyenne Hasard accompanied the artists. Jean
Blaise, an adept at combining pleasure with profit, had also extended
an invitation to the citoyenne Thévenin, an actress at the
Vaudeville, who was reputed to be on the best of terms with him.
On Saturday at seven in the morning the citoyen Blaise, in a
black cocked-hat, scarlet waistcoat, doe-skin breeches, and boots with
yellow tops, rapped with the handle of his riding-whip at the studio
door. The citoyenne Gamelin was in the room in polite
conversation with the citoyen Brotteaux, while Évariste stood
before a bit of looking-glass knotting his high white cravat.
A pleasant journey, Monsieur Blaise! the citoyenne greeted
him. But, as you are going to paint landscapes, why don't you take
Monsieur Brotteaux, who is a painter?
Well, well, said Jean Blaise, will you come with us, citoyen
On being assured he would not be intruding, Brotteaux, a man of a
sociable temper and fond of all amusements, accepted the invitation.
The citoyenne Élodie had climbed the four storeys to embrace
the widow Gamelin, whom she called her good mother. She was in white
from head to foot, and smelt of lavender.
An old two-horsed travelling berline stood waiting in the
Place, with the hood down. Rose Thévenin occupied the back seat with
Julienne Hasard. Élodie made the actress sit on the right, took the
left-hand place herself and put the slim Julienne between the two of
them. Brotteaux settled himself, back to the horses, facing the
citoyenne Thévenin; Philippe Dubois, opposite the citoyenne
Hasard; Évariste opposite Élodie. As for Philippe Desmahis, he planted
his athletic figure on the box, on the coachman's left, and proceeded
to amaze that worthy with a traveller's tale about a country in America
where the trees bore chitterlings and saveloys by way of fruit.
The citoyen Blaise, who was a capital rider, took the road on
horseback, going on in front to escape the dust from the berline.
As the wheels rattled merrily over the suburban roads the travellers
began to forget their cares, and at sight of the green fields and trees
and sky, their minds turned to gay and pleasant thoughts. Élodie
dreamed she was surely born to rear poultry with Évariste, a country
justice, to help her, in some village on a river bank beside a wood.
The roadside elms whirled by as they sped along. Outside the villages
the peasants' mastiffs dashed out to intercept the carriage and barked
at the horses, while a fat spaniel, lying in the roadway, struggled
reluctantly to its feet; the fowls scattered and fled; the geese in a
close-packed band waddled slowly out of the way. The children, with
their fresh morning faces, watched the company go by. It was a hot day
and a cloudless sky. The parched earth was thirsting for rain. They
alighted just outside Villejuif. On their way through the little town,
Desmahis went into a fruiterer's to buy cherries for the overheated
citoyennes. The shop-keeper was a pretty woman, and Desmahis showed
no signs of reappearing. Philippe Dubois shouted to him, using the
nickname his friends constantly gave him:
Ho there! Barbaroux!... Barbaroux!
At this hated name the passers-by pricked up their ears and faces
appeared at every window. Then, when they saw a young and handsome man
emerge from the shop, his jacket thrown open, his neckerchief flying
loose over a muscular chest, and carrying over his shoulder a basket of
cherries and his coat at the end of a stick, taking him for the
proscribed girondist, a posse of sansculottes laid violent hands
on him. Regardless of his indignant protests, they would have haled him
to the town-hall, had not old Brotteaux, Gamelin, and the three young
women borne testimony that the citoyen was named Philippe
Desmahis, a copper-plate engraver and a good Jacobin. Even then the
suspect had to show his carte de civisme, which he had in his
pocket by great good luck, for he was very heedless in such matters. At
this price he escaped from the hands of these patriotic villagers
without worse loss than one of his lace ruffles, which had been torn
off; but this was a trifle after all. He even received the apologies of
the National Guards who had hustled him the most savagely and who now
spoke of carrying him in triumph to the Hôtel de Ville.
A free man again and with the citoyennes Élodie, Rose, and
Julienne crowding round him, Desmahis looked at Philippe Duboishe did
not like the man and suspected him of having played him a practical
jokewith a wry smile, and towering above him by a whole head:
Dubois, he told him, if you call me Barbaroux again, I shall call
you Brissot; he is a little fat man with a silly face, greasy hair, an
oily skin and damp hands. They'll be perfectly sure you are the
infamous Brissot, the people's enemy; and the good Republicans, filled
with horror and loathing at sight of you, will hang you from the
nearest lamp-post. You hear me?
The citoyen Blaise, who had been watering his horse,
announced that he had arranged the affair, though it was quite plain to
everybody that it had been arranged without him.
The company got in again, and as they drove on, Desmahis informed
the coachman that in this same plain of Longjumeau several inhabitants
of the Moon had once come down, in shape and colour much like frogs,
only very much bigger. Philippe Dubois and Gamelin talked about their
art. Dubois, a pupil of Regnault, had been to Rome, where he had seen
Raphael's tapestries, which he set above all the masterpieces of the
world. He admired Correggio's colouring, Annibale Caracci's invention,
Domenichino's drawing, but thought nothing comparable in point of style
with the pictures of Pompeio Battoni. He had been in touch at Rome with
Monsieur Ménageot and Madame Lebrun, who had both pronounced against
the Revolution; so the less said of them the better. But he spoke
highly of Angelica Kauffmann, who had a pure taste and a fine knowledge
of the Antique.
Gamelin deplored that the apogee of French painting, belated as it
was, for it only dated from Lesueur, Claude and Poussin and
corresponded with the decadence of the Italian and Flemish schools, had
been succeeded by so rapid and profound a decline. This he attributed
to the degraded state of manners and to the Academy, which was the
expression of that state. But the Academy had been happily abolished,
and under the influence of new canons, David and his school were
creating an art worthy of a free people. Among the young painters,
Gamelin, without a trace of envy, gave the first place to Hennequin and
Topino-Lebrun. Philippe Dubois preferred his own master Regnault to
David, and founded his hopes for the future of painting on that rising
Meantime Élodie complimented the citoyenne Thévenin on her
red velvet toque and white gown. The actress repaid the compliment by
congratulating her two companions on their toilets and advising them
how to do better still; the thing, she said, was to be more sparing in
ornaments and trimmings.
A woman can never be dressed too simply, was her dictum. We see
this on the stage, where the costume should allow every pose to be
appreciated. That is its true beauty and it needs no other.
You are right, my dear, replied Élodie. Only there is nothing
more expensive in dress than simplicity. It is not always out of bad
taste we add frills and furbelows; sometimes it is to save our
They discussed eagerly the autumn fashions,frocks entirely plain
So many women disfigure themselves through following the fashion!
declared Rose Thévenin. In dressing every woman should study her own
There is nothing beautiful save draperies that follow the lines of
the figure and fall in folds, put in Gamelin. Everything that is cut
out and sewn is hideous.
These sentiments, more appropriate in a treatise of Winckelmann's
than in the mouth of a man talking to Parisiennes, met with the scorn
they deserved, being entirely disregarded.
For the winter, observed Élodie, they are making quilted gowns in
Lapland style of taffeta and muslin, and coats à la Zulime,
round-waisted and opening over a stomacher à la Turque.
Nasty cheap things, declared the actress, you can buy them ready
made. Now I have a little seamstress who works like an angel and is not
dear; I'll send her to see you, my dear.
So they prattled on trippingly, eagerly discussing and appraising
different fine fabricsstriped taffeta, self-coloured china silk,
muslin, gauze, nankeen.
And old Brotteaux, as he listened to them, thought with a pensive
pleasure of these veils that hide women's charms and change
incessantly,how they last for a few years to be renewed eternally
like the flowers of the field. And his eyes, as they wandered from the
three pretty women to the cornflowers and the poppies in the wheat,
were wet with smiling tears.
They reached Orangis about nine o'clock and stopped before the inn,
the Auberge de la Cloche, where the Poitrines, husband and wife,
offered accommodation for man and beast. The citoyen Blaise, who
had repaired any disorder in his dress, helped the citoyennes to
alight. After ordering dinner for midday, they all set off, preceded by
their paintboxes, drawing-boards, easels, and parasols, which were
carried by a village lad, for the meadows near the confluence of the
Orge and the Yvette, a charming bit of country giving a view over the
verdant plain of Longjumeau and bounded by the Seine and the woods of
Jean Blaise, the leader of the troop of artists, was bandying funny
stories with the ci-devant financier, tales that brought in
without rhyme or reason Verboquet the Open-handed, Catherine Cuissot
the pedlar, the demoiselles Chaudron, the fortune-teller Galichet, as
well as characters of a later time like Cadet-Rousselle and Madame
Évariste, inspired with a sudden love of nature, as he saw a troop
of harvesters binding their sheaves, felt the tears rise to his eyes,
while visions of concord and affection filled his heart. For his part,
Desmahis was blowing the light down of the seeding dandelions into the
citoyennes' hair. All three loved posies, as town-bred girls always
do, and were busy in the meadows plucking the mullein, whose blossoms
grow in spikes close round the stem, the campanula, with its little
blue-bells hanging in rows one above another, the slender twigs of the
scented vervain, wallwort, mint, dyer's weed, milfoilall the wild
flowers of late summer. Jean-Jacques had made botany the fashion among
townswomen, so all three knew the name and symbolism of every flower.
As the delicate petals, drooping for want of moisture, wilted in her
hands and fell in a shower about her feet, the citoyenne Élodie
They are dying already, the poor flowers!
All set to work and strove to express nature as they saw her; but
each saw her through the eyes of a master. In a short time Philippe
Dubois had knocked off in the style of Hubert Robert a deserted farm, a
clump of storm-riven trees, a dried-up torrent. Évariste Gamelin found
a landscape by Poussin ready made on the banks of the Yvette. Philippe
Desmahis was at work before a pigeon-cote in the picaresque manner of
Callot and Duplessis. Old Brotteaux who piqued himself on imitating the
Flemings, was drawing a cow with infinite care. Élodie was sketching a
peasant's hut, while her friend Julienne, who was a colourman's
daughter, set her palette. A swarm of children pressed about her,
watching her paint, whom she would scold out of her light at intervals,
calling them pestering gnats and giving them lollipops. The
citoyenne Thévenin, picking out the pretty ones, would wash their
faces, kiss them and put flowers in their hair. She fondled them with a
gentle air of melancholy, because she had missed the joy of
motherhood,as well as to heighten her fascinations by a show of
tender sentiment and to practise herself in the art of pose and
She was the only member of the party neither drawing nor painting.
She devoted her attention to learning a part and still more to charming
her companions, flitting from one to another, book in hand, a bright,
No complexion, no figure, no voice, no nothing, declared the
women,and she filled the earth with movement, colour and harmony.
Faded, pretty, tired, indefatigable, she was the joy of the expedition.
A woman of ever-varying moods, but always gay, sensitive,
quick-tempered and yet easy-going and accommodating, a sharp tongue
with the most polished utterance, vain, modest, true, false,
delightful; if Rose Thévenin enjoyed no triumphant success, if she was
not worshipped as a goddess, it was because the times were out of joint
and Paris had no more incense, no more altars for the Graces. The
citoyenne Blaise herself, who made a face when she spoke of her and
used to call her my step-mother, could not see her and not be
subjugated by such an array of charms.
They were rehearsing Les Visitandines at the Théâtre Feydeau,
and Rose was full of self-congratulation at having a part full of
naturalness. It was this quality she strove after, this she sought
and this she found.
Then we shall not see 'Paméla'? asked Desmahis.
The Théâtre de la Nation was closed and the actors packed off to the
Madelonnettes and to Pélagie.
Do you call that liberty? cried Rose Thévenin, raising her
beautiful eyes to heaven in indignant protest.
The players of the Théâtre de la Nation are aristocrats, and the
citoyen François' piece tends to make men regret the privileges of
Gentlemen, said Rose Thévenin, have you patience to listen only
to those who flatter you?
As midday approached everybody began to feel pangs of hunger and the
little band marched back to the inn.
Évariste walked beside Élodie, smilingly recalling memories of their
Two young birds had fallen out of their nests on the roof on to the
sill of your window. You brought the little creatures up by hand; one
of them lived and in due time flew away. The other died in the nest of
cotton-wool you had made him. 'It was the one I loved best,' I remember
you said. That day, Élodie, you were wearing a red bow in your hair.
Philippe Dubois and Brotteaux, a little behind the rest, were
talking of Rome, where they had both been, the latter in '72, the other
towards the last days of the Academy. Brotteaux indeed had never
forgotten the Princess Mondragone, to whom he would most certainly have
poured out his plaints but for the Count Altieri, who always followed
her like her shadow. Nor did Philippe Dubois fail to mention that he
had been invited to dine with Cardinal de Bernis and that he was the
most obliging host in the world.
I knew him, said Brotteaux, and I may add without boasting that I
was for some while one of his most intimate friends; he had a taste for
low society. He was an amiable man, and for all his affectation of
telling fairy tales, there was more sound philosophy in his little
finger than in the heads of all you Jacobins, who are for making us
virtuous and God-fearing by Act of Parliament. Upon my word I prefer
our simple-minded theophagists who know not what they say nor yet what
they do, to these mad law-menders, who make it their business to
guillotine us in order to render us wise and virtuous and adorers of
the Supreme Being who has created them in His likeness. In former days
I used to have Mass said in the Chapel at Les Ilettes by a poor devil
of a Curé who used to say in his cups: 'Don't let's speak ill of
sinners; we live by 'em, we priests, unworthy as we are!' You must
agree, sir, this prayer-monger held sound maxims of government. We
should adopt his principles, and govern men as being what they are and
not what we should like them to be.
Rose Thévenin had meantime drawn closer to the old man. She knew he
had lived on a grand scale, and the thought of this gilded the
ci-devant financier's present poverty, which she deemed less
humiliating as being due to general causes, the result of the public
bankruptcy. She saw in him, with curiosity not unmixed with respect,
the survival of one of those open-handed millionaires of whom her elder
comrades of the stage spoke with sighs of unfeigned regret. Besides,
the old fellow in his plum-coloured coat, so threadbare and so well
brushed, pleased her by his agreeable address.
Monsieur Brotteaux, she said to him, we know how once upon a
time, in a noble park, on moonlight nights, you would slip into the
shade of myrtle groves with actresses and dancing-girls to the far-off
shrilling of flutes and fiddles.... Alas! they were more lovely, were
they not, your goddesses of the Opera and the Comédie-Française, than
we of to-day, we poor little National actresses?
Never think it, Mademoiselle, returned Brotteaux, but believe me,
if one like you had been known in those days, she would have moved
alone, as sovereign queen without a rival (little as she would have
desired such solitude), in the park you are obliging enough to form so
flattering a picture of....
It was quite a rustic inn, this Hôtel de la Cloche. A branch of
holly hung over the great waggon doors that opened on a courtyard where
fowls were always pecking about in the damp soil. On the far side of
this stood the house itself, consisting of a ground floor and one
storey above, crowned by a high-pitched tiled roof and with walls
almost hidden under old climbing rose-trees covered with blossom. To
the right, trimmed fruit-trees showed their tops above the low garden
wall. To the left was the stable, with an outside manger and a barn
supported by wooden pillars. A ladder leaned against the wall. Here
again, under a shed crowded with agricultural implements and stumps of
trees, a white cock was keeping an eye on his hens from the top of a
broken-down cabriolet. The courtyard was enclosed on this side by
cow-sheds, in front of which rose in mountainous grandeur a dunghill
which at this moment a girl as broad as she was long, with
straw-coloured hair, was turning over with a pitchfork. The liquid
manure filled her sabots and bathed her bare feet, and you could see
the heels rise out of her shoes every now and then as yellow as
saffron. Her petticoats were kilted and revealed the filth on her
enormous calves and thick ankles. While Philippe Desmahis was staring
at her, surprised and tickled by the whimsicalities of nature in
framing this odd example of breadth without length, the landlord
Ho, there! Tronche, my girl! go fetch some water!
She turned her head, showing a scarlet face and a vast mouth in
which one huge front tooth was missing. It had needed nothing less than
a bull's horn to effect a breach in that powerful jaw. She stood there
grinning, pitchfork on shoulder. Her sleeves were rolled up and her
arms, as thick as another woman's thighs, gleamed in the sun.
The table was laid in the farm kitchen, where a brace of fowls was
roasting,they were almost done to a turn,under the hood of the open
fireplace, above which hung two or three old fowling-pieces by way of
ornament. The bare whitewashed room, twenty feet long, was lighted only
through the panes of greenish glass let into the door and by a single
window, framed in roses, near which the grandmother sat turning her
spinning-wheel. She wore a coif and a lace frilling in the fashion of
the Regency. Her gnarled, earth-stained fingers held the distaff. Flies
clustered about her lids without her trying to drive them away. As a
child in her mother's arms, she had seen Louis XIV go by in his coach.
Sixty years ago she had made the journey to Paris. In a weak
sing-song voice she told the tale to the three young women, standing in
front of her, how she had seen the Hôtel de Ville, the Tuileries and
the Samaritaine, and how, when she was crossing the Pont-Royal, a barge
loaded with apples for the Marché du Mail had broken up, the apples had
floated down the current and the river was all red with the
She had been told of the changes that had occurred of late in the
kingdom, and in particular of the coil there was betwixt the curés who
had taken the oath and the nonjuring curés. She knew likewise there had
been wars and famines and portents in the sky. She did not believe the
King was dead. They had contrived his escape, she would have it,
by a subterranean passage, and had handed over to the headsman in his
stead a man of the common people.
At the old woman's feet, in his wicker cradle, Jeannot, the last
born of the Poitrines, was cutting his teeth. The citoyenne
Thévenin lifted the cradle and smiled at the child, which moaned
feebly, worn out with feverishness and convulsions. It must have been
very ill, for they had sent for the doctor, the citoyen
Pelleport, who, it is true, being a deputy-substitute to the
Convention, asked no payment for his visits.
The citoyenne Thévenin, an innkeeper's daughter herself, was
in her element; not satisfied with the way the farm-girl had washed the
plates and dishes, she gave an extra wipe to the crockery and glass, an
extra polish to the knives and forks. While the citoyenne
Poitrine was attending to the soup, which she tasted from time to time
as a good cook should, Élodie was cutting up into slices a four-pound
loaf hot from the oven. Gamelin, when he saw what she was doing,
A few days ago I read a book written by a young German whose name I
have forgotten, and which has been very well translated into French. In
it you have a beautiful young girl named Charlotte, who, like you,
Élodie, was cutting bread and butter, and like you, cutting it
gracefully, and so prettily that at the sight the young Werther fell in
love with her.
And it ended in their marrying? asked Élodie.
No, replied Évariste; it ended in Werther's death by violence.
They dined well, they were all very hungry; but the fare was
indifferent. Jean Blaise complained bitterly; he was a great
trencherman and made it a rule of conduct to feed well; and no doubt
what urged him to elaborate his gluttony into a system was the general
scarcity. In every household the Revolution had overturned the cooking
pot. The common run of citizens had nothing to chew upon. Clever folks
like Jean Blaise, who made big profits amid the general wretchedness,
went to the cookshop where they showed their astuteness by stuffing
themselves to repletion. As for Brotteaux who, in this year II of
liberty, was living on chestnuts and bread-crusts, he could remember
having supped at Grimod de la Reynière's at the near end of the Champs
Élysées. Eager to win the repute of an accomplished gourmand he reeled
off, sitting there before Dame Poitrine's bacon and cabbages, a string
of artful kitchen recipes and wise gastronomic maxims. Presently, when
Gamelin protested that a Republican scorns the pleasures of the table,
the old financier, always a lover of antiquity, gave the young Spartan
the true recipe for the famous black broth.
After dinner, Jean Blaise, who never forgot business, set his
itinerant academy to make studies and sketches of the inn, which struck
him as quite romantic in its dilapidation. While Philippe Desmahis and
Philippe Dubois were drawing the cow-houses the girl Tronche came out
to feed the pigs. The citoyen Pelleport, officer of health, who
at the same moment appeared at the door of the farm kitchen where he
had been bestowing his professional services on the Poitrine baby,
stepped up to the artists and after complimenting them on their
talents, which were an honour to the whole nation, pointed to the
Tronche girl in the middle of her porkers:
You see that creature, he said, it is not one girl, it is two
girls. I speak by the letter, understand that. I was amazed at the
extraordinary massiveness of her bony framework and I examined her, to
discover she had most of the bones in duplicatein each thigh two
femurs welded together, in each shoulder a double humerus. Some of her
muscles are likewise in duplicate. It is a case, in my view, of a pair
of twins associated or rather confounded together. It is an interesting
phenomenon. I notified Monsieur Saint-Hilaire of the facts, and he
thanked me. It is a monster you see before you, citoyens. The
people here call her 'the girl Tronche'; they should say 'the girls
Tronches,' for there are two of them. Nature has these freaks.... Good
evening, citoyens; we shall have a storm to-night....
After supper by candle-light, the Academy Blaise adjourned to the
courtyard where they were joined by a son and daughter of the house in
a game of blindman's-buff, in which the young folks, both men and
women, displayed a feverish energy sufficiently accounted for by the
high spirits proper to their age without seeking an explanation in the
wild and precarious times in which they lived. When it was quite dark,
Jean Blaise proposed children's games in the farm kitchen. Élodie
suggested the game of hunt my heart, and this was agreed to
unanimously. Under the girl's direction Philippe Desmahis traced in
chalk, on different pieces of furniture, on doors and walls, seven
hearts, that is to say one less than there were players, for old
Brotteaux had obligingly joined the rest. They danced round in a ring
singing La Tour, prends garde! and at a signal from Élodie, each ran
to put a hand on a heart. Gamelin in his absent-minded clumsiness was
too late to find one vacant, and had to pay a forfeit, the little knife
he had bought for six sous at the fair of Saint-Germain and with which
he had cut the loaf for his mother in her poverty. The game went on,
and one after the other Blaise, Élodie, Brotteaux and Rose Thévenin
failed to touch a heart; each paid a forfeit in turna ring, a
reticule, a little morocco-bound book, a bracelet. Then the forfeits
were raffled on Élodie's lap, and each player had to redeem his
property by showing his society accomplishmentssinging a song or
reciting a poem. Brotteaux chose the speech of the patron saint of
France in the first canto of the Pucelle:
Je suis Denis et saint de mon métier,
J'aime la Gaule,...
The citoyen Blaise, though a far less well-read man, replied
without hesitation with Richemond's ripost:
Monsieur le Saint, ce n'était pas la peine
D'abandonner le céleste domaine....
At that time everybody was reading and re-reading with delight the
masterpiece of the French Ariosto; the most serious of men smiled over
the loves of Jeanne and Dunois, the adventures of Agnès and Monrose and
the exploits of the winged ass. Every man of cultivation knew by heart
the choice passages of this diverting and philosophical poem. Évariste
Gamelin himself, stern-tempered as he was, when he recovered his
twopenny knife from Élodie's lap, recited the going down of Grisbourdon
into hell, with a good deal of spirit. The citoyenne Thévenin
sang without accompaniment Nina's ballad:
Quand le bien-aimé reviendra.
Desmahis sang to the tune of La Faridondaine:
Quelques-uns prirent le cochon
De ce bon saint Antoine,
Et lui mettant un capuchon,
Ils en firent un moine.
Il n'en coûtait que la façon....
All the same Desmahis was in a pensive mood. For the moment he was
ardently in love with all the three women with whom he was playing
forfeits, and was casting burning looks of soft appeal at each in turn.
He loved Rose Thévenin for her grace, her supple figure, her clever
acting, her roving glances, and her voice that went straight to a man's
heart; he loved Élodie, because he recognized instinctively her rich
endowment of temperament and her kind, complaisant humour; he loved
Julienne Hasard, despite her colourless hair, her pale eyelashes, her
freckles and her thin bust, because, like Dunois in Voltaire's
Pucelle, he was always ready, in his generosity, to give the least
engaging a token of loveand the more so in this instance because she
appeared to be for the moment the most neglected, and therefore the
most amenable to his attentions. Without a trace of vanity, he was
never sure of these being agreeable; nor yet was he ever sure of their
not being. So he never omitted to offer them on the chance. Taking
advantage of the opportunities offered by the game of forfeits, he made
some tender speeches to Rose Thévenin, who showed no displeasure, but
could hardly say much in return under the jealous eyes of the
citoyen Jean Blaise. He spoke more warmly still to the citoyenne
Élodie, whom he knew to be pledged to Gamelin, but he was not so
exacting as to want a heart all to himself. Élodie could never care for
him; but she thought him a handsome fellow and did not altogether
succeed in hiding the fact from him. Finally, he whispered his most
ardent vows in the ear of the citoyenne Hasard, which she
received with an air of bewildered stupefaction that might equally
express abject submission or chill indifference. And Desmahis did not
believe she was indifferent to him.
The inn contained only two bedrooms, both on the first floor and
opening on the same landing. That to the left, the better of the two,
boasted a flowered paper and a looking-glass the size of a man's hand,
the gilt frame of which had been blackened by generations of flies
since the days when Louis XIV was a child. In it, under sprigged muslin
curtains, stood two beds with down pillows, coverlets and counterpanes.
This room was reserved for the three citoyennes.
When the time came to retire, Desmahis and the citoyenne
Hasard, each holding a bedroom candlestick, wished each other
good-night on the landing. The amorous engraver quickly passed a note
to the colourman's daughter, beseeching her to come to him, when
everybody was asleep, in the garret, which was over the citoyennes'
With judicious foresight, he had taken care in the course of the day
to study the lie of the land and explore the garret in question, which
was full of strings of onions, apples and pears left there to ripen
with a swarm of wasps crawling over them, chests and old trunks. He had
even noticed an old bed of sacking, decrepit and now disused, as far as
he could see, and a palliasse, all ripped up and jumping with fleas.
Facing the citoyennes' room was another of very modest
dimensions containing three beds, where the men of the party were to
sleep, in such comfort as they might. But Brotteaux, who was a
Sybarite, betook himself to the barn to sleep among the hay. As for
Jean Blaise, he had disappeared. Dubois and Gamelin were soon
asleep. Desmahis went to bed; but no sooner had the silence of night,
like a stagnant pool, enveloped the house, than the engraver got up and
climbed the wooden staircase, which creaked under his bare feet. The
door of the garret stood ajar. From within came a breath of stifling
hot air, mingled with the acrid smell of rotting fruit. On the
broken-down bed of sacking lay the girl Tronche, fast asleep with her
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
Desmahis returned to his room, where he slept soundly and peacefully
On the morrow, after a last day's work, the itinerant Academy took
the road back to Paris. When Jean Blaise paid mine host in assignats,
the citoyen Poitrine complained bitterly that he never saw what
he called square money nowadays, and promised a fine candle to the
beggar who'd bring back the yellow boys again.
He offered the citoyennes their pick of flowers. At his
orders, the girl Tronche mounted on a ladder in her sabots and kilted
skirts, giving a full view of her noble, much-bespattered calves, and
was indefatigable in cutting blossoms from the climbing roses that
covered the wall. From her huge hands the flowers fell in showers, in
torrents, in avalanches, into the laps of Élodie, Julienne, and Rose
Thévenin, who held out their skirts to catch them. The carriage was
full of them. The whole party, when they got back at nightfall, carried
armfuls home, and their sleeping and waking were perfumed with their
I am Denis, and sainthood is my trade,
I love the land of Gaul,... etc.
Well, well, sir Saint, 'twas hardly worth your pains
Thus to forsake the heavenly domains....
Some ribalds took the pig,
Of the good St. Anthony,
And clapping a cowl on's head,
They made the brute a monk.
'Twas all a matter of dress....
In the forenoon of the 7th September the citoyenne
Rochemaure, on her way to visit Gamelin, the new juror, whose interest
she wished to solicit on behalf of an acquaintance, who had been
denounced as a suspect, encountered on the landing the ci-devant
Brotteaux des Ilettes, who had been her lover in the old happy days.
Brotteaux was just starting to deliver a gross of dancing-dolls of his
manufacture to the toy-merchant in the Rue de la Loi; for their more
convenient carriage he had hit on the idea of tying them at the end of
a pole, as the street hawkers do with their commodities. His manners
were always chivalrous towards women, even to those whose fascination
for him had been blunted by long familiarity, as could hardly fail to
be the case with Madame de Rochemaure,unless indeed he found her
appetizing with the added seasoning of betrayal, absence,
unfaithfulness and fat. Be this as it may, he now greeted her on the
sordid stairs with their cracked tiles as courteously as he had ever
done on the steps before the entrance-door of Les Ilettes, and begged
her to do him the honour of entering his garret. She climbed the ladder
nimbly enough and found herself under a timbering, the sloping beams of
which supported a tiled roof pierced with a skylight. It was impossible
to stand upright. She sat down on the only chair there was in the
wretched place; after a brief glance at the broken tiling, she asked in
a tone of surprise and sorrow:
Is this where you live, Maurice? You need have little fear of
intruders. One must be an imp or a cat to find you here.
I am cramped for space, returned the ci-devant millionaire;
and I do not deny the fact that sometimes it rains on my pallet. It is
a trifling inconvenience. And on fine nights I can see the moon, symbol
and confidant of men's loves. For the moon, Madame, since the world
began, has been apostrophized by lovers, and at her full, with her pale
round face, she recalls to the fond swain's mind the object of his
I know, sighed the citoyenne.
When their time comes the cats make a fine pandemonium in the rain
gutter yonder. But we must forgive love if it makes them caterwaul and
swear on the tiles, seeing how it fills the lives of men with torments
Both had had the tact to greet each other as friends who had parted
the night before to take their night's rest, and though grown strangers
to each other, they conversed with a good grace and on a footing of
At the same time Madame de Rochemaure seemed pensive. The
Revolution, which had for a long while been pleasant and profitable to
her, was now a source of anxiety and disquietude; her suppers were
growing less brilliant and less merry. The notes of her harp no longer
charmed the cloud from sombre faces. Her play-tables were forsaken by
the most lavish punters. Many of her cronies, now numbered among the
suspects, were in hiding; her lover, Morhardt the financier, was under
arrest, and it was on his behalf she had come to sound the juror
Gamelin. She was suspect herself. A posse of National Guards had made a
search at her house, had turned out the drawers of her cabinets, prised
up boards in her floor, thrust their bayonets into her mattresses. They
had found nothing, had made their apologies and drunk her wine. But
they had come very near lighting on her correspondence with an
émigré, Monsieur d'Expilly. Certain friends he had among the
Jacobins had warned her that Henry, her handsome favourite, was
beginning to compromise his party by his violent language, which was
too extravagant to be sincere.
Elbows on knees and head on fist, she sat buried in thought; then
turning to her old lover sitting on the palliasse, she asked:
What do you think of it all, Maurice?
I think these good gentry give a philosopher and an amateur of the
shows of life abundant matter for reflection and amusement; but that it
would be better for you, my dear, if you were out of France.
Maurice, where will it land us?
That is what you asked me, Louise, one day we were driving on the
banks of the Cher, on the road to Les Ilettes; the horse, you remember,
had taken the bit in his teeth and was galloping off with us at a
frantic pace. How inquisitive women are! to-day, for the second time,
you want to know where we are going to. Ask the fortune-tellers. I am
not a wizard, sweetheart. And philosophy, even the soundest, is of
small help for revealing the future. These things will have an end;
everything has. One may foresee divers issues. The triumph of the
Coalition and the entry of the allies into Paris. They are not far off;
yet I doubt if they will get there. These soldiers of the Republic take
their beatings with a zest nothing can extinguish. It may be
Robespierre will marry Madame Royale and have himself proclaimed
Protector of the Kingdom during the minority of Louis XVII.
You think so! exclaimed the citoyenne, agog to have a hand
in so promising an intrigue.
Again it may be, Brotteaux went on, that La Vendée will win the
day and the rule of the priests be set up again over heaps of ruins and
piles of corpses. You cannot conceive, dear heart, the empire the
clergy still wields over the masses of the foolish,... I beg pardon, I
meant to say,of 'the Faithful'; it was a slip of the tongue. The most
likely thing, in my poor opinion, is that the Revolutionary Tribunal
will bring about the destruction of the régime it has established; it
is a menace over too many heads. Those it terrifies are without number;
they will unite together, and to destroy it they will destroy the whole
system of government. I think you have got our young friend Gamelin
posted to this court. He is virtuous; he will be implacable. The more I
think of it, fair friend, the more convinced I am that this Tribunal,
set up to save the Republic, will destroy it. The Convention has
resolved to have, like Royalty, its Grands Jours, its
Chambre Ardente, and to provide for its security by means of
magistrates appointed by itself and by it kept in subjection. But how
inferior are the Convention's Grands Jours to those of the
Monarchy, and its Chambre Ardente to that of Louis XIV! The
Revolutionary Tribunal is dominated by a sentiment of mean-spirited
justice and common equality that will quickly make it odious and
ridiculous and will disgust everybody. Do you know, Louise, that this
tribunal, which is about to cite to its bar the Queen of France and
twenty-one legislators, yesterday condemned a servant-girl convicted of
crying: 'Vive le Roi!' with malicious intent and in the hope of
destroying the Republic? Our judges, with their black hats and plumes,
are working on the model of that William Shakespeare, so dear to the
heart of Englishmen, who drags in coarse buffooneries in the middle of
his most tragic scenes.
Ah, well! Maurice, asked the citoyenne, are you still as
fortunate as ever with women?
Alas! replied Brotteaux, the doves flock to the bright new
dovecote and light no more on the ruined tower.
You have not changed.... Good-bye, dear friend,till we meet
* * * * *
The same evening the dragoon Henry, paying a visit uninvited at
Madame de Rochemaure's, found her in the act of sealing a letter on
which he read the address of the citoyen Rauline at Vernon. The
letter, he knew, was for England. Rauline used to receive Madame de
Rochemaure's communications by a postilion of the posting-service and
send them on to Dieppe by the hands of a fishwife. The master of a
fishing-smack delivered them under cover of night to a British ship
cruising off the coast; an émigré, Monsieur d'Expilly, received
them in London and passed them on, if he thought it advisable, to the
Cabinet of Saint James's.
Henry was young and good looking; Achilles was not such a paragon of
grace and vigour when he donned the armour Ulysses offered him. But the
citoyenne Rochemaure, once so enraptured by the charms of the young
hero of the Commune, now looked askance at him; her mood had changed
since the day she was told how the young soldier had been denounced at
the Jacobins as one whose zeal outran discretion and that he might
compromise and ruin her. Henry thought it might not break his heart
perhaps to leave off loving Madame de Rochemaure; but he was piqued to
have fallen in her good graces. He counted on her to meet sundry
expenses in which the service of the Republic had involved him. Last
but not least, remembering to what extremities women will proceed and
how they go in a flash from the most ardent tenderness to the coldest
indifference, and how easy they find it to sacrifice what once they
held dear and destroy what once they adored, he began to suspect that
some day his fascinating mistress might have him thrown into prison to
get rid of him. Common prudence urged him to regain his lost ascendancy
and to this end he had come armed with all his fascinations. He came
near, drew away, came near again, hovered round her, ran from her, in
the approved fashion of seduction in the ballet. Then he threw himself
in an armchair and in his irresistible voice, his voice that went
straight to women's hearts, he extolled the charms of nature and
solitude and with a lovelorn sigh proposed an expedition to
Meanwhile she was striking chords on her harp and looking about her
with an expression of impatience and boredom. Suddenly Henry got up
with a gesture of gloomy resolution and informed her that he was
starting for the army and in a few days would be before Maubeuge.
Without a sign either of scepticism or surprise she nodded her
You congratulate me on my decision?
I do indeed.
She was expecting a new admirer who was infinitely to her taste and
from whom she hoped to reap great advantages,a contrast in every way
to the old, a Mirabeau come to life again, a Danton rehabilitated and
turned army-contractor, a lion who talked of pitching every patriot
into the Seine. She was on tenter-hooks, thinking to hear the bell ring
at any moment.
To hasten Henry's departure, she fell silent, yawned, fingered a
score, and yawned again. Seeing he made no move to go, she told him she
had to go out and withdrew into her dressing-room.
He called to her in a broken voice:
Farewell, Louise!... Shall I ever see you again?and his hands
were busy fumbling in the open writing-desk.
When he reached the street, he opened the letter addressed to the
citoyen Rauline and read it with absorbed attention. Indeed it drew
a curious picture of the state of public feeling in France. It spoke of
the Queen, of the actress Rose Thévenin, of the Revolutionary Tribunal
and a host of confidential remarks emanating from that worthy,
Brotteaux des Ilettes, were repeated in it.
Having read to the end and restored the missive to his pocket, he
stood hesitating a few moments; then, like a man who has made up his
mind and says to himself the sooner the better, he turned his steps
to the Tuileries and found his way into the antechamber of the
Committee of General Security.
* * * * *
The same day, at three o'clock of the afternoon, Évariste Gamelin
was seated on the jurors' bench along with fourteen colleagues, most of
whom he knew, simple-minded, honest, patriotic folks, savants, artists
or artisans,a painter like himself, an artist in black-and-white,
both men of talent, a surgeon, a cobbler, a ci-devant marquis,
who had given high proofs of patriotism, a printer, two or three small
tradesmen, a sample lot in a word of the inhabitants of Paris. There
they sat, in the workman's blouse or bourgeois coat, with their hair
close-cropped à la Titus or clubbed à la catogan; there
were cocked-hats tilted over the eyes, round hats clapped on the back
of the head, red caps of liberty smothering the ears. Some were dressed
in coat, flapped waistcoat and breeches, as in olden days, others in
the carmagnole and striped trousers of the sansculottes. Wearing
top-boots or buckled shoes or sabots, they offered in their persons
every variety of masculine attire prevalent at that date. Having all of
them occupied their places on several previous occasions, they seemed
very much at their ease, and Gamelin envied them their unconcern. His
own heart was thumping, his ears roaring; a mist was before his eyes
and everything about him took on a livid tinge.
When the usher announced the opening of the sitting, three judges
took their places on a raised platform of no great size in front of a
green table. They wore hats cockaded and crowned with great black
plumes and the official cloak with a tricolour riband from which a
heavy silver medal was suspended on the breast. In front of them at the
foot of the daïs, sat the deputy of the Public Prosecutor, similarly
attired. The clerk of the court had a seat between the judges' bench
and the prisoner's chair, at present unoccupied. To Gamelin's eyes
these men wore a different aspect from that of every day; they seemed
nobler, graver, more alarming, albeit their bearing was commonplace
enough as they turned over papers, beckoned to an usher or leant back
to listen to some communication from a juryman or an officer of the
Above the judges' heads hung the tables of the Rights of Man; to
their right and left, against the old feudal walls, the busts of Le
Peltier Saint-Fargeau and Marat. Facing the jury bench, at the lower
end of the hall, rose the public gallery. The first row of seats was
filled by women, who all, fair, brown and grey-haired alike, wore the
high coif with the pleated tucker shading their cheeks; the breast,
which invariably, as decreed by the fashion of the day, showed the
amplitude of the nursing mother's bosom, was covered with a crossed
white kerchief or the rounded bib of a blue apron. They sat with folded
arms resting on the rail of the tribune. Behind them, scattered about
the rising tiers, could be seen a sprinkling of citizens dressed in the
varied garb which at that date gave every gathering so striking and
picturesque a character. On the right hand, near the doors, behind a
broad barrier, a space was reserved where the public could stand. On
this occasion it was nearly empty. The business that was to occupy the
attention of this particular section of the tribunal interested only a
few spectators, while doubtless the other sections sitting at the same
hour would be hearing more exciting cases.
This fact somewhat reassured Gamelin; his heart was like to fail him
as it was, and he could not have endured the heated atmosphere of one
of the great days. His eyes took in the most trifling details of the
scene,the cotton-wool in the greffier's ear and a blot of ink
on the Deputy Prosecutor's papers. He could see, as through a
magnifying glass, the capitals of the pillars sculptured at a time when
all knowledge of the classical orders was forgotten and which crowned
the Gothic columns with wreaths of nettle and holly. But wherever he
looked, his gaze came back again and again to the fatal chair; this was
of an antiquated make, covered in red Utrecht velvet, the seat worn and
the arms blackened with use. Armed National Guards stood guarding every
At last the accused appeared, escorted by grenadiers, but with limbs
unbound, as the law directed. He was a man of fifty or thereabouts,
lean and dry, with a brown face, a very bald head, hollow cheeks and
thin livid lips, dressed in an out-of-date coat of a sanguine red. No
doubt it was fever that made his eyes glitter like jewels and gave his
cheeks their shiny, varnished look. He took his seat. His legs, which
he crossed, were extraordinarily spare and his great knotted hands met
round the knees they clasped. His name was Marie-Adolphe Guillergues,
and he was accused of malversation in the supply of forage to the
Republican troops. The act of indictment laid to his charge numerous
and serious offences, of which no single one was positively certain.
Under examination, Guillergues denied the majority of the charges and
explained the rest in a light favourable to himself. He spoke in a
cold, precise way, with a marked ability and gave the impression of
being a dangerous man to have business dealings with. He had an answer
for everything. When the judge asked him an embarrassing question, his
face remained unmoved and his voice confident, but his two hands,
folded on his breast, kept twitching in an agony. Gamelin was struck by
this and whispered to the colleague sitting next him, a painter like
Watch his thumbs!
The first witness to depose alleged a number of most damaging facts.
He was the mainstay of the prosecution. Those on the other hand who
followed showed themselves well disposed to the prisoner. The Deputy of
the Public Prosecutor spoke strongly, but did not go beyond
generalities. The advocate for the defence adopted a tone of bluff
conviction of his client's innocence that earned the accused a sympathy
he had failed to secure by his own efforts. The sitting was suspended
and the jury assembled in the room set apart for deliberation. There,
after a confused and confusing discussion, they found themselves
divided in two groups about equal in number. On the one side were the
unemotional, the lukewarm, the men of reason, whom no passion could
stir, on the other the kind who let their feelings guide them, who
prove all but inaccessible to argument and only consult their heart.
These always voted guilty. They were the true metal, pure and
unadulterated; their only thought was to save the Republic and they
cared not a straw for anything else. Their attitude made a strong
impression on Gamelin who felt he was of the same kidney himself.
This Guillergues, he thought to himself, is a cunning scamp, a
villain who has speculated in the forage supplied to our cavalry. To
acquit him is to let a traitor escape, to be false to the fatherland,
to devote the army to defeat. And in a flash Gamelin could see the
Hussars of the Republic, mounted on stumbling horses, sabred by the
enemy's cavalry.... But if Guillergues was innocent...?
Suddenly he remembered Jean Blaise, likewise suspected of bad faith
in the matter of supplies. There were bound to be many others acting
like Guillergues and Blaise, contriving disaster, ruining the Republic!
An example must be made. But if Guillergues was innocent...?
There are no proofs, said Gamelin, aloud.
There never are, retorted the foreman of the jury, shrugging his
shoulders; he was good metal, pure metal!
In the end, there proved to be seven votes for condemnation, eight
The jury re-entered the hall and the sitting was resumed. The jurors
were required to give reasons for their verdict, and each spoke in turn
facing the empty chair. Some were prolix, others confined themselves to
a sentence; one or two talked unintelligible gabble.
When Gamelin's turn came, he rose and said:
In presence of a crime so heinous as that of robbing the defenders
of the fatherland of the sinews of victory, we need formal proofs which
we have not got.
By a majority of votes the accused was declared not guilty.
Guillergues was brought in again and stood before his judges amid a
hum of sympathy from the spectators which conveyed the news of his
acquittal to him. He was another man. His features had lost their
harshness, his lips were relaxed again. He looked venerable; his face
bore the impression of innocence. The President read out in tones of
emotion the verdict releasing the prisoner; the audience broke into
applause. The gendarme who had brought Guillergues in threw himself
into his arms. The President called him to the daïs and gave him the
embrace of brotherhood. The jurors kissed him, while Gamelin's eyes
rained hot tears.
The courtyard of the Palais, dimly lighted by the last rays of the
setting sun, was filled with a howling, excited crowd. The four
sections of the Tribunal had the day before pronounced thirty sentences
of death, and on the steps of the Great Stairway a throng of
tricoteuses squatted to see the tumbrils start. But Gamelin, as he
descended the steps among the press of jurors and spectators, saw
nothing, heard nothing but his own act of justice and humanity and the
self-congratulation he felt at having recognized innocence. In the
courtyard stood Élodie, all in white, smiling through her tears; she
threw herself into his arms and lay there half fainting. When she had
recovered her voice, she said to him:
Évariste, you are noble, you are good, you are generous! In the
hall there, your voice, so gentle and manly, went right through me with
its magnetic waves. It electrified me. I gazed at you on your bench, I
could see no one but you. But you, dear heart, you never guessed I was
there? Nothing told you I was present? I sat in the gallery in the
second row to the right. By heaven! how sweet it is to do the right!
you saved that unhappy man's life. Without you, it was all over with
him; he was as good as dead. You have given him back to life and the
love of his friends. At this moment he must bless you. Évariste, how
happy I am and how proud to love you!
Arm in arm, pressed close to one another, they went along the
streets; their bodies felt so light they seemed to be flying.
They went to the Amour peintre. On reaching the Oratoire:
Better not go through the shop, Élodie suggested.
She made him go in by the main coach-door and mount the stairs with
her to the suite of rooms above. On the landing she drew out of her
reticule a heavy iron key.
It might be the key of a prison, she exclaimed, Évariste, you are
going to be my prisoner.
They crossed the dining-room and were in the girl's bedchamber.
Évariste felt upon his the ardent freshness of Élodie's lips. He
pressed her in his arms; with head thrown back and swooning eyes, her
hair flowing loose over her relaxed form, half fainting, she escaped
his hold and ran to shoot the bolt....
The night was far advanced when the citoyenne Blaise opened
the outer door of the flat for her lover and whispered to him in the
Good-bye, sweetheart! it is the hour my father will be coming home.
If you hear a noise on the stairs, go up quick to the higher floor and
don't come down till all danger is over of your being seen. To have the
street-door opened, give three raps on the concierge's window.
Good-bye, my life, good-bye, my soul!
When he found himself in the street, he saw the window of Élodie's
chamber half unclose and a little hand pluck a red carnation, which
fell at his feet like a drop of blood.
 Grands Jours,under the ancien régime, an extraordinary
assize held by judges specially appointed by the King and acting in his
One evening when old Brotteaux arrived in the Rue de la Loi bringing
a gross of dancing-dolls for the citoyen Caillou, the
toy-merchant, the latter, a soft-spoken, polite man as a rule, stood
there stiff and stern among his dolls and punch-and-judies and gave him
a far from gracious welcome.
Have a care, citoyen Brotteaux, he began, have a care!
There is a time to laugh, and a time to be serious; jokes are not
always in good taste. A member of the Committee of Security of the
Section, who inspected my establishment yesterday, saw your
dancing-dolls and deemed them anti-revolutionary.
He was jesting! declared Brotteaux.
Not so, citoyen, not at all. He is not the man to joke. He
said in these little fellows the National representatives were
insidiously mimicked, that in particular one could discover caricatures
of Couthon, Saint-Just and Robespierre, and he seized the lot. It is a
dead loss to me, to say nothing of the grave risks to which I am
What! these Harlequins, these Gilles, these Scaramouches, these
Colins and Colinettes, which I have painted the same as Boucher used to
fifty years ago, how should they be parodies of Couthons and
Saint-Justs? No sensible man could imagine such a thing.
It is possible, replied the citoyen Caillou, that you
acted without malice, albeit we must always distrust a man of parts
like you. But it is a dangerous game. Shall I give you an instance?
Natoile, who runs a little outdoor theatre in the Champs Élysées, was
arrested the day before yesterday for anti-patriotism, because he made
Polichinelle poke fun at the Convention.
Now listen to me, Brotteaux urged, raising the cloth that covered
his little dangling figures; just look at these masks and faces, are
they anything else whatever but characters in plays and pastorals? How
could you let yourself be persuaded, citoyen Caillou, that I was
making fun of the National Convention?
Brotteaux was dumfounded. While allowing much for human folly, he
had not thought it possible it could ever go so far as to suspect his
Scaramouches and Colinettes. Repeatedly he protested their innocence
and his; but the citoyen Caillou would not hear a word.
Citoyen Brotteaux, take your dolls away. I esteem you, I
honour you, but I do not mean to incur blame or get into trouble
because of you. I intend to remain a good citizen and to be treated as
such. Good evening, citoyen Brotteaux; take your dolls away.
The old man set out again for home, carrying his suspects over his
shoulder at the end of a pole, an object of derision to the children,
who took him for the hawker of rat-poison. His thoughts were gloomy. No
doubt, he did not live only by his dancing-dolls; he used to paint
portraits at twenty sols apiece, under the archways of doors or
in one of the market halls, among the darners and old-clothes menders,
where he found many a young recruit starting for the front and wanting
to leave his likeness behind for his sweetheart. But these petty tasks
cost him endless pains, and he was a long way from making as good
portraits as he did dancing-dolls. Sometimes, too, he acted as
amanuensis for the Market dames, but this meant mixing himself up in
Royalist plots, and the risks were heavy. He remembered there lived in
the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs, near the erstwhile Place Vendôme,
another toy-merchant, Joly by name, and he resolved to go next day to
offer him the goods the chicken-hearted Caillou had declined.
A fine rain began to fall. Brotteaux who feared its effects on his
marionettes, quickened his pace. As he crossed the Pont-Neuf and was
turning the corner of the Place de Thionville, he saw by the light of a
street-lamp, sitting on a stone post, a lean old man who seemed utterly
exhausted with fatigue and hunger, but still preserved his venerable
appearance. He was dressed in a tattered surtout, had no hat and
appeared over sixty. Approaching the poor wretch, Brotteaux recognised
the Père Longuemare, the same he had saved from hanging six months
before while both of them were waiting in queue in front of the bakery
in the Rue de Jérusalem. Feeling bound to the monk by the service he
had already done him, Brotteaux stepped up to him and made himself
known as the publican who had stood beside him among the common herd,
one day of great scarcity, and asked him if he could not be of some use
You seem wearied, Father. Take a taste of cordial,and Brotteaux
drew from the pocket of his plum-coloured coat a flask of brandy, which
lay there alongside his Lucretius.
Drink. And I will help you to get back to your house.
The Père Longuemare pushed away the flask with his hand and tried to
rise, but only to fall back again in his seat.
Sir, he said in a weak but firm voice, for three months I have
been living at Picpus. Being warned they had come to arrest me at my
lodging, yesterday at five o'clock of the afternoon, I did not return
home. I have no place to go to; I am wandering the streets and am a
Very well, Father, proposed Brotteaux, do me the honour to share
Sir, replied the Barnabite, you know, I suppose, I am a suspect.
I am one too, said Brotteaux, and my marionettes into the
bargain, which is the worst thing of all. You see them exposed under
this flimsy cloth to the fine rain that chills our bones. For, I must
tell you, Father, that after having been a publican, I now make
dancing-dolls for a living.
The Père Longuemare took the hand the ci-devant financier
extended to him and accepted the hospitality offered. Brotteaux, in his
garret, served him a meal of bread and cheese and wine, which last he
had put to cool in the rain-gutter, for was he not a Sybarite?
Having appeased his hunger:
Sir, said the Père Longuemare, I ought to inform you of the
circumstances that led to my flight and left me to die on yonder post
where you found me. Driven from my cloister, I lived on the scanty
allowance the Assembly had assigned to me; I gave lessons in Latin and
Mathematics and I wrote pamphlets on the persecution of the Church of
France. I have even composed a work of some length, to prove that the
Constitutional oath of the Priests is subversive of Ecclesiastical
discipline. The advances made by the Revolution deprived me of all my
pupils, while I could not get my pension because I had not the
certificate of citizenship required by law. This certificate I went to
the Hôtel de Ville to claim, in the conviction I was well entitled to
it. Member of an order founded by the Apostle Paul himself, who boasted
the title of Roman citizen, I always piqued myself on behaving after
his example as a good French citizen, a respecter of all human laws
which are not in opposition to the Divine. I presented my demand to
Monsieur Colin, pork-butcher and Municipal officer, in charge of the
delivery of certificates of the sort. He questioned me as to my
calling. I told him I was a Priest. He asked me if I was married, and
on my answering that I was not, he told me that was the worse for me.
Finally, after a variety of questions, he asked me if I had proved my
citizenship on the 10th August, the 2nd September and the 31st May. 'No
certificates can be given,' he added, 'except to such as have proved
their patriotism by their behaviour on these three occasions.' I could
not give him an answer that would satisfy him. However, he took down my
name and address and promised me to make prompt enquiry into my case.
He kept his word, and as the result of his enquiry two Commissioners of
the Committee of General Security of Picpus, supported by an armed
band, presented themselves at my lodging in my absence to conduct me to
prison. I do not know of what crime I am accused. But you will agree
with me one must pity Monsieur Colin, whose wits are so clouded he
holds it a reproach to an ecclesiastic not to have made display of his
patriotism on the 10th August, the 2nd September, and the 31st May. A
man capable of such a notion is surely deserving of commiseration.
I am in the same plight, I have no certificate, observed
Brotteaux. We are both suspects. But you are weary. To bed, Father. We
will discuss plans to-morrow for your safety.
He gave the mattress to his guest and kept the palliasse for
himself; but the monk in his humility demanded the latter with so much
urgency that his wish had to be complied with; otherwise he would have
slept on the boards.
These arrangements completed, Brotteaux blew out the candle both to
save tallow and as a wise precaution.
Sir, the monk addressed him, I am thankful for what you are doing
for me; but alas! it is of small moment to you whether I am grateful or
no. May God account your act meritorious! That is of infinite
concern for you. But God pays no heed to what is not done for his glory
and is merely the outcome of purely natural virtue. Wherefore I beseech
you, sir, to do for Him what you were led to do for me.
Father, answered Brotteaux, never trouble yourself on this head
and do not think of gratitude. What I am doing now, the merit of which
you exaggerate,is not done for any love of you; for indeed, albeit
you are a lovable man, Father, I know you too little to love you. Nor
yet do I act so for love of humanity; for I am not so simple as to
think with 'Don Juan' that humanity has rights; indeed this prejudice,
in a mind so emancipated as his, grieves me. I do it out of that
selfishness which inspires mankind to perform all their deeds of
generosity and self-sacrifice, by making them recognize themselves in
all who are unfortunate, by disposing them to commiserate their own
calamities in the calamities of others and by inciting them to offer
help to a mortal resembling themselves in nature and destiny, so that
they think they are succouring themselves in succouring him. I do it
also for lack of anything better to do; for life is so desperately
insipid we must find distraction at any cost, and benevolence is an
amusement, of a mawkish sort, one indulges in for want of any more
savoury; I do it out of pride and to get an advantage over you; I do
it, in a word, as part of a system and to show you what an atheist is
Do not calumniate yourself, sir, replied the Père Longuemare. I
have received of God more marks of grace than He has accorded you
hitherto; but I am not as good a man as you, and am greatly your
inferior in natural merits. But now let me take an advantage too over
you. Not knowing me, you cannot love me. And I, sir, without knowing
you, I love you better than myself; God bids me do so.
Having so said, the Père Longuemare knelt down on the floor, and
after repeating his prayers, stretched himself on his palliasse and
fell peacefully asleep.
Évariste Gamelin occupied his place as juror of the Tribunal for the
second time. Before the opening of the sitting, he discussed with his
colleagues the news that had arrived that morning. Some of it was
doubtful, some untrue; but part was authenticand appalling; the
armies of the coalition in command of all the roads and marching en
masse on Paris, La Vendée triumphant, Lyons in insurrection, Toulon
surrendered to the English, who were landing fourteen thousand men
For him and his fellow magistrates these were not only events of
interest to all the world, but so many matters of domestic concern.
Foredoomed to perish in the ruin of the fatherland, they made the
public salvation their own proper business. The Nation's interests,
thus entangled with their own, dictated their opinions and passions and
Gamelin, where he sat on the jury bench, was handed a letter from
Trubert, Secretary of the Committee of Defence; it was to notify his
appointment as Commissioner of Supplies of Powder and Saltpetre:
You will excavate all the cellars in the Section in order
extract the substances necessary for the manufacture of
To-morrow perhaps the enemy will be before Paris; the soil of
fatherland must provide us with the lightning we shall launch
against our aggressors. I send you herewith a schedule of
instructions from the Convention regarding the manipulation of
saltpetres. Farewell and brotherly greeting.
At that moment the accused was brought in. He was one of the last of
the defeated Generals whom the Convention delivered over one after the
other to the Tribunal, and the most insignificant. At sight of him
Gamelin shuddered; once again he seemed to see the same soldier whom
three weeks before, looking on as a spectator, he had seen sentenced
and sent to the guillotine. The man was the same, with his obstinate,
opinionated look; the procedure was the same. He gave his answers in a
cunning, brutish way that ruined the effect even of the most
convincing. His cavilling and chicanery and the accusations he levelled
against his subordinates, made you forget he was fulfilling the
honourable task of defending his honour and his life. Everything was
uncertain, every statement disputed,position of the armies, total of
forces engaged, munitions of war, orders given, orders received,
movements of troops; nobody knew anything. It was impossible to make
head or tail of these confused, nonsensical, aimless operations which
had ended in disaster; defending counsel and the accused himself were
as much in the dark as were accuser, judges, and jury, and strange to
say, not a soul would admit, whether to himself or to other people,
that this was the case. The judges took a childish delight in drawing
plans and discussing problems of tactics and strategy, while the
prisoner constantly betrayed his inborn predilection for crooked ways.
The arguments dragged on endlessly. And all the time Gamelin could
see on the rough roads of the north the ammunition wagons stogged in
the mire and the guns capsized in the ruts, and along all the ways the
broken and beaten columns flying in disorder, while from all sides the
enemy's cavalry was debouching by the abandoned defiles. And from this
host of men betrayed he could hear a mighty shout going up in
accusation of the General. When the hearing closed, darkness was
falling on the hall, and the head of Marat gleamed half-seen like a
phantom above the President's head. The jury was called upon to give
judgment, but was of two minds. Gamelin, in a hoarse, strangled voice,
but in resolute accents, declared the accused guilty of treason against
the Republic, and a murmur of approval rose from the crowd, a
flattering unction to his youthful virtue. The sentence was read by the
light of torches which cast a lurid, uncertain gleam on the prisoner's
hollow temples beaded with drops of sweat. Outside the doors, on the
steps crowded with the customary swarm of cockaded harridans, Gamelin
could hear his name, which the habitués of the Tribunal were beginning
to know, passed from mouth to mouth, and was assailed by a bevy of
tricoteuses who shook their fists in his face, demanding the head
of the Austrian.
The next day Évariste had to give judgment on the fate of a poor
woman, the widow Meyrion. She distributed bread from house to house and
tramped the streets pushing a little hand-cart and carrying a wooden
tally hung at her waist, on which she cut notches with her knife
representing the number of the loaves she had delivered. Her gains
amounted to eight sous a day. The deputy of the Public Prosecutor
displayed an extraordinary virulence towards the wretched creature, who
had, it appears, shouted Vive le Roi! on several occasions, uttered
anti-revolutionary remarks in the houses where she called to leave the
daily dole of bread, and been mixed up in a plot for the escape of the
woman Capet. In answer to the Judge's question she admitted the facts
alleged against her; whether fool or fanatic, she professed Royalist
sentiments of the most enthusiastic sort and waited her doom.
The Revolutionary Tribunal made a point of proving the triumph of
Equality by showing itself just as severe for street-porters and
servant maids as for the aristocrats and financiers. Gamelin could
conceive no other system possible under a popular government. He would
have deemed it a mark of contempt, an insult to the people, to exclude
it from punishment. That would have been to consider it, so to speak,
as unworthy of chastisement by the law. Reserved for aristocrats only,
the guillotine would have appeared to him in the light of an iniquitous
privilege. In his thoughts he was beginning to erect chastisement into
a religious and mystic dogma, to assign it a virtue, a merit of its
own; he conceived that society owes punishment to criminals and that it
is doing them an injustice to cheat them of this right. He declared the
woman Meyrion guilty and deserving of death, only regretting that the
fanatics, more culpable than herself, who had brought her to her ruin,
were not there to share her fate.
* * * * *
Every evening almost Évariste attended the meetings of the Jacobins,
who assembled in the former chapel of the Dominicans, commonly known as
Jacobins, in the Rue Honoré. In a courtyard, in which stood a tree of
Liberty, a poplar whose leaves shook and rustled all day in the wind,
the chapel, built in a poor, clumsy style and surmounted by a heavy
roof of tiles, showed its bare gable, pierced by a round window and an
arched doorway, above which floated the National colours, the flagstaff
crowned with the cap of Liberty. The Jacobins, like the Cordeliers, and
the Feuillants, had appropriated the premises and taken the name of the
dispossessed monks. Gamelin, once a regular attendant at the sittings
of the Cordeliers, did not find at the Jacobins the familiar sabots,
carmagnoles and rallying cries of the Dantonists. In Robespierre's club
administrative reserve and bourgeois gravity were the order of the day.
The Friend of the People was no more, and since his death Évariste had
followed the lessons of Maximilien whose thought ruled the Jacobins,
and thence, through a thousand affiliated societies was disseminated
over all France. During the reading of the minutes, his eyes wandered
over the bare, dismal walls, which, after sheltering the spiritual sons
of the arch-inquisitor of heresy, now looked down on the assemblage of
zealous inquisitors of crimes against the fatherland.
There, without pomp or ceremony, sat the body that was the chiefest
power of the State and ruled by force of words. It governed the city,
the empire, dictated its decrees to the Convention itself. These
artisans of the new order of things, so respectful of the law that they
continued Royalists in 1791 and would fain have been Royalists still on
the King's return from Varennes, so obstinate in their attachment to
the Constitution, friends of the established order of the State even
after the massacres of the Champ-de-Mars, and never revolutionaries
against the Revolution, heedless of popular agitation, cherished in
their dark and puissant soul a love of the fatherland that had given
birth to fourteen armies and set up the guillotine. Évariste was lost
in admiration of their vigilance, their suspicious temper, their
reasoned dogmatism, their love of system, their supremacy in the art of
governing, their sovereign sanity.
The public that formed the audience gave no token of their presence
save a low, long-drawn murmur as of one voice, like the rustling of the
leaves of the tree of Liberty that stood outside the threshold.
That day, the 11th Vendémiaire, a young man, with a receding brow, a
piercing eye, a sharp prominent nose, a pointed chin, a pock-marked
face, a look of cold self-possession, mounted the tribune slowly. His
hair was white with powder and he wore a blue coat that displayed his
slim figure. He showed the precise carriage and moved with the cadenced
step that made some say in mockery that he was like a dancing-master
and earned him from others the name of the French Orpheus.
Robespierre, speaking in a clear voice, delivered an eloquent discourse
against the enemies of the Republic. He belaboured with metaphysical
and uncompromising arguments Brissot and his accomplices. He spoke at
great length, in free-flowing harmonious periods. Soaring in the
celestial spheres of philosophy, he launched his lightnings at the base
conspirators crawling on the ground.
Évariste heard and understood. Till then he had blamed the Gironde;
were they not working for the restoration of the monarchy or the
triumph of the Orleans faction, were they not planning the ruin of the
heroic city that had delivered France from her fetters and would one
day deliver the universe? Now, as he listened to the sage's voice, he
discerned truths of a higher and purer compass; he grasped a
revolutionary metaphysic which lifted his mind above coarse, material
conditions into a region of absolute, unqualified convictions,
untrammelled by the errors of the senses. Things are in their nature
involved and full of confusion; the complexity of circumstances is such
that we lose our way amongst them. Robespierre simplified them to his
mind, put good and evil before him in clear and precise formulas.
Federalism,indivisibility; unity and indivisibility meant salvation,
federalism, damnation. Gamelin tasted the ineffable joy of a believer
who knows the word that saves and the word that destroys the soul.
Henceforth the Revolutionary Tribunal, as of old the ecclesiastical
courts, would take cognizance of crime absolute, of crime definable in
a word. And, because he had the religious spirit, Évariste welcomed
these revelations with a sombre enthusiasm; his heart swelled and
rejoiced at the thought that, henceforth, he had a talisman to discern
betwixt crime and innocence, he possessed a creed! Ye stand in lieu of
all else, oh, treasures of faith!
The sage Maximilien enlightened him further as to the perfidious
intent of those who were for equalizing property and partitioning the
land, abolishing wealth and poverty and establishing a happy mediocrity
for all. Misled by their specious maxims, he had originally approved
their designs, which he deemed in accord with the principles of a true
Republican. But Robespierre, in his speeches at the Jacobins, had
unmasked their machinations and convinced him that these men,
disinterested as their intentions appeared, were working to overthrow
the Republic, that they were alarming the rich only to rouse against
the lawful authority powerful and implacable foes. Once private
property was threatened, the whole population, the more ardently
attached to its possessions the less of these it owned, would turn
suddenly against the Republic. To terrify vested interests is to
conspire against the State. These men who, under pretence of securing
universal happiness and the reign of justice, proposed a system of
equality and community of goods as a worthy object of good citizens'
endeavours, were traitors and malefactors more dangerous than the
But the most startling revelation he owed to Robespierre's wisdom
was that of the crimes and infamies of atheism. Gamelin had never
denied the existence of God; he was a deist and believed in a
Providence that watches over mankind; but, admitting that he could form
only a very vague conception of the Supreme Being and deeply attached
to the principle of freedom of conscience, he was quite ready to allow
that right-thinking men might follow the example of Lamettrie,
Boulanger, the Baron d'Holbach, Lalande, Helvétius, the citoyen
Dupuis, and deny God's existence, on condition they formulated a
natural morality and found in themselves the sources of justice and the
rules of a virtuous life. He had even felt himself in sympathy with the
atheists, when he had seen them vilified and persecuted. Maximilien had
opened his mind and unsealed his eyes. The great man by his virtuous
eloquence had taught him the true character of atheism, its nature, its
objects, its effects; he had shown him how this doctrine, conceived in
the drawing-rooms and boudoirs of the aristocracy, was the most
perfidious invention the enemies of the people had ever devised to
demoralize and enslave it; how it was a criminal act to uproot from the
heart of the unfortunate the consoling thought of a Providence to
reward and compensate and give them over without rein or bit to the
passions that degrade men and make vile slaves of them; how, in fine,
the monarchical Epicureanism of a Helvétius led to immorality, cruelty,
and every wickedness. Now that he had learnt these lessons from the
lips of a great man and a great citizen, he execrated the
atheistsespecially when they were of an open-hearted, joyous temper,
like his old friend Brotteaux.
* * * * *
In the days that followed Évariste had to give judgment one after
the other on a ci-devant convicted of having destroyed
wheat-stuffs in order to starve the people, three émigrés who
had returned to foment civil war in France, two ladies of pleasure of
the Palais-Égalité, fourteen Breton conspirators, men, women, old men,
youths, masters, and servants. The crime was proven, the law explicit.
Among the guilty was a girl of twenty, adorable in the heyday of her
young beauty under the shadow of the doom so soon to overwhelm her, a
fascinating figure. A blue bow bound her golden locks, her lawn
kerchief revealed a white, graceful neck.
Évariste was consistent in casting his vote for death, and all the
accused, with the one exception of an old gardener, were sent to the
The following week Évariste and his section mowed down sixty-three
headsforty-five men and eighteen women.
The judges of the Revolutionary Tribunal drew no distinction between
men and women, in this following a principle as old as justice itself.
True, the President Montané, touched by the bravery and beauty of
Charlotte Corday, had tried to save her by paltering with the procedure
of the trial and had thereby lost his seat, but women as a rule were
shown no favour under examination, in strict accordance with the rule
common to all the tribunals. The jurors feared them, distrusting their
artful ways, their aptitude for deception, their powers of seduction.
They were the match of men in resolution, and this invited the Tribunal
to treat them in the same way. The majority of those who sat in
judgment, men of normal sensuality or sensual on occasion, were in no
wise affected by the fact that the prisoner was a woman. They condemned
or acquitted them as their conscience, their zeal, their love, lukewarm
or vehement, for the Republic dictated. Almost always they appeared
before the court with their hair carefully dressed and attired with as
much elegance as the unhappy conditions allowed. But few of them were
young and still fewer pretty. Confinement and suspense had blighted
them, the harsh light of the hall betrayed their weariness and the
anguish they had endured, beating down on faded lids, blotched and
pimpled cheeks, white, drawn lips. Nevertheless, the fatal chair more
than once held a young girl, lovely in her pallor, while a shadow of
the tomb veiled her eyes and made her beauty the more seductive. That
the sight had the power to melt some jurymen and irritate others, who
should deny? That, in the secret depraved heart of him, one of these
magistrates may have pried into the most sacred intimacies of the fair
body that was to his morbid fancy at the same moment a living and a
dead woman's, and that, gloating over voluptuous and ghoulish
imaginings he may have found an atrocious pleasure in giving over to
the headsman those dainty, desirable limbs,this is perhaps a thing
better left unsaid, but one which no one can deem impossible who knows
what men are. Évariste Gamelin, cold and pedantic in his artistic
creed, could see no beauty but in the Antique; he admired beauty, but
it hardly stirred his senses. His classical taste was so severe he
rarely found a woman to his liking; he was as insensible to the charms
of a pretty face as he was to Fragonard's colouring and Boucher's
drawing. He had never known desire save under the form of deep passion.
Like the majority of his colleagues in the Tribunal, he thought
women more dangerous than men. He hated the ci-devant
princesses, the creatures he pictured to himself in his horrified
dreams in company with Elisabeth and the Austrian weaving plots
to assassinate good patriots; he even hated all those fair mistresses
of financiers, philosophers, and men of letters whose only crime was
having enjoyed the pleasures of the senses and the mind and lived at a
time when it was sweet to live. He hated them without admitting the
feeling to himself, and when he had one before him at the bar, he
condemned her out of pique, convinced all the while that he was dooming
her justly and rightly for the public good. His sense of honour, his
manly modesty, his cold, calculated wisdom, his devotion to the State,
his virtues in a word, pushed under the knife heads that might well
have moved men's pity.
But what is this, what is the meaning of this strange prodigy? Once
the difficulty was to find the guilty, to search them out in their
lair, to drag the confession of their crime from reluctant lips. Now,
there is no hunting with a great pack of sleuth-hounds, no pursuing a
timid prey; lo! from all sides come the victims to offer themselves a
voluntary sacrifice. Nobles, virgins, soldiers, courtesans, flock to
the Tribunal, dragging their condemnation from dilatory judges,
claiming death as a right which they are impatient to enjoy. Not enough
the multitude with which the zeal of the informers has crowded the
prisons and which the Public Prosecutor and his myrmidons are wearing
out their lives in haling before the Tribunal; punishment must likewise
be provided for those who refuse to wait. And how many others, prouder
and more pressing yet, begrudging their judges and headsmen their
death, perish by their own hand! The mania of killing is equalled by
the mania to die. Here, in the Conciergerie, is a young soldier,
handsome, vigorous, beloved; he leaves behind him in the prison an
adorable mistress; she bade him Live for me!he will live neither
for her nor love nor glory. He lights his pipe with his act of
accusation. And, a Republican, for he breathes liberty through every
pore, he turns Royalist that he may die. The Tribunal tries its best to
save him, but the accused proves the stronger; judges and jury are
forced to let him have his way.
Évariste's mind, naturally of an anxious, scrupulous cast, was
filled to overflowing through the lessons he learned at the Jacobins
and the contemplation of life with suspicions and alarms. At night, as
he paced the ill-lighted streets on his way to Élodie's, he fancied
through every cellar-grating he passed he caught a glimpse of a plate
for printing off forged assignats; in the dark recesses of the baker's
and grocer's empty shops he imagined storerooms bursting with
provisions fraudulently held back for a rise in prices; looking in at
the glittering windows of the eating-houses, he seemed to hear the talk
of the speculators plotting the ruin of the country as they drained
bottles of Beaune and Chablis; in the evil-smelling alleys he could see
the very prostitutes trampling underfoot the National cockade to the
applause of elegant young roisterers; everywhere he beheld conspirators
and traitors. And he thought: Against so many foes, secret or
declared, oh! Republic thou hast but one succour; Saint Guillotine,
save the fatherland!...
Élodie would be waiting for him in her little blue chamber above the
Amour peintre. To let him know he might come in, she used to set on
the window-sill her little watering-can beside the pot of carnations.
Now he filled her with horror, he seemed like a monster to her; she was
afraid of him,and she adored him. All the night, clinging together in
a frantic embrace, the bloody-minded lover and the amorous girl
exchanged in silence frenzied kisses.
Rising at dawn, the Père Longuemare, after sweeping out the room,
departed to say his Mass in a chapel in the Rue d'Enfer served by a
nonjuring priest. There were in Paris thousands of similar retreats,
where the refractory clergy gathered together clandestinely little
troops of the faithful. The police of the Sections, vigilant and
suspicious as they were, kept their eyes shut to these hidden folds,
from fear of the exasperated flock and moved by some lingering
veneration for holy things. The Barnabite made his farewells to his
host who had great difficulty in persuading him to come back to dine,
and only succeeded in the end by promising that the cheer would be
neither plentiful nor delicate.
Brotteaux, when left to himself, kindled a little earthenware stove;
then, while he busied himself with preparations for the Monk's and the
Epicurean's meal, he read in his Lucretius and meditated on the
conditions of human beings.
As a sage and a philosopher, he was not surprised that these
wretched creatures, silly playthings of the forces of nature, found
themselves more often than not in absurd and painful situations; but he
was weak and illogical enough to believe that the Revolutionaries were
more wicked and more foolish than other men, thereby falling into the
error of the metaphysician. At the same time he was no Pessimist and
did not hold that life was altogether bad. He admired Nature in several
of her departments, especially the celestial mechanism and physical
love, and accommodated himself to the labours of life, pending the
arrival of the day, which could not be far off, when he would have
nothing more either to fear or to desire.
He coloured some dancing-dolls with painstaking care and made a
Zerline that was very like Rose Thévenin. He liked the girl and his
Epicureanism highly approved of the arrangement of the atoms of which
she was composed.
These tasks occupied him till the Barnabite's return.
Father, he announced, as he opened the door to admit him, I told
you, you remember, that our fare would be meagre. We have nothing but
chestnuts. The more reason, therefore, they should be well seasoned.
Chestnuts! cried Père Longuemare, smiling, there is no more
delicious dish. My father, sir, was a poor gentleman of the Limousin,
whose whole estate consisted of a pigeon-cote in ruins, an orchard run
wild and a clump of chestnut-trees. He fed himself, his wife and his
twelve children on big green chestnuts, and we were all strong and
sturdy. I was the youngest and the most turbulent; my father used to
declare, by way of jesting, he would have to send me to America to be a
filibuster.... Ah! sir, how fragrant your chestnut soup smells! It
takes me back to the table where my mother sat smiling, surrounded by
her troop of little ones.
The repast ended, Brotteaux set out for Joly's, the toy-merchant in
the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs, who took the dancing-dolls Caillou had
refused, and orderednot another gross of them like the latter, but a
round twenty-four dozen to begin with.
On reaching the erstwhile Rue Royale and turning into the Place de
la Révolution, Brotteaux caught sight of a steel triangle glittering
between two wooden uprights; it was the guillotine. An immense crowd of
light-hearted spectators pressed round the scaffold, waiting the
arrival of the loaded carts. Women were hawking Nanterre cakes on a
tray hung in front of them and crying their wares; sellers of cooling
drinks were tinkling their little bells; at the foot of the Statue of
Liberty an old man had a peep-show in a small booth surmounted by a
swing on which a monkey played its antics. Underneath the scaffold some
dogs were licking yesterday's blood, Brotteaux turned back towards the
Regaining his garret, where the Barnabite was reading his breviary,
he carefully wiped the table and arranged his colour-box on it
alongside the materials and tools of his trade.
Father, he said, if you do not deem the occupation unworthy of
the sacred character with which you are invested, I will ask you to
help me make my marionettes. A worthy tradesman, Joly by name, has this
very morning given me a pretty heavy order. Whilst I am painting these
figures already put together, you will do me a great service by cutting
out heads, arms, legs, and bodies from the patterns here. Better you
could not find; they are after Watteau and Boucher.
I agree with you, sir, replied Longuemare, that Watteau and
Boucher were well fitted to create such-like baubles; it had been more
to their glory if they had confined themselves to innocent figures like
these. I should be delighted to help you, but I fear I may not be
clever enough for that.
The Père Longuemare was right to distrust his own skill; after
sundry unsuccessful attempts, the fact was patent that his genius did
not lie in the direction of cutting out pretty shapes in thin cardboard
with the point of a penknife. But when, at his suggestion, Brotteaux
gave him some string and a bodkin, he showed himself very apt in
endowing with motion the little creatures he had failed to make and
teaching them to dance. He had a happy knack, by way of trying them
afterwards, of making them each execute three or four steps of a
gavotte, and when they rewarded his pains, a smile would flicker on his
One time when he was pulling the string of a Scaramouch to a dance
Sir, he observed, this little travesty reminds me of a quaint
story. It was in 1746, when I was completing my noviciate under the
care of the Père Magitot, a man well on in years, of deep learning and
austere morals. At that period, you perhaps remember, dancing figures,
intended in the first instance to amuse children, exercised over women
and even over men, both young and old, an extraordinary fascination;
they were all the rage in Paris. The fashionable shops were crammed
with them; they were to be found in the houses of people of quality,
and it was nothing out of the way to see a grave and reverend senior
dancing his doll in the streets and public gardens. The Père Magitot's
age, character, and sacred profession did not avail to guard him
against infection. Every time he saw anyone busy jumping his cardboard
mannikin, his fingers itched with impatience to be at the same
game,an impatience that soon grew well nigh intolerable. One day when
he was paying a visit of importance on a matter involving the interests
of the whole Order to Monsieur Chauvel, advocate in the courts of the
Parlement, noticing one of these dancers hanging from the
chimney-piece, he felt a terrible temptation to pull its string, which
he only resisted at the cost of a tremendous effort. But this frivolous
ambition pursued him everywhere and left him no peace. In his studies,
in his meditations, in his prayers, at church, at chapter, in the
confessional and in the pulpit, he was possessed by it. After some days
of dreadful agony of mind, he laid bare his extraordinary case to the
General of the Order, who happened fortunately to be in Paris at the
moment. He was an eminent ecclesiastic of Milan, a Doctor and Prince of
the Church. His counsel to the Père Magitot was to satisfy a craving,
innocent in its inception, importunate in its consequences and
inordinate in its excess, which threatened to super induce the gravest
disorders in the soul which was afflicted with it. On the advice, or
more strictly by the order of the General, the Père Magitot returned to
Monsieur Chauvel's house, where the advocate received him, as on the
first occasion, in his cabinet. There, finding the dancing figure still
fastened in the same place, he ran excitedly to the chimney-piece and
begged his host to do him a favour,to let him pull the string. The
lawyer gave him his permission very readily, and informed him in
confidence that sometimes he set Scaramouch (that was the doll's name)
dancing while he was studying his briefs, and that, only the night
before, he had modulated on Scaramouch's movements the peroration of
his speech in defence of a woman falsely accused of poisoning her
husband. The Père Magitot seized the string with trembling fingers and
saw Scaramouch throw his limbs wildly about under his manipulation like
one possessed of devils in the agonies of exorcism.
Your tale does not surprise me, father, Brotteaux told him, We
see such cases of obsession; but it is not always cardboard figures
that occasion it.
The Père Longuemare, who was religious by profession, never talked
about religion, while Brotteaux was for ever harping on the subject. He
was conscious of a bond of sympathy between himself and the Barnabite,
and took a delight in embarrassing and disturbing his peace of mind
with objections against divers articles of the Christian faith.
Once when they were working together making Zerlines and
When I consider, remarked Brotteaux, the events which have
brought us to the point at which we stand, I am in doubt as to which
party, in the general madness, has been the most insane; sometimes, I
am greatly tempted to believe it was that of the Court.
Sir, answered the Monk, all men lose their wits like
Nebuchadnezzar, when God forsakes them; but no man in our days ever
plunged so deep in ignorance and error as the Abbé Fauchet, no man was
so fatal as he to the kingdom. God must needs have been sorely
exasperated against France to send her Monsieur l'Abbé Fauchet!
I imagine we have seen other evil-doers besides poor, unhappy
The Abbé Gregoire too, was full of malice.
And Brissot, and Danton, and Marat, and a hundred others, what of
Sir, they are laics; the laity could never incur the same
responsibilities as the clergy. They do not work evil from so high a
standpoint, and their crimes are not of universal bearing.
And your God, Father, what say you of His behaviour in the present
I do not understand you, sir.
Epicurus said: Either God wishes to hinder evil and cannot, or He
can and does not wish to, or He cannot nor does he wish to, or He does
wish to and can. If He wishes to and cannot, He is impotent; if He can
and does not wish to, He is perverse; if He cannot nor does He wish to,
He is impotent and perverse; if He does wish to and can, why does He
not, tell me that, Father!and Brotteaux cast a look of triumph at
Sir, retorted the Monk, there is nothing more contemptible than
these difficulties you raise. When I look into the reasoning of
infidels, I seem to see ants piling up a few blades of grass as a dam
against the torrent that sweeps down from the mountains. With your
leave, I had rather not argue with you; I should have too many
excellent reasons and too few wits to apply them. Besides, you will
find your refutation in the Abbé Guénée and twenty other apologists. I
will only say that what you quote from Epicurus is foolishness; because
God is arraigned in it as if he was a man, with a man's moral code.
Well! sir, the sceptics, from Celsus down to Bayle and Voltaire, have
cajoled fools with such-like paradoxes.
See, Father, protested Brotteaux, to what lengths your faith
makes you go. Not satisfied with finding all truth in your Theology,
you likewise refuse to discover any in the works of so many noble
intellects who thought differently from yourselves.
You are entirely mistaken, sir, replied Longuemare. On the
contrary, I believe that nothing could ever be altogether false in a
man's thoughts. The atheists stand on the lowest rung of the ladder of
knowledge; but even there, gleams of sense are to be found and flashes
of truth, and even when darkness is thick about him, a man may lift up
his eyes to God, and He will put understanding in his heart; was it not
so with Lucifer?
Well, sir, said Brotteaux, I cannot match your generosity and I
am bound to tell you I cannot find in all the works of the Theologians
one atom of good sense.
At the same time he would repudiate any desire to attack religion,
which he deemed indispensable for the nations; he could only wish it
had for its ministers philosophers instead of controversialists. He
deplored the fact that the Jacobins were for replacing it by a newer
and more pestilent religion, the cult of liberty, equality, the
republic, the fatherland. He had observed this, that it is in the
vigour of their youth religions are the fiercest and most cruel, and
grow milder as they grow older. He was anxious, therefore, to see
Catholicism preserved; it had devoured many victims in the times of its
vigour, but nowadays, burdened by the weight of years and with
enfeebled appetite, it was content with roasting four or five heretics
in a hundred years.
As a matter of fact, he concluded, I have always got on very well
with your God-eaters and Christ-worshippers. I kept a chaplain at Les
Ilettes, where Mass was said every Sunday and all my guests attended.
The philosophers were the most devout while the opera girls showed the
most fervour. I was prosperous then and had crowds of friends.
Friends, exclaimed the Père Longuemare, friends! Ah! sir, do you
really think they loved you, all these philosophers and all these
courtesans, who have degraded your soul in such wise that God himself
would find it hard to know it for one of the temples built by Him for
* * * * *
The Père Longuemare lived for a week longer at the publican's
without being interfered with. As far as possible he observed the
discipline of his House and every night at the canonical hours would
rise from his palliasse to kneel on the bare boards and recite the
offices. Though both were reduced to a diet of wretched scraps, he duly
observed fasts and abstinence. A smiling but pitiful spectator of these
austerities, Brotteaux one day asked him:
Do you really believe that God finds any satisfaction in seeing you
endure cold and hunger as you do?
God himself, was the Monk's answer, has given us the example of
On the ninth day since the Barnabite had come to share the
philosopher's garret, the latter sallied forth at twilight to deliver
his dancing-dolls to Joly, the toy-merchant of the Rue
Neuve-des-Petits-Champs. He was on his way back overjoyed at having
sold them all, when, as he was crossing the erstwhile Place du
Carrousel, a girl in a blue satin pelisse trimmed with ermine, running
by with a limping gait, threw herself into his arms and held him fast
in the way suppliants have had since the world began.
She was trembling and her heart was beating so fast and loud it
could be plainly heard. Wondering to see one of her common sort look so
pathetic, Brotteaux, a veteran amateur of the stage, thought how
Mademoiselle Raucourt, if she could have seen her, might have learnt
something from her bearing.
She spoke in breathless tones, lowering her voice to a whisper for
fear of being overheard by the passers-by:
Take me with you, citoyen, and hide me, for the love of
pity!... They are in my room in the Rue Fromenteau. While they were
coming upstairs, I ran for refuge into Flora's room,she is my
next-door neighbour,and leapt out of the window into the street, that
is how I sprained my ankle.... They are coming; they want to put me in
prison and kill me.... Last week they killed Virginie.
Brotteaux understood, of course, that the child was speaking of the
delegates of the Revolutionary Committee of the Section or else the
Commissaries of the Committee of General Security. At that time the
Commune had as procureur a man of virtue, the citoyen
Chaumette who regarded the ladies of pleasure as the direct foes of the
Republic and harassed them unmercifully in his efforts to regenerate
the Nation's morals. To tell the truth, the young ladies of the
Palais-Égalité were no great patriots. They regretted the old state of
things and did not always conceal the fact. Several had been
guillotined already as conspirators, and their tragic fate had excited
no little emulation among their fellows.
The citoyen Brotteaux asked the suppliant what offence she
had been guilty of to bring down on herself a warrant of arrest.
She swore she had no notion, that she had done nothing anyone could
blame her for.
Well then, my girl, Brotteaux told her, you are not suspect; you
have nothing to fear. Be off with you to bed and leave me alone.
At this she confessed everything:
I tore out my cockade and shouted: 'Vive le roi!'
He walked down to the river-side and she kept by his side along the
deserted quais. Clinging to his arm she went on:
It is not that I care for him particularly, the King, you know; I
never knew him, and I daresay he wasn't very much different from other
men. But they are bad people. They are cruel to poor girls. They
torment and vex and abuse me in every kind of way; they want to stop me
following my trade. I have no other trade. You may be sure, if I had, I
should not be doing what I do.... What is it they want? They are so
hard on poor humble folks, the milkman, the charcoalman, the water
carrier, the laundress. They won't rest content till they've set all
poor people against them.
He looked at her; she seemed a mere child. She was no longer afraid;
she was almost smiling, as she limped along lightly at his side. He
asked her her name. She said she was called Athenaïs and was sixteen.
Brotteaux offered to see her safe to anywhere she wished to go. She
did not know a soul in Paris; but she had an aunt, in service at
Palaiseau, who would take her in.
Brotteaux made up his mind at once.
Come with me, my child, he ordered, and led the way home, with her
hanging on his arm.
On his arrival, he found the Père Longuemare in the garret reading
Holding Athenaïs by the hand, he drew the other's attention to her:
Father, he said, here is a girl from the Rue Fromenteau who has
been shouting: 'Vive le roi!' The revolutionary police are on her
track. She has nowhere to lay head. Will you allow the girl to pass the
The Père Longuemare closed his breviary.
If I understand you right, he said, you ask me, sir, if this
young girl, who is like myself subject to be molested under a warrant
of arrest, may be suffered, for her temporal salvation, to spend the
night in the same room as I?
By what right should I object? and why must I suppose myself
affronted by her presence? am I so sure that I am any better than she?
He established himself for the night in an old broken-down armchair,
declaring he should sleep excellently in it. Athenaïs lay on the
mattress. Brotteaux stretched himself on the palliasse and blew out the
The hours and half-hours sounded one after the other from the church
towers, but the old man could not sleep; he lay awake listening to the
mingled breathing of the man of religion and the girl of pleasure. The
moon rose, symbol and witness of his old-time loves, and threw a
silvery ray into the attic, illuminating the fair hair and golden
lashes, the delicate nose and round, red mouth of Athenaïs, who lay
Truly, he thought to himself, a terrible enemy for the Republic!
When Athenaïs awoke, the day was breaking. The Monk had disappeared.
Brotteaux was reading Lucretius under the skylight, learning from the
maxims of the Latin poet to live without fears and without desires; but
for all this he felt himself at the moment devoured with regrets and
Opening her eyes, Athenaïs was dumfounded to see the roof beams of a
garret above her head. Then she remembered, smiled at her preserver and
extended towards him with a caressing gesture her pretty little dirty
Rising on her elbow, she pointed to the dilapidated armchair in
which the Monk had passed the night.
He is not there?... He has not gone to denounce me, has he?
No, no, my child. You could not find a more honest soul than that
Athenaïs asked in what the old fellow's madness consisted; and when
Brotteaux informed her it was religion, she gravely reproached him for
speaking so, declaring that men without faith were worse than the
beasts that perish and that for her part she often prayed to God,
hoping He would forgive her her sins and receive her in His blessed
Then, noticing that Brotteaux held a book in his hand, she thought
it was a book of the Mass and said:
There you see, you too, you say your prayers! God will reward you
for what you have done for me.
Brotteaux having told her that it was not a Mass-book, and that it
had been written before ever the Mass had been invented in the world,
she opined it was an Interpretation of Dreams, and asked if it
did not contain an explanation of an extraordinary dream she had had.
She could not read and these were the only two sorts of books she had
heard tell of.
Brotteaux informed her that this book was only by way of explaining
the dream of life. Finding this a hard saying, the pretty child did not
try to understand it and dipped the end of her nose in the earthenware
crock that replaced the silver basins Brotteaux had once been
accustomed to use. Next, she arranged her hair before her host's
shaving-glass with scrupulous care and gravity. Her white arms raised
above her head, she let fall an observation from time to time with long
You, you were rich once.
What makes you think that?
I don't know. But you were rich,and you are an aristocrat,
I am certain of it.
She drew from her pocket a little Holy Virgin of silver in a round
ivory shrine, a bit of sugar, thread, scissors, a flint and steel, two
or three cases for needles and the like, and after selecting what she
required, sat down to mend her skirt, which had got torn in several
For your own safety, my child, put this in your cap! Brotteaux
bade her, handing her a tricolour cockade.
I will do that gladly, sir, she agreed, but it will be for the
love of you and not for love of the Nation.
When she was dressed and had made herself look her best, taking her
skirt in both hands, she dropped a curtsey as she had been taught to do
in her village, and addressing Brotteaux:
Sir, she said, I am your very humble servant.
She was prepared to oblige her benefactor in all ways he might wish,
but she thought it more becoming that he asked for no favour and she
offered none; it seemed to her a pretty way to part so, and what good
Brotteaux slipped a few assignats into her hand to pay her
coach-hire to Palaiseau. It was the half of his fortune, and, albeit he
was notorious for his lavishness towards women, it was the first time
he had ever made so equal a partition of his goods with any of the sex.
She asked him his name.
I am called Maurice.
It was with reluctance he opened the garret door for her:
She kissed him. Monsieur Maurice, she said, when you think of me,
if ever you do, call me Marthe; that is the name I was christened, the
name they called me by in the village.... Good-bye and thank you....
Your very humble servant, Monsieur Maurice.
The prisons were full to bursting and must be emptied; the work of
judging, judging, must go on without truce or respite. Seated against
the tapestried walls with their fasces and red caps of liberty, like
their fellows of the fleurs-de-lis, the judges preserved the same
gravity, the same dreadful calm, as their Royal predecessors. The
Public Prosecutor and his Deputies, worn out with fatigue, consumed
with the fever of sleeplessness and brandy, could only shake off their
exhaustion by a violent effort; their broken health made them tragic
figures to look upon. The jurors, divers in character and origin, some
educated, others ignorant, craven or generous, gentle or violent,
hypocritical or sincere, but all men who, knowing the fatherland and
the Republic in danger, suffered or feigned to suffer the same anguish,
to burn with the same ardour; all alike primed to atrocities of virtue
or of fear, they formed but one living entity, one single head, dull
and irritable, one single soul, a beast of the apocalypse that by the
mere exercise of its natural functions produced a teeming brood of
death. Kind-hearted or cruel by caprice of sensibility, when shaken
momentarily by a sudden pang of pity, they would acquit with streaming
eyes a prisoner whom an hour before they would have condemned to the
guillotine with taunts. The further they proceeded with their task, the
more impetuously did they follow the impulses of their heart.
Judge and jury toiled, fevered and half asleep with overwork,
distracted by the excitement outside and the orders of the sovereign
people, menaced by the threats of the sansculottes and
tricoteuses who crowded the galleries and the public enclosure,
relying on insane evidence, acting on the denunciations of madmen, in a
poisonous atmosphere that stupefied the brain, set ears hammering and
temples beating and darkened the eyes with a veil of blood. Vague
rumours were current among the public of jurors bought by the gold of
the accused. But to these the jury as a body replied with indignant
protest and merciless condemnations. In truth they were men neither
worse nor better than their fellows. Innocence more often than not is a
piece of good fortune rather than a virtue; any other who should have
consented to put himself in their place would have acted as they did
and accomplished to the best of his commonplace soul these appalling
Antoinette, so long expected, sat at last in the fatal chair, in a
black gown, the centre of such a concentration of hate that only the
certainty of what the sentence would be made the court observe the
forms of law. To the deadly questions the accused replied sometimes
with the instinct of self-preservation, sometimes with her wonted
haughtiness, and once, thanks to the hideous suggestion of one of her
accusers, with the noble dignity of a mother. The witnesses were
confined to outrage and calumny; the defence was frozen with terror.
The tribunal, forcing itself to respect the rules of procedure, was
only waiting till all formalities were completed to hurl the head of
the Austrian in the face of Europe.
Three days after the execution of Marie Antoinette Gamelin was
called to the bedside of the citoyen Fortuné Trubert, who lay
dying, within thirty paces of the Military Bureau where he had worn out
his life, on a pallet of sacking, in the cell of some expelled
Barnabite father. His livid face was sunk in the pillow. His eyes,
which already were almost sightless, turned their glassy pupils upon
his visitor; his parched hand grasped Évariste's and pressed it with
unexpected vigour. Three times he had vomited blood in two days. He
tried to speak; his voice, at first hoarse and feeble as a whisper,
grew louder, deeper:
Wattignies! Wattignies!... Jourdan has forced the enemy into their
camp ... raised the blockade at Maubeuge.... We have retaken
Marchiennes, ça ira ... ça ira ... and he smiled.
These were no dreams of a sick man, but a clear vision of the truth
that flashed through the brain so soon to be shrouded in eternal
darkness. Hereafter the invasion seemed arrested; the Generals were
terrorized and saw that the one best thing for them to do was to be
victorious. Where voluntary recruiting had failed to produce what was
needed, a strong and disciplined army, compulsion was succeeding. One
effort more, and the Republic would be saved.
After a half hour of semi-consciousness, Fortuné Trubert's face,
hollow-cheeked and worn by disease, lit up again and his hands moved.
He lifted his finger and pointed to the only piece of furniture in
the room, a little walnut-wood writing-desk. The voice was weak and
breathless, but the mind quite unclouded:
Like Eudamidas, he said, I bequeath my debts to my friend,three
hundred and twenty livres, of which you will find the account ... in
that red book yonder ... good-bye, Gamelin. Never rest; wake and watch
over the defence of the Republic. Ça ira.
The shades of night were deepening in the cell. The difficult
breathing of the dying man was the only sound, and his hands scratching
on the sheet.
At midnight he uttered some disconnected phrases:
More saltpetre.... See the muskets are delivered. Health? Oh!
excellent.... Get down the church-bells....
He breathed his last at five in the morning.
By order of the Section his body lay in state in the nave of the
erstwhile church of the Barnabites, at the foot of the Altar of the
Fatherland, on a camp bed, covered with a tricolour flag and the brow
wreathed with an oak crown.
Twelve old men clad in the Roman toga, with palms in their hands,
twelve young girls wearing long veils and carrying flowers, surrounded
the funeral couch. At the dead man's feet stood two children, each
holding an inverted torch. One of them Évariste recognized as his
concierge's little daughter Joséphine, who in her childish gravity
and beauty reminded him of those charming genii of Love and Death the
Romans used to sculpture on their tombs.
The funeral procession made its way to the Cemetery of
Saint-André-des-Arts to the strains of the Marseillaise and the
As he laid the kiss of farewell on Fortuné Trubert's brow, Évariste
wept. His tears flowed in self-pity, for he envied his friend who was
resting there, his task accomplished.
On reaching home, he received notice that he was posted a member of
the Council General of the Commune. After standing as candidate for
four months, he had been elected unopposed, after several ballots, by
some thirty suffrages. No one voted nowadays; the Sections were
deserted; rich and poor alike only sought to shirk the performance of
public duties. The most momentous events had ceased to rouse either
enthusiasm or curiosity; the newspapers were left unread. Out of the
seven hundred thousand inhabitants of the capital Évariste doubted if
as many as three or four thousand still preserved the old Republican
The same day the Twenty-one came up for trial. Innocent or guilty of
the calamities and crimes of the Republic, vain, incautious, ambitious
and impetuous, at once moderate and violent, feeble in their fear as in
their clemency, quick to declare war, slow to carry it out, haled
before the Tribunal to answer for the example they had given, they were
not the less the first and the most brilliant children of the
Revolution, whose delight and glory they had been. The judge who will
question them with artful bias; the pallid accuser yonder who, where he
sits behind his little table, is planning their death and dishonour;
the jurors who will presently try to stifle their defence; the public
in the galleries which overwhelms them with howls of insult and
abuse,all, judge, jury, people, have applauded their eloquence in
other days, extolled their talents and their virtues. But judge, jury,
people have short memories now.
Once Évariste had made Vergniaud his god, Brissot his oracle. But he
had forgotten; if any vestige of his old wonder still lingered in his
memory, it was to think that these monsters had seduced the noblest
Returning to his lodging after the sitting, Gamelin heard
heart-breaking cries as he entered the house. It was little Joséphine;
her mother was whipping her for playing in the Place with
good-for-nothing boys and dirtying the fine white frock she had worn
for the obsequies of the citoyen Trubert.
After three months during which he had made a daily holocaust of
victims, illustrious or insignificant, to the fatherland, Évariste had
a case that interested him personally; there was one prisoner he made
it his special business to track down to death.
Ever since he had sat on the juror's bench, he had been eagerly
watching, among the crowd of culprits who appeared before him, for
Élodie's seducer; of this man he had elaborated in his busy fancy a
portrait, some details of which were accurate. He pictured him as
young, handsome, haughty, and felt convinced he had fled to England. He
thought he had discovered him in a young émigré named Maubel,
who, having come back to France and been denounced by his host, had
been arrested in an inn at Passy; Fouquier-Tinville was in charge of
the prosecution,among a thousand others. Letters had been found on
him which the accusation regarded as proofs of a plot concocted between
Maubel and the agents of Pitt, but which were in fact only letters
written to the émigré by a banking-house in London which he had
entrusted with certain funds. Maubel, who was young and good-looking,
seemed to be mainly occupied in affairs of gallantry. His pocket-book
afforded a clue to some correspondence with Spain, then at war with
France; but these communications were really of a purely private
nature, and if the court of preliminary enquiry did not ignore the
bill, it was only in virtue of the maxim that justice should never be
in too great a hurry to release a prisoner.
Gamelin was handed a report of Maubel's first semi-private
examination and he was struck by what it revealed of the young man's
character, which he took to agree with what he believed to be that of
Élodie's betrayer. Thereafter he spent long hours in the private room
of the Clerk of the Court, poring eagerly over the papers relating to
this case. His suspicion received a remarkable confirmation on his
discovering in a note-book belonging to the émigré, but long out
of date, the address of the Amour peintre, in company, it is
true, with those of the Green Monkey, the Dauphin's Head,
and several more print and picture shops. But when he was informed that
in this same note-book had been found three or four petals of a red
carnation carefully wrapped in a piece of silk paper, remembering how
the red carnation was Élodie's favourite flower, the one she cultivated
on her window-sill, wore in her hair and used to give (he had reason to
know) as a love-token, Évariste's last doubts vanished. Being now
convinced he knew the facts, he resolved to question Élodie, though
without letting her know the circumstances that had led him to discover
As he was climbing the stairs to his lodgings, he perceived even on
the lower landings a stifling smell of fruit, and on reaching the
studio, found Élodie helping the citoyenne Gamelin to make
quince preserve. While the old housewife was kindling the stove and
turning over in her mind ways of saving the fuel and moist sugar
without prejudicing the quality of the preserves, the citoyenne
Blaise, seated in a straw-bottomed chair, with an apron of brown
holland and her lap full of the golden fruit, was peeling the quinces,
quartering and throwing them into a shallow copper basin. The strings
of her coif were thrown back over her shoulders, the meshes of her
black hair coiled above her moist forehead; from her whole person
breathed a domestic charm and an intimate grace that induced gentle
thoughts and voluptuous dreams of tranquil pleasures.
Without stirring from her seat, she lifted her beautiful eyes, that
gleamed like molten gold, to her lover's face, and said:
See, Évariste, we are working for you. We mean you to have a store
of delicious quince jelly to last you the winter; it will settle your
stomach and make your heart merry.
But Gamelin, stepping nearer, uttered a name in her ear:
At that moment Combalot the cobbler showed his red nose at the
half-open door. He had brought, along with some pairs of shoes he had
re-heeled, the bill for the repairs.
For fear of being taken for a bad citizen, he made a point of using
the new calendar. The citoyenne Gamelin, who liked to see
clearly what was what in her accounts, was all astray among the
Fructidors and Vendémiaires. She heaved a sigh.
Jesus! she complained, they want to alter everything,days,
months, seasons of the year, the sun and the moon! Lord God, Monsieur
Combalot, what ever is this pair of over-shoes down for the 8
Citoyenne, just cast your eye over your almanac, and you'll
get the hang of it.
She took it down from the wall, glanced at it and immediately
turning her head another way.
It hasn't a Christian look! she cried in a shocked tone.
Not only that, citoyenne, said the cobbler, but now we
have only three Sundays in the month instead of four. And that's not
all; we shall soon have to change our ways of reckoning. There will be
no more farthings and half-farthings, everything will be regulated by
At the words the citoyenne Gamelin, whose lips were
trembling, threw up her eyes to the ceiling and sighed out:
They are going too far!
And, while she was lost in lamentations, looking like the holy women
in a wayside calvary, a bad coal that had caught alight in the fire
when her attention was diverted, began to fill the studio with a
poisonous smother which, added to the stifling smell of quinces, was
like to make the air unbreathable.
Élodie complained that her throat was tickling her and begged to
have the window opened. But, directly the citoyen Combalot had
taken his leave and the citoyenne Gamelin had gone back to her
stove, Évariste repeated the same name in the girl's ear:
Jacques Maubel, he reiterated.
She looked up at him in some surprise, and very quietly, still going
on cutting a quince in quarters:
Well!... Jacques Maubel...?
He is the man.
The man! what man?
You once gave him a red carnation.
She declared she did not understand and asked him to explain
That aristocrat! that émigré! that scoundrel!
She shrugged her shoulders, and denied with the most natural air
that she had never known a Jacques Maubel.
It was true; she had never known anyone of the name.
She denied she had ever given red carnations to anybody but
Évariste; but perhaps, on this point, her memory was not very good.
He had little experience of women and was far from having fully
fathomed Élodie's character; still, he deemed her quite capable of
cajoling and deceiving a cleverer man than himself.
Why deny? he asked. I know all.
Again she asseverated she had never known anybody called Maubel.
And, having done peeling the quinces, she asked for a basin of water,
because her fingers were sticky. This Gamelin brought her, and, as she
washed her hands, she repeated her denials.
Again he repeated that he knew, and this time she made no reply.
She did not guess the object of her lover's question and she was a
thousand miles from suspecting that this Maubel, whom she had never
heard spoken of before, was to appear before the Revolutionary
Tribunal; she could make nothing of the suspicions with which she was
assailed, but she knew them to be unfounded. For this reason, having
very little hope of dissipating them, she had very little wish to do so
either. She ceased to deny having known Maubel, preferring to leave her
jealous lover to go astray on a false trail, when from one moment to
the next, the smallest incident might start him on the right road. Her
little lawyer's clerk of former days, now grown into a patriot dragoon
and lady-killer, had quarrelled by now with his aristocratic mistress.
Whenever he met Élodie in the street, he would gaze at her with a
glance that seemed to say:
Come, my beauty! I feel sure I am going to forgive you for having
betrayed you, and I am really quite ready to take you back into
favour. She made no further attempt therefore to cure what she called
her lover's crotchets, and Gamelin remained firm in the conviction that
Jacques Maubel was Élodie's seducer.
* * * * *
Through the days that ensued the Tribunal devoted its undivided
attention to the task of crushing Federalism, which, like a hydra, had
threatened to devour Liberty. They were busy days; and the jurors, worn
out with fatigue, despatched with the utmost possible expedition the
case of the woman Roland, instigator and accomplice of the crimes of
the Brissotin faction.
Meantime Gamelin spent every morning at the Courts to press on
Maubel's trial. Some important pieces of evidence were to be found at
Bordeaux; he insisted on a Commissioner being sent to ride post to
fetch them. They arrived at last. The deputy of the Public Prosecutor
read them, pulled a face and told Évariste:
It is not good for much, your new evidence! there is nothing in it!
mere fiddle-faddle.... If only it was certain that this ci-devant
Comte de Maubel ever really emigrated...!
In the end Gamelin succeeded. Young Maubel was served with his act
of accusation and brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal on the 19
From the first opening of the sitting the President showed the
gloomy and dreadful face he took care to assume for the hearing of
cases where the evidence was weak. The Deputy Prosecutor stroked his
chin with the feather of his pen and affected the serenity of a
conscience at ease. The Clerk read the act of accusation; it was the
hollowest sham the Court had ever heard so far.
The President asked the accused if he had not been aware of the laws
passed against the émigrés.
I was aware of them and I observed them, answered Maubel, and I
left France provided with passports in proper form.
As to the reasons for his journey to England and his return to
France he had satisfactory explanations to offer. His face was
pleasant, with a look of frankness and confidence that was agreeable.
The women in the galleries looked at the young man with a favourable
eye. The prosecution maintained that he had made a stay in Spain at the
time that Nation was at war with France; he averred he had never left
Bayonne at that period. One point alone remained obscure. Among the
papers he had thrown in the fire at the time of his arrest, and of
which only fragments had been found, some words in Spanish had been
deciphered and the name of Nieves.
On this subject Jacques Maubel refused to give the explanations
demanded; and, when the President told him that it was in the accused's
own interest to clear up the point, he answered that a man ought not
always to do what his own interest requires.
Gamelin only thought of convicting Maubel of a crime; three times
over he pressed the President to ask the accused if he could explain
about the carnation the dried petals of which he hoarded so carefully
in his pocket-book.
Maubel replied that he did not consider himself obliged to answer a
question that had no concern with the case at law, as no letter had
been found concealed in the flower.
The jury retired to the hall of deliberations, favourably impressed
towards the young man whose mysterious conduct appeared chiefly
connected with a lover's secrets. This time the good patriots, the
purest of the pure themselves, would gladly have voted for acquittal.
One of them, a ci-devant noble, who had given pledges to the
Is it his birth they bring up against him? I, too, I have had the
misfortune to be born in the aristocracy.
Yes, but you have left them, retorted Gamelin, and he has not.
And he spoke with such vehemence against this conspirator, this
emissary of Pitt, this accomplice of Coburg, who had climbed the
mountains and sailed the seas to stir up enemies to Liberty, he
demanded the traitor's condemnation in such burning words, that he
awoke the never-resting suspicions, the old stern temper of the patriot
One of them told him cynically:
There are services that cannot well be refused between colleagues.
The verdict of death was recorded by a majority of one.
The condemned man heard his sentence with a quiet smile. His eyes,
which had been gazing unconcernedly about the hall, as they fell on
Gamelin's face, took on an expression of unspeakable contempt.
No one applauded the decision of the court.
Jacques Maubel was taken back to the Conciergerie; here he wrote a
letter while he waited the hour of execution, which was to take place
the same evening, by torchlight:
My dear sister,The tribunal sends me to the scaffold,
me the only joy I have been able to appreciate since the death
my adored Nieves. They have taken from me the only relic I had
of her, a pomegranate flower, which they called, I cannot tell
I loved the arts; at Paris, in happier times, I made a
of paintings and engravings, which are now in a sure place,
which will be delivered to you so soon as this is possible. I
you, dear sister, to keep them in memory of me.
He cut a lock of his hair, enclosed it in the letter, which he
folded and wrote outside:
To the citoyenne Clémence Dezeimeries, née Maubel,
He gave all the silver he had on him to the turnkey, begging him to
forward this letter to its destination, asked for a bottle of wine,
which he drank in little sips while waiting for the cart....
After supper Gamelin ran to the Amour Peintre and burst into
the blue chamber where every night Élodie was waiting for him.
You are avenged, he told her. Jacques Maubel is no more. The cart
that took him to his death has just passed beneath your window,
escorted by torch-bearers.
Wretch! it is you have killed him, and he was not my lover. I did
not know him.... I have never seen him.... What was this man? He was
young, amiable ... innocent. And you have killed him, wretch! wretch!
She fell in a faint. But, amid the shadows of this momentary death,
she felt herself overborne by a flood at once of horror and voluptuous
ecstasy. She half revived; her heavy lids lifted to show the whites of
the eyes, her bosom swelled, her hands beat the air, seeking for her
lover. She pressed him to her in a strangling embrace, drove her nails
into the flesh, and gave him with her bleeding lips, without a word,
without a sound, the longest, the most agonized, the most delicious of
She loved him with all her flesh, and the more terrible, cruel,
atrocious she thought him, the more she saw him reeking with the blood
of his victims, the more consuming was her hunger and thirst for him.
The 24 Frimaire, at ten in the forenoon, under a clear bright sun
that was melting the ice formed in the night, the citoyens
Guénot and Delourmel, delegates of the Committee of General Security,
proceeded to the Barnabites and asked to be conducted to the Committee
of Surveillance of the Section, in the Capitular hall, whose only
occupant for the moment was the citoyen Beauvisage, who was
piling logs on the fire. But they did not see him just at first because
of his short, thickset stature.
In a hunchback's cracked voice the citoyen Beauvisage begged
the delegates to seat themselves and put himself entirely at their
Guénot then asked him if he knew a ci-devant Monsieur des
Ilettes, residing near the Pont-Neuf.
It is an individual, he added, whose arrest I am instructed to
effect,and he exhibited the order from the Committee of General
Beauvisage, after racking his memory for a while, replied that he
knew no individual of that name, that the suspect in question might not
be an inhabitant of his Section, certain portions of the Sections du
Muséum, de l'Unité, de Marat-et-Marseille being
likewise in the near neighbourhood of the Pont-Neuf; that, if he did
live in the Section, it must be under another name than that borne on
the Committee's order; that, nevertheless, it would not be long before
they laid hands on him.
Let's lose no time, urged Guénot. Our vigilance was aroused in
this case by a letter from one of the man's accomplices that was
intercepted and put into the hands of the Committee a fortnight ago,
but which the citoyen Lacroix took action upon only yesterday
evening. We are overdone with business; denunciations flow in from
every quarter in such abundance one does not know which to attend to.
Denunciations, replied Beauvisage proudly, are coming in freely,
too, to the Committee of Vigilance of our Section. Some make these
revelations out of patriotism, others lured by the bait of a bank-bill
for a hundred sols. Many children denounce their parents, whose
property they covet.
This letter, resumed Guénot, emanates from a ci-devant
called Rochemaure, a woman of gallantry, at whose house they played
biribi, and is addressed to one citoyen Rauline; but is
really for an émigré in the service of Pitt. I have brought it
with me to communicate to you the portion relating to this man des
He drew the letter from his pocket.
It begins with copious details as to those members of the
Convention who might, according to the woman's tale, be gained over by
the offer of a sum of money or the promise of a well-paid post under a
new Government, more stable than the present. Then comes the following
I have just returned from a visit to Monsieur des Ilettes,
lives near the Pont-Neuf in a garret where you must be either
or an imp to get at him; he is reduced to earning a living by
making punch-and-judies. He is a man of judgment, for which
I report to you, sir, the main gist of his conversation. He
not believe that the existing state of things will last long.
does he foresee its being ended by the victory of the
and events appear to justify his opinion; for, as you are
sir, for some time past tidings from the front have been bad.
would rather seem to believe in the revolt of the poor and the
women of the humbler classes, who remain still deeply attached
their religion. He holds that the widespread alarm caused by
Revolutionary Tribunal will soon reunite all France against
Jacobins. 'This tribunal,' he said, in his joking way, 'which
sentences the Queen of France and a bread-hawker, is like that
William Shakespeare the English admire so much, etc....' He
it not impossible that Robespierre may marry Madame Royale and
himself named Protector of the Kingdom.
I should be grateful to you, sir, if you would transmit me the
amount owing to me, that is to say one thousand pounds
the channel you are in the habit of using; but whatever you
not write to Monsieur Morhardt; he has lately been arrested,
into prison, etc., etc....
This worthy des Ilettes makes dancing-dolls, it appears, observed
Beauvisage, that is a valuable clue ... though certainly there are
many petty trades of the sort carried on in the Section.
That reminds me, said Delourmel, I promised to bring home a doll
for my little girl Nathalie, my youngest, who is ill with scarlatina.
The fever is not a dangerous one, but it demands careful nursing, and
Nathalie, a very forward child for her age, and with a very active
brain, has but delicate health.
I, remarked Guénot, I have only a boy. He plays hoop with
barrel-hoops and makes little montgolfier balloons by inflating paper
Very often, Beauvisage put in his word, it is with articles that
are not toys at all that children like best to play. My nephew Émile, a
little chap of seven, a very intelligent child, amuses himself all day
long with little wooden bricks with which he builds houses.... Do you
snuff, citoyens?and Beauvisage held out his open snuff-box to
the two delegates.
Now we must set about nabbing our rascal, said Delourmel, who had
long moustaches and great eyes that rolled in his head. I feel quite
in the mood this morning for a dish of aristocrat's lights and liver,
washed down with a glass of white wine.
Beauvisage suggested to the delegates going to the Place Dauphine to
see if his colleague Dupont senior was at his shop there; he would be
sure to know this man, des Ilettes.
So they set off in the keen morning air, accompanied by four
grenadiers of the Section.
Have you seen 'The Last Judgment of Kings' played?
Delourmel asked his companions; the piece is worth seeing. The author
shows you all the Kings of Europe on a desert island where they have
taken refuge, at the foot of a volcano which swallows them up. It is a
At the corner of the Rue du Harlay Delourmel's eye was caught by a
little cart, as brilliantly painted as a reliquary, which an old woman
was pushing, wearing over her coif a hat of waxed cloth.
What is that old woman selling? he asked.
The old dame answered for herself:
Look, gentlemen, make your choice. I have beads and rosaries,
crosses, St. Anthonys, holy cerecloths, St. Veronica handkerchiefs,
Ecce homos, Agnus Deis, hunting-horns and rings of St.
Hubert, and articles of devotion of every sort and kind.
Why, it is the very arsenal of fanaticism! cried Delourmel in
horror,and he proceeded to a summary examination of the poor woman,
who made the same answer to every question:
My son, it's forty years I have been selling articles of devotion.
Another Delegate of the Committee of General Security, noticing a
blue-coated National Guard passing, directed him to convey the
astonished old woman to the Conciergerie.
The citoyen Beauvisage pointed out to Delourmel that it would
have been more in the competence of the Committee of Surveillance to
arrest the woman and bring her before the Section; that in any case,
one never knew nowadays what attitude to take up towards the old
religion so as to act up to the views of the Government, and whether it
was best to allow everything or forbid everything.
On nearing the joiner's shop, the delegates and the commissary could
hear angry shouts mingling with the hissing of the saw and the grinding
of the plane. A quarrel had broken out between the joiner, Dupont
senior, and his neighbour Remacle, the porter, because of the
citoyenne Remacle, whom an irresistible attraction was for ever
drawing into the recesses of the workshop, whence she would return to
the porter's lodge all covered with shavings and saw-dust. The injured
porter bestowed a kick on Mouton, the carpenter's dog, which at that
very moment his own little daughter Joséphine was nursing lovingly in
her arms. Joséphine was furious and burst into a torrent of
imprecations against her father, while the carpenter shouted in a voice
Wretch! I tell you you shall not beat my dog.
And I, retorted the porter brandishing his broom, I tell you you
He did not finish the sentence; the joiner's plane had hurtled close
past his head.
The instant he caught sight of the citoyen Beauvisage and the
attendant delegates, he rushed up to him and cried:
Citoyen Commissary you are my witness, this villain has just
tried to murder me.
The citoyen Beauvisage, in his red cap, the badge of his
office, put out his long arms in the attitude of a peacemaker, and
addressing the porter and the joiner:
A hundred sols, he announced, to whichever of you will
inform us where to find a suspect, wanted by the Committee of General
Security, a ci-devant named des Ilettes, a maker of
With one accord porter and carpenter designated Brotteaux's lodging,
the only quarrel now between them being who should have the assignat
for a hundred sols promised the informer.
Delourmel, Guénot, and Beauvisage, followed by the four grenadiers,
Remacle the porter, Dupont the carpenter, and a dozen little scamps of
the neighbourhood filed up the stairs which shook under their tread,
and finally mounted the ladder to the attics.
Brotteaux was in his garret busy cutting out his dancing figures,
while the Père Longuemare sat facing him, stringing their scattered
limbs on threads, smiling to himself to see rhythm and harmony thus
growing under his fingers.
At the sound of muskets being grounded on the landing, the monk
trembled in every limb, not that he was a whit less courageous than
Brotteaux, who never moved a muscle, but the habit of respect for human
conventions had never disciplined him to assume an attitude of
self-composure. Brotteaux gathered from the citoyen Delourmel's
questions the quarter from which the blow had come and saw too late how
unwise it is to confide in women. He obeyed the citoyen
Commissary's order to go with him, first picking up his Lucretius and
his three shirts.
The citoyen, he said, pointing to the Père Longuemare, is
an assistant I have taken to help me make my marionettes. His home is
But the monk failing to produce a certificate of citizenship, was
put under arrest along with Brotteaux.
As the procession filed past the porter's door, the citoyenne
Remacle, leaning on her broom, looked at her lodger with the eyes of
virtue beholding crime in the clutches of the law. Little Joséphine,
dainty and disdainful, held back Mouton by his collar when the dog
tried to fawn on the friend who had often given him a lump of sugar. A
gaping crowd filled the Place de Thionville.
At the foot of the stairs Brotteaux came face to face with a young
peasant woman who was on the point of going up. She carried a basket on
her arm full of eggs and in her hand a flat cake wrapped in a napkin.
It was Athenaïs, who had come from Palaiseau to present her saviour
with a token of her gratitude. When she observed a posse of magistrates
and four grenadiers and Monsieur Maurice being led away a prisoner,
she stopped in consternation and asked if it was really true; then she
stepped up to the Commissary and said in a gentle voice:
You are not taking him to prison? it can't be possible.... Why! you
don't know him! God himself is not better or kinder.
The citoyen Delourmel pushed her away and beckoned to the
grenadiers to come forward. Then Athenaïs let loose a torrent of the
foulest abuse, the filthiest and most abominable invective, at the
magistrates and soldiers, who thought that all the rinsings of the
Palais-Royal and the Rue Fromenteau were being emptied over their
devoted heads. After which, in a voice that filled the whole Place de
Thionville and sent a shudder through the throng of curious onlookers:
Vive le roi! Vive le roi! she yelled.
The citoyenne Gamelin was devoted to old Brotteaux, and
taking him altogether, thought him the best and greatest man she had
ever known. She had not bidden him good-bye when he was arrested,
because she would not have dared to defy the powers that be and because
in her lowly estate she looked upon cowardice as a duty. But she had
received a blow she could not recover from.
She could not eat and lamented she had lost her appetite just when
she had at last the means to satisfy it. She still admired her son; but
she durst not let her mind dwell on the appalling duties he was engaged
upon and congratulated herself she was only an ignorant woman who had
no call to judge his conduct.
The poor mother had found a rosary at the bottom of a trunk; she
hardly knew how to use it, but often fumbled the beads in her trembling
fingers. She had lived to grow old without any overt exercise of her
religion, but she had always been a pious woman, and she would pray to
God all day long, in the chimney corner, to save her boy and that good,
kind Monsieur Brotteaux. Élodie often came to see her; they durst not
look each other in the eyes, and sitting side by side they would talk
at random of indifferent matters.
One day in Pluviose, when the snow, falling in heavy flakes,
darkened the sky and deadened the noises of the city, the citoyenne
Gamelin, who was alone in the lodging heard a knock at the door. She
started violently; for months now the slightest noise had set her
trembling. She opened the door. A young man of eighteen or twenty
walked in, his hat on his head. He was dressed in a bottle-green
box-coat, the triple collar of which covered his bust and descended to
the waist. He wore top-boots of an English cut. His chestnut hair fell
in ringlets about his shoulders. He stepped into the middle of the
studio, as if wishful that all the light admitted by the
snow-encumbered skylight might fall on him, and stood there some
moments without moving or speaking.
At last, in answer to the citoyenne Gamelin's look of
Don't you know your daughter?
The old dame clasped her hands:
Julie!... It is you.... Good God! is it possible?...
Why, yes, it is I. Kiss me, mother.
The citoyenne Gamelin pressed her daughter to her bosom, and
dropped a tear on the collar of the box-coat. Then she began again in
an anxious voice:
You, in Paris!...
Ah! mother, but why did I not come alone! For myself, they will
never know me in this dress.
It was a fact the box-coat sufficiently disguised her shape, and she
did not look very different from a great many very young men, who, like
her, wore their hair long and parted in two masses on the forehead. Her
features, which were delicately cut and charming, but burnt by the sun,
drawn with fatigue, worn with anxiety, had a bold, masculine
expression. She was slim, with long straight limbs and an easy
carriage; only the clear treble of her voice could have betrayed her
Her mother asked her if she was hungry. She said she would be glad
of something to eat, and when bread, wine and ham had been set before
her, she fell to, one elbow on the table, with a pretty gluttony, like
Ceres in the hut of the old woman Baubo.
Then, the glass still at her lips:
Mother, she asked, do you know when my brother will be back? I
have come to speak to him.
The good woman looked at her daughter in embarrassment and said
I must see him. My husband was arrested this morning and taken to
By this name of husband she designated Fortuné de Chassagne, a
ci-devant noble and officer in Bouillé's regiment. He had first
loved her when she was a work-girl at a milliner's in the Rue des
Lombards, and had carried her away with him to England, whither he had
fled after the 10th August. He was her lover; but she thought it more
becoming to speak of him as her husband before her mother. Indeed, she
told herself that the hardships they had shared had surely united them
in a wedlock consecrated by suffering.
More than once they had spent the night side by side on a bench in
one of the London parks and gathered up scraps of broken bread under
the table in the taverns in Piccadilly.
Her mother could find no answer and gazed at her mournfully.
Don't you hear what I say, mother? Time presses, I must see
Évariste at once; he, and he only, can save Fortuné's life.
Julie, answered her mother at last, it is better you should not
speak to your brother.
Why, what do you mean, mother?
I mean what I say, it is better you do not speak to your brother
about Monsieur de Chassagne.
But, mother, I must!
My child, Évariste can never forgive Monsieur de Chassagne for his
treatment of you. You know how angrily he used to speak of him, what
names he called him.
Yes, he called him seducer, said Julie with a little hissing
laugh, shrugging her shoulders.
My child, it was a mortal blow to his pride. Évariste has vowed
never again to mention Monsieur de Chassagne's name, and for two years
now he has not breathed one word of him or of you. But his feelings
have not altered; you know him, he can never forgive you.
But, mother, as Fortuné has married me ... in London....
The poor mother threw up her eyes and hands:
Fortuné is an aristocrat, an émigré, and that is cause
enough to make Évariste treat him as an enemy.
Mother, give me a direct answer. Do you mean that if I ask him to
go to the Public Prosecutor and the Committee of General Security and
take the necessary steps to save Fortuné's life, do you mean that he
will not consent?... But, mother, he would be a monster if he refused!
My child, your brother is an honest man and a good son. But do not
ask him, oh! do not ask him to intercede for Monsieur de Chassagne....
Listen to me, Julie. He does not confide his thoughts to me and, no
doubt, I should not be competent to understand them ... but he is a
juror; he has principles; he acts as his conscience dictates. Do not
ask him anything, Julie.
Ah! I see you know him now. You know that he is cold, callous, that
he is a bad man, that ambition and vainglory are his only guides. And
you always loved him better than me. When we lived together, all three
of us, you set him up as my pattern to copy. His staid demeanour and
grave speech impressed you; you thought he possessed all the virtues.
And me, me you always blamed, you gave me all the vices, because I was
frank and free, and because I climbed trees. You could never endure me.
You loved nobody but him. There, I hate him, your model Évariste; he is
Hush, Julie! I have been a good mother to you as well as to him. I
had you taught a trade. It has been no fault of mine that you are not
an honest woman and did not marry in your station. I loved you tenderly
and I love you still. I forgive you and I love you. But do not speak
ill of Évariste. He is a good son. He has always taken care of me. When
you left me, my child, when you abandoned your trade and forsook your
shop, to go and live with Monsieur de Chassagne, what would have become
of me without him? I should have died of hunger and wretchedness.
Do not talk so, mother; you know very well we would have cherished
you with all affection, Fortuné and I, if you had not turned your face
from us, at Évariste's instigation. Never tell me! he is incapable of a
kindly action. It was to make me odious in your eyes that he made a
pretence of caring for you. He! love you?... Is he capable of loving
anyone? He has neither heart nor head. He has no talent, not a scrap.
To paint, a man must have a softer, tenderer nature than his.
She threw a glance round the canvases in the studio, which she found
to be no better and no worse than when she left her home.
There you see his soul! he has put it in his pictures, cold and
sombre as it is. His Orestes, his Orestes with the dull eye and cruel
mouth, and looking as if he had been impaled, is himself all over....
But, mother, cannot you understand at all? I cannot leave Fortuné in
prison. You know these Jacobins, these patriots, all Évariste's crew.
They will kill him. Mother, little mother, darling mother, I cannot
have them kill him. I love him! I love him! He has been so good to me,
and we have been so unhappy together. Look, this box-coat is one of his
coats. I had never a shift left. A friend of Fortuné's lent me a jacket
and I got a post with an eating-house keeper at Dover, while he worked
at a barber's. We knew quite well that to return to France was to risk
our lives; but we were asked if we would go to Paris to carry out an
important mission.... We agreed,we would have accepted a mission to
hell! Our travelling expenses were paid and we were given a letter of
exchange on a Paris banker. We found the offices closed; the banker is
in prison and going to be guillotined. We had not a brass farthing. All
the individuals with whom we were in correspondence and to whom we
could appeal are fled or imprisoned. Not a door to knock at. We slept
in a stable in the Rue de la Femme-sans-tête. A charitable bootblack,
who slept on the same straw with us there, lent my lover one of his
boxes, a brush and a pot of blacking three quarters empty. For a
fortnight Fortuné made his living and mine by blacking shoes in the
Place de Grève.
But on Monday a Member of the Commune put his foot on the box to
have his boots polished. He had been a butcher once, a man Fortuné had
before now given a kick behind to for selling meat of short weight.
When Fortuné raised his head to ask for his two sous, the rascal
recognized him, called him aristocrat, and threatened to have him
arrested. A crowd collected, made up of honest folks and a few
blackguards, who began to shout Death to the émigré! and
called for the gendarmes. At that moment I came up with Fortuné's bowl
of soup. I saw him taken off to the Section and shut up in the church
of Saint-Jean. I tried to kiss him, but they hustled me away. I spent
the night like a dog on the church steps.... They took him away this
Julie could not finish, her sobs choked her.
She threw her hat on the floor and fell on her knees at her mother's
They took him away this morning to the Luxembourg prison. Mother,
mother, help me to save him; have pity on your child!
Drowned in her tears, she threw open her box-coat and, the better to
prove herself a woman and a wife, bared her bosom; seizing her mother's
hands, she held them close over her throbbing breasts.
My darling, my daughter, Julie, my Julie! sobbed the widow
Gamelin,and pressed her streaming cheeks to the girl's.
For some moments they clung together without a word. The poor mother
was racking her brains for some way of helping her daughter, and Julie
was watching the kind look in those tearful eyes.
Perhaps, thought Évariste's mother, perhaps, if I speak to him,
he will be melted. He is good, he is tender-hearted. If politics had
not hardened him, if he had not been influenced by the Jacobins, he
would never have had these cruel feelings, that terrify me because I
cannot understand them.
She took Julie's head in her two hands:
Listen, my child. I will speak to Évariste. I will sound him, get
him to see you and hear your story. The sight of you might anger him;
his first impulse might be to turn against you.... And then, I know
him; this costume would offend him; he is uncompromising in everything
that touches morals, that shocks the proprieties. I was a bit
startled to see my Julie dressed as a man.
Oh! mother, the emigration and the fearful disorders of the kingdom
have made these disguises quite a common thing. They are adopted in
order to follow a trade, to escape recognition, to get a borrowed
passport or a certificate approved. In London I saw young Girey dressed
as a girl,and he made a very pretty girl; you must own, mother,
that is a more scandalous disguise than mine.
My poor child, you have no need to justify yourself in my eyes,
whether in this or any other thing. I am your mother; for me you will
always be blameless. I will speak to Évariste, I will say....
She broke off. She knew what her son was; she felt it in her heart,
but she would not believe it, she would not know it.
He is kind-hearted. He will do it for my sake ... for your sake, he
will do what I ask him.
The two women, weary to the death, fell silent. Julie sank asleep,
her head pillowed on the knees where she had rested as a child, while
the mother, the rosary between her hands, wept, like another mater
dolorosa, over the calamities she felt drawing stealthily nearer
and nearer in the silence of this day of snow when everything was
hushed, footsteps and carriage wheels and the very heaven itself.
Suddenly, with a keenness of hearing sharpened by anxiety, she
caught the sound of her son's steps on the stairs.
Évariste! she cried. Hideand she hurried the girl into the
How are you to-day, mother dear?
Évariste hung up his hat on its peg, changed his blue coat for a
working jacket and sat down before his easel. For some days he had been
working at a sketch in charcoal of a Victory laying a wreath on the
brow of a dead soldier, who had died for the fatherland. Once the
subject would have called out all his enthusiasm, but the Tribunal
consumed all his days and absorbed his whole soul, while his hand had
lost its knack from disuse and had grown heavy and inert.
He hummed over the Ça ira.
I hear you singing, said the citoyenne Gamelin; you are
We have reason to be glad, mother; there is good news. La Vendée is
crushed, the Austrians beaten, the Army of the Rhine has forced the
lines of Lautern and of Wissembourg. The day is at hand when the
Republic triumphant will show her clemency. Why must the conspirators'
audacity increase the mightier the Republic waxes in strength, and
traitors plot to strike the fatherland a blow in the dark at the very
moment her lightnings overwhelm the enemies that assail her openly?
The citoyenne Gamelin, as she sat knitting a stocking, was
watching her son's face over her spectacles.
Berzélius, your old model, has been to ask for the ten livres you
owed him; I paid him. Little Joséphine has had a belly-ache from eating
too much of the preserves the carpenter gave her. So I made her a drop
of herb tea.... Desmahis has been to see you; he was sorry he did not
find you in. He wanted to engrave a design by you. He thinks you have
great talent. He is a fine fellow; he looked at your sketches and
When peace is re-established and conspiracy suppressed, said the
painter, I shall begin on my Orestes again. It is not my way to
flatter myself; but that head is worthy of David's brush.
He outlined with a majestic sweep the arm of his Victory.
She holds out palms, he said. But it would be finer if her arms
themselves were palms.
I have had news ... guess, of whom....
I do not know.
Of Julie ... of your sister.... She is not happy.
It would be a scandal if she were.
Do not speak so, my son, she is your sister. Julie is not a bad
woman; she had a good disposition, which misfortune has developed. She
loves you. I can assure you, Évariste, that she only desires a
hard-working, exemplary life and her fondest wish is to be reconciled
to her friends. There is nothing to prevent your seeing her again. She
has married Fortuné Chassagne.
She has written to you?
How, then, have you had news of her, mother?
It was not by letter, Évariste; it was....
He sprang up and stopped her with a savage cry:
Not another word, mother! Do not tell me they have both returned to
France.... As they are doomed to perish, at least let it not be at my
hands. For their own sake, for yours, for mine, let me not know they
are in Paris.... Do not force the knowledge on me; otherwise....
What do you mean, my son? you would think, you would dare...?
Mother, hear what I say; if I knew my sister Julie to be in that
room ... (and he pointed at the closed door), I should go instantly
to denounce her to the Committee of Vigilance of the Section.
The poor mother, her face as white as her coif, dropped her knitting
from her trembling hands and sighed in a voice fainter than the
I would not believe it, but I see it now; my boy is a monster....
As pale as she, the froth gathering on his lips, Évariste fled from
the house and ran to find at Élodie's side forgetfulness, sleep, the
delicious foretaste of extinction.
While the Père Longuemare and the girl Athenaïs were examined at the
Section, Brotteaux was led off between two gendarmes to the Luxembourg,
where the door-keeper refused to admit him, declaring he had no room
left. The old financier was next taken to the Conciergerie and brought
into the Gaoler's office, quite a small room, divided in two by a
glazed partition. While the clerk was inscribing his name in the prison
registers, Brotteaux could see through the panes two men lying each on
a tattered mattress, both as still as death and with glazed eyes that
seemed to see nothing. Plates, bottles and bits of broken bread and
meat littered the floor round them. They were prisoners condemned to
death and waiting for the cart to arrive.
The ci-devant Monsieur des Ilettes was thrust into a dungeon,
where by the light of a lantern he could just make out two figures
stretched on the ground, one savage-looking and hideously mutilated,
the other graceful and pleasing. The two prisoners offered him a share
of their straw, and this, rotten and swarming with vermin as it was,
was better than having to lie on the earth, which was befouled with
excrement. Brotteaux sank down on a bench in the pestiferous darkness
and sat there, his head against the wall, speechless and motionless. So
intense was his agony of mind he would have dashed out his brains
against the stones if he had had the strength. He could not breathe.
His eyes swam, and a long-drawn murmur, as soft as silence, filled his
ears. He felt his whole being bathed in a delicious semi-consciousness.
For one incomparable moment everything was harmony, serenity, light,
fragrance, sweetness. Then he ceased to know or feel anything.
When he returned to himself, the first notion that entered his head
was to regret his coma and, a philosopher even in the stupor of
despair, he reflected how he had had to plunge to the depths of an
underground dungeon, there to await execution, to enjoy the most
exquisite of all voluptuous sensations he had ever tasted. He tried
hard to lose consciousness again, but without success; on the contrary,
little by little he felt the poisonous air of the dungeon fill his
lungs and bring with it, along with the fever of life, a full
consciousness of his intolerable wretchedness.
Meantime his two companions regarded his silence as a cruel personal
insult. Brotteaux, who was of a sociable turn, endeavoured to satisfy
their curiosity; but when they discovered he was only what they called
a political, one of the mild sort whose crime was only a matter of
words and opinions, they lost all respect and sympathy for him. The
offences charged against these two prisoners had more grit; the older
of the men was a murderer, the other had been manufacturing forged
assignats. Both made the best of their situation and even found some
alleviations in it. Brotteaux's thoughts suddenly turned to the world
above him,how over his head all was noise and bustle, light and life,
while the pretty shopwomen in the Palais de Justice behind their
counters, loaded with perfumery and pretty knicknacks, smiled on their
customers, happy people free to go where they pleased,and the picture
doubled his despair.
Night fell, unmarked in the darkness and silence of the dungeon, but
yet gloomy and oppressive. One leg extended on his bench and his back
propped against the wall, Brotteaux fell into a doze. And lo! he saw
himself seated at the foot of a leafy beech, in which the birds were
singing; the setting sun bathed the river in liquid fire and the clouds
were edged with purple. The night wore through. A burning fever
consumed him and he greedily drained his pitcher to the dregs, but the
fetid water only increased his distress.
Next day the gaoler who brought the food promised Brotteaux, if he
could afford the cost, to give him the privileges of a prisoner who
pays for his accommodation, so soon as there should be room, and it was
not likely to be long first. And so it turned out; two days later he
invited the old financier to leave his dungeon. At every step he took
upwards, Brotteaux felt life and vigour coming back to him, and when he
saw a room with a red-tiled floor and in it a bed of sacking covered
with a dingy woollen counterpane, he wept for joy. The gilded bed
carved with doves billing and cooing that he had once had made for the
prettiest of the dancers at the Opera had not seemed so desirable or
promised him such delights.
This bed of sacking was in a large hall, very fairly clean, which
held seventeen others like it, separated by high partitions of planks.
The company that occupied these quarters, composed of ex-nobles,
tradesmen, bankers, working-men, hit the old publican's taste well
enough, for he could accommodate himself to persons of all qualities.
He noticed that these, cut off like himself from every opportunity of
pleasure and foredoomed to perish at the hand of the executioner, were
of a very merry humour and showed a marked taste for wit and raillery.
His bent was to think lightly of mankind, so he attributed the high
spirits of his companions to the frivolity of their minds, which
prevented them from looking seriously at their situation. Moreover, he
was strengthened in his opinion by observing how the more intelligent
among them were profoundly sad. He remarked before long, that, for the
most part, wine and brandy supplied the inspiration of a gaiety that
betrayed its source by its violent and sometimes almost insane
character. They did not all possess courage; but all made a display of
it. This caused Brotteaux no surprise; he was well aware how men will
readily enough avow cruelty, passion, even avarice, but never
cowardice, because such an admission would bring them, among savages
and even in civilized society, into mortal danger. That is the reason,
he reflected, why all nations are nations of heroes and all armies are
made up of brave men only.
More potent, even, than wine and brandy were the rattle of weapons
and keys, the clash of locks and bolts, the cry of sentries, the
stamping of feet at the door of the Tribunal, to intoxicate the
prisoners and fill their minds with melancholy, insanity, or frenzy.
Some there were who cut their throat with a razor or threw themselves
from a window.
Brotteaux had been living for three days in these privileged
quarters when he learned through the turnkey that the Père Longuemare
was languishing on the rotten verminous straw of the common prison with
the thieves and murderers. He had him put on paying terms in the same
room as himself, where a bed had fallen vacant. Having promised to pay
for the monk, the old publican, who had no large sum of money about
him, struck out the idea of making portraits at a crown apiece. By the
help of a gaoler, he procured a supply of small black frames in which
to put pretty little designs in hair which he executed with
considerable cleverness. These productions sold well, being highly
appreciated among people whose thoughts were set on leaving souvenirs
to their friends.
The Père Longuemare kept a good heart and a high spirit. While
waiting his summons to appear before the Revolutionary Tribunal, he was
preparing his defence. Drawing no distinction between his own case and
that of the Church, he promised himself to expose to his judges the
disorders and scandals to which the Spouse of Christ was exposed by the
Civil Constitution of the Clergy; he proposed to depict the eldest
daughter of the Church waging sacrilegious war upon the Pope, the
French clergy robbed, outraged, subjected to the odious domination of
laics, the regulars, Christ's true army, despoiled and scattered. He
cited St. Gregory the Great and St. Irenæus, quoted numerous articles
of the Canon Law and whole paragraphs from the Decretals.
All day long he sat scribbling on his knees, at the foot of his bed,
dipping stumps of pens worn to the feathers in ink, soot,
coffee-grounds, covering with illegible writing candle-wrappers,
packing-paper, newspapers, playing cards, even thinking of using his
shirt for the same purpose after starching it. Leaf by leaf the pile
grew; pointing to this mass of undecipherable scrawls, he would say:
Ah! when I appear before my judges, I will inundate them with
Another day, casting a look of satisfaction on his defence, which
grew bulkier day by day, and thinking of these magistrates he was
burning to confound, he cried:
I wouldn't like to be in their shoes!
The prisoners whom fate had brought together in this prison-room
were Royalists or Federalists, there was even a Jacobin amongst the
rest; they held widely different views as to the right way of
conducting the business of the State, but not one of them all preserved
the smallest vestige of Christian beliefs. Feuillants, Constitutionals,
Girondists, all, like Brotteaux, considered the Christians' God a very
bad thing for themselves and an excellent one for the people; as for
the Jacobins, they were for installing in the place of Jehovah a
Jacobin god, anxious to refer the dispensation of Jacobinism on earth
to a higher source. But as they could not conceive, either one or the
other, of anybody being so absurd as to believe in any revealed
religion, seeing that the Père Longuemare was no fool, they took him to
be a knave. By way, no doubt, of preparing for martyrdom, he made
confession of faith at every opportunity, and the more sincerity he
displayed, the more like an impostor he seemed.
In vain Brotteaux stood surety for the monk's good faith; Brotteaux
himself was reputed to believe only a part of what he said. His ideas
were too singular not to appear affected and satisfied nobody entirely.
He dubbed Jean-Jacques a dull, paltry rascal. Voltaire, on the other
hand, he accounted among the divinely-gifted men, though not on the
same level as the amiable Helvétius, or Diderot, or the Baron
d'Holbach. In his opinion the greatest genius of the century was
Boulanger. He also thought highly of the astronomer Lalande and of
Dupuis, author of a Memoir on the origin of the Constellations.
The wits of the company made a thousand jokes at the poor
Barnabite's expense, the point of which he never saw; his simplicity
saved him from every pitfall. To drown the suspense that racked them
and escape the torments of idleness, the prisoners played at draughts,
cards and backgammon. No instrument of music was allowed. After supper
they would sing, or recite verses. Voltaire's La Pucelle brought
a little cheerfulness to these aching hearts, and the company never
wearied of hearing the telling passages repeated. But, unable to
distract their thoughts from the appalling vision that always loomed
before their mind's eye, they strove sometimes to make a diversion of
it, and in the chamber of the eighteen beds, before turning in for the
night, they would play the game of the Revolutionary Tribunal. The
parts were distributed according to tastes and aptitudes. While some
represented the judges and prosecutor, others were the accused or the
witnesses, others again the headsman and his men. The trials invariably
wound up with the execution of the condemned, who were laid at full
length on a bed, the neck underneath a plank. The scene then shifted to
the infernal regions. The most agile of the troop, wrapped in white
sheets, played spectres. There was a young avocat from Bordeaux,
a man named Dubosc, short, dark, one-eyed, humpbacked, bandy-legged,
the very black deuce in person, who used to come all horned and hoofed,
to drag the Père Longuemare feet first out of his bed, announcing to
the culprit that he was condemned to the everlasting flames of hell and
doomed past redemption for having made of the Creator of the Universe a
jealous being, a blockhead, and a bully, an enemy of human happiness
Ah! ha! ha! the devil would scream discordantly, so you taught,
you old bonze, that God delights to see His creatures languish in
contrition and deny themselves His dearest gifts. Impostor, hypocrite,
sneak, sit on nails and eat egg-shells for all eternity!
The Père Longuemare, for all reply, would observe that the speech
showed the philosopher's cloven hoof behind the devil's and that the
meanest imp of hell would never have talked such foolishness, having at
least rubbed shoulders with Theology and for certain being less
ignorant than an Encyclopædist.
But when the Girondist avocat called him a Capuchin, he
turned scarlet with anger and declared that a man incapable of
distinguishing a Barnabite from a Franciscan was too blind to see a fly
The Revolutionary Tribunal was always draining the prisons, which
the Committees were as unceasingly replenishing; in three months the
chamber of the eighteen was half full of new faces. The Père Longuemare
lost his tormentor. The avocat Dubosc was haled before the
Revolutionary Tribunal and condemned to death as a Federalist and for
having conspired against the unity of the Republic. On leaving the
court, he returned, as the prisoners always did, by a corridor that ran
through the prison and opened on the room he had enlivened for three
months with his gaiety. As he made his farewells to his companions, he
maintained the same light tone and cheerful air that were habitual with
Forgive me, sir, he said to the Père Longuemare, for having
hauled you feet foremost from your bed. I will never do it again.
Then, turning to old Brotteaux:
Good-bye, I go before you into the land of nowhere. I gladly return
to Nature the atoms of my composition, only hoping she will make a
better use of them for the future, for it must be owned she did not
make much of a job of me.
So he went on his way to the gaoler's room, leaving Brotteaux
sorrowful and the Père Longuemare trembling and green as a leaf, more
dead than alive to see the impious wretch laugh on the brink of the
When Germinal brought back the bright days, Brotteaux, who was of an
ardent temperament, tramped down several times every day to the
courtyard giving on the women's quarters, near the fountain where the
female prisoners used to come of a morning to wash their linen. An iron
railing separated the two barracks; but the bars were not so close
together as to hinder hands joining and lips meeting. Under the kindly
shade of night loving couples would press against the obstacle. At such
times Brotteaux would retire discreetly to the staircase and, sitting
on a step, would draw from the pocket of his plum-coloured surtout his
little Lucretius and read, by the light of a lantern, some of the
author's sternly consolatory maxims: Sic ubi non erimus....
When we shall have ceased to be, nothing will have power to move us,
not even the heavens and earth and sea confounding their shattered
fragments.... But, in the act of enjoying his exalted wisdom,
Brotteaux would find himself envying the Barnabite this craze that
veiled the universe from his eyes.
Month by month terror grew more intense. Every night the tipsy
gaolers, their watch-dogs at their heels, would march from cell to
cell, delivering acts of accusation, howling out names they mutilated,
waking the prisoners and for twenty victims marked on their list
terrifying two hundred. Along these corridors, reeking with bloody
memories, passed every day, without a murmur, twenty, thirty, fifty
condemned prisoners, old men, women, young men and maidens, so widely
different in rank and character and opinion that the question rose
involuntarily to the lips,had they not been chosen by lot?
And the card playing went on, the Burgundy drinking, the making of
plans, the assignations for after dark at the rails. The company, new
almost to a man, now consisted in great part of extremists and
irreconcilables. But still the room of the eighteen beds remained the
home of elegance and good breeding; barring two prisoners recently
transferred from the Luxembourg to the Conciergerie and added to the
company, by whom they were suspected of being spies, the citoyens
Navette and Bellier by name, there were none but honest folk there who
reposed a mutual trust in each other. Glass in hand, the victories of
the Republic were celebrated by all. Amongst the rest were several
poets, as there always are in any gathering of people with nothing to
do. The most accomplished composed odes on the triumphs of the Army of
the Rhine, which they recited with much mouthing. They were
uproariously applauded. Brotteaux was the only lukewarm admirer of the
victors and the bards who sang their victories.
Since Homer began it, he observed one day, it has always been a
mania with poets, this extolling the powers of fighting-men. War is not
an art, and luck alone decides the fate of battles. With two generals,
both blockheads, face to face, one of them must inevitably be
victorious. Wait till some day one of these warriors you make gods of
swallows you all up like the stork in the fable who gobbles up the
frogs. Ah! then he would be really and truly a God! For you can always
tell the gods by their appetite.
Brotteaux's head had never been turned by the glamour of arms. He
felt no triumph at the victories of the Republic, which he had
foreseen. He did not like the new régime, which military success
confirmed. He was a malcontent. Another would have been the same for
One morning it was announced that the Commissaries of the Committee
of General Security were going to institute a search in the prisoners'
quarters, that they would seize assignats, articles of gold and silver,
knives, scissors; that similar proceedings had been taken at the
Luxembourg, where letters, papers, and books had been taken possession
Thereupon everyone tried to think of some hiding place in which to
secure whatever he held most precious. The Père Longuemare carried away
his defence in armfuls to a rain-gutter, while Brotteaux slipped his
Lucretius among the ashes on the hearth.
When the Commissaries, wearing tricolour ribands at their necks,
arrived to carry out their perquisition, they found scarcely anything
but such trifles as it had been deemed judicious to let them discover.
On their departure, the Père Longuemare ran to his rain-pipe and
rescued as much of his defence as wind and water had spared. Brotteaux
pulled out his Lucretius from the fireplace all black with soot.
Let us make the best of the present, he thought, for I augur from
sundry tokens that our time is straitly measured from henceforth.
One soft night in Prairial, while over the prison yard the moon
riding high in a pale sky showed her two silver horns, the
ex-financier, who, as his way was, sat reading Lucretius on a step of
the stone stairs, heard a voice call him, a woman's voice, a delightful
voice, which he did not know. He went down into the court and saw
behind the railing a form which he recognized as little as he did the
voice, but which reminded him, in its half-seen fascinating outlines,
of all the women he had loved. A flood of silvery blue moonlight fell
on it. Next instant Brotteaux recognized the pretty actress of the Rue
Feydeau, Rose Thévenin.
You here, my child! It is a joy to see you, but it stabs my heart.
Since when have you been here, and why?
Since yesterday,and she added very low:
I have been denounced as a Royalist. They accuse me of conspiring
to set free the Queen. Knowing you were here, I tried at once to see
you. Listen to me, dear friend ... you will let me call you so?... I
know people in power; I have sympathizers, I am sure of it, on the
Committee of Public Safety itself. I will set my friends to work; they
will deliver me, and I will deliver you.
But Brotteaux in a voice that took on an accent of urgency:
By everything you hold dear, my child, do nothing of the sort! Do
not write, do not petition; ask nothing of anybody, I conjure you, let
yourself be forgotten.
As she appeared unconvinced by what he said, he went on more
Not a word, Rose, let them forget you; there lies safety. Anything
your friends might attempt would only hasten your undoing. Time is
everything; only a short delay, a very short one, I hope, is needed to
save you.... Above all, never try to melt the judges, the jurors, a
Gamelin. They are not men, they are things; there is no arguing with
things. Let them forget you; if you take my advice, sweetheart, I shall
die happy, happy to have saved your life.
I will do as you say.... Never talk of dying....
He shrugged his shoulders.
My life is ended, my child. Do you live and be happy.
She took his hands and laid them on her bosom:
Hear what I say, dear friend.... I have only seen you once for a
day, and yet you are not indifferent to me. And if what I am going to
tell you can renew your attachment to life, oh! believe my promise,I
will be for you ... whatever you shall wish me to be.
And they exchanged a kiss on the mouth through the bars.
Évariste Gamelin, as he sat, one day that a long, tedious case was
before the Tribunal, on the jury-bench in the stifling court, closed
his eyes and thought:
Evil-doers, by forcing Marat to hide in holes and corners, had
turned him into a bird of night, the bird of Minerva, whose glance
pierced the dark recesses where conspirators lurked. Now it is a blue
eye, cold and calm, that discovers the enemies of the State and
denounces traitors with a subtlety unknown even to the Friend of the
People, now asleep for ever in the garden of the Cordeliers. The new
saviour of the country, as zealous and more keen-sighted than the
first, sees what no man before had seen and with a lifted finger
spreads terror broadcast. He discerns the fine, imperceptible shades of
difference that divide evil from good, vice from virtue, which but for
him would have been confounded, to the hurt of the fatherland and
freedom, he marks out before him the thin, inflexible line outside
which lies, to the right hand and to the left, only error, crime, and
wickedness. The Incorruptible teaches how men serve the foreigner
equally by excess of zeal and by supineness, by persecuting the
religious in the name of reason no less than by fighting in the name of
religion against the laws of the Republic. Every whit as much as the
villains who immolated Le Peltier and Marat, do they serve the
foreigner who decree them divine honours, to compromise their memory.
Agent of the foreigner whosoever repudiates the ideas of order, wisdom,
opportunity; agent of the foreigner whosoever outrages morals,
scandalizes virtue, and, in the foolishness of his heart, denies God.
Yes, fanatic priests deserve to die; but there is an anti-revolutionary
way of combating fanaticism; abjurers, too, may be guilty of a crime.
By moderation men destroy the Republic; by violence they do the same.
August and terrible the functions of a judge,functions defined by
the wisest of mankind! It is not aristocrats alone, federalists,
scoundrels of the Orleans faction, open enemies of the fatherland, that
we must strike down. The conspirator, the agent of the foreigner is a
Proteus, he assumes all shapes, he puts on the guise of a patriot, a
revolutionary, an enemy of Kings; he affects the boldness of a heart
that beats only for freedom; his voice swells, and the foes of the
Republic tremble. His name is Danton; his violence is a poor cloak to
his odious moderatism, and his base corruption is manifest at last. The
conspirator, the agent of the foreigner is that fluent stammerer, the
man who clapped the first cockade of revolution in his hat, that
pamphleteer who, in his ironical and cruel patriotism, nicknamed
himself, 'The procureur of the Lantern.' His name is Camille
Desmoulins. He threw off the mask by defending the Generals, traitors
to their country, and claiming measures of clemency criminal at such a
time. There was Philippeaux, there was Hérault, there was the
despicable Lacroix. There was the Père Duchesne, he, too, a conspirator
and agent of the foreigner, the vile demagogue who degraded liberty,
and whose filthy calumnies stirred sympathy for Antoinette herself.
There was Chaumette, who yet was a mild man, popular, moderate,
well-intentioned, and virtuous in the administration of the Commune;
but he was an atheist! Conspirators, agents of the foreigner,such
were all those sansculottes in red cap and carmagnole and sabots who
recklessly outbid the Jacobins in patriotism. Conspirator and agent of
the foreigner was Anacharsis Cloots, 'orator of the human race,'
condemned to die by all the Monarchies of the world; but everything was
to be feared of him,he was a Prussian.
Now violent or moderate, all these evil-doers, all these
traitors,Danton, Desmoulins, Hébert, Chaumette,have perished under
the axe. The Republic is saved; a chorus of praises rises from all the
Committees and the popular assemblies one and all to greet Maximilien
and the Mountain. Good citizens cry aloud: 'Worthy
representatives of a free people, in vain have the sons of the Titans
lifted their proud heads; oh! mountain of blessing, oh! protecting
Sinai, from thy tumultuous bosom has issued the saving lightning....'
In this chorus the Tribunal has its meed of praise. How sweet a
thing it is to be virtuous, and how dear to public gratitude, to the
heart of the upright judge!
Meanwhile, for a patriot heart, what food for amazement, what
motives for anxiety! What! to betray the people's cause, it was not
enough to have a Mirabeau, a La Fayette, a Bailly, a Pétion, a Brissot?
We must likewise have the men who denounced these traitors. Can it be
that all the patriots who made the Revolution only wrought to ruin her?
that these heroes of the great days were but contriving with Pitt and
Coburg to give the kingdom to the Orleans and set up a Regency under
Louis XVII? What! Danton was another Monk. What! Chaumette and the
Hébertists, falser than the Federalists who sent them to the
guillotine, had conspired to destroy the State! But among those who
hurried to their death the traitor Danton and the traitor Chaumette,
will not the blue eye of Robespierre discover anon more perfidious
traitors yet? What will be the end of this hideous concatenation of
traitors betrayed and the revelations of the keen-sighted
Meantime Julie Gamelin, in her bottle-green box-coat, went every day
to the Luxembourg Gardens and there, on a bench at the end of one of
the avenues, sat waiting for the moment when her lover should show his
face at one of the dormers of the Palace. Then they would beckon to
each other and talk together in a language of signs they had invented.
In this way she learned that the prisoner occupied a fairly good room
and had pleasant companions, that he wanted a blanket for his bed and a
kettle and loved his mistress fondly.
She was not the only one to watch for the sight of a dear face at a
window of the Palace now turned into a prison. A young mother not far
from her kept her eyes fixed on a closed casement; then directly she
saw it open, she would lift her little one in her arms above her head.
An old lady in a lace veil sat for long hours on a folding-chair,
vainly hoping to catch a momentary glimpse of her son, who, for fear of
breaking down, never left his game of quoits in the courtyard of the
prison till the hour when the gardens were closed.
During these long hours of waiting, whether the sky were blue or
overcast, a man of middle age, rather stout and very neatly dressed,
was constantly to be seen on a neighbouring bench, playing with his
snuff-box and the charms on his watch-guard or unfolding a newspaper,
which he never read. He was dressed like a bourgeois of the old school
in a gold-laced cocked hat, a plum-coloured coat and blue waistcoat
embroidered in silver. He looked well-meaning enough, and was something
of a musician to judge by a flute, one end of which peeped from his
pocket. Never for a moment did his eyes wander from the supposed
stripling, on whom he bestowed continual smiles, and when he saw him
leave his seat, he would get up himself and follow him at a distance.
Julie, in her misery and loneliness, was touched by the discreet
sympathy the good man manifested.
One day, as she was leaving the gardens, it began to rain; the old
fellow stepped up to her and, opening his vast red umbrella, asked
permission to offer her its shelter. She answered sweetly, in her clear
treble, that she would be very glad. But at the sound of her voice and
warned perhaps by a subtle scent of womanhood, he strode rapidly away,
leaving the girl exposed to the rain-storm; she took in the situation,
and, despite her gnawing anxieties, could not restrain a smile.
Julie lived in an attic in the Rue du Cherche-Midi and represented
herself as a draper's shop-boy in search of employment; the widow
Gamelin, at last convinced that the girl was running smaller risks
anywhere else than at her home, had got her away from the Place de
Thionville and the Section du Pont-Neuf, and was giving her all the
help she could in the way of food and linen. Julie did her trifle of
cooking, went to the Luxembourg to see her beloved prisoner and back
again to her garret; the monotony of the life was a balm to her grief,
and, being young and strong, she slept well and soundly the night
through. She was of a fearless temper and broken in to an adventurous
life; the costume she wore added perhaps a further spice of excitement,
and she would sometimes sally out at night to visit a restaurateur's in
the Rue du Four, at the sign of the Red Cross, a place frequented by
men of all sorts and conditions and women of gallantry. There she read
the papers or played backgammon with some tradesman's clerk or
citizen-soldier, who smoked his pipe in her face. Drinking, gambling,
love-making were the order of the day, and scuffles were not
unfrequent. One evening a customer, hearing a trampling of hoofs on the
paved roadway outside, lifted the curtain, and recognizing the
Commandant-in-Chief of the National Guard, the citoyen Hanriot,
who was riding past with his Staff, muttered between his teeth:
There goes Robespierre's jackass!
Julie overheard and burst into a loud guffaw.
But a moustachioed patriot took up the challenge roundly:
Whoever says that, he shouted, is a blsted aristocrat, and I
should like to see the fellow sneeze into Samson's basket. I tell you
General Hanriot is a good patriot who'll know how to defend Paris and
the Convention at a pinch. That's why the Royalists can't forgive him.
Glaring at Julie, who was still laughing, the patriot added:
You there, greenhorn, have a care I don't land you a kick in the
backside to learn you to respect good patriots.
But other voices were joining in:
Hanriot's a drunken sot and a fool!
Hanriot's a good Jacobin! Vive Hanriot!
Sides were taken, and the fray began. Blows were exchanged, hats
battered in, tables overturned, and glasses shivered; the lights went
out and the women began to scream. Two or three patriots fell upon
Julie, who seized hold of a settle in self-defence; she was brought to
the ground, where she scratched and bit her assailants. Her coat flew
open and her neckerchief was torn, revealing her panting bosom. A
patrol came running up at the noise, and the girl aristocrat escaped
between the gendarmes' legs.
Every day the carts were full of victims for the guillotine.
But I cannot, I cannot let my lover die! Julie would tell her
She resolved to beg his life, to take what steps were possible, to
go to the Committees and Public Departments, to canvas Representatives,
Magistrates, to visit anyone who could be of help. She had no woman's
dress to wear. Her mother borrowed a striped gown, a kerchief, a lace
coif from the citoyenne Blaise, and Julie, attired as a woman
and a patriot, set out for the abode of one of the judges, Renaudin, a
damp, dismal house in the Rue Mazarine.
With trembling steps she climbed the wooden, tiled stairs and was
received by the judge in his squalid cabinet, furnished with a deal
table and two straw-bottomed chairs. The wall-paper hung in strips.
Renaudin, with black hair plastered on his forehead, a lowering eye,
tucked-in lips, and a protuberant chin, signed to her to speak and
listened in silence.
She told him she was the sister of the citoyen Chassagne, a
prisoner at the Luxembourg, explained as speciously as she could the
circumstances under which he had been arrested, represented him as an
innocent man, the victim of mischance, pleaded more and more urgently;
but he remained callous and unsympathetic.
She fell at his feet in supplication and burst into tears.
No sooner did he see her tears than his face changed; his dark
blood-shot eyes lit up, and his heavy blue jowl worked as if pumping up
the saliva in his dry throat.
Citoyenne, we will do what is necessary. You need have no
anxiety,and opening a door, he pushed the petitioner into a little
sitting-room, with rose-pink hangings, painted panels, Dresden china
figures, a time-piece and gilt candelabra; for furniture it contained
settees, and a sofa covered in tapestry and adorned with a pastoral
group after Boucher. Julie was ready for anything to save her lover.
Renaudin had his way,rapidly and brutally. When she got up,
readjusting the citoyenne's pretty frock, she met the man's
cruel mocking eye; instantly she knew she had made her sacrifice in
You promised me my brother's freedom, she said.
I told you, citoyenne, we would do what was necessary,that
is to say, we should apply the law, neither more nor less. I told you
to have no anxiety,and why should you be anxious? The Revolutionary
Tribunal is always just.
She thought of throwing herself upon the man, biting him, tearing
out his eyes. But, realizing she would only be consummating Fortuné
Chassagne's ruin, she rushed from the house, and fled to her garret to
take off Élodie's soiled and desecrated frock. All night she lay,
screaming with grief and rage.
Next day, on returning to the Luxembourg, she found the gardens
occupied by gendarmes, who were turning out the women and children.
Sentinels were posted in the avenues to prevent the passers-by from
communicating with the prisoners. The young mother, who used to come
every day, carrying her child in her arms, told Julie that there was
talk of plotting in the prisons and that the women were blamed for
gathering in the gardens in order to rouse the people's pity in favour
of aristocrats and traitors.
A mountain has suddenly sprung up in the garden of the Tuileries.
Under a cloudless sky, Maximilien heads the procession of his
colleagues in a blue coat and yellow breeches, carrying in his hand a
bouquet of wheatears, cornflowers and poppies. He ascends the mountain
and proclaims the God of Jean-Jacques to the Republic, which hears and
weeps. Oh purity! oh sweetness! oh faith! oh antique simplicity! oh
tears of pity! oh fertilizing dew! oh clemency! oh human fraternity!
In vain Atheism still lifts its hideous face; Maximilien grasps a
torch; flames devour the monster and Wisdom appears, with one hand
pointing to the sky, in the other holding a crown of stars.
On the platform raised against the façade of the Tuileries,
Évariste, standing amid a throng of deeply-stirred spectators, sheds
tears of joy and renders thanks to God. An era of universal felicity
opens before his eyes.
At last we shall be happy, pure, innocent, if the scoundrels suffer
Alas! the scoundrels have not suffered it. There must be more
executions; more torrents of tainted blood must be shed. Three days
after the festival celebrating the new alliance and the reconciliation
of heaven and earth, the Convention promulgates the Law of Prairial
which suppresses, with a sort of ferocious good-nature, all the
traditional forms of Law, whatever has been devised since the time of
the Roman jurisconsults for the safeguarding of innocence under
suspicion. No more sifting of evidence, no more questioning of the
accused, no more witnesses, no more counsel for the defence; love of
the fatherland supplies everything that is needful. The prisoner, who
bears locked up in his bosom his guilt or innocence, passes without a
word allowed before the patriot jury, and it is in this brief moment
they must unravel his case, often complicated and obscure. How is
justice possible? How distinguish in an instant between the honest man
and the villain, the patriot and the enemy of the fatherland...?
Disconcerted for the moment, Gamelin quickly learned his new duties
and accommodated himself to his new functions. He recognized that this
curtailment of formalities was genuinely characteristic of the new
justice, at once salutary and terrifying, the administrators of which
were no longer ermined pedants leisurely weighing the pros and
contras in their Gothic balances, but good sansculottes judging by
inspiration and seeing the whole truth in a flash. When guarantees and
precautions would have undone everything, the impulses of an upright
heart saved the situation. We must follow the promptings of Nature, the
good mother who never deceives; the heart must teach us to do judgment,
and Gamelin made invocation to the manes of Jean-Jacques:
Man of virtue, inspire me with the love of men, the ardent desire
to regenerate humankind!
His colleagues, for the most part, felt with him. They were, first
and foremost, simple people; and when the forms of law were simplified,
they felt more comfortable. Justice thus abbreviated satisfied them;
the pace was quickened, and no obstacles were left to fret them. They
limited themselves to an inquiry into the opinions of the accused, not
conceiving it possible that anyone could think differently from
themselves except in pure perversity. Believing themselves the
exclusive possessors of truth, wisdom, the quintessence of good, they
attributed to their opponents nothing but error and evil. They felt
themselves all-powerful; they envisaged God.
They saw God, these jurors of the Revolutionary Tribunal. The
Supreme Being, acknowledged by Maximilien, flooded them with His flames
of light. They loved, they believed.
The chair of the accused had been replaced by a vast platform able
to accommodate fifty persons; the court only dealt with batches now.
The Public Prosecutor would often confound under the same charge or
implicate as accomplices individuals who met each other for the first
time before the Tribunal. The latter, taking advantage of the terrible
facilities accorded by the law of Prairial, sat in judgment on those
supposed prison plots which, coming after the proscriptions of the
Dantonists and the Commune, were made to seem their outcome by the
insinuations of cunning adversaries. In fact, to let the world
appreciate the two essential characteristics of a conspiracy fomented
by foreign gold against the Republic,to wit inopportune moderation on
the one hand and self-interested excess of zeal on the other, they had
united in the same condemnation two very different women, the widow of
Camille Desmoulins, poor lovable Lucille, and the widow of the
Hébertist Momoro, goddess of a day and jolly companion all her life.
Both, to make the analogy complete, had been shut up in the same
prison, where they had mingled their tears on the same bench; both, to
round off the resemblance, had climbed the scaffold. Too ingenious the
symbol,a masterpiece of equilibrium, conceived doubtless by a
lawyer's brain, and the honour of which was given to Maximilien. This
representative of the people was accredited with every eventuality,
happy or unhappy, that came about in the Republic, every change that
was effected in the laws, in manners and morals, the very course of the
seasons, the harvests, the incidence of epidemics. Unjust of course,
but not unmerited the injustice, for indeed the man, the little,
spruce, cat-faced dandy, was all powerful with the people....
That day the Tribunal was clearing off a batch of prisoners involved
in the great plot, thirty or more conspirators from the Luxembourg,
submissive enough in gaol, but Royalists or Federalists of the most
pronounced type. The prosecution relied almost entirely on the evidence
of a single informer. The jurors did not know one word of the
matter,not so much as the conspirators' names. Gamelin, casting his
eye over the prisoners' bench, recognized Fortuné Chassagne among the
accused. Julie's lover, pale-faced and emaciated by long confinement
and his features showing coarser in the glare of light that flooded the
hall, still retained traces of his old grace and proud bearing. His
eyes met Gamelin's and filled with scorn.
Gamelin, possessed by a calm fury, rose, asked leave to speak, and,
fixing his eyes on the bust of Roman Brutus, which looked down on the
Citoyen President, he said, although there may exist
between one of the accused and myself ties which, if they were made
public, would be ties of married kinship, I hereby declare I do not
decline to act. The two Bruti did not decline their duty, when for the
salvation of the state and the cause of freedom, the one had to condemn
a son, the other to strike down an adoptive father.
He resumed his seat.
A fine scoundrel that, muttered Chassagne between his teeth.
The public remained cold, whether because it was tired of high-flown
characters, or thinking that Gamelin had triumphed too easily over his
feelings of family affection.
Citoyen Gamelin, said the President, by the terms of the
law, every refusal must be formulated in writing within the twenty-four
hours preceding the opening of the trial. In any case, you have no
reason to refuse; a patriot jury is superior to human passions.
Each prisoner was questioned for three or four minutes, the
examination resulting in a verdict of death in every instance. The
jurors voted without a word said, by a nod of the head or by
exclamation. When Gamelin's turn came to pronounce his opinion:
All the accused, he declared, are convicted, and the law is
As he was descending the stairway of the Palais de Justice, a young
man dressed in a bottle-green box-coat, and who looked seventeen or
eighteen years of age, stopped him abruptly as he went by. The lad wore
a round hat, tilted on the back of his head, the brim framing his fine
pale face in a dark aureole. Facing the juror, in a terrible voice
vibrating with passion and despair:
Villain, monster, murderer! he screamed. Strike me, coward! I am
a woman! Have me arrested, have me guillotined, Cain! I am your
sister,and Julie spat in his face.
The throng of tricoteuses and sansculottes was
relaxing by this time in its Revolutionary vigilance; its civic zeal
had largely cooled; Gamelin and his assailant found themselves the
centre of nothing worse than uproar and confusion. Julie fought a way
through the press and disappeared in the dark.
Évariste Gamelin was worn out and could not rest; twenty times in
the night he would awake with a start from a sleep haunted by
nightmares. It was only in the blue chamber, in Élodie's arms, that he
could snatch a few hours' slumber. He talked and cried out in his sleep
and used often to awake her; but she could make nothing of what he
One morning, after a night when he had seen the Eumenides, he
started awake, broken with terror and weak as a child. The dawn was
piercing the window curtains with its wan arrows. Évariste's hair,
lying tangled on his brow, covered his eyes with a black veil; Élodie,
by the bedside, was gently parting the wild locks. She was looking at
him now, with a sister's tenderness, while with her handkerchief she
wiped away the icy sweat from the unhappy man's forehead. Then he
remembered that fine scene in the Orestes of Euripides, which he
had essayed to represent in a picture that, if he could have finished
it, would have been his masterpiecethe scene where the unhappy
Electra wipes away the spume that sullies her brother's lips. And he
seemed to hear Élodie also saying in a gentle voice:
Hear me, beloved brother, while the Furies leave you master of your
And he thought:
And yet I am no parricide. Far from it, it is filial piety has made
me shed the tainted blood of the enemies of my fatherland.
There seemed no end to these trials for conspiracy in the prisons.
Forty-nine accused crowded the tiers of seats. Maurice Brotteaux
occupied the right-hand corner of the topmost row,the place of
honour. He was dressed in his plum-coloured surtout, which he had
brushed very carefully the day before and mended at the pocket where
his little Lucretius had ended by fretting a hole. Beside him sat the
woman Rochemaure, painted and powdered and patched, a brilliant and
ghastly figure. They had put the Père Longuemare between her and the
girl Athenaïs, who had recovered her look of youthful freshness at the
On the platform the gendarmes massed a number of other prisoners
unknown to any of our friends, and who, as likely as not, knew nothing
of each other,yet accomplices one and all,lawyers, journalists,
ci-devant nobles, citizens, and citizens' wives. The citoyenne
Rochemaure caught sight of Gamelin on the jurors' bench. He had not
answered her urgent letters and repeated messages; still she had not
abandoned hope and threw him a look of supplication, trying to appear
fascinating and pathetic for him. But the young juror's cold glance
robbed her of any illusion she might have entertained.
The Clerk read the act of accusation, which, succinct as was its
reference to each individual, was a lengthy document because of the
great number accused. It began by exposing in general outline the plot
concocted in the prisons to drown the Republic in the blood of the
Representatives of the nation and the people of Paris; then, coming to
each severally, it went on:
One of the most mischievous authors of this abominable conspiracy
is the man Brotteaux, once known as des Ilettes, receiver of imposts
under the tyrant. This person, who was remarkable, even in the days of
tyranny, for his libertine behaviour, is a sure proof how dissoluteness
and immorality are the greatest enemies of the liberty and happiness of
peoples; as a fact, after misappropriating the public revenues and
wasting in debauchery a noticeable part of the people's patrimony, the
person in question connived with his former concubine, the woman
Rochemaure, to enter into correspondence with the émigrés and
traitorously keep the faction of the foreigner informed of the state of
our finances, the movements of our troops, the fluctuations of public
Brotteaux, who, at this period of his despicable life, was living
in concubinage with a prostitute he had picked up in the mud of the Rue
Fromenteau, the girl Athenaïs, easily suborned her to his purposes and
made use of her to foment the counterrevolution by impudent and
unpatriotic cries and indecent and traitorous speeches.
Sundry remarks of this ill-omened individual will afford you a
clear indication of his abject views and pernicious purpose. Speaking
of the patriotic tribunal now called upon to punish him, he declared
insultingly,'The Revolutionary Tribunal is like a play of William
Shakespeare, who mixes up with the most bloodthirsty scenes the most
trivial buffooneries.' Then he was forever preaching atheism, as the
surest means of degrading the people and driving it into immorality. In
the prison of the Conciergerie, where he was confined, he used to
deplore as among the worst of calamities the victories of our valiant
armies, and tried to throw suspicion on the most patriotic Generals,
crediting them with designs of tyrannicide. 'Only wait,' he would say
in atrocious language which the pen is loath to reproduce, 'only wait
till, some day, one of these warriors, to whom you owe your salvation,
swallows you all up as the stork in the fable gobbled up the frogs.'
The woman Rochemaure, a ci-devant noble, concubine of
Brotteaux, is not less culpable than he. Not only was she in
correspondence with the foreigner and in the pay of Pitt himself, but
in complicity with swindlers, such as Jullien (of Toulouse) and Chabot,
associates of the ci-devant Baron de Batz, she seconded that
reprobate in all sorts of cunning machinations to depreciate the shares
of the Company of the Indies, buy them in at a cheap price, and then
raise the quotation by artifices of an opposite tendency, to the
confusion and ruin of private fortunes and of the public funds.
Incarcerated at La Bourbe and the Madelonnettes, she never ceased in
prison to conspire, to dabble in stocks and shares and to devote
herself to attempts at corruption, to suborn judges and jury.
Louis Longuemare, ex-noble, ex-capuchin, had long been practised in
infamy and crime before committing the acts of treason for which he has
to answer here. Living in a shameful promiscuity with the girl Gorcut,
known as Athenaïs, under Brotteaux's very roof, he is the accomplice of
the said girl and the said ci-devant nobleman. During his
imprisonment at the Conciergerie he has never ceased for one single day
writing pamphlets aimed at the subversion of public liberty and
It is right to say, with regard to Marthe Gorcut, known as
Athenaïs, that prostitutes are the greatest scourge of public morality,
which they insult, and the opprobrium of the society which they
disgrace. But why speak at length of revolting crimes which the accused
The accusation then proceeded to pass in review the fifty-four other
prisoners, none of whom either Brotteaux, or the Père Longuemare, or
the citoyenne Rochemaure, were acquainted with, except for
having seen several of them in the prisons, but who were one and all
included with the first named in this odious plot, with which the
annals of the nation can furnish nothing to compare.
The piece concluded by demanding the penalty of death for all the
Brotteaux was the first to be examined:
You were in the plot?
No, I have been in no plots. Every word is untrue in the act of
accusation I have just heard read.
There, you see; you are plotting still, at this moment, to
discredit the Tribunal,and the President went on to the woman
Rochemaure, who answered with despairing protestations of innocence,
tears and quibblings.
The Père Longuemare referred himself purely and entirely to God's
will. He had not even brought his written defence with him.
All the questions put to him he answered in a spirit of resignation.
Only, when the President spoke of him as a Capuchin, did the old Adam
wake again in him:
I am not a Capuchin, he said, I am a priest and a monk of the
Order of the Barnabites.
It is the same thing, returned the President good-naturedly.
The Père Longuemare looked at him indignantly:
One cannot conceive a more extraordinary error, he cried, than to
confound with a Capuchin a monk of this Order of the Barnabites which
derives its constitutions from the Apostle Paul himself.
The remark was greeted with a burst of laughter and hooting from the
spectators, at which the Père Longuemare, taking this derision to
betoken a denial of his proposition, announced that he would die a
member of this Order of St. Barnabas, the habit of which he wore in his
Do you admit, asked the President, entering into plots with the
girl Gorcut, known as Athenaïs, the same who accorded you her
At the question, the Père Longuemare raised his eyes sorrowfully to
heaven, but made no answer; his silence expressed the surprise of an
unsophisticated mind and the gravity of a man of religion who fears to
utter empty words.
You, the girl Gorcut, the President asked, turning to Athenaïs,
do you admit plotting in conjunction with Brotteaux?
Her answer was softly spoken:
Monsieur Brotteaux, to my knowledge, has done nothing but good. He
is a man of the sort we should have more of; there is no better sort.
Those who say the contrary are mistaken. That is all I have to say.
The President asked her if she admitted having lived in concubinage
with Brotteaux. The expression had to be explained to her, as she did
not understand it. But, directly she gathered what the question meant,
she answered, that would only have depended on him, but he had never
There was a laugh in the public galleries, and the President
threatened the girl Gorcut to refuse her a hearing if she answered in
such a cynical sort again.
At this she broke out, calling him sneak, sour face, cuckold, and
spewing out over him, judges, and jury a torrent of invective, till the
gendarmes dragged her from her bench and hustled her out of the hall.
The President then proceeded to a brief examination of the rest of
the accused, taking them in the order in which they sat on the tiers of
One, a man named Navette, pleaded that he could not have plotted in
prison where he had only spent four days. The President observed that
the point deserved to be considered, and begged the citoyens of
the jury to make a note of it. A certain Bellier said the same, and the
President made the same remark to the jury in his favour. This mildness
on the judge's part was interpreted by some as the result of a
praiseworthy scrupulosity, by others as payment due in recognition of
their talents as informers.
The Deputy of the Public Prosecutor spoke next. All he did was to
amplify the details of the act of accusation and then to put the
Is it proven that Maurice Brotteaux, Louise Rochemaure, Louis
Longuemare, Marthe Gorcut, known as Athenaïs, Eusèbe Rocher, Pierre
Guyton-Fabulet, Marcelline Descourtis, etc., etc., are guilty of
forming a conspiracy, the means whereof are assassination, starvation,
the making of forged assignats and false coin, the depravation of
morals and public spirit; the aim and object, civil war, the abolition
of the National representation, the re-establishment of Royalty?
The jurors withdrew into the chamber of deliberation. They voted
unanimously in the affirmative, only excepting the cases of the
afore-named Navette and Bellier, whom the President, and following his
lead, the Public Prosecutor, had put, as it were, in a separate class
Gamelin stated the motives for his decision thus:
The guilt of the accused is self-evident; the safety of the Nation
demands their chastisement, and they ought themselves to desire their
punishment as the only means of expiating their crimes.
The President pronounced sentence in the absence of those it
concerned. In these great days, contrary to what the law prescribed,
the condemned were not called back again to hear their judgment read,
no doubt for fear of the effects of despair on so large a number of
prisoners. A needless apprehension, so extraordinary and so general was
the submissiveness of the victims in those days! The Clerk of the Court
came down to the cells to read the verdict, which was listened to with
such silence and impassivity as made it a common comparison to liken
the condemned of Prairial to trees marked down for felling.
The citoyenne Rochemaure declared herself pregnant. A
surgeon, who was likewise one of the jury, was directed to see her. She
was carried out fainting to her dungeon.
Ah! sighed the Père Longuemare, these judges and jurors are men
very deserving of pity; their state of mind is truly deplorable. They
mix up everything and confound a Barnabite with a Franciscan.
The execution was to take place the same day at the Barrière du
Trone-Renversé. The condemned, their toilet completed, hair cropped
and shirt cut down at the neck, waited for the headsman, packed like
cattle in the small room separated off from the Gaoler's office by a
When presently the executioner and his men arrived, Brotteaux, who
was quietly reading his Lucretius, put the marker at the page he had
begun, shut the book, stuffed it in the pocket of his coat, and said to
What enrages me, Reverend Father, is that I shall never convince
you. We are going both of us to sleep our last sleep, and I shall not
be able to twitch you by the sleeve and tell you: 'There you see; you
have neither sensation nor consciousness left; you are inanimate. What
comes after life is like what goes before.'
He tried to smile; but an atrocious spasm of pain wrung his heart
and vitals, and he came near fainting.
He resumed, however:
Father, I let you see my weakness. I love life and I do not leave
it without regret.
Sir, replied the monk gently, take heed, you are a braver man
than I, and nevertheless death troubles you more. What does that mean,
if not that I see the light, which you do not see yet?
Might it not also be, said Brotteaux, that I regret life because
I have enjoyed it better than you, who have made it as close a copy of
death as possible?
Sir, said the Père Longuemare, his face paling, this is a solemn
moment. God help me! It is plain we shall die without spiritual aid. It
must be that in other days I have received the sacraments lukewarmly
and with a thankless heart, for Heaven to refuse me them to-day, when I
have such pressing need of them.
The carts were waiting. The condemned were loaded into them
pell-mell, with hands tied. The woman Rochemaure, whose pregnancy had
not been verified by the surgeon, was hoisted into one of the tumbrils.
She recovered a little of her old energy to watch the crowd of
onlookers, hoping against hope to find rescuers amongst them. The
throng was less dense than formerly, and the excitement less extreme.
Only a few women screamed, Death! death! or mocked those who were to
die. The men mostly shrugged their shoulders, looked another way, and
said nothing, whether out of prudence or from respect of the laws.
A shudder went through the crowd when Athenaïs emerged from the
wicket. She looked a mere child.
She bowed her head before the monk:
Monsieur le Curé, she asked him, give me absolution.
The Père Longuemare gravely recited the sacramental words in
muttered tones; then:
My daughter! he added, you have fallen into great disorders of
living; but can I offer the Lord a heart as simple as yours? Would I
She climbed lightly into the cart. And there, throwing out her bosom
and proudly lifting her girlish head, she cried Vive le Roi!
She made a little sign to Brotteaux to show him there was a vacant
place beside her. Brotteaux helped the Barnabite to get in and came and
placed himself between the monk and the simple-hearted girl.
Sir, said the Père Longuemare to the Epicurean philosopher, I ask
you a favour; this God in whom you do not yet believe, pray to Him for
me. It is far from sure you are not nearer to Him than I am myself; a
moment can decide this. A second, and you may be called by the Lord to
be His highly favoured son. Sir, pray for me.
While the wheels were grinding over the pavement of the long
Faubourg Antoine, the monk was busy, with heart and lips, reciting the
prayers of the dying. Brotteaux's mind was fixed on recalling the lines
of the poet of nature: Sic ubi non erimus.... Bound as he was
and shaken in the vile, jolting cart, he preserved his calm and even
showed a certain solicitude to maintain an easy posture. At his side,
Athenaïs, proud to die like the Queen of France, surveyed the crowd
with haughty looks, and the old financier, noting as a connoisseur the
girl's white bosom, was filled with regret for the light of day.
While the carts, escorted by gendarmes, were rumbling along on their
way to the Place du Trône Renversé, carrying to their death Brotteaux
and his accomplices, Évariste sat pensive on a bench in the garden of
the Tuileries. He was waiting for Élodie. The sun, nearing its setting,
shot its fiery darts through the leafy chestnuts. At the gate of the
garden, Fame on her winged horse blew her everlasting trumpet. The
newspaper hawkers were bawling the news of the great victory of
Yes, thought Gamelin, victory is ours. We have paid full price
He could see the beaten Generals, disconsolate shades, trailing in
the blood-stained dust of yonder Place de la Révolution where they
perished. And he smiled proudly, reflecting that, but for the
severities in which he had borne his share, the Austrian horses would
to-day be gnawing the bark of the trees beside him.
Life-giving terror, oh! blessed terror! Last year at this time, our
heroic defenders were beaten and in rags, the soil of the fatherland
was invaded, two-thirds of the departments in revolt. Now our armies,
well equipped, well trained, commanded by able generals, are taking the
offensive, ready to bear liberty through the world. Peace reigns over
all the territory of the Republic.... Life-giving terror, oh! blessed
terror! oh! saintly guillotine! Last year at this time, the Republic
was torn with factions, the hydra of Federalism threatened to devour
her. Now a united Jacobinism spreads over the empire its might and its
Nevertheless, he was gloomy. His brow was deeply lined, his mouth
bitter. His thoughts ran: We used to say: To conquer or to die.
We were wrong; it is to conquer and to die we ought to say.
He looked about him. Children were building sand-castles.
Citoyennes in their wooden chairs under the trees were sewing or
embroidering. The passers-by, in coat and breeches of elegant cut and
strange fashion, their thoughts fixed on their business or their
pleasures, were making for home. And Gamelin felt himself alone amongst
them; he was no compatriot, no contemporary of theirs. What was it had
happened? How came the enthusiasm of the great years to have been
succeeded by indifference, weariness, perhaps disgust? It was plain to
see, these people never wanted to hear the Revolutionary Tribunal
spoken of again and averted their eyes from the guillotine. Grown too
painful a sight in the Place de la Révolution, it had been banished to
the extremity of the Faubourg Antoine. There even, the passage of the
tumbrils was greeted with murmurs. Voices, it was said, had been heard
to shout: Enough!
Enough, when there were still traitors, conspirators! Enough, when
the Committees must be reformed, the Convention purged! Enough, when
scoundrels disgraced the National representation. Enough, when they
were planning the downfall of The Just! For, dreadful thought,
but only too true! Fouquier himself was weaving plots, and it was to
ruin Maximilien that he had sacrificed with solemn ceremony fifty-seven
victims haled to death in the red sheet of parricides. France was
giving way to pityand pity was a crime! Then we should have saved her
in spite of herself, and when she cried for mercy, stopped our ears and
struck! Alas! the fates had decided otherwise; the fatherland was for
cursing its saviours. Well, let it curse, if only it may be saved!
It is not enough to immolate obscure victims, aristocrats,
financiers, publicists, poets, a Lavoisier, a Roucher, an André
Chénier. We must strike these all-puissant malefactors who, with hands
full of gold and dripping with blood, are plotting the ruin of the
Mountainthe Fouchers, Talliens, Rovères, Carriers, Bourdons. We
must deliver the State from all its enemies. If Hébert had triumphed,
the Convention was overthrown, the Republic hastening to the abyss; if
Desmoulins and Danton had triumphed, the Convention had lost its
virtue, ready to surrender the Republic to the aristocrats, the
money-jobbers and the Generals. If men like Tallien and Foucher,
monsters gorged with blood and rapine, triumph, France is overwhelmed
in a welter of crime and infamy ... Robespierre, awake; when criminals,
drunken with fury and affright, plan your death and the death of
freedom! Couthon, Saint-Just, make haste; why tarry ye to denounce the
Why! the old-time state, the Royal monster, assured its empire by
imprisoning every year four hundred thousand persons, by hanging
fifteen thousand, by breaking three thousand on the wheeland the
Republic still hesitates to sacrifice a few hundred heads for its
security and domination! Let us drown in blood and save the
He was buried in these thoughts when Élodie hurried up to him,
pale-faced and distraught:
Évariste, what have you to say to me? Why not come to the Amour
peintre to the blue chamber? Why have you made me come here?
To bid you an eternal farewell.
He had lost his wits, she faltered, she could not understand....
He stopped her with a very slight movement of the hand:
Élodie, I cannot any more accept your love.
She begged him to walk on further; people could see them, overhear
them, where they were.
He moved on a score of yards, and resumed, very quietly:
I have made sacrifices to my country of my life and my honour. I
shall die infamous; I shall have naught to leave you, unhappy girl,
save an execrated memory.... We, love? Can anyone love me still?... Can
She told him he was mad; that she loved him, that she would always
love him. She was ardent, sincere; but she felt as well as he, she felt
better than he, that he was right. But she fought against the evidence
of her senses.
He went on:
I blame myself for nothing. What I have done, I would do again. I
have made myself anathema for my country's sake. I am accursed. I have
put myself outside humanity; I shall never re-enter its pale. No, the
great task is not finished. Oh! clemency, forgiveness!Do the traitors
forgive? Are the conspirators clement? scoundrels, parricides multiply
unceasingly; they spring up from underground, they swarm in from all
our frontiers,young men, who would have done better to perish with
our armies, old men, children, women, with every mark of innocence,
purity, and grace. They are offered up a sacrifice,and more victims
are ready for the knife!... You can see, Élodie, I must needs renounce
love, renounce all joy, all sweetness of life, renounce life itself.
He fell silent. Born to taste tranquil joys, Élodie not for the
first time was appalled to find, under the tragic kisses of a lover
like Évariste, her voluptuous transports blended with images of horror
and bloodshed; she offered no reply. To Évariste the girl's silence was
as a draught of a bitter chalice.
Yes, you can see, Élodie, we are on a precipice; our deeds devour
us. Our days, our hours are years. I shall soon have lived a century.
Look at this brow! Is it a lover's? Love!...
Évariste, you are mine, I will not let you go; I will not give you
back your freedom.
She was speaking in the language of sacrifice. He felt it; she felt
Will you be able, Élodie, one day to bear witness that I lived
faithful to my duty, that my heart was upright and my soul unsullied,
that I knew no passion but the public good; that I was born to feel and
love? Will you say: 'He did his duty'? But no! You will not say it and
I do not ask you to say it. Perish my memory! My glory is in my own
heart; shame beleaguers me about. If you love me, never speak my name;
eternal silence is best.
A child of eight or nine, trundling its hoop, ran just then between
He lifted the boy suddenly in his arms:
Child, you will grow up free, happy, and you will owe it to the
infamous Gamelin. I am ferocious, that you may be happy. I am cruel,
that you may be kind; I am pitiless, that to-morrow all Frenchmen may
embrace with tears of joy.
He pressed the child to his breast.
Little one, when you are a man, you will owe your happiness, your
innocence to me; and, if ever you hear my name uttered, you will
Then he put down the child, which ran away in terror to cling to its
mother's skirts, who had hurried up to the rescue. The young mother,
who was pretty and charming in her aristocratic grace, with her gown of
white lawn, carried off the boy with a haughty look.
Gamelin turned his eyes on Élodie:
I have held the child in my arms; perhaps I shall send the mother
to the guillotine,and he walked away with long strides under the
Élodie stood a moment motionless, her eyes fixed on the ground.
Then, suddenly, she darted after her lover, and frenzied, dishevelled,
like a Mænad, she gripped him as if to tear him in pieces and cried in
a voice choked with blood and tears:
Well, then! me too, my beloved, send me to the guillotine; me too,
lay me under the knife!
And, at the thought of the knife at her neck, all her flesh melted
in an ecstasy of horror and voluptuous transport.
The sun of Thermidor was setting in a blood-red sky, while Évariste
wandered, gloomy and careworn, in the Marbeuf gardens, now a National
park frequented by the Parisian idlers. There were stalls for the sale
of lemonade and ices; wooden horses and shooting-galleries were
provided for the younger patriots. Under a tree, a little Savoyard in
rags, with a black cap on his head, was making a marmot dance to the
shrill notes of his hurdy-gurdy. A man, still young, slim-waisted,
wearing a blue coat and his hair powdered, with a big dog at his heels,
stopped to listen to the rustic music. Évariste recognized Robespierre.
He found him paler, thinner, his face harder and drawn in folds of
suffering. He thought to himself:
What fatigues, how many griefs have left their imprint on his brow!
How grievous a thing it is to work for the happiness of mankind! What
are his thoughts at this moment? Does the sound of this mountain music
perhaps distract him from the cares of government? Is he thinking that
he has made a pact with Death and that the hour of reckoning is coming
close? Is he dreaming of a triumphant return to the Committee of Public
Safety, from which he withdrew, weary of being held in check, with
Couthon and Saint-Just, by a seditious majority? Behind that
impenetrable countenance what hopes are seething or what fears?
But Maximilien smiled at the lad, in a gentle, kind voice asked him
several questions about his native valley, the humble home and parents
the poor child had left behind, tossed him a small piece of silver and
resumed his stroll. After taking a few steps, he turned round again to
call his dog; sniffing at the marmot, it was showing its teeth at the
little creature that bristled up in defiance.
To heel, Brount! he called, to heel!and he plunged among the
Gamelin, out of respect, did not interrupt his lonely walk; but, as
he gazed after the slender form disappearing in the darkness, he
mentally addressed his hero in these impassioned words:
I have seen thy sadness, Maximilien; I have understood thy thought.
Thy melancholy, thy fatigue, even the look of fear that stamps thy
face, everything says: 'Let the reign of terror end and that of
fraternity begin! Frenchmen, be united, be virtuous, be good and kind.
Love ye one another....' Well then, I will second your designs; that
you, in your wisdom and goodness, may be able to put an end to our
civil discord, to our fratricidal hate, turn the headsman into a
gardener who will henceforth cut off only the heads of cabbages and
lettuces. I will pave the way with my colleagues of the Tribunal that
must lead to clemency by exterminating conspirators and traitors. We
will redouble our vigilance and our severity. No culprit shall escape
us. And when the head of the last enemy of the Republic shall have
fallen under the knife, then it will be given thee to be merciful
without committing a crime, then thou canst inaugurate the reign of
innocence and virtue in all the land, oh! father of thy country!
The Incorruptible was already almost out of sight. Two men in round
hats and nankeen breeches, one of whom, a tall, lean man of a wild,
unkempt aspect, had a blur on one eye and resembled Tallien, met him at
the corner of an avenue, looked at him askance and passed on,
pretending not to recognize him. When they had gone far enough to be
out of hearing, they muttered under their breath:
So there he goes, the King, the Pope, the God. For he is God; and
Catherine Théot is his prophetess.
Dictator, traitor, tyrant! the race of Brutus is not extinct.
Tremble, malefactor! the Tarpeian rock is near the Capitol!
The dog Brount ran towards the pair. They said no more and quickened
Robespierre, awake! The hour is come, time presses,... soon it will
be too late....
At last, on the 8 Thermidor, in the Convention, the Incorruptible
rises, he is going to speak. Sun of the 31st May, is this to be a
second day-spring? Gamelin waits and hopes. His mind is made up then!
Robespierre is to drag from the benches they dishonour these
legislators more guilty than the federalists, more dangerous than
Danton.... No! not yet. I cannot, he says, resolve to clear away
entirely the veil that hides this mystery of iniquity.
It is mere summer lightning that flashes harmlessly and without
striking any one of the conspirators, terrifies all. Sixty of them at
least for a fortnight had not dared sleep in their beds. Marat's way
was to denounce traitors by their name, to point the finger of
accusation at conspirators. The Incorruptible hesitates, and from that
moment he is the accused....
That evening at the Jacobins, the hall is filled to suffocation, the
corridors, the courtyard are crowded.
They are all there, loud-voiced friends and silent enemies.
Robespierre reads them the speech the Convention had heard in
affrighted silence, and the Jacobins greet it with excited applause.
It is my dying testament, declares the orator. You will see me
drain the hemlock undismayed.
I will drink it with you, answered David.
All, we all will! shout the Jacobins, and separate without
Évariste, while the death of The Just was preparing, slept
the sleep of the Disciples in the garden of Gethsemane. Next day, he
attended the Tribunal where two sections were sitting. That on which he
served was trying twenty-one persons implicated in the conspiracy of
the Lazare prison. The case was still proceeding when the tidings
The Convention, after a six-hours' session, has decreed Maximilien
Robespierre accused,with him Couthon and Saint-Just; add Augustin
Robespierre, and Lebas, who have demanded to share the lot of the
accused. The five outlaws stand at the bar of the house.
News is brought that the President of the Section sitting in the
next court, the citoyen Dumas, has been arrested on the bench,
but that the case goes on. Drums can be heard beating the alarm, and
the tocsin peals from the churches.
Évariste is still in his place when he is handed an order from the
Commune to proceed to the Hôtel de Ville to sit in the General Council.
To the sound of the rolling drums and clanging church bells, he and his
colleagues record their verdict; then he hurries home to embrace his
mother and snatch up his scarf of office. The Place de Thionville is
deserted. The Section is afraid to declare either for or against the
Convention. Wayfarers creep along under the walls, slip down
side-streets, sneak indoors. The call of the tocsin and alarm-drums is
answered by the noise of barring shutters and bolting doors. The
citoyen Dupont senior has secreted himself in his shop; Remacle the
porter is barricaded in his lodge. Little Joséphine holds Mouton
tremblingly in her arms. The widow Gamelin bemoans the dearness of
victuals, cause of all the trouble. At the foot of the stairs Évariste
encounters Élodie; she is panting for breath and her black locks are
plastered on her hot cheek.
I have been to look for you at the Tribunal; but you had just left.
Where are you going?
To the Hôtel de Ville.
Don't go there! It would be your ruin; Hanriot is arrested ... the
Sections will not stir. The Section des Piques, Robespierre's
Section, will do nothing, I know it for a fact; my father belongs to
it. If you go to the Hôtel de Ville, you are throwing away your life
You wish me to be a coward?
No! the brave thing is to be faithful to the Convention and to obey
The law is dead when malefactors triumph.
Évariste, hear me; hear your Élodie; hear your sister. Come and sit
beside her and let her soothe your angry spirit.
He looked at her; never had she seemed so desirable in his eyes;
never had her voice sounded so seductive, so persuasive in his ears.
A couple of paces, only a couple of paces, dear Évariste!and she
drew him towards the raised platform on which stood the pedestal of the
overthrown statue. It was surrounded by benches occupied by strollers
of both sexes. A dealer in fancy articles was offering his laces, a
seller of cooling drinks, his portable cistern on his back, was
tinkling his bell; little girls were showing off their airs and graces.
The parapet was lined with anglers, standing, rod in hand, very still.
The weather was stormy, the sky overcast. Gamelin leant on the low wall
and looked down on the islet below, pointed like the prow of a ship,
listening to the wind whistling in the tree-tops, and feeling his soul
penetrated with an infinite longing for peace and solitude.
Like a sweet echo of his thoughts, Élodie's voice sighed in his ear:
Do you remember, Évariste, how, at sight of the green fields, you
wanted to be a country justice in a village? Yes, that would be
But above the rustling of the trees and the girl's voice, he could
hear the tocsin and alarm-drums, the distant tramp of horses, and
rumbling of cannon along the streets.
Two steps from them a young man, who was talking to an elegantly
attired citoyenne, remarked:
Have you heard the latest?... The Opera is installed in the Rue de
Meantime the news was spreading; Robespierre's name was spoken, but
in a shuddering whisper, for men feared him still. Women, when they
heard the muttered rumour of his fall, concealed a smile.
Évariste Gamelin seized Élodie's hand, but dropped it again swiftly
Farewell! I have involved you in my hideous fortunes, I have
blasted your life for ever. Farewell! I pray you may forget me!
Whatever you do, she warned him, do not go back home to-night.
Come to the Amour peintre. Do not ring; throw a pebble at my
shutters. I will come and open the door to you myself; I will hide you
in the loft.
You shall see me return triumphant, or you shall never see me more.
On nearing the Hôtel de Ville, he caught the well-remembered roar of
the old great days rising to the grey heavens. In the Place de Grève a
clash of arms, the glitter of scarfs and uniforms, Hanriot's cannon
drawn up. He mounts the grand stairs and, entering the Council Hall,
signs the attendance book. The Council General of the Commune, by the
unanimous voice of the 491 members present, declares for the outlawed
The Mayor sends for the Table of the Rights of Man, reads the clause
which runs, When the Government violates the Rights of the people,
insurrection is for the people the most sacred and the most
indispensable of duties, and the first magistrate of Paris announces
that the Commune's answer to the Convention's act of violence is to
raise the populace in insurrection.
The members of the Council General take oath to die at their posts.
Two municipal officers are deputed to go out on the Place de Grève and
invite the people to join with their magistrates in saving the
fatherland and freedom.
There is an endless looking for friends, exchanging news, giving
advice. Among these Magistrates, artisans are the exception. The
Commune assembled here is such as the Jacobin purge has made
it,judges and jurors of the Revolutionary Tribunal, artists like
Beauvallet and Gamelin, householders living on their means and college
professors, cosy citizens, well-to-do tradesmen, powdered heads, fat
paunches, and gold watch-chains, very few sabots, striped trousers,
carmagnole smocks and red caps.
These bourgeois councillors are numerous and determined, but, when
all is said, they are pretty well all Paris possesses of true
Republicans. They stand on guard in the city mansion-house, as on a
rock of liberty, but an ocean of indifference washes round their
However, good news arrives. All the prisons where the proscribed had
been confined open their doors and disgorge their prey. Augustin
Robespierre, coming from La Force, is the first to enter the Hôtel de
Ville and is welcomed with acclamation.
At eight o'clock it is announced that Maximilien, after a protracted
resistance, is on his way to the Commune. He is eagerly expected; he is
coming; he is here; a roar of triumph shakes the vault of the old
He enters, supported by twenty arms. It is he, the little man there,
slim, spruce, in blue coat and yellow breeches. He takes his seat; he
At his arrival the Council orders the façade of the Hôtel de Ville
to be illuminated there and then. It is there the Republic resides. He
speaks in a thin voice, in picked phrases. He speaks lucidly,
copiously. His hearers who have staked their lives on his head, see the
naked truth, see it to their horror. He is a man of words, a man of
committees, a wind-bag incapable of prompt action, incompetent to lead
They draw him into the Hall of Deliberation. Now they are all there,
these illustrious outlaws,Lebas, Saint-Just, Couthon. Robespierre has
the word. It is midnight and past, he is still speaking. Meantime
Gamelin in the Council Hall, his bent brow pressed against a window,
looks out with a haggard eye and sees the lamps flare and smoke in the
gloom. Hanriot's cannon are parked before the Hôtel de Ville. In the
black Place de Grève surges an anxious crowd, in uncertainty and
suspense. At half past twelve torches are seen turning the corner of
the Rue de la Vannerie, escorting a delegate of the Convention, clad in
the insignia of office, who unfolds a paper and reads by the ruddy
light the decree of the Convention, the outlawry of the members of the
insurgent Commune, of the members of the Council General who are its
abettors and of all such citizens as shall listen to its appeal.
Outlawry, death without trial! The mere thought pales the cheek of
the most determined. Gamelin feels the icy sweat on his brow. He
watches the crowd hurrying with all speed from the Place. Turning his
head, he finds that the Hall, packed but now with Councillors, is
almost empty. But they have fled in vain; their signatures attest their
It is two in the morning. The Incorruptible is in the neighbouring
Hall, in deliberation with the Commune and the proscribed
Gamelin casts a despairing look over the dark Square below. By the
light of the lanterns he can see the wooden candles above the grocer's
shop knocking together like ninepins; the street lamps shiver and
swing; a high wind has sprung up. Next moment a deluge of rain comes
down; the Place empties entirely; such as the fear of the Convention
and its dread decree had not put to flight scatter in terror of a
wetting. Hanriot's guns are abandoned, and when the lightning reveals
the troops of the Convention debouching simultaneously from the Rue
Antoine and from the Quai, the approaches to the Hôtel de Ville are
At last Maximilien has resolved to make appeal from the decree of
the Convention to his own Section,the Section des Piques.
The Council General sends for swords, pistols, muskets. But now the
clash of arms, the trampling of feet and the shiver of broken glass
fill the building. The troops of the Convention sweep by like an
avalanche across the Hall of Deliberation, and pour into the Council
Chamber. A shot rings out; Gamelin sees Robespierre fall; his jaw is
broken. He himself grasps his knife, the six-sous knife that, one day
of bitter scarcity, had cut bread for a starving mother, the same knife
that, one summer evening at a farm at Orangis, Élodie had held in her
lap, when she cried the forfeits. He opens it, tries to plunge it into
his heart, but the blade strikes on a rib, closes on the handle, the
catch giving way, and two fingers are badly cut. Gamelin falls, the
blood pouring from the wounds. He lies quite still, but the cold is
cruel, and he is trampled underfoot in the turmoil of a fearful
struggle. Through the hurly-burly he can distinctly hear the voice of
the young dragoon Henry, shouting:
The tyrant is no more; his myrmidons are broken. The Revolution
will resume its course, majestic and terrible.
At seven in the morning a surgeon sent by the Convention dressed his
hurts. The Convention was full of solicitude for Robespierre's
accomplices; it would fain not have one of them escape the guillotine.
The artist, ex-juror, ex-member of the Council General of the
Commune, was borne on a litter to the Conciergerie.
On the 10th, when Évariste, after a fevered night passed on the
pallet-bed of a dungeon, awoke with a start of indescribable horror,
Paris was smiling in the sunshine in all her beauty and immensity;
new-born hope filled the prisoners' hearts; tradesmen were blithely
opening their shops, citizens felt themselves richer, young men
happier, women more beautiful, for the fall of Robespierre. Only a
handful of Jacobins, a few Constitutional priests and a few old
women trembled to see the Government pass into the hands of the
evil-minded and corrupt. Delegates from the Revolutionary Tribunal, the
Public Prosecutor and two judges, were on their way to the Convention
to congratulate it on having put an end to the plots. By decree of the
Assembly the scaffold was again to be set up in the Place de la
Révolution. They wanted the wealthy, the fashionable, the pretty women
to see, without putting themselves about, the execution of Robespierre,
which was to take place that same day. The Dictator and his accomplices
were outlawed; it only needed their identity to be verified by two
municipal officers for the Tribunal to hand them over immediately to
the executioner. But a difficulty arose; the verifications could not be
made in legal form, the Commune as a body having been put outside the
pale of law. The Assembly authorized identification by ordinary
The triumvirs were haled to death, with their chief accomplices,
amidst shouts of joy and fury, imprecations, laughter and dances.
The next day Évariste, who had recovered some strength and could
almost stand on his legs, was taken from his cell, brought before the
Tribunal, and placed on the platform where so many victims, illustrious
or obscure, had sat in succession. Now it groaned under the weight of
seventy individuals, the majority members of the Commune, some jurors,
like Gamelin, outlawed like him. Again he saw the jury-bench, the seat
where he had been accustomed to loll, the place where he had terrorized
unhappy prisoners, where he had affronted the scornful eyes of Jacques
Maubel and Maurice Brotteaux, the appealing glances of the citoyenne
Rochemaure, who had got him his post as juryman and whom he had
recompensed with a sentence of death. Again he saw, looking down on the
daïs where the judges sat in three mahogany armchairs, covered in red
Utrecht velvet, the busts of Chalier and Marat and that bust of Brutus
which he had one day apostrophized. Nothing was altered, neither the
axes, the fasces, the red caps of Liberty on the wall-paper, nor the
insults shouted by the tricoteuses in the galleries to those
about to die, nor yet the soul of Fouquier-Tinville, hard-headed,
painstaking, zealously turning over his murderous papers, and, in his
character of perfect magistrate, sending his friends of yesterday to
The citoyens Remacle, tailor and door-keeper, and Dupont
senior, joiner, of the Place de Thionville, member of the Committee of
Surveillance of the Section du Pont-Neuf, identified Gamelin
(Évariste), painter, ex-juror of the Revolutionary Tribunal, ex-member
of the Council General of the Commune. For their services they received
an assignat of a hundred sols from the funds of the Section;
but, having been neighbours and friends of the outlaw, they found it
embarrassing to meet his eye. Anyhow, it was a hot day; they were
thirsty and in a hurry to be off and drink a glass of wine.
Gamelin found difficulty in mounting the tumbril; he had lost a
great deal of blood and his wounds pained him cruelly. The driver
whipped up his jade and the procession got under way amid a storm of
Some women recognized Gamelin and yelled:
Go your ways, drinker of blood! murderer at eighteen francs a
day!... He doesn't laugh now; look how pale he is, the coward!
They were the same women who used in other days to insult
conspirators and aristocrats, extremists and moderates, all the victims
sent by Gamelin and his colleagues to the guillotine.
The cart turned into the Quai des Morfondus, made slowly for the
Pont-Neuf and the Rue de la Monnaie; its destination was the Place de
la Révolution and Robespierre's scaffold. The horse was lame; every
other minute the driver's whip whistled about its ears. The crowd of
spectators, a merry, excited crowd, delayed the progress of the escort,
fraternizing with the gendarmes, who pulled in their horses to a walk.
At the corner of the Rue Honoré, the insults were redoubled. Parties of
young men, at table in the fashionable restaurateurs' rooms on the
mezzanine floor, ran to the windows, napkin in hand, and howled:
Cannibals, man-eaters, vampires!
The cart having plunged into a heap of refuse that had not been
removed during the two days of civil disorder, the gilded youth
screamed with delight:
The waggon's mired.... Hurrah! The Jacobins in the jakes!
Gamelin was thinking, and truth seemed to dawn on him.
I die justly, he reflected. It is just we should receive these
outrages cast at the Republic, for we should have safeguarded her
against them. We have been weak; we have been guilty of supineness. We
have betrayed the Republic. We have earned our fate. Robespierre
himself, the immaculate, the saint, has sinned from mildness,
mercifulness; his faults are wiped out by his martyrdom. He was my
exemplar, and I, too, have betrayed the Republic; the Republic
perishes; it is just and fair that I die with her. I have been over
sparing of blood; let my blood flow! Let me perish! I have deserved
Such were his reflections when suddenly he caught sight of the
signboard of the Amour peintre, and a torrent of bitter-sweet
emotions swept tumultuously over his heart.
The shop was shut, the sun-blinds of the three windows on the
mezzanine floor were drawn right down. As the cart passed in front of
the window of the blue chamber, a woman's hand, wearing a silver ring
on the ring-finger, pushed aside the edge of the blind and threw
towards Gamelin a red carnation which his bound hands prevented him
from catching, but which he adored as the token and likeness of those
red and fragrant lips that had refreshed his mouth. His eyes filled
with bursting tears, and his whole being was still entranced with the
glamour of this farewell when he saw the blood-stained knife rise into
view in the Place de la Révolution.
It was Nivôse. Masses of floating ice encumbered the Seine; the
basins in the Tuileries garden, the kennels, the public fountains were
frozen. The North wind swept clouds of hoar frost before it in the
streets. A white steam breathed from the horses' noses, and the city
folk would glance in passing at the thermometer at the opticians'
doors. A shop-boy was wiping the fog from the window-panes of the
Amour peintre, while curious passers-by threw a look at the prints
in vogue,Robespierre squeezing into a cup a heart like a pumpkin to
drink the blood, and ambitious allegorical designs with such titles as
the Tigrocracy of Robespierre; it was all hydras, serpents, horrid
monsters let loose on France by the tyrant. Other pictures represented
the Horrible Conspiracy of Robespierre, Robespierre's Arrest, The Death
That day, after the midday dinner, Philippe Desmahis walked into the
Amour peintre, his portfolio under his arm, and brought the
citoyen Jean Blaise a plate he had just finished, a stippled
engraving of the Suicide of Robespierre. The artist's picaresque burin
had made Robespierre as hideous as possible. The French people were not
yet satiated with all the memorials which enshrined the horror and
opprobrium felt for the man who was made scapegoat of all the crimes of
the Revolution. For all that, the printseller, who knew his public,
informed Desmahis that henceforward he was going to give him military
subjects to engrave.
We shall all be wanting victories and conquests,swords, waving
plumes, triumphant generals. Glory is to be the word. I feel it in me;
my heart beats high to hear the exploits of our valiant armies. And
when I have a feeling, it is seldom all the world doesn't have the same
feeling at the same time. What we want is warriors and women, Mars and
Citoyen Blaise, I have still two or three drawings of
Gamelin's by me, which you gave me to engrave. Is it urgent?
Not a bit.
By-the-bye, about Gamelin; yesterday, strolling in the Boulevard du
Temple, I saw at a dealer's, who keeps a second-hand stall opposite the
House of Beaumarchais, all that poor devil's canvases, amongst the rest
his Orestes and Electra. The head of Orestes, who's like
Gamelin, is really fine, I assure you.... The head and arm are
superb.... The man told me he found no difficulty in getting rid of
these canvases to artists who want to paint over them.... Poor Gamelin!
He might have been a genius of the first order, perhaps, if he hadn't
taken to politics.
He had the soul of a criminal! replied the citoyen Blaise.
I unmasked him, on this very spot, when his sanguinary instincts were
still held in check. He never forgave me.... Oh! he was a choice
Poor fellow! he was sincere enough. It was the fanatics were his
You don't defend him, I presume, Desmahis!... There's no defending
No, citoyen Blaise, there's no defending him.
The citoyen Blaise tapped the gallant Desmahis' shoulder
amicably, and observed:
Times are changed. We can call you Barbaroux now the
Convention is recalling the proscribed.... Now I think of it, Desmahis,
engrave me a portrait of Charlotte Corday, will you?
A woman, a tall, handsome brunette, enveloped in furs, entered the
shop and bestowed on the citoyen Blaise a little discreet nod
that implied intimacy. It was Julie Gamelin; but she no longer bore
that dishonoured name, she preferred to be called the citoyenne
widow Chassagne, and wore, under her mantle, a red tunic in honour of
the red shirts of the terror. Julie had at first felt a certain
repulsion towards Évariste's mistress; anything that had come near her
brother was odious to her. But the citoyenne Blaise, after
Évariste's death, had found an asylum for the unhappy mother in the
attics of the Amour peintre. Julie had also taken refuge there;
then she had got employment again at the fashionable milliner's in the
Rue des Lombards. Her short hair à la victime, her aristocratic
looks, her mourning weeds had won the sympathies of the gilded youth.
Jean Blaise, whom Rose Thévenin had pretty well thrown over, offered
her his homage, which she accepted. Still Julie was fond of wearing
men's clothes, as in the old tragic days; she had a fine Muscadin
costume made for her and often went, huge bâton and all complete, to
sup at some tavern at Sèvres or Meudon with a girl friend, a little
assistant in a fashion shop. Inconsolable for the loss of the young
noble whose name she bore, this masculine-minded Julie found the only
solace to her melancholy in a savage rancour; every time she
encountered Jacobins, she would set the passers-by on them, crying
Death, death! She had small leisure left to give to her mother, who
alone in her room told her beads all day, too deeply shocked at her
boy's tragic death to feel the grief that might have been expected.
Rose was now the constant companion of Élodie who certainly got on
amicably with her step-mothers.
Where is Élodie? asked the citoyenne Chassagne.
Jean Blaise shook his head; he did not know. He never did know; he
made it a point of honour not to.
Julie had come to take her friend with her to see Rose Thévenin at
Monceaux, where the actress lived in a little house with an English
At the Conciergerie Rose Thévenin had made the acquaintance of a big
army-contractor, the citoyen Montfort. She had been released
first, by Jean Blaise's intervention, and had then procured the
citoyen Montfort's pardon, who was no sooner at liberty than he
started his old trade of provisioning the troops, to which he added
speculation in building-lots in the Pépinière quarter. The architects
Ledoux, Olivier and Wailly were erecting pretty houses in that
district, and in three months the land had trebled in value. Montfort,
since their imprisonment together in the Luxembourg, had been Rose
Thévenin's lover; he now gave her a little house in the neighbourhood
of Tivoli and the Rue du Rocher, which was very expensive,and cost
him nothing, the sale of the adjacent properties having already repaid
him several times over. Jean Blaise was a man of the world, so he
deemed it best to put up with what he could not hinder; he gave up
Mademoiselle Thévenin to Montfort without ceasing to be on friendly
terms with her.
Julie had not been long at the Amour peintre before Élodie
came down to her in the shop, looking like a fashion plate. Under her
mantle, despite the rigours of the season, she wore nothing but her
white frock; her face was even paler than of old, and her figure
thinner; her looks were languishing, and her whole person breathed
The two women set off for Rose Thévenin's, who was expecting them.
Desmahis accompanied them; the actress was consulting him about the
decoration of her new house and he was in love with Élodie, who had by
this time half made up her mind to let him sigh no more in vain. When
the party came near Monceaux, where the victims of the Place de la
Révolution lay buried under a layer of lime:
It is all very well in the cold weather, remarked Julie; but in
the spring the exhalations from the ground there will poison half the
Rose Thévenin received her two friends in a drawing-room furnished
à l'antique, the sofas and armchairs of which were designed by
David. Roman bas-reliefs, copied in monochrome, adorned the walls above
statues, busts and candelabra of imitation bronze. She wore a curled
wig of a straw colour. At that date wigs were all the rage; it was
quite common to include half a dozen, a dozen, a dozen and a half in a
bride's trousseau. A gown à la Cyprienne moulded her body like a
sheath. Throwing a cloak over her shoulders, she led her two friends
and the engraver into the garden, which Ledoux was laying out for her,
but which as yet was a chaos of leafless trees and plaster. She showed
them, however, Fingal's grotto, a gothic chapel with a bell, a temple,
There, she said, pointing to a clump of firs, I should like to
raise a cenotaph to the memory of the unfortunate Brotteaux des
Ilettes. I was not indifferent to him; he was a lovable man. The
monsters slaughtered him; I bewailed his fate. Desmahis, you shall
design me an urn on a column.
Then she added almost without a pause:
It is heart-breaking.... I wanted to give a ball this week; but all
the fiddles are engaged three weeks in advance. There is dancing every
night at the citoyenne Tallien's.
After dinner Mademoiselle Thévenin's carriage took the three friends
and Desmahis to the Théâtre Feydeau. All that was most elegant in Paris
was gathered in the housethe women with hair dressed à l'antique
or à la victime, in very low dresses, purple or white and
spangled with gold, the men wearing very tall black collars and the
chin disappearing in enormous white cravats.
The bill announced Phèdre and the Chien du Jardinier,The Gardener's Dog. With one voice the audience demanded the hymn
dear to the muscadins and the gilded youth, the Réveil du
peuple,The Awakening of the People.
The curtain rose and a little man, short and fat, took the stage; it
was the celebrated Lays. He sang in his fine tenor voice:
Peuple français, peuple de frères!...
Such storms of applause broke out as set the lustres of the
chandelier jingling. Then some murmurs made themselves heard, and the
voice of a citizen in a round hat answered from the pit with the hymn
of the Marseillaise:
Allons, enfants de la patrie....
The voice was drowned by howls, and shouts were raised:
Down with the Terrorists! Death to the Jacobins!
Lays was recalled and sang a second time over the hymn of the
Peuple français, peuple de frères!...
In every play-house was to be seen the bust of Marat, surmounting a
column or raised on a pedestal; at the Théâtre Feydeau this bust stood
on a dwarf pillar on the prompt side, against the masonry-framing in
While the orchestra was playing the Overture of Phèdre et
Hippolyte, a young Muscadin, pointing his cane at the bust,
Down with Marat!and the whole house took up the cry: Down with
Marat! Down with Marat!
Urgent voices rose above the uproar:
It is a black shame that bust should still be there!
The infamous Marat lords it everywhere, to our dishonour! His busts
are as many as the heads he wanted to cut off.
Suddenly an elegantly dressed spectator clambers on to the edge of
his box, pushes the bust, oversets it. The plaster head falls in
shivers on the musicians' heads amid the cheers of the audience, who
spring to their feet and strike up the Réveil du Peuple:
Peuple français, peuple de frères!...
Among the most enthusiastic singers Élodie recognized the handsome
dragoon, the little lawyer's clerk, Henry, her first love.
After the performance the gallant Desmahis called a cabriolet and
escorted the citoyenne Blaise back to the Amour peintre.
In the carriage the artist took Élodie's hand between his:
You know, Élodie, I love you?
I know it, because you love all women.
I love them in you.
I should be assuming a heavy task, spite of the wigs black, blonde
and red, that are the rage, if I undertook to be all women, all sorts
of women, for you.
Élodie, I swear....
What! oaths, citoyen Desmahis? Either you have a deal of
simplicity, or you credit me with overmuch.
Desmahis had not a word to say, and she hugged herself over the
triumph of having reduced her witty admirer to silence.
At the corner of the Rue de la Loi they heard singing and shouting
and saw shadows flitting round a brazier of live coals. It was a band
of young bloods who had just come out of the Théâtre Français and were
burning a guy representing the Friend of the People.
In the Rue Honoré the coachman struck his cocked hat against a
burlesque effigy of Marat swinging from the cord of a street lantern.
The fellow, heartened by the incident, turned round to his fares and
told them how, only last night, the tripe-seller in the Rue Montorgueil
had smeared blood over Marat's head, declaring: That's the stuff he
liked, and how some little scamps of ten had thrown the bust into the
sewer, and how the spectators had hit the nail on the head, shouting:
That's the Panthéon for him!
Meanwhile, from every eating-house and restaurateur's voices could
be heard singing:
Peuple français, peuple de frères!...
Good-bye, said Élodie, jumping out of the cabriolet.
But Desmahis begged so hard, he was so tenderly urgent and spoke so
sweetly, that she had not the heart to leave him at the door.
It is late, she said; you must only stay an instant.
In the blue chamber she threw off her mantle and appeared in her
white gown à l'antique, which displayed all the warm fulness of
You are cold, perhaps, she said, I will light the fire; it is
She struck the flint and put a lighted match to the fire.
Philippe took her in his arms with the gentleness that bespeaks
strength, and she felt a strange, delicious thrill. She was already
yielding beneath his kisses when she snatched herself from his arms,
Let me be.
Slowly she uncoiled her hair before the chimney-glass; then she
looked mournfully at the ring she wore on the ring-finger of her left
hand, a little silver ring on which the face of Marat, all worn and
battered, could no longer be made out. She looked at it till the tears
confused her sight, took it off softly and tossed it into the flames.
Then, her face shining with tears and smiles, transfigured with
tenderness and passion, she threw herself into Philippe's arms.
The night was far advanced when the citoyenne Blaise opened
the outer door of the flat for her lover and whispered to him in the
Good-bye, sweetheart! It is the hour my father will be coming home.
If you hear a noise on the stairs, go up quick to the higher floor and
don't come down till all danger is over of your being seen. To have the
street-door opened, give three raps on the concierge's window.
Good-bye, my life, good-bye, my soul!
The last dying embers were glowing on the hearth when Élodie, tired
and happy, dropped her head on the pillow.