When, presently, the young girl awoke, with a delicious feeling of rest and well-being, she had plenty of leisure to think.
So, then, this was his house! She was actually a guest, a rescued protégée, beneath the roof of Citoyen Déroulède.
He had dragged her from the clutches of the howling mob which she had provoked; his mother had made her welcome; a sweet-faced, young girl scarce out of her teens, sad-eyed and slightly deformed, had waited upon her and made her happy and comfortable.
Juliette de Marny was in the house of the man whom she had sworn before her God and before her father to pursue with hatred and revenge.
Ten years had gone by since then.
Lying upon the sweet-scented bed which the hospitality of the Déroulèdes had provided for her, she seemed to see passing before her the spectres of these past ten years--the first four, after her brother's death, until the old Duc de Marny's body slowly followed his soul to its grave.
After that last glimmer of life beside the deathbed of his son, the old Duc had practically ceased to be. A mute, shrunken figure, he merely existed; his mind vanished, his memory gone, a wreck whom Nature fortunately remembered at last, and finally took away from the invalid chair which had been his world.
Then came those few years at the Convent of the Ursulines. Juliette had hoped that she had a vocation; her whole soul yearned for a secluded, a religious, life, for great barriers of solemn vows and days spent in prayer and contemplation to interpose between herself and the memory of that awful night when, obedient to her father's will, she had made the solemn oath to avenge her brother's death.
She was only eighteen when she first entered the convent, directly after her father's death, when she felt very lonely--both morally and mentally lonely--and followed by the obsession of that oath.
She never spoke of it to anyone except to her confessor, and he, a simple-minded man of great learning and a total lack of knowledge of the world, was completely at a loss how to advise.
The Archbishop was consulted. He could grant a dispensation, and release her of that most solemn vow.
When first this idea was suggested to her, Juliette was exultant. Her entire nature, which in itself was wholesome, light-hearted, the very reverse of morbid, rebelled against this unnatural task placed upon her young shoulders. It was only religion--the strange, warped religion of that extraordinary age--which kept her to it, which forbade her breaking lightly that most unnatural oath.
The Archbishop was a man of many duties, many engagements. He agreed to give this strange "cas de conscience" his most earnest attention. He would make no promises. But Mademoiselle de Marny was rich: a munificent donation to the poor of Paris, or to some cause dear to the Holy Father himself, might perhaps be more acceptable to God than the fulfilment of a compulsory vow.
Juliette, within the convent walls, was waiting patiently for the Archbishop's decision at the very moment when the greatest upheaval the world has ever known was beginning to shake the very foundations of France.
The Archbishop had other things now to think about than isolated cases of conscience. He forgot all about Juliette, probably. He was busy consoling a monarch for the loss of his throne, and preparing himself and his royal patron for the scaffold.
The Convent of the Ursulines was scattered during the Terror. Every one remembers the Thermidor massacres, and the thirty-four nuns, all daughters of ancient families of France, who went so cheerfully to the scaffold.
Juliette was one of those who escaped condemnation. How or why, she herself could not have told. She was still very young, and still a postulent; she was allowed to live in retirement with Pétronelle, her old nurse, who had remained faithful through all these years.
Then the Archbishop was prosecuted and imprisoned. Juliette made frantic efforts to see him, but all in vain. When he died, she looked upon her spiritual guide's death as a direct warning from God that nothing could relieve her of her oath.
She had watched the turmoils of the Revolution through the attic window of her tiny apartment in Paris. Waited upon by faithful Pétronelle, she had been forced to live on the savings of that worthy old soul, as all her property, all the Marny estates, the dot she took with her to the convent--everything, in fact--had been seized by the Revolutionary Government, self appointed to level fortunes, as well as individuals.
From that attic window she had seen beautiful Paris writhing under the pitiless lash of the demon of terror which it had provoked; she had heard the rumble of the tumbrils, dragging day after day their load of victims to the insatiable maker of this Revolution of Fraternity--the Guillotine.
She had seen the gay, light-hearted people of this Star-City turned to howling beasts of prey, its women changed to sexless vultures, with murderous talons implanted in everything than is noble, high or beautiful.
She was not twenty when the feeble vacillating monarch and his imperious escort were dragged back--a pair of humiliated prisoners--to the capital from which they had tried to flee.
Two years later, she had heard the cries of an entire people exulting over a regicide. Then the murder of Marat, by a young girl like herself, the pale-faced, large-eyes Charlotte, who had committed a crime for the sake of a conviction. "Greater than Brutus!" some had called her. Greater than Joan of Arc, for it was to a mission of evil and of sin that she was called from the depths of her Breton village, and not to one of glory and triumph.
"Greater than Brutus!"
Juliette followed the trial of Charlotte Corday with all the passionate ardour of her exalted temperament.
Just think what an effect it must have had upon the mind of this young girl, who for nine years--the best of her life--had also lived with the idea of a sublime mission pervading her very soul.
She watched Charlotte Corday at her trial. Conquering her natural repulsion for such scenes, and the crowds which usually watched them, she had forced her way into the foremost rank of the narrow gallery which overlooked the Hall of the Revolutionary Tribunal.
She heard the indictment, heard Tinville's speech and the calling of the witnesses.
"All this is unnecessary. I killed Marat!" Juliette heard the fresh young voice ringing out clearly above the murmur of voices, the howls of execration; she saw the beautiful young face, clear, calm, impassive.
"I killed Marat!"
And there in the special place allotted to the Citizen-Deputies, sitting among those who represented the party of the Moderate Gironde, was Paul Déroulède, the man whom she had sworn to pursue with a vengeance as great, as complete, as that which guided Charlotte Corday's hand.
She watched him during the trial, and wondered if he had any presentiment of the hatred which dogged him, like unto the one which had dogged Marat.
He was very dark, almost swarthy, a son of the South, with brown hair, free from powder, thrown back and revealing the brow of a student rather than that of a legislator. He watched Charlotte Corday earnestly, and Juliette who watched him saw the look of measureless pity which softened the otherwise hard look of his close-set eyes.
He made an impassioned speech for the defence: a speech which has become historic. It would have cost any other man his head.
Juliette marvelled at his courage; to defend Charlotte Corday was equivalent to acquiescing in the death of Marat: Marat, the friend of the people; Marat, whom his funeral orators had compared to the Great, the Sacred Leveller of Mankind!
But Déroulède's speech was not a defence, it was an appeal. The most eloquent man of that eloquent age, his words seemed to find that hidden bit of sentiment which still lurked in the hearts of these strange protagonists of Hate.
Every one round Juliette listened as he spoke: "It is Citoyen Déroulède!" whispered the blood-thirsty Amazons, who sat knitting in the gallery.
But there was no further comment. A huge, magnificently-equipped hospital for sick children had been thrown open in Paris that very morning, a gift to the nation from Citoyen Déroulède. Surely he was privileged to talk a little if it pleased him. His hospital would cover quite a good many defalcations.
Even the rabid Mountain, Danton, Merlin, Santerre, shrugged their shoulders. "It is Déroulède, let him talk an he list. Murdered Marat said of him that he was not dangerous."
Juliette heard it all. The knitters round her were talking loudly. Even Charlotte was almost forgotten whilst Déroulède talked. He had a fine voice, of strong calibre, which echoed powerfully through the hall.
He was rather short, but broad-shouldered and well knit, with an expressive hand, which looked slender and delicate below the fine lace ruffle.
Charlotte Corday was condemned. All Déroulède's eloquence could not save her.
Juliette left the court in a state of mad exultation. She was very young: the scenes she had witnessed in the past two years could not help but excite the imagination of a young girl, left entirely to her own intellectual and moral resources.
What scenes! Great God!
And now to wait for an opportunity! Charlotte Corday, the half-educated little provincial should not put to shame Mademoiselle de Marny, the daughter of a hundred dukes, of those who had made France before she took to unmaking herself.
But she could not formulate any definite plans. Pétronelle, poor old soul, her only confidante, was not of the stuff that heroines are made of. Juliette felt impelled by duty, and duty at best is not so prompt a counsellor as love or hate.
Her adventure outside Déroulède's house had not been premeditated. Impulse and coincidence had worked their will with her.
She had been in the habit, daily, for the past month, of wandering down the Rue Ecole de Médecine, ostensibly to gaze at Marat's dwelling, as crowds of idlers were wont to do, but really in order to look at Déroulède's house. Once or twice she saw him coming or going from home. Once she caught sight of the inner hall, and of a young girl in a dark kirtle and snow-white kerchief bidding him good-bye at his door. Another time she caught sight of him at the corner of the street, helping that same young girl over the muddy pavement. He had just met her, and she was carrying a basket of provisions: he took it from her and carried it to the house.
Chivalrous--eh?--and innately so, evidently, for the girl was slightly deformed: hardly a hunchback, but weak and unattractive-looking, with melancholy eyes, and a pale, pinched face.
It was the thought of that little act of simple chivalry, witnessed the day before, which caused Juliette to provoke the scene which, but for Déroulède's timely interference, might have ended so fatally. But she reckoned on that interference: the whole thing had occurred to her suddenly, and she had carried it through.
Had not her father said to her that when the time came, God would show her a means to the end?
And now she was inside the house of the man who had murdered her brother and sent her sorrowing father, a poor, senseless maniac, tottering to the grave.
Would God's finger point again, and show her what to do next, how best to accomplish what she had sworn to do?