It was then noon. Five minutes later, the Chosen of the People, the fallen idol, is hustled out of the Hall into one of the Committee rooms close by, and with his friends - St. Just, Couthon, Lebas, his brother Augustin, and the others - all decreed accused and the order of arrest launched against them. As for the rest, 'tis the work of the Public Prosecutor - and of the guillotine.
At five o'clock the Convention adjourns. The deputies have earned food and rest. They rush to their homes, there to relate what has happened; Tallien to the Conciergerie, to get a sight of Theresia. This is denied him. He is not dictator yet; and Robespierre, though apparently vanquished, still dominates - and lives.
But from every church steeple the tocsin bursts; and a prolonged roll of drums ushers in the momentous evening.
In the city all is hopeless confusion. Men are running in every direction, shouting, brandishing pistols and swords. Henriot, Commandant of the Municipal Guard, rides through the streets at the head of his gendarmes like one possessed, bent on delivering Robespierre. Women and children fly screaming in every direction; the churches, so long deserted, are packed with people who, terror-stricken, are trying to remember long-forgotton prayers.
Proclamations are read at street corners; there are rumours of a general massacre of all the prisoners. At one moment - the usual hour - the familiar tumbril with its load of victims for the guillotine rattles along the cobblestones of the Rue St., Antoine. The populace, vaguely conscious of something stupendous in the air - even though the decree of accusation against Robespierre has not yet transpired - loudly demand the release of the victims. They surround the tumbrils, crying, "Let them be free!"
But Henriot at the head of his gendarmes comes riding down the street, and while the populace shouts, "It shall not be! Let them be free!" he threatens with pistols and sabre, and retorts, bellowing: "It shall be! To the guillotine!" And the tumbrils, which for a moment had halted, lumber on, on their way.
Up in the attic of the lonely house in the Rue de la Planchette, Marguerite Blakeney heard but a mere faint echo of the confusion and of the uproar.
During the previous long, sultry afternoon, it had seemed to her as if her jailers had been unwontedly agitated. There was much more moving to and fro on the landing outside her door than there had been in the last three days. Men talked, mostly in whispers; but at times a word, a phrase here and there, a voice raised above the others, reached her straining ears. She glued her ear tot he keyhole and listened; but what she heard was all confusion, sentences that conveyed but little meaning to her. She distinguished the voice of the Captain of the Guard. He appeared impatient about something, and talked about "missing all the fun." The other soldiers seemed to agree with him. Obviously they were all drinking heavily, for their voices sounded hoarse and thick, and often would break into bibulous song. From time to time, too, she would hear the patter of wooden shoes, together with a wheezy cough, as from a man troubled with asthma.
But it was all very vague, for her nerves by this time were on the rack. She had lost count of time, of place; she knew nothing. She was unable even to think. All her instincts were merged in the dead of that silent evening hour, when Chauvelin's furtive footsteps would once more resound upon the stone floor outside her door, when she would hear the quick word of command that heralded his approach, the grounding of arms, the sharp query and quick answer, and when she would feel again the presence of the relentless enemy who lay in wait to trap her beloved.
At one moment that evening he had raised his voice, obviously so that she might hear.
"To-morrow is the fourth day, citizen Captain," she had heard him say. "I may not be able to come."
"Then," the voice of the Captain had said in reply, "if the Englishman is not here by seven o'clock-"
Chauvelin had given a harsh, dry laugh, and retorted:
"Your orders are as they were, citizen. But I think that the Englishman will come."
What it all meant Marguerite could not fail to conjecture. It meant death to her or to her husband - to both, in fact. And all to-day she had sat by the open window, her hands clasped in silent, constant prayer, her eyes fixed upon the horizon far away, longing with all her might for one last sight of her beloved, fighting against despair, striving for trust in him and for hope.
At this hour, the centre of interest is the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, where Robespierre and his friends sit entrenched and - for the moment -safe. The prisons have refused one by one to close their gates upon the Chosen of the People; governors and jailers alike have quaked in the face of so monstrous a sacrilege. And the same gendarmes who have been told off to escort the fallen tyrant to his penultimate resting-place, have had a touch of the same kind of scruple - or dread - and at his command have conveyed him to the Hôtel de Ville.
In vain does the Convention hastily reassemble. In vain - apparently - does Tallien demand that the traitor Robespierre and his friends be put outside the pale of the law. They are for the moment safe, redacting proclamations, sending out messengers in every direction; whilst Henriot and his gendarmes, having struck terror in the hearts of all peaceable citizens, hold the place outside the Town Hall and proclaim Robespierre dictator of France.
The sun sinks towards the west behind a veil of mist. Ferment and confusion are at their height. All around the city there is an invisible barrier that seems to confine agitation within it's walls. Outside this barrier, no one knows what is happening. Only a vague dread has filtrated through and gripped every heart. The guard at the several gates appear slack and undisciplined. Sentries are accosted by passers-by, eager for news. And, from time to time, from every direction, troops of the Municipal gendarmes ride furiously by, with shouts of "Robespierre! Robespierre! Death to the traitors! Long live Robespierre!"
They raise a cloud of dust around them, trample unheedingly over every obstacle, human or otherwise, that happens to be in their way. They threaten peaceable citizens with their pistols and strike and women and children with the flat of their sabres.
As soon as they have gone by, excited groups close up in their wake.
"Name of a name, what is happening?" every one queries in affright.
And gossip, conjectures, rumours, hold undisputed sway.
"Robespierre is dictator of France!"
"He has ordered the arrest of all the Members of the Convention."
"And the massacre of all the prisoners."
"Pardi, a wise decree! As for me, I am sick of the eternal tumbrils and the guillotine!"
"Better finish with the lot, say I!"
"Robespierre! Robespierre!" comes as a far-off echo, to the accompaniment of thundering hoofs upon the cobble-stones.
And so, from mouth to mouth! The meek and the peace-loving magnify these rumours into approaching cataclysm; the opportunists hold their tongue, ready to fall in with this party or that; the cowards lie in hiding and shout "Robespierre!" with Henriot's horde or "Tallien!" in the neighbourhood of the Tuileries.
Here the Convention has reassembled, and here they are threatened presently by Henriot and his artillery. The members of the great Assembly remain at their post. The President has harangued them.
"Citizen deputies!" he calls aloud. "The moment has come to die at our posts!"
As they sit waiting for Henriot's cannonade, and calmly decree all the rebels "outside the pale of the law."
Tallien, moved by a spirit of lofty courage, goes, followed by a few intimates, to meet Henriot's gunners boldly face to face.
"Citizen soldiers!" he calls aloud, and his voice has the resonance of undaunted courage. "After covering yourselves with glory on the fields of honour, are you going to disgrace your country?" He points a scornful finger at Henriot who, bloated, purple in the face, grunting and spluttering like an old seal, is reeling in his saddle. "Look at him, citizen soldiers!" Tallien commands. "He is drunk and besotted! What man is there who, being sober, would dare to order fire against the representatives of the people?"
The gunners are moved, frightened too by the decree which has placed them "outside the pale of the law." Henriot, fearing mutiny if he persisted in the monstrous order to fire, withdraws his troops back to the Hôtel de Ville.
Some follow him; some do not. And Tallien goes back to the Hall of the Convention covered with glory.
Citizen Barras is promoted Commandant of the National Guard and of al forces at the disposal of the Convention, and ordered to recruit loyal troops that will stand up to the traitor Henriot and his ruffianly gendarmes. The latter are in open revolt against the Government; but, name of a name! Citizen Barras, with a few hundred patriots, will soon put reason - and a few charges of gun-powder - into them!
So, at five o'clock in the afternoon, whilst Henriot has once more collected his gendarmes and the remnants of his artillery outside the Hôtel de Ville, citizen Barras, accompanied by two aides-de-camp, goes forth on his recruiting mission. He makes the round of the city gates, wishing to find out what loyal soldiers amongst the National Guard the Convention can rely upon.
Chauvelin, on his way to the Rue de la Planchette, meets Barras at the Porte St. Antoine; and Barras is full of the news.
"Why were you not at your place at the Assembly, citizen Chauvelin?" he asks of his colleague. "It was the grandest moment I have ever witnessed! Tallien was superb, and Robespierre ignoble! And if we succeed in crushing that bloodthirsty monster once and for all, it will be a new era of civilization and liberty!"
He halts, and continues with a fretful sigh:
"But we want soldiers - loyal soldiers! All the troops that we can get! Henriot has the whole of the Municipal Gendarmerie at his command, with muskets and guns; and Robespierre can always sway that rabble with a word. We want men!... Men!..."
But Chauvelin is in no mood to listen. Robespierre's fall or his triumph, what are they to him at this hour, when the curtain is about to fall on the final act of his own stupendous drama of revenge? Whatever happens, whoever remains in power, vengeance is his! The English spy in any event is sure of the guillotine. He is not the enemy of a party, but of the people of France. And the sovereignty of the people is not in question yet. Then, what matters if the wild beasts in the Convention are at one another's throat?
So Chauvelin listens unmoved to Barras' passionate tirades, and when the latter, puzzle at his colleague's indifference, reiterates frowning:
"I must have all the troops I can get. You have some capable soldiers at your command always, citizen Chauvelin. Where are they now?"
Chauvelin retorts drily:
"At work. On business at least as important as taking side in a quarrel between Robespierre and Tallien."
"Pardi!..." Barras protests hotly.
But Chauvelin pays no further attention to him. A neighbouring church clock has just struck six. Within the hour and his arch enemy will be in his hands! Never for a moment does he doubt that the bold adventurer will come to the lonely house in the Rue de la Planchette. Even hating the Englishman as he does, he knows that the latter would not endanger his wife's safety by securing his own.
So Chauvelin turns on his heel, leaving Barras to fume and to threaten. At the angle of the Porte St. Antoine, he stumbles against and nearly knocks over a man who sits on the ground, with his back to the wall, munching a straw, his knees drawn up to his nose, a crimson cap pulled over his eyes, and his two long arms encircling his shins.
Chauvelin swore impatiently. His nerves were on the rack, and he was in no pleasant mood. The man, taken unawares, had uttered an oath, which died away in a racking fit of coughing. Chauvelin looked town, and saw the one long arm branded with the letter "M," the flesh still swollen and purple with the fire of the searing iron.
"Rateau!" he ejaculated roughly. "What are you doing here?"
Meek and servile, Rateau struggled with some difficulty to his feet.
"I have finished my work at Mother Théot's, citizen," he said humbly. "I was resting."
Chauvelin kicked at him with the toe of his boot.
"Then go and rest elsewhere," he muttered. "The gates of the city are not refuges for vagabonds."
After which act of unnecessary brutality, his temper momentarily soothed, he turned on his heel and walked rapidly through the gate.
Barras had stood by during this brief interlude, vaguely interested in the little scene. But now, when the coalheaver lurched past him, one of his aides-de-camp remarked audibly:
"An unpleasant customer, citizen Chauvelin! Eh, friend?"
"I believe you!" Rateau replied readily enough. Then, with the mulish persistence of a gabby who is smarting under a wrong, he thrust out his branded arm right under citizen Barras' nose. "See what he has done to me!"
"A convict, what? Then, how is it you are at large?"
"I am not a convict," Rateau protested with sullen emphasis. "I am an innocent man, and a free citizen of the Republic. But I got in citizen Chauvelin's way, what? He is always full of schemes-"
"You are right there!" Barras retorted grimly. But the subject was not sufficiently interesting to engross his attention further. He had so many and such momentous things to do. Already he had nodded to his men and turned his back on the grimy coalheaver, who, shaken by a fit of coughing, unable to speak for the moment, had put out his grimy hand and gripped the deputy firmly by the sleeve.
"What is it now?" Barras ejaculated roughly.
"If you will but listen, citizen," Rateau wheezed painfully, "I can tell you-"
"You were asking citizen Chauvelin where you could find some soldiers of the Republic to do you service."
"Yes; I did."
"Well," Rateau rejoined, and an expression of malicious cunning distorted his ugly face. "I can tell you."
"What do you mean?"
"I lodge in an empty warehouse over yonder," Rateau went on eagerly, and pointed in the direction where Chauvelin's spare figure had disappeared a while ago. "The floor above is inhabited by Mother Théot, the witch. you know her, citizen?"
"Yes, yes! I thought she had been sent to the guillotine along with-"
"She was let out of prison, and has been doing some of citizen Chauvelin's spying for him."
Barras frowned. This was none of his business, and the dirty coalheaver inspired him with an unpleasant sense of loathing.
"To the point, citizen!" he said curtly.
"Citizen Chauvelin has a dozen or more soldiers under his command, in that house," Rateau went on with a leer. "They are trained troops of the National Guard-"
"How do you know?" Barras broke in harshly.
"Pardi!" was the coalheaver's dry reply. "I clean their boots for them."
"Where is the house?"
"In the Rue de la Planchette. But there is an entrance into the warehouse at the back of it."
"Allons!" was Barras' curt word of command, to the two men who accompanied him.
He strode up the street toward the gate, not caring whether Rateau came along or no. But the coalheaver followed in the wake of the three men. He had buried his grimy fists once more in the pocket of his tattered breeches; but not before he had shaken them, each in turn, in the direction of the Rue de la Planchette.
Chauvelin in the meanwhile had turned into Mother Théot's house, and without speaking to the old charlatan, who was watching for him in the vestibule, he mounted to the top floor. Here he called peremptorily to Captain Boyer.
"There is half an hour yet," the latter murmured gruffly; "and I am sick of all this waiting! Let me finish with that cursed aristo in there. My comrades and I want to see what is going on in the city, and join in the fun, if there is any."
"Half an hour, citizen," Chauvelin rejoined drily. "You'll lose little of the fun, and you'll certainly lose your share of the ten thousand livres if you shoot the woman and fail to capture the Scarlet Pimpernel."
"Bah! He'll not come now," Boyer riposted. "It is too late. He is looking after his own skin, pardi!"
"He will come, I swear!" Chauvelin said firmly, as if in answer to his own thoughts.
Inside the room, Marguerite has heard every word of this colloquy. Its meaning is clear enough. Clear and horrible! Death awaits her at the hands of those abominable ruffians - here - within half an hour - unless... Her thoughts are becoming confused; she cannot concentrate. Frightened? No, she is not frightened. She has looked death in the face before now. That time in Boulogne. And there are worse things than death.... There is, for instance, the fear that she might never see her husband again... in this life.... There is only half an hour or less than that... and... and he might not come.... She prays that he might not come. But, if he does, then what chance has he? My God, what chance?
And her tortured mind conjures up visions of his courage, his coolness, his amazing audacity and luck.... She thinks and thinks... if he does not come... and if he does....
A distant church clock strikes the half-hour... a short half-hour now...
The evening is sultry. Another storm is threatening, and the sun has tinged the heat-mist with red. The air smells foul, as in the midst of a huge, perspiring crowd. And through the heat, the lull, above the hideous sounds of those ruffians outside her door, there is a rumbling noise as of distant, unceasing thunder. The city is in travail.
Then suddenly Boyer, the Captain of the ruffians, exclaims loudly:
"Let me finish with the aristo, citizen Chauvelin! I want to join in the fun."
And the door of her room is torn open by a savage, violent hand.
The window behind Marguerite is open, and she, facing the door, clings with both hands to the sill. Her cheeks bloodless, her eyes glowing, her head erect, she waits, praying with all her might for courage... only courage.
The ruffianly captain, in his tattered, mud-stained uniform, stands in the doorway - for one moment only. The next, Chauvelin has elbowed him out of the way, and in his turn faces the prisoner - the innocent woman whom he has pursued with such relentless hatred. Marguerite prays with all her might, and does not flinch. Not for one second. Death stands there before her in the guise of this man's vengeful lust, which gleams in his pale eyes. Death is there waiting for her, under the guise of the ignoble soldiers in the scrubby rags, with their muskets held in stained, filthy hands.
Courage - only courage! The power to die as he would wish her to... could he but know!
Chauvelin speaks to her; she does not hear. There is a mighty buzzing in her ears as of men shouting - shouting what, she does not know, for she is still praying for courage. Chauvelin has ceased talking. Then it must be the end. Thank God! she has had the courage not to speak and not to flinch. Now she closes her eyes, for there is a red mist before her and she feels that she might fall into it - straight into that mist.
With closed eyes, Marguerite suddenly seems able to hear. She hears shouts which come from below - quite close, and coming nearer every moment. Shouts, and the tramp, the scurry of many feet; and now and then that wheezing, asthmatic cough, that strange, strange cough, and the click of wooden shoes. Then a voice, harsh and peremptory:
"Citizen soldiers, your country needs you! Rebels have defied her laws. To arms! Every man who hangs back is a deserter and a traitor!"
After this, Chauvelin's sharp, dictatorial voice raised in protest:
"in the name of the Republic, citizen Barras!-"
But the other breaks in more peremptorily still:
"Ah, ça, citizen Chauvelin Do you presume to stand between me and my duty? By order of the Convention now assembled, every soldier must report at once at his section. Are you perchance on the side of the rebels?"
At this point, Marguerite opens her eyes. Through the widely open door she sees the small, sable-clad figure of Chauvelin, his pale face distorted with rage to which he obviously dare not give rein; and beside him a short, stoutish man in cloth coat and cord breeches, and with the tricolour scarf around his waist. His round face appears crimson with choler and in his right hand he grasps a heavy malacca stick, with a grip that proclaims the desire to strike. The two men appear to be defying one another; and all around them are the vague forms of the soldiers silhouetted against a distant window, through which the crimson afternoon glow comes peeping in on a cloud of flickering dust.
"Now then, citizen soldiers!" Barras resumes, and incontinently turns his back on Chauvelin, who, white to the lips, raises a final and menacing word of warning.
"I warn you, citizen Barras," he says firmly, "that by taking these men away from their post, you place yourself in league with the enemy of your country, and will have to answer to her for this crime."
His accent is so convinced, so firm, and fraught with such dire menace, that for one instant Barras hesitates.
"Eh bien!" he exclaims. "I will humour you thus far, citizen Chauvelin. I will leave you a couple of men to wait on your pleasure until sundown. But, after that...."
For a second or two there was silence. Chauvelin stands there, with his thin lips pressed tightly together. Then Barras adds, with a shrug of his wide shoulders:
"I am contravening my duty in doing even so much; and the responsibility must rest with you, citizen Chauvelin. Allons, my men!" he says once more; and without another glance on his discomfited colleague, he strides down the stairs, followed by Captain Boyer and the soldiers.
For a while the house is still filled with confusion and sounds: men tramping down the stone stairs, words of command, click of sabres and muskets, opening and slamming of doors. Then the sounds slowly die away, out in the street in the direction of the Porte St. Antoine. After which, there is silence.
Chauvelin stands in the doorway with his back to the room and to marguerite, his claw-like hands intertwined convulsively behind him. The silhouette of the two remaining soldiers are still visible; they stand silently and at attention with their muskets in their hands. Between them and Chauvelin hovers the tall, ungainly figure of a man, clothed in rags and covered in soot and coal-dust. His feet are thrust into wooden shoes, his grimy hands are stretched out each side of him; and on his left arm, just above the wrist, there is an ugly mark like the brand seared into the flesh of a convict.
Just now he looks terribly distressed with a tearing fit of coughing. Chauvelin curtly bids him stand aside; and at the same moment the church clock of St. Louis, close by, strikes seven.
"Now then, citizen soldiers!" Chauvelin commands.
The soldiers grasp their muskets more firmly, and Chauvelin raises his hand. The next instant he is thrust violently back into the room, loses his balance, and falls backward against a table, whilst the door is slammed to between him and the soldiers. From the other side of the door there comes the sound of a short, sharp scuffle. Then silence.
Marguerite, holding her breath, hardly realized that she lived. A second ago she was facing death; and now....
Chauvelin struggled painfully to his feet. With a mighty effort and a hoarse cry of rage, he threw himself against the door. The impetus carried him further than he intended, no doubt; for at that same moment the door was opened, and he fell up against the massive form of the grimy coalheaver, whose long arms closed round him, lifted him off the floor, and carried him like a bundle of straw to the nearest chair.
"There, my dear Mr. Chambertin!" the coalheaver said, in exceedingly light and pleasant tones. "Let me make you quite comfortable!"
Marguerite watched - dumb and fascinated - the dexterous hands that twined the length of rope round the arms and legs of her helpless enemy, and wound his own tricolour scarf around that snarling mouth.
She scarcely dared trust her eyes and ears.
There was the hideous, dust-covered mudlark with bare feet thrust into sabots, with ragged breeches and tattered shirt; there was the cruel, mud-stained face, the purple lips, the toothless mouth; and those huge, muscular arms, one of them branded like the arm of a convict, the flesh still swollen with the searing of the iron.
"I must indeed crave your ladyship's forgiveness. In very truth, I am a disgusting object!"
Ah, there was the voice! - the dear, dear, merry voice! A little weary perhaps, but oh! so full of laughter and of boyish shame-facedness! To Marguerite it seemed as if God's own angels had opened to her the gates of Paradise. She did not speak; she scarce could move. All that she could do was to put out her arms.
He did not approach her, for in truth he looked a dusty object; but he dragged his ugly cap off his head, then slowly, and keeping his eyes fixed upon her, he put one knee to the ground.
"You did not doubt, m'dear, that I would come?" he asked quaintly.
She shook her head. The last days were like a nightmare now; and in truth she ought never to have been afraid.
"Will you ever forgive me?" he continued.
"Forgive? What?" she murmured.
"These last few days. I could not come before. You were safe for the time being.... That fiend was waiting for me...."
She gave a shudder and closed her eyes.
"Where is he?"
He laughed his gay, irresponsible laugh, and with a slender hand, still covered with coal-dust, he point to the helpless figure of Chauvelin.
"Look at him!" he said. "Doth he not look a picture?"
Marguerite ventured to look. Even at sight of her enemy bound tightly with ropes to a chair, his own tricolour scarf wound loosely round his mouth, she could not altogether suppress a cry of horror.
"What is to become of him?"
He shrugged his broad shoulders.
"I wonder!" he said lightly.
Then he rose to his feet, and went on with quaint bashfulness:
"I wonder," he said, "how I dare stand thus before your ladyship!"
And in a moment she was in his arms, laughing, crying, covered herself now with coal-dust and with grime.
"My beloved!" she exclaimed with a shudder of horror. "What you must have gone through!"
He only laughed like a schoolboy who had come through some impish adventure without much harm.
"Very little, I swear!" he asserted gaily. "But for thoughts of you, I have never enjoyed anything so much as this last phase of a glorious adventure. After our clever friend here ordered the real Rateau to be branded, sot hat he might know him again wherever he say him, I had to bribe the veterinary who had done the deed, to do the same thing for me. It was not difficult. For a thousand livres the man would have branded his own mother on the nose; and I appeared before him as a man of science, eager for an experiment. He asked no questions. And, since then, whenever Chauvelin gazed contentedly on my arm, I could have screamed for joy!"
"For the love of Heaven, my lady!" he added quickly, for he felt her soft, warm lips against his branded flesh; "don't shame me over such a trifle! I shall always love that scar, for the exciting time it recalls and because it happens to be the initial of your dear name."
He stooped down to the ground and kissed the hem of her gown.
After which he had to tell her as quickly and as briefly as he could, all that had happened in the past few days.
"It was only by risking the fair Theresia's life," he said, "that I could save your own. No other spur would have goaded Tallien into open revolt."
He turned and looked down for a moment on his enemy, who lay pinioned and helpless, with hatred and baffled revenge writ plainly on the contorted face and pale, rolling eyes.
And Sir Percy Blakeney sighed, a quaint sigh of regret.
"I only regret one thing, my dear M. Chambertin," he said after a while. "And that is, that you and I will never measure wits again after this. Your damnable revolution is dead... I am glad I was never tempted to kill you. I might have succumbed, and in very truth robbed the guillotine of an interesting prey. Without any doubt, they will guillotine the lot of you, my good M. Chambertin. Robespierre to-morrow; then his friends, his sycophants, his imitators - you amongst the rest.... 'Tis a pity! You have so often amused me. Especially after you had put a brand on Rateau's arm, and thought you would always know him after that. Think it all out, my dear sir! Remember our happy conversation in the warehouse down below, and my denunciation of citoyenne Cabarrus... You gazed upon my branded arm then and were quite satisfied. My denunciation was a false one, of course! 'Tis I who put the letters and the rags in the beautiful Theresia's apartments. But she will bear me no malice, I dare swear; for I shall have redeemed my promise. To-morrow, after Robespierre's head has fallen, Tallien will be the greatest man in France and his Theresia a virtual queen. Think it all out, my dear Monsieur Chambertin! You have plenty of time. Some one is sure to drift up here presently, and will free you and the two soldiers, whom I left out on the landing. But no one will free you from the guillotine when the time comes, unless I myself...."
He did not finish; the rest of the sentence was merged in a merry laugh.
"A pleasant conceit - what?" he said lightly. "I'll think on it, I promise you!"
And the next day Paris went crazy with joy. Never had the streets looked more gay, more crowded. The windows were filled with spectators; the very roofs were crowded with an eager, shouting throng.
The seventeen hours of agony were ended. The tyrant was a fallen, broken man, maimed, dumb, bullied and insulted. Aye! He, how yesterday was the Chosen of the People, the Messenger of the Most High, now sat, or rather lay, in the tumbril, with broken jaw, eyes closed, spirit already wandering on the shores of the Styx; insulted, railed at, cursed - aye, cursed! - by every woman, reviled by every child.
The end came at four in the afternoon, in the midst of acclamations from a populace drunk with gladness - acclamations which found their echo in the whole of France, and have never ceased to re-echo to this day.
But of all that tumult, Marguerite and her husband heard but little. They lay snugly concealed the whole of that day in the quiet lodgings in the Rue de l'Anier, which Sir Percy had occupied during these terribly anxious times. Here they were waited on by that asthmatic reprobate Rateau and his mother, both of whom were now rich for the rest of their days.
When the shades of evening gathered in over the jubilant city, whilst the church bells were ringing and the cannons booming, a market gardener's cart, driven by a worthy farmer and his wife, rattled out of the Porte St. Antoine. It created no excitement, and suspicion was far from everybody's mind. The passports appeared in order; but even if they were not, who cared, on this day of all days, when tyranny was crushed and men dared to be men again?