Zanoni, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Chapter 12

Aupres d’un corps aussi avili que la Convention, il restait des chances pour que Robespierre sortit vainqueur de cette lutte.

Lacretelle, volume xii.

(Amongst a body so debased as the Convention, there still remained some chances that Robespierre would come off victor in the struggle.)

As Robespierre left the hall, there was a dead and ominous silence in the crowd without. The herd, in every country, side with success; and the rats run from the falling tower. But Robespierre, who wanted courage, never wanted pride, and the last often supplied the place of the first; thoughtfully, and with an impenetrable brow, he passed through the throng, leaning on St. Just, Payan and his brother following him.

As they got into the open space, Robespierre abruptly broke the silence.

“How many heads were to fall upon the tenth?”

“Eighty,” replied Payan.

“Ah, we must not tarry so long; a day may lose an empire: terrorism must serve us yet!”

He was silent a few moments, and his eyes roved suspiciously through the street.

“St. Just,” he said abruptly, “they have not found this Englishman whose revelations, or whose trial, would have crushed the Amars and the Talliens. No, no! my Jacobins themselves are growing dull and blind. But they have seized a woman — only a woman!”

“A woman’s hand stabbed Marat,” said St. Just. Robespierre stopped short, and breathed hard.

“St. Just,” said he, “when this peril is past, we will found the Reign of Peace. There shall be homes and gardens set apart for the old. David is already designing the porticos. Virtuous men shall be appointed to instruct the young. All vice and disorder shall be NOT exterminated — no, no! only banished! We must not die yet. Posterity cannot judge us till our work is done. We have recalled L’Etre Supreme; we must now remodel this corrupted world. All shall be love and brotherhood; and — ho! Simon! Simon! — hold! Your pencil, St. Just!” And Robespierre wrote hastily. “This to Citizen President Dumas. Go with it quick, Simon. These eighty heads must fall TO-MORROW— TO-MORROW, Simon. Dumas will advance their trial a day. I will write to Fouquier–Tinville, the public accuser. We meet at the Jacobins to-night, Simon; there we will denounce the Convention itself; there we will rally round us the last friends of liberty and France.”

A shout was heard in the distance behind, “Vive la republique!”

The tyrant’s eye shot a vindictive gleam. “The republic! — faugh! We did not destroy the throne of a thousand years for that canaille!”

THE TRIAL, THE EXECUTION, OF THE VICTIMS IS ADVANCED A DAY! By the aid of the mysterious intelligence that had guided and animated him hitherto, Zanoni learned that his arts had been in vain. He knew that Viola was safe, if she could but survive an hour the life of the tyrant. He knew that Robespierre’s hours were numbered; that the 10th of Thermidor, on which he had originally designed the execution of his last victims, would see himself at the scaffold. Zanoni had toiled, had schemed for the fall of the Butcher and his reign. To what end? A single word from the tyrant had baffled the result of all. The execution of Viola is advanced a day. Vain seer, who wouldst make thyself the instrument of the Eternal, the very dangers that now beset the tyrant but expedite the doom of his victims! To-morrow, eighty heads, and hers whose pillow has been thy heart! To-morrow! and Maximilien is safe to-night!

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31