My Lady Ludlow, by Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter VIII.

“Pierre went on pretending to read, but in reality listening with acute tension of ear to every little sound. His perceptions became so sensitive in this respect that he was incapable of measuring time, every moment had seemed so full of noises, from the beating of his heart up to the roll of the heavy carts in the distance. He wondered whether Virginie would have reached the place of rendezvous, and yet he was unable to compute the passage of minutes. His mother slept soundly: that was well. By this time Virginie must have met the ‘faithful cousin:’ if, indeed, Morin had not made his appearance.

“At length, he felt as if he could no longer sit still, awaiting the issue, but must run out and see what course events had taken. In vain his mother, half-rousing herself, called after him to ask whither he was going: he was already out of hearing before she had ended her sentence, and he ran on until, stopped by the sight of Mademoiselle Cannes walking along at so swift a pace that it was almost a run; while at her side, resolutely keeping by her, Morin was striding abreast. Pierre had just turned the corner of the street, when he came upon them. Virginie would have passed him without recognizing him, she was in such passionate agitation, but for Morin’s gesture, by which he would fain have kept Pierre from interrupting them. Then, when Virginie saw the lad, she caught at his arm, and thanked God, as if in that boy of twelve or fourteen she held a protector. Pierre felt her tremble from head to foot, and was afraid lest she would fall, there where she stood, in the hard rough street.

“‘Begone, Pierre!’ said Morin.

“‘I cannot,’ replied Pierre, who indeed was held firmly by Virginie. ‘Besides, I won’t,’ he added. ‘Who has been frightening mademoiselle in this way?’ asked he, very much inclined to brave his cousin at all hazards.

“‘Mademoiselle is not accustomed to walk in the streets alone,’ said Morin, sulkily. ‘She came upon a crowd attracted by the arrest of an aristocrat, and their cries alarmed her. I offered to take charge of her home. Mademoiselle should not walk in these streets alone. We are not like the cold-blooded people of the Faubourg Saint Germain.’

“Virginie did not speak. Pierre doubted if she heard a word of what they were saying. She leant upon him more and more heavily.

“‘Will mademoiselle condescend to take my arm?’ said Morin, with sulky, and yet humble, uncouthness. I dare say he would have given worlds if he might have had that little hand within his arm; but, though she still kept silence, she shuddered up away from him, as you shrink from touching a toad. He had said something to her during that walk, you may be sure, which had made her loathe him. He marked and understood the gesture. He held himself aloof while Pierre gave her all the assistance he could in their slow progress homewards. But Morin accompanied her all the same. He had played too desperate a game to be baulked now. He had given information against the ci-devant Marquis de Crequy, as a returned emigre, to be met with at such a time, in such a place. Morin had hoped that all sign of the arrest would have been cleared away before Virginie reached the spot — so swiftly were terrible deeds done in those days. But Clement defended himself desperately: Virginie was punctual to a second; and, though the wounded man was borne off to the Abbaye, amid a crowd of the unsympathising jeerers who mingled with the armed officials of the Directory, Morin feared lest Virginie had recognized him; and he would have preferred that she should have thought that the ‘faithful cousin’ was faithless, than that she should have seen him in bloody danger on her account. I suppose he fancied that, if Virginie never saw or heard more of him, her imagination would not dwell on his simple disappearance, as it would do if she knew what he was suffering for her sake.

“At any rate, Pierre saw that his cousin was deeply mortified by the whole tenor of his behaviour during their walk home. When they arrived at Madame Babette’s, Virginie fell fainting on the floor; her strength had but just sufficed for this exertion of reaching the shelter of the house. Her first sign of restoring consciousness consisted in avoidance of Morin. He had been most assiduous in his efforts to bring her round; quite tender in his way, Pierre said; and this marked, instinctive repugnance to him evidently gave him extreme pain. I suppose Frenchmen are more demonstrative than we are; for Pierre declared that he saw his cousin’s eyes fill with tears, as she shrank away from his touch, if he tried to arrange the shawl they had laid under her head like a pillow, or as she shut her eyes when he passed before her. Madame Babette was urgent with her to go and lie down on the bed in the inner room; but it was some time before she was strong enough to rise and do this.

“When Madame Babette returned from arranging the girl comfortably, the three relations sat down in silence; a silence which Pierre thought would never be broken. He wanted his mother to ask his cousin what had happened. But Madame Babette was afraid of her nephew, and thought it more discreet to wait for such crumbs of intelligence as he might think fit to throw to her. But, after she had twice reported Virginie to be asleep, without a word being uttered in reply to her whispers by either of her companions, Morin’s powers of self-containment gave way.

“‘It is hard!’ he said.

“‘What is hard?’ asked Madame Babette, after she had paused for a time, to enable him to add to, or to finish, his sentence, if he pleased.

“‘It is hard for a man to love a woman as I do,’ he went on —‘I did not seek to love her, it came upon me before I was aware — before I had ever thought about it at all, I loved her better than all the world beside. All my life, before I knew her, seems a dull blank. I neither know nor care for what I did before then. And now there are just two lives before me. Either I have her, or I have not. That is all: but that is everything. And what can I do to make her have me? Tell me, aunt,’ and he caught at Madame Babette’s arm, and gave it so sharp a shake, that she half screamed out, Pierre said, and evidently grew alarmed at her nephew’s excitement.

“‘Hush, Victor!’ said she. ‘There are other women in the world, if this one will not have you.’

“‘None other for me,’ he said, sinking back as if hopeless. ‘I am plain and coarse, not one of the scented darlings of the aristocrats. Say that I am ugly, brutish; I did not make myself so, any more than I made myself love her. It is my fate. But am I to submit to the consequences of my fate without a struggle? Not I. As strong as my love is, so strong is my will. It can be no stronger,’ continued he, gloomily. ‘Aunt Babette, you must help me — you must make her love me.’ He was so fierce here, that Pierre said he did not wonder that his mother was frightened.

“‘I, Victor!’ she exclaimed. ‘I make her love you? How can I? Ask me to speak for you to Mademoiselle Didot, or to Mademoiselle Cauchois even, or to such as they, and I’ll do it, and welcome. But to Mademoiselle de Crequy, why you don’t know the difference! Those people — the old nobility I mean — why they don’t know a man from a dog, out of their own rank! And no wonder, for the young gentlemen of quality are treated differently to us from their very birth. If she had you tomorrow, you would be miserable. Let me alone for knowing the aristocracy. I have not been a concierge to a duke and three counts for nothing. I tell you, all your ways are different to her ways.’

“‘I would change my “ways,” as you call them.’

“‘Be reasonable, Victor.’

“‘No, I will not be reasonable, if by that you mean giving her up. I tell you two lives are before me; one with her, one without her. But the latter will be but a short career for both of us. You said, aunt, that the talk went in the conciergerie of her father’s hotel, that she would have nothing to do with this cousin whom I put out of the way today?’

“‘So the servants said. How could I know? All I know is, that he left off coming to our hotel, and that at one time before then he had never been two days absent.’

“‘So much the better for him. He suffers now for having come between me and my object — in trying to snatch her away out of my sight. Take you warning, Pierre! I did not like your meddling to-night.’ And so he went off, leaving Madam Babette rocking herself backwards and forwards, in all the depression of spirits consequent upon the reaction after the brandy, and upon her knowledge of her nephew’s threatened purpose combined.

“In telling you most of this, I have simply repeated Pierre’s account, which I wrote down at the time. But here what he had to say came to a sudden break; for, the next morning, when Madame Babette rose, Virginie was missing, and it was some time before either she, or Pierre, or Morin, could get the slightest clue to the missing girl.

“And now I must take up the story as it was told to the Intendant Flechier by the old gardener Jacques, with whom Clement had been lodging on his first arrival in Paris. The old man could not, I dare say, remember half as much of what had happened as Pierre did; the former had the dulled memory of age, while Pierre had evidently thought over the whole series of events as a story — as a play, if one may call it so — during the solitary hours in his after-life, wherever they were passed, whether in lonely camp watches, or in the foreign prison, where he had to drag out many years. Clement had, as I said, returned to the gardener’s garret after he had been dismissed from the Hotel Duguesclin. There were several reasons for his thus doubling back. One was, that he put nearly the whole breadth of Paris between him and an enemy; though why Morin was an enemy, and to what extent he carried his dislike or hatred, Clement could not tell, of course. The next reason for returning to Jacques was, no doubt, the conviction that, in multiplying his residences, he multiplied the chances against his being suspected and recognized. And then, again, the old man was in his secret, and his ally, although perhaps but a feeble kind of one. It was through Jacques that the plan of communication, by means of a nosegay of pinks, had been devised; and it was Jacques who procured him the last disguise that Clement was to use in Paris — as he hoped and trusted. It was that of a respectable shopkeeper of no particular class; a dress that would have seemed perfectly suitable to the young man who would naturally have worn it; and yet, as Clement put it on, and adjusted it — giving it a sort of finish and elegance which I always noticed about his appearance and which I believed was innate in the wearer — I have no doubt it seemed like the usual apparel of a gentleman. No coarseness of texture, nor clumsiness of cut could disguise the nobleman of thirty descents, it appeared; for immediately on arriving at the place of rendezvous, he was recognized by the men placed there on Morin’s information to seize him. Jacques, following at a little distance, with a bundle under his arm containing articles of feminine disguise for Virginie, saw four men attempt Clement’s arrest — saw him, quick as lightning, draw a sword hitherto concealed in a clumsy stick — saw his agile figure spring to his guard — and saw him defend himself with the rapidity and art of a man skilled in arms. But what good did it do? as Jacques piteously used to ask, Monsieur Flechier told me. A great blow from a heavy club on the sword-arm of Monsieur de Crequy laid it helpless and immovable by his side. Jacques always thought that that blow came from one of the spectators, who by this time had collected round the scene of the affray. The next instant, his master — his little marquis — was down among the feet of the crowd, and though he was up again before he had received much damage — so active and light was my poor Clement — it was not before the old gardener had hobbled forwards, and, with many an old-fashioned oath and curse, proclaimed himself a partisan of the losing side — a follower of a ci-devant aristocrat. It was quite enough. He received one or two good blows, which were, in fact, aimed at his master; and then, almost before he was aware, he found his arms pinioned behind him with a woman’s garter, which one of the viragos in the crowd had made no scruple of pulling off in public, as soon as she heard for what purpose it was wanted. Poor Jacques was stunned and unhappy — his master was out of sight, on before; and the old gardener scarce knew whither they were taking him. His head ached from the blows which had fallen upon it; it was growing dark — June day though it was — and when first he seems to have become exactly aware of what had happened to him, it was when he was turned into one of the larger rooms of the Abbaye, in which all were put who had no other allotted place wherein to sleep. One or two iron lamps hung from the ceiling by chains, giving a dim light for a little circle. Jacques stumbled forwards over a sleeping body lying on the ground. The sleeper wakened up enough to complain; and the apology of the old man in reply caught the ear of his master, who, until this time, could hardly have been aware of the straits and difficulties of his faithful Jacques. And there they sat — against a pillar, the live-long night, holding one another’s hands, and each restraining expressions of pain, for fear of adding to the other’s distress. That night made them intimate friends, in spite of the difference of age and rank. The disappointed hopes, the acute suffering of the present, the apprehensions of the future, made them seek solace in talking of the past. Monsieur de Crequy and the gardener found themselves disputing with interest in which chimney of the stack the starling used to build — the starling whose nest Clement sent to Urian, you remember, and discussing the merits of different espalier-pears which grew, and may grow still, in the old garden of the Hotel de Crequy. Towards morning both fell asleep. The old man wakened first. His frame was deadened to suffering, I suppose, for he felt relieved of his pain; but Clement moaned and cried in feverish slumber. His broken arm was beginning to inflame his blood. He was, besides, much injured by some kicks from the crowd as he fell. As the old man looked sadly on the white, baked lips, and the flushed cheeks, contorted with suffering even in his sleep, Clement gave a sharp cry which disturbed his miserable neighbours, all slumbering around in uneasy attitudes. They bade him with curses be silent; and then turning round, tried again to forget their own misery in sleep. For you see, the bloodthirsty canaille had not been sated with guillotining and hanging all the nobility they could find, but were now informing, right and left, even against each other; and when Clement and Jacques were in the prison, there were few of gentle blood in the place, and fewer still of gentle manners. At the sound of the angry words and threats, Jacques thought it best to awaken his master from his feverish uncomfortable sleep, lest he should provoke more enmity; and, tenderly lifting him up, he tried to adjust his own body, so that it should serve as a rest and a pillow for the younger man. The motion aroused Clement, and he began to talk in a strange, feverish way, of Virginie, too — whose name he would not have breathed in such a place had he been quite himself. But Jacques had as much delicacy of feeling as any lady in the land, although, mind you, he knew neither how to read nor write — and bent his head low down, so that his master might tell him in a whisper what messages he was to take to Mademoiselle de Crequy, in case — Poor Clement, he knew it must come to that! No escape for him now, in Norman disguise or otherwise! Either by gathering fever or guillotine, death was sure of his prey. Well! when that happened, Jacques was to go and find Mademoiselle de Crequy, and tell her that her cousin loved her at the last as he had loved her at the first; but that she should never have heard another word of his attachment from his living lips; that he knew he was not good enough for her, his queen; and that no thought of earning her love by his devotion had prompted his return to France, only that, if possible, he might have the great privilege of serving her whom he loved. And then he went off into rambling talk about petit-maitres, and such kind of expressions, said Jacques to Flechier, the intendant, little knowing what a clue that one word gave to much of the poor lad’s suffering.

“The summer morning came slowly on in that dark prison, and when Jacques could look round — his master was now sleeping on his shoulder, still the uneasy, starting sleep of fever — he saw that there were many women among the prisoners. (I have heard some of those who have escaped from the prisons say, that the look of despair and agony that came into the faces of the prisoners on first wakening, as the sense of their situation grew upon them, was what lasted the longest in the memory of the survivors. This look, they said, passed away from the women’s faces sooner than it did from those of the men.)

“Poor old Jacques kept falling asleep, and plucking himself up again for fear lest, if he did not attend to his master, some harm might come to the swollen, helpless arm. Yet his weariness grew upon him in spite of all his efforts, and at last he felt as if he must give way to the irresistible desire, if only for five minutes. But just then there was a bustle at the door. Jacques opened his eyes wide to look.

“‘The gaoler is early with breakfast,’ said some one, lazily.

“‘It is the darkness of this accursed place that makes us think it early,’ said another.

“All this time a parley was going on at the door. Some one came in; not the gaoler — a woman. The door was shut to and locked behind her. She only advanced a step or two, for it was too sudden a change, out of the light into that dark shadow, for any one to see clearly for the first few minutes. Jacques had his eyes fairly open now, and was wide awake. It was Mademoiselle de Crequy, looking bright, clear, and resolute. The faithful heart of the old man read that look like an open page. Her cousin should not die there on her behalf, without at least the comfort of her sweet presence.

“‘Here he is,’ he whispered as her gown would have touched him in passing, without her perceiving him, in the heavy obscurity of the place.

“‘The good God bless you, my friend!’ she murmured, as she saw the attitude of the old man, propped against a pillar, and holding Clement in his arms, as if the young man had been a helpless baby, while one of the poor gardener’s hands supported the broken limb in the easiest position. Virginie sat down by the old man, and held out her arms. Softly she moved Clement’s head to her own shoulder; softly she transferred the task of holding the arm to herself. Clement lay on the floor, but she supported him, and Jacques was at liberty to arise and stretch and shake his stiff, weary old body. He then sat down at a little distance, and watched the pair until he fell asleep. Clement had muttered ‘Virginie,’ as they half-roused him by their movements out of his stupor; but Jacques thought he was only dreaming; nor did he seem fully awake when once his eyes opened, and he looked full at Virginie’s face bending over him, and growing crimson under his gaze, though she never stirred, for fear of hurting him if she moved. Clement looked in silence, until his heavy eyelids came slowly down, and he fell into his oppressive slumber again. Either he did not recognize her, or she came in too completely as a part of his sleeping visions for him to be disturbed by her appearance there.

“When Jacques awoke it was full daylight — at least as full as it would ever be in that place. His breakfast — the gaol-allowance of bread and vin ordinaire — was by his side. He must have slept soundly. He looked for his master. He and Virginie had recognized each other now — hearts, as well as appearance. They were smiling into each other’s faces, as if that dull, vaulted room in the grim Abbaye were the sunny gardens of Versailles, with music and festivity all abroad. Apparently they had much to say to each other; for whispered questions and answers never ceased.

“Virginie had made a sling for the poor broken arm; nay, she had obtained two splinters of wood in some way, and one of their fellow-prisoners — having, it appeared, some knowledge of surgery — had set it. Jacques felt more desponding by far than they did, for he was suffering from the night he had passed, which told upon his aged frame; while they must have heard some good news, as it seemed to him, so bright and happy did they look. Yet Clement was still in bodily pain and suffering, and Virginie, by her own act and deed, was a prisoner in that dreadful Abbaye, whence the only issue was the guillotine. But they were together: they loved: they understood each other at length.

“When Virginie saw that Jacques was awake, and languidly munching his breakfast, she rose from the wooden stool on which she was sitting, and went to him, holding out both hands, and refusing to allow him to rise, while she thanked him with pretty eagerness for all his kindness to Monsieur. Monsieur himself came towards him, following Virginie, but with tottering steps, as if his head was weak and dizzy, to thank the poor old man, who now on his feet, stood between them, ready to cry while they gave him credit for faithful actions which he felt to have been almost involuntary on his part — for loyalty was like an instinct in the good old days, before your educational cant had come up. And so two days went on. The only event was the morning call for the victims, a certain number of whom were summoned to trial every day. And to be tried was to be condemned. Every one of the prisoners became grave, as the hour for their summons approached. Most of the victims went to their doom with uncomplaining resignation, and for a while after their departure there was comparative silence in the prison. But, by-and-by — so said Jacques — the conversation or amusements began again. Human nature cannot stand the perpetual pressure of such keen anxiety, without an effort to relieve itself by thinking of something else. Jacques said that Monsieur and Mademoiselle were for ever talking together of the past days — it was ‘Do you remember this?’ or, ‘Do you remember that?’ perpetually. He sometimes thought they forgot where they were, and what was before them. But Jacques did not, and every day he trembled more and more as the list was called over.

“The third morning of their incarceration, the gaoler brought in a man whom Jacques did not recognize, and therefore did not at once observe; for he was waiting, as in duty bound, upon his master and his sweet young lady (as he always called her in repeating the story). He thought that the new introduction was some friend of the gaoler, as the two seemed well acquainted, and the latter stayed a few minutes talking with his visitor before leaving him in prison. So Jacques was surprised when, after a short time had elapsed, he looked round, and saw the fierce stare with which the stranger was regarding Monsieur and Mademoiselle de Crequy, as the pair sat at breakfast — the said breakfast being laid as well as Jacques knew how, on a bench fastened into the prison wall — Virginie sitting on her low stool, and Clement half lying on the ground by her side, and submitting gladly to be fed by her pretty white fingers; for it was one of her fancies, Jacques said, to do all she could for him, in consideration of his broken arm. And, indeed, Clement was wasting away daily; for he had received other injuries, internal and more serious than that to his arm, during the melee which had ended in his capture. The stranger made Jacques conscious of his presence by a sigh, which was almost a groan. All three prisoners looked round at the sound. Clement’s face expressed little but scornful indifference; but Virginie’s face froze into stony hate. Jacques said he never saw such a look, and hoped that he never should again. Yet after that first revelation of feeling, her look was steady and fixed in another direction to that in which the stranger stood — still motionless — still watching. He came a step nearer at last.

“‘Mademoiselle,’ he said. Not the quivering of an eyelash showed that she heard him. ‘Mademoiselle!’ he said again, with an intensity of beseeching that made Jacques — not knowing who he was — almost pity him, when he saw his young lady’s obdurate face.

“There was perfect silence for a space of time which Jacques could not measure. Then again the voice, hesitatingly, saying, ‘Monsieur!’ Clement could not hold the same icy countenance as Virginie; he turned his head with an impatient gesture of disgust; but even that emboldened the man.

“‘Monsieur, do ask mademoiselle to listen to me — just two words.’

“‘Mademoiselle de Crequy only listens to whom she chooses.’ Very haughtily my Clement would say that, I am sure.

“‘But, mademoiselle,’— lowering his voice, and coming a step or two nearer. Virginie must have felt his approach, though she did not see it; for she drew herself a little on one side, so as to put as much space as possible between him and her. —‘Mademoiselle, it is not too late. I can save you: but tomorrow your name is down on the list. I can save you, if you will listen.’

“Still no word or sign. Jacques did not understand the affair. Why was she so obdurate to one who might be ready to include Clement in the proposal, as far as Jacques knew?

“The man withdrew a little, but did not offer to leave the prison. He never took his eyes off Virginie; he seemed to be suffering from some acute and terrible pain as he watched her.

“Jacques cleared away the breakfast-things as well as he could. Purposely, as I suspect, he passed near the man.

“‘Hist!’ said the stranger. ‘You are Jacques, the gardener, arrested for assisting an aristocrat. I know the gaoler. You shall escape, if you will. Only take this message from me to mademoiselle. You heard. She will not listen to me: I did not want her to come here. I never knew she was here, and she will die tomorrow. They will put her beautiful round throat under the guillotine. Tell her, good old man, tell her how sweet life is; and how I can save her; and how I will not ask for more than just to see her from time to time. She is so young; and death is annihilation, you know. Why does she hate me so? I want to save her; I have done her no harm. Good old man, tell her how terrible death is; and that she will die tomorrow, unless she listens to me.’

“Jacques saw no harm in repeating this message. Clement listened in silence, watching Virginie with an air of infinite tenderness.

“‘Will you not try him, my cherished one?’ he said. ‘Towards you he may mean well’ (which makes me think that Virginie had never repeated to Clement the conversation which she had overheard that last night at Madame Babette’s); ‘you would be in no worse a situation than you were before!’

“‘No worse, Clement! and I should have known what you were, and have lost you. My Clement!’ said she, reproachfully.

“‘Ask him,’ said she, turning to Jacques, suddenly, ‘if he can save Monsieur de Crequy as well — if he can? — O Clement, we might escape to England; we are but young.’ And she hid her face on his shoulder.

“Jacques returned to the stranger, and asked him Virginie’s question. His eyes were fixed on the cousins; he was very pale, and the twitchings or contortions, which must have been involuntary whenever he was agitated, convulsed his whole body.

“He made a long pause. ‘I will save mademoiselle and monsieur, if she will go straight from prison to the mairie, and be my wife.’

“‘Your wife!’ Jacques could not help exclaiming, ‘That she will never be-never!’

“‘Ask her!’ said Morin, hoarsely.

“But almost before Jacques thought he could have fairly uttered the words, Clement caught their meaning.

“‘Begone!’ said he; ‘not one word more.’ Virginie touched the old man as he was moving away. ‘Tell him he does not know how he makes me welcome death.’ And smiling, as if triumphant, she turned again to Clement.

“The stranger did not speak as Jacques gave him the meaning, not the words, of their replies. He was going away, but stopped. A minute or two afterwards, he beckoned to Jacques. The old gardener seems to have thought it undesirable to throw away even the chance of assistance from such a man as this, for he went forward to speak to him.

“‘Listen! I have influence with the gaoler. He shall let thee pass out with the victims tomorrow. No one will notice it, or miss thee —. They will be led to trial — even at the last moment, I will save her, if she sends me word she relents. Speak to her, as the time draws on. Life is very sweet — tell her how sweet. Speak to him; he will do more with her than thou canst. Let him urge her to live. Even at the last, I will be at the Palais de Justice — at the Greve. I have followers — I have interest. Come among the crowd that follow the victims — I shall see thee. It will be no worse for him, if she escapes’—

“‘Save my master, and I will do all,’ said Jacques.

“‘Only on my one condition,’ said Morin, doggedly; and Jacques was hopeless of that condition ever being fulfilled. But he did not see why his own life might not be saved. By remaining in prison until the next day, he should have rendered every service in his power to his master and the young lady. He, poor fellow, shrank from death; and he agreed with Morin to escape, if he could, by the means Morin had suggested, and to bring him word if Mademoiselle de Crequy relented. (Jacques had no expectation that she would; but I fancy he did not think it necessary to tell Morn of this conviction of his.) This bargaining with so base a man for so slight a thing as life, was the only flaw that I heard of in the old gardener’s behaviour. Of course, the mere reopening of the subject was enough to stir Virginie to displeasure. Clement urged her, it is true; but the light he had gained upon Morin’s motions, made him rather try to set the case before her in as fair a manner as possible than use any persuasive arguments. And, even as it was, what he said on the subject made Virginie shed tears — the first that had fallen from her since she entered the prison. So, they were summoned and went together, at the fatal call of the muster-roll of victims the next morning. He, feeble from his wounds and his injured health; she, calm and serene, only petitioning to be allowed to walk next to him, in order that she might hold him up when he turned faint and giddy from his extreme suffering.

“Together they stood at the bar; together they were condemned. As the words of judgment were pronounced, Virginie tuned to Clement, and embraced him with passionate fondness. Then, making him lean on her, they marched out towards the Place de la Greve.

“Jacques was free now. He had told Morin how fruitless his efforts at persuasion had been; and scarcely caring to note the effect of his information upon the man, he had devoted himself to watching Monsieur and Mademoiselle de Crequy. And now he followed them to the Place de la Greve. He saw them mount the platform; saw them kneel down together till plucked up by the impatient officials; could see that she was urging some request to the executioner; the end of which seemed to be, that Clement advanced first to the guillotine, was executed (and just at this moment there was a stir among the crowd, as of a man pressing forward towards the scaffold). Then she, standing with her face to the guillotine, slowly made the sign of the cross, and knelt down.

“Jacques covered his eyes, blinded with tears. The report of a pistol made him look up. She was gone — another victim in her place — and where there had been a little stir in the crowd not five minutes before, some men were carrying off a dead body. A man had shot himself, they said. Pierre told me who that man was.”

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 22:17