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THE

ATELIER DU LYS.

CHAPTER I.

HIDE AND SEEK.

THE weeks which followed the Fête de l' Être Suprême quenched all the hopes which had been raised by Robespierre's apparent inclination to clemency; alarmed by the discontent which it excited among some of his colleagues, he forgot how dangerous are disappointed hopes; arrests came thicker, faster than ever; at one time there was a razzia on all that remained of the high magistrature; at another, all that still lingered of the Faubourg St. Germain was swept away. On one occasion, about ten days after the fête, fifty victims in the red shirt which had hitherto been the costume to mark assassins and parricides, perished together, nnder an accusation known. to be false, and among them perished two whole families, not one member, old or young, escaping. But this spectacle, instead of striking terror into Paris, at last called forth an indignant protest from the public. It is too much! it is atrocious!' was heard on all sides, in defiance of the danger in sym

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pathising with the condemned; and this revulsion of feeling was as strong among the lowest as the higher classes. Michonnet reported that a man known to him, a very giant of strength and stolidity, had laid a wager to look on without emotion, as each of the long file of victims moved on to lay his head under the knife, and that he had never stirred a muscle until the last, a girl scarcely beyond childhood, a poor little ouvrière, arrested in a garret on the sixth floor, had quietly taken her place uncalled, and asked the executioner gently, 'Is that right, monsieur?' and then, as the axe fell, the great strong man had reeled and fallen back in a dead faint, and so was carried home. If people like Michonnet's friend were thus moved, it was certain that others were not only shocked and scandalised, but that a reaction had begun. Robespierre felt it, and drew back, dangerous and sullen, apparently neglecting public affairs, scarcely showing himself at the Jacobins, absent from the Convention, but striking blow after blow from his den. But his power was shaken ; a shade of ridicule had attached itself to his later speeches; the tears, the pathos which he called to his aid had struck the Parisians, not as acting-that would have been suitable, even acceptable-but as bad acting, which was unpardonable. His hearers had smiled, and his enemies had caught at the weapon which he had unawares put into their hands. It would have been useless to tax him with barbarity; such an accusation would have been commonplace, and added to his strength rather than lessened it; but

no man, standing before a Parisian audience, however terrible, however admirable he may be, can make himself absurd with impunity. Robespierre knew it, and had sent Fabre d'Eglantine to the guillotine because he dreaded his pitiless mockery, but there were many Fabre d'Eglantines left in Paris. Moreover, an enemy of a different sort was mining the ground under his feet, whom he had unaccountably forgotten to behead, that Fouché, destined soon to rise to a bad eminence. Strange things leaked out through him, horrifying the devout, infuriating the Democrats, of blasphemous mysteries practised in the house of Robespierre's tool, Cathérine Théos. The belief spread that he was aiming at dictatorship, perhaps monarchy. He answered the murmurs, faint as yet, but gathering strength, by fresh measures to purge the Republic. Somehow or other, he always discovered that it was of those dangerous to himself that the Republic required purging. The atmosphere grew thicker every day with crime and horror, but the public, though cowed, was no longer absolutely dumb and passive. Events occurred so fast and threateningly that the coolest heads grew dizzy. The crimes of the Revolution seemed, as it were, to be represented by this one man, standing aloft, conspicuous above the rest, as he had done when he took the topmost seat on the mountain erected in the Champ de Mars. The idea unavoidably suggested was to cast him down. No one, not even those most in his confidence, knew how far he was aware of his danger, and no one, not even Fouché, plotting inces

santly to bring it about, nor Tallien, whose hand was to deal the blow, nor De Pelven, carefully disentangling the threads which connected them, but drawing away so gently that even the Argus eyes of Robespierre did not detect him, foresaw how near the supreme moment was.

In some respects De Pelven was following the same policy as Robespierre. He remained passive, awaiting the next turn in events, but he had made his value fully apparent to Fouché, of whose talents he had always had a very high opinion, and who looked on De Pelven as the man most likely to be useful to himself in future days. They had not much communication, but they understood one another.

His withdrawal from a wider sphere of action gave De Pelven the more leisure for prosecuting the search which he had never dropped after Edmée. The sight of her exactly when he was unable to utilise it had lashed him into fury, and he had sought her since with a kind of frenzy. Sometimes he visited the deserted Faubourg St. Germain and the Chaussée d'Antin, where grass began to grow in the streets, and between the pavement of the courtyards of empty hotels; sometimes he spent hours in the maze of little streets round the Cité, watching, enquiring, observing the windows, maddened with baffled endeavours, and growing more absorbed in the search each day that it lasted, but never again seeing the dark soft eyes which had dilated with terror at the sight of him or the face which had blanched as he looked on it. Nor, for a long time, did he succeed in what he almost

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