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El Dorado

2. Widely Divergent Aims
This was Armand S. Just's first visit to Paris since that memorable day when first
he decided to sever his connection from the Republican party, of which he and
his beautiful sister Marguerite had at one time been amongst the most noble,
most enthusiastic followers. Already a year and a half ago the excesses of the
party had horrified him, and that was long before they had degenerated into the
sickening orgies which were culminating to-day in wholesale massacres and
bloody hecatombs of innocent victims.
With the death of Mirabeau the moderate Republicans, whose sole and entirely
pure aim had been to free the people of France from the autocratic tyranny of the
Bourbons, saw the power go from their clean hands to the grimy ones of lustful
demagogues, who knew no law save their own passions of bitter hatred against
all classes that were not as self-seeking, as ferocious as themselves.
It was no longer a question of a fight for political and religious liberty only, but
one of class against class, man against man, and let the weaker look to himself.
The weaker had proved himself to be, firstly, the man of property and substance,
then the law-abiding citizen, lastly the man of action who had obtained for the
people that very same liberty of thought and of belief which soon became so
terribly misused.
Armand St. Just, one of the apostles of liberty, fraternity, and equality, soon
found that the most savage excesses of tyranny were being perpetrated in the
name of those same ideals which he had worshipped.
His sister Marguerite, happily married in England, was the final temptation which
caused him to quit the country the destinies of which he no longer could help to
control. The spark of enthusiasm which he and the followers of Mirabeau had
tried to kindle in the hearts of an oppressed people had turned to raging tongues
of unquenchable flames. The taking of the Bastille had been the prelude to the
massacres of September, and even the horror of these had since paled beside
the holocausts of to-day.
Armand, saved from the swift vengeance of the revolutionaries by the devotion of
the Scarlet Pimpernel, crossed over to England and enrolled himself tinder the
banner of the heroic chief. But he had been unable hitherto to be an active
member of the League. The chief was loath to allow him to run foolhardy risks.
The St. Justs--both Marguerite and Armand--were still very well-known in Paris.
Marguerite was not a woman easily forgotten, and her marriage with an English
"aristo" did not please those republican circles who had looked upon her as their
queen. Armand's secession from his party into the ranks of the emigres had
singled him out for special reprisals, if and whenever he could be got hold of, and
both brother and sister had an unusually bitter enemy in their cousin Antoine St.
Just--once an aspirant to Marguerite's hand, and now a servile adherent and
imitator of Robespierre, whose ferocious cruelty he tried to emulate with a view to
ingratiating himself with the most powerful man of the day.
Nothing would have pleased Antoine St. Just more than the opportunity of
showing his zeal and his patriotism by denouncing his own kith and kin to the
 
 
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