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I Will Repay

Chapter XVIII. In the Luxembourg prison
Juliette was alone at last--that is to say, comparatively alone, for there were too
many aristocrats, too many criminels and traitors, in the prisons of Paris now, to
allow of any seclusion of those who were about to be tried, condemned, and
guillotined.
The young girl had been marched through the crowded streets of Paris, followed
by a jeering mob, who readily recognised in the gentle, high-bred girl the obvious
prey, which the Committee of Public Safety was wont, from time to time to throw
to the hungry hydra-headed dog of the Revolution.
Lately the squalid spectators of the noisome spectacle on the Place de la
Guillotine had had few of these very welcome sights: an aristocrat --a real,
elegant, refined woman, with white hands and proud, pale face--mounting the
steps of the same scaffold on which perished the vilest criminals and most
degraded brutes.
Madame Guillotine was, above all, catholic in her tastes, her gaunt arms, painted
blood red, were open alike to the murderer and the thief, the aristocrats of
ancient lineage, and the proletariat from the gutter.
But lately the executions had been almost exclusively of a political character. The
Girondins were fighting their last upon the bloody arena of the Revolution. One
by one they fell still fighting, still preaching moderation, still foretelling disaster
and appealing to that people, whom they had roused from one slavery, in order
to throw it headlong under a tyrannical yoke more brutish, more absolute than
before.
There were twelve prisons in Paris then, and forty thousand in France, and they
were all full. An entire army went round the country recruiting prisoners. There
was no room for separate cells, no room for privacy, no cause or desire for the
most elementary sense of delicacy.
Women, men, children--all were herded together, for one day, perhaps two, and
a night or so, and then death would obliterate the petty annoyances, the womanly
blushes caused by this sordid propinquity.
Death levelled all, erased everything.
When Marie Antoinette mounted the guillotine she had forgotten that for six
weeks she practically lived day and night in the immediate companionship of a
set of degraded soldiery.
Juliette, as she marched through the streets between two men of the National
Guard, and followed by Merlin, was hooted and jeered at, insulted, pelted with
mud. One woman tried to push past the soldiers, and to strike her in the face--a
woman! not thirty!--and who was dragging a pale, squalid little boy by the hand.
"Crache donc sur l'aristo, voyons!" the woman said to this poor, miserable litte
scrap of humanity as the soldiers pushed her roughly aside. "Spit on the
aristocrat!" And the child tortured its own small, parched mouth so that, in
obedience to its mother, it might defile and bespatter a beautiful, innocent girl.
The soldiers laughed, and improved the occasion with another insulting jest.
Even Merlin forgot his vexation, delighted at the incident.
 
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