El Dorado HTML version
Two hours after midnight Armand St. Just was wakened from sleep by a
peremptory pull at his hell. In these days in Paris but one meaning could as a
rule be attached to such a summons at this hour of the night, and Armand,
though possessed of an unconditional certificate of safety, sat up in bed, quite
convinced that for some reason which would presently be explained to him he
had once more been placed on the list of the "suspect," and that his trial and
condemnation on a trumped-up charge would follow in due course.
Truth to tell, he felt no fear at the prospect, and only a very little sorrow. The
sorrow was not for himself; he regretted neither life nor happiness. Life had
become hateful to him since happiness had fled with it on the dark wings of
dishonour; sorrow such as he felt was only for Jeanne! She was very young, and
would weep bitter tears. She would be unhappy, because she truly loved him,
and because this would be the first cup of bitterness which life was holding out to
her. But she was very young, and sorrow would not be eternal. It was better so.
He, Armand St. Just, though he loved her with an intensity of passion that had
been magnified and strengthened by his own overwhelming shame, had never
really brought his beloved one single moment of unalloyed happiness.
From the very first day when he sat beside her in the tiny boudoir of the Square
du Roule, and the heavy foot fall of Heron and his bloodhounds broke in on their
first kiss, down to this hour which he believed struck his own death-knell, his love
for her had brought more tears to her dear eyes than smiles to her exquisite
Her he had loved so dearly, that for her sweet sake he had sacrificed honour,
friendship and truth; to free her, as he believed, from the hands of impious brutes
he had done a deed that cried Cain-like for vengeance to the very throne of God.
For her he had sinned, and because of that sin, even before it was committed,
their love had been blighted, and happiness had never been theirs.
Now it was all over. He would pass out of her life, up the steps of the scaffold,
tasting as he mounted them the most entire happiness that he had known since
that awful day when he became a Judas.
The peremptory summons, once more repeated, roused him from his
meditations. He lit a candle, and without troubling to slip any of his clothes on, he
crossed the narrow ante-chamber, and opened the door that gave on the landing.
"In the name of the people!"
He had expected to hear not only those words, but also the grounding of arms
and the brief command to halt. He had expected to see before him the white
facings of the uniform of the Garde de Paris, and to feel himself roughly pushed
back into his lodging preparatory to the search being made of all his effects and
the placing of irons on his wrists.
Instead of this, it was a quiet, dry voice that said without undue harshness:
"In the name of the people!"