I Will Repay HTML version
Chapter VIII. Anne Mie
That night, when Blakeney, wrapped in his cloak, was walking down the Rue
Ecole de Médecine towards his own lodgings, he suddenly felt a timid hand upon
Anne Mie stood beside him, her pale, melancholy face peeping up at the tall
Englishman, through the folds of a dark hood closely tied under her chin.
"Monsieur," she said timidly, "do not think me very presumptuous. I-- I would wish
to have five minutes' talk with you--may I?"
He looked down with great kindness at the quaint, wizened little figure, and the
strong face softened at the sight of the poor, deformed shoulder, the hard,
pinched look of the young mouth, the general look of pathetic helplessness which
appeals so strongly to the chivalrous.
"Indeed, mademoiselle," he said gently, "you make me very proud; and I can
serve you in any way, I pray you command me. But," he added, seeing Anne
Mie's somewhat scared look, "this street is scarce fit for private conversation.
Shall we try and find a better spot?"
Paris had not yet gone to bed. In these times it was really safest to be out in the
open streets. There, everybody was more busy, more on the move, on the
lookout for suspected houses, leaving the wanderer alone.
Blakeney led Anne Mie towards the Luxembourg Gardens, the great devastated
pleasure-ground of the ci-devant tyrants of the people. The beautiful Anne of
Austria, and the Medici before her, Louis XIII, and his gallant musketeers--all
have given place to the great cannon-forging industry of this besieged Republic.
France, attacked on every side, is forcing her sons to defend her: persecuted,
martyrised, done to death by her, she is still their Mother: La Patrie, who needs
their arms against the foreign foe. England is threatening the north, Prussia and
Austria the east. Admiral Hood's flag is flying on Toulon Arsenal.
The siege of the Republic!
And the Republic is fighting for dear life. The Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens
are transformed into a township of gigantic smithies; and Anne Mie, with scared
eyes, and clinging to Blakeney's arm, cast furtive, terrified glances at the huge
furnaces and the begrimed, darkly scowling faces of the workers within.
"The people of France in arms against tyranny!" Great placards, bearing these
inspiriting words, are affixed to gallows-shaped posts, and flutter in the evening
breeze, rendered scorching by the heat of the furnaces all around.
Farther on, a group of older men, squatting on the ground, are busy making
tents, and some women--the same Megaeras who daily shriek round the
guillotine--are plying their needles and scissors for the purpose of making clothes
for the soldiers.
The soldiers are the entire able-bodied male population of France.
"The people of France in arms against tyranny!"
That is their sign, their trade-mark; one of these placards, fitfully illumined by a
torch of resin, towers above a group of children busy tearing up scraps of old
linen--their mothers', their sisters' linen --in order to make lint for the wounded.