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FALSE FREEDOM.

A TALE OF THE BEIGN OF TERROB.

(From the French by Mrs. Cashel Hoey.)

CHAPTER XV.— {Continued.) The two sectionaries felt, through all their natures, that there was more than an empty threat in these words. They understood that they had to deal with somebody stronger than themselves. With whom ? With what ? How ? No matter. Everything now belonged to the strongest. Reason, good sense, plain rights no longer presented either ideas or arguments, and men bowed before the strongest as before the lawful master. The two men withdrew, with awkward humble bows.

As Lise was reconducting her visitor to the garden gate, she fixed her clear, searching eyes upon the old woman for a moment, and seemed about to speak, but checked herself. She felt that she was blushing, and indeed a rose tint, cold and charming as a ray of the dawn on a May morning, spread itself over her cheeks, pale from the various kinds of suffering which she had undergone within the the last two days. Why did she blush ? Lise had never blushed hitherto, and her child's heart — bold, gentle, innocent, and frank — had never known what hesitation or dissimulation meant. What was the terrible something that she had to say to the old woman 7 Nothing bat this : " Pray, thank him who sent you for me."

At length she said it, blushing still more deeply. She had been thinking frequently of that person, and even more fixedly since she had pledged herself by a formal promise to marry the good and devoted La Bussiere.

The old woman from the Cevennes saluted the girl stiffly, and departed, shrugging her shoulders. She had her suspicions that all this would end badly, and that it was the devil who had thrown her "son " in the way of Lise.

Lise ate her dry bread with a good appetite. Her heart was lighter, a presentiment of coming relief filled her mind. She searched her memory for a list of the important personages who had professed zealous friendship for the virtuous Dubois. She could reckon twenty, at least, and all highly influential. She felt certain that this time she would not return home without her father.

Nevertheless, she did come home, in the course of the afternoon alone, and in despair.

bhe had hardly sat down on her little bench, under the shower of Bunbeams tempered by the leaves of the tree, ere she let herself slip to the ground, and there she lay, weeping silently, and without intermission. Her tears fell in a heavy shower, for the poor child had collected a fresh store of woe at each door she had knocked at, and was now pouring the result of her day's toil out of her worn and weary eyes.

Thiß day had been a harder one than the preceding. Yesterday Bbc had met only with brutes, but then they were gaolers ; she had rtceived only insults, but that was in the prisons. To-day Bhe had visited all whom she had been taught to admire as the moat exquisite emanation of the noble and holy Revolution. They were, indeed, the " fine flower " of the new French society, and among them she had encountered cowardice more loathsome than that of the gaolers, brutality more coarse than that which had assailed her in the prisons.

Of the twenty persons whom she had sought to see, one half, being aware of the arrest of Dubois, had refused to receive her, while most of Lhe others had driven her angrily from their presence after her first few words had revealed that fact. The others had tremblingly entreated her to leave them at once and never again to approach their dwellings. With a great pang at her heart, the daughter of the virtuous Dubois recalled a saying of bis, which she had heard him repeat with majestic complacency many times. It was this :—": — " We must arrive at a state of society in which all those who are even suspected of a lukewarm love of the Republic, shall be treated as lepers." Bhe asked herself — and this was perhaps the most poignant of her sufferings — whether the daughter of the man who had propounded this axiom was not treated justly when she was treated ill.

Her mind retraced in re trospect the via dolorosa which she had trodden that day, and two persons, Durand de Maillaine, and Dorat Cubieres, stood our prominently in her tortured memory.

Durand de Maillaine, a grave, worthy, intelligent man, an eminent lawyer, a " true sage," to use the phrase then employed to designate the ideal type of humanity, was one of the three chiefs of •' the Plain," which represented the majority of the Convention. The Convention itself represented the Nation, that is to say, infallibility and omnipotence. He had received the girl with his customary polite affability and protestations of friendship. Bat no sooner had she uttered the first words of her petition than be rose and said, with sternness that did not successfully conceal the slight trembling of his voice : " Well, what do you ask of me, citizeness ? My own mother, the only being in this world whom I love, is in exile at Vitry-sur- Seine, within two leagues of Paris. She has been interned there since the month of Germinal, and I have not thought it right to visit her ; she is not permitted to go beyond the limits of the commune. 1 know that the municipal officers have stones thrown at her, on the pretext that she bears a resemblance to the Queen, Marie Antoinette. Observe," .he continued, lowering his voice, " that if worse things were to be done to her, still I could not offer any opposition, and yet nothing can be brought againßt my mother except this likeness." He conducted Lise to the door, earnestly entreating her not again to oblige him thus to acknowledge what a mockery his power was.

From the Bureaux of the Convention, where she bad seen the deputy, Lise hurried on to the Place de Greve. At the Hotel de Ville, Dorat Cubieres, the secretaire greffier, or Keeper of the Records, was, next to Flouriot Lescot, tke Mayor and President, and Charlemagne, a school-master and vice-president, the most important

member of the General Council of the Commune of Paris, which governed the capital with dictatorial authority. This ex Chevalier de Cubieres was a poet, and had always treated Lise with great deference and gallantry. He had even dedicated one of his worthless poems to her. When she made her appearance at the entry he sprang towards her, and kissed her band with extravagant fervour. But no sooner did he learn that her father had just been arrested as a " suspect," than he broke out into a violent fury, overwhelmed the girl with the vilest and most insulting epithets, accused her of being paid by hit enemies to expose him to suspicion as a friend of the conspirators, and had her literally turned into the street by one of his clerks.

After this, all her experiences during that dreadful morning were but repetitions of this twofold cowardice, inert and active, base and ferocious. Each of the other ten persons represented a phase of that novel virtue of the French citizen.

While Lise was sadly reviewing these painful scenes, her thoughts were momentarily distracted by the sight of a tall, ragged sa/ns-culottet, who, having unceremoniously entered by the door lead* ing into the street, was crossing the garden. His shoulders were bent, and he slightly dragged one leg.

He glanced keenly around him at the garden, and something in the turn of his head struck Liae ; but he had passed on too far to enable her to distinguish his features. Who was this newcomer? After all, what did it matter to her 7 No doubt he was a comrade of the men in charge who, weary of their task, had invited him to drink and smoke with them, while they cursed the aristocrats in general, and the infamous Dubois Joli in particular, in pleasant companionship. She thought no more of the stranger, but resumed the thread of her gloomy reflections.

She had tried every chance except two : the Comite de Surete Generate, which until lately had been the omnipotent ruler of the police, and which she believed to be so still, and Emilie Crassus, of whose intimate relations with the existing authorities she was well aware. She experienced, however, an unconquerable reluctance to address herself to Emilie, and the feeling was as vague as it was strong. Lise sincerely believed that she hesitated to throw herself into the arms of Emilie, and confidently to entreat her aid, solely out of obedience to the advice of Paul Crassus ; she would have been greatly astonished to learn that the real source of her reluctance was the undisciplined passion of the handsome Creole for Commandant La Raison.

The tall, lame sans-culotte who had just come in, made his way without hesitation towards the place to which he was guided by the patriotic strains that rent the sweet air. He found the two caretakers in the diDing-room, roaring variations on the " Ca ira," in company with Requain. The gallant Commissary had called in to see how things were going on in the house of the pretty citizeness. He had " flown there on the wings of love," as he explained to his companions with an expressive wink, and indeed, as we shall presently see, his intentions were of the most amiable nature. The new-comer was unable to restrain a frown of vexation when he perceived the Commissary. He would evidently have preferred to transact the business that brought him thither without the presence of Requain. But he instantly covered his voluntary grimace with a smile, as if reflecting that he was really foolish to trouble himself about a fool of that sort, and, stretching out his left arm towards the three sectionaries, he let them see a small square card, carried in the palm of his hand On the card was drawn an eye, and in the centre was written the word " surveillance."

" How is this ? " said Requain, uneasily. " That is the sign of the officials of the Comite de Surete Generate. Is anything wrong here, or wanted ? "

" What is wanted, in the first place," said the new-comer, in a hoarse voice, "is absolute silence. It is positively forbidden, as you know very well, to say one word of my presence here to anyone, no matter whom, not even excepting the Revolutionary Committee of the Section — understand that clearly — under pain of being suspected of putting obstacles in the way of the Revolutionary Government. Now give me some of the red liquor that I see in a bottle yonder." Requain made haste to fill a glass with the virtuous Dubois 1 wine, and handed it to the agent of the terrible Comite. The latter, drinking the wine by sips, smacking his lips over it, was forming a plan. He announced (and of this Reqaain was aware, but he believed it to be a secret known only to the Commissaries of the Section that in the afternoon of the following day, quvtitidi, the seals would be removed at Dubois' house, the affair being one of importance, and certain great personages being desirouß of terminating it quickly, very quickly. Then he talked of the men of influence at the Section, and of Rtquain himself, in a way which was very alarming to the Commissary and his two satellites, because it proved to them that the Bonnet Rouge was subjected to very strict supervision, and he the speaker, was one of the men initiated into the denunciations. When he had thus diverted Requain's suspicions, he proceeded to say, gravely : " Good citizens like you have, however, nothing to fear from us. You understand that the observers of public spirit are not chosen without discernment from among the citizens. I simply demand secrecy from you. But secrecy respecting what 7 Respecting this. It seems that the rascal who was arrested here holds the threads of several plots ; but he is obstinate, and the love of his country, which holds out its arms to him, trying to soften his hateful, hard heart, cannot subdue his monstrous wickedness. Is his daughter initiated into these counter-revolutionary designs, or is she not 7 That is the question. You understand that if we begin by imprisoning her, she will hold her tongue. If we begin by slitting her windpipe, she will hold her tongue still more effectually. She must therefore be handled gently, and that it is my mission to do. I must have a pretext that will inspire her with confidence. Come, can you help me 7 Do you know whether she has any friend, outside there ? You understand 7"

(To be Continued.)

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/periodicals/NZT18860917.2.7

Bibliographic details

New Zealand Tablet, New Zealand Tablet, Volume XVIII, Issue 21, 17 September 1886

Word Count
2,138

FALSE FREEDOM. New Zealand Tablet, Volume XVIII, Issue 21, 17 September 1886

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