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Title: The Folding Doors
Author: Marjorie Bowen
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605051.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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Title: The Folding Doors
Author: Marjorie Bowen





A young man was coming slowly down the wide staircase of a palace in the
Rue de Vaugirard. It was, by the new reckoning, the 13th of Brumaire;
evening, and cold, moonlit, and clear; these things being the same by
any reckoning, as the young man thought, pausing by the tall window on
the landing-place that looked out on to the blue-shadowed, silent
street.

There was a ball overhead in the great state rooms, and he could hear
the music, violins, flutes and harpsichord, distinctly, though he had
closed the door behind him. He was one of the guests, and had the
watchful, furtive air of one who has stolen away unperceived, and fears
that he may be discovered. He seemed now to have stopped with an idea of
ascertaining if anyone was abroad, for he leant over the smooth gilt
banisters and listened. The great staircase was empty, and empty the
vast hall below.

Opposite the landing window was a long mirror, with three branched
candles before it. The young man turned to this quickly and noiselessly,
and pulled from the pocket of his coat a strip of gilt-edged paper,
folded tightly. He unrolled this and read the message it contained,
written in a light pencil.

"At half-past ten knock four times on the folding doors. _Do not be
late; every moment is one of terror. I am afraid of HIM_."

The last two sentences were underlined, the last word twice.

The young man looked up and down the stairs, twisted the paper up, and
was about to thrust it into the flame of one of the candles, when he
caught sight of himself in the tall mirror, and stood staring at the
image with the paper held out in his hand.

He saw a figure that to his thinking was that of a mountebank, for it
had once been that of the Due de Jaurs--Citizen Jaurs now--courtier of
his one-time Christian Majesty Louis XVI., beheaded recently as Louis
Capet in the great square now called by the people the Place de la
Revolution.

The People had altered everything, even the person of M. de Jaurs, who
wore the classic mode beloved of liberty--the fashion of this year one
of freedom, hair _ la_ Titus and a black stock swathing the chin. His
face was without colour, the black, hollow eyes and black hair
accentuating this pallor; his countenance, though sombre in expression,
was beautiful by reason of the exquisite lines of the mouth and
nostrils, and something elevated and noble in the turn of the head. As
he stared at himself a slow flush of terrible shame overspread his
paleness; with something like a suppressed shudder, he gave the paper to
the flame, and scattered the ashes down the stairs.

Then he pulled out the watch hanging from the black watered-silk fob.

It wanted ten minutes to half-past ten. The dance music ceased overhead;
in its place came laughter, loud talking, and presently a woman singing
in a rapt and excited fashion.

Monsieur de Jaurs paced to and fro on the landing. He loathed these
people he mixed with, so like him in dress and appearance, but
_bourgeois_ and _canaille_ all of them; some butchers of the Terror,
some smug deputies, some one-time servants, some soldiers, some dancers
from the opera, some provincials and their wives--all, by the grace of
the People, free and equal.

The Citizen de Jaurs, aristocrat by virtue of birth, tradition, temper,
and qualities, bit his under-lip fiercely to hear these people rioting
in this house. The late owner, his once dear friend, had been massacred
in the prison of La Force a month ago, and the house now belonged to a
deputy from Lyons, married to the daughter of a nobleman long since sent
to the guillotine.

The note that M. de Jaurs had burnt was from this lady. They had known
each other before the rule of chaos, and when the revolution brought him
out of the prison, where he had been consigned for a political offence
by the late King's ministers, and he had found her, terror-subdued,
mistress of a revolutionary salon, the similarity between their
positions, the common memories of another world, the sense of kinship
amidst a society so alien, so monstrous, so hideous, had grown into a
sad but strong love.

She was spared because she had married one of the tyrants, and pretended
to forget her father's murder; he, because he had been a prisoner of the
King, and affected to subscribe to the new rule of the people. Both had
tasted of shame, and together they sought to redeem themselves.

Fired by their mutual sympathy, the horror of what they daily saw round
them, the desire to redeem their acquiescence in the overthrow of their
order, to redeem, at the risk of death, the lives they should never have
consented to save, they had been the instigators of one of the many
desperate plots against the Government, the object of which was to
rescue the Austrian Queen from the Temple and the ultimate guillotine.

To-night the intrigue, evolved with skill and secrecy, and materially
helped by the knowledge Hortense was enabled to obtain through her
husband's position, was to be put into execution, and they were either
to fly across the frontier with the rescued Queen, or to give up life
together, as aristocrats, upon the scaffold.

M. de Jaurs, on the threshold of this hazard, felt that chill
suspension of all the faculties which fills that waiting pause before
the plunge into great actions. He was conscious of neither exaltation
nor despair, but of a strange sense that time had stopped, or had never
been, and that all the events which so oppressed his brain were but
pictures, that would clear away and reveal at last--reality.

The dance music began again; the noisy music of the People, with its
distinct rise and fall. He and Hortense had been present at the opera
the night they had played _Richard Coeur de Lion_ and the audience had
risen in a frenzy of devotion at the strains of "_O Richard, O mon
roi_."

He recalled the Queen with her children, worshipped and very stately,
and Hortense with powdered hair and a hoop festooned with roses; then he
thought of the wretched captive in the Temple, and the haggard woman in
a Greek gown with a fillet through her flowing hair, waiting for him
downstairs behind the folding doors.

Pacing to and fro, facing now the cold street and bitter night, now his
own reflection in the glass, the inner agony of suspense, regret,
remorse, broke through the dazed control of his overwrought passions. He
gave a little sound, caught into the whirl of the dance music unheard,
and stepped back sideways against the gleaming white wall, his hand
instinctively to his heart.

The next second he was master of himself, and wondering wildly what had
caused him that sudden utter pang of terror, a terror beyond fear of
death or any definition, awful, hideous. He listened, as men will in
great dread, and heard what seemed a curious short cry, like the echo of
his own, that rose above the dance-beat. He thought it came from the
street, and softly opened the window.

Everything was still, but in the distance, where the moonlight fell
between two houses, three of the Republican soldiers were dragging a man
along, and a girl in a blue gown was following, wringing her hands.

A second, and the little group had passed out of sight. M. de Jaurs
closed the window, feeling strangely relieved that his emotion had been
caused by such a common thing as the cry of a poor creature following a
suspect to the Abbaye. He must, unconsciously, have heard her cry
before, and this had given him that sensation of terror.

The dance music fell to a softer measure; a clock struck the half-hour,
and Camille de Jaurs descended to the salon on the next floor.

He entered softly, yet confident of being neither interrupted nor
observed.

The room was large, with great windows looking on to the street. It had
once been painted with flowers, and shepherds asleep with their flocks,
and nymphs seated beside fountains, but had lately been painted white
from floor to ceiling by a Republican who detested these remnants of
aristocracy. White, with stiff wreaths of classic laurel, candles in
plain sconces shaded with dead-hued silk, straight grey curtains before
the windows, and very little furniture to cumber the polished floor and
that little, simple, bare-legged, and comprising a couch of Grecian
shape, covered with striped brocade, such as ladies, dressed in the
fashions of the year one of liberty, loved to recline on.

A cold, bare room, with a glimmer from the shaded light like the
moon-glow, and with no colour, nor gleam, nor brightness. The wall that
faced the window was almost entirely occupied by high, white folding
doors with crystal knobs. M. de Jaurs' glance fell at once on these;
they led to the private apartments of Hortense, and through them, by the
back way across the garden, they were to escape to-night. He advanced,
and was about to knock, when one leaf was opened sharply in his face,
and a man stepped out.

It was Citizen Durosoy, husband of Hortense. M. de Jaurs stepped back;
he saw that the room beyond the folding doors was dark, but close where
the light penetrated he noticed a fold of soft satin with a pearl
border, and an empty white shoe softly rounded to the shape of a foot,
lying sideways, as if it had just been taken off. Hortense was there,
then, he knew, waiting for him. He straightened himself to meet the
unlooked-for interruption.

He was quite composed as Durosoy closed the doors.

"Your room upstairs is very close," he said, "and I suppose I am not in
a festival mood--it is pleasantly cool here."

"Cool!" echoed the Deputy of Lyons. "It seems to me cold," he laughed.
"Perhaps it is the singing of La Marguerite, which is so bad for the
nerves, for my wife has a headache, and must lie down in the dark."

M. de Jaurs smiled. He felt such a contempt for this man that it put
him absolutely at his ease. The Deputy had been a poor provincial
lawyer, to whom the late de Jaurs had been kind. He affected to
remember this now, and was warmly friendly, even patronising, to his old
patron's son. The aristocrat hated him doubly for it, scorned him that
no echo of this hatred seemed ever to awake in his mind; for the Deputy
was almost familiar in his manner to M. de Jaurs. He was quiet and
modest with everybody.

"I hope my wife is not delicate," he said with an air of anxiety. "I
have thought lately that she was in ill-health."

"I have not noticed it," answered the other.

He seated himself on the striped couch, and looked carelessly at the
grate, where a pale fire burnt. The Deputy crossed to the hearth, and
stood looking at his guest with an amiable smile. He was a slight man,
brown-haired and well looking, but of a common appearance. He wore a
grey cloth coat, with a black sash up under his armpits, and white
breeches. This dress, and the stiff, long straggling locks that fell on
to his bullion-stitched collar, gave him an appearance of anarchy and
wildness not in keeping with his pleasant countenance.

He stood so long smiling at M. de Jaurs, that a feeling of impatience
came over the nobleman. He glanced at the pendule clock on the
mantelpiece, and wondered how long the fool would stay.

"It is unfortunate that you and the Gitizeness should both be absent at
once," he remarked. He had still the tone of an aristocrat when speaking
to Durosoy.

The Deputy held out his right hand.

"I cut my finger with a fruit knife," he answered, "and came down to
Hortense to tie it up; but she seemed so to wish to be alone I did not
like to press her; her head hurt so, she said."

A handkerchief was twisted about his hand, and he began to unwind it as
he spoke. "Now you are here," he added, "perhaps you could help me tie
it up; it really is bleeding damnably."

M. de Jaurs rose slowly. He let his glance rest for a moment on the
folding doors. It was as if he could see Hortense standing at the other
side in the dark, listening, waiting for her husband to go.

Durosoy held up his bare hand. There was a deep cut on the forefinger,
and the blood was running down the palm and staining the close frill of
muslin at his wrist.

"A severe wound for a silver knife," remarked M. de Jaurs, taking him
by the wrist.

"A steel knife," said the Deputy--"steel as sharp as La Guillotine--you
see, _mon ami_," and he smiled, "what comes of trying to cut a peach
with a steel knife."

M. de Jaurs slowly tore his own handkerchief into strips and carefully
bound up the wound. He was wondering the while if Hortense had been
delayed by the unexpected visit of her husband; if she was venturing to
change her clothes before he finally returned to their guests. By the
white shoe he had seen through the folding doors, he thought she had
done so.

"Thank you, Camille," said the Deputy. He had a trick of using Christian
names, odious to M. de Jaurs. "It is astonishing how faint the loss of
a little blood makes one."

"This from our modern Brutus!" exclaimed M. de Jaurs. That term had
been given once, in the Convention, to the Deputy, and the man whose
dupe he was dared to quote it ironically, knowing the stupidity of the
provincial. As he had expected, the Deputy seemed pleased; he shrugged
modestly.

"Oh, one's own blood, you know, not that of other people. I can endure
the loss of _that_ with great equanimity." He smiled, as if he had made
a joke, and the aristocrat smiled too, for other reasons. "Will you
drink with me--down here? It is, as you say, very close upstairs."

"I fear to detain you, Citizen."

Durosoy rang the bell, then seated himself by the fire.

"No, I am tired of their chatter. I would rather talk with a sensible
man like yourself, my dear Camille."

M. de Jaurs did not move from his easy attitude on the brocade couch.

"But we shall disturb the Citizeness," he said. His idea was that if he
could make Durosoy leave with him, he could, more or less easily, get
rid of him upstairs and return.

The Deputy smiled. "Hortense is not so ill. Besides, the doors are thick
enough."

M. de Jaurs wondered--how thick? Could she hear their talk? Would she
understand the delay? His straining ears could catch no sound of her
movements.

The Deputy continued in a kind of fatuous self-satisfaction.

"I hope she will be well enough to return soon to the ball. When one has
a beautiful wife one likes to show her off."

He paused, put his head on one side, and added:

"You do think her beautiful, do you not, Camille?"

M. de Jaurs looked at him coldly. He felt he could afford to despise
this man, since in a few moments he and she would be riding away from
his house for ever.

"Naturally, Citizen."

A citizen servant entered, and the Deputy ordered wine.

"I must not stay," said M. de Jaurs. He raised his voice a little that
she might hear. "One glass, and I will go back to make my _adieux_."

Durosoy appeared mildly surprised.

"So early! You cannot have any business this time of night."

The wine was brought in and placed on a thin-legged table by the hearth.
M. de Jaurs glanced at the clock. The hand was creeping on towards
eleven. His contempt of the Deputy was beginning to change to an
impatient hatred of the creature's very presence.

"A matter of mood, not of time," he answered. "I am in no merry-making
vein to-night."

The Deputy, pouring out wine, looked at him critically.

"You are too lazy, my friend. You do nothing from one day's end to
another--naturally you are wearied. And it is dangerous, too."

M. de Jaurs took the glass offered him. "How dangerous?"

Durosoy lifted his common brown eyes. "Those who will not serve the
Republic are apt to be considered her enemies."

The young noble smiled.

"Oh, as to that, I am a very good friend to France, but I lack the
qualities to be of any use."

He sipped his wine, and looked indifferently past the Deputy at the
folding doors. His thoughts were: 'The time is getting on. How long will
a carriage take from here to the _rue du Temple_? Half an hour, allowing
for the pace we must go and the crowd coming out of the opera.'

"No use!" exclaimed the Deputy. "Why, you are a soldier, are you not?"

"Once--that seems a long time ago."

Durosoy laughed and poured out more wine. The tinkling of the glass on
the silver stand had the same thin quality as his voice.

"There is always Toulon," he said. "The Royalists there are giving us a
good deal of trouble."

"I do not fancy going there to be hewn down by a lot of rascals. I leave
that to braver men," smiled de Jaurs lazily; but his blood leapt with
the desire to be with these same Royalists in Toulon, with his sword
drawn against such as this Deputy, whose wine seemed to scorch and choke
to-night. When would the man go? The carriage that was waiting at the
back might be noticed. The servant in the plot would begin to wonder at
the delay; and she, could she hear? She must be undergoing torture--as
he was.

"Then there is the revolt in Caen," said the Deputy; "we want good men
there."

"I've no fancy to go soldiering."

"You are dull to-night, Citizen. Does the business of the Widow Capet
interest you? It is to come on this month."

"Ah! The trial?"

"Yes."

"I heard something of it. No, I am not interested."

When would this babbling cease? Ten minutes past eleven, and the
rendezvous in the _rue du Temple_ at twelve.

"Not interested?" echoed the Deputy. "Now if I might hazard a guess, my
friend, I should say that you were rather too interested."

M. de Jaurs looked at him steadily.

"How--too interested?" he asked in accents painfully calm.

"I do not think you would like the Widow Capet to take the same journey
to the Place de la Rvolution as her husband did."

"Why should I trouble?" answered M. de Jaurs, who for one instant had
thought himself suspected. He drew his breath a little unevenly; the
delay, the suspense, were beginning to tell on him, were becoming
serious, too. He remembered that the hour had been altered at the last
moment from one to twelve, and that he had had no opportunity of telling
Hortense so. They had to be so careful, there had been so few chances
for them to meet at all. Hortense would think they had an hour longer
than was the case.

The Deputy was taking his third glass; he seemed to be settled
comfortably in his chair. It appeared as if he might maunder on with his
idle talk for another hour; and the delay of another hour would be fatal
to M. de Jaurs.

"It must seem very strange to you," said the Deputy reflectively, "this
year one of liberty."

M. de Jaurs sat forward on the couch. Durosoy had never taken this tone
of gravity with him before.

"No stranger to me than to you," he answered. He finished the wine, and
set the glass back on the table.

"Well, then, strange to me and to you."

M. de Jaurs laughed; he could not control himself.

"What makes you say that?" he asked. The Deputy shrugged.

"The thought will occur--sitting here in this palace that I used to pass
with awe--talking to you whom I used to regard with awe--married to
Hortense! Yes, you are right, it is strange to me."

The noble's mouth tightened; a black shame overwhelmed him that he was
sitting here listening to this man.

"You," continued the Deputy, "used to know the former owner of this
house, did you not?"

M. de Jaurs rose.

"I knew him."

"He was killed at La Force, was he not?"

"I believe so; why do you recall him?" M. de Jaurs leant against the
mantelpiece. The cold, white room, the inane Deputy, were fast becoming
intolerable. He began to be hideously conscious of two things: the clock
whose hands were coming round slowly to the half-hour, and the folding
doors behind which Hortense waited. The interruption, of which he had
thought nothing at first, was like to prove fatal. Could he do it in
less than half an hour? Merciful God! it was not possible! Some of them
were already at the rendezvous--the Queen was ready.

"Let us go back upstairs," he said. "It is, after all, rather doleful
here."

"On the contrary, I am very comfortable," smiled the Deputy, crossing
his legs.

"You will be missed," said M. de Jaurs. His thoughts were racing
furiously. How could he convey to Hortense that the time had been
altered--that he could not wait?

The Deputy nodded towards the high ceiling. "Missed? You hear the music?
I think they are enjoying themselves."

To abandon her, or to miss the appointment in the _rue du Temple_; to
break faith with his friends or with her, to lose all chance of
redemption, to jeopardise the Queen's escape, or to forsake Hortense
(for success meant that he must be across the frontier, and failure
meant death; either way he was useless to her)--it was fast narrowing to
these terrible decisions.

He looked at his face in the large mirror above the mantelpiece, and was
almost startled to see how white it was above the close cravat and blue
striped waistcoat. Surely Durosoy must notice!

The Deputy sat looking into the fire. M. de Jaurs, glancing at him out
of furtive eyes, observed that he, too, was pale.

A pause of silence was broken by the shrill chimes of the gilt clock
striking the half-hour.

M. de Jaurs could not restrain a start. He must go. He could come back
for her if alive; his honour (Heaven help him! he still thought of that)
was the pledge to them, his affection to her--she would understand.
Perhaps by the servant waiting with the carriage at the back entrance he
could convey a message, telling her of the changed time.

"You will forgive me," he said with that ease with which breed enabled
him to cover his agony, "but I am due at my chambers"--he raised his
voice for her to hear--"the truth is I have business--important business
to-night. Good-evening, Durosoy."

He went towards the door; it would be quick running to make the _rue du
Temple_ in time. Heaven enlighten her as to the cause of his desertion.

"Business?" said the Deputy good-humouredly. "There is no business
nowadays but politics or plots. I hope you axe not engaged in the
latter, my dear Camille."

M. de Jaurs had his hand on the door-knob. "This is private business,"
he answered, "about my property. I am trying to save some of it."

The Deputy turned in his chair.

"Why, I did not know that your estates were confiscated. Why did not you
tell me? I might have helped you."

M. de Jaurs opened the door.

"You are such a busy man, Durosoy. I think I shall manage the affair
satisfactorily."

"Monseigneur le Duc."

At that title he turned sharply, and saw the Deputy standing before the
fire looking at him.

"Why do you say that?" he asked, and his nostrils widened.

"Forgive me, the expression slipped out. I still think of you as
Monseigneur le Duc. It is an astonishing thing, but I believe I am still
in awe of you, as I used to be in my little office in Lyons." He smiled
fatuously, lowered his eyes to the floor and shook his head.

"Why did you call me?"

"Well, I wanted to speak to you. Take another glass of wine; it is still
early."

"Indeed, it is impossible for me to stay. I have an appointment."

"Bah! Make him wait."

"It is a rendezvous that I would rather keep."

"A strange hour for a business appointment. Are you sure it is not a
lady that you are so anxious to see?"

"Say a lady, then," said M. de Jaurs; "but, believe me that I must go."
He was leaving on that, when the Deputy called after him.

"I entreat you to stay. It is also a lady of whom I wish to speak."

M. de Jaurs turned slowly and closed the door.

"Come," smiled the Deputy, "another glass."

"What have you to say to me, Durosoy?" He felt as if the hand of fate
were on his shoulder, dragging him back into the room; yet every
moment--nay, every second--was precious, fast becoming doubly precious.

The Deputy was pouring out the wine. His grey and black figure was
illumined by the increasing glow of the fire. He moved bottles and
glasses clumsily by reason of the bandaged forefinger of his right hand;
behind him the clock showed twenty minutes to twelve.

M. de Jaurs crossed the long room to the hearth.

"What did you wish to say?" he asked, "nay"--he put the glass aside--"of
what was it that you wished to speak?"

"My wife."

The noble's first thought was--'This man is not a fool'; his second, 'He
suspects'--accompanied with a sense of stupor and confusion.

"You," continued Durosoy, "have known her longer than I have; she was
very much admired, was she not, when she was at the Court?"

"She was admired, naturally. A strange question! I never knew her well,"
answered M. de Jaurs. He was sure the fellow suspected, not the plot
but the elopement. He desperately readjusted his plans. He could not
leave her now; he must forsake his friends sooner. Had she not said, "I
am afraid of _him_."

"Well, that is all," said the Deputy. "Go and keep your appointment, my
friend"--his eyes suddenly gleamed--"and I will finish my wine and
presently go and fetch Hortense back to the ballroom."

M. de Jaurs answered his look. "No, I will stay," he said with a kind
of cold calm.

"Ah! Now why have you changed your mind?"

"Because you," was the grim reply, "are so amusing."

He was wondering in his anguish why she did not come out. Surely she
might have made some diversion with her presence. Yet she had probably
changed her gown. Could she hear--could she understand?

The man was playing with him; he might even know of the plot. He must
suspect, else why did he remain here, and why did the guests not notice
his or her absence, if they had not been prepared? It was too late to
get to the _rue du Temple_ now. The governor of the prison was to be
abroad for an hour, from twelve to one, and in that time they were to
make their attempt. They would make it without him. He could not leave
Hortense now. It was certain death ahead of him; he would be denounced
to-morrow, and dishonoured, for he had forsaken his friends.

So raced the thoughts of M. de Jaurs, keeping time to the music of the
quadrille coming from the room overhead, while he stood impassive by the
head of the brocade sofa, and gazed at the Deputy, who sipped his wine
and blinked into the fire.

Two men went by shouting in the street. When their voices had sunk into
the distance the Deputy spoke:

"You are rather imprudent, Citizen."

M. de Jaurs was silent; if he had but some manner of weapon he would
kill this man--perhaps with his bare hands even--he came a step nearer.

"I see," continued the Deputy, still looking into the fire, "that you
have a coronet on this handkerchief. Now, do not you think that very
imprudent?"

M. de Jaurs stood arrested. Was this creature, after all, only a fool?
He would, in any case, have killed him; but the days were gone when
noblemen wore swords. Besides, the Deputy sat very near the bell, and
was a strong man. Traditions, too, were a clog on the young man's
passions. He could not use his hands.

"My dear Camille," exclaimed the Deputy, suddenly glancing up, "you look
very pale."

The aristocrat, with the instinct of his breed, was silent under agony.
He gazed at the Deputy straightly.

"Are you going to keep this on your linen?" asked Durosoy, pointing to
the coronet on the blood-stained bandage.

"Are you," answered M. de Jaurs, "going to denounce me?"

The Deputy smiled.

"Because of this? Why, no, how absurd!" he laughed. "As if you, of all
men, had not given proof of your love for the people by becoming plain
Citizen Jaurs. Not so many aristocrats did that."

M. de Jaurs fixed his eyes on the folding doors. It was the one thing
that gave him courage to endure, thinking of her waiting there, thinking
that he would share the inevitable end with her; thinking she would know
he had waited.

The quadrille music took on another measure. The clock gave a little
whirr and struck twelve. The aristocrat shuddered, but held himself
erect. Durosoy suddenly grinned up at him.

"What about your appointment?" he asked.

"I am keeping a more important one," said M. de Jaurs through cold
lips.

The Deputy rose.

"Do you not think that I act very well?" he said in a changed tone.

M. de Jaurs smiled superbly.

"My opinion of you is unchanged, Monsieur."

He had now no longer anything to gain or lose by adopting the manner of
the people. The two men took a step towards the middle of the room,
still facing each other.

"Your appointment," repeated Durosoy. "Why did you not keep it?"

M. de Jaurs raised his right hand to his heart and retreated a pace
backwards. He hardly heard the words; the speaker's presence offended
him indescribably; he lowered his eyes in instinctive disgust, withdrawn
into his own soul. The attempt in the _rue du Temple_ had failed or
succeeded without him; he had lost the glory of rescuing the Queen, or
the glory of being with the aristocrats in La Force. They would justly
despise him as a coward and a man of broken faith, but the thing that
had induced him to act thus was the thing that rewarded him--the thought
of Hortense. Waiting behind the folding doors, she must have heard his
and her fate. She knew perhaps before he came that Durosoy suspected and
their chance was over; she knew now that he had preferred her even to
his word, his pledged honour, for surely that was gone unless it would
be some honour for them to die together--he hoped it would be the
guillotine, not butchery in the prison yard--as befell, good God--as
befell Charles de Maury, with whom he had once eaten and drunk in this
very room----

He steadied his reeling senses with a jerking shudder and caught the
back of the chair near him. That brute Durosoy was watching him, waiting
for him to betray himself, being, no doubt, very sure of both of them,
the man before him and the woman behind the folding doors.

M. de Jaurs smiled.

"What are you and I looking at each other like this for, eh?" he asked.

A soldier went past singing _a ira_; it mingled with the monotonous
repeated music of the quadrille; the coals fell together with a little
crash; the Deputy stood in a slack attitude surveying his victim.

M. de Jaurs laughed.

"We will see," said Durosoy slowly, "if Hortense is recovered from her
headache."

He turned towards the folding doors. M. de Jaurs longed for them to
open; at least he would have that moment when she came forth and walked
straight to him, all disguises over.

The Deputy turned the crystal handle and opened the door a little way;
he looked over his shoulder and said one word:

"Aristocrat!"

"Yes," answered M. de Jaurs. "She and I--both aristocrats."

Durosoy pushed the door a little wider open; his dull, foolish manner
was changing to a deep breathing ferocity.

"The Widow Capet is still in the Temple, aristocrat," he said, "and your
friends are in La Force by now."

M. de Jaurs kept his head high.

"So you knew," he said softly. "You are a cunning rat, Citizen Durosoy."

The Deputy's eyes were suddenly flushed with blood.

"Hortense must thank you, aristocrat, for breaking your appointment for
her sake."

M. de Jaurs came nearer. There was darkness beyond the folding
doors--the white shoe in the same position and the fold of pearl-braided
satin.

The Deputy suddenly flung the other leaf wide.

"I am a cunning rat, am I not?" he said with a sob of hate. "My wife! My
wife!" he cried, pointing to her.

She sat just inside the doors, facing them. There was a long red streak
down the bosom of her white bodice, her eyes were fixed and her jaw
dropped; across her knee was a knife stained with marks like rust.

The Deputy stood looking at M. de Jaurs.

"You see, I have been cutting peaches with a steel knife...."



THE END





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