Victorious, joyful after such delay, Mounier does arrive at last, and the hard-earned Acceptance with him; which now, alas, is of small value. Fancy Mounier’s surprise to find his Senate, whom he hoped to charm by the Acceptance pure and simple,—all gone; and in its stead a Senate of Menads! For as Erasmus’s Ape mimicked, say with wooden splint, Erasmus shaving, so do these Amazons hold, in mock majesty, some confused parody of National Assembly. They make motions; deliver speeches; pass enactments; productive at least of loud laughter. All galleries and benches are filled; a strong Dame of the Market is in Mounier’s Chair. Not without difficulty, Mounier, by aid of macers, and persuasive speaking, makes his way to the Female-President: the Strong Dame before abdicating signifies that, for one thing, she and indeed her whole senate male and female (for what was one roasted warhorse among so many?) are suffering very considerably from hunger.
Experienced Mounier, in these circumstances, takes a twofold resolution: To reconvoke his Assembly Members by sound of drum; also to procure a supply of food. Swift messengers fly, to all bakers, cooks, pastrycooks, vintners, restorers; drums beat, accompanied with shrill vocal proclamation, through all streets. They come: the Assembly Members come; what is still better, the provisions come. On tray and barrow come these latter; loaves, wine, great store of sausages. The nourishing baskets circulate harmoniously along the benches; nor, according to the Father of Epics, did any soul lack a fair share of victual ((Greek), an equal diet); highly desirable, at the moment. (Deux Amis, iii. 208.)
Gradually some hundred or so of Assembly members get edged in, Menadism making way a little, round Mounier’s Chair; listen to the Acceptance pure and simple; and begin, what is the order of the night, ’discussion of the Penal Code.’ All benches are crowded; in the dusky galleries, duskier with unwashed heads, is a strange ’coruscation,’—of impromptu billhooks. (Courier de Provence (Mirabeau’s Newspaper), No. 50, p. 19.) It is exactly five months this day since these same galleries were filled with high-plumed jewelled Beauty, raining bright influences; and now? To such length have we got in regenerating France. Methinks the travail-throes are of the sharpest!—Menadism will not be restrained from occasional remarks; asks, “What is use of the Penal Code? The thing we want is Bread.” Mirabeau turns round with lion-voiced rebuke; Menadism applauds him; but recommences.
Thus they, chewing tough sausages, discussing the Penal Code, make night hideous. What the issue will be? Lafayette with his thirty thousand must arrive first: him, who cannot now be distant, all men expect, as the messenger of Destiny.
Towards midnight lights flare on the hill; Lafayette’s lights! The roll of his drums comes up the Avenue de Versailles. With peace, or with war? Patience, friends! With neither. Lafayette is come, but not yet the catastrophe.