He paused thoughtfully, and shook his head with ominous frowns and bitings of his lips.
“All clear enough in that sky,” he continued, after a while, looking up at the lustrous midday heaven. “All clear enough there; but I think I see a little cloud rising in a certain household firmament already—a little cloud which hides much, and which I for one shall watch carefully.”
Five years have elapsed since Monsieur Lomaque stood thoughtfully at the gate of Trudaine’s house, looking after the carriage of the bride and bridegroom, and seriously reflecting on the events of the future. Great changes have passed over that domestic firmament in which he prophetically discerned the little warning cloud. Greater changes have passed over the firmament of France.
What was revolt five years ago is Revolution now—revolution which has ingulfed thrones, and principalities, and powers; which has set up crownless, inhereditary kings and counselors of its own, and has bloodily torn them down again by dozens; which has raged and raged on unrestrainedly in fierce earnest, until but one king can still govern and control it for a little while. That king is named Terror, and seventeen hundred and ninety-four is the year of his reign.
Monsieur Lomaque, land-steward no longer, sits alone in an official-looking room in one of the official buildings of Paris. It is another July evening, as fine as that evening when he and Trudaine sat talking together on the bench overlooking the Seine. The window of the room is wide open, and a faint, pleasant breeze is beginning to flow through it. But Lomaque breathes uneasily, as if still oppressed by the sultry midday heat; and there are signs of perplexity and trouble in his face as he looks down absently now and then into the street.
The times he lives in are enough of themselves to sadden any man’s face. In the Reign of Terror no living being in all the city of Paris can rise in the morning and be certain of escaping the spy, the denunciation, the arrest, or the guillotine, before night. Such times are trying enough to oppress any man’s spirits; but Lomaque is not thinking of them or caring for them now. Out of a mass of papers which lie before him on his old writing-table, he has just taken up and read one, which has carried his thoughts back to the past, and to the changes which have taken place since he stood alone on the doorstep of Trudaine’s house, pondering on what might happen.