Here the rumble of carriage-wheels sounded outside.
“There’s the coach!” exclaimed Lomaque, locking up the brandy-bottle, and taking his hat. “After all, as this arrest is to be made, it’s as well for them that I should make it.”
Consoling himself as he best could with this reflection, Chief Police Agent Lomaque blew out the candles, and quitted the room.
Ignorant of the change in her husband’s plans, which was to bring him back to Paris a day before the time that had been fixed for his return, Sister Rose had left her solitary home to spend the evening with her brother. They had sat talking together long after sunset, and had let the darkness steal on them insensibly, as people will who are only occupied with quiet, familiar conversation. Thus it happened, by a curious coincidence, that just as Lomaque was blowing out his candles at the office Rose was lighting the reading-lamp at her brother’s lodgings.
Five years of disappointment and sorrow had sadly changed her to outward view. Her face looked thinner and longer; the once delicate red and white of her complexion was gone; her figure had wasted under the influence of some weakness, which had already made her stoop a little when she walked. Her manner had lost its maiden shyness, only to become unnaturally quiet and subdued. Of all the charms which had so fatally, yet so innocently, allured her heartless husband, but one remained—the winning gentleness of her voice. It might be touched now and then with a note of sadness, but the soft attraction of its even, natural tone still remained. In the marring of all other harmonies, this one harmony had been preserved unchanged. Her brother, though his face was careworn, and his manner sadder than of old, looked less altered from his former self. It is the most fragile material which soonest shows the flaw. The world’s idol, Beauty, holds its frailest tenure of existence in the one Temple where we most love to worship it.
“And so you think, Louis, that our perilous undertaking has really ended well by this time?” said Rose, anxiously, as she lighted the lamp and placed the glass shade over it. “What a relief it is only to hear you say you think we have succeeded at last!”
“I said I hope, Rose,” replied her brother.
“Well, even hoped is a great word from you, Louis—a great word from any one in this fearful city, and in these days of Terror.”
She stopped suddenly, seeing her brother raise his hand in warning. They looked at each other in silence and listened. The sound of footsteps going slowly past the house—ceasing for a moment just beyond it—then going on again—came through the open window. There was nothing else, out-of-doors or in, to disturb the silence of the night—the deadly silence of Terror which, for months past, had hung over Paris. It was a significant sign of the times, that even a passing footstep, sounding a little strangely at night, was subject for suspicion, both to brother and sister—so common a subject, that they suspended their conversation as a matter of course, without exchanging a word of explanation, until the tramp of the strange footsteps had died away.