After a consultation of a few minutes with the persons behind him, the president rose, and spoke the momentous words:
“Louis Trudaine and Rose Danville, the revolutionary tribunal, having heard the charge against you, and having weighed the value of what you have said in answer to it, decides that you are both guilty, and condemns you to the penalty of death.”
Having delivered the sentence in those terms, he sat down again, and placed a mark against the two first condemned names on the list of prisoners. Immediately afterward the next case was called on, and the curiosity of the audience was stimulated by a new trial.
The waiting-room of the revolutionary tribunal was a grim, bare place, with a dirty stone floor, and benches running round the walls. The windows were high and barred; and at the outer door, leading into the street, two sentinels kept watch. On entering this comfortless retreat from the court, Lomaque found it perfectly empty. Solitude was just then welcome to him. He remained in the waiting-room, walking slowly from end to end over the filthy pavement, talking eagerly and incessantly to himself.
After a while, the door communicating with the tribunal opened, and the humpbacked jailer made his appearance, leading in Trudaine and Rose.
“You will have to wait here,” said the little man, “till the rest of them have been tried and sentenced; and then you will all go back to prison in a lump. Ha, citizen,” he continued, observing Lomaque at the other end of the hall, and bustling up to him. “Here still, eh? If you were going to stop much longer, I should ask a favor of you.”
“I am in no hurry,” said Lomaque, with a glance at the two prisoners.
“Good!” cried the humpback, drawing his hand across his mouth; “I am parched with thirst, and dying to moisten my throat at the wine-shop over the way. Just mind that man and woman while I’m gone, will you? It’s the merest form—there’s a guard outside, the windows are barred, the tribunal is within hail. Do you mind obliging me?”
“On the contrary, I am glad of the opportunity.”
“That’s a good fellow—and, remember, if I am asked for, you must say I was obliged to quit the court for a few minutes, and left you in charge.”
With these words, the humpbacked jailer ran off to the wine-shop.
He had scarcely disappeared before Trudaine crossed the room, and caught Lomaque by the arm.
“Save her,” he whispered; “there is an opportunity—save her!” His face was flushed—his eyes wandered—his breath on the chief agent’s cheek, while he spoke, felt scorching hot. “Save her!” he repeated, shaking Lomaque by the arm, and dragging him toward the door. “Remember all you owe to my father—remember our talk on that bench by the river—remember what you said to me yourself on the night of the arrest—don’t wait to think—save her, and leave me without a word! If I die alone, I can die as a man should; if she goes to the scaffold by my side, my heart will fail me—I shall die the death of a coward! I have lived for her life—let me die for it, and I die happy!”