“Here is the cemetery which we have come to see,” I said to my friend.
“Certainly, it is a very pretty one,” he replied; “still I see nothing to justify our coming so far to behold it.”
“Wait a little while and you will not say so.”
The first group of graves before which we stopped, was that of some victims of the reign of terror—poor slaughtered men and women. The grass was growing pleasantly above them, and all was calm, and sunny, and beautiful around. Perhaps the sun shone as pleasantly when, on the “Place de la Concorde,” they walked up the steps of the scaffold to die—for Liberty! Oh shame! One—two—three—four—there were eight graves we counted, all victims of the reign of terror. For a moment I forgot where I was; the graves were now at my feet, but I saw the poor victims go slowly up to their horrible death. The faces of grinning, scowling devils, male and female, were before me, all clamoring for blood. I could see the tiger-thirst for human flesh in every countenance—the fierce eye—the flushed face—and yet, how still were the winds, how cheerful the sky.
Yet, though every pure-hearted man or woman must detest the horrible cruelties of the great revolution must shudder at the bare mention of the names of the leaders in it, is it not an eternal law of God, that oppression at last produces madness? Have not tyrants this fact always to dream over—though you may escape the vengeance of outraged humanity, yet your children, your children’s children shall pay the terrible penalty. Louis XVI. was a gentle king; unwise, but never at heart tyrannical; but alas! he answered not merely for his own misdeeds, but for the misdeeds, the tyrannical conduct of centuries of kingcraft. It was an inevitable consequence—and it will ever be so. But I am moralizing.
“You came to see these graves?” remarked my friend. “They are interesting places to ponder and dream over.”
“Not to see these, though, did I come,” I replied.
We soon came to the graves of nobility. There was the tomb of a Noailles, a Grammont, a Montagu. Plain, all of them, and yet with an air at once chaste and artistic. There was the tomb of Rosambo and Lemoignon amid the tangled grass. All of these names were once noble and great in France, and as I bent over them, I could but call up France in the days of the ancien regime, when all these names called forth bows and fawnings from the people. Dead and buried nobility—what is it? The nobility goes—names die with the body.
“You came out to see buried nobility,” said my companion.
“Me! Did I ever go out of my way to see even buried royalty? Never, unless the ashes had been something more than a mere king. To see the grave of genius or goodness, but not empty, buried names!”
We went on a little farther—to a quiet spot, where the sun shone in warmly, where the grass was mown away short, but where it was green and bright. The song of a plaintive bird just touched our ears—where it was we could not tell, only we heard it. It was a still, beautiful spot, and there was a grave before us—yet how very plain! A pure, white marble, a simple tomb.