QUOS DEUS VULT PERDERE
Once again, precisely as he had done when he joined the Binet troupe, did Andre-Louis now settle down whole-heartedly to the new profession into which necessity had driven him, and in which he found effective concealment from those who might seek him to his hurt. This profession might — although in fact it did not — have brought him to consider himself at last as a man of action. He had not, however, on that account ceased to be a man of thought, and the events of the spring and summer months of that year 1789 in Paris provided him with abundant matter for reflection. He read there in the raw what is perhaps the most amazing page in the history of human development, and in the end he was forced to the conclusion that all his early preconceptions had been at fault, and that it was such exalted, passionate enthusiasts as Vilmorin who had been right.
I suspect him of actually taking pride in the fact that he had been mistaken, complacently attributing his error to the circumstance that he had been, himself, of too sane and logical a mind to gauge the depths of human insanity now revealed.
He watched the growth of hunger, the increasing poverty and distress of Paris during that spring, and assigned it to its proper cause, together with the patience with which the people bore it. The world of France was in a state of hushed, of paralyzed expectancy, waiting for the States General to assemble and for centuries of tyranny to end. And because of this expectancy, industry had come to a standstill, the stream of trade had dwindled to a trickle. Men would not buy or sell until they clearly saw the means by which the genius of the Swiss banker, M. Necker, was to deliver them from this morass. And because of this paralysis of affairs the men of the people were thrown out of work and left to starve with their wives and children.
Looking on, Andre-Louis smiled grimly. So far he was right. The sufferers were ever the proletariat. The men who sought to make this revolution, the electors — here in Paris as elsewhere — were men of substance, notable bourgeois, wealthy traders. And whilst these, despising the canaille, and envying the privileged, talked largely of equality — by which they meant an ascending equality that should confuse themselves with the gentry — the proletariat perished of want in its kennels.
At last with the month of May the deputies arrived, Andre-Louis’ friend Le Chapelier prominent amongst them, and the States General were inaugurated at Versailles. It was then that affairs began to become interesting, then that Andre-Louis began seriously to doubt the soundness of the views he had held hitherto.
When the royal proclamation had gone forth decreeing that the deputies of the Third Estate should number twice as many as those of the other two orders together, Andre-Louis had believed that the preponderance of votes thus assured to the Third Estate rendered inevitable the reforms to which they had pledged themselves.