“And we are bold,” exclaimed Robespierre, with sudden passion, and striking his hand on the table as he rose, with his crest erect, as a serpent in the act to strike. “In seeing the multitude of vices that the revolutionary torrent mingles with civic virtues, I tremble to be sullied in the eyes of posterity by the impure neighbourhood of these perverse men who thrust themselves among the sincere defenders of humanity. What!—they think to divide the country like a booty! I thank them for their hatred to all that is virtuous and worthy! These men,”—and he grasped the list of Payan in his hand,—“these!—not we—have drawn the line of demarcation between themselves and the lovers of France!”
“True, we must reign alone!” muttered Payan; “in other words, the state needs unity of will;” working, with his strong practical mind, the corollary from the logic of his word-compelling colleague.
“I will go to the Convention,” continued Robespierre. “I have absented myself too long,—lest I might seem to overawe the Republic that I have created. Away with such scruples! I will prepare the people! I will blast the traitors with a look!”
He spoke with the terrible firmness of the orator that had never failed,—of the moral will that marched like a warrior on the cannon. At that instant he was interrupted; a letter was brought to him: he opened it,—his face fell, he shook from limb to limb; it was one of the anonymous warnings by which the hate and revenge of those yet left alive to threaten tortured the death-giver.
“Thou art smeared,” ran the lines, “with the best blood of France. Read thy sentence! I await the hour when the people shall knell thee to the doomsman. If my hope deceive me, if deferred too long,—hearken, read! This hand, which thine eyes shall search in vain to discover, shall pierce thy heart. I see thee every day,—I am with thee every day. At each hour my arm rises against thy breast. Wretch! live yet awhile, though but for few and miserable days—live to think of me; sleep to dream of me! Thy terror and thy thought of me are the heralds of thy doom. Adieu! this day itself I go forth to riot on thy fears!” (See “Papiers inedits trouves chez Robespierre,” etc., volume ii. page 155. (No. lx.))
“Your lists are not full enough!” said the tyrant, with a hollow voice, as the paper dropped from his trembling hand. “Give them to me!—give them to me! Think again, think again! Barrere is right—right! ‘Frappons! il n’y a que les morts qui ne revient pas!’”
La haine, dans ces lieux,
n’a qu’un glaive assassin.
Elle marche dans l’ombre.
La Harpe, “Jeanne de Naples,” Act iv. sc. 1.
(Hate, in these regions,
has but the sword of the assassin. She
moves in the shade.)