Suddenly one of the Jacobins opened the door, and, approaching Robespierre, whispered to him the name of Guerin. (See for the espionage on which Guerin was employed, “Les Papiers inedits,” etc., volume i. page 366, No. xxviii.) At that word the sick man started up, as if new life were in the sound.
“My kind friend,” he said to the Marquise, “forgive me; I must dispense with thy tender cares. France demands me. I am never ill when I can serve my country!”
The old Marquise lifted up her eyes to heaven and murmured, “Quel ange!”
Robespierre waved his hand impatiently; and the old woman, with a sigh, patted his pale cheek, kissed his forehead, and submissively withdrew. The next moment, the smiling, sober man we have before described, stood, bending low, before the tyrant. And well might Robespierre welcome one of the subtlest agents of his power,—one on whom he relied more than the clubs of his Jacobins, the tongues of his orators, the bayonets of his armies; Guerin, the most renowned of his ecouteurs,—the searching, prying, universal, omnipresent spy, who glided like a sunbeam through chink and crevice, and brought to him intelligence not only of the deeds, but the hearts of men!
“Well, citizen, well!—and what of Tallien?”
“This morning, early, two minutes after eight, he went out.”
“He passed Rue des Quatre Fils, Rue de Temple, Rue de la Reunion, au Marais, Rue Martin; nothing observable, except that—”
“He amused himself at a stall in bargaining for some books.”
“Bargaining for books! Aha, the charlatan!—he would cloak the intriguant under the savant! Well!”
“At last, in the Rue des Fosses Montmartre, an individual in a blue surtout (unknown) accosted him. They walked together about the street some minutes, and were joined by Legendre.”
“Legendre! approach, Payan! Legendre, thou hearest!”
“I went into a fruit-stall, and hired two little girls to go and play at ball within hearing. They heard Legendre say, ’I believe his power is wearing itself out.’ And Tallien answered, ’And himself too. I would not give three months’ purchase for his life.’ I do not know, citizen, if they meant thee?”
“Nor I, citizen,” answered Robespierre, with a fell smile, succeeded by an expression of gloomy thought. “Ha!” he muttered; “I am young yet,—in the prime of life. I commit no excess. No; my constitution is sound, sound. Anything farther of Tallien?”
“Yes. The woman whom he loves—Teresa de Fontenai—who lies in prison, still continues to correspond with him; to urge him to save her by thy destruction: this my listeners overheard. His servant is the messenger between the prisoner and himself.”
“So! The servant shall be seized in the open streets of Paris. The Reign of Terror is not over yet. With the letters found on him, if such their context, I will pluck Tallien from his benches in the Convention.”