Zanoni eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 456 pages of information about Zanoni.

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A crowd had gathered round the Rue St. Honore; a young man was just arrested by the order of Robespierre.  He was known to be in the service of Tallien, that hostile leader in the Convention, whom the tyrant had hitherto trembled to attack.  This incident had therefore produced a greater excitement than a circumstance so customary as an arrest in the Reign of Terror might be supposed to create.  Amongst the crowd were many friends of Tallien, many foes to the tyrant, many weary of beholding the tiger dragging victim after victim to its den.  Hoarse, foreboding murmurs were heard; fierce eyes glared upon the officers as they seized their prisoner; and though they did not yet dare openly to resist, those in the rear pressed on those behind, and encumbered the path of the captive and his captors.  The young man struggled hard for escape, and, by a violent effort, at last wrenched himself from the grasp.  The crowd made way, and closed round to protect him, as he dived and darted through their ranks; but suddenly the trampling of horses was heard at hand,—­the savage Henriot and his troop were bearing down upon the mob.  The crowd gave way in alarm, and the prisoner was again seized by one of the partisans of the Dictator.  At that moment a voice whispered the prisoner, “Thou hast a letter which, if found on thee, ruins thy last hope.  Give it to me!  I will bear it to Tallien.”  The prisoner turned in amaze, read something that encouraged him in the eyes of the stranger who thus accosted him.  The troop were now on the spot; the Jacobin who had seized the prisoner released hold of him for a moment to escape the hoofs of the horses:  in that moment the opportunity was found,—­the stranger had disappeared.

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At the house of Tallien the principal foes of the tyrant were assembled.  Common danger made common fellowship.  All factions laid aside their feuds for the hour to unite against the formidable man who was marching over all factions to his gory throne.  There was bold Lecointre, the declared enemy; there, creeping Barrere, who would reconcile all extremes, the hero of the cowards; Barras, calm and collected; Collet d’Herbois, breathing wrath and vengeance, and seeing not that the crimes of Robespierre alone sheltered his own.

The council was agitated and irresolute.  The awe which the uniform success and the prodigious energy of Robespierre excited still held the greater part under its control.  Tallien, whom the tyrant most feared, and who alone could give head and substance and direction to so many contradictory passions, was too sullied by the memory of his own cruelties not to feel embarrassed by his position as the champion of mercy.  “It is true,” he said, after an animating harangue from Lecointre, “that the Usurper menaces us all.  But he is still so beloved by his mobs,—­still so supported by his Jacobins:  better delay open hostilities till the hour is more ripe.  To attempt and not succeed is to give us, bound hand and foot, to the guillotine.  Every day his power must decline.  Procrastination is our best ally—­” While yet speaking, and while yet producing the effect of water on the fire, it was announced that a stranger demanded to see him instantly on business that brooked no delay.

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Zanoni from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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