Once only a fierce, brawny Jacobin sprang up from the table at which he sat, drinking deep, and, approaching the stranger, said, “I seize thee, in the name of the Republic.”
“Citizen Aristides,” answered the stranger, in a whisper, “go to the lodgings of Robespierre,—he is from home; and in the left pocket of the vest which he cast off not an hour since thou wilt find a paper; when thou hast read that, return. I will await thee; and if thou wouldst then seize me, I will go without a struggle. Look round on those lowering brows; touch me now, and thou wilt be torn to pieces.”
The Jacobin felt as if compelled to obey against his will. He went forth muttering; he returned,—the stranger was still there. “Mille tonnerres,” he said to him, “I thank thee; the poltroon had my name in his list for the guillotine.”
With that the Jacobin Aristides sprang upon the table and shouted, “Death to the Tyrant!”
Le lendemain, 8 Thermidor,
Robespierre se decida a prononcer son
—Thiers, “Hist. de la Revolution.”
(The next day, 8th Thermidor,
Robespierre resolved to deliver his
The morning rose,—the 8th of Thermidor (July 26). Robespierre has gone to the Convention. He has gone with his laboured speech; he has gone with his phrases of philanthropy and virtue; he has gone to single out his prey. All his agents are prepared for his reception; the fierce St. Just has arrived from the armies to second his courage and inflame his wrath. His ominous apparition prepares the audience for the crisis. “Citizens!” screeched the shrill voice of Robespierre “others have placed before you flattering pictures; I come to announce to you useful truths.
“And they attribute to me,—to me alone!—whatever of harsh or evil is committed: it is Robespierre who wishes it; it is Robespierre who ordains it. Is there a new tax?—it is Robespierre who ruins you. They call me tyrant!—and why? Because I have acquired some influence; but how?—in speaking truth; and who pretends that truth is to be without force in the mouths of the Representatives of the French people? Doubtless, truth has its power, its rage, its despotism, its accents, touching, terrible, which resound in the pure heart as in the guilty conscience; and which Falsehood can no more imitate than Salmoneus could forge the thunderbolts of Heaven. What am I whom they accuse? A slave of liberty,—a living martyr of the Republic; the victim as the enemy of crime! All ruffianism affronts me, and actions legitimate in others are crimes in me. It is enough to know me to be calumniated. It is in my very zeal that they discover my guilt. Take from me my conscience, and I should be the most miserable of men!”
He paused; and Couthon wiped his eyes, and St. Just murmured applause as with stern looks he gazed on the rebellious Mountain; and there was a dead, mournful, and chilling silence through the audience. The touching sentiment woke no echo.