“What are your symptoms, your disease?”
“Fire, fire, fire in the heart, the entrails: I burn!”
“How long is it since you have taken food?”
“Food! only this broth. There is the basin, all I have taken these six hours. I had scarce drunk it ere these pains began.”
The stranger looked at the basin; some portion of the contents was yet left there.
“Who administered this to you?”
“Who? Jean! Who else should? I have no servant,—none! I am poor, very poor, sir. But no! you physicians do not care for the poor. I am rich! can you cure me?”
“Yes, if Heaven permit. Wait but a few moments.”
The old man was fast sinking under the rapid effects of poison. The stranger repaired to his own apartments, and returned in a few moments with some preparation that had the instant result of an antidote. The pain ceased, the blue and livid colour receded from the lips; the old man fell into a profound sleep. The stranger drew the curtains round the bed, took up the light, and inspected the apartment. The walls of both rooms were hung with drawings of masterly excellence. A portfolio was filled with sketches of equal skill,—but these last were mostly subjects that appalled the eye and revolted the taste: they displayed the human figure in every variety of suffering,—the rack, the wheel, the gibbet; all that cruelty has invented to sharpen the pangs of death seemed yet more dreadful from the passionate gusto and earnest force of the designer. And some of the countenances of those thus delineated were sufficiently removed from the ideal to show that they were portraits; in a large, bold, irregular hand was written beneath these drawings, “The Future of the Aristocrats.” In a corner of the room, and close by an old bureau, was a small bundle, over which, as if to hide it, a cloak was thrown carelessly. Several shelves were filled with books; these were almost entirely the works of the philosophers of the time,—the philosophers of the material school, especially the Encyclopedistes, whom Robespierre afterwards so singularly attacked when the coward deemed it unsafe to leave his reign without a God.