The thick mist, which grew more and more dense, favoured the new manoeuvre, and the constant roll of drums drowned the hastily given orders.
The cart was drawn back into the deepest shadow of the great portico, and whilst the mob were howling their loudest, and yelling out frantic demands for the traitors, Deroulede and Juliette were summarily ordered to step out of the cart. No one saw them, for the darkness here was intense.
“Follow quietly!” whispered a raucous voice in their ears as they did so, “or my orders are to shoot you where you stand.”
But neither of them had any wish for resistance. Juliette, cold and numb, was clinging to Deroulede, who had placed a protecting arm round her.
Santerne had told off two of his men to join the new escort of the prisoners, and presently the small party, skirting the walls of the Palais de Justice, began to walk rapidly away from the scene of the riot.
Deroulede noted that some half-dozen men seemed to be surrounding him and Juliette, but the drizzling rain blurred every outline. The blackness of the night too had become absolutely dense, and in the distance the cries of the populace grew more and more faint.
The small party walked on in silence. It seemed to consist of a very few men of the National Guard, whom Santerne had placed under the command of the soldier who had transmitted to him the orders of the Citizen-Deputies.
Juliette and Deroulede both vaguely wondered whither they were being led; to some other prison mayhap, away from the fury of the populace. They were conscious of a sense of satisfaction at thought of being freed from that pack of raging wild beasts.
Beyond that they cared nothing. Both felt already the shadow of death hovering over them. The supreme moment of their lives had come, and had found them side by side.
What neither fear nor remorse, sorrow nor joy, could do, that the great and mighty Shadow accomplished in a trice.
Juliette, looking death bravely in the face, held out her hand, and sought that of the man she loved.
There was not one word spoken between them, not even a murmur.
Deroulede, with the unerring instinct of his own unselfish passion, understood all that the tiny hand wished to convey to him.
In a moment everything was forgotten save the joy of this touch. Death, or the fear of death, had ceased to exist. Life was beautiful, and in the soul of these two human creatures there was perfect peace, almost perfect happiness.
With one grasp of the hand they had sought and found one another’s soul. What mattered the yelling crowd, the noise and tumult of this sordid world? They had found one another, and, hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder, they had gone off wandering into the land of dreams, where dwelt neither doubt nor treachery, where there was nothing to forgive.