He called for his valet, and allowed himself quietly to be put to bed.
One brief hour had transformed a child into a woman. A dangerous transformation when the brain is overburdened with emotions, when the nerves are overstrung and the heart full to breaking.
For the moment, however, the childlike nature reasserted itself for the last time, for Juliette, sobbing, had fled out of the room, to the privacy of her own apartment, and thrown herself passionately into the arms of kind old Petronelle.
It would have been very difficult to say why Citizen Deroulede was quite so popular as he was. Still more difficult would it have been to state the reason why he remained immune from the prosecutions, which were being conducted at the rate of several scores a day, now against the moderate Gironde, anon against the fanatic Mountain, until the whole of France was transformed into one gigantic prison, that daily fed the guillotine.
But Deroulede remained unscathed. Even Merlin’s law of the suspect had so far failed to touch him. And when, last July, the murder of Marat brought an entire holocaust of victims to the guillotine—from Adam Lux, who would have put up a statue in honour of Charlotte Corday, with the inscription: “Greater than Brutus”, to Charlier, who would have had her publicly tortured and burned at the stake for her crime—Deroulede alone said nothing, and was allowed to remain silent.
The most seething time of that seething revolution. No one knew in the morning if his head would still be on his own shoulders in the evening, or if it would be held up by Citizen Samson the headsman, for the sansculottes of Paris to see.
Yet Deroulede was allowed to go his own way. Marat once said of him: “Il n’est pas dangereux.” The phrase had been taken up. Within the precincts of the National Convention, Marat was still looked upon as the great protagonist of Liberty, a martyr to his own convictions carried to the extreme, to squalor and dirt, to the downward levelling of man to what is the lowest type in humanity. And his sayings were still treasured up: even the Girondins did not dare to attack his memory. Dead Marat was more powerful than his living presentment had been.
And he had said that Deroulede was not dangerous. Not dangerous to Republicanism, to liberty, to that downward, levelling process, the tearing down of old tradidions, and the annihilation of past pretensions.
Deroulede had once been very rich. He had had sufficient prudence to give away in good time that which, undoubtedly, would have been taken away from him later on.
But when he gave willingly, at a time when France needed it most, and before she had learned how to help herself to what she wanted.
And somehow, in this instance, France had not forgotten: an invisible fortress seemed to surround Citizen Deroulede and keep his enemies at bay. They were few, but they existed. The National Convention trusted him. “He was not dangerous” to them. The people looked upon him as one of themselves, who gave whilst he had something to give. Who can gauge that most elusive of all things: Popularity?