The room into which she had entered was gay and cheerful-looking with its dainty chintz hangings and graceful, elegant pieces of furniture. The young girl looked up, as a kindly voice said to her, from out the depths of a capacious armchair:
“Come in, come in, my dear, and close the door behind you! Did those wretches attack you? Never mind. Paul will speak to them. Come here, my dear, and sit down; there’s no cause now for fear.”
Without a word the young girl came forward. She seemed now to be walking in a dream, the chintz hangings to be swaying ghostlike around her, the yells and shrieks below to come from the very bowels of the earth.
The old lady continued to prattle on. She had taken the girl’s hand in hers, and was gently forcing her down on to a low stool beside her armchair. She was talking about Paul, and said something about Anne Mie, and then about the National Convention, and those beasts and savages, but mostly about Paul.
The noise outside had subsided. The girl felt strangely sick and tired. Her head seemed to be whirling round, the furniture to be dancing round her; the old lady’s face looked at her through a swaying veil, and then—and then...
Tired Nature was having her way at last; she folded the quivering young body in her motherly arms, and wrapped the aching senses beneath her merciful mantle of unconsciousness.
When, presently, the young girl awoke, with a delicious feeling of rest and well-being, she had plenty of leisure to think.
So, then, this was his house! She was actually a guest, a rescued protege, beneath the roof of Citoyen Deroulede.
He had dragged her from the clutches of the howling mob which she had provoked; his mother had made her welcome, a sweet-faced, young girl scarce out of her teens, sad-eyed and slightly deformed, had waited upon her and made her happy and comfortable.
Juliette de Marny was in the house of the man, whom she had sworn before her God and before her father to pursue with hatred and revenge.
Ten years had gone by since then.
Lying upon the sweet-scented bed which the hospitality of the Derouledes had provided for her, she seemed to see passing before her the spectres of these past ten years—the first four, after her brothers death, until the old Duc de Marny’s body slowly followed his soul to its grave.
After that last glimmer of life beside the deathbed of his son, the old Duc had practically ceased to be. A mute, shrunken figure, he merely existed; his mind vanished, his memory gone, a wreck whom Nature fortunately remembered at last, and finally took away from the invalid chair which had been his world.
Then came those few years at the Convent of the Ursulines. Juliette had hoped that she had a vocation; her whole soul yearned for a secluded, a religious, life, for great barriers of solemn vows and days spent in prayer and contemplation, to interpose between herself and the memory of that awful night when, obedient to her father’s will, she had made the solemn oath to avenge her brother’s death.