Juliette marvelled at his courage; to defend Charlotte Corday was equivalent to acquiescing in the death of Marat: Marat, the friend of the people; Marat, whom his funeral orators had compared to the Great, the Sacred Leveller of Mankind!
But Deroulede’s speech was not a defence, it was an appeal. The most eloquent man of that eloquent age, his words seemed to find that hidden bit of sentiment which still lurked in the hearts of these strange protagonists of Hate.
Everyone round Juliette listened as he spoke: “It is Citoyen Deroulede!” whispered the bloodthirsty Amazons, who sat knitting in the gallery.
But there was no further comment. A huge, magnificently-equipped hospital for sick children had been thrown open in Paris that very morning, a gift to the nation from Citoyen Deroulede. Surely he was privileged to talk a little, if it pleased him. His hospital would cover quite a good many defalcations.
Even the rabid Mountain, Danton, Merlin, Santerre, shrugged their shoulders. “It is Deroulede, let him talk an he list. Murdered Marat said of him that he was not dangerous.”
Juliette heard it all. The knitters round her ware talking loudly. Even Charlotte was almost forgotten whilst Deroulede talked. He had a fine voice, of strong calibre, which echoed powerfully through the hall.
He was rather short, but broad-shouldered and well knit, with an expressive hand, which looked slender and delicate below the fine lace ruffle.
Charlotte Corday was condemned. All Deroulede’s eloquence could not save her.
Juliette left the court in a state of mad exultation. She was very young: the scenes she had witnessed in the past two years could not help but excite the imagination of a young girl, left entirely to her own intellectual and moral resources.
What scenes! Great God!
And now to wait for an opportunity! Charlotte Corday, the half-educated litte provincial should not put to shame Mademoiselle de Marny, the daughter of a hundred dukes, of those who had made France before she took to unmaking herself.
But she could not formulate any definite plans. Petronelle, poor old soul, her only confidante, was not of the stuff that heroines are made of. Juliette felt impelled by duty, and duty at best is not so prompt a counsellor as love or hate.
Her adventure outside Deroulede’s house had not been premeditated. Impulse and coincidence had worked their will with her.
She had been in the habit, daily, for the past month, of wandering down the Rue Ecole de Medecine, ostensibly to gaze at Marat’s dwelling, as crowds of idlers were wont to do, but really in order to look at Deroulede’s house. Once or twice she saw him coming or going from home. Once she caught sight of the inner hall, and of a young girl in a dark kirtle and snow-white kerchief bidding him good-bye at his door. Another time she caught sight of him at the corner of the street, helping that same young girl over the muddy pavement. He had just met her, and she was carrying a basket of provisions: he took it from her and carried it to the house.