A wild exaltation, a fever of enthusiasm lent glamour to the scenes which were daily enacted on the Place de la Revolution, turning the final acts of the tragedies into glaring, lurid melodrama, almost unreal in its poignant appeal to the sensibilities.
But here there was only this dead, dull misery, an aching heart, a poor, fragile creature in the throes of an agonised struggle for a fast-disappearing happiness.
Anne Mie hardly knew now what she had hoped, when she sought this interview with Sir Percy Blakeney. Drowning in a sea of hopelessness, she had clutched at what might prove a chance of safety. Her reason told her that Paul’s friend was right. Deroulede was a man who would love but once in his life. He had never loved—for he had too much pitied—poor, pathetic litte Anne Mie.
Nay; why should we say that love and pity are akin?
Love, the great, the strong, the conquering god—Love that subdues a world, and rides roughshod over principle, virtue, tradidion, over home, kindred, and religion—what cares he for the easy conquest of the pathetic being, who appeals to his sympathy?
Love means equality—the same height of heroism or of sin. When Love stoops to pity, he has ceased to soar in the boundless space, that rarefied atmosphere wherein man feels himself made at last truly in the image of God.
At the door of her home Blakeney parted from Anne Mie, with all the courtesy with which he would have bade adieu to the greatest lady in his own land.
Anne Mie let herself into the house with her own latch-key. She closed the heavy door noiselessly, then glided upstairs like a quaint little ghost.
But on the landing above she met Paul Deroulede.
He had just come out of his room, and was still fully dressed.
“Anne Mie!” he said, with such an obvious cry of pleasure, that the young girl, with beating heart, paused a moment on the top of the stairs, as if hoping to hear that cry again, feeling that indeed he was glad to see her, had been uneasy because of her long absence.
“Have I made you anxious?” she asked at last.
“Anxious!” he exclaimed. “Little one, I have hardly lived this last hour, since I realised that you had gone out so late as this, and all alone.”
“How did you know?”
“Mademoiselle de Marny knocked at my door an hour ago. She had gone to your room to see you, and, not finding you there, she searched the house for you, and finally, in her anxiety, come to me. We did not dare to tell my mother. I won’t ask you where you have been, Anne Mie, but another time, remember, little one, that the streets of Paris are not safe, and that those who love you suffer deeply, when they know you to be in peril.”
“Those who love me!” murmured the girl under her breath.