He did not say anything more for a while; he had taken her hand, which she no longer withdrew from him, for there was sweet pleasure in feeling his strong fingers close tremblingly over hers. He pressed his lips upon her hand, upon the soft palm and delicate wrist, his burning kisses bearing witness to the tumultuous passion, which his reverence for her was holding in check.
She tried to tear herself away from him, but he would not let her go:
“Do not go away just yet, Juliette,” he pleaded. “Think! I may never see you again; but when you are far from me—in England, perhaps— amongst your own kith and kin, will you try sometimes to think kindly of one who so wildly, so madly worships you?”
She would have stilled, an she could, the beating of her heart, which went out to him at last with all the passionate intensity of her great, pent-up love. Every word he spoke had its echo within her very soul, and she tried not to hear his tender appeal, not to see his dark head bending in worship before her. She tried to forget his presence, not to know that he was there—he, the man whom she had betrayed to serve her own miserable vengeance, whom in her mad, exalted rage she had thought that she hated, but whom she now knew that she loved better than her life, better than her soul, her tradidions, or her oath.
Now, at this moment, she made every effort to conjure up the vision of her brother brought home dead upon a stretcher, of her father’s declining years, rendered hideous by the mind unhinged through the great sorrow.
She tried to think of the avenging finger of God pointing the way to the fulfilment of her oath, and called to Him to stand by her in this terrible agony of her soul.
And God spoke to her at last; through the eternal vistas of boundless universe, from that heaven which had known no pity, His voice came to her now, clear, awesome, and implacable:
“Vengeance is mine! I will repay!”
The sword of Damocles.
“In the name of the Republic!”
Absorbed in his thoughts, his dreams, his present happiness, Deroulede had heard nothing of what was going on in the house, during the past few seconds.
At first, to Anne Mie, who was still singing her melancholy didty over her work in the kitchen, there had seem nothing unusual in the peremptory ring at the front-door bell. She pulled down her sleeves over her thin arms, smoothed down her cooking apron, then only did she run to see who the visitor might be.
As soon as she had opened the door, however, she understood.
Five men were standing before her, four of whom wore the uniform of the National Guard, and the fifth, the tricolour scarf fringed with gold, which denoted service under the Convention.
This man seemed to be in command of the others, and he immediately stepped into the hall, followed by his four companions, who at a sign from him, effectively cut off Anne Mie from what had been her imminent purpose—namely, to run to the study and warn Deroulede of his danger.