Merlin waited a while in the hall, until he heard the noise of the shrieking crowd gradually die away in the distance, then with a grunt of satisfaction he one more mounted the stairs.
All these events outside had occurred during a very few minutes, and Madame Deroulede and Anne Mie had been too anxious as to what was happening in the streets, to take any notice of Juliette.
They had not dared to step out on to the balcony to see what was going on, and, therefore, did not understand what the reopening and shutting of the front door had meant.
The next instant, however, Merlin’s heavy, slouching footsteps on the stairs had caused Anne Mie to look round in alarm.
“It is only the soldiers come back for me,” said Juliette quietly.
“Yes; they are coming to take me away. I suppose they did not wish to do it in the presence of Mr. Deroulede, for fear...”
She had no time to say more. Anne Mie was still looking at her in awed and mute surprise, when Merlin entered the room.
In his hand he held a leather case, all torn, and split at one end, and a few tiny scraps of half-charred paper. He walked straight up to Juliette, and roughly thrust the case and papers into her face.
“These are yours?” he said roughly.
“I suppose you know where they were found?”
She nodded quietly in reply.
“What were these papers which you burnt?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“As you please,” she said curtly.
“What were these papers?” he repeated, with a loud obscene oath which, however, had not the power to disturb the young girl’s serenity.
“I have told you,” she said: “love letters, which I wished to burn.”
“Who was your lover?” he asked.
Then as she did not reply he indicated the street, where cries of “Deroulede! Vive Deroulede!” still echoed from afar.
“Were the letters from him?”
“You had more than one lover, then?”
He laughed, and a hideous leer seemed further to distort his ugly countenance.
He thrust his face quite close to hers, and she closed her eyes, sick with the horror of this contact with the degraded wretch. Even Anne Mie had uttered a cry of sympathy at sight of this evil-smelling, squalid creature torturing, with his close proximity, the beautiful, refined girl before him.
With a rough gesture he put his clawlike hand under her delicate chin, forcing her to turn round and to look at him. She shuddered at the loathsome touch, but her quietude never forsook her for a moment.
It was into the power of wretches such as this man, that she had wilfully delivered the man she loved. This brutish creature’s familiarity put the finishing touch to her own degradation, but it gave her the courage to carry through her purpose to the end.