“You had more than one lover, then?” said Merlin, with a laugh which would have pleased the devil himself. “And you wished to send one of them to the guillotine in order to make way for the other? Was that it?”
“Was that it?” he repeated, suddenly seizing one of her wrists, and giving it as savage twist, so that she almost screamed with the pain.
“Yes,” she replied firmly.
“Do you know that you brought me here on a fool’s errand?” he asked viciously; “that the Citizen-Deputy Deroulede cannot be sent to the guillotine on mere suspicion, eh? Did you know that, when you wrote out that denunciation?”
“No; I did not know.”
“You thought we could arrest him on mere suspicion?”
“You knew he was Innocent?”
“I knew it.”
“Why did you burn your love letters?”
“I was afraid that they would be found, and would be brought under the notice of the Citizen-Deputy.”
“A splendid combination, ma foi!” said Merlin, with an oath, as he turned to the two other women, who sat pale and shrinking in a corner of the room, not understanding what was going on, not knowing what to think or what to believe. They had known nothing of Deroulede’s plans for the escape of Marie Antoinette, they didn’t know what the letter-case had contained, and yet they both vaguely felt that the beautiful girl, who stood up so calmly before the loathsome Terrorist, was not a wanton, as she tried to make out, but only misguided, mad perhaps—perhaps a martyr.
“Did you know anything of this?” queried Merlin roughly from trembling Anne Mie.
“Nothing,” she replied.
“No one knew anything of my private affairs or of my private correspondence,” said Juliette coldly; “as you say, it was a splendid combination. I had hoped that it would succeed. But I understand now that Citizen-Deputy Deroulede is a personage of too much importance to be brought to trial on mere suspicion, and my denunciation of him was not based on facts.”
“And do you know, my fine aristocrat,” sneered Merlin viciously, “that it is not wise either to fool the Committee of Public Safety, or to denounce without cause one of the representatives of the people?”
“I know,” she rejoined quietly, “that you, Citizen Merlin, are determined that someone shall pay for this day’s blunder. You dare not now attack the Citizen-Deputy, and so you must be content with me.”
“Enough of this talk now; I have no time to bandy words with aristos,” he said roughly.
“Come now, follow the men quietly. Resistance would only aggravate your case.”
“I am quite prepared to follow you. May I speak two words to my friends before I go?”
“I may never be able to speak to them again.”
“I have said No, and I mean No. Now then, forward. March! I have wasted too much time already.”