I loved those few words of English, and hoped that maman had heard them too, for it would confirm her—as it did me—in the happy knowledge that God and a brave man had taken our rescue in hand.
But from that moment we might have all been in the very ante-chamber of hell. I could hear the violent kicks against the heavy door of our prison, and our brave rescuers seemed suddenly to be transformed into a cageful of wild beasts. Their shouts and yells were as horrible as any that came to us from the outside, and I must say that the gentle, firm voice which I had learnt to love was as execrable as any I could hear.
Apparently the door would not yield, as the blows against it became more and more violent, and presently from somewhere above my head—the window presumably—there came a rough call, and a raucous laugh:
“Why? what in the name of —— is happening here?”
And the voice near me answered back equally roughly: “A quarry of six— but we are caught in this confounded trap—get the door open for us, citizen—we want to get rid of this booty and go in search for more.”
A horrible laugh was the reply from above, and the next instant I heard a terrific crash; the door had at last been burst open, either from within or without, I could not tell which, and suddenly all the din, the cries, the groans, the hideous laughter and bibulous songs which had sounded muffled up to now burst upon us with all their hideousness.
That was, I think, the most awful moment of that truly fearful hour. I could not have moved then, even had I wished or been able to do so; but I knew that between us all and a horrible, yelling, murdering mob there was now nothing—except the hand of God and the heroism of a band of English gentlemen.
Together they gave a cry—as loud, as terrifying as any that were uttered by the butchering crowd in the building, and with a wild rush they seemed to plunge with us right into the thick of the awful melee.
At least, that is what it all felt like to me, and afterwards I heard from our gallant rescuer himself that that is exactly what he and his friends did. There were eight of them altogether, and we four young ones had each been hoisted on a pair of devoted shoulders, whilst maman and papa were each carried by two men.
I was lying across the finest pair of shoulders in the world, and close to me was beating the bravest heart on God’s earth.
Thus burdened, these eight noble English gentlemen charged right through an army of butchering, howling brutes, they themselves howling with the fiercest of them.
All around me I heard weird and terrific cries: “What ho! citizens—what have you there?”
“Six aristos!” shouted my hero boldly as he rushed on, forging his way through the crowd.
“What are you doing with them?” yelled a raucous voice.
“Food for the starving fish in the river,” was the ready response. “Stand aside, citizen,” he added, with a round curse; “I have my orders from citizen Danton himself about these six aristos. You hinder me at your peril.”