THE day wore on. By ones and twos and threes at a time, the condemned prisoners came from the tribunal, and collected in the waiting-room. At two o'clock all was ready for the calling over of the death-list. It was read and verified by an officer of the court; and then the jailer took his prisoners back to St. Lazare.
Evening came. The prisoners' meal had been served; the duplicate of the death-list had been read in public at the grate; the cell doors were all locked. From the day of their arrest, Rose and her brother, partly through the influence of a bribe, partly through Lomaque's intercession, had been confined together in one cell; and together they now awaited the dread event of the morrow.
To Rose that event was death--death, to the thought of which, at least, she was now resigned. To Trudaine the fast-nearing future was darkening hour by hour, with the uncertainty which is worse than death; with the faint, fearful, unpartaken suspense, which keeps the mind ever on the rack, and wears away the heart slowly. Through the long unsolaced agony of that dreadful night, but one relief came to him. The tension of every nerve, the crushing weight of the one fatal oppression that clung to every thought, relaxed a little when Rose's bodily powers began to sink under her mental exhaustion--when her sad, dying talk of the happy times that were passed ceased softly, and she laid her head on his shoulder, and let the angel of slumber take her yet for a little while, even though she lay already under the shadow of the angel of death.
The morning came, and the hot summer sunrise. What life was left in the terrorstruck city awoke for the day faintly; and still the suspense of the long night remained unlightened. It was drawing near the hour when the tumbrils were to come for the victims doomed on the day before. Trudaine's ear could detect even the faintest sound in the echoing prison region outside his cell. Soon, listening near the door, he heard voices disputing on the other side of it. Suddenly, the bolts were drawn back, the key turned in the lock, and he found himself standing face to face with the hunchback and one of the subordinate attendants on the prisoners.
"Look!" muttered this last man sulkily, "there they are, safe in their cell, just as I said; but I tell you again they are not down in the list. What do you mean by bullying me about not chalking their door, last night, along with the rest? Catch me doing your work for you again, when you're too drunk to do it yourself!"
"Hold your tongue, and let me have another look at the list!" returned the hunchback, turning away from the cell door, and snatching a slip of paper from the other's hand. "The devil take me if I can make head or tail of it!" he exclaimed, scratching his head, after a careful examination of the list. "I could swear that I read over their names at the grate yesterday afternoon with my own lips; and yet, look as long as I may, I certainly can't find them written down here. Give us a pinch, friend. Am I awake, or dreaming? drunk or sober this morning?"
"Sober, I hope," said a quiet voice at his elbow. "I have just looked in to see how you are after yesterday."
"How I am, Citizen Lomaque? Petrified with astonishment. You yourself took charge of that man and woman for me, in the waiting-room, yesterday morning; and as for myself, I could swear to having read their names at the grate yesterday afternoon. Yet this morning here are no such things as these said names to be found in the list! What do you think of that?"
"And what do you think," interrupted the aggrieved subordinate, "of his having the impudence to bully me for being careless in chalking the doors, when he was too drunk to do it himself? too drunk to know his right hand from his left! If I wasn't the best-natured man in the world, I should report him to the head jailer."
"Quite right of you to excuse him, and quite wrong of him to bully you," said Lomaque, persuasively. "Take my advice," he continued, confidentially, to the hunchback, "and don't trust too implicitly to that slippery memory of yours, after our little drinking bout yesterday. You could not really have read their names at the grate, you know, or of course they would be down on the list. As for the waiting-room at the tribunal, a word in your ear: chief agents of police know strange secrets. The president of the court condemns and pardons in public; but there is somebody else, with the power of ten thousand presidents, who now and then condemns and pardons in private. You can guess who. I say no more, except that I recommend you to keep your head on your shoulders, by troubling it about nothing but the list there in your hand. Stick to that literally, and nobody can blame you. Make a fuss about mysteries that don't concern you, and--"
Lomaque stopped, and holding his hand edgewise, let it drop significantly over the hunchback's head. That action and the hints which preceded it seemed to bewilder the little man more than ever. He stared perplexedly at Lomaque; uttered a word or two of rough apology to his subordinate, and rolling his misshapen head portentously, walked away with the death-list crumpled up nervously in his hand.
"I should like to have a sight of them, and see if they really are the same man and woman whom I looked after yesterday morning in the waiting-room," said Lomaque, putting his hand on the cell door, just as the deputy-jailer was about to close it again.
"Look in, by all means," said the man. "No doubt you will find that drunken booby as wrong in what he told you about them as he is about everything else."
Lomaque made use of the privilege granted to him immediately. He saw Trudaine sitting with his sister in the corner of the cell furthest from the door, evidently for the purpose of preventing her from overhearing the conversation outside. There was an unsettled look, however, in her eyes, a slowly-heightening color in her cheeks, which showed her to be at least vaguely aware that something unusual had been taking place in the corridor.
Lomaque beckoned to Trudaine to leave her, and whispered to him: "The prescription has worked well. You are safe for to-day. Break the news to your sister as gently as you can. Danville--" He stopped and listened till he satisfied himself, by the sound of the deputy-jailer's footsteps, that the man was lounging toward the further end of the corridor. "Danville," he resumed, "after having mixed with the people outside the grate yesterday, and having heard your names read, was arrested in the evening by secret order from Robespierre, and sent to the Temple. What charge will be laid to him, or when he will be brought to trial, it is impossible to say. I only know that he is arrested. Hush! don't talk now; my friend outside is coming back. Keep quiet--hope everything from the chances and changes of public affairs; and comfort yourself with the thought that you are both safe for to-day."
"And to-morrow?" whispered Trudaine.
"Don't think of to-morrow," returned Lomaque, turning away hurriedly to the door "Let to-morrow take care of itself."
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