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- The Companions of Jehu - 6/133 -


"Faith, yes, and I shall have poor luck if I don't make something out of it."

I looked at my watch. "Three o'clock! Now for the prison. I have an appointment with M. Milliet at four on the Place du Bastion."

"Wait; there is one thing more."

"What is that?"

"Have you noticed Marguerite of Austria's motto?"

"No; where is it?"

"Oh, all over. In the first place, look above her tomb."

"'Fortune, infortune, fort'une.'"

"Exactly."

"Well, what does this play of words mean?"

"Learned men translate it thus: 'Fate persecutes a woman much.'"

"Explain that a little."

"You must, in the first place, assume that it is derived from the Latin."

"True, that is probable."

"Well, then: 'Fortuna infortunat--'"

"Oh! Oh! 'Infortunat.'"

"Bless me!"

"That strongly resembles a solecism!"

"What do you want?"

"An explanation."

"Explain it yourself."

"Well; 'Fortuna, infortuna, forti una.' 'Fortune and misfortune are alike to the strong.'"

"Do you know, that may possibly be the correct translation?"

"Zounds! See what it is not to be learned, my dear sir; we are endowed with common-sense, and that sees clearer than science. Have you anything else to tell me?"

"No."

"Then let us go to the prison."

We got into the carriage and returned to the city, stopping only at the gate of the prison. I glanced out of the window.

"Oh!" I exclaimed, "they have spoiled it for me."

"What! They've spoiled it for you?"

"Certainly, it was not like this in my prisoners' time. Can I speak to the jailer?"

"Certainly."

"Then let us consult him."

We knocked at the door. A man about forty opened it. He recognized M. Leduc.

"My dear fellow," M. Leduc said to him, "this is one of my learned friends--"

"Come, come," I exclaimed, interrupting him, "no nonsense."

"Who contends," continued M. Leduc, "that the prison is no longer the same as it was in the last century?"

"That is true, M. Leduc, it was torn down and rebuilt in 1816."

"Then the interior arrangements are no longer the same?"

"Oh! no, sir, everything was changed."

"Could I see the old plan?"

"M. Martin, the architect, might perhaps be able to find one for you."

"Is he any relation to M. Martin, the lawyer?"

"His brother."

"Very well, my friend, then I can get my plan."

"Then we have nothing more to do here?" inquired M. Leduc.

"Nothing."

"Then I am free to go home?"

"I shall be sorry to leave you, that is all."

"Can you find your way to the Bastion without me?"

"It is close by."

"What are you going to do this evening?"

"I will spend it with you, if you wish."

"Very good! You will find a cup of tea waiting for you at nine."

"I shall be on hand for it."

I thanked M. Leduc. We shook hands and parted.

I went down the Rue des Lisses (meaning Lists, from a combat which took place in the square to which it leads), and skirting the Montburon Garden, I reached the Place du Bastion. This is a semicircle now used as the town marketplace. In the midst stands the statue of Bichat by David d'Angers. Bichat, in a frockcoat--why that exaggeration of realism?--stands with his hand upon the heart of a child about nine or ten years old, perfectly nude--why that excess of ideality? Extended at Bichat's feet lies a dead body. It is Bichat's book "Of Life and of Death" translated into bronze. I was studying this statue, which epitomizes the defects and merits of David d'Angers, when I felt some one touch my shoulder. I turned around; it was M. Milliet. He held a paper in his hand.

"Well?" I asked.

"Well, victory!"

"What is that you have there?"

"The minutes of the trial and execution."

"Of whom?"

"Of your men."

"Of Guyon, Leprêtre, Amiet--!"

"And Hyvert."

"Give it to me."

"Here it is."

I took it and read:

REPORT OF THE DEATH AND EXECUTION OF LAURENT GUYON, ETIENNE HYVERT, FRANÇOIS AMIET, ANTOINE LEPRÊTRE. Condemned the twentieth Thermidor of the year VIII., and executed the twenty-third Vendemiaire of the year IX.

To-day, the twenty-third Vendemiaire of the year IX., the government commissioner of the tribunal, who received at eleven of the evening the budget of the Minister of Justice, containing the minutes of the trial and the judgment which condemns to death Laurent Guyon, Etienne Hyvert, François Amiet and Antoine Leprêtre;--the decision of the Court of Appeals of the sixth inst., rejecting the appeal against the sentence of the twenty-first Thermidor of the year VIII., I did notify by letter, between seven and eight of the morning, the four accused that their sentence of death would take effect to-day at eleven o'clock. In the interval which elapsed before eleven o'clock, the four accused shot themselves with pistols and stabbed themselves with blows from a poinard in prison. Leprêtre and Guyon, according to public rumor, were dead; Hyvert fatally wounded and dying; Amiet fatally wounded, but still conscious. All four, in this state, were conveyed to the scaffold, and, living or dead, were guillotined. At half after eleven, the sheriff, Colin, handed in the report of their execution to the Municipality for registration upon the death roll:

The captain of gendarmerie remitted to the Justice of the Peace a report of what had occurred in the prison, of which he was a witness. I, who was not present, do certify to what I have learned by hearsay only.

(Signed) DUBOST, _Clerk_.

Bourg, 23d Vendemiaire of the year IX.

Ah! so it was the poet who was right and not the historian! The captain of gendarmerie, who remitted the report of the proceedings in the prison to the Justice of the Peace, at which he was present, was Nodier's uncle. This report handed to the Justice of the Peace was the story which, graven upon the young man's mind, saw the light some forty years later unaltered, in that masterpiece entitled "Souvenirs de la Révolution." The entire series of papers was in the record office. M. Martin offered to have them copied


The Companions of Jehu - 6/133

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