THE HOUSEHOLD OF CITIZEN DUPLAY.
Opposite the Church of the Assumption, the Rue St. Honoré, a little back from its main thoroughfare; stood a low wooden house, built round a forecourt belonging to a cabinetmaker named Duplay. An honest, hardworking man was Citizen Duplay, who, with his family of up-grown sons and daughters, practically exemplified under their own modest roof, the principles of the ardent Republicanism they professed.
There lived with them one who—in so far that he was not of their kith and kin, and reimbursed the master of the house in vulgar, current coin, the value of the little attic combination of sleeping-room and study, built over an archway leading into a back yard, which he occupied, and for the meals he shared at their common table—must perforce be called a lodger, though it was with no eye to gain, but under markedly special circumstances that Duplay had offered his accommodation to the man whom the whole household regarded as its guide, philosopher, inspiration, and above all, friend. To one—Duplay’s eldest daughter Eléanore—something nearer still and dearer, since as plighted man and wife, the two looked forward through the stormful present, to a calm future spent in one of the farms of his little patrimony at Artois.
He said once of his betrothed, that she would have “known equally how to die, as how to live [love].” This high tribute—wrung as it might be from his pure love and esteem for her, or tainted by the alloy of his own vast self-love, of which his enemies accused him,—finding its satisfaction in regard to himself—appears to have been in any case well merited by Eléanore Duplay. No fickle, fond soul could hers have been, that was able to penetrate as it had done to what was best in his, through an exterior which, if not absolutely unattractive, was insignificant to superficial criticism.
On the occasion of one of these social reunions at Citizen Duplay’s, Didier entered with his good-natured countenance so heavily overcast, that Duplay inquired if anything had occurred to vex him. “Nothing worth speaking about,” Didier answered, writing a little. “It is only that women are so—Peste!” he added, the gloom vanishing, and casting a roguish glance in the direction of the harpsichord, at which Eléanore with her lover within easy distance, was seated. “Never let a man who has a secret ever think of getting married. She will have it out of you, your dear wife, wrong end first, or right end, she will have it out of you. You see this now,” he went own, drawing from his waistcoat a curious heart-shaped enamel watch, and holding it in general view by the little bit of broken chain attached to it. “Very well, for three years I have contrived to keep it hidden from her. I picked up, you must understand.”
“He is married, is he not?” said Robespierre, still intent on the pages of his note-book. Had he been one whit less absorbed, he might have seen the little toss of displeasure of his Eléanore’s shapely head.
“It is too much, that,” she murmured, indignantly.
“What is, dear child?” he asked, coming beside her at the harpsichord.
“That you pretend to ignore what the journals are forever harping upon—the running away of his wife. The wicked aristocratic creature!”
“Ah, ah, to be sure,” said Robespierre. Then he closed his book, and stood apparently lost in thought.
“I did do so. I fully intended it,” said Didier, bluntly; “but while I was thinking about it, he slipped out of sight, and when Citizen Crassus popped up instead, I—Well, after all it was no business of his. The ground was neutral ground where I found it; and I always thought the thing would be claimed. In the meantime I kept it dark.”
“Even from your wife, Citizen Didier?” reproachfully said Eléanore.
“Dear child, did you not hear him say a minute since, that he wished to keep it from the public ear?” said Robespierre, mildly.
“That will show itself,” said Robespierre, glancing at his own watch, and rising in rather abrupt haste, as he buttoned his coat across his breast. “Just one more tune, dear child, before I go,” he pleaded, turning to the fair musician. “Ah—no, not that, I beg of you,” he said, knitting his brows, as Eléanore struck the opening chords of the “Marseillaise.” “One is sick of it—one hears it so often,” he amended, catching the eye of his secretary. “Nay, nor that, neither,” he went on, as she half-laughingly, half-petulantly changed it to the merry “Ça ira,” and he stooped down and whispered something that sent the frowns flying, and tinged Citizeness Eléanore Duplay’s sweet face to the color of a blush rosebud, while her slender hands softly pressed the harpsichord to the old-world tune—
“Ah vous dirai-je—Chère Maman
Peut on vivre sans Amant?”
“Without loving, life is naught.” And a smiled hovered on the lips of the great deputy as he walked down the street, the refrain of the quaint little old ditty lingering in his brain; but as he neared the hall of the Jacobins, a party of revelers issuing from a café, recognized him, and raised in tribute, as they passed on, a loud shouting chorus of “Ça ira,” and all the transient warmth faded from his face to the chill serenity of expression which made almost as much part and parcel of Maximilien Robespierre in the eyes of the people, as his blue coat.
“Never mind, ma belle. You were seen entering Citizen Duplay’s house last night.”
“Your spy should not have left me to remind you that the daughters of Citizen Duplay and I were schoolfellows. Eléanore, Robespierre’s promised wife, was my bosom friend. You know that. Is Citizen Duplay’s house forbidden me, because you are not in love with Eléanore’s betrothed husband?”
“Happy creatures!” he said with a laugh, as if some load had been lifted from him. “Robinet and Robinette Robespierre. Sweet picture! Two lovebirds on one perch—till death them divides.”
She sighed heavily.