I truly am sorry for inflicting this on you, but it's almost done, I swear.
Eléonore found him [Robespierre] at first light. She and her father stood guard over the door. Souberbielle arrived at . He spoke very slowly, very distinctly, as if to a deaf person: cannot answer for the consequences, he said, cannot answer for the consequences. He nodded to show that understood. […]
The members of the Committee spoke very politely to Eléonore. They did not necessarily believe Dr Souberbielle, who said he would be better in a month; she understood that if by any chance he should die, she would be treated as the Widow Robespierre, as Simone Evrard was the Widow Marat.
He [Robespierre] waited until Eléonore was out of the room. He was stronger now, could make his voice heard. He beckoned to Maurice Duplay. ‘I want to see Camille.’
‘Do you think that’s a good thing?’
Duplay sent the message. Oddly enough, Eléonore seemed neither pleased nor displeased.
After Lindet had gone he sat for a long time, propped up by pillows, watching the afternoon light change and flit across the ceiling. Dusk fell. Eléonore crept in with lights. She put a log on the fire, shuffled together the loose papers that lay about the room. She stacked up books and replaced them on the shelves, refilled his jug of water and drew the curtains. She stood over him and gently touched his face. He smiled at her.
‘You are feeling better?’
Suddenly she sat down at the foot of the bed, as if all the strength had left her; her shoulders slumped, she cradled her head in her hands. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘we thought at first you’d die. You looked like a corpse, when we found you on the floor. What would happen if you died? None of us could go on.’
‘I didn’t die,’ he said. His tone was pleasant, decisive. ‘Also I’m more clear now about what has to be done. I shall be going to the Convention tomorrow.’
‘Come on,’ her husband said: more roughly than he would have liked. ‘Say what happened, Babette.’
‘Oh, he put his arm around me. I didn't want to make a fuss—one must grow up, I suppose, and after all—he put his hand inside my dress, but I thought, of course, he's been seen in the most respectable company to—well, I mean the things he has done with Citizeness Desmoulins, I have heard people say that he has quite fallen upon her, in public, and of course that is of no consequence, because he won't actually go to the extreme. All the same, I did try very hard to pull away from him. But he is a very strong man you know, and the words he used—I couldn't repeat them—’
‘I think you must,’ Robespierre said. His voice was frozen.
‘Oh, he said that he wanted to show me how much better it could be with a man who had experience with women than with some high-minded Robespierrist virgin—then he tried—’ She put her hands, fingers interlaced, before her face. Her voice came almost inaudibly from behind them. ‘Of course, I struggled. He said, your sister Eléonore is not so moral. He said, she knows just what we republicans want. I think then, I fainted.’
‘Is there any need to go on?’ Lebas said. He moved: transferred his hands to the back of Robespierre's chair, so that he stood looking down at the nape of his neck.
‘Don't stand over me like that,’ Robespierre said sharply. But Lebas didn't move. Robespierre looked around the room, wanting a corner, an angle, a place to turn his face and compose it. But from everywhere in the room, the eyes of the Duplay family stared back. ‘So, when you came to yourself?’ he said. ‘Where were you then?’
‘I was in the room.’ Her mouth quivered. ‘My clothes were disordered, my skirt-’
‘Yes,’ Robespierre said. ‘We don't need details.’
‘There was no one else in the room. I composed myself and I stood up and looked around. I saw no one so I—I ran out of the front door.’
‘Are you—let's be quite clear—are you telling me Danton raped you?’
‘I struggled for as long as I could.’ She began to cry.