"What has happened?" cried Philip. "You frighten me."
"A terrible misfortune, I fear," she gasped.
She tottered and would have fallen had not Philip supported her; but she finally recovered her composure sufficiently to explain the cause of her alarm. The presentiment which had assailed the girl also assailed him. Together, they began a frantic search for their missing friend, exploring every nook and corner of that portion of the prison in which they were allowed to circulate, and questioning their acquaintances, who either through compassion or through ignorance gave them no information concerning Dolores. Suddenly, at a turn in the corridor, they encountered Aubry.
"What! do you not know?" he asked, stupefied with amazement.
"Know what?" cried Philip, impetuously.
"That Citoyenne Dolores was ordered to appear before the Tribunal at ten o'clock this morning."
Two cries rang out on the still air: a cry of rage from Philip, a cry of anguish from Antoinette; then, with tears and exclamations of despair they entreated Aubry to explain. All he could tell them was that Dolores had informed him the evening before that she had been summoned before the Tribunal; that she had requested him to inform Coursegol of the fact; that she had left her cell, that morning, at nine o'clock, calm and beautiful; that she had held a long conversation with Coursegol, who was waiting for her below, after which she had left the prison to go to the Tribunal in company with several others.
This intelligence plunged Philip and Antoinette into a state of indescribable despair. Unable to utter a word, they looked at each other in wild but speechless terror; and yet, in the anguish that wrung their hearts, their thoughts followed the same course. Both were asking themselves why Dolores had concealed the truth from them; why she had not allowed them to die with her. It would have been so sweet to depart together from a world from which all light seemed to have fled! Who would have been cruel enough to refuse them the happiness of ascending the scaffold together?
"She feared to cause us pain," said Philip, at last. "She departed alone, not realizing that by doing so she caused us greater anguish than she would have done had she told us the frightful truth."
As he said this, Aubry, who had left them a moment before, returned.
"The prisoners have come back. Citoyenne Dolores is with them in the Hall of the Condemned. She wishes to see you."
"In the Hall of the Condemned!" repeated Antoinette.
That terrible word rang in their ears like the thud of the executioner's axe. With hearts torn with anguish and despair, they wended their way to the grim hall below. When they entered it, they found the doomed prisoners scattered about the room, striving to conquer their emotion, and to summon up all their strength for the terrible ordeal from which they were separated by only three short hours. Those who, like Dolores, had relatives or friends in the prison, had sent for them; but those who could count on no loving farewell, sat silent and mournful, casting glances of envy upon their more fortunate companions. Some asked and obtained permission to go to their cells in order to write a last letter to their friends, or give directions concerning the few articles that remained at their disposal. Some had ordered choice viands and rare wines, not wishing to die before they had again enjoyed the pleasures of the table, in default of something better; while coming and going in the midst of them, were the clerks of the Tribunal, the executioner's assistants and the turnkeys of the prison, who hung about, hoping the condemned would bestow some gratuity upon them before leaving the prison. Dolores had seated herself upon a bench that stood against the wall. The passion of weeping to which she had yielded after Coursegol's heroic deed, had calmed her. He was standing by her side, looking down upon her with a in which there was neither bitterness nor Nothing could be more peaceful than the delicate features of the young girl and the energetic face that bent over her, though traces of the tears which had been wrung from them in a moment of despair were still visible.
Antoinette, followed by Philip, rushed toward Dolores, threw herself at her feet, and, resting her head on the lap of her friend, sobbed unrestrainedly.
"Antoinette, do not, I entreat you, deprive me of courage at a moment when I stand so greatly in need of it," said Dolores.
"How cruel in you not to have told us!" cried Antoinette.
"I wished to save you pain. We must be resigned and submit to the fate that awaits us; and we must not allow emotion to deprive us of the strength to die bravely and courageously."
As she spoke, Dolores compelled Antoinette to rise and take a seat beside her; then she talked to her gently, but firmly. Their roles seemed to be changed; she who was about to die, consoled her whose life was spared. While this conversation was going on between Antoinette and Dolores, Philip, terribly pale, questioned Coursegol and learned from him what had taken place. He envied this devoted servant who was about to die with Dolores. He vainly strove to discover some means by which he could draw down upon his own head the wrath of the accusateur, Fouquier-Tinville, and be sent at once to the scaffold. Coursegol told his story simply and modestly. Rendered desperate by the condemnation of Dolores, he resolved to share her fate, feeling no desire to survive the loss of one so dear to him.
"How greatly preferable your destiny is to mine!" cried Philip, bitterly. "Would I could die in your place."
Dolores heard these words, and leaving Antoinette, she approached Philip and said:
"Do not speak thus, Philip. To-day, God declares His will to you. Unintentionally, I was an obstacle to the fulfilment of the vows you had made. God recalls me to Him. You long to die with me, you say. You must not die, you must live, for your life belongs to one who has put her trust in you. Your life belongs to her, and your name; and no one is more worthy than Antoinette to bear your name."
Philip passionately interrupted her:
"I am no saint, I am a man! Why do you talk to me of promises and of duty? Whatever I may have said, whatever I may have promised, if I have not told you that I loved you, if I have not told you that I should always love you, I have lied. Read my—heart; you will behold your name, your name alone, written there; and tell me, courageous creature, noble-hearted woman, how can one stifle the aspirations of a love which has been the only joy, the only torment of one's life? Remember the past, Dolores—our childhood, the blissful existence in which love was first awakened in our hearts. I do not know what was passing in yours; but mine has nourished but one thought, cherished but one hope: to belong to you and to possess you. Upon this hope have I lived. It has been the strength and the weakness of my life; its deepest sorrow and its purest joy."
While he was thus speaking in low tones that he might not be overheard, Antoinette, after exchanging a few remarks with Coursegol, approached them. Not a single word uttered by Philip had escaped her, and her terror-stricken eyes and drawn features betrayed her agony.
"Was this dream of mine so unutterably wild and hopeless?" continued Philip, not perceiving Antoinette, and refusing to heed Dolores' warning sign. "Does a man display a culpable ambition when he longs for a calm and happy life with an adored wife who is worthy of him? And yet, the first time I spoke of this love, you said to me: 'Antoinette loves you; marry her;' and when I still pleaded, you added: 'I belong to God.'"
"Was this not the truth?" asked Dolores, timidly.
"No, for you loved me and you sacrificed yourself for the sake of some foolish scheme upon the accomplishment of which my father would not have insisted if, sustained by you, I had ventured to confess the truth. You would not consent to this; you left us: then, Providence once more brought us face to face. This time, you granted me a hope only to take it from me again when Antoinette reappeared. Now, behold your work. Here are all three of us equally miserable; you, in dying; I, in surviving you; Antoinette, in loving me."
"I am glad to die," replied Dolores, who had regained her firmness and composure.
"Then why did you not allow me to share this happiness? Yesterday, when you received the fatal news, why did you not say to me: 'We have been unhappy here on earth; death will save us from many and undeserved misfortunes; come, let us die together.'"
"What! be the cause of your death?"
"It would be less cruel than to leave me behind you. Do you know what my life will be when I can no longer hope to see you again here below? One long supplication for death to quickly relieve me of the burden of existence."
"Philip, Philip!" murmured Dolores, reproachfully. "Can it be you who speak thus, you who have linked a soul to yours; you who are a husband already, for at the bedside of your dying father did not you and Antoinette kneel together to receive the blessing of God's anointed priest?"
Philip made no reply.
"You have reproached me," continued Dolores, "and why? Who is the real culprit here? Is it I? Have I not always discouraged you? Have I not always told you that duty stood between us? Have I not always striven to convince you that your hopes were futile? Had not you, yourself, renounced them? Then, why should I reproach myself? Besides, I have not sought death. I die because Heaven wills it, but I am resigned, and if this resignation is any evidence of courage, let it strengthen and reanimate your soul. Bravely act the only part that is worthy of your past, of your heart and of your name. There, and there only your soul-will find happiness and peace."
Philip's anger vanished before such words as these. He was no longer irritated, but entirely overcome. Suddenly a sob resounded behind them. They turned. Antoinette was upon her knees.
"Pardon," said she, in a voice broken with sobs.
Dolores sprang forward to raise her.
"Philip, do you forgive me?" entreated Antoinette.
He too was weeping. He extended his hand to the young girl, who took it and covered it with her tears.
"Spare me, spare me!" exclaimed Dolores. "You rend my soul now when I have need for all my strength. Your grief and despair at my fate lead you both beyond reality. You, my dear friend, my dear sister Antoinette, have received a sacred promise which you, Philip, made freely and with the intention to fulfil it. That is the only thing you must remember now."
She uttered these words in a sweet and penetrating voice, and with an energy that calmed and silenced both of them. She spoke of the chief duties of life, of the necessity of resignation, devotion and self-denial.
"I wish to carry with me to the grave," she added, "the assurance that you will console each other after my death by loving each other in remembrance of me."
And they promised all that she asked, for it was impossible to resist so much grace, so much eloquence and so much humility. Then she took from her pocket the order of release which Coursegol had obtained through Vauquelas. She handed this to Philip.
"There is your freedom," she resumed. "With the assistance of Bridoul, who will aid you in Coursegol's stead, this paper will enable you to escape from prison. You will be conducted to a safe retreat where you can await the fall of these wicked men and the triumph of truth and of virtue. That hour will surely come; for the future does not belong to the violent and audacious; it is for the meek, the generous, the good."
She conversed with them an hour longer, then begged them to leave her. She desired to prepare for death. Antoinette's sobs and Philip's despair increased in violence.
"Have pity on me!" she entreated. "Before I go, I will call you to bid you a last farewell."
They left her. She remained alone with the other prisoners who had been condemned to death. Among them was the priest of whom we have already spoken; the same who had consoled and blessed her. He was seated in a corner of the room and many of the poor creatures, whose moments on earth were now numbered, had knelt before him to confess their sins and receive absolution. Dolores followed the example of her companions in misfortune. Purified by suffering and sanctified by the approach of death, her full confession revealed such nobility of character that the worthy priest was filled with admiration.
"Now I am ready," she said to Coursegol. "Death may come."
"So young and so beautiful, and to die!" he exclaimed, sadly.
"Are you going to bewail my fate?" she inquired, with a smile. "It is unnecessary, for I am very happy."
"It is the thought of the sacrifice you have accomplished that renders you thus happy!"
"Hush!" she said, quickly. "Who has spoken to you of a sacrifice? It must never be mentioned. Antoinette and Philip must never know that I died in place of another."
"A saint might utter words like those," he murmured. Then beholding her cheerful, courageous and inspired with the holy enthusiasm of the martyrs, he added: "I am glad to die with you. You will open the portals of Heaven for me; and I will cling so closely to you, pure soul, that they will let me follow you in."
Thus were these two souls elevated to the grandest heroism by the very simplicity of their devotion. There was certainly not a drop of noble blood in the veins of either of them, and yet they went to meet death valiantly, like saints.
It was three o'clock, and a lovely winter's day. The sky was clear and the sun radiant.
"We have fine weather for our journey to the scaffold," thought Coursegol.
Dolores was absorbed in prayer. Her heart ascended to God in fervent supplication that He would bless her sacrifice, and make it redound to the peace and happiness of the two beloved friends that were left behind. Suddenly, several men entered the hall: the executioner and his assistants. Moans and cries of terror arose from the condemned.
"Already!" exclaimed a young woman, who had until now borne herself courageously.
She fainted. She was half-dead with fear when she was carried up the steps of the guillotine an hour later. Dolores lost none of her composure on beholding the executioner. She quietly removed her hat; and while the three assistants cut off the hair of the prisoners around her, she unbound the magnificent golden tresses which enveloped her like a rippling veil. There was a universal shudder when the scissors despoiled that charming head of its superb adornment; and Coursegol could not repress an exclamation of wrath at this act of barbarity. Dolores checked him with a gesture.
"I would like to have my hair," she said to the assistant executioner, pointing to the tresses lying upon the floor.
"It belongs to me," he responded, roughly. "That is the custom."
"Will this suffice to pay for it?" inquired Dolores, showing him a ring that she wore upon one of her fingers.
"Very well, I will buy it then."
The man gathered up the golden curls and handed them to Dolores.
"It is a pity," she said, gently and with a tinge of sadness. "They became me well."
It was her only sign of regret for the sad fate to which her youth and beauty were condemned.
When she saw that the moment of departure was near at hand, she asked to see Philip and Antoinette again. They had been standing just outside the door, half-crazed with grief. They entered, followed by Aubry, who, though accustomed to such scenes, was deeply moved. It was to him that she turned first.
"I thank you for all your kindness," she said to him. "On my arrival at the prison, I confided a cross to your keeping."
"Here it is. I return it to you, citoyenne."
"Keep it, my friend; it will remind you of a prisoner to whom you showed compassion, and who will pray for you."
"Oh, citoyenne, I could have done no less!" faltered the poor man.
Then Dolores turned to Antoinette and Philip. Their despair verged upon madness. That of Antoinette was violent, and vented itself in moans and tears; that of Philip was still more terrible, for the wretched man seemed to have grown ten years older in the past few hours.
"Farewell, my dear friends," said Dolores, cheerfully. "Do not mourn. Try to think that I am going on a journey, and to a country where you will soon come to join me. In its relations to life, death is nothing more."
But, while she was thus endeavoring to console them, her own tears mingled with theirs. She took them both in her arms, and clasped them to her heart in a close embrace.
"Love each other always, and do not forget me."
These were her last words of counsel.
Coursegol approached. Philip opened his arms.
"Coursegol," said he, "you are a man and an old soldier. Death has no terrors for you; you will lose none of your calmness. Take good care of her to the last, will you not?"
"That she might not be compelled to go alone was why I resolved to die with her," replied Coursegol, simply.
"Dolores, give me your blessing."
It was Antoinette who spoke.
"Yes, my sister, I bless thee!"
And Dolores extended her hand over the grief-stricken head of her friend.
"En route! en route!"
This cry was uttered by a stentorian voice. The moment of parting had come. One last kiss was exchanged.
"Farewell, farewell! We shall meet again in Heaven!"
And Dolores tore herself from their clinging arms. Coursegol followed her, but not so quickly that he failed to see Antoinette swoon with a cry of heart-broken anguish, and Philip spring forward to support her. A cart was awaiting the victims in the court-yard of the prison. The twelve who were doomed to death took their places in it with their hands bound behind their backs. A number of soldiers on horseback and some on foot acted as an escort. They fell into line and the little procession started.
From the Conciergerie to the Place de la Revolution the cart was followed by a hooting, jelling crowd of men, women and children, who sang coarse songs and hurled insults in the faces of their victims. These last seemed insensible to the indignities heaped upon them. On one side of the cart an aged man and a youth were seated side by side. Crowded close one against the other, they did not, along the entire route, once cease to cry: "Vive le Roi!" One of their companions, a Republican, accused of Moderantisme, regarded them with an air of ironical compassion. A priest stood in the centre of the cart, surrounded by three women, reciting prayers and canticles with them. Dolores, who was leaning upon Coursegol's shoulder, seemed to be entirely unconscious of what was passing around her. Grief, cold, fatigue and the rough jolting of the vehicle had reduced her to a condition of pitiable weakness. Coursegol was distressed to see her in this state, and to be powerless to succor her. He did not think of himself; he thought only of her.
When they came in sight of the Place de la Revolution, where the terrible guillotine towered up grim and ghastly against the horizon, Dolores trembled, and, closing her eyes, whispered:
"I am afraid!"
"Oh! my dearest little one, do not lose courage," said Coursegol, with all a father's tenderness. "I am here, but I can do nothing to save you from these horrors. But be brave and hopeful. Only a moment more and we shall find peace in the grave and in the arms of our blessed Lord."
The cart jolted onward through the dense and jeering crowd until it reached the foot of the steps leading to the awful guillotine. The aged man and his youthful companion were yet crying "Vive le Roi!" The Republican, accursed of Moderantisme, was still regarding them with an air of ironical compassion. The priest was yet reciting prayers and canticles with the three women. None of these unfortunates paid the slightest attention either to the hooting mob or the dreadful doom from which but a few instants separated them.
The cart suddenly stopped and the condemned were roughly ordered to leave it. They did so mechanically and without resistance. The executioner's assistants seized upon them, dragging them into an open space, as if, instead of human beings, they had been merely dumb animals, awaiting slaughter in a butcher's shambles. The sans-culottes cheered; the tricoteuses, seated in knots, clapped their hands wildly in savage joy, delighted that more blood was speedily to be spilled. It was an appalling scene, steeped in horror.
Coursegol moved towards Dolores to put his arm about her and sustain her trembling form. He was rudely pulled back by the assistant who had him in charge.
"If you are a man and have a heart, show some mercy!" he pleaded. "Let me go to my daughter who is about to die!"
The assistant gave a demoniac scowl.
"There is no mercy for the enemies of the Republic!" he snarled. "Remain where you are!"
Dolores glanced at Coursegol tenderly. The utmost thankfulness was in her look. But she uttered not a word. She felt that speech would merely augment her companion's misery and her own.
Those of the mob who were near enough to catch the assistant's brutal reply to Coursegol applauded it. Their hearts seemed turned to stone. Not a morsel of pity or human feeling was left in them. They were like so many wild beasts eager to lap blood.
The executioner had bared his brawny arms for his fiendish task. His face glowed with intense satisfaction.
"Come," said he, addressing his assistants. "We are wasting the Nation's time and keeping hosts of patriots waiting for their just revenge. Death to the enemies of the Republic!"
An officer unfolded a soiled and crumpled paper. He began to call the death-roll.
The aged Royalist went to the guillotine first. In an instant the huge knife descended; his life blood gushed forth and his head fell into the basket. The executioner grasped the head by its white locks and held it up, streaming with gore, to the gaze of the howling concourse.
"So perish all who hate France and liberty!" he shouted.
His shout was taken up and repeated from one end of the Place de la Revolution to the other.
"So perish all who hate France and liberty!"
It was a sublime mockery of justice, a deliberate treading under foot of all the rights of man. The sans-culottes and the tricoteuses rivaled each other in the loudness and strength of their applause.
The youthful Royalist was the next victim, and the preceding scene with all its horrors was repeated.
Then the Republican, accused of Moderantisme, met his fate, then the priest, and then, one by one, the three women, each execution having a similar finale.
Dolores and Coursegol alone were left of all the condemned. They looked at each other, encouraging each other to be brave by signs and glances.
The officer with the death-roll read Dolores' name. Coursegol bowed his head, trembling in every limb. The supreme moment had come. The fainting girl was dragged forward. Her foot was already on the first step of the guillotine platform, when suddenly there was a great commotion in the crowd and a stentorian voice cried out:
"In the name of the Republic, hold!"
At the same instant the throng parted like a wave of the ocean and three men appeared at the foot of the guillotine. Two of them were clerks from Robespierre's bureau, clad in the well-known uniform and wearing the revolutionary cockade. The third was Bridoul. He wore the dress of the terrible Committee of Public Safety. It was he who had uttered the stentorian cry:
"In the name of the Republic, hold!"
The assistant who was dragging Dolores forward paused, astounded. The executioner dropped his arms to his sides and glanced at the three men in speechless amazement. An interruption of the guillotine's deadly work was something that had never yet come his knowledge or experience in the bloody days of the Reign of Terror. He could not comprehend it. The suddenly silenced mob was equally unable to grasp the situation. What could be the matter? Had the flinty and inexorable Robespierre turned fainthearted at last? No! That was impossible! The patriots waited with open mouths for an explanation of this bewildering phenomenon.
As for Dolores, she saw nothing, heard nothing. At the foot of the guillotine steps she had fainted dead away in the assistant's arms.
Coursegol had seen Bridoul and heard his words, but they were as much of an enigma to him as to the rest. How was it that Bridoul was with Robespierre's clerks, and how was it that he wore the dress of the Committee of Public Safety? Coursegol, however, realized one thing—that Bridoul had in some inexplicable way acquired power and had come at the last moment to save Dolores and himself!
Meanwhile Bridoul and the clerks had mounted the guillotine steps and were standing on the platform of death, facing the awed and amazed mob. Bridoul produced a huge document and held it up to the people. On it was seen the great red seal of the Republic. At the bottom, those nearest could make out the well-known signature of Robespierre!
Bridoul proceeded to read the document. It declared that a mistake had been made in the condemnation of Citoyenne Antoinette de Mirandol and Citoyen Coursegol, that they were altogether innocent of any crime whatever against the Republic, and ordered them to be set at liberty immediately.
A subdued murmur followed the reading of this surprising paper, but, though the mob was dissatisfied and disappointed, no one dare dispute the command of the formidable and dreaded Dictator!
Bridoul folded the precious document and placed it in his pocket; then he turned to the assistant who was supporting Dolores and ordered him to deliver his charge to Robespierre's clerks; the man at once obeyed.
Bridoul then came down from the platform and went to Coursegol. The latter began at once to question him.
"Hush!" said he. "Not a word now! I will explain all in time! For the present the girl and yourself are safe! That must suffice you! Come with me!"
A carriage was waiting a few paces away. Bridoul led Coursegol to it and thither also Dolores was borne by the two clerks, who, after placing her on a seat, bowed respectfully to Bridoul and departed.
"We are going to my house," said Bridoul, as the vehicle started off at the top of its horses' speed, the crowd leaving it an open passage.
Dolores revived and opened her eyes just as they reached the wine-shop.
IN THE CHEVREUSE VALLEY.
The first thing Dolores saw was the kindly face of Cornelia Bridoul, who was bending over her with tears of joy in her eyes. The good woman had been waiting at the door of the "Bonnet Rouge" and had sprang into the carriage the moment it stopped. Dolores was still very faint and utterly bewildered. She glanced at Cornelia, at Bridoul and then at Coursegol. Then she swooned again. Taking her in his arms, the wine-shop keeper carried her to the chamber she had formerly occupied, where he placed her upon the bed, leaving his wife to bestow such care on her as in her weak condition she might require. This done, he repaired to the back shop, where, by his direction, Coursegol had preceded him.
"You want to know what all this means and how it was accomplished," said he, as he entered the room and carefully closed the door behind him. "I am now ready to tell you. But first you must have something to strengthen you, for you have just passed through a trial sufficient to break down even Hercules himself."
As he spoke he took a flask of brandy from a closet and filled glasses for his companion and himself. After they had drunk the liquor and seated themselves, he continued:
"Time is precious, and it will not do for Dolores and yourself to remain long here, or, for that matter, in Paris! You are safe for the moment, but at what instant you may again be in deadly peril it is impossible to say! I have succeeded in cheating the guillotine of its prey, and I will tell you how in as few words as I can. When I learned that Dolores was in prison and heard of your own arrest, I determined to move heaven and earth to save you, but was at a loss to know either where to turn or what to do. Just at that critical juncture word was brought me that I had been chosen a member of the Committee of Public Safety, on the recommendation of no less a personage than Robespierre himself, and that the Dictator wished to see me at once. I saw my opportunity and hastened to him without an instant's delay.
"Robespierre received me cordially and informed me that I could be of the greatest service to him and the Republic. I answered that as a true patriot I was not only willing but anxious to do all that lay in my power. He smiled and said that he had a mission of the utmost importance to entrust to me, that he had selected me for it because of my well-known zeal for the Nation's welfare and my equally well-known integrity. I bowed, and he went on to say that certain members of the Committee of Public Safety were plotting against himself and the continuance of his power. My mission was to win over those members to his interest and restore harmony in the Committee. I accepted the mission and succeeded.
"The Dictator's delight and exultation were boundless. He told me to name the price of my distinguished service and, whatever it might be, it should instantly be paid. He undoubtedly expected that I would demand money and position, but I demanded neither. I simply asked for his warrant, under his own signature and the great seal of the Republic, to save from prison and the guillotine two of my friends who were accused of crimes of which they were entirely innocent. Robespierre was surprised. He hesitated; then he asked the names of my friends. I gave them and he showed further hesitation. Finally, he drew up the warrant, signed it, placed the great seal upon it, and directed me to take two of his clerks and have it at once carried into effect. You may well imagine that I did not let the grass grow under my feet. I took the precious document and, accompanied by the clerks, fairly flew to the Conciergerie, where I had learned you were confined previous to going to the guillotine.
"When I arrived I was informed, to my terror and dismay that the cart laden with the condemned had already started for the Place de la Revolution and that Dolores and yourself were among the victims. I procured a carriage and with my companions drove at headlong speed to the very steps of the guillotine. The rest you know. Now, Robespierre is treacherous and forgetful of services when his end has been attained. He may revoke his warrant and order your re-arrest at any moment. Hence I say that time is precious and that it will not do for you to remain long either here or elsewhere in Paris. You must seek safety as soon as possible in the little cottage in the Chevreuse valley, where the Dictator and his myrmidoms will not think of searching for you. This is imperative!"
Coursegol grasped his friend's hand.
"You are a man, Bridoul!" said he. "You have saved our lives and won our undying gratitude! We will follow your advice to the letter! But you must do something more. Antoinette de Mirandol and Philip de Chamondrin are still in the Conciergerie. They have an order for their release, but cannot use it without your help. You must aid them to escape and join us in the Chevreuse valley!"
"I will do it!" said Bridoul, solemnly. "I swear it!"
"Enough," replied Coursegol. "Dolores and myself will leave for the refuge this very night!"
Madame Bridoul was summoned and acquainted with the decision that had been reached. She reported that Dolores had recovered consciousness and strength and would be ready for the departure when required.
"One thing more," said Coursegol to Bridoul and his wife. "Neither Philip nor Antoinette must know that we have escaped the guillotine until they find us alive and well in the Chevreuse valley!"
This was agreed to, and, at nightfall, Coursegol and Dolores, provided with the requisite passports, quitted Paris. In due time they reached the little cottage in the Chevreuse valley in safety.
About a fortnight after the supposed execution of Dolores and Coursegol, Philip and Antoinette, with the aid of Bridoul and the order of release wrested from Vauquelas, succeeded in obtaining their freedom. No sooner were they out of the Conciergerie than they hastened to the refuge provided for them in the Chevreuse valley. What pen can describe their joy and gratitude to God when, on their arrival, they found that the little cottage contained two other tenants, and that those tenants were their beloved friends whom they had mourned as victims of the hideous guillotine?
Dolores, after the first transports of delight at the reunion were over, endeavored to continue her role of martyr and to induce Philip to keep his promise to her to marry Antoinette, but the latter had greatly changed since that dreadful parting at the Conciergerie. She had become capable of as great a sacrifice as Dolores, and firmly refused to stand longer between Philip and the woman he had loved for so many years. She still loved Philip, it is true, but her love had grown pure and unselfish—it was now a sister's love, not that of a woman who wished to be his wife.
To say that Philip was overjoyed by this unexpected turn of affairs is only to state the simple truth.
Dolores at first demurred, urging the wish of the late Marquis, also that she was devoted to God, but Antoinette's only reply was to join their hands and bless them, and Dolores finally consented to the marriage that at her heart's core she so ardently desired.
Philip and Dolores were quietly united in wedlock a few weeks later. Coursegol, the Bridouls and Antoinette were the only persons present at the ceremony besides the bride and groom and the officiating priest. Shortly afterwards the Marquis de Chamondrin and his wife, accompanied by Coursegol, Antoinette and the Bridouls, the latter having sold their wine-shop, went to England and from there to Louisiana, where Mlle. de Mirandol owned extensive estates. Antoinette decided to remain in Louisiana, having persuaded Madame Bridoul to take charge of her house and Bridoul to assume the management of her business.
Philip and Dolores spent ten years in America and then returned to France. They had two children, a son and a daughter, the latter named Antoinette, and their life, though always slightly tinged with melancholy, was serene and peaceful. After his return to his native land, Philip rebuilt the Chateau de Chamondrin and took up his permanent abode there, determined to lead the life of a country gentleman and student and to take no part in the political controversies of the time, nor could he be induced to reconsider this decision though he was twice offered a seat in the Chamber of Deputies. After the exciting and terrible scenes of the Reign of Terror through which he had passed, he longed for quiet and repose. Coursegol was made the steward of his estate and managed it with such shrewdness and intelligence that Philip became rich and all the prestige of the Chamondrins was restored.
In the month of May, 1822, while in Paris, to which city he had been called by important business, the Marquis de Chamondrin met an old nobleman who had been a fellow prisoner in the Conciergerie. They talked together a long time over the past and the frenzy, perils and heroism which had stamped those eventful days, and a chance word, let fall by his companion, first acquainted Philip with the fact that Dolores had endeavored to sacrifice her own life in order to save that of Antoinette de Mirandol. The Marquis de Chamondrin turned pale as death and pressed his hand convulsively against his heart, but he speedily recovered his color and self-possession and the old nobleman did not even suspect the emotion to which his revelation had given rise.
Philip never mentioned the knowledge he had acquired to his wife, but his love and reverence for her were vastly augmented by it, and, whenever he thought of the sacrifice that God in His mercy had not permitted to be made, he murmured to himself:
"Dolores has a noble and heroic soul! An angel from Heaven could not have acted more grandly!"