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|Part I||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
VII The Most Precious Life In Europe
|Page 6 of 7||
Madame Simon was clapping her hands, looking on the child with obvious pride, and a kind of rough maternal affection. Simon was gazing on Heron for approval, and the latter nodded his bead, murmuring words of encouragement and of praise.
"Thy catechism now, Capet--thy catechism," shouted Simon in a hoarse voice.
The boy stood at attention, cap on head, hands on his hips, legs wide apart, and feet firmly planted on the fleur-de-lys, the glory of his forefathers.
"Thy name?" queried Simon.
"Louis Capet," replied the child in a clear, high-pitched voice.
"What art thou?"
"A citizen of the Republic of France."
"What was thy father?"
"Louis Capet, ci-devant king, a tyrant who perished by the will of the people!"
"What was thy mother?"
De Batz involuntarily uttered a cry of horror. Whatever the man's private character was, he had been born a gentleman, and his every instinct revolted against what he saw and heard. The scene had positively sickened him. He turned precipitately towards the door.
"How now, citizen?" queried the Committee's agent with a sneer. "Are you not satisfied with what you see?"
"Mayhap the citizen would like to see Capet sitting in a golden chair," interposed Simon the cobbler with a sneer, "and me and my wife kneeling and kissing his hand--what?"
"'Tis the heat of the room," stammered de Batz, who was fumbling with the lock of the door; "my head began to swim."
"Spit on their accursed flag, then, like a good patriot, like Capet," retorted Simon gruffly. "Here, Capet, my son," he added, pulling the boy by the arm with a rough gesture, "get thee to bed; thou art quite drunk enough to satisfy any good Republican."
By way of a caress he tweaked the boy's ear and gave him a prod in the back with his bent knee. He was not wilfully unkind, for just now he was not angry with the lad; rather was he vastly amused with the effect Capet's prayer and Capet's recital of his catechism had had on the visitor.
As to the lad, the intensity of excitement in him was immediately followed by an overwhelming desire for sleep. Without any preliminary of undressing or of washing, he tumbled, just as he was, on to the sofa. Madame Simon, with quite pleasing solicitude, arranged a pillow under his head, and the very next moment the child was fast asleep.
"'Tis well, citoyen Simon," said Heron in his turn, going towards the door. "I'll report favourably on you to the Committee of Public Security. As for the citoyenne, she had best be more careful," he added, turning to the woman Simon with a snarl on his evil face. "There was no cause to arrange a pillow under the head of that vermin's spawn. Many good patriots have no pillows to put under their heads. Take that pillow away; and I don't like the shoes on the brat's feet; sabots are quite good enough."
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Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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