The Fourteenth of July and Danton/Danton/Act I
Lucile [leaning out]. There they are! There they are! They're passing at the end of the street!
Camille [shouting]. Good luck to you, Père Duchesne! Don't forget your pipe!
Hérault [softly]. Camille, my friend, don't show yourself.
Camille. Come and see our old friends, Hérault! Ronsin, the general of the clubs; and Vincent, who wanted your head, Philippeaux; and Hébert, the bully, who had supper every evening at my expense; and the Prussian Cloots, the fair Anacharsis! The last trip of the young Anacharsis! Mankind is in a fine fix now: deprived of its orator! The guillotine is busy today.
Lucile [to the baby]. Look, Horace, look at those naughty men! And Commander Hanriot, galloping with his saber! Do you see, darling?
Philippeaux. He's too zealous. He ought to be riding on the cart himself.
Camille. It's like a great festival; the people are gay. [Outside a clarinet is heard playing a grotesque air. The People laugh.] What's that?
Lucile. The little hunchback with the cart, playing his clarinet.
Camille. Pleasant idea! [They all laugh.] Why don't you look, Hérault? Aren't you interested? You seem sad? What are you thinking about? [The uproar becomes fainter.]
Hérault. I was thinking, Camille, that Anacharsis is thirty-eight, and Hébert thirty-five—your age, Philippeaux; and Vincent twenty-seven, six years younger than I—and you, Desmoulins.
Camille. True. [He suddenly becomes serious, leaving the window and coming to the center of the room. He stands still an instant, his chin in his hand.]
Lucile [still at the window]. How it rains! Too bad!
Camille [put out]. Come away from the window, Lucile. You'll catch cold.
Lucile [closing the window, comes into the room with the baby, singing to herself:]
"Come quick, little shepherdess, gather your sheep:
The rain is beginning to fall,
And bring them back safe to the sheepfold again;
Come quick, or you'll lose them all!"
Camille. Lucile, Lucile, how can you sing that song! I never hear it without thinking that the poet who wrote it is now languishing in prison.
Lucile. Fabre? That's so. Our poor Églantine. They shut him up in the Luxembourg, sick as he was! Oh, well, he'll come out.
Hérault. Pur troppo!
Lucile. Now what does that mean? Something naughty, I know.
Philippeaux. Something sad, and only too true.
Lucile. Hush, you gloomy men! Fabre will be released, I tell you. Are we not here to help him?
Hérault. Danton himself could do nothing to save him.
Lucile. Danton, perhaps. But when Camille takes his pen in hand, and writes all he thinks, you'll see the jail gates open of their own accord!
Hérault. For whom?
Lucile. For the tyrants!
Hérault. Imprudent shepherdess, you had better keep an eye on your sheep! "Bring them back safe to the sheepfold again!" Remember your song. [A servant enters and takes the baby from Lucile; then carries him out. Lucile whispers to her, leaves the room, and returns a moment later. During the entire scene she walks about, busied with various domestic duties, and only occasionally catches the drift of the following conversation.]
Camille. Lucile is right: we must make the effort. It is our business to direct the Revolution which we have started. This voice of mine has not yet lost its power over the crowd. It has sent fanatics to the guillotine. We were never so strong as today; let us follow up our success: the Luxembourg is no more difficult to take than the Bastille. We laid low nine centuries of monarchy, and we can easily deal with a handful of vagabonds, who derive their power from us, and who use it in order to run the Convention and France in their own way.
Philippeaux [walking about agitatedly]. The rascals! If they only confined themselves to murder! But no, they had to implicate Fabre in the Compagnie des Indes business; invented that impossible yarn: Jews and German bankers bribing our friend in order to corrupt the Assembly! They know they are lying, but they cannot satisfy their consciences until they vilify their enemy before they kill him.
Hérault. Our enemies are virtuous: and that is some consolation: to have our throats cut in the name of principles.
Camille. France hates hypocrisy. Let us beat the pedants and thrash Basile!
Philippeaux. I have done my duty: let each do his. I dragged to light the brigands of the Western Army, the military staff of Saumur. I have a firm hold on their necks, and only the loss of my own head will force me to release it. I have no illusions: I know what it will cost to attack General Rossignol and his band. The Committee is now lying in wait, but only in order to catch me. I wonder what infamy they are going to saddle me with? I'm all in a fever only to think of it. Let them chop my head if they will, but they must not touch my honor!
Hérault. I'm not so worried as you, Philippeaux. I already know what pretext they have to suppress me. I am so unfortunate as to think that while we may be the enemy of the governments of all Europe, we need not therefore despise every one who does not happen to be French. I had friends abroad, and I did not think it was necessary to break with them, in order to give in to the folly of Billaud-Varenne and others of his ilk. They entered my house, forced the drawers of my desks, stole some letters of a purely friendly nature. But that was enough, and of course I am now a conspirator for the restoration of the King, and receive money from Pitt.
Camille. Are you sure of what you say?
Hérault. Quite sure, Camille. My head is not worth a sou.
Camille. But you must hide.
Hérault. There is no hiding-place in the world for a Republican. Kings hound them, and the Republic sends them to the guillotine.
Camille. You lack courage. We are the most popular men of the Republic.
Hérault. Lafayette was popular, too, and Pétion, and Roland. Capet himself was popular. He who was a week ago the people's idol is now dead. Who can flatter himself that he is beloved of those brutes? At moments, you think you see in their troubled eyes some faint reflection of your own thoughts. Whose conscience, at least one day in a lifetime, is not in harmony with the conscience of the masses? But that harmony cannot long exist, and it is folly to try to keep it. The brain of the people is a surging sea, alive with monsters and nightmares.
Camille. What big words! We puff out our cheeks to say things to the people, and we say them solemnly, in order that Europe may believe in some mysterious power of which we are the instruments. But I know the people; they have worked for me. The ass in the fable says: "I cannot carry two saddles," but he never for an instant doubts that he can carry any at all. We had trouble enough to make the people start their Revolution; they only did it in spite of themselves. We were the engineers, the agents of that sublime movement; without us, it would not have moved an inch. They did not demand a Republic; I led them to it. I persuaded them that they wanted to be free, in order that they might cherish their Liberty as their own achievement. That is the only way to handle weak people. Convince them that they want something they never thought of, and they invariably want it.
Hérault. Take care, Camille; you are a child, and you are playing with fire. You believe the people have followed you because you were aiming at the same goal. They have passed you by. Don't try to stop them. You can't take a bone from a hungry dog.
Camille. You have only to throw them another. Tell me, don't you read my Vieux Cordelier? Does not its voice resound throughout the Republic?
Lucile. Do you know how popular the last number was? He's had letters from every one—and what weeping, and kisses, and declarations of love! If I were jealous—! They implore him to continue, and save the country.
Hérault. How many of these friends would help him if he were attacked?
Camille. I need no one's help. My writing-desk is enough! This David's sling [pointing to his pen] has just overthrown the proud guillotine, the prince of blackguards. I've broken the pipe of Père Duchesne, the famous pipe that like the trumpet of Jericho, after it had thrice been smoked around a reputation, made it fall of its own accord. From this pen went forth the stroke that struck the cowardly Goliath in the head. I made his own people hoot him. Did you notice the pipe-bowls about Père Duchesne's cart just now? That was my idea. It has proved a prodigious success. Why do you look at me?
Hérault. An idea!
Camille. What is it?
Hérault. Do you sometimes think of death?
Camille. Death? No, I don't like to. It's nasty.
Hérault. Did you never think how awful it would be?
Lucile. How horrible! Fine things to talk about! Hérault. You are a good, dear, lovable child, and yet you are cruel—like a child.
Camille [excitedly]. You really think me cruel?
Lucile. See, he's crying this moment!
Camille [deeply stirred]. True, he suffered. When I think of his agony, his terror, waiting for the end—It must have heen atrocious! No matter how vile he was, he suffered like an honest man—perhaps even more. Poor Hébert!
Lucile [her arms about Camille's neck]. My poor Bouli-Boula, you're not going to feel so sorry for a villain who wanted to send you to the guillotine?
Camille [angrily]. Yes. Now, why are you attacking me this way? Si quis atra dente me petiverit, inultus ut flebo puer!
Lucile [to Hérault]. And you dare say my Camille is cruel!
Hérault. I do, of course. Dear fellow! He is perhaps the cruellest of us all.
Camille. Don't say that, Hérault; I may end by believing you.
Lucile [to Hérault, shaking her finger at him]. Say it's not true: you are the cruellest.
Hérault. Well, no, it is not true: you are the cruellest.
Lucile. Very well. I don't mind that.
Camille. What you say troubles me, Hérault. It is true, I have done great evil, but I am not bad by nature. I have constituted myself the prosecuting attorney for the lamp-post. I have no idea what damnable impish instinct urges me on. It was due to me that the Girondins are now rotting in the fields. My Brissot dévoilé led to the decapitating of thirty young, lovable, generous men. They clung to life, as I do; they were made in order to enjoy life, and be happy. They, too, had their dear Luciles. Oh, Lucile, let us go away, far from this butchery that is so terrible to others, and perhaps to ourselves! What if we—you— our little Horace—? Oh, why can't I be a stranger once more to all men? Where can I hide myself from the sight of the world, with my wife and child and my books! Ubi campi Guisiaque!
Philippeaux. You're in the cyclone, and you cannot escape.
Hérault. Don't force him to remain in a struggle which he was not intended for.
Philippeaux. But as he himself just said, we must do our duty.
Hérault [pointing to Camille, who kisses Lucile]. Look at him: does not Camille's duty seem to be the pursuit of happiness?
Camille. True, I have a wonderful vocation for happiness. Some people are made for suffering, but suffering disgusts me: I want none of it.
Lucile. Did I spoil your vocation?
Camille. My Vesta, my little one! You are very much to blame! You have made me too happy!
Lucile. Coward! He pities himself.
Camille. You see, I have lost all strength, all my faith.
Camille. I used to believe in the immortality of the soul. When I saw the misery of the world, I said to myself that life would be too absurd if virtue were not rewarded elsewhere. But now I am happy, so sublimely happy that I truly believe I have received my reward on earth. So you see, I have lost my proof of immortality.
Hérault. Never try to find it again.
Camille. How simple it is to be happy! There are so few who know how to be!
Hérault. The simpler a thing is, the oftener it eludes us. It is said that men wish to be happy. A great mistake! They wish to be unhappy; they insist on it. Pharaohs and Sesostris, kings with hawks' heads and tigers' claws; butchers of the Inquisition, conquerors of Bastilles; wars that sow murder and rapine—that is what they want. The obscurity of the mysteries is necessary to belief; the absurdity of suffering, to love. But reason, tolerance, love, happiness—bah! Give them that, and you insult them!
Camille. You are bitter. You must do good to men in spite of themselves.
Hérault. That is what everybody is doing nowadays, and the result is nothing to boast of.
Camille. Poor Republic! What have they done to You? Oh, flowering fields, rejuvenated earth, clear air, and bright light of the heavens, clear-eyed Reason has sent packing the sorry superstitions and the ancient Gothic saints from fair France. Young men and women dancing in the meadows, heroic armies, fraternal feeling, impregnable wall against which the armies of Europe in vain break their lances; joy of beauty, noble Panathenaics, white-armed maidens, dressed in thin flowing draperies; liberty to live, pleasure that throbs from sheer joy of living. Fair Republic of Aspasia and the charming Alcibiades—what has become of you? What are you now? You wear a red cap, a dirty shirt; you have a hoarse voice, the fixed ideas of a maniac, the pedantic manner of a school-master!
Hérault. You are an Athenian among barbarians—Ovid among the Scythians. You will never reform them.
Camille. I shall at least try.
Hérault. You are wasting your time—perhaps your life.
Camille. What have I to fear?
Hérault. Beware of Robespierre.
Camille. I have known him since we were children: a friend may say anything.
Hérault. A disagreeable truth is more easily forgiven by an enemy than a friend.
Lucile. Stop! He must be a great man and save the Patrie. Whoever doesn't agree with me, will have none of my chocolate.
Hérault [smiling]. I'll not say another word. [Lucile goes out.]
Philippeaux. So you have decided to go ahead, Desmoulins?
Philippeaux. No truce, then! Press on, drive your quill without mercy. The worst danger lies in this skirmishing warfare you are carrying on. You are satisfied merely to goad them with your arrows; that only gives them more power against you. Aim at the heart, if you can, and complete the work at a stroke.
Hérault. My friends, I do not approve of your plans, but if you have made up your minds, you must, of course, have every chance in your favor. If we intend to start warfare, Desmoulins' pen—forgive me, Camille!—is not enough. The people do not read. The success of the Vieux Cordelier misleads you; it does not reach the people; it has quite another public. You know very well, Camille: you complained that one number was sold at twenty sous. Aristocrats like us buy it. The people know only what the club orators tell them, and they are not on your side. You may write down to the people and try to use expressions you have heard in the markets; you will never be one of the people. There is only one way to influence them: have Danton talk to them. His thunder alone can stir that vast chaos. Danton has only to shake his mane, and the forum is in his power. But Danton does nothing; he's asleep—away from Paris. He doesn't address the Convention. No one knows what has become of him. Who has seen him lately? Where is he? What is he doing? [Enter Danton and Westermann.]
Danton. Danton swims in debauchery. Danton dallies with the women. Danton's rest is like Hercules'! [Desmoulins runs to Danton and shakes hands with him, laughing. Westermann stands aside, preoccupied.]
Camille. Hercules still keeps his club, so long as there are monsters to be killed.
Danton. Don't speak of killing. It's too horrible. France reeks with blood; the smell of dead flesh befouls the air. I just crossed the Seine; the sun was setting, and the river was red. It seemed to flow in waves of blood. If our rivers are so foul, where shall we wash our hands? There are enough dead! Let us build up the Republic. Let the harvests and men grow once more and become a new Patrie. Let us love one another and cultivate our fields.
Camille. May some god give us the chance, Danton! We are counting on you.
Danton. What is it, my children?
Philippeaux. We need your help to fight.
Danton. How can I help you? Must I always do everything? You are all alike. Here is Westermann; he is a man; he has fought; he has saved the Patrie two or three times; and before he sits down to supper, he cuts a man's throat as an appetizer. I must aid him, too! Do you want me to ride a horse and carry a saber, besides?
Westermann. When it comes to fighting, I yield to no one. Take me out to the battle-field; show me a company to rout, and see how I acquit myself. But to have to speak, answer the mouthing members of the Convention, frustrate the underhanded schemes of that Committee of toads that are always plotting my ruin,—I can't do it. I feel lost in that city; the whole pack snap at me; I can't move; I must stand it and not even try to defend myself. Are you going to let me be devoured alive, and not help me? By God, I once fought for you; we have the same enemies. My cause is your cause—yours, Danton—yours, Philippeaux, as you very well know!
Philippeaux. I know, Westermann. It's because you attacked Rossignol, Ronsin, and all the blackguards, as I did, who dishonor the army. And the Jacobins are yelping after us. We shan't desert you.
Camille [to Danton]. We must do something. I offer my pen, and Westermann his sword. Guide us, Danton. You know how to handle the crowd, you understand the strategy of revolutions. Lead us; we have another Tenth of August ahead.
Philippeaux. You've disappeared from the arena; they are forgetting you. Show yourself. What have you been doing these many weeks, hidden in the country?
Danton. I have been communing with mother earth, in order to draw new strength from it, like Anteus.
Philippeaux. Rather you are looking for a pretext to retire from the fray.
Danton. I cannot lie: you speak the truth.
Camille. What's the trouble?
Danton. I am sick of humanity. I vomit men.
Hérault. You are not so sick of women, it seems?
Danton. The women at least are frank enough to be merely themselves and nothing more. They are what we all are: animals. They seek pleasure directly, and never lie to themselves and cover up their instincts with the cloak of reason. I hate the hypocrisy of the intelligence, the sanguinary idiocy of these idealists, these dictators of impotence, who call the natural needs corruption, and pretend to deny nature, in order to flatter their own monstrous egotism and their mad desire for destruction. Oh, if I could only be a brute, an honest out-and-out brute, with the frank desire to love others so long as they allow me a place in the sun!
Camille. Yes, we fairly reek with hypocrisy.
Danton. The most odious of hypocrisies: the hypocrisy of the dagger. The virtuous guillotine!
Philippeaux. We have destroyed Capet, only in order that Talien, Fouchet, and Collot d'Herbois might repeat their persecutions and massacres as at Bordeaux and Lyon!
Camille. These maniacs have established a new religion—an obligatory and lay religion, giving the proconsuls a free hand to hang, slash, and burn—all in the name of virtue.
Danton. There is no danger in any state as great as that of the men with principles. They don't try to do good, but to be in the right; no suffering touches them. Their only morality, their only political ideal, is to impose their ideas on others.
Hérault [reciting ironically]:
"A man of honor has a higher aim,
His joy consists in giving joy to others!"
Lucile [entering, and continuing the quotation]:
"The gen'rous man is not so hard to please.
He jogs along and spurs his fractious beast
Without inquiring if the poor young thing
Enjoys himself or not—"
Hérault. Hm! You're well up in your authors!
Lucile. What of it? Every one knows La Pucelle.
Danton. You are right, my dear. It is the breviary of good women.
Hérault. Did you ever recite it to Robespierre?
Lucile. I'd never dare.
Camille. Did you ever see him when some one told a nasty story in his presence? His brow contracts; he clasps his hands, he makes faces like a monkey with the tooth-ache.
Hérault. He inherits that from his father, and gets his hatred of Voltaire from Rousseau.
Lucile [astonished]. What! Is he Rousseau's son?
Hérault [jokingly]. Didn't you know?
Danton. Jesuit nonsense! He's more corrupt than the rest. He who slinks off to have his pleasures, usually has very poor morals.
Philippeaux. Possibly, but if Robespierre loves pleasure he hides it effectively; and he is right, Danton. You parade your pleasures too much. You would sacrifice your fortune for a night at the Palais-Royal.
Danton. Because I prefer good fortune to bad.
Philippeaux. Meantime, you are compromising yourself. Public opinion is quick to judge you. And what will posterity say when it learns that Danton, on the eve of a decisive struggle for the State, thought only of pleasure?
Danton. I don't give a damn about public opinion; reputation is nothing, and posterity a stinking cesspool!
Philippeaux. And virtue, Danton?
Danton. Ask my wife whether mine satisfies her.
Philippeaux. You don't believe what you say. You libel yourself and play into the hands of the enemy.
Westermann [bursts forth after attempting to restrain himself]. You damned gossips and braggarts! Some of them declaim about their virtues, and some about their vices. You can't do anything but talk. Your city is a nest of petty lawyers. The enemy is threatening us. Danton, tell me, yes or no, are you going to do anything?
Danton. Don't bother me. I've given my life and my peace of mind to save the Republic, but it doesn't deserve a single hour I have sacrificed. I tell you, Danton has at last bought the right to live for himself.
Camille. Danton has not bought the right to be a Siéyès.
Danton. Am I a draft-horse, condemned to turn the millstone till I drop?
Camille. You have entered a narrow pass surrounded by steep precipices and you cannot turn back: you must go on. The enemy are at hand; if you stop, they will push you over the side. They are already lifting a hand and planning when and where to strike.
Danton. I have only to turn and show them my mane, and they will fall back in dismay.
Westermann. Do it, then. What are you waiting for?
Philippeaux. But your enemies are plotting. Billaud-Varenne is saying things against you. Vadier is making jokes about your quick demise. Reports of your arrest are circulating in Paris.
Danton [with a shrug]. Nonsense! They wouldn't dare!
Philippeaux. Do you know what Vadier says? I hardly dare repeat it. He said, "We'll soon gut that fat turbot."
Danton [enraged]. Did Vadier say that? Well, tell that blackguard that I'll eat his brain, and grind his skull to powder! The moment I begin fighting for my life, I am worse than a cannibal! [He flies into a rage.]
Westermann. At last! Now, come!
Westermann. Speak before the clubs, inspire the people, overthrow the Committees, put down Robespierre.
Philippeaux. Why not?
Danton. Later. I don't want to.
Camille. You're injuring yourself, Danton.
Westermann. It makes me rage when I see these good people afraid to act. What fiendish poison is in the air, keeping you people, whose heads are already in the noose, from moving a leg, from fighting, or at least running away? I've done all I could. I leave you; I'll find Robespierre, whom you are all afraid of—Yes, you are, though you joke about it; your very fear makes him strong—I'll tell him the truth, and he'll see for the first time a man who dares resist him. I'll break the idol! [He goes out fuming.]
Philippeaux. I'm coming with you, Westermann.
Danton [quietly, and with a touch of sarcasm]. He will break nothing. Robespierre will look at him—like that—and it will be over. Poor fellow!
Philippeaux. Danton, Danton, where are you? Where is the athlete of the Revolution?
Danton. You are cowards. There is nothing to fear.
Philippeaux. Quos vult perdere— [He goes out. Hérault rises, takes his hat, and prepares to leave.]
Camille. Are you going, too, Hérault?
Hérault. Camille, Westermann's style of waging war is not yours, I know. The best thing you can do is to retire altogether. Let them forget you. Why discuss it?
Camille. I must satisfy my conscience.
Hérault [shrugs his shoulders, then kisses Lucile's hand]. Good-by, Lucile.
Lucile. Good-by. I hope to see you soon again.
Hérault [with a smile]. Does one ever know?
Camille. Where are you going?
Hérault. Rue Saint-Honoré.
Danton. Are you too making a visit to Robespierre?
Hérault. No: that is where I usually walk. I see the carts pass by.
Camille. I thought you disliked the spectacle?
Hérault. It teaches me not to fear death. [He goes out with Lucile.]
Danton [following Hérault with his eyes]. Poor devil, he's nervous. He blames me for not doing anything. You, too, Camille, would like to blame me; I can see it in your face. Go on, you think me a coward? You think Danton sacrifices his friends for the glory of his belly?
Camille. Danton, why do you refuse?
Danton. Children! Danton is not built like other men. Volcanic passions stir within this breast, but they are always subject to my will. My heart has tremendous needs, and my senses make terrible demands on me; but the dominating head is there. [He touches his brow.]
Camille. But what is your idea?
Danton. To save the country. Save it at all cost from our sacrilegious quarrels. Do you know the disease that is killing the Republic? Mediocrity. Too many brains are thinking about the State. No nation can stand a Mirabeau, a Brissot, a Vergniaud, a Marat—a Danton, a Desmoulins, a Robespierre. One of these geniuses could have gained the victory for Freedom. But all together, they fight with each other, and France bleeds. I took too prominent a part myself, though I must do myself the justice of saying that I never fought a Frenchman unless my life depended upon it, and even in the fury of the combat I did everything in my power to save the defeated enemy. I do not intend, for personal interest, to enter into a struggle with the greatest man of the Republic—next to myself, I do not want to depopulate France. I know Robespierre; I saw his beginning, I watched him grow from day to day, through his tenacity, his work, his faith in his ideas. His ambition grew, too, and conquered the Assembly, and all of France. One man alone is a menace to him: my popularity counterbalances his, and his morbid vanity suffers. Often—I must give him credit for it—did he attempt to stifle his instinctive envy. But the fatality of events; jealousy, stronger than reason; my enemies who excited him—everything draws us into the struggle. No matter what the result, the Republic will be shaken to its foundations. Well, it is my place to give an example of sacrifice. Let my ambition sink before his! I have drunk deep of that bitter draught, and it has left a bad taste in my mouth. Let Robespierre drain the cup if he likes. I retire to my tent. I am less resentful than Achilles, and I shall wait patiently until he offers me his hand.
Camille. If one must sacrifice, why should it be you? Why not he?
Danton [with a shrug]. Because I alone am capable. [After a moment's pause.] Because I am the stronger.
Camille. And yet you hate Robespierre?
Danton. I cannot harbor a thought of hatred. There is no hatred in me. That is not a virtue (I don't know what that means), it is only a matter of temperament.
Camille. Aren't you afraid to leave the field free to your enemy?
Danton. Ah, I know him well: he can carry the play up to the fourth act, but he is bound to ruin the dénouement.
Camille. Meantime, think what harm he can do! Your power is the only balancing influence against this reign of terror and violence. And what about your friends? Will you leave them to the fate that threatens them?
Danton. I am helping them by allowing my powers a respite. They are now feeling the fear which I have inspired. Robespierre will listen to me, as soon as his jealousy allows him a breathing-spell. And my hands will be free the moment I am no longer the representative of a party, but of all mankind. You must treat men as you would children, allow them the toys they want, in order to prevent their being lost together with you.
Camille. You are too generous. Your renunciation will never be understood. Robespierre will not believe in your sincerity. He is suspicious and he will find some Machiavellian explanation for it. You have every reason to fear that your enemies will profit by your abdication to strike a blow at you.
Danton. Danton does not abdicate: he is retiring temporarily from the conflict; but he is nearby in case of danger. Don't worry; all by myself, I am the strongest of them all; men like me do not fear to be forgotten; all we have to do is to remain quiet for a while in order that the people may notice what a great difference is made by our absence. Why, I shall even increase my popularity. Instead of disputing the power with the Achæans, I allow that power to weigh heavy on their puny shoulders.
Camille. The first use they will make of it will be against you. The whole pack of Vadier's men will be down upon you.
Danton. I'll attend to them! I am used to fighting monsters. When I was a child, I struggled with bulls. This broken nose of mine, this torn lip, this battered face—it all bears marks of their horns. One day I chased some wild pigs through the woods, and they bit my stomach. I'm not afraid of Vadiers. And besides, they are too afraid.
Camille. But what if they did dare? They have recalled Saint-Just from the army in order to reassure themselves. They say they are waiting for his return to begin action.
Danton. Well, if they push me too far, on their heads be it! I have a thick skin, and I am not easily insulted, but the day I throw myself upon them I shan't stop until the last one is laid low. The dirty scoundrels! I could make a mouthful of the lot of them! [Lucile runs into the room, goes to Camille, and says in a frightened voice:]
Lucile. Robespierre! [Enter Robespierre, reserved and impassive; he glances about quickly and cautiously, and makes no other movement.]
Camille [cordially, but a little ironically, as he greets Robespierre]. My dear Maximilien, you come in the nick of time. You have been uppermost in our conversation during the past hour.
Danton [embarrassed]. How are you, Robespierre? [Undecided whether to offer his hand, he waits for his rival to make the first step. Robespierre does not reply, but shakes hands formally with Lucile and Camille, and bows quickly to Danton. He then sits down. Camille and Danton remain standing. Lucile busies herself as before.]
Lucile. How kind of you to find time to come and visit us! And you must be very busy! Sit closer to the fire. There's a fog outside that chills you to the bone. And how are your dear landlords and hosts, Citizens Duplay, and my little friend Éléonore?
Robespierre. Very well, thank you, Lucile.—Camille, I have something to discuss with you.
Lucile. Shall I leave?
Robespierre. No, not you!
Camille [stopping Danton, who starts to go]. Danton is a partner in all my thoughts.
Robespierre. So they say. But I hesitated to believe it.
Danton. Don't you like it?
Robespierre. I don't think so.
Danton. Well, there is one thing that you can never prevent: people loving Danton.
Robespierre. The word love is common, the reality rare.
Danton [with a sneer]. It is said that there are certain men who never know it.
Robespierre [after a short pause, says coldly, his hands twitching nervously]. I have not come to discuss Danton's debaucheries. Camille, in spite of my warnings, you insist on following bad advice and giving in to your own foolish impulses. Your pamphlet is sowing seeds of dissension all over France. You are wasting your mind and destroying public confidence in men who are necessary to the Republic. All the reactionaries are making use of your sarcastic remarks and directing them against the cause of Liberty. For a long time I have combated the hatred you arouse, and twice I have saved you; but I cannot continue forever. The State is alive with sedition; and I have no sympathy for any will that is against the State.
Camille [hurt]. Please spare yourself the trouble of thinking of me. Your solicitude is touching, Maximilien, but I need no one's help. I can defend myself, and I can walk alone.
Robespierre. You are vain. Don't try to answer me. Your stupidity is your only excuse.
Camille. I need no excuse. I have deserved well of the Patrie. I defend the Republic against the Republicans. I have spoken freely, and I have spoken the truth. The moment it is not good to speak every truth, there is no more Republic. The Republicans' motto is like the wind blowing over the waves of the sea: Tollunt, sed attollunt! It agitates, but raises them at the same time!
Robespierre. The Republic is not yet, Desmoulins. We are making it. You cannot found liberty with liberty. Like Rome in troubled times, the nation must be under a dictator who shall tear down all obstacles, and conquer. It is ridiculous to maintain that since Europe and every faction menaces the Republic, you have the right to say everything, do everything, and with word and deed, put weapons into the hands of the enemy.
Camille. What weapons have I given the enemy? I have defended the most sacred things in the world: fraternity, holy equality—the heart and soul of Republican maxims, the res sacra miser; respect for misery, which is commanded by our sublime Constitution. I have made men love liberty. I wished to light up the eyes of all peoples with the radiant image of happiness.
Robespierre. Happiness! There is the fatal word with which you draw to you every form of selfishness and covetousness. Who does not wish for happiness? We are not offering the happiness of Persepolis to the people, but the happiness of Sparta. Happiness is virtue. But you have abused the meaning, and awakened in the minds of cowards a desire for that criminal happiness, which consists in forgetting others, and in enjoying what is unnecessary. A shameful conception! It would soon extinguish the sacred flame of the Revolution! Let France learn to suffer, let her be happy in suffering for the cause of freedom, in sacrificing her comforts, her peace, her affections, for the happiness of the whole world!
Camille [beginning politely but airily, and at the end becoming clear, forceful, and decisive]. Maximilien, as I listen to you, I am reminded of a passage from Plato: "'When I listen to you,' said the good general Laches, 'when I listen to a man who speaks well of virtue, a man who is a real man of the people, worthy of what he speaks of, I experience an ineffable pleasure. It seems to me that he is the only musician who makes perfect harmony; for his practice is in accord with his theory, not according to the Jacobin or Genevese fashion, but the French, which alone deserves the name of Republican harmony. When such a man speaks to me, he fills me with joy, and no one doubts that I am drunk with his talk. But he who sings of a virtue which he practises not, cruelly afflicts me, and the better he appears to speak, the greater aversion do I feel for music.'" [Desmoulins turns his back on Robespierre, who rises, without a word or a gesture, and starts to go. Lucile, who is concerned at the turn in the conversation, and who keeps her eyes fastened on Robespierre, takes his hand and tries to pass off the matter as a joke.]
Lucile [pointing to Camille]. He must always be contradicting, the naughty boy! If you only knew how angry he makes me sometimes! Dear Maximilien, you two are always the same. You used to argue like that when you were at school in Arras. [Robespierre, with a glacial look, does not answer, but starts for the door.]
Danton [goes toward Robespierre—with true sincerity]. Robespierre, we are all three of us in the wrong. Let us be men, submitting only to reason, and let us sacrifice our petty quarrels for the good of the nation. See, I come to you, I offer you my hand. Forgive my impatience.
Robespierre. Danton believes a word can make up for his insults. It is easy for the offender to forget.
Danton. Perhaps I do wrong in offering to be generous to my enemies, but the Republic demands it. She needs my energy and your virtue. If you dislike my energy, remember that I dislike your virtue. We are quits. Do as I do, hold your nose and save the nation.
Robespierre. I believe no man indispensable to the nation.
Danton. Every envious man says that. According to that fine way of reasoning the nation would soon be emasculated.
Robespierre. There is no power where confidence is lacking!
Danton. So, you mistrust me? Do you really believe those absurd stories about me? Those wild ravings invented by Billaud-Varenne? Look at me. Have I the face of a hypocrite? Hate me, if you will, but don't suspect me!
Robespierre. I judge men by their actions.
Danton. Do you complain of my actions?
Robespierre. You boast that you feel no hatred—you don't hate the enemies of the Republic, but yet that is what is destroying the Republic. Pity for those hangdogs means cruelty toward the victims. You see, this weakness has forced us to raze whole cities; some day it may mean thirty years of civil war.
Danton. But you see crime everywhere! It is sheer madness. If you are sick, you must be taken care of, but don't make every one take your medicine. The Republic is killing itself. It is high time to put a stop to that absurd and ferocious Terror which is consuming France. But if you don't hurry, if you refuse to join us, you will soon be unable to stop it; it will burn you with the rest—or before the rest. Can't you see that the day Danton is not by, you will be the first to be struck down? I am the one who is still protecting you from the fire.
Robespierre [turning from Danton]. May it consume me!
Camille [aside to Danton]. You said too much, Danton; you wounded his pride.
Danton. In the name of the Patrie, Robespierre, of this Patrie we both love so ardently, let us make peace for us all, friends and enemies—so long as they love France! Let this love wash clean all suspicion and all faults! Without it there is no virtue. With it, no crime.
Robespierre. No Patrie without virtue!
Danton [menacingly]. Once more, I ask you to make peace. You must realize what it costs me to make these advances. But I swallow my pride, if I can help the Republic. Give me your hand; free Fabre; reinstate Westermann; protect Hérault and Philippeaux from the infuriated people.
Robespierre. It is my business to put down crime, not to govern it.
Danton [restraining himself with the greatest difficulty]. So you want war, Robespierre? Think well.
Robespierre [impassive as ever, turns his back on Danton, and speaks to Desmoulins]. Camille, I ask you for the last time: will you cease your attacks on the Committee?
Camille. Let it cease to deserve them!
Robespierre. Submit to the laws of the nation together with the rest.
Camille. I am a representative of the nation, and I have a right to speak for her.
Robespierre. You owe it an example in obeying the law.
Camille. We know only too well how those laws are made. We are all lawyers, Robespierre; we know what masquerades beneath the majesty of the law. I would laugh seeing us together here, if I did not think of the tears that are shed at the comedy we now play. We cost mankind too much. Virtue itself is not worth the price we pay for it—and crime, all the more so.
Robespierre. He who could not accomplish this task had no business undertaking it. But he who accepts, should march straight ahead and say nothing, until he falls crushed with its weight.
Camille. I am willing to sacrifice myself, but not others.
Robespierre. Good-by.—And—remember Hérault.
Camille. Why do you mention Hérault?
Robespierre. He is arrested.
Danton and Camille. Arrested? He just left this house!
Robespierre. I know.
Lucile. What has he done? Maximilien, what is his crime?
Robespierre. He kept a proscript in his house.
Camille. He did his duty.
Robespierre. The Committee has done its duty.
Danton [no longer able to restrain himself]. You damned blackguard, do you want to cut the throats of us all? You lop off the branches before attacking the heart. Let me tell you, my roots extend way down into the earth, in the hearts of the people of France. You will never pull them out except by killing the Republic. My fall will carry the rest of you along, and the vile vermin that are now gnawing at my feet will be the first to go. Does my patience encourage you? Do the vermin run up my body? I won't stand it much longer! The lion stretches himself! You little rat, you don't know that I could crush you between my fingers if I wished? Hurrah for war, if you want war! The excitement of past conflicts is getting the better of me. My voice has been silent for too long. Once more it will send the nation to fight against the tyrants!
Camille. We'll scale the new Tuileries. The Vieux Cordelier will sound the battle-cry. [Robespierre quietly goes to the door. Lucile, deeply troubled and unable to utter a word, disappears for a moment into the next room, and comes back with a baby.]
Lucile. Maximilien! [Robespierre turns, looks at the little Horace, hesitates a moment, smiles, then takes the baby and sits down. He kisses him, and looks at Lucile and Camille. Then, without a word, he returns the baby to Lucile, and goes out. The incident is played without visible emotion, except on the part of Lucile.]
Camille. Poor Lucile! You're worried?
Lucile. Oh, Camille, Camille, how imprudent of you!
Camille. You made me nervous just now.
Lucile. I'm sorry.
Camille. One must say what one thinks. And then— [With a shrug.] Oh, I have nothing to fear: he really likes me, and he will defend me.
Lucile. Still, I'm afraid.
Camille. He is more afraid than we: Danton's voice has proved effective. He is one of those men who need to fear those they love. Well, we must see our friends, and come to an understanding. Let us lose no time. Come, Danton.
Danton [who sits, preoccupied]. Yes. Where are we going?
Camille. To join Philippeaux and Westermann, and save Hérault.
Camille. Tomorrow will be too late.
Danton [very sad—affectionately]. Lucile, read me something; sing to me; console me.
Lucile. What is the matter with you? [She stands behind him and leans on his shoulder. He takes her hand and presses it to his cheek.]
Danton. Oh, Republic! Destroying herself! Destroying her own handiwork. Victors or victims, what difference does it make? Victims in either case!
Camille. In either case, victors, crowned with Glory!
Danton [rising—violently]. Come, then, and may the Republic confound the world with the echo of her fall!