S. Weir (Silas Weir) Mitchell.

The Guillotine club, and other stories online

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of monsieur s class. They would not interest
him. It is not quite safe."

"I am not at all sure that it will not interest
me. As to safety, nonsense! Come, now,
how can I manage it?"

"But they admit no strangers."
35



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

"You seem to know their ways."

"Yes. With some years of police service,
one learns many things; but this is impossible
to be done."

I was intent to learn something of this other
club, and when I rode in the Bois that after
noon with De la Motte, I said: "What is
known of this Club of Jacobins ? I mentioned
it the other day at dinner, and all of you shut
up, as we say, like clams. There is such a
club," I persisted.

"Then you know, mon ami, as mucK of it as
I do. What a charming mees ! How well she
rides!"

"Yes; an American," I said, as I bowed to
her. As we rode on I said, "Why were you all
so silent about your Royalist club?"

"My dear Greville, we could not discuss it
before Varin. He would not understand, or
might have made himself, in fact did make him
self, unpleasant. The club is rather a private
association than an ordinary society, and the
memories it consecrates and revives are just
such as we do not talk of lightly even thus far

36



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

away from their realities. You must have
seen how solemn a thing it was."

"I did indeed. I shall never forget it. But
about the Jacobin Club ?"

"Oh, about that. There is such a club, but
of it I know nothing except that it exists and
that there is an old and serious feud between
our society and this nest of Jacobins. You
may be sure you will never see the inside of
the Jacobins."

"Indeed, I will bet you a dinner at Magny s
that I shall be present at a meeting of the Jaco
bin Club."

"Done," he said. "You are a very obstinate
man. Well, the Corton Vieux is good at
Magny s. Shall we gallop?"

Two days later I said to Alphonse, "Is that
Jacobin Club active?"

"Yes, of late, or so my cousin of the police
tells me. It is an old society, and when I was
on the force there was at the central bureau
a list of its members. I was once ordered to
shadow two of whom little was known. Why,
under the empire, it is allowed at all, some one

37



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

in power knows. If monsieur is set on a dif
ficult matter, I might mention that any very
violent republican might assist."

I did not know any one to whom I could or
would apply.

I had that day to see M. Blanchelande, who,
like me, was boldly buying our government
bonds, much to his future profit. After a
word about a recent contract and mode of ship
ment, I said how profoundly impressed I had
been by the tragic roll-call I had heard. Then
I added, "About that Jacobin Club, I should
like to see it. I have a bet with M. de la Motte
that I shall visit that club/

"You may as well pay. If you are in ear
nest, ask M. Granson, La Motte s uncle. He
is a silly, old, maundering republican. He is
just as like as not to be a member ; but keep me
out of the matter, and stay out yourself, my
friend."

"Of course I shall not use your name ; and as
for myself, I do not see what risk I run."

"Only such risks as a diplomatist ought not
to run. None of your legation is altogether

38



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

persona grata. A word from the police, and
you may be sent home, to my regret."

He was quite right, but curiosity is with me
an appetite which is not very respectful of ad
vice. I resolved to see M. Granson.

When I found the old gentleman in question
at his apartments, I saw at once that, as his
nephew, the count, had told me, he was ap
proaching his dotage. I lost no time, but said,
"M. Granson, you are, I believe, a prominent
member of the Club of Jacobins." I supposed
that he would deny it.

"I am/ he said; "I am proud to say I am.
Some day it will make itself felt."

"I should like to see this club."

"See it, Monsieur see it? You never can,
unless you are a Jacobin." He cackled thin,
aged laughter.

Then I said, seeing a way open, "I am not a
Jacobin, but my grandfather was."

"What ! How can that be ?" He laid down
the paper-cutter with which he had been toy
ing, and sat up in his chair, attentive.

"Yes," said I; "in 1792 there were twenty

39



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

Jacobin Clubs in America. One, in Charles
ton, South Carolina, was affiliated with the
Jacobin Club of Paris. My grandfather lived
for a time in Charleston, and was a member of
this club." I did not say that his Federalist
sons were by no means proud of it. "I have at
home in America his certificate of member
ship."

He was at once enthusiastic. "Then, mon
ami, it may be done. The case, your case is
unique. Leave it with me. I shall fail, I fear,
but I have influence, great influence. I gladly
do much to sustain the club ; and to feel that we
have allies in America is most helpful. We
must correspond with that club."

I said, with all the gravity I could command,
that just now, in this year 1864, it would be
difficult; that we had found it as yet hard to
get our own mail into Charleston, on account
of certain prejudices.

This seemed to revive his mind, for he re
turned: "Oh, yes. Now I remember a
good joke that. Prejudices! You shall hear



soon."



40




IIS Fl/LL EPISCOPAL ATTIRE



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

I went away, leaving him to consider the
joke with his meek smile of aging mirth. The
red eyes, the uncertainly balanced head, the
look of senile, complacent satisfaction, I car
ried away as a momentary memory, and, too,
some unpleasant doubt concerning the pro
priety of using the weakness of a man in his
condition in order to satisfy mere curiosity.

I heard no further until, in February, I re
ceived this letter :

Plumose 9.
DEAR CITIZEN:

I have succeeded. Your claim to be of us is ad
mitted, and excited great interest. I vouched with
pleasure for your Jacobin descent. I regret that you
were not with us at our annual meeting on the second
of the month of Pluviose, being January 2ist. We
celebrate that as the day when justice was done upon
Louis Capet, the enemy of the republic. On the nth
of March I shall call for you at eleven in the morning.

Yours, etc.,

Eugene Granson.

THere was in this letter enough cause for re
flection. Had I known at the time that this
club was attracting the closer attention of the

43



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

police, I might have taken Blanchelande s ad
vice, and hesitated in regard to attending a
meeting. I did accept, however, and out of
this arose some unlooked-for consequences.



Ill

AN omnibus took M. Granson and me far
into the Quartier St. Denis. Alighting,
we passed through a small tobacco shop into a
walled space behind it. Thence we entered an
unused factory, where, at the foot of the stairs,
stood two persons in ordinary dress. One, to
my surprise, was an avocat used at times by
our own legation. He made no sign of recog
nition. My companion said: "This is M.
Greville. Permit him to pass." They made
way in silence. The second man gave us each
a tricolored cockade, which, imitating Granson,
I set on my coat.

With other generally well-dressed persons
we went up-stairs, Granson saying to me, "The
password is Robespierre." I heard it with a
sudden sense of the quality of the club. At a
door on the second floor a plainly clad man
stopped us. "The word," he said.
3 45



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

"Robespierre," replied Granson. I repeated
it.

"Couthon," returned the guard. "Pass on."

I remembered to have read of Couthon as
one of the most atrociously cruel of the Revo
lutionists.

At once we were in a large, plain, well-
lighted room with many windows. Here were
seated quite a hundred men, not any, I thought,
of the mechanic class. One or two faces I had
seen before. It was plain, however, that it was
neither a simple bourgeois assembly nor made
up of such as I expected to see.

Over the seat of the president was the tri
color and the red cap of the old republic. I
sat down with Granson and looked about me.
The president took his chair, and I knew him
at once as a noted republican. He said, "Call
the roll." A secretary did so, and as one
after another responded I recognized some as
opponents of the empire and wondered that
they were thus allowed to meet. In fact, it
was a registered club, as it had to be, but un-



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

der the name of the Historical Society. That
it had ulterior purposes I was sure.

My next surprise followed upon the an
nouncement of my presence and of my election
as an honorary member by the council, the
name of my voucher, and of my claim to be a
Jacobin. It excited much attention, as evi
dently unusual.

"Citizen Greville," said the president, "is
therefore a non-resident honorary member."
A member, indeed! I was anything but
pleased. It was vain to remonstrate. I kept
my seat, and no more seemed to be expected of
me. There were no such courtesies as in the
Royalist club.

"Very gratifying," murmured Granson.
"All here, or nearly all, are descendants of the
men of the Revolution. I congratulate you."

The president, still standing, said: "The
latest newly elected member, Citizen Joseph,
will now rise. Citizen Joseph. His sponsor
is Citizen Granson."

Granson looked a little bewildered as he
47



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

stood up and said: "I have paid his dues for
him, but, to his regret, he is not able to attend
to-day. He will come to the next meeting, this
Citizen Joseph." He chuckled feebly as he sat
down.

"Citizen Joseph, the last elected member, is
excused/ said the president. "He must be
present at the next meeting."

"Oh, he will come," said Granson.

The president then went on at some length
to say there was other business, and that he
had learned with concern that the police were
giving too much attention to the club. He
therefore warned all present to be cautious, and
said that the council would as usual conduct
such affairs as needed immediate attention.
The club would not meet for some time, and
would then be called by trusty messengers to
reassemble in another place. Men near me
whispered to one another, and seemed dis
turbed by this announcement. An adjourn
ment was moved and there was evidently a
desire to get away.

Granson went with me to the courtyard,

48



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

where he detained me while he talked loudly of
matters concerning which prudent people in
those days did not talk at all. At last, while
trying to release myself on the plea of an en
gagement, he said to me, "Did you hear about
Citizen Joseph ? I thought you would know."

"How should I?"

"Ask him, Citizen ; ask him." I had no least
idea of what he meant, but concluding that the
excitement of the meeting had entirely upset
an ill-balanced mind, I said, "Adieu, Mon



sieur."



"A bas les Messieurs!" he cried after me.
"Citizen, congratulate Citizen Joseph."

Looking back, I saw the old man shaking
with rhythmic giggling, an unwholesome par
ody of healthy laughter.

As the Jacobins passed out, he went on talk
ing. One or two smiled, but others, ill pleased,
looked at him gravely. As for myself, I felt
that I had paid too much for the gratification
of a curiosity without reasonable cause.

Some days went by before there were any
sequels to my recently acquired knowledge of

49



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

clubs. Meanwhile my valet was in an unusual
condition of rather melancholy silence.

One day, while I was eating my breakfast,
Alphonse said, "Monsieur will excuse me, but
he has seen the Club of Jacobins/

"How do you know that?"

"Because monsieur has ceased to talk of it,
and because, also, he was seen by the police to
enter with M. Granson."

I did not like it. "Here," thought I, "is con
sequence number one." "Oh, is that all?" I
remarked lightly.

"No, Monsieur. My cousin of the police,
who was to report on the meeting, has lost his
memory, and monsieur has unfortunately mis
laid three napoleons."

"Take them out of my porte-monnaie there
on the desk."

"Thanks, sare." He now and then ventured
upon English. "May I beg monsieur to be
satisfied and go no more to such clubs ? Mon
sieur is aware that I am soon to marry and go
to America. The coming of marriage does
sober a man, and I know not who will care for

SO



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

monsieur when I leave him to the Captain
Merton, who is a boy for mischief."

When Alphonse was serious, he stayed be
hind my chair ; when he became humorous, he
moved into view.

I said that he might be at ease; that for a
time at least I had had enough of clubs, and
not even a marriage club would tempt me.

"Ah," he laughed, "the Two Club the mar
riage club." And now he came around the
table with some manual excuse of his perfect
service. "I have given up the police, Mon
sieur. Of course I reported monsieur s visit
at the Society of Ancestors. It was of no mo
ment. Now I give up. I have resigned.
Marriage is quite police enough for me. The
dear women, are they not all spies?" And
then in his odd English he added, "It gives to
think, Monsieur."

"Certainly," I said. "Circumstances ?"

"Ah, since I had the honor to rob a house
with monsieur, I use not any more that good
word which so much explains. I use it no
more. I am become exact."

Si



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

"There is the bell," I said.

"Dame! It is the Captain Merton. First
he skirmishes with the bell, then it is war, and
the apartment resounds. I go."

The American entered with M. de la Motte,
Merton with his queer look of latent joy at
having found something worthy of attention in
the life he called dull. The French officer s
face had lost its constant smile.

"You are late if you want breakfast," I said.

"No," said Merton, as he stood rolling a
cigarette; "our friend De la Motte is in trou
ble. I could dispose of it easily, but for him,
as he sees it, it is more than grave, and I have
brought him here that we might consider the
matter from his point of view."

"Very good," I said; "sit down. I am due
at the legation at noon. Until then I am
yours."

"Go on and tell him," said Merton.

De la Motte, declining a cigar, said : "You
who are my friend know of my engagement to
Mile. Granson, my cousin. You know, too,
her father, who we think is becoming insane

52



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

and giving quite too much money to some low
kind of democratic club."

"Possibly Jacobin," I said gaily.

"Ah, my bet."

"Yes, I went there with M. Granson."

"Did you? Indeed!" Then he paused.

"At your service," I said. "Go on."

"My uncle told me to-day with the delight
of a child that he had had me elected a mem
ber of his sacre Jacobin Club, had generously
paid my dues, and expected me to attend their
next meeting."

"Good heavens !" I said.

"Yes; if it is known, I am ruined. I, an
officer of the Emperor s Guard, and my aunt
the marquise, whose heir I am ! When I said
these obvious things to this old fool, he said of
course he couldn t think of making trouble:
I was quite safe : he had nominated me by my
baptismal name."

"What!" I exclaimed.

"Ah, mon ami Greville, behold me as Citizen
Joseph, a Jacobin."

Then I remembered. This club business
53



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

was to be lasting; my own case was bad
enough.

"I am domiciled, it seems. He was cunning,
and gave my address as No. 9, rue de Beau-
liere, his own hotel. It is atrocious, hideous!
this crazy old man and his Jacobin Club."

"Yes, I was there/ I returned.

"You really saw this den of animals ?"

"Yes, I did. I won my bet, and I am sorry
I did. I heard this feeble old man, your uncle,
say M. Joseph could not be present, but at an
other meeting would have the honor."

"Nom de chien, honor! I told him I never
would go, that it is a fraud. He was furious.
Good-by to everything. It is adieu to my in
come and to my aunt s estate and my cousin."

The note of despair in the voice of a young,
handsome, gallant man was too much for Mer-
ton s social charity. "Confound it, man," he
cried, as he rose to give emphasis to his advice,
"what kind of people are you in France? Run
away with the girl. Give up this Bonaparte
service. Go to America. Make a fortune."
It was impossible not to laugh, and we did, but

54



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

Merton said indignantly: "I am in earnest.
I don t jest about women. It seems to me all
very simple."

"Simple!" said De la Motte. "Ma foi, is it,
indeed. The old man will talk. A single
careless word, my real name, and no one will
believe that M. Joseph is not a safe cover
willingly assumed. It is ruin ruin."

I said to Merton: "Our friend is right.
He is in a false position and, as a member of
the Guillotine Club, he is in a doubly false situ
ation. I may as well tell you that the police
are just now uneasy about this Jacobin Club,
or so I hear."

"Alphonse ?" queried Merton.

"Yes, Alphonse."

"I wish they might be more attentive," re
turned Merton. "That would burst the whole
circus. We came to consult you, Greville ; but
really I see nothing to do except to wait."

"No ; you are right. There will be no meet
ing for months, and before that the police may
call them/ as we say at home."

"It is blissfully funny," laughed Merton.

55



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

There was no fun in it for the young count.
He loved the cavalry, the girl, and his aunt s
estate. All three were in peril. "I wish some
one would shoot me," he said.

"Come over and join our cavalry. You will
have a fair chance of being shot."

"I may," said the count, and went away
despondent, leaving us alone.

"He is a trifle disgusting, that young man,"
said the captain. "He comes to see me every
day or two and wants advice. I like him, but
one can t vary the dose of advice, and so, to
have a consulting doctor, I brought him to you,
and now you also tell him to wait."

"What else is there? It is rather hard."

"Oh, worse than hard. The old man actu
ally told him that he, De la Motte, had author
ized him to nominate him as M. Joseph. It is
of course a delusory belief on the part of an
insane, cunning old man with an inventive
memory "

"Inventive memory is good," I said. "What
our friend dreads, what most Frenchmen

56



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

would fear, is the laughter of Paris, and Paris
would laugh/

For two days I was busy at the legation;
then came a note.

I must see you to-night. Will call with the count
at ten. There is a delightful tangle.

Yours,

Arthur Merton.



57



IVi

AT the time named, my two friends ap
peared. The count sat down, saying,
"Be so good as to tell M. Greville the new and
hopeless situation in which my uncle s insane
folly has placed me."

I fancied that the captain rather enjoyed the
task thus assigned. "I can make it short."

"Not too short," I said.

"Well, it s ancient history. Somewhere
about 1814 the Royalists founded this Society
of Ancestors. How could there be a Soci
ety of Ancestors? Ghosts of the guillotine it
seems. Well, soon afterward, the descendants
of Jacobins must have a club. The Royalists
met on the day of the death of Louis XVI.
Messieurs the Jacobins chose that day to re
joice. This got out. There was a challenge,
and some one killed, which did not make for

58



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

peace. Then other duels resulted. Somehow
without being accepted as part of the societies
duties, there grew up the lovely custom of
limiting this permanent row to one encounter
annually. Then for years this beautiful cus
tom lapsed, or the two clubs at times fell away,
and then again became lively, when, as of late,
some outside social difference or some word of
Jacobin insult revived the custom. Interest
ing, isn t it?"

"How amazing," I said, "and how well
guarded!"

"Yes, with extreme care. Now for a year
or two there have been these singular duels;
but as neither club desires to be much en evi
dence, they are formally managed and ar
ranged, but have been of late serious pistol
affairs. Is n t it splendid?"

"It is stupid nonsense," I replied.

"Wait a little. There is more and better."

"Mon Dieu, better!" groaned the count.
"He said better! This morning my Uncle
Granson forwarded to me this official letter,
addressed to M. Joseph. I presume, as it was

4 59



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

not open, that he does not know of its contents.
Now, read that/

"It is immense/ murmured my captain.
"No adjective describes it."

His unconcealed joy over the situation evi
dently annoyed the man most concerned.
"Oh, read it! Read it!" he exclaimed. I did.

The Council of the Club of the Jacobins in
forms Citizen Joseph that, in, accordance with cus
tom, as the last-elected Jacobin, he will arrange a
non-political occasion of insult to enable him as our
representative, to meet the citizen named in the sealed
inclosure from the challenging Society of the Guillo
tine. Citizen Joseph* will without delay contribute
whatever is needed to bring about a hostile meeting.
His name and address have as a matter of form been
sent to the secretary of the Society of the Guillotine.

"It s great/ cried Merton; "but wait till you
hear the rest. It is complete. Nothing like it
ever happened since Chance the banker first
dealt the fate cards to man."

I laughed. "Elaborate description that, a
little mixed chance and fate."

60



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

"Tried it on De la Motte. He was not in an
appreciative mood. But how neat it is, how
civilized the situation, not my poetry ! Great
Scott! Greville, think of it! You see De la
Motte I beg your pardon, M. Joseph is to
call on the Royalist challenger, somehow insult
him, and get up a mock appetite for killing a
man with whom he has no quarrel. That s
bad enough, but -the sequel ! Good heavens !
Count, don t look so confoundedly done for!
How can I help laughing, Greville? Now
read this other note."

I did. It ran thus :

The gentlemen of the Society of the Guillotine learn
that the persons who constitute your club continue to
insult the memory of His Sacred Majesty, Louis XVI,
foully murdered, by persistently rejoicing on the an
niversary of his death. They have accordingly ap
pointed by lot a gentleman who will represent the
honor of the gentlemen of France, and so arrange as
to secure the needed opportunity of meeting the rep
resentative named in your inclosure. This, our note
we trust, will be forwarded by you to the person who
acts for you. The gentleman who acts for the So
ciety of the Guillotine is the Count Louis Joseph de

61



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

la Motte, Captain of Cavalry in the Imperial Guard,
No. 7, rue d Alger, who is duly instructed as to meet
ing M. Joseph.

The captain checked my cry of amazement.
"Just wait a little. Let s have all the docu
ments. Here is the direct personal letter
our friend received to-day from this other socie
ty, indorsed, Note carefully, and burn this

The President and Council of the Society of the
Guillotine confide to you, the Count de la Motte, the
honor determined by lot of arranging a hostile meeting
with the person named in the letter of the Club of
Jacobins. As it is desired that, except in the councils,
this matter should not be known as other than of
personal origin, you will so arrange within a month
as to avoid the appearance of bringing into the matter
either of the clubs. As usual, both parties will choose
their seconds outside of the members.

Louis de La Tour,

Secretary.
For God and the King.

For a mojfcient I was confused by the com
plexity of the thing, and could only contribute
exclamations, while De la Motte sat looking
from one to the other of his friends, and Mer-
ton gave way to such laughter as few men

62



THE GUILLOTINE CLUB

laugh. At last I checked him, seeing how
serious it all was for the young count.

"Oh, don t, Greville !" exclaimed the Ameri
can. "De la Motte and I have talked this
thing dead. He will tell you I never so much
as smiled. But now now I must have my
laugh out, man, if I am to be of any use. It
is like suppressed gout, fatal."

"I find it," I said, "too strange for laugh
ter."

"Yes, yes. But, heavens ! De la Motte, don t
look as if your mother-in-law was dead. It is
comic-opera, melodrama ripe mellow, indeed.
Have you quite taken it in, Greville? Here is
one man whom the Puck called Chance makes
two men. These two men, who are one man,
are each to insult and kill one man, who is two
men. Come, who shall begin? It is tragic.
You are to have a duel with yourself. You
have not even the privilege of suicide; a duel
implies two."

"I shall end with killing myself."

"Nonsense!" said I. "But now let us seri
ously consider how to get you out of this affair.

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Online LibraryS. Weir (Silas Weir) MitchellThe Guillotine club, and other stories → online text (page 2 of 10)