I had supposed that it must be latent in the people somewhere; but, I had never seen it break out, until I saw it in the dying boy.
"`Nevertheless, Doctor, my sister married. He was ailing at that time, poor fellow, and she married her lover, that she might tend and comfort him in our cottage--our dog-hut, as that man would call it. She had not been married many weeks, when that man's brother saw her and admired her, and asked that man to lend her to him--for what are husbands among us! He was willing enough, but my sister was good and virtuous, and hated his brother with a hatred as strong as mine. What did the two then, to persuade her husband to use his influence with her, to make her willing?'
"The boy's eyes, which had been fixed on mine, slowly turned to the looker-on, and I saw in the two faces that all he said was true. The two opposing kinds of pride confronting one another, I can see, even in this Bastille; the gentleman's, all negligent indifference; the peasants, all trodden-down sentiment, and passionate revenge.
"`You know, Doctor, that it is among the Rights of these Nobles to harness us common dogs to carts, and drive us. They so harnessed him and drove him. You know that it is among their Rights to keep us in their grounds all night, quieting the frogs, in order that their noble sleep may not be disturbed. They kept him out in the unwholesome mists at night, and ordered him back into his harness in the day. But he was not persuaded. No! Taken out of harness one day at noon, to feed--if he could find food--he sobbed twelve times, once for every stroke of the bell, and died on her bosom.'
"Nothing human could have held life in the boy but his determination to tell all his wrong. He forced back the gathering shadows of death, as he forced his clenched right hand to remain clenched, and to cover his wound.
"`Then, with that man's permission and even with his aid, his brother took her away; in spite of what I know she must have told his brother--and what that is, will not be long unknown to you, Doctor, if it is now--his brother took her away--for his pleasure and diversion, for a little while. I saw her pass me on the road. When I took the tidings home, our father's heart burst; he never spoke one of the words that filled it. I took my young sister (for I have another) to a place beyond the reach of this man, and where, at least, she will never be HIS vassal. Then, I tracked the brother here, and last night climbed in--a common dog, but sword in hand.--Where is the loft window? It was somewhere here?'
"The room was darkening to his sight; the world was narrowing around him. I glanced about me, and saw that the hay and straw were trampled over the floor, as if there had been a struggle.
"`She heard me, and ran in. I told her not to come near us till he was dead. He came in and first tossed me some pieces of money; then struck at me with a whip. But I, though a common dog, so struck at him as to make him draw. Let him break into as many pieces as he will, the sword that he stained with my common blood; he drew to defend himself--thrust at me with all his skill for his life.'
"My glance had fallen, but a few moments before, on the fragments of a broken sword, lying among the hay. That weapon was a gentleman's. In another place, lay an old sword that seemed to have been a soldier's.
"`Now, lift me up, Doctor; lift me up. Where is he?'
"`He is not here,' I said, supporting the boy, and thinking that he referred to the brother.
"`He! Proud as these nobles are, he is afraid to see me. Where is the man who was here? turn my face to him.'
"I did so, raising the boy's head against my knee. But, invested for the moment with extraordinary power, he raised himself completely: obliging me to rise too, or I could not have still supported him.
"`Marquis,' said the boy, turned to him with his eyes opened wide, and his right hand raised, `in the days when all these things are to be answered for, I summon you and yours, to the last of your bad race, to answer for them.