The Self-Hunted Man
A Note:(From Lady Whitsfield)
This is a narrative by Armand St. Just, and if you haven't read Eldorado, you probably won't understand it. Eldorado is the best of the sequels that Baroness Orczy wrote, in my opinion. In Eldorado, Armand falls
in love with an actress named Jeanne Lange, who is arrested. He entreats Percy to let him save her, but Percy (who is planning to save the Dauphin) only promises to look after her and admonishes him to follow the original plan, for the well-being of everybody. Frustrated and unaware that Percy has already gotten Jeanne to safety, Armand disobeys Percy's orders and offers himself to Chauvelin in exchange for her. But Chauvelin has other plans in mind . . . he uses Armand to capture Percy. This monologue,
soliloquy if you will, takes place after Percy is arrested.
Two dozen soldiers guard him. The prison of the Conciergerie could be waterproof, for all the security and locked doors barring passage between us.
And how good that is! For I could never face him now!
I cannot even look into a mirror or pane of glass anymore, for fear of what I should see. I know what I would see--a disobedient wretch, a false friend, a traitor.
I have seen him. There is a window in his cell that looks out upon the courtyard of the House of Justice. Every day I go there to wander; it is heavily guarded, yes, but nobody accosts me. They will not; I have an unconditional certificate of safety. Hah! Unconditional safety, they promise me. It is the mark of my treachery, the bloodstained proof of what I have done. For they know I will not leave Paris; not now. And the unconditional safety includes a catch, of course. Everything Chauvelin
gives comes with strings attached; I should know that by now.
I did it for her. They told me that she would go free only if I did what they wanted. The vile action! A deceiving letter, only a note really; a brief struggle, and it would be all over. But it wasn't! The moment I saw him walk into the room and sight those devils Heron and Chauvelin will haunt me forever. How could I have betrayed him? I cannot recognize my own disgusting actions. It was for her sake, I know; which made it all the worse when I found out the truth.
*And Jeanne was safe, Armand . . . those devils have lied to you and tricked
you into this . . . Since yesterday she is out of prison . . . in the house
. . . you know . . .*
Even then he knew! He knew what I had done, and still he warned me of the damnable deception! Why? Was it to show me how truly stupid I have been, to flaunt in my face my uselessness and troublesomeness? No, I do not believe that. It's not like him to be so. But the only other reason would have been to disillusion me . . . to allow me to see the situation in a clear light . . . to tell his friend and comrade the truth. And that is equally as preposterous.
How could he still think of me as a comrade and friend after what I have done? It is impossible for mortal man to forgive like that! His brain would have deduced the truth of the situation immediately after seeing the dire scene in my room, with Heron and Chauvelin standing guard over me that
I might not escape or rush forward to aid him as he was surrounded, beaten, and pinioned. And still he cried out those last words to me . . . the last ones he spoke before he lost consciousness altogether, and the last ones I think I shall ever hear from my chief.
I haunt the prison night and day, catching glimpses every now and then through that one window. The devils! They deny him all rest, questioning him night and day about the Dauphin. I know not what has become of the child, but I pray it at least is safe. How much safer would it be if I had not shirked my duty for her sake? And even then she was on her way to safety!
And Marguerite has come, too. I saw her tonight. It frightened me to see her; she had been to visit him, I know, and she had been weeping. I could not bear to face her, either; I ran away in fear. I ran all the way down the passage, the melodic sound of her voice calling after me only forcing me to run faster. She must know by now! How she must hate the very sight of my disloyal figure! How she would spit in my face! I ran away as fast as I
could, like the coward I am, almost into the very arms of Chauvelin at the end of the corridor. He saw me, and we looked at each other for the space of a second. But he didn't say a word. Why should he?--he holds me in the palm of his hand. One does not speak to a tool.
It is I who have caused those tears to fall from my sister's face; I, who have sent her husband to the grim depths of prison, to endure the humiliation and torture of his enemies, prior to . . .
I cannot think of that. It is too terrible even to me. Once, I felt I had to stay in Paris for her sake- -now, perhaps it is for his as well. I must stay to at least see what I can of him, to be available just in case he should care to send me a message, though what the message would read frightens me. What would he have to say to the man who betrayed him? What would he say to his Judas?
God! Have I killed him?