She stood tall in the dock, her hands resting lightly on the polished surface of the bar that separated her from her accusers. The wooden rail was warm despite the chill of the room, it sent heat into the icy flesh of her fingers, and Jacqueline wondered if the prisoner before her had gripped the bar in fury or in desperation. As she faced her five judges, who were yawning and shifting with weariness and boredom while the charges against her were read, she decided it was easy enough to feel both.
"Citizeness Jacqueline Marie Louise Doucette, daughter of the convicted traitor Charles-Alexandre, former Duc de Lambert, you are charged with being an enemy and a traitor to the Republic of France. . . ." read the public prosecutor. He went on to list the charges against her. Viciously attacking a member of the National Guard and thereby interfering with the execution of his duties. Engaging in counterrevolutionary activities, including the hoarding of gold, silver, jewels and food, and the illegal transfer of said money and jewels out of France. Assisting with the illegal emigration of members of her family, and conspiring with enemies of the Republic. Corresponding with émigrés and writing counterrevolutionary propaganda. The list went on, some of the charges accurate and some purely fictional. It did not matter. The trial was merely a formality. Her sentence was inevitable.
She pulled her gaze away from the judges, who instead of listening to the public prosecutor were busy arguing over how many cases they had yet to hear before they could retire for the day. Her eyes swept over the audience. The rough men and women who packed the courtroom were obviously enjoying the proceedings immensely. They shouted at her as her indictment was being read, calling her a traitor, a whore, demanding that she lose her head for her crimes. They laughed and jostled each other as they yelled at her, some spat on the floor to show their contempt, while others drank and ate and knitted as if they were watching an amusing piece of theater. She stared at them, dressed in their rough, greasy clothes with their red woolen caps and their tricolor sashes looped about their chests and waists. She was not upset by their hatred of her. She simply wondered how they could believe that her death, and her father's, and her brother's, could possibly make their miserable lives any better. Tonight, when she was lying stiff and cold in a pit of dead bodies, they would not have any more bread or wine on their tables than they had before.
"Citizen Barbot, would you tell us if this is the woman who attacked you as you were attempting to perform your duties to the Republic of France?" demanded the public prosecutor, Citizen Fouquier-Tinville.
"It is," replied the soldier in the witness box. He looked at Jacqueline and smiled. She could see the dark hole in his mouth where she had knocked out two of his teeth.
"And before she attacked you, did she make antirevolutionary statements?"
"She did," affirmed the soldier with a nod.
"Would you tell the Revolutionary Tribunal and the citizens of this court exactly what Citizeness Doucette said to you?"
The soldier paused and cleared his throat. "She said the National Guard was an outfit of thieves and pigs and that we could all go straight to hell." It was obvious even repeating such an antirevolutionary statement made him uncomfortable.
"It's that bitch that's going straight to hell," shouted a man from the back of the courtroom.
"Carrying her head in a basket," added another. The crowd in the courtroom burst into laughter.
Citizen Fouquier-Tinville waited for his audience to settle down before continuing. "And is it not true, Citizen Barbot, that Citizeness Doucette attempted to prevent you from entering her home, even though you showed her you had a legal warrant for the arrest of her brother, Citizen Antoine Doucette?"
"She slammed the door in my face," admitted the soldier, looking somewhat irritated by the memory.
"And what did you and your men do?" asked Fouquier-Tinville.
"We smashed the door down," the soldier replied proudly.
"What happened then?"
"We began to search the château, looking for the Marquis de Lambert, and any incriminating documents. We found Monsieur le Marquis in his room, in bed. He was evidently ill," the soldier explained.
"Made sick by his father's greed," called out a woman in the front row.
"Hiding under the covers," cackled another. Jacqueline fought the urge to step out of the dock, walk over to the woman, and slap her soundly across the face.
"And what did you do?" demanded the prosecutor.
"We informed the former marquis of his arrest and ordered him to get up. And he refused."
"He was sick with fever and barely knew you were there!" objected Jacqueline.
"Silence!" thundered the judge president. "The prisoner will not speak to the witness."
"What did you do when Citizen Doucette refused to comply with your orders?" asked the prosecutor.
The soldier shrugged his shoulders. "I had my men drag him from the bed and force him to his feet."
"Good for you!" shouted a spectator.
"He is a true republican," commented another.
"Is that when Citizeness Doucette attacked you?" asked Fouquier-Tinville.
The soldier nodded. "She came into the room carrying a dagger and told my men if they wanted me to live they should unhand her brother. My men laughed and let go of her brother, who collapsed to the floor. And that was when she attacked me."
"Weren't your men armed?" demanded the judge president.
"They were," replied the soldier. "We carried muskets and sabers."
The judge president appeared to ponder this for a moment.
Citizen Fouquier-Tinville continued with his questioning. "And what injuries did you sustain before you were able to restrain Citizeness Doucette?"
The soldier looked somewhat sheepish. "She lodged the dagger into my shoulder before I could strike her to the ground. And when I grabbed my shoulder to stop the bleeding, she got up and knocked out two of my teeth." He looked at the jury and wiggled his tongue through the ugly black gap in his mouth. The jury gasped in sympathy.
"Did she strike you with her fist?" asked the judge president, evidently amazed.
"No," replied the soldier. He shifted in his seat uncomfortably.
"With what then?" persisted the judge president.
The soldier scowled. "She hit me with Monsieur le Marquis's chamber pot."
The jury and the audience laughed.
The judge president rang his bell to silence the room, but Jacqueline could see even he was smiling.
"After Citizeness Doucette was restrained, you and your men made a thorough search of the château, did you not?" asked the public prosecutor.
"We did," confirmed the soldier. "We found several incriminating documents in the form of letters to Citizeness Doucette's sisters, who have either illegally emigrated or are in hiding. These letters denounced the Republic of France and called for a return of the monarchy. We also found that all of the former Duchesse de Lambert's jewels were missing, as were many valuables from the château. These undoubtedly have been transferred out of France to finance a royalist plot." This last statement was said with grave authority, as if merely making the accusation was proof enough that it was true.
"She's a spy!" screeched a woman in the audience.
"The whole family must be found and made to pay for its crimes!"
"Take her head as the first payment!"
The judge president rang his bell to silence the room. Citizen Fouquier-Tinville dismissed the soldier from the witness box and turned his attention to the prisoner.
"Jacqueline Doucette, is it true you attacked Citizen Barbot while he was performing his duties as a captain of the National Guard?"
Like many prisoners, Jacqueline had chosen to represent her own defense. When her father had been arrested earlier that year, he had engaged a lawyer to prepare his case. The man had charged a fortune and done virtually nothing to help him in his fight for his life. Jacqueline knew many lawyers were becoming rich on the assets of their unfortunate clients. Even though the Château de Lambert and its contents would be seized by the state after she was condemned, she had no desire to pay someone for the charade of a defense.
"I was trying to help my brother," she replied.
"Your brother was being arrested. You were interfering with an official act of the Republic of France," Fouquier-Tinville informed her.
"Was it an official act of this Republic that he be savagely kicked after he collapsed to the floor?" she demanded furiously.
"You noblesse have been kicking us for years," shouted a voice.
"Maybe he needed a good kick to get him up again," added another.
Fouquier-Tinville smiled and faced the jury. "Citizeness Doucette, the measures which the National Guard is forced to take as they bravely struggle to protect our Republic are not at issue here. What is at issue are your actions, which clearly demonstrate that you are a traitor to your country." He paused and turned to look at her. "Where are your two younger sisters, Suzanne and Séraphine?"
"They are staying with friends," Jacqueline replied.
"Are these friends in France?" demanded the prosecutor.
"You realize, of course, that makes your sisters émigrés, and therefore traitors to this Republic?"
"I realize that makes them far away, and therefore safe from bloodthirsty murderers like you and the members of this tribunal," Jacqueline calmly told him.
The audience and the jury gasped. Even the weary judges straightened up in their chairs. The prosecutor looked slightly disconcerted. He was obviously not accustomed to being called a murderer. He cleared his throat.
"So you admit that you arranged the escape of your sisters across the border of France?" he persisted.
"That's exactly what it was," agreed Jacqueline. "An escape."
Fouquier-Tinville smiled. "Where are the jewels that belonged to your mother, the former Duchesse de Lambert?"
"I sold them earlier this year."
"Then where is the money?" he persisted.
"I spent it."
The prosecutor looked at her in disbelief. "All of it?" he asked incredulously. He shook his head. "The De Lambert jewel collection was worth a fortune. Do you expect us to believe you could go through so much money in such a short period of time?"
Jacqueline looked at him with contempt. "In a country where the currency is not worth the paper it is printed on? Where the maximum prices fixed on grain and flour mean you have to pay ten times the legal amount to get someone to sell you what they are hoarding?"
Disgruntled murmurs of agreement could be heard from the audience.
Fouquier-Tinville interrupted them. "You cannot expect the members of this court to believe you went through what must have been an extraordinary amount of money over a period of just a few months. You transferred the money out of France, didn't you?" he demanded.
"Either way, I don't have it anymore," she replied indifferently. She knew the revolutionary government was in appalling debt, and relied heavily on the money and properties confiscated from émigrés, condemned criminals, and the church to help finance its massive war effort and ailing economy. She would not leave them one more livre than necessary.
"Did you write these letters Citizen Barbot found in your home when he was arresting your brother?" the prosecutor asked as he waved several sheets of paper in her face.
"Come, come, you have not even looked at them," he protested. He held one up for her to see. "In this one, which is to your sister Suzanne, you lament the loss of your father and pray for the death of the revolutionary government. In this one, to your sister Séraphine, you call France "a great scaffold which is sustaining itself on the blood of the weak and the powerless, all in the name of the law.' You speak longingly of the day when the royal family will be restored to the throne. Do you deny that you wrote these?"
Jacqueline reached out and took the letters. They appeared to be documents in progress and were not signed. She examined the writing. She was relieved to see it was not Antoine's. She handed the letters back to the prosecutor.
"I would never be so stupid as to put such comments into writing for your esteemed National Guard to find," she told him. "Also, I do not find the subject matter suitable for correspondence with eight- and ten-year-old children. Do you?" she asked sarcastically.
Fouquier-Tinville was not disturbed by her denial. "If they are not yours, Citizeness, then they must be your brother's. Thank you for confirming this." He turned to place the documents back on his table.
"Antoine would never write something like that!" she burst out furiously. "And he has been too ill these past weeks to hold a quill to paper!"
"Citizeness Doucette, these letters were found in your home. If neither you nor your brother wrote them, pray tell us who did?" asked the prosecutor with mock curiosity.
Jacqueline glared at him. She did not know who had drafted those letters and planted them for the National Guard to find. As former aristos and the family of a condemned traitor, she and her brother had many enemies. And the Château de Lambert with all its holdings was a fine prize for the state, so anyone who sought to improve their status with the revolutionary government might be only too willing to denounce them. That was all it took to make an arrest. There was no need for any proof. Just someone else's word against your own. But the arrest warrant had only been for Antoine, not her. If she had not attacked that odious captain, who tramped through her home giving orders for his men to tear the place apart as they searched for Antoine, and then laughed as his soldiers each took a turn kicking her poor brother on the floor, she might never have been arrested. These letters were meant to be found as evidence against Antoine, and the fact that someone had taken the trouble to write them meant they wanted to be sure he would not return.
"Any ideas?" prodded Fouquier-Tinville.
Jacqueline hesitated. There were several possibilities, but without proof she would not denounce anyone. The action could not save her life anyway, but it would undoubtedly extinguish another. She shook her head.
"Send her to the national razor!" cried out a woman over her knitting. "She is an enemy to the Republic!"
The public prosecutor nodded with satisfaction. "Perhaps the jury has heard enough to render a verdict. I could continue with my questioning, but in light of the evidence already presented against the defendant"
"Has the jury heard enough?" demanded the judge president.
The weary members of the jury nodded that they had, and were quickly removed to an adjoining room to discuss their verdict. Normally the prisoner would also be removed from the courtroom so the Tribunal could continue with its session, but as the last prisoner of the day, Jacqueline was permitted to remain standing in the dock.
She scanned the audience as she waited for the jury to return. It was getting late, and the men and women who had enjoyed the painful ordeal of the prisoners who faced the dreaded Revolutionary Tribunal that day were packing up their belongings to head home. She searched the crowd for someone she knew. She suspected that Henriette was there somewhere, for her loyal maid would not be able to stay away, even though Jacqueline had expressly forbidden her to come. She did not see François-Louis anywhere, and he would surely stick out in such a rough-looking crowd. His absence did not surprise her. Her betrothed was not a man who took unnecessary risks, and he undoubtedly feared his association with her would soon be called into question. She was sorry for that, and despite her disappointment that no one was there to offer support through their presence, she could not fault him for his desire to be cautious.
For the most part the members of the audience ignored her as they gathered up their food and drink and discussed her fate among themselves. Her eyes came to rest upon an old man who was sitting at the back of the courtroom. He did not speak to anyone around him, apparently uninterested in sharing their harsh enthusiasm over what was certain to be a guilty verdict. He was dressed entirely in black, and his head was covered with a battered, low crowned hat that bore a revolutionary cockade. The scraggly hair spilling out from underneath his head dress was snowy white, the sallow skin that sagged upon his face spotted and lined with age. He hunched forward on the bench, his pale hands gripping the top of a cane that was evidently very much needed to give his ancient, fragile body support. He stared vacantly into space, apparently oblivious to the coarse remarks about "the aristo whore" who would soon find herself lying down for Sanson, the executioner. Someone jostled him and laughingly asked him a question while pointing at her, and the old man smiled and nodded. He turned his eyes to her and appeared surprised to find her looking at him. They locked gazes for the briefest of seconds, and Jacqueline found herself transfixed by the intensity of his stare. Then he turned abruptly and made some remark to the burly man seated beside him, which caused the lout to shake with booming laughter before wiping his nose on his sleeve. Jacqueline looked away.
The jury returned after a few minutes with a verdict of guilty. The audience cheered.
"Citizeness Doucette, you have been found guilty by this court of committing crimes against the Republic of France. Do you have anything you wish to say in your defense before you are sentenced?" asked the judge president.
Jacqueline gripped the bar of the dock as she looked at the judges and jury with contempt. "You have found me guilty of trying to protect my family from the cruelty and corruption that has hooked its claws into France," she began, her voice tight and frigid. "You have already murdered my father, and undoubtedly you will soon do the same to my brother. Do you think I believe you would have stopped there? By attacking the scum who invaded my home, I merely saved you the time and expense of sending another party to the Château de Lambert to arrest me later." She paused and stared hard at them. "My advice to you, my fellow citizens, is that you enjoy today, and tomorrow, and the day after that, because your days are sadly numbered. By murdering the noblesse, and the wealthy bourgeois, and anyone who has the courage to speak out against you, you cannot solve the enormous problems that are choking the breath out of France." She gestured to the men and women in the audience, who had settled back into their seats to listen to her. "It is only a matter of time before these people to whom you have promised so much grow weary of your fancy rhetoric," she continued. "Ceremonies of liberty and reason and the constant chop of the guillotine do not put food on a table or clothing on a body." She looked at Fouquier-Tinville and smiled. "Even you, fellow citizen, will not be exempt," she told him with certainty. "But my sisters will be safe. And when reason and justice have been restored to France, they will return."
"Citizeness Doucette, the hour grows late and your political opinions are no longer of interest to this court," interrupted the judge president impatiently. "Since you do not seem to have anything to say which would alter the verdict of this jury, I find you guilty of the charges laid against you, and hereby sentence you to death by the guillotine. This execution will take place immediately," he added as he began to shuffle together the papers on his bench.
The audience, which had been relatively quiet during Jacqueline's speech, began to cheer and applaud the court's decision. One of the court clerks laid down his pen and pulled out his watch to examine the time. He motioned to Fouquier-Tinville to come over to him. After exchanging a few words, the public prosecutor shrugged and turned to face the bench.
"It would appear the last tumbril departed for the Place de la Revolution some half hour ago," he informed the judge president.
"Then Citizeness Doucette may be returned to her cell in the Conciergerie until tomorrow," amended the judge. "But the sentence is to be carried out within twenty-four hours."
Four members of the National Guard stepped up to the dock to escort Jacqueline out of the courtroom. They surrounded her as she walked down the aisle. The crowd around them began to surge in, cursing and trying to grab at her clothes and her hair.
"Pretty hairtoo bad Sanson will have to cut it so the blade can find your neck" sang out one toothless hag who shot her hand in between the guards and gave Jacqueline's hair a yank. The pins came loose and the rough coiffure she had managed to fashion before she left her cell sagged down around her shoulders.
"See how proudly the bitch walks," commented a man with a face reddened by too much cheap wine. He spat at her. "Take that, bitch."
"Let's see how proud she is tomorrow when she lies down and puts her head through the republican window," said a skinny youth whose bony shoulders slumped forward at an unnatural angle as he laughed.
"Or when the tart's body is tossed headless into the pit," added another with a sneer.
Jacqueline kept her eyes straight ahead and used the comments to fuel her sudden hatred of these people. The soldiers closed ranks around her so no one else could touch her, and she was grateful for that. She had heard stories of atrocities committed against arrested people who never made it as far as the court, or even the prison, for that matter, and she supposed she was grateful that she had not been openly butchered by an angry mob. At least the guillotine was quick and, she hoped, painless.
The new Republic of France, birthplace of Liberty, Equality, and Reason, was a world gone mad. The men who had wrested power from their king, insisting that even a monarch who ruled with divine right was answerable to his people, had quickly discovered they were no better equipped to feed or clothe millions of angry, starving peasants than Louis XVI had been. It was a sobering realization. They blamed the soaring inflation and lack of food on a royalist conspiracy, and removed Louis's head. But then the wars against Great Britain, Holland, and Spain began, spiraling the national debt out of control, and the crops continued to fail. The people, now proudly called citizens, continued to starve. And so they removed the head of their former queen, Marie-Antoinette. And still they were freezing and miserable. Surely someone was to blame?
The former noblesse, who for centuries had made their fortunes on the sweat and misery of others, were undoubtedly the cause of so much want. They were leeches, traitors, enemies of the revolution. True, they had already been stripped of their titles and their privileges. But now they must pay for their crimes with their blood. France must be purged of her enemies. And thanks to the new Law of Suspects, any loyal citizen could denounce another and cause their arrest without the slightest trace of evidence. The fifty-odd prisons of Paris swelled with elegant inmates who had no hope of escaping the razor-sharp justice of the guillotine. Their deaths did not feed the population, but somehow the constant river of blood that flowed out of the Place de la Revolution made the people feel something was being done.
The prison called La Conciergerie adjoined the Palais de Justice in which the Revolutionary Tribunal held its sessions. The severe, imposing castle dated back to the end of the thirteenth century and had served as a prison since the 1500s. Dark, cold, damp, and evil smelling, the Conciergerie was widely recognized as the worst prison in Paris. As Jacqueline walked with the guards along twisting corridors and up narrow staircases, their way lit only by the faint glow of an occasional torch mounted on the thick stone walls, she could hear the scratches and squeals of rats scurrying out of the way of their feet. She had grown used to those sounds and was no longer terrified by them. The one time a rat had decided to invade her small cell she had consolidated fear with fury and smashed the loathsome creature over the head with her soup bowl until it lay dead. She decided if she was to die in prison, it would not be from the plague.
The fumes that assaulted her as they reached the floor of her cell made her stomach wrench and her throat constrict. The hallway was thick with the stench of sewage and sickness, of unwashed bodies and fouled floors. She lifted her hand to her nose and tried to breathe through her mouth, but the fetid air was so bad it threatened to choke her. She pressed her lips together and forced herself to take small, shallow breaths. It had taken her days to grow used to the stink when she first arrived here. Her short trip to the Palais de Justice had been an almost welcome reprieve from her miserable surroundings, and her nose had quickly grown used to inhaling cleaner air. As she was only staying here one more night, she doubted she would be able to adjust to the stench again.
"What's she doing back here?" demanded Citizen Gagnon, the jailer of the wing they had come to.
"She is sentenced to death, but it was too late to take her to meet Sanson," commented one of the guards indifferently.
"Missed the last cart, did you?" asked Gagnon, his voice heavy with sarcasm. He lifted a torch from the wall and stood before Jacqueline. He was a huge bear of a man, with enormous shoulders and thick, strong arms straining beneath the dirty, ragged clothes he wore. His skin was black with years of grime, and when he smiled he exposed an uneven set of brown, rotting teeth. Unlike most of the prisoners, who tried to wash themselves and their clothes as best they could in the icy water of a fountain located in an open courtyard below, the jailers were quite accustomed to their own filth.
"Well, my beauty, you're in luck, because your room is still available," he joked as he led them down a hall while sorting through an enormous iron ring of keys.
He stopped in front of a wooden door with a tiny grille window and inserted a key into the heavy lock. The door swung open with a groan to expose a small cell, perhaps nine feet square, accommodating a trestle bed with a coarse woolen blanket, a table, and a chair. Jacqueline raised her chin, drew her shawl up around her shoulders, and calmly stepped into the room. She could hear the hasty footsteps of the soldiers retreating down the hall. Undoubtedly they were as anxious to leave the foulness of the place as she was. She examined her surroundings for a moment and then turned to face her keeper.
"My candle is gone," she pointed out. "I would like it back."
"Certainly, certainly," replied Gagnon agreeably. "You remember the fee?"
"I paid for the one that was in here," Jacqueline stated flatly.
"Ah, but I was not expecting you to return, so I sold it to another," he told her with a shrug. He slowly looked her up and down, causing Jacqueline to draw her shawl even tighter around her shoulders. "Have you any money?"
"I will write my maid and instruct her to bring some tomorrow," she replied.
The jailer shook his head. "Tomorrow you will expose your pretty little neck to the hot blade of the guillotine. How do I know your maid will come and pay me?" he demanded.
"Because she is a woman of honor and she will see to it that the debts I acknowledge are paid," answered Jacqueline impatiently. The cell had no window and was oppressively dark. If she had to spend her last night in blackness, unable to write a letter to Antoine or make out the shape of a rat that may have invaded her tiny space, she felt sure she would go mad.
Citizen Gagnon appeared unconvinced. "She might pay me," he agreed, "and she might not." He scratched his head thoughtfully as he studied her. "Have you anything you could give me?"
Jacqueline considered for a moment. She had no jewelry, and the gown she wore, which had once been a pretty blue silk day dress with fine lace trim, was now nothing but a filthy, tattered robe. Her black knitted shawl was still in good condition, but having no cloak, she would need it tonight and tomorrow for warmth. She shook her head.
"Well now, maybe we could work out something," Gagnon mused as he stepped toward her. He reached out a grubby hand to touch her hair, which was half falling down her shoulders. He wrapped his massive fist around a thick lock of it and examined the golden strands between his filthy fingers. "Very nice," he murmured appreciatively. He looked at her, still holding fast to her hair. "We'll make a trade," he announced. "Your hair for a candle."
"Absolutely not!" replied Jacqueline, thoroughly disgusted by the idea of this man owning something so intimate of hers. She tried to move away from him, and felt a burning pain in her scalp as he continued to hold her hair.
"Don't be so hasty in deciding," he whispered, pulling her face close to his. The stench of his breath was overwhelming. "Either you cut it, or Sanson will cut it for you. This way at least you get something in return," he argued reasonably.
Jacqueline shuddered. She knew the executioner insisted his victims' hair be shorn off the neck so the blade of the guillotine had a clear path in which to cut. Perhaps it was less messy that way. She was not sure. But prisoners awaiting execution often arranged to cut their own hair and left it to their family as a small token by which they might be remembered. Otherwise it was roughly hacked off and thrown away by the executioner. She had thought perhaps she would leave her hair to her maid, Henriette, who would somehow get it to her sisters. After almost three weeks in prison it was far from clean, but even this brute of a keeper could obviously see that her hair was unusually thick and luxuriant. Ever since she was a child people had commented on the beauty of her hair. The humiliation of having to cut it so this man could carry it as a prize or give it to his wife for a wig was totally repugnant to her.
"Keep your damn candle!" she spat as she slapped his hand off her and moved away from him.
"It's up to you," returned Gagnon with a shrug. He stepped out into the hall carrying his torch and shut the door. The cell was plunged into darkness.
Jacqueline moved over to the bed and sat down on it. The sounds of sobbing and moaning filtered through the thick walls of her chamber. Somewhere a woman was pitifully screaming that she was innocent. Somewhere a man was being sick. A few of the prison's many dogs were barking. Perhaps they had spotted a rat. Jacqueline pressed her lips together and fought to retain her composure. These were, after all, only the normal sounds of the Conciergerie.
She wanted to cry, but she could not. After the arrest of her father she had wept for days, so terrified was she of what would happen to him. He was kept in prison for three months, but not in a place of misery and death like this one. He was incarcerated in what was called a maison de santé, a relatively comfortable house of arrest intended for the wealthiest prisoners. The rooms at the Luxembourg were clean and airy, and if one was able to pay, and all of its inmates were, one could dine on seasoned mutton, veal, and duckling, and wash it down with fine French wine. The prisoners there had servants who brought them fresh clothes, books, paper, and ink, and their rooms were cheered with the addition of carpets, paintings, tapestries, and furniture brought from their homes. Many inmates continued to manage their financial affairs from the prison, as they were permitted to have notaries, financial agents, brokers, and auctioneers come to do business with them. Jacqueline and Antoine were regular visitors there, and had been assured by their father that his living conditions were far from intolerable. The former Duc de Lambert found his companions in the prison most pleasant, and spent his days reading, writing, managing his investments, and preparing for his defense. In the evening the prisoners enjoyed card games, lively discussions, and often organized a little play or poetry reading to present to their fellow inmates. It was a world away from life at La Conciergerie.
When Jacqueline first arrived she was placed in a common cell, about fifteen feet square, which she shared with two other women. One was the wife of a military officer whose husband had been executed because his last campaign was not successful. Such failures were highly suspect and deemed counterrevolutionary. The other was a prostitute who had complained to someone that her trade was suffering miserably since the revolution. That was clearly an attack on the government. Both women had been in prison for months as they waited for their case to come before the Tribunal. They slept on beds of straw on the floor and were heavily infested with lice. Two days later Jacqueline was moved to this small cell, where for the rate of twenty-seven livres, payable in advance, she could have a bed for a month. She was grateful for the move and did not mind being placed in solitary confinement. The only visitor she had was Henriette, who was permitted to visit her mistress once and had been practical enough to bring some money.
Her eyes were adjusting to the dim light, and so far she could not see anything moving in her cell. Feeling cold and tired, she sighed and lay down on her bed. Tomorrow she would be executed. She supposed she ought to feel terrified, but in fact she was relieved. Her trial had come up relatively quickly, and she thanked God for that. The idea of rotting in this cess pit for months before facing the Tribunal and its inevitable sentence had haunted her.
Her only fear now was for Antoine. He had been sick with a cough and fever for more than a week when the National Guard came to arrest him. Antoine was only a year older than she, and had not been blessed with good health. When they arrived at the Conciergerie they were immediately separated, and despite Jacqueline's constant inquiries no one seemed able or willing to tell her anything about his condition. She prayed his accommodation was cleaner and warmer than hers. She had no doubt he would also be sentenced to death, but she did not want him to suffer before his execution.
A key scraped in the lock and the door groaned. The jailer stepped aside and the tall figure of a man stepped into the darkness of the cell. For a brief instant his face was lit by the weak torch her keeper held.
"Bring a light in here immediately," he snapped as he removed his hat and flung it on the table. Gagnon hastily retreated from the door to do his bidding. Nicolas stared through the shadows at her as Jacqueline rose from the bed.
"Mademoiselle de Lambert, I hope I find you well," he drawled sarcastically as he swept into a low, mocking bow. He straightened up and pretended to examine her surroundings with interest. "But what a terrible turn of events this is, to find you in such a dismal environment." He clucked sympathetically.
"Get out," said Jacqueline in a low voice.
He looked at her with feigned surprise. "Mademoiselle, you astonish me. Have you forgotten your gentle manners, which were always such a clear reminder of your fine, noble breeding?"
"Neither my manners nor my breeding are any concern of yours, Monsieur Bourdon. Get out."
At that moment the jailer reappeared, carrying a thick candle which he set down on the table. "Will there by anything else, Inspector Bourdon?" he asked. It was obvious to Jacqueline that her keeper was much impressed by her visitor.
"No," replied Nicolas. "Leave us." Gagnon nodded and left the cell, locking the door behind him.
"It would appear I must remind you that you are no longer the idolized daughter of a wealthy duc, holding court in the magnificent salon of the Château de Lambert," Nicolas remarked as he slowly stripped off his gloves. He raised his dark eyes to her. "I am not some humble peasant who must bow and scrape before you, Jacqueline. You have no power here. I would advise you to remember that." He smiled. Evidently he was enjoying the reversal of their roles immensely.
"What do you want of me, Nicolas?" she demanded. "Undoubtedly you have heard I am to face the guillotine tomorrow. Does that not please you enough? Or did you come to savor my humiliation as I cried and begged you to use your influence with the Committee of Public Safety to save me?"
He looked at her with what appeared to be genuine regret. "I did not intend for you to be arrested Jacqueline," he told her softly.
His words hung on the filthy cold air as a mixture of surprise and fury flooded through her. "It was you who denounced Antoine," she whispered slowly. "That means you must have written those letters," she concluded, recalling the papers the National Guard claimed to have found in her home.
"None of this would have happened if you had only accepted my suit," he complained bitterly. "If you had married me, I would have protected you and your family."
"Marry you?" Jacqueline gasped in disbelief. "You can still suggest such a thing after you have demonstrated the kind of man you are? After you arrange for the arrest of my brother when he was so ill I feared for his survival?"
"I did not realize he was so sick," Nicolas protested. "The arrest was to have been simple and orderly, the way most arrests are. It never occurred to me that you would attack a member of the National Guard and get yourself arrested in the process." He shook his head in disbelief, as if the very image of such an act was utterly beyond his imagination.
Jacqueline stared at him, her body rigid with loathing. "What's the matter, Nicolas? Did I spoil your plans for me?" she asked sarcastically.
He shrugged his shoulders. "They have been altered, but I remain confident we can reach an agreement," he replied nonchalantly.
Jacqueline looked at him and began to laugh. It was a harsh, bitter laugh, but it was the first time in many months that anything had even slightly amused her, and she indulged in the feeling. "An agreement?" she repeated mockingly. "Oh, but certainly Monsieur Bourdon, do let us negotiate. Shall I arrange for some refreshment while we work out the terms?" she asked politely as she motioned for him to sit in the chair. "I must confess I am not sure what to order, for the Conciergerie is not well-known for the quality of its food and drink, but no matter. Pray, tell me what you will have?"
"You." His answer was curt and businesslike. It was impossible to mistake its meaning.
She stared at him in outraged disbelief. "Are you mad?" she demanded. "Tomorrow I am going to be executed. My father is dead, and my brother is either dying or already dead. I blame our murders on you and your damned revolutionary government. Can you honestly think I will give myself to you on the eve of my death?"
"Perhaps," he replied with a shrug. "If it means you can save your precious life." He removed his heavy brown coat and draped it over the chair. "You have heard, I am sure, of women who have managed to escape the blade of the guillotine, at least temporarily, by revealing that they are pregnant?"
"I am not," protested Jacqueline indignantly.
"Of course you are not," Nicolas agreed. He removed his brown jacket and carefully laid it over his coat. "Convicted women who declare themselves pregnant are removed to the Tribunal hospital at the Maison de l'Evêché near Notre Dame," he continued conversationally. "They are kept there until it can be determined whether or not they are actually pregnant. Once their condition is confirmed, they are permitted to avoid their execution by carrying to term and giving birth."
"And what happens to them after that?" demanded Jacqueline.
"Then they are executed," he admitted. "But the Tribunal hospital is not a fortress like the Conciergerie. During the months in which you are staying there, an escape might be possible."
Jacqueline looked at him incredulously. "Are you suggesting that you get me pregnant tonight so I can cheat the guillotine of another victim tomorrow?"
"We may not be successful tonight," Nicolas qualified. "But I can tell the Tribunal that as an acquaintance of the family, I am aware you have had a lover for some time, which will make your plea of pregnancy more credible. The lover, of course, could not be me, for that would make me suspect. In my capacity as an inspector for the Committee of Public Safety, I can, however, arrange to visit you at the hospital, under the pretense of needing to further investigate your case. During these meetings we can make sure my seed has more opportunities to take." He smiled at her, evidently looking forward to that prospect.
"Get out," commanded Jacqueline, her voice low and full of loathing.
Nicolas sighed. "As always, you continue to disappoint me, Jacqueline." He stepped toward her and grabbed hold of her hair, then roughly jerked her into him.
Jacqueline struggled to free himself as he wrapped his other arm around her and held her tightly against his chest. "Did you really think I would be stupid enough to believe you wanted to help me?" she grated out. "All you want is to strip me of my dignity by tricking me into finally giving myself to you. That would please you, wouldn't it, you loathsome bast"
He released his arm and cracked her hard against the face. She would have staggered back from the impact, but he still held her a prisoner by her hair. His face dark with fury, he reached into the neckline of her gown and tore down in one violent motion, ripping away the delicate silk bodice and exposing her breasts.
"Do you know what you are now, Jacqueline?" he drawled as he let his hand roughly wander over her. "You are nothing," he spat, shoving her back against the cold stone wall. "You noblesse have been stripped of your titles and your rights, and now it is up to us if you are allowed to live." He reached down and began to pull up the skirts of her gown as he pinned her against the wall with his body. "Tomorrow you will die," he stated viciously, "but tonight, my sweet, you will finally be mine." He lowered his head and savagely ground his mouth against hers, stifling any cries she might have made.
Jacqueline strained against him, clamping her mouth shut as she frantically scratched at his face and tried with the other hand to stop the rise of her gown. She could feel him pressing against her, holding her a prisoner as he brutally squeezed her breast. His hand was groping her thigh, she struggled and tried to lift her knee to strike him in the groin, but to her horror this action only served to speed his hand's ascent. He was there, roughly probing her with his fingers in the most intimate of places, hurting her, laughing, and she wrenched her mouth away to scream, knowing full well that a woman's screams for help in the Conciergerie would bring absolutely no one.
"Oh, er, pardon me, I was not aware the citizeness was entertaining company," said a frail, gravelly voice before dissolving into a hideous fit of coughing.
Startled, Nicolas released Jacqueline and stepped away from her. Jacqueline quickly pulled together the torn remnants of her bodice and grabbed her shawl up from the floor, covering herself before she turned to face the welcome intruder.
"Who are you and what do you want?" demanded Nicolas harshly, obviously infuriated by the interruption.
The old man Jacqueline had noticed in the courtroom waved his gnarled hand at Nicolas as he continued to cough, a horrible, wet, choking sound that made it quite impossible for him to reply. A scrawny youth of perhaps fifteen or sixteen, who had been standing in the shadows by the door, stepped into the cell and pulled the chair that held Nicolas's coat and jacket over for him to sit on. With great effort the old man leaned on his cane and slowly lowered himself into the chair. The boy reached into a pocket of the enormous black cape the man wore and produced a relatively clean handkerchief. The old man accepted it with one hand and proceeded to hawk into it noisily. It sounded to Jacqueline as if he might expire at any moment.
"His name is Citizen Julien. He's an agent of the court," explained Gagnon apologetically from the door. "Here to see about her personal affairs."
"Debts to be settled, last letters to write," managed the old man in a wheezy voice as he fought to control his coughing. "Distribution of personal effects, scraps of clothing, locks of hair. The lad here, Dénis, and I will see that they are safely delivered to loved ones, all for a modest fee. I am also able to take last statements or confessions of any counterrevolutionary activities, names, places. It is my duty to admit I do have some access to our most eminent public prosecutor, Citizen Fouquier-Tinville, and might even be able to get a final confession or denunciation to him if the information provided is worthwhile. Perhaps you have something to tell me, young lady, that might affect your sentence, hmm?" he said suggestively, with one thick white eyebrow raised in her direction."
Jacqueline wanted to laugh, so grateful was she for this interruption. She was aware prisoners were entitled to settle their affairs in the brief hours before their execution, but did the Tribunal really believe she would denounce others who opposed the new Republic to try to save herself?
"I am afraid, Citizen, your timing is not ideal," stated Nicolas in a tightly controlled voice. "The citizeness and I have a personal matter to resolve. You can come back later." He folded his arms across his chest and waited for the old man to excuse himself from the cell.
Citizen Julien ignored him and motioned to the youth, who handed him a thick leather case. He laid it open on the table and moved the candle closer, pulled out a sheaf of papers, and began to mumble as he rifled through them. "Saint-Simon . . . Rabourdin . . . de Crussol . . . Pontavice . . . Coutelet . . . La Voisier . . . Dufouleur . . . aha!" he called out triumphantly. He separated a sheet of paper from the pile and held it beneath the light of the candle. "Jacqueline Doucette, formerly Mademoiselle Jacqueline Marie Louise de Lambert, daughter of the convicted traitor Charles-Alexandre Doucette, former Duc de Lambert," he read from the document with squinting eyes. He reached back into the case, took out a quill and a little pot of ink, and began to set them up on the table.
Nicolas took a step toward him, clearly annoyed. "Citizen, I said you will have to come back later," he bellowed into his ear, obviously thinking the man must be deaf.
The old man slowly lifted one pale, spotted hand to his ear and shook his head, as if the sound was rattling around in his brain. He looked at Nicolas impatiently. "No need to shout, boy, no need to shout," he bellowed back. "I'm old, not dead," he grumbled irritably as he turned his attention again to his papers.
"Actually, I have a number of matters to discuss with Citizen Julien, and would prefer to do so now," interjected Jacqueline. As long as the old man remained in her cell, Nicolas would be unable to touch her.
"Citizen, if you would come back in about an hour, Citizeness Doucette and I will have concluded our business and you may talk with her for as long as you like," suggested Nicolas pleasantly. He gave Jacqueline a warning glance that told her if she dared to speak again, it would be far worse for her once they were alone.
"Can't do it," said the old man as he began to write something on the paper before him. "Unfortunately, Citizeness Doucette is my only client at the Conciergerie. I have five others to see before the night is out, and they are divided among three different prisons." He lifted up what appeared to be a note to himself, cleared his throat, and began to read: "One at La Conciergerie." He lowered the note and looked at Nicolas. "That is here," he informed him. He lifted the note again. "Two at La Force." He lowered the note and looked at Jacqueline. "Not a very nice place, La Force." He paused and looked around the cell. "Not a very nice place here, either," he commented absently as he lifted the note again. "One at L'Abbaye." He lowered the note and looked at the jailer, who was still standing in the doorway. "Ever work at L'Abbaye?" he inquired pleasantly.
"Enough!" ordered Nicolas in exasperation. He reached behind the old man and yanked up his jacket and coat.
"Two at Sainte-Pelagie," continued Citizen Julien, obviously unimpressed by Nicolas's outburst.
"I will return in one hour to finish what we started," Nicolas ground out to Jacqueline. "I trust you will be waiting for me?" he drawled sarcastically. He turned abruptly and left the cell.
"Excitable fellow, that one," commented the old man as he looked up from his paper. He fixed his gaze on Jacqueline. "He seems unusually fond of you." He stared at her meaningfully.
"Call me when you want out," said Gagnon as he closed and locked the door.
"Now then, Citizeness, what can I do for you today?" asked Citizen Julien brightly as he set a clean sheet of paper before him and dabbed his quill in the pot of ink.
"If you cheat me, I promise you will regret it," stated Jacqueline in a warning tone. She had heard stories of dishonest agents who made a comfortable living by simply keeping the valuables they collected from their condemned clients. It was bad enough they were living off the misery of others, but then to charge prisoners for services they had no intention of rendering, and to sell or discard the last precious items bequeathed to their loved ones, was utterly despicable.
"Citizeness, er . . ." The old man paused to squint at his note, "Doucette, you need have no fear of my integrity. You may mount the steps to the guillotine with complete peace of mind, confident that your last wishes will be carried out to the letter," he told her with pride.
"Very well," conceded Jacqueline. She stood in the middle of the cell and thought for a moment.
The old man sat poised at the table waiting for her instructions. The boy Dénis, who like Gagnon was covered with years of grime, made himself more or less comfortable by sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall. His loose, dark trousers, short, coarse jacket, and red cap was the typical outfit of the new sansculottes, revolutionaries who scorned the tight, knee-length breeches and long jackets aristocratic gentlemen had favored for most of the century. He folded his arms and closed his eyes, evidently undisturbed by the filth around him.
"Since our honorable Republic has, in its infallible wisdom, decided to confiscate all of my father's investments, including my home and everything in it, my bequests are somewhat limited," Jacqueline stated sarcastically. "I wish to send a letter to my maid, Henriette Mandrou, and with it I shall include my hair. She will know what to do with it."
"Henriette," repeated the old man as he began to write. With a shaking hand he slowly scratched the letters onto the paper, using long, embellished strokes. When he had finished he paused and stared at the name, as if trying to remember why he had written it. After a moment he smiled and looked up. "I knew an Henriette once," he told her conversationally. "A dairymaid. Wanted me to marry her. Only difference between her and her cow was the cow smelled better." He chuckled and looked back at his work.
"I would also like you to cut my hair, if you think you can hold your scissors steady enough to do it without slashing my throat," continued Jacqueline, irritated by his cheerful attitude. She pulled the pins from her hair and shook it loose, running her fingers through the blond cape to feel its silky texture one last time before it was removed.
Citizen Julien stared at her as she did this, holding his quill in midair, the smile on his face quite gone. It appeared to Jacqueline that the sight of her hair had startled him, and his reaction made the impending loss even more painful.
"It is only hair," she told him bitterly. "Tomorrow it will be my head."
His response to that statement was to burst into another terrible fit of coughing, so deep and choking he dropped his pen and began to gasp for air. Concerned, Jacqueline rushed over and began to pat him lightly on the back. The boy leapt to his feet, pushed Jacqueline aside, and proceeded to give his employer a solid thumping.
"He's having one of his fits," Dénis explained.
"Medicine" wheezed the old man in between wallops. "Needmedicine."
"Where is it?" demanded Jacqueline.
"It's in his bag, downstairs," Dénis told her. "We carry a lot of people's stuff with us, and the wardens don't usually let us take it up to the cells. Afraid we'll smuggle in poison, or a gun maybe," he explained.
"Gagnon!" shouted Jacqueline through the grille on the door. The old man's coughing and wheezing was becoming more severe. "Citizen Gagnon!"
"What is it?" snapped the jailer as he unlocked the door and stepped inside. He looked at Citizen Julien, who was huddled over gasping for air while the boy continued to bang on his back. "Here now, what's his problem?"
"He needs his medicine, which is in a bag downstairs," explained Jacqueline urgently. "The boy must go and fetch it."
"Go on then," said the jailer, motioning to Dénis. "And be quick about it."
The boy raced out of the cell, leaving the old man to the care of Jacqueline.
"A drink" he managed weakly before heaving into another fit of choking.
"Perhaps you should fetch some water, or wine maybe," she suggested to Gagnon as she helplessly watched the old man hacking and spewing phlegm into his handkerchief.
"No wine!" wheezed Citizen Julien in between coughs.
"Water then," said Jacqueline with a nod to the jailer.
"Do I look like your servant, Citizeness?" he demanded.
The old man let out a horrible, agonizing moan and clutched his chest, gasping for air.
"Please!" begged Jacqueline. "It won't look very good if an agent of the court dies in your wing while you are on duty," she added desperately.
Gagnon scowled. "I'll be back in a minute. I'll leave the door open for the boy, but don't you be thinking about wandering off anywhere, Citizeness," he warned. "If I have to go searching for you, I will demand payment for my trouble, and I might not be satisfied with just your hair. Maybe I'll try some of what Inspector Bourdon came for." He grinned at her, exposing his jagged, rotting teeth before leaving the cell.
He went to his table at the far end of the hall and was irritated to find that the bucket of water he kept there was empty. The old man's dreadful hacking continued to echo through the vaulted corridor. Gagnon decided he had better do what he could to keep the poor bugger from croaking, so he grabbed the battered cup from the bucket and went off toward the east wing, hoping the jailer of that ward had some water handy. He was not concerned in the least that Jacqueline would escape. The Conciergerie was crawling with guards who would take great pleasure in stopping a woman prisoner and punishing her for wandering from her cell.
He returned after a few minutes with the battered cup full of murky water. Citizen Julien's coughing had subsided considerably, and when Gagnon entered the cell he could see the boy had returned with the medicine. The old man, apparently somewhat recovered from his attack, was wheezing as he bent over Jacqueline, who was now lying huddled on her bed.
"There, there now, my dear, it is nothing to be concerned about, a little faintness and chills on the eve of one's execution is perfectly normal," he soothed in a raspy voice. He adjusted the blanket around her shoulders and sighed.
"What's the matter with her?" demanded Gagnon. The Republic did not approve of its prisoners dying in prison. To do so was to cheat the guillotine of another victim.
"Citizeness Doucette is in need of a little rest," explained the old man. "I fear the excitement of the day has been too much for her."
Gagnon snorted loudly. "Tomorrow she'll be getting all the rest she'll ever need," he joked.
"Quite so," agreed Citizen Julien. "In the meantime, the lad and I will give her a few moments to collect herself before we resume our business." He turned his attention back to his papers and began to read one of them by the dim light of the candle. The youth Dénis, who had been standing in the darkness staring at the woman lying on the bed, sank to the floor, bent his head into his chest, and prepared to take a nap.
"Call me when you want out," said Gagnon with a shrug. He pulled the door shut and locked it.
After a time he could hear the sound of Jacqueline's voice as she dictated a letter to the old man, evidently recovered from her spell. Citizen Julien read the letter back to her, and she pointed out several missing words. Then followed a very loud argument over the price of the old man's services, which nearly sent him into another fit of coughing. The issue was finally resolved, at which point Gagnon could hear Jacqueline begin to sob. Evidently a compassionate man, Citizen Julien fussed over her again as he told her to lie down. A few minutes later the old man called for Gagnon to let him out.
"She is resting again, and should not be disturbed by anyone," said Citizen Julien in a low, grave voice. "Especially that rather volatile young man who was here earlier. Clearly his presence is not welcome," he stated with a raised white eyebrow.
Gagnon shrugged. "Citizen Bourdon is an inspector for the Committee of Public Safety and can see whoever he wants. What he does in this cell is none of my business."
The old man looked at him in disgust. "Citizeness Doucette is sentenced to die tomorrow. Until then she is under your care, and if I hear of any impropriety when I return tomorrow to cut her hair, you can be sure I will report it to Citizen Fouquier-Tinville. Our public prosecutor is a man of the law, and he does not approve of the mistreatment of prisoners who are in the custody of the new Republic."
"You did not cut her hair?" demanded Gagnon with interest. He squinted through the darkness and could see Jacqueline's hair spilling out from underneath the black shawl wrapped around her head and shoulders.
"She was too upset," explained Citizen Julien with a sigh. "I offered to come back and cut it tomorrow so she would not have to suffer the loss of it tonight."
"That was kind of you," murmured Gagnon thoughtfully. Perhaps he would own that golden mane after all.
"Kindness is an act which is too little seen in these difficult times," commented Citizen Julien as he collected his papers and put them into his leather case.
"Careful, Citizen," warned Gagnon. "Lest your words come back to haunt you."
"If they do, I will know who felt they were worthy of repeating, won't I?" said the old man. "Come, Dénis," he called, motioning to the boy. "We have four more clients to see before the night is out."
Dénis handed Citizen Julien his cane, accepted his leather case, and then stood close beside him so he could lean heavily on his shoulder. "I fear I am getting too old for this," Citizen Julien muttered irritably as they slowly shuffled out of the cell.
Gagnon looked at the candle on the table, which had burned down to almost nothing. Citizeness Doucette was sleeping and therefore unaware that the light of her precious candle was being wasted. Gagnon decided to wait until it had burned itself out before coming back to waken her. Then they could make a trade, he thought with satisfaction.
It was not to be. Barely ten minutes later Inspector Bourdon returned and demanded to be let into Citizeness Doucette's cell.
"She had a fainting spell and took to her bed," Gagnon told him as he unlocked the door.
Nicolas peered through the darkness at the sleeping form of Jacqueline, whose glorious hair was down and flowing like a river of honey across her back. He had never seen her with her hair down. The sight of her sleeping peacefully, unsuspecting and vulnerable, made him hard with desire. The candle on the table sputtered and went out.
"Shall I bring you another candle?" offered Gagnon.
"No," replied Nicolas abruptly. "Get out."
The cell was plunged into total darkness as the door eclipsed the faint light of the torch Gagnon held.
Nicolas held his breath as he removed his hat, gloves, overcoat, and jacket. He slowly unfastened his waistcoat and loosened his trousers, savoring the anticipation of finally having what had been denied to him for so long.
"Jacqueline," he called softly as he moved toward the bed. He stood towering over her, clenching and unclenching his hands. "I have returned to finish what we began," he whispered, bracing himself for the pleasure of the struggle that was about to begin. He reached out and touched the silky hair that adorned the thin, coarse blanket covering her. She did not stir. "I am glad you did not cut your hair," he told her as he held her hair in his fist. "It would have marred your beauty, and when I remember you begging me to stop, I want you to be just as perfect as always."
He yanked down hard on her hair, intending to waken her with pain.
He stared in confusion at the golden skein dangling lifelessly in his hand, tied at one end with a length of ribbon.
"What in the name of God"
He tore away the blanket and wrenched her up from the bed. A terrible roar of rage echoed through the halls as Nicolas realized he held nothing but a tattered silk gown, stuffed with fetid straw and a shapely puff of fine linen petticoats.