AN IDYL UNDER THE TERROR or Dream of Spring Perfume BY ANNA McCLURE SHOLL

AN IDYL UNDER THE TERROR or Dream of Spring Perfume
BY ANNA McCLURE SHOLL

THERE is no hope, Leon, but I have obtained this clemency from the judge—that M. Felix and myself go to our deaths in the same tumbril."

"A strange wedding - coach, mademoiselle, for you, who should have had a grand marriage in the church at Grasse. I wish we were all safely back there! If monsieur your father had not been deceived by the idea that he was serving his country, and not the will of butchers, when he came as deputy to Paris, he might have been alive now, peacefully distilling his perfumes."

The young woman closed her eyes for a moment to shut out the dark prison walls, the groups of weeping people, the faces dazed with terror, or sullen in the last indifference of those soon to be hurried to their graves.

"How beautiful the gardens of Grasse must be now! I dream of roses every night, Leon; fields and fields of them, but they are all crimson—not a white rose in the whole of France! They are all dved deep with blood."

"You have feverish fancies, mademoiselle, the effect of this poisoned prison air, no doubt."

"I have the fancies of those about to die. Listen, Leon, and I will tell you one of them —it is to go to my death in the dress I should have worn to my wedding, that I may give greater comfort and courage to M. Felix, and show these tyrants that I am not afraid. I've heard that the queen went grandly to the scaffold. Though I am only the daughter of a perfumer of Grasse, I, too, can go there smiling. Why should I not smile? My betrothed goes with me. We shall take our love where none can ever come between us!"

Leon Colette regarded the daughter of his old employer with pitying admiration, though he scarcely understood her exalted mood. When he had heard the sentence of death pronounced upon her that morning he had turned faint and ill, scarcely able to make his way through the mob of spectators to the freer air of the corridors outside. A passion of sorrow had shaken him, intensified by the hopelessness of his longing to aid Mile. Fougeret against these dark authorities, who were about to take her young life as carelessly as one picked a blossom in the fields of Grasse.

He was not afraid, but he was helpless. With Paris running rivers of blood, what could a poor workman do, beyond seeking permission to see the daughter of his old master and attend her, as a page might, until her death?

"Have you the gala dress to wear in the tumbril, mademoiselle?" he inquired.

"I have the gown with me that I prepared for my wedding; but to don it is not all of my fancy. There's a certain perfume, one of my father's creations, that M. Felix loves because its sweetness was all about me on the day when he first met me. It is the famous 'Dream of Spring '—but I have none of it here."

"The ' Dream of Spring ' is the loveliest odor of them all, mademoiselle. Monsieur your father guarded the secret of its formula most jealously."

"He confided it to me before his death, believing, poor man, that I should return to Grasse, and with the aid of M. Felix open the works again, call the men to our service, and continue to manufacture this perfume which made-—and then, alas, unmade—our fortunes."

Leon's eyes glistened with the light of happy memories. When his devotion to hi; master had brought him to Paris, he had left a sweetheart in Grasse to whom he had always promised, as her wedding gift, a vial of the costly "Dream of Spring." He thought now of Berthe and of the coveted perfume. Through the reeking air of this .dismal prison he could almost perceive, in imagination, its delicate, exquisite fragrance, like the soul of myriad flowers. Its very name brought to his vision the blossom-ladened fields of Grasse, the gay spring sunshine, the dark laboratories where great baskets of roses, violets, and orange-blossoms yielded their precious essences to the distiller.

That old town of southern France held its artists, ravishers of sweetness who vied with one another in commingling the scents of Araby with the breath of May gardens: but, of them all, Gabriel Fougeret, the father of Mile. Jeanne, had been most successful. Queen Marie Antoinette herself had had a hundred vials of the "Dream of Spring" sent to her yearly, and the court had been quick to follow her example. It was, indeed, the fact of her patronage of the honest perfumer that had led finally to his execution as a "suspected" deputy, since the taint of kings and queens was supposed to extend to all who had in any way served them.

"Ah, mademoiselle, it is small wonder that you wish to wear again that most delicious perfume as a tribute to M. Ducote, even as you go—alas, poor children!—to your untimely deaths."

"This is the service I beg of you, Leon. A week will elapse before our sentence is carried out. Search Paris. I know that many of the shops of the perfumers are closed, but I shall give you the addresses of as many of my father's old customers as I can remember. Among their stock you may, by chance, find the ' Dream.' Buy me a vial and bring it to me."

"I shall scour Paris to find it, mademoiselle—but if I do not find it, would there be time—"

"No, the process is too intricate, and in this city of blood and stones where are the flowers from which to steal the essences? But whether you find it or whether you do not, this shall be the reward of your faithfulness to my father and myself—you shall have the formula of the ' Dream of Spring.' After my death, sell these rings which I shall give you, make your way back to Grasse, marry Berthe, and carry on my father's business, which the possession of this formula will enable you to do."

Leon seized her hand and kissed it.

"Heaven who takes you so young and lovely to its bosom, mademoiselle, will grant you grace for this kindness! Xow I go. If

I am fortunate enough to find the 'Dream of Spring,' I shall bring it concealed on my person, lest they suspect poison. These wolves are jealous of death itself!"

"Will you have trouble in gaining admission to the prison again?"

"I have a friend among the jailers, mademoiselle, to whom I once did a good turn. He owes me the chance to see you, and he has promised to pay the debt handsomely, pitying, as he does, your youth and helplessness. Now, farewell! I shall bring you the ' Dream' if there is a vial of it in Paris, but the search may require several days."

"I shall not expect you until the week is almost over."

II

Leon Colette, workman from Grasse, citizen of the republic, whose ragged clothes, stained hands, and sunburnt face were a better proclamation of his republican tendencies than volumes of rhetoric, or the eloquence of the most zealous Montagnard—Leon Colette came nearer to real enjoyment during his hours of search for the perfume than he had since the old days in Grasse, when his greatest trouble had been a lover's quarrel with Berthe, or the fear of spilling a drop of attar of roses in the distillery.

Though at first he found no trace of the "Dream of Spring"—that perfume of an exiled or guillotined nobility—he improved each occasion of inquiry to make friends with the shopkeeper, who, dicl he but know it, was conversing with a man, Colette reflected proudly, soon to possess the very formula of the famous scent he asked for; perhaps to deal in grand fashion, as had poor M. Fougeret, with these self-satisfied Parisian tradesmen.

Colette enjoyed all the pleasures of incognito, as well as the delight — possible only in its fulness to a born perfumer—of being allowed to sniff certain delicate vials, to compare the mignonette of M. Latour with the mignonette of M. Rod; to have his neckerchief sprinkled with a few drops of gardenia, as if he had been a prince—the working man was coming to his own at last, in this Paris under the Terror!

At one place he even had a most delectable stopper wet with amber presented to his nostrils. In another, a woman gave him a tiny bottle of stephanotis, because he reminded her of a favorite son. After each of these entertainments in hospitable shops, he would go out again into the troubled streets feeling compunction that he could enjoy anything when poor Mile. Jeanne was awaiting her death in the horrible prison.

On the fifth day of his search he found himself in an obscure shop near the desecrated cathedral of Our Lady. The owner, an old man, deaf, it would seem, to the roar of that bloodthirsty world outside his spattered windows, fumbled long among his stores, and finally brought out the vial of iridescent glass with the gilded stopper and the rosy seal bearing the initials of the queen—one of the vials that Colette knew so well, having packed many of them in pads of straw for transport to Paris. The old man held it to the light.

"'Tis a perfume of youth and love, of which, if they go on much longer with their killing, naught will be left to sweeten this city. I have odors more piercing, but none more gracious. This brings to mind the gardens of Versailles beneath spring moons, and the queen-lady at play there with hearts as gay as hers. Now they are cold!"

Colette, impatient to be gone with his prize, began to count out the money.

"You do not scruple to spend much for a toy, citizen—but times are changed! It is no longer bread they cry for, but the gauds and trinkets of the order they have destroyed. How many does La Guillotine —that all-powerful queen—claim to-day?"

"Forty-three, citizen! Should you ever come to Grasse, inquire for one Leon Colette. 'Twill be to your advantage."

"I take no journeys in these rough times, though that city of flowers must be indeed a pleasant one!"

Colette touched his cap—forgetting for a moment his citizen manners—and hurried away, going straight from the shop to the prison. The jailer was as good as his word, and after some formalities conducted him through the low, damp corridors to a long room in which Mile. Fougeret and many others awaited their last hour.

She came to meet Leon, looking more beautiful, he thought, in her sadness and resignation than he had ever seen her.

"Here is the 'Dream of Spring,' mademoiselle," he whispered, slipping it into her hand. "I believe I obtained the only vial left in Paris."

Her eyes filled with tears as she took the bottle, the fragrance of whose contents penetrated even through the seals.

"It brings all the old days back to me— all the blossom-scented springs we loved so much in a land I shall never see again. You have served me well, Leon. Here is the formula. Guard it jealously, for if the times ever again become quiet, it will make your fortune. You can stamp the seal with the monogram of the republic instead of an unfortunate queen's! And now, farewell. We must not talk too long together, for there are spies even among the prisoners. Say a prayer for myself and M. Felix on the day of our deaths. They have erased the name of God from the stones, but they cannot erase His name from the hearts of men!"

"Mademoiselle, I shall run beside the tumbril all the way. I shall go with vou to the scaffold."

She gave him her hand in silence, and he kissed it. Then he left her wondering if on the fatal morning she would still have the courage to deck herself as for a bridal.

Ill

When it dawned, Leon was already at the prison, fearing lest the authorities might change the hour set for the last grim journey. The May morning was cloudless, but only the ineffable blue of the sky bore witness to the vernal season. In the streets lurked the chill of death, made visible on the wan and frightened faces of the passers-by. The city was held in a paralysis of fear as in the icy bands of winter.

At last the carts were drawn to the front of the prison gates, and, after some delay, the poor, herded procession appeared—an equality of young and old, rich and poor, matron and maid, noble and peasant. Some were weeping, others seemed rapt in prayer, others stoically indifferent.

Among them came Mile. Jeanne Fougeret and M. Felix Ducote, their hands tightly clasped, their faces lit with a solemn radiance, as if they were looking into the world beyond. He was dressed as became a bridegroom, and she wore a bridal gown of flowered silk. As Leon pressed close to them, he perceived the subtle sweetness of the "Dream of Spring." Like floral incense it diffused itself through the soft May air and surrounded Mile. Fougeret with its fragrance. When she mounted the tumbril, she caught sight of Leon, and smiled her greeting to him. • The death journey was long and tedious, for, owing to the interest attached to several of the day's victims, crowds had gathered along the narrow streets that led to the guillotine. Leon had no trouble in keeping abreast of the tumbril, and within speaking distance of Mile. Fougeret, whose youth, beauty, and air of indomitable courage attracted all eyes and brought forth many inquiries from the bystanders.

At last the tumbril was drawn up before the steps leading to the guillotine. Even the fresh spring air seemed to have withdrawn itself from this place of blood, of terror, of mortality unattended by compassion. The reek and odor of the charnelhouse infected the very stones, the wet wood —wet with no purifying rains—the trampled straw, all the horrid symbols of butchery. Yet so abnormal had the times become that around this spot of destruction was gathered a circle of human beings, whose strange laughter and cackle of expectation suggested the gaiety of devils.

Near the steps of the scaffold, and a little apart from the throng, stood in somber silence two men, both of whom Leon at once recognized. One was M. Faure, the judge who had pronounced sentence upon Jeanne Fougeret and Felix Ducote; the other was M. Detaille, a citizen of Grasse.

The dreadful march to the guillotine was now begun. Leon, turning his back, and clapping his hands to his ears, that he might not hear the whir of the great knife as it descended, fixed his gaze upon the doomed couple, who now clung to each other in a last embrace. He heard her whisper:

"Let me go first. I cannot see you die!"

With a last kiss she broke from him and, pale as marble, descended from the cart. As she did so, she passed close to M. Detaille, who had drawn nearer and was looking at her intently. She was already mounting the steps of the guillotine, when, as M. Detaille whispered a word in the ear of the judge, that dignitary called upon her to stop.

Again the two men whispered together. The judge at first seemed reluctant to grant some favor for which M. Detaille was asking, but at last he turned to the waiting girl and requested her to descend the steps, as they wished to talk with her.

Felix Ducote, wondering at this delay at the very foot of the scaffold, but hoping nothing from it, drew near his betrothed, prepared for some last refinement of cruelty. Leon, unobserved, crept up behind them like a watchful animal.

The judge addressed Jeanne.

"You smell as sweet as a May morning, little citizeness!"

"Say, rather, sweet as those lilies of France upon which you trample," she replied quietly.

"Oh, ho! You have a bold temper! We trampled the lilies of France because the stench of their decay was poisoning the free air of France. Lilies grown in kings' gardens smell of tyranny."

To this she made no answer. M. Faure continued:

"Citizen Detaille, of Grasse, wishes a word with you before you are kissed by La Guillotine. As he is a friend of mine, I am granting him this favor."

"I have the honor to know Citizen Detaille—a worthy rival of my honored father."

Detaille took a step forward, his keen, commercial, but not unkindly face lit with an interest unrelated, it would seem, to the sanguinary drama he was witnessing.

"Citizeness, I perceive about you the fragrance of the 'Dream of Spring,' that most perfect creation of your father's, whose secret formula, so jealously guarded, I doubt not dies with you."

Jeanne made no reply.

"Answer, citizeness!" the judge commanded.

"Many things perish on this scaffold, monsieur, besides human lives. Old customs perish, old laws, old loves, old secrets."

"That is no answer," the judge cried out.

"What do you wish me to say?"

"I command you to tell Citizen Detaille, who as a perfumer of the republic has the right to know, if you possess the formula of the perfume which clings about you. That is, indeed, the only legacy that you can leave to your country. It is but fitting .that a perfume which ministered to the luxury of tyrants should now be enjoyed by the citizens of the republic."

"All the perfumers of Grasse envied my father the ' Dream of Spring,' " she replied proudly. "But I cannot leave the secret of its composition either to Citizen Detaille or to the republic, because it is no longer in my possession."

There was a sound of heavy breathing behind them, as of some one in sharp struggle with himself. Suddenly Leon Colette stepped forward.

"Citizens, it is I who possess that glorious formula, the last legacy to me of my master's daughter. I possess it, I, Leon Colotte, free citizen of France, and son of the republic."

He spoke proudly and confidently, like a man prepared to dictate his terms. The judge-looked him over.

"Then there is no occasion to detain these young people longer from their wedding visit to La Guillotine. It is but a matter of bargaining with this fellow.''

"I deal with him, then—many thanks!"

"Stop, Citizen Ducote!" Leon cried. "Stop, Citizeness Fougeret, and hear my terms to these good citizens. It is not for gold that I shall sell this formula. The motto of the republic is justice. I have a right to name my price. If they reject it, I have also the right to keep my treasure— to retain the ' Dream of Spring.' I appeal to you, judge, is this not so?"

"You are acting within your rights. Name your price."

"The lives of Citizeness Fougeret and of Citizen Ducote."

IV

The judge and Detaille looked at each other.

"A word with you apart," Detaille said, laying his hand upon the judge's arm.

Ducote turned to Leon.

"You bargain nobly! Heaven preserve us to show our gratitude!"

The parley lasted some minutes. At last the two men returned, and the judge addressed Jeanne.

"If the price be paid—if you and this young citizen are allowed to return to Grasse, will you promise never to engage in the manufacture of perfumes, and particularly of this perfume whose formula you might remember?"

Ducote answered for her.

"Honor makes such a promise scarcely necessary, citizen; but you need not fear. I have a rose-farm to which to conduct Jeanne Fougeret when the republic shall have united us. We shall spend our days cultivating roses for the manufacturers."

Jeanne seized Leon's hand and drew him forward.

"But I, too, wish to make a condition, Citizen Detaille, for the benefit of this brave man who has given up a fortune to save our lives. It is that you make him the head of your works in Grasse, and give him an interest in the sales of the 'Dream of Spring.' You will find him a most skilled workman—my father taught him many secrets — and a most faithful man, as this day's event testifies."

Detaille pondered a moment.

"Citizeness, the ' Dream of Spring ' persuades me to accept your condition. Let us hope that from this sweetness may come recovered strength in all our lives." He turned to Ducote, and, addressing him, continued: "It is by the revised calendar of the republic the delicious month of Floreal. The fields around our native town are all a-blush with roses, and the air is ladened with the scent of orange-blossoms. Lead your citizeness back to her old home. My wife leaves Paris this very afternoon for Grasse, and will be glad to take Mile. Jeanne under her protection — Citizeness Jeanne, I should say, but my tongue slips easily into the old forms."

Colette tossed his cap in the air.

"And now back to Berthe!" he cried.

Felix drew Jeanne to him.

"The flowers of Grasse are waiting for you," he whispered. "We will pick white roses for the bride's bouquet!"