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THE FOOTSTEPS DIE OUT FOR EVER
ALONG THE PARIS STREETS, the death-carts rumble, hollow and
Six tumbrils carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the
devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination
could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. And
yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a
blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to
maturity under conditions more certain than those that have
produced this horror.
Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers,
and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same
seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will
surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.
Six tumbrils roll along the streets. Change these back again to what
they were, thou powerful enchanter, Time, and they shall be seen
to be the carriages of absolute monarchs, the equipages of feudal
nobles, the toilettes of flaring Jezebels, the churches that are not my
father’s house but dens of thieves, the huts of millions of starving
peasants! No; the great magician who majestically works out the
appointed order of the Creator, never reverses his transformations.
“If thou be changed into this shape by the will of God,” say the
seers to the enchanted, in the wise Arabian stories, “then remain
so! But, if thou wear this form through mere passing conjuration,
then resume thy former aspect!” Changeless and hopeless, the
tumbrils roll along.
As the sombre wheels of the six carts go round, they seem to
plough up a long crooked furrow among the populace in the
streets. Ridges of faces are thrown to this side and to that, and the
ploughs go steadily onward. So used are the regular inhabitants of
the houses to the spectacle, that in many windows there are no
people, and in some the occupation of the hands is not so much as
suspended, while, the eyes survey the faces in the tumbrils. Here
and there, the inmate has visitors to see the sight; then he points his
finger, with something of the complacency of a curator or
authorised exponent, to this cart and to this, and seems to tell who
sat here yesterday, and who there the day before.
Of the riders in the tumbrils, some observe these things, and all
things on their last roadside, with an impassive stare; others, with a
lingering interest in the ways of life and men. Some, seated with
drooping heads, are sunk in silent despair; again, there are some so