Page:The Czar, A Tale of the Time of the First Napleon.djvu/229
THE AIDE-DE-CAMP OF ST. PRIEST.
answered. Sometimes he would talk incoherently; at other times he would reply correctly enough—say he was going to Vilna—and in his turn ask questions about the road. He noticed that some of those whom he met stared at him vacantly, or with the fierce glare of insanity; when he spoke they would give him wild and wandering answers, or perhaps even threaten him with violence. Once a miserable being, looking like a spectre, stood and gazed at him in silence, until he asked him what he wanted. "Nothing," answered he, with a strange, sad smile,—"nothing; I am a dead man."
There were moments, perhaps hours, when Henri's crushed intelligence seemed to revive, and he regained the power of thought and feeling. But these seasons were the most terrible of all. His soul was fast bound in misery and iron. It was hard with despair as the ground beneath his feet with the frost of winter. If he thought of his mother—he "would never see her again; and what did it matter? She had never forgiven—never would forgive him now." Of Clémence—"she was so good! She would be very happy in her religion, in her pious books, in her good works. No doubt she was happy enough even now, though her one brother was dying miserably of cold and hunger by the side of a Polish road. Clémence would only say, 'It is the will of God.'"
The will of God! That was the bitterest thought of all. His will was inexorable. There was no use in prayer. Henri had tried prayer, and had not been heard. God did not care for him. He sat on his throne, far above yonder cold, gray, pitiless wintry sky,—as cold, and yet more pitiless. This was his hand, his vengeance; by his inscrutable decree half a million of men were dying in torture, because he was angry with Napoleon Buonaparte.
Sometimes he thought it was not his will, but only a terrible chance. Sometimes it seemed easier to believe, with most of
- A fact.