It was Danton who passed by on his way up to his seat.
Marat did not turn around.
He bent his head down between the two faces of Montaut and Chabot.
"Listen, I have come for a serious matter, one of us three must propose to-day the draft of a decree to the Convention."
"Not I," said Montaut, "they would not listen to me, I am a marquis."
"They would not listen to me," said Chabot, "I am a Capuchin."
"And they would not listen to me," said Marat, "I am Marat."
There was a silence between them.
It was not easy to question Marat when he was absorbed in thought. However Montaut ventured to ask,—
"Marat, what is the decree you wish for?"
"A decree for punishing with death any military leader who lets a rebel prisoner escape."
Cabot interrupted him.
"This decree already exists; it was voted the last of April."
"Then it is as good as a dead letter," said Marat. "All through la Vendée they are letting prisoners go, and giving them protection with impunity."
"Marat, that is because the decree is not in force."
"Chabot, it must be given new life."
"And to do that, it is necessary to speak to the Convention."
"The end will be reached," added Montaut, "if the Committee of Public Welfare have the decree posted up in all the communes of la Vendée and make two or three good examples."
"Of the great leaders," continued Chabot. "Of the generals."
Marat growled: "To be sure, that will do."
"Marat," continued Chabot, "go yourself and say so to the Committee of Public Welfare."
Marat looked at him full in the face, which was not agreeable even for Chabot.
"Chabot," he said, "the Committee of Public Welfare is at Robespierre's house; I do not go to Robespierre's house."