(Essentials of European Literature)

Evariste Gamelin, a young man who lived with his mother, was a not very talented pupil of Jacques David, the painter. The only one of Evariste’s paintings that gained any recognition was a canvas depicting the story of Orestes and Electra. People claimed that Evariste’s painting of Orestes was really a self-portrait.

An older artist, Maurice Brotteaux, lived in the garret of the Gamelin house in 1793. A former nobleman, he made his living creating Punch and Judy dolls.

Evariste became an active member of the Jacobins, genuinely believing that their success and complete control would bring about a new and better era for all the people in France. He even had a plan to change playing cards from pictures of kings, queens, and jacks to symbols of liberty, equality, and fraternity, but his fellow revolutionaries would not finance his designs. Brotteaux, on the other hand, was an atheist, an intellectual, a skeptic without faith in the goodness of the masses.

Evariste unsuccessfully tried to sell his new designs for playing cards to Jean Blaise, a print seller. Evariste was in love with Blaise’s daughter Elodie, who finally got Evariste, far more naive than she, to propose to her. When Elodie confessed that she had had a lover, Evariste was certain that it must have been a cynical aristocrat who had used her cruelly. On political grounds, he forgave her.

One day, while Brotteaux and Evariste were waiting in a breadline, a woman screamed that her purse was gone and pointed to a cleric, Pere Longuemare, as the thief. The people became excited and ran about accusing Longuemare of being a Capuchin, a member of an order opposed to the Jacobins, even though, by his speech, he was clearly a Barnabite. Brotteaux defended the cleric, but to no avail until the woman found that she had had her purse all along. The idealistic Evariste believed the incident demonstrated that, in the new society, people were so eager for justice that they would leave their places in the breadline to find a thief. The wiser Brotteaux realized that they simply wanted to accuse others. He later gave Pete Longuemare a place of refuge in his garret.

Madame de Rochemaure, whose late husband had been a procurer for the king, was an intriguer who pretended revolutionary ardor. She, trailed by Henry, a young dragoon, was interested in using her new revolutionary connections to make more money. She...

(The entire section is 988 words.)