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Title: Scaramouche
Author: Sabatini, Rafael, 1875-1950
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Scaramouche" ***

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SCARAMOUCHE

A ROMANCE OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

By Rafael Sabatini



Contents

 BOOK I.

	  CHAPTER I. 	THE REPUBLICAN
	  CHAPTER II. 	THE ARISTOCRAT
	  CHAPTER III. 	THE ELOQUENCE OF M. DE VILMORIN
	  CHAPTER IV. 	THE HERITAGE
	  CHAPTER V. 	THE LORD OF GAVRILLAC
	  CHAPTER VI. 	THE WINDMILL
	  CHAPTER VII. 	THE WIND
	  CHAPTER VIII. OMNES OMNIBUS
	  CHAPTER IX. 	THE AFTERMATH

 BOOK II. 	  

	  CHAPTER I. 	THE TRESPASSERS
	  CHAPTER II. 	THE SERVICE OF THESPIS
	  CHAPTER II. 	THE COMIC MUSE
	  CHAPTER IV. 	EXIT MONSIEUR PARVISSIMUS
	  CHAPTER V. 	ENTER SCARAMOUCHE
	  CHAPTER VI. 	CLIMENE
	  CHAPTER VII. 	THE CONQUEST OF NANTES
	  CHAPTER VIII. THE DREAM
	  CHAPTER IX. 	THE AWAKENING
	  CHAPTER X. 	CONTRITION
	  CHAPTER XI. 	THE FRACAS AT THE THEATRE FEYDAU

 BOOK III. 	  

	  CHAPTER I. 	TRANSITION
	  CHAPTER II. 	QUOS DEUS VULT PERDERE
	  CHAPTER III. 	PRESIDENT LE CHAPELIER
	  CHAPTER IV. 	AT MEUDON
	  CHAPTER V. 	MADAME DE PLOUGASTEL
	  CHAPTER VI. 	POLITICIANS
	  CHAPTER VII. 	THE SPADASSINICIDES
	  CHAPTER VIII. THE PALADIN OF THE THIRD
	  CHAPTER IX. 	TORN PRIDE
	  CHAPTER X. 	THE RETURNING CARRIAGE
	  CHAPTER XI. 	INFERENCES
	  CHAPTER XII. 	THE OVERWHELMING REASON
	  CHAPTER XIII. SANCTUARY
	  CHAPTER XIV. 	THE BARRIER
	  CHAPTER XV. 	SAFE-CONDUCT
	  CHAPTER XVI. 	SUNRISE



SCARAMOUCHE



BOOK I: THE ROBE



CHAPTER I. THE REPUBLICAN

He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.
And that was all his patrimony. His very paternity was obscure, although
the village of Gavrillac had long since dispelled the cloud of mystery
that hung about it. Those simple Brittany folk were not so simple as to
be deceived by a pretended relationship which did not even possess
the virtue of originality. When a nobleman, for no apparent reason,
announces himself the godfather of an infant fetched no man knew whence,
and thereafter cares for the lad's rearing and education, the most
unsophisticated of country folk perfectly understand the situation. And
so the good people of Gavrillac permitted themselves no illusions on the
score of the real relationship between Andre-Louis Moreau--as the lad had
been named--and Quintin de Kercadiou, Lord of Gavrillac, who dwelt in the
big grey house that dominated from its eminence the village clustering
below.

Andre-Louis had learnt his letters at the village school, lodged the
while with old Rabouillet, the attorney, who in the capacity of fiscal
intendant, looked after the affairs of M. de Kercadiou. Thereafter, at
the age of fifteen, he had been packed off to Paris, to the Lycee of
Louis Le Grand, to study the law which he was now returned to practise
in conjunction with Rabouillet. All this at the charges of his
godfather, M. de Kercadiou, who by placing him once more under the
tutelage of Rabouillet would seem thereby quite clearly to be making
provision for his future.

Andre-Louis, on his side, had made the most of his opportunities. You
behold him at the age of four-and-twenty stuffed with learning enough
to produce an intellectual indigestion in an ordinary mind. Out of
his zestful study of Man, from Thucydides to the Encyclopaedists, from
Seneca to Rousseau, he had confirmed into an unassailable conviction
his earliest conscious impressions of the general insanity of his own
species. Nor can I discover that anything in his eventful life ever
afterwards caused him to waver in that opinion.

In body he was a slight wisp of a fellow, scarcely above middle height,
with a lean, astute countenance, prominent of nose and cheek-bones, and
with lank, black hair that reached almost to his shoulders. His mouth
was long, thin-lipped, and humorous. He was only just redeemed from
ugliness by the splendour of a pair of ever-questing, luminous eyes, so
dark as to be almost black. Of the whimsical quality of his mind and
his rare gift of graceful expression, his writings--unfortunately but too
scanty--and particularly his Confessions, afford us very ample evidence.
Of his gift of oratory he was hardly conscious yet, although he had
already achieved a certain fame for it in the Literary Chamber of
Rennes--one of those clubs by now ubiquitous in the land, in which the
intellectual youth of France foregathered to study and discuss the
new philosophies that were permeating social life. But the fame he had
acquired there was hardly enviable. He was too impish, too caustic,
too much disposed--so thought his colleagues--to ridicule their sublime
theories for the regeneration of mankind. Himself he protested that
he merely held them up to the mirror of truth, and that it was not his
fault if when reflected there they looked ridiculous.

All that he achieved by this was to exasperate; and his expulsion from a
society grown mistrustful of him must already have followed but for
his friend, Philippe de Vilmorin, a divinity student of Rennes, who,
himself, was one of the most popular members of the Literary Chamber.

Coming to Gavrillac on a November morning, laden with news of the
political storms which were then gathering over France, Philippe found
in that sleepy Breton village matter to quicken his already lively
indignation. A peasant of Gavrillac, named Mabey, had been shot dead
that morning in the woods of Meupont, across the river, by a gamekeeper
of the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr. The unfortunate fellow had been caught
in the act of taking a pheasant from a snare, and the gamekeeper had
acted under explicit orders from his master.

Infuriated by an act of tyranny so absolute and merciless, M. de
Vilmorin proposed to lay the matter before M. de Kercadiou. Mabey was a
vassal of Gavrillac, and Vilmorin hoped to move the Lord of Gavrillac to
demand at least some measure of reparation for the widow and the three
orphans which that brutal deed had made.

But because Andre-Louis was Philippe's dearest friend--indeed, his almost
brother--the young seminarist sought him out in the first instance. He
found him at breakfast alone in the long, low-ceilinged, white-panelled
dining-room at Rabouillet's--the only home that Andre-Louis had ever
known--and after embracing him, deafened him with his denunciation of M.
de La Tour d'Azyr.

"I have heard of it already," said Andre-Louis.

"You speak as if the thing had not surprised you," his friend reproached
him.

"Nothing beastly can surprise me when done by a beast. And La Tour
d'Azyr is a beast, as all the world knows. The more fool Mabey for
stealing his pheasants. He should have stolen somebody else's."

"Is that all you have to say about it?"

"What more is there to say? I've a practical mind, I hope."

"What more there is to say I propose to say to your godfather, M. de
Kercadiou. I shall appeal to him for justice."

"Against M. de La Tour d'Azyr?" Andre-Louis raised his eyebrows.

"Why not?"

"My dear ingenuous Philippe, dog doesn't eat dog."

"You are unjust to your godfather. He is a humane man."

"Oh, as humane as you please. But this isn't a question of humanity.
It's a question of game-laws."

M. de Vilmorin tossed his long arms to Heaven in disgust. He was a tall,
slender young gentleman, a year or two younger than Andre-Louis. He was
very soberly dressed in black, as became a seminarist, with white bands
at wrists and throat and silver buckles to his shoes. His neatly clubbed
brown hair was innocent of powder.

"You talk like a lawyer," he exploded.

"Naturally. But don't waste anger on me on that account. Tell me what
you want me to do."

"I want you to come to M. de Kercadiou with me, and to use your
influence to obtain justice. I suppose I am asking too much."

"My dear Philippe, I exist to serve you. I warn you that it is a futile
quest; but give me leave to finish my breakfast, and I am at your
orders."

M. de Vilmorin dropped into a winged armchair by the well-swept hearth,
on which a piled-up fire of pine logs was burning cheerily. And whilst
he waited now he gave his friend the latest news of the events in
Rennes. Young, ardent, enthusiastic, and inspired by Utopian ideals, he
passionately denounced the rebellious attitude of the privileged.

Andre-Louis, already fully aware of the trend of feeling in the ranks of
an order in whose deliberations he took part as the representative of
a nobleman, was not at all surprised by what he heard. M. de Vilmorin
found it exasperating that his friend should apparently decline to share
his own indignation.

"Don't you see what it means?" he cried. "The nobles, by disobeying the
King, are striking at the very foundations of the throne. Don't they
perceive that their very existence depends upon it; that if the throne
falls over, it is they who stand nearest to it who will be crushed?
Don't they see that?"

"Evidently not. They are just governing classes, and I never heard of
governing classes that had eyes for anything but their own profit."

"That is our grievance. That is what we are going to change."

"You are going to abolish governing classes? An interesting experiment.
I believe it was the original plan of creation, and it might have
succeeded but for Cain."

"What we are going to do," said M. de Vilmorin, curbing his
exasperation, "is to transfer the government to other hands."

"And you think that will make a difference?"

"I know it will."

"Ah! I take it that being now in minor orders, you already possess the
confidence of the Almighty. He will have confided to you His intention
of changing the pattern of mankind."

M. de Vilmorin's fine ascetic face grew overcast. "You are profane,
Andre," he reproved his friend.

"I assure you that I am quite serious. To do what you imply would
require nothing short of divine intervention. You must change man, not
systems. Can you and our vapouring friends of the Literary Chamber
of Rennes, or any other learned society of France, devise a system of
government that has never yet been tried? Surely not. And can they say
of any system tried that it proved other than a failure in the end? My
dear Philippe, the future is to be read with certainty only in the
past. Ab actu ad posse valet consecutio. Man never changes. He is always
greedy, always acquisitive, always vile. I am speaking of Man in the
bulk."

"Do you pretend that it is impossible to ameliorate the lot of the
people?" M. de Vilmorin challenged him.

"When you say the people you mean, of course, the populace. Will you
abolish it? That is the only way to ameliorate its lot, for as long as
it remains populace its lot will be damnation."

"You argue, of course, for the side that employs you. That is natural, I
suppose." M. de Vilmorin spoke between sorrow and indignation.

"On the contrary, I seek to argue with absolute detachment. Let us
test these ideas of yours. To what form of government do you aspire? A
republic, it is to be inferred from what you have said. Well, you have
it already. France in reality is a republic to-day."

Philippe stared at him. "You are being paradoxical, I think. What of the
King?"

"The King? All the world knows there has been no king in France since
Louis XIV. There is an obese gentleman at Versailles who wears the
crown, but the very news you bring shows for how little he really
counts. It is the nobles and clergy who sit in the high places, with the
people of France harnessed under their feet, who are the real rulers.
That is why I say that France is a republic; she is a republic built
on the best pattern--the Roman pattern. Then, as now, there were great
patrician families in luxury, preserving for themselves power and
wealth, and what else is accounted worth possessing; and there was
the populace crushed and groaning, sweating, bleeding, starving, and
perishing in the Roman kennels. That was a republic; the mightiest we
have seen."

Philippe strove with his impatience. "At least you will admit--you have,
in fact, admitted it--that we could not be worse governed than we are?"

"That is not the point. The point is should we be better governed if we
replaced the present ruling class by another? Without some guarantee of
that I should be the last to lift a finger to effect a change. And what
guarantees can you give? What is the class that aims at government? I
will tell you. The bourgeoisie."

"What?"

"That startles you, eh? Truth is so often disconcerting. You hadn't
thought of it? Well, think of it now. Look well into this Nantes
manifesto. Who are the authors of it?"

"I can tell you who it was constrained the municipality of Nantes to
send it to the King. Some ten thousand workmen--shipwrights, weavers,
labourers, and artisans of every kind."

"Stimulated to it, driven to it, by their employers, the wealthy traders
and shipowners of that city," Andre-Louis replied. "I have a habit of
observing things at close quarters, which is why our colleagues of the
Literary Chamber dislike me so cordially in debate. Where I delve they
but skim. Behind those labourers and artisans of Nantes, counselling
them, urging on these poor, stupid, ignorant toilers to shed their blood
in pursuit of the will o' the wisp of freedom, are the sail-makers, the
spinners, the ship-owners and the slave-traders. The slave-traders! The
men who live and grow rich by a traffic in human flesh and blood in
the colonies, are conducting at home a campaign in the sacred name
of liberty! Don't you see that the whole movement is a movement of
hucksters and traders and peddling vassals swollen by wealth into envy
of the power that lies in birth alone? The money-changers in Paris
who hold the bonds in the national debt, seeing the parlous financial
condition of the State, tremble at the thought that it may lie in
the power of a single man to cancel the debt by bankruptcy. To secure
themselves they are burrowing underground to overthrow a state and build
upon its ruins a new one in which they shall be the masters. And to
accomplish this they inflame the people. Already in Dauphiny we have
seen blood run like water--the blood of the populace, always the blood of
the populace. Now in Brittany we may see the like. And if in the end the
new ideas prevail? if the seigneurial rule is overthrown, what then?
You will have exchanged an aristocracy for a plutocracy. Is that worth
while? Do you 'think that under money-changers and slave-traders and
men who have waxed rich in other ways by the ignoble arts of buying
and selling, the lot of the people will be any better than under their
priests and nobles? Has it ever occurred to you, Philippe, what it
is that makes the rule of the nobles so intolerable? Acquisitiveness.
Acquisitiveness is the curse of mankind. And shall you expect less
acquisitiveness in men who have built themselves up by acquisitiveness?
Oh, I am ready to admit that the present government is execrable,
unjust, tyrannical--what you will; but I beg you to look ahead, and to
see that the government for which it is aimed at exchanging it may be
infinitely worse."

Philippe sat thoughtful a moment. Then he returned to the attack.

"You do not speak of the abuses, the horrible, intolerable abuses of
power under which we labour at present."

"Where there is power there will always be the abuse of it."

"Not if the tenure of power is dependent upon its equitable
administration."

"The tenure of power is power. We cannot dictate to those who hold it."

"The people can--the people in its might."

"Again I ask you, when you say the people do you mean the populace? You
do. What power can the populace wield? It can run wild. It can burn
and slay for a time. But enduring power it cannot wield, because power
demands qualities which the populace does not possess, or it would
not be populace. The inevitable, tragic corollary of civilization is
populace. For the rest, abuses can be corrected by equity; and equity,
if it is not found in the enlightened, is not to be found at all. M.
Necker is to set about correcting abuses, and limiting privileges. That
is decided. To that end the States General are to assemble."

"And a promising beginning we have made in Brittany, as Heaven hears
me!" cried Philippe.

"Pooh! That is nothing. Naturally the nobles will not yield without a
struggle. It is a futile and ridiculous struggle--but then... it is human
nature, I suppose, to be futile and ridiculous."

M. de Vilmorin became witheringly sarcastic. "Probably you will also
qualify the shooting of Mabey as futile and ridiculous. I should even be
prepared to hear you argue in defence of the Marquis de La Tour
d'Azyr that his gamekeeper was merciful in shooting Mabey, since the
alternative would have been a life-sentence to the galleys."

Andre-Louis drank the remainder of his chocolate; set down his cup, and
pushed back his chair, his breakfast done.

"I confess that I have not your big charity, my dear Philippe. I am
touched by Mabey's fate. But, having conquered the shock of this news to
my emotions, I do not forget that, after all, Mabey was thieving when he
met his death."

M. de Vilmorin heaved himself up in his indignation.

"That is the point of view to be expected in one who is the assistant
fiscal intendant of a nobleman, and the delegate of a nobleman to the
States of Brittany."

"Philippe, is that just? You are angry with me!" he cried, in real
solicitude.

"I am hurt," Vilmorin admitted. "I am deeply hurt by your attitude. And
I am not alone in resenting your reactionary tendencies. Do you know
that the Literary Chamber is seriously considering your expulsion?"

Andre-Louis shrugged. "That neither surprises nor troubles me."

M. de Vilmorin swept on, passionately: "Sometimes I think that you have
no heart. With you it is always the law, never equity. It occurs to me,
Andre, that I was mistaken in coming to you. You are not likely to be of
assistance to me in my interview with M. de Kercadiou." He took up his
hat, clearly with the intention of departing.

Andre-Louis sprang up and caught him by the arm.

"I vow," said he, "that this is the last time ever I shall consent to
talk law or politics with you, Philippe. I love you too well to quarrel
with you over other men's affairs."

"But I make them my own," Philippe insisted vehemently.

"Of course you do, and I love you for it. It is right that you should.
You are to be a priest; and everybody's business is a priest's business.
Whereas I am a lawyer--the fiscal intendant of a nobleman, as you
say--and a lawyer's business is the business of his client. That is the
difference between us. Nevertheless, you are not going to shake me off."

"But I tell you frankly, now that I come to think of it, that I should
prefer you did not see M. de Kercadiou with me. Your duty to your client
cannot be a help to me."

His wrath had passed; but his determination remained firm, based upon
the reason he gave.

"Very well," said Andre-Louis. "It shall be as you please. But nothing
shall prevent me at least from walking with you as far as the chateau,
and waiting for you while you make your appeal to M. de Kercadiou."

And so they left the house good friends, for the sweetness of M. de
Vilmorin's nature did not admit of rancour, and together they took their
way up the steep main street of Gavrillac.



CHAPTER II. THE ARISTOCRAT

The sleepy village of Gavrillac, a half-league removed from the main
road to Rennes, and therefore undisturbed by the world's traffic, lay
in a curve of the River Meu, at the foot, and straggling halfway up the
slope, of the shallow hill that was crowned by the squat manor. By the
time Gavrillac had paid tribute to its seigneur--partly in money and
partly in service--tithes to the Church, and imposts to the King, it was
hard put to it to keep body and soul together with what remained. Yet,
hard as conditions were in Gavrillac, they were not so hard as in many
other parts of France, not half so hard, for instance, as with the
wretched feudatories of the great Lord of La Tour d'Azyr, whose vast
possessions were at one point separated from this little village by the
waters of the Meu.

The Chateau de Gavrillac owed such seigneurial airs as might be claimed
for it to its dominant position above the village rather than to any
feature of its own. Built of granite, like all the rest of Gavrillac,
though mellowed by some three centuries of existence, it was a squat,
flat-fronted edifice of two stories, each lighted by four windows with
external wooden shutters, and flanked at either end by two square towers
or pavilions under extinguisher roofs. Standing well back in a garden,
denuded now, but very pleasant in summer, and immediately fronted by a
fine sweep of balustraded terrace, it looked, what indeed it was, and
always had been, the residence of unpretentious folk who found more
interest in husbandry than in adventure.

Quintin de Kercadiou, Lord of Gavrillac--Seigneur de Gavrillac was all
the vague title that he bore, as his forefathers had borne before him,
derived no man knew whence or how--confirmed the impression that his
house conveyed. Rude as the granite itself, he had never sought the
experience of courts, had not even taken service in the armies of his
King. He left it to his younger brother, Etienne, to represent the
family in those exalted spheres. His own interests from earliest years
had been centred in his woods and pastures. He hunted, and he cultivated
his acres, and superficially he appeared to be little better than any of
his rustic metayers. He kept no state, or at least no state commensurate
with his position or with the tastes of his niece Aline de Kercadiou.
Aline, having spent some two years in the court atmosphere of Versailles
under the aegis of her uncle Etienne, had ideas very different from
those of her uncle Quintin of what was befitting seigneurial dignity.
But though this only child of a third Kercadiou had exercised, ever
since she was left an orphan at the early age of four, a tyrannical rule
over the Lord of Gavrillac, who had been father and mother to her, she
had never yet succeeded in beating down his stubbornness on that
score. She did not yet despair--persistence being a dominant note in
her character--although she had been assiduously and fruitlessly at work
since her return from the great world of Versailles some three months
ago.

She was walking on the terrace when Andre-Louis and M. de Vilmorin
arrived. Her slight body was wrapped against the chill air in a white
pelisse; her head was encased in a close-fitting bonnet, edged with
white fur. It was caught tight in a knot of pale-blue ribbon on the
right of her chin; on the left a long ringlet of corn-coloured hair had
been permitted to escape. The keen air had whipped so much of her cheeks
as was presented to it, and seemed to have added sparkle to eyes that
were of darkest blue.

Andre-Louis and M. de Vilmorin had been known to her from childhood. The
three had been playmates once, and Andre-Louis--in view of his spiritual
relationship with her uncle--she called her cousin. The cousinly
relations had persisted between these two long after Philippe de
Vilmorin had outgrown the earlier intimacy, and had become to her
Monsieur de Vilmorin.

She waved her hand to them in greeting as they advanced, and stood--an
entrancing picture, and fully conscious of it--to await them at the end
of the terrace nearest the short avenue by which they approached.

"If you come to see monsieur my uncle, you come inopportunely,
messieurs," she told them, a certain feverishness in her air. "He is
closely--oh, so very closely--engaged."

"We will wait, mademoiselle," said M. de Vilmorin, bowing gallantly over
the hand she extended to him. "Indeed, who would haste to the uncle that
may tarry a moment with the niece?"

"M. l'abbe," she teased him, "when you are in orders I shall take you
for my confessor. You have so ready and sympathetic an understanding."

"But no curiosity," said Andre-Louis. "You haven't thought of that."

"I wonder what you mean, Cousin Andre."

"Well you may," laughed Philippe. "For no one ever knows." And then,
his glance straying across the terrace settled upon a carriage that was
drawn up before the door of the chateau. It was a vehicle such as was
often to be seen in the streets of a great city, but rarely in the
country. It was a beautifully sprung two-horse cabriolet of walnut,
with a varnish upon it like a sheet of glass and little pastoral scenes
exquisitely painted on the panels of the door. It was built to carry two
persons, with a box in front for the coachman, and a stand behind for
the footman. This stand was empty, but the footman paced before the
door, and as he emerged now from behind the vehicle into the range of M.
de Vilmorin's vision, he displayed the resplendent blue-and-gold livery
of the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr.

"Why!" he exclaimed. "Is it M. de La Tour d'Azyr who is with your
uncle?"

"It is, monsieur," said she, a world of mystery in voice and eyes, of
which M. de Vilmorin observed nothing.

"Ah, pardon!" he bowed low, hat in hand. "Serviteur, mademoiselle," and
he turned to depart towards the house.

"Shall I come with you, Philippe?" Andre-Louis called after him.

"It would be ungallant to assume that you would prefer it," said M. de
Vilmorin, with a glance at mademoiselle. "Nor do I think it would serve.
If you will wait..."

M. de Vilmorin strode off. Mademoiselle, after a moment's blank pause,
laughed ripplingly. "Now where is he going in such a hurry?"

"To see M. de La Tour d'Azyr as well as your uncle, I should say."

"But he cannot. They cannot see him. Did I not say that they are
very closely engaged? You don't ask me why, Andre." There was an arch
mysteriousness about her, a latent something that may have been elation
or amusement, or perhaps both. Andre-Louis could not determine it.

"Since obviously you are all eagerness to tell, why should I ask?" quoth
he.

"If you are caustic I shall not tell you even if you ask. Oh, yes, I
will. It will teach you to treat me with the respect that is my due."

"I hope I shall never fail in that."

"Less than ever when you learn that I am very closely concerned in the
visit of M. de La Tour d'Azyr. I am the object of this visit." And she
looked at him with sparkling eyes and lips parted in laughter.

"The rest, you would seem to imply, is obvious. But I am a dolt, if you
please; for it is not obvious to me."

"Why, stupid, he comes to ask my hand in marriage."

"Good God!" said Andre-Louis, and stared at her, chapfallen.

She drew back from him a little with a frown and an upward tilt of her
chin. "It surprises you?"

"It disgusts me," said he, bluntly. "In fact, I don't believe it. You
are amusing yourself with me."

For a moment she put aside her visible annoyance to remove his doubts.
"I am quite serious, monsieur. There came a formal letter to my uncle
this morning from M. de La Tour d'Azyr, announcing the visit and its
object. I will not say that it did not surprise us a little..."

"Oh, I see," cried Andre-Louis, in relief. "I understand. For a moment I
had almost feared..." He broke off, looked at her, and shrugged.

"Why do you stop? You had almost feared that Versailles had been wasted
upon me. That I should permit the court-ship of me to be conducted like
that of any village wench. It was stupid of you. I am being sought in
proper form, at my uncle's hands."

"Is his consent, then, all that matters, according to Versailles?"

"What else?"

"There is your own."

She laughed. "I am a dutiful niece... when it suits me."

"And will it suit you to be dutiful if your uncle accepts this monstrous
proposal?"

"Monstrous!" She bridled. "And why monstrous, if you please?"

"For a score of reasons," he answered irritably.

"Give me one," she challenged him.

"He is twice your age."

"Hardly so much," said she.

"He is forty-five, at least."

"But he looks no more than thirty. He is very handsome--so much you will
admit; nor will you deny that he is very wealthy and very powerful; the
greatest nobleman in Brittany. He will make me a great lady."

"God made you that, Aline."

"Come, that's better. Sometimes you can almost be polite." And she moved
along the terrace, Andre-Louis pacing beside her.

"I can be more than that to show reason why you should not let this
beast befoul the beautiful thing that God has made."

She frowned, and her lips tightened. "You are speaking of my future
husband," she reproved him.

His lips tightened too; his pale face grew paler.

"And is it so? It is settled, then? Your uncle is to agree? You are to
be sold thus, lovelessly, into bondage to a man you do not know. I had
dreamed of better things for you, Aline."

"Better than to be Marquise de La Tour d'Azyr?"

He made a gesture of exasperation. "Are men and women nothing more than
names? Do the souls of them count for nothing? Is there no joy in life,
no happiness, that wealth and pleasure and empty, high-sounding titles
are to be its only aims? I had set you high--so high, Aline--a thing
scarce earthly. There is joy in your heart, intelligence in your mind;
and, as I thought, the vision that pierces husks and shams to claim the
core of reality for its own. Yet you will surrender all for a parcel of
make-believe. You will sell your soul and your body to be Marquise de La
Tour d'Azyr."

"You are indelicate," said she, and though she frowned her eyes laughed.
"And you go headlong to conclusions. My uncle will not consent to more
than to allow my consent to be sought. We understand each other, my
uncle and I. I am not to be bartered like a turnip."

He stood still to face her, his eyes glowing, a flush creeping into his
pale cheeks.

"You have been torturing me to amuse yourself!" he cried. "Ah, well, I
forgive you out of my relief."

"Again you go too fast, Cousin Andre I have permitted my uncle to
consent that M. le Marquis shall make his court to me. I like the look
of the gentleman. I am flattered by his preference when I consider his
eminence. It is an eminence that I may find it desirable to share. M. le
Marquis does not look as if he were a dullard. It should be interesting
to be wooed by him. It may be more interesting still to marry him, and
I think, when all is considered, that I shall probably--very
probably--decide to do so."

He looked at her, looked at the sweet, challenging loveliness of that
childlike face so tightly framed in the oval of white fur, and all the
life seemed to go out of his own countenance.

"God help you, Aline!" he groaned.

She stamped her foot. He was really very exasperating, and something
presumptuous too, she thought.

"You are insolent, monsieur."

"It is never insolent to pray, Aline. And I did no more than pray, as I
shall continue to do. You'll need my prayers, I think."

"You are insufferable!" She was growing angry, as he saw by the
deepening frown, the heightened colour.

"That is because I suffer. Oh, Aline, little cousin, think well of what
you do; think well of the realities you will be bartering for these
shams--the realities that you will never know, because these cursed shams
will block your way to them. When M. de La Tour d'Azyr comes to make his
court, study him well; consult your fine instincts; leave your own noble
nature free to judge this animal by its intuitions. Consider that..."

"I consider, monsieur, that you presume upon the kindness I have always
shown you. You abuse the position of toleration in which you stand. Who
are you? What are you, that you should have the insolence to take this
tone with me?"

He bowed, instantly his cold, detached self again, and resumed the
mockery that was his natural habit.

"My congratulations, mademoiselle, upon the readiness with which you
begin to adapt yourself to the great role you are to play."

"Do you adapt yourself also, monsieur," she retorted angrily, and turned
her shoulder to him.

"To be as the dust beneath the haughty feet of Madame la Marquise. I
hope I shall know my place in future."

The phrase arrested her. She turned to him again, and he perceived that
her eyes were shining now suspiciously. In an instant the mockery in him
was quenched in contrition.

"Lord, what a beast I am, Aline!" he cried, as he advanced. "Forgive me
if you can."

Almost had she turned to sue forgiveness from him. But his contrition
removed the need.

"I'll try," said she, "provided that you undertake not to offend again."

"But I shall," said he. "I am like that. I will fight to save you, from
yourself if need be, whether you forgive me or not."

They were standing so, confronting each other a little breathlessly, a
little defiantly, when the others issued from the porch.

First came the Marquis of La Tour d'Azyr, Count of Solz, Knight of the
Orders of the Holy Ghost and Saint Louis, and Brigadier in the armies
of the King. He was a tall, graceful man, upright and soldierly of
carriage, with his head disdainfully set upon his shoulders. He was
magnificently dressed in a full-skirted coat of mulberry velvet that was
laced with gold. His waistcoat, of velvet too, was of a golden
apricot colour; his breeches and stockings were of black silk, and his
lacquered, red-heeled shoes were buckled in diamonds. His powdered hair
was tied behind in a broad ribbon of watered silk; he carried a little
three-cornered hat under his arm, and a gold-hilted slender dress-sword
hung at his side.

Considering him now in complete detachment, observing the magnificence
of him, the elegance of his movements, the great air, blending in so
extraordinary a manner disdain and graciousness, Andre-Louis trembled
for Aline. Here was a practised, irresistible wooer, whose bonnes
fortunes were become a by-word, a man who had hitherto been the despair
of dowagers with marriageable daughters, and the desolation of husbands
with attractive wives.

He was immediately followed by M. de Kercadiou, in completest contrast.
On legs of the shortest, the Lord of Gavrillac carried a body that at
forty-five was beginning to incline to corpulence and an enormous head
containing an indifferent allotment of intelligence. His countenance
was pink and blotchy, liberally branded by the smallpox which had almost
extinguished him in youth. In dress he was careless to the point
of untidiness, and to this and to the fact that he had never
married--disregarding the first duty of a gentleman to provide himself
with an heir--he owed the character of misogynist attributed to him by
the countryside.

After M. de Kercadiou came M. de Vilmorin, very pale and self-contained,
with tight lips and an overcast brow.

To meet them, there stepped from the carriage a very elegant young
gentleman, the Chevalier de Chabrillane, M. de La Tour d'Azyr's
cousin, who whilst awaiting his return had watched with considerable
interest--his own presence unsuspected--the perambulations of Andre-Louis
and mademoiselle.

Perceiving Aline, M. de La Tour d'Azyr detached himself from the others,
and lengthening his stride came straight across the terrace to her.

To Andre-Louis the Marquis inclined his head with that mixture of
courtliness and condescension which he used. Socially, the young lawyer
stood in a curious position. By virtue of the theory of his birth, he
ranked neither as noble nor as simple, but stood somewhere between the
two classes, and whilst claimed by neither he was used familiarly
by both. Coldly now he returned M. de La Tour d'Azyr's greeting, and
discreetly removed himself to go and join his friend.

The Marquis took the hand that mademoiselle extended to him, and bowing
over it, bore it to his lips.

"Mademoiselle," he said, looking into the blue depths of her eyes, that
met his gaze smiling and untroubled, "monsieur your uncle does me the
honour to permit that I pay my homage to you. Will you, mademoiselle,
do me the honour to receive me when I come to-morrow? I shall have
something of great importance for your ear."

"Of importance, M. le Marquis? You almost frighten me." But there was
no fear on the serene little face in its furred hood. It was not
for nothing that she had graduated in the Versailles school of
artificialities.

"That," said he, "is very far from my design."

"But of importance to yourself, monsieur, or to me?"

"To us both, I hope," he answered her, a world of meaning in his fine,
ardent eyes.

"You whet my curiosity, monsieur; and, of course, I am a dutiful niece.
It follows that I shall be honoured to receive you."

"Not honoured, mademoiselle; you will confer the honour. To-morrow at
this hour, then, I shall have the felicity to wait upon you."

He bowed again; and again he bore her fingers to his lips, what time she
curtsied. Thereupon, with no more than this formal breaking of the ice,
they parted.

She was a little breathless now, a little dazzled by the beauty of the
man, his princely air, and the confidence of power he seemed to radiate.
Involuntarily almost, she contrasted him with his critic--the lean and
impudent Andre-Louis in his plain brown coat and steel-buckled shoes--and
she felt guilty of an unpardonable offence in having permitted even one
word of that presumptuous criticism. To-morrow M. le Marquis would
come to offer her a great position, a great rank. And already she had
derogated from the increase of dignity accruing to her from his very
intention to translate her to so great an eminence. Not again would
she suffer it; not again would she be so weak and childish as to permit
Andre-Louis to utter his ribald comments upon a man by comparison with
whom he was no better than a lackey.

Thus argued vanity and ambition with her better self and to her vast
annoyance her better self would not admit entire conviction.

Meanwhile, M. de La Tour d'Azyr was climbing into his carriage. He had
spoken a word of farewell to M. de Kercadiou, and he had also had a
word for M. de Vilmorin in reply to which M. de Vilmorin had bowed in
assenting silence. The carriage rolled away, the powdered footman in
blue-and-gold very stiff behind it, M. de La Tour d'Azyr bowing to
mademoiselle, who waved to him in answer.

Then M. de Vilmorin put his arm through that of Andre Louis, and said to
him, "Come, Andre."

"But you'll stay to dine, both of you!" cried the hospitable Lord of
Gavrillac. "We'll drink a certain toast," he added, winking an eye that
strayed towards mademoiselle, who was approaching. He had no subtleties,
good soul that he was.

M. de Vilmorin deplored an appointment that prevented him doing himself
the honour. He was very stiff and formal.

"And you, Andre?"

"I? Oh, I share the appointment, godfather," he lied, "and I have a
superstition against toasts." He had no wish to remain. He was angry
with Aline for her smiling reception of M. de La Tour d'Azyr and the
sordid bargain he saw her set on making. He was suffering from the loss
of an illusion.



CHAPTER III. THE ELOQUENCE OF M. DE VILMORIN

As they walked down the hill together, it was now M. de Vilmorin who
was silent and preoccupied, Andre-Louis who was talkative. He had
chosen Woman as a subject for his present discourse. He claimed--quite
unjustifiably--to have discovered Woman that morning; and the things he
had to say of the sex were unflattering, and occasionally almost gross.
M. de Vilmorin, having ascertained the subject, did not listen. Singular
though it may seem in a young French abbe of his day, M. de Vilmorin was
not interested in Woman. Poor Philippe was in several ways exceptional.
Opposite the Breton arme--the inn and posting-house at the entrance of
the village of Gavrillac--M. de Vilmorin interrupted his companion just
as he was soaring to the dizziest heights of caustic invective, and
Andre-Louis, restored thereby to actualities, observed the carriage of
M. de La Tour d'Azyr standing before the door of the hostelry.

"I don't believe you've been listening to me," said he.

"Had you been less interested in what you were saying, you might have
observed it sooner and spared your breath. The fact is, you disappoint
me, Andre. You seem to have forgotten what we went for. I have an
appointment here with M. le Marquis. He desires to hear me further in
the matter. Up there at Gavrillac I could accomplish nothing. The time
was ill-chosen as it happened. But I have hopes of M. le Marquis."

"Hopes of what?"

"That he will make what reparation lies in his power. Provide for the
widow and the orphans. Why else should he desire to hear me further?"

"Unusual condescension," said Andre-Louis, and quoted "Timeo Danaos et
dona ferentes."

"Why?" asked Philippe.

"Let us go and discover--unless you consider that I shall be in the way."

Into a room on the right, rendered private to M. le Marquis for so long
as he should elect to honour it, the young men were ushered by the host.
A fire of logs was burning brightly at the room's far end, and by
this sat now M. de La Tour d'Azyr and his cousin, the Chevalier de
Chabrillane. Both rose as M. de Vilmorin came in. Andre-Louis following,
paused to close the door.

"You oblige me by your prompt courtesy, M. de Vilmorin," said the
Marquis, but in a tone so cold as to belie the politeness of his words.
"A chair, I beg. Ah, Moreau?" The note was frigidly interrogative. "He
accompanies you, monsieur?" he asked.

"If you please, M. le Marquis."

"Why not? Find yourself a seat, Moreau." He spoke over his shoulder as
to a lackey.

"It is good of you, monsieur," said Philippe, "to have offered me this
opportunity of continuing the subject that took me so fruitlessly, as it
happens, to Gavrillac."

The Marquis crossed his legs, and held one of his fine hands to the
blaze. He replied, without troubling to turn to the young man, who was
slightly behind him.

"The goodness of my request we will leave out of question for the
moment," said he, darkly, and M. de Chabrillane laughed. Andre-Louis
thought him easily moved to mirth, and almost envied him the faculty.

"But I am grateful," Philippe insisted, "that you should condescend to
hear me plead their cause."

The Marquis stared at him over his shoulder. "Whose cause?" quoth he.

"Why, the cause of the widow and orphans of this unfortunate Mabey."

The Marquis looked from Vilmorin to the Chevalier, and again the
Chevalier laughed, slapping his leg this time.

"I think," said M. de La Tour d'Azyr, slowly, "that we are at
cross-purposes. I asked you to come here because the Chateau de
Gavrillac was hardly a suitable place in which to carry our discussion
further, and because I hesitated to incommode you by suggesting that you
should come all the way to Azyr. But my object is connected with certain
expressions that you let fall up there. It is on the subject of those
expressions, monsieur, that I would hear you further--if you will honour
me."

Andre-Louis began to apprehend that there was something sinister in the
air. He was a man of quick intuitions, quicker far than those of M. de
Vilmorin, who evinced no more than a mild surprise.

"I am at a loss, monsieur," said he. "To what expressions does monsieur
allude?"

"It seems, monsieur, that I must refresh your memory." The Marquis
crossed his legs, and swung sideways on his chair, so that at last he
directly faced M. de Vilmorin. "You spoke, monsieur--and however mistaken
you may have been, you spoke very eloquently, too eloquently almost, it
seemed to me--of the infamy of such a deed as the act of summary justice
upon this thieving fellow Mabey, or whatever his name may be. Infamy was
the precise word you used. You did not retract that word when I had the
honour to inform you that it was by my orders that my gamekeeper Benet
proceeded as he did."

"If," said M. de Vilmorin, "the deed was infamous, its infamy is not
modified by the rank, however exalted, of the person responsible. Rather
is it aggravated."

"Ah!" said M. le Marquis, and drew a gold snuffbox from his pocket. "You
say, 'if the deed was infamous,' monsieur. Am I to understand that you
are no longer as convinced as you appeared to be of its infamy?"

M. de Vilmorin's fine face wore a look of perplexity. He did not
understand the drift of this.

"It occurs to me, M. le Marquis, in view of your readiness to assume
responsibility, that you must believe justification for the deed which
is not apparent to myself."

"That is better. That is distinctly better." The Marquis took snuff
delicately, dusting the fragments from the fine lace at his throat. "You
realize that with an imperfect understanding of these matters, not being
yourself a landowner, you may have rushed to unjustifiable conclusions.
That is indeed the case. May it be a warning to you, monsieur. When
I tell you that for months past I have been annoyed by similar
depredations, you will perhaps understand that it had become necessary
to employ a deterrent sufficiently strong to put an end to them. Now
that the risk is known, I do not think there will be any more prowling
in my coverts. And there is more in it than that, M. de Vilmorin. It is
not the poaching that annoys me so much as the contempt for my absolute
and inviolable rights. There is, monsieur, as you cannot fail to have
observed, an evil spirit of insubordination in the air, and there is
one only way in which to meet it. To tolerate it, in however slight
a degree, to show leniency, however leniently disposed, would entail
having recourse to still harsher measures to-morrow. You understand me,
I am sure, and you will also, I am sure, appreciate the condescension
of what amounts to an explanation from me where I cannot admit that any
explanations were due. If anything in what I have said is still obscure
to you, I refer you to the game laws, which your lawyer friend there
will expound for you at need."

With that the gentleman swung round again to face the fire. It appeared
to convey the intimation that the interview was at an end. And yet this
was not by any means the intimation that it conveyed to the watchful,
puzzled, vaguely uneasy Andre-Louis. It was, thought he, a very curious,
a very suspicious oration. It affected to explain, with a politeness of
terms and a calculated insolence of tone; whilst in fact it could only
serve to stimulate and goad a man of M. de Vilmorin's opinions. And that
is precisely what it did. He rose.

"Are there in the world no laws but game laws?" he demanded, angrily.
"Have you never by any chance heard of the laws of humanity?"

The Marquis sighed wearily. "What have I to do with the laws of
humanity?" he wondered.

M. de Vilmorin looked at him a moment in speechless amazement.

"Nothing, M. le Marquis. That is--alas!--too obvious. I hope you will
remember it in the hour when you may wish to appeal to those laws which
you now deride."

M. de La Tour d'Azyr threw back his head sharply, his high-bred face
imperious.

"Now what precisely shall that mean? It is not the first time to-day
that you have made use of dark sayings that I could almost believe to
veil the presumption of a threat."

"Not a threat, M. le Marquis--a warning. A warning that such deeds as
these against God's creatures... Oh, you may sneer, monsieur, but they
are God's creatures, even as you or I--neither more nor less, deeply
though the reflection may wound your pride, In His eyes..."

"Of your charity, spare me a sermon, M. l'abbe!"

"You mock, monsieur. You laugh. Will you laugh, I wonder, when God
presents His reckoning to you for the blood and plunder with which your
hands are full?"

"Monsieur!" The word, sharp as the crack of a whip, was from M.
de Chabrillane, who bounded to his feet. But instantly the Marquis
repressed him.

"Sit down, Chevalier. You are interrupting M. l'abbe, and I should like
to hear him further. He interests me profoundly."

In the background Andre-Louis, too, had risen, brought to his feet by
alarm, by the evil that he saw written on the handsome face of M. de La
Tour d'Azyr. He approached, and touched his friend upon the arm.

"Better be going, Philippe," said he.

But M. de Vilmorin, caught in the relentless grip of passions long
repressed, was being hurried by them recklessly along.

"Oh, monsieur," said he, "consider what you are and what you will be.
Consider how you and your kind live by abuses, and consider the harvest
that abuses must ultimately bring."

"Revolutionist!" said M. le Marquis, contemptuously. "You have the
effrontery to stand before my face and offer me this stinking cant of
your modern so-called intellectuals!"

"Is it cant, monsieur? Do you think--do you believe in your soul--that
it is cant? Is it cant that the feudal grip is on all things that live,
crushing them like grapes in the press, to its own profit? Does it not
exercise its rights upon the waters of the river, the fire that bakes
the poor man's bread of grass and barley, on the wind that turns the
mill? The peasant cannot take a step upon the road, cross a crazy bridge
over a river, buy an ell of cloth in the village market, without meeting
feudal rapacity, without being taxed in feudal dues. Is not that enough,
M. le Marquis? Must you also demand his wretched life in payment for the
least infringement of your sacred privileges, careless of what widows
or orphans you dedicate to woe? Will naught content you but that your
shadow must lie like a curse upon the land? And do you think in your
pride that France, this Job among the nations, will suffer it forever?"

He paused as if for a reply. But none came. The Marquis considered him,
strangely silent, a half smile of disdain at the corners of his lips, an
ominous hardness in his eyes.

Again Andre-Louis tugged at his friend's sleeve.

"Philippe."

Philippe shook him off, and plunged on, fanatically.

"Do you see nothing of the gathering clouds that herald the coming of
the storm? You imagine, perhaps, that these States General summoned
by M. Necker, and promised for next year, are to do nothing but devise
fresh means of extortion to liquidate the bankruptcy of the State?
You delude yourselves, as you shall find. The Third Estate, which you
despise, will prove itself the preponderating force, and it will find
a way to make an end of this canker of privilege that is devouring the
vitals of this unfortunate country."

M. le Marquis shifted in his chair, and spoke at last.

"You have, monsieur," said he, "a very dangerous gift of eloquence. And
it is of yourself rather than of your subject. For after all, what
do you offer me? A rechauffe of the dishes served to out-at-elbow
enthusiasts in the provincial literary chambers, compounded of the
effusions of your Voltaires and Jean-Jacques and such dirty-fingered
scribblers. You have not among all your philosophers one with the wit to
understand that we are an order consecrated by antiquity, that for our
rights and privileges we have behind us the authority of centuries."

"Humanity, monsieur," Philippe replied, "is more ancient than nobility.
Human rights are contemporary with man."

The Marquis laughed and shrugged.

"That is the answer I might have expected. It has the right note of cant
that distinguishes the philosophers."

And then M. de Chabrillane spoke.

"You go a long way round," he criticized his cousin, on a note of
impatience.

"But I am getting there," he was answered. "I desired to make quite
certain first."

"Faith, you should have no doubt by now."

"I have none." The Marquis rose, and turned again to M. de Vilmorin, who
had understood nothing of that brief exchange. "M. l'abbe," said he once
more, "you have a very dangerous gift of eloquence. I can conceive of
men being swayed by it. Had you been born a gentleman, you would not so
easily have acquired these false views that you express."

M. de Vilmorin stared blankly, uncomprehending.

"Had I been born a gentleman, do you say?" quoth he, in a slow,
bewildered voice. "But I was born a gentleman. My race is as old, my
blood as good as yours, monsieur."

From M. le Marquis there was a slight play of eyebrows, a vague,
indulgent smile. His dark, liquid eyes looked squarely into the face of
M. de Vilmorin.

"You have been deceived in that, I fear."

"Deceived?"

"Your sentiments betray the indiscretion of which madame your mother
must have been guilty."

The brutally affronting words were sped beyond recall, and the lips that
had uttered them, coldly, as if they had been the merest commonplace,
remained calm and faintly sneering.

A dead silence followed. Andre-Louis' wits were numbed. He stood aghast,
all thought suspended in him, what time M. de Vilmorin's eyes continued
fixed upon M. de La Tour d'Azyr's, as if searching there for a meaning
that eluded him. Quite suddenly he understood the vile affront. The
blood leapt to his face, fire blazed in his gentle eyes. A convulsive
quiver shook him. Then, with an inarticulate cry, he leaned forward, and
with his open hand struck M. le Marquis full and hard upon his sneering
face.

In a flash M. de Chabrillane was on his feet, between the two men.

Too late Andre-Louis had seen the trap. La Tour d'Azyr's words were but
as a move in a game of chess, calculated to exasperate his opponent into
some such counter-move as this--a counter-move that left him entirely at
the other's mercy.

M. le Marquis looked on, very white save where M. de Vilmorin's
finger-prints began slowly to colour his face; but he said nothing more.
Instead, it was M. de Chabrillane who now did the talking, taking up his
preconcerted part in this vile game.

"You realize, monsieur, what you have done," said he, coldly, to
Philippe. "And you realize, of course, what must inevitably follow."

M. de Vilmorin had realized nothing. The poor young man had acted upon
impulse, upon the instinct of decency and honour, never counting the
consequences. But he realized them now at the sinister invitation of M.
de Chabrillane, and if he desired to avoid these consequences, it was
out of respect for his priestly vocation, which strictly forbade such
adjustments of disputes as M. de Chabrillane was clearly thrusting upon
him.

He drew back. "Let one affront wipe out the other," said he, in a dull
voice. "The balance is still in M. le Marquis's favour. Let that content
him."

"Impossible." The Chevalier's lips came together tightly. Thereafter he
was suavity itself, but very firm. "A blow has been struck, monsieur. I
think I am correct in saying that such a thing has never happened before
to M. le Marquis in all his life. If you felt yourself affronted, you
had but to ask the satisfaction due from one gentleman to another. Your
action would seem to confirm the assumption that you found so
offensive. But it does not on that account render you immune from the
consequences."

It was, you see, M. de Chabrillane's part to heap coals upon this fire,
to make quite sure that their victim should not escape them.

"I desire no immunity," flashed back the young seminarist, stung by
this fresh goad. After all, he was nobly born, and the traditions of his
class were strong upon him--stronger far than the seminarist schooling in
humility. He owed it to himself, to his honour, to be killed rather than
avoid the consequences of the thing he had done.

"But he does not wear a sword, messieurs!" cried Andre Louis, aghast.

"That is easily amended. He may have the loan of mine."

"I mean, messieurs," Andre-Louis insisted, between fear for his friend
and indignation, "that it is not his habit to wear a sword, that he has
never worn one, that he is untutored in its uses. He is a seminarist--a
postulant for holy orders, already half a priest, and so forbidden from
such an engagement as you propose."

"All that he should have remembered before he struck a blow," said M. de
Chabrillane, politely.

"The blow was deliberately provoked," raged Andre-Louis. Then he
recovered himself, though the other's haughty stare had no part in
that recovery. "O my God, I talk in vain! How is one to argue against a
purpose formed! Come away, Philippe. Don't you see the trap..."

M. de Vilmorin cut him short, and flung him off. "Be quiet, Andre. M. le
Marquis is entirely in the right."

"M. le Marquis is in the right?" Andre-Louis let his arms fall
helplessly. This man he loved above all other living men was caught in
the snare of the world's insanity. He was baring his breast to the knife
for the sake of a vague, distorted sense of the honour due to himself.
It was not that he did not see the trap. It was that his honour
compelled him to disdain consideration of it. To Andre-Louis in that
moment he seemed a singularly tragic figure. Noble, perhaps, but very
pitiful.



CHAPTER IV. THE HERITAGE

It was M. de Vilmorin's desire that the matter should be settled out
of hand. In this he was at once objective and subjective. A prey to
emotions sadly at conflict with his priestly vocation, he was above
all in haste to have done, so that he might resume a frame of mind more
proper to it. Also he feared himself a little; by which I mean that his
honour feared his nature. The circumstances of his education, and the
goal that for some years now he had kept in view, had robbed him of much
of that spirited brutality that is the birthright of the male. He had
grown timid and gentle as a woman. Aware of it, he feared that once the
heat of his passion was spent he might betray a dishonouring weakness,
in the ordeal.

M. le Marquis, on his side, was no less eager for an immediate
settlement; and since they had M. de Chabrillane to act for his cousin,
and Andre-Louis to serve as witness for M. de Vilmorin, there was
nothing to delay them.

And so, within a few minutes, all arrangements were concluded, and you
behold that sinisterly intentioned little group of four assembled in
the afternoon sunshine on the bowling-green behind the inn. They were
entirely private, screened more or less from the windows of the house by
a ramage of trees, which, if leafless now, was at least dense enough to
provide an effective lattice.

There were no formalities over measurements of blades or selection
of ground. M. le Marquis removed his sword-belt and scabbard, but
declined--not considering it worth while for the sake of so negligible an
opponent--to divest himself either of his shoes or his coat. Tall, lithe,
and athletic, he stood to face the no less tall, but very delicate and
frail, M. de Vilmorin. The latter also disdained to make any of the
usual preparations. Since he recognized that it could avail him nothing
to strip, he came on guard fully dressed, two hectic spots above the
cheek-bones burning on his otherwise grey face.

M. de Chabrillane, leaning upon a cane--for he had relinquished his sword
to M. de Vilmorin--looked on with quiet interest. Facing him on the
other side of the combatants stood Andre-Louis, the palest of the four,
staring from fevered eyes, twisting and untwisting clammy hands.

His every instinct was to fling himself between the antagonists, to
protest against and frustrate this meeting. That sane impulse was
curbed, however, by the consciousness of its futility. To calm him, he
clung to the conviction that the issue could not really be very serious.
If the obligations of Philippe's honour compelled him to cross swords
with the man he had struck, M. de La Tour d'Azyr's birth compelled him
no less to do no serious hurt to the unfledged lad he had so grievously
provoked. M. le Marquis, after all, was a man of honour. He could intend
no more than to administer a lesson; sharp, perhaps, but one by which
his opponent must live to profit. Andre-Louis clung obstinately to that
for comfort.

Steel beat on steel, and the men engaged. The Marquis presented to his
opponent the narrow edge of his upright body, his knees slightly flexed
and converted into living springs, whilst M. de Vilmorin stood squarely,
a full target, his knees wooden. Honour and the spirit of fair play
alike cried out against such a match.

The encounter was very short, of course. In youth, Philippe had received
the tutoring in sword-play that was given to every boy born into his
station of life. And so he knew at least the rudiments of what was
now expected of him. But what could rudiments avail him here? Three
disengages completed the exchanges, and then without any haste the
Marquis slid his right foot along the moist turf, his long, graceful
body extending itself in a lunge that went under M. de Vilmorin's clumsy
guard, and with the utmost deliberation he drove his blade through the
young man's vitals.

Andre-Louis sprang forward just in time to catch his friend's body under
the armpits as it sank. Then, his own legs bending beneath the weight of
it, he went down with his burden until he was kneeling on the damp turf.
Philippe's limp head lay against Andre-Louis' left shoulder; Philippe's
relaxed arms trailed at his sides; the blood welled and bubbled from the
ghastly wound to saturate the poor lad's garments.

With white face and twitching lips, Andre-Louis looked up at M. de La
Tour d'Azyr, who stood surveying his work with a countenance of grave
but remorseless interest.

"You have killed him!" cried Andre-Louis.

"Of course."

The Marquis ran a lace handkerchief along his blade to wipe it. As he
let the dainty fabric fall, he explained himself. "He had, as I told
him, a too dangerous gift of eloquence."

And he turned away, leaving completest understanding with Andre-Louis.
Still supporting the limp, draining body, the young man called to him.

"Come back, you cowardly murderer, and make yourself quite safe by
killing me too!"

The Marquis half turned, his face dark with anger. Then M. de
Chabrillane set a restraining hand upon his arm. Although a party
throughout to the deed, the Chevalier was a little appalled now that it
was done. He had not the high stomach of M. de La Tour d'Azyr, and he
was a good deal younger.

"Come away," he said. "The lad is raving. They were friends."

"You heard what he said?" quoth the Marquis.

"Nor can he, or you, or any man deny it," flung back Andre-Louis.
"Yourself, monsieur, you made confession when you gave me now the reason
why you killed him. You did it because you feared him."

"If that were true--what, then?" asked the great gentleman.

"Do you ask? Do you understand of life and humanity nothing but how to
wear a coat and dress your hair--oh, yes, and to handle weapons against
boys and priests? Have you no mind to think, no soul into which you can
turn its vision? Must you be told that it is a coward's part to kill the
thing he fears, and doubly a coward's part to kill in this way? Had you
stabbed him in the back with a knife, you would have shown the courage
of your vileness. It would have been a vileness undisguised. But you
feared the consequences of that, powerful as you are; and so you shelter
your cowardice under the pretext of a duel."

The Marquis shook off his cousin's hand, and took a step forward,
holding now his sword like a whip. But again the Chevalier caught and
held him.

"No, no, Gervais! Let be, in God's name!"

"Let him come, monsieur," raved Andre-Louis, his voice thick and
concentrated. "Let him complete his coward's work on me, and thus make
himself safe from a coward's wages."

M. de Chabrillane let his cousin go. He came white to the lips, his eyes
glaring at the lad who so recklessly insulted him. And then he checked.
It may be that he remembered suddenly the relationship in which this
young man was popularly believed to stand to the Seigneur de Gavrillac,
and the well-known affection in which the Seigneur held him. And so he
may have realized that if he pushed this matter further, he might find
himself upon the horns of a dilemma. He would be confronted with the
alternatives of shedding more blood, and so embroiling himself with the
Lord of Gavrillac at a time when that gentleman's friendship was of the
first importance to him, or else of withdrawing with such hurt to his
dignity as must impair his authority in the countryside hereafter.

Be it so or otherwise, the fact remains that he stopped short; then,
with an incoherent ejaculation, between anger and contempt, he tossed
his arms, turned on his heel and strode off quickly with his cousin.

When the landlord and his people came, they found Andre-Louis, his arms
about the body of his dead friend, murmuring passionately into the deaf
ear that rested almost against his lips:

"Philippe! Speak to me, Philippe! Philippe... Don't you hear me? O God
of Heaven! Philippe!"

At a glance they saw that here neither priest nor doctor could avail.
The cheek that lay against Andre-Louis's was leaden-hued, the half-open
eyes were glazed, and there was a little froth of blood upon the
vacuously parted lips.

Half blinded by tears Andre-Louis stumbled after them when they bore the
body into the inn. Upstairs in the little room to which they conveyed
it, he knelt by the bed, and holding the dead man's hand in both his
own, he swore to him out of his impotent rage that M. de La Tour d'Azyr
should pay a bitter price for this.

"It was your eloquence he feared, Philippe," he said. "Then if I can
get no justice for this deed, at least it shall be fruitless to him. The
thing he feared in you, he shall fear in me. He feared that men might be
swayed by your eloquence to the undoing of such things as himself. Men
shall be swayed by it still. For your eloquence and your arguments shall
be my heritage from you. I will make them my own. It matters nothing
that I do not believe in your gospel of freedom. I know it--every word of
it; that is all that matters to our purpose, yours and mine. If all else
fails, your thoughts shall find expression in my living tongue. Thus
at least we shall have frustrated his vile aim to still the voice he
feared. It shall profit him nothing to have your blood upon his soul.
That voice in you would never half so relentlessly have hounded him and
his as it shall in me--if all else fails."

It was an exulting thought. It calmed him; it soothed his grief, and he
began very softly to pray. And then his heart trembled as he considered
that Philippe, a man of peace, almost a priest, an apostle of
Christianity, had gone to his Maker with the sin of anger on his soul.
It was horrible. Yet God would see the righteousness of that anger. And
in no case--be man's interpretation of Divinity what it might--could that
one sin outweigh the loving good that Philippe had ever practised, the
noble purity of his great heart. God after all, reflected Andre-Louis,
was not a grand-seigneur.



CHAPTER V. THE LORD OF GAVRILLAC

For the second time that day Andre-Louis set out for the chateau,
walking briskly, and heeding not at all the curious eyes that followed
him through the village, and the whisperings that marked his passage
through the people, all agog by now with that day's event in which he
had been an actor.

He was ushered by Benoit, the elderly body-servant, rather
grandiloquently called the seneschal, into the ground-floor room known
traditionally as the library. It still contained several shelves of
neglected volumes, from which it derived its title, but implements
of the chase--fowling-pieces, powder-horns, hunting-bags,
sheath-knives--obtruded far more prominently than those of study. The
furniture was massive, of oak richly carved, and belonging to another
age. Great massive oak beams crossed the rather lofty whitewashed
ceiling.

Here the squat Seigneur de Gavrillac was restlessly pacing when
Andre-Louis was introduced. He was already informed, as he announced at
once, of what had taken place at the Breton arme. M. de Chabrillane
had just left him, and he confessed himself deeply grieved and deeply
perplexed.

"The pity of it!" he said. "The pity of it!" He bowed his enormous head.
"So estimable a young man, and so full of promise. Ah, this La Tour
d'Azyr is a hard man, and he feels very strongly in these matters.
He may be right. I don't know. I have never killed a man for holding
different views from mine. In fact, I have never killed a man at all.
It isn't in my nature. I shouldn't sleep of nights if I did. But men are
differently made."

"The question, monsieur my godfather," said Andre-Louis, "is what is to
be done." He was quite calm and self-possessed, but very white.

M. de Kercadiou stared at him blankly out of his pale eyes.

"Why, what the devil is there to do? From what I am told, Vilmorin went
so far as to strike M. le Marquis."

"Under the very grossest provocation."

"Which he himself provoked by his revolutionary language. The poor
lad's head was full of this encyclopaedist trash. It comes of too much
reading. I have never set much store by books, Andre; and I have never
known anything but trouble to come out of learning. It unsettles a man.
It complicates his views of life, destroys the simplicity which makes
for peace of mind and happiness. Let this miserable affair be a warning
to you, Andre. You are, yourself, too prone to these new-fashioned
speculations upon a different constitution of the social order. You
see what comes of it. A fine, estimable young man, the only prop of
his widowed mother too, forgets himself, his position, his duty to that
mother--everything; and goes and gets himself killed like this. It is
infernally sad. On my soul it is sad." He produced a handkerchief, and
blew his nose with vehemence.

Andre-Louis felt a tightening of his heart, a lessening of the hopes,
never too sanguine, which he had founded upon his godfather.

"Your criticisms," he said, "are all for the conduct of the dead, and
none for that of the murderer. It does not seem possible that you should
be in sympathy with such a crime."

"Crime?" shrilled M. de Kercadiou. "My God, boy, you are speaking of M.
de La Tour d'Azyr."

"I am, and of the abominable murder he has committed..."

"Stop!" M. de Kercadiou was very emphatic. "I cannot permit that you
apply such terms to him. I cannot permit it. M. le Marquis is my friend,
and is likely very soon to stand in a still closer relationship."

"Notwithstanding this?" asked Andre-Louis.

M. de Kercadiou was frankly impatient.

"Why, what has this to do with it? I may deplore it. But I have no
right to condemn it. It is a common way of adjusting differences between
gentlemen."

"You really believe that?"

"What the devil do you imply, Andre? Should I say a thing that I don't
believe? You begin to make me angry."

"'Thou shalt not kill,' is the King's law as well as God's."

"You are determined to quarrel with me, I think. It was a duel..."

Andre-Louis interrupted him. "It is no more a duel than if it had been
fought with pistols of which only M. le Marquis's was loaded. He invited
Philippe to discuss the matter further, with the deliberate intent of
forcing a quarrel upon him and killing him. Be patient with me, monsieur
my god-father. I am not telling you of what I imagine but what M. le
Marquis himself admitted to me."

Dominated a little by the young man's earnestness, M. de Kercadiou's
pale eyes fell away. He turned with a shrug, and sauntered over to the
window.

"It would need a court of honour to decide such an issue. And we have no
courts of honour," he said.

"But we have courts of justice."

With returning testiness the seigneur swung round to face him again.
"And what court of justice, do you think, would listen to such a plea as
you appear to have in mind?"

"There is the court of the King's Lieutenant at Rennes."

"And do you think the King's Lieutenant would listen to you?"

"Not to me, perhaps, Monsieur. But if you were to bring the plaint..."

"I bring the plaint?" M. de Kercadiou's pale eyes were wide with horror
of the suggestion.

"The thing happened here on your domain."

"I bring a plaint against M. de La Tour d'Azyr! You are out of your
senses, I think. Oh, you are mad; as mad as that poor friend of yours
who has come to this end through meddling in what did not concern him.
The language he used here to M. le Marquis on the score of Mabey was
of the most offensive. Perhaps you didn't know that. It does not at all
surprise me that the Marquis should have desired satisfaction."

"I see," said Andre-Louis, on a note of hopelessness.

"You see? What the devil do you see?"

"That I shall have to depend upon myself alone."

"And what the devil do you propose to do, if you please?"

"I shall go to Rennes, and lay the facts before the King's Lieutenant."

"He'll be too busy to see you." And M. de Kercadiou's mind swung a
trifle inconsequently, as weak minds will. "There is trouble enough in
Rennes already on the score of these crazy States General, with which
the wonderful M. Necker is to repair the finances of the kingdom. As
if a peddling Swiss bank-clerk, who is also a damned Protestant, could
succeed where such men as Calonne and Brienne have failed."

"Good-afternoon, monsieur my godfather," said Andre-Louis.

"Where are you going?" was the querulous demand.

"Home at present. To Rennes in the morning."

"Wait, boy, wait!" The squat little man rolled forward, affectionate
concern on his great ugly face, and he set one of his podgy hands on
his godson's shoulder. "Now listen to me, Andre," he reasoned. "This is
sheer knight-errantry--moonshine, lunacy. You'll come to no good by it if
you persist. You've read 'Don Quixote,' and what happened to him when
he went tilting against windmills. It's what will happen to you, neither
more nor less. Leave things as they are, my boy. I wouldn't have a
mischief happen to you."

Andre-Louis looked at him, smiling wanly.

"I swore an oath to-day which it would damn my soul to break."

"You mean that you'll go in spite of anything that I may say?" Impetuous
as he was inconsequent, M. de Kercadiou was bristling again. "Very well,
then, go... Go to the devil!"

"I will begin with the King's Lieutenant."

"And if you get into the trouble you are seeking, don't come whimpering
to me for assistance," the seigneur stormed. He was very angry now.
"Since you choose to disobey me, you can break your empty head against
the windmill, and be damned to you."

Andre-Louis bowed with a touch of irony, and reached the door.

"If the windmill should prove too formidable," said he, from the
threshold, "I may see what can be done with the wind. Good-bye, monsieur
my godfather."

He was gone, and M. de Kercadiou was alone, purple in the face, puzzling
out that last cryptic utterance, and not at all happy in his mind,
either on the score of his godson or of M. de La Tour d'Azyr. He was
disposed to be angry with them both. He found these headstrong, wilful
men who relentlessly followed their own impulses very disturbing and
irritating. Himself he loved his ease, and to be at peace with his
neighbours; and that seemed to him so obviously the supreme good of life
that he was disposed to brand them as fools who troubled to seek other
things.



CHAPTER VI. THE WINDMILL

There was between Nantes and Rennes an established service of three
stage-coaches weekly in each direction, which for a sum of twenty-four
livres--roughly, the equivalent of an English guinea--would carry you the
seventy and odd miles of the journey in some fourteen hours. Once a week
one of the diligences going in each direction would swerve aside
from the highroad to call at Gavrillac, to bring and take letters,
newspapers, and sometimes passengers. It was usually by this coach
that Andre-Louis came and went when the occasion offered. At present,
however, he was too much in haste to lose a day awaiting the passing of
that diligence. So it was on a horse hired from the Breton arme that he
set out next morning; and an hour's brisk ride under a grey wintry sky,
by a half-ruined road through ten miles of flat, uninteresting country,
brought him to the city of Rennes.

He rode across the main bridge over the Vilaine, and so into the upper
and principal part of that important city of some thirty thousand
souls, most of whom, he opined from the seething, clamant crowds that
everywhere blocked his way, must on this day have taken to the streets.
Clearly Philippe had not overstated the excitement prevailing there.

He pushed on as best he could, and so came at last to the Place Royale,
where he found the crowd to be most dense. From the plinth of the
equestrian statue of Louis XV, a white-faced young man was excitedly
addressing the multitude. His youth and dress proclaimed the student,
and a group of his fellows, acting as a guard of honour to him, kept the
immediate precincts of the statue.

Over the heads of the crowd Andre-Louis caught a few of the phrases
flung forth by that eager voice.

"It was the promise of the King... It is the King's authority they
flout... They arrogate to themselves the whole sovereignty in Brittany.
The King has dissolved them... These insolent nobles defying their
sovereign and the people..."

Had he not known already, from what Philippe had told him, of the events
which had brought the Third Estate to the point of active revolt, those
few phrases would fully have informed him. This popular display of
temper was most opportune to his need, he thought. And in the hope that
it might serve his turn by disposing to reasonableness the mind of the
King's Lieutenant, he pushed on up the wide and well-paved Rue Royale,
where the concourse of people began to diminish. He put up his hired
horse at the Come de Cerf, and set out again, on foot, to the Palais de
Justice.

There was a brawling mob by the framework of poles and scaffoldings
about the building cathedral, upon which work had been commenced a year
ago. But he did not pause to ascertain the particular cause of that
gathering. He strode on, and thus came presently to the handsome
Italianate palace that was one of the few public edifices that had
survived the devastating fire of sixty years ago.

He won through with difficulty to the great hall, known as the Salle
des Pas Perdus, where he was left to cool his heels for a full half-hour
after he had found an usher so condescending as to inform the god who
presided over that shrine of Justice that a lawyer from Gavrillac humbly
begged an audience on an affair of gravity.

That the god condescended to see him at all was probably due to the
grave complexion of the hour. At long length he was escorted up the
broad stone staircase, and ushered into a spacious, meagrely furnished
anteroom, to make one of a waiting crowd of clients, mostly men.

There he spent another half-hour, and employed the time in considering
exactly what he should say. This consideration made him realize the
weakness of the case he proposed to set before a man whose views of law
and morality were coloured by his social rank.

At last he was ushered through a narrow but very massive and richly
decorated door into a fine, well-lighted room furnished with enough gilt
and satin to have supplied the boudoir of a lady of fashion.

It was a trivial setting for a King's Lieutenant, but about the King's
Lieutenant there was--at least to ordinary eyes--nothing trivial. At the
far end of the chamber, to the right of one of the tall windows that
looked out over the inner court, before a goat-legged writing-table with
Watteau panels, heavily encrusted with ormolu, sat that exalted being.
Above a scarlet coat with an order flaming on its breast, and a billow
of lace in which diamonds sparkled like drops of water, sprouted the
massive powdered head of M. de Lesdiguieres. It was thrown back to scowl
upon this visitor with an expectant arrogance that made Andre-Louis
wonder almost was a genuflexion awaited from him.

Perceiving a lean, lantern-jawed young man, with straight, lank black
hair, in a caped riding-coat of brown cloth, and yellow buckskin
breeches, his knee-boots splashed with mud, the scowl upon that august
visage deepened until it brought together the thick black eyebrows above
the great hooked nose.

"You announce yourself as a lawyer of Gavrillac with an important
communication," he growled. It was a peremptory command to make this
communication without wasting the valuable time of a King's Lieutenant,
of whose immense importance it conveyed something more than a hint. M.
de Lesdiguieres accounted himself an imposing personality, and he had
every reason to do so, for in his time he had seen many a poor devil
scared out of all his senses by the thunder of his voice.

He waited now to see the same thing happen to this youthful lawyer from
Gavrillac. But he waited in vain.

Andre-Louis found him ridiculous. He knew pretentiousness for the
mask of worthlessness and weakness. And here he beheld pretentiousness
incarnate. It was to be read in that arrogant poise of the head, that
scowling brow, the inflexion of that reverberating voice. Even more
difficult than it is for a man to be a hero to his valet--who has
witnessed the dispersal of the parts that make up the imposing whole--is
it for a man to be a hero to the student of Man who has witnessed the
same in a different sense.

Andre-Louis stood forward boldly--impudently, thought M. de Lesdiguieres.

"You are His Majesty's Lieutenant here in Brittany," he said--and it
almost seemed to the august lord of life and death that this fellow had
the incredible effrontery to address him as one man speaking to another.
"You are the dispenser of the King's high justice in this province."

Surprise spread on that handsome, sallow face under the heavily powdered
wig.

"Is your business concerned with this infernal insubordination of the
canaille?" he asked.

"It is not, monsieur."

The black eyebrows rose. "Then what the devil do you mean by intruding
upon me at a time when all my attention is being claimed by the obvious
urgency of this disgraceful affair?"

"The affair that brings me is no less disgraceful and no less urgent."

"It will have to wait!" thundered the great man in a passion, and
tossing back a cloud of lace from his hand, he reached for the little
silver bell upon his table.

"A moment, monsieur!" Andre-Louis' tone was peremptory. M. de
Lesdiguieres checked in sheer amazement at its impudence. "I can state
it very briefly..."

"Haven't I said already..."

"And when you have heard it," Andre-Louis went on, relentlessly,
interrupting the interruption, "you will agree with me as to its
character."

M. de Lesdiguieres considered him very sternly.

"What is your name?" he asked.

"Andre-Louis Moreau."

"Well, Andre-Louis Moreau, if you can state your plea briefly, I will
hear you. But I warn you that I shall be very angry if you fail to
justify the impertinence of this insistence at so inopportune a moment."

"You shall be the judge of that, monsieur," said Andre-Louis, and he
proceeded at once to state his case, beginning with the shooting of
Mabey, and passing thence to the killing of M. de Vilmorin. But he
withheld until the end the name of the great gentleman against whom he
demanded justice, persuaded that did he introduce it earlier he would
not be allowed to proceed.

He had a gift of oratory of whose full powers he was himself hardly
conscious yet, though destined very soon to become so. He told his story
well, without exaggeration, yet with a force of simple appeal that was
irresistible. Gradually the great man's face relaxed from its forbidding
severity. Interest, warming almost to sympathy, came to be reflected on
it.

"And who, sir, is the man you charge with this?"

"The Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr."

The effect of that formidable name was immediate. Dismayed anger, and an
arrogance more utter than before, took the place of the sympathy he had
been betrayed into displaying.

"Who?" he shouted, and without waiting for an answer, "Why, here's
impudence," he stormed on, "to come before me with such a charge against
a gentleman of M. de La Tour d'Azyr's eminence! How dare you speak of
him as a coward...."

"I speak of him as a murderer," the young man corrected. "And I demand
justice against him."

"You demand it, do you? My God, what next?"

"That is for you to say, monsieur."

It surprised the great gentleman into a more or less successful effort
of self-control.

"Let me warn you," said he, acidly, "that it is not wise to make
wild accusations against a nobleman. That, in itself, is a punishable
offence, as you may learn. Now listen to me. In this matter of
Mabey--assuming your statement of it to be exact--the gamekeeper may have
exceeded his duty; but by so little that it is hardly worth comment.
Consider, however, that in any case it is not a matter for the King's
Lieutenant, or for any court but the seigneurial court of M. de La Tour
d'Azyr himself. It is before the magistrates of his own appointing that
such a matter must be laid, since it is matter strictly concerning his
own seigneurial jurisdiction. As a lawyer you should not need to be told
so much."

"As a lawyer, I am prepared to argue the point. But, as a lawyer I also
realize that if that case were prosecuted, it could only end in the
unjust punishment of a wretched gamekeeper, who did no more than carry
out his orders, but who none the less would now be made a scapegoat,
if scapegoat were necessary. I am not concerned to hang Benet on the
gallows earned by M. de La Tour d'Azyr."

M. de Lesdiguieres smote the table violently. "My God!" he cried out, to
add more quietly, on a note of menace, "You are singularly insolent, my
man."

"That is not my intention, sir, I assure you. I am a lawyer, pleading a
case--the case of M. de Vilmorin. It is for his assassination that I have
come to beg the King's justice."

"But you yourself have said that it was a duel!" cried the Lieutenant,
between anger and bewilderment.

"I have said that it was made to appear a duel. There is a distinction,
as I shall show, if you will condescend to hear me out."

"Take your own time, sir!" said the ironical M. de Lesdiguieres, whose
tenure of office had never yet held anything that remotely resembled
this experience.

Andre-Louis took him literally. "I thank you, sir," he answered,
solemnly, and submitted his argument. "It can be shown that M. de
Vilmorin never practised fencing in all his life, and it is notorious
that M. de La Tour d'Azyr is an exceptional swordsman. Is it a duel,
monsieur, where one of the combatants alone is armed? For it amounts to
that on a comparison of their measures of respective skill."

"There has scarcely been a duel fought on which the same trumpery
argument might not be advanced."

"But not always with equal justice. And in one case, at least, it was
advanced successfully."

"Successfully? When was that?"

"Ten years ago, in Dauphiny. I refer to the case of M. de Gesvres,
a gentleman of that province, who forced a duel upon M. de la Roche
Jeannine, and killed him. M. de Jeannine was a member of a powerful
family, which exerted itself to obtain justice. It put forward just
such arguments as now obtain against M. de La Tour d'Azyr. As you will
remember, the judges held that the provocation had proceeded of intent
from M. de Gesvres; they found him guilty of premeditated murder, and he
was hanged."

M. de Lesdiguieres exploded yet again. "Death of my life!" he cried.
"Have you the effrontery to suggest that M. de La Tour d'Azyr should be
hanged? Have you?"

"But why not, monsieur, if it is the law, and there is precedent for it,
as I have shown you, and if it can be established that what I state is
the truth--as established it can be without difficulty?"

"Do you ask me, why not? Have you temerity to ask me that?"

"I have, monsieur. Can you answer me? If you cannot, monsieur, I shall
understand that whilst it is possible for a powerful family like that
of La Roche Jeannine to set the law in motion, the law must remain inert
for the obscure and uninfluential, however brutally wronged by a great
nobleman."

M. de Lesdiguieres perceived that in argument he would accomplish
nothing against this impassive, resolute young man. The menace of him
grew more fierce.

"I should advise you to take yourself off at once, and to be thankful
for the opportunity to depart unscathed."

"I am, then, to understand, monsieur, that there will be no inquiry into
this case? That nothing that I can say will move you?"

"You are to understand that if you are still there in two minutes it
will be very much the worse for you." And M. de Lesdiguieres tinkled the
silver hand-bell upon his table.

"I have informed you, monsieur, that a duel--so-called--has been fought,
and a man killed. It seems that I must remind you, the administrator of
the King's justice, that duels are against the law, and that it is
your duty to hold an inquiry. I come as the legal representative of the
bereaved mother of M. de Vilmorin to demand of you the inquiry that is
due."

The door behind Andre-Louis opened softly. M. de Lesdiguieres, pale with
anger, contained himself with difficulty.

"You seek to compel us, do you, you impudent rascal?" he growled. "You
think the King's justice is to be driven headlong by the voice of any
impudent roturier? I marvel at my own patience with you. But I give you
a last warning, master lawyer; keep a closer guard over that insolent
tongue of yours, or you will have cause very bitterly to regret its
glibness." He waved a jewelled, contemptuous hand, and spoke to the
usher standing behind Andre. "To the door!" he said, shortly.

Andre-Louis hesitated a second. Then with a shrug he turned. This was
the windmill, indeed, and he a poor knight of rueful countenance. To
attack it at closer quarters would mean being dashed to pieces. Yet on
the threshold he turned again.

"M. de Lesdiguieres," said he, "may I recite to you an interesting fact
in natural history? The tiger is a great lord in the jungle, and was
for centuries the terror of lesser beasts, including the wolf. The wolf,
himself a hunter, wearied of being hunted. He took to associating
with other wolves, and then the wolves, driven to form packs for
self-protection, discovered the power of the pack, and took to hunting
the tiger, with disastrous results to him. You should study Buffon, M.
de Lesdiguieres."

"I have studied a buffoon this morning, I think," was the punning sneer
with which M. de Lesdiguieres replied. But that he conceived himself
witty, it is probable he would not have condescended to reply at all. "I
don't understand you," he added.

"But you will, M. de Lesdiguieres. You will," said Andre-Louis, and so
departed.



CHAPTER VII. THE WIND

He had broken his futile lance with the windmill--the image suggested by
M. de Kercadiou persisted in his mind--and it was, he perceived, by sheer
good fortune that he had escaped without hurt. There remained the wind
itself--the whirlwind. And the events in Rennes, reflex of the graver
events in Nantes, had set that wind blowing in his favour.

He set out briskly to retrace his steps towards the Place Royale, where
the gathering of the populace was greatest, where, as he judged, lay the
heart and brain of this commotion that was exciting the city.

But the commotion that he had left there was as nothing to the commotion
which he found on his return. Then there had been a comparative hush
to listen to the voice of a speaker who denounced the First and Second
Estates from the pedestal of the statue of Louis XV. Now the air was
vibrant with the voice of the multitude itself, raised in anger. Here
and there men were fighting with canes and fists; everywhere a
fierce excitement raged, and the gendarmes sent thither by the King's
Lieutenant to restore and maintain order were so much helpless flotsam
in that tempestuous human ocean.

There were cries of "To the Palais! To the Palais! Down with the
assassins! Down with the nobles! To the Palais!"

An artisan who stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the press
enlightened Andre-Louis on the score of the increased excitement.

"They've shot him dead. His body is lying there where it fell at the
foot of the statue. And there was another student killed not an hour ago
over there by the cathedral works. Pardi! If they can't prevail in one
way they'll prevail in another." The man was fiercely emphatic. "They'll
stop at nothing. If they can't overawe us, by God, they'll assassinate
us. They are determined to conduct these States of Brittany in their own
way. No interests but their own shall be considered."

Andre-Louis left him still talking, and clove himself a way through that
human press.

At the statue's base he came upon a little cluster of students about the
body of the murdered lad, all stricken with fear and helplessness.

"You here, Moreau!" said a voice.

He looked round to find himself confronted by a slight, swarthy man
of little more than thirty, firm of mouth and impertinent of nose,
who considered him with disapproval. It was Le Chapelier, a lawyer
of Rennes, a prominent member of the Literary Chamber of that city, a
forceful man, fertile in revolutionary ideas and of an exceptional gift
of eloquence.

"Ah, it is you, Chapelier! Why don't you speak to them? Why don't you
tell them what to do? Up with you, man!" And he pointed to the plinth.

Le Chapelier's dark, restless eyes searched the other's impassive face
for some trace of the irony he suspected. They were as wide asunder
as the poles, these two, in their political views; and mistrusted as
Andre-Louis was by all his colleagues of the Literary Chamber of Rennes,
he was by none mistrusted so thoroughly as by this vigorous republican.
Indeed, had Le Chapelier been able to prevail against the influence of
the seminarist Vilmorin, Andre-Louis would long since have found himself
excluded from that assembly of the intellectual youth of Rennes, which
he exasperated by his eternal mockery of their ideals.

So now Le Chapelier suspected mockery in that invitation, suspected it
even when he failed to find traces of it on Andre-Louis' face, for he
had learnt by experience that it was a face not often to be trusted for
an indication of the real thoughts that moved behind it.

"Your notions and mine on that score can hardly coincide," said he.

"Can there be two opinions?" quoth Andre-Louis.

"There are usually two opinions whenever you and I are together,
Moreau--more than ever now that you are the appointed delegate of a
nobleman. You see what your friends have done. No doubt you approve
their methods." He was coldly hostile.

Andre-Louis looked at him without surprise. So invariably opposed to
each other in academic debates, how should Le Chapelier suspect his
present intentions?

"If you won't tell them what is to be done, I will," said he.

"Nom de Dieu! If you want to invite a bullet from the other side, I
shall not hinder you. It may help to square the account."

Scarcely were the words out than he repented them; for as if in answer
to that challenge Andre-Louis sprang up on to the plinth. Alarmed now,
for he could only suppose it to be Andre-Louis' intention to speak
on behalf of Privilege, of which he was a publicly appointed
representative, Le Chapelier clutched him by the leg to pull him down
again.

"Ah, that, no!" he was shouting. "Come down, you fool. Do you think we
will let you ruin everything by your clowning? Come down!"

Andre-Louis, maintaining his position by clutching one of the legs of
the bronze horse, flung his voice like a bugle-note over the heads of
that seething mob.

"Citizens of Rennes, the motherland is in danger!"

The effect was electric. A stir ran, like a ripple over water, across
that froth of upturned human faces, and completest silence followed.
In that great silence they looked at this slim young man, hatless,
long wisps of his black hair fluttering in the breeze, his neckcloth in
disorder, his face white, his eyes on fire.

Andre-Louis felt a sudden surge of exaltation as he realized by instinct
that at one grip he had seized that crowd, and that he held it fast in
the spell of his cry and his audacity.

Even Le Chapelier, though still clinging to his ankle, had ceased to
tug. The reformer, though unshaken in his assumption of Andre-Louis'
intentions, was for a moment bewildered by the first note of his appeal.

And then, slowly, impressively, in a voice that travelled clear to the
ends of the square, the young lawyer of Gavrillac began to speak.

"Shuddering in horror of the vile deed here perpetrated, my voice
demands to be heard by you. You have seen murder done under your
eyes--the murder of one who nobly, without any thought of self, gave
voice to the wrongs by which we are all oppressed. Fearing that voice,
shunning the truth as foul things shun the light, our oppressors sent
their agents to silence him in death."

Le Chapelier released at last his hold of Andre-Louis' ankle, staring
up at him the while in sheer amazement. It seemed that the fellow was in
earnest; serious for once; and for once on the right side. What had come
to him?

"Of assassins what shall you look for but assassination? I have a
tale to tell which will show that this is no new thing that you have
witnessed here to-day; it will reveal to you the forces with which you
have to deal. Yesterday..."

There was an interruption. A voice in the crowd, some twenty paces,
perhaps, was raised to shout:

"Yet another of them!"

Immediately after the voice came a pistol-shot, and a bullet flattened
itself against the bronze figure just behind Andre-Louis.

Instantly there was turmoil in the crowd, most intense about the spot
whence the shot had been fired. The assailant was one of a considerable
group of the opposition, a group that found itself at once beset on
every side, and hard put to it to defend him.

From the foot of the plinth rang the voice of the students making chorus
to Le Chapelier, who was bidding Andre-Louis to seek shelter.

"Come down! Come down at once! They'll murder you as they murdered La
Riviere."

"Let them!" He flung wide his arms in a gesture supremely theatrical,
and laughed. "I stand here at their mercy. Let them, if they will, add
mine to the blood that will presently rise up to choke them. Let them
assassinate me. It is a trade they understand. But until they do so,
they shall not prevent me from speaking to you, from telling you what
is to be looked for in them." And again he laughed, not merely in
exaltation as they supposed who watched him from below, but also in
amusement. And his amusement had two sources. One was to discover how
glibly he uttered the phrases proper to whip up the emotions of a crowd:
the other was in the remembrance of how the crafty Cardinal de Retz, for
the purpose of inflaming popular sympathy on his behalf, had been in the
habit of hiring fellows to fire upon his carriage. He was in just such
case as that arch-politician. True, he had not hired the fellow to fire
that pistol-shot; but he was none the less obliged to him, and ready to
derive the fullest, advantage from the act.

The group that sought to protect that man was battling on, seeking to
hew a way out of that angry, heaving press.

"Let them go!" Andre-Louis called down..."What matters one assassin more
or less? Let them go, and listen to me, my countrymen!"

And presently, when some measure of order was restored, he began his
tale. In simple language now, yet with a vehemence and directness
that drove home every point, he tore their hearts with the story of
yesterday's happenings at Gavrillac. He drew tears from them with
the pathos of his picture of the bereaved widow Mabey and her three
starving, destitute children--"orphaned to avenge the death of a
pheasant"--and the bereaved mother of that M. de Vilmorin, a student of
Rennes, known here to many of them, who had met his death in a noble
endeavour to champion the cause of an esurient member of their afflicted
order.

"The Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr said of him that he had too dangerous a
gift of eloquence. It was to silence his brave voice that he killed
him. But he has failed of his object. For I, poor Philippe de Vilmorin's
friend, have assumed the mantle of his apostleship, and I speak to you
with his voice to-day."

It was a statement that helped Le Chapelier at last to understand, at
least in part, this bewildering change in Andre-Louis, which rendered
him faithless to the side that employed him.

"I am not here," continued Andre-Louis, "merely to demand at your hands
vengeance upon Philippe de Vilmorin's murderers. I am here to tell you
the things he would to-day have told you had he lived."

So far at least he was frank. But he did not add that they were things
he did not himself believe, things that he accounted the cant by which
an ambitious bourgeoisie--speaking through the mouths of the lawyers, who
were its articulate part--sought to overthrow to its own advantage the
present state of things. He left his audience in the natural belief that
the views he expressed were the views he held.

And now in a terrible voice, with an eloquence that amazed himself,
he denounced the inertia of the royal justice where the great are the
offenders. It was with bitter sarcasm that he spoke of their King's
Lieutenant, M. de Lesdiguieres.

"Do you wonder," he asked them, "that M. de Lesdiguieres should
administer the law so that it shall ever be favourable to our great
nobles? Would it be just, would it be reasonable that he should
otherwise administer it?" He paused dramatically to let his sarcasm sink
in. It had the effect of reawakening Le Chapelier's doubts, and checking
his dawning conviction in Andre-Louis' sincerity. Whither was he going
now?

He was not left long in doubt. Proceeding, Andre-Louis spoke as he
conceived that Philippe de Vilmorin would have spoken. He had so often
argued with him, so often attended the discussions of the Literary
Chamber, that he had all the rant of the reformers--that was yet true in
substance--at his fingers' ends.

"Consider, after all, the composition of this France of ours. A million
of its inhabitants are members of the privileged classes. They compose
France. They are France. For surely you cannot suppose the remainder
to be anything that matters. It cannot be pretended that twenty-four
million souls are of any account, that they can be representative of
this great nation, or that they can exist for any purpose but that of
servitude to the million elect."

Bitter laughter shook them now, as he desired it should. "Seeing their
privileges in danger of invasion by these twenty-four millions--mostly
canailles; possibly created by God, it is true, but clearly so created
to be the slaves of Privilege--does it surprise you that the dispensing
of royal justice should be placed in the stout hands of these
Lesdiguieres, men without brains to think or hearts to be touched?
Consider what it is that must be defended against the assault of us
others--canaille. Consider a few of these feudal rights that are in
danger of being swept away should the Privileged yield even to the
commands of their sovereign; and admit the Third Estate to an equal vote
with themselves.

"What would become of the right of terrage on the land, of parciere on
the fruit-trees, of carpot on the vines? What of the corvees by which
they command forced labour, of the ban de vendage, which gives them the
first vintage, the banvin which enables them to control to their own
advantage the sale of wine? What of their right of grinding the last
liard of taxation out of the people to maintain their own opulent
estate; the cens, the lods-et-ventes, which absorb a fifth of the value
of the land, the blairee, which must be paid before herds can feed on
communal lands, the pulverage to indemnify them for the dust raised on
their roads by the herds that go to market, the sextelage on everything
offered for sale in the public markets, the etalonnage, and all the
rest? What of their rights over men and animals for field labour, of
ferries over rivers, and of bridges over streams, of sinking wells, of
warren, of dovecot, and of fire, which last yields them a tax on
every peasant hearth? What of their exclusive rights of fishing and of
hunting, the violation of which is ranked as almost a capital offence?

"And what of other rights, unspeakable, abominable, over the lives and
bodies of their people, rights which, if rarely exercised, have never
been rescinded. To this day if a noble returning from the hunt were to
slay two of his serfs to bathe and refresh his feet in their blood, he
could still claim in his sufficient defence that it was his absolute
feudal right to do so.

"Rough-shod, these million Privileged ride over the souls and bodies
of twenty-four million contemptible canaille existing but for their own
pleasure. Woe betide him who so much as raises his voice in protest
in the name of humanity against an excess of these already excessive
abuses. I have told you of one remorselessly slain in cold blood for
doing no more than that. Your own eyes have witnessed the assassination
of another here upon this plinth, of yet another over there by the
cathedral works, and the attempt upon my own life.

"Between them and the justice due to them in such cases stand these
Lesdiguieres, these King's Lieutenants; not instruments of justice, but
walls erected for the shelter of Privilege and Abuse whenever it exceeds
its grotesquely excessive rights.

"Do you wonder that they will not yield an inch; that they will resist
the election of a Third Estate with the voting power to sweep all these
privileges away, to compel the Privileged to submit themselves to a just
equality in the eyes of the law with the meanest of the canaille they
trample underfoot, to provide that the moneys necessary to save this
state from the bankruptcy into which they have all but plunged it shall
be raised by taxation to be borne by themselves in the same proportion
as by others?

"Sooner than yield to so much they prefer to resist even the royal
command."

A phrase occurred to him used yesterday by Vilmorin, a phrase to which
he had refused to attach importance when uttered then. He used it now.
"In doing this they are striking at the very foundations of the throne.
These fools do not perceive that if that throne falls over, it is they
who stand nearest to it who will be crushed."

A terrific roar acclaimed that statement. Tense and quivering with the
excitement that was flowing through him, and from him out into that
great audience, he stood a moment smiling ironically. Then he waved
them into silence, and saw by their ready obedience how completely he
possessed them. For in the voice with which he spoke each now recognized
the voice of himself, giving at last expression to the thoughts that for
months and years had been inarticulately stirring in each simple mind.

Presently he resumed, speaking more quietly, that ironic smile about the
corner of his mouth growing more marked:

"In taking my leave of M. de Lesdiguieres I gave him warning out of a
page of natural history. I told him that when the wolves, roaming singly
through the jungle, were weary of being hunted by the tiger, they banded
themselves into packs, and went a-hunting the tiger in their turn. M. de
Lesdiguieres contemptuously answered that he did not understand me. But
your wits are better than his. You understand me, I think? Don't you?"

Again a great roar, mingled now with some approving laughter, was his
answer. He had wrought them up to a pitch of dangerous passion, and they
were ripe for any violence to which he urged them. If he had failed with
the windmill, at least he was now master of the wind.

"To the Palais!" they shouted, waving their hands, brandishing canes,
and--here and there--even a sword. "To the Palais! Down with M. de
Lesdiguieres! Death to the King's Lieutenant!"

He was master of the wind, indeed. His dangerous gift of oratory--a
gift nowhere more powerful than in France, since nowhere else are men's
emotions so quick to respond to the appeal of eloquence--had given him
this mastery. At his bidding now the gale would sweep away the
windmill against which he had flung himself in vain. But that, as he
straightforwardly revealed it, was no part of his intent.

"Ah, wait!" he bade them. "Is this miserable instrument of a corrupt
system worth the attention of your noble indignation?"

He hoped his words would be reported to M. de Lesdiguieres. He thought
it would be good for the soul of M. de Lesdiguieres to hear the
undiluted truth about himself for once.

"It is the system itself you must attack and overthrow; not a mere
instrument--a miserable painted lath such as this. And precipitancy will
spoil everything. Above all, my children, no violence!"

My children! Could his godfather have heard him!

"You have seen often already the result of premature violence elsewhere
in Brittany, and you have heard of it elsewhere in France. Violence on
your part will call for violence on theirs. They will welcome the chance
to assert their mastery by a firmer grip than heretofore. The military
will be sent for. You will be faced by the bayonets of mercenaries. Do
not provoke that, I implore you. Do not put it into their power, do not
afford them the pretext they would welcome to crush you down into the
mud of your own blood."

Out of the silence into which they had fallen anew broke now the cry of

"What else, then? What else?"

"I will tell you," he answered them. "The wealth and strength of
Brittany lies in Nantes--a bourgeois city, one of the most prosperous in
this realm, rendered so by the energy of the bourgeoisie and the toil of
the people. It was in Nantes that this movement had its beginning, and
as a result of it the King issued his order dissolving the States as now
constituted--an order which those who base their power on Privilege and
Abuse do not hesitate to thwart. Let Nantes be informed of the precise
situation, and let nothing be done here until Nantes shall have given us
the lead. She has the power--which we in Rennes have not--to make her will
prevail, as we have seen already. Let her exert that power once more,
and until she does so do you keep the peace in Rennes. Thus shall you
triumph. Thus shall the outrages that are being perpetrated under your
eyes be fully and finally avenged."

As abruptly as he had leapt upon the plinth did he now leap down from
it. He had finished. He had said all--perhaps more than all--that could
have been said by the dead friend with whose voice he spoke. But it was
not their will that he should thus extinguish himself. The thunder of
their acclamations rose deafeningly upon the air. He had played upon
their emotions--each in turn--as a skilful harpist plays upon the strings
of his instrument. And they were vibrant with the passions he had
aroused, and the high note of hope on which he had brought his symphony
to a close.

A dozen students caught him as he leapt down, and swung him to their
shoulders, where again he came within view of all the acclaiming crowd.

The delicate Le Chapelier pressed alongside of him with flushed face and
shining eyes.

"My lad," he said to him, "you have kindled a fire to-day that will
sweep the face of France in a blaze of liberty." And then to the
students he issued a sharp command. "To the Literary Chamber--at once. We
must concert measures upon the instant, a delegate must be dispatched
to Nantes forthwith, to convey to our friends there the message of the
people of Rennes."

The crowd fell back, opening a lane through which the students bore
the hero of the hour. Waving his hands to them, he called upon them to
disperse to their homes, and await there in patience what must follow
very soon.

"You have endured for centuries with a fortitude that is a pattern to
the world," he flattered them. "Endure a little longer yet. The end, my
friends, is well in sight at last."

They carried him out of the square and up the Rue Royale to an old
house, one of the few old houses surviving in that city that had risen
from its ashes, where in an upper chamber lighted by diamond-shaped
panes of yellow glass the Literary Chamber usually held its meetings.
Thither in his wake the members of that chamber came hurrying, summoned
by the messages that Le Chapelier had issued during their progress.

Behind closed doors a flushed and excited group of some fifty men, the
majority of whom were young, ardent, and afire with the illusion of
liberty, hailed Andre-Louis as the strayed sheep who had returned to the
fold, and smothered him in congratulations and thanks.

Then they settled down to deliberate upon immediate measures, whilst the
doors below were kept by a guard of honour that had improvised itself
from the masses. And very necessary was this. For no sooner had the
Chamber assembled than the house was assailed by the gendarmerie of M.
de Lesdiguieres, dispatched in haste to arrest the firebrand who was
inciting the people of Rennes to sedition. The force consisted of fifty
men. Five hundred would have been too few. The mob broke their carbines,
broke some of their heads, and would indeed have torn them into pieces
had they not beaten a timely and well-advised retreat before a form of
horseplay to which they were not at all accustomed.

And whilst that was taking place in the street below, in the room
abovestairs the eloquent Le Chapelier was addressing his colleagues
of the Literary Chamber. Here, with no bullets to fear, and no one
to report his words to the authorities, Le Chapelier could permit his
oratory a full, unintimidated flow. And that considerable oratory was as
direct and brutal as the man himself was delicate and elegant.

He praised the vigour and the greatness of the speech they had heard
from their colleague Moreau. Above all he praised its wisdom. Moreau's
words had come as a surprise to them. Hitherto they had never known
him as other than a bitter critic of their projects of reform and
regeneration; and quite lately they had heard, not without misgivings,
of his appointment as delegate for a nobleman in the States of Brittany.
But they held the explanation of his conversion. The murder of their
dear colleague Vilmorin had produced this change. In that brutal deed
Moreau had beheld at last in true proportions the workings of that evil
spirit which they were vowed to exorcise from France. And to-day he had
proven himself the stoutest apostle among them of the new faith. He had
pointed out to them the only sane and useful course. The illustration he
had borrowed from natural history was most apt. Above all, let them pack
like the wolves, and to ensure this uniformity of action in the people
of all Brittany, let a delegate at once be sent to Nantes, which had
already proved itself the real seat of Brittany's power. It but remained
to appoint that delegate, and Le Chapelier invited them to elect him.

Andre-Louis, on a bench near the window, a prey now to some measure of
reaction, listened in bewilderment to that flood of eloquence.

As the applause died down, he heard a voice exclaiming:

"I propose to you that we appoint our leader here, Le Chapelier, to be
that delegate."

Le Chapelier reared his elegantly dressed head, which had been bowed
in thought, and it was seen that his countenance was pale. Nervously he
fingered a gold spy-glass.

"My friends," he said, slowly, "I am deeply sensible of the honour
that you do me. But in accepting it I should be usurping an honour
that rightly belongs elsewhere. Who could represent us better, who more
deserving to be our representative, to speak to our friends of Nantes
with the voice of Rennes, than the champion who once already to-day has
so incomparably given utterance to the voice of this great city? Confer
this honour of being your spokesman where it belongs--upon Andre-Louis
Moreau."

Rising in response to the storm of applause that greeted the proposal,
Andre-Louis bowed and forthwith yielded. "Be it so," he said, simply.
"It is perhaps fitting that I should carry out what I have begun, though
I too am of the opinion that Le Chapelier would have been a worthier
representative. I will set out to-night."

"You will set out at once, my lad," Le Chapelier informed him, and now
revealed what an uncharitable mind might account the true source of his
generosity. "It is not safe after what has happened for you to linger an
hour in Rennes. And you must go secretly. Let none of you allow it to
be known that he has gone. I would not have you come to harm over this,
Andre-Louis. But you must see the risks you run, and if you are to be
spared to help in this work of salvation of our afflicted motherland,
you must use caution, move secretly, veil your identity even. Or else
M. de Lesdiguieres will have you laid by the heels, and it will be
good-night for you."



CHAPTER VIII. OMNES OMNIBUS

Andre-Louis rode forth from Rennes committed to a deeper adventure than
he had dreamed of when he left the sleepy village of Gavrillac. Lying
the night at a roadside inn, and setting out again early in the morning,
he reached Nantes soon after noon of the following day.

Through that long and lonely ride through the dull plains of Brittany,
now at their dreariest in their winter garb, he had ample leisure in
which to review his actions and his position. From one who had taken
hitherto a purely academic and by no means friendly interest in the new
philosophies of social life, exercising his wits upon these new ideas
merely as a fencer exercises his eye and wrist with the foils, without
ever suffering himself to be deluded into supposing the issue a real
one, he found himself suddenly converted into a revolutionary firebrand,
committed to revolutionary action of the most desperate kind. The
representative and delegate of a nobleman in the States of Brittany, he
found himself simultaneously and incongruously the representative and
delegate of the whole Third Estate of Rennes.

It is difficult to determine to what extent, in the heat of passion and
swept along by the torrent of his own oratory, he might yesterday have
succeeded in deceiving himself. But it is at least certain that, looking
back in cold blood now, he had no single delusion on the score of what
he had done. Cynically he had presented to his audience one side only of
the great question that he propounded.

But since the established order of things in France was such as to make
a rampart for M. de La Tour d'Azyr, affording him complete immunity for
this and any other crimes that it pleased him to commit, why, then the
established order must take the consequences of its wrong-doing. Therein
he perceived his clear justification.

And so it was without misgivings that he came on his errand of sedition
into that beautiful city of Nantes, rendered by its spacious streets and
splendid port the rival in prosperity of Bordeaux and Marseilles.

He found an inn on the Quai La Fosse, where he put up his horse, and
where he dined in the embrasure of a window that looked out over the
tree-bordered quay and the broad bosom of the Loire, on which argosies
of all nations rode at anchor. The sun had again broken through the
clouds, and shed its pale wintry light over the yellow waters and the
tall-masted shipping.

Along the quays there was a stir of life as great as that to be seen
on the quays of Paris. Foreign sailors in outlandish garments and of
harsh-sounding, outlandish speech, stalwart fishwives with baskets of
herrings on their heads, voluminous of petticoat above bare legs and
bare feet, calling their wares shrilly and almost inarticulately,
watermen in woollen caps and loose trousers rolled to the knees,
peasants in goatskin coats, their wooden shoes clattering on the
round kidney-stones, shipwrights and labourers from the dockyards,
bellows-menders, rat-catchers, water-carriers, ink-sellers, and other
itinerant pedlars. And, sprinkled through this proletariat mass that
came and went in constant movement, Andre-Louis beheld tradesmen in
sober garments, merchants in long, fur-lined coats; occasionally
a merchant-prince rolling along in his two-horse cabriolet to the
whip-crackings and shouts of "Gare!" from his coachman; occasionally a
dainty lady carried past in her sedan-chair, with perhaps a mincing abbe
from the episcopal court tripping along in attendance; occasionally an
officer in scarlet riding disdainfully; and once the great carriage of
a nobleman, with escutcheoned panels and a pair of white-stockinged,
powdered footmen in gorgeous liveries hanging on behind. And there were
Capuchins in brown and Benedictines in black, and secular priests in
plenty--for God was well served in the sixteen parishes of Nantes--and
by way of contrast there were lean-jawed, out-at-elbow adventurers, and
gendarmes in blue coats and gaitered legs, sauntering guardians of the
peace.

Representatives of every class that went to make up the seventy thousand
inhabitants of that wealthy, industrious city were to be seen in
the human stream that ebbed and flowed beneath the window from which
Andre-Louis observed it.

Of the waiter who ministered to his humble wants with soup and bouilli,
and a measure of vin gris, Andre-Louis enquired into the state of public
feeling in the city. The waiter, a staunch supporter of the privileged
orders, admitted regretfully that an uneasiness prevailed. Much would
depend upon what happened at Rennes. If it was true that the King had
dissolved the States of Brittany, then all should be well, and the
malcontents would have no pretext for further disturbances. There had
been trouble and to spare in Nantes already. They wanted no repetition
of it. All manner of rumours were abroad, and since early morning there
had been crowds besieging the portals of the Chamber of Commerce for
definite news. But definite news was yet to come. It was not even known
for a fact that His Majesty actually had dissolved the States.

It was striking two, the busiest hour of the day upon the Bourse, when
Andre-Louis reached the Place du Commerce. The square, dominated by the
imposing classical building of the Exchange, was so crowded that he
was compelled almost to fight his way through to the steps of the
magnificent Ionic porch. A word would have sufficed to have opened a way
for him at once. But guile moved him to keep silent. He would come upon
that waiting multitude as a thunderclap, precisely as yesterday he
had come upon the mob at Rennes. He would lose nothing of the surprise
effect of his entrance.

The precincts of that house of commerce were jealously kept by a line
of ushers armed with staves, a guard as hurriedly assembled by the
merchants as it was evidently necessary. One of these now effectively
barred the young lawyer's passage as he attempted to mount the steps.

Andre-Louis announced himself in a whisper.

The stave was instantly raised from the horizontal, and he passed and
went up the steps in the wake of the usher. At the top, on the threshold
of the chamber, he paused, and stayed his guide.

"I will wait here," he announced. "Bring the president to me."

"Your name, monsieur?"

Almost had Andre-Louis answered him when he remembered Le Chapelier's
warning of the danger with which his mission was fraught, and Le
Chapelier's parting admonition to conceal his identity.

"My name is unknown to him; it matters nothing; I am the mouthpiece of a
people, no more. Go."

The usher went, and in the shadow of that lofty, pillared portico
Andre-Louis waited, his eyes straying out ever and anon to survey that
spread of upturned faces immediately below him.

Soon the president came, others following, crowding out into the
portico, jostling one another in their eagerness to hear the news.

"You are a messenger from Rennes?"

"I am the delegate sent by the Literary Chamber of that city to inform
you here in Nantes of what is taking place."

"Your name?"

Andre-Louis paused. "The less we mention names perhaps the better."

The president's eyes grew big with gravity. He was a corpulent, florid
man, purse-proud, and self-sufficient.

He hesitated a moment. Then--"Come into the Chamber," said he.

"By your leave, monsieur, I will deliver my message from here--from these
steps."

"From here?" The great merchant frowned.

"My message is for the people of Nantes, and from here I can speak
at once to the greatest number of Nantais of all ranks, and it is my
desire--and the desire of those whom I represent--that as great a number
as possible should hear my message at first hand."

"Tell me, sir, is it true that the King has dissolved the States?"

Andre-Louis looked at him. He smiled apologetically, and waved a hand
towards the crowd, which by now was straining for a glimpse of this slim
young man who had brought forth the president and more than half the
numbers of the Chamber, guessing already, with that curious instinct of
crowds, that he was the awaited bearer of tidings.

"Summon the gentlemen of your Chamber, monsieur," said he, "and you
shall hear all."

"So be it."

A word, and forth they came to crowd upon the steps, but leaving clear
the topmost step and a half-moon space in the middle.

To the spot so indicated, Andre-Louis now advanced very deliberately.
He took his stand there, dominating the entire assembly. He removed
his hat, and launched the opening bombshell of that address which
is historic, marking as it does one of the great stages of France's
progress towards revolution.

"People of this great city of Nantes, I have come to summon you to
arms!"

In the amazed and rather scared silence that followed he surveyed them
for a moment before resuming.

"I am a delegate of the people of Rennes, charged to announce to you
what is taking place, and to invite you in this dreadful hour of our
country's peril to rise and march to her defence."

"Name! Your name!" a voice shouted, and instantly the cry was taken up
by others, until the multitude rang with the question.

He could not answer that excited mob as he had answered the president.
It was necessary to compromise, and he did so, happily. "My name," said
he, "is Omnes Omnibus--all for all. Let that suffice you now. I am a
herald, a mouthpiece, a voice; no more. I come to announce to you that
since the privileged orders, assembled for the States of Brittany in
Rennes, resisted your will--our will--despite the King's plain hint to
them, His Majesty has dissolved the States."

There was a burst of delirious applause. Men laughed and shouted, and
cries of "Vive le Roi!" rolled forth like thunder. Andre-Louis waited,
and gradually the preternatural gravity of his countenance came to be
observed, and to beget the suspicion that there might be more to follow.
Gradually silence was restored, and at last Andre Louis was able to
proceed.

"You rejoice too soon. Unfortunately, the nobles, in their insolent
arrogance, have elected to ignore the royal dissolution, and in despite
of it persist in sitting and in conducting matters as seems good to
them."

A silence of utter dismay greeted that disconcerting epilogue to
the announcement that had been so rapturously received. Andre-Louis
continued after a moment's pause:

"So that these men who were already rebels against the people, rebels,
against justice and equity, rebels against humanity itself, are now
also rebels against their King. Sooner than yield an inch of the
unconscionable privileges by which too long already they have
flourished, to the misery of a whole nation, they will make a mock
of royal authority, hold up the King himself to contempt. They are
determined to prove that there is no real sovereignty in France but the
sovereignty of their own parasitic faineantise."

There was a faint splutter of applause, but the majority of the audience
remained silent, waiting.

"This is no new thing. Always has it been the same. No minister in
the last ten years, who, seeing the needs and perils of the State,
counselled the measures that we now demand as the only means of
arresting our motherland in its ever-quickening progress to the abyss,
but found himself as a consequence cast out of office by the influence
which Privilege brought to bear against him. Twice already has M. Necker
been called to the ministry, to be twice dismissed when his insistent
counsels of reform threatened the privileges of clergy and nobility. For
the third time now has he been called to office, and at last it seems
we are to have States General in spite of Privilege. But what the
privileged orders can no longer prevent, they are determined to
stultify. Since it is now a settled thing that these States General are
to meet, at least the nobles and the clergy will see to it--unless we
take measures to prevent them--by packing the Third Estate with their
own creatures, and denying it all effective representation, that they
convert the States General into an instrument of their own will for the
perpetuation of the abuses by which they live. To achieve this end they
will stop at nothing. They have flouted the authority of the King, and
they are silencing by assassination those who raise their voices to
condemn them. Yesterday in Rennes two young men who addressed the people
as I am addressing you were done to death in the streets by assassins at
the instigation of the nobility. Their blood cries out for vengeance."

Beginning in a sullen mutter, the indignation that moved his hearers
swelled up to express itself in a roar of anger.

"Citizens of Nantes, the motherland is in peril. Let us march to her
defence. Let us proclaim it to the world that we recognize that the
measures to liberate the Third Estate from the slavery in which for
centuries it has groaned find only obstacles in those orders whose
phrenetic egotism sees in the tears and suffering of the unfortunate
an odious tribute which they would pass on to their generations still
unborn. Realizing from the barbarity of the means employed by our
enemies to perpetuate our oppression that we have everything to fear
from the aristocracy they would set up as a constitutional principle for
the governing of France, let us declare ourselves at once enfranchised
from it.

"The establishment of liberty and equality should be the aim of every
citizen member of the Third Estate; and to this end we should stand
indivisibly united, especially the young and vigorous, especially those
who have had the good fortune to be born late enough to be able to
gather for themselves the precious fruits of the philosophy of this
eighteenth century."

Acclamations broke out unstintedly now. He had caught them in the snare
of his oratory. And he pressed his advantage instantly.

"Let us all swear," he cried in a great voice, "to raise up in the name
of humanity and of liberty a rampart against our enemies, to oppose to
their bloodthirsty covetousness the calm perseverance of men whose cause
is just. And let us protest here and in advance against any tyrannical
decrees that should declare us seditious when we have none but pure and
just intentions. Let us make oath upon the honour of our motherland that
should any of us be seized by an unjust tribunal, intending against us
one of those acts termed of political expediency--which are, in effect,
but acts of despotism--let us swear, I say, to give a full expression
to the strength that is in us and do that in self-defence which nature,
courage, and despair dictate to us."

Loud and long rolled the applause that greeted his conclusion, and he
observed with satisfaction and even some inward grim amusement that the
wealthy merchants who had been congregated upon the steps, and who now
came crowding about him to shake him by the hand and to acclaim him,
were not merely participants in, but the actual leaders of, this
delirium of enthusiasm.

It confirmed him, had he needed confirmation, in his conviction that
just as the philosophies upon which this new movement was based had
their source in thinkers extracted from the bourgeoisie, so the need
to adopt those philosophies to the practical purposes of life was most
acutely felt at present by those bourgeois who found themselves debarred
by Privilege from the expansion their wealth permitted them. If it might
be said of Andre-Louis that he had that day lighted the torch of the
Revolution in Nantes, it might with even greater truth be said that the
torch itself was supplied by the opulent bourgeoisie.

I need not dwell at any length upon the sequel. It is a matter of
history how that oath which Omnes Omnibus administered to the citizens
of Nantes formed the backbone of the formal protest which they drew up
and signed in their thousands. Nor were the results of that powerful
protest--which, after all, might already be said to harmonize with the
expressed will of the sovereign himself--long delayed. Who shall say how
far it may have strengthened the hand of Necker, when on the 27th of
that same month of November he compelled the Council to adopt the most
significant and comprehensive of all those measures to which clergy and
nobility had refused their consent? On that date was published the royal
decree ordaining that the deputies to be elected to the States General
should number at least one thousand, and that the deputies of the
Third Estate should be fully representative by numbering as many as the
deputies of clergy and nobility together.



CHAPTER IX. THE AFTERMATH

Dusk of the following day was falling when the homing Andre-Louis
approached Gavrillac. Realizing fully what a hue and cry there would
presently be for the apostle of revolution who had summoned the people
of Nantes to arms, he desired as far as possible to conceal the fact
that he had been in that maritime city. Therefore he made a wide detour,
crossing the river at Bruz, and recrossing it a little above Chavagne,
so as to approach Gavrillac from the north, and create the impression
that he was returning from Rennes, whither he was known to have gone two
days ago.

Within a mile or so of the village he caught in the fading light his
first glimpse of a figure on horseback pacing slowly towards him. But
it was not until they had come within a few yards of each other, and he
observed that this cloaked figure was leaning forward to peer at him,
that he took much notice of it. And then he found himself challenged
almost at once by a woman's voice.

"It is you, Andre--at last!"

He drew rein, mildly surprised, to be assailed by another question,
impatiently, anxiously asked.

"Where have you been?"

"Where have I been, Cousin Aline? Oh... seeing the world."

"I have been patrolling this road since noon to-day waiting for
you." She spoke breathlessly, in haste to explain. "A troop of the
marechaussee from Rennes descended upon Gavrillac this morning in quest
of you. They turned the chateau and the village inside out, and at
last discovered that you were due to return with a horse hired from the
Breton arme. So they have taken up their quarters at the inn to wait
for you. I have been here all the afternoon on the lookout to warn you
against walking into that trap."

"My dear Aline! That I should have been the cause of so much concern and
trouble!"

"Never mind that. It is not important."

"On the contrary; it is the most important part of what you tell me. It
is the rest that is unimportant."

"Do you realize that they have come to arrest you?" she asked him, with
increasing impatience. "You are wanted for sedition, and upon a warrant
from M. de Lesdiguieres."

"Sedition?" quoth he, and his thoughts flew to that business at Nantes.
It was impossible they could have had news of it in Rennes and acted
upon it in so short a time.

"Yes, sedition. The sedition of that wicked speech of yours at Rennes on
Wednesday."

"Oh, that!" said he. "Pooh!" His note of relief might have told her,
had she been more attentive, that he had to fear the consequences of a
greater wickedness committed since. "Why, that was nothing."

"Nothing?"

"I almost suspect that the real intentions of these gentlemen of the
marechaussee have been misunderstood. Most probably they have come to
thank me on M. de Lesdiguieres' behalf. I restrained the people when
they would have burnt the Palais and himself inside it."

"After you had first incited them to do it. I suppose you were afraid of
your work. You drew back at the last moment. But you said things of
M. de Lesdiguieres, if you are correctly reported, which he will never
forgive."

"I see," said Andre-Louis, and he fell into thought.

But Mlle. de Kercadiou had already done what thinking was necessary, and
her alert young mind had settled all that was to be done.

"You must not go into Gavrillac," she told him, "and you must get down
from your horse, and let me take it. I will stable it at the chateau
to-night. And sometime to-morrow afternoon, by when you should be well
away, I will return it to the Breton arme."

"Oh, but that is impossible."

"Impossible? Why?"

"For several reasons. One of them is that you haven't considered what
will happen to you if you do such a thing."

"To me? Do you suppose I am afraid of that pack of oafs sent by M.
Lesdiguieres? I have committed no sedition."

"But it is almost as bad to give aid to one who is wanted for the crime.
That is the law."

"What do I care for the law? Do you imagine that the law will presume to
touch me?"

"Of course there is that. You are sheltered by one of the abuses I
complained of at Rennes. I was forgetting."

"Complain of it as much as you please, but meanwhile profit by it. Come,
Andre, do as I tell you. Get down from your horse." And then, as he
still hesitated, she stretched out and caught him by the arm. Her voice
was vibrant with earnestness. "Andre, you don't realize how serious is
your position. If these people take you, it is almost certain that you
will be hanged. Don't you realize it? You must not go to Gavrillac.
You must go away at once, and lie completely lost for a time until this
blows over. Indeed, until my uncle can bring influence to bear to obtain
your pardon, you must keep in hiding."

"That will be a long time, then," said Andre-Louis. "M. de Kercadiou has
never cultivated friends at court."

"There is M. de La Tour d'Azyr," she reminded him, to his astonishment.

"That man!" he cried, and then he laughed. "But it was chiefly against
him that I aroused the resentment of the people of Rennes. I should have
known that all my speech was not reported to you."

"It was, and that part of it among the rest."

"Ah! And yet you are concerned to save me, the man who seeks the life of
your future husband at the hands either of the law or of the people? Or
is it, perhaps, that since you have seen his true nature revealed in the
murder of poor Philippe, you have changed your views on the subject of
becoming Marquise de La Tour d'Azyr?"

"You often show yourself without any faculty of deductive reasoning."

"Perhaps. But hardly to the extent of imagining that M. de La Tour
d'Azyr will ever lift a finger to do as you suggest."

"In which, as usual, you are wrong. He will certainly do so if I ask
him."

"If you ask him?" Sheer horror rang in his voice.

"Why, yes. You see, I have not yet said that I will be Marquise de
La Tour d'Azyr. I am still considering. It is a position that has
its advantages. One of them is that it ensures a suitor's complete
obedience."

"So, so. I see the crooked logic of your mind. You might go so far as
to say to him: 'Refuse me this, and I shall refuse to be your marquise.'
You would go so far as that?"

"At need, I might."

"And do you not see the converse implication? Do you not see that
your hands would then be tied, that you would be wanting in honour if
afterwards you refused him? And do you think that I would consent to
anything that could so tie your hands? Do you think I want to see you
damned, Aline?"

Her hand fell away from his arm.

"Oh, you are mad!" she exclaimed, quite out of patience.

"Possibly. But I like my madness. There is a thrill in it unknown to
such sanity as yours. By your leave, Aline, I think I will ride on to
Gavrillac."

"Andre, you must not! It is death to you!" In her alarm she backed her
horse, and pulled it across the road to bar his way.

It was almost completely night by now; but from behind the wrack of
clouds overhead a crescent moon sailed out to alleviate the darkness.

"Come, now," she enjoined him. "Be reasonable. Do as I bid you. See,
there is a carriage coming up behind you. Do not let us be found here
together thus."

He made up his mind quickly. He was not the man to be actuated by false
heroics about dying, and he had no fancy whatever for the gallows of M.
de Lesdiguieres' providing. The immediate task that he had set himself
might be accomplished. He had made heard--and ringingly--the voice that
M. de La Tour d'Azyr imagined he had silenced. But he was very far from
having done with life.

"Aline, on one condition only."

"And that?"

"That you swear to me you will never seek the aid of M. de La Tour
d'Azyr on my behalf."

"Since you insist, and as time presses, I consent. And now ride on with
me as far as the lane. There is that carriage coming up."

The lane to which she referred was one that branched off the road some
three hundred yards nearer the village and led straight up the hill
to the chateau itself. In silence they rode together towards it, and
together they turned into that thickly hedged and narrow bypath. At a
depth of fifty yards she halted him.

"Now!" she bade him.

Obediently he swung down from his horse, and surrendered the reins to
her.

"Aline," he said, "I haven't words in which to thank you."

"It isn't necessary," said she.

"But I shall hope to repay you some day."

"Nor is that necessary. Could I do less than I am doing? I do not want
to hear of you hanged, Andre; nor does my uncle, though he is very angry
with you."

"I suppose he is."

"And you can hardly be surprised. You were his delegate, his
representative. He depended upon you, and you have turned your coat. He
is rightly indignant, calls you a traitor, and swears that he will never
speak to you again. But he doesn't want you hanged, Andre."

"Then we are agreed on that at least, for I don't want it myself."

"I'll make your peace with him. And now--good-bye, Andre. Send me a word
when you are safe."

She held out a hand that looked ghostly in the faint light. He took it
and bore it to his lips.

"God bless you, Aline."

She was gone, and he stood listening to the receding clopper-clop of
hooves until it grew faint in the distance. Then slowly, with shoulders
hunched and head sunk on his breast, he retraced his steps to the
main road, cogitating whither he should go. Quite suddenly he checked,
remembering with dismay that he was almost entirely without money. In
Brittany itself he knew of no dependable hiding-place, and as long as
he was in Brittany his peril must remain imminent. Yet to leave the
province, and to leave it as quickly as prudence dictated, horses would
be necessary. And how was he to procure horses, having no money beyond a
single louis d'or and a few pieces of silver?

There was also the fact that he was very weary. He had had little sleep
since Tuesday night, and not very much then; and much of the time had
been spent in the saddle, a wearing thing to one so little accustomed
to long rides. Worn as he was, it was unthinkable that he should go far
to-night. He might get as far as Chavagne, perhaps. But there he must
sup and sleep; and what, then, of to-morrow?

Had he but thought of it before, perhaps Aline might have been able to
assist him with the loan of a few louis. His first impulse now was to
follow her to the chateau. But prudence dismissed the notion. Before he
could reach her, he must be seen by servants, and word of his presence
would go forth.

There was no choice for him; he must tramp as far as Chavagne, find a
bed there, and leave to-morrow until it dawned. On the resolve he set
his face in the direction whence he had come. But again he paused.
Chavagne lay on the road to Rennes. To go that way was to plunge further
into danger. He would strike south again. At the foot of some meadows on
this side of the village there was a ferry that would put him across the
river. Thus he would avoid the village; and by placing the river between
himself and the immediate danger, he would obtain an added sense of
security.

A lane, turning out of the highroad, a quarter of a mile this side of
Gavrillac, led down to that ferry. By this lane some twenty minutes
later came Andre-Louis with dragging feet. He avoided the little cottage
of the ferryman, whose window was alight, and in the dark crept down to
the boat, intending if possible to put himself across. He felt for the
chain by which the boat was moored, and ran his fingers along this to
the point where it was fastened. Here to his dismay he found a padlock.

He stood up in the gloom and laughed silently. Of course he might have
known it. The ferry was the property of M. de La Tour d'Azyr, and not
likely to be left unfastened so that poor devils might cheat him of
seigneurial dues.

There being no possible alternative, he walked back to the cottage, and
rapped on the door. When it opened, he stood well back, and aside, out
of the shaft of light that issued thence.

"Ferry!" he rapped out, laconically.

The ferryman, a burly scoundrel well known to him, turned aside to pick
up a lantern, and came forth as he was bidden. As he stepped from the
little porch, he levelled the lantern so that its light fell on the face
of this traveller.

"My God!" he ejaculated.

"You realize, I see, that I am pressed," said Andre-Louis, his eyes on
the fellow's startled countenance.

"And well you may be with the gallows waiting for you at Rennes,"
growled the ferryman. "Since you've been so foolish as to come back to
Gavrillac, you had better go again as quickly as you can. I will say
nothing of having seen you."

"I thank you, Fresnel. Your advice accords with my intention. That is
why I need the boat."

"Ah, that, no," said Fresnel, with determination. "I'll hold my peace,
but it's as much as my skin is worth to help you.

"You need not have seen my face. Forget that you have seen it."

"I'll do that, monsieur. But that is all I will do. I cannot put you
across the river."

"Then give me the key of the boat, and I will put myself across."

"That is the same thing. I cannot. I'll hold my tongue, but I will not--I
dare not--help you."

Andre-Louis looked a moment into that sullen, resolute face, and
understood. This man, living under the shadow of La Tour d'Azyr, dared
exercise no will that might be in conflict with the will of his dread
lord.

"Fresnel," he said, quietly, "if, as you say, the gallows claim me, the
thing that has brought me to this extremity arises out of the shooting
of Mabey. Had not Mabey been murdered there would have been no need
for me to have raised my voice as I have done. Mabey was your friend, I
think. Will you for his sake lend me the little help I need to save my
neck?"

The man kept his glance averted, and the cloud of sullenness deepened on
his face.

"I would if I dared, but I dare not." Then, quite suddenly he became
angry. It was as if in anger he sought support. "Don't you understand
that I dare not? Would you have a poor man risk his life for you? What
have you or yours ever done for me that you should ask that? You do not
cross to-night in my ferry. Understand that, monsieur, and go at once--go
before I remember that it may be dangerous even to have talked to you
and not give information. Go!"

He turned on his heel to reenter his cottage, and a wave of hopelessness
swept over Andre-Louis.

But in a second it was gone. The man must be compelled, and he had the
means. He bethought him of a pistol pressed upon him by Le Chapelier at
the moment of his leaving Rennes, a gift which at the time he had almost
disdained. True, it was not loaded, and he had no ammunition. But how
was Fresnel to know that?

He acted quickly. As with his right hand he pulled it from his pocket,
with his left he caught the ferryman by the shoulder, and swung him
round.

"What do you want now?" Fresnel demanded angrily. "Haven't I told you
that I..."

He broke off short. The muzzle of the pistol was within a foot of his
eyes.

"I want the key of the boat. That is all, Fresnel. And you can either
give it me at once, or I'll take it after I have burnt your brains. I
should regret to kill you, but I shall not hesitate. It is your life
against mine, Fresnel; and you'll not find it strange that if one of us
must die I prefer that it shall be you."

Fresnel dipped a hand into his pocket, and fetched thence a key. He held
it out to Andre-Louis in fingers that shook--more in anger than in fear.

"I yield to violence," he said, showing his teeth like a snarling dog.
"But don't imagine that it will greatly profit you."

Andre-Louis took the key. His pistol remained levelled.

"You threaten me, I think," he said. "It is not difficult to read your
threat. The moment I am gone, you will run to inform against me. You
will set the marechaussee on my heels to overtake me."

"No, no!" cried the other. He perceived his peril. He read his doom in
the cold, sinister note on which Andre-Louis addressed him, and grew
afraid. "I swear to you, monsieur, that I have no such intention."

"I think I had better make quite sure of you."

"O my God! Have mercy, monsieur!" The knave was in a palsy of terror. "I
mean you no harm--I swear to Heaven I mean you no harm. I will not say a
word. I will not..."

"I would rather depend upon your silence than your assurances.
Still, you shall have your chance. I am a fool, perhaps, but I have a
reluctance to shed blood. Go into the house, Fresnel. Go, man. I follow
you."

In the shabby main room of that dwelling, Andre-Louis halted him again.
"Get me a length of rope," he commanded, and was readily obeyed.

Five minutes later Fresnel was securely bound to a chair, and
effectively silenced by a very uncomfortable gag improvised out of a
block of wood and a muffler.

On the threshold the departing Andre-Louis turned.

"Good-night, Fresnel," he said. Fierce eyes glared mute hatred at him.
"It is unlikely that your ferry will be required again to-night. But
some one is sure to come to your relief quite early in the morning.
Until then bear your discomfort with what fortitude you can,
remembering that you have brought it entirely upon yourself by your
uncharitableness. If you spend the night considering that, the lesson
should not be lost upon you. By morning you may even have grown so
charitable as not to know who it was that tied you up. Good-night."

He stepped out and closed the door.

To unlock the ferry, and pull himself across the swift-running waters,
on which the faint moonlight was making a silver ripple, were matters
that engaged not more than six or seven minutes. He drove the nose of
the boat through the decaying sedges that fringed the southern bank
of the stream, sprang ashore, and made the little craft secure. Then,
missing the footpath in the dark, he struck out across a sodden meadow
in quest of the road.



BOOK II: THE BUSKIN



CHAPTER I. THE TRESPASSERS

Coming presently upon the Redon road, Andre-Louis, obeying instinct
rather than reason, turned his face to the south, and plodded wearily
and mechanically forward. He had no clear idea of whither he was going,
or of whither he should go. All that imported at the moment was to put
as great a distance as possible between Gavrillac and himself.

He had a vague, half-formed notion of returning to Nantes; and there, by
employing the newly found weapon of his oratory, excite the people into
sheltering him as the first victim of the persecution he had foreseen,
and against which he had sworn them to take up arms. But the idea was
one which he entertained merely as an indefinite possibility upon which
he felt no real impulse to act.

Meanwhile he chuckled at the thought of Fresnel as he had last seen him,
with his muffled face and glaring eyeballs. "For one who was anything
but a man of action," he writes, "I felt that I had acquitted myself
none so badly." It is a phrase that recurs at intervals in his sketchy
"Confessions." Constantly is he reminding you that he is a man of mental
and not physical activities, and apologizing when dire necessity
drives him into acts of violence. I suspect this insistence upon
his philosophic detachment--for which I confess he had justification
enough--to betray his besetting vanity.

With increasing fatigue came depression and self-criticism. He had
stupidly overshot his mark in insultingly denouncing M. de Lesdiguieres.
"It is much better," he says somewhere, "to be wicked than to be stupid.
Most of this world's misery is the fruit not as priests tell us of
wickedness, but of stupidity." And we know that of all stupidities he
considered anger the most deplorable. Yet he had permitted himself to
be angry with a creature like M. de Lesdiguieres--a lackey, a fribble,
a nothing, despite his potentialities for evil. He could perfectly have
discharged his self-imposed mission without arousing the vindictive
resentment of the King's Lieutenant.

He beheld himself vaguely launched upon life with the riding-suit in
which he stood, a single louis d'or and a few pieces of silver for all
capital, and a knowledge of law which had been inadequate to preserve
him from the consequences of infringing it.

He had, in addition--but these things that were to be the real salvation
of him he did not reckon--his gift of laughter, sadly repressed of late,
and the philosophic outlook and mercurial temperament which are the
stock-in-trade of your adventurer in all ages.

Meanwhile he tramped mechanically on through the night, until he felt
that he could tramp no more. He had skirted the little township of
Guichen, and now within a half-mile of Guignen, and with Gavrillac a
good seven miles behind him, his legs refused to carry him any farther.

He was midway across the vast common to the north of Guignen when
he came to a halt. He had left the road, and taken heedlessly to
the footpath that struck across the waste of indifferent pasture
interspersed with clumps of gorse. A stone's throw away on his right the
common was bordered by a thorn hedge. Beyond this loomed a tall building
which he knew to be an open barn, standing on the edge of a long stretch
of meadowland. That dark, silent shadow it may have been that had
brought him to a standstill, suggesting shelter to his subconsciousness.
A moment he hesitated; then he struck across towards a spot where a gap
in the hedge was closed by a five-barred gate. He pushed the gate open,
went through the gap, and stood now before the barn. It was as big as
a house, yet consisted of no more than a roof carried upon half a dozen
tall, brick pillars. But densely packed under that roof was a great
stack of hay that promised a warm couch on so cold a night. Stout
timbers had been built into the brick pillars, with projecting ends to
serve as ladders by which the labourer might climb to pack or withdraw
hay. With what little strength remained him, Andre-Louis climbed by one
of these and landed safely at the top, where he was forced to kneel, for
lack of room to stand upright. Arrived there, he removed his coat and
neckcloth, his sodden boots and stockings. Next he cleared a trough for
his body, and lying down in it, covered himself to the neck with the hay
he had removed. Within five minutes he was lost to all worldly cares and
soundly asleep.

When next he awakened, the sun was already high in the heavens, from
which he concluded that the morning was well advanced; and this before
he realized quite where he was or how he came there. Then to his
awakening senses came a drone of voices close at hand, to which at first
he paid little heed. He was deliciously refreshed, luxuriously drowsy
and luxuriously warm.

But as consciousness and memory grew more full, he raised his head clear
of the hay that he might free both ears to listen, his pulses faintly
quickened by the nascent fear that those voices might bode him no good.
Then he caught the reassuring accents of a woman, musical and silvery,
though laden with alarm.

"Ah, mon Dieu, Leandre, let us separate at once. If it should be my
father..."

And upon this a man's voice broke in, calm and reassuring:

"No, no, Climene; you are mistaken. There is no one coming. We are quite
safe. Why do you start at shadows?"

"Ah, Leandre, if he should find us here together! I tremble at the very
thought."

More was not needed to reassure Andre-Louis. He had overheard enough to
know that this was but the case of a pair of lovers who, with less to
fear of life, were yet--after the manner of their kind--more timid of
heart than he. Curiosity drew him from his warm trough to the edge of
the hay. Lying prone, he advanced his head and peered down.

In the space of cropped meadow between the barn and the hedge stood a
man and a woman, both young. The man was a well-set-up, comely fellow,
with a fine head of chestnut hair tied in a queue by a broad bow of
black satin. He was dressed with certain tawdry attempts at ostentatious
embellishments, which did not prepossess one at first glance in his
favour. His coat of a fashionable cut was of faded plum-coloured velvet
edged with silver lace, whose glory had long since departed. He affected
ruffles, but for want of starch they hung like weeping willows over
hands that were fine and delicate. His breeches were of plain black
cloth, and his black stockings were of cotton--matters entirely out of
harmony with his magnificent coat. His shoes, stout and serviceable,
were decked with buckles of cheap, lack-lustre paste. But for his
engaging and ingenuous countenance, Andre-Louis must have set him down
as a knight of that order which lives dishonestly by its wits. As it
was, he suspended judgment whilst pushing investigation further by a
study of the girl. At the outset, be it confessed that it was a study
that attracted him prodigiously. And this notwithstanding the fact that,
bookish and studious as were his ways, and in despite of his years, it
was far from his habit to waste consideration on femininity.

The child--she was no more than that, perhaps twenty at the
most--possessed, in addition to the allurements of face and shape that
went very near perfection, a sparkling vivacity and a grace of movement
the like of which Andre-Louis did not remember ever before to have
beheld assembled in one person. And her voice too--that musical, silvery
voice that had awakened him--possessed in its exquisite modulations an
allurement of its own that must have been irresistible, he thought, in
the ugliest of her sex. She wore a hooded mantle of green cloth, and the
hood being thrown back, her dainty head was all revealed to him. There
were glints of gold struck by the morning sun from her light nut-brown
hair that hung in a cluster of curls about her oval face. Her complexion
was of a delicacy that he could compare only with a rose petal. He could
not at that distance discern the colour of her eyes, but he guessed them
blue, as he admired the sparkle of them under the fine, dark line of
eyebrows.

He could not have told you why, but he was conscious that it aggrieved
him to find her so intimate with this pretty young fellow, who was
partly clad, as it appeared, in the cast-offs of a nobleman. He could
not guess her station, but the speech that reached him was cultured in
tone and word. He strained to listen.

"I shall know no peace, Leandre, until we are safely wedded," she was
saying. "Not until then shall I count myself beyond his reach. And yet
if we marry without his consent, we but make trouble for ourselves, and
of gaining his consent I almost despair."

Evidently, thought Andre-Louis, her father was a man of sense, who saw
through the shabby finery of M. Leandre, and was not to be dazzled by
cheap paste buckles.

"My dear Climene," the young man was answering her, standing squarely
before her, and holding both her hands, "you are wrong to despond. If I
do not reveal to you all the stratagem that I have prepared to win the
consent of your unnatural parent, it is because I am loath to rob you of
the pleasure of the surprise that is in store. But place your faith in
me, and in that ingenious friend of whom I have spoken, and who should
be here at any moment."

The stilted ass! Had he learnt that speech by heart in advance, or was
he by nature a pedantic idiot who expressed himself in this set and
formal manner? How came so sweet a blossom to waste her perfumes on such
a prig? And what a ridiculous name the creature owned!

Thus Andre-Louis to himself from his observatory. Meanwhile, she was
speaking.

"That is what my heart desires, Leandre, but I am beset by fears lest
your stratagem should be too late. I am to marry this horrible Marquis
of Sbrufadelli this very day. He arrives by noon. He comes to sign the
contract--to make me the Marchioness of Sbrufadelli. Oh!" It was a cry of
pain from that tender young heart. "The very name burns my lips. If it
were mine I could never utter it--never! The man is so detestable. Save
me, Leandre. Save me! You are my only hope."

Andre-Louis was conscious of a pang of disappointment. She failed to
soar to the heights he had expected of her. She was evidently infected
by the stilted manner of her ridiculous lover. There was an atrocious
lack of sincerity about her words. They touched his mind, but left his
heart unmoved. Perhaps this was because of his antipathy to M. Leandre
and to the issue involved.

So her father was marrying her to a marquis! That implied birth on
her side. And yet she was content to pair off with this dull young
adventurer in the tarnished lace! It was, he supposed, the sort of thing
to be expected of a sex that all philosophy had taught him to regard as
the maddest part of a mad species.

"It shall never be!" M. Leandre was storming passionately. "Never! I
swear it!" And he shook his puny fist at the blue vault of heaven--Ajax
defying Jupiter. "Ah, but here comes our subtle friend..." (Andre-Louis
did not catch the name, M. Leandre having at that moment turned to face
the gap in the hedge.) "He will bring us news, I know."

Andre-Louis looked also in the direction of the gap. Through it emerged
a lean, slight man in a rusty cloak and a three-cornered hat worn well
down over his nose so as to shade his face. And when presently he
doffed this hat and made a sweeping bow to the young lovers, Andre-Louis
confessed to himself that had he been cursed with such a hangdog
countenance he would have worn his hat in precisely such a manner, so
as to conceal as much of it as possible. If M. Leandre appeared to
be wearing, in part at least, the cast-offs of nobleman, the newcomer
appeared to be wearing the cast-offs of M. Leandre. Yet despite his vile
clothes and viler face, with its three days' growth of beard, the
fellow carried himself with a certain air; he positively strutted as he
advanced, and he made a leg in a manner that was courtly and practised.

"Monsieur," said he, with the air of a conspirator, "the time for action
has arrived, and so has the Marquis... That is why."

The young lovers sprang apart in consternation; Climene with clasped
hands, parted lips, and a bosom that raced distractingly under its white
fichu-menteur; M. Leandre agape, the very picture of foolishness and
dismay.

Meanwhile the newcomer rattled on. "I was at the inn an hour ago when
he descended there, and I studied him attentively whilst he was at
breakfast. Having done so, not a single doubt remains me of our success.
As for what he looks like, I could entertain you at length upon the
fashion in which nature has designed his gross fatuity. But that is no
matter. We are concerned with what he is, with the wit of him. And I
tell you confidently that I find him so dull and stupid that you may be
confident he will tumble headlong into each and all of the traps I have
so cunningly prepared for him."

"Tell me, tell me! Speak!" Climene implored him, holding out her hands
in a supplication no man of sensibility could have resisted. And then
on the instant she caught her breath on a faint scream. "My father!" she
exclaimed, turning distractedly from one to the other of those two. "He
is coming! We are lost!"

"You must fly, Climene!" said M. Leandre.

"Too late!" she sobbed. "Too late! He is here."

"Calm, mademoiselle, calm!" the subtle friend was urging her. "Keep calm
and trust to me. I promise you that all shall be well."

"Oh!" cried M. Leandre, limply. "Say what you will, my friend, this is
ruin--the end of all our hopes. Your wits will never extricate us from
this. Never!"

Through the gap strode now an enormous man with an inflamed moon
face and a great nose, decently dressed after the fashion of a solid
bourgeois. There was no mistaking his anger, but the expression that it
found was an amazement to Andre-Louis.

"Leandre, you're an imbecile! Too much phlegm, too much phlegm! Your
words wouldn't convince a ploughboy! Have you considered what they mean
at all? Thus," he cried, and casting his round hat from him in a broad
gesture, he took his stand at M. Leandre's side, and repeated the very
words that Leandre had lately uttered, what time the three observed him
coolly and attentively.

"Oh, say what you will, my friend, this is ruin--the end of all our
hopes. Your wits will never extricate us from this. Never!"

A frenzy of despair vibrated in his accents. He swung again to face M.
Leandre. "Thus," he bade him contemptuously. "Let the passion of your
hopelessness express itself in your voice. Consider that you are not
asking Scaramouche here whether he has put a patch in your breeches. You
are a despairing lover expressing..."

He checked abruptly, startled. Andre-Louis, suddenly realizing what was
afoot, and how duped he had been, had loosed his laughter. The sound
of it pealing and booming uncannily under the great roof that so
immediately confined him was startling to those below.

The fat man was the first to recover, and he announced it after his own
fashion in one of the ready sarcasms in which he habitually dealt.

"Hark!" he cried, "the very gods laugh at you, Leandre." Then he
addressed the roof of the barn and its invisible tenant. "Hi! You
there!"

Andre-Louis revealed himself by a further protrusion of his tousled
head.

"Good-morning," said he, pleasantly. Rising now on his knees, his
horizon was suddenly extended to include the broad common beyond the
hedge. He beheld there an enormous and very battered travelling chaise,
a cart piled up with timbers partly visible under the sheet of oiled
canvas that covered them, and a sort of house on wheels equipped with
a tin chimney, from which the smoke was slowly curling. Three heavy
Flemish horses and a couple of donkeys--all of them hobbled--were
contentedly cropping the grass in the neighbourhood of these vehicles.
These, had he perceived them sooner, must have given him the clue to the
queer scene that had been played under his eyes. Beyond the hedge other
figures were moving. Three at that moment came crowding into the
gap--a saucy-faced girl with a tip-tilted nose, whom he supposed to be
Columbine, the soubrette; a lean, active youngster, who must be the
lackey Harlequin; and another rather loutish youth who might be a zany
or an apothecary.

All this he took in at a comprehensive glance that consumed no more
time than it had taken him to say good-morning. To that good-morning
Pantaloon replied in a bellow:

"What the devil are you doing up there?"

"Precisely the same thing that you are doing down there," was the
answer. "I am trespassing."

"Eh?" said Pantaloon, and looked at his companions, some of the
assurance beaten out of his big red face. Although the thing was one
that they did habitually, to hear it called by its proper name was
disconcerting.

"Whose land is this?" he asked, with diminishing assurance.

Andre-Louis answered, whilst drawing on his stockings. "I believe it to
be the property of the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr."

"That's a high-sounding name. Is the gentleman severe?"

"The gentleman," said Andre-Louis, "is the devil; or rather, I should
prefer to say upon reflection, that the devil is a gentleman by
comparison."

"And yet," interposed the villainous-looking fellow who played
Scaramouche, "by your own confessing you don't hesitate, yourself, to
trespass upon his property."

"Ah, but then, you see, I am a lawyer. And lawyers are notoriously
unable to observe the law, just as actors are notoriously unable to act.
Moreover, sir, Nature imposes her limits upon us, and Nature conquers
respect for law as she conquers all else. Nature conquered me last night
when I had got as far as this. And so I slept here without regard for
the very high and puissant Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr. At the same time,
M. Scaramouche, you'll observe that I did not flaunt my trespass quite
as openly as you and your companions."

Having donned his boots, Andre-Louis came nimbly to the ground in his
shirt-sleeves, his riding-coat over his arm. As he stood there to don
it, the little cunning eyes of the heavy father conned him in detail.
Observing that his clothes, if plain, were of a good fashion, that his
shirt was of fine cambric, and that he expressed himself like a man
of culture, such as he claimed to be, M. Pantaloon was disposed to be
civil.

"I am very grateful to you for the warning, sir..." he was beginning.

"Act upon it, my friend. The gardes-champetres of M. d'Azyr have orders
to fire on trespassers. Imitate me, and decamp."

They followed him upon the instant through that gap in the hedge to the
encampment on the common. There Andre-Louis took his leave of them.
But as he was turning away he perceived a young man of the company
performing his morning toilet at a bucket placed upon one of the wooden
steps at the tail of the house on wheels. A moment he hesitated, then he
turned frankly to M. Pantaloon, who was still at his elbow.

"If it were not unconscionable to encroach so far upon your hospitality,
monsieur," said he, "I would beg leave to imitate that very excellent
young gentleman before I leave you."

"But, my dear sir!" Good-nature oozed out of every pore of the fat
body of the master player. "It is nothing at all. But, by all means.
Rhodomont will provide what you require. He is the dandy of the company
in real life, though a fire-eater on the stage. Hi, Rhodomont!"

The young ablutionist straightened his long body from the right angle in
which it had been bent over the bucket, and looked out through a foam
of soapsuds. Pantaloon issued an order, and Rhodomont, who was indeed as
gentle and amiable off the stage as he was formidable and terrible upon
it, made the stranger free of the bucket in the friendliest manner.

So Andre-Louis once more removed his neckcloth and his coat, and rolled
up the sleeves of his fine shirt, whilst Rhodomont procured him soap,
a towel, and presently a broken comb, and even a greasy hair-ribbon,
in case the gentleman should have lost his own. This last Andre-Louis
declined, but the comb he gratefully accepted, and having presently
washed himself clean, stood, with the towel flung over his left
shoulder, restoring order to his dishevelled locks before a broken piece
of mirror affixed to the door of the travelling house.

He was standing thus, the gentle Rhodomont babbled aimlessly at his
side, when his ears caught the sound of hooves. He looked over his
shoulder carelessly, and then stood frozen, with uplifted comb and
loosened mouth. Away across the common, on the road that bordered it, he
beheld a party of seven horsemen in the blue coats with red facings of
the marechaussee.

Not for a moment did he doubt what was the quarry of this prowling
gendarmerie. It was as if the chill shadow of the gallows had fallen
suddenly upon him.

And then the troop halted, abreast with them, and the sergeant leading
it sent his bawling voice across the common.

"Hi, there! Hi!" His tone rang with menace.

Every member of the company--and there were some twelve in all--stood at
gaze. Pantaloon advanced a step or two, stalking, his head thrown back,
his manner that of a King's Lieutenant.

"Now, what the devil's this?" quoth he, but whether of Fate or Heaven or
the sergeant, was not clear.

There was a brief colloquy among the horsemen, then they came trotting
across the common straight towards the players' encampment.

Andre-Louis had remained standing at the tail of the travelling
house. He was still passing the comb through his straggling hair,
but mechanically and unconsciously. His mind was all intent upon the
advancing troop, his wits alert and gathered together for a leap in
whatever direction should be indicated.

Still in the distance, but evidently impatient, the sergeant bawled a
question.

"Who gave you leave to encamp here?"

It was a question that reassured Andre-Louis not at all. He was not
deceived by it into supposing or even hoping that the business of these
men was merely to round up vagrants and trespassers. That was no part of
their real duty; it was something done in passing--done, perhaps, in the
hope of levying a tax of their own. It was very long odds that they
were from Rennes, and that their real business was the hunting down of
a young lawyer charged with sedition. Meanwhile Pantaloon was shouting
back.

"Who gave us leave, do you say? What leave? This is communal land, free
to all."

The sergeant laughed unpleasantly, and came on, his troop following.

"There is," said a voice at Pantaloon's elbow, "no such thing as
communal land in the proper sense in all M. de La Tour d'Azyr's vast
domain. This is a terre censive, and his bailiffs collect his dues from
all who send their beasts to graze here."

Pantaloon turned to behold at his side Andre-Louis in his shirt-sleeves,
and without a neckcloth, the towel still trailing over his left
shoulder, a comb in his hand, his hair half dressed.

"God of God!" swore Pantaloon. "But it is an ogre, this Marquis de La
Tour d'Azyr!"

"I have told you already what I think of him," said Andre-Louis. "As for
these fellows you had better let me deal with them. I have experience
of their kind." And without waiting for Pantaloon's consent, Andre-Louis
stepped forward to meet the advancing men of the marechaussee. He had
realized that here boldness alone could save him.

When a moment later the sergeant pulled up his horse alongside of this
half-dressed young man, Andre-Louis combed his hair what time he looked
up with a half smile, intended to be friendly, ingenuous, and disarming.

In spite of it the sergeant hailed him gruffly: "Are you the leader of
this troop of vagabonds?"

"Yes... that is to say, my father, there, is really the leader." And he
jerked a thumb in the direction of M. Pantaloon, who stood at gaze out
of earshot in the background. "What is your pleasure, captain?"

"My pleasure is to tell you that you are very likely to be gaoled for
this, all the pack of you." His voice was loud and bullying. It carried
across the common to the ears of every member of the company, and
brought them all to stricken attention where they stood. The lot of
strolling players was hard enough without the addition of gaolings.

"But how so, my captain? This is communal land free to all."

"It is nothing of the kind."

"Where are the fences?" quoth Andre-Louis, waving the hand that held the
comb, as if to indicate the openness of the place.

"Fences!" snorted the sergeant. "What have fences to do with the matter?
This is terre censive. There is no grazing here save by payment of dues
to the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr."

"But we are not grazing," quoth the innocent Andre-Louis.

"To the devil with you, zany! You are not grazing! But your beasts are
grazing!"

"They eat so little," Andre-Louis apologized, and again essayed his
ingratiating smile.

The sergeant grew more terrible than ever. "That is not the point. The
point is that you are committing what amounts to a theft, and there's
the gaol for thieves."

"Technically, I suppose you are right," sighed Andre-Louis, and fell to
combing his hair again, still looking up into the sergeant's face. "But
we have sinned in ignorance. We are grateful to you for the warning."
He passed the comb into his left hand, and with his right fumbled in
his breeches' pocket, whence there came a faint jingle of coins. "We are
desolated to have brought you out of your way. Perhaps for their trouble
your men would honour us by stopping at the next inn to drink the health
of... of this M. de La Tour d' Azyr, or any other health that they think
proper."

Some of the clouds lifted from the sergeant's brow. But not yet all.

"Well, well," said he, gruffly. "But you must decamp, you understand."
He leaned from the saddle to bring his recipient hand to a convenient
distance. Andre-Louis placed in it a three-livre piece.

"In half an hour," said Andre-Louis.

"Why in half an hour? Why not at once?"

"Oh, but time to break our fast."

They looked at each other. The sergeant next considered the broad piece
of silver in his palm. Then at last his features relaxed from their
sternness.

"After all," said he, "it is none of our business to play the tipstaves
for M. de La Tour d'Azyr. We are of the marechaussee from Rennes."
Andre-Louis' eyelids played him false by flickering. "But if you linger,
look out for the gardes-champetres of the Marquis. You'll find them not
at all accommodating. Well, well--a good appetite to you, monsieur," said
he, in valediction.

"A pleasant ride, my captain," answered Andre-Louis.

The sergeant wheeled his horse about, his troop wheeled with him. They
were starting off, when he reined up again.

"You, monsieur!" he called over his shoulder. In a bound Andre-Louis was
beside his stirrup. "We are in quest of a scoundrel named Andre-Louis
Moreau, from Gavrillac, a fugitive from justice wanted for the gallows
on a matter of sedition. You've seen nothing, I suppose, of a man whose
movements seemed to you suspicious?"

"Indeed, we have," said Andre-Louis, very boldly, his face eager with
consciousness of the ability to oblige.

"You have?" cried the sergeant, in a ringing voice. "Where? When?"

"Yesterday evening in the neighbourhood of Guignen..."

"Yes, yes," the sergeant felt himself hot upon the trail.

"There was a fellow who seemed very fearful of being recognized ... a
man of fifty or thereabouts..."

"Fifty!" cried the sergeant, and his face fell. "Bah! This man of ours
is no older than yourself, a thin wisp of a fellow of about your own
height and of black hair, just like your own, by the description. Keep a
lookout on your travels, master player. The King's Lieutenant in Rennes
has sent us word this morning that he will pay ten louis to any one
giving information that will lead to this scoundrel's arrest. So there's
ten louis to be earned by keeping your eyes open, and sending word to
the nearest justices. It would be a fine windfall for you, that."

"A fine windfall, indeed, captain," answered Andre-Louis, laughing.

But the sergeant had touched his horse with the spur, and was already
trotting off in the wake of his men. Andre-Louis continued to laugh,
quite silently, as he sometimes did when the humour of a jest was
peculiarly keen.

Then he turned slowly about, and came back towards Pantaloon and the
rest of the company, who were now all grouped together, at gaze.

Pantaloon advanced to meet him with both hands out-held. For a moment
Andre-Louis thought he was about to be embraced.

"We hail you our saviour!" the big man declaimed. "Already the shadow
of the gaol was creeping over us, chilling us to the very marrow. For
though we be poor, yet are we all honest folk and not one of us has ever
suffered the indignity of prison. Nor is there one of us would survive
it. But for you, my friend, it might have happened. What magic did you
work?"

"The magic that is to be worked in France with a King's portrait. The
French are a very loyal nation, as you will have observed. They love
their King--and his portrait even better than himself, especially when it
is wrought in gold. But even in silver it is respected. The sergeant
was so overcome by the sight of that noble visage--on a three-livre
piece--that his anger vanished, and he has gone his ways leaving us to
depart in peace."

"Ah, true! He said we must decamp. About it, my lads! Come, come..."

"But not until after breakfast," said Andre-Louis. "A half-hour for
breakfast was conceded us by that loyal fellow, so deeply was he
touched. True, he spoke of possible gardes-champetres. But he knows as
well as I do that they are not seriously to be feared, and that if
they came, again the King's portrait--wrought in copper this time--would
produce the same melting effect upon them. So, my dear M. Pantaloon,
break your fast at your ease. I can smell your cooking from here,
and from the smell I argue that there is no need to wish you a good
appetite."

"My friend, my saviour!" Pantaloon flung a great arm about the young
man's shoulders. "You shall stay to breakfast with us."

"I confess to a hope that you would ask me," said Andre-Louis.



CHAPTER II. THE SERVICE OF THESPIS

They were, thought Andre-Louis, as he sat down to breakfast with them
behind the itinerant house, in the bright sunshine that tempered the
cold breath of that November morning, an odd and yet an attractive crew.
An air of gaiety pervaded them. They affected to have no cares, and made
merry over the trials and tribulations of their nomadic life. They
were curiously, yet amiably, artificial; histrionic in their manner
of discharging the most commonplace of functions; exaggerated in their
gestures; stilted and affected in their speech. They seemed, indeed, to
belong to a world apart, a world of unreality which became real only
on the planks of their stage, in the glare of their footlights.
Good-fellowship bound them one to another; and Andre-Louis reflected
cynically that this harmony amongst them might be the cause of their
apparent unreality. In the real world, greedy striving and the emulation
of acquisitiveness preclude such amity as was present here.

They numbered exactly eleven, three women and eight men; and they
addressed each other by their stage names: names which denoted their
several types, and never--or only very slightly--varied, no matter what
might be the play that they performed.

"We are," Pantaloon informed him, "one of those few remaining staunch
bands of real players, who uphold the traditions of the old Italian
Commedia dell' Arte. Not for us to vex our memories and stultify our
wit with the stilted phrases that are the fruit of a wretched author's
lucubrations. Each of us is in detail his own author in a measure as he
develops the part assigned to him. We are improvisers--improvisers of the
old and noble Italian school."

"I had guessed as much," said Andre-Louis, "when I discovered you
rehearsing your improvisations."

Pantaloon frowned.

"I have observed, young sir, that your humour inclines to the pungent,
not to say the acrid. It is very well. It is I suppose, the humour that
should go with such a countenance. But it may lead you astray, as
in this instance. That rehearsal--a most unusual thing with us--was
necessitated by the histrionic rawness of our Leandre. We are seeking
to inculcate into him by training an art with which Nature neglected to
endow him against his present needs. Should he continue to fail in doing
justice to our schooling... But we will not disturb our present harmony
with the unpleasant anticipation of misfortunes which we still hope
to avert. We love our Leandre, for all his faults. Let me make you
acquainted with our company."

And he proceeded to introduction in detail. He pointed out the long and
amiable Rhodomont, whom Andre-Louis already knew.

"His length of limb and hooked nose were his superficial qualifications
to play roaring captains," Pantaloon explained. "His lungs have
justified our choice. You should hear him roar. At first we called him
Spavento or Epouvapte. But that was unworthy of so great an artist. Not
since the superb Mondor amazed the world has so thrasonical a bully been
seen upon the stage. So we conferred upon him the name of Rhodomont
that Mondor made famous; and I give you my word, as an actor and a
gentleman--for I am a gentleman, monsieur, or was--that he has justified
us."

His little eyes beamed in his great swollen face as he turned their gaze
upon the object of his encomium. The terrible Rhodomont, confused by so
much praise, blushed like a schoolgirl as he met the solemn scrutiny of
Andre-Louis.

"Then here we have Scaramouche, whom also you already know. Sometimes he
is Scapin and sometimes Coviello, but in the main Scaramouche, to which
let me tell you he is best suited--sometimes too well suited, I think.
For he is Scaramouche not only on the stage, but also in the world. He
has a gift of sly intrigue, an art of setting folk by the ears, combined
with an impudent aggressiveness upon occasion when he considers himself
safe from reprisals. He is Scaramouche, the little skirmisher, to the
very life. I could say more. But I am by disposition charitable and
loving to all mankind."

"As the priest said when he kissed the serving-wench," snarled
Scaramouche, and went on eating.

"His humour, like your own, you will observe, is acrid," said Pantaloon.
He passed on. "Then that rascal with the lumpy nose and the grinning
bucolic countenance is, of course, Pierrot. Could he be aught else?"

"I could play lovers a deal better," said the rustic cherub.

"That is the delusion proper to Pierrot," said Pantaloon,
contemptuously. "This heavy, beetle-browed ruffian, who has grown old in
sin, and whose appetite increases with his years, is Polichinelle. Each
one, as you perceive, is designed by Nature for the part he plays. This
nimble, freckled jackanapes is Harlequin; not your spangled Harlequin
into which modern degeneracy has debased that first-born of Momus,
but the genuine original zany of the Commedia, ragged and patched, an
impudent, cowardly, blackguardly clown."

"Each one of us, as you perceive," said Harlequin, mimicking the leader
of the troupe, "is designed by Nature for the part he plays."

"Physically, my friend, physically only, else we should not have so much
trouble in teaching this beautiful Leandre to become a lover. Then
we have Pasquariel here, who is sometimes an apothecary, sometimes a
notary, sometimes a lackey--an amiable, accommodating fellow. He is also
an excellent cook, being a child of Italy, that land of gluttons. And
finally, you have myself, who as the father of the company very properly
play as Pantaloon the roles of father. Sometimes, it is true, I am a
deluded husband, and sometimes an ignorant, self-sufficient doctor.
But it is rarely that I find it necessary to call myself other than
Pantaloon. For the rest, I am the only one who has a name--a real name.
It is Binet, monsieur.

"And now for the ladies... First in order of seniority we have Madame
there." He waved one of his great hands towards a buxom, smiling blonde
of five-and-forty, who was seated on the lowest of the steps of the
travelling house. "She is our Duegne, or Mother, or Nurse, as the case
requires. She is known quite simply and royally as Madame. If she ever
had a name in the world, she has long since forgotten it, which is
perhaps as well. Then we have this pert jade with the tip-tilted nose
and the wide mouth, who is of course our soubrette Columbine, and
lastly, my daughter Climene, an amoureuse of talents not to be matched
outside the Comedie Francaise, of which she has the bad taste to aspire
to become a member."

The lovely Climene--and lovely indeed she was--tossed her nut-brown
curls and laughed as she looked across at Andre-Louis. Her eyes, he had
perceived by now, were not blue, but hazel.

"Do not believe him, monsieur. Here I am queen, and I prefer to be queen
here rather than a slave in Paris."

"Mademoiselle," said Andre-Louis, quite solemnly, "will be queen
wherever she condescends to reign."

Her only answer was a timid--timid and yet alluring--glance from under
fluttering lids. Meanwhile her father was bawling at the comely young
man who played lovers--"You hear, Leandre! That is the sort of speech you
should practise."

Leandre raised languid eyebrows. "That?" quoth he, and shrugged. "The
merest commonplace."

Andre-Louis laughed approval. "M. Leandre is of a readier wit than you
concede. There is subtlety in pronouncing it a commonplace to call Mlle.
Climene a queen."

Some laughed, M. Binet amongst them, with good-humoured mockery.

"You think he has the wit to mean it thus? Bah! His subtleties are all
unconscious."

The conversation becoming general, Andre-Louis soon learnt what yet
there was to learn of this strolling band. They were on their way to
Guichen, where they hoped to prosper at the fair that was to open on
Monday next. They would make their triumphal entry into the town at
noon, and setting up their stage in the old market, they would give
their first performance that same Saturday night, in a new canevas--or
scenario--of M. Binet's own, which should set the rustics gaping. And
then M. Binet fetched a sigh, and addressed himself to the elderly,
swarthy, beetle-browed Polichinelle, who sat on his left.

"But we shall miss Felicien," said he. "Indeed, I do not know what we
shall do without him."

"Oh, we shall contrive," said Polichinelle, with his mouth full.

"So you always say, whatever happens, knowing that in any case the
contriving will not fall upon yourself."

"He should not be difficult to replace," said Harlequin.

"True, if we were in a civilized land. But where among the rustics
of Brittany are we to find a fellow of even his poor parts?" M. Binet
turned to Andre-Louis. "He was our property-man, our machinist, our
stage-carpenter, our man of affairs, and occasionally he acted."

"The part of Figaro, I presume," said Andre-Louis, which elicited a
laugh.

"So you are acquainted with Beaumarchais!" Binet eyed the young man with
fresh interest.

"He is tolerably well known, I think."

"In Paris, to be sure. But I had not dreamt his fame had reached the
wilds of Brittany."

"But then I was some years in Paris--at the Lycee of Louis le Grand. It
was there I made acquaintance with his work."

"A dangerous man," said Polichinelle, sententiously.

"Indeed, and you are right," Pantaloon agreed. "Clever--I do not deny him
that, although myself I find little use for authors. But of a sinister
cleverness responsible for the dissemination of many of these subversive
new ideas. I think such writers should be suppressed."

"M. de La Tour d'Azyr would probably agree with you--the gentleman who
by the simple exertion of his will turns this communal land into his own
property." And Andre-Louis drained his cup, which had been filled with
the poor vin gris that was the players' drink.

It was a remark that might have precipitated an argument had it not also
reminded M. Binet of the terms on which they were encamped there, and
of the fact that the half-hour was more than past. In a moment he was on
his feet, leaping up with an agility surprising in so corpulent a man,
issuing his commands like a marshal on a field of battle.

"Come, come, my lads! Are we to sit guzzling here all day? Time flees,
and there's a deal to be done if we are to make our entry into Guichen
at noon. Go, get you dressed. We strike camp in twenty minutes. Bestir,
ladies! To your chaise, and see that you contrive to look your best.
Soon the eyes of Guichen will be upon you, and the condition of your
interior to-morrow will depend upon the impression made by your exterior
to-day. Away! Away!"

The implicit obedience this autocrat commanded set them in a whirl.
Baskets and boxes were dragged forth to receive the platters and remains
of their meagre feast. In an instant the ground was cleared, and the
three ladies had taken their departure to the chaise, which was set
apart for their use. The men were already climbing into the house on
wheels, when Binet turned to Andre-Louis.

"We part here, sir," said he, dramatically, "the richer by your
acquaintance; your debtors and your friends." He put forth his podgy
hand.

Slowly Andre-Louis took it in his own. He had been thinking swiftly in
the last few moments. And remembering the safety he had found from his
pursuers in the bosom of this company, it occurred to him that nowhere
could he be better hidden for the present, until the quest for him
should have died down.

"Sir," he said, "the indebtedness is on my side. It is not every day
one has the felicity to sit down with so illustrious and engaging a
company."

Binet's little eyes peered suspiciously at the young man, in quest of
irony. He found nothing but candour and simple good faith.

"I part from you reluctantly," Andre-Louis continued. "The more
reluctantly since I do not perceive the absolute necessity for parting."

"How?" quoth Binet, frowning, and slowly withdrawing the hand which the
other had already retained rather longer than was necessary.

"Thus," Andre-Louis explained himself. "You may set me down as a sort
of knight of rueful countenance in quest of adventure, with no fixed
purpose in life at present. You will not marvel that what I have seen of
yourself and your distinguished troupe should inspire me to desire your
better acquaintance. On your side you tell me that you are in need of
some one to replace your Figaro--your Felicien, I think you called him.
Whilst it may be presumptuous of me to hope that I could discharge an
office so varied and so onerous..."

"You are indulging that acrid humour of yours again, my friend," Binet
interrupted him. "Excepting for that," he added, slowly, meditatively,
his little eyes screwed up, "we might discuss this proposal that you
seem to be making."

"Alas! we can except nothing. If you take me, you take me as I am. What
else is possible? As for this humour--such as it is--which you decry, you
might turn it to profitable account."

"How so?"

"In several ways. I might, for instance, teach Leandre to make love."

Pantaloon burst into laughter. "You do not lack confidence in your
powers. Modesty does not afflict you."

"Therefore I evince the first quality necessary in an actor."

"Can you act?"

"Upon occasion, I think," said Andre-Louis, his thoughts upon his
performance at Rennes and Nantes, and wondering when in all his
histrionic career Pantaloon's improvisations had so rent the heart of
mobs.

M. Binet was musing. "Do you know much of the theatre?" quoth he.

"Everything," said Andre-Louis.

"I said that modesty will prove no obstacle in your career."

"But consider. I know the work of Beaumarchais, Eglantine, Mercier,
Chenier, and many others of our contemporaries. Then I have read, of
course, Moliere, Racine, Corneille, besides many other lesser French
writers. Of foreign authors, I am intimate with the works of Gozzi,
Goldoni, Guarini, Bibbiena, Machiavelli, Secchi, Tasso, Ariosto,
and Fedini. Whilst of those of antiquity I know most of the work of
Euripides, Aristophanes, Terence, Plautus..."

"Enough!" roared Pantaloon.

"I am not nearly through with my list," said Andre-Louis.

"You may keep the rest for another day. In Heaven's name, what can have
induced you to read so many dramatic authors?"

"In my humble way I am a student of man, and some years ago I made the
discovery that he is most intimately to be studied in the reflections of
him provided for the theatre."

"That is a very original and profound discovery," said Pantaloon, quite
seriously. "It had never occurred to me. Yet is it true. Sir, it is a
truth that dignifies our art. You are a man of parts, that is clear to
me. It has been clear since first I met you. I can read a man. I knew
you from the moment that you said 'good-morning.' Tell me, now: Do
you think you could assist me upon occasion in the preparation of a
scenario? My mind, fully engaged as it is with a thousand details of
organization, is not always as clear as I would have it for such work.
Could you assist me there, do you think?"

"I am quite sure I could."

"Hum, yes. I was sure you would be. The other duties that were
Felicien's you would soon learn. Well, well, if you are willing, you may
come along with us. You'd want some salary, I suppose?"

"If it is usual," said Andre-Louis.

"What should you say to ten livres a month?"

"I should say that it isn't exactly the riches of Peru."

"I might go as far as fifteen," said Binet, reluctantly. "But times are
bad."

"I'll make them better for you."

"I've no doubt you believe it. Then we understand each other?"

"Perfectly," said Andre-Louis, dryly, and was thus committed to the
service of Thespis.



CHAPTER II. THE COMIC MUSE

The company's entrance into the township of Guichen, if not exactly
triumphal, as Binet had expressed the desire that it should be, was at
least sufficiently startling and cacophonous to set the rustics gaping.
To them these fantastic creatures appeared--as indeed they were--beings
from another world.

First went the great travelling chaise, creaking and groaning on its
way, drawn by two of the Flemish horses. It was Pantaloon who drove it,
an obese and massive Pantaloon in a tight-fitting suit of scarlet under
a long brown bed-gown, his countenance adorned by a colossal cardboard
nose. Beside him on the box sat Pierrot in a white smock, with sleeves
that completely covered his hands, loose white trousers, and a black
skull-cap. He had whitened his face with flour, and he made hideous
noises with a trumpet.

On the roof of the coach were assembled Polichinelle, Scaramouche,
Harlequin, and Pasquariel. Polichinelle in black and white, his doublet
cut in the fashion of a century ago, with humps before and behind, a
white frill round his neck and a black mask upon the upper half of his
face, stood in the middle, his feet planted wide to steady him, solemnly
and viciously banging a big drum. The other three were seated each at
one of the corners of the roof, their legs dangling over. Scaramouche,
all in black in the Spanish fashion of the seventeenth century, his
face adorned with a pair of mostachios, jangled a guitar discordantly.
Harlequin, ragged and patched in every colour of the rainbow, with his
leather girdle and sword of lath, the upper half of his face smeared
in soot, clashed a pair of cymbals intermittently. Pasquariel, as an
apothecary in skull-cap and white apron, excited the hilarity of the
onlookers by his enormous tin clyster, which emitted when pumped a
dolorous squeak.

Within the chaise itself, but showing themselves freely at the windows,
and exchanging quips with the townsfolk, sat the three ladies of the
company. Climene, the amoureuse, beautifully gowned in flowered satin,
her own clustering ringlets concealed under a pumpkin-shaped wig, looked
so much the lady of fashion that you might have wondered what she was
doing in that fantastic rabble. Madame, as the mother, was also dressed
with splendour, but exaggerated to achieve the ridiculous. Her headdress
was a monstrous structure adorned with flowers, and superimposed by
little ostrich plumes. Columbine sat facing them, her back to the
horses, falsely demure, in milkmaid bonnet of white muslin, and a
striped gown of green and blue.

The marvel was that the old chaise, which in its halcyon days may have
served to carry some dignitary of the Church, did not founder instead of
merely groaning under that excessive and ribald load.

Next came the house on wheels, led by the long, lean Rhodomont, who
had daubed his face red, and increased the terror of it by a pair of
formidable mostachios. He was in long thigh-boots and leather jerkin,
trailing an enormous sword from a crimson baldrick. He wore a broad
felt hat with a draggled feather, and as he advanced he raised his great
voice and roared out defiance, and threats of blood-curdling butchery
to be performed upon all and sundry. On the roof of this vehicle sat
Leandre alone. He was in blue satin, with ruffles, small sword,
powdered hair, patches and spy-glass, and red-heeled shoes: the
complete courtier, looking very handsome. The women of Guichen ogled
him coquettishly. He took the ogling as a proper tribute to his personal
endowments, and returned it with interest. Like Climene, he looked out
of place amid the bandits who composed the remainder of the company.

Bringing up the rear came Andre-Louis leading the two donkeys that
dragged the property-cart. He had insisted upon assuming a false nose,
representing as for embellishment that which he intended for disguise.
For the rest, he had retained his own garments. No one paid
any attention to him as he trudged along beside his donkeys, an
insignificant rear guard, which he was well content to be.

They made the tour of the town, in which the activity was already
above the normal in preparation for next week's fair. At intervals
they halted, the cacophony would cease abruptly, and Polichinelle would
announce in a stentorian voice that at five o'clock that evening in the
old market, M. Binet's famous company of improvisers would perform a new
comedy in four acts entitled, "The Heartless Father."

Thus at last they came to the old market, which was the groundfloor of
the town hall, and open to the four winds by two archways on each
side of its length, and one archway on each side of its breadth. These
archways, with two exceptions, had been boarded up. Through those
two, which gave admission to what presently would be the theatre, the
ragamuffins of the town, and the niggards who were reluctant to spend
the necessary sous to obtain proper admission, might catch furtive
glimpses of the performance.

That afternoon was the most strenuous of Andre-Louis' life, unaccustomed
as he was to any sort of manual labour. It was spent in erecting and
preparing the stage at one end of the market-hall; and he began to
realize how hard-earned were to be his monthly fifteen livres. At first
there were four of them to the task--or really three, for Pantaloon did
no more than bawl directions. Stripped of their finery, Rhodomont and
Leandre assisted Andre-Louis in that carpentering. Meanwhile the other
four were at dinner with the ladies. When a half-hour or so later they
came to carry on the work, Andre-Louis and his companions went to dine
in their turn, leaving Polichinelle to direct the operations as well as
assist in them.

They crossed the square to the cheap little inn where they had taken up
their quarters. In the narrow passage Andre-Louis came face to face
with Climene, her fine feathers cast, and restored by now to her normal
appearance.

"And how do you like it?" she asked him, pertly.

He looked her in the eyes. "It has its compensations," quoth he, in that
curious cold tone of his that left one wondering whether he meant or not
what he seemed to mean.

She knit her brows. "You... you feel the need of compensations already?"

"Faith, I felt it from the beginning," said he. "It was the perception
of them allured me."

They were quite alone, the others having gone on into the room set apart
for them, where food was spread. Andre-Louis, who was as unlearned in
Woman as he was learned in Man, was not to know, upon feeling himself
suddenly extraordinarily aware of her femininity, that it was she who in
some subtle, imperceptible manner so rendered him.

"What," she asked him, with demurest innocence, "are these
compensations?"

He caught himself upon the brink of the abyss.

"Fifteen livres a month," said he, abruptly.

A moment she stared at him bewildered. He was very disconcerting. Then
she recovered.

"Oh, and bed and board," said she. "Don't be leaving that from the
reckoning, as you seem to be doing; for your dinner will be going cold.
Aren't you coming?"

"Haven't you dined?" he cried, and she wondered had she caught a note of
eagerness.

"No," she answered, over her shoulder. "I waited."

"What for?" quoth his innocence, hopefully.

"I had to change, of course, zany," she answered, rudely. Having dragged
him, as she imagined, to the chopping-block, she could not refrain from
chopping. But then he was of those who must be chopping back.

"And you left your manners upstairs with your grand-lady clothes,
mademoiselle. I understand."

A scarlet flame suffused her face. "You are very insolent," she said,
lamely.

"I've often been told so. But I don't believe it." He thrust open the
door for her, and bowing with an air which imposed upon her, although it
was merely copied from Fleury of the Comedie Francaise, so often visited
in the Louis le Grand days, he waved her in. "After you, ma demoiselle."
For greater emphasis he deliberately broke the word into its two
component parts.

"I thank you, monsieur," she answered, frostily, as near sneering as was
possible to so charming a person, and went in, nor addressed him again
throughout the meal. Instead, she devoted herself with an unusual and
devastating assiduity to the suspiring Leandre, that poor devil who
could not successfully play the lover with her on the stage because of
his longing to play it in reality.

Andre-Louis ate his herrings and black bread with a good appetite
nevertheless. It was poor fare, but then poor fare was the common lot of
poor people in that winter of starvation, and since he had cast in his
fortunes with a company whose affairs were not flourishing, he must
accept the evils of the situation philosophically.

"Have you a name?" Binet asked him once in the course of that repast and
during a pause in the conversation.

"It happens that I have," said he. "I think it is Parvissimus."

"Parvissimus?" quoth Binet. "Is that a family name?"

"In such a company, where only the leader enjoys the privilege of a
family name, the like would be unbecoming its least member. So I take
the name that best becomes in me. And I think it is Parvissimus--the very
least."

Binet was amused. It was droll; it showed a ready fancy. Oh, to be sure,
they must get to work together on those scenarios.

"I shall prefer it to carpentering," said Andre-Louis. Nevertheless he
had to go back to it that afternoon, and to labour strenuously until
four o'clock, when at last the autocratic Binet announced himself
satisfied with the preparations, and proceeded, again with the help of
Andre-Louis, to prepare the lights, which were supplied partly by tallow
candles and partly by lamps burning fish-oil.

At five o'clock that evening the three knocks were sounded, and the
curtain rose on "The Heartless Father."

Among the duties inherited by Andre-Louis from the departed Felicien
whom he replaced, was that of doorkeeper. This duty he discharged
dressed in a Polichinelle costume, and wearing a pasteboard nose. It was
an arrangement mutually agreeable to M. Binet and himself. M. Binet--who
had taken the further precaution of retaining Andre-Louis' own
garments--was thereby protected against the risk of his latest recruit
absconding with the takings. Andre-Louis, without illusions on the score
of Pantaloon's real object, agreed to it willingly enough, since it
protected him from the chance of recognition by any acquaintance who
might possibly be in Guichen.

The performance was in every sense unexciting; the audience meagre and
unenthusiastic. The benches provided in the front half of the market
contained some twenty-seven persons: eleven at twenty sous a head and
sixteen at twelve. Behind these stood a rabble of some thirty others at
six sous apiece. Thus the gross takings were two louis, ten livres, and
two sous. By the time M. Binet had paid for the use of the market, his
lights, and the expenses of his company at the inn over Sunday, there
was not likely to be very much left towards the wages of his players. It
is not surprising, therefore, that M. Binet's bonhomie should have been
a trifle overcast that evening.

"And what do you think of it?" he asked Andre-Louis, as they were
walking back to the inn after the performance.

"Possibly it could have been worse; probably it could not," said he.

In sheer amazement M. Binet checked in his stride, and turned to look at
his companion.

"Huh!" said he. "Dieu de Dien! But you are frank."

"An unpopular form of service among fools, I know."

"Well, I am not a fool," said Binet.

"That is why I am frank. I pay you the compliment of assuming
intelligence in you, M. Binet."

"Oh, you do?" quoth M. Binet. "And who the devil are you to assume
anything? Your assumptions are presumptuous, sir." And with that he
lapsed into silence and the gloomy business of mentally casting up his
accounts.

But at table over supper a half-hour later he revived the topic.

"Our latest recruit, this excellent M. Parvissimus," he announced, "has
the impudence to tell me that possibly our comedy could have been worse,
but that probably it could not." And he blew out his great round cheeks
to invite a laugh at the expense of that foolish critic.

"That's bad," said the swarthy and sardonic Polichinelle. He was
grave as Rhadamanthus pronouncing judgment. "That's bad. But what is
infinitely worse is that the audience had the impudence to be of the
same mind."

"An ignorant pack of clods," sneered Leandre, with a toss of his
handsome head.

"You are wrong," quoth Harlequin. "You were born for love, my dear, not
criticism."

Leandre--a dull dog, as you will have conceived--looked contemptuously
down upon the little man. "And you, what were you born for?" he
wondered.

"Nobody knows," was the candid admission. "Nor yet why. It is the case
of many of us, my dear, believe me."

"But why"--M. Binet took him up, and thus spoilt the beginnings of a very
pretty quarrel--"why do you say that Leandre is wrong?"

"To be general, because he is always wrong. To be particular, because I
judge the audience of Guichen to be too sophisticated for 'The Heartless
Father.'"

"You would put it more happily," interposed Andre-Louis--who was the
cause of this discussion--"if you said that 'The Heartless Father' is too
unsophisticated for the audience of Guichen."

"Why, what's the difference?" asked Leandre.

"I didn't imply a difference. I merely suggested that it is a happier
way to express the fact."

"The gentleman is being subtle," sneered Binet.

"Why happier?" Harlequin demanded.

"Because it is easier to bring 'The Heartless Father' to the
sophistication of the Guichen audience, than the Guichen audience to the
unsophistication of 'The Heartless Father.'"

"Let me think it out," groaned Polichinelle, and he took his head in his
hands.

But from the tail of the table Andre-Louis was challenged by Climene who
sat there between Columbine and Madame.

"You would alter the comedy, would you, M. Parvissimus?" she cried.

He turned to parry her malice.

"I would suggest that it be altered," he corrected, inclining his head.

"And how would you alter it, monsieur?"

"I? Oh, for the better."

"But of course!" She was sleekest sarcasm. "And how would you do it?"

"Aye, tell us that," roared M. Binet, and added: "Silence, I pray you,
gentlemen and ladies. Silence for M. Parvissimus."

Andre-Louis looked from father to daughter, and smiled. "Pardi!" said
he. "I am between bludgeon and dagger. If I escape with my life, I shall
be fortunate. Why, then, since you pin me to the very wall, I'll tell
you what I should do. I should go back to the original and help myself
more freely from it."

"The original?" questioned M. Binet--the author.

"It is called, I believe, 'Monsieur de Pourceaugnac,' and was written by
Moliere."

Somebody tittered, but that somebody was not M. Binet. He had been
touched on the raw, and the look in his little eyes betrayed the fact
that his bonhomme exterior covered anything but a bonhomme.

"You charge me with plagiarism," he said at last; "with filching the
ideas of Moliere."

"There is always, of course," said Andre-Louis, unruffled, "the
alternative possibility of two great minds working upon parallel lines."

M. Binet studied the young man attentively a moment. He found him bland
and inscrutable, and decided to pin him down.

"Then you do not imply that I have been stealing from Moliere?"

"I advise you to do so, monsieur," was the disconcerting reply.

M. Binet was shocked.

"You advise me to do so! You advise me, me, Antoine Binet, to turn thief
at my age!"

"He is outrageous," said mademoiselle, indignantly.

"Outrageous is the word. I thank you for it, my dear. I take you on
trust, sir. You sit at my table, you have the honour to be included in
my company, and to my face you have the audacity to advise me to
become a thief--the worst kind of thief that is conceivable, a thief of
spiritual things, a thief of ideas! It is insufferable, intolerable! I
have been, I fear, deeply mistaken in you, monsieur; just as you appear
to have been mistaken in me. I am not the scoundrel you suppose me, sir,
and I will not number in my company a man who dares to suggest that I
should become one. Outrageous!"

He was very angry. His voice boomed through the little room, and the
company sat hushed and something scared, their eyes upon Andre-Louis,
who was the only one entirely unmoved by this outburst of virtuous
indignation.

"You realize, monsieur," he said, very quietly, "that you are insulting
the memory of the illustrious dead?"

"Eh?" said Binet.

Andre-Louis developed his sophistries.

"You insult the memory of Moliere, the greatest ornament of our stage,
one of the greatest ornaments of our nation, when you suggest that there
is vileness in doing that which he never hesitated to do, which no great
author yet has hesitated to do. You cannot suppose that Moliere ever
troubled himself to be original in the matter of ideas. You cannot
suppose that the stories he tells in his plays have never been told
before. They were culled, as you very well know--though you seem
momentarily to have forgotten it, and it is therefore necessary that
I should remind you--they were culled, many of them, from the Italian
authors, who themselves had culled them Heaven alone knows where.
Moliere took those old stories and retold them in his own language. That
is precisely what I am suggesting that you should do. Your company is a
company of improvisers. You supply the dialogue as you proceed, which
is rather more than Moliere ever attempted. You may, if you prefer
it--though it would seem to me to be yielding to an excess of scruple--go
straight to Boccaccio or Sacchetti. But even then you cannot be sure
that you have reached the sources."

Andre-Louis came off with flying colours after that. You see what a
debater was lost in him; how nimble he was in the art of making white
look black. The company was impressed, and no one more that M. Binet,
who found himself supplied with a crushing argument against those who in
future might tax him with the impudent plagiarisms which he undoubtedly
perpetrated. He retired in the best order he could from the position he
had taken up at the outset.

"So that you think," he said, at the end of a long outburst of
agreement, "you think that our story of 'The Heartless Father' could be
enriched by dipping into 'Monsieur de Pourceaugnac,' to which I confess
upon reflection that it may present certain superficial resemblances?"

"I do; most certainly I do--always provided that you do so judiciously.
Times have changed since Moliere." It was as a consequence of this that
Binet retired soon after, taking Andre-Louis with him. The pair sat
together late that night, and were again in close communion throughout
the whole of Sunday morning.

After dinner M. Binet read to the assembled company the amended and
amplified canevas of "The Heartless Father," which, acting upon the
advice of M. Parvissimus, he had been at great pains to prepare. The
company had few doubts as to the real authorship before he began to
read; none at all when he had read. There was a verve, a grip about this
story; and, what was more, those of them who knew their Moliere realized
that far from approaching the original more closely, this canevas had
drawn farther away from it. Moliere's original part--the title role--had
dwindled into insignificance, to the great disgust of Polichinelle, to
whom it fell. But the other parts had all been built up into importance,
with the exception of Leandre, who remained as before. The two
great roles were now Scaramouche, in the character of the intriguing
Sbrigandini, and Pantaloon the father. There was, too, a comical part
for Rhodomont, as the roaring bully hired by Polichinelle to cut Leandre
into ribbons. And in view of the importance now of Scaramouche, the play
had been rechristened "Figaro-Scaramouche."

This last had not been without a deal of opposition from M. Binet. But
his relentless collaborator, who was in reality the real author--drawing
shamelessly, but practically at last upon his great store of reading--had
overborne him.

"You must move with the times, monsieur. In Paris Beaumarchais is the
rage. 'Figaro' is known to-day throughout the world. Let us borrow a
little of his glory. It will draw the people in. They will come to
see half a 'Figaro' when they will not come to see a dozen 'Heartless
Fathers.' Therefore let us cast the mantle of Figaro upon some one, and
proclaim it in our title."

"But as I am the head of the company..." began M. Binet, weakly.

"If you will be blind to your interests, you will presently be a head
without a body. And what use is that? Can the shoulders of Pantaloon
carry the mantle of Figaro? You laugh. Of course you laugh. The notion
is absurd. The proper person for the mantle of Figaro is Scaramouche,
who is naturally Figaro's twin-brother."

Thus tyrannized, the tyrant Binet gave way, comforted by the reflection
that if he understood anything at all about the theatre, he had for
fifteen livres a month acquired something that would presently be
earning him as many louis.

The company's reception of the canevas now confirmed him, if we
except Polichinelle, who, annoyed at having lost half his part in the
alterations, declared the new scenario fatuous.

"Ah! You call my work fatuous, do you?" M. Binet hectored him.

"Your work?" said Polichinelle, to add with his tongue in his cheek:
"Ah, pardon. I had not realized that you were the author."

"Then realize it now."

"You were very close with M. Parvissimus over this authorship," said
Polichinelle, with impudent suggestiveness.

"And what if I was? What do you imply?"

"That you took him to cut quills for you, of course."

"I'll cut your ears for you if you're not civil," stormed the infuriated
Binet.

Polichinelle got up slowly, and stretched himself.

"Dieu de Dieu!" said he. "If Pantaloon is to play Rhodomont, I think
I'll leave you. He is not amusing in the part." And he swaggered out
before M. Binet had recovered from his speechlessness.



CHAPTER IV. EXIT MONSIEUR PARVISSIMUS

Ar four o'clock on Monday afternoon the curtain rose on
"Figaro-Scaramouche" to an audience that filled three quarters of the
market-hall. M. Binet attributed this good attendance to the influx of
people to Guichen for the fair, and to the magnificent parade of his
company through the streets of the township at the busiest time of
the day. Andre-Louis attributed it entirely to the title. It was the
"Figaro" touch that had fetched in the better-class bourgeoisie, which
filled more than half of the twenty-sous places and three quarters
of the twelve-sous seats. The lure had drawn them. Whether it was to
continue to do so would depend upon the manner in which the canevas
over which he had laboured to the glory of Binet was interpreted by
the company. Of the merits of the canevas itself he had no doubt. The
authors upon whom he had drawn for the elements of it were sound, and he
had taken of their best, which he claimed to be no more than the justice
due to them.

The company excelled itself. The audience followed with relish the sly
intriguings of Scaramouche, delighted in the beauty and freshness of
Climene, was moved almost to tears by the hard fate which through four
long acts kept her from the hungering arms of the so beautiful Leandre,
howled its delight over the ignominy of Pantaloon, the buffooneries of
his sprightly lackey Harlequin, and the thrasonical strut and bellowing
fierceness of the cowardly Rhodomont.

The success of the Binet troupe in Guichen was assured. That night the
company drank Burgundy at M. Binet's expense. The takings reached the
sum of eight louis, which was as good business as M. Binet had ever done
in all his career. He was very pleased. Gratification rose like steam
from his fat body. He even condescended so far as to attribute a share
of the credit for the success to M. Parvissimus.

"His suggestion," he was careful to say, by way of properly delimiting
that share, "was most valuable, as I perceived at the time."

"And his cutting of quills," growled Polichinelle. "Don't forget that.
It is most important to have by you a man who understands how to cut a
quill, as I shall remember when I turn author."

But not even that gibe could stir M. Binet out of his lethargy of
content.

On Tuesday the success was repeated artistically and augmented
financially. Ten louis and seven livres was the enormous sum that
Andre-Louis, the doorkeeper, counted over to M. Binet after the
performance. Never yet had M. Binet made so much money in one
evening--and a miserable little village like Guichen was certainly the
last place in which he would have expected this windfall.

"Ah, but Guichen in time of fair," Andre-Louis reminded him. "There are
people here from as far as Nantes and Rennes to buy and sell. To-morrow,
being the last day of the fair, the crowds will be greater than ever. We
should better this evening's receipts."

"Better them? I shall be quite satisfied if we do as well, my friend."

"You can depend upon that," Andre-Louis assured him. "Are we to have
Burgundy?"

And then the tragedy occurred. It announced itself in a succession of
bumps and thuds, culminating in a crash outside the door that brought
them all to their feet in alarm.

Pierrot sprang to open, and beheld the tumbled body of a man lying
at the foot of the stairs. It emitted groans, therefore it was alive.
Pierrot went forward to turn it over, and disclosed the fact that
the body wore the wizened face of Scaramouche, a grimacing, groaning,
twitching Scaramouche.

The whole company, pressing after Pierrot, abandoned itself to laughter.

"I always said you should change parts with me," cried Harlequin.
"You're such an excellent tumbler. Have you been practising?"

"Fool!" Scaramouche snapped. "Must you be laughing when I've all but
broken my neck?"

"You are right. We ought to be weeping because you didn't break it.
Come, man, get up," and he held out a hand to the prostrate rogue.

Scaramouche took the hand, clutched it, heaved himself from the ground,
then with a scream dropped back again.

"My foot!" he complained.

Binet rolled through the group of players, scattering them to right and
left. Apprehension had been quick to seize him. Fate had played him such
tricks before.

"What ails your foot?" quoth he, sourly.

"It's broken, I think," Scaramouche complained.

"Broken? Bah! Get up, man." He caught him under the armpits and hauled
him up.

Scaramouche came howling to one foot; the other doubled under him when
he attempted to set it down, and he must have collapsed again but that
Binet supported him. He filled the place with his plaint, whilst Binet
swore amazingly and variedly.

"Must you bellow like a calf, you fool? Be quiet. A chair here, some
one."

A chair was thrust forward. He crushed Scaramouche down into it.

"Let us look at this foot of yours."

Heedless of Scaramouche's howls of pain, he swept away shoe and
stocking.

"What ails it?" he asked, staring. "Nothing that I can see." He seized
it, heel in one hand, instep in the other, and gyrated it. Scaramouche
screamed in agony, until Climene caught Binet's arm and made him stop.

"My God, have you no feelings?" she reproved her father. "The lad has
hurt his foot. Must you torture him? Will that cure it?"

"Hurt his foot!" said Binet. "I can see nothing the matter with his
foot--nothing to justify all this uproar. He has bruised it, maybe..."

"A man with a bruised foot doesn't scream like that," said Madame over
Climene's shoulder. "Perhaps he has dislocated it."

"That is what I fear," whimpered Scaramouche.

Binet heaved himself up in disgust.

"Take him to bed," he bade them, "and fetch a doctor to see him."

It was done, and the doctor came. Having seen the patient, he reported
that nothing very serious had happened, but that in falling he had
evidently sprained his foot a little. A few days' rest and all would be
well.

"A few days!" cried Binet. "God of God! Do you mean that he can't walk?"

"It would be unwise, indeed impossible for more than a few steps."

M. Binet paid the doctor's fee, and sat down to think. He filled himself
a glass of Burgundy, tossed it off without a word, and sat thereafter
staring into the empty glass.

"It is of course the sort of thing that must always be happening to me,"
he grumbled to no one in particular. The members of the company were all
standing in silence before him, sharing his dismay. "I might have known
that this--or something like it--would occur to spoil the first vein of
luck that I have found in years. Ah, well, it is finished. To-morrow we
pack and depart. The best day of the fair, on the crest of the wave of
our success--a good fifteen louis to be taken, and this happens! God of
God!"

"Do you mean to abandon to-morrow's performance?"

All turned to stare with Binet at Andre-Louis.

"Are we to play 'Figaro-Scaramouche' without Scaramouche?" asked Binet,
sneering.

"Of course not." Andre-Louis came forward. "But surely some
rearrangement of the parts is possible. For instance, there is a fine
actor in Polichinelle."

Polichinelle swept him a bow. "Overwhelmed," said he, ever sardonic.

"But he has a part of his own," objected Binet.

"A small part, which Pasquariel could play."

"And who will play Pasquariel?"

"Nobody. We delete it. The play need not suffer."

"He thinks of everything," sneered Polichinelle. "What a man!"

But Binet was far from agreement. "Are you suggesting that Polichinelle
should play Scaramouche?" he asked, incredulously.

"Why not? He is able enough!"

"Overwhelmed again," interjected Polichinelle.

"Play Scaramouche with that figure?" Binet heaved himself up to point a
denunciatory finger at Polichinelle's sturdy, thick-set shortness.

"For lack of a better," said Andre-Louis.

"Overwhelmed more than ever." Polichinelle's bow was superb this time.
"Faith, I think I'll take the air to cool me after so much blushing."

"Go to the devil," Binet flung at him.

"Better and better." Polichinelle made for the door. On the threshold he
halted and struck an attitude. "Understand me, Binet. I do not now play
Scaramouche in any circumstances whatever." And he went out. On the
whole, it was a very dignified exit.

Andre-Louis shrugged, threw out his arms, and let them fall to his sides
again. "You have ruined everything," he told M. Binet. "The matter could
easily have been arranged. Well, well, it is you are master here;
and since you want us to pack and be off, that is what we will do, I
suppose."

He went out, too. M. Binet stood in thought a moment, then followed him,
his little eyes very cunning. He caught him up in the doorway. "Let us
take a walk together, M. Parvissimus," said he, very affably.

He thrust his arm through Andre-Louis', and led him out into the street,
where there was still considerable movement. Past the booths that ranged
about the market they went, and down the hill towards the bridge. "I
don't think we shall pack to-morrow," said M. Binet, presently. "In
fact, we shall play to-morrow night."

"Not if I know Polichinelle. You have..."

"I am not thinking of Polichinelle."

"Of whom, then?"

"Of yourself."

"I am flattered, sir. And in what capacity are you thinking of me?"
There was something too sleek and oily in Binet's voice for Andre-Louis'
taste.

"I am thinking of you in the part of Scaramouche."

"Day-dreams," said Andre-Louis. "You are amusing yourself, of course."

"Not in the least. I am quite serious."

"But I am not an actor."

"You told me that you could be."

"Oh, upon occasion... a small part, perhaps..."

"Well, here is a big part--the chance to arrive at a single stride. How
many men have had such a chance?"

"It is a chance I do not covet, M. Binet. Shall we change the subject?"
He was very frosty, as much perhaps because he scented in M. Binet's
manner something that was vaguely menacing as for any other reason.

"We'll change the subject when I please," said M. Binet, allowing a
glimpse of steel to glimmer through the silk of him. "To-morrow night
you play Scaramouche. You are ready enough in your wits, your figure is
ideal, and you have just the kind of mordant humour for the part. You
should be a great success."

"It is much more likely that I should be an egregious failure."

"That won't matter," said Binet, cynically, and explained himself.
"The failure will be personal to yourself. The receipts will be safe by
then."

"Much obliged," said Andre-Louis.

"We should take fifteen louis to-morrow night."

"It is unfortunate that you are without a Scaramouche," said
Andre-Louis.

"It is fortunate that I have one, M. Parvissimus."

Andre-Louis disengaged his arm. "I begin to find you tiresome," said he.
"I think I will return."

"A moment, M. Parvissimus. If I am to lose that fifteen louis... you'll
not take it amiss that I compensate myself in other ways?"

"That is your own concern, M. Binet."

"Pardon, M. Parvissimus. It may possibly be also yours." Binet took his
arm again. "Do me the kindness to step across the street with me. Just
as far as the post-office there. I have something to show you."

Andre-Louis went. Before they reached that sheet of paper nailed upon
the door, he knew exactly what it would say. And in effect it was, as he
had supposed, that twenty louis would be paid for information leading to
the apprehension of one Andre-Louis Moreau, lawyer of Gavrillac, who was
wanted by the King's Lieutenant in Rennes upon a charge of sedition.

M. Binet watched him whilst he read. Their arms were linked, and Binet's
grip was firm and powerful.

"Now, my friend," said he, "will you be M. Parvissimus and play
Scaramouche to-morrow, or will you be Andre-Louis Moreau of Gavrillac
and go to Rennes to satisfy the King's Lieutenant?"

"And if it should happen that you are mistaken?" quoth Andre-Louis, his
face a mask.

"I'll take the risk of that," leered M. Binet. "You mentioned, I think,
that you were a lawyer. An indiscretion, my dear. It is unlikely that
two lawyers will be in hiding at the same time in the same district. You
see it is not really clever of me. Well, M. Andre-Louis Moreau, lawyer
of Gavrillac, what is it to be?"

"We will talk it over as we walk back," said Andre-Louis.

"What is there to talk over?"

"One or two things, I think. I must know where I stand. Come, sir, if
you please."

"Very well," said M. Binet, and they turned up the street again, but M.
Binet maintained a firm hold of his young friend's arm, and kept himself
on the alert for any tricks that the young gentleman might be disposed
to play. It was an unnecessary precaution. Andre-Louis was not the man
to waste his energy futilely. He knew that in bodily strength he was no
match at all for the heavy and powerful Pantaloon.

"If I yield to your most eloquent and seductive persuasions, M. Binet,"
said he, sweetly, "what guarantee do you give me that you will not sell
me for twenty louis after I shall have served your turn?"

"You have my word of honour for that." M. Binet was emphatic.

Andre-Louis laughed. "Oh, we are to talk of honour, are we? Really, M.
Binet? It is clear you think me a fool."

In the dark he did not see the flush that leapt to M. Binet's round
face. It was some moments before he replied.

"Perhaps you are right," he growled. "What guarantee do you want?"

"I do not know what guarantee you can possibly give."

"I have said that I will keep faith with you."

"Until you find it more profitable to sell me."

"You have it in your power to make it more profitable always for me
to keep faith with you. It is due to you that we have done so well in
Guichen. Oh, I admit it frankly."

"In private," said Andre-Louis.

M. Binet left the sarcasm unheeded.

"What you have done for us here with 'Figaro-Scaramouche,' you can do
elsewhere with other things. Naturally, I shall not want to lose you.
That is your guarantee."

"Yet to-night you would sell me for twenty louis."

"Because--name of God!--you enrage me by refusing me a service well within
your powers. Don't you think, had I been entirely the rogue you think
me, I could have sold you on Saturday last? I want you to understand me,
my dear Parvissimus."

"I beg that you'll not apologize. You would be more tiresome than ever."

"Of course you will be gibing. You never miss a chance to gibe. It'll
bring you trouble before you're done with life. Come; here we are back
at the inn, and you have not yet given me your decision."

Andre-Louis looked at him. "I must yield, of course. I can't help
myself."

M. Binet released his arm at last, and slapped him heartily upon the
back. "Well declared, my lad. You'll never regret it. If I know anything
of the theatre, I know that you have made the great decision of your
life. To-morrow night you'll thank me."

Andre-Louis shrugged, and stepped out ahead towards the inn. But M.
Binet called him back.

"M. Parvissimus!"

He turned. There stood the man's great bulk, the moonlight beating down
upon that round fat face of his, and he was holding out his hand.

"M. Parvissimus, no rancour. It is a thing I do not admit into my life.
You will shake hands with me, and we will forget all this."

Andre-Louis considered him a moment with disgust. He was growing
angry. Then, realizing this, he conceived himself ridiculous, almost as
ridiculous as that sly, scoundrelly Pantaloon. He laughed and took the
outstretched hand. "No rancour?" M. Binet insisted.

"Oh, no rancour," said Andre-Louis.



CHAPTER V. ENTER SCARAMOUCHE

Dressed in the close-fitting suit of a bygone age, all black, from flat
velvet cap to rosetted shoes, his face whitened and a slight up-curled
moustache glued to his upper lip, a small-sword at his side and a guitar
slung behind him, Scaramouche surveyed himself in a mirror, and was
disposed to be sardonic--which was the proper mood for the part.

He reflected that his life, which until lately had been of a stagnant,
contemplative quality, had suddenly become excessively active. In the
course of one week he had been lawyer, mob-orator, outlaw, property-man,
and finally buffoon. Last Wednesday he had been engaged in moving
an audience of Rennes to anger; on this Wednesday he was to move an
audience of Guichen to mirth. Then he had been concerned to draw tears;
to-day it was his business to provoke laughter. There was a difference,
and yet there was a parallel. Then as now he had been a comedian; and
the part that he had played then was, when you came to think of it, akin
to the part he was to play this evening. For what had he been at Rennes
but a sort of Scaramouche--the little skirmisher, the astute intriguer,
spattering the seed of trouble with a sly hand? The only difference
lay in the fact that to-day he went forth under the name that properly
described his type, whereas last week he had been disguised as a
respectable young provincial attorney.

He bowed to his reflection in the mirror.

"Buffoon!" he apostrophized it. "At last you have found yourself. At
last you have come into your heritage. You should be a great success."

Hearing his new name called out by M. Binet, he went below to find the
company assembled, and waiting in the entrance corridor of the inn.

He was, of course, an object of great interest to all the company. Most
critically was he conned by M. Binet and mademoiselle; by the former
with gravely searching eyes, by the latter with a curl of scornful lip.

"You'll do," M. Binet commended his make-up. "At least you look the
part."

"Unfortunately men are not always what they look," said Climene, acidly.

"That is a truth that does not at present apply to me," said
Andre-Louis. "For it is the first time in my life that I look what I
am."

Mademoiselle curled her lip a little further, and turned her shoulder
to him. But the others thought him very witty--probably because he was
obscure. Columbine encouraged him with a friendly smile that displayed
her large white teeth, and M. Binet swore yet once again that he would
be a great success, since he threw himself with such spirit into the
undertaking. Then in a voice that for the moment he appeared to have
borrowed from the roaring captain, M. Binet marshalled them for the
short parade across to the market-hall.

The new Scaramouche fell into place beside Rhodomont. The old one,
hobbling on a crutch, had departed an hour ago to take the place of
doorkeeper, vacated of necessity by Andre-Louis. So that the exchange
between those two was a complete one.

Headed by Polichinelle banging his great drum and Pierrot blowing his
trumpet, they set out, and were duly passed in review by the ragamuffins
drawn up in files to enjoy so much of the spectacle as was to be
obtained for nothing.

Ten minutes later the three knocks sounded, and the curtains were drawn
aside to reveal a battered set that was partly garden, partly forest, in
which Climene feverishly looked for the coming of Leandre. In the wings
stood the beautiful, melancholy lover, awaiting his cue, and immediately
behind him the unfledged Scaramouche, who was anon to follow him.

Andre-Louis was assailed with nausea in that dread moment. He attempted
to take a lightning mental review of the first act of this scenario of
which he was himself the author-in-chief; but found his mind a complete
blank. With the perspiration starting from his skin, he stepped back to
the wall, where above a dim lantern was pasted a sheet bearing the
brief outline of the piece. He was still studying it, when his arm
was clutched, and he was pulled violently towards the wings. He had a
glimpse of Pantaloon's grotesque face, its eyes blazing, and he caught a
raucous growl:

"Climene has spoken your cue three times already."

Before he realized it, he had been bundled on to the stage, and stood
there foolishly, blinking in the glare of the footlights, with their tin
reflectors. So utterly foolish and bewildered did he look that volley
upon volley of laughter welcomed him from the audience, which this
evening packed the hall from end to end. Trembling a little, his
bewilderment at first increasing, he stood there to receive that rolling
tribute to his absurdity. Climene was eyeing him with expectant
mockery, savouring in advance his humiliation; Leandre regarded him in
consternation, whilst behind the scenes, M. Binet was dancing in fury.

"Name of a name," he groaned to the rather scared members of the company
assembled there, "what will happen when they discover that he isn't
acting?"

But they never did discover it. Scaramouche's bewildered paralysis
lasted but a few seconds. He realized that he was being laughed at, and
remembered that his Scaramouche was a creature to be laughed with, and
not at. He must save the situation; twist it to his own advantage as
best he could. And now his real bewilderment and terror was succeeded by
acted bewilderment and terror far more marked, but not quite so funny.
He contrived to make it clearly appear that his terror was of some one
off the stage. He took cover behind a painted shrub, and thence, the
laughter at last beginning to subside, he addressed himself to Climene
and Leandre.

"Forgive me, beautiful lady, if the abrupt manner of my entrance
startled you. The truth is that I have never been the same since that
last affair of mine with Almaviva. My heart is not what it used to be.
Down there at the end of the lane I came face to face with an elderly
gentleman carrying a heavy cudgel, and the horrible thought entered my
mind that it might be your father, and that our little stratagem to get
you safely married might already have been betrayed to him. I think it
was the cudgel put such notion in my head. Not that I am afraid. I am
not really afraid of anything. But I could not help reflecting that, if
it should really have been your father, and he had broken my head with
his cudgel, your hopes would have perished with me. For without me, what
should you have done, my poor children?"

A ripple of laughter from the audience had been steadily enheartening
him, and helping him to recover his natural impudence. It was clear they
found him comical. They were to find him far more comical than ever he
had intended, and this was largely due to a fortuitous circumstance upon
which he had insufficiently reckoned. The fear of recognition by some
one from Gavrillac or Rennes had been strong upon him. His face was
sufficiently made up to baffle recognition; but there remained his
voice. To dissemble this he had availed himself of the fact that Figaro
was a Spaniard. He had known a Spaniard at Louis le Grand who spoke
a fluent but most extraordinary French, with a grotesque excess of
sibilant sounds. It was an accent that he had often imitated, as youths
will imitate characteristics that excite their mirth. Opportunely he had
bethought him of that Spanish student, and it was upon his speech
that to-night he modelled his own. The audience of Guichen found it as
laughable on his lips as he and his fellows had found it formerly on the
lips of that derided Spaniard.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Binet--listening to that glib impromptu of
which the scenario gave no indication--had recovered from his fears.

"Dieu de Dieu!" he whispered, grinning. "Did he do it, then, on
purpose?"

It seemed to him impossible that a man who had been so terror-stricken
as he had fancied Andre-Louis, could have recovered his wits so quickly
and completely. Yet the doubt remained.

To resolve it after the curtain had fallen upon a first act that had
gone with a verve unrivalled until this hour in the annals of the
company, borne almost entirely upon the slim shoulders of the new
Scaramouche, M. Binet bluntly questioned him.

They were standing in the space that did duty as green-room, the company
all assembled there, showering congratulations upon their new recruit.
Scaramouche, a little exalted at the moment by his success, however
trivial he might consider it to-morrow, took then a full revenge upon
Climene for the malicious satisfaction with which she had regarded his
momentary blank terror.

"I do not wonder that you ask," said he. "Faith, I should have warned
you that I intended to do my best from the start to put the audience
in a good humour with me. Mademoiselle very nearly ruined everything by
refusing to reflect any of my terror. She was not even startled.
Another time, mademoiselle, I shall give you full warning of my every
intention."

She crimsoned under her grease-paint. But before she could find an
answer of sufficient venom, her father was rating her soundly for her
stupidity--the more soundly because himself he had been deceived by
Scaramouche's supreme acting.

Scaramouche's success in the first act was more than confirmed as
the performance proceeded. Completely master of himself by now, and
stimulated as only success can stimulate, he warmed to his work.
Impudent, alert, sly, graceful, he incarnated the very ideal of
Scaramouche, and he helped out his own native wit by many a remembered
line from Beaumarchais, thereby persuading the better informed among the
audience that here indeed was something of the real Figaro, and bringing
them, as it were, into touch with the great world of the capital.

When at last the curtain fell for the last time, it was Scaramouche
who shared with Climene the honours of the evening, his name that was
coupled with hers in the calls that summoned them before the curtains.

As they stepped back, and the curtains screened them again from the
departing audience, M. Binet approached them, rubbing his fat hands
softly together. This runagate young lawyer, whom chance had blown into
his company, had evidently been sent by Fate to make his fortune for
him. The sudden success at Guichen, hitherto unrivalled, should be
repeated and augmented elsewhere. There would be no more sleeping under
hedges and tightening of belts. Adversity was behind him. He placed a
hand upon Scaramouche's shoulder, and surveyed him with a smile whose
oiliness not even his red paint and colossal false nose could dissemble.

"And what have you to say to me now?" he asked him. "Was I wrong when
I assured you that you would succeed? Do you think I have followed my
fortunes in the theatre for a lifetime without knowing a born actor when
I see one? You are my discovery, Scaramouche. I have discovered you
to yourself. I have set your feet upon the road to fame and fortune. I
await your thanks."

Scaramouche laughed at him, and his laugh was not altogether pleasant.

"Always Pantaloon!" said he.

The great countenance became overcast. "I see that you do not yet
forgive me the little stratagem by which I forced you to do justice to
yourself. Ungrateful dog! As if I could have had any purpose but to make
you; and I have done so. Continue as you have begun, and you will end in
Paris. You may yet tread the stage of the Comedie Francaise, the rival
of Talma, Fleury, and Dugazon. When that happens to you perhaps you will
feel the gratitude that is due to old Binet, for you will owe it all to
this soft-hearted old fool."

"If you were as good an actor on the stage as you are in private," said
Scaramouche, "you would yourself have won to the Comedie Francaise long
since. But I bear no rancour, M. Binet." He laughed, and put out his
hand.

Binet fell upon it and wrung it heartily.

"That, at least, is something," he declared. "My boy, I have great plans
for you--for us. To-morrow we go to Maure; there is a fair there to the
end of this week. Then on Monday we take our chances at Pipriac, and
after that we must consider. It may be that I am about to realize the
dream of my life. There must have been upwards of fifteen louis taken
to-night. Where the devil is that rascal Cordemais?"

Cordemais was the name of the original Scaramouche, who had so
unfortunately twisted his ankle. That Binet should refer to him by his
secular designation was a sign that in the Binet company at least he had
fallen for ever from the lofty eminence of Scaramouche.

"Let us go and find him, and then we'll away to the inn and crack a
bottle of the best Burgundy, perhaps two bottles."

But Cordemais was not readily to be found. None of the company had
seen him since the close of the performance. M. Binet went round to the
entrance. Cordemais was not there. At first he was annoyed; then as he
continued in vain to bawl the fellow's name, he began to grow uneasy;
lastly, when Polichinelle, who was with them, discovered Cordemais'
crutch standing discarded behind the door, M. Binet became alarmed.
A dreadful suspicion entered his mind. He grew visibly pale under his
paint.

"But this evening he couldn't walk without the crutch!" he exclaimed.
"How then does he come to leave it there and take himself off?"

"Perhaps he has gone on to the inn," suggested some one.

"But he couldn't walk without his crutch," M. Binet insisted.

Nevertheless, since clearly he was not anywhere about the market-hall,
to the inn they all trooped, and deafened the landlady with their
inquiries.

"Oh, yes, M. Cordemais came in some time ago."

"Where is he now?"

"He went away again at once. He just came for his bag."

"For his bag!" Binet was on the point of an apoplexy. "How long ago was
that?"

She glanced at the timepiece on the overmantel. "It would be about half
an hour ago. It was a few minutes before the Rennes diligence passed
through."

"The Rennes diligence!" M. Binet was almost inarticulate. "Could he...
could he walk?" he asked, on a note of terrible anxiety.

"Walk? He ran like a hare when he left the inn. I thought, myself, that
his agility was suspicious, seeing how lame he had been since he fell
downstairs yesterday. Is anything wrong?"

M. Binet had collapsed into a chair. He took his head in his hands, and
groaned.

"The scoundrel was shamming all the time!" exclaimed Climene. "His fall
downstairs was a trick. He was playing for this. He has swindled us."

"Fifteen louis at least--perhaps sixteen!" said M. Binet. "Oh, the
heartless blackguard! To swindle me who have been as a father to him--and
to swindle me in such a moment."

From the ranks of the silent, awe-stricken company, each member of
which was wondering by how much of the loss his own meagre pay would be
mulcted, there came a splutter of laughter.

M. Binet glared with blood-injected eyes.

"Who laughs?" he roared. "What heartless wretch has the audacity to
laugh at my misfortune?"

Andre-Louis, still in the sable glories of Scaramouche, stood forward.
He was laughing still.

"It is you, is it? You may laugh on another note, my friend, if I choose
a way to recoup myself that I know of."

"Dullard!" Scaramouche scorned him. "Rabbit-brained elephant! What if
Cordemais has gone with fifteen louis? Hasn't he left you something
worth twenty times as much?"

M. Binet gaped uncomprehending.

"You are between two wines, I think. You've been drinking," he
concluded.

"So I have--at the fountain of Thalia. Oh, don't you see? Don't you see
the treasure that Cordemais has left behind him?"

"What has he left?"

"A unique idea for the groundwork of a scenario. It unfolds itself all
before me. I'll borrow part of the title from Moliere. We'll call it
'Les Fourberies de Scaramouche,' and if we don't leave the audiences of
Maure and Pipriac with sides aching from laughter I'll play the dullard
Pantaloon in future."

Polichinelle smacked fist into palm. "Superb!" he said, fiercely. "To
cull fortune from misfortune, to turn loss into profit, that is to have
genius."

Scaramouche made a leg. "Polichinelle, you are a fellow after my own
heart. I love a man who can discern my merit. If Pantaloon had half
your wit, we should have Burgundy to-night in spite of the flight of
Cordemais."

"Burgundy?" roared M. Binet, and before he could get farther Harlequin
had clapped his hands together.

"That is the spirit, M. Binet. You heard him, landlady. He called for
Burgundy."

"I called for nothing of the kind."

"But you heard him, dear madame. We all heard him."

The others made chorus, whilst Scaramouche smiled at him, and patted his
shoulder.

"Up, man, a little courage. Did you not say that fortune awaits us? And
have we not now the wherewithal to constrain fortune? Burgundy, then,
to... to toast 'Les Fourberies de Scaramouche.'"

And M. Binet, who was not blind to the force of the idea, yielded, took
courage, and got drunk with the rest.



CHAPTER VI. CLIMENE

Diligent search among the many scenarios of the improvisers which have
survived their day, has failed to bring to light the scenario of "Les
Fourberies de Scaramouche," upon which we are told the fortunes of the
Binet troupe came to be soundly established. They played it for the
first time at Maure in the following week, with Andre-Louis--who was
known by now as Scaramouche to all the company, and to the public
alike--in the title-role. If he had acquitted himself well as
Figaro-Scaramouche, he excelled himself in the new piece, the scenario
of which would appear to be very much the better of the two.

After Maure came Pipriac, where four performances were given, two
of each of the scenarios that now formed the backbone of the Binet
repertoire. In both Scaramouche, who was beginning to find himself,
materially improved his performances. So smoothly now did the two pieces
run that Scaramouche actually suggested to Binet that after Fougeray,
which they were to visit in the following week, they should tempt
fortune in a real theatre in the important town of Redon. The notion
terrified Binet at first, but coming to think of it, and his ambition
being fanned by Andre-Louis, he ended by allowing himself to succumb to
the temptation.

It seemed to Andre-Louis in those days that he had found his real
metier, and not only was he beginning to like it, but actually to look
forward to a career as actor-author that might indeed lead him in the
end to that Mecca of all comedians, the Comedie Francaise. And there
were other possibilities. From the writing of skeleton scenarios for
improvisers, he might presently pass to writing plays of dialogue, plays
in the proper sense of the word, after the manner of Chenier, Eglantine,
and Beaumarchais.

The fact that he dreamed such dreams shows us how very kindly he had
taken to the profession into which Chance and M. Binet between them had
conspired to thrust him. That he had real talent both as author and
as actor I do not doubt, and I am persuaded that had things fallen out
differently he would have won for himself a lasting place among French
dramatists, and thus fully have realized that dream of his.

Now, dream though it was, he did not neglect the practical side of it.

"You realize," he told M. Binet, "that I have it in my power to make
your fortune for you."

He and Binet were sitting alone together in the parlour of the inn at
Pipriac, drinking a very excellent bottle of Volnay. It was on the night
after the fourth and last performance there of "Les Feurberies." The
business in Pipriac had been as excellent as in Maure and Guichen. You
will have gathered this from the fact that they drank Volnay.

"I will concede it, my dear Scaramouche, so that I may hear the sequel."

"I am disposed to exercise this power if the inducement is sufficient.
You will realize that for fifteen livres a month a man does not sell
such exceptional gifts as mine.

"There is an alternative," said M. Binet, darkly.

"There is no alternative. Don't be a fool, Binet."

Binet sat up as if he had been prodded. Members of his company did not
take this tone of direct rebuke with him.

"Anyway, I make you a present of it," Scaramouche pursued, airily.
"Exercise it if you please. Step outside and inform the police that they
can lay hands upon one Andre-Louis Moreau. But that will be the end of
your fine dreams of going to Redon, and for the first time in your life
playing in a real theatre. Without me, you can't do it, and you know
it; and I am not going to Redon or anywhere else, in fact I am not even
going to Fougeray, until we have an equitable arrangement."

"But what heat!" complained Binet, "and all for what? Why must you
assume that I have the soul of a usurer? When our little arrangement was
made, I had no idea how could I?--that you would prove as valuable to me
as you are? You had but to remind me, my dear Scaramouche. I am a just
man. As from to-day you shall have thirty livres a month. See, I double
it at once. I am a generous man."

"But you are not ambitious. Now listen to me, a moment."

And he proceeded to unfold a scheme that filled Binet with a paralyzing
terror.

"After Redon, Nantes," he said. "Nantes and the Theatre Feydau."

M. Binet choked in the act of drinking. The Theatre Feydau was a sort
of provincial Comedie Francaise. The great Fleury had played there to
an audience as critical as any in France. The very thought of Redon,
cherished as it had come to be by M. Binet, gave him at moments a cramp
in the stomach, so dangerously ambitious did it seem to him. And Redon
was a puppet-show by comparison with Nantes. Yet this raw lad whom
he had picked up by chance three weeks ago, and who in that time had
blossomed from a country attorney into author and actor, could talk of
Nantes and the Theatre Feydau without changing colour.

"But why not Paris and the Comedie Francaise?" wondered M. Binet, with
sarcasm, when at last he had got his breath.

"That may come later," says impudence.

"Eh? You've been drinking, my friend."

But Andre-Louis detailed the plan that had been forming in his mind.
Fougeray should be a training-ground for Redon, and Redon should be a
training-ground for Nantes. They would stay in Redon as long as Redon
would pay adequately to come and see them, working hard to perfect
themselves the while. They would add three or four new players of talent
to the company; he would write three or four fresh scenarios, and these
should be tested and perfected until the troupe was in possession of at
least half a dozen plays upon which they could depend; they would lay
out a portion of their profits on better dresses and better scenery, and
finally in a couple of months' time, if all went well, they should be
ready to make their real bid for fortune at Nantes. It was quite true
that distinction was usually demanded of the companies appearing at
the Feydau, but on the other hand Nantes had not seen a troupe of
improvisers for a generation and longer. They would be supplying a
novelty to which all Nantes should flock provided that the work were
really well done, and Scaramouche undertook--pledged himself--that
if matters were left in his own hands, his projected revival of
the Commedia dell' Arte in all its glories would exceed whatever
expectations the public of Nantes might bring to the theatre.

"We'll talk of Paris after Nantes," he finished, supremely
matter-of-fact, "just as we will definitely decide on Nantes after
Redon."

The persuasiveness that could sway a mob ended by sweeping M. Binet off
his feet. The prospect which Scaramouche unfolded, if terrifying, was
also intoxicating, and as Scaramouche delivered a crushing answer to
each weakening objection in a measure as it was advanced, Binet ended by
promising to think the matter over.

"Redon will point the way," said Andre-Louis, "and I don't doubt which
way Redon will point."

Thus the great adventure of Redon dwindled to insignificance. Instead
of a terrifying undertaking in itself, it became merely a rehearsal for
something greater. In his momentary exaltation Binet proposed another
bottle of Volnay. Scaramouche waited until the cork was drawn before he
continued.

"The thing remains possible," said he then, holding his glass to the
light, and speaking casually, "as long as I am with you."

"Agreed, my dear Scaramouche, agreed. Our chance meeting was a fortunate
thing for both of us."

"For both of us," said Scaramouche, with stress. "That is as I would
have it. So that I do not think you will surrender me just yet to the
police."

"As if I could think of such a thing! My dear Scaramouche, you amuse
yourself. I beg that you will never, never allude to that little joke of
mine again."

"It is forgotten," said Andre-Louis. "And now for the remainder of my
proposal. If I am to become the architect of your fortunes, if I am to
build them as I have planned them, I must also and in the same degree
become the architect of my own."

"In the same degree?" M. Binet frowned.

"In the same degree. From to-day, if you please, we will conduct
the affairs of this company in a proper manner, and we will keep
account-books."

"I am an artist," said M. Binet, with pride. "I am not a merchant."

"There is a business side to your art, and that shall be conducted in
the business manner. I have thought it all out for you. You shall not
be troubled with details that might hinder the due exercise of your art.
All that you have to do is to say yes or no to my proposal."

"Ah? And the proposal?"

"Is that you constitute me your partner, with an equal share in the
profits of your company."

Pantaloon's great countenance grew pale, his little eyes widened to
their fullest extent as he conned the face of his companion. Then he
exploded.

"You are mad, of course, to make me a proposal so monstrous."

"It has its injustices, I admit. But I have provided for them. It would
not, for instance, be fair that in addition to all that I am proposing
to do for you, I should also play Scaramouche and write your scenarios
without any reward outside of the half-profit which would come to me as
a partner. Thus before the profits come to be divided, there is a salary
to be paid me as actor, and a small sum for each scenario with which I
provide the company; that is a matter for mutual agreement. Similarly,
you shall be paid a salary as Pantaloon. After those expenses are
cleared up, as well as all the other salaries and disbursements, the
residue is the profit to be divided equally between us."

It was not, as you can imagine, a proposal that M. Binet would swallow
at a draught. He began with a point-blank refusal to consider it.

"In that case, my friend," said Scaramouche, "we part company at once.
To-morrow I shall bid you a reluctant farewell."

Binet fell to raging. He spoke of ingratitude in feeling terms; he
even permitted himself another sly allusion to that little jest of his
concerning the police, which he had promised never again to mention.

"As to that, you may do as you please. Play the informer, by all
means. But consider that you will just as definitely be deprived of
my services, and that without me you are nothing--as you were before I
joined your company."

M. Binet did not care what the consequences might be. A fig for the
consequences! He would teach this impudent young country attorney that
M. Binet was not the man to be imposed upon.

Scaramouche rose. "Very well," said he, between indifference and
resignation. "As you wish. But before you act, sleep on the matter. In
the cold light of morning you may see our two proposals in their proper
proportions. Mine spells fortune for both of us. Yours spells ruin for
both of us. Good-night, M. Binet. Heaven help you to a wise decision."

The decision to which M. Binet finally came was, naturally, the only one
possible in the face of so firm a resolve as that of Andre-Louis, who
held the trumps. Of course there were further discussions, before all
was settled, and M. Binet was brought to an agreement only after an
infinity of haggling surprising in one who was an artist and not a
man of business. One or two concessions were made by Andre-Louis; he
consented, for instance, to waive his claim to be paid for scenarios,
and he also consented that M. Binet should appoint himself a salary that
was out of all proportion to his deserts.

Thus in the end the matter was settled, and the announcement duly
made to the assembled company. There were, of course, jealousies and
resentments. But these were not deep-seated, and they were readily
swallowed when it was discovered that under the new arrangement the lot
of the entire company was to be materially improved from the point
of view of salaries. This was a matter that had met with considerable
opposition from M. Binet. But the irresistible Scaramouche swept away
all objections.

"If we are to play at the Feydau, you want a company of self-respecting
comedians, and not a pack of cringing starvelings. The better we pay
them in reason, the more they will earn for us."

Thus was conquered the company's resentment of this too swift promotion
of its latest recruit. Cheerfully now--with one exception--they accepted
the dominance of Scaramouche, a dominance soon to be so firmly
established that M. Binet himself came under it.

The one exception was Climene. Her failure to bring to heel this
interesting young stranger, who had almost literally dropped into their
midst that morning outside Guichen, had begotten in her a malice which
his persistent ignoring of her had been steadily inflaming. She had
remonstrated with her father when the new partnership was first formed.
She had lost her temper with him, and called him a fool, whereupon M.
Binet--in Pantaloon's best manner--had lost his temper in his turn and
boxed her ears. She piled it up to the account of Scaramouche, and
spied her opportunity to pay off some of that ever-increasing score. But
opportunities were few. Scaramouche was too occupied just then. During
the week of preparation at Fougeray, he was hardly seen save at the
performances, whilst when once they were at Redon, he came and went like
the wind between the theatre and the inn.

The Redon experiment had justified itself from the first. Stimulated and
encouraged by this, Andre-Louis worked day and night during the month
that they spent in that busy little town. The moment had been well
chosen, for the trade in chestnuts of which Redon is the centre was just
then at its height. And every afternoon the little theatre was packed
with spectators. The fame of the troupe had gone forth, borne by the
chestnut-growers of the district, who were bringing their wares to Redon
market, and the audiences were made up of people from the surrounding
country, and from neighbouring villages as far out as Allaire,
Saint-Perrieux and Saint-Nicholas. To keep the business from slackening,
Andre-Louis prepared a new scenario every week. He wrote three in
addition to those two with which he had already supplied the company;
these were "The Marriage of Pantaloon," "The Shy Lover," and "The
Terrible Captain." Of these the last was the greatest success. It was
based upon the "Miles Gloriosus" of Plautus, with great opportunities
for Rhodomont, and a good part for Scaramouche as the roaring captain's
sly lieutenant. Its success was largely due to the fact that Andre-Louis
amplified the scenario to the extent of indicating very fully in places
the lines which the dialogue should follow, whilst here and there he
had gone so far as to supply some of the actual dialogue to be spoken,
without, however, making it obligatory upon the actors to keep to the
letter of it.

And meanwhile as the business prospered, he became busy with tailors,
improving the wardrobe of the company, which was sorely in need of
improvement. He ran to earth a couple of needy artists, lured them into
the company to play small parts--apothecaries and notaries--and set them
to beguile their leisure in painting new scenery, so as to be ready
for what he called the conquest of Nantes, which was to come in the new
year. Never in his life had he worked so hard; never in his life had he
worked at all by comparison with his activities now. His fund of energy
and enthusiasm was inexhaustible, like that of his good humour. He came
and went, acted, wrote, conceived, directed, planned, and executed,
what time M. Binet took his ease at last in comparative affluence, drank
Burgundy every night, ate white bread and other delicacies, and began
to congratulate himself upon his astuteness in having made this
industrious, tireless fellow his partner. Having discovered how idle
had been his fears of performing at Redon, he now began to dismiss the
terrors with which the notion of Nantes had haunted him.

And his happiness was reflected throughout the ranks of his company,
with the single exception always of Climene. She had ceased to sneer at
Scaramouche, having realized at last that her sneers left him untouched
and recoiled upon herself. Thus her almost indefinable resentment of him
was increased by being stifled, until, at all costs, an outlet for it
must be found.

One day she threw herself in his way as he was leaving the theatre after
the performance. The others had already gone, and she had returned upon
pretence of having forgotten something.

"Will you tell me what I have done to you?" she asked him, point-blank.

"Done to me, mademoiselle?" He did not understand.

She made a gesture of impatience. "Why do you hate me?"

"Hate you, mademoiselle? I do not hate anybody. It is the most stupid of
all the emotions. I have never hated--not even my enemies."

"What Christian resignation!"

"As for hating you, of all people! Why... I consider you adorable. I
envy Leandre every day of my life. I have seriously thought of setting
him to play Scaramouche, and playing lovers myself."

"I don't think you would be a success," said she.

"That is the only consideration that restrains me. And yet, given
the inspiration that is given Leandre, it is possible that I might be
convincing."

"Why, what inspiration do you mean?"

"The inspiration of playing to so adorable a Climene."

Her lazy eyes were now alert to search that lean face of his.

"You are laughing at me," said she, and swept past him into the theatre
on her pretended quest. There was nothing to be done with such a fellow.
He was utterly without feeling. He was not a man at all.

Yet when she came forth again at the end of some five minutes, she found
him still lingering at the door.

"Not gone yet?" she asked him, superciliously.

"I was waiting for you, mademoiselle. You will be walking to the inn. If
I might escort you..."

"But what gallantry! What condescension!"

"Perhaps you would prefer that I did not?"

"How could I prefer that, M. Scaramouche? Besides, we are both going the
same way, and the streets are common to all. It is that I am overwhelmed
by the unusual honour."

He looked into her piquant little face, and noted how obscured it was by
its cloud of dignity. He laughed.

"Perhaps I feared that the honour was not sought."

"Ah, now I understand," she cried. "It is for me to seek these honours.
I am to woo a man before he will pay me the homage of civility. It must
be so, since you, who clearly know everything, have said so. It remains
for me to beg your pardon for my ignorance."

"It amuses you to be cruel," said Scaramouche. "No matter. Shall we
walk?"

They set out together, stepping briskly to warm their blood against
the wintry evening air. Awhile they went in silence, yet each furtively
observing the other.

"And so, you find me cruel?" she challenged him at length, thereby
betraying the fact that the accusation had struck home.

He looked at her with a half smile. "Will you deny it?"

"You are the first man that ever accused me of that."

"I dare not suppose myself the first man to whom you have been cruel.
That were an assumption too flattering to myself. I must prefer to think
that the others suffered in silence."

"Mon Dieu! Have you suffered?" She was between seriousness and raillery.

"I place the confession as an offering on the altar of your vanity."

"I should never have suspected it."

"How could you? Am I not what your father calls a natural actor? I was
an actor long before I became Scaramouche. Therefore I have laughed. I
often do when I am hurt. When you were pleased to be disdainful, I acted
disdain in my turn."

"You acted very well," said she, without reflecting.

"Of course. I am an excellent actor."

"And why this sudden change?"

"In response to the change in you. You have grown weary of your part of
cruel madam--a dull part, believe me, and unworthy of your talents. Were
I a woman and had I your loveliness and your grace, Climene, I should
disdain to use them as weapons of offence."

"Loveliness and grace!" she echoed, feigning amused surprise. But the
vain baggage was mollified. "When was it that you discovered this beauty
and this grace, M. Scaramouche?"

He looked at her a moment, considering the sprightly beauty of her, the
adorable femininity that from the first had so irresistibly attracted
him.

"One morning when I beheld you rehearsing a love-scene with Leandre."

He caught the surprise that leapt to her eyes, before she veiled them
under drooping lids from his too questing gaze.

"Why, that was the first time you saw me."

"I had no earlier occasion to remark your charms."

"You ask me to believe too much," said she, but her tone was softer than
he had ever known it yet.

"Then you'll refuse to believe me if I confess that it was this grace
and beauty that determined my destiny that day by urging me to join your
father's troupe."

At that she became a little out of breath. There was no longer any
question of finding an outlet for resentment. Resentment was all
forgotten.

"But why? With what object?"

"With the object of asking you one day to be my wife."

She halted under the shock of that, and swung round to face him. Her
glance met his own without, shyness now; there was a hardening glitter
in her eyes, a faint stir of colour in her cheeks. She suspected him of
an unpardonable mockery.

"You go very fast, don't you?" she asked him, with heat.

"I do. Haven't you observed it? I am a man of sudden impulses. See what
I have made of the Binet troupe in less than a couple of months. Another
might have laboured for a year and not achieved the half of it. Shall I
be slower in love than in work? Would it be reasonable to expect it? I
have curbed and repressed myself not to scare you by precipitancy. In
that I have done violence to my feelings, and more than all in using the
same cold aloofness with which you chose to treat me. I have waited--oh!
so patiently--until you should tire of that mood of cruelty."

"You are an amazing man," said she, quite colourlessly.

"I am," he agreed with her. "It is only the conviction that I am not
commonplace that has permitted me to hope as I have hoped."

Mechanically, and as if by tacit consent, they resumed their walk.

"And I ask you to observe," he said, "when you complain that I go very
fast, that, after all, I have so far asked you for nothing."

"How?" quoth she, frowning.

"I have merely told you of my hopes. I am not so rash as to ask at once
whether I may realize them."

"My faith, but that is prudent," said she, tartly.

"Of course."

It was his self-possession that exasperated her; for after that she
walked the short remainder of the way in silence, and so, for the
moment, the matter was left just there.

But that night, after they had supped, it chanced that when Climene was
about to retire, he and she were alone together in the room abovestairs
that her father kept exclusively for his company. The Binet Troupe, you
see, was rising in the world.

As Climene now rose to withdraw for the night, Scaramouche rose with her
to light her candle. Holding it in her left hand, she offered him her
right, a long, tapering, white hand at the end of a softly rounded arm
that was bare to the elbow.

"Good-night, Scaramouche," she said, but so softly, so tenderly, that he
caught his breath, and stood conning her, his dark eyes aglow.

Thus a moment, then he took the tips of her fingers in his grasp, and
bowing over the hand, pressed his lips upon it. Then he looked at
her again. The intense femininity of her lured him on, invited him,
surrendered to him. Her face was pale, there was a glitter in her eyes,
a curious smile upon her parted lips, and under its fichu-menteur her
bosom rose and fell to complete the betrayal of her.

By the hand he continued to hold, he drew her towards him. She came
unresisting. He took the candle from her, and set it down on the
sideboard by which she stood. The next moment her slight, lithe body was
in his arms, and he was kissing her, murmuring her name as if it were a
prayer.

"Am I cruel now?" she asked him, panting. He kissed her again for only
answer. "You made me cruel because you would not see," she told him next
in a whisper.

And then the door opened, and M. Binet came in to have his paternal eyes
regaled by this highly indecorous behaviour of his daughter.

He stood at gaze, whilst they quite leisurely, and in a self-possession
too complete to be natural, detached each from the other.

"And what may be the meaning of this?" demanded M. Binet, bewildered and
profoundly shocked.

"Does it require explaining?" asked Scaramouche. "Doesn't it speak for
itself--eloquently? It means that Climene and I have taken it into our
heads to be married."

"And doesn't it matter what I may take into my head?"

"Of course. But you could have neither the bad taste nor the bad heart
to offer any obstacle."

"You take that for granted? Aye, that is your way, to be sure--to take
things for granted. But my daughter is not to be taken for granted.
I have very definite views for my daughter. You have done an unworthy
thing, Scaramouche. You have betrayed my trust in you. I am very angry
with you."

He rolled forward with his ponderous yet curiously noiseless gait.
Scaramouche turned to her, smiling, and handed her the candle.

"If you will leave us, Climene, I will ask your hand of your father in
proper form."

She vanished, a little fluttered, lovelier than ever in her mixture
of confusion and timidity. Scaramouche closed the door and faced the
enraged M. Binet, who had flung himself into an armchair at the head
of the short table, faced him with the avowed purpose of asking for
Climene's hand in proper form. And this was how he did it:

"Father-in-law," said he, "I congratulate you. This will certainly mean
the Comedie Francaise for Climene, and that before long, and you shall
shine in the glory she will reflect. As the father of Madame Scaramouche
you may yet be famous."

Binet, his face slowly empurpling, glared at him in speechless
stupefaction. His rage was the more utter from his humiliating
conviction that whatever he might say or do, this irresistible fellow
would bend him to his will. At last speech came to him.

"You're a damned corsair," he cried, thickly, banging his ham-like fist
upon the table. "A corsair! First you sail in and plunder me of half my
legitimate gains; and now you want to carry off my daughter. But I'll be
damned if I'll give her to a graceless, nameless scoundrel like you, for
whom the gallows are waiting already."

Scaramouche pulled the bell-rope, not at all discomposed. He smiled.
There was a flush on his cheeks and a gleam in his eyes. He was very
pleased with the world that night. He really owed a great debt to M. de
Lesdiguieres.

"Binet," said he, "forget for once that you are Pantaloon, and behave
as a nice, amiable father-in-law should behave when he has secured a
son-in-law of exceptionable merits. We are going to have a bottle of
Burgundy at my expense, and it shall be the best bottle of Burgundy
to be found in Redon. Compose yourself to do fitting honour to it.
Excitations of the bile invariably impair the fine sensitiveness of the
palate."



CHAPTER VII. THE CONQUEST OF NANTES

The Binet Troupe opened in Nantes--as you may discover in surviving
copies of the "Courrier Nantais"--on the Feast of the Purification with
"Les Fourberies de Scaramouche." But they did not come to Nantes
as hitherto they had gone to little country villages and townships,
unheralded and depending entirely upon the parade of their entrance
to attract attention to themselves. Andre-Louis had borrowed from the
business methods of the Comedie Francaise. Carrying matters with a high
hand entirely in his own fashion, he had ordered at Redon the printing
of playbills, and four days before the company's descent upon Nantes,
these bills were pasted outside the Theatre Feydau and elsewhere
about the town, and had attracted--being still sufficiently unusual
announcements at the time--considerable attention. He had entrusted the
matter to one of the company's latest recruits, an intelligent young man
named Basque, sending him on ahead of the company for the purpose.

You may see for yourself one of these playbills in the Carnavalet
Museum. It details the players by their stage names only, with the
exception of M. Binet and his daughter, and leaving out of account that
he who plays Trivelin in one piece appears as Tabarin in another, it
makes the company appear to be at least half as numerous again as it
really was. It announces that they will open with "Les Fourberies de
Scaramouche," to be followed by five other plays of which it gives the
titles, and by others not named, which shall also be added should the
patronage to be received in the distinguished and enlightened city of
Nantes encourage the Binet Troupe to prolong its sojourn at the Theatre
Feydau. It lays great stress upon the fact that this is a company of
improvisers in the old Italian manner, the like of which has not been
seen in France for half a century, and it exhorts the public of Nantes
not to miss this opportunity of witnessing these distinguished mimes who
are reviving for them the glories of the Comedie de l'Art. Their visit
to Nantes--the announcement proceeds--is preliminary to their visit to
Paris, where they intend to throw down the glove to the actors of the
Comedie Francaise, and to show the world how superior is the art of the
improviser to that of the actor who depends upon an author for what he
shall say, and who consequently says always the same thing every time
that he plays in the same piece.

It is an audacious bill, and its audacity had scared M. Binet out of
the little sense left him by the Burgundy which in these days he could
afford to abuse. He had offered the most vehement opposition. Part of
this Andre-Louis had swept aside; part he had disregarded.

"I admit that it is audacious," said Scaramouche. "But at your time of
life you should have learnt that in this world nothing succeeds like
audacity."

"I forbid it; I absolutely forbid it," M. Binet insisted.

"I knew you would. Just as I know that you'll be very grateful to me
presently for not obeying you."

"You are inviting a catastrophe."

"I am inviting fortune. The worst catastrophe that can overtake you
is to be back in the market-halls of the country villages from which I
rescued you. I'll have you in Paris yet in spite of yourself. Leave this
to me."

And he went out to attend to the printing. Nor did his preparations
end there. He wrote a piquant article on the glories of the Comedie de
l'Art, and its resurrection by the improvising troupe of the great mime
Florimond Binet. Binet's name was not Florimond; it was just Pierre.
But Andre-Louis had a great sense of the theatre. That article was an
amplification of the stimulating matter contained in the playbills;
and he persuaded Basque, who had relations in Nantes, to use all the
influence he could command, and all the bribery they could afford, to
get that article printed in the "Courrier Nantais" a couple of days
before the arrival of the Binet Troupe.

Basque had succeeded, and, considering the undoubted literary merits and
intrinsic interest of the article, this is not at all surprising.

And so it was upon an already expectant city that Binet and his company
descended in that first week of February. M. Binet would have made his
entrance in the usual manner--a full-dress parade with banging drums and
crashing cymbals. But to this Andre-Louis offered the most relentless
opposition.

"We should but discover our poverty," said he. "Instead, we will creep
into the city unobserved, and leave ourselves to the imagination of the
public."

He had his way, of course. M. Binet, worn already with battling against
the strong waters of this young man's will, was altogether unequal to
the contest now that he found Climene in alliance with Scaramouche,
adding her insistence to his, and joining with him in reprobation of her
father's sluggish and reactionary wits. Metaphorically, M. Binet threw
up his arms, and cursing the day on which he had taken this young man
into his troupe, he allowed the current to carry him whither it would.
He was persuaded that he would be drowned in the end. Meanwhile he
would drown his vexation in Burgundy. At least there was abundance of
Burgundy. Never in his life had he found Burgundy so plentiful. Perhaps
things were not as bad as he imagined, after all. He reflected that,
when all was said, he had to thank Scaramouche for the Burgundy. Whilst
fearing the worst, he would hope for the best.

And it was very much the worst that he feared as he waited in the wings
when the curtain rose on that first performance of theirs at the Theatre
Feydau to a house that was tolerably filled by a public whose curiosity
the preliminary announcements had thoroughly stimulated.

Although the scenario of "Lee Fourberies de Scaramouche" has not
apparently survived, yet we know from Andre-Louis' "Confessions" that it
is opened by Polichinelle in the character of an arrogant and fiercely
jealous lover shown in the act of beguiling the waiting-maid, Columbine,
to play the spy upon her mistress, Climene. Beginning with cajolery, but
failing in this with the saucy Columbine, who likes cajolers to be at
least attractive and to pay a due deference to her own very piquant
charms, the fierce humpbacked scoundrel passes on to threats of the
terrible vengeance he will wreak upon her if she betrays him or neglects
to obey him implicitly; failing here, likewise, he finally has recourse
to bribery, and after he has bled himself freely to the very expectant
Columbine, he succeeds by these means in obtaining her consent to spy
upon Climene, and to report to him upon her lady's conduct.

The pair played the scene well together, stimulated, perhaps, by their
very nervousness at finding themselves before so imposing an audience.
Polichinelle was everything that is fierce, contemptuous, and insistent.
Columbine was the essence of pert indifference under his cajolery,
saucily mocking under his threats, and finely sly in extorting the very
maximum when it came to accepting a bribe. Laughter rippled through
the audience and promised well. But M. Binet, standing trembling in the
wings, missed the great guffaws of the rustic spectators to whom they
had played hitherto, and his fears steadily mounted.

Then, scarcely has Polichinelle departed by the door than Scaramouche
bounds in through the window. It was an effective entrance, usually
performed with a broad comic effect that set the people in a roar. Not
so on this occasion. Meditating in bed that morning, Scaramouche had
decided to present himself in a totally different aspect. He would cut
out all the broad play, all the usual clowning which had delighted
their past rude audiences, and he would obtain his effects by subtlety
instead. He would present a slyly humorous rogue, restrained, and of a
certain dignity, wearing a countenance of complete solemnity, speaking
his lines drily, as if unconscious of the humour with which he intended
to invest them. Thus, though it might take the audience longer to
understand and discover him, they would like him all the better in the
end.

True to that resolve, he now played his part as the friend and hired
ally of the lovesick Leandre, on whose behalf he came for news of
Climene, seizing the opportunity to further his own amour with Columbine
and his designs upon the money-bags of Pantaloon. Also he had taken
certain liberties with the traditional costume of Scaramouche; he had
caused the black doublet and breeches to be slashed with red, and the
doublet to be cut more to a peak, a la Henri III. The conventional black
velvet cap he had replaced by a conical hat with a turned-up brim, and a
tuft of feathers on the left, and he had discarded the guitar.

M. Binet listened desperately for the roar of laughter that usually
greeted the entrance of Scaramouche, and his dismay increased when
it did not come. And then he became conscious of something alarmingly
unusual in Scaramouche's manner. The sibilant foreign accent was there,
but none of the broad boisterousness their audiences had loved.

He wrung his hands in despair. "It is all over!" he said. "The fellow
has ruined us! It serves me right for being a fool, and allowing him to
take control of everything!"

But he was profoundly mistaken. He began to have an inkling of this when
presently himself he took the stage, and found the public attentive,
remarked a grin of quiet appreciation on every upturned face. It was
not, however, until the thunders of applause greeted the fall of the
curtain on the first act that he felt quite sure they would be allowed
to escape with their lives.

Had the part of Pantaloon in "Les Fourberies" been other than that of
a blundering, timid old idiot, Binet would have ruined it by his
apprehensions. As it was, those very apprehensions, magnifying as they
did the hesitancy and bewilderment that were the essence of his part,
contributed to the success. And a success it proved that more than
justified all the heralding of which Scaramouche had been guilty.

For Scaramouche himself this success was not confined to the public. At
the end of the play a great reception awaited him from his companions
assembled in the green-room of the theatre. His talent, resource, and
energy had raised them in a few weeks from a pack of vagrant mountebanks
to a self-respecting company of first-rate players. They acknowledged it
generously in a speech entrusted to Polichinelle, adding the tribute to
his genius that, as they had conquered Nantes, so would they conquer the
world under his guidance.

In their enthusiasm they were a little neglectful of the feelings of
M. Binet. Irritated enough had he been already by the overriding of
his every wish, by the consciousness of his weakness when opposed
to Scaramouche. And, although he had suffered the gradual process of
usurpation of authority because its every step had been attended by
his own greater profit, deep down in him the resentment abode to stifle
every spark of that gratitude due from him to his partner. To-night
his nerves had been on the rack, and he had suffered agonies of
apprehension, for all of which he blamed Scaramouche so bitterly that
not even the ultimate success--almost miraculous when all the elements
are considered--could justify his partner in his eyes.

And now, to find himself, in addition, ignored by this company--his own
company, which he had so laboriously and slowly assembled and selected
among the men of ability whom he had found here and there in the
dregs of cities--was something that stirred his bile, and aroused the
malevolence that never did more than slumber in him. But deeply though
his rage was moved, it did not blind him to the folly of betraying it.
Yet that he should assert himself in this hour was imperative unless he
were for ever to become a thing of no account in this troupe over which
he had lorded it for long months before this interloper came amongst
them to fill his purse and destroy his authority.

So he stepped forward now when Polichinelle had done. His make-up
assisting him to mask his bitter feelings, he professed to add his own
to Polichinelle's acclamations of his dear partner. But he did it in
such a manner as to make it clear that what Scaramouche had done, he
had done by M. Binet's favour, and that in all M. Binet's had been the
guiding hand. In associating himself with Polichinelle, he desired to
thank Scaramouche, much in the manner of a lord rendering thanks to his
steward for services diligently rendered and orders scrupulously carried
out.

It neither deceived the troupe nor mollified himself. Indeed, his
consciousness of the mockery of it but increased his bitterness. But at
least it saved his face and rescued him from nullity--he who was their
chief.

To say, as I have said, that it did not deceive them, is perhaps to say
too much, for it deceived them at least on the score of his feelings.
They believed, after discounting the insinuations in which he took all
credit to himself, that at heart he was filled with gratitude, as they
were. That belief was shared by Andre-Louis himself, who in his brief,
grateful answer was very generous to M. Binet, more than endorsing the
claims that M. Binet had made.

And then followed from him the announcement that their success in Nantes
was the sweeter to him because it rendered almost immediately attainable
the dearest wish of his heart, which was to make Climene his wife.
It was a felicity of which he was the first to acknowledge his utter
unworthiness. It was to bring him into still closer relations with
his good friend M. Binet, to whom he owed all that he had achieved for
himself and for them. The announcement was joyously received, for the
world of the theatre loves a lover as dearly as does the greater world.
So they acclaimed the happy pair, with the exception of poor Leandre,
whose eyes were more melancholy than ever.

They were a happy family that night in the upstairs room of their inn on
the Quai La Fosse--the same inn from which Andre-Louis had set out some
weeks ago to play a vastly different role before an audience of Nantes.
Yet was it so different, he wondered? Had he not then been a sort of
Scaramouche--an intriguer, glib and specious, deceiving folk, cynically
misleading them with opinions that were not really his own? Was it at
all surprising that he should have made so rapid and signal a success
as a mime? Was not this really all that he had ever been, the thing for
which Nature had designed him?

On the following night they played "The Shy Lover" to a full house, the
fame of their debut having gone abroad, and the success of Monday was
confirmed. On Wednesday they gave "Figaro-Scaramouche," and on Thursday
morning the "Courrier Nantais" came out with an article of more than
a column of praise of these brilliant improvisers, for whom it claimed
that they utterly put to shame the mere reciters of memorized parts.

Andre-Louis, reading the sheet at breakfast, and having no delusions
on the score of the falseness of that statement, laughed inwardly. The
novelty of the thing, and the pretentiousness in which he had swaddled
it, had deceived them finely. He turned to greet Binet and Climene, who
entered at that moment. He waved the sheet above his head.

"It is settled," he announced, "we stay in Nantes until Easter."

"Do we?" said Binet, sourly. "You settle everything, my friend."

"Read for yourself." And he handed him the paper.

Moodily M. Binet read. He set the sheet down in silence, and turned his
attention to his breakfast.

"Was I justified or not?" quoth Andre-Louis, who found M. Binet's
behaviour a thought intriguing.

"In what?"

"In coming to Nantes?"

"If I had not thought so, we should not have come," said Binet, and he
began to eat.

Andre-Louis dropped the subject, wondering.

After breakfast he and Climene sallied forth to take the air upon the
quays. It was a day of brilliant sunshine and less cold than it had
lately been. Columbine tactlessly joined them as they were setting out,
though in this respect matters were improved a little when Harlequin
came running after them, and attached himself to Columbine.

Andre-Louis, stepping out ahead with Climene, spoke of the thing that
was uppermost in his mind at the moment.

"Your father is behaving very oddly towards me," said he. "It is almost
as if he had suddenly become hostile."

"You imagine it," said she. "My father is very grateful to you, as we
all are."

"He is anything but grateful. He is infuriated against me; and I think I
know the reason. Don't you? Can't you guess?"

"I can't, indeed."

"If you were my daughter, Climene, which God be thanked you are not, I
should feel aggrieved against the man who carried you away from me. Poor
old Pantaloon! He called me a corsair when I told him that I intend to
marry you."

"He was right. You are a bold robber, Scaramouche."

"It is in the character," said he. "Your father believes in having
his mimes play upon the stage the parts that suit their natural
temperaments."

"Yes, you take everything you want, don't you?" She looked up at him,
half adoringly, half shyly.

"If it is possible," said he. "I took his consent to our marriage by
main force from him. I never waited for him to give it. When, in fact,
he refused it, I just snatched it from him, and I'll defy him now to win
it back from me. I think that is what he most resents."

She laughed, and launched upon an animated answer. But he did not hear
a word of it. Through the bustle of traffic on the quay a cabriolet, the
upper half of which was almost entirely made of glass, had approached
them. It was drawn by two magnificent bay horses and driven by a
superbly livened coachman.

In the cabriolet alone sat a slight young girl wrapped in a lynx-fur
pelisse, her face of a delicate loveliness. She was leaning forward, her
lips parted, her eyes devouring Scaramouche until they drew his gaze.
When that happened, the shock of it brought him abruptly to a dumfounded
halt.

Climene, checking in the middle of a sentence, arrested by his own
sudden stopping, plucked at his sleeve.

"What is it, Scaramouche?"

But he made no attempt to answer her, and at that moment the coachman,
to whom the little lady had already signalled, brought the carriage to a
standstill beside them. Seen in the gorgeous setting of that coach with
its escutcheoned panels, its portly coachman and its white-stockinged
footman--who swung instantly to earth as the vehicle stopped--its dainty
occupant seemed to Climene a princess out of a fairy-tale. And this
princess leaned forward, with eyes aglow and cheeks aflush, stretching
out a choicely gloved hand to Scaramouche.

"Andre-Louis!" she called him.

And Scaramouche took the hand of that exalted being, just as he might
have taken the hand of Climene herself, and with eyes that reflected the
gladness of her own, in a voice that echoed the joyous surprise of hers,
he addressed her familiarly by name, just as she had addressed him.

"Aline!"



CHAPTER VIII. THE DREAM

"The door," Aline commanded her footman, and "Mount here beside me," she
commanded Andre-Louis, in the same breath.

"A moment, Aline."

He turned to his companion, who was all amazement, and to Harlequin
and Columbine, who had that moment come up to share it. "You permit
me, Climene?" said he, breathlessly. But it was more a statement than
a question. "Fortunately you are not alone. Harlequin will take care of
you. Au revoir, at dinner."

With that he sprang into the cabriolet without waiting for a reply. The
footman closed the door, the coachman cracked his whip, and the regal
equipage rolled away along the quay, leaving the three comedians staring
after it, open-mouthed... Then Harlequin laughed.

"A prince in disguise, our Scaramouche!" said he.

Columbine clapped her hands and flashed her strong teeth. "But what a
romance for you, Climene! How wonderful!"

The frown melted from Climene's brow. Resentment changed to
bewilderment.

"But who is she?"

"His sister, of course," said Harlequin, quite definitely.

"His sister? How do you know?"

"I know what he will tell you on his return."

"But why?"

"Because you wouldn't believe him if he said she was his mother."

Following the carriage with their glance, they wandered on in the
direction it had taken. And in the carriage Aline was considering
Andre-Louis with grave eyes, lips slightly compressed, and a tiny frown
between her finely drawn eyebrows.

"You have taken to queer company, Andre," was the first thing she said
to him. "Or else I am mistaken in thinking that your companion was Mlle.
Binet of the Theatre Feydau."

"You are not mistaken. But I had not imagined Mlle. Binet so famous
already."

"Oh, as to that..." mademoiselle shrugged, her tone quietly scornful.
And she explained. "It is simply that I was at the play last night. I
thought I recognized her."

"You were at the Feydau last night? And I never saw you!"

"Were you there, too?"

"Was I there!" he cried. Then he checked, and abruptly changed his tone.
"Oh, yes, I was there," he said, as commonplace as he could, beset by a
sudden reluctance to avow that he had so willingly descended to depths
that she must account unworthy, and grateful that his disguise of face
and voice should have proved impenetrable even to one who knew him so
very well.

"I understand," said she, and compressed her lips a little more tightly.

"But what do you understand?"

"The rare attractions of Mlle. Binet. Naturally you would be at the
theatre. Your tone conveyed it very clearly. Do you know that you
disappoint me, Andre? It is stupid of me, perhaps; it betrays, I
suppose, my imperfect knowledge of your sex. I am aware that most young
men of fashion find an irresistible attraction for creatures who parade
themselves upon the stage. But I did not expect you to ape the ways of
a man of fashion. I was foolish enough to imagine you to be different;
rather above such trivial pursuits. I conceived you something of an
idealist."

"Sheer flattery."

"So I perceive. But you misled me. You talked so much morality of a
kind, you made philosophy so readily, that I came to be deceived. In
fact, your hypocrisy was so consummate that I never suspected it. With
your gift of acting I wonder that you haven't joined Mlle. Binet's
troupe."

"I have," said he.

It had really become necessary to tell her, making choice of the lesser
of the two evils with which she confronted him.

He saw first incredulity, then consternation, and lastly disgust
overspread her face.

"Of course," said she, after a long pause, "that would have the
advantage of bringing you closer to your charmer."

"That was only one of the inducements. There was another. Finding myself
forced to choose between the stage and the gallows, I had the incredible
weakness to prefer the former. It was utterly unworthy of a man of my
lofty ideals, but--what would you? Like other ideologists, I find it
easier to preach than to practise. Shall I stop the carriage and remove
the contamination of my disgusting person? Or shall I tell you how it
happened?"

"Tell me how it happened first. Then we will decide."

He told her how he met the Binet Troupe, and how the men of the
marechaussee forced upon him the discovery that in its bosom he could
lie safely lost until the hue and cry had died down. The explanation
dissolved her iciness.

"My poor Andre, why didn't you tell me this at first?"

"For one thing, you didn't give me time; for another, I feared to shock
you with the spectacle of my degradation."

She took him seriously. "But where was the need of it? And why did you
not send us word as I required you of your whereabouts?"

"I was thinking of it only yesterday. I have hesitated for several
reasons."

"You thought it would offend us to know what you were doing?"

"I think that I preferred to surprise you by the magnitude of my
ultimate achievements."

"Oh, you are to become a great actor?" She was frankly scornful.

"That is not impossible. But I am more concerned to become a great
author. There is no reason why you should sniff. The calling is an
honourable one. All the world is proud to know such men as Beaumarchais
and Chenier."

"And you hope to equal them?"

"I hope to surpass them, whilst acknowledging that it was they who
taught me how to walk. What did you think of the play last night?"

"It was amusing and well conceived."

"Let me present you to the author."

"You? But the company is one of the improvisers."

"Even improvisers require an author to write their scenarios. That is
all I write at present. Soon I shall be writing plays in the modern
manner."

"You deceive yourself, my poor Andre. The piece last night would
have been nothing without the players. You are fortunate in your
Scaramouche."

"In confidence--I present you to him."

"You--Scaramouche? You?" She turned to regard him fully. He smiled his
close-lipped smile that made wrinkles like gashes in his cheeks. He
nodded. "And I didn't recognize you!"

"I thank you for the tribute. You imagined, of course, that I was a
scene-shifter. And now that you know all about me, what of Gavrillac?
What of my godfather?"

He was well, she told him, and still profoundly indignant with
Andre-Louis for his defection, whilst secretly concerned on his behalf.

"I shall write to him to-day that I have seen you."

"Do so. Tell him that I am well and prospering. But say no more. Do not
tell him what I am doing. He has his prejudices too. Besides, it might
not be prudent. And now the question I have been burning to ask ever
since I entered your carriage. Why are you in Nantes, Aline?"

"I am on a visit to my aunt, Mme. de Sautron. It was with her that I
came to the play yesterday. We have been dull at the chateau; but
it will be different now. Madame my aunt is receiving several guests
to-day. M. de La Tour d'Azyr is to be one of them."

Andre-Louis frowned and sighed. "Did you ever hear, Aline, how poor
Philippe de Vilmorin came by his end?"

"Yes; I was told, first by my uncle; then by M. de La Tour d'Azyr,
himself."

"Did not that help you to decide this marriage question?"

"How could it? You forget that I am but a woman. You don't expect me to
judge between men in matters such as these?"

"Why not? You are well able to do so. The more since you have heard two
sides. For my godfather would tell you the truth. If you cannot judge,
it is that you do not wish to judge." His tone became harsh. "Wilfully
you close your eyes to justice that might check the course of your
unhealthy, unnatural ambition."

"Excellent!" she exclaimed, and considered him with amusement and
something else. "Do you know that you are almost droll? You rise
unblushing from the dregs of life in which I find you, and shake off the
arm of that theatre girl, to come and preach to me."

"If these were the dregs of life I might still speak from them to
counsel you out of my respect and devotion, Aline." He was very, stiff
and stern. "But they are not the dregs of life. Honour and virtue are
possible to a theatre girl; they are impossible to a lady who sells
herself to gratify ambition; who for position, riches, and a great title
barters herself in marriage."

She looked at him breathlessly. Anger turned her pale. She reached for
the cord.

"I think I had better let you alight so that you may go back to practise
virtue and honour with your theatre wench."

"You shall not speak so of her, Aline."

"Faith, now we are to have heat on her behalf. You think I am too
delicate? You think I should speak of her as a..."

"If you must speak of her at all," he interrupted, hotly, "you'll speak
of her as my wife."

Amazement smothered her anger. Her pallor deepened. "My God!" she said,
and looked at him in horror. And in horror she asked him presently: "You
are married--married to that--?"

"Not yet. But I shall be, soon. And let me tell you that this girl whom
you visit with your ignorant contempt is as good and pure as you are,
Aline. She has wit and talent which have placed her where she is and
shall carry her a deal farther. And she has the womanliness to be guided
by natural instincts in the selection of her mate."

She was trembling with passion. She tugged the cord.

"You will descend this instant!" she told him fiercely. "That you should
dare to make a comparison between me and that..."

"And my wife-to-be," he interrupted, before she could speak the infamous
word. He opened the door for himself without waiting for the footman,
and leapt down. "My compliments," said he, furiously, "to the assassin
you are to marry." He slammed the door. "Drive on," he bade the
coachman.

The carriage rolled away up the Faubourg Gigan, leaving him standing
where he had alighted, quivering with rage. Gradually, as he walked back
to the inn, his anger cooled. Gradually, as he cooled, he perceived her
point of view, and in the end forgave her. It was not her fault that she
thought as she thought. Her rearing had been such as to make her look
upon every actress as a trull, just as it had qualified her calmly
to consider the monstrous marriage of convenience into which she was
invited.

He got back to the inn to find the company at table. Silence fell when
he entered, so suddenly that of necessity it must be supposed he was
himself the subject of the conversation. Harlequin and Columbine had
spread the tale of this prince in disguise caught up into the chariot
of a princess and carried off by her; and it was a tale that had lost
nothing in the telling.

Climene had been silent and thoughtful, pondering what Columbine had
called this romance of hers. Clearly her Scaramouche must be vastly
other than he had hitherto appeared, or else that great lady and he
would never have used such familiarity with each other. Imagining him
no better than he was, Climene had made him her own. And now she was to
receive the reward of disinterested affection.

Even old Binet's secret hostility towards Andre-Louis melted before
this astounding revelation. He had pinched his daughter's ear quite
playfully. "Ah, ah, trust you to have penetrated his disguise, my
child!"

She shrank resentfully from that implication.

"But I did not. I took him for what he seemed."

Her father winked at her very solemnly and laughed. "To be sure, you
did. But like your father, who was once a gentleman, and knows the ways
of gentlemen, you detected in him a subtle something different from
those with whom misfortune has compelled you hitherto to herd. You knew
as well as I did that he never caught that trick of haughtiness, that
grand air of command, in a lawyer's musty office, and that his speech
had hardly the ring or his thoughts the complexion of the bourgeois that
he pretended to be. And it was shrewd of you to have made him yours. Do
you know that I shall be very proud of you yet, Climene?"

She moved away without answering. Her father's oiliness offended her.
Scaramouche was clearly a great gentleman, an eccentric if you please,
but a man born. And she was to be his lady. Her father must learn to
treat her differently.

She looked shyly--with a new shyness--at her lover when he came into the
room where they were dining. She observed for the first time that proud
carriage of the head, with the chin thrust forward, that was a trick of
his, and she noticed with what a grace he moved--the grace of one who in
youth has had his dancing-masters and fencing-masters.

It almost hurt her when he flung himself into a chair and exchanged
a quip with Harlequin in the usual manner as with an equal, and it
offended her still more that Harlequin, knowing what he now knew, should
use him with the same unbecoming familiarity.



CHAPTER IX. THE AWAKENING

"Do you know," said Climene, "that I am waiting for the explanation
which I think you owe me?"

They were alone together, lingering still at the table to which
Andre-Louis had come belatedly, and Andre-Louis was loading himself a
pipe. Of late--since joining the Binet Troupe--he had acquired the habit
of smoking. The others had gone, some to take the air and others, like
Binet and Madame, because they felt that it were discreet to leave
those two to the explanations that must pass. It was a feeling that
Andre-Louis did not share. He kindled a light and leisurely applied it
to his pipe. A frown came to settle on his brow.

"Explanation?" he questioned presently, and looked at her. "But on what
score?"

"On the score of the deception you have practised on us--on me."

"I have practised none," he assured her.

"You mean that you have simply kept your own counsel, and that in
silence there is no deception. But it is deceitful to withhold facts
concerning yourself and your true station from your future wife. You
should not have pretended to be a simple country lawyer, which, of
course, any one could see that you are not. It may have been very
romantic, but... Enfin, will you explain?"

"I see," he said, and pulled at his pipe. "But you are wrong, Climene.
I have practised no deception. If there are things about me that I have
not told you, it is that I did not account them of much importance.
But I have never deceived you by pretending to be other than I am. I am
neither more nor less than I have represented myself."

This persistence began to annoy her, and the annoyance showed on her
winsome face, coloured her voice.

"Ha! And that fine lady of the nobility with whom you are so intimate,
who carried you off in her cabriolet with so little ceremony towards
myself? What is she to you?"

"A sort of sister," said he.

"A sort of sister!" She was indignant. "Harlequin foretold that you
would say so; but he was amusing himself. It was not very funny. It
is less funny still from you. She has a name, I suppose, this sort of
sister?"

"Certainly she has a name. She is Mlle. Aline de Kercadiou, the niece of
Quintin de Kercadiou, Lord of Gavrillac."

"Oho! That's a sufficiently fine name for your sort of sister. What sort
of sister, my friend?"

For the first time in their relationship he observed and deplored the
taint of vulgarity, of shrewishness, in her manner.

"It would have been more accurate in me to have said a sort of reputed
left-handed cousin."

"A reputed left-handed cousin! And what sort of relationship may that
be? Faith, you dazzle me with your lucidity."

"It requires to be explained."

"That is what I have been telling you. But you seem very reluctant with
your explanations."

"Oh, no. It is only that they are so unimportant. But be you the judge.
Her uncle, M. de Kercadiou, is my godfather, and she and I have been
playmates from infancy as a consequence. It is popularly believed in
Gavrillac that M. de Kercadiou is my father. He has certainly cared for
my rearing from my tenderest years, and it is entirely owing to him
that I was educated at Louis le Grand. I owe to him everything that I
have--or, rather, everything that I had; for of my own free will I have
cut myself adrift, and to-day I possess nothing save what I can earn for
myself in the theatre or elsewhere."

She sat stunned and pale under that cruel blow to her swelling pride.
Had he told her this but yesterday, it would have made no impression
upon her, it would have mattered not at all; the event of to-day coming
as a sequel would but have enhanced him in her eyes. But coming now,
after her imagination had woven for him so magnificent a background,
after the rashly assumed discovery of his splendid identity had made
her the envied of all the company, after having been in her own eyes and
theirs enshrined by marriage with him as a great lady, this disclosure
crushed and humiliated her. Her prince in disguise was merely the
outcast bastard of a country gentleman! She would be the laughing-stock
of every member of her father's troupe, of all those who had so lately
envied her this romantic good fortune.

"You should have told me this before," she said, in a dull voice that
she strove to render steady.

"Perhaps I should. But does it really matter?"

"Matter?" She suppressed her fury to ask another question. "You say
that this M. de Kercadiou is popularly believed to be your father. What
precisely do you mean?"

"Just that. It is a belief that I do not share. It is a matter of
instinct, perhaps, with me. Moreover, once I asked M. de Kercadiou
point-blank, and I received from him a denial. It is not, perhaps,
a denial to which one would attach too much importance in all the
circumstances. Yet I have never known M de Kercadiou for other than
a man of strictest honour, and I should hesitate to disbelieve
him--particularly when his statement leaps with my own instincts. He
assured me that he did not know who my father was."

"And your mother, was she equally ignorant?" She was sneering, but he
did not remark it. Her back was to the light.

"He would not disclose her name to me. He confessed her to be a dear
friend of his."

She startled him by laughing, and her laugh was not pleasant.

"A very dear friend, you may be sure, you simpleton. What name do you
bear?"

He restrained his own rising indignation to answer her question calmly:
"Moreau. It was given me, so I am told, from the Brittany village in
which I was born. But I have no claim to it. In fact I have no name,
unless it be Scaramouche, to which I have earned a title. So that you
see, my dear," he ended with a smile, "I have practised no deception
whatever."

"No, no. I see that now." She laughed without mirth, then drew a deep
breath and rose. "I am very tired," she said.

He was on his feet in an instant, all solicitude. But she waved him
wearily back.

"I think I will rest until it is time to go to the theatre." She moved
towards the door, dragging her feet a little. He sprang to open it, and
she passed out without looking at him.

Her so brief romantic dream was ended. The glorious world of fancy which
in the last hour she had built with such elaborate detail, over which it
should be her exalted destiny to rule, lay shattered about her feet, its
debris so many stumbling-blocks that prevented her from winning back to
her erstwhile content in Scaramouche as he really was.

Andre-Louis sat in the window embrasure, smoking and looking idly out
across the river. He was intrigued and meditative. He had shocked her.
The fact was clear; not so the reason. That he should confess himself
nameless should not particularly injure him in the eyes of a girl
reared amid the surroundings that had been Climene's. And yet that his
confession had so injured him was fully apparent.

There, still at his brooding, the returning Columbine discovered him a
half-hour later.

"All alone, my prince!" was her laughing greeting, which suddenly threw
light upon his mental darkness. Climene had been disappointed of hopes
that the wild imagination of these players had suddenly erected upon the
incident of his meeting with Aline. Poor child! He smiled whimsically at
Columbine.

"I am likely to be so for some little time," said he, "until it becomes
a commonplace that I am not, after all, a prince.

"Not a prince? Oh, but a duke, then--at least a marquis."

"Not even a chevalier, unless it be of the order of fortune. I am just
Scaramouche. My castles are all in Spain."

Disappointment clouded the lively, good-natured face.

"And I had imagined you..."

"I know," he interrupted. "That is the mischief." He might have gauged
the extent of that mischief by Climene's conduct that evening towards
the gentlemen of fashion who clustered now in the green-room between the
acts to pay their homage to the incomparable amoureuse. Hitherto she had
received them with a circumspection compelling respect. To-night she was
recklessly gay, impudent, almost wanton.

He spoke of it gently to her as they walked home together, counselling
more prudence in the future.

"We are not married yet," she told him, tartly. "Wait until then before
you criticize my conduct."

"I trust that there will be no occasion then," said he.

"You trust? Ah, yes. You are very trusting."

"Climene, I have offended you. I am sorry."

"It is nothing," said she. "You are what you are." Still was he not
concerned. He perceived the source of her ill-humour; understood, whilst
deploring it; and, because he understood, forgave. He perceived also
that her ill-humour was shared by her father, and by this he was frankly
amused. Towards M. Binet a tolerant contempt was the only feeling that
complete acquaintance could beget. As for the rest of the company, they
were disposed to be very kindly towards Scaramouche. It was almost as
if in reality he had fallen from the high estate to which their own
imaginations had raised him; or possibly it was because they saw the
effect which that fall from his temporary and fictitious elevation had
produced upon Climene.

Leandre alone made himself an exception. His habitual melancholy
seemed to be dispelled at last, and his eyes gleamed now with malicious
satisfaction when they rested upon Scaramouche, whom occasionally he
continued to address with sly mockery as "mon prince."

On the morrow Andre-Louis saw but little of Climene. This was not
in itself extraordinary, for he was very hard at work again, with
preparations now for "Figaro-Scaramouche" which was to be played on
Saturday. Also, in addition to his manifold theatrical occupations, he
now devoted an hour every morning to the study of fencing in an academy
of arms. This was done not only to repair an omission in his education,
but also, and chiefly, to give him added grace and poise upon the stage.
He found his mind that morning distracted by thoughts of both Climene
and Aline. And oddly enough it was Aline who provided the deeper
perturbation. Climene's attitude he regarded as a passing phase which
need not seriously engage him. But the thought of Aline's conduct
towards him kept rankling, and still more deeply rankled the thought of
her possible betrothal to M. de La Tour d'Azyr.

This it was that brought forcibly to his mind the self-imposed but by
now half-forgotten mission that he had made his own. He had boasted that
he would make the voice which M. de La Tour d'Azyr had sought to silence
ring through the length and breadth of the land. And what had he done of
all this that he had boasted? He had incited the mob of Rennes and the
mob of Nantes in such terms as poor Philippe might have employed, and
then because of a hue and cry he had fled like a cur and taken shelter
in the first kennel that offered, there to lie quiet and devote himself
to other things--self-seeking things. What a fine contrast between the
promise and the fulfilment!

Thus Andre-Louis to himself in his self-contempt. And whilst he trifled
away his time and played Scaramouche, and centred all his hopes in
presently becoming the rival of such men as Chenier and Mercier, M. de
La Tour d'Azyr went his proud ways unchallenged and wrought his will.
It was idle to tell himself that the seed he had sown was bearing fruit.
That the demands he had voiced in Nantes for the Third Estate had
been granted by M. Necker, thanks largely to the commotion which his
anonymous speech had made. That was not his concern or his mission. It
was no part of his concern to set about the regeneration of mankind, or
even the regeneration of the social structure of France. His concern
was to see that M. de La Tour d'Azyr paid to the uttermost liard for the
brutal wrong he had done Philippe de Vilmorin. And it did not increase
his self-respect to find that the danger in which Aline stood of
being married to the Marquis was the real spur to his rancour and to
remembrance of his vow. He was--too unjustly, perhaps--disposed to dismiss
as mere sophistries his own arguments that there was nothing he could
do; that, in fact, he had but to show his head to find himself going to
Rennes under arrest and making his final exit from the world's stage by
way of the gallows.

It is impossible to read that part of his "Confessions" without feeling
a certain pity for him. You realize what must have been his state of
mind. You realize what a prey he was to emotions so conflicting, and
if you have the imagination that will enable you to put yourself in his
place, you will also realize how impossible was any decision save the
one to which he says he came, that he would move, at the first moment
that he perceived in what direction it would serve his real aims to
move.

It happened that the first person he saw when he took the stage on
that Thursday evening was Aline; the second was the Marquis de La Tour
d'Azyr. They occupied a box on the right of, and immediately above, the
stage. There were others with them--notably a thin, elderly, resplendent
lady whom Andre-Louis supposed to be Madame la Comtesse de Sautron. But
at the time he had no eyes for any but those two, who of late had
so haunted his thoughts. The sight of either of them would have been
sufficiently disconcerting. The sight of both together very nearly made
him forget the purpose for which he had come upon the stage. Then he
pulled himself together, and played. He played, he says, with an unusual
nerve, and never in all that brief but eventful career of his was he
more applauded.

That was the evening's first shock. The next came after the second act.
Entering the green-room he found it more thronged than usual, and at the
far end with Climene, over whom he was bending from his fine height, his
eyes intent upon her face, what time his smiling lips moved in talk, M.
de La Tour d'Azyr. He had her entirely to himself, a privilege none of
the men of fashion who were in the habit of visiting the coulisse
had yet enjoyed. Those lesser gentlemen had all withdrawn before the
Marquis, as jackals withdraw before the lion.

Andre-Louis stared a moment, stricken. Then recovering from his surprise
he became critical in his study of the Marquis. He considered the
beauty and grace and splendour of him, his courtly air, his complete
and unshakable self-possession. But more than all he considered the
expression of the dark eyes that were devouring Climene's lovely face,
and his own lips tightened.

M. de La Tour d'Azyr never heeded him or his stare; nor, had he done
so, would he have known who it was that looked at him from behind the
make-up of Scaramouche; nor, again, had he known, would he have been in
the least troubled or concerned.

Andre-Louis sat down apart, his mind in turmoil. Presently he found a
mincing young gentleman addressing him, and made shift to answer as
was expected. Climene having been thus sequestered, and Columbine being
already thickly besieged by gallants, the lesser visitors had to content
themselves with Madame and the male members of the troupe. M. Binet,
indeed, was the centre of a gay cluster that shook with laughter at his
sallies. He seemed of a sudden to have emerged from the gloom of the
last two days into high good-humour, and Scaramouche observed how
persistently his eyes kept flickering upon his daughter and her splendid
courtier.

That night there, were high words between Andre-Louis and Climene, the
high words proceeding from Climene. When Andre-Louis again, and more
insistently, enjoined prudence upon his betrothed, and begged her to
beware how far she encouraged the advances of such a man as M. de La
Tour d'Azyr, she became roundly abusive. She shocked and stunned him
by her virulently shrewish tone, and her still more unexpected force of
invective.

He sought to reason with her, and finally she came to certain terms with
him.

"If you have become betrothed to me simply to stand as an obstacle in my
path, the sooner we make an end the better."

"You do not love me then, Climene?"

"Love has nothing to do with it. I'll not tolerate your insensate
jealousy. A girl in the theatre must make it her business to accept
homage from all."

"Agreed; and there is no harm, provided she gives nothing in exchange."

White-faced, with flaming eyes she turned on him at that.

"Now, what exactly do you mean?"

"My meaning is clear. A girl in your position may receive all the homage
that is offered, provided she receives it with a dignified aloofness
implying clearly that she has no favours to bestow in return beyond the
favour of her smile. If she is wise she will see to it that the homage
is always offered collectively by her admirers, and that no single one
amongst them shall ever have the privilege of approaching her alone. If
she is wise she will give no encouragement, nourish no hopes that it may
afterwards be beyond her power to deny realization."

"How? You dare?"

"I know my world. And I know M. de La Tour d'Azyr," he answered her. "He
is a man without charity, without humanity almost; a man who takes what
he wants wherever he finds it and whether it is given willingly or
not; a man who reckons nothing of the misery he scatters on his
self-indulgent way; a man whose only law is force. Ponder it, Climene,
and ask yourself if I do you less than honour in warning you."

He went out on that, feeling a degradation in continuing the subject.

The days that followed were unhappy days for him, and for at least
one other. That other was Leandre, who was cast into the profoundest
dejection by M. de La Tour d'Azyr's assiduous attendance upon Climene.
The Marquis was to be seen at every performance; a box was perpetually
reserved for him, and invariably he came either alone or else with his
cousin M. de Chabrillane.

On Tuesday of the following week, Andre-Louis went out alone early in
the morning. He was out of temper, fretted by an overwhelming sense of
humiliation, and he hoped to clear his mind by walking. In turning
the corner of the Place du Bouffay he ran into a slightly built,
sallow-complexioned gentleman very neatly dressed in black, wearing a
tie-wig under a round hat. The man fell back at sight of him, levelling
a spy-glass, then hailed him in a voice that rang with amazement.

"Moreau! Where the devil have you been hiding your-self these months?"

It was Le Chapelier, the lawyer, the leader of the Literary Chamber of
Rennes.

"Behind the skirts of Thespis," said Scaramouche.

"I don't understand."

"I didn't intend that you should. What of yourself, Isaac? And what of
the world which seems to have been standing still of late?"

"Standing still!" Le Chapelier laughed. "But where have you been, then?
Standing still!" He pointed across the square to a café under the shadow
of the gloomy prison. "Let us go and drink a bavaroise. You are of
all men the man we want, the man we have been seeking everywhere,
and--behold!--you drop from the skies into my path."

They crossed the square and entered the café.

"So you think the world has been standing still! Dieu de Dieu! I suppose
you haven't heard of the royal order for the convocation of the States
General, or the terms of them--that we are to have what we demanded, what
you demanded for us here in Nantes! You haven't heard that the order has
gone forth for the primary elections--the elections of the electors. You
haven't heard of the fresh uproar in Rennes, last month. The order was
that the three estates should sit together at the States General of
the bailliages, but in the bailliage of Rennes the nobles must ever be
recalcitrant. They took up arms actually--six hundred of them with their
valetaille, headed by your old friend M. de La Tour d'Azyr, and they
were for slashing us--the members of the Third Estate--into ribbons so as
to put an end to our insolence." He laughed delicately. "But, by God, we
showed them that we, too, could take up arms. It was what you yourself
advocated here in Nantes, last November. We fought them a pitched
battle in the streets, under the leadership of your namesake Moreau, the
provost, and we so peppered them that they were glad to take shelter in
the Cordelier Convent. That is the end of their resistance to the royal
authority and the people's will."

He ran on at great speed detailing the events that had taken place, and
finally came to the matter which had, he announced, been causing him to
hunt for Andre-Louis until he had all but despaired of finding him.

Nantes was sending fifty delegates to the assembly of Rennes which was
to select the deputies to the Third Estate and edit their cahier of
grievances. Rennes itself was being as fully represented, whilst such
villages as Gavrillac were sending two delegates for every two hundred
hearths or less. Each of these three had clamoured that Andre-Louis
Moreau should be one of its delegates. Gavrillac wanted him because he
belonged to the village, and it was known there what sacrifices he had
made in the popular cause; Rennes wanted him because it had heard
his spirited address on the day of the shooting of the students; and
Nantes--to whom his identity was unknown--asked for him as the speaker who
had addressed them under the name of Omnes Omnibus and who had framed
for them the memorial that was believed so largely to have influenced M.
Necker in formulating the terms of the convocation.

Since he could not be found, the delegations had been made up without
him. But now it happened that one or two vacancies had occurred in
the Nantes representation; and it was the business of filling these
vacancies that had brought Le Chapelier to Nantes.

Andre-Louis firmly shook his head in answer to Le Chapelier's proposal.

"You refuse?" the other cried. "Are you mad? Refuse, when you are
demanded from so many sides? Do you realize that it is more than
probable you will be elected one of the deputies, that you will be sent
to the States General at Versailles to represent us in this work of
saving France?"

But Andre-Louis, we know, was not concerned to save France. At the
moment he was concerned to save two women, both of whom he loved, though
in vastly different ways, from a man he had vowed to ruin. He stood firm
in his refusal until Le Chapelier dejectedly abandoned the attempt to
persuade him.

"It is odd," said Andre-Louis, "that I should have been so deeply
immersed in trifles as never to have perceived that Nantes is being
politically active."

"Active! My friend, it is a seething cauldron of political emotions. It
is kept quiet on the surface only by the persuasion that all goes well.
At a hint to the contrary it would boil over."

"Would it so?" said Scaramouche, thoughtfully. "The knowledge may be
useful." And then he changed the subject. "You know that La Tour d'Azyr
is here?"

"In Nantes? He has courage if he shows himself. They are not a docile
people, these Nantais, and they know his record and the part he played
in the rising at Rennes. I marvel they haven't stoned him. But they
will, sooner or later. It only needs that some one should suggest it."

"That is very likely," said Andre-Louis, and smiled. "He doesn't show
himself much; not in the streets, at least. So that he has not the
courage you suppose; nor any kind of courage, as I told him once. He has
only insolence."

At parting Le Chapelier again exhorted him to give thought to what he
proposed. "Send me word if you change your mind. I am lodged at the
Cerf, and I shall be here until the day after to-morrow. If you have
ambition, this is your moment."

"I have no ambition, I suppose," said Andre-Louis, and went his way.

That night at the theatre he had a mischievous impulse to test what Le
Chapelier had told him of the state of public feeling in the city. They
were playing "The Terrible Captain," in the last act of which the empty
cowardice of the bullying braggart Rhodomont is revealed by Scaramouche.

After the laughter which the exposure of the roaring captain invariably
produced, it remained for Scaramouche contemptuously to dismiss him in a
phrase that varied nightly, according to the inspiration of the moment.
This time he chose to give his phrase a political complexion:

"Thus, O thrasonical coward, is your emptiness exposed. Because of your
long length and the great sword you carry and the angle at which you
cock your hat, people have gone in fear of you, have believed in you,
have imagined you to be as terrible and as formidable as you insolently
make yourself appear. But at the first touch of true spirit you crumple
up, you tremble, you whine pitifully, and the great sword remains in
your scabbard. You remind me of the Privileged Orders when confronted by
the Third Estate."

It was audacious of him, and he was prepared for anything--a laugh,
applause, indignation, or all together. But he was not prepared for what
came. And it came so suddenly and spontaneously from the groundlings and
the body of those in the amphitheatre that he was almost scared by it--as
a boy may be scared who has held a match to a sun-scorched hayrick. It
was a hurricane of furious applause. Men leapt to their feet, sprang up
on to the benches, waving their hats in the air, deafening him with
the terrific uproar of their acclamations. And it rolled on and on, nor
ceased until the curtain fell.

Scaramouche stood meditatively smiling with tight lips. At the last
moment he had caught a glimpse of M. de La Tour d'Azyr's face thrust
farther forward than usual from the shadows of his box, and it was a
face set in anger, with eyes on fire.

"Mon Dieu!" laughed Rhodomont, recovering from the real scare that had
succeeded his histrionic terror, "but you have a great trick of tickling
them in the right place, Scaramouche."

Scaramouche looked up at him and smiled. "It can be useful upon
occasion," said he, and went off to his dressing-room to change.

But a reprimand awaited him. He was delayed at the theatre by matters
concerned with the scenery of the new piece they were to mount upon the
morrow. By the time he was rid of the business the rest of the company
had long since left. He called a chair and had himself carried back
to the inn in solitary state. It was one of many minor luxuries his
comparatively affluent present circumstances permitted.

Coming into that upstairs room that was common to all the troupe, he
found M. Binet talking loudly and vehemently. He had caught sounds of
his voice whilst yet upon the stairs. As he entered Binet broke off
short, and wheeled to face him.

"You are here at last!" It was so odd a greeting that Andre-Louis did
no more than look his mild surprise. "I await your explanations of the
disgraceful scene you provoked to-night."

"Disgraceful? Is it disgraceful that the public should applaud me?"

"The public? The rabble, you mean. Do you want to deprive us of the
patronage of all gentlefolk by vulgar appeals to the low passions of the
mob?"

Andre-Louis stepped past M. Binet and forward to the table. He shrugged
contemptuously. The man offended him, after all.

"You exaggerate grossly--as usual."

"I do not exaggerate. And I am the master in my own theatre. This is the
Binet Troupe, and it shall be conducted in the Binet way."

"Who are the gentlefolk the loss of whose patronage to the Feydau will
be so poignantly felt?" asked Andre-Louis.

"You imply that there are none? See how wrong you are. After the play
to-night M. le Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr came to me, and spoke to me
in the severest terms about your scandalous outburst. I was forced to
apologize, and..."

"The more fool you," said Andre-Louis. "A man who respected himself
would have shown that gentleman the door." M. Binet's face began to
empurple. "You call yourself the head of the Binet Troupe, you boast
that you will be master in your own theatre, and you stand like a
lackey to take the orders of the first insolent fellow who comes to your
green-room to tell you that he does not like a line spoken by one of
your company! I say again that had you really respected yourself you
would have turned him out."

There was a murmur of approval from several members of the company, who,
having heard the arrogant tone assumed by the Marquis, were filled with
resentment against the slur cast upon them all.

"And I say further," Andre-Louis went on, "that a man who respects
himself, on quite other grounds, would have been only too glad to have
seized this pretext to show M. de La Tour d'Azyr the door."

"What do you mean by that?" There was a rumble of thunder in the
question.

Andre-Louis' eyes swept round the company assembled at the supper-table.
"Where is Climene?" he asked, sharply.

Leandre leapt up to answer him, white in the face, tense and quivering
with excitement.

"She left the theatre in the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr's carriage
immediately after the performance. We heard him offer to drive her to
this inn."

Andre-Louis glanced at the timepiece on the overmantel. He seemed
unnaturally calm.

"That would be an hour ago--rather more. And she has not yet arrived?"

His eyes sought M. Binet's. M. Binet's eyes eluded his glance. Again it
was Leandre who answered him.

"Not yet."

"Ah!" Andre-Louis sat down, and poured himself wine. There was an
oppressive silence in the room. Leandre watched him expectantly,
Columbine commiseratingly. Even M. Binet appeared to be waiting for a
cue from Scaramouche. But Scaramouche disappointed him. "Have you left
me anything to eat?" he asked.

Platters were pushed towards him. He helped himself calmly to food,
and ate in silence, apparently with a good appetite. M. Binet sat
down, poured himself wine, and drank. Presently he attempted to
make conversation with one and another. He was answered curtly, in
monosyllables. M. Binet did not appear to be in favour with his troupe
that night.

At long length came a rumble of wheels below and a rattle of halting
hooves. Then voices, the high, trilling laugh of Climene floating
upwards. Andre-Louis went on eating unconcernedly.

"What an actor!" said Harlequin under his breath to Polichinelle, and
Polichinelle nodded gloomily.

She came in, a leading lady taking the stage, head high, chin thrust
forward, eyes dancing with laughter; she expressed triumph and
arrogance. Her cheeks were flushed, and there was some disorder in
the mass of nut-brown hair that crowned her head. In her left hand she
carried an enormous bouquet of white camellias. On its middle finger a
diamond of great price drew almost at once by its effulgence the eyes of
all.

Her father sprang to meet her with an unusual display of paternal
tenderness. "At last, my child!"

He conducted her to the table. She sank into a chair, a little wearily,
a little nervelessly, but the smile did not leave her face, not even
when she glanced across at Scaramouche. It was only Leandre, observing
her closely, with hungry, scowling stare, who detected something as of
fear in the hazel eyes momentarily seen between the fluttering of her
lids.

Andre-Louis, however, still went on eating stolidly, without so much as
a look in her direction. Gradually the company came to realize that
just as surely as a scene was brooding, just so surely would there be no
scene as long as they remained. It was Polichinelle, at last, who
gave the signal by rising and withdrawing, and within two minutes none
remained in the room but M. Binet, his daughter, and Andre-Louis. And
then, at last, Andre-Louis set down knife and fork, washed his throat
with a draught of Burgundy, and sat back in his chair to consider
Climene.

"I trust," said he, "that you had a pleasant ride, mademoiselle."

"Most pleasant, monsieur." Impudently she strove to emulate his
coolness, but did not completely succeed.

"And not unprofitable, if I may judge that jewel at this distance.
It should be worth at least a couple of hundred louis, and that is a
formidable sum even to so wealthy a nobleman as M. de La Tour d'Azyr.
Would it be impertinent in one who has had some notion of becoming your
husband, to ask you, mademoiselle, what you have given him in return?"

M. Binet uttered a gross laugh, a queer mixture of cynicism and
contempt.

"I have given nothing," said Climene, indignantly.

"Ah! Then the jewel is in the nature of a payment in advance."

"My God, man, you're not decent!" M. Binet protested.

"Decent?" Andre-Louis' smouldering eyes turned to discharge upon M.
Binet such a fulmination of contempt that the old scoundrel shifted
uncomfortably in his chair. "Did you mention decency, Binet? Almost
you make me lose my temper, which is a thing that I detest above all
others!" Slowly his glance returned to Climene, who sat with elbows on
the table, her chin cupped in her palms, regarding him with something
between scorn and defiance. "Mademoiselle," he said, slowly, "I desire
you purely in your own interests to consider whither you are going."

"I am well able to consider it for myself, and to decide without advice
from you, monsieur."

"And now you've got your answer," chuckled Binet. "I hope you like it."

Andre-Louis had paled a little; there was incredulity in his great
sombre eyes as they continued steadily to regard her. Of M. Binet he
took no notice.

"Surely, mademoiselle, you cannot mean that willingly, with open
eyes and a full understanding of what you do, you would exchange an
honourable wifehood for... for the thing that such men as M. de La Tour
d'Azyr may have in store for you?"

M. Binet made a wide gesture, and swung to his daughter. "You hear him,
the mealy-mouthed prude! Perhaps you'll believe at last that marriage
with him would be the ruin of you. He would always be there the
inconvenient husband--to mar your every chance, my girl."

She tossed her lovely head in agreement with her father. "I begin to
find him tiresome with his silly jealousies," she confessed. "As a
husband I am afraid he would be impossible."

Andre-Louis felt a constriction of the heart. But--always the actor--he
showed nothing of it. He laughed a little, not very pleasantly, and
rose.

"I bow to your choice, mademoiselle. I pray that you may not regret it."

"Regret it?" cried M. Binet. He was laughing, relieved to see his
daughter at last rid of this suitor of whom he had never approved, if we
except those few hours when he really believed him to be an eccentric
of distinction. "And what shall she regret? That she accepted the
protection of a nobleman so powerful and wealthy that as a mere trinket
he gives her a jewel worth as much as an actress earns in a year at the
Comedie Francaise?" He got up, and advanced towards Andre-Louis. His
mood became conciliatory. "Come, come, my friend, no rancour now. What
the devil! You wouldn't stand in the girl's way? You can't really blame
her for making this choice? Have you thought what it means to her? Have
you thought that under the protection of such a gentleman there are no
heights which she may not reach? Don't you see the wonderful luck of
it? Surely, if you're fond of her, particularly being of a jealous
temperament, you wouldn't wish it otherwise?"

Andre-Louis looked at him in silence for a long moment. Then he laughed
again. "Oh, you are fantastic," he said. "You are not real." He turned
on his heel and strode to the door.

The action, and more the contempt of his look, laugh, and words stung M.
Binet to passion, drove out the conciliatoriness of his mood.

"Fantastic, are we?" he cried, turning to follow the departing
Scaramouche with his little eyes that now were inexpressibly evil.
"Fantastic that we should prefer the powerful protection of this great
nobleman to marriage with a beggarly, nameless bastard. Oh, we are
fantastic!"

Andre-Louis turned, his hand upon the door-handle. "No," he said, "I was
mistaken. You are not fantastic. You are just vile--both of you." And he
went out.



CHAPTER X. CONTRITION

Mlle. de Kercadiou walked with her aunt in the bright morning sunshine
of a Sunday in March on the broad terrace of the Chateau de Sautron.

For one of her natural sweetness of disposition she had been oddly
irritable of late, manifesting signs of a cynical worldliness, which
convinced Mme. de Sautron more than ever that her brother Quintin
had scandalously conducted the child's education. She appeared to be
instructed in all the things of which a girl is better ignorant, and
ignorant of all the things that a girl should know. That at least was
the point of view of Mme. de Sautron.

"Tell me, madame," quoth Aline, "are all men beasts?" Unlike her
brother, Madame la Comtesse was tall and majestically built. In the days
before her marriage with M. de Sautron, ill-natured folk described her
as the only man in the family. She looked down now from her noble height
upon her little niece with startled eyes.

"Really, Aline, you have a trick of asking the most disconcerting and
improper questions."

"Perhaps it is because I find life disconcerting and improper."

"Life? A young girl should not discuss life."

"Why not, since I am alive? You do not suggest that it is an impropriety
to be alive?"

"It is an impropriety for a young unmarried girl to seek to know too
much about life. As for your absurd question about men, when I remind
you that man is the noblest work of God, perhaps you will consider
yourself answered."

Mme. de Sautron did not invite a pursuance of the subject. But Mlle. de
Kercadiou's outrageous rearing had made her headstrong.

"That being so," said she, "will you tell me why they find such an
overwhelming attraction in the immodest of our sex?"

Madame stood still and raised shocked hands. Then she looked down her
handsome, high-bridged nose.

"Sometimes--often, in fact, my dear Aline--you pass all understanding.
I shall write to Quintin that the sooner you are married the better it
will be for all."

"Uncle Quintin has left that matter to my own deciding," Aline reminded
her.

"That," said madame with complete conviction, "is the last and most
outrageous of his errors. Who ever heard of a girl being left to decide
the matter of her own marriage? It is... indelicate almost to expose her
to thoughts of such things." Mme. de Sautron shuddered. "Quintin is a
boor. His conduct is unheard of. That M. de La Tour d'Azyr should parade
himself before you so that you may make up your mind whether he is the
proper man for you!" Again she shuddered. "It is of a grossness, of...
of a prurience almost... Mon Dieu! When I married your uncle, all this
was arranged between our parents. I first saw him when he came to sign
the contract. I should have died of shame had it been otherwise. And
that is how these affairs should be conducted."

"You are no doubt right, madame. But since that is not how my own case
is being conducted, you will forgive me if I deal with it apart from
others. M. de La Tour d'Azyr desires to marry me. He has been permitted
to pay his court. I should be glad to have him informed that he may
cease to do so."

Mme. de Sautron stood still, petrified by amazement. Her long face
turned white; she seemed to breathe with difficulty.

"But... but... what are you saying?" she gasped.

Quietly Aline repeated her statement.

"But this is outrageous! You cannot be permitted to play fast-and-loose
with a gentleman of M. le Marquis' quality! Why, it is little more than
a week since you permitted him to be informed that you would become his
wife!"

"I did so in a moment of... rashness. Since then M. le Marquis' own
conduct has convinced me of my error."

"But--mon Dieu!" cried the Countess. "Are you blind to the great honour
that is being paid you? M. le Marquis will make you the first lady in
Brittany. Yet, little fool that you are, and greater fool that Quintin
is, you trifle with this extraordinary good fortune! Let me warn you."
She raised an admonitory forefinger. "If you continue in this stupid
humour M. de La Tour d'Azyr may definitely withdraw his offer and depart
in justified mortification."

"That, madame, as I am endeavouring to convey to you, is what I most
desire."

"Oh, you are mad."

"It may be, madame, that I am sane in preferring to be guided by my
instincts. It may be even that I am justified in resenting that the man
who aspires to become my husband should at the same time be paying such
assiduous homage to a wretched theatre girl at the Feydau."

"Aline!"

"Is it not true? Or perhaps you do not find it strange that M. de La
Tour d'Azyr should so conduct himself at such a time?"

"Aline, you are so extraordinary a mixture. At moments you shock me by
the indecency of your expressions; at others you amaze me by the excess
of your prudery. You have been brought up like a little bourgeoise, I
think. Yes, that is it--a little bourgeoise. Quintin was always something
of a shopkeeper at heart."

"I was asking your opinion on the conduct of M. de La Tour d'Azyr,
madame. Not on my own."

"But it is an indelicacy in you to observe such things. You should be
ignorant of them, and I can't think who is so... so unfeeling as to
inform you. But since you are informed, at least you should be modestly
blind to things that take place outside the... orbit of a properly
conducted demoiselle."

"Will they still be outside my orbit when I am married?"

"If you are wise. You should remain without knowledge of them. It... it
deflowers your innocence. I would not for the world that M. de La Tour
d'Azyr should know you so extraordinarily instructed. Had you been
properly reared in a convent this would never have happened to you."

"But you do not answer me, madame!" cried Aline in despair. "It is not
my chastity that is in question; but that of M. de La Tour d'Azyr."

"Chastity!" Madame's lips trembled with horror. Horror overspread her
face. "Wherever did you learn that dreadful, that so improper word?"

And then Mme. de Sautron did violence to her feelings. She realized that
here great calm and prudence were required. "My child, since you know so
much that you ought not to know, there can be no harm in my adding that
a gentleman must have these little distractions."

"But why, madame? Why is it so?"

"Ah, mon Dieu, you are asking me riddles of nature. It is so because it
is so. Because men are like that."

"Because men are beasts, you mean--which is what I began by asking you."

"You are incorrigibly stupid, Aline."

"You mean that I do not see things as you do, madame. I am not
over-expectant as you appear to think; yet surely I have the right to
expect that whilst M. de La Tour d'Azyr is wooing me, he shall not be
wooing at the same time a drab of the theatre. I feel that in this there
is a subtle association of myself with that unspeakable creature which
soils and insults me. The Marquis is a dullard whose wooing takes the
form at best of stilted compliments, stupid and unoriginal. They gain
nothing when they fall from lips still warm from the contamination of
that woman's kisses."

So utterly scandalized was madame that for a moment she remained
speechless. Then--

"Mon Dieu!" she exclaimed. "I should never have suspected you of so
indelicate an imagination."

"I cannot help it, madame. Each time his lips touch my fingers I find
myself thinking of the last object that they touched. I at once retire
to wash my hands. Next time, madame, unless you are good enough to
convey my message to him, I shall call for water and wash them in his
presence."

"But what am I to tell him? How... in what words can I convey such a
message?" Madame was aghast.

"Be frank with him, madame. It is easiest in the end. Tell him that
however impure may have been his life in the past, however impure he
intend that it shall be in the future, he must at least study purity
whilst approaching with a view to marriage a virgin who is herself pure
and without stain."

Madame recoiled, and put her hands to her ears, horror stamped on her
handsome face. Her massive bosom heaved.

"Oh, how can you?" she panted. "How can you make use of such terrible
expressions? Wherever have you learnt them?"

"In church," said Aline.

"Ah, but in church many things are said that... that one would not dream
of saying in the world. My dear child, how could I possibly say such a
thing to M. le Marquis? How could I possibly?"

"Shall I say it?"

"Aline!"

"Well, there it is," said Aline. "Something must be done to shelter me
from insult. I am utterly disgusted with M. le Marquis--a disgusting man.
And however fine a thing it may be to become Marquise de La Tour d'Azyr,
why, frankly, I'd sooner marry a cobbler who practised decency."

Such was her vehemence and obvious determination that Mme. de Sautron
fetched herself out of her despair to attempt persuasion. Aline was her
niece, and such a marriage in the family would be to the credit of the
whole of it. At all costs nothing must frustrate it.

"Listen, my dear," she said. "Let us reason. M. le Marquis is away and
will not be back until to-morrow."

"True. And I know where he has gone--or at least whom he has gone with.
Mon Dieu, and the drab has a father and a lout of a fellow who intends
to make her his wife, and neither of them chooses to do anything. I
suppose they agree with you, madame, that a great gentleman must have
his little distractions." Her contempt was as scorching as a thing of
fire. "However, madame, you were about to say?"

"That on the day after to-morrow you are returning to Gavrillac. M. de
La Tour d'Azyr will most likely follow at his leisure."

"You mean when this dirty candle is burnt out?"

"Call it what you will." Madame, you see, despaired by now of
controlling the impropriety of her niece's expressions. "At Gavrillac
there will be no Mlle. Binet. This thing will be in the past. It is
unfortunate that he should have met her at such a moment. The chit is
very attractive, after all. You cannot deny that. And you must make
allowances."

"M. le Marquis formally proposed to me a week ago. Partly to satisfy the
wishes of the family, and partly..." She broke off, hesitating a moment,
to resume on a note of dull pain, "Partly because it does not seem
greatly to matter whom I marry, I gave him my consent. That consent,
for the reasons I have given you, madame, I desire now definitely to
withdraw."

Madame fell into agitation of the wildest. "Aline, I should never
forgive you! Your uncle Quintin would be in despair. You do not know
what you are saying, what a wonderful thing you are refusing. Have you
no sense of your position, of the station into which you were born?"

"If I had not, madame, I should have made an end long since. If I have
tolerated this suit for a single moment, it is because I realize the
importance of a suitable marriage in the worldly sense. But I ask of
marriage something more; and Uncle Quintin has placed the decision in my
hands."

"God forgive him!" said madame. And then she hurried on: "Leave this
to me now, Aline. Be guided by me--oh, be guided by me!" Her tone was
beseeching. "I will take counsel with your uncle Charles. But do not
definitely decide until this unfortunate affair has blown over. Charles
will know how to arrange it. M. le Marquis shall do penance, child,
since your tyranny demands it; but not in sackcloth and ashes. You'll
not ask so much?"

Aline shrugged. "I ask nothing at all," she said, which was neither
assent nor dissent.

So Mme. de Sautron interviewed her husband, a slight, middle-aged man,
very aristocratic in appearance and gifted with a certain shrewd sense.
She took with him precisely the tone that Aline had taken with herself
and which in Aline she had found so disconcertingly indelicate. She even
borrowed several of Aline's phrases.

The result was that on the Monday afternoon when at last M. de La Tour
d'Azyr's returning berline drove up to the chateau, he was met by M. le
Comte de Sautron who desired a word with him even before he changed.

"Gervais, you're a fool," was the excellent opening made by M. le Comte.

"Charles, you give me no news," answered M. le Marquis. "Of what
particular folly do you take the trouble to complain?"

He flung himself wearily upon a sofa, and his long graceful body
sprawling there he looked up at his friend with a tired smile on that
nobly handsome pale face that seemed to defy the onslaught of age.

"Of your last. This Binet girl."

"That! Pooh! An incident; hardly a folly."

"A folly--at such a time," Sautron insisted. The Marquis looked a
question. The Count answered it. "Aline," said he, pregnantly. "She
knows. How she knows I can't tell you, but she knows, and she is deeply
offended."

The smile perished on the Marquis' face. He gathered himself up.

"Offended?" said he, and his voice was anxious.

"But yes. You know what she is. You know the ideals she has formed. It
wounds her that at such a time--whilst you are here for the purpose of
wooing her--you should at the same time be pursuing this affair with that
chit of a Binet girl."

"How do you know?" asked La Tour d'Azyr.

"She has confided in her aunt. And the poor child seems to have some
reason. She says she will not tolerate that you should come to kiss her
hand with lips that are still contaminated from... Oh, you understand.
You appreciate the impression of such a thing upon a pure, sensitive
girl such as Aline. She said--I had better tell you--that the next
time you kiss her hand, she will call for water and wash it in your
presence."

The Marquis' face flamed scarlet. He rose. Knowing his violent,
intolerant spirit, M. de Sautron was prepared for an outburst. But no
outburst came. The Marquis turned away from him, and paced slowly to
the window, his head bowed, his hands behind his back. Halted there he
spoke, without turning, his voice was at once scornful and wistful.

"You are right, Charles, I am a fool--a wicked fool! I have just enough
sense left to perceive it. It is the way I have lived, I suppose. I have
never known the need to deny myself anything I wanted." Then suddenly he
swung round, and the outburst came. "But, my God, I want Aline as I
have never wanted anything yet! I think I should kill myself in rage if
through my folly I should have lost her." He struck his brow with his
hand. "I am a beast!" he said. "I should have known that if that sweet
saint got word of these petty devilries of mine she would despise me;
and I tell you, Charles, I'd go through fire to regain her respect."

"I hope it is to be regained on easier terms," said Charles; and then
to ease the situation which began to irk him by its solemnity, he made
a feeble joke. "It is merely asked of you that you refrain from going
through certain fires that are not accounted by mademoiselle of too
purifying a nature."

"As to that Binet girl, it is finished--finished," said the Marquis.

"I congratulate you. When did you make that decision?"

"This moment. I would to God I had made it twenty-four hours ago. As it
is--" he shrugged--"why, twenty-four hours of her have been enough for
me as they would have been for any man--a mercenary, self-seeking little
baggage with the soul of a trull. Bah!" He shuddered in disgust of
himself and her.

"Ah! That makes it easier for you," said M. de Sautron, cynically.

"Don't say it, Charles. It is not so. Had you been less of a fool, you
would have warned me sooner."

"I may prove to have warned you soon enough if you'll profit by the
warning."

"There is no penance I will not do. I will prostrate myself at her feet.
I will abase myself before her. I will make confession in the proper
spirit of contrition, and Heaven helping me, I'll keep to my purpose of
amendment for her sweet sake." He was tragically in earnest.

To M. de Sautron, who had never seen him other than self-contained,
supercilious, and mocking, this was an amazing revelation. He shrank
from it almost; it gave him the feeling of prying, of peeping through a
keyhole. He slapped his friend's shoulder.

"My dear Gervais, here is a magnificently romantic mood. Enough said.
Keep to it, and I promise you that all will presently be well. I will be
your ambassador, and you shall have no cause to complain."

"But may I not go to her myself?"

"If you are wise you will at once efface yourself. Write to her if you
will--make your act of contrition by letter. I will explain why you have
gone without seeing her. I will tell her that you did so upon my advice,
and I will do it tactfully. I am a good diplomat, Gervais. Trust me."

M. le Marquis raised his head, and showed a face that pain was searing.
He held out his hand. "Very well, Charles. Serve me in this, and count
me your friend in all things."



CHAPTER XI. THE FRACAS AT THE THEATRE FEYDAU

Leaving his host to act as his plenipotentiary with Mademoiselle de
Kercadiou, and to explain to her that it was his profound contrition
that compelled him to depart without taking formal leave of her, the
Marquis rolled away from Sautron in a cloud of gloom. Twenty-four hours
with La Binet had been more than enough for a man of his fastidious
and discerning taste. He looked back upon the episode with nausea--the
inevitable psychological reaction--marvelling at himself that until
yesterday he should have found her so desirable, and cursing himself
that for the sake of that ephemeral and worthless gratification he
should seriously have imperilled his chances of winning Mademoiselle de
Kercadiou to wife. There is, after all, nothing very extraordinary in
his frame of mind, so that I need not elaborate it further. It resulted
from the conflict between the beast and the angel that go to make up the
composition of every man.

The Chevalier de Chabrillane--who in reality occupied towards the Marquis
a position akin to that of gentleman-in-waiting--sat opposite to him in
the enormous travelling berline. A small folding table had been erected
between them, and the Chevalier suggested piquet. But M. le Marquis was
in no humour for cards. His thoughts absorbed him. As they were rattling
over the cobbles of Nantes' streets, he remembered a promise to La Binet
to witness her performance that night in "The Faithless Lover." And now
he was running away from her. The thought was repugnant to him on two
scores. He was breaking his pledged word, and he was acting like a
coward. And there was more than that. He had led the mercenary little
strumpet--it was thus he thought of her at present, and with some
justice--to expect favours from him in addition to the lavish awards
which already he had made her. The baggage had almost sought to drive a
bargain with him as to her future. He was to take her to Paris, put her
into her own furniture--as the expression ran, and still runs--and under
the shadow of his powerful protection see that the doors of the great
theatres of the capital should be opened to her talents. He had not--he
was thankful to reflect--exactly committed himself. But neither had
he definitely refused her. It became necessary now to come to an
understanding, since he was compelled to choose between his trivial
passion for her--a passion quenched already--and his deep, almost
spiritual devotion to Mademoiselle de Kercadiou.

His honour, he considered, demanded of him that he should at once
deliver himself from a false position. La Binet would make a scene, of
course; but he knew the proper specific to apply to hysteria of that
nature. Money, after all, has its uses.

He pulled the cord. The carriage rolled to a standstill; a footman
appeared at the door.

"To the Theatre Feydau," said he.

The footman vanished and the berline rolled on. M. de Chabrillane
laughed cynically.

"I'll trouble you not to be amused," snapped the Marquis. "You
don't understand." Thereafter he explained himself. It was a rare
condescension in him. But, then, he could not bear to be misunderstood
in such a matter. Chabrillane grew serious in reflection of the Marquis'
extreme seriousness.

"Why not write?" he suggested. "Myself, I confess that I should find it
easier."

Nothing could better have revealed M. le Marquis' state of mind than his
answer.

"Letters are liable both to miscarriage and to misconstruction. Two
risks I will not run. If she did not answer, I should never know which
had been incurred. And I shall have no peace of mind until I know that I
have set a term to this affair. The berline can wait while we are at
the theatre. We will go on afterwards. We will travel all night if
necessary."

"Peste!" said M. de Chabrillane with a grimace. But that was all.

The great travelling carriage drew up at the lighted portals of the
Feydau, and M. le Marquis stepped out. He entered the theatre with
Chabrillane, all unconsciously to deliver himself into the hands of
Andre-Louis.

Andre-Louis was in a state of exasperation produced by Climene's long
absence from Nantes in the company of M. le Marquis, and fed by the
unspeakable complacency with which M. Binet regarded that event of quite
unmistakable import.

However much he might affect the frame of mind of the stoics, and
seek to judge with a complete detachment, in the heart and soul of him
Andre-Louis was tormented and revolted. It was not Climene he blamed.
He had been mistaken in her. She was just a poor weak vessel driven
helplessly by the first breath, however foul, that promised her
advancement. She suffered from the plague of greed; and he congratulated
himself upon having discovered it before making her his wife. He felt
for her now nothing but a deal of pity and some contempt. The pity was
begotten of the love she had lately inspired in him. It might be likened
to the dregs of love, all that remained after the potent wine of it had
been drained off. His anger he reserved for her father and her seducer.

The thoughts that were stirring in him on that Monday morning, when it
was discovered that Climene had not yet returned from her excursion
of the previous day in the coach of M. le Marquis, were already wicked
enough without the spurring they received from the distraught Leandre.

Hitherto the attitude of each of these men towards the other had been
one of mutual contempt. The phenomenon has frequently been observed in
like cases. Now, what appeared to be a common misfortune brought them
into a sort of alliance. So, at least, it seemed to Leandre when he went
in quest of Andre-Louis, who with apparent unconcern was smoking a pipe
upon the quay immediately facing the inn.

"Name of a pig!" said Leandre. "How can you take your ease and smoke at
such a time?"

Scaramouche surveyed the sky. "I do not find it too cold," said he. "The
sun is shining. I am very well here."

"Do I talk of the weather?" Leandre was very excited.

"Of what, then?"

"Of Climene, of course."

"Oh! The lady has ceased to interest me," he lied.

Leandre stood squarely in front of him, a handsome figure handsomely
dressed in these days, his hair well powdered, his stockings of silk.
His face was pale, his large eyes looked larger than usual.

"Ceased to interest you? Are you not to marry her?"

Andre-Louis expelled a cloud of smoke. "You cannot wish to be offensive.
Yet you almost suggest that I live on other men's leavings."

"My God!" said Leandre, overcome, and he stared awhile. Then he burst
out afresh. "Are you quite heartless? Are you always Scaramouche?"

"What do you expect me to do?" asked Andre-Louis, evincing surprise in
his own turn, but faintly.

"I do not expect you to let her go without a struggle."

"But she has gone already." Andre-Louis pulled at his pipe a moment,
what time Leandre clenched and unclenched his hands in impotent rage.
"And to what purpose struggle against the inevitable? Did you struggle
when I took her from you?"

"She was not mine to be taken from me. I but aspired, and you won the
race. But even had it been otherwise where is the comparison? That was a
thing in honour; this--this is hell."

His emotion moved Andre-Louis. He took Leandre's arm. "You're a good
fellow, Leandre. I am glad I intervened to save you from your fate."

"Oh, you don't love her!" cried the other, passionately. "You never did.
You don't know what it means to love, or you'd not talk like this. My
God! if she had been my affianced wife and this had happened, I should
have killed the man--killed him! Do you hear me? But you... Oh, you, you
come out here and smoke, and take the air, and talk of her as another
man's leavings. I wonder I didn't strike you for the word."

He tore his arm from the other's grip, and looked almost as if he would
strike him now.

"You should have done it," said Andre-Louis. "It's in your part."

With an imprecation Leandre turned on his heel to go. Andre-Louis
arrested his departure.

"A moment, my friend. Test me by yourself. Would you marry her now?"

"Would I?" The young man's eyes blazed with passion. "Would I? Let her
say that she will marry me, and I am her slave."

"Slave is the right word--a slave in hell."

"It would never be hell to me where she was, whatever she had done. I
love her, man, I am not like you. I love her, do you hear me?"

"I have known it for some time," said Andre-Louis. "Though I didn't
suspect your attack of the disease to be quite so violent. Well, God
knows I loved her, too, quite enough to share your thirst for killing.
For myself, the blue blood of La Tour d'Azyr would hardly quench this
thirst. I should like to add to it the dirty fluid that flows in the
veins of the unspeakable Binet."

For a second his emotion had been out of hand, and he revealed to
Leandre in the mordant tone of those last words something of the fires
that burned under his icy exterior. The young man caught him by the
hand.

"I knew you were acting," said he. "You feel--you feel as I do."

"Behold us, fellows in viciousness. I have betrayed myself, it seems.
Well, and what now? Do you want to see this pretty Marquis torn limb
from limb? I might afford you the spectacle."

"What?" Leandre stared, wondering was this another of Scaramouche's
cynicisms.

"It isn't really difficult provided I have aid. I require only a little.
Will you lend it me?"

"Anything you ask," Leandre exploded. "My life if you require it."

Andre-Louis took his arm again. "Let us walk," he said. "I will instruct
you."

When they came back the company was already at dinner. Mademoiselle had
not yet returned. Sullenness presided at the table. Columbine and Madame
wore anxious expressions. The fact was that relations between Binet and
his troupe were daily growing more strained.

Andre-Louis and Leandre went each to his accustomed place. Binet's
little eyes followed them with a malicious gleam, his thick lips pouted
into a crooked smile.

"You two are grown very friendly of a sudden," he mocked.

"You are a man of discernment, Binet," said Scaramouche, the cold
loathing of his voice itself an insult. "Perhaps you discern the
reason?"

"It is readily discerned."

"Regale the company with it!" he begged; and waited. "What? You
hesitate? Is it possible that there are limits to your shamelessness?"

Binet reared his great head. "Do you want to quarrel with me,
Scaramouche?" Thunder was rumbling in his deep voice.

"Quarrel? You want to laugh. A man doesn't quarrel with creatures like
you. We all know the place held in the public esteem by complacent
husbands. But, in God's name, what place is there at all for complacent
fathers?"

Binet heaved himself up, a great towering mass of manhood. Violently he
shook off the restraining hand of Pierrot who sat on his left.

"A thousand devils!" he roared; "if you take that tone with me, I'll
break every bone in your filthy body."

"If you were to lay a finger on me, Binet, you would give me the only
provocation I still need to kill you." Andre-Louis was as calm as ever,
and therefore the more menacing. Alarm stirred the company. He protruded
from his pocket the butt of a pistol--newly purchased. "I go armed,
Binet. It is only fair to give you warning. Provoke me as you have
suggested, and I'll kill you with no more compunction than I should kill
a slug, which after all is the thing you most resemble--a slug, Binet; a
fat, slimy body; foulness without soul and without intelligence. When I
come to think of it I can't suffer to sit at table with you. It turns my
stomach."

He pushed away his platter and got up. "I'll go and eat at the ordinary
below stairs."

Thereupon up jumped Columbine.

"And I'll come with you, Scaramouche!" cried she.

It acted like a signal. Had the thing been concerted it couldn't
have fallen out more uniformly. Binet, in fact, was persuaded of a
conspiracy. For in the wake of Columbine went Leandre, in the wake of
Leandre, Polichinelle and then all the rest together, until Binet found
himself sitting alone at the head of an empty table in an empty room--a
badly shaken man whose rage could afford him no support against the
dread by which he was suddenly invaded.

He sat down to think things out, and he was still at that melancholy
occupation when perhaps a half-hour later his daughter entered the room,
returned at last from her excursion.

She looked pale, even a little scared--in reality excessively
self-conscious now that the ordeal of facing all the company awaited
her.

Seeing no one but her father in the room, she checked on the threshold.

"Where is everybody?" she asked, in a voice rendered natural by effort.

M. Binet reared his great head and turned upon her eyes that were
blood-injected. He scowled, blew out his thick lips and made harsh
noises in his throat. Yet he took stock of her, so graceful and comely
and looking so completely the lady of fashion in her long fur-trimmed
travelling coat of bottle green, her muff and her broad hat adorned by
a sparkling Rhinestone buckle above her adorably coiffed brown hair. No
need to fear the future whilst he owned such a daughter, let Scaramouche
play what tricks he would.

He expressed, however, none of these comforting reflections.

"So you're back at last, little fool," he growled in greeting. "I was
beginning to ask myself if we should perform this evening. It wouldn't
greatly have surprised me if you had not returned in time. Indeed,
since you have chosen to play the fine hand you held in your own way and
scorning my advice, nothing can surprise me."

She crossed the room to the table, and leaning against it, looked down
upon him almost disdainfully.

"I have nothing to regret," she said.

"So every fool says at first. Nor would you admit it if you had. You
are like that. You go your own way in spite of advice from older heads.
Death of my life, girl, what do you know of men?"

"I am not complaining," she reminded him.

"No, but you may be presently, when you discover that you would have
done better to have been guided by your old father. So long as your
Marquis languished for you, there was nothing you could not have done
with the fool. So long as you let him have no more than your fingertips
to kiss... ah, name of a name! that was the time to build your future.
If you live to be a thousand you'll never have such a chance again, and
you've squandered it, for what?"

Mademoiselle sat down.--"You're sordid," she said, with disgust.

"Sordid, am I?" His thick lips curled again. "I have had enough of the
dregs of life, and so I should have thought have you. You held a hand
on which to have won a fortune if you had played it as I bade you. Well,
you've played it, and where's the fortune? We can whistle for that as
a sailor whistles for wind. And, by Heaven, we'll need to whistle
presently if the weather in the troupe continues as it's set in. That
scoundrel Scaramouche has been at his ape's tricks with them. They've
suddenly turned moral. They won't sit at table with me any more." He
was spluttering between anger and sardonic mirth. "It was your friend
Scaramouche set them the example of that. He threatened my life
actually. Threatened my life! Called me... Oh, but what does that
matter? What matters is that the next thing to happen to us will be that
the Binet Troupe will discover it can manage without M. Binet and his
daughter. This scoundrelly bastard I've befriended has little by little
robbed me of everything. It's in his power to-day to rob me of my
troupe, and the knave's ungrateful enough and vile enough to make use of
his power.

"Let him," said mademoiselle contemptuously.

"Let him?" He was aghast. "And what's to become of us?"

"In no case will the Binet Troupe interest me much longer," said she. "I
shall be going to Paris soon. There are better theatres there than the
Feydau. There's Mlle. Montansier's theatre in the Palais Royal; there's
the Ambigu Comique; there's the Comedie Francaise; there's even a
possibility I may have a theatre of my own."

His eyes grew big for once. He stretched out a fat hand, and placed it
on one of hers. She noticed that it trembled.

"Has he promised that? Has he promised?"

She looked at him with her head on one side, eyes sly and a queer little
smile on her perfect lips.

"He did not refuse me when I asked it," she answered, with conviction
that all was as she desired it.

"Bah!" He withdrew his hand, and heaved himself up. There was disgust
on his face. "He did not refuse!" he mocked her; and then with passion:
"Had you acted as I advised you, he would have consented to anything
that you asked, and what is more he would have provided anything
that you asked--anything that lay within his means, and they are
inexhaustible. You have changed a certainty into a possibility, and
I hate possibilities--God of God! I have lived on possibilities, and
infernally near starved on them."

Had she known of the interview taking place at that moment at the
Chateau de Sautron she would have laughed less confidently at her
father's gloomy forebodings. But she was destined never to know, which
indeed was the cruellest punishment of all. She was to attribute all the
evil that of a sudden overwhelmed her, the shattering of all the future
hopes she had founded upon the Marquis and the sudden disintegration
of the Binet Troupe, to the wicked interference of that villain
Scaramouche.

She had this much justification that possibly, without the warning
from M. de Sautron, the Marquis would have found in the events of
that evening at the Theatre Feydau a sufficient reason for ending an
entanglement that was fraught with too much unpleasant excitement,
whilst the breaking-up of the Binet Troupe was most certainly the result
of Andre-Louis' work. But it was not a result that he intended or even
foresaw.

So much was this the case that in the interval after the second act,
he sought the dressing-room shared by Polichinelle and Rhodomont.
Polichinelle was in the act of changing.

"I shouldn't trouble to change," he said. "The piece isn't likely to go
beyond my opening scene of the next act with Leandre."

"What do you mean?"

"You'll see." He put a paper on Polichinelle's table amid the
grease-paints. "Cast your eye over that. It's a sort of last will and
testament in favour of the troupe. I was a lawyer once; the document
is in order. I relinquish to all of you the share produced by my
partnership in the company."

"But you don't mean that you are leaving us?" cried Polichinelle in
alarm, whilst Rhodomont's sudden stare asked the same question.

Scaramouche's shrug was eloquent. Polichinelle ran on gloomily: "Of
course it was to have been foreseen. But why should you be the one to
go? It is you who have made us; and it is you who are the real head
and brains of the troupe; it is you who have raised it into a real
theatrical company. If any one must go, let it be Binet--Binet and his
infernal daughter. Or if you go, name of a name! we all go with you!"

"Aye," added Rhodomont, "we've had enough of that fat scoundrel."

"I had thought of it, of course," said Andre-Louis. "It was not vanity,
for once; it was trust in your friendship. After to-night we may
consider it again, if I survive."

"If you survive?" both cried.

Polichinelle got up. "Now, what madness have you in mind?" he asked.

"For one thing I think I am indulging Leandre; for another I am pursuing
an old quarrel."

The three knocks sounded as he spoke.

"There, I must go. Keep that paper, Polichinelle. After all, it may not
be necessary."

He was gone. Rhodomont stared at Polichinelle. Polichinelle stared at
Rhodomont.

"What the devil is he thinking of?" quoth the latter.

"That is most readily ascertained by going to see," replied
Polichinelle. He completed changing in haste, and despite what
Scaramouche had said; and then followed with Rhodomont.

As they approached the wings a roar of applause met them coming from
the audience. It was applause and something else; applause on an unusual
note. As it faded away they heard the voice of Scaramouche ringing clear
as a bell:

"And so you see, my dear M. Leandre, that when you speak of the Third
Estate, it is necessary to be more explicit. What precisely is the Third
Estate?"

"Nothing," said Leandre.

There was a gasp from the audience, audible in the wings, and then
swiftly followed Scaramouche's next question:

"True. Alas! But what should it be?"

"Everything," said Leandre.

The audience roared its acclamations, the more violent because of the
unexpectedness of that reply.

"True again," said Scaramouche. "And what is more, that is what it will
be; that is what it already is. Do you doubt it?"

"I hope it," said the schooled Leandre.

"You may believe it," said Scaramouche, and again the acclamations
rolled into thunder.

Polichinelle and Rhodomont exchanged glances: indeed, the former winked,
not without mirth.

"Sacred name!" growled a voice behind them. "Is the scoundrel at his
political tricks again?"

They turned to confront M. Binet. Moving with that noiseless tread of
his, he had come up unheard behind them, and there he stood now in his
scarlet suit of Pantaloon under a trailing bedgown, his little eyes
glaring from either side of his false nose. But their attention was held
by the voice of Scaramouche. He had stepped to the front of the stage.

"He doubts it," he was telling the audience. "But then this M. Leandre
is himself akin to those who worship the worm-eaten idol of Privilege,
and so he is a little afraid to believe a truth that is becoming
apparent to all the world. Shall I convince him? Shall I tell him how a
company of noblemen backed by their servants under arms--six hundred men
in all--sought to dictate to the Third Estate of Rennes a few short weeks
ago? Must I remind him of the martial front shown on that occasion by
the Third Estate, and how they swept the streets clean of that rabble of
nobles--cette canaille noble..."

Applause interrupted him. The phrase had struck home and caught. Those
who had writhed under that infamous designation from their betters leapt
at this turning of it against the nobles themselves.

"But let me tell you of their leader--le pins noble de cette canaille,
ou bien le plus canaille de ces nobles! You know him--that one. He fears
many things, but the voice of truth he fears most. With such as him the
eloquent truth eloquently spoken is a thing instantly to be silenced.
So he marshalled his peers and their valetailles, and led them out to
slaughter these miserable bourgeois who dared to raise a voice. But
these same miserable bourgeois did not choose to be slaughtered in the
streets of Rennes. It occurred to them that since the nobles decreed
that blood should flow, it might as well be the blood of the nobles.
They marshalled themselves too--this noble rabble against the rabble of
nobles--and they marshalled themselves so well that they drove M. de La
Tour d'Azyr and his warlike following from the field with broken
heads and shattered delusions. They sought shelter at the hands of
the Cordeliers; and the shavelings gave them sanctuary in their
convent--those who survived, among whom was their proud leader, M. de La
Tour d'Azyr. You have heard of this valiant Marquis, this great lord of
life and death?"

The pit was in an uproar a moment. It quieted again as Scaramouche
continued:

"Oh, it was a fine spectacle to see this mighty hunter scuttling to
cover like a hare, going to earth in the Cordelier Convent. Rennes has
not seen him since. Rennes would like to see him again. But if he is
valorous, he is also discreet. And where do you think he has taken
refuge, this great nobleman who wanted to see the streets of Rennes
washed in the blood of its citizens, this man who would have butchered
old and young of the contemptible canaille to silence the voice of
reason and of liberty that presumes to ring through France to-day? Where
do you think he hides himself? Why, here in Nantes."

Again there was uproar.

"What do you say? Impossible? Why, my friends, at this moment he is here
in this theatre--skulking up there in that box. He is too shy to
show himself--oh, a very modest gentleman. But there he is behind the
curtains. Will you not show yourself to your friends, M. de La Tour
d'Azyr, Monsieur le Marquis who considers eloquence so very dangerous a
gift? See, they would like a word with you; they do not believe me when
I tell them that you are here."

Now, whatever he may have been, and whatever the views held on the
subject by Andre-Louis, M. de La Tour d'Azyr was certainly not a coward.
To say that he was hiding in Nantes was not true. He came and went
there openly and unabashed. It happened, however, that the Nantais were
ignorant until this moment of his presence among them. But then he
would have disdained to have informed them of it just as he would have
disdained to have concealed it from them.

Challenged thus, however, and despite the ominous manner in which the
bourgeois element in the audience had responded to Scaramouche's appeal
to its passions, despite the attempts made by Chabrillane to restrain
him, the Marquis swept aside the curtain at the side of the box, and
suddenly showed himself, pale but self-contained and scornful as he
surveyed first the daring Scaramouche and then those others who at sight
of him had given tongue to their hostility.

Hoots and yells assailed him, fists were shaken at him, canes were
brandished menacingly.

"Assassin! Scoundrel! Coward! Traitor!"

But he braved the storm, smiling upon them his ineffable contempt. He
was waiting for the noise to cease; waiting to address them in his turn.
But he waited in vain, as he very soon perceived.

The contempt he did not trouble to dissemble served but to goad them on.

In the pit pandemonium was already raging. Blows were being freely
exchanged; there were scuffling groups, and here and there swords were
being drawn, but fortunately the press was too dense to permit of their
being used effectively. Those who had women with them and the timid by
nature were making haste to leave a house that looked like becoming a
cockpit, where chairs were being smashed to provide weapons, and parts
of chandeliers were already being used as missiles.

One of these hurled by the hand of a gentleman in one of the boxes
narrowly missed Scaramouche where he stood, looking down in a sort of
grim triumph upon the havoc which his words had wrought. Knowing of
what inflammable material the audience was composed, he had deliberately
flung down amongst them the lighted torch of discord, to produce this
conflagration.

He saw men falling quickly into groups representative of one side or the
other of this great quarrel that already was beginning to agitate the
whole of France. Their rallying cries were ringing through the theatre.

"Down with the canaille!" from some.

"Down with the privileged!" from others.

And then above the general din one cry rang out sharply and insistently:

"To the box! Death to the butcher of Rennes! Death to La Tour d'Azyr who
makes war upon the people!"

There was a rush for one of the doors of the pit that opened upon the
staircase leading to the boxes.

And now, whilst battle and confusion spread with the speed of fire,
overflowing from the theatre into the street itself, La Tour d'Azyr's
box, which had become the main object of the attack of the bourgeoisie,
had also become the rallying ground for such gentlemen as were present
in the theatre and for those who, without being men of birth themselves,
were nevertheless attached to the party of the nobles.

La Tour d'Azyr had quitted the front of the box to meet those who came
to join him. And now in the pit one group of infuriated gentlemen, in
attempting to reach the stage across the empty orchestra, so that they
might deal with the audacious comedian who was responsible for this
explosion, found themselves opposed and held back by another group
composed of men to whose feelings Andre-Louis had given expression.

Perceiving this, and remembering the chandelier, he turned to Leandre,
who had remained beside him.

"I think it is time to be going," said he.

Leandre, looking ghastly under his paint, appalled by the storm which
exceeded by far anything that his unimaginative brain could have
conjectured, gurgled an inarticulate agreement. But it looked as if
already they were too late, for in that moment they were assailed from
behind.

M. Binet had succeeded at last in breaking past Polichinelle and
Rhodomont, who in view of his murderous rage had been endeavouring to
restrain him. Half a dozen gentlemen, habitues of the green-room, had
come round to the stage to disembowel the knave who had created this
riot, and it was they who had flung aside those two comedians who hung
upon Binet. After him they came now, their swords out; but after them
again came Polichinelle, Rhodomont, Harlequin, Pierrot, Pasquariel,
and Basque the artist, armed with such implements as they could hastily
snatch up, and intent upon saving the man with whom they sympathized in
spite of all, and in whom now all their hopes were centred.

Well ahead rolled Binet, moving faster than any had ever seen him move,
and swinging the long cane from which Pantaloon is inseparable.

"Infamous scoundrel!" he roared. "You have ruined me! But, name of a
name, you shall pay!"

Andre-Louis turned to face him. "You confuse cause with effect," said
he. But he got no farther... Binet's cane, viciously driven, descended
and broke upon his shoulder. Had he not moved swiftly aside as the blow
fell it must have taken him across the head, and possibly stunned him.
As he moved, he dropped his hand to his pocket, and swift upon the
cracking of Binet's breaking cane came the crack of the pistol with
which Andre-Louis replied.

"You had your warning, you filthy pander!" he cried. And on the word he
shot him through the body.

Binet went down screaming, whilst the fierce Polichinelle, fiercer than
ever in that moment of fierce reality, spoke quickly into Andre-Louis'
ear:

"Fool! So much was not necessary! Away with you now, or you'll leave
your skin here! Away with you!"

Andre-Louis thought it good advice, and took it. The gentlemen who had
followed Binet in that punitive rush upon the stage, partly held in
check by the improvised weapons of the players, partly intimidated by
the second pistol that Scaramouche presented, let him go. He gained
the wings, and here found himself faced by a couple of sergeants of the
watch, part of the police that was already invading the theatre with a
view to restoring order. The sight of them reminded him unpleasantly
of how he must stand towards the law for this night's work, and more
particularly for that bullet lodged somewhere in Binet's obese body. He
flourished his pistol.

"Make way, or I'll burn your brains!" he threatened them, and
intimidated, themselves without firearms, they fell back and let him
pass. He slipped by the door of the green-room, where the ladies of the
company had shut themselves in until the storm should be over, and so
gained the street behind the theatre. It was deserted. Down this he went
at a run, intent on reaching the inn for clothes and money, since it was
impossible that he should take the road in the garb of Scaramouche.



BOOK III: THE SWORD



CHAPTER I. TRANSITION

"You may agree," wrote Andre-Louis from Paris to Le Chapelier, in a
letter which survives, "that it is to be regretted I should definitely
have discarded the livery of Scaramouche, since clearly there could be
no livery fitter for my wear. It seems to be my part always to stir up
strife and then to slip away before I am caught in the crash of the
warring elements I have aroused. It is a humiliating reflection. I seek
consolation in the reminder of Epictetus (do you ever read Epictetus?)
that we are but actors in a play of such a part as it may please the
Director to assign us. It does not, however, console me to have been
cast for a part so contemptible, to find myself excelling ever in the
art of running away. But if I am not brave, at least I am prudent; so
that where I lack one virtue I may lay claim to possessing another
almost to excess. On a previous occasion they wanted to hang me for
sedition. Should I have stayed to be hanged? This time they may want to
hang me for several things, including murder; for I do not know whether
that scoundrel Binet be alive or dead from the dose of lead I pumped
into his fat paunch. Nor can I say that I very greatly care. If I have a
hope at all in the matter it is that he is dead--and damned. But I am
really indifferent. My own concerns are troubling me enough. I have all
but spent the little money that I contrived to conceal about me before I
fled from Nantes on that dreadful night; and both of the only two
professions of which I can claim to know anything--the law and the
stage--are closed to me, since I cannot find employment in either without
revealing myself as a fellow who is urgently wanted by the hangman. As
things are it is very possible that I may die of hunger, especially
considering the present price of victuals in this ravenous city. Again I
have recourse to Epictetus for comfort. 'It is better,' he says, 'to die
of hunger having lived without grief and fear, than to live with a
troubled spirit amid abundance.' I seem likely to perish in the estate
that he accounts so enviable. That it does not seem exactly enviable to
me merely proves that as a Stoic I am not a success."

There is also another letter of his written at about the same time
to the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr--a letter since published by M. Emile
Quersac in his "Undercurrents of the Revolution in Brittany," unearthed
by him from the archives of Rennes, to which it had been consigned by
M. de Lesdiguieres, who had received it for justiciary purposes from the
Marquis.

"The Paris newspapers," he writes in this, "which have reported in
considerable detail the fracas at the Theatre Feydau and disclosed the
true identity of the Scaramouche who provoked it, inform me also that
you have escaped the fate I had intended for you when I raised that
storm of public opinion and public indignation. I would not have you
take satisfaction in the thought that I regret your escape. I do not. I
rejoice in it. To deal justice by death has this disadvantage that the
victim has no knowledge that justice has overtaken him. Had you died,
had you been torn limb from limb that night, I should now repine in the
thought of your eternal and untroubled slumber. Not in euthanasia, but
in torment of mind should the guilty atone. You see, I am not sure that
hell hereafter is a certainty, whilst I am quite sure that it can be a
certainty in this life; and I desire you to continue to live yet awhile
that you may taste something of its bitterness.

"You murdered Philippe de Vilmorin because you feared what you described
as his very dangerous gift of eloquence, I took an oath that day that
your evil deed should be fruitless; that I would render it so; that the
voice you had done murder to stifle should in spite of that ring like
a trumpet through the land. That was my conception of revenge. Do you
realize how I have been fulfilling it, how I shall continue to fulfil
it as occasion offers? In the speech with which I fired the people of
Rennes on the very morrow of that deed, did you not hear the voice of
Philippe de Vilmorin uttering the ideas that were his with a fire and a
passion greater than he could have commanded because Nemesis lent me
her inflaming aid? In the voice of Omnes Omnibus at Nantes my voice
again--demanding the petition that sounded the knell of your hopes of
coercing the Third Estate, did you not hear again the voice of Philippe
de Vilmorin? Did you not reflect that it was the mind of the man you had
murdered, resurrected in me his surviving friend, which made necessary
your futile attempt under arms last January, wherein your order, finally
beaten, was driven to seek sanctuary in the Cordelier Convent? And
that night when from the stage of the Feydau you were denounced to the
people, did you not hear yet again, in the voice of Scaramouche, the
voice of Philippe de Vilmorin, using that dangerous gift of eloquence
which you so foolishly imagined you could silence with a sword-thrust?
It is becoming a persecution--is it not?--this voice from the grave that
insists upon making itself heard, that will not rest until you have been
cast into the pit. You will be regretting by now that you did not kill
me too, as I invited you on that occasion. I can picture to myself
the bitterness of this regret, and I contemplate it with satisfaction.
Regret of neglected opportunity is the worst hell that a living soul can
inhabit, particularly such a soul as yours. It is because of this that
I am glad to know that you survived the riot at the Feydau, although at
the time it was no part of my intention that you should. Because of this
I am content that you should live to enrage and suffer in the shadow of
your evil deed, knowing at last--since you had not hitherto the wit to
discern it for yourself--that the voice of Philippe de Vilmorin will
follow you to denounce you ever more loudly, ever more insistently,
until having lived in dread you shall go down in blood under the just
rage which your victim's dangerous gift of eloquence is kindling against
you."

I find it odd that he should have omitted from this letter all mention
of Mlle. Binet, and I am disposed to account it at least a partial
insincerity that he should have assigned entirely to his self-imposed
mission, and not at all to his lacerated feelings in the matter of
Climene, the action which he had taken at the Feydau.

Those two letters, both written in April of that year 1789, had for only
immediate effect to increase the activity with which Andre-Louis Moreau
was being sought.

Le Chapelier would have found him so as to lend him assistance, to
urge upon him once again that he should take up a political career. The
electors of Nantes would have found him--at least, they would have
found Omnes Omnibus, of whose identity with himself they were still in
ignorance--on each of the several occasions when a vacancy occurred in
their body. And the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr and M. de Lesdiguieres
would have found him that they might send him to the gallows.

With a purpose no less vindictive was he being sought by M. Binet, now
unhappily recovered from his wound to face completest ruin. His troupe
had deserted him during his illness, and reconstituted under the
direction of Polichinelle it was now striving with tolerable success to
continue upon the lines which Andre-Louis had laid down. M. le Marquis,
prevented by the riot from expressing in person to Mlle. Binet his
purpose of making an end of their relations, had been constrained to
write to her to that effect from Azyr a few days later. He tempered the
blow by enclosing in discharge of all liabilities a bill on the Caisse
d'Escompte for a hundred louis. Nevertheless it almost crushed the
unfortunate and it enabled her father when he recovered to enrage her
by pointing out that she owed this turn of events to the premature
surrender she had made in defiance of his sound worldly advice. Father
and daughter alike were left to assign the Marquis' desertion, naturally
enough, to the riot at the Feydau. They laid that with the rest to the
account of Scaramouche, and were forced in bitterness to admit that the
scoundrel had taken a superlative revenge. Climene may even have come
to consider that it would have paid her better to have run a straight
course with Scaramouche and by marrying him to have trusted to his
undoubted talents to place her on the summit to which her ambition
urged her, and to which it was now futile for her to aspire. If so, that
reflection must have been her sufficient punishment. For, as Andre-Louis
so truly says, there is no worse hell than that provided by the regrets
for wasted opportunities.

Meanwhile the fiercely sought Andre-Louis Moreau had gone to earth
completely for the present. And the brisk police of Paris, urged on by
the King's Lieutenant from Rennes, hunted for him in vain. Yet he might
have been found in a house in the Rue du Hasard within a stone's throw
of the Palais Royal, whither purest chance had conducted him.

That which in his letter to Le Chapelier he represents as a contingency
of the near future was, in fact, the case in which already he found
himself. He was destitute. His money was exhausted, including that
procured by the sale of such articles of adornment as were not of
absolute necessity.

So desperate was his case that strolling one gusty April morning down
the Rue du Hasard with his nose in the wind looking for what might be
picked up, he stopped to read a notice outside the door of a house on
the left side of the street as you approach the Rue de Richelieu. There
was no reason why he should have gone down the Rue du Hasard. Perhaps
its name attracted him, as appropriate to his case.

The notice written in a big round hand announced that a young man of
good address with some knowledge of swordsmanship was required by M.
Bertrand des Amis on the second floor. Above this notice was a black
oblong board, and on this a shield, which in vulgar terms may be
described as red charged with two swords crossed and four fleurs de lys,
one in each angle of the saltire. Under the shield, in letters of gold,
ran the legend:


                     BERTRAND DES AMIS

        Maitre en fait d'Armes des Academies du Roi

Andre-Louis stood considering. He could claim, he thought, to possess
the qualifications demanded. He was certainly young and he believed of
tolerable address, whilst the fencing-lessons he had received in Nantes
had given him at least an elementary knowledge of swordsmanship. The
notice looked as if it had been pinned there some days ago, suggesting
that applicants for the post were not very numerous. In that case
perhaps M. Bertrand des Amis would not be too exigent. And anyway,
Andre-Louis had not eaten for four-and-twenty hours, and whilst the
employment here offered--the precise nature of which he was yet to
ascertain--did not appear to be such as Andre-Louis would deliberately
have chosen, he was in no case now to be fastidious.

Then, too, he liked the name of Bertrand des Amis. It felicitously
combined suggestions of chivalry and friendliness. Also the man's
profession being of a kind that is flavoured with romance it was
possible that M. Bertrand des Amis would not ask too many questions.

In the end he climbed to the second floor. On the landing he paused
outside a door, on which was written "Academy of M. Bertrand des
Amis." He pushed this open, and found himself in a sparsely furnished,
untenanted antechamber. From a room beyond, the door of which was
closed, came the stamping of feet, the click and slither of steel upon
steel, and dominating these sounds a vibrant sonorous voice speaking a
language that was certainly French; but such French as is never heard
outside a fencing-school.

"Coulez! Mais, coulez donc!.... So! Now the flanconnade--en carte.... And
here is the riposte.... Let us begin again. Come! The ward of fierce....
Make the coupe, and then the quinte par dessus les armes.... O, mais
allongez! Allongez! Allez au fond!" the voice cried in expostulation.
"Come, that was better." The blades ceased.

"Remember: the hand in pronation, the elbow not too far out. That will
do for to-day. On Wednesday we shall see you tirer au mur. It is more
deliberate. Speed will follow when the mechanism of the movements is
more assured."

Another voice murmured in answer. The steps moved aside. The lesson was
at an end. Andre-Louis tapped on the door.

It was opened by a tall, slender, gracefully proportioned man of perhaps
forty. Black silk breeches and stockings ending in light shoes clothed
him from the waist down. Above he was encased to the chin in a closely
fitting plastron of leather, His face was aquiline and swarthy, his eyes
full and dark, his mouth firm and his clubbed hair was of a lustrous
black with here and there a thread of silver showing.

In the crook of his left arm he carried a fencing-mask, a thing of
leather with a wire grating to protect the eyes. His keen glance played
over Andre-Louis from head to foot.

"Monsieur?" he inquired, politely.

It was clear that he mistook Andre-Louis' quality, which is not
surprising, for despite his sadly reduced fortunes, his exterior was
irreproachable, and M. des Amis was not to guess that he carried upon
his back the whole of his possessions.

"You have a notice below, monsieur," he said, and from the swift
lighting of the fencing-master's eyes he saw that he had been correct
in his assumption that applicants for the position had not been jostling
one another on his threshold. And then that flash of satisfaction was
followed by a look of surprise.

"You are come in regard to that?"

Andre-Louis shrugged and half smiled. "One must live," said he.

"But come in. Sit down there. I shall be at your.... I shall be free to
attend to you in a moment."

Andre-Louis took a seat on the bench ranged against one of the
whitewashed walls. The room was long and low, its floor entirely bare.
Plain wooden forms such as that which he occupied were placed here and
there against the wall. These last were plastered with fencing trophies,
masks, crossed foils, stuffed plastrons, and a variety of swords,
daggers, and targets, belonging to a variety of ages and countries.
There was also a portrait of an obese, big-nosed gentleman in an
elaborately curled wig, wearing the blue ribbon of the Saint Esprit,
in whom Andre-Louis recognized the King. And there was a framed
parchment--M. des Amis' certificate from the King's Academy. A bookcase
occupied one corner, and near this, facing the last of the four windows
that abundantly lighted the long room, there was a small writing-table
and an armchair. A plump and beautifully dressed young gentleman stood
by this table in the act of resuming coat and wig. M. des Amis sauntered
over to him--moving, thought Andre-Louis, with extraordinary grace and
elasticity--and stood in talk with him whilst also assisting him to
complete his toilet.

At last the young gentleman took his departure, mopping himself with
a fine kerchief that left a trail of perfume on the air. M. des Amis
closed the door, and turned to the applicant, who rose at once.

"Where have you studied?" quoth the fencing-master abruptly.

"Studied?" Andre-Louis was taken aback by the question. "Oh, at Louis Le
Grand."

M. des Amis frowned, looking up sharply as if to see whether his
applicant was taking the liberty of amusing himself.

"In Heaven's name! I am not asking you where you did your humanities,
but in what academy you studied fencing."

"Oh--fencing!" It had hardly ever occurred to Andre-Louis that the sword
ranked seriously as a study. "I never studied it very much. I had some
lessons in... in the country once."

The master's eyebrows went up. "But then?" he cried. "Why trouble to
come up two flights of stairs?" He was impatient.

"The notice does not demand a high degree of proficiency. If I am not
proficient enough, yet knowing the rudiments I can easily improve. I
learn most things readily," Andre-Louis commended himself. "For the
rest: I possess the other qualifications. I am young, as you observe:
and I leave you to judge whether I am wrong in assuming that my address
is good. I am by profession a man of the robe, though I realize that the
motto here is cedat toga armis."

M. des Amis smiled approvingly. Undoubtedly the young man had a good
address, and a certain readiness of wit, it would appear. He ran a
critical eye over his physical points. "What is your name?" he asked.

Andre-Louis hesitated a moment. "Andre-Louis," he said.

The dark, keen eyes conned him more searchingly.

"Well? Andre-Louis what?"

"Just Andre-Louis. Louis is my surname."

"Oh! An odd surname. You come from Brittany by your accent. Why did you
leave it?"

"To save my skin," he answered, without reflecting. And then made haste
to cover the blunder. "I have an enemy," he explained.

M. des Amis frowned, stroking his square chin. "You ran away?"

"You may say so.

"A coward, eh?"

"I don't think so." And then he lied romantically. Surely a man who
lived by the sword should have a weakness for the romantic. "You see, my
enemy is a swordsman of great strength--the best blade in the province,
if not the best blade in France. That is his repute. I thought I would
come to Paris to learn something of the art, and then go back and kill
him. That, to be frank, is why your notice attracted me. You see, I have
not the means to take lessons otherwise. I thought to find work here in
the law. But I have failed. There are too many lawyers in Paris as it
is, and whilst waiting I have consumed the little money that I had, so
that... so that, enfin, your notice seemed to me something to which a
special providence had directed me."

M. des Amis gripped him by the shoulders, and looked into his face.

"Is this true, my friend?" he asked.

"Not a word of it," said Andre-Louis, wrecking his chances on an
irresistible impulse to say the unexpected. But he didn't wreck them.
M. des Amis burst into laughter; and having laughed his fill, confessed
himself charmed by his applicant's fundamental honesty.

"Take off your coat," he said, "and let us see what you can do. Nature,
at least, designed you for a swordsman. You are light, active, and
supple, with a good length of arm, and you seem intelligent. I may make
something of you, teach you enough for my purpose, which is that you
should give the elements of the art to new pupils before I take them in
hand to finish them. Let us try. Take that mask and foil, and come over
here."

He led him to the end of the room, where the bare floor was scored with
lines of chalk to guide the beginner in the management of his feet.

At the end of a ten minutes' bout, M. des Amis offered him the
situation, and explained it. In addition to imparting the rudiments
of the art to beginners, he was to brush out the fencing-room every
morning, keep the foils furbished, assist the gentlemen who came for
lessons to dress and undress, and make himself generally useful. His
wages for the present were to be forty livres a month, and he might
sleep in an alcove behind the fencing-room if he had no other lodging.

The position, you see, had its humiliations. But, if Andre-Louis would
hope to dine, he must begin by eating his pride as an hors d'oeuvre.

"And so," he said, controlling a grimace, "the robe yields not only to
the sword, but to the broom as well. Be it so. I stay."

It is characteristic of him that, having made that choice, he should
have thrown himself into the work with enthusiasm. It was ever his way
to do whatever he did with all the resources of his mind and energies
of his body. When he was not instructing very young gentlemen in
the elements of the art, showing them the elaborate and intricate
salute--which with a few days' hard practice he had mastered to
perfection--and the eight guards, he was himself hard at work on those
same guards, exercising eye, wrist, and knees.

Perceiving his enthusiasm, and seeing the obvious possibilities it
opened out of turning him into a really effective assistant, M. des Amis
presently took him more seriously in hand.

"Your application and zeal, my friend, are deserving of more than forty
livres a month," the master informed him at the end of a week. "For
the present, however, I will make up what else I consider due to you by
imparting to you secrets of this noble art. Your future depends upon
how you profit by your exceptional good fortune in receiving instruction
from me."

Thereafter every morning before the opening of the academy, the master
would fence for half an hour with his new assistant. Under this really
excellent tuition Andre-Louis improved at a rate that both astounded
and flattered M. des Amis. He would have been less flattered and more
astounded had he known that at least half the secret of Andre-Louis'
amazing progress lay in the fact that he was devouring the contents of
the master's library, which was made up of a dozen or so treatises on
fencing by such great masters as La Bessiere, Danet, and the syndic
of the King's Academy, Augustin Rousseau. To M. des Amis, whose
swordsmanship was all based on practice and not at all on theory, who
was indeed no theorist or student in any sense, that little library
was merely a suitable adjunct to a fencing-academy, a proper piece of
decorative furniture. The books themselves meant nothing to him in any
other sense. He had not the type of mind that could have read them with
profit nor could he understand that another should do so. Andre-Louis,
on the contrary, a man with the habit of study, with the acquired
faculty of learning from books, read those works with enormous profit,
kept their precepts in mind, critically set off those of one master
against those of another, and made for himself a choice which he
proceeded to put into practice.

At the end of a month it suddenly dawned upon M. des Amis that his
assistant had developed into a fencer of very considerable force, a man
in a bout with whom it became necessary to exert himself if he were to
escape defeat.

"I said from the first," he told him one day, "that Nature designed you
for a swordsman. See how justified I was, and see also how well I have
known how to mould the material with which Nature has equipped you."

"To the master be the glory," said Andre-Louis.

His relations with M. des Amis had meanwhile become of the friendliest,
and he was now beginning to receive from him other pupils than mere
beginners. In fact Andre-Louis was becoming an assistant in a much
fuller sense of the word. M. des Amis, a chivalrous, open-handed fellow,
far from taking advantage of what he had guessed to be the young man's
difficulties, rewarded his zeal by increasing his wages to four louis a
month.

From the earnest and thoughtful study of the theories of others, it
followed now--as not uncommonly happens--that Andre-Louis came to develop
theories of his own. He lay one June morning on his little truckle bed
in the alcove behind the academy, considering a passage that he had read
last night in Danet on double and triple feints. It had seemed to him
when reading it that Danet had stopped short on the threshold of a great
discovery in the art of fencing. Essentially a theorist, Andre-Louis
perceived the theory suggested, which Danet himself in suggesting it
had not perceived. He lay now on his back, surveying the cracks in the
ceiling and considering this matter further with the lucidity that early
morning often brings to an acute intelligence. You are to remember that
for close upon two months now the sword had been Andre-Louis' daily
exercise and almost hourly thought. Protracted concentration upon
the subject was giving him an extraordinary penetration of vision.
Swordsmanship as he learnt and taught and saw it daily practised
consisted of a series of attacks and parries, a series of disengages
from one line into another. But always a limited series. A half-dozen
disengages on either side was, strictly speaking, usually as far as any
engagement went. Then one recommenced. But even so, these disengages
were fortuitous. What if from first to last they should be calculated?

That was part of the thought--one of the two legs on which his theory was
to stand; the other was: what would happen if one so elaborated Danet's
ideas on the triple feint as to merge them into a series of actual
calculated disengages to culminate at the fourth or fifth or even sixth
disengage? That is to say, if one were to make a series of attacks
inviting ripostes again to be countered, each of which was not intended
to go home, but simply to play the opponent's blade into a line that
must open him ultimately, and as predetermined, for an irresistible
lunge. Each counter of the opponent's would have to be preconsidered in
this widening of his guard, a widening so gradual that he should himself
be unconscious of it, and throughout intent upon getting home his own
point on one of those counters.

Andre-Louis had been in his time a chess-player of some force, and at
chess he had excelled by virtue of his capacity for thinking ahead. That
virtue applied to fencing should all but revolutionize the art. It
was so applied already, of course, but only in an elementary and very
limited fashion, in mere feints, single, double, or triple. But even the
triple feint should be a clumsy device compared with this method upon
which he theorized.

He considered further, and the conviction grew that he held the key of a
discovery. He was impatient to put his theory to the test.

That morning he was given a pupil of some force, against whom usually
he was hard put to it to defend himself. Coming on guard, he made up his
mind to hit him on the fourth disengage, predetermining the four passes
that should lead up to it. They engaged in tierce, and Andre-Louis
led the attack by a beat and a straightening of the arm. Came the
demi-contre he expected, which he promptly countered by a thrust in
quinte; this being countered again, he reentered still lower, and being
again correctly parried, as he had calculated, he lunged swirling his
point into carte, and got home full upon his opponent's breast. The ease
of it surprised him.

They began again. This time he resolved to go in on the fifth disengage,
and in on that he went with the same ease. Then, complicating the matter
further, he decided to try the sixth, and worked out in his mind the
combination of the five preliminary engages. Yet again he succeeded as
easily as before.

The young gentleman opposed to him laughed with just a tinge of
mortification in his voice.

"I am all to pieces this morning," he said.

"You are not of your usual force," Andre-Louis politely agreed. And then
greatly daring, always to test that theory of his to the uttermost: "So
much so," he added, "that I could almost be sure of hitting you as and
when I declare."

The capable pupil looked at him with a half-sneer. "Ah, that, no," said
he.

"Let us try. On the fourth disengage I shall touch you. Allons! En
garde!"

And as he promised, so it happened.

The young gentleman who, hitherto, had held no great opinion of
Andre-Louis' swordsmanship, accounting him well enough for purposes of
practice when the master was otherwise engaged, opened wide his eyes. In
a burst of mingled generosity and intoxication, Andre-Louis was almost
for disclosing his method--a method which a little later was to become a
commonplace of the fencing-rooms. Betimes he checked himself. To reveal
his secret would be to destroy the prestige that must accrue to him from
exercising it.

At noon, the academy being empty, M. des Amis called Andre-Louis to one
of the occasional lessons which he still received. And for the first
time in all his experience with Andre-Louis, M. des Amis received
from him a full hit in the course of the first bout. He laughed, well
pleased, like the generous fellow he was.

"Aha! You are improving very fast, my friend." He still laughed, though
not so well pleased, when he was hit in the second bout. After that he
settled down to fight in earnest with the result that Andre-Louis
was hit three times in succession. The speed and accuracy of the
fencing-master when fully exerting himself disconcerted Andre-Louis'
theory, which for want of being exercised in practice still demanded too
much consideration.

But that his theory was sound he accounted fully established, and with
that, for the moment, he was content. It remained only to perfect by
practice the application of it. To this he now devoted himself with
the passionate enthusiasm of the discoverer. He confined himself to a
half-dozen combinations, which he practised assiduously until each had
become almost automatic. And he proved their infallibility upon the best
among M. des Amis' pupils.

Finally, a week or so after that last bout of his with des Amis, the
master called him once more to practice.

Hit again in the first bout, the master set himself to exert all his
skill against his assistant. But to-day it availed him nothing before
Andre-Louis' impetuous attacks.

After the third hit, M. des Amis stepped back and pulled off his mask.

"What's this?" he asked. He was pale, and his dark brows were contracted
in a frown. Not in years had he been so wounded in his self-love. "Have
you been taught a secret botte?"

He had always boasted that he knew too much about the sword to believe
any nonsense about secret bottes; but this performance of Andre-Louis'
had shaken his convictions on that score.

"No," said Andre-Louis. "I have been working hard; and it happens that I
fence with my brains."

"So I perceive. Well, well, I think I have taught you enough, my friend.
I have no intention of having an assistant who is superior to myself."

"Little danger of that," said Andre-Louis, smiling pleasantly. "You have
been fencing hard all morning, and you are tired, whilst I, having
done little, am entirely fresh. That is the only secret of my momentary
success."

His tact and the fundamental good-nature of M. des Amis prevented the
matter from going farther along the road it was almost threatening
to take. And thereafter, when they fenced together, Andre-Louis, who
continued daily to perfect his theory into an almost infallible system,
saw to it that M. des Amis always scored against him at least two hits
for every one of his own. So much he would grant to discretion, but no
more. He desired that M. des Amis should be conscious of his strength,
without, however, discovering so much of its real extent as would have
excited in him an unnecessary degree of jealousy.

And so well did he contrive that whilst he became ever of greater
assistance to the master--for his style and general fencing, too, had
materially improved--he was also a source of pride to him as the most
brilliant of all the pupils that had ever passed through his academy.
Never did Andre-Louis disillusion him by revealing the fact that his
skill was due far more to M. des Amis' library and his own mother wit
than to any lessons received.



CHAPTER II. QUOS DEUS VULT PERDERE

Once again, precisely as he had done when he joined the Binet troupe,
did Andre-Louis now settle down whole-heartedly to the new profession
into which necessity had driven him, and in which he found effective
concealment from those who might seek him to his hurt. This profession
might--although in fact it did not--have brought him to consider himself
at last as a man of action. He had not, however, on that account ceased
to be a man of thought, and the events of the spring and summer months
of that year 1789 in Paris provided him with abundant matter for
reflection. He read there in the raw what is perhaps the most amazing
page in the history of human development, and in the end he was forced
to the conclusion that all his early preconceptions had been at fault,
and that it was such exalted, passionate enthusiasts as Vilmorin who had
been right.

I suspect him of actually taking pride in the fact that he had been
mistaken, complacently attributing his error to the circumstance that he
had been, himself, of too sane and logical a mind to gauge the depths of
human insanity now revealed.

He watched the growth of hunger, the increasing poverty and distress of
Paris during that spring, and assigned it to its proper cause, together
with the patience with which the people bore it. The world of France was
in a state of hushed, of paralyzed expectancy, waiting for the States
General to assemble and for centuries of tyranny to end. And because of
this expectancy, industry had come to a standstill, the stream of trade
had dwindled to a trickle. Men would not buy or sell until they clearly
saw the means by which the genius of the Swiss banker, M. Necker, was to
deliver them from this morass. And because of this paralysis of affairs
the men of the people were thrown out of work and left to starve with
their wives and children.

Looking on, Andre-Louis smiled grimly. So far he was right. The
sufferers were ever the proletariat. The men who sought to make
this revolution, the electors--here in Paris as elsewhere--were men
of substance, notable bourgeois, wealthy traders. And whilst these,
despising the canaille, and envying the privileged, talked largely of
equality--by which they meant an ascending equality that should confuse
themselves with the gentry--the proletariat perished of want in its
kennels.

At last with the month of May the deputies arrived, Andre-Louis'
friend Le Chapelier prominent amongst them, and the States General were
inaugurated at Versailles. It was then that affairs began to become
interesting, then that Andre-Louis began seriously to doubt the
soundness of the views he had held hitherto.

When the royal proclamation had gone forth decreeing that the deputies
of the Third Estate should number twice as many as those of the other
two orders together, Andre-Louis had believed that the preponderance of
votes thus assured to the Third Estate rendered inevitable the reforms
to which they had pledged themselves.

But he had reckoned without the power of the privileged orders over
the proud Austrian queen, and her power over the obese, phlegmatic,
irresolute monarch. That the privileged orders should deliver battle
in defence of their privileges, Andre-Louis could understand. Man being
what he is, and labouring under his curse of acquisitiveness, will never
willingly surrender possessions, whether they be justly or unjustly
held. But what surprised Andre-Louis was the unutterable crassness of
the methods by which the Privileged ranged themselves for battle. They
opposed brute force to reason and philosophy, and battalions of foreign
mercenaries to ideas. As if ideas were to be impaled on bayonets!

The war between the Privileged and the Court on one side, and the
Assembly and the People on the other had begun.

The Third Estate contained itself, and waited; waited with the patience
of nature; waited a month whilst, with the paralysis of business now
complete, the skeleton hand of famine took a firmer grip of Paris;
waited a month whilst Privilege gradually assembled an army in
Versailles to intimidate it--an army of fifteen regiments, nine of
which were Swiss and German--and mounted a park of artillery before
the building in which the deputies sat. But the deputies refused to be
intimidated; they refused to see the guns and foreign uniforms; they
refused to see anything but the purpose for which they had been brought
together by royal proclamation.

Thus until the 10th of June, when that great thinker and metaphysician,
the Abbe Sieyes, gave the signal: "It is time," said he, "to cut the
cable."

And the opportunity came soon, at the very beginning of July. M. du
Chatelet, a harsh, haughty disciplinarian, proposed to transfer the
eleven French Guards placed under arrest from the military gaol of the
Abbaye to the filthy prison of Bicetre reserved for thieves and felons
of the lowest order. Word of that intention going forth, the people at
last met violence with violence. A mob four thousand strong broke into
the Abbaye, and delivered thence not only the eleven guardsmen, but all
the other prisoners, with the exception of one whom they discovered to
be a thief, and whom they put back again.

That was open revolt at last, and with revolt Privilege knew how to
deal. It would strangle this mutinous Paris in the iron grip of the
foreign regiments. Measures were quickly concerted. Old Marechal de
Broglie, a veteran of the Seven Years' War, imbued with a soldier's
contempt for civilians, conceiving that the sight of a uniform would
be enough to restore peace and order, took control with Besenval as his
second-in-command. The foreign regiments were stationed in the
environs of Paris, regiments whose very names were an irritation to the
Parisians, regiments of Reisbach, of Diesbach, of Nassau, Esterhazy, and
Roehmer. Reenforcements of Swiss were sent to the Bastille between whose
crenels already since the 30th of June were to be seen the menacing
mouths of loaded cannon.

On the 10th of July the electors once more addressed the King to request
the withdrawal of the troops. They were answered next day that the
troops served the purpose of defending the liberties of the Assembly!
And on the next day to that, which was a Sunday, the philanthropist Dr.
Guillotin--whose philanthropic engine of painless death was before very
long to find a deal of work--came from the Assembly, of which he was a
member, to assure the electors of Paris that all was well, appearances
notwithstanding, since Necker was more firmly in the saddle than ever.
He did not know that at the very moment in which he was speaking so
confidently, the oft-dismissed and oft-recalled M. Necker had just been
dismissed yet again by the hostile cabal about the Queen. Privilege
wanted conclusive measures, and conclusive measures it would
have--conclusive to itself.

And at the same time yet another philanthropist, also a doctor, one
Jean-Paul Mara, of Italian extraction--better known as Marat, the
gallicized form of name he adopted--a man of letters, too, who had spent
some years in England, and there published several works on sociology,
was writing:

"Have a care! Consider what would be the fatal effect of a seditious
movement. If you should have the misfortune to give way to that, you
will be treated as people in revolt, and blood will flow."

Andre-Louis was in the gardens of the Palais Royal, that place of shops
and puppet-shows, of circus and cafes, of gaming houses and brothels,
that universal rendezvous, on that Sunday morning when the news of
Necker's dismissal spread, carrying with it dismay and fury. Into
Necker's dismissal the people read the triumph of the party hostile to
themselves. It sounded the knell of all hope of redress of their wrongs.

He beheld a slight young man with a pock-marked face, redeemed from
utter ugliness by a pair of magnificent eyes, leap to a table outside
the Café de Foy, a drawn sword in his hand, crying, "To arms!" And then
upon the silence of astonishment that cry imposed, this young man
poured a flood of inflammatory eloquence, delivered in a voice marred at
moments by a stutter. He told the people that the Germans on the Champ
de Mars would enter Paris that night to butcher the inhabitants. "Let
us mount a cockade!" he cried, and tore a leaf from a tree to serve his
purpose--the green cockade of hope.

Enthusiasm swept the crowd, a motley crowd made up of men and women of
every class, from vagabond to nobleman, from harlot to lady of fashion.
Trees were despoiled of their leaves, and the green cockade was flaunted
from almost every head.

"You are caught between two fires," the incendiary's stuttering voice
raved on. "Between the Germans on the Champ de Mars and the Swiss in the
Bastille. To arms, then! To arms!"

Excitement boiled up and over. From a neighbouring waxworks show came
the bust of Necker, and presently a bust of that comedian the Duke
of Orleans, who had a party and who was as ready as any other of the
budding opportunists of those days to take advantage of the moment for
his own aggrandizement. The bust of Necker was draped with crepe.

Andre-Louis looked on, and grew afraid. Marat's pamphlet had impressed
him. It had expressed what himself he had expressed more than half a
year ago to the mob at Rennes. This crowd, he felt must be restrained.
That hot-headed, irresponsible stutterer would have the town in a blaze
by night unless something were done. The young man, a causeless advocate
of the Palais named Camille Desmoulins, later to become famous, leapt
down from his table still waving his sword, still shouting, "To arms!
Follow me!" Andre-Louis advanced to occupy the improvised rostrum, which
the stutterer had just vacated, to make an effort at counteracting that
inflammatory performance. He thrust through the crowd, and came suddenly
face to face with a tall man beautifully dressed, whose handsome
countenance was sternly set, whose great sombre eyes mouldered as if
with suppressed anger.

Thus face to face, each looking into the eyes of the other, they stood
for a long moment, the jostling crowd streaming past them, unheeded.
Then Andre-Louis laughed.

"That fellow, too, has a very dangerous gift of eloquence, M. le
Marquis," he said. "In fact there are a number of such in France to-day.
They grow from the soil, which you and yours have irrigated with the
blood of the martyrs of liberty. Soon it may be your blood instead. The
soil is parched, and thirsty for it."

"Gallows-bird!" he was answered. "The police will do your affair for
you. I shall tell the Lieutenant-General that you are to be found in
Paris."

"My God, man!" cried Andre-Louis, "will you never get sense? Will you
talk like that of Lieutenant-Generals when Paris itself is likely to
tumble about your ears or take fire under your feet? Raise your voice,
M. le Marquis. Denounce me here, to these. You will make a hero of me in
such an hour as this. Or shall I denounce you? I think I will. I think
it is high time you received your wages. Hi! You others, listen to me!
Let me present you to..."

A rush of men hurtled against him, swept him along with them, do what he
would, separating him from M. de La Tour d'Azyr, so oddly met. He sought
to breast that human torrent; the Marquis, caught in an eddy of it,
remained where he had been, and Andre-Louis' last glimpse of him was of
a man smiling with tight lips, an ugly smile.

Meanwhile the gardens were emptying in the wake of that stuttering
firebrand who had mounted the green cockade. The human torrent poured
out into the Rue de Richelieu, and Andre-Louis perforce must suffer
himself to be borne along by it, at least as far as the Rue du Hasard.
There he sidled out of it, and having no wish to be crushed to death or
to take further part in the madness that was afoot, he slipped down
the street, and so got home to the deserted academy. For there were no
pupils to-day, and even M. des Amis, like Andre-Louis, had gone out to
seek for news of what was happening at Versailles.

This was no normal state of things at the Academy of Bertrand des Amis.
Whatever else in Paris might have been at a standstill lately, the
fencing academy had flourished as never hitherto. Usually both the
master and his assistant were busy from morning until dusk, and already
Andre-Louis was being paid now by the lessons that he gave, the
master allowing him one half of the fee in each case for himself, an
arrangement which the assistant found profitable. On Sundays the
academy made half-holiday; but on this Sunday such had been the state of
suspense and ferment in the city that no one having appeared by eleven
o'clock both des Amis and Andre-Louis had gone out. Little they thought
as they lightly took leave of each other--they were very good friends by
now--that they were never to meet again in this world.

Bloodshed there was that day in Paris. On the Place Vendome a detachment
of dragoons awaited the crowd out of which Andre-Louis had slipped. The
horsemen swept down upon the mob, dispersed it, smashed the waxen effigy
of M. Necker, and killed one man on the spot--an unfortunate French Guard
who stood his ground. That was a beginning. As a consequence Besenval
brought up his Swiss from the Champ de Mars and marshalled them in
battle order on the Champs Elysees with four pieces of artillery. His
dragoons he stationed in the Place Louis XV. That evening an enormous
crowd, streaming along the Champs Elysees and the Tuileries Gardens,
considered with eyes of alarm that warlike preparation. Some insults
were cast upon those foreign mercenaries and some stones were flung.
Besenval, losing his head, or acting under orders, sent for his dragoons
and ordered them to disperse the crowd, But that crowd was too dense to
be dispersed in this fashion; so dense that it was impossible for the
horsemen to move without crushing some one. There were several crushed,
and as a consequence when the dragoons, led by the Prince de Lambesc,
advanced into the Tuileries Gardens, the outraged crowd met them with a
fusillade of stones and bottles. Lambesc gave the order to fire. There
was a stampede. Pouring forth from the Tuileries through the city went
those indignant people with their story of German cavalry trampling upon
women and children, and uttering now in grimmest earnest the call to
arms, raised at noon by Desmoulins in the Palais Royal.

The victims were taken up and borne thence, and amongst them was
Bertrand des Amis, himself--like all who lived by the sword--an ardent
upholder of the noblesse, trampled to death under hooves of foreign
horsemen launched by the noblesse and led by a nobleman.

To Andre-Louis, waiting that evening on the second floor of No. 13
Rue du Hasard for the return of his friend and master, four men of the
people brought that broken body of one of the earliest victims of the
Revolution that was now launched in earnest.



CHAPTER III. PRESIDENT LE CHAPELIER

The ferment of Paris which, during the two following days, resembled an
armed camp rather than a city, delayed the burial of Bertrand des Amis
until the Wednesday of that eventful week. Amid events that were shaking
a nation to its foundations the death of a fencing-master passed almost
unnoticed even among his pupils, most of whom did not come to the
academy during the two days that his body lay there. Some few, however,
did come, and these conveyed the news to others, with the result that
the master was followed to Pere Lachaise by a score of young men at the
head of whom as chief mourner walked Andre-Louis.

There were no relatives to be advised so far as Andre-Louis was aware,
although within a week of M. des Amis' death a sister turned up from
Passy to claim his heritage. This was considerable, for the master had
prospered and saved money, most of which was invested in the Compagnie
des Eaux and the National Debt. Andre-Louis consigned her to the
lawyers, and saw her no more.

The death of des Amis left him with so profound a sense of loneliness
and desolation that he had no thought or care for the sudden access
of fortune which it automatically procured him. To the master's sister
might fall such wealth as he had amassed, but Andre-Louis succeeded
to the mine itself from which that wealth had been extracted, the
fencing-school in which by now he was himself so well established as an
instructor that its numerous pupils looked to him to carry it forward
successfully as its chief. And never was there a season in which
fencing-academies knew such prosperity as in these troubled days, when
every man was sharpening his sword and schooling himself in the uses of
it.

It was not until a couple of weeks later that Andre-Louis realized what
had really happened to him, and he found himself at the same time an
exhausted man, for during that fortnight he had been doing the work of
two. If he had not hit upon the happy expedient of pairing-off his
more advanced pupils to fence with each other, himself standing by to
criticize, correct and otherwise instruct, he must have found the task
utterly beyond his strength. Even so, it was necessary for him to fence
some six hours daily, and every day he brought arrears of lassitude
from yesterday until he was in danger of succumbing under the increasing
burden of fatigue. In the end he took an assistant to deal with
beginners, who gave the hardest work. He found him readily enough
by good fortune in one of his own pupils named Le Duc. As the summer
advanced, and the concourse of pupils steadily increased, it became
necessary for him to take yet another assistant--an able young instructor
named Galoche--and another room on the floor above.

They were strenuous days for Andre-Louis, more strenuous than he had
ever known, even when he had been at work to build up the Binet Company;
but it follows that they were days of extraordinary prosperity. He
comments regretfully upon the fact that Bertrand des Amis should
have died by ill-chance on the very eve of so profitable a vogue of
sword-play.

The arms of the Academie du Roi, to which Andre-Louis had no title,
still continued to be displayed outside his door. He had overcome the
difficulty in a manner worthy of Scaramouche. He left the escutcheon and
the legend "Academie de Bertrand des Amis, Maitre en fait d'Armes des
Academies du Roi," appending to it the further legend: "Conducted by
Andre-Louis."

With little time now in which to go abroad it was from his pupils
and the newspapers--of which a flood had risen in Paris with the
establishment of the freedom of the Press--that he learnt of the
revolutionary processes around him, following upon, as a measure of
anticlimax, the fall of the Bastille. That had happened whilst M. des
Amis lay dead, on the day before they buried him, and was indeed the
chief reason of the delay in his burial. It was an event that had its
inspiration in that ill-considered charge of Prince Lambesc in which the
fencing-master had been killed.

The outraged people had besieged the electors in the Hotel de Ville,
demanding arms with which to defend their lives from these foreign
murderers hired by despotism. And in the end the electors had consented
to give them arms, or, rather--for arms it had none to give--to permit
them to arm themselves. Also it had given them a cockade, of red and
blue, the colours of Paris. Because these colours were also those of the
liveries of the Duke of Orleans, white was added to them--the white of
the ancient standard of France--and thus was the tricolour born. Further,
a permanent committee of electors was appointed to watch over public
order.

Thus empowered the people went to work with such good effect that within
thirty-six hours sixty thousand pikes had been forged. At nine o'clock
on Tuesday morning thirty thousand men were before the Invalides. By
eleven o'clock they had ravished it of its store of arms amounting to
some thirty thousand muskets, whilst others had seized the Arsenal and
possessed themselves of powder.

Thus they prepared to resist the attack that from seven points was to
be launched that evening upon the city. But Paris did not wait for the
attack. It took the initiative. Mad with enthusiasm it conceived the
insane project of taking that terrible menacing fortress, the Bastille,
and, what is more, it succeeded, as you know, before five o'clock that
night, aided in the enterprise by the French Guards with cannon.

The news of it, borne to Versailles by Lambesc in flight with his
dragoons before the vast armed force that had sprouted from the
paving-stones of Paris, gave the Court pause. The people were in
possession of the guns captured from the Bastille. They were erecting
barricades in the streets, and mounting these guns upon them. The attack
had been too long delayed. It must be abandoned since now it could lead
only to fruitless slaughter that must further shake the already sorely
shaken prestige of Royalty.

And so the Court, growing momentarily wise again under the spur of fear,
preferred to temporize. Necker should be brought back yet once again,
the three orders should sit united as the National Assembly demanded. It
was the completest surrender of force to force, the only argument. The
King went alone to inform the National Assembly of that eleventh-hour
resolve, to the great comfort of its members, who viewed with pain and
alarm the dreadful state of things in Paris. "No force but the force of
reason and argument" was their watchword, and it was so to continue for
two years yet, with a patience and fortitude in the face of ceaseless
provocation to which insufficient justice has been done.

As the King was leaving the Assembly, a woman, embracing his knees, gave
tongue to what might well be the question of all France:

"Ah, sire, are you really sincere? Are you sure they will not make you
change your mind?"

Yet no such question was asked when a couple of days later the King,
alone and unguarded save by the representatives of the Nation, came to
Paris to complete the peacemaking, the surrender of Privilege. The Court
was filled with terror by the adventure. Were they not the "enemy,"
these mutinous Parisians? And should a King go thus among his enemies?
If he shared some of that fear, as the gloom of him might lead us to
suppose, he must have found it idle. What if two hundred thousand men
under arms--men without uniforms and with the most extraordinary motley
of weapons ever seen--awaited him? They awaited him as a guard of honour.

Mayor Bailly at the barrier presented him with the keys of the city.
"These are the same keys that were presented to Henri IV. He had
reconquered his people. Now the people have reconquered their King."

At the Hotel de Ville Mayor Bailly offered him the new cockade, the
tricoloured symbol of constitutional France, and when he had given his
royal confirmation to the formation of the Garde Bourgeoise and to the
appointments of Bailly and Lafayette, he departed again for Versailles
amid the shouts of "Vive le Roi!" from his loyal people.

And now you see Privilege--before the cannon's mouth, as it
were--submitting at last, where had they submitted sooner they might have
saved oceans of blood--chiefly their own. They come, nobles and clergy,
to join the National Assembly, to labour with it upon this constitution
that is to regenerate France. But the reunion is a mockery--as much a
mockery as that of the Archbishop of Paris singing the Te Deum for
the fall of the Bastille--most grotesque and incredible of all these
grotesque and incredible events. All that has happened to the National
Assembly is that it has introduced five or six hundred enemies to hamper
and hinder its deliberations.

But all this is an oft-told tale, to be read in detail elsewhere. I
give you here just so much of it as I have found in Andre-Louis' own
writings, almost in his own words, reflecting the changes that were
operated in his mind. Silent now, he came fully to believe in those
things in which he had not believed when earlier he had preached them.

Meanwhile together with the change in his fortune had come a change
in his position towards the law, a change brought about by the other
changes wrought around him. No longer need he hide himself. Who in these
days would prefer against him the grotesque charge of sedition for
what he had done in Brittany? What court would dare to send him to the
gallows for having said in advance what all France was saying now? As
for that other possible charge of murder, who should concern himself
with the death of the miserable Binet killed by him--if, indeed, he had
killed him, as he hoped--in self-defence.

And so one fine day in early August, Andre-Louis gave himself a holiday
from the academy, which was now working smoothly under his assistants,
hired a chaise and drove out to Versailles to the Café d'Amaury, which
he knew for the meeting-place of the Club Breton, the seed from which
was to spring that Society of the Friends of the Constitution better
known as the Jacobins. He went to seek Le Chapelier, who had been one
of the founders of the club, a man of great prominence now, president of
the Assembly in this important season when it was deliberating upon the
Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Le Chapelier's importance was reflected in the sudden servility of the
shirt-sleeved, white-aproned waiter of whom Andre-Louis inquired for the
representative.

M. Le Chapelier was above-stairs with friends. The waiter desired to
serve the gentleman, but hesitated to break in upon the assembly in
which M. le Depute found himself.

Andre-Louis gave him a piece of silver to encourage him to make the
attempt. Then he sat down at a marble-topped table by the window looking
out over the wide tree-encircled square. There, in that common-room of
the café, deserted at this hour of mid-afternoon, the great man came to
him. Less than a year ago he had yielded precedence to Andre-Louis in
a matter of delicate leadership; to-day he stood on the heights, one
of the great leaders of the Nation in travail, and Andre-Louis was deep
down in the shadows of the general mass.

The thought was in the minds of both as they scanned each other, each
noting in the other the marked change that a few months had wrought.
In Le Chapelier, Andre-Louis observed certain heightened refinements of
dress that went with certain subtler refinements of countenance. He was
thinner than of old, his face was pale and there was a weariness in the
eyes that considered his visitor through a gold-rimmed spy-glass. In
Andre-Louis those jaded but quick-moving eyes of the Breton deputy noted
changes even more marked. The almost constant swordmanship of these
last months had given Andre-Louis a grace of movement, a poise, and a
curious, indefinable air of dignity, of command. He seemed taller by
virtue of this, and he was dressed with an elegance which if quiet was
none the less rich. He wore a small silver-hilted sword, and wore it as
if used to it, and his black hair that Le Chapelier had never seen other
than fluttering lank about his bony cheeks was glossy now and gathered
into a club. Almost he had the air of a petit-maitre.

In both, however, the changes were purely superficial, as each was
soon to reveal to the other. Le Chapelier was ever the same direct and
downright Breton, abrupt of manner and of speech. He stood smiling a
moment in mingled surprise and pleasure; then opened wide his arms. They
embraced under the awe-stricken gaze of the waiter, who at once effaced
himself.

"Andre-Louis, my friend! Whence do you drop?"

"We drop from above. I come from below to survey at close quarters one
who is on the heights."

"On the heights! But that you willed it so, it is yourself might now be
standing in my place."

"I have a poor head for heights, and I find the atmosphere too rarefied.
Indeed, you look none too well on it yourself, Isaac. You are pale."

"The Assembly was in session all last night. That is all. These damned
Privileged multiply our difficulties. They will do so until we decree
their abolition."

They sat down. "Abolition! You contemplate so much? Not that you
surprise me. You have always been an extremist."

"I contemplate it that I may save them. I seek to abolish them
officially, so as to save them from abolition of another kind at the
hands of a people they exasperate."

"I see. And the King?"

"The King is the incarnation of the Nation. We shall deliver him
together with the Nation from the bondage of Privilege. Our constitution
will accomplish it. You agree?"

Andre-Louis shrugged. "Does it matter? I am a dreamer in politics, not
a man of action. Until lately I have been very moderate; more moderate
than you think. But now almost I am a republican. I have been watching,
and I have perceived that this King is--just nothing, a puppet who dances
according to the hand that pulls the string."

"This King, you say? What other king is possible? You are surely not
of those who weave dreams about Orleans? He has a sort of party, a
following largely recruited by the popular hatred of the Queen and the
known fact that she hates him. There are some who have thought of making
him regent, some even more; Robespierre is of the number."

"Who?" asked Andre-Louis, to whom the name was unknown.

"Robespierre--a preposterous little lawyer who represents Arras, a
shabby, clumsy, timid dullard, who will make speeches through his nose
to which nobody listens--an ultra-royalist whom the royalists and the
Orleanists are using for their own ends. He has pertinacity, and he
insists upon being heard. He may be listened to some day. But that
he, or the others, will ever make anything of Orleans... pish! Orleans
himself may desire it, but the man is a eunuch in crime; he would, but
he can't. The phrase is Mirabeau's."

He broke off to demand Andre-Louis' news of himself.

"You did not treat me as a friend when you wrote to me," he complained.
"You gave me no clue to your whereabouts; you represented yourself as on
the verge of destitution and withheld from me the means to come to your
assistance. I have been troubled in mind about you, Andre. Yet to judge
by your appearance I might have spared myself that. You seem prosperous,
assured. Tell me of it."

Andre-Louis told him frankly all that there was to tell. "Do you know
that you are an amazement to me?" said the deputy. "From the robe to the
buskin, and now from the buskin to the sword! What will be the end of
you, I wonder?"

"The gallows, probably."

"Pish! Be serious. Why not the toga of the senator in senatorial France?
It might be yours now if you had willed it so."

"The surest way to the gallows of all," laughed Andre-Louis.

At the moment Le Chapelier manifested impatience. I wonder did the
phrase cross his mind that day four years later when himself he rode in
the death-cart to the Greve.

"We are sixty-six Breton deputies in the Assembly. Should a vacancy
occur, will you act as suppleant? A word from me together with the
influence of your name in Rennes and Nantes, and the thing is done."

Andre-Louis laughed outright. "Do you know, Isaac, that I never meet you
but you seek to thrust me into politics?"

"Because you have a gift for politics. You were born for politics."

"Ah, yes--Scaramouche in real life. I've played it on the stage. Let that
suffice. Tell me, Isaac, what news of my old friend, La Tour d'Azyr?"

"He is here in Versailles, damn him--a thorn in the flesh of the
Assembly. They've burnt his chateau at La Tour d'Azyr. Unfortunately he
wasn't in it at the time. The flames haven't even singed his insolence.
He dreams that when this philosophic aberration is at an end, there will
be serfs to rebuild it for him."

"So there has been trouble in Brittany?" Andre-Louis had become suddenly
grave, his thoughts swinging to Gavrillac.

"An abundance of it, and elsewhere too. Can you wonder? These delays
at such a time, with famine in the land? Chateaux have been going up in
smoke during the last fortnight. The peasants took their cue from
the Parisians, and treated every castle as a Bastille. Order is being
restored, there as here, and they are quieter now."

"What of Gavrillac? Do you know?"

"I believe all to be well. M. de Kercadiou was not a Marquis de La Tour
d'Azyr. He was in sympathy with his people. It is not likely that they
would injure Gavrillac. But don't you correspond with your godfather?"

"In the circumstances--no. What you tell me would make it now more
difficult than ever, for he must account me one of those who helped to
light the torch that has set fire to so much belonging to his class.
Ascertain for me that all is well, and let me know."

"I will, at once."

At parting, when Andre-Louis was on the point of stepping into his
cabriolet to return to Paris, he sought information on another matter.

"Do you happen to know if M. de La Tour d'Azyr has married?" he asked.

"I don't; which really means that he hasn't. One would have heard of it
in the case of that exalted Privileged."

"To be sure." Andre-Louis spoke indifferently. "Au revoir, Isaac! You'll
come and see me--13 Rue du Hasard. Come soon."

"As soon and as often as my duties will allow. They keep me chained here
at present."

"Poor slave of duty with your gospel of liberty!"

"True! And because of that I will come. I have a duty to Brittany: to
make Omnes Omnibus one of her representatives in the National Assembly."

"That is a duty you will oblige me by neglecting," laughed Andre-Louis,
and drove away.



CHAPTER IV. AT MEUDON

Later in the week he received a visit from Le Chapelier just before
noon.

"I have news for you, Andre. Your godfather is at Meudon. He arrived
there two days ago. Had you heard?"

"But no. How should I hear? Why is he at Meudon?" He was conscious of a
faint excitement, which he could hardly have explained.

"I don't know. There have been fresh disturbances in Brittany. It may be
due to that."

"And so he has come for shelter to his brother?" asked Andre-Louis.

"To his brother's house, yes; but not to his brother. Where do you live
at all, Andre? Do you never hear any of the news? Etienne de Gavrillac
emigrated years ago. He was of the household of M. d'Artois, and he
crossed the frontier with him. By now, no doubt, he is in Germany with
him, conspiring against France. For that is what the emigres are
doing. That Austrian woman at the Tuileries will end by destroying the
monarchy."

"Yes, yes," said Andre-Louis impatiently. Politics interested him not at
all this morning. "But about Gavrillac?"

"Why, haven't I told you that Gavrillac is at Meudon, installed in the
house his brother has left? Dieu de Dieu! Don't I speak French or don't
you understand the language? I believe that Rabouillet, his intendant,
is in charge of Gavrillac. I have brought you the news the moment I
received it. I thought you would probably wish to go out to Meudon."

"Of course. I will go at once--that is, as soon as I can. I can't to-day,
nor yet to-morrow. I am too busy here." He waved a hand towards the
inner room, whence proceeded the click-click of blades, the quick moving
of feet, and the voice of the instructor, Le Duc.

"Well, well, that is your own affair. You are busy. I leave you now. Let
us dine this evening at the Café de Foy. Kersain will be of the party."

"A moment!" Andre-Louis' voice arrested him on the threshold. "Is Mlle.
de Kercadiou with her uncle?"

"How the devil should I know? Go and find out."

He was gone, and Andre-Louis stood there a moment deep in thought.
Then he turned and went back to resume with his pupil, the Vicomte de
Villeniort, the interrupted exposition of the demi-contre of Danet,
illustrating with a small-sword the advantages to be derived from its
adoption.

Thereafter he fenced with the Vicomte, who was perhaps the ablest of his
pupils at the time, and all the while his thoughts were on the heights
of Meudon, his mind casting up the lessons he had to give that afternoon
and on the morrow, and wondering which of these he might postpone
without deranging the academy. When having touched the Vicomte three
times in succession, he paused and wrenched himself back to the present,
it was to marvel at the precision to be gained by purely mechanical
action. Without bestowing a thought upon what he was doing, his wrist
and arm and knees had automatically performed their work, like the
accurate fighting engine into which constant practice for a year and
more had combined them.

Not until Sunday was Andre-Louis able to satisfy a wish which the
impatience of the intervening days had converted into a yearning.
Dressed with more than ordinary care, his head elegantly coiffed--by one
of those hairdressers to the nobility of whom so many were being thrown
out of employment by the stream of emigration which was now flowing
freely--Andre-Louis mounted his hired carriage, and drove out to Meudon.

The house of the younger Kercadiou no more resembled that of the head
of the family than did his person. A man of the Court, where his brother
was essentially a man of the soil, an officer of the household of M.
le Comte d'Artois, he had built for himself and his family an imposing
villa on the heights of Meudon in a miniature park, conveniently
situated for him midway between Versailles and Paris, and easily
accessible from either. M. d'Artois--the royal tennis-player--had been
amongst the very first to emigrate. Together with the Condes, the
Contis, the Polignacs, and others of the Queen's intimate council, old
Marshal de Broglie and the Prince de Lambesc, who realized that their
very names had become odious to the people, he had quitted France
immediately after the fall of the Bastille. He had gone to play tennis
beyond the frontier--and there consummate the work of ruining the French
monarchy upon which he and those others had been engaged in France. With
him, amongst several members of his household went Etienne de Kercadiou,
and with Etienne de Kercadiou went his family, a wife and four children.
Thus it was that the Seigneur de Gavrillac, glad to escape from a
province so peculiarly disturbed as that of Brittany--where the nobles
had shown themselves the most intransigent of all France--had come to
occupy in his brother's absence the courtier's handsome villa at Meudon.

That he was quite happy there is not to be supposed. A man of his almost
Spartan habits, accustomed to plain fare and self-help, was a little
uneasy in this sybaritic abode, with its soft carpets, profusion of
gilding, and battalion of sleek, silent-footed servants--for Kercadiou
the younger had left his entire household behind. Time, which at
Gavrillac he had kept so fully employed in agrarian concerns, here hung
heavily upon his hands. In self-defence he slept a great deal, and but
for Aline, who made no attempt to conceal her delight at this proximity
to Paris and the heart of things, it is possible that he would have beat
a retreat almost at once from surroundings that sorted so ill with his
habits. Later on, perhaps, he would accustom himself and grow resigned
to this luxurious inactivity. In the meantime the novelty of it fretted
him, and it was into the presence of a peevish and rather somnolent
M. de Kercadiou that Andre-Louis was ushered in the early hours of the
afternoon of that Sunday in June. He was unannounced, as had ever been
the custom at Gavrillac. This because Benoit, M. de Kercadiou's old
seneschal, had accompanied his seigneur upon this soft adventure, and
was installed--to the ceaseless and but half-concealed hilarity of the
impertinent valetaille that M. Etienne had left--as his maitre d'hotel
here at Meudon.

Benoit had welcomed M. Andre with incoherencies of delight; almost had
he gambolled about him like some faithful dog, whilst conducting him to
the salon and the presence of the Lord of Gavrillac, who would--in the
words of Benoit--be ravished to see M. Andre again.

"Monseigneur! Monseigneur!" he cried in a quavering voice, entering a
pace or two in advance of the visitor. "It is M. Andre... M. Andre, your
godson, who comes to kiss your hand. He is here... and so fine that you
would hardly know him. Here he is, monseigneur! Is he not beautiful?"

And the old servant rubbed his hands in conviction of the delight that
he believed he was conveying to his master.

Andre-Louis crossed the threshold of that great room, soft-carpeted to
the foot, dazzling to the eye. It was immensely lofty, and its festooned
ceiling was carried on fluted pillars with gilded capitals. The door by
which he entered, and the windows that opened upon the garden, were of
an enormous height--almost, indeed, the full height of the room itself.
It was a room overwhelmingly gilded, with an abundance of ormolu
encrustations on the furniture, in which it nowise differed from what
was customary in the dwellings of people of birth and wealth. Never,
indeed, was there a time in which so much gold was employed decoratively
as in this age when coined gold was almost unprocurable, and paper money
had been put into circulation to supply the lack. It was a saying of
Andre-Louis' that if these people could only have been induced to put
the paper on their walls and the gold into their pockets, the finances
of the kingdom might soon have been in better case.

The Seigneur--furbished and beruffled to harmonize with his
surroundings--had risen, startled by this exuberant invasion on the part
of Benoit, who had been almost as forlorn as himself since their coming
to Meudon.

"What is it? Eh?" His pale, short-sighted eyes peered at the visitor.
"Andre!" said he, between surprise and sternness; and the colour
deepened in his great pink face.

Benoit, with his back to his master, deliberately winked and grinned at
Andre-Louis to encourage him not to be put off by any apparent hostility
on the part of his godfather. That done, the intelligent old fellow
discreetly effaced himself.

"What do you want here?" growled M. de Kercadiou.

"No more than to kiss your hand, as Benoit has told you, monsieur my
godfather," said Andre-Louis submissively, bowing his sleek black head.

"You have contrived without kissing it for two years."

"Do not, monsieur, reproach me with my misfortune."

The little man stood very stiffly erect, his disproportionately large
head thrown back, his pale prominent eyes very stern.

"Did you think to make your outrageous offence any better by vanishing
in that heartless manner, by leaving us without knowledge of whether you
were alive or dead?"

"At first it was dangerous--dangerous to my life--to disclose my
whereabouts. Then for a time I was in need, almost destitute, and my
pride forbade me, after what I had done and the view you must take of
it, to appeal to you for help. Later..."

"Destitute?" The Seigneur interrupted. For a moment his lip trembled.
Then he steadied himself, and the frown deepened as he surveyed this
very changed and elegant godson of his, noted the quiet richness of his
apparel, the paste buckles and red heels to his shoes, the sword hilted
in mother-o'-pearl and silver, and the carefully dressed hair that he
had always seen hanging in wisps about his face. "At least you do not
look destitute now," he sneered.

"I am not. I have prospered since. In that, monsieur, I differ from the
ordinary prodigal, who returns only when he needs assistance. I return
solely because I love you, monsieur--to tell you so. I have come at the
very first moment after hearing of your presence here." He advanced.
"Monsieur my godfather!" he said, and held out his hand.

But M. de Kercadiou remained unbending, wrapped in his cold dignity and
resentment.

"Whatever tribulations you may have suffered or consider that you may
have suffered, they are far less than your disgraceful conduct deserved,
and I observe that they have nothing abated your impudence. You think
that you have but to come here and say, 'Monsieur my godfather!' and
everything is to be forgiven and forgotten. That is your error. You have
committed too great a wrong; you have offended against everything by
which I hold, and against myself personally, by your betrayal of my
trust in you. You are one of those unspeakable scoundrels who are
responsible for this revolution."

"Alas, monsieur, I see that you share the common delusion. These
unspeakable scoundrels but demanded a constitution, as was promised them
from the throne. They were not to know that the promise was insincere,
or that its fulfilment would be baulked by the privileged orders. The
men who have precipitated this revolution, monsieur, are the nobles and
the prelates."

"You dare--and at such a time as this--stand there and tell me such
abominable lies! You dare to say that the nobles have made the
revolution, when scores of them, following the example of M. le Duc
d'Aiguillon, have flung their privileges, even their title-deeds, into
the lap of the people! Or perhaps you deny it?"

"Oh, no. Having wantonly set fire to their house, they now try to put
it out by throwing water on it; and where they fail they put the entire
blame on the flames."

"I see that you have come here to talk politics."

"Far from it. I have come, if possible, to explain myself. To understand
is always to forgive. That is a great saying of Montaigne's. If I could
make you understand..."

"You can't. You'll never make me understand how you came to render
yourself so odiously notorious in Brittany."

"Ah, not odiously, monsieur!"

"Certainly, odiously--among those that matter. It is said even that you
were Omnes Omnibus, though that I cannot, will not believe."

"Yet it is true."

M. de Kercadiou choked. "And you confess it? You dare to confess it?"

"What a man dares to do, he should dare to confess--unless he is a
coward."

"Oh, and to be sure you were very brave, running away each time after
you had done the mischief, turning comedian to hide yourself, doing more
mischief as a comedian, provoking a riot in Nantes, and then running
away again, to become God knows what--something dishonest by the affluent
look of you. My God, man, I tell you that in these past two years I have
hoped that you were dead, and you profoundly disappoint me that you
are not!" He beat his hands together, and raised his shrill voice to
call--"Benoit!" He strode away towards the fireplace, scarlet in the
face, shaking with the passion into which he had worked himself. "Dead,
I might have forgiven you, as one who had paid for his evil, and his
folly. Living, I never can forgive you. You have gone too far. God alone
knows where it will end.

"Benoit, the door. M. Andre-Louis Moreau to the door!" The tone argued
an irrevocable determination. Pale and self-contained, but with a queer
pain at his heart, Andre-Louis heard that dismissal, saw Benoit's
white, scared face and shaking hands half-raised as if he were about
to expostulate with his master. And then another voice, a crisp, boyish
voice, cut in.

"Uncle!" it cried, a world of indignation and surprise in its pitch,
and then: "Andre!" And this time a note almost of gladness, certainly of
welcome, was blended with the surprise that still remained.

Both turned, half the room between them at the moment, and beheld Aline
in one of the long, open windows, arrested there in the act of entering
from the garden, Aline in a milk-maid bonnet of the latest mode, though
without any of the tricolour embellishments that were so commonly to be
seen upon them.

The thin lips of Andre's long mouth twisted into a queer smile. Into his
mind had flashed the memory of their last parting. He saw himself again,
standing burning with indignation upon the pavement of Nantes, looking
after her carriage as it receded down the Avenue de Gigan.

She was coming towards him now with outstretched hands, a heightened
colour in her cheeks, a smile of welcome on her lips. He bowed low and
kissed her hand in silence.

Then with a glance and a gesture she dismissed Benoit, and in her
imperious fashion constituted herself Andre's advocate against that
harsh dismissal which she had overheard.

"Uncle," she said, leaving Andre and crossing to M. de Kercadiou, "you
make me ashamed of you! To allow a feeling of peevishness to overwhelm
all your affection for Andre!"

"I have no affection for him. I had once. He chose to extinguish it.
He can go to the devil; and please observe that I don't permit you to
interfere."

"But if he confesses that he has done wrong..."

"He confesses nothing of the kind. He comes here to argue with me about
these infernal Rights of Man. He proclaims himself unrepentant. He
announces himself with pride to have been, as all Brittany says, the
scoundrel who hid himself under the sobriquet of Omnes Omnibus. Is that
to be condoned?"

She turned to look at Andre across the wide space that now separated
them.

"But is this really so? Don't you repent, Andre--now that you see all the
harm that has come?"

It was a clear invitation to him, a pleading to him to say that he
repented, to make his peace with his godfather. For a moment it almost
moved him. Then, considering the subterfuge unworthy, he answered
truthfully, though the pain he was suffering rang in his voice.

"To confess repentance," he said slowly, "would be to confess to a
monstrous crime. Don't you see that? Oh, monsieur, have patience
with me; let me explain myself a little. You say that I am in part
responsible for something of all this that has happened. My exhortations
of the people at Rennes and twice afterwards at Nantes are said to have
had their share in what followed there. It may be so. It would be beyond
my power positively to deny it. Revolution followed and bloodshed. More
may yet come. To repent implies a recognition that I have done wrong.
How shall I say that I have done wrong, and thus take a share of the
responsibility for all that blood upon my soul? I will be quite frank
with you to show you how far, indeed, I am from repentance. What I did,
I actually did against all my convictions at the time. Because there
was no justice in France to move against the murderer of Philippe de
Vilmorin, I moved in the only way that I imagined could make the evil
done recoil upon the hand that did it, and those other hands that had
the power but not the spirit to punish. Since then I have come to see
that I was wrong, and that Philippe de Vilmorin and those who thought
with him were in the right.

"You must realize, monsieur, that it is with sincerest thankfulness
that I find I have done nothing calling for repentance; that, on the
contrary, when France is given the inestimable boon of a constitution,
as will shortly happen, I may take pride in having played my part in
bringing about the conditions that have made this possible."

There was a pause. M. de Kercadiou's face turned from pink to purple.

"You have quite finished?" he said harshly.

"If you have understood me, monsieur."

"Oh, I have understood you, and... and I beg that you will go."

Andre-Louis shrugged his shoulders and hung his head. He had come there
so joyously, in such yearning, merely to receive a final dismissal. He
looked at Aline. Her face was pale and troubled; but her wit failed to
show her how she could come to his assistance. His excessive honesty had
burnt all his boats.

"Very well, monsieur. Yet this I would ask you to remember after I am
gone. I have not come to you as one seeking assistance, as one driven to
you by need. I am no returning prodigal, as I have said. I am one who,
needing nothing, asking nothing, master of his own destinies, has come
to you driven by affection only, urged by the love and gratitude he
bears you and will continue to bear you."

"Ah, yes!" cried Aline, turning now to her uncle. Here at least was an
argument in Andre's favour, thought she. "That is true. Surely that..."

Inarticulately he hissed her into silence, exasperated.

"Hereafter perhaps that will help you to think of me more kindly,
monsieur."

"I see no occasion, sir, to think of you at all. Again, I beg that you
will go."

Andre-Louis looked at Aline an instant, as if still hesitating.

She answered him by a glance at her furious uncle, a faint shrug, and a
lift of the eyebrows, dejection the while in her countenance.

It was as if she said: "You see his mood. There is nothing to be done."

He bowed with that singular grace the fencing-room had given him and
went out by the door.

"Oh, it is cruel!" cried Aline, in a stifled voice, her hands clenched,
and she sprang to the window.

"Aline!" her uncle's voice arrested her. "Where are you going?"

"But we do not know where he is to be found."

"Who wants to find the scoundrel?"

"We may never see him again."

"That is most fervently to be desired."

Aline said "Ouf!" and went out by the window.

He called after her, imperiously commanding her return. But
Aline--dutiful child--closed her ears lest she must disobey him, and
sped light-footed across the lawn to the avenue there to intercept the
departing Andre-Louis.

As he came forth wrapped in gloom, she stepped from the bordering trees
into his path.

"Aline!" he cried, joyously almost.

"I did not want you to go like this. I couldn't let you," she explained
herself. "I know him better than you do, and I know that his great soft
heart will presently melt. He will be filled with regret. He will want
to send for you, and he will not know where to send."

"You think that?"

"Oh, I know it! You arrive in a bad moment. He is peevish and
cross-grained, poor man, since he came here. These soft surroundings
are all so strange to him. He wearies himself away from his beloved
Gavrillac, his hunting and tillage, and the truth is that in his mind he
very largely blames you for what has happened--for the necessity, or at
least, the wisdom, of this change. Brittany, you must know, was becoming
too unsafe. The chateau of La Tour d'Azyr, amongst others, was burnt to
the ground some months ago. At any moment, given a fresh excitement, it
may be the turn of Gavrillac. And for this and his present discomfort he
blames you and your friends. But he will come round presently. He will
be sorry that he sent you away like this--for I know that he loves you,
Andre, in spite of all. I shall reason with him when the time comes. And
then we shall want to know where to find you."

"At number 13, Rue du Hasard. The number is unlucky, the name of the
street appropriate. Therefore both are easy to remember."

She nodded. "I will walk with you to the gates." And side by side now
they proceeded at a leisurely pace down the long avenue in the June
sunshine dappled by the shadows of the bordering trees. "You are looking
well, Andre; and do you know that you have changed a deal? I am glad
that you have prospered." And then, abruptly changing the subject before
he had time to answer her, she came to the matter uppermost in her mind.

"I have so wanted to see you in all these months, Andre. You were the
only one who could help me; the only one who could tell me the truth,
and I was angry with you for never having written to say where you were
to be found."

"Of course you encouraged me to do so when last we met in Nantes."

"What? Still resentful?"

"I am never resentful. You should know that." He expressed one of his
vanities. He loved to think himself a Stoic. "But I still bear the scar
of a wound that would be the better for the balm of your retraction."

"Why, then, I retract, Andre. And now tell me."

"Yes, a self-seeking retraction," said he. "You give me something that
you may obtain something." He laughed quite pleasantly. "Well, well;
command me."

"Tell me, Andre." She paused, as if in some difficulty, and then went
on, her eyes upon the ground: "Tell me--the truth of that event at the
Feydau."

The request fetched a frown to his brow. He suspected at once the
thought that prompted it. Quite simply and briefly he gave her his
version of the affair.

She listened very attentively. When he had done she sighed; her face was
very thoughtful.

"That is much what I was told," she said. "But it was added that M.
de La Tour d'Azyr had gone to the theatre expressly for the purpose of
breaking finally with La Binet. Do you know if that was so?"

"I don't; nor of any reason why it should be so. La Binet provided him
the sort of amusement that he and his kind are forever craving..."

"Oh, there was a reason," she interrupted him. "I was the reason.
I spoke to Mme. de Sautron. I told her that I would not continue to
receive one who came to me contaminated in that fashion." She spoke
of it with obvious difficulty, her colour rising as he watched her
half-averted face.

"Had you listened to me..." he was beginning, when again she interrupted
him.

"M. de Sautron conveyed my decision to him, and afterwards represented
him to me as a man in despair, repentant, ready to give proofs--any
proofs--of his sincerity and devotion to me. He told me that M. de La
Tour d'Azyr had sworn to him that he would cut short that affair, that
he would see La Binet no more. And then, on the very next day I heard
of his having all but lost his life in that riot at the theatre. He
had gone straight from that interview with M. de Sautron, straight from
those protestations of future wisdom, to La Binet. I was indignant. I
pronounced myself finally. I stated definitely that I would not in any
circumstances receive M. de La Tour d'Azyr again! And then they pressed
this explanation upon me. For a long time I would not believe it."

"So that you believe it now," said Andre quickly. "Why?"

"I have not said that I believe it now. But... but... neither can I
disbelieve. Since we came to Meudon M. de La Tour d'Azyr has been here,
and himself he has sworn to me that it was so."

"Oh, if M. de La Tour d'Azyr has sworn..." Andre-Louis was laughing on a
bitter note of sarcasm.

"Have you ever known him lie?" she cut in sharply. That checked him.
"M. de La Tour d'Azyr is, after all, a man of honour, and men of honour
never deal in falsehood. Have you ever known him do so, that you should
sneer as you have done?"

"No," he confessed. Common justice demanded that he should admit that
virtue at least in his enemy. "I have not known him lie, it is true. His
kind is too arrogant, too self-confident to have recourse to untruth.
But I have known him do things as vile..."

"Nothing is as vile," she interrupted, speaking from the code by which
she had been reared. "It is for liars only--who are first cousin to
thieves--that there is no hope. It is in falsehood only that there is
real loss of honour."

"You are defending that satyr, I think," he said frostily.

"I desire to be just."

"Justice may seem to you a different matter when at last you shall
have resolved yourself to become Marquise de La Tour d'Azyr." He spoke
bitterly.

"I don't think that I shall ever take that resolve."

"But you are still not sure--in spite of everything."

"Can one ever be sure of anything in this world?"

"Yes. One can be sure of being foolish."

Either she did not hear or did not heed him.

"You do not of your own knowledge know that it was not as M. de La Tour
d'Azyr asserts--that he went to the Feydau that night?"

"I don't," he admitted. "It is of course possible. But does it matter?"

"It might matter. Tell me; what became of La Binet after all?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know?" She turned to consider him. "And you can say it with
that indifference! I thought... I thought you loved her, Andre."

"So did I, for a little while. I was mistaken. It required a La
Tour d'Azyr to disclose the truth to me. They have their uses, these
gentlemen. They help stupid fellows like myself to perceive important
truths. I was fortunate that revelation in my case preceded marriage. I
can now look back upon the episode with equanimity and thankfulness
for my near escape from the consequences of what was no more than an
aberration of the senses. It is a thing commonly confused with love. The
experience, as you see, was very instructive."

She looked at him in frank surprise.

"Do you know, Andre, I sometimes think that you have no heart."

"Presumably because I sometimes betray intelligence. And what of
yourself, Aline? What of your own attitude from the outset where M. de
La Tour d'Azyr is concerned? Does that show heart? If I were to tell you
what it really shows, we should end by quarrelling again, and God knows
I can't afford to quarrel with you now. I... I shall take another way."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, nothing at the moment, for you are not in any danger of marrying
that animal."

"And if I were?"

"Ah! In that case affection for you would discover to me some means of
preventing it--unless..." He paused.

"Unless?" she demanded, challengingly, drawn to the full of her short
height, her eyes imperious.

"Unless you could also tell me that you loved him," said he simply,
whereat she was as suddenly and most oddly softened. And then he added,
shaking his head: "But that of course is impossible."

"Why?" she asked him, quite gently now.

"Because you are what you are, Aline--utterly good and pure and adorable.
Angels do not mate with devils. His wife you might become, but never his
mate, Aline--never."

They had reached the wrought-iron gates at the end of the avenue.
Through these they beheld the waiting yellow chaise which had brought
Andre-Louis. From near at hand came the creak of other wheels, the beat
of other hooves, and now another vehicle came in sight, and drew to a
stand-still beside the yellow chaise--a handsome equipage with polished
mahogany panels on which the gold and azure of armorial bearings flashed
brilliantly in the sunlight. A footman swung to earth to throw wide the
gates; but in that moment the lady who occupied the carriage, perceiving
Aline, waved to her and issued a command.



CHAPTER V. MADAME DE PLOUGASTEL

The postilion drew rein, and the footman opened the door, letting
down the steps and proffering his arm to his mistress to assist her to
alight, since that was the wish she had expressed. Then he opened
one wing of the iron gates, and held it for her. She was a woman of
something more than forty, who once must have been very lovely, who
was very lovely still with the refining quality that age brings to some
women. Her dress and carriage alike advertised great rank.

"I take my leave here, since you have a visitor," said Andre-Louis.

"But it is an old acquaintance of your own, Andre. You remember Mme. la
Comtesse de Plougastel?"

He looked at the approaching lady, whom Aline was now hastening forward
to meet, and because she was named to him he recognized her. He must,
he thought, had he but looked, have recognized her without prompting
anywhere at any time, and this although it was some sixteen years since
last he had seen her. The sight of her now brought it all back to him--a
treasured memory that had never permitted itself to be entirely overlaid
by subsequent events.

When he was a boy of ten, on the eve of being sent to school at Rennes,
she had come on a visit to his godfather, who was her cousin. It
happened that at the time he was taken by Rabouillet to the Manor of
Gavrillac, and there he had been presented to Mme. de Plougastel. The
great lady, in all the glory then of her youthful beauty, with her
gentle, cultured voice--so cultured that she had seemed to speak a
language almost unknown to the little Breton lad--and her majestic air of
the great world, had scared him a little at first. Very gently had she
allayed those fears of his, and by some mysterious enchantment she had
completely enslaved his regard. He recalled now the terror in which
he had gone to the embrace to which he was bidden, and the subsequent
reluctance with which he had left those soft round arms. He remembered,
too, how sweetly she had smelled and the very perfume she had used, a
perfume as of lilac--for memory is singularly tenacious in these matters.

For three days whilst she had been at Gavrillac, he had gone daily to
the manor, and so had spent hours in her company. A childless woman with
the maternal instinct strong within her, she had taken this precociously
intelligent, wide-eyed lad to her heart.

"Give him to me, Cousin Quintin," he remembered her saying on the
last of those days to his godfather. "Let me take him back with me to
Versailles as my adopted child."

But the Seigneur had gravely shaken his head in silent refusal, and
there had been no further question of such a thing. And then, when she
said good-bye to him--the thing came flooding back to him now--there had
been tears in her eyes.

"Think of me sometimes, Andre-Louis," had been her last words.

He remembered how flattered he had been to have won within so short a
time the affection of this great lady. The thing had given him a sense
of importance that had endured for months thereafter, finally to fade
into oblivion.

But all was vividly remembered now upon beholding her again, after
sixteen years, profoundly changed and matured, the girl--for she had been
no more in those old days--sunk in this worldly woman with the air of
calm dignity and complete self-possession. Yet, he insisted, he must
have known her anywhere again.

Aline embraced her affectionately, and then answering the questioning
glance with faintly raised eyebrows that madame was directing towards
Aline's companion--

"This is Andre-Louis," she said. "You remember Andre-Louis, madame?"

Madame checked. Andre-Louis saw the surprise ripple over her face,
taking with it some of her colour, leaving her for a moment breathless.

And then the voice--the well-remembered rich, musical voice--richer and
deeper now than of yore, repeated his name:

"Andre-Louis!"

Her manner of uttering it suggested that it awakened memories, memories
perhaps of the departed youth with which it was associated. And she
paused a long moment, considering him, a little wide-eyed, what time he
bowed before her.

"But of course I remember him," she said at last, and came towards
him, putting out her hand. He kissed it dutifully, submissively,
instinctively. "And this is what you have grown into?" She appraised
him, and he flushed with pride at the satisfaction in her tone. He
seemed to have gone back sixteen years, and to be again the little
Breton lad at Gavrillac. She turned to Aline. "How mistaken Quintin was
in his assumptions. He was pleased to see him again, was he not?"

"So pleased, madame, that he has shown me the door," said Andre-Louis.

"Ah!" She frowned, conning him still with those dark, wistful eyes of
hers. "We must change that, Aline. He is of course very angry with
you. But it is not the way to make converts. I will plead for you,
Andre-Louis. I am a good advocate."

He thanked her and took his leave.

"I leave my case in your hands with gratitude. My homage, madame."

And so it happened that in spite of his godfather's forbidding reception
of him, the fragment of a song was on his lips as his yellow chaise
whirled him back to Paris and the Rue du Hasard. That meeting with Mme.
de Plougastel had enheartened him; her promise to plead his case in
alliance with Aline gave him assurance that all would be well.

That he was justified of this was proved when on the following Thursday
towards noon his academy was invaded by M. de Kercadiou. Gilles, the
boy, brought him word of it, and breaking off at once the lesson upon
which he was engaged, he pulled off his mask, and went as he was--in a
chamois waistcoat buttoned to the chin and with his foil under his arm
to the modest salon below, where his godfather awaited him.

The florid little Lord of Gavrillac stood almost defiantly to receive
him.

"I have been over-persuaded to forgive you," he announced aggressively,
seeming thereby to imply that he consented to this merely so as to put
an end to tiresome importunities.

Andre-Louis was not misled. He detected a pretence adopted by the
Seigneur so as to enable him to retreat in good order.

"My blessings on the persuaders, whoever they may have been. You restore
me my happiness, monsieur my godfather."

He took the hand that was proffered and kissed it, yielding to the
impulse of the unfailing habit of his boyish days. It was an act
symbolical of his complete submission, reestablishing between himself
and his godfather the bond of protected and protector, with all the
mutual claims and duties that it carries. No mere words could more
completely have made his peace with this man who loved him.

M. de Kercadiou's face flushed a deeper pink, his lip trembled, and
there was a huskiness in the voice that murmured "My dear boy!" Then he
recollected himself, threw back his great head and frowned. His voice
resumed its habitual shrillness. "You realize, I hope, that you have
behaved damnably... damnably, and with the utmost ingratitude?"

"Does not that depend upon the point of view?" quoth Andre-Louis, but
his tone was studiously conciliatory.

"It depends upon a fact, and not upon any point of view. Since I have
been persuaded to overlook it, I trust that at least you have some
intention of reforming."

"I... I will abstain from politics," said Andre-Louis, that being the
utmost he could say with truth.

"That is something, at least." His godfather permitted himself to be
mollified, now that a concession--or a seeming concession--had been made
to his just resentment.

"A chair, monsieur."

"No, no. I have come to carry you off to pay a visit with me. You owe
it entirely to Mme. de Plougastel that I consent to receive you again. I
desire that you come with me to thank her."

"I have my engagements here..." began Andre-Louis, and then broke off.
"No matter! I will arrange it. A moment." And he was turning away to
reenter the academy.

"What are your engagements? You are not by chance a fencing-instructor?"
M. de Kercadiou had observed the leather waistcoat and the foil tucked
under Andre-Louis' arm.

"I am the master of this academy--the academy of the late Bertrand des
Amis, the most flourishing school of arms in Paris to-day."

M. de Kercadiou's brows went up.

"And you are master of it?"

"Maitre en fait d'Armes. I succeeded to the academy upon the death of
des Amis."

He left M. Kercadiou to think it over, and went to make his arrangements
and effect the necessary changes in his toilet.

"So that is why you have taken to wearing a sword," said M. de
Kercadiou, as they climbed into his waiting carriage.

"That and the need to guard one's self in these times."

"And do you mean to tell me that a man who lives by what is after all
an honourable profession, a profession mainly supported by the nobility,
can at the same time associate himself with these peddling attorneys and
low pamphleteers who are spreading dissension and insubordination?"

"You forget that I am a peddling attorney myself, made so by your own
wishes, monsieur."

M. de Kercadiou grunted, and took snuff. "You say the academy
flourishes?" he asked presently.

"It does. I have two assistant instructors. I could employ a third. It
is hard work."

"That should mean that your circumstances are affluent."

"I have reason to be satisfied. I have far more than I need."

"Then you'll be able to do your share in paying off this national debt,"
growled the nobleman, well content that--as he conceived it--some of the
evil Andre-Louis had helped to sow should recoil upon him.

Then the talk veered to Mme. de Plougastel. M. de Kercadiou, Andre-Louis
gathered, but not the reason for it, disapproved most strongly of this
visit. But then Madame la Comtesse was a headstrong woman whom there was
no denying, whom all the world obeyed. M. de Plougastel was at present
absent in Germany, but would shortly be returning. It was an indiscreet
admission from which it was easy to infer that M. de Plougastel was one
of those intriguing emissaries who came and went between the Queen of
France and her brother, the Emperor of Austria.

The carriage drew up before a handsome hotel in the Faubourg
Saint-Denis, at the corner of the Rue Paradis, and they were ushered by
a sleek servant into a little boudoir, all gilt and brocade, that opened
upon a terrace above a garden that was a park in miniature. Here madame
awaited them. She rose, dismissing the young person who had been reading
to her, and came forward with both hands outheld to greet her cousin
Kercadiou.

"I almost feared you would not keep your word," she said. "It was
unjust. But then I hardly hoped that you would succeed in bringing
him." And her glance, gentle, and smiling welcome upon him, indicated
Andre-Louis.

The young man made answer with formal gallantry.

"The memory of you, madame, is too deeply imprinted on my heart for any
persuasions to have been necessary."

"Ah, the courtier!" said madame, and abandoned him her hand. "We are to
have a little talk, Andre-Louis," she informed him, with a gravity that
left him vaguely ill at ease.

They sat down, and for a while the conversation was of general matters,
chiefly concerned, however, with Andre-Louis, his occupations and his
views. And all the while madame was studying him attentively with those
gentle, wistful eyes, until again that sense of uneasiness began to
pervade him. He realized instinctively that he had been brought here for
some purpose deeper than that which had been avowed.

At last, as if the thing were concerted--and the clumsy Lord of Gavrillac
was the last man in the world to cover his tracks--his godfather rose
and, upon a pretext of desiring to survey the garden, sauntered through
the windows on to the terrace, over whose white stone balustrade the
geraniums trailed in a scarlet riot. Thence he vanished among the
foliage below.

"Now we can talk more intimately," said madame. "Come here, and sit
beside me." She indicated the empty half of the settee she occupied.

Andre-Louis went obediently, but a little uncomfortably. "You know," she
said gently, placing a hand upon his arm, "that you have behaved very
ill, that your godfather's resentment is very justly founded?"

"Madame, if I knew that, I should be the most unhappy, the most
despairing of men." And he explained himself, as he had explained
himself on Sunday to his godfather. "What I did, I did because it was
the only means to my hand in a country in which justice was paralyzed by
Privilege to make war upon an infamous scoundrel who had killed my best
friend--a wanton, brutal act of murder, which there was no law to punish.
And as if that were not enough--forgive me if I speak with the utmost
frankness, madame--he afterwards debauched the woman I was to have
married."

"Ah, mon Dieu!" she cried out.

"Forgive me. I know that it is horrible. You perceive, perhaps, what
I suffered, how I came to be driven. That last affair of which I
am guilty--the riot that began in the Feydau Theatre and afterwards
enveloped the whole city of Nantes--was provoked by this."

"Who was she, this girl?"

It was like a woman, he thought, to fasten upon the unessential.

"Oh, a theatre girl, a poor fool of whom I have no regrets. La Binet was
her name. I was a player at the time in her father's troupe. That was
after the Rennes business, when it was necessary to hide from such
justice as exists in France--the gallows' justice for unfortunates
who are not 'born.' This added wrong led me to provoke a riot in the
theatre."

"Poor boy," she said tenderly. "Only a woman's heart can realize what
you must have suffered; and because of that I can so readily forgive
you. But now..."

"Ah, but you don't understand, madame. If to-day I thought that I had
none but personal grounds for having lent a hand in the holy work
of abolishing Privilege, I think I should cut my throat. My true
justification lies in the insincerity of those who intended that the
convocation of the States General should be a sham, mere dust in the
eyes of the nation."

"Was it not, perhaps, wise to have been insincere in such a matter?"

He looked at her blankly.

"Can it ever be wise, madame, to be insincere?"

"Oh, indeed it can; believe me, who am twice your age, and know my
world."

"I should say, madame, that nothing is wise that complicates existence;
and I know of nothing that so complicates it as insincerity. Consider a
moment the complications that have arisen out of this."

"But surely, Andre-Louis, your views have not been so perverted that you
do not see that a governing class is a necessity in any country?"

"Why, of course. But not necessarily a hereditary one."

"What else?"

He answered her with an epigram. "Man, madame, is the child of his own
work. Let there be no inheriting of rights but from such a parent. Thus
a nation's best will always predominate, and such a nation will achieve
greatly."

"But do you account birth of no importance?"

"Of none, madame--or else my own might trouble me." From the deep flush
that stained her face, he feared that he had offended by what was almost
an indelicacy. But the reproof that he was expecting did not come.
Instead--

"And does it not?" she asked. "Never, Andre?"

"Never, madame. I am content."

"You have never... never regretted your lack of parents' care?"

He laughed, sweeping aside her sweet charitable concern that was so
superfluous. "On the contrary, madame, I tremble to think what they
might have made of me, and I am grateful to have had the fashioning of
myself."

She looked at him for a moment very sadly, and then, smiling, gently
shook her head.

"You do not want self-satisfaction... Yet I could wish that you saw
things differently, Andre. It is a moment of great opportunities for
a young man of talent and spirit. I could help you; I could help you,
perhaps, to go very far if you would permit yourself to be helped after
my fashion."

"Yes," he thought, "help me to a halter by sending me on treasonable
missions to Austria on the Queen's behalf, like M. de Plougastel. That
would certainly end in a high position for me."

Aloud he answered more as politeness prompted. "I am grateful, madame.
But you will see that, holding the ideals I have expressed, I could not
serve any cause that is opposed to their realization."

"You are misled by prejudice, Andre-Louis, by personal grievances. Will
you allow them to stand in the way of your advancement?"

"If what I call ideals were really prejudices, would it be honest of me
to run counter to them whilst holding them?"

"If I could convince you that you are mistaken! I could help you so much
to find a worthy employment for the talents you possess. In the
service of the King you would prosper quickly. Will you think of it,
Andre-Louis, and let us talk of this again?"

He answered her with formal, chill politeness.

"I fear that it would be idle, madame. Yet your interest in me is very
flattering, and I thank you. It is unfortunate for me that I am so
headstrong."

"And now who deals in insincerity?" she asked him.

"Ah, but you see, madame, it is an insincerity that does not mislead."

And then M. de Kercadiou came in through the window again, and announced
fussily that he must be getting back to Meudon, and that he would take
his godson with him and set him down at the Rue du Hasard.

"You must bring him again, Quintin," the Countess said, as they took
their leave of her.

"Some day, perhaps," said M. de Kercadiou vaguely, and swept his godson
out.

In the carriage he asked him bluntly of what madame had talked.

"She was very kind--a sweet woman," said Andre-Louis pensively.

"Devil take you, I didn't ask you the opinion that you presume to have
formed of her. I asked you what she said to you."

"She strove to point out to me the error of my ways. She spoke of great
things that I might do--to which she would very kindly help me--if I were
to come to my senses. But as miracles do not happen, I gave her little
encouragement to hope."

"I see. I see. Did she say anything else?"

He was so peremptory that Andre-Louis turned to look at him.

"What else did you expect her to say, monsieur my godfather?"

"Oh, nothing."

"Then she fulfilled your expectations."

"Eh? Oh, a thousand devils, why can't you express yourself in a sensible
manner that a plain man can understand without having to think about
it?"

He sulked after that most of the way to the Rue du Hasard, or so it
seemed to Andre-Louis. At least he sat silent, gloomily thoughtful to
judge by his expression.

"You may come and see us soon again at Meudon," he told Andre-Louis at
parting. "But please remember--no revolutionary politics in future, if we
are to remain friends."



CHAPTER VI. POLITICIANS

One morning in August the academy in the Rue du Hasard was invaded by Le
Chapelier accompanied by a man of remarkable appearance, whose
herculean stature and disfigured countenance seemed vaguely familiar
to Andre-Louis. He was a man of little, if anything, over thirty, with
small bright eyes buried in an enormous face. His cheek-bones were
prominent, his nose awry, as if it had been broken by a blow, and his
mouth was rendered almost shapeless by the scars of another injury. (A
bull had horned him in the face when he was but a lad.) As if that were
not enough to render his appearance terrible, his cheeks were deeply
pock-marked. He was dressed untidily in a long scarlet coat that
descended almost to his ankles, soiled buckskin breeches and boots with
reversed tops. His shirt, none too clean, was open at the throat, the
collar hanging limply over an unknotted cravat, displaying fully the
muscular neck that rose like a pillar from his massive shoulders. He
swung a cane that was almost a club in his left hand, and there was a
cockade in his biscuit-coloured, conical hat. He carried himself with an
aggressive, masterful air, that great head of his thrown back as if he
were eternally at defiance.

Le Chapelier, whose manner was very grave, named him to Andre-Louis.

"This is M. Danton, a brother-lawyer, President of the Cordeliers, of
whom you will have heard."

Of course Andre-Louis had heard of him. Who had not, by then?

Looking at him now with interest, Andre-Louis wondered how it came that
all, or nearly all the leading innovators, were pock-marked. Mirabeau,
the journalist Desmoulins, the philanthropist Marat, Robespierre the
little lawyer from Arras, this formidable fellow Danton, and several
others he could call to mind all bore upon them the scars of smallpox.
Almost he began to wonder was there any connection between the two.
Did an attack of smallpox produce certain moral results which found
expression in this way?

He dismissed the idle speculation, or rather it was shattered by the
startling thunder of Danton's voice.

"This ------ Chapelier has told me of you. He says that you are a patriotic
------."

More than by the tone was Andre-Louis startled by the obscenities with
which the Colossus did not hesitate to interlard his first speech to a
total stranger. He laughed outright. There was nothing else to do.

"If he has told you that, he has told you more than the truth! I am a
patriot. The rest my modesty compels me to disavow."

"You're a joker too, it seems," roared the other, but he laughed
nevertheless, and the volume of it shook the windows. "There's no
offence in me. I am like that."

"What a pity," said Andre-Louis.

It disconcerted the king of the markets. "Eh? what's this, Chapelier?
Does he give himself airs, your friend here?"

The spruce Breton, a very petit-maitre in appearance by contrast with
his companion, but nevertheless of a down-right manner quite equal to
Danton's in brutality, though dispensing with the emphasis of foulness,
shrugged as he answered him:

"It is merely that he doesn't like your manners, which is not at all
surprising. They are execrable."

"Ah, bah! You are all like that, you ------ Bretons. Let's come to
business. You'll have heard what took place in the Assembly yesterday?
You haven't? My God, where do you live? Have you heard that this
scoundrel who calls himself King of France gave passage across French
soil the other day to Austrian troops going to crush those who fight for
liberty in Belgium? Have you heard that, by any chance?"

"Yes," said Andre-Louis coldly, masking his irritation before the
other's hectoring manner. "I have heard that."

"Oh! And what do you think of it?" Arms akimbo, the Colossus towered
above him.

Andre-Louis turned aside to Le Chapelier.

"I don't think I understand. Have you brought this gentleman here to
examine my conscience?"

"Name of a name! He's prickly as a ------ porcupine!" Danton protested.

"No, no." Le Chapelier was conciliatory, seeking to provide an antidote
to the irritant administered by his companion. "We require your help,
Andre. Danton here thinks that you are the very man for us. Listen
now..."

"That's it. You tell him," Danton agreed. "You both talk the same
mincing--sort of French. He'll probably understand you."

Le Chapelier went on without heeding the interruption. "This violation
by the King of the obvious rights of a country engaged in framing a
constitution that shall make it free has shattered every philanthropic
illusion we still cherished. There are those who go so far as to
proclaim the King the vowed enemy of France. But that, of course, is
excessive."

"Who says so?" blazed Danton, and swore horribly by way of conveying his
total disagreement.

Le Chapelier waved him into silence, and proceeded.

"Anyhow, the matter has been more than enough, added to all the rest,
to set us by the ears again in the Assembly. It is open war between the
Third Estate and the Privileged."

"Was it ever anything else?"

"Perhaps not; but it has assumed a new character. You'll have heard of
the duel between Lameth and the Duc de Castries?"

"A trifling affair."

"In its results. But it might have been far other. Mirabeau is
challenged and insulted now at every sitting. But he goes his way,
cold-bloodedly wise. Others are not so circumspect; they meet insult
with insult, blow with blow, and blood is being shed in private duels.
The thing is reduced by these swordsmen of the nobility to a system."

Andre-Louis nodded. He was thinking of Philippe de Vilmorin. "Yes," he
said, "it is an old trick of theirs. It is so simple and direct--like
themselves. I wonder only that they didn't hit upon this system sooner.
In the early days of the States General, at Versailles, it might have
had a better effect. Now, it comes a little late."

"But they mean to make up for lost time--sacred name!" cried Danton.
"Challenges are flying right and left between these bully-swordsmen,
these spadassinicides, and poor devils of the robe who have never learnt
to fence with anything but a quill. It's just ------ murder. Yet if I were
to go amongst messieurs les nobles and crunch an addled head or two with
this stick of mine, snap a few aristocratic necks between these fingers
which the good God has given me for the purpose, the law would send
me to atone upon the gallows. This in a land that is striving after
liberty. Why, Dieu me damne! I am not even allowed to keep my hat on in
the theatre. But they ------ these ------s!"

"He is right," said Le Chapelier. "The thing has become unendurable,
insufferable. Two days ago M. d'Ambly threatened Mirabeau with his
cane before the whole Assembly. Yesterday M. de Faussigny leapt up and
harangued his order by inviting murder. 'Why don't we fall on these
scoundrels, sword in hand?' he asked. Those were his very words: 'Why
don't we fall on these scoundrels, sword in hand.'"

"It is so much simpler than lawmaking," said Andre-Louis.

"Lagron, the deputy from Ancenis in the Loire, said something that
we did not hear in answer. As he was leaving the Manege one of these
bullies grossly insulted him. Lagron no more than used his elbow to push
past when the fellow cried out that he had been struck, and issued his
challenge. They fought this morning early in the Champs Elysees, and
Lagron was killed, run through the stomach deliberately by a man who
fought like a fencing-master, and poor Lagron did not even own a sword.
He had to borrow one to go to the assignation."

Andre-Louis--his mind ever on Vilmorin, whose case was here repeated,
even to the details--was swept by a gust of passion. He clenched his
hands, and his jaws set. Danton's little eyes observed him keenly.

"Well? And what do you think of that? Noblesse oblige, eh? The thing is
we must oblige them too, these -------s. We must pay them back in the
same coin; meet them with the same weapons. Abolish them; tumble these
assassinateurs into the abyss of nothingness by the same means."

"But how?"

"How? Name of God! Haven't I said it?"

"That is where we require your help," Le Chapelier put in. "There must
be men of patriotic feeling among the more advanced of your pupils.
M. Danton's idea is that a little band of these--say a half-dozen, with
yourself at their head--might read these bullies a sharp lesson."

Andre-Louis frowned.

"And how, precisely, had M. Danton thought that this might be done?"

M. Danton spoke for himself, vehemently.

"Why, thus: We post you in the Manege, at the hour when the Assembly is
rising. We point out the six leading phlebotomists, and let you loose to
insult them before they have time to insult any of the representatives.
Then to-morrow morning, six ------ phlebotomists themselves phlebotomized
secundum artem. That will give the others something to think about. It
will give them a great deal to think about, by ----! If necessary the dose
may be repeated to ensure a cure. If you kill the -------s, so much the
better."

He paused, his sallow face flushed with the enthusiasm of his idea.
Andre-Louis stared at him inscrutably.

"Well, what do you say to that?"

"That it is most ingenious." And Andre-Louis turned aside to look out of
the window.

"And is that all you think of it?"

"I will not tell you what else I think of it because you probably would
not understand. For you, M. Danton, there is at least this excuse that
you did not know me. But you, Isaac--to bring this gentleman here with
such a proposal!"

Le Chapelier was overwhelmed in confusion. "I confess I hesitated,"
he apologized. "But M. Danton would not take my word for it that the
proposal might not be to your taste."

"I would not!" Danton broke in, bellowing. He swung upon Le Chapelier,
brandishing his great arms. "You told me monsieur was a patriot.
Patriotism knows no scruples. You call this mincing dancing-master a
patriot?"

"Would you, monsieur, out of patriotism consent to become an assassin?"

"Of course I would. Haven't I told you so? Haven't I told you that
I would gladly go among them with my club, and crack them like so
many--fleas?"

"Why not, then?"

"Why not? Because I should get myself hanged. Haven't I said so?"

"But what of that ------ being a patriot? Why not, like another Curtius,
jump into the gulf, since you believe that your country would benefit by
your death?"

M. Danton showed signs of exasperation. "Because my country will benefit
more by my life."

"Permit me, monsieur, to suffer from a similar vanity."

"You? But where would be the danger to you? You would do your work under
the cloak of duelling--as they do."

"Have you reflected, monsieur, that the law will hardly regard a
fencing-master who kills his opponent as an ordinary combatant,
particularly if it can be shown that the fencing-master himself provoked
the attack?"

"So! Name of a name!" M. Danton blew out his cheeks and delivered
himself with withering scorn. "It comes to this, then: you are afraid!"

"You may think so if you choose--that I am afraid to do slyly and
treacherously that which a thrasonical patriot like yourself is afraid
of doing frankly and openly. I have other reasons. But that one should
suffice you."

Danton gasped. Then he swore more amazingly and variedly than ever.

"By ----! you are right," he admitted, to Andre-Louis' amazement. "You
are right, and I am wrong. I am as bad a patriot as you are, and I am
a coward as well." And he invoked the whole Pantheon to witness his
self-denunciation. "Only, you see, I count for something: and if they
take me and hang me, why, there it is! Monsieur, we must find some other
way. Forgive the intrusion. Adieu!" He held out his enormous hand..

Le Chapelier stood hesitating, crestfallen.

"You understand, Andre? I am sorry that..."

"Say no more, please. Come and see me soon again. I would press you to
remain, but it is striking nine, and the first of my pupils is about to
arrive."

"Nor would I permit it," said Danton. "Between us we must resolve the
riddle of how to extinguish M. de La Tour d'Azyr and his friends."

"Who?"

Sharp as a pistol-shot came that question, as Danton was turning away.
The tone of it brought him up short. He turned again, Le Chapelier with
him.

"I said M. de La Tour d'Azyr."

"What has he to do with the proposal you were making me?"

"He? Why, he is the phlebotomist in chief."

And Le Chapelier added. "It is he who killed Lagron."

"Not a friend of yours, is he?" wondered Danton.

"And it is La Tour d'Azyr you desire me to kill?" asked Andre-Louis very
slowly, after the manner of one whose thoughts are meanwhile pondering
the subject.

"That's it," said Danton. "And not a job for a prentice hand, I can
assure you."

"Ah, but this alters things," said Andre-Louis, thinking aloud. "It
offers a great temptation."

"Why, then...?" The Colossus took a step towards him again.

"Wait!" He put up his hand. Then with chin sunk on his breast, he paced
away to the window, musing.

Le Chapelier and Danton exchanged glances, then watched him, waiting,
what time he considered.

At first he almost wondered why he should not of his own accord have
decided upon some such course as this to settle that long-standing
account of M. de La Tour d'Azyr. What was the use of this great skill in
fence that he had come to acquire, unless he could turn it to account
to avenge Vilmorin, and to make Aline safe from the lure of her own
ambition? It would be an easy thing to seek out La Tour d'Azyr, put a
mortal affront upon him, and thus bring him to the point. To-day this
would be murder, murder as treacherous as that which La Tour d'Azyr
had done upon Philippe de Vilmorin; for to-day the old positions were
reversed, and it was Andre-Louis who might go to such an assignation
without a doubt of the issue. It was a moral obstacle of which he made
short work. But there remained the legal obstacle he had expounded to
Danton. There was still a law in France; the same law which he had
found it impossible to move against La Tour d'Azyr, but which would move
briskly enough against himself in like case. And then, suddenly, as if
by inspiration, he saw the way--a way which if adopted would probably
bring La Tour d'Azyr to a poetic justice, bring him, insolent,
confident, to thrust himself upon Andre-Louis' sword, with all the odium
of provocation on his own side.

He turned to them again, and they saw that he was very pale, that his
great dark eyes glowed oddly.

"There will probably be some difficulty in finding a suppleant for this
poor Lagron," he said. "Our fellow-countrymen will be none so eager to
offer themselves to the swords of Privilege."

"True enough," said Le Chapelier gloomily; and then, as if suddenly
leaping to the thing in Andre-Louis' mind: "Andre!" he cried. "Would
you..."

"It is what I was considering. It would give me a legitimate place in
the Assembly. If your Tour d'Azyrs choose to seek me out then, why,
their blood be upon their own heads. I shall certainly do nothing to
discourage them." He smiled curiously. "I am just a rascal who tries to
be honest--Scaramouche always, in fact; a creature of sophistries. Do you
think that Ancenis would have me for its representative?"

"Will it have Omnes Omnibus for its representative?" Le Chapelier was
laughing, his countenance eager. "Ancenis will be convulsed with pride.
It is not Rennes or Nantes, as it might have been had you wished it. But
it gives you a voice for Brittany."

"I should have to go to Ancenis..."

"No need at all. A letter from me to the Municipality, and the
Municipality will confirm you at once. No need to move from here. In a
fortnight at most the thing can be accomplished. It is settled, then?"

Andre-Louis considered yet a moment. There was his academy. But he could
make arrangements with Le Duc and Galoche to carry it on for him
whilst himself directing and advising. Le Duc, after all, was become a
thoroughly efficient master, and he was a trustworthy fellow. At need a
third assistant could be engaged.

"Be it so," he said at last.

Le Chapelier clasped hands with him and became congratulatorily voluble,
until interrupted by the red-coated giant at the door.

"What exactly does it mean to our business, anyway?" he asked. "Does it
mean that when you are a representative you will not scruple to skewer
M. le Marquis?"

"If M. le Marquis should offer himself to be skewered, as he no doubt
will."

"I perceive the distinction," said M. Danton, and sneered. "You've an
ingenious mind." He turned to Le Chapelier. "What did you say he was to
begin with--a lawyer, wasn't it?"

"Yes, I was a lawyer, and afterwards a mountebank."

"And this is the result!"

"As you say. And do you know that we are after all not so dissimilar,
you and I?"

"What?"

"Once like you I went about inciting other people to go and kill the man
I wanted dead. You'll say I was a coward, of course."

Le Chapelier prepared to slip between them as the clouds gathered on
the giant's brow. Then these were dispelled again, and the great laugh
vibrated through the long room.

"You've touched me for the second time, and in the same place. Oh,
you can fence, my lad. We should be friends. Rue des Cordeliers is my
address. Any--scoundrel will tell you where Danton lodges. Desmoulins
lives underneath. Come and visit us one evening. There's always a bottle
for a friend."



CHAPTER VII. THE SPADASSINICIDES

After an absence of rather more than a week, M. le Marquis de La Tour
d'Azyr was back in his place on the Cote Droit of the National Assembly.
Properly speaking, we should already at this date allude to him as the
ci-devant Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr, for the time was September of 1790,
two months after the passing--on the motion of that downright Breton
leveller, Le Chapelier--of the decree that nobility should no more be
hereditary than infamy; that just as the brand of the gallows must not
defile the possibly worthy descendants of one who had been convicted
of evil, neither should the blazon advertising achievement glorify the
possibly unworthy descendants of one who had proved himself good. And so
the decree had been passed abolishing hereditary nobility and consigning
family escutcheons to the rubbish-heap of things no longer to be
tolerated by an enlightened generation of philosophers. M. le Comte de
Lafayette, who had supported the motion, left the Assembly as plain M.
Motier, the great tribune Count Mirabeau became plain M. Riquetti, and
M. le Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr just simple M. Lesarques. The thing was
done in one of those exaltations produced by the approach of the great
National Festival of the Champ de Mars, and no doubt it was thoroughly
repented on the morrow by those who had lent themselves to it. Thus,
although law by now, it was a law that no one troubled just yet to
enforce.

That, however, is by the way. The time, as I have said, was September,
the day dull and showery, and some of the damp and gloom of it seemed to
have penetrated the long Hall of the Manege, where on their eight rows
of green benches elliptically arranged in ascending tiers about
the space known as La Piste, sat some eight or nine hundred of the
representatives of the three orders that composed the nation.

The matter under debate by the constitution-builders was whether the
deliberating body to succeed the Constituent Assembly should work in
conjunction with the King, whether it should be periodic or permanent,
whether it should govern by two chambers or by one.

The Abbe Maury, son of a cobbler, and therefore in these days of
antitheses orator-in-chief of the party of the Right--the Blacks, as
those who fought Privilege's losing battles were known--was in the
tribune. He appeared to be urging the adoption of a two-chambers system
framed on the English model. He was, if anything, more long-winded and
prosy even than his habit; his arguments assumed more and more the form
of a sermon; the tribune of the National Assembly became more and
more like a pulpit; but the members, conversely, less and less like
a congregation. They grew restive under that steady flow of pompous
verbiage, and it was in vain that the four ushers in black satin
breeches and carefully powdered heads, chain of office on their breasts,
gilded sword at their sides, circulated in the Piste, clapping their
hands, and hissing,

"Silence! En place!"

Equally vain was the intermittent ringing of the bell by the president
at his green-covered table facing the tribune. The Abbe Maury had
talked too long, and for some time had failed to interest the members.
Realizing it at last, he ceased, whereupon the hum of conversation
became general. And then it fell abruptly. There was a silence of
expectancy, and a turning of heads, a craning of necks. Even the group
of secretaries at the round table below the president's dais roused
themselves from their usual apathy to consider this young man who was
mounting the tribune of the Assembly for the first time.

"M. Andre-Louis Moreau, deputy suppleant, vice Emmanuel Lagron,
deceased, for Ancenis in the Department of the Loire."

M. de La Tour d'Azyr shook himself out of the gloomy abstraction in
which he had sat. The successor of the deputy he had slain must, in
any event, be an object of grim interest to him. You conceive how that
interest was heightened when he heard him named, when, looking across,
he recognized indeed in this Andre-Louis Moreau the young scoundrel who
was continually crossing his path, continually exerting against him a
deep-moving, sinister influence to make him regret that he should have
spared his life that day at Gavrillac two years ago. That he should thus
have stepped into the shoes of Lagron seemed to M. de La Tour d'Azyr too
apt for mere coincidence, a direct challenge in itself.

He looked at the young man in wonder rather than in anger, and looking
at him he was filled by a vague, almost a premonitory, uneasiness.

At the very outset, the presence which in itself he conceived to be a
challenge was to demonstrate itself for this in no equivocal terms.

"I come before you," Andre-Louis began, "as a deputy-suppleant to fill
the place of one who was murdered some three weeks ago."

It was a challenging opening that instantly provoked an indignant outcry
from the Blacks. Andre-Louis paused, and looked at them, smiling a
little, a singularly self-confident young man.

"The gentlemen of the Right, M. le President, do not appear to like
my words. But that is not surprising. The gentlemen of the Right
notoriously do not like the truth."

This time there was uproar. The members of the Left roared with
laughter, those of the Right thundered menacingly. The ushers circulated
at a pace beyond their usual, agitated themselves, clapped their hands,
and called in vain for silence.

The President rang his bell.

Above the general din came the voice of La Tour d'Azyr, who had
half-risen from his seat: "Mountebank! This is not the theatre!"

"No, monsieur, it is becoming a hunting-ground for bully-swordsmen," was
the answer, and the uproar grew.

The deputy-suppleant looked round and waited. Near at hand he met the
encouraging grin of Le Chapelier, and the quiet, approving smile of
Kersain, another Breton deputy of his acquaintance. A little farther off
he saw the great head of Mirabeau thrown back, the great eyes regarding
him from under a frown in a sort of wonder, and yonder, among all
that moving sea of faces, the sallow countenance of the Arras' lawyer
Robespierre--or de Robespierre, as the little snob now called himself,
having assumed the aristocratic particle as the prerogative of a man of
his distinction in the councils of his country. With his tip-tilted nose
in the air, his carefully curled head on one side, the deputy for Arras
was observing Andre-Louis attentively. The horn-rimmed spectacles he
used for reading were thrust up on to his pale forehead, and it was
through a levelled spy-glass that he considered the speaker, his
thin-lipped mouth stretched a little in that tiger-cat smile that was
afterwards to become so famous and so feared.

Gradually the uproar wore itself out, and diminished so that at last
the President could make himself heard. Leaning forward, he gravely
addressed the young man in the tribune:

"Monsieur, if you wish to be heard, let me beg of you not to be
provocative in your language." And then to the others: "Messieurs, if
we are to proceed, I beg that you will restrain your feelings until the
deputy-suppleant has concluded his discourse."

"I shall endeavour to obey, M. le President, leaving provocation to the
gentlemen of the Right. If the few words I have used so far have been
provocative, I regret it. But it was necessary that I should refer to
the distinguished deputy whose place I come so unworthily to fill, and
it was unavoidable that I should refer to the event which has procured
us this sad necessity. The deputy Lagron was a man of singular nobility
of mind, a selfless, dutiful, zealous man, inflamed by the high purpose
of doing his duty by his electors and by this Assembly. He possessed
what his opponents would call a dangerous gift of eloquence."

La Tour d'Azyr writhed at the well-known phrase--his own phrase--the
phrase that he had used to explain his action in the matter of Philippe
de Vilmorin, the phrase that from time to time had been cast in his
teeth with such vindictive menace.

And then the crisp voice of the witty Canales, that very rapier of the
Privileged party, cut sharply into the speaker's momentary pause.

"M. le President," he asked with great solemnity, "has the
deputy-suppleant mounted the tribune for the purpose of taking part in
the debate on the constitution of the legislative assemblies, or for
the purpose of pronouncing a funeral oration upon the departed deputy
Lagron?"

This time it was the Blacks who gave way to mirth, until checked by the
deputy-suppleant.

"That laughter is obscene!" In this truly Gallic fashion he flung his
glove into the face of Privilege, determined, you see, upon no half
measures; and the rippling laughter perished on the instant quenched in
speechless fury.

Solemnly he proceeded.

"You all know how Lagron died. To refer to his death at all requires
courage, to laugh in referring to it requires something that I will not
attempt to qualify. If I have alluded to his decease, it is because my
own appearance among you seemed to render some such allusion necessary.
It is mine to take up the burden which he set down. I do not pretend
that I have the strength, the courage, or the wisdom of Lagron; but with
every ounce of such strength and courage and wisdom as I possess that
burden will I bear. And I trust, for the sake of those who might attempt
it, that the means taken to impose silence upon that eloquent voice will
not be taken to impose silence upon mine."

There was a faint murmur of applause from the Left, splutter of
contemptuous laughter from the Right.

"Rhodomont!" a voice called to him.

He looked in the direction of that voice, proceeding from the group of
spadassins amid the Blacks across the Piste, and he smiled. Inaudibly
his lips answered:

"No, my friend--Scaramouche; Scaramouche, the subtle, dangerous fellow
who goes tortuously to his ends." Aloud, he resumed: "M. le President,
there are those who will not understand that the purpose for which
we are assembled here is the making of laws by which France may be
equitably governed, by which France may be lifted out of the morass of
bankruptcy into which she is in danger of sinking. For there are some
who want, it seems, not laws, but blood; I solemnly warn them that this
blood will end by choking them, if they do not learn in time to discard
force and allow reason to prevail."

Again in that phrase there was something that stirred a memory in
La Tour d'Azyr. He turned in the fresh uproar to speak to his cousin
Chabrillane who sat beside him.

"A daring rogue, this bastard of Gavrillac's," said he.

Chabrillane looked at him with gleaming eyes, his face white with anger.

"Let him talk himself out. I don't think he will be heard again after
to-day. Leave this to me."

Hardly could La Tour have told you why, but he sank back in his seat
with a sense of relief. He had been telling himself that here was matter
demanding action, a challenge that he must take up. But despite his rage
he felt a singular unwillingness. This fellow had a trick of reminding
him, he supposed, too unpleasantly of that young abbe done to death in
the garden behind the Breton arme at Gavrillac. Not that the death of
Philippe de Vilmorin lay heavily upon M. de La Tour d'Azyr's conscience.
He had accounted himself fully justified of his action. It was that the
whole thing as his memory revived it for him made an unpleasant picture:
that distraught boy kneeling over the bleeding body of the friend he
had loved, and almost begging to be slain with him, dubbing the Marquis
murderer and coward to incite him.

Meanwhile, leaving now the subject of the death of Lagron, the
deputy-suppleant had at last brought himself into order, and was
speaking upon the question under debate. He contributed nothing of value
to it; he urged nothing definite. His speech on the subject was very
brief--that being the pretext and not the purpose for which he had
ascended the tribune.

When later he was leaving the hall at the end of the sitting, with Le
Chapelier at his side, he found himself densely surrounded by deputies
as by a body-guard. Most of them were Bretons, who aimed at screening
him from the provocations which his own provocative words in the
Assembly could not fail to bring down upon his head. For a moment the
massive form of Mirabeau brought up alongside of him.

"Felicitations, M. Moreau," said the great man. "You acquitted yourself
very well. They will want your blood, no doubt. But be discreet,
monsieur, if I may presume to advise you, and do not allow yourself to
be misled by any false sense of quixotry. Ignore their challenges. I do
so myself. I place each challenger upon my list. There are some fifty
there already, and there they will remain. Refuse them what they are
pleased to call satisfaction, and all will be well." Andre-Louis smiled
and sighed.

"It requires courage," said the hypocrite.

"Of course it does. But you would appear to have plenty."

"Hardly enough, perhaps. But I shall do my best."

They had come through the vestibule, and although this was lined
with eager Blacks waiting for the young man who had insulted them so
flagrantly from the rostrum, Andre-Louis' body-guard had prevented any
of them from reaching him.

Emerging now into the open, under the great awning at the head of the
Carriere, erected to enable carriages to reach the door under cover,
those in front of him dispersed a little, and there was a moment as he
reached the limit of the awning when his front was entirely uncovered.
Outside the rain was falling heavily, churning the ground into thick
mud, and for a moment Andre-Louis, with Le Chapelier ever at his side,
stood hesitating to step out into the deluge.

The watchful Chabrillane had seen his chance, and by a detour that
took him momentarily out into the rain, he came face to face with the
too-daring young Breton. Rudely, violently, he thrust Andre-Louis back,
as if to make room for himself under the shelter.

Not for a second was Andre-Louis under any delusion as to the man's
deliberate purpose, nor were those who stood near him, who made a
belated and ineffectual attempt to close about him. He was grievously
disappointed. It was not Chabrillane he had been expecting. His
disappointment was reflected on his countenance, to be mistaken for
something very different by the arrogant Chevalier.

But if Chabrillane was the man appointed to deal with him, he would make
the best of it.

"I think you are pushing against me, monsieur," he said, very civilly,
and with elbow and shoulder he thrust M. de Chabrillane back into the
rain.

"I desire to take shelter, monsieur," the Chevalier hectored.

"You may do so without standing on my feet. I have a prejudice against
any one standing on my feet. My feet are very tender. Perhaps you did
not know it, monsieur. Please say no more."

"Why, I wasn't speaking, you lout!" exclaimed the Chevalier, slightly
discomposed.

"Were you not? I thought perhaps you were about to apologize."

"Apologize?" Chabrillane laughed. "To you! Do you know that you are
amusing?" He stepped under the awning for the second time, and again in
view of all thrust Andre-Louis rudely back.

"Ah!" cried Andre-Louis, with a grimace. "You hurt me, monsieur. I have
told you not to push against me." He raised his voice that all might
hear him, and once more impelled M. de Chabrillane back into the rain.

Now, for all his slenderness, his assiduous daily sword-practice had
given Andre-Louis an arm of iron. Also he threw his weight into the
thrust. His assailant reeled backwards a few steps, and then his
heel struck a baulk of timber left on the ground by some workmen that
morning, and he sat down suddenly in the mud.

A roar of laughter rose from all who witnessed the fine gentleman's
downfall. He rose, mud-bespattered, in a fury, and in that fury sprang
at Andre-Louis.

Andre-Louis had made him ridiculous, which was altogether unforgivable.

"You shall meet me for this!" he spluttered. "I shall kill you for it."

His inflamed face was within a foot of Andre-Louis'. Andre-Louis
laughed. In the silence everybody heard the laugh and the words that
followed.

"Oh, is that what you wanted? But why didn't you say so before? You
would have spared me the trouble of knocking you down. I thought
gentlemen of your profession invariably conducted these affairs with
decency, decorum, and a certain grace. Had you done so, you might have
saved your breeches."

"How soon shall we settle this?" snapped Chabrillane, livid with very
real fury.

"Whenever you please, monsieur. It is for you to say when it will
suit your convenience to kill me. I think that was the intention you
announced, was it not?" Andre-Louis was suavity itself.

"To-morrow morning, in the Bois. Perhaps you will bring a friend."

"Certainly, monsieur. To-morrow morning, then. I hope we shall have fine
weather. I detest the rain."

Chabrillane looked at him almost with amazement. Andre-Louis smiled
pleasantly.

"Don't let me detain you now, monsieur. We quite understand each other.
I shall be in the Bois at nine o'clock to-morrow morning."

"That is too late for me, monsieur."

"Any other hour would be too early for me. I do not like to have my
habits disturbed. Nine o'clock or not at all, as you please."

"But I must be at the Assembly at nine, for the morning session."

"I am afraid, monsieur, you will have to kill me first, and I have a
prejudice against being killed before nine o'clock."

Now this was too complete a subversion of the usual procedure for M.
de Chabrillane's stomach. Here was a rustic deputy assuming with him
precisely the tone of sinister mockery which his class usually dealt out
to their victims of the Third Estate. And to heighten the irritation,
Andre-Louis--the actor, Scaramouche always--produced his snuffbox, and
proffered it with a steady hand to Le Chapelier before helping himself.

Chabrillane, it seemed, after all that he had suffered, was not even to
be allowed to make a good exit.

"Very well, monsieur," he said. "Nine o'clock, then; and we'll see if
you'll talk as pertly afterwards."

On that he flung away, before the jeers of the provincial deputies. Nor
did it soothe his rage to be laughed at by urchins all the way down the
Rue Dauphine because of the mud and filth that dripped from his satin
breeches and the tails of his elegant, striped coat.

But though the members of the Third had jeered on the surface, they
trembled underneath with fear and indignation. It was too much. Lagron
killed by one of these bullies, and now his successor challenged, and
about to be killed by another of them on the very first day of his
appearance to take the dead man's place. Several came now to implore
Andre-Louis not to go to the Bois, to ignore the challenge and the whole
affair, which was but a deliberate attempt to put him out of the way.
He listened seriously, shook his head gloomily, and promised at last to
think it over.

He was in his seat again for the afternoon session as if nothing
disturbed him.

But in the morning, when the Assembly met, his place was vacant, and so
was M. de Chabrillane's. Gloom and resentment sat upon the members
of the Third, and brought a more than usually acrid note into their
debates. They disapproved of the rashness of the new recruit to their
body. Some openly condemned his lack of circumspection. Very few--and
those only the little group in Le Chapelier's confidence--ever expected
to see him again.

It was, therefore, as much in amazement as in relief that at a few
minutes after ten they saw him enter, calm, composed, and bland, and
thread his way to his seat. The speaker occupying the rostrum at that
moment--a member of the Privileged--stopped short to stare in incredulous
dismay. Here was something that he could not understand at all. Then
from somewhere, to satisfy the amazement on both sides of the assembly,
a voice explained the phenomenon contemptuously.

"They haven't met. He has shirked it at the last moment."

It must be so, thought all; the mystification ceased, and men were
settling back into their seats. But now, having reached his place,
having heard the voice that explained the matter to the universal
satisfaction, Andre-Louis paused before taking his seat. He felt it
incumbent upon him to reveal the true fact.

"M. le President, my excuses for my late arrival." There was no
necessity for this. It was a mere piece of theatricality, such as it
was not in Scaramouche's nature to forgo. "I have been detained by an
engagement of a pressing nature. I bring you also the excuses of M. de
Chabrillane. He, unfortunately, will be permanently absent from this
Assembly in future."

The silence was complete. Andre-Louis sat down.



CHAPTER VIII. THE PALADIN OF THE THIRD

M. Le Chevalier de Chabrillane had been closely connected, you will
remember, with the iniquitous affair in which Philippe de Vilmorin
had lost his life. We know enough to justify a surmise that he had not
merely been La Tour d'Azyr's second in the encounter, but actually
an instigator of the business. Andre-Louis may therefore have felt a
justifiable satisfaction in offering up the Chevalier's life to the
Manes of his murdered friend. He may have viewed it as an act of
common justice not to be procured by any other means. Also it is to
be remembered that Chabrillane had gone confidently to the meeting,
conceiving that he, a practised ferailleur, had to deal with a bourgeois
utterly unskilled in swordsmanship. Morally, then, he was little
better than a murderer, and that he should have tumbled into the pit
he conceived that he dug for Andre-Louis was a poetic retribution.
Yet, notwithstanding all this, I should find the cynical note on which
Andre-Louis announced the issue to the Assembly utterly detestable did
I believe it sincere. It would justify Aline of the expressed opinion,
which she held in common with so many others who had come into close
contact with him, that Andre-Louis was quite heartless.

You have seen something of the same heartlessness in his conduct when he
discovered the faithlessness of La Binet although that is belied by the
measures he took to avenge himself. His subsequent contempt of the woman
I account to be born of the affection in which for a time he held her.
That this affection was as deep as he first imagined, I do not believe;
but that it was as shallow as he would almost be at pains to make it
appear by the completeness with which he affects to have put her from
his mind when he discovered her worthlessness, I do not believe; nor,
as I have said, do his actions encourage that belief. Then, again,
his callous cynicism in hoping that he had killed Binet is also an
affectation. Knowing that such things as Binet are better out of the
world, he can have suffered no compunction; he had, you must remember,
that rarely level vision which sees things in their just proportions,
and never either magnifies or reduces them by sentimental
considerations. At the same time, that he should contemplate the
taking of life with such complete and cynical equanimity, whatever the
justification, is quite incredible.

Similarly now, it is not to be believed that in coming straight from
the Bois de Boulogne, straight from the killing of a man, he should be
sincerely expressing his nature in alluding to the fact in terms of such
outrageous flippancy. Not quite to such an extent was he the incarnation
of Scaramouche. But sufficiently was he so ever to mask his true
feelings by an arresting gesture, his true thoughts by an effective
phrase. He was the actor always, a man ever calculating the effect he
would produce, ever avoiding self-revelation, ever concerned to overlay
his real character by an assumed and quite fictitious one. There was in
this something of impishness, and something of other things.

Nobody laughed now at his flippancy. He did not intend that anybody
should. He intended to be terrible; and he knew that the more flippant
and casual his tone, the more terrible would be its effect. He produced
exactly the effect he desired.

What followed in a place where feelings and practices had become what
they had become is not difficult to surmise. When the session rose,
there were a dozen spadassins awaiting him in the vestibule, and this
time the men of his own party were less concerned to guard him. He
seemed so entirely capable of guarding himself; he appeared, for all his
circumspection, to have so completely carried the war into the enemy's
camp, so completely to have adopted their own methods, that his fellows
scarcely felt the need to protect him as yesterday.

As he emerged, he scanned that hostile file, whose air and garments
marked them so clearly for what they were. He paused, seeking the man
he expected, the man he was most anxious to oblige. But M. de La Tour
d'Azyr was absent from those eager ranks. This seemed to him odd. La
Tour d'Azyr was Chabrillane's cousin and closest friend. Surely he
should have been among the first to-day. The fact was that La Tour
d'Azyr was too deeply overcome by amazement and grief at the utterly
unexpected event. Also his vindictiveness was held curiously in leash.
Perhaps he, too, remembered the part played by Chabrillane in the affair
at Gavrillac, and saw in this obscure Andre-Louis Moreau, who had
so persistently persecuted him ever since, an ordained avenger. The
repugnance he felt to come to the point, with him, particularly after
this culminating provocation, was puzzling even to himself. But it
existed, and it curbed him now.

To Andre-Louis, since La Tour was not one of that waiting pack, it
mattered little on that Tuesday morning who should be the next. The
next, as it happened, was the young Vicomte de La Motte-Royau, one of
the deadliest blades in the group.

On the Wednesday morning, coming again an hour or so late to the
Assembly, Andre-Louis announced--in much the same terms as he had
announced the death of Chabrillane--that M. de La Motte-Royau would
probably not disturb the harmony of the Assembly for some weeks to come,
assuming that he were so fortunate as to recover ultimately from the
effects of an unpleasant accident with which he had quite unexpectedly
had the misfortune to meet that morning.

On Thursday he made an identical announcement with regard to the Vidame
de Blavon. On Friday he told them that he had been delayed by M. de
Troiscantins, and then turning to the members of the Cote Droit, and
lengthening his face to a sympathetic gravity:

"I am glad to inform you, messieurs, that M. des Troiscantins is in the
hands of a very competent surgeon who hopes with care to restore him to
your councils in a few weeks' time."

It was paralyzing, fantastic, unreal; and friend and foe in that
assembly sat alike stupefied under those bland daily announcements. Four
of the most redoubtable spadassinicides put away for a time, one of
them dead--and all this performed with such an air of indifference and
announced in such casual terms by a wretched little provincial lawyer!

He began to assume in their eyes a romantic aspect. Even that group of
philosophers of the Cote Gauche, who refused to worship any force
but the force of reason, began to look upon him with a respect and
consideration which no oratorical triumphs could ever have procured him.

And from the Assembly the fame of him oozed out gradually over Paris.
Desmoulins wrote a panegyric upon him in his paper "Les Revolutions,"
wherein he dubbed him the "Paladin of the Third Estate," a name
that caught the fancy of the people, and clung to him for some time.
Disdainfully was he mentioned in the "Actes des Apotres," the mocking
organ of the Privileged party, so light-heartedly and provocatively
edited by a group of gentlemen afflicted by a singular mental myopy.

The Friday of that very busy week in the life of this young man who even
thereafter is to persist in reminding us that he is not in any sense a
man of action, found the vestibule of the Manege empty of swordsmen
when he made his leisurely and expectant egress between Le Chapelier and
Kersain.

So surprised was he that he checked in his stride.

"Have they had enough?" he wondered, addressing the question to Le
Chapelier.

"They have had enough of you, I should think," was the answer. "They
will prefer to turn their attention to some one less able to take care
of himself."

Now this was disappointing. Andre-Louis had lent himself to this
business with a very definite object in view. The slaying of Chabrillane
had, as far as it went, been satisfactory. He had regarded that as a
sort of acceptable hors d'oeuvre. But the three who had followed were
no affair of his at all. He had met them with a certain amount of
repugnance, and dealt with each as lightly as consideration of his own
safety permitted. Was the baiting of him now to cease whilst the man
at whom he aimed had not presented himself? In that case it would be
necessary to force the pace!

Out there under the awning a group of gentlemen stood in earnest talk.
Scanning the group in a rapid glance, Andre-Louis perceived M. de La
Tour d'Azyr amongst them. He tightened his lips. He must afford no
provocation. It must be for them to fasten their quarrels upon him.
Already the "Actes des Apotres" that morning had torn the mask from
his face, and proclaimed him the fencing-master of the Rue du Hasard,
successor to Bertrand des Amis. Hazardous as it had been hitherto for a
man of his condition to engage in single combat it was rendered doubly
so by this exposure, offered to the public as an aristocratic apologia.

Still, matters could not be left where they were, or he should have had
all his pains for nothing. Carefully looking away from that group of
gentlemen, he raised his voice so that his words must carry to their
ears.

"It begins to look as if my fears of having to spend the remainder of my
days in the Bois were idle."

Out of the corner of his eye he caught the stir his words created in
that group. Its members had turned to look at him; but for the moment
that was all. A little more was necessary. Pacing slowly along between
his friends he resumed:

"But is it not remarkable that the assassin of Lagron should make
no move against Lagron's successor? Or perhaps it is not remarkable.
Perhaps there are good reasons. Perhaps the gentleman is prudent."

He had passed the group by now, and he left that last sentence of his to
trail behind him, and after it sent laughter, insolent and provoking.

He had not long to wait. Came a quick step behind him, and a hand
falling upon his shoulder, spun him violently round. He was brought face
to face with M. de La Tour d'Azyr, whose handsome countenance was calm
and composed, but whose eyes reflected something of the sudden blaze of
passion stirring in him. Behind him several members of the group
were approaching more slowly. The others--like Andre-Louis' two
companions--remained at gaze.

"You spoke of me, I think," said the Marquis quietly.

"I spoke of an assassin--yes. But to these my friends." Andre-Louis'
manner was no less quiet, indeed the quieter of the two, for he was the
more experienced actor.

"You spoke loudly enough to be overheard," said the Marquis, answering
the insinuation that he had been eavesdropping.

"Those who wish to overhear frequently contrive to do so."

"I perceive that it is your aim to be offensive."

"Oh, but you are mistaken, M. le Marquis. I have no wish to be
offensive. But I resent having hands violently laid upon me, especially
when they are hands that I cannot consider clean, In the circumstances I
can hardly be expected to be polite."

The elder man's eyelids flickered. Almost he caught himself admiring
Andre-Louis' bearing. Rather, he feared that his own must suffer by
comparison. Because of this, he enraged altogether, and lost control of
himself.

"You spoke of me as the assassin of Lagron. I do not affect to
misunderstand you. You expounded your views to me once before, and I
remember."

"But what flattery, monsieur!"

"You called me an assassin then, because I used my skill to dispose of a
turbulent hot-head who made the world unsafe for me. But how much better
are you, M. the fencing-master, when you oppose yourself to men whose
skill is as naturally inferior to your own!"

M. de La Tour d'Azyr's friends looked grave, perturbed. It was really
incredible to find this great gentleman so far forgetting himself as to
descend to argument with a canaille of a lawyer-swordsman. And what was
worse, it was an argument in which he was being made ridiculous.

"I oppose myself to them!" said Andre-Louis on a tone of amused protest.
"Ah, pardon, M. le Marquis; it is they who chose to oppose themselves
to me--and so stupidly. They push me, they slap my face, they tread on my
toes, they call me by unpleasant names. What if I am a fencing-master?
Must I on that account submit to every manner of ill-treatment from
your bad-mannered friends? Perhaps had they found out sooner that I am a
fencing-master their manners would have been better. But to blame me for
that! What injustice!"

"Comedian!" the Marquis contemptuously apostrophized him. "Does it alter
the case? Are these men who have opposed you men who live by the sword
like yourself?"

"On the contrary, M. le Marquis, I have found them men who died by the
sword with astonishing ease. I cannot suppose that you desire to add
yourself to their number."

"And why, if you please?" La Tour d'Azyr's face had flamed scarlet
before that sneer.

"Oh," Andre-Louis raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips, a man
considering. He delivered himself slowly. "Because, monsieur, you prefer
the easy victim--the Lagrons and Vilmorins of this world, mere sheep for
your butchering. That is why."

And then the Marquis struck him.

Andre-Louis stepped back. His eyes gleamed a moment; the next they were
smiling up into the face of his tall enemy.

"No better than the others, after all! Well, well! Remark, I beg you,
how history repeats itself--with certain differences. Because poor
Vilmorin could not bear a vile lie with which you goaded him, he struck
you. Because you cannot bear an equally vile truth which I have uttered,
you strike me. But always is the vileness yours. And now as then for the
striker there is..." He broke off. "But why name it? You will remember
what there is. Yourself you wrote it that day with the point of your
too-ready sword. But there. I will meet you if you desire it, monsieur."

"What else do you suppose that I desire? To talk?"

Andre-Louis turned to his friends and sighed. "So that I am to go
another jaunt to the Bois. Isaac, perhaps you will kindly have a word
with one of these friends of M. le Marquis', and arrange for nine
o'clock to-morrow, as usual."

"Not to-morrow," said the Marquis shortly to Le Chapeher. "I have an
engagement in the country, which I cannot postpone."

Le Chapelier looked at Andre-Louis.

"Then for M. le Marquis' convenience, we will say Sunday at the same
hour."

"I do not fight on Sunday. I am not a pagan to break the holy day."

"But surely the good God would not have the presumption to damn a
gentleman of M. le Marquis' quality on that account? Ah, well, Isaac,
please arrange for Monday, if it is not a feast-day or monsieur has not
some other pressing engagement. I leave it in your hands."

He bowed with the air of a man wearied by these details, and threading
his arm through Kersain's withdrew.

"Ah, Dieu de Dieu! But what a trick of it you have," said the Breton
deputy, entirely unsophisticated in these matters.

"To be sure I have. I have taken lessons at their hands." He laughed. He
was in excellent good-humour. And Kersain was enrolled in the ranks of
those who accounted Andre-Louis a man without heart or conscience.

But in his "Confessions" he tells us--and this is one of the glimpses
that reveal the true man under all that make-believe--that on that night
he went down on his knees to commune with his dead friend Philippe, and
to call his spirit to witness that he was about to take the last step
in the fulfilment of the oath sworn upon his body at Gavrillac two years
ago.



CHAPTER IX. TORN PRIDE

M. de La Tour d'Azyr's engagement in the country on that Sunday was with
M. de Kercadiou. To fulfil it he drove out early in the day to Meudon,
taking with him in his pocket a copy of the last issue of "Les Actes des
Apotres," a journal whose merry sallies at the expense of the innovators
greatly diverted the Seigneur de Gavrillac. The venomous scorn it
poured upon those worthless rapscallions afforded him a certain solatium
against the discomforts of expatriation by which he was afflicted as a
result of their detestable energies.

Twice in the last month, had M. de La Tour d'Azyr gone to visit the Lord
of Gavrillac at Meudon, and the sight of Aline, so sweet and fresh,
so bright and of so lively a mind, had caused those embers smouldering
under the ashes of the past, embers which until now he had believed
utterly extinct, to kindle into flame once more. He desired her as we
desire Heaven. I believe that it was the purest passion of his life;
that had it come to him earlier he might have been a vastly different
man. The cruelest wound that in all his selfish life he had taken was
when she sent him word, quite definitely after the affair at the Feydau,
that she could not again in any circumstances receive him. At one
blow--through that disgraceful riot--he had been robbed of a mistress he
prized and of a wife who had become a necessity to the very soul of him.
The sordid love of La Binet might have consoled him for the compulsory
renunciation of his exalted love of Aline, just as to his exalted love
of Aline he had been ready to sacrifice his attachment to La Binet. But
that ill-timed riot had robbed him at once of both. Faithful to his word
to Sautron he had definitely broken with La Binet, only to find that
Aline had definitely broken with him. And by the time that he had
sufficiently recovered from his grief to think again of La Binet, the
comedienne had vanished beyond discovery.

For all this he blamed, and most bitterly blamed, Andre-Louis. That
low-born provincial lout pursued him like a Nemesis, was become indeed
the evil genius of his life. That was it--the evil genius of his life!
And it was odds that on Monday... He did not like to think of Monday.
He was not particularly afraid of death. He was as brave as his kind in
that respect, too brave in the ordinary way, and too confident of his
skill, to have considered even remotely such a possibility as that
of dying in a duel. It was only that it would seem like a proper
consummation of all the evil that he had suffered directly or indirectly
through this Andre-Louis Moreau that he should perish ignobly by his
hand. Almost he could hear that insolent, pleasant voice making the
flippant announcement to the Assembly on Monday morning.

He shook off the mood, angry with himself for entertaining it. It was
maudlin. After all Chabrillane and La Motte-Royau were quite exceptional
swordsmen, but neither of them really approached his own formidable
calibre. Reaction began to flow, as he drove out through country
lanes flooded with pleasant September sunshine. His spirits rose. A
premonition of victory stirred within him. Far from fearing Monday's
meeting, as he had so unreasonably been doing, he began to look forward
to it. It should afford him the means of setting a definite term to
this persecution of which he had been the victim. He would crush
this insolent and persistent flea that had been stinging him at every
opportunity. Borne upward on that wave of optimism, he took presently a
more hopeful view of his case with Aline.

At their first meeting a month ago he had used the utmost frankness with
her. He had told her the whole truth of his motives in going that night
to the Feydau; he had made her realize that she had acted unjustly
towards him. True he had gone no farther.

But that was very far to have gone as a beginning. And in their
last meeting, now a fortnight old, she had received him with frank
friendliness. True, she had been a little aloof. But that was to be
expected until he quite explicitly avowed that he had revived the hope
of winning her. He had been a fool not to have returned before to-day.

Thus in that mood of new-born confidence--a confidence risen from the
very ashes of despondency--came he on that Sunday morning to Meudon. He
was gay and jovial with M. de Kercadiou what time he waited in the salon
for mademoiselle to show herself. He pronounced with confidence on
the country's future. There were signs already--he wore the rosiest
spectacles that morning--of a change of opinion, of a more moderate note.
The Nation began to perceive whither this lawyer rabble was leading it.
He pulled out "The Acts of the Apostles" and read a stinging paragraph.
Then, when mademoiselle at last made her appearance, he resigned the
journal into the hands of M. de Kercadiou.

M. de Kercadiou, with his niece's future to consider, went to read the
paper in the garden, taking up there a position whence he could keep the
couple within sight--as his obligations seemed to demand of him--whilst
being discreetly out of earshot.

The Marquis made the most of an opportunity that might be brief. He
quite frankly declared himself, and begged, implored to be taken back
into Aline's good graces, to be admitted at least to the hope that one
day before very long she would bring herself to consider him in a nearer
relationship.

"Mademoiselle," he told her, his voice vibrating with a feeling that
admitted of no doubt, "you cannot lack conviction of my utter sincerity.
The very constancy of my devotion should afford you this. It is just
that I should have been banished from you, since I showed myself so
utterly unworthy of the great honour to which I aspired. But this
banishment has nowise diminished my devotion. If you could conceive what
I have suffered, you would agree that I have fully expiated my abject
fault."

She looked at him with a curious, gentle wistfulness on her lovely face.

"Monsieur, it is not you whom I doubt. It is myself."

"You mean your feelings towards me?"

"Yes."

"But that I can understand. After what has happened..."

"It was always so, monsieur," she interrupted quietly. "You speak of me
as if lost to you by your own action. That is to say too much. Let me be
frank with you. Monsieur, I was never yours to lose. I am conscious of
the honour that you do me. I esteem you very deeply..."

"But, then," he cried, on a high note of confidence, "from such a
beginning..."

"Who shall assure me that it is a beginning? May it not be the whole?
Had I held you in affection, monsieur, I should have sent for you
after the affair of which you have spoken. I should at least not have
condemned you without hearing your explanation. As it was..." She
shrugged, smiling gently, sadly. "You see..."

But his optimism far from being crushed was stimulated. "But it is to
give me hope, mademoiselle. If already I possess so much, I may look
with confidence to win more. I shall prove myself worthy. I swear to
do that. Who that is permitted the privilege of being near you could do
other than seek to render himself worthy?"

And then before she could add a word, M. de Kercadiou came blustering
through the window, his spectacles on his forehead, his face inflamed,
waving in his hand "The Acts of the Apostles," and apparently reduced to
speechlessness.

Had the Marquis expressed himself aloud he would have been profane. As
it was he bit his lip in vexation at this most inopportune interruption.

Aline sprang up, alarmed by her uncle's agitation.

"What has happened?"

"Happened?" He found speech at last. "The scoundrel! The faithless dog!
I consented to overlook the past on the clear condition that he should
avoid revolutionary politics in future. That condition he accepted, and
now"--he smacked the news-sheet furiously--"he has played me false again.
Not only has he gone into politics, once more, but he is actually
a member of the Assembly, and what is worse he has been using
his assassin's skill as a fencing-master, turning himself into a
bully-swordsman. My God! Is there any law at all left in France?"

One doubt M. de La Tour d'Azyr had entertained, though only faintly, to
mar the perfect serenity of his growing optimism. That doubt concerned
this man Moreau and his relations with M. de Kercadiou. He knew what
once they had been, and how changed they subsequently were by the
ingratitude of Moreau's own behavior in turning against the class
to which his benefactor belonged. What he did not know was that a
reconciliation had been effected. For in the past month--ever since
circumstances had driven Andre-Louis to depart from his undertaking
to steer clear of politics--the young man had not ventured to approach
Meudon, and as it happened his name had not been mentioned in La Tour
d'Azyr's hearing on the occasion of either of his own previous visits.
He learnt of that reconciliation now; but he learnt at the same time
that the breach was now renewed, and rendered wider and more impassable
than ever. Therefore he did not hesitate to avow his own position.

"There is a law," he answered. "The law that this rash young man himself
evokes. The law of the sword." He spoke very gravely, almost sadly.
For he realized that after all the ground was tender. "You are not to
suppose that he is to continue indefinitely his career of evil and
of murder. Sooner or later he will meet a sword that will avenge the
others. You have observed that my cousin Chabrillane is among the number
of this assassin's victims; that he was killed on Tuesday last."

"If I have not expressed my condolence, Azyr, it is because my
indignation stifles at the moment every other feeling. The scoundrel!
You say that sooner or later he will meet a sword that will avenge the
others. I pray that it may be soon."

The Marquis answered him quietly, without anything but sorrow in his
voice. "I think your prayer is likely to be heard. This wretched young
man has an engagement for to-morrow, when his account may be definitely
settled."

He spoke with such calm conviction that his words had all the sound of
a sentence of death. They suddenly stemmed the flow of M. de Kercadiou's
anger. The colour receded from his inflamed face; dread looked out of
his pale eyes, to inform M. de La Tour d'Azyr, more clearly than any
words, that M. de Kercadiou's hot speech had been the expression of
unreflecting anger, that his prayer that retribution might soon overtake
his godson had been unconsciously insincere. Confronted now by the fact
that this retribution was about to be visited upon that scoundrel, the
fundamental gentleness and kindliness of his nature asserted itself; his
anger was suddenly whelmed in apprehension; his affection for the lad
beat up to the surface, making Andre-Louis' sin, however hideous, a
thing of no account by comparison with the threatened punishment.

M. de Kercadiou moistened his lips.

"With whom is this engagement?" he asked in a voice that by an effort he
contrived to render steady.

M. de La Tour d'Azyr bowed his handsome head, his eyes upon the gleaming
parquetry of the floor. "With myself," he answered quietly, conscious
already with a tightening of the heart that his answer must sow dismay.
He caught the sound of a faint outcry from Aline; he saw the sudden
recoil of M. de Kercadiou. And then he plunged headlong into the
explanation that he deemed necessary.

"In view of his relations with you, M. de Kercadiou, and because of my
deep regard for you, I did my best to avoid this, even though as you
will understand the death of my dear friend and cousin Chabrillane
seemed to summon me to action, even though I knew that my circumspection
was becoming matter for criticism among my friends. But yesterday this
unbridled young man made further restraint impossible to me. He provoked
me deliberately and publicly. He put upon me the very grossest affront,
and... to-morrow morning in the Bois... we meet."

He faltered a little at the end, fully conscious of the hostile
atmosphere in which he suddenly found himself. Hostility from M. de
Kercadiou, the latter's earlier change of manner had already led him
to expect; the hostility of mademoiselle came more in the nature of a
surprise.

He began to understand what difficulties the course to which he was
committed must raise up for him. A fresh obstacle was to be flung across
the path which he had just cleared, as he imagined. Yet his pride and
his sense of the justice due to be done admitted of no weakening.

In bitterness he realized now, as he looked from uncle to niece--his
glance, usually so direct and bold, now oddly furtive--that though
to-morrow he might kill Andre-Louis, yet even by his death Andre-Louis
would take vengeance upon him. He had exaggerated nothing in reaching
the conclusion that this Andre-Louis Moreau was the evil genius of his
life. He saw now that do what he would, kill him even though he
might, he could never conquer him. The last word would always be with
Andre-Louis Moreau. In bitterness, in rage, and in humiliation--a thing
almost unknown to him--did he realize it, and the realization steeled his
purpose for all that he perceived its futility.

Outwardly he showed himself calm and self-contained, properly suggesting
a man regretfully accepting the inevitable. It would have been as
impossible to find fault with his bearing as to attempt to turn him from
the matter to which he was committed. And so M. de Kercadiou perceived.

"My God!" was all that he said, scarcely above his breath, yet almost in
a groan.

M. de La Tour d'Azyr did, as always, the thing that sensibility demanded
of him. He took his leave. He understood that to linger where his
news had produced such an effect would be impossible, indecent. So he
departed, in a bitterness comparable only with his erstwhile optimism,
the sweet fruit of hope turned to a thing of gall even as it touched
his lips. Oh, yes; the last word, indeed, was with Andre-Louis
Moreau--always!

Uncle and niece looked at each other as he passed out, and there was
horror in the eyes of both. Aline's pallor was deathly almost, and
standing there now she wrung her hands as if in pain.

"Why did you not ask him--beg him..." She broke off.

"To what end? He was in the right, and... and there are things one
cannot ask; things it would be a useless humiliation to ask." He sat
down, groaning. "Oh, the poor boy--the poor, misguided boy."

In the mind of neither, you see, was there any doubt of what must be the
issue. The calm confidence in which La Tour d'Azyr had spoken compelled
itself to be shared. He was no vainglorious boaster, and they knew of
what a force as a swordsman he was generally accounted.

"What does humiliation matter? A life is at issue--Andre's life."

"I know. My God, don't I know? And I would humiliate myself if by
humiliating myself I could hope to prevail. But Azyr is a hard,
relentless man, and..."

Abruptly she left him.

She overtook the Marquis as he was in the act of stepping his carriage.
He turned as she called, and bowed.

"Mademoiselle?"

At once he guessed her errand, tasted in anticipation the unparalleled
bitterness of being compelled to refuse her. Yet at her invitation he
stepped back into the cool of the hall.

In the middle of the floor of chequered marbles, black and white, stood
a carved table of black oak. By this he halted, leaning lightly against
it whilst she sat enthroned in the great crimson chair beside it.

"Monsieur, I cannot allow you so to depart," she said. "You cannot
realize, monsieur, what a blow would be dealt my uncle if... if evil,
irrevocable evil were to overtake his godson to-morrow. The expressions
that he used at first..."

"Mademoiselle, I perceived their true value. Spare yourself. Believe me
I am profoundly desolated by circumstances which I had not expected to
find. You must believe me when I say that. It is all that I can say."

"Must it really be all? Andre is very dear to his godfather."

The pleading tone cut him like a knife; and then suddenly it aroused
another emotion--an emotion which he realized to be utterly unworthy,
an emotion which, in his overwhelming pride of race, seemed almost
sullying, yet not to be repressed. He hesitated to give it utterance;
hesitated even remotely to suggest so horrible a thing as that in a man
of such lowly origin he might conceivably discover a rival. Yet that
sudden pang of jealousy was stronger than his monstrous pride.

"And to you, mademoiselle? What is this Andre-Louis Moreau to you? You
will pardon the question. But I desire clearly to understand."

Watching her he beheld the scarlet stain that overspread her face.
He read in it at first confusion, until the gleam of her blue eyes
announced its source to lie in anger. That comforted him; since he had
affronted her, he was reassured. It did not occur to him that the anger
might have another source.

"Andre and I have been playmates from infancy. He is very dear to me,
too; almost I regard him as a brother. Were I in need of help, and were
my uncle not available, Andre would be the first man to whom I should
turn. Are you sufficiently answered, monsieur? Or is there more of me
you would desire revealed?"

He bit his lip. He was unnerved, he thought, this morning; otherwise the
silly suspicion with which he had offended could never have occurred to
him.

He bowed very low. "Mademoiselle, forgive that I should have troubled
you with such a question. You have answered more fully than I could have
hoped or wished."

He said no more than that. He waited for her to resume. At a loss, she
sat in silence awhile, a pucker on her white brow, her fingers nervously
drumming on the table. At last she flung herself headlong against the
impassive, polished front that he presented.

"I have come, monsieur, to beg you to put off this meeting."

She saw the faint raising of his dark eyebrows, the faintly regretful
smile that scarcely did more than tinge his fine lips, and she hurried
on. "What honour can await you in such an engagement, monsieur?"

It was a shrewd thrust at the pride of race that she accounted his
paramount sentiment, that had as often lured him into error as it had
urged him into good.

"I do not seek honour in it, mademoiselle, but--I must say it--justice.
The engagement, as I have explained, is not of my seeking. It has been
thrust upon me, and in honour I cannot draw back."

"Why, what dishonour would there be in sparing him? Surely, monsieur,
none would call your courage in question? None could misapprehend your
motives."

"You are mistaken, mademoiselle. My motives would most certainly be
misapprehended. You forget that this young man has acquired in the past
week a certain reputation that might well make a man hesitate to meet
him."

She brushed that aside almost contemptuously, conceiving it the merest
quibble.

"Some men, yes. But not you, M. le Marquis."

Her confidence in him on every count was most sweetly flattering. But
there was a bitterness behind the sweet.

"Even I, mademoiselle, let me assure you. And there is more than that.
This quarrel which M. Moreau has forced upon me is no new thing. It is
merely the culmination of a long-drawn persecution..."

"Which you invited," she cut in. "Be just, monsieur."

"I hope that it is not in my nature to be otherwise, mademoiselle."

"Consider, then, that you killed his friend."

"I find in that nothing with which to reproach myself. My justification
lay in the circumstances--the subsequent events in this distracted
country surely confirm it."

"And..." She faltered a little, and looked away from him for the first
time. "And that you... that you... And what of Mademoiselle Binet, whom
he was to have married?"

He stared at her for a moment in sheer surprise. "Was to have married?"
he repeated incredulously, dismayed almost.

"You did not know that?"

"But how do you?"

"Did I not tell you that we are as brother and sister almost? I have his
confidence. He told me, before... before you made it impossible."

He looked away, chin in hand, his glance thoughtful, disturbed, almost
wistful.

"There is," he said slowly, musingly, "a singular fatality at work
between that man and me, bringing us ever each by turns athwart the
other's path..."

He sighed; then swung to face her again, speaking more briskly:
"Mademoiselle, until this moment I had no knowledge--no suspicion of
this thing. But..." He broke off, considered, and then shrugged. "If
I wronged him, I did so unconsciously. It would be unjust to blame me,
surely. In all our actions it must be the intention alone that counts."

"But does it make no difference?"

"None that I can discern, mademoiselle. It gives me no justification
to withdraw from that to which I am irrevocably committed. No
justification, indeed, could ever be greater than my concern for the
pain it must occasion my good friend, your uncle, and perhaps yourself,
mademoiselle."

She rose suddenly, squarely confronting him, desperate now, driven to
play the only card upon which she thought she might count.

"Monsieur," she said, "you did me the honour to-day to speak in certain
terms; to... to allude to certain hopes with which you honour me."

He looked at her almost in fear. In silence, not daring to speak, he
waited for her to continue.

"I... I... Will you please to understand, monsieur, that if you persist
in this matter, if... unless you can break this engagement of yours
to-morrow morning in the Bois, you are not to presume to mention this
subject to me again, or, indeed, ever again to approach me."

To put the matter in this negative way was as far as she could possibly
go. It was for him to make the positive proposal to which she had thus
thrown wide the door.

"Mademoiselle, you cannot mean..."

"I do, monsieur... irrevocably, please to understand." He looked at her
with eyes of misery, his handsome, manly face as pale as she had ever
seen it. The hand he had been holding out in protest began to shake. He
lowered it to his side again, lest she should perceive its tremor.
Thus a brief second, while the battle was fought within him, the bitter
engagement between his desires and what he conceived to be the demands
of his honour, never perceiving how far his honour was buttressed by
implacable vindictiveness. Retreat, he conceived, was impossible without
shame; and shame was to him an agony unthinkable. She asked too much.
She could not understand what she was asking, else she would never be
so unreasonable, so unjust. But also he saw that it would be futile to
attempt to make her understand.

It was the end. Though he kill Andre-Louis Moreau in the morning as he
fiercely hoped he would, yet the victory even in death must lie with
Andre-Louis Moreau.

He bowed profoundly, grave and sorrowful of face as he was grave and
sorrowful of heart.

"Mademoiselle, my homage," he murmured, and turned to go.

"But you have not answered me!" she called after him in terror.

He checked on the threshold, and turned; and there from the cool
gloom of the hall she saw him a black, graceful silhouette against the
brilliant sunshine beyond--a memory of him that was to cling as something
sinister and menacing in the dread hours that were to follow.

"What would you, mademoiselle? I but spared myself and you the pain of a
refusal."

He was gone leaving her crushed and raging. She sank down again into the
great red chair, and sat there crumpled, her elbows on the table, her
face in her hands--a face that was on fire with shame and passion. She
had offered herself, and she had been refused! The inconceivable had
befallen her. The humiliation of it seemed to her something that could
never be effaced.

Startled, appalled, she stepped back, her hand pressed to her tortured
breast.



CHAPTER X. THE RETURNING CARRIAGE

M. de Kercadiou wrote a letter.

"Godson," he began, without any softening adjective, "I have learnt
with pain and indignation that you have dishonoured yourself again by
breaking the pledge you gave me to abstain from politics. With still
greater pain and indignation do I learn that your name has become in a
few short days a byword, that you have discarded the weapon of false,
insidious arguments against my class--the class to which you owe
everything--for the sword of the assassin. It has come to my knowledge
that you have an assignation to-morrow with my good friend M. de La Tour
d'Azyr. A gentleman of his station is under certain obligations imposed
upon him by his birth, which do not permit him to draw back from an
engagement. But you labour under no such disadvantages. For a man of
your class to refuse an engagement of honour, or to neglect it when
made, entails no sacrifice. Your peers will probably be of the opinion
that you display a commendable prudence. Therefore I beg you, indeed,
did I think that I still exercise over you any such authority as the
favours you have received from me should entitle me to exercise, I would
command you, to allow this matter to go no farther, and to refrain from
rendering yourself to your assignation to-morrow morning. Having no such
authority, as your past conduct now makes clear, having no reason to
hope that a proper sentiment of gratitude to me will induce to give heed
to this my most earnest request, I am compelled to add that should you
survive to-morrow's encounter, I can in no circumstances ever again
permit myself to be conscious of your existence. If any spark survives
of the affection that once you expressed for me, or if you set any value
upon the affection, which, in spite of all that you have done to forfeit
it, is the chief prompter of this letter, you will not refuse to do as I
am asking."

It was not a tactful letter. M. de Kercadiou was not a tactful man. Read
it as he would, Andre-Louis--when it was delivered to him on that Sunday
afternoon by the groom dispatched with it into Paris--could read into it
only concern for M. La Tour d'Azyr, M. de Kercadiou's good friend, as he
called him, and prospective nephew-in-law.

He kept the groom waiting a full hour while composing his answer.
Brief though it was, it cost him very considerable effort and several
unsuccessful attempts. In the end this is what he wrote:

Monsieur my godfather--You make refusal singularly hard for me when you
appeal to me upon the ground of affection. It is a thing of which all my
life I shall hail the opportunity to give you proofs, and I am therefore
desolated beyond anything I could hope to express that I cannot give you
the proof you ask to-day. There is too much between M. de La Tour d'Azyr
and me. Also you do me and my class--whatever it may be--less than justice
when you say that obligations of honour are not binding upon us. So
binding do I count them, that, if I would, I could not now draw back.

If hereafter you should persist in the harsh intention you express, I
must suffer it. That I shall suffer be assured.

Your affectionate and grateful godson

Andre-Louis

He dispatched that letter by M. de Kercadiou's groom, and conceived this
to be the end of the matter. It cut him keenly; but he bore the wound
with that outward stoicism he affected.

Next morning, at a quarter past eight, as with Le Chapelier--who had come
to break his fast with him--he was rising from table to set out for
the Bois, his housekeeper startled him by announcing Mademoiselle de
Kercadiou.

He looked at his watch. Although his cabriolet was already at the door,
he had a few minutes to spare. He excused himself from Le Chapelier, and
went briskly out to the anteroom.

She advanced to meet him, her manner eager, almost feverish.

"I will not affect ignorance of why you have come," he said quickly, to
make short work. "But time presses, and I warn you that only the most
solid of reasons can be worth stating."

It surprised her. It amounted to a rebuff at the very outset, before she
had uttered a word; and that was the last thing she had expected from
Andre-Louis. Moreover, there was about him an air of aloofness that was
unusual where she was concerned, and his voice had been singularly cold
and formal.

It wounded her. She was not to guess the conclusion to which he had
leapt. He made with regard to her--as was but natural, after all--the
same mistake that he had made with regard to yesterday's letter from his
godfather. He conceived that the mainspring of action here was solely
concern for M. de La Tour d'Azyr. That it might be concern for himself
never entered his mind. So absolute was his own conviction of what must
be the inevitable issue of that meeting that he could not conceive of
any one entertaining a fear on his behalf.

What he assumed to be anxiety on the score of the predestined victim
had irritated him in M. de Kercadiou; in Aline it filled him with a cold
anger; he argued from it that she had hardly been frank with him; that
ambition was urging her to consider with favour the suit of M. de La
Tour d'Azyr. And than this there was no spur that could have driven more
relentlessly in his purpose, since to save her was in his eyes almost as
momentous as to avenge the past.

She conned him searchingly, and the complete calm of him at such a time
amazed her. She could not repress the mention of it.

"How calm you are, Andre!"

"I am not easily disturbed. It is a vanity of mine."

"But... Oh, Andre, this meeting must not take place!" She came close
up to him, to set her hands upon his shoulders, and stood so, her face
within a foot of his own.

"You know, of course, of some good reason why it should not?" said he.

"You may be killed," she answered him, and her eyes dilated as she
spoke.

It was so far from anything that he had expected that for a moment he
could only stare at her. Then he thought he had understood. He laughed
as he removed her hands from his shoulders, and stepped back. This was a
shallow device, childish and unworthy in her.

"Can you really think to prevail by attempting to frighten me?" he
asked, and almost sneered.

"Oh, you are surely mad! M. de La Tour d'Azyr is reputed the most
dangerous sword in France."

"Have you never noticed that most reputations are undeserved?
Chabrillane was a dangerous swordsman, and Chabrillane is underground.
La Motte-Royau was an even more dangerous swordsman, and he is in
a surgeon's hands. So are the other spadassinicides who dreamt of
skewering a poor sheep of a provincial lawyer. And here to-day comes
the chief, the fine flower of these bully-swordsmen. He comes, for
wages long overdue. Be sure of that. So if you have no other reason to
urge..."

It was the sarcasm of him that mystified her. Could he possibly be
sincere in his assurance that he must prevail against M. de La Tour
d'Azyr? To her in her limited knowledge, her mind filled with her
uncle's contrary conviction, it seemed that Andre-Louis was only acting;
he would act a part to the very end.

Be that as it might, she shifted her ground to answer him.

"You had my uncle's letter?"

"And I answered it."

"I know. But what he said, he will fulfil. Do not dream that he will
relent if you carry out this horrible purpose."

"Come, now, that is a better reason than the other," said he. "If there
is a reason in the world that could move me it would be that. But there
is too much between La Tour d'Azyr and me. There is an oath I swore on
the dead hand of Philippe de Vilmorin. I could never have hoped that God
would afford me so great an opportunity of keeping it."

"You have not kept it yet," she warned him.

He smiled at her. "True!" he said. "But nine o'clock will soon be here.
Tell me," he asked her suddenly, "why did you not carry this request of
yours to M. de La Tour d'Azyr?"

"I did," she answered him, and flushed as she remembered her yesterday's
rejection. He interpreted the flush quite otherwise.

"And he?" he asked.

"M. de La Tour d'Azyr's obligations..." she was beginning: then she
broke off to answer shortly: "Oh, he refused."

"So, so. He must, of course, whatever it may have cost him. Yet in his
place I should have counted the cost as nothing. But men are different,
you see." He sighed. "Also in your place, had that been so, I think I
should have left the matter there. But then..."

"I don't understand you, Andre."

"I am not so very obscure. Not nearly so obscure as I can be. Turn it
over in your mind. It may help to comfort you presently." He consulted
his watch again. "Pray use this house as your own. I must be going."

Le Chapelier put his head in at the door.

"Forgive the intrusion. But we shall be late, Andre, unless you..."

"Coming," Andre answered him. "If you will await my return, Aline, you
will oblige me deeply. Particularly in view of your uncle's resolve."

She did not answer him. She was numbed. He took her silence for assent,
and, bowing, left her. Standing there she heard his steps going down the
stairs together with Le Chapelier's. He was speaking to his friend, and
his voice was calm and normal.

Oh, he was mad--blinded by self-confidence and vanity. As his carriage
rattled away, she sat down limply, with a sense of exhaustion and
nausea. She was sick and faint with horror. Andre-Louis was going to his
death. Conviction of it--an unreasoning conviction, the result, perhaps,
of all M. de Kercadiou's rantings--entered her soul. Awhile she sat thus,
paralyzed by hopelessness. Then she sprang up again, wringing her hands.
She must do something to avert this horror. But what could she do? To
follow him to the Bois and intervene there would be to make a scandal
for no purpose. The conventions of conduct were all against her,
offering a barrier that was not to be overstepped. Was there no one
could help her?

Standing there, half-frenzied by her helplessness, she caught again
a sound of vehicles and hooves on the cobbles of the street below.
A carriage was approaching. It drew up with a clatter before the
fencing-academy. Could it be Andre-Louis returning? Passionately she
snatched at that straw of hope. Knocking, loud and urgent, fell upon the
door. She heard Andre-Louis' housekeeper, her wooden shoes clanking upon
the stairs, hurrying down to open.

She sped to the door of the anteroom, and pulling it wide stood
breathlessly to listen. But the voice that floated up to her was not the
voice she so desperately hoped to hear. It was a woman's voice asking in
urgent tones for M. Andre-Louis--a voice at first vaguely familiar, then
clearly recognized, the voice of Mme. de Plougastel.

Excited, she ran to the head of the narrow staircase in time to hear
Mme. de Plougastel exclaim in agitation:

"He has gone already! Oh, but how long since? Which way did he take?"

It was enough to inform Aline that Mme. de Plougastel's errand must be
akin to her own. At the moment, in the general distress and confusion
of her mind, her mental vision focussed entirely on the one vital
point, she found in this no matter for astonishment. The singular regard
conceived by Mme. de Plougastel for Andre-Louis seemed to her then a
sufficient explanation.

Without pausing to consider, she ran down that steep staircase, calling:

"Madame! Madame!"

The portly, comely housekeeper drew aside, and the two ladies faced each
other on that threshold. Mme. de Plougastel looked white and haggard, a
nameless dread staring from her eyes.

"Aline! You here!" she exclaimed. And then in the urgency sweeping aside
all minor considerations, "Were you also too late?" she asked.

"No, madame. I saw him. I implored him. But he would not listen."

"Oh, this is horrible!" Mme. de Plougastel shuddered as she spoke. "I
heard of it only half an hour ago, and I came at once, to prevent it at
all costs."

The two women looked blankly, despairingly, at each other. In the
sunshine-flooded street one or two shabby idlers were pausing to eye
the handsome equipage with its magnificent bay horses, and the two great
ladies on the doorstep of the fencing-academy. From across the way came
the raucous voice of an itinerant bellows-mender raised in the cry of
his trade:

"A raccommoder les vieux soufflets!"

Madame swung to the housekeeper.

"How long is it since monsieur left?"

"Ten minutes, maybe; hardly more." Conceiving these great ladies to
be friends of her invincible master's latest victim, the good woman
preserved a decently stolid exterior.

Madame wrung her hands. "Ten minutes! Oh!" It was almost a moan. "Which
way did he go?"

"The assignation is for nine o'clock in the Bois de Boulogne," Aline
informed her. "Could we follow? Could we prevail if we did?"

"Ah, my God! The question is should we come in time? At nine o'clock!
And it wants but little more than a quarter of an hour. Mon Dieu! Mon
Dieu!" Madame clasped and unclasped her hands in anguish. "Do you know,
at least, where in the Bois they are to meet?"

"No--only that it is in the Bois."

"In the Bois!" Madame was flung into a frenzy. "The Bois is nearly half
as large as Paris." But she swept breathlessly on, "Come, Aline: get in,
get in!"

Then to her coachman. "To the Bois de Boulogne by way of the Cours la
Reine," she commanded, "as fast as you can drive. There are ten pistoles
for you if we are in time. Whip up, man!"

She thrust Aline into the carriage, and sprang after her with the
energy of a girl. The heavy vehicle--too heavy by far for this race with
time--was moving before she had taken her seat. Rocking and lurching
it went, earning the maledictions of more than one pedestrian whom it
narrowly avoided crushing against a wall or trampling underfoot.

Madame sat back with closed eyes and trembling lips. Her face showed
very white and drawn. Aline watched her in silence. Almost it seemed to
her that Mme. de Plougastel was suffering as deeply as herself, enduring
an anguish of apprehension as great as her own.

Later Aline was to wonder at this. But at the moment all the thought of
which her half-numbed mind was capable was bestowed upon their desperate
errand.

The carriage rolled across the Place Louis XV and out on to the Cours
la Reine at last. Along that beautiful, tree-bordered avenue between the
Champs Elysees and the Seine, almost empty at this hour of the day, they
made better speed, leaving now a cloud of dust behind them.

But fast to danger-point as was the speed, to the women in that carriage
it was too slow. As they reached the barrier at the end of the Cours,
nine o'clock was striking in the city behind them, and every stroke of
it seemed to sound a note of doom.

Yet here at the barrier the regulations compelled a momentary halt.
Aline enquired of the sergeant-in-charge how long it was since a
cabriolet such as she described had gone that way. She was answered that
some twenty minutes ago a vehicle had passed the barrier containing the
deputy M. le Chapelier and the Paladin of the Third Estate, M. Moreau.
The sergeant was very well informed. He could make a shrewd guess, he
said, with a grin, of the business that took M. Moreau that way so early
in the day.

They left him, to speed on now through the open country, following the
road that continued to hug the river. They sat back mutely despairing,
staring hopelessly ahead, Aline's hand clasped tight in madame's. In the
distance, across the meadows on their right, they could see already the
long, dusky line of trees of the Bois, and presently the carriage swung
aside following a branch of the road that turned to the right, away from
the river and heading straight for the forest.

Mademoiselle broke at last the silence of hopelessness that had reigned
between them since they had passed the barrier.

"Oh, it is impossible that we should come in time! Impossible!"

"Don't say it! Don't say it!" madame cried out.

"But it is long past nine, madame! Andre would be punctual, and these...
affairs do not take long. It... it will be all over by now."

Madame shivered, and closed her eyes. Presently, however, she opened
them again, and stirred. Then she put her head from the window. "A
carriage is approaching," she announced, and her tone conveyed the thing
she feared.

"Not already! Oh, not already!" Thus Aline expressed the silently
communicated thought. She experienced a difficulty in breathing, felt
the sudden need of air. Something in her throat was throbbing as if it
would suffocate her; a mist came and went before her eyes.

In a cloud of dust an open caleche was speeding towards them, coming
from the Bois. They watched it, both pale, neither venturing to speak,
Aline, indeed, without breath to do so.

As it approached, it slowed down, perforce, as they did, to effect a
safe passage in that narrow road. Aline was at the window with Mme. de
Plougastel, and with fearful eyes both looked into this open carriage
that was drawing abreast of them.

"Which of them is it, madame? Oh, which of them?" gasped Aline, scarce
daring to look, her senses swimming.

On the near side sat a swarthy young gentleman unknown to either of the
ladies. He was smiling as he spoke to his companion. A moment later and
the man sitting beyond came into view. He was not smiling. His face was
white and set, and it was the face of the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr.

For a long moment, in speechless horror, both women stared at him,
until, perceiving them, blankest surprise invaded his stern face.

In that moment, with a long shuddering sigh Aline sank swooning to the
carriage floor behind Mme. de Plougastel.



CHAPTER XI. INFERENCES

By fast driving Andre-Louis had reached the ground some minutes ahead
of time, notwithstanding the slight delay in setting out. There he
had found M. de La Tour d'Azyr already awaiting him, supported by a M.
d'Ormesson, a swarthy young gentleman in the blue uniform of a captain
in the Gardes du Corps.

Andre-Louis had been silent and preoccupied throughout that drive. He
was perturbed by his last interview with Mademoiselle de Kercadiou and
the rash inferences which he had drawn as to her motives.

"Decidedly," he had said, "this man must be killed."

Le Chapelier had not answered him. Almost, indeed, had the Breton
shuddered at his compatriot's cold-bloodedness. He had often of late
thought that this fellow Moreau was hardly human. Also he had found him
incomprehensibly inconsistent. When first this spadassinicide business
had been proposed to him, he had been so very lofty and disdainful. Yet,
having embraced it, he went about it at times with a ghoulish flippancy
that was revolting, at times with a detachment that was more revolting
still.

Their preparations were made quickly and in silence, yet without undue
haste or other sign of nervousness on either side. In both men the same
grim determination prevailed. The opponent must be killed; there could
be no half-measures here. Stripped each of coat and waistcoat, shoeless
and with shirt-sleeves rolled to the elbow, they faced each other at
last, with the common resolve of paying in full the long score that
stood between them. I doubt if either of them entertained a misgiving as
to what must be the issue.

Beside them, and opposite each other, stood Le Chapelier and the young
captain, alert and watchful.

"Allez, messieurs!"

The slender, wickedly delicate blades clashed together, and after a
momentary glizade were whirling, swift and bright as lightnings, and
almost as impossible to follow with the eye. The Marquis led the attack,
impetuously and vigorously, and almost at once Andre-Louis realized that
he had to deal with an opponent of a very different mettle from those
successive duellists of last week, not excluding La Motte-Royau, of
terrible reputation.

Here was a man whom much and constant practice had given extraordinary
speed and a technique that was almost perfect. In addition, he enjoyed
over Andre-Louis physical advantages of strength and length of reach,
which rendered him altogether formidable. And he was cool, too; cool and
self-contained; fearless and purposeful. Would anything shake that calm,
wondered Andre-Louis?

He desired the punishment to be as full as he could make it. Not content
to kill the Marquis as the Marquis had killed Philippe, he desired
that he should first know himself as powerless to avert that death as
Philippe had been. Nothing less would content Andre-Louis. M. le Marquis
must begin by tasting of that cup of despair. It was in the account;
part of the quittance due.

As with a breaking sweep Andre-Louis parried the heavy lunge in which
that first series of passes culminated, he actually laughed--gleefully,
after the fashion of a boy at a sport he loves.

That extraordinary, ill-timed laugh made M. de La Tour d'Azyr's recovery
hastier and less correctly dignified than it would otherwise have been.
It startled and discomposed him, who had already been discomposed by
the failure to get home with a lunge so beautifully timed and so truly
delivered.

He, too, had realized that his opponent's force was above anything that
he could have expected, fencing-master though he might be, and on that
account he had put forth his utmost energy to make an end at once.

More than the actual parry, the laugh by which it was accompanied seemed
to make of that end no more than a beginning. And yet it was the end of
something. It was the end of that absolute confidence that had hitherto
inspired M. de La Tour d'Azyr. He no longer looked upon the issue as a
thing forgone. He realized that if he was to prevail in this encounter,
he must go warily and fence as he had never fenced yet in all his life.

They settled down again; and again--on the principle this time that the
soundest defence is in attack--it was the Marquis who made the game.
Andre-Louis allowed him to do so, desired him to do so; desired him
to spend himself and that magnificent speed of his against the greater
speed that whole days of fencing in succession for nearly two years had
given the master. With a beautiful, easy pressure of forte on foible
Andre-Louis kept himself completely covered in that second bout, which
once more culminated in a lunge.

Expecting it now, Andre-Louis parried it by no more than a deflecting
touch. At the same moment he stepped suddenly forward, right within the
other's guard, thus placing his man so completely at his mercy that, as
if fascinated, the Marquis did not even attempt to recover himself.

This time Andre-Louis did not laugh: He just smiled into the dilating
eyes of M. de La Tour d'Azyr, and made no shift to use his advantage.

"Come, come, monsieur!" he bade him sharply. "Am I to run my blade
through an uncovered man?" Deliberately he fell back, whilst his shaken
opponent recovered himself at last.

M. d'Ormesson released the breath which horror had for a moment caught.
Le Chapelier swore softly, muttering:

"Name of a name! It is tempting Providence to play the fool in this
fashion!"

Andre-Louis observed the ashen pallor that now over spread the face of
his opponent.

"I think you begin to realize, monsieur, what Philippe de Vilmorin must
have felt that day at Gavrillac. I desired that you should first do so.
Since that is accomplished, why, here's to make an end."

He went in with lightning rapidity. For a moment his point seemed to La
Tour d'Azyr to be everywhere at once, and then from a low engagement
in sixte, Andre-Louis stretched forward with swift and vigorous ease
to lunge in tierce. He drove his point to transfix his opponent whom
a series of calculated disengages uncovered in that line. But to his
amazement and chagrin, La Tour d'Azyr parried the stroke; infinitely
more to his chagrin La Tour d'Azyr parried it just too late. Had he
completely parried it, all would yet have been well. But striking the
blade in the last fraction of a second, the Marquis deflected the point
from the line of his body, yet not so completely but that a couple
of feet of that hard-driven steel tore through the muscles of his
sword-arm.

To the seconds none of these details had been visible. All that they
had seen had been a swift whirl of flashing blades, and then Andre-Louis
stretched almost to the ground in an upward lunge that had pierced the
Marquis' right arm just below the shoulder.

The sword fell from the suddenly relaxed grip of La Tour d'Azyr's
fingers, which had been rendered powerless, and he stood now disarmed,
his lip in his teeth, his face white, his chest heaving, before his
opponent, who had at once recovered. With the blood-tinged tip of his
sword resting on the ground, Andre-Louis surveyed him grimly, as we
survey the prey that through our own clumsiness has escaped us at the
last moment.

In the Assembly and in the newspapers this might be hailed as another
victory for the Paladin of the Third Estate; only himself could know the
extent and the bitternest of the failure.

M. d'Ormesson had sprung to the side of his principal.

"You are hurt!" he had cried stupidly.

"It is nothing," said La Tour d'Azyr. "A scratch." But his lip writhed,
and the torn sleeve of his fine cambric shirt was full of blood.

D'Ormesson, a practical man in such matters, produced a linen kerchief,
which he tore quickly into strips to improvise a bandage.

Still Andre-Louis continued to stand there, looking on as if bemused. He
continued so until Le Chapelier touched him on the arm. Then at last he
roused himself, sighed, and turned away to resume his garments, nor did
he address or look again at his late opponent, but left the ground at
once.

As, with Le Chapelier, he was walking slowly and in silent dejection
towards the entrance of the Bois, where they had left their carriage,
they were passed by the caleche conveying La Tour d'Azyr and his
second--which had originally driven almost right up to the spot of the
encounter. The Marquis' wounded arm was carried in a sling improvised
from his companion's sword-belt. His sky-blue coat with three collars
had been buttoned over this, so that the right sleeve hung empty.
Otherwise, saving a certain pallor, he looked much his usual self.

And now you understand how it was that he was the first to return,
and that seeing him thus returning, apparently safe and sound, the two
ladies, intent upon preventing the encounter, should have assumed that
their worst fears were realized.

Mme. de Plougastel attempted to call out, but her voice refused its
office. She attempted to throw open the door of her own carriage; but
her fingers fumbled clumsily and ineffectively with the handle. And
meanwhile the caleche was slowly passing, La Tour d'Azyr's fine eyes
sombrely yet intently meeting her own anguished gaze. And then she
saw something else. M. d'Ormesson, leaning back again from the forward
inclination of his body to join his own to his companion's salutation of
the Countess, disclosed the empty right sleeve of M. de La Tour d'Azyr's
blue coat. More, the near side of the coat itself turned back from the
point near the throat where it was caught together by a single button,
revealed the slung arm beneath in its blood-sodden cambric sleeve.

Even now she feared to jump to the obvious conclusion--feared lest
perhaps the Marquis, though himself wounded, might have dealt his
adversary a deadlier wound.

She found her voice at last, and at the same moment signalled to the
driver of the caleche to stop.

As it was pulled to a standstill, M. d'Ormesson alighted, and so met
madame in the little space between the two carriages.

"Where is M. Moreau?" was the question with which she surprised him.

"Following at his leisure, no doubt, madame," he answered, recovering.

"He is not hurt?"

"Unfortunately it is we who..." M. d'Ormesson was beginning, when from
behind him M. de La Tour d'Azyr's voice cut in crisply:

"This interest on your part in M. Moreau, dear Countess..."

He broke off, observing a vague challenge in the air with which she
confronted him. But indeed his sentence did not need completing.

There was a vaguely awkward pause. And then she looked at M. d'Ormesson.
Her manner changed. She offered what appeared to be an explanation of
her concern for M. Moreau.

"Mademoiselle de Kercadiou is with me. The poor child has fainted."

There was more, a deal more, she would have said just then, but for M.
d'Ormesson's presence.

Moved by a deep solicitude for Mademoiselle de Kertadiou, de La Tour
d'Azyr sprang up despite his wound.

"I am in poor case to render assistance, madame," he said, an apologetic
smile on his pale face. "But..."

With the aid of d'Ormesson, and in spite of the latter's protestations,
he got down from the caleche, which then moved on a little way, so as to
leave the road clear--for another carriage that was approaching from the
direction of the Bois.

And thus it happened that when a few moments later that approaching
cabriolet overtook and passed the halted vehicles, Andre-Louis beheld a
very touching scene. Standing up to obtain a better view, he saw Aline
in a half-swooning condition--she was beginning to revive by now--seated
in the doorway of the carriage, supported by Mme. de Plougastel. In
an attitude of deepest concern, M. de La Tour d'Azyr, his wound
notwithstanding, was bending over the girl, whilst behind him stood M.
d'Ormesson and madame's footman.

The Countess looked up and saw him as he was driven past. Her face
lighted; almost it seemed to him she was about to greet him or to call
him, wherefore, to avoid a difficulty, arising out of the presence there
of his late antagonist, he anticipated her by bowing frigidly--for his
mood was frigid, the more frigid by virtue of what he saw--and then
resumed his seat with eyes that looked deliberately ahead.

Could anything more completely have confirmed him in his conviction that
it was on M. de La Tour d'Azyr's account that Aline had come to plead
with him that morning? For what his eyes had seen, of course, was a lady
overcome with emotion at the sight of blood of her dear friend, and that
same dear friend restoring her with assurances that his hurt was very
far from mortal. Later, much later, he was to blame his own perverse
stupidity. Almost is he too severe in his self-condemnation. For how
else could he have interpreted the scene he beheld, his preconceptions
being what they were?

That which he had already been suspecting, he now accounted proven to
him. Aline had been wanting in candour on the subject of her feelings
towards M. de La Tour d'Azyr. It was, he supposed, a woman's way to be
secretive in such matters, and he must not blame her. Nor could he blame
her in his heart for having succumbed to the singular charm of such a
man as the Marquis--for not even his hostility could blind him to M. de
La Tour d'Azyr's attractions. That she had succumbed was betrayed, he
thought, by the weakness that had overtaken her upon seeing him wounded.

"My God!" he cried aloud. "What must she have suffered, then, if I had
killed him as I intended!"

If only she had used candour with him, she could so easily have won his
consent to the thing she asked. If only she had told him what now he
saw, that she loved M. de La Tour d'Azyr, instead of leaving him to
assume her only regard for the Marquis to be based on unworthy worldly
ambition, he would at once have yielded.

He fetched a sigh, and breathed a prayer for forgiveness to the shade of
Vilmorin.

"It is perhaps as well that my lunge went wide," he said.

"What do you mean?" wondered Le Chapelier.

"That in this business I must relinquish all hope of recommencing."



CHAPTER XII. THE OVERWHELMING REASON

M. de La Tour d'Azyr was seen no more in the Manege--or indeed in Paris
at all--throughout all the months that the National Assembly remained in
session to complete its work of providing France with a constitution.
After all, though the wound to his body had been comparatively slight,
the wound to such a pride as his had been all but mortal.

The rumour ran that he had emigrated. But that was only half the truth.
The whole of it was that he had joined that group of noble travellers
who came and went between the Tuileries and the headquarters of the
emigres at Coblenz. He became, in short, a member of the royalist secret
service that in the end was to bring down the monarchy in ruins.

As for Andre-Louis, his godfather's house saw him no more, as a result
of his conviction that M. de Kercadiou would not relent from his written
resolve never to receive him again if the duel were fought.

He threw himself into his duties at the Assembly with such zeal and
effect that when--its purpose accomplished--the Constituent was dissolved
in September of the following year, membership of the Legislative, whose
election followed immediately, was thrust upon him.

He considered then, like many others, that the Revolution was a thing
accomplished, that France had only to govern herself by the Constitution
which had been given her, and that all would now be well. And so it
might have been but that the Court could not bring itself to accept the
altered state of things. As a result of its intrigues half Europe was
arming to hurl herself upon France, and her quarrel was the quarrel of
the French King with his people. That was the horror at the root of all
the horrors that were to come.

Of the counter-revolutionary troubles that were everywhere being stirred
up by the clergy, none were more acute than those of Brittany, and,
in view of the influence it was hoped he would wield in his native
province, it was proposed to Andre-Louis by the Commission of Twelve,
in the early days of the Girondin ministry, that he should go thither to
combat the unrest. He was desired to proceed peacefully, but his powers
were almost absolute, as is shown by the orders he carried--orders
enjoining all to render him assistance and warning those who might
hinder him that they would do so at their peril.

He accepted the task, and he was one of the five plenipotentiaries
despatched on the same errand in that spring of 1792. It kept him absent
from Paris for four months and might have kept him longer but that at
the beginning of August he was recalled. More imminent than any trouble
in Brittany was the trouble brewing in Paris itself; when the political
sky was blacker than it had been since '89. Paris realized that the hour
was rapidly approaching which would see the climax of the long struggle
between Equality and Privilege. And it was towards a city so disposed
that Andre-Louis came speeding from the West, to find there also the
climax of his own disturbed career.

Mlle. de Kercadiou, too, was in Paris in those days of early August, on
a visit to her uncle's cousin and dearest friend, Mme. de Plougastel.
And although nothing could now be plainer than the seething unrest
that heralded the explosion to come, yet the air of gaiety, indeed of
jocularity, prevailing at Court--whither madame and mademoiselle went
almost daily--reassured them. M. de Plougastel had come and gone again,
back to Coblenz on that secret business that kept him now almost
constantly absent from his wife. But whilst with her he had positively
assured her that all measures were taken, and that an insurrection was
a thing to be welcomed, because it could have one only conclusion, the
final crushing of the Revolution in the courtyard of the Tuileries.
That, he added, was why the King remained in Paris. But for his
confidence in that he would put himself in the centre of his Swiss and
his knights of the dagger, and quit the capital. They would hack a way
out for him easily if his departure were opposed. But not even that
would be necessary.

Yet in those early days of August, after her husband's departure the
effect of his inspiring words was gradually dissipated by the march
of events under madame's own eyes. And finally on the afternoon of the
ninth, there arrived at the Hotel Plougastel a messenger from
Meudon bearing a note from M. de Kercadiou in which he urgently
bade mademoiselle join him there at once, and advised her hostess to
accompany her.

You may have realized that M. de Kercadiou was of those who make friends
with men of all classes. His ancient lineage placed him on terms of
equality with members of the noblesse; his simple manners--something
between the rustic and the bourgeois--and his natural affability placed
him on equally good terms with those who by birth were his inferiors.
In Meudon he was known and esteemed of all the simple folk, and it was
Rougane, the friendly mayor, who, informed on the 9th of August of the
storm that was brewing for the morrow, and knowing of mademoiselle's
absence in Paris, had warningly advised him to withdraw her from what in
the next four-and-twenty hours might be a zone of danger for all persons
of quality, particularly those suspected of connections with the Court
party.

Now there was no doubt whatever of Mme. de Plougastel's connection with
the Court. It was not even to be doubted--indeed, measure of proof of
it was to be forthcoming--that those vigilant and ubiquitous secret
societies that watched over the cradle of the young revolution were
fully informed of the frequent journeyings of M. de Plougastel to
Coblenz, and entertained no illusions on the score of the reason for
them. Given, then, a defeat of the Court party in the struggle that
was preparing, the position in Paris of Mme. de Plougastel could not be
other than fraught with danger, and that danger would be shared by any
guest of birth at her hotel.

M. de Kercadiou's affection for both those women quickened the fears
aroused in him by Rougane's warning. Hence that hastily dispatched note,
desiring his niece and imploring his friend to come at once to Meudon.

The friendly mayor carried his complaisance a step farther, and
dispatched the letter to Paris by the hands of his own son, an
intelligent lad of nineteen. It was late in the afternoon of that
perfect August day when young Rougane presented himself at the Hotel
Plougastel.

He was graciously received by Mme. de Plougastel in the salon, whose
splendours, when combined with the great air of the lady herself,
overwhelmed the lad's simple, unsophisticated soul. Madame made up her
mind at once.

M. de Kercadiou's urgent message no more than confirmed her own fears
and inclinations. She decided upon instant departure.

"Bien, madame," said the youth. "Then I have the honour to take my
leave."

But she would not let him go. First to the kitchen to refresh himself,
whilst she and mademoiselle made ready, and then a seat for him in her
carriage as far as Meudon. She could not suffer him to return on foot as
he had come.

Though in all the circumstances it was no more than his due, yet the
kindliness that in such a moment of agitation could take thought for
another was presently to be rewarded. Had she done less than this, she
would have known--if nothing worse--at least some hours of anguish even
greater than those that were already in store for her.

It wanted, perhaps, a half-hour to sunset when they set out in her
carriage with intent to leave Paris by the Porte Saint-Martin.
They travelled with a single footman behind. Rougane--terrifying
condescension--was given a seat inside the carriage with the ladies, and
proceeded to fall in love with Mlle. de Kercadiou, whom he accounted the
most beautiful being he had ever seen, yet who talked to him simply and
unaffectedly as with an equal. The thing went to his head a little, and
disturbed certain republican notions which he had hitherto conceived
himself to have thoroughly digested.

The carriage drew up at the barrier, checked there by a picket of the
National Guard posted before the iron gates.

The sergeant in command strode to the door of the vehicle. The Countess
put her head from the window.

"The barrier is closed, madame," she was curtly informed.

"Closed!" she echoed. The thing was incredible. "But... but do you mean
that we cannot pass?"

"Not unless you have a permit, madame." The sergeant leaned nonchalantly
on his pike. "The orders are that no one is to leave or enter without
proper papers."

"Whose orders?"

"Orders of the Commune of Paris."

"But I must go into the country this evening." Madame's voice was almost
petulant. "I am expected."

"In that case let madame procure a permit."

"Where is it to be procured?"

"At the Hotel de Ville or at the headquarters of madame's section."

She considered a moment. "To the section, then. Be so good as to tell my
coachman to drive to the Bondy Section."

He saluted her and stepped back. "Section Bondy, Rue des Morts," he bade
the driver.

Madame sank into her seat again, in a state of agitation fully shared
by mademoiselle. Rougane set himself to pacify and reassure them. The
section would put the matter in order. They would most certainly be
accorded a permit. What possible reason could there be for refusing
them? A mere formality, after all!

His assurance uplifted them merely to prepare them for a still more
profound dejection when presently they met with a flat refusal from the
president of the section who received the Countess.

"Your name, madame?" he had asked brusquely. A rude fellow of the most
advanced republican type, he had not even risen out of deference to
the ladies when they entered. He was there, he would have told you, to
perform the duties of his office, not to give dancing-lessons.

"Plougastel," he repeated after her, without title, as if it had been
the name of a butcher or baker. He took down a heavy volume from a shelf
on his right, opened it and turned the pages. It was a sort of directory
of his section. Presently he found what he sought. "Comte de Plougastel,
Hotel Plougastel, Rue du Paradis. Is that it?"

"That is correct, monsieur," she answered, with what civility she could
muster before the fellow's affronting rudeness.

There was a long moment of silence, during which he studied certain
pencilled entries against the name. The sections had been working in the
last few weeks much more systematically than was generally suspected.

"Your husband is with you, madame?" he asked curtly, his eyes still
conning that page.

"M. le Comte is not with me," she answered, stressing the title.

"Not with you?" He looked up suddenly, and directed upon her a glance in
which suspicion seemed to blend with derision. "Where is he?"

"He is not in Paris, monsieur.

"Ah! Is he at Coblenz, do you think?"

Madame felt herself turning cold. There was something ominous in all
this. To what end had the sections informed themselves so thoroughly of
the comings and goings of their inhabitants? What was preparing? She
had a sense of being trapped, of being taken in a net that had been cast
unseen.

"I do not know, monsieur," she said, her voice unsteady.

"Of course not." He seemed to sneer. "No matter. And you wish to leave
Paris also? Where do you desire to go?"

"To Meudon."

"Your business there?"

The blood leapt to her face. His insolence was unbearable to a woman who
in all her life had never known anything but the utmost deference from
inferiors and equals alike. Nevertheless, realizing that she was face
to face with forces entirely new, she controlled herself, stifled her
resentment, and answered steadily.

"I wish to conduct this lady, Mlle. de Kercadiou, back to her uncle who
resides there."

"Is that all? Another day will do for that, madame. The matter is not
pressing."

"Pardon, monsieur, to us the matter is very pressing."

"You have not convinced me of it, and the barriers are closed to all
who cannot prove the most urgent and satisfactory reasons for wishing
to pass. You will wait, madame, until the restriction is removed.
Good-evening."

"But, monsieur..."

"Good-evening, madame," he repeated significantly, a dismissal more
contemptuous and despotic than any royal "You have leave to go."

Madame went out with Aline. Both were quivering with the anger that
prudence had urged them to suppress. They climbed into the coach again,
desiring to be driven home.

Rougane's astonishment turned into dismay when they told him what had
taken place. "Why not try the Hotel de Ville, madame?" he suggested.

"After that? It would be useless. We must resign ourselves to remaining
in Paris until the barriers are opened again."

"Perhaps it will not matter to us either way by then, madame," said
Aline.

"Aline!" she exclaimed in horror.

"Mademoiselle!" cried Rougane on the same note. And then, because he
perceived that people detained in this fashion must be in some danger
not yet discernible, but on that account more dreadful, he set his wits
to work. As they were approaching the Hotel Plougastel once more, he
announced that he had solved the problem.

"A passport from without would do equally well," he announced. "Listen,
now, and trust to me. I will go back to Meudon at once. My father
shall give me two permits--one for myself alone, and another for three
persons--from Meudon to Paris and back to Meudon. I reenter Paris with my
own permit, which I then proceed to destroy, and we leave together,
we three, on the strength of the other one, representing ourselves as
having come from Meudon in the course of the day. It is quite simple,
after all. If I go at once, I shall be back to-night."

"But how will you leave?" asked Aline.

"I? Pooh! As to that, have no anxiety. My father is Mayor of Meudon.
There are plenty who know him. I will go to the Hotel de Ville, and tell
them what is, after all, true--that I am caught in Paris by the closing
of the barriers, and that my father is expecting me home this evening.
They will pass me through. It is quite simple."

His confidence uplifted them again. The thing seemed as easy as he
represented it.

"Then let your passport be for four, my friend," madame begged him.
"There is Jacques," she explained, indicating the footman who had just
assisted them to alight.

Rougane departed confident of soon returning, leaving them to await him
with the same confidence. But the hours succeeded one another, the night
closed in, bedtime came, and still there was no sign of his return.

They waited until midnight, each pretending for the other's sake to a
confidence fully sustained, each invaded by vague premonitions of evil,
yet beguiling the time by playing tric-trac in the great salon, as if
they had not a single anxious thought between them.

At last on the stroke of midnight, madame sighed and rose.

"It will be for to-morrow morning," she said, not believing it.

"Of course," Aline agreed. "It would really have been impossible for
him to have returned to-night. And it will be much better to travel
to-morrow. The journey at so late an hour would tire you so much, dear
madame."

Thus they made pretence.

Early in the morning they were awakened by a din of bells--the tocsins
of the sections ringing the alarm. To their startled ears came later the
rolling of drums, and at one time they heard the sounds of a multitude
on the march. Paris was rising. Later still came the rattle of
small-arms in the distance and the deeper boom of cannon. Battle was
joined between the men of the sections and the men of the Court. The
people in arms had attacked the Tuileries. Wildest rumours flew in all
directions, and some of them found their way through the servants to the
Hotel Plougastel, of that terrible fight for the palace which was to end
in the purposeless massacre of all those whom the invertebrate monarch
abandoned there, whilst placing himself and his family under the
protection of the Assembly. Purposeless to the end, ever adopting
the course pointed out to him by evil counsellors, he prepared for
resistance only until the need for resistance really arose, whereupon he
ordered a surrender which left those who had stood by him to the last at
the mercy of a frenzied mob.

And while this was happening in the Tuileries, the two women at the
Hotel Plougastel still waited for the return of Rougane, though now
with ever-lessening hope. And Rougane did not return. The affair did
not appear so simple to the father as to the son. Rougane the elder was
rightly afraid to lend himself to such a piece of deception.

He went with his son to inform M. de Kercadiou of what had happened, and
told him frankly of the thing his son suggested, but which he dared not
do.

M. de Kercadiou sought to move him by intercessions and even by the
offer of bribes. But Rougane remained firm.

"Monsieur," he said, "if it were discovered against me, as it inevitably
would be, I should hang for it. Apart from that, and in spite of my
anxiety to do all in my power to serve you, it would be a breach of
trust such as I could not contemplate. You must not ask me, monsieur."

"But what do you conceive is going to happen?" asked the half-demented
gentleman.

"It is war," said Rougane, who was well informed, as we have seen. "War
between the people and the Court. I am desolated that my warning should
have come too late. But, when all is said, I do not think that you need
really alarm yourself. War will not be made on women." M. de Kercadiou
clung for comfort to that assurance after the mayor and his son had
departed. But at the back of his mind there remained the knowledge
of the traffic in which M. de Plougastel was engaged. What if the
revolutionaries were equally well informed? And most probably they were.
The women-folk political offenders had been known aforetime to suffer
for the sins of their men. Anything was possible in a popular upheaval,
and Aline would be exposed jointly with Mme. de Plougastel.

Late that night, as he sat gloomily in his brother's library, the pipe
in which he had sought solace extinguished between his fingers, there
came a sharp knocking at the door.

To the old seneschal of Gavrillac who went to open there stood revealed
upon the threshold a slim young man in a dark olive surcoat, the skirts
of which reached down to his calves. He wore boots, buckskins, and a
small-sword, and round his waist there was a tricolour sash, in his hat
a tricolour cockade, which gave him an official look extremely sinister
to the eyes of that old retainer of feudalism, who shared to the full
his master's present fears.

"Monsieur desires?" he asked, between respect and mistrust.

And then a crisp voice startled him.

"Why, Benoit! Name of a name! Have you completely forgotten me?"

With a shaking hand the old man raised the lantern he carried so as to
throw its light more fully upon that lean, wide-mouthed countenance.

"M. Andre!" he cried. "M. Andre!" And then he looked at the sash and the
cockade, and hesitated, apparently at a loss.

But Andre-Louis stepped past him into the wide vestibule, with its
tessellated floor of black-and-white marble.

"If my godfather has not yet retired, take me to him. If he has retired,
take me to him all the same."

"Oh, but certainly, M. Andre--and I am sure he will be ravished to see
you. No, he has not yet retired. This way, M. Andre; this way, if you
please."

The returning Andre-Louis, reaching Meudon a half-hour ago, had gone
straight to the mayor for some definite news of what might be happening
in Paris that should either confirm or dispel the ominous rumours that
he had met in ever-increasing volume as he approached the capital.
Rougane informed him that insurrection was imminent, that already the
sections had possessed themselves of the barriers, and that it was
impossible for any person not fully accredited to enter or leave the
city.

Andre-Louis bowed his head, his thoughts of the gravest. He had for
some time perceived the danger of this second revolution from within the
first, which might destroy everything that had been done, and give the
reins of power to a villainous faction that would plunge the country
into anarchy. The thing he had feared was more than ever on the point
of taking place. He would go on at once, that very night, and see for
himself what was happening.

And then, as he was leaving, he turned again to Rougane to ask if M. de
Kercadiou was still at Meudon.

"You know him, monsieur?"

"He is my godfather."

"Your godfather! And you a representative! Why, then, you may be the
very man he needs." And Rougane told him of his son's errand into Paris
that afternoon and its result.

No more was required. That two years ago his godfather should upon
certain terms have refused him his house weighed for nothing at the
moment. He left his travelling carriage at the little inn and went
straight to M. de Kercadiou.

And M. de Kercadiou, startled in such an hour by this sudden apparition,
of one against whom he nursed a bitter grievance, greeted him in terms
almost identical with those in which in that same room he had greeted
him on a similar occasion once before.

"What do you want here, sir?"

"To serve you if possible, my godfather," was the disarming answer.

But it did not disarm M. de Kercadiou. "You have stayed away so long
that I hoped you would not again disturb me."

"I should not have ventured to disobey you now were it not for the hope
that I can be of service. I have seen Rougane, the mayor..."

"What's that you say about not venturing to disobey?"

"You forbade me your house, monsieur."

M. de Kercadiou stared at him helplessly.

"And is that why you have not come near me in all this time?"

"Of course. Why else?"

M. de Kercadiou continued to stare. Then he swore under his breath. It
disconcerted him to have to deal with a man who insisted upon taking
him so literally. He had expected that Andre-Louis would have come
contritely to admit his fault and beg to be taken back into favour. He
said so.

"But how could I hope that you meant less than you said, monsieur?
You were so very definite in your declaration. What expressions of
contrition could have served me without a purpose of amendment? And I
had no notion of amending. We may yet be thankful for that."

"Thankful?"

"I am a representative. I have certain powers. I am very opportunely
returning to Paris. Can I serve you where Rougane cannot? The need,
monsieur, would appear to be very urgent if the half of what I suspect
is true. Aline should be placed in safety at once."

M. de Kercadiou surrendered unconditionally. He came over and took
Andre-Louis' hand.

"My boy," he said, and he was visibly moved, "there is in you a certain
nobility that is not to be denied. If I seemed harsh with you, then, it
was because I was fighting against your evil proclivities. I desired
to keep you out of the evil path of politics that have brought this
unfortunate country into so terrible a pass. The enemy on the frontier;
civil war about to flame out at home. That is what you revolutionaries
have done."

Andre-Louis did not argue. He passed on.

"About Aline?" he asked. And himself answered his own question: "She is
in Paris, and she must be brought out of it at once, before the place
becomes a shambles, as well it may once the passions that have been
brewing all these months are let loose. Young Rougane's plan is good. At
least, I cannot think of a better one."

"But Rougane the elder will not hear of it."

"You mean he will not do it on his own responsibility. But he has
consented to do it on mine. I have left him a note over my signature to
the effect that a safe-conduct for Mlle. de Kercadiou to go to Paris and
return is issued by him in compliance with orders from me. The powers I
carry and of which I have satisfied him are his sufficient justification
for obeying me in this. I have left him that note on the understanding
that he is to use it only in an extreme case, for his own protection. In
exchange he has given me this safe-conduct."

"You already have it!"

M. de Kercadiou took the sheet of paper that Andre-Louis held out. His
hand shook. He approached it to the cluster of candles burning on the
console and screwed up his short-sighted eyes to read.

"If you send that to Paris by young Rougane in the morning," said
Andre-Louis, "Aline should be here by noon. Nothing, of course, could
be done to-night without provoking suspicion. The hour is too late. And
now, monsieur my godfather, you know exactly why I intrude in violation
of your commands. If there is any other way in which I can serve you,
you have but to name it whilst I am here."

"But there is, Andre. Did not Rougane tell you that there were
others..."

"He mentioned Mme. de Plougastel and her servant."

"Then why...?" M. de Kercadiou broke off, looking his question.

Very solemnly Andre-Louis shook his head.

"That is impossible," he said.

M. de Kercadiou's mouth fell open in astonishment. "Impossible!" he
repeated. "But why?"

"Monsieur, I can do what I am doing for Aline without offending my
conscience. Besides, for Aline I would offend my conscience and do it.
But Mme. de Plougastel is in very different case. Neither Aline nor any
of hers have been concerned in counter-revolutionary work, which is the
true source of the calamity that now threatens to overtake us. I can
procure her removal from Paris without self-reproach, convinced that I
am doing nothing that any one could censure, or that might become the
subject of enquiries. But Mme. de Plougastel is the wife of M. le Comte
de Plougastel, whom all the world knows to be an agent between the Court
and the emigres."

"That is no fault of hers," cried M. de Kercadiou through his
consternation.

"Agreed. But she may be called upon at any moment to establish the fact
that she is not a party to these manoeuvres. It is known that she was in
Paris to-day. Should she be sought to-morrow and should it be found
that she has gone, enquiries will certainly be made, from which it must
result that I have betrayed my trust, and abused my powers to serve
personal ends. I hope, monsieur, that you will understand that the risk
is too great to be run for the sake of a stranger."

"A stranger?" said the Seigneur reproachfully.

"Practically a stranger to me," said Andre-Louis.

"But she is not a stranger to me, Andre. She is my cousin and very dear
and valued friend. And, mon Dieu, what you say but increases the
urgency of getting her out of Paris. She must be rescued, Andre, at all
costs--she must be rescued! Why, her case is infinitely more urgent than
Aline's!"

He stood a suppliant before his godson, very different now from the
stern man who had greeted him on his arrival. His face was pale, his
hands shook, and there were beads of perspiration on his brow.

"Monsieur my godfather, I would do anything in reason. But I cannot do
this. To rescue her might mean ruin for Aline and yourself as well as
for me."

"We must take the risk."

"You have a right to speak for yourself, of course."

"Oh, and for you, believe me, Andre, for you!" He came close to the
young man. "Andre, I implore you to take my word for that, and to obtain
this permit for Mme. de Plougastel."

Andre looked at him mystified. "This is fantastic," he said. "I have
grateful memories of the lady's interest in me for a few days once
when I was a child, and again more recently in Paris when she sought to
convert me to what she accounts the true political religion. But I do
not risk my neck for her--no, nor yours, nor Aline's."

"Ah! But, Andre..."

"That is my last word, monsieur. It is growing late, and I desire to
sleep in Paris."

"No, no! Wait!" The Lord of Gavrillac was displaying signs of
unspeakable distress. "Andre, you must!"

There was in this insistence and, still more, in the frenzied manner of
it, something so unreasonable that Andre could not fail to assume that
some dark and mysterious motive lay behind it.

"I must?" he echoed. "Why must I? Your reasons, monsieur?"

"Andre, my reasons are overwhelming."

"Pray allow me to be the judge of that." Andre-Louis' manner was almost
peremptory.

The demand seemed to reduce M. de Kercadiou to despair. He paced the
room, his hands tight-clasped behind him, his brow wrinkled. At last he
came to stand before his godson.

"Can't you take my word for it that these reasons exist?" he cried in
anguish.

"In such a matter as this--a matter that may involve my neck? Oh,
monsieur, is that reasonable?"

"I violate my word of honour, my oath, if I tell you." M. de Kercadiou
turned away, wringing his hands, his condition visibly piteous; then
turned again to Andre. "But in this extremity, in this desperate
extremity, and since you so ungenerously insist, I shall have to tell
you. God help me, I have no choice. She will realize that when she
knows. Andre, my boy..." He paused again, a man afraid. He set a hand
on his godson's shoulder, and to his increasing amazement Andre-Louis
perceived that over those pale, short-sighted eyes there was a film of
tears. "Mme. de Plougastel is your mother."

Followed, for a long moment, utter silence. This thing that he was
told was not immediately understood. When understanding came at last
Andre-Louis' first impulse was to cry out. But he possessed himself,
and played the Stoic. He must ever be playing something. That was in his
nature. And he was true to his nature even in this supreme moment. He
continued silent until, obeying that queer histrionic instinct, he could
trust himself to speak without emotion. "I see," he said, at last, quite
coolly.

His mind was sweeping back over the past. Swiftly he reviewed his
memories of Mme. de Plougastel, her singular if sporadic interest in
him, the curious blend of affection and wistfulness which her manner
towards him had always presented, and at last he understood so much that
hitherto had intrigued him.

"I see," he said again; and added now, "Of course, any but a fool would
have guessed it long ago."

It was M. de Kercadiou who cried out, M. de Kercadiou who recoiled as
from a blow.

"My God, Andre, of what are you made? You can take such an announcement
in this fashion?"

"And how would you have me take it? Should it surprise me to discover
that I had a mother? After all, a mother is an indispensable necessity
to getting one's self born."

He sat down abruptly, to conceal the too-revealing fact that his limbs
were shaking. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to mop his
brow, which had grown damp. And then, quite suddenly, he found himself
weeping.

At the sight of those tears streaming silently down that face that had
turned so pale, M. de Kercadiou came quickly across to him. He sat down
beside him and threw an arm affectionately over his shoulder.

"Andre, my poor lad," he murmured. "I... I was fool enough to think you
had no heart. You deceived me with your infernal pretence, and now I
see... I see..." He was not sure what it was that he saw, or else he
hesitated to express it.

"It is nothing, monsieur. I am tired out, and... and I have a cold in
the head." And then, finding the part beyond his power, he abruptly
threw it up, utterly abandoned all pretence. "Why... why has there been
all this mystery?" he asked. "Was it intended that I should never know?"

"It was, Andre. It... it had to be, for prudence' sake."

"But why? Complete your confidence, sir. Surely you cannot leave it
there. Having told me so much, you must tell me all."

"The reason, my boy, is that you were born some three years after your
mother's marriage with M. de Plougastel, some eighteen months after M.
de Plougastel had been away with the army, and some four months before
his return to his wife. It is a matter that M. de Plougastel has never
suspected, and for gravest family reasons must never suspect. That is
why the utmost secrecy has been preserved. That is why none was ever
allowed to know. Your mother came betimes into Brittany, and under an
assumed name spent some months in the village of Moreau. It was while
she was there that you were born."

Andre-Louis turned it over in his mind. He had dried his tears. And sat
now rigid and collected.

"When you say that none was ever allowed to know, you are telling me, of
course, that you, monsieur..."

"Oh, mon Dieu, no!" The denial came in a violent outburst. M. de
Kercadiou sprang to his feet propelled from Andre's side by the violence
of his emotions. It was as if the very suggestion filled him with
horror. "I was the only other one who knew. But it is not as you think,
Andre. You cannot imagine that I should lie to you, that I should deny
you if you were my son?"

"If you say that I am not, monsieur, that is sufficient."

"You are not. I was Therese's cousin and also, as she well knew, her
truest friend. She knew that she could trust me; and it was to me she
came for help in her extremity. Once, years before, I would have married
her. But, of course, I am not the sort of man a woman could love. She
trusted, however, to my love for her, and I have kept her trust."

"Then, who was my father?"

"I don't know. She never told me. It was her secret, and I did not pry.
It is not in my nature, Andre."

Andre-Louis got up, and stood silently facing M. de Kercadiou.

"You believe me, Andre."

"Naturally, monsieur; and I am sorry, I am sorry that I am not your
son."

M. de Kercadiou gripped his godson's hand convulsively, and held it
a moment with no word spoken. Then as they fell away from each other
again:

"And now, what will you do, Andre?" he asked. "Now that you know?"

Andre-Louis stood awhile, considering, then broke into laughter. The
situation had its humours. He explained them.

"What difference should the knowledge make? Is filial piety to be called
into existence by the mere announcement of relationship? Am I to risk
my neck through lack of circumspection on behalf of a mother so very
circumspect that she had no intention of ever revealing herself? The
discovery rests upon the merest chance, upon a fall of the dice of Fate.
Is that to weigh with me?"

"The decision is with you, Andre."

"Nay, it is beyond me. Decide it who can, I cannot."

"You mean that you refuse even now?"

"I mean that I consent. Since I cannot decide what it is that I should
do, it only remains for me to do what a son should. It is grotesque; but
all life is grotesque."

"You will never, never regret it."

"I hope not," said Andre. "Yet I think it very likely that I shall.
And now I had better see Rougane again at once, and obtain from him the
other two permits required. Then perhaps it will be best that I take
them to Paris myself, in the morning. If you will give me a bed,
monsieur, I shall be grateful. I... I confess that I am hardly in case
to do more to-night."



CHAPTER XIII. SANCTUARY

Into the late afternoon of that endless day of horror with its perpetual
alarms, its volleying musketry, rolling drums, and distant muttering
of angry multitudes, Mme. de Plougastel and Aline sat waiting in that
handsome house in the Rue du Paradis. It was no longer for Rougane they
waited. They realized that, be the reason what it might--and by now many
reasons must no doubt exist--this friendly messenger would not return.
They waited without knowing for what. They waited for whatever might
betide.

At one time early in the afternoon the roar of battle approached them,
racing swiftly in their direction, swelling each moment in volume and in
horror. It was the frenzied clamour of a multitude drunk with blood and
bent on destruction. Near at hand that fierce wave of humanity checked
in its turbulent progress. Followed blows of pikes upon a door and
imperious calls to open, and thereafter came the rending of timbers,
the shivering of glass, screams of terror blending with screams of rage,
and, running through these shrill sounds, the deeper diapason of bestial
laughter.

It was a hunt of two wretched Swiss guardsmen seeking blindly to escape.
And they were run to earth in a house in the neighbourhood, and there
cruelly done to death by that demoniac mob. The thing accomplished, the
hunters, male and female, forming into a battalion, came swinging down
the Rue du Paradis, chanting the song of Marseilles--a song new to Paris
in those days:


    Allons, enfants de la patrie!
    Le jour de gloire est arrive
    Contre nous de la tyrannie
    L'etendard sanglant est leve.

Nearer it came, raucously bawled by some hundreds of voices, a dread
sound that had come so suddenly to displace at least temporarily
the merry, trivial air of the "Ca ira!" which hitherto had been the
revolutionary carillon. Instinctively Mme. de Plougastel and Aline clung
to each other. They had heard the sound of the ravishing of that other
house in the neighbourhood, without knowledge of the reason. What if now
it should be the turn of the Hotel Plougastel! There was no real
cause to fear it, save that amid a turmoil imperfectly understood and
therefore the more awe-inspiring, the worst must be feared always.

The dreadful song so dreadfully sung, and the thunder of heavily shod
feet upon the roughly paved street, passed on and receded. They breathed
again, almost as if a miracle had saved them, to yield to fresh alarm an
instant later, when madame's young footman, Jacques, the most trusted
of her servants, burst into their presence unceremoniously with a scared
face, bringing the announcement that a man who had just climbed over the
garden wall professed himself a friend of madame's, and desired to be
brought immediately to her presence.

"But he looks like a sansculotte, madame," the staunch fellow warned
her.

Her thoughts and hopes leapt at once to Rougane.

"Bring him in," she commanded breathlessly.

Jacques went out, to return presently accompanied by a tall man in a
long, shabby, and very ample overcoat and a wide-brimmed hat that was
turned down all round, and adorned by an enormous tricolour cockade.
This hat he removed as he entered.

Jacques, standing behind him, perceived that his hair, although now
in some disorder, bore signs of having been carefully dressed. It was
clubbed, and it carried some lingering vestiges of powder. The young
footman wondered what it was in the man's face, which was turned from
him, that should cause his mistress to out and recoil. Then he found
himself dismissed abruptly by a gesture.

The newcomer advanced to the middle of the salon, moving like a man
exhausted and breathing hard. There he leaned against a table, across
which he confronted Mme. de Plougastel. And she stood regarding him, a
strange horror in her eyes.

In the background, on a settle at the salon's far end, sat Aline staring
in bewilderment and some fear at a face which, if unrecognizable through
the mask of blood and dust that smeared it, was yet familiar. And then
the man spoke, and instantly she knew the voice for that of the Marquis
de La Tour d'Azyr.

"My dear friend," he was saying, "forgive me if I startled you. Forgive
me if I thrust myself in here without leave, at such a time, in such a
manner. But... you see how it is with me. I am a fugitive. In the course
of my distracted flight, not knowing which way to turn for safety, I
thought of you. I told myself that if I could but safely reach your
house, I might find sanctuary."

"You are in danger?"

"In danger?" Almost he seemed silently to laugh at the unnecessary
question. "If I were to show myself openly in the streets just now, I
might with luck contrive to live for five minutes! My friend, it has
been a massacre. Some few of us escaped from the Tuileries at the end,
to be hunted to death in the streets. I doubt if by this time a single
Swiss survives. They had the worst of it, poor devils. And as for us--my
God! They hate us more than they hate the Swiss. Hence this filthy
disguise."

He peeled off the shaggy greatcoat, and casting it from him stepped
forth in the black satin that had been the general livery of the hundred
knights of the dagger who had rallied in the Tuileries that morning to
the defence of their king.

His coat was rent across the back, his neckcloth and the ruffles at his
wrists were torn and bloodstained; with his smeared face and disordered
headdress he was terrible to behold. Yet he contrived to carry himself
with his habitual easy assurance, remembered to kiss the trembling hand
which Mme. de Plougastel extended to him in welcome.

"You did well to come to me, Gervais," she said. "Yes, here is sanctuary
for the present. You will be quite safe, at least for as long as we are
safe. My servants are entirely trustworthy. Sit down and tell me all."

He obeyed her, collapsing almost into the armchair which she
thrust forward, a man exhausted, whether by physical exertion or by
nerve-strain, or both. He drew a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped
some of the blood and dirt from his face.

"It is soon told." His tone was bitter with the bitterness of despair.
"This, my dear, is the end of us. Plougastel is lucky in being across
the frontier at such a time. Had I not been fool enough to trust those
who to-day have proved themselves utterly unworthy of trust, that is
where I should be myself. My remaining in Paris is the crowning folly
of a life full of follies and mistakes. That I should come to you in
my hour of most urgent need adds point to it." He laughed in his
bitterness.

Madame moistened her dry lips. "And... and now?" she asked him.

"It only remains to get away as soon as may be, if it is still possible.
Here in France there is no longer any room for us--at least, not above
ground. To-day has proved it." And then he looked up at her, standing
there beside him so pale and timid, and he smiled. He patted the fine
hand that rested upon the arm of his chair. "My dear Therese, unless you
carry charitableness to the length of giving me to drink, you will
see me perish of thirst under your eyes before ever the canaille has a
chance to finish me."

She started. "I should have thought of it!" she cried in self-reproach,
and she turned quickly. "Aline," she begged, "tell Jacques to bring..."

"Aline!" he echoed, interrupting, and swinging round in his turn. Then,
as Aline rose into view, detaching from her background, and he at last
perceived her, he heaved himself abruptly to his weary legs again, and
stood there stiffly bowing to her across the space of gleaming floor.
"Mademoiselle, I had not suspected your presence," he said, and he
seemed extraordinarily ill-at-ease, a man startled, as if caught in an
illicit act.

"I perceived it, monsieur," she answered, as she advanced to do madame's
commission. She paused before him. "From my heart, monsieur, I grieve
that we should meet again in circumstances so very painful."

Not since the day of his duel with Andre-Louis--the day which had seen
the death and burial of his last hope of winning her--had they stood face
to face.

He checked as if on the point of answering her. His glance strayed to
Mme. de Plougastel, and, oddly reticent for one who could be very glib,
he bowed in silence.

"But sit, monsieur, I beg. You are fatigued."

"You are gracious to observe it. With your permission, then." And he
resumed his seat. She continued on her way to the door and passed out
upon her errand.

When presently she returned they had almost unaccountably changed
places. It was Mme. de Plougastel who was seated in that armchair of
brocade and gilt, and M. de La Tour d'Azyr who, despite his lassitude,
was leaning over the back of it talking earnestly, seeming by his
attitude to plead with her. On Aline's entrance he broke off instantly
and moved away, so that she was left with a sense of having intruded.
Further she observed that the Countess was in tears.

Following her came presently the diligent Jacques, bearing a tray laden
with food and wine. Madame poured for her guest, and he drank a long
draught of the Burgundy, then begged, holding forth his grimy hands,
that he might mend his appearance before sitting down to eat.

He was led away and valeted by Jacques, and when he returned he had
removed from his person the last vestige of the rough handling he had
received. He looked almost his normal self, the disorder in his attire
repaired, calm and dignified and courtly in his bearing, but very pale
and haggard of face, seeming suddenly to have increased in years, to
have reached in appearance the age that was in fact his own.

As he ate and drank--and this with appetite, for as he told them he had
not tasted food since early morning--he entered into the details of the
dreadful events of the day, and gave them the particulars of his own
escape from the Tuileries when all was seen to be lost and when the
Swiss, having burnt their last cartridge, were submitting to wholesale
massacre at the hands of the indescribably furious mob.

"Oh, it was all most ill done," he ended critically. "We were timid when
we should have been resolute, and resolute at last when it was too late.
That is the history of our side from the beginning of this accursed
struggle. We have lacked proper leadership throughout, and now--as I have
said already--there is an end to us. It but remains to escape, as soon as
we can discover how the thing is to be accomplished."

Madame told him of the hopes that she had centred upon Rougane.

It lifted him out of his gloom. He was disposed to be optimistic.

"You are wrong to have abandoned that hope," he assured her. "If this
mayor is so well disposed, he certainly can do as his son promised. But
last night it would have been too late for him to have reached you, and
to-day, assuming that he had come to Paris, almost impossible for him
to win across the streets from the other side. It is most likely that he
will yet come. I pray that he may; for the knowledge that you and Mlle.
de Kercadiou are out of this would comfort me above all."

"We should take you with us," said madame.

"Ah! But how?"

"Young Rougane was to bring me permits for three persons--Aline, myself,
and my footman, Jacques. You would take the place of Jacques."

"Faith, to get out of Paris, madame, there is no man whose place I would
not take." And he laughed.

Their spirits rose with his and their flagging hopes revived. But as
dusk descended again upon the city, without any sign of the deliverer
they awaited, those hopes began to ebb once more.

M. de La Tour d'Azyr at last pleaded weariness, and begged to be
permitted to withdraw that he might endeavour to take some rest against
whatever might have to be faced in the immediate future. When he had
gone, madame persuaded Aline to go and lie down.

"I will call you, my dear, the moment he arrives," she said, bravely
maintaining that pretence of a confidence that had by now entirely
evaporated.

Aline kissed her affectionately, and departed, outwardly so calm and
unperturbed as to leave the Countess wondering whether she realized the
peril by which they were surrounded, a peril infinitely increased by the
presence in that house of a man so widely known and detested as M. de La
Tour d'Azyr, a man who was probably being sought for by his enemies at
this moment.

Left alone, madame lay down on a couch in the salon itself, to be
ready for any emergency. It was a hot summer night, and the glass doors
opening upon the luxuriant garden stood wide to admit the air. On that
air came intermittently from the distance sounds of the continuing
horrible activities of the populace, the aftermath of that bloody day.

Mme. de Plougastel lay there, listening to those sounds for upwards of
an hour, thanking Heaven that for the present at least the disturbances
were distant, dreading lest at any moment they should occur nearer at
hand, lest this Bondy section in which her hotel was situated should
become the scene of horrors similar to those whose echoes reached her
ears from other sections away to the south and west.

The couch occupied by the Countess lay in shadow; for all the lights in
that long salon had been extinguished with the exception of a cluster
of candles in a massive silver candle branch placed on a round marquetry
table in the middle of the room--an island of light in the surrounding
gloom.

The timepiece on the overmantel chimed melodiously the hour of ten,
and then, startling in the suddenness with which it broke the immediate
silence, another sound vibrated through the house, and brought madame
to her feet, in a breathless mingling of hope and dread. Some one
was knocking sharply on the door below. Followed moments of agonized
suspense, culminating in the abrupt invasion of the room by the footman
Jacques. He looked round, not seeing his mistress at first.

"Madame! Madame!" he panted, out of breath.

"What is it, Jacques!" Her voice was steady now that the need for
self-control seemed thrust upon her. She advanced from the shadows
into that island of light about the table. "There is a man below. He is
asking... he is demanding to see you at once."

"A man?" she questioned.

"He... he seems to be an official; at least he wears the sash of office.
And he refuses to give any name; he says that his name would convey
nothing to you. He insists that he must see you in person and at once."

"An official?" said madame.

"An official," Jacques repeated. "I would not have admitted him, but
that he demanded it in the name of the Nation. Madame, it is for you to
say what shall be done. Robert is with me. If you wish it... whatever it
may be..."

"My good Jacques, no, no." She was perfectly composed. "If this man
intended evil, surely he would not come alone. Conduct him to me, and
then beg Mlle. de Kercadiou to join me if she is awake."

Jacques departed, himself partly reassured. Madame seated herself in the
armchair by the table well within the light. She smoothed her dress with
a mechanical hand. If, as it would seem, her hopes had been futile, so
had her momentary fears. A man on any but an errand of peace would have
brought some following with him, as she had said.

The door opened again, and Jacques reappeared; after him, stepping
briskly past him, came a slight man in a wide-brimmed hat, adorned by a
tricolour cockade. About the waist of an olive-green riding-coat he wore
a broad tricolour sash; a sword hung at his side.

He swept off his hat, and the candlelight glinted on the steel buckle in
front of it. Madame found herself silently regarded by a pair of large,
dark eyes set in a lean, brown face, eyes that were most singularly
intent and searching.

She leaned forward, incredulity swept across her countenance. Then her
eyes kindled, and the colour came creeping back into her pale cheeks.
She rose suddenly. She was trembling.

"Andre-Louis!" she exclaimed.



CHAPTER XIV. THE BARRIER

That gift of laughter of his seemed utterly extinguished. For once there
was no gleam of humour in those dark eyes, as they continued to consider
her with that queer stare of scrutiny. And yet, though his gaze was
sombre, his thoughts were not. With his cruelly true mental vision which
pierced through shams, and his capacity for detached observation--which
properly applied might have carried him very far, indeed--he perceived
the grotesqueness, the artificiality of the emotion which in that moment
he experienced, but by which he refused to be possessed. It sprang
entirely from the consciousness that she was his mother; as if, all
things considered, the more or less accidental fact that she had brought
him into the world could establish between them any real bond at this
time of day! The motherhood that bears and forsakes is less than animal.
He had considered this; he had been given ample leisure in which to
consider it during those long, turbulent hours in which he had been
forced to wait, because it would have been almost impossible to have won
across that seething city, and certainly unwise to have attempted so to
do.

He had reached the conclusion that by consenting to go to her rescue
at such a time he stood committed to a piece of purely sentimental
quixotry. The quittances which the Mayor of Meudon had exacted from him
before he would issue the necessary safe-conducts placed the whole of
his future, perhaps his very life, in jeopardy. And he had consented to
do this not for the sake of a reality, but out of regard for an idea--he
who all his life had avoided the false lure of worthless and hollow
sentimentality.

Thus thought Andre-Louis as he considered her now so searchingly,
finding it, naturally enough, a matter of extraordinary interest to
look consciously upon his mother for the first time at the age of
eight-and-twenty.

From her he looked at last at Jacques, who remained at attention,
waiting by the open door.

"Could we be alone, madame?" he asked her.

She waved the footman away, and the door closed. In agitated silence,
unquestioning, she waited for him to account for his presence there at
so extraordinary a time.

"Rougane could not return," he informed her shortly. "At M. de
Kercadiou's request, I come instead."

"You! You are sent to rescue us!" The note of amazement in her voice was
stronger than that of her relief.

"That, and to make your acquaintance, madame."

"To make my acquaintance? But what do you mean, Andre-Louis?"

"This letter from M. de Kercadiou will tell you." Intrigued by his odd
words and odder manner, she took the folded sheet. She broke the seal
with shaking hands, and with shaking hands approached the written page
to the light. Her eyes grew troubled as she read; the shaking of her
hands increased, and midway through that reading a moan escaped her.
One glance that was almost terror she darted at the slim, straight man
standing so incredibly impassive upon the edge of the light, and
then she endeavoured to read on. But the crabbed characters of M. de
Kercadiou swam distortedly under her eyes. She could not read. Besides,
what could it matter what else he said. She had read enough. The sheet
fluttered from her hands to the table, and out of a face that was like a
face of wax, she looked now with a wistfulness, a sadness indescribable,
at Andre-Louis.

"And so you know, my child?" Her voice was stifled to a whisper.

"I know, madame my mother."

The grimness, the subtle blend of merciless derision and reproach in
which it was uttered completely escaped her. She cried out at the new
name. For her in that moment time and the world stood still. Her peril
there in Paris as the wife of an intriguer at Coblenz was blotted out,
together with every other consideration--thrust out of a consciousness
that could find room for nothing else beside the fact that she stood
acknowledged by her only son, this child begotten in adultery, borne
furtively and in shame in a remote Brittany village eight-and-twenty
years ago. Not even a thought for the betrayal of that inviolable
secret, or the consequences that might follow, could she spare in this
supreme moment.

She took one or two faltering steps towards him, hesitating. Then she
opened her arms. Sobs suffocated her voice.

"Won't you come to me, Andre-Louis?"

A moment yet he stood hesitating, startled by that appeal, angered
almost by his heart's response to it, reason and sentiment at grips
in his soul. This was not real, his reason postulated; this poignant
emotion that she displayed and that he experienced was fantastic. Yet he
went. Her arms enfolded him; her wet cheek was pressed hard against his
own; her frame, which the years had not yet succeeded in robbing of its
grace, was shaken by the passionate storm within her.

"Oh, Andre-Louis, my child, if you knew how I have hungered to hold you
so! If you knew how in denying myself this I have atoned and suffered!
Kercadiou should not have told you--not even now. It was wrong--most
wrong, perhaps, to you. It would have been better that he should have
left me here to my fate, whatever that may be. And yet--come what may of
this--to be able to hold you so, to be able to acknowledge you, to hear
you call me mother--oh! Andre-Louis, I cannot now regret it. I cannot...
I cannot wish it otherwise."

"Is there any need, madame?" he asked her, his stoicism deeply shaken.
"There is no occasion to take others into our confidence. This is for
to-night alone. To-night we are mother and son. To-morrow we resume our
former places, and, outwardly at least, forget."

"Forget? Have you no heart, Andre-Louis?"

The question recalled him curiously to his attitude towards life--that
histrionic attitude of his that he accounted true philosophy. Also he
remembered what lay before them; and he realized that he must master not
only himself but her; that to yield too far to sentiment at such a time
might be the ruin of them all.

"It is a question propounded to me so often that it must contain the
truth," said he. "My rearing is to blame for that."

She tightened her clutch about his neck even as he would have attempted
to disengage himself from her embrace.

"You do not blame me for your rearing? Knowing all, as you do,
Andre-Louis, you cannot altogether blame. You must be merciful to me.
You must forgive me. You must! I had no choice."

"When we know all of whatever it may be, we can never do anything but
forgive, madame. That is the profoundest religious truth that was ever
written. It contains, in fact, a whole religion--the noblest religion
any man could have to guide him. I say this for your comfort, madame my
mother."

She sprang away from him with a startled cry. Beyond him in the shadows
by the door a pale figure shimmered ghostly. It advanced into the light,
and resolved itself into Aline. She had come in answer to that forgotten
summons madame had sent her by Jacques. Entering unperceived she had
seen Andre-Louis in the embrace of the woman whom he addressed as
"mother." She had recognized him instantly by his voice, and she could
not have said what bewildered her more: his presence there or the thing
she overheard.

"You heard, Aline?" madame exclaimed.

"I could not help it, madame. You sent for me. I am sorry if..." She
broke off, and looked at Andre-Louis long and curiously. She was pale,
but quite composed. She held out her hand to him. "And so you have come
at last, Andre," said she. "You might have come before."

"I come when I am wanted," was his answer. "Which is the only time in
which one can be sure of being received." He said it without bitterness,
and having said it stooped to kiss her hand.

"You can forgive me what is past, I hope, since I failed of my purpose,"
he said gently, half-pleading. "I could not have come to you pretending
that the failure was intentional--a compromise between the necessities of
the case and your own wishes. For it was not that. And yet, you do not
seem to have profited by my failure. You are still a maid."

She turned her shoulder to him.

"There are things," she said, "that you will never understand."

"Life, for one," he acknowledged. "I confess that I am finding it
bewildering. The very explanations calculated to simplify it seem but to
complicate it further." And he looked at Mme. de Plougastel.

"You mean something, I suppose," said mademoiselle.

"Aline!" It was the Countess who spoke. She knew the danger of
half-discoveries. "I can trust you, child, I know, and Andre-Louis, I am
sure, will offer no objection." She had taken up the letter to show it
to Aline. Yet first her eyes questioned him.

"Oh, none, madame," he assured her. "It is entirely a matter for
yourself."

Aline looked from one to the other with troubled eyes, hesitating to
take the letter that was now proffered. When she had read it through,
she very thoughtfully replaced it on the table. A moment she stood there
with bowed head, the other two watching her. Then impulsively she ran to
madame and put her arms about her.

"Aline!" It was a cry of wonder, almost of joy. "You do not utterly
abhor me!"

"My dear," said Aline, and kissed the tear-stained face that seemed to
have grown years older in these last few hours.

In the background Andre-Louis, steeling himself against emotionalism,
spoke with the voice of Scaramouche.

"It would be well, mesdames, to postpone all transports until they can
be indulged at greater leisure and in more security. It is growing late.
If we are to get out of this shambles we should be wise to take the road
without more delay."

It was a tonic as effective as it was necessary. It startled them into
remembrance of their circumstances, and under the spur of it they went
at once to make their preparations.

They left him for perhaps a quarter of an hour, to pace that long room
alone, saved only from impatience by the turmoil of his mind. When
at length they returned, they were accompanied by a tall man in a
full-skirted shaggy greatcoat and a broad hat the brim of which was
turned down all around. He remained respectfully by the door in the
shadows.

Between them the two women had concerted it thus, or rather the Countess
had so concerted it when Aline had warned her that Andre-Louis' bitter
hostility towards the Marquis made it unthinkable that he should move a
finger consciously to save him.

Now despite the close friendship uniting M. de Kercadiou and his niece
with Mme. de Plougastel, there were several matters concerning them of
which the Countess was in ignorance. One of these was the project at one
time existing of a marriage between Aline and M. de La Tour d'Azyr.
It was a matter that Aline--naturally enough in the state of her
feelings--had never mentioned, nor had M. de Kercadiou ever alluded to it
since his coming to Meudon, by when he had perceived how unlikely it was
ever to be realized.

M. de La Tour d'Azyr's concern for Aline on that morning of the duel
when he had found her half-swooning in Mme. de Plougastel's carriage had
been of a circumspection that betrayed nothing of his real interest in
her, and therefore had appeared no more than natural in one who must
account himself the cause of her distress. Similarly Mme. de Plougastel
had never realized nor did she realize now--for Aline did not trouble
fully to enlighten her--that the hostility between the two men was other
than political, the quarrel other than that which already had taken
Andre-Louis to the Bois on every day of the preceding week. But, at
least, she realized that even if Andre-Louis' rancour should have no
other source, yet that inconclusive duel was cause enough for Aline's
fears.

And so she had proposed this obvious deception; and Aline had consented
to be a passive party to it. They had made the mistake of not fully
forewarning and persuading M. de La Tour d'Azyr. They had trusted
entirely to his anxiety to escape from Paris to keep him rigidly within
the part imposed upon him. They had reckoned without the queer sense
of honour that moved such men as M. le Marquis, nurtured upon a code of
shams.

Andre-Louis, turning to scan that muffled figure, advanced from the
dark depths of the salon. As the light beat on his white, lean face the
pseudo-footman started. The next moment he too stepped forward into
the light, and swept his broad-brimmed hat from his brow. As he did so
Andre-Louis observed that his hand was fine and white and that a
jewel flashed from one of the fingers. Then he caught his breath, and
stiffened in every line as he recognized the face revealed to him.

"Monsieur," that stern, proud man was saying, "I cannot take advantage
of your ignorance. If these ladies can persuade you to save me, at least
it is due to you that you shall know whom you are saving."

He stood there by the table very erect and dignified, ready to perish as
he had lived--if perish he must--without fear and without deception.

Andre-Louis came slowly forward until he reached the table on the other
side, and then at last the muscles of his set face relaxed, and he
laughed.

"You laugh?" said M. de La Tour d'Azyr, frowning, offended.

"It is so damnably amusing," said Andre-Louis.

"You've an odd sense of humour, M. Moreau."

"Oh, admitted. The unexpected always moves me so. I have found you many
things in the course of our acquaintance. To-night you are the one thing
I never expected to find you: an honest man."

M. de La Tour d'Azyr quivered. But he attempted no reply.

"Because of that, monsieur, I am disposed to be clement. It is probably
a foolishness. But you have surprised me into it. I give you three
minutes, monsieur, in which to leave this house, and to take your own
measures for your safety. What afterwards happens to you shall be no
concern of mine."

"Ah, no, Andre! Listen..." Madame began in anguish.

"Pardon, madame. It is the utmost that I will do, and already I am
violating what I conceive to be my duty. If M. de La Tour d'Azyr remains
he not only ruins himself, but he imperils you. For unless he departs
at once, he goes with me to the headquarters of the section, and the
section will have his head on a pike inside the hour. He is a notorious
counter-revolutionary, a knight of the dagger, one of those whom an
exasperated populace is determined to exterminate. Now, monsieur, you
know what awaits you. Resolve yourself and at once, for these ladies'
sake."

"But you don't know, Andre-Louis!" Mme. de Plougastel's condition was
one of anguish indescribable. She came to him and clutched his arm. "For
the love of Heaven, Andre-Louis, be merciful with him! You must!"

"But that is what I am being, madame--merciful; more merciful than he
deserves. And he knows it. Fate has meddled most oddly in our concerns
to bring us together to-night. Almost it is as if Fate were forcing
retribution at last upon him. Yet, for your sakes, I take no advantage
of it, provided that he does at once as I have desired him."

And now from beyond the table the Marquis spoke icily, and as he spoke
his right hand stirred under the ample folds of his greatcoat.

"I am glad, M. Moreau, that you take that tone with me. You relieve me
of the last scruple. You spoke of Fate just now, and I must agree with
you that Fate has meddled oddly, though perhaps not to the end that you
discern. For years now you have chosen to stand in my path and thwart me
at every turn, holding over me a perpetual menace. Persistently you have
sought my life in various ways, first indirectly and at last directly.
Your intervention in my affairs has ruined my highest hopes--more
effectively, perhaps, than you suppose. Throughout you have been my evil
genius. And you are even one of the agents of this climax of despair
that has been reached by me to-night."

"Wait! Listen!" Madame was panting. She flung away from Andre-Louis,
as if moved by some premonition of what was coming. "Gervais! This is
horrible!"

"Horrible, perhaps, but inevitable. Himself he has invited it. I am a
man in despair, the fugitive of a lost cause. That man holds the keys
of escape. And, besides, between him and me there is a reckoning to be
paid."

His hand came from beneath the coat at last, and it came armed with a
pistol.

Mme. de Plougastel screamed, and flung herself upon him. On her knees
now, she clung to his arm with all her strength and might.

Vainly he sought to shake himself free of that desperate clutch.

"Therese!" he cried. "Are you mad? Will you destroy me and yourself?
This creature has the safe-conducts that mean our salvation. Himself, he
is nothing."

From the background Aline, a breathless, horror-stricken spectator
of that scene, spoke sharply, her quick mind pointing out the line of
checkmate.

"Burn the safe-conducts, Andre-Louis. Burn them at once--in the candles
there."

But Andre-Louis had taken advantage of that moment of M. de La Tour
d'Azyr's impotence to draw a pistol in his turn. "I think it will be
better to burn his brains instead," he said. "Stand away from him,
madame."

Far from obeying that imperious command, Mme. de Plougastel rose to her
feet to cover the Marquis with her body. But she still clung to his arm,
clung to it with unsuspected strength that continued to prevent him from
attempting to use the pistol.

"Andre! For God's sake, Andre!" she panted hoarsely over her shoulder.

"Stand away, madame," he commanded her again, more sternly, "and let
this murderer take his due. He is jeopardizing all our lives, and his
own has been forfeit these years. Stand away!" He sprang forward with
intent now to fire at his enemy over her shoulder, and Aline moved too
late to hinder him.

"Andre! Andre!"

Panting, gasping, haggard of face, on the verge almost of hysteria,
the distracted Countess flung at last an effective, a terrible barrier
between the hatred of those men, each intent upon taking the other's
life.

"He is your father, Andre! Gervais, he is your son--our son! The letter
there... on the table... O my God!" And she slipped nervelessly to the
ground, and crouched there sobbing at the feet of M. de La Tour d'Azyr.



CHAPTER XV. SAFE-CONDUCT

Across the body of that convulsively sobbing woman, the mother of one
and the mistress of the other, the eyes of those mortal enemies met,
invested with a startled, appalled interest that admitted of no words.

Beyond the table, as if turned to stone by this culminating horror of
revelation, stood Aline.

M. de La Tour d'Azyr was the first to stir. Into his bewildered mind
came the memory of something that Mme. de Plougastel had said of
a letter that was on the table. He came forward, unhindered. The
announcement made, Mme. de Plougastel no longer feared the sequel, and
so she let him go. He walked unsteadily past this new-found son of his,
and took up the sheet that lay beside the candlebranch. A long moment
he stood reading it, none heeding him. Aline's eyes were all on
Andre-Louis, full of wonder and commiseration, whilst Andre-Louis was
staring down, in stupefied fascination, at his mother.

M. de La Tour d'Azyr read the letter slowly through. Then very quietly
he replaced it. His next concern, being the product of an artificial age
sternly schooled in the suppression of emotion, was to compose himself.
Then he stepped back to Mme. de Plougastel's side and stooped to raise
her.

"Therese," he said.

Obeying, by instinct, the implied command, she made an effort to rise
and to control herself in her turn. The Marquis half conducted, half
carried her to the armchair by the table.

Andre-Louis looked on. Still numbed and bewildered, he made no attempt
to assist. He saw as in a dream the Marquis bending over Mme. de
Plougastel. As in a dream he heard him ask:

"How long have you known this, Therese?"

"I... I have always known it... always. I confided him to Kercadiou. I
saw him once as a child... Oh, but what of that?"

"Why was I never told? Why did you deceive me? Why did you tell me that
this child had died a few days after birth? Why, Therese? Why?"

"I was afraid. I... I thought it better so--that nobody, nobody, not even
you, should know. And nobody has known save Quintin until last night,
when to induce him to come here and save me he was forced to tell him."

"But I, Therese?" the Marquis insisted. "It was my right to know."

"Your right? What could you have done? Acknowledge him? And then? Ha!"
It was a queer, desperate note of laughter. "There was Plougastel; there
was my family. And there was you... you, yourself, who had ceased to
care, in whom the fear of discovery had stifled love. Why should I have
told you, then? Why? I should not have told you now had there been
any other way to... to save you both. Once before I suffered just such
dreadful apprehensions when you and he fought in the Bois. I was on my
way to prevent it when you met me. I would have divulged the truth, as
a last resource, to avert that horror. But mercifully God spared me the
necessity then."

It had not occurred to any of them to doubt her statement, incredible
though it might seem. Had any done so her present words must have
resolved all doubt, explaining as they did much that to each of her
listeners had been obscure until this moment.

M. de La Tour d'Azyr, overcome, reeled away to a chair and sat down
heavily. Losing command of himself for a moment, he took his haggard
face in his hands.

Through the windows open to the garden came from the distance the faint
throbbing of a drum to remind them of what was happening around them.
But the sound went unheeded. To each it must have seemed that here
they were face to face with a horror greater than any that might be
tormenting Paris. At last Andre-Louis began to speak, his voice level
and unutterably cold.

"M. de La Tour d'Azyr," he said, "I trust that you'll agree that this
disclosure, which can hardly be more distasteful and horrible to you
than it is to me, alters nothing, since it effaces nothing of all
that lies between us. Or, if it alters anything, it is merely to add
something to that score. And yet... Oh, but what can it avail to talk!
Here, monsieur, take this safe-conduct which is made out for Mme. de
Plougastel's footman, and with it make your escape as best you can. In
return I will beg of you the favour never to allow me to see you or hear
of you again."

"Andre!" His mother swung upon him with that cry. And yet again that
question. "Have you no heart? What has he ever done to you that you
should nurse so bitter a hatred of him?"

"You shall hear, madame. Once, two years ago in this very room I told
you of a man who had brutally killed my dearest friend and debauched the
girl I was to have married. M. de La Tour d'Azyr is that man."

A moan was her only answer. She covered her face with her hands.

The Marquis rose slowly to his feet again. He came slowly forward, his
smouldering eyes scanning his son's face.

"You are hard," he said grimly. "But I recognize the hardness. It
derives from the blood you bear."

"Spare me that," said Andre-Louis.

The Marquis inclined his head. "I will not mention it again. But I
desire that you should at least understand me, and you too, Therese. You
accuse me, sir, of murdering your dearest friend. I will admit that the
means employed were perhaps unworthy. But what other means were at my
command to meet an urgency that every day since then proves to have
existed? M. de Vilmorin was a revolutionary, a man of new ideas that
should overthrow society and rebuild it more akin to the desires of such
as himself. I belonged to the order that quite as justifiably desired
society to remain as it was. Not only was it better so for me and mine,
but I also contend, and you have yet to prove me wrong, that it is
better so for all the world; that, indeed, no other conceivable society
is possible. Every human society must of necessity be composed of
several strata. You may disturb it temporarily into an amorphous whole
by a revolution such as this; but only temporarily. Soon out of the
chaos which is all that you and your kind can ever produce, order must
be restored or life will perish; and with the restoration of order comes
the restoration of the various strata necessary to organized society.
Those that were yesterday at the top may in the new order of things find
themselves dispossessed without any benefit to the whole. That change
I resisted. The spirit of it I fought with whatever weapons were
available, whenever and wherever I encountered it. M. de Vilmorin was
an incendiary of the worst type, a man of eloquence full of false ideals
that misled poor ignorant men into believing that the change proposed
could make the world a better place for them. You are an intelligent
man, and I defy you to answer me from your heart and conscience that
such a thing was true or possible. You know that it is untrue; you know
that it is a pernicious doctrine; and what made it worse on the lips
of M. de Vilmorin was that he was sincere and eloquent. His voice was
a danger that must be removed--silenced. So much was necessary in
self-defence. In self-defence I did it. I had no grudge against M. de
Vilmorin. He was a man of my own class; a gentleman of pleasant ways,
amiable, estimable, and able.

"You conceive me slaying him for the very lust of slaying, like some
beast of the jungle flinging itself upon its natural prey. That has
been your error from the first. I did what I did with the very heaviest
heart--oh, spare me your sneer!--I do not lie, I have never lied. And I
swear to you here and now, by my every hope of Heaven, that what I say
is true. I loathed the thing I did. Yet for my own sake and the sake of
my order I must do it. Ask yourself whether M. de Vilmorin would have
hesitated for a moment if by procuring my death he could have brought
the Utopia of his dreams a moment nearer realization.

"After that. You determined that the sweetest vengeance would be to
frustrate my ends by reviving in yourself the voice that I had silenced,
by yourself carrying forward the fantastic apostleship of equality that
was M. de Vilmorin's. You lacked the vision that would have shown you
that God did not create men equals. Well, you are in case to-night to
judge which of us was right, which wrong. You see what is happening here
in Paris. You see the foul spectre of Anarchy stalking through a land
fallen into confusion. Probably you have enough imagination to conceive
something of what must follow. And do you deceive yourself that out of
this filth and ruin there will rise up an ideal form of society? Don't
you understand that society must re-order itself presently out of all
this?

"But why say more? I must have said enough to make you understand the
only thing that really matters--that I killed M. de Vilmorin as a matter
of duty to my order. And the truth--which though it may offend you should
also convince you--is that to-night I can look back on the deed with
equanimity, without a single regret, apart from what lies between you
and me.

"When, kneeling beside the body of your friend that day at Gavrillac,
you insulted and provoked me, had I been the tiger you conceived me
I must have killed you too. I am, as you may know, a man of quick
passions. Yet I curbed the natural anger you aroused in me, because
I could forgive an affront to myself where I could not overlook a
calculated attack upon my order."

He paused a moment. Andre-Louis stood rigid listening and wondering.
So, too, the others. Then M. le Marquis resumed, on a note of less
assurance. "In the matter of Mlle. Binet I was unfortunate. I wronged
you through inadvertence. I had no knowledge of the relations between
you."

Andre-Louis interrupted him sharply at last with a question: "Would it
have made a difference if you had?"

"No," he was answered frankly. "I have the faults of my kind. I cannot
pretend that any such scruple as you suggest would have weighed with me.
But can you--if you are capable of any detached judgment--blame me very
much for that?"

"All things considered, monsieur, I am rapidly being forced to the
conclusion that it is impossible to blame any man for anything in this
world; that we are all of us the sport of destiny. Consider, monsieur,
this gathering--this family gathering--here to-night, whilst out there...
O my God, let us make an end! Let us go our ways and write 'finis' to
this horrible chapter of our lives."

M. le La Tour considered him gravely, sadly, in silence for a moment.

"Perhaps it is best," he said, at length, in a small voice. He turned to
Mme. de Plougastel. "If a wrong I have to admit in my life, a wrong
that I must bitterly regret, it is the wrong that I have done to you, my
dear..."

"Not now, Gervais! Not now!" she faltered, interrupting him.

"Now--for the first and the last time. I am going. It is not likely that
we shall ever meet again--that I shall ever see any of you again--you who
should have been the nearest and dearest to me. We are all, he says, the
sport of destiny. Ah, but not quite. Destiny is an intelligent force,
moving with purpose. In life we pay for the evil that in life we do.
That is the lesson that I have learnt to-night. By an act of betrayal
I begot unknown to me a son who, whilst as ignorant as myself of our
relationship, has come to be the evil genius of my life, to cross
and thwart me, and finally to help to pull me down in ruin. It is
just--poetically just. My full and resigned acceptance of that fact is
the only atonement I can offer you."

He stooped and took one of madame's hands that lay limply in her lap.

"Good-bye, Therese!" His voice broke. He had reached the end of his iron
self-control.

She rose and clung to him a moment, unashamed before them. The ashes of
that dead romance had been deeply stirred this night, and deep down some
lingering embers had been found that glowed brightly now before their
final extinction. Yet she made no attempt to detain him. She understood
that their son had pointed out the only wise, the only possible course,
and was thankful that M. de La Tour d'Azyr accepted it.

"God keep you, Gervais," she murmured. "You will take the safe-conduct,
and... and you will let me know when you are safe?"

He held her face between his hands an instant; then very gently kissed
her and put her from him. Standing erect, and outwardly calm again, he
looked across at Andre-Louis who was proffering him a sheet of paper.

"It is the safe-conduct. Take it, monsieur. It is my first and last gift
to you, and certainly the last gift I should ever have thought of making
you--the gift of life. In a sense it makes us quits. The irony, sir, is
not mine, but Fate's. Take it, monsieur, and go in peace."

M. de La Tour d'Azyr took it. His eyes looked hungrily into the lean
face confronting him, so sternly set. He thrust the paper into his
bosom, and then abruptly, convulsively, held out his hand. His son's
eyes asked a question.

"Let there be peace between us, in God's name," said the Marquis
thickly.

Pity stirred at last in Andre-Louis. Some of the sternness left his
face. He sighed. "Good-bye, monsieur," he said.

"You are hard," his father told him, speaking wistfully. "But perhaps
you are in the right so to be. In other circumstances I should have been
proud to have owned you as my son. As it is..." He broke off abruptly,
and as abruptly added, "Good-bye."

He loosed his son's hand and stepped back. They bowed formally to each
other. And then M. de La Tour d'Azyr bowed to Mlle. de Kercadiou in
utter silence, a bow that contained something of utter renunciation, of
finality.

That done he turned and walked stiffly out of the room, and so out of
all their lives. Months later they were to hear of him in the service of
the Emperor of Austria.



CHAPTER XVI. SUNRISE

Andre-Louis took the air next morning on the terrace at Meudon. The hour
was very early, and the newly risen sun was transmuting into diamonds
the dewdrops that still lingered on the lawn. Down in the valley, five
miles away, the morning mists were rising over Paris. Yet early as it
was that house on the hill was astir already, in a bustle of preparation
for the departure that was imminent.

Andre-Louis had won safely out of Paris last night with his mother and
Aline, and to-day they were to set out all of them for Coblenz.

To Andre-Louis, sauntering there with hands clasped behind him and head
hunched between his shoulders--for life had never been richer in material
for reflection--came presently Aline through one of the glass doors from
the library.

"You're early astir," she greeted him.

"Faith, yes. I haven't been to bed. No," he assured her, in answer to
her exclamation. "I spent the night, or what was left of it, sitting at
the window thinking."

"My poor Andre!"

"You describe me perfectly. I am very poor--for I know nothing,
understand nothing. It is not a calamitous condition until it is
realized. Then..." He threw out his arms, and let them fall again. His
face she observed was very drawn and haggard.

She paced with him along the old granite balustrade over which the
geraniums flung their mantle of green and scarlet.

"Have you decided what you are going to do?" she asked him.

"I have decided that I have no choice. I, too, must emigrate. I am lucky
to be able to do so, lucky to have found no one amid yesterday's chaos
in Paris to whom I could report myself as I foolishly desired, else
I might no longer be armed with these." He drew from his pocket the
powerful passport of the Commission of Twelve, enjoining upon all
Frenchmen to lend him such assistance as he might require, and warning
those who might think of hindering him that they did so at their own
peril. He spread it before her. "With this I conduct you all safely to
the frontier. Over the frontier M. de Kercadiou and Mme. de Plougastel
will have to conduct me; and then we shall be quits."

"Quits?" quoth she. "But you will be unable to return!"

"You conceive, of course, my eagerness to do so. My child, in a day or
two there will be enquiries. It will be asked what has become of me.
Things will transpire. Then the hunt will start. But by then we shall be
well upon our way, well ahead of any possible pursuit. You don't imagine
that I could ever give the government any satisfactory explanation of my
absence--assuming that any government remains to which to explain it?"

"You mean... that you will sacrifice your future, this career upon which
you have embarked?" It took her breath away.

"In the pass to which things have come there is no career for me down
there--at least no honest one. And I hope you do not think that I could
be dishonest. It is the day of the Dantons, and the Marats, the day of
the rabble. The reins of government will be tossed to the populace, or
else the populace, drunk with the conceit with which the Dantons and the
Marats have filled it, will seize the reins by force. Chaos must follow,
and a despotism of brutes and apes, a government of the whole by its
lowest parts. It cannot endure, because unless a nation is ruled by its
best elements it must wither and decay."

"I thought you were a republican," said she.

"Why, so I am. I am talking like one. I desire a society which selects
its rulers from the best elements of every class and denies the right of
any class or corporation to usurp the government to itself--whether it
be the nobles, the clergy, the bourgeoisie, or the proletariat. For
government by any one class is fatal to the welfare of the whole. Two
years ago our ideal seemed to have been realized. The monopoly of power
had been taken from the class that had held it too long and too unjustly
by the hollow right of heredity. It had been distributed as evenly as
might be throughout the State, and if men had only paused there, all
would have been well. But our impetus carried us too far, the privileged
orders goaded us on by their very opposition, and the result is the
horror of which yesterday you saw no more than the beginnings. No,
no," he ended. "Careers there may be for venal place-seekers, for
opportunists; but none for a man who desires to respect himself. It is
time to go. I make no sacrifice in going."

"But where will you go? What will you do?"

"Oh, something. Consider that in four years I have been lawyer,
politician, swordsman, and buffoon--especially the latter. There is
always a place in the world for Scaramouche. Besides, do you know that
unlike Scaramouche I have been oddly provident? I am the owner of a
little farm in Saxony. I think that agriculture might suit me. It is a
meditative occupation; and when all is said, I am not a man of action. I
haven't the qualities for the part."

She looked up into his face, and there was a wistful smile in her deep
blue eyes.

"Is there any part for which you have not the qualities, I wonder?"

"Do you really? Yet you cannot say that I have made a success of any
of those which I have played. I have always ended by running away. I
am running away now from a thriving fencing-academy, which is likely to
become the property of Le Duc. That comes of having gone into politics,
from which I am also running away. It is the one thing in which I really
excel. That, too, is an attribute of Scaramouche."

"Why will you always be deriding yourself?" she wondered.

"Because I recognize myself for part of this mad world, I suppose. You
wouldn't have me take it seriously? I should lose my reason utterly if I
did; especially since discovering my parents."

"Don't, Andre!" she begged him. "You are insincere, you know."

"Of course I am. Do you expect sincerity in man when hypocrisy is the
very keynote of human nature? We are nurtured on it; we are schooled in
it, we live by it; and we rarely realize it. You have seen it rampant
and out of hand in France during the past four years--cant and hypocrisy
on the lips of the revolutionaries, cant and hypocrisy on the lips of
the upholders of the old regime; a riot of hypocrisy out of which in
the end is begotten chaos. And I who criticize it all on this beautiful
God-given morning am the rankest and most contemptible hypocrite of all.
It was this--the realization of this truth kept me awake all night. For
two years I have persecuted by every means in my power... M. de La Tour
d'Azyr."

He paused before uttering the name, paused as if hesitating how to speak
of him.

"And in those two years I have deceived myself as to the motive that was
spurring me. He spoke of me last night as the evil genius of his life,
and himself he recognized the justice of this. It may be that he was
right, and because of that it is probable that even had he not killed
Philippe de Vilmorin, things would still have been the same. Indeed,
to-day I know that they must have been. That is why I call myself a
hypocrite, a poor, self-duping hypocrite."

"But why, Andre?"

He stood still and looked at her. "Because he sought you, Aline.
Because in that alone he must have found me ranged against him, utterly
intransigeant. Because of that I must have strained every nerve to bring
him down--so as to save you from becoming the prey of your own ambition.

"I wish to speak of him no more than I must. After this, I trust never
to speak of him again. Before the lines of our lives crossed, I knew him
for what he was, I knew the report of him that ran the countryside.
Even then I found him detestable. You heard him allude last night to the
unfortunate La Binet. You heard him plead, in extenuation of his fault,
his mode of life, his rearing. To that there is no answer, I suppose. He
conforms to type. Enough! But to me, he was the embodiment of evil, just
as you have always been the embodiment of good; he was the embodiment
of sin, just as you are the embodiment of purity. I had enthroned you so
high, Aline, so high, and yet no higher than your place. Could I, then,
suffer that you should be dragged down by ambition, could I suffer the
evil I detested to mate with the good I loved? What could have come of
it but your own damnation, as I told you that day at Gavrillac? Because
of that my detestation of him became a personal, active thing. I
resolved to save you at all costs from a fate so horrible. Had you
been able to tell me that you loved him it would have been different.
I should have hoped that in a union sanctified by love you would have
raised him to your own pure heights. But that out of considerations of
worldly advancement you should lovelessly consent to mate with him...
Oh, it was vile and hopeless. And so I fought him--a rat fighting a
lion--fought him relentlessly until I saw that love had come to take in
your heart the place of ambition. Then I desisted."

"Until you saw that love had taken the place of ambition!" Tears
had been gathering in her eyes whilst he was speaking. Now amazement
eliminated her emotion. "But when did you see that? When?"

"I--I was mistaken. I know it now. Yet, at the time... surely, Aline,
that morning when you came to beg me not to keep my engagement with him
in the Bois, you were moved by concern for him?"

"For him! It was concern for you," she cried, without thinking what she
said.

But it did not convince him. "For me? When you knew--when all the world
knew what I had been doing daily for a week!"

"Ah, but he, he was different from the others you had met. His
reputation stood high. My uncle accounted him invincible; he persuaded
me that if you met nothing could save you."

He looked at her frowning.

"Why this, Aline?" he asked her with some sternness. "I can understand
that, having changed since then, you should now wish to disown those
sentiments. It is a woman's way, I suppose."

"Oh, what are you saying, Andre? How wrong you are! It is the truth I
have told you!"

"And was it concern for me," he asked her, "that laid you swooning when
you saw him return wounded from the meeting? That was what opened my
eyes."

"Wounded? I had not seen his wound. I saw him sitting alive and
apparently unhurt in his caleche, and I concluded that he had killed you
as he had said he would. What else could I conclude?"

He saw light, dazzling, blinding, and it scared him. He fell back,
a hand to his brow. "And that was why you fainted?" he asked
incredulously.

She looked at him without answering. As she began to realize how much
she had been swept into saying by her eagerness to make him realize his
error, a sudden fear came creeping into her eyes.

He held out both hands to her.

"Aline! Aline!" His voice broke on the name. "It was I..."

"O blind Andre, it was always you--always! Never, never did I think
of him, not even for loveless marriage, save once for a little while,
when... when that theatre girl came into your life, and then..." She
broke off, shrugged, and turned her head away. "I thought of following
ambition, since there was nothing left to follow."

He shook himself. "I am dreaming, of course, or else I am mad," he said.

"Blind, Andre; just blind," she assured him.

"Blind only where it would have been presumption to have seen."

"And yet," she answered him with a flash of the Aline he had known of
old, "I have never found you lack presumption."

M. de Kercadiou, emerging a moment later from the library window, beheld
them holding hands and staring each at the other, beatifically, as if
each saw Paradise in the other's face.





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