Part 7 - Scaramouche Audiobook by Rafael Sabatini - Book 3 (Chs 05-09)

Uploaded by CCProse on 30.11.2011

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,
"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
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
"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,
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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?"
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."
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"And this is the result!" "As you say.
And do you know that we are after all not so dissimilar, you and I?"
"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."
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
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
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
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
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
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-
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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.
M. de La Tour d'Azyr's engagement in the country on that Sunday was with M. de
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.