Scaramouche A Romance of the French Revolution
Part 1 out of 8
A Romance of the French Revolution
by Rafael Sabatini
I. THE REPUBLICAN
II. THE ARISTOCRAT
III. THE ELOQUENCE OF M. DE VILMORIN
IV. THE HERITAGE
V. THE LORD OF GAVRILLAC
VI. THE WINDMILL
VII. THE WIND
VIII. OMNES OMNIBUS
IX. THE AFTERMATH
I. THE TRESPASSERS
II. THE SERVICE OF THESPIS
III. THE COMIC MUSE
IV. EXIT MONSIEUR PARVISSIMUS
V. ENTER SCARAMOUCHE
VII. THE CONQUEST OF NANTES
VIII. THE DREAM
IX. THE AWAKENING
XI. THE FRACAS AT THE THEATRE FEYDAU
II. QUOS DEUS VULT PERDERE
III. PRESIDENT LE CHAPELIER
IV. AT MEUDON
V. MADAME DE PLOUGASTEL
VII. THE SPADASSINICIDES
VIII. THE PALADIN OF THE THIRD
IX. TORN PRIDE
X. THE RETURNING CARRIAGE
XII. THE OVERWHELMING REASON
XIV. THE BARRIER
BOOK I: THE ROBE
He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was
mad. And that was all his patrimony. His very paternity was
obscure, although the village of Gavrillac had long since dispelled
the cloud of mystery that hung about it. Those simple Brittany folk
were not so simple as to be deceived by a pretended relationship
which did not even possess the virtue of originality. When a
nobleman, for no apparent reason, announces himself the godfather of
an infant fetched no man knew whence, and thereafter cares for the
lad's rearing and education, the most unsophisticated of country
folk perfectly understand the situation. And so the good people of
Gavrillac permitted themselves no illusions on the score of the real
relationship between Andre-Louis Moreau - as the lad had been named
- and Quintin de Kercadiou, Lord of Gavrillac, who dwelt in the
big grey house that dominated from its eminence the village
Andre-Louis had learnt his letters at the village school, lodged
the while with old Rabouillet, the attorney, who in the capacity of
fiscal intendant, looked after the affairs of M. de Kercadiou.
Thereafter, at the age of fifteen, he had been packed off to Paris,
to the Lycee of Louis Le Grand, to study the law which he was now
returned to practise in conjunction with Rabouillet. All this at
the charges of his godfather, M. de Kercadiou, who by placing him
once more under the tutelage of Rabouillet would seem thereby quite
clearly to be making provision for his future.
Andre-Louis, on his side, had made the most of his opportunities.
You behold him at the age of four-and-twenty stuffed with learning
enough to produce an intellectual indigestion in an ordinary mind.
Out of his zestful study of Man, from Thucydides to the
Encyclopaedists, from Seneca to Rousseau, he had confirmed into an
unassailable conviction his earliest conscious impressions of the
general insanity of his own species. Nor can I discover that
anything in his eventful life ever afterwards caused him to waver
in that opinion.
In body he was a slight wisp of a fellow, scarcely above middle
height, with a lean, astute countenance, prominent of nose and
cheek-bones, and with lank, black hair that reached almost to his
shoulders. His mouth was long, thin-lipped, and humorous. He was
only just redeemed from ugliness by the splendour of a pair of
ever-questing, luminous eyes, so dark as to be almost black. Of
the whimsical quality of his mind and his rare gift of graceful
expression, his writings - unfortunately but too scanty - and
particularly his Confessions, afford us very ample evidence. Of
his gift of oratory he was hardly conscious yet, although he had
already achieved a certain fame for it in the Literary Chamber of
Rennes - one of those clubs by now ubiquitous in the land, in
which the intellectual youth of France foregathered to study and
discuss the new philosophies that were permeating social life.
But the fame he had acquired there was hardly enviable. He was
too impish, too caustic, too much disposed - so thought his
colleagues - to ridicule their sublime theories for the regeneration
of mankind. himself he protested that he merely held them up to the
mirror of truth, and that it was not his fault if when reflected
there they looked ridiculous.
All that he achieved by this was to exasperate; and his expulsion
from a society grown mistrustful of him must already have followed
but for his friend, Philippe de Vilmorin, a divinity student of
Rennes, who, himself, was one of the most popular members of the
Coming to Gavrillac on a November morning, laden with news of the
political storms which were then gathering over France, Philippe
found in that sleepy Breton village matter to quicken his already
lively indignation. A peasant of Gavrillac, named Mabey, had been
shot dead that morning in the woods of Meupont, across the river,
by a gamekeeper of the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr. The unfortunate
fellow had been caught in the act of taking a pheasant from a snare,
and the gamekeeper had acted under explicit orders from his master.
Infuriated by an act of tyranny so absolute and merciless, M. de
Vilmorin proposed to lay the matter before M. de Kercadiou. Mabey
was a vassal of Gavrillac, and Vilmorin hoped to move the Lord of
Gavrillac to demand at least some measure of reparation for the
widow and the three orphans which that brutal deed had made.
But because Andre-Louis was Philippe's dearest friend - indeed, his
almost brother - the young seminarist sought him out in the first
instance. He found him at breakfast alone in the long, low-ceilinged,
white-panelled dining-room at Rabouillet's - the only home that
Andre-Louis had ever known - and after embracing him, deafened him
with his denunciation of M. de La Tour d'Azyr.
"I have heard of it already," said Andre-Louis.
"You speak as if the thing had not surprised you," his friend
"Nothing beastly can surprise me when done by a beast. And La Tour
d'Azyr is a beast, as all the world knows. The more fool Mabey for
stealing his pheasants. He should have stolen somebody else's."
"Is that all you have to say about it?"
"What more is there to say? I've a practical mind, I hope."
"What more there is to say I propose to say to your godfather, M.
de Kercadiou. I shall appeal to him for justice."
"Against M. de La Tour d'azyr?" Andre-Louis raised his eyebrows.
"My dear ingenuous Philippe, dog doesn't eat dog."
"You are unjust to your godfather. He is a humane man."
"Oh, as humane as you please. But this isn't a question
of humanity. It's a question of game-laws."
M. de Vilmorin tossed his long arms to Heaven in disgust. He was
a tall, slender young gentleman, a year or two younger than
Andre-Louis. He was very soberly dressed in black, as became a
seminarist, with white bands at wrists and throat and silver
buckles to his shoes. His neatly clubbed brown hair was innocent
"You talk like a lawyer," he exploded.
"Naturally. But don't waste anger on me on that account. Tell me
what you want me to do."
"I want you to come to M. de Kercadiou with me, and to use your
influence to obtain justice. I suppose I am asking too much."
"My dear Philippe, I exist to serve you. I warn you that it is a
futile quest; but give me leave to finish my breakfast, and I am
at your orders."
M. de Vilmorin dropped into a winged armchair by the well-swept
hearth, on which a piled-up fire of pine logs was burning cheerily.
And whilst he waited now he gave his friend the latest news of the
events in Rennes. Young, ardent, enthusiastic, and inspired by
Utopian ideals, he passionately denounced the rebellious attitude
of the privileged.
Andre-Louis, already fully aware of the trend of feeling in the
ranks of an order in whose deliberations he took part as the
representative of a nobleman, was not at all surprised by what he
heard. M. de Vilmorin found it exasperating that his friend should
apparently decline to share his own indignation.
"Don't you see what it means?" he cried. "The nobles, by disobeying
the King, are striking at the very foundations of the throne. Don't
they perceive that their very existence depends upon it; that if the
throne falls over, it is they who stand nearest to it who will be
crushed? Don't they see that?"
"Evidently not. They are just governing classes, and I never heard
of governing classes that had eyes for anything but their own profit."
"That is our grievance. That is what we are going to change."
"You are going to abolish governing classes? An interesting
experiment. I believe it was the original plan of creation, and it
might have succeeded but for Cain."
"What we are going to do," said M. de Vilmorin, curbing his
exasperation, "is to transfer the government to other hands."
"And you think that will make a difference?"
"I know it will."
"Ah! I take it that being now in minor orders, you already possess
the confidence of the Almighty. He will have confided to you His
intention of changing the pattern of mankind."
M. de Vilmorin's fine ascetic face grew overcast. "You are profane,
Andre," he reproved his friend.
"I assure you that I am quite serious. To do what you imply would
require nothing short of divine intervention. You must change man,
not systems. Can you and our vapouring friends of the Literary
Chamber of Rennes, or any other learned society of France, devise a
system of government that has never yet been tried? Surely not.
And can they say of any system tried that it proved other than a
failure in the end? My dear Philippe, the future is to be read
with certainty only in the past. Ab actu ad posse valet consecutio.
Man never changes. He is always greedy, always acquisitive, always
vile. I am speaking of Man in the bulk."
"Do you pretend that it is impossible to ameliorate the lot of the
people?" M. de Vilmorin challenged him.
"When you say the people you mean, of course, the populace. Will
you abolish it? That is the only way to ameliorate its lot, for as
long as it remains populace its lot will be damnation."
"You argue, of course, for the side that employs you. That is
natural, I suppose." M. de Vilmorin spoke between sorrow and
"On the contrary, I seek to argue with absolute detachment. Let us
test these ideas of yours. To what form of government do you aspire?
A republic, it is to be inferred from what you have said. Well, you
have it already. France in reality is a republic to-day."
Philippe stared at him. "You are being paradoxical, I think. What
of the King?"
"The King? All the world knows there has been no king in France
since Louis XIV. There is an obese gentleman at Versailles who
wears the crown, but the very news you bring shows for how little
he really counts. It is the nobles and clergy who sit in the high
places, with the people of France harnessed under their feet, who
are the real rulers. That is why I say that France is a republic;
she is a republic built on the best pattern - the Roman pattern.
Then, as now, there were great patrician families in luxury,
preserving for themselves power and wealth, and what else is
accounted worth possessing; and there was the populace crushed and
groaning, sweating, bleeding, starving, and perishing in the Roman
kennels. That was a republic; the mightiest we have seen."
Philippe strove with his impatience. "At least you will admit - you
have, in fact, admitted it - that we could not be worse governed
than we are?"
"That is not the point. The point is should we be better governed
if we replaced the present ruling class by another? Without some
guarantee of that I should be the last to lift a finger to effect a
change. And what guarantees can you give? What is the class that
aims at government? I will tell you. The bourgeoisie."
"That startles you, eh? Truth is so often disconcerting. You hadn't
thought of it? Well, think of it now. Look well into this Nantes
manifesto. Who are the authors of it?"
"I can tell you who it was constrained the municipality of Nantes
to send it to the King. Some ten thousand workmen - shipwrights,
weavers, labourers, and artisans of every kind."
"Stimulated to it, driven to it, by their employers, the wealthy
traders and shipowners of that city," Andre-Louis replied. "I have
a habit of observing things at close quarters, which is why our
colleagues of the Literary Chamber dislike me so cordially in debate.
Where I delve they but skim. Behind those labourers and artisans of
Nantes, counselling them, urging on these poor, stupid, ignorant
toilers to shed their blood in pursuit of the will o' the wisp of
freedom, are the sail-makers, the spinners, the ship-owners and the
slave-traders. The slave-traders! The men who live and grow rich
by a traffic in human flesh and blood in the colonies, are conducting
at home a campaign in the sacred name of liberty! Don't you see that
the whole movement is a movement of hucksters and traders and
peddling vassals swollen by wealth into envy of the power that lies
in birth alone? The money-changers in Paris who hold the bonds in
the national debt, seeing the parlous financial condition of the
State, tremble at the thought that it may lie in the power of a
single man to cancel the debt by bankruptcy. To secure themselves
they are burrowing underground to overthrow a state and build upon
its ruins a new one in which they shall be the masters. And to
accomplish this they inflame the people. Already in Dauphiny we
have seen blood run like water - the blood of the populace, always
the blood of the populace. Now in Brittany we may see the like.
And if in the end the new ideas prevail? if the seigneurial rule
is overthrown, what then? You will have exchanged an aristocracy
for a plutocracy. Is that worth while? Do you 'think that under
money-changers and slave-traders and men who have waxed rich in
other ways by the ignoble arts of buying and selling, the lot of
the people will be any better than under their priests and nobles?
Has it ever occurred to you, Philippe, what it is that makes the
rule of the nobles so intolerable? Acquisitiveness. Acquisitiveness
is the curse of mankind. And shall you expect less acquisitiveness
in men who have built themselves up by acquisitiveness? Oh, I am
ready to admit that the present government is execrable, unjust,
tyrannical - what you will; but I beg you to look ahead, and to see
that the government for which it is aimed at exchanging it may be
Philippe sat thoughtful a moment. Then he returned to the attack.
"You do not speak of the abuses, the horrible, intolerable abuses
of power under which we labour at present."
"Where there is power there will always be the abuse of it."
"Not if the tenure of power is dependent upon its equitable
"The tenure of power is power. We cannot dictate to those who hold
"The people can - the people in its might."
"Again I ask you, when you say the people do you mean the populace?
You do. What power can the populace wield? It can run wild. It
can burn and slay for a time. But enduring power it cannot wield,
because power demands qualities which the populace does not possess,
or it would not be populace. The inevitable, tragic corollary of
civilization is populace. For the rest, abuses can be corrected by
equity; and equity, if it is not found in the enlightened, is not
to be found at all. M. Necker is to set about correcting abuses,
and limiting privileges. That is decided. To that end the States
General are to assemble."
"And a promising beginning we have made in Brittany, as Heaven hears
me!" cried Philippe.
"Pooh! That is nothing. Naturally the nobles will not yield without
a struggle. It is a futile and ridiculous struggle - but then... it
is human nature, I suppose, to be futile and ridiculous."
M. de Vilmorin became witheringly sarcastic. "Probably you will
also qualify the shooting of Mabey as futile and ridiculous. I
should even be prepared to hear you argue in defence of the Marquis
de La Tour d' Azyr that his gamekeeper was merciful in shooting
Mabey, since the alternative would have been a life-sentence to
Andre-Louis drank the remainder of his chocolate; set down his cup,
and pushed back his chair, his breakfast done.
"I confess that I have not your big charity, my dear Philippe. I
am touched by Mabey's fate. But, having conquered the shock of
this news to my emotions, I do not forget that, after all, Mabey
was thieving when he met his death."
M. de Vilmorin heaved himself up in his indignation.
"That is the point of view to be expected in one who is the assistant
fiscal intendant of a nobleman, and the delegate of a nobleman to
the States of Brittany."
"Philippe, is that just? You are angry with me!" he cried, in real
"I am hurt," Vilmorin admitted. "I am deeply hurt by your attitude.
And I am not alone in resenting your reactionary tendencies. Do
you know that the Literary Chamber is seriously considering your
Andre-Louis shrugged. "That neither surprises nor troubles me."
M. de Vilmorin swept on, passionately: "Sometimes I think that you
have no heart. With you it is always the law, never equity. It
occurs to me, Andre, that I was mistaken in coming to you. You are
not likely to be of assistance to me in my interview with M. de
Kercadiou." He took up his hat, clearly with the intention of
Andre-Louis sprang up and caught him by the arm.
"I vow," said he, "that this is the last time ever I shall consent
to talk law or politics with you, Philippe. I love you too well
to quarrel with you over other men's affairs."
"But I make them my own," Philippe insisted vehemently.
"Of course you do, and I love you for it. It is right that you
should. You are to be a priest; and everybody's business is a
priest's business. Whereas I am a lawyer - the fiscal intendant
of a nobleman, as you say - and a lawyer's business is the business
of his client. That is the difference between us. Nevertheless,
you are not going to shake me off."
"But I tell you frankly, now that I come to think of it, that I
should prefer you did not see M. de Kercadiou with me. Your duty
to your client cannot be a help to me."
His wrath had passed; but his determination remained firm, based
upon the reason he gave.
"Very well," said Andre-Louis. "It shall be as you please. But
nothing shall prevent me at least from walking with you as far as
the chateau, and waiting for you while you make your appeal to M.
And so they left the house good friends, for the sweetness of M.
de Vilmorin's nature did not admit of rancour, and together they
took their way up the steep main street of Gavrillac.
The sleepy village of Gavrillac, a half-league removed from the main
road to Rennes, and therefore undisturbed by the world's traffic,
lay in a curve of the River Meu, at the foot, and straggling halfway
up the slope, of the shallow hill that was crowned by the squat manor.
By the time Gavrillac had paid tribute to its seigneur - partly in
money and partly in service - tithes to the Church, and imposts to
the King, it was hard put to it to keep body and soul together with
what remained. Yet, hard as conditions were in Gavrillac, they were
not so hard as in many other parts of France, not half so hard, for
instance, as with the wretched feudatories of the great Lord of La
Tour d'Azyr, whose vast possessions were at one point separated from
this little village by the waters of the Meu.
The Chateau de Gavrillac owed such seigneurial airs as might be
claimed for it to its dominant position above the village rather
than to any feature of its own. Built of granite, like all the rest
of Gavrillac, though mellowed by some three centuries of existence,
it was a squat, flat-fronted edifice of two stories, each lighted by
four windows with external wooden shutters, and flanked at either end
by two square towers or pavilions under extinguisher roofs. Standing
well back in a garden, denuded now, but very pleasant in summer, and
immediately fronted by a fine sweep of balustraded terrace, it looked,
what indeed it was, and always had been, the residence of
unpretentious folk who found more interest in husbandry than in
Quintin de Kercadiou, Lord of Gavrillac - Seigneur de Gavrillac was
all the vague title that he bore, as his forefathers had borne before
him, derived no man knew whence or how - confirmed the impression
that his house conveyed. Rude as the granite itself, he had never
sought the experience of courts, had not even taken service in the
armies of his King. He left it to his younger brother, Etienne, to
represent the family in those exalted spheres. His own interests
from earliest years had been centred in his woods and pastures. He
hunted, and he cultivated his acres, and superficially he appeared
to be little better than any of his rustic metayers. He kept no
state, or at least no state commensurate with his position or with
the tastes of his niece Aline de Kercadiou. Aline, having spent
some two years in the court atmosphere of Versailles under the aegis
of her uncle Etienne, had ideas very different from those of her
uncle Quintin of what was befitting seigneurial dignity. But though
this only child of a third Kercadiou had exercised, ever since she
was left an orphan at the early age of four, a tyrannical rule over
the Lord of Gavrillac, who had been father and mother to her, she
had never yet succeeded in beating down his stubbornness on that
score. She did not yet despair - persistence being a dominant note
in her character - although she had been assiduously and fruitlessly
at work since her return from the great world of Versailles some
three months ago.
She was walking on the terrace when Andre-Louis and M. de Vilmorin
arrived. Her slight body was wrapped against the chill air in a
white pelisse; her head was encased in a close-fitting bonnet, edged
with white fur. It was caught tight in a knot of pale-blue ribbon
on the right of her chin; on the left a long ringlet of corn-coloured
hair had been permitted to escape. The keen air had whipped so much
of her cheeks as was presented to it, and seemed to have added
sparkle to eyes that were of darkest blue.
Andre-Louis and M. de Vilmorin had been known to her from childhood.
The three had been playmates once, and Andre-Louis - in view of his
spiritual relationship with her uncle - she called her cousin. The
cousinly relations had persisted between these two long after
Philippe de Vilmorin had outgrown the earlier intimacy, and had
become to her Monsieur de Vilmorin.
She waved her hand to them in greeting as they advanced, and stood
- an entrancing picture, and fully conscious of it - to await them
at the end of the terrace nearest the short avenue by which they
"If you come to see monsieur my uncle, you come inopportunely,
messieurs," she told them, a certain feverishness in her air. "He
is closely - oh, so very closely - engaged."
"We will wait, mademoiselle," said M. de Vilmorin, bowing gallantly
over the hand she extended to him. "Indeed, who would haste to the
uncle that may tarry a moment with the niece?"
"M. l'abbe," she teased him, "when you are in orders I shall take
you for my confessor. You have so ready and sympathetic an
"But no curiosity," said Andre-Louis. "You haven't thought of that."
"I wonder what you mean, Cousin Andre."
"Well you may," laughed Philippe. "For no one ever knows." And
then, his glance straying across the terrace settled upon a carriage
that was drawn up before the door of the chateau. It was a vehicle
such as was often to be seen in the streets of a great city, but
rarely in the country. It was a beautifully sprung two-horse
cabriolet of walnut, with a varnish upon it like a sheet of glass
and little pastoral scenes exquisitely painted on the panels of the
door. It was built to carry two persons, with a box in front for
the coachman, and a stand behind for the footman. This stand was
empty, but the footman paced before the door, and as he emerged now
from behind the vehicle into the range of M. de Vilmorin's vision,
he displayed the resplendent blue-and-gold livery of the Marquis de
La Tour d'Azyr.
"Why!" he exclaimed. "Is it M. de La Tour d'Azyr who is with your
"It is, monsieur," said she, a world of mystery in voice and eyes,
of which M. de Vilmorin observed nothing.
"Ah, pardon!" he bowed low, hat in hand. "Serviteur, mademoiselle,"
and he turned to depart towards the house.
"Shall I come with you, Philippe?" Andre-Louis called after him.
"It would be ungallant to assume that you would prefer it," said M.
de Vilmorin, with a glance at mademoiselle. "Nor do I think it
would serve. If you will wait... "
M. de Vilmorin strode off. Mademoiselle, after a moment's blank
pause, laughed ripplingly. "Now where is he going in such a hurry?"
"To see M. de La Tour d'Azyr as well as your uncle, I should say."
"But he cannot. They cannot see him. Did I not say that they are
very closely engaged? You don't ask me why, Andre" There was an
arch mysteriousness about her, a latent something that may have
been elation or amusement, or perhaps both. Andre-Louis could not
"Since obviously you are all eagerness to tell, why should I ask?"
"If you are caustic I shall not tell you even if you ask. Oh, yes,
I will. It will teach you to treat me with the respect that is my
"I hope I shall never fail in that."
"Less than ever when you learn that I am very closely concerned in
the visit of M. de La Tour d'Azyr. I am the object of this visit."
And she looked at him with sparkling eyes and lips parted in
"The rest, you would seem to imply, is obvious. But I am a dolt,
if you please; for it is not obvious to me."
"Why, stupid, he comes to ask my hand in marriage."
"Good God!" said Andre-Louis, and stared at her, chapfallen.
She drew back from him a little with a frown and an upward tilt of
her chin. "It surprises you?"
"It disgusts me," said he, bluntly. "In fact, I don't believe it.
You are amusing yourself with me."
For a moment she put aside her visible annoyance to remove his
doubts. "I am quite serious, monsieur. There came a formal letter
to my uncle this morning from M. de La Tour d'Azyr, announcing the
visit and its object. I will not say that it did not surprise us
"Oh, I see," cried Andre-Louis, in relief. "I understand. For a
moment I had almost feared... " He broke off, looked at her, and
"Why do you stop? You had almost feared that Versailles had been
wasted upon me. That I should permit the court-ship of me to be
conducted like that of any village wench. It was stupid of you. I
am being sought in proper form, at my uncle's hands."
"Is his consent, then, all that matters, according to Versailles?"
"There is your own."
She laughed. "I am a dutiful niece... when it suits me."
"And will it suit you to be dutiful if your uncle accepts this
"Monstrous!" She bridled. "And why monstrous, if you please?"
"For a score of reasons," he answered irritably.
"Give me one," she challenged him.
"He is twice your age."
"Hardly so much," said she.
"He is forty-five, at least."
"But he looks no more than thirty. He is very handsome - so much
you will admit; nor will you deny that he is very wealthy and very
powerful; the greatest nobleman in Brittany. He will make me a
"God made you that, Aline."
"Come, that's better. Sometimes you can almost be polite." And she
moved along the terrace, Andre-Louis pacing beside her.
"I can be more than that to show reason why you should not let this
beast befoul the beautiful thing that God has made."
She frowned, and her lips tightened. "You are speaking of my future
husband," she reproved him.
His lips tightened too; his pale face grew paler.
"And is it so? It is settled, then? Your uncle is to agree? You
are to be sold thus, lovelessly, into bondage to a man you do not
know. I had dreamed of better things for you, Aline."
"Better than to be Marquise de La Tour d'Azyr?"
He made a gesture of exasperation. "Are men and women nothing more
than names? Do the souls of them count for nothing? Is there no
joy in life, no happiness, that wealth and pleasure and empty,
high-sounding titles are to be its only aims? I had set you high
- so high, Aline - a thing scarce earthly. There is joy in your
heart, intelligence in your mind; and, as I thought, the vision that
pierces husks and shams to claim the core of reality for its own.
Yet you will surrender all for a parcel of make-believe. You will
sell your soul and your body to be Marquise de La Tour d'Azyr."
"You are indelicate," said she, and though she frowned her eyes
laughed. "And you go headlong to conclusions. My uncle will not
consent to more than to allow my consent to be sought. We understand
each other, my uncle and I. I am not to be bartered like a turnip."
He stood still to face her, his eyes glowing, a flush creeping into
his pale cheeks.
"You have been torturing me to amuse yourself!" he cried. "Ah,
well, I forgive you out of my relief."
"Again you go too fast, Cousin Andre I have permitted my uncle to
consent that M. le Marquis shall make his court to me. I like the
look of the gentleman. I am flattered by his preference when I
consider his eminence. It is an eminence that I may find it
desirable to share. M. le Marquis does not look as if he were a
dullard. It should be interesting to be wooed by him. It may be
more interesting still to marry him, and I think, when all is
considered, that I shall probably - very probably - decide to do so."
He looked at her, looked at the sweet, challenging loveliness of that
childlike face so tightly framed in the oval of white fur, and all
the life seemed to go out of his own countenance.
"God help you, Aline!" he groaned.
She stamped her foot. He was really very exasperating, and
something presumptuous too, she thought.
"You are insolent, monsieur."
"It is never insolent to pray, Aline. And I did no more than pray,
as I shall continue to do. You'll need my prayers, I think."
"You are insufferable!" She was growing angry, as he saw by the
deepening frown, the heightened colour.
"That is because I suffer. Oh, Aline, little cousin, think well of
what you do; think well of the realities you will be bartering for
these shams - the realities that you will never know, because these
cursed shams will block your way to them. When M. de La Tour d'Azyr
comes to make his court, study him well; consult your fine instincts;
leave your own noble nature free to judge this animal by its
intuitions. Consider that... "
"I consider, monsieur, that you presume upon the kindness I have
always shown you. You abuse the position of toleration in which
you stand. Who are you? What are you, that you should have the
insolence to take this tone with me?"
He bowed, instantly his cold, detached self again, and resumed the
mockery that was his natural habit.
"My congratulations, mademoiselle, upon the readiness with which you
begin to adapt yourself to the great role you are to play."
"Do you adapt yourself also, monsieur," she retorted angrily, and
turned her shoulder to him.
"To be as the dust beneath the haughty feet of Madame la Marquise.
I hope I shall know my place in future."
The phrase arrested her. She turned to him again, and he perceived
that her eyes were shining now suspiciously. In an instant the
mockery in him was quenched in contrition.
"Lord, what a beast I am, Aline!" he cried, as he advanced.
"Forgive me if you can."
Almost had she turned to sue forgiveness from him. But his contrition
removed the need.
"I'll try," said she, "provided that you undertake not to offend
"But I shall," said he. "I am like that. I will fight to save you,
from yourself if need be, whether you forgive me or not."
They were standing so, confronting each other a little breathlessly,
a little defiantly, when the others issued from the porch.
First came the Marquis of La Tour d'Azyr, Count of Solz, Knight of
the Orders of the Holy Ghost and Saint Louis, and Brigadier in the
armies of the King. He was a tall, graceful man, upright and
soldierly of carriage, with his head disdainfully set upon his
shoulders. He was magnificently dressed in a full-skirted coat of
mulberry velvet that was laced with gold. His waistcoat, of velvet
too, was of a golden apricot colour; his breeches and stockings were
of black silk, and his lacquered, red-heeled shoes were buckled in
diamonds. His powdered hair was tied behind in a broad ribbon of
watered silk; he carried a little three-cornered hat under his arm,
and a gold-hilted slender dress-sword hung at his side.
Considering him now in complete detachment, observing the
magnificence of him, the elegance of his movements, the great air,
blending in so extraordinary a manner disdain and graciousness,
Andre-Louis trembled for Aline. Here was a practised, irresistible
wooer, whose bonnes fortunes were become a by-word, a man who had
hitherto been the despair of dowagers with marriageable daughters,
and the desolation of husbands with attractive wives.
He was immediately followed by M. de Kercadiou, in completest
contrast. On legs of the shortest, the Lord of Gavrillac carried
a body that at forty-five was beginning to incline to corpulence
and an enormous head containing an indifferent allotment of
intelligence. His countenance was pink and blotchy, liberally
branded by the smallpox which had almost extinguished him in youth.
In dress he was careless to the point of untidiness, and to this
and to the fact that he had never married - disregarding the first
duty of a gentleman to provide himself with an heir - he owed the
character of misogynist attributed to him by the countryside.
After M. de Kercadiou came M. de Vilmorin, very pale and
self-contained, with tight lips and an overcast brow.
To meet them, there stepped from the carriage a very elegant young
gentleman, the Chevalier de Chabrillane, M. de La Tour d'Azyr's
cousin, who whilst awaiting his return had watched with considerable
interest - his own presence unsuspected - the perambulations of
Andre-Louis and mademoiselle.
Perceiving Aline, M. de La Tour d'Azyr detached himself from the
others, and lengthening his stride came straight across the terrace
To Andre-Louis the Marquis inclined his head with that mixture of
courtliness and condescension which he used. Socially, the young
lawyer stood in a curious position. By virtue of the theory of his
birth, he ranked neither as noble nor as simple, but stood somewhere
between the two classes, and whilst claimed by neither he was used
familiarly by both. Coldly now he returned M. de La Tour d'Azyr's
greeting, and discreetly removed himself to go and join his friend.
The Marquis took the hand that mademoiselle extended to him, and
bowing over it, bore it to his lips.
"Mademoiselle," he said, looking into the blue depths of her eyes,
that met his gaze smiling and untroubled, "monsieur your uncle does
me the honour to permit that I pay my homage to you. Will you,
mademoiselle, do me the honour to receive me when I come to-morrow?
I shall have something of great importance for your ear."
"Of importance, M. le Marquis? You almost frighten me." But there
was no fear on the serene little face in its furred hood. It was
not for nothing that she had graduated in the Versailles school of
"That," said he, "is very far from my design."
"But of importance to yourself, monsieur, or to me?"
"To us both, I hope," he answered her, a world of meaning in his
fine, ardent eyes.
"You whet my curiosity, monsieur; and, of course, I am a dutiful
niece. It follows that I shall be honoured to receive you."
"Not honoured, mademoiselle; you will confer the honour. To-morrow
at this hour, then, I shall have the felicity to wait upon you."
He bowed again; and again he bore her fingers to his lips, what time
she curtsied. Thereupon, with no more than this formal breaking of
the ice, they parted.
She was a little breathless now, a little dazzled by the beauty of
the man, his princely air, and the confidence of power he seemed to
radiate. Involuntarily almost, she contrasted him with his critic
- the lean and impudent Andre-Louis in his plain brown coat and
steel-buckled shoes - and she felt guilty of an unpardonable offence
in having permitted even one word of that presumptuous criticism.
To-morrow M. le Marquis would come to offer her a great position, a
great rank. And already she had derogated from the increase of
dignity accruing to her from his very intention to translate her to
so great an eminence. Not again would she suffer it; not again
would she be so weak and childish as to permit Andre-Louis to utter
his ribald comments upon a man by comparison with whom he was no
better than a lackey.
Thus argued vanity and ambition with her better self and to her vast
annoyance her better self would not admit entire conviction.
Meanwhile, M. de La Tour d'Azyr was climbing into his carriage. He
had spoken a word of farewell to M. de Kercadiou, and he had also
had a word for M. de Vilmorin in reply to which M. de Vilmorin had
bowed in assenting silence. The carriage rolled away, the powdered
footman in blue-and-gold very stiff behind it, M. de La Tour d'Azyr
bowing to mademoiselle, who waved to him in answer.
Then M. de Vilmorin put his arm through that of Andre Louis, and said
to him, "Come, Andre."
"But you'll stay to dine, both of you!" cried the hospitable Lord
of Gavrillac. "We'll drink a certain toast," he added, winking an
eye that strayed towards mademoiselle, who was approaching. He had
no subtleties, good soul that he was.
M. de Vilmorin deplored an appointment that prevented him doing
himself the honour. He was very stiff and formal.
"And you, Andre?"
"I? Oh, I share the appointment, godfather," he lied, "and I have
a superstition against toasts." He had no wish to remain. He was
angry with Aline for her smiling reception of M. de La Tour d'Azyr
and the sordid bargain he saw her set on making. He was suffering
from the loss of an illusion.
THE ELOQUENCE OF M. DE VILMORIN
As they walked down the hill together, it was now M. de Vilmorin
who was silent and preoccupied, Andre-Louis who was talkative. He
had chosen Woman as a subject for his present discourse. He claimed
- quite unjustifiably - to have discovered Woman that morning; and
the things he had to say of the sex were unflattering, and
occasionally almost gross. M. de Vilmorin, having ascertained the
subject, did not listen. Singular though it may seem in a young
French abbe of his day, M. de Vilmorin was not interested in Woman.
Poor Philippe was in several ways exceptional. Opposite the Breton
arme - the inn and posting-house at the entrance of the village of
Gavrillac - M. de Vilmorin interrupted his companion just as he was
soaring to the dizziest heights of caustic invective, and
Andre-Louis, restored thereby to actualities, observed the carriage
of M. de La Tour d'Azyr standing before the door of the hostelry.
"I don't believe you've been listening to me," said he.
"Had you been less interested in what you were saying, you might
have observed it sooner and spared your breath. The fact is, you
disappoint me, Andre. You seem to have forgotten what we went for.
I have an appointment here with M. le Marquis. He desires to hear
me further in the matter. Up there at Gavrillac I could accomplish
nothing. The time was ill-chosen as it happened. But I have hopes
of M. le Marquis."
"Hopes of what?"
"That he will make what reparation lies in his power. Provide for
the widow and the orphans. Why else should he desire to hear me
"Unusual condescension," said Andre-Louis, and quoted "Timeo Danaos
et dona ferentes."
"Why?" asked Philippe.
"Let us go and discover - unless you consider that I shall be in
Into a room on the right, rendered private to M. le Marquis for so
long as he should elect to honour it, the young men were ushered by
the host. A fire of logs was burning brightly at the room's far
end, and by this sat now M. de La Tour d'Azyr and his cousin, the
Chevalier de Chabrillane. Both rose as M. de Vilmorin came in.
Andre-Louis following, paused to close the door.
"You oblige me by your prompt courtesy, M. de Vilmorin," said the
Marquis, but in a tone so cold as to belie the politeness of his
words. "A chair, I beg. Ah, Moreau?" The note was frigidly
interrogative. "He accompanies you, monsieur?" he asked.
"If you please, M. le Marquis."
"Why not? Find yourself a seat, Moreau." He spoke over his shoulder
as to a lackey.
"It is good of you, monsieur," said Philippe, "to have offered me
this opportunity of continuing the subject that took me so
fruitlessly, as it happens, to Gavrillac."
The Marquis crossed his legs, and held one of his fine hands to the
blaze. He replied, without troubling to turn to the young man, who
was slightly behind him.
"The goodness of my request we will leave out of question for the
moment," said he, darkly, and M. de Chabrillane laughed. Andre-Louis
thought him easily moved to mirth, and almost envied him the faculty.
"But I am grateful," Philippe insisted, "that you should condescend
to hear me plead their cause.
The Marquis stared at him over his shoulder. "Whose cause?" quoth he.
"Why, the cause of the widow and orphans of this unfortunate Mabey."
The Marquis looked from Vilmorin to the Chevalier, and again the
Chevalier laughed, slapping his leg this time.
"I think," said M. de La Tour d'Azyr, slowly, "that we are at
cross-purposes. I asked you to come here because the Chateau de
Gavrillac was hardly a suitable place in which to carry our
discussion further, and because I hesitated to incommode you by
suggesting that you should come all the way to Azyr. But my object
is connected with certain expressions that you let fall up there.
It is on the subject of those expressions, monsieur, that I would
hear you further - if you will honour me."
Andre-Louis began to apprehend that there was something sinister in
the air. He was a man of quick intuitions, quicker far than those
of M. de Vilmorin, who evinced no more than a mild surprise.
"I am at a loss, monsieur," said he. "To what expressions does
"It seems, monsieur, that I must refresh your memory." The Marquis
crossed his legs, and swung sideways on his chair, so that at last
he directly faced M. de Vilmorin. "You spoke, monsieur - and however
mistaken you may have been, you spoke very eloquently, too eloquently
almost, it seemed to me - of the infamy of such a deed as the act of
summary justice upon this thieving fellow Mabey, or whatever his name
may be. Infamy was the precise word you used. You did not retract
that word when I had the honour to inform you that it was by my orders
that my gamekeeper Benet proceeded as he did."
"If," said M. de Vilmorin, "the deed was infamous, its infamy is not
modified by the rank, however exalted, of the person responsible.
Rather is it aggravated."
"Ah!" said M. le Marquis, and drew a gold snuffbox from his pocket.
"You say, 'if the deed was infamous,' monsieur. Am I to understand
that you are no longer as convinced as you appeared to be of its
M. de Vilmorin's fine face wore a look of perplexity. He did not
understand the drift of this.
"It occurs to me, M. le Marquis, in view of your readiness to assume
responsibility, that you must believe justification for the deed
which is not apparent to myself."
"That is better. That is distinctly better." The Marquis took
snuff delicately, dusting the fragments from the fine lace at his
throat. "You realize that with an imperfect understanding of these
matters, not being yourself a landowner, you may have rushed to
unjustifiable conclusions. That is indeed the case. May it be a
warning to you, monsieur. When I tell you that for months past I
have been annoyed by similar depredations, you will perhaps
understand that it had become necessary to employ a deterrent
sufficiently strong to put an end to them. Now that the risk is
known, I do not think there will be any more prowling in my coverts.
And there is more in it than that, M. de Vilmorin. It is not the
poaching that annoys me so much as the contempt for my absolute and
inviolable rights. There is, monsieur, as you cannot fail to have
observed, an evil spirit of insubordination in the air, and there
is one only way in which to meet it. To tolerate it, in however
slight a degree, to show leniency, however leniently disposed, would
entail having recourse to still harsher measures to-morrow. You
understand me, I am sure, and you will also, I am sure, appreciate
the condescension of what amounts to an explanation from me where I
cannot admit that any explanations were due. If anything in what I
have said is still obscure to you, I refer you to the game laws, which
your lawyer friend there will expound for you at need."
With that the gentleman swung round again to face the fire. It
appeared to convey the intimation that the interview was at an end.
And yet this was not by any means the intimation that it conveyed
to the watchful, puzzled, vaguely uneasy Andre-Louis. It was,
thought he, a very curious, a very suspicious oration. It affected
to explain, with a politeness of terms and a calculated insolence
of tone; whilst in fact it could only serve to stimulate and goad
a man of M. de Vilmorin's opinions. And that is precisely what it
did. He rose.
"Are there in the world no laws but game laws?" he demanded, angrily.
"Have you never by any chance heard of the laws of humanity?"
The Marquis sighed wearily. "What have I to do with the laws of
humanity?" he wondered.
M. de Vilmorin looked at him a moment in speechless amazement.
"Nothing, M. le Marquis. That is - alas! - too obvious. I hope
you will remember it in the hour when you may wish to appeal to
those laws which you now deride."
M. de La Tour d'Azyr threw back his head sharply, his high-bred face
"Now what precisely shall that mean? It is not the first time
to-day that you have made use of dark sayings that I could almost
believe to veil the presumption of a threat."
"Not a threat, M. le Marquis - a warning. A warning that such deeds
as these against God's creatures... Oh, you may sneer, monsieur,
but they are God's creatures, even as you or I - neither more nor
less, deeply though the reflection may wound your pride, In His
"Of your charity, spare me a sermon, M. l'abbe!"
"You mock, monsieur. You laugh. Will you laugh, I wonder, when God
presents His reckoning to you for the blood and plunder with which
your hands are full?"
"Monsieur!" The word, sharp as the crack of a whip, was from M. de
Chabrillane, who bounded to his feet. But instantly the Marquis
"Sit down, Chevalier. You are interrupting M. l'abbe, and I should
like to hear him further. He interests me profoundly."
In the background Andre-Louis, too, had risen, brought to his feet by
alarm, by the evil that he saw written on the handsome face of M. de
La Tour d'Azyr. He approached, and touched his friend upon the arm.
"Better be going, Philippe," said he.
But M. de Vilmorin, caught in the relentless grip of passions long
repressed, was being hurried by them recklessly along.
"Oh, monsieur," said he, "consider what you are and what you will
be. Consider how you and your kind live by abuses, and consider the
harvest that abuses must ultimately bring."
"Revolutionist!" said M. le Marquis, contemptuously. "You have the
effrontery to stand before my face and offer me this stinking cant
of your modern so-called intellectuals!"
"Is it cant, monsieur? Do you think - do you believe in your soul
- that it is cant? Is it cant that the feudal grip is on all
things that live, crushing them like grapes in the press, to its
own profit? Does it not exercise its rights upon the waters of the
river, the fire that bakes the poor man's bread of grass and barley,
on the wind that turns the mill? The peasant cannot take a step
upon the road, cross a crazy bridge over a river, buy an ell of
cloth in the village market, without meeting feudal rapacity,
without being taxed in feudal dues. Is not that enough, M. le
Marquis? Must you also demand his wretched life in payment for the
least infringement of your sacred privileges, careless of what
widows or orphans you dedicate to woe? Will naught content you but
that your shadow must lie like a curse upon the land? And do you
think in your pride that France, this Job among the nations, will
suffer it forever?"
He paused as if for a reply. But none came. The Marquis considered
him, strangely silent, a half smile of disdain at the corners of his
lips, an ominous hardness in his eyes.
Again Andre-Louis tugged at his friend's sleeve.
Philippe shook him off, and plunged on, fanatically.
"Do you see nothing of the gathering clouds that herald the coming
of the storm? You imagine, perhaps, that these States General
summoned by M. Necker, and promised for next year, are to do nothing
but devise fresh means of extortion to liquidate the bankruptcy of
the State? You delude yourselves, as you shall find. The Third
Estate, which you despise, will prove itself the preponderating
force, and it will find a way to make an end of this canker of
privilege that is devouring the vitals of this unfortunate country."
M. le Marquis shifted in his chair, and spoke at last.
"You have, monsieur," said he, "a very dangerous gift of eloquence.
And it is of yourself rather than of your subject. For after all,
what do you offer me? A rechauffe of the dishes served to
out-at-elbow enthusiasts in the provincial literary chambers,
compounded of the effusions of your Voltaires and Jean-Jacques and
such dirty-fingered scribblers. You have not among all your
philosophers one with the wit to understand that we are an order
consecrated by antiquity, that for our rights and privileges we have
behind us the authority of centuries."
"Humanity, monsieur," Philippe replied, "is more ancient than
nobility. Human rights are contemporary with man."
The Marquis laughed and shrugged.
"That is the answer I might have expected. It has the right note
of cant that distinguishes the philosophers." And then M. de
"You go a long way round," he criticized his cousin, on a note of
"But I am getting there," he was answered. "I desired to make quite
"Faith, you should have no doubt by now."
"I have none." The Marquis rose, and turned again to M. de Vilmorin,
who had understood nothing of that brief exchange. "M. l'abbe,"
said he once more, "you have a very dangerous gift of eloquence. I
can conceive of men being swayed by it. Had you been born a
gentleman, you would not so easily have acquired these false views
that you express."
M. de Vilmorin stared blankly, uncomprehending.
"Had I been born a gentleman, do you say?" quoth he, in a slow,
bewildered voice. "But I was born a gentleman. My race is as old,
my blood as good as yours, monsieur."
>From M. le Marquis there was a slight play of eyebrows, a vague,
indulgent smile. His dark, liquid eyes looked squarely into the
face of M. de Vilmorin.
"You have been deceived in that, I fear."
"Your sentiments betray the indiscretion of which madame your mother
must have been guilty."
The brutally affronting words were sped beyond recall, and the lips
that had uttered them, coldly, as if they had been the merest
commonplace, remained calm and faintly sneering.
A dead silence followed. Andre-Louis' wits were numbed. He stood
aghast, all thought suspended in him, what time M. de Vilmorin's
eyes continued fixed upon M. de La Tour d'Azyr's, as if searching
there for a meaning that eluded him. Quite suddenly he understood
the vile affront. The blood leapt to his face, fire blazed in his
gentle eyes. A convulsive quiver shook him. Then, with an
inarticulate cry, he leaned forward, and with his open hand struck
M. le Marquis full and hard upon his sneering face.
In a flash M. de Chabrillane was on his feet, between the two men.
Too late Andre-Louis had seen the trap. La Tour d'Azyr's words
were but as a move in a game of chess, calculated to exasperate his
opponent into some such counter-move as this - a counter-move that
left him entirely at the other's mercy.
M. le Marquis looked on, very white save where M. de Vilmorin's
finger-prints began slowly to colour his face; but he said nothing
more. Instead, it was M. de Chabrillane who now did the talking,
taking up his preconcerted part in this vile game.
"You realize, monsieur, what you have done," said he, coldly, to
Philippe. "And you realize, of course, what must inevitably follow."
M. de Vilmorin had realized nothing. The poor young man had acted
upon impulse, upon the instinct of decency and honour, never
counting the consequences. But he realized them now at the sinister
invitation of M. de Chabrillane, and if he desired to avoid these
consequences, it was out of respect for his priestly vocation, which
strictly forbade such adjustments of disputes as M. de Chabrillane
was clearly thrusting upon him.
He drew back. "Let one affront wipe out the other," said he, in a
dull voice. "The balance is still in M. le Marquis's favour. Let
that content him."
"Impossible." The Chevalier's lips came together tightly.
Thereafter he was suavity itself, but very firm. "A blow has been
struck, monsieur. I think I am correct in saying that such a thing
has never happened before to M. le Marquis in all his life. If you
felt yourself affronted, you had but to ask the satisfaction due
from one gentleman to another. Your action would seem to confirm
the assumption that you found so offensive. But it does not on that
account render you immune from the consequences."
It was, you see, M. de Chabrillane's part to heap coals upon this
fire, to make quite sure that their victim should not escape them.
"I desire no immunity," flashed back the young seminarist, stung by
this fresh goad. After all, he was nobly born, and the traditions
of his class were strong upon him - stronger far than the seminarist
schooling in humility. He owed it to himself, to his honour, to be
killed rather than avoid the consequences of the thing he had done.
"But he does not wear a sword, messieurs!" cried Andre Louis, aghast.
"That is easily amended. He may have the loan of mine."
"I mean, messieurs," Andre-Louis insisted, between fear for his
friend and indignation, "that it is not his habit to wear a sword,
that he has never worn one, that he is untutored in its uses. He
is a seminarist - a postulant for holy orders, already half a priest,
and so forbidden from such an engagement as you propose."
"All that he should have remembered before he struck a blow," said
M. de Chabrillane, politely.
"The blow was deliberately provoked," raged Andre-Louis. Then he
recovered himself, though the other's haughty stare had no part in
that recovery. "0 my God, I talk in vain! How is one to argue
against a purpose formed! Come away, Philippe. Don't you see the
M. de Vilmorin cut him short, and flung him off. "Be quiet, Andre.
M. le Marquis is entirely in the right."
"M. le Marquis is in the right?" Andre-Louis let his arms fall
helplessly. This man he loved above all other living men was caught
in the snare of the world's insanity. He was baring his breast to
the knife for the sake of a vague, distorted sense of the honour due
to himself. It was not that he did not see the trap. It was that
his honour compelled him to disdain consideration of it. To
Andre-Louis in that moment he seemed a singularly tragic figure.
Noble, perhaps, but very pitiful.
It was M. de Vilmorin's desire that the matter should be settled
out of hand. In this he was at once objective and subjective. A
prey to emotions sadly at conflict with his priestly vocation, he
was above all in haste to have done, so that he might resume a frame
of mind more proper to it. Also he feared himself a little; by
which I mean that his honour feared his nature. The circumstances
of his education, and the goal that for some years now he had kept
in view, had robbed him of much of that spirited brutality that is
the birthright of the male. He had grown timid and gentle as a
woman. Aware of it, he feared that once the heat of his passion
was spent he might betray a dishonouring weakness, in the ordeal.
M. le Marquis, on his side, was no less eager for an immediate
settlement; and since they had M. de Chabrillane to act for his
cousin, and Andre-Louis to serve as witness for M. de Vilmorin,
there was nothing to delay them.
And so, within a few minutes, all arrangements were concluded, and
you behold that sinisterly intentioned little group of four
assembled in the afternoon sunshine on the bowling-green behind the
inn. They were entirely private, screened more or less from the
windows of the house by a ramage of trees, which, if leafless now,
was at least dense enough to provide an effective lattice.
There were no formalities over measurements of blades or selection
of ground. M. le Marquis removed his sword-belt and scabbard, but
declined not considering it worth while for the sake of so negligible
an opponent - to divest himself either of his shoes or his coat.
Tall, lithe, and athletic, he stood to face the no less tall, but
very delicate and frail, M. de Vilmorin. The latter also disdained
to make any of the usual preparations. Since he recognized that it
could avail him nothing to strip, he came on guard fully dressed,
two hectic spots above the cheek-bones burning on his otherwise grey
M. de Chabrillane, leaning upon a cane - for he had relinquished
his sword to M. de Vilmorin - looked on with quiet interest. Facing
him on the other side of the combatants stood Andre-Louis, the palest
of the four, staring from fevered eyes, twisting and untwisting
His every instinct was to fling himself between the antagonists, to
protest against and frustrate this meeting. That sane impulse was
curbed, however, by the consciousness of its futility. To calm him,
he clung to the conviction that the issue could not really be very
serious. If the obligations of Philippe's honour compelled him to
cross swords with the man he had struck, M. de La Tour d'Azyr's
birth compelled him no less to do no serious hurt to the unfledged
lad he had so grievously provoked. M. le Marquis, after all, was
a man of honour. He could intend no more than to administer a
lesson; sharp, perhaps, but one by which his opponent must live to
profit. Andre-Louis clung obstinately to that for comfort.
Steel beat on steel, and the men engaged. The Marquis presented to
his opponent the narrow edge of his upright body, his knees
slightly flexed and converted into living springs, whilst M. de
Vilmorin stood squarely, a full target, his knees wooden. Honour
and the spirit of fair play alike cried out against such a match.
The encounter was very short, of course. In youth, Philippe had
received the tutoring in sword-play that was given to every boy
born into his station of life. And so he knew at least the
rudiments of what was now expected of him. But what could rudiments
avail him here? Three disengages completed the exchanges, and then
without any haste the Marquis slid his right foot along the moist
turf, his long, graceful body extending itself in a lunge that went
under M. de Vilmorin's clumsy guard, and with the utmost deliberation
he drove his blade through the young man's vitals.
Andre-Louis sprang forward just in time to catch his friend's body
under the armpits as it sank. Then, his own legs bending beneath
the weight of it, he went down with his burden until he was kneeling
on the damp turf. Philippe's limp head lay against Andre-Louis'
left shoulder; Philippe's relaxed arms trailed at his sides; the
blood welled and bubbled from the ghastly wound to saturate the poor
With white face and twitching lips, Andre-Louis looked up at M. de
La Tour d'Azyr, who stood surveying his work with a countenance of
grave but remorseless interest.
"You have killed him!" cried Andre-Louis.
The Marquis ran a lace handkerchief along his blade to wipe it. As
he let the dainty fabric fall, he explained himself. "He had, as
I told him, a too dangerous gift of eloquence."
And he turned away, leaving completest understanding with
Andre-Louis. Still supporting the limp, draining body, the young
man called to him.
"Come back, you cowardly murderer, and make yourself quite safe by
killing me too!"
The Marquis half turned, his face dark with anger. Then M. de
Chabrillane set a restraining hand upon his arm. Although a party
throughout to the deed, the Chevalier was a little appalled now
that it was done. He had not the high stomach of M. de La Tour
d'Azyr, and he was a good deal younger.
"Come away," he said. "The lad is raving. They were friends."
"You heard what he said?" quoth the Marquis.
"Nor can he, or you, or any man deny it," flung back Andre-Louis.
"Yourself, monsieur, you made confession when you gave me now the
reason why you killed him. You did it because you feared him."
"If that were true - what, then?" asked the great gentleman.
"Do you ask? Do you understand of life and humanity nothing but
how to wear a coat and dress your hair - oh, yes, and to handle
weapons against boys and priests? Have you no mind to think, no
soul into which you can turn its vision? Must you be told that it
is a coward's part to kill the thing he fears, and doubly a coward's
part to kill in this way? Had you stabbed him in the back with a
knife, you would have shown the courage of your vileness. It would
have been a vileness undisguised. But you feared the consequences
of that, powerful as you are; and so you shelter your cowardice
under the pretext of a duel."
The Marquis shook off his cousin's hand, and took a step forward,
holding now his sword like a whip. But again the Chevalier caught
and held him.
"No, no, Gervais! Let be, in God's name!"
"Let him come, monsieur," raved Andre-Louis, his voice thick and
concentrated. "Let him complete his coward's work on me, and thus
make himself safe from a coward's wages."
M. de Chabrillane let his cousin go. He came white to the lips,
his eyes glaring at the lad who so recklessly insulted him. And
then he checked. It may be that he remembered suddenly the
relationship in which this young man was popularly believed to
stand to the Seigneur de Gavrillac, and the well-known affection
in which the Seigneur held him. And so he may have realized that
if he pushed this matter further, he might find himself upon the
horns of a dilemma. He would be confronted with the alternatives
of shedding more blood, and so embroiling himself with the Lord of
Gavrillac at a time when that gentleman's friendship was of the
first importance to him, or else of withdrawing with such hurt to
his dignity as must impair his authority in the countryside
Be it so or otherwise, the fact remains that he stopped short;
then, with an incoherent ejaculation, between anger and contempt,
he tossed his arms, turned on his heel and strode off quickly with
When the landlord and his people came, they found Andre-Louis, his
arms about the body of his dead friend, murmuring passionately into
the deaf ear that rested almost against his lips:
"Philippe! Speak to me, Philippe! Philippe... Don't you hear me?
0 God of Heaven! Philippe!"
At a glance they saw that here neither priest nor doctor could avail.
The cheek that lay against Andre-Louis's was leaden-hued, the
half-open eyes were glazed, and there was a little froth of blood
upon the vacuously parted lips.
Half blinded by tears Andre-Louis stumbled after them when they bore
the body into the inn. Upstairs in the little room to which they
conveyed it, he knelt by the bed, and holding the dead man's hand
in both his own, he swore to him out of his impotent rage that M. de
La Tour d'Azyr should pay a bitter price for this.
"It was your eloquence he feared, Philippe," he said. Then if I can
get no justice for this deed, at least it shall be fruitless to him.
The thing he feared in you, he shall fear in me. He feared that men
might be swayed by your eloquence to the undoing of such things as
himself. Men shall be swayed by it still. For your eloquence and
your arguments shall be my heritage from you. I will make them my
own. It matters nothing that I do not believe in your gospel of
freedom. I know it - every word of it; that is all that matters to
our purpose, yours and mine. If all else fails, your thoughts shall
find expression in my living tongue. Thus at least we shall have
frustrated his vile aim to still the voice he feared. It shall
profit him nothing to have your blood upon his soul. That voice in
you would never half so relentlessly have hounded him and his as it
shall in me - if all else fails."
It was an exulting thought. It calmed him; it soothed his grief,
and he began very softly to pray. And then his heart trembled as
he considered that Philippe, a man of peace, almost a priest, an
apostle of Christianity, had gone to his Maker with the sin of anger
on his soul. It was horrible. Yet God would see the righteousness
of that anger. And in no case - be man's interpretation of Divinity
what it might - could that one sin outweigh the loving good that
Philippe had ever practised, the noble purity of his great heart.
God after all, reflected Andre-Louis, was not a grand-seigneur.
M. de Kercadiou stared at him blankly out of his pale
THE LORD OF GAVRILLAC
For the second time that day Andre-Louis set out for the chateau,
walking briskly, and heeding not at all the curious eyes that
followed him through the village, and the whisperings that marked
his passage through the people, all agog by now with that day's
event in which he had been an actor.
He was ushered by Benoit, the elderly body-servant, rather
grandiloquently called the seneschal, into the ground-floor room
known traditionally as the library. It still contained several
shelves of neglected volumes, from which it derived its title, but
implements of the chase - fowling-pieces, powder-horns, hunting-bags,
sheath-knives - obtruded far more prominently than those of study.
The furniture was massive, of oak richly carved, and belonging to
another age. Great massive oak beams crossed the rather lofty
Here the squat Seigneur de Gavrillac was restlessly pacing when
Andre-Louis was introduced. He was already informed, as he
announced at once, of what had taken place at the Breton arme. M.
de Chabrillane had just left him, and he confessed himself deeply
grieved and deeply perplexed.
"The pity of it!" he said. "The pity of it!" He bowed his enormous
head. "So estimable a young man, and so full of promise. Ah, this
La Tour d'Azyr is a hard man, and he feels very strongly in these
matters. He may be right. I don't know. I have never killed a man
for holding different views from mine. In fact, I have never killed
a man at all. It isn't in my nature. I shouldn't sleep of nights if
I did. But men are differently made."
"The question, monsieur my godfather," said Andre-Louis, "is what is
to be done." He was quite calm and self-possessed, but very white.
M. de Kercadiou stared at him blankly out of his pale eyes.
"Why, what the devil is there to do? From what I am told, Vilmorin
went so far as to strike M. le Marquis."
"Under the very grossest provocation."
"Which he himself provoked by his revolutionary language. The poor
lad's head was full of this encyclopaedist trash. It comes of too
much reading. I have never set much store by books, Andre; and I
have never known anything but trouble to come out of learning. It
unsettles a man. It complicates his views of life, destroys the
simplicity which makes for peace of mind and happiness. Let this
miserable affair be a warning to you, Andre. You are, yourself,
too prone to these new-fashioned speculations upon a different
constitution of the social order. You see what comes of it. A
fine, estimable young man, the only prop of his widowed mother too,
forgets himself, his position, his duty to that mother - everything;
and goes and gets himself killed like this. It is infernally sad.
On my soul it is sad." He produced a handkerchief, and blew his
nose with vehemence.
Andre-Louis felt a tightening of his heart, a lessening of the
hopes, never too sanguine, which he had founded upon his godfather.
"Your criticisms," he said, "are all for the conduct of the dead,
and none for that of the murderer. It does not seem possible that
you should be in sympathy with such a crime.
"Crime?" shrilled M. de Kercadiou. "My God, boy, you are speaking
of M. de La Tour d'Azyr."
"I am, and of the abominable murder he has committed... "
"Stop!" M. de Kercadiou was very emphatic. "I cannot permit that
you apply such terms to him. I cannot permit it. M. le Marquis is
my friend, and is likely very soon to stand in a still closer
"Notwithstanding this?" asked Andre-Louis.
M. de Kercadiou was frankly impatient.
"Why, what has this to do with it? I may deplore it. But I have
no right to condemn it. It is a common way of adjusting differences
"You really believe that?"
"What the devil do you imply, Andre? Should I say a thing that I
don't believe? You begin to make me angry."
"'Thou shalt not kill,' is the King's law as well as God's."
"You are determined to quarrel with me, I think. It was a duel... "
Andre-Louis interrupted him. "It is no more a duel than if it had
been fought with pistols of which only M. le Marquis 's was loaded.
He invited Philippe to discuss the matter further, with the
deliberate intent of forcing a quarrel upon him and killing him.
Be patient with me, monsieur my god-father. I am not telling you
of what I imagine but what M. le Marquis himself admitted to me."
Dominated a little by the young man's earnestness, M. de Kercadiou's
pale eyes fell away. He turned with a shrug, and sauntered over to
"It would need a court of honour to decide such an issue. And we
have no courts of honour," he said.
"But we have courts of justice."
With returning testiness the seigneur swung round to face him again.
"And what court of justice, do you think, would listen to such a
plea as you appear to have in mind?"
"There is the court of the King's Lieutenant at Rennes."
"And do you think the King's Lieutenant would listen to you?"
"Not to me, perhaps, Monsieur. But if you were to bring the
"I bring the plaint?" M. de Kercadiou's pale eyes were wide with
horror of the suggestion.
"The thing happened here on your domain."
"I bring a plaint against M. de La Tour d'Azyr! You are out of your
senses, I think. Oh, you are mad; as mad as that poor friend of
yours who has come to this end through meddling in what did not
concern him. The language he used here to M. le Marquis on the
score of Mabey was of the most offensive. Perhaps you didn't know
that. It does not at all surprise me that the Marquis should have
"I see," said Andre-Louis, on a note of hopelessness.
"You see? What the devil do you see?"
"That I shall have to depend upon myself alone."
"And what the devil do you propose to do, if you please?"
"I shall go to Rennes, and lay the facts before the King's
"He'll be too busy to see you." And M. de Kercadiou's mind swung
a trifle inconsequently, as weak minds will. "There is trouble
enough in Rennes already on the score of these crazy States General,
with which the wonderful M. Necker is to repair the finances of the
kingdom. As if a peddling Swiss bank-clerk, who is also a damned
Protestant, could succeed where such men as Calonne and Brienne have
"Good-afternoon, monsieur my godfather," said Andre-Louis.
"Where are you going?" was the querulous demand.
"Home at present. To Rennes in the morning."
"Wait, boy, wait!" The squat little man rolled forward, affectionate
concern on his great ugly face, and he set one of his podgy hands on
his godson's shoulder. "Now listen to me, Andre," he reasoned. "This
is sheer knight-errantry - moonshine, lunacy. You'11 come to no good
by it if you persist. You've read 'Don Quixote,' and what happened
to him when he went tilting against windmills. It's what will happen
to you, neither more nor less. Leave things as they are, my boy. I
wouldn't have a mischief happen to you."
Andre-Louis looked at him, smiling wanly.
"I swore an oath to-day which it would damn my soul to break."
"You mean that you'll go in spite of anything that I may say?"
Impetuous as he was inconsequent, M. de Kercadiou was bristling
again. "Very well, then, go... Go to the devil!"
"I will begin with the King's Lieutenant."
"And if you get into the trouble you are seeking, don't come
whimpering to me for assistance," the seigneur stormed. He was very
angry now. "Since you choose to disobey me, you can break your
empty head against the windmill, and be damned to you."
Andre-Louis bowed with a touch of irony, and reached the door.
"If the windmill should prove too formidable," said he, from the
threshold, "I may see what can be done with the wind. Good-bye,
monsieur my godfather."
He was gone, and M. de Kercadiou was alone, purple in the face,
puzzling out that last cryptic utterance, and not at all happy in
his mind, either on the score of his godson or of M. de La Tour
d'Azyr. He was disposed to be angry with them both. He found
these headstrong, wilful men who relentlessly followed their own
impulses very disturbing and irritating. Himself he loved his ease,
and to be at peace with his neighbours; and that seemed to him so
obviously the supreme good of life that he was disposed to brand
them as fools who troubled to seek other things.
There was between Nantes and Rennes an established service of three
stage-coaches weekly in each direction, which for a sum of
twenty-four livres - roughly, the equivalent of an English guinea
- would carry you the seventy and odd miles of the journey in some
fourteen hours. Once a week one of the diligences going in each
direction would swerve aside from the highroad to call at Gavrillac,
to bring and take letters, newspapers, and sometimes passengers. It
was usually by this coach that Andre-Louis came and went when the
occasion offered. At present, however, he was too much in haste to
lose a day awaiting the passing of that diligence. So it was on a
horse hired from the Breton arme that he set out next morning; and
an hour's brisk ride under a grey wintry sky, by a half-ruined road
through ten miles of flat, uninteresting country, brought him to the
city of Rennes.
He rode across the main bridge over the Vilaine, and so into the
upper and principal part of that important city of some thirty
thousand souls, most of whom, he opined from the seething, clamant
crowds that everywhere blocked his way, must on this day have taken
to the streets. Clearly Philippe had not overstated the excitement
He pushed on as best he could, and so came at last to the Place
Royale, where he found the crowd to be most dense. From the plinth
of the equestrian statue of Louis XV, a white-faced young man was
excitedly addressing the multitude. His youth and dress proclaimed
the student, and a group of his fellows, acting as a guard of honour
to him, kept the immediate precincts of the statue.
Over the heads of the crowd Andre-Louis caught a few of the phrases
flung forth by that eager voice.
"It was the promise of the King... It is the King's authority they
flout... They arrogate to themselves the whole sovereignty in
Brittany. The King has dissolved them... These insolent nobles
defying their sovereign and the people... "
Had he not known already, from what Philippe had told him, of the
events which had brought the Third Estate to the point of active
revolt, those few phrases would fully have informed him. This popular
display of temper was most opportune to his need, he thought. And in
the hope that it might serve his turn by disposing to reasonableness
the mind of the King's Lieutenant, he pushed on up the wide and
well-paved Rue Royale, where the concourse of people began to diminish.
He put up his hired horse at the Come de Cerf, and set out again, on
foot, to the Palais de Justice.
There was a brawling mob by the framework of poles and scaffoldings
about the building cathedral, upon which work had been commenced
a year ago. But he did not pause to ascertain the particular cause
of that gathering. He strode on, and thus came presently to the
handsome Italianate palace that was one of the few public edifices
hat had survived the devastating fire of sixty years ago.
He won through with difficulty to the great hall, known as the Salle
des Pas Perdus, where he was left to cool his heels for a full
half-hour after he had found an usher so condescending as to inform
the god who presided over that shrine of Justice that a lawyer from
Gavrillac humbly begged an audience on an affair of gravity.
That the god condescended to see him at all was probably due to the
grave complexion of the hour. At long length he was escorted up
the broad stone staircase, and ushered into a spacious, meagrely
furnished anteroom, to make one of a waiting crowd of clients,
There he spent another half-hour, and employed the time in
considering exactly what he should say. This consideration made
him realize the weakness of the case he proposed to set before a
man whose views of law and morality were coloured by his social
At last he was ushered through a narrow but very massive and richly
decorated door into a fine, well-lighted room furnished with enough
gilt and satin to have supplied the boudoir of a lady of fashion.
It was a trivial setting for a King's Lieutenant, but about the
King's Lieutenant there was - at least to ordinary eyes - nothing
trivial. At the far end of the chamber, to the right of one of the
tall windows that looked out over the inner court, before a
goat-legged writing-table with Watteau panels, heavily encrusted
with ormolu, sat that exalted being. Above a scarlet coat with an
order flaming on its breast, and a billow of lace in which diamonds
sparkled like drops of water, sprouted the massive powdered head
of M. de Lesdiguieres. It was thrown back to scowl upon this
visitor with an expectant arrogance that made Andre-Louis wonder
almost was a genuflexion awaited from him.
Perceiving a lean, lantern-jawed young man, with straight, lank
black hair, in a caped riding-coat of brown cloth, and yellow
buckskin breeches, his knee-boots splashed with mud, the scowl upon
that August visage deepened until it brought together the thick
black eyebrows above the great hooked nose.
"You announce yourself as a lawyer of Gavrillac with an important
communication," he growled. It was a peremptory command to make
this communication without wasting the valuable time of a King's
Lieutenant, of whose immense importance it conveyed something more
than a hint. M. de Lesdiguieres accounted himself an imposing
personality, and he had every reason to do so, for in his time he
had seen many a poor devil scared out of all his senses by the
thunder of his voice.
He waited now to see the same thing happen to this youthful lawyer
from Gavrillac. But he waited in vain.
Andre-Louis found him ridiculous. He knew pretentiousness for the
mask of worthlessness and weakness. And here he beheld
pretentiousness incarnate. It was to be read in that arrogant
poise of the head, that scowling brow, the inflexion of that
reverberating voice. Even more difficult than it is for a man to
be a hero to his valet - who has witnessed the dispersal of the
parts that make up the imposing whole - is it for a man to be a
hero to the student of Man who has witnessed the same in a different
Andre-Louis stood forward boldly - impudently, thought M. de
"You are His Majesty's Lieutenant here in Brittany," he said - and
it almost seemed to the August lord of life and death that this
fellow had the incredible effrontery to address him as one man
speaking to another. "You are the dispenser of the King's high
justice in this province."
Surprise spread on that handsome, sallow face under the heavily
"Is your business concerned with this infernal insubordination of
the canaille?" he asked.
"It is not, monsieur."
The black eyebrows rose. "Then what the devil do you mean by
intruding upon me at a time when all my attention is being claimed
by the obvious urgency of this disgraceful affair?"
"The affair that brings me is no less disgraceful and no less urgent."
"It will have to wait!" thundered the great man in a passion, and
tossing back a cloud of lace from his hand, he reached for the
little silver bell upon his table.
"A moment, monsieur!" Andre-Louis' tone was peremptory. M. de
Lesdiguieres checked in sheer amazement at its impudence. "I can
state it very briefly... "
"Haven't I said already... "
"And when you have heard it," Andre-Louis went on, relentlessly,
interrupting the interruption, "you will agree with me as to its
M. de Lesdiguieres considered him very sternly.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Well, Andre-Louis Moreau, if you can state your plea briefly, I
will hear you. But I warn you that I shall be very angry if you
fail to justify the impertinence of this insistence at so
inopportune a moment."
"You shall be the judge of that, monsieur," said Andre-Louis, and
he proceeded at once to state his case, beginning with the shooting
of Mabey, and passing thence to the killing of M. de Vilmorin. But
he withheld until the end the name of the great gentleman against
whom he demanded justice, persuaded that did he introduce it earlier
he would not be allowed to proceed.
He had a gift of oratory of whose full powers he was himself hardly
conscious yet, though destined very soon to become so.. He told
his story well, without exaggeration, yet with a force of simple
appeal that was irresistible. Gradually the great man's face relaxed
from its forbidding severity. Interest, warming almost to sympathy,
came to be reflected on it.
"And who, sir, is the man you charge with this?"
"The Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr."
The effect of that formidable name was immediate. Dismayed anger,
and an arrogance more utter than before, took the place of the
sympathy he had been betrayed into displaying.
"Who?" he shouted, and without waiting for an answer, "Why, here's
impudence," he stormed on, "to come before me with such a charge
against a gentleman of M. de La Tour d'Azyr's eminence! How dare
you speak of him as a coward."
"I speak of him as a murderer," the young man corrected. "And I
demand justice against him."
"You demand it, do you? My God, what next?"
"That is for you to say, monsieur."
It surprised the great gentleman into a more or less successful
effort of self-control.
"Let me warn you," said he, acidly, "that it is not wise to make
wild accusations against a nobleman. That, in itself, is a
punishable offence, as you may learn. Now listen to me. In this
matter of Mabey - assuming your statement of it to be exact - the
gamekeeper may have exceeded his duty; but by so little that it is
hardly worth comment. Consider, however, that in any case it is
not a matter for the King's Lieutenant, or for any court but the
seigneurial court of M. de La Tour d'Azyr himself. It is before
the magistrates of his own appointing that such a matter must be
laid, since it is matter strictly concerning his own seigneurial
jurisdiction. As a lawyer you should not need to be told so much."
"As a lawyer, I am prepared to argue the point. But, as a lawyer
I also realize that if that case were prosecuted, it could only end
in the unjust punishment of a wretched gamekeeper, who did no more
than carry out his orders, but who none the less would now be made
a scapegoat, if scapegoat were necessary. I am not concerned to
hang Benet on the gallows earned by M. de La Tour d'Azyr."
M. de Lesdiguieres smote the table violently. "My God!" he cried
out, to add more quietly, on a note of menace, "You are singularly
insolent, my man."
"That is not my intention, sir, I assure you. I am a lawyer,
pleading a case - the case of M. de Vilmorin. It is for his
assassination that I have come to beg the King's justice."
"But you yourself have said that it was a duel!" cried the
Lieutenant, between anger and bewilderment.
"I have said that it was made to appear a duel. There is a
distinction, as I shall show, if you will condescend to hear me out."
"Take your own time, sir!" said the ironical M. de Lesdiguieres,
whose tenure of office had never yet held anything that remotely
resembled this experience.
Andre-Louis took him literally. "I thank you, sir," he answered,
solemnly, and submitted his argument. "It can be shown that M. de
Vilmorin never practised fencing in all his life, and it is notorious
that M. de La Tour d'Azyr is an exceptional swordsman. Is it a duel,
monsieur, where one of the combatants alone is armed? For it amounts
to that on a comparison of their measures of respective skill."
"There has scarcely been a duel fought on which the same trumpery
argument might not be advanced."
"But not always with equal justice. And in one case, at least, it
was advanced successfully."
"Successfully? When was that?"
"Ten years ago, in Dauphiny. I refer to the case of M. de Gesvres,
a gentleman of that province, who forced a duel upon M. de la Roche
Jeannine, and killed him. M. de Jeannine was a member of a powerful
family, which exerted itself to obtain justice. It put forward just
such arguments as now obtain against M. de La Tour d'Azyr. As you
will remember, the judges held that the provocation had proceeded
of intent from M. de Gesvres; they found him guilty of premeditated
murder, and he was hanged."
Back to Full Books