Scaramouche A Romance of the French Revolution
Part 2 out of 8
M. de Lesdiguieres exploded yet again. "Death of my life!" he cried.
"Have you the effrontery to suggest that M. de La Tour d'Azyr should
be hanged? Have you?"
"But why not, monsieur, if it is the law, and there is precedent
for it, as I have shown you, and if it can be established that what
I state is the truth - as established it can be without difficulty?"
"Do you ask me, why not? Have you temerity to ask me that?"
"I have, monsieur. Can you answer me? If you cannot, monsieur, I
shall understand that whilst it is possible for a powerful family
like that of La Roche Jeannine to set the law in motion, the law
must remain inert for the obscure and uninfluential, however
brutally wronged by a great nobleman."
M. de Lesdiguieres perceived that in argument he would accomplish
nothing against this impassive, resolute young man. The menace of
him grew more fierce.
"I should advise you to take yourself off at once, and to be
thankful for the opportunity to depart unscathed."
"I am, then, to understand, monsieur, that there will be no inquiry
into this case? That nothing that I can say will move you?"
"You are to understand that if you are still there in two minutes
it will be very much the worse for you." And M. de Lesdiguieres
tinkled the silver hand-bell upon his table.
"I have informed you, monsieur, that a duel - so-called - has been
fought, and a man killed. It seems that I must remind you, the
administrator of the King's justice, that duels are against the law,
and that it is your duty to hold an inquiry. I come as the legal
representative of the bereaved mother of M. de Vilmorin to demand
of you the inquiry that is due."
The door behind Andre-Louis opened softly. M. de Lesdiguieres,
pale with anger, contained himself with difficulty.
"You seek to compel us, do you, you impudent rascal?" he growled.
"You think the King's justice is to be driven headlong by the voice
of any impudent roturier? I marvel at my own patience with you.
But I give you a last warning, master lawyer; keep a closer guard
over that insolent tongue of yours, or you will have cause very
bitterly to regret its glibness." He waved a jewelled, contemptuous
hand, and spoke to the usher standing behind Andre. "To the door!"
he said, shortly.
Andre-Louis hesitated a second. Then with a shrug he turned. This
was the windmill, indeed, and he a poor knight of rueful countenance.
To attack it at closer quarters would mean being dashed to pieces.
Yet on the threshold he turned again.
"M. de Lesdiguieres," said he, "may I recite to you an interesting
fact in natural history? The tiger is a great lord in the jungle,
and was for centuries the terror of lesser beasts, including the
wolf. The wolf, himself a hunter, wearied of being hunted. He
took to associating with other wolves, and then the wolves, driven
to form packs for self-protection, discovered the power of the pack,
and took to hunting the tiger, with disastrous results to him. You
should study Buffon, M. de Lesdiguieres."
"I have studied a buffoon this morning, I think," was the punning
sneer with which M. de Lesdiguieres replied. But that he conceived
himself witty, it is probable he would not have condescended to
reply at all. "I don't understand you," he added.
"But you will, M. de Lesdiguieres. You will," said Andre-Louis,
and so departed.
He had broken his futile lance with the windmill - the image
suggested by M. de Kercadiou persisted in his mind - and it was, he
perceived, by sheer good fortune that he had escaped without hurt.
There remained the wind itself - the whirlwind. And the events in
Rennes, reflex of the graver events in Nantes, had set that wind
blowing in his favour.
He set out briskly to retrace his steps towards the Place Royale,
where the gathering of the populace was greatest, where, as he
judged, lay the heart and brain of this commotion that was exciting
But the commotion that he had left there was as nothing to the
commotion which he found on his return. Then there had been a
comparative hush to listen to the voice of a speaker who denounced
the First and Second Estates from the pedestal of the statue of
Louis XV. Now the air was vibrant with the voice of the multitude
itself, raised in anger. Here and there men were fighting with
canes and fists; everywhere a fierce excitement raged, and the
gendarmes sent thither by the King's Lieutenant to restore and
maintain order were so much helpless flotsam in that tempestuous
There were cries of "To the Palais! To the Palais! Down with the
assassins! Down with the nobles! To the Palais!"
An artisan who stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the press
enlightened Andre-Louis on the score of the increased excitement.
"They've shot him dead. His body is lying there where it fell at
the foot of the statue. And there was another student killed not
an hour ago over there by the cathedral works. Pardi! If they
can't prevail in one way they'll prevail in another." The man was
fiercely emphatic. "They'll stop at nothing. If they can't overawe
us, by God, they'll assassinate us. They are determined to conduct
these States of Brittany in their own way. No interests but their
own shall be considered."
Andre-Louis left him still talking, and clove himself a way through
that human press.
At the statue's base he came upon a little cluster of students about
the body of the murdered lad, all stricken with fear and helplessness.
"You here, Moreau!" said a voice.
He looked round to find himself confronted by a slight, swarthy man
of little more than thirty, firm of mouth and impertinent of nose,
who considered him with disapproval. It was Le Chapelier, a lawyer
of Rennes, a prominent member of the Literary Chamber of that city,
a forceful man, fertile in revolutionary ideas and of an exceptional
gift of eloquence.
"Ah, it is you, Chapelier! Why don't you speak to them? Why don't
you tell them what to do? Up with you, man!" And he pointed to
Le Chapelier's dark, restless eyes searched the other's impassive
face for some trace of the irony he suspected. They were as wide
asunder as the poles, these two, in their political views; and
mistrusted as Andre-Louis was by all his colleagues of the Literary
Chamber of Rennes, he was by none mistrusted so thoroughly as by
this vigorous republican. Indeed, had Le Chapelier been able to
prevail against the influence of the seminarist Vilmorin,
Andre-Louis would long since have found himself excluded from that
assembly of the intellectual youth of Rennes, which he exasperated
by his eternal mockery of their ideals.
So now Le Chapelier suspected mockery in that invitation, suspected
it even when he failed to find traces of it on Andre-Louis' face,
for he had learnt by experience that it was a face not often to be
trusted for an indication of the real thoughts that moved behind it.
"Your notions and mine on that score can hardly coincide," said he.
"Can there be two opinions?" quoth Andre-Louis.
"There are usually two opinions whenever you and I are together,
Moreau - more than ever now that you are the appointed delegate of
a nobleman. You see what your friends have done. No doubt you
approve their methods." He was coldly hostile.
Andre-Louis looked at him without surprise. So invariably opposed
to each other in academic debates, how should Le Chapelier suspect
his present intentions?
"If you won't tell them what is to be done, I will," said he.
"Nom de Dieu! If you want to invite a bullet from the other side,
I shall not hinder you. It may help to square the account."
Scarcely were the words out than he repented them; for as if in
answer to that challenge Andre-Louis sprang up on to the plinth.
Alarmed now, for he could only suppose it to be Andre-Louis'
intention to speak on behalf of Privilege, of which he was a
publicly appointed representative, Le Chapelier clutched him by the
leg to pull him down again.
"Ah, that, no!" he was shouting. "Come down, you fool. Do you
think we will let you ruin everything by your clowning? Come down!"
Andre-Louis, maintaining his position by clutching one of the legs
of the bronze horse, flung his voice like a bugle-note over the
heads of that seething mob.
"Citizens of Rennes, the motherland is in danger!"
The effect was electric. A stir ran, like a ripple over water,
across that froth of upturned human faces, and completest silence
followed. In that great silence they looked at this slim young man,
hatless, long wisps of his black hair fluttering in the breeze, his
neckcloth in disorder, his face white, his eyes on fire.
Andre-Louis felt a sudden surge of exaltation as he realized by
instinct that at one grip he had seized that crowd, and that he held
it fast in the spell of his cry and his audacity.
Even Le Chapelier, though still clinging to his ankle, had ceased
to tug. The reformer, though unshaken in his assumption of
Andre-Louis' intentions, was for a moment bewildered by the first
note of his appeal.
And then, slowly, impressively, in a voice that travelled clear to
the ends of the square, the young lawyer of Gavrillac began to speak.
"Shuddering in horror of the vile deed here perpetrated, my voice
demands to be heard by you. You have seen murder done under your
eyes - the murder of one who nobly, without any thought of self,
gave voice to the wrongs by which we are all oppressed. Fearing
that voice, shunning the truth as foul things shun the light, our
oppressors sent their agents to silence him in death."
Le Chapelier released at last his hold of Andre-Louis' ankle,
staring up at him the while in sheer amazement. It seemed that the
fellow was in earnest; serious for once; and for once on the right
side. What had come to him?
"Of assassins what shall you look for but assassination? I have a
tale to tell which will show that this is no new thing that you
have witnessed here to-day; it will reveal to you the forces with
which you have to deal. Yesterday... "
There was an interruption. A voice in the crowd, some twenty paces,
perhaps, was raised to shout:
"Yet another of them!"
Immediately after the voice came a pistol-shot, and a bullet
flattened itself against the bronze figure just behind Andre-Louis.
Instantly there was turmoil in the crowd, most intense about the
spot whence the shot had been fired. The assailant was one of a
considerable group of the opposition, a group that found itself at
once beset on every side, and hard put to it to defend him.
>From the foot of the plinth rang the voice of the students making
chorus to Le Chapelier, who was bidding Andre-Louis to seek shelter.
"Come down! Come down at once! They'll murder you as they murdered
"Let them!" He flung wide his arms in a gesture supremely theatrical,
and laughed. "I stand here at their mercy. Let them, if they will,
add mine to the blood that will presently rise up to choke them.
Let them assassinate me. It is a trade they understand. But until
they do so, they shall not prevent me from speaking to you, from
telling you what is to be looked for in them." And again he laughed,
not merely in exaltation as they supposed who watched him from below,
but also in amusement. And his amusement had two sources. One was
to discover how glibly he uttered the phrases proper to whip up
the emotions of a crowd: the other was in the remembrance of how
the crafty Cardinal de Retz, for the purpose of inflaming popular
sympathy on his behalf, had been in the habit of hiring fellows
to fire upon his carriage. He was in just such case as that
arch-politician. True, he had not hired the fellow to fire that
pistol-shot; but he was none the less obliged to him, and ready to
derive the fullest, advantage from the act.
The group that sought to protect that man was battling on, seeking
to hew a way out of that angry, heaving press.
"Let them go!" Andre-Louis called down... "What matters one assassin
more or less? Let them go, and listen to me, my countrymen!"
And presently, when some measure of order was restored, he began
his tale. In simple language now, yet with a vehemence and
directness that drove home every point, he tore their hearts with
the story of yesterday's happenings at Gavrillac. He drew tears
from them with the pathos of his picture of the bereaved widow
Mabey and her three starving, destitute children - "orphaned to
avenge the death of a pheasant" - and the bereaved mother of that
M. de Vilmorin, a student of Rennes, known here to many of them,
who had met his death in a noble endeavour to champion the cause of
an esurient member of their afflicted order.
"The Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr said of him that he had too dangerous
a gift of eloquence. It was to silence his brave voice that he
killed him. But he has failed of his object. For I, poor Philippe
de Vilmorin's friend, have assumed the mantle of his apostleship,
and I speak to you with his voice to-day."
It was a statement that helped Le Chapelier at last to understand,
at least in part, this bewildering change in Andre-Louis, which
rendered him faithless to the side that employed him.
"I am not here," continued Andre-Louis, "merely to demand at your
hands vengeance upon Philippe de Vilmorin's murderers. I am here
to tell you the things he would to-day have told you had he lived."
So far at least he was frank. But he did not add that they were
things he did not himself believe, things that he accounted the
cant by which an ambitious bourgeoisie - speaking through the mouths
of the lawyers, who were its articulate part - sought to overthrow
to its own advantage the present state of things. He left his
audience in the natural belief that the views he expressed were the
views he held.
And now in a terrible voice, with an eloquence that amazed himself,
he denounced the inertia of the royal justice where the great are
the offenders. It was with bitter sarcasm that he spoke of their
King's Lieutenant, M. de Lesdiguieres.
"Do you wonder," he asked them, "that M. de Lesdiguieres should
administer the law so that it shall ever be favourable to our great
nobles? Would it be just, would it be reasonable that he should
otherwise administer it?" He paused dramatically to let his sarcasm
sink in. It had the effect of reawakening Le Chapelier's doubts,
and checking his dawning conviction in Andre-Louis' sincerity.
Whither was he going now?
He was not left long in doubt. Proceeding, Andre-Louis spoke as he
conceived that Philippe de Vilmorin would have spoken. He had so
often argued with him, so often attended the discussions of the
Literary Chamber, that he had all the rant of the reformers - that
was yet true in substance - at his fingers' ends.
"Consider, after all, the composition of this France of ours. A
million of its inhabitants are members of the privileged classes.
They compose France. They are France. For surely you cannot
suppose the remainder to be anything that matters. It cannot be
pretended that twenty-four million souls are of any account, that
they can be representative of this great nation, or that they can
exist for any purpose but that of servitude to the million elect."
Bitter laughter shook them now, as he desired it should. "Seeing
their privileges in danger of invasion by these twenty-four
millions - mostly canailles; possibly created by God, it is true,
but clearly so created to be the slaves of Privilege - does it
surprise you that the dispensing of royal justice should be placed
in the stout hands of these Lesdiguieres, men without brains to
think or hearts to be touched? Consider what it is that must be
defended against the assault of us others - canaille. Consider a
few of these feudal rights that are in danger of being swept away
should the Privileged yield even to the commands of their sovereign;
and admit the Third Estate to an equal vote with themselves.
"What would become of the right of terrage on the land, of parciere
on the fruit-trees, of carpot on the vines? What of the corvees
by which they command forced labour, of the ban de vendage, which
gives them the first vintage, the banvin which enables them to
control to their own advantage the sale of wine? What of their
right of grinding the last liard of taxation out of the people to
maintain their own opulent estate; the cens, the lods-et-ventes,
which absorb a fifth of the value of the land, the blairee, which
must be paid before herds can feed on communal lands, the pulverage
to indemnify them for the dust raised on their roads by the herds
that go to market, the sextelage on everything offered for sale in
the public markets, the etalonnage, and all the rest? What of their
rights over men and animals for field labour, of ferries over rivers,
and of bridges over streams, of sinking wells, of warren, of dovecot,
and of fire, which last yields them a tax on every peasant hearth?
What of their exclusive rights of fishing and of hunting, the
violation of which is ranked as almost a capital offence?
"And what of other rights, unspeakable, abominable, over the lives
and bodies of their people, rights which, if rarely exercised, have
never been rescinded. To this day if a noble returning from the
hunt were to slay two of his serfs to bathe and refresh his feet in
their blood, he could still claim in his sufficient defence that it
was his absolute feudal right to do so.
"Rough-shod, these million Privileged ride over the souls and bodies
of twenty-four million contemptible canaille existing but for their
own pleasure. Woe betide him who so much as raises his voice in
protest in the name of humanity against an excess of these already
excessive abuses. I have told you of one remorselessly slain in
cold blood for doing no more than that. Your own eyes have witnessed
the assassination of another here upon this plinth, of yet another
over there by the cathedral works, and the attempt upon my own life.
"Between them and the justice due to them in such cases stand these
Lesdiguieres, these King's Lieutenants; not instruments of justice,
but walls erected for the shelter of Privilege and Abuse whenever it
exceeds its grotesquely excessive rights.
"Do you wonder that they will not yield an inch; that they will
resist the election of a Third Estate with the voting power to
sweep all these privileges away, to compel the Privileged to submit
themselves to a just equality in the eyes of the law with the
meanest of the canaille they trample underfoot, to provide that the
moneys necessary to save this state from the bankruptcy into which
they have all but plunged it shall be raised by taxation to be borne
by themselves in the same proportion as by others?
"Sooner than yield to so much they prefer to resist even the royal
A phrase occurred to him used yesterday by Vilmorin, a phrase to
which he had refused to attach importance when uttered then. He
used it now. "In doing this they are striking at the very
foundations of the throne. These fools do not perceive that if
that throne falls over, it is they who stand nearest to it who will
A terrific roar acclaimed that statement. Tense and quivering with
the excitement that was flowing through him, and from him out into
that great audience, he stood a moment smiling ironically. Then he
waved them into silence,, and saw by their ready obedience how
completely he possessed them. For in the voice with which he spoke
each now recognized the voice of himself, giving at last expression
to the thoughts that for months and years had been inarticulately
stirring in each simple mind.
Presently he resumed, speaking more quietly, that ironic smile about
the corner of his mouth growing more marked:
"In taking my leave of M. de Lesdiguieres I gave him warning out of
a page of natural history. I told him that when the wolves, roaming
singly through the jungle, were weary of being hunted by the tiger,
they banded themselves into packs, and went a-hunting the tiger in
their turn. M. de Lesdiguieres contemptuously answered that he did
not understand me. But your wits are better than his. You
understand me, I think? Don't you?"
Again a great roar, mingled now with some approving laughter, was
his answer. He had wrought them up to a pitch of dangerous passion,
and they were ripe for any violence to which he urged them. If he
had failed with the windmill, at least he was now master of the wind.
"To the Palais!" they shouted, waving their hands, brandishing canes,
and - here and there - even a sword. "To the Palais! Down with M.
de Lesdiguieres! Death to the King's Lieutenant!"
He was master of the wind, indeed. His dangerous gift of oratory
- a gift nowhere more powerful than in France, since nowhere else
are men's emotions so quick to respond to the appeal of eloquence
- had given him this mastery. At his bidding now the gale would
sweep away the windmill against which he had flung himself in vain.
But that, as he straightforwardly revealed it, was no part of his
"Ah, wait!" he bade them. "Is this miserable instrument of a
corrupt system worth the attention of your noble indignation?"
He hoped his words would be reported to M. de Lesdiguieres. He
thought it would be good for the soul of M. de Lesdiguieres to hear
the undiluted truth about himself for once.
"It is the system itself you must attack and overthrow; not a mere
instrument - a miserable painted lath such as this. And precipitancy
will spoil everything. Above all, my children, no violence!"
My children! Could his godfather have heard him!
"You have seen often already the result of premature violence
elsewhere in Brittany, and you have heard of it elsewhere in France.
Violence on your part will call for violence on theirs. They will
welcome the chance to assert their mastery by a firmer grip than
heretofore. The military will be sent for. You will be faced by
the bayonets of mercenaries. Do not provoke that, I implore you.
Do not put it into their power, do not afford them the pretext they
would welcome to crush you down into the mud of your own blood."
Out of the silence into which they had fallen anew broke now the
"What else, then? What else?"
"I will tell you," he answered them. "The wealth and strength of
Brittany lies in Nantes - a bourgeois city, one of the most
prosperous in this realm, rendered so by the energy of the
bourgeoisie and the toil of the people. It was in Nantes that
this movement had its beginning, and as a result of it the King
issued his order dissolving the States as now constituted - an
order which those who base their power on Privilege and Abuse do
not hesitate to thwart. Let Nantes be informed of the precise
situation, and let nothing be done here until Nantes shall have
given us the lead. She has the power - which we in Rennes have
not - to make her will prevail, as we have seen already. Let her
exert that power once more, and until she does so do you keep the
peace in Rennes. Thus shall you triumph. Thus shall the outrages
that are being perpetrated under your eyes be fully and finally
As abruptly as he had leapt upon the plinth did he now leap down
from it. He had finished. He had said all - perhaps more than
all - that could have been said by the dead friend with whose voice
he spoke. But it was not their will that he should thus extinguish
himself. The thunder of their acclamations rose deafeningly upon
the air. He had played upon their emotions - each in turn - as a
skilful harpist plays upon the strings of his instrument. And they
were vibrant with the passions he had aroused, and the high note of
hope on which he had brought his symphony to a close.
A dozen students caught him as he leapt down, and swung him to their
shoulders, where again he came within view of all the acclaiming
The delicate Le Chapelier pressed alongside of him with flushed face
and shining eyes.
"My lad," he said to him, "you have kindled a fire to-day that will
sweep the face of France in a blaze of liberty." And then to the
students he issued a sharp command. "To the Literary Chamber -at
once. We must concert measures upon the instant, a delegate must
be dispatched to Nantes forthwith, to convey to our friends there
the message of the people of Rennes."
The crowd fell back, opening a lane through which the students bore
the hero of the hour. Waving his hands to them, he called upon
them to disperse to their homes, and await there in patience what
must follow very soon.
"You have endured for centuries with a fortitude that is a pattern
to the world," he flattered them. "Endure a little longer yet. The
end, my friends, is well in sight at last."
They carried him out of the square and up the Rue Royale to an old
house, one of the few old houses surviving in that city that had
risen from its ashes, where in an upper chamber lighted by
diamond-shaped panes of yellow glass the Literary Chamber usually
held its meetings. Thither in his wake the members of that chamber
came hurrying, summoned by the messages that Le Chapelier had issued
during their progress.
Behind closed doors a flushed and excited group of some fifty men,
the majority of whom were young, ardent, and afire with the illusion
of liberty, hailed Andre-Louis as the strayed sheep who had returned
to the fold, and smothered him in congratulations and thanks.
Then they settled down to deliberate upon immediate measures, whilst
the doors below were kept by a guard of honour that had improvised
itself from the masses. And very necessary was this. For no sooner
had the Chamber assembled than the house was assailed by the
gendarmerie of M. de Lesdiguieres, dispatched in haste to arrest the
firebrand who was inciting the people of Rennes to sedition. The
force consisted of fifty men. Five hundred would have been too few.
The mob broke their carbines, broke some of their heads, and would
indeed have torn them into pieces had they not beaten a timely and
well-advised retreat before a form of horseplay to which they were
not at all accustomed.
And whilst that was taking place in the street below, in the room
abovestairs the eloquent Le Chapelier was addressing his colleagues
of the Literary Chamber. Here, with no bullets to fear, and no
one to report his words to the authorities, Le Chapelier could
permit his oratory a full, unintimidated flow. And that considerable
oratory was as direct and brutal as the man himself was delicate and
He praised the vigour and the greatness of the speech they had heard
from their colleague Moreau. Above all he praised its wisdom.
Moreau's words had come as a surprise to them. Hitherto they had
never known him as other than a bitter critic of their projects of
reform and regeneration; and quite lately they had heard, not without
misgivings, of his appointment as delegate for a nobleman in the
States of Brittany. But they held the explanation of his conversion.
The murder of their dear colleague Vilmorin had produced this change.
In that brutal deed Moreau had beheld at last in true proportions
the workings of that evil spirit which they were vowed to exorcise
from France. And to-day he had proven himself the stoutest apostle
among them of the new faith. He had pointed out to them the only
sane and useful course. The illustration he had borrowed from
natural history was most apt. Above all, let them pack like the
wolves, and to ensure this uniformity of action in the people of
all Brittany, let a delegate at once be sent to Nantes, which had
already proved itself the real seat of Brittany's power. It but
remained to appoint that delegate, and Le Chapelier invited them
to elect him.
Andre-Louis, on a bench near the window, a prey now to some measure
of reaction, listened in bewilderment to that flood of eloquence.
As the applause died down, he heard a voice exclaiming:
"I propose to you that we appoint our leader here, Le Chapelier, to
be that delegate."
Le Chapelier reared his elegantly dressed head, which had been bowed
in thought, and it was seen that his countenance was pale. Nervously
he fingered a gold spy-glass.
"My friends," he said, slowly, "I am deeply sensible of the honour
that you do me. But in accepting it I should be usurping an honour
that rightly belongs elsewhere. Who could represent us better, who
more deserving to be our representative, to speak to our friends of
Nantes with the voice of Rennes, than the champion who once already
to-day has so incomparably given utterance to the voice of this
great city? Confer this honour of being your spokesman where it
belongs - upon Andre-Louis Moreau."
Rising in response to the storm of applause that greeted the
proposal, Andre-Louis bowed and forthwith yielded. "Be it so," he
said, simply. "It is perhaps fitting that I should carry out what
I have begun, though I too am of the opinion that Le Chapelier would
have been a worthier representative. I will set out to-night."
"You will set out at once, my lad," Le Chapelier informed him, and
now revealed what an uncharitable mind might account the true source
of his generosity. "It is not safe after what has happened for you
to linger an hour in Rennes. And you must go secretly. Let none
of you allow it to be known that he has gone. I would not have you
come to harm over this, Andre-Louis. But you must see the risks
you run, and if you are to be spared to help in this work of
salvation of our afflicted motherland, you must use caution, move
secretly, veil your identity even. Or else M. de Lesdiguieres will
have you laid by the heels, and it will be good-night for you."
Andre-Louis rode forth from Rennes committed to a deeper adventure
than he had dreamed of when he left the sleepy village of Gavrillac.
Lying the night at a roadside inn, and setting out again early in
the morning, he reached Nantes soon after noon of the following day.
Through that long and lonely ride through the dull plains of
Brittany, now at their dreariest in their winter garb, he had ample
leisure in which to review his actions and his position. From one
who had taken hitherto a purely academic and by no means friendly
interest in the new philosophies of social life, exercising his wits
upon these new ideas merely as a fencer exercises his eye and wrist
with the foils, without ever suffering himself to be deluded into
supposing the issue a real one, he found himself suddenly converted
into a revolutionary firebrand, committed to revolutionary action
of the most desperate kind. The representative and delegate of a
nobleman in the States of Brittany, he found himself simultaneously
and incongruously the representative and delegate of the whole Third
Estate of Rennes.
It is difficult to determine to what extent, in the heat of passion
and swept along by the torrent of his own oratory, he might
yesterday have succeeded in deceiving himself. But it is at least
certain that, looking back in cold blood now he had no single
delusion on the score of what he had done. Cynically he had
presented to his audience one side only of the great question that
But since the established order of things in France was such as to
make a rampart for M. de La Tour d'Azyr, affording him complete
immunity for this and any other crimes that it pleased him to commit,
why, then the established order must take the consequences of its
wrong-doing. Therein he perceived his clear justification.
And so it was without misgivings that he came on his errand of
sedition into that beautiful city of Nantes, rendered its spacious
streets and splendid port the rival in prosperity of Bordeaux and
He found an inn on the Quai La Fosse, where he put up his horse,
and where he dined in the embrasure of a window that looked out
over the tree-bordered quay and the broad bosom of the Loire, on
which argosies of all nations rode at anchor. The sun had again
broken through the clouds, and shed its pale wintry light over the
yellow waters and the tall-masted shipping.
Along the quays there was a stir of life as great as that to be seen
on the quays of Paris. Foreign sailors in outlandish garments and
of harsh-sounding, outlandish speech, stalwart fishwives with baskets
of herrings on their heads, voluminous of petticoat above bare legs
and bare feet, calling their wares shrilly and almost inarticulately,
watermen in woollen caps and loose trousers rolled to the knees,
peasants in goatskin coats, their wooden shoes clattering on the
round kidney-stones, shipwrights and labourers from the dockyards,
bellows-menders, rat-catchers, water-carriers, ink-sellers, and other
itinerant pedlars. And, sprinkled through this proletariat mass that
came and went in constant movement, Andre-Louis beheld tradesmen in
sober garments, merchants in long, fur-lined coats; occasionally a
merchant-prince rolling along in his two-horse cabriolet to the
whip-crackings and shouts of "Gare!" from his coachman; occasionally
a dainty lady carried past in her sedan-chair, with perhaps a mincing
abbe from the episcopal court tripping along in attendance;
occasionally an officer in scarlet riding disdainfully; and once the
great carriage of a nobleman, with escutcheoned panels and a pair
of white-stockinged, powdered footmen in gorgeous liveries hanging
on behind. And there were Capuchins in brown and Benedictines in
black, and secular priests in plenty - for God was well served in
the sixteen parishes of Nantes - and by way of contrast there were
lean-jawed, out-at-elbow adventurers, and gendarmes in blue coats
and gaitered legs, sauntering guardians of the peace.
Representatives of every class that went to make up the seventy
thousand inhabitants of that wealthy, industrious city were to be
seen in the human stream that ebbed and flowed beneath the window
from which Andre-Louis observed it.
Of the waiter who ministered to his humble wants with soup and
bouilli, and a measure of vin gris, Andre-Louis enquired into the
state of public feeling in the city. The waiter, a staunch
supporter of the privileged orders, admitted regretfully that an
uneasiness prevailed. Much would depend upon what happened at
Rennes. If it was true that the King had dissolved the States of
Brittany, then all should be well, and the malcontents would have
no pretext for further disturbances. There had been trouble and
to spare in Nantes already. They wanted no repetition of it. All
manner of rumours were abroad, and since early morning there had
been crowds besieging the portals of the Chamber of Commerce for
definite news. But definite news was yet to come. It was not even
known for a fact that His Majesty actually had dissolved the States.
It was striking two, the busiest hour of the day upon the Bourse,
when Andre-Louis reached the Place du Commerce. The square,
dominated by the imposing classical building of the Exchange, was
so crowded that he was compelled almost to fight his way through to
the steps of the magnificent Ionic porch. A word would have
sufficed to have opened a way for him at once. But guile moved him
to keep silent. He would come upon that waiting multitude as a
thunderclap, precisely as yesterday he had come upon the mob at
Rennes. He would lose nothing of the surprise effect of his
The precincts of that house of commerce were jealously kept by a
line of ushers armed with staves, a guard as hurriedly assembled by
the merchants as it was evidently necessary. One of these now
effectively barred the young lawyer's passage as he attempted to
mount the steps.
Andre-Louis announced himself in a whisper.
The stave was instantly raised from the horizontal, and he passed
and went up the steps in the wake of the usher. At the top, on the
threshold of the chamber, he paused, and stayed his guide.
"I will wait here," he announced. "Bring the president to me."
"Your name, monsieur?"
Almost had Andre-Louis answered him when he remembered Le Chapelier's
warning of the danger with which his mission was fraught, and Le
Chapelier's parting admonition to conceal his identity.
"My name is unknown to him; it matters nothing; I am the mouthpiece
of a people, no more. Go."
The usher went, and in the shadow of that lofty, pillared portico
Andre-Louis waited, his eyes straying out ever and anon to survey
that spread of upturned faces immediately below him.
Soon the president came, others following, crowding out into the
portico, jostling one another in their eagerness to hear the news.
"You are a messenger from Rennes?"
"I am the delegate sent by the Literary Chamber of that city to
inform you here in Nantes of what is taking place."
Andre-Louis paused. "The less we mention names perhaps the better."
The president's eyes grew big with gravity. He was a corpulent,
florid man, purse-proud, and self-sufficient.
He hesitated a moment. Then - "Come into the Chamber," said he.
"By your leave, monsieur, I will deliver my message from here - from
"From here?" The great merchant frowned.
"My message is for the people of Nantes, and from here I can speak
at once to the greatest number of Nantais of all ranks, and it is
my desire - and the desire of those whom I represent - that as great
a number as possible should hear my message at first hand."
"Tell me, sir, is it true that the King has dissolved the States?"
Andre-Louis looked at him. He smiled apologetically, and waved a
hand towards the crowd, which by now was straining for a glimpse of
this slim young man who had brought forth the president and more
than half the numbers of the Chamber, guessing already, with that
curious instinct of crowds, that he was the awaited bearer of
"Summon the gentlemen of your Chamber, monsieur," said he, "and you
shall hear all."
"So be it."
A word, and forth they came to crowd upon the steps, but leaving
clear the topmost step and a half-moon space in the middle.
To the spot so indicated, Andre-Louis now advanced very deliberately.
He took his stand there, dominating the entire assembly. He removed
his hat, and launched the opening bombshell of that address which
is historic, marking as it does one of the great stages of France's
progress towards revolution.
"People of this great city of Nantes, I have come to summon you to
In the amazed and rather scared silence that followed he surveyed
them for a moment before resuming.
"I am a delegate of the people of Rennes, charged to announce to
you what is taking place, and to invite you in this dreadful hour
of our country's peril to rise and march to her defence."
"Name! Your name!" a voice shouted, and instantly the cry was taken
up by others, until the multitude rang with the question.
He could not answer that excited mob as he had answered the
president. It was necessary to compromise, and he did so, happily.
"My name," said he, "is Omnes Omnibus - all for all. Let that
suffice you now. I am a herald, a mouthpiece, a voice; no more. I
come to announce to you that since the privileged orders, assembled
for the States of Brittany in Rennes, resisted your will - our will
- despite the King's plain hint to them, His Majesty has dissolved
There was a burst of delirious applause. Men laughed and shouted,
and cries of "Vive le Roi!" rolled forth like thunder. Andre-Louis
waited, and gradually the preternatural gravity of his countenance
came to be observed, and to beget the suspicion that there might be
more to follow. Gradually silence was restored, and at last Andre
Louis was able to proceed.
"You rejoice too soon. Unfortunately, the nobles, in their insolent
arrogance, have elected to ignore the royal dissolution, and in
despite of it persist in sitting and in conducting matters as seems
good to them."
A silence of utter dismay greeted that disconcerting epilogue to the
announcement that had been so rapturously received. Andre-Louis
continued after a moment's pause:
"So that these men who were already rebels against the people,
rebels, against justice and equity, rebels against humanity itself,
are now also rebels against their King. Sooner than yield an inch
of the unconscionable privileges by which too long already they have
flourished, to the misery of a whole nation, they will make a mock
of royal authority, hold up the King himself to contempt. They are
determined to prove that there is no real sovereignty in France but
the sovereignty of their own parasitic faineantise."
There was a faint splutter of applause, but the majority of the
audience remained silent, waiting.
"This is no new thing. Always has it been the same. No minister
in the last ten years, who, seeing the needs and perils of the State,
counselled the measures that we now demand as the only means of
arresting our motherland in its ever-quickening progress to the
abyss, but found himself as a consequence cast out of office by the
influence which Privilege brought to bear against him. Twice already
has M. Necker been called to the ministry, to be twice dismissed
when his insistent counsels of reform threatened the privileges of
clergy and nobility. For the third time now has he been called to
office, and at last it seems we are to have States General in spite
of Privilege. But what the privileged orders can no longer prevent,
they are determined to stultify. Since it is now a settled thing
that these States General are to meet, at least the nobles and the
clergy will see to it - unless we take measures to prevent them - by
packing the Third Estate with their own creatures, and denying it
all effective representation, that they convert. the States General
into an instrument of their own will for the perpetuation of the
abuses by which they live. To achieve this end they will stop at
nothing. They have flouted the authority of the King, and they are
silencing by assassination those who raise their voices to condemn
them. Yesterday in Rennes two young men who addressed the people as
I am addressing you were done to death in the streets by assassins
at the instigation of the nobility. Their blood cries out for
Beginning in a sullen mutter, the indignation that moved his hearers
swelled up to express itself in a roar of anger.
"Citizens of Nantes, the motherland is in peril. Let us march to
her defence. Let us proclaim it to the world that we recognize
that the measures to liberate the Third Estate from the slavery in
which for centuries it has groaned find only obstacles in those
orders whose phrenetic egotism sees in the tears and suffering of
the unfortunate an odious tribute which they would pass on to their
generations still unborn. Realizing from the barbarity of the means
employed by our enemies to perpetuate our oppression that we have
everything to fear from the aristocracy they would set up as a
constitutional principle for the governing of France, let us declare
ourselves at once enfranchised from it.
"The establishment of liberty and equality should be the aim of
every citizen member of the Third Estate; and to this end we should
stand indivisibly united, especially the young and vigorous,
especially those who have had the good fortune to be born late enough
to be able to gather for themselves the precious fruits of the
philosophy of this eighteenth century."
Acclamations broke out unstintedly now. He had caught them in the
snare of his oratory. And he pressed his advantage instantly.
"Let us all swear," he cried in a great voice, "to raise up in the
name of humanity and of liberty a rampart against our enemies, to
oppose to their bloodthirsty covetousness the calm perseverance of
men whose cause is just. And let us protest here and in advance
against any tyrannical decrees that should declare us seditious when
we have none but pure and just intentions. Let us make oath upon
the honour of our motherland that should any of us be seized by an
unjust tribunal, intending against us one of those acts termed of
political expediency - which are, in effect, but acts of despotism
- let us swear, I say, to give a full expression to the strength
that is in us and do that in self-defence which nature, courage,
and despair dictate to us."
Loud and long rolled the applause that greeted his conclusion, and
he observed with satisfaction and even some inward grim amusement
that the wealthy merchants who had been congregated upon the steps,
and who now came crowding about him to shake him by the hand and to
acclaim him, were not merely participants in, but the actual leaders
of, this delirium of enthusiasm.
It confirmed him, had he needed confirmation, in his conviction that
just as the philosophies upon which this new movement was based had
their source in thinkers extracted from the bourgeoisie, so the need
to adopt those philosophies to the practical purposes of life was
most acutely felt at present by those bourgeois who found themselves
debarred by Privilege from the expansion their wealth permitted them.
If it might be said of Andre-Louis that he had that day lighted the
torch of the Revolution in Nantes, it might with even greater truth
be said that the torch itself was supplied by the opulent bourgeoisie.
I need not dwell at any length upon the sequel. It is a matter of
history how that oath which Omnes Omnibus administered to the
citizens of Nantes formed the backbone of the formal protest which
they drew up and signed in their thousands. Nor were the results of
that powerful protest - which, after all, might already be said to
harmonize with the expressed will of the sovereign himself - long
delayed. Who shall say how far it may have strengthened the hand of
Necker, when on the 27th of that same month of November he compelled
the Council to adopt the most significant and comprehensive of all
those measures to which clergy and nobility had refused their consent?
On that date was published the royal decree ordaining that the
deputies to be elected to the States General should number at least
one thousand, and that the deputies of the Third Estate should be
fully representative by numbering as many as the deputies of clergy
and nobility together.
Dusk of the following day was falling when the homing Andre-Louis
approached Gavrillac. Realizing fully what a hue and cry there
would presently be for the apostle of revolution who had summoned
the people of Nantes to arms, he desired as far as possible to
conceal the fact that he had been in that maritime city. Therefore
he made a wide detour, crossing the river at Bruz, and recrossing
it a little above Chavagne, so as to approach Gavrillac from the
north, and create the impression that he was returning from Rennes,
whither he was known to have gone two days ago.
Within a mile or so of the village he caught in the fading light
his first glimpse of a figure on horseback pacing slowly towards
him. But it was not until they had come within a few yards of each
other, and he observed that this cloaked figure was leaning forward
to peer at him, that he took much notice of it. And then he found
himself challenged almost at once by a woman's voice.
"It is you, Andre - at last!"
He drew rein, mildly surprised, to be assailed by another question,
impatiently, anxiously asked.
"Where have you been?"
"Where have I been, Cousin Aline? Oh... seeing the world."
"I have been patrolling this road since noon to-day waiting for you."
She spoke breathlessly, in haste to explain. "A troop of the
marechaussee from Rennes descended upon Gavrillac this morning in
quest of you. They turned the chateau and the village inside out,
and at last discovered that you were due to return with a horse
hired from the Breton arme. So they have taken up their quarters
at the inn to wait for you. I have been here all the afternoon on
the lookout to warn you against walking into that trap."
"My dear Aline! That I should have been the cause of so much
concern and trouble!"
"Never mind that. It is not important."
"On the contrary; it is the most important part of what you tell me.
It is the rest that is unimportant."
"Do you realize that they have come to arrest you?" she asked him,
with increasing impatience. "You are wanted for sedition, and upon
a warrant from M. de Lesdiguieres."
"Sedition?" quoth he, and his thoughts flew to that business at
Nantes. It was impossible they could have had news of it in Rennes
and acted upon it in so short a time.
"Yes, sedition. The sedition of that wicked speech of yours at
Rennes on Wednesday."
"Oh, that!" said he. "Pooh!" His note of relief might have told
her, had she been more attentive, that he had to fear the consequences
of a greater wickedness committed since. "Why, that was nothing."
"I almost suspect that the real intentions of these gentlemen of
the marechaussee have been misunderstood. Most probably they have
come to thank me on M. de Lesdiguieres' behalf. I restrained the
people when they would have burnt the Palais and himself inside it."
"After you had first incited them to do it. I suppose you were
afraid of your work. You drew back at the last moment. But you
said things of M. de Lesdiguieres, if you are correctly reported,
which he will never forgive."
"I see," said Andre-Louis, and he fell into thought.
But Mlle. de Kercadiou had already done what thinking was necessary,
and her alert young mind had settled all that was to be done.
"You must not go into Gavrillac," she told him, "and you must get
down from your horse, and let me take it. I will stable it at the
chateau to-night. And sometime to morrow afternoon, by when you
should be well away, I will return it to the Breton arme."
"Oh, but that is impossible."
"For several reasons. One of them is that you haven't considered
what will happen to you if you do such a thing."
"To me? Do you suppose I am afraid of that pack of oafs sent by M.
Lesdiguieres? I have committed no sedition."
"But it is almost as bad to give aid to one who is wanted for the
crime. That is the law."
"What do I care for the law? Do you imagine that the law will
presume to touch me?"
"Of course there is that. You are sheltered by one of the abuses I
complained of at Rennes. I was forgetting."
"Complain of it as much as you please, but meanwhile profit by it.
Come, Andre, do as I tell you. Get down from your horse." And then,
as he still hesitated, she stretched out and caught him by the arm.
Her voice was vibrant with earnestness. "Andre, you don't realize
how serious is your position. If these people take you, it is almost
certain that you will be hanged. Don't you realize it? You must
not go to Gavrillac. You must go away at once, and lie completely
lost for a time until this blows over. Indeed, until my uncle can
bring influence to bear to obtain your pardon, you must keep in hiding."
"That will be a long time, then," said Andre-Louis. M. de Kercadiou
has never cultivated friends at court."
"There is M. de La Tour d'Azyr," she reminded him, to his
"That man!" he cried, and then he laughed. "But it was chiefly
against him that I aroused the resentment of the people of Rennes.
I should have known that all my speech was not reported to you.
"It was, and that part of it among the rest."
"Ah! And yet you are concerned to save me, the man who seeks the
life of your future husband at the hands either of the law or of the
people? Or is it, perhaps, that since you have seen his true nature
revealed in the murder of poor Philippe, you have changed your views
on the subject of becoming Marquise de La Tour d'Azyr?"
"You often show yourself without any faculty of deductive reasoning."
"Perhaps. But hardly to the extent of imagining that M. de La Tour
d'Azyr will ever lift a finger to do as you suggest."
"In which, as usual, you are wrong. He will certainly do so if I
"If you ask him?" Sheer horror rang in his voice.
"Why, yes. You see, I have not yet said that I will be Marquise de
La Tour d'Azyr. I am still considering. It is a position that has
its advantages. One of them is that it ensures a suitor's complete
"So, so. I see the crooked logic of your mind. You might go so far
as to say to him: 'Refuse me this, and I shall refuse to be your
marquise.' You would go so far as that?"
"At need, I might."
"And do you not see the converse implication? Do you not see that
your hands would then be tied, that you would be wanting in honour
if afterwards you refused him? And do you think that I would
consent to anything that could so tie your hands? Do you think I
want to see you damned, Aline?"
Her hand fell away from his arm.
"Oh, you are mad!" she exclaimed, quite out of patience.
"Possibly. But I like my madness. There is a thrill in it unknown
to such sanity as yours. By your leave, Aline, I think I will ride
on to Gavrillac."
"Andre, you must not! It is death to you!" In her alarm she backed
her horse, and pulled it across the road to bar his way.
It was almost completely night by now; but from behind the wrack of
clouds overhead a crescent moon sailed out to alleviate the darkness.
"Come, now," she enjoined him. "Be reasonable. Do as I bid you.
See, there is a carriage coming up behind you. Do not let us be
found here together thus."
He made up his mind quickly. He was not the man to be actuated by
false heroics about dying, and he had no fancy whatever for the
gallows of M. de Lesdiguieres' providing. The immediate task that
he had set himself might be accomplished. He had made heard - and
ringingly - the voice that M. de La Tour d'Azyr imagined he had
silenced. But he was very far from having done with life.
"Aline, on one condition only."
"That you swear to me you will never seek the aid of M. de La Tour
d'Azyr on my behalf."
"Since you insist, and as time presses, I consent. And now ride on
with me as far as the lane. There is that carriage coming up."
The lane to which she referred was one that branched off the road
some three hundred yards nearer the village and led straight up the
hill to the chateau itself. In silence they rode together towards
it, and together they turned into that thickly hedged and narrow
bypath. At a depth of fifty yards she halted him.
"Now!" she bade him.
Obediently he swung down from his horse, and surrendered the reins
"Aline," he said, "I haven't words in which to thank you."
"It isn't necessary," said she.
"But I shall hope to repay you some day."
"Nor is that necessary. Could I do less than I am doing? I do not
want to hear of you hanged, Andre; nor does my uncle, though he is
very angry with you.
"I suppose he is.
"And you can hardly be surprised. You were his delegate, his
representative. He depended upon you, and you have turned your coat.
He is rightly indignant, calls you a traitor, and swears that he
will never speak to you again. But he doesn't want you hanged,
"Then we are agreed on that at least, for I don't want it myself."
"I'll make your peace with him. And now - good-bye, Andre. Send me
a word when you are safe."
She held out a hand that looked ghostly in the faint light. He took
it and bore it to his lips.
"God bless you, Aline."
She was gone, and he stood listening to the receding clopper-clop of
hooves until it grew faint in the distance. Then slowly, with
shoulders hunched and head sunk on his breast, he retraced his steps
to the main road, cogitating whither he should go. Quite suddenly
he checked, remembering with dismay that he was almost entirely
without money. In Brittany itself he knew of no dependable
hiding-place, and as long as he was in Brittany his peril must
remain imminent. Yet to leave the province, and to leave it as
quickly as prudence dictated, horses would be necessary. And how
was he to procure horses, having no money beyond a single louis
d'or and a few pieces of silver?
There was also the fact that he was very weary. He had had little
sleep since Tuesday night, and not very much then; and much of the
time had been spent in the saddle, a wearing thing to one so little
accustomed to long rides. Worn as he was, it was unthinkable that
he should go far to-night. He might get as far as Chavagne, perhaps.
But there he must sup and sleep; and what, then, of to-morrow?
Had he but thought of it before, perhaps Aline might have been able
to assist him with the loan of a few louis. His first impulse now
was to follow her to the chateau. But prudence dismissed the
notion. Before he could reach her, he must be seen by servants,
and word of his presence would go forth.
There was no choice for him; he must tramp as far as Chavagne, find
a bed there, and leave to-morrow until it dawned. On the resolve
he set his face in the direction whence he had come. But again he
paused. Chavagne lay on the road to Rennes. To go that way was to
plunge further into danger. He would strike south again. At the
foot of some meadows on this side of the village there was a ferry
that would put him across the river. Thus he would avoid the
village; and by placing the river between himself and the immediate
danger, he would obtain an added sense of security.
A lane, turning out of the highroad, a quarter of a mile this side
of Gavrillac, led down to that ferry. By this lane some twenty
minutes later came Andre-Louis with dragging feet. He avoided the
little cottage of the ferryman, whose window was alight, and in the
dark crept down to the boat, intending if possible to put himself
across. He felt for the chain by which the boat was moored, and
ran his fingers along this to the point where it was fastened.
Here to his dismay he found a padlock.
He stood up in the gloom and laughed silently. Of course he might
have known it. The ferry was the property of M. de La Tour d'Azyr,
and not likely to be left unfastened so that poor devils might cheat
him of seigneurial dues.
There being no possible alternative, he walked back to the cottage,
and rapped on the door. When it opened, he stood well back, and
aside, out of the shaft of light that issued thence.
"Ferry!" he rapped out, laconically.
The ferryman, a burly scoundrel well known to him, turned aside to
pick up a lantern, and came forth as he was bidden. As he stepped
from the little porch, he levelled the lantern so that its light
fell on the face of this traveller.
"My God!" he ejaculated.
"You realize, I see, that I am pressed," said Andre-Louis, his eyes
on the fellow's startled countenance.
"And well you may be with the gallows waiting for you at Rennes,"
growled the ferryman. "Since you've been so foolish as to come
back to Gavrillac, you had better go again as quickly as you can.
I will say nothing of having seen you."
"I thank you, Fresnel. Your advice accords with my intention. That
is why I need the boat."
"Ah, that, no," said Fresnel, with determination. "I'll hold my
peace, but it's as much as my skin is worth to help you.
"You need not have seen my face. Forget that you have seen it."
"I'll do that, monsieur. But that is all I will do. I cannot put
you across the river."
"Then give me the key of the boat, and I will put myself across."
"That is the same thing. I cannot. I'll hold my tongue, but I
will not - I dare not - help you."
Andre-Louis looked a moment into that sullen, resolute face, and
understood. This man, living under the shadow of La Tour d'Azyr,
dared exercise no will that might he in conflict with the will of
his dread lord.
"Fresnel," he said, quietly, "if, as you say, the gallows claim me,
the thing that has brought me to this extremity arises out of the
shooting of Mabey. Had not Mabey been murdered there would have
been no need for me to have raised my voice as I have done. Mabey
was your friend, I think. Will you for his sake lend me the little
help I need to save my neck?"
The man kept his glance averted, and the cloud of sullenness
deepened on his face.
"I would if I dared, but I dare not." Then, quite suddenly he became
angry. It was as if in anger he sought support. "Don't you
understand that I dare not? Would you have a poor man risk his life
for you? What have you or yours ever done for me that you should ask
that? You do not cross to-night in my ferry. Understand that,
monsieur, and go at once - go before I remember that it may be
dangerous even to have talked to you and not give information. Go!"
He turned on his heel to reenter his cottage, and a wave of
hopelessness swept over Andre-Louis.
But in a second it was gone. The man must be compelled, and he had
the means. He bethought him of a pistol pressed upon him by Le
Chapelier at the moment of his leaving Rennes, a gift which at the
time he had almost disdained. True, it was not loaded, and he had
no ammunition. But how was Fresnel to know that?
He acted quickly. As with his right hand he pulled it from his
pocket, with his left he caught the ferryman by the shoulder, and
swung him round.
"What do you want now?" Fresnel demanded angrily. "Haven't I told
you that I... "
He broke off short. The muzzle of the pistol was within a foot of
"I want the key of the boat. That is all, Fresnel. And you can
either give it me at once, or I'll take it after I have burnt your
brains. I should regret to kill you, but I shall not hesitate. It
is your life against mine, Fresnel; and you'll not find it strange
that if one of us must die I prefer that it shall be you."
Fresnel dipped a hand into his pocket, and fetched thence a key.
He held it out to Andre-Louis in fingers that shook - more in anger
than in fear.
"I yield to violence," he said, showing his teeth like a snarling
dog. "But don't imagine that it will greatly profit you."
Andre-Louis took the key. His pistol remained levelled.
"You threaten me, I think," he said. "It is not difficult to read
your threat. The moment I am gone, you will run to inform against
me. You will set the marechaussee on my heels to overtake me."
"No, no!" cried the other. He perceived his peril. He read his
doom in the cold, sinister note on which Andre-Louis addressed him,
and grew afraid. "I swear to you, monsieur, that I have no such
"I think I had better make quite sure of you."
"0 my God! Have mercy, monsieur!" The knave was in a palsy of
terror. "I mean you no harm - I swear to Heaven I mean you no harm.
I will not say a word. I will not... "
"I would rather depend upon your silence than your assurances.
Still, you shall have your chance. I am a fool, perhaps, but I have
a reluctance to shed blood. Go into the house, Fresnel. Go, man.
I follow you."
In the shabby main room of that dwelling, Andre-Louis halted him
again. "Get me a length of rope," he commanded, and was readily
Five minutes later Fresnel was securely bound to a chair, and
effectively silenced by a very uncomfortable gag improvised out of
a block of wood and a muffler.
On the threshold the departing Andre-Louis turned.
"Good-night, Fresnel," he said. Fierce eyes glared mute hatred at
him. "It is unlikely that your ferry will be required again to-night.
But some one is sure to come to your relief quite early in the
morning. Until then bear your discomfort with what fortitude you
can, remembering that you have brought it entirely upon yourself by
your uncharitableness. If you spend the night considering that, the
lesson should not be lost upon you. By morning you may even have
grown so charitable as not to know who it was that tied you up.
He stepped out and closed the door.
To unlock the ferry, and pull himself across the swift-running
waters, on which the faint moonlight was making a silver ripple,
were matters that engaged not more than six or seven minutes. He
drove the nose of the boat through the decaying sedges that fringed
the southern bank of the stream, sprang ashore, and made the little
craft secure. Then, missing the footpath in the dark, he struck
out across a sodden meadow in quest of the road.
Coming presently upon the Redon road, Andre-Louis, obeying instinct
rather than reason, turned his face to the south, and plodded
wearily and mechanically forward. He had no clear idea of whither
he was going, or of whither he should go. All that imported at the
moment was to put as great a distance as possible between Gavrillac
He had a vague, half-formed notion of returning to Nantes; and
there, by employing the newly found weapon of his oratory, excite
the people into sheltering him as the first victim of the
persecution he had foreseen, and against which he had sworn them to
take up arms. But the idea was one which he entertained merely as
an indefinite possibility upon which he felt no real impulse to act.
Meanwhile he chuckled at the thought of Fresnel as he had last seen
him, with his muffled face and glaring eyeballs. "For one who was
anything but a man of action," he writes, "I felt that I had
acquitted myself none so badly." It is a phrase that recurs at
intervals in his sketchy "Confessions." Constantly is he reminding
you that he is a man of mental and not physical activities, and
apologizing when dire neccessity drives him into acts of violence.
I suspect this insistence upon his philosophic detachment - for
which I confess he had justification enough - to betray his
With increasing fatigue came depression and self-criticism. He
had stupidly overshot his mark in insultingly denouncing M. de
Lesdiguieres. "It is much better," he says somewhere, "to be
wicked than to be stupid. Most of this world's misery is the fruit
not as priests tell us of wickedness, but of stupidity." And we
know that of all stupidities he considered anger the most deplorable.
Yet he had permitted himself to be angry with a creature like M. de
Lesdiguieres - a lackey, a fribble, a nothing, despite his
potentialities for evil. He could perfectly have discharged his
self-imposed mission without arousing the vindictive resentment of
the King's Lieutenant.
He beheld himself vaguely launched upon life with the riding-suit
in which he stood, a single louis d'or and a few pieces of silver
for all capital, and a knowledge of law which had been inadequate
to preserve him from the consequences of infringing it.
He had, in addition - but these things that were to be the real
salvation of him he did not reckon - his gift of laughter, sadly
repressed of late, and the philosophic outlook and mercurial
temperament which are the stock-in-trade of your adventurer in
Meanwhile he tramped mechanically on through the night, until he
felt that he could tramp no more. He had skirted the little
township of Guichen, and now within a half-mile of Guignen, and
with Gavrillac a good seven miles behind him, his legs refused to
carry him any farther.
He was midway across the vast common to the north of Guignen when
he came to a halt. He had left the road, and taken heedlessly to
the footpath that struck across the waste of indifferent pasture
interspersed with clumps of gorse. A stone's throw away on his
right the common was bordered by a thorn hedge. Beyond this loomed
a tall building which he knew to be an open barn, standing on the
edge of a long stretch of meadowland. That dark, silent shadow it
may have been that had brought him to a standstill, suggesting
shelter to his subconsciousness. A moment he hesitated; then he
struck across towards a spot where a gap in the hedge was closed
by a five-barred gate. He pushed the gate open, went through the
gap, and stood now before the barn. It was as big as a house, yet
consisted of no more than a roof carried upon half a dozen tall,
brick pillars. But densely packed under that roof was a great
stack of hay that promised a warm couch on so cold a night. Stout
timbers had been built into the brick pillars, with projecting ends
to serve as ladders by which the labourer might climb to pack or
withdraw hay. With what little strength remained him, Andre-Louis
climbed by one of these and landed safely at the top, where he was
forced to kneel, for lack of room to stand upright. Arrived there,
he removed his coat and neckcloth, his sodden boots and stockings.
Next he cleared a trough for his body, and lying down in it, covered
himself to the neck with the hay he had removed. Within five minutes
he was lost to all worldly cares and soundly asleep.
When next he awakened, the sun was already high in the heavens, from
which he concluded that the morning was well advanced; and this
before he realized quite where he was or how he came there. Then
to his awakening senses came a drone of voices close at hand, to
which at first he paid little heed. He was deliciously refreshed,
luxuriously drowsy and luxuriously warm.
But as consciousness and memory grew more full, he raised his head
clear of the hay that he might free both ears to listen, his pulses
faintly quickened by the nascent fear that those voices might bode
him no good. Then he caught the reassuring accents of a woman,
musical and silvery, though laden with alarm.
"Ah, mon Dieu, Leandre, let us separate at once. If it should be
my father... "
And upon this a man's voice broke in, calm and reassuring:
"No, no, Climene; you are mistaken. There is no one coming. We
are quite safe. Why do you start at shadows?"
"Ah, Leandre, if he should find us here together! I tremble at the
More was not needed to reassure Andre-Louis. He had overheard
enough to know that this was but the case of a pair of lovers who,
with less to fear of life, were yet - after the manner of their
kind - more timid of heart than he. Curiosity drew him from his
warm trough to the edge of the hay. Lying prone, he advanced his
head and peered down.
In the space of cropped meadow between the barn and the hedge stood
a man and a woman, both young. The man was a well-set-up, comely
fellow, with a fine head of chestnut hair tied in a queue by a
broad bow of black satin. He was dressed with certain tawdry
attempts at ostentatious embellishments, which did not prepossess
one at first glance in his favour. His coat of a fashionable cut
was of faded plum-coloured velvet edged with silver lace, whose
glory had long since departed. He affected ruffles, but for want
of starch they hung like weeping willows over hands that were fine
and delicate. His breeches were of plain black cloth, and his black
stockings were of cotton - matters entirely out of harmony with his
magnificent coat. His shoes, stout and serviceable, were decked
with buckles of cheap, lack-lustre paste. But for his engaging and
ingenuous countenance, Andre-Louis must have set him down as a
knight of that order which lives dishonestly by its wits. As it
was, he suspended judgment whilst pushing investigation further by
a study of the girl. At the outset, be it confessed that it was a
study that attracted him prodigiously. And this notwithstanding
the fact that, bookish and studious as were his ways, and in
despite of his years, it was far from his habit to waste
consideration on femininity.
The child - she was no more than that, perhaps twenty at the most
- possessed, in addition to the allurements of face and shape that
went very near perfection, a sparkling vivacity and a grace of
movement the like of which Andre-Louis did not remember ever before
to have beheld assembled in one person. And her voice too - that
musical, silvery voice that had awakened him - possessed in its
exquisite modulations an allurement of its own that must have been
irresistible, he thought, in the ugliest of her sex. She wore a
hooded mantle of green cloth, and the hood being thrown back, her
dainty head was all revealed to him. There were glints of gold
struck by the morning sun from her light nut-brown hair that hung
in a cluster of curls about her oval face. Her complexion was of
a delicacy that he could compare only with a rose petal. He could
not at that distance discern the colour of her eyes, but he guessed
them blue, as he admired the sparkle of them under the fine, dark
line of eyebrows.
He could not have told you why, but he was conscious that it
aggrieved him to find her so intimate with this pretty young fellow,
who was partly clad, as it appeared, in the cast-offs of a nobleman.
He could not guess her station, but the speech that reached him was
cultured in tone and word. He strained to listen.
"I shall know no peace, Leandre, until we are safely wedded," she
was saying. "Not until then shall I count myself beyond his reach.
And yet if we marry without his consent, we but make trouble for
ourselves, and of gaining his consent I almost despair."
Evidently, thought Andre-Louis, her father was a man of sense, who
saw through the shabby finery of M. Leandre, and was not to be
dazzled by cheap paste buckles.
"My dear Climene," the young man was answering her, standing
squarely before her, and holding both her hands, "you are wrong to
despond. If I do not reveal to you all the stratagem that I have
prepared to win the consent of your unnatural parent, it is because
I am loath to rob you of the pleasure of the surprise that is in
store. But place your faith in me, and in that ingenious friend
of whom I have spoken, and who should be here at any moment."
The stilted ass! Had he learnt that speech by heart in advance, or
was he by nature a pedantic idiot who expressed himself in this set
and formal manner? How came so sweet a blossom to waste her
perfumes on such a prig? And what a ridiculous name the creature
Thus Andre-Louis to himself from his observatory. Meanwhile, she
"That is what my heart desires, Leandre, but I am beset by fears
lest your stratagem should be too late. I am to marry this horrible
Marquis of Sbrufadelli this very day. He arrives by noon. He comes
to sign the contract - to make me the Marchioness of Sbrufadelli.
Oh!" It was a cry of pain from that tender young heart. "The very
name burns my lips. If it were mine I could never utter it - never!
The man is so detestable. Save me, Leandre. Save me! You are my
Andre-Louis was conscious of a pang of disappointment. She failed
to soar to the heights he had expected of her. She was evidently
infected by the stilted manner of her ridiculous lover. There was
an atrocious lack of sincerity about her words. They touched his
mind, but left his heart unmoved. Perhaps this was because of his
antipathy to M. Leandre and to the issue involved.
So her father was marrying her to a marquis! That implied birth on
her side. And yet she was content to pair off with this dull young
adventurer in the tarnished lace! It was, he supposed, the sort of
thing to be expected of a sex that all philosophy had taught him to
regard as the maddest part of a mad species.
"It shall never be!" M. Leandre was storming passionately. "Never!
I swear it!" And he shook his puny fist at the blue vault of heaven
- Ajax defying Jupiter. "Ah, but here comes our subtle friend... "
(Andre-Louis did not catch the name, M. Leandre having at that moment
turned to face the gap in the hedge.) "He will bring us news, I know."
Andre-Louis looked also in the direction of the gap. Through it
emerged a lean, slight man in a rusty cloak and a three-cornered hat
worn well down over his nose so as to shade his face. And when
presently he doffed this hat and made a sweeping bow to the young
lovers, Andre-Louis confessed to himself that had he been cursed
with such a hangdog countenance he would have worn his hat in
precisely such a manner, so as to conceal as much of it as possible.
If M. Leandre appeared to be wearing, in part at least, the cast-offs
of nobleman, the newcomer appeared to be wearing the cast-offs of M.
Leandre. Yet despite his vile clothes and viler face, with its three
days' growth of beard, the fellow carried himself with a certain air;
he positively strutted as he advanced, and he made a leg in a manner
that was courtly and practised.
"Monsieur," said he, with the air of a conspirator, "the time for
action has arrived, and so has the Marquis... That is why."
The young lovers sprang apart in consternation; Climene with clasped
hands, parted lips, and a bosom that raced distractingly under its
white fichu-menteur; M. Leandre agape, the very picture of foolishness
Meanwhile the newcomer rattled on. "I was at the inn an hour ago
when he descended there, and I studied him attentively whilst he was
at breakfast. Having done so, not a single doubt remains me of our
success. As for what he looks like, I could entertain you at length
upon the fashion in which nature has designed his gross fatuity.
But that is no matter. We are concerned with what he is, with the
wit of him. And I tell you confidently that I find him so dull and
stupid that you may be confident he will tumble headlong into each
and all of the traps I have so cunningly prepared for him."
"Tell me, tell me! Speak!" Climene implored him, holding out her
hands in a supplication no man of sensibility could have resisted.
And then on the instant she caught her breath on a faint scream.
"My father!" she exclaimed, turning distractedly from one to the
other of those two. "He is coming! We are lost!"
"You must fly, Climene!" said M. Leandre.
"Too late!" she sobbed. "Too late! He is here."
"Calm, mademoiselle, calm!" the subtle friend was urging her. "Keep
calm and trust to me. I promise you that all shall be well."
"Oh!" cried M. Leandre, limply. "Say what you will, my friend, this
is ruin - the end of all our hopes. Your wits will never extricate
us from this. Never!"
Through the gap strode now an enormous man with an inflamed moon
face and a great nose, decently dressed after the fashion of a solid
bourgeois. There was no mistaking his anger, but the expression
that it found was an amazement to Andre-Louis.
"Leandre, you're an imbecile! Too much phlegm, too much phlegm!
Your words wouldn't convince a ploughboy! Have you considered what
they mean at all? Thus," he cried, and casting his round hat from
him in a broad gesture, he took his stand at M. Leandre's side, and
repeated the very words that Leandre had lately uttered, what time
the three observed him coolly and attentively.
"Oh, say what you will, my friend, this is ruin - the end of all
our hopes. Your wits will never extricate us from this. Never!"
A frenzy of despair vibrated in his accents. He swung again to face
M. Leandre. "Thus," he bade him contemptuously. "Let the passion
of your hopelessness express itself in your voice. Consider that you
are not asking Scaramouche here whether he has put a patch in your
breeches. You are a despairing lover expressing... "
He checked abruptly, startled. Andre-Louis, suddenly realizing what
was afoot, and how duped he had been, had loosed his laughter. The
sound of it pealing and booming uncannily under the great roof that
so immediately confined him was startling to those below.
The fat man was the first to recover, and he announced it after his
own fashion in one of the ready sarcasms in which he habitually dealt.
"Hark!" he cried, "the very gods laugh at you, Leandre." Then he
addressed the roof of the barn and its invisible tenant. "Hi! You
Andre-Louis revealed himself by a further protrusion of his tousled
"Good-morning," said he, pleasantly. Rising now on his knees, his
horizon was suddenly extended to include the broad common beyond
the hedge. He beheld there an enormous and very battered travelling
chaise, a cart piled up with timbers partly visible under the sheet
of oiled canvas that covered them, and a sort of house on wheels
equipped with a tin chimney, from which the smoke was slowly curling.
Three heavy Flemish horses and a couple of donkeys - all of them
hobbled - were contentedly cropping the grass in the neighbourhood
of these vehicles. These, had he perceived them sooner, must have
given him the clue to the queer scene that had been played under
his eyes. Beyond the hedge other figures were moving. Three at
that moment came crowding into the gap - a saucy-faced girl with a
tip-tilted nose, whom he supposed to be Columbine, the soubrette;
a lean, active youngster, who must be the lackey Harlequin;, and
another rather loutish youth who might be a zany or an apothecary.
All this he took in at a comprehensive glance that consumed no more
time than it had taken him to say good-morning. To that
good-morning Pantaloon replied in a bellow:
"What the devil are you doing up there?"
"Precisely the same thing that you are doing down there," was the
answer. "I am trespassing."
"Eh?" said Pantaloon, and looked at his companions, some of the
assurance beaten out of his big red face. Although the thing was
one that they did habitually, to hear it called by its proper name
"Whose land is this?" he asked, with diminishing assurance.
Andre-Louis answered, whilst drawing on his stockings. "I believe
it to be the property of the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr."
"That's a high-sounding name. Is the gentleman severe?"
"The gentleman," said Andre-Louis, "is the devil; or rather, I
should prefer to say upon reflection, that the devil is a gentleman
"And yet," interposed the villainous-looking fellow who played
Scaramouche, "by your own confessing you don't hesitate, yourself,
to trespass upon his property."
"Ah, but then, you see, I am a lawyer. And lawyers are notoriously
unable to observe the law, just as actors are notoriously unable to
act. Moreover, sir, Nature imposes her limits upon us, and Nature
conquers respect for law as she conquers all else. Nature conquered
me last night when I had got as far as this. And so I slept here
without regard for the very high and puissant Marquis de La Tour
d'Azyr. At the same time, M. Scaramouche, you'll observe that I
did not flaunt my trespass quite as openly as you and your companions.
Having donned his boots, Andre-Louis came nimbly to the ground in
his shirt-sleeves, his riding-coat over his arm. As he stood there
to don it, the little cunning eyes of the heavy father conned him in
detail. Observing that his clothes, if plain, were of a good fashion,
that his shirt was of fine cambric, and that he expressed himself
like a man of culture, such as he claimed to be, M. Pantaloon was
disposed to be civil.
"I am very grateful to you for the warning, sir... " he was beginning.
"Act upon it, my friend. The gardes-champetres of M. d'Azyr have
orders to fire on trespassers. Imitate me, and decamp."
They followed him upon the instant through that gap in the hedge to
the encampment on the common. There Andre-Louis took his leave of
them. But as he was turning away he perceived a young man of the
company performing his morning toilet at a bucket placed upon one
of the wooden steps at the tail of the house on wheels. A moment
he hesitated, then he turned frankly to M. Pantaloon, who was still
at his elbow.
"If it were not unconscionable to encroach so far upon your
hospitality, monsieur," said he, "I would beg leave to imitate that
very excellent young gentleman before I leave you."
"But, my dear sir!" Good-nature oozed out of every pore of the fat
body of the master player. "It is nothing at all. But, by all
means. Rhodomont will provide what you require. He is the dandy
of the company in real life, though a fire-eater on the stage. Hi,
The young ablutionist straightened his long body from the right
angle in which it had been bent over the bucket, and looked out
through a foam of soapsuds. Pantaloon issued an order, and
Rhodomont, who was indeed as gentle and amiable off the stage as he
was formidable and terrible upon it, made the stranger free of the
bucket in the friendliest manner.
So Andre-Louis once more removed his neckcloth and his coat, and
rolled up the sleeves of his fine shirt, whilst Rhodomont procured
him soap, a towel, and presently a broken comb, and even a greasy
hair-ribbon, in case the gentleman should have lost his own. This
last Andre-Louis declined, but the comb he gratefully accepted, and
having presently washed himself clean, stood, with the towel flung
over his left shoulder, restoring order to his dishevelled locks
before a broken piece of mirror affixed to the door of the
He was standing thus, what time the gentle Rhodomont babbled
aimlessly at his side when his ears caught the sound of hooves.
He looked over his shoulder carelessly, and then stood frozen, with
uplifted comb and loosened mouth. Away across the common, on the
road that bordered it, he beheld a party of seven horsemen in the
blue coats with red facings of the marechaussee.
Not for a moment did he doubt what was the quarry of this prowling
gendarmerie. It was as if the chill shadow of the gallows had
fallen suddenly upon him.
And then the troop halted, abreast with them, and the sergeant
leading it sent his bawling voice across the common.
"Hi, there! Hi!" His tone rang with menace.
Every member of the company - and there were some twelve in all
- stood at gaze. Pantaloon advanced a step or two, stalking, his
head thrown back, his manner that of a King's Lieutenant.
"Now, what the devil's this?" quoth he, but whether of Fate or
Heaven or the sergeant, was not clear.
There was a brief colloquy among the horsemen, then they came
trotting across the common straight towards the players' encampment.
Andre-Louis had remained standing at the tail of the travelling
house. He was still passing the comb through his straggling hair,
but mechanically and unconsciously. His mind was all intent upon
the advancing troop, his wits alert and gathered together for a leap
in whatever direction should be indicated.
Still in the distance, but evidently impatient, the sergeant bawled
"Who gave you leave to encamp here?"
It was a question that reassured Andre-Louis not at all. He was
not deceived by it into supposing or even hoping that the business
of these men was merely to round up vagrants and trespassers. That
was no part of their real duty; it was something done in passing
- done, perhaps, in the hope of levying a tax of their own. It
was very long odds that they were from Rennes, and that their real
business was the hunting down of a young lawyer charged with
sedition. Meanwhile Pantaloon was shouting back.
"Who gave us leave, do you say? What leave? This is communal land,
free to all."
The sergeant laughed unpleasantly, and came on, his troop following.
"There is," said a voice at Pantaloon's elbow, "no such thing as
communal land in the proper sense in all M. de La Tour d'Azyr's vast
domain. This is a terre censive, and his bailiffs collect his dues
from all who send their beasts to graze here."
Pantaloon turned to behold at his side Andre-Louis in his
shirt-sleeves, and without a neckcloth, the towel still trailing
over his left shoulder, a comb in his hand, his hair half dressed.
"God of God!" swore Pantaloon. "But it is an ogre, this Marquis
de La Tour d'Azyr!"
"I have told you already what I think of him," said Andre-Louis.
"As for these fellows you had better let me deal with them. I have
experience of their kind." And without waiting for Pantaloon's
consent, Andre-Louis stepped forward to meet the advancing men of
the marechaussee. He had realized that here boldness alone could
When a moment later the sergeant pulled up his horse alongside of
this half-dressed young man, Andre-Louis combed his hair what time
he looked up with a half smile, intended to be friendly, ingenuous,
In spite of it the sergeant hailed him gruffly: "Are you the leader
of this troop of vagabonds?"
"Yes... that is to say, my father, there, is really the leader."
And he jerked a thumb in the direction of M. Pantaloon, who stood
at gaze out of earshot in the background. "What is your pleasure,
"My pleasure is to tell you that you are very likely to be gaoled
for this, all the pack of you." His voice was loud and bullying.
It carried across the common to the ears of every member of the
company, and brought them all to stricken attention where they stood.
The lot of strolling players was hard enough without the addition
"But how so, my captain? This is communal land free to all."
"It is nothing of the kind."
"Where are the fences?" quoth Andre-Louis, waving the hand that
held the comb, as if to indicate the openness of the place.
"Fences!" snorted the sergeant. "What have fences to do with the
matter? This is terre censive. There is no grazing here save by
payment of dues to the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr."
"But we are not grazing," quoth the innocent Andre-Louis.
"To the devil with you, zany! You are not grazing! But your beasts
"They eat so little," Andre-Louis apologized, and again essayed his
The sergeant grew more terrible than ever. "That is not the point.
The point is that you are committing what amounts to a theft, and
there's the gaol for thieves."
"Technically, I suppose you are right," sighed Andre-Louis, and
fell to combing his hair again, still looking up into the sergeant's
face. "But we have sinned in ignorance. We are grateful to you for
the warning." He passed the comb into his left hand, and with his
right fumbled in his breeches' pocket, whence there came a faint
jingle of coins. "We are desolated to have brought you out of your
way. Perhaps for their trouble your men would honour us by stopping
at the next inn to drink the health of... of this M. de La Tour d'
Azyr, or any other health that they think proper.
Some of the clouds lifted from the sergeant's brow. But not yet all.
"Well, well," said he, gruffly. "But you must decamp, you
understand." He leaned from the saddle to bring his recipient hand
to a convenient distance. Andre-Louis placed in it a three-livre
"In half an hour," said Andre-Louis.
"Why in half an hour? Why not at once?"
"Oh, but time to break our fast."
They looked at each other. The sergeant next considered the broad
piece of silver in his palm. Then at last his features relaxed from
"After all," said he, "it is none of our business to play the
tipstaves for M. de La Tour d'Azyr. We are of the marechaussee
from Rennes." Andre-Louis' eyelids played him false by flickering.
"But if you linger, look out for the gardes-champetres of the
Marquis. You'll find them not at all accommodating. Well, well
- a good appetite to you, monsieur," said he, in valediction.
"A pleasant ride, my captain," answered Andre-Louis.
The sergeant wheeled his horse about, his troop wheeled with him.
They were starting off, when he reined up again.
"You, monsieur!" he called over his shoulder. In a bound
Andre-Louis was beside his stirrup. "We are in quest of a scoundrel
named Andre-Louis Moreau, from Gavrillac, a fugitive from justice
wanted for the gallows on a matter of sedition. You've seen nothing,
I suppose, of a man whose movements seemed to you suspicious?"
"Indeed, we have," said Andre-Louis, very boldly, his face eager
with consciousness of the ability to oblige.
"You have?" cried the sergeant, in a ringing voice. "Where? When?"
"Yesterday evening in the neighbourhood of Guignen... "
"Yes, yes," the sergeant felt himself hot upon the trail.
"There was a fellow who seemed very fearful of being recognized
... a man of fifty or thereabouts... "
"Fifty!" cried the sergeant, and his face fell. "Bah! This man of
ours is no older than yourself, a thin wisp of a fellow of about
your own height and of black hair, just like your own, by the
description. Keep a lookout on your travels, master player. The
King's Lieutenant in Rennes has sent us word this morning that he
will pay ten louis to any one giving information that will lead to
this scoundrel's arrest. So there 's ten louis to be earned by
keeping your eyes open, and sending word to the nearest justices.
It would be a fine windfall for you, that."
"A fine windfall, indeed, captain," answered Andre-Louis, laughing.
But the sergeant had touched his horse with the spur, and was
already trotting off in the wake of his men. Andre-Louis continued
to laugh, quite silently, as he sometimes did when the humour of a
jest was peculiarly keen.
Then he turned slowly about, and came back towards Pantaloon and
the rest of the company, who were now all grouped together, at gaze.
Pantaloon advanced to meet him with both hands out-held. For a
moment Andre-Louis thought he was about to be embraced.
"We hail you our saviour!" the big man declaimed. "Already the
shadow of the gaol was creeping over us, chilling us to the very
marrow. For though we be poor, yet are we all honest folk and not
one of us has ever suffered the indignity of prison. Nor is there
one of us would survive it. But for you, my friend, it might have
happened. What magic did you work?"
"The magic that is to be worked in France with a King's portrait.
The French are a very loyal nation, as you will have observed. They
love their King - and his portrait even better than himself,
especially when it is wrought in gold. But even in silver it is
respected. The sergeant was so overcome by the sight of that noble
visage - on a three-livre piece - that his anger vanished, and he
has gone his ways leaving us to depart in peace."
"Ah, true! He said we must decamp. About it, my lads! Come,
"But not until after breakfast," said Andre-Louis. "A half-hour
for breakfast was conceded us by that loyal fellow, so deeply was
he touched. True, he spoke of possible gardes-champetres. But he
knows as well as I do that they are not seriously to be feared, and
that if they came, again the King's portrait - wrought in copper
this time - would produce the same melting effect upon them. So, my
dear M. Pantaloon, break your fast at your ease. I can smell your
cooking from here, and from the smell I argue that there is no need
to wish you a good appetite."
"My friend, my saviour!" Pantaloon flung a great arm about the young
man's shoulders. "You shall stay to breakfast with us."
"I confess to a hope that you would ask me," said Andre-Louis.
THE SERVICE OF THESPIS
They were, thought Andre-Louis, as he sat down to breakfast with
them behind the itinerant house, in the bright sunshine that
tempered the cold breath of that November morning, an odd and yet
an attractive crew. An air of gaiety pervaded them. They affected
to have no cares, and made merry over the trials and tribulations
of their nomadic life. They were curiously, yet amiably, artificial;
histrionic in their manner of discharging the most commonplace of
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