Scaramouche A Romance of the French Revolution
Part 4 out of 8
have said so. It remains for me to beg your pardon for my ignorance."
"It amuses you to be cruel," said Scaramouche. "No matter. Shall
They set out together, stepping briskly to warm their blood against
the wintry evening air. Awhile they went in silence, yet each
furtively observing the other.
"And so, you find me cruel?" she challenged him at length, thereby
betraying the fact that the accusation had struck home.
He looked at her with a half smile. "Will you deny it?"
"You are the first man that ever accused me of that."
"I dare not suppose myself the first man to whom you have been cruel.
That were an assumption too flattering to myself. I must prefer to
think that the others suffered in silence."
"Mon Dieu! Have you suffered?" She was between seriousness and
"I place the confession as an offering on the altar of your vanity."
"I should never have suspected it."
"How could you? Am I not what your father calls a natural actor?
I was an actor long before I became Scaramouche. Therefore I have
laughed. I often do when I am hurt. When you were pleased to be
disdainful, I acted disdain in my turn."
"You acted very well," said she, without reflecting.
"Of course. I am an excellent actor."
"And why this sudden change?"
"In response to the change in you. You have grown weary of your
part of cruel madam - a dull part, believe me, and unworthy of your
talents., Were I a woman and had I your loveliness and your grace,
Climene, I should disdain to use them as weapons of offence."
"Loveliness and grace!" she echoed, feigning amused surprise. But
the vain baggage was mollified. "When was it that you discovered
this beauty and this grace, M. Scaramouche?"
He looked at her a moment, considering the sprightly beauty of her,
the adorable femininity that from the first had so irresistibly
"One morning when I beheld you rehearsing a love-scene with Leandre."
He caught the surprise that leapt to her eyes, before she veiled
them under drooping lids from his too questing gaze.
"Why, that was the first time you saw me."
"I had no earlier occasion to remark your charms."
"You ask me to believe too much," said she, but her tone was softer
than he had ever known it yet.
"Then you'll refuse to believe me if I confess that it was this
grace and beauty that determined my destiny that day by urging me
to join your father's troupe."
At that she became a little out of breath. There was no longer any
question of finding an outlet for resentment. Resentment was all
"But why? With what object?"
"With the object of asking you one day to be my wife."
She halted under the shock of that, and swung round to face him.
Her glance met his own without, shyness now; there was a hardening
glitter in her eyes, a faint stir of colour in her cheeks. She
suspected him of an unpardonable mockery.
"You go very fast, don't you?" she asked him, with heat.
"I do. haven't you observed it? I am a man of sudden impulses.
See what I have made of the Binet troupe in less than a couple of
months. Another might have laboured for a year and not achieved
the half of it. Shall I be slower in love than in work? Would it
be reasonable to expect it? I have curbed and repressed myself not
to scare you by precipitancy. In that I have done violence to my
feelings, and more than all in using the same cold aloofness with
which you chose to treat me. I have waited - oh! so patiently -
until you should tire of that mood of cruelty."
"You are an amazing man," said she, quite colourlessly.
"I am," he agreed with her. "It is only the conviction that I am
not commonplace that has permitted me to hope as I have hoped."
Mechanically, and as if by tacit consent, they resumed their walk.
"And I ask you to observe," he said, "when you complain that I go
very fast, that, after all, I have so far asked you for nothing."
"How?" quoth she, frowning.
"I have merely told you of my hopes. I am not so rash as to ask at
once whether I may realize them."
"My faith, but that is prudent," said she, tartly.
It was his self-possession that exasperated her; for after that she
walked the short remainder of the way in silence, and so, for the
moment, the matter was left just there.
But that night, after they had supped, it chanced that when Climene
was about to retire, he and she were alone together in the room
abovestairs that her father kept exclusively for his company. The
Binet Troupe, you see, was rising in the world.
As Climene now rose to withdraw for the night, Scaramouche rose
with her to light her candle. Holding it in her left hand, she
offered him her right, a long, tapering, white hand at the end of
a softly rounded arm that was bare to the elbow.
"Good-night, Scaramouche," she said, but so softly, so tenderly,
that he caught his breath, and stood conning her, his dark eyes
Thus a moment, then he took the tips of her fingers in his grasp,
and bowing over the hand, pressed his lips upon it. Then he looked
at her again. The intense femininity of her lured him on, invited
him, surrendered to him. Her face was pale, there was a glitter in
her eyes, a curious smile upon her parted lips, and under its
fichu-menteur her bosom rose and fell to complete the betrayal of her.
By the hand he continued to hold, he drew her towards him. She came
unresisting. He took the candle from her, and set it down on the
sideboard by which she stood. The next moment her slight, lithe
body was in his arms, and he was kissing her, murmuring her name as
if it were a prayer.
"Am I cruel now?" she asked him, panting. He kissed her again for
only answer. "You made me cruel because you would not see," she
told him next in a whisper.
And then the door opened, and M. Binet came in to have his paternal
eyes regaled by this highly indecorous behaviour of his daughter.
He stood at gaze, whilst they quite leisurely, and in a
self-possession too complete to be natural, detached each from
"And what may be the meaning of this?" demanded M. Binet, bewildered
and profoundly shocked.
"Does it require explaining?" asked Scaramouche. "Doesn't it speak
for itself - eloquently? It means that Climene and I have taken it
into our heads to be married."
"And doesn't it matter what I may take into my head?"
"Of course. But you could have neither the bad taste nor the bad
heart to offer any obstacle."
"You take that for granted? Aye, that is your way, to be sure - to
take things for granted. But my daughter is not to be taken for
granted. I have very definite views for my daughter. You have done
an unworthy thing, Scaramouche. You have betrayed my trust in you.
I am very angry with you."
He rolled forward with his ponderous yet curiously noiseless gait.
Scaramouche turned to her, smiling, and handed her the candle.
"If you will leave us, Climene, I will ask your hand of your father
in proper form."
She vanished, a little fluttered, lovelier than ever in her mixture
of confusion and timidity. Scaramouche closed the door and faced the
enraged M. Binet, who had flung himself into an armchair at the head
of the short table, faced him with the avowed purpose of asking for
Climene's hand in proper form. And this was how he did it:
"Father-in-law," said he, "I congratulate you. This will certainly
mean the Comedie Francaise for Climene, and that before long, and
you shall shine in the glory she will reflect. As the father of
Madame Scaramouche you may yet be famous."
Binet, his face slowly empurpling, glared at him in speechless
stupefaction. His rage was the more utter from his humiliating
conviction that whatever he might say or do, this irresistible
fellow would bend him to his will. At last speech came to him.
"You're a damned corsair," he cried, thickly, banging his ham-like
fist upon the table. "A corsair! First you sail in and plunder me
of half my legitimate gains; and now you want to carry off my
daughter. But I'll be damned if I'll give her to a graceless,
nameless scoundrel like you, for whom the gallows are waiting
Scaramouche pulled the bell-rope, not at all discomposed. He smiled.
There was a flush on his cheeks and a gleam in his eyes. He was
very pleased with the world that night. He really owed a great debt
to M. de Lesdiguieres.
"Binet," said he, "forget for once that you are Pantaloon, and behave
as a nice, amiable father-in-law should behave when he has secured a
son-in-law of exceptionable merits. We are going to have a bottle of
Burgundy at my expense, and it shall be the best bottle of Burgundy
to be found in Redon. Compose yourself to do fitting honour to it.
Excitations of the bile invariably impair the fine sensitiveness of
THE CONQUEST OF NANTES
The Binet Troupe opened in Nantes - as you may discover in surviving
copies of the "Courrier Nantais" - on the Feast of the Purification
with "Les Fourberies de Scaramouche." But they did not come to
Nantes as hitherto they had gone to little country villages and
townships, unheralded and depending entirely upon the parade of
their entrance to attract attention to themselves. Andre-Louis
had borrowed from the business methods of the Comedie Francaise.
Carrying matters with a high hand entirely in his own fashion, he
had ordered at Redon the printing of playbills, and four days before
the company's descent upon Nantes, these bills were pasted outside
the Theatre Feydau and elsewhere about the town, and had attracted
- being still sufficiently unusual announcements at the time -
considerable attention. He had entrusted the matter to one of the
company's latest recruits, an intelligent young man named Basque,
sending him on ahead of the company for the purpose.
You may see for yourself one of these playbills in the Carnavalet
Museum. It details the players by their stage names only, with the
exception of M. Binet and his daughter, and leaving out of account
that he who plays Trivelin in one piece appears as Tabarin in
another, it makes the company appear to be at least half as numerous
again as it really was. It announces that they will open with "Les
Fourberies de Scaramouche," to be followed by five other plays of
which it gives the titles, and by others not named, which shall also
be added should the patronage to be received in the distinguished
and enlightened city of Nantes encourage the Binet Troupe to prolong
its sojourn at the Theatre Feydau. It lays great stress upon the
fact that this is a company of improvisers in the old Italian manner,
the like of which has not been seen in France for half a century,
and it exhorts the public of Nantes not to miss this opportunity of
witnessing these distinguished mimes who are reviving for them the
glories of the Comedie de l'Art. Their visit to Nantes - the
announcement proceeds - is preliminary to their visit to Paris,
where they intend to throw down the glove to the actors of the
Comedie Francaise, and to show the world how superior is the art of
the improviser to that of the actor who depends upon an author for
what he shall say, and who consequently says always the same thing
every time that he plays in the same piece.
It is an audacious bill, and its audacity had scared M. Binet out
of the little sense left him by the Burgundy which in these days he
could afford to abuse. He had offered the most vehement opposition.
Part of this Andre-Louis had swept aside; part he had disregarded.
"I admit that it is audacious," said Scaramouche. "But at your time
of life you should have learnt that in this world nothing succeeds
"I forbid it; I absolutely forbid it," M. Binet insisted.
"I knew you would. Just as I know that you'll be very grateful to
me presently for not obeying you.
"You are inviting a catastrophe."
"I am inviting fortune. The worst catastrophe that can overtake
you is to be back in the market-halls of the country villages from
which I rescued you. I'll have you in Paris yet in spite of
yourself. Leave this to me."
And he went out to attend to the printing. Nor did his preparations
end there. He wrote a piquant article on the glories of the Comedie
de l'Art, and its resurrection by the improvising troupe of the
great mime Florimond Binet. Binet's name was not Florimond; it was
just Pierre. But Andre-Louis had a great sense of the theatre. That
article was an amplification of the stimulating matter contained in
the playbills; and he persuaded Basque, who had relations in Nantes,
to use all the influence he could command, and all the bribery they
could afford, to get that article printed in the "Courrier Nantais"
a couple of days before the arrival of the Binet Troupe.
Basque had succeeded, and, considering the undoubted literary merits
and intrinsic interest of the article, this is not at all surprising.
And so it was upon an already expectant city that Binet and his
company descended in that first week of February. M. Binet would
have made his entrance in the usual manner - a full-dress parade with
banging drums and crashing cymbals. But to this Andre-Louis offered
the most relentless opposition.
"We should but discover our poverty," said he. "Instead, we will
creep into the city unobserved, and leave ourselves to the imagination
of the public."
He had his way, of course. M. Binet, worn already with battling
against the strong waters of this young man's will, was altogether
unequal to the contest now that he found CLIMENE in alliance with
Scaramouche, adding her insistence to his, and joining with him
in reprobation of her father's sluggish and reactionary wits.
Metaphorically, M. Binet threw up his arms, and cursing the day on
which he had taken this young man into his troupe, he allowed the
current to carry him whither it would. He was persuaded that he
would be drowned in the end. Meanwhile he would drown his vexation
in Burgundy. At least there was abundance of Burgundy. Never in
his life had he found Burgundy so plentiful. Perhaps things were
not as bad as he imagined, after all. He reflected that, when all
was said, he had to thank Scaramouche for the Burgundy. Whilst
fearing the worst, he would hope for the best.
And it was very much the worst that he feared as he waited in the
wings when the curtain rose on that first performance of theirs at
the Theatre Feydau to a house that was tolerably filled by a public
whose curiosity the preliminary announcements had thoroughly
Although the scenario of "Lee Fourberies de Scaramouche" has not
apparently survived, yet we know from Andre-Louis' "Confessions"
that it is opened by Polichinelle in the character of an arrogant
and fiercely jealous lover shown in the act of beguiling the
waiting-maid, Columbine, to play the spy upon her mistress, Climene.
Beginning with cajolery, but failing in this with the saucy
Columbine, who likes cajolers to be at least attractive and to pay
a due deference to her own very piquant charms, the fierce humpbacked
scoundrel passes on to threats of the terrible vengeance he will
wreak upon her if she betrays him or neglects to obey him implicitly;
failing here, likewise, he finally has recourse to bribery, and
after he has bled himself freely to the very expectant Columbine, he
succeeds by these means in obtaining her consent to spy upon Climene,
and to report to him upon her lady's conduct.
The pair played the scene well together, stimulated, perhaps, by
their very nervousness at finding themselves before so imposing an
audience. Polichinelle was everything that is fierce, contemptuous,
and insistent. Columbine was the essence of pert indifference
under his cajolery, saucily mocking under his threats, and finely
sly in extorting the very maximum when it came to accepting a bribe.
Laughter rippled through the audience and promised well. But M.
Binet, standing trembling in the wings, missed the great guffaws of
the rustic spectators to whom they had played hitherto, and his
fears steadily mounted.
Then, scarcely has Polichinelle departed by the door than Scaramouche
bounds in through the window. It was an effective entrance, usually
performed with a broad comic effect that set the people in a roar.
Not so on this occasion. Meditating in bed that morning, Scaramouche
had decided to present himself in a totally different aspect. He
would cut out all the broad play, all the usual clowning which had
delighted their past rude audiences, and he would obtain his effects
by subtlety instead. He would present a slyly humorous rogue,
restrained, and of a certain dignity, wearing a countenance of
complete solemnity, speaking his lines drily, as if unconscious of
the humour with which he intended to invest them. Thus, though it
might take the audience longer to understand and discover him, they
would like him all the better in the end.
True to that resolve, he now played his part as the friend and hired
ally of the lovesick Leandre, on whose behalf he came for news of
Climene, seizing the opportunity to further his own amour with
Columbine and his designs upon the money-bags of Pantaloon. Also he
had taken certain liberties with the traditional costume of
Scaramouche; he had caused the black doublet and breeches to be
slashed with red, and the doublet to be cut more to a peak, a la
Henri III. The conventional black velvet cap he had replaced by a
conical hat with a turned-up brim, and a tuft of feathers on the
left, and he had discarded the guitar.
M. Binet listened desperately for the roar of laughter that usually
greeted the entrance of Scaramouche, and his dismay increased when
it did not come. And then he became conscious of something
alarmingly unusual in Scaramouche's manner. The sibilant foreign
accent was there, but none of the broad boisterousness their
audiences had loved.
He wrung his hands in despair. "It is all over!" he said. "The
fellow has ruined us! It serves me right for being a fool, and
allowing him to take control of everything!"
But he was profoundly mistaken. He began to have an inkling of this
when presently himself he took the stage, and found the public
attentive, remarked a grin of quiet appreciation on every upturned
face. It was not, however, until the thunders of applause greeted
the fall of the curtain on the first act that he felt quite sure
they would be allowed to escape with their lives.
Had the part of Pantaloon in "Les Fourberies" been other than that
of a blundering, timid old idiot, Binet would have ruined it by his
apprehensions. As it was, those very apprehensions, magnifying as
they did the hesitancy and bewilderment that were the essence of
his part, contributed to the success. And a success it proved that
more than justified all the heralding of which Scaramouche had been
For Scaramouche himself this success was not confined to the public.
At the end of the play a great reception awaited him from his
companions assembled in the green-room of the theatre. His talent,
resource, and energy had raised them in a few weeks from a pack of
vagrant mountebanks to a self-respecting company of first-rate
players. They acknowledged it generously in a speech entrusted to
Polichinelle, adding the tribute to his genius that, as they had
conquered Nantes, so would they conquer the world under his guidance.
In their enthusiasm they were a little neglectful of the feelings
of M. Binet. Irritated enough had he been already by the overriding
of his every wish, by the consciousness of his weakness when opposed
to Scaramouche. And, although he had suffered the gradual process
of usurpation of authority because its every step had been attended
by his own greater profit, deep down in him the resentment abode to
stifle every spark of that gratitude due from him to his partner.
To-night his nerves had been on the rack, and he had suffered agonies
of apprehension, for all of which he blamed Scaramouche so bitterly
that not even the ultimate success - almost miraculous when all the
elements are considered - could justify his partner in his eyes.
And now, to find himself, in addition, ignored by this company - his
own company, which he had so laboriously and slowly assembled and
selected among the men of ability whom he had found here and there
in the dregs of cities was something that stirred his bile, and
aroused the malevolence that never did more than slumber in him. But
deeply though his rage was moved, it did not blind him to the folly
of betraying it. Yet that he should assert himself in this hour was
imperative unless he were for ever to become a thing of no account
in this troupe over which he had lorded it for long months before
this interloper came amongst them to fill his purse and destroy his
So he stepped forward now when Polichinelle had done. His make-up
assisting him to mask his bitter feelings, he professed to add his
own to Polichinelle's acclamations of his dear partner. But he did
it in such a manner as to make it clear that what Scaramouche had
done, he had done by M. Binet's favour, and that in all M. Binet's
had been the guiding hand. In associating himself with Polichinelle,
he desired to thank Scaramouche, much in the manner of a lord
rendering thanks to his steward for services diligently rendered and
orders scrupulously carried out.
It neither deceived the troupe nor mollified himself. Indeed, his
consciousness of the mockery of it but increased his bitterness.
But at least it saved his face and rescued him from nullity - he who
was their chief.
To say, as I have said, that it did not deceive them, is perhaps to
say too much, for it deceived them at least on the score of his
feelings. They believed, after discounting the insinuations in
which he took all credit to himself, that at heart he was filled
with gratitude, as they were. That belief was shared by Andre-Louis
himself, who in his brief, grateful answer was very generous to M.
Binet, more than endorsing the claims that M. Binet had made.
And then followed from him the announcement that their success in
Nantes was the sweeter to him because it rendered almost immediately
attainable the dearest wish of his heart, which was to make Climene
his wife. It was a felicity of which he was the first to acknowledge
his utter unworthiness. It was to bring him into still closer
relations with his good friend M. Binet, to whom he owed all that he
had achieved for himself and for them. The announcement was joyously
received, for the world of the theatre loves a lover as dearly as
does the greater world. So they acclaimed the happy pair, with the
exception of poor Leandre, whose eyes were more melancholy than ever.
They were a happy family that night in the upstairs room of their
inn on the Quai La Fosse - the same inn from which Andre-Louis had
set out some weeks ago to play a vastly different role before an
audience of Nantes. Yet was it so different, he wondered? Had he
not then been a sort of Scaramouche - an intriguer, glib and
specious, deceiving folk, cynically misleading them with opinions
that were not really his own? Was it at all surprising that he
should have made so rapid and signal a success as a mime? Was not
this really all that he had ever been, the thing for which Nature
had designed him?
On the following night they played "The Shy Lover" to a full house,
the fame of their debut having gone abroad, and the success of
Monday was confirmed. On Wednesday they gave "Figaro-Scaramouche,"
and on Thursday morning the "Courrier Nantais" came out with an
article of more than a column of praise of these brilliant
improvisers, for whom it claimed that they utterly put to shame the
mere reciters of memorized parts.
Andre-Louis, reading the sheet at breakfast, and having no delusions
on the score of the falseness of that statement, laughed inwardly.
The novelty of the thing, and the pretentiousness in which he had
swaddled it, had deceived them finely. He turned to greet Binet and
Climene, who entered at that moment. He waved the sheet above his
"It is settled," he announced, "we stay in Nantes until Easter."
"Do we?" said Binet, sourly. "You settle everything, my friend."
"Read for yourself." And he handed him the paper.
Moodily M. Binet read. He set the sheet down in silence, and turned
his attention to his breakfast.
"Was I justified or not?" quoth Andre-Louis, who found M. Binet's
behaviour a thought intriguing.
"In coming to Nantes?"
"If I had not thought so, we should not have come," said Binet, and
he began to eat.
Andre-Louis dropped the subject, wondering.
After breakfast he and Climene sallied forth to take the air upon
the quays. It was a day of brilliant sunshine and less cold than
it had lately been. Columbine tactlessly joined them as they were
setting out, though in this respect matters were improved a little
when Harlequin came running after them, and attached himself to
Andre-Louis, stepping out ahead with Climene, spoke of the thing
that was uppermost in his mind at the moment.
"Your father is behaving very oddly towards me," said he. "It is
almost as if he had suddenly become hostile."
"You imagine it," said she. "My father is very grateful to you,
as we all are."
"He is anything but grateful. He is infuriated against me; and I
think I know the reason. Don't you? Can't you guess?"
"I can't, indeed."
"If you were my daughter, Climene, which God be thanked you are
not, I should feel aggrieved against the man who carried you away
from me. Poor old Pantaloon! He called me a corsair when I told
him that I intend to marry you."
"He was right. You are a bold robber, Scaramouche."
"It is in the character," said he. "Your father believes in having
his mimes play upon the stage the parts that suit their natural
"Yes, you take everything you want, don't you?" She looked up at
him, half adoringly, half shyly.
"If it is possible," said he. "I took his consent to our marriage
by main force from him. I never waited for him to give it. When, in
fact, he refused it, I just snatched it from him, and I'll defy him
now to win it back from me. I think that is what he most resents."
She laughed, and launched upon an animated answer. But he did not
hear a word of it. Through the bustle of traffic on the quay a
cabriolet, the upper half of which was almost entirely made of glass,
had approached them. It was drawn by two magnificent bay horses and
driven by a superbly livened coachman.
In the cabriolet alone sat a slight young girl wrapped in a lynx-fur
pelisse, her face of a delicate loveliness. She was leaning forward,
her lips parted, her eyes devouring Scaramouche until they drew his
gaze. When that happened, the shock of it brought him abruptly to a
Climene, checking in the middle of a sentence, arrested by his own
sudden stopping, plucked at his sleeve.
"What is it, Scaramouche?"
But he made no attempt to answer her, and at that moment the
coachman, to whom the little lady had already signalled, brought
the carriage to a standstill beside them. Seen in the gorgeous
setting of that coach with its escutcheoned panels, its portly
coachman and its white-stockinged footman - who swung instantly
to earth as the vehicle stopped - its dainty occupant seemed to
Climene a princess out of a fairy-tale. And this princess leaned
forward, with eyes aglow and cheeks aflush, stretching out a
choicely gloved hand to Scaramouche.
"Andre-Louis!" she called him.
And Scaramouche took the hand of that exalted being, just as he
might have taken the hand of Climene herself, and with eyes that
reflected the gladness of her own, in a voice that echoed the joyous
surprise of hers, he addressed her familiarly by name, just as she
had addressed him.
"The door," Aline commanded her footman, and "Mount here beside me,"
she commanded Andre-Louis, in the same breath.
"A moment, Aline."
He turned to his companion, who was all amazement, and to Harlequin
and Columbine, who had that moment come up to share it. "You permit
me, Climene?" said he, breathlessly. But it was more a statement
than a question. "Fortunately you are not alone. Harlequin will
take care of you. Au revoir, at dinner."
With that he sprang into the cabriolet without waiting for a reply.
The footman dosed the door, the coachman cracked his whip, and the
regal equipage rolled away along the quay, leaving the three
comedians staring after it, open-mouthed... Then Harlequin laughed.
"A prince in disguise, our Scaramouche!" said he.
Columbine clapped her hands and flashed her strong teeth. "But what
a romance for you, Climene! How wonderful!"
The frown melted from Climene's brow. Resentment changed to
"But who is she?"
"His sister, of course," said Harlequin, quite definitely.
"His sister? How do you know?"
"I know what he will tell you on his return."
"Because you wouldn't believe him if he said she was his mother."
Following the carriage with their glance, they wandered on in the
direction it had taken. And in the carriage Aline was considering
Andre-Louis with grave eyes, lips slightly compressed, and a tiny
frown between her finely drawn eyebrows.
"You have taken to queer company, Andre," was the first thing she
said to him. "Or else I am mistaken in thinking that your companion
was Mlle. Binet of the Theatre Feydau."
"You are not mistaken. But I had not imagined Mlle. Binet so famous
"Oh, as to that... " mademoiselle shrugged, her tone quietly
scornful. And she explained. "It is simply that I was at the play
last night. I thought I recognized her."
"You were at the Feydau last night? And I never saw you!"
"Were you there, too?"
"Was I there!" he cried. Then he checked, and abruptly changed his
tone. "Oh, yes, I was there," he said, as commonplace as he could,
beset by a sudden reluctance to avow that he had so willingly
descended to depths that she must account unworthy, and grateful
that his disguise of face and voice should have proved impenetrable
even to one who knew him so very well.
"I understand," said she, and compressed her lips a little more
"But what do you understand?"
"The rare attractions of Mlle. Binet. Naturally you would be at
the theatre. Your tone conveyed it very clearly. Do you know that
you disappoint me, Andre? It is stupid of me, perhaps; it betrays,
I suppose, my imperfect knowledge of your sex. I am aware that
most young men of fashion find an irresistible attraction for
creatures who parade themselves upon the stage. But I did not
expect you to ape the ways of a man of fashion. I was foolish
enough to imagine you to be different; rather above such trivial
pursuits. I conceived you something of an idealist."
"So I perceive. But you misled me. You talked so much morality of
a kind, you made philosophy so readily, that I came to be deceived.
In fact, your hypocrisy was so consummate that I never suspected it.
With your gift of acting I wonder that you haven't joined Mlle.
"I have," said he.
It had really become necessary to tell her, making choice of the
lesser of the two evils with which she confronted him.
He saw first incredulity, then consternation, and lastly disgust
overspread her face.
"Of course," said she, after a long pause, "that would have the
advantage of bringing you closer to your charmer."
"That was only one of the inducements. There was another. Finding
myself forced to choose between the stage and the gallows, I had the
incredible weakness to prefer the former. It was utterly unworthy
of a man of my lofty ideals, but - what would you? Like other
ideologists, I find it easier to preach than to practise. Shall I
stop the carriage and remove the contamination of my disgusting
person? Or shall I tell you how it happened?"
"Tell me how it happened first. Then we will decide."
He told her how he met the Binet Troupe, and how the men of the
marechaussee forced upon him the discovery that in its bosom he could
lie safely lost until the hue and cry had died down. The explanation
dissolved her iciness.
"My poor Andre, why didn't you tell me this at first?"
"For one thing, you didn't give me time; for another, I feared to
shock you with the spectacle of my degradation."
She took him seriously. "But where was the need of it? And why did
you not send us word as I required you of your whereabouts?"
"I was thinking of it only yesterday. I have hesitated for several
"You thought it would offend us to know what you were doing?"
"I think that I preferred to surprise you by the magnitude of my
"Oh, you are to become a great actor?" She was frankly scornful.
"That is not impossible. But I am more concerned to become a great
author. There is no reason why you should sniff. The calling is an
honourable one. All the world is proud to know such men as
Beaumarchais and Chenier."
"And you hope to equal them?"
"I hope to surpass them, whilst acknowledging that it was they who
taught me how to walk. What did you think of the play last night?"
"It was amusing and well conceived."
"Let me present you to the author."
"You? But the company is one of the improvisers."
"Even improvisers require an author to write their scenarios. That
is all I write at present. Soon I shall be writing plays in the
"You deceive yourself, my poor Andre. The piece last night would
have been nothing without the players. You are fortunate in your
"In confidence - I present you to him."
"You - Scaramouche? You?" She turned to regard him fully. He
smiled his close-lipped smile that made wrinkles like gashes in
his cheeks. He nodded. "And I didn't recognize you!"
"I thank you for the tribute. You imagined, of course, that I was
a scene-shifter. And now that you know all about me, what of
Gavrillac? What of my godfather?"
He was well, she told him, and still profoundly indignant with
Andre-Louis for his defection, whilst secretly concerned on his
"I shall write to him to-day that I have seen you."
"Do so. Tell him that I am well and prospering. But say no more.
Do not tell him what I am doing. He has his prejudices too.
Besides, it might not be prudent. And now the question I have been
burning to ask ever since I entered your carriage. Why are you in
"I am on a visit to my aunt, Mme. de Sautron. It was with her that
I came to the play yesterday. We have been dull at the chateau; but
it will be different now. Madame my aunt is receiving several guests
to-day. M. de La Tour d'Azyr is to be one of them."
Andre-Louis frowned and sighed. "Did you ever hear, Aline, how poor
Philippe de Vilmorin came by his end?"
"Yes; I was told, first by my uncle; then by M. de La Tour d'Azyr,
"Did not that help you to decide this marriage question?"
"How could it? You forget that I am but a woman. You don't expect
me to judge between men in matters such as these?"
"Why not? You are well able to do so. The more since you have
heard two sides. For my godfather would tell you the truth. If
you cannot judge, it is that you do not wish to judge." His tone
became harsh. "Wilfully you close your eyes to justice that might
check the course of your unhealthy, unnatural ambition."
"Excellent!" she exclaimed, and considered him with amusement and
something else. "Do you know that you are almost droll? You rise
unblushing from the dregs of life in which I find you, and shake
off the arm of that theatre girl, to come and preach to me."
"If these were the dregs of life I might still speak from them to
counsel you out of my respect and devotion ,Aline." He was very
stiff and stern. "But they are not the dregs of life. Honour and
virtue are possible to a theatre girl; they are impossible to a
lady who sells herself to gratify ambition; who for position, riches,
and a great title barters herself in marriage."
She looked at him breathlessly. Anger turned her pale. She reached
for the cord.
"I think I had better let you alight so that you may go back to
practise virtue and honour with your theatre wench."
"You shall not speak so of her, Aline."
"Faith, now we are to have heat on her behalf. You think I am too
delicate? You think I should speak of her as a... "
"If you must speak of her at all," he interrupted, hotly, "you'll
speak of her as my wife."
Amazement smothered her anger. Her pallor deepened. "My God!" she
said, and looked at him in horror. And in horror she asked him
presently: "You are married - married to that -?"
"Not yet. But I shall be, soon. And let me tell you that this
girl whom you visit with your ignorant contempt is as good and pure
as you are, Aline. She has wit and talent which have placed her
where she is and shall carry her a deal farther. And she has the
womanliness to be guided by natural instincts in the selection of
She was trembling with passion. She tugged the cord.
"You will descend this instant!" she told him fiercely. "That you
should dare to make a comparison between me and that... "
"And my wife-to-be," he interrupted, before she could speak the
infamous word. He opened the door for himself without waiting for
the footman, and leapt down. "My compliments," said he, furiously,
"to the assassin you are to marry." He slammed the door. "Drive
on," he bade the coachman.
The carriage rolled away up the Faubourg Gigan, leaving him standing
where he had alighted, quivering with rage. Gradually, as he walked
back to the inn, his anger cooled. Gradually, as he cooled, he
perceived her point of view, and in the end forgave her. It was not
her fault that she thought as she thought. Her rearing had been such
as to make her look upon every actress as a trull, just as it had
qualified her calmly to consider the monstrous marriage of convenience
into which she was invited.
He got back to the inn to find the company at table. Silence fell
when he entered, so suddenly that of necessity it must be supposed he
was himself the subject of the conversation. Harlequin and Columbine
had spread the tale of this prince in disguise caught up into the
chariot of a princess and carried off by her; and it was a tale that
had lost nothing in the telling.
Climene had been silent and thoughtful, pondering what Columbine had
called this romance of hers. Clearly her Scaramouche must be vastly
other than he had hitherto appeared, or else that great lady and he
would never have used such familiarity with each other. Imagining him
no better than he was, Climene had made him her own. And now she was
to receive the reward of disinterested affection.
Even old Binet's secret hostility towards Andre-Louis melted before
this astounding revelation. He had pinched his daughter's ear quite
playfully. "Ah, ah, trust you to have penetrated his disguise, my
She shrank resentfully from that implication.
"But I did not. I took him for what he seemed."
Her father winked at her very solemnly and laughed. "To be sure,
you did. But like your father, who was once a gentleman, and knows
the ways of gentlemen, you detected in him a subtle something
different from those with whom misfortune has compelled you hitherto
to herd. You knew as well as I did that he never caught that trick
of haughtiness, that grand air of command, in a lawyer's musty
office, and that his speech had hardly the ring or his thoughts the
complexion of the bourgeois that he pretended to be. And it was
shrewd of you to have made him yours. Do you know that I shall be
very proud of you yet, Climene?"
She moved away without answering. Her father's oiliness offended
her. Scaramouche was clearly a great gentleman, an eccentric if you
please, but a man born. And she was to be his lady. Her father
must learn to treat her differently.
She looked shyly - with a new shyness - at her lover when he came
into the room where they were dining. She observed for the first
time that proud carriage of the head, with the chin thrust forward,
that was a trick of his, and she noticed with what a grace he moved
- the grace of one who in youth has had his dancing-masters and
It almost hurt her when he flung himself into a chair and exchanged
a quip with Harlequin in the usual manner as with an equal, and it
offended her still more that Harlequin, knowing what he now knew,
should use him with the same unbecoming familiarity.
"Do you know," said Climene, "that I am waiting for the explanation
which I think you owe me?"
They were alone together, lingering still at the table to which
Andre-Louis had come belatedly, and Andre-Louis was loading himself
a pipe. Of late - since joining the Binet Troupe - he had acquired
the habit of smoking. The others had gone, some to take the air
and others, like Binet and Madame, because they felt that it were
discreet to leave those two to the explanations that must pass. It
was a feeling that Andre-Louis did not share. He kindled a light
and leisurely applied it to his pipe. A frown came to settle on
"Explanation?" he questioned presently, and looked at her. "But on
"On the score of the deception you have practised on us - on me."
"I have practised none," he assured her.
"You mean that you have simply kept your own counsel, and that in
silence there is no deception. But it is deceitful to withhold
facts concerning yourself and your true station from your future
wife. You should not have pretended to be a simple country lawyer,
which, of course, any one could see that you are not. It may have
been very romantic, but... Enfin, will you explain?"
"I see," he said, and pulled at his pipe. "But you are wrong,
Climene. I have practised no deception. If there are things about
me that I have not told you, it is that I did not account them of
much importance. But I have never deceived you by pretending to be
other than I am. I am neither more nor less than I have
This persistence began to annoy her, and the annoyance showed on her
winsome face, coloured her voice.
"Ha! And that fine lady of the nobility with whom you are so
intimate, who carried you off in her cabriolet with so little
ceremony towards myself? What is she to you?"
"A sort of sister," said he.
"A sort of sister!" She was indignant. "Harlequin foretold that
you would say so; but he was amusing himself. It was not very
funny. It is less funny still from you. She has a name, I suppose,
this sort of sister?"
"Certainly she has a name. She is Mlle. Aline de Kercadiou, the
niece of Quintin de Kercadiou, Lord of Gavrillac."
"Oho! That's a sufficiently fine name for your sort of sister.
What sort of sister, my friend?"
For the first time in their relationship he observed and deplored
the taint of vulgarity, of shrewishness, in her manner.
"It would have been more accurate in me to have said a sort of
reputed left-handed cousin."
"A reputed left-handed cousin! And what sort of relationship may
that be? Faith, you dazzle me with your lucidity."
"It requires to be explained."
"That is what I have been telling you. But you seem very reluctant
with your explanations."
"Oh, no. It is only that they are so unimportant. But be you the
judge. Her uncle, M. de Kercadiou, is my godfather, and she and I
have been playmates from infancy as a consequence. It is popularly
believed in Gavrillac that M. de Kercadiou is my father. He has
certainly cared for my rearing from my tenderest years, and it is
entirely owing to him that I was educated at Louis le Grand. I owe
to him everything that I have - or, rather, everything that I had;
for of my own free will I have cut myself adrift, and to-day I
possess nothing save what I can earn for myself in the theatre or
She sat stunned and pale under that cruel blow to her swelling pride.
Had he told her this but yesterday, it would have made no impression
upon her, it would have mattered not at all; the event of to-day
coming as a sequel would but have enhanced him in her eyes. But
coming now, after her imagination had woven for him so magnificent a
background, after the rashly assumed discovery of his splendid
identity had made her the envied of all the company, after having
been in her own eyes and theirs enshrined by marriage with him as a
great lady, this disclosure crushed and humiliated her. Her prince
in disguise was merely the outcast bastard of a country gentleman!
She would be the laughing-stock of every member of her father's
troupe, of all those who had so lately envied her this romantic good
"You should have told me this before," she said, in a dull voice
that she strove to render steady.
"Perhaps I should. But does it really matter?"
"Matter?" She suppressed her fury to ask another question. "You
say that this M. de Kercadiou is popularly believed to be your
father. What precisely do you mean?"
"Just that. It is a belief that I do not share. It is a matter of
instinct, perhaps, with me. Moreover, once I asked M. de Kercadiou
point-blank, and I received from him a denial. It is not, perhaps,
a denial to which one would attach too much importance in all the
circumstances. Yet I have never known M de Kercadiou for other than
a man of strictest honour, and I should hesitate to disbelieve him
- particularly when his statement leaps with my own instincts. He
assured me that he did not know who my father was."
"And your mother, was he equally ignorant?" She was sneering, but
he did not remark it. Her back was to the light.
"He would not disclose her name to me. He confessed her to be a
dear friend of his."
She startled him by laughing, and her laugh was not pleasant.
"A very dear friend, you may be sure, you simpleton. What name do
He restrained his own rising indignation to answer her question
calmly: "Moreau. It was given me, so I am told, from the Brittany
village in which I was born. But I have no claim to it. In fact
I have no name, unless it be Scaramouche, to which I have earned a
title. So that you see, my dear," he ended with a smile, "I have
practised no deception whatever."
"No, no. I see that now." She laughed without mirth, then drew a
deep breath and rose. "I am very tired," she said.
He was on his feet in an instant, all solicitude. But she waved
him wearily back.
"I think I will rest until it is time to go to the theatre." She
moved towards the door, dragging her feet a little. He sprang to
open it, and she passed out without looking at him.
Her so brief romantic dream was ended. The glorious world of fancy
which in the last hour she had built with such elaborate detail,
over which it should be her exalted destiny to rule, lay shattered
about her feet, its debris so many stumbling-blocks that prevented
her from winning back to her erstwhile content in Scaramouche as he
Andre-Louis sat in the window embrasure, smoking and looking idly
out across the river. He was intrigued and meditative. He had
shocked her. The fact was clear; not so the reason. That he should
confess himself nameless should not particularly injure him in the
eyes of a girl reared amid the surroundings that had been Climene's.
And yet that his confession had so injured him was fully apparent.
There, still at his brooding, the returning Columbine discovered
him a half-hour later.
"All alone, my prince!" was her laughing greeting, which suddenly
threw light upon his mental darkness. Climene had been disappointed
of hopes that the wild imagination of these players had suddenly
erected upon the incident of his meeting with Aline. Poor child!
He smiled whimsically at Columbine.
"I am likely to be so for some little time," said he, "until it
becomes a commonplace that I am not, after all, a prince.
"Not a prince? Oh, but a duke, then - at least a marquis."
"Not even a chevalier, unless it be of the order of fortune. I
am just Scaramouche. My castles are all in Spain."
Disappointment clouded the lively, good-natured face.
"And I had imagined you... "
"I know," he interrupted. "That is the mischief." He might have
gauged the extent of that mischief by Climene's conduct that evening
towards the gentlemen of fashion who clustered now in the green-room
between the acts to pay their homage to the incomparable amoureuse.
Hitherto she had received them with a circumspection compelling
respect. To-night she was recklessly gay, impudent, almost wanton.
He spoke of it gently to her as they walked home together,
counselling more prudence in the future.
"We are not married yet," she told him, tartly. "Wait until then
before you criticize my conduct."
"I trust that there will be no occasion then," said he.
"You trust? Ah, yes. You are very trusting."
"Climene, I have offended you. I am sorry."
"It is nothing," said she. "You are what you are. Still was he not
concerned. He perceived the source of her ill-humour; understood,
whilst deploring it; and, because he understood, forgave. He
perceived also that her ill-humour was shared by her father, and by
this he was frankly amused. Towards M. Binet a tolerant contempt
was the only feeling that complete acquaintance could beget. As for
the rest of the company, they were disposed to be very kindly towards
Scaramouche. It was almost as if in reality he had fallen from the
high estate to which their own imaginations had raised him; or
possibly it was because they saw the effect which that fall from his
temporary and fictitious elevation had produced upon Climene.
Leandre alone made himself an exception. His habitual melancholy
seemed to be dispelled at last, and his eyes gleamed now with
malicious satisfaction when they rested upon Scaramouche, whom
occasionally he continued to address with sly mockery as "mon
On the morrow Andre-Louis saw but little of Climene. This was not
in itself extraordinary, for he was very hard at work again, with
preparations now for "Figaro-Scaramouche" which was to be played
on Saturday. Also, in addition to his manifold theatrical
occupations, he now devoted an hour every morning to the study of
fencing in an academy of arms. This was done not only to repair
an omission in his education, but also, and chiefly, to give him
added grace and poise upon the stage. He found his mind that
morning distracted by thoughts of both Climene and Aline. And
oddly enough it was Aline who provided the deeper perturbation.
Climene's attitude he regarded as a passing phase which need not
seriously engage him. But the thought of Aline's conduct towards
him kept rankling, and still more deeply rankled the thought of
her possible betrothal to M. de La Tour d'Azyr.
This it was that brought forcibly to his mind the self-imposed but
by now half-forgotten mission that he had made his own. He had
boasted that he would make the voice which M. de La Tour d'Azyr had
sought to silence ring through the length and breadth of the land.
And what had he done of all this that he had boasted? He had
incited the mob of Rennes and the mob of Nantes in such terms as
poor Philippe might have employed, and then because of a hue and
cry he had fled like a cur and taken shelter in the first kennel
that offered, there to lie quiet and devote himself to other
things - self-seeking things. What a fine contrast between the
promise and the fulfilment!
Thus Andre-Louis to himself in his self-contempt. And whilst he
trifled away his time and played Scaramouche, and centred all his
hopes in presently becoming the rival of such men as Chenier and
Mercier, M. de La Tour d'Azyr went his proud ways unchallenged
and wrought his will. It was idle to tell himself that the seed
he had sown was bearing fruit. That the demands he had voiced in
Nantes for the Third Estate had been granted by M. Necker, thanks
largely to the commotion which his anonymous speech had made. That
was not his concern or his mission. It was no part of his concern
to set about the regeneration of mankind, or even the regeneration
of the social structure of France. His concern was to see that M.
de La Tour d'Azyr paid to the uttermost liard for the brutal wrong
he had done Philippe de Vilmorin. And it did not increase his
self-respect to find that the danger in which Aline stood of being
married to the Marquis was the real spur to his rancour and to
remembrance of his vow. He was - too unjustly, perhaps - disposed
to dismiss as mere sophistries his own arguments that there was
nothing he could do; that, in fact, he had but to show his head to
find himself going to Rennes under arrest and making his final exit
from the world's stage by way of the gallows.
It is impossible to read that part of his "Confessions" without
feeling a certain pity for him. You realize what must have been
his state of mind. You realize what a prey he was to emotions so
conflicting, and if you have the imagination that will enable you
to put yourself in his place, you will also realize how impossible
was any decision save the one to which he says he came, that he
would move, at the first moment that he perceived in what direction
it would serve his real aims to move.
It happened that the first person he saw when he took the stage on
that Thursday evening was Aline; the second was the Marquis de La
Tour d'Azyr. They occupied a box on the right of, and immediately
above, the stage. There were others with them - notably a thin,
elderly, resplendent lady whom Andre-Louis supposed to be Madame
la Comtesse de Sautron. But at the time he had no eyes for any but
those two, who of late had so haunted his thoughts. The sight of
either of them would have been sufficiently disconcerting. The
sight of both together very nearly made him forget the purpose for
which he had come upon the stage. Then he pulled himself together,
and played. He played, he says, with an unusual nerve, and never
in all that brief but eventful career of his was he more applauded.
That was the evening's first shock. The next came after the second
act. Entering the green-room he found it more thronged than usual,
and at the far end with Climene, over whom he was bending from his
fine height, his eyes intent upon her face, what time his smiling
lips moved in talk, M. de La Tour d'Azyr. He had her entirely to
himself, a privilege none of the men of fashion who were in the
habit of visiting the coulisse had yet enjoyed. Those lesser
gentlemen had all withdrawn before the Marquis, as jackals withdraw
before the lion.
Andre-Louis stared a moment, stricken. Then recovering from his
surprise he became critical in his study of the Marquis. He
considered the beauty and grace and splendour of him, his courtly
air, his complete and unshakable self-possession. But more than
all he considered the expression of the dark eyes that were devouring
Climene's lovely face, and his own lips tightened.
M. de La Tour d'Azyr never heeded him or his stare; nor, had he done
so, would he have known who it was that looked at him from behind
the make-up of Scaramouche; nor, again, had he known, would he have
been in the least troubled or concerned.
Andre-Louis sat down apart, his mind in turmoil. Presently he found
a mincing young gentleman addressing him, and made shift to answer
as was expected. Climene having been thus sequestered, and Columbine
being already thickly besieged by gallants, the lesser visitors had
to content themselves with Madame and the male members of the troupe.
M. Binet, indeed, was the centre of a gay cluster that shook with
laughter at his sallies. He seemed of a sudden to have emerged from
the gloom of the last two days into high good-humour, and Scaramouche
observed how persistently his eyes kept flickering upon his daughter
and her splendid courtier.
That night there, were high words between Andre-Louis and Climene,
the high words proceeding from Climene. When Andre-Louis again,
and more insistently, enjoined prudence upon his betrothed, and
begged her to beware how far she encouraged the advances of such
a man as M. de La Tour d'Azyr, she became roundly abusive. She
shocked and stunned him by her virulently shrewish tone, and her
still more unexpected force of invective.
He sought to reason with her, and finally she came to certain
terms with him.
"If you have become betrothed to me simply to stand as an obstacle
in my path, the sooner we make an end the better."
"You do not love me then, Climene?"
"Love has nothing to do with it. I'll not tolerate your insensate
jealousy. A girl in the theatre must make it her business to accept
homage from all."
"Agreed; and there is no harm, provided she gives nothing in
White-faced, with flaming eyes she turned on him at that.
"Now, what exactly do you mean?"
"My meaning is clear. A girl in your position may receive all the
homage that is offered, provided she receives it with a dignified
aloofness implying clearly that she has no favours to bestow in
return beyond the favour of her smile. If she is wise she will
see to it that the homage is always offered collectively by her
admirers, and that no single one amongst them shall ever have the
privilege of approaching her alone. If she is wise she will give
no encouragement, nourish no hopes that it may afterwards be beyond
her power to deny realization."
"How? You dare?"
"I know my world. And I know M. de La Tour d'Azyr," he answered her.
"He is a man without charity, without humanity almost; a man who
takes what he wants wherever he finds it and whether it is given
willingly or not; a man who reckons nothing of the misery he
scatters on his self-indulgent way; a man whose only law is force.
Ponder it, Climene, and ask yourself if I do you less than honour in
He went out on that, feeling a degradation in continuing the subject.
The days that followed were unhappy days for him, and for at least
one other. That other was Leandre, who was cast into the profoundest
dejection by M. de La Tour d'Azyr's assiduous attendance upon Climene.
The Marquis was to be seen at every performance; a box was perpetually
reserved for him, and invariably he came either alone or else with his
cousin M. de Chabrillane.
On Tuesday of the following week, Andre-Louis went out alone early
in the morning. He was out of temper, fretted by an overwhelming
sense of humiliation, and he hoped to clear his mind by walking.
In turning the corner of the Place du Bouffay he ran into a slightly
built, sallow-complexioned gentleman very neatly dressed in black,
wearing a tie-wig under a round hat. The man fell back at sight of
him, levelling a spy-glass, then hailed him in a voice that rang
"Moreau! Where the devil have you been hiding your-self these months?"
It was Le Chapelier, the lawyer, the leader of the Literary Chamber
"Behind the skirts of Thespis," said Scaramouche.
"I don't understand."
"I didn't intend that you should. What of yourself, Isaac? And
what of the world which seems to have been standing still of late?"
"Standing still!" Le Chapelier laughed. "But where have you been,
then? Standing still!" He pointed across the square to a caf‚
under the shadow of the gloomy prison. "Let us go and drink a
bavaroise. You are of all men the man we want, the man we have
been seeking everywhere, and - behold! - you drop from the skies
into my path."
They crossed the square and entered the caf‚.
"So you think the world has been standing still! Dieu de Dieu! I
suppose you haven't heard of the royal order for the convocation of
the States General, or the terms of them - that we are to have what
we demanded, what you demanded for us here in Nantes! You haven't
heard that the order has gone forth for the primary elections - the
elections of the electors. You haven't heard of the fresh uproar
in Rennes, last month. The order was that the three estates should
sit together at the States General of the bailliages, but in the
bailliage of Rennes the nobles must ever be recalcitrant. They took
up arms actually - six hundred of them with their valetaille, headed
by your old friend M. de La Tour d'Azyr, and they were for slashing
us - the members of the Third Estate - into ribbons so as to put an
end to our insolence." He laughed delicately. "But, by God, we
showed them that we, too, could take up arms. It was what you
yourself advocated here in Nantes, last November. We fought them
a pitched battle in the streets, under the leadership of your
namesake Moreau, the provost, and we so peppered them that they were
glad to take shelter in the Cordelier Convent. That is the end of
their resistance to the royal authority and the people's will."
He ran on at great speed detailing the events that had taken place,
and finally came to the matter which had, he announced, been causing
him to hunt for Andre-Louis until he had all but despaired of
Nantes was sending fifty delegates to the assembly of Rennes which
was to select the deputies to the Third Estate and edit their cahier
of grievances. Rennes itself was being as fully represented, whilst
such villages as Gavrillac were sending two delegates for every two
hundred hearths or less. Each of these three had clamoured that
Andre-Louis Moreau should be one of its delegates. Gavrillac wanted
him because he belonged to the village, and it was known there what
sacrifices he had made in the popular cause; Rennes wanted him
because it had heard his spirited address on the day of the shooting
of the students; and Nantes - to whom his identity was unknown -
asked for him as the speaker who had addressed them under the name
of Omnes Omnibus and who had framed for them the memorial that was
believed so largely to have influenced M. Necker in formulating the
terms of the convocation.
Since he could not be found, the delegations had been made up
without him. But now it happened that one or two vacancies had
occurred in the Nantes representation; and it was the business of
filling these vacancies that had brought Le Chapelier to Nantes.
Andre-Louis firmly shook his head in answer to Le Chapelier's
"You refuse?" the other cried. "Are you mad? Refuse, when you are
demanded from so many sides? Do you realize that it is more than
probable you will be elected one of the deputies, that you will be
sent to the States General at Versailles to represent us in this
work of saving France?"
But Andre-Louis, we know, was not concerned to save France. At the
moment he was concerned to save two women, both of whom he loved,
though in vastly different ways, from a man he had vowed to ruin.
He stood firm in his refusal until Le Chapelier dejectedly abandoned
the attempt to persuade him.
"It is odd," said Andre-Louis, "that I should have been so deeply
immersed in trifles as never to have perceived that Nantes is being
"Active! My friend, it is a seething cauldron of political emotions.
It is kept quiet on the surface only by the persuasion that all goes
well. At a hint to the contrary it would boil over."
"Would it so?" said Scaramouche, thoughtfully. "The knowledge may
be useful." And then he changed the subject. "You know that La
Tour d'Azyr is here?"
"In Nantes? He has courage if he shows himself. They are not a
docile people, these Nantais, and they know his record and the part
he played in the rising at Rennes. I marvel they haven't stoned
him. But they will, sooner or later. It only needs that some one
should suggest it."
"That is very likely," said Andre-Louis, and smiled. "He doesn't
show himself much; not in the streets, at least. So that he has
not the courage you suppose; nor any kind of courage, as I told
him once. He has only insolence."
At parting Le Chapelier again exhorted him to give thought to what
he proposed. "Send me word if you change your mind. I am lodged
at the Cerf, and I shall be here until the day after to-morrow. If
you have ambition, this is your moment."
"I have no ambition, I suppose," said Andre-Louis, and went his way.
That night at the theatre he had a mischievous impulse to test what
Le Chapelier had told him of the state of public feeling in the
city. They were playing "The Terrible Captain," in the last act of
which the empty cowardice of the bullying braggart Rhodomont is
revealed by Scaramouche.
After the laughter which the exposure of the roaring captain
invariably produced, it remained for Scaramouche contemptuously to
dismiss him in a phrase that varied nightly, according to the
inspiration of the moment. This time he chose to give his phrase
a political complexion:
"Thus, 0 thrasonical coward, is your emptiness exposed. Because
of your long length and the great sword you carry and the angle at
which you cock your hat, people have gone in fear of you,, have
believed in you, have imagined you to be as terrible and as formidable
as you insolently make yourself appear. But at the first touch of
true spirit you crumple up, you tremble, you whine pitifully, and
the great sword remains in your scabbard. You remind me of the
Privileged Orders when confronted by the Third Estate."
It was audacious of him, and he was prepared for anything - a laugh,
applause, indignation, or all together. But he was not prepared for
what came. And it came so suddenly and spontaneously from the
groundlings and the body of those in the amphitheatre that he was
almost scared by it - as a boy may be scared who has held a match
to a sun-scorched hayrick. It was a hurricane of furious applause.
Men leapt to their feet, sprang up on to the benches, waving their
hats in the air, deafening him with the terrific uproar of their
acclamations. And it rolled on and on, nor ceased until the curtain
Scaramouche stood meditatively smiling with tight lips. At the
last moment he had caught a glimpse of M. de La Tour d'Azyr's face
thrust farther forward than usual from the shadows of his box, and
it was a face set in anger, with eyes on fire.
"Mon Dieu!" laughed Rhodomont, recovering from the real scare that
had succeeded his histrionic terror, "but you have a great trick
of tickling them in the right place, Scaramouche."
Scaramouche looked up at him and smiled. "It can be useful upon
occasion," said he, and went off to his dressing-room to change.
But a reprimand awaited him. He was delayed at the theatre by
matters concerned with the scenery of the new piece they were to
mount upon the morrow. By the time he was rid of the business the
rest of the company had long since left. He called a chair and
had himself carried back to the inn in solitary state. It was one
of many minor luxuries his comparatively affluent present
Coming into that upstairs room that was common to all the troupe,
he found M. Binet talking loudly and vehemently. He had caught
sounds of his voice whilst yet upon the stairs. As he entered Binet
broke off short, and wheeled to face him.
"You are here at last!" It was so odd a greeting that Andre-Louis
did no more than look his mild surprise. "I await your explanations
of the disgraceful scene you provoked to-night."
"Disgraceful? Is it disgraceful that the public should applaud me?"
"The public? The rabble, you mean. Do you want to deprive us of
the patronage of all gentlefolk by vulgar appeals to the low passions
of the mob.?"
Andre-Louis stepped past M. Binet and forward to the table. He
shrugged contemptuously. The man offended him, after all.
"You exaggerate grossly - as usual."
"I do not exaggerate. And I am the master in my own theatre. This
is the Binet Troupe, and it shall be conducted in the Binet way."
"Who are the gentlefolk the loss of whose patronage to the Feydau
will be so poignantly felt?" asked Andre-Louis.
"You imply that there are none? See how wrong you are. After the
play to-night M. le Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr came to me, and spoke
to me in the severest terms about your scandalous outburst. I was
forced to apologize, and... "
"The more fool you," said Andre-Louis. "A man who respected himself
would have shown that gentleman the door." M. Binet's face began
to empurple. "You call yourself the head of the Binet Troupe, you
boast that you will be master in your own theatre, and you stand
like a lackey to take the orders of the first insolent fellow who
comes to your green-room to tell you that he does not like a line
spoken by one of your company! I say again that had you really
respected yourself you would have turned him out."
There was a murmur of approval from several members of the company,
who, having heard the arrogant tone assumed by the Marquis, were
filled with resentment against the slur cast upon them all.
"And I say further," Andre-Louis went on, "that a man who respects
himself, on quite other grounds, would have been only too glad to
have seized this pretext to show M. de La Tour d'Azyr the door."
"What do you mean by that?" There was a rumble of thunder in the
Andre-Louis' eyes swept round the company assembled at the
supper-table. "Where is Climene?" he asked, sharply.
Leandre leapt up to answer him, white in the face, tense and
quivering with excitement.
"She left the theatre in the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr's carriage
immediately after the performance. We heard him offer to drive
her to this inn."
Andre-Louis glanced at the timepiece on the overmantel. He seemed
"That would be an hour ago - rather more. And she has not yet
His eyes sought M. Binet's. M. Binet's eyes eluded his glance.
Again it was Leandre who answered him.
"Ah!" Andre-Louis sat down, and poured himself wine. There was
an oppressive silence in the room. Leandre watched him expectantly,
Columbine commiseratingly. Even M. Binet appeared to be waiting
for a cue from Scaramouche. But Scaramouche disappointed him.
"Have you left me anything to eat?" he asked.
Platters were pushed towards him. He helped himself calmly to food,
and ate in silence, apparently with a good appetite. M. Binet sat
down, poured himself wine, and drank. Presently he attempted to
make conversation with one and another. He was answered curtly, in
monosyllables. M. Binet did not appear to be in favour with his
troupe that night.
At long length came a rumble of wheels below and a rattle of halting
hooves. Then voices, the high, trilling laugh of Climene floating
upwards. Andre-Louis went on eating unconcernedly.
"What an actor!" said Harlequin under his breath to Polichinelle,
and Polichinelle nodded gloomily.
She came in, a leading lady taking the stage, head high, chin thrust
forward, eyes dancing with laughter; she expressed triumph and
arrogance. Her cheeks were flushed, and there was some disorder in
the mass of nut-brown hair that crowned her head. In her left hand
she carried an enormous bouquet of white camellias. On its middle
finger a diamond of great price drew almost at once by its effulgence
the eyes of all.
Her father sprang to meet her with an unusual display of paternal
tenderness. "At last, my child!"
He conducted her to the table. She sank into a chair, a little
wearily, a little nervelessly, but the smile did not leave her face,
not even when she glanced across at Scaramouche. It was only
Leandre, observing her closely, with hungry, scowling stare, who
detected something as of fear in the hazel eyes momentarily seen
between the fluttering of her lids.
Andre-Louis, however, still went on eating stolidly, without so
much as a look in her direction. Gradually the company came to
realize that just as surely as a scene was brooding, just so
surely would there be no scene as long as they remained. It was
Polichinelle, at last, who gave the signal by rising and withdrawing,
and within two minutes none remained in the room but M. Binet, his
daughter, and Andre-Louis. And then, at last, Andre-Louis set down
knife and fork, washed his throat with a draught of Burgundy, and
sat back in his chair to consider Climene.
"I trust," said he, "that you had a pleasant ride, mademoiselle."
"Most pleasant, monsieur. Impudently she strove to emulate his
coolness, but did not completely succeed.
"And not unprofitable, if I may judge that jewel at this distance.
It should be worth at least a couple of hundred louis, and that
is a formidable sum even to so wealthy a nobleman as M. de La Tour
d'Azyr. Would it be impertinent in one who has had some notion
of becoming your husband, to ask you, mademoiselle, what you have
given him in return?"
M. Binet uttered a gross laugh, a queer mixture of cynicism and
"I have given nothing," said Climene, indignantly.
"Ah! Then the jewel is in the nature of a payment in advance."
"My God, man, you're not decent!" M. Binet protested.
"Decent?" Andre-Louis' smouldering eyes turned to discharge upon
M. Binet such a fulmination of contempt that the old scoundrel
shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Did you mention decency,
Binet? Almost you make me lose my temper, which is a thing that
I detest above all others!" Slowly his glance returned to Climene,
who sat with elbows on the table, her chin cupped in her palms,
regarding him with something between scorn and defiance.
"Mademoiselle," he said, slowly, "I desire you purely in your own
interests to consider whither you are going."
"I am well able to consider it for myself, and to decide without
advice from you, monsieur."
"And now you've got your answer," chuckled Binet. "I hope you
Andre-Louis had paled a little; there was incredulity in his great
sombre eyes as they continued steadily to regard her. Of M. Binet
he took no notice.
"Surely, mademoiselle, you cannot mean that willingly, with open
eyes and a full understanding of what you do, you would exchange
an honourable wifehood for... for the thing that such men as M. de
La Tour d'Azyr may have in store for you?"
M. Binet made a wide gesture, and swung to his daughter. "You hear
him, the mealy-mouthed prude! Perhaps you'll believe at last that
marriage with him would be the ruin of you. He would always be
there the inconvenient husband - to mar your every chance, my girl."
She tossed her lovely head in agreement with her father "I begin to
find him tiresome with his silly jealousies," she confessed. "As a
husband I am afraid he would be impossible."
Andre-Louis felt a constriction of the heart. But - always the
actor - he showed nothing of it. He laughed a little, not very
pleasantly, and rose.
"I bow to your choice, mademoiselle. I pray that you may not
"Regret it?" cried M. Binet. He was laughing, relieved to see his
daughter at last rid of this suitor of whom he had never approved,
if we except those few hours when he really believed him to be an
eccentric of distinction. "And what shall she regret? That she
accepted the protection of a nobleman so powerful and wealthy that
as a mere trinket he gives her a jewel worth as much as an actress
earns in a year at the Comedie Francaise?" He got up, and advanced
towards Andre-Louis. His mood became conciliatory. "Come, come,
my friend, no rancour now. What the devil! You wouldn't stand in
the girl's way? You can't really blame her for making this choice?
Have you thought what it means to her? Have you thought that under
the protection of such a gentleman there are no heights which she
may not reach? Don't you see the wonderful luck of it? Surely, if
you're fond of her, particularly being of a jealous temperament,
you wouldn't wish it otherwise?"
Andre-Louis looked at him in silence for a long moment. Then he
laughed again. "Oh, you are fantastic," he said. "You are not real."
He turned on his heel and strode to the door.
The action, and more the contempt of his look, laugh, and words stung
M. Binet to passion, drove out the conciliatoriness of his mood.
"Fantastic, are we?" he cried, turning to follow the departing
Scaramouche with his little eyes that now were inexpressibly evil.
"Fantastic that we should prefer the powerful protection of this
great nobleman to marriage with beggarly, nameless bastard. Oh, we
Andre-Louis turned, his hand upon the door-handle. No," he said,
"I was mistaken. You are not fantastic. You are just vile - both
of you." And he went out.
Mlle. de Kercadiou walked with her aunt in the bright morning
sunshine of a Sunday in March on the broad terrace of the Chateau
For one of her natural sweetness of disposition she had been oddly
irritable of late, manifesting signs of a cynical worldliness, which
convinced Mme. de Sautron more than ever that her brother Quintin
had scandalously conducted the child's education. She appeared to
be instructed in all the things of which a girl is better ignorant,
and ignorant of all the things that a girl should know. That at
least was the point of view of Mme. de Sautron.
"Tell me, madame," quoth Aline, "are all men beasts?" Unlike her
brother, Madame la Comtesse was tall and majestically built. In
the days before her marriage with M. de Sautron, ill-natured folk
described her as the only man in the family. She looked down now
from her noble height upon her little niece with startled eyes.
"Really, Aline, you have a trick of asking the most disconcerting
and improper questions."
"Perhaps it is because I find life disconcerting and improper.
"Life? A young girl should not discuss life."
"Why not, since I am alive? You do not suggest that it is an
impropriety to be alive?"
"It is an impropriety for a young unmarried girl to seek to know
too much about life. As for your absurd question about men, when
I remind you that man is the noblest work of God, perhaps you will
consider yourself answered."
Mme. de Sautron did not invite a pursuance of the subject. But Mlle.
de Kercadiou's outrageous rearing had made her headstrong.
"That being so," said she, will you tell me why they find such an
overwhelming attraction in the immodest of our sex?"
Madame stood still and raised shocked hands. Then she looked down
her handsome, high-bridged nose.
"Sometimes - often, in fact, my dear Aline - you pass all
understanding. I shall write to Quintin that the sooner you are
married the better it will be for all."
"Uncle Quintin has left that matter to my own deciding," Aline
"That," said madame with complete conviction, "is the last and most
outrageous of his errors. Who ever heard of a girl being left to
decide the matter of her own marriage? It is... indelicate almost
to expose her to thoughts of such things." Mme. de Sautron
shuddered. "Quintin is a boor. His conduct is unheard of. That
M. de La Tour d'Azyr should parade himself before you so that you
may make up your mind whether he is the proper man for you!" Again
she shuddered. "It is of a grossness, of... of a prurience almost...
Mon Dieu! When I married your uncle, all this was arranged between
our parents. I first saw him when he came to sign the contract.
I should have died of shame had it been otherwise. And that is how
these affairs should be conducted."
"You are no doubt right, madame. But since that is not how my own
case is being conducted, you will forgive me if I deal with it apart
from others. M. de La Tour d'Azyr desires to marry me. He has been
permitted to pay his court. I should be glad to have him informed
that he may cease to do so."
Mme. de Sautron stood still, petrified by amazement. Her long face
turned white; she seemed to breathe with difficulty.
"But.., but.. what are you saying?" she gasped.
Quietly Aline repeated her statement.
"But this is outrageous! You cannot be permitted to play
fast-and-loose with a gentleman of M. le Marquis' quality! Why, it
is little more than a week since you permitted him to be informed
that you would become his wife!"
"I did so in a moment of... rashness. Since then M. le Marquis'
own conduct has convinced me of my error."
"But - mon Dieu!" cried the Countess. "Are you blind to the great
honour that is being paid you? M. le Marquis will make you the
first lady in Brittany. Yet, little fool that you are, and greater
fool that Quintin is, you trifle with this extraordinary good
fortune! Let me warn you." She raised an admonitory forefinger.
"If you continue in this stupid humour M. de La Tour d'Azyr may
definitely withdraw his offer and depart in justified mortification."
"That, madame, as I am endeavouring to convey to you, is what I
"Oh, you are mad."
"It may be, madame, that I am sane in preferring to be guided by my
instincts. It may be even that I am justified in resenting that
the man who aspires to become my husband should at the same time
be paying such assiduous homage to a wretched theatre girl at the
"Is it not true? Or perhaps you do not find it strange that M. de
La Tour d'Azyr should so conduct himself at such a time?"
"Aline, you are so extraordinary a mixture. At moments you shock
me by the indecency of your expressions; at others you amaze me by
the excess of your prudery. You have been brought up like a little
bourgeoise, I think. Yes, that is it - a little bourgeoise.
Quintin was always something of a shopkeeper at heart."
"I was asking your opinion on the conduct of M. de La Tour d'Azyr,
madame. Not on my own."
"But it is an indelicacy in you to observe such things. You should
be ignorant of them, and I can't think who is so... so unfeeling as
to inform you. But since you are informed, at least you should be
modestly blind to things that take place outside the... orbit of a
properly conducted demoiselle."
"Will they still be outside my orbit when I am married?"
"If you are wise. You should remain without knowledge of them.
It... it deflowers your innocence. I would not for the world that
M. de La Tour d'Azyr should know you so extraordinarily instructed.
Had you been properly reared in a convent this would never have
happened to you."
"But you do not answer me, madame!" cried Aline in despair. "It is
not my chastity that is in question; but that of M. de La Tour d'Azyr."
"Chastity!" Madame's lips trembled with horror. Horror overspread
her face. "Wherever did you learn that dreadful, that so improper
And then Mme. de Sautron did violence to her feelings. She realized
that here great calm and prudence were required. "My child, since
you know so much that you ought not to know, there can be no harm in
my adding that a gentleman must have these little distractions."
"But why, madame? Why is it so?"
"Ah, mon Dieu, you are asking me riddles of nature. It is so
because it is so. Because men are like that."
"Because men are beasts, you mean - which is what I began by asking
"You are incorrigibly stupid, Aline."
"You mean that I do not see things as you do, madame. I am not
over-expectant as you appear to think; yet surely I have the right
to expect that whilst M. de La Tour d'Azyr is wooing me, he shall
not be wooing at the same time a drab of the theatre. I feel that
in this there is a subtle association of myself with that
unspeakable creature which soils and insults me. The Marquis is a
dullard whose wooing takes the form at best of stilted compliments,
stupid and unoriginal. They gain nothing when they fall from lips
still warm from the contamination of that woman's kisses."
So utterly scandalized was madame that for a moment she remained
speechless. Then -
"Mon Dieu!" she exclaimed. "I should never have suspected you of
so indelicate an imagination."
"I cannot help it, madame. Each time his lips touch my fingers I
find myself thinking of the last object that they touched. I at
once retire to wash my hands. Next time, madame, unless you are
good enough to convey my message to him, I shall call for water and
wash them in his presence."
"But what am I to tell him? How... in what words can I convey such
a message?" Madame was aghast.
"Be frank with him, madame. It is easiest in the end. Tell him
that however impure may have been his life in the past, however
impure he intend that it shall be in the future, he must at least
study purity whilst approaching with a view to marriage a virgin
who is herself pure and without stain."
Madame recoiled, and put her hands to her ears, horror stamped on
her handsome face. Her massive bosom heaved.
"Oh, how can you?" she panted. "How can you make use of such
terrible expressions? Wherever have you learnt them?"
"In church," said Aline.
"Ah, but in church many things are said that... that one would not
dream of saying in the world. My dear child, how could I possibly
say such a thing to M. le Marquis? How could I possibly?"
"Shall I say it?"
"Well, there it is," said Aline. "Something must be done to
shelter me from insult. I am utterly disgusted with M. le Marquis
- a disgusting man. And however fine a thing it may be to become
Marquise de La Tour d'Azyr, why, frankly, I'd sooner marry a
cobbler who practised decency."
Such was her vehemence and obvious determination that Mme. de Sautron
fetched herself out of her despair to attempt persuasion. Aline was
her niece, and such a marriage in the family would be to the credit
of the whole of it. At all costs nothing must frustrate it.
"Listen, my dear," she said. "Let us reason. M. le Marquis is away
and will not be back until to-morrow."
"True. And I know where he has gone - or at least whom he has gone
with. Mon Dieu, and the drab has a father and a lout of a fellow
who intends to make her his wife, and neither of them chooses to do
anything. I suppose they agree with you, madame, that a great
gentleman must have his little distractions." Her contempt was as
scorching as a thing of fire. "However, madame, you were about to
"That on the day after to-morrow you are returning to Gavrillac.
M. de La Tour d'Azyr will most likely follow at his leisure."
"You mean when this dirty candle is burnt out?"
"Call it what you will." Madame, you see, despaired by now of
controlling the impropriety of her niece's expressions. "At
Gavrillac there will be no Mlle. Binet. This thing will be in the
past. It is unfortunate that he should have met her at such a
moment. The chit is very attractive, after all. You cannot deny
that. And you must make allowances."
"M. le Marquis formally proposed to me a week ago. Partly to
satisfy the wishes of the family, and partly... " She broke off,
hesitating a moment, to resume on a note of dull pain, "Partly
because it does not seem greatly to matter whom I marry, I gave
him my consent. That consent, for the reasons I have given you,
madame, I desire now definitely to withdraw."
Madame fell into agitation of the wildest. "Aline, I should never
forgive you! Your uncle Quintin would be in despair. You do not
know what you are saying, what a wonderful thing you are refusing.
Have you no sense of your position, of the station into which you
"If I had not, madame, I should have made an end long since. If I
have tolerated this suit for a single moment, it is because I
realize the importance of a suitable marriage in the worldly sense.
But I ask of marriage something more; and Uncle Quintin has placed
the decision in my hands."
"God forgive him!" said madame. And then she hurried on: "Leave
this to me now, Aline. Be guided by me - oh, be guided by me!"
Her tone was beseeching. "I will take counsel with your uncle
Charles. But do not definitely decide until this unfortunate affair
has blown over. Charles will know how to arrange it. M. le Marquis
shall do penance, child, since your tyranny demands it; but not in
sackcloth and ashes. you'll not ask so much?"
Aline shrugged. "I ask nothing at all," she said, which was neither
assent nor dissent.
So Mme. de Sautron interviewed her husband, a slight, middle-aged
man, very aristocratic in appearance and gifted with a certain
shrewd sense. She took with him precisely the tone that Aline
had taken with herself and which in Aline she had found so
disconcertingly indelicate. She even borrowed several of Aline's
The result was that on the Monday afternoon when at last M. de La
Tour d'Azyr's returning berline drove up to the chateau, he was met
by M. le Comte de Sautron who desired a word with him even before
"Gervais, you're a fool," was the excellent opening made by M. le
"Charles, you give me no news," answered M. le Marquis. "Of what
particular folly do you take the trouble to complain?"
He flung himself wearily upon a sofa, and his long graceful body
sprawling there he looked up at his friend with a tired smile on
that nobly handsome pale face that seemed to defy the onslaught of
"Of your last. This Binet girl."
"That! Pooh! An incident; hardly a folly."
"A folly - at such a time," Sautron insisted. The Marquis looked
a question. The Count answered it. "Aline," said he, pregnantly.
"She knows. How she knows I can't tell you, but she knows, and she
is deeply offended."
The smile perished on the Marquis' face. He gathered himself up.
"Offended?" said he, and his voice was anxious.
"But yes. You know what she is. You know the ideals she has
formed. It wounds her that at such a time - whilst you are here
for the purpose of wooing her - you should at the same time be
pursuing this affair with that chit of a Binet girl."
"How do you know?" asked La Tour d'Azyr.
"She has confided in her aunt. And the poor child seems to have
some reason. She says she will not tolerate that you should come
to kiss her hand with lips that are still contaminated from... Oh,
you understand. You appreciate the impression of such a thing
upon a pure, sensitive girl such as Aline. She said - I had better
tell you - that the next time you kiss her hand, she will call for
water and wash it in your presence."
The Marquis' face flamed scarlet. He rose. Knowing his violent,
intolerant spirit, M. de Sautron was prepared for an outburst. But
no outburst came. The Marquis turned away from him, and paced
slowly to the window, his head bowed, his hands behind his back.
Halted there he spoke, without turning, his voice was at once
scornful and wistful.
"You are right, Charles, I am a fool - a wicked fool! I have just
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