Scaramouche A Romance of the French Revolution
Part 5 out of 8
enough sense left to perceive it. It is the way I have lived, I
suppose. I have never known the need to deny myself anything I
wanted." Then suddenly he swung round, and the outburst came.
"But, my God, I want Aline as I have never wanted anything yet! I
think I should kill myself in rage if through my folly I should
have lost her." He struck his brow with his hand. "I am a beast!"
he said. "I should have known that if that sweet saint got word of
these petty devilries of mine she would despise me; and I tell you,
Charles, I'd go through fire to regain her respect."
"I hope it is to be regained on easier terms," said Charles; and
then to ease the situation which began to irk him by its solemnity,
he made a feeble joke. "It is merely asked of you that you refrain
from going through certain fires that are not accounted by
mademoiselle of too purifying a nature."
"As to that Binet girl, it is finished - finished," said the Marquis.
"I congratulate you. When did you make that decision?"
"This moment. I would to God I had made it twenty-four hours ago.
As it is-" he shrugged - "why, twenty-four hours of her have been
enough for me as they would have been for any man - a mercenary,
self-seeking little baggage with the soul of a trull. Bah!" He
shuddered in disgust of himself and her.
"Ah! That makes it easier for you," said M. de Sautron, cynically.
Don't say it, Charles. It is not so. Had you been less of a fool,
you would have warned me sooner."
"I may prove to have warned you soon enough if you'll profit by
"There is no penance I will not do. I will prostrate myself at her
feet. I will abase myself before her. I will make confession in
the proper spirit of contrition, and Heaven helping me, I'll keep
to my purpose of amendment for her sweet sake." He was tragically
To M. de Sautron, who had never seen him other than self-contained,
supercilious, and mocking, this was an amazing revelation. He
shrank from it almost; it gave him the feeling of prying, of peeping
through a keyhole. He slapped his friend's shoulder.
"My dear Gervais, here is a magnificently romantic mood. Enough
said. Keep to it, and I promise you that all will presently be well.
I will be your ambassador, and you shall have no cause to complain."
"But may I not go to her myself?"
"If you are wise you will at once efface yourself. Write to her if
you will - make your act of contrition by letter. I will explain
why you have gone without seeing her. I will tell her that you did
so upon my advice, and I will do it tactfully. I am a good diplomat,
Gervais. Trust me."
M. le Marquis raised his head, and showed a face that pain was
searing. He held out his hand. "Very well, Charles. Serve me in
this, and count me your friend in all things."
THE FRACAS AT THE THEATRE FEYDAU
Leaving his host to act as his plenipotentiary with Mademoiselle de
Kercadiou, and to explain to her that it was his profound contrition
that compelled him to depart without taking formal leave of her, the
Marquis rolled away from Sautron in a cloud of gloom. Twenty-four
hours with La Binet had been more than enough for a man of his
fastidious and discerning taste. He looked back upon the episode
with nausea - the inevitable psychological reaction - marvelling
at himself that until yesterday he should have found her so
desirable, and cursing himself that for the sake of that ephemeral
and worthless gratification he should seriously have imperilled his
chances of winning Mademoiselle de Kercadiou to wife. There is,
after all, nothing very extraordinary in his frame of mind, so that
I need not elaborate it further. It resulted from the conflict
between the beast and the angel that go to make up the composition
of every man.
The Chevalier de Chabrillane - who in reality occupied towards the
Marquis a position akin to that of gentleman-in-waiting - sat
opposite to him in the enormous travelling berline. A small folding
table had been erected between them, and the Chevalier suggested
piquet. But M. le Marquis was in no humour for cards. His thoughts
absorbed him. As they were rattling over the cobbles of Nantes'
streets, he remembered a promise to La Binet to witness her
performance that night in "The Faithless Lover." And now he was
running away from her. The thought was repugnant to him on two
scores. He was breaking his pledged word, and he was acting like a
coward. And there was more than that. He had led the mercenary
little strumpet - it was thus he thought of her at present, and
with some justice - to expect favours from him in addition to the
lavish awards which already he had made her. The baggage had almost
sought to drive a bargain with him as to her future. He was to take
her to Paris, put her into her own furniture - as the expression
ran, and still runs - and under the shadow of his powerful
protection see that the doors of the great theatres of the capital
should be opened to her talents. He had not - he was thankful to
reflect - exactly committed himself. But neither had he definitely
refused her. It became necessary now to come to an understanding,
since he was compelled to choose between his trivial passion for
her - a passion quenched already - and his deep, almost spiritual
devotion to Mademoiselle de Kercadiou.
His honour, he considered, demanded of him that he should at once
deliver himself from a false position. La Binet would make a scene,
of course; but he knew the proper specific to apply to hysteria of
that nature. Money, after all, has its uses.
He pulled the cord. The carriage rolled to a standstill; a footman
appeared at the door.
"To the Theatre Feydau," said he.
The footman vanished and the berline rolled on. M. de Chabrillane
"I'll trouble you not to be amused," snapped the Marquis. "You
don't understand." Thereafter he explained himself. It was a rare
condescension in him. But, then, he could not bear to be
misunderstood in such a matter. Chabrillane grew serious in
reflection of the Marquis' extreme seriousness.
"Why not write?" he suggested. "Myself, I confess that I should
find it easier.
Nothing could better have revealed M. le Marquis' state of mind
than his answer.
"Letters are liable both to miscarriage and to misconstruction.
Two risks I will not run. If she did not answer, I should never
know which had been incurred. And I shall have no peace of mind
until I know that I have set a term to this affair. The berline
can wait while we are at the theatre. We will go on afterwards.
We will travel all night if necessary."
"Peste!" said M. de Chabrillane with a grimace. But that was all.
The great travelling carriage drew up at the lighted portals of the
Feydau, and M. le Marquis stepped out. He entered the theatre with
Chabrillane, all unconsciously to deliver himself into the hands of
Andre-Louis was in a state of exasperation produced by Climene's
long absence from Nantes in the company of M. le Marquis, and fed
by the unspeakable complacency with which M. Binet regarded that
event of quite unmistakable import.
However much he might affect the frame of mind of the stoics, and
seek to judge with a complete detachment, in the heart and soul of
him Andre-Louis was tormented and revolted. It was not Climene he
blamed. He had been mistaken in her. She was just a poor weak
vessel driven helplessly by the first breath, however foul, that
promised her advancement. She suffered from the plague of greed;
and he congratulated himself upon having discovered it before
making her his wife. He felt for her now nothing but a deal of
pity and some contempt. The pity was begotten of the love she had
lately inspired in him. It might be likened to the dregs of love,
all that remained after the potent wine of it had been drained off.
His anger he reserved for her father and her seducer.
The thoughts that were stirring in him on that Monday morning, when
it was discovered that Climene had not yet returned from her
excursion of the previous day in the coach of M. le Marquis, were
already wicked enough without the spurring they received from the
Hitherto the attitude of each of these men towards the other had
been one of mutual contempt. The phenomenon has frequently been
observed in like cases. Now, what appeared to be a common
misfortune brought them into a sort of alliance. So, at least, it
seemed to Leandre when he went in quest of Andre-Louis, who with
apparent unconcern was smoking a pipe upon the quay immediately
facing the inn.
"Name of a pig!" said Leandre. "How can you take your ease and
smoke at such a time?"
Scaramouche surveyed the sky. "I do not find it too cold," said
he. "The sun is shining. I am very well here."
"Do I talk of the weather?" Leandre was very excited.
"Of what, then?"
"Of Climene, of course."
"Oh! The lady has ceased to interest me," he lied.
Leandre stood squarely in front of him, a handsome figure handsomely
dressed in these days, his hair well powdered, his stockings of silk.
His face was pale, his large eyes looked larger than usual.
"Ceased to interest you? Are you not to marry her?" Andre-Louis
expelled a cloud of smoke. "You cannot wish to be offensive. Yet
you almost suggest that I live on other men's leavings."
"My God!" said Leandre, overcome, and he stared awhile. Then he
burst out afresh. "Are you quite heartless? Are you always
"What do you expect me to do?" asked Andre-Louis, evincing surprise
in his own turn, but faintly.
"I do not expect you to let her go without a struggle."
"But she has gone already." Andre-Louis pulled at his pipe a
moment, what time Leandre clenched and unclenched his hands in
impotent rage. "And to what purpose struggle against the
inevitable? Did you struggle when I took her from you?"
"She was not mine to be taken from me. I but aspired, and you won
the race. But even had it been otherwise where is the comparison?
That was a thing in honour; this - this is hell."
His emotion moved Andre-Louis. He took Leandre's arm. "You're a
good fellow, Leandre. I am glad I intervened to save you from
"Oh, you don't love her!" cried the other, passionately. "You never
did. You don't know what it means to love, or you'd not talk like
this. My God! if she had been my affianced wife and this had
happened, I should have killed the man - killed him! Do you hear
me? But you... Oh, you, you come out here and smoke, and take the
air, and talk of her as another man's leavings. I wonder I didn't
strike you for the word."
He tore his arm from the other's grip, and looked almost as if he
would strike him now.
"You should have done it," said Andre-Louis. "It's in your part."
With an imprecation Leandre turned on his heel to go. Andre-Louis
arrested his departure.
"A moment, my friend. Test me by yourself. Would you marry her
"Would I?" The young man's eyes blazed with passion. "Would I?
Let her say that she will marry me, and I am her slave."
"Slave is the right word - a slave in hell."
"It would never be hell to me where she was, whatever she had done.
I love her, man, I am not like you. I love her, do you hear me?"
"I have known, it for some time," said Andre-Louis. "Though I
didn't suspect your attack of the disease to be quite so violent.
Well, God knows I loved her, too, quite enough to share your thirst
for killing. For myself, the blue blood of La Tour d'Azyr would
hardly quench this thirst. I should like to add to it the dirty
fluid that flows in the veins of the unspeakable Binet."
For a second his emotion had been out of hand, and he revealed to
Leandre in the mordant tone of those last words something of the
fires that burned under his icy exterior. The young man caught
him by the hand.
"I knew you were acting," said he. "You feel - you feel as I do."
"Behold us, fellows in viciousness. I have betrayed myself, it
seems. Well, and what now? Do you want to see this pretty Marquis
torn limb from limb? I might afford you the spectacle."
"What?" Leandre stared, wondering was this another of Scaramouche's
"It isn't really difficult provided I have aid. I require only a
little. Will you lend it me?"
"Anything you ask," Leandre exploded. "My life if you require it."
Andre-Louis took his arm again. "Let us walk," he said. "I will
When they came back the company was already at dinner. Mademoiselle
had not yet returned. Sullenness presided at the table. Columbine
and Madame wore anxious expressions. The fact was that relations
between Binet and his troupe were daily growing more strained.
Andre-Louis and Leandre went each to his accustomed place. Binet's
little eyes followed them with a malicious gleam, his thick lips
pouted into a crooked smile.
"You two are grown very friendly of a sudden," he mocked.
"You are a man of discernment, Binet," said Scaramouche, the cold
loathing of his voice itself an insult. "Perhaps you discern the
"It is readily discerned."
"Regale the company with it!" he begged; and waited. "What? You
hesitate? Is it possible that there are limits to your
Binet reared his great head. "Do you want to quarrel with me,
Scaramouche?" Thunder was rumbling in his deep, voice.
"Quarrel? You want to laugh. A man doesn't quarrel with creatures
like you. We all know the place held in the public esteem by
complacent husbands. But, in God's name, what place is there at
all for complacent fathers?"
Binet heaved himself up, a great towering mass of manhood. Violently
he shook off the restraining hand of Pierrot who sat on his left.
"A thousand devils!" he roared; "if you take that tone with me, I'll
break every bone in your filthy body."
"If you were to lay a finger on me, Binet, you would give me the
only provocation I still need to kill you." Andre-Louis was as
calm as ever, and therefore the more menacing. Alarm stirred the
company. He protruded from his pocket the butt of a pistol - newly
purchased. "I go armed, Binet. It is only fair to give you warning.
Provoke me as you have suggested, and I'll kill you with no more
compunction than I should kill a slug, which after all is the thing
you most resemble - a slug, Binet; a fat, slimy body; foulness
without soul and without intelligence. When I come to think of it
I can't suffer to sit at table with you. It turns my stomach."
He pushed away his platter and got up. "I'll go and eat at the
ordinary below stairs."
Thereupon up jumped Columbine.
"And I'll come with you, Scaramouche!" cried she.
It acted like a signal. Had the thing been concerted it couldn't
have fallen out more uniformly. Binet, in fact, was persuaded of
a conspiracy. For in the wake of Columbine went Leandre, in the
wake of Leandre, Polichinelle and then all the rest together, until
Binet found himself sitting alone at the head of an empty table in
an empty room - a badly shaken man whose rage could afford him no
support against the dread by which he was suddenly invaded.
He sat down to think things out, and he was still at that melancholy
occupation when perhaps a half-hour later his daughter entered the
room, returned at last from her excursion.
She looked pale, even a little scared - in reality excessively
self-conscious now that the ordeal of facing all the company awaited
Seeing no one but her father in the room, she checked on the
"Where is everybody?" she asked, in a voice rendered natural by
M. Binet reared his great head and turned upon her eyes that were
blood-injected. He scowled, blew out his thick lips and made harsh
noises in his throat. Yet he took stock of her, so graceful and
comely and looking so completely the lady of fashion in her long
fur-trimmed travelling coat of bottle green, her muff and her broad
hat adorned by a sparkling Rhinestone buckle above her adorably
coiffed brown hair. No need to fear the future whilst he owned
such a daughter, let Scaramouche play what tricks he would.
He expressed, however, none of these comforting reflections.
"So you're back at last, little fool," he growled in greeting. "I
was beginning to ask myself if we should perform this evening. It
wouldn't greatly have surprised me if you had not returned in time.
Indeed, since you have chosen to play the fine hand you held in
your own way and scorning my advice, nothing can surprise me."
She crossed the room to the table, and leaning against it, looked
down upon him almost disdainfully.
"I have nothing to regret," she said.
"So every fool says at first. Nor would you admit it if you had.
You are like that. You go your own way in spite of advice from
older heads. Death of my life, girl, what do you know of men?"
"I am not complaining," she reminded him.
"No, but you may be presently, when you discover that you would have
done better to have been guided by your old father. So long as your
Marquis languished for you, there was nothing you could not have
done with the fool. So long as you let him have no more than your
fingertips to kiss... ah, name of a name! that was the time to
build your future. If you live to be a thousand you'll never have
such a chance again, and you've squandered it, for what?"
Mademoiselle sat down.- "You're sordid," she said, with disgust.
"Sordid, am I?" His thick lips curled again. "I have had enough of
the dregs of life, and so I should have thought have you. You held
a hand on which to have won a fortune if you had played it as I
bade you. Well, you've played it, and where's the fortune? We can
whistle for that as a sailor whistles for wind. And, by Heaven,
we'll need to whistle presently if the weather in the troupe
continues as it's set in. That scoundrel Scaramouche has been at
his ape's tricks with them. They've suddenly turned moral. They
won't sit at table with me any more." He was spluttering between
anger and sardonic mirth. "It was your friend Scaramouche set them
the example of that. He threatened my life actually. Threatened my
life! Called me... Oh, but what does that matter? What matters is
that the next thing to happen to us will be that the Binet Troupe
will discover it can manage without M. Binet and his daughter.
This scoundrelly bastard I've befriended has little by little
robbed me of everything. It's in his power to-day to rob me of my
troupe, and the knave's ungrateful enough and vile enough to make
use of his power.
"Let him," said mademoiselle contemptuously.
"Let him?" He was aghast. "And what's to become of us?"
"In no case will the Binet Troupe interest me much longer," said
she. "I shall be going to Paris soon. There are better theatres
there than the Feydau. There's Mlle. Montansier's theatre in the
Palais Royal; there's the Ambigu Comique; there's the Comedie
Francaise; there's even a possibility I may have a theatre of my
His eyes grew big for once. He stretched out a fat hand, and
placed it on one of hers. She noticed that it trembled.
"Has he promised that? Has he promised?"
She looked at him with her head on one side, eyes sly and a queer
little smile on her perfect lips.
"He did not refuse me when I asked it," she answered, with
conviction that all was as she desired it.
"Bah!" He withdrew his hand, and heaved himself up. There was
disgust on his face. "He did not refuse!" he mocked her; and then
with passion: "Had you acted as I advised you, he would have
consented to anything that you asked, and what is more he would
have provided anything that you asked - anything that lay within
his means, and they are inexhaustible. You have changed a
certainty into a possibility, and I hate possibilities - God of
God! I have lived on possibilities, and infernally near starved
Had she known of the interview taking place at that moment at the
Chateau de Sautron she would have laughed less confidently at her
father's gloomy forebodings. But she was destined never to know,
which indeed was the cruellest punishment of all. She was to
attribute all the evil that of a sudden overwhelmed her, the
shattering of all the future hopes she had founded upon the Marquis
and the sudden disintegration of the Binet Troupe, to the wicked
interference of that villain Scaramouche.
She had this much justification that possibly, without the warning
from M. de Sautron, the Marquis would have found in the events of
that evening at the Theatre Feydau a sufficient reason for ending
an entanglement that was fraught with too much unpleasant excitement,
whilst the breaking-up of the Binet Troupe was most certainly the
result of Andre-Louis' work. But it was not a result that he
intended or even foresaw.
So much was this the case that in the interval after the second act,
he sought the dressing-room shared by Polichinelle and Rhodomont.
Polichinelle was in the act of changing.
"I shouldn't trouble to change," he said. "The piece isn't likely
to go beyond my opening scene of the next act with Leandre."
"What do you mean?"
"You'll see." He put a paper on Polichinelle's table amid the
grease-paints. "Cast your eye over that. It's a sort of last will
and testament in favour of the troupe. I was a lawyer once; the
document is in order. I relinquish to all of you the share produced
by my partnership in the company."
"But you don't mean that you are leaving us?" cried Polichinelle in
alarm, whilst Rhodomont's sudden stare asked the same question.
Scaramouche's shrug was eloquent. Polichinelle ran on gloomily:
"Of course it was to have been foreseen. But why should you be the
one to go? It is you who have made us; and it is you who are the
real head and brains of the troupe; it is you who have raised it
into a real theatrical company. If any one must go, let it be
Binet - Binet and his infernal daughter. Or if you go, name of a
name! we all go with you!"
"Aye," added Rhodomont, "we've had enough of that fat scoundrel."
"I had thought of it, of course," said Andre-Louis. "It was not
vanity, for once; it was trust in your friendship. After to-night
we may consider it again, if I survive."
"If you survive?" both cried.
Polichinelle got up. "Now, what madness have you in mind?" he
"For one thing I think I am indulging Leandre; for another I am
pursuing an old quarrel."
The three knocks sounded as he spoke.
"There, I must go. Keep that paper, Polichinelle. After all, it
may not be necessary.
He was gone. Rhodomont stared at Polichinelle. Polichinelle
stared at Rhodomont.
"What the devil is he thinking of?" quoth the latter.
"That is most readily ascertained by going to see," replied
Polichinelle. He completed changing in haste, and despite what
Scaramouche had said; and then followed with Rhodomont.
As they approached the wings a roar of applause met them coming from
the audience. It was applause and something else; applause on an
unusual note. As it faded away they heard the voice of Scaramouche
ringing clear as a bell:
"And so you see, my dear M. Leandre, that when you speak of the
Third Estate, it is necessary to be more explicit. What precisely
is the Third Estate?"
"Nothing," said Leandre.
There was a gasp from the audience, audible in the wings, and then
swiftly followed Scaramouche's next question:
"True. Alas! But what should it be?"
"Everything," said Leandre.
The audience roared its acclamations, the more violent because of
the unexpectedness of that reply.
"True again," said Scaramouche. "And what is more, that is what it
will be; that is what it already is. Do you doubt it?"
"I hope it," said the schooled Leandre.
"You may believe it," said Scaramouche, and again the acclamations
rolled into thunder.
Polichinelle and Rhodomont exchanged glances: indeed, the former
winked, not without mirth.
"Sacred name!" growled a voice behind them. "Is the scoundrel at
his political tricks again?"
They turned to confront M. Binet. Moving with that noiseless tread
of his, he had come up unheard behind them, and there he stood now
in his scarlet suit of Pantaloon under a trailing bedgown, his little
eyes glaring from either side of his false nose. But their attention
was held by the voice of Scaramouche. He had stepped to the front
of the stage.
"He doubts it," he was felling the audience. "But then this M.
Leandre is himself akin to those who worship the worm-eaten idol of
Privilege, and so he is a little afraid to believe a truth that is
becoming apparent to all the world. Shall I convince him? Shall I
tell him how a company of noblemen backed by their servants under
arms - six hundred men in all - sought to dictate to the Third
Estate of Rennes a few short weeks ago? Must I remind him of the
martial front shown on that occasion by the Third Estate, and how
they swept the streets clean of that rabble of nobles - cette
canaille noble... "
Applause interrupted him. The phrase had struck home and caught.
Those who had writhed under that infamous designation from their
betters leapt at this turning of it against the nobles themselves.
"But let me tell you of their leader - le pins noble de cette
canaille, on bien le plus canaille de ces nobles! You know him
- that one. He fears many things, but the voice of truth he fears
most. With such as him the eloquent truth eloquently spoken is a
thing instantly to be silenced. So he marshalled his peers and
their valetailles, and led them out to slaughter these miserable
bourgeois who dared to raise a voice. But these same miserable
bourgeois did not choose to be slaughtered in the streets of Rennes.
It occurred to them that since the nobles decreed that blood should
flow, it might as well be the blood of the nobles. They marshalled
themselves too - this noble rabble against the rabble of nobles -
and they marshalled themselves so well that they drove M. de La
Tour d'Azyr and his warlike following from the field with broken
heads and shattered delusions. They sought shelter at the hands
of the Cordeliers; and the shavelings gave them sanctuary in their
convent - those who survived, among whom was their proud leader,
M. de La Tour d'Azyr. You have heard of this valiant Marquis, this
great lord of life and death?"
The pit was in an uproar a moment. It quieted again as Scaramouche
"Oh, it was a fine spectacle to see this mighty hunter scuttling to
cover like a hare, going to earth in the Cordelier Convent. Rennes
has not seen him since. Rennes would like to see him again. But
if he is valorous, he is also discreet. And where do you think he
has taken refuge, this great nobleman who wanted to see the streets
of Rennes washed in the blood of its citizens, this man who would
have butchered old and young of the contemptible canaille to silence
the voice of reason and of liberty that presumes to ring through
France to-day? Where do you think he hides himself? Why, here in
Again there was uproar.
"What do you say? Impossible? Why, my friends, at this moment he
is here in this theatre - skulking up there in that box. He is too
shy to show himself - oh, a very modest gentleman. But there he is
behind the curtains. Will you not show yourself to your friends,
M. de La Tour d'Azyr, Monsieur le Marquis who considers eloquence
so very dangerous a gift? See, they would like a word with you;
they do not believe me when I tell them that you are here."
Now, whatever he may have been, and whatever the views held on the
subject by Andre-Louis, M. de La Tour d'Azyr was certainly not a
coward. To say that he was hiding in Nantes was not true. He came
and went there openly and unabashed. It happened, however, that the
Nantais were ignorant until this moment of his presence among them.
But then he would have disdained to have informed them of it just as
he would have disdained to have concealed it from them.
Challenged thus, however, and despite the ominous manner in which
the bourgeois element in the audience had responded to Scaramouche's
appeal to its passions, despite the attempts made by Chabrillane to
restrain him, the Marquis swept aside the curtain at the side of the
box, and suddenly showed himself, pale but self-contained and
scornful as he surveyed first the daring Scaramouche and then those
others who at sight of him had given tongue to their hostility.
Hoots and yells assailed him, fists were shaken at him, canes were
"Assassin! Scoundrel! Coward! Traitor!"
But he braved the storm, smiling upon them his ineffable contempt.
He was waiting for the noise to cease; waiting to address them in
his turn. But he waited in vain, as he very soon perceived.
The contempt he did not trouble to dissemble served but to goad
In the pit pandemonium was already raging. Blows were being freely
exchanged; there were scuffling groups, and here and there swords
were being drawn, but fortunately the press was too dense to permit
of their being used effectively. Those who had women with them and
the timid by nature were making haste to leave a house that looked
like becoming a cockpit, where chairs were being smashed to provide
weapons, and parts of chandeliers were already being used as missiles.
One of these hurled by the hand of a gentleman in one of the boxes
narrowly missed Scaramouche where he stood, looking down in a sort
of grim triumph upon the havoc which his words had wrought. Knowing
of what inflammable material the audience was composed, he had
deliberately flung down amongst them the lighted torch of discord,
to produce this conflagration.
He saw men falling quickly into groups representative of one side
or the other of this great quarrel that already was beginning to
agitate the whole of France. Their rallying cries were ringing
through the theatre.
"Down with the canaille!" from some.
"Down with the privileged!" from others.
And then above the general din one cry rang out sharply and
"To the box! Death to the butcher of Rennes! Death to La Tour
d'Azyr who makes war upon the people!"
There was a rush for one of the doors of the pit that opened upon
the staircase leading to the boxes.
And now, whilst battle and confusion spread with the speed of fire,
overflowing from the theatre into the street itself, La Tour
d'Azyr's box, which had become the main object of the attack of the
bourgeoisie, had also become the rallying ground for such gentlemen
as were present in the theatre and for those who, without being men
of birth themselves, were nevertheless attached to the party of the
La Tour d'Azyr had quitted the front of the box to meet those who
came to join him. And now in the pit one group of infuriated
gentlemen, in attempting to reach the stage across the empty
orchestra, so that they might deal with the audacious comedian who
was responsible for this explosion, found themselves opposed and
held back by another group composed of men to whose feelings
Andre-Louis had given expression.
Perceiving this, and remembering the chandelier, he turned to
Leandre, who had remained beside him.
"I think it is time to be going," said he.
Leandre, looking ghastly under his paint, appalled by the storm
which exceeded by far anything that his unimaginative brain could
have conjectured, gurgled an inarticulate agreement. But it looked
as if already they were too late, for in that moment they were
assailed from behind.
M. Binet had succeeded at last in breaking past Polichinelle and
Rhodomont, who in view of his murderous rage had been endeavouring
to restrain him. Half a dozen gentlemen, habitues of the green-room,
had come round to the stage to disembowel the knave who had created
this riot, and it was they who had flung aside those two comedians
who hung upon Binet. After him they came now, their swords out; but
after them again came Polichinelle, Rhodomont, Harlequin, Pierrot,
Pasquariel, and Basque the artist, armed with such implements as
they could hastily snatch up, and intent upon saving the man with
whom they sympathized in spite of all, and in whom now all their
hopes were centred.
Well ahead rolled Binet, moving faster than any had ever seen him
move, and swinging the long cane from which Pantaloon is inseparable.
"Infamous scoundrel!" he roared. "You have ruined me! But, name
of a name, you shall pay!"
Andre-Louis turned to face him. "You confuse cause with effect,"
said he. But he got no farther... Binet's cane, viciously driven,
descended and broke upon his shoulder. Had he not moved swiftly
aside as the blow fell it must have taken him across the head, and
possibly stunned him. As he moved, he dropped his hand to his
pocket, and swift upon the cracking of Binet's breaking cane came
the crack of the pistol with which Andre-Louis replied.
"You had your warning, you filthy pander!" he cried. And on the
word he shot him through the body.
Binet went down screaming, whilst the fierce Polichinelle, fiercer
than ever in that moment of fierce reality, spoke quickly into
"Fool! So much was not necessary! Away with you now, or you'll
leave your skin here! Away with you!"
Andre-Louis thought it good advice, and took it. The gentlemen who
had followed Binet in that punitive rush upon the stage, partly
held in check by the improvised weapons of the players, partly
intimidated by the second pistol that Scaramouche presented, let
him go. He gained the wings, and here found himself faced by a
couple of sergeants of the watch, part of the police that was
already invading the theatre with a view to restoring order. The
sight of them reminded him unpleasantly of how he must stand
towards the law for this night's work, and more particularly for
that bullet lodged somewhere in Binet's obese body. He flourished
"Make way, or I'll burn your brains!" he threatened them, and
intimidated, themselves without firearms, they fell back and let
him pass. He slipped by the door of the green-room, where the
ladies of the company had shut themselves in until the storm should
be over, and so gained the street behind the theatre. It was
deserted. Down this he went at a run, intent on reaching the inn
for clothes and money, since it was impossible that he should take
the road in the garb of Scaramouche.
BOOK III: THE SWORD
"You may agree," wrote Andre-Louis from Paris to Le Chapelier, in
a letter which survives, "that it is to be regretted I should
definitely have discarded the livery of Scaramouche, since clearly
there could be no livery fitter for my wear. It seems to be my
part always to stir up strife and then to slip away before I am
caught in the crash of the warring elements I have aroused. It is
a humiliating reflection. I seek consolation in the reminder of
Epictetus (do you ever read Epictetus?) that we are but actors in
a play of such a part as it may please the Director to assign us.
It does not, however, console me to have been cast for a part so
contemptible, to find myself excelling ever in the art of running
away. But if I am not brave, at least I am prudent; so that where
I lack one virtue I may lay claim to possessing another almost to
excess. On a previous occasion they wanted to hang me for sedition.
Should I have stayed to be hanged? This time they may want to
hang me for several things, including murder; for I do not know
whether that scoundrel Binet be alive or dead from the dose of
lead I pumped into his fat paunch. Nor can I say that I very
greatly care. If I have a hope at all in the matter it is that he
is dead - and damned. But I am really indifferent. My own concerns
are troubling me enough. I have all but spent the little money that
I contrived to conceal about me before I fled from Nantes on that
dreadful night; and both of the only two professions of which I can
claim to know anything - the law and the stage - are closed to me,
since I cannot find employment in either without revealing myself
as a fellow who is urgently wanted by the hangman. As things are
it is very possible that I may die of hunger, especially considering
the present price of victuals in this ravenous city. Again I have
recourse to Epictetus for comfort. 'It is better,' he says, 'to die
of hunger having lived without grief and fear, than to live with a
troubled spirit amid abundance.' I seem likely to perish in the
estate that he accounts so enviable. That it does not seem exactly
enviable to me merely proves that as a Stoic I am not a success.
There is also another letter of his written at about the same time
to the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr - a letter since published by M.
Emile Quersac in his "Undercurrents of the Revolution in Brittany,"
unearthed by him from the archives of Rennes, to which it had been
consigned by M. de Lesdiguieres, who had received it for justiciary
purposes from the Marquis.
"The Paris newspapers," he writes in this, "which have reported in
considerable detail the fracas at the Theatre Feydau and disclosed
the true identity of the Scaramouche who provoked it, inform me also
that you have escaped the fate I had intended for you when I raised
that storm of public opinion and public indignation. I would not
have you take satisfaction in the thought that I regret your escape.
I do not. I rejoice in it. To deal justice by death has this
disadvantage that the victim has no knowledge that justice has
overtaken him. Had you died, had you been torn limb from limb that
night, I should now repine in the thought of your eternal and
untroubled slumber. Not in euthanasia, but in torment of mind
should the guilty atone. You see, I am not sure that hell hereafter
is a certainty, whilst I am quite sure that it can be a certainty in
this life; and I desire you to continue to live yet awhile that you
may taste something of its bitterness.
"You murdered Philippe de Vilmorin because you feared what you
described as his very dangerous gift of eloquence, I took an oath
that day that your evil deed should be fruitless; that I would
render it so; that the voice you had done murder to stifle should
in spite of that ring like a trumpet through the land. That was
my conception of revenge. Do you realize how I have been fulfilling
it, how I shall continue to fulfil it as occasion offers? In the
speech with which I fired the people of Rennes on the very morrow
of that deed, did you not hear the voice of Philippe de Vilmorin
uttering the ideas that were his with a fire and a passion greater
than he could have commanded because Nemesis lent me her inflaming
aid? In the voice of Omnes Omnibus at Nantes my voice again -
demanding the petition that sounded the knell of your hopes of
coercing the Third Estate, did you not hear again the voice of
Philippe de Vilmorin? Did you not reflect that it was the mind of
the man you had murdered, resurrected in me his surviving friend,
which made necessary your futile attempt under arms last January,
wherein your order, finally beaten, was driven to seek sanctuary
in the Cordelier Convent? And that night when from the stage of
the Feydau you were denounced to the people, did you not hear yet
again, in the voice of Scaramouche, the voice of Philippe de
Vilmorin, using that dangerous gift of eloquence which you so
foolishly imagined you could silence with a sword-thrust? It is
becoming a persecution - is it not? - this voice from the grave
that insists upon making itself heard, that will not rest until
you have been cast into the pit. You will be regretting by now
that you did not kill me too, as I invited you on that occasion.
I can picture to myself the bitterness of this regret, and I
contemplate it with satisfaction. Regret of neglected opportunity
is the worst hell that a living soul can inhabit, particularly
such a soul as yours. It is because of this that I am glad to
know that you survived the riot at the Feydau, although at the time
it was no part of my intention that you should. Because of this I
am content that you should live to enrage and suffer in the shadow
of your evil deed, knowing at last - since you had not hitherto the
wit to discern it for yourself - that the voice of Philippe de
Vilmorin will follow you to denounce you ever more loudly, ever more
insistently, until having lived in dread you shall go down in blood
under the just rage which your victim's dangerous gift of eloquence
is kindling against you."
I find it odd that he should have omitted from this letter all
mention of Mlle. Binet, and I am disposed to account it at least a
partial insincerity that he should have assigned entirely to his
self-imposed mission, and not at all to his lacerated feelings in
the matter of Climene, the action which he had taken at the Feydau.
Those two letters, both written in April of that year 1789, had for
only immediate effect to increase the activity with which Andre-Louis
Moreau was being sought.
Le Chapelier would have found him so as to lend him assistance, to
urge upon him once again that he should take up a political career.
The electors of Nantes would have found him - at least, they would
have found Omnes Omnibus, of whose identity with himself they were
still in ignorance - on each of the several occasions when a vacancy
occurred in their body. And the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr and M.
de Lesdiguieres would have found him that they might send him to
With a purpose no less vindictive was he being sought by M. Binet,
now unhappily recovered from his wound to face completest ruin. His
troupe had deserted him during his illness, and reconstituted under
the direction of Polichinelle it was now striving with tolerable
success to continue upon the lines which Andre-Louis had laid down.
M. le Marquis, prevented by the riot from expressing in person to
Mlle. Binet his purpose of making an end of their relations, had
been constrained to write to her to that effect from Azyr a few days
later. He tempered the blow by enclosing in discharge of all
liabilities a bill on the Caisse d'Escompte for a hundred louis.
Nevertheless it almost crushed the unfortunate and it enabled her
father when he recovered to enrage her by pointing out that she owed
this turn of events to the premature surrender she had made in
defiance of his sound worldly advice. Father and daughter alike
were left to assign the Marquis' desertion, naturally enough, to
the riot at the Feydau. They laid that with the rest to the account
of Scaramouche, and were forced in bitterness to admit that the
scoundrel had taken a superlative revenge. C1imene may even have
come to consider that it would have paid her better to have run a
straight course with Scaramouche and by marrying him to have trusted
to his undoubted talents to place her on the summit to which her
ambition urged her, and to which it was now futile for her to aspire.
If so, that reflection must have been her sufficient punishment.
For, as Andre-Louis so truly says, there is no worse hell than that
provided by the regrets for wasted opportunities.
Meanwhile the fiercely sought Andre-Louis Moreau had gone to earth
completely for the present. And the brisk police of Paris, urged
on by the King's Lieutenant from Rennes, hunted for him in vain.
Yet he might have been found in a house in the Rue du Hasard within
a stone's throw of the Palais Royal, whither purest chance had
That which in his letter to Le Chapelier he represents as a
contingency of the near future was, in fact, the case in which
already he found himself. He was destitute. His money was
exhausted, including that procured by the sale of such articles of
adornment as were not of absolute necessity.
So desperate was his case that strolling one gusty April morning
down the Rue du Hasard with his nose in the wind looking for what
might be picked up, he stopped to read a notice outside the door
of a house on the left side of the street as you approach the Rue
de Richelieu. There was no reason why he should have gone down
the Rue du Hasard. Perhaps its name attracted him, as appropriate
to his case.
The notice written in a big round hand announced that a young man
of good address with some knowledge of swordsmanship was required
by M. Bertrand des Amis on the second floor. Above this notice
was a black oblong board, and on this a shield, which in vulgar
terms may be described as red charged with two swords crossed and
four fleurs de lys, one in each angle of the saltire. Under the
shield, in letters of gold, ran the legend:
BERTRAND DES AMIS
Maitre en fait d'Armes des Academies du Roi
Andre-Louis stood considering. He could claim, he thought, to
possess the qualifications demanded. He was certainly young and
he believed of tolerable address, whilst the fencing-lessons he had
received in Nantes had given him at least an elementary knowledge
of swordsmanship. The notice looked as if it had been pinned there
some days ago, suggesting that applicants for the post were not very
numerous. In that case perhaps M. Bertrand des Amis would not be too
exigent. And anyway, Andre-Louis had not eaten for four-and-twenty
hours, and whilst the employment here offered - the precise nature
of which he was yet to ascertain - did not appear to be such as
Andre-Louis would deliberately have chosen, he was in no case now to
Then, too, he liked the name of Bertrand des Amis. It felicitously
combined suggestions of chivalry and friendliness. Also the man's
profession being of a kind that is flavoured with romance it was
possible that M. Bertrand des Amis would not ask too many questions.
In the end he climbed to the second floor. On the landing he paused
outside a door, on which was written "Academy of M. Bertrand des
Amis." He pushed this open, and found himself in a sparsely
furnished, untenanted antechamber. From a room beyond, the door of
which was closed, came the stamping of feet, the click and slither
of steel upon steel, and dominating these sounds a vibrant sonorous
voice speaking a language that was certainly French; but such
French as is never heard outside a fencing-school.
"Coulez! Mais, coulez donc!....So! Now the flanconnade - en
carte....And here is the riposte....Let us begin again. Come! The
ward of fierce....Make the coupe, and then the quinte par dessus
les armes....0, mais allongez! Allongez! Allez au fond!" the voice
cried in expostulation. "Come, that was better." The blades ceased.
"Remember: the hand in pronation, the elbow not too far out. That
will do for to-day. On Wednesday we shall see you tirer au mur.
It is more deliberate. Speed will follow when the mechanism of the
movements is more assured."
Another voice murmured in answer. The steps moved aside. The
lesson was at an end. Andre-Louis tapped on the door.
It was opened by a tall, slender, gracefully proportioned man of
perhaps forty. Black silk breeches and stockings ending in light
shoes clothed him from the waist down. Above he was encased to the
chin in a closely fitting plastron of leather, His face was aquiline
and swarthy, his eyes full and dark, his mouth firm and his clubbed
hair was of a lustrous black with here and there a thread of silver
in the crook of his left arm he carried a fencing-mask, a thing of
leather with a wire grating to protect the eyes. His keen glance
played over Andre-Louis from head to foot.
"Monsieur?" he inquired, politely.
It was clear that he mistook Andre-Louis' quality, which is not
surprising, for despite his sadly reduced fortunes, his exterior was
irreproachable, and M. des Amis was not to guess that he carried
upon his back the whole of his possessions.
"You have a notice below, monsieur," he said, and from the swift
lighting of the fencing-master's eyes he saw that he had been
correct in his assumption that applicants for the position had not
been jostling one another on his threshold. And then that flash of
satisfaction was followed by a look of surprise.
"You are come in regard to that?"
Andre-Louis shrugged and half smiled. "One must live," said he.
"But come in. Sit down there. I shall be at your....I shall be
free to attend to you in a moment."
Andre-Louis took a seat on the bench ranged against one of the
whitewashed walls. The room was long and low, its floor entirely
bare. Plain wooden forms such as that which he occupied were placed
here and there against the wall. These last were plastered with
fencing trophies, masks, crossed foils, stuffed plastrons, and a
variety of swords, daggers, and targets, belonging to a variety of
ages and countries. There was also a portrait of an obese, big-nosed
gentleman in an elaborately curled wig, wearing the blue ribbon of
the Saint Esprit, in whom Andre-Louis recognized the King. And there
was a framed parchment - M. des Amis' certificate from the King's
Academy. A bookcase occupied one corner, and near this, facing the
last of the four windows that abundantly lighted the long room, there
was a small writing-table and an armchair. A plump and beautifully
dressed young gentleman stood by this table in the act of resuming
coat and wig. M. des Amis sauntered over to him - moving, thought
Andre-Louis, with extraordinary grace and elasticity - and stood in
talk with him whilst also assisting him to complete his toilet.
At last the young gentleman took his departure, mopping himself with
a fine kerchief that left a trail of perfume on the air. M. des
Amis closed the door, and turned to the applicant, who rose at once.
"Where have you studied?" quoth the fencing-master abruptly.
"Studied?" Andre-Louis was taken aback by the question. "Oh, at
Louis Le Grand."
M. des Amis frowned, looking up sharply as if to see whether his
applicant was taking the liberty of amusing himself.
"In Heaven's name! I am not asking you where you did your
humanities, but in what academy you studied fencing."
"Oh - fencing!" It had hardly ever occurred to Andre-Louis that
the sword ranked seriously as a study. "I never studied it very
much. I had some lessons in... in the country once.
The master's eyebrows went up. "But then?" he cried. "Why trouble
to come up two flights of stairs?" He was impatient.
"The notice does not demand a high degree of proficiency. If I am
not proficient enough, yet knowing the rudiments I can easily
improve. I learn most things readily," Andre-Louis commended himself.
"For the rest: I possess the other qualifications. I am young, as
you observe: and I leave you to judge whether I am wrong in assuming
that my address is good. I am by profession a man of the robe,
though I realize that the motto here is cedat toga armis."
M. des Amis smiled approvingly. Undoubtedly the young man had a
good address, and a certain readiness of wit, it would appear. He
ran a critical eye over his physical points. "What is your name?"
Andre-Louis hesitated a moment. "Andre-Louis," he said.
The dark, keen eyes conned him more searchingly.
"Well? Andre-Louis what?"
"Just Andre-Louis. Louis is my surname."
"Oh! An odd surname. You come from Brittany by your accent. Why
did you leave it?"
"To save my skin," he answered, without reflecting. And then made
haste to cover the blunder. "I have an enemy," he explained.
M. des Amis frowned, stroking his square chin. "You ran away?"
"You may say so.
"A coward, eh?"
"I don't think so." And then he lied romantically. Surely a man
who lived by the sword should have a weakness for the romantic.
"You see, my enemy is a swordsman of great strength - the best blade
in the province, if not the best blade in France. That is his
repute. I thought I would come to Paris to learn something of the
art, and then go back and kill him. That, to be frank, is why your
notice attracted me. You see, I have not the means to take lessons
otherwise. I thought to find work here in the law. But I have
failed. There are too many lawyers in Paris as it is, and whilst
waiting I have consumed the little money that I had, so that... so
that, enfin, your notice seemed to me something to which a special
providence had directed me."
M. des Amis gripped him by the shoulders, and looked into his face.
"Is this true, my friend?" he asked.
"Not a word of it," said Andre-Louis, wrecking his chances on an
irresistible impulse to say the unexpected. But he didn't wreck
them. M. des Amis burst into laughter; and having laughed his fill,
confessed himself charmed by his applicant's fundamental honesty.
"Take off your coat," he said, "and let us see what you can do.
Nature, at least, designed you for a swordsman. You are light,
active, and supple, with a good length of arm, and you seem
intelligent. I may make something of you, teach you enough for my
purpose, which is that you should give the elements of the art to
new pupils before I take them in hand to finish them. Let us try.
Take that mask and foil, and come over here.
He led him to the end of the room, where the bare floor was scored
with lines of chalk to guide the beginner in the management of his
At the end of a ten minutes' bout, M. des Amis offered him the
situation, and explained it. In addition to imparting the rudiments
of the art to beginners, he was to brush out the fencing-room every
morning, keep the foils furbished, assist the gentlemen who came for
lessons to dress and undress, and make himself generally useful.
His wages for the present were to be forty livres a month, and he
might sleep in an alcove behind the fencing-room if he had no other
The position, you see, had its humiliations. But, if Andre-Louis
would hope to dine, he must begin by eating his pride as an hors
"And so," he said, controlling a grimace, "the robe yields not only
to the sword, but to the broom as well. Be it so. I stay."
lt is characteristic of him that, having made that choice, he should
have thrown himself into the work with enthusiasm. It was ever his
way to do whatever he did with all the resources of his mind and
energies of his body. When he was not instructing very young
gentlemen in the elements of the art, showing them the elaborate and
intricate salute - which with a few days' hard practice he had
mastered to perfection - and the eight guards, he was himself hard
at work on those same guards, exercising eye, wrist, and knees.
Perceiving his enthusiasm, and seeing the obvious possibilities it
opened out of turning him into a really effective assistant, M.
des Amis presently took him more seriously in hand.
"Your application and zeal, my friend, are deserving of more than
forty livres a month," the master informed him at the end of a week.
"For the present, however, I will make up what else I consider due
to you by imparting to you secrets of this noble art. Your future
depends upon how you profit by your exceptional good fortune in
receiving instruction from me."
Thereafter every morning before the opening of the academy, the
master would fence for half an hour with his new assistant. Under
this really excellent tuition Andre-Louis improved at a rate that
both astounded and flattered M. des Amis. He would have been less
flattered and more astounded had he known that at least half the
secret of Andre-Louis' amazing progress lay in the fact that he was
devouring the contents of the master's library, which was made up
of a dozen or so treatises on fencing by such great masters as La
Bessiere, Danet, and the syndic of the King's Academy, Augustin
Rousseau. To M. des Amis, whose swordsmanship was all based on
practice and not at all on theory, who was indeed no theorist or
student in any sense, that little library was merely a suitable
adjunct to a fencing-academy, a proper piece of decorative furniture.
The books themselves meant nothing to him in any other sense. He
had not the type of mind that could have read them with profit nor
could be understand that another should do so. Andre-Louis, on the
contrary, a man with the habit of study, with the acquired faculty
of learning from books, read those works with enormous profit, kept
their precepts in mind, critically set off those of one master
against those of another, and made for himself a choice which he
proceeded to put into practice.
At the end of a month it suddenly dawned upon M. des Amis that his
assistant had developed into a fencer of very considerable force,
a man in a bout with whom it became necessary to exert himself if
he were to escape defeat.
"I said from the first," he told him one day, "that Nature designed
you for a swordsman. See how justified I was, and see also how well
I have known how to mould the material with which Nature has
"To the master be the glory," said Andre-Louis.
His relations with M. des Amis had meanwhile become of the
friendliest, and he was now beginning to receive from him other
pupils than mere beginners. In fact Andre-Louis was becoming an
assistant in a much fuller sense of the word. M. des Amis, a
chivalrous, open-handed fellow, far from taking advantage of what
he had guessed to be the young man's difficulties, rewarded his
zeal by increasing his wages to four louis a month.
>From the' earnest and thoughtful study of the theories of others,
it followed now - as not uncommonly happens - that Andre-Louis came
to develop theories of his own. He lay one June morning on his
little truckle bed in the alcove behind the academy, considering a
passage that he had read last night in Danet on double and triple
feints. It had seemed to him when reading it that Danet had stopped
short on the threshold of a great discovery in the art of fencing.
Essentially a theorist, Andre-Louis perceived the theory suggested,
which Danet himself in suggesting it had not perceived. He lay now
on his back, surveying the cracks in the ceiling and considering
this matter further with the lucidity that early morning often
brings to an acute intelligence. You are to remember that for close
upon two months now the sword had been Andre-Louis' daily exercise
and almost hourly thought. Protracted concentration upon the subject
was giving him an extraordinary penetration of vision. Swordsmanship
as he learnt and taught and saw it daily practised consisted of a
series of attacks and parries, a series of disengages from one line
into another. But always a limited series. A half-dozen disengages
on either side was, strictly speaking, usually as far as any
engagement went. Then one recommenced. But even so, these
disengages were fortuitous. What if from first to last they should
That was part of the thought - one of the two legs on which his
theory was to stand; the other was: what would happen if one so
elaborated Danet's ideas on the triple feint as to merge them into
a series of actual calculated disengages to culminate at the fourth
or fifth or even sixth disengage? That is to say, if one were to
make a series of attacks inviting ripostes again to be countered,
each of which was not intended to go home, but simply to play the
opponent's blade into a line that must open him ultimately, and as
predetermined, for an irresistible lunge. Each counter of the
opponent's would have to be preconsidered in this widening of his
guard, a widening so gradual that he should himself be unconscious
of it, and throughout intent upon getting home his own point on
one of those counters.
Andre-Louis had been in his time a chess-player of some force, and
at chess he had excelled by virtue of his capacity for thinking
ahead. That virtue applied to fencing should all but revolutionize
the art. It was so applied already, of course, but only in an
elementary and very limited fashion, in mere feints, single, double,
or triple. But even the triple feint should be a clumsy device
compared with this method upon which he theorized.
He considered further, and the conviction grew that he held the key
of a discovery. He was impatient to put his theory to the test.
That morning he was given a pupil of some force, against whom
usually he was hard put to it to defend himself. Coming on guard,
he made up his mind to hit him on the fourth disengage,
predetermining the four passes that should lead up to it. They
engaged in tierce, and Andre-Louis led the attack by a beat and a
straightening of the arm. Came the demi-contre he expected, which
he promptly countered by a thrust in quinte; this being countered
again, he reentered still lower, and being again correctly parried,
as he had calculated, he lunged swirling his point into carte, and
got home full upon his opponent's breast. The ease of it surprised
They began again. This time he resolved to go in on the fifth
disengage, and in on that he went with the same ease. Then,
complicating the matter further, he decided to try the sixth, and
worked out in his mind the combination of the five preliminary
engages. Yet again he succeeded as easily as before.
The young gentleman opposed to him laughed with just a tinge of
mortification in his voice.
"I am all to pieces this morning," he said.
"You are not of your usual force," Andre-Louis politely agreed.
And then greatly daring, always to test that theory of his to the
uttermost: "So much so," he added, "that I could almost be sure
of hitting you as and when I declare."
The capable pupil looked at him with a half-sneer. "Ah, that, no,"
"Let us try. On the fourth disengage I shall touch you. Allons!
And as he promised, so it happened.
The young gentleman who, hitherto, had held no great opinion of
Andre-Louis' swordsmanship, accounting him well enough for purposes
of practice when the master was otherwise engaged, opened wide his
eyes. In a burst of mingled generosity and intoxication, Andre-Louis
was almost for disclosing his method - a method which a little later
was to become a commonplace of the fencing-rooms. Betimes he checked
himself. To reveal his secret would be to destroy the prestige that
must accrue to him from exercising it.
At noon, the academy being empty, M. des Amis called Andre-Louis to
one of the occasional lessons which he still received. And for the
first time in all his experience with Andre-Louis, M. des Amis
received from him a full hit in the course of the first bout. He
laughed, well pleased, like the generous fellow he was.
"Aha! You are improving very fast, my friend." He still laughed,
though not so well pleased, when he was hit in the second bout.
After that he settled down to fight in earnest with the result that
Andre-Louis was hit three times in succession. The speed and
accuracy of the fencing-master when fully exerting himself
disconcerted Andre-Louis' theory, which for want of being exercised
in practice still demanded too much consideration.
But that his theory was sound he accounted fully established, and
with that, for the moment, he was content. It remained only to
perfect by practice the application of it. To this he now devoted
himself with the passionate enthusiasm of the discoverer. He
confined himself to a half-dozen combinations, which he practised
assiduously until each had become almost automatic. And he proved
their infallibility upon the best among M. des Amis' pupils.
Finally, a week or so after that last bout of his with des Amis,
the master called him once more to practice.
Hit again in the first bout, the master set himself to exert all
his skill against his assistant. But to-day it availed him nothing
before Andre-Louis' impetuous attacks.
After the third hit, M. des Amis stepped back and pulled off his
"What's this?" he asked. He was pale, and his dark brows were
contracted in a frown. Not in years had he been so wounded in his
self-love. "Have you been taught a secret botte?"
He had always boasted that he knew too much about the sword to
believe any nonsense about secret bottes; but this performance of
Andre-Louis' had shaken his convictions on that score.
"No," said Andre-Louis. "I have been working hard; and it happens
that I fence with my brains."
"So I perceive. Well, well, I think I have taught you enough, my
friend. I have no intention of having an assistant who is superior
"Little danger of that," said Andre-Louis, smiling pleasantly.
"You have been fencing hard all morning, and you are tired, whilst
I, having done little, am entirely fresh. That is the only secret
of my momentary success.
His tact and the fundamental good-nature of M. des Amis prevented
the matter from going farther along the road it was almost
threatening to take. And thereafter, when they fenced together,
Andre-Louis, who continued daily to perfect his theory into an
almost infallible system, saw to it that M. des Amis always scored
against him at least two hits for every one of his own. So much
he would grant to discretion, but no more. He desired that M. des
Amis should be conscious of his strength, without, however,
discovering so much of its real extent as would have excited in
him an unnecessary degree of jealousy.
And so well did he contrive that whilst he became ever of greater
assistance to the master - for his style and general fencing, too,
had materially improved - he was also a source of pride to him as
the most brilliant of all the pupils that had ever passed through
his academy. Never did Andre-Louis disillusion him by revealing
the fact that his skill was due far more to M. des Amis' library
and his own mother wit than to any lessons received.
QUOS DEUS VULT PERDERE
Once again, precisely as he had done when he joined the Binet troupe,
did Andre-Louis now settle down whole-heartedly to the new profession
into which necessity had driven him, and in which he found effective
concealment from those who might seek him to his hurt. This
profession might - although in fact it did not - have brought him
to consider himself at last as a man of action. He had not, however,
on that account ceased to be a man of thought, and the events of the
spring and summer months of that year 1789 in Paris provided him
with abundant matter for reflection. He read there in the raw what
is perhaps the most amazing page in the history of human development,
and in the end he was forced to the conclusion that all his early
preconceptions had been at fault, and that it was such exalted,
passionate enthusiasts as Vilmorin who had been right.
I suspect him of actually taking pride in the fact that he had been
mistaken, complacently attributing his error to the circumstance
that he had been, himself, of too sane and logical a mind to gauge
the depths of human insanity now revealed.
He watched the growth of hunger, the increasing poverty and distress
of Paris during that spring, and assigned it to its proper cause,
together with the patience with which the people bore it. The world
of France was in a state of hushed, of paralyzed expectancy, waiting
for the States General to assemble and for centuries of tyranny to
end. And because of this expectancy, industry had come to a
standstill, the stream of trade had dwindled to a trickle. Men would
not buy or sell until they clearly saw the means by which the genius
of the Swiss banker, M. Necker, was to deliver them from this morass.
And because of this paralysis of affairs the men of the people were
thrown out of work and left to starve with their wives and children.
Looking on, Andre-Louis smiled grimly. So far he was right. The
sufferers were ever the proletariat. The men who sought to make
this revolution, the electors - here in Paris as elsewhere - were
men of substance, notable bourgeois, wealthy traders. And whilst
these, despising the canaille, and envying the privileged, talked
largely of equality - by which they meant an ascending equality
that should confuse themselves with the gentry - the proletariat
perished of want in its kennels.
At last with the month of May the deputies arrived, Andre-Louis'
friend Le Chapelier prominent amongst them, and the States General
were inaugurated at Versailles. It was then that affairs began to
become interesting, then that Andre-Louis began seriously to doubt
the soundness of the views he had held hitherto.
When the royal proclamation had gone forth decreeing that the
deputies of the Third Estate should number twice as many as those
of the other two orders together, Andre-Louis had believed that
the preponderance of votes thus assured to the Third Estate rendered
inevitable the reforms to which they had pledged themselves.
But he had reckoned without the power of the privileged orders over
the proud Austrian queen, and her power over the obese, phlegmatic,
irresolute monarch. That the privileged orders should deliver battle
in defence of their privileges, Andre-Louis could understand. Man
being what he is, and labouring under his curse of acquisitiveness,
will never willingly surrender possessions, whether they be justly
or unjustly held. But what surprised Andre-Louis was the unutterable
crassness of the methods by which the Privileged ranged themselves
for battle. They opposed brute force to reason and philosophy, and
battalions of foreign mercenaries to ideas. As if ideas were to be
impaled on bayonets!
The war between the Privileged and the Court on one side, and the
Assembly and the People on the other had begun.
The Third Estate contained itself, and waited; waited with the
patience of nature; waited a month whilst, with the paralysis of
business now complete, the skeleton hand of famine took a firmer
grip of Paris; waited a month whilst Privilege gradually assembled
an army in Versailles to intimidate it - an army of fifteen
regiments, nine of which were Swiss and German - and mounted a park
of artillery before the building in which the deputies sat. But
the deputies refused to be intimidated; they refused to see the guns
and foreign uniforms; they refused to see anything but the purpose
for which they had been brought together by royal proclamation.
Thus until the 10th of June, when that great thinker and
metaphysician, the Abbe Sieyes, gave the signal: "It is time," said
he, "to cut the cable."
And the opportunity came soon, at the very beginning of July. M. du
Chatelet, a harsh, haughty disciplinarian, proposed to transfer the
eleven French Guards placed under arrest from the military gaol of
the Abbaye to the filthy prison of Bicetre reserved for thieves and
felons of the lowest order. Word of that intention going forth, the
people at last met violence with violence. A mob four thousand
strong broke into the Abbaye, and delivered thence not only the
eleven guardsmen, but all the other prisoners, with the exception of
one whom they discovered to be a thief, and whom they put back again;
That was open revolt at last, and with revolt Privilege knew how to
deal. It would strangle this mutinous Paris in the iron grip of the
foreign regiments. Measures were quickly concerted. Old Marechal
de Broglie, a veteran of the Seven Years' War, imbued with a
soldier's contempt for civilians, conceiving that the sight of a
uniform would be enough to restore peace and order, took control
with Besenval as his second-in-command. The foreign regiments were
stationed in the environs of Paris, regiments whose very names were
an irritation to the Parisians, regiments of Reisbach, of Diesbach,
of Nassau, Esterhazy, and Roehmer. Reenforcements of Swiss were
sent to the Bastille between whose crenels already since the 30th
of June were to be seen the menacing mouths of loaded cannon.
On the 10th of July the electors once more addressed the King to
request the withdrawal of the troops. They were answered next day
that the troops served the purpose of defending the liberties of
the Assembly! And on the next day to that, which was a Sunday, the
philanthropist Dr. Guillotin - whose philanthropic engine of painless
death was before very long to find a deal of work, came from the
Assembly, of which he was a member, to assure the electors of Paris
that all was well, appearances notwithstanding, since Necker was
more firmly in the saddle than ever. He did not know that at the
very moment in which he was speaking so confidently, the
oft-dismissed and oft-recalled M. Necker had just been dismissed
yet again by the hostile cabal about the Queen. Privilege wanted
conclusive measures, and conclusive measures it would have -
conclusive to itself.
And at the same time yet another philanthropist, also a doctor, one
Jean-Paul Mara, of Italian extraction - better known as Marat, the
gallicized form of name he adopted - a man of letters, too, who had
spent some years in England, and there published several works on
sociology, was writing:
"Have a care! Consider what would be the fatal effect of a seditious
movement. If you should have the misfortune to give way to that, you
will be treated as people in revolt, and blood will flow."
Andre-Louis was in the gardens of the Palais Royal, that place of
shops and puppet-shows, of circus and cafes, of gaming houses and
brothels, that universal rendezvous, on that Sunday morning when
the news of Necker's dismissal spread, carrying with it dismay and
fury. Into Necker's dismissal the people read the triumph of the
party hostile to themselves. It sounded the knell of all hope of
redress of their wrongs.
He beheld a slight young man with a pock-marked face, redeemed
from utter ugliness by a pair of magnificent eyes, leap to a table
outside the Caf‚ de Foy, a drawn sword in his hand, crying, "To
arms!" And then upon the silence of astonishment that cry imposed,
this young man poured a flood of inflammatory eloquence, delivered
in a voice marred at moments by a stutter. He told the people that
the Germans on the Champ de Mars would enter Paris that night to
butcher the inhabitants. "Let us mount a cockade!" he cried, and
tore a leaf from a tree to serve his purpose - the green cockade of
Enthusiasm swept the crowd, a motley crowd made up of men and women
of every class, from vagabond to nobleman, from harlot to lady of
fashion. Trees were despoiled of their leaves, and the green
cockade was flaunted from almost every head.
"You are caught between two fires," the incendiary's stuttering
voice raved on. "Between the Germans on the Champ de Mars and the
Swiss in the Bastille. To arms, then! To arms!"
Excitement boiled up and over. From a neighbouring waxworks show
came the bust of Necker, and presently a bust of that comedian the
Duke of Orleans, who had a party and who was as ready as any other
of the budding opportunists of those days to take advantage of the
moment for his own aggrandizement. The bust of Necker was draped
Andre-Louis looked on, and grew afraid. Marat's pamphlet had
impressed him. It had expressed what himself he had expressed more
than half a year ago to the mob at Rennes. This crowd, he felt
must be restrained. That hot-headed, irresponsible stutterer would
have the town in a blaze by night unless something were done. The
young man, a causeless advocate of the Palais named Camille
Desmoulins, later to become famous, leapt down from his table still
waving his sword, still shouting, "To arms! Follow me!"
Andre-Louis advanced to occupy the improvised rostrum, which the
stutterer had just vacated, to make an effort at counteracting that
inflammatory performance. He thrust through the crowd, and came
suddenly face to face with a tall man beautifully dressed, whose
handsome countenance was sternly set, whose great sombre eyes
mouldered as if with suppressed anger.
Thus face to face, each looking into the eyes of the other, they
stood for a long moment, the jostling crowd streaming past them,
unheeded. Then Andre-Louis laughed.
"That fellow, too, has a very dangerous gift of eloquence, M. le
Marquis," he said. "In fact there are a number of such in France
to-day. They grow from the soil, which you and yours have irrigated
with the blood of the martyrs of liberty. Soon it may be your blood
instead. The soil is parched, and thirsty for it."
"Gallows-bird!" he was answered. "The police will do your affair
for you. I shall tell the, Lieutenant-General that you are to be
found in Paris."
"My God, man!" cried Andre-Louis, "will you never get sense? Will
you talk like that of Lieutenant-Generals when Paris itself is
likely to tumble about your ears or take fire under your feet?
Raise your voice, M. le Marquis. Denounce me here, to these. You
will make a hero of me in such an hour as this. Or shall I denounce
you? I think I will. I think it is high time you received your
wages. Hi! You others, listen to me! Let me present you to... "
A rush of men hurtled against him, swept him along with them, do
what he would, separating him from M. de La Tour d'Azyr, so oddly
met. He sought to breast that human torrent; the Marquis, caught
in an eddy of it, remained where he had been, and Andre-Louis' last
glimpse of him was of a man smiling with tight lips, an ugly smile.
Meanwhile the gardens were emptying in the wake of that stuttering
firebrand who had mounted the green cockade. The human torrent
poured out into the Rue de Richelieu, and Andre-Louis perforce must
suffer himself to be borne along by it, at least as far as the Rue
du Hasard. There he sidled out of it, and having no wish to be
crushed to death or to take further part in the madness that was
afoot, he slipped down the street, and so got home to the deserted
academy. For there were no pupils to-day, and even M. des Amis,
like Andre-Louis, had gone out to seek for news of what was
happening at Versailles.
This was no normal state of things at the Academy of Bertrand des
Amis. Whatever else in Paris might have been at a standstill lately,
the fencing academy had flourished as never hitherto. Usually both
the master and his assistant were busy from morning until dusk, and
already Andre-Louis was being paid now by the lessons that he gave,
the master allowing him one half of the fee in each case for himself,
an arrangement which the assistant found profitable. On Sundays the
academy made half-holiday; but on this Sunday such had been the
state of suspense and ferment in the city that no one having
appeared by eleven o'clock both des Amis and Andre-Louis had gone
out. Little they thought as they lightly took leave of each other
- they were very good friends by now - that they were never to
meet again in this world.
Bloodshed there was that day in Paris. On the Place Vendome a
detachment of dragoons awaited the crowd out of which Andre-Louis
had slipped. The horsemen swept down upon the mob, dispersed it,
smashed the waxen effigy of M. Necker, and killed one man on the
spot - an unfortunate French Guard who stood his ground. That was
a beginning. As a consequence Besenval brought up his Swiss from
the Champ de Mars and marshalled them in battle order on the Champs
Elysees with four pieces of artillery. His dragoons he stationed
in the Place Louis XV. That evening an enormous crowd, streaming
along the Champs Elysees and the Tuileries Gardens, considered with
eyes of alarm that warlike preparation. Some insults were cast
upon those foreign mercenaries and some stones were flung. Besenval,
losing his head, or acting under orders, sent for his dragoons and
ordered them to disperse the crowd, But that crowd was too dense to
be dispersed in this fashion; so dense that it was impossible for
the horsemen to move without crushing some one. There were several
crushed, and as a consequence when the dragoons, led by the Prince
de Lambesc, advanced into the Tuileries Gardens, the outraged crowd
met them with a fusillade of stones and bottles. Lambesc gave the
order to fire. There was a stampede. Pouring forth from the
Tuileries through the city went those indignant people with their
story of German cavalry trampling upon women and children, and
uttering now in grimmest earnest the call to arms, raised at noon
by Desmoulins in the Palais Royal.
The victims were taken up and borne thence, and amongst them was
Bertrand des Amis, himself - like all who lived by the sword - an
ardent upholder of the noblesse, trampled to death under hooves of
foreign horsemen launched by the noblesse and led by a nobleman.
To Andre-Louis, waiting that evening on the second floor of No. 13
Rue du Hasard for the return of his friend and master, four men of
the people brought that broken body of one of the earliest victims
of the Revolution that was now launched in earnest.
PRESIDENT LE CHAPELIER
The ferment of Paris which, during the two following days, resembled
an armed camp rather than a city, delayed the burial of Bertrand
des Amis until the Wednesday of that eventful week. Amid events
that were shaking a nation to its foundations the death of a
fencing-master passed almost unnoticed even among his pupils, most
of whom did not come to the academy during the two days that his
body lay there. Some few, however, did come, and these conveyed the
news to others, with the result that the master was followed to Pere
Lachaise by a score of young men at the head of whom as chief mourner
There were no relatives to be advised so far as Andre-Louis was
aware, although within a week of M. des Amis' death a sister turned
up from Passy to claim his heritage. This was considerable, for the
master had prospered and saved money, most of which was invested in
the Compagnie des Eaux and the National Debt. Andre-Louis consigned
her to the lawyers, and saw her no more.
The death of des Amis left him with so profound a sense of loneliness
and desolation that he had no thought or care for the sudden access
of fortune which it automatically procured him. To the master's
sister might fall such wealth as he had amassed, but Andre-Louis
succeeded to the mine itself from which that wealth had been
extracted, the fencing-school in which by now he was himself so well
established as an instructor that its numerous pupils looked to him
to carry it forward successfully as its chief. And never was there
a season in which fencing-academies knew such prosperity as in these
troubled days, when every man was sharpening his sword and schooling
himself in the uses of it.
It was not until a couple of weeks later that Andre-Louis realized
what had really happened to him, and he found himself at the same
time an exhausted man, for during that fortnight he had been doing
the work of two. If he had not hit upon the happy expedient of
pairing-off his more advanced pupils to fence with each other,
himself standing by to criticize, correct and otherwise instruct,
he must have found the task utterly beyond his strength. Even so,
it was necessary for him to fence some six hours daily, and every
day he brought arrears of lassitude from yesterday until he was in
danger of succumbing under the increasing burden of fatigue. In
the end he took an assistant to deal with beginners, who gave the
hardest work. He found him readily enough by good fortune in one
of his own pupils named Le Duc. As the summer advanced, and the
concourse of pupils steadily increased, it became necessary for him
to take yet another assistant - an able young instructor named
Galoche - and another room on the floor above.
They were strenuous days for Andre-Louis, more strenuous than he
had ever known, even when he had been at work to build up the Binet
Company; but it follows that they were days of extraordinary
prosperity. He comments regretfully upon the fact that Bertrand des
Amis should have died by ill-chance on the very eve of so profitable
a vogue of sword-play.
The arms of the Academie du Roi, to which Andre-Louis had no title,
still continued to be displayed outside his door. He had overcome
the difficulty in a manner worthy of Scaramouche. He left the
escutcheon and the legend "Academie de Bertrand des Amis, Maitre en
fait d'Armes des Academies du Roi," appending to it the further
legend: "Conducted by Andre-Louis."
With little time now in which to go abroad it was from his pupils
and the newspapers - of which a flood had risen in Paris with the
establishment of the freedom of the Press - that he learnt of the
revolutionary processes around him, following upon, as a measure
of anticlimax, the fall of the Bastille. That had happened whilst
M. des Amis lay dead, on the day before they buried him, and was
indeed the chief reason of the delay in his burial. It was an
event that had its inspiration in that ill-considered charge of
Prince Lambesc in which the fencing-master had been killed.
The outraged people had besieged the electors in the Hotel de Ville,
demanding arms with which to defend their lives from these foreign
murderers hired by despotism. And in the end the electors had
consented to give them arms, or, rather - for arms it had none to
give - to permit them to arm themselves. Also it had given them a
cockade, of red and blue, the colours of Paris. Because these
colours were also those of the liveries of the Duke of Orleans,
white was added to them - the white of the ancient standard of
France - and thus was the tricolour born. Further, a permanent
committee of electors was appointed to watch over public order.
Thus empowered the people went to work with such good effect that
within thirty-six hours sixty thousand pikes had been forged. At
nine o'clock on Tuesday morning thirty thousand men were before the
Invalides. By eleven o'clock they had ravished it of its store of
arms amounting to some thirty thousand muskets, whilst others had
seized the Arsenal and possessed themse1ves of powder.
Thus they prepared to resist the attack that from seven points was
to be launched that evening upon the city. But Paris did not wait
for the attack. It took the initiative. Mad with enthusiasm it
conceived the insane project of taking that terrible menacing
fortress, the Bastille, and, what is more, it succeeded, as you
know, before five o'clock that night, aided in the enterprise by
the French Guards with cannon.
The news of it, borne to Versailles by Lambesc in flight with his
dragoons before the vast armed force that had sprouted from the
paving-stones of Paris, gave the Court pause. The people were in
possession of the guns captured from the Bastille. They were
erecting barricades in the streets, and mounting these guns upon
them. The attack had been too long delayed. It must be abandoned
since now it could lead only to fruitless slaughter that must
further shake the already sorely shaken prestige of Royalty.
And so the Court, growing momentarily wise again under the spur of
fear, preferred to temporize. Necker should be brought back yet
once again, the three orders should sit united as the National
Assembly demanded. It was the completest surrender of force to
force, the only argument. The King went alone to inform the
National Assembly of that eleventh-hour resolve, to the great
comfort of its members, who viewed with pain and alarm the dreadful
state of things in Paris. "No force but the force of reason and
argument" was their watchword, and it was so to continue for two
years yet, with a patience and fortitude in the face of ceaseless
provocation to which insufficient justice has been done.
As the King was leaving the Assembly, a woman, embracing his knees,
gave tongue to what might well be the question of all France:
"Ah, sire, are you really sincere? Are you sure they will not
make you change your mind?"
Yet no such question was asked when a couple of days later the King,
alone and unguarded save by the representatives of the Nation, came
to Paris to complete the peacemaking, the surrender of Privilege.
The Court was filled with terror by the adventure. Were they not
the "enemy," these mutinous Parisians? And should a King go thus
among his enemies? If he shared some of that fear, as the gloom of
him might lead us to suppose, he must have found it idle. What if
two hundred thousand men under arms - men without uniforms and with
the most extraordinary motley of weapons ever seen - awaited him?
They awaited him as a guard of honour.
Mayor Bailly at the barrier presented him with the keys of the city.
"These are the same keys that were presented to Henri IV. He had
reconquered his people. Now the people have reconquered their King."
At the Hotel de Ville Mayor Bailly offered him the new cockade, the
tricoloured symbol of constitutional France, and when he had given
his royal confirmation to the formation of the Garde Bourgeoise and
to the appointments of Bailly and Lafayette, he departed again for
Versailles amid the shouts of "Vive le Roi!" from his loyal people.
And now you see Privilege - before the cannon's mouth, as it were
- submitting at last, where had they submitted sooner they might
have saved oceans of blood - chiefly their own. They come, nobles
and clergy, to join the National Assembly, to labour with it upon
this constitution that is to regenerate France. But the reunion
is a mockery - as much a mockery as that of the Archbishop of Paris
singing the Te Deum for the fall of the Bastille - most grotesque
and incredible of all these grotesque and incredible events. All
that has happened to the National Assembly is that it has introduced
five or six hundred enemies to hamper and hinder its deliberations.
But all this is an oft-told tale, to be read in detail elsewhere.
I give you here just so much of it as I have found in Andre-Louis'
own writings, almost in his own words, reflecting the changes that
were operated in his mind. Silent now, he came fully to believe
in those things in which he had not believed when earlier he had
Meanwhile together with the change in his fortune had come a change
in his position towards the law, a change brought about by the
other changes wrought around him. No longer need he hide himself.
Who in these days would prefer against him the grotesque charge of
sedition for what he had done in Brittany? What court would dare
to send him to the gallows for having said in advance what all
France was saying now? As for that other possible charge of murder,
who should concern himself with the death of the miserable Binet
killed by him - if, indeed, he had killed him, as he hoped - in
And so one fine day in early August, Andre-Louis gave himself a
holiday from the academy, which was now working smoothly under his
assistants, hired a chaise and drove out to Versailles to the Caf‚
d'Amaury, which he knew for the meeting-place of the Club Breton,
the seed from which was to spring that Society of the Friends of
the Constitution better known as the Jacobins. He went to seek
Le Chapelier, who had been one of the founders of the club, a man
of great prominence now, president of the Assembly in this important
season when it was deliberating upon the Declaration of the Rights
Le Chapelier's importance was reflected in the sudden servility of
the shirt-sleeved, white-aproned waiter of whom Andre-Louis inquired
for the representative.
M. Le Chapelier was above-stairs with friends. The waiter desired
to serve the gentleman, but hesitated to break in upon the assembly
in which M. le Depute found himself.
Andre-Louis gave him a piece of silver to encourage him to make the
attempt. Then he sat down at a marble-topped table by the window
looking out over the wide tree-encircled square. There, in that
common-room of the caf‚, deserted at this hour of mid-afternoon, the
great man came to him. Less than a year ago he had yielded precedence
to Andre-Louis in a matter of delicate leadership; to-day he stood
on the heights, one of the great leaders of the Nation in travail,
and Andre-Louis was deep down in the shadows of the general mass.
The thought was in the minds of both as they scanned each other,
each noting in the other the marked change that a few months had
wrought. In Le Chapelier, Andre-Louis observed certain heightened
refinements of dress that went with certain subtler refinements of
countenance. He was thinner than of old, his face was pale and
there was a weariness in the eyes that considered his visitor
through a gold-rimmed spy-glass. In Andre-Louis those jaded but
quick-moving eyes of the Breton deputy noted changes even more
marked. The almost constant swordmanship of these last months had
given Andre-Louis a grace of movement, a poise, and a curious,
indefinable air of dignity, of command. He seemed taller by virtue
of this, and he was dressed with an elegance which if quiet was
none the less rich. He wore a small silver-hilted sword, and wore
it as if used to it, and his black hair that Le Chapelier had never
seen other than fluttering lank about his bony cheeks was glossy
now and gathered into a club. Almost he had the air of a
In both, however, the changes were purely superficial, as each was
soon to reveal to the other. Le Chapelier was ever the same direct
and downright Breton, abrupt of manner and of speech. He stood
smiling a moment in mingled surprise and pleasure; then opened wide
his arms. They embraced under the awe-stricken gaze of the waiter,
who at once effaced himself.
"Andre-Louis, my friend! Whence do you drop?"
"We drop from above. I come from below to survey at close quarters
one who is on the heights."
"On the heights! But that you willed it so, it is yourself might
now be standing in my place."
"I have a poor head for heights, and I find the atmosphere too
rarefied. Indeed, you look none too well on it yourself, Isaac.
You are pale."
"The Assembly was in session all last night. That is all. These
damned Privileged multiply our difficulties. They will do so until
we decree their abolition."
They sat down. "Abolition! You contemplate so much? Not that you
surprise me. You have always been an extremist."
"I contemplate it that I may save them. I seek to abolish them
officially, so as to save them from abolition of another kind at
the hands of a people they exasperate."
"I see. And the King?"
"The King is the incarnation of the Nation. We shall deliver him
together with the Nation from the bondage of Privilege. Our
constitution will accomplish it. You agree?"
Andre-Louis shrugged. "Does it matter? I am a dreamer in politics,
not a man of action. Until lately I have been very moderate; more
moderate than you think. But now almost I am a republican. I have
been watching, and I have perceived that this King is - just nothing,
a puppet who dances according to the hand that pulls the string."
"This King, you say? What other king is possible? You are surely
not of those who weave dreams about Orleans? He has a sort of
party, a following largely recruited by the popular hatred of the
Queen and the known fact that she hates him. There are some who
have thought of making him regent, some even more; Robespierre is
of the number."
"Who?" asked Andre-Louis, to whom the name was unknown.
"Robespierre - a preposterous little lawyer who represents Arras,
a shabby, clumsy, timid dullard, who will make speeches through
his nose to which nobody listens - an ultra-royalist whom the
royalists and the Orleanists are using for their own ends. He
has pertinacity, and he insists upon being heard. He may be
listened to some day. But that he, or the others, will ever make
anything of Orleans... pish! Orleans himself may desire it, but.
the man is a eunuch in crime; he would, but he can't. The phrase
He broke off to demand Andre-Louis' news of himself.
"You did not treat me as a friend when you wrote to me," he
complained. "You gave me no clue to your whereabouts; you
represented yourself as on the verge of destitution and withheld
from me the means to come to your assistance. I have been troubled
in mind about you, Andre. Yet to judge by your appearance I might
have spared myself that. You seem prosperous, assured. Tell me
Andre-Louis told him frankly all that there was to tell. "Do you
know that you are an amazement to me?" said the deputy. "From the
robe to the buskin, and now from the buskin to the sword! What
will be the end of you, I wonder?"
"The gallows, probably."
"Fish! Be serious. Why not the toga of the senator in senatorial
France? It might be yours now if you had willed it so."
"The surest way to the gallows of all," laughed Andre-Louis.
At the moment Le Chapelier manifested impatience. I wonder did the
phrase cross his mind that day four years later when himself he rode
in the death-cart to the Greve.
"We are sixty-six Breton deputies in the Assembly. Should a vacancy
occur, will you act as suppleant? A word from me together with the
influence of your name in Rennes and Nantes, and the thing is done."
Andre-Louis laughed outright. "Do you know, Isaac, that I never
meet you but you seek to thrust me into politics?"
"Because you have a gift for politics. You were born for politics."
"Ah, yes - Scaramouche in real life. I've played it on the stage.
Let that suffice. Tell me, Isaac, what news of my old friend, La
"He is here in Versailles, damn him - a thorn in the flesh of
the Assembly. They've burnt his chateau at La Tour d'Azyr.
Unfortunately he wasn't in it at the time. The flames haven't even
singed his insolence. He dreams that when this philosophic
aberration is at an end, there will be serfs to rebuild it for him."
"So there has been trouble in Brittany?" Andre-Louis had become
suddenly grave, his thoughts swinging to Gavrillac.
"An abundance of it, and elsewhere too. Can you wonder? These
delays at such a time, with famine in the land? Chateaux have been
going up in smoke during the last fortnight. The peasants took
their cue from the Parisians, and treated every castle as a Bastille.
Order is being restored, there as here, and they are quieter now."
"What of Gavrillac? Do you know?"
"I believe all to be well. M. de Kercadiou was not a Marquis de La
Tour d'Azyr. He was in sympathy with his people. It is not likely
that they would injure Gavrillac. But don't you correspond with
"In the circumstances - no. What you tell me would make it now more
difficult than ever, for he must account me one of those who helped
to light the torch that has set fire to so much belonging to his
class. Ascertain for me that all is well, and let me know."
"I will, at once."
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