Scaramouche A Romance of the French Revolution
Part 7 out of 8
belied by the measures he took to avenge himself. His subsequent
contempt of the woman I account to be born of the affection in which
for a time he held her. That this affection was as deep as he first
imagined, I do not believe; but that it was as shallow as he would
almost be at pains to make it appear by the completeness with which
he affects to have put her from his mind when he discovered her
worthlessness, I do not believe; nor, as I have said, do his actions
encourage that belief. Then, again, his callous cynicism in hoping
that he had killed Binet is also an affectation. Knowing that such
things as Binet are better out of the world, he can have suffered
no compunction; he had, you must remember, that rarely level vision
which sees things in their just proportions, and never either
magnifies or reduces them by sentimental considerations. At the
same time, that he should contemplate the taking of life with such
complete and cynical equanimity, whatever the justification, is
Similarly now, it is not to be believed that in coming straight
from the Bois de Boulogne, straight from the killing of a man, he
should be sincerely expressing his nature in alluding to the fact
in terms of such outrageous flippancy. Not quite to such an extent
was he the incarnation of Scaramouche. But sufficiently was he so
ever to mask his true feelings by an arresting gesture, his true
thoughts by an effective phrase. He was the actor always, a man
ever calculating the effect he would produce, ever avoiding
self-revelation, ever concerned to overlay his real character by
an assumed and quite fictitious one. There was in this something
of impishness, and something of other things.
Nobody laughed now at his flippancy. He did not intend that
anybody should. He intended to be terrible; and he knew that the
more flippant and casual his tone, the more terrible would be its
effect. He produced exactly the effect he desired.
What followed in a place where feelings and practices had become
what they had become is not difficult to surmise. When the session
rose, there were a dozen spadassins awaiting him in the vestibule,
and this time the men of his own party were less concerned to guard
him. He seemed so entirely capable of guarding himself; he appeared,
for all his circumspection, to have so completely carried the war
into the enemy's camp, so completely to have adopted their own
methods, that his fellows scarcely felt the need to protect him
As he emerged, he scanned that hostile file, whose air and garments
marked them so clearly for what they were. He paused, seeking the
man he expected, the man he was most anxious to oblige. But M. de
La Tour d'Azyr was absent from those eager ranks. This seemed to
him odd. La Tour d'Azyr was Chabrillane's cousin and closest friend.
Surely he should have been among the first to-day. The fact was
that La Tour d'Azyr was too deeply overcome by amazement and grief
at the utterly unexpected event. Also his vindictiveness was held
curiously in leash. Perhaps he, too, remembered the part played by
Chabrillane in the affair at Gavrillac, and saw in this obscure
Andre-Louis Moreau, who had so persistently persecuted him ever
since, an ordained avenger. The repugnance he felt to come to the
point, with him, particularly after this culminating provocation,
was puzzling even to himself. But it existed, and it curbed him now.
To Andre-Louis, since La Tour was not one of that waiting pack, it
mattered little on that Tuesday morning who should be the next. The
next, as it happened, was the young Vicomte de La Motte-Royau, one
of the deadliest blades in the group.
On the Wednesday morning, coming again an hour or so late to the
Assembly, Andre-Louis announced - in much the same terms as he had
announced the death of Chabrillane - that M. de La Motte-Royau
would probably not disturb the harmony of the Assembly for some
weeks to come, assuming that he were so fortunate as to recover
ultimately from the effects of an unpleasant accident with which he
had quite unexpectedly had the misfortune to meet that morning.
On Thursday he made an identical announcement with regard to the
Vidame de Blavon. On Friday he told them that he had been delayed
by M. de Troiscantins, and then turning to the members of the Cote
Droit, and lengthening his face to a sympathetic gravity:
"I am glad to inform you, messieurs, that M. des Troiscantins is
in the hands of a very competent surgeon who hopes with care to
restore him to your councils in a few weeks' time."
It was paralyzing, fantastic, unreal; and friend and foe in that
assembly sat alike stupefied under those bland daily announcements.
Four of the most redoubtable spadassinicides put away for a time,
one of them dead - and all this performed with such an air of
indifference and announced in such casual terms by a wretched little
He began to assume in their eyes a romantic aspect. Even that group
of philosophers of the Cote Gauche, who refused to worship any force
but the force of reason, began to look upon him with a respect and
consideration which no oratorical triumphs could ever have procured
And from the Assembly the fame of him oozed out gradually over Paris.
Desmoulins wrote a panegyric upon him in his paper "Les Revolutions,"
wherein he dubbed him the "Paladin of the Third Estate," a name that
caught the fancy of the people, and clung to him for some time.
Disdainfully was he mentioned in the "Actes des Apotres," the mocking
organ of the Privileged party, so light-heartedly and provocatively
edited by a group of gentlemen afflicted by a singular mental myopy.
The Friday of that very busy week in the life of this young man who
even thereafter is to persist in reminding us that he is not in any
sense a man of action, found the vestibule of the Manege empty of
swordsmen when he made his leisurely and expectant egress between
Le Chapelier and Kersain.
So surprised was he that he checked in his stride.
"Have they had enough?" he wondered, addressing the question to Le
"They have had enough of you, I should think," was the answer.
"They will prefer to turn their attention to some one less able to
take care of himself."
Now this was disappointing. Andre-Louis had lent himself to this
business with a very definite object in view. The slaying of
Chabrillane had, as far as it went, been satisfactory. He had
regarded that as a sort of acceptable hors d'oeuvre. But the
three who had followed were no affair of his at all. He had met
them with a certain amount of repugnance, and dealt with each as
lightly as consideration of his own safety permitted. Was the
baiting of him now to cease whilst the man at whom he aimed had
not presented himself? In that case it would be necessary to force
Out there under the awning a group of gentlemen stood in earnest
talk. Scanning the group in a rapid glance, Andre-Louis perceived
M. de La Tour d'Azyr amongst them. He tightened his lips. He must
afford no provocation. It must be for them to fasten their quarrels
upon him. Already the "Actes des Apotres" that morning had torn the
mask from his face, and proclaimed him the fencing-master of the Rue
du Hasard, successor to Bertrand des Amis. Hazardous as it had been
hitherto for a man of his condition to engage in single combat it
was rendered doubly so by this exposure, offered to the public as
an aristocratic apologia.
Still, matters could not be left where they were, or he should have
had all his pains for nothing. Carefully looking away from that
group of gentlemen, he raised his voice so that his words must
carry to their ears.
"It begins to look as if my fears of having to spend the remainder
of my days in the Bois were idle."
Out of the corner of his eye he caught the stir his words created
in that group. Its members had turned to look at him; but for the
moment that was all. A little more was necessary. Pacing slowly
along between his friends he resumed:
"But is it not remarkable that the assassin of Lagror should make
no move against Lagron's successor? Or perhaps it is not remarkable.
Perhaps there are good reasons. Perhaps the gentleman is prudent."
He bad passed the group by now, and he left that last sentence of
his to trail behind him, and after it sent laughter, insolent and
He had not long to wait. Came a quick step behind him, and a hand
falling upon his shoulder, spun him violently round. He was brought
face to face with M. de La Tour d'Azyr, whose handsome countenance
was calm and composed, but whose eyes reflected something of the
sudden blaze of passion stirring in him. Behind him several members
of the group were approaching more slowly. The others - like
Andre-Louis' two companions - remained at gaze.
"You spoke of me, I think," said the Marquis quietly. "I spoke of
an assassin - yes. But to these my friends." Andre-Louis' manner
was no less quiet, indeed the quieter of the two, for he was the
more experienced actor.
"You spoke loudly enough to be overheard," said the Marquis,
answering the insinuation that he had been eavesdropping.
"Those who wish to overhear frequently contrive to do so."
"I perceive that it is your aim to be offensive."
"Oh, but you are mistaken, M. le Marquis. I have no wish to be
offensive. But I resent having hands violently laid upon me,
especially when they are hands that I cannot consider clean, In the
circumstances I can hardly be expected to be polite."
The elder man's eyelids flickered. Almost he caught himself
admiring Andre-Louis' bearing. Rather, he feared that his own must
suffer by comparison. Because of this, he enraged altogether, and
lost control of himself.
"You spoke of me as the assassin of Lagron. I do not affect to
misunderstand you. You expounded your views to me once before, and
"But what flattery, monsieur!"
"You called me an assassin then, because I used my skill to dispose
of a turbulent hot-head who made the world unsafe for me. But how
much better are you, M. the fencing-master, when you oppose yourself
to men whose skill is as naturally inferior to your own!"
M. de La Tour d'Azyr's friends looked grave, perturbed. It was
really incredible to find this great gentleman so far forgetting
himself as to descend to argument with a canaille of a
lawyer-swordsman. And what was worse, it was an argument in which
he was being made ridiculous.
"I oppose myself to them!" said Andre-Louis on a tone of amused
protest. "Ah, pardon, M. le Marquis; it is they who chose to oppose
themselves to me - and so stupidly. They push me, they slap my
face, they tread on my toes, they call me by unpleasant names. What
if I am a fencing-master? Must I on that account submit to every
manner of ill-treatment from your bad-mannered friends? Perhaps had
they found out sooner that I am a fencing-master their manners would
have been better. But to blame me for that! What injustice!"
"Comedian!" the Marquis contemptuously apostrophized him. "Does it
alter the case? Are these men who have opposed you men who live by
the sword like yourself?"
"On the contrary, M. le Marquis, I have found them men who died by
the sword with astonishing ease. I cannot suppose that you desire
to add yourself to their number."
"And why, if you please?" La Tour d'Azyr's face had flamed scarlet
before that sneer.
"Oh," Andre-Louis raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips, a man
considering. He delivered himself slowly. "Because, monsieur, you
prefer the easy victim - the Lagrons and Vilmorins of this world,
mere sheep for your butchering. That is why."
And then the Marquis struck him.
Andre-Louis stepped back. His eyes gleamed a moment; the next they
were smiling up into the face of his tall enemy.
"No better than the others, after all! Well, well! Remark, I beg
you, how history repeats itself - with certain differences. Because
poor Vilmorin could not bear a vile lie with which you goaded him,
he struck you. Because you cannot bear an equally vile truth which
I have uttered, you strike me. But always is the vileness yours.
And now as then for the striker there is... " He broke off. "But
why name it? You will remember what there is. Yourself you wrote
it that day with the point of your too-ready sword. But there.
I will meet you if you desire it, monsieur."
"What else do you suppose that I desire? To talk?"
Andre-Louis turned to his friends and sighed. "So that I am to go
another jaunt to the Bois. Isaac, perhaps you will kindly have a
word with one of these friends of M. le Marquis', and arrange for
nine o'clock to-morrow, as usual."
"Not to-morrow," said the Marquis shortly to Le Chapeher. "I have
an engagement in the country, which I cannot postpone."
Le Chapelier looked at Andre-Louis.
"Then for M. le Marquis' convenience, we will say Sunday at the
"I do not fight on Sunday. I am not a pagan to break the holy day."
"But surely the good God would not have the presumption to damn a
gentleman of M. le Marquis' quality on that account? Ah, well,
Isaac, please arrange for Monday, if it is not a feast-day or
monsieur has not some other pressing engagement. I leave it in
He bowed with the air of a man wearied by these details, and
threading his arm through Kersain's withdrew.
"Ah, Dieu de Dieu! But what a trick of it you have," said the
Breton deputy, entirely unsophisticated in these matters.
"To be sure I have. I have taken lessons at their hands." He
laughed. He was in excellent good-humour. And Kersam was
enrolled in the ranks of those who accounted Andre-Louis a man
without heart or conscience.
But in his "Confessions" he tells us - and this is one of the
glimpses that reveal the true man under all that make-believe
- that on that night he went down on his knees to commune with
his dead friend Philippe, and to call his spirit to witness that
he was about to take the last step in the fulfilment of the oath
sworn upon his body at Gavrillac two years ago.
M. de La Tour d'Azyr's engagement in the country on that Sunday
was with M. de Kercadiou. To fulfil it he drove out early in the
day to Meudon, taking with him in his pocket a copy of the last
issue of "Les Actes des Apotres," a journal whose merry sallies
at the expense of the innovators greatly diverted the Seigneur de
Gavrillac. The venomous scorn it poured upon those worthless
rapscallions afforded him a certain solatium against the
discomforts of expatriation by which he was afflicted as a result
of their detestable energies.
Twice in the last month, had M. de La Tour d'Azyr gone to visit
the Lord of Gavrillac at Meudon, and the sight of Aline, so sweet
and fresh, so bright and of so lively a mind, had caused those
embers smouldering under the ashes of the past, embers which
until now he had believed utterly extinct, to kindle into flame
once more. He desired her as we desire Heaven. I believe that
it was the purest passion of his life; that had it come to him
earlier he might have been a vastly different man. The cruelest
wound that in all his selfish life he had taken was when she
sent him word, quite definitely after the affair at the Feydau,
that she could not again in any circumstances receive him. At
one blow - through that disgraceful riot - he had been robbed of a
mistress he prized and of a wife who had become a necessity to the
very soul of him. The sordid love of La Binet might have consoled
him for the compulsory renunciation of his exalted love of Aline,
just as to his exalted love of Aline he had been ready to sacrifice
his attachment to La Binet. But that ill-timed riot had robbed
him at once of both. Faithful to his word to Sautron he had
definitely broken with La Binet, only to find that Aline had
definitely broken with him. And by the time that he had
sufficiently recovered from his grief to think again of La Binet,
the comedienne had vanished beyond discovery.
For all this he blamed, and most bitterly blamed, Andre-Louis.
That low-born provincial lout pursued him like a Nemesis, was
become indeed the evil genius of his life. That was it - the evil
genius of his life! And it was odds that on Monday... He did not
like to think of Monday. He was not particularly afraid of death.
He was as brave as his kind in that respect, too brave in the
ordinary way, and too confident of his skill, to have considered
even remotely such a possibility as that of dying in a duel. It
was only that it would seem like a proper consummation of all the
evil that he had suffered directly or indirectly through this
Andre-Louis Moreau that he should perish ignobly by his hand.
Almost he could hear that insolent, pleasant voice making the
flippant announcement to the Assembly on Monday morning.
He shook off the mood, angry with himself for entertaining it.
It was maudlin. After all Chabrillane and La Motte-Royau were
quite exceptional swordsmen, but neither of them really approached
his own formidable calibre. Reaction began to flow, as he drove
out through country lanes flooded with pleasant September sunshine.
His spirits rose. A premonition of victory stirred within him
Far from fearing Monday's meeting, as he had so unreasonably been
doing; he began to look forward to it. It should afford him the
means of setting a definite term to this persecution of which he
had been the victim. He would crush this insolent and persistent
flea that had been stinging him at every opportunity. Borne upward
on that wave of optimism, he took presently a more hopeful view
of his case with Aline.
At their first meeting a month ago he had used the utmost frankness
with her. He had told her the whole truth of his motives in going
that night to the Feydau; he had made her realize that she had acted
unjustly towards him. True he had gone no farther.
But that was very far to have gone as a beginning. And in their
last meeting, now a fortnight old, she had received him with frank
friendliness. True, she had been a little aloof. But that was to
be expected until he quite explicitly avowed that he had revived
the hope of winning her. He had been a fool not to have returned
Thus in that mood of new-born confidence - a confidence risen from
the very ashes of despondency - came he on that Sunday morning to
Meudon. He was gay and jovial with M. de Kercadiou what time he
waited in the salon for mademoiselle to show herself. He pronounced
with confidence on the country's future. There were signs already
- he wore the rosiest spectacles that morning - of a change of
opinion, of a more moderate note. The Nation began to perceive
whither this lawyer rabble was leading it. He pulled out "The Acts
of the Apostles" and read a stinging paragraph. Then, when
mademoiselle at last made her appearance, he resigned the journal
into the hands of M. de Kercadiou.
M. de Kercadiou, with his niece's future to consider, went to read
the paper in the garden, taking up there a position whence he could
keep the couple within sight - as his obligations seemed to demand
of him - whilst being discreetly out of earshot.
The Marquis made the most of an opportunity that might be brief.
He quite frankly declared himself, and begged, implored to be taken
back into Aline's good graces, to be admitted at least to the hope
that one day before very long she would bring herself to consider
him in a nearer relationship.
"Mademoiselle," he told her, his voice vibrating with a feeling
that admitted of no doubt, "you cannot lack conviction of my utter
sincerity. The very constancy of my devotion should afford you
this. It is just that I should have been banished from you, since
I showed myself so utterly unworthy of the great honour to which
I aspired. But this banishment has nowise diminished my devotion.
If you could conceive what I have suffered, you would agree that
I have fully expiated my abject fault."
She looked at him with a curious, gentle wistfulness on her
"Monsieur, it is not you whom I doubt. It is myself."
"You mean your feelings towards me?"
"But that I can understand. After what has happened... "
"It was always so, monsieur," she interrupted quietly. "You
speak of me as if lost to you by your own action. That is to say
too much. Let me be frank with you. Monsieur, I was never yours
to lose. I am conscious of the honour that you do me. I esteem
you very deeply... "
"But, then," he cried, on a high note of confidence, "from such
a beginning... "
"Who shall assure me that it is a beginning? May it not be the
whole? Had I held you in affection, monsieur, I should have sent
for you after the affair of which you have spoken. I should at
least not have condemned you without hearing your explanation. As
it was... " She shrugged, smiling gently, sadly. "You see... "
But his optimism far from being crushed was stimulated. "But it
is to give me hope, mademoiselle. If already I possess so much,
I may look with confidence to win more. I shall prove myself
worthy. I swear to do that. Who that is permitted the privilege
of being near you could do other than seek to render himself
And then before she could add a word, M. de Kercadiou came
blustering through the window, his spectacles on his forehead, his
face inflamed, waving in his hand "The Acts of the Apostles," and
apparently reduced to speechlessness.
Had the Marquis expressed himself aloud he would have been profane.
As it was he bit his lip in vexation at this most inopportune
Aline sprang up, alarmed by her uncle's agitation.
"What has happened?"
"Happened?" He found speech at last. "The scoundrel! The
faithless dog! I consented to overlook the past on the clear
condition that he should avoid revolutionary politics in future.
That condition he accepted, and now" - he smacked the news-sheet
furiously - "he has played me false again. Not only has he gone
into politics, once more, but he is actually a member of the
Assembly, and what is worse he has been using his assassin's
skill as a fencing-master, turning himself into a bully-swordsman.
My God Is there any law at all left in France?"
One doubt M. de La Tour d'Azyr had entertained, though only
faintly, to mar the perfect serenity of his growing optimism.
That doubt concerned this man Moreau and his relations with M.
de Kercadiou. He knew what once they had been, and how changed
they subsequently were by the ingratitude of Moreau's own
behavior in turning against the class to which his benefactor
belonged. What he did not know was that a reconciliation had
been effected. For in the past month - ever since circumstances
had driven Andre-Louis to depart from his undertaking to steer
clear of politics - the young man had not ventured to approach
Meudon, and as it happened his name had pot been mentioned in La
Tour d'Azyr's hearing on the occasion of either of his own previous
visits. He learnt of that reconciliation now; but he learnt at
the same time that the breach was now renewed, and rendered wider
and more impassable than ever. Therefore he did not hesitate to
avow his own position.
"There is a law," he answered. "The law that this rash young man
himself evokes. The law of the sword." He spoke very gravely,
almost sadly. For he realized that after all the ground was tender.
"You are not to suppose that he is to continue indefinitely his
career of evil and of murder. Sooner or later he will meet a
sword that will avenge the others. You have observed that my
cousin Chabrillane is among the number of this assassin's victims;
that he was killed on Tuesday last."
"If I have not expressed my condolence, Azyr, it is because my
indignation stifles at the moment every other feeling. The
scoundrel! You say that sooner or later he will meet a sword that
will avenge the others. I pray that it may be soon."
The Marquis answered him quietly, without anything but sorrow in
his voice. "I think your prayer is likely to be heard. This
wretched young man has an engagement for to-morrow, when his
account may be definitely settled."
He spoke with such calm conviction that his words had all the sound
of a sentence of death. They suddenly stemmed the flow of M. de
Kercadiou's anger. The colour receded from his inflamed face;
dread looked out of his pale eyes, to inform M. de La Tour d'Azyr,
more clearly than any words, that M. de Kercadiou's hot speech had
been the expression of unreflecting anger, that his prayer that
retribution might soon overtake his godson had been unconsciously
insincere. Confronted now by the fact that this retribution was
about to be visited upon that scoundrel, the fundamental gentleness
and kindliness of his nature asserted itself; his anger was suddenly
whelmed in apprehension; his affection for the lad beat up to the
surface, making Andre-Louis' sin, however hideous, a thing of no
account by comparison with the threatened punishment.
M. de Kercadiou moistened his lips.
"With whom is this engagement?" he asked in a voice that by an
effort he contrived to render steady.
M. de La Tour d'Azyr bowed his handsome head, his eyes upon the
gleaming parquetry of the floor. "With myself," he answered quietly,
conscious already with a tightening of the heart that his answer
must sow dismay. He caught the sound of a faint outcry from Aline;
he saw the sudden recoil of M. de Kercadiou. And then he plunged
headlong into the explanation that he deemed necessary.
"In view of his relations with you, M. de Kercadiou, and because
of my deep regard for you, I did my best to avoid this, even though
as you will understand the death of my dear friend and cousin
Chabrillane seemed to summon me to action, even though I knew that
my circumspection was becoming matter for criticism among my friends.
But yesterday this unbridled young man made further restraint
impossible to me. He provoked me deliberately and publicly. He
put upon me the very grossest affront, and... to-morrow morning in
the Bois... we meet."
He faltered a little at the end, fully conscious of the hostile
atmosphere in which he suddenly found himself. Hostility from M.
de Kercadiou, the latter's earlier change of manner had already
led him to expect; the hostility of mademoiselle came more in the
nature of a surprise.
He began to understand what difficulties the course to which he
was committed must raise up for him. A fresh obstacle was to be
flung across the path which he had just cleared, as he imagined.
Yet his pride and his sense of the justice due to be done admitted
of no weakening.
In bitterness he realized now, as he looked from uncle to niece
- his glance, usually so direct and bold, now oddly furtive - that
though to-morrow he might kill Andre-Louis, yet even by his death
Andre-Louis would take vengeance upon him. He had exaggerated
nothing in reaching the conclusion that this Andre-Louis Moreau
was the evil genius of his life. He saw now that do what he would,
kill him even though he might, he could never conquer him. The last
word would always be with Andre-Louis Moreau. In bitterness, in
rage, and in humiliation - a thing almost unknown to him - did he
realize it, and the realization steeled his purpose for all that
he perceived its futility.
Outwardly he showed himself calm and self-contained, properly
suggesting a man regretfully accepting the inevitable. It would
have been as impossible to find fault with his bearing as to
attempt to turn him from the matter to which he was committed.
And so M. de Kercadiou perceived.
"My God!" was all that he said, scarcely above his breath, yet
almost in a groan.
M. de La Tour d'Azyr did, as always, the thing that sensibility
demanded of him. He took his leave. He understood that to linger
where his news had produced such an effect would be impossible,
indecent. So he departed, in a bitterness comparable only with
his erstwhile optimism, the sweet fruit of hope turned to a thing
of gall even as it touched his lips. Oh, yes; the last word,
indeed, was with Andre-Louis Moreau - always!
Uncle and niece looked at each other as he passed out, and there
was horror in the eyes of both. Aline's pallor was deathly almost,
and standing there now she wrung her hands as if in pain.
"Why did you not ask him - beg him... " She broke off.
"To what end? He was in the right, and... and there are things
one cannot ask; things it would be a useless humiliation to ask."
He sat down, groaning. "Oh, the poor boy - the poor, misguided boy."
In the mind of neither, you see, was there any doubt of what must
be the issue. The calm confidence in which La Tour d'Azyr had
spoken compelled itself to be shared. He was no vainglorious
boaster, and they knew of what a force as a swordsman he was
"What does humiliation matter? A life is at issue - Andre's life."
"I know. My God, don't I know? And I would humiliate myself if
by humiliating myself I could hope to prevail. But Azyr is a hard,
relentless man, and... "
Abruptly she left him.
She overtook the Marquis as he was in the act of stepping his
carriage. He turned as she called, and bowed.
At once he guessed her errand, tasted in anticipation the
unparalleled bitterness of being compelled to refuse her. Yet at
her invitation he stepped back into the cool of the hall.
In the middle of the floor of chequered marbles, black and white,
stood a carved table of black oak. By this he halted, leaning
lightly against it whilst she sat enthroned in the great crimson
chair beside it.
"Monsieur, I cannot allow you so to depart," she said. "You cannot
realize, monsieur, what a blow would be dealt my uncle if... if
evil, irrevocable evil were to overtake his godson to-morrow. The
expressions that he used at first... "
"Mademoiselle, I perceived their true value. Spare yourself.
Believe me I am profoundly desolated by circumstances which I had
not expected to find. You must believe me when I say that. It
is all that I can say."
"Must it really be all? Andre is very dear to his godfather."
The pleading tone cut him like a knife; and then suddenly it aroused
another emotion - an emotion which he realized to be utterly
unworthy, an emotion which, in his overwhelming pride of race,
seemed almost sullying, yet not to be repressed. He hesitated to
give it utterance; hesitated even remotely to suggest so horrible
a thing as that in a man of such lowly origin he might conceivably
discover a rival. Yet that sudden pang of jealousy was stronger
than his monstrous pride.
"And to you, mademoiselle? What is this Andre-Louis Moreau to you?
You will pardon the question. But I desire clearly to understand."
Watching her he beheld the scarlet stain that overspread her face.
He read in it at first confusion, until the gleam of her blue eyes
announced its source to lie in anger. That comforted him; since
he had affronted her, he was reassured. It did not occur to him
that the anger might have another source.
"Andre and I have been playmates from infancy. He is very dear to
me, too; almost I regard him as a brother. Were I in need of help,
and were my uncle not available, Andre would be the first man to
whom I should turn. Are you sufficiently answered, monsieur? Or
is there more of me you would desire revealed?"
He bit his lip. He was unnerved, he thought, this morning;
otherwise the silly suspicion with which he had offended could
never have occurred to him.
He bowed very low. "Mademoiselle, forgive that I should have
troubled you with such a question. You have answered more fully
than I could have hoped or wished."
He said no more than that. He waited for her to resume. At a loss,
she sat in silence awhile, a pucker on her white brow, her fingers
nervously drumming on the table. At last she flung herself headlong
against the impassive, polished front that he presented.
"I have come, monsieur, to beg you to put off this meeting."
She saw the faint raising of his dark eyebrows, the faintly regretful
smile that scarcely did more than tinge his fine lips, and she
hurried on. "What honour can await you in such an engagement,
It was a shrewd thrust at the pride of race that she accounted his
paramount sentiment, that had as often lured him into error as it
had urged him into good.
"I do not seek honour in it, mademoiselle, but - I must say it
- justice. The engagement, as I have explained, is not of my
seeking. It has been thrust upon me, and in honour I cannot draw
"Why, what dishonour would there be in sparing him? Surely,
monsieur, none would call your courage in question? None could
misapprehend your motives."
"You are mistaken, mademoiselle. My motives would most certainly
be misapprehended. You forget that this young man has acquired in
the past week a certain reputation that might well make a man
hesitate to meet him."
She brushed that aside almost contemptuously, conceiving it the
"Some men, yes. But not you, M. le Marquis."
Her confidence in him on every count was most sweetly flattering.
But there was a bitterness behind the sweet.
"Even I, mademoiselle, let me assure you. And there is more than
that. This quarrel which M. Moreau has forced upon me is no new
thing. It is merely the culmination of a long-drawn persecution.
"Which you invited," she cut in. "Be just, monsieur."
"I hope that it is not in my nature to be otherwise, mademoiselle."
"Consider, then, that you killed his friend."
"I find in that nothing with which to reproach myself. My
justification lay in the circumstances - the subsequent events in
this distracted country surely confirm it."
"And... " She faltered a little, and looked away from him for the
first time. "And that you... that you... And what of Mademoiselle
Binet, whom he was to have married?"
He stared at her for a moment in sheer surprise. "Was to have
married?" he repeated incredulously, dismayed almost.
"You did not know that?"
"But how do you?"
"Did I not tell you that we are as brother and sister almost? I
have his confidence. He told me, before... before you made it
He looked away, chin in hand, his glance thoughtful, disturbed,
"There is," he said slowly, musingly. "a singular fatality at
work between that man and me, bringing us ever each by turns
athwart the other's path... "
He sighed; then swung to face her again, speaking more briskly:
"Mademoiselle, until this moment I had no knowledge - no suspicion
of this thing. But..." He broke off, considered, and then
shrugged. "If I wronged him, I did so unconsciously. It would be
unjust to blame me, surely. In all our actions it must be the
intention alone that counts."
"But does it make no difference?"
"None that I can discern, mademoiselle. It gives me no
justification to withdraw from that to which I am irrevocably
committed. No justification, indeed, could ever be greater than
my concern for the pain it must occasion my good friend, your
uncle, and perhaps yourself, mademoiselle."
She rose suddenly, squarely confronting him, desperate now,
driven to play the only card upon which she thought she might
"Monsieur," she said, "you did me the honour to-day to speak in
certain terms; to... to allude to certain hopes with which you
He looked at her almost in fear. In silence, not daring to speak,
he waited for her to continue.
"I... I... Will you please to understand, monsieur, that if you
persist in this matter, if... unless you can break this engagement
of yours to-morrow morning in the Bois, you are not to presume
to mention this subject to me again, or, indeed, ever again to
To put the matter in this negative way was as far as she could
possibly go. It was for him to make the positive proposal to
which she had thus thrown wide the door.
"Mademoiselle, you cannot mean... "
"I do, monsieur... irrevocably, please to understand." He looked
at her with eyes of misery, his handsome, manly face as pale as
she had ever seen it. The hand he had been holding out in protest
began to shake. He lowered it to his side again, lest she should
perceive its tremor. Thus a brief second, while the battle was
fought within him, the bitter engagement between his desires and
what he conceived to be the demands of his honour, never perceiving
how far his honour was buttressed by implacable vindictiveness.
Retreat, he conceived, was impossible without shame; and shame was
to him an agony unthinkable. She asked too much. She could not
understand what she was asking, else she would never be so
unreasonable, so unjust. But also he saw that it would be futile
to attempt to make her understand.
It was the end. Though he kill Andre-Louis Moreau in the morning
as he fiercely hoped he would, yet the victory even in death must
lie with Andre-Louis Moreau.
He bowed profoundly, grave and sorrowful of face as he was grave
and sorrowful of heart.
"Mademoiselle, my homage," he murmured, and turned to go.
"But you have not answered me!" she called after him in terror.
He checked on the threshold, and turned; and there from the cool
gloom of the hall she saw him a black, graceful silhouette against
the brilliant sunshine beyond - a memory of him that was to cling
as something sinister and menacing in the dread hours that were
"What would you, mademoiselle? I but spared myself and you the
pain of a refusal."
He was gone leaving her crushed and raging. She sank down again
into the great red chair, and sat there crumpled, her elbows on
the table, her face in her hands - a face that was on fire with
shame and passion. She had offered herself, and she had been
refused! The inconceivable had befallen her. The humiliation of
it seemed to her something that could never be effaced.
Startled, appalled, she stepped back, her hand pressed to her
THE RETURNING CARRIAGE
M. de Kercadiou wrote a letter.
"Godson," he began, without any softening adjective, "I have learnt
with pain and indignation that you have dishonoured yourself again
by breaking the pledge you gave me to abstain from politics. With
still greater pain and indignation do I learn that your name has
become in a few short days a byword, that you have discarded the
weapon of false, insidious arguments against my class - the class
to which you owe everything - for the sword of the assassin. It
has come to my knowledge that you have an assignation to-morrow
with my good friend M. de La Tour d'Azyr. A gentleman of his
station is under certain obligations imposed upon him by his birth,
which do not permit him to draw back from an engagement. But you
labour under no such disadvantages. For a man of your class to
refuse an engagement of honour, or to neglect it when made, entails
no sacrifice. Your peers will probably be of the opinion that you
display a commendable prudence. Therefore I beg you, indeed, did
I think that I still exercise over you any such authority as the
favours you have received from me should entitle me to exercise, I
would command you, to allow this matter to go no farther, and to
refrain from rendering yourself to your assignation to-morrow
morning. Having no such authority, as your past conduct now makes
clear, having no reason to hope that a proper sentiment of gratitude
to me will induce to give heed to this my most earnest request, I
am compelled to add that should you survive to-morrow's encounter,
I can in no circumstances ever again permit myself to be conscious
of your existence. If any spark survives of the affection that once
you expressed for me, or if you set any value upon the affection,
which, in spite of all that you have done to forfeit it, is the
chief prompter of this letter, you will not refuse to do as I am
It was not a tactful letter. M. de Kercadiou was not a tactful man.
Read it as he would, Andre-Louis - when it was delivered to him on
that Sunday afternoon by the groom dispatched with it into Paris
- could read into it only concern for M. La Tour d'Azyr, M. de
Kercadiou's good friend, as he called him, and prospective
He kept the groom waiting a full hour while composing his answer.
Brief though it was, it cost him very considerable effort and
several unsuccessful attempts. In the end this is what he wrote:
Monsieur my godfather - You make refusal singularly hard for me when
you appeal to me upon the ground of affection. It is a thing of
which all my life I shall hail the opportunity to give you proofs,
and I am therefore desolated beyond anything I could hope to express
that I cannot give you the proof you ask to-day. There is too much
between M. de La Tour d'Azyr and me. Also you do me and my class
- whatever it may be - less than justice when you say that
obligations of honour are not binding upon us. So binding do I
count them, that, if I would, I could not now draw back.
If hereafter you should persist in the harsh intention you express,
I must suffer it. That I shall suffer be assured.
Your affectionate and grateful godson
He dispatched that letter by M. de Kercadiou's groom, and conceived
this to be the end of the matter. It cut him keenly; but he bore
the wound with that outward stoicism he affected.
Next morning, at a quarter past eight, as with Le Chapelier - who
had come to break his fast with him - he was rising from table to
set out for the Bois, his housekeeper startled him by announcing
Mademoiselle de Kercadiou.
He looked at his watch. Although his cabriolet was already at the
door, he had a few minutes to spare. He excused himself from Le
Chapelier, and went briskly out to the anteroom.
She advanced to meet him, her manner eager, almost feverish.
"I will not affect ignorance of why you have come," he said quickly,
to make short work. "But time presses, and I warn you that only
the most solid of reasons can be worth stating."
It surprised her. It amounted to a rebuff at the very outset,
before she had uttered a word; and that was the last thing she had
expected from Andre-Louis. Moreover, there was about him an air
of aloofness that was unusual where she was concerned, and his
voice had been singularly cold and formal.
It wounded her. She was not to guess the conclusion to which he
had leapt. He made with regard to her - as was but natural, after
all - the same mistake that he had made with regard to yesterday's
letter from his godfather. He conceived that the mainspring of
action here was solely concern for M. de La Tour d'Azyr. That it
might be concern for himself never entered his mind. So absolute
was his own conviction of what must be the inevitable issue of that
meeting that he could not conceive of any one entertaining a fear
on his behalf.
What he assumed to be anxiety on the score of the predestined victim
had irritated him in M. de Kercadiou; in Aline it filled him with a
cold anger; he argued from it that she had hardly been frank with
him; that ambition was urging her to consider with favour the suit
of M. de La Tour d'Azyr. And than this there was no spur that could
have driven more relentlessly in his purpose, since to save her
was in his eyes almost as momentous as to avenge the past.
She conned him searchingly, and the complete calm of him at such a
time amazed her. She could not repress the mention of it.
"How calm you are, Andre!"
"I am not easily disturbed. It is a vanity of mine."
"But... Oh, Andre, this meeting must not take place!" She came
close up to him, to set her hands upon his shoulders, and stood so,
her face within a foot of his own.
"You know, of course, of some good reason why it should not?"
"You may be killed," she answered him, and her eyes dilated as
It was so far from anything that he had expected that for a moment
he could only stare at her. Then he thought he had understood. He
laughed as he removed her hands from his shoulders, and stepped
back. This was a shallow device, childish and unworthy in her.
"Can you really think to prevail by attempting to frighten me?" he
asked, and almost sneered.
"Oh, you are surely mad! M. de La Tour d'Azyr is reputed the most
dangerous sword in France."
"Have you never noticed that most reputations are undeserved?
Chabrillane was a dangerous swordsman, and Chabrillane is
underground. La Motte-Royau was an even more dangerous swordsman,
and he is in a surgeon's hands. So are the other spadassinicides
who dreamt of skewering a poor sheep of a provincial lawyer. And
here to-day comes the chief, the fine flower of these
bully-swordsmen. He comes, for wages long overdue. Be sure of
that. So if you have no other reason to urge.
It was the sarcasm of him that mystified her. Could he possibly
be sincere in his assurance that he must prevail against M. de La
Tour d'Azyr? To her in her limited knowledge, her mind filled
with her uncle's contrary conviction, it seemed that Andre-Louis
was only acting; he would act a part to the very end.
Be that as it might, she shifted her ground to answer him.
"You had my uncle's letter?"
"And I answered it."
"I know. But what he said, he will fulfil. Do not dream that he
will relent if you carry out this horrible purpose."
"Come, now, that is a better reason than the other," said he. "If
there is a reason in the world that could move me it would be that.
But there is too much between La Tour d'Azyr and me. There is an
oath I swore on the dead hand of Philippe de Vilmorin. I could
never have hoped that God would afford me so great an opportunity
of keeping it."
"You have not kept it yet," she warned him.
He smiled at her. "True!" he said. "But nine o'clock will soon be
here. Tell me," he asked her suddenly, "why did you not carry this
request of yours to M. de La Tour d'Azyr?"
"I did," she answered him, and flushed as she remembered her
yesterday's rejection. He interpreted the flush quite otherwise.
"And he?" he asked.
"M. de La Tour d'Azyr's obligations... " she was beginning: then
she broke off to answer shortly: "Oh, he refused."
"So, so. He must, of course, whatever it may have cost him. Yet
in his place I should have counted the cost as nothing. But men
are different, you see." He sighed. "Also in your place, had that
been so, I think I should have left the matter there. But then... "
"I don't understand you, Andre."
"I am not so very obscure. Not nearly so obscure as I can be. Turn
it over in your mind. It may help to comfort you presently." He
consulted his watch again. "Pray use this house as your own. I
must be going."
Le Chapelier put his head in at the door.
"Forgive the intrusion. But we shall be late, Andre, unless you... "
"Coming," Andre answered him. "If you will await my return, Aline,
you will oblige me deeply. Particularly in view of your uncle's
She did not answer him. She was numbed. He took her silence for
assent, and, bowing, left her. Standing there she heard his steps
going down the stairs together with Le Chapelier's. He was
speaking to his friend, and his voice was calm and normal.
Oh, he was mad - blinded by self-confidence and vanity. As his
carriage rattled away, she sat down limply, with a sense of
exhaustion and nausea. She was sick and faint with horror.
Andre-Louis was going to his death. Conviction of it - an
unreasoning conviction, the result, perhaps, of all M. de Kercadiou's
rantings - entered her soul. Awhile she sat thus, paralyzed by
hopelessness. Then she sprang up again, wringing her hands. She
must do something to avert this horror. But what could she do? To
follow him to the Bois and intervene there would be to make a scandal
for no purpose. The conventions of conduct were all against her,
offering a barrier that was not to be overstepped. Was there no one
could help her?
Standing there, half-frenzied by her helplessness, she caught again
a sound of vehicles and hooves on the cobbles of the street below.
A carriage was approaching. It drew up with a clatter before the
fencing-academy. Could it be Andre-Louis returning? Passionately
she snatched at that straw of hope. Knocking, loud and urgent, fell
upon the door. She heard Andre-Louis' housekeeper, her wooden shoes
clanking upon the stairs, hurrying down to open.
She sped to the door of the anteroom, and pulling it wide stood
breathlessly to listen. But the voice that floated up to her was
not the voice she so desperately hoped to hear. It was a woman's
voice asking in urgent tones for M. Andre-Louis - a voice at first
vaguely familiar, then clearly recognized, the voice of Mme. de
Excited, she ran to the head of the narrow staircase in time to hear
Mme. de Plougastel exclaim in agitation:
"He has gone already! Oh, but how long since? Which way did he
It was enough to inform Aline that Mme. de Plougastel's errand must
be akin to her own. At the moment, in the general distress and
confusion of her mind, her mental vision focussed entirely on the
one vital point, she found in this no matter for astonishment. The
singular regard conceived by Mme. de Plougastel for Andre-Louis
seemed to her then a sufficient explanation.
Without pausing to consider, she ran down that steep staircase,
The portly, comely housekeeper drew aside, and the two ladies faced
each other on that threshold. Mme. de Plougastel looked white and
haggard, a nameless dread staring from her eyes.
"Aline! You here!" she exclaimed. And then in the urgency sweeping
aside all minor considerations, "Were you also too late?" she asked.
"No, madame. I saw him. I implored him. But he would not listen."
"Oh, this is horrible!" Mme. de Plougastel shuddered as she spoke.
"I heard of it only half an hour ago, and I came at once, to prevent
it at all costs."
The two women looked blankly, despairingly, at each other. In the
sunshine-flooded street one or two shabby idlers were pausing to
eye the handsome equipage with its magnificent bay horses, and the
two great ladies on the doorstep of the fencing-academy. From
across the way came the raucous voice of an itinerant bellows-mender
raised in the cry of his trade:
"A raccommoder les vieux soufflets!"
Madame swung to the housekeeper.
"How long is it since monsieur left?"
"Ten minutes, maybe; hardly more." Conceiving these great ladies
to be friends of her invincible master's latest victim, the good
woman preserved a decently stolid exterior.
Madame wrung her hands. "Ten minutes! Oh!" It was almost a moan.
"Which way did he go?"
"The assignation is for nine o'clock in the Bois de Boulogne,"
Aline informed her. "Could we follow? Could we prevail if we did?"
"Ah, my God! The question is should we come in time? At nine
o'clock! And it wants but little more than a quarter of an hour.
Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu!" Madame clasped and unclasped her hands in
anguish. "Do you know, at least, where in the Bois they are to meet?"
"No - only that it is in the Bois."
"In the Bois!" Madame was flung into a frenzy. "The Bois is nearly
half as large as Paris." But she swept breathlessly on, "Come,
Aline: get in, get in!"
Then to her coachman. "To the Bois de Boulogne by way of the Cours
Ia Reine," she commanded, "as fast as you can drive. There are ten
pistoles for you if we are in time. Whip up, man!"
She thrust Aline into the carriage, and sprang after her with the
energy of a girl. The heavy vehicle - too heavy by far for this
race with time - was moving before she had taken her seat. Rocking
and lurching it went, earning the maledictions of more than one
pedestrian whom it narrowly avoided crushing against a wall or
Madame sat back with closed eyes and trembling lips. Her face
showed very white and drawn. Aline watched her in silence. Almost
it seemed to her that Mme. de Plougastel was suffering as deeply
as herself, enduring an anguish of apprehension as great as her own.
Later Aline was to wonder at this. But at the moment all the
thought of which her half-numbed mind was capable was bestowed upon
their desperate errand.
The carriage rolled across the Place Louis XV and out on to the
Cours Ia Reine at last. Along that beautiful, tree-bordered avenue
between the Champs Elysees and the Seine, almost empty at this hour
of the day, they made better speed, leaving now a cloud of dust
But fast to danger-point as was the speed, to the women in that
carriage it was too slow. As they reached the barrier at the end
of the Cours, nine o'clock was striking in the city behind them,
and every stroke of it seemed to sound a note of doom.
Yet here at the barrier the regulations compelled a momentary halt.
Aline enquired of the sergeant-in-charge how long it was since a
cabriolet such as she described had gone that way. She was answered
that some twenty minutes ago a vehicle had passed the barrier
containing the deputy M. le Chapelier and the Paladin of the Third
Estate, M. Moreau. The sergeant was very well informed. He could
make a shrewd guess, he said, with a grin, of the business that took
M. Moreau that way so early in the day.
They left him, to speed on now through the open country, following
the road that continued to hug the river. They sat back mutely
despairing, staring hopelessly ahead, Aline's hand clasped tight
in madame's. In the distance, across the meadows on their right,
they could see already the long, dusky line of trees of the Bois,
and presently the carriage swung aside following a branch of the
road that turned to the right, away from the river and heading
straight for the forest.
Mademoiselle broke at last the silence of hopelessness that had
reigned between them since they had passed the barrier.
"Oh, it is impossible that we should come in time! Impossible!"
"Don't say it! Don't say it!" madame cried out.
"But it is long past nine, madame! Andre would be punctual, and
these... affairs do not take long. It... it will be all over by now.
Madame shivered, and closed her eyes. Presently, however, she opened
them again, and stirred. Then she put her head from the window. "A
carriage is approaching," she announced, and her tone conveyed the
thing she feared.
"Not already! Oh, not already!" Thus Aline expressed the silently
communicated thought. She experienced a difficulty in breathing,
felt the sudden need of air. Something in her throat was throbbing
as if it would suffocate her; a mist came and went before her eyes.
In a cloud of dust an open caleche was speeding towards them, coming
from the Bois. They watched it, both pale, neither venturing to
speak, Aline, indeed, without breath to do so.
As it approached, it slowed down, perforce, as they did, to effect
a safe passage in that narrow road. Aline was at the window with
Mme. de Plougastel, and with fearful eyes both looked into this
open carriage that was drawing abreast of them.
"Which of them is it, madame? Oh, which of them?" gasped Aline,
scarce daring to look, her senses swimming.
Qn the near side sat a swarthy young gentleman unknown to either of
the ladies. He was smiling as he spoke to his companion. A moment
later and the man sitting beyond came into view. He was not smiling.
His face was white and set, and it was the face of the Marquis de La
For a long moment, in speechless horror, both women stared at him,
until, perceiving them, blankest surprise invaded his stern face.
In that moment, with a long shuddering sigh Aline sank swooning to
the carriage floor behind Mme. de Plougastel.
By fast driving Andre-Louis had reached the ground some minutes
ahead of time, notwithstanding the slight delay in setting out.
There he had found M. de La Tour d'Azyr already awaiting him,
supported by a M. d'Ormesson, a swarthy young gentleman in the
blue uniform of a captain in the Gardes du Corps.
Andre-Louis had been silent and preoccupied throughout that drive.
He was perturbed by his last interview with Mademoiselle de
Kercadiou and the rash inferences which he had drawn as to her
"Decidedly," he had said, "this man must be killed."
Le Chapelier had not answered him. Almost, indeed, had the Breton
shuddered at his compatriot's cold-bloodedness. He had often of
late thought that this fellow Moreau was hardly human. Also he had
found him incomprehensibly inconsistent. When first this
spadassinicide business had been proposed to him, he had been so
very lofty and disdainful. Yet, having embraced it, he went about
it at times with a ghoulish flippancy that was revolting, at times
with a detachment that was more revolting still.
Their preparations were made quickly and in silence, yet without
undue haste or other sign of nervousness on either side. In both
men the same grim determination prevailed. The opponent must be
killed; there could be no half-measures here. Stripped each of coat
and waistcoat, shoeless and with shirt-sleeves rolled to the elbow,
they faced each other at last, with the common resolve of paying
in full the long score that stood between them. I doubt if either
of them entertained a misgiving as to what must be the issue.
Beside them, and opposite each other, stood Le Chapelier and the
young captain, alert and watchful.
The slender, wickedly delicate blades clashed together, and after
a momentary glizade were whirling, swift and bright as lightnings,
and almost as impossible to follow with the eye. The Marquis led
the attack, impetuously and vigorously, and almost at once
Andre-Louis realized that he had to deal with an opponent of a very
different mettle from those successive duellists of last week, not
excluding La Motte-Royau, of terrible reputation.
Here was a man whom much and constant practice had given
extraordinary speed and a technique that was almost perfect.
In addition, he enjoyed over Andre-Louis physical advantages of
strength and length of reach, which rendered him altogether
formidable. And he was cool, too; cool and self-contained; fearless
and purposeful. Would anything shake that calm, wondered
He desired the punishment to be as full as he could make it. Not
content to kill the Marquis as the Marquis had killed Philippe, he
desired that he should first know himself as powerless to avert
that death as Philippe had been. Nothing less would content
Andre-Louis. M. le Marquis must begin by tasting of that cup of
despair. It was in the account; part of the quittance due.
As with a breaking sweep Andre-Louis parried the heavy lunge in
which that first series of passes culminated, he actually laughed
- gleefully, after the fashion of a boy at a sport he loves.
That extraordinary, ill-timed laugh made M. de La Tour d'Azyr's
recovery hastier and less correctly dignified than it would otherwise
have been. It startled and discomposed him, who had already been
discomposed by the failure to get home with a lunge so beautifully
timed and so truly delivered.
He, too, had realized that his opponent's force was above anything
that he could have expected, fencing-master though he might be, and
on that account he had put forth his utmost energy to make an end
More than the actual parry, the laugh by which it was accompanied
seemed to make of that end no more than a beginning. And yet it
was the end of something. It was the end of that absolute confidence
that had hitherto inspired M. de La Tour d'Azyr. He no longer looked
upon the issue as a thing forgone. He realized that if he was to
prevail in this encounter, he must go warily and fence as he had
never fenced yet in all his life.
They settled down again; and again - on the principle this time that
the soundest defence is in attack - it was the Marquis who made the
game. Andre-Louis allowed him to do so, desired him to do so;
desired him to spend himself and that magnificent speed of his
against the greater speed that whole days of fencing in succession
for nearly two years had given the master. With a beautiful, easy
pressure of forte on foible Andre-Louis kept himself completely
covered in that second bout, which once more culminated in a lunge.
Expecting it now, Andre-Louis parried it by no more than a deflecting
touch. At the same moment he stepped suddenly forward, right within
the other's guard, thus placing his man so completely at his mercy
that, as if fascinated, the Marquis did not even attempt to recover
This time Andre-Louis did not laugh: He just smiled into the dilating
eyes of M. de La Tour d'Azyr, and made no shift to use his advantage.
"Come, come, monsieur!" he bade him sharply. "Am I to run my blade
through an uncovered man?" Deliberately he fell back, whilst his
shaken opponent recovered himself at last.
M. d'Ormesson released the breath which horror had for a moment
caught. Le Chapelier swore softly, muttering:
"Name of a name! It is tempting Providence to play the fool in
Andre-Louis observed the ashen pallor that now over spread the face
of his opponent.
"I think you begin to realize, monsieur, what Philippe de Vilmorin
must have felt that day at Gavrillac. I desired that you should
first do so. Since that is accomplished, why, here's to make an end."
He went in with lightning rapidity. For a moment his point seemed
to La Tour d'Azyr to be everywhere at once, and then from a low
engagement in sixte, Andre-Louis stretched forward with swift and
vigorous ease to lunge in tierce. He drove his point to transfix
his opponent whom a series of calculated disengages uncovered in
that line. But to his amazement and chagrin, La Tour d'Azyr parried
the stroke; infinitely more to his chagrin La Tour d'Azyr parried
it just too late. Had he completely parried it, all would yet have
been well. But striking the blade in the last fraction of a second,
the Marquis deflected the point from the line of his body, yet not
so completely but that a couple of feet of that hard-driven steel
tore through the muscles of his sword-arm.
To the seconds none of these details had been visible. All that
they had seen had been a swift whirl of flashing blades, and then
Andre-Louis stretched almost to the ground in an upward lunge that
had pierced the Marquis' right arm just below the shoulder.
The sword fell from the suddenly relaxed grip of La Tour d'Azyr's
fingers, which had been rendered powerless, and he stood now
disarmed, his lip in his teeth, his face white, his chest heaving,
before his opponent, who had at once recovered. With the
blood-tinged tip of his sword resting on the ground, Andre-Louis
surveyed him grimly, as we survey the prey that through our own
clumsiness has escaped us at the last moment.
In the Assembly and in the newspapers this might be hailed as another
victory for the Paladin of the Third Estate; only himself could know
the extent and the bitternest of the failure.
M. d'Ormesson had sprung to the side of his principal.
"You are hurt!" he had cried stupidly.
"It is nothing," said La Tour d'Azyr. "A scratch." But his lip
writhed, and the torn sleeve of his fine cambric shirt was full of
D'Ormesson, a practical man in such matters, produced a linen
kerchief, which he tore quickly into strips to improvise a bandage.
Still Andre-Louis continued to stand there, looking on as if bemused.
He continued so until Le Chapelier touched him on the arm. Then at
last he roused himself, sighed, and turned away to resume his
garments, nor did he address or look again at his late opponent, but
left the ground at once.
As, with Le Chapelier, he was walking slowly and in silent dejection
towards the entrance of the Bois, where they had left their carriage,
they were passed by the caleche conveying La Tour d'Azyr and his
second - which had originally driven almost right up to the spot of
the encounter. The Marquis' wounded arm was carried in a sling
improvised from his companion's sword-belt. His sky-blue coat with
three collars had been buttoned over this, so that the right sleeve
hung empty. Otherwise, saving a certain pallor, he looked much his
And now you understand how it was that he was the first to return,
and that seeing him thus returning, apparently safe and sound, the
two ladies, intent upon preventing the encounter, should have
assumed that their worst fears were realized.
Mme. de Plougastel attempted to call out, but her voice refused its
office. She attempted to throw open the door of her own carriage;
but her fingers fumbled clumsily and ineffectively with the handle.
And meanwhile the caleche was slowly passing, La Tour d'Azyr's fine
eyes sombrely yet intently meeting her own anguished gaze. And then
she saw something else. M. d'Ormesson, leaning back again from the
forward inclination of his body to join his own to his companion's
salutation of the Countess, disclosed the empty right sleeve of M.
de La Tour d'Azyr's blue coat. More, the near side of the coat
itself turned back from the point near the throat where it was
caught together by single button, revealed the slung arm beneath
in its blood. sodden cambric sleeve.
Even now she feared to jump to the obvious conclusion feared lest
perhaps the Marquis, though himself wounded, might have dealt his
adversary a deadlier wound.
She found her voice at last, and at the same moment signalled to
the driver of the caleche to stop.
As it was Pulled to a standstill, M. d'Ormesson alighted, and so
met madame in the little space between the two carriages.
"Where is M. Moreau?" was the question with which she surprised him.
"Following at his leisure, no doubt, madame," he answered,
"He is not hurt?"
"Unfortunately it is we who... " M. d'Ormesson was beginning, when
from behind him M. de La Tour d'Azyr's voice cut in crisply:
"This interest on your part in M. Moreau, dear Countess... "
He broke off, observing a vague challenge in the air with which
she confronted him. But indeed his sentence did not need completing.
There was a vaguely awkward pause. And then she looked at M.
d'Ormesson. Her manner changed. She offered what appeared to be
an explanation of her concern for M. Moreau.
"Mademoiselle de Kercadiou is with me. The poor child has fainted."
There was more, a deal more, she would have said just then, but for
M. d'Ormesson's presence.
Moved by a deep solicitude for Mademoiselle de Kertadiou, de La Tour
d'Azyr sprang up despite his wound.
"I am in poor case to render assistance, madame," he said, an
apologetic smile on his pale face. "But... "
With the aid of d'Ormesson, and in spite of the latter's
protestations, he got down from the caleche, which then moved on a
little way, so as to leave the road clear - for another carriage
that was approaching from the direction of the Bois.
And thus it happened that when a few moments later that approaching
cabriolet overtook and passed the halted vehicles, Andre-Louis
beheld a very touching scene. Standing up to obtain a better view,
he saw Aline in a half-swooning condition - she was beginning to
revive by now - seated in the doorway of the carriage, supported by
Mme. de Plougastel. In an attitude of deepest concern, M. de La
Tour d'Azyr, his wound notwithstanding, was bending over the girl,
whilst behind him stood M. d'Ormesson and madame's footman.
The Countess looked up and saw him as he was driven past. Her face
lighted; almost it seemed to him she was about to greet him or to
call him, wherefore, to avoid a difficulty, arising out of the
presence there of his late antagonist, he anticipated her by bowing
frigidly - for his mood was frigid, the more frigid by virtue of
what he saw - and then resumed his seat with eyes that looked
Could anything more completely have confirmed him in his conviction
that it was on M. de La Tour d'Azyr's account that Aline had come
to plead with him that morning? For what his eyes had seen, of
course, was a lady overcome with emotion at the sight of blood of
her dear friend, and that same dear friend restoring her with
assurances that his hurt was very far from mortal. Later, much
later, he was to blame his own perverse stupidity. Almost is he
too severe in his self-condemnation. For how else could he have
interpreted the scene he beheld, his preconceptions being what
That which he had already been suspecting, he now accounted proven
to him. Aline had been wanting in candour on the subject of her
feelings towards M. de La Tour d'Azyr. It was, he supposed, a
woman's way to be secretive in such matters, and he must not blame
her. Nor could he blame her in his heart for having succumbed to
the singular charm of such a man as the Marquis - for not even his
hostility could blind him to M. de La Tour d'Azyr's attractions.
That she had succumbed was betrayed, he thought, by the weakness
that had overtaken her upon seeing him wounded.
"My God!" he cried aloud. "What must she have suffered, then, if
I had killed him as I intended!"
If only she had used candour with him, she could so easily have won
his consent to the thing she asked. If only she had told him what
now he saw, that she loved M. de La Tour d'Azyr, instead of leaving
him to assume her only regard for the Marquis to be based on
unworthy worldly ambition, he would at once have yielded.
He fetched a sigh, and breathed a prayer for forgiveness to the
shade of Vilmorin.
"It is perhaps as well that my lunge went wide," he said.
"What do you mean?" wondered Le Chapelier.
"That in this business I must relinquish all hope of recommencing."
THE OVERWHELMING REASON
M. de La Tour d'Azyr was seen no more in the Manege - or indeed in
Paris at all - throughout all the months that the National Assembly
remained in session to complete its work of providing France with
a constitution. After all, though the wound to his body had been
comparatively slight, the wound to such a pride as his had been
all but mortal.
The rumour ran that he had emigrated. But that was only half the
truth. The whole of it was that he had joined that group of noble
travellers who came and went between the Tuileries and the
headquarters of the emigres at Coblenz. He became, in short, a
member of the royalist secret service that in the end was to bring
down the monarchy in ruins.
As for Andre-Louis, his godfather's house saw him no more, as a
result of his conviction that M. de Kercadiou would not relent from
his written resolve never to receive him again if the duel were
He threw himself into his duties at the Assembly with such zeal and
effect that when - its purpose accomplished - the Constituent was
dissolved in September of the following year, membership of the
Legislative, whose election followed immediately, was thrust upon
He considered then, like many others, that the Revolution was a
thing accomplished, that France had only to govern herself by the
Constitution which had been given her, and that all would now be
well. And so it might have been but that the Court could not bring
itself to accept the altered state of things. As a result of its
intrigues half Europe was arming to hurl herself upon France, and
her quarrel was the quarrel of the French King with his people.
That was the horror at the root of all the horrors that were to come.
Of the counter-revolutionary troubles that were everywhere being
stirred up by the clergy, none were more acute than those of Brittany,
and, in view of the influence it was hoped he would wield in his
native province, it was proposed to Andre-Louis by the Commission of
Twelve, in the early days of the Girondin ministry, that he should
go thither to combat the unrest. He was desired to proceed
peacefully, but his powers were almost absolute, as is shown by the
orders he carried - orders enjoining all to render him assistance
and warning those who might hinder him that they would do so at
He accepted the task, and he was one of the five plenipotentiaries
despatched on the same errand in that spring of 1792. It kept him
absent from Paris for four months and might have kept him longer
but that at the beginning of August he was recalled. More imminent
than any trouble in Brittany was the trouble brewing in Paris itself;
when the political sky was blacker than it had been since '89.
Paris realized that the hour was rapidly approaching which would
see the climax of the long struggle between Equality and Privilege.
And it was towards a city so disposed that Andre-Louis came speeding
from the West, to find there also the climax of his own disturbed
Mlle. de Kercadiou, too, was in Paris in those days of early August,
on a visit to her uncle's cousin and dearest friend, Mme. de
Plougastel. And although nothing could now be plainer than the
seething unrest that heralded the explosion to come, yet the air of
gaiety, indeed of jocularity, prevailing at Court - whither madame
and mademoiselle went almost daily - reassured them. M. de
Plougastel had come and gone again, back to Coblenz on that secret
business that kept him now almost constantly absent from his wife.
But whilst with her he had positively assured her that all measures
were taken, and that an insurrection was a thing to be welcomed,
because it could have one only conclusion, the final crushing of
the Revolution in the courtyard of the Tuileries. That, he added,
was why the King remained in Paris. But for his confidence in that
he would put himself in the centre of his Swiss and his knights of
the dagger, and quit the capital. They would hack a way out for
him easily if his departure were opposed. But not even that would
Yet in those early days of August, after her husband's departure
the effect of his inspiring words was gradually dissipated by the
march of events under madame's own eyes. And finally on the
afternoon of the ninth, there arrived at the Hotel Plougastel a
messenger from Meudon bearing a note from M. de Kercadiou in
which he urgently bade mademoiselle join him there at once, and
advised her hostess to accompany her.
You may have realized that M. de Kercadiou was of those who make
friends with men of all classes. His ancient lineage placed him
on terms of equality with members of the noblesse; his simple
manners - something between the rustic and the bourgeois - and his
natural affability placed him on equally good terms with those who
by birth were his inferiors. In Meudon he was known and esteemed
of all the simple folk, and it was Rougane, the friendly mayor,
who, informed on the 9th of August of the storm that was brewing
for the morrow, and knowing of mademoiselle's absence in Paris,
had warningly advised him to withdraw her from what in the next
four-and-twenty hours might be a zone of danger for all persons
of quality, particularly those suspected of connections with the
Now there was no doubt whatever of Mme. de Plougastel's connection
with the Court. It was not even to be doubted - indeed, measure of
proof of it was to be forthcoming - that those vigilant and
ubiquitous secret societies that watched over the cradle of the
young revolution were fully informed of the frequent journeyings of
M. de Plougastel to Coblenz, and entertained no illusions on the
score of the reason for them. Given, then, a defeat of the Court
party in the struggle that was preparing, the position in Paris of
Mme. de Plougastel could not be other than fraught with danger, and
that danger would be shared by any guest of birth at her hotel.
M. de Kercadiou's affection for both those women quickened the fears
aroused in him by Rougane's warning. Hence that hastily dispatched
note, desiring his niece and imploring his friend to come at once
The friendly mayor carried his complaisance a step farther, and
dispatched the letter to Paris by the hands of his own son, an
intelligent lad of nineteen. It was late in the afternoon of that
perfect August day when young Rougane presented himself at the
He was graciously received by Mme. de Plougastel in the salon, whose
splendours, when combined with the great air of the lady herself,
overwhelmed the lad's simple, unsophisticated soul. Madame made up
her mind at once.
M. de Kercadiou's urgent message no more than confirmed her own
fears and inclinations. She decided upon instant departure.
"Bien, madame," said the youth. "Then I have the honour to take
But she would not let him go. First to the kitchen to refresh
himself, whilst she and mademoiselle made ready, and then a seat
for him in her carriage as far as Meudon. She could not suffer him
to return on foot as he had come.
Though in all the circumstances it was no more than his due, yet
the kindliness that in such a moment of agitation could take thought
for another was presently to be rewarded. Had she done less than
this, she would have known - if nothing worse - at least some hours
of anguish even greater than those that were already in store for her.
It wanted, perhaps, a half-hour to sunset when they set out in her
carriage with intent to leave Paris by the Porte Saint-Martin. They
travelled with a single footman behind. Rougane - terrifying
condescension - was given a seat inside the carriage with the ladies,
and proceeded to fall in love with Mlle. de Kercadiou, whom he
accounted the most beautiful being he had ever seen, yet who talked
to him simply and unaffectedly as with an equal. The thing went to
his head a little, and disturbed certain republican notions which
he had hitherto conceived himself to have thoroughly digested.
The carriage drew up at the barrier, checked there by a picket of
the National Guard posted before the iron gates.
The sergeant in command strode to the door of the vehicle. The
Countess put her head from the window.
"The barrier is closed, madame," she was curtly informed.
"Closed!" she echoed. The thing was incredible. "But... but do
you mean that we cannot pass?"
Not unless you have a permit, madame." The sergeant leaned
nonchalantly on his pike. "The orders are that no one is to leave
or enter without proper papers."
"Orders of the Commune of Paris."
"But I must go into the country this evening." Madame's voice was
almost petulant. "I am expected."
"In that case let madame procure a permit."
"Where is it to be procured?"
"At the Hotel de Ville or at the headquarters of madame's section."
She considered a moment. "To the section, then. Be so good as to
tell my coachman to drive to the Bondy Section."
He saluted her and stepped back. "Section Bondy, Rue des Morts,"
he bade the driver.
Madame sank into her seat again, in a state of agitation fully
shared by mademoiselle. Rougane set himself to pacify and reassure
them. The section would put the matter in order. They would most
certainly be accorded a permit. What possible reason could there
be for refusing them? A mere formality, after all!
His assurance uplifted them merely to prepare them for a still more
profound dejection when presently they met with a flat refusal from
the president of the section who received the Countess.
"Your name, madame?" he had asked brusquely. A rude fellow of the
most advanced republican type, he had not even risen out of
deference to the ladies when they entered. He was there, he would
have told you, to perform the duties of his office, not to give
"Plougastel," he repeated after her, without title, as if it had
been the name of a butcher or baker. He took down a heavy volume
from a shelf on his right, opened it and turned the pages. It was
a sort of directory of his section. Presently he found what he
sought. "Comte de Plougastel, Hotel Plougastel, Rue du Paradis.
Is that it?"
"That is correct, monsieur," she answered, with what civility she
could muster before the fellow's affronting rudeness.
There was a long moment of silence, during which he studied certain
pencilled entries against the name. The sections had been working
in the last few weeks much more systematically than was generally
"Your husband is with you, madame?" he asked curtly, his eyes still
conning that page.
"M. le Comte is not with me," she answered, stressing the title.
"Not with you?" He looked up suddenly, and directed upon her a
glance in which suspicion seemed to blend with derision. "Where
"He is not in Paris, monsieur.
"Ab! Is he at Coblenz, do you think?"
Madame felt herself turning cold. There was something ominous in
all this. To what end had the sections informed themselves so
thoroughly of the comings and goings of their inhabitants? What was
preparing? She had a sense of being trapped, of being taken in a
net that had been cast unseen.
"I do not know, monsieur," she said, her voice unsteady.
"Of course not." He seemed to sneer. "No matter. And you wish to
leave Paris also? Where do you desire to go?"
"Your business there?"
The blood leapt to her face. His insolence was unbearable to a
woman who in all her life had never known anything but the utmost
deference from inferiors and equals alike. Nevertheless, realizing
that she was face to face with forces entirely new, she controlled
herself, stifled her resentment, and answered steadily.
"I wish to conduct this lady, Mlle. de Kercadiou, back to her uncle
who resides there."
"Is that all? Another day will do for that, madame. The matter is
"Pardon, monsieur, to us the matter is very pressing."
"You have not convinced me of it, and the barriers are closed to all
who cannot prove the most urgent and satisfactory reasons for wishing
to pass. You will wait, madame, until the restriction is removed.
"But, monsieur... "
"Good-evening, madame," he repeated significantly, a dismissal more
contemptuous and despotic than any royal "You have leave to go.
Madame went out with Aline. Both were quivering with the anger that
prudence had urged them to suppress. They climbed into the coach
again, desiring to be driven home.
Rougane's astonishment turned into dismay when they told him what
had taken place. "Why not try the Hotel de Ville, madame?" he
"After that? It would be useless. We must resign ourselves to
remaining in Paris until the barriers are opened again."
"Perhaps it will not matter to us either way by then, madame," said
"Aline!" she exclaimed in horror.
"Mademoiselle!" cried Rougane on the same note. And then, because
he perceived that people detained in this fashion must be in some
danger not yet discernible, but on that account more dreadful, he
set his wits to work. As they were approaching the Hotel Plougastel
once more, he announced that he had solved the problem.
"A passport from without would do equally well," he announced.
"Listen, now, and trust to me. I will go back to Meudon at once.
My father shall give me two permits - one for myself alone, and
another for three persons - from Meudon to Paris and back to Meudon.
I reenter Paris with my own permit, which I then proceed to destroy,
and we leave together, we three, on the strength of the other one,
representing ourselves as having come from Meudon in the course of
the day. It is quite simple, after all. If I go at once, I shall
be back to-night."
"But how will you leave?" asked Aline.
"I? Pooh! As to that, have no anxiety. My father is Mayor of
Meudon. There are plenty who know him. I will go to the Hotel de
Ville, and tell them what is, after all, true - that I am caught
in Paris by the closing of the barriers, and that my father is
expecting me home this evening. They will pass me through. It is
His confidence uplifted them again. The thing seemed as easy as
he represented it.
"Then let your passport be for four, my friend," madame begged him.
"There is Jacques," she explained, indicating the footman who had
just assisted them to alight.
Rougane departed confident of soon returning, leaving them to await
him with the same confidence. But the hours succeeded one another,
the night closed in, bedtime came, and still there was no sign of
They waited until midnight, each pretending for the other's sake
to a confidence fully sustained, each invaded by vague premonitions
of evil, yet beguiling the time by playing tric-trac in the great
salon, as if they had not a single anxious thought between them.
At last on the stroke of midnight, madame sighed and rose.
"It will be for to-morrow morning," she said, not believing it.
"Of course," Aline agreed. "It would really have been impossible
for him to have returned to-night. And it will be much better to
travel to-morrow. The journey at so late an hour would tire you
so much, dear madame."
Thus they made pretence.
Early in the morning they were awakened by a din of bells - the
tocsins of the sections ringing the alarm. To their startled ears
came later the rolling of drums, and at one time they heard the
sounds of a multitude on the march. Paris was rising. Later still
came the rattle of small-arms in the distance and the deeper boom
of cannon. Battle was joined between the men of the sections and
the men of the Court. The people in arms had attacked the Tuileries.
Wildest rumours flew in all directions, and some of them found their
way through the servants to the Hotel Plougastel, of that terrible
fight for the palace which was to end in the purposeless massacre
of all those whom the invertebrate monarch abandoned there, whilst
placing himself and his family under the protection of the Assembly.
Purposeless to the end, ever adopting the course pointed out to him
by evil counsellors, he prepared for resistance only until the need
for resistance really arose, whereupon he ordered a surrender which
left those who had stood by him to the last at the mercy of a
And while this was happening in the Tuileries, the two women at the
Hotel Plougastel still waited for the return of Rougane, though now
with ever-lessening hope. And Rougane did not return. The affair
did not appear so simple to the father as to the son. Rougane the
elder was rightly afraid to lend himself to such a piece of
He went with his son to inform M. de Kercadiou of what had happened,
and told him frankly of the thing his son suggested, but which he
dared not do.
M. de Kercadiou sought to move him by intercessions and even by the
offer of bribes. But Rougane remained firm.
"Monsieur," he said, "if it were discovered against me, as it
inevitably would be, I should, hang for it. Apart from that, and
in spite of my anxiety to do all in my power to serve you, it
would be a breach of trust such as I could not contemplate. You
must not ask me, monsieur."
"But what do you conceive is going to happen?" asked the
"It is war," said Rougane, who was well informed, as we have seen.
"War between the people and the Court. I am desolated that my
warning should have come too late. But, when all is said, I do not
think that you need really alarm yourself. War will not be made
on women. M. de Kercadiou clung for comfort to that assurance after
the mayor and his son had departed. But at the back of his mind
there remained the knowledge of the traffic in which M. de Plougastel
was engaged. What if the revolutionaries were equally well informed?
And most probably they were. The women-folk political offenders had
been known aforetime to suffer for the sins of their men. Anything
was possible in a popular upheaval, and Aline would be exposed
jointly with Mme. de Plougastel.
Late that night, as he sat gloomily in his brother's library, the
pipe in which he had sought solace extinguished between his fingers,
there came a sharp knocking at the door.
To the old seneschal of Gavrillac who went to open there stood
revealed upon the threshold a slim young man in a dark olive
surcoat, the skirts of which reached down to his calves. He wore
boots, buckskins, and a small-sword, and round his waist there was
a tricolour sash, in his hat a tricolour cockade, which gave him an
official look extremely sinister to the eyes of that old retainer
of feudalism, who shared to the full his master's present fears.
"Monsieur desires?" he asked, between respect and mistrust.
And then a crisp voice startled him.
"Why, Benoit! Name of a name! Have you completely forgotten me?"
With a shaking hand the old man raised the lantern he carried so
as to throw its light more fully upon that lean, wide-mouthed
"M. Andre!" he cried. "M.Andre!" And then he looked at the sash
and the cockade, and hesitated, apparently at a loss.
But Andre-Louis stepped past him into the wide vestibule, with its
tessellated floor of black-and-white marble.
"If my godfather has not yet retired, take me to him. If he has
retired, take me to him all the same."
"Oh, but certainly, M. Andre - and I am sure he will be ravished to
see you. No, he has not yet retired. This way, M. Andre; this way,
if you please."
The returning Andre-Louis, reaching Meudon a half-hour ago, had
gone straight to the mayor for some definite news of what might be
happening in Paris that should either confirm or dispel the ominous
rumours that he had met in ever-increasing volume as he approached
the capital. Rougane informed him that insurrection was imminent,
that already the sections had possessed themselves of the barriers,
and that it was impossible for any person not fully accredited to
enter or leave the city.
Andre-Louis bowed his head, his thoughts of the gravest. He had
for some time perceived the danger of this second revolution from
within the first, which might destroy everything that had been done,
and give the reins of power to a villainous faction that would
plunge the country into anarchy. The thing he had feared was more
than ever on the point of taking place. He would go on at once,
that very night, and see for himself what was happening.
And then, as he was leaving, he turned again to Rougane to ask if
M. de Kercadiou was still at Meudon.
"You know him, monsieur?"
"He is my godfather."
"Your godfather! And you a representative! Why, then, you may be
the very man he needs." And Rougane told him of his son's errand
into Paris that afternoon and its result.
No more was required. That two years ago his godfather should upon
certain terms have refused him his house weighed for nothing at the
moment. He left his travelling carriage at the little inn and went
straight to M. de Kercadiou.
And M. de Kercadiou, startled in such an hour by this sudden
apparition, of one against whom he nursed a bitter grievance,
greeted him in terms almost identical with those in which in that
same room he had greeted him on a similar occasion once before.
"What do you want here, sir?"
"To serve you if possible, my godfather," was the disarming answer.
But it did not disarm M. de Kercadiou. "You have stayed away so
long that I hoped you would not again disturb me."
"I should not have ventured to disobey you now were it not for the
hope that I can be of service. I have seen Rougane, the mayor... "
"What's that you say about not venturing to disobey?"
"You forbade me your house, monsieur."
M. de Kercadiou stared at him helplessly.
"And is that why you have not come near me in all this time?"
"Of course. Why else?"
M. de Kercadiou continued to stare. Then he swore under his breath.
It disconcerted him to have to deal with a man who insisted upon
taking him so literally. He had expected that Andre-Louis would
have come contritely to admit his fault and beg to be taken back
into favour. He said so.
"But how could I hope that you meant less than you said, monsieur?
You were so very definite in your declaration. What expressions of
contrition could have served me without a purpose of amendment?
And I had no notion of amending. We may yet be thankful for that."
Back to Full Books