Scaramouche A Romance of the French Revolution
Part 8 out of 8
"I am a representative. I have certain powers. I am very
opportunely returning to Paris. Can I serve you where Rougane
cannot? The need, monsieur, would appear to be very urgent if the
half of what I suspect is true. Aline should be placed in safety
M. de Kercadiou surrendered unconditionally. He came over and took
"My boy," he said, and he was visibly moved, "there is in you a
certain nobility that is not to be denied. If I seemed harsh with
you, then, it was because I was fighting against your evil
proclivities. I desired to keep you out of the evil path of
politics that have brought this unfortunate country into so terrible
a pass. The enemy on the frontier; civil war about to flame out at
home. That is what you revolution. aries have done."
Andre-Louis did not argue. He passed on.
"About Aline?" he asked. And himself answered his own question:
"She is in Paris, and she must be brought out of it at once, before
the place becomes a shambles, as well it may once the passions that
have been brewing all these months are let loose. Young Rougane's
plan is good. At least, I cannot think of a better one."
"But Rougane the elder will not hear of it."
"You mean he will not do it on his own responsibility. But he has
consented to do it on mine. I have left him a note over my signature
to the effect that a safe-conduct for Mlle. de Kercadiou to go to
Paris and return is issued by him in compliance with orders from me.
The powers I carry and of which I have satisfied him are his
sufficient justification for obeying me in this. I have left him
that note on the understanding that he is to use it only in an
extreme case, for his own protection. In exchange he has given me
"You already have it!"
M. de Kercadiou took the sheet of paper that Andre-Louis held out.
His hand shook. He approached it to the cluster of candles burning
on the console and screwed up his short-sighted eyes to read.
"If you send that to Paris by young Rougane in the morning," said
Andre-Louis, "Aline should be here by noon. Nothing, of course,
could be done to-night without provoking suspicion. The hour is
too late. And now, monsieur my godfather, you know exactly why I
intrude in violation of your commands. If there is any other way
in which I can serve you, you have but to name it whilst I am here."
"But there is, Andre. Did not Rougane tell you that there were
"He mentioned Mme. de Plougastel and her servant."
"Then why... ?" M. de Kercadiou broke off, looking his question.
Very solemnly Andre-Louis shook his head.
"That is impossible," he said.
M. de Kercadiou's mouth fell open in astonishment. "Impossible!"
he repeated. "But why?"
"Monsieur, I can do what I am doing for Aline without offending my
conscience. Besides, for Aline I would offend my conscience and do
it. But Mme. de Plougastel is in very different case. Neither Aline
nor any of hers have been concerned in counter-revolutionary work,
which is the true source of the calamity that now threatens to
overtake us. I can procure her removal from Paris without
self-reproach, convinced that I am doing nothing that any one could
censure, or that might become the subject of enquiries. But Mme. de
Plougastel is the wife of M. le Comte de Plougastel, whom all the
world knows to be an agent between the Court and the emigres."
"That is no fault of hers," cried M. de Kercadiou through his
"Agreed. But she may be called upon at any moment to establish the
fact that she is not a party to these manoeuvres. It is known that
she was in Paris to-day. Should she be sought to-morrow and should
it be found that she has gone, enquiries will certainly be made,
from which it must result that I have betrayed my trust, and abused
my powers to serve personal ends. I hope, monsieur, that you will
understand that the risk is too great to be run for the sake of a
"A stranger?" said the Seigneur reproachfully.
"Practically a stranger to me," said Andre-Louis.
"But she is not a stranger to me, Andre. She is my cousin and very
dear and valued friend. And, mon Dieu, what you say but increases
the urgency of getting her out of Paris. She must be rescued, Andre,
at all costs - she must be rescued! Why, her case is infinitely
more urgent than Aline's!"
He stood a suppliant before his godson, very different now from the
stern man who had greeted him on his arrival. His face was pale,
his hands shook, and there were beads of perspiration on his brow.
"Monsieur my godfather, I would do anything in reason. But I cannot
do this. To rescue her might mean ruin for Aline and yourself as
well as for me."
"We must take the risk."
"You have a right to speak for yourself, of course."
"Oh, and for you, believe me, Andre, for you!" He came close to
the young man. "Andre, I implore you to take my word for that, and
to obtain this permit for Mme. de Plougastel."
Andre looked at him mystified. "This is fantastic," he said. "I
have grateful memories of the lady's interest in me for a few days
once when I was a child, and again more recently in Paris when she
sought to convert me to what she accounts the true political
religion. But I do not risk my neck for her - no, nor yours, nor
"Ah! But, Andre... "
"That is my last word, monsieur. It is growing late, and I desire
to sleep in Paris."
"No, no! Wait!" The Lord of Gavrillac was displaying signs of
unspeakable distress. "Andre, you must!"
There was in this insistence and, still more, in the frenzied
manner of it, something so unreasonable that Andre could not fail
to assume that some dark and mysterious motive lay behind it.
"I must?" he echoed. "Why must I? Your reasons,monsieur?"
"Andre, my reasons are overwhelming."
"Pray allow me to be the judge of that." Andre-Louis' manner was
The demand seemed to reduce M. de Kercadiou to despair. He paced
the room, his hands tight-clasped behind him, his brow wrinkled.
At last he came to stand before his godson.
"Can't you take my word for it that these reasons exist?" he cried
"In such a matter as this - a matter that may involve my neck? Oh,
monsieur, is that reasonable?"
"I violate my word of honour, my oath, if I tell you." M. de
Kercadiou turned away, wringing his hands, his condition visibly
piteous; then turned again to Andre. "But in this extremity, in
this desperate extremity, and since you so ungenerously insist, I
shall have to tell you. God help me, I have no choice. She will
realize that when she knows. Andre, my boy... " He paused again,
a man afraid. He set a hand on his godson's shoulder, and to his
increasing amazement Andre-Louis perceived that over those pale,
short-sighted eyes there was a film of tears. "Mme. de Plougastel
is your mother."
Followed, for a long moment, utter silence. This thing that he was
told was not immediately understood. When understanding came at
last Andre-Louis' first impulse was to cry out. But he possessed
himself, and played the Stoic. He must ever be playing something.
That was in his nature. And he was true to his nature even in this
supreme moment. He continued silent until, obeying that queer
histrionic instinct, he could trust himself to speak without emotion.
"I see," he said, at last, quite coolly.
His mind was sweeping back over the past. Swiftly he reviewed his
memories of Mme. de Plougastel, her singular if sporadic interest
in him, the curious blend of affection and wistfulness which her
manner towards him had always presented, and at last he understood
so much that hithert had intrigued him.
"I see," he said again; and added now, "Of course, any but a fool
would have guessed it long ago."
It was M. de Kercadiou who cried out, M. de Kercadiou who recoiled
as from a blow.
"My God, Andre, of what are you made? You can take such an
announcement in this fashion?".
"And how would you have me take it? Should it surprise me to
discover that I had a mother? After all, a mother is an
indispensable necessity to getting one's self born."
He sat down abruptly, to conceal the too-revealing fact that his
limbs were shaking. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to
mop his brow, which had grown damp. And then,quite suddenly, he
found himself weeping.
At the sight of those tears streaming silently down that face that
had turned so pale, M. de Kercadiou came quickly across to him. He
sat down beside him and threw an arm affectionately over his shoulder.
"Andre, my poor lad," he murmured. "I... I was fool enough to think
ou had no heart. You deceived me with your infernal pretence, and
now I see... I see... " He was not sure what it was that he saw, or
else he hesitated to express it.
"I: is nothing, monsieur. I am tired out, and... and I have a cold
in the head." And then, finding the part beyond his power, he
abruptly threw it up, utterly abandoned all pretence. "Why... why
has there been all this mystery?" he asked. "Was it intended that
I should never know?"
"I: was, Andre. It... it had to be, for prudence' sake."
"Eut why? Complete your confidence, sir. Surely you cannot leave
it there. Having told me so much, you must tell me all."
"'The reason, my boy, is that you were born some three years after
your mother's marriage with M. de Plougastel, some eighteen months
after M. de Plougastel had been away with the army, and some four
months before his return to his wife. It is a matter that M. de
Plougastel has never suspeted, and for gravest family reasons must
never suspect. That is why the utmost secrecy has been preserved.
That is why none was ever allowed to know. Your mother came betimes
into Brittany, and under an assumed name spent some months in the
village of Moreau. It was while she was there that you were born."
Andre-Louis turned it over in his mind. He had dried his tears.
And sat now rigid and collected.
"When you say that none was ever allowed to know, you are telling
me, of course, that you, monsieur... "
"Oh, mon Dieu, no!" The denial came in a violent outburst. M. de
Kercadiou sprang to his feet propelled from Andre's side by the
violence of his emotions. It was as if the very suggestion filled
him with horror. "I was the only other one who knew. But it is
not as you think, Andre. You cannot imagine that I should lie to
you, that I should deny you if you were my son?"
"If you say that I am not, monsieur, that is sufficient."
"You are not. I was Therese's cousin and also, as she well knew,
her truest friend. She knew that she could trust me; and it was
to me she came for help in her extremity. Once, years before, I
would have married her. But, of course, I am not the sort of man
a woman could love. She trusted, however, to my love for her, and
I have kept her trust."
"Then, who was my father?"
"I don't know. She never told me. It was her secret, and I did
not pry. It is not in my nature, Andre."
Andre-Louis got up, and stood silently facing M. de Kercadiou.
"You believe me, Andre."
"Naturally, monsieur; and I am sorry, I am sorry that I am not your
M. de Kercadiou gripped his godson's hand convulsively, and held
it a moment with no word spoken. Then as they fell away from each
"And now, what will you do, Andre?" he asked. "Now that you know?"
Andre-Louis stood awhile. considering, then broke into laughter.
The situation had its humours. He explained them.
"What difference should the knowledge make? Is filial piety to be
called into existence by the mere announcement of relationship? Am
I to risk my neck through lack of circumspection on behalf of a
mother so very circumspect that she had no intention of ever
revealing herself? The discovery rests upon the merest chance,
upon a fall of the dice of Fate. Is that to weigh with me?"
"The decision is with you, Andre."
"Nay, it is beyond me. Decide it who can, I cannot."
"You mean that you refuse even now?"
"I mean that I consent. Since I cannot decide what it is that I
should do, it only remains for me to do what a son should. It is
grotesque; but all life is grotesque."
"You will never, never regret it."
"I hope not," said Andre. "Yet I think it very likely that I shall.
And now I had better see Rougane again at once, and obtain from him
the other two permits required. Then perhaps it will be best that
I take them to Paris myself, in the morning. If you will give me a
bed, monsieur, I shall be grateful. I... I confess that I am hardly
in case to do more to-night."
Into the late afternoon of that endless day of horror with its
perpetual alarms, its volleying musketry, rolling drums, and distant
muttering of angry multitudes, Mme. de Plougastel and Aline sat
waiting in that handsome house in the Rue du Paradis. It was no
longer for Rougane they waited. They realized that, be the reason
what it might - and by now many reasons must no doubt exist - this
friendly messenger would not return. They waited without knowing
for what. They waited for whatever might betide.
At one time early in the afternoon the roar of battle approached
them, racing swiftly in their direction, swelling each moment in
volume and in horror. It was the frenzied clamour of a multitude
drunk with blood and bent on destruction. Near at hand that fierce
wave of humanity checked in its turbulent progress. Followed blows
of pikes upon a door and imperious calls to open, and thereafter
came the rending of timbers, the shivering of glass, screams of
terror blending with screams of rage, and, running through these
shrill sounds, the deeper diapason of bestial laughter.
It was a hunt of two wretched Swiss guardsmen seeking blindly to
escape. And they were run to earth in a house in the neighbourhood,
and there cruelly done to death by that demoniac mob. The thing
accomplished, the hunters, male and female, forming into a battalion,
came swinging down the Rue du Paradis, chanting the song of
Marseilles - a song new to Paris in those days:
Allons, enfants de la patrie!
Le jour de gloire est arrive
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'etendard sanglant est 1eve.
Nearer it came, raucously bawled by some hundreds of voices, a
dread sound that had come so suddenly to displace at least
temporarily the merry, trivial air of the "Ca ira!" which hitherto
had been the revolutionary carillon. Instinctively Mme. de
Plougastel and Aline clung to each other. They had heard the
sound of the ravishing of that other house in the neighbourhood,
without knowledge of the reason. What if now it should be the
turn of the Hotel Plougastel! There was no real cause to fear it,
save that amid a turmoil imperfectly understood and therefore the
more awe-inspiring, the worst must be feared always.
The dreadful song so dreadfully sung, and the thunder of heavily
shod feet upon the roughly paved street, passed on and receded.
They breathed again, almost as if a miracle had saved them, to
yield to fresh alarm an instant later, when madame's young footman,
Jacques, the most trusted of her servants, burst into their presence
unceremoniously with a scared face, bringing the announcement that
a man who had just climbed over the garden wall professed himself a
friend of madame's, and desired to be brought immediately to her
"But he looks like a sansculotte, madame," the staunch fellow
Her thoughts and hopes leapt at once to Rougane.
"Bring him in," she commanded breathlessly.
Jacques went out, to return presently accompanied by a tall man in
a long, shabby, and very ample overcoat and a wide-brimmed hat that
was turned down all round, and adorned by an enormous tricolour
cockade. This hat he removed as he entered.
Jacques, standing behind him, perceived that his hair, although now
in some disorder, bore signs of having been carefully dressed. It
was clubbed, and it carried some lingering vestiges of powder. The
young footman wondered what it was in the man's face, which was
turned from him, that should cause his mistress to out and recoil.
Then he found himself dismissed abruptly by a gesture.
The newcomer advanced to the middle of the salon, moving like a man
exhausted and breathing hard. There he leaned against a table,
across which he confronted Mme. de Plougastel. And she stood
regarding him, a strange horror in her eyes.
In the background, on a settle at the salon's far end, sat Aline
staring in bewilderment and some fear at a face which, if
unrecognizable through the mask of blood and dust that smeared it,
was yet familiar. And then the man spoke, and instantly she knew
the voice for that of the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr.
"My dear friend," he was saying, "forgive me if I startled you.
Forgive me if I thrust myself in here without leave, at such a time,
in such a manner. But... you see how it is with me. I am a
fugitive. In the course of my distracted flight, not knowing which
way to turn for safety, I thought of you. I told myself that if I
could but safely reach your house, I might find sanctuary."
"You are in danger?"
"In danger?" Almost he seemed silently to laugh at the unnecessary
question. "If I were to show myself openly in the streets just now,
I might with luck contrive to live for five minutes! My friend, it
has been a massacre. Some few of us escaped from the Tuileries at
the end, to be hunted to death in the streets. I doubt if by this
time a single Swiss survives. They had the worst of it, poor devils.
And as for us - my God! they hate us more than they hate the Swiss.
Hence this filthy disguise."
He peeled off the shaggy greatcoat, and casting it from him stepped
forth in the black satin that had been the general livery of the
hundred knights of the dagger who had rallied in the Tuileries that
morning to the defence of their king.
His coat was rent across the back, his neckcloth and the ruffles at
his wrists were torn and bloodstained; with his smeared face and
disordered headdress he was terrible to behold. Yet he contrived
to carry himself with his habitual easy assurance, remembered to
kiss the trembling hand which Mme. de Plougastel extended to him
"You did well to come to me, Gervais," she said. "Yes, here is
sanctuary for the present. You will be quite safe, at least for
as long as we are safe. My servants are entirely trustworthy.
Sit down and tell me all."
He obeyed her, collapsing almost into the armchair which she thrust
forward, a man exhausted, whether by physical exertion or by
nerve-strain, or both. He drew a handkerchief from his pocket and
wiped some of the blood and dirt from his face.
"It is soon told." His tone was bitter with the bitterness of
despair. "This, my dear, is the end of us. Plougastel is lucky in
being across the frontier at such a time. Had I not been fool
enough to trust those who to-day have proved themselves utterly
unworthy of trust, that is where I should be myself. My remaining
in Paris is the crowning folly of a life full of follies and
mistakes. That I should come to you in my hour of most urgent need
adds point to it." He laughed in his bitterness.
Madame moistened her dry lips. "And... and now?" she asked him.
"It only remains to get away as soon as may be, if it is still
possible. Here in France there is no longer any room for us - at
least, not above ground. To-day has proved it." And then he looked
up at her, standing there beside him so pale and timid, and he
smiled. He patted the fine hand that rested upon the arm of his
chair. "My dear Therese, unless you carry charitableness to the
length of giving me to drink, you will see me perish of thirst
under your eyes before ever the canaille has a chance to finish me."
She started. "I should have thought of it!" she cried in
self-reproach, and she turned quickly. "Aline," she begged, "tell
Jacques to bring... "
"Aline!" he echoed,interrupting, and swinging round in his turn.
Then, as Aline rose into view, detaching from her background, and
he at last perceived her, he heaved himself abruptly to his weary
legs again, and stood there stiffly bowing to her across the space
of gleaming floor. "Mademoiselle, I had not suspected your
presence," he said, and he seemed extraordinarily ill-at-ease, a
man startled, as if caught in an illicit act.
"I perceived it, monsieur," she answered, as she advanced to do
madame's commission. She paused before him. "From my heart,
monsieur, I grieve that we should meet again in circumstances so
Not since the day of his duel with Andre-Louis - the day which had
seen the death and burial of his last hope of winning her - had
they stood face to face.
He checked as if on the point of answering her. His glance strayed
to Mme. de Plougastel, and, oddly reticent for one who could be
very glib, he bowed in silence.
"But sit, monsieur, I beg. You are fatigued."
"You are gracious to observe it. With your permission, then." And
he resumed his seat. She continued on her way to the door and
passed out upon her errand.
When presently she returned they had almost unaccountably changed
places. It was Mme. de Plougastel who was seated in that armchair
of brocade and gilt, and M. de La Tour d'Azyr who, despite his
lassitude, was leaning over the back of it talking earnestly,
seeming by his attitude to plead with her. On Aline's entrance he
broke off instantly and moved away, so that she was left with a
sense of having intruded. Further she observed that the Countess
was in tears.
Following her came presently the diligent Jacques, bearing a tray
laden with food and wine. Madame poured for her guest, and he
drank a long draught of the Burgundy, then begged, holding forth
his grimy hands, that he might mend his appearance before sitting
down to eat.
He was led away and valeted by Jacques, and when he returned he had
removed from his person the last vestige of the rough handling he
had received. He looked almost his normal self, the disorder in
his attire repaired, calm and dignified and courtly in his bearing,
but very pale and haggard of face, seeming suddenly to have
increased in years, to have reached in appearance the age that was
in fact his own.
As he ate and drank - and this with appetite, for as he told them
he had not tasted food since early morning - he entered into the
details of the dreadful events of the day, and gave them the
particulars of his own escape from the Tuileries when all was seen
to be lost and when the Swiss, having burnt their last cartridge,
were submitting to wholesale massacre at the hands of the
indescribably furious mob.
"Oh, it was all most ill done," he ended critically. "We were timid
when we should have been resolute, and resolute at last when it was
too late. That is the history of our side from the beginning of
this accursed struggle. We have lacked proper leadership throughout,
and now - as I have said already - there is an end to us. It but
remains to escape, as soon as we can discover how the thing is to
Madame told him of the hopes that she had centred upon Rougane.
It lifted him out of his gloom. He was disposed to be optimistic.
"You are wrong to have abandoned that hope," he assured her. "If
this mayor is so well disposed, he certainly can do as his son
promised. But last night it would have been too late for him to
have reached you, and to-day, assuming that he had come to Paris,
almost impossible for him to win across the streets from the other
side. It is most likely that he will yet come. I pray that he may;
for the knowledge that you and Mlle. de Kercadiou are out of this
would comfort me above all."
"We should take you with us," said madame.
"Ah! But how?"
"Young Rougane was to bring me permits for three persons - Aline,
myself, and my footman, Jacques. You would take the place of Jacques."
"Faith, to get out of Paris, madame, there is no man whose place I
would not take." And he laughed.
Their spirits rose with his and their flagging hopes revived. But
as dusk descended again upon the city, without any sign of the
deliverer they awaited, those hopes began to ebb once more.
M. de La Tour d'Azyr at last pleaded weariness, and begged to be
permitted to withdraw that he might endeavour to take some rest
against whatever might have to be faced in the immediate future.
When he had gone, madame persuaded Aline to go and lie down.
"I will call you, my dear, the moment he arrives," she said,
bravely maintaining that pretence of a confidence that had by now
Aline kissed her affectionately, and departed, outwardly so calm
and unperturbed as to leave the Countess wondering whether she
realized the peril by which they were surrounded, a peril
infinitely increased by the presence in that house of a man so
widely known and detested as M. de La Tour d'Azyr, a man who was
probably being sought for by his enemies at this moment.
Left alone, madame lay down on a couch in the salon itself, to be
ready for any emergency. It was a hot summer night, and the glass
doors opening upon the luxuriant garden stood wide to admit the
air. On that air came intermittently from the distance sounds of
the continuing horrible activities of the populace, the aftermath
of that bloody day.
Mme. de Plougastel lay there, listening to those sounds for upwards
of an hour, thanking Heaven that for the present at least the
disturbances were distant, dreading lest at any moment they should
occur nearer at hand, lest this Bondy section in which her hotel
was situated should become the scene of horrors similar to those
whose echoes reached her ears from other sections away to the south
The couch occupied by the Countess lay in shadow; for all the lights
in that long salon had been extinguished with the exception of a
cluster of candles in a massive silver candle branch placed on a
round marquetry table in the middle of the room - an island of light
in the surrounding gloom.
The timepiece on the overmantel chimed melodiously the hour of ten,
and then, startling in the suddenness with which it broke the
immediate silence, another sound vibrated through the house, and
brought madame to her feet, in a breathless mingling of hope and
dread. Some one was knocking sharply on the door below. Followed
moments of agonized suspense, culminating in the abrupt invasion of
the room by the footman Jacques. He looked round, not seeing his
mistress at first.
"Madame! Madame!" he panted, out of breath.
"What is it, Jacques!" Her voice was steady now that the need for
self-control seemed thrust upon her. She advanced from the shadows
into that island of light about the table. "There is a man below.
He is asking... he is demanding to see you at once."
"A man?" she questioned.
"He... he seems to be an official; at least he wears the sash of
office. And he refuses to give any name; he says that his name
would convey nothing to you. He insists that he must see you in
person and at once."
"An official?" said madame.
"An official," Jacques repeated. "I would not have admitted him,
but that he demanded it in the name of the Nation. Madame, it is
for you to say what shall be done. Robert is with me. If you
wish it... whatever it may be... "
"My good Jacques, no, no." She was perfectly composed. If this
man intended evil, surely he would not come alone. Conduct him to
me, and then beg Mlle. de Kercadiou to join me if she is awake."
Jacques departed, himself partly reassured. Madame seated herself
in the armchair by the table well within the light. She smoothed
her dress with a mechanical hand. If, as it would seem, her hopes
had been futile, so had her momentary fears. A man on any but an
errand of peace would have brought some following with him, as she
The door opened again, and Jacques reappeared; after him, stepping
briskly past him, came a slight man in a wide-brimmed hat, adorned
by a tricolour cockade. About the waist of an olive-green
riding-coat he wore a broad tricolour sash; a sword hung at his side.
He swept off his hat, and the candlelight glinted on the steel
buckle in front of it. Madame found herself silently regarded by
a pair of large, dark eyes set in a lean, brown face, eyes that
were most singularly intent and searching.
She leaned forward, incredulity swept across her countenance. Then
her eyes kindled, and the colour came creeping back into her pale
cheeks. She rose suddenly. She was trembling.
"Andre-Louis!" she exclaimed.
That gift of laughter of his seemed utterly extinguished. For once
there was no gleam of humour in those dark eyes, as they continued
to consider her with that queer stare of scrutiny. And yet, though
his gaze was sombre, his thoughts were not. With his cruelly true
mental vision which pierced through shams, and his capacity for
detached observation - which properly applied might have carried him
very far, indeed - he perceived the grotesqueness, the artificiality
of the emotion which in that moment he experienced, but by which he
refused to be possessed. It sprang entirely from the consciousness
that she was his mother; as if, all things considered, the more or
less accidental fact that she had brought him into the world could
establish between them any real bond at this time of day! The
motherhood that bears and forsakes is less than animal. He had
considered this; he had been given ample leisure in which to consider
it during those long, turbulent hours in which he had been forced to
wait, because it would have been almost impossible to have won across
that seething city, and certainly unwise to have attempted so to do.
He had reached the conclusion that by consenting to go to her rescue
at such a time he stood committed to a piece of purely sentimental
quixotry. The quittances which the Mayor of Meudon had exacted from
him before he would issue the necessary safe-conducts placed the
whole of his future, perhaps his very life, in jeopardy. And he
had consented to do this not for the sake of a reality, but out of
regard for an idea - he who all his life had avoided the false lure
of worthless and hollow sentimentality.
Thus thought Andre-Louis as he considered her now so searchingly,
finding it, naturally enough, a matter of extraordinary interest to
look consciously upon his mother for the first time at the age of
>From her he looked at last at Jacques, who remained at attention,
waiting by the open door.
"Could we be alone, madame?" he asked her.
She waved the footman away, and the door closed. In agitated
silence, unquestioning, she waited for him to account for his
presence there at so extraordinary a time.
"Rougane could not return," he informed her shortly. At M. de
Kercadiou's request, I come instead."
"You! You are sent to rescue us!" The note of amazement in her
voice was stronger than that of het relief.
"That, and to make your acquaintance, madame."
"To make my acquaintance? But what do you mean, Andre-Louis?"
"This letter from M. de Kercadiou will tell you." Intrigued by his
odd words and odder manner, she took the folded sheet. She broke
the seal with shaking hands, and with shaking hands approached the
written page to the light. Her eyes grew troubled as she read; the
shaking of her hands increased, and midway through that reading a
moan escaped her. One glance that was almost terror she darted at
the slim, straight man standing so incredibly impassive upon the
edge of the light, and then she endeavoured to read on. But the
crabbed characters of M. de Kercadiou swam distortedly under her
eyes. She could not read. Besides, what could it matter what else
he said. She had read enough. The sheet fluttered from her hands
to the table, and out of a face that was like a face of wax, she
looked now with a wistfulness, a sadness indescribable, at
"And so you know, my child?" Her voice was stifled to a whisper.
"I know, madame my mother."
The grimness, the subtle blend of merciless derision and reproach
in which it was uttered completely escaped her. She cried out at
the new name. For her in that moment time and the world stood
still. Her peril there in Paris as the wife of an intriguer at
Coblenz was blotted out, together with every other consideration
- thrust out of a consciousness that could find room for nothing
else beside the fact that she stood acknowledged by her only son,
this child begotten in adultery, borne furtively and in shame in a
remote Brittany village eight-and-twenty years ago. Not even a
thought for the betrayal of that inviolable secret, or the con-
sequences that might follow, could she spare in this supreme moment.
She took one or two faltering steps towards him, hesitating. Then
she opened her arms. Sobs suffocated her voice.
"Won't you come to me, Andre-Louis?"
A moment yet he stood hesitating, startled by that appeal, angered
almost by his heart's response to it, reason and sentiment at grips
in his soul. This was not real, his reason postulated; this
poignant emotion that she displayed and that he experienced was
fantastic. Yet he went. Her arms enfolded him; her wet cheek was
pressed hard against his own; her frame, which the years had not
yet succeeded in robbing of its grace, was shaken by the passionate
storm within her.
"Oh, Andre-Louis, my child, if you knew how I have hungered to hold
you so! If you knew how in denying myself this I have atoned and
suffered! Kercadiou should not have told you - not even now. It
was wrong - most wrong, perhaps, to you. It would have been better
that he should have left me here to my fate, whatever that may be.
And yet - come what may of this - to be able to hold you so, to be
able to acknowledge you, to hear you call me mother - oh!
Andre-Louis, I cannot now regret it. I cannot... I cannot wish it
"Is there any need, madame?" he asked her, his stoicism deeply
shaken. "There is no occasion to take others into our confidence.
This is for to-night alone. To-night we are mother and son.
To-morrow we resume our former places, and, outwardly at least,
"Forget? Have you no heart, Andre-Louis?"
The question recalled him curiously to his attitude towards life
- that histrionic attitude of his that he accounted true philosophy.
Also he remembered what lay before them; and he realized that he
must master not only himself but her; that to yield too far to
sentiment at such a time might be the ruin of them all.
"It is a question propounded to me so often that it must contain
the truth," said he. "My rearing is to blame for that."
She tightened her clutch about his neck even as he would have
attempted to disengage himself from her embrace.
"You do not blame me for your rearing? Knowing all, as you do,
Andre-Louis, you cannot altogether blame. You must be merciful to
me. You must forgive me. You must! I had no choice."
"When we know all of whatever it may be, we can never do anything
but forgive, madame. That is the profoundest religious truth that
was ever written. It contains, in fact, a whole religion - the
noblest religion any man could have to guide him. I say this for
your comfort, madame my mother."
She sprang away from him with a startled cry. Beyond him in the
shadows by the door a pale figure shimmered ghostly. It advanced
into the light, and resolved itself into Aline. She had come in
answer to that forgotten summons madame had sent her by Jacques.
Entering unperceived she had seen Andre-Louis in the embrace of
the woman whom he addressed as "mother." She had recognized him
instantly by his voice, and she could not have said what bewildered
her more: his presence there or the thing she overheard.
"You heard, Aline?" madame exclaimed.
"I could not help it, madame. You sent for me. I am sorry if... "
She broke off, and looked at Andre-Louis long and curiously. She
was pale, but quite composed. She held out her hand to him. "And
so you have come at last, Andre," said she. "You might have come
"I come when I am wanted," was his answer. "Which is the only time
in which one can be sure of being received." He said it without
bitterness, and having said it stooped to kiss her hand.
"You can forgive me what is past, I hope, since I failed of my
purpose," he said gently, half-pleading. "I could not have come to
you pretending that the failure was intentional - a compromise
between the necessities of the case and your own wishes. For it
was not that. And yet, you do not seem to have profited by my
failure. You are still a maid."
She turned her shoulder to him.
"There are things," she said, "that you will never understand."
"Life, for one," he acknowledged. "I confess that I am finding it
bewildering. The very explanations calculated to simplify it seem
but to complicate it further." And he looked at Mme. de Plougastel.
"You mean something, I suppose," said mademoiselle.
"Aline!" It was the Countess who spoke. She knew the danger of
half-discoveries. "I can trust you, child, I know, and Andre-Louis,
I am sure, will offer no objection." She had taken up the letter
to show it to Aline. Yet first her eyes questioned him.
"Oh, none, madame," he assured her. "It is entirely a matter for
Aline looked from one to the other with troubled eyes, hesitating
to take the letter that was now proffered. When she had read it
through, she very thoughtfully replaced it on the table. A moment
she stood there with bowed head, the other two watching her. Then
impulsively she ran to madame and put her arms about her.
"Aline!" It was a cry of wonder, almost of joy. "You do not
utterly abhor me!"
"My dear," said Aline, and kissed the tear-stained face that seemed
to have grown years older in these last few hours.
In the background Andre-Louis, steeling himself against emotionalism,
spoke with the voice of Scaramouche.
"It would be well, mesdames, to postpone all transports until they
can be indulged at greater leisure and in more security. It is
growing late. If we are to get out of this shambles we should be
wise to take the road without more delay."
It was a tonic as effective as it was necessary. It startled them
into remembrance of their circumstances, and under the spur of it
they went at once to make their preparations.
They left him for perhaps a quarter of an hour, to pace that long
room alone, saved only from impatience by the turmoil of his mind.
When at length they returned, they were accompanied by a tall man
in a full-skirted shaggy greatcoat and a broad hat the brim of
which was turned down all around. He remained respectfully by the
door in the shadows.
Between them the two women had concerted it thus, or rather the
Countess had so concerted it when Aline had warned her that
Andre-Louis' bitter hostility towards the Marquis made it
unthinkable that he should move a finger consciously to save him.
Now despite the close friendship uniting M. de Kercadiou and his
niece with Mme. de Plougastel, there were several matters concerning
them of which the Countess was in ignorance. One of these was the
project at one time existing of a marriage between Aline and M. de
La Tour d'Azyr. It was a matter that Aline - naturally enough in
the state of her feelings - had never mentioned, nor had M. de
Kercadiou ever alluded to it since his coming to Meudon, by when he
had perceived how unlikely it was ever to be realized.
M. de La Tour d'Azyr's concern for Aline on that morning of the
duel when he had found her baif-swooning in Mme. de Plougastel's
carriage had been of a circumspection that betrayed nothing of his
real interest in her, and therefore had appeared no more than
natural in one who must account himself the cause of her distress.
Similarly Mme. de Plougastel had never realized nor did she realize
now - for Aline did not trouble fully to enlighten her - that the
hostility between the two men was other than political, the quarrel
other than that which already had taken Andre-Louis to the Bois on
every day of the preceding week. But, at least, she realized that
even if Andre-Louis' rancour should have no other source, yet that
inconclusive duel was cause enough for Aline's fears.
And so she had proposed this obvious deception; and Aline had
consented to be a passive party to it. They had made the mistake
of not fully forewarning and persuading M. de La Tour d'Azyr. They
had trusted entirely to his anxiety to escape from Paris to keep
him rigidly within the part imposed upon him. They had reckoned
without the queer sense of honour that moved such men as M. le
Marquis, nurtured upon a code of shams.
Andre-Louis, turning to scan that muffled figure, advanced from
the dark depths of the salon. As the light beat on his white,
lean face the pseudo-footman started. The next moment he too
stepped forward into the light, and swept his broad-brimmed hat
from his brow. As he did so Andre-Louis observed that his hand
was fine and white and that a jewel flashed from one of the
fingers. Then he caught his breath, and stiffened in every line
as he recognized the face revealed to him.
"Monsieur," that stern, proud man was saying, "I cannot take
advantage of your ignorance. If these ladies can persuade you to
save me, at least it is due to you that you shall know whom you
He stood there by the table very erect and dignified, ready to
perish as he had lived - if perish he must - without fear and
Andre-Louis came slowly forward until he reached the table on the
other side, and then at last the muscles of his set face relaxed,
and he laughed.
"You laugh?" said M. de La Tour dAzyr, frowning, offended.
"It is so damnably amusing," said Andre-Louis.
"You've an odd sense of humour, M. Moreau."
"Oh, admitted. The unexpected always moves me so. I have found
you many things in the course of our acquaintance. To-night you
are the one thing I never expected to find you: an honest man."
M. de La Tour d'Azyr quivered. But he attempted no reply.
"Because of that, monsieur, I am disposed to be clement. It is
probably a foolishness. But you have surprised me into it. I
give you three minutes, monsieur, in which to leave this house, and
to take your own measures for your safety. What afterwards happens
to you shall be no concern of mine.
"Ah, no, Andre! Listen... " Madame began in anguish.
"Pardon, madame. It is the utmost that I will do, and already I
am violating what I conceive to be my duty. If M. de La Tour d'Azyr
remains he not only ruins himself, but he imperils you. For unless
he departs at once, he goes with me to the headquarters of the
section, and the section will have his head on a pike inside the
hour. He is a notorious counter-revolutionary, a knight of the
dagger, one of those whom an exasperated populace is determined to
exterminate. Now, monsieur, you know what awaits you. Resolve
yourself and at once, for these ladies' sake."
"But you don't know, Andre-Louis!" Mme. de Plougastel's condition
was one of anguish indescribable. She came to him and clutched his
arm. "For the love of Heaven, Andre-Louis, be merciful with him!
"But that is what I am being, madame - merciful; more merciful than
he deserves. And he knows it. Fate has meddled most oddly in our
concerns to bring us together to-night. Almost it is as if Fate
were forcing retribution at last upon him. Yet, for your sakes, I
take no advantage of it, provided that he does at once as I have
And now from beyond the table the Marquis spoke icily, and as he
spoke his right hand stirred under the ample folds of his greatcoat.
"I am glad, M. Moreau, that you take that tone with me. You relieve
me of the last scruple. You spoke of Fate just now, and I must
agree with you that Fate has meddled oddly, though perhaps not to
the end that you discern. For years now you have chosen to stand
in my path and thwart me at every turn, holding over me a perpetual
menace. Persistently you have sought my life in various ways, first
indirectly and at last directly. Your intervention in my affairs
has ruined my highest hopes - more effectively, perhaps, than you
suppose. Throughout you have been my evil genius. And you are even
one of the agents of this climax of despair that has been reached
by me to-night."
"Wait! Listen!" Madame was panting. She flung away from
Andre-Louis, as if moved by some premonition of what was coming.
"Gervais! This is horrible!"
"Horrible, perhaps, but inevitable. Himself he has invited it. I
am a man in despair, the fugitive of a lost cause. That man holds
the keys of escape. And, besides, between him and me there is a
reckoning to be paid."
His hand came from beneath the coat at last, and it came armed with
Mme. de Plougastel screamed, and flung herself upon him. On her
knees now, she clung to his arm with all her strength and might.
Vainly he sought to shake himself free of that desperate clutch.
"Therese!" he cried. "Are you mad? Will you destroy me and
yourself? This creature has the safe-conducts that mean our
salvation. Himself, he is nothing."
>From the background Aline, a breathless, horror-stricken spectator
of that scene, spoke sharply, her quick mind pointing out the
line of checkmate.
"Burn the safe-conducts, Andre-Louis. Burn them at once - in the
But Andre-Louis had taken advantage of that moment of M. de La Tour
d'Azyr's impotence to draw a pistol in his turn. "T think it will
be better to burn his brains instead," he said. "Stand away from
Far from obeying that imperious command, Mme. de Plougastel rose
to her feet to cover the Marquis with her body. But she still
clung to his arm, clung to it with unsuspected strength that
continued to prevent him from attempting to use the pistol.
"Andre! For God's sake, Andre!" she panted hoarsely over her
"Stand away, madame," he commanded her again, more sternly, "and
let this murderer take his due. He is jeopardizing all our lives,
and his own has been forfeit these years. Stand away!" He sprang
forward with intent now to fire at his enemy over her shoulder, and
Aline moved too late to hinder him.
Panting, gasping, haggard of face, on the verge almost of hysteria,
the distracted Countess flung at last an effective, a terrible
barrier between the hatred of those men, each intent upon taking
the other's life.
"He is your father, Andre! Gervais, he is your son - our son! The
letter there... on the table... 0 my God!" And she slipped
nervelessly to the ground, and crouched there sobbing at the feet
of M. de La Tour d'Azyr.
Across the body of that convulsively sobbing woman, the mother of
one and the mistress of the other, the eyes of those mortal enemies
met, invested with a startled, appalled interest that admitted of
Beyond the table, as if turned to stone by this culminating horror
of revelation, stood Aline.
M. de La Tour d'Azyr was the first to stir. Into his bewildered
mind came the memory of something that Mme. de Plougastel had said
of a letter that was on the table. He came forward, unhindered.
The announcement made, Mme. de Plougastel no longer feared the
sequel, and so she let him go. He walked unsteadily past this
new-found son of his, and took up the sheet that lay beside the
candlebranch. A long moment he stood reading it, none heeding him.
Aline's eyes were all on Andre-Louis, full of wonder and
commiseration, whilst Andre-Louis was staring down, in stupefied
fascination, at his mother.
M. de La Tour d'Azyr read the letter slowly through. Then very
quietly he replaced it. His next concern, being the product of
an artificial age sternly schooled in the suppression of emotion,
was to compose himself. Then he stepped back to Mme. de Plougastel's
side and stooped to raise her.
"Therese," he said.
Obeying, by instinct, the implied command, she made an effort to
rise and to control herself in her turn. The Marquis half conducted,
half carried her to the armchair by the table.
Andre-Louis looked on. Still numbed and bewildered, he made no
attempt to assist. He saw as in a dream the Marquis bending over
Mme. de Plougastel. As in a dream he heard him ask:
"How long have you known this, Therese?"
"I... I have always known it... always. I confided him to Kercadiou.
I saw him once as a child... Oh, but what of that?"
"Why was I never told? Why did you deceive me? Why did you tell
me that this child had died a few days after birth? Why, Therese?
"I was afraid. I... I thought it better so - that nobody, nobody,
not even you, should know. And nobody has known save Quintin until
last night, when to induce him to come here and save me he was
forced to tell him."
"But I, Therese?" the Marquis insisted. "It was my right to know."
"Your right? What could you have done? Acknowledge him? And then?
Ha!" It was a queer, desperate note of laughter. "There was
Plougastel; there was my family. And there was you... you, yourself,
who had ceased to care, in whom the fear of discovery had stifled
love. Why should I have told you, then? Why? I should not have
told you now had there been any other way to... to save you both.
Once before I suffered just such dreadful apprehensions when you
and he fought in the Bois. I was on my way to prevent it when you
met me. I would have divulged the truth, as a last resource, to
avert that horror. But mercifully God spared me the necessity then."
It had not occurred to any of them to doubt her statement, incredible
though it might seem. Had any done so her present words must have
resolved all doubt, explaining as they did much that to each of her
listeners had been obscure until this moment.
M. de La Tour d'Azyr, overcome; reeled away to a chair and sat down
heavily. Losing command of himself for a moment, he took his
haggard face in his hands.
Through the windows open to the garden came from the distance the
faint throbbing of a drum to remind them of what was happening
around them. But the sound went unheeded. To each it must have
seemed that here they were face to face with a horror greater than
any that might be tormenting Paris. At last Andre-Louis began to
speak, his voice level and unutterably cold.
"M. de La Tour d'Azyr," he said, "I trust that you'll agree that
this disclosure, which can hardly be more distasteful and horrible
to you than it is to me, alters nothing, - since it effaces nothing
of all that lies between us. Or, if it alters anything, it is
merely to add something to that score. And yet... Oh, but what can
it avail to talk! Here, monsieur, take this safe-conduct which is
made out for Mme. de Plougastel's footman, and with it make your
escape as best you can. In return I will beg of you the favour
never to allow me to see you or hear of you again."
"Andre!" His mother swung upon him with that cry. And yet again
that question. "Have you no heart? What has he ever done to you
that you should nurse so bitter a hatred of him?"
"You shall hear, madame. Once, two years ago in this very room I
told you of a man who had brutally killed my dearest friend and
debauched the girl I was to have married. M. de La Tour d'Azyr is
A moan was her only answer. She covered her face with her hands.
The Marquis rose slowly to his feet again. He came slowly forward,
his smouldering eyes scanning his son's face.
"You are hard," he said grimly. "But I recognize the hardness.
It derives from the blood you bear."
"Spare me that," said Andre-Louis.
The Marquis inclined his head. "I will not mention it again. But
I desire that you should at least understand me, and you too, Therese.
You accuse me, sir, of murdering your dearest friend. I will admit
that the means employed were perhaps unworthy. But what other means
were at my command to meet an urgency that every day since then
proves to have existed? M. de Vilmorin was a revolutionary, a man
of new ideas that should overthrow society and rebuild it more akin
to the desires of such as himself. I belonged to the order that
quite as justifiably desired society to remain as it was. Not only
was it better so for me and mine, but I also contend, and you have
yet to prove me wrong, that it is better so for all the world; that,
indeed, no other conceivable society is possible. Every human
society must of necessity be composed of several strata. You may
disturb it temporarily into an amorphous whole by a revolution such
as this; but only temporarily. Soon out of the chaos which is all
that you and your kind can ever produce, order must be restored or
life will perish; and with the restoration of order comes the
restoration of the various strata necessary to organized society.
Those that were yesterday at the top may in the new order of things
find themselves dispossessed without any benefit to the whole. That
change I resisted. The spirit of it I fought with whatever weapons
were available, whenever and wherever I encountered it. M. de
Vilmorin was an incendiary of the worst type, a man of eloquence
full of false ideals that misled poor ignorant men into believing
that the change proposed could make the world a better place for
them. You are an intelligent man, and I defy you to answer me from
your heart and conscience that such a thing was true or possible.
You know that it is untrue; you know that it is a pernicious
doctrine; and what made it worse on the lips of M. de Vilmorin was
that he was sincere and eloquent. His voice was a danger that must
be removed - silenced. So much was necessary in self-defence. In
self-defence I did it. I had no grudge against M. de Vilmorin. He
was a man of my own class; a gentleman of pleasant ways, amiable,
estimable, and able.
"You conceive me slaying him for the very lust of slaying, like
some beast of the jungle flinging itself upon its natural prey.
That has been your error from the first. I did what I did with the
very heaviest heart - oh, spare me your sneer! - I do not lie, I
have never lied. And I swear to you here and now, by my every hope
of Heaven, that what I say is true. I loathed the thing I did.
Yet for my own sake and the sake of my order I must do it. Ask
yourself whether M. de Vilmorin would have hesitated for a moment
if by procuring my death he could have brought the Utopia of his
dreams a moment nearer realization.
"After that. You determined that the sweetest vengeance would be
to frustrate my ends by reviving in yourself the voice that I had
silenced, by yourself carrying forward the fantastic apostleship
of equality that was M. de Vilmorin's. You lacked the vision that
would have shown you that God did not create men equals. Well,
you are in case to-night to judge which of us was right, which
rong. You see what is happening here in Paris. You see the foul
spectre of Anarchy stalking through a land fallen into confusion.
Probably you have enough imagination to conceive something of what
must follow. And do you deceive yourself that out of this filth
and ruin there will rise up an ideal form of society? Don't you
understand that society must re-order itself presently out of all
"But why say more? I must have said enough to make you understand
the only thing that really matters - that I killed M. de Vilmorin
as a matter of duty to my order. And the truth - which though it
may offend you should also convince you - is that to-night I can
ook back on the deed with equanimity, without a single regret, apart
from what lies between you and me.
"When, kneeling beside the body of your friend that day at
Gavrillac, you insulted and provoked me, had I been the tiger you
conceived me I must have killed you too. I am, as you may know, a
man of quick passions. Yet I curbed the natural anger you aroused
in me, because I could forgive an affront to myself where I could
not overlook a calculated attack upon my order."
He paused a moment. Andre-Louis stood rigid listening and wondering.
So, too, the others. Then M. le Marquis resumed, on a note of less
assurance. "In the matter of Mlle. Binet I was unfortunate. I
wronged you through inadvertence. I had no knowledge of the
relations between you."
Andre-Louis interrupted him 'sharply at last with a question: "Would
it have made a difference if you had?"
"No," he was answered frankly. "I have the faults of my kind. I
cannot pretend that any such scruple as you suggest would have
weighed with me. But can you - if you are capable of any detached
judgment - blame me very much for that?"
"All things considered, monsieur, I am rapidly being forced to the
conclusion that it is impossible to blame any man for anything in
this world; that we are all of us the sport of destiny. Consider,
monsieur, this gathering - this family gathering - here to-night,
whilst out there... 0 my God, let us make an end! Let us go our
ways and write 'finis' to this horrible chapter of our lives."
M. le La Tour considered him gravely, sadly, in silence for a moment.
"Perhaps it is best," he said, at length, in a small voice. He
turned to Mme. de Plougastel. "If a wrong I have to admit in my
life, a wrong that I must bitterly regret, it is the wrong that I
have done to you, my dear... "
"Not now, Gervais! Not now!" she faltered, interrupting him.
"Now - for the first and the last time. I am going. It is not
likely that we shall ever meet again - that I shall ever see any
of you again - you who should have been the nearest and dearest to
me. We are all, he says, the sport of destiny. Ah, but not quite.
Destiny is an intelligent force, moving with purpose. In life we
pay for the evil that in life we do. That is the lesson that I
have learnt to-night. By an act of betrayal I begot unknown to me
a son who, whilst as ignorant as myself of our relationship, has
come to be the evil genius of my life, to cross and thwart me, and
finally to help to pull me down in ruin. It is just - poetically
just. My full and resigned acceptance of that fact is the only
atonement I can offer you."
He stooped and took one of madame's hands that lay limply in her lap.
"Good-bye, Therese!" His voice broke. He had reached the end of
his iron self-control.
She rose and clung to him a moment, unashamed before them. The
ashes of that dead romance had been deeply stirred this night, and
deep down some lingering embers had been found that glowed brightly
now before their final extinction. Yet she made no attempt to
detain him. She understood that their son had pointed out the only
wise, the only possible course, and was thankful that M. de La Tour
d'Azyr accepted it.
"God keep you, Gervais," she murmured. "You will take the
safe-conduct, and... and you will let me know when you are safe?"
He held her face between his hands an instant; then very gently
kissed her and put her from him. Standing erect, and outwardly calm
again, he looked across at Andre-Louis who was proffering him a
sheet of paper.
"It is the safe-conduct. Take it, monsieur. It is my first and
last gift to you, and certainly the last gift I should ever have
thought of making you - the gift of life. In a sense it makes us
quits. The irony, sir, is not mine, but Fate's. Take it, monsieur,
and go in peace."
M. de La Tour d'Azyr took it. His eyes looked hungrily into the
lean face confronting him, so sternly set. He thrust the paper
into his bosom, and then abruptly, convulsively, held out his hand.
His son's eyes asked a question.
"Let there be peace between us, in God's name," said the Marquis
Pity stirred at last in Andre-Louis. Some of the sternness left
his face. He sighed. "Good-bye, monsieur," he said.
"You are hard," his father told him, speaking wistfully. "But
perhaps you are in the right so to be. In other circumstances I
should have been proud to have owned you as my son. As it is... "
He broke off abruptly, and as abruptly added, "Good-bye."
He loosed his son's hand and stepped back. They bowed formally to
each other. And then M. de La Tour d'Azyr bowed to Mlle. de
Kercadiou in utter silence, a bow that contained something of
utter renunciation, of finality.
That done he turned and walked stiffly out of the room, and so
out of all their lives. Months later they were to hear if him
in the service of the Emperor of Austria.
Andre-Louis took the air next morning on the terrace at Meudon. The
hour was very early, and the newly risen sun was transmuting into
diamonds the dewdrops that still lingered on the lawn. Down in the
valley, five miles away, the morning mists were rising over Paris.
Yet early as it was that house on the hill was astir already, in a
bustle of preparation for the departure that was imminent.
Andre-Louis had won safely out of Paris last night with his mother
and Aline, and to-day they were to set out all of them for Coblenz.
To Andre-Louis, sauntering there with hands clasped behind him and
head hunched between his shoulders - for life had never been richer
in material for reflection - came presently Aline through one of
the glass doors from the library.
"You're early astir," she greeted him.
"Faith, yes. I haven't been to bed. No," he assured her, in answer
to her exclamation. "I spent the night or what was left of it
sitting at the window thinking."
"My poor Andre!"
"You describe me perfectly. I am very poor - for I know nothing,
understand nothing. It is not a calamitous condition until it is
realized. Then... " He threw out his arms, and let them fall again.
His face she observed was very drawn and haggard.
She paced with him along the old granite balustrade over which the
geraniums flung their mantle of green and scarlet.
"Have you decided what you are going to do?" she asked him.
"I have decided that I have no choice. I, too, must emigrate. I
am lucky to be able to do so, lucky to have found no one amid
yesterday's chaos in Paris to whom I could report myself as I
foolishly desired, else I might no longer be armed with these."
He drew from his pocket the powerful passport of the Commission of
Twelve, enjoining upon all Frenchmen to lend him such assistance as
he might require, and warning those who might think of hindering
him that they did so at their own peril. He spread it before her.
"With this I conduct you all safely to the frontier. Over the
frontier M. de Kercadiou and Mme. de Plougastel will have to conduct
me; and then we shall be quits."
"Quits?" quoth she. "But you will be unable to return!"
"You conceive, of course, my eagerness to do so. My child, in a
day or two there will be enquiries. It will be asked what has
become of me. Things will transpire. Then the hunt will start.
But by then we shall be well upon our way, well ahead of any
possible pursuit. You don't imagine that I could ever give the
government any satisfactory explanation of my absence - assuming
that any government remains to which to explain it?"
"You mean... that you will sacrifice your future, this career upon
which you have embarked?" It took her breath away.
"In the pass to which things have come there is no career for me
down there - at least no honest one. And I hope you do not think
that I could be dishonest. It is the day of the Dantons, and the
Marats, the day of the rabble. The reins of government will be
tossed to the populace, or else the populace, drunk with the conceit
with which the Dantons and the Marats have filled it, will seize
the reins by force. Chaos must follow, and a despotism of brutes
and apes, a government of the whole by its lowest parts. It cannot
endure, because unless a nation is ruled by its best elements it
must wither and decay."
"I thought you were a republican," said she.
"Why, so I am. I am talking like one. I desire a society which
selects its rulers, from the best elements of every class and denies
the right of any class or corporation to usurp the government to
itself - whether it be the nobles, the clergy, the bourgeoisie, or
the proletariat. For government by any one class is fatal to the
welfare of the whole. Two years ago our ideal seemed to have been
realized. The monopoly of power had been taken from the class that
had held it too long and too unjustly by the hollow right of
heredity. It had been distributed as evenly as might be throughout
the State, and if men had only paused there, all would have been
well. But our impetus carried us too far, the privileged orders
goaded us on by their very opposition, and the result is the horror
of which yesterday you saw no more than the beginnings. No, no,"
he ended. "Careers there may be for venal place-seekers, for
opportunists; but none for a man who desires to respect himself.
It is time to go. I make no sacrifice in going."
"But where will you go? What will you do?"
"Oh, something. Consider that in four years I have been lawyer,
politician, swordsman, and buffoon - especially the latter. There
is always a place in the world for Scaramouche. Besides, do you
know that unlike Scaramouche I have been oddly provident? I am
the owner of a little farm in Saxony. I think that agriculture
might suit me. It is a meditative occupation; and when all is said,
I am not a man of action. I haven't the qualities for the part."
She looked up into his face, and there was a wistful smile in her
deep blue eyes.
"Is there any part for which you have not the qualities, I wonder?"
"Do you really? Yet you cannot say that I have made a success of
any of those which I have played. I have always ended by running
away. I am running away now from a thriving fencing-academy, which
is likely to become the property of Le Duc. That comes of having
gone into politics, from which I am also running away. It is the
one thing in which I really excel. That, too, is an attribute of
"Why will you always be deriding yourself?" she wondered.
"Because I recognize myself for part of this mad world, I suppose.
You wouldn't have me take it seriously? I should lose my reason
utterly if I did; especially since discovering my parents."
"Don't, Andre!" she begged him. "You are insincere, you know."
"Of course I am. Do you expect sincerity in man when hypocrisy is
the very keynote of human nature? We are nurtured on it; we are
schooled in it, we live by it; and we rarely realize it. You have
seen it rampant and out of hand in France during the past four
years - cant and hypocrisy on the lips of the revolutionaries,
cant and hypocrisy on the lips of the upholders of the old regime;
a riot of hypocrisy out of which in the end is begotten chaos.
And I who criticize it all on this beautiful God-given morning am
the rankest and most contemptible hypocrite of all. It was this
- the realization of this truth kept me awake all night. For two
years I have persecuted by every means in my power... M. de La Tour
He paused before uttering the name, paused as if hesitating how to
speak of him.
"And in those two years I have deceived myself as to the motive
that was spurring me. He spoke of me last night as the evil genius
of his life, and himself he recognized the justice of this. It may
be that he was right, and because of that it is probable that even
had he not killed Philippe de Vilmorin, things would still have
been the same. Indeed, to-day I know that they must have been.
That is why I call myself a hypocrite, a poor, self-duping hypocrite."
"But why, Andre?"
He stood still and looked at her. "Because he sought you, Aline.
Because in that alone he must have found me ranged against him,
utterly intransigeant. Because of that I must have strained every
nerve to bring him down - so as to save you from becoming the prey
of your own ambition.
"I wish to speak of him no more than I must. After this, I trust
never to speak of him again. Before the lines of our lives crossed,
I knew him for what he was, I knew the report of him that ran the
countryside. Even then I found him detestable. You heard him
allude last night to the unfortunate La Binet. You heard him plead,
in extenuation of his fault, his mode of life, his rearing. To that
there is no answer, I suppose. He conforms to type. Enough! But
to me, he was the embodiment of evil, just as you have always been
the embodiment of good; he was the embodiment of sin, just as you
are the embodiment of purity. I had enthroned you so high, Aline,
so high, and yet no higher than your place. Could I, then, suffer
that you should be dragged down by ambition, could I suffer the
evil I detested to mate with the good I loved? What could have
come of it but your own damnation, as I told you that day at
Gavrillac? Because of that my detestation of him became a personal,
active thing. I resolved to save you at all costs from a fate so
horrible. Had you been able to tell me that you loved him it would
have been different. I should have hoped that in a union sanctified
by love you would have raised him to your own pure heights. But
that out of considerations of worldly advancement you should
lovelessly consent to mate with him... Oh, it was vile and hopeless.
And so I fought him - a rat fighting a lion - fought him relentlessly
until I saw that love had come to take in your heart the place of
ambition. Then I desisted."
"Until you saw that love had taken the place of ambition!" Tears
had been gathering in her eyes whilst he was speaking. Now
amazement eliminated her emotion. "But when did you see that?
"I - I was mistaken. I know it now. Yet, at the time... surely,
Aline, that morning when you came to beg me not to keep my
engagement with him in the Bois, you were moved by concern for him?"
"For him! It was concern for you," she cried, without thinking
what she said.
But it did not convince him. "For me? When you knew - when all
the world knew what I had been doing daily for a week!"
"Ah, but he, he was different from the others you had met. His
reputation stood high. My uncle accounted him invincible; he
persuaded me that if you met nothing could save you."
He looked at her frowning.
"Why this, Aline?" he asked her with some sternness. "I can
understand that, having changed since then, you should now wish
to disown those sentiments. It is a woman's way, I suppose."
"Oh, what are you saying, Andre? How wrong you are! It is the
truth I have told you!"
"And was it concern for me," he asked her, "that laid you swooning
when you saw him return wounded from the meeting? That was what
opened my eyes."
"Wounded? I had not seen his wound. I saw him sitting alive and
apparently unhurt in his caleche, and I concluded that he had
killed you as he had said he would. What else could I conclude?"
He saw light, dazzling, blinding, and it scared him. He fell back,
a hand to his brow. "And that was why you fainted?" he asked
She looked at him without answering. As she began to realize how
much she had been swept into saying by her eagerness to make him
realize his error, a sudden fear came creeping into her eyes.
He held out both hands to her.
"Aline! Aline!" His voice broke on the name. "It was I... "
"0 blind Andre, it was always you - always! Never, never did I
think of him, not even for loveless marriage, save once for a
little while, when... when that theatre girl came into your life,
and then... " She broke off, shrugged, and turned her head away.
"I thought of following ambition, since there was nothing left
He shook himself. "I am dreaming, of course, or else I am mad,"
"Blind, Andre; just blind," she assured him.
"Blind only where it would have been presumption to have seen."
"And yet," she answered him with a flash of the Aline he had known
of old, "I have never found you lack presumption."
M. de Kercadiou, emerging a moment later from the library window,
beheld them holding hands and staring each at the other,
beatifically, as if each saw Paradise in the other's face.
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