Part 6 out of 8
At parting, when Andre-Louis was on the point of stepping into his
cabriolet to return to Paris, he sought information on another
"Do you happen to know if M. de La Tour d'Azyr has married?" he
"I don't; which really means that he hasn't. One would have heard
of it in the case of that exalted Privileged."
"To be sure." Andre-Louis spoke indifferently. "Au revoir, Isaac!
You'll come and see me - 13 Rue du Hasard. Come soon."
"As soon and as often as my duties will allow. They keep me chained
here at present."
"Poor slave of duty with your gospel of liberty!"
"True! And because of that I will come. I have a duty to Brittany:
to make Omnes Omnibus one of her representatives in the National
"That is a duty you will oblige me by neglecting," laughed
Andre-Louis, and drove away.
Later in the week he received a visit from Le Chapelier just before
"I have news for you, Andre. Your godfather is at Meudon. He
arrived there two days ago. Had you heard?"
"But no. How should I hear? Why is he at Meudon?" He was conscious
of a faint excitement, which he could hardly have explained.
"I don't know. There have been fresh disturbances in Brittany. It
may be due to that."
"And so he has come for shelter to his brother?" asked Andre-Louis.
"To his brother's house, yes; but not to his brother. Where do you
live at all, Andre? Do you never hear any of the news? Etienne de
Gavrillac emigrated years ago. He was of the household of M.
d'Artois, and he crossed the frontier with him. By now, no doubt,
he is in Germany with him, conspiring against France. For that is
what the emigres are doing. That Austrian woman at the Tuileries
will end by destroying the monarchy."
"Yes, yes," said Andre-Louis impatiently. Politics interested him
not at all this morning. "But about Gavrillac?"
"Why, haven't I told you that Gavrillac is at Meudon, installed in
the house his brother has left? Dieu de Dieu! Don't I speak French
or don't you understand the language? I believe that Rabouillet,
his intendant, is in charge of Gavrillac. I have brought you the
news the moment I received it. I thought you would probably wish to
go out to Meudon."
"Of course. I will go at once - that is, as soon as I can. I can't
to-day, nor yet to-morrow. I am too busy here." He waved a hand
towards the inner room, whence proceeded the click-click of blades,
the quick moving of feet, and the voice of the instructor, Le Duc.
"Well, well, that is your own affair. You are busy. I leave you now.
Let us dine this evening at the Caf‚ de Foy. Kersain will be of the
"A moment!" Andre-Louis' voice arrested him on the threshold. "Is
Mlle. de Kercadiou with her uncle?"
"How the devil should I know? Go and find out."
He was gone, and Andre-Louis stood there a moment deep in thought.
Then he turned and went back to resume with his pupil, the Vicomte
de Villeniort, the interrupted exposition of the demi-contre of
Danet, illustrating with a small-sword the advantages to be derived
from its adoption.
Thereafter he fenced with the Vicomte, who was perhaps the ablest
of his pupils at the time, and all the while his thoughts were on
the heights of Meudon, his mind casting up the lessons he had to
give that afternoon and on the morrow, and wondering which of these
he might postpone without deranging the academy. When having touched
the Vicomte three times in succession, he paused and wrenched himself
back to the present, it was to marvel at the precision to be gained
by purely mechanical action. Without bestowing a thought upon what
he was doing, his wrist and arm and knees had automatically performed
their work, like the accurate fighting engine into which constant
practice for a year and more had combined them.
Not until Sunday was Andre-Louis able to satisfy a wish which the
impatience of the intervening days had converted into a yearning.
Dressed with more than ordinary care, his head elegantly coiffed
- by one of those hairdressers to the nobility of whom so many
were being thrown out of employment by the stream of emigration
which was now flowing freely - Andre-Louis mounted his hired
carriage, and drove out to Meudon.
The house of the younger Kercadiou no more resembled that of the
head of the family than did his person. A man of the Court, where
his brother was essentially a man of the soil, an officer of the
household of M. le Comte d'Artois, he had built for himself and his
family an imposing villa on the heights of Meudon in a miniature
park, conveniently situated for him midway between Versailles and
Paris, and easily accessible from either. M. d'Artois - the royal
tennis-player - had been amongst the very first to emigrate.
Together with the Condes, the Contis, the Polignacs, and others of
the Queen's intimate council, old Marshal de Broglie and the Prince
de Lambesc, who realized that their very names had become odious to
the people, he had quitted France immediately after the fall of the
Bastille. He had gone to play tennis beyond the frontier - and
there consummate the work of ruining the French monarchy upon which
he and those others had been engaged in France. With him, amongst
several members of his household went Etienne de Kercadiou, and with
Etienne de Kercadiou went his family, a wife and four children.
Thus it was that the Seigneur de Gavrillac, glad to escape from a
province so peculiarly disturbed as that of Brittany - where the
nobles had shown themselves the most intransigent of all France
- had come to occupy in his brother's absence the courtier's
handsome villa at Meudon.
That he was quite happy there is not to be supposed. A man of his
almost Spartan habits, accustomed to plain fare and self-help, was
a little uneasy in this sybaritic abode, with its soft carpets,
profusion of gilding, and battalion of sleek, silent-footed servants
- for Kercadiou the younger had left his entire household behind.
Time, which at Gavrillac he had kept so fully employed in agrarian
concerns, here hung heavily upon his hands. In self-defence he
slept a great deal, and but for Aline, who made no attempt to
conceal her delight at this proximity to Paris and the heart of
things, it is possible that he would have beat a retreat almost at
once from surroundings that sorted so ill with his habits. Later
on, perhaps, he would accustom himself and grow resigned to this
luxurious inactivity. In the meantime the novelty of it fretted
him, and it was into the presence of a peevish and rather somnolent
M. de Kercadiou that Andre-Louis was ushered in the early hours of
the afternoon of that Sunday in June. He was unannounced, as had
ever been the custom at Gavrillac. This because Benoit, M. de
Kercadiou's old seneschal, had accompanied his seigneur upon this
soft adventure, and was installed - to the ceaseless and but
half-concealed hilarity of the impertinent valetaille that M.
Etienne had left - as his maitre d'hotel here at Meudon.
Benoit had welcomed M. Andre with incoherencies of delight; almost
had he gambolled about him like some faithful dog, whilst conducting
him to the salon and the presence of the Lord of Gavrillac, who
would - in the words of Benoit - be ravished to see M. Andre again.
"Monseigneur! Monseigneur!" he cried in a quavering voice, entering
a pace or two in advance of the visitor. "It is M. Andre... M.
Andre, your godson, who comes to kiss your hand. He is here... and
so fine that you would hardly know him. Here he is, monseigneur! Is
he not beautiful?"
And the old servant rubbed his hands in conviction of the delight
that he believed he was conveying to his master.
Andre-Louis crossed the threshold of that great room, soft-carpeted
to the foot, dazzling to the eye. It was immensely lofty, and its
festooned ceiling was carried on fluted pillars with gilded capitals.
The door by which he entered, and the windows that opened upon the
garden, were of an enormous height - almost, indeed, the full height
of the room itself. It was a room overwhelmingly gilded, with an
abundance of ormolu encrustations on the furniture, in which it
nowise differed from what was customary in the dwellings of people
of birth and wealth. Never, indeed, was there a time in which so
much gold was employed decoratively as in this age when coined gold
was almost unprocurable, and paper money had been put into
circulation to supply the lack. It was a saying of Andre-Louis'
that if these people could only have been induced to put the paper
on their walls and the gold into their pockets, the finances of the
kingdom might soon have been in better case.
The Seigneur - furbished and beruffled to harmonize with his
surroundings - had risen, startled by this exuberant invasion on
the part of Benoit, who had been almost as forlorn as himself since
their coming to Meudon.
"What is it? Eh?" His pale, short-sighted eyes peered at the
visitor. "Andre!" said he, between surprise and sternness; and the
colour deepened in his great pink face.
Benoit, with his back to his master, deliberately winked and grinned
at Andre-Louis to encourage him not to be put off by any apparent
hostility on the part of his godfather. That done, the intelligent
old fellow discreetly effaced himself.
"What do you want here?" growled M. de Kercadiou.
"No more than to kiss your hand, as Benoit has told you, monsieur my
godfather," said Andre-Louis submissively, bowing his sleek black head.
"You have contrived without kissing it for two years."
"Do not, monsieur, reproach me with my misfortune."
The little man stood very stiffly erect, his disproportionately large
head thrown back, his pale prominent eyes very stern.
"Did you think to make your outrageous offence any better by vanishing
in that heartless manner, by leaving us without knowledge of whether
you were alive or dead?"
"At first it was dangerous - dangerous to my life - to disclose my
whereabouts. Then for a time I was in need, almost destitute, and
my pride forbade me, after what I had done and the view you must
take of it, to appeal to you for help. Later... "
"Destitute?" The Seigneur interrupted. For a moment his lip
trembled. Then he steadied himself, and the frown deepened as he
surveyed this very changed and elegant godson of his, noted the
quiet richness of his apparel, the paste buckles and red heels to
his shoes, the sword hilted in mother-o'-pearl and silver, and the
carefully dressed hair that he had always seen hanging in wisps
about his face. "At least you do not look destitute now," he
"I am not. I have prospered since. In that, monsieur, I differ
from the ordinary prodigal, who returns only when he needs
assistance. I return solely because I love you, monsieur - to tell
you so. I have come at the very first moment after hearing of your
presence here." He advanced. "Monsieur my godfather!" he said,
and held out his hand.
But M. de Kercadiou remained unbending, wrapped in his cold dignity
"Whatever tribulations you may have suffered or consider that you
may have suffered, they are far less than your disgraceful conduct
deserved, and I observe that they have nothing abated your impudence.
You think that you have but to come here and say, 'Monsieur my
godfather!' and everything is to be forgiven and forgotten. That
is your error. You have committed too great a wrong; you have
offended against everything by which I hold, and against myself
personally, by your betrayal of my trust in you. You are one of
those unspeakable scoundrels who are responsible for this revolution."
"Alas, monsieur, I see that you share the common delusion. These
unspeakable scoundrels but demanded a constitution, as was promised
them from the throne. They were not to know that the promise was
insincere, or that its fulfilment would be baulked by the privileged
orders. The men who have precipitated this revolution, monsieur,
are the nobles and the prelates."
"You dare - and at such a time as this - stand there and tell me
such abominable lies! You dare to say that the nobles have made
the revolution, when scores of them, following the example of M. le
Duc d'Aiguillon, have flung their privileges, even their title-deeds,
into the lap of the people! Or perhaps you deny it?"
"Oh, no. Having wantonly set fire to their house, they now try to
put it out by throwing water on it; and where they fail they put the
entire blame on the flames."
"I see that you have come here to talk politics."
"Far from it. I have come, if possible, to explain myself. To
understand is always to forgive. That is a great saying of
Montaigne's. If I could make you understand... "
"You can't. You'll never make me understand how you came to render
yourself so odiously notorious in Brittany."
"Ah, not odiously, monsieur!"
"Certainly, odiously - among those that matter. It is said even
that you were Omnes Omnibus, though that I cannot, will not believe."
"Yet it is true."
M. de Kercadiou choked. "And you confess it? You dare to confess
"What a man dares to do, he should dare to confess - unless he is
"Oh, and to be sure you were very brave, running away each time
after you had done the mischief, turning comedian to hide yourself,
doing more mischief as a comedian, provoking a riot in Nantes, and
then running away again, to become God knows what - something
dishonest by the affluent look of you. My God, man, I tell you that
in these past two years I have hoped that you were dead, and you
profoundly disappoint me that you are not!" He beat his hands
together, and raised his shrill voice to call - "Benoit!" He strode
away towards the fireplace, scarlet in the face, shaking with the
passion into which he had worked himself. "Dead, I might have
forgiven you, as one who had paid for his evil, and his folly.
Living, I never can forgive you. You have gone too far. God alone
knows where it will end.
"Benoit, the door. M. Andre-Louis Moreau to the door!" The tone
argued an irrevocable determination. Pale and self-contained, but
with a queer pain at his heart, Andre-Louis heard that dismissal,
saw Benoit's white, scared face and shaking hands half-raised as
if he were about to expostulate with his master. And then another
voice, a crisp, boyish voice, cut in.
"Uncle!" it cried, a world of indignation and surprise in its pitch,
and then: "Andre!" And this time a note almost of gladness,
certainly of welcome, was blended with the surprise that still
Both turned, half the room between them at the moment, and beheld
Aline in one of the long, open windows, arrested there in the act
of entering from the garden, Aline in a milk-maid bonnet of the
latest mode, though without any of the tricolour embellishments
that were so commonly to be seen upon them.
The thin lips of Andre's long mouth twisted into a queer smile.
Into his mind had flashed the memory of their last parting. He
saw himself again, standing burning with indignation upon the
pavement of Nantes, looking after her carriage as it receded down
the Avenue de Gigan.
She was coming towards him now with outstretched hands, a heightened
colour in her cheeks, a smile of welcome on her lips. He bowed low
and kissed her hand in silence.
Then with a glance and a gesture she dismissed Benoit, and in her
imperious fashion constituted herself Andre's advocate against that
harsh dismissal which she had overheard.
"Uncle," she said, leaving Andre and crossing to M. de Kercadiou,
"you make me ashamed of you! To allow a feeling of peevishness to
overwhelm all your affection for Andre!"
"I have no affection for him. I had once. He chose to extinguish
it. He can go to the devil; and please observe that I don't permit
you to interfere."
"But if he confesses that he has done wrong... "
"He confesses nothing of the kind. He comes here to argue with me
about these infernal Rights of Man. He proclaims himself
unrepentant. He announces himself with pride to have been, as all
Brittany says, the scoundrel who hid himself under the sobriquet
of Omnes Omnibus. Is that to be condoned?"
She turned to look at Andre across the wide space that now separated
"But is this really so? Don't you repent, Andre - now that you see
all the harm that has come?"
It was a clear invitation to him, a pleading to him to say that he
repented, to make his peace with his godfather. For a moment it
almost moved him. Then, considering the subterfuge unworthy, he
answered truthfully, though the pain he was suffering rang in his
"To confess repentance," he said slowly, "would be to confess to a
monstrous crime. Don't you see that? Oh, monsieur, have patience
with me; let me explain myself a little. You say that I am in part
responsible for something of all this that has happened. My
exhortations of the people at Rennes and twice afterwards at Nantes
are said to have had their share in what followed there. It may be
so. It would be beyond my power positively to deny it. Revolution
followed and bloodshed. More may yet come. To repent implies a
recognition that I have done wrong. How shall I say that I have
done wrong, and thus take a share of the responsibility for all
that blood upon my soul? I will be quite frank with you to show
you how far, indeed, I am from repentance. What I did, I actually
did against all my convictions at the time. Because there was no
justice in France to move against the murderer of Philippe de
Vilmorin, I moved in the only way that I imagined could make the
evil done recoil upon the hand that did it, and those other hands
that had the power but not the spirit to punish. Since then I
have come to see that I was wrong, and that Philippe de Vilmorin
and those who thought with him were in the right.
"You must realize, monsieur, that it is with sincerest thankfulness
that I find I have done nothing calling for repentance; that, on
the contrary, when France is given the inestimable boon of a
constitution, as will shortly happen, I may take pride in having
played my part in bringing about the conditions that have made this
There was a pause. M. de Kercadiou's face turned from pink to
"You have quite finished?" he said harshly.
"If you have understood me, monsieur."
"Oh, I have understood you, and... and I beg that you will go."
Andre-Louis shrugged his shoulders and hung his head. He had come
there so joyously, in such yearning, merely to receive a final
dismissal. He looked at Aline. Her face was pale and troubled;
but her wit failed to show her how she could come to his assistance.
His excessive honesty had burnt all his boats.
"Very well, monsieur. Yet this I would ask you to remember after I
am gone. I have not come to you as one seeking assistance, as one
driven to you by need. I am no returning prodigal, as I have said.
I am one who, needing nothing, asking nothing, master of his own
destinies, has come to you driven by affection only, urged by the
love and gratitude he bears you and will continue to bear you."
"Ah, yes!" cried Aline, turning now to her uncle. Here at least
was an argument in Andre's favour, thought she. "That is true.
Inarticulately he hissed her into silence, exasperated.
"Hereafter perhaps that will help you to think of me more kindly,
"I see no occasion, sir, to think of you at all. Again, I beg
that you will go."
Andre-Louis looked at Aline an instant, as if still hesitating.
She answered him by a glance at her furious uncle, a faint shrug,
and a lift of the eyebrows, dejection the while in her countenance.
It was as if she said: "You see his mood. There is nothing to be
He bowed with that singular grace the fencing-room had given him
and went out by the door.
"Oh, it is cruel!" cried Aline, in a stifled voice, her hands
clenched, and she sprang to the window.
"Aline!" her uncle's voice arrested her. "Where are you going?"
"But we do not know where he is to be found."
"Who wants to find the scoundrel?"
"We may never see him again."
"That is most fervently to be desired."
Aline said "Ouf!" and went out by the window.
He called after her, imperiously commanding her return. But Aline
- dutiful child - closed her ears lest she must disobey him, and
sped light-footed across the lawn to the avenue there to intercept
the departing Andre-Louis.
As he came forth wrapped in gloom, she stepped from the bordering
trees into his path.
"Aline!" he cried, joyously almost.
"I did not want you to go like this. I couldn't let you, she
explained herself. "I know him better than you do, and I know that
his great soft heart will presently melt. He will be filled with
regret. He will want to send for you, and he will not know where
"You think that?"
"Oh, I know it! You arrive in a bad moment. He is peevish and
cross-grained, poor man, since he came here. These soft
surroundings are all so strange to him. He wearies himself away
from his beloved Gavrillac, his hunting and tillage, and the truth
is that in his mind he very largely blames you for what has happened
- for the necessity, or at least, the wisdom, of this change.
Brittany, you must know, was becoming too unsafe. The chateau of
La Tour d'Azyr, amongst others, was burnt to the ground some months
ago. At any moment, given a fresh excitement, it may be the turn
of Gavrillac. And for this and his present discomfort he blames
you and your friends. But he will come round presently. He will
be sorry that he sent you away like this - for I know that he loves
you, Andre, in spite of all. I shall reason with him when the time
comes. And then we shall want to know where to find you."
"At number 13, Rue du Hasard. The number is unlucky, the name of
the street appropriate. Therefore both are easy to remember."
She nodded. "I will walk with you to the gates." And side by
side now they proceeded at a leisurely pace down the long avenue
in the June sunshine dappled by the shadows of the bordering trees.
"You are looking well, Andre; and do you know that you have changed
a deal? I am glad that you have prospered." And then, abruptly
changing the subject before he had time to answer her, she came to
the matter uppermost in her mind.
"I have so wanted to see you in all these months, Andre. You were
the only one who could help me; the only one who could tell me the
truth, and I was angry with you for never having written to say
where you were to be found."
"Of course you encouraged me to do so when last we met in Nantes."
"What? Still resentful?"
"I am never resentful. You should know that." He expressed one of
his vanities. He loved to think himself a Stoic. "But I still bear
the scar of a wound that would be the better for the balm of your
"Why, then, I retract, Andre. And now tell me."
"Yes, a self-seeking retraction," said he. "You give me something
that you may obtain something." He laughed quite pleasantly.
"Well, well; command me."
"Tell me, Andre." She paused, as if in some difficulty, and then
went on, her eyes upon the ground: "Tell me - the truth of that
event at the Feydau."
The request fetched a frown to his brow. He suspected at once the
thought that prompted it. Quite simply and briefly he gave her
his version of the affair.
She listened very attentively. When he had done she sighed; her
face was very thoughtful.
"That is much what I was told," she said. "But it was added that
M. de La Tour d'Azyr had gone to the theatre expressly for the
purpose of breaking finally with La Binet. Do you know if that
"I don't; nor of any reason why it should be so. La Binet
provided him the sort of amusement that he and his kind are forever
"Oh, there was a reason," she interrupted him. "I was the reason.
I spoke to Mme. de Sautron. I told her that I would not continue
to receive one who came to me contaminated in that fashion." She
spoke of it with obvious difficulty, her colour rising as he
watched her half-averted face.
"Had you listened to me... " he was beginning, when again she
"M. de Sautron conveyed my decision to him, and afterwards
represented him to me as a man in despair, repentant, ready to
give proofs - any proofs - of his sincerity and devotion to me. He
told me that M. de La Tour d'Azyr had sworn to him that he would
cut short that affair, that he would see La Binet no more. And
then, on the very next day I heard of his having all but lost his
life in that riot at the theatre. He had gone straight from that
interview with M. de Sautron, straight from those protestations of
future wisdom, to La Binet. I was indignant. I pronounced myself
finally. I stated definitely that I would not in any circumstances
receive M. de La Tour d'Azyr again! And then they pressed this
explanation upon me. For a long time I would not believe it."
"So that you believe it now," said Andre quickly. "Why?"
"I have not said that I believe it now. But... but... neither can
I disbelieve. Since we came to Meudon M. de La Tour d'Azyr has been
here, and himself he has sworn to me that it was so."
"Oh, if M. de La Tour d'Azyr has sworn... " Andre-Louis was
laughing on a bitter note of sarcasm.
"Have you ever known him lie?" she cut in sharply. That checked
him. "M. de La Tour d'Azyr is, after all, a man of honour, and men
of honour never deal in falsehood. Have you ever known him do so,
that you should sneer as you have done?"
"No," he confessed. Common justice demanded that he should admit
that virtue at least in his enemy. "I have not known him lie, it
is true. His kind is too arrogant, too self-confident to have
recourse to untruth. But I have known him do things as vile... "
"Nothing is as vile," she interrupted, speaking from the code by
which she had been reared. "It is for liars only - who are first
cousin to thieves - that there is no hope. It is in falsehood only
that there is real loss of honour."
"You are defending that satyr, I think," he said frostily.
"I desire to be just."
"Justice may seem to you a different matter when at last you shall
have resolved yourself to become Marquise de La Tour d'Azyr." He
"I don't think that I shall ever take that resolve."
"But you are still not sure - in spite of everything."
"Can one ever be sure of anything in this world?"
"Yes. One can be sure of being foolish."
Either she did not hear or did not heed him.
"You do not of your own knowledge know that it was not as M. de La
Tour d'Azyr asserts - that he went to the Feydau that night?"
"I don't," he admitted. "It is of course possible. But does it
"It might matter. Tell me; what became of La Binet after all?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?" She turned to consider him. "And you can say
it with that indifference! I thought... I thought you loved her,
"So did I, for a little while. I was mistaken. It required a La
Tour d'Azyr to disclose the truth to me. They have their uses,
these gentlemen. They help stupid fellows like myself to perceive
important truths. I was fortunate that revelation in my case
preceded marriage. I can now look back upon the episode with
equanimity and thankfulness for my near escape from the consequences
of what was no more than an aberration of the senses. It is a
thing commonly confused with love. The experience, as you see, was
She looked at him in frank surprise.
"Do you know, Andre, I sometimes think that you have no heart."
"Presumably because I sometimes betray intelligence. And what of
yourself, Aline? What of your own attitude from the outset where
M. de La Tour d'Azyr is concerned? Does that show heart? If I
were to tell you what it really shows, we should end by
quarrelling again, and God knows I can't afford to quarrel with
you now. I... I shall take another way.
"What do you mean?"
"Why, nothing at the moment, for you are not in any danger of
marrying that animal."
"And if I were?"
"Ah! In that case affection for you would discover to me some
means of preventing it - unless.. ." He paused.
"Unless?" she demanded, challengingly, drawn to the full of her
sort height, her eyes imperious.
"Unless you could also tell me that you loved him," said he simply,
whereat she was as suddenly and most oddly softened. And then he
added, shaking his head: "But that of course is impossible."
"Why?" she asked him, quite gently now.
"Because you are what you are, Aline - utterly good and pure and
adorable. Angels do not mate with devils. His wife you might
become, but never his mate, Aline - never."
They had reached the wrought-iron gates at the end of the avenue.
Through these they beheld the waiting yellow chaise which had
brought Andre-Louis. From near at hand came the creak of other
wheels, the beat of other hooves, and now another vehicle came in
sight, and drew to a stand-still beside the yellow chaise - a
handsome equipage with polished mahogany panels on which the gold
and azure of armorial bearings flashed brilliantly in the sunlight.
A footman swung to earth to throw wide the gates; but in that moment
the lady who occupied the carriage, perceiving Aline, waved to her
and issued a command.
MADAME DE PLOUGASTEL
The postilion drew rein, and the footman opened the door, letting
down the steps and proffering his arm to his mistress to assist her
to alight, since that was the wish she had expressed. Then he
opened one wing of the iron gates, and held it for her. She was a
woman of something more than forty, who once must have been very
lovely, who was very lovely still with the refining quality that
age brings to some women. Her dress and carriage alike advertised
"I take my leave here, since you have a visitor," said Andre-Louis.
"But it is an old acquaintance of your own, Andre. You remember
Mme. la Comtesse de Plougastel?"
He looked at the approaching lady, whom Aline was now hastening
forward to meet, and because she was named to him he recognized her.
He must, he thought, had he but looked, have recognized her without
prompting anywhere at any time, and this although it was some
sixteen years since last he had seen her. The sight of her now
brought it all back to him - a treasured memory that had never
permitted itself to be entirely overlaid by subsequent events.
When he was a boy of ten, on the eve of being sent to school at
Rennes, she had come on a visit to his godfather, who was her
cousin. It happened that at the time he was taken by Rabouillet
to the Manor of Gavrillac, and there he had been presented to Mme.
de Plougastel. The great lady, in all the glory then of her
youthful beauty, with her gentle, cultured voice - so cultured
that she had seemed to speak a language almost unknown to the
little Breton lad - and her majestic air of the great world, had
scared him a little at first. Very gently had she allayed those
fears of his, and by some mysterious enchantment she had completely
enslaved his regard. He recalled now the terror in which he had
gone to the embrace to which he was bidden, and the subsequent
reluctance with which he had left those soft round arms. He
remembered, too, how sweetly she had smelled and the very perfume
she had used, a perfume as of lilac - for memory is singularly
tenacious in these matters.
For three days whilst she had been at Gavrillac, he had gone daily
to the manor, and so had spent hours in her company. A childless
woman with the maternal instinct strong within her, she had taken
this precociously intelligent, wide-eyed lad to her heart.
"Give him to me, Cousin Quintin," he remembered her saying on the
last of those days to his godfather. "Let me take him back with
me to Versailles as my adopted child."
But the Seigneur had gravely shaken his head in silent refusal, and
there had been no further question of such a thing. And then, when
she said good-bye to him - the thing came flooding back to him now
- there had been tears in her eyes.
"Think of me sometimes, Andre-Louis," had been her last words.
He remembered how flattered he had been to have won within so short
a time the affection of this great lady. The thing had given him a
sense of importance that had endured for months thereafter, finally
to fade into oblivion.
But all was vividly remembered now upon beholding her again, after
sixteen years, profoundly changed and matured, the girl - for she
had been no more in those old days - sunk in this worldly woman
with the air of calm dignity and complete self-possession. Yet, he
insisted, he must have known her anywhere again.
Aline embraced her affectionately, and then answering the questioning
glance with faintly raised eyebrows that madame was directing towards
Aline's companion -
"This is Andre-Louis," she said. "You remember Andre-Louis, madame?"
Madame checked. Andre-Louis saw the surprise ripple over her face,
taking with it some of her colour, leaving her for a moment
And then the voice - the well-remembered rich, musical voice - richer
and deeper now than of yore, repeated his name:
Her manner of uttering it suggested that it awakened memories,
memories perhaps of the departed youth with which it was associated.
And she paused a long moment, considering him, a little wide-eyed,
what time he bowed before her.
"But of course I remember him," she said at last, and came towards
him, putting out her hand. He kissed it dutifully, submissively,
instinctively. "And this is what you have grown into?" She
appraised him, and he flushed with pride at the satisfaction in
her tone. He seemed to have gone back sixteen years, and to be
again the little Breton lad at Gavrillac. She turned to Aline.
"How mistaken Quintin was in his assumptions. He was pleased to
see him again, was he not?"
"So pleased, madame, that he has shown me the door," said
"Ah!" She frowned, conning him still with those dark, wistful eyes
of hers. "We must change that, Aline. He is of course very angry
with you. But it is not the way to make converts. I will plead
for you, Andre-Louis. I am a good advocate."
He thanked her and took his leave.
"I leave my case in your hands with gratitude. My homage, madame."
And so it happened that in spite of his godfather's forbidding
reception of him, the fragment of a song was on his lips as his
yellow chaise whirled him back to Paris and the Rue du Hasard.
That meeting with Mme. de Plougastel had enheartened him; her
promise to plead his case in alliance with Aline gave him assurance
that all would be well.
That he was justified of this was proved when on the following
Thursday towards noon his academy was invaded by M. de Kercadiou.
Gilles, the boy, brought him word of it, and breaking off at once
the lesson upon which he was engaged, he pulled off his mask, and
went as he was - in a chamois Waistcoat buttoned to the chin and
with his foil under his arm to the modest salon below, where his
godfather awaited him.
The florid little Lord of Gavrillac stood almost defiantly to
"I have been over-persuaded to forgive you," he announced
aggressively, seeming thereby to imply that he consented to this
merely so as to put an end to tiresome importunities.
Andre-Louis was not misled. He detected a pretence adopted by the
Seigneur so as to enable him to retreat in good order.
"My blessings on the persuaders, whoever they may have been. You
restore me my happiness, monsieur my godfather."
He took the hand that was proffered and kissed it, yielding to the
impulse of the unfailing habit of his boyish days. It was an act
symbolical of his complete submission, reestablishing between
himself and his godfather the bond of protected and protector, with
all the mutual claims and duties that it carries. No mere words
could more completely have made his peace with this man who loved
M. de Kercadiou's face flushed a deeper pink, his lip trembled, and
there was a huskiness in the voice that murmured "My dear boy!"
Then he recollected himself, threw back his great head and frowned.
His voice resumed its habitual shrillness. "You realize, I hope,
that you have behaved damnably... damnably, and with the utmost
"Does not that depend upon the point of view?" quoth Andre-Louis,
but his tone was studiously conciliatory.
"It depends upon a fact, and not upon any point of view. Since I
have been persuaded to overlook it, I trust that at least you have
some intention of reforming."
"I... I will abstain from politics," said Andre-Louis, that being
the utmost he could say with truth.
"That is something, at least." His godfather permitted himself to
be mollified, now that a concession - or a seeming concession - had
been made to his just resentment.
"A chair, monsieur."
"No, no. I have come to carry you off to pay a visit with me. You
owe it entirely to Mme. de Plougastel that I consent to receive you
again. I desire that you come with me to thank her."
"I have my engagements here... " began Andre-Louis, and then broke
off. "No matter! I will arrange it. A moment." And he was
turning away to reenter the academy.
"What are your engagements? You are not by chance a
fencing-instructor?" M. de Kercadiou had observed the leather
waistcoat and the foil tucked under Andre-Louis' arm.
"I am the master of this academy - the academy of the late Bertrand
des Amis, the most flourishing school of arms in Paris to-day."
M. de Kercadiou's brows went up.
"And you are master of it?"
"Maitre en fait d'Armes. I succeeded to the academy upon the death
of des Amis."
He left M. Kercadiou to think it over, and went to make his
arrangements and effect the necessary changes in his toilet.
"So that is why you have taken to wearing a sword," said M. de
Kercadiou, as they climbed into his waiting carriage.
"That and the need to guard one's self in these times."
"And do you mean to tell me that a man who lives by what is after
all an honourable profession, a profession mainly supported by the
nobility, can at the same time associate himself with these
peddling attorneys and low pamphleteers who are spreading dissension
"You forget that I am a peddling attorney myself, made so by your
own wishes, monsieur."
M. de Kercadiou grunted, and took snuff. "You say the academy
flourishes?" he asked presently.
"It does. I have two assistant instructors. I could employ a third.
It is hard work."
"That should mean that your circumstances are affluent."
"I have reason to be satisfied. I have far more than I need."
"Then you'll be able to do your share in paying off this national
debt," growled the nobleman, well content that as he conceived it
- some of the evil Andre-Louis had helped to sow should recoil
Then the talk veered to Mme. de Plougastel. M. de Kercadiou,
Andre-Louis gathered, but not the reason for it, disapproved most
strongly of this visit. But then Madame la Comtesse was a headstrong
woman whom there was no denying, whom all the world obeyed. M. de
Plougastel was at present absent in Germany, but would shortly be
returning. It was an indiscreet admission from which it was easy
to infer that M. de Plougastel was one of those intriguing emissaries
who came and went between the Queen of France and her brother, the
Emperor of Austria.
The carriage drew up before a handsome hotel in the Faubourg
Saint-Denis, at the corner of the Rue Paradis, and they were ushered
by a sleek servant into a little boudoir, all gilt and brocade, that
opened upon a terrace above a garden that was a park in miniature.
Here madame awaited them. She rose, dismissing the young person who
had been reading to her, and came forward with both hands outheld to
greet her cousin Kercadiou.
"I almost feared you would not keep your word," she said. "It was
unjust. But then I hardly hoped that you would succeed in bringing
him." And her glance, gentle, and smiling welcome upon him,
The young man made answer with formal gallantry.
"The memory of you, madame, is too deeply imprinted on my heart for
any persuasions to have been necessary."
"Ah, the courtier!" said madame, and abandoned him her hand. "We
are to have a little talk, Andre-Louis," she informed him, with a
gravity that left him vaguely ill at ease.
They sat down, and for a while the conversation was of general
matters, chiefly concerned, however, with Andre-Louis, his
occupations and his views. And all the while madame was studying
him attentively with those gentle, wistful eyes, until again that
sense of uneasiness began to pervade him. He realized instinctively
that he had been brought here for some purpose deeper than that
which had been avowed.
At last, as if the thing were concerted - and the clumsy Lord of
Gavrillac was the last man in the world to cover his tracks - his
godfather rose and, upon a pretext of desiring to survey the garden,
sauntered through the windows on to the terrace, over whose white
stone balustrade the geraniums trailed in a scarlet riot. Thence
he vanished among the foliage below.
"Now we can talk more intimately," said madame. "Come here, and
sit beside me." She indicated the empty half of the settee she
Andre-Louis went obediently, but a little uncomfortably. "You
know," she said gently, placing a hand upon his arm, "that you have
behaved very ill, that your godfather's resentment is very justly
"Madame, if I knew that, I should be the most unhappy, the most
despairing of men.". And he explained himself, as he had explained
himself on Sunday to his godfather. "What I did, I did because it
was the only means to my hand in a country in which justice was
paralyzed by Privilege to make war upon an infamous scoundrel who
had killed my best friend - a wanton, brutal act of murder, which
there was no law to punish. And as if that were not enough -
forgive me if I speak with the utmost frankness, madame - he
afterwards debauched the woman I was to have married."
"Ah, mon Dieu!" she cried out.
"Forgive me. I know that it is horrible. You perceive, perhaps,
what I suffered, how I came to be driven. That last affair of which
I am guilty - the riot that began in the Feydau Theatre and
afterwards enveloped the whole city of Nantes - was provoked by
"Who was she, this girl?"
It was like a woman, he thought, to fasten upon the unessential.
"Oh, a theatre girl, a poor fool of whom I have no regrets. La
Binet was her name. I was a player at the time in her father's
troupe. That was after the Rennes business, when it was necessary
to hide from such justice as exists in France - the gallows'
justice for unfortunates who are not 'born.' This added wrong
led me to provoke a riot in the theatre."
"Poor boy," she said tenderly. "Only a woman's heart can realize
what you must have suffered; and because of that I can so readily
forgive you. But now... "
"Ah, but you don't understand, madame. If to-day I thought that I
had none but personal grounds for having lent a hand in the holy
work of abolishing Privilege, I think I should cut my throat. My
true justification lies in the insincerity of those who intended
that the convocation of the States General should be a sham, mere
dust in the eyes of the nation."
"Was it not, perhaps, wise to have been insincere in such a matter?"
He looked at her blankly.
"Can it ever be wise, madame, to be insincere?"
"Oh, indeed it can; believe me, who am twice your age, and know my
"I should say, madame, that nothing is wise that complicates
existence; and I know of nothing that so complicates it as
insincerity. Consider a moment the complications that have arisen
out of this."
"But surely, Andre-Louis, your views have not been so perverted
that you do not see that a governing class is a necessity in any
"Why, of course. But not necessarily a hereditary one."
He answered her with an epigram. "Man, madame, is the child of his
own work. Let there be no inheriting of rights but from such a
parent. Thus a nation's best will always predominate, and such a
nation will achieve greatly."
"But do you account birth of no importance?"
"Of none, madame - or else my own might trouble me." From the deep
flush that stained her face, he feared that he had offended by what
was almost an indelicacy. But the reproof that he was expecting
did not come. Instead -
"And does it not?" she asked. "Never, Andre?"
"Never, madame. I am content."
"You have never.., never regretted your lack of parents' care?"
He laughed, sweeping aside her sweet charitable concern that was so
superfluous. "On the contrary, madame, I tremble to think what
they might have made of me, and I am grateful to have had the
fashioning of myself."
She looked at him for a moment very sadly, and then, smiling, gently
shook her head.
"You do not want self-satisfaction... Yet I could wish that you
saw things differently, Andre. It is a moment of great
opportunities for a young man of talent and spirit. I could help
you; I could help you, perhaps, to go very far if you would permit
yourself to be helped after my fashion."
"Yes," he thought, "help me to a halter by sending me on treasonable
missions to Austria on the Queen's behalf, like M. de Plougastel.
That would certainly end in a high position for me."
Aloud he answered more as politeness prompted. "I am grateful,
madame. But you will see that, holding the ideals I have expressed,
I could not serve any cause that is opposed to their realization."
"You are misled by prejudice, Andre-Louis, by personal grievances.
Will you allow them to stand in the way of your advancement?"
"If what I call ideals were really prejudices, would it be honest
of me to run counter to them whilst holding them?"
"If I could convince you that you are mistaken! I could help you
so much to find a worthy employment for the talents you possess.
In the service of the King you would prosper quickly. Will you
think of it, Andre-Louis, and let us talk of this again?"
He answered her with formal, chill politeness.
"I fear that it would be idle, madame. Yet your interest in me is
very flattering, and I thank you. It is unfortunate for me that I
am so headstrong."
"And now who deals in insincerity?" she asked him.
"Ah, but you see, madame, it is an insincerity that does not
And then M. de Kercadiou came in through the window again, and
announced fussily that he must be getting back to Meudon, and that
he would take his godson with him and set him down at the Rue du
"You must bring him again, Quintin," the Countess said, as they
took their leave of her.
"Some day, perhaps,"said M. de Kercadiou vaguely, and swept his
In the carriage he asked him bluntly of what madame had talked.
"She was very kind - a sweet woman," said Andre-Louis pensively.
"Devil take you, I didn't ask you the opinion that you presume
to have formed of her. I asked you what she said to you.
"She strove to point out to me the error of my ways. She spoke of
great things that I might do - to which she would very kindly help
me - if I were to come to my senses. But as miracles do not happen,
I gave her little encouragement to hope."
"I see. I see. Did she say anything else?"
He was so peremptory that Andre-Louis turned to look at him.
"What else did you expect her to say, monsieur my godfather?"
"Then she fulfilled your expectations."
"Eh? Oh, a thousand devils, why can't you express yourself in a
sensible manner that a plain man can understand without having to
think about it?"
He sulked after that most of the way to the Rue du Hasard, or so
it seemed to Andre-Louis. At least he sat silent, gloomily
thoughtful to judge by his expression.
"You may come and see us soon again at Meudon," he told
Andre-Louis at parting. "But please remember - no revolutionary
politics in future, if we are to remain friends."
One morning in August the academy in the Rue du Hasard was invaded
by Le Chapelier accompanied by a man of remarkable appearance, whose
herculean stature and disfigured countenance seemed vaguely familiar
to Andre-Louis. He was a man of little, if anything, over thirty,
with small bright eyes buried in an enormous face. His cheek-bones
were prominent, his nose awry, as if it had been broken by a blow,
and his mouth was rendered almost shapeless by the scars of another
injury. (A bull had horned him in the face when he was but a lad.)
As if that were not enough to render his appearance terrible, his
cheeks were deeply pock-marked. He was dressed untidily in a long
scarlet coat that descended almost to his ankles, soiled buckskin
breeches and boots with reversed tops. His shirt, none too clean,
was open at the throat, the collar hanging limply over an unknotted
cravat, displaying fully the muscular neck that rose like a pillar
from his massive shoulders. He swung a cane that was almost a club
in his left hand, and there was a cockade in his biscuit-coloured,
conical hat. He carried himself with an aggressive, masterful air,
that great head of his thrown back as if he were eternally at
Le Chapelier, whose manner was very grave, named him to Andre-Louis.
"This is M. Danton, a brother-lawyer, President of the Cordeliers,
of whom you will have heard."
Of course Andre-Louis had heard of him. Who had not, by then?
Looking at him now with interest, Andre-Louis wondered how it came
that all, or nearly all the leading innovators, were pock-marked.
Mirabeau, the journalist Desmoulins, the philanthropist Marat,
Robespierre the little lawyer from Arras, this formidable fellow
Danton, and several others he could call to mind all bore upon
them the scars of smallpox. Almost he began to wonder was there
any connection between the two. Did an attack of smallpox produce
certain moral results which found expression in this way?
He dismissed the idle speculation, or rather it was shattered by
the startling thunder of Danton's voice.
"This -- Chapelier has told me of you. He says that you are a
patriotic -- ."
More than by the tone was Andre-Louis startled by the obscenities
with which the Colossus did not hesitate to interlard his first
speech to a total stranger. He laughed outright. There was nothing
else to do.
"If he has told you that, he has told you more than the truth! I
am a patriot. The rest my modesty compels me to disavow."
"You're a joker too, it seems," roared the other, but he laughed
nevertheless, and the volume of it shook the windows. "There's no
offence in me. I am like that."
"What a pity," said Andre-Louis.
It disconcerted the king of the markets. "Eh? what's this,
Chapelier? Does he give himself airs, your friend here?"
The spruce Breton, a very petit-maitre in appearance by contrast
with his companion, but nevertheless of a down-right manner quite
equal to Danton's in brutality, though dispensing with the emphasis
of foulness, shrugged as he answered him:
"It is merely that he doesn't like your manners, which is not at all
surprising. They are execrable."
"Ah, bah! You are all like that, you - Bretons. Let's come to
business. You'll have heard what took place in the Assembly
yesterday? You haven't? My God, where do you live? Have you heard
that this scoundrel who calls himself King of France gave passage
across French soil the other day to Austrian troops going to crush
those who fight for liberty in Belgium? Have you heard that, by
"Yes," said Andre-Louis coldly, masking his irritation before the
other's hectoring manner. "I have heard that."
"Oh! And what do you think of it?" arms akimbo, the Colossus
towered above him.
Andre-Louis turned aside to Le Chapelier.
"I don't think I understand. Have you brought this gentleman here
to examine my conscience?"
"Name of a name! He 's prickly as a - porcupine!" Danton protested.
"No, no." Le Chapelier was conciliatory, seeking to provide an
antidote to the irritant administered by his companion. "We require
your help, Andre. Danton here thinks that you are the very man for
us. Listen now... "
"That's it. You tell him," Danton agreed. "You both talk the same
mincing - sort of French. He'll probably understand you."
Le Chapelier went on without heeding the interruption. "This
violation by the King of the obvious rights of a country engaged
in framing a constitution that shall make it free has shattered
every philanthropic illusion we still cherished. There are those
who go so far as to proclaim the King the vowed enemy of France.
But that, of course, is excessive.
"Who says so?" blazed Danton, and swore horribly by way of
conveying his total disagreement.
Le Chapelier waved him into silence, and proceeded.
"Anyhow, the matter has been more than enough, added to all the
rest, to set us by the ears again in the Assembly. It is open
war between the Third Estate and the Privileged."
"Was it ever anything else?"
"Perhaps not; but it has assumed a new character. You'll have
heard of the duel between Lameth and the Duc de Castries?"
"A trifling affair."
"In its results. But it might have been far other. Mirabeau is
challenged and insulted now at every sitting. But he goes his
way, cold-bloodedly wise. Others are not so circumspect; they
meet insult with insult, blow with blow, and blood is being shed
in private duels. The thing is reduced by these swordsmen of
the nobility to a system."
Andre-Louis nodded. He was thinking of Philippe de Vilmorin.
"Yes," he said, "it is an old trick of theirs. It is so simple and
direct - like themselves. I wonder only that they didn't hit upon
this system sooner. In the early days of the States General, at
Versailles, it might have had a better effect. Now, it comes a
"But they mean to make up for lost time - sacred name!" cried
Danton. "Challenges are flying right and left between these
bully-swordsmen, these spadassinicides, and poor devils of the robe
who have never learnt to fence with anything but a quill. It's
just -- murder. Yet if I were to go amongst messieurs les nobles
and crunch an addled head or two with this stick of mine, snap a
few aristocratic necks between these fingers which the good God has
given me for the purpose, the law would send me to atone upon the
gallows. This in a land that is striving after liberty. Why, Dieu
me damne! I am not even allowed to keep my hat on in the theatre.
But they - these --s!"
"He is right," said Le Chapelier. "The thing has become unendurable,
insufferable. Two days ago M. d'Ambly threatened Mirabeau with his
cane before the whole Assembly. Yesterday M. de Faussigny leapt up
and harangued his order by inviting murder. 'Why don't we fall on
these scoundrels, sword in hand?' he asked. Those were his very
words: 'Why don't we fall on these scoundrels, sword in hand.'"
"It is so much simpler than lawmaking," said Andre-Louis.
"Lagron, the deputy from Ancenis in the Loire, said something that
we did not hear in answer. As he was leaving the Manege one of
these bullies grossly insulted him. Lagron no more than used his
elbow to push past when the fellow cried out that he had been
struck, and issued his challenge. They fought this morning early
in the Champs Elysees, and Lagron was killed, run through the
stomach deliberately by a man who fought like a fencing-master,
and poor Lagron did not even own a sword. He had to borrow one to
go to the assignation."
Andre-Louis - his mind ever on Vilmorin, whose case was here
repeated, even to the details - was swept by a gust of passion.
He clenched his hands, and his jaws set. Danton's little eyes
observed him keenly.
"Well? And what do you think of that? Noblesse oblige, eh? The
thing is we must oblige them too, these --s. We must pay them back
in the same coin; meet them with the same weapons. Abolish them;
tumble these assassinateurs into the abyss of nothingness by the
"How? Name of God! haven't I said it?"
"That is where we require your help," Le Chapelier put in. "There
must be men of patriotic feeling among the more advanced of your
pupils. M. Danton's idea is that a little band of these - say a
half-dozen, with yourself at their head - might read these bullies
a sharp lesson."
"And how, precisely, had M. Danton thought that this might be done?"
M. Danton spoke for himself, vehemently.
"Why, thus: We post you in the Manege, at the hour when the Assembly
is rising. We point out the six leading phlebotomists, and let you
loose to insult them before they have time to insult any of the
representatives. Then to-morrow morning, six -- phlebotomists
themselves phlebotomized secundum artem. That will give the others
something to think about. It will give them a great deal to think
about, by --! If necessary the dose may be repeated to ensure a
cure. If you kill the --s, so much the better."
He paused, his sallow face flushed with the enthusiasm of his idea.
Andre-Louis stared at him inscrutably.
"Well, what do you say to that?"
"That it is most ingenious." And Andre-Louis turned aside to look
out of the window.
"And is that all you think of it?"
"I will not tell you what else I think of it because you probably
would not understand. For you, M. Danton, there is at least this
excuse that you did not know me. But you, Isaac - to bring this
gentleman here with such a proposal!"
Le Chapelier was overwhelmed in confusion. "I confess I hesitated,"
he apologized. "But M. Danton would not take my word for it that
the proposal might not be to your taste."
"I would not!" Danton broke in, bellowing. He swung upon Le
Chapelier, brandishing his great arms. "You told me monsieur was
a patriot. Patriotism knows no scruples. You call this mincing
dancing-master a patriot?"
"Would you, monsieur, out of patriotism consent to become an
"Of course I would. haven't I told you so? haven't I told you
that I would gladly go among them with my club, and crack them
like so many - fleas?"
"Why not, then?"
"Why not? Because I should get myself hanged. Haven't I said so?"
"But what of that-being a patriot? Why not, like another Curtius,
jump into the gulf, since you believe that your country would
benefit by your death?"
M. Danton showed signs of exasperation. "Because my country will
benefit more by my life."
"Permit me, monsieur, to suffer from a similar vanity."
"You? But where would be the danger to you? You would do your
work under the cloak of duelling - as they do."
"Have you reflected, monsieur, that the law will hardly regard a
fencing-master who kills his opponent as an ordinary combatant,
particularly if it can be shown that the fencing-master himself
provoked the attack?"
"So! Name of a name!" M. Danton blew out his cheeks and delivered
himself with withering scorn. "It comes to this, then: you are
"You may think so if you choose - that I am afraid to do slyly and
treacherously that which a thrasonical patriot like yourself is
afraid of doing frankly and openly. I have other reasons. But that
one should suffice you."
Danton gasped. Then he swore more amazingly and variedly than ever.
"By --! you are right," he admitted, to Andre-Louis' amazement.
"You are right, and I am wrong. I am as bad a patriot as you are,
and I am a coward as well." And he invoked the whole Pantheon to
witness his self-denunciation. "Only, you see, I count for
something: and if they take me and hang me, why, there it is!
Monsieur, we must find some other way. Forgive the intrusion.
Adieu!" He held out his enormous hand..
Le Chapelier stood hesitating, crestfallen.
"You understand, Andre? I am sorry that... "
"Say no more, please. Come and see me soon again. I would press
you to remain, but it is striking nine, and the first of my pupils
is about to arrive."
"Nor would I permit it,". said Danton. "Between us we must resolve
the riddle of how to extinguish M. de La Tour d'Azyr and his friends."
Sharp as a pistol-shot came that question, as Danton was turning
away. The tone of it brought him up short. He turned again, Le
Chapelier with him.
"I said M. de La Tour d'Azyr."
"What has he to do with the proposal you were making me?"
"He? Why, he is the phlebotomist in chief."
And Le Chapelier added. "It is he who killed Lagron."
"Not a friend of yours, is he?" wondered Danton.
"And it is La Tour d'Azyr you desire me to kill?" asked Andre-Louis
very slowly, after the manner of one whose thoughts are meanwhile
pondering the subject.
"That's it," said Danton. "And not a job for a prentice hand, I
can assure you.
"Ah, but this alters things," said Andre-Louis, thinking aloud.
"It offers a great temptation."
"Why, then... ?" The Colossus took a step towards him again.
"Wait!" He put up his hand. Then with chin sunk on his breast,
he paced away to the window, musing.
Le Chapelier and Danton exchanged glances, then watched him,
waiting, what time he considered.
At first he almost wondered why he should not of his own accord
have decided upon some such course as this to settle that
long-standing account of M. de La Tour d'Azyr. What was the use
of this great skill in fence that he had come to acquire, unless
he could turn it to account to avenge Vilmorin, and to make Aline
safe from the lure of her own ambition? It would be an easy thing
to seek out La Tour d'Azyr, put a mortal affront upon him, and
thus bring him to the point. To-day this would be murder, murder
as treacherous as that which La Tour d'Azyr had done upon Philippe
de Vilmorin; for to-day the old positions were reversed, and it
was Andre-Louis who might go to such an assignation without a doubt
of the issue. It was a moral obstacle of which he made short work.
But there remained the legal obstacle he had expounded to Danton.
There was still a law in France; the same law which he had found it
impossible to move against La Tour d'Azyr, but which would move
briskly enough against himself in like case. And then, suddenly,
as if by inspiration, he saw the way - a way which if adopted would
probably bring La Tour d'Azyr to a poetic justice, bring him,
insolent, confident, to thrust himself upon Andre-Louis' sword,
with all the odium of provocation on his own side.
He turned to them again, and they saw that he was very pale, that
his great dark eyes glowed oddly.
"There will probably be some difficulty in finding a suppleant for
this poor Lagron," he said. "Our fellow-countrymen will be none so
eager to offer themselves to the swords of Privilege.
"True enough," said Le Chapelier gloomily; and then, as if suddenly
leaping to the thing in Andre-Louis' mind: "Andre!" he cried.
"Would you... "
"It is what I was considering. It would give me a legitimate place
in the Assembly. If your Tour d'Azyrs choose to seek me out then,
why, their blood be upon their own heads. I shall certainly do
nothing to discourage them." He smiled curiously. "I am just a
rascal who tries to be honest - Scaramouche always, in fact; a
creature of sophistries. Do you think that Ancenis would have me
for its representative?"
"Will it have Omnes Omnibus for its representative?" Le Chapelier
was laughing, his countenance eager. "Ancenis will be convulsed
with pride. It is not Rennes or Nantes, as it might have been had
you wished it. But it gives you a voice for Brittany."
"I should have to go to Ancenis... "
"No need at all. A letter from me to the Municipality, and the
Municipality will confirm you at once. No need to move from here.
In a fortnight at most the thing can be accomplished. It is
Andre-Louis considered yet a moment. There was his academy. But
he could make arrangements with Le Duc and Galoche to carry it on
for him whilst himself directing and advising. Le Duc, after all,
was become a thoroughly efficient master, and he was a trustworthy
fellow. At need a third assistant could be engaged.
"Be it so," he said at last.
Le Chapelier clasped hands with him and became congratulatorily
voluble, until interrupted by the red-coated giant at the door.
"What exactly does it mean to our business, anyway?" he asked.
"Does it mean that when you are a representative you will not
scruple to skewer M. le Marquis?"
"If M. le Marquis should offer himself to be skewered, as he no
"I perceive the distinction," said M. Danton, and sneered. "You've
an ingenious mind." He turned to Le Chapelier. "What did you say
he was to begin with - a lawyer, wasn't it?"
"Yes, I was a lawyer, and afterwards a mountebank."
"And this is the result!"
"As you say. And do you know that we are after all not so
dissimilar, you and I?"
"Once like you I went about inciting other people to go and kill
the man I wanted dead. You'll say I was a coward, of course."
Le Chapelier prepared to slip between them as the clouds gathered
on the giant's brow. Then these were dispelled again, and the
great laugh vibrated through the long room.
"You've touched me for the second time, and in the same place. Oh,
you can fence, my lad. We should be friends. Rue des Cordeliers
is my address. Any - scoundrel will tell you where Danton lodges.
Desmoulins lives underneath. Come and visit us one evening. There's
always a bottle for a friend."
After an absence of rather more than a week, M. le Marquis de La
Tour d'Azyr was back in his place on the Cote Droit of the National
Assembly. Properly speaking, we should already at this date allude
to him as the ci-devant Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr, for the time was
September of 1790, two months after the passing - on the motion of
that downright Breton leveller, Le Chapelier - of the decree that
nobility should no more be hereditary than infamy; that just as
the brand of the gallows must not defile the possibly worthy
descendants of one who had been convicted of evil, neither should
the blazon advertising achievement glorify the possibly unworthy
descendants of one who had proved himself good. And so the decree
had been passed abolishing hereditary nobility and consigning
family escutcheons to the rubbish-heap of things no longer to be
tolerated by an enlightened generation of philosophers. M. le
Comte de Lafayette, who had supported the motion, left the Assembly
as plain M. Motier, the great tribune Count Mirabeau became plain
M. Riquetti, and M. le Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr just simple M.
Lesarques. The thing was done in one of those exaltations produced
by the approach of the great National Festival of the Champ de
Mars, and no doubt it was thoroughly repented on the morrow by
those who had lent themselves to it. Thus, although law by now,
it was a law that no one troubled just yet to enforce.
That, however, is by the way. The time, as I have said, was
September, the day dull and showery, and some of the damp and gloom
of it seemed to have penetrated the long Hall of the Manege, where
on their eight rows of green benches elliptically arranged in
ascending tiers about the space known as La Piste, sat some eight
or nine hundred of the representatives of the three orders that
composed the nation.
The matter under debate by. the constitution-builders was whether
the deliberating body to succeed the Constituent Assembly should
work in conjunction with the King, whether it should be periodic
or permanent, whether it should govern by two chambers or by one.
The Abbe Maury, son of a cobbler, and therefore in these days of
antitheses orator-in-chief of the party of the Right - the Blacks,
as those who fought Privilege's losing battles were known - was in
the tribune. He appeared to be urging the adoption of a
two-chambers system framed on the English model. He was, if
anything, more long-winded and prosy even than his habit; his
arguments assumed more and more the form of a sermon; the tribune
of the National Assembly became more and more like a pulpit; but
the members, conversely, less and less like a congregation. They
grew restive under that steady flow of pompous verbiage, and it
was in vain that the four ushers in black satin breeches and
carefully powdered heads, chain of office on their breasts, gilded
sword at their sides, circulated in the Piste, clapping their
hands, and hissing
"Silence! En place!"
Equally vain was the intermittent ringing of the bell by the
president at his green-covered table facing the tribune. The Abbe
Maury had talked too long, and for some time had failed to interest
the members. Realizing it at last, he ceased, whereupon the hum
of conversation became general. And then. it fell abruptly.
There was a silence of expectancy, and a turning of heads, a
craning of necks. Even the group of secretaries at the round table
below the president's dais roused themselves from their usual
apathy to consider this young man who was mounting the tribune of
the Assembly for the first time.
"M. Andre-Louis Moreau, deputy suppleant, vice Emmanuel Lagron,
deceased, for Ancenis in the Department of the Loire."
M. de La Tour d'Azyr shook himself out of the gloomy abstraction in
which he had sat. The successor of the deputy he had slain must,
in any event, be an object of grim interest to him. You conceive
how that interest was heightened when he heard him named, when,
looking across, he recognized indeed in this Andre-Louis Moreau
the young scoundrel who was continually crossing his path,
continually exerting against him a deep-moving, sinister influence
to make him regret that he should have spared his life that day at
Gavrillac two years ago. That he should thus have stepped into
the shoes of Lagron seemed to M. de La Tour d'Azyr too apt for
mere coincidence, a direct challenge in itself.
He looked at the young man in wonder rather than in anger, and
looking at him he was filled by a vague, almost a premonitory,
At the very outset, the presence which in itself he conceived to
be a challenge was to demonstrate itself for this in no equivocal
"I come before you," Andre-Louis began, "as a deputy-suppleant
to fill the place of one who was murdered some three weeks ago."
It was a challenging opening that instantly provoked an indignant
outcry from the Blacks. Andre-Louis paused, and looked at them,
smiling a little, a singularly self-confident young man.
"The gentlemen of the Right, M. le President, do not appear to like
my words. But that is not surprising. The gentlemen of the Right
notoriously do not like the truth."
This time there was uproar. The members of the Left roared with
laughter, those of the Right thundered menacingly. The ushers
circulated at a pace beyond their usual, agitated themselves,
clapped their hands, and called in vain for silence.
The President rang his bell.
Above the general din came the voice of La Tour d'Azyr, who had
half-risen from his seat: "Mountebank! This is not the theatre!"
"No, monsieur, it is becoming a hunting-ground for bully-swordsmen,"
was the answer, and the uproar grew.
The deputy-suppleant looked round and waited. Near at hand he met
the encouraging grin of Le Chapelier, and the quiet, approving smile
of Kersain, another Breton deputy of his acquaintance. A little
farther off he saw the great head of Mirabeau thrown back, the great
eyes regarding him from under a frown in a sort of wonder, and
yonder, among all that moving sea of faces, the sallow countenance
of the Arras' lawyer Robespierre - or de Robespierre, as the little
snob now called himself, having assumed the aristocratic particle
as the prerogative of a man of his distinction in the councils of
his country. With his tip-tilted nose in the air, his carefully
curled head on one side, the deputy for Arras was observing
Andre-Louis attentively. The horn-rimmed spectacles he used for
reading were thrust up on to his pale forehead, and it was through a
levelled spy-glass that he considered the speaker, his thin-lipped
mouth stretched a little in that tiger-cat smile that was afterwards
to become so famous and so feared.
Gradually the uproar wore itself out, and diminished so that at last
the President could make himself heard. Leaning forward, he gravely
addressed the young man in the tribune:
"Monsieur, if you wish to be heard, let me beg of you not to be
provocative in your language." And then to the others: "Messieurs,
if we are to proceed, I beg that you will restrain your feelings
until the deputy-suppleant has concluded his discourse."
"I shall endeavour to obey, M. le President, leaving provocation to
the gentlemen of the Right. If the few words I have used so far
have been provocative, I regret it. But it was necessary that I
should refer to the distinguished deputy whose place I come so
unworthily to fill, and it was unavoidable that I should refer to
the event which has procured us this sad necessity. The deputy
Lagron was a man of singular nobility of mind, a selfless, dutiful,
zealous man, inflamed by the high purpose of doing his duty by his
electors and by this Assembly. He possessed what his opponents
would call a dangerous gift of eloquence."
La Tour d'Azyr writhed at the well-known phrase - his own phrase
- the phrase that he had used to explain his action in the matter
of Philippe de Vilmorin, the phrase that from time to time had been
cast in his teeth with such vindictive menace.
And then the crisp voice of the witty Canales, that very rapier of
the Privileged party, cut sharply into the speaker's momentary pause.
"M. le President," he asked with great solemnity, "has the
deputy-suppleant mounted the tribune for the purpose of taking part
in the debate on the constitution of the legislative assemblies,
or for the purpose of pronouncing a funeral oration upon the
departed deputy Lagron?"
This time it was the Blacks who gave way to mirth, until checked
by the deputy-suppleant.
"That laughter is obscene!" In this truly Gallic fashion he flung
his glove into the face of Privilege, determined, you see, upon no
half measures; and the rippling laughter perished on the instant
quenched in speechless fury.
Solemnly he proceeded.
"You all know how Lagron died. To refer to his death at all
requires courage, to laugh in referring to it requires something
that I will not attempt to qualify. If I have alluded to his
decease, it is because my own appearance among you seemed to render
some such allusion necessary. It is mine to take up the burden
which he set down. I do not pretend that I have the strength, the
courage, or the wisdom of Lagron; but with every ounce of such
strength and courage and wisdom as I possess that burden will I
bear. And I trust, for the sake of those who might attempt it,
that the means taken to impose silence upon that eloquent voice
will not be taken to impose silence upon mine.
There was a faint murmur of applause from the Left, splutter of
contemptuous laughter from the Right.
"Rhodomont!" a voice called to him.
He looked in the direction of that voice, proceeding from the group
of spadassins amid the Blacks across the Piste, and he smiled.
Inaudibly his lips answered:
"No, my friend - Scaramouche; Scaramouche, the subtle, dangerous
fellow who goes tortuously to his ends." Aloud, he resumed: "M.
le President, there are those who will not understand that the
purpose for which we are assembled here is the making of laws by
which France may be equitably governed, by which France may be
lifted out of the morass of bankruptcy into which she is in danger
of sinking. For there are some who want, it seems, not laws, but
blood; I solemnly warn them that this blood will end by choking
them, if they do not learn in time to discard force and allow reason
Again in that phrase there was something that stirred a memory in
La Tour d'Azyr. He turned in the fresh uproar to speak to his
cousin Chabrillane who sat beside him.
"A daring rogue, this bastard of Gavrillac's," said he.
Chabrillane looked at him with gleaming eyes, his face white with
"Let him talk himself out. I don't think he will be heard again
after to-day. Leave this to me."
Hardly could La Tour have told you why, but he sank back in his seat
with a sense of relief. He had been telling himself that here was
matter demanding action, a challenge that he must take up. But
despite his rage he felt a singular unwillingness. This fellow had
a trick of reminding him, he supposed, too unpleasantly of that
young abbe done to death in the garden behind the" Breton arme" at
Gavrillac. Not that the death of Philippe de Vilmorin lay heavily
upon M. de La Tour d'Azyr's conscience. He had accounted himself
fully justified of his action. It was that the whole thing as his
memory revived it for him made an unpleasant picture: that
distraught boy kneeling over the bleeding body of the friend he
had loved, and almost begging to be slain with him, dubbing the
Marquis murderer and coward to incite him.
Meanwhile, leaving now the subject of the death of Lagron, the
deputy-suppleant had at last brought himself into order, and was
speaking upon the question under debate. He contributed nothing
of value to it; he urged nothing definite. His speech on the
subject was very brief - that being the pretext and not the purpose
for which he had ascended the tribune.
When later he was leaving the hall at the end of the sitting, with
Le Chapelier at his side, he found himself densely surrounded by
deputies as by a body-guard. Most of them were Bretons, who aimed
at screening him from the provocations which his own provocative
words in the Assembly could not fail to bring down upon his head.
For a moment the massive form of Mirabeau brought up alongside of
"Felicitations, M. Moreau," said the great man. "You acquitted
yourself very well. They will want your blood, no doubt. But be
discreet, monsieur, if I may presume to advise you, and do not
allow yourself to be misled by any false sense of quixotry.
Ignore their challenges. I do so myself. I place each challenger
upon my list. There are some fifty there already, and there they
will remain. Refuse them what they are pleased to call satisfaction,
and all will be well." Andre-Louis smiled and sighed. "It requires
courage," said the hypocrite.
"Of course it does. But you would appear to have plenty."
"Hardly enough, perhaps. But I shall do my best."
They had come through the vestibule, and although this was lined
with eager Blacks waiting for the young man who had insulted them
so flagrantly from the rostrum, Andre-Louis' body-guard had
prevented any of them from reaching him.
Emerging now into the open, under the great awning at the head of
the Carriere, erected to enable carriages to reach the door under
cover, those in front of him dispersed a little, and there was a
moment as he reached the limit of the awning when his front was
entirely uncovered. Outside the rain was falling heavily, churning
the ground into thick mud, and for a moment Andre-Louis, with Le
Chapelier ever at his side, stood hesitating to step out into the
The watchful Chabrillane had seen his chance, and by a detour that
took him momentarily out into the rain, he came face to face with
the too-daring young Breton. Rudely, violently, he thrust
Andre-Louis back, as if to make room for himself under the shelter.
Not for a second was Andre-Louis under any delusion as to the man's
deliberate purpose, nor were those who stood near him, who made a
belated and ineffectual attempt to close about him. He was grievously
disappointed. It was not Chabrillane he had been expecting. His
disappointment was reflected on his countenance, to be mistaken for
something very different by the arrogant Chevalier.
But if Chabrillane was the man appointed to deal with him, he would
make the best of it.
"I think you are pushing against me, monsieur," he said, very
civilly, and with elbow and shoulder he thrust M. de Chabrillane
back into the rain.
"I desire to take shelter, monsieur," the Chevalier hectored.
"You may do so without standing on my feet. I have a prejudice
against any one standing on my feet. My feet are very tender.
Perhaps you did not know it, monsieur. Please say no more.
"Why, I wasn't speaking, you lout!" exclaimed the Chevalier,
"Were you not? I thought perhaps you were about to apologize."
"Apologize?" Chabrillane laughed. "To you! Do you know that you
are amusing?" He stepped under the awning for the second time,
and again in view of all thrust Andre-Louis rudely back.
"Ahi!" cried Andre-Louis, with a grimace. "You hurt me, monsieur.
I have told you not to push against me." He raised his voice that
all might hear him, and once more impelled M. de Chabrillane back
into the rain.
Now, for all his slenderness, his assiduous daily sword-practice
had given Andre-Louis an arm of iron. Also he threw his weight
into the thrust. His assailant reeled backwards a few steps, and
then his heel struck a baulk of timber left on the ground by some
workmen that morning, and he sat down suddenly in the mud.
A roar of laughter rose from all who witnessed the fine gentleman's
downfall. He rose, mud-bespattered, in a fury, and in that fury
sprang at Andre-Louis.
Andre-Louis had made him ridiculous, which was altogether
"You shall meet me for this!" he spluttered. "I shall kill you
His inflamed face was within a foot of Andre-Louis'. Andre-Louis
laughed. In the silence everybody heard the laugh and the words
"Oh, is that what you wanted? But why didn't you say so before?
You would have spared me the trouble of knocking you down. I
thought gentlemen of your profession invariably conducted these
affairs with decency, decorum, and a certain grace. Had you done
so, you might have saved your breeches."
"How soon shall we settle this?" snapped Chabrillane, livid with
very real fury.
"Whenever you please, monsieur. It is for you to say when it will
suit your convenience to kill me. I think that was the intention
you announced, was it not?" Andre-Louis was suavity itself.
"To-morrow morning, in the Bois. Perhaps you will bring a friend."
"Certainly, monsieur. To-morrow morning, then. I hope we shall
have fine weather. I detest the rain."
Chabrillane looked at him almost with amazement Andre-Louis smiled
"Don't let me detain you now, monsieur. We quite understand each
other. I shall be in the Bois at nine o'clock to-morrow morning."
"That is too late for me, monsieur."
"Any other hour would be too early for me. I do not like to have
my habits disturbed. Nine o'clock or not at all, as you please."
"But I must be at the Assembly at nine, for the morning session."
"I am afraid, monsieur, you will have to kill me first, and I
have a prejudice against being killed before nine o'clock."
Now this was too complete a subversion of the usual procedure for
M. de Chabrillane's stomach. Here was a rustic deputy assuming
with him precisely the tone of sinister mockery which his class
usually dealt out to their victims of the Third Estate. And to
heighten the irritation, Andre-Louis - the actor, Scaramouche
always - produced his snuffbox, and proffered it with a steady
hand to Le Chapelier before helping himself.
Chabrillane, it seemed, after all that he had suffered, was not
even to be allowed to make a good exit.
"Very well, monsieur," he said. "Nine o'clock, then; and we'll see
if you'll talk as pertly afterwards."
On that he flung away, before the jeers of the provincial deputies.
Nor did it soothe his rage to be laughed at by urchins all the way
down the Rue Dauphine because of the mud and filth that dripped
from his satin breeches and the tails of his elegant, striped coat.
But though the members of the Third had jeered on the surface, they
trembled underneath with fear and indignation. It was too much.
Lagron killed by one of these bullies, and now his successor
challenged, and about to be killed by another of them on the very
first day of his appearance to take the dead man's place. Several
came now to implore Andre-Louis not to go to the Bois, to ignore
the challenge and the whole affair, which was but a deliberate
attempt to put him out of the way. He listened seriously, shook
his head gloomily, and promised at last to think it over.
He was in his seat again for the afternoon session as if nothing
But in the morning, when the Assembly met, his place was vacant,
and so was M. de Chabrillane's. Gloom and resentment sat upon the
members of the Third, and brought a more than usually acrid note
into their debates. They disapproved of the rashness of the new
recruit to their body. Some openly condemned his lack of
circumspection. Very few - and those only the little group in Le
Chapelier's confidence - ever expected to see him again.
It was, therefore, as much in amazement as in relief that at a few
minutes after ten they saw him enter, calm, composed, and bland,
and thread his way to his seat. The speaker occupying the rostrum
at that moment - a member of the Privileged - stopped short to stare
in incredulous dismay. Here was something that he could not
understand at all. Then from somewhere, to satisfy the amazement
on both sides of the assembly, a voice explained the phenomenon
"They haven't met. He has shirked it at the last moment."
It must be so, thought all; the mystification ceased, and men were
settling back into their seats. But now, having reached his place,
having heard the voice that explained the matter to the universal
satisfaction, Andre-Louis paused before taking his seat. He felt
it incumbent upon him to reveal the true fact.
"M. le President, my excuses for my late arrival." There was no
necessity for this. It was a mere piece of theatricality, such as
it was not in Scaramouche's nature to forgo. "I have been detained
by an engagement of a pressing nature. I bring you also the excuses
of M. de Chabrillane. He, unfortunately, will be permanently absent
from this Assembly in future."
The silence was complete. Andre-Louis sat down.
THE PALADIN OF THE THIRD
M. Le Chevalier de Chabrillane had been closely connected, you will
remember, with the iniquitous affair in which Philippe de Vilmorin
had lost his life. We know enough to justify a surmise that he had
not merely been La Tour d'Azyr's second in the encounter, but
actually an instigator of the business. Andre-Louis may therefore
have felt a justifiable satisfaction in offering up the Chevalier's
life to the Manes of his murdered friend. He may have viewed it as
an act of common justice not to be procured by any other means.
Also it is to be remembered that Chabrillane had gone confidently
to the meeting, conceiving that he, a practised ferailleur, had to
deal with a bourgeois utterly unskilled in swordsmanship. Morally,
then, he was little better than a murderer, and that he should have
tumbled into the pit he conceived that he dug for Andre-Louis was
a poetic retribution. Yet, notwithstanding all this, I should find
the cynical note on which Andre-Louis announced the issue to the
Assembly utterly detestable did I believe it sincere. It would
justify Aline of the expressed opinion, which she held in common
with so many others who had come into close contact with him, that
Andre-Louis was quite heartless.
You have seen something of the same heartlessness in his conduct
when he discovered the faithlessness of La Binet although that is