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CHAPTER XI

THE FRACAS AT THE THEATRE FEYDAU


Leaving his host to act as his plenipotentiary with Mademoiselle de
Kercadiou, and to explain to her that it was his profound contrition
that compelled him to depart without taking formal leave of her, the
Marquis rolled away from Sautron in a cloud of gloom. Twenty-four
hours with La Binet had been more than enough for a man of his
fastidious and discerning taste. He looked back upon the episode
with nausea - the inevitable psychological reaction - marvelling
at himself that until yesterday he should have found her so
desirable, and cursing himself that for the sake of that ephemeral
and worthless gratification he should seriously have imperilled his
chances of winning Mademoiselle de Kercadiou to wife. There is,
after all, nothing very extraordinary in his frame of mind, so that
I need not elaborate it further. It resulted from the conflict
between the beast and the angel that go to make up the composition
of every man.

The Chevalier de Chabrillane - who in reality occupied towards the
Marquis a position akin to that of gentleman-in-waiting - sat
opposite to him in the enormous travelling berline. A small folding
table had been erected between them, and the Chevalier suggested
piquet. But M. le Marquis was in no humour for cards. His thoughts
absorbed him. As they were rattling over the cobbles of Nantes'
streets, he remembered a promise to La Binet to witness her
performance that night in "The Faithless Lover." And now he was
running away from her. The thought was repugnant to him on two
scores. He was breaking his pledged word, and he was acting like a
coward. And there was more than that. He had led the mercenary
little strumpet - it was thus he thought of her at present, and
with some justice - to expect favours from him in addition to the
lavish awards which already he had made her. The baggage had almost
sought to drive a bargain with him as to her future. He was to take
her to Paris, put her into her own furniture - as the expression
ran, and still runs - and under the shadow of his powerful
protection see that the doors of the great theatres of the capital
should be opened to her talents. He had not - he was thankful to
reflect - exactly committed himself. But neither had he definitely
refused her. It became necessary now to come to an understanding,
since he was compelled to choose between his trivial passion for
her - a passion quenched already - and his deep, almost spiritual
devotion to Mademoiselle de Kercadiou.

His honour, he considered, demanded of him that he should at once
deliver himself from a false position. La Binet would make a scene,
of course; but he knew the proper specific to apply to hysteria of
that nature. Money, after all, has its uses.

He pulled the cord. The carriage rolled to a standstill; a footman
appeared at the door.

"To the Theatre Feydau," said he.

The footman vanished and the berline rolled on. M. de Chabrillane
laughed cynically.

"I'll trouble you not to be amused," snapped the Marquis. "You
don't understand." Thereafter he explained himself. It was a rare
condescension in him. But, then, he could not bear to be
misunderstood in such a matter. Chabrillane grew serious in
reflection of the Marquis' extreme seriousness.

"Why not write?" he suggested. "Myself, I confess that I should
find it easier.

Nothing could better have revealed M. le Marquis' state of mind
than his answer.

"Letters are liable both to miscarriage and to misconstruction.
Two risks I will not run. If she did not answer, I should never
know which had been incurred. And I shall have no peace of mind
until I know that I have set a term to this affair. The berline
can wait while we are at the theatre. We will go on afterwards.
We will travel all night if necessary."

"Peste!" said M. de Chabrillane with a grimace. But that was all.

The great travelling carriage drew up at the lighted portals of the
Feydau, and M. le Marquis stepped out. He entered the theatre with
Chabrillane, all unconsciously to deliver himself into the hands of
Andre-Louis.

Andre-Louis was in a state of exasperation produced by Climene's
long absence from Nantes in the company of M. le Marquis, and fed
by the unspeakable complacency with which M. Binet regarded that
event of quite unmistakable import.

However much he might affect the frame of mind of the stoics, and
seek to judge with a complete detachment, in the heart and soul of
him Andre-Louis was tormented and revolted. It was not Climene he
blamed. He had been mistaken in her. She was just a poor weak
vessel driven helplessly by the first breath, however foul, that
promised her advancement. She suffered from the plague of greed;
and he congratulated himself upon having discovered it before
making her his wife. He felt for her now nothing but a deal of
pity and some contempt. The pity was begotten of the love she had
lately inspired in him. It might be likened to the dregs of love,
all that remained after the potent wine of it had been drained off.
His anger he reserved for her father and her seducer.

The thoughts that were stirring in him on that Monday morning, when
it was discovered that Climene had not yet returned from her
excursion of the previous day in the coach of M. le Marquis, were
already wicked enough without the spurring they received from the
distraught Leandre.

Hitherto the attitude of each of these men towards the other had
been one of mutual contempt. The phenomenon has frequently been
observed in like cases. Now, what appeared to be a common
misfortune brought them into a sort of alliance. So, at least, it
seemed to Leandre when he went in quest of Andre-Louis, who with
apparent unconcern was smoking a pipe upon the quay immediately
facing the inn.

"Name of a pig!" said Leandre. "How can you take your ease and
smoke at such a time?"

Scaramouche surveyed the sky. "I do not find it too cold," said
he. "The sun is shining. I am very well here."

"Do I talk of the weather?" Leandre was very excited.

"Of what, then?"

"Of Climene, of course."

"Oh! The lady has ceased to interest me," he lied.

Leandre stood squarely in front of him, a handsome figure handsomely
dressed in these days, his hair well powdered, his stockings of silk.
His face was pale, his large eyes looked larger than usual.

"Ceased to interest you? Are you not to marry her?" Andre-Louis
expelled a cloud of smoke. "You cannot wish to be offensive. Yet
you almost suggest that I live on other men's leavings."

"My God!" said Leandre, overcome, and he stared awhile. Then he
burst out afresh. "Are you quite heartless? Are you always
Scaramouche?"

"What do you expect me to do?" asked Andre-Louis, evincing surprise
in his own turn, but faintly.

"I do not expect you to let her go without a struggle."

"But she has gone already." Andre-Louis pulled at his pipe a
moment, what time Leandre clenched and unclenched his hands in
impotent rage. "And to what purpose struggle against the
inevitable? Did you struggle when I took her from you?"

"She was not mine to be taken from me. I but aspired, and you won
the race. But even had it been otherwise where is the comparison?
That was a thing in honour; this - this is hell."

His emotion moved Andre-Louis. He took Leandre's arm. "You're a
good fellow, Leandre. I am glad I intervened to save you from
your fate."

"Oh, you don't love her!" cried the other, passionately. "You never
did. You don't know what it means to love, or you'd not talk like
this. My God! if she had been my affianced wife and this had
happened, I should have killed the man - killed him! Do you hear
me? But you... Oh, you, you come out here and smoke, and take the
air, and talk of her as another man's leavings. I wonder I didn't
strike you for the word."

He tore his arm from the other's grip, and looked almost as if he
would strike him now.

"You should have done it," said Andre-Louis. "It's in your part."

With an imprecation Leandre turned on his heel to go. Andre-Louis
arrested his departure.

"A moment, my friend. Test me by yourself. Would you marry her
now?"

"Would I?" The young man's eyes blazed with passion. "Would I?
Let her say that she will marry me, and I am her slave."

"Slave is the right word - a slave in hell."

"It would never be hell to me where she was, whatever she had done.
I love her, man, I am not like you. I love her, do you hear me?"

"I have known, it for some time," said Andre-Louis. "Though I
didn't suspect your attack of the disease to be quite so violent.
Well, God knows I loved her, too, quite enough to share your thirst
for killing. For myself, the blue blood of La Tour d'Azyr would
hardly quench this thirst. I should like to add to it the dirty
fluid that flows in the veins of the unspeakable Binet."

For a second his emotion had been out of hand, and he revealed to
Leandre in the mordant tone of those last words something of the
fires that burned under his icy exterior. The young man caught
him by the hand.

"I knew you were acting," said he. "You feel - you feel as I do."

"Behold us, fellows in viciousness. I have betrayed myself, it
seems. Well, and what now? Do you want to see this pretty Marquis
torn limb from limb? I might afford you the spectacle."

"What?" Leandre stared, wondering was this another of Scaramouche's
cynicisms.

"It isn't really difficult provided I have aid. I require only a
little. Will you lend it me?"

"Anything you ask," Leandre exploded. "My life if you require it."

Andre-Louis took his arm again. "Let us walk," he said. "I will
instruct you."

When they came back the company was already at dinner. Mademoiselle
had not yet returned. Sullenness presided at the table. Columbine
and Madame wore anxious expressions. The fact was that relations
between Binet and his troupe were daily growing more strained.

Andre-Louis and Leandre went each to his accustomed place. Binet's
little eyes followed them with a malicious gleam, his thick lips
pouted into a crooked smile.

"You two are grown very friendly of a sudden," he mocked.

"You are a man of discernment, Binet," said Scaramouche, the cold
loathing of his voice itself an insult. "Perhaps you discern the
reason?"

"It is readily discerned."

"Regale the company with it!" he begged; and waited. "What? You
hesitate? Is it possible that there are limits to your
shamelessness?"

Binet reared his great head. "Do you want to quarrel with me,
Scaramouche?" Thunder was rumbling in his deep, voice.

"Quarrel? You want to laugh. A man doesn't quarrel with creatures
like you. We all know the place held in the public esteem by
complacent husbands. But, in God's name, what place is there at
all for complacent fathers?"

Binet heaved himself up, a great towering mass of manhood. Violently
he shook off the restraining hand of Pierrot who sat on his left.

"A thousand devils!" he roared; "if you take that tone with me, I'll
break every bone in your filthy body."

"If you were to lay a finger on me, Binet, you would give me the
only provocation I still need to kill you." Andre-Louis was as
calm as ever, and therefore the more menacing. Alarm stirred the
company. He protruded from his pocket the butt of a pistol - newly
purchased. "I go armed, Binet. It is only fair to give you warning.
Provoke me as you have suggested, and I'll kill you with no more
compunction than I should kill a slug, which after all is the thing
you most resemble - a slug, Binet; a fat, slimy body; foulness
without soul and without intelligence. When I come to think of it
I can't suffer to sit at table with you. It turns my stomach."

He pushed away his platter and got up. "I'll go and eat at the
ordinary below stairs."

Thereupon up jumped Columbine.

"And I'll come with you, Scaramouche!" cried she.

It acted like a signal. Had the thing been concerted it couldn't
have fallen out more uniformly. Binet, in fact, was persuaded of
a conspiracy. For in the wake of Columbine went Leandre, in the
wake of Leandre, Polichinelle and then all the rest together, until
Binet found himself sitting alone at the head of an empty table in
an empty room - a badly shaken man whose rage could afford him no
support against the dread by which he was suddenly invaded.

He sat down to think things out, and he was still at that melancholy
occupation when perhaps a half-hour later his daughter entered the
room, returned at last from her excursion.

She looked pale, even a little scared - in reality excessively
self-conscious now that the ordeal of facing all the company awaited
her.

Seeing no one but her father in the room, she checked on the
threshold.

"Where is everybody?" she asked, in a voice rendered natural by
effort.

M. Binet reared his great head and turned upon her eyes that were
blood-injected. He scowled, blew out his thick lips and made harsh
noises in his throat. Yet he took stock of her, so graceful and
comely and looking so completely the lady of fashion in her long
fur-trimmed travelling coat of bottle green, her muff and her broad
hat adorned by a sparkling Rhinestone buckle above her adorably
coiffed brown hair. No need to fear the future whilst he owned
such a daughter, let Scaramouche play what tricks he would.

He expressed, however, none of these comforting reflections.

"So you're back at last, little fool," he growled in greeting. "I
was beginning to ask myself if we should perform this evening. It
wouldn't greatly have surprised me if you had not returned in time.
Indeed, since you have chosen to play the fine hand you held in
your own way and scorning my advice, nothing can surprise me."

She crossed the room to the table, and leaning against it, looked
down upon him almost disdainfully.

"I have nothing to regret," she said.

"So every fool says at first. Nor would you admit it if you had.
You are like that. You go your own way in spite of advice from
older heads. Death of my life, girl, what do you know of men?"

"I am not complaining," she reminded him.

"No, but you may be presently, when you discover that you would have
done better to have been guided by your old father. So long as your
Marquis languished for you, there was nothing you could not have
done with the fool. So long as you let him have no more than your
fingertips to kiss... ah, name of a name! that was the time to
build your future. If you live to be a thousand you'll never have
such a chance again, and you've squandered it, for what?"

Mademoiselle sat down.- "You're sordid," she said, with disgust.

"Sordid, am I?" His thick lips curled again. "I have had enough of
the dregs of life, and so I should have thought have you. You held
a hand on which to have won a fortune if you had played it as I
bade you. Well, you've played it, and where's the fortune? We can
whistle for that as a sailor whistles for wind. And, by Heaven,
we'll need to whistle presently if the weather in the troupe
continues as it's set in. That scoundrel Scaramouche has been at
his ape's tricks with them. They've suddenly turned moral. They
won't sit at table with me any more." He was spluttering between
anger and sardonic mirth. "It was your friend Scaramouche set them
the example of that. He threatened my life actually. Threatened my
life! Called me... Oh, but what does that matter? What matters is
that the next thing to happen to us will be that the Binet Troupe
will discover it can manage without M. Binet and his daughter.
This scoundrelly bastard I've befriended has little by little
robbed me of everything. It's in his power to-day to rob me of my
troupe, and the knave's ungrateful enough and vile enough to make
use of his power.

"Let him," said mademoiselle contemptuously.

"Let him?" He was aghast. "And what's to become of us?"


"In no case will the Binet Troupe interest me much longer," said
she. "I shall be going to Paris soon. There are better theatres
there than the Feydau. There's Mlle. Montansier's theatre in the
Palais Royal; there's the Ambigu Comique; there's the Comedie
Francaise; there's even a possibility I may have a theatre of my
own."

His eyes grew big for once. He stretched out a fat hand, and
placed it on one of hers. She noticed that it trembled.

"Has he promised that? Has he promised?"

She looked at him with her head on one side, eyes sly and a queer
little smile on her perfect lips.

"He did not refuse me when I asked it," she answered, with
conviction that all was as she desired it.

"Bah!" He withdrew his hand, and heaved himself up. There was
disgust on his face. "He did not refuse!" he mocked her; and then
with passion: "Had you acted as I advised you, he would have
consented to anything that you asked, and what is more he would
have provided anything that you asked - anything that lay within
his means, and they are inexhaustible. You have changed a
certainty into a possibility, and I hate possibilities - God of
God! I have lived on possibilities, and infernally near starved
on them."

Had she known of the interview taking place at that moment at the
Chateau de Sautron she would have laughed less confidently at her
father's gloomy forebodings. But she was destined never to know,
which indeed was the cruellest punishment of all. She was to
attribute all the evil that of a sudden overwhelmed her, the
shattering of all the future hopes she had founded upon the Marquis
and the sudden disintegration of the Binet Troupe, to the wicked
interference of that villain Scaramouche.

She had this much justification that possibly, without the warning
from M. de Sautron, the Marquis would have found in the events of
that evening at the Theatre Feydau a sufficient reason for ending
an entanglement that was fraught with too much unpleasant excitement,
whilst the breaking-up of the Binet Troupe was most certainly the
result of Andre-Louis' work. But it was not a result that he
intended or even foresaw.

So much was this the case that in the interval after the second act,
he sought the dressing-room shared by Polichinelle and Rhodomont.
Polichinelle was in the act of changing.

"I shouldn't trouble to change," he said. "The piece isn't likely
to go beyond my opening scene of the next act with Leandre."

"What do you mean?"

"You'll see." He put a paper on Polichinelle's table amid the
grease-paints. "Cast your eye over that. It's a sort of last will
and testament in favour of the troupe. I was a lawyer once; the
document is in order. I relinquish to all of you the share produced
by my partnership in the company."

"But you don't mean that you are leaving us?" cried Polichinelle in
alarm, whilst Rhodomont's sudden stare asked the same question.

Scaramouche's shrug was eloquent. Polichinelle ran on gloomily:
"Of course it was to have been foreseen. But why should you be the
one to go? It is you who have made us; and it is you who are the
real head and brains of the troupe; it is you who have raised it
into a real theatrical company. If any one must go, let it be
Binet - Binet and his infernal daughter. Or if you go, name of a
name! we all go with you!"

"Aye," added Rhodomont, "we've had enough of that fat scoundrel."

"I had thought of it, of course," said Andre-Louis. "It was not
vanity, for once; it was trust in your friendship. After to-night
we may consider it again, if I survive."

"If you survive?" both cried.

Polichinelle got up. "Now, what madness have you in mind?" he
asked.

"For one thing I think I am indulging Leandre; for another I am
pursuing an old quarrel."

The three knocks sounded as he spoke.

"There, I must go. Keep that paper, Polichinelle. After all, it
may not be necessary.

He was gone. Rhodomont stared at Polichinelle. Polichinelle
stared at Rhodomont.


"What the devil is he thinking of?" quoth the latter.

"That is most readily ascertained by going to see," replied
Polichinelle. He completed changing in haste, and despite what
Scaramouche had said; and then followed with Rhodomont.

As they approached the wings a roar of applause met them coming from
the audience. It was applause and something else; applause on an
unusual note. As it faded away they heard the voice of Scaramouche
ringing clear as a bell:

"And so you see, my dear M. Leandre, that when you speak of the
Third Estate, it is necessary to be more explicit. What precisely
is the Third Estate?"

"Nothing," said Leandre.

There was a gasp from the audience, audible in the wings, and then
swiftly followed Scaramouche's next question:

"True. Alas! But what should it be?"

"Everything," said Leandre.

The audience roared its acclamations, the more violent because of
the unexpectedness of that reply.

"True again," said Scaramouche. "And what is more, that is what it
will be; that is what it already is. Do you doubt it?"

"I hope it," said the schooled Leandre.

"You may believe it," said Scaramouche, and again the acclamations
rolled into thunder.

Polichinelle and Rhodomont exchanged glances: indeed, the former
winked, not without mirth.

"Sacred name!" growled a voice behind them. "Is the scoundrel at
his political tricks again?"

They turned to confront M. Binet. Moving with that noiseless tread
of his, he had come up unheard behind them, and there he stood now
in his scarlet suit of Pantaloon under a trailing bedgown, his little
eyes glaring from either side of his false nose. But their attention
was held by the voice of Scaramouche. He had stepped to the front
of the stage.

"He doubts it," he was felling the audience. "But then this M.
Leandre is himself akin to those who worship the worm-eaten idol of
Privilege, and so he is a little afraid to believe a truth that is
becoming apparent to all the world. Shall I convince him? Shall I
tell him how a company of noblemen backed by their servants under
arms - six hundred men in all - sought to dictate to the Third
Estate of Rennes a few short weeks ago? Must I remind him of the
martial front shown on that occasion by the Third Estate, and how
they swept the streets clean of that rabble of nobles - cette
canaille noble... "

Applause interrupted him. The phrase had struck home and caught.
Those who had writhed under that infamous designation from their
betters leapt at this turning of it against the nobles themselves.

"But let me tell you of their leader - le pins noble de cette
canaille, on bien le plus canaille de ces nobles! You know him
- that one. He fears many things, but the voice of truth he fears
most. With such as him the eloquent truth eloquently spoken is a
thing instantly to be silenced. So he marshalled his peers and
their valetailles, and led them out to slaughter these miserable
bourgeois who dared to raise a voice. But these same miserable
bourgeois did not choose to be slaughtered in the streets of Rennes.
It occurred to them that since the nobles decreed that blood should
flow, it might as well be the blood of the nobles. They marshalled
themselves too - this noble rabble against the rabble of nobles -
and they marshalled themselves so well that they drove M. de La
Tour d'Azyr and his warlike following from the field with broken
heads and shattered delusions. They sought shelter at the hands
of the Cordeliers; and the shavelings gave them sanctuary in their
convent - those who survived, among whom was their proud leader,
M. de La Tour d'Azyr. You have heard of this valiant Marquis, this
great lord of life and death?"

The pit was in an uproar a moment. It quieted again as Scaramouche
continued:

"Oh, it was a fine spectacle to see this mighty hunter scuttling to
cover like a hare, going to earth in the Cordelier Convent. Rennes
has not seen him since. Rennes would like to see him again. But
if he is valorous, he is also discreet. And where do you think he
has taken refuge, this great nobleman who wanted to see the streets
of Rennes washed in the blood of its citizens, this man who would
have butchered old and young of the contemptible canaille to silence
the voice of reason and of liberty that presumes to ring through
France to-day? Where do you think he hides himself? Why, here in
Nantes."

Again there was uproar.

"What do you say? Impossible? Why, my friends, at this moment he
is here in this theatre - skulking up there in that box. He is too
shy to show himself - oh, a very modest gentleman. But there he is
behind the curtains. Will you not show yourself to your friends,
M. de La Tour d'Azyr, Monsieur le Marquis who considers eloquence
so very dangerous a gift? See, they would like a word with you;
they do not believe me when I tell them that you are here."

Now, whatever he may have been, and whatever the views held on the
subject by Andre-Louis, M. de La Tour d'Azyr was certainly not a
coward. To say that he was hiding in Nantes was not true. He came
and went there openly and unabashed. It happened, however, that the
Nantais were ignorant until this moment of his presence among them.
But then he would have disdained to have informed them of it just as
he would have disdained to have concealed it from them.

Challenged thus, however, and despite the ominous manner in which
the bourgeois element in the audience had responded to Scaramouche's
appeal to its passions, despite the attempts made by Chabrillane to
restrain him, the Marquis swept aside the curtain at the side of the
box, and suddenly showed himself, pale but self-contained and
scornful as he surveyed first the daring Scaramouche and then those
others who at sight of him had given tongue to their hostility.

Hoots and yells assailed him, fists were shaken at him, canes were
brandished menacingly.

"Assassin! Scoundrel! Coward! Traitor!"

But he braved the storm, smiling upon them his ineffable contempt.
He was waiting for the noise to cease; waiting to address them in
his turn. But he waited in vain, as he very soon perceived.

The contempt he did not trouble to dissemble served but to goad
them on.

In the pit pandemonium was already raging. Blows were being freely
exchanged; there were scuffling groups, and here and there swords
were being drawn, but fortunately the press was too dense to permit
of their being used effectively. Those who had women with them and
the timid by nature were making haste to leave a house that looked
like becoming a cockpit, where chairs were being smashed to provide
weapons, and parts of chandeliers were already being used as missiles.

One of these hurled by the hand of a gentleman in one of the boxes
narrowly missed Scaramouche where he stood, looking down in a sort
of grim triumph upon the havoc which his words had wrought. Knowing
of what inflammable material the audience was composed, he had
deliberately flung down amongst them the lighted torch of discord,
to produce this conflagration.

He saw men falling quickly into groups representative of one side
or the other of this great quarrel that already was beginning to
agitate the whole of France. Their rallying cries were ringing
through the theatre.

"Down with the canaille!" from some.

"Down with the privileged!" from others.

And then above the general din one cry rang out sharply and
insistently:

"To the box! Death to the butcher of Rennes! Death to La Tour
d'Azyr who makes war upon the people!"

There was a rush for one of the doors of the pit that opened upon
the staircase leading to the boxes.

And now, whilst battle and confusion spread with the speed of fire,
overflowing from the theatre into the street itself, La Tour
d'Azyr's box, which had become the main object of the attack of the
bourgeoisie, had also become the rallying ground for such gentlemen
as were present in the theatre and for those who, without being men
of birth themselves, were nevertheless attached to the party of the
nobles.

La Tour d'Azyr had quitted the front of the box to meet those who
came to join him. And now in the pit one group of infuriated
gentlemen, in attempting to reach the stage across the empty
orchestra, so that they might deal with the audacious comedian who
was responsible for this explosion, found themselves opposed and
held back by another group composed of men to whose feelings
Andre-Louis had given expression.

Perceiving this, and remembering the chandelier, he turned to
Leandre, who had remained beside him.

"I think it is time to be going," said he.

Leandre, looking ghastly under his paint, appalled by the storm
which exceeded by far anything that his unimaginative brain could
have conjectured, gurgled an inarticulate agreement. But it looked
as if already they were too late, for in that moment they were
assailed from behind.

M. Binet had succeeded at last in breaking past Polichinelle and
Rhodomont, who in view of his murderous rage had been endeavouring
to restrain him. Half a dozen gentlemen, habitues of the green-room,
had come round to the stage to disembowel the knave who had created
this riot, and it was they who had flung aside those two comedians
who hung upon Binet. After him they came now, their swords out; but
after them again came Polichinelle, Rhodomont, Harlequin, Pierrot,
Pasquariel, and Basque the artist, armed with such implements as
they could hastily snatch up, and intent upon saving the man with
whom they sympathized in spite of all, and in whom now all their
hopes were centred.

Well ahead rolled Binet, moving faster than any had ever seen him
move, and swinging the long cane from which Pantaloon is inseparable.

"Infamous scoundrel!" he roared. "You have ruined me! But, name
of a name, you shall pay!"

Andre-Louis turned to face him. "You confuse cause with effect,"
said he. But he got no farther... Binet's cane, viciously driven,
descended and broke upon his shoulder. Had he not moved swiftly
aside as the blow fell it must have taken him across the head, and
possibly stunned him. As he moved, he dropped his hand to his
pocket, and swift upon the cracking of Binet's breaking cane came
the crack of the pistol with which Andre-Louis replied.

"You had your warning, you filthy pander!" he cried. And on the
word he shot him through the body.

Binet went down screaming, whilst the fierce Polichinelle, fiercer
than ever in that moment of fierce reality, spoke quickly into
Andre-Louis' ear:

"Fool! So much was not necessary! Away with you now, or you'll
leave your skin here! Away with you!"

Andre-Louis thought it good advice, and took it. The gentlemen who
had followed Binet in that punitive rush upon the stage, partly
held in check by the improvised weapons of the players, partly
intimidated by the second pistol that Scaramouche presented, let
him go. He gained the wings, and here found himself faced by a
couple of sergeants of the watch, part of the police that was
already invading the theatre with a view to restoring order. The
sight of them reminded him unpleasantly of how he must stand
towards the law for this night's work, and more particularly for
that bullet lodged somewhere in Binet's obese body. He flourished
his pistol.

"Make way, or I'll burn your brains!" he threatened them, and
intimidated, themselves without firearms, they fell back and let
him pass. He slipped by the door of the green-room, where the
ladies of the company had shut themselves in until the storm should
be over, and so gained the street behind the theatre. It was
deserted. Down this he went at a run, intent on reaching the inn
for clothes and money, since it was impossible that he should take
the road in the garb of Scaramouche.





Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literature
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