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CHAPTER V

THE LORD OF GAVRILLAC


For the second time that day Andre-Louis set out for the chateau,
walking briskly, and heeding not at all the curious eyes that
followed him through the village, and the whisperings that marked
his passage through the people, all agog by now with that day's
event in which he had been an actor.

He was ushered by Benoit, the elderly body-servant, rather
grandiloquently called the seneschal, into the ground-floor room
known traditionally as the library. It still contained several
shelves of neglected volumes, from which it derived its title, but
implements of the chase - fowling-pieces, powder-horns, hunting-bags,
sheath-knives - obtruded far more prominently than those of study.
The furniture was massive, of oak richly carved, and belonging to
another age. Great massive oak beams crossed the rather lofty
whitewashed ceiling.

Here the squat Seigneur de Gavrillac was restlessly pacing when
Andre-Louis was introduced. He was already informed, as he
announced at once, of what had taken place at the Breton arme. M.
de Chabrillane had just left him, and he confessed himself deeply
grieved and deeply perplexed.

"The pity of it!" he said. "The pity of it!" He bowed his enormous
head. "So estimable a young man, and so full of promise. Ah, this
La Tour d'Azyr is a hard man, and he feels very strongly in these
matters. He may be right. I don't know. I have never killed a man
for holding different views from mine. In fact, I have never killed
a man at all. It isn't in my nature. I shouldn't sleep of nights if
I did. But men are differently made."

"The question, monsieur my godfather," said Andre-Louis, "is what is
to be done." He was quite calm and self-possessed, but very white.

M. de Kercadiou stared at him blankly out of his pale eyes.

"Why, what the devil is there to do? From what I am told, Vilmorin
went so far as to strike M. le Marquis."

"Under the very grossest provocation."

"Which he himself provoked by his revolutionary language. The poor
lad's head was full of this encyclopaedist trash. It comes of too
much reading. I have never set much store by books, Andre; and I
have never known anything but trouble to come out of learning. It
unsettles a man. It complicates his views of life, destroys the
simplicity which makes for peace of mind and happiness. Let this
miserable affair be a warning to you, Andre. You are, yourself,
too prone to these new-fashioned speculations upon a different
constitution of the social order. You see what comes of it. A
fine, estimable young man, the only prop of his widowed mother too,
forgets himself, his position, his duty to that mother - everything;
and goes and gets himself killed like this. It is infernally sad.
On my soul it is sad." He produced a handkerchief, and blew his
nose with vehemence.

Andre-Louis felt a tightening of his heart, a lessening of the
hopes, never too sanguine, which he had founded upon his godfather.

"Your criticisms," he said, "are all for the conduct of the dead,
and none for that of the murderer. It does not seem possible that
you should be in sympathy with such a crime.

"Crime?" shrilled M. de Kercadiou. "My God, boy, you are speaking
of M. de La Tour d'Azyr."

"I am, and of the abominable murder he has committed... "

"Stop!" M. de Kercadiou was very emphatic. "I cannot permit that
you apply such terms to him. I cannot permit it. M. le Marquis is
my friend, and is likely very soon to stand in a still closer
relationship."

"Notwithstanding this?" asked Andre-Louis.

M. de Kercadiou was frankly impatient.

"Why, what has this to do with it? I may deplore it. But I have
no right to condemn it. It is a common way of adjusting differences
between gentlemen."

"You really believe that?"

"What the devil do you imply, Andre? Should I say a thing that I
don't believe? You begin to make me angry."

"'Thou shalt not kill,' is the King's law as well as God's."

"You are determined to quarrel with me, I think. It was a duel... "

Andre-Louis interrupted him. "It is no more a duel than if it had
been fought with pistols of which only M. le Marquis 's was loaded.
He invited Philippe to discuss the matter further, with the
deliberate intent of forcing a quarrel upon him and killing him.
Be patient with me, monsieur my god-father. I am not telling you
of what I imagine but what M. le Marquis himself admitted to me."

Dominated a little by the young man's earnestness, M. de Kercadiou's
pale eyes fell away. He turned with a shrug, and sauntered over to
the window.

"It would need a court of honour to decide such an issue. And we
have no courts of honour," he said.

"But we have courts of justice."

With returning testiness the seigneur swung round to face him again.
"And what court of justice, do you think, would listen to such a
plea as you appear to have in mind?"

"There is the court of the King's Lieutenant at Rennes."

"And do you think the King's Lieutenant would listen to you?"

"Not to me, perhaps, Monsieur. But if you were to bring the
plaint... "

"I bring the plaint?" M. de Kercadiou's pale eyes were wide with
horror of the suggestion.

"The thing happened here on your domain."

"I bring a plaint against M. de La Tour d'Azyr! You are out of your
senses, I think. Oh, you are mad; as mad as that poor friend of
yours who has come to this end through meddling in what did not
concern him. The language he used here to M. le Marquis on the
score of Mabey was of the most offensive. Perhaps you didn't know
that. It does not at all surprise me that the Marquis should have
desired satisfaction."

"I see," said Andre-Louis, on a note of hopelessness.

"You see? What the devil do you see?"

"That I shall have to depend upon myself alone."

"And what the devil do you propose to do, if you please?"

"I shall go to Rennes, and lay the facts before the King's
Lieutenant."

"He'll be too busy to see you." And M. de Kercadiou's mind swung
a trifle inconsequently, as weak minds will. "There is trouble
enough in Rennes already on the score of these crazy States General,
with which the wonderful M. Necker is to repair the finances of the
kingdom. As if a peddling Swiss bank-clerk, who is also a damned
Protestant, could succeed where such men as Calonne and Brienne have
failed."

"Good-afternoon, monsieur my godfather," said Andre-Louis.

"Where are you going?" was the querulous demand.

"Home at present. To Rennes in the morning."

"Wait, boy, wait!" The squat little man rolled forward, affectionate
concern on his great ugly face, and he set one of his podgy hands on
his godson's shoulder. "Now listen to me, Andre," he reasoned. "This
is sheer knight-errantry - moonshine, lunacy. You'11 come to no good
by it if you persist. You've read 'Don Quixote,' and what happened
to him when he went tilting against windmills. It's what will happen
to you, neither more nor less. Leave things as they are, my boy. I
wouldn't have a mischief happen to you."

Andre-Louis looked at him, smiling wanly.

"I swore an oath to-day which it would damn my soul to break."

"You mean that you'll go in spite of anything that I may say?"
Impetuous as he was inconsequent, M. de Kercadiou was bristling
again. "Very well, then, go... Go to the devil!"

"I will begin with the King's Lieutenant."

"And if you get into the trouble you are seeking, don't come
whimpering to me for assistance," the seigneur stormed. He was very
angry now. "Since you choose to disobey me, you can break your
empty head against the windmill, and be damned to you."

Andre-Louis bowed with a touch of irony, and reached the door.

"If the windmill should prove too formidable," said he, from the
threshold, "I may see what can be done with the wind. Good-bye,
monsieur my godfather."

He was gone, and M. de Kercadiou was alone, purple in the face,
puzzling out that last cryptic utterance, and not at all happy in
his mind, either on the score of his godson or of M. de La Tour
d'Azyr. He was disposed to be angry with them both. He found
these headstrong, wilful men who relentlessly followed their own
impulses very disturbing and irritating. Himself he loved his ease,
and to be at peace with his neighbours; and that seemed to him so
obviously the supreme good of life that he was disposed to brand
them as fools who troubled to seek other things.





Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literature
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