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"Much obliged," said Andre-Louis.
"We should take fifteen louis to-morrow night."
"It is unfortunate that you are without a Scaramouche," said Andre-Louis.
"It is fortunate that I have one, M. Parvissimus." Andre-Louis disengaged his arm. "I begin to find you tiresome," said he. "I think I will return."
"A moment, M. Parvissimus. If I am to lose that fifteen louis... you'll not take it amiss that I compensate myself in other ways?"
"That is your own concern, M. Binet."
"Pardon, M. Parvissimus. It may possibly be also yours." Binet took his arm again. "Do me the kindness to step across the street with me. Just as far as the post-office there. I have something to show you."
Andre-Louis went. Before they reached that sheet of paper nailed upon the door, he knew exactly what it would say. And in effect it was, as he had supposed, that twenty louis would be paid for information leading to the apprehension of one Andre-Louis Moreau, lawyer of Gavrillac, who was wanted by the King's Lieutenant in Rennes upon a charge of sedition.
M. Binet watched him whilst he read. Their arms were linked, and Binet's grip was firm and powerful.
"Now, my friend," said he, "will you be M. Parvissimus and play Scaramouche to-morrow, or will you be Andre-Louis Moreau of Gavrillac and go to Rennes to satisfy the King's Lieutenant?"
"And if it should happen that you are mistaken?" quoth Andre-Louis, his face a mask.
"I'll take the risk of that," leered M. Binet. "You mentioned, I think, that you were a lawyer. An indiscretion, my dear. It is unlikely that two lawyers will be in hiding at the same time in the same district. You see it is not really clever of me. Well, M. Andre-Louis Moreau, lawyer of Gavrillac, what is it to be?"
"We will talk it over as we walk back," said Andre-Louis.
"What is there to talk over?"
"One or two things, I think. I must know where I stand. Come, sir, if you please."
"Very well," said M. Binet, and they turned up the street again, but M. Binet maintained a firm hold of his young friend's arm, and kept himself on the alert for any tricks that the young gentleman might be disposed to play. It was an unnecessary precaution. Andre-Louis was not the man to waste his energy futilely. He knew that in bodily strength he was no match at all for the heavy and powerful Pantaloon.
"If I yield to your most eloquent and seductive persuasions, M. Binet," said he, sweetly, "what guarantee do you give me that you will not sell me for twenty louis after I shall have served your turn?"
"You have my word of honour for that." M. Binet was emphatic.
Andre-Louis laughed. "Oh, we are to talk of honour, are we? Really, M. Binet? It is clear you think me a fool."
In the dark he did not see the flush that leapt to M. Binet's round face. It was some moments before he replied.
"Perhaps you are right," he growled. "What guarantee do you want?"
"I do not know what guarantee you can possibly give."
"I have said that I will keep faith with you."
"Until you find it more profitable to sell me."
"You have it in your power to make it more profitable always for me to keep faith with you. It is due to you that we have done so well in Guichen. Oh, I admit it frankly."
"In private," said Andre-Louis.
M. Binet left the sarcasm unheeded.
"What you have done for us here with 'Figaro-Scaramouche,' you can do elsewhere with other things. Naturally, I shall not want to lose you. That is your guarantee."
"Yet to-night you would sell me for twenty louis."
"Because - name of God! - you enrage me by refusing me a service well within your powers. Don't you think, had I been entirely the rogue you think me, I could have sold you on Saturday last? I want you to understand me, my dear Parvissimus."
"I beg that you'll not apologize. You would be more tiresome than ever."
"Of course you will be gibing. You never miss a chance to gibe. It'll bring you trouble before you're done with life. Come; here we are back at the inn, and you have not yet given me your decision."
Andre-Louis looked at him. "I must yield, of course. I can't help myself."
M. Binet released his arm at last, and slapped him heartily upon the back. "Well declared, my lad. You'll never regret it. If I know anything of the theatre, I know that you have made the great decision of your life. To-morrow night you'll thank me."
Andre-Louis shrugged, and stepped out ahead towards the inn. But M. Binet called him back.
He turned. There stood the man's great bulk, the moonlight beating down upon that round fat face of his, and he was holding out his hand.
"M. Parvissimus, no rancour. It is a thing I do not admit into my life. You will shake hands with me, and we will forget all this."
Andre-Louis considered him a moment with disgust. He was growing angry. Then, realizing this, he conceived himself ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as that sly, scoundrelly Pantaloon. He laughed and took the outstretched hand. "No rancour?" M. Binet insisted.
"Oh, no rancour," said Andre-Louis.
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Scaramouche, A Romance of the French Revolution -by- Rafael Sabatini