|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
The Redon experiment had justified itself from the first. Stimulated and encouraged by this, Andre-Louis worked day and night during the month that they spent in that busy little town. The moment had been well chosen, for the trade in chestnuts of which Redon is the centre was just then at its height. And every afternoon the little theatre was packed with spectators. The fame of the troupe had gone forth, borne by the chestnut-growers of the district, who were bringing their wares to Redon market, and the audiences were made up of people from the surrounding country, and from neighbouring villages as far out as Allaire, Saint-Perrieux and Saint-Nicholas. To keep the business from slackening, Andre-Louis prepared a new scenario every week. He wrote three in addition to those two with which he had already supplied the company; these were "The Marriage of Pantaloon," "The Shy Lover," and "The Terrible Captain." Of these the last was the greatest success. It was based upon the "Miles Gloriosus" of Plautus, with great opportunities for Rhodomont, and a good part for Scaramouche as the roaring captain's sly lieutenant. Its success was largely due to the fact that Andre-Louis amplified the scenario to the extent of indicating very fully in places the lines which the dialogue should follow, whilst here and there he had gone so far as to supply some of the actual dialogue to be spoken, without, however, making it obligatory upon the actors to keep to the letter of it.
And meanwhile as the business prospered, he became busy with tailors, improving the wardrobe of the company, which was sorely in need of improvement. He ran to earth a couple of needy artists, lured them into the company to play small parts - apothecaries and notaries - and set them to beguile their leisure in painting new scenery, so as to be ready for what he called the conquest of Nantes, which was to come in the new year. Never in his life had he worked so hard; never in his life had he worked at all by comparison with his activities now. His fund of energy and enthusiasm was inexhaustible, like that of his good humour. He came and went, acted, wrote, conceived, directed, planned, and executed, what time M. Binet took his ease at last in comparative affluence, drank Burgundy every night, ate white bread and other delicacies, and began to congratulate himself upon his astuteness in having made this industrious, tireless fellow his partner. Having discovered how idle had been his fears of performing at Redon, he now began to dismiss the terrors with which the notion of Nantes had haunted him.
And his happiness was reflected throughout the ranks of his company, with the single exception always of Climene. She had ceased to sneer at Scaramouche, haying realized at last that her sneers left him untouched and recoiled upon herself. Thus her almost indefinable resentment of him was increased by being stifled, until, at all costs, an outlet for it must be found.
One day she threw herself in his way as he was leaving the theatre after the performance. The others had already gone, and she had returned upon pretence of having forgotten something.
"Will you tell me what I have done to you?" she asked him, point-blank.
"Done to me, mademoiselle?" He did not understand. She made a gesture of impatience. "Why do you hate me?"
"Hate you, mademoiselle? I do not hate anybody. It is the most stupid of all the emotions. I have never hated - not even my enemies."
"What Christian resignation!"
"As for hating you, of all people! Why... I consider you adorable. I envy Leandre every day of my life. I have seriously thought of setting him to play Scaramouche, and playing lovers myself."
"I don't think you would be a success," said she.
"That is the only consideration that restrains me. And yet, given the inspiration that is given Leandre, it is possible that I might be convincing."
"Why, what inspiration do you mean?"
"The inspiration of playing to so adorable a Climene."
Her lazy eyes were now alert to search that lean face of his.
"You are laughing at me," said she, and swept past him into the theatre on her pretended quest. There was nothing to be done with such a fellow. He was utterly without feeling. He was not a man at all.
Yet when she came forth again at the end of some five minutes, she found him still lingering at the door.
"Not gone yet?" she asked him, superciliously.
"I was waiting for you, mademoiselle. You will be walking to the inn. If I might escort you... "
"But what gallantry! What condescension!"
"Perhaps you would prefer that I did not?"
"How could I prefer that, M. Scaramouche? Besides, we are both going the same way, and the streets are common to all. It is that I am overwhelmed by the unusual honour."
He looked into her piquant little face, and noted how obscured it was by its cloud of dignity. He laughed.
"Perhaps I feared that the honour was not sought."
"Ah, now I understand," she cried. "It is for me to seek these honours. I am to woo a man before he will pay me the homage of civility. It must be so, since you, who clearly know everything, have said so. It remains for me to beg your pardon for my ignorance."
"It amuses you to be cruel," said Scaramouche. "No matter. Shall we walk?"
They set out together, stepping briskly to warm their blood against the wintry evening air. Awhile they went in silence, yet each furtively observing the other.
"And so, you find me cruel?" she challenged him at length, thereby betraying the fact that the accusation had struck home.
He looked at her with a half smile. "Will you deny it?"
"You are the first man that ever accused me of that."
"I dare not suppose myself the first man to whom you have been cruel. That were an assumption too flattering to myself. I must prefer to think that the others suffered in silence."
"Mon Dieu! Have you suffered?" She was between seriousness and raillery.
"I place the confession as an offering on the altar of your vanity."
"I should never have suspected it."
"How could you? Am I not what your father calls a natural actor? I was an actor long before I became Scaramouche. Therefore I have laughed. I often do when I am hurt. When you were pleased to be disdainful, I acted disdain in my turn."
"You acted very well," said she, without reflecting.
"Of course. I am an excellent actor."
"And why this sudden change?"
"In response to the change in you. You have grown weary of your part of cruel madam - a dull part, believe me, and unworthy of your talents., Were I a woman and had I your loveliness and your grace, Climene, I should disdain to use them as weapons of offence."
"Loveliness and grace!" she echoed, feigning amused surprise. But the vain baggage was mollified. "When was it that you discovered this beauty and this grace, M. Scaramouche?"
|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
Scaramouche, A Romance of the French Revolution -by- Rafael Sabatini