|Back||1 2 3||Next|
"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 world."
"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 country?"
"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 mislead."
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 Hasard.
"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 godson out.
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."
|Back||1 2 3||Next|
Scaramouche, A Romance of the French Revolution -by- Rafael Sabatini