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Le Chapelier stood hesitating, crestfallen.
"You understand, Andre? I am sorry that... "
"Say no more, please. Come and see me soon again. I would press you to remain, but it is striking nine, and the first of my pupils is about to arrive."
"Nor would I permit it,". said Danton. "Between us we must resolve the riddle of how to extinguish M. de La Tour d'Azyr and his friends."
Sharp as a pistol-shot came that question, as Danton was turning away. The tone of it brought him up short. He turned again, Le Chapelier with him.
"I said M. de La Tour d'Azyr."
"What has he to do with the proposal you were making me?"
"He? Why, he is the phlebotomist in chief."
And Le Chapelier added. "It is he who killed Lagron."
"Not a friend of yours, is he?" wondered Danton.
"And it is La Tour d'Azyr you desire me to kill?" asked Andre-Louis very slowly, after the manner of one whose thoughts are meanwhile pondering the subject.
"That's it," said Danton. "And not a job for a prentice hand, I can assure you.
"Ah, but this alters things," said Andre-Louis, thinking aloud. "It offers a great temptation."
"Why, then... ?" The Colossus took a step towards him again.
"Wait!" He put up his hand. Then with chin sunk on his breast, he paced away to the window, musing.
Le Chapelier and Danton exchanged glances, then watched him, waiting, what time he considered.
At first he almost wondered why he should not of his own accord have decided upon some such course as this to settle that long-standing account of M. de La Tour d'Azyr. What was the use of this great skill in fence that he had come to acquire, unless he could turn it to account to avenge Vilmorin, and to make Aline safe from the lure of her own ambition? It would be an easy thing to seek out La Tour d'Azyr, put a mortal affront upon him, and thus bring him to the point. To-day this would be murder, murder as treacherous as that which La Tour d'Azyr had done upon Philippe de Vilmorin; for to-day the old positions were reversed, and it was Andre-Louis who might go to such an assignation without a doubt of the issue. It was a moral obstacle of which he made short work. But there remained the legal obstacle he had expounded to Danton. There was still a law in France; the same law which he had found it impossible to move against La Tour d'Azyr, but which would move briskly enough against himself in like case. And then, suddenly, as if by inspiration, he saw the way - a way which if adopted would probably bring La Tour d'Azyr to a poetic justice, bring him, insolent, confident, to thrust himself upon Andre-Louis' sword, with all the odium of provocation on his own side.
He turned to them again, and they saw that he was very pale, that his great dark eyes glowed oddly.
"There will probably be some difficulty in finding a suppleant for this poor Lagron," he said. "Our fellow-countrymen will be none so eager to offer themselves to the swords of Privilege.
"True enough," said Le Chapelier gloomily; and then, as if suddenly leaping to the thing in Andre-Louis' mind: "Andre!" he cried. "Would you... "
"It is what I was considering. It would give me a legitimate place in the Assembly. If your Tour d'Azyrs choose to seek me out then, why, their blood be upon their own heads. I shall certainly do nothing to discourage them." He smiled curiously. "I am just a rascal who tries to be honest - Scaramouche always, in fact; a creature of sophistries. Do you think that Ancenis would have me for its representative?"
"Will it have Omnes Omnibus for its representative?" Le Chapelier was laughing, his countenance eager. "Ancenis will be convulsed with pride. It is not Rennes or Nantes, as it might have been had you wished it. But it gives you a voice for Brittany."
"I should have to go to Ancenis... "
"No need at all. A letter from me to the Municipality, and the Municipality will confirm you at once. No need to move from here. In a fortnight at most the thing can be accomplished. It is settled, then?"
Andre-Louis considered yet a moment. There was his academy. But he could make arrangements with Le Duc and Galoche to carry it on for him whilst himself directing and advising. Le Duc, after all, was become a thoroughly efficient master, and he was a trustworthy fellow. At need a third assistant could be engaged.
"Be it so," he said at last.
Le Chapelier clasped hands with him and became congratulatorily voluble, until interrupted by the red-coated giant at the door.
"What exactly does it mean to our business, anyway?" he asked. "Does it mean that when you are a representative you will not scruple to skewer M. le Marquis?"
"If M. le Marquis should offer himself to be skewered, as he no doubt will."
"I perceive the distinction," said M. Danton, and sneered. "You've an ingenious mind." He turned to Le Chapelier. "What did you say he was to begin with - a lawyer, wasn't it?"
"Yes, I was a lawyer, and afterwards a mountebank."
"And this is the result!"
"As you say. And do you know that we are after all not so dissimilar, you and I?"
"Once like you I went about inciting other people to go and kill the man I wanted dead. You'll say I was a coward, of course."
Le Chapelier prepared to slip between them as the clouds gathered on the giant's brow. Then these were dispelled again, and the great laugh vibrated through the long room.
"You've touched me for the second time, and in the same place. Oh, you can fence, my lad. We should be friends. Rue des Cordeliers is my address. Any - scoundrel will tell you where Danton lodges. Desmoulins lives underneath. Come and visit us one evening. There's always a bottle for a friend."
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Scaramouche, A Romance of the French Revolution -by- Rafael Sabatini