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But if Chabrillane was the man appointed to deal with him, he would make the best of it.
"I think you are pushing against me, monsieur," he said, very civilly, and with elbow and shoulder he thrust M. de Chabrillane back into the rain.
"I desire to take shelter, monsieur," the Chevalier hectored.
"You may do so without standing on my feet. I have a prejudice against any one standing on my feet. My feet are very tender. Perhaps you did not know it, monsieur. Please say no more.
"Why, I wasn't speaking, you lout!" exclaimed the Chevalier, slightly discomposed.
"Were you not? I thought perhaps you were about to apologize."
"Apologize?" Chabrillane laughed. "To you! Do you know that you are amusing?" He stepped under the awning for the second time, and again in view of all thrust Andre-Louis rudely back.
"Ahi!" cried Andre-Louis, with a grimace. "You hurt me, monsieur. I have told you not to push against me." He raised his voice that all might hear him, and once more impelled M. de Chabrillane back into the rain.
Now, for all his slenderness, his assiduous daily sword-practice had given Andre-Louis an arm of iron. Also he threw his weight into the thrust. His assailant reeled backwards a few steps, and then his heel struck a baulk of timber left on the ground by some workmen that morning, and he sat down suddenly in the mud.
A roar of laughter rose from all who witnessed the fine gentleman's downfall. He rose, mud-bespattered, in a fury, and in that fury sprang at Andre-Louis.
Andre-Louis had made him ridiculous, which was altogether unforgivable.
"You shall meet me for this!" he spluttered. "I shall kill you for it."
His inflamed face was within a foot of Andre-Louis'. Andre-Louis laughed. In the silence everybody heard the laugh and the words that followed.
"Oh, is that what you wanted? But why didn't you say so before? You would have spared me the trouble of knocking you down. I thought gentlemen of your profession invariably conducted these affairs with decency, decorum, and a certain grace. Had you done so, you might have saved your breeches."
"How soon shall we settle this?" snapped Chabrillane, livid with very real fury.
"Whenever you please, monsieur. It is for you to say when it will suit your convenience to kill me. I think that was the intention you announced, was it not?" Andre-Louis was suavity itself.
"To-morrow morning, in the Bois. Perhaps you will bring a friend."
"Certainly, monsieur. To-morrow morning, then. I hope we shall have fine weather. I detest the rain."
Chabrillane looked at him almost with amazement Andre-Louis smiled pleasantly.
"Don't let me detain you now, monsieur. We quite understand each other. I shall be in the Bois at nine o'clock to-morrow morning."
"That is too late for me, monsieur."
"Any other hour would be too early for me. I do not like to have my habits disturbed. Nine o'clock or not at all, as you please."
"But I must be at the Assembly at nine, for the morning session."
"I am afraid, monsieur, you will have to kill me first, and I have a prejudice against being killed before nine o'clock."
Now this was too complete a subversion of the usual procedure for M. de Chabrillane's stomach. Here was a rustic deputy assuming with him precisely the tone of sinister mockery which his class usually dealt out to their victims of the Third Estate. And to heighten the irritation, Andre-Louis - the actor, Scaramouche always - produced his snuffbox, and proffered it with a steady hand to Le Chapelier before helping himself.
Chabrillane, it seemed, after all that he had suffered, was not even to be allowed to make a good exit.
"Very well, monsieur," he said. "Nine o'clock, then; and we'll see if you'll talk as pertly afterwards."
On that he flung away, before the jeers of the provincial deputies. Nor did it soothe his rage to be laughed at by urchins all the way down the Rue Dauphine because of the mud and filth that dripped from his satin breeches and the tails of his elegant, striped coat.
But though the members of the Third had jeered on the surface, they trembled underneath with fear and indignation. It was too much. Lagron killed by one of these bullies, and now his successor challenged, and about to be killed by another of them on the very first day of his appearance to take the dead man's place. Several came now to implore Andre-Louis not to go to the Bois, to ignore the challenge and the whole affair, which was but a deliberate attempt to put him out of the way. He listened seriously, shook his head gloomily, and promised at last to think it over.
He was in his seat again for the afternoon session as if nothing disturbed him.
But in the morning, when the Assembly met, his place was vacant, and so was M. de Chabrillane's. Gloom and resentment sat upon the members of the Third, and brought a more than usually acrid note into their debates. They disapproved of the rashness of the new recruit to their body. Some openly condemned his lack of circumspection. Very few - and those only the little group in Le Chapelier's confidence - ever expected to see him again.
It was, therefore, as much in amazement as in relief that at a few minutes after ten they saw him enter, calm, composed, and bland, and thread his way to his seat. The speaker occupying the rostrum at that moment - a member of the Privileged - stopped short to stare in incredulous dismay. Here was something that he could not understand at all. Then from somewhere, to satisfy the amazement on both sides of the assembly, a voice explained the phenomenon contemptuously.
"They haven't met. He has shirked it at the last moment."
It must be so, thought all; the mystification ceased, and men were settling back into their seats. But now, having reached his place, having heard the voice that explained the matter to the universal satisfaction, Andre-Louis paused before taking his seat. He felt it incumbent upon him to reveal the true fact.
"M. le President, my excuses for my late arrival." There was no necessity for this. It was a mere piece of theatricality, such as it was not in Scaramouche's nature to forgo. "I have been detained by an engagement of a pressing nature. I bring you also the excuses of M. de Chabrillane. He, unfortunately, will be permanently absent from this Assembly in future."
The silence was complete. Andre-Louis sat down.
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Scaramouche, A Romance of the French Revolution -by- Rafael SabatiniBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.