Scaramouche: A Romance of the French RevolutionRafael Sabatini / Romance & Love
A ROMANCE OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
By Rafael Sabatini
CHAPTER I. THE REPUBLICAN CHAPTER II. THE ARISTOCRAT CHAPTER III. THE ELOQUENCE OF M. DE VILMORIN CHAPTER IV. THE HERITAGE CHAPTER V. THE LORD OF GAVRILLAC CHAPTER VI. THE WINDMILL CHAPTER VII. THE WIND CHAPTER VIII. OMNES OMNIBUS CHAPTER IX. THE AFTERMATH
CHAPTER I. THE TRESPASSERS CHAPTER II. THE SERVICE OF THESPIS CHAPTER II. THE COMIC MUSE CHAPTER IV. EXIT MONSIEUR PARVISSIMUS CHAPTER V. ENTER SCARAMOUCHE CHAPTER VI. CLIMENE CHAPTER VII. THE CONQUEST OF NANTES CHAPTER VIII. THE DREAM CHAPTER IX. THE AWAKENING CHAPTER X. CONTRITION CHAPTER XI. THE FRACAS AT THE THEATRE FEYDAU
CHAPTER I. TRANSITION CHAPTER II. QUOS DEUS VULT PERDERE CHAPTER III. PRESIDENT LE CHAPELIER CHAPTER IV. AT MEUDON CHAPTER V. MADAME DE PLOUGASTEL CHAPTER VI. POLITICIANS CHAPTER VII. THE SPADASSINICIDES CHAPTER VIII. THE PALADIN OF THE THIRD CHAPTER IX. TORN PRIDE CHAPTER X. THE RETURNING CARRIAGE CHAPTER XI. INFERENCES CHAPTER XII. THE OVERWHELMING REASON CHAPTER XIII. SANCTUARY CHAPTER XIV. THE BARRIER CHAPTER XV. SAFE-CONDUCT CHAPTER XVI. SUNRISE
BOOK I: THE ROBE
CHAPTER I. THE REPUBLICAN
He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.And that was all his patrimony. His very paternity was obscure, althoughthe village of Gavrillac had long since dispelled the cloud of mysterythat hung about it. Those simple Brittany folk were not so simple as tobe deceived by a pretended relationship which did not even possessthe virtue of originality. When a nobleman, for no apparent reason,announces himself the godfather of an infant fetched no man knew whence,and thereafter cares for the lad's rearing and education, the mostunsophisticated of country folk perfectly understand the situation. Andso the good people of Gavrillac permitted themselves no illusions on thescore of the real relationship between Andre-Louis Moreau--as the lad hadbeen named--and Quintin de Kercadiou, Lord of Gavrillac, who dwelt in thebig grey house that dominated from its eminence the village clusteringbelow.
Andre-Louis had learnt his letters at the village school, lodged thewhile with old Rabouillet, the attorney, who in the capacity of fiscalintendant, looked after the affairs of M. de Kercadiou. Thereafter, atthe age of fifteen, he had been packed off to Paris, to the Lycee ofLouis Le Grand, to study the law which he was now returned to practisein conjunction with Rabouillet. All this at the charges of hisgodfather, M. de Kercadiou, who by placing him once more under thetutelage of Rabouillet would seem thereby quite clearly to be makingprovision for his future.
Andre-Louis, on his side, had made the most of his opportunities. Youbehold him at the age of four-and-twenty stuffed with learning enoughto produce an intellectual indigestion in an ordinary mind. Out ofhis zestful study of Man, from Thucydides to the Encyclopaedists, fromSeneca to Rousseau, he had confirmed into an unassailable convictionhis earliest conscious impressions of the general insanity of his ownspecies. Nor can I discover that anything in his eventful life everafterwards caused him to waver in that opinion.
In body he was a slight wisp of a fellow, scarcely above middle height,with a lean, astute countenance, prominent of nose and cheek-bones, andwith lank, black hair that reached almost to his shoulders. His mouthwas long, thin-lipped, and humorous. He was only just redeemed fromugliness by the splendour of a pair of ever-questing, luminous eyes, sodark as to be almost black. Of the whimsical quality of his mind andhis rare gift of graceful expression, his writings--unfortunately but tooscanty--and particularly his Confessions, afford us very ample evidence.Of his gift of oratory he was hardly conscious yet, although he hadalready achieved a certain fame for it in the Literary Chamber ofRennes--one of those clubs by now ubiquitous in the land, in which theintellectual youth of France foregathered to study and discuss thenew philosophies that were permeating social life. But the fame he hadacquired there was hardly enviable. He was too impish, too caustic,too much disposed--so thought his colleagues--to ridicule their sublimetheories for the regeneration of mankind. Himself he protested thathe merely held them up to the mirror of truth, and that it was not hisfault if when reflected there they looked ridiculous.
All that he achieved by this was to exasperate; and his expulsion from asociety grown mistrustful of him must already have followed but forhis friend, Philippe de Vilmorin, a divinity student of Rennes, who,himself, was one of the most popular members of the Literary Chamber.
Coming to Gavrillac on a November morning, laden with news of thepolitical storms which were then gathering over France, Philippe foundin that sleepy Breton village matter to quicken his already livelyindignation. A peasant of Gavrillac, named Mabey, had been shot deadthat morning in the woods of Meupont, across the river, by a gamekeeperof the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr. The unfortunate fellow had been caughtin the act of taking a pheasant from a snare, and the gamekeeper hadacted under explicit orders from his master.
Infuriated by an act of tyranny so absolute and merciless, M. deVilmorin proposed to lay the matter before M. de Kercadiou. Mabey was avassal of Gavrillac, and Vilmorin hoped to move the Lord of Gavrillac todemand at least some measure of reparation for the widow and the threeorphans which that brutal deed had made.
But because Andre-Louis was Philippe's dearest friend--indeed, his almostbrother--the young seminarist sought him out in the first instance. Hefound him at breakfast alone in the long, low-ceilinged, white-panelleddining-room at Rabouillet's--the only home that Andre-Louis had everknown--and after embracing him, deafened him with his denunciation of M.de La Tour d'Azyr.
I have heard of it already, said Andre-Louis.
You speak as if the thing had not surprised you, his friend reproachedhim.
Nothing beastly can surprise me when done by a beast. And La Tourd'Azyr is a beast, as all the world knows. The more fool Mabey forstealing his pheasants. He should have stolen somebody else's.
Is that all you have to say about it?
What more is there to say? I've a practical mind, I hope.
What more there is to say I propose to say to your godfather, M. deKercadiou. I shall appeal to him for justice.
Against M. de La Tour d'Azyr? Andre-Louis raised his eyebrows.
My dear ingenuous Philippe, dog doesn't eat dog.
You are unjust to your godfather. He is a humane man.
Oh, as humane as you please. But this isn't a question of humanity.It's a question of game-laws.
M. de Vilmorin tossed his long arms to Heaven in disgust. He was a tall,slender young gentleman, a year or two younger than Andre-Louis. He wasvery soberly dressed in black, as became a seminarist, with white bandsat wrists and throat and silver buckles to his shoes. His neatly clubbedbrown hair was innocent of powder.
You talk like a lawyer, he exploded.
Naturally. But don't waste anger on me on that account. Tell me whatyou want me to do.
I want you to come to M. de Kercadiou with me, and to use yourinfluence to obtain justice. I suppose I am asking too much.
My dear Philippe, I exist to serve you. I warn you that it is a futilequest; but give me leave to finish my breakfast, and I am at yourorders.
M. de Vilmorin dropped into a winged armchair by the well-swept hearth,on which a piled-up fire of pine logs was burning cheerily. And whilsthe waited now he gave his friend the latest news of the events inRennes. Young, ardent, enthusiastic, and inspired by Utopian ideals, hepassionately denounced the rebellious attitude of the privileged.
Andre-Louis, already fully aware of the trend of feeling in the ranks ofan order in whose deliberations he took part as the representative ofa nobleman, was not at all surprised by what he heard. M. de Vilmorinfound it exasperating that his friend should apparently decline to sharehis own indignation.
Don't you see what it means? he cried. The nobles, by disobeying theKing, are striking at the very foundations of the throne. Don't theyperceive that their very existence depends upon it; that if the thronefalls over, it is they who stand nearest to it who will be crushed?Don't they see that?
Evidently not. They are just governing classes, and I never heard ofgoverning classes that had eyes for anything but their own profit.
That is our grievance. That is what we are going to change.
You are going to abolish governing classes? An interesting experiment.I believe it was the original plan of creation, and it might havesucceeded but for Cain.
What we are going to do, said M. de Vilmorin, curbing hisexasperation, is to transfer the government to other hands.
And you think that will make a difference?
I know it will.
Ah! I take it that being now in minor orders, you already possess theconfidence of the Almighty. He will have confided to you His intentionof changing the pattern of mankind.
M. de Vilmorin's fine ascetic face grew overcast. You are profane,Andre, he reproved his friend.
I assure you that I am quite serious. To do what you imply wouldrequire nothing short of divine intervention. You must change man, notsystems. Can you and our vapouring friends of the Literary Chamberof Rennes, or any other learned society of France, devise a system ofgovernment that has never yet been tried? Surely not. And can they sayof any system tried that it proved other than a failure in the end? Mydear Philippe, the future is to be read with certainty only in thepast. Ab actu ad posse valet consecutio. Man never changes. He is alwaysgreedy, always acquisitive, always vile. I am speaking of Man in thebulk.
Do you pretend that it is impossible to ameliorate the lot of thepeople? M. de Vilmorin challenged him.
When you say the people you mean, of course, the populace. Will youabolish it? That is the only way to ameliorate its lot, for as long asit remains populace its lot will be damnation.
You argue, of course, for the side that employs you. That is natural, Isuppose. M. de Vilmorin spoke between sorrow and indignation.
On the contrary, I seek to argue with absolute detachment. Let ustest these ideas of yours. To what form of government do you aspire? Arepublic, it is to be inferred from what you have said. Well, you haveit already. France in reality is a republic to-day.
Philippe stared at him. You are being paradoxical, I think. What of theKing?
The King? All the world knows there has been no king in France sinceLouis XIV. There is an obese gentleman at Versailles who wears thecrown, but the very news you bring shows for how little he reallycounts. It is the nobles and clergy who sit in the high places, with thepeople of France harnessed under their feet, who are the real rulers.That is why I say that France is a republic; she is a republic builton the best pattern--the Roman pattern. Then, as now, there were greatpatrician families in luxury, preserving for themselves power andwealth, and what else is accounted worth possessing; and there wasthe populace crushed and groaning, sweating, bleeding, starving, andperishing in the Roman kennels. That was a republic; the mightiest wehave seen.
Philippe strove with his impatience. At least you will admit--you have,in fact, admitted it--that we could not be worse governed than we are?
That is not the point. The point is should we be better governed if wereplaced the present ruling class by another? Without some guarantee ofthat I should be the last to lift a finger to effect a change. And whatguarantees can you give? What is the class that aims at government? Iwill tell you. The bourgeoisie.
That startles you, eh? Truth is so often disconcerting. You hadn'tthought of it? Well, think of it now. Look well into this Nantesmanifesto. Who are the authors of it?
I can tell you who it was constrained the municipality of Nantes tosend it to the King. Some ten thousand workmen--shipwrights, weavers,labourers, and artisans of every kind.
Stimulated to it, driven to it, by their employers, the wealthy tradersand shipowners of that city, Andre-Louis replied. I have a habit ofobserving things at close quarters, which is why our colleagues of theLiterary Chamber dislike me so cordially in debate. Where I delve theybut skim. Behind those labourers and artisans of Nantes, counsellingthem, urging on these poor, stupid, ignorant toilers to shed their bloodin pursuit of the will o' the wisp of freedom, are the sail-makers, thespinners, the ship-owners and the slave-traders. The slave-traders! Themen who live and grow rich by a traffic in human flesh and blood inthe colonies, are conducting at home a campaign in the sacred nameof liberty! Don't you see that the whole movement is a movement ofhucksters and traders and peddling vassals swollen by wealth into envyof the power that lies in birth alone? The money-changers in Pariswho hold the bonds in the national debt, seeing the parlous financialcondition of the State, tremble at the thought that it may lie inthe power of a single man to cancel the debt by bankruptcy. To securethemselves they are burrowing underground to overthrow a state and buildupon its ruins a new one in which they shall be the masters. And toaccomplish this they inflame the people. Already in Dauphiny we haveseen blood run like water--the blood of the populace, always the blood ofthe populace. Now in Brittany we may see the like. And if in the end thenew ideas prevail? if the seigneurial rule is overthrown, what then?You will have exchanged an aristocracy for a plutocracy. Is that worthwhile? Do you 'think that under money-changers and slave-traders andmen who have waxed rich in other ways by the ignoble arts of buyingand selling, the lot of the people will be any better than under theirpriests and nobles? Has it ever occurred to you, Philippe, what itis that makes the rule of the nobles so intolerable? Acquisitiveness.Acquisitiveness is the curse of mankind. And shall you expect lessacquisitiveness in men who have built themselves up by acquisitiveness?Oh, I am ready to admit that the present government is execrable,unjust, tyrannical--what you will; but I beg you to look ahead, and tosee that the government for which it is aimed at exchanging it may beinfinitely worse.
Philippe sat thoughtful a moment. Then he returned to the attack.
You do not speak of the abuses, the horrible, intolerable abuses ofpower under which we labour at present.
Where there is power there will always be the abuse of it.
Not if the tenure of power is dependent upon its equitableadministration.
The tenure of power is power. We cannot dictate to those who hold it.
The people can--the people in its might.
Again I ask you, when you say the people do you mean the populace? Youdo. What power can the populace wield? It can run wild. It can burnand slay for a time. But enduring power it cannot wield, because powerdemands qualities which the populace does not possess, or it wouldnot be populace. The inevitable, tragic corollary of civilization ispopulace. For the rest, abuses can be corrected by equity; and equity,if it is not found in the enlightened, is not to be found at all. M.Necker is to set about correcting abuses, and limiting privileges. Thatis decided. To that end the States General are to assemble.
And a promising beginning we have made in Brittany, as Heaven hearsme! cried Philippe.
Pooh! That is nothing. Naturally the nobles will not yield without astruggle. It is a futile and ridiculous struggle--but then... it is humannature, I suppose, to be futile and ridiculous.
M. de Vilmorin became witheringly sarcastic. Probably you will alsoqualify the shooting of Mabey as futile and ridiculous. I should even beprepared to hear you argue in defence of the Marquis de La Tourd'Azyr that his gamekeeper was merciful in shooting Mabey, since thealternative would have been a life-sentence to the galleys.
Andre-Louis drank the remainder of his chocolate; set down his cup, andpushed back his chair, his breakfast done.
I confess that I have not your big charity, my dear Philippe. I amtouched by Mabey's fate. But, having conquered the shock of this news tomy emotions, I do not forget that, after all, Mabey was thieving when hemet his death.
M. de Vilmorin heaved himself up in his indignation.
That is the point of view to be expected in one who is the assistantfiscal intendant of a nobleman, and the delegate of a nobleman to theStates of Brittany.
Philippe, is that just? You are angry with me! he cried, in realsolicitude.
I am hurt, Vilmorin admitted. I am deeply hurt by your attitude. AndI am not alone in resenting your reactionary tendencies. Do you knowthat the Literary Chamber is seriously considering your expulsion?
Andre-Louis shrugged. That neither surprises nor troubles me.
M. de Vilmorin swept on, passionately: Sometimes I think that you haveno heart. With you it is always the law, never equity. It occurs to me,Andre, that I was mistaken in coming to you. You are not likely to be ofassistance to me in my interview with M. de Kercadiou. He took up hishat, clearly with the intention of departing.
Andre-Louis sprang up and caught him by the arm.
I vow, said he, that this is the last time ever I shall consent totalk law or politics with you, Philippe. I love you too well to quarrelwith you over other men's affairs.
But I make them my own, Philippe insisted vehemently.
Of course you do, and I love you for it. It is right that you should.You are to be a priest; and everybody's business is a priest's business.Whereas I am a lawyer--the fiscal intendant of a nobleman, as yousay--and a lawyer's business is the business of his client. That is thedifference between us. Nevertheless, you are not going to shake me off.
But I tell you frankly, now that I come to think of it, that I shouldprefer you did not see M. de Kercadiou with me. Your duty to your clientcannot be a help to me.
His wrath had passed; but his determination remained firm, based uponthe reason he gave.
Very well, said Andre-Louis. It shall be as you please. But nothingshall prevent me at least from walking with you as far as the chateau,and waiting for you while you make your appeal to M. de Kercadiou.
And so they left the house good friends, for the sweetness of M. deVilmorin's nature did not admit of rancour, and together they took theirway up the steep main street of Gavrillac.