“As you please, my lord duke,” said Vidalinc, stretching out his legs lazily and putting his feet on the fender, with the air of a man who can do no more, but must stand aside and let things take their own course. “By the way, do you know that that Serafina is charming? I paid her several compliments, which were very graciously received; and more than that, she has promised to allow me to call upon her, and appointed the time. She is a very amiable as well as beautiful young woman. Maitre Bilot was perfectly correct in his statements to us.”
After which the two gentlemen awaited, in almost unbroken silence, the return of the four ruffians who had gone forth to chastise de Sigognac.
The rehearsal was over, and the comedians were preparing to return to their hotel; de Sigognac, expecting some sort of an assault on his way through the deserted streets, did not lay aside Matamore’s big sword with the rest of his costume. It was an excellent Spanish blade, very long, and with a large basket hilt, which made a perfect protection for the hand—altogether a weapon which, wielded by a brave man, was by no means to be despised, and which could give, as well as parry, good hard thrusts. Though scarcely able to inflict a mortal wound, as the point and edge had been blunted, according to the usual custom of theatrical sword owners, it would be, however, all that was requisite to defend its wearer against the cudgels of the ruffians that the Duke of Vallombreuse had despatched to administer his promised punishment. Herode, who also anticipated an attack upon de Sigognac, and was not one to desert a friend when danger threatened, took the precaution to arm himself with the big heavy club that was used to give the signal—three loud raps—for the rising of the curtain, which made a very formidable weapon, and would do good service in his strong hands.
“Captain,” said he to the baron as they quitted the tennis-court, “we will let the women go on a little way in advance of us, under the escort of Blazius and Leander, one of whom is too old, the other too cowardly, to be of any service to us in case of need. And we don’t want to have their fair charges terrified, and deafening us with their shrieks. Scapin shall accompany us, for he knows a clever trick or two for tripping a man up, that I have seen him perform admirably in several wrestling bouts. He will lay one or two of our assailants flat on their backs for us before they can turn round. In any event here is my good club, to supplement your good sword.”
“Thanks, my brave friend Herode,” answered de Sigognac, “your kind offer is not one to be refused; but let us take our precautions not to be surprised, though we are in force. We will march along in single file, through the very middle of the street, so that these rogues, lurking in dark corners, will have to emerge from their hiding places to come out to us, and we shall be able to see them before they can strike us. I will draw my sword, you brandish your club, and Scapin must cut a pigeon wing, so as to make sure that his legs are supple and in good working order. Now, forward march!”