“And if I should break my vows?” furiously.
“Break your vows and I promise to kill you out of hand.”
“In whatever manner appears most expedient. That fool of a Brissac; he simply committed suicide. There was no other mode of egress open to me. It was my life or his. That cloak! Well, that was to tell tales in case I was seen from a distance. It nearly succeeded. And I will make an additional confession,” throwing back his head, his eyes narrowing, his whole attitude speaking a man’s passion. “Yes, your keen intuition has put its finger on the spot. I hate the Chevalier, hate him with a strong man’s hate, the unending hate of wounded vanity, of envy, of thwarted desires. There was a woman, once, whom he lured away from me; he gained the commission in the Guards over my head; he was making love to Madame de Brissac, while I, poor fool, loitered in the antechamber. I should have sought all means to bring about his ruin, had he not taken the labor from my hands. But a bastard!” Brother Jacques shuddered. “Bah! What could I do? I could become only a spectator. My word for it, it has been a fine comedy, this bonhomie of mine, this hail-fellow well met. And only to-night he saw the pit at his feet. If that fool of a corporal had not been drunk.”
“Wretch!” cried the priest, trembling as if seized with convulsion. Duped!
The vicomte opened the door, and bowed with his hand upon his heart.
“Till the morning prayers, Father,” with mock gravity; “till the morning prayers.”
THE EPIC OF THE HUNTING HUT
So the amiable dog became a lion, bold, impudent, mocking; the mask was gone forever, both from his face and his desires. He wore his empty scabbard with all the effrontery of a man who had fought and won his first duel. Du Puys had threatened to hang the man who gave the vicomte a sword. As the majority of the colonists were ignorant of what lay behind this remarkable quarrel, they naturally took sides with the man whose laugh was more frequent than his frown. Thus, the vicomte still shuffled the ebon dominoes of a night and sang out jovially, “Doubles!” Whenever the man he had so basely wronged passed him, he spat contemptuously and cried: “See, Messieurs, what it is to be without a sword!” And as for Brother Jacques, it was: “And how is Monsieur Jacques’s health this fine morning?” or “What a handsome rogue of a priest you are!” or “Can you tell me where I may find a sword?” He laughed at D’Herouville, and bantered the poet on his silence,—the poet whose finer sense and intuition had distrusted the vicomte from the first.
One day madame came out to feed the mission’s chickens. Her hand swung to and fro, and like a stream of yellow gold the shelled corn trailed through the air to the ground. The fowls clustered around her noisily. She was unaware of the vicomte, who leaned against the posts of the palisade.