Andre-Louis looked at him in silence for a long moment. Then he laughed again. “Oh, you are fantastic,” he said. “You are not real.” He turned on his heel and strode to the door.
The action, and more the contempt of his look, laugh, and words stung M. Binet to passion, drove out the conciliatoriness of his mood.
“Fantastic, are we?” he cried, turning to follow the departing Scaramouche with his little eyes that now were inexpressibly evil. “Fantastic that we should prefer the powerful protection of this great nobleman to marriage with beggarly, nameless bastard. Oh, we are fantastic!”
Andre-Louis turned, his hand upon the door-handle. “No,” he said, “I was mistaken. You are not fantastic. You are just vile — both of you.” And he went out.
Mlle. de Kercadiou walked with her aunt in the bright morning sunshine of a Sunday in March on the broad terrace of the Chateau de Sautron.
For one of her natural sweetness of disposition she had been oddly irritable of late, manifesting signs of a cynical worldliness, which convinced Mme. de Sautron more than ever that her brother Quintin had scandalously conducted the child’s education. She appeared to be instructed in all the things of which a girl is better ignorant, and ignorant of all the things that a girl should know. That at least was the point of view of Mme. de Sautron.
“Tell me, madame,” quoth Aline, “are all men beasts?” Unlike her brother, Madame la Comtesse was tall and majestically built. In the days before her marriage with M. de Sautron, ill-natured folk described her as the only man in the family. She looked down now from her noble height upon her little niece with startled eyes.
“Really, Aline, you have a trick of asking the most disconcerting and improper questions.”
“Perhaps it is because I find life disconcerting and improper.”
“Life? A young girl should not discuss life.”
“Why not, since I am alive? You do not suggest that it is an impropriety to be alive?”
“It is an impropriety for a young unmarried girl to seek to know too much about life. As for your absurd question about men, when I remind you that man is the noblest work of God, perhaps you will consider yourself answered.”
Mme. de Sautron did not invite a pursuance of the subject. But Mlle. de Kercadiou’s outrageous rearing had made her headstrong.
“That being so,” said she, “will you tell me why they find such an overwhelming attraction in the immodest of our sex?”
Madame stood still and raised shocked hands. Then she looked down her handsome, high-bridged nose.
“Sometimes — often, in fact, my dear Aline — you pass all understanding. I shall write to Quintin that the sooner you are married the better it will be for all.”