THE FRACAS AT THE THEATRE FEYDAU
Leaving his host to act as his plenipotentiary with Mademoiselle de Kercadiou, and to explain to her that it was his profound contrition that compelled him to depart without taking formal leave of her, the Marquis rolled away from Sautron in a cloud of gloom. Twenty-four hours with La Binet had been more than enough for a man of his fastidious and discerning taste. He looked back upon the episode with nausea — the inevitable psychological reaction — marvelling at himself that until yesterday he should have found her so desirable, and cursing himself that for the sake of that ephemeral and worthless gratification he should seriously have imperilled his chances of winning Mademoiselle de Kercadiou to wife. There is, after all, nothing very extraordinary in his frame of mind, so that I need not elaborate it further. It resulted from the conflict between the beast and the angel that go to make up the composition of every man.
The Chevalier de Chabrillane — who in reality occupied towards the Marquis a position akin to that of gentleman-in-waiting — sat opposite to him in the enormous travelling berline. A small folding table had been erected between them, and the Chevalier suggested piquet. But M. le Marquis was in no humour for cards. His thoughts absorbed him. As they were rattling over the cobbles of Nantes’ streets, he remembered a promise to La Binet to witness her performance that night in “The Faithless Lover.” And now he was running away from her. The thought was repugnant to him on two scores. He was breaking his pledged word, and he was acting like a coward. And there was more than that. He had led the mercenary little strumpet — it was thus he thought of her at present, and with some justice — to expect favours from him in addition to the lavish awards which already he had made her. The baggage had almost sought to drive a bargain with him as to her future. He was to take her to Paris, put her into her own furniture — as the expression ran, and still runs — and under the shadow of his powerful protection see that the doors of the great theatres of the capital should be opened to her talents. He had not — he was thankful to reflect — exactly committed himself. But neither had he definitely refused her. It became necessary now to come to an understanding, since he was compelled to choose between his trivial passion for her — a passion quenched already — and his deep, almost spiritual devotion to Mademoiselle de Kercadiou.
His honour, he considered, demanded of him that he should at once deliver himself from a false position. La Binet would make a scene, of course; but he knew the proper specific to apply to hysteria of that nature. Money, after all, has its uses.
He pulled the cord. The carriage rolled to a standstill; a footman appeared at the door.