“A fine windfall, indeed, captain,” answered Andre-Louis, laughing.
But the sergeant had touched his horse with the spur, and was already trotting off in the wake of his men. Andre-Louis continued to laugh, quite silently, as he sometimes did when the humour of a jest was peculiarly keen.
Then he turned slowly about, and came back towards Pantaloon and the rest of the company, who were now all grouped together, at gaze.
Pantaloon advanced to meet him with both hands out-held. For a moment Andre-Louis thought he was about to be embraced.
“We hail you our saviour!” the big man declaimed. “Already the shadow of the gaol was creeping over us, chilling us to the very marrow. For though we be poor, yet are we all honest folk and not one of us has ever suffered the indignity of prison. Nor is there one of us would survive it. But for you, my friend, it might have happened. What magic did you work?”
“The magic that is to be worked in France with a King’s portrait. The French are a very loyal nation, as you will have observed. They love their King — and his portrait even better than himself, especially when it is wrought in gold. But even in silver it is respected. The sergeant was so overcome by the sight of that noble visage — on a three-livre piece — that his anger vanished, and he has gone his ways leaving us to depart in peace.”
“Ah, true! He said we must decamp. About it, my lads! Come, come... "
“But not until after breakfast,” said Andre-Louis. “A half-hour for breakfast was conceded us by that loyal fellow, so deeply was he touched. True, he spoke of possible gardes-champetres. But he knows as well as I do that they are not seriously to be feared, and that if they came, again the King’s portrait — wrought in copper this time — would produce the same melting effect upon them. So, my dear M. Pantaloon, break your fast at your ease. I can smell your cooking from here, and from the smell I argue that there is no need to wish you a good appetite.”
“My friend, my saviour!” Pantaloon flung a great arm about the young man’s shoulders. “You shall stay to breakfast with us.”
“I confess to a hope that you would ask me,” said Andre-Louis.
THE SERVICE OF THESPIS
They were, thought Andre-Louis, as he sat down to breakfast with them behind the itinerant house, in the bright sunshine that tempered the cold breath of that November morning, an odd and yet an attractive crew. An air of gaiety pervaded them. They affected to have no cares, and made merry over the trials and tribulations of their nomadic life. They were curiously, yet amiably, artificial; histrionic in their manner of discharging the most commonplace of functions; exaggerated in their gestures; stilted and affected in their speech. They seemed, indeed, to belong to a world apart, a world of unreality which became real only on the planks of their stage, in the glare of their footlights. Good-fellowship bound them one to another; and Andre-Louis reflected cynically that this harmony amongst them might be the cause of their apparent unreality. In the real world, greedy striving and the emulation of acquisitiveness preclude such amity as was present here.