His face revealed his character. He possessed all the graces and all the vices of a courtier.
He was, at the same time spirituel and ignorant, sceptical and violently imbued with the prejudices of his class.
Though less robust than his father, Martial was a no less distinguished-looking cavalier. It was not strange that women raved over his blue eyes, and the beautiful blond hair which he inherited from his mother.
To his father he owed energy, courage, and, it must also be added, perversity. But he was his superior in education and in intellect. If he shared his father’s prejudices, he had not adopted them without weighing them carefully. What the father might do in a moment of excitement, the son was capable of doing in cold blood.
It was thus that the abbe, with rare sagacity, read the character of his guests.
So it was with great sorrow, but without surprise, that he heard the duke advance, on the questions of the day, the impossible ideas shared by nearly all the emigres.
Knowing the condition of the country, and the state of public opinion, the cure endeavored to convince the obstinate man of his mistake; but upon this subject the duke would not permit contradiction, or even raillery; and he was fast losing his temper, when Bibiaine appeared at the parlor door.
“Monsieur le Duc,” said she, “Monsieur Lacheneur and his daughter are without and desire to speak to you.”
This name Lacheneur awakened no recollection in the mind of the duke.
First, he had never lived at Sairmeuse.
And even if he had, what courtier of the ancien regime ever troubled himself about the individual names of the peasants, whom he regarded with such profound indifference.
When a grand seigneur addressed these people, he said: “Halloo! hi, there! friend, my worthy fellow!”
So it was with the air of a man who is making an effort of memory that the Duc de Sairmeuse repeated:
But Martial, a closer observer than his father, had noticed that the priest’s glance wavered at the sound of this name.
“Who is this person, Abbe?” demanded the duke, lightly.
“Monsieur Lacheneur,” replied the priest, with very evident hesitation, “is the present owner of the Chateau de Sairmeuse.”
Martial, the precocious diplomat, could not repress a smile on hearing this response, which he had foreseen. But the duke bounded from his chair.
“Ah!” he exclaimed, “it is the rascal who has had the impudence—Let him come in, old woman, let him come in.”
Bibiaine retired, and the priest’s uneasiness increased.
“Permit me, Monsieur le Duc,” he said, hastily, “to remark that Monsieur Lacheneur exercises a great influence in this region—to offend him would be impolitic——”