De Jars made no reply except a nod, and walked away quickly, muttering words of suppressed anger between his teeth at all the-- humiliations to which he had been obliged to submit so meekly.
"He's as insolent as a varlet who has no fear of a larruping before his eyes: how the rapscallion gloried in taking advantage of his position! Taking-off his hat while putting his foot on my neck! If ever I can be even with you, my worthy scrivener, you'll pass a very bad quarter of an hour, I can tell you."
Everyone has his own idea of what constitutes perfect honour. De Jars, for instance, would have allowed himself to be cut up into little pieces rather than have broken the promise he had given Quennebert a week ago, because it was given in exchange for his life, and the slightest paltering with his word under those circumstances would have been dastardly. But the engagement into which he had just entered had in his eyes no such moral sanction; he had not been forced into it by threats, he had escaped by its means no serious danger, and therefore in regard to it his conscience was much more accommodating. What he should best have liked to do, would have been to have sought out the notary and provoked him by insults to send him a challenge.
That a clown such as that could have any chance of leaving the ground alive never entered his head. But willingly as he would have encompassed his death in this manner, the knowledge that his secret would not die with Quennebert restrained him, for when everything came out he felt that the notary's death would be regarded as an aggravation of his original offence, and in spite of his rank he was not at all certain that if he were put on his trial even now he would escape scot free, much less if a new offence were added to the indictment. So, however much he might chafe against the bit, he felt he must submit to the bridle.
"By God!" said he, "I know what the clodhopper is after; and even if I must suffer in consequence, I shall take good care that he cannot shake off his bonds. Wait a bit! I can play the detective too, and be down on him without letting him see the hand that deals the blows. It'll be a wonder if I can't find a naked sword to suspend above his head."
However, while thus brooding over projects of vengeance, Commander de Jars kept his word, and about a month after the interview above related he sent word to Quennebert that the Chevalier de Moranges had left Perregaud's completely recovered from his wound. But the nearly fatal result of the chevalier's last prank seemed to have subdued his adventurous spirit; he was no longer seen in public, and was soon forgotten by all his acquaintances with the exception of Mademoiselle de Guerchi. She faithfully treasured up the memory of his words of passion, his looks of love, the warmth of his caresses, although at first she struggled hard to chase his image from her heart. But as the Due de Vitry assured her that he had killed him on the spot, she considered it no breach of faith to think lovingly of the dead, and while she took the goods so bounteously provided by her living lover, her gentlest thoughts, her most enduring regrets, were given to one whom she never hoped to see again.
With the reader's permission, we must now jump over an interval of rather more than a year, and bring upon the stage a person who, though only of secondary importance, can no longer be left behind the scenes.
We have already said that the loves of Quennebert and Madame Rapally were regarded with a jealous eye by a distant cousin of the lady's late husband. The love of this rejected suitor, whose name was Trumeau, was no more sincere than the notary's, nor were his motives more honourable. Although his personal appearance was not such as to lead him to expect that his path would be strewn with conquests, he considered that his charms at least equalled those of his defunct relative; and it may be said that in thus estimating them he did not lay himself--open to the charge of overweening vanity. But however persistently he preened him self before the widow, she vouchsafed him not one glance. Her heart was filled with the love of his rival, and it is no easy thing to tear a rooted passion out of a widow's heart when that widow's age is forty-six, and she is silly enough to believe that the admiration she feels is equalled by the admiration she inspires, as the unfortunate Trumeau found to his cost. All his carefully prepared declarations of love, all his skilful insinuations against Quennebert, brought him nothing but scornful rebuffs. But Trumeau was nothing if not persevering, and he could not habituate himself to the idea of seeing the widow's fortune pass into other hands than his own, so that every baffled move only increased his determination to spoil his competitor's game. He was always on the watch for a chance to carry tales to the widow, and so absorbed did he become in this fruitless pursuit, that he grew yellower and more dried up from day to day, and to his jaundiced eye the man who was at first simply his rival became his mortal enemy and the object of his implacable hate, so that at length merely to get the better of him, to outwit him, would, after so long-continued and obstinate a struggle and so many defeats, have seemed to him too mild a vengeance, too incomplete a victory.