At the Sign of the Reine Pédauque, by Anatole France

Chapter 14

Visit to Mademoiselle Catherine — The Row in the Street and my Dismissal.

A confused sentiment as of a dream remained with me after this long conversation, but the thoughts of Catherine became keener. In despite of the sublimities I had been listening to, I was overcome by a powerful desire to see her, although I had not had any supper. The ideas of philosophy had not sufficiently penetrated me to cause anything like a disgust at that pretty girl. I was resolved to follow my good fortune to its end before becoming the prey of one of those beautiful furies of the air, who do not want any human rival. My only fear was that Catherine, at so late an hour, had become tired of waiting for me. So running along the river bank, and passing the royal bridge at a gallop, I stormed into the Rue du Bac. Within a single minute I had reached the Rue de Grenelle, where I heard shouting mixed up with the clashing of swords. The noise came out of the very house Catherine had described to me. In front of it, on the pavement, shadows and lanterns were visible, and voices to be heard.

“Help, Jesus! I’m being murdered! . . . fall on the Capuchin! Forward! Spike him! . . . Jesus, Mary, help me! . . . Look on the pretty favourite lover! On him! On him! Spike him, rascals, spike him hard!”

The windows of the adjoining houses were opened, heads in night-caps appeared.

Suddenly all this noise and bustle passed before me like a hunt in the forest, and I recognised Friar Ange running away at such a speed that his sandals hammered on his behind, while three long devils of lackeys, armed like Swiss guards, followed him closely, larding him with the points of their javelins. Their master, a young gentleman, thick-set and ruddy-faced, continued to encourage them by voice and gesture, just as he would have done with dogs:

I recognised Brother Ange, who was making off with such speed that he kicked himself with his sandalled feet as he ran

“Fall on! Fall on! Spike! The beast is tough!”

As he came close to me, I said:

“Oh! sir, have you no pity?”

“Sir,” he replied, “it’s easily seen that yonder Capuchin has not caressed your mistress, and you have not surprised madam, whom you see here, in the arms of this stinking beast. One cannot say anything about her financier, because one has manners. But a Capuchin cannot be borne. Burn the brazen-faced hussy!”

And he showed me Catherine under the doorway, clad in nothing but a chemise, her eyes glistening with tears, wringing her hands, more beautiful than ever, and murmuring in a dying voice, which cut deep into my soul:

“Don’t kill him! It’s Friar Ange, the little friar!”

The rascally lackeys returned, announcing that they had given up the pursuit at the appearance of the watch, but not without driving half a finger deep their pikes in the holy man’s behind. The night-caps vanished from the windows, which were closed again, and whilst the young nobleman talked to his followers, I went up to Catherine, whose tears began to dry in the pretty folds of her smile. She said to me:

“The poor friar is safe, but I trembled for him. Men are terrible. When they love you they will not listen to anything.”

“Catherine,” I said, with no slight grudge, “did you make me come here for no other purpose than to listen to the quarrels of your friends? Alas! I have no right to take part in them.”

“You would have had, M. Jacques,” she said, “you should have had, if you had wanted.”

“But,” I continued, “you are the most courted lady in Paris. You never mentioned yonder young gentleman.”

“I had no occasion to think of him. He came quite unexpectedly.”

“And he surprised you with Friar Ange?”

“He fancied he saw things which did not occur. He is hot-headed and does not want to listen to any reason.”

The half-opened chemise disclosed under transparent laces a breast swollen like a beautiful fruit and adorned like a budding rose. I took her in my arms and covered her bosom with kisses.

“Heavens!” she exclaimed, “in the street! Before M. d’ Anquetil, who sees us.”

“Who is M. d’Anquetil?”

“Pardi! he is the murderer of Friar Ange. Who else do you fancy he may be?”

“True, Catherine, no others are wanted. Your friends surround you in sufficient numbers.”

“M. Jacques, do not insult me, if you please.”

“I do not insult you, Catherine. I acknowledge your charms, to which I should like to render the same homage that others do.”

“M. Jacques, what you have now said smells odiously of the cookshop, of that old codger who is your father.”

“Not so very long ago, Mam’selle Catherine, you were mighty glad to smell its cooking-stove.”

“Fie! the villain! the mean rascal! He outrages a woman!”

And now she began to squeak and squeal, and M d’Anquetil left his servants, came up to us, and pushed her into the house, calling her a cheat and a rake, went into the passage behind her, and slammed the door in my face.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54