Coming to Gavrillac on a November morning, laden with news of the
political storms which were then gathering over Franc e, Philippe
found in that sleepy Breton village matter to quicken his already
lively indignation. A peasant of Gavrillac, named Mabey, had been
shot dead that morning in the woods of Meupont, across t he river,
by a gamekeeper of the Marquis de La Tour d’Azyr. The unfortunate
fellow had been caught in the act of taking a pheasant from a snare,
and the gamekeeper had acted under explicit orders from his master.
Infuriated by an act of tyranny so absolute and merciless, M. de
Vilmorin proposed to lay the matter before M. de Kercadiou. Mabey
was a vassal of Gavrillac, and Vilmorin hoped to move the Lord of
Gavrillac to demand at least some measure of reparation for the
widow and the three orphans which that brutal deed had made.
But because Andre-Louis was Philippe’s dearest friend - indeed, his
almost brother - the young seminarist sought him out in the ﬁrst
instance. He found him at breakfast alone in the long, low-ceilinged,
white-panelled dining-room at Rabouillet’s - the only home that
Andre-Louis had ever known - and after embracing him, deafened him
with his denunciation of M. de La Tour d’Azyr.
”I have heard of it already,” said Andre-Louis.
”You speak as if the thing had not surprised you,” his friend
”Nothing beastly can surprise me when done by a beast. And La Tour
d’Azyr is a beast, as all the world knows. The more fool Mabey for
stealing his pheasants. He should have stolen somebody else’s.”
”Is that all you have to say about it?”
”What more is there to say? I’ve a practical mind, I hope.”
”What more there is to say I propose to say to your godfather, M.
de Kercadiou. I shall appeal to him for justice.”
”Against M. de La Tour d’azyr?” Andre-Louis raised his eyebrows.
”My dear ingenuous Philippe, dog doesn’t eat dog.”
”You are unjust to your godfather. He is a humane man.”
”Oh, as humane as you please. But this isn’t a question
of humanity. It’s a question of game-laws.”
M. de Vilmorin tossed his long arms to Heaven in disgust. He was
a tall, slender young gentleman, a year or two younger than
Andre-Louis. He was very soberly dressed in black, as became a
seminarist, with white bands at wrists and throat and silver
buckles to his shoes. His neatly clubbed brown hair was innocent
”You talk like a lawyer,” he exploded.
”Naturally. But don’t waste anger on me on that account. Tell me
what you want me to do.”
”I want you to come to M. de Kercadiou with me, and to use your
inﬂuence to obtain justice. I suppose I am asking too much.”
”My dear Philippe, I exist to serve you. I warn you that it is a
futile quest; but give me leave to ﬁnish my breakfast, and I am
at your orders.”
M. de Vilmorin dropped into a winged armchair by the well-swept
hearth, on which a piled-up ﬁre of pine logs was burning cheerily.
And whilst he waited now he gave his friend the latest news of the
events in Rennes. Young, ardent, enthusiastic, and inspired by
Utopian ideals, he passionately denounced the rebellious attitude