The Right of Way
M. ROSSIGNOL SLIPS THE LEASH
It was the last day of the Passion Play, and the great dramatic mission was
drawing to a close. The confidence of the Cure and the Seigneur was restored.
The prohibition against strangers had had its effect, and for three whole days
the valley had been at rest again. Apparently there was not a stranger within
its borders, save the Seigneur's brother, the Abbe Rossignol, who had come to
see the moving spectacle.
The Abbe, on his arrival, had made inquiries concerning the tailor of
Chaudiere and Jo Portugais, as persistently about the one as the other. Their
secrets had been kept inviolate by him.
It was disconcerting to hear the tales people told of the tailor's charity
and wisdom. It was all dangerous, for what was, accidentally, no evil in this
particular instance, might be the greatest disaster in another case. Principle
was at stake. He heard in stern silence the Cure's happy statement that Jo
Portugais had returned to the bosom of the Church, and attended Mass regularly.
"So it may be, my dear Abbe," said M. Loisel, "that the friendship between
him and our 'infidel' has been the means of helping Portugais. I hope their
friendship will go on unbroken for years and years."
"I have no idea that it will," said the Abbe grimly. "That rope of friendship
may snap untimely."
"Upon my soul, you croak like a raven!" testily broke in M. Rossignol, who
was present. "I didn't know there was so much in common between you and my
surly-jowled groom. He gets his pleasure out of croaking. 'Wait, wait, you'll
see—you'll see! Death, death, death—every man must die! The devil has you by the
hair—death—death—death!' Bah! I'm heartily sick of croakers. I suppose, like my
grunting groom, you'll say about the Passion Play, 'No good will come of
"It may not be an unmixed good," answered the ascetic.
"Well, and is there any such thing on earth as an unmixed good? The play
yesterday was worth a thousand sermons. It was meant to serve Holy Church, and
it will serve it. Was there ever anything more real—and touching—than Paulette
Dubois as Mary Magdalene yesterday?"
"I do not approve of such reality. For that woman to play the part is to
destroy the impersonality of the scene."
"You would demand that the Christus should be a good man, and the St. John
blameless—why shouldn't the Magdalene be a repentant woman?"
"It might impress the people more, if the best woman in your parish were to
play the part. The fall of virtue, the ruin of innocence, would be vividly
brought home. It does good to make the innocent feel the terror and shame of
sin. That is the price the good pay for the fall of man—sorrow and shame for
those who sin." The Seigneur, rising quickly from the table, and kicking his
chair back, said angrily: "Damn your theories!" Then, seeing the frozen look on
his brother's face, continued, more excitedly: "Yes, damn, damn, damn your
theories! You always took the crass view. I beg your pardon, Cure—I beg your
He then went to the window, threw it open, and called to his groom.
"Hi, there, coffin-face," he said, "bring round the horses—the quietest one
in the stable for my brother—you hear? He can't ride," he added maliciously.
This was his fiercest stroke, for the Abbe's secret vanity was the belief
that he looked well on a horse, and rode handsomely.