The Right of Way by Gilbert Parker
Chapter LIV. 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--wait--wait--wait!' Bah!"
"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 pardon."
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.