One evening, after leaving the King's closet, I happened to pass through the east gallery at the Louvre, which served at that time as the outer antechamber, and was the common resort as well of all those idlers who, with some pretensions to fashion, lacked the ENTREE, as of many who with greater claims preferred to be at their ease. My passage for a moment stilled the babel which prevailed. But I had no sooner reached the farther door than the noise broke out again; and this with so sudden a fury, the tumult being augmented by the crashing fall of a table, as caused me at the last moment to stand and turn. A dozen voices crying simultaneously, "Have a care!" and "Not here! not here!" and all looking the same way, I was able to detect the three principals in the FRACAS. They were no other than M. de St. Mesmin, Barradas--a low fellow, still remembered, who was already what Saintonge had prophesied that the former would become--and young St. Germain, the eldest son of M. de Clan.
I rather guessed than heard the cause of the quarrel, and that St. Mesmin, putting into words what many had known for years and some made their advantage of, had accused Barradas of cheating. The latter's fury was, of course, proportioned to his guilt; an instant challenge while I looked was his natural answer. This, as he was a consummate swordsman, and had long earned his living as much by fear as by fraud, should have been enough to stay the greediest stomach; but St. Mesmin was not content. Treating the knave, the word once passed, as so much dirt, he transferred his attack to St. Germain, and called on him to return the money he had won by betting on Barradas.
St. Germain, a young spark as proud and headstrong as St. Mesmin himself, and possessed of friends equal to his expectations, flung back a haughty refusal. He had the advantage in station and popularity; and by far the larger number of those present sided with him. I lingered a moment in curiosity, looking to see the accuser with all his boldness give way before the almost unanimous expression of disapproval. But my former judgment of him had been correctly formed; so far from being browbeaten or depressed by his position, he repeated the demand with a stubborn persistence that marvellously reminded me of Crillon; and continued to reiterate it until all, except St. Germain himself, were silent. "You must return my money!" he kept on saying monotonously. "You must return my money. This man cheated, and you won my money. You must pay or fight."
"With a dead man?" St. Germain replied, gibing at him.
"Barradas will spit you!" The other scoffed. "Go and order your coffin, and do not trouble me."
"I shall trouble you. If you did not know that he cheated, pay; and if you did know, fight."
"I know?" St. Germain retorted fiercely. "You madman! Do you mean to say that I knew that he cheated?"
"I mean what I say!" St. Mesmin returned stolidly. "You have won my money. You must return it. If you will not return it, you must fight."
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