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d. The guests taking him for a deputy landlord, explained their needs in bad French. Félise thanked him in blushing confusion, while Bigourdin, as he had done a hundred times before, gave a week’s notice to Polydore, who, acting scullion, was breaking plates and dishes with drunken persistency. And now the truth is out as regards Polydore. With the sins of sloth, ignorance, and uncleanliness he combined the sin of drunkenn

ess. Polydore was nearly always fuddled. Yet because of the ties of blood, the foster-si

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sterdom of respective grandmothers, Bigourdin had submitted to his inefficiency. Once more he revoked the edict of dismissal

. Once more Polydore kept sober for a few days. Then once more he backslided. And he backslided irretrievably this night at

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dinner. All went fairly well at first. It was a slack night. Only three commis-voyageurs sat at the long table, and thus th

ere were only seven persons on whom to attend. It is true that his eye was somewhat glazed and his hand somewhat unsteady; b

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ut under the awful searchlight of Bigourdin’s glance, he nerved himself to his task. Soup and fish had been served satisfac

torily; then came a long, long wait. Presently Polydore reeled in. As he passed by Bigourdin’s table he held up the finger

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of a dirty hand bound with a dripping bloody rag. “Pardon, je me suis coupé le doigt,” he announced thickly and made a b

ee-line to Corinna, with the ostensible purpose of removing her plate. But just as he reached her, the extra dram that he mu

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st have taken to fortify himself against the shock of his wound, took full effect. He staggered, and in order to save himself clutched wildly at Corinna, leaving on her bare neck his disgusting sanguine imprint. She uttered a sharp cry and simultaneously Bigourdin uttered a roar and, rushing across the room, in a second had picked up the unhappy varlet in his giant arms.

“Ah, cochon!”—he called him the most dreadful names, shaking him as Alice shook the Red Queen. “En voilà la fin! I will teach you to dare to spread your infamous blood. I will break your bones. I will crush your skull, so that you’ll never set foot here again. Ah! triple cochon!” A flaming picture of gigantic wrath, he swept with him to the door, whence he hurled

him bodily forth. There was a dull thud. And that, as far as the three commercial travellers (standing agape with their napkins at their throats), Corinna, Martin, Félise and Bigourdin were concerned, was the end of Polydore. Bigo

urdin, with an agility surprising in so huge a man, was in an instant by Corinna’s side with finger bowl full of water and a clean napkin. “Mademoiselle, that such a bestial personage should have dared to soil your purity with hi

s uncleanness makes me mad, makes me capable of assassinating him. Permit me to remove his abominable contamination.” “Let me do it, mon oncle,” said Félise, who had run across. But Bigourdin waved her aside, and with reverent

touch, as though she were a goddess, he cleansed Corinna. She underwent the operation in her cool way and when it was over smiled her thanks at Bigourdin. “Mademoiselle Corinna,” he cried, “what can I say to you? What can I do

for you? How can I repair such an outrage as you have suffered in my house? You only have to command and everything I have is yours. Command—insist—ordain.” He spread his arms wide, an agony of appeal in his eyes. Martin, who ha

d started to his feet, in order to save Corinna from the grip of the intoxicated Polydore, but had been anticipated by the impetuous rush of Bigourdin, gazed for a moment or two at his host and then gasped, as his vision pierced int

o the huge man’s soul. This perfervid declaration was not the good innkeeper’s apology for a waiter’s disgusting behaviour. It was the blazing indignation of a real man at the desecration inflicted by another on the body of the w

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oman he loved. A shiver of comprehension of things he had never comprehended before swept through Martin from head to foot. He knew with absolute knowledge that should she rise and, with a nod of her head, invite Bigourdin to follow her to the verandah, she could be mistress absolute of Bigourdin’s destiny. He held his breath, for the first time in his dull life consciou


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