Gwynplaine was alone--alone, and in the presence of the tepid bath and the deserted couch. The confusion in his mind had reached its culminating point. His thoughts no longer resembled thoughts. They overflowed and ran riot; it was the anguish of a creature wrestling with perplexity. He felt as if he were awaking from a horrid nightmare. The entrance into unknown spheres is no simple matter.
From the time he had received the duchess's letter, brought by the page, a series of surprising adventures had befallen Gwynplaine, each one less intelligible than the other. Up to this time, though in a dream, he had seen things clearly. Now he could only grope his way. He no longer thought, nor even dreamed. He collapsed. He sank down upon the couch which the duchess had vacated.
Suddenly he heard a sound of footsteps, and those of a man. The noise came from the opposite side of the gallery to that by which the duchess had departed. The man approached, and his footsteps, though deadened by the carpet, were clear and distinct. Gwynplaine, in spite of his abstraction, listened.
Suddenly, beyond the silver web of curtain which the duchess had left partly open, a door, evidently concealed by the painted glass, opened wide, and there came floating into the room the refrain of an old French song, carolled at the top of a manly and joyous voice,--
"Trois petits gorets sur leur fumier Juraient comme de porteurs de chaise,"
and a man entered. He wore a sword by his side, a magnificent naval uniform, covered with gold lace, and held in his hand a plumed hat with loops and cockade. Gwynplaine sprang up erect as if moved by springs. He recognized the man, and was, in turn, recognized by him. From their astonished lips came, simultaneously, this double exclamation:--
The man with the plumed hat advanced towards Gwynplaine, who stood with folded arms.
"What are you doing here, Gwynplaine?"
"And you, Tom-Jim-Jack, what are you doing here?"
"Oh! I understand. Josiana! a caprice. A mountebank and a monster! The double attraction is too powerful to be resisted. You disguised yourself in order to get here, Gwynplaine?"
"And you, too, Tom-Jim-Jack?"
"Gwynplaine, what does this gentleman's dress mean?"
"Tom-Jim-Jack, what does that officer's uniform mean?"
"Gwynplaine, I answer no questions."
"Neither do I, Tom-Jim-Jack."
"Gwynplaine, my name is not Tom-Jim-Jack."
"Tom-Jim-Jack, my name is not Gwynplaine."
"Gwynplaine, I am here in my own house."
"I am here in my own house, Tom-Jim-Jack."
"I will not have you echo my words. You are ironical; but I've got a cane. An end to your jokes, you wretched fool."
Gwynplaine became ashy pale. "You are a fool yourself, and you shall give me satisfaction for this insult."
"In your booth as much as you like, with fisticuffs."
"Here, and with swords?"
"My friend Gwynplaine, the sword is a weapon for gentlemen. With it I can only fight my equals. At fisticuffs we are equal, but not so with swords. At the Tadcaster Inn Tom-Jim-Jack could box with Gwynplaine; at Windsor the case is altered. Understand this: I am a rear-admiral."
"And I am a peer of England."
The man whom Gwynplaine recognized as Tom-Jim-Jack burst out laughing. "Why not a king? Indeed, you are right. An actor plays every part. You'll tell me next that you are Theseus, Duke of Athens."
"I am a peer of England, and we are going to fight."
"Gwynplaine, this becomes tiresome. Don't play with one who can order you to be flogged. I am Lord David Dirry-Moir."
"And I am Lord Clancharlie."
Again Lord David burst out laughing.
"Well said! Gwynplaine is Lord Clancharlie. That is indeed the name the man must bear who is to win Josiana. Listen. I forgive you; and do you know the reason? It's because we are both lovers of the same woman."
The curtain in the door was lifted, and a voice exclaimed, "You are the two husbands, my lords."
"Barkilphedro!" cried Lord David.
It was indeed he; he bowed low to the two lords, with a smile on his face. Some few paces behind him was a gentleman with a stern and dignified countenance, who carried in his hand a black wand. This gentleman advanced, and, bowing three times to Gwynplaine, said, "I am the Usher of the Black Rod. I come to fetch your lordship, in obedience to her Majesty's commands."
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