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List Of Contents | Contents of La Constantin, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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of his fair creditor, on account of the noble sentiments he had
expressed.  The note was written out in legal form and the money
counted down on the spot.

"How glad I am!" said she then, while Quennebert still kept up some
pretence of delicate embarrassment, although he could not resist
casting a stolen look at the bag of crowns lying on the table beside
his cloak.  "Do you intend to go back to Saint Denis to-night?"

Even had such been his intention, the notary would have taken very
good care not to say so; for he foresaw the accusations of imprudence
that would follow, the enumeration of the dangers by the way; and it
was quite on the cards even that, having thus aroused his fears, his
fair hostess should in deference to them offer him hospitality for
the night, and he did not feel inclined for an indefinitely prolonged
tete-a-tete.

"No;" he said, "I am going to sleep at Maitre Terrasson's, rue des
Poitevins; I have sent him word to expect me.  But although his house
is only a few yards distant, I must leave you earlier than I could
have wished, on account of this money."

"Will you think of me?"

"How can you ask?" replied Quennebert, with a sentimental expression.
"You have compelled me to accept the money, but--I shall not be happy
till I have repaid you.  Suppose this loan should make us fall out?"

"You may be quite sure that if you don't pay when the bill falls due,
I shall have recourse to the law."

"Oh, I know that very well."

"I shall enforce all my rights as a creditor."

"I expect nothing else."

"I shall show no pity."

And the widow gave a saucy laugh and shook her finger at him.

"Madame Rapally," said the notary, who was most anxious to bring this
conversation to an end, dreading every moment that it would take a
languishing tone,-"Madame Rapally, will you add to your goodness by
granting me one more favour?"

"What is it?"

"The gratitude that is simulated is not difficult to bear, but
genuine, sincere gratitude, such as I feel, is a heavy burden, as I
can assure you.  It is much easier to give than to receive.  Promise
me, then, that from now till the year is up there shall be no more
reference between us to this money, and that we shall go on being
good friends as before.  Leave it to me to make arrangements to
acquit myself honourably of my obligations towards you.  I need say
no more; till a year's up, mum's the word."

"It shall be as you desire, Maitre Quennebert," answered Madame
Rapally, her eyes shining with delight.  "It was never my intention
to lay you under embarrassing obligations, and I leave it all to you.
Do you know that I am beginning to believe in presentiments?"

"You becoming superstitious!  Why, may I ask?"

"I refused to do a nice little piece of ready-money business this
morning."

"Did you?"

"Yes, because I had a sort of feeling that made me resist all
temptation to leave myself without cash.  Imagine!  I received a
visit to-day from a great lady who lives in this house--in the suite
of apartments next to mine."

"What is her name?"

"Mademoiselle de Guerchi."

"And what did she want with you?"

"She called in order to ask me to buy, for four hundred livres, some
of her jewels which are well worth six hundred, for I understand such
things; or should I prefer it to lend her that sum and keep the
jewels as security?  It appears that mademoiselle is in great
straits.  De Guerchi--do you know the name?"

"I think I have heard it."

"They say she has had a stormy past, and has been greatly talked of;
but then half of what one hears is lies.  Since she came to live here
she has been very quiet.  No visitors except one--a nobleman, a duke-
-wait a moment!  What's his name?  The Duc-Duc de Vitry; and for over
three weeks even he hasn't been near her.  I imagine from this
absence that they have fallen out, and that she is beginning to feel
the want of money."

"You seem to be intimately acquainted with this young woman's
affairs."

"Indeed I am, and yet I never spoke to her till this morning."

"How did you get your information, then?"

"By chance.  The room adjoining this and one of those she occupies
were formerly one large room, which is now divided into two by a
partition wall covered with tapestry; but in the two corners the
plaster has crumbled away with time, and one can see into the room
through slits in the tapestry without being seen oneself.  Are you
inquisitive?"

"Not more than you, Madame Rapally."

"Come with me.  Someone knocked at the street door a few moments ago;
there's no one else in the douse likely to have visitors at this
hour.  Perhaps her admirer has come back."

"If so, we are going to witness a scene of recrimination or
reconciliation.  How delightful!"

Although he was not leaving the widow's lodgings, Maitre Quennebert
took up his hat and cloak and the blessed bag of crown pieces, and
followed Madame Rapally on tiptoe, who on her side moved as slowly as
a tortoise and as lightly as she could.  They succeeded in turning
the handle of the door into the next room without making much noise.

"'Sh!" breathed the widow softly; "listen, they are speaking."

She pointed to the place where he would find a peep-hole in one
corner of the room, and crept herself towards the corresponding
corner.  Quennebert, who was by no means anxious to have her at his
side, motioned to her to blow out the light.  This being done, he
felt secure, for he knew that in the intense darkness which now
enveloped them she could not move from her place without knocking
against the furniture between them, so he glued his face to the
partition.  An opening just large enough for one eye allowed him to
see everything that was going on in the next room.  Just as he began
his observations, the treasurer at Mademoiselle de Guerchi's
invitation was about to take a seat near her, but not too near for
perfect respect.  Both of them were silent, and appeared to labour
under great embarrassment at finding themselves together, and
explanations did not readily begin.  The lady had not an idea of the
motive of the visit, and her quondam lover feigned the emotion
necessary to the success of his undertaking.  Thus Maitre Quennebert
had full time to examine both, and especially Angelique.  The reader
will doubtless desire to know what was the result of the notary's
observation.




CHAPTER III

ANGELIQUE-LOUISE DE GUERCHI was a woman of about twenty-eight years
of age, tall, dark, and well made.  The loose life she had led had,
it is true, somewhat staled her beauty, marred the delicacy of her
complexion, and coarsened the naturally elegant curves of her figure;
but it is such women who from time immemorial have had the strongest
attraction for profligate men.  It seems as if dissipation destroyed
the power to perceive true beauty, and the man of pleasure must be
aroused to admiration by a bold glance and a meaning smile, and will
only seek satisfaction along the trail left by vice.  Louise-
Angelique was admirably adapted for her way of life; not that her
features wore an expression of shameless effrontery, or that the
words that passed her lips bore habitual testimony to the disorders
of her existence, but that under a calm and sedate demeanour there
lurked a secret and indefinable charm.  Many other women possessed
more regular features, but none of them had a greater power of
seduction.  We must add that she owed that power entirely to her
physical perfections, for except in regard to the devices necessary
to her calling, she showed no cleverness, being ignorant, dull and
without inner resources of any kind.  As her temperament led her to
share the desires she excited, she was really incapable of resisting
an attack conducted with skill and ardour, and if the Duc de Vitry
had not been so madly in love, which is the same as saying that he
was hopelessly blind, silly, and dense to everything around him, he
might have found a score of opportunities to overcome her resistance.
We have already seen that she was so straitened in money matters that
she had been driven to try to sell her jewels that very, morning.

Jeannin was the first to 'break silence.

"You are astonished at my visit, I know, my charming Angelique.  But
you must excuse my thus appearing so unexpectedly before you.  The
truth is, I found it impossible to leave Paris without seeing you
once more."

"Thank you for your kind remembrance," said she, "but I did not at
all expect it."

"Come, come, you are offended with me."

She gave him a glance of mingled disdain and resentment; but he went
on, in a timid, wistful tone--

"I know that my conduct must have seemed strange to you, and I
acknowledge that nothing can justify a man for suddenly leaving the
woman he loves--I do not dare to say the woman who loves him--without
a word of explanation.  But, dear Angelique, I was jealous."

"Jealous!" she repeated incredulously.

"I tried my best to overcome the feeling, and I hid my suspicions
from you.  Twenty times I came to see you bursting with anger and
determined to overwhelm you with reproaches, but at the sight of your
beauty I forgot everything but that I loved you.  My suspicions
dissolved before a smile; one word from your lips charmed me into
happiness.  But when I was again alone my terrors revived, I saw my
rivals at your feet, and rage possessed me once more.  Ah! you never
knew how devotedly I loved you."

She let him speak without interruption; perhaps the same thought was
in her mind as in Quennebert's, who, himself a past master in the art
of lying; was thinking--

"The man does not believe a word of what he is saying."

But the treasurer went on--

"I can see that even now you doubt my sincerity."

"Does my lord desire that his handmaiden should be blunt?  Well, I
know that there is no truth in what you say."

"Oh!  I can see that you imagine that among the distractions of the
world I have kept no memory of you, and have found consolation in the
love of less obdurate fair ones.  I have not broken in on your
retirement; I have not shadowed your steps; I have not kept watch on

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