Make your own free website on Tripod.com

List Of Contents | Contents of La Constantin, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

your actions; I have not surrounded you with spies who would perhaps
have brought me the assurance, 'If she quitted the world which
outraged her, she was not driven forth by an impulse of wounded pride
or noble indignation; she did not even seek to punish those who
misunderstood her by her absence; she buried herself where she was
unknown, that she might indulge in stolen loves.'  Such were the
thoughts that came to me, and yet I respected your hiding-place; and
to-day I am ready to believe you true, if you will merely say, 'I
love no one else!'"

Jeannin, who was as fat as a stage financier, paused here to gasp;
for the utterance of this string of banalities, this rigmarole of
commonplaces, had left him breathless.  He was very much dissatisfied
with his performance; and ready to curse his barren imagination.  He
longed to hit upon swelling phrases and natural and touching
gestures, but in vain.  He could only look at Mademoiselle de Guerchi
with a miserable, heart-broken air.  She remained quietly seated,
with the same expression of incredulity on her features.

So there was nothing for it but to go on once more.

"But this one assurance that I ask you will not give.  So what I
have--been told is true: you have given your love to him."

She could not check a startled movement.

"You see it is only when I speak of him that I can overcome in you
the insensibility which is killing me.  My suspicions were true after
all: you deceived me for his sake.  Oh! the instinctive feeling of
jealousy was right which forced me to quarrel with that man, to
reject the perfidious friendship which he tried to force upon me.  He
has returned to town, and we shall meet!  But why do I say
'returned'?  Perhaps he only pretended to go away, and safe in this
retreat has flouted with impunity, my despair and braved my
vengeance!"

Up to this the lady had played a waiting game, but now she grew quite
confused, trying to discover the thread of the treasurer's thoughts.
To whom did he refer?  The Duc de Vitry?  That had been her first
impression.  But the duke had only been acquainted with her for a few
months--since she had--left Court.  He could not therefore have
excited the jealousy of her whilom lover; and if it were not he, to
whom did the words about rejecting "perfidious friendship," and
"returned to town," and so on, apply?  Jeannin divined her
embarrassment, and was not a little proud of the tactics which would,
he was almost sure; force her to expose herself.  For there are
certain women who can be thrown into cruel perplexity by speaking to
them of their love-passages without affixing a proper name label to
each.  They are placed as it were on the edge of an abyss, and forced
to feel their way in darkness.  To say "You have loved" almost
obliges them to ask "Whom?"

Nevertheless, this was not the word uttered by Mademoiselle de
Guerchi while she ran through in her head a list of possibilities.
Her answer was--

"Your language astonishes me; I don't understand what you mean."

The ice was broken, and the treasurer made a plunge.  Seizing one of
Angelique's hands, he asked--

"Have you never seen Commander de Jars since then?"

"Commander de Jars!" exclaimed Angelique.

"Can you swear to me, Angelique, that you love him not?"

"Mon Dieu!  What put it into your head that I ever cared for him?
It's over four months since I saw him last, and I hadn't an idea
whether he was alive or dead.  So he has been out of town?  That's
the first I heard of it."

"My fortune is yours, Angelique!  Oh! assure me once again that you
do not love him--that you never loved him!" he pleaded in a faltering
voice, fixing a look of painful anxiety upon her.

He had no intention of putting her out of countenance by the course
he took; he knew quite well that a woman like Angelique is never more
at her ease than when she has a chance of telling an untruth of this
nature.  Besides, he had prefaced this appeal by the magic words, "My
fortune' is yours!" and the hope thus aroused was well worth a
perjury.  So she answered boldly and in a steady voice, while she
looked straight into his eyes--

"Never!"

"I believe you!" exclaimed Jeannin, going down on his knees and
covering with his kisses the hand he still held.  "I can taste
happiness again.  Listen, Angelique.  I am leaving Paris; my mother
is dead, and I am going back to Spain.  Will you follow me thither?"

"I---follow you?"

"I hesitated long before finding you out, so much did I fear a
repulse.  I set out to-morrow.  Quit Paris, leave the world which has
slandered you, and come with me.  In a fortnight we shall be man and
wife."

"You are not in earnest!"

"May I expire at your feet if I am not!  Do you want me to sign the
oath with my blood?"

"Rise," she said in a broken voice.  "Have I at last found a man to
love me and compensate me for all the abuse that has been showered on
my head?  A thousand times I thank you, not for what you are doing
for me, but for the balm you pour on my wounded spirit.  Even if you
were to say to me now, 'After all, I am obliged to give you up' the
pleasure of knowing you esteem me would make up for all the rest.  It
would be another happy memory to treasure along with my memory of our
love, which was ineffaceable, although you so ungratefully suspected
me of having deceived you."

The treasurer appeared fairly intoxicated with joy.  He indulged in a
thousand ridiculous extravagances and exaggerations, and declared
himself the happiest of men.  Mademoiselle de Guerchi, who was
desirous of being prepared for every peril, asked him in a coaxing
tone--

"Who can have put it into your head to be jealous of the commander?
Has he been base enough to boast that I ever gave him my love?"

"No, he never said anything about you; but someway I was afraid."

She renewed her assurances.  The conversation continued some time in
a sentimental tone.  A thousand oaths, a thousand protestations of
love were, exchanged.  Jeannin feared that the suddenness of their
journey would inconvenience his mistress, and offered to put it off
for some days; but to this she would not consent, and it was arranged
that the next day at noon a carriage should call at the house and
take Angelique out of town to an appointed place at which the
treasurer was to join her.

Maitre Quennebert, eye and ear on the alert, had not lost a word of
this conversation, and the last proposition of the treasurer changed
his ideas.

"Pardieu!" he said to himself, "it looks as if this good man were
really going to let himself be taken in and done for.  It is singular
how very clear-sighted we can be about things that don't touch us.
This poor fly is going to let himself be caught by a very clever
spider, or I'm much mistaken.  Very likely my widow is quite of my
opinion, and yet in what concerns herself she will remain
stone-blind.  Well, such is life!  We have only two parts to choose
between: we must be either knave or fool.  What's Madame Rapally
doing, I wonder?"

At this moment he heard a stifled whisper from the opposite corner of
the room, but, protected by the distance and the darkness, he let the
widow murmur on, and applied his eye once more to his peephole.  What
he saw confirmed his opinion.  The damsel was springing up and down,
laughing, gesticulating, and congratulating herself on her unexpected
good fortune.

"Just imagine!  He loves me like that!" she was saying to herself.
"Poor Jeannin!  When I remember how I used to hesitate.  How
fortunate that Commander de Jars, one of the most vain and indiscreet
of men, never babbled about me!  Yes, we must leave town to-morrow
without fail.  I must not give him time to be enlightened by a chance
word.  But the Duc de Vitry?  I am really sorry for him.  However,
why did he go away, and send no word?  And then, he's a married man.
Ah! if I could only get back again to court some day!...  Who would
ever have expected such a thing?  Good God!  I must keep talking to
myself, to be sure I'm not dreaming.  Yes, he was there, just now, at
my feet, saying to me, 'Angelique, you are going to become my wife.'
One thing is sure, he may safely entrust his honour to my care.  It
would be infamous to betray a man who loves me as he does, who will
give me his name.  Never, no, never will I give him cause to reproach
me!  I would rather ----"

A loud and confused noise on the stairs interrupted this soliloquy.
At one moment bursts of laughter were heard, and the next angry
voices.  Then a loud exclamation, followed by a short silence.  Being
alarmed at this disturbance in a house which was usually so quiet,
Mademoiselle de Guerchi approached the door of her room, intending
either to call for protection or to lock herself in, when suddenly it
was violently pushed open.  She recoiled with fright, exclaiming--

"Commander de Jars!"

"On my word!" said Quennebert behind the arras, "'tis as amusing as a
play!  Is the commander also going to offer to make an honest woman
of her?  But what do I see?"

He had just caught sight of the young man on whom de Jars had
bestowed the title and name of Chevalier de Moranges, and whose
acquaintance the reader has already made at the tavern in the rue
Saint-Andre-des-Arts.  His appearance had as great an effect on the
notary as a thunderbolt.  He stood motionless, trembling, breathless;
his knees ready to give way beneath him; everything black before his
eyes.  However, he soon pulled himself together, and succeeded in
overcoming the effects of his surprise and terror.  He looked once
more through the hole in the partition, and became so absorbed that
no one in the whole world could have got a word from him just then;
the devil himself might have shrieked into his ears unheeded, and a
naked sword suspended over his head would not have induced him to
change his place.




CHAPTER IV

Before Mademoiselle de Guerchi had recovered from her fright the
commander spoke.

"As I am a gentleman, my beauty, if you were the Abbess of
Montmartre, you could not be more difficult of access.  I met a

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >



Other sites:

db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com