Make your own free website on

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

blackguard on the stairs who tried to stop me, and whom I was obliged
to thrash soundly.  Is what they told me on my return true?  Are you
really doing penance, and do you intend to take the veil?"

"Sir," answered Angelique, with great dignity, "whatever may be my
plans, I have a right to be surprised at your violence and at your
intrusion at such an hour."

"Before we go any farther," said de Jars, twirling round on his
heels, "allow me to present to you my nephew, the Chevalier de

"Chevalier de Moranges!" muttered Quennebert, on whose memory in that
instant the name became indelibly engraven.

"A young man," continued the commander, "who has come back with me
from abroad.  Good style, as you see, charming appearance.  Now, you
young innocent, lift up your great black eyes and kiss madame's hand;
I allow it."

"Monsieur le commandeur, leave my room; begone, or I shall call----"

"Whom, then?  Your lackeys?  But I have beaten the only one you keep,
as I told you, and it will be some time before he'll be in a
condition to light me downstairs: 'Begone,' indeed!  Is that the way
you receive an old friend?  Pray be seated, chevalier."

He approached Mademoiselle de Guerchi, and, despite her resistance,
seized hold of one of her hands, and forcing her to sit down, seated
himself beside her.

"That's right, my girl," said he; "now let us talk sense.  I
understand that before a stranger you consider  yourself obliged to
appear astonished at my ways of going on.  But he knows all about us,
and nothing he may see or hear will surprise him.  So a truce to
prudery!  I came back yesterday, but I could not make out your
hiding-place till to-day.  Now I'm not going to ask you to tell me
how you have gone on in my absence.  God and you alone know, and
while He will tell me nothing, you would only tell me fibs, and I
want to save you from that venial sin at least.  But here I am, in as
good spirits as ever, more in love than ever, and quite ready to
resume my old habits."

Meantime the lady, quite subdued by his noisy entrance and ruffianly
conduct, and seeing that an assumption of dignity would only draw
down on her some fresh impertinence, appeared to resign herself to
her position.  All this time Quennebert never took his eyes from the
chevalier, who sat with his face towards the partition.  His
elegantly cut costume accentuated his personal advantages.  His jet
black hair brought into relief the whiteness of his forehead; his
large dark eyes with their veined lids and silky lashes had a
penetrating and peculiar expression--a mixture of audacity and
weakness; his thin and somewhat pale lips were apt to curl in an
ironical smile; his hands were of perfect beauty, his feet of dainty
smallness, and he showed with an affectation of complaisance a
well-turned leg above his ample boots, the turned down tops of which,
garnished with lace, fell in irregular folds aver his ankles in the
latest fashion.  He did not appear to be more than eighteen years of
age, and nature had denied his charming face the distinctive sign of
his sex for not the slightest down was visible on his chin, though a
little delicate pencilling darkened his upper lip: His slightly
effeminate style of beauty, the graceful curves of his figure, his
expression, sometimes coaxing, sometimes saucy, reminding one of a
page, gave him the appearance of a charming young scapegrace destined
to inspire sudden passions and wayward fancies.  While his pretended
uncle was making himself at home most unceremoniously, Quennebert
remarked that the chevalier at once began to lay siege to his fair
hostess, bestowing tender and love-laden glances on her behind that
uncle's back.  This redoubled his curiosity.

"My dear girl," said the commander, "since I saw you last I have come
into a fortune of one hundred thousand livres, neither more nor less.
One of my dear aunts took it into her head to depart this life, and
her temper being crotchety and spiteful she made me her sole heir, in
order to enrage those of her relatives who had nursed her in her
illness.  One hundred thousand livres!  It's a round sum--enough to
cut a great figure with for two years.  If you like, we shall
squander it together, capital and interest.  Why do you not speak?
Has anyone else robbed me by any chance of your heart?  If that were
so, I should be in despair, upon my word-for the sake of the
fortunate individual who had won your favour; for I will brook no
rivals, I give you fair warning."

"Monsieur le commandeur," answered Angelique, "you forget, in
speaking to me in that manner, I have never given you any right to
control my actions."

"Have we severed our connection?"

At this singular question Angelique started, but de Jars continued--

"When last we parted we were on the best of terms, were we not?  I
know that some months have elapsed since then, but I have explained
to you the reason of my absence.  Before filling up the blank left by
the departed we must give ourselves space to mourn.  Well, was I
right in my guess?  Have you given me a successor?"

Mademoiselle de Guerchi had hitherto succeeded in controlling her
indignation, and had tried to force herself to drink the bitter cup
of humiliation to the dregs; but now she could bear it no longer.
Having thrown a look expressive of her suffering at the young
chevalier, who continued to ogle her with great pertinacity, she
decided on bursting into tears, and in a voice broken by sobs she
exclaimed that she was miserable at being treated in this manner,
that she did not deserve it, and that Heaven was punishing her for
her error in yielding to the entreaties of the commander.  One would
have sworn she was sincere and that the words came from her heart.
If Maitre Quennebert had not witnessed the scene with Jeannin, if he
had not known how frail was the virtue of the weeping damsel, he
might have been affected by her touching plaint.  The chevalier
appeared to be deeply moved by Angelique's grief, and while his,
uncle was striding up and down the room and swearing like a trooper,
he gradually approached her and expressed by signs the compassion he

Meantime the notary was in a strange state of mind.  He had not yet
made up his mind whether the whole thing was a joke arranged between
de Jars and Jeannin or not, but of one thing he was quite convinced,
the sympathy which Chevalier de Moranges was expressing by passionate
sighs and glances was the merest hypocrisy.  Had he been alone,
nothing would have prevented his dashing head foremost into this
imbroglio, in scorn of consequence, convinced that his appearance
would be as terrible in its effect as the head of Medusa.  But the
presence of the widow restrained him.  Why ruin his future and dry up
the golden spring which had just begun to gush before his eyes, for
the sake of taking part in a melodrama?  Prudence and self-interest
kept him in the side scenes.

The tears of the fair one and the glances of the chevalier awoke no
repentance in the breast of the commander; on the contrary, he began
to vent his anger in terms still more energetic.  He strode up and
down the oaken floor till it shook under his spurred heels; he stuck
his plumed hat on the side of his head, and displayed the manners of
a bully in a Spanish comedy.  Suddenly he seemed to have come to a
swift resolution: the expression of his face changed from rage to icy
coldness, and walking up to Angelique, he said, with a composure more
terrible than the wildest fury--

"My rival's name?"

"You shall never learn it from me!"

"Madame, his name?"

"Never!  I have borne your insults too long.  I am not responsible to
you for my actions."

"Well, I shall learn it, in spite of you, and I know to whom to
apply.  Do you think you can play fast and loose with me and my love?
No, no!  I used to believe in you; I turned, a deaf ear to your
traducers.  My mad passion for you became known; I was the jest and
the butt of the town.  But you have opened my eyes, and at last I see
clearly on whom my vengeance ought to fall.  He was formerly my
friend, and I would believe nothing against him; although I was often
warned, I took no notice.  But now I will seek him out, and say to
him, 'You have stolen what was mine; you are a scoundrel!  It must be
your life, or mine!'  And if, there is justice in heaven, I shall
kill him!  Well, madame, you don't ask me the name of this man!  You
well know whom I mean!"

This threat brought home to Mademoiselle de Guerchi how imminent was
her danger.  At first she had thought the commander's visit might be
a snare laid to test her, but the coarseness of his expressions, the
cynicism of his overtures in the presence of a third person, had
convinced her she was wrong.  No man could have imagined that the
revolting method of seduction employed could meet with success, and
if the commander had desired to convict her of perfidy he would have
come alone and made use of more persuasive weapons.  No, he believed
he still had claims on her, but even if he had, by his manner of
enforcing them he had rendered them void.  However, the moment he
threatened to seek out a rival whose identity he designated quite
clearly, and reveal to him the secret it was so necessary to her
interests to keep hidden, the poor girl lost her head.  She looked at
de Jars with a frightened expression, and said in a trembling voice--

"I don't know whom you mean."

"You don't know?  Well, I shall commission the king's treasurer,
Jeannin de Castille, to come here to-morrow and tell you, an hour
before our duel."

"Oh no!  no!  Promise me you will not do that!" cried she, clasping
her hands.

"Adieu, madame."

"Do not leave me thus!  I cannot let you go till you give me your

She threw herself on her knees and clung with both her hands to de
Jars' cloak, and appealing to Chevalier de Moranges, said--

"You are young, monsieur; I have never done you any harm; protect me,
have pity on me, help me to soften him!"

"Uncle," said the chevalier in a pleading tone, "be generous, and

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: