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List Of Contents | Contents of La Constantin, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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don't drive this woman to despair."

"Prayers are useless!" answered the commander.

"What do you want me to do?" said Angelique.  "Shall I go into a
convent to atone?  I am ready to go.  Shall I promise never to see
him again?  For God's sake, give me a little time; put off your
vengeance for one single day!  To-morrow evening, I swear to you, you
will have nothing more to fear from me.  I thought myself forgotten
by you and abandoned; and how should I think otherwise?  You left me
without a word of farewell, you stayed away and never sent me a line!
And how do you know that I did not weep when you deserted me, leaving
me to pass my days in monotonous solitude?  How do you know that I
did not make every effort to find out why you were so long absent
from my side?  You say you had left town but how was I to know that?
Oh!  promise me, if you love me, to give up this duel!  Promise me
not to seek that man out to-morrow!"

The poor creature hoped to work wonders with her eloquence, her
tears, her pleading glances.  On hearing her prayer for a reprieve of
twenty-four hours, swearing that after that she would never see
Jeannin again, the commander and the chevalier were obliged to bite
their lips to keep from laughing outright.  But the former soon
regained his self-possession, and while Angelique, still on her knees
before him, pressed his hands to her bosom, he forced her to raise
her head, and looking straight into her eyes, said--

"To-morrow, madame, if not this evening, he shall know everything,
and a meeting shall take place."

Then pushing her away, he strode towards the door.

"Oh!  how unhappy I am!" exclaimed Angelique.

She tried to rise and rush after him, but whether she was really
overcome by her feelings, or whether she felt the one chance of
prevailing left her was to faint, she uttered a heartrending cry, and
the chevalier had no choice but to support her sinking form.

De Jars, on seeing his nephew staggering under this burden, gave a
loud laugh, and hurried away.  Two minutes later he was once more at
the tavern in the rue Saint-Andre-des-Arts.

"How's this?  Alone?" said Jeannin.

"Alone."

"What have you done with the chevalier?"

"I left him with our charmer, who was unconscious, overcome with
grief, exhausted Ha! ha! ha!  She fell fainting into his arms!  Ha!
ha! ha!"

"It's quite possible that the young rogue, being left with her in
such a condition, may cut me out."

"Do you think so?--Ha! ha! ha!"

And de Jars laughed so heartily and so infectiously that his worthy
friend was obliged to join in, and laughed till he choked.

In the short silence which followed the departure of the commander,
Maitre Quennebert could hear the widow still murmuring something, but
he was less disposed than ever to attend to her.

"On my word," said he, "the scene now going on is more curious than
all that went before.  I don't think that a man has ever found
himself in such a position as mine.  Although my interests demand
that I remain here and listen, yet my fingers are itching to box the
ears of that Chevalier de Moranges.  If there were only some way of
getting at a proof of all this!  Ah! now we shall hear something; the
hussy is coming to herself."

And indeed Angelique had opened her eyes and was casting wild looks
around her; she put her hand to her brow several times, as if trying
to recall clearly what had happened.

"Is he gone?" she exclaimed at last.  "Oh, why did you let him go?
You should not have minded me, but kept him here."

"Be calm," answered the chevalier, "be calm, for heaven's sake.  I
shall speak to my uncle and prevent his ruining your prospects.  Only
don't weep any more, your tears break my heart.  Ah, my God!  how
cruel it is to distress you so!  I should never be able to withstand
your tears; no matter what reason I had for anger, a look from you
would make me forgive you everything."

"Noble young man!" said Angelique.

"Idiot!" muttered Maitre Quennebert; "swallow the honey of his words,
do But how the deuce is it going to end?  Not Satan himself ever
invented such a situation."

"But then I could never believe you guilty without proof, irrefutable
proof; and even then a word from you would fill my mind with doubt
and uncertainty again.  Yes, were the whole world to accuse you and
swear to your guilt, I should still believe your simple word.  I am
young, madam, I have never known love as yet--until an instant ago I
had no idea that more quickly than an image can excite the admiration
of the eye, a thought can enter the heart and stir it to its depths,
and features that one may never again behold leave a lifelong memory
behind.  But even if a woman of whom I knew absolutely nothing were
to appeal to me, exclaiming, 'I implore your help, your protection!'
I should, without stopping to consider, place my sword and my arm at
her disposal, and devote myself to her service.  How much more
eagerly would I die for you, madam, whose beauty has ravished my
heart!  What do you demand of me?  Tell me what you desire me to do."

"Prevent this duel; don't allow an interview to take place between
your uncle and the man whom he mentioned.  Tell me you will do this,
and I shall be safe; for you have never learned to lie; I know."

"Of course he hasn't, you may be sure of that, you simpleton!"
muttered Maitre Quennebert in his corner.  "If you only knew what a
mere novice you are at that game compared with the chevalier!  If you
only knew whom you had before you!"

"At your age," went on Angelique, "one cannot feign--the heart is not
yet hardened, and is capable of compassion.  But a dreadful idea
occurs to me--a horrible suspicion!  Is it all a devilish trick--a
snare arranged in joke?  Tell me that it is not all a pretence!  A
poor woman encounters so much perfidy.  Men amuse themselves by
troubling her heart and confusing her mind; they excite her vanity,
they compass her round with homage, with flattery, with temptation,
and when they grow tired of fooling her, they despise and insult her.
Tell me, was this all a preconcerted plan?  This love, this jealousy,
were they only acted?"

"Oh, madame," broke in the chevalier, with an expression of the
deepest indignation, "how can you for an instant imagine that a human
heart could be so perverted?  I am not acquainted with the man whom
the commander accused you of loving, but whoever he may be I feel
sure that he is worthy of your love, and that he would never have
consented to such a dastardly joke.  Neither would my uncle; his
jealousy mastered him and drove him mad--

"But I am not dependent on him; I am my own master, and can do as I
please.  I will hinder this duel; I will not allow the illusion and
ignorance of him who loves you and, alas that I must say it, whom you
love, to be dispelled, for it is in them he finds his happiness.  Be
happy with him!  As for me, I shall never see you again; but the
recollection of this meeting, the joy of having served you, will be
my consolation."

Angelique raised her beautiful eyes, and gave the chevalier a long
look which expressed her gratitude more eloquently than words.

"May I be hanged!" thought Maitre Quennebert, "if the baggage isn't
making eyes at him already!  But one who is drowning clutches at a
straw."

"Enough, madam," said the chevalier; "I understand all you would say.
You thank me in his name, and ask me to leave you: I obey-yes,
madame, I am going; at the risk of my life I will prevent this
meeting, I will stifle this fatal revelation.  But grant me one last
prayer-permit me to look forward to seeing you once more before I
leave this city, to which I wish I had never come.  But I shall quit
it in a day or two, to-morrow perhaps--as soon as I know that your
happiness is assured.  Oh!  do not refuse my last request; let the
light of your eyes shine on me for the last time; after that I shall
depart--I shall fly far away for ever.  But if perchance, in spite of
every effort, I fail, if the commander's jealousy should make him
impervious to my entreaties--to my tears, if he whom you love should
come and overwhelm you with reproaches and then abandon you, would
you drive me from your presence if I should then say, 'I love you'?
Answer me, I beseech you."

"Go!" said she, "and prove worthy of my gratitude--or my love."

Seizing one of her hands, the chevalier covered it with passionate
kisses.

"Such barefaced impudence surpasses everything I could have
imagined!" murmured Quennebert: "fortunately, the play is over for
to-night; if it had gone on any longer, I should have done something
foolish.  The lady hardly imagines what the end of the comedy will
be."

Neither did Quennebert.  It was an evening of adventures.  It was
written that in the space of two hours Angelique was to run the gamut
of all the emotions, experience all the vicissitudes to which a life
such as she led is exposed: hope, fear, happiness, mortification,
falsehood, love that was no love, intrigue within intrigue, and, to
crown all, a totally unexpected conclusion.




CHAPTER V

The chevalier was still holding Angelique's hand when a step
resounded outside, and a voice was heard.

"Can it be that he has come back?" exclaimed the damsel, hastily
freeing herself from the passionate embrace of the chevalier.  "It's
not possible!  Mon Dieu!  Mon Dieu! it's his voice!"

She grew pale to the lips, and stood staring at the door with
outstretched arms, unable to advance or recede.

The chevalier listened, but felt sure the approaching voice belonged
neither to the commander nor to the treasurer.

"'His voice'?" thought Quennebert to himself.  "Can this be yet
another aspirant to her favour?"

The sound came nearer.

"Hide yourself!" said Angelique, pointing to a door opposite to the
partition behind which the widow and the notary were ensconced.
"Hide yourself there!--there's a secret staircase--you can get out
that way."

"I hide myself!" exclaimed Moranges, with a swaggering air.  "What
are you thinking of?  I remain."

It would have been better for him to have followed her advice, as may

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