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List Of Contents | Contents of La Constantin, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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not that he had entirely lost his courage, for had he found it
impossible to avoid his assailant it is probable that he would have
regained the audacity which had led him to draw his sword.  But he
was a novice in the use of arms, had not reached full physical
development, and felt that the chances were so much against him that
he would only have faced the encounter if there were no possible way
of escape.  On leaving the house he had turned quickly into the rue
Git-le-Coeur; but on hearing the door close behind his pursuer he
disappeared down the narrow and crooked rue de l'Hirondelle, hoping
to throw the Duc de Vitry off the scent.  The duke, however, though
for a moment in doubt, was guided by the sound of the flying
footsteps.  The chevalier, still trying to send him off on a false
trail, turned to the right, and so regained the upper end of the rue
Saint-Andre, and ran along it as far as the church, the site of which
is occupied by the square of the same name to-day.  Here he thought
he would be safe, for, as the church was being restored and enlarged,
heaps of stone stood all round the old pile.  He glided in among
these, and twice heard Vitry searching quite close to him, and each
time stood on guard expecting an onslaught.  This marching and
counter-marching lasted for some minutes; the chevalier began to hope
he had escaped the danger, and eagerly waited for the moment when the
moon which had broken through the clouds should again withdraw behind
them, in order to steal into some of the adjacent streets under cover
of the darkness.  Suddenly a shadow rose before him and a threatening
voice cried--

" Have I caught you at last, you coward?"

The danger in which the chevalier stood awoke in him a flickering
energy, a feverish courage, and he crossed blades with his assailant.
A strange combat ensued, of which the result was quite uncertain,
depending entirely on chance; for no science was of any avail on a
ground so rough that the combatants stumbled at every step, or struck
against immovable masses, which were one moment clearly lit up, and
the next in shadow.  Steel clashed on steel, the feet of the
adversaries touched each other, several times the cloak of one was
pierced by the sword of the other, more than once the words "Die
then!" rang out.  But each time the seemingly vanquished combatant
sprang up unwounded, as agile and as lithe and as quick as ever,
while he in his turn pressed the enemy home.  There was neither truce
nor pause, no clever feints nor fencer's tricks could be employed on
either side; it was a mortal combat, but chance, not skill, would
deal the death-blow.  Sometimes a rapid pass encountered only empty
air; sometimes blade crossed blade above the wielders' heads;
sometimes the fencers lunged at each other's breast, and yet the
blows glanced aside at the last moment and the blades met in air once
more.  At last, however, one of the two, making a pass to the right
which left his breast unguarded, received a deep wound.  Uttering a
loud cry, he recoiled a step or two, but, exhausted by the effort,
tripped arid fell backward over a large stone, and lay there
motionless, his arms extended in the form of a cross.

The other turned and fled.

"Hark, de Jars!" said Jeannin, stopping, "There's fighting going on
hereabouts; I hear the clash of swords."

Both listened intently.

"I hear nothing now."

"Hush!  there it goes again.  It's by the church."

"What a dreadful cry!"

They ran at full speed towards the place whence it seemed to come,
but found only solitude, darkness, and silence.  They looked in every
direction.

"I can't see a living soul," said Jeannin, "and I very much fear that
the poor devil who gave that yell has mumbled his last prayer,"

"I don't know why I tremble so," replied de Jars; "that heart-rending
cry made me shiver from head to foot.  Was it not something like the
chevalier's voice?"

"The chevalier is with La Guerchi, and even if he had left her this
would not have been his way to rejoin us.  Let us go on and leave the
dead in peace."

"Look, Jeannin!  what is that in front of us?"

"On that stone?  A man who has fallen!"

"Yes, and bathed in blood," exclaimed de Jars, who had darted to his
side.  "Ah! it's he! it's he!  Look, his eyes are closed, his hands
cold!  My child he does not hear me!  Oh, who has murdered him?"

He fell on his knees, and threw himself on the body with every mark
of the most violent despair.

"Come, come," said Jeannin, surprised at such an explosion of grief
from a man accustomed to duels, and who on several similar occasions
had been far from displaying much tenderness of heart, "collect
yourself, and don't give way like a woman.  Perhaps the wound is not
mortal.  Let us try to stop the bleeding and call for help."

"No, no--"

"Are you mad?"

"Don't call, for Heaven's sake!  The wound is here, near the heart.
Your handkerchief, Jeannin, to arrest the flow of blood.  There--now
help me to lift him."

"What does that mean?" cried Jeannin, who had just laid his hand on
the chevalier.  "I don't know whether I'm awake or asleep!  Why, it's
a---"

"Be silent, on your life!  I shall explain everything--but now be
silent; there is someone looking at us."

There was indeed a man wrapped in a mantle standing motionless some
steps away.

"What are you doing here?" asked de Jars.

"May I ask what you are doing, gentlemen?" retorted Maitre
Quennebert, in a calm and steady voice.

"Your curiosity may cost you dear, monsieur; we are not in the habit
of allowing our actions to be spied on."

"And I am not in the habit of running useless risks, most noble
cavaliers.  You are, it is true, two against one; but," he added,
throwing back his cloak and grasping the hilts of a pair of pistols
tucked in his belt, "these will make us equal.  You are mistaken as
to my intentions.  I had no thought of playing the spy; it was chance
alone that led me here; and you must acknowledge that finding you in
this lonely spot, engaged as you are at this hour of the night, was
quite enough to awake the curiosity of a man as little disposed to
provoke a quarrel as to submit to threats."

"It was chance also that brought us here.  We were crossing the
square, my friend and I, when we heard groans.  We followed the
sound, and found this young gallant, who is a stranger to us, lying
here, with a wound in his breast."

As the moon at that moment gleamed doubtfully forth, Maitre
Quennebert bent for an instant over the body of the wounded man, and
said:

"I know him more than you.  But supposing someone were to come upon
us here, we might easily be taken for three assassins holding a
consultation over the corpse of our victim.  What were you going to
do?"

"Take him to a doctor.  It would be inhuman to leave him here, and
while we are talking precious time is being lost."

"Do you belong to this neighbourhood?"

"No," said the treasurer.

"Neither do I," said Quennebert.  "but I believe I have heard the
name of a surgeon who lives close by, in the rue Hauteville."

"I also know of one," interposed de Jars, "a very skilful man."

"You may command me."

"Gladly, monsieur; for he lives some distance from here."

"I am at your service."

De Jars and Jeannin raised the chevalier's shoulders, and the
stranger supported his legs, and carrying their burden in this order,
they set off.

They walked slowly, looking about them carefully, a precaution
rendered necessary by the fact that the moon now rode in a cloudless
sky.  They glided over the Pont Saint-Michel between the houses that
lined both sides, and, turning to the right, entered one of the
narrow streets of the Cite, and after many turnings, during which
they met no one, they stopped at the door of a house situated behind
the Hotel-de-Ville.

"Many thanks, monsieur," said de Jars,--"many thanks; we need no
further help."

As the commander spoke, Maitre Quennebert let the feet of the
chevalier fall abruptly on the pavement, while de Jars and the
treasurer still supported his body, and, stepping back two paces, he
drew his pistols from his belt, and placing a finger on each trigger,
said--

"Do not stir, messieurs, or you are dead men."  Both, although
encumbered by their burden, laid their hands upon their swords.

"Not a movement, not a sound, or I shoot."

There was no reply to this argument, it being a convincing one even
for two duellists.  The bravest man turns pale when he finds himself
face to face with sudden inevitable death, and he who threatened
seemed to be one who would, without hesitation, carry out his
threats.  There was nothing for it but obedience, or a ball through
them as they stood.

"What do you want with us, sir?" asked Jeannin.

Quennebert, without changing his attitude, replied--

"Commander de Jars, and you, Messire Jeannin de Castille, king's
treasurer,--you see, my gentles, that besides the advantage of arms
which strike swiftly and surely, I have the further advantage of
knowing who you are, whilst I am myself unknown,--you will carry the
wounded man into this house, into which I will not enter, for I have
nothing to do within; but I shall remain here; to await your return.
After you have handed over the patient to the doctor, you will
procure paper and write---now pay great attention--that on November
20th, 1658, about midnight, you, aided by an unknown man, carried to
this house, the address of which you will give, a young man whom you
call the Chevalier de Moranges, and pass off as your nephew--"

"As he really is."

"Very well."

"But who told you--?"

"Let me go on: who had been wounded in a fight with swords on the
same night behind the church of Saint-Andre-des-Arts by the Duc de
Vitry."

"The Duc de Vitry!--How do you know that?"

"No matter how, I know it for a fact.  Having made this declaration,
you will add that the said Chevalier de Moranges is no other than
Josephine-Charlotte Boullenois, whom you, commander, abducted four
months ago from the convent of La Raquette, whom you have made your
mistress, and whom you conceal disguised as a man; then you will add

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