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List Of Contents | Contents of Marquise de Ganges, by Dumas, Pere
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though he had really belonged to the clergy of the period.

The chevalier de Ganges, who shared in some measure the beauty so
profusely showered upon the family, was one of those feeble men who
enjoy their own nullity, and grow on to old age inapt alike for good
and evil, unless some nature of a stronger stamp lays hold on them
and drags them like faint and pallid satellites in its wake.  This
was what befell the chevalier in respect of his brother: submitted to
an influence of which he himself was not aware, and against which,
had he but suspected it, he would have rebelled with the obstinacy of
a child, he was a machine obedient to the will of another mind and to
the passions of another heart, a machine which was all the more
terrible in that no movement of instinct or of reason could, in his
case, arrest the impulse given.

Moreover, this influence which the abbe had acquired over the
chevalier extended, in some degree also, to the marquis.  Having as a
younger son no fortune, having no revenue, for though he wore a
Churchman's robes he did not fulfil a Churchman's functions, he had
succeeded in persuading the marquis, who was rich, not only in the
enjoyment of his own fortune, but also in that of his wife, which was
likely to be nearly doubled at the death of M. de Nocheres, that some
zealous man was needed who would devote himself to the ordering of
his house and the management of his property; and had offered himself
for the post.  The marquis had very gladly accepted, being, as we
have said, tired by this time of his solitary home life; and the abbe
had brought with him the chevalier, who followed him like his shadow,
and who was no more regarded than if he had really possessed no body.

The marquise often confessed afterwards that when she first saw these
two men, although their outward aspect was perfectly agreeable, she
felt herself seized by a painful impression, and that the fortune-
teller's prediction of a violent death, which she had so long
forgotten, gashed out like lightning before her eyes.  The effect on
the two brothers was not of the same kind: the beauty of the marquise
struck them both, although in different ways.  The chevalier was in
ecstasies of admiration, as though before a beautiful statue, but the
impression that she made upon him was that which would have been made
by marble, and if the chevalier had been left to himself the
consequences of this admiration would have been no less harmless.
Moreover, the chevalier did not attempt either to exaggerate or to
conceal this impression, and allowed his sister-in-law to see in what
manner she struck him.  The abbe, on the contrary, was seized at
first sight with a deep and violent desire to possess this woman--the
most beautiful whom he had ever met; but being as perfectly capable
of mastering his sensations as the chevalier was incapable, he merely
allowed such words of compliment to escape him as weigh neither with
him who utters nor her who hears them; and yet, before the close of
this first interview, the abbe had decided in his irrevocable will
that this woman should be his.

As for the marquise, although the impression produced by her two
brothers-in-law could never be entirely effaced, the wit of the abbe,
to which he gave, with amazing facility, whatever turn he chose, and
the complete nullity of the chevalier brought her to certain feelings
of less repulsion towards them: for indeed the marquise had one of
those souls which never suspect evil, as long as it will take the
trouble to assume any veil at all of seeming, and which only
recognise it with regret when it resumes its true shape.

Meanwhile the arrival of these two new inmates soon spread a little
more life and gaiety through the house.  Furthermore; greatly to the
astonishment of the marquise, her husband, who had so long been
indifferent to her beauty, seemed to remark afresh that she was too
charming to be despised; his words accordingly began little by little
to express an affection that had long since gradually disappeared
from them.  The marquise had never ceased to love him; she had
suffered the loss of his love with resignation, she hailed its return
with joy, and three months elapsed that resembled those which had
long ceased to be more to the poor wife than a distant and half-worn-
out memory.

Thus she had, with the supreme facility of youth, always ready to be
happy, taken up her gladness again, without even asking what genius
had brought back to her the treasure which she had thought lost, when
she received an invitation from a lady of the neighbourhood to spend
some days in her country house.  Her husband and her two brothers-in-
law, invited with her, were of the party, and accompanied her.
A great hunting party had been arranged beforehand, and almost
immediately upon arriving everyone began to prepare for taking part
in it.

The abbe, whose talents had made him indispensable in every company,
declared that for that day he was the marquise's cavalier, a title
which his sister-in-law, with her usual amiability, confirmed.  Each
of the huntsmen, following this example, made choice of a lady to
whom to dedicate his attentions throughout the day; then, this
chivalrous arrangement being completed, all present directed their
course towards the place of meeting.

That happened which almost always happens the dogs hunted on their
own account.  Two or three sportsmen only followed the dogs; the rest
got lost.  The abbe, in his character of esquire to the marquise, had
not left her for a moment, and had managed so cleverly that he was
alone with her--an opportunity which he had been seeking for a month
previously with no less care--than the marquise had been using to
avoid it.  No sooner, therefore, did the marquise believe herself
aware that the abbe had intentionally turned aside from the hunt than
she attempted to gallop her horse in the opposite direction from that
which she had been following; but the abbe stopped her.  The marquise
neither could nor would enter upon a struggle; she resigned herself,
therefore, to hearing what the abbe had to say to her, and her face
assumed that air of haughty disdain which women so well know how to
put on when they wish a man to understand that he has nothing to hope
from them.  There was an instant's silence; the abbe was the first to
break it.

"Madame," said he, "I ask your pardon for having used this means to
speak to you alone; but since, in spite of my rank of brother-in-law,
you did not seem inclined to grant me that favour if I had asked it,
I thought it would be better for me, to deprive you of the power to
refuse it me."

"If you have hesitated to ask me so simple a thing, monsieur,"
replied the marquise, "and if you have taken such precautions to
compel me to listen to you, it must, no doubt, be because you knew
beforehand that the words you had to say to me were such as I could
not hear.  Have the goodness, therefore, to reflect, before you open
this conversation, that here as elsewhere I reserve the right--and I
warn you of it--to interrupt what you may say at the moment when it
may cease to seem to me befitting."

"As to that, madame," said the abbe, "I think I can answer for it
that whatever it may please me to say to you, you will hear to the
end; but indeed the matters are so simple that there is no need to
make you uneasy beforehand: I wished to ask you, madame, whether you
have perceived a change in the conduct of your husband towards you."

"Yes, monsieur," replied the marquise, "and no single day has passed
in which I have not thanked Heaven for this happiness."

"And you have been wrong, madame," returned the abbe, with one of
those smiles that were peculiar to himself; "Heaven has nothing to do
with it.  Thank Heaven for having made you the most beautiful and
charming of women, and that will be enough thanksgiving without
despoiling me of such as belong to my share."

"I do not understand you, monsieur," said the marquise in an icy
tone.

"Well, I will make myself comprehensible, my dear sister-in-law.  I
am the worker of the miracle for which you are thanking Heaven; to me
therefore belongs your gratitude.  Heaven is rich enough not to rob
the poor."

"You are right, monsieur: if it is really to you that I owe this
return, the cause of which I did not know, I will thank you in the
first place; and then afterwards I will thank Heaven for having
inspired you with this good thought."

"Yes," answered the abbe, "but Heaven, which has inspired me with a
good thought, may equally well inspire me with a bad one, if the good
thought does not bring me what I expect from it."

"What do you mean, monsieur?"

"That there has never been more than one will in the family, and that
will is mine; that the minds of my two brothers turn according to the
fancy of that will like weathercocks before the wind, and that he who
has blown hot can blow cold."

"I am still waiting for you to explain yourself, monsieur."

"Well, then, my dear sister-in-law, since you are pleased not to
understand me, I will explain myself more clearly.  My brother turned
from you through jealousy; I wished to give you an idea of my power
over him, and from extreme indifference I have brought him back, by
showing him that he suspected you wrongly, to the ardours of the
warmest love.  Well, I need only tell him that I was mistaken, and
fix his wandering suspicions upon any man whatever, and I shall take
him away from you, even as I have brought him back.  I need give you
no proof of what I say; you know perfectly well that I am speaking
the truth."

"And what object had you, in acting this part?"

"To prove to you, madame, that at my will I can cause you to be sad
or joyful, cherished or neglected, adored or hated.  Madame, listen
to me: I love you."

"You insult me, monsieur!" cried the marquise, trying to withdraw the
bridle of her horse from the abbe's hands.

"No fine words, my dear sister-in-law; for, with me, I warn you, they
will be lost.  To tell a woman one loves her is never an insult; only

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