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List Of Contents | Contents of The Countess of Saint Geran, by Dumas, Pere
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selection, for I do not suppose there is one in this neighbourhood to
compare to her."

"I have a great mind to send for her at once, and to keep her about
the countess, whose constitution she will be all the better
acquainted with if she studies it beforehand.  Do you know where I
can send for her?"

"Faith," said the marquis, "she lives in a village, but I don't know
which."

"But at least you know her name?"

"I can hardly remember it.  Louise Boyard, I think, or Polliard, one
or the other."

"How! have you not even retained the name?"

"I heard the story, that's all.  Who the deuce can keep a name in his
head which he hears in such a chance fashion?"

"But did the condition of the countess never occur to you?"

"It was so far away that I did not suppose you would send such a
distance.  I thought you were already provided."

"How can we set about to find her?"

"If that is all, I have a servant who knows people in that part of
the country, and who knows how to go about things: if you like, he
shall go in quest of her."

"If I like?  This very moment."

The same evening the servant started on his errand with the count's
instructions, not forgetting those of his master.  He went at full
speed.  It may readily be supposed that he had not far to seek the
woman he was to bring back with him; but he purposely kept away for
three days, and at the end of this time Louise Goillard was installed
in the chateau.

She was a woman of plain and severe exterior, who at once inspired
confidence in everyone.  The plots of the marquis and Madame de
Bouille thus throve with most baneful success; but an accident
happened which threatened to nullify them, and, by causing a great
disaster, to prevent a crime.

The countess, passing into her apartments, caught her foot in a
carpet, and fell heavily on the floor.  At the cries of a footman all
the household was astir.  The countess was carried to bed; the most
intense alarm prevailed; but no bad consequences followed this
accident, which produced only a further succession of visits from the
neighbouring gentry.  This happened about the end of the seventh
month.

At length the moment of accouchement came.  Everything had long
before been arranged for the delivery, and nothing remained to be
done.  The marquis had employed all this time in strengthening Madame
de Bouille against her scruples.  He often saw Louise Goillard in
private, and gave her his instructions; but he perceived that the
corruption of Baulieu, the house steward, was an essential factor.
Baulieu was already half gained over by the interviews of the year
preceding; a large sum of ready money and many promises did the rest.
This wretch was not ashamed to join a plot against a master to whom
he owed everything.  The marchioness for her part, and always under
the instigation of M. de Saint-Maixent, secured matters all round by
bringing into the abominable plot the Quinet girls, her maids; so
that there was nothing but treason and conspiracy against this worthy
family among their upper servants, usually styled confidential.
Thus, having prepared matters, the conspirators awaited the event.

On the 16th of August the Countess de Saint-Geran was overtaken
by the pangs of labour in the chapel of the chateau, where she was
hearing mass.  They carried her to her room before mass was over, her
women ran around her, and the countess dowager with her own hands
arranged on her head a cap of the pattern worn by ladies about to be
confined--a cap which is not usually removed till some time later.

The pains recurred with terrible intensity.  The count wept at his
wife's cries.  Many persons were present.  The dowager's two
daughters by her second marriage, one of whom, then sixteen years of
age, afterwards married the Duke de Ventadour and was a party to the
lawsuit, wished to be present at this accouchement, which was to
perpetuate by a new scion an illustrious race near extinction.  There
were also Dame Saligny, sister of the late Marshal Saint-Geran, the
Marquis de Saint-Maixent, and the Marchioness de Bouille.

Everything seemed to favour the projects of these last two persons,
who took an interest in the event of a very different character from
that generally felt.  As the pains produced no result, and the
accouchement was of the most difficult nature, while the countess was
near the last extremity, expresses were sent to all the neighbouring
parishes to offer prayers for the mother and the child; the Holy
Sacrament was elevated in the churches at Moulins.

The midwife attended to everything herself.  She maintained that the
countess would be more comfortable if her slightest desires were
instantly complied with.  The countess herself never spoke a word,
only interrupting the gloomy silence by heart-rending cries.  A11 at
once, Madame de Boulle, who affected to be bustling about, pointed
out that the presence of so many persons was what hindered the
countess's accouchement, and, assuming an air of authority justified
by fictitious tenderness, said that everyone must retire, leaving the
patient in the hands of the persons who were absolutely necessary to
her, and that, to remove any possible objections, the countess
dowager her mother must set the example.  The opportunity was made
use of to remove the count from this harrowing spectacle, and
everyone followed the countess dowager.  Even the countess's own
maids were not allowed to remain, being sent on errands which kept
them out of the way.  This further reason was given, that the eldest
being scarcely fifteen, they were too young to be present on such an
occasion.  The only persons remaining by the bedside were the
Marchioness de Bouille, the midwife, and the two Quinet girls; the
countess was thus in the hands of her most cruel enemies.

It was seven o'clock in the evening; the labours continued; the elder
Quinet girl held the patient by the hand to soothe her.  The count
and the dowager sent incessantly to know the news.  They were told
that everything was going on well, and that shortly their wishes
would be accomplished; but none of the servants were allowed to enter
the room.

Three hours later, the midwife declared that the countess could not
hold out any longer unless she got some rest.  She made her swallow a
liquor which was introduced into her mouth by spoonfuls.  The
countess fell into so deep a sleep that she seemed to be dead.  The
younger Quinet girl thought for a moment that they had killed her,
and wept in a corner of the room, till Madame de Bouille reassured
her.

During this frightful night a shadowy figure prowled in the
corridors, silently patrolled the rooms, and came now and then to the
door of the bedroom, where he conferred in a low tone with the
midwife and the Marchioness de Bouille.  This was the Marquis de
Saint-Maixent, who gave his orders, encouraged his people, watched
over every point of his plot, himself a prey to the agonies of
nervousness which accompany the preparations for a great crime.

The dowager countess, owing to her great age, had been compelled to
take some rest.  The count sat up, worn out with fatigue, in a
downstairs room hard by that in which they were compassing the ruin
of all most dear to him in the world.

The countess, in her profound lethargy, gave birth, without being
aware of it, to a boy, who thus fell on his entry into the world into
the hands of his enemies, his mother powerless to defend him by her
cries and tears.  The door was half opened, and a man who was waiting
outside brought in; this was the major-domo Baulieu.

The midwife, pretending to afford the first necessary cares to the
child, had taken it into a corner.  Baulieu watched her movements,
and springing upon her, pinioned her arms.  The wretched woman dug
her nails into the child's head.  He snatched it from her, but the
poor infant for long bore the marks of her claws.

Possibly the Marchioness de Bouille could not nerve herself to the
commission of so great a crime; but it seems more probable that the
steward prevented the destruction of the child under the orders of
M. de Saint-Maixent.  The theory is that the marquis, mistrustful of
the promise made him by Madame de Bouille to marry him after the
death of her husband, desired to keep the child to oblige her to keep
her word, under threats of getting him acknowledged, if she proved
faithless to him.  No other adequate reason can be conjectured to
determine a man of his character to take such great care of his
victim.

Baulieu swaddled the child immediately, put it in a basket, hid it
under his cloak, and went with his prey to find the marquis; they
conferred together for some time, after which the house steward
passed by a postern gate into the moat, thence to a terrace by which
he reached a bridge leading into the park.  This park had twelve
gates, and he had the keys of all.  He mounted a blood horse which he
had left waiting behind a wall, and started off at full gallop.  The
same day he passed through the village of Escherolles, a league
distant from Saint-Geran, where he stopped at the house of a nurse,
wife of a glove-maker named Claude.  This peasant woman gave her
breast to the child; but the steward, not daring to stay in a village
so near Saint-Geran, crossed the river Allier at the port de la
Chaise, and calling at the house of a man named Boucaud, the good
wife suckled the child for the second time; he then continued his
journey in the direction of Auvergne.

The heat was excessive, his horse was done up, the child seemed
uneasy.  A carrier's cart passed him going to Riom; it was owned by a
certain Paul Boithion of the town of Aigueperce, a common carrier on
the road.  Baulieu went alongside to put the child in the cart, which
he entered himself, carrying the infant on his knees.  The horse
followed, fastened by the bridle to the back of the cart.

In the conversation which he held with this man, Baulieu said that he
should not take so much care of the child did it not belong to the
most noble house in the Bourbonnais.  They reached the village of Che

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