Make your own free website on Tripod.com

List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

it is true, but without scruple; so that the brilliancy of his black eyes
became so insupportable, that more than one look had sunk beneath his,
like the weaker sword in a single combat.

At this time, in which men, all created equal by God, were divided,
thanks to prejudices, into two distinct castes, the gentlemen and the
commoner, as they are really divided into two races, the black and the
white, - at this time, we say, he whose portrait we have just sketched
could not fail of being taken for a gentleman, and of the best class.
To ascertain this, there was no necessity to consult anything but his
hands, long, slender, and white, of which every muscle, every vein,
became apparent through the skin at the least movement, and eloquently
spoke of good descent.

This gentleman, then, had arrived alone at Cropole's house.  He had
taken, without hesitation, without reflection even, the principal
apartment which the _hotelier_ had pointed out to him with a rapacious
aim, very praiseworthy, some will say, very reprehensible will say
others, if they admit that Cropole was a physiognomist, and judged people
at first sight.

This apartment was that which composed the whole front of the ancient
triangular house; a large _salon_, lighted by two windows on the first
stage, a small chamber by the side of it, and another above it.

Now, from the time he had arrived, this gentleman had scarcely touched
any repast that had been served up to him in his chamber.  He had spoken
but two words to the host, to warn him that a traveler of the name of
Parry would arrive, and to desire that, when he did, he should be shown
up to him immediately.

He afterwards preserved so profound a silence, that Cropole was almost
offended, so much did he prefer people who were good company.

This gentleman had risen early the morning of the day on which this
history begins, and had placed himself at the window of his _salon_,
seated upon the ledge, and leaning upon the rail of the balcony, gazing
sadly but persistently on both sides of the street, watching, no doubt,
for the arrival of the traveler he had mentioned to the host.

In this way he had seen the little _cortege_ of Monsieur return from
hunting, then had again partaken of the profound tranquillity of the
street, absorbed in his own expectations.

All at once the movement of the crowd going to the meadows, couriers
setting out, washers of pavement, purveyors of the royal household,
gabbling, scampering shop-boys, chariots in motion, hair-dressers on the
run, and pages toiling along, this tumult and bustle had surprised him,
but without losing any of that impassible and supreme majesty which gives
to the eagle and the lion that serene and contemptuous glance amidst the
hurrahs and shouts of hunters or the curious.

Soon the cries of the victims slaughtered in the poultry-yard, the hasty
steps of Madame Cropole up that little wooden staircase, so narrow and so
echoing; the bounding pace of Pittrino, who only that morning was smoking
at the door with all the phlegm of a Dutchman; all this communicated
something like surprise and agitation to the traveler.

As he was rising to make inquiries, the door of his chamber opened.  The
unknown concluded they were about to introduce the impatiently expected
traveler, and made three precipitate steps to meet him.

But, instead of the person he expected, it was Master Cropole who
appeared, and behind him, in the half-dark staircase, the pleasant face
of Madame Cropole‚ rendered trivial by curiosity.  She only gave one
furtive glance at the handsome gentleman, and disappeared.

Cropole advanced, cap in hand, rather bent than bowing.

A gesture of the unknown interrogated him, without a word being
pronounced.

"Monsieur," said Cropole‚ "I come to ask how - what ought I to say: your
lordship, monsieur le comte, or monsieur le marquis?"

"Say _monsieur_, and speak quickly," replied the unknown, with that
haughty accent which admits of neither discussion nor reply.

"I came, then, to inquire how monsieur had passed the night, and if
monsieur intended to keep this apartment?"

"Yes."

"Monsieur, something has happened upon which we could not reckon."

"What?"

"His majesty Louis XIV. will enter our city to-day, and will remain here
one day, perhaps two."

Great astonishment was painted on the countenance of the unknown.

"The King of France is coming to Blois?"

"He is on the road, monsieur."

"Then there is the stronger reason for my remaining," said the unknown.

"Very well; but will monsieur keep all the apartments?"

"I do not understand you.  Why should I require less to-day than
yesterday?"

"Because, monsieur, your lordship will permit me to say, yesterday I did
not think proper, when you chose your lodging, to fix any price that
might have made your lordship believe that I prejudged your resources;
whilst to-day - "

The unknown colored; the idea at once struck him that he was supposed to
be poor, and was being insulted.

"Whilst to-day," replied he, coldly, "you do not prejudge."

"Monsieur, I am a well-meaning man, thank God! and simple _hotelier_ as I
am, there is in me the blood of a gentleman.  My father was a servant and
officer of the late Marechal d'Ancre.  God rest his soul!"

"I do not contest that point with you; I only wish to know, and that
quickly, to what your questions tend?"

"You are too reasonable, monsieur, not to comprehend that our city is
small, that the court is about to invade it, that the houses will be
overflowing with inhabitants, and that lodgings will consequently obtain
considerable prices."

Again the unknown colored.  "Name your terms," said he.

"I name them with scruple, monsieur, because I seek an honest gain, and
that I wish to carry on my business without being uncivil or extravagant
in my demands.  Now the room you occupy is considerable, and you are
alone."

"That is my business."

"Oh! certainly.  I do not mean to turn monsieur out."

The blood rushed to the temples of the unknown; he darted at poor
Cropole‚ the descendant of one of the officers of the Marechal d'Ancre, a
glance that would have crushed him down to beneath that famous chimney-
slab, if Cropole had not been nailed to the spot by the question of his
own proper interests.

"Do you desire me to go?" said he.  "Explain yourself - but quickly."

"Monsieur, monsieur, you do not understand me.  It is very critical - I
know - that which I am doing.  I express myself badly, or perhaps, as
monsieur is a foreigner, which I perceive by his accent - "

In fact, the unknown spoke with that impetuosity which is the principal
character of English accentuation, even among men who speak the French
language with the greatest purity.

"As monsieur is a foreigner, I say, it is perhaps he who does not catch
my exact meaning.  I wish for monsieur to give up one or two of the
apartments he occupies, which would diminish his expenses and ease my
conscience.  Indeed, it is hard to increase unreasonably the price of the
chambers, when one has had the honor to let them at a reasonable price."

"How much does the hire amount to since yesterday?"

"Monsieur, to one louis, with refreshments and the charge for the horse."

"Very well; and that of to-day?"

"Ah! there is the difficulty.  This is the day of the king's arrival; if
the court comes to sleep here, the charge of the day is reckoned.  From
that it results that three chambers, at two louis each, make six louis.
Two louis, monsieur, are not much; but six louis make a great deal."

The unknown, from red, as we have seen him, became very pale.

He drew from his pocket, with heroic bravery, a purse embroidered with a
coat-of-arms, which he carefully concealed in the hollow of his hand.
This purse was of a thinness, a flabbiness, a hollowness, which did not
escape the eye of Cropole.

The unknown emptied the purse into his hand.  It contained three double
louis, which amounted to the six louis demanded by the host.

But it was seven that Cropole had required.

He looked, therefore, at the unknown, as much as to say, "And then?"

"There remains one louis, does there not, master hotelier?"

"Yes, monsieur, but - "

The unknown plunged his hand into the pocket of his _haut-de-chausses_,
and emptied it.  It contained a small pocket-book, a gold key, and some
silver.  With this change, he made up a louis.

"Thank you, monsieur," said Cropole.  "It now only remains for me to ask
whether monsieur intends to occupy his apartments to-morrow, in which
case I will reserve them for him; whereas, if monsieur does not mean to
do so, I will promise them to some of the king's people who are coming."

"That is but right," said the unknown, after a long silence; "but as I
have no more money, as you have seen, and as I yet must retain the
apartments, you must either sell this diamond in the city, or hold it
in pledge."

Cropole looked at the diamond so long, that the unknown said, hastily:

"I prefer your selling it, monsieur; for it is worth three hundred
pistoles.  A Jew - are there any Jews in Blois? - would give you two
hundred or a hundred and fifty for it - take whatever may be offered for
it, if it be no more than the price of your lodging.  Begone!"

"Oh! monsieur," replied Cropole‚ ashamed of the sudden inferiority which
the unknown reflected upon him by this noble and disinterested
confidence, as well as by the unalterable patience opposed to so many
suspicions and evasions.  "Oh, monsieur, I hope people are not so
dishonest at Blois as you seem to think; and that the diamond, being
worth what you say - "

The unknown here again darted at Cropole one of his withering glances.

"I really do not understand diamonds, monsieur, I assure you," cried he.

"But the jewelers do: ask them," said the unknown.  "Now I believe our
accounts are settled, are they not, monsieur l'hote?"

"Yes, monsieur, and to my profound regret; for I fear I have offended
monsieur."

"Not at all!" replied the unknown, with ineffable majesty.

"Or have appeared to be extortionate with a noble traveler.  Consider,

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >



Other sites:

db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com