List Of Contents | Contents of La Constantin, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

your signature.  Is my information correct?"

De Jars and Jeannin were speechless with surprise for a few instants;
then the former stammered--

"Will you tell us who you are?"

"The devil in person, if you like.  Well, will you do as I order?
Supposing that I am awkward enough not to kill you at two paces, do
you want me to ask you in broad daylight and aloud what I now ask at
night and in a whisper?  And don't think to put me off with a false
declaration, relying on my not being able to read it by the light of
the moon; don't think either that you can take me by surprise when
you hand it me: you will bring it to me with your swords sheathed as
now.  If this condition is not observed, I shall fire, and the noise
will bring a crowd about us.  To-morrow I shall speak differently
from to-day: I shall proclaim the truth at all the street corners, in
the squares, and under the windows of the Louvre.  It is hard, I
know, for men of spirit to yield to threats, but recollect that you
are in my power and that there is no disgrace in paying a ransom for
a life that one cannot defend.  What do you say?"

In spite of his natural courage, Jeannin, who found himself involved
in an affair from which he had nothing to gain, and who was not at
all desirous of being suspected of having helped in an abduction,
whispered to the commander--

"Faith!  I think our wisest course is to consent."

De Jars, however, before replying, wished to try if he could by any
chance throw his enemy off his guard for an instant, so as to take
him unawares.  His hand still rested on the hilt of his sword,
motionless, but ready to draw.

"There is someone coming over yonder," he cried,--"do you hear?"

"You can't catch me in that way," said Quennebert.  "Even were there
anyone coming, I should not look round, and if you move your hand all
is over with you."

"Well," said Jeannin, "I surrender at discretion--not on my own
account, but out of regard for my friend and this woman.  However, we
are entitle to some pledge of your silence.  This statement that you
demand, once written,--you can ruin us tomorrow by its means."

"I don't yet know what use I shall make of it, gentlemen.  Make up
your minds, or you will have nothing but a dead body to place--in the
doctor's hands.  There is no escape for you."

For the first time the wounded man faintly groaned.

"I must save her!" cried de Jars,--"I yield."

"And I swear upon my honour that I will never try to get this woman
out of your hands, and that I will never interfere with your
conquest.  Knock, gentlemen, and remain as long as may be necessary.
I am patient.  Pray to God, if you will, that she may recover; my one
desire is that she may die."

They entered the house, and Quennebert, wrapping himself once more in
his mantle, walked up and down before it, stopping to listen from
time to time.  In about two hours the commander and the treasurer
came out again, and handed him a written paper in the manner agreed

"I greatly fear that it will be a certificate of death," said de

"Heaven grant it, commander!  Adieu, messieurs."

He then withdrew, walking backwards, keeping the two friends covered
with his pistols until he had placed a sufficient distance between
himself and them to be out of danger of an attack.

The two gentlemen on their part walked rapidly away, looking round
from time to time, and keeping their ears open.  They were very much
mortified at having been forced to let a mere boor dictate to them,
and anxious, especially de Jars, as to the result of the wound.


On the day following this extraordinary series of adventures,
explanations between those who were mixed up in them, whether as
actors or spectators, were the order of the day.  It was not till
Maitre Quennebert reached the house of the friend who had offered to
put him up for the night that it first dawned on him, that the
interest which the Chevalier de Moranges had awakened in his mind had
made him utterly forget the bag containing the twelve hundred livres
which he owed to the generosity of the widow.  This money being
necessary to him, he went back to her early next morning.  He found
her hardly recovered from her terrible fright.  Her swoon had lasted
far beyond the time when the notary had left the house; and as
Angelique, not daring to enter the bewitched room, had taken refuge
in the most distant corner of her apartments, the feeble call of the
widow was heard by no one.  Receiving no answer, Madame Rapally
groped her way into the next room, and finding that empty, buried
herself beneath the bedclothes, and passed the rest of the night
dreaming of drawn swords, duels, and murders.  As soon as it was
light she ventured into the mysterious room once more; without
calling her servants, and found the bag of crowns lying open on the
floor, with the coins scattered all around, the partition broken, and
the tapestry hanging from it in shreds.  The widow was near fainting
again: she imagined at first she saw stains of blood everywhere, but
a closer inspection having somewhat reassured her, she began to pick
up the coins that had rolled  to right and left, and was agreeably
surprised to  find the tale complete.  But how and why had Maitre
Quennebert abandoned them?  What had become of him?  She had got lost
in the most absurd  suppositions and conjectures when the notary
appeared.  Discovering from the first words she uttered that she was
in complete ignorance of all that had taken place, he explained to
her that when the interview between the chevalier and Mademoiselle
de Guerchi had just at the most interesting moment been so
unceremoniously interrupted by the arrival of the duke, he had become
so absorbed in  watching them that he had not noticed that the
partition was bending before the pressure of his body, and that just
as the duke drew his sword it suddenly gave way, and he, Quennebert,
being thus left without support, tumbled head foremost into the next
room, among a perfect chaos of overturned furniture and lamps; that
almost before he could rise he was forced to draw in self-defence,
and had to make his escape, defending himself against both the duke
and the chevalier; that they had pursued him so hotly, that when he
found himself free he was too far from the house and the hour was too
advanced to admit of his returning, Quennebert added innumerable
protestations of friendship, devotion, and gratitude, and, furnished
with his twelve hundred crowns, went away, leaving the widow
reassured as to his safety, but still shaken from her fright.

While the notary was thus soothing the widow, Angelique was
exhausting all the expedients her trade had taught her in the attempt
to remove the duke's suspicions.  She asserted she was the victim of
an unforeseen attack which nothing in her conduct had ever
authorised.  The young Chevalier de Moranges had, gained admittance,
she declared, under the pretext that he brought her news from the
duke, the one man who occupied her thoughts, the sole object of her
love.  The chevalier had seen her lover, he said, a few days before,
and by cleverly appealing to things back, he had led her to fear that
the duke had grown tired of her, and that a new conquest was the
cause of his absence.  She had not believed these insinuations,
although his long silence would have justified the most mortifying
suppositions, the most cruel doubts.  At length the chevalier had
grown bolder, and had declared his passion for her; whereupon she had
risen and ordered him to leave her.  Just at that moment the duke had
entered, and had taken the natural agitation and confusion of the
chevalier as signs of her guilt.  Some explanation was also necessary
to account for the presence of the two other visitors of whom he had
been told below stairs.  As he knew nothing at all about them, the
servant who admitted them never having seen either of them before,
she acknowledged that two gentlemen had called earlier in the
evening; that they had refused to send in their names, but as they
had said they had come to inquire about the duke, she suspected them
of having been in league with the chevalier in the attempt to ruin
her reputation, perhaps they had even promised to help him to carry
her off, but she knew nothing positive about them or their plans.
The duke, contrary to his wont, did not allow himself to be easily
convinced by these lame explanations, but unfortunately for him the
lady knew how to assume an attitude favourable to her purpose.  She
had been induced, she said, with the simple confidence born of love,
to listen to people who had led her to suppose they could give her
news of one so dear to her as the duke.  From this falsehood she
proceeded to bitter reproaches: instead of defending herself, she
accused him of having left her a prey to anxiety; she went so far as
to imply that there must be some foundation for the hints of the
chevalier, until at last the duke, although he was not guilty of the
slightest infidelity, and had excellent reasons to give in
justification of his silence, was soon reduced to a penitent mood,
and changed his threats into entreaties for forgiveness.  As to the
shriek he had heard, and which he was sure had been uttered by the
stranger who had forced his way into her room after the departure of
the others, she asserted that his ears must have deceived him.
Feeling that therein lay her best chance of making things smooth, she
exerted herself to convince him that there was no need for other
information than she could give, and did all she could to blot the
whole affair from his memory; and her success was such that at the
end of the interview the duke was more enamoured and more credulous
than ever, and believing he had done her wrong, he delivered himself
up to her, bound hand and foot.  Two days later he installed his
mistress in another dwelling....

Madame Rapally also resolved to give up her rooms, and removed to a
house that belonged to her, on the Pont Saint-Michel.

The commander took the condition of Charlotte Boullenois very much to

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: