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

forced into it by threats, he had escaped by its means no serious
danger, and therefore in regard to it his conscience was much more
accommodating.  What he should best have liked to do, would have been
to have sought out the notary and provoked him by insults to send him
a challenge.

That a clown such as that could have any chance of leaving the ground
alive never entered his head.  But willingly as he would have
encompassed his death in this manner, the knowledge that his secret
would not die with Quennebert restrained him, for when everything
came out he felt that the notary's death would be regarded as an
aggravation of his original offence, and in spite of his rank he was
not at all certain that if he were put on his trial even now he would
escape scot free, much less if a new offence were added to the
indictment.  So, however much he might chafe against the bit, he felt
he must submit to the bridle.

"By God!" said he, "I know what the clodhopper is after; and even if
I must suffer in consequence, I shall take good care that he cannot
shake off his bonds.  Wait a bit!  I can play the detective too, and
be down on him without letting him see the hand that deals the blows.
It'll be a wonder if I can't find a naked sword to suspend above his

However, while thus brooding over projects of vengeance, Commander de
Jars kept his word, and about a month after the interview above
related he sent word to Quennebert that the Chevalier de Moranges had
left Perregaud's completely recovered from his wound.  But the nearly
fatal result of the chevalier's last prank seemed to have subdued his
adventurous spirit; he was no longer seen in public, and was soon
forgotten by all his acquaintances with the exception of Mademoiselle
de Guerchi.  She faithfully treasured up the memory of his words of
passion, his looks of love, the warmth of his caresses, although at
first she struggled hard to chase his image from her heart.  But as
the Due de Vitry assured her that he had killed him on the spot, she
considered it no breach of faith to think lovingly of the dead, and
while she took the goods so bounteously provided by her living lover,
her gentlest thoughts, her most enduring regrets, were given to one
whom she never hoped to see again.


With the reader's permission, we must now jump over an interval of
rather more than a year, and bring upon the stage a person who,
though only of secondary importance, can no longer be left behind the

We have already said that the loves of Quennebert and Madame Rapally
were regarded with a jealous eye by a distant cousin of the lady's
late husband.  The love of this rejected suitor, whose name was
Trumeau, was no more sincere than the notary's, nor were his motives
more honourable.  Although his personal appearance was not such as to
lead him to expect that his path would be strewn with conquests, he
considered that his charms at least equalled those of his defunct
relative; and it may be said that in thus estimating them he did not
lay himself--open to the charge of overweening vanity.  But however
persistently he preened him self before the widow, she vouchsafed him
not one glance.  Her heart was filled with the love of his rival, and
it is no easy thing to tear a rooted passion out of a widow's heart
when that widow's age is forty-six, and she is silly enough to
believe that the admiration she feels is equalled by the admiration
she inspires, as the unfortunate Trumeau found to his cost.  All his
carefully prepared declarations of love, all his skilful insinuations
against Quennebert, brought him nothing but scornful rebuffs.  But
Trumeau was nothing if not persevering, and he could not habituate
himself to the idea of seeing the widow's fortune pass into other
hands than his own, so that every baffled move only increased his
determination to spoil his competitor's game.  He was always on the
watch for a chance to carry tales to the widow, and so absorbed did
he become in this fruitless pursuit, that he grew yellower and more
dried up from day to day, and to his jaundiced eye the man who was at
first simply his rival became his mortal enemy and the object of his
implacable hate, so that at length merely to get the better of him,
to outwit him, would, after so long-continued and obstinate a
struggle and so many defeats, have seemed to him too mild a
vengeance, too incomplete a victory.

Quennebert was well aware of the zeal with which the indefatigable
Trumeau sought to injure him.  But he regarded the manoeuvres of his
rival with supreme unconcern, for he knew that he could at any time
sweep away the network of cunning machinations, underhand
insinuations, and malicious hints, which was spread around him, by
allowing the widow to confer on him the advantages she was so anxious
to bestow.  The goal, he knew, was within his reach, but the problem
he had to solve was how to linger on the way thither, how to defer
the triumphal moment, how to keep hope alive in the fair one's breast
and yet delay its fruition.  His affairs were in a bad way.  Day by
day full possession of the fortune thus dangled before his eyes, and
fragments of which came to him occasionally by way of loan, was
becoming more and more indispensable, and tantalising though it was,
yet he dared not put out his hand to seize it.  His creditors dunned
him relentlessly: one final reprieve had been granted him, but that
at an end, if he could not meet their demands, it was all up with his
career and reputation.

One morning in the beginning of February 1660, Trumeau called to see
his cousin.  He had not been there for nearly a month, and Quennebert
and the widow had begun to think that, hopeless of success, he had
retired from the contest.  But, far from that, his hatred had grown
more intense than ever, and having come upon the traces of an event
in the past life of his rival which if proved would be the ruin of
that rival's hopes, he set himself to gather evidence.  He now made
his appearance with beaming looks, which expressed a joy too great
for words.  He held in one hand a small scroll tied with a ribbon.
He found the widow alone, sitting in a large easy-chair before the
fire.  She was reading for the twentieth time a letter which
Quenriebert had written her the evening before.  To judge by the
happy and contented expression of the widow's face, it must have been
couched in glowing terms.  Trumeau guessed at once from whom the
missive came, but the sight of it, instead of irritating him, called
forth a smile.

"Ah!  so it's you, cousin?" said the widow, folding the precious
paper and slipping it into the bosom of her dress.  "How do you do?
It's a long time since I saw you, more than a fortnight, I think.
Have you been ill?"

"So you remarked my absence!  That is very flattering, my dear
cousin; you do not often spoil me by such attentions.  No, I have not
been ill, thank God, but I thought it better not to intrude upon you
so often.  A friendly call now and then such as to-day's is what you
like, is it not?  By the way, tell me about your handsome suitor,
Maitre Quennebert; how is he getting along?"

"You look very knowing, Trumeau: have you heard of anything
happening to him?"

"No, and I should be exceedingly sorry to hear that anything
unpleasant had happened to him."

Now you are not saying what you think, you know you can't bear him."

"Well, to speak the truth, I have no great reason to like him.  If it
were not for him, I should perhaps have been happy to-day; my love
might have moved your heart.  However, I have become resigned to my
loss, and since your choice has fallen on him,--and here he.
sighed,--"well, all I can say is, I hope you may never regret it."

"Many thanks for your goodwill, cousin; I am delighted to find you in
such a benevolent mood.  You must not be vexed because I could not
give you the kind of love you wanted; the heart, you know, is not
amenable to reason."

"There is only one thing I should like to ask."

"What is it?"

"I mention it for your good more than for my own.  If you want to be
happy, don't let this handsome quill-driver get you entirely into his
hands.  You are saying to yourself that because of my ill-success
with you I am trying to injure him; but what if I could prove that he
does not love you as much as he pretends--?"

"Come, come, control your naughty tongue!  Are you going to begin
backbiting again?  You are playing a mean part, Trumeau.  I have
never hinted to Maitre Quennebert all the nasty little ways in which
you have tried to put a spoke in his wheel, for if he knew he would
ask you to prove your words, and then you would look very foolish.".

"Not at all, I swear to you.  On the contrary, if I were to tell all
I know in his presence, it is not I who would be disconcerted.  Oh!
I am weary of meeting with nothing from you but snubs, scorn, and
abuse.  You think me a slanderer when I say, 'This gallant wooer of
widows does not love you for yourself but for your money-bags.  He
fools you by fine promises, but as to marrying you--never, never!'"

"May I ask you to repeat that?" broke in Madame Rapally,

"Oh! I know what I am saying.  You will never be Madame Quennebert."



"Jealousy has eaten away whatever brains you used to possess,
Trumeau.  Since I saw you last, cousin, important changes have taken
place: I was just going to send you to-day an invitation to my

"To your wedding?"

"Yes; I am to be married to-morrow."

"To-morrow?  To Quennebert?" stammered Trumeau.

"To Quennebert," repeated the widow in a tone of triumph.

"It's not possible!" exclaimed Trumeau.

"It is so possible that you will see us united tomorrow.  And for the
future I must beg of you to regard Quennebert no longer as a rival
but as my husband, whom to offend will be to offend me."

The tone in which these words were spoken no longer left room for
doubt as to the truth of the news.  Trumeau looked down for a few
moments, as if reflecting deeply before definitely making up his

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: