List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

gentlemen in France.  Oh, Madame! your logic is cold - even calculating;
it always condemns - it never absolves."

Manicamp's concluding words scattered to the winds the last doubt which
lingered, not in Madame's heart, but in her mind.  She was no longer a
princess full of scruples, nor a woman with her ever-returning
suspicions, but one whose heart has just felt the mortal chill of a
wound.  "Wounded to death!" she murmured, in a faltering voice, "oh,
Monsieur de Manicamp! did you not say, wounded to death?"

Manicamp returned no other answer than a deep sigh.

"And so you said that the comte is dangerously wounded?" continued the

"Yes, Madame; one of his hands is shattered, and he has a bullet lodged
in his breast."

"Gracious heavens!" resumed the princess, with a feverish excitement,
"this is horrible!  Monsieur de Manicamp! a hand shattered, do you say,
and a bullet in his breast?  And that coward! that wretch! that assassin,
De Wardes, did it!"

Manicamp seemed overcome by a violent emotion.  He had, in fact,
displayed no little energy in the latter part of his speech.  As for
Madame, she entirely threw aside all regard for the formal observances of
propriety society imposes; for when, with her, passion spoke in accents
either of anger or sympathy, nothing could restrain her impulses.  Madame
approached Manicamp, who had subsided in a chair, as if his grief were a
sufficiently powerful excuse for his infraction of the laws of
etiquette.  "Monsieur," she said, seizing him by the hand, "be frank with

Manicamp looked up.

"Is M. de Guiche in danger of death?"

"Doubly so, Madame," he replied; "in the first place on account of the
hemorrhage which has taken place, an artery having been injured in the
hand; and next, in consequence of the wound in his breast, which may, the
doctor is afraid, at least, have injured some vital part."

"He may die, then?"

"Die, yes, Madame; and without even having had the consolation of knowing
that you have been told of his devotion."

"You will tell him."


"Yes; are you not his friend?"

"I? oh, no, Madame; I will only tell M. de Guiche - if, indeed, he is
still in a condition to hear me - I will only tell him what I have seen;
that is, your cruelty to him."

"Oh, monsieur, you will not be guilty of such barbarity!"

"Indeed, Madame, I shall speak the truth, for nature is very energetic in
a man of his age.  The physicians are clever men, and if, by chance, the
poor comte should survive his wound, I should not wish him to die of a
wound of the heart, after surviving one of the body."  Manicamp rose, and
with an expression of profoundest respect, seemed to be desirous of
taking leave.

"At least, monsieur," said Madame, stopping him with almost a suppliant
air, "you will be kind enough to tell me in what state your wounded
friend is, and who is the physician who attends him?"

"As regards the state he is in, Madame, he is seriously ill; his
physician is M. Valot, his majesty's private medical attendant.  M. Valot
is moreover assisted by a professional friend, to whose house M. de
Guiche has been carried."

"What! he is not in the chateau?" said Madame.

"Alas, Madame! the poor fellow was so ill, that he could not even be
conveyed thither."

"Give me the address, monsieur," said the princess, hurriedly; "I will
send to inquire after him."

"Rue du Feurre; a brick-built house, with white outside blinds.  The
doctor's name is on the door."

"You are returning to your wounded friend, Monsieur de Manicamp?"

"Yes, Madame."

"You will be able, then, to do me a service."

"I am at your highness's orders."

"Do what you intended to do; return to M. de Guiche, send away all those
whom you may find there, and have the kindness yourself to go away too."

"Madame - "

"Let us waste no time in useless explanations.  Accept the fact as I
present it to you; see nothing in it beyond what is really there, and ask
nothing further than what I tell you.  I am going to send one of my
ladies, perhaps two, because it is now getting late; I do not wish them
to see you, or rather I do not wish you to see them.  These are scruples
you can understand - you particularly, Monsieur de Manicamp, who seem
capable of divining so much."

"Oh, Madame, perfectly; I can even do better still, - I will precede, or
rather walk, in advance of your attendants; it will, at the same time, be
the means of showing them the way more accurately, and of protecting
them, if occasion arises, though there is no probability of their needing

"And, by this means, then, they would be sure of entering without
difficulty, would they not?"

"Certainly, Madame; for as I should be the first to pass, I thus remove
any difficulties that might chance to be in the way."

"Very well.  Go, go, Monsieur de Manicamp, and wait at the bottom of the

"I go at once, Madame."


Manicamp paused.

"When you hear the footsteps of two women descending the stairs, go out,
and, without once turning round, take the road which leads to where the
poor count is lying."

"But if, by any mischance, two other persons were to descend, and I were
to be mistaken?"

"You will hear one of the two clap her hands together softly.  Go."

Manicamp turned round, bowed once more, and left the room, his heart
overflowing with joy.  In fact, he knew very well that the presence of
Madame herself would be the best balm to apply to his friend's wounds.  A
quarter of an hour had hardly elapsed when he heard the sound of a door
opened softly, and closed with like precaution.  He listened to the light
footfalls gliding down the staircase, and then hard the signal agreed
upon.  He immediately went out, and, faithful to his promise, bent his
way, without once turning his head, through the streets of Fontainebleau,
towards the doctor's dwelling.

Chapter XXI:
M. Malicorne the Keeper of the Records of France.

Two women, their figures completely concealed by their mantles, and whose
masks effectually hid the upper portion of their faces, timidly followed
Manicamp's steps.  On the first floor, behind curtains of red damask, the
soft light of a lamp placed upon a low table faintly illumined the room,
at the other extremity of which, on a large bedstead supported by spiral
columns, around which curtains of the same color as those which deadened
the rays of the lamp had been closely drawn, lay De Guiche, his head
supported by pillows, his eyes looking as if the mists of death were
gathering; his long black hair, scattered over the pillow, set off the
young man's hollow temples.  It was easy to see that fever was the chief
tenant of the chamber.  De Guiche was dreaming.  His wandering mind was
pursuing, through gloom and mystery, one of those wild creations delirium
engenders.  Two or three drops of blood, still liquid, stained the
floor.  Manicamp hurriedly ran up the stairs, but paused at the threshold
of the door, looked into the room, and seeing that everything was
perfectly quiet, he advanced towards the foot of the large leathern
armchair, a specimen of furniture of the reign of Henry IV., and seeing
that the nurse, as a matter of course, had dropped off to sleep, he awoke
her, and begged her to pass into the adjoining room.

Then, standing by the side of the bed, he remained for a moment
deliberating whether it would be better to awaken Guiche, in order to
acquaint him with the good news.  But, as he began to hear behind the
door the rustling of silk dresses and the hurried breathing of his two
companions, and as he already saw that the curtain screening the doorway
seemed on the point of being impatiently drawn aside, he passed round the
bed and followed the nurse into the next room.  As soon as he had
disappeared the curtain was raised, and his two female companions entered
the room he had just left.  The one who entered first made a gesture to
her companion, which riveted her to the spot where she stood, close to
the door, and then resolutely advanced towards the bed, drew back the
curtains along the iron rod, and threw them in thick folds behind the
head of the bed.  She gazed upon the comte's pallid face; remarked his
right hand enveloped in linen whose dazzling whiteness was emphasized by
the counterpane patterned with dark leaves thrown across the couch.  She
shuddered as she saw a stain of blood growing larger and larger upon the
bandages.  The young man's breast was uncovered, as though for the cool
night air to assist his respiration.  A narrow bandage fastened the
dressings of the wound, around which a purplish circle of extravasated
blood was gradually increasing in size.  A deep sigh broke from her
lips.  She leaned against one of the columns of the bed, and gazed,
through the apertures in her mask, upon the harrowing spectacle before
her.  A hoarse harsh groan passed like a death-rattle through the comte's
clenched teeth.  The masked lady seized his left hand, which scorched
like burning coals.  But at the very moment she placed her icy hand upon
it, the action of the cold was such that De Guiche opened his eyes, and
by a look in which revived intelligence was dawning, seemed as though
struggling back again into existence.  The first thing upon which he
fixed his gaze was this phantom standing erect by his bedside.  At that
sight, his eyes became dilated, but without any appearance of
consciousness in them.  The lady thereupon made a sign to her companion,
who had remained at the door; and in all probability the latter had
already received her lesson, for in a clear tone of voice, and without
any hesitation whatever, she pronounced these words: - "Monsieur le
comte, her royal highness Madame is desirous of knowing how you are able
to bear your wound, and to express to you, by my lips, her great regret
at seeing you suffer."

As she pronounced the word Madame, Guiche started; he had not as yet
remarked the person to whom the voice belonged, and he naturally turned
towards the direction whence it preceded.  But, as he felt the cold hand
still resting on his own, he again turned towards the motionless figure

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: