List Of Contents | Contents of The Countess of Saint Geran, by Dumas, Pere
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and at length perceived a man running from the bottom of the avenue.
The servant peered through the wicket, and making out in the twilight
a very ill-appointed traveller, with a crushed hat, dusty clothes,
and no sword, asked him what he wanted, receiving a blunt reply that
the stranger wished to see the Count de Saint-Geran without any
further loss of time.  The servant replied that this was impossible;
the other got into a passion.

"Who are you?" asked the man in livery.

"You are a very ceremonious fellow!" cried the horseman. "Go and tell
M. de Saint-Geran that his relative, the Marquis de Saint-Maixent,
wishes to see him at once."

The servant made humble apologies, and opened the wicket gate.  He
then walked before the marquis, called other servants, who came to
help him to dismount, and ran to give his name in the count's
apartments.  The latter was about to sit down to supper when his
relative was announced; he immediately went to receive the marquis,
embraced him again and again, and gave him the most friendly and
gracious reception possible. He wished then to take him into the
dining-room to present him to all the family; but the marquis called
his attention to the disorder of his dress, and begged for a few
minutes' conversation.  The count took him into his dressing-room,
and had him dressed from head to foot in his own clothes, whilst they
talked.  The marquis then narrated a made-up story to M. de
Saint-Geran relative to the accusation brought against him.  This
greatly impressed his relative, and gave him a secure footing in the
chateau.  When he had finished dressing, he followed the count, who
presented him to the countess and the rest of the family.

It will now be in place to state who the inmates of the chateau were,
and to relate some previous occurrences to explain subsequent ones.

The Marshal de Saint-Geran, of the illustrious house of Guiche, and
governor of the Bourbonnais, had married, for his first wife, Anne de
Tournon, by whom he had one son, Claude de la Guiche, and one
daughter, who married the Marquis de Bouille.  His wife dying, he
married again with Suzanne des Epaules, who had also been previously
married, being the widow of the Count de Longaunay, by whom she had
Suzanne de Longaunay.

The marshal and his wife, Suzanne des Epauies, for the mutual benefit
of their children by first nuptials, determined to marry them, thus
sealing their own union with a double tie.  Claude de Guiche, the
marshal's son, married Suzanne de Longaunay.

This alliance was much to the distaste of the Marchioness de Bouille,
the marshal's daughter, who found herself separated from her
stepmother, and married to a man who, it was said, gave her great
cause for complaint, the greatest being his threescore years and ten.

The contract of marriage between Claude de la Guiche and Suzanne de
Longaunay was executed at Rouen on the 17th of February 1619; but the
tender age of the bridegroom, who was then but eighteen, was the
cause of his taking a tour in Italy, whence he returned after two
years.  The marriage was a very happy one but for one
circumstance--it produced no issue.  The countess could not endure a
barrenness which threatened the end of a great name, the extinction
of a noble race.  She made vows, pilgrimages; she consulted doctors
and quacks; but to no purpose.

The Marshal de Saint-Geran died on the Loth of December 1632, having
the mortification of having seen no descending issue from the
marriage of his son.  The latter, now Count de Saint-Geran, succeeded
his father in the government of the Bourbonnais, and was named
Chevalier of the King's Orders.

Meanwhile the Marchioness de Bouille quarrelled with her old husband
the marquis, separated from him after a scandalous divorce, and came
to live at the chateau of Saint-Geran, quite at ease as to her
brother's marriage, seeing that in default of heirs all his property
would revert to her.

Such was the state of affairs when the Marquis de Saint-Maixent
arrived at the chateau.  He was young, handsome, very cunning, and
very successful with women; he even made a conquest of the dowager
Countess de Saint-Geran, who lived there with her children.  He soon
plainly saw that he might easily enter into the most intimate
relations with the Marchioness de Bouille.

The Marquis de Saint-Maixent's own fortune was much impaired by his
extravagance and by the exactions of the law, or rather, in plain
words, he had lost it all.  The marchioness was heiress presumptive
to the count: he calculated that she would soon lose her own husband;
in any case, the life of a septuagenarian did not much trouble a man
like the marquis; he could then prevail upon the marchioness to marry
him, thus giving him the command of the finest fortune in the

He set to work to pay his court to her, especially avoiding anything
that could excite the slightest suspicion.  It was, however,
difficult to get on good terms with the marchioness without showing
outsiders what was going on.  But the marchioness, already
prepossessed by the agreeable exterior of M. de Saint-Maixent, soon
fell into his toils, and the unhappiness of her marriage, with the
annoyances incidental to a scandalous case in the courts, left her
powerless to resist his schemes.  Nevertheless, they had but few
opportunities of seeing one' another alone: the countess innocently
took a part in all their conversations; the count often came to take
the marquis out hunting; the days passed in family pursuits.  M. de
Saint-Maixent had not so far had an opportunity of saying what a
discreet woman ought to pretend not to hear; this intrigue,
notwithstanding the marquis's impatience, dragged terribly.

The countess, as has been stated, had for twenty years never ceased
to hope that her prayers would procure for her the grace of bearing a
son to her husband.  Out of sheer weariness she had given herself up
to all kinds of charlatans, who at that period were well received by
people of rank.  On one occasion she brought from Italy a sort of
astrologer, who as nearly as possible poisoned her with a horrible
nostrum, and was sent back to his own country in a hurry, thanking
his stars for having escaped so cheaply.  This procured Madame de
Saint-Geran a severe reprimand from her confessor; and, as time went
on, she gradually accustomed herself to the painful conclusion that
she would die childless, and cast herself into the arms of religion.
The count, whose tenderness for her never failed, yet clung to the
hope of an heir, and made his Will with this in view.  The
marchioness's hopes had become certainties, and M. de Saint-Maixent,
perfectly tranquil on this head, thought only of forwarding his suit
with Madame-de Bouille, when, at the end of the month of November
1640, the Count de Saint-Geran was obliged to repair to Paris in
great haste on pressing duty.

The countess, who could not bear to be separated from her husband,
took the family advice as to accompanying him.  The marquis,
delighted at an opportunity which left him almost alone in the
chateau with Madame de Bouille, painted the journey to Paris in the
most attractive colours, and said all he could to decide her to go.
The marchioness, for her part, worked very quietly to the same end;
it was more than was needed.  It was settled that the countess should
go with M. de Saint-Geran.  She soon made her preparations, and a few
days later they set off on the journey together.

The marquis had no fears about declaring his passion; the conquest of
Madame de Bouille gave him no trouble; he affected the most violent
love, and she responded in the same terms.  All their time was spent
in excursions and walks from, which the servants were excluded; the
lovers, always together, passed whole days in some retired part of
the park, or shut up in their apartments.  It was impossible for
these circumstances not to cause gossip among an army of servants,
against whom they had to keep incessantly on their guard; and this
naturally happened.

The marchioness soon found herself obliged to make confidantes of the
sisters Quinet, her maids; she had no difficulty in gaining their
support, for the girls were greatly attached to her.  This was the
first step of shame for Madame de Bouille, and the first step of
corruption for herself and her paramour, who soon found themselves
entangled in the blackest of plots.  Moreover, there was at the
chateau de Saint-Geran a tall, spare, yellow, stupid man, just
intelligent enough to perform, if not to conceive, a bad action, who
was placed in authority over the domestics; he was a common peasant
whom the old marshal had deigned to notice, and whom the count had by
degrees promoted to the service of major-domo on account of his long
service in the house, and because he had seen him there since he
himself was a child; he would not take him away as body servant,
fearing that his notions of service would not do for Paris, and left
him to the superintendence of the household.  The marquis had a quiet
talk with this man, took his measure, warped his mind as he wished,
gave him some money, and acquired him body and soul.  These different
agents undertook to stop the chatter of the servants' hall, and
thenceforward the lovers could enjoy free intercourse.

One evening, as the Marquis de Saint-Maixent was at supper in company
with the marchioness, a loud knocking was heard at the gate of the
chateau, to which they paid no great attention.  This was followed by
the appearance of a courier who had come post haste from Paris; he
entered the courtyard with a letter from the Count de Saint-Geran for
M. the marquis; he was announced and introduced, followed by nearly
all the household.  The marquis asked the meaning of all this, and
dismissed all the following with a wave of the hand; but the courier
explained that M. the count desired that the letter in his hands
should be read before everyone.  The marquis opened it without
replying, glanced over it, and read it out loud without the slightest
alteration: the count announced to his good relations and to all his

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