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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Conspirators - Chapter 29. The Prince De Listhnay's Accomplice
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The Conspirators - Chapter 29. The Prince De Listhnay's Accomplice Post by :wen8213 Category :Long Stories Author :Alexandre Dumas Date :May 2012 Read :600

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The Conspirators - Chapter 29. The Prince De Listhnay's Accomplice

CHAPTER XXIX. THE PRINCE DE LISTHNAY'S ACCOMPLICE

We left Buvat going up to his own room, with his papers in his hand, to fulfill his promise to the Prince de Listhnay, and this promise was so scrupulously kept, that by seven o'clock the next evening the copy was finished and taken to the Rue du Bac. He then received from the same august hands some more work, which he returned with the same punctuality; so that the Prince de Listhnay, feeling confidence in a man who had given such proofs of exactitude, gave him at once sufficient papers to necessitate an interval of three or four days between this interview and the next. Buvat was delighted with this mark of confidence, and, on his return, set himself gayly to his work; and, although he found that he did not understand a word of Spanish, he could now read it fluently, and had become so accustomed to it, that he felt quite disappointed when he found among the copies one all in French. It had no number, and almost appeared to have slipped in by mistake; but he resolved, nevertheless, to copy it. He began with these lines:

"Confidential.

"For his Excellency Monsieur Alberoni in person.

"Nothing is more important than to make sure of the places near the Pyrenees, and of the noblemen who reside in these cantons."

"In these cantons!" repeated Buvat, after having written it; then, taking a hair from his pen, he continued:

"To gain or master the garrison of Bayonne."

"What is that?" said Buvat. "Is not Bayonne a French town? Let us see--let us see;" and he continued:

"The Marquis de P---- is governor of D----. One knows the intentions of that nobleman; when it is decided, it will be necessary for him to triple his expenditure, in order to attract the aristocracy: he ought to scatter rewards.

"In Normandy, Charenton is an important post. Pursue the same course with the governor of that town as with the Marquis of P----; go further--promise his officers suitable rewards.

"Do the same in all the provinces."

"Hallo!" cried Buvat, re-reading what he had just written; "what does this mean? It seems to me that it would be prudent to read it all before going further."

"He read:

"To supply this expenditure one ought to be able to reckon on at least three hundred thousand francs the first month, and afterward a hundred thousand per month, paid to the day."

"Paid to the day!" murmured Buvat, breaking off. "It is evidently not by France that these payments are to be made, since France is so poor that she has not paid me my nine hundred francs' salary for five years. Let us see--let us see;" and he recommenced:

"That expenditure, which will cease at the peace, will enable his Catholic majesty to act with certainty in case of war.

"Spain will only be an auxiliary. The army of Philip V. is in France."

"What! what! what!" cried Buvat; "and I did not even know that it had crossed the frontier."

"The army of Philip V. is in France. A body of about ten thousand Spaniards is more than sufficient, with the presence of the king.

"But we must be able to count on being able to seduce over at least half of the Duc d'Orleans' army (Buvat trembled). This is the most important, and cannot be done without money. A present of one hundred thousand francs is necessary for each battalion or squadron.

"Twenty battalions would be two millions; with that sum one might form a trustworthy army, and destroy that of the enemy.

"It is almost certain, that the subjects most devoted to the king of Spain will not be employed in the army which will march against him. Let them disperse themselves through the provinces; there they will act usefully. To resupply them with a character--if they have none--it will be necessary for his Catholic majesty to send his orders in blank, for his minister in Paris to fill up.

"In consequence of the multiplicity of orders, it would be better if the ambassador had the power to sign for the king of Spain.

"It would be well, moreover, if his majesty were to sign his orders as a French prince; the title is his own.

"Prepare funds for an army of thirty thousand men, whom his majesty will find brave, skillful, and disciplined.

"This money should arrive in France at the end of May, or the commencement of June, and be distributed directly in the capitals of provinces, such as Nantes, Bayonne, etc.

"Do not allow the French ambassador to leave Spain. His presence will answer for the safety of those who declare themselves."

"Sabre de bois!" cried Buvat, rubbing his eyes; "but this is a conspiracy--a conspiracy against the person of the regent, and against the safety of the kingdom. Oh! oh!"

Buvat fell into profound meditation.

Indeed the position was critical. Buvat mixed up in a conspiracy--Buvat charged with a state secret--Buvat holding in his hands, perhaps, the fate of nations: a smaller thing would have thrown him into a state of strange perplexity.

Thus seconds, minutes, hours flowed away, and Buvat remained on his chair, his head drooping, his eyes fixed on the floor, and perfectly still. From time to time, however, a deep breath--like an expression of astonishment--escaped his breast.

Ten o'clock, eleven--midnight sounded. Buvat thought that the night would bring him aid, and he determined to go to bed. It is needless to say that his copying came to an end, when he saw that the original was assuming an illegal character.

Buvat could not sleep; the poor fellow tossed from side to side, but scarcely had he shut his eyes, before he saw this horrible plan of the conspiracy written upon the wall in letters of fire. Once or twice, overcome by fatigue, he fell asleep; but he had no sooner lost consciousness, than he dreamed, the first time that he was arrested by the watch as a conspirator; the second that he was stabbed by the conspirators themselves. The first time Buvat awoke trembling; the second time bathed in perspiration. These two impressions had been so terrible, that he lighted his candle, and determined to wait for day, without another attempt to sleep.

The day came, but, far from dispelling the phantoms of the night, it only gave a more terrific reality. At the least noise Buvat trembled. Some one knocked at the street-door. Buvat thought he should faint. Nanette opened his room door, and he uttered a cry. Nanette ran to him, and asked what was the matter, but he contented himself with shaking his head, and answering, with a sigh--

"Ah, my poor Nanette, we live in very sad times."

He stopped directly, fearing he had said too much. He was too preoccupied to go down to breakfast with Bathilde; besides, he feared lest the young girl should perceive his uneasiness, and ask the cause; and as he did not know how to keep anything from her, he would have told her all, and she would then have become his accomplice. He had his coffee sent up to him, under pretext of having an overwhelming amount of work to do, and that he was going to work during breakfast. As Bathilde's love profited by this absence, she was rather pleased at it than otherwise.

A few minutes before ten, Buvat left for his office; his fears had been strong in his own house, but once in the street, they changed into terrors. At every crossing, at the end of every court, behind every angle, he thought that he saw the police-officers waiting for him. At the corner of the Place des Victoires a musketeer appeared, coming from the Rue Pagevin, and Buvat gave such a start on seeing him, that he almost fell under the wheels of a carriage. At last, after many alarms, he reached the library, bowed almost to the ground before the sentinel, darted up the stairs, gained his office, and falling exhausted on his seat, he shut up in his drawer all the papers of the Prince de Listhnay, which he had brought with him, for fear the police should search his house during his absence; and finding himself in safety, heaved a sigh, which would not have failed in denouncing him to his colleagues as being a prey to the greatest agitation, if he had not, as usual, arrived the first.

Buvat had a principle, which was, that no personal preoccupation, whether grave or gay, ought to disturb a clerk in the execution of his duty. Therefore he set himself to his work, apparently as if nothing had happened, but really in a state of moral perturbation impossible to describe.

This work consisted, as usual, in classifying and arranging books. There having been an alarm of fire three or four days before, the books had been thrown on the floor, or carried out of the reach of the flames, and there were consequently four or five thousand volumes to be reinstated in their proper places; and, as it was a particularly tedious business, Buvat had been selected for it, and had hitherto acquitted himself with an intelligence and assiduity which had merited the commendations of his superiors, and the raillery of his colleagues.

In spite of the urgency of the work, Buvat rested some minutes to recover himself; but as soon as he saw the door open, he rose instinctively, took a pen, dipped it in the ink, took a handful of parchment labels, and went toward the remaining books, took the first which came to hand, and continued his classification, murmuring between his teeth, as was his habit under similar circumstances.

"The 'Breviary of Lovers,' printed at Liege in 1712; no printer's name. Ah, mon Dieu! what amusement can Christians possibly find in reading such books? It would be better if they were all burned in the Place de Greve by the hand of the public hangman! Chut! What name have I been pronouncing there! I wonder who this Prince de Listhnay, who has made me copy such things, is; and the young man who, under pretense of doing me a service, introduced me to such a scoundrel. Come, come, this is not the place to think about that. How pleasant it is writing on parchment; the pen glides as if over silk. What is the next?"

"Well, monsieur," said the head clerk, "and what have you been doing for the last five minutes, with your arms crossed and your eyes fixed?"

"Nothing, M. Ducoudray, nothing. I was planning a new mode of classification."

"A new mode of classification! Are you turned reformer? Do you wish to commence a revolution, M. Buvat?"

"I! a revolution!" cried Buvat, with terror. "A revolution, monsieur!--never, oh, never! Good heavens, my devotion to monseigneur the regent is known; a disinterested devotion, since he has not paid me for five years, as you know."

"Well, go on with your work."

Buvat continued:--"'Conspiracy of Monsieur de Cinq Mars'--diable! diable! I have heard of that. He was a gallant gentleman, who was in correspondence with Spain; that cursed Spain. What business has it to mix itself up eternally with our affairs? It is true that this time it is said that Spain will only be an auxiliary; but an ally who takes possession of our towns, and who debauches our soldiers, appears to me very much like an enemy. 'Conspiracy of Monsieur de Cinq-Mars, followed by a History of his Death, and that of Monsieur de Thou, condemned for not revealing it. By an Eye-Witness.' For not revealing! It is true, no doubt, for the law is positive. Whoever does not reveal is an accomplice--myself, for instance. I am the accomplice of the Prince de Listhnay; and if they cut off his head, they will cut off mine too. No, they will only hang me--I am not noble. Hanged!--it is impossible; they would never go to such extremities in my case: besides, I will declare all. But then I shall be an informer: never! But then I shall be hanged--oh, oh!"

"What is the matter, Buvat?" said a clerk: "you are strangling yourself by twisting your cravat."

"I beg your pardon, gentlemen," said Buvat, "I did it mechanically; I did not mean to offend you."

Buvat stretched out his hand for another book. "'Conspiracy of the Chevalier Louis de Rohan.' Oh, I come to nothing but conspiracies! 'Copy of a Plan of Government found among the Papers of Monsieur de Rohan, and entirely written by Van der Enden.' Ah, mon Dieu! yes. That is just my case. He was hanged for having copied a plan. Oh, I shall die! 'Proces-verbal of the Torture of Francis-Affinius Van der Enden.' If they read one day, at the end of the conspiracy of the Prince de Listhnay, 'Proces-verbal of the Torture of Jean Buvat!'" Buvat began to read.

"Well, well, what is the matter, Buvat?" said Ducoudray, seeing the good man shake and grow pale: "are you ill?"

"Ah, M. Ducoudray," said Buvat, dropping the book, and dragging himself to a seat, "ah, M. Ducoudray, I feel I am going to faint."

"That comes of reading instead of working," said an employe.

"Well, Buvat, are you better?" asked Ducoudray.

"Yes, monsieur, for my resolution is taken, taken irrevocably. It would not be just, by Heaven, that I should bear the punishment for a crime which I never committed. I owe it to society, to my ward, to myself. M. Ducoudray, if the curator asks for me, you will tell him that I am gone out on pressing business."

And Buvat drew the roll of paper from the drawer, pressed his hat on to his head, took his stick, and went out with the majesty of despair.

"Do you know where he has gone?" asked the employe.

"No," answered Ducoudray.

"I will tell you;--to play at bowls at the Champs-Elysees, or at Porcherons."

The employe was wrong; he had neither gone to the Champs-Elysees nor to Porcherons. He had gone to Dubois.

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