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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Conspirators - Chapter 38. God Disposes
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The Conspirators - Chapter 38. God Disposes Post by :resalin Category :Long Stories Author :Alexandre Dumas Date :May 2012 Read :1093

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The Conspirators - Chapter 38. God Disposes

CHAPTER XXXVIII. GOD DISPOSES

D'Harmental, as we have seen, had set off at a gallop, feeling that he had not an instant to lose in bringing about the changes which the death of Captain Roquefinette rendered necessary in his hazardous enterprise. In the hope of recognizing by some sign the individuals who were destined to play the part of supernumeraries in this great drama, he followed the boulevards as far as the Porte Saint Martin, and having arrived there, turned to the left, and was in the midst of the horse market: it was there, it will be remembered, that the twelve or fifteen sham peasants enlisted by Roquefinette waited the orders of their captain. But, as the deceased had said, no sign pointed out to the eye of the stranger who were the men, clothed like the rest, and scarcely known to each other. D'Harmental, therefore, sought vainly; all the faces were unknown to him; buyers and sellers appeared equally indifferent to everything except the bargains which they were concluding. Twice or thrice, after having approached persons whom he fancied he recognized as false bargainers, he went away without even speaking to them, so great was the probability, that, among the five or six hundred individuals who were on the ground, the chevalier would make some mistake which might be not only useless, but even dangerous.

The situation was pitiable: D'Harmental unquestionably had there, ready to his hand, all the means necessary to the happy completion of his plot, but he had, in killing the captain, broken with his own hand the thread which should have served him as a clew to them, and, the center link broken, the whole chain had become useless.

D'Harmental bit his lips till the blood came, and wandered to and fro, from end to end of the market, still hoping that some unforeseen event would get him out of his difficulty. Time, however, flowed away, the market presented the same aspect, no one spoke to him, and two peasants to whom despair had caused him to address some ambiguous words, had opened their eyes and mouths in such profound astonishment that he had instantly broken off the conversation, convinced that he was mistaken.

Five o'clock struck.

At eight or nine the regent would repair to Chelles, there was therefore no time to be lost, particularly as this ambuscade was the last resource for the conspirators, who might be arrested at any moment, and who staked their remaining hopes on this last throw. D'Harmental did not conceal from himself the difficulties of the situation; he had claimed for himself the honor of the enterprise; on him therefore rested all the responsibility--and that responsibility was terrible. On the other hand, he found himself in one of those situations where courage is useless, and where human will shatters itself against an impossibility, and where the last chance is to confess one's weakness, and ask aid from those who expect it of us. But D'Harmental was a man of determination; his resolution was soon taken--he took a last turn round the market to see if some conspirator would not betray himself by his impatience; but, seeing that all faces retained their expression of unconcern, he put his horse to the gallop, rode down the Boulevards, gained the Faubourg Saint Antoine, dismounted at No. 15, went up the staircase, opened the door of a little room, and found himself in the company of Madame de Maine, Laval, Valef, Pompadour, Malezieux and Brigaud.

A general cry arose on seeing him.

D'Harmental related everything: the pretensions of Roquefinette, the discussion which had followed, the duel which had terminated that discussion. He opened his cloak and showed his shirt saturated with blood; then he passed to the hopes which he had entertained of recognizing the sham peasants, and putting himself at their head in place of the captain. He showed his hopes destroyed, his investigations useless, and wound up by an appeal to Laval, Pompadour, and Valef, who answered that they were ready to follow the chevalier to the end of the earth, and to obey his orders.

Nothing was lost, then--four resolute men, acting on their own account, were well worth twelve or fifteen hired vagabonds, who were not influenced by any motive beyond that of gaining some hundred louis a-piece. The horses were ready in the stable, every one had come armed; D'Avranches was not yet gone, which re-enforced the little troop by another devoted man. They sent for masks of black velvet, so as to hide from the regent as long as possible who his enemies were, left with Madame de Maine Malezieux, who from his age, and Brigaud, who from his profession, were naturally excluded from such an expedition, fixed a rendezvous at Saint Mande, and left, each one separately, so as not to arouse suspicions. An hour afterward the five friends were reunited, and ambushed on the road to Chelles, between Vincennes and Nogent-sur-Marne.

Half-past six struck on the chateau clock.

D'Avranches had been in search of information. The regent had passed at about half-past three; he had neither guards nor suite, he was in a carriage and four, ridden by two jockeys, and preceded by a single outrider. There was no resistance to be feared; on arresting the prince they would turn his course toward Charenton, where the postmaster was, as we have said, in the interest of Madame de Maine, take him into the courtyard, whose door would close upon him, force him to enter a traveling carriage, which would be waiting with the postilion in his saddle; D'Harmental and Valef would seat themselves by him, they would cross the Marne at Alfort, the Seine at Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, reach Grand-Vaux, then Monthery, and find themselves on the road to Spain. If at any of the villages where they changed horses the regent endeavored to call out, D'Harmental and Valef would threaten him, and, if he called out in spite of the menaces, they had that famous passport to prove that he who claimed assistance was not the prince, but only a madman who thought himself the regent, and whom they were conducting to his family, who lived at Saragossa. All this was a little dangerous, it is true, but, as is well known, these are the very enterprises which succeed, so much the easier from their unforeseen audacity.

Seven o'clock, eight o'clock, struck successively. D'Harmental and his companions saw with pleasure the night approaching, and the darkness falling more and more dense and black around them; two or three carriages had already given false alarms, but had had no other effect than preparing them for the real attack. At half-past eight the night was pitch-dark, and a sort of natural fear, which the conspirators had felt at first, began to change into impatience.

At nine o'clock they thought they could distinguish sounds. D'Avranches lay down, with his ear to the ground, and distinctly heard the rolling of a carriage. At that instant they saw, at about a thousand paces from the angle of the road, a point of light like a star; the conspirators trembled with excitement, it was evidently the outrider with his torch. There was soon no doubt--they saw the carriage with its two lanterns. D'Harmental, Pompadour, Valef, and Laval, grasped one another's hands, put on their masks, and each one took the place assigned to him. The carriage advanced rapidly--it was really that of the duke. By the light of the torch which he carried they could distinguish the red dress of the outrider, some five-and-twenty paces before the horses. The road was silent and deserted, everything was favorable. D'Harmental threw a last glance on his companions. D'Avranches was in the middle of the road pretending to be drunk, Laval and Pompadour on each side of the path, and opposite him Valef, who was cocking his pistols. As to the outrider, the two jockeys and the prince, it was evident that they were all in a state of perfect security, and would fall quietly into the trap. The carriage still advanced; already the outrider had passed D'Harmental and Valef, suddenly he struck against D'Avranches, who sprang up, seized the bridle, snatched the torch from his hand, and extinguished it. At this sight the jockeys tried to turn the carriage, but it was too late; Pompadour and Laval sprang upon them pistol in hand, while D'Harmental and Valef presented themselves at the two doors, extinguished the lanterns, and intimated to the prince that if he did not make any resistance his life would be spared, but that if, on the contrary, he defended himself, or cried out, they were determined to proceed to extremities.

Contrary to the expectation of D'Harmental and Valef, who knew the courage of the regent, the prince only said:

"Well, gentlemen, do not harm me. I will go wherever you wish."

D'Harmental and Valef threw a glance at the road; they saw Pompadour and D'Avranches leading into the depth of the wood the outrider, the two jockeys, the outrider's horse, and two of the carriage horses which they had unharnessed. The chevalier sprang from his horse, mounted that of the first postilion; Laval and Valef placed themselves before the doors, the carriage set off at a gallop, and taking the first turn to the left, began to roll, without noise and without light, in the direction of Charenton. All the arrangements had been so perfect, that the seizure had not occupied more than five minutes; no resistance had been made, not a cry had been uttered. Most assuredly, this time fortune was on the side of the conspirators.

But having arrived at the end of the cross-road, D'Harmental encountered a first obstacle; the barrier--either by accident or design--was closed, and they were obliged to retrace their steps and take another road. The chevalier turned his horses, took a lateral alley, and the journey, interrupted for an instant, recommenced at an increased speed.

The new route which the chevalier had taken led him to a four-cross road; one of the roads led straight to Charenton. There was no time to lose, and in any event he must traverse this square. For an instant he thought he distinguished men in the darkness before him, but this vision disappeared like a mist, and the carriage continued its progress without interruption. On approaching the cross-roads D'Harmental fancied he heard the neighing of a horse, and a sort of ringing of iron, like sabers being drawn from their sheaths, but either taking it for the wind among the leaves, or for some other noise for which he need not stop, he continued with the same swiftness, the same silence, and in the midst of the same darkness. But, having arrived at the cross-roads, D'Harmental noticed a singular circumstance, a sort of wall seemed to close all the roads; something was happening. D'Harmental stopped the carriage, and wished to return by the road he had come down, but a similar wall had closed behind him. At that instant he heard the voices of Laval and Valef crying:

"We are surrounded, save yourself!"

And both left the doors, leaped their horses over the ditch, darted into the forest, and disappeared among the trees.

But it was impossible for D'Harmental, who was mounted on the postilion's horse, to follow his companions, and, not being able to escape the living wall, which the chevalier recognized as a regiment of musketeers, he tried to break through it, and with his head lowered, and a pistol in each hand, spurred his horse up the nearest road, without considering whether it was the right one. He had scarcely gone ten steps, however, when a musket-ball entered the head of his horse, which fell, entangling D'Harmental's leg. Instantly eight or ten cavaliers sprang upon him; he fired one pistol by hazard, and put the other to his head, to blow his brains out, but he had not time, for two musketeers seized him by the arms, and four others dragged him from beneath the horse. The pretended prince descended from the carriage, and turned out to be a valet in disguise; they placed D'Harmental with two officers inside the carriage, and harnessed another horse in the place of the one which had been shot. The carriage once more moved forward, taking a new direction, and escorted by a squadron of musketeers. A quarter of an hour afterward it rolled over a drawbridge, a heavy door grated upon its hinges, and D'Harmental passed under a somber and vaulted gateway, on the inner side of which, an officer in the uniform of a colonel was waiting for him. It was Monsieur de Launay, the governor of the Bastille.

If our readers desire to know how the plot had been discovered, they must recall the conversation between Dubois and La Fillon. The gossip of the prime minister, it will be remembered, suspected Roquefinette of being mixed up in some illicit proceeding, and had denounced him on condition of his life being spared. A few days afterward D'Harmental came to her house, and she recognized him as the young man who had held the former conference with Roquefinette. She had consequently mounted the stairs behind him, and, going into the next room, had, by aid of a hole bored in the partition, heard everything.

What she had heard was the project for carrying off the regent on his return from Chelles. Dubois had been informed the same evening, and, in order to take the conspirators in the act, had put a suit of the regent's clothes on Monsieur Bourguignon, and, having surrounded the Bois de Vincennes with a regiment of Gray Musketeers, besides light-horse and dragoons, had produced the result we have just related. The head of the plot had been taken in the fact, and as the prime minister knew the names of all the conspirators, there was little chance remaining for them of escape from the meshes of the vast net which was hourly closing around them.

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