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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Conspirators - Chapter 19. The Abbe Dubois
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The Conspirators - Chapter 19. The Abbe Dubois Post by :jamn1.1 Category :Long Stories Author :Alexandre Dumas Date :May 2012 Read :936

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The Conspirators - Chapter 19. The Abbe Dubois

CHAPTER XIX. THE ABBE DUBOIS

All the world knows the commencement of the Abbe Dubois. We will not enlarge on the history of his youth, which may be found in the memoirs of the time, and particularly in those of the implacable Saint-Simon. Dubois has not been calumniated--it was impossible; but all the evil has been told of him, and not quite all the good.

There was in his antecedents, and in those of Alberoni, his rival, a great resemblance, but the genius was on the side of Dubois; and in the long struggle with Spain, which the nature of our subject does not allow us to do more than indicate, all the advantage was with the son of the apothecary over the son of the gardener. Dubois preceded Figaro, to whom he probably served as type; but, more fortunate than he, he passed from the office to the drawing-room, and from the drawing-room to the court. All these successive advantages were the rewards of various services, private or public.

His last negotiation was his chef-d'oeuvre; it was more than the ratification of the treaty of Utrecht; it was a treaty more advantageous still for France. The emperor not only renounced all right to the crown of Spain, as Philip V. had renounced all his to the crown of France, but he entered, with England and Holland, into a league, formed at once against Spain on the south, and against Sweden and Russia on the north. The division of the five or six great states of Europe was established by this treaty on so solid and just a basis that, after a hundred years of wars and revolutions, all these states, except the empire, remain in the same situation that they then were.

On his part, the regent, not very particular by nature, loved this man, who had educated him, and whose fortune he had made. The regent appreciated in Dubois the talents he had, and was not too severe on the vices from which he was not exempt. There was, however, between the regent and Dubois an abyss. The regent's vices and virtues were those of a gentleman, Dubois' those of a lackey. In vain the regent said to him, at each new favor that he granted, "Dubois, take care, it is only a livery-coat that I am putting on your back." Dubois, who cared about the gift, and not about the manner in which it was given, replied, with that apish grimace which belonged to him, "I am your valet, monseigneur, dress me always the same."

Dubois, however, loved the regent, and was devoted to him. He felt that this powerful hand alone had raised him from the sink in which he had been found, and to which, hated and despised as he was by all, a sign from the master might restore him. He watched with a personal interest the hatreds and plots which might reach the prince; and more than once, by the aid of a police often better managed than that of the lieutenant-general, and which extended, by means of Madame de Tencin, into the highest aristocracy, and, by means of La Fillon, to the lowest grades of society, he had defeated conspiracies of which Messire Voyer d'Argenson had not even heard a whisper.

Therefore the regent, who appreciated the services which Dubois had rendered him, and could still render him, received the ambassador with open arms. As soon as he saw him appear, he rose, and, contrary to the custom of most princes, who depreciate the service in order to diminish the reward--

"Dubois," said he, joyously, "you are my best friend, and the treaty of the quadruple alliance will be more profitable to King Louis XV. than all the victories of his ancestor, Louis XIV."

"Bravo!" said Dubois, "you do me justice, monseigneur, but, unluckily, every one is not equally grateful."

"Ah! ah!" said the regent, "have you met my mother? She has just left the room."

"And how is his majesty?" asked Dubois, with a smile full of a detestable hope. "He was very poorly when I left."

"Well, abbe, very well," answered the prince, gravely. "God will preserve him to us, I hope, for the happiness of France, and the shame of our calumniators."

"And monseigneur sees him every day as usual?"

"I saw him yesterday, and I even spoke to him of you."

"Bah! and what did you tell him?"

"I told him that in all probability you had just secured the tranquillity of his reign."

"And what did the king answer?"

"What did he answer! He answered, my friend, that he did not think abbes were so useful."

"His majesty is very witty; and old Villeroy was there, without doubt?"

"As he always is."

"With your permission, I must send that old fellow to look for me at the other end of France some fine morning. His insolence to you begins to tire my patience."

"Leave him alone, Dubois, leave him alone, everything will come in time."

"Even my archbishopric."

"Ha! What is this new folly?"

"New folly, monseigneur! on my honor nothing can be more serious."

"Oh! this letter from the king of England, which asks me for an archbishopric for you--"

"Did your highness not recognize the style?"

"You dictated it, you rascal!"

"To Nericault Destouches, who got the king to sign it."

"And the king signed it as it is, without saying anything?"

"Exactly. 'You wish,' said he to our poet, 'that a Protestant prince should interfere to make an archbishop in France. The regent will read my recommendation, will laugh at it, and pay no attention to it.' 'Yes, yes, sire,' replied Destouches, who has more wit than he puts into his verses, 'the regent will laugh at it, but after all will do what your majesty asks.'"

"Destouches lied."

"Destouches never spoke more truly, monseigneur."

"You an archbishop! King George would deserve that, in return, I should point out to him some rascal like you for the archbishopric of York when it becomes vacant."

"I defy you to find my equal--I know but one man."

"And who is he? I should like to know him."

"Oh, it is useless, he is already placed, and, as his place is good, he would not change it for all the archbishoprics in the world."

"Insolent!"

"With whom are you angry, monseigneur?"

"With a fellow who wants to be an archbishop, and who has never yet officiated at the communion table."

"I shall be all the better prepared."

"But the archdeaconship, the deaconship, the priesthood."

"Bah! We will find somebody; some second Jean des Entomeures, who will dispatch all that in an hour."

"I defy you to find him."

"It is already done."

"And who is that?"

"Your first almoner, the bishop of Nantes, Tressan."

"The fellow has an answer for everything.--But your marriage?"

"My marriage!"

"Yes, Madame Dubois."

"Madame Dubois! Who is that?"

"What, fellow, have you assassinated her?"

"Monseigneur forgets that it is only three days since he gave her her quarter's pension."

"And if she should oppose your archbishopric?"

"I defy her; she has no proofs."

"She may get a copy of the marriage certificate."

"There is no copy without an original."

"And the original?"

"Here it is," said Dubois, drawing from his pocket a little paper, containing a pinch of ashes.

"What! and are you not afraid that I shall send you to the galleys?"

"If you wish to do so, now is the time, for I hear the lieutenant of police speaking in the antechamber."

"Who sent for him?"

"I did."

"What for?"

"To find fault with him."

"For what reason?"

"You will hear. It is understood then--I am an archbishop."

"And have you already chosen your archbishopric?"

"Yes, I take Cambray."

"Peste! you are not modest."

"Oh, mon Dieu! it is not for the profit, it is for the honor of succeeding Fenelon."

"Shall we have a new Telemachus?"

"Yes, if your highness will find me a Penelope in the kingdom."

"Apropos of Penelope, you know that Madame de Sabran--"

"I know all."

"Ah, abbe; your police, then, is as good as ever!"

"You shall judge."

Dubois stretched out his hand, rang the bell, and a messenger appeared.

"Send the lieutenant-general," said Dubois.

"But, abbe, it seems to me that it is you who give orders here now."

"It is for your good, monseigneur.--Let me do it."

"Well, well!" said the regent, "one must be indulgent to new-comers."

Messire Voyer d'Argenson entered--he was as ugly as Dubois, but his ugliness was of a very different kind. He was tall, thick, and heavy; wore an immense wig, had great bushy eyebrows, and was invariably taken for the devil by children who saw him for the first time. But with all this, he was supple, active, skillful, intriguing, and fulfilled his office conscientiously, when he was not turned from his nocturnal duties by other occupations.

"Messire d'Argenson," said Dubois, without even leaving the lieutenant-general time to finish his bow, "monseigneur, who has no secrets from me, has sent for you, that you may tell me in what costume he went out last night, in whose house he passed the evening, and what happened to him on leaving it. I should not need to ask these questions if I had not just arrived from London; you understand, that as I traveled post from Calais, I can know nothing of them."

"But," said D'Argenson, who thought these questions concealed some snare, "did anything extraordinary happen last evening? I confess I received no report; I hope no accident happened to monseigneur?"

"Oh, no, none; only monseigneur, who went out at eight o'clock in the evening, as a French guard, to sup with Madame de Sabran, was nearly carried off on leaving her house."

"Carried off!" cried D'Argenson, turning pale, while the regent could not restrain a cry of astonishment, "carried off! and by whom?"

"Ah!" said Dubois, "that is what we do not know, and what you ought to know, Messire d'Argenson, if you had not passed your time at the convent of the Madeleine de Traisnel."

"What, D'Argenson! you, a great magistrate, give such an example!" said the regent, laughing. "Never mind, I will receive you well, if you come, as you have already done in the time of the late king, to bring me, at the end of the year, a journal of my acts."

"Monseigneur," said the lieutenant, stammering, "I hope your highness does not believe a word of what the Abbe Dubois says."

"What! instead of being humiliated by your ignorance, you give me the lie. Monseigneur, I will take you to D'Argenson's seraglio; an abbess of twenty-six, and novices of fifteen; a boudoir in India chintz, and cells hung with tapestry. Oh, Monsieur le Lieutenant de Police knows how to do things well."

The regent held his sides with laughing, seeing D'Argenson's disturbed face.

"But," replied the lieutenant of police, trying to bring back the conversation to the less disagreeable, though more humiliating subject, "there is not much merit, abbe, in your knowing the details of an event, which, doubtless, monseigneur himself told you."

"On my honor," said the regent, "I did not tell him a single word."

"Listen, lieutenant; is it monseigneur also who told me the story of the novice of the Faubourg Saint-Marceau, whom you so nearly carried off over the convent walls? Is it monseigneur who told me of that house which you have had built under a false name, against the wall of the convent of the Madeleine, so that you can enter at all hours by a door hidden in a closet, and which opens on to the sacristy of the chapel of Saint Mark, your patron? No, no, all that, my dear lieutenant, is the infancy of the art, and he who only knew this, would not, I hope, be worthy to hold a candle to you."

"Listen, abbe," replied the lieutenant of police with a grave air, "if all you have told me about monseigneur is true, the thing is serious and I am in the wrong not to know it, if any one does--but there is no time lost. We will find the culprits, and punish them as they deserve."

"But," said the regent, "you must not attach too much importance to this; they were, probably, some drunken officers who wished to amuse their companions."

"It is a conspiracy, monseigneur," replied Dubois, "which emanates from the Spanish embassy, passing through the Arsenal before it arrives at the Palais Royal."

"Again, Dubois?"

"Always, monseigneur."

"And you, D'Argenson, what is your opinion?"

"That your enemies are capable of anything, monseigneur; but that we will mar their plots, whatever they may be, I give you my word."

At this moment the door opened, and the Duc de Maine was announced, who came to attend the council, and whose privilege it was, as prince of the blood, not to be kept waiting. He advanced with that timid and uneasy air which was natural to him, casting a side-glance over the three persons in whose presence he found himself, as though to discover what subject occupied them at his entrance. The regent understood his thought.

"Welcome, my cousin," said he; "these two bad fellows--whom you know--have just been assuring me that you are conspiring against me."

The Duc de Maine turned as pale as death, and was obliged to lean for support on the crutch-shaped stick which he carried.

"And I hope, monseigneur," replied he, in a voice which he vainly endeavored to render firm, "that you did not give ear to such a calumny."

"Oh, mon Dieu! no!" replied the regent negligently; "but they are obstinate, and declare that they will take you one day in the fact. I do not believe it, but at any rate I give you warning; be on your guard against them, for they are clever fellows, I warrant you."

The Duc de Maine opened his mouth to give some contemptible excuse, when the door opened again, and the groom announced successively the Duc de Bourbon, the Prince de Conti, the Duc de St. Simon, the Duc de Guiche, captain of the guards; the Duc Noailles, president of the council of finance; the Duc d'Antin, superintendent of ships; the Marshal d'Uxelles, president of the council of foreign affairs; the Archbishop of Troyes; the Marquis de Lavrilliere; the Marquis d'Efflat; the Duc de Laforce; the Marquis de Torcy; and the Marshals de Villeroy, d'Estrees, de Villars, and de Bezons.

As these grave personages were gathered together to deliberate upon the treaty of the quadruple alliance, brought from London by Dubois, and as the treaty of the quadruple alliance only figures secondarily in this history, our readers will excuse our leaving the sumptuous reception-room in the Palais Royal, to lead them back to the attic in the Rue du Temps-Perdu.

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