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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Conspirators - Chapter 20. The Conspiracy
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The Conspirators - Chapter 20. The Conspiracy Post by :jamn1.1 Category :Long Stories Author :Alexandre Dumas Date :May 2012 Read :1078

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The Conspirators - Chapter 20. The Conspiracy

CHAPTER XX. THE CONSPIRACY

D'Harmental, after having placed his hat and cloak on a chair, after having placed his pistols on his table, and his sword under his pillow, threw himself dressed on to his bed, and, more happy than Damocles, he slept, though, like Damocles, a sword hung over his head by a thread.

When he awoke it was broad daylight, and as the evening before he had forgotten to close his shutters, the first thing he saw was a ray of sunshine playing joyously across his room. D'Harmental thought that he had been dreaming, when he found himself again calm and tranquil in his little room, so neat and clean, while he might have been at that hour in some gloomy and somber prison. For a moment he doubted of its reality, remembering all that had passed the evening before; but all was there--the red ribbon, the hat and cloak on the chair, the pistols on the table, and the sword under the pillow; and, as a last proof, he himself in the costume of the day before, which he had not taken off, for fear of being surprised by some nocturnal visit.

D'Harmental jumped from his bed. His first look was for his neighbor's window: it was already open, and he saw Bathilde passing and repassing in her room; the second was for his glass, which told him that conspiracies suited him--indeed, his face was paler than usual, and therefore more interesting; his eyes were rather feverish, and therefore more expressive: so that it was evident that, when he had smoothed his hair and arranged his collar and cravat, he would be a most interesting person to Bathilde. D'Harmental did not say this, even to himself; but the bad instinct which always impels our poor souls to evil whispered these thoughts to him, so that when he went to his toilet he suited his dress to the expression of his face--that is to say, that he dressed entirely in black, that his hair was arranged with a charming negligence, and that he left his waistcoat more than usually open, to give place to his shirt-frill, which fell with an ease full of coquetry. All this was done in the most preoccupied and careless manner in the world; for D'Harmental, brave as he was, could not help remembering that at any minute he might be arrested; but it was by instinct that, when the chevalier gave the last look in the glass, before leaving his little dressing-room, he smiled at himself with a melancholy which doubled the charm of his countenance. There was no mistake as to the meaning of this smile, for he went directly to the window.

Perhaps Bathilde had also her projects for the moment when her neighbor should reappear, perhaps she had arranged a defense which should consist in not looking toward him, or in closing her window after a simple recognition; but at the noise her neighbor's window made in opening, all was forgotten, and she ran to the window, crying out:

"Ah! there you are. Mon Dieu! monsieur, how anxious you have made me!"

This exclamation was ten times more than D'Harmental had hoped for. If he, on his part, had prepared some well-turned and eloquent phrases, they were all forgotten, and clasping his hands:

"Bathilde! Bathilde!" he cried, "you are, then, as good as you are beautiful!"

"Why good?" asked Bathilde. "Did you not tell me that if I was an orphan, you also were without parents? Did you not say that I was your sister, and you were my brother?"

"Then, Bathilde, you prayed for me?"

"All night," replied the young girl blushing.

"And I thanked chance for having saved me, when I owed all to an angel's prayers!"

"The danger is then past?" cried Bathilde.

"The night was dark and gloomy," replied D'Harmental. "This morning, however, I was awakened by a ray of sunshine which a cloud may again conceal: so it is with the danger I have run; it has passed to give place to a great happiness--that of knowing you have thought of me, yet it may return. But stay," continued he, hearing steps on the staircase, "there it is, perhaps, approaching my door."

As he spoke, some one knocked three times at the chevalier's door.

"Who is there?" asked D'Harmental from the window, in a voice which, in spite of all his firmness, betrayed some emotion.

"A friend," answered a voice.

"Well?" asked Bathilde, with anxiety.

"Thanks to you, God still continues to protect me: it is a friend who knocks. Once again, thanks, Bathilde." And the chevalier closed his window, sending the young girl a last salute which was very like a kiss; then he opened to the Abbe Brigaud, who, beginning to be impatient, had knocked a second time.

"Well," said the abbe, on whose face it was impossible to see the smallest change, "what has happened, then, my dear pupil, that you are shut in thus by bolts and bars? Is it as a foretaste of the Bastille?"

"Holla! abbe," said D'Harmental, in a cheerful voice, "no such jokes, I beg; they might bring misfortune."

"But look! look!" said Brigaud, throwing his eyes round him, "would not any one suppose they were visiting a conspirator? Pistols on the table, a sword on the pillow, and a hat and cloak on the chair. Ah! my dear pupil, you are discomposed, it appears to me! Come, put all this in order, that I may not be able to perceive, when I pay my paternal visit, what passes during my absence."

D'Harmental obeyed, admiring, in this man of the Church, the sang-froid which he himself found it difficult to attain.

"Very good," said Brigaud, watching him, "and this shoulder-knot which you have forgotten, and which was never made for you (for it dates from the time when you were in jackets), put it away too; who knows?--you may want it."

"And what for, abbe?" asked D'Harmental, laughing; "to attend the regent's levee in?"

"Oh, no, but for a signal to some good fellow who is passing; come, put it away."

"My dear abbe," said D'Harmental, "if you are not the devil in person, you are at least one of his most intimate acquaintances."

"Oh, no! I am a poor fellow who goes his own quiet way, and who, as he goes, looks high and low, right and left, that is all. Look, there is a ray of spring, the first, which knocks humbly at your window, and you do not open it: one would suppose you were afraid of being seen. Ah, pardon! I did not know that, when your window opened, another must close."

"My dear abbe, you are full of wit," replied D'Harmental, "but terribly indiscreet; so much so, that, if you were a musketeer instead of an abbe, I should quarrel with you."

"And why? Because I wish to open you a path to glory, fortune, and, perhaps, love? It would be monstrous ingratitude."

"Well, let us be friends, abbe," said D'Harmental, offering his hand, "and I shall not be sorry to have some news."

"Of what?"

"How do I know? Of the Rue des Bons Enfants, where there has been a great deal going on, I believe; of the Arsenal, where, I believe, Madame de Maine has given a soiree; and even of the regent, who, if I may believe a dream I had, came back to the Palais Royal very late and rather agitated."

"All has gone well. The noise of the Rue des Bons Enfants, if there were any, is quite calm this morning; Madame de Maine has as much gratitude for those whom important affairs kept away from the Arsenal as she has contempt for those who were there; finally, the regent, dreaming last night, as usual, that he was king of France, has already forgotten that he was nearly the prisoner of the king of Spain. Now we must begin again."

"Ah, pardon, abbe," said D'Harmental; "but, with your permission, it is the turn of the others. I shall not be sorry to rest a little, myself."

"Ah, that goes badly with the news I bring you."

"What news?"

"It was decided last night that you should leave for Brittany this morning."

"For Brittany!--and what to do there?"

"You will know when you are there."

"And if I do not wish to go?"

"You will reflect, and go just the same."

"And on what shall I reflect?"

"That it would be the act of a madman to interrupt an enterprise near its end for a love only at its beginning. To abandon the interests of a princess of the blood to gain the good graces of a grisette."

"Abbe!" said D'Harmental.

"Oh, we must not get angry, my dear chevalier; we must reason! You engaged voluntarily in the affair we have in hand, and you promised to aid us in it. Would it be loyal to abandon us now for a repulse? No, no, my dear pupil; you must have a little more connection in your ideas if you mix in a conspiracy."

"It is just because I have connection in my ideas," replied D'Harmental, "that this time, as at first, before undertaking anything new, I wish to know what it is. I offered myself to be the arm, it is true; but, before striking, the arm must know what the head has decided. I risk my liberty. I risk my life. I risk something perhaps dearer to me still. I will risk all this in my own manner, with my eyes open, and not closed. Tell me first what I am to do in Brittany, and then perhaps I will go there."

"Your orders are that you should go to Rennes. There you will unseal this letter, and find your instructions."

"My orders! my instructions!"

"Are not these the terms which a general uses to his officers? And are they in the habit of disputing the commands they receive?"

"Not when they are in the service; but you know I am in it no longer."

"It is true. I forgot to tell you that you had re-entered it."----"I!"

"Yes, you. I have your brevet in my pocket." And Brigaud drew from his pocket a parchment, which he presented to D'Harmental, who unfolded it slowly, questioning Brigaud with his looks.

"A brevet!" cried the chevalier; "a brevet as colonel in one of the four regiments of carabineers! Whence comes this brevet?"

"Look at the signature."

"Louis-Auguste, Duc de Maine!"

"Well, what is there astonishing in that? As grand master of artillery, he has the nomination of twelve regiments. He gives you one to replace that which was taken from you, and, as your general, he sends you on a mission. Is it customary for soldiers in such a case to refuse the honor their chief does them in thinking of them? I am a churchman, and do not know."

"No, no, my dear abbe. It is, on the contrary, the duty of every officer of the king to obey his chief."

"Besides which," replied Brigaud, negligently, "in case the conspiracy failed, you would only have obeyed orders, and might throw the whole responsibility of your actions on another."

"Abbe!" cried D'Harmental, a second time.

"Well, if you do not go, I shall make you feel the spur."

"Yes, I am going. Excuse me, but there are some moments when I am half mad. I am now at the orders of Monsieur de Maine, or, rather, at those of Madame. May I not see her before I go, to fall at her feet, and tell her that I am ready to sacrifice my life at a word from her?"

"There, now, you are going into the opposite extreme; but no, you must not die; you must live--live to triumph over our enemies, and wear a beautiful uniform, with which you will turn all the women's heads."

"Oh, my dear Brigaud, there is but one I wish to please."

"Well, you shall please her first, and the others afterward."

"When must I go?"

"This instant."

"You will give me half an hour?"

"Not a second."

"But I have not breakfasted."

"You shall come and breakfast with me."

"I have only two or three thousand francs here, and that is not enough."

"You will find a year's pay in your carriage."

"And clothes?"

"Your trunks are full. Had I not your measure? You will not be discontented with my tailor."

"But at least, abbe, tell me when I may return."

"In six weeks to a day, the Duchesse de Maine will expect you at Sceaux."

"But at least you will permit me to write a couple of lines."

"Well, I will not be too exacting."

The chevalier sat down and wrote:


"DEAR BATHILDE--To-day it is more than a danger which
threatens me; it is a misfortune which overtakes me. I
am forced to leave this instant, without seeing you,
without bidding you adieu. I shall be six weeks absent.
In the name of Heaven, Bathilde, do not forget him who
will not pass an hour without thinking of you.

RAOUL."


This letter written, folded, and sealed, the chevalier rose and went to the window; but as we have said, that of his neighbor was closed when Brigaud appeared. There was then no means of sending to Bathilde the dispatch destined for her. D'Harmental made an impatient gesture. At this moment they heard a scratching at the door. The abbe opened it, and Mirza appeared, guided by her instinct, and her greediness, to the giver of the bon-bons, and making lively demonstrations of joy.

"Well," said Brigaud, "who shall say God is not good to lovers? You wanted a messenger, and here is one."

"Abbe, abbe," said D'Harmental, shaking his head, "do not enter into my secrets before I wish it."

"Oh," replied Brigaud, "a confessor, you know, is an abyss."

"Then not a word will pass your lips?"

"On my honor, chevalier."

D'Harmental tied the letter to Mirza's neck, gave her a piece of sugar as a reward for the commission she was about to accomplish; and, half sad at having lost his beautiful neighbor for six weeks, half glad at having regained forever his beautiful uniform, he took his money, put his pistols into his pockets, fastened on his sword, took his hat and cloak, and followed the Abbe Brigaud.

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