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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Conspirators - Chapter 22. The Queen Of The Greenlanders
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The Conspirators - Chapter 22. The Queen Of The Greenlanders Post by :jamn1.1 Category :Long Stories Author :Alexandre Dumas Date :May 2012 Read :2591

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The Conspirators - Chapter 22. The Queen Of The Greenlanders

CHAPTER XXII. THE QUEEN OF THE GREENLANDERS

As might have been expected, new surprises awaited the guests in the garden. These gardens, designed by Le Notre for Colbert, and sold by him to the Duc de Maine, had now really the appearance of a fairy abode. They were bounded only by a large sheet of water, in the midst of which was the pavilion of Aurora--so called because from this pavilion was generally given the signal that the night was finished, and that it was time to retire--and had, with their games of tennis, football, and tilting at the ring, an aspect truly royal. Every one was astonished on arriving to find all the old trees and graceful paths linked together by garlands of light which changed the night into brilliant day.

At the approach of Madame de Maine a strange party, consisting of seven individuals, advanced gravely toward her. They were dressed entirely in fur, and wore hairy caps, which hid their faces. They had with them a sledge drawn by two reindeer, and their deputation was headed by a chief wearing a long robe lined with fur, with a cap of fox-skin, on which were three tails. This chief, kneeling before Madame de Maine, addressed her.

"Madame! the Greenlanders have chosen me, as one of the chief among them, to offer you, on their parts, the sovereignty of their state."

This allusion was so evident, and yet so safe, that a murmur of approbation ran through the whole assembly, and the ambassador, visibly encouraged by this reception, continued--

"Fame has told us, even in the midst of our snows, in our little corner of the world, of the charms, the virtues, and the inclinations of your highness. We know that you abhor the sun."

This allusion was as quickly seized on as the first, for the sun was the regent's device, and as we have said, Madame de Maine was well known for her predilection in favor of night.

"Consequently, madame," continued the ambassador, "as in our geographical position God has blessed us with six months of night and six months of twilight, we come to propose to you to take refuge in our land from the sun which you so much dislike; and in recompense for that which you leave here, we offer you the title of Queen of the Greenlanders. We are certain that your presence will cause our arid plains to flower, and that the wisdom of your laws will conquer our stubborn spirit, and that, thanks to the gentleness of your reign, we shall renounce a liberty less sweet than your rule."

"But," said Madame de Maine, "it seems to me that the kingdom you offer me is rather distant, and I confess I do not like long voyages."

"We foresaw your reply, madame," replied the ambassador, "and, thanks to the enchantments of a powerful magician, have so arranged, that if you would not go to the mountain, the mountain should come to you. Hola, genii!" continued the chief, describing some cabalistic circles in the air with his wand, "display the palace of your new sovereign."

At this moment some fanciful music was heard; the veil which covered the pavilion of Aurora was raised as if by magic, and the water showed the reflection of a light so skillfully placed that it might have been taken for the moon. By this light was seen an island of ice at the foot of a snowy peak, on which was the palace of the Queen of the Greenlanders, to which led a bridge so light that it seemed to be made of a floating cloud. Then, in the midst of general acclamation, the ambassador took from the hands of one of his suite a crown, which he placed on the duchess's head, and which she received with as haughty a gesture as though it had been a real crown. Then, getting into the sledge, she went toward the marine palace; and, while the guards prevented the crowd from following her into her new domain, she crossed the bridge and entered, with the seven ambassadors. At the same instant the bridge disappeared, as if, by an illusion not less visible than the others, the skillful machinist had wished to separate the past from the future, and fireworks expressed the joy of the Greenlanders at seeing their new sovereign. Meanwhile Madame de Maine was introduced by an usher into the most retired part of the palace, and the seven ambassadors having thrown off caps and cloaks, she found herself surrounded by the Prince de Cellamare, Cardinal Polignac, the Marquis de Pompadour, the Comte de Laval, the Baron de Valef, the Chevalier d'Harmental, and Malezieux. As to the usher, who, after having carefully closed all the doors, came and mixed familiarly with all this noble assembly, he was no other than our old friend the Abbe Brigaud. Things now began to take their true form, and the fete, as the ambassadors had done, threw off mask and costume, and turned openly to conspiracy.

"Gentlemen," said the duchess, with her habitual vivacity, "we have not an instant to lose, as too long an absence would be suspicious. Let every one tell quickly what he has done, and we shall know what we are about."

"Pardon, madame," said the prince, "but you had spoken to me, as being one of ourselves, of a man whom I do not see here, and whom I am distressed not to count among our numbers."

"You mean the Duc de Richelieu?" replied Madame de Maine; "it is true he promised to come; he must have been detained by some adventure; we must do without him."

"Yes, certainly," replied the prince, "if he does not come we must do without him; but I confess that I deeply regret his absence. The regiment which he commands is at Bayonne, and for that reason might be very useful to us. Give orders, I beg, madame, that if he should come he should be admitted directly."

"Abbe," said Madame de Maine, turning to Brigaud, "you heard; tell D'Avranches."

The abbe went out to execute this order.

"Pardon, monsieur," said D'Harmental to Malezieux, "but I thought six weeks ago that the Duc de Richelieu positively refused to be one of us."

"Yes," answered Malezieux, "because he knew that he was intended to take the cordon bleu to the Prince of the Asturias, and he would not quarrel with the regent just when he expected the Golden Fleece as the reward of his embassy; but now the regent has changed his mind and deferred sending the order, so that the Duc de Richelieu, seeing his Golden Fleece put off till the Greek kalends, has come back to us."

"I have given the order," said the Abbe Brigaud, returning.

"Well," said the duchess, "now let us go to business. Laval, you begin."

"I, madame," said Laval, "as you know, have been in Switzerland, where, with the king of Spain's name and money, I raised a regiment in the Grisons. This regiment is ready to enter France at any moment, armed and equipped, and only waits the order to march."

"Very good, my dear count," said the duchess; "and if you do not think it below a Montmorency to be colonel of a regiment while waiting for something better, take the command of this one. It is a surer way of getting the Golden Fleece than taking the Saint Esprit into Spain."

"Madame," said Laval, "it is for you to appoint each one his place, and whatever you may appoint will be gratefully accepted by the most humble of your servants."

"And you, Pompadour," said Madame de Maine, thanking Laval by a gesture of the hand, "what have you done?"

"According to your highness's instructions," replied the marquis, "I went to Normandy, where I got the protestatior signed by the nobility. I bring you thirty-eight good signatures" (he drew a paper from his pocket). "Here is the request to the king, and here the signatures."

The duchess snatched the paper so quickly that she almost tore it, and throwing her eyes rapidly over it:

"Yes, yes," said she, "you have done well to put them so, without distinction or difference of rank, so that there may be no question of precedence. Guillaume-Alexandre de Vieux-Pont, Pierre-Anne-Marie de la Pailleterie, De Beaufremont, De Latour-Dupin, De Chatillon. Yes, you are right; these are the best and most faithful names in France. Thanks, Pompadour; you are a worthy messenger; your skill shall not be forgotten. And you, chevalier?" continued she, turning to D'Harmental with her irresistible smile.

"I, madame," said the chevalier, "according to your orders left for Brittany, and at Nantes I opened my dispatches and took my instructions."

"Well?" asked the duchess quickly.

"Well, madame," replied D'Harmental, "I have been as successful as Messieurs de Laval and Pompadour. I have the promises of Messieurs de Mont-Louis, De Bonamour, De Pont-Callet, and De Rohan Soldue. As soon as Spain shows a squadron in sight of the coasts, Brittany will rise."

"You see, prince," cried the duchess, addressing Cellamare, with an accent full of ambitious joy, "everything favors us."

"Yes," replied the prince; "but these four gentlemen, influential as they are, are not all that we must have. There are Laguerche-Saint-Amant, Les Bois-Davy, De Larochefoucault-Gondral, Les Decourt, and Les d'Eree, whom it would be important to gain."

"It is done, prince," said D'Harmental; "here are their letters;" and taking several from his pocket, he opened two or three by chance and read their contents.

"Well, prince," cried Madame de Maine, "what do you think now? Besides these three letters, here is one from Lavauguyon, one from Bois-Davy, one from Fumee. Stay, chevalier, here is our right hand; 'tis that which holds the pen--let it be a pledge to you that, if ever its signature should be royal, it would have nothing to refuse to you."

"Thanks, madame," said D'Harmental, kissing her hand respectfully, "but you have already given me more than I deserve, and success itself would recompense me so highly, by placing your highness in your proper position, that I should have nothing left to desire."

"And now, Valef, it is your turn," continued the duchess; "we kept you till the last, for you were the most important. If I understood rightly your signs during dinner, you are not displeased with their Catholic majesties."

"What would your highness say to a letter written by his highness Philippe himself?"

"Oh! it is more than I ever dared to hope for," cried Madame de Maine.

"Prince," said Valef, passing a paper to Cellamare, "you know his majesty's writing. Assure her royal highness, who does not dare to believe it, that this is from his own hand."

"It is," said Cellamare.

"And to whom is it addressed?" asked Madame de Maine, taking it from the prince's hands.

"To the king, Louis XV., madame," said the latter.

"Good!" said the duchess; "we will get it presented by the Marshal de Villeroy. Let us see what it says." And she read as rapidly as the writing permitted:


"'The Escurial, 16th March, 1718.

"'Since Providence has placed me on the throne of
Spain, I have never for an instant lost sight of the
obligations of my birth. Louis XIV., of eternal memory,
is always present to my mind. I seem always to hear
that great prince, at the moment of our separation,
saying to me, 'The Pyrenees exist no longer.' Your
majesty is the only descendant of my elder brother,
whose loss I feel daily. God has called you to the
succession of this great monarchy, whose glory and
interests will be precious to me till my death. I can
never forget what I owe to your majesty, to my country,
and to the memory of my ancestor.

"'My dear Spaniards (who love me tenderly, and who are
well assured of my love for them, and not jealous of
the sentiments which I hold for you) are well assured
that our union is the base of public tranquillity. I
flatter myself that my personal interests are still
dear to a nation which has nourished me in its bosom,
and that a nobility who has shed so much blood to
support them will always look with love on a king who
feels it an honor to be obliged to them, and to have
been born among them.'


"This is addressed to you, gentlemen," said the duchess, interrupting herself; and, looking round her, she continued, impatient to know the rest of the letter:


"'What, then, can your faithful subjects think of a
treaty signed against me, or rather against yourself?

"'Since your exhausted finances can no longer support
the current expenses of peace, it is desired that you
should unite with my most mortal enemy, and should make
war on me, if I do not consent to give up Sicily to the
archduke. I will never subscribe to these conditions:
they are insupportable to me.

"'I do not enter into the fatal, consequences of this
alliance. I only beg your majesty to convoke the
States-General directly, to deliberate on an affair of
such great consequence.'"


"The States-General!" murmured the Cardinal de Polignac.

"Well, what does your eminence say to the States-General?" interrupted Madame de Maine, impatiently. "Has this measure the misfortune not to meet with your approbation?"

"I neither blame nor approve, madame," replied the cardinal; "I only remember that this convocation was made during the league, and that Philip came off badly."

"Men and times are changed, cardinal," replied the duchess; "we are not in 1594, but in 1718. Philip II. was Flemish, and Philip V. is French. The same results cannot take place, since the causes are different." And she went on with the letter:


"'I ask this in the name of the blood which unites
us--in the name of the great king from whom we have our
origin--in the name of your people and mine. If ever
there was a necessity to listen to the voice of the
French nation, it is now. It is indispensable to learn
what they think: whether they wish to declare war on
us. As I am ready to expose my life to maintain its
glory and interests, I hope you will reply quickly to
the propositions I make to you. The Assembly will
prevent the unfortunate results which threaten us, and
the forces of Spain will only be employed to sustain
the greatness of France, and to fight her enemies, as I
shall never employ them but to show your majesty my
sincere regard and affection.'


"What do you think of that, gentlemen? Can his majesty say more?"

"He might have joined to this an epistle addressed directly to the States-General," answered the Cardinal de Polignac. "This letter, if the king had deigned to send it, would have had a great influence on their deliberations."

"Here it is," said the Prince de Cellamare, taking a paper from his pocket.

"What, prince!" cried the cardinal.

"I say that his majesty is of the same opinion as your eminence, and has sent me this letter, which is the complement of the letter which the Baron de Valef has."

"Then nothing is wanting," cried Madame de Maine.

"We want Bayonne," said the Prince de Cellamare;--"Bayonne, the door of France."

At this moment D'Avranches entered, announcing the Duc de Richelieu.

"And now, prince, there is nothing wanting," said the Marquis de Pompadour, laughing: "for here is he who holds the key."

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