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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Conspirators - Chapter 23. The Duc De Richelieu
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The Conspirators - Chapter 23. The Duc De Richelieu Post by :jamn1.1 Category :Long Stories Author :Alexandre Dumas Date :May 2012 Read :3362

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The Conspirators - Chapter 23. The Duc De Richelieu

CHAPTER XXIII. THE DUC DE RICHELIEU

"At last!" cried the duchess, seeing Richelieu enter. "Are you, then, always the same? Your friends cannot count on you any more than your mistresses."

"On the contrary, madame," said Richelieu, approaching the duchess, "for to-day, more than ever, I prove to your highness that I can reconcile everything."

"Then you have made a sacrifice for us, duke," said Madame de Maine, laughing.

"Ten thousand times greater than you can imagine. Who do you think I have left?"

"Madame de Villars?" asked the duchess.

"Oh no! better than that."

"Madame de Duras?"

"No."

"Madame de Nesle?"

"Bah!"

"Madame de Polignac? Ah! pardon, cardinal."

"Go on. It does not concern his eminence."

"Madame de Soubise, Madame de Gabriant, Madame de Gace?"

"No, no, no."

"Mademoiselle de Charolais?"

"I have not seen her since my last trip to the Bastille."

"Mademoiselle de Valois?"

"Oh! I intend her for my wife, when we have succeeded, and I am a Spanish prince. No, madame; I have left, for your highness, the two most charming grisettes."

"Grisettes! Ah! fie!" cried the duchess, with a movement of contempt, "I did not think that you descended to such creatures."

"Creatures! two charming women! Madame Michelin and Madame Renaud. Do you not know them? Madame Michelin, a beautiful blonde; her husband is a carpet manufacturer; I recommend him to you, duchesse. Madame Renaud, an adorable brunette, with blue eyes and black lashes, and whose husband is--. Ma foi! I do not remember exactly--"

"What M. Michelin is, probably," said Pompadour, laughing.

"Pardon, duke," replied Madame de Maine, who had lost all curiosity for Richelieu's love adventures as soon as they traveled from a certain set, "may I venture to remind you that we met here on important business!"

"Oh, yes! we are conspiring, are we not?"

"Had you forgotten it?"

"Ma foi! a conspiracy is not one of the gayest thing's in the world, therefore I forget it whenever I can; but that is nothing--whenever it is necessary I can come back to it. Now let us see: how does the conspiracy go on?"

"Here, duke, look at these letters, and you will know as much as we do."

"Oh! your highness must excuse me," said Richelieu; "but really I do not read those which are addressed to me, and I have seven or eight hundred, in the most charming writings, which I am keeping to amuse my old days. Here, Malezieux, you, who are clearness itself, give me a report."

"Well, these letters are the engagements of the Breton nobles to sustain the rights of her highness."

"Very good."

"This paper is the protestation of the nobility."

"Oh! give it me. I protest."

"But you do not know against what."

"Never mind, I protest all the same."

And, taking the paper, he wrote his name after that of Guillaume Antoine de Chastellux, which was the last signature.

"Let him alone," said Cellamare to the duchess, "Richelieu's name is useful everywhere."

"And this letter?" asked the duke, pointing to the missive of Philip V.

"That letter," continued Malezieux, "is written by King Philip himself."

"Then his Catholic majesty writes worse than I do," answered Richelieu. "That pleases me. Raffe always says it is impossible."

"If the letter is badly written, the news it contains is none the less good," said Madame de Maine, "for it is a letter begging the king of France to assemble the States-General to oppose the treaty of the quadruple alliance."

"And is your highness sure of the States-General?"

"Here is the protestation which engages the nobility. The cardinal answers for the clergy, and there only remains the army."

"The army," said Laval, "is my affair. I have the signs-manual of twenty-two colonels."

"First," said Richelieu, "I answer for my regiment, which is at Bayonne, and which, consequently, is able to be of great service to us."

"Yes," said Cellamare, "and we reckon on it, but I heard that there was a question of changing the garrison."

"Seriously?"

"Very seriously. You understand, duke? We must be beforehand."

"Instantly--paper--ink; I will write to the Duc de Berwick. At the moment of commencing a campaign, no one will be astonished at my begging not to be removed from the theater of war."

The duchess hastened to give Richelieu what he asked, and taking a pen, presented it to him herself. The duke bowed, took the pen, and wrote a letter to the Duc de Berwick, begging that his regiment should not be removed till May.

"Now read, madame," continued the duke, passing the paper to Madame de Maine. The duchess took the letter, read it, and passed it to her neighbor, who passed it on, so that it made the round of the table. Malezieux, who had it the last, could not repress a slight smile.

"Ah! poet," said Richelieu, "you are laughing; I suppose I have had the misfortune to offend that ridiculous prude called orthography. You know I am a gentleman, and they forgot to teach me French; thinking, I suppose, that for fifteen hundred francs a year I can always have a valet-de-chambre, who could write my letters and make my verses. This will not prevent me, my dear Malezieux, from being in the Academy, not only before you, but before Voltaire."

"In which case, will your valet-de-chambre write your discourse?"

"He is working at it, and you will see that it will not be worse than those that some academicians of my acquaintance have done themselves."

"Duke," said Madame de Maine, "it will doubtless be a curious thing to see your reception into the illustrious body of which you speak, and I promise you to employ myself to-morrow in procuring a seat for that day; but this evening we are occupied with other things."

"Well," said Richelieu, "speak, I listen. What have you resolved?"

"To obtain from the king, by means of these two letters, the convocation of the States-General; then, sure as we are of the three orders, we depose the regent, and name Philip V. in his place."

"And as Philip V. cannot leave Madrid, he gives us full powers, and we govern France in his stead. Well, it is not badly arranged, all that, but to convoke the States-General you must have an order from the king."

"The king will sign it."

"Without the regent's knowledge?"

"Without the regent's knowledge."

"Then you have promised the bishop of Frejus to make him a cardinal."

"No; but I will promise Villeroy a title and the Golden Fleece."

"I am afraid, madame," said the Prince of Cellamare, "that all this will not determine the marshal to undertake so grave a responsibility."

"It is not the marshal we want; it is his wife."

"Ah! you remind me," said Richelieu, "I undertake it."

"You!" said the duchess with astonishment.

"Yes, madame," replied Richelieu, "you have your correspondence, I have mine. I have seen seven or eight letters that you have received to-day. Will your highness have the goodness to look at one I received yesterday?"

"Is this letter for me only, or may it be read aloud?"

"We are among discreet people, are we not?" said Richelieu, looking round him.

"I think so," replied the duchess, "besides, the gravity of the situation."

The duchess took the letter, and read:

"'MONSIEUR LE DUC--I am a woman of my word. My husband
is on the eve of setting out for the little journey you
know of. To-morrow, at eleven o'clock, I shall be at
home for you only. Do not think that I decide on this
step without having put all the blame on the shoulders
of Monsieur de Villeroy. I begin to fear for him, as
you may have undertaken to punish him. Come, then, at
the appointed hour, to prove to me that I am not too
much to blame in conspiring with you against my lord
and master.'"


"Ah! pardon, this is not the one I intended to show you, that is the one of the day before yesterday. Here is yesterday's."

The duchess took the second letter, and read as follows:

"'MY DEAR ARMAND,'

--"Is this it, or are you mistaken again?" said the duchess to Richelieu.

"No, no; this time it is right."

The duchess went on.


"'MY DEAR ARMAND--You are a dangerous advocate when you
plead against Monsieur de Villeroy. I need to
exaggerate your talents to diminish my weakness. You
had, in my heart, a judge, interested in your gaining
your cause. Come to-morrow to plead again, and I will
give you an audience.'


"And have you been there?"

"Certainly, madame."

"And the duchess?"

"Will do, I hope, all we desire; and, as she makes her husband do whatever she likes, we shall have our order for the convocation of the States-General on his return."

"And when will he return?"

"In a week."

"And can you be faithful all that time?"

"Madame, when I have undertaken a cause, I am capable of the greatest sacrifices to forward it."

"Then we may count on your word?"

"I pledge myself."

"You hear, gentlemen?" said the Duchesse de Maine. "Let us continue to work. You, Laval, act on the army. You, Pompadour, on the nobility. You, cardinal, on the clergy, and let us leave the Duc de Richelieu to act on Madame de Villeroy."

"And for what day is our next meeting fixed?" asked Cellamare.

"All depends on circumstances, prince," replied the duchess. "At any rate, if I have not time to give you notice, I will send the same carriage and coachman to fetch you who took you to the Arsenal the first time you came there." Then, turning toward Richelieu, "You give us the rest of the evening, duke?"

"I ask your pardon," replied Richelieu, "but it is absolutely impossible; I am expected in the Rue des Bons Enfants."

"What! have you made it up with Madame de Sabran?"

"We never quarreled, madame."

"Take care, duke; that looks like constancy."

"No, madame, it is calculation."

"Ah! I see that you are on the road toward becoming devoted."

"I never do things by halves, madame."

"Well, we will follow your example, Monsieur le Duc. And now we have been an hour and a half away, and should, I think, return to the gardens, that our absence may not be too much noticed; besides, I think the Goddess of Night is on the shore, waiting to thank us for the preference we have given her over the sun."

"With your permission, however, madame," said Laval, "I must keep you an instant longer, to tell you the trouble I am in."

"Speak, count," replied the duchess; "what is the matter?"

"It is about our requests and our protestations. It was agreed, if you remember, that they should be printed by workmen who cannot read."

"Well."

"I bought a press, and established it in the cellar of a house behind the Val-de-Grace. I enlisted the necessary workmen, and, up to the present time, have had the most satisfactory results; but the noise of our machine has given rise to the suspicion that we were coining false money, and yesterday the police made a descent on the house; fortunately, there was time to stop the work and roll a bed over the trap, so that they discovered nothing. But as the visit might be renewed, and with a less fortunate result, as soon as they were gone I dismissed the workmen, buried the press, and had all the proofs taken to my own house."

"And you did well, count," cried the Cardinal de Polignac.

"But what are we to do now?" asked Madame de Maine.

"Have the press taken to my house," said Pompadour.

"Or mine," said Valef.

"No, no," said Malezieux; "a press is too dangerous a means. One of the police may easily slip in among the workmen, and all will be lost. Besides, there cannot be much left to print."

"The greater part is done," said Laval.

"Well," continued Malezieux, "my advice is, as before, to employ some intelligent copyist, whose silence we can buy."

"Yes, this will be much safer," said Polignac.

"But where can we find such a man?" said the prince. "It is not a thing for which we can take the first comer."

"If I dared," said the Abbe Brigaud.

"Dare, abbe! dare!" said the duchess.

"I should say that I know the man you want."

"Did I not tell you," said Pompadour, "that the abbe was a precious man?"

"But is he really what we want?" said Polignac.

"Oh, if your eminence had him made on purpose he could not do better," said Brigaud. "A true machine, who will write everything and see nothing."

"But as a still greater precaution," said the prince, "we might put the most important papers into Spanish."

"Then, prince," said Brigaud, "I will send him to you."

"No, no," said Cellamare; "he must not set his foot within the Spanish embassy. It must be done through some third party."

"Yes, yes, we will arrange all that," said the duchess. "The man is found--that is the principal thing. You answer for him, Brigaud?"

"I do, madame."

"That is all we require. And now there is nothing to keep us any longer," continued the duchess. "Monsieur d'Harmental, give me your arm, I beg."

The chevalier hastened to obey Madame de Maine, who seized this opportunity to express her gratitude for the courage he had shown in the Rue des Bons Enfants, and his skill in Brittany. At the door of the pavilion, the Greenland envoys--now dressed simply as guests--found a little galley waiting to take them to the shore. Madame de Maine entered first, seated D'Harmental by her, leaving Malezieux to do the honors to Cellamare and Richelieu. As the duchess had said, the Goddess of Night, dressed in black gauze spangled with golden stars, was waiting on the other side of the lake, accompanied by the twelve Hours; and, as the duchess approached, they began to sing a cantata appropriate to the subject. At the first notes of the solo D'Harmental started, for the voice of the singer had so strong a resemblance to another voice, well known to him and dear to his recollection, that he rose involuntarily to look for the person whose accents had so singularly moved him; unfortunately, in spite of the torches which the Hours, her subjects, held, he could not distinguish the goddess's features, which were covered with a long veil, similar to her dress. He could only hear that pure, flexible, sonorous voice, and that easy and skillful execution, which he had so much admired when he heard it for the first time in the Rue du Temps-Perdu; and each accent of that voice, becoming more distinct as he approached the shore, made him tremble from head to foot. At length the solo ceased, and the chorus recommenced; but D'Harmental, insensible to all other thoughts, continued to follow the vanished notes.

"Well, Monsieur d'Harmental," said the duchess, "are you so accessible to the charms of music that you forget that you are my cavalier?"

"Oh, pardon, madame," said D'Harmental, leaping to the shore, and holding out his hand to the duchess, "but I thought I recognized that voice, and I confess it brought back such memories!"

"That proves that you are an habitue of the opera, my dear chevalier, and that you appreciate, as it deserves, Mademoiselle Berry's talent."

"What, is that voice Mademoiselle Berry's?" asked D'Harmental, with astonishment.

"It is, monsieur; and if you do not believe me," replied the duchess, "permit me to take Laval's arm, that you may go and assure yourself of it."

"Oh, madame," said D'Harmental, respectfully retaining the hand she was about to withdraw, "pray excuse me. We are in the gardens of Armida, and a moment of error may be permitted among so many enchantments;" and, presenting his arm again to the duchess, he conducted her toward the chateau. At this instant a feeble cry was heard, and feeble as it was, it reached D'Harmental's heart, and he turned involuntarily.

"What is it?" asked the duchess, with an uneasiness mixed with impatience.

"Nothing, nothing," said Richelieu; "it is little Berry, who has the vapors. Make yourself easy, madame. I know the disease; it is not dangerous. If you particularly wish it, I would even go to-morrow to learn how she is."

Two hours after this little accident--which was not sufficient to disturb the fete in any way--D'Harmental was brought back to Paris by the Abbe Brigaud, and re-entered his little attic in the Rue du Temps-Perdu, from which he had been absent six weeks.

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