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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Conspirators - Chapter 28. Fenelon's Successor
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The Conspirators - Chapter 28. Fenelon's Successor Post by :wen8213 Category :Long Stories Author :Alexandre Dumas Date :May 2012 Read :1284

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The Conspirators - Chapter 28. Fenelon's Successor

CHAPTER XXVIII. FENELON'S SUCCESSOR

The events which were to rouse our lovers from their happy idleness were preparing in silence. The Duc de Richelieu had kept his promise. The Marshal Villeroy, who had intended to remain a week away from the Tuileries, was recalled on the fourth day by a letter from his wife, who wrote to him that his presence was more than ever necessary near the king, the measles having declared itself at Paris, and having already attacked several persons in the Palais Royal. Monsieur de Villeroy came back directly, for, it will be remembered, that all those successive deaths which three or four years before had afflicted the kingdom, had been attributed to the measles, and the marshal would not lose this opportunity of parading his vigilance. It was his privilege, as governor of the king, never to leave him except by an order from himself, and to remain with him whoever entered, even though it was the regent himself. It was especially with regard to the regent that the marshal affected such extraordinary precaution; and as this suited the hatred of Madame de Maine and her party, they praised Monsieur de Villeroy highly, and spread abroad a report that he had found on the chimney piece of Louis XV. some poisoned bon-bons which had been placed there.

The result of all this was an increase of calumny against the Duc d'Orleans, and of importance on the part of the marshal, who persuaded the young king that he owed him his life. By this means he acquired great influence over the king, who, indeed, had confidence in no one but M. de Villeroy and M. de Frejus. M. de Villeroy was then the man they wanted for the message; and it was agreed that the following Monday, a day when the regent rarely saw the king, the two letters of Philip V. should be given to him, and M. de Villeroy should profit by his solitude with the king to make him sign the convocation of the States-General, and that it should be made public the next day before the hour of the regent's visit, so that there should be no means of drawing back.

While all these things were plotting against him, the regent was leading his ordinary life in the midst of his work, his studies, and his pleasures, and above all, of his family bickerings. As we have said, three of his daughters gave him serious trouble. Madame de Berry, whom he loved the best, because he had saved her when the most celebrated doctors had given her up, throwing off all restraint, lived publicly with Riom, whom she threatened to marry at every observation her father made. A strange threat, but which, if carried out, would at that time have caused far more scandal than the amours, which, at any other time, such a marriage would have sanctified.

Mademoiselle de Chartres persisted in her resolution of becoming a nun, although she still, under her novitiate, continued to enjoy all the pleasures she could manage to introduce into the cloister. She had got in her cell her guns and pistols, and a magnificent assortment of fireworks, with which she amused her young friends every evening; but she would not leave the convent, where her father went every Wednesday to visit her.

The third person of the family who gave him uneasiness was Mademoiselle de Valois, whom he suspected of being Richelieu's mistress, but without ever being able to obtain certain proof--although he had put his police on the watch, and had himself more than once paid her visits at hours when he thought it most probable he should meet him. These suspicions were also increased by her refusal to marry the Prince de Dombe, an excellent match, enriched as he was by the spoils of La Grande Mademoiselle. The regent had seized a new opportunity of assuring himself whether this refusal were caused by her antipathy to the young prince, or her love for the duke, by welcoming the overtures which Pleneuf, his ambassador at Turin, had made for a marriage between the beautiful Charlotte Aglae and the Prince de Piedmont. Mademoiselle de Valois rebelled again, but this time in vain; the regent, contrary to his usual easy goodness, insisted, and the lovers had no hope, when an unexpected event broke it off. Madame, the mother of the regent, with her German frankness, had written to the queen of Sicily, one of her most constant correspondents, that she loved her too much not to warn her that the princess, who was destined for the young prince, had a lover, and that that lover was the Duc de Richelieu. It may be supposed that this declaration put an end to the scheme.

The regent was at first excessively angry at this result of his mother's mania for writing letters, but he soon began to laugh at this epistolary escapade, and his attention was called off for the time by an important subject, namely that of Dubois, who was determined to become an archbishop. We have seen how on Dubois's return from London, the thing had first been broached under the form of a joke, and how the regent had received the recommendation of King George; but Dubois was not a man to be beaten by a first refusal. Cambray was vacant by the death of the Cardinal la Tremouille, and was one of the richest archbishoprics in the Church. A hundred and fifty thousand francs a year were attached to it, and it was difficult to say whether Dubois was most tempted by the title of successor to Fenelon, or by the rich benefice.

Dubois, on the first opportunity, brought it again on the tapis. The regent again tried to turn it off with a joke, but Dubois became more positive, and more pressing. The regent, thinking to settle it, defied Dubois to find a prelate who would consecrate him.

"Is it only that?" cried Dubois, joyously, "then I have the man at hand."

"Impossible!" said the regent.

"You will see," said Dubois; and he ran out.

In five minutes he returned.

"Well?" asked the regent.

"Well," answered Dubois, "I have got him."

"And who is the scoundrel who is willing to consecrate such another scoundrel as you?"

"Your first almoner, monseigneur."

"The bishop of Nantes!"

"Neither more nor less."

"Tressan!"

"Himself."

"Impossible!"

"Here he is."

And at this moment the door was opened, and the bishop of Nantes was announced.

"Come," cried Dubois, running to him, "his royal highness honors us both in naming me archbishop of Cambray, and in choosing you to consecrate me."

"M. de Nantes," asked the regent, "is it true that you consent to make the abbe an archbishop?"

"Your highness's wishes are commands for me."

"Do you know that he is neither deacon, archdeacon, nor priest?"

"Never mind, monseigneur," cried Dubois, "here is M. de Tressan, who will tell you all these orders may be conferred in a day."

"But there is no example of such a thing."

"Yes, Saint Ambloise."

"Then, my dear abbe," said the regent, laughing, "if you have all the fathers of the Church with you, I have nothing more to say, and I abandon you to M. de Tressan."

"I will give him back to you with the cross and miter, monseigneur."

"But you must have the grade of licentiate," continued the regent, who began to be amused at the discussion.

"I have a promise from the University of Orleans."

"But you must have attestations."

"Is there not Besons?"

"A certificate of good life and manners."

"I will have one signed by Noailles."

"No, there I defy you, abbe."

"Then your highness will give me one. The signature of the regent of France must have as much weight at Rome as that of a wicked cardinal."

"Dubois," said the regent, "a little more respect, if you please, for the princes of the Church."

"You are right, monseigneur. There is no saying what one may become."

"You, a cardinal!" cried the regent, laughing.

"Certainly. I do not see why I should not be pope some day."

"Well! Borgia was one."

"May God give us both a long life, monseigneur, and you will see that, and many other things."

"Pardieu!" said the regent, "you know that I laugh at death."

"Alas, too much."

"Well, you will make a poltroon of me by curiosity."

"It would be none the worse; and to commence, monseigneur would do well to discontinue his nocturnal excursions."

"Why?"

"In the first place because they endanger his life."

"What does that matter?"

"Then for another reason."

"What?"

"Because," said Dubois, assuming a hypocritical air, "they are a subject of scandal for the Church!"

"Go to the devil."

"You see, monsieur," said Dubois, turning to Tressan, "in the midst of what libertines and hardened sinners I am obliged to live. I hope that your eminence will consider my position, and will not be too severe upon me."

"We will do our best, monsieur," said Tressan.

"And when?" asked Dubois, who was unwilling to lose an hour.

"As soon as you are ready."

"I ask for three days."

"Very well; on the fourth I shall be at your orders."

"To-day is Saturday. On Wednesday then."

"On Wednesday," answered Tressan.

"Only I warn you beforehand, abbe," answered the regent, "that one person of some importance will be absent at your consecration."

"And who will dare to do me that injury?"

"I shall."

"You, monseigneur! You will be there, and in your official gallery."

"I say not."

"I bet a thousand louis."

"And I give you my word of honor."

"I double my bet."----"Insolent!"

"On Wednesday, M. de Tressan. At my consecration, monseigneur."

And Dubois left the room highly delighted, and spread about everywhere the news of his nomination. Still Dubois was wrong on one point, namely, the adhesion of the Cardinal de Noailles. No menace or promise could draw from him the attestation to good life and morals which Dubois flattered himself he should obtain at his hands. It is true that he was the only one who dared to make this holy and noble opposition to the scandal with which the Church was menaced. The University of Orleans gave the licenses, and everything was ready on the appointed day. Dubois left at five o'clock in the morning, in a hunting-dress, for Pautoix, where he found M. de Tressan, who, according to his promise, bestowed on him the deaconship, the archdeaconship, and the priesthood. At twelve all was finished; and at four, after having attended the regent's council, which was held at the old Louvre in consequence of the measles having, as we have said, attacked the Tuileries, Dubois returned home in the dress of an archbishop.

The first person whom he saw in his room was La Fillon. In her double quality of attachee to his secret police and to his public loves, she had admittance to his room at all hours; and in spite of the solemnity of the day, as she had said that she had business of importance to communicate, they had not dared to refuse her.

"Ah!" cried Dubois, on perceiving his old friend, "a lucky meeting."

"Pardieu! my dear gossip," answered La Fillon, "if you are ungrateful enough to forget your old friends I am not stupid enough to forget mine, particularly when they rise in the world."

"Ah! tell me," said Dubois, beginning to pull off his sacerdotal ornaments, "do you count on continuing to call me your gossip now that I am an archbishop?"

"More than ever. And I count on it so strongly that the first time the regent enters my house I shall ask him for an abbey, that we may still be on an equality one with the other."

"He comes to your house then? the libertine!"

"Alas! no more, my dear gossip. Ah! the good time is passed. But I hope that, thanks to you, it will return, and that the house will feel your elevation."

"Oh! my poor gossip," said Dubois, stooping down in order that La Fillon might unclasp his frock, "you see that now things are much changed, and that I can no longer visit you as I used to."

"You are proud. Philippe comes there."

"Philippe is only regent of France, and I am an archbishop. Do you understand? I want a mistress at a house where I can go without scandal; like Madame de Tencin, for example."

"Yes, who will deceive you for Richelieu."

"And how, on the contrary, do you know that she will not deceive Richelieu for me?"

"Hey-day! and will she manage your police and your love at the same time?"

"Perhaps. But apropos of police," answered Dubois, continuing to undress, "do you know that yours have slept infernally during three or four months, and that if this continues I shall be obliged to withdraw you from the superintendence?"

"Ah! diable!" cried La Fillon; "this is the way you treat your old friends. I come to make a revelation; well, you shall not know it."

"A revelation! and what about?"

"Pshaw! take away my superintendence; scoundrel that you are."

"Is it relating to Spain?" asked the archbishop, frowning, and feeling instinctively that the danger came from thence.

"It relates to nothing at all. Good-evening."

And La Fillon made toward the door.

"Come here," said Dubois, stepping toward his desk; and the two old friends, who understood each other so well, looked toward each other and laughed.

"Come, come," said La Fillon, "I see that all is not lost, and that there is yet some good in you. Come, open this little desk and show me what it contains, and I will open my mouth and show you what I have in my heart."

Dubois took out a rouleau of a hundred louis, and showed it to La Fillon.

"How much is it?" said she; "come, tell the truth; however, I shall count after you, to be sure."

"Two thousand four hundred francs; that is a pretty penny, it seems to me."

"Yes, for an abbe, but not for an archbishop."

"Do you not know to what an extent the finances are involved?"

"Well, what does that matter, you humbug, when Law is going to make millions for us?"

"Would you like in exchange ten thousand francs in Mississippi bonds?"

"Thanks, my dear, I prefer the hundred louis; give them to me; I am a good woman, and another day you will be more generous."

"Well, what have you to tell me? Come."--"First promise me one thing."

"What is it?"

"That as it is about an old friend, he shall come to no harm."

"But if your old friend is a beggar who deserves to be hanged, why should you cheat him of his due?"

"I have my own reasons."

"Go along; I promise nothing."

"Well, good-evening then. Here are the hundred louis."

"Ah! you are getting scrupulous all at once."

"Not at all; but I am under obligations to this man; he started me in the world."

"He may boast of having done a good thing for society that day."

"Rather, my friend; and he shall never have cause to repent it, for I will not speak a word to-day unless his life is safe."

"Well, safe it shall be, I promise you; are you content?"

"By what do you promise it me?"

"On the faith of an honest man."

"Ah! you are going to deceive me."

"Do you know that you are very tiresome?"

"Oh! I am very tiresome. Well, good-by."

"Gossip, I will have you arrested."

"What do I care?"

"You shall be sent to prison."

"That is a good joke."

"I will leave you to die there."

"Till you do it yourself. It will not be long."

"Well, what do you want?"

"My captain's life."

"You shall have it."

"On what faith?"

"On the faith of an archbishop."

"I want a better."

"On the faith of an abbe."

"Better still."

"On the faith of Dubois."

"That will do."

"First, I must tell you that my captain is the most out at elbows of any in the kingdom."

"Diable! he has a rival."

"Still, he will have the prize."

"Continue."

"Well, you must know that lately he has become as rich as Croesus."

"He must have robbed some millionaire."

"Incapable. Killed maybe--but robbed! What do you take him for?"

"Do you know where the money comes from?"

"Do you know the different coinages?"

"Yes."

"Where does this come from, then?"

"Ah! a Spanish doubloon."

"And without alloy, with the effigy of King Charles II. Doubloons which are worth forty-eight francs if they are worth a penny, and which run from his pockets like a stream, poor dear fellow."

"And when did he begin to sweat gold?"

"The day after the regent was nearly carried off in the Rue des Bons Enfants. Do you understand the apologue, gossip?"

"Yes; and why have you not told me before to-day?"

"Because his pockets were full then; they are now nearly empty, which is the time to find out where he will fill them again."

"And you wished to give him time to empty them?"

"Well, all the world must live."

"And so they shall; even your captain. But you understand that I must know what he does?"

"Day by day."

"And which of your girls does he love?"

"All when he has money."

"And when he has none?"

"La Normande."

"I know her; she is as sharp as a needle."

"Yes, but you must not reckon on her."

"Why not?"

"She loves him, the little fool."

"Ah! he is a lucky fellow."

"And he merits it. He has got the heart of a prince, not like you, old miser."

"Oh! you know that sometimes I am worse than the prodigal son, and it depends on you to make me so."

"I will do my best."

"Then day by day I shall know what your captain does?"

"You shall."

"On what faith?"

"On the faith of an honest woman."

"Something better."

"On the faith of Fillon."

"That will do."

"Adieu, monseigneur the archbishop."

"Adieu, gossip."

La Fillon was going toward the door, when at that moment an usher entered.

"Monseigneur," said he, "here is a man who wants to speak to your eminence."

"And who is he, idiot?"

"An employe of the royal library, who, in his spare time, makes copies."

"And what does he want?"

"He says that he has an important revelation to make to your eminence."

"Oh! it is some poor fellow begging."

"No, monseigneur; he says that it is a political affair."

"Diable! about what?"

"Relative to Spain."

"Send him in; and you, gossip, go into this closet."

"What for?"

"Suppose my writer and your captain should know each other?"

"Ah, that would be droll."

"Come, get in quickly."

La Fillon entered the closet which Dubois showed her.

An instant afterward, the usher opened the door and announced Monsieur Jean Buvat.

We must now show how this important personage came to be received in private audience by the archbishop of Cambray.

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