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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Conspirators - Chapter 33. The Beginning Of The End
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The Conspirators - Chapter 33. The Beginning Of The End Post by :wen8213 Category :Long Stories Author :Alexandre Dumas Date :May 2012 Read :1449

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The Conspirators - Chapter 33. The Beginning Of The End

CHAPTER XXXIII. THE BEGINNING OF THE END

The same day, toward two o'clock in the afternoon, while D'Harmental, profiting by Buvat's absence, was repeating to Bathilde for the thousandth time that he loved her, Nanette entered, and announced that some one was waiting in his own room on important business. D'Harmental, anxious to know who this inopportune visitor could be, went to the window, and saw the Abbe Brigaud walking up and down his room. D'Harmental instantly took leave of Bathilde, and went up to his own apartments.

"Well," said the abbe, "while you are quietly making love to your neighbor, fine things are happening."

"What things?" asked D'Harmental.

"Do you not know?"

"I know absolutely nothing, except that--unless what you have to tell me is of the greatest importance--I should like to strangle you for having disturbed me; so take care, and if you have not any news worthy of the occasion, invent some."

"Unfortunately," replied the abbe, "the reality leaves little to the imagination."

"Indeed, my dear abbe," said D'Harmental, "you look in a terrible fright. What has happened? Tell me."

"Oh, only that we have been betrayed by some one. That the Marshal de Villeroy was arrested this morning at Versailles, and that the two letters from Philip V. are in the hands of the regent."

D'Harmental perfectly understood the gravity of the situation, but his face exhibited the calmness which was habitual to him in moments of danger.

"Is that all?" he asked, quietly.

"All for the present; and, if you do not think it enough, you are difficult to satisfy."

"My dear abbe," said D'Harmental, "when we entered on this conspiracy, it was with almost equal chances of success and failure. Yesterday, our chances were ninety to a hundred; to-day they are only thirty; that is all."

"I am glad to see that you do not easily allow yourself to be discouraged," said Brigaud.

"My dear abbe," said D'Harmental, "at this moment I am a happy man, and I see everything on the bright side. If you had taken me in a moment of sadness, it would have been quite the reverse, and I should have replied 'Amen' to your 'De Profundis.'"

"And your opinion?"

"Is that the game is becoming perplexed, but is not yet lost. The Marshal de Villeroy is not of the conspiracy, does not even know the names of the conspirators. Philip V.'s letters--as far as I remember them--do not name anybody; and the only person really compromised is the Prince de Cellamare. The inviolability of his character protects him from any real danger. Besides, if our plan has reached the Cardinal Alberoni, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan must serve as hostage."

"There is truth in what you say."

"And from whom have you this news?" asked the chevalier.

"From Valef, who had it from Madame de Maine; who, on receipt of the news, went to the Prince of Cellamare himself."

"We must see Valef."

"I have appointed him to meet me here, and on my way I stopped at the Marquis de Pompadour's. I am astonished that he is not here before me."

"Raoul," said a voice on the staircase.

"Stay, it is he," cried D'Harmental, running to the door and opening it.

"Thank you," said Valef, "for your assistance, which is very seasonable, for I was just going away, convinced that Brigaud must have made a mistake, and that no Christian could live at such a height, and in such a pigeon-hole. I must certainly bring Madame de Maine here, that she may know what she owes you."

"God grant," said the Abbe Brigaud, "that we may not all be worse lodged a few days hence!"

"Ah! you mean the Bastille! It is possible, abbe; but at least one does not go to the Bastille of one's own accord; moreover, it is a royal lodging, which raises it a little, and makes it a place where a gentleman may live without degradation; but a place like this--fie, abbe!"

"If you knew what I have found here," said D'Harmental, a little piqued, "you would be as unwilling to leave it as I am."

"Ah, some little bourgeoise; some Madame Michelin, perhaps. Take care, D'Harmental; these things are only allowed to Richelieu. With you and me, who are perhaps worth as much as he is, but are unfortunately not quite so much in fashion, it will not do."

"Well," said the Abbe Brigaud, "although your conversation is somewhat frivolous, I hear it with pleasure, since it assures me that our affairs are not so bad as I thought."

"On the contrary, the conspiracy is gone to the devil."

"How so?"

"I scarcely thought they would leave me time to bring you the news."

"Were you nearly arrested then, Valef?" asked D'Harmental.

"I only escaped by a hair's breadth."

"How did it happen, baron?"

"You remember, abbe, that I left you to go to the Prince de Cellamare?"

"Yes."

"Well, I was there when they came to seize his papers."

"Have they seized the prince's papers?"

"All except what we burned, which unfortunately were the smaller number."

"Then we are all lost," said the abbe.

"Why, my dear abbe, how you throw the helve after the hatchet!"

"But, Valef, you have not told us how it happened," said D'Harmental.

"My dear chevalier, imagine the most ridiculous thing in the world. I wish you had been there: we should have laughed fit to kill ourselves. It would have enraged that fellow Dubois."

"What! was Dubois himself at the ambassador's?"

"In person, abbe. Imagine the Prince de Cellamare and I quietly sitting by the corner of the fire, taking out letters from a little casket, and burning those which seemed to deserve the honors of an auto-da-fe, when all at once his valet-de-chambre enters, and announces that the hotel of the embassy is invested by a body of musketeers, and that Dubois and Leblanc wish to speak to him. The object of this visit is not difficult to guess. The prince--without taking the trouble to choose--empties the caskets into the fire, pushes me into a dressing closet, and orders that they shall be admitted. The order was useless. Dubois and Leblanc were at the door. Fortunately, neither one nor the other had seen me."

"Well, I see nothing droll as yet," said Brigaud.

"This is just where it begins," replied Valef. "Remember that I was in the closet, seeing and hearing everything. Dubois entered, and stretching out his weasel's head to watch the Prince de Cellamare, who, wrapped in his dressing-gown, stood before the fire to give the papers time to burn.

"'Monsieur,' said the prince, in that phlegmatic manner you know he has, 'may I know to what event I owe the honor of this visit?'

"'Oh, mon Dieu, monseigneur!' said Dubois, 'to a very simple thing--a desire which Monsieur Leblanc and I had to learn a little of your papers, of which,' added he, showing the letters of Philip V., 'these two patterns have given us a foretaste.'"

"How!" said Brigaud, "these letters seized at ten o'clock at Versailles are in Dubois's hands at one o'clock!"

"As you say, abbe. You see that they traveled faster than if they had been put in the post."

"And what did the prince say then?" asked D'Harmental.

"Oh! the prince wished to carry it off with a high hand, by appealing to his rights as an envoy; but Dubois, who is not wanting in a certain logic, showed him that he had himself somewhat violated these rights, by covering the conspiracy with his ambassador's cloak. In short, as he was the weakest, he was obliged to submit to what he could not prevent. Besides, Leblanc, without asking permission, had already opened the desk, and examined its contents, while Dubois drew out the drawers of a bureau and rummaged in them. All at once Cellamare left his place, and stopping Leblanc, who had just taken a packet of papers tied with red ribbon--

"'Pardon, monsieur,' said he, 'to each one his prerogatives. These are ladies' letters.'

"'Thanks for your confidence,' said Dubois, not in the least disconcerted, but rising and taking the papers from the hand of Leblanc, 'I am accustomed to these sort of secrets, and yours shall be well kept.'

(Illustration: BUVAT FOUND HIMSELF IN A SORT OF LABORATORY, SITUATED ON THE GROUND-FLOOR.--Page 406.)

"At this moment, looking toward the fire, he saw--in the midst of the burned letters--a paper still untouched, and darting toward it, he seized it just as the flames were reaching it. The movement was so rapid that the ambassador could not prevent it, and the paper was in Dubois's hands.

"'Peste!' said the prince, seeing Dubois shaking his fingers, 'I knew that the regent had skillful spies, but I did not know that they were brave enough to go in the fire.'

"'Ma foi! prince,' said Dubois, unfolding the paper, 'they are well rewarded for their bravery, see.'

"The prince cast his eyes over the paper; I do not know what it contained, but I know that the prince turned pale as death; and that, as Dubois burst out laughing, Cellamare broke in pieces a little marble statue which was near his hand.

"'I am glad it was not I,' said Dubois, coldly, and putting the paper in his pocket.

"'Every one in turn, monsieur; Heaven is just!' said the ambassador.

"'Meanwhile,' said Dubois, 'as we have got what we wanted, and have not much time to lose to-day, we will set about affixing the seals.'

"'The seals here!' cried the ambassador, exasperated.

"'With your permission,' replied Dubois; 'proceed, Monsieur Leblanc.'

"Leblanc drew out from a bag bands and wax, all ready prepared. They began operations with the desk and the bureau, then they advanced toward the door of my closet.

"'No,' cried the prince, 'I will not permit--'

"'Gentlemen,' said Dubois, opening the door, and introducing into the room two officers of musketeers, 'the ambassador of Spain is accused of high treason against the State. Have the kindness to accompany him to the carriage which is waiting, and take him--you know where; if he resists, call eight men, and take him by force.'"

"Well, and what did the prince do then?" asked Brigaud.

"What you would have done in his place, I presume, my dear abbe. He followed the two officers, and five minutes afterward your humble servant found himself under seal."

"How the devil did you get out?" cried D'Harmental.

"That is the beauty of it. Hardly was the prince gone, when Dubois called the valet-de-chambre.

"'What are you called?' asked Dubois.

"'Lapierre, at your service, monseigneur.'

"'My dear Leblanc,' said Dubois, 'explain, if you please, to Monsieur Lapierre, what are the penalties for breaking seals.'

"'The galleys,' replied Leblanc.

"'My dear Monsieur Lapierre,' continued Dubois, in a mild tone, 'you hear. If you like to spend a few years rowing on one of his majesty's vessels, touch one of these seals and the affair is done. If, on the contrary, a hundred louis are agreeable to you, keep them faithfully, and in three days the money shall be given you.'

"'I prefer the hundred louis,' said the scoundrel.

"'Well, then, sign this paper. We constitute you guardian of the prince's cabinet.'

"'I am at your orders, monseigneur,' replied Lapierre; and he signed.

"'Now,' said Dubois, 'you understand all the responsibility you have undertaken?'

"'Yes, monseigneur.'

"'And submit to it.'

"'I do.'

"'Now, Leblanc,' said Dubois, 'we have nothing further to do here, and,' added he, showing the paper which he had snatched from the fire, 'I have all I wanted.'

"And at these words he left, followed by Leblanc.

"Lapierre, as soon as he had seen them off, ran to the cabinet, and exclaimed, 'Quick, baron, we must profit by our being alone for you to leave.'

"'Did you know I was here then, fellow?'

"'Pardieu! I should not have accepted the office of guardian if I had not. I saw you go in, and I thought you would not like to stay there for three days.'

"'And you were right; a hundred louis for your good idea.'

"'Mon Dieu! what are you doing?' cried Lapierre.

"'I am trying to get out.'

"'Oh, not by the door! You would not send a poor fellow to the galleys; besides, they have taken the key with them.'

"'And where am I to get out, then?'

"'Raise your head.'

"'It is raised.'

"'Look in the air.'

"'I am looking.'

"'To your right. Do you not see anything?'

"'Yes, a little window.'

"'Well, get on a chair, on anything you find; it opens into the alcove, let yourself slip now, you will fall on the bed--that is it. You have not hurt yourself, monsieur?'

"'No, I hope the prince will have as comfortable a bed where they are taking him.'

"'And I hope monsieur will not forget the service I have rendered him.'

"'Oh, the hundred louis? Well, as I do not want to part with money at this moment, take this ring, it is worth three hundred pistoles--you gain six hundred francs on the bargain.'

"'Monsieur is the most generous gentleman I know.'

"'Now, tell me how I must go.'

"'By this little staircase; you will find yourself in the pantry; you must then go through the kitchen into the garden, and go out by the little door.'

"'Thanks for the itinerary.'

"I followed the instructions of Monsieur Lapierre exactly, and here I am."

"And the prince; where is he?" asked the chevalier.

"How do I know? In prison probably."

"Diable! diable! diable!" said Brigaud.

"Well, what do you say to my Odyssey, abbe?"

"I say that it would be very droll if it was not for that cursed paper which Dubois picked out of the cinders."

"Yes," said Valef, "that spoils it."

"And you have not any idea what it could be?"

"Not the least; but never mind, it is not lost, we shall know some day."

At this moment they heard some one coming up the staircase. The door opened, and Boniface appeared.

"Pardon, Monsieur Raoul," said he, "but it is not you I seek, it is Father Brigaud."

"Never mind, my dear Boniface, you are welcome. Baron, allow me to present you to my predecessor in my room. The son of our worthy landlady, and godson of the Abbe Brigaud."

"Oh, you have friends barons, Monsieur Raoul! what an honor for our house!"

"Well," said the abbe, "you were looking for me you said. What do you want?"

"I want nothing. It was my mother who sent for you."

"What does she want? Do you know?"

"She wants to know why the parliament is to assemble to-morrow."

"The parliament assemble to-morrow!" cried Valef and D'Harmental together.

"And how did your mother know?"

"I told her."

"And how did you know?"

"At the office. Maitre Joullu was with the president when the order arrived."

"Well, tell your mother I will come to her directly."

"She will expect you. Adieu, Monsieur Raoul."

And Monsieur Boniface went out, far from suspecting the effect he had produced on his listeners.

"It is some coup-d'etat which is preparing," murmured D'Harmental.

"I will go to Madame de Maine to warn her," said Valef.

"And I to Pompadour for news," said Brigaud.

"And I," said D'Harmental, "remain here; if I am wanted, abbe, you know where I am."

"But if you were not at home, chevalier?"

"Oh! I should not be far off. Open the window, clap your hands, and I should come."

Valef and Brigaud went away together, and D'Harmental went back to Bathilde, whom he found very uneasy. It was five o'clock in the afternoon, and Buvat had not returned--it was the first time such a thing had ever happened.

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