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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Conspirators - Chapter 41. The Three Visits
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The Conspirators - Chapter 41. The Three Visits Post by :resalin Category :Long Stories Author :Alexandre Dumas Date :May 2012 Read :2515

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The Conspirators - Chapter 41. The Three Visits

CHAPTER XLI. THE THREE VISITS

On arriving at the Arsenal Bathilde asked for Mademoiselle de Launay, who--at her request--led her at once to Madame de Maine.

"Ah, it is you, my child!" said the duchess, with a distracted air and voice; "it is well to remember one's friends when they are in misfortune."

"Alas, madame!" replied Bathilde, "I come to your royal highness to speak of one still more unfortunate. Doubtless you may have lost some of your titles, some of your dignities, but their vengeance will stop, for no one would dare to attack the life, or even the liberty, of the son of Louis XIV., or the granddaughter of the great Conde."

"The life, no; but the liberty, I will not answer for it. Do you know that that idiot of an Abbe Brigaud has got arrested three days ago at Orleans, dressed as a peddler, and--on false revelations, which they represented to him as coming from me--has confessed all, and compromised us terribly, so that I should not be astonished at being arrested this very day?"

"He for whom I come to implore your pity, madame, has revealed nothing, but, on the contrary, is condemned to death for having kept silence."

"Ah! my dear child," cried the duchess, "you speak of poor D'Harmental; he is a gentleman; you know him, then?"

"Alas!" said Mademoiselle de Launay, "not only Bathilde knows him, but she loves him."

"Poor child! but what can I do? I can do nothing: I have no influence. For me to attempt anything in his favor would be to take away from him the last hope remaining."

"I know it, madame," said Bathilde, "and I only ask of your highness one thing; it is, that, through some of your friends or acquaintances, I may gain admission to Monseigneur the Regent. The rest lies with me."

"My child, do you know what you are asking?" inquired the duchess. "Do you know that the regent respects no one? Do you know--that you are beautiful as an angel, and still more so from your present paleness? Do you know--"

"Madame," said Bathilde, with dignity, "I know that my father saved his life, and died in his service."

"Ah, that is another thing," said the duchess; "stay, De Launay, call Malezieux."

Mademoiselle de Launay obeyed, and a moment afterward the faithful chancellor entered.

"Malezieux," said the duchess, "you must take this child to the Duchesse de Berry, with a recommendation from me. She must see the regent, and at once; the life of a man depends upon it--it is that of D'Harmental, whom I would myself give so much to save."

"I go, madame," said Malezieux.

"You see, my child," said the duchess, "I do all I can for you; if I can be useful to you in any other way--if, to prepare his flight, or to seduce a jailer, money is needed, I have still some diamonds, which cannot be better employed than in saving the life of so brave a gentleman. Come, lose no time, go at once to my niece; you know that she is her father's favorite."

"I know, madame," said Bathilde, "that you are an angel, and, if I succeed, I shall owe you more than my life."

"Come, De Launay," continued Madame de Maine, when Bathilde was gone, "let us return to our trunks."

Bathilde, accompanied by Malezieux, arrived at the Luxembourg in twenty minutes. Thanks to Malezieux, Bathilde entered without difficulty; she was conducted into a little boudoir, where she was told to wait while the chancellor should see her royal highness, and inform her of the favor they came to ask.

Malezieux acquitted himself of the commission with zeal, and Bathilde had not waited ten minutes when she saw him return with the Duchesse de Berry. The duchess had an excellent heart, and she had been greatly moved by Malezieux' recital, so that, when she appeared, there was no mistaking the interest she already felt in the young girl who came to solicit her protection. Bathilde came to her, and would have fallen at her feet, but the duchess took her by the hand, and kissing her on the forehead--

"My poor child," said she, "why did you not come to me a week ago?"

"And why a week ago rather than to-day, madame?" asked Bathilde, with anxiety.

"Because a week ago I should have yielded to none the pleasure of taking you to my father, and that now is impossible."

"Impossible! and why?" cried Bathilde.

"Do you not know that I am in complete disgrace since the day before yesterday? Alas! princess as I am, I am a woman like you, and like you I have had the misfortune to love. We daughters of the royal race, you know, may not dispose of our hearts without the authority of the king and his ministers. I have disposed of my heart, and I have nothing to say, for I was pardoned; but I disposed of my hand, and I am punished. See, what a strange thing! They make a crime of what in any one else would have been praised. For three days my lover has been my husband, and for three days, that is to say, from the moment when I could present myself before my father without blushing, I am forbidden his presence. Yesterday my guard was taken from me; this morning I presented myself at the Palais Royal and was refused admittance."

"Alas!" said Bathilde, "I am unhappy, for I had no hope but in you, madame, and I know no one who can introduce me to the regent. And it is to-morrow, madame, at eight o'clock, that they will kill him whom I love as you love M. de Riom. Oh, madame, take pity on me, for if you do not, I am lost!"

"Mon Dieu! Riom, come to our aid," said the duchess, turning to her husband, who entered at this moment; "here is a poor child who wants to see my father directly, without delay; her life depends on the interview. Her life! What am I saying? More than her life--the life of a man she loves. Lauzun's nephew should never be at a loss; find us a means, and, if it be possible, I will love you more than ever."

"I have one," said Riom, smiling.

"Oh, monsieur," cried Bathilde, "tell it me, and I will be eternally grateful."

"Oh, speak!" said the Duchesse de Berry, in a voice almost as pressing as Bathilde's.

"But it compromises your sister singularly."

"Which one?"

"Mademoiselle de Valois."

"Aglae! how so?"

"Do you not know that there exists a kind of sorcerer, who has the power of appearing before her day or night, no one knows how?"

"Richelieu? it is true!" cried the Duchesse de Berry; "but--"

"But what, madame?"

"He will not, perhaps--"

"I will beg him so that he will take pity on me," said Bathilde; "besides, you will speak a word for me, will you not? He will not dare to refuse what your highness asks."

"We will do better than that," said the duchess. "Riom, call Madame de Mouchy, beg her to take mademoiselle herself to the duke. Madame de Mouchy is my first lady-in-waiting," said the duchess, turning to Bathilde, "and it is supposed that the Duc de Richelieu owes her some gratitude. You see, I could not choose you a better introductress."

"Oh, thanks, madame," cried Bathilde, kissing the duchess's hands, "you are right, and all hope is not yet lost. And you say that the Duc de Richelieu has a means of entering the Palais Royal?"

"Stay, let us understand each other. I do not say so, report says so."

"Oh!" cried Bathilde, "if we only find him at home!"

"That is a chance; but yet, let me see, what time is it? scarcely eight o'clock. He will probably sup in town, and return to dress. I will tell Madame de Mouchy to wait for him with you. Will you not," said she, turning to the lady-in-waiting, who now entered, "wait for the duke till he returns?"

"I will do whatever your highness orders," said Madame de Mouchy.

"Well, I order you to obtain from the Duc de Richelieu a promise that mademoiselle shall see the regent, and I authorize you to use, for this purpose, whatever influence you may possess over him."

"Madame goes a long way," said Madame de Mouchy, smiling.

"Never mind, go and do what I tell you; and you, my child, take courage, follow madame, and if, on your road in life, you hear much harm of the Duchesse de Berry, whom they anathematize, tell them that I have a good heart, and that, in spite of all these excommunications, I hope that much will be forgiven me, because I have loved much. Is it not so, Riom?"

"I do not know, madame," said Bathilde, "whether you are well or ill spoken of, but I know that to me you seem so good and great that I could kiss the trace of your footsteps."

"Now go, my child; if you miss M. de Richelieu you may not know where to find him, and may wait for him uselessly."

"Since her highness permits it, come, then, madame," said Bathilde, "for every minute seems to me an age."

A quarter of an hour afterward, Bathilde and Madame de Mouchy were at Richelieu's hotel. Contrary to all expectation, he was at home. Madame de Mouchy entered at once, followed by Bathilde. They found Richelieu occupied with Raffe, his secretary, in burning a number of useless letters, and putting some others aside.

"Well, madame," said Richelieu, coming forward with a smile on his lips, "what good wind blows you here? And to what event do I owe the happiness of receiving you at my house at half-past eight in the evening?"

"To my wish to enable you to do a good action, duke."

"In that case, make haste, madame."

"Do you leave Paris this evening?"

"No, but I am going to-morrow morning--to the Bastille."

"What joke is this?"

"I assure you it is no joke at all to leave my hotel, where I am very comfortable, for that of the king, where I shall be just the reverse. I know it, for this will be my third visit."

"What makes you think you will be arrested to-morrow?"

"I have been warned."

"By a sure person?"

"Judge for yourself."

And he handed a letter to Madame de Mouchy, who took it and read--

"Innocent or guilty you have only time to fly. The regent has just said aloud before me that at last he has got the Duc de Richelieu. To-morrow you will be arrested."

"Do you think the person in a position to be well informed?"

"Yes, for I think I recognize the writing."

"You see, then, that I was right in telling you to make haste. Now, if it is a thing which may be done in the space of a night, speak, I am at your orders."

"An hour will suffice."

"Speak, then; you know I can refuse you nothing."

"Well," said Madame de Mouchy, "the thing is told in a few words. Do you intend this evening to go and thank the person who gave you this advice?"

"Probably," said the duke, laughing.

"Well, you must present mademoiselle to her."

"Mademoiselle!" cried the duke, astonished, and turning toward Bathilde, who till then had remained hidden in the darkness, "and who is mademoiselle?"

"A young girl who loves the Chevalier d'Harmental--who is to be executed to-morrow, as you know, and whose pardon she wishes to ask from the regent."

"You love the Chevalier d'Harmental, mademoiselle?" said the duke, addressing Bathilde.

"Oh, monsieur!" stammered Bathilde, blushing.

"Do not conceal it, mademoiselle. He is a noble young man, and I would give ten years of my own life to save him. And do you think you have any means of interesting the regent in his favor?"

"I believe so."

"It is well. I only hope it may be so. Madame," continued the duke, turning to Madame de Mouchy, "return to her royal highness and tell her that mademoiselle shall see the regent in an hour."

"Oh, M. le Duc!" cried Bathilde.

"Decidedly, my dear Richelieu, I begin to think, as people say, that you have made a compact with the devil; that you may pass through key-holes, and I confess I shall be less uneasy now, in seeing you go to the Bastille."

"At any rate, you know, madame, that charity teaches us to visit prisoners, and if you retain any recollection of poor Armand--"

"Silence, duke, be discreet, and we will see what can be done for you. Meanwhile, you promise that mademoiselle shall see the regent?"

"It is a settled thing."

"Adieu, duke, and may the Bastille be easy to you."

"Is it adieu you say?"

"Au revoir!"

"That is right."

And having kissed Madame de Mouchy's hand he led her to the door; then, returning to Bathilde:

"Mademoiselle," said he, "what I am about to do for you compromises the reputation and honor of a princess of the blood, but the gravity of the occasion demands some sacrifice. Swear to me, then, that you will never tell, but to one person (for I know there are persons for whom you have no secrets), swear that you will never tell any but him, and that no other shall ever know in what manner you came to the regent."

"Monsieur, I swear it by all I hold most sacred in the world--by my mother's memory."

"That will suffice," said the duke, ringing a bell. A valet-de-chambre entered.

"Lafosse," said the duke, "the bay horses and the carriage without arms."

"Monsieur," said Bathilde, "if you would save time, I have a hired carriage below."

"That is still better. I am at your orders, mademoiselle."

"Am I to go with monsieur?" asked the servant.

"No, stay and help Raffe to put these papers in order. There are several which it is quite unnecessary for Dubois to see."

And the duke offered his arm to Bathilde, went down, handed her into the carriage, and after telling the coachman to stop at the corner of the Rue Saint Honore and the Rue de Richelieu, placed himself by her side, as thoughtless as though the fate from which he was about to save the chevalier might not also await himself.

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