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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Conspirators - Chapter 42. The Closet
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The Conspirators - Chapter 42. The Closet Post by :resalin Category :Long Stories Author :Alexandre Dumas Date :May 2012 Read :2550

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The Conspirators - Chapter 42. The Closet


The carriage stopped at its destination, and Richelieu, getting out and taking a key from his pocket, opened the door of a house at the corner of the Rue de Richelieu.

"I must ask your pardon, mademoiselle," said the duke, offering his arm to Bathilde, "for leading you by badly-lighted staircases and passages; but I am anxious not to be recognized, should any one meet me here. We have not far to go."

Bathilde had counted about twenty steps, when the duke stopped, drew a second key from his pocket, and opened a door, then entered an antechamber, and lighted a candle at a lamp on the staircase.

"Once again I must ask pardon, mademoiselle," said the duke, "but you will soon understand why I chose to dispense with a servant here."

It mattered little to Bathilde whether the duke had a servant or not; she entered the antechamber without replying, and the duke locked the door behind her.

"Now follow me," said the duke; and he walked before the young girl, lighting her with the candle which he held in his hand. They crossed a dining-room and drawing-room, then entered a bedroom, where the duke stopped.

"Mademoiselle," said Richelieu, placing the candle on the chimney-piece, "I have your word that you will reveal nothing of what you are about to see."

"I have given you my promise, and I now renew it; I should be ungrateful indeed if I were to fail."

"Well, then, be the third in our secret, which is one of love; we put it under the safeguard of love."

And the Duc de Richelieu, sliding away a panel in the woodwork, discovered an opening in the wall, beyond which was the back of a closet, and he knocked softly three times. Presently they heard a key turn in the lock, then saw a light between the planks, then a low voice asked, "Is it you?" On the duke's replying in the affirmative, three of these planks were quietly detached, opening a means of communication from one room to the other, and the duke and Bathilde found themselves in the presence of Mademoiselle de Valois, who uttered a cry on seeing her lover accompanied by a woman.

"Fear nothing, dear Aglae," said the duke, passing into the room where she was, and taking her hand, while Bathilde remained motionless in her place, not daring to move a step till her presence was explained.

"But will you tell me?" began Mademoiselle de Valois, looking at Bathilde uneasily.

"Directly. You have heard me speak of the Chevalier d'Harmental, have you not?"

"The day before yesterday you told me that by a word he might save his own life and compromise you all, but that he would never speak this word."

"Well, he has not spoken, and he is condemned to death, and is to be executed to-morrow. This young girl loves him, and his pardon depends on the regent. Do you understand?"

"Oh, yes!" said Mademoiselle de Valois.

"Come, mademoiselle," said the duke to Bathilde, taking her by the hand; then, turning again to the princess, "She did not know how to reach your father, my dear Aglae, and came to me just as I had received your letter. I had to thank you for the good advice you gave me; and, as I know your heart, I thought I should please you by showing my gratitude, in offering you an opportunity to save the life of a man to whose silence you probably owe my own."

"And you were right, duke. You are welcome, mademoiselle. What can I do for you?"

"I wish to see the regent," said Bathilde, "and your highness can take me to him."

"Will you wait for me, duke?" asked Mademoiselle de Valois uneasily.

"Can you doubt it?"

"Then go into the closet, lest any one should surprise you here. I will take mademoiselle to my father, and return directly."

"I will wait," said the duke, following the instructions of the princess and entering the closet. Mademoiselle de Valois exchanged some low words with her lover, locked the closet, put the key in her pocket, and holding out her hand to Bathilde--

"Mademoiselle," said she, "all women who love are sisters; Armand and you did well to rely upon me; come."

Bathilde kissed the hand she held out, and followed her. They passed through all the rooms facing the Palais Royal, and then, turning to the left, entered those which looked on the Rue de Valois, among which was the regent's bedroom.

"We have arrived," said Mademoiselle de Valois, stopping before a door, and turning to Bathilde, who at this news trembled and turned pale; for all the strength which had sustained her for the last three or four hours was ready to disappear just as she needed it the most.

"Oh, mon Dieu! I shall never dare to speak," said Bathilde.

"Courage, mademoiselle! enter, fall at his feet, God and his own heart will do the rest."

At these words, seeing that the young girl still hesitated, she opened the door, pushed Bathilde in, and closed it behind her. She then ran down with a light step to rejoin Richelieu, leaving Bathilde to plead her cause tete-a-tete with the regent.

At this unforeseen action, Bathilde uttered a low cry, and the regent, who was walking to and fro with his head bent down, raised it, and turned toward Bathilde, who, incapable of making a step in advance, fell on her knees, drew out her letter, and held it toward the regent. The regent had bad sight; he did not understand what was going on, and advanced toward this woman, who appeared to him in the shade as a white and indistinct form; but soon in that form he recognized a woman, and, in that woman, a young, beautiful, and kneeling girl.

As to the poor child, in vain she attempted to articulate a prayer. Voice and strength failing her together, she would have fallen if the regent had not held her in his arms.

"Mon Dieu! mademoiselle," said the regent, on whom the signs of grief produced their ordinary effect, "what is the matter? What can I do for you? Come to this couch, I beg."

"No, monseigneur, it is at your feet that I should be, for I come to ask a boon."

"And what is it?"

"See first who I am, monseigneur, and then I may dare to speak."

And again Bathilde held out the letter, on which rested her only hope, to the Duc d'Orleans.

The regent took the letter, and, by the light of a candle which burned on the chimney-piece, recognized his own writing, and read as follows:

"'MADAME--Your husband is dead for France and for me.
Neither France nor I can give you back your husband;
but, remember, that if ever you are in want of anything
we are both your debtors.

"'Your affectionate,


"I recognize this letter perfectly as being my own," said the regent, "but to the shame of my memory I must confess that I do not know to whom it was written."

"Look at the address, monseigneur," said Bathilde, a little reassured by the expression of benevolence on the duke's face.

"Clarice du Rocher," cried the regent, "yes, indeed, I remember now; I wrote this letter from Spain after the death of Albert, who was killed at the battle of Almanza. I wrote this letter to his widow. How did it fall into your hands, mademoiselle?"

"Alas, monseigneur, I am the daughter of Albert and Clarice."

"You, mademoiselle! And what has become of your mother?"

"She is dead."

"Long since?"

"Nearly fourteen years."

"But happy, doubtless, and wanting nothing."

"In despair, monseigneur, and wanting everything."

"But why did she not apply to me?"

"Your highness was still in Spain."

"Oh! mon Dieu! what do you say? Continue, mademoiselle, for you cannot tell how much you interest me. Poor Clarice, poor Albert, they loved each other so much, I remember. She could not survive him. Do you know that your father saved my life at Nerwinden, mademoiselle?"

"Yes, monseigneur, I know it, and that gave me courage to present myself before you."

"But you, poor child, poor orphan, what became of you?"

"I, monseigneur, was taken by a friend of our family, a poor writer called Jean Buvat."

"Jean Buvat!" cried the regent, "I know that name; he is the poor copyist who discovered the whole conspiracy, and who some days ago made his demands in person. A place in the library, was it not, some arrears due?"

"The same, monseigneur."

"Mademoiselle," replied the regent, "it appears that those who surround you are destined to save me. I am thus twice your debtor. You said you had a boon to ask of me--speak boldly, I listen to you."

"Oh, my God!" murmured Bathilde, "give me strength."

"Is it, then, a very important and difficult thing that you desire?"

"Monseigneur," said Bathilde, "it is the life of a man who has deserved death."

"Is it the Chevalier d'Harmental?"

"Alas, monseigneur, it is."

The regent's brow became pensive, while Bathilde, seeing the impression produced by her demand, felt her heart beat and her knees tremble.

"Is he your relation, your ally, your friend?"

"He is my life, he is my soul, monseigneur; I love him."

"But do you know that if I pardon him I must pardon all the rest, and that there are some still more guilty than he is?"

"His life only, monseigneur, all I ask is that he may live."

"But if I change his sentence to a perpetual imprisonment you will never see him again. What would become of you, then?" asked the regent.

Bathilde was obliged to support herself by the back of a chair.

"I would enter into a convent, where I could pray the rest of my life for you, monseigneur, and for him."

"That cannot be," said the regent.

"Why not, monseigneur?"

"Because this very day, this very hour, I have been asked for your hand, and have promised it."

"You have promised my hand, monseigneur; and to whom?"

"Read," said the regent, taking an open letter from his desk, and presenting it to the young girl.

"Raoul's writing!" cried Bathilde; "what does this mean?"

"Read," repeated the regent.

And in a choking voice, Bathilde read the following letter:--

"'MONSEIGNEUR--I have deserved death--I know it, and I
do not ask you for life. I am ready to die at the day
and hour appointed; but it depends on your highness to
make this death sweeter to me. I love a young girl whom
I should have married if I had lived; grant that she
may be my wife before I die. In leaving her forever
alone and friendless in the world, let me at least have
the consolation of giving her the safeguard of my name
and fortune. On leaving the church, monseigneur, I will
walk to the scaffold. This is my last wish, my sole
desire. Do not refuse the prayer of a dying man.


"Oh, monseigneur," said Bathilde, sobbing, "you see that while I thought of him, he thought of me. Am I not right to love him, when he loves me so much?"

"Yes," said the regent, "and I grant his request, it is just; may it, as he says, sweeten his last moments."

"Monseigneur," cried the young girl, "is that all you grant him?"

"You see," said the regent, "he is just; he asks nothing else."

"Oh, it is cruel! it is frightful! to see him again, and lose him directly; his life, monseigneur, his life, I beg; and let me never see him again--better so."

"Mademoiselle," said the regent, in a tone which admitted of no reply, and writing some lines on a paper which he sealed, "here is a letter to Monsieur de Launay, the governor of the Bastille; it contains my instructions with regard to the prisoner. My captain of the guards will go with you, and see that my instructions are followed."

"Oh! his life, monseigneur, his life; on my knees, and in the name of Heaven, I implore you."

The regent rang the bell; a valet entered.

"Call Monsieur the Marquis de Lafare," he said.

"Oh, monseigneur, you are cruel," said Bathilde, rising; "at least permit me then to die with him. We will not be separated, even on the scaffold; we will be together, even in the tomb."

"Monsieur de Lafare, accompany mademoiselle to the Bastille," said the regent. "Here is a letter for Monsieur de Launay, read it with him, and see that the orders it contains are punctually executed."

Then, without listening to Bathilde's last cry of despair, the Duc d'Orleans opened the door of a closet and disappeared.

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