Read La Dame de Monsoreau Online

Authors: 1802-1870 Alexandre Dumas

Tags: #France -- History Henry III, 1574-1589 Fiction

La Dame de Monsoreau (6 page)

BOOK: La Dame de Monsoreau
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In a moment the woman in the picture seemed to move out of the frame, and an adorable being, clad in a flowing robe of white wool, such as angels wear, with fair hair falling over her shoulders, eyes black as jet, long, velvety eyelashes, a skin under which you could almost see the crimson current that tinted the rosy cheeks, advanced toward him. This woman was so marvellously beautiful, her outstretched arms were so

ravishing, that Bussy made an effort to rise and throw himself at her feet. But it looked to him as if he were held down by bands like those wherewith the corpse is held down in its tomb, while, disdaining earth, the immaterial soul ascends the skies.

This impression forced him to take note of the bed upon which he was lying: it was apparently one of those magnificent carved couches of the days of Francois I., hung with white damask embroidered in gold.

At sight of this woman the personages on the wall and ceiling ceased' to occupy Bussy's attention, which was entirely devoted to the woman of the picture. He tried to make out if she had left a vacancy in the frame. But a cloud his eyes could not pierce floated before this frame and hid it from view. Then he turned his eyes back to the mysterious apparition and, fixing his gaze on the wonderful woman, he set about composing a compliment to her in verse, as he was in the habit of doing, in such cases, every day.

But suddenly the woman disappeared ; an opaque body came between her and Bussy; this body moved clumsily and stretched out its arms as if it were playing blind-man's buff.

Bussy's gorge rose at this conduct, and he flew into such a rage that, if his limbs had been free, he would have flung himself on the importunate visitor; it is but just to say that he tried, but the thing was impossible.

As he was vainly attempting to get out of the bed, to which he seemed chained, the newcomer spoke.

" Well," he said, (t is this the end of my journey ? "

u Yes, maitre," answered a voice the sweetness of which thrilled every fibre in Bussy's heart, " and you can now take off your bandage."

Bussy made an effort to find out if the sweet-voiced woman was actually the woman of the portrait; but the attempt was useless. All he saw before him was the pleasing features of a graceful young man, who, in obedience to the invitation just given him, had taken off the bandage, and who was going round the apartment with a look of bewilderment.

" Devil take the fellow ! " thought Bussy.

And he tried to express his thought by word or gesture, but it was impossible for him to do either.

*' Ah ! now I understand," said the young man, approaching

the bed, " you are wounded, my dear monsieur, are you not ? Do not be uneasy, we will try to cure you."

Bussy wanted to reply, but understood this was out of the question. His eyes swam in an icy moisture, and he felt in his fingers the prickings as it were of a thousand pins.

" Is the wound mortal ? " asked the sweet voice which had already spoken, — the voice of the lady of the picture, — in a tone of such heartfelt and pained interest that the tears came to Bussy's eyes.

" Upon my word, I cannot say as yet," answered the young man ; " but see, he has fainted ! "

It was all Bussy could comprehend. He thought he heard the rustling of a robe moving away. Next, it seemed to him as if he felt a red-hot iron in his side, and all that was still alive in him vanished into darkness.

Later on, Bussy found it impossible to fix the duration of this fainting-fit.

But, when he returned to consciousness, a cold wind was blowing over his face ; hoarse and discordant voices were grating on his ears ; he opened his eyes to see if it were the people of the tapestry who were quarrelling with the people on the ceiling; and, in hopes that the portrait was still there, he turned his head in all directions, but there was no tapestry, nor ceiling, either; and, as for the portrait, it was gone completely. All Bussy could perceive on his right was a man in a gray coat and apron, which was tucked up and stained with blood ; on his left a monk of St. Genevieve, who was holding up his head ; and, in front of him, an old woman mumbling prayers.

The wandering eyes of Bussy soon fastened on a pile of stones, also in front of him, and, looking upward, to measure the height, he thereupon recognized the Temple, flanked with its walls and towers; above the Temple, the cold, white sky, slightly tinted by the rising sun.

Bussy was purely and simply in the street, or rather on the border of a ditch, and the ditch was that of the Temple.

" Ah, thanks, my worthy friends, for the trouble you must have taken in bringing me hither. I had need of air, but it would have been easy to have given me all I wanted of it by opening the windows, and I should have felt more comfortable on my bed of white damask and gold than on this bare ground. No matter. You will find in my pouch, unless you have already


paid yourselves, which would have been only prudent, a score of gold crowns or so ; take them, my friends, take them."

" But, my good gentleman," said the butcher, " we have not been put to the trouble of bringing you here. Here you were, sure enough, beyond a yea or a nay. And here we came on you at daybreak, as we were passing.''

" The devil! You don't say so ! " returned Bussy. " And was the young doctor here, too ? "

The bystanders looked at one another.

" He is still a little delirious," said the monk, shaking his head. Then, returning to Bussy,

" My son," said he, " I think you would do well to make your confession."

Bussy looked at the monk with a bewildered air.

" There was no doctor, poor dear young man," said the old woman. " There you were, alone and deserted, as cold as death. There is a little snow, and you can see your place is traced out in black on the ground."

Bussy cast a look on his aching side, remembered he had been wounded, slipped his hand under his doublet, and felt his handkerchief over the same spot, firmly kept in place by the sword-belt.

" It 's queer," said he.

His new friends, profiting by the permission he had given them, were already dividing his purse, to the accompaniment of many an expression of sorrow for his condition.

u Everything is all right now, my friends," said he, when the division was made; "now conduct me to my hotel."

" Oh, surely, surely, poor dear," said the old woman ; " the butcher is strong, and — then he has a horse; you could ride it."

" Is that true ? " asked Bussy.

"As true as heaven's above us!" answered the butcher, " and I and my horse are at your service, my good gentleman."

" That 's all very well, my son," said the monk ; " but while the butcher is looking up his horse you had better confess."

" What 's your name ? " asked Bussy.

" My name is Brother Gorenflot," replied the monk.

" Well, Brother Gorenflot," said Bussy, sitting up, " I hope the time for confession is n't yet come. And so, as I am very cold, I am in a hurry to get to my hotel, where I could warm myself."

" And how is your hotel called ? "

« The Hotel de Bussy."

" What! " cried the bystanders, «the Hotel de Bussy ? "

" Yes ; anything astonishing in that ? "

" You belong, then, to the household of M. de Bussy ? "

" I am M. de Bussy himself."

" Bussy ! " shouted the crowd, " the Seigneur de Bussy ! The scourge of the minions ! Hurrah for Bussy ! "

And the young man was seized and carried on the shoulders of his admirers to his hotel, while the monk went away, counting his share of the twenty crowns, and, with a shake of the head, murmuring:

" So it 's that rascal Bussy — I don't wonder now that he did not care to confess."

When Bussy was back again in his hotel he summoned his surgeon, who thought the wound not serious.

" Tell me," said Bussy, " has not the wound been dressed ? "

" Upon my word," said the doctor, " I cannot be positive, although, after all, it looks as if it might have been."

" And," continued Bussy, " was it serious enough to have produced delirium ? "

" Certainly."

" The devil ! " thought Bussy, " was that tapestry, with its figures carrying flowers and arms, all delirium ? And the frescoed ceiling and the carved bed, hung with white damask and gold, and the portrait between the two windows, the adorable blonde woman with the black eyes, the doctor playing blind-man's buff, whom I should have liked to jump on, — was all that delirium ? And was there nothing real except my scuffle with the minions ? Where did I fight, anyway ? Ah, now I remember, it was near the Bastile, opposite the Rue Saint-Paul. I planted myself against a wall, and the wall was a door, and the door gave way, luckily. I shut it with great difficulty and found myself in an alley. Then I don't remember anything until the moment I fainted. Was all the rest a dream ? That is the question. Ah ! and my horse, by the way ? It must have been found dead at the place. Doctor, be kind enough to call some one." ;

The doctor called a servant.

On inquiry, Bussy learned that the poor beast had dragged itself, bleeding and mutilated, to the gateway of the hotel, and was found there at daybreak, neighing. The alarm was

immediately spread through the household. All Bussy's servants, who worshipped their master, started to search for him, and most of them had not yet returned.

" The portrait, at least," said Bussy, " must have surely been a dream. No doubt of that. How could a portrait have moved from its frame for no other purpose than to chat with a doctor who had his eyes bandaged ? I must be mad. And yet, when I recall it to mind, this portrait had ravishing eyes, had " —

Bussy made an effort to remember the characteristics of the portrait, and, as he passed in review all the details, a voluptuous thrill, that thrill of love that warms and animates the heart, shot through his inflamed breast.

" Could it have all been a dream ? " cried Bussy while the doctor was dressing his wound. lt Mordieu ! it's not possible ; there are no such dreams.

" Let me go over the whole business again."

And Bussy began to repeat for the hundredth time :

" I was at the ball; Saint-Luc warned me I should be attacked near the Bastile; Antraguet, Kibeirac, and Livarot were with me. I bade them good-by. I went along the quay, the Grand-Chatelet, etc., etc., etc. At the Hotel des Tournelles, I saw that people were lying in wait for me. They made a rush on me, lamed my horse. We had a rough tussle. I entered an alley ; I was taken ill — and then ? Ah, it 's that and then that gets the best of me ; after that and then, a fever, delirium, a dream, and then —

" And then," he added, with a sigh, " I found myself on the slope of a ditch, one of the Temple ditches, where a monk of St. Genevieve wanted to confess me. All the same, I will know all about the affair," continued Bussy, after a moment's silence, which he spent in trying to recall his remembrances. " I say, doctor, shall I have to keep my room for a fortnight on account of this scratch, as I did the last time ? "

" That depends. You can't walk, can you ? " asked the doctor.

" You '11 see if I can't. I think I have quicksilver in my legs."

" Take a few steps, then."

Bussy jumped from the bed, and proved the truth of his confident boast by walking quickly round the room.

" You '11 do," said the doctor, " provided you don't ride, or walk thirty miles the first day."

" Capital!" cried Bussy, " you 're the right kind of ? doctor! Still, I saw another one last night. Oh, yes, I saw him, every feature of him is stamped on my mind, and should I ever meet him, I shall recognize him, you may take my word for it."

" My dear lord," said the doctor, " I should not advise you to search for him ; there is always a little fever after a sword-thrust ; surely you ought to know that, seeing that this is your twelfth."

" Good heavens ! " cried Bussy, suddenly, struck with a new idea, for his mind was entirely full of the mysterious events of the preceding night, " what if my dream began outside the door instead of inside it ? What if there was no alley, no staircase, no bed of white damask and gold, and no portrait ? What if those wretches, believing me dead, carried me neatly to the ditches of the Temple in order to divert the suspicions of any chance spectator of the scene ? Then, most assuredly, I must have dreamt all the rest. Saints in heaven ! if these ruffians have been the means of bringing me a dream that is racking, torturing, killing me, I call God to witness that I shall disembowel every soul of them to the very last."

BOOK: La Dame de Monsoreau
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