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    Chapter 10

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    Chapter 10
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    CHAPTER 10
    The King's Closet at the Tuileries.

    We will leave Villefort on the road to Paris, travelling --
    thanks to trebled fees -- with all speed, and passing
    through two or three apartments, enter at the Tuileries the
    little room with the arched window, so well known as having
    been the favorite closet of Napoleon and Louis XVIII., and
    now of Louis Philippe.

    There, seated before a walnut table he had brought with him
    from Hartwell, and to which, from one of those fancies not
    uncommon to great people, he was particularly attached, the
    king, Louis XVIII., was carelessly listening to a man of
    fifty or fifty-two years of age, with gray hair,
    aristocratic bearing, and exceedingly gentlemanly attire,
    and meanwhile making a marginal note in a volume of
    Gryphius's rather inaccurate, but much sought-after, edition
    of Horace -- a work which was much indebted to the sagacious
    observations of the philosophical monarch.

    "You say, sir" -- said the king.

    "That I am exceedingly disquieted, sire."

    "Really, have you had a vision of the seven fat kine and the
    seven lean kine?"

    "No, sire, for that would only betoken for us seven years of
    plenty and seven years of scarcity; and with a king as full
    of foresight as your majesty, scarcity is not a thing to be
    feared."

    "Then of what other scourge are you afraid, my dear Blacas?"

    "Sire, I have every reason to believe that a storm is
    brewing in the south."

    "Well, my dear duke," replied Louis XVIII., "I think you are
    wrongly informed, and know positively that, on the contrary,
    it is very fine weather in that direction." Man of ability
    as he was, Louis XVIII. liked a pleasant jest.

    "Sire," continued M. de Blacas, "if it only be to reassure a
    faithful servant, will your majesty send into Languedoc,
    Provence, and Dauphine, trusty men, who will bring you back
    a faithful report as to the feeling in these three
    provinces?"

    "Caninus surdis," replied the king, continuing the
    annotations in his Horace.

    "Sire," replied the courtier, laughing, in order that he
    might seem to comprehend the quotation, "your majesty may be
    perfectly right in relying on the good feeling of France,
    but I fear I am not altogether wrong in dreading some
    desperate attempt."

    "By whom?"

    "By Bonaparte, or, at least, by his adherents."

    "My dear Blacas," said the king, "you with your alarms
    prevent me from working."

    "And you, sire, prevent me from sleeping with your
    security."

    "Wait, my dear sir, wait a moment; for I have such a
    delightful note on the Pastor quum traheret -- wait, and I
    will listen to you afterwards."

    There was a brief pause, during which Louis XVIII. wrote, in
    a hand as small as possible, another note on the margin of
    his Horace, and then looking at the duke with the air of a
    man who thinks he has an idea of his own, while he is only
    commenting upon the idea of another, said, --

    "Go on, my dear duke, go on -- I listen."

    "Sire," said Blacas, who had for a moment the hope of
    sacrificing Villefort to his own profit, "I am compelled to
    tell you that these are not mere rumors destitute of
    foundation which thus disquiet me; but a serious-minded man,
    deserving all my confidence, and charged by me to watch over
    the south" (the duke hesitated as he pronounced these
    words), "has arrived by post to tell me that a great peril
    threatens the king, and so I hastened to you, sire."

    "Mala ducis avi domum," continued Louis XVIII., still
    annotating.

    "Does your majesty wish me to drop the subject?"

    "By no means, my dear duke; but just stretch out your hand."

    "Which?"

    "Whichever you please -- there to the left."

    "Here, sire?"

    "l tell you to the left, and you are looking to the right; I
    mean on my left -- yes, there. You will find yesterday's
    report of the minister of police. But here is M. Dandre
    himself;" and M. Dandre, announced by the
    chamberlain-in-waiting, entered.

    "Come in," said Louis XVIII., with repressed smile, "come
    in, Baron, and tell the duke all you know -- the latest news
    of M. de Bonaparte; do not conceal anything, however
    serious, -- let us see, the Island of Elba is a volcano, and
    we may expect to have issuing thence flaming and bristling
    war -- bella, horrida bella." M. Dandre leaned very
    respectfully on the back of a chair with his two hands, and
    said, --

    "Has your majesty perused yesterday's report?"

    "Yes, yes; but tell the duke himself, who cannot find
    anything, what the report contains -- give him the
    particulars of what the usurper is doing in his islet."

    "Monsieur," said the baron to the duke, "all the servants of
    his majesty must approve of the latest intelligence which we
    have from the Island of Elba. Bonaparte" -- M. Dandre looked
    at Louis XVIII., who, employed in writing a note, did not
    even raise his head. "Bonaparte," continued the baron, "is
    mortally wearied, and passes whole days in watching his
    miners at work at Porto-Longone."

    "And scratches himself for amusement," added the king.

    "Scratches himself?" inquired the duke, "what does your
    majesty mean?"

    "Yes, indeed, my dear duke. Did you forget that this great
    man, this hero, this demigod, is attacked with a malady of
    the skin which worries him to death, prurigo?"

    "And, moreover, my dear duke," continued the minister of
    police, "we are almost assured that, in a very short time,
    the usurper will be insane."

    "Insane?"

    "Raving mad; his head becomes weaker. Sometimes he weeps
    bitterly, sometimes laughs boisterously, at other time he
    passes hours on the seashore, flinging stones in the water
    and when the flint makes 'duck-and-drake' five or six times,
    he appears as delighted as if he had gained another Marengo
    or Austerlitz. Now, you must agree that these are
    indubitable symptoms of insanity."

    "Or of wisdom, my dear baron -- or of wisdom," said Louis
    XVIII., laughing; "the greatest captains of antiquity amused
    themselves by casting pebbles into the ocean -- see
    Plutarch's life of Scipio Africanus."

    M. de Blacas pondered deeply between the confident monarch
    and the truthful minister. Villefort, who did not choose to
    reveal the whole secret, lest another should reap all the
    benefit of the disclosure, had yet communicated enough to
    cause him the greatest uneasiness.

    "Well, well, Dandre," said Louis XVIII., "Blacas is not yet
    convinced; let us proceed, therefore, to the usurper's
    conversion." The minister of police bowed.

    "The usurper's conversion!" murmured the duke, looking at
    the king and Dandre, who spoke alternately, like Virgil's
    shepherds. "The usurper converted!"

    "Decidedly, my dear duke."

    "In what way converted?"

    "To good principles. Tell him all about it, baron."

    "Why, this is the way of it," said the minister, with the
    gravest air in the world: "Napoleon lately had a review, and
    as two or three of his old veterans expressed a desire to
    return to France, he gave them their dismissal, and exhorted
    them to 'serve the good king.' These were his own words, of
    that I am certain."

    "Well, Blacas, what think you of this?" inquired the king
    triumphantly, and pausing for a moment from the voluminous
    scholiast before him.

    "I say, sire, that the minister of police is greatly
    deceived or I am; and as it is impossible it can be the
    minister of police as he has the guardianship of the safety
    and honor of your majesty, it is probable that I am in
    error. However, sire, if I might advise, your majesty will
    interrogate the person of whom I spoke to you, and I will
    urge your majesty to do him this honor."

    "Most willingly, duke; under your auspices I will receive
    any person you please, but you must not expect me to be too
    confiding. Baron, have you any report more recent than this
    dated the 20th February. -- this is the 4th of March?"

    "No, sire, but I am hourly expecting one; it may have
    arrived since I left my office."

    "Go thither, and if there be none -- well, well," continued
    Louis XVIII., "make one; that is the usual way, is it not?"
    and the king laughed facetiously.

    "Oh, sire," replied the minister, "we have no occasion to
    invent any; every day our desks are loaded with most
    circumstantial denunciations, coming from hosts of people
    who hope for some return for services which they seek to
    render, but cannot; they trust to fortune, and rely upon
    some unexpected event in some way to justify their
    predictions."

    "Well, sir, go"; said Louis XVIII., "and remember that I am
    waiting for you."

    "I will but go and return, sire; I shall be back in ten
    minutes."

    "And I, sire," said M. de Blacas, "will go and find my
    messenger."

    "Wait, sir, wait," said Louis XVIII. "Really, M. de Blacas,
    I must change your armorial bearings; I will give you an
    eagle with outstretched wings, holding in its claws a prey
    which tries in vain to escape, and bearing this device --
    Tenax."

    "Sire, I listen," said De Blacas, biting his nails with
    impatience.

    "I wish to consult you on this passage, 'Molli fugiens
    anhelitu," you know it refers to a stag flying from a wolf.
    Are you not a sportsman and a great wolf-hunter? Well, then,
    what do you think of the molli anhelitu?"

    "Admirable, sire; but my messenger is like the stag you
    refer to, for he has posted two hundred and twenty leagues
    in scarcely three days."

    "Which is undergoing great fatigue and anxiety, my dear
    duke, when we have a telegraph which transmits messages in
    three or four hours, and that without getting in the least
    out of breath."

    "Ah, sire, you recompense but badly this poor young man, who
    has come so far, and with so much ardor, to give your
    majesty useful information. If only for the sake of M. de
    Salvieux, who recommends him to me, I entreat your majesty
    to receive him graciously."

    "M. de Salvieux, my brother's chamberlain?"

    "Yes, sire."

    "He is at Marseilles."

    "And writes me thence."

    "Does he speak to you of this conspiracy?"

    "No; but strongly recommends M. de Villefort, and begs me to
    present him to your majesty."

    "M. de Villefort!" cried the king, "is the messenger's name
    M. de Villefort?"

    "Yes, sire."

    "And he comes from Marseilles?"

    "In person."

    "Why did you not mention his name at once?" replied the
    king, betraying some uneasiness.

    "Sire, I thought his name was unknown to your majesty."

    "No, no, Blacas; he is a man of strong and elevated
    understanding, ambitious, too, and, pardieu, you know his
    father's name!"

    "His father?"

    "Yes, Noirtier."

    "Noirtier the Girondin? -- Noirtier the senator?"

    "He himself."

    "And your majesty has employed the son of such a man?"

    "Blacas, my friend, you have but limited comprehension. I
    told you Villefort was ambitions, and to attain this
    ambition Villefort would sacrifice everything, even his
    father."

    "Then, sire, may I present him?"

    "This instant, duke! Where is he?"

    "Waiting below, in my carriage."

    "Seek him at once."

    "I hasten to do so." The duke left the royal presence with
    the speed of a young man; his really sincere royalism made
    him youthful again. Louis XVIII. remained alone, and turning
    his eyes on his half-opened Horace, muttered, --

    "Justum et tenacem propositi virum."

    M. de Blacas returned as speedily as he had departed, but in
    the ante-chamber he was forced to appeal to the king's
    authority. Villefort's dusty garb, his costume, which was
    not of courtly cut, excited the susceptibility of M. de
    Breze, who was all astonishment at finding that this young
    man had the audacity to enter before the king in such
    attire. The duke, however, overcame all difficulties with a
    word -- his majesty's order; and, in spite of the
    protestations which the master of ceremonies made for the
    honor of his office and principles, Villefort was
    introduced.

    The king was seated in the same place where the duke had
    left him. On opening the door, Villefort found himself
    facing him, and the young magistrate's first impulse was to
    pause.

    "Come in, M. de Villefort," said the king, "come in."
    Villefort bowed, and advancing a few steps, waited until the
    king should interrogate him.

    "M. de Villefort," said Louis XVIII., "the Duc de Blacas
    assures me you have some interesting information to
    communicate.

    "Sire, the duke is right, and I believe your majesty will
    think it equally important."

    "In the first place, and before everything else, sir, is the
    news as bad in your opinion as I am asked to believe?"

    "Sire, I believe it to be most urgent, but I hope, by the
    speed I have used, that it is not irreparable."

    "Speak as fully as you please, sir," said the king, who
    began to give way to the emotion which had showed itself in
    Blacas's face and affected Villefort's voice. "Speak, sir,
    and pray begin at the beginning; I like order in
    everything."

    "Sire," said Villefort, "I will render a faithful report to
    your majesty, but I must entreat your forgiveness if my
    anxiety leads to some obscurity in my language." A glance at
    the king after this discreet and subtle exordium, assured
    Villefort of the benignity of his august auditor, and he
    went on: --

    "Sire, I have come as rapidly to Paris as possible, to
    inform your majesty that I have discovered, in the exercise
    of my duties, not a commonplace and insignificant plot, such
    as is every day got up in the lower ranks of the people and
    in the army, but an actual conspiracy -- a storm which
    menaces no less than your majesty's throne. Sire, the
    usurper is arming three ships, he meditates some project,
    which, however mad, is yet, perhaps, terrible. At this
    moment he will have left Elba, to go whither I know not, but
    assuredly to attempt a landing either at Naples, or on the
    coast of Tuscany, or perhaps on the shores of France. Your
    majesty is well aware that the sovereign of the Island of
    Elba has maintained his relations with Italy and France?"

    "I am, sir," said the king, much agitated; "and recently we
    have had information that the Bonapartist clubs have had
    meetings in the Rue Saint-Jacques. But proceed, I beg of
    you. How did you obtain these details?"

    "Sire, they are the results of an examination which I have
    made of a man of Marseilles, whom I have watched for some
    time, and arrested on the day of my departure. This person,
    a sailor, of turbulent character, and whom I suspected of
    Bonapartism, has been secretly to the Island of Elba. There
    he saw the grand-marshal, who charged him with an oral
    message to a Bonapartist in Paris, whose name I could not
    extract from him; but this mission was to prepare men's
    minds for a return (it is the man who says this, sire) -- a
    return which will soon occur."

    "And where is this man?"

    "In prison, sire."

    "And the matter seems serious to you?"

    "So serious, sire, that when the circumstance surprised me
    in the midst of a family festival, on the very day of my
    betrothal, I left my bride and friends, postponing
    everything, that I might hasten to lay at your majesty's
    feet the fears which impressed me, and the assurance of my
    devotion."

    "True," said Louis XVIII., "was there not a marriage
    engagement between you and Mademoiselle de Saint-Meran?"

    "Daughter of one of your majesty's most faithful servants."

    "Yes, yes; but let us talk of this plot, M. de Villefort."

    "Sire, I fear it is more than a plot; I fear it is a
    conspiracy."

    "A conspiracy in these times," said Louis XVIII., smiling,
    "is a thing very easy to meditate, but more difficult to
    conduct to an end, inasmuch as, re-established so recently
    on the throne of our ancestors, we have our eyes open at
    once upon the past, the present, and the future. For the
    last ten months my ministers have redoubled their vigilance,
    in order to watch the shore of the Mediterranean. If
    Bonaparte landed at Naples, the whole coalition would be on
    foot before he could even reach Piomoino; if he land in
    Tuscany, he will be in an unfriendly territory; if he land
    in France, it must be with a handful of men, and the result
    of that is easily foretold, execrated as he is by the
    population. Take courage, sir; but at the same time rely on
    our royal gratitude."

    "Ah, here is M. Dandre!" cried de Blacas. At this instant
    the minister of police appeared at the door, pale,
    trembling, and as if ready to faint. Villefort was about to
    retire, but M. de Blacas, taking his hand, restrained him.
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