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- Vautrin - 3/27 -
Vautrin Poor woman! And the duke?
Joseph He is an egotist.
Vautrin Yes, a statesman. (Aside) The duke must have secrets, and we must look into that. Every great aristocrat has some paltry passion by which he can be led; and if I once get control of him, his son, necessarily-- (To Joseph) What is said about the marriage of the Marquis de Montsorel and Inez de Christoval?
Joseph I haven't heard a word. The duchess seems to take very little interest in it.
Vautrin And she has only one son! That seems hardly natural.
Joseph Between ourselves, I believe she doesn't love her son.
Vautrin I am obliged to draw this word from your throat, as if it were the cork in a bottle of Bordeaux. There is, I perceive, some mystery in this house. Here is a mother, a Duchesse de Montsorel, who does not love her son, her only son! Who is her confessor?
Joseph She keeps her religious observances a profound secret.
Vautrin Good--I shall soon know everything. Secrets are like young girls, the more you conceal them, the sooner they are discovered. I will send two of my rascals to the Church of St. Thomas Aquinas. They won't work out their salvation in that way, but they'll work out something else.-- Good-bye.
Joseph (alone) He is an old friend--and that is the worst nuisance in the world. He will make me lose my place. Ah, if I were not afraid of being poisoned like a dog by Jacques Collin, who is quite capable of the act, I would tell all to the duke; but in this vile world, every man for himself, and I am not going to pay another man's debt. Let the duke settle with Jacques; I am going to bed. What noise is that? The duchess is getting up. What does she want? I must listen. (He goes out, leaving the door slightly ajar.)
The Duchesse de Montsorel (alone) Where can I hide the certificate of my son's birth? (She reads) "Valencia. . . . July, 1793." An unlucky town for me! Fernand was actually born seven months after my marriage, by one of those fatalities that give ground for shameful accusations! I shall ask my aunt to carry the certificate in her pocket, until I can deposit it in some place of safety. The duke would ransack my rooms for it, and the whole police are at his service. Government refuses nothing to a man high in favor. If Joseph saw me going to Mademoiselle de Vaudrey's apartments at this hour, the whole house would hear of it. Ah--I am alone in the world, alone with all against me, a prisoner in my own house!
SCENE EIGHTH. The Duchesse de Montsorel and Mademoiselle de Vaudrey.
The Duchess I see that you find it is impossible to sleep as I do>
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Louise, my child, I only rose to rid you of a dream, the awakening from which will be deplorable. I consider it my duty to distract you from your insane fancies. The more I think of what you told me the more is my sympathy aroused. But I am compelled to tell you the truth, cruel as it is; beyond doubt the duke has placed Fernand in some compromising situation, so as to make it impossible for him to retrieve his position in the world to which you belong. The young man you saw cannot be your son.
The Duchess Ah, you never knew Fernand! But I knew him, and in whatever place he is, his life has an influence on mine. I have seen him a thousand times--
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey In your dreams!
The Duchess Fernand has the blood of the Montsorels and the Vaudreys in his veins. The place to which he was born he is able to take; everything gives way before him wherever he appears. If he became a soldier, he is to-day a colonel. My son is proud, he is handsome, people like him! I am sure he is beloved. Do not contradict me, dear aunt; Fernand still lives; if not, then the duke has broken faith, and I know he values too highly the virtues of his race to disgrace them.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey But are not honor and a husband's vengeance dearer to him than his faith as a gentleman?
The Duchess Ah! You make me shudder.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey You know very well, Louise, that pride of race is hereditary with the Montsorels, as it is with the Montemarts.
The Duchess I know it too well! The doubt cast upon his child's legitimacy has almost crazed him.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey You are wrong there. The duke has a warm heart, and a cool head; in all matters that concern the sentiments on which they live, men of that temper act promptly in carrying out their ideas.
The Duchess But, dear aunt, do you know at what price he has granted me the life of Fernand? Haven't I paid dearly for the assurance that his days were not to be shortened? If I had persisted in maintaining my innocence I should have brought certain death upon him; I have sacrificed my good name to save my son. Any mother would have done as much. You were taking care of my property here; I was alone in a foreign land, and was the prey of ill-health, fever, and with none to counsel me, and I lost my head; for since that time it has constantly occurred to me that the duke would never have carried out his threats. In making the sacrifice I did, I knew that Fernand would be poor and destitute, without a name, and dwelling in an unknown land; but I knew also that his life would be safe, and that some day I should recover him, even if I had to search the whole world over! I felt so cheerful as I came in that I forgot to give you the certificate of Fernand's birth, which the Spanish ambassador's wife has at last obtained for me; carry it about with you until you can place it in the hands of your confessor.
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey The duke must certainly have learnt the measures you have taken in this matter, and woe be to your son! Since his return he has been very busy, and is still busy about something.
The Duchess If I shake off the disgrace with which he has tried to cover me, if I give up shedding tears in silence, be assured that nothing can bend me from my purpose. I am no longer in Spain or England, at the mercy of a diplomat crafty as a tiger, who during the whole time of our emigration was reading the thoughts of my heart's inmost recesses, and with invisible spies surrounding my life as by a network of steel; turning my secrets into jailers, and keeping me prisoner in the most horrible of prisons, an open house! I am in France, I have found you once more, I hold my place at court, I can speak my mind there; I shall learn what has become of the Vicomte de Langeac, I should prove that since the Tenth of August[*] we have never met, I shall inform the king of the crime committed by a father against a son who is the heir of two noble houses. I am a woman, I am Duchesse de Montsorel, I am a mother! We are rich, we have a virtuous priest for an adviser; right is on our side, and if I have demanded the certificate of my son's birth--
[*] A noteworthy date in French history, August 10, 1792; the day of the storming of the Tuileries.--J. W. M.
SCENE NINTH. The same persons, and the Duc de Montsorel (who enters as the duchess pronounces the last sentence).
The Duke It is only for the purpose of handing it to me.
The Duchess Since when have you ventured to enter my apartment without previously sending me word and asking my leave?
The Duke Since you broke the agreement we made. You swore to take no steps to find this--your son. This was the sole condition on which I promised to let him live.
The Duchess And is it not much more honorable to violate such an oath, than to remain faithful to all others?
The Duke We are henceforth both of us released from our engagements.
The Duchess Have you, up to the present day, respected yours?
The Duke I have, madame.
The Duchess Listen to him, aunt, and bear witness to this declaration.
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