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- Vautrin - 4/27 -

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey But has it never occurred to you, my dear sir, that Louise is innocent?

The Duke Of course you think so, Mademoiselle de Vaudrey. And what would not I give to share your opinion! The duchess has had twenty years in which to prove to me her innocence.

The Duchess For twenty years you have wrung my heart without pity and without intermission.

The Duke Madame, unless you hand me this certificate, your Fernand will have serious cause for alarm. As soon as you returned to France you secured the document, and are trying to employ it as a weapon against me. You desire to obtain for your son a fortune and a name which do not belong to him; to secure his admission into a family, whose race has up to my time been kept pure by wives of stainless reputation, a family which has never formed a single mesalliance--

The Duchess And which will be worthily represented by your son Albert.

The Duke Be careful what you say, for you waken in me terrible memories. And your last word shows me that you will not shrink from causing a scandal that will overwhelm all of us with shame. Shall we air in public courts past occurrences which will show that I am not free from reproach, while you are infamous? (He turns to Mademoiselle de Vaudrey) She cannot have told you everything, dear aunt? She was in love with Viscount Langeac; I knew it, and respected her love; I was so young! The viscount came to me; being without hope of inheriting a fortune, and the last representative of his house, he unselfishly offered to give up Louise de Vaudrey. I trusted in their mutual generosity, and accepted her as a pure woman from his hands. Ah! I would have given my life for her, and I have proved it! The wretched man performed prodigies of valor on the Tenth of August, and called down upon himself the rage of the mob; I put him under the protection of some of my people; he was, however, discovered and taken to the Abbaye. As soon as I learned his predicament, I gave into the hands of a certain Boulard all the money I had collected for our flight! I induced Boulard to join the Septembrists in order to save the viscount from death; I procured his escape! (To the duchess) He paid me back well, did he not? I was young, madly in love, impetuous, yet I never crushed the boy! You have to-day made me the same requital for my pity, as your lover made for my trust in him. Well--things remain just as they were twenty years ago excepting that the time for pity is past. And I will repeat what I said to you then: Forget your son, and he shall live.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey And shall her sufferings during those twenty years count for nothing?

The Duke A great crime calls for a great atonement.

The Duchess Ah--if you take my grief for a sign of remorse, I will again protest to you, I am innocent! No! Langeac never betrayed your confidence; it was not for his king alone he went to his death, and from the fatal day on which he bade me farewell and surrendered me to you, I have never seen him again.

The Duke You purchased the life of your son by making an exactly contrary declaration.

The Duchess Can a compact dictated by terror be looked upon as an avowal of guilt?

The Duke Do you intend to give that certificate of birth?

The Duchess It is no longer in my possession.

The Duke I will no longer answer then for your son's safety.

The Duchess Have you weighed well the consequences of this threat?

The Duke You ought to know me by this time.

The Duchess The trouble is that you do not know me. You will no longer answer for my son's safety? Indeed--but you had better look after your own son. Albert is a guarantee for the life of Fernand. If you keep watch on my proceedings, I shall set a watch on yours; if you rely upon the police of the realm, I have resources of my own, and the assistance of God. If you deal a blow at Fernand, beware of what may happen to Albert. A blow for a blow!--That is final.

The Duke You are in our own house, madame. I forgot myself. Pray pardon me. I was wrong.

The Duchess You are more a gentleman than your son; when he flies into a rage he begs no one's pardon, not he!

The Duke (aside) Has her resignation up to this time been nothing but a pretence? Has she been waiting for the present opportunity to speak? Women who are guided by the advice of bigots travel underground, like volcanic fires, and only reveal themselves when they break out. She knows my secret, I have /lost sight of her son/, and my defeat is imminent. (Exit.)

SCENE TENTH. Mademoiselle de Vaudrey and the Duchess.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Louise, you love the child you have never seen, and hate him who is before your eyes. Ah! you must tell the reason of your hatred for Albert, if you would retain my esteem and my affection.

The Duchess Not a word on that subject.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey The calm way in which your husband remarks your aversion for your son is astonishing.

The Duchess He is accustomed to it.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Yet you could never show yourself a bad mother, could you?

The Duchess A bad mother? No. (She reflects.) I cannot make up my mind to forfeit your affection. (She draws her aunt to her side.) Albert is not my son.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Can a stranger have usurped the place, the name, the title, the property of the real child?

The Duchess No, not a stranger, but his son. After the fatal night on which Fernand was carried off from me, an eternal separation between the duke and myself took place. The wife in me was as cruelly outraged as the mother. But still I purchased from him peace of mind.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey I do not understand your meaning.

The Duchess I allowed the duke to present this Albert, child of a Spanish courtesan, as if he were mine. The duke desired an heir. Amid the confusion wrought in Spain by the French Revolution the trick escaped notice. Are you surprised that my blood boils at the sight of this strange woman's child occupying the place of the lawful heir?

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Now I can deeply sympathize with your hopes; ah! how glad I should be if you were right in your suspicions and this young man were indeed your son. But what is the matter with you?

The Duchess He is, I fear, ruined; for I have brought him under the notice of his father, who will-- But stay, something must be done! I must find out where he lives, and warn him not to come here to-morrow morning.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Leave the house at this hour! Louise, you are mad!

The Duchess Come, we must save him at any price.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey What do you propose doing?

The Duchess Neither of us can leave the house to-morrow without being noticed. We must forestall the duke by bribing my chambermaid.

Mademoiselle de Vaudrey Louise, would you resort to such means as this?

The Duchess If Raoul is the son disclaimed by his father, the child over whom I have mourned for the last twenty years, I must show them what a wife, a mother, who has been wrongly accused, can do!

Curtain to the First Act.


SCENE FIRST. (Scene the same as in preceding act.)

Vautrin - 4/27

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