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- Vautrin - 5/27 -


The Duc de Montsorel and Joseph.

The Duke Joseph, I am not at home excepting to one person. If he comes, you will show him up. I refer to Monsieur de Saint-Charles. Find out whether your mistress will see me. (Exit Joseph.) The awakening of a maternal instinct, which I thought had been utterly extinguished in her heart, amazes me beyond measure. The secret struggle in which she is engaged must at once be put a stop to. So long as Louise was resigned our life was not intolerable; but disputes like this would render it extremely disagreeable. I was able to control my wife so long as we were abroad, but in this country my only power over her lies in skillful handling, and a display of authority. I shall tell everything to the king. I shall submit myself to his dictation, and Madame de Montsorel must be compelled to submit. I must however bide my time. The detective, whom I am to employ, if he is clever, will soon find out the cause of this revolt; I shall see whether the duchess is merely deceived by a resemblance, or whether she has seen her son. For myself I must confess to having lost sight of him since my agents reported his disappearance twelve years ago. I was very much excited last night. I must be more discreet. If I keep quiet she will be put off her guard and reveal her secrets.

Joseph (re-entering the room) Her grace the duchess has not yet rung for her maid.

The Duke Very well.

SCENE SECOND. The preceding and Felicite. (To explain his presence in his wife's room, the duke looks over articles lying on the table, and discovers a letter in a book.)

The Duke (reading) "To Mademoiselle Inez de Christoval." (aside) Why should my wife have concealed a letter of such slight importance? She no doubt wrote it after our quarrel. Is it concerning Raoul? This letter must not go to the Christoval house.

Felicite (looking for the letter in the book) Now, where is that letter of madame's? Can she have forgotten it?

The Duke Aren't you looking for a letter?

Felicite Yes, your grace.

The Duke Isn't this it?

Felicite The very one, your grace.

The Duke It is astonishing that you should leave the very hour your mistress must need your services; she is getting up.

Felicite Her grace the duchess has Therese; and besides I am going out by her orders.

The Duke Very good. I did not wish to interfere with you.

SCENE THIRD. The preceding, and Blondet, alias the Chevalier de Saint-Charles. (Joseph and Saint-Charles walk together from the centre door, and eye each other attentively.)

Joseph (aside) The look of that man is very distasteful to me. (To the duke) The Chevalier de Saint-Charles.

(The duke signs to Saint-Charles to approach, and examines his appearance.)

Saint-Charles (giving him a letter, aside) Does he know my antecedents, or will he simply recognize me as Saint- Charles?

The Duke My dear sir--

Saint-Charles I am to be merely Saint-Charles.

The Duke You are recommended to me as a man whose ability, if it had fair scope, would be called genius.

Saint-Charles If his grace the duke will give me an opportunity, I will prove myself worthy of that flattering opinion.

The Duke You shall have one at once.

Saint-Charles What are your commands?

The Duke You see that maid. She is going to leave the house. I do not wish to hinder her doing so; yet she must not cross the threshold, until she receives a fresh order. (Calls her) Felicite!

Felicite What is it, your grace?

(The Duke gives her the letter. Exit Felicite.)

Saint-Charles (to Joseph) I recognize you, I know all about you: See that this maid remains in the house with the letter, and I will not recognize you, and will know nothing of you, and will let you stay here so long as you behave yourself.

Joseph (aside) This fellow on one side, and Jacques Collin on the other! Well; I must try to serve them both honestly.

(Exit Joseph in pursuit of Felicite.)

SCENE FOURTH. The Duke and Saint-Charles.

Saint-Charles Your grace's commands are obeyed. Do you wish to know the contents of the letter?

The Duke Why, my dear sir, the power you seem to exercise is something terrible and wonderful.

Saint-Charles You gave me absolute authority in the matter, and I used it well.

The Duke And what if you had abused it?

Saint-Charles That would have been impossible, for such a course would ruin me.

The Duke How is it that men endowed with such faculties are found employing them in so lowly a sphere?

Saint-Charles Everything is against our rising above it; we protect our protectors, we learn too many honorable secrets, and are kept in ignorance of too many shameful ones to be liked by people, and render such important services to others that they can only shake off the obligation by speaking ill of us. People think that things are only words with us; refinement is thus mere silliness, honor a sham, and acts of treachery mere diplomacy. We are the confidants of many who yet leave us much to guess at. Our programme consists in thinking and acting, finding out the past from the present, ordering and arranging the future in the pettiest details, as I am about to--and, in short, in doing a hundred things that might strike dismay to a man of no mean ability. When once our end is gained, words become things once more, and people begin to suspect that possibly we are infamous scoundrels.

The Duke There may be some justice in all this, but I do not suppose you expect to change the opinion of the world, or even mine?

Saint-Charles I should be a great fool if I did. I don't care about changing another man's opinion; what I do want to change is my own position.

The Duke According to you that would be very easy, wouldn't it?

Saint-Charles Why not, your grace? Let some one set me to play the spy over cabinets, instead of raking up the secrets of private families. Instead of dogging the footsteps of shady characters, let them put me in charge of the craftiest diplomats. Instead of pandering to the vilest passions, let me serve the government. I should be delighted to play a modest part in a great movement. And what a devoted servant your grace would have in me!

The Duke I am really sorry to employ such talents as yours in so petty an affair, my friend, but it will give me an opportunity of testing, and then we'll see.

Saint-Charles (aside) Ah--We shall see? That means, all has already been seen.

The Duke I wish to see my son married--

Saint-Charles To Mademoiselle Inez de Christoval, Princesse d'Arjos--a good match! Her father made the mistake of entering Joseph Bonaparte's service,


Vautrin - 5/27

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