Part 12 out of 13
"I request my minister and the marshal of my household to approach
and witness the signing of my will."
They came in, and, taking up a document which lay on a table close
by, the duke raised himself in bed, and, supported by the doctor,
gave his signature.
"Take it," said he, "to Turin. Place it in the archives, and when I
am dead let it be opened in the presence of the duchess and of my
well-beloved kinsman here present, the Prince of Savoy. And now,"
said he, "farewell. My strength is exhausted! The end is nigh!"
And with these faintly-articulated words, Victor Amadeus fell back
upon his pillow and swooned.
Eugene returned to his quarters in a state of extreme perplexity.
"How is the duke?" cried De Commercy, who shared his lodgings.
"I do not know," said Eugene, moodily. "But this I know. we march,
not to Grenoble, but back to Turin."
"Yes; such are the duke's latest orders, and, as he has appointed no
one to represent him, the army is still under his sole control. I
told you, we should get no farther than Embrun!"
"But the duke? It is not possible that he is acting the sick man all
"Not possible! Nothing is impossible to such a crafty, vulpine
nature as his!"
"The bulletins say that he is attacked with scarlet fever, and you
must have seen whether he bears its marks on his skin or not."
"He has them, but--this shrewd kinsman of mine has many a secret
unknown to such as you and myself, Commercy. Perhaps I do him
injustice; for, in good sooth, I am provoked, and in a humor to
suspect everybody. His voice is very weak, and indeed, Commercy, I
would feel very uncomfortable should he prove to me, by dying, that
I have suspected him unjustly. I must go again; I MUST satisfy my
The duke's condition was declared to be so precarious that sentries
were stationed at every entrance of the castle, to prevent so much
as the lightest footstep from being heard by the noble patient. He
was passing a crisis, and, during the transition, not a soul must be
admitted within the castle gates.
Prince Eugene, nevertheless, at dusk, betook himself thitherward.
The sentry saluted him, but barred the entrance.
"You do not know me," said the prince. "I am the duke's nearest
kinsman, and, unless you have orders to exclude me personally, I
have the entrance to his chamber."
"We have no orders with reference to your highness," was the reply.
"Then I must pass, and I shoulder the responsibility."
The officer signed to the sentry to stand aside, and Eugene entered
the castle, crossed the tessellated vestibule, and ascended the wide
marble staircase. Here he was stopped a second time, but he referred
the guards to the officer below, and was again allowed to pass. "I
must try to solve this riddle," thought he. "The emperor's interests
hang upon the solution. Luckily, I have a pretext for my unexpected
visit in these dispatches."
He had now traversed the long, lofty hall; had entered a smaller one
that led to the duke's antechamber, and had reached the opposite end
of the room, where stood two more sentries, one before each door
that opened into the duke's chamber. They had seen him in the
morning, and taking it for granted that, having penetrated thus far,
he had authority to go farther, they saluted him, and stepped aside.
Eugene whispered, "Is this the door by which I entered this
The sentry bowed.
"Whither does it lead?"
"To his royal highness's alcove, my lord."
"Right," said Eugene, laying his hand on the lock. It turned, and he
was in a small recess which opened into the alcove. The portiere was
down, and Eugene stood irresolute before it. He felt a nervous dread
of he knew not what, and almost resolved to retrace his steps. He
thought he could not bear the shock of the duke's treachery, should
the illness prove--as he feared it would--a sham. He wondered what
he would do; and began to think it better not to penetrate into the
secrets of his kinsman's acts, but--
No, no! He had gone too far to lose his opportunity, and, ashamed of
his irresolution, he raised the portiere. The alcove was darkened by
draperies, but as soon as Eugene's eyes had accustomed themselves to
the obscurity of the place, he drew near the bed, opened the
curtains, and beheld--nobody! nothing!
"I was right," muttered he, grinding his teeth; "it was a comedy!"
As he retreated, he stumbled against the little table, and the chink
of the phials that stood upon it was audible.
"Is that you, my good Annetta?" said the voice of the duke.
Eugene emerged from the alcove, and entered the sitting-room. There,
in an arm-chair, before a table laden with viands, fruits, and rare
wines, sat the expiring patient that had made his will in the
The duke was in the act of raising a glass of wine to his lips. He
laid it hastily down, and his keen eyes darted fire at the intruder.
"What means this?" asked he, in a voice that was somewhat uncertain.
"If I may be permitted to interpret what I see before me," replied
Eugene, "I should say that your highness is merely carrying out
military customs. We were at a funeral this morning, to the tune of
a dead march--we return, this afternoon, to that of a quick-step."
"I hope you are agreeably surprised to find that instead of being
left behind, I have come back with the music," said the duke,
recovering his self-possession. "Come and join me in a glass of good
wine. I am as yet too weak to do the honors of my house, but I shall
enjoy my repast twofold, now that I have a guest. Sit down. My
physician, having ascertained that what I mistook for approaching
dissolution was a favorable crisis, has prescribed a generous diet
for me, and I do assure you that, with every mouthful, I feel my
health return. Ah, Eugene! life is a great boon, and I thank God,
who has generously prolonged mine. I hope that you, too, are glad to
see me revive; the army, I know, will rejoice to hear of my
"I do not doubt their joy," replied Eugene, "for your highness's
quick convalescence will spare them the mortification of a retreat
to Piedmont. I presume you will now march to Paris."
"My fiery, impetuous Eugene," replied Victor Amadeus, with an air of
superiority, "you forget that convalescence is not health. I am here
for three weeks at least, and by that time the season will be too
much advanced to make a second invasion of France. So, God willing,
we shall return to Piedmont, there to prosecute the war against
Catinat and his incendiaries, whom I hope to drive ignominiously
"That is--we are to hold ourselves on the defensive," replied
Eugene, bitterly. "Your highness is truly magnanimous! All France
lies within your grasp, and, instead of taking advantage of your
good fortune, you lay it humbly at the feet of Louis. We have it in
our power to dictate terms, while this retreat exposes us to have
them dictated to ourselves."
"Field-marshal," said the duke, haughtily, "you forget that you
speak to your commander-in-chief."
"Yes--to remember that I speak to the Duke of Savoy--"
"With the head of your house," interrupted the duke, "to whom you
"I accord it with all my heart. Precisely because the Duke of Savoy
is the chief of our house, do I implore him not to turn his back
upon the road which lies open to fame and renown, but to advance
bravely to the front, as becomes the friend and ally of the
Victor Amadeus put his hand up to his head. "Excuse me--I am not
equal to the holding of a council of war, nor do I intend to have my
commands discussed. We go back to Piedmont."
"Then I must submit," said Eugene, mournfully. "But I crave
permission to ask one question of my kinsman."
"Say on," answered the duke, wearily.
"Does your highness propose to desert the cause of the emperor, and
renew your alliance with France? Ah, you smile! You smile to think
that I should be so unpractised in the art of diplomacy, as to
expect a direct answer to such an inquiry. But I entreat you to
remember, that your defection concerns not only your honor but mine
"My dear Eugene," said the duke, mildly, "you are anxious without
any grounds for anxiety. At your solicitation, and from my own
convictions of duty, I became the ally of the emperor; I have never
reaped any advantage from the alliance, and yet I have remained
perfectly loyal. France has made me many offers, every one of which
I have rejected. So, make yourself easy on the score of my good
faith, and let us change the subject. To what chance do I owe the
pleasant surprise of this visit from you?"
"I have the honor to bring letters to your royal highness from the
emperor," answered Eugene, presenting his dispatches. "I owe it to
my relationship with your highness, that I was allowed by your
sentries to effect my entrance here."
"Of course, of course. Everybody knows in what high esteem I hold
Prince Eugene. Verily I believe you to be the most popular man in
the army, and your brown cassock to inspire more respect than my
field-marshal's uniform. And now to study the emperor's letter. I
say study, for his majesty will write to me in Latin, and I am no
"While your highness is occupied," said Eugene, rising, "I will
retire to the window." He crossed the room, and, entering the
embrasure, was completely lost to view behind its hangings.
There was a silence of some duration. The duke studied his Latin,
while Eugene looked out of the window. Suddenly, without any
previous formality of knocking, the door leading to the antechamber
flew open, and the voice of the old nurse was heard.
"Your highness," said she, as though communicating a most agreeable
piece of news, "your highness, here is the French ambassador. I--"
"Peace, Annetta, peace!" cried Victor Amadeus. But Annetta was too
much interested to hear, and she went on with great volubility:
"Here he is; I passed him through. Everybody mistook him for Prince
"Annetta, hold your tongue!" cried the duke, in a thundering voice.
"Ay, your highness, ay," was the reply of the old woman, who,
stepping back, opened the door and called out:
"Count Tesse, his highness expects you; come in."
And, to be sure, there walked in a gentleman wearing the identical
brown cassock, with its brass buttons, which was known as the
costume of Prince Eugene of Savoy!
Victor Amadeus, in despair, sprang from his chair, and made a
deprecatory movement by which he hoped to prevail upon the count to
retreat. But he only looked bewildered; and his bewilderment
increased to positive consternation, when the curtains opened, and
the veritable Eugene stepped out and surveyed him with undisguised
"My dear Eugene," said the duke, in a conciliatory voice, "you see
how pertinaciously I am besieged by these Frenchmen. Here, for
instance, is Count Tesse. This is his third attempt to force an
interview with me, and he has gained his end by bribing my silly old
nurse to admit him under the garb of one to whom no one here would
dare deny entrance. Count Tesse is an envoy of the King of France,
and in your presence I intend to show him that no offer, however
brilliant, can induce me to forsake my imperial ally of Austria."
"I am perfectly convinced of your loyalty," said Eugene, with an
ironical smile, "and, to prove my trust, I beg permission to
withdraw. I have the honor to bid you good-evening."
So saying, Eugene inclined his head to the duke, and, paying no
attention whatever to his double, passed on.
With a saddened heart he returned to his barracks. He was met by the
Prince de Commercy, holding aloft a huge placard. "The bulletin! The
bulletin!" cried he. "The crisis is past, and the duke is safe."
"We, however, my friend, are in great danger. We are not driven from
French territory by our enemies, but by our pretended friends. Ah!
Victor Amadeus has this day inflicted upon me a wound more painful
than that of the Janizary's arrow at Belgrade. He has withered my
laurels at the very moment when my hand was extended to pluck them."
"Then he abandons us, and declares himself for France?" asked De
"If that were all, we could bear his defection, for we would have
one enemy more--that is all. Instead of which, we have a double-
faced friend who will have far more power to injure us by his
treachery in our own camp, than by his hostility in that of the
enemy. I will warn the emperor, as it is my duty to do; but he will
be dazzled by the fine promises of the duke, and disregard my
warning. [Footnote: Every thing happened exactly as Eugene
predicted. The Duke of Savoy retained command of the imperial army
for three years, during which he played into the hands of Louis
XIV., condemning the allied forces to total inaction, until France
had complied with all his exactions, when he declared himself for
Louis, and accepted the rank of a general in the French army. The
Prince de Commercy was so exasperated that he challenged the duke,
but the challenge was refused.] Meanwhile, as long as Victor Amadeus
wears his mask, should we even wrest a victory in spite of his
intrigues, he will manage to deprive us of all its advantages. He
will sell us to France, of that you may be sure."
THE MARQUIS STROZZI.
"Then you think that Strozzi will not recognize me?" asked
Barbesieur de Louvois.
"I know it," replied Carlotta. "His memory is a blank from which
every image, except that of his wife, has been effaced."
"Does he love her still?"
"Unhappily he does," sighed Carlotta.
"My good girl," said Barbesieur, trying to look amiable, "pray don't
be so concise. Tell me the condition of the marquis, at once: I did
not come to this old owl's roost for pastime. I came to see what
could be done to restore its unhappy lord to reason. That you are
observing, I remember; you proved it by the good care you took of my
"My lord, you jest; but the flight of the marchioness has disgraced
me. She outwitted me, and I shall hate her to the end of my days."
"Verily I believe you," laughed Barbesieur, as he saw the glitter of
her pale-green eyes. "I see in your face that you know how to hate.
But you must excuse me if I am amused when I think I see you
watching the doors like a she-Cerberus, while that sly creature was
flying out of the chimney. But never mind her: I want to talk with
you of her husband. I know that he was confined in a mad-house; but,
having occasion to see if he was sane enough to do me a service, I
found out that he had been discharged as cured, and had retired
within himself. Now, good Carlotta, tell me his veritable
"He never has been sane since the flight of the marchioness. The
morning after, when, in spite of our knocking and calling, we
received no answer, I set Julia to watch the doors (for I thought
she was merely trying to frighten us, and would make her escape
while we were away), and went to consult the marquis as to what we
must do. When we returned, Julia assured us that she had not heard a
breath since I had been away."
"And I suppose that the marquis forced the doors?"
"Oh, no, my lord," replied Carlotta, bitterly. "He was so fearful of
displeasing her that he resisted all my importunities to break them
open. He knocked and begged so humbly for admission, that I fairly
cried with rage. This lasted for hours. Finally he fell on his knees
and cried like a child, promising, if she would open the door, to
give her her freedom, and never imprison her again. Then he swore by
the memory of his father that he would go to Rome and get a divorce
for her. It was shameful; and at last I cried out for passion, and
told him to get up and behave like a man. But all in vain. Suddenly
Julia came running to say that, while the marquis had been lying
before the parlor door, she had forced the one that led to the
sitting-room, and that the marchioness had escaped."
"What did Strozzi do when he heard this? Whine louder?"
"Oh, no! He sprang up, rushed into the rooms, and began to search
"I suppose you helped, like good dogs after their game?"
"Of course, for it seemed impossible that she should have gotten out
by any but supernatural means. But at last we were obliged to accept
the fact of her flight, wonderful as it was, and we sat down. Not so
the marquis. He appeared to think that she had been transformed into
a mouse, for he ran about, opening boxes, looking under tables,
occasionally stopping to roar like a wild beast, or falling on his
knees and weeping. Then he would begin his hunt again, and this
lasted the whole day. We asked him to take some rest, and let his
servants be sent out to search the woods, but he gave us no answer,
still going round and round until dusk, when he called for lights.
He kept up his search the whole night; and when the sun rose, and we
awoke, we found him running to and fro, from one room to the other.
In vain we pressed him to eat or to rest, he spoke not a word to any
of us. Finally, one of the men laid hands on him to force him to sit
down, when he drew back and struck him with such force that the
blood spirted from his face, as he fell full length on the floor.
The marquis went on in this manner for a week, each day growing
paler and feebler, until at last he staggered like a drunken man."
"Unhappy lover!" exclaimed Barbesieur, with a shrug.
"Finally, the physician we had sent for came from Turin. By this
time the marquis had fallen from exhaustion, and lay asleep. He was
lifted to bed, and four men were set to watch him; for the doctor
expected him to be violent when he waked. And so he was. He tried to
leap out of bed, and was finally bound hand and foot. After a while,
came his cousin from Venice, who took charge of him and of his
"Yes, to my cost," growled Barbesieur. "for he swindled me out of my
"The Marquis Balbi-Strozzi inherits the estate, if the Marquis
Ottario dies without heirs," said Carlotta.
"The Marquis Ottario will not be such an ass as to die without
heirs," cried Barbesieur, impatiently. "He shall be reconciled to
his wife, or he shall marry some other woman, and beget children.
The devil! He is a young man, and nobody dies of love, nowadays."
"He looks like a man of eighty," said Carlotta.
"He is much changed, then?"
"You would not know him, my lord."
"Perhaps not, but he will recover his youth with his health. What
does he do all day, Carlotta? What does he say?"
"My lord, he says nothing, except an occasional word to his valet.
As for what he does, he is forever shut up in his laboratory."
"Laboratory? What sort of a laboratory?"
"A room which, immediately after his return, he had fitted up like a
great kitchen. When the alterations had been made, he went to Turin,
and came home with the entire contents of an apothecary shop, with
which the shelves of his laboratory are filled. I helped him to
place his jars and phials, but much against my will, for he calls me
Barbesieur laughed. "Do tell me what he calls you?"
"My lord, you may laugh, but you would not like to answer to the
name of 'Basilisk.'"
"To be sure, 'Floweret' would be much more appropriate to your style
of beauty, Carlotta; but let that pass, and go on with your
narrative. What is Strozzi about, in this laboratory?"
"How do I know, my lord? He cooks and evaporates his messes; then
runs to his table and reads in some mouldy old parchments; then
hurries back to the chimney and stirs his pipkins--then back to the
table--and so on, all day long."
"But, my angelic Carlotta, if nobody is allowed to enter the
laboratory, how came you to be so admirably posted as to Strozzi's
Carlotta looked perplexed. "My lord, there is a little hole in the
door that leads out to the corridor, and sometimes I have thought it
but right to watch our dear lord, that he might do himself no harm."
"Which means that you bored a hole in the door by way of
observatory. Nay--do not deny it; I respect your thirst for
knowledge. Does he never leave his laboratory?"
"Oh, yes, my lord. He writes a great deal in his cabinet. All his
orders are transmitted in that way. Last week the steward made a
mistake in his accounts--"
"To his own prejudice?"
"My lord," said Carlotta, with a hoarse laugh, "no, to that of the
marquis. When he discovered it, he wrote underneath, 'Two thousand
florins unaccounted for. If this occurs a second time, you are
"Good, good!" cried Barbesieur. "Then he is returning to his senses.
He receives no company?" added he.
"How should he? He knows nobody, and has forgotten every thing
connected with his past life."
"But you told me that he still remembered the marchioness?"
"As for her, my lord, he loves her as madly as ever. He stands
before her portrait, weeping by the hour, and the table is always
set for two persons. Every morning he goes into the garden and makes
a bouquet, which, he lays upon her plate before he takes his seat."
"Poor Strozzi! Sane or mad, he will always be a dreamer!" said
Barbesieur. "Where is he now?"
"In the garden, my lord; for it is almost the hour for dinner, and
he is in the conservatory gathering flowers for the empty plate."
"Show me the way. I am curious to know whether he has forgotten his
brother-in-law and benefactor."
INSANITY AND REVENGE.
Barbesieur followed Carlotta to the garden. They were walking
silently down the great avenue that led to the conservatory, when,
at some distance, they beheld advancing toward them the figure of a
man. His step was feeble and slow; his black garments hung loosely
about his shrunken limbs; his face was bloodless, like that of a
corpse, his cheeks hollow, his large eyes so sunken that their light
seemed to come from the depths of a cavern. His sparse hair, lightly
blown about by the wind, was white as snow; his long, thin beard was
of the same hue.
"Who is that strange-looking old man?" asked Barbesieur.
"That, my lord, is the Marquis Strozzi!"
"Impossible!" cried Barbesieur, with a start.
"I told you. my lord, that he looked like a decrepit old man," said
"And truly he is not a very seductive-looking personage," answered
Barbesieur. "But we must try if, in this extinguished crater, there
be not a spark by which its fire may be rekindled. Leave me,
Carlotta. I must have no third person here to divert Strozzi's
attention from myself."
"Shall I not announce you, my lord?" asked Carlotta, who was dying
of curiosity to see the meeting.
"Not at all, my angel. Go back to the castle--not by that winding
path, if you please, but by this wide avenue. And--be alert in your
movements, for I shall watch you until yonder door closes upon your
youthful charms, and hides them from my sight."
Carlotta looked venomous, but dared not tarry, and Barbesieur
followed her with his eyes until he heard the clang of the ponderous
castle-door behind her. He then confronted the living spectre that,
by this time, was within a few feet of him.
"God's greeting to you, brother-in-law," cried he, in a loud,
emphatic voice, while he grasped Strozzi's poor, wan hands, and held
them within his own.
The marquis raised his dark, blank eyes, then let them fall again
upon the bouquet which Barbesieur had so unceremoniously crushed.
"Sir," said he, gently, "do release my hand, for see--you are
bruising my flowers."
"Sure enough, he does not recognize me," said Barbesieur, relaxing
his hold; while Strozzi, unmindful of his presence, caressed his
flowers, and smoothed their crumpled leaves.
"She loves flowers," murmured the poor maniac.
Barbesieur took up the words. "Yes," said he, "yes; my sister Laura
loves flowers. Pity she is not here to see them."
The marquis shivered. "Who speaks of my Laura?" said he.
"I,--I, her brother," bawled Barbesieur, looking straight into
Strozzi's eyes. "I spoke of her, and, by G-d, I have a right to call
her, for I am her brother Barbesieur!"
Strozzi extended his hand, and an imbecile smile flitted over his
ghastly face. "Ah! then, you love her?" asked he, mournfully.
"Of course I love her," was the lying response. "You remember--do
you not--that you were indebted to me for your marriage with Laura
"Bonaletta!" screamed Strozzi. "There is no Laura Bonaletta; her
name is Laura Strozzi, the Marchioness Strozzi, my wife! Remember
that, sir--remember it."
"To be sure, to be sure," murmured Barbesieur; "he has forgotten
everybody but that tiresome Laura. Let us see if we cannot stir up
his memory to another tune."
Strozzi meanwhile had passed on, and, with his eyes fixed on his
flowers, was slowly making his way to the castle. Barbesieur
followed, though the poor lunatic seemed to have no consciousness of
his presence. They walked on together in silence, until they had
reached the castle, and entered the dining-room, where dinner was
Strozzi went up to the table, laid his offering on the plate, and
"Will you allow me to take my seat?" said he, humbly, while he took
a chair opposite, which old Martino had drawn back for his
"Do you see, my lord?" said Martino to Barbesieur; "he imagines the
marchioness present at all his meals."
"He must be undeceived," said Barbesieur, roughly.
"I beseech you, signor," said the old man, "leave him in error; for,
if you undeceive him, you will rob him of the only glimpse of
happiness that remains to him."
"I shall make the attempt, nevertheless," replied Barbesieur, in a
tone that admitted of no further remonstrance, while he advanced to
the table, and seated himself in the empty chair.
The marquis started, and his brow darkened. "Sir," said he, "that is
the head of the table--the place of the Marchioness Strozzi."
"I know it," was the reply, "and, as soon as she makes her
appearance, I will give it up.--Martino, serve the soup; I am
hungry." So saying, he tossed the bouquet to the valet, and poured
out some wine.
At this, Strozzi sprang up, and, staring at Barbesieur, with eyes
that glowed like the orbs of a wild animal--"Sir," exclaimed he,
"you are an insolent intruder!"
"I know it," cried Barbesieur--"and what next?"
The marquis gazed in bewilderment at the threatening face of his
self-invited guest, and then, slowly turning around, prepared to
leave the room. Barbesieur rose and followed him.
At the door of his cabinet he stopped and cried out:
"Let the marshal of the household see to it that no one intrudes
upon my privacy!"
And, with a gesture of offended dignity, he entered the room.
Barbesieur, however, was immediately behind him, and they had no
sooner crossed the threshold than he locked the door, and put the
key in his pocket.
"Now, I have him," thought he, "and I shall begin my experiments."
"Sir," said Strozzi, alarmed, "why do you persecute me?"
"I want you to say if you know me," answered Barbesieur, dominating
the madman with the calm, powerful glance of reason.
Strozzi shook his head, murmuring, "No, sir, no. I do not know you."
"But I know YOU, Strozzi, my good fellow. You are my beloved
brother-in-law, the husband of my sister Laura, who forsook you so
shamefully, because she did not love you."
The shaft had pierced. A gleam of returning reason shot athwart
Strozzi's face, and a faint color rose to his cheek.
"Not love me!" echoed he, tearfully; "whom, then, does she love?"
Barbesieur laid the weight of his great hands upon Strozzi's
shoulders, and looked steadfastly in his eyes. Raising his voice to
the utmost, he shouted: "I will tell you whom she loves, and mark me
well, Strozzi. She loves Prince Eugene of Savoy!"
"Eugene of Savoy!" shrieked the wretched creature. "Eugene of Savoy!
Ah, yes, I remember. I hate him, and he must die!"
"Ay, that's it!" cried Barbesieur, cheerily, "that's it. He must
die; and when he is dead, Laura will love the Marquis de Strozzi."
"You think so?" asked Strozzi, laying his tremulous hand upon
Barbesieur's, great firm arm.
"I know it. The very moment Prince Eugene dies, Laura's heart is
"He must die! He must die!" murmured Strozzi, clasping his
attenuated fingers, and looking imploringly into Barbesieur's face.
"Ay, that must he, and you are the man that shall take his life.
Your honor demands it of you."
"Yes, my honor," repeated Strozzi, "my honor. I thank you, sir, for
your goodness to me. You are the first person that ever advised me
to avenge myself on Eugene of Savoy. You are the only person that
ever advised me to take his life, and I believe you, and trust you.
Yes, sir, take my word for it, Eugene of Savoy shall die!"
"How will you go about it?" asked Barbesieur.
An expression of cunning was seen to steal over the face of the
madman, as he replied, "That is my secret, sir."
"I will tell you how to make an end of him," cried Barbesieur,
patting him on the shoulder. "Poison him!"
Strozzi gazed with astonishment at his brother-in-law, and forthwith
conceived a profound respect for his cleverness. "Did you know
that?" said he, with a silly smile. "Did you know that I meant to
"To be sure I did, and I came here to work with you in your
laboratory, until we concoct the right dose for him."
"Did you know that I had a laboratory?" asked Strozzi, in a whisper.
"And did you know that I was trying to find a brave, beautiful
poison that would kill him like a pistol-shot, or a good stab under
"I knew it all, and I came to help you."
"I thank you, sir, I thank you! Give me your hand. I take you for my
friend, and trust you. Come with me to my laboratory."
So saying, he passed his arm within that of his brother-in-law, and
led him to the opposite end of the room. Barbesieur laid his hand on
the bolt, but the door was locked.
"You see," said Strozzi, waxing confidential, "I keep this door
always locked, for let me tell you, my dear friend, that Eugene of
Savoy has surrounded my castle with a regiment of dragoons, who are
his spies. That is the reason why I never talk to anybody--I am so
afraid that my people will betray me to Prince Eugene's dragoons.
Luckily, they have never found out the secret of my laboratory, for
I always carry the key in my pocket. Here it is." He took out his
key and unlocked the door, but before opening it he addressed
Barbesieur in a solemn whisper:
"My dear friend, before you enter my sanctuary, swear to me, by the
memory of my dear departed wife, that you will not betray its
secrets to Prince Eugene's dragoons."
"I swear, my dear Strozzi, by sun, moon, and stars--"
Strozzi shook his head, and folded his hands reverently. "No, no;
swear by the memory of my sainted Laura."
Barbesieur swore, and the door was opened.
"Come in," said Strozzi.
"And may all the gods of vengeance bless my entrance hither!"
muttered Barbesieur, between his teeth.
The room was as Carlotta had described it. Its long shelves were
filled with jars and phials, and over the chimney was a wide mantel,
with porcelain pipkins, retorts, glass tubes, and flasks.
"Ah," cried Barbesieur, taking a phial from its shelf, "this is a
precious beverage, that lulls one to sleep or to death, as one's
friends may prescribe."
"Yes--it is laudanum," replied Strozzi. "A painless dagger, an
invisible sword of justice in the hands of the elect. It was the
basis of all the wonderful preparations of Katherina de Medicis.
There was a woman! Why did I not know her, and learn of her the
precious secrets of her laboratorium? From my youth, I have studied
chemistry, and I had a beautiful room in Venice, where I used to
work with the famous Chiari. But we never discovered Katherina's
"What secret, dear Strozzi?" inquired Barbesieur.
"The secret of killing people by fumes, which left no trace whatever
of their action on the body," answered Strozzi, with an awakening
gleam of wickedness in his eyes.
"And you believe that there are such delicate, ethereal little
ministers of vengeance?"
"Do I believe it?--Why, to their agency Katherina owed her elevation
to the throne of France. Nobody knows this better than I, for my
ancestor Filippo Strozzi was her friend and relative, and their
correspondence now is in the archives of the family, at Venice. I am
indebted to the letters of Katherina for much of my knowledge of
"And so you found out from her correspondence how she managed to
become Queen of France?" asked Barbesieur, anxious to indulge
Strozzi's sudden fit of garrulity.
"I did," was his complacent reply, while he nodded his head
repeatedly, and stroked his long, white beard. "When Katherina came
to France, she came as the bride of the Duke of Orleans, the second
son of Francis I. There seemed no chance for HER to be a queen, for
the dauphin was a lusty young fellow who was already betrothed to
the beautiful Infanta of Spain. But Katherina had no mind to let the
infanta reign in France, so she invited the dauphin to her castle of
Gien, and took him to her conservatory. There was a beautiful rare
flower there, which had a strong perfume. Katherina directed his
attention to it, but advised him not to hang over it too long, as it
never failed to give HER the headache, if she approached it too
closely. The dauphin laughed, and was not to be frightened away from
a flower, because of the headache. Moreover, the odor was
delightful, and he would not be warned. That day he had a headache;
the next, he was pale and feeble, and in less than a week, he died,
and nobody the wiser, except Katherina."
"And he died, really from the odor of a flower?"
"Yes. from a flower which Katherina had perfumed for his use, my
dear friend. And do you know how she made away with Joanna of
Navarre, who had guessed the secret of the dauphin's death, and had
already hinted her suspicions to her brother Francis?"
"No, I never heard of it. Upon my word, Strozzi, you interest me
"Do I? Well, I will tell you more, then. Katherina made a present to
Joanna of a pair of embroidered gloves. The day after she wore them
she was dead. What do you think of that?--And did you ever hear how
the Prince of Porcia died--he who advised the dauphin to divorce his
wife because she had been married for eight years and had borne him
no children?" continued Strozzi, with increasing volubility.
"I confess my ignorance, Strozzi; do enlighten me."
"I will, sir. The prince received a present from Katherina (she was
a great hand to make presents). This time it was a flask of fine
Italian oil for his night-lamp, which oil, in burning, emitted a
delicate perfume. By the time the flask was emptied, the prince had
gone the way of all flesh."
"And all this because of Queen Katherina's science?"
"And all this because of Queen Katherina's science!" echoed Strozzi.
"But you have not yet hit upon her secret yourself?"
"Not yet; but I think I am on the track, and hope to discover it in
time to try it on Prince Eugene."
Barbesieur rose from his seat, and, coming toward Strozzi, struck
him on the shoulder. "Now, Strozzi, look at me attentively, and try
to understand what I am about to say to you. I will help you to seek
this poison. Do you hear?"
"Yes," said Strozzi, with a cunning leer. "Yes, I hear. You will
help me to seek the poison for Prince Eugene."
"Good," replied Barbesieur. "Now, look at me full in the eyes. Look,
I tell you!" repeated he, as Strozzi's face began to relapse into
imbecility. "I have found the poison."
Strozzi uttered a triumphant yell, but Barbesieur silenced him. "Pay
attention while I tell you how I became possessed of it. I was by,
when La Voisin was put to the torture in La Chambre ardente, and I
heard her confession. I was deputed to search for her papers; and
before I delivered them up you may be sure that I examined them, to
see what I could make out of them for my own profit. I found various
receipts for love-potions, as well as for the renowned poudre de
succession of the Countess Soissons; but of that anon. Do you mark
"Oh, sir," cried Strozzi, trembling in every limb, "speak--speak
quickly, or I shall die of suspense!"
Barbesieur then, emphasizing each word, replied: "I found a
parchment on which were inscribed these words: 'Receipt for
procuring death by inhalation. Queen Katherina de Medicis.'"
"That is it, that is it," howled Strozzi, and in his ecstasy he
flung his arms around Barbesieur's great body. But suddenly his
countenance became expressive of distrust, and his eye had a deadly
glitter, like that of a snake.
"But will you give it to me? Where is it? I warn you, do not trifle
with me, for you never shall leave this laboratory until I have it!"
Meanwhile he made a furtive movement toward his breast.
But Barbesieur had seen the gesture, and with his powerful grasp he
clutched Strozzi's hand, and withdrew it armed with a poniard of
fine, glistening steel. Flinging it with such force against the wall
that it buried itself in the masonry, Barbesieur gazed for a moment
at the poor fool whose teeth were chattering with fear; then leading
him to a seat--
"Come," said he, "let us talk like men. We are neither enemies nor
rivals; we are brothers, having one and the same interest at stake."
"Yes, sir," murmured Strozzi, obsequiously.
"Well, then, look at me. Did you ever see me before?"
Strozzi raised his obedient eyes and looked--for a while, in blank
amazement. But gradually his black orbs dilated, and a sudden flash
of intelligence crossed his face. He breathed hard.
"I think, sir, I think you are--are--ah, yes! I know. You are Count
Barbesieur de Louvois."
"Right, right," cried Barbesieur. "Laura Strozzi's brother."
"Are you the brother of my darling Laura?" cried Strozzi. "If you
are, you are welcome, sir. Oh, if she were but alive to see you!"
"Alive? What do you mean? Where do you suppose her to be?"
"She is dead," replied Strozzi, his eyes overflowing with tears.
"Dead--my own, my precious angel!"
"Of what did she die?" asked Barbesieur, highly amused at poor
Strozzi shook his head. "No one on earth knows, sir. She must have
dissolved in a sunbeam, and gone back to heaven, for her corpse was
never found here below."
"Strozzi, you are mistaken," exclaimed Barbesieur, with an
authoritative gesture. "Mark my words, and believe them, or I shall
be very angry. The Marchioness Laura is not dead. She lives here on
earth, not far away from you."
"She lives!" repeated Strozzi, starting from his seat and falling at
Barbesieur's feet. "Tell me where she is. Let me go, let me go, and
bring her home. Come--come with me!"
"Wait a minute. She is living with Eugene of Savoy, disgracing you
and me both. Before you bring her home, you must take the life of
her paramour, and just as soon as you have done that, she will be
freed from the spell that binds her, and will love nobody but you."
"Ah, he shall die," muttered Strozzi.
"Yes, he must die, and you must kill him. But _I_ shall furnish the
means. And now to work, to prepare the ambrosia that shall give him
Thanks to the illness of the Duke of Savoy, the summer campaign of
1692 was of short duration. The allies had dispersed and retired to
winter-quarters; the imperial army had retreated to Piedmont; and
the officers in command of the several divisions had betaken
themselves to Turin to enjoy the festivities that followed the
recovery of Victor Amadeus.
Eugene had been invited with the rest; but he gave his health as an
excuse for avoiding the changeable winds of Turin, and seeking the
balmy atmosphere of Nice, where, having found comfortable quarters
for his troops, he proposed to pass the coming winter.
Victor Amadeus made great pretence of regret at Eugene's absence;
but, truth to tell, he was not sorry to escape the scrutiny of his
clear-sighted cousin, who, for his part, was happy beyond expression
in the devotion of his men, and the companionship of his Laura.
Here in the peaceful seclusion of the obscure little village of
Nice, Eugene and Laura enjoyed unalloyed happiness. The fishermen
and sailors, that formed the principal part of its population, knew
nothing of the history of the grand Austrian officer that had come
to live among them. In their eyes, the beautiful signora was his
wife, as a matter of course; and they sunned themselves in the
radiance of her beauty, without ever giving a thought to the nature
of the ties that bound her to the field-marshal.
They were without an obstacle to their happiness. Eugene, sitting at
a table covered with paper and charts, wrote dispatches, and planned
his next campaign; while, on an ottoman at his side, Laura read or
embroidered, often interrupting her occupation to gaze at his
As for him, his mind was clearer, his hand was firmer, his spirit
seemed to dominate every subject of its contemplation, when she was
by. Oftentimes he paused in his labors to watch the delicate outline
of her sweet face, and, when their eyes met and they exchanged a
loving smile, he felt that there was a communion of hearts that
beggared language, and would have no interpreter but a glance.
They were sitting together on the perron of their villa, which
looked out upon the shores of the Mediterranean. The door leading to
the drawing-room was open, exposing to view a harp from which Laura
had just risen. Before them lay the boundless expanse of the ocean,
blue with reflected azure from heaven; and, like some soft, weird
melody to their ears, was the murmuring of the waves, that kissed
the smooth, white beach before them. Elsewhere all was silent, for
Nature seemed to listen--unwilling, by a sound of stirring leaf, to
break the delicious stillness.
On a sudden, a wild scream was heard in the air above, and a
vulture, cleaving the clouds, flew over their heads. Laura's smiling
face was upturned to reply to some loving expression of Eugene's;
but when the vulture's scream was heard, she rose to her feet, and
with a slight shudder followed its flight until it lessened to a dim
speck on the horizon.
"What has disturbed you, dearest?" asked Eugene.
"Nothing," whispered she. "And yet I am a miserable coward. Even
this vulture's scream has startled me. It seems like an ill omen."
"Why, my darling, why should a vulture's scream be ominous?"
"Do not laugh at me, Eugene; but my old nurse used always to cross
herself when a vulture was in sight, and if it screamed, she wept,
for she said it betokened the approach of misfortune."
"Why should you share the superstition of your nurse, dearest?"
"Because I myself once heard the scream," said Laura, growing very
pale. "I was standing with my nurse on a balcony of Bonaletta
Castle, and she was making wreaths of pomegranate and orange from
the blossoms I plucked. Meanwhile she was telling me a tale about
some enchanted princess, to which I was listening with my whole
heart. Suddenly I heard the cry of a vulture, the old woman dropped
her flowers, clasped her hands, and cried out: 'Oh, my God! there is
woe at hand! Come, child, come to the chapel, and pray the Lord to
"And it was averted by your dear prayers, was it not?" asked Eugene,
"Alas, no! Not many hours afterward, I was called to my mother's
room. She lay on her bed, dying,--in her hand, a crumpled letter.
The letter was from Barbesieur, and its contents were her death-
blow! Eugene, she never opened her eyes again!--And oh, how she
loved me--that dear mother!"
"Who that knows you can help loving you?" said Eugene, tenderly.
"Look at me, my treasure--look at me, and smile. What--tears?"
"I am thinking of my mother, dear, and of her wretched life. It
humiliates me to remember that she, who was a saint, suffered so
many sorrows, while I, her child, who have done nothing to merit it,
am too, too happy."
"Nothing to merit happiness? You, whose constancy and heroism I
could not dare to imitate? Ah, Laura, remember that before I knew
you, I was without hope, without trust, without love. You crossed my
path, and then my soul began to soar to God; for God is love, and he
that knows not love knows not what it is to adore his Creator. You
are not only the architect of my happiness, beloved, but that of my
Laura flung her arms around his neck, and rested her cheek against
his. "And you--you are my sun--the luminary of my life! Without you,
all is dark and void. Oh, Eugene! be prudent, love, and beware of
your enemies; they encompass you with snares. Do not go unarmed to
the barracks, for not long ago the soldiers saw a man following you
after dusk. They searched him, and found on his person a poniard,
and in his possession a purse of gold."
"We cannot deny that the dagger and bowl seem to be the order of the
day, in this land of bravi," returned Eugene, "and I am continually
warned that, dead or alive, the French are resolved to possess
themselves of my body. But between intention and execution there
lies a wide path, and in spite of prison and steel, I hope to tread
it safely. [Footnote: Eugene's own words.--See Armath, "Life of
Prince Eugene," vol. i, p. 51. ] So do not be unhappy on my account,
sweet one. Let me look in those dear eyes, and there read the poem
of our love--a love that death itself shall not overcome."
"No, not death itself," said Laura, repeating his words, and
nestling close to his heart. He laid his hands upon her head, and
blessed and kissed her.
"So would I love to die--so--resting on thy heart, and gazing into
thy face," murmured she, her eyes filling with tears of joyful
"Die!" exclaimed he, shuddering. "Love cannot die. Through all
eternity, its choral hymn--"
He unclasped his arms, for steps were heard along the corridor, and
presently, within the frame of the open door, was seen an orderly
attached to the household. Laura retreated to the parlor, while
Eugene demanded the reason of an intrusion so untimely upon his
"Your highness, a courier has arrived, with dispatches from the Duke
of Savoy. They are so important as to require immediate attention,
and he will deliver them to no hands but your own."
"Admit him," said Eugene, entering the drawing-room, and joining
Laura, who had taken a seat before her easel, and was preparing to
paint. "Shall I see the courier in my cabinet, or receive him here?"
"Remain here, my dearest, and let me hear the sound of your voice."
So saying, she drew the hangings together, and, in the deep
embrasure of the bay-window, was entirely concealed from view.
Gliding back into her seat, she raised her loring eyes to the canvas
whereon she was painting a portrait of her Eugene.
"I shall never, never catch the expression of those wonderful eyes,"
said she to herself. "This is their color, but where is their
heavenly light? How shall I ever transmit--"
She started, let fall her palette, and gazed, horror-stricken, at
the hangings. She had heard a voice, the tones of which, she knew
not why, made the blood freeze within her veins. These were the
words she heard: "Here, your highness, are my dispatches." Words
without significance, but Laura shivered from head to foot. With
trembling hand, she parted the hangings and looked out.
There, in the centre of the room, stood Eugene, in the act of
opening a sealed paper. For one moment, her eye rested tenderly upon
the beloved image; then she glanced quickly at the person who stood
by the door. He wore the Sardinian uniform, and stood in a
respectful posture, his eyes cast down.
But Laura? She stared at his swarthy face and bloodless lips, the
sunken cheeks, and beetle brow, with a strange repugnance that
almost shaped itself into some old, forgotten dislike.
"I must have seen him somewhere," thought she, "and the dim
remembrance of the countenance pains me terribly. If he would but
speak again! I surely would recognize that voice--that voice which
sounds to my ear like some retrospective agony of which I may have
dreamed long years ago."
Eugene still held the paper. He had opened it, and was turning it in
and out, with an expression of great surprise. "What am I to
understand by this mystification?" said he.
"Your highness," returned the courier, "the dispatches are secret,
and written with sympathetic ink. If you will hold them over a light
until a vapor begins to rise from them, the writing will appear."
Eugene rang and ordered a light. He stood smilingly, scrutinizing
the blank pages of his letter; the courier kept his eyes on the
floor, and Laura behind the hangings stood contemplating the scene,
her heart throbbing as though it would burst. She saw the orderly
place the wax-light upon the table, and Eugene advance and hold the
dispatch above it. She turned unconsciously toward the courier. His
eyes, no longer riveted on the floor, glared horribly at Eugene; and
in their glance were written manifest hatred and exultation.
For one moment Laura felt as though she were stiffening to stone:
then, dashing aside the curtains, she bounded to the table, crying
out with all the strength of her love:
"Eugene, 'tis Strozzi!" And, tearing the poisoned paper from his
hands, she flung it at the feet of the courier.
He sprang forward, and seized her in his arms. Eugene darted to her
rescue, and strove with all his might to free her from Strozzi's
grasp. But despair and insanity had lent him strength, and vain was
all striving to unlock his hands as they clutched her slender
throat, and threatened her with speedy death.
Eugene made one bound to the table, and snatched up his pistols. At
the same moment, a dagger gleamed in the air. Laura fell back with a
piercing cry. and Strozzi, kneeling over her prostrate body, covered
her face with kisses.
The sharp report of the pistol was heard--the murderer leaped up
into the air, and then dropped dead upon the floor. And close beside
him lay Laura with a poniard in her breast, whose hilt of diamonds
rose and fell with her quick breathing, and glistened brightly in
the rays of the setting sun that gilded the terrible picture.
Instinctively Eugene would have withdrawn the murderous weapon from
his darling's heart, but he felt his arm withheld, and turning
beheld Doctor Franzi.
The doctor shook his head, sadly. "Do not touch it," whispered he,
"or her life-blood will gush out, and she will die at once."
With a look of despair, the wretched man arose, and beckoned to the
doctor to follow him to the balcony.
"The truth," gasped he, while his eyes glared as if they would have
started from their sockets. "Must she die?"
"She will die instantaneously if the dagger is withdrawn. I am
familiar with the thrusts of these Venetian bravi--when they aim at
the heart, death follows the stroke immediately; but when they
strike the breast, it ensues with a gush of blood, at the withdrawal
of the weapon."
"Is there any--hope?"
The doctor knew not how to shape an answer to this heart-rending
appeal. He turned away his face, and Eugene understood the mute
"How long?" asked he, almost inaudibly.
"If it were any other woman, I should expect internal hemorrhage to
ensue within half an hour; but the strong will of the marchioness
will ward off death for the space of an hour."
Eugene stifled a groan. "O God! is there no, no help?"
"None. Science cannot prevail against the well-directed blow of a
Venetian dagger. But the marchioness will not suffer."
"No," sobbed Eugene, "for she dies; but I--I--"
"Go to her, my dear friend--go before she calls, for every exertion
she makes will hasten the end."
Eugene wrung his hands. "Not yet--I cannot. I must have a moment to
conquer this overwhelming anguish. Go to her yourself, doctor--tell
But the doctor was already in the parlor, and Eugene was alone. He
leaned over the balcony and stared out at the sea; the breeze had
freshened, and the sound of the waves as they dashed against the
shore seemed to mock at his agony. He looked above: the skies were
serene and indifferent to his misery. The sun was setting in a flood
of red and gold. Alas! alas! For Laura, it would rise no more!
But Eugene remembered that she had but an hour to live, and,
shuddering, he overcame his weakness and approached the dying girl.
She held out her hands, and smiled.
"Eugene," said she, "I long for air and light. May I be lifted out
upon the balcony?"
Eugene looked at Doctor Franzi, who beckoned to the servants. They
rolled a divan to the spot where the marchioness lay, and she was
placed upon it, and gently removed to the balcony. She thanked them
all for their kindness, and each member of her household kissed her
hand, and went away weeping. No one now remained with her save
Eugene and the doctor.
"Step aside for a moment, beloved," said she. "I would speak a few
words with our dear friend."
He obeyed, and retired out of hearing, but not out of sight. He
could not do that. They had but half an hour!
"Doctor," said Laura, "I must die, must I not?"
"All things are possible with God, but--"
Her eyes filled with tears. "Does Eugene know it?"
"Alas, he does!"
"Doctor, promise me that if in his grief he should forget to care
for his own welfare, you will watch over it as I would have done,
had Heaven permitted. As long as sorrow predominates over reason,
you will enter his room every morning, and speak these, my dying
words: 'Laura sends you her greeting, and bids you do all that you
can to preserve your health, and to overcome your sorrow.' Promise
"I promise," replied the doctor.
"And now, tell me. Is my enemy--is Strozzi dead?"
"The bullet went through his brain."
"May God forgive him, as I do!" murmured she. "And now, dear friend,
farewell! I thank you for all my happiness on earth, and bless you
with my latest breath for your kindness to Eugene and to me."
[Footnote: This attempt to poison Prince Eugene is historical.]
She gave him her hand, which he kissed, and, no longer able to
restrain his tears, he went back to the parlor. There on the floor
lay Strozzi stark and dead, his glazed eyes staring, as if in
defiance, to heaven. Doctor Franzi had the corpse removed, and threw
himself wearily upon a sofa. Presently he saw Laura's Italian
greyhound, with a piece of paper between its teeth, with which it
seemed to be playing. He was watching its motions, as people whose
minds are preoccupied with a great sorrow, are apt to watch some
particular object within view, when suddenly it howled, made a leap
into the air, and fell panting on the floor. The doctor stooped to
examine it. It was dying.
"Why, the poor little brute has been poisoned!" said he to Conrad.
Conrad shook his head. "Impossible!" replied he. "It has been with
me this whole day, and came with me hither not half an hour since."
"Stay," replied the doctor, picking up the bits of paper that lay
scattered over the carpet. He took them to the light, and held them
above it. In a few moments a white vapor mingled with green was seen
to rise in the air, and an odor of garlic pervaded the apartment.
"Come, Conrad," exclaimed the doctor; "leave the room quickly! Happy
it is for us that all these doors and windows are open, or my
curiosity would have cost me my life."
"And the marchioness?" asked Conrad, sadly.
The little French clock on the mantel struck the hour. "You hear,"
said the doctor. "She has not a half an hour to live."
Not half an hour to live! And Eugene knew it! For above the breaking
waves, above the tumultuous beating of his bleeding heart, even
above the tones of her dear voice, he heard the striking of that
But one half hour!--He was on his knees, her little hand locked in
his, and her eyes fixed upon his face, with a look of love such as
no human tongue had power to speak. But he could not bear to see her
so motionless; he feared that she was about to expire.
"Speak to me, my angel; say thou lovest me," sobbed he.
"I love thee!" said she, with a joyful smile. "Ah, Eugene, I have
spoken these words so often that earth and air, sky and sea, will
echo them forever."
"But thou--thou goest from me!"
"God has willed it thus. But, beloved, how beautiful to me is the
death that giveth life to thee! Ah, my sovereign! lord of my heart!
weep not for her who dies as woman loves to die!"
"Weep not for thee! Alas! shall I have courage to bear the burden of
the life thou hast purchased with thine own?"
"Yes, God will give thee strength to fulfil thy heroic destiny, my
Eugene. We have been very happy on earth, and in heaven He will
perfect our imperfect union. Farewell, beloved, farewell!"
"Oh, look at me once more!" cried Eugene. "Laura, Laura, speak to
me! O God! it cannot be that thou must die!"
She made no answer, but her fast-closing eyes were fixed upon his.
He bent closer and closer, and opened his arms, with a vain longing
to fold her to his heart. But he durst not! His embrace might
extinguish the feeble spark of life that glimmered yet for his
But his tears fell upon her face, and awakened her failing senses.
She spoke again, and the melody of her voice was like the faint
notes of an AEolian harp.
"Do not weep," murmured she. "I was happy. I will be near to thee in
A last sigh fluttered from her lips, and the AEolian harp was
The Duchess of Orleans sat weeping in her cabinet, and yet she had
been several times reminded by her tire-women that monsieur awaited
her in the drawing-room. She held in her hand a letter--the apparent
cause of her unwillingness to move.
"It has terminated as I feared," thought she; "her short-lived
happiness has been purchased with her life. To think that her
relentless foe should have had no mercy upon her youth and beauty!
And so it is--to the good are apportioned tribulation and trials--to
the wicked, prosperity and long life! God is merciful, and allows to
those who are destined to burn in hell their short season of triumph
on earth. But I, who am no saint, will avenge my dear child's
murder, by exposing its instigators to public scorn. My poor,
darling Laura! God only knows how I am to bring it about, but He
will surely prompt the right words at the right moment. And now to
discharge the tiresome duties of the sacrifice I made to the
shameless exaction of Louis XIV.! Now for the act that befouls the
escutcheon of France with the blood of De Montespan's bastard!"
She folded her letter, and, putting it in her bosom, called with her
stentorian lungs, for Katharina.
The tire-woman, who had been anxiously awaiting the summons,
appeared immediately, and approached her mistress, in great haste to
"Katharina," began the duchess, "do not be provoked if I reject the
magnificent attire you have prepared for me to-night. I cannot wear
Katharina drew back in terror. "So your royal highness does not
intend to appear at court to-night?"
"I intend to appear there, because I am compelled to do so,"
returned the duchess; "but I do not know that it is incumbent upon
me to be as gay as a peacock, on the occasion of my poor Philip's
betrothal to that girl of De Montespan's. To me it is more like a
funeral than a festival, so you may get out my suit of court
mourning. The skirt of black velvet, the train and head-dress of
"Is the Empress of Austria dead, that your royal highness should
wear purple?" asked Katharina. [Footnote: At the court of Louis
XIV., purple velvet was worn in the deepest mourning only.]
"A personage of more consequence to me than the Empress of Austria
is dead--an angel has taken her flight to heaven, and no royal
princess can replace her here below. Hush, Kathi--you need not open
your mouth to remonstrate, for my purple mourning I will wear, and
nobody in France shall hinder me."
Katharina knew this so well, that she inclined her head, and went
off in search of the costume, which, as Elizabeth-Charlotte never
lingered before her looking-glass, was donned in less than a quarter
of an hour. She returned to her cabinet, and gave a quick glance at
her image, as she passed before a large Venetian mirror, that
reached from floor to ceiling. She smiled, and began an apostrophe
to herself, after the following manner:
"You are unquestionably a homely woman; and, in the finery that
decks royalty, you look somewhat like the scarecrows I have seen in
gardens at home. But, soberly clad as you are at this moment, you
are not an unsightly or undignified woman, nor would my poor
murdered darling despise me, were she to see me now. Ah, Laura!
would that the battle of life were over for me, as it is for thee!
For the world has apportioned to me much vexation, but little
She turned away from the mirror, with a sigh. "Well, I may not mourn
any longer. I must put on my court-face, and sing with old Luther:"
"It must be so,
That pain and woe
Will ever follow sin;
Then go your ways--"
The duchess was singing out this doggerel in a rough, loud
contralto, when her chamberlain appeared at the door, and announced
that his royal highness was waiting for her to descend.
"Tell monsieur not to let me detain him," replied she. "I will be
escorted to the Louvre by the Duke de Chartres. Hey, Kathi! come
with my wrappings!"
Kathi had just enveloped her highness's stout, robust form in a
cloak of purple velvet, when the little duke came skipping into the
"Here I am, chere maman," cried he; "here is Cupid, ready to attend
The duchess replied with a glance of displeasure, and took his arm.
As they were crossing the corridor, she said: "Cupid was a fractious
and rebellious boy, and I remember that Venus had many a time to box
his ears for his misbehavior. You are quite right to liken yourself
to Cupid, for you are just as contrary as he--"
"And just as handsome?" asked the duke, coaxingly.
The duchess tried to suppress a smile. "You are a little puppy,"
said she; "and if I resemble Venus in no other way, I shall imitate
her maternal corrections, and let you feel the weight of my hand, if
you provoke me, sir." And so saying, she tumbled herself into the
"I have already felt its weight," sighed the young duke, "and a
right heavy hand it is, when it is lifted to chastise."
"Then take care not to deserve its chastisements. But now, Philip,
listen to me, and be serious. It is understood between us, that you
refuse to sign the contract--that you avow loudly your aversion to
marriage in general, and to Mademoiselle de Blois in particular; and
that you throw yourself at the feet of the king, and ask for two
"Oh, yes, maman, yes, of course," replied Philip, hurriedly. "I
understand it all perfectly. Ah, here we are at the Louvre! Allow me
to assist you to alight."
And the duke, vastly pleased that the maternal lecture was at an
end, leaped from the coach, and escorted his mother to the palace.
The royal family, with the nobles and dignitaries that were to
witness the signing of the contract, were in the king's cabinet. The
court awaited them in one of the magnificent rooms of state.
On a marble slab, supported by three gilded dolphins, lay a long
roll of parchment, and close by was an inkstand of gold, set with
sapphires and diamonds. The king was in an adjoining apartment,
anxiously waiting the arrival of the Duchess of Orleans and the
"Methinks," said Louis to monsieur, "that madame makes me wait."
As these words were uttered with great severity, the duke was
abashed, and scarcely knew what he way saying. "Your majesty,"
stammered he, "you know how--may I entreat of you--"
"Her royal highness the Duchess of Orleans, and the Duke de
Chartres," cried the gentleman usher.
Louis rose from his arm-chair, and advanced to greet his eccentric
sister-in-law. Suddenly he drew back, and looked like a Jupiter
"Madame," said he, eying the duchess from head to foot--from her
purple feathers to the very edge of her long purple-velvet train--
"madame, what means this extraordinary attire? Have you forgotten,
in one of your fits of absence, that you were invited, not to a
funeral, but to a betrothal?"
"Sire," replied the undismayed duchess, "I am not subject to fits of
absence; but I beg to apologize for my dress. It is appropriate to
my feelings, for I have just experienced a most painful loss."
"What member of your family is dead?" asked his majesty.
"Not a member of my family, but a beloved friend, has been foully
"Murdered!" echoed Louis. "Who has been murdered!"
"Sire, I will tell you, but Monsieur Louvois must be by to hear the
Monsieur Louvois was summoned, and while awaiting his arrival, Louis
expressed a wish that the duchess would make her story as short as
possible; he was anxious to have this ceremony over.
"Sire, I shall do my best," was the reply.--"Ah," continued
Elizabeth-Charlotte, "here is Monsieur Louvois--Perhaps he can tell
your majesty why I am in mourning."
"I--I" said Louvois, with a defiant stare at his enemy. "I have not
the honor of being in the secrets of madame."
"But she has the misfortune to be in yours," cried the duchess.
"Sire, a few years ago, there appeared at your majesty's court a
young girl of extraordinary beauty and worth. She was one of my
maids of honor, and was as dear to me as my own child. Lovely,
innocent, and virtuous, as she was, she was an object of aversion to
her own kindred. She became ardently attached to a youth of rank
equal--I mean to say, superior to hers, against whom her relatives
entertained a prejudice that manifested itself by every species of
persecution. There could be no reasonable objection to the alliance,
but the lovers knowing that, for very hatred of them both, the
maiden's father would oppose their union, agreed to be married in
secret. They were betrayed, and you will scarcely believe me, your
majesty, when I tell you that the poor girl's own father and brother
deceived her by forged letters, and so arranged matters that they
came by night, and, substituting a man whom she detested, for her
lover, they obtained her signature to a fraudulent marriage."
"Her father did his duty," interrupted Louvois. "He had a right to
select her husband, and exercised his right. I hope that his majesty
is of the same opinion."
"Madame," said the king, taking no notice of Louvois' remark, "pray
continue your narrative."
"Your majesty, the miserable girl refused ever to acknowledge the
marriage. The man they had forced upon her imprisoned her for years,
giving out to the world that she was insane, but holding out to her
a promise of release, whenever she would recognize him as her
husband. She never would--she never did."
"But her lover--what was he about all this time?" asked Louis.
"He believed himself forgotten, nor could he discover whither his
betrothed had been conveyed by her tyrant. Finally by means that
seem almost miraculous, she effected her escape, and joined him;
and, believing herself to be his spouse before God, they lived
together as husband and wife."
"I should have regarded them as such," was the remark of the king.
"I hope that her unprincipled relatives did not seek to repeat their
sacrilege by any attempt to part her from him to whom she had
veritably plighted her faith."
Louvois could not contain himself. "Your majesty," cried he, "the
sacrilege was hers and not her father's. She was legally married,
and the tie that bound her to her lover was a crime!"
Louis contemplated his own illegitimate children, there present, and
Louvois' words roused his ire. "Sir," said he, "you mistake human
prejudices for principles. How can you presume to contend for the
sanctity of an infamous falsehood like that of a marriage ceremony
"Thanks, your majesty, thanks for those generous words," exclaimed
the duchess, joyfully. "They rehabilitate the memory of my darling,
who was as pure and chaste as she was constant and loving. In her
case, endurance of the world's contumely was heroism. She felt it to
be unjust, but bore it for the sake of her lover, and was happy. Her
relatives, however, urged, by their hatred of the poor child, made
use of her demented husband to avenge what they pleased to term
their outraged honor. They armed him with dagger and poison, and her
own brother brought him to the town where she was living, and led
him to her villa."
"What an unnatural and wicked brother," exclaimed the young Duke of
Maine, who had edged himself in to listen.
The duchess gave him a grateful smile, and continued her story:
"The murderer made an attempt to poison his rival. He was recognized
under his disguise by his wife, who darted forward to save her
lover's life. As she did so, the assassin drew from his bosom a
poniard and stabbed her to the heart,"
"Horrible!" was the exclamation of all the bystanders.
"Sire." resumed the duchess, "the woman so foully murdered by the
tool of her father and her brother,--she, whom I loved so dearly,
and whom your majesty's self honored by your attention, was Laura
Bonaletta--the daughter of Monsieur Louvois, and the sister of his
"The Marchioness Strozzi!" cried the king, turning his indignant
eyes upon Louvois, who was vainly trying to effect a retreat.
"Sir," said Louis, "I hope you will be able to disprove this
dreadful charge, and convince her royal highness that she has been
"Sire, I am not aware that any guilt attaches to my actions as a
father. I married my daughter to the man whom I chose should be her
husband, and I hastened the marriage that I might save her from the
artful snare which Prince Eugene was laying for her large fortune."
"Sire," cried the duchess, "the whole world knows Prince Eugene to
be above mercenary considerations, and it also knows that had
Monsieur Louvois not driven him away from France, he would not now
be the most distinguished officer in the army of a foreign prince."
"Very true," returned the king.--"Louvois never showed himself to
have less penetration than when he undervalued the genius of Prince
Eugene. But this blunder we can pardon, so he but clear himself of
participation in the assassination of his daughter."
"That I can easily do, your majesty," replied Louvois. "I knew
nothing whatever of the attempt on Prince Eugene's life."
"Then how comes it that this intercepted letter from your own hand
speaks so knowingly of it to your son?--Sire," continued the
duchess, "this letter was sent to me by Victor Amadeus. The courier
to whom it had been confided was arrested by a vidette of the
duke's, and the letter forwarded to his highness. From my step-
daughter, the Duchess of Savoy, I hold my information; and it was
imparted to me at her husband's desire, that I might transmit it to
your majesty, and Louis XIV. might hear how Louvois vanquishes the
heroes that are opposed to him in war. Sire, not only your friends,
but your enemies, know that you hold such warfare in abhorrence."
"I do, indeed," cried Louis, "and I thank not only Victor Amadeus,
madame, but yourself, who have not shrunk from the ungrateful duty
of accusing a man whom many another would have feared, because he
was high in my estimation. I thank you that you have given me
occasion to vindicate my honor from the foul blot which this man
would have cast upon it. I say nothing of his cruelty to his unhappy
daughter, for that I leave to his Maker. But, as regards the attempt
on the life of Prince Eugene, it shall be investigated;--and woe to
him, should he be inculpated by the examination of these papers!--
Go, sir, and until your fame is cleared, consider yourself a
prisoner in your own house."
Pale and trembling, Louvois retreated from the royal presence.
Around the door of the cabinet were groups of high-born dames and
titled lords, who all drew back to let him pass. No one wished to
breathe the atmosphere that was tainted by the presence of a
suspected murderer; and the rumor of his disgrace spread so rapidly
through the palace, that it reached the room where the court was
assembled, and every man there turned his back upon the favorite
who, an hour before, had been greeted with courtesy and respect by
the proudest nobles in the land.
The king's eyes followed the bowed figure of his fallen minister
until it passed out of sight; then, as if nothing had happened, he
smilingly addressed the Duchess of Orleans:
"Madame, will you take the bride by the hand? I, myself, will escort
Elizabeth-Charlotte, who, in her sorrow for the tragical death of
Laura, had forgotten the occasion of her coming, gave a sudden
start, and her heart died within her. She turned her sharp eyes with
a searching look upon the Duke de Chartres, hoping for some
significant glance that would reassure her as to his intentions. But
the young duke's eyes were turned another way: he was following the
master of ceremonies, and making a profound inclination before the
Madame dared no longer hesitate: she gave her hand to Mademoiselle
de Blois, and led her forward to the table where lay the dreaded
At a signal from the king, the keeper of the seal advanced, and,
taking up the parchment, read the marriage contract of his royal
highness the Duke de Chartres with Mademoiselle de Blois. The duke's
marriage with the king's daughter entitled him to the grandes
entries du cabinet, and the entrees de derriere,--privileges highly
prized by the members of the royal family. The contract also
recognized Mademoiselle de Blois as a daughter of France, and gave
her a dowry of two millions of livres, several large estates, and a
complete parure of costly diamonds.
With the exception of madame, everybody was enraptured with the
royal munificence. Again she tried to meet her son's eyes, but they
were steadfastly fixed upon the hand of the king who had signed the
contract, and was in the act of placing it before his daughter.
Mademoiselle de Blois scribbled her name under that of her father,
and passed the pen over to the bridegroom. The decisive moment was
at hand. With fast-throbbing heart, the duchess bent forward to hear
her son's rejection of this insulting mesalliance, when lo! that
son, with a placid smile, accepted the pen, and signed!
A cry had well-nigh burst from his mother's lips, as, with every
show of respect, he presented her the pen. Speechless with anger,
she advanced her hand, but it was not to take the instrument of her
humiliation: it was to administer to her rebellious son a box on the
ear which resounded like a pistol-shot through the apartment, and
created considerable astonishment among the aristocratic guests
therein assembled. [Footnote: Historical.--See "Letters of the
Duchess of Orleans to the Princess of Wales."]
The young duke uttered a howl, and, rubbing his cheek, jumped behind
the hooped dress of his bride-elect.
"Madame!" exclaimed the king, "what means this violence?"
"Your majesty, I was killing a fly that had lit upon Philip's
"It must be a robust fly, if it is not crushed to atoms," replied
the king, much amused.
The court, unable to withstand their merriment, burst into out--
simultaneous shout of laughter, under cover--of which Elizabeth-
Charlotte, with tearful eyes, signed the fatal document which
mingled the noble blood of Orleans with the muddy stream of
So great had been the haste of the courtiers to spread the news of
Louvois' disgrace, that the very usher who opened the door that led
into the vestibule, performed his office with a superciliousness
which proved him to have heard it as well as his betters.
Louvois felt as if his grave were yawning before him. He had
forgotten that his carriage could not possibly have returned so
soon; and now he stood alone on the perron of the palace, staring up
and down the street in the vain hope of concealing himself in a
fiacre from the gaze of the curious. No sentinel saluted him, no
soldier presented arms, as, ashamed of his rich dress and sparkling
orders, which rendered him conspicuous, he walked on and on, an
object of curiosity to every passer-by. At length, on the Pont Neuf,
he met a dilapidated old hackney-coach, amid whose threadbare
cushions he was glad to retreat from observation.
On his arrival home, nobody came out to assist him to alight; for
how could the lackeys who were idling around the porte-cochere
surmise that the occupant of that shabby vehicle was their haughty
He entered the hotel, and, without vouchsafing a word to the
astounded valets, ascended the staircase that led to his own private
apartments. But they came after him to ask whether he was
indisposed, and whether they could be of service.
Their offers were rejected with scorn; but Louvois thought it
politic to inform his own valet that, having been attacked with
sudden indisposition, he had been forced to leave the court-ball,
and return in a fiacre. While he was being divested of his rich
dress and long curled wig, the valet went on to announce that Count
Barbesieur had arrived from Italy, and was desirous of seeing his
father as soon as possible. A lady also had called to see his
excellency; and, having been told that he was at the great court-
festival, she had replied that he would be apt to return home early,
and she would await his arrival, for she had important business to
transact with him.
"Where is the lady?" asked Louvois.
"She is in her carriage at the side door of the hotel. Shall I ask
her in the drawing-room, your excellency?"
"Later," said Louvois. "I must first speak with my son."
"I am here," cried Barbesieur, who had silently entered the room.
"Leave us," said Louvois to the valet, "and when Count Barbesieur
has retired, admit the lady. I--"
He paused, and caught at the arm-chair for support. He had become
suddenly dizzy, his face grew scarlet, his eyes blood-shot, and his
The valet hastened to his assistance, and offered him a glass of
water. He emptied it at a draught, but his hands shook so, that he
could scarcely hold the goblet, Barbesieur had thrown himself full
length on a sofa, whence he contemplated his father with the most
"You ought to be bled," said he, carelessly.
"I will do so. It may relieve me," replied he, panting. "Go," added
he to the valet, "go for Fagot."
The valet hurried off, and the father and son were left alone
together. The former lay gasping with his head flung back on a
cushion; the latter watched him closely, but without the merest
appearance of sympathy or interest.
After a pause, he spoke: "Father, have you forgotten my presence?"
Louvois opened his eyes wearily. "No; I have not forgotten it."
"You do not ask me about the result of my expedition," said
"Nor do you seem to think it incumbent upon you to ask wherefore I
suffer, or why I am here instead of being where I ought to be, at
the fiancailles of Mademoiselle de Blois," replied Louvois, whom his
son's indifference had stung to returning energy.
"What care I for the fiancailles of Mademoiselle de Blois?" answered
Barbesieur. "And as regards your indisposition, it is not the first
time that I have seen you similarly affected. These congestions
invariably leave you stronger than they find you; so let us pass on
to affairs more momentous. I have to inform you that my expedition
to Italy has resulted in a disastrous failure. Have you seen my
"No, I have not seen him, but I know that you were guilty of sending
me written dispatches on a subject which pen should never have
"Oh!" sneered the dutiful son, "you are better, I see, for you grow
abusive. Then I suppose my courier has been arrested?"
"Ay, and your letters are in the hands of Louis XIV."
"Can it be possible?" cried Barbesieur, anxiously. "How came he in
possession of them?"
"They were given him by the Duchess of Orleans."
"She received them from her step-daughter, the Duchess of Savoy. Not
only them, but your imbecile-written promise to Strozzi that his
wife would return to him as soon as Prince Eugene was dead."
"It was a blunder, I admit," returned Barbesieur. "But the idiot had
so set his heart upon it that I was forced to yield to his whims;
there was no other way of controlling him. I had no sooner given him
this paper, than he became as plastic as clay."
"Nevertheless, Laura is dead, and Eugene of Savoy lives."
"Oh, yes--the thing miscarried, but how, I cannot conceive. I was
close at hand, waiting with horses for Strozzi, who was to seize
Laura, and make all speed for Italy. I waited so long, that at last
I ventured to creep up to the house, and there I learned how Strozzi
had stabbed Laura, and Eugene had shot Strozzi. As soon as I found
out that all had gone awry, I galloped off to Bonaletta, to get my
share of Strozzi's and Laura's property. But the covetous relations
would not let me lay a finger on Laura's estates, without your
written authorization. That brought me hurriedly to Paris. I want it
at once, that I may return to Bonaletta to-day."
"You must remain for a while longer," said Louvois.
"And why, pray?"
"Because you must at least wait until my funeral is over," replied
the unhappy father.
Barbesieur began to laugh. "Oh, papa! pray don't get sentimental.
People are not apt to die of these little vexations. I suppose the
king was rude, as he has been many a day before this--was he?"
"He was more than rude; in presence of all his nobles he accused me
of participation in Laura's murder, and banished me from court until
I returned with proofs of my innocence."
"H'm--" muttered Barbesieur. "The affair looks ugly."
"Insulted before the whole court," murmured Louvois.
"Pshaw! Don't take it so much to heart. It is not your first
affront. You know full well that if old women get the better of you
to-day, you will outwit them to-morrow. Witness your feud of years
with De Maintenon."
"I shall not outwit them this time, Barbesieur. The duchess has
played her cards too dexterously for me to escape. Nor would the
king befriend me; he is under too many obligations to me not to
desire my humiliation and my ruin. Moreover, he is anxious to
propitiate the Duke of Savoy, and will give him full satisfaction
for the attempt on the life of his kinsman. I am lost--irretrievably
"Then so much the more imperative is it for us to lay the foundation
of some new structure of fortune elsewhere.--Luckily, Laura's large
estates in Italy are all-sufficient to make you a very rich man yet.
So give me authority to act for you; I will go at once and take
possession, while you arrange your affairs at home, and then follow
me to Italy."
"He thinks of nothing but wealth," murmured Louvois; "he has no
shame for loss of reputation or good name."
"Nonsense!" said Barbesieur, with a coarse laugh; "no man that has
money loses reputation. Poverty is the only crime that the world
cannot pardon, and you, thanks to the Marchioness Bonaletta, have
just inherited a fortune."
Louvois shuddered. "A fortune through the murder of my child!"
"For which we are not accountable," said Barbesieur, carelessly. "We
owe that obligation to Strozzi. and I must say it Was the only
sensible thing I ever knew him to do."
"Silence!" cried Louvois, incensed. "If you have no respect for the
living, have some reverence for the dead!"
Barbesieur rose with a yawn. "I see that my honored father is not in
a mood for reasonable conversation. Here comes the surgeon with his
lancet. Perhaps, when you have lost a few quarts of your bad blood,
you may see things in a better light." So saying, he sauntered out
of the room. With scorn and hatred in his eye, Louvois watched him
until he disappeared from sight; then turning to the surgeon, who
had entered by another door--
"Be quick, and take some blood from my veins, or I shall suffocate!"
A half an hour later, the operation was over, and Louvois felt much
relieved. His face was pale, his eyes no longer bloodshot, and the
surgeon having prescribed rest, the disgraced favorite was left
He sat propped up in his arm-chair, staring at vacancy--his solitude
embittered by the recollection of what he was, and what he had been.
The stately edifice of greatness, which he had spent a lifetime in
erecting, had fallen like a chateau de cartes, leaving nothing
behind but the stinging recollection of a glorious past. He could
not outlive it--he could not retire to obscurity--he--
Suddenly he shivered, and gazed with eyes distended at the figure of
a woman that now stood against the portiere opposite. Great God! had
delirium seized upon his senses? Were the memories of his youth
about to take shape and form, and mingle their shadowy images with
the tangible realities of life! He knew her--tall, beautiful, pale
as she was--and the recognition filled him with terror indefinable.
He knew her well! In her youth he had loved her, but she had scorned
his love, because she was cherishing the hope of becoming Queen of
France! This triumph had been denied her, and she had hidden her
disappointment by a marriage with another. And fearfully had Louvois
avenged her rejection of his love! He had cited her as a criminal,
before the highest tribunal in France, and had driven her into
exile. Destiny had also given him power to crush her son--to blast
his life as a lover, and his good name as a man. But ah! that
daughter whom Eugene had loved! He had blasted her life also, and
had given her over to a monster that had murdered her! So young, so
lovely, so attractive! She had died to gratify the malice of her own
Like a lightning-flash these thoughts glanced athwart his brain,
while, breathless and terror-stricken, he gazed upon the spectre
that stood against the portiere!
Was it a spectre, or some delusion of his disordered mind? She stood
motionless as a marble statue of Nemesis; but those eyes--those
glowing eyes--there was life and hate in their fiery depths!
Louvois had not the power to look away; he was as spellbound as a
bird under the glance of the basilisk.
"Olympia!" cried he, at last, with a supreme effort to dissolve the
She threw back her proud head, and came directly in front of his
chair. "You recognise me," said she, in tones of icy hauteur. "I was
waiting before I spoke, to see whether you had forgotten me."
"What brings you hither?" stammered he, confusedly.
"Destiny," replied she, sternly. "Louvois, God is just, for He has
chosen me to be the instrument of your destruction. I was travelling
through Turin to nurse my son, who was not expected to live. I
learned that his illness was of the heart--not of the body. His
Laura had been murdered before his eyes, and, for love of her, he
was in danger of dying. Ah, Louvois! it was the second time you had
almost robbed me of my child! But God is just! To my hands were
confided the proofs of your participation in the crime of your
daughter's assassination, and it was I that delivered them to the
Duchess of Orleans. She had her Laura's death to avenge, I--great
God! what had I not? The humiliation of my flight from France--my
persecution by strangers in a foreign land--my son's lifelong
sorrow!--But ah! you, that drove him from his native country, have
fallen, to rise no more, while Eugene's name is but another word
throughout the world for genius and valor."
Louvois' teeth chattered with fear. He raised his hand, as if to
implore forbearance. She gave him, in return, a look of scorn.
"All Paris rings with your disgrace. The populace are before your
windows, ready, at a signal, to assault your palace, as, at your
son's instigation, they once assailed mine. Your servants are
stealing away, and you are forsaken! Poor, fallen, powerless
"Not so," screamed Louvois, "not so! If I am powerless it is because
I am dying!" And, with a passionate gesture, he tore the bandages
from his arm.
The blood gushed out like water from a fountain, and Olympia looked
on for a while in cruel enjoyment of her enemy's mortal agony. But
her hatred was unclouded by passion.
"It were a kindness to suffer you to die now," said she; and her
words fell like sharp icicles upon his poor, lacerated heart. "But
you shall live to endure the contumely you forced upon me and mine!
Farewell! I go to call for help."
She crossed the room, and, as she entered the antechamber, Louvois