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Prince Eugene and His Times by L. Muhlbach

Part 13 out of 13

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swooned, and fell upon the floor.

"Go to your lord," said Olympia to the valets who were waiting. "The
bandage has become loosened, and he will bleed to death if you are
not prompt."

Crossing the antechamber, she opened the door that led to a corridor
where her own valet was awaiting her return.

"Can you tell me where I may find Count Barbesieur?" asked she.

"Yes, my lady. He is in his own room, to which I was directed by his

"Show me the way," said the countess, following the man to the
farther end of the long corridor.

"Here, my lady," said he, pausing, "is his anteroom."

"Go in and announce me."

The valet opened the door and crossed the antechamber. It was empty;
for Barbesieur's valet was, with the other servants, in the
vestibule, discussing the mysteries of the evening. Seeing that no
one was there to announce the countess, the lackey knocked until he
heard a voice from within. He then threw the door wide open, and
cried out--

"The Countess de Soissons!"

Barbesieur, who was seated before a table, deep in the examination
of the title-deeds of the Bonaletta estates, started up in amazement
at the unceremonious interruption. As he turned around to chastise
the insolence of the servant, he encountered the stately figure of
the Countess de Soissons,

"It is long since we met," said she. "Do you remember the occasion
of our meeting?"

"No, countess," replied he, awed by her queenly bearing into
momentary courtesy.

"I will refresh your memory. When last I saw you, you were at the
head of the rabble that mobbed the Palace de Soissons, and had just
received a wound in your arm from the pistol of my son, Prince
Eugene. I had not the satisfaction of being present at the
horsewhipping he administered to you at Long Champs, for I was
obliged to fly from your persecutions, and I have never set foot in
France until now."

Barbesieur laughed. "I have had my revenge. I owe him nothing. The
very grief that is sapping his life at this moment is the work of my

"I know it, and I, in my turn, have avenged his woes."

"You must have done it secretly, then, for I have never felt any
inconvenience from your vengeance."

"You will experience it before long. Did one of your servants bring
you a fine peach on a salver, about half an hour ago?"

Barbesieur turned very pale, and stammered, "Yes."

"Did you eat it?"

"Yes," murmured he, "I did."

"Then, Barbesieur, that peach avenged Eugene and Laura both. I sent
it to you."

"You!" cried Barbesieur, with a shudder.

"Yes," replied Olympia, her black eyes darting fire as she spoke. "I
sent you the peach, and if you have eaten it (it will be very slow
in its effects), you have just four years longer to live!"

As he heard these terrible words, Barbesieur dropped, like a felled
ox, to the floor.

"Count Barbesieur," cried a voice in the antechamber, "your father
is dying of apoplexy."

Barbesieur started up with an oath, and darted from the room. The
Countess de Soissons followed him to the corridor. No one was there,
for the servants had all congregated, as near as possible, to the
chamber of the dying statesman. Olympia passed on, unchallenged,
reached her carriage, and set off at full gallop for Nice.

She found Eugene improved, and sitting up. He was in his arm-chair,
gazing with tearful eyes at a portrait opposite--a portrait of
Laura, as Sister Angelica. His thoughts were so far, far away from
the weary present, that the door had opened, and his mother had put
her arms around his neck, before he became aware of her entrance.

"Eugene, my beloved son," said she, "I have avenged you."

"Avenged? Dear mother, what can you mean?"

"I mean that Louvois is dead--dead of humiliation. And that
Barbesieur lives; but lives in the knowledge that, in four years, he
must die. His life, then, unto the bitter end, will be one long
agony. Eugene, you avenged my wrongs. I have now paid the debt."

Eugene sighed heavily. "You have erred, mother. You should have left
further vengeance to God. What does it profit me that Barbesieur
suffers--his sufferings cannot recall my Laura."

"Ah," said Olympia, disappointed, "if you were in health, you would
not be so pusillanimous, my child. 'Tis easy to see that you are

"No, mother, I am no longer sick. At Laura's command, I have
wrestled with bodily weakness, and have overcome it."

"I do not understand you, my son."

Eugene pointed to the figure of Doctor Franzi, who just then entered
the room. "Listen, mother, and you will understand."

The doctor advanced, and, taking Eugene's extended hand, repeated
Laura's dying words. Eugene looked at his mother, and smiled.

"This message has been the medicine that has restored me to health.
My Laura speaks from beyond the grave, and I must obey."

"Who but a hero could have obeyed a mandate at once so loving and so
cruel!" exclaimed Doctor Franzi. "Countess, I am rejoiced to see
you, but more especially rejoice that you should have arrived to-

"I travelled night and day to return in time," said Olympia, looking
fondly at her son.

"Is it a festival?" asked he.

"Yes, dear child," replied his mother, kissing him, "It is your
thirtieth birth-day."

"My thirtieth birth-day!" murmured Eugene. "My youth is no more; I
enter upon the stern epoch of mature manhood."

"Youth, with its sweet visions of love, has passed away; but manhood
will indemnify you, prince, for the sorrows of the past. Before you
lies a future of usefulness and heroism.--Congratulate your son,
countess, for he yesterday received from the Emperor Leopold the
chief command of his armies in Italy. The troops are on their way
now, to greet their general. Hark I Do you not hear the drums? Every
brave heart in the army is beating with joy at the prospect of
seeing him again."

"And I, too, am joyful at the anticipation," replied Eugene, rising
from his chair. "You are right, Franzi. I have been sorely grieved,
'tis true; but I bear about my heart the knowledge of my Laura's
love--as veritable now as when I saw and felt her mortal presence.
This blessing shall make me a hero. So help me God! I will strive
hereafter to do my duty as a man, a soldier, and a Christian."

The drums rolled, the trumpets sounded, and thousands of voices
responded without:

"Long live our general! Long live Prince Eugene!"


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