Alexandre Dumas.

Comtesse de Charny (Volume 2) online

. (page 12 of 24)
Online LibraryAlexandre DumasComtesse de Charny (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

work we have undertaken. In your opinion, as in mine,
I am glad to say, the Federation of 1790 is not the end,
but merely a breathing-place on the road. The court has
already set to work to bring about a counter-revolution.
Let us gird our loins for the fray also, and let us have our
lights trimmed and burning.

" There will doubtless be many anxious hours, and many
moments of misgiving; and often the light which illumines
our path will seem to die out altogether. The guiding
hand, too, will seem to forsake us, and more than once our
cause will appear to be irretrievably lost. Many will even
ask themselves if they are not on the wrong track, and
if they may not be engaged in an evil work. No, my
brethren, no! I tell you, No; and I wish the word might
sound eternally in your ears as a trumpet-blast in time of
triumph, — a tocsin in the midst of defeat. No; a thou-
sand times no, I say !

"Popular leaders have a sacred mission, which must be
accomplished at all hazards. Clouds and darkness often
hide the Lord, who is our guide, — and who moves in a mys-
terious way. His wonders to perform, — from our eyes; and
we are almost forced to believe that He has deserted us.
More than once, in the days that are to come, circumstances
will place us in a most unfavourable light; our enemies
will seem to triumph, and our fellow-citizens will prove
ungrateful. Often a principle seems to suffer defeat,
when, on the contrary, it is only retreating a moment, like
a knight in a tournament who takes a step backward to
place his lance at rest, and then rushes still more fiercely
upon his opponent.

"Brothers, brothers! it is a beacon-liglit upon a high
mountain towards which we are journeying, and scores of
times catastrophes along the road will cause us to lose


sight of the flame, and to believe it extinguished. Then
the faint-hearted will murmur, and complain, and halt, and
say, 'We have no trusty guide; we are travelling in the
dark. ' But the strong will continue on their way, smiling
and confident.

" Thus, by fighting and struggling and persevering, the
world's chosen ones will at last reach the beacon whose
light must some day illumine, not only France, but the
whole world.

"Let us swear, then, brethren, not only for ourselves,
but for our descendants, — for perchance the work may re-
quire the efforts of several generations , — let us swear not
to desist in our endeavours until we have established
throughout the earth Christ's sacred motto, — Liberty,
Equality, Fraternity."

Cagliostro's remarks were followed by a loud burst of
applause; but a few words, uttered in a sharp, cutting
voice, chilled the general enthusiasm like a dash of ice-
cold water.

"Yes, we will pledge ourselves to do what you ask,"
said this sharp, rasping voice; "but first explain what
these words mean to you, so that we, in turn, may be able
to explain them."

Cagliostro's piercing eye fixed itself upon the pale face
of the deputy from Arras, Robespierre.

"So be it," he responded. "Listen, Maximilian."
Then, raising voice and hand at the same time, to rivet
the attention of the crowd, he added, "Listen, one and

A solemn silence fell upon the assembly as Cagliostro
continued, —

" Yes, you have a right to ask a definition of these words
from me, and I will give it.

"Let us begin with Liberty. First of all, brethren, do
not mistake Liberty for Independence; for they are not
even sisters, but, on the contrary, two rivals who hate
each other. Nearly all races who live among the mountains


are independent; but I know of no nation, except the
Swiss, which is really free. No one will deny that the
Calabrians, Corsicans, and Scotch are independent; but no
one can call them free. If the Calabrian's whims are
interfered with, or the Corsican's honour, or the Scot's
interest, he straightway resorts to violence, since he can-
not have recourse to law, there being no such thing as real
law among an oppressed people. He strikes, his enemy
falls, and he feels that he is avenged. The mountain is
near at hand to serve as an asylum, and he finds independ-
ence in caves, and dense forests, and beetling cliffs, — the
independence of the fox, the antelope, and the eagle ; but
the fox, the antelope, and the eagle — indifferent and un-
moved witnesses of the great drama of life — are animals,
dependent upon instinct and created for solitude.

" The years went by, but these animals took no note of
them. The arts and sciences flourished, but the eagle
made no progress. Nations arose, matured, and declined,
but the fox was conscious of none of these changes. And
why? Simply because God has limited the mental capacity
of these creatures to the instinct of self-preservation;
whereas He has endowed man with the knowledge of good
and evil, a horror of isolation, and a fondness for society.

"Liberty is not a primary substance, like gold; it is a
flower, a fruit, a product, which requires cultivation to
insure its development and growth.

" Liberty is the right every man possesses to labour for
his own benefit, for his own interests, for his own satis-
faction, welfare, and amusement, so long as he does not
injure the interests of others. Liberty necessitates, how-
ever, the partial relinquishment of individual independ-
ence in order to create, as it were, a fund of general
liberty, of which each person may enjoy an equal share in

"Liberty is even more than this. It involves an obliga-
tion, publicly assumed, not to confine the accumulated
enlightenment, progress, and privileges already won to a


certain class in a community, or to a certain race or nation,
but to scatter them broadcast with a lavish hand. And
there is no need to fear that this treasure will become
exhausted; for Liberty has the divine characteristic of
multiplying itself through its very prodigality.

" Thus you see that Liberty is a sort of celestial manna
to which each individual has an equal right, and which
the fortunate people upon whom it descends should freely
share with all who ask for their portion of it.

" Such is Liberty, as I understand it. Now let us pass
on to the word Equalit}'.

"Brethren, I will not do you the injustice to suppose
that any person among you is misled by this seductive word
into believing in an equality of intellect, or even of matter.
Nature herself has settled that question by placing the
hyssop and the oak, the valley and the mountain, the lake
and the ocean, and stupidity and genius, side by side. All
the decrees in the world cannot lower Chimborazo or Mont
Blanc a single cubit; nor could the decree of any legislative
body extinguish the fire of genius which burns upon the
brow of Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare. We must under-
stand perfectly that the equality we refer to is simply
a social and political equality. And now, my brethren,
what is this Equality?

"Equality is the abolition of all hereditary privileges
except those transmitted through a natural aptitude and
ability. It insures free access to all employments, voca-
tions, grades, and ranks. It means that rewards shall be
bestowed upon merit, genius, and virtue, and not be re-
garded as tlie perquisite of a certain caste, family, or race.

" Thus the throne — that is, if such a thing as a throne
is allowed to remain — will merely be an exalted position,
accessible to the most worthy, while those of lesser worth
will occupy secondary positions, but still according to
their merit ; and, provided their present acquirements are
adequate, whether they be kings, ministers, councillors,
generals, or judges, no one will care for their origin. Thus


royalty or judicial eminence, the monarch's throne or the
president's chair, will no longer be the hereditary perquisite
of a family, but be conferred by election. For counsel, for
war, for judicial positions, it will no longer be a question
of class privilege, but merely of aptitude. In the arts and
sciences and in the realm of letters rank will no longer
be determined by favour, partiality, and patronage, but by
general agreement and generous rivalry. This is true
social equality.

" In proportion with the increase of knowledge — and
here let me say that, in my opinion, education should not
only be gratuitous, but compulsory — the general standard
would become more and more elevated. Instead of remain-
ing with her feet in the mire, Equality should soar to the
loftiest heights. A great nation like France should tolerate
only a standard that elevates, not one that deteriorates.
The equality which degrades is not the equality of a Titan,
but that of a bandit.

"And now, brethren, we come to the third and last word
of our motto, — Fraternity ; a grand word if properly un-
derstood; a sublime word if properly defined. A man
must, indeed, have a very imperfect understanding of the
real meaning of this word who applies it merely to the
inhabitants of a single village, the citizens of a single town,
or tlie people of a single nation. Let us pity such narrow
and ignorant minds, and teach them to shake off the leaden
sandals of mediocrity, stretch their wings, and soar high
above all such commonplace notions. When Satan tried
to tempt Christ, he transported him to the top of a lofty
mountain commanding a view of all the kingdoms of the
earth, — not to a tower in Nazareth, from which he could
see only a few Galilean villages. It is not the people of
one city, or even of one kingdom, that should be united in
the bonds of Fraternity, but the whole world.

"Brethren, the day will surely come when this word
'country,' which we now liold so sacred, and that other
word * nationality, ' which we utter witli equal reverence,


will vanish like those bits of stage scenery which are
lowered only for a moment to allow the scene-shifters and
machinists to prepare their infinite distances and extended
horizons. Brethren, the day will come when those who
have conquered earth and sea will conquer air and fire as
well. The flaming coursers of the sky will be harnessed,
not only to mind, but to matter, and the winds — which are
to-day but the unruly couriers of the tempest — will be-
come the docile and intelligent messengers of civilisation.

"Brethren, the day will come when — thanks to this
terrestrial and aerial communication, which will render
kings practically powerless — all the nations of the earth
will understand that they are bound together in a solidarity
of past trials; when people will understand that kings,
who have put weapons with which to destroy one another
into their hands, were urging them on, not to glory, as
they claimed, but to fratricide, and that a full account
must be rendered to posterity for each drop of blood drawn
from the most insignificant member of the great human

"Then, brethren, you will see a magnificent panorama
spread out before you. Every imaginary boundary will
disappear; every artificial frontier will be laid low.
Rivers will be no hindrance, mountains no obstacle.
Nations will clasp hands across rivers, and upon the
loftiest mountain-peak will be erected an altar, — the altar
of Fraternity.

"Brethren, this, I tell you, is the true apostolic frater-
nity. Christ did not die to save the Jews alone, but to
redeem all the nations of the earth. * Go and teach all
nations,' was His command. Do not make these three
words, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, the motto of
France alone. Inscribe them upon the banner of humanity,
— a motto for the world.

"And now go forth, my brethren! Your task is a grand
one, — so grand that however deep the rivers of blood and
tears through which you are condemned to pass may prove,


your descendants will envy you the sacred mission intrusted
to you. Be like the Crusaders of old, who did not pause
even when they saw the bones of their fathers bleaching
along the route.

"Courage, then, ye apostles of liberty! Courage, ye
pilgrims! Courage, ye soldiers! Apostles, convert all
men! Pilgrims, press on! Soldiers, fight the good

Cagliostro paused; but he had scarcely ceased speaking
when a storm of applause burst forth. Three times the
plaudits died away , only to be again renewed, echoing and
re-echoing through the crypt like a subterranean tempest.

The six masked men bowed low before him, one after
another, kissed his hand, and retired.

Then each brother bowed in turn before the platform
from which this new apostle, another Peter the Hermit,
had preached the "Crusade of Liberty," and then passed
out, each repeating the grim motto, Lilia pedibus destrue.

With the last brother's departure the lamp went out,
and Cagliostro was left alone in silence and darkness, like
those gods of India into whose mysteries he claimed to
have been initiated two thousand years before.




Several months after the events just related, a carriage
dashed up to the door of the Château du Marais about eight
o'clock in the morning, and a gentleman, dressed entirely
in black, alighted from it.

An old servant, who seemed to have been awaiting this
person's arrival very impatiently, hastened forward to
meet him.

"Ah, Doctor Gilbert, you have come at last!" he

"What is the matter with him, my poor Teisch?" in-
quired the doctor.

"Alas, monsieur, you will see," responded the valet.

As he spoke, he led the way into the billiard-room,
where the lamps were still burning, and then through the
dining-room, where a table covered with flowers, empty
bottles, fruit, and pastry gave evidence of a supper pro-
longed far into the night.

Gilbert glanced sorrowfully at this scene of disorder,
which showed how poorly his instructions had been obeyed;
then, sighing, and shrugging his shoulders, he ascended
the staircase which led up to Mirabeau' s chamber on the
floor above.

"Here is Doctor Gilbert, monsieur," said the valet, as
he entered.

"The doctor!" exclaimed Mirabeau. "Why, it wasn't
necessary to send for him for a mere trifle like this ! "

" Trifle ! " murmured poor Teisch. " You can judge for
yourself, monsieur."


"Nevertheless, I am very sorry they troubled you with-
out consulting me," insisted Mirabeau.

"First of all, it never causes me any inconvenience to
come to see you. You know I only attend a few personal
friends, and I am always entirely at their service. Now
let us see what the matter is. There must be no secrets
from the faculty, understand. Teisch, pull up the curtains
and open the windows."

This order being complied with, the sunlight penetrated
to the farthest corner of Mirabeau's chamber, thus enabling
the doctor to note the change which had taken place in the
famous orator's appearance since he examined him a couple
of months before.

" Ah ! " exclaimed Gilbert, in spite of himself.

"Yes, I am very much changed, am I not?" responded
Mirabeau. "I'll tell you how it happened. You know
the question under consideration yesterday?"

"Yes; something connected with mines and mining, was
it not?"

"Yes; but it is a question that is very imperfectly
understood as yet. The interests of the owners and of the
Government are not distinct enough ; besides, my intimate
friend De la Marck is deeply interested. In fact, half
his income depends upon it. His purse, my dear doctor,
has always been at my service, and I am consequently
under many obligations to him; so I spoke, or rather I
attacked the outposts five times. I put the enemy to rout
the last time, though I was pretty well used up myself in
the fray. On returning home, I wanted to celebrate my
victory; so I invited a few friends to sup with me. We
laughed and joked until three o'clock this morning, and
then I went to bed. About five o'clock I was seized with
terrible pains, and cried out like a fool. Teisch was
frightened, and sent for you. Now you know just as much
as I do. There 's my pulse, and here 's my tongue. I 'm
suffering the tortures of the damned. Pull me through if
you can, and I '11 promise not to meddle with such matters
any more."


Gilbert was too skilful a practitioner not to realise tlie
gravity of Mirabeau's condition without consulting either
his tongue or his pulse. The sick man seemed to be in
imminent danger of suffocating; his respiration was ex-
ceedingly laboured, and his face badly swollen by reason
of the stagnation of blood in his lungs. His hands and
feet, too, were cold, and the intense pain he was suffering
extorted a groan from him every now and then, in spite of
his heroism.

"You will pull through this time, my dear count," re-
marked Gilbert, drawing a case of instruments from his
pocket, "but I did not get here any too soon."

"Are you going to bleed me, doctor?"

"At once."

"In the left arm or the right?"

"In neither; but in the foot. Meanwhile, Teisch must
go to Argenteuil for mustard and cantharides, so that we
may apply plasters. Take my cab, Teisch."

" The deuce ! At that rate, I should say it was time you
came," exclaimed Mirabeau.

Without replying, Gilbert immediately proceeded to
bleed his patient; and very soon thick black blood began
to ooze from the sufferer's foot. The relief was almost

"You are certainly a very clever man, doctor," exclaimed
Mirabeau, breathing much more easily already.

"And you, count, are certainly a very foolish one, to
endanger a life so valuable to France and to your friends,
for a few moments of pleasure."

"Xonsense, my dear doctor; you exaggerate the regard
France and my friends entertain for me," replied Mirabeau,
smiling in a half ironical, half melancholy fashion.

"Great men are always complaining of the ingratitude
of mankind in general, when they themselves are really
the ingrates. Be seriously ill, and you will have all Paris
under your windows to-morrow; die to-morrow, and you
will have all France for pall-bearers."


"That is very consoling, l 'm sure," responded Mirabeau,

"It is just because you can see the gratitude without
risking your life that I tell you this. The truth is, you
need a great demonstration to stimulate you. Let me take
you back to Paris with me a couple of hours hence; then
let me tell the first person I meet that you are ill, and you
will see."

"Do you think I'm strong enough to be taken back to

"Yes; this very day. How are you feeling now?"

"I am breathing much easier; my head is clearer, and
the mist before my eyes is disappearing; but I am still
suffering a good deal in my stomach."

"The plasters will relieve that, my dear count. The
bleeding has done its work, and now the plasters must do
theirs. Hold on, — here 's Teiseh now."

Teisch had brought the required remedies, and in about
a quarter of an hour entire relief came, as the doctor had

"Now I '11 give you an hour to rest, and then take you
away with me," remarked Gilbert.

"Won't you permit me to remain here until evening,
and make an appointment to meet you at my house on the
Eue Chaussée d'Antin at eleven o'clock to-night?"

Gilbert looked at Mirabeau, and the latter could see that
his physician had divined the cause of this desire on his
part; so he added, —

"What else can I do, as I am expecting a visitor?"

"I saw the flowers on your table as I passed through the
dining-room. It wasn't a mere friendly supper you gave
last night."

"You know I can't do without flowers; they are one of
my weaknesses."

"But I am not complaining of the flowers alone, count."

" But if the flowers are a necessity to me, I must abide
by the consequences of that necessity, I suppose."


"Count, you are killing yourself."

"Confess, though, that it is at least a delightful death."

" I mean to keep close by you the entire day."

"But, doctor, I have given my word. You surely
wouldn't ask me to break it."

"Will you be in Paris to-night?"

" I tell you I shall expect to meet you at my little house
on the Rue Chaussée d'Antin to-night. Have you ever seen
it? It 's a purchase I 've just made from Julie Talma's
wife. I 'm beginning to feel all right again now, doctor."

" In other words, you want me to be off. Very well ; this
is my day at the Tuileries."

"Ah, you will see the queen," said Mirabeau, his face

"Probably. Have you any message for her?"

"I couldn't take such a liberty. Don't even mention
the fact that you have seen me."

"And why not?"

"Because she '11 ask you if I have saved the monarchy,
as I promised, and you'll have to say no," replied Mira-
beau, smiling bitterly; "though it is more her fault than
mine that I have failed."

" Don't you want me to tell her how you have been over-
working yourself, and that your brave fight in the Assembly
is killing jou?"

" Yes, tell her that. Make me out much more ill than I
am, please."

"And why?"

"Oh, never mind! Just do it for curiosity's sake, so
that you '11 have something interesting to tell me."

"All right."

"And you '11 tell me what she says?"

"Her very words."

" Well, good-bye, doctor. I thank you a thousand times,"
said the count, offering his hand to Gilbert, whose search-
ing glance seemed to embarrass him. "Now won't you
prescribe for me before you go?"

VOL. II. — 12


"Take plenty of warm drinks, observe the simplest
possible diet, and, above all — "


"Above all, no nurse under fifty years of age; do you

"Rather than not follow out your prescription, I '11 take
two of twenty-five years," responded Mirabeau, laughing.

At the door Gilbert met ïeisch. The poor fellow's eyes
were full of tears.

"Oh! why do you leave him, sir?" he exclaimed.

" Simply because he won't let me stay, my dear Teisch,"
Gilbert answered.

" And all on account of that woman who looks like the
queen," muttered the old man. "A man of such genius,
too, as everybody admits! Great heavens! how can he be
such an ass?"

Gilbert seized the old man's arm, as if about to question
him; then, saying to himself, "What am I doing? it is
his secret, not mine," he stepped into his cab and was
driven away.




Gilbert scrupulously fulfilled the promise made to Mira-
beau; but first he saw Camille Desmoulins, the incarnate
spirit of the press of the day, and apprised him of
Mirabeau's illness, which he represented as much more
serious than it really was at that moment, but not more so
than it would become if Mirabeau indulged in any fresh

Then he repaired to the Tuileries, and communicated the
intelligence to the king.

" Ah, indeed, poor fellow ! " remarked the monarch.
"Has he lost his appetite?"

"Yes, sire."

"Then he 's in a bad way," said the king, and straight-
way began to talk of other matters.

On leaving the king, Gilbert went to see the queen, and
repeated to her exactly what he had told the king.

The daughter of Maria Theresa knit her brows.

" Why did n't this malady attack him on the morning of
the day he made that fine speech on the tricoloured flag? "
she exclaimed. Then, as if repenting of having allowed
this expression of animosity against the symbol of French
nationality to escape her in Gilbert's presence, she added,
" Still, it would be a great misfortune for France, and for our-
selves as well, if this indisposition should prove serious."

"I believe I have already had the honour of informing
your Majesty that it is more than an indisposition, it is a
serious illness."

"Which I feel sure you will conquer, however."


" I shall do my best, madame, but I cannot answer for
the result."

"I shall depend upon you, doctor, understand, to bring
me news of Monsieur de Mirabeau," she remarked; then
she, too, began to talk of other things.

That same evening, at the appointed hour, Gilbert
presented himself at the door of the house Mirabeau had
recently purchased in the city.

The count, who was half reclining upon a couch, was
evidently expecting him; but as he had been kept waiting
several minutes in the drawing-room, Gilbert cast a quick
glance round the room, and as he did so his eye fell upon
a cashmere scarf lying upon an arm-chair.

It was to divert the doctor's attention from this dis-
covery, very possibly, that Mirabeau hastily exclaimed :

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasComtesse de Charny (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 24)