Cardillac - Robert Barr - ebook
Opis

Robert Barr (1849–1912) was a Scottish-Canadian short story writer and novelist, born in Glasgow, Scotland who relocated to London in 1881 where he founded the magazine „The Idler” in 1892 in collaboration with Jerome K Jerome. In 1895 he retired from its co-editorship and became a prolific novelist. His famous detective character Eugéne Valmont, fashioned after Sherlock Holmes, is said to be the inspiration behind Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Some of his works include: „In the Midst of Alarms”, a story of the attempted Fenian invasion of Canada in 1866; „A Woman Intervenes”, a story of love, finance, and American journalism; and „Countess Tekla”, a historical novel. Mr. Robert Barr’s „ Cardillac” is a machine-made historical tale of the time of King Louis XIII, set in old France.

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Liczba stron: 387

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER XXXIV

CHAPTER XXXV

CHAPTER XXXVI

CHAPTER I

THE LETTER THAT WAS A JOKE

Victor de Cardillac had remained motionless so long that, in the gathering darkness, he seemed but a carved stone figure on the bridge. He was leaning forward, arms folded on the top of the parapet, gazing steadily at the swirling water below, which at last became invisible save for the quivering reflection of yellow lights from the windows of the palaces on either bank.

It is doubtful if in all Paris there was to be found another whose thoughts were more bitter than those of the young man who leaned against the parapet that July evening. It was not so much the loss of all his money, which was little enough to begin with, nor the waste of his time, which was of no particular value, nor even his disappointment at not getting a place in Paris, nor his chagrin at being kept uselessly loitering round the doors and in the antechambers of the great, without ever receiving a message or a word from the nobleman he sought, that wrought up this young man of twenty-four to the dangerous pitch in which we find him. That afternoon, at four o’clock, he had discovered that the letter which lured him to Paris had been but a joke, and, carrying it about in his pocket for nearly four months, he, a Gascon, had never seen the point of it.

The rigid, motionless posture of Cardillac was caused by the intensity of his thoughts, as he cast his mind backward over the past few months, and meditated savagely on the fool’s errand which had brought him to Paris; on the weeks and weeks of humiliating dangling at the Luynes Palace; on the final stinging insult of the jocular letter.

The rise of Charles d’Albert of Luynes had been bewilderingly rapid, even for France, where favouritism, and not merit, was the elevating power. As a boy Luynes had come up from the south, from Aix in Provence, had obtained a place as page in the service of the Count de Lude, and had attracted the attention of Henri IV, who made young Luynes companion to his weakly son, Louis.

Over the infantile mind of the young Dauphin, Luynes attained complete ascendency. When Louis was nine years old, that great King, his father, was assassinated, and the widowed Queen, Marie de Médicis, an Italian woman, became ruler of France as Regent. Marie became the most detested of the foreigners who from time to time had governed France. She appointed as her Prime Minister a worthless Florentine named Concini, and together these two Italians, woman and man, tyrannised the land for seven years.

All this time Charles d’Albert, the suave, sport-loving, plebeian young man from the south, was unknown to the world. No one paid the slightest attention to the influence he had obtained over the lad who, some day, would be King as Louis XIII, nor realised what this influence might mean in the future. The Italian man and the Italian woman seemed securely entrenched in absolute power. Concini swaggered about Paris with a retinue of fifty swordsmen to guard him, as if he were King in name as well as reality, when suddenly the unknown struck, and struck with finality.

Concini was shot dead in the midst of his fifty protectors, in the courtyard of the Louvre, and no defender drew a sword, as indeed would have been useless when their chief lay prone on the pavement. The Queen Mother was deported from Paris, and imprisoned in the royal château at Blois. Louis XIII, proclaimed King, set his sole favourite, d’Albert, in the saddle of power, as worthless and arrogant as the man he had eliminated, but French, nevertheless. If we must be ruled by scoundrels, let us choose our own countrymen.

The affair was bewildering in its speed and completeness; no one had time to hedge. If courtiers had but guessed what was going to happen, sycophant place-hunters might have made friends with this unheeded young man while he was in obscurity. As it was, d’Albert found himself under obligations to no one, except the assassin, and him he paid in gold and protection.

Then began a balmy period for poverty-stricken Provence. Up to Paris came troops of cousins, second cousins, fortieth cousins, and each of them got a place under the patronage of Charles d’Albert of Luynes.

It was at this time that the old lord of Cardillac, poor of purse, but proud of pedigree, looking about for a position that his son, aged twenty-four, might fill with profit, remembered that Charles d’Albert had been sent years before by his father to Bordeaux, and had received hospitality at Cardillac Castle. The Marquis of Cardillac had persuaded the youth not to blight his future prospects by engaging in commerce and immuring himself in a provincial city like Bordeaux, but to journey north to Tours, at that moment occupied by the Court. He had given the boy a letter to his friend, the Count de Lude, which had secured him the post of page, and now it seemed that d’Albert, with whose name all France was ringing, was a man who believed that one good turn deserved another. Therefore old Cardillac caused his son to write to the new favourite, recounting these circumstances, and asking if Charles d’Albert of Luynes would counsel the young man to go to Paris, as the young man’s father had counselled d’Albert himself to visit Tours. In due time the reply came:

Paris, by all means. It is a delightful city, where young men enjoy themselves, and become rich. I long to embrace the founder of my fortune.

Luynes.

This letter appeared to be cordial enough, and on the strength of it young Cardillac went to Paris. If the truth be told, he was rather elated at possessing so intimate a communication from the most powerful man in France, and in the certainty of an early appointment he refused to give up the letter to any underling, demanding immediate admittance to the presence of Charles d’Albert of Luynes.

This pretence was ignored, and young Cardillac found himself left out in the cold, passed by and neglected, while his purse was running lower and lower, and his costume, which had never compared with the brilliancy of Paris wear, was becoming shabbier and shabbier.

Earlier in the afternoon on which we find Cardillac leaning over the parapet of the bridge, an old warder of the entrance hall, who had observed him there, day by day, for months, growing thinner and gaunter as time wore uselessly on, being from the country himself, and seeing plainly that the young man showed little knowledge of Paris, approached him and spoke.

“Sir, whence do you come?”

“From Cardillac, in Gascony.”

“I am from Avignon. We are both of the south, although you live on the western border of France, and I on the eastern. Sir, can I serve you?”

“I should be delighted if you did, but, as a preamble, I must honestly say that I possess no money to part with.”

“I knew that before you spoke,” replied the other. “You wish to see my master, perhaps?”

“It is for that purpose I have been here these many days.”

“May I examine your credentials?–for none get beyond this point who are not well provided with them. You seem to be ignorant of the customs at Court.”

“Surely I am that, yet my credentials are the best that could be required, being no other than an invitation from Luynes himself, asking me to Paris.”

“Sir, will you show me the document?”

“With pleasure,” and Cardillac handed the old man his precious letter. The official read it over slowly, but gently shook his head as he returned it.

“I fear it will be of little use to you, sir. This document is not in the handwriting of Monsieur de Luynes.”

The young man started to his feet.

“A forgery!” he cried.

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