Quiet being restored, comparatively speaking, Lampourde and Malartic resumed their interrupted conversation, and after a few remarks upon the strange performance they had just witnessed—in which Lampourde especially praised Agostino’s marvellous skill, and Malartic warmly commended Chiquita’s wonderful courage and sang-froid—the former confided to his friend that he had a piece of work in prospect, in which he would need some assistance, and desired to have his opinion as to which of their comrades would be best suited for his purpose. He told him that, in the first place, he was commissioned to despatch a certain Captain Fracasse, an actor, who had dared to interfere with the love affair of a very great lord. In this, of course, he would not require any aid; but he had also to make arrangements for the abduction of the lady, a very beautiful young actress, who was beloved by both the nobleman and the comedian, and who would be zealously defended by the members of the dramatic company to which she belonged; so that he should be obliged to resort to some stratagem, and would probably need the help of several hands to carry it out—adding that they were sure of being well paid, for the young lord was as generous and open handed as he was wealthy and determined. Thereupon they fell to discussing the respective merits of their numerous friends and acquaintances—gentlemen of the same stamp as themselves—and having decided upon four, and determined to keep an eye upon Agostino, who seemed a clever rascal and might be of use, they called for another bottle of wine. When that was finished Jacquemin Lampourde was indisputably drunk, and having loyally kept his word, retired, somewhat unsteadily, to his own quarters in a high state of maudlin satisfaction, accompanied by his friend Malartic, whom he had invited to spend the night with him. By this time—it was nearly four o’clock in the morning—the Crowned Radish was almost deserted, and the master of the establishment, seeing that there was no prospect of further custom, told his servants to rouse up and turn out all the sleepers—Agostino and Chiquita among the rest—and his orders were promptly executed.
The Duke of Vallombreuse was not a man to neglect his love affairs, any more than his enemies. If he hated de Sigognac mortally, he felt for Isabelle that furious passion which the unattainable is apt to excite in a haughty and violent nature like his, that has never met with resistance. To get possession of the young actress had become the ruling thought of his life. Spoiled by the easy victories he had always gained heretofore, in his career of gallantry, his failure in this instance was utterly incomprehensible to him, as well as astonishing and maddening. He could not understand it. Oftentimes in the midst of a conversation, at the theatre, at church, at the court, anywhere and everywhere, the thought