“Let me have her for a few days in some secluded place,” said he to himself, “where she cannot escape from me, or have any intercourse with her friends, and I shall be sure to win her heart. I shall be so kind and good and considerate to her, treat her with so much delicacy and devotion, that she cannot help feeling grateful to me; and then the transition to love will be easy and natural. But when once I have won her, made her wholly mine, then she shall pay dearly for what she has made me suffer. Yes, my lady, I mean to have my revenge—you may rest assured of that.”
CHAPTER XV. MALARTIC AT WORK
If the Duke of Vallombreuse had been furious after his unsuccessful visit to Isabelle, the Baron de Sigognac was not less so, when, upon his return that evening, he learned what had taken place during his absence. The tyrant and Blazius were almost obliged to use force to prevent his rushing off, without losing a minute, to challenge the duke to mortal combat—a challenge sure to be refused; for de Sigognac, being neither the brother nor husband of the injured fair one, had no earthly right to call any other gentleman to account for his conduct towards her; in France all men are at liberty to pay their court to every pretty woman.
As to the attack upon the baron on the Pont-Neuf, there could be no doubt that it was instigated by the Duke of Vallombreuse; but how to prove it? that was the difficulty. And even supposing it could be proved, what good would that do? In the eyes of the world the Baron de Sigognac, who carefully concealed his real rank, was only Captain Fracasse, a low play-actor, upon whom a great noble, like the Duke of Vallombreuse, had a perfect right to inflict a beating, imprisonment, or even assassination, if it so pleased him; and that without incurring the blame, or serious disapproval, of his friends and equals.
So far as Isabelle was concerned, if the affair were made public, nobody would believe that she was really pure and virtuous—the very fact of her being an actress was enough to condemn her—for her sake it was important to keep the matter secret if possible. So there was positively no means of calling their enemy to account for his flagrant misdeeds, though de Sigognac, who was almost beside himself with rage and indignation, and burning to avenge Isabelle’s wrongs and his own, swore that he would punish him, even if he had to move heaven and earth to compass it. Yet, when he became a little calmer, he could not but acknowledge that Herode and Blazius were right in advising that they should all remain perfectly quiet, and feign the most absolute indifference; but at the same time keep their eyes and ears very wide open, and be unceasingly on their guard against artful surprises, since it was only too evident that the vindictive young duke, who was handsome as a god and wicked as the devil, did not intend to abandon his designs upon them; although thus far he had failed ignominiously in everything he had undertaken against them.