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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 473 pages of information about Captain Fracasse.

CHAPTER XVIII.  A FAMILY PARTY

The next morning found the young Duke of Vallombreuse still living, though his life hung by so slender a thread, that the surgeon, who anxiously watched his every breath, feared from moment to moment that it might break.  He was a learned and skilful man, this same Maitre Laurent, who only needed some favourable opportunity to bring him into notice and make him as celebrated as he deserved to be.  His remarkable talents and skill had only been exercised thus far “in anima vili,” among the lower orders of society—­whose living or dying was a matter of no moment whatever.  But now had come at last the chance so long sighed for in secret, and he felt that the recovery of his illustrious patient was of paramount importance to himself.  The worthy doctor’s amour propre and ambition were both actively engaged in this desperate duel he was fighting with Death, and he set his teeth and determined that the victory must rest with him.  In order to keep the whole glory of the triumph for himself, he had persuaded the prince—­not without difficulty—­to renounce his intention of sending for the most celebrated surgeons in Paris, assuring him that he himself was perfectly capable to do all that could be done, and pleading that nothing was more dangerous than a change of treatment in such a case as this.  Maitre Laurent conquered, and feeling that there was now no danger of his being pushed into the background, threw his whole heart and strength into the struggle; yet many times during that anxious night he feared that his patient’s life was slipping away from his detaining grasp, and almost repented him of having assumed the entire responsibility.  But with the morning came encouragement, and as the watchful surgeon stood at the bedside, intently gazing upon the ghastly face on the pillow, he murmured to himself: 

“No, he will not die—­his countenance has lost that terrible, hippocratic look that had settled upon it last evening when I first saw him—­his pulse is stronger, his breathing free and natural.  Besides, he must live—­his recovery will make my fortune.  I must and will tear him out of the grim clutches of Death—­fine, handsome, young fellow that he is, and the heir and hope of his noble family—­it will be long ere his tomb need be made ready to receive him.  He will help me to get away from this wretched little village, where I vegetate ignobly, and eat my heart out day by day.  Now for a bold stroke!—­at the risk of producing fever—­at all risks—­I shall venture to give him a dose of that wonder-working potion of mine.”  Opening his case of medicines, he took out several small vials, containing different preparations—­some red as a ruby, others green as an emerald—­this one yellow as virgin gold, that bright and colourless as a diamond—­and on each one a small label bearing a Latin inscription.  Maitre Laurent, though he was perfectly sure of himself,

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