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Chapter 51

Chapter LI:
What Actually Occurred at the Inn Called the Beau Paon.

In the first place, let us supply our readers with a few details about
the inn called Beau Paon. It owed its name to its sign, which
represented a peacock spreading its tail. But, in imitation of certain
painters who bestowed the face of a handsome young man on the serpent
which tempted Eve, the limner of the sign had conferred upon the peacock
the features of a woman. This famous inn, an architectural epigram
against that half of the human race which renders existence delightful,
was situated at Fontainebleau, in the first turning on the left-hand
side, which divides the road from Paris, the large artery that
constitutes in itself alone the entire town of Fontainebleau. The side
street in question was then known as the Rue de Lyon, doubtless because,
geographically, it led in the direction of the second capital of the
kingdom. The street itself was composed of two houses occupied by
persons of the class of tradespeople, the houses being separated by two
large gardens bordered with hedges running round them. Apparently,
however, there were three houses in the street. Let us explain,
notwithstanding appearances, how there were in fact only two. The inn of
the Beau Paon had its principal front towards the main street; but upon
the Rue de Lyon there were two ranges of buildings divided by courtyards,
which comprised sets of apartments for the reception of all classes of
travelers, whether on foot or on horseback, or even with their own
carriages; and in which could be supplied, not only board and lodging,
but also accommodation for exercise, or opportunities of solitude for
even the wealthiest courtiers, whenever, after having received some check
at the court, they wished to shut themselves up to their own society,
either to devour an affront, or to brood on revenge. From the windows of
this part of the building travelers could perceive, in the first place,
the street with the grass growing between the stones, which were being
gradually loosened by it; next the beautiful hedges of elder and thorn,
which embraced, as though within two green and flowery arms, the house of
which we have spoken; and then, in the spaces between those houses,
forming the groundwork of the picture, and appearing an almost impassable
barrier, a line of thick trees, the advanced sentinels of the vast forest
which extends in front of Fontainebleau. It was therefore easy, provided
one secured an apartment at the angle of the building, to obtain, by the
main street from Paris, a view of, as well as to hear, the passers-by and
the _fetes_; and, by the Rue de Lyon, to look upon and to enjoy the calm
of the country. And this without reckoning that, in cases of urgent
necessity, at the very moment people might be knocking at the principal
door in the Rue de Paris, one could make one's escape by the little door
in the Rue de Lyon, and, creeping along the gardens of the private
houses, attain the outskirts of the forest. Malicorne, who, it will be
remembered, was the first to speak about this inn, by way of deploring
his being turned out of it, being then absorbed in his own affairs, had
not told Montalais all that could be said about this curious inn; and we
will try to repair the omission. With the exception of the few words he
had said about the Franciscan friar, Malicorne had not given any
particulars about the travelers who were staying in the inn. The manner
in which they had arrived, the manner in which they had lived, the
difficulty which existed for every one but certain privileged travelers,
of entering the hotel without a password, or living there without certain
preparatory precautions, must have struck Malicorne; and, we will venture
to say, really did so. But Malicorne, as we have already said, had
personal matters of his own to occupy his attention which prevented him
from paying much attention to others. In fact, all the apartments of the
hotel were engaged and retained by certain strangers, who never stirred
out, who were incommunicative in their address, with countenances full of
thoughtful preoccupation, and not one of whom was known to Malicorne.
Every one of these travelers had reached the hotel after his own arrival
there; each man had entered after having given a kind of password, which
had at first attracted Malicorne's attention; but having inquired, in an
indiscreet manner, about it, he had been informed that the host had given
as a reason for this extreme vigilance, that, as the town was so full of
wealthy noblemen, it must also be as full of clever and zealous
pickpockets. The reputation of an honest inn like that of the Beau Paon
was concerned in not allowing its visitors to be robbed. It occasionally
happened that Malicorne asked himself, as he thought matters carefully
over in his mind, and reflected upon his own position in the inn, how it
was that they had allowed him to become an inmate of the hotel, when he
had observed, since his residence there, admission refused to so many.
He asked himself, too, how it was that Manicamp, who, in his opinion,
must be a man to be looked upon with veneration by everybody, having
wished to bait his horse at the Beau Paon, on arriving there, both horse
and rider had been incontinently turned away with a _nescio vos_ of the
most positive character. All this for Malicorne, whose mind being fully
occupied by his own love affair and personal ambition, was a problem he
had not applied himself to solve. Had he wished to do so, we should
hardly venture, notwithstanding the intelligence we have accorded as his
due, to say he would have succeeded. A few words will prove to the
reader that no one but Oedipus in person could have solved the enigma in
question. During the week, seven travelers had taken up their abode in
the inn, all of them having arrived there the day after the fortunate day
on which Malicorne had fixed his choice on the Beau Paon. These seven
persons, accompanied by a suitable retinue, were the following: -

First of all, a brigadier in the German army, his secretary, physician,
three servants, and seven horses. The brigadier's name was the Comte de
Wostpur. - A Spanish cardinal, with two nephews, two secretaries, an
officer of his household, and twelve horses. The cardinal's name was
Monseigneur Herrebia. - A rich merchant of Bremen, with his man-servant
and two horses. This merchant's name was Meinheer Bonstett. - A Venetian
senator with his wife and daughter, both extremely beautiful. The
senator's name was Signor Marini. - A Scottish laird, with seven
highlanders of his clan, all on foot. The laird's name was MacCumnor.
An Austrian from Vienna without title or coat of arms, who had arrived in
a carriage; a good deal of the priest, and something of the soldier. He
was called the Councilor. - And, finally, a Flemish lady, with a man-
servant, a lady's maid, and a female companion, a large retinue of
servants, great display, and immense horses. She was called the Flemish
lady.

All these travelers had arrived on the same day, and yet their arrival
had occasioned no confusion in the inn, no stoppage in the street; their
apartments had been fixed upon beforehand, by their couriers or
secretaries, who had arrived the previous evening or that very morning.
Malicorne, who had arrived the previous day, riding an ill-conditioned
horse, with a slender valise, had announced himself at the hotel of the
Beau Paon as the friend of a nobleman desirous of witnessing the _fetes_,
and who would himself arrive almost immediately. The landlord, on
hearing these words, had smiled as if he were perfectly well acquainted
either with Malicorne or his friend the nobleman, and had said to him,
"Since you are the first arrival, monsieur, choose what apartment you
please." And this was said with that obsequiousness of manners, so full
of meaning with landlords, which means, "Make yourself perfectly easy,
monsieur: we know with whom we have to do, and you will be treated
accordingly." These words, and their accompanying gesture, Malicorne had
thought very friendly, but rather obscure. However, as he did not wish
to be very extravagant in his expenses, and as he thought that if he were
to ask for a small apartment he would doubtless have been refused, on
account of his want of consequence, he hastened to close at once with the
innkeeper's remark, and deceive him with a cunning equal to his own. So,
smiling as a man would do for whom whatever might be done was but simply
his due, he said, "My dear host, I shall take the best and the gayest
room in the house."

"With a stable?"

"Yes, with a stable."

"And when will you take it?"

"Immediately if it be possible."

"Quite so."

"But," said Malicorne, "I shall leave the large room unoccupied for the
present."

"Very good!" said the landlord, with an air of intelligence.

"Certain reasons, which you will understand by and by, oblige me to take,
at my own cost, this small room only."

"Yes, yes," said the host.

"When my friend arrives, he will occupy the large apartment: and as a
matter of course, as this larger apartment will be his own affair, he
will settle for it himself."

"Certainly," said the landlord, "certainly; let it be understood in that
manner."

"It is agreed, then, that such shall be the terms?"

"Word for word."

"It is extraordinary," said Malicorne to himself. "You quite understand,
then?"

"Yes."

"There is nothing more to be said. Since you understand, - for you do
clearly understand, do you not?"

"Perfectly."

"Very well; and now show me to my room."

The landlord, cap in hand, preceded Malicorne, who installed himself in
his room, and became more and more surprised to observe that the
landlord, at every ascent or descent, looked and winked at him in a
manner which indicated the best possible intelligence between them.

"There is some mistake here," said Malicorne to himself; "but until it is
cleared up, I shall take advantage of it, which is the best thing I can
possibly do." And he darted out of his room, like a hunting-dog
following a scent, in search of all the news and curiosities of the
court, getting himself burnt in one place and drowned in another, as he
had told Mademoiselle de Montalais. The day after he had been installed
in his room, he had noticed the seven travelers arrive successively, who
speedily filled the whole hotel. When he saw this perfect multitude of
people, of carriages, and retinue, Malicorne rubbed his hands
delightedly, thinking that, one day later, he should not have found a bed
to lie upon after his return from his exploring expeditions. When all
the travelers were lodged, the landlord entered Malicorne's room, and
with his accustomed courteousness, said to him, "You are aware, my dear
monsieur, that the large room in the third detached building is still
reserved for you?"

"Of course I am aware of it."

"I am really making you a present of it."

"Thank you."

"So that when your friend comes - "

"Well!"

"He will be satisfied with me, I hope: or, if he be not, he will be very
difficult to please."

"Excuse me, but will you allow me to say a few words about my friend?"

"Of course, for you have a perfect right to do so."

"He intended to come, as you know."

"And he does so still."

"He may possibly have changed his opinion."

"No."

"You are quite sure, then?"

"Quite sure."

"But in case you should have some doubt."

"Well!"

"I can only say that I do not positively assure you that he will come."

"Yet he told you - "

"He certainly did tell me; but you know that man proposes and God
disposes, - _verba volant, scripta manent_."

"Which is as much to say - "

"That what is spoken flies away, and what is written remains; and, as he
did not write to me, but contented himself by saying to me, 'I will
authorize you, yet without specifically instructing you,' you must feel
that it places me in a very embarrassing position."

"What do you authorize me to do, then?"

"Why, to let your rooms if you find a good tenant for them."

"I?"

"Yes, you."

"Never will I do such a thing, monsieur. If he has not written to you,
he has written to me."

"Ah! what does he say? Let us see if his letter agrees with his words."

"These are almost his very words. 'To the landlord of the Beau Paon
Hotel, - You will have been informed of the meeting arranged to take
place in your inn between some people of importance; I shall be one of
those who will meet with the others at Fontainebleau. Keep for me, then,
a small room for a friend who will arrive either before or after me - '
and you are the friend, I suppose," said the landlord, interrupting his
reading of the letter. Malicorne bowed modestly. The landlord continued:

"'And a large apartment for myself. The large apartment is my own
affair, but I wish the price of the smaller room to be moderate, as it is
destined for a fellow who is deucedly poor.' It is still you he is
speaking of, is he not?" said the host.

"Oh, certainly," said Malicorne.

"Then we are agreed; your friend will settle for his apartment, and you
for your own."

"May I be broken alive on the wheel," said Malicorne to himself, "if I
understand anything at all about it," and then he said aloud, "Well,
then, are you satisfied with the name?"

"With what name?"

"With the name at the end of the letter. Does it give you the guarantee
you require?"

"I was going to ask you the name."

"What! was the letter not signed?"

"No," said the landlord, opening his eyes very wide, full of mystery and
curiosity.

"In that case," said Malicorne, imitating his gesture and his mysterious
look, "if he has not given you his name, you understand, he must have his
reasons for it."

"Oh, of course."

"And, therefore, I, his friend, his confidant, must not betray him."

"You are perfectly right, monsieur," said the landlord, "and I do not
insist upon it."

"I appreciate your delicacy. As for myself, as my friend told you, my
room is a separate affair, so let us come to terms about it. Short
accounts make long friends. How much is it?"

"There is no hurry."

"Never mind, let us reckon it all up all the same. Room, my own board, a
place in the stable for my horse, and his feed. How much per day?"

"Four livres, monsieur."

"Which will make twelve livres for the three days I have been here?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Here are your twelve livres, then."

"But why settle now?"

"Because," said Malicorne, lowering his voice, and resorting to his
former air of mystery, because he saw that the mysterious had succeeded,
"because if I had to set off suddenly, to decamp at any moment, my
account would be settled."

"You are right, monsieur."

"I may consider myself at home, then?"

"Perfectly."

"So far so well. Adieu!" And the landlord withdrew. Malicorne, left
alone, reasoned with himself in the following manner: "No one but De
Guiche or Manicamp could have written to this fellow; De Guiche, because
he wishes to secure a lodging for himself beyond the precincts of the
court, in the event of his success or failure, as the case might be;
Manicamp, because De Guiche must have intrusted him with his commission.
And De Guiche or Manicamp will have argued in this manner. The large
apartment would serve for the reception, in a befitting manner, of a lady
thickly veiled, reserving to the lady in question a double means of exit,
either in a street somewhat deserted, or closely adjoining the forest.
The smaller room might either shelter Manicamp for a time, who is De
Guiche's confidant, and would be the vigilant keeper of the door, or De
Guiche himself, acting, for greater safety, the part of a master and
confidant at the same time. Yet," he continued, "how about this meeting
which is to take place, and which has actually taken place, in this
hotel? No doubt they are persons who are going to be presented to the
king. And the 'poor devil,' for whom the smaller room is destined, is a
trick, in order to better conceal De Guiche or Manicamp. If this be the
case, as very likely it is, there is only half the mischief done, for
there is simply the length of a purse string between Manicamp and
Malicorne." After he had thus reasoned the matter out, Malicorne slept
soundly, leaving the seven travelers to occupy, and in every sense of the
word to walk up and down, their several lodgings in the hotel. Whenever
there was nothing at court to put him out, when he had wearied himself
with his excursions and investigations, tired of writing letters which he
could never find an opportunity of delivering to the people they were
intended for, he returned home to his comfortable little room, and
leaning upon the balcony, which was filled with nasturtiums and white
pinks, for whom Fontainebleau seemed to possess no attractions with all
its illuminations, amusements, and _fetes_.

Things went on in this manner until the seventh day, a day of which we
have given such full details, with its night also, in the preceding
chapters. On that night Malicorne was enjoying the fresh air, seated at
his window, toward one o'clock in the morning, when Manicamp appeared on
horseback, with a thoughtful and listless air.

"Good!" said Malicorne to himself, recognizing him at the first glance;
"there's my friend, who is come to take possession of his apartment, that
is to say, of my room." And he called to Manicamp, who looked up and
immediately recognized Malicorne.

"Ah! by Jove!" said the former, his countenance clearing up, "glad to see
you, Malicorne. I have been wandering about Fontainebleau, looking for
three things I cannot find: De Guiche, a room, and a stable."

"Of M. de Guiche I cannot give you either good or bad news, for I have
not seen him; but as far as concerns your room and a stable, that's
another matter, for they have been retained here for you."

"Retained - and by whom?"

"By yourself, I presume."

"By _me?_"

"Do you mean to say you did not take lodgings here?"

"By no means," said Manicamp.

At this moment the landlord appeared on the threshold of the door.

"I want a room," said Manicamp.

"Did you engage one, monsieur?"

"No."

"Then I have no rooms to let."

"In that case, I have engaged a room," said Manicamp.

"A room simply, or lodgings?"

"Anything you please."

"By letter?" inquired the landlord.

Malicorne nodded affirmatively to Manicamp.

"Of course by letter," said Manicamp. "Did you not receive a letter from
me?"

"What was the date of the letter?" inquired the host, in whom Manicamp's
hesitation had aroused some suspicion.

Manicamp rubbed his ear, and looked up at Malicorne's window; but
Malicorne had left his window and was coming down the stairs to his
friend's assistance. At the very same moment, a traveler, wrapped in a
large Spanish cloak, appeared at the porch, near enough to hear the
conversation.

"I ask you what was the date of the letter you wrote to me to retain
apartments here?" repeated the landlord, pressing the question.

"Last Wednesday was the date," said the mysterious stranger, in a soft
and polished tone of voice, touching the landlord on the shoulder.

Manicamp drew back, and it was now Malicorne's turn, who appeared on the
threshold, to scratch his ear. The landlord saluted the new arrival as a
man who recognizes his true guest.

"Monsieur," he said to him, with civility, "your apartment is ready for
you, and the stables too, only - " He looked round him and inquired,
"Your horses?"

"My horses may or may not arrive. That, however, matters but little to
you, provided you are paid for what has been engaged." The landlord
bowed lower still.

"You have," continued the unknown traveler, "kept for me in addition, the
small room I asked for?"

"Oh!" said Malicorne, endeavoring to hide himself.

"Your friend has occupied it during the last week," said the landlord,
pointing to Malicorne, who was trying to make himself as small as
possible. The traveler, drawing his cloak round him so as to cover the
lower part of his face, cast a rapid glance at Malicorne, and said, "This
gentleman is no friend of mine."

The landlord started violently.

"I am not acquainted with this gentleman," continued the traveler.

"What!" exclaimed the host, turning to Malicorne, "are you not this
gentleman's friend, then?"

"What does it matter whether I am or not, provided you are paid?" said
Malicorne, parodying the stranger's remark in a very majestic manner.

"It matters so far as this," said the landlord, who began to perceive
that one person had been taken for another, "that I beg you, monsieur, to
leave the rooms, which had been engaged beforehand, and by some one else
instead of you."

"Still," said Malicorne, "this gentleman cannot require at the same time
a room on the first floor and an apartment on the second. If this
gentleman will take the room, I will take the apartment: if he prefers
the apartment, I will be satisfied with the room."

"I am exceedingly distressed, monsieur," said the traveler in his soft
voice, "but I need both the room and the apartment."

"At least, tell me for whom?" inquired Malicorne.

"The apartment I require for myself."

"Very well; but the room?"

"Look," said the traveler, pointing towards a sort of procession which
was approaching.

Malicorne looked in the direction indicated, and observed borne upon a
litter, the arrival of the Franciscan, whose installation in his
apartment he had, with a few details of his own, related to Montalais,
and whom he had so uselessly endeavored to convert to humbler views. The
result of the arrival of the stranger, and of the sick Franciscan, was
Malicorne's expulsion, without any consideration for his feelings, from
the inn, by the landlord and the peasants who had carried the
Franciscan. The details have already been given of what followed this
expulsion; of Manicamp's conversation with Montalais; how Manicamp, with
greater cleverness than Malicorne had shown, had succeeded in obtaining
news of De Guiche, of the subsequent conversation of Montalais with
Malicorne, and, finally, of the billets with which the Comte de Saint-
Aignan had furnished Manicamp and Malicorne. It remains for us to inform
our readers who was the traveler in the cloak - the principal tenant of
the double apartment, of which Malicorne had only occupied a portion
and the Franciscan, quite as mysterious a personage, whose arrival,
together with that of the stranger, unfortunately upset the two friends'
plans.

Alexandre Dumas pere