The Memoirs of Madame de Montespan, Complete
Madame La Marquise De Montespan

Part 4 out of 8

was at the mercy of both armies, had to show himself pleasant to each.

During supper, when the two generals informed him of the object of their
secret visit, he clearly perceived that the monastery was about to be
sacked, and like a man of resource, at once made up his mind. When
dessert came, he gave his guests wine that had been drugged. The
generals, growing drowsy, soon fell asleep, and the prior at once caused
them to be carried off to a cell and placed upon a comfortable bed.

This done, he celebrated midnight mass as usual, and at its close he
summoned the whole community, telling them of their peril and inviting
counsel and advice.

"My brethren," asked he, "ought we not to look upon our prisoners as
profaners of holy places, and serve them in secret and before God as once
the admirable Judith served Holofernes?"

At this proposal there was a general murmur. The assembly grew agitated,
but seeing how perilous was the situation, order was soon restored.

The old monks were of opinion that the two generals ought not yet to be
sacrificed, but should be shut up in a subterranean dungeon, a messenger
being sent forthwith to the French King announcing their capture.

The young monks protested loudly against such an act, declaring it to be
treacherous, disgraceful, felonious. The prior endeavoured to make them
listen to reason and be silent, but the young monks, though in a
minority, got the upper hand. They deposed the prior, abused and
assaulted him, and finally flung him into prison. One of them was
appointed prior without ballot, and this new leader, followed by his
adherents, roused the generals and officiously sent them away.

The prior's nephew, a young Bernardine, accompanied by a lay brother and
two or three servants, set out across country that night, and brought
information to the King of all this disorder, begging his Majesty to save
his worthy uncle's life.

At the head of six hundred dragoons, the King hastened to the convent and
at once rescued the prior, sending the good old monks of Sainte Amandine
to Citeaux, and dispersing the rebellious young ones among the Carthusian
and Trappist monasteries. All the treasures contained in the chapel he
had transferred to his camp, until a calmer, more propitious season.

That priceless capture, the Prince of Orange, escaped him, however, and
he was inconsolable thereat, adding, as he narrated the incident, "Were
it not that I feared to bring dishonour upon my name, and sully the
history of my reign and my life, I would have massacred those young
Saint-Bernard monks."

"What a vile breed they all are!" I cried, losing all patience.

"No, no, madame," he quickly rejoined, "you are apt to jump from one
extreme to the other. It does not do to generalise thus. The young
monks at Sainte Amandine showed themselves to be my enemies, I admit, and
for this I shall punish them as they deserve, but the poor old monks
merely desired my success and advantage. When peace is declared, I shall
take care of them and of their monastery; the prior shall be made an
abbot. I like the poor fellow; so will you, when you see him."

I really cannot see why the King should have taken such a fancy to this
old monk, who was minded to murder a couple of generals in his convent
because, forsooth, Judith once slew Holofernes! Judith might have been
tempted to do that sort of thing; she was a Jewess. But a Christian
monk! I cannot get over it!


The Chevalier de Rohan.--He is Born Too Late.--His Debts.--Messina Ceded
to the French.--The King of Spain Meditates Revenge.--The Comte de
Monterey.--Madame de Villars as Conspirator.--The Picpus
Schoolmaster.--The Plot Fails.--Discovery and Retribution.--Madame de
Soubise's Indifference to the Chevalier's Fate.

Had he been born fifty or sixty years earlier, the Chevalier de Rohan
might have played a great part. He was one of those men, devoid of
restraint and of principle, who love pleasure above all things, and who
would sacrifice their honour, their peace of mind, aye, even the State
itself, if such a sacrifice were really needed, in order to attain their
own personal enjoyment and satisfaction.

The year before, he once invited himself to dinner at my private
residence at Saint Germain, and he then gave me the impression of being a
madman, or a would-be conspirator. My sister De Thianges noticed the
same thing, too.

The Chevalier had squandered his fortune five or six years previously;
his bills were innumerable.

Each day he sank deeper into debt, and the King remarked, "The Chevalier
de Rohan will come to a bad end; it will never do to go on as he does."

Instead of keeping an eye upon him, and affectionately asking him to
respect his family's honour, the Prince and Princesse de Soubise made as
if it were their duty to ignore him and blush for him.

Profligacy, debts, and despair drove this unfortunate nobleman to make a
resolve such as might never be expected of any high-born gentleman.

Discontented with their governor, Don Diego de Soria, the inhabitants of
Messina had just shaken off the Spanish yoke, and had surrendered to the
King of France, who proffered protection and help.

Such conduct on the part of the French Government seemed to the King of
Spain most disloyal, and he desired nothing better than to revenge
himself. This is how he set about it.

On occasions of this kind it is always the crafty who are sought out for
such work. Comte de Monterey was instructed to sound the Chevalier de
Rohan upon the subject, offering him safety and a fortune as his reward.
Pressed into their service there was also the Marquise de Villars,--a
frantic gambler, a creature bereft of all principle and all modesty,--to
whom a sum of twenty thousand crowns in cash was paid over beforehand,
with the promise of a million directly success was ensured. She
undertook to manage Rohan and tell him what to do. Certain ciphers had
to be used, and to these the Marquise had the key. They needed a
messenger both intelligent and trustworthy, and for this mission she gave
the Chevalier an ally in the person of an ex-teacher in the Flemish
school at Picpus, on the Faubourg Saint Antoine. This man and the
Chevalier went secretly to the Comte de Monterey in Flanders, and by this
trio it was settled that on a certain day, at high tide, Admiral van
Tromp with his fleet should anchor off Honfleur or Quillebceuf in
Normandy, and that, at a given signal, La Truaumont, the Chevalier de
Preaux, and the Chevalier de Rohan were to surrender to him the town and
port without ever striking a single blow, all this being for the benefit
of his Majesty the King of Spain.

But all was discovered. The five culprits were examined, when the.
Marquise de Villars stated that the inhabitants of Messina had given them
an example which the King of France had not condemned!

The Marquise and the two Chevaliers were beheaded, while the
ex-schoolmaster was hanged. As for young La Truaumont, son of a
councillor of the Exchequer, he escaped the block by letting himself be
throttled by his guards or gaolers, to whom he offered no resistance.

Despite her influence upon the King's feelings, the Princess de Soubise
did not deign to take the least notice of the trial, and they say that
she drove across the Pont-Neuf in her coach just as the Chevalier de
Rohan, pinioned and barefooted, was marching to his doom.


The Prince of Orange Captures Bonn.--The King Captures Orange.--The
Calvinists of Orange Offer Resistance.

Since Catiline's famous hatred for Consul Cicero, there has never been
hatred so deep and envenomed as that of William of Orange for the King.
For this loathing, cherished by a petty prince for a great potentate,
various reasons have been given. As for myself, I view things closely
and in their true light, and I am convinced that Prince William was
actuated by sheer jealousy and envy.

It was affirmed that the King, when intending to give him as bride
Mademoiselle de Blois, his eldest daughter and great favourite, had
offered to place him on the Dutch throne as independent King, and that to
such generous proposals the petty Stadtholder replied, "I am not pious
enough to marry the daughter of a Carmelite nun." So absurd a proposal
as this, however, was never made, for the simple reason that Mademoiselle
de Blois has never yet been offered in marriage to any prince or noble
man in this wide world. Rather than to be parted from her, the King
would prefer her to remain single. He has often said as much to me, and
there is no reason to doubt his word.

The little Principality of Orange, which once formed the estate of this
now outlandish family, is situate close to the Rhone, amid French
territory. Though decorated with the title of Sovereignty, like its
neighbour the Principality of Dombes, it is no less a fief-land of the
Crown. In this capacity it has to contribute to the Crown revenues, and
owes homage and fealty to the sovereign.

Such petty, formal restrictions are very galling to the arrogant young
Prince of Orange, for he is one of those men who desire, at all cost, to
make a noise in the world, and who would set fire to Solomon's Temple or
to the Delphian Temple, it mattered not which, so long as they made
people talk about them.

After Turenne's death, there was a good deal of rivalry among our
generals. This proved harmful to the service. The Goddess of Victory
discovered this, and at times forsook us. Many possessions that were
conquered had to be given up, and we had to bow before those whom erst we
had humiliated. But Orange was never restored.--[This was written in

When, in November, 1673, the Prince of Orange had the audacity to besiege
Bonn, the residence of our ally, the Prince Elector of Cologne, and to
reduce that prelate to the last extremity, the King promptly seized upon
the Principality of Orange; and having planted the French flag upon every
building, he published a general decree, strictly forbidding the
inhabitants to hold any communication whatever with "their former petty
sovereign," and ordering prayers to be said for him, Louis, in all their
churches. This is a positive fact.

The Roman Catholics readily complied with this royal decree, which was in
conformity with their sympathies and their interests; but the Protestants
waxed furious thereat. Some of them even carried their devotion to such
a pitch that they paid taxes to two masters; that is to say, to
Stadtholder William, as well as to his Majesty the King.

The Huguenot "ministers," or priests, issued pastoral letters in praise
of the Calvinist Prince and in abuse of the Most Christian King. They
also preached against the new oath of fealty, and committed several most
imprudent acts, which the Jesuits were not slow to remark and report in
Court circles.

Such audacity, and the need for its repression, rankled deep in the
King's heart; and I believe he is quite disposed to pass measures of such
extreme severity as will soon deprive the Protestants and Lutherans of
any privileges derived from the Edict of Nantes.

From various sources I receive the assurance that he is preparing to deal
a heavy blow anent this; but the King's character is impenetrable. Time
alone will show.


The Castle of Bleink-Elmeink.--Romantic and Extraordinary Discovery.--An
Innocent and Persecuted Wife.--Madame de Bleink-Elmeink at Chaillot.

After the siege and surrender of Maestricht, when the King had no other
end in view than the entire conquest of Dutch Brabant, he took us to this
country, which had suffered greatly by the war. Some districts were
wholly devastated, and it became increasingly difficult to find lodging
and shelter for the Court.

The grooms of the chambers one day found for us a large chateau, situated
in a woody ravine, old-fashioned in structure, and surrounded by a moat.
There was only one drawbridge, flanked by two tall towers, surmounted by
turrets and culverins. Its owner was in residence at the time. He came
to the King and the Queen, and greeting them in French, placed his entire
property at their disposal.

It had rained in torrents for two days without ceasing. Despite the
season, everybody was wet through and benumbed with cold. Large fires
were made in all the huge fireplaces; and when the castle's vast rooms
were lighted up by candles, we agreed that the architect had not lacked
grandeur of conception nor good taste when building such large corridors,
massive staircases, lofty vestibules, and spacious, resounding rooms.
That given to the Queen was like an alcove, decorated by six large marble
caryatides, joined by a handsome balustrade high enough to lean upon. The
four-post bed was of azure blue velvet, with flowered work and rich gold
and silver tasselling. Over the chimneypiece was the huge Bleink-Elmeink
coat-of-arms, supported by two tall Templars.

The King's apartment was an exact reproduction of a room existing at
Jerusalem in the time of Saint Louis; this was explained by inscriptions
and devices in Gothic or Celtic.

My room was supposed to be an exact copy of the famous Pilate's chamber,
and it was named so; and for three days my eyes were rejoiced by the
detailed spectacle of our Lord's Passion, from His flagellation to His
agony on Calvary.

The Queen came to see me in this room, and did me the honour of being
envious of so charming an apartment.

The fourth day, when the weather became fine, we prepared to change our
quarters and take to our carriages again, when an extraordinary event
obliged us to send a messenger for the King, who had already left us, and
had gone forward to join the army.

An old peasant, still robust and in good health, performed in this gloomy
castle the duties of a housekeeper. In this capacity she frequently
visited our rooms to receive our orders and satisfy our needs.

Seeing that the Queen's boxes were being closed, and that our departure
was at hand, she came to me and said:

"Madame, the sovereign Lord of Heaven has willed it thus; that the
officers of the French King should have discovered as the residence of
his Court this castle amid gloomy forests and precipices. The great
prince has come hither and has stayed here for a brief while, and we have
sought to welcome him as well as we could. He gave the Comte de
Bleink-Elmeink, lord of this place and my master, his portrait set in
diamonds; he had far better have cut his throat."

"Good heavens, woman! What is this you tell me?" I exclaimed. "Of what
crime is your master guilty? He seems to me to be somewhat moody and
unsociable; but his family is of good renown, and all sorts of good
things have been, told concerning it to the King and Queen."

"Madame," replied the old woman, drawing me aside into a window-recess,
and lowering her voice, "do you see at the far end of yonder court an old
dungeon of much narrower dimensions than the others? In that dungeon
lies the good Comtesse de Bleink-Elmeink; she has languished there for
five years."

Then this woman informed me that her master, formerly page of honour to
the Empress Eleanor, had wedded, on account of her great wealth, a young
Hungarian noblewoman, by whom he had two children, both of whom were
living. Such was his dislike of their mother, on account of a slight
deformity, that for four or five years he shamefully maltreated her, and
at last shut her up in this dungeon-keep, allowing her daily the most
meagre diet possible.

"When, some few days since, the royal stewards appeared in front of the
moat, and claimed admittance, the Count was much alarmed," added the
peasant woman. "He thought that all was discovered, and that he was
going to suffer for it. It was not until the King and Queen came that he
was reassured, and he has not been able to hide his embarrassment from
any of us."

"Where are the two children of his marriage?" I asked the old woman,
before deciding to act.

"The young Baron," she answered, "is at Vienna or Ohnutz, at an academy
there. His sister, a graceful, pretty girl, has been in a convent from
her childhood; the nuns have promised to keep her there, and as soon as
she is fourteen, she will take the veil."

My first impulse was to acquaint the Queen with these astounding
revelations, but it soon struck me that, to tackle a man of such
importance as the Count, we could not do without the King. I at once
sent my secretary with a note, imploring his Majesty to return, but
giving no reason for my request. He came back immediately, post-haste,
when the housekeeper repeated to him, word for word, all that I have set
down here. The King could hardly believe his ears.

When coming to a decision, his Majesty never does so precipitately. He
paced up and down the room twice or thrice, and then said to me, "The
matter is of a rather singular nature; I am unacquainted with law, and
what I propose to do may one day serve as an example. It is my duty to
rescue our unfortunate hostess, and requite her nobly for her

So saying, he sent for the Count, and assuming a careless, almost jocular
air, thus addressed him:

"You were formerly page to the Empress Eleanor, I believe, M. le

"Yes, Sire."

"She is dead, but the Emperor would easily recognise you, would he not?"

"I imagine so, Sire."

"I have thought of you as a likely person to be the bearer of a message,
some one of your age and height being needed, and of grave, secretive
temperament, such as I notice you to possess. Get everything in
readiness, as I intend to send you as courier to his Imperial Majesty. I
am going to write to him from here, and you shall bring me back his reply
to my proposals."

To be sent off like this was most galling to the Count, but his youth and
perfect health allowed him not the shadow of a pretext. He was obliged
to pack his valise and start. He pretended to look pleased and
acquiescent, but in his eyes I could detect fury and despair.

Half an hour after his departure, the King had the drawbridge raised, and
then went to inform the Queen of everything.

"Madame," said he, "you have been sleeping in this unfortunate lady's
nuptial bed. She is now about to be presented to you. I ask that you
will receive her kindly, and afterwards act as her protector, should
anything happen to me."

Tears filled the Queen's eyes, and she trembled in amazement. The King
instantly made for the dungeon, and in default of a key, broke open all
the gates. In a few minutes Madame de Bleink-Elmeink, supported by two
guards, entered the Queen's presence, and was about to fling herself at
her feet; but the King prevented this. He himself placed her in an
armchair, and we others at once formed a large semicircle round her.

She seemed to breathe with difficulty, sighing and sobbing without being
able to utter a word. At, length she said to the King in fairly good
French, "May my Creator and yours reward you for this, great and
unexpected boon! Do not forsake me, Sire, now that you have broken my
fetters, but let your might protect me against the unjust violence of my
husband; and permit me to reside in France in whatever convent it please
you to choose. My august liberator shall become my lawful King, and
under his rule I desire to live and die."

In spite of her sorrow, Madame de Bleink-Elmeink did not appear to be
more than twenty-eight or thirty years old. Her large blue eyes, though
she had wept, much, were still splendid, and her high-bred features
denoted nobility and beauty of soul. To such a charming countenance her
figure scarcely corresponded; one side of her was slightly deformed, yet.
this did not interfere with the grace of her attitude when seated, nor
her agreeable deportment.

Directly she saw her, the Queen liked her. She looked half longingly at
the Countess, and then rising approached her and held out her hand to be
kissed, saying, "I mean to love you as if you were one of my own family;
you shall be placed at Val-de-Grace, and I will often come and see you."

Recovering herself somewhat, the Countess sank on her knees and kissed
the Queen's hand in a transport of joy. We, led her to her room, where
she took a little refreshment and afterwards slept until the following
day. All her servants and gardeners came to express their gladness at
her deliverance; and in order to keep her company, the Queen decided to
stay another week at the castle. The Countess then set out for Paris,
and it was arranged that she should have the apartments at Chaillot, once
constructed by the Queen of England.

As for her dreadful husband, the King gave him plenty to do, and he did
not see his wife again for a good long while.


The Silver Chandelier.--The King Holds the Ladder.--The Young Dutchman.

One day the King was passing through some of the large rooms of the
palace, at a time of the morning when the courtiers had not yet made
their appearance, and when carpenters and workmen were about, each busy
in getting his work done.

The King noticed a workman of some sort standing tiptoe on a double
ladder, and reaching up to unhook a large chandelier from the ceiling.
The fellow seemed likely to break his neck.

"Be careful," cried the King; "don't you see that your ladder is a short
one and is on castors? I have just come in time to help you by holding

"Monsieur," said the man, "a thousand pardons, but if you will do so, I
shall be much obliged. On account of this ambassador who is coming
today, all my companions have lost their heads and have left me alone."

Then he unhooked the large crystal and silver chandelier, stepped down
carefully, leaning on the King's shoulder, who graciously allowed him to
do so. After humbly thanking him, the fellow made off.

That night in the chateau every one was talking about the hardihood of
some thief who in sight of everybody had stolen a handsome chandelier;
the Lord High Provost had already been apprised of the matter. The King
began to smile as he said out loud before every one, "I must request the
Lord High Provost to be good enough to hush the matter up, as in cases of
theft accomplices are punished as well, and it was I who held the ladder
for the thief."

Then his Majesty told us of the occurrence, as already narrated, and
every one was convinced that the thief could not be a novice or an
apprentice at his craft. Inquiries were instantly made, since so bold an
attempt called for exemplary punishment. All the upholsterers of the
castle wished to give themselves up as prisoners; their honour was
compromised. It would be hard to describe their consternation, being in
truth honest folk.

When the Provost respectfully asked the King if he had had time to notice
the culprit's features, his Majesty replied that the workman in question
was a young fellow of about five-and-twenty, fair complexioned, with
chestnut hair, and pleasant features of delicate, almost feminine cast.

At this news, all the dark, plain men-servants were exultant; the
good-looking ones, however, were filled with fear.

Among the feutiers, whose sole duty it is to attend to the fires and
candles in the royal apartments, there was a nice-looking young Dutchman,
whom his companions pointed out to the Provost. They entered his room
while he was asleep, and found in his cupboard the following articles:
Two of the King's lace cravats, two shirts marked with a double L and the
crown, a pair of pale blue velvet shoes embroidered with silver, a
flowered waistcoat, a hat with white and scarlet plumes, other trifles,
and splendid portrait of the King, evidently part of some bracelet. As
regarded the chandelier, nothing was discovered.

When this young foreigner was taken to prison, he refused to speak for
twenty-four hours, and in all Versailles there was but one cry,--"They've
caught the thief!"

Next day matters appeared in a new light. The Provost informed his
Majesty that the young servant arrested was not a Dutchman, but a very
pretty Dutch woman.

At the time of the invasion, she was so unlucky as to see the King close
to her father's house, and conceived so violent a passion for him that
she at once forgot country, family, friends,--everything. Leaving the
Netherlands with the French army, she followed her conqueror back to his
capital, and by dint of perseverance managed to secure employment in the
royal palace. While there, her one delight was to see the King as often
as possible, and to listen to praise of his many noble deeds.

"The articles found in my possession," said she to the Provost, "are most
dear and precious to me; not for their worth, but because they have
touched the King's person. I did not steal them from his Majesty; I
could not do such a thing. I bought them of the valets de chambre, who
were by right entitled to such things, and who would have sold them
indiscriminately to any one else. The portrait was not sold to me, I
admit, but I got it from Madame la Marquise de Montespan, and in this
way: One day, in the parterres, madame dropped her bracelet. I had the
good fortune to pick it up, and I kept it for three or four days in my
room. Then bills were posted up in the park, stating that whoever
brought the bracelet to madame should receive a reward of ten louis. I
took back the ornament, for its pearls and diamonds did not tempt me, but
I kept the portrait instead of the ten louis offered."

When the King asked me if I recollected the occurrence, I assured him
that everything was perfectly true. Hereupon the King sent for the girl,
who was immediately brought to his chamber. Such was her modesty, and
confusion that she dared not raise her eyes from the ground. The King
spoke kindly to her, and gave her two thousand crowns to take her back to
her own home. The Provost was instructed to restore all these different
articles to her, and as regarded myself, I willingly let her have the
portrait, though it was worth a good deal more than the ten louis

When she got back to her own country and the news of her safe arrival was
confirmed, the King sent her twenty thousand livres as a dowry, which
enabled her to make a marriage suitable to her good-natured disposition
and blameless conduct.

She made a marked impression upon his Majesty, and he was often wont to
speak about the chandelier on account of her, always alluding to her in
kindly, terms. If ever he returns to Holland, I am sure he will want to
see her, either from motives of attachment or curiosity. Her name, if I
remember rightly, was Flora.


The Observatory.--The King Visits the Carthusians.--How a Painter with
His Brush May Save a Convent.--The Guilty Monk.--Strange
Revelations.--The King's Kindness.--The Curate of Saint Domingo.

When it was proposed to construct in Paris that handsome building called
the Observatory, the King himself chose the site for this. Having a map
of his capital before him, he wished this fine edifice to be in a direct
line of perspective with the Luxembourg, to which it should eventually be
joined by the demolition of the Carthusian Monastery, which filled a
large gap.

The King was anxious that his idea should be carried out, but whenever he
mentioned it to M. Mansard and the other architects, they declared that
it was a great pity to lose Lesueur's admirable frescos in the cloisters,
which would have to be destroyed if the King's vast scheme were executed.

One day his Majesty resolved to see for himself, and without the least
announcement of his arrival, he went to the Carthusian Monastery in the
Rue d'Enfer. The King has great knowledge of art; he admired the whole
series of wall-paintings, in which the life of Saint Bruno is divinely
set forth.

[By a new process these frescos were subsequently transferred to canvas
in 1800 or 1802, at which date the vast property of the Carthusian monks
became part of the Luxembourg estates.--EDITOR'S NOTE.]

"Father," said he to the prior who showed him round, "these simple,
touching pictures are far beyond all that was ever told me. My
intention, I admit, was to move your institution elsewhere, so as to
connect your spacious property with my palace of the Luxembourg, but the
horrible outrage which would have to be committed deters me; to the
marvellous art of Lesueur you owe it that your convent remains intact."

The monk, overjoyed, expressed his gratitude to the King, and promised
him the love and guardianship of Saint Bruno in heaven.

Just then, service in the chapel was over, and the monks filed past two
and two, never raising their eyes from the gloomy pavement bestrewn with
tombstones. The prior, clapping his hands, signalled them to stop, and
then addressed them:

"My brethren, stay your progress a moment; lift up your heads, bowed down
by penance, and behold with awe the descendant of Saint Louis, the august
protector of this convent. Yes, our noble sovereign himself has
momentarily quitted his palace to visit this humble abode. On these
quiet walls which hide our cells, he has sought to read the simple,
touching story, of the life of our saintly founder. The august son of
Louis the Just has taken our dwelling-place and community under his
immediate protection. Go to your cells and pray to God for this
magnanimous prince, for his children and successors in perpetuity."

As he said these flattering words, a monk, with flushed cheeks and mouth
agape, flung himself down at the King's feet, beating his brow repeatedly
upon the pavement, and exclaiming:

"Sire, forgive me, forgive me, guilty though I be. I crave your royal
pardon and pity."

The prior, somewhat confused, saw that some important confession was
about to be made, so he dismissed the others, and sent them back to their
devotions. The prostrate monk, however, never thought of moving from his
position. Perceiving that he was alone with the King, whose calm, gentle
demeanour emboldened him, he begged anew for pardon with great energy,
and fervour. The King clearly saw that the penitent was some great
evil-doer, and he promised forgiveness in somewhat ambiguous fashion.
Then the monk rose and said:

"Your Majesty reigns to-day, and reigns gloriously. That is an amazing
miracle, for countless incredible dangers of the direst sort have beset
your cradle and menaced your youth. A prince of your house, backed up by
ambitious inferiors, resolved to wrest the crown from you, in order to
get it for himself and his descendants. The Queen, your mother, full of
heroic resolution, herself had energy enough to resist the cabal; but
more than once her feet touched the very brink of the precipice, and more
than once she nearly fell over it with her children.

"Noble qualities did this great Queen possess, but at times she had too
overweening a contempt for her enemies. Her disdain for my master, the
young Cardinal, was once too bitter, and begot in this presumptuous
prelate's heart undying hatred. Educated under the same roof as M. le
Cardinal, with the same teachers and the same doctrines, I saw, as it
were, with his eyes when I went out into the world, and marched beneath
his banner when civil war broke out.

"Dreading the punishment for his temerity, this prelate decided that the
sceptre should pass into other hands, and that the elder branch should
become extinct. With this end in view, he made me write a pamphlet
showing that you and your brother, the Prince, were not the King's sons;
and subsequently he induced me to issue another, in which I affirmed on
oath that the Queen, your mother, was secretly married to Cardinal
Mazarin. Unfortunately, these books met with astounding success, nor,
though my tears fall freely, can they ever efface such vile pages.

"I am also guilty of another crime, Sire, and this weighs more heavily
upon my heart. When the Queen-mother dexterously arranged for your
removal to Vincennes, she left in your bed at the Louvre a large doll.
The rebels were aware of this when it was too late. I was ordered to
ride post-haste with an escort in pursuit of your carriage; and I had to
swear by the Holy Gospels that, if I could not bring you back to Paris, I
would stab you to the heart.

"The enormity of my offence weighed heavily upon my spirit and my
conscience. I conceived a horror for the Cardinal and withdrew to this
convent. For many years I have undergone the most grievous penances, but
I shall never make thorough expiation for my sins, and I hold myself to
be as great a criminal as at first, so long as I have not obtained pardon
from my King."

"Are you in holy orders?" asked the King gently.

"No, Sire; I feel unworthy to take them," replied the Carthusian, in
dejected tones.

"Let him be ordained as soon as possible," said his Majesty to the prior.
"The monk's keen repentance touches me; his brain is still excitable; it
needs fresh air and change. I will appoint him to a curacy at Saint
Domingo, and desire him to leave for that place at the earliest
opportunity. Do not forget this."

The monk again prostrated himself before the King, overwhelming him with
blessings, and these royal commands were in due course executed. So it
came about that Lesueur's frescos led to startling revelations, and
enabled the Carthusians to keep their splendid property intact, ungainly
though this was and out of place.


Journey to Poitou.--The Mayor and the Sheriffs of Orleans.--The
Marquise's Modesty.--The Serenade.--The Abbey of Fontevrault.--Family
Council.--Duchomania.--A Letter to the King.--The Bishop of
Poitiers.--The Young Vicar.--Rather Give Him a Regiment.--The Fete at the
Convent.--The Presentation.--The Revolt.--A Grand Example.

The Abbess of Fontevrault, who, when a mere nun, could never bear her
profession, now loved it with all her heart, doubtless because of the
authority and freedom which she possessed, being at liberty to go or come
at will, and as absolute mistress of her actions, accountable to no one
for these.

She sent me her confidential woman, one of the "travelling sisters" of
the community, to tell me privately that the Principality of Talmont was
going to be sold, and to offer me her help at this important juncture.

Her letter, duly tied up and sealed, begged me to be bold and use my
authority, if necessary, in order to induce the King at last to give his
approval and consent. "What!" she wrote, "my dear sister; you have given
birth to eight children, the youngest of which is a marvel, and you have
not yet got your reward. All your children enjoy the rank of prince, and
you, their mother, are exempt from such distinction! What is the King
thinking about? Does it add to his dignity, honour, and glory that you
should still be merely a petty marquise? I ask again, what is the King
thinking of?"

In conclusion my sister invited me to pay a visit to her charming abbey.
"We have much to tell you," said she, and "such brief absence is needful
to you, so as to test the King's affection. Your sort of temperament
suits him, your talk amuses him; in fact, your society is absolutely
essential to him; the distance from Versailles to Saumur would seem to
him as far off as the uttermost end of his kingdom. He will send courier
upon courier to you; each of his letters will be a sort of entreaty, and
you have only just got to express your firm intention and desire to be
created a duchess or a princess, and, my dear sister, it will forthwith
be done."

For two days I trained the travelling nun from Fontevrault in her part,
and then I suddenly presented her to the King. She had the honour of
explaining to his Majesty that she had left the Abbess sick and ailing,
and informed him that my sister was most anxious to see me again, and
that she hoped his Majesty would not object to my paying her a short
visit. For a moment the King hesitated; then he asked me if I thought
such a change of urgent necessity. I replied that the news of Madame de
Mortemart's ill-health had greatly affected me, and I promised not to be
away more than a week.

The King accordingly instructed the Marquis de Louvois--[Minister of War,
and inspector-General of Posts and Relays.]--to make all due arrangements
for my journey, and two days afterwards, my sister De Thianges, her
daughter the Duchesse de Nevers, and myself, set out at night for

The royal relays took us as far as Orleans, after which we had
post-horses, but specially chosen and well harnessed. Couriers in
advance of us had given all necessary orders to the officials and
governors, so that we were provided with an efficient military escort
along the road, and were as safe as if driving through Paris.

At Orleans, the mayor and sheriffs in full dress presented themselves at
our carriage window, and were about to deliver an address "to please the
King;" but I thought such a proceeding ill-timed, and my niece De Nevers
told these magnates that we were travelling incognito.

Crowds collected below our balcony. Madame de Thianges thought they were
going to serenade me, but I distinctly heard sounds of hissing. My niece
De Nevers was greatly upset; she would eat no supper, but began to cry.
"What are you worrying about?" quoth I to this excitable young person.
"Don't you see that we are stopping the night on the estates of the
Princess Palatine,--[The boorish Bavarian princess, the Duc d'Orleans's
second wife. EDITOR'S NOTE.]--and that it is to her exquisite breeding
that we owe compliments of this kind?"

Next morning at daybreak we drove on, and the day after we reached
Fontevrault. The Abbess, accompanied by her entire community, came to
welcome us at the main gate, and her surpliced chaplains offered me holy

After rest and refreshment, we made a detailed survey of her little
empire, and everywhere observed traces of her good management and tact.
Rules had been made more lenient, while not relaxed; the revenues had
increased; everywhere embellishments, contentment, and well-being were

After praising the Abbess as she deserved, we talked a little about the
Talmont principality. My sister was inconsolable. The Tremouilles had
come into property which restored their shattered fortunes; the
principality was no longer for sale; all thought of securing it must be
given up.

Strange to say, I at once felt consoled by such news. Rightly to explain
this feeling, I ought, perhaps, to make an avowal. A grand and brilliant
title had indeed ever been the object of my ambition; but I thought that
I deserved such a distinction personally, for my own sake, and I was
always wishing that my august friend would create a title specially in my
favour. I had often hinted at such a thing in various ways, and full as
he is of wit and penetration, he always listened to my covert
suggestions, and was perfectly aware of my desire. And yet,
magnificently generous as any mortal well could be, he never granted my
wish. Any one else but myself would have been tired, disheartened even;
but at Court one must never be discouraged nor give up the game. The
atmosphere is rife with vicissitude and change. Monotony would seem to
have made there its home; yet no day is quite like another. What one
hopes for is too long in coming; and what one never foresees on, a sudden
comes to pass.

We took counsel together as to the best thing to be done. Madame de
Thianges said to me: "My dear Athenais, you have the elegance of the
Mortemarts, the fine perception and ready wit that distinguishes them,
but strangely enough you have not their energy, nor the firm will
necessary for the conduct of weighty matters. The King does not treat
you like a great friend, like a distinguished friend, like the mother of
his son, the Duc du Maine; he treats you like a province that he has
conquered, on which he levies tax after tax; that is all. Pray
recollect, my sister, that for ten years you have played a leading part
on the grand stage. Your beauty, to my surprise, has been preserved to
you, notwithstanding your numerous confinements and the fatigues of your
position. Profit by the present juncture, and do not let the chance
slip. You must write to the King, and on some pretext or other, ask for
another week's leave. You must tell him plainly that you have been
marquise long enough, and that the moment has come at last for you to
have the 'imperiale',

[The distinctive mark of duchesses was the 'imperiale'; that is, a rich
and costly hammer-cloth of embroidered velvet, edged with gold, which
covered the roofs of ducal equipages.--EDITOR'S NOTE.]

and sign your name in proper style."

Her advice was considered sound, but the Abbess, taking into account the
King's susceptibility, decided that it would not do for me to write
myself about a matter so important as this. The Marquise de Thianges, in
some way or other, had got the knack of plain speaking, so that a letter
of hers would be more readily excused. Thus it was settled that she
should write; and write she did. I give her letter verbatim, as it will
please my readers; and they will agree with me that I could never have
touched this delicate subject so happily myself.

SIRE:--Madame de Montespan had the honour of writing one or two notes to
you during our journey, and now she rests all day long in this vast and
pleasant abbey, where your Majesty's name is held in as great veneration
as elsewhere, being beloved as deeply as at Versailles. Madame de
Mortemart has caused one of the best portraits of your Majesty, done by
Mignard, to be brought hither from Paris, and this magnificent personage
in royal robes is placed beneath an amaranth-coloured dais, richly
embroidered with gold, at the extreme end of a vast hall, which bears the
name of our illustrious and well-beloved monarch. Your privileges are
great, in truth, Sire. Here you are, installed in this pious and
secluded retreat, where never mortal may set foot. Before you, beside
you daily, you may contemplate the multitude of modest virgins who look
at you and admire you, becoming all of them attached to you without
wishing it, perhaps without knowing it, even.

Surely, Sire, your penetration is a most admirable thing. After your
first interview with her, you considered our dear Abbess to be a woman of
capacity and talent. You rightly appreciated her, for nothing can be
compared to the perfect order that prevails in her house. She is active
and industrious without sacrificing her position and her dignity in the
slightest. Like yourself, she can judge of things in their entirety, and
examine them in every little detail; like yourself, she knows how to
command obedience and affection, desiring nothing but that which is just
and reasonable. In a word, Sire, Madame de Mortemart has the secret of
convincing her subordinates that she is acting solely in their interests,
a supreme mission, in sooth, among men; and my sister really has no other
desire nor ambition,--to this we can testify.

Upon our return, which for our liking can never be too soon, we will
acquaint your Majesty with the slight authorised mortification which we
had to put up with at Orleans. We are in possession of certain
information regarding this, and your Majesty will have ample means of
throwing a light upon the subject. As for the magistrates, they behaved
most wonderfully; they had an address all ready for us, but Madame de
Montespan would not listen to it, saying that "such honours are meet only
for you and for your children." Such modesty on my sister's part is in
keeping with her great intelligence; I had almost said her genius. But
in this matter I was not wholly of her opinion. It seemed to me, Sire,
that, in refusing the homage offered to her by these worthy magnates,
she, so to speak, disowned the rank ensured to her by your favour. While
the Marquise enjoys your noble affection, she is no ordinary personage.
She has her seat in your own Chapel Royal, so in travelling she has a
right to special honour. By your choice of her, you have made her
notable; in giving her your heart, you have made her a part of yourself.
By giving birth to your children, she has acquired her rank at Court, in
society, and in history. Your Majesty intends her to be considered and
respected; the escorts of cavalry along the highroads are sufficient
proof of that.

All France, Sire, is aware of your munificence and of your princely
generosity: Shall I tell you of the amazement of the provincials at
noticing that the ducal housings are absent from my sister's splendid
coach? Yes, I have taken upon myself to inform you of this surprise, and
knowing how greatly Athenais desires this omission to be repaired, I went
so far as to promise that your Majesty would cause this to be done
forthwith. It must be done, Sire; the Marquise loves you as much as it
is possible for you to be loved; of this, all that she has sacrificed is
a proof. But while dearly loving you, she fears to appear importunate,
and were it not for my respectful freedom of speech, perhaps you would
still be ignorant of that which she most fervently desires.

What we all three of us ask is but a slight thing for your Majesty, who,
with a single word, can create a thousand nobles and princes. The kings,
your ancestors, used their glory in making their lovers illustrious. The
Valois built temples and palaces in their honour. You, greater than all
the Valois, should not let their example suffice. And I am sure that you
will do for the mother of the Duc du Maine what the young prince himself
would do for her if you should happen to forget.

Your Majesty's most humble servant, "MARQUISE DE THIANGES."

To the Abbess and myself; this ending seemed rather too sarcastic, but
Madame de Thianges was most anxious to let it stand. There was no way of
softening or glossing it over; so the letter went off, just as she had
written it.

It so happened that the Bishop of Poitiers was in his diocese at the
time. He came to pay me a visit, and ask me if I could get an abbey for
his nephew, who, though extremely young, already acted as vicar-general
for him. "I would willingly get him a whole regiment," I replied,
"provided M. de Louvois be of those that are my friends. As for the
benefices, they depend, as you know, upon the Pere de la Chaise, and I
don't think he would be willing to grant me a favour."

"Permit me to assure you, madame, that in this respect you are in error,"
replied the Bishop. "Pere de la Chaise respects you and honours you, and
only speaks of you in such terms. What distresses him is to see that you
have an aversion for him. Let me write to him, and say that my nephew
has had the honour of being presented to you, and that you hoped he might
have a wealthy abbey to enable him to bear the privations of his

The young vicar-general was good-looking, and of graceful presence. He
had that distinction of manner which causes the priesthood to be held in
honour, and that amenity of address which makes the law to be obeyed. My
sisters began to take a fancy to him, and recommended him to me. I wrote
to Pere de la Chaise myself, and instead of a mere abbey, we asked for a
bishopric for him.

It was my intention to organise a brilliant fete for the Fontevrault
ladies, and invite all the nobility of the neighbourhood. We talked of
this to the young vicar, who highly approved of my plan, and albeit
monsieur his uncle thought such a scheme somewhat contrary to rule and to
what he termed the proprieties, we made use of his nephew, the young
priest, as a lever; and M. de Poitiers at last consented to everything.

The Fontevrault gardens are one of the most splendid sights in all the
country round. We chose the large alley as our chief entertainment-hall,
and the trees were all illuminated as in my park at Clagny, or at
Versailles. There was no dancing, on account of the nuns, but during our
repast there was music, and a concert and fireworks afterwards. The fete
ended with a performance of "Genevieve de Brabant," a grand spectacular
pantomime, played to perfection by certain gentry of the neighbourhood;
it made a great impression upon all the nuns and novices.

Before going down into the gardens, the Abbess wished to present me
formally to all the nuns, as well as to those persons it had pleased her
to invite. Imagine her astonishment! Three nuns were absent, and
despite our entreaties and the commands of their superiors, they
persisted in their rebellion and their refusal. They set up to keep
rules before all things, and observe the duties of their religion, lying
thus to their Abbess and their conscience. It was all mere spite. Of
this there can be no doubt, for one of these refractory creatures, as it
transpired, was a cousin of the Marquis de Lauzun, my so-called victim;
while the other two were near relatives of Mademoiselle de Mauldon, an
intimate friend of M. de Meaux.

In spite of these three silly absentees, we enjoyed ourselves greatly,
and had much innocent amusement; while they, who could watch us from
their windows, were probably mad with rage to think they were not of our

My sister complained of them to the Bishop of Poitiers, who severely
blamed them for such conduct; and seeing that he could not induce them to
offer me an apology, sent them away to three different convents.


The Page-Dauphin.--A Billet from the King.--Madame de Maintenon's
Letter.--The King as Avenger.--His Sentence on the Murderers.

The great liberty which we enjoyed at Fontevrault, compared with the
interminable bondage of Saint Germain or Versailles, made the abbey ever
seem more agreeable to me; and Madame de Thianges asked me in sober
earnest "if I no longer loved the King."

"Of course I do," was my answer; "but may one not love oneself just a
little bit, too? To me, health is life; and I assure you, at
Fontevrault, my dear sister, I sleep most soundly, and have quite got rid
of all my nervous attacks and headaches."

We were just talking thus when Madame de Mortemart entered my room, and
introduced young Chamilly, the Page-Dauphin,--[The chief page-in-waiting
bore the title of Page-Dauphin]--who brought with him a letter from the
King. He also had one for me from Madame de Maintenon, rallying me upon
my absence and giving me news of my children. The King's letter was
quite short, but a king's note such as that is worth a whole pile of
commonplace letters. I transcribe it here:

I am jealous; an unusual thing for me. And I am much vexed, I confess,
with Madame de Mortemart, who might have chosen a very different moment
to be ill. I am ignorant as to the nature of her malady, but if it be
serious, and of those which soon grow more dangerous, she has played me a
very sorry trick in sending for you to act as her nurse or her physician.
Pray tell her, madame, that you are no good whatever as a nurse, being
extremely hasty and impatient in everything; while as regards medical
skill, you are still further from the mark, since you have never yet been
able to understand your own ailments, nor even explain these with the
least clearness. I must ask the Abbess momentarily to suspend her
sufferings and come to Versailles, where all my physicians shall treat
her with infinite skill; and, to oblige me, will cure her, as they know
how much I esteem and like her. Farewell, my ladies three, who in your
friendship are but as one. I should like to be there to make a fourth.
Madame de Maintenon, who loves you sincerely, will give you news of your
little family and of Saint Germain. Her letter and mine will be brought
to you and delivered by the young Comte de Chamilly. Send him back to me
at once, and don't let him, see your novices or your nuns, else he will
not want to return to me. LOUIS.

Madame de Maintenon's letter was not couched in the same playfully
mocking tone; though a marquise, she felt the distance that there was
between herself and me; besides, she always knows exactly what is the
proper thing to do. The Abbess, who is an excellent judge, thought this
letter excellently written. She wanted to have a copy of it, which made
me determine to preserve it. Here it is, a somewhat more voluminous
epistle than that of the King:

I promised you, madame, that I would inform you as often as possible of
all that interests you here, and now I keep my promise, being glad to say
that I have only pleasant news to communicate. His Majesty is
wonderfully well, and though annoyed at your journey, he has hardly lost
any of his gaiety, as seemingly he hopes to have you back again in a day
or two.

Mademoiselle de Nantes declares that she would have behaved very well in
the coach, and that she is a nearer relation to you than the Duchesse de
Nevers, and that it was very unfair not to take her with you this time.
In order to comfort her, the Duc du Maine has discovered an expedient
which greatly amuses us, and never fails of its effect. He tells her how
absolutely necessary it is for her proper education that she should be
placed in a convent, and then adds in a serious tone that if she had been
taken to Fontevrault she would never have come back!

"Oh, if that is the case," she answered, "why, I am not jealous of the
Duchesse de Nevers."

The day after your departure the Court took up its quarters at Saint
Germain, where we shall probably remain for another week. You know,
madame, how fond his Majesty is of the Louis Treize Belvedere, and the
telescope erected by this monarch,--one of the best ever made hitherto.
As if by inspiration, the King turned this instrument to the left towards
that distant bend which the Seine makes round the verge of the Chatou
woods. His Majesty, who observes every thing, noticed two bathers in the
river, who apparently were trying to teach their much younger companion,
a lad of fourteen or fifteen, to swim; doubtless, they had hurt him, for
he got away from their grasp, and escaped to the river-bank, to reach his
clothes and dress himself. They tried to coax him back into the water,
but he did not relish such treatment; by his gestures it was plain that
he desired no further lessons. Then the two bathers jumped out of the
river, and as he was putting on his shirt, dragged him back into the
water, and forcibly held him under till he was drowned.

When they had committed this crime, and their victim was murdered, they
cast uneasy glances at either river-bank, and the heights of Saint
Germain. Believing that no one had knowledge of their deed, they put on
their clothes, and with all a murderer's glee depicted on their evil
countenances, they walked along the bank in the direction of the castle.
The King instantly rode off in pursuit, accompanied by five or six
musketeers; he got ahead of them, and soon turned back and met them.

"Messieurs," said he to them, "when you went away you were three in
number; what have you done with your comrade?" This question, asked in a
firm voice, disconcerted them somewhat at first, but they soon replied
that their companion wanted to have a swim in the river, and that they
had left him higher up the stream near the corner of the forest, close to
where his clothes and linen made a white spot on the bank.

On hearing this answer the King gave orders for them to be bound and
brought back by the soldiery to the old chateau, where they were shut up
in separate rooms. His Majesty, filled with indignation, sent for the
High Provost, and recounting to him what took place before his eyes,
requested him to try the culprits there and then. The Marquis, however,
is always scrupulous to excess; he begged the King to reflect that at
such a great distance, and viewed through a telescope, things might have
seemed somewhat different from what they actually were, and that, instead
of forcibly holding their companion under the water, perhaps the two
bathers were endeavouring to bring him to the surface.

"No, monsieur, no," replied his Majesty; "they dragged him into the river
against his will, and I saw their struggles and his when they thrust him
under the water."

"But, Sire," replied this punctilious personage, "our criminal law
requires the testimony of two witnesses, and your Majesty, all-powerful
though you be, can only furnish that of one."

"Monsieur," replied the King gently, "I authorise you in passing sentence
to state that you heard the joint testimony of the King of France and the
King of Navarre."

Seeing that this failed to convince the judge, his Majesty grew impatient
and said to the old Marquis, "King Louis IX., my ancestor, sometimes
administered justice himself in the wood at Vincennes; I will to-day
follow his august example and administer justice at Saint Germain."

The throne-room was at once got ready by his order. Twenty notable
burgesses of the town were summoned to the castle, and the lords and
ladies sat with these upon the benches. The King, wearing his orders,
took his seat when the two prisoners were placed in the dock.

By their contradictory statements, ever-increasing embarrassment, and
unveracious assertions, the jury were soon convinced of their guilt. The
unhappy youth was their brother, and had inherited property from their
mother, he being her child by a second husband. So these monsters
murdered him for revenge and greed. The King sentenced them to be bound
hand and foot, and flung into the river in the selfsame place "where they
killed their young brother Abel."

When they saw his Majesty leaving his throne, they threw themselves at
his feet, implored his pardon, and confessed their hideous crime. The
King, pausing a moment, thanked God that their conscience had forced such
confession from them, and then remitted the sentence of confiscation
only. They were executed before the setting of that sun which had
witnessed their crime, and the next day, that is, yesterday evening, the
three bodies, united once more by fate, were found floating about two
leagues from Saint Germain, under the willows at the edge of the river
near Poisay.

Orders were instantly given for their separate interment. The youngest
was brought back to Saint Germain, where the King wished him to have a
funeral befitting his innocence and untimely fate. All the military
attended it.

Forgive me, madams, for all these lengthy details; we have all been so
much upset by this dreadful occurrence, and can talk of nothing else,--in
fact, it will furnish matter for talk for a long while yet.

I sincerely hope that by this time Madame de Mortsmart has completely
recovered. I agree with his Majesty that, in doctoring, you have not had
much experience; still, friendship acts betimes as a most potent
talisman, and the heart of the Abbess is of those that in absence pines,
but which in the presence of some loved one revives.

She has deigned to grant me a little place in her esteem; pray tell her
that this first favour has somewhat spoiled me, and that now I ask for
more than this, for a place in her affections. Madame de Thianges and
Madame de Nevers are aware of my respect and attachment for them, and
they approve of this, for they have engraved their names and crests on my
plantain-trees at Maintenon. Such inscriptions are a bond to bind us,
and if no mischance befall, these trees, as I hope, will survive me.

I am, madame, etc., MAINTENON.


Mademoiselle d'Amurande.--The Married Nun.--The Letter to the
Superior.--Monseigneur's Discourse.--The Abduction.--A Letter from the
King.--Beware of the Governess.--We Leave Fontevrault.

Amoung the novices at Fontevrault there was a most interesting, charming
young person, who gave Madame de Mortemart a good deal of anxiety, as she
thought her still undecided as to the holy profession she was about to
adopt. This interested me greatly, and evoked my deepest sympathy.

The night of our concert and garden fete she sang to please the Abbess,
but there were tears in her voice. I was touched beyond expression, and
going up to her at the bend of one of the quickset-hedges, I said, "You
are unhappy, mademoiselle; I feel a deep interest for you. I will ask
Madame de Mortemart to let you come and read to me; then we can talk as
we like. I should like to help you if I can."

She moved away at once, fearing to be observed, and the following day I
met her in my sister's room.

"Your singing and articulation are wonderful, mademoiselle," said I,
before the Abbess; "would you be willing to come and read to me for an
hour every day? I have left my secretary at Versailles, and I am
beginning to miss her much."

Madame de Mortemart thanked me for my kindly intentions towards the young
novice, who, from that time forward, was placed at my disposal.

The reading had no other object than to gain her confidence, and as soon
as we were alone I bade her tell me all. After brief hesitation, the
poor child thus began:

"In a week's time, a most awful ceremony takes place in this monastery.
The term of my novitiate has already expired, and had it not been for the
distractions caused by your visit, I should have already been obliged to
take this awful oath and make my vows.

"Madame de Mortemart is gentle and kind (no wonder! she is your sister),
but she has decided that I am to be one of her nuns, and nothing on earth
can induce her to change her mind. If this fatal decree be executed, I
shall never live to see this year of desolation reach its close. Perhaps
I may fall dead at the feet of the Bishop who ordains us.

"They would have me give to God--who does not need it--my whole life as a
sacrifice. But, madame, I cannot give my God this life of mine, as four
years ago I surrendered it wholly to some one else. Yes, madame," said
she, bursting into tears, "I am the lawful wife of the Vicomte d'Olbruze,
my cousin german.

"Of this union, planned and approved by my dear mother herself, a child
was born, which my ruthless father refuses to recognise, and which kindly
peasants are bringing up in the depths of the woods.

"My dear, good mother was devotedly fond of my lover, who was her nephew.
From our very cradles she had always destined us for each other. And she
persisted in making this match, despite her husband, whose fortune she
had immensely increased, and one day during his absence we were legally
united by our family priest in the castle chapel. My father, who, was
away at sea, came back soon afterwards: He was enraged at my mother's
disobedience, and in his fury attempted to stab her with his own hand. He
made several efforts to put an end to her existence, and the general
opinion in my home is that he was really the author of her death.

"Devotedly attached to my husband by ties of love no less than of duty, I
fled with him to his uncle's, an old knight-commander of Malta, whose
sole heir he was. My father, with others, pursued us thither, and scaled
the walls of our retreat by night, resolved to kill his nephew first and
me afterwards. Roused by the noise of the ruffians, my husband seized
his firearms. Three of his assailants he shot from the balcony, and my
father, disguised as a common man, received a volley in the face, which
destroyed his eyesight. The Parliament of Rennes took up the matter. My
husband thought it best not to put in an appearance, and after the
evidence of sundry witnesses called at random, a warrant for his arrest
as a defaulter was issued, a death penalty being attached thereto.

"Ever since that time my husband has been wandering about in disguise
from province to province. Doomed to solitude in our once lovely
chateau, my, father forced me to take the veil in this convent, promising
that if I did so, he would not bring my husband to justice.

"Perhaps, madame, if the King were truly and faithfully informed of all
these things, he would have compassion for my grief, and right the
injustice meted out to my unlucky husband."

After hearing this sad story, I clearly saw that, in some way or other,
we should have to induce Madame de Mortemart to postpone the ceremony of
taking the vow, and I afterwards determined to put these vagaries on the
part of the law before my good friend President de Nesmond, who was the
very man to give us good advice, and suggest the right remedy.

As for the King, I did not deem it fit that he should be consulted in the
matter. Of course I look upon him as a just and wise prince, but he is
the slave of form. In great families, he does not like to hear of
marriages to which the father has not given formal consent; moreover, I
did not forget about the gun-shot which blinded the gentleman, and made
him useless for the rest of his life. The King, who is devoted to his
nobles, would never have pronounced in favour of the Vicomte, unless he
happened to be in a particularly good humour. Altogether, it was a risky

I deeply sympathised with Mademoiselle d'Amurande in her trouble, and
assured her of my good-will and protection, but I begged her to approve
my course of action, though taken independently of the King. She
willingly left her fate in my hands, and I bade her write my sister the
following note:

MADAME:--You know the vows that bind me; they are sacred, having been
plighted at the foot of the altar. Do not persist, I entreat you, do not
persist in claiming the solemn declaration of my vows. You are here to
command the Virgins of the Lord, but among these I have no right to a
place. I am a mother, although so young, and the Holy Scriptures tell me
every day that Hagar, the kindly hearted, may not forsaken her darling

I happened to be with Madame de Mortemart when one of the aged sisters
brought her this letter. On reading it she was much affected. I feigned
ignorance, and asked her kindly what was the reason of her trouble. She
wished to hide it; but I insisted, and at last persuaded her to let me
see the note. I read it calmly and with reflection, and afterwards said
to the Abbess:

"What! You, sister, whose distress and horror I witnessed when our stern
parents shut you up in a cloister,--are you now going to impose like
fetters upon a young and interesting person, who dreads them, and rejects
them as once you rejected them?"

Madame de Mortemart replied, "I was young then, and without experience,
when I showed such childish repugnance as that of which you speak. At
that age one knows nothing of religion nor of the eternal verities. Only
the world, with its frivolous pleasures, is then before one's eyes; and
the spectacle blinds our view, even our view of heaven. Later on I
deplored such resistance, which so grieved my family; and when I saw you
at Court, brilliant and adored, I assure you, my dear Marquise, that this
convent and its solitude seemed to me a thousand times more
desirable than the habitation of kings."

"You speak thus philosophically," I replied, "only because your lot
happens to have undergone such a change. From a slave, you have become
an absolute and sovereign mistress. The book of rules is in your hands;
you turn over its leaves wherever you like; you open it at whatever page
suits you; and if the book should chance to give you a severe rebuke, you
never let others know this. Human nature was ever thus. No, no, madame;
you can never make one believe that a religious life is in itself such an
attractive one that you would gladly resume it if the dignities of your
position as an abbess were suddenly wrested from you and given to some
one else."

"Well, well, if that is so," said the Abbess, reddening, "I am quite
ready to send in my resignation, and so return you your liberality."

"I don't ask you for an abbey which you got from the King," I rejoined,
smiling; "but the favour, which I ask and solicit you can and ought to
grant. Mademoiselle d'Amurande points out to you in formal and
significant terms that she cannot enrol herself among the Virgins of the
Lord, and that the gentle Hagar of Holy Writ may not forsake Ishmael.
Such a confession plainly hints at an attachment which religion cannot
violate nor destroy, else our religion would be a barbarous one, and
contrary to nature.

"Since God has brought me to this convent, and by chance I have got to
know and appreciate this youthful victim, I shall give her my compassion
and help,--I, who have no necessity to make conversions by force in order
to add to the number of my community. If I have committed any grave
offence in the eyes of God, I trust that He will pardon me in
consideration of the good work that I desire to do. I shall write to the
King, and Mademoiselle d'Amurande shall not make her vows until his
Majesty commands her to do so."

This last speech checkmated my sister. She at once became gentle,
sycophantic, almost caressing in manner, and assured me that the ceremony
of taking the vow would be indefinitely postponed, although the Bishop of
Lugon had already prepared his homily, and invitations had been issued to
the nobility.

Madame de Mortemart is the very embodiment of subtlety and cunning. I
saw that she only wanted to gain time in order to carry out her scheme. I
did not let myself be hoodwinked by her promises, but went straight to
work, being determined to have my own way.

Hearing from Mademoiselle d'Amurande that her friend and ally, the old
commander, was still living, I was glad to know that she had in him such
a stanch supporter. "It is the worthy commander," said I, "who must be
as a father to you, until I have got the sentence of the first Parliament
cancelled." Then we arranged that I should get her away with me from the
convent, as there seemed to be little or no difficulty about this.

Accordingly, three days afterwards I dressed her in a most elegant
costume of my niece's. We went out in the morning for a drive, and the
nuns at the gateway bowed low, as usual, when my carriage passed, never
dreaming of such a thing as abduction.

That evening the whole convent seemed in a state of uproar. Madame de
Mortemart, with flaming visage, sought to stammer out her reproaches. But
as there was no law to prevent my action, she had to hide her vexation,
and behave as if nothing had happened.

The following year I wrote and told her that the judgment of the Rennes
Parliament had been cancelled by the Grand Council, as it was based on
conflicting evidence. The blind Comte d'Amurande had died of rage, and
the young couple, who came into all his property, were eternally grateful
to me, and forever showered blessings upon my head.

The Abbess wrote back to say that she shared my satisfaction at so happy
a conclusion, and that Madame d'Olbruse's disappearance from Fontevrault
had scarcely been noticed.

The Marquise de Thianges, whose ideas regarding such matters were
precisely the same as my own, confined herself to stating that I had not
told her a word about it. She spoke the truth; for the enterprise was
not of such difficulty that I needed any one to help me.

On the twelfth day, as we were about to leave Fontevrault, I received
another letter from the King, which was as follows:

As the pain in your knee continues, and the Bourbonne waters have been
recommended to you, I beg you, madame, to profit by being in their
vicinity, and to go and try their effect. Mademoiselle de Nantes is in
fairly good health, yet it looks as if a return of her fluxion were
likely. Five or six pimples have appeared on her face, and there is the
same redness of the arms as last year. I shall send her to Bourbonne;
your maids and the governess will accompany her. The Prince de Conde,
who is in office there, will show you every attention. I would rather
see you a little later on in good health, than a little sooner, and

My kindest messages to Madame de Thianges, the Abbess, and all those who
show you regard and sympathy. Madame de Nevers might invite you to stay
with her; on her return I will not forget such obligation.


We left Fontevrault after a stay of fifteen days; to the nuns and novices
it seemed more like fifteen minutes, but to Madame de Mortemart, fifteen
long years. Yet that did not prevent her from tenderly embracing me, nor
from having tears in her eyes when the time came for us to take coach and



The Prince de Mont-Beliard.--He Agrees to the Propositions Made Him.--The
King's Note.--Diplomacy of the Chancellor of England.--Letter from the
Marquis de Montespan.--The Duchy in the Air.--The Domain of Navarre,
Belonging to the Prince de Bouillon, Promised to the Marquise.

There was but a small company this year at the Waters of Bourbonne,--to
begin with, at any rate; for afterwards there appeared to be many
arrivals, to see me, probably, and Mademoiselle de Nantes.

The Chancellor Hyde was already installed there, and his establishment
was one of the most agreeable and convenient; he was kind enough to
exchange it for mine. A few days afterwards he informed me of the
arrival of the Prince de Mont-Beliard, of Wurtemberg, who was anxious to
pay his respects to me, as though to the King's daughter. In effect,
this royal prince came and paid me a visit; I thought him greatly changed
for such a short lapse of years.

We had seen each other--as, I believe, I have already told--at the time
of the King's first journey in Flanders. He recalled all the
circumstances to me, and was amiable enough to tell me that, instead of
waning, my beauty had increased.

"It is you, Prince, who embellish everything," I answered him. "I begin
to grow like a dilapidated house; I am only here to repair myself."

Less than a year before, M. de Mont-Billiard had lost that amiable
princess, his wife; he had a lively sense of this loss, and never spoke
of it without tears in his eyes.

"You know, madame," he told me, "my states are, at present, not entirely
administered, but occupied throughout by the officers of the King of
France. Those persons who have my interests at heart, as well as those
who delight at my fears, seem persuaded that this provisional occupation
will shortly become permanent. I dare not question you on this subject,
knowing how much discretion is required of you; but I confess that I
should pass quieter and more tranquil nights if you could reassure me up
to a certain point."

"Prince," I replied to him, "the King is never harsh except with those of
whom he has had reason to complain. M. le Duc de Neubourg, and certain
other of the Rhine princes, have been thick-witted enough to be disloyal
to him; he has punished them for it, as Caesar did, and as all great
princes after him will do. But you have never shown him either coldness,
or aversion, or indifference. He has commanded the Marechal de
Luxembourg to enter your territory to prevent the Prince of Orange from
reaching there before us, and your authority has been put, not under the
domination, but under the protection, of the King of France, who is
desirous of being able to pass from there into the Brisgau."

Madame de Thianges, Madame de Nevers, and myself did all that lay in our
power to distract or relieve the sorrows of the Prince; but the loss of
Mademoiselle de Chatillon, his charming spouse, was much more present
with him than that of his states; the bitterness which he drew from it
was out of the retch of all consolation possible. The Marquise de
Thianges procured the Chancellor of England to approach the Prince, and
find out from him, to a certain extent, whether he would consent to
exchange the County of Mont-Beliard for some magnificent estates in
France, to which some millions in money would be added.

M. de Wurtemberg asked for a few days in which to reflect, and imagining
that these suggestions emanated from Versailles, he replied that he could
refuse nothing to the greatest of kings. My sister wrote on the day
following to the Marquis de Louvois, instead of asking it of the King in
person. M. de Luvois, who, probably, wished to despoil M. de
Mont-Beliard without undoing his purse-strings, put this overture before
the King maliciously, and the King wrote me immediately the following

Leave M. de Mont-Beliard alone, and do not speak to him again of his
estates. If the matter which occupies Madame de Thianges could be
arranged, it would be of the utmost propriety that a principality of such
importance rested in the Crown, at least as far as sovereignty. The case
of the Principality of Orange is a good enough lesson to me; there must
be one ruler only in an empire. As for you, my dear lady, feel no regret
for all that. You shall be a duchess, and I am pleased to give you this
title which you desire. Let M. de Montespan be informed that his
marquisate is to be elevated into a duchy with a peerage, and that I will
add to it the number of seigniories that is proper, as I do not wish to
deviate from the usage which has become a law, etc.

The prince's decision was definite, and as his character was, there was
no wavering. I wrote to him immediately to express my lively gratitude,
and we considered, the Marquise and I, as to the intermediary to whom we
could entrust the unsavoury commission of approaching the Marquis de
Montespan. He hated all my family from his having obtained no
satisfaction from it for his wrath. We begged the Chancellor Hyde, a
personage of importance, to be good enough to accept this mission; he saw
no reason to refuse it, and, after ten or eleven days, he received the
following reply, with which he was moderately amused:


I am sensible, my Lord, as I should be, of the honour which you have
wished to do me, whilst, notwithstanding, permit me to consider it
strange that a man of your importance has cared to meddle in such a
negotiation. His Majesty the King of France did not consult me when he
wished to make my wife his mistress; it is somewhat remarkable that so
great a prince expects my intervention today to recompense conduct that I
have disapproved, that I disapprove, and shall disapprove to my last
breath. His Majesty has got eight or ten children from my wife without
saying a word to me about it; this monarch can surely, therefore, make
her a present of a duchy without summoning me to his assistance.
According to all laws, human and divine, the King ought to punish Madame
de Montespan, and, instead of censuring her, he wishes to make her a
duchess! . . . Let him make her a princess, even a highness, if he
likes; he has all the power in his hands. I am only a twig; he is an

If madame is fostering ambition, mine has been satisfied for forty years;
I was born a marquis; a marquis--apart from some unforeseen
catastrophe--I will die; and Madame la Marquise, as long as she does not
alter her conduct, has no need to alter her degree.

I will, however, waive my severity, if M. le Duc du Maine will intervene
for his mother, and call me his father, however it may be. I am none the
less sensible, my lord, of the honour of your acquaintance, and since you
form one of the society of Madame la Marquise, endeavour to release
yourself from her charms, for she can be an enchantress when she
likes.... It is true that, from what they tell me, you were not quite
king in your England.

I am, from out my exile (almost as voluntary as yours), the most obliged
and grateful of your servants,


The Marquise de Thianges felt a certain irritation at the reading of this
letter; she offered all our excuses for it to the English Chancellor, and
said to me: "I begin to fear that the King of Versailles is not acting
with good faith towards you, when he makes your advancement depend on the
Marquis de Montespan; it is as though he were giving you a duchy in the

I sent word to the King that the Marquis refused to assist his generous
projects; he answered me:

"Very well, we must look somewhere else."

Happily, this domestic humiliation did not transpire at Bourbonne; for M.
de la Bruyere had arrived there with Monsieur le Prince, and that model
satirist would unfailingly have made merry over it at my expense.

The best society lavished its attentions on me; Coulanges, whose
flatteries are so amusing, never left us for a moment.

The Prince, after the States were over, had come to relax himself at
Bourbonne, which was his property. After having done all in his power
formerly to dethrone his master, he is his enthusiastic servitor now that
he sees him so strong. He was fascinated with Mademoiselle de Nantes,
and asked my permission to seek her hand for the Duc de Bourbon, his
grandson; my reply was, that the alliance was desirable on both sides,
but that these arrangements were settled only by the King.

In spite of the insolent diatribe of M. de Montespan, the waters proved
good and favourable; my blood, little by little, grew calm; my pains,
passing from one knee to the other, insensibly faded away in both; and,
after having given a brilliant fete to the Prince de Mont-Beliard, the
English Chancellor, and our most distinguished bathers, I went back to
Versailles, where the work seemed to me to have singularly advanced.

The King went in advance of us to Corbeil; Madame de Maintenon, her
pretty nieces, and my children were in the carriage. The King received
me with his ordinary kindness, and yet said no word to me of the
harshness which I had suffered from my husband. Two or three months
afterwards he recollected his royal word, and gave me to understand that
the Prince de Bourbon was shortly going to give up Navarre, in Normandy,
and that this vast and magnificent estate would be raised to a duchy for

It has not been yet, at the moment that I write. Perhaps it is written
above that I shall never be a duchess. In such a case, the King would
not deserve the inward reproaches that my sensibility addresses him,
since his good-will would be fettered by destiny.

It is my kindness which makes me speak so.


The Venetian Drummer.--The Little Olivier.--Adriani's Love.--His
Ingratitude.--His Punishment.--His Vengeance.--Complaint on This Account.

At the great slaughter of Candia, M. de Vivonne had the pleasure of
saving a young Venetian drummer whom he noticed all covered with blood,
and senseless, amongst the dead and dying, with whom the field was
covered far and wide. He had his wounds dressed and cared for by the
surgeons of the French navy, with the intention of giving him me, either
as a valet de chambre or a page, so handsome and agreeable this young
Italian was. Adriani was his name. He presented him to me after the
return of the expedition to France, and I was sensible of this amiable
attention of my brother, for truly the peer of this young drummer did not

Adrien was admirable to see in my livery, and when my carriage went out,
he attracted alone all the public attention. His figure was still not
all that it might be; it developed suddenly, and then one was not wrong
in comparing him with a perfect model for the Academy. He took small
time in losing the manners which he had brought with him from his
original calling. I discovered the best 'ton' in him; he would have been
far better seated in the interior than outside my equipage.
Unfortunately, this young impertinent gave himself airs of finding my
person agreeable, and of cherishing a passion for me; my first valet de
chambre told me of it at once. I gave him to the King, who had sometimes
noticed him in passing.

Adrien was inconsolable at first at this change, for which he was not
prepared, but his vanity soon came uppermost; he understood that it was
an advancement, and took himself for a great personage, since he had the
honour of approaching and serving the King.

The little Olivier--the first assistant in the shop of Madame Camille, my
dressmaker--saw Adrien, inspired him with love, and herself with much,
and they had to be married. I was good-natured enough to be interested
in this union, and as I had never any fault to find with the intelligent
services and attentions of the little modiste, I gave her two hundred
louis, that she might establish herself well and without any waiting.

She had a daughter whom she was anxious to call Athenais. I thought this
request excessive; I granted my name of Francoise only.

The young couple would have succeeded amply with their business, since my
confidence and favour were sufficient to give them vogue; but I was not
slow in learning that cruel discord had already penetrated to their
household, and that Adrien, in spite of his adopted country, had remained
at heart Italian. Jealous without motive, and almost without love, he
tormented with his suspicions, his reproaches, and his harshness, an
attentive and industrious young wife, who loved him with intense love,
and was unable to succeed in persuading him of it. From her condition, a
modiste cannot dispense with being amiable, gracious, engaging. The
little Olivier, as pretty as one can be, easily secured the homage of the
cavaliers. For all thanks she smiled at the gentlemen, as a well brought
up woman should do. Adrien disapproved these manners,--too French, in
his opinion. One day he dared to say to his wife, and that before
witnesses: "Because you have belonged to Madame de Montespan, do you
think you have the same rights that she has?" And with that he
administered a blow to her.

This indecency was reported to me. I did not take long in discovering
what it was right to do with Adrien. I had him sent to Clagny, where I
happened to be at the time.

"Monsieur the Venetian drummer," I said to him, with the hauteur which it
was necessary to oppose to his audacity, "Monsieur le Marechal de
Vivonne, who is always too good, saved your life without knowing you. I
gave you to the King, imagining that I knew you. Now I am undeceived,
and I know, without the least possibility of doubt, that beneath the
appearance of a good heart you hide the ungrateful and insolent rogue.
The King needs persons more discreet, less violent, and more polite.
Madame de Montespan gave you up to the King; Madame de Montespan has
taken you back this morning to her service. You depend for the future on
nobody but Madame de Montespan, and it is her alone that you are bound to
obey. Your service in her house has commenced this morning; it will
finish this evening, and, before midnight, you will leave her for good
and all. I have known on all occasions how to pardon slight offences;
there are some that a person of my rank could not excuse; yours is of
that number. Go; make no answer! Obey, ingrate! Disappear, I command

At these words he tried to throw himself at my feet. "Go, wretched
fellow!" I cried to him; and, at my voice, my lackeys ran up and drove
him from the room and from the chateau.

Almost always these bad-natured folks have cowardly souls. Adrien, his
head in a whirl, presented himself to my Suisse at Versailles, who,
finding his look somewhat sinister, refused to receive him. He retired
to my hotel in Paris, where the Suisse, being less of a physiognomist,
delivered him the key of his old room, and was willing to allow him to
pass the night there.

Adrien, thinking of naught but how to harm me and give me a memorable
proof of his vengeance, ran and set fire to my two storehouses, and, to
put a crown on his rancour, went and hanged himself in an attic.

About two o'clock in the morning, a sick-nurse, having perceived the
flames, gave loud cries and succeeded in making herself heard. Public
help arrived; the fire was mastered. My Suisse sought everywhere for the
Italian, whom he thought to be in danger; he stumbled against his corpse.
What a scene! What an affliction! The commissary having had his room
opened, on a small bureau a letter was found which he had been at the
pains of writing, and in which he accused me of his despair and death.

The people of Paris have been at all times extravagance and credulity
itself. They looked upon this young villain as a martyr, and at once
dedicated an elegy to him, in which I was compared with Medea, Circe, and

It is precisely on account of this elegy that I have cared to set down
this cruel anecdote. My readers, to whom I have just narrated the facts
with entire frankness, can see well that, instead of having merited
reproaches, I should only have received praise for my restraint and

It is, assuredly, most painful to have to suffer the abuse of those for
whom we have never done aught; but the outrages of those whom we have
succoured, maintained, and favoured are insupportable injuries.


The Equipage at Full Speed.--The Poor Vine-grower.--Sensibility of Madame
de Maintenon.--Her Popularity.--One Has the Right to Crush a Man Who Will
Not Get Out of the Way.--What One Sees.--What They Tell You.--All Ends at
the Opera.--One Can Be Moved to Tears and Yet Like Chocolate.

Another event with a tragical issue, and one to which I contributed even
less, served to feed and foster that hatred, mixed with envy, which the
rabble populace guards always so persistently towards the favourites of
kings or fortune.

Naturally quick and impatient, I cannot endure to move with calm and
state along the roads. My postilions, my coachmen know it, driving in
such fashion that no equipage is ever met which cleaves the air like

I was descending one day the declivity of the Coeur-Volant, between Saint
Germain and Marly. The Marquises de Maintenon and d'Hudicourt were in my
carriage with M. le Duc du Maine, so far as I can remember. We were
going at the pace which I have just told, and my outriders, who rode in
advance, were clearing the way, as is customary. A vine-grower, laden
with sticks, chose this moment to cross the road, thinking himself, no
doubt, agile enough to escape my six horses. The cries of my people were
useless. The imprudent fellow took his own course, and my postilions, in
spite of their efforts with the reins, could not prevent themselves from
passing over his body; the wheels followed the horses; the poor man was
cut in pieces.

At the lamentations of the country folk and the horrified passers-by, we
stopped. Madame de Maintenon wished to alight, and when she perceived
the unfortunate vine-grower disfigured with his wounds, she clasped her
hands and fell to weeping. The Marquise d'Hudicourt, who was always
simplicity itself, followed her friend's example; there was nothing but
groans and sorrowful exclamations. My coachman blamed the postilions,
the postilions the man's obstinacy.

Madame de Maintenon, speaking as though she were the mistress, bade them
be silent, and dared to say to them before all the crowd: "If you
belonged to me, I would soon settle you." At these words all the
spectators applauded, and cried: "Vive Madame de Maintenon!"

Irritated at what I had just heard, I put my head out of the door, and,
turning to these sentimental women, I said to them: "Be good enough to
get in, mesdames; are you determined to have me stoned?"

They mounted again, after having left my purse with the poor relations of
the dead man; and as far as Ruel, which was our destination, I was
compelled to listen to their complaints and litanies.

"Admit, madame," I declared to Madame de Maintenon, "that any person
except myself could and would detest you for the harm you have done me.
Your part was to blame the postilions lightly and the rustic very
positively. My equipage did not come unexpectedly, and my two outriders
had signalled from their horses."

"Madame," she replied, "you have not seen, as I did, those eyes of the
unhappy man forced violently from their sockets, his poor crushed head,
his palpitating heart, from which the blood soaked the pavement; such a
sight has moved and broken my own heart. I was, as I am still, quite
beside myself, and, in such a situation, it is permissible to forget
discretion in one's speech and the proprieties. I had no intention of
giving you pain; I am distressed at having done so. But as for your
coachmen I loathe them, and, since you undertake their defence, I shall
not for the future show myself in your equipage."

[In one of her letters, Madame de Maintenon speaks of this accident, but
she does not give quite the same account of it. It is natural that
Madame de Montespan seeks to excuse her people and herself if she

At Ruel, she dared take the same tone before the Duchesse de Richelieu,
who rebuked her for officiousness, and out of spite, or some other
reason, Madame de Maintenon refused to dine. She had two or three
swooning fits; her tears started afresh four or five times, and the
Marquise d'Hudicourt, who dined only by snatches, went into a corner to
sob and weep along with her.

"Admit, madame," I said then to Madame de Maintenon, "your excessive
grief for an unknown man is singular. He was, perhaps, actually a
dishonest fellow. The accident which you come back to incessantly, and
which distresses me also, is doubtless deplorable; but, after all, it is
not a murder, an ambush, a premeditated assassination. I imagine that if
such a catastrophe had happened elsewhere, and been reported to us in a
gazette or a book, you would have read of it with interest and
commiseration; but we should not have seen you clasp your hands over your
head, turn red and pale, utter loud cries, shed tears, sob, and scold a
coachman, postilions, perhaps even me. The event, would, nevertheless,
be actually the same. Admit, then, madame, and you, too, Madame
d'Hudicourt, that there is an exaggeration in your sorrow, and that you
would have made, both of you, two excellent comedians."

Madame de Maintenon, piqued at these last words, sought to make us
understand, and even make us admit, that there is a great difference
between an event narrated to you by a third party, and an event which one
has seen. Madame de Richelieu shut her mouth pleasantly with these
words: "We know, Madame la Marquise, how much eloquence and wit is yours.
We approve all your arguments, past and to be. Let us speak no further
of an accident which distresses you; and since you require to be
diverted, let us go to the Opera, which is only two leagues off."

She consented to accompany us, for fear of proving herself entirely
ridiculous; but to delay us as much as possible, she required a cup of
chocolate, her favourite dish, her appetite having returned as soon as
she had exhausted the possibilities of her grief.


Charles II., King of England.--How Interest Can Give Memory.--His
Grievances against France.--The Two Daughters of the Duke of
York.--William of Orange Marries One, in Spite of the Opposition of the
King.--Great Joy of the Allies.--How the King of England Understands
Peace.--Saying of the King.--Preparations for War.

The King, Charles Stuart, who reigned in England since the death of the
usurper, Cromwell, was a grandson of Henri IV., just as much as our King.
Charles II. displayed the pronounced penchant of Henri IV. for the ladies
and for pleasure; but he had neither his energy, nor his genial temper,
nor his amiable frankness. After the death of Henrietta of England, his
beloved sister, he remained for some time longer our ally, but only to
take great advantage from our union and alliance. He had made use of it
against the Dutch, his naval and commercial rivals, and had compelled
them, by the aid of the King of France (then his friend), to reimburse
him a sum of twenty-six millions, and to pay him, further, an annual
tribute of twelve or fifteen thousand livres for the right of fishing
round his island domains.

All these things being obtained, he seemed to recollect that Cardinal de
Richelieu had not protected his father, Stuart; that the Cardinal Mazarin
had declared for Cromwell in his triumph; that the Court of France had
indecently gone into mourning for that robber; that there had been
granted neither guards, nor palace, nor homages of state to the Queen,
his mother, although daughter and sister of two French kings; that this
Queen, in a modest retirement--sometimes in a cell in the convent of
Chaillot, sometimes in her little pavilion at Colombesl--had died,
poisoned by her physician, without the orator, Bossuet, having even
frowned at it in the funeral oration;

[Mademoiselle de Montpensier, in her Memoirs, says that this Queen,
already languishing, had lost her sleep, and was given soporific pills,
on account of which Henrietta of France awoke no more; but it is probable
that the servants, and not the doctors, committed this blunder.]

that the unfortunate Henrietta daughter of this Queen and first wife of
Monsieur had succumbed to the horrible tortures of a poisoning even more
visible and manifest; whilst her poisoners, who were well known, had
never been in the least blamed or disgraced.

On all these arguments, with more or less foundation, Charles II. managed
to conclude that he ought to detach himself from France, who was not
helpful enough; and, by deserting us, he excited universal joy amongst
his subjects, who were constantly jealous of us.

Charles Stuart had had children by his mistresses; he had had none by the
Queen, his wife. The presumptive heir to the Crown was the Duke of York,
his Majesty's only brother.

The Duke of York, son-in-law--as I have noticed already--of our good
Chancellor, Lord Hyde, had himself only two daughters, equally beautiful,
who, according to the laws of those islanders, would bear the sceptre in

Our King, who read in the future, was thinking of marrying these two
princesses conformably with our interests, when the Prince of Orange
crossed the sea, and went formally to ask the hand of the elder of his

Informed of this proceeding, the King at once sent M. de Croissy-Colbert
to the Duke of York, to induce him to interfere and refuse his daughter;
but, in royal families, it is always the head who makes and decides
marriages. William of Orange obtained his charming cousin Mary, and
acquired that day the expectation of the Protestant throne, which was his

At the news of this marriage, the allies, that is to say, all the King's
enemies, had an outburst of satisfaction, and gave themselves up to
puerile jubilations. The King of Great Britain stood definitely on their
side; he made common cause with them, and soon there appeared in the
political world an audacious document signed by this prince, in which,
from the retreat of his island, the empire of fogs, he dared to demand
peace from Louis of Bourbon, his ancient ally and his cousin german,
imposing on him the most revolting conditions.

According to the English monarch, France ought to restore to the
Spaniards, first Sicily, and, further, the towns of Charleroi, Ath,
Courtrai, Condo, Saint Guilain, Tournai, and Valenciennes, as a condition
of retaining Franche-Comte; moreover, France was compelled to give up
Lorraine to the Duke Charles, and places in German Alsace to the Emperor.

The King replied that "too much was too much." He referred the decision
of his difficulties to the fortune of war, and collected fresh soldiers.

Then, without further delay, England and the States General signed a
particular treaty at La Hague, to constrain France (or, rather, her
ruler) to accept the propositions that his pride refused to hear.


The Great Mademoiselle Buys Choisy.--The President Gonthier.--The
Indemnity.--The Salmon.--The Harangue as It Is Not Done in the Academy.

The King had only caused against his own desire the extreme grief which
Mademoiselle felt at the imprisonment of Lauzun. His Majesty was
sensible of the wisdom of the resolution which she had made not to break
with the Court, and to show herself at Saint Germain, or at Versailles,
from time to time, as her rank, her near kinship, her birth demanded. He
said to me one day: "My cousin is beginning to look up. I see with
pleasure that her complexion is clearing, that she laughs willingly at
this and that, and that her good-will for me is restored. I am told that
she is occupied in building a country-house above Vitry. Let us go
to-day and surprise her, and see what this house of Choisy is like."

We arrived at a sufficiently early hour, and had time to see everything.
The King found the situation most agreeable; those lovely gardens united
high up above the Seine, those woods full of broad walks, of light and
air, those points of view happily chosen and arranged, gave a charming
effect; the house of one story, raised on steps of sixteen stairs,
appeared to us elegant from its novelty; but the King blamed his cousin
for not having put a little architecture and ornament on the facade.

"Princes," said he, "have no right to be careless; since universal
agreement has made us Highnesses, we must know how to carry our burden,
and to lay it down at no time, and in no place."

Mademoiselle excused herself on the ground of her remoteness from the
world, and on the expense, which she wished to keep down.

"From the sight of the country," said the King, "you must have a hundred
to a hundred and twelve, acres here."

"A hundred and nine," she answered.

"Have you paid dear for this property?" went on the King. "It is the
President Gonthier who has sold it?"

"I paid for this site, and the old house which no longer exists, forty
thousand livres," she said.

"Forty thousand livres!" cried the King. "Oh, my cousin, there is no
such thing as conscience! You have not paid for the ground. I was
assured that poor President Gonthier had only got rid of his house at
Choisy because his affairs were embarrassed; you must indemnify him, or
rather I will indemnify him myself, by giving him a pension."

Mademoiselle bit her lip and added:

"The President asked sixty thousand first; my men of business offered him
forty, and he accepted it."

Mademoiselle has no generosity, although she is immensely rich; she
pretended not to hear, and it was M. Colbert who sent by order the twenty
thousand livres to the President.

Mademoiselle, vain and petty, as though she were a bourgeoise of
yesterday, showed us her gallery, where she had already collected the
selected portraits of all her ancestors, relations, and kindred; she
pointed out to us in her winter salon the portrait of the little Comte de
Toulouse, painted, not as an admiral, but as God of the Sea, floating on
a pearl shell; and his brother, the Duc du Maine, as Colonel-General of
the Swiss and Grisons. The full-length portrait of the King was visible
on three chimneypieces; she was at great pains to make a merit of it, and
call for thanks.

Having followed her into her state chamber, where she had stolen in
privately, I saw that she was taking away the portrait of Lauzun. I went
and told it to the King, who shrugged his shoulders and fell to laughing.

"She is fifty-two years old," he said to me.

A very pretty collation of confitures and fruits was served us, to which
the King prayed her to add a ragout of peas and a roasted fowl.

During the repast, he said to her: "For the rest, I have not noticed the
portrait of Gaston, your father; is it a distraction on my part, or an
omission on yours?"

"It will be put there later," she answered. "It is not time."

"What! your father!" added the King. "You do not think that, cousin!"

"All my actions," added the Princess, "are weighed in the balance
beforehand; if I were to exhibit the portrait of my father at the head of
these various pictures, I should have to put my stepmother, his wife,
there too, as a necessary pendant. The harm which she has done me does
not permit of that complacence. One opens one's house only to one's

"Your stepmother has never done you any other harm," replied the King,
"than to reclaim for her children the funds or the furniture left by your
father. The character of Margaret of Lorraine has always been sweetness
itself; seeing your irritation, she begged me to arbitrate myself; and
you know all that M. Colbert and the Chancellor did to satisfy you under
the circumstances. But let us speak of something else, and cease these
discussions. I have a service to ask of you: here is M. le Duc du Maine
already big; everybody knows of your affection for him, and I have seen
his portrait with pleasure, in one of your salons. I am going to
establish him; would it be agreeable to you if I give him your livery?"

"M. le Duc du Maine," said the Princess, "is the type of what is
gracious, and noble, and beautiful; he can only do honour to my livery; I
grant it him with all my heart, since you do me the favour of desiring
it. Would I were in a position to do more for him!"

The King perfectly understood these last words; he made no reply to them,
but he understood all that he was meant to understand. We went down
again into the gardens.

The fishermen of Choisy had just caught a salmon of enormous size, which
they had been pursuing for four or five days; they had intended to offer
it to Mademoiselle; the presence of the King inspired them with another
design. They wove with great diligence a large and pretty basket of
reeds, garnished it with foliage, young grass, and flowers, and came and
presented to the King their salmon, all leaping in the basket.

The fisherman charged with the address only uttered a few words; they
were quite evidently improvised, so that they gave more pleasure and
effect than those of academicians, or persons of importance. The
fisherman expressed himself thus:

"You have brought us good fortune, Sire, by your presence, as you bring
fortune to your generals. You arrive on the Monday; on the Tuesday the


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