Part 8 out of 10
Two hours afterwards a note, bearing no signature, was brought
me, in which the late scene was described to me, and I was further
informed, that the lady, so abruptly repulsed by my servants,
had presented herself to communicate things which concerned not
only my own personal safety but the welfare of all France; a
frightful catastrophe was impending, which there was still time
to prevent; the means of so doing were offered me, and I was
conjured not to reject them. The affair, if treated with
indifference, would bring on incalculable misfortunes and horrors,
to which I should be the first victim. All this apparent mystery
would be cleared up, and, the whole affair explained, if I
would repair on the following day, at one o'clock, to the Baths
of Apollo. A grove of trees there was pointed out as a safe
place of rendezvous, and being so very near my residence, calculated
to remove any fears I might entertain of meeting a stranger, who,
as the note informed me, possessed the means of entering this
secluded spot. I was again conjured to be punctual to the appointed
hour as I valued my life.
The mysterious and solemn tone of this singular epistle struck
me with terror. Madame de Mirepoix was with me at the moment I
received it. This lady had a peculiar skill in physiognomy, and
the close attention she always paid to mine was frequently extremely
embarrassing and disagreeable She seemed (as usual) on the present
occasion to read all that was passing in my mind; however, less
penetrating eyes than hers might easily have perceived, by my
sudden agitation, that the paper I held in my hand contained
something more than usual.
"What ails you?" asked she, with the familiarity our close
intimacy warranted; "does that note bring you any bad news?"
"No," said I; "it tells me nothing; but it leaves me ample room
for much uneasiness and alarm: but, after all, it may be merely
some hoax, some foolish jest played off at my expense; but judge
for yourself." So saying, I handed her the letter: when she had
perused it, she said,
"Upon my word, if I were in your place, I would clear up this
mystery; good advice is not so easily met with as to make it a
matter of difficulty to go as far as the Baths of Apollo to seek
it. It is by no means impossible but that, as this paper tells
you, some great peril is hanging over you. The marquise de
Pompadour," continued madame de Mirepoix, "received more than
once invitations similar to this, which she never failed to attend;
and I recollect one circumstance, in which she had no cause to
regret having done so: without the kind offices of one of these
anonymous writers it is very possible that she might have expired
heart broken, and perhaps forsaken in some state prison, instead
of ending her days in the chateau of Versailles, honored even to
the tomb by the friendship and regard of the king of France."
I asked my friend to explain her last observation, and she replied
"One day an anonymous billet, similar to this, was left for
madame de Pompadour: it requested her to repair, at a specified
hour, to the church of the Jacobins, rue Saint Honore, in Paris,
where she was promised some highly important communications.
The marchioness was punctual to the rendezvous; and, as she
entered the church, a Jacobite, so entirely wrapped in his capuchin
as to conceal his features, approached her, took her by the hand,
and conducted her to an obscure chapel; where, requesting her to
sit down, he took a seat himself, and began as follows:--
"'Madam, you are about to lose the favor of the king; a party is
at work to give a new mistress to the king; the lady is young,
beautiful, witty, and possessed of an insatiable ambition; for the
last six months she has been in the daily habit of seeing the king,
unknown to you and all the court, and this has been accomplished
in the following manner: her father is
majesty, and she has an only brother, two years younger than
herself, whose astonishing resemblance to her has created continual
mistakes; this brother is promised the inheritance of his father's
office; and, under pretext of acquiring the due initiation for
future post, has been permitted every morning to attend the
"'However, this embryo page is the sister, who comes each morning
disguised in her brother's clothes. The king has had many private
conversations with the designing beauty; and, seduced by her
many charms of mind and person, as well as dazzled by the hidden
and concealed nature of their intrigue, finds his passion for her
increases from day to day. Many are the designing persons ready
to profit by the transfer of the king's affections from you to this
fresh favorite; and they flatter themselves the desired event is
close at hand. You are to be confined by a
to the isle of St. Margaret, for the place of your exile is already
chosen. The principal conspirators are two powerful noblemen,
one of whom is reputed your most intimate friend. I learned all
these particulars,' continued the Jacobite, 'from a young penitent,
but not under the seal of confession. This penitent is the
particular friend of the female in question, who confided the
secret to her, from whom I received it, accompanied by the most
flattering promises of future protection and advancement. These
splendid prospects excited her jealous envy, and she came here
to confess the whole to me, requesting I would seek you out and
inform you of the whole affair. Here is a letter she obtained
unknown to her aspiring friend, which she wishes you to see, as
a pledge of the veracity of her statement.' The marchioness cast
her eyes over the paper held out to her by the Jacobite. It was
a letter addressed by the king to his new mistress.
"You may imagine the terror of madame de Pompadour, her anxiety
and impatience to return to Versailles. However, ere she quitted
the friendly monk she assured him of her lasting gratitude, and
begged of him to point out how she could best prove it. 'For
myself,' replied he, 'I ask nothing; but if you would render me
your debtor, confer the first vacant bishopric on a man whom I
greatly esteem, the abbe de Barral.' You will easily suppose that
the abbe de Barral had not long to wait for his preferment: as
for the Jacobite the marchioness never again saw or heard anything
of him. She mentioned him to the newly appointed bishop, who
could not even understand to what she alluded. She related the
affair, when he called heaven to witness that he knew nothing of
any Jacobite either directly or indirectly."
"And how did the marchioness get rid of her rival?" inquired I
of madame de Mirepoix.
"By a very simple and effective expedient. She sent for the duc
de Saint Florentin, whom she requested immediately to expedite
shut up in the chateau de Lectoure, and the other for the daughter,
whom the marchioness sent to the isle of St. Marguerite, to
occupy the place she had so obligingly destined for herself."
"And now," asked I, "did these unfortunate people ever get out
"That I know not," answered the marechale; "and, God forgive me,
for aught I ever inquired they may be there now."
"If so," cried I, "the conduct of both the king and the duc de la
Vrilliere is abominable and unpardonable."
"Why, bless your heart, my dear," exclaimed the marechale, "do
you expect that his majesty should recollect all the pretty
women he has intrigued with, any more than the poor duke can be
expected to keep a list in his memory of the different persons
he has sent to a prison? He would require a prodigious recollection
for such a purpose." This unfeeling reply filled me with indignation,
and redoubled the pity I already felt for the poor prisoners. I
immediately despatched a note to the duc de Saint Florentin,
requesting he would come to me without delay: he hastened to obey
my summons. When he had heard my recital he remained silent
some minutes, as though collecting his recollections upon the
subject, and then replied,
"I do indeed remember that some obscure female was confined in
the chateau of the isle Sainte Marguerite at the request of madame
de Pompadour, but I cannot now say, whether at the death of the
marchioness any person thought of interceding for her release."
"That is precisely what I wish to ascertain," cried I; "return to
your offices, monsieur le duc, and use your best endeavors to
discover whether this unfortunate girl and her parent are still
in confinement; nor venture again in my presence until you have
despatched the order for their deliverance: you will procure a
conveyance for them from their prison to Paris at the expense of
government. You understand, my lord?"
The following morning the duke brought me the desired information.
He told me, that the father had been dead seven years, but the
daughter still remained a prisoner: the order for restoring her
to liberty had been forwarded the night preceding. I will now
briefly relate the end of this mournful story.
Three weeks after this I received an early visit from the duc de
la Vrilliere, who came to apprize me, that my protegee from the
isle of St. Marguerite was in my antechamber awaiting permission
to offer me her grateful thanks. I desired she might instantly be
admitted; her appearance shocked me; not a single trace of that
beauty which had proved so fatal to its possessor now remained.
She was pale, emaciated, and her countenance, on which care and
confinement had imprinted the wrinkles of premature old age, was
sad and dejected even to idiocy. I could have wished that madame
de Pompadour, by way of punishment for her cruelty, could but
have seen the object of her relentless persecution. I think she
would have blushed for herself. When the poor girl entered my
apartment she looked wildly around her, and casting herself at
my feet, inquired with many tears to what motive she was indebted
for my generous interference in her behalf. The duc de la
Vrilliere contemplated with the utmost
of a misery he had so largely contributed to. I requested of him
to leave us to ourselves. I then raised my weeping
consoled her to the best of my ability, and then requested her
to give me the history of her captivity. Her story was soon
told: she had been an inhabitant of the same prison for seventeen
years and five months, without either seeing a human being, or
hearing the sound of a human voice. Her recital made me shudder,
and I promised her that henceforward her life should be rendered
as happy as it had hitherto been miserable.
The king supped with me that evening. By some singular chance he
was on this occasion in the happiest temper possible: he laughed,
sung, joked with such unusual spirits, that I hesitated ere I
disturbed a gaiety to which Louis XV was so little prone.
However, I took him aside, saying, "Sire, I have to ask atonement
and reparation for a most horrible piece of injustice." After which,
I proceeded to acquaint him with the distressing history of his
unfortunate mistress. He appeared perfectly well to recollect
the female to whom I alluded; and when I ceased speaking, he
said, with a half-suppressed sigh,
"Poor creature! she has indeed been unfortunate; seventeen years
and five months in prison! The duc de la Vrilliere is greatly to
blame in the affair; but when once he has placed persons between
four walls, he thinks he has fulfilled the whole of his duty. He
should recollect, that a good memory is a necessary qualification
for situation he holds; it is indeed an imperative duty in him to
think of the poor wretches he deprives of their liberty."
"And in you too, sire," interrupted I; "and it appears to me that
you have lost sight of it, in the present affair, as culpably as
"I confess it, indeed," answered Louis XV; "but the unfortunate
sufferer herself was not without a due share of blame in the
matter. Her presumption had greatly irritated madame de Pompadour,
who punished her as she thought fit: of course I could not,
consistently with the regard I professed for the marchioness,
interfere in the execution of her vengeance."
"I do not agree with you," said I.
"Why, what else could I do?" asked Louis XV, with the most
imperturbable calmness; "she had superior claims, was acknowledged
as chief favorite, and I could not refuse her the sacrifice of a
mere temporary caprice."
"Very well said," answered I, "and founded upon excellent
principles; but surely it was not necessary to shut up the object
of your caprice in a state prison, and, above all, to leave her
there for such a length of time. However, the mischief is done;
and all we have to think of is to repair it. You have now, sire,
a fine opportunity of displaying your royal munificence."
"You think, then," returned Louis XV, "that I am bound to make
this unhappy girl some present? Well, I will; to-morrow I will
send her 10,000 louis."
"A thousand louis!" exclaimed I, clasping my hands; "what, as a
recompense for seventeen years' imprisonment? No, no, sire, you
shall not get off so easily; you must settle on her a pension
of 12,000 livres, and present her with an order for 100,000 more
as an immediate supply."
"Bless me!" ejaculated the king, "why all, the girls in my
kingdom would go to prison for such a dowry: however, she shall
have the pension; but, in truth, my treasury is exhausted."
"Then, sire," returned I, "borrow of your friends."
"Come, come, let us finish this business; I will give your
"No, I cannot agree," answered I, "to less than 5000."
The king promised me I should have them; and, on the following
day, his valet Turpigny brought me the order for the pension, and
a bag, in which I found only 4000 louis. This piece of meanness
did not surprise me, but it made me shrug up my shoulders, and
sent me to my cabinet to take the sum deficient from my own funds.
With this dowry my poor
in the person of one of her cousins, for whom I procured a
lucrative post under government. These worthy people have since
well repaid me by their grateful and devoted attachment for the
service I was enabled to render them. One individual of their
family was, however, far from resembling them either in goodness
of heart or generosity of sentiment--I allude to the brother of the
lady; that same brother who formerly supplied his sister with his
clothes, that she might visit the king unsuspected. Upon the
incarceration of the father the son succeeded him in his office
yet, although in the daily habit of seeing the king, he neither
by word nor deed sought to obtain the deliverance of either his
parent or sister. On the contrary, he suffered the former to
perish in a dungeon, and allowed the latter to languish in one
during more than seventeen years, and in all probability she
would have ended her days without receiving the slightest mark
of his recollection of his unfortunate relative. I know no trait
of base selfishness more truly revolting than the one I have
But this story has led me far from the subject I was previously
commencing: this narrative, which I never call to mind without a
feeling of pleasure, has led me away in spite of myself. Still I
trust that my narrative has been sufficiently interesting to induce
you to pardon the digression it has occasioned, and now I will
resume the thread of my discourse.
A conspiracy--A scheme for poisoning madame du Barry--The four
bottles--Letter to the duc d'Aiguillon--Advice of the ministers--
Opinion of the physicians--The chancellor and lieutenant of
police--Resolution of the council
Have you any curiosity to learn the denouement of the story I
was telling you of my anonymous correspondent? Read what follows,
then, and your wishes shall be gratified: that is, if you have
patience to hear a rather long story; for I cannot promise you
that mine will very speedily be completed. Let me see: where
did I leave off? Oh, I recollect.
I was telling you that madame de Mirepoix urged me to repair, as
I was requested, to the Baths of Apollo. I had a key which opened
all the park gates; we entered the park, took the path which turns
off to the left, and after having walked for about five minutes,
found ourselves opposite the person we were in search of. It
was a female of from thirty to forty years of age, of diminutive
stature, dressed after the fashion of the
day, but still an air of good taste was evident through the
simplicity of her attire. Her countenance must once have been
handsome, if one might judge by the beauty of her eyes and mouth,
but she was pale, withered and already impressed with the traces
of a premature old age. But her beauties, although faded, were
still animated by a quick and ever-varying expression of a keen
and lively wit.
Whilst I made these hasty remarks the stranger saluted me, and
afterwards the marechale de Mirepoix, with a ease of manner
which perfectly surprised me. Nor did she in any other instance
betray the embarrassment of a person who finds herself for the
first time in the presence of persons of a rank superior to her own.
"Madam," she said, addressing herself to me, "I trust you will
pardon me for having given you the trouble of coming hither; I
might have spared it you, had your people permitted me to see
you when I called at your house yesterday."
"Your invitation," replied I, "was so pressingly enforced, that I
confess my curiosity has been most keenly awakened."
"I will immediately satisfy it," answered she, " but what I have
to say must be told to yourself alone."
"Well, then," said the marechale, "I will leave you for the
present: I am going to admire that fine group of Girardon"; and
so saying, she quitted the walk in which I was standing.
Directly she was gone the stranger said to me, "Madam, I will
explain myself without reserve or unnecessary prolixity; I beseech
of you to listen attentively whilst I tell you, in the first place,
that both your life and that of the king is in imminent danger."
"Heavens!" cried I, " what do I hear?"
"That which I well know to be true," answered the female, with
a firm voice; "I repeat that your life and that of the king is
These words, pronounced in a low, solemn voice, froze me with
terror; my limbs tottered under me, and I almost sank to the
ground. The stranger assisted me to a bench, offered me her arm,
and when she saw me a little recovered, she continued,
"Yes, madam, a conspiracy is afoot against yourself and Louis XV.
You are to be made away with out of revenge, and Louis XV is to
suffer, in the hopes of his death effecting a change in the
present face of affairs."
"And who," inquired I, "are the conspirators?"
'The Jesuits and parliamentarians; these ancient rivals, equally
persecuted by the royal government, have determined to make
common cause against their mutual foe. The Jesuits flatter
themselves that the dauphin inherits the kind feelings entertained
by his father for their order, and the parliamentarians justly
reckon upon the friendly disposition of the young prince towards
the old magistracy. Both parties equally flatter themselves that
a fresh reign would bring about their re-establishment, and they
are impatient to accelerate so desirable an event: the conspiracy
is directed by four Jesuits and the same number of the ex-members
of the parliament of Paris. The remainder of the two corporations
are not initiated in the secret of the enterprise. I am not able
at present to give you the names of the eight conspirators, the
person from whom I derive my information not having as yet
confided them even to myself, but I trust ere long to obtain such
a mark of confidence."
The female ceased speaking, and I remained in a state of doubt,
fear, and alarm, impossible to describe. Still one thing appeared
clear to me, that information so mysteriously conveyed was not
deserving of belief, unless supported by more corroborating
testimony. My unknown friend evidently divined all that was
passing in my mind, for she observed,
"I perceive that my recital appears to you improbable; one
particular which I will state may perhaps overcome your
incredulity. Are you not in the habit, madam, of taking every
"I am," replied I.
"This day," continued my informant, "you will receive four bottles
of orange-flower water contained in a box bearing the usual
appearances of having come from the perfumers', but it is sent
by other hands, and the liquor contained in the flasks is mingled
with a deadly poison."
These last words made me tremble. "You must complete your kind
offices," cried I to my visitor, "by bringing me acquainted with
the person from whom you have derived your intelligence: that
individual must be acquainted with the whole of the plot; and,
believe me, I will not be unmindful of either of you."
"Stay one instant," replied the lady, without evincing the slightest
emotion; "the man who was my informant is assuredly aware of the
names of those concerned in the conspiracy, but he has charged
me not to state who he is but upon certain conditions; a
recommendation I shall most certainly attend to."
"Be assured," interrupted I, "that your demands shall be acceded
to; you shall yourself fix the price of your entire disclosure of
every fact connected with the business."
"It will not be an exorbitant one," replied the lady; "merely
600,000 francs, to be equally divided between the friend you
desire to know and myself; for this sum, which is not a very
large one, you may command the services of both of us. One word
more, madam, and I am gone. Observe a strict silence upon all I
have told you; or, if you must have a counsellor in such perilous
circumstances, confide merely in some tried friend; say the duc
d'Aiguillon or the chancellor, or both should you deem it necessary;
but have a care how you admit a third to a participation of the
affair; you could scarcely select another person without choosing
one already corrupted by your enemies. It is said that they are
in correspondence with even those persons immediately about the
person of the king. Adieu, madam; I will see you at your own
apartments the day after to-morrow, when I trust you will have
ready 100,000 francs, on account of the 600,000 I have stipulated for."
So saying, she curtsied and left me, overcome with surprise. A
thousand fearful ideas pressed upon my brain, and my heart sickened
at the long train of gloomy images which presented themselves. I
had had sufficient proofs since my elevation of the deadly hatred
borne me by those whom my good fortune had rendered my enemies:
yet, hitherto, my strongest apprehensions had never been directed
to anything more terrible than being supplanted in the favor of the
king, or being confined in my chateau du Lucienne. The horrible
ideas of murder, poison, or assassination by any means, had never
presented themselves to me. All at once I recollected the young
man in the garden of the Tuileries; his predictions of my future
greatness had been accomplished. He had also announced to me
fearful vicissitudes, and had threatened to appear to me when
these catastrophes were about to occur. Doubtless he would keep
his word; now was the time for so doing, and I timidly glanced
around as I caught the sound of a slight rustle among the branches,
fully expecting to see my young prophet; but the figure which met
my eye was that of madame de Mirepoix, who, tired of waiting,
had come to rejoin me.
'What! "said she, "are you alone? I did not observe your visitor
leave you. Did she vanish into air?"
"Very possibly," answered I.
"So then," replied the marechale, "she proved a fairy, or some
"If she were a spirit," said I, "it certainly was not to the better
sort she belonged."
"Have a care," cried the marechale; "I have already formed a
thousand conjectures as to what this woman has been telling."
"And all your suppositions," replied I, "would fall short of the
reality. Listen, my dear marechale," added I, rising, and taking
her arm to proceed homewards, "I have been strictly prohibited
from admitting any counsellor but the duc d'Aiguillon and the
chancellor; still I can have no reserves with you, who I know,
from the regard you bear both to the king and myself, will advise
me to the best of your power."
As we walked towards the chateau, I explained to my companion
the joint conspiracy of the Jesuits and ancient members of the
parliament against the king's life and my own. When I had ceased
speaking, she replied,
"All this is very possible; despair may conduct the Jesuits and
parliamentarians to the greatest extremities; but still this
mysterious female may be nothing more than an impostor. At any
rate, I am anxious to learn whether the box she described has been
left at your house; if so, it will be a strong corroboration, if
not, a convincing proof of the falsehood of what she asserts."
We had by this time reached the bottom of the staircase which
conducted to my apartments; we ascended the stairs rapidly, and
the first person I met in the anteroom was Henriette.
"Henriette," said I, "has any thing been brought for me during
"Nothing except a box of orange-flower water from Michel the
perfumer's, which I presume you ordered, madam."
A glance of mutual surprise and consternation passed between the
marechale and myself. We entered my chamber, where madame de
Mirepoix opened the fatal box; it contained the four bottles
exactly as had been described. We regarded each other in profound
silence, not daring to communicate our reflections. However, it
was requisite to take some steps, and, catching up a pen, I hastily
wrote the following billet to the duc d'Aiguillon,
"MONSIEUR LE DUC,-- Whatever may be the affairs
with which you are at present occupied, I pray of
you to throw them aside, and hasten to me instantly
upon receipt of this. Nothing can equal in importance
the subject upon which I wish to see you; I cannot
now explain myself fully, but prepare for news of
the most horrible description, and it refers to the
safety and preservation of the most valuable life
in the kingdom. I cannot delay time by writing
more; I can only beseech of you not to lose one
moment in obeying this summons. Adieu; fail not
to come and bring me back this note."
The duke hastened to me full of terror and alarm.
"Your letter has really frightened me," said he; "what can be the
matter? Surely the life of his majesty is not in danger?"
"Too truly is it," answered I; "but sit down, and you shall know
all the affair. The marechale is already aware of the matter
and need not withdraw."
The duke listened with extreme attention to the recital of my
interview in the grove surrounding the Baths of Apollo, as well
as to the account of the discourse I had held there with the
strange female. I endeavoured to relate the conversation as
minutely and accurately as possible, but still the duke sought
further particulars. He inquired the style of countenance, dress,
manner, and tone of voice possessed by the
might have supposed, by the closeness of his questions, that he
already fancied he had identified this mysterious personage: he
then examined the box, which stood on the table, and remarked,
"This is a very serious affair, nor can I undertake the management
of it alone; it involves a too great responsibility. Spite of the
lady's assertions, I am confident the fullest confidence might
be placed in all the ministers. However, I will first have a
conference with M. de Saint-Florentin and the chancellor, in
whose presence I will send for the lieutenant of police; and the
contents of these bottles shall be immediately analyzed."
The duke, without quitting me, wrote immediately to his two
colleagues as well as to M. de Sartines, requesting this latter
to repair to my apartment without delay. One of the ministers
summoned by M. d'Aiguillon was not at that moment at Versailles,
having left at an early hour in the morning for Paris. Neither
he nor M. de Sartines could possibly be with us before eight
o'clock in the evening; it was therefore agreed to adjourn our
conference till their arrival. Meanwhile M. d'Aiguillon, the
marechale, and myself, remained in a state of the most cruel
anxiety. The duke first blamed me for not having caused the
woman to be arrested, and afterwards he confessed to the marechale,
that perhaps it was better the conspiracy should be allowed time
to ripen into maturity. Daring this time the liquid contained
in the four bottles was being decomposed: M. Quesnay, first
physician, Messrs. Thiebault and Varennes, visiting physicians,
M. de la Martiniere, counsellor of state, surgeon to his majesty,
as well as Messrs. Ducor and Prost, apothecaries to his majesty,
had been collected together for this purpose by the duc d'Aiguillon.
These gentlemen came to report the termination of their experiments
at the very moment when the chancellor and lieutenant of police
entered the room; the duc de la Vrilliere had preceded them by
about five minutes; the duc d'Aiguillon requested these gentlemen
to be seated. The doctors Quesnay and la Martiniere were
introduced, and desired to make known the result of their operations.
My newly-arrived guests, who as yet understood nothing of what
was going on, were struck with astonishment at hearing it said,
that the four bottles of orange-flower water contained a
considerable proportion of a most active poison, of which a few
drops would be sufficient to cause instantaneous death. Having
thus executed their commission, the medical gentlemen bowed
M. d'Aiguillon then explained to my wondering friends the horrible
affair which had occasioned their being sent for so hastily. I
cannot tell you what effect this disclosure produced on M. de la
Vrilliere or M. de Maupeou, my whole attention being fixed upon
M. de Sartines. You may suppose that a lieutenant of police,
particularly one who piqued himself upon knowing every thing,
could not feel very much at his ease, when each word that was
uttered convicted him either of incapacity or negligence. His
brow became contracted, he hemmed, choked, fidgeted about, and
appeared as though he would have given every thing in the world f
or liberty to justify himself, but etiquette forbade it, and he
was only permitted to speak after the secretaries of state then
present, or if called upon by either of them.
When M. d'Aiguillon had ceased speaking, the chancellor in his
turn took up the conversation. M. de Maupeou was by nature cold
and sarcastic, delighting in annoying any person; but, on the
present occasion, the ill-nature inherent in him was still excited
by the decided hatred he bore to the unfortunate M. de Sartines.
He began by saying, that the conspiracy was evident, and was
easily explained by the state of exasperation in which the Jesuits
and parliamentarians now were; both orders looking for no other
prospect of amendment in their condition than such as might arise
from some sudden convulsion of the kingdom. He expressed his
opinion of the necessity of instituting a rigorous inquiry into the
conduct of these two bodies; and then, turning to M. de Sartines,
whose cheek grew pale at the movement, he charged him to lay
before the council all those particulars which he must necessarily
possess as head of the police, either respecting the present plot,
or relating to any of the ancient members of parliament or the
order of Jesuits.
This was a dagger to the heart of M. de Sartines, who in vain
sought to frame a suitable reply: but what could he say? He did
not in reality possess any of the information for which he had
received credit, and after many awkward endeavours at explaining
himself, he was compelled frankly to confess, that he knew not a
word more of the conspiracy than he had just then heard.
It was now the turn of M. de la Vrilliere to speak. He also
would fain have attacked the unfortunate lieutenant of police;
but, whether M. de Maupeou thought that his own correction had
been sufficiently strong, or whether he begrudged any other
person interfering with his vengeance upon his personal foe, he
abruptly interrupted the tirade of M. de la Vrilliere, by observing,
that a conspiracy conducted by only eight persons might very
possibly escape the eye of the police; but, furnished as it now
was with so many circumstances and particulars, it was impossible
that the plot should any longer defy their vigilant researches.
M. d'Aiguillon fully concurred in this observation, and M. de
Sartines, recovered in some measure from his first alarm, promised
every thing they could desire; and it was finally arranged that
the police should this night use every precautionary measure in
Paris, and that the officers of the guard should receive orders
to redouble their zeal and activity in watching the chateau; and
that when the unknown female called again on me, she should be
conducted by madame de Mirepoix to the duc d'Aiguillon, who
would interrogate her closely.
These measures decided on, the council broke up, and I went to
receive the king, who was this evening to do me the favour of
taking his supper in my apartments.
Conclusion of this affair -A letter from the incognita--Her
examination--Arrest of Cabert the Swiss--He dies in the Bastille of
poison--Madame Lorimer is arrested and poisoned--The innocence
of the Jesuits acknowledged--Madame de Mirepoix and the
100,000 francs--Forgetfulness on the part of the lieutenant of
police--A visit from comte Jean--Madame de Mirepoix
M. de Sartines did not sleep on his post, but his researches were
fruitless; and, on the following day, three successive messengers
came to announce to us that they had as yet made no discovery.
The day passed without bringing any fresh intelligence, and our
anxiety increased daily. At length arrived the period fixed for
the visit of the
with an impatience impossible to describe. About mid-day a note
was brought me; I instantly recognized the writing as that of my
mysterious friend, and hastily breaking the seal, read as follows:
"MADAM,--I must entreat your pardon for breaking
the appointment for to-day, imperative duties still
detain me in Paris.
"Since our last interview I have been unceasingly
occupied in endeavouring to discover the names of
the eight persons of whom I spoke to you, and, I
am sorry to say, I have but partially succeeded.
The person who has hitherto furnished me with my
information obstinately refuses to state who are
the parliamentarians concerned in the conspiracy.
I am, however, enabled to forward you the names
of the four Jesuits, with some few particulars relating
to these worthy fathers.
"The Jesuits in question are Messrs. Corbin,
Berthier, Cerulti, and Dumas; the first of whom
was employed in the education of the dauphin,
the second and the third are sufficiently known;
as for the fourth, he is a bold and enterprising
Parisian, capable of conceiving and executing the
most daring schemes. Whilst the order remained
in possession of power he had no opportunity of
displaying his extraordinary talents, and consequently
he obtained but a trifling reputation; but since its
banishment he has become its firmest support and
principal hope. All the treasures of the brotherhood
are at his disposal, and I learn, that the day
before yesterday he received a considerable sum
"This intrepid and daring spirit is the very soul
of the conspiracy; he it is who conceived the
plan and set the whole machine in action. It would
be effectually extinguished could we but once
secure him, but this is by no means an easy task;
he has no fixed abode; never sleeps two nights
following in the same home; one day he may be
found in one part of Paris and the next at the very
opposite corner; he changes his manner of dress
as frequently as he does his abode.
"I shall have the honour of seeing you to-morrow
or the day after at furthest. Meanwhile lay aside
all uneasiness for his majesty's safety: I pledge
you my word he is for the present in perfect
security. The execution of the plot is still
deferred for the want of a Damiens sufficiently
sanguinary to undertake the task.
"Deign, madam, to accept the assurance of my
sincere devotion, and believe that I will neglect
no opportunity of affording you proofs of it.
"Yours, madam, etc., etc."
I immediately communicated this letter to the duc d'Aiguillon, who
convoked a fresh meeting of the persons who had been present on
the preceding day. It was at first deliberated whether or not to
arrest the whole body of Jesuits then in Paris, but this, although
the advice of M. d'Aiguillon, was by no means approved of by the
chancellor. M. de Sartines and M. de la Vrilliere were for
carrying the idea into execution, but the objections of M. de
Maupeou were too powerful to be overruled, and the scheme was for
the present abandoned. The chancellor maintained that the other
conspirators, warned of their own, danger by the seizure of their
friends, would either escape the vengeance of the laws by flight
or by close confinement in their houses; he greatly dreaded as
it was, that his foes, the parliamentarians, would avoid the
punishment he longed to inflict on them. Indeed, in his estimation,
it seemed as though every measure would be anticipated so long as
the female, who seemed so intimately acquainted with their design,
was at liberty; and this last opinion was unanimously concurred in.
All the delays greatly irritated me, and rendered my impatience
to witness the termination of the affair greater than it had ever
been. The stranger had promised to make her appearance on the
following day; it passed away, however, without my hearing anything
of her. On the day following she came; I immediately sent to
apprize M. d'Aiguillon, who, with M. de la Vrilliere and the
chancellor, entered my apartments ere the lady had had time to
commence the subject upon which she was there to speak. This
unexpected appearance did not seem to disconcert her in the least,
nor did her
fail her. She reproached me for having intrusted the secret to so
many persons, but her reproof was uttered without bitterness, and
merely as if she feared lest my indiscretion might compromise our
safety. She was overwhelmed with questions, and the chancellor
interrogated her with the keenest curiosity; but to all the inquiries
put to her she replied with a readiness and candour which surprised
the whole party. She was desired to give the names of those
engaged in the conspiracy, as well as of him who first informed
her of it. She answered that her own name was Lorimer, that she
was a widow living upon her own property. As for the man, her
informant, he was a Swiss, named Cabert, of about thirty years of
age, and had long been her intimate friend: however, the embarrassed
tone with which she pronounced these last words left room for the
suspicion, that he had been something dearer to her than a friend.
She was then urged to give up the names of the four parliamentarians,
but she protested that she had not yet been able to prevail on
Cabert to confide them to her, that she was compelled to use the
utmost circumspection in her attempts at discovering the facts
already disclosed, but flattered herself she should yet succeed
in gaining a full and unreserved disclosure. M. de Maupeou
encouraged her, by every possible argument, to neglect no means
of arriving at so important a discovery.
The examination over, and the 100,000 francs she had demanded
given to her, she retired, but followed at a distance by a number
of spies, who were commissioned to watch her slightest movement.
Cabert, the Swiss, was arrested in a furnished lodging he occupied
in rue Saint Roch, and sent without delay to Versailles, where, as
before, M. d'Aiguillon with his two colleagues waited in my study
to receive and question the prisoner. Cabert was a young and
handsome man, whose countenance bore evident marks of a dissolute
and profligate life. He confessed, without any difficulty, that
his only means of gaining a livelihood were derived from the
generosity of a female friend, but when he was pressed upon the
subject of the conspiracy, he no longer replied with the same
candour, but merely answered in short and impatient negatives
the many questions put to him, accompanied with fervent
protestations of innocence; adding, that implacable enemies had
fabricated the whole story, only that they might have an opportunity
of wreaking their vengeance, by implicating him in it.
"Accuse not your enemies," cried I, for the first time mingling
in the conversation, "but rather blame your benefactress; it is
madame Lorimer who has denounced you, and far from intending to
harm you by so doing, she purposes dividing with you the 100,000
livres which are to reward her disclosures."
I easily found, by the frowning looks directed towards me by the
three gentlemen present, that I had been guilty of great imprudence
in saying so much; but Cabert, wringing his hands, uttered, with
the most despairing accent,
"I am lost! and most horribly has the unfortunate woman
"What would you insinuate?"
"That I am the victim of an enraged woman," replied he.
He afterwards explained, that he had been the lover of madame
Lorimer, but had become wearied of her, and left her in consequence;
that she had violently resented this conduct; and, after having
in vain sought to move him by prayers and supplications, had
tried the most horrible threats and menaces. "I ought not indeed,"
continued he, "to have despised these threats, for well I knew
the fiendlike malice of the wretched creature, and dearly do I
pay for my imprudence, by falling into the pit she has dug for me."
In vain we endeavoured to induce him to hold a different language.
He persisted with determined obstinacy in his first statement;
continually protesting his own innocence, and loading the author
of his woes with bitter imprecations. It was deemed impossible
to allow this man to go at large; accordingly M. de la Vrilliere
lodging in the Bastille. It was afterwards deemed advisable to
put him to the torture, but the agonies of the rack wrung from him
no deviation from, or contradiction of, what he had previously alleged.
The affair had now become mysterious and inexplicable. However,
a speedy termination was most imperatively called for; if it
were permitted to become generally known, it could not fail of
reaching the ears of the king, whose health was daily declining;
and M. de Quesnay had assured us, that in his present languid
state, the shock produced by news so alarming, might cause his
Whilst we remained in uncertainty as to our mode of proceeding
in the business, Cabert, the Swiss, three days after his admission
into the Bastille, expired in the most violent convulsions. His
body was opened, but no trace of poison could be discovered: our
suspicions were however awakened, and what followed confirmed them.
Madame Lorimer was arrested. She protested that she had been
actuated by no feelings of enmity against her unfortunate lover,
whom she had certainly reproached for having expended the money
she furnished him with in the society of other females, and to the
anger which arose between herself and Cabert on the occasion
could she alone ascribe his infamous calumnies respecting her;
that, for her own part, she had never ceased to love him, and, as
far as she knew, that feeling was reciprocal; and, in betraying
the conspiracy, her principal desire, next to the anxious hope of
preserving the king, was to make the fortune of Cabert. She
was confined in the Bastille, but she did not long remain within
its walls; for at the end of a fortnight she died of an inflammatory
disease. Her death was marked by no convulsions, but the traces
of poison were evident.
These two violent deaths occurring so immediately one after
another (as not the slightest doubt existed that Cabert had
likewise died of poison) threw the ministers into a sad state of
perplexity. But to whom could they impute the double crime
unless to some accomplice, who dreaded what the unhappy prisoners
might be tempted to reveal. Yet the conduct of the Jesuitical
priests stated by madame Lorimer to be the principal ring-leaders
in the plot, although exposed to the most rigorous scrutiny,
offered not the slightest grounds for suspicion. Neither did
their letters (which were all intercepted at the various post-houses)
give any indication of a treasonable correspondence.
M. de Sartines caused the private papers of the suspected parties
to be opened during their owners' absence, without discovering
anything which could compromise their character. I am speaking,
however, of the fathers Corbin, Berthier, and Cerulti, for all our
efforts could not trace father Dumas throughout all Paris. Nor
was the innocence of the parliamentarians less evident; they vented
their hatred against the ministry, and particularly against M. de
Maupeou, in pamphlets, couplets, and epigrams, both in French and
Latin, but they had no idea of conspiracies or plots.
And thus terminated an affair, which had caused so much alarm,
and which continued for a considerable period to engage the
attention of ministers. How was the mystery to be cleared up?
The poisoned orange-flower water, and the sudden deaths of the
two prisoners, were facts difficult to reconcile with the no less
undeniable innocence of the three accused Jesuits. The whole
business was to me an incomprehensible mass of confusion, in
which incidents the most horrible were mingled. At last we
agreed that the best and only thing to be done was to consign
the affair to oblivion; but there were circumstances which did
not so easily depart from the recollection of my excellent friend,
the marechale de Mirepoix. "My dear soul," said she to me one
day, "have you ever inquired what became of the 100,000 livres
given to madame Lorimer? she had no time to employ them in any
way before her imprisonment in the Bastille. You ought to inquire
into what hands they have fallen."
I fully comprehended the drift of this question, which I put to
M. de Sartines the first time I saw him.
"Bless me," exclaimed he, "you remind me that these 100,000
livres have been lying in a drawer in my office. But I have such
a terrible memory."
"Happily," replied I, "I have a friend whose memory is as good
as yours seems defective upon such occasions. It will not be
wise to permit such a sum to remain uselessly in your office: at
the same time I need not point out that you, by your conduct in
the late affair, have by no means earned a right to them."
He attempted to justify himself; but, interrupting him, I exclaimed,
"My good friend, you have set up a reputation of your own creating
and inventing; and well it is you took the office upon yourself
for no one else would have done it for you; but you perceive how
frail have been its foundations; for the moment you are compelled
to stand upon your own resources you faint, and are easily overcome."
He endeavoured to make a joke of the affair, but indeed it seemed
to accord as ill with his natural inclination as did the restitution
of the 100,000 livres. However, he brought them to me the
following day, and as I was expecting the arrival of madame de
Mirepoix, I placed them in a porcelain vase which stood upon my
chimney-piece. Unfortunately for the marechale, comte Jean
presented himself before she did. He came to inform me, that my
husband (of whose quitting Toulouse I had forgotten to tell you)
had again arrived in Paris. I did not disguise the vexation which
this piece of intelligence excited in me.
"And wherefore has comte Guillaume returned to Paris?"
inquired I, angrily.
"Because he is afraid."
"Afraid of what?" replied I.
"Of being murdered," answered comte Jean: "it is a most horrible
and authentic story. Imagine to yourself the dangers of his
situation: some brigands, who have a design on his life, have
written him an anonymous billet, in which they protest they will
certainly murder him, unless he deposits 50,000 livres in a certain
place. You may suppose his terror; money he had none, neither
was his credit sufficiently good to enable him to borrow any.
As a last and only chance, he threw himself into a carriage, and
hastened, tremblingly, to implore your assistance."
"And I am quite certain you will not withhold yours from him,"
"You are perfectly right," cried he, "but unfortunately just now
I have not a single crown I can call my own; so that it rests
with you alone, my dearest sister, to save the life of this
hapless comte du Barry."
"I am extremely distressed, my dear brother-in-law," replied I,
"that I am just as poor, and as unable to afford the necessary
aid as yourself; my purse is quite empty."
"Faith, my dear sister-in-law, I am not surprised at that if you
convert a china vase into a receptacle for your bank notes."
Saying this, he drew a bundle of notes from the hiding-place in
which I had deposited them. "Do you know," continued comte
Jean, "I really think we shall find money enough here." He began
to count them: and when he had finished he said, "My dear sister,
neither your husband nor myself wish to importune you, or put
you to any inconvenience, therefore you shall merely oblige him
with the loan of these 50,000 livres to extricate him from his
present peril; they shall be faithfully and quickly restored to
you, and a note of hand given you for that purpose if you desire
it." So saying, he divided the money into two parts, replaced
one in the vase, and pocketed the other.
I was very indignant at the cool impudence with which this was
done, and my patience had well nigh forsaken me: however, I
restrained myself; and I was happy enough that I could so far
conquer myself. My reproaches would not have induced comte Jean
to give me back my money, and would only have roused his violence;
which, when once excited, found vent in language so vehement and
energetic, that I did not desire to hear any more of it than I
could help. At these moments he selected not the politest expressions,
but those which were the strongest: and besides, such was the
ungovernable nature of comte Jean's temper, that once roused, he
would have treated the king himself with as little consideration
as he did me. Still, he never deliberately insulted me, nor did
he compose those insulting verses respecting me, which were printed
as his, in "
have been an indignity I would quickly have caused him to repent
"Well," inquired I, "are you very glad to see your brother in Paris?"
'No, 'pon my soul!" returned he; "but since he is here, we must
do the best we can with him; he was very anxious to see his
sister-in-law and niece. He says the former is ugly as sin, and
the latter almost as handsome as you."
"Very gallant," replied I; "but tell me, comte Jean, does this
elegant compliment proceed from my husband or yourself?"
We were just then interrupted by the arrival of the marechale,
and comte Jean retired.
"Well, my dear," she began, "have you seen M. de Sartines, and
did you speak to him respecting those 100,000 livres?"
"Oh, yes," replied I, "he gave them back to me; but I have
already had half of them stolen from me."
"By comte Jean, I'll engage," cried she. "Upon my word, that
man is a perfect spendthrift, a prodigal; who, if you do not take
great care, will certainly ruin you. And what will you do with
the remaining 50,000 livres, my dear friend; where will you
"In your hands, my dear marechale; 'tis his majesty's command."
"To that command," answered she, "I must perforce submit"; and,
taking the bundle of notes, she continued, "Assure his majesty
that it will ever be my greatest pride and pleasure to obey his
slightest wish. My respect for his orders can only be equalled
by my tender friendship for her who is the bearer of the royal
mandate." Then, deliberately putting the money in her pocket,
she exclaimed, "You must own that comte Jean is a great rogue."
endeavours to direct the king's ideas--A supper at Trianon--Table
talk--The king is seized with illness--His conversation with me--The
joiner's daughter and the small-pox--My despair--Conduct of La
Martiniere the surgeon
I had occasionally some unaccountable whims and caprices. Among
other follies I took it into my head to become jealous of the
duchesse de Cosse, under the idea that the duke would return to
her, and that I should no longer possess his affections. Now the
cause of this extravagant conduct was the firmness with which
madame de Cosse refused all overtures to visit me, and I had
really become so spoiled and petted, that I could not be brought
to understand the reasonableness of the duchesse de Cosse refusing
to sanction her rival by her presence.
Yon may perceive that I had not carried my heroic projects with
regard to madame de Cosse into execution. Upon these occasions,
the person most to be pitied was the duke, whom I made answerable
for the dignified and virtuous conduct of his wife. My injustice
drove him nearly to despair, and he used every kind and sensible
argument to convince me of my error, as though it had been possible
for one so headstrong and misguided as myself to listen to or
comprehend the language of reason. I replied to his tender and
beseeching epistles by every cutting and mortifying remark; in a
word, all common sense appeared to have forsaken me. Our quarrel
was strongly suspected by part of the court; but the extreme
prudence and forbearance of M. de Cosse prevented their suppositions
from ever obtaining any confirmation. But this was not the only
subject I had for annoyance. On the one hand, my emissaries
informed me that the king still continued to visit the baroness de
New---k, although with every appearance of caution and mystery,
by the assistance and connivance of the duc de Duras, who had
given me his solemn promise never again to meddle with the
likewise with a long account of the many visits paid by his
majesty to her establishment. The fact was, the king could not
be satisfied without a continual variety, and his passion, which
ultimately destroyed him, appeared to have come on only as he
advanced in years.
All these things created in my mind an extreme agitation and an
alarm, and, improbable as the thing appeared even to myself, there
were moments when I trembled lest I should be supplanted either
by the baroness or some -fresh object of the king's caprice; and
again a cold dread stole over me as I anticipated the probability
of the health of Louis XV falling a sacrifice to the irregularity
of his life. It was well known throughout the chateau, that La
Martiniere, the king's surgeon, had strongly recommended a very
temperate course of life, as essentially necessary to recruit his
constitution, wasted by so many excesses, and had even gone so
far as to recommend his no longer having a mistress; this the
courtiers construed into a prohibition against his possessing a
friend of any other sex than his own; for my own part, I
experienced very slight apprehensions of being dismissed, for I
well knew that Louis XV reckoned too much on my society to
permit my leaving the court, and if one, the more tender, part
of our union were dissolved, etiquette could no longer object to
my presence. Still the advice of La Martiniere was far from
giving me a reason for congratulation, but these minor grievances
were soon to be swallowed up in one fatal catastrophe, by which
the honours, and pleasures of Versailles were for ever torn from me.
subordinate members of that establishment might bring me intimation
of what was going on there without her cognizance, came one day
to apprize me that his majesty had fallen desperately in love
with a young orphan of high birth, whom chance had conducted
within the walls of her harem; that to an extraordinary share of
beauty, Julie (for that was the name of my rival) united the most
insatiate ambition; her aims were directed to reducing the king
into a state of the most absolute bondage," and he," said madame,
"bids fair to become all that the designing girl would have him."
Julie feigned the most violent love for her royal admirer, nay
she did not hesitate to carry her language and caresses far
beyond the strict rules of decency; her manners were those of one
accustomed to the most polished society, whilst her expressions
were peculiarly adapted to please one who, like the king, had a
peculiar relish for every thing that was indecent or incorrect.
His majesty either visited her daily or sent for her to the
chateau. I heard likewise from M. d'Aiguillon, that the king
had recently given orders that the three uncles and two brothers
of Julie should be raised by rapid promotion to the highest
military rank; at the same time the grand almoner informed me
he had received his majesty's express command to appoint a cousin
of the young lady to the first vacant bishopric.
These various reports threw me into a train of painful and uneasy
reflections. Louis XV. had never before bestowed such marks of
favour upon any
Chamilly interrupted my meditations, by presenting himself with
an account of his having been commissioned by his majesty to
cause a most splendid suit of diamonds to be prepared for
mademoiselle Julie, the king not considering any jewels of Paris
worthy her acceptance. By way of a finish to all this, I learned
that two ladies, one of whom was a duchess, had openly boasted
at Versailles of their relationship to Julie. This was a more
decided corroborative than all the rest. Courtiers of either
sex are skilful judges of the shiftings of the wind of court
favour, and I deemed it high time to summon my brother-in-law
to my assistance, as well as to urge him to exert his utmost
energies to support my tottering power.
My communication tormented comte Jean as much as it did me; he
proposed several means of combating this rising inclination on the
part of Louis XV. I assented to whatever he suggested, and we set
to work with an eagerness, increased on my part by a species of
gloomy presentiment, which subsequent events but too fatally
confirmed. The marechale de Mirepoix, who, from being on good
terms with every person, was sure to be aware of all that was going
on, spoke to me also of this rival who was springing up in
obscurity and retirement; and it was from the same source I
learned what I have told you of the two ladies of the court. She
advised me not to abandon myself to a blind confidence, and this
opinion was strengthened when I related all I had gathered upon
"You may justly apprehend," said she, "that Julie will instil some
of her bold and fearless nature into the king, and should she
presume to put herself in competition with you, victory would in
all probability incline to the side of the last comer"; and I felt
but too truly that the marechale spoke with truth.
A few days after this, the king being alone with me, comte Jean
entered. After the usual salutations, he exclaimed, "I have just
seen a most lovely creature."
"Who is she?" inquired his majesty, hastily.
"No high-born dame," answered comte Jean, "but the daughter of a
cabinet-maker at Versailles; I think I never beheld such
"Always excepting present company," replied the king.
"Assuredly," rejoined my brother-in-law, "but, sire, the beauteous
object of whom I speak is a nymph in grace, a sylph in airy
lightness, and an angel in feature."
"Comte Jean seems deeply smitten indeed, madam," exclaimed
Louis XV, turning towards me.
"Not I indeed," replied my brother-in-law, "my lovemaking days
"Oh! oh!" cried the king, smiling, "
"What does your majesty say?" inquired I.
"Nay, let the comte explain," cried Louis XV.
"The king observed, my dear sister," answered comte Jean, "that
ladies--but, in fact, I can neither explain the observation, nor
was it intended for you--so let it rest."
He continued for some time to jest with comte Jean upon his
supposed passion for the fair daughter of the cabinet-maker; and
the king, whilst affecting the utmost indifference, took every
pains to obtain the fullest particulars as to where this peerless
beauty might be found.
When my brother-in-law and myself were alone, he said to me,
"I played my part famously, did I not? How eagerly the bait
"Explain yourself," said I.
"My good sister, what I have said respecting this perfection of
loveliness is no fiction, neither have I at all exaggerated either
her perfections or her beauty, and I trust by her aid we shall
obliterate from the king's mind every recollection of the syren
"Heaven grant it," exclaimed I.
"My dear sister," replied comte Jean, "heaven has nothing to do
with such things."
Alas! he was mistaken, and Providence only employed the present
occasion as a means of causing us to be precipitated into the very
abyss of ruin we had dug for others. On the following morning,
Chamilly came to me to inquire whether it was my pleasure that
the present scheme should be carried into execution.
"Yes, yes,' answered I eagerly, "by all means, the more we direct
the inclinations of the king for the present, the better for him
and for us likewise."
Armed with my consent, Chamilly dispatched to the unhappy girl
been known to fail. Not that in the present instance any great
bribes were requisite, but it was necessary to employ some agent
whose specious reasoning and oily tongue should have power to
vanquish the virtuous reluctance of the victim herself, as well
as to obtain a promise of strict silence from her family. They
were soon induced to listen to their artful temptress; and the
daughter, dazzled by the glittering prospect held out to her, was
induced to accompany
was to sup, in company with the ducs d'Aiguillon and de Richelieu,
the prince de Soubise, the ducs de Cosse, de Duras, and de
Noailles, mesdames de Mirepoix, de Forcalquier, de Flaracourt, and
myself; my brother-in-law and Chon were also of the party, although
not among the number of those who sat down to supper. Their
presence was merely to keep up my spirits, and with a view to
divert me from dwelling on the presumed infidelity of the king.
We had promised ourselves a most delightful evening, and had all
come with the expectation of finding considerable amusement in
watching the countenances and conduct of those who were not aware
of the real state of the game, whilst such as were admitted into
my entire confidence, were sanguine in their hopes and expectations
of employing the simple beauty of the maiden of Versailles to
crush the aspiring views of my haughty rival of the
further intention was to request the king to portion off
mademoiselle Julie, so that she might be ever removed from again
crossing my path.
Meanwhile, by way of passing the tedious hours, I went to satisfy
my curiosity respecting those charms of which comte Jean had
spoken so highly. I found the object of so many conjectures
possessed of an uncommon share of beauty, set off, on the present
occasion, by every aid that a splendid and elaborate toilette
could impart; her features were perfect, her form tall and
symmetrical, her hair was in the richest style of luxuriance; but
by way of drawback to so many advantages, both her hands and
feet were large and coarse. I had expected to have found her
timid, yet exulting, but she seemed languid and dejected even to
indisposition. I attributed the lassitude and heaviness which
hung over her to some natural regrets for sacrificing some
youthful passion at the shrine of ambition; but I was far from
guessing the truth . Had I but suspected the real cause! but I
contented myself with a silent scrutiny, and did not (as I
should have done) question her on the subject, but passed on to
the saloon, where the guests were already assembled. The evening
passed away most delightfully; the marechale de Mirepoix excelled
herself in keeping up a continual flow of lively conversation.
Never had messieurs de Cosse and de Richelieu appeared to equal
advantage. The king laughed heartily at the many humorous tales
told, and his gaiety was the more excited, from his believing
that I was in utter ignorance of his infidelity. The champagne
was passed freely round the table, till all was one burst of
hilarious mirth. A thousand different topics were started, and
dismissed only to give way to fresh subjects more piquant than
The king, in a fit of good humour, began to relate his adventures
with madame de Grammont; but here you must pardon me, my friend,
for so entirely did his majesty give the reins to his inclination
for a plain style of language, that, although excess of prudery
formed no part of the character of any of the ladies assembled,
we were compelled to sit with our eyes fixed upon our plate or
glass, not daring to meet the glance of those near us. I have
little doubt but that Louis XV indulged himself to this extent
by a kind of mental vow to settle the affair with his confessor
at the earliest opportunity.
We were still at table when the clock struck two hours past midnight.
"Bless me! so late?" inquired the king.
"Indeed, sire," replied the marechale de Mirepoix, "your agreeable
society drives all recollection of time away."
"Then 'tis but fit I should furnish you all with memory enough
to recollect what is necessary for your own health. Come, my
friends, morning will soon call us to our different cares, so
away to your pillows."
So saying, the king bade us a friendly farewell, and retired
with the ducs de Duras and de Noailles. We remained after his
majesty, and retiring into the great saloon, threw ourselves
without any ceremony upon the different couches and ottomans.
"For my own part," said the prince de Soubise, "I shall not think
of separating from so agreeable a party till daylight warns
"The first beams of morn will soon shine through these windows,"
replied M. d'Aiguillon.
"We can already perceive the brightest rays of Aurora reflected
in the sparkling eyes around us," exclaimed M. de Cosse.
"A truce with your gallantry, gentlemen," replied madame de
Mirepoix, "at my age I can only believe myself capable of reflecting
the last rays of the setting sun."
"Hush!" interrupted madame de Forcalquier, "you forget we are
at Versailles, where age is never thought of, but where, like our
gracious sovereign, all are young."
"Come, ladies," said madame de Flaracourt, "let us retire; I for
one, plead guilty of being in need of repose."
"No, no!" replied the duc de Richelieu, "let us employ the
remaining hours in pleasing and social converse," and with a
tremulous voice he began that charming trio in "Selina and Azor,"
echoes of the palace of Louis XV resounded with the mirthful
strain. This burst of noisy mirth did not last long, and we
relapsed into increased taciturnity, spite of our endeavours to
keep up a general conversation. We were all fatigued, though
none but madame de Flaracourt would confess the fact. Tired
nature called loudly for repose, and we were each compelled to
seek it in the different apartments assigned us. The duc d'Aiguillon
alone was compelled, by the duties of his office, to return
Upon entering my chamber I found my brother-in-law there, in
the most violent fit of ill humour, that the king (who was in fact
ignorant of his being at Trianon) had not invited him to supper.
As I have before told you, comte Jean was no favourite with his
majesty, and as I had displayed no wish for his company, Louis
XV had gladly profited by my indifference to omit him upon the
present occasion. I endeavoured to justify the king, without
succeeding, however, in appeasing comte Jean, who very unceremoniously
consigned us all to the care and company of a certain old
gentleman, whose territory is supposed to lie beneath "the
round globe which we inhabit."
"I have to thank you," replied I, "for a very flattering mode of
saying 'good night.'"
"Perhaps," answered comte Jean roughly, "you would prefer--"
"Nothing from your lips if you please, my polite brother," cried
I, interrupting him, "nothing you will say in your present humour
can be at all to my taste."
Chon interfered between us, and effected a reconciliation, which
I was the more willing to listen to, that I might enjoy that sleep
my weary eye-lids craved for. Scarcely was my head on my pillow,
than I fell into a profound sleep: could I but have anticipated
to what I should awake! It was eleven o'clock on the following
morning when an immense noise of some person entering my chamber,
aroused me from the sweet slumbers I was still buried in. Vexed
at the disturbance, I inquired, in a peevish tone, "Who is there?"
"Tis I, my sister," replied Chon, "M. de Chamilly is here,
anxious to speak with you upon a matter of great importance."
Chamilly, who was close behind mademoiselle du Barry, begged
to be admitted.
"What is the matter, Chamilly? "cried I, "and what do you want?
Is mademoiselle Julie to set off into the country immediately?"
"Alas! madam," replied Chamilly, "his majesty is extremely ill."
These words completely roused me, and raising myself on my arm,
I eagerly repeated, "Ill! of what does he complain?"
"Of general and universal pain and suffering," replied Chamilly.
"And the female who was here last night, how is she?"
"Nearly as bad, madam; she arose this morning complaining of
illness and languor, which increased so rapidly, that she was
compelled to be carried to one of the nearest beds, where she
All this tormented me to the greatest degree, and I dismissed
Chamilly for the purpose of rising, although I had no distinct
idea of what it would be most desirable to say or do. My
sister-in-law, with more self-possession, suggested the propriety
of summoning Bordeu, my physician; a proposal which I at once
concurred in, more especially when she informed me, that La
Martiniere was already sent for, and hourly expected.
"1 trust," said I, "that Bouvart knows nothing of this, for I
neither approve of him as a man or a doctor."
The fact was, I should have trembled for my own power, had both
Bouvart and La Martiniere got the king into their hands. With La
Martiniere I knew very well I was no favourite; yet it was impossible
to prevent his attendance; the king would never have fancied a
prescription in which he did not concur.
Meanwhile I proceeded with my toilette as rapidly as possible,
that I might, by visiting the king, satisfy myself of the nature of
his malady. Ere I had finished dressing, my brother-in-law,
who had likewise been aroused by the mention of his majesty's
illness, entered my chamber with a gloomy look; he already saw
the greatness of the danger which threatened us, he had entirely
forgotten our quarrel of the preceding evening, but his temper
was by no means improved by the present state of things. We
had no need of explaining ourselves by words, and he continued
walking up and down the room with, his arms folded and his eyes
fixed on the floor, till we were joined by the marechale de
Mirepoix and the comtesse de Forcalquier. Madame de Flaracourt
had taken her departure at an early hour, either ignorant of
what had occurred or with the intention of being prepared for
whatever might happen.
As yet, it was but little in the power of any person to predict
the coming blow. "The king is ill," said each of us as we met.
"The king is ill," was the morning salutation of the ducs de
Richelieu, de Noailles, de Duras, and de Cosse. The prince de
Soubise had followed the example of madame de Flaracourt, and
had quitted Trianon; it seemed as though the hour for defection
were already arrived. A summons now arrived from his majesty
who wished to see me. I lost not a moment in repairing to his
apartment, where I found him in bed, apparently in much pain and
uneasiness. He received me tenderly, took my hands in his, and
kissed them; then exclaimed,
"I feel more indisposed than I can describe, a weight seems
pressing on my chest, and universal languor appears to chain my
faculties both of body and mind. I should like to see
"And would you not likewise wish to have the advice of Bordeu?"
"'Yes," said he, "let both come, they are both clever men, and
I have full confidence in their skill. But do you imagine that
my present illness will be of a serious nature?"
"By no means, sire," returned I, "merely temporary, I trust
"Perhaps I took more wine than agreed with me last evening; but
where is the marechale?"
"In my chamber with madame de Forcalquier."
"And the prince de Soubise?"
"He has taken flight," replied I, laughing.
"I suppose so," returned Louis XV, "he could not bear a long
absence from Paris; company he must have."
"In that respect he resembles you, sire, for you generally consider
company as a necessary good."
He smiled, and then closing his eyes remained for some minutes
silent and motionless, after a while he said,
"My head is very heavy, so farewell, my sweet friend, I will
endeavour to get some sleep."
"Sleep, sire!" said I, "and may it prove as healthful and
refreshing as I pray it may."
So saying, I glided out of the room and returned to my friends,
I found madame de Mirepoix and the duc de Cosse waiting for me
in the anteroom.
"How is the king?" inquired they both in a breath.
"Better than I expected," I replied, "but he is desirous
"So much the worse," observed the duc de Cosse; "I should have
thought better of his case had he been more wakeful."
"Are you aware of the most imperative step for you to take?"
inquired the marechale de Mirepoix.
"No," said I, "what is it?"
"To keep his majesty at Trianon," replied she; "it will be far
better for you that the present illness should take its course
at Trianon rather than at Versailles."
"I second that advice," cried the duc de Richelieu, who just
then entered the room; "yes, yes, as madame de Mirepoix wisely
observes, this is the place for the king to be ill in."
"But," exclaimed I, "must we not be guided by the
"Do you make sure of Bordeu," said the duke, "and I will speak
to La Martiniere."
M. de Cosse took me aside, and assured me that I might rely upon
him in life or death. When we had conversed together for some
minutes, I besought of him to leave the place as early as possible;
"Take madame de Forcalquier with you," said I, "your presence
just now at Trianon would be too much commented upon."
He made some difficulties in obeying me, but I insisted and he
went. After his departure, the duc de Richelieu, the marechale
and myself walked together in the garden. Our walk was so directed
that we could see through the colonnade every person who arrived
up the avenue. We spoke but little, and an indescribable feeling
of solemnity was mingled with the few words which passed, when,
all at once, our attention was attracted by the sight of comte
Jean, who rushed towards me in a state of frenzy.
"Accursed day," cried he, stopping when he saw us, "that wretched
girl from Versailles has brought the small-pox with her."
At this fatal news I heaved a deep sigh and fainted. I was
carried under the portico, while the poor marechale, scarcely
more in her senses than myself, stood over me weeping like a
child, while every endeavour was being made to restore me to
life. Bordeu, who chanced to be at Versailles, arrived, and
supposing it was on my account he had been summoned, hastened
to my assistance. The duc de Richelieu and comte Jean informed
him of all that had passed, upon which he requested to see the
unfortunate female immediately; while he was conducted thither,
I remained alone with the marechale and Henriette, who had come
to Trianon with my suite. My first impulse upon regaining the
use of my senses, was to throw myself in the arms of the marechale.
"What will become of me?" exclaimed I, weeping, "if the king
should take this fatal malady, he will never survive it."
"Let us hope for the best," answered madame de Mirepoix; "it
would be encouraging grief to believe a misfortune, which we have
at present no reason to suspect."
Comte Jean now rejoined us, accompanied by Bordeu and the duc de
Richelieu; their countenances were gloomy and dejected. The
miserable victim of ambition had the symptoms of the most malignant
sort of small-pox; this was a finishing stroke to my previous
alarms. However, comte Jean whispered in my ear, "Bordeu will
arrange that the king shall remain here."
This assurance restored me to something like composure; but
these hopes were speedily dissipated by the arrival of La Martiniere.
"What is the matter?" inquired he, "is the king very ill?"
"That remains for you to decide"; replied the duc de Richelieu;
"but however it may be, madame du Barry entreats of you not to
think of removing the king to Versailles."
"And why so?" asked La Martiniere, with his accustomed abruptness.
"His majesty would be much better there than here."
"He can nowhere be better than at Trianon, monsieur," said I.
"That, madam," answered La Martiniere, "is the only point upon
which you must excuse my consulting you, unless, indeed, you
are armed with a physician's diploma."
"Monsieur la Martiniere," cried the duc de Richelieu, "you might
employ more gentle language when speaking to a lady."
"Was I sent for hither," inquired the angry physician, "to go
through a course of politeness?"
For my own part I felt the utmost dread, I scarcely knew of what.
Bordeu, seeing my consternation, hastened to interfere, by saying,
"At any rate, monsieur la Martiniere, you will not alarm the
"Nor lull him into a false security," answered the determined
La Martiniere. "But what is his malady have you seen him,
"Then why do we linger here? Your servant, ladies and gentlemen."
The medical men then departed, accompanied the duc de Richelieu.
La Martiniere causes the king to be removed to Versailles--The
young prophet appears again to madame du Barry--Prediction
respecting cardinal de Richelieu--The joiner's daughter requests
to see madame du Barry--Madame de Mirepoix and the 50,000
francs--A < soiree > in the salon of madame du Barry
We continued for some minutes silently gazing on the retreating
figures of La Martiniere and his companions.
"Come," said the marechale, "let us return to the house"; saying
which, she supported herself by the arm of comte Jean, whilst I
mechanically followed her example, and sadly and sorrowfully we
bent our steps beneath the splendid colonnade which formed the
entrance to the mansion.
When I reached my chamber, I found mademoiselle du Barry there,
still ignorant of the alarming news I had just learned. She
earnestly pressed me to return to bed, but this I refused; for
my burning anxiety to learn every particular relative to the
king would have prevented my sleeping. How different was the
style of our present conversation to that of the preceding evening;
no sound of gaiety was heard; hushed alike were the witty
repartee, and the approving laugh which followed it. Now, we
spoke but by fits and starts, with eye and ear on the watch to
catch the slightest sound, whilst the most trifling noise, or the
opening of a door, made us start with trepidation and alarm.
The time appeared to drag on to an interminable length.
At last the duc de Richelieu made his appearance.
"Well, my friends," said he, "the king is to be removed to
Versailles, spite of your wishes, madam, spite of his own royal
inclination, and against mine, likewise. La Martiniere has
thundered forth his edict, and poor Bordeu opposed him in vain.
His majesty, who expresses a wish to remain here, stated his
pleasure to La Martiniere.
'"Sire,' answered the obstinate physician, 'it cannot be. You
are too ill to be permitted to take your choice in the matter,
and to the chateau at Versailles you must be removed.'
"'Your words imply my being dangerously indisposed,' said the
"'Your majesty is sufficiently ill to justify every precaution,
and to require our best cares. You must return to the chateau;
Trianon is not healthy; you will be much better at Versailles.'
"'Upon my word, doctor,' replied the king, 'your words are far
from consoling; there must be danger, then, in my present sickness?'
"'There would be considerable danger were you to remain here,
whilst it is very probable you may avoid any chance of it by
following my directions with regard to an immediate removal
"'I feel but little disposed for the journey,' said his majesty.
"'Still, your majesty must be removed, there is an absolute
necessity for it, and I take all the responsibility upon myself.'
"'What do you think of this determination, Bordeu?'
"'I think, sire, that you may be permitted to please yourself.'
"'You hear that, La Martiniere?'
"'Yes, sire, and your majesty heard my opinion likewise.' Then
turning towards Bordeu, 'Sir,' exclaimed he, 'I call upon you in
my capacity of head physician to the king, to state your opinion
in writing, and to abide by the consequences of it; you who are
not one of his majesty's physicians.'
"At this direct appeal, your doctor, driven to extremities,
adopted either the wise or cowardly resolution of maintaining a
strict silence. The king, who was awaiting his reply with much
impatience, perceiving his reluctance to speak, turned towards
the duc de Duras, who was in attendance upon him, and said, 'Let
them take me when and where my head physician advises.'"
At this recital I shed fresh tears. The duke afterwards told us
that when La Martiniere had quitted his majesty, he went to
ascertain the condition of the wretched girl who had introduced
all this uneasiness among us, and after having attentively
examined her, he exclaimed, "She is past all hope, God only
knows what the consequences may be." This gloomy prognostic
added still more to my distress, and whilst those around me strove
to communicate fresh hopes and confidence to my tortured mind,
I remained in a state too depressed and dejected to admit one,
even one ray of consolation.
The king was removed from Trianon, followed by all the persons
belonging to his suite. The marechale insisted upon deferring
her departure till I quitted the place. We set out a few minutes
after his majesty, and my coachman had orders to observe the
same slow pace at which the royal carriage travelled. Scarcely
had we reached Versailles, when mechanically directing my eyes
towards the iron gate leading to the garden, a sudden paleness
overspread my countenance, and a cry of terror escaped me, for,
leaning against the gate in question, I perceived that singular
being, who, after having foretold my elevation, had engaged to
present himself before me, when a sudden reverse was about to
overtake me. This unexpected fulfilment of his promise threw me
into the most cruel agitation, and I could not refrain from
explaining the cause of my alarm to those who were with me. No
sooner had I made myself understood than Comte Jean stopped the
carriage, and jumped out with the intention of questioning this
mysterious visitor. We waited with extreme impatience the return
of my brother- in-law, but he came back alone, nor had he been
able to discover the least trace of the object of his search. In
vain had he employed the two footmen from behind the carriage
to examine the different avenues by which he might have retired.
Nothing could be heard of him, and I remained, more than ever,
convinced that the entire fulfilment of the prophecy was at hand,
and that the fatal hour would shortly strike, which would witness
my fall from all my pomp and greatness. We continued our route
slowly and silently; the marechale accompanied me to the door of
my apartment, where I bade her adieu, spite of her wish to remain
with me; but even her society was now fatiguing to me, and I
longed to be alone with merely my own family.
My two sisters-in-law, the wife of comte d'Hargicourt and that
of my nephew, were speedily assembled to talk over with me the
events of the last twelve hours. I threw myself upon my bed in
a state of mental and bodily fatigue, impossible to describe. I
strove in vain to collect my ideas, and arm myself for what I
well saw was approaching, and the exact appearance of the singular
predicter of my destiny prepared me for the rapid accomplishing
of all that had been promised.
Louis XV, during this fatal illness, was placed under the care
of Bordeu and Lemonnier. No particularly alarming symptoms
appeared during that day, and we remained in a state of suspense
more difficult to bear than even the most dreadful certainty. As
soon as the king felt himself sufficiently recovered from the
fatigues of his removal he requested to see me. After bestowing
on me the most gratifying marks of the sincerest attachment,
"I am well punished, my dear countess, for my inconstancy towards
you, but forgive me. I pray and believe that, however my fancy
may wander, my heart is all your own."
"Is that quite true?" said I, smiling. "Have you not some
reservations? Does not a noble female in the
come in for a share as well as the baroness de New----k?"
The king pressed my hand, and replied,
"You must not believe all those idle tales; I met the baroness
by chance, and, for a time, I thought her pretty. As for the
other, if she renders you in any way uneasy, let her be married
at once, and sent where we need never see her again."
'This is, indeed, the language of sincerity," cried I, and from
this moment I shall have the fullest confidence in you."
The conversation was carried on for a long while in this strain.
The physicians had made so light of the complaint, that the king
believed his illness to be merely of a temporary nature, and his
gaiety and good spirits returned almost to their natural height.
He inquired after madame de Mirepoix, and whether my sisters-
in-law were uneasy respecting his state of health. You may
imagine that my reply was worded with all the caution necessary
to keep him in profound ignorance as to his real condition. When
I returned to my apartment I found Bordeu there, who appeared
quite at a loss what to say respecting the king's malady, the
symptoms still remained too uncertain to warrant any person in
calling it the small-pox.
"And should it prove that horrible complaint?" inquired I.
"There would, in that case, be considerable danger," replied
Bordeu, not without extreme embarrassment..
"Perhaps even to the extinction of all hope?" asked I.
"God alone can tell," returned Bordeu.
"I understand," interrupted I, quickly, "and, spite of the mystery
with which you would fain conceal the extent of his majesty's
danger, I know, and venture to assert, that you consider him
already as dead."
"Have a care, madam," exclaimed Bordeu, "how you admit such an
idea, and still more of proclaiming it. I pledge you my word that
I do not consider the king is in danger; I have seen many cures
equally extraordinary with his."
I shook my head in token of disbelief. I had uttered what I firmly
supposed the truth, and the sight of my evil genius in the person
of the prophet who had awaited my return to Versailles, turned
the encouraging words of Bordeu into a cold, heavy chill, which
struck to my heart. Bordeu quitted me to resume his attendance
upon the king. After him came the duc d'Aiguillon, whose features
bore the visible marks of care and disquiet. He met me with the
utmost tenderness and concern, asked of me the very smallest
details of the disastrous events of the morning. I concealed
nothing from him, and he listened to my recital with the most
lively interest; and the account of the apparition of the wonderful
being who seemed destined to follow me throughout my career was
not the least interesting part of our conversation.
"There are," said the duke, "many very extraordinary things in
this life, reason questions them, philosophy laughs at them, and
yet it is impossible to deny that there are various hidden causes,
or sudden inspirations, which have the greatest effect upon our
destiny. As a proof, I will relate to you the following circumstance.
You are aware," continued the duke, "that the cardinal de
Richelieu, the author of our good fortune, spite of the superiority
of his mind, believed in judicial astrology. When his own
immediate line became extinct by the unexpected death of his
family and relatives, he wished to ascertain what would be the
fate of those children belonging to his sister, whom he had
adopted as the successors of his name, arms, and fortune. The
planets were consulted, and the answer received was, that two
centuries from the day on which Providence had so highly elevated
himself, the family, upon whom rested all his hopes of perpetuating
his name, should fail entirely in its male descent. You see that
the duc de Fronsac has only one child, an infant not many days
old. I also have but one, and these two feeble branches seem
but little calculated to falsify the prediction. Judge, my dear
countess, how great must be my paternal anxiety!"
This relation on the part of the duc d'Aiguillon was but ill
calculated to restore my drooping spirits, and although I had
no reason for concluding that the astrologer had spoken
prophetically to the grand cardinal, I was not the less inclined
to believe, with increased confidence, the predictions uttered
respecting myself by my inexplicable visitor of the morning. My
ever kind friend, the duchesse d'Aiguillon, was not long ere she
too made her appearance, with the view, and in the hope of
consoling me. I could not resist her earnest endeavours to rouse
me from my grief, and a grateful sense of her goodness obliged
me to deck my features with at least the semblance of cheerfulness.
Every hour fresh accounts of the king's health were brought me,
of a most encouraging nature; by these bulletins one might naturally
suppose him rapidly recovering, and we all began to smile at our
folly in having been so soon alarmed; in fact, my spirits rose in
proportion as those about me appeared full of fresh confidence,
and the mysterious visit of my evil genius gradually faded from
In this manner the day passed away. I visited the king from
time to time, and he, although evidently much oppressed and
indisposed, conversed with me without any painful effort. His
affection for me seemed to gain fresh strength as his bodily
vigour declined, and the fervent attachment he expressed for
me, at a time when self might reasonably have been expected to
hold possession of his mind, filled me with regret at not being able
more fully to return so much tenderness. In the evening I
wished to be alone, the marechale de Mirepoix had sent to request
a private interview, and I awaited her arrival in my chamber,
whilst an immense concourse of visitors filled my salons. The
king's danger was not yet sufficiently decided for the courtiers
to abandon me, and the chances continued too strongly in my
favour to warrant any one of them in withdrawing from me their
usual attentions. Comte Jean, however, presented himself before
me, spite of the orders I had given to exclude every person but
"My dear sister," cried he, as he entered, "Chamilly has just told
me that he has received the royal command to have Julie married
off without delay; now this is a piece of delicacy towards yourself
on the part of the king for which you owe him many thanks. But
I have another communication to make you, of a less pleasing nature.
The unfortunate girl who has been left at Trianon, has called
incessantly for you the whole of this day; she asserts that she
has matters of importance to communicate to you."
Whatever surprise I experienced at this intelligence, it was
impossible it could be otherwise than true, for was it likely
that, at a time like the present, comte Jean would attempt to
impose such a tale upon me.
"What would you have me do?" asked I of my brother-in-law.
"Hark ye, sister," replied he, "we are both of us in a very
critical situation just now, and should spare no endeavour to
extricate ourselves from it. Very possibly this girl may be in
possession of facts more important than you at present conceive
possible; the earnestness with which she perseveres in her desire
of seeing you, and her repeated prayers to those around her to
beg your attendance, proves that it is something more than the
mere whim of a sick person, and in your place, I should not
hesitate to comply with her wishes."
"And how could we do so? "said I.
"To-night," returned he, "when all your guests have retired, and
Versailles is in a manner deserted, I will fetch you; we have keys
which open the various gates in the park, and walking through
which, and the gardens, we can reach Trianon unobserved. No
person will be aware of our excursion, and we shall return with
the same caution with which we went. We will, after our visit,
cause our clothes to be burnt, take a bath, and use every possible
precaution to purify ourselves from all chance of infection. When
that is done you may venture into the apartment of his majesty,
even if that malady which at present hangs over him should turn
out to be the small-pox."
I thought but little of the consequences of our scheme, or of the
personal danger I incurred, and I promised my brother-in-law
that I would hold myself in readiness to accompany him. We then
conversed together upon the state of the king, and, what you will
have some difficulty in crediting, not one word escaped either of
us relative to our future plans or prospects; still it was the
point to which the thoughts of comte Jean must naturally
We were interrupted in our < tete-a-tete > by the arrival of the
marechale, whose exactitude I could not but admire. Comte Jean,
having hastily paid his compliments, left us together.
"Well, my dear countess," said she, taking my hand with a friendly
pressure, "and how goes on the dear invalid?"
"Better, I hope," replied I, "and indeed, this illness, at first
so alarming to me, seems rather calculated to allay my former
fears and anxieties by affording the king calm and impartial
reflection; the result of it is that my dreaded rival of the
"I am delighted to hear this," replied madame de Mirepoix, "but,
my dear soul, let me caution you against too implicitly trusting
these deceitful appearances, to-morrow may destroy these flattering
hopes, and the next day--"
"Indeed!" cried I, interrupting her, "the physicians answer
for his recovery."
"And suppose they should chance to be mistaken," returned my
cautious friend, "what then? But, my dear countess, my regard
or you compels me to speak out, and to warn you of reposing in
tranquillity when you ought to be acting. Do not deceive yourself,
leave nothing to chance; and if you have any favour to ask of
the king, lose no time in so doing while yet you have the opportunity."
"And what favour would you advise me to ask?" said I
"You do not understand me, then?" exclaimed the marechale, "I
say that it is imperatively necessary for you to accept whatever
the king may feel disposed to offer you as a future provision,
and as affording you the means of passing the remainder of your
days in ease and tranquillity. What would become of you in case
of the worst? Your numerous creditors would besiege you with a
rapacity, still further excited by the support they would receive
from court. You look at me with surprise because I speak the
language of truth; be a reasonable creature I implore of you
once in your life, and do not thus sacrifice the interests of
your life to a romantic disregard of self."
I could not feel offended with the marechale for addressing me
thus, but I could not help fancying the moment was ill chosen,
and unable to frame an answer to my mind, I remained silent.
Mistaken as to the cause of my taciturnity, she continued,
"Come, I am well pleased to see you thus reflecting upon what
I have said; but lose no time, strike the iron while it is hot.
Do as I have recommended either to-night or early to-morrow;
possibly, after that time it may be too late. May I venture also
to remind you of your friends, my dear countess. I am in great
trouble just now, and I trust you will not refuse to obtain for
me, from his majesty, a favour of which I stand in the utmost
need--50,000 francs would come very seasonably; I have lost that
sum at cards, and must pay it, but how I know not."
"Let not that distress you," said I, "for I can relieve you of
that difficulty until the king's convalescence enables him to
undertake the pleasing office of assisting your wishes. M. de
Laborde has orders to honour all my drafts upon him, I will
therefore draw for the sum you require." So saying, I hastily
scrawled upon a little tumbled piece of paper those magic words,
which had power to unlock the strong coffers of a court banker.
The marechale embraced me several times with the utmost vivacity.
"You are my guardian angel," cried she, "you save me from despair.
But, tell me, my generous friend, do you think M. de Laborde will
make any difficulty?"
"Why," said I, "should you suppose it possible he will do so?"
"Oh, merely on account of present circumstances."
"The illness--no, I mean the indisposition of his majesty."
"He is an excellent man," said I, "and I doubt not but he will
act nobly and honourably."
"If we could but procure his majesty's signature--"
"But that is quite impossible to-night."