Part 9 out of 10
"I know it is, and, therefore, I will tell you what I think of
doing. Perhaps, if I were to set out for Paris immediately, I
might be able to present this cheque before Laborde is acquainted
with our misfortune. It is not late, so farewell, my dearest
countess. I shall return to-morrow before you are up, but do
not forget what I have said to you; and remember, that under
any circumstances, the king should secure you a safe and ample
independence. If his death finds you well provided for, you will
still have a court, friends, relatives, partisans, in a word, the
means of gratifying every inclination. Be guided by me, and
follow my advice."
And after this lesson of practical morality, the marechale quitted
me to hurry to Paris; and I, wearied and heartsick, flew to my
crowded salons as a remedy against the gloomy ideas her
conversation had given rise to.
On this evening my guests were more numerous and brilliant than
usual, for no person entertaining the least suspicion of the king's
danger, all vied with each other in evincing, by their presence,
the desire they felt of expressing their regard for me. My
friends, acquaintances, people whom I scarcely knew at all, were
collected together in my drawing-rooms; this large assemblage of
joyous and cheerful faces, drove away for a moment all the gloom
which had bung over me. I even forgot the morning's visitor, and
if the health of the king were at all alluded to, it was only
believe him seriously ill; in fact, to deny all possibility of
such a thing being the case. Thus all went on as usual, scandal,
usually circulated upon such occasions, went round, and were
laughed at and admired according to the tastes of those to whom
they were addressed.
Could a stranger have seen us, so careless, thoughtless, and gay,
he would have been far from suspecting that we were upon the eve
of a catastrophe which must change the whole face of affairs in
France. For my own part, my spirits rose to a height with the
giddy crowd around me, and in levity and folly, I really believe
I exceeded them.
At a late hour my rooms were at length forsaken, and I retired
to my chamber where, having dismissed my other attendants, I
remained alone (as was frequently my custom) with my faithful
Henriette, whom I caused to exchange my evening dress for a dark
robe, which I covered with a large Spanish mantle I had never
before worn, and thus equipped, I waited the arrival of comte
Jean. Henriette, surprised at these preparations, pressed me
with so many questions, that at last I explained my whole purpose
to her. The attached creature exerted all her eloquence to point
out the dangers of the enterprise, which she implored of me to
abandon, but I refused to listen to her remonstrances, and she
ceased urging me further, only protesting she should await my
return with the most lively impatience.
At length, comte Jean appeared, armed with a small sword-stick
and pistols in his pocket, with every other precaution necessary
for undertaking so perilous an adventure. We descended into
the garden with many smiles at the singular figures we made, but
no sooner were we in the open air, than the sight of the clear
heavens sparkling with stars, the cool still night, the vast walks
lined with statues, which resembled a troop of white phantoms,
the gentle waving of the branches, as the evening breeze stirred
their leaves, with that feeling of awe and solemnity generally
attendant upon the midnight hour, awoke in our minds ideas more
suitable to our situation. We ceased speaking and walked slowly
down the walk past the basin of the dragon, in order, by crossing
the park, to reach the chateau de Trianon.
Fortune favoured us, for we met only one guard in the park, this
man having recognised us as we drew near, saluted us, and was
about to retire, when my brother-in-law called him back an desired
him to take our key, and open with it the nearest gates to the
place which we wished to go to. He also commanded him to await
our return. The soldier was accustomed to these nocturnal
excursions even on the part of the most scrupulous and correct
gentlemen and ladies of the court. He, therefore, assured us of
his punctuality, and opened for us a great iron gate, which it
would have cost my brother-in-law much trouble to have turned
upon its hinges.
The nearer we approached the end of our journey, the more fully
did our minds become impressed with new and painful disquietudes.
At length, we reached the place of our destination.
My brother-in-law desired he might be announced but said nothing
of who I was. We were expected, for a Swiss belonging to the
palace conducted us to a chamber at one end of the chateau,
where, stretched on a bed of loathsome disease, was the creature
who, but a few hours before, had been deemed worthy the embraces
of a powerful monarch. Beside her were an elderly female, her
mother, and an aged priest, who had been likewise summoned by the
unfortunate girl, and her brother, a young man of about twenty-four
years of age, with an eye of fire, and a frame of Herculean power.
He was sitting with his back turned towards the door; the mother,
half reclining on the bed, held in her hand a handkerchief steeped
in her tears, while the ecclesiastic read prayers to them from a
book which he held. A nurse, whom we had not before perceived,
answered the call of the Swiss, and inquired of him what he wanted.
"I want nothing, myself," answered he, "but here is comte Jean
du Barry with a lady from Versailles; they say they come at the
request of mademoiselle Anne."
We were now on the threshold of the door, and the nurse, crossing
the chamber, spoke to the mother, who hastily rose, while the
priest discontinued his prayers. The mother looked at us, then
whispered some words to her daughter. The patient stirred in her
bed, and the nurse returning to us, said to comte Jean that he
might approach the bed of the invalid.
He advanced and I followed him, although the noisome effluvia
with which the air was loaded produced a sickness I scarcely could
surmount. The gloom of the place was still further increased by
the dim light of two wax candles placed in a nook of the room.
The priest, having recognised my brother-in-law, and suspecting
doubtless who I was, was preparing to withdraw, but the sick girl
made signs for him to remain. He obeyed, but removing to a
distance, he took his place beside the young man, who, understanding
only that strangers had arrived, rose from his seat and displayed
his tall gigantic height to the fullest advantage.
Interview with the joiner's daughter--Consultation of the physicians
respecting the king--The small-pox declares itself--the comte de
Muy--The princesses--Extreme sensibility of madame de Mirepoix--The
king is kept in ignorance of his real condition--The archbishop of
Paris visits Versailles
The gloomy and mysterious air scattered over the group which
presented itself to our eyes filled us with desponding thoughts.
There appeared throughout the party a kind of concentrated grief
and silent despair which struck us with terror. We remained
motionless in the same spot without any persons quitting their
fixed attitude to offer us a seat. After some minutes of a deep
silence, which I durst not interrupt any more than comte Jean,
whose accustomed hardihood seemed effectually checked, the
suffering girl raised herself in her bed, and in a hollow
"Comtesse du Barry, what brings you here?"
The sound of her hoarse and grating voice made me start, spite of myself.
"My poor child," answered I, tenderly, "I come to see you at
"Yes, yes," replied she, bursting into a frightful fit of laughter,
"I wished to see you to thank you for my dishonour, and for the
perdition into which you have involved me."
"My daughter," said the priest, approaching her, "is this what
you promised me?"
"And what did I promise to God when I vowed to hold myself chaste
and spotless? Perjured wretch that I am, I have sold my honour
for paltry gold; wheedled by the deceitful flattery of that man
who stands before me, I joined his infamous companion in the
path of guilt and shame. But the just vengeance of heaven has
overtaken me, and I am rightly punished."
Whether this language was the result of a previously studied
lesson I know not, but it was ill-calculated to raise my
"My child, my beloved child!" exclaimed the weeping mother,
"fear not, God is merciful and will accept your sincere abhorrence
of your fault. I have this day offered in your name a fine wax
taper to your patroness, St. Anne, who will, no doubt, intercede
"No, no!" replied the unhappy girl, "there is no longer any hope
for me; and the torments I now suffer are but the preludes to
those which I am doomed to endure everlastingly."
This singular scene almost convulsed me with agitation. I seized
the arm of my brother-in-law with the intention of escaping from
so miserable a spot; the invalid perceived my design and
"Stay, comtesse du Barry; I have not yet finished with you, I
have not yet announced the full revenge I shall take for your
share in my present hopeless condition; your infamous exaltation
draws to a close, the same poison which is destroying me,
circulates in the veins of him you have too long governed; but
your reign is at an end. He will soon quit his earthly crown,
and my hand strikes the blow which sends him hence. But still,
dying a victim to a cruel and loathsome complaint, I go to my
grave triumphing over my haughty rival, for I shall die the last
possessor of the king's affections. Heavens! what agonies are
these?" cried she; then, after a short silence, she continued,
extending to me her arms hideous with the leprous blotches of
her disgusting malady, "yes, you have been my destruction; your
accursed example led me to sell myself for the wages of infamy,
and to the villainous artifices of the man who brought you here
I owe all my sufferings. I am dying more young, more beautiful,
more beloved than you; I am hurried to an untimely end. God of
heaven! die I did I say die? I cannot, will not--Mother, save
your child!--Brother, help me, save me!"
"My daughter, my darling child!" cried the despairing mother,
wringing her hands and weeping bitterly.
"My dearest sister Anne, what can I do for you?" inquired the
young man, whose stern features were melted into mere
"Daughter," interrupted the priest, " God is good; he can and
will forgive you if you heartily turn to him, with a sincere desire
to atone for your fault."
All this took place in less time than it has taken in the
recital. My brother-in-law seemed completely deprived of his
usual self-possession by this burst of frightful raving; his
feet appeared rooted to the floor of the chamber; his colour
changed from white to red, and a cold perspiration covered his
brows. For my own part, I was moved beyond description; but
my faculties seemed spell-bound, and when I strove to speak, my
tongue cleaved to my mouth.
The delirium of poor Anne continued for some time to find utterance,
either by convulsive gesticulation, half-uttered expressions, and,
occasionally, loud and vehement imprecations. At length, quite
exhausted with her violence, which required all the efforts of
her brother to subdue by positive force, she sunk into a state
of insensibility. The priest, on his knees, implored in a loud
voice the mercy of Providence for the king and all his subjects.
Had any person conceived the design of working on my fears so
far as to induce me to abandon a life at court, they could not
have succeeded more entirely than by exhibiting to me the scene
I have been describing. Had not many contending ideas enabled
me to bear up under all I saw and heard, my senses must have
forsaken me; under common circumstances, the aspect of the brother
alone would have terrified me exceedingly; and even now, I cannot
recollect without a shudder, the looks of dark and sinister
meaning he alternately directed at me and at comte Jean. At this
moment, the doctor who had the charge of the unhappy girl arrived.
The warmth and eagerness of manner with which he addressed me
directly he perceived my presence, might have proved to all around
that I was not the hateful creature I had been described. This
well-timed interruption restored me to the use of my faculties,
and repulsing the well-meant attentions of my medical friend, I
exclaimed, "Do not heed me, I conjure you, I am only temporarily
indisposed. But hasten to that poor girl whose dangererous state
requires all your care."
My brother-in-law, recovering himself by a strong effort, profited
by the present opportunity to remove me into another apartment,
the pure air of which contributed to cool my fevered brain; but
my trembling limbs refused to support me, and it was necessary
to apply strong restoratives ere I was sufficiently recovered to
quit the fatal spot. At Trianon, as well as at Versailles, I was
considered absolute mistress; those of the royal household, who
were aware of my being at the former, earnestly solicited me to
retire to the chamber I had occupied on the preceding night, but
to this arrangement the comte and myself were equally opposed.
A sedan chair was therefore procured, in which I was rapidly
transported back to Versailles.
You may easily conceive in what a state I arrived there. My good
Henriette was greatly alarmed, and immediately summoned Bordeu,
who, not venturing to bleed me, contented himself with administering
some cordials which revived me in some degree. But the events of
the last few hours seemed indelibly fixed in my mind; and I heard,
almost with indifference, the bulletin issued respecting the
state of the king's health during the fatal night which had just
passed. One object alone engrossed my thoughts; -eyes seemed
still to behold the miserable girl stretched on her dying bed,
whose ravings of despair and threatening words yet rung in my
ears, and produced a fresh chill of horror, as with painful
tenacity my mind dwelt upon them to the utter exclusion of every
other consideration. The unfortunate creature expired on the
third day, a victim to the rapid progress of the most virulent
species of small-pox. She died more calmly and resigned than I
had seen her. For my own part, I freely pardoned her injustice
towards myself, and sincerely forgive the priest if he (as I have
been told) excited her bitterness against me.
The severe shock I had experienced might have terminated fatally
for me, had not my thoughts been compelled to rouse themselves
for the contemplation of the alarming prospect before me. It was
more than four o'clock in the morning when I returned to the
chateau, and at nine I rose again without having obtained the least
repose. The king had inquired for me several times. I instantly
went to him, and my languid frame, pale countenance and heavy
eyes, all which he took as the consequences of my concern for his
indisposition, appeared greatly to affect him; and he sought to
comfort me by the assurance of his being considerably better.
This was far from being true, but he was far from suspecting
the nature of the malady to which his frame was about to become
a prey. The physicians had now pronounced with certainty on the
subject, nor was it possible to make any mystery of it with me,
who had seen Anne on her sick-bed.
In common with all who knew the real nature of the complaint, I
sought to conceal it from the king, and in this deception the
physicians themselves concurred. In the course of the morning a
consultation took place; when called upon for their opinion, each
of them endeavoured to evade a direct answer, disguising the name
of his majesty's disease under the appellation of a cutaneous
eruption, chicken-pox, etc., etc., none daring to give it its true
denomination. Bordeu and Lemonnier pursued this cautious plan,
but La Martiniere, who had first of all pronounced his decision
on the subject, impatient of so much circumlocution on the part
of those around him, could no longer repress his indignation.
"How is this, gentlemen!" exclaimed he, "is science at a
standstill with you? Surely, you cannot be in any doubt on the
subject of the king's illness. His majesty has the small-pox,
with a complication of other diseases equally dangerous, and I
look upon him as a dead man."
"Monsieur de la Martiniere," cried the duc de Duras, who, in
quality of his office of first gentleman of the bed-chamber, was
present at this conference, "allow me to remind you that you are
expressing yourself very imprudently."
"Duc de Duras," replied the abrupt La Martiniere, "my business is
not to flatter the king, but to tell him the truth with regard to
his health. None of the medical gentlemen present can deny the
truth of what I have asserted; they are all of my opinion, although
I alone have the courage to act with that candour which my sense
of honour dictates."
The unbroken silence preserved by those who heard this address,
clearly proved the truth of all La Martiniere advanced. The duc
de Duras was but too fully convinced of the justice of his opinion.
"The king is then past all hope," repeated he, "and what remains
to be done?"
"To watch over him, and administer every aid and relief which art
suggests," was the brief reply of La Martiniere.
The different physicians, when separately questioned, hesitated
no longer to express their concurrence in the opinion that his
majesty's case was entirely hopeless, unless, indeed, some crisis,
which human foresight could not anticipate, should arise in his favour.
This opinion changed the moral face of the chateau. The duc de
Duras, who had not previously suspected even the existence of
danger, began to feel how weighty a burthen reposed on his
shoulders; he recommended to the medical attendants the utmost
caution and silence, pointing out, at the same time, all the ill
consequences which might arise, were any imprudent or sudden
explanation of his real malady made to the august sufferer. Unable
to attend to everything himself, and not inclined to depend upon
his son, whose natural propensity he was fully aware of, he
recalled to his recollection that the comte de Muy, the sincere
and attached friend of the dauphin, son to Louis XV, was then in
Versailles. He immediately sought him out in the apartments he
occupied in the chateau, and communicated to him the result of
the consultation respecting the king's illness.
The comte de Muy was one of those rare characters reserved by
Providence for the happiness of a state, when kings are wise
enough to employ them. He thought not of personal interest or
advantage, but dictated to the duke the precise line of conduct he
himself would have pursued under similar circumstances.
"The first thing to be done," said he, "is to remember that the
king is a Christian, and to conform in every respect to the
customs of his predecessors. You are aware, my lord duke, that
directly any member of the royal family is attacked by the small-pox,
he ought immediately to receive extreme unction; you will,
therefore, make the necessary arrangements, and apprize those
whose duty it becomes to administer it."
"This is, indeed, an unpleasant commission," replied the duke; "to
administer extreme unction to his majesty, is to announce to him
cruelly and abruptly that his last hour has arrived, and to bid
him prepare for death."
"The duty is nevertheless imperative," answered the comte de Muy,
"and you incur no slight responsibility by neglecting it."
The consequence of this conversation was, that the duke sent off
two couriers immediately, one to madame Louise, and the other
to the archbishop of Paris. He also apprized the ministers of the
result of the consultation which had taken place, whilst the comte
de Muy took upon himself the painful office of acquainting the
dauphin with the dangerous state of his grandfather. This young
prince, whose first impulses were always amiable, immediately
burst into tears; the dauphiness endeavoured to console him.
But from that moment her royal highness appeared to show by her
lofty and dignified bearing, her consciousness of the fresh
importance she had necessarily acquired in the eyes of the nation.
Meanwhile, the dauphin hastened to the sick room of his beloved
relative, anxious to bestow upon him the cares and attentions of
a son; but in the anteroom his progress was stopped by the duc
de la Vrilliere, who informed him, that the interests of the
throne would not permit his royal highness to endanger his life
by inhaling the contagious atmosphere of a room loaded with the
venom of the small-pox. He adjured him, in the name of the king
and his country, not to risk such fearful chances. The lords in
attendance, who did not partake the heroism the young prince,
added their entreaties to those of
at length, in prevailing upon him to return to his apartments, to
the great joy of Marie Antoinette, who could not endure the
prospect of being separated from her husband at so important
No sooner had the princesses learned the danger of their august
parent, than without an instant's hesitation they hurried to him.
I was in his chamber when they arrived; they saluted me with
great gentleness and affability. When the king saw them, he
inquired what had brought them thither at so unusual an hour.
"We are come to see you, my dearest father," replied madame
Adelaide; "we have heard of your indisposition, and trifling as
it is said to be, we could not rest without satisfying our anxious
wish to know how you found yourself."
The other sisters expressed themselves in similar terms.
"It is all very well, my children," said Louis XV, with a pleasing
smile, "and you are all three very excellent girls, but I would
rather you should keep away from this close room; it can do you
no good, and I promise to let you know if I find myself getting
After a slight resistance the princesses feigned an obedience to
his will; but, in reality, they merely retired into an adjoining
chamber, concealed from the sight of their parent, where they
remained, until the moment when they undertook the charge of the
patient. Their heroic devotion was the admiration of all France
Much as their presence constrained me, I still kept my place beside
the sick-bed of his majesty, who would not suffer me to leave him
for a minute.
At an early hour the marechale de Mirepoix returned, according
to her promise. I met her in the corridor as I was passing along
on my way to the king's apartment; her face was full of
"How greatly am I obliged to you for your prompt succour," said
she, without even inquiring after my health or that of the king.
"Do you know, I was but just in time; ten minutes later, and I
should have been refused payment for your cheque. M. de Laborde,
who was so devotedly your friend only yesterday, counted out to
me the glittering coin I was so anxious to obtain. He even
accompanied me to my carriage, when behold, just at the moment,
when, with his hat in his hand, he was most gallantly bowing, and
wishing me a pleasant journey, a courier arrived from Versailles
bringing him the news of the king's illness. He looked so
overwhelmed with consternation and alarm, that I could not prevent
myself from bursting into a hearty fit of laughter, nor has my
gaiety forsaken me up to the present moment."
"You are very fortunate," said I, "to be enabled thus to preserve
your good spirits."
"My dear creature, I would fain cheat time of some of his claims
upon me. But now I think of it, what is the matter since I was
here? Is the king worse, and what is this I hear whispered abroad
of the small-pox?"
"Alas, madam," answered I, much hurt at the insensibility she
displayed, "we run but too great danger of losing our friend and
benefactor for ever."
"Dear me, how very shocking! But what has he settled on you?
What have you asked him for?"
"Nothing!" replied I, coolly.
"Nothing! very admirable, indeed; but, my good soul, these fine
sentiments sometimes leave people to eat the bread of charity.
So, then, you have not followed my advice. Once more, I repeat,
lose not the present opportunity, and, in your place, I would set
about securing my own interest without one instant's delay."
"That I could not do, madam," said I; "it is wholly foreign to
my nature to take advantage of the weakness of a dying man."
"Dying man!" repeated the marechale incredulously, "come, come,
he is not dead yet; and whilst there is life there is hope; and I
suppose you have carried your ideas of disinterestedness so far
as to omit mentioning your friends, likewise. You will never
have any worldly sense, I believe. My dear soul," said she,
stooping down and whispering in my ear, "you are surrounded by a
set of selfish wretches, who care nothing for you unless you can f
forward their interests."
"I see it, I know it," exclaimed I impatiently; "but though I
beg my bread, I will not importune the king."
"As you please," cried madame de Mirepoix, "pray do not let me
disturb your intentions. Silly woman that you are, leave others
to act the sublime and grand, your part should be that of a
reasonable creature. Look at myself, suppose I had not seized
the ball at the bound."
"You were born at Versailles," answered I, smiling in spite
"True, and I confess that with me the greatest of all sense is
common sense, which produces that instinctive feeling of
self-preservation implanted even in animals. But is the king
indeed so very ill?"
"He is, indeed, dangerously ill."
"I am very sorry," answered she, "his majesty and myself were
such old friends and companions; but things will now be very
different, and we shall soon see the court filled with new faces,
whilst you and I, my poor countess, may hide our diminished
heads. A set of hungry wretches will drive us away from the
princely banquet at which we have so long regaled, and scarcely
will their eagerness leave us a few scattered crumbs--how dreadful!
Yes, I repeat that for many reasons, we shall have just cause for
regretting the late king."
madame la marechale."
"I know that, but he will die; and by speaking of the event as
if it had already taken place, we prepare our minds to meet the
blow with greater resignation when it does fall. I am much
concerned, I can assure you; but let us quit the close confined
air of this corridor, and go where we may breathe a purer atmosphere."
She took me by the arm with a greater familiarity than she had
ever before assumed, and led the way to my chamber, where I
found the duc de la Vrilliere awaiting me, to request I would
return to the king, who had asked for me more than once. This
consummate hypocrite seized the present opportunity of renewing
his assurances of an unalterable attachment to me, vowing an
eternal friendship. I was weak enough to believe him, and when
I gave him my hand in token of reconciliation, I espied the marechale
standing behind him, making signals to me to distrust his professions.
I know not the reason of this conduct on the part of the duc de l
a Vrilliere, but I can only suppose it originated in his considering
the king in less danger than he was said to be; however, I suffered
him to lead me to the chamber of the invalid. When Louis XV
saw me return, he inquired why I had quitted him? I replied,
because I was fearful of wearying him; upon which he assured
me, that he only felt easy and comfortable so long as I was with him.
"But, perhaps, there is some contagion in my present complaint?"
exclaimed he, as though labouring under some painful idea.
"Certainly not," replied I; "it is but a temporary eruption of
the skin, which will, no doubt, carry off the fever you have
"I feared it was of a more dangerous nature," answered the king.
"You torment yourself needlessly, sire," said I; "why should
you thus create phantoms for your own annoyance and alarm?
Tranquillize yourself, and leave the task of curing you to us."
I easily penetrated the real import of his words; he evidently
suspected the truth, and was filled with the most cruel dread
of having his suspicions confirmed. During the whole of this
day he continued in the same state of uncertainty; the strictest
watch was set around him that no imprudent confession should
reveal to him the real nature of his situation. I continued
sitting beside him in a state of great constraint, from the
knowledge of my being closely observed by the princesses, of
whose vicinity we durst not inform him, in the fear of exciting
his fears still more.
The courier, who had been despatched to madame Louise, returned,
bringing a letter from that princess to her sisters, under cover to
madame Adelaide, in which she implored of them not to suffer any
consideration to prevent their immediately acquainting their father
with the dangerous condition he was in. The duty, she added, was
imperative, and the greatest calamity that could befall them, would
be to see this dearly loved parent expire in a state of sinful
indifference as to his spiritual welfare.
The august recluse, detached from all sublunary considerations,
saw nothing but the glorious hereafter, where she would fain
join company with all her beloved friends and connexions of
The archbishop of Paris, M. de Beaumont, a prelate highly esteemed
for his many excellent private qualities, but who had frequently
embarrassed the king by his pertinacity, did not forget him on
this occasion; for no sooner did the account of his majesty's
illness reach him, than, although suffering with a most painful
complaint, he hastened to Versailles, where his presence embarrassed
every one, particularly the grand almoner, who, a better courtier
than priest, was excessively careful never to give offence to any
person, even though the king's salvation depended upon it; he,
therefore, kept his apartment, giving it out that he was
indisposed, and even took to his bed, the better to avoid any
disagreeable or inconvenient request. The sight of the archbishop
of Paris was far from being agreeable to him. This prelate went
first in search of the princesses who were not to be seen on
account of their being with their father. A message was despatched
to them, and mesdames Adelaide and Sophie, after having a long
conference with him, by his advice, summoned the bishops of
Meaux, Goss, and de Senlis, and held a species of council, in
which it was unanimously agreed that nothing ought to prevent
their entering upon an explanation with the king, and offering
him spiritual succour.
Who was to undertake the delicate commission, became the next
point to consider. M. de Roquelaire declined, not wishing, as he
said, to infringe upon the rights of the grand almoner, who was
now at Versailles. M. de la Roche Aymon was therefore sent for,
requesting his immediate attendance. Never did invitation arrive
soul. However, to refuse was impossible, and the cardinal arrived,
execrating the zeal of his reverend brother of Paris; who, after
having explained the state of affairs to him, informed him that
he was sent for the purpose of discharging his office by preparing
the king for confession.
The grand almoner replied, that the sacred duty by no means
belonged to him; that his place at court was of a very different
nature, and had nothing at all to do with directing the king's
conscience. His majesty, he said, had a confessor, who ought
to be sent for, and the very sight of him in the royal chamber
would be sufficient to apprize the illustrious invalid of the
motives which brought him thither. In a word, the grand almoner
got rid of the affair, by saying, "that, as it was one of the utmost
importance, it would be necessary to confer with his royal
highness, the dauphin, respecting it."
First proceedings of the council--The dauphin receives the prelates
with great coolness--Situation of the archbishop of Paris--
Richelieu evades the project for confessing the king--The friends
of madame du Barry come forward--The English physician--The
abbe Terray--Interview with the prince de Soubise--The prince
and the courtiers--La Martiniere informs the king of France the
true nature of his complaint--Consequences of this disclosure
The different members of this
themselves in favour of this advice, much to the grief and chagrin
of the princess Adelaide. She easily perceived by this proposition
that the court would very shortly change masters, and could she
hope to preserve the same influence during the reign of her nephew
she had managed to obtain whilst her father held the sceptre?
However, she made no opposition to the resolution of the prelates,
who forthwith proceeded to the dauphin, who received them with
considerable coolness. As yet, but ill-assured in the new part
he had to play, the prince showed himself fearful and embarrassed.
The dauphiness would willingly have advised him, but that prudence
would not permit her to do, so that the dauphin, left wholly to
himself, knew not on what to determine.
This was precisely what the grand almoner had hoped and expected,
and he laughed in his sleeve at the useless trouble taken by the
archbishop; and whilst he openly affected to promote his desires
as much as was in his power, he secretly took measures to prevent
their success. M. de Beaumont, who was of a most open and upright
nature, was far from suspecting these intrigues; indeed, his simple
and pious character but ill-qualified him for the corrupt and deceitful
atmosphere of a court, especially such a one as Versailles. His
situation now became one of difficulty; abandoned by the bishops
and the grand almoner, disappointed in his hopes of finding a
supporter in the dauphin, what could he do alone with the
princesses, who, in their dread of causing an emotion, which
might be fatal to their parent, knew not what to resolve upon. As
a last resource, they summoned the abbe Mandaux, the king's
confessor. The prelate excited his zeal in all its fervour, and
this simple and obscure priest determined to undertake that
which many more eminent personages had shrunk from attempting.
He therefore sought admittance into the chamber of the king, where
he found the ducs de Duras and de Richelieu, to whom he
communicated the mission upon which he was come.
At this declaration, the consequences of which he plainly foresaw,
the duc de Duras hesitated to reply, scarcely knowing how to ward
off a blow the responsibility of which must fall upon him alone.
The duc de Richelieu, with greater self-command, extricated him
from his difficulty.
"Sir," said he to the abbe, "your zeal is highly praise-worthy,
both the duke and myself are aware of all that should be done
upon such an occasion as the present; and although I freely
admit that the sacred act you speak of is of an imperative nature,
yet I would observe, that the king being still in ignorance of his
fatal malady, neither your duties nor ours can begin, until the
moment when the physicians shall have thought proper to reveal
the whole truth to his majesty. This is a matter of form and
etiquette to which all must submit who have any functions to
fulfil in the chateau."
The duc de Duras could have hugged his colleague for this well-
timed reply. The abbe Mandaux felt all the justness of the
observation, yet with all the tenacity of his profession, he replied,
"That since it rested with the physicians to apprize the king of
his being ill with the small-pox, they ought to be summoned and
consulted as to the part to take."
At these words the duc de Duras slipped away from the group,
and went himself in search of Doctor Bordeu, whom he brought
into an angle of the chamber out of sight of the king's bed. The
duc de Duras having explained to him what the abbe had just been
saying to them, as well as the desire he had manifested of
preparing the king to receive the last sacraments, the doctor
regarded the abbe fixedly for some instance, and then inquired
in a severe tone, "Whether he had promised any person to murder
This abrupt and alarming question made the priest change colour,
whilst he asked for an explanation of such a singular charge.
"I say, sir," replied Bordeu, "that whoever speaks at present to
his majesty of small-pox, confession, or extreme unction, will
have to answer for his life."
"Do you, indeed, believe," asked the duc de Richelieu, "that the
mention of these things would produce so fatal a result?"
"Most assuredly I do; and out of one hundred sick persons it
would have the same effect upon sixty, perhaps eighty; indeed,
I have known the shock produce instantaneous death. This I am
willing to sign with my own blood if it be necessary, and my
professional brother there will not dispute its truth."
At these words he made a sign for Lemonnier to advance, and
after having explained to him the subject of conversation, begged
of him to speak his opinion openly and candidly. Lemonnier was
somewhat of a courtier, and one glance at the two noblemen before
whom he stood, was sufficient to apprize him what opinion was
expected from him. He, therefore, fully and unhesitatingly
confirmed all that Bordeu had previously advanced.
Strong in these decisions, the duc de Duras expressed his regret
to the confessor at being unable to accord his request. "But,"
added he, "You perceive the thing is impossible, unless to him
who would become a regicide."
This terrible expression renewed the former terror of the abbe,
who, satisfied with having shown his zeal, was, perhaps, not
very sorry for having met with such insurmountable obstacles. He
immediately returned to the apartment of madame Sophie, where
the council was still assembled, and related the particulars of
his visit; whilst the poor archbishop of Paris, thus foiled in
every attempt, was compelled to leave Versailles
I heard all these things from the duc de Richelieu; he told me
that nothing could have been more gratifying than the conduct of
Bordeu and Lemonnier, and that I had every reason for feeling
satisfied with the conduct of all around me. "It is in the moment
of peril," said he, "that we are best able to know our true friends."
"I see it," replied I; "and since our danger is a mutual one ought
we not to forget our old subjects of dispute?"
"For my own part, madam," returned he, "I do not remember that
any ever existed; besides, is not my cause yours likewise? A new
reign will place me completely in the background. The present
king looks upon me as almost youthful; while, on the contrary,
his grandson will consider me as a specimen of the days of
Methuselah. The change of masters can be but to my disadvantage;
let us, therefore, stand firmly together, that we may be the better
enabled to resist the attacks of our enemies."
"Do you consider," inquired I, "that we may rely upon the firmness
of the duc de Duras?"
"As safely as you may on mine," answered he, "so long as he is
not attacked face to face; but if they once assail him with the
arms of etiquette, he is a lost man, he will capitulate. It is
unfortunate for him that I am not likely to be near him upon
such an occasion."
Comte Jean, who never left me, then took up the conversation,
and advised M. de Richelieu to leave him to himself as little as
possible; it was, therefore, agreed that we should cause the duc
de Duras to be constantly surrounded by persons of our party,
who should keep those of our adversaries at a distance.
We had not yet lost all hope of seeing his majesty restored to
health; nature, so languid and powerless in the case of poor
Anne, seemed inclined to make a salutary effort on the part of
Every instant of this day and the next, that I did not spend by
the sick-bed of Louis XV, were engrossed by most intimate friends,
the ducs d'Aiguillon, de Cosse, etc., mesdames de Mirepoix, de
Forcalquier, de Valentinois, de l'Hopital, de Montmorency, de
Flaracourt, and others. As yet, none of my party had abandoned
me; the situation of affairs was not, up to the present, sufficiently
clear to warrant an entire defection. The good Genevieve
Mathon, whom chance had conducted to Versailles during the last
week, came to share with Henriette, my sisters-in-law, and my
niece, the torments and uncertainties which distracted my mind.
We were continually in a state of mortal alarm, dreading every
instant to hear that the king was aware of his malady, and the
danger which threatened, and our fears but too well proclaimed
our persuasion that such a moment would be the death-blow to our
hopes. It happened that in this exigency, as it most commonly
occurs in affairs of great importance, all our apprehensions had
been directed towards the ecclesiastics, while we entirely
overlooked the probability that the abrupt la Martiniere might,
in one instant, become the cause of our ruin. All this so entirely
escaped us, that we took not the slightest precaution to prevent it.
No sooner was the news of the king being attacked with small-pox
publicly known, than a doctor Sulton, an English physician, the
pretended professor of an infallible cure for this disease, presented
himself at Versailles, and tendered his services. The poor man
was simple enough to make his first application to those medical
attendants already intrusted with the management of his majesty,
but neither of them would give any attention to his professions of
skill to overcome so fatal a malady. On the contrary, they treated
him as a mere quack, declared that they would never consent to
confide the charge of their august patient to the hands of a
stranger whatever he might be. Sulton returned to Paris, and
obtaining an audience of the duc d'Orleans, related to him what
had passed between himself and the king's physicians. The prince
made it his business the following day to call upon the princesses,
to whom he related the conversation he had held with doctor Sulton
the preceding evening.
In their eagerness to avail themselves of every chance for promoting
the recovery of their beloved parent, the princesses blamed the
duke for having bestowed so little attention upon the Englishman,
and conjured him to return to Paris, see Sulton, and bring him to
Versailles on the following day. The duc d'Orleans acted in strict
conformity with their wishes; and although but little satisfied
with the replies made by Sulton to many of his questions relative
to the measures he should pursue in his treatment of the king, he
caused him to accompany him to Versailles, in order that the
princesses might judge for themselves. The task of receiving
him was undertaken by madame Adelaide. Sulton underwent a
rigorous examination, and was offered an immense sum for the
discovery of his secret, provided he would allow his remedy to
be subjected to the scrutiny of some of the most celebrated
chemists of the time. Sulton declared that the thing was
impossible; in the first place, it was too late, the disease was
too far advanced for the application of the remedy to possess
that positive success it would have obtained in the earlier stage
of the malady; in the next place, he could not of himself dispose
of a secret which was the joint property of several members of
Prayers, promises, entreaties were alike uselessly employed to
change the resolution of Sulton; the fact was evidently this, he
knew himself to be a mere pretender to his art, for had he been
certain of what he advanced, had he even conceived the most
slender hopes of saving the life of the king, he would not have
hesitated for a single instant to have done all that was asked.
This chance of safety was, therefore, at an end, and spite of
the opinion I entertained of Sulton, I could not but feel sorry
Bordeu had not given him a better reception when he first made
known his professed ability to surmount this fatal disorder.
However, I was careful not to express my dissatisfaction, for it
was but too important for me to avoid any dispute at a time when
the support of my friends had become so essentially necessary to me.
In proportion as the king became worse, my credit also declined.
Two orders, addressed to the comptroller-general and M. de la
Borde, for money, met with no attention. The latter replied, with
extreme politeness, that the 100,000 francs received by comte
Jean a few days before the king was taken ill, and the 50,000
paid to madame de Mirepoix recently, must be a convincing proof,
in my eyes, of his friendly intentions towards me, but that he had
no money at present in his possession, the first he received should
be at my disposal.
The abbe Terray acted with less ceremony, for he came himself to
say, that, so long as the king remained ill, he would pay no money
without his majesty's signature, for which my brother-in-law might
either ask or wait till there no longer existed any occasion for
such a precaution; and that, for his own part, he could not
conceive how he could have consumed the enormous sums he had
already drawn from the treasury.
This manner of speaking stung me to the quick.
"I find you," said I to him, "precisely the mean, contemptible
wretch you were described to me; but you are premature. I am
not yet an exile from court, and yet you seem already to have
forgotten all you owe to me."
"I have a very good memory, madam," replied he, "and if you wish
it, I can count upon my fingers the money you and your family have
received of me. You will see--"
"What shall I see?" interrupted I, "unless, indeed, it be an
amount of your regrets that such a sum was not left in your
hands to be pillaged by your mistresses and their spurious
offspring. Really, to hear you talk, any one would suppose you
a Sully for integrity, and a Colbert in financial talent."
This vigorous reply staggered the selfish and coarse-minded abbe,
who easily perceived that he had carried matters too far, and had
reckoned erroneously upon the feebleness and timidity of my
natural disposition; he attempted to pacify me, but his cowardly
insolence had exasperated me too highly to admit of any apology
"Have a care what you do," said I, "or rather employ yourself in
packing up whatever may belong to you, for you shall quit your
post whatever may befall. In the event of the king's death you
will certainly be turned out by his successor, and if he regain
his health, he must then choose between you and me, there can
be no medium. Henceforward, you may consider me only in the
light of your mortal enemy."
He wished to insist upon my hearing him, but I exclaimed, "Quit
the room, I wish neither to see nor hear more of you."
The abbe saw that it was necessary to obey, he therefore bowed
and retired. Two hours afterwards he sent me the sum which I
had asked of him for my brother-in-law, accompanied by a most
humble and contrite letter. Certainly, had I only listened to the
inspiration of my heart, I should have sent back the money
without touching it, and the epistle without reading it; but my
heroism did not suit comte Jean, who chanced to be present. 'Take
it, take it," cried he; "the only way of punishing such a
miscreant, is to break his purse-strings. He would, indeed, have
the laugh on his side were your fit of anger to change into a fit
of generosity; besides, this may be the last we shall ever see."
My brother-in-law and the comptroller-general were an excellent
pair. I treated the latter with silent contempt, not even replying
to his letter; this was, however, my first and only stroke of
vengeance, the disastrous events which followed did not permit
me to pursue my plans for revenging this treacherous and
This quarrel, and the defection of the
effect of rendering me much indisposed. My illness was attributed
to an excess of sorrow for the dangerous condition of his majesty,
nor did I contradict the report; for, in truth, I did most
sincerely lament the malady with which the king was suffering,
and my regrets arose far more from a feeling of gratitude and
esteem, than any self-interested calculations. It was, therefore,
in no very excellent humour that I saw the prince de Soubise
enter my apartment. You may remember that this nobleman had
quitted Trianon without saying one word to me, and since that
period I had never seen him, although he had punctually made his
inquiries after the king. When I perceived him, I could not help
inquiring, with something of a sarcastic expression, whether his
majesty had been pronounced convalescent? The prince
comprehended the bitterness of the question.
"You are severe, madam," replied he, "yet I can solemnly affirm
that circumstances, and not inclination, have kept me from your
presence until now."
"May I believe you?" said I. "Are you quite sure you have not
been imitating the policy of the abbe Terray?" Upon which I
related the behaviour of the comptroller-general.
"Priest-like," answered the prince.
"And is it not
"Perhaps it may," rejoined M. de Soubise; "for the two species
of priest and courtier so nearly resemble each other in many
particulars, as to have become well nigh amalgamated into one;
but I claim your indulgence to make me an exception to the general
rule, and to class me as a soldier and a man of honour; besides
which, you are too lovely ever to be forgotten, and your past
goodness to me will ensure you my services let what may occur."
"Well, then," said I, extending my hand, "as a reward for your
candour, which I receive as genuine, I will request your
forgiveness for any annoyance I may have caused you on your
family's account, I ought never to have resented any thing they
have done. My presence here could not fail of being highly
disagreeable to them; however, they will soon be relieved from
that source of uneasiness, my stay draws rapidly to a close."
The prince de Soubise, with a ready grace and obliging manner,
for which I shall ever remember him with a grateful recollection,
endeavoured to dispel my apprehensions as to the state of the
king; but whilst I acknowledged the kindness of his intention,
my heart refused all comfort in a case, which I too well knew
was utterly hopeless.
The state of affairs was now so manifest, that already an obsequious
crowd beseiged the doors of the dauphin, anxious to be first in the
demonstration of their adoration of the rising sun; but the young
prince, aided by the clear-minded advice of his august spouse,
refused, with admirable prudence, to receive such premature
homage; and since he was interdicted by the physicians from
visiting the royal invalid, he confined himself within his
apartments, admitting no person but a select few who possessed
The disappointed satellites, frustrated in their endeavours to in
gratiate themselves with the dauphin, turned their thoughts
towards the comte de Provence, imagining that this prince, spite
of his extreme youth, might have considerable influence over
the mind of his brother, the dauphin. But this idea, however
plausible, was by no means correct; it was too much the interest
of ambitious and mercenary men to create a want of harmony
between the royal pair, and up to the moment in which I am writing,
no attempts have been made to produce a kinder and more fraternal
feeling between two such near relatives.
I quitted the king as little as possible, watching with deep
concern the progress of a malady, the nature of which was a secret
to himself alone; for, in the dread of incurring my displeasure,
no person had ventured to acquaint him with the awful fact. By
the aid of the grand almoner, I had triumphed over the wishes of
the archbishop of Paris, and those of the confessor. The princes
and princesses awaited the event; all was calm composure; when,
all at once, the barriers I had been so carefully erecting were
crushed beneath my feet, at one sudden and unexpected blow.
The king was by no means easy in his own mind with regard to his
illness. The many messages that were continually whispered around
him, the remedies administered, and, above all, the absence of his
grandsons, all convinced him that something of a very unusual and
alarming nature was progressing. His own feelings might,
likewise, well assure him that he was attacked by an illness of no
ordinary nature. Tortured beyond further bearing by the suggestions
of his fancy, Louis XV at length resolved to ascertain the truth,
and, with this intent, closely questioned Bordeu and Lemonnier,
who did their best to deceive him. Still, dissatisfied with their
evasive replies, he watched an opportunity, when they were both
absent, to desire La Martiniere would at once explain the true
malady with which he was then suffering. La Martiniere puzzled
and confused, could only exclaim,
"I entreat of you, sire, not to fatigue yourself with conversation;
remember how strongly you have been forbidden all exertion."
"I am no child, La Martiniere," cried Louis XV, his cheeks glowing
with increased fire; "and I insist upon being made acquainted with
the precise nature of my present illness. You have always served
me loyally and faithfully, and from you I expect to receive that
candid statement every one about me seems bent upon concealing."
"Endeavour to get some sleep, sire," rejoined La Martiniere, "and
do not exhaust yourself by speaking at present."
"La Martiniere, you irritate me beyond all endurance. If you
love me, speak out, I conjure you, and tell me, frankly, the name
of my complaint."
"Do you insist upon it, sire?"
"I do, my friend, I do."
"Then, sire, you have the small-pox; but be not alarmed, it is a
disease as frequently cured as many others."
"The small-pox!" exclaimed the king, in a voice of horror; "have
I indeed that fatal disease? and do you talk of curing it?"
"Doubtless, sire; many die of it as well as other disorders, but
we are sanguine in our hopes and expectations of saving
The king made no reply, but, turned heavily in his bed and threw
the coverlet over his face. A silence ensued, which lasted until
the return of the physicians, when, finding they made no allusion
to his condition, the king addressed them in a cool and
"Why," said he, "have you concealed from me the fact of my having
the small-pox?" This abrupt inquiry petrified them with
astonishment, and unable to frame a proper reply, they stood
speechless with alarm and apprehension. "Yes," resumed the king,
"but for La Martiniere, I should have died in ignorance of my
danger. I know now the state in which I am, and before long I
shall be gathered to my forefathers."
All around him strove to combat this idea, and exerted their utmost
endeavours to persuade the royal patient that his disorder had
assumed the most favourable shape, and that not a shadow of
danger was perceptible, but in vain; for the blow had fallen, and
the hapless king, struck with a fatal presentiment of coming ill,
turned a deaf ear to all they could advance.
Bordeu, deeply concerned for what had transpired, hastened to
announce to the duc de Richelieu the turn which had taken place
in the face of affairs. Nothing could exceed the rage with which
the news was received. The duke hurried to the king's bedside.
"Is it, indeed, true, sire," inquired he, "that your majesty doubts
of your perfect restoration to health? May I presume to inquire
whether any circumstance has occurred to diminish your confidence
in your medical attendants?"
"Duc de Richelieu," replied the king, looking as though he would
search into his very soul, "I have the small-pox. "
"Well," returned the duke, "and, as I understand, of a most
favourable sort; perhaps, it might have been better that La
Martiniere had said nothing about it. However, it is a malady
as readily subdued by art as any other; you must not allow yourself
to feel any uneasiness respecting it, science has now so much
improved in the treatment of this malady."
"I doubt not its ability to cure others, but me! Indeed, duc de
Richelieu, I would much rather face my old parliament than this
"Your majesty's being able to jest is a good sign."
At this moment, ignorant of all that had taken place, I entered
the room; for, in the general confusion, no person had informed
me of it. The moment Louis XV perceived me, he exclaimed in a
"Dearest countess, I have the small-pox."
At these words a cry of terror escaped me.
"Surely, sire," exclaimed I, "this is some wandering of your
imagination, and your medical attendants are very wrong to permit
you to indulge it for a minute."
"Peace!" returned Louis XV ; "you know not what you say. I
have the small-pox, I repeat; and, thanks to La Martiniere, I
now know my real state."
I now perceived whose hand had dealt the blow, and seeing at
once all the consequences of the disclosure, exclaimed in my
anger, turning towards La Martiniere,
"You have achieved a noble work, indeed, sir; you could not
restrain yourself within the bounds of prudence, and you see the
state to which you have reduced his majesty."
La Martiniere knew not what to reply; the king undertook his defence.
"Blame him not," said he; "but for him I should have quitted this
world like a heathen, without making my peace with an offended God."
At these words I fainted in the arms of doctor Bordeu, who, with
the aid of my attendants, carried me to my chamber, and, at length,
succeeded in restoring me. My family crowded around me, and
sought to afford me that consolation they were in equal need
Spite of the orders I had given to admit no person, the duc
d'Aiguillon would insist upon seeing me. He exerted his best
endeavours to persuade me to arm myself with courage, and, like
a true and attached friend, appeared to lose sight of his own
approaching fall from power in his ardent desire to serve me.
In this mournful occupation an hour passed away, and left my
dejected companions sighing over the present, and, anticipating
even worse prospects than those now before them.
Terror of the king--A complication--Filial piety of the princesses--
Last interview between madame du Barry and Louis XV--Conversation
with the marechale de Mirepoix--The chancellor Maupeou--The fragment--
Perhaps no person ever entertained so great a dread of death as
Louis XV, consequently no one required to be more carefully
prepared for the alarming intelligence so abruptly communicated
by La Martiniere, and which, in a manner, appeared to sign the
To every person who approached him the despairing monarch could
utter only the fatal phrase, "I have the small-pox," which, in
his lips, was tantamount to his declaring himself a dead man.
Alas! had his malady been confined to the small-pox, he might
still have been spared to our prayers; but, unhappily, a
complication of evils, which had long been lurking in his veins,
burst forth with a violence which, united to his cruel complaint,
bade defiance to surgical or medical skill.
Yet, spite of the terror with which the august sufferer
contemplated his approaching end, he did not lose sight of the
interests of the nation as vested in the person of the dauphin,
whom he positively prohibited, as well as his other grandsons,
from entering his chamber or even visiting the part of the chateau
he occupied. After this he seemed to divest himself of all
further care for sublunary things; no papers were brought for his
inspection, nor did he ever more sign any official document.
The next request made by Louis XV was for his daughters, who
presented themselves bathed in tears, and vainly striving to
repress that grief which burst forth in spite of all their
endeavours. The king replied to their sobs, by saying, "My
children, I have the small-pox; but weep not. These gentlemen
[pointing towards the physicians] assure me they can cure me."
But, while uttering this cheerful sentence, his eye caught the
stern and iron countenance of La Martiniere, whose look of cool
disbelief seemed to deny the possibility of such an event.
With a view to divert her father from the gloom which all at
once came over his features, the princess Adelaide informed him
that she had a letter addressed to him by her sister, madame Louise.
"Let me hear it," cried the king; "it is, no doubt, some heavenly
mission with which she is charged. But who knows?" He stopped,
but it was easy to perceive that to the fear of death was added a
dread of his well-being in another world. Madame Adelaide then
read the letter with a low voice, while the attendants retired
to a respectful distance. All eyes were directed to the
countenance of the king, in order to read there the nature of its
contents; but already had the ravages of his fatal disease robbed
his features of every expression, save that of pain and suffering.
The princesses now took their stations beside their parent, and
established themselves as nurses, an office which, I can with
truth affirm, they continued to fill unto the last with all the
devotion of the purest filial piety.
On this same day Louis XV caused me to be sent for. I ran to
his bedside trembling with alarm. The various persons engaged in
his apartment retired when they saw me, and we were left alone.
"My beloved friend," said the king, 'I have the small-pox; I am
still very ill."
"Nay, sire," interrupted I, "you must not fancy things worse than
they are; you will do well, depend upon it, and we shall yet pass
many happy days together."
"Do you indeed think so?" returned Louis XV. "May heaven grant
your prophecy be a correct one. But see the state in which I now
am; give me your hand."
He took my hand and made me feel the pustules with which his
burning cheeks were covered. I know not what effect this touch
of my hand might have produced, but the king in his turn patted
my face, pushed back the curls which hung negligently over my
brow; then, inclining me towards him, drew my head upon his
pillow. I submitted to this whim with all the courage I could
assume; I even went so far as to be upon the point of bestowing
a gentle kiss upon his forehead. But, stopping me, with a
mournful air, he said, "No, my lovely countess; I am no longer
myself, but here is a miniature which has not undergone the same
change as its unfortunate master."
I took the miniature, which I placed with respectful tenderness
in my bosom, nor have I ever parted with it since.
This scene lasted for some minutes, after which I was retiring,
but the king called me back, seized my hand, which he tenderly
kissed, and then whispered an affectionate "Adieu." These were
the last words I ever heard from his lips.
Upon re-entering my apartments I found madame de Mirepoix awaiting
me, to whom I related all that had taken place, expressing, at the
same time, my earnest hope of being again summoned, ere long, to
the presence of my friend and benefactor.
"Do not deceive yourself, my dear," said she; "depend upon it
you have had your last interview; you should have employed it
more profitably. His portrait! why, if I mistake not, you have
of settlement ready for signature? he would have denied you
nothing at such a moment, when you may rest assured he knew
himself to be taking his last farewell."
"Is it possible?" exclaimed I. "And can you really suppose the
king believed he spoke to me for the last time?"
"I have not the slightest doubt of it; I have known him for many
a day. He remembers the scene of Metz, and looks upon you as
forming the second edition of the poor duchesse de Chateauroux,
who, by the by, was not equal to you in any respect."
I burst into a fit of tears, but not of regret for having allowed
my late interview with the king to pass in so unprofitable a
manner. However, the marechale, misconceiving the cause of this
burst of grief, exclaimed, "Come, come; it is too late now, and
all your sorrow cannot recall the last half-hour. But,
mademoiselle du Barry," continued she, "I advise you to commence
your packing up at once, that when the grand move comes you may
not in your hurry, leave anything behind you."
These remarks increased my affliction, but the marechale had no
intention of wounding my feelings, and worldly-minded as she was,
considered all that could be saved out of the wreck as the only
subject worthy attention. Meanwhile, comte Jean, with a gloomy
and desponding air, continued silently with folded arms to pace
the room, till all at once, as if suddenly struck by the arguments
of madame de Mirepoix, he exclaimed,
"The marechale is right"; and abruptly quitted the apartment, as
if to commence his own preparations.
Ere madame de Mirepoix had left me and she remained till a late
hour, the ducs d'Aiguillon and de Cosse arrived, who, although
less experienced in their knowledge of the king's character, were
yet fully of her opinion respecting my last visit to him.
Scarcely had these visitors withdrawn, than I was apprized that
the chancellor of France desired to see me. He was admitted,
and the first glance of the countenance of M. de Maupeou convinced
me that our day of power was rapidly closing.
"Your servant, cousin," said he, seating himself without the
smallest ceremony; "at what page of our history have we arrived?"
"By the unusual freedom and effrontery of your manner," answered
I, "I should surmise that we have reached the word
"Oh," replied the chancellor, "I crave your pardon for having
omitted my best bow; but, my good cousin, my present visit is a
friendly one, to advise you to burn your papers with as little
delay as possible."
"Thank you for your considerate counsel," said I, coolly, " but I
have no papers to destroy. I have neither mixed with any state
intrigue, nor received a pension from the English government.
Nothing will be found in my drawers but some unanswered
"Then as I can do nothing for you, my good cousin, oblige me by
giving this paper to the duc d'Aiguillon."
"What is it?" inquired I, with much curiosity.
"Have you forgotten our mutual engagement to support each other,
and not to quit the ministry until the other retired also? I have
lately been compelled (from perceiving how deeply the duke was
manoeuvering against me) to send him a copy of this agreement.
Under other circumstances I might have availed myself of this
writing, but now it matters not; the blow which dismisses me
proceeds from other hands than his, and I am willing to leave
him the consolation of remaining in power a few days after myself.
Give him, then, this useless document; and now, farewell, my
pretty cousin, let us take a last embrace."
Upon which the chancellor, presuming until the last upon our
imaginary relationship, kissed my cheek, and having put into my
hands the paper in question, retired with a profound bow.
This ironical leave taking left me stupefied with astonishment,
and well I presaged my coming disgrace from the absurd mummery
the chancellor had thought fit to play off.
Comte Jean, who had seen M. de Maupeou quit the house, entered
my apartment to inquire the reason of his visit. Silent and
dejected, I allowed my brother-in-law to take up the paper,
which he read without any ceremony. "What is the meaning of this
scrawl?" cried comte Jean, with one of his usual oaths; "upon my
word our cousin is a fine fellow," continued he, crushing the
paper between his fingers. "I'll engage that he still hopes to
keep his place; however, one thing consoles me, and that is, that
both he and his parliament will soon be sent to the right about."
Our conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Chamilly, who
came to acquaint me that the king was sleeping, and did not wish
to be again disturbed that night. Remembering my usual
omnipotence in the chateau, I was about, like a true idiot, to
prove to Chamilly that the king's interdict did not extend to me,
when I was stopped in my purpose by the appearance of the duc
d'Aiguillon; and as it was now nearly eleven o'clock at night, I
could scarcely doubt his being the bearer of some
The duc d'Aiguillon brings an order for the immediate departure
of madame du Barry--The king's remarks recapitulated--The countess
holds a privy council--Letter to madame de Mirepoix and the ducs
de Cosse and d'Aiguillon--Night of departure--Ruel--Visit from
madame de Forcalquier
I said I did not expect the duc d'Aiguillon; and the grief which
was spread over his features, and the large tears which stood in
his eyes, persuaded me but too plainly that all hope was at an end.
"Is the king dead?" cried I, in a stifled voice.
"No, madam," replied he, "Louis XV still lives, nor is it by any
means certain that the misfortune you apprehend is in store for us."
"He sends me from him, then," exclaimed I, with a convulsive cry,
"and my enemies have triumphed."
"His majesty is but of human nature, madam," replied the duke;
"he feels himself dangerously ill, dreads the future, and believes
that he owes his people a sort of reparation for past errors."
"How, my lord duke," interrupted I, "this grave language in your
lips--but no matter. Inform me only at whose desire you state
these melancholy facts; speak, I am prepared for your mission,
be it what it may."
"You shall hear everything, madam," replied the duke, leading me
to an arm-chair. I seated myself; my sisters- in-law, my niece,
and comte Jean stood around me, eagerly waiting the duke's
communication. "A few hours after you had been removed from his
chamber, the king inquired of the princess Adelaide whether it
were generally known at Paris that he had the small-pox. The
princess replied in the affirmative, adding:
"'The archbishop of Paris was here twice during yesterday to
inquire after you.'
"'Yet I belong more properly to the diocese of Chartres,' returned
the king, 'and surely M. de Fleury would not interest himself less
about me than M. de Beaumont.'
"'They are both truly anxious about you, my dearest father, and
if you would only see them--'
"'No, no,' answered Louis XV; 'they must not be taken from the
duties of their respective dioceses; besides, in case of need, I
have my grand almoner.'
"Madame Adelaide did not venture to urge the matter further just
then, and, after a short interval of silence, a message was
brought from you, inquiring whether you could see the king, to
which he himself replied, that he felt inclined to sleep, and
would rather not see any person that night. I was in the chamber,
and he very shortly called me to him, and said:
"'Duc d'Aiguillon, I have the small-pox; and you are aware that
there is a sort of etiquette in my family which enjoins my
immediately discharging my duties as a Christian.'
"'Yes, sire, if the malady wore a serious aspect; but in your case--'
"'May God grant,' replied he, 'that my disorder be not dangerous;
however, it may become so, if it is as yet harmless, and I would
fain die as a believer rather than an infidel. I have been a great
sinner, doubtless; but I have ever observed Lent with a most
scrupulous exactitude. I have caused more than a hundred thousand
masses to be said for the repose of unhappy souls; I have
respected the clergy, and punished the authors of all impious
works, so that I flatter myself I have not been a very bad Christian.'
"I listened to his discourse with a heavy heart, yet I still
strove to reassure the king respecting his health, of which, I
assured him, there was not the slightest doubt.
"'There is one sacrifice,' said the king, in a low and hurried
tone, 'that my daughter Louise, her sisters, and the clergy, will
not be long in exacting from me in the name of etiquette. I
recollect the scene of Metz, and it would be highly disagreeable
to me to have it repeated at Versailles; let us, therefore, take
our precautions in time to prevent it. Tell the duchesse
d'Aiguillon that she will oblige me by taking the comtesse du
Barry to pass two or three days with her at Ruel.'
"'How, sire!' exclaimed I, 'send your dearest friend from you at
a time when you most require her cares?'
"'I do not send her away,' answered the king, with mournful
tenderness, 'I but yield to present necessity; let her submit as
she values my happiness, and say to her, that I hope and believe
her absence will be very short.'"
The duke here ceased his recital, which fully confirmed all my
previous anticipations. My female relatives sobbed aloud, while
comte Jean, compressing his lips, endeavoured to assume that
firmness he did not really possess. By a violent effort I forced
myself to assume a sort of resignation.
"Am I required to depart immediately?" inquired I.
"No," said the duke; "to leave the chateau in the middle of the
night would be to assume the air of a flight, we had better
await the coming day; it will, besides, afford time to apprize
the duchess. "
While the duc d'Aiguillon was thus gone to arrange for my departure,
I requested to be left alone. My heart was oppressed, and I felt
the need of venting my grief upon some friendly bosom. After a
few moments, spent in collecting my thoughts, I addressed two
letters, one to the marechale de Mirepoix, and the other to the
duc de Cosse; to the former I wrote on account of my retirement
to Ruel, bewailed the sad turn my prospects had assumed, expressed
my deep concern for the severe illness of my excellent friend and
benefactor, begging of her to defend my character from all unjust
attacks, and to allow me to be blamed for no faults but such as
I had really been guilty of. I concluded with these words, "I
set out at seven o'clock to-morrow morning; the duchesse
d'Aiguillon will conduct me to Ruel, where I shall remain until
I am ordered elsewhere."
To the duke I merely sent a short account of my present prospects,
hour of departure, etc. And, my feelings somewhat relieved by the
penning of these epistles, I threw myself upon a couch to await
the morning. Upon awaking, I received the following note from
the duchesse d'Aiguillon:--
"MADAME LA COMTESSE,--I owe his majesty many
thanks for the pleasing, yet mournful, task he has
allotted me. Your kindness to my family,
independently of my private regard for you, gives
you the surest claim of my best services during
this afflicting period. Let me beseech of you not
to despair, but cheerfully anticipate brighter days.
"I will call for you at seven o'clock, and if you
approve of it, we will use my carriage. Ruel is
entirely at your disposal and that of your family."
This note was truly characteristic of its amiable writer, who at
court passed for a cold-hearted, frigid being, whilst, in reality,
the warm feelings of her excellent heart were reserved for her
I have never admired those general lovers who profess to love
every one, nor do I feel quite sure it is a very strong
recommendation to say a person is beloved by all who know her.
Read, now, a striking contrast to the short but sympathizing
billet of madame d'Aiguillon, in the following heartless letter f
from the marechale de Mirepoix, which was put into my hands as I
was ascending the carriage.
"MY LOVELY COUNTESS,--I am all astonishment! Can
it be possible that you are to quit Versailles?
You are right in saying you have been the friend
of every one, and those who could speak ill of you
are to be pitied for not having had better
opportunities of understanding your real character.
But fear not, the dauphiness is virtue personified,
and the dauphin equally perfect. Every thing
promises a peaceful and indulgent reign, should
we have the misfortune to lose his present majesty.
Still there will always be a great void left at
Versailles; as far as I am concerned, I have passed
so much of my time with you, that I cannot imagine
what I shall do with my evenings; it will cost me
much of my age to alter habits and customs now so
long fixed and settled, but such is life; nothing
certain, nothing stable. We should imitate cats
in our attachments, and rather identify ourselves
with the house than the possessor of it. I trust
you have secured an ample provision for the future;
neglect not the present, to-morrow may come in
vain for you.
"Be sure you let me know the spot to which you
permanently retire, and I will endeavour to see you
as frequently as my engagements will admit of.
Spite of the bitterness of my feelings, this letter drew a smile
to my lips; the allusion to cats which had escaped the marechale
exactly applied to her own character, of which I had been warned
before I became acquainted with her; but her protestations of
warm and unutterable attachment had gained my confidence, and I
allowed myself to be guided implicitly by her.
The duchesse d'Aiguillon was waiting for me while I perused the
above letter; at length, with a sigh, I prepared to quit that
palace of delights where I had reigned absolute mistress. I cast
a mournful look around me, on those splendid walks, fountains
and statues, worthy the gardens of Armida, but where there reigned,
at this early hour, a sort of gloomy silence; whilst, in that
chamber where love had well nigh deified me and recognised me as
queen of France, lay extended the monarch so lately my protector
It was the Wednesday of the fifth of May that I took my seat in
the carriage of the duchesse d'Aiguillon accompanied by my
sister-in-law and the vicomtesse Adolphe, who would not forsake
me. Bischi remained with madame d'Hargicourt, whose duties
detained her with the comtesse d'Artois. Her husband also
remained at Versailles, while comte Jean and his son proceeded
to Paris. I will not attempt to describe the emotions with which
I quitted my magnificent suite of apartments, and traversed the
halls and staircases already crowded by persons anxiously awaiting
the first intimation of the king's decease. I was wrapped in my
pelisse, and effectually eluded observation. It has been said that
I left Versailles at four o'clock in the morning, but that was a
mere invention on the part of my servants to baffle the curiosity
of those who might have annoyed me by their presence.
We pursued our way in mournful reflection, whilst madame d'Aiguillon,
with her wonted goodness, sought by every means to distract me
from the dejection in which I was buried. Her husband, who
remained with the king, engaged to write me a true account of
all that transpired during my absence, and I shall very shortly
present you with a specimen of the fidelity with which he
performed his promise. The duchess did the honours of Ruel.
"Here," said she, "the great cardinal Richelieu loved to repose
himself from the bustle and turmoil of a court."
"I think," answered I, "it would have been less a favourite with
his eminence had it been selected for his abode on the eve of
Immediately upon my arrival I retired to bed, for fatigue had so
completely overpowered me that I fell into a heavy slumber, from
which I did not awake till the following day; when I found the
duchesse d'Aiguillon, my sister-in-law, Genevieve Mathon, and
Henriette, seated by my bed: the sight of them was cheering and
gratifying proof of my not being as yet abandoned by all the world.
I arose, and we were just about to take our places at table, when
madame de Forcalquier arrived. I must confess that her presence
was an agreeable surprise to me; I was far from reckoning on her
constancy in friendship, and her present conduct proved her worthy
of her excellent friend, madame Boncault, whose steady attachment
I had so frequently heard extolled. The sight of her imparted
fresh courage to me, and I even resumed my usual high spirits, and
in the sudden turn my ideas had taken, was childish enough to
express my regrets for the loss of my downy and luxurious bed at
Versailles, complaining of the woful difference between it and
the one I had slept on at Ruel.
The duchesse d'Aiguillon, who must have pitied the puerility of
such a remark, gently endeavoured to reconcile me to it by reminding
me that both the marquise de Pompadour and the cardinal de
Richelieu had reposed upon that very couch.
I endeavoured to return some sportive reply, but my thoughts had
flown back to Versailles, and my momentary exhilaration was at
an end. Tears rose to my eyes and choked my attempts at conversation;
I therefore begged the duchess would excuse me, and retired to my
apartment until I could compose myself; but the kind and attentive
friend to whose hospitality I was then confided needed no further
mention of my hard couch, but caused the best bed Ruel contained
to be prepared for me by the time I again pressed my pillow.
This same evening brought M. de Cosse, who could no longer repress
his impatience to assure me of his entire devotion. He appeared
on this occasion, if possible, more tender and more respectful
in his manner of evincing it than ever.
We supped together without form or ceremony, the party consisting
of mesdames d'Aiguillon, de Forcalquier, and myself, mademoiselle
du Barry, and the vicomtesse Adolphe, the prince de Soubise and
the duc de Cosse. But the meal passed off in sorrowful silence;
each of us seemed to abstain from conversation as though the
slightest remark might come fraught with some painful allusion.
On the following day I received the letter from the duc d'Aiguillon
which you will find in the following chapter.
The duc d'Aiguillon's first letter--The marechale de Mirepoix
--A second letter from the duc d'Aiguillon--Numerous visitors
"My much esteemed friend,--I promised you upon
your departure to inform you of all that transpired,
and although the task is a mournful one, I will do
my best to acquit myself with zeal and sincerity,
and each evening I will write you an exact detail
of all that has occurred during the day. The king
remains much as you left him, and you must know
that already his medical attendants differ in their
opinion respecting him--Lemonnier utterly
despairing of his recovery, while Bordeu is most
sanguine that he shall be enabled to restore him
to health. La Martiniere persists in his assertion
that the attention of the king should be
immediately directed to his spiritual concerns.
The archbishop of Paris remains until called for
in the ante-chamber, and the princesses never
leave the bedside of their august parent.
"The king spoke with me concerning you for some
time this morning, and I can assure you, you are
the first object in his thoughts; he has begged of
me never to forsake you, and has deigned to repose
in me the enviable post of your future protector.
'I bequeath my beloved friend to your fidelity,'
added the suffering prince. I took advantage of
this opportunity to remark that I looked upon your
quitting Versailles as too precipitate and premature
a step. 'No, no,' replied the king, "I have acted
for the best; I have once been deceived as to my
condition, and I would willingly prevent being
again taken by surprise. Tell my beloved and
excellent countess how truly I love her'; and
hearing the prince de Soubise mention his design
of supping at Ruel, he charged him to embrace
you for him.
"The dauphin still remains secluded in his apartment,
but I know that he keeps up a regular correspondence
with madame Victoire, whose letters, after being
immersed in vinegar, are carried to the comte de
Muy, who fumigates them previously to allowing
them to reach the hands of the dauphin.
"I am, etc., etc.
"VERSAILLES, May 5, 1774, nine o'clock, evening."
Upon awaking the following morning I again received news of the
king, who was stated to have passed a good night, and even La
Martiniere seemed inclined to hope. As yet, then, there were no
safe grounds for abandoning me, and about two o'clock in the
afternoon I was favoured with a visit from madame de Mirepoix,
who, running up to me, exclaimed with her usual vivacity,
"Oh, my dear creature, how I longed to see you!" and then
leading me into another chamber, she added,
"Do you know I quite missed you? As I wrote you, my time hung
heavily on my hands. What in the world will become of me if I am
compelled to resign the delightful hours granted to the envied few
who are permitted the < entrée > to the
For you see, my dear, the dauphiness will be far from bestowing
that honour upon me. I am too old to form one of her coterie,
and I shall be laid aside like the rest of the antiquities of the
chateau. By the way," continued the voluble marechale, "there
is already a great cabal in the chateau respecting the formation
of a new ministry, in which, besides desiring lucrative posts for
themselves, all are anxious to introduce their private friends;
in the midst of so many absorbing interests you appear to be
already forgotten, which, by the way, is no bad thing for you.
Your best plan is to remain perfectly tranquil." Then rapidly
passing to her most prevailing idea, this excellent friend proceeded
to inquire what the king had bestowed on me as a parting present,
"for," said she, "he would not certainly permit you to leave
"It is a point," replied I, "that neither his majesty nor myself
once thought of."
"Then such an omission proves him a vile egotist, and you a
prodigious simpleton," answered she; "and were I in your place,
I would commission the duc d'Aiguillon to make a direct demand
of a future provision for you; you really should see about this,
and secure to yourself a noble establishment for yourself and
your friends, who ought not to suffer for your overstrained
delicacy. Look at the duc de Choiseul, who has kept a regular
court at Chanteloup, and never wanted for a train of courtiers
After this lesson of worldly wisdom, the excellent marechale gave
me a friendly kiss, returned to her carriage, and I saw her no
more during my stay at Ruel.
The evening brought with it a second letter from the duc
d'Aiguillon, it was as follows:--
"MADAM,--I hasten to acquaint you with the
pleasing information of his majesty being considerably
better; his strength appears to have returned,
and he himself, in the consciousness of improving
health, expressed aloud his regret for having been
so hasty in advising your removal from him. He has
continually repeated, 'How weak and selfish of me
thus to afflict my dearest countess! would you
not advise me, my friend, to request her immediate
return?' Of course, my reply was in the affirmative.
His majesty then put the same question to the duc
de Richelieu, who answered, that in his opinion it
was the best plan he could decide upon. The bulletin
signed by the different physicians accompanies this:
it leaves me nothing to add but to recommend your
bearing with patience this temporary absence from
court, to which you will ere long return, more
idolized, more sought after, than ever. The duc
de la Vrilliere and the abbe Terray present the
assurance of their unbounded respect and devotion,
The duchess, my sister-in-law, and niece shared in joy at such
gratifying intelligence, and the ensuing day brought a concourse
of visitors to Ruel; indeed, any one might have supposed that
fresh swarms of flatterers and courtiers had been created only
to swell my numbers of humble and obsequious adorers. I bestowed
on each unmeaning guest a smiling welcome, for indeed, my heart
was too light and I felt too happy to be enabled to frown even
upon those who, when the storm appeared near, had basely
It was amusing enough to see with what zeal any person, whom I
had previously recommended was assisted by the various ministers
in the pursuit of their object; the
all at once at leisure to pay his respects to me. He confirmed
all the kind messages sent me by the king through the duc d'Aiguillon.
Madame de Mirepoix, who had visited me the preceding evening,
reserved her next call for the following day, but a few hours
effected a cruel change in my fortune.
A third letter from the duke--The king receives extreme unction--
Letter from madame Victoire to the dauphin--M. de Machault--
A promenade with the duc de Cosse--Kind attention from the
prince des Deux Ponts--A fourth letter from the duc d'Aiguillon
--Comte Jean bids me farewell--M. d'Aiguillon's fifth letter,
containing an account of the death of Louis XV--The duc de la
for the abbey of
The account received in the evening from the duc d'Aiguillon I
shall not transcribe, as it was merely a repetition of the good
tidings of the morning. The day following still brought a
continuation of favorable accounts, but the next letter was in
"MADAM, AND MOST HONORED FRIEND,--Arm yourself
with courage; the king is extremely ill, and I ought
not to conceal from you that serious apprehensions
are entertained for his life; he has passed a wretched
night, His daughters, who never quitted his bedside,
whispered to him that the archbishop of Paris and
his grand almoner were in the anteroom if he desired
to see them. The king did not seem to hear their
words, but about three o'clock in the morning he
called the duc de Duras, whom he bade inquire
whether M. Mandoux were in the chateau; and, if
so, to apprize him he wished to speak with him.
"At these words the princesses and all who heard
them burst into a fit of weeping, which was only
interrupted by the arrival of the confessor, who,
approaching the bedside of the penitent, held a
conference with him of nearly a quarter of an hour:
this being concluded, the king, in a low and firm
voice, inquired for his almoner. The latter soon
presented himself, anxious to discharge the duties
of his sacred office. His majesty kept continually
repeating to his afflicted children, 'My daughters,
why should what I am now about to do agitate or
alarm you? You are well aware, that having the
small-pox, the etiquette established in my family
compels me to receive the last solemn rites of the
church, and I but acquit myself of an obligation
in submitting to it.'
"The tone in which the king spoke convinced his
attendants that he rather strove to re-assure
himself than his children, by the persuasion that
the receiving extreme unction was not so much
the consequence of his own dangerous state as a
mere act of obedience to an established custom.
It was then decided that the sacred ceremony should
take place at seven o'clock in the morning; and
here arose some little embarrassment; the
ecclesiastics insisting upon the necessity of the
king's making some striking and open atonement
for what they were pleased to term the scandal of
his private life.
"The king's chamber now presented a picture at
once solemn and gloomy. Grouped together on one
side the bed might be seen the different noblemen
in attendance upon his majesty; a little removed
stood the clergy, concealed from the invalid by
the closely-drawn curtains; in the midst of these
contending parties were the princesses going from
one to the other, vainly seeking by mild and gentle
mediation to produce a satisfactory arrangement.
It was at length understood, that, on account of
the extreme weakness of the invalid, the grand
almoner should pronounce in his name a kind of
honorable apology for past offences.
"You can scarcely imagine, madam, the universal
consternation spread throughout the chateau by
the information that the king was about to receive
the last rites of his church. The terror and alarm
became overpowering for a while, but subsiding
into a more religious feeling crowds of persons
followed with solemn reverence the holy procession
as it passed along, bearing the holy sacrament to
the expiring monarch. At the moment when it was
administered the grand almoner, turning towards
all present, pronounced the following words in
the king's name:--
"'Gentlemen, the weakness of his majesty preventing
him from expressing himself, he has commanded me
to inform you, that although he is responsible to
God alone for his conduct, he yet regrets having
caused any scandal to his people by the irregularities
of his life, that he sincerely repents of his sins,
and, should Providence restore him to health, he
purposes living henceforward in all the virtue and
morality of his youth, in the defence and
maintenance of religion, in preserving a true
faith, and in watching over the best interests
of his people.'
"Yours, madam, etc., etc."
I learned also, through another channel, that (according to
custom) forty hours' prayer had been enjoined in every church in
France to implore the mercy of heaven for the king. I heard too
that the shrine of Saint Genevieve had been displayed for the
veneration of true believers.
I passed a miserable night, dreaming of graves, winding-sheets,
and funeral-torches, from which I only awoke to receive the
morning's despatches. Alas! the news but confirmed the distressing
state of the king. The very solitude in which I was left at Ruel
might alone have served to convince me of my misfortune; for,
with the exception of the duc de Cosse, no person came near us.
M. de Cosse invited me to walk with him in the garden; I accepted
the arm of this noble friend, and we directed our steps towards
the wood. When we were there secure from interruption, the duke
inquired what were my plans for the future?
"How can I tell you," answered I; "what is henceforward to be
my fate is better known to our future queen than to myself."
"That is precisely what I dread," replied M. de Cosse. "Unfortunately
you have deeply offended the queen elect, who has irritated her
husband's mind against you; and then the Choiseul faction will,
in all probability, come into power."
"I see all this," returned I, "and am prepared for whatever
"I admire your calmness in a moment like the present," cried the
duke; "but have a care. Perhaps the best thing would be to remove
you beyond the reach of the first shock of court displeasure. In
your place I would request passports from the duc d'Aiguillon and
travel into England."
"Oh, speak not of such a thing, I conjure you," interrupted I;
"I have a horror of such journeys, and would much rather trust
to the generosity of the dauphiness. She is about to become a
great queen, while I shall be a creature so humiliated and
abased, that the very difference between our situations will be a
sufficient vengeance in her eyes."
We returned to the house, and had scarcely entered, when M. de
Palchelbel, plenipotentiary to the prince des Deux Ponts,
"M. de Palchelbel," cried I, extending my hand, "what good wind
brings you here?"
"I have been honoured by the commands of the prince, my master,
madam," replied he, "to bring you the assurances of his unalterable
friendship; and to say further, that whenever you feel dissatisfied
with your residence in France, you will find at Deux Ponts an
asylum, which the most earnest endeavors of the prince, my
gracious patron, will strive to render agreeable to you."
I was much affected by this mark of generous regard on the part
of prince Charles Auguste; and, turning quickly towards the duke,
"What think you of all this? Will you henceforward believe those
self-dubbed philosophers, who assert that friendship is unknown
to royalty? You have here a proof of the contrary. For my own
part, M. de Palchelbel," continued I, turning towards the minister,
"I am much gratified by your message, and entreat of you to thank
his royal highness most sincerely for me. I will write to him
myself on the subject, but beg of you to repeat that, kind as are
his offers, I cannot accept of them; but shall certainly remain in
France until the new sovereign commands or permits me to quit it."
I afterwards repeated to the minister of Deux Ponts what I had
previously stated in the garden to M. de Cosse, and had the
satisfaction of hearing madam d'Aiguillon approve of my sentiments.
When I retired to my apartment I was followed by my niece.
"How happy are you, dear aunt," said she, 'to preserve such
friends in your present troubles."
"I owe them," replied I, "to my simplicity and candor."
"Will you not retire to Germany?"
"Certainly not," answered I.
"Yet it would be better to allow the first burst of displeasure
on the part of the dauphiness to pass over."
"Who gave you this counsel, my dear niece? I am quite sure it
does not originate in yourself."
"I had promised not to tell," answered she; "but if you insist
upon it, I must confess, that I was persuaded by the prince de
Conde and M. de Soubise to urge you to follow it."
"Do they then wish for my absence?" inquired I, angrily.
"Only for your own sake, dearest aunt."
"I thank them; but my resolution is formed to commit myself
entirely to Providence in this melancholy affair."