Part 10 out of 10
"No, I replied I; "I have refused travelling with a much more
creditable companion than yourself."
"There you are wrong then; for, depend upon it, a cloister will
be your fate; at any rate my business here is at an end. The new
monarch is young, and attached to his wife, and my daughter-in-law
is too great a simpleton to be turned to any account at court."
My brother-in-law then requested I would furnish him with money.
I gave him what I had, and placed in his hands diamonds to the
value of 30,000 francs. He was very anxious to obtain all my
jewels, under pretence of conveying them safely out of the kingdom,
but this I was too wise to agree to; he would have staked them at t
he first gaming-table he met with. We separated without much
emotion on either side. He next took leave of Chon and his
daughter-in-law. the former wept bitterly, for she was a most
excellent and amiable girl--but the latter, who knew but too much
of the villainy of her father-in-law, could scarcely repress
her joy at his departure. Comte Jean perceived it; and, according
to his brutal custom, indulged in a coarse jest at her expense;
for one of his maxims was to hold all women in sovereign contempt
but such as could be useful to him. For my own part, his absence
gave me something like pleasure; his presence was wearisome to me;
it was like the dregs of the cup which had intoxicated my senses.
During the day several false reports arrived of the death of the
king; but at length, about half past four o'clock in the afternoon,
I received the following letter:--
"MADAM,-You have lost your best friend and I an
excellent master: at three clock this day his majesty
breathed his last. I can scarcely describe to you
the horrors of his death-bed. The princesses
Adélaïde and Sophie braved the frightful contagion
to the last and never quitted him till the last
spark had flown. Alas! with the exception of
themselves, every attendant openly expressed
their weariness and disgust.
"For several days the physicians have forbidden
the windows to be opened; and those condemned to
inhale the pestilential vapor of the room vainly
sought to counteract them by every powerful
fumigation. Alas, madam, what is a king when he
can no longer grasp the sceptre? How great a
leveller is death! The prelates abandoned the sick
chamber, and left a simple curé of the chapel to
take their place; the lords in waiting and other
officers shrunk from the duties of their office,
and with their eyes fixed on a time-piece eagerly
awaited the hour which should free them from it.
The princesses, who perceived this impatience,
durst make no complaint, while the king, occasionally
recovering his senses, uttered broken sentences,
expressive of the religious terror which had seized
his mind. At length, at a few minutes past three
o'clock, Lemonnier, in his capacity of first
physician, said, after laying his hand upon the
heart of the patient, and placing a glass before
his lips, 'The king is dead.' At these words all
present strove with indecent haste to quit the
chamber; not a single sigh, not one regret was
heard. The princesses were carried insensible
to their apartments.
"The extinction of a
placed in a certain window, announced the accession
of the dauphin ere the duc d'Aumont had informed
him of the decease of his august grandsire."
This letter wrung from me some bitter tears, as well for the king,
who had so lavishly bestowed his affections upon me, as for
myself. What would now be my fate? Alas! I knew not; all my
brilliant prospects were buried in the coffin of my late protector.
The duc d'Aiguillon arrived at Ruel about midnight; he, as well
as the other ministers who had been about the late monarch during
his last illness, being prohibited by etiquette from following the
present monarch to Choisy, whither the whole of the royal family
had retired for a few days. He told us that the duc d'Aumont,
having commanded La Martinière to proceed with the embalming of
the royal corpse, that physician replied, "Certainly, my lord,
it shall be done if you command it, but, in that case, the duties
of your office compel you to receive his majesty's bowels in a
golden dish; and I protest, that such is the state of the body,
that of all who may assist at the operation, not one will survive
eight days. It is for your grace to determine what shall be done."
M. d'Aumont thought no more of embalming his late master, but
gave orders for the body being immediately placed in a leaden
coffin, from which here still issued frightful effluvia.
Up to the moment of my quitting Ruel madame de Mirepoix gave me
no token of recollection: I heard that herself and the prince de
Beauvau were reconciled, and for her sake I rejoiced at it. No
person came near us the whole of the day with the exception of
M. de Cossé, and I sat in hourly expectation of some order from
court. At length we descried a travelling carriage with six
horses, proceeding at a rapid pace up the avenue. "I know that
livery," exclaimed I; " 'tis that of my humble adorer, my
obsequious slave, my friend at court, the duc de la Vrillière,
could not delegate to another the pleasing task of arresting me;
but permit me to retire to my apartment; it is fitting he should
seek me there if he has any communication to make to me." The
duchess, approved my resolution; and the duc de la Vrillière
having been introduced into the salon, after the first compliments,
requested to see me, that he might acquaint me with the
Mademoiselle du Barry undertook to inform me of the duke's arrival.
"You were not mistaken, dear sister," said she; "the duc de la
Vrillière is the bearer of the king's orders respecting you: but
compose yourself, I beseech you."
"Fear not," said I; "I am as calm as you would have me. Tell
the vile dissembler, I mean the duke, I await him"
M. Tartuffe was but a faint copy of
himself before me. His manners still retained part of their former
servility, but there was a lurking smile about him, which proved
how well he was pleased with the part he had to perform.
He approached me with lingering steps and an air of mysterious
importance, while a sort of sardonic grin contradicted the sorrow
he endeavored to force into his countenance. For my own part,
I caused the folding-doors to be thrown open, and advancing
ceremoniously, stood to receive the orders of the king. I bowed
stiffly and silently; and, with something like a malicious
satisfaction, I witnessed the embarrassment into which my cool
and collected manner threw him.
"Madam," said he at last, "I have a painful duty to perform: in a
word, I am the bearer of a
"Well, sir! "said I, tranquilly.
"Madam, I must request you to believe how greatly I regret the
task imposed upon me; but my duty and obedience to the king--"
"Would enable you to strangle your nearest relative. All that is
well known; but, in the name of all that is base, cowardly, and
unmanly, could no one but
and afflicted woman that she has lost her only friend and support?"
"Madam, I repeat, obedience--necessity--"
"Enough, sir; I pity you."
"Madam, you outrage the king in my person."
"No, sir; I respect the king too highly to believe that there could
ever be any relation between him and one who is too contemptible
to remind me that he was but a few days back the most cringing
of my servile slaves."
unfolded and read, in a trembling voice, the following words:
"MADAME LA COMTESSE Du Barry,--For reasons,
which have for their object the preservation of
the tranquillity of my kingdom, and the prevention
of any state secrets confided to you being
promulgated, I send this order for your immediate
female attendant only, and under the escort of the
exempt who has the necessary orders. This measure
is by no means intended to be either disagreeable
or of long duration. I therefore pray God to have
you in his holy keeping,
"That, madam," continued the duke, " is his majesty's pleasure,
and you have nothing to do but to submit."
"Your advice was not asked, my lord," returned I; "I honor and
obey the king's slightest wish, but your presence is no longer
requisite; you will therefore be pleased to rid me of it."
The duke, resuming his air of mock humility, bowed low, and
When I was alone, I must confess a few tears escaped me, but I
soon wiped them away; my resolution was taken.
The duchesse d'Aiguillon and my female friends hastened to question
me relative to the duke's visit. I showed them the
from seeing Hamond, who was to be my escort, waiting in the
anteroom to conduct me to the abbey of
Meaux, the place of my exile. They all evinced the utmost sorrow,
and both Chon and my niece protested that with the king's permission,
they would willingly attend me in my seclusion. I felt grateful
for this mark of attachment; then sending for the exempt, I
inquired whether I might be allowed sufficient time to write a
letter, and cause a few necessary preparations to be made?
"Madam, I replied he, "my only orders are to accompany you
I then penned a few hasty lines to the king, indicative of my
wishes for the happiness and prosperity of his reign, of my ready
obedience to his commands, and of my earnest wishes that my
sister-in-law and niece might be permitted to visit me. This
letter I was promised should be punctually delivered. I had now
the painful duty to perform of choosing between Henriette and
Geneviève, as only one attendant was allowed me at
excellent Geneviève timidly urged her early friendship.
"Let chance decide it," cried I. They drew lots, and Geneviève
We reached Pont aux Dames in the middle of the night; it was a
miserable looking place, which took its date from the time of
Saint Louis or Charlemagne for ought I know. What a contrast
met my eyes between this ruinous old building, its bare walls,
wooden seats, and gloomy casements, and the splendor of Versailles
or Choisy; all my firmness forsook me, I threw myself weeping
into the arms of Geneviève.
A courier-had announced my intended arrival, and I found all the
good sisters impatient to see me. What eager curiosity did the
pious nuns evince to behold one of whom they had heard so much
even in their quiet retreat, and how many questions had I to reply
to from those who had the courage to address me. Alas! I, of
all the throng assembled, was the most anxious for quiet and solitude.
I was lodged in the best apartments, which, however magnificent
the good people of
not on a par with the granaries of Lucienne. But complaint was
useless, and I could only resign myself to what was offered me.