Part 8 out of 8
veins, and I fell unconscious upon my carpet.
My woman cameo to bring me help, and when my senses returned, I heard the
King saying to my intendant: "All this wearies me beyond endurance; she
must go this very day."
"Yes, I will go," I cried, seizing a dessert-knife which was on my
bureau. I rushed forward with a mechanical movement upon my little Comte
de Toulouse, whom I snatched from the hands of his father, and I was on
the verge of sacrificing this child.
I shudder every time I think of that terrible and desperate scene. But
reason had left me; sorrow filled my soul; I was no longer myself. My
reader must be penetrated by my misfortune and have compassion on me.
Madame de Maintenon, informed probably of this storm, arrived and
suddenly showed herself. To rush forward, snatch away the dagger and my
child was but one movement for her. Her tears coursed in abundance; and
the King, leaning on the marble of my chimney-piece, shed tears and
seemed to feel a sort of suffocation.
My women had removed my children. My intendant alone had remained in the
deep embrasure of a shutter; the poor man had affliction and terror
painted on his face. Madame de Maintenon had slightly wounded herself in
seizing my knife. I saw her tearing her handkerchief, putting on
lavender water in order to moisten the bandage. As she left me she took
my hand with an air of kindness, and her tears began again.
The King, seeing her go out, retired without addressing me a word. I
might call as much as I would; he did not return.
Until nightfall I seemed to be in a state of paralysis. My arms were
like lead; my will could no longer stir them. I was distressed at first,
and then I thanked God, who was delivering me from the torments of
existence. All night my body and soul moved in the torrent and waves of
a fever handed over to phantoms; I saw in turn the smiling plains of
Paradise and the dire domain of Hell. My children, covered with wounds,
asked me for pardon, kneeling before me; and Madame de Maintenon, one
mass of blood, reproached me for having killed her.
On the following day a copious blood-letting, prescribed by my doctor,
relieved my head and heart.
The following week Madame de Maintenon, entirely cured of her scratch,
consented to the King's will, which she had opposed in order to excite
it, and in the presence of the Marquis and Marquise de Montchevreuil, the
Duc de Noailles, the Marquis de Chamarante, M. Bontems, and Mademoiselle
Ninon, her permanent chambermaid, was married to the King of France and
Navarre in the chapel of the chateau.
The Abbe de Harlay, Archbishop of Paris, assisted by the Bishop of
Chartres and Pere de la Chaise, had the honour of blessing this marriage
and presenting the rings of gold. After the ceremony, which took place
at an early hour, and even by torchlight, there was a slight repast in
the small apartments. The same persons, taking carriages, then repaired
to Maintenon, where the great ceremony, the mass, and all that is
customary in such cases were celebrated.
At her return, Madame de Maintenon took possession of an extremely
sumptuous apartment that had been carefully arranged and furnished for
her. Her people continued to wear her livery, but she scarcely ever rode
any more except in the great carriage of the King, where we saw her in
the place which had been occupied by the Queen. In her interior the
title of Majesty was given her; and the King, when he had to speak of
her, only used the word Madame, without adding Maintenon, that having
become too familiar and trivial.
He was desirous of proclaiming her; she consistently opposed it, and this
prudent and wise conduct regained for her, little by little, the opinions
which had been shocked.
A few days after the marriage, my health being somewhat reestablished,
I went to Petit-Bourg; but the Marechal de Vivonne, his son Louis de
Vivonne, all the Mortemarts, all the Rochehouarts, Thianges, Damas,
Seignelays, Blainvilles, and Colberts,--in a word, counts, marquises,
barons, prelates, and duchesses, came to find me and attack me in my
desert, in order to represent to me that, since Madame de Maintenon was
the wife of the monarch, I owed her my homage and respectful compliments.
The whole family has done so, said these cruel relations; you only have
not yet fulfilled this duty. You must do it, in God's name. She has
neither airs nor hauteur; you will be marvellously well received. Your
resistance would compromise us all.
Not desiring to harm or displease my family, and wishing, above all, to
reinstate myself somewhat in the King's mind, I resolutely prepared for
this distressing journey, and God gave me the necessary strength to
I appeared in a long robe of gold and silver before the new spouse of the
monarch. The King, who was sitting at a table, rose for a moment and
encouraged me by his greeting. I made the three pauses and three
reverences as I gradually approached Madame de Maintenon, who occupied a
large and rich armchair of brocade. She did not rise; etiquette forbade
it, and principally the presence of the all-powerful King of kings. Her
complexion, ordinarily pale, and with a very slight tone of pink, was
animated suddenly, and took all the colours of the rose. She made me a
sign to seat myself on a stool, and it seemed to me that her amiable gaze
apologised to me. She spoke to me of Petit-Bourg, of the waters of
Bourbon, of her country-place, of my children, and said to me, smiling
kindly: "I am going to confide in you. Monsieur le Prince has already
asked Mademoiselle de Names for his grandson, M. le Duc de Bourbon, and
his Highness promises us his granddaughter for our Duc du Maine. Two or
three years more, and we shall see all that."
After half an hour spent thus, I rose from this uncomfortable stool and
made my farewell reverences. Madame de Maintenon, profiting by the King
having leaned over to write, rose five or six inches in her chair, and
said to me these words: "Do not let us cease to love one another,
I implore you."
I went to rest myself in the poor apartment which was still mine, since
the keys had not yet been returned, and I sent for M. le Duc du Maine,
who said to me coldly: "I have much pleasure in seeing you again; we were
going to write to you."
I had come out from Madame de Maintenon by the door of mirrors, which
leads to the great gallery. There was much company there at the moment;
M. le Prince de Salm came to me and said: "Go and put on your peignoir;
you are flushed, and I can perfectly well understand why." He pressed my
hand affectionately. In all the salons they were eager to see me pass.
Some courageous persons came even within touch of my fan; and all were
more or less pleased with my mishap and downfall. I had seen all these
figures at my feet, and almost all were under obligations to me. I left
Versailles again very early. When I was seated in my carriage I noticed
the King, who, from the height of his balcony in the court of marble,
watched me set off and disappear.
I settled at Paris, where my personal interest and my great fortune gave
me an existence which many might have envied. I never returned to
Versailles, except for the weddings of my eldest daughter, and of my son,
the Serious;--[Louis Augusts de Bourbon, Duc du Maine, a good man,
somewhat devout and melancholy. (See the Memoirs of Dubois and
Richelieu.)--EDITOR'S NOTE.]--I always loved him better than he did me.
Pere de Latour, my director, obtained from me then, what I had refused
hitherto to everybody, a letter of reconciliation to M. le Marquis de
Montespan: I had foreseen the reply, which was that of an obstinate, ill-
bred, and evil man.
Pere de Latour, going further, wished to impose hard, not to say
murderous, penances on me; I begged him to keep within bounds, and not to
make me impatient. This Oratorian and his admirers have stated that
I wore a hair shirt and shroud. Pious slanders, every word of them!
I give many pensions and alms, that is to say, I do good to several
families; the good that I bestow about me will be more agreeable to God
than any harm I could do myself, and that I maintain.
The Marquis d'Antin, my son, since my disgrace.......
HERE END THE MEMOIRS OF MADAME DE MONTESPAN.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Ambition puts a thick bandage over the eyes
Says all that he means, and resolutely means all that he can say
Situations in life where we are condemned to see evil done
Women who misconduct themselves are pitiless and severe