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  • 3/1678
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and to be assiduous about them; but it’s no hard matter to do this, though they be ever so little amiable; not to give oneself up to the pleasure of pursuing them, to shun them through fear of discovering to the public, and in a manner to themselves, the sentiments one has for them, here lies the difficulty; and what still more demonstrates the truth of one’s passion is, the becoming entirely changed from what one was, and the having no longer a gust either for ambition or pleasure, after one has employed one’s whole life in pursuit of both.”

The Princess of Cleves readily apprehended how far she was concerned in this discourse; one while she seemed of opinion that she ought not to suffer such an address; another, she thought she ought not to seem to understand it, or show she supposed herself meant by it; she thought she ought to speak, and she thought she ought to be silent; the Duke of Nemours’s discourse equally pleased and offended her; she was convinced by it of the truth of all the Queen-Dauphin had led her to think; she found in it somewhat gallant and respectful, but also somewhat bold and too intelligible; the inclination she had for the Duke gave her an anxiety which it was not in her power to control; the most obscure expressions of a man that pleases, move more than the most open declaration of one we have no liking for; she made no answer; the Duke de Nemours took notice of her silence, which perhaps would have proved no ill-presage, if the coming in of the Prince of Cleves had not ended at once the conversation and the visit.

The Prince was coming to give his wife a further account of Sancerre, but she was not over curious to learn the sequel of that adventure; she was so much taken up with what had just passed, that she could hardly conceal the embarrassment she was in. When she was at liberty to muse upon it, she plainly saw she was mistaken, when she thought she was indifferent as to the Duke de Nemours; what he had said to her had made all the impression he could desire, and had entirely convinced her of his passion; besides the Duke’s actions agreed too well with his words to leave her the least doubt about it; she no longer flattered herself that she did not love him; all her care was not to let him discover it, a task of which she had already experienced the difficulty; she knew the only way to succeed in it was to avoid seeing him; and as her mourning gave her an excuse for being more retired than usual, she made use of that pretence not to go to places where he might see her; she was full of melancholy; her mother’s death was the seeming cause of it, and no suspicion was had of any other.

The Duke de Nemours, not seeing her any more, fell into desperation and knowing he should not meet with her in any public assembly, or at any diversions the Court joined in, he could not prevail upon himself to appear there, and therefore he pretended a great love for hunting, and made matches for that sport on the days when the Queens kept their assemblies; a slight indisposition had served him a good while as an excuse for staying at home, and declining to go to places where he knew very well that Madam de Cleves would not be.

The Prince of Cleves was ill almost at the same time, and the Princess never stirred out of his room during his illness; but when he grew better, and received company, and among others the Duke de Nemours, who under pretence of being yet weak, stayed with him the greatest part of the day, she found she could not continue any longer there; and yet in the first visits he made she had not the resolution to go out; she had been too long without seeing him, to be able to resolve to see him no more; the Duke had the address, by discourses that appeared altogether general, but which she understood very well by the relation they had to what he had said privately to her, to let her know that he went a-hunting only to be more at liberty to think of her, and that the reason of his not going to the assemblies was her not being there.

At last she executed the resolution she had taken to go out of her husband’s room, whenever he was there, though this was doing the utmost violence to herself: the Duke perceived she avoided him, and the thought of it touched him to the heart.

The Prince of Cleves did not immediately take notice of his wife’s conduct in this particular, but at last he perceived she went out of the room when there was company there; he spoke to her of it, and she told him that she did not think it consistent with decency to be every evening among the gay young courtiers; that she hoped he would allow her to live in a more reserved manner than she had done hitherto, that the virtue and presence of her mother authorised her in many liberties which could not otherwise be justified in a woman of her age.

Monsieur de Cleves, who had a great deal of facility and complaisance for his wife, did not show it on this occasion, but told her he would by no means consent to her altering her conduct; she was upon the point of telling him, it was reported that the Duke de Nemours was in love with her, but she had not the power to name him; besides she thought it disingenuous to disguise the truth, and make use of pretences to a man who had so good an opinion of her.

Some days after the King was with the Queen at the assembly hour, and the discourse turned upon nativities and predictions; the company were divided in their opinion as to what credit ought to be given to them; the Queen professed to have great faith in them, and maintained that after so many things had come to pass as they had been foretold, one could not doubt but there was something of certainty in that science; others affirmed, that of an infinite number of predictions so very few proved true, that the truth of those few ought to be looked upon as an effect of chance.

“I have formerly been very curious and inquisitive as to futurity,” said the King, “but I have seen so many false and improbable things, that I am satisfied there is no truth in that pretended art. Not many years since there came hither a man of great reputation in astrology; everybody went to see him; I went among others, but without saying who I was, and I carried with me the Duke of Guise and Descars, and made them go in first; nevertheless the astrologer addressed himself first to me, as if he had concluded me to be their master; perhaps he knew me, and yet he told me one thing that was very unsuitable to my character, if he had known me; his prediction was that I should be killed in a duel; he told the Duke of Guise, that he should die of a wound received behind; and he told Descars he should be knocked of the head by the kick of a horse; the Duke of Guise was a little angry at the prediction, as if it imported he should run away; nor was Descars better pleased to find he was to make his exit by so unfortunate an accident; in a word, we went away all three of us very much out of humour with the astrologer; I don’t know what will happen to the Duke of Guise and Descars, but there is not much probability of my being killed in a duel; the King of Spain and I have just made peace, and if we had not, I question whether we should have fought, or if I should have challenged him, as the King my father did Charles the Fifth.”

After the King had related the misfortune that was foretold him, those who had defended astrology abandoned the argument, and agreed there was no credit to be given to it: “For my part,” said the Duke de Nemours aloud, “I have the least reason of any man in the world to credit it”; and then turning himself to Madam de Cleves, near whom he stood, “it has been foretold me,” says he very softly, “that I should be happy in a person for whom I should have the most violent and respectful passion; you may judge, Madam, if I ought to believe in predictions.”

The Queen-Dauphin, who believed, from what the Duke had spoke aloud, that what he whispered was some false prediction that had been told him, asked him what it was he said to Madam de Cleves; had he had a less ready wit, he would have been surprised at this question; but without any hesitation, “What I said to her, Madam,” answered he, “was, that it had been predicted to me, that I should be raised to a higher fortune than my most sanguine hopes could lead me to expect.” “If nothing have been foretold you but this,” replied the Queen-Dauphin, smiling, and thinking of the affair of England, “I would not advise you to decry astrology; you may have reasons hereafter to offer in defence of it.” Madam de Cleves apprehended the Queen-Dauphin’s meaning, but knew withal, that the fortune the Duke of Nemours spoke of was not that of being King of England.

The time of her mourning being expired, the Princess of Cleves was obliged to make her appearance again, and go to Court as usual; she saw the Duke de Nemours at the Queen-Dauphin’s apartment; she saw him at the Prince of Cleves’s, where he often came in company of other young noblemen, to avoid being remarked; yet she never once saw him, but it gave her a pain that could not escape his observation.

However industrious she was to avoid being looked at by him, and to speak less to him than to any other, some things escaped her in an unguarded moment, which convinced him he was not indifferent to her; a man of less discernment than he would not have perceived it, but he had already so often been the object of love, that it was easy for him to know when he was loved; he found the Chevalier de Guise was his rival, and the Chevalier knew that the Duke de Nemours was his; Monsieur de Guise was the only man in the Court that had unravelled this affair, his interest having made him more clear-sighted than others; the knowledge they had of each other’s sentiments created an opposition between them in everything, which, however, did not break out into an open quarrel; they were always of different parties at the running, at the ring, at tournaments, and all diversions the King delighted in, and their emulation was so great it could not be concealed.

Madam de Cleves frequently revolved in her mind the affair of England; she believed the Duke de Nemours could not resist the advice of the King, and the instances of Lignerolles; she was very much concerned to find that Lignerolles was not yet returned, and she impatiently expected him; her inclinations strongly swayed her to inform herself exactly of the state of this affair; but the same reasons, which raised in her that curiosity, obliged her to conceal it, and she only enquired of the beauty, the wit, and the temper of Queen Elizabeth. A picture of that Princess had been brought the King, which Madam de Cleves found much handsomer than she could have wished for, and she could not forbear saying, the picture flattered. “I don’t think so,” replied the Queen-Dauphin; “that Princess has the reputation of being very handsome, and of having a very exalted genius, and I know she has always been proposed to me as a model worthy my imitation; she can’t but be very handsome, if she resembles her mother, Anne Boleyn; never had woman so many charms and allurements both in her person and her humour; I have heard say she had something remarkably lively in her countenance, very different from what is usually found in other English beauties.” “I think,” replied Madam de Cleves, “’tis said she was born in France.” “Those who imagine so are mistaken,” replied the Queen-Dauphin; “I’ll give you her history in a few words.

“She was of a good family in England; Henry the Eighth was in love with her sister and her mother, and it has been even suspected by some, that she was his daughter; she came to France with Henry the Seventh’s sister, who married Louis XII that Princess, who was full of youth and gallantry, left the Court of France with great reluctance after her husband’s death; but Anne Boleyn, who had the same inclinations as her mistress, could not prevail with herself to go away; the late King was in love with her, and she continued maid of honour to Queen Claude; that Queen died, and Margaretta, the King’s sister, Duchess of Alenson, and since Queen of Navarre, whose story you know, took her into her service, where she imbibed the principles of the new religion; she returned afterwards to England, and there charmed all the world; she had the manners of France, which please in all countries; she sung well, she danced finely; she was a maid of honour to Queen Catherine, and Henry the Eighth fell desperately in love with her.

“Cardinal Wolsey, his favourite and first minister, being dissatisfied with the Emperor for not having favoured his pretensions to the Papacy, in order to revenge himself of him, contrived an alliance between France and the King his master; he put it into the head of Henry the Eighth, that his marriage with the Emperor’s aunt was null, and advised him to marry the Duchess of Alenson, whose husband was just dead; Anne Boleyn, who was not without ambition, considered Queen Catherine’s divorce as a means that would bring her to the Crown; she began to give the King of England impressions of the Lutheran religion, and engaged the late King to favour at Rome Henry the Eighth’s divorce, in hopes of his marrying the Duchess of Alenson; Cardinal Wolsey, that he might have an opportunity of treating this affair, procured himself to be sent to France upon other pretences; but his master was so far from permitting him to propose this marriage, that he sent him express orders to Calais not to speak of it.

“Cardinal Wolsey, at his return from France, was received with as great honours as could have been paid to the King himself; never did any favourite carry his pride and vanity to so great a height; he managed an interview between the two Kings at Boulogne, when Francis the First would have given the upperhand to Henry the Eighth, but he refused to accept it; they treated one another by turns with the utmost magnificence, and presented to each habits of the same sort with those they wore themselves. I remember to have heard say, that those the late King sent to the King of England were of crimson satin beset all over with pearls and diamonds, and a robe of white velvet embroidered with gold; after having stayed some time at Boulogne, they went to Calais. Anne Boleyn was lodged in Henry the Eighth’s Court with the train of a Queen; and Francis the First made her the same presents, and paid her the same honours as if she had been really so: in a word, after a passion of nine year’s continuance King Henry married her, without waiting for the dissolving of his first marriage. The Pope precipitately thundered out excommunications against him, which so provoked King Henry, that he declared himself head of the Church, and drew after him all England into the unhappy change in which you see it.

“Anne Boleyn did not long enjoy her greatness; for when she thought herself most secure of it by the death of Queen Catherine, one day as she was seeing a match of running at the ring made by the Viscount Rochefort her brother, the King was struck with such a jealousy, that he abruptly left the show, went away to London, and gave orders for arresting the Queen, the Viscount Rochefort, and several others whom he believed to be the lovers or confidants of that Princess. Though this jealousy in appearance had its birth that moment, the King had been long possessed with it by the Viscountess Rochefort, who not being able to bear the strict intimacy between her husband and the Queen, represented it to the King as a criminal commerce; so that that Prince, who was besides in love with Jane Seymour, thought of nothing but ridding himself of Anne Boleyn; and in less than three weeks he caused the Queen and her brother to be tried, had them both beheaded, and, married Jane Seymour. He had afterwards several wives, whom he divorced or put to death; and among others Catherine Howard, whose confidant the Viscountess Rochefort was, and who was beheaded with her: thus was she punished for having falsely accused Anne Boleyn. And Henry the Eighth died, being become excessive fat.”

All the ladies, that were present when the Queen-Dauphin made this relation, thanked her for having given them so good an account of the Court of England; and among the rest Madam de Cleves, who could not forbear asking several questions concerning Queen Elizabeth.

The Queen-Dauphin caused pictures in miniature to be drawn of all the beauties of the Court, in order to send them to the Queen her mother. One day, when that of Madam de Cleves was finishing, the Queen-Dauphin came to spend the afternoon with her; the Duke de Nemours did not fail to be there; he let slip no opportunities of seeing Madam de Cleves, yet without appearing to contrive them. She looked so pretty that day, that he would have fell in love with her, though he had not been so before: however he durst not keep his eyes fixed upon her, while she was sitting for her picture, for fear of showing too much the pleasure he took in looking at her.

The Queen-Dauphin asked Monsieur de Cleves for a little picture he had of his wife’s, to compare it with that which was just drawn; everybody gave their judgment of the one and the other; and Madam de Cleves ordered the painter to mend something in the headdress of that which had been just brought in; the painter in obedience to her took the picture out of the case in which it was, and having mended it laid it again on the table.

The Duke de Nemours had long wished to have a picture of Madam de Cleves; when he saw that which Monsieur de Cleves had, he could not resist the temptation of stealing it from a husband, who, he believed, was tenderly loved; and he thought that among so many persons as were in the same room he should be no more liable to suspicion than another.

The Queen-Dauphin was sitting on the bed, and whispering to Madam de Cleves, who was standing before her. Madam de Cleves, through one of the curtains that was but half-drawn, spied the Duke de Nemours with his back to the table, that stood at the bed’s feet, and perceived that without turning his face he took something very dextrously from off the table; she presently guessed it was her picture, and was in such concern about it, that the Queen-Dauphin observed she did not attend to what she said, and asked her aloud what it was she looked at. At those words, the Duke de Nemours turned about, and met full the eyes of Madam de Cleves that were still fixed upon him; he thought it not impossible but she might have seen what he had done.

Madam de Cleves was not a little perplexed; it was reasonable to demand her picture of him; but to demand it publicly was to discover to the whole world the sentiments which the Duke had for her, and to demand it in private would be to engage him to speak of his love; she judged after all it was better to let him keep it, and she was glad to grant him a favour which she could do without his knowing that she granted it. The Duke de Nemours, who observed her perplexity, and partly guessed the cause of it, came up, and told her softly, “If you have seen what I have ventured to do, be so good, Madam, as to let me believe you are ignorant of it; I dare ask no more”; having said this he withdrew, without waiting for her answer.

The Queen-Dauphin went to take a walk, attended with the rest of the ladies; and the Duke de Nemours went home to shut himself up in his closet, not being able to support in public the ecstasy he was in on having a picture of Madam de Cleves; he tasted everything that was sweet in love; he was in love with the finest woman of the Court; he found she loved him against her will, and saw in all her actions that sort of care and embarrassment which love produces in young and innocent hearts.

At night great search was made for the picture; and having found the case it used to be kept in, they never suspected it had been stolen but thought it might have fallen out by chance. The Prince of Cleves was very much concerned for the loss of it; and after having searched for it a great while to no purpose, he told his wife, but with an air that showed he did not think so, that without doubt she had some secret lover, to whom she had given the picture, or who had stole it, and that none but a lover would have been contented with the picture without the case.

These words, though spoke in jest, made a lively impression in the mind of Madam de Cleves; they gave her remorse, and she reflected on the violence of her inclination which hurried her on to love the Duke of Nemours; she found she was no longer mistress of her words or countenance; she imagined that Lignerolles was returned, that she had nothing to fear from the affair of England, nor any cause to suspect the Queen-Dauphin; in a word, that she had no refuge or defence against the Duke de Nemours but by retiring; but as she was not at her liberty to retire, she found herself in a very great extremity and ready to fall into the last misfortune, that of discovering to the Duke the inclination she had for him: she remembered all that her mother had said to her on her death-bed, and the advice which she gave her, to enter on any resolutions, however difficult they might be, rather than engage in gallantry; she remembered also what Monsieur de Cleves had told her, when he gave an account of Madam de Tournon; she thought she ought to acknowledge to him the inclination she had for the Duke de Nemours, and in that thought she continued a long time; afterwards she was astonished to have entertained so ridiculous a design, and fell back again into her former perplexity of not knowing what to choose.

The peace was signed; and the Lady Elizabeth, after a great deal of reluctance, resolved to obey the King her father. The Duke of Alva was appointed to marry her in the name of the Catholic King, and was very soon expected. The Duke of Savoy too, who was to marry the King’s sister, and whose nuptials were to be solemnised at the same time, was expected every day. The King thought of nothing but how to grace these marriages with such diversions as might display the politeness and magnificence of his Court. Interludes and comedies of the best kind were proposed, but the King thought those entertainments too private, and desired to have somewhat of a more splendid nature: he resolved to make a solemn tournament, to which strangers might be invited, and of which the people might be spectators. The princes and young lords very much approved the King’s design, especially the Duke of Ferrara, Monsieur de Guise, and the Duke de Nemours, who surpassed the rest in these sorts of exercises. The King made choice of them to be together with himself the four champions of the tournament.

Proclamation was made throughout the kingdom, that on the 15th of June in the City of Paris, his most Christian Majesty, and the Princes Alphonso d’Ete Duke of Ferrara, Francis of Loraine Duke of Guise, and James of Savoy Duke of Nemours would hold an open tournament against all comers. The first combat to be on horse-back in the lists, with double armour, to break four lances, and one for the ladies; the second combat with swords, one to one, or two to two, as the judges of the field should direct; the third combat on foot, three pushes of pikes, and six hits with the sword. The champions to furnish lances, swords, and pikes, at the choice of the combatants. Whoever did not manage his horse in the carreer to be put out of the lists; four judges of the field to give orders. The combatants who should break most lances and perform best to carry the prize, the value whereof to be at the discretion of the judges; all the combatants, as well French as strangers, to be obliged to touch one or more, at their choice, of the shields that should hang on the pillar at the end of the lists, where a herald at arms should be ready to receive them, and enroll them according to their quality, and the shields they had touched; the combatants to be obliged to cause their shields and arms to be brought by a gentleman and hung up at the pillar three days before the tournament, otherwise not to be admitted without leave of the champions.

A spacious list was made near the Bastille, which begun from the Chateau des Tournelles and crossed the street of St. Anthony, and extended as far as the King’s stables; on both sides were built scaffolds and amphitheatres, which formed a sort of galleries that made a very fine sight, and were capable of containing an infinite number of people. The princes and lords were wholly taken up in providing what was necessary for a splendid appearance, and in mingling in their cyphers and devices somewhat of gallantry that had relation to the ladies they were in love with.

A few days before the Duke of Alva’s arrival, the King made a match at tennis with the Duke de Nemours, the Chevalier de Guise, and the Viscount de Chartres. The Queens came to see them play, attended with the ladies of the Court, and among others Madam de Cleves. After the game was ended, as they went out of the tennis court, Chatelart came up to the Queen-Dauphin, and told her fortune had put into his hands a letter of gallantry, that dropped out of the Duke de Nemours’s pocket. This Queen, who was always very curious in what related to the Duke, bid Chatelart give her the letter; he did so, and she followed the Queen her mother-in-law, who was going with the King to see them work at the lists. After they had been there some time, the King caused some horses to be brought that had been lately taken in, and though they were not as yet thoroughly managed, he was for mounting one of them, and ordered his attendants to mount others; the King and the Duke de Nemours hit upon the most fiery and high mettled of them. The horses were ready to fall foul on one another, when the Duke of Nemours, for fear of hurting the King, retreated abruptly, and ran back his horse against a pillar with so much violence that the shock of it made him stagger. The company ran up to him, and he was thought considerably hurt; but the Princess of Cleves thought the hurt much greater than anyone else. The interest she had in it gave her an apprehension and concern which she took no care to conceal; she came up to him with the Queens, and with a countenance so changed, that one less concerned than the Chevalier de Guise might have perceived it: perceive it he immediately did, and was much more intent upon the condition Madam de Cleves was in, than upon that of the Duke de Nemours. The blow the Duke had given himself had so stunned him, that he continued some time leaning his head on those who supported him; when he raised himself up, he immediately viewed Madam de Cleves, and saw in her face the concern she was in for him, and he looked upon her in a manner which made her sense how much he was touched with it: afterwards he thanked the Queens for the goodness they had expressed to him, and made apologies for the condition he had been in before them; and then the King ordered him to go to rest.

Madam de Cleves, after she was recovered from the fright she had been in, presently reflected on the tokens she had given of it. The Chevalier de Guise did not suffer her to continue long in the hope that nobody had perceived it, but giving her his hand to lead her out of the lists: “I have more cause to complain, Madam,” said he, “than the Duke de Nemours; pardon me, if I forget for a moment that profound respect I have always had for you, and show you how much my heart is grieved for what my eyes have just seen; this is the first time I have ever been so bold as to speak to you, and it will be the last. Death or at least eternal absence will remove me from a place where I can live no longer, since I have now lost the melancholy comfort I had of believing that all who behold you with love are as unhappy as myself.”

Madam de Cleves made only a confused answer, as if she had not understood what the Chevalier’s words meant: at another time she would have been offended if he had mentioned the passion he had for her; but at this moment she felt nothing but the affliction to know that he had observed the passion she had for the Duke de Nemours. The Chevalier de Guise was so well convinced of it, and so pierced with grief, that from that moment he took a resolution never to think of being loved by Madam de Cleves; but that he might the better be able to quit a passion which he had thought so difficult and so glorious, it was necessary to make choice of some other undertaking worthy of employing him; he had his view on Rhodes: the taking of which he had formerly had some idea of; and when death snatched him away, in the flower of his youth, and at a time when he had acquired the reputation of one of the greatest Princes of his age, the only regret he had to part with life was, that he had not been able to execute so noble a resolution, the success whereof he thought infallible from the great care he had taken about it.

Madam de Cleves, when she came out of the lists, went to the Queen’s apartment, with her thoughts wholly taken up with what had passed. The Duke de Nemours came there soon after, richly dressed, and like one wholly unsensible of the accident that had befallen him; he appeared even more gay than usual, and the joy he was in for what he had discovered, gave him an air that very much increased his natural agreeableness. The whole Court was surprised when he came in; and there was nobody but asked him how he did, except Madam de Cleves, who stayed near the chimney pretending not to see him. The King coming out of his closet, and seeing him among others called him to talk to him about his late accident. The Duke passed by Madam de Cleves, and said softly to her, “Madam, I have received this day some marks of your pity, but they were not such as I am most worthy of.” Madam de Cleves suspected that he had taken notice of the concern she had been in for him, and what he now said convinced her she was not mistaken; it gave her a great deal of concern to find she was so little mistress of herself as not to have been able to conceal her inclinations from the Chevalier de Guise; nor was she the less concerned to see that the Duke de Nemours was acquainted with them; yet this last grief was not so entire, but there was a certain mixture of pleasure in it.

The Queen-Dauphin, who was extremely impatient to know what there was in the letter which Chatelart had given her, came up to Madam de Cleves. “Go read this letter,” says she; “’tis addressed to the Duke de Nemours, and was probably sent him by the mistress for whom he has forsaken all others; if you can’t read it now, keep it, and bring it me about bedtime and inform me if you know the hand.” Having said this, the Queen-Dauphin went away from Madam de Cleves, and left her in such astonishment, that she was not able for some time to stir out of the place. The impatience and grief she was in not permitting her to stay at Court, she went home before her usual hour of retirement; she trembled with the letter in her hand, her thoughts were full of confusion, and she experienced I know not what of insupportable grief, that she had never felt before. No sooner was she in her closet, but she opened the letter and found it as follows:

I have loved you too well to leave you in a belief that the change you observe in me is an effect of lightness; I must inform you that your falsehood is the cause of it; you will be surprised to hear me speak of your falsehood; you have dissembled it with so much skill, and I have taken so much care to conceal my knowledge of it from you, that you have reason to be surprised at the discovery; I am myself in wonder, that I have discovered nothing of it to you before; never was grief equal to mine; I thought you had the most violent passion for me, I did not conceal that which I had for you, and at the time that I acknowledged it to you without reserve, I found that you deceived me, that you loved another, and that in all probability I was made a sacrifice to this new mistress. I knew it the day you run at the ring, and this was the reason I was not there; at first I pretended an indisposition in order to conceal my sorrow, but afterwards I really fell into one, nor could a constitution delicate like mine support so violent a shock. When I began to be better, I still counterfeited sickness, that I might have an excuse for not seeing and for not writing to you; besides I was willing to have time to come to a resolution in what manner to deal with you; I took and quitted the same resolution twenty times; but at last I concluded you deserved not to see my grief, and I resolved not to show you the least mark of it. I had a desire to bring down your pride, by letting you see, that my passion for you declined of itself: I thought I should by this lessen the value of the sacrifice you had made of me, and was loth you should have the pleasure of appearing more amiable in the eyes of another, by showing her how much I loved you; I resolved to write to you in a cold and languishing manner, that she, to whom you gave my letters, might perceive my love was at an end: I was unwilling she should have the satisfaction of knowing I was sensible that she triumphed over me, or that she should increase her triumph by my despair and complaints. I thought I should punish you too little by merely breaking with you, and that my ceasing to love you would give you but a slight concern, after you had first forsaken me; I found it was necessary you should love me, to feel the smart of not being loved, which I so severely experienced myself; I was of opinion that if anything could rekindle that flame, it would be to let you see that mine was extinguished, but to let you see it through an endeavour to conceal it from you, as if I wanted the power to acknowledge it to you: this resolution I adhered to; I found it difficult to take, and when I saw you again I thought it impossible to execute. I was ready a hundred times to break out into tears and complaints; my ill state of health, which still continued, served as a disguise to hide from you the affliction and trouble I was in; afterward I was supported by the pleasure of dissembling with you, as you had done with me; however it was doing so apparent a violence to myself to tell you or to write to you that I loved you, that you immediately perceived I had no mind to let you see my affection was altered; you was touched with this, you complained of it; I endeavoured to remove your fears, but it was done in so forced a manner, that you were still more convinced by it, I no longer loved you; in short, I did all I intended to do. The fantasticalness of your heart was such, that you advanced towards me in proportion as you saw I retreated from you. I have enjoyed all the pleasure which can arise from revenge; I plainly saw, that you loved me more than you had ever done, and I showed you I had no longer any love for you. I had even reason to believe that you had entirely abandoned her, for whom you had forsaken me; I had ground too to be satisfied you had never spoken to her concerning me; but neither your discretion in that particular, nor the return of your affection can make amends for your inconstancy; your heart has been divided between me and another, and you have deceived me; this is sufficient wholly to take from me the pleasure I found in being loved by you, as I thought I deserved to be, and to confirm me in the resolution I have taken never to see you more, which you are so much surprised at.

Madam de Cleves read this letter, and read it over again several times, without knowing at the same time what she had read; she saw only that the Duke de Nemours did not love her as she imagined and that he loved others who were no less deceived by him than she. What a discovery was this for a person in her condition, who had a violent passion, who had just given marks of it to a man whom she judged unworthy of it, and to another whom she used ill for his sake! Never was affliction so cutting as hers; she imputed the piercingness of it to what had happened that day, and believed that if the Duke de Nemours had not had ground to believe she loved him she should not have cared whether he loved another or not; but she deceived herself, and this evil which she found so insupportable was jealousy with all the horrors it can be accompanied with. This letter discovered to her a piece of gallantry the Duke de Nemours had been long engaged in; she saw the lady who wrote it was a person of wit and merit, and deserved to be loved; she found she had more courage than herself, and envied her the power she had had of concealing her sentiments from the Duke de Nemours; by the close of the letter, she saw this lady thought herself beloved, and presently suspected that the discretion the Duke had showed in his addresses to her, and which she had been so much taken with, was only an effect of his passion for this other mistress, whom he was afraid of disobliging; in short, she thought of everything that could add to her grief and despair. What reflections did she not make on herself, and on the advices her mother had given her I how did she repent, that she had not persisted in her resolution of retiring, though against the will of Monsieur de Cleves, or that she had not pursued her intentions of acknowledging to him the inclination she had for the Duke of Nemours! She was convinced, she would have done better to discover it to a husband, whose goodness she was sensible of, and whose interest it would have been to conceal it, than to let it appear to a man who was unworthy of it, who deceived her, who perhaps made a sacrifice of her, and who had no view in being loved by her but to gratify his pride and vanity; in a word, she found, that all the calamities that could befall her, and all the extremities she could be reduced to, were less than that single one of having discovered to the Duke de Nemours that she loved him, and of knowing that he loved another: all her comfort was to think, that after the knowledge of this she had nothing more to fear from herself, and that she should be entirely eased of the inclination she had for the Duke.

She never thought of the orders the Queen-Dauphin had given her, to come to her when she went to rest: she went to bed herself, and pretended to be ill; so that when Monsieur de Cleves came home from the King, they told him she was asleep. But she was far from that tranquillity which inclines to sleep; all the night she did nothing but torment herself, and read over and over the letter in her hand.

Madam de Cleves was not the only person whom this letter disturbed. The Viscount de Chartres, who had lost it and not the Duke de Nemours, was in the utmost inquietude about it. He had been that evening with the Duke of Guise, who had given a great entertainment to the Duke of Ferrara his brother-in-law, and to all the young people of the Court: it happened that the discourse turned upon ingenious letters; and the Viscount de Chartres said he had one about him the finest that ever was writ: they urged him to show it, and on his excusing himself, the Duke de Nemours insisted he had no such letter, and that what he said was only out of vanity; the Viscount made him answer, that he urged his discretion to the utmost, that nevertheless he would not show the letter; but he would read some parts of it, which would make it appear few men received the like. Having said this, he would have taken out the letter, but could not find it; he searched for it to no purpose. The company rallied him about it; but he seemed so disturbed, that they forbore to speak further of it; he withdrew sooner than the others, and went home with great impatience, to see if he had not left the letter there. While he was looking for it, one of the Queen’s pages came to tell him, that the Viscountess d’Usez had thought it necessary to give him speedy advice, that it was said at the Queen’s Court, that he had dropped a letter of gallantry out of his pocket while he was playing at tennis; that great part of what the letter contained had been related, that the Queen had expressed a great curiosity to see it, and had sent to one of her gentlemen for it, but that he answered, he had given it to Chatelart.

The page added many other particulars which heightened the Viscount’s concern; he went out that minute to go to a gentleman who was an intimate friend of Chatelart’s; and though it was a very unseasonable hour, made him get out of bed to go and fetch the letter, without letting him know who it was had sent for it, or who had lost it. Chatelart, who was prepossessed with an opinion that it belonged to the Duke of Nemours, and that the Duke was in love with the Queen-Dauphin, did not doubt but it was he who had sent to redemand it, and so answered with a malicious sort of joy, that he had put the letter into the Queen-Dauphin’s hands. The gentleman brought this answer back to the Viscount de Chartres, which increased the uneasiness he was under already, and added new vexations to it: after having continued some time in an irresolution what to do, he found that the Duke de Nemours was the only person whose assistance could draw him out of this intricate affair.

Accordingly he went to the Duke’s house, and entered his room about break of day. What the Duke had discovered the day before with respect to the Princess of Cleves had given him such agreeable ideas, that he slept very sweetly; he was very much surprised to find himself waked by the Viscount de Chartres, and asked him if he came to disturb his rest so early, to be revenged of him for what he had said last night at supper. The Viscount’s looks soon convinced him, that he came upon a serious business; “I am come,” said he, “to entrust you with the most important affair of my life; I know very well, you are not obliged to me for the confidence I place in you, because I do it at a time when I stand in need of your assistance; but I know likewise, that I should have lost your esteem, if I had acquainted you with all I am now going to tell you, without having been forced to it by absolute necessity: I have dropped the letter I spoke of last night; it is of the greatest consequence to me, that nobody should know it is addressed to me; it has been seen by abundance of people, who were at the tennis court yesterday when I dropped it; you was there too, and the favour I have to ask you, is, to say it was you who lost it.” “Sure you think,” replied the Duke de Nemours smiling, “that I have no mistress, by making such a proposal, and that I have no quarrels or inconveniences to apprehend by leaving it to be believed that I receive such letters.” “I beg you,” said the Viscount, “to hear me seriously; if you have a mistress, as I doubt not you have, though I do not know who she is, it will be easy for you to justify yourself, and I’ll put you into an infallible way of doing it. As for you, though you should fail in justifying yourself, it can cost you nothing but a short falling out; but for my part, this accident affects me in a very different manner, I shall dishonour a person who has passionately loved me, and is one of the most deserving women in the world; on the other side, I shall draw upon myself an implacable hatred that will ruin my fortune, and perhaps proceed somewhat further.” “I do not comprehend what you say,” replied the Duke de Nemours, “but I begin to see that the reports we have had of your interest in a great Princess are not wholly without ground.” “They are not,” replied the Viscount, “but I would to God they were: you would not see me in the perplexity I am in; but I must relate the whole affair to you, to convince you how much I have to fear.

“Ever since I came to Court, the Queen has treated me with a great deal of favour and distinction, and I had grounds to believe that she was very kindly disposed towards me: there was nothing, however, particular in all this, and I never presumed to entertain any thoughts of her but what were full of respect; so far from it, that I was deeply in love with Madam de Themines; anyone that sees her may easily judge, ’tis very possible for one to be greatly in love with her, when one is beloved by her, and so I was. About two years ago, the Court being at Fontainebleau, I was two or three times in conversation with the Queen, at hours when there were very few people in her apartment: it appeared to me, that my turn of wit was agreeable to her, and I observed she always approved what I said. One day among others she fell into a discourse concerning confidence. I said there was nobody in whom I entirely confided, that I found people always repented of having done so, and that I knew a great many things of which I had never spoke: the Queen told me, she esteemed me the more for it, that she had not found in France anyone that could keep a secret, and that this was what had embarrassed her more than anything else, because it had deprived her of the pleasure of having a confidant; that nothing was so necessary in life as to have somebody one could open one’s mind to with safety, especially for people of her rank. Afterwards she frequently resumed the same discourse, and acquainted me with very particular circumstances; at last I imagined she was desirous to learn my secrets, and to entrust me with her own; this thought engaged me strictly to her. I was so pleased with this distinction that I made my court to her with greater assiduity than usual. One evening the King and the ladies of the Court rode out to take the air in the forest, but the Queen, being a little indisposed did not go; I stayed to wait upon her, and she walked down to the pond-side, and dismissed her gentlemen ushers, that she might be more at liberty. After she had taken a few turns she came up to me, and bid me follow her; `I would speak with you,’ says she, `and by what I shall say you will see I am your friend.’ She stopped here, and looking earnestly at me; `You are in love,’ continued she, `and because perhaps you have made nobody your confidant, you think that your love is not known; but it is known, and even by persons who are interested in it: you are observed, the place where you see your mistress is discovered, and there’s a design to surprise you; I don’t know who she is, nor do I ask you to tell me, I would only secure you from the misfortunes into which you may fall.’ See, I beseech you, what a snare the Queen laid for me, and how difficult it was for me not to fall into it; she had a mind to know if I was in love, and as she did not ask me who I was in love with, but let me see her intention was only to serve me, I had no suspicion that she spoke either out of curiosity or by design.

“Nevertheless, contrary to all probability, I saw into the bottom of the matter; I was in love with Madam de Themines, but though she loved me again, I was not happy enough to have private places to see her in without danger of being discovered there, and so I was satisfied she could not be the person the Queen meant; I knew also, that I had an intrigue with another woman less handsome and less reserved than Madam de Themines, and that it was not impossible but the place where I saw her might be discovered; but as this was a business I little cared for, it was easy for me to guard against all sorts of danger by forbearing to see her; I resolved therefore to acknowledge nothing of it to the Queen, but to assure her on the contrary that I had a long time laid aside the desire of gaining women’s affections, even where I might hope for success, because I found them all in some measure unworthy of engaging the heart of an honourable man, and that it must be something very much above them which could touch me. `You do not answer me ingenuously,’ replied the Queen; `I am satisfied of the contrary; the free manner in which I speak to you ought to oblige you to conceal nothing from me; I would have you,’ continued she, `be of the number of my friends; but I would not, after having admitted you into that rank, be ignorant of your engagements; consider, whether you think my friendship will be too dear at the price of making me your confidant; I give you two days to think on it; but then, consider well of the answer you shall make me, and remember that if ever I find hereafter you have deceived me, I shall never forgive you as long as I live.’

“Having said this, the Queen left me without waiting for my answer; you may imagine how full my thoughts were of what she had said to me; the two days she had given me to consider of it I did not think too long a time to come to a resolution; I found she had a mind to know if I was in love, and that her desire was I should not be so; I foresaw the consequences of what I was going to do, my vanity was flattered with the thought of having a particular interest with the Queen, and a Queen whose person is still extremely amiable; on the other hand, I was in love with Madam de Themines, and though I had committed a petty treason against her by my engagement with the other woman I told you of, I could not find in my heart to break with her; I foresaw also the danger I should expose myself to, if I deceived the Queen, and how hard it would be to do it; nevertheless I could not resolve to refuse what fortune offered me, and was willing to run the hazard of anything my ill conduct might draw upon me; I broke with her with whom I kept a correspondence that might be discovered, and was in hopes of concealing that I had with Madam de Themines.

“At the two days’ end, as I entered the room where the Queen was with all the ladies about her, she said aloud to me, and with a grave air that was surprising enough, `Have you thought of the business I charged you with, and do you know the truth of it?’ `Yes, Madam,’ answered I, `and ’tis as I told your Majesty.’ `Come in the evening, when I am writing,’ replied she, `and you shall have further orders.’ I made a respectful bow without answering anything, and did not fail to attend at the hour she had appointed me. I found her in the gallery, with her secretary and one of her women. As soon as she saw me she came to me, and took me to the other end of the gallery; `Well,’ says she, `after having considered thoroughly of this matter, have you nothing to say to me, and as to my manner of treating you, does not it deserve that you should deal sincerely with me?’ `It is, Madam,’ answered I, `because I deal sincerely, that I have nothing more to say, and I swear to your Majesty with all the respect I owe you, that I have no engagement with any woman of the Court.’ `I will believe it,’ replied the Queen, `because I wish it; and I wish it, because I desire to have you entirely mine, and because it would be impossible for me to be satisfied with your friendship, if you were in love; one cannot confide in those who are; one cannot be secure of their secrecy; they are too much divided, and their mistresses have always the first place in their thoughts, which does not suit at all with the manner in which I would have you live with me: remember then, it is upon your giving me your word that you have no engagement, that I choose you for my confidant; remember, I insist on having you entirely to myself, and that you shall have no friend of either sex but such as I shall approve, and that you abandon every care but that of pleasing me; I’ll not desire you to neglect any opportunity for advancing your fortune; I’ll conduct your interests with more application than you can yourself, and whatever I do for you, I shall think myself more than recompensed, if you answer my expectations; I make choice of you, to open my heart’s griefs to you, and to have your assistance in softening them; you may imagine they are not small; I bear in appearance without much concern the King’s engagement with the Duchess of Valentinois, but it is insupportable to me; she governs the King, she imposes upon him, she slights me, all my people are at her beck. The Queen, my daughter-in-law, proud of her beauty, and the authority of her uncles, pays me no respect. The Constable Montmorency is master of the King and kingdom; he hates me, and has given proofs of his hatred, which I shall never forget. The Mareschal de St. Andre is a bold young favourite, who uses me no better than the others. The detail of my misfortunes would move your pity; hitherto I have not dared to confide in anybody, I confide in you, take care that I never repent it, and be my only consolation.’ The Queen blushed, when she had ended this discourse, and I was so truly touched with the goodness she had expressed to me, that I was going to throw myself at her feet: from that day she has placed an entire confidence in me, she has done nothing without advising with me, and the intimacy and union between us still subsists.

III

“In the meantime, however busy and full I was of my new engagement with the Queen, I still kept fair with Madam de Themines by a natural inclination which it was not in my power to conquer; I thought she cooled in her love to me, and whereas, had I been prudent, I should have made use of the change I observed in her for my cure, my love redoubled upon it, and I managed so ill that the Queen got some knowledge of this intrigue. Jealousy is natural to persons of her nation, and perhaps she had a greater affection for me than she even imagined herself; at least the report of my being in love gave her so much uneasiness, that I thought myself entirely ruined with her; however I came into favour again by virtue of submissions, false oaths, and assiduity; but I should not have been able to have deceived her long, had not Madam de Themines’s change disengaged me from her against my will; she convinced me she no longer loved me, and I was so thoroughly satisfied of it, that I was obliged to give her no further uneasiness, but to let her be quiet. Some time after she wrote me this letter which I have lost; I learned from it, she had heard of the correspondence I had with the other woman I told you of, and that that was the reason of her change. As I had then nothing further left to divide me, the Queen was well enough satisfied with me; but the sentiments I have for her not being of a nature to render me incapable of other engagements, and love not being a thing that depends on our will, I fell in love with Madam de Martigues, of whom I was formerly a great admirer, while she was with Villemontais, maid of honour to the Queen-Dauphin; I have reason to believe she does not hate me; the discretion I observe towards her, and which she does not wholly know the reasons of, is very agreeable to her; the Queen has not the least suspicion on her account, but she has another jealousy which is not less troublesome; as Madam de Martigues is constantly with the Queen-Dauphin, I go there much oftener than usual; the Queen imagines that ’tis this Princess I am in love with; the Queen-Dauphin’s rank, which is equal to her own, and the superiority of her youth and beauty, create a jealousy that rises even to fury, and fills her with a hatred against her daughter-in-law that cannot be concealed. The Cardinal of Loraine, who, I believe has been long aspiring to the Queen’s favour, and would be glad to fill the place I possess, is, under pretence of reconciling the two Queens, become master of the differences between them; I doubt not but he has discovered the true cause of the Queen’s anger, and I believe he does me all manner of ill offices, without letting her see that he designs it. This is the condition my affairs are in at present; judge what effect may be produced by the letter which I have lost, and which I unfortunately put in my pocket with design to restore it to Madam de Themines: if the Queen sees this letter, she will know I have deceived her; and that almost at the very same time that I deceived her for Madam de Themines, I deceived Madam de Themines for another; judge what an idea this will give her of me, and whether she will ever trust me again. If she does not see the letter, what shall I say to her? She knows it has been given to the Queen-Dauphin; she will think Chatelart knew that Queen’s hand, and that the letter is from her; she will fancy the person of whom the letter expresses a jealousy, is perhaps herself; in short, there is nothing which she may not think, and there is nothing which I ought not to fear from her thoughts; add to this, that I am desperately in love with Madam de Martigues, and that the Queen-Dauphin will certainly show her this letter, which she will conclude to have been lately writ. Thus shall I be equally embroiled both with the person I love most, and with the person I have most cause to fear. Judge, after this, if I have not reason to conjure you to say the letter is yours, and to beg of you to get it out of the Queen-Dauphin’s hands.”

“I am very well satisfied,” answered the Duke de Nemours, “that one cannot be in a greater embarrassment than that you are in, and it must be confessed you deserve it; I have been accused of being inconstant in my amours, and of having had several intrigues at the same time, but you out-go me so far, that I should not so much as have dared to imagine what you have undertaken; could you pretend to keep Madam de Themines, and be at the same engaged with the Queen? did you hope to have an engagement with the Queen, and be able to deceive her? she is both an Italian and a Queen, and by consequence full of jealousy, suspicion, and pride. As soon as your good fortune, rather than your good conduct, had set you at liberty from an engagement you was entangled in, you involved yourself in new ones, and you fancied that in the midst of the Court you could be in love with Madam de Martigues without the Queen’s perceiving it: you could not have been too careful to take from her the shame of having made the first advances; she has a violent passion for you; you have more discretion than to tell it me, and I than to ask you to tell it; it is certain she is jealous of you, and has truth on her side.” “And does it belong to you,” interrupted the Viscount, “to load me with reprimands, and ought not your own experience to make you indulgent to my faults?

However I grant I am to blame; but think, I conjure you, how to draw me out of this difficulty”; “I think you must go to the Queen-Dauphin as soon as she is awake, and ask her for the letter, as if you had lost it.” “I have told you already,” replied the Duke de Nemours, “that what you propose is somewhat extraordinary, and that there are difficulties in it which may affect my own particular interest; but besides, if this letter has been seen to drop out of your pocket, I should think it would be hard to persuade people that it dropped out of mine.” “I thought I had told you,” replied the Viscount, “that the Queen-Dauphin had been informed that you dropped it.” “How,” said the Duke de Nemours hastily, apprehending the ill consequence this mistake might be of to him with Madam de Cleves, “has the Queen-Dauphin been told I dropped the letter?” “Yes,” replied the Viscount, “she has been told so; and what occasioned the mistake was, that there were several gentlemen of the two Queens in a room belonging to the tennis court, where our clothes were put up, when your servants and mine went together to fetch them; then it was the letter fell out of the pocket; those gentlemen took it up, and read it aloud; some believed it belonged to you, and others to me; Chatelart, who took it, and to whom I have just sent for it, says, he gave it to the Queen-Dauphin as a letter of yours; and those who have spoken of it to the Queen have unfortunately told her it was mine; so that you may easily do what I desire of you, and free me from this perplexity.”

The Duke de Nemours had always had a great friendship for the Viscount de Chartres, and the relation he bore to Madam de Cleves still made him more dear to him; nevertheless he could not prevail with himself to run the risk of her having heard of this letter, as of a thing in which he was concerned; he fell into a deep musing, and the Viscount guessed pretty near what was the subject of his meditations; “I plainly see,” said he, “that you are afraid of embroiling yourself with your mistress, and I should almost fancy the Queen-Dauphin was she, if the little jealousy you seem to have of Monsieur d’Anville did not take me off from that thought; but be that as it will, it is not reasonable you should sacrifice your repose to mine, and I’ll put you in a way of convincing her you love, that this letter is directed to me, and not to you; here is a billet from Madam d’Amboise, who is a friend of Madam de Themines, and was her confidant in the amour between her and me; in this she desires me to send her Madam de Themines’s letter, which I have lost; my name is on the superscription, and the contents of the billet prove, without question, that the letter she desires is the same with that which has been found; I’ll leave this billet in your hands, and agree that you may show it to your mistress in your justification; I conjure you not to lose a moment, but to go this morning to the Queen-Dauphin.”

The Duke de Nemours promised the Viscount he would, and took Madam d’Amboise’s billet; nevertheless his design was not to see the Queen-Dauphin; he thought more pressing business required his care; he made no question, but she had already spoke of the letter to Madam de Cleves, and could not bear that a person he loved so desperately, should have ground to believe he had engagements with any other.

He went to the Princess of Cleves as soon as he thought she might be awake; and ordered her to be told, that, if he had not business of the last consequence, he would not have desired the honour to see her at so extraordinary an hour. Madam de Cleves was in bed, and her mind was tossed to and fro by a thousand melancholy thoughts that she had had during the night; she was extremely surprised to hear the Duke de Nemours asked for her; the anxiety she was in made her presently answer, that she was ill, and could not speak with him.

The Duke was not at all shocked at this refusal; he thought it presaged him no ill, that she expressed a little coldness at a time when she might be touched with jealousy. He went to the Prince of Cleves’s apartment, and told him he came from that of his lady, and that he was very sorry he could not see her, because he had an affair to communicate to her of great consequence to the Viscount de Chartres; he explained in few words to the Prince the importance of this business, and the Prince immediately introduced him into his lady’s chamber. Had she not been in the dark, she would have found it hard to have concealed the trouble and astonishment she was in to see the Duke de Nemours introduced by her husband. Monsieur de Cleves told her the business was about a letter, wherein her assistance was wanting for the interest of the Viscount, that she was to consult with Monsieur de Nemours what was to be done; and that as for him he was going to the King, who had just sent for him.

The Duke de Nemours had his heart’s desire, in being alone with Madam de Cleves; “I am come to ask you, Madam,” said he, “if the Queen-Dauphin has not spoke to you of a letter which Chatelart gave her yesterday.” “She said something to me of it,” replied Madam de Cleves, “but I don’t see what relation this letter his to the interests of my uncle, and I can assure you that he is not named in it.” “It is true, Madam,” replied the Duke de Nemours, “he is not named in it but yet it is addressed to him, and it very much imports him that you should get it out of the Queen-Dauphin’s hands.” “I cannot comprehend,” replied the Princess, “how it should be of any consequence to him, if this letter should be seen, nor what reason there is to redemand it in his name.” “If you please to be at leisure to hear me, Madam,” said Monsieur de Nemours, “I’ll presently make you acquainted with the true state of the thing, and inform you of matters of so great importance to the Viscount, that I would not even have trusted the Prince of Cleves with them, had I not stood in need of his assistance to have the honour to see you.” “I believe,” said Madam de Cleves in a very unconcerned manner, “that anything you may give yourself the trouble of telling me, will be to little purpose; you had better go to the Queen-Dauphin, and plainly tell her, without using these roundabout ways, the interest you have in that letter, since she has been told, as well as I, that it belongs to you.”

The uneasiness of mind which Monsieur de Nemours observed in Madam de Cleves gave him the most sensible pleasure he ever knew, and lessened his impatience to justify himself: “I don’t know, Madam,” replied he, “what the Queen-Dauphin may have been told; but I am not at all concerned in that letter; it is addressed to the Viscount.” “I believe so,” replied Madam de Cleves, “but the Queen-Dauphin has heard to the contrary, and she won’t think it very probable that the Viscount’s letters should fall out of your pocket; you must therefore have some reason, that I don’t know of, for concealing the truth of this matter from the Queen-Dauphin; I advise you to confess it to her.” “I have nothing to confess to her,” says he, “the letter is not directed to me, and if there be anyone that I would have satisfied of it, it is not the Queen-Dauphin; but, Madam, since the Viscount’s interest is nearly concerned in this, be pleased to let me acquaint you with some matters that are worthy of your curiosity.” Madam de Cleves by her silence showed her readiness to hear him, and he as succinctly as possible related to her all he had just heard from the Viscount. Though the circumstances were naturally surprising, and proper to create attention, yet Madam de Cleves heard them with such coldness, that she seemed either not to believe them true, or to think them indifferent to her; she continued in this temper until the Duke de Nemours spoke of Madam d’Amboise’s billet, which was directed to the Viscount, and was a proof of all he had been saying; as Madam de Cleves knew that this lady was a friend of Madam de Themines, she found some probability in what the Duke de Nemours had said, which made her think, that the letter perhaps was not addressed to him; this thought suddenly, and in spite of herself, drew her out of the coldness and indifferency she had until then been in. The Duke having read the billet, which fully justified him, presented it to her to read, and told her she might possibly know the hand. She could not forbear taking it, and examining the superscription to see if it was addressed to the Viscount de Chartres, and reading it all over, that she might the better judge, if the letter which was redemanded was the same with that she had in her hand. The Duke de Nemours added whatever he thought proper to persuade her of it; and as one is easily persuaded of the truth of what one wishes, he soon convinced Madam de Cleves that he had no concern in the letter.

She began now to reason with him concerning the embarrassment and danger the Viscount was in, to blame his ill conduct, and to think of means to help him: she was astonished at the Queen’s proceedings, and confessed to the Duke that she had the letter; in short, she no sooner believed him innocent, but she discoursed with him with greater ease and freedom, concerning what she would scarce before vouchsafe to hear; they agreed that the letter should not be restored to the Queen-Dauphin, for fear she should show it to Madam de Martigues, who knew Madam de Themines’s hand, and would easily guess, by the interest she had in the Viscount, that it was addressed to him; they agreed also, that they ought not to entrust the Queen-Dauphin with all that concerned the Queen her mother-in-law. Madam de Cleves, under pretence of serving her uncle, was pleased to be the Duke de Nemours’s confidant in the secrets he had imparted to her.

The Duke would not have confined his discourse to the Viscount’s concerns, but from the liberty he had of free conversation with her, would have assumed a boldness he had never yet done, had not a message been brought in to Madam de Cleves, that the Queen-Dauphin had sent for her. The Duke was forced to withdraw; he went to the Viscount to inform him, that after he had left him, he thought it more proper to apply to Madam de Cleves, his niece, than to go directly to the Queen-Dauphin; he did not want reasons to make him approve what he had done, and to give him hopes of good success.

In the meantime Madam de Cleves dressed herself in all haste to go to the Queen-Dauphin; she was no sooner entered her chamber, but she called her to her, and whispered her, “I have been waiting for you these two hours, and was never so perplexed about disguising a truth as I have been this morning: the Queen has heard of the letter I gave you yesterday, and believes it was the Viscount de Chartres that dropped it; you know, she has some interest to be satisfied in it; she has been in search for the letter, and has caused Chatelart to be asked for it; who said he had given it to me; they have been to ask me for it, under pretence it was an ingenious letter which the Queen had a curiosity to see; I durst not say that you had it, for fear she should think I had given it you on your uncle the Viscount’s account, and that there was a correspondence between him and me. I was already satisfied that his seeing me so often gave her uneasiness, so that I said the letter was in the clothes I had on yesterday, and that those who had them in keeping were gone abroad; give me the letter immediately,” added she, “that I may send it her, and that I may read it before I send it to see if I know the hand.”

Madam de Cleves was harder put to it than she expected; “I don’t know, Madam, what you will do,” answered she, “for Monsieur de Cleves, to whom I gave it to read, returned it to the Duke of Nemours, who came early this morning to beg him to get it of you.

Monsieur de Cleves had the imprudence to tell him he had it, and the weakness to yield to the entreaties the Duke de Nemours made that he would restore it him.” “You throw me into the greatest embarrassment I can possibly be in,” replied the Queen-Dauphin; “and you have given this letter to the Duke de Nemours. Since it was I that gave it you, you ought not to have restored it without my leave; what would you have me say to the Queen, and what can she imagine? She will think, and not without reason, that this letter concerns myself, and that there is something between the Viscount and me; she will never be persuaded the letter belonged to the Duke de Nemours.” “I am very much concerned,” replied Madam de Cleves, “for the misfortune I have occasioned, and I believe the difficulty I have brought you into is very great; but ’twas Monsieur de Cleves’s fault, and not mine.” “You are in fault,” replied the Queen-Dauphin, “for having given him the letter; and I believe you are the only woman in the world that acquaints her husband with all she knows.” “I acknowledge myself in fault, Madam,” replied the Princess of Cleves, “but let us rather think of preventing the consequences of what I have done, than insist on the fault itself.” “Do you remember, pretty near, what the letter contains?” says the Queen-Dauphin. “Yes, Madam, I do,” replied she, “for I have read it over more than once.” “If so,” said the Queen-Dauphin, “you must immediately get it written out in an unknown hand, and I’ll send it to the Queen; she’ll not show it those who have seen it already; and though she should, I’ll stand in it, that it is the same Chatelart gave me; and he’ll not dare to say otherwise.”

Madam de Cleves approved of this expedient, and the more because it gave her an opportunity of sending for the Duke de Nemours, to have the letter itself again, in order to have it copied word for word, imitating as near as may be the hand it was written in, and she thought this would effectually deceive the Queen. As soon as she was got home, she informed her husband of what had passed between her and the Queen-Dauphin, and begged him to send for the Duke de Nemours. The Duke was sent for, and came immediately; Madam de Cleves told him all she had told her husband, and asked for the letter; but the Duke answered, that he had already returned it to the Viscount de Chartres, who was so overjoyed upon having it again, and being freed from the danger he was in, that he sent it immediately to Madam de Themines’s friend. Madam de Cleves was in a new embarrassment on this occasion: in short, after having consulted together, they resolved to form the letter by memory; and, in order to go about it, they locked themselves up, and left orders that nobody should be admitted, and that all the Duke de Nemours’s attendants should be sent away. Such an appearance of secret confidence was no small charm to Monsieur de Nemours, and even to Madam de Cleves; her husband’s presence, and the interests of her uncle the Viscount de Chartres, were considerations which in great measure removed her scruples, and made this opportunity of seeing and being with the Duke de Nemours so agreeable to her, that she never before experienced a joy so pure and free from allay; this threw her into a freedom and gaiety of spirit which the Duke had never observed in her till now, and which made him still more passionately in love with her: as he had never known such agreeable moments, his vivacity was much heightened; and whenever Madam de Cleves was beginning to recollect and write the letter, instead of assisting her seriously, did nothing but interrupt her with wit and pleasantry. Madam de Cleves was as gay as he, so that they had been locked up a considerable time, and two messages had come from the Queen-Dauphin to hasten Madam de Cleves, before they had half finished the letter.

The Duke de Nemours was glad to prolong the time that was so agreeable to him, and neglected the concerns of his friend; Madam de Cleves was not at all tired, and neglected also the concerns of her uncle: at last, with much ado, about four o’clock the letter was finished, and was so ill done, and the copy so unlike the original, as to the handwriting, that the queen must have taken very little care to come at the truth of the matter, if she had been imposed on by so ill a counterfeit. Accordingly she was not deceived; and however industrious they were to persuade her, that this letter was addressed to the Duke de Nemours, she remained satisfied not only that it was addressed to the Viscount de Chartres, but that the Queen-Dauphin was concerned in it, and that there was a correspondence between them; this heightened her hatred against that Princess to such a degree, that she never forgave her, and never ceased persecuting her till she had driven her out of France.

As for the Viscount de Chartres, his credit was entirely ruined with her; and whether the Cardinal of Loraine had already insinuated himself so far into her esteem as to govern her, or whether the accident of this letter, which made it appear that the Viscount had deceived her, enabled her to discover the other tricks he had played her, it is certain he could never after entirely reconcile himself to her; their correspondence was broke off, and at length she ruined him by means of the conspiracy of Amboise, in which he was involved.

After the letter was sent to the Queen-Dauphin, Monsieur de Cleves and Monsieur de Nemours went away; Madam de Cleves continued alone, and being no longer supported by the joy which the presence of what one loves gives one, she seemed like one newly waked from a dream; she beheld, with astonishment, the difference between the condition she was in the night before, and that she was in at this time: she called to mind, how cold and sullen she was to the Duke de Nemours, while she thought Madam de Themines’s letter was addressed to him, and how calm and sweet a situation of mind succeeded that uneasiness, as soon as he was satisfied he was not concerned in that letter; when she reflected, that she reproached herself as guilty for having given him the foregoing day only some marks of sensibility, which mere compassion might have produced, and that by her peevish humour this morning, she had expressed such a jealousy as was a certain proof of passion, she thought she was not herself; when she reflected further, that the Duke de Nemours saw plainly that she knew he was in love with her, and that, notwithstanding her knowing it, she did not use him the worse for it, even in her husband’s presence; but that, on the contrary, she had never behaved so favourably to him; when she considered, she was the cause of Monsieur de Cleves’s sending for him, and that she had just passed an afternoon in private with him; when she considered all this, she found, there was something within her that held intelligence with the Duke de Nemours, and that she deceived a husband who least deserved it; and she was ashamed to appear so little worthy of esteem, even in the eyes of her lover; but what she was able to support less than all the rest was, the remembrance of the condition in which she spent the last night, and the pricking griefs she felt from a suspicion that the Duke de Nemours was in love with another, and that she was deceived by him.

Never till then was she acquainted with the dreadful inquietudes that flow from jealousy and distrust; she had applied all her cares to prevent herself from falling in love with the Duke de Nemours, and had not before had any fear of his being in love with another: though the suspicions which this letter had given her were effaced, yet they left her sensible of the hazard there was of being deceived, and gave her impressions of distrust and jealousy which she had never felt till that time; she was surprised that she had never yet reflected how improbable it was that a man of the Duke de Nemours’s turn, who had showed so much inconstancy towards women, should be capable of a lasting and sincere passion; she thought it next to impossible for her to be convinced of the truth of his love; “But though I could be convinced of it,” says she, “what have I to do in it? Shall I permit it? Shall I make a return? Shall I engage in gallantry, be false to Monsieur de Cleves, and be false to myself? In a word, shall I go to expose myself to the cruel remorses and deadly griefs that rise from love? I am subdued and vanquished by a passion, which hurries me away in spite of myself; all my resolutions are vain; I had the same thoughts yesterday that I have today, and I act today contrary to what I resolved yesterday; I must convey myself out of the sight of the Duke de Nemours; I must go into the country, however fantastical my journey may appear; and if Monseur de Cleves is obstinately bent to hinder me, or to know my reasons for it, perhaps I shall do him and myself the injury to acquaint him with them.” She continued in this resolution, and spent the whole evening at home, without going to the Queen-Dauphin to enquire what had happened with respect to the counterfeited letter.

When the Prince of Cleves returned home, she told him she was resolved to go into the country; that she was not very well, and had occasion to take the air. Monsieur de Cleves, to whom she appeared so beautiful that he could not think her indisposition very considerable, at first made a jest of her design, and answered that she had forgot that the nuptials of the Princesses and the tournament were very near, and that she had not too much time to prepare matters so as to appear there as magnificently as other ladies. What her husband said did not make her change her resolution, and she begged he would agree, that while he was at Compiegne with the King, she might go to Colomiers, a pretty house then building, within a day’s journey of Paris. Monsieur de Cleves consented to it; she went thither with a design of not returning so soon, and the King set out for Compiegne, where he was to stay but few days.

The Duke de Nemours was mightily concerned he had not seen Madam de Cleves since that afternoon which he had spent so agreeably with her, and which had increased his hopes; he was so impatient to see her again that he could not rest; so that when the King returned to Paris, the Duke resolved to go to see his sister the Duchess de Mercoeur, who was at a country seat of hers very near Colomiers; he asked the Viscount to go with him, who readily consented to it. The Duke de Nemours did this in hopes of visiting Madam de Cleves, in company of the Viscount.

Madam de Mercoeur received them with a great deal of joy, and thought of nothing but giving them all the pleasures and diversions of the country; one day, as they were hunting a stag, the Duke de Nemours lost himself in the forest, and upon enquiring his way was told he was near Colomiers; at that word, Colomiers, without further reflection, or so much as knowing what design he was upon, he galloped on full speed the way that had been showed him; as he rode along he came by chance to the made-ways and walks, which he judged led to the castle: at the end of these walks he found a pavilion, at the lower end of which was a large room with two closets, the one opening into a flower-garden, and the other looking into a spacious walk in the park; he entered the pavilion, and would have stopped to observe the beauty of it, if he had not seen in the walk the Prince and Princess of Cleves, attended with a numerous train of their domestics. As he did not expect to meet Monsieur de Cleves there, whom he had left with the King, he thought at first of hiding himself; he entered the closet which looked into the flower-garden, with design to go out that way by a door which opened to the forest; but observing Madam de Cleves and her husband were sat down under the pavilion, and that their attendants stayed in the park, and could not come to him without passing by the place where Monsieur and Madam de Cleves were, he could not deny himself the pleasure of seeing this Princess, nor resist the curiosity he had to hear her conversation with a husband, who gave him more jealousy than any of his rivals. He heard Monsieur de Cleves say to his wife, “But why will you not return to Paris? What can keep you here in the country? You have of late taken a fancy for solitude, at which I am both surprised and concerned, because it deprives me of your company: I find too, you are more melancholy than usual, and I am afraid you have some cause of grief.” “I have nothing to trouble my mind,” answered she with an air of confusion, “but there is such a bustle at Court, and such a multitude of people always at your house, that it is impossible but both body and mind should be fatigued, and one cannot but desire repose.” “Repose,” answered he, “is not very proper for one of your age; you are at home, and at Court, in such a manner as cannot occasion weariness, and I am rather afraid you desire to live apart from me.” “You would do me great wrong to think so,” replied she with yet more confusion, “but I beg you to leave me here; if you could stay here, and without company, I should be very glad of it; nothing would be more agreeable to me than your conversation in this retirement, provided you would approve not to have about you that infinite number of people, who in a manner never leave you.” “Ah! Madam,” cries Monsieur de Cleves, “both your looks and words convince me that you have reasons to desire to be alone, which I don’t know; I conjure you to tell them me.” He urged her a great while to inform him, without being able to oblige her to it; and after she had excused herself in a manner which still increased her husband’s curiosity, she continued in a deep silence, with her eyes cast down then, taking up the discourse on a sudden, and looking upon him, “Force me not,” said she, “to confess a thing to you which I have not the power to confess, though I have often designed it; remember only, that it is not prudent a woman of my years, and mistress of her own conduct, should remain exposed in the midst of a Court.” “What is it, Madam,” cried Monsieur de Cleves, “that you lead me to imagine? I dare not speak it, for fear of offending you.” Madam de Cleves making no answer, her silence confirmed her husband in what he thought; “You say nothing to me,” says he, “and that tells me clearly, that I am not mistaken.” “Alas, sir,” answered she, falling on her knees, “I am going to make a confession to you, such as no woman ever yet made to her husband; but the innocence of my intentions, and of my conduct, give me power to do it; it is true, I have reasons to absent myself from Court, and I would avoid the dangers persons of my age are sometimes liable to; I have never shown any mark of weakness, and I cannot apprehend I ever shall, if you will permit me to retire from Court, since now I have not Madam de Chartres to assist me in my conduct; however dangerous a step I am taking, I take it with pleasure to preserve myself worthy of you; I ask you a thousand pardons, if I have sentiments which displease you, at least I will never displease you by my actions; consider, that to do what I do, requires more friendship and esteem for a husband than ever wife had; direct my conduct, have pity on me, and if you can still love me.”

Monsieur de Cleves, all the while she spoke, continued leaning his head on his hand, almost beside himself, and never thought of raising her up. When she had done speaking, and he cast his eyes upon her, and saw her on her knees with her face drowned in tears, inimitably beautiful, he was ready to die for grief, and taking her up in his arms, “Have you pity on me, Madam,” says he, “for I deserve it, and pardon me, if in the first moments of an affliction so violent as mine, I do not answer as I ought to so generous a proceeding as yours; I think you more worthy of esteem and admiration than any woman that ever was, but I find myself also the most unfortunate of men: you inspired me with passion the first moment I saw you, and that passion has never decayed; not your coldness, nor even enjoyment itself, has been able to extinguish it; it still continues in its first force, and yet it has not been in my power to kindle in your breast any spark of love for me, and now I find you fear you have an inclination for another; and who is he, Madam, this happy man that gives you such apprehensions? How long has he charmed you? What has he done to charm you? What method has he taken to get into your heart? When I could not gain your affections myself, it was some comfort to me to think, that no other could gain them; in the meantime, another has effected what I could not, and I have at once the jealousy of a husband and lover. But it is impossible for me to retain that of a husband after such a proceeding on your part, which is too noble and ingenuous not to give me an entire security; it even comforts me as a lover; the sincerity you have expressed, and the confidence you have placed in me are of infinite value: you have esteem enough for me to believe I shall not abuse the confession you have made to me; you are in the right, Madam, I will not abuse it, or love you the less for it; you make me unhappy by the greatest mark of fidelity ever woman gave her husband; but go on, Madam, and inform me who he is whom you would avoid.” “I beg you not to ask me,” replied she; “I am resolved not to tell you, nor do I think it prudent to name him.” “Fear not, Madam,” replied Monsieur de Cleves, “I know the world too well to be ignorant that a woman’s having a husband does not hinder people from being in love with her; such lovers may be the objects of one’s hatred, but we are not to complain of it; once again, Madam, I conjure you to tell me what I so much desire to know.” “It is in vain to press me,” replied she, “I have the power to be silent in what I think I ought not to tell; the confession I made to you was not owing to any weakness, and it required more courage to declare such a truth than it would have done to conceal it.”

The Duke de Nemours did not lose a word of this conversation, and what Madam de Cleves had said gave him no less jealousy than her husband; he was so desperately in love with her, that he believed all the world was so too; it is true, he had many rivals, yet he fancied them still more, and his thoughts wandered to find out who it was Madam de Cleves meant: he had often thought he was not disagreeable to her, but the grounds of his judgment on this occasion appeared so slight, that he could not imagine he had raised in her heart a passion violent enough to oblige her to have recourse to so extraordinary a remedy; he was so transported, that he scarce knew what he saw, and he could not pardon Monsieur de Cleves for not having pressed his wife enough to tell him the name of the person she concealed from him.

Monsieur de Cleves nevertheless used his utmost endeavours to know it; and having urged her very much on the subject; “I think,” answered she, “that you ought to be satisfied with my sincerity; ask me no more about it, and don’t give me cause to repent of what I have done; content yourself with the assurance which I once more give you, that my sentiments have never appeared by any of my actions, and that no address hath been made to me that could give me offence.” “Ah! Madam,” replied Monsieur de Cleves on a sudden, “I cannot believe it; I remember the confusion you was in when your picture was lost; you have given away, Madam, you have given away that picture, which was so dear to me, and which I had so just a right to; you have not been able to conceal your inclinations, you are in love; it is known; your virtue has hitherto saved you from the rest.” “Is it possible,” cried Madam de Cleves, “you can imagine there was any reserve or disguise in a confession like mine, which I was no way obliged to? Take my word, I purchase dearly the confidence I desire of you; I conjure you to believe I have not given away my picture; it is true, I saw it taken, but I would not seem to see it, for fear of subjecting myself to hear such things as no one has yet dared to mention to me.” “How do you know then that you are loved,” said Monsieur de Cleves? “What mark, what proof of it has been given you?” “Spare me the pain,” replied she, “of repeating to you circumstances which I am ashamed to have observed, and which have convinced me but too much of my own weakness.” “You are in the right, Madam,” answered he, “I am unjust; always refuse me when I ask you such things, and yet don’t be angry with me for asking them.”

Just then several of the servants, who had stayed in the walks, came to acquaint Monsieur de Cleves, that a gentleman was arrived from the King, with orders for him to be at Paris that evening. Monsieur de Cleves was obliged to go, and had only time to tell his wife that he desired her to come to Paris the next day; and that he conjured her to believe, that however afflicted he was, he had a tenderness and esteem for her, with which she ought to be satisfied.

When he was gone, and Madam de Cleves being alone, considered what she had done, she was so frightened at the thought of it, she could hardly believe it to be true. She found she had deprived herself of the heart and esteem of her husband, and was involved in a labyrinth she should never get out of; she asked herself why she had ventured on so dangerous a step, and perceived she was engaged in it almost without having designed it; the singularity of such a confession, for which she saw no precedent, made her fully sensible of her danger.

But on the other hand, when she came to think that this remedy, however violent it was, was the only effectual one she could make use of against Monsieur de Nemours, she found she had no cause to repent, or to believe she had ventured too far; she passed the whole night full of doubts, anxiety and fear; but at last her spirits grew calm again; she even felt a pleasure arise in her mind, from a sense of having given such a proof of fidelity to a husband who deserved it so well, who had so great a friendship and esteem for her, and had so lately manifested it by the manner in which he received the confession she had made him.

In the meantime Monsieur de Nemours was gone away from the place, in which he had overheard a conversation which so sensibly affected him, and was got deep into the forest; what Madam de Cleves said of her picture had revived him, since it was certain from thence that he was the person she had an inclination for; at first he gave a leap of joy, but his raptures were at an end as soon as he began to reflect, that the same thing that convinced him he had touched the heart of Madam de Cleves, ought to convince him also that he should never receive any marks of it, and that it would be impossible to engage a lady who had recourse to so extraordinary a remedy; and yet he could not but be sensibly pleased to have reduced her to that extremity; he thought it glorious for him to have gained the affections of a woman so different from the rest of her sex; in a word, he thought himself very happy and very unhappy at the same time. He was benighted in the forest, and was very much put to it to find his way again to his sister’s the Duchess of Mercoeur; he arrived there at break of day, and was extremely at a loss what account to give of his absence, but he made out the matter as well as he could, and returned that very day to Paris with the Viscount.

The Duke was so taken up with his passion, and so surprised at the conversation he had heard, that he fell into an indiscretion very common, which is, to speak one’s own particular sentiments in general terms, and to relate one’s proper adventures under borrowed names. As they were travelling he began to talk of love, and exaggerated the pleasure of being in love with a person that deserved it; he spoke of the fantastical effects of this passion, and at last not being able to contain within himself the admiration he was in at the action of Madam de Cleves, he related it to the Viscount without naming the person, or owning he had any share in it; but he told it with so much warmth and surprise, that the Viscount easily suspected the story concerned himself. The Viscount urged him very much to confess it, and told him he had known a great while that he was violently in love, and that it was unjust in him to show a distrust of a man who had committed to him a secret on which his life depended. The Duke de Nemours was too much in love to own it, and had always concealed it from the Viscount, though he valued him the most of any man at Court; he answered that one of his friends had told him this adventure, and made him promise not to speak of it; and he also conjured the Viscount to keep the secret: the Viscount assured him he would say nothing of it but notwithstanding Monsieur de Nemours repented that he had told him so much.

In the meantime Monsieur de Cleves was gone to the King, with a heart full of sorrow and affliction. Never had husband so violent a passion for his wife, or so great an esteem; what she had told him did not take away his esteem of her, but made it of a different nature from that he had had before; what chiefly employed his thoughts, was a desire to guess who it was that had found out the secret to win her heart; the Duke de Nemours was the first person he thought of on this occasion, as being the handsomest man at Court; and the Chevalier de Guise, and the Mareschal de St. Andre occurred next, as two persons who had made it their endeavour to get her love, and who were still very assiduous in courting her, so that he was fully persuaded it must be one of the three. He arrived at the Louvre, and the King carried him into his closet to inform him he had made choice of him to conduct Madame into Spain, and that he believed nobody could acquit himself better of that charge, nor that any lady would do France greater honour than Madam de Cleves. Monsieur de Cleves received the honour the King had done him by this choice with the respect he ought, and he considered it also as what would take his wife from Court, without leaving room to suspect any change in her conduct; but the embarrassment he was under required a speedier remedy than that journey, which was to be deferred a great while, could afford; he immediately wrote to Madam de Cleves to acquaint her with what the King had told him, and gave her to understand he absolutely expected she should return to Paris. She returned according to his orders, and when they met, they found one another overwhelmed with melancholy.

Monsieur de Cleves spoke to her, as a man of the greatest honour in the world, and the best deserving the confidence she had reposed in him; “I am not alarmed as to your conduct,” said he,”you have more strength and virtue than you imagine; I am not alarmed with fears of what may happen hereafter; what troubles me is that I see you have those sentiments for another which you want for me.” “I don’t know what to answer you,” said she, “I die with shame when I speak of this subject spare me, I conjure you, such cruel conversations; regulate my conduct, and never let me see anybody; this is all I desire of you; but take it not ill of me, if I speak no more of a thing which makes me appear so little worthy of you, and which I think so unbecoming me.” “You are in the right, Madam;” replied he, “I abuse your goodness and your confidence in me; but have some compassion also on the condition you have brought me to, and think that whatever you have told me, you conceal from me a name, which creates in me a curiosity I cannot live without satisfying; and yet I ask you not to satisfy it; I cannot, however, forbear telling you, that I believe the man I am to envy is the Mareschal de St. Andre, the Duke de Nemours, or the Chevalier de Guise.” “I shall make you no answer,” says she blushing, “nor give you any ground from what I say, either to lessen or strengthen your suspicions; but if you endeavour to inform yourself by observing me, you will throw me into a confusion all the world will take notice of, for God’s sake,” continued she, “allow me under pretence of an indisposition to see nobody.” “No, Madam,” said he, “it will quickly be discovered to be a feigned business; and besides, I am unwilling to trust you to anything but yourself; my heart tells me this is the best way I can take, and my reason tells me so also, considering the temper of mind you are in, I cannot put a greater restraint upon you than by leaving you to your liberty.”

Monsieur de Cleves was not mistaken; the confidence he showed he had in his wife, fortified her the more against Monsieur de Nemours, and made her take more severe resolutions than any restraint could have brought her to. She went to wait on the Queen-Dauphin at the Louvre as she used to do, but avoided the presence and eyes of Monsieur de Nemours with so much care, that she deprived him of almost all the joy he had in thinking she loved him; he saw nothing in her actions but what seemed to show the contrary; he scarcely knew if what he had heard was not a dream, so very improbable it seemed to him; the only thing which assured him that he was not mistaken, was Madam de Cleves’s extreme melancholy, which appeared, whatever pains she took to hide it; and perhaps kind words and looks would not have increased the Duke of Nemours’s love so much as this severe conduct did.

One evening, as Monsieur and Madam de Cleves were at the Queen’s apartment, it was said there was a report that the King would name another great lord to wait on Madame into Spain. Monsieur de Cleves had his eye fixed on his wife, when it was further said, the Chevalier de Guise, or the Mareschal de St. Andre, was the person; he observed she was not at all moved at either of those names, nor the discourse of their going along with her; this made him believe, it was not either of them whose presence she feared. In order to clear up his suspicions, he went into the Queen’s closet, where the King then was, and after having stayed there some time came back to his wife, and whispered her, that he had just heard the Duke de Nemours was the person designed to go along with them to Spain.

The name of the Duke de Nemours, and the thought of being exposed to see him every day, during a very long journey, in her husband’s presence, so affected Madam de Cleves, that she could not conceal her trouble: and being willing to give other reasons for it, “No choice,” says she, “could have been made more disagreeable for you; he will share all honours with you, and I think you ought to endeavour to get some other chosen.” “It is not honour, Madam,” replied Monsieur de Cleves, “that makes you apprehensive of the Duke de Nemours’s going with me, the uneasiness you are in proceeds from another cause; and from this uneasiness of yours I learn, that which I should have discovered in another woman, by the joy she would have expressed on such an occasion; but be not afraid; what I have told you is not true, it was an invention of mine to assure myself of a thing which I already believed but too much.”

Having said this, he went out, being unwilling to increase, by his presence, the concern he saw his wife in.

The Duke de Nemours came in that instant, and presently observed Madam de Cleves’s condition; he came up to her, and told her softly, he had that respect for her, he durst not ask what it was made her more pensive than usual. The voice of the Duke de Nemours brought her to herself again, and looking at him, without having heard what he had said to her, full of her own thoughts, and afraid lest her husband should see him with her, “For God’s sake,” says she, “leave me to myself in quiet.” “Alas, Madam,” answered he, “I disturb you too little; what is it you can complain of? I dare not speak to you, I dare not look upon you, I tremble whenever I approach you. How have I drawn upon myself what you have said to me, and why do you show me that I am in part the cause of the trouble I see you in?” Madam de Cleves was very sorry to have given the Duke an opportunity of explaining himself more clearly than ever he had done before; she left him without making any answer, and went home with her mind more agitated than ever. Her husband perceived her concern was increased, and that she was afraid he would speak to her of what had passed, and followed her into her closet; “Do not shun me, Madam,” says he, “I will say nothing to you that shall displease you; I ask pardon for the surprise I gave you a while ago; I am sufficiently punished by what I have learnt from it; the Duke de Nemours was of all men he whom I most feared; I see the danger you are in; command yourself for your own sake, and, if it is possible, for mine; I do not ask this of you as a husband, but as a man whose happiness wholly depends on you, and who loves you more violently and more tenderly than he whom your heart prefers to me.” Monsieur de Cleves was melted upon speaking these words, and could scarce make an end of them; his wife was so moved, she burst into tears, and embraced him with a tenderness and sorrow that put him into a condition not very different from her own; they continued silent a while, and parted without having the power to speak to one another.

All things were ready for the marriage of Madame, and the Duke of Alva was arrived to espouse her; he was received with all the ceremony and magnificence that could be displayed on such an occasion; the King sent to meet him the Prince of Conde, the Cardinals of Loraine and Guise, the Dukes of Loraine and Ferrara, d’Aumale, de Bouillon, de Guise, and de Nemours; they had a great number of gentlemen, and a great many pages in livery; the King himself, attended with two hundred gentlemen, and the Constable at their head, received the Duke of Alva at the first gate of the Louvre; the Duke would have kneeled down, but the King refused it, and made him walk by his side to the Queen’s apartment, and to Madame’s, to whom the Duke of Alva had brought a magnificent present from his master; he went thence to the apartment of Madam Margaret the King’s sister, to compliment her on the part of the Duke of Savoy, and to assure her he would arrive in a few days; there were great assemblies at the Louvre, the show the Duke of Alva, and the Prince of Orange who accompanied him, the beauties of the Court.

Madam de Cleves could not dispense with going to these assemblies, however desirous she was to be absent, for fear of disobliging her husband, who absolutely commanded her to be there; and what yet more induced her to it, was the absence of the Duke de Nemours; he was gone to meet the Duke of Savoy, and after the arrival of that Prince, he was obliged to be almost always with him, to assist him in everything relating to the ceremonies of the nuptials; for this reason Madam de Cleves did not meet him so often as she used to do, which gave her some sort of ease.

The Viscount de Chartres had not forgot the conversation he had had with the Duke de Nemours: it still ran in his mind that the adventure the Duke had related to him was his own; and he observed him so carefully that it is probable he would have unravelled the business, if the arrival of the Duke of Alva and of the Duke of Savoy had not made such an alteration in the Court, and filled it with so much business, as left no opportunities for a discovery of that nature; the desire he had to get some information about it, or rather the natural disposition one has to relate all one knows to those one loves, made him acquaint Madam de Martigues with the extraordinary action of that person who had confessed to her husband the passion she had for another; he assured her the Duke de Nemours was the man who had inspired so violent a love, and begged her assistance in observing him. Madam de Martigues was glad to hear what the Viscount told her, and the curiosity she had always observed in the Queen-Dauphin for what concerned the Duke de Nemours made her yet more desirous to search into the bottom of the affair.

A few days before that which was fixed for the ceremony of the marriage, the Queen-Dauphin entertained at supper the King her father-in-law, and the Duchess of Valentinois. Madam de Cleves, who had been busy in dressing herself, went to the Louvre later than ordinary; as she was going, she met a gentleman that was coming from the Queen-Dauphin to fetch her; as soon as she entered the room, that Princess, who was sitting upon her bed, told her aloud, that she had expected her with great impatience. “I believe, Madam,” answered she, “that I am not obliged to you for it, and that your impatience was caused by something else, and not your desire to see me.” “You are in the right,” answered the Queen-Dauphin, “but, nevertheless, you are obliged to me; for I’ll tell you an adventure, which I am sure you’ll be glad to know.”

Madam de Cleves kneeled at her bedside, and, very luckily for her, with her face from the light: “You know,” said the Queen, “how desirous we have been to find out what had caused so great a change in the Duke de Nemours; I believe I know it, and it is what will surprise you; he is desperately in love with, and as much beloved by, one of the finest ladies of the Court.” It is easy to imagine the grief Madam de Cleves felt upon hearing these words, which she could not apply to herself, since she thought nobody knew anything of her passion for the Duke; “I see nothing extraordinary in that,” replied she, “considering how young and handsome a man the Duke de Nemours is.” “No,” replied the Queen-Dauphin, “there is nothing extraordinary in it; but what will surprise you is, that this lady, who is in love with the Duke de Nemours, has never given him any mark of it, and that the fear she was in lest she should not always be mistress of her passion, has made her confess it to her husband, that he may take her away from Court; and it is the Duke de Nemours himself who has related what I tell you.”

If Madam de Cleves was grieved at first through the thought that she had no concern in this adventure, the Queen-Dauphin’s last words threw her into an agony, by making it certain she had too much in it; she could not answer, but continued leaning her head on the bed; meanwhile the Queen went on, and was so intent on what she was saying, that she took no notice of her embarrassment. When Madam de Cleves was a little come to herself, “This story, Madam,” says she, “does not seem very probable to me, and I should be glad to know who told it you.” “It was Madam de Martigues,” replied the Queen-Dauphin, “and she heard it from the Viscount de Chartres; you know the Viscount is in love with her; he entrusted this matter to her as a secret, and he was told it by the Duke de Nemours himself; it is true the Duke did not tell the lady’s name, nor acknowledge that he was the person she was in love with, but the Viscount makes no manner of question of it.” When the Queen-Dauphin had done speaking, somebody came up to the bed; Madam de Cleves was so placed that she could not see who it was, but she was presently convinced, when the Queen-Dauphin cried out with an air of gaiety and surprise, “Here he is himself, I’ll ask him what there is in it.” Madam de Cleves knew very well it was the Duke de Nemours, without turning herself, as it really was; upon which she went up hastily to the Queen-Dauphin, and told her softly, that she ought to be cautious of speaking to him of this adventure, which he had entrusted to the Viscount de Chartres as a secret, and that it was a thing which might create a quarrel between them. “You are too wise,” said the Queen-Dauphin smiling, and turned to the Duke de Nemours. He was dressed for the evening assembly, and taking up the discourse with that grace which was natural to him, “I believe, Madam,” says he, “I may venture to think you were speaking of me as I came in, that you had a design to ask me something, and that Madam de Cleves is against it.” “It is true,” replied the Queen-Dauphin, “but I shall not be so complaisant to her on this occasion as I was used to be; I would know of you, whether a story I have been told is true, and whether you are not the person who is in love with, and beloved by a lady of the Court, who endeavours to conceal her passion from you, and has confessed it to her husband.”

The concern and confusion Madam de Cleves was in was above all that can be imagined, and if death itself could have drawn her out of this condition, she would have gladly embraced it; but the Duke de Nemours was yet more embarrassed if possible: the discourse of the Queen-Dauphin, by whom he had reason to believe he was not hated, in the presence of Madam de Cleves, who was confided in by her more than anybody of the Court, and who confided more in her, threw him into such confusion and extravagance of thought, that it was impossible for him to be master of his countenance: the concern he saw Madam de Cleves in through his fault, and the thought of having given her just cause to hate him, so shocked him he could not speak a word. The Queen-Dauphin, seeing how thunderstruck she was, “Look upon him, look upon him,” said she to Madam de Cleves, “and judge if this adventure be not his own.”

In the meantime the Duke de Nemours, finding of what importance it was to him to extricate himself out of so dangerous a difficulty, recovered himself from his first surprise, and became at once master of his wit and looks. “I acknowledge, Madam,” said he, “it is impossible to be more surprised and concerned than I was at the treachery of the Viscount de Chartres, in relating an adventure of a friend of mine, which I had in confidence imparted to him. I know how to be revenged of him,” continued he, smiling with a calm air, which removed the suspicions the Queen-Dauphin had entertained of him: “He has entrusted me with things of no very small importance; but I don’t know, Madam, why you do me the honour to make me a party in this affair. The Viscount can’t say I am concerned in it, for I told him the contrary; I may very well be taken to be a man in love, but I cannot believe, Madam, you will think me of the number of those who are loved again.” The Duke was glad to say anything to the Queen-Dauphin, which alluded to the inclination he had expressed for her formerly, in order to divert her thoughts from the subject in question. She imagined she understood well enough the drift of what he said, but without making any answer to it, she continued to rally him upon the embarrassment he was in. “I was concerned, Madam,” said he, “for the interest of my friend, and on account of the just reproaches he might make me for having told a secret which is dearer to him than life. He has nevertheless entrusted me but with one half of it, and has not told me the name of the person he loves; all I know is, that he’s the most deeply in love of any man in the world, and has the most reason to complain.” “Do you think he has reason to complain,” replied the Queen-Dauphin, “when he is loved again?” “Do you believe he is, Madam,” replied he, “and that a person who had a real passion could discover it to her husband? That lady, doubtless, is not acquainted with love, and has mistaken for it a slight acknowledgment of the fondness her lover had for her. My friend can’t flatter himself with the lent hopes; but, unfortunate as he is, he thinks himself happy at least in having made her afraid of falling in love with him, and he would not change his condition for that of the happiest lover in the world.” “Your friend has a passion very easy to be satisfied,” said the Queen-Dauphin, “and I begin to believe it is not yourself you are speaking of; I am almost,” continued she, “of the opinion of Madam de Cleves, who maintains that this story cannot be true.” “I don’t really believe it can be true,” answered Madam de Cleves, who had been silent hitherto; “and though it were possible to be true, how should it have been known? It is very unlikely that a woman, capable of so extraordinary a resolution, would have the weakness to publish it; and surely her husband would not have told it neither, or he must be a husband very unworthy to have been dealt with in so generous a manner.” The Duke de Nemours, who perceived the suspicions Madam de Cleves had of her husband, was glad to confirm her in them, knowing he was the most formidable rival he had to overcome. “Jealousy,” said he, “and a curiosity perhaps of knowing more than a wife has thought fit to discover, may make a husband do a great many imprudent things.”

Madam de Cleves was put to the last proof of her power and courage, and not being able to endure the conversation any longer, she was going to say she was not well, when by good fortune for her the Duchess of Valentinois came in, and told the Queen-Dauphin that the King was just coming; the Queen-Dauphin went into the closet to dress herself, and the Duke de Nemours came up to Madam de Cleves as she was following her. “I would give my life, Madam,” said he, “to have a moment’s conversation with you; but though I have a world of important things to say to you, I think nothing is more so, than to entreat you to believe, that if I have said anything in which the Queen-Dauphin may seem concerned, I did it for reasons which do not relate to her.” Madam de Cleves pretended not to hear him, and left him without giving him a look, and went towards the King, who was just come in. As there were abundance of people there, she trod upon her gown, and made a false step, which served her as an excuse to go out of a place she had not the power to stay in, and so pretending to have received some hurt she went home.

Monsieur de Cleves came to the Louvre, and was surprised not to find his wife there; they told him of the accident that had befallen her, and he went immediately home to enquire after her; he found her in bed, and perceived her hurt was not considerable. When he had been some time with her, he found her so excessive melancholy that he was surprised at it; “What ails you, Madam?”

says he; “you seem to have some other grief than that which you complain of.” “I feel the most sensible grief I can ever experience,” answered she; “what use have you made of that extraordinary, or rather foolish confidence which I placed in you? Did not I deserve to have my secret kept? and though I had not deserved it, did not your own interest engage you to it? Should your curiosity to know a name it was not reasonable for me