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  • 3/1678
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to tell you have obliged you to make a confidant to assist you in the discovery? Nothing but that curiosity could have made you guilty of so cruel an indiscretion; the consequences of it are as bad as they possibly can be. This adventure is known, and I have been told it by those who are not aware that I am principally concerned in it.” “What do you say, Madam?” answered he; “you accuse me of having told what passed between you and me, and you inform me that the thing is known; I don’t go about to clear myself from this charge, you can’t think me guilty of it; without doubt you have applied to yourself what was told you of some other.” “Ah! Sir,” replied she, “the world has not an adventure like mine, there is not another woman capable of such a thing. The story I have heard could not have been invented by chance; nobody could imagine any like it; an action of this nature never entered any thoughts but mine. The Queen-Dauphin has just told me the story; she had it from the Viscount de Chartres, and the Viscount from the Duke de Nemours.” “The Duke de Nemours!” cried Monsieur de Cleves, like a man transported and desperate: “How! does the Duke de Nemours know that you are in love with him, and that I am acquainted with it?” “You are always for singling out the Duke de Nemours rather than any other,” replied she; “I have told you I will never answer you concerning your suspicions: I am ignorant whether the Duke de Nemours knows the part I have in this adventure, and that which you have ascribed to him; but he told it to the Viscount de Chartres, and said he had it from one of his friends, who did not name the lady: this friend of the Duke de Nemours must needs be one of yours, whom you entrusted the secret to, in order to clear up your suspicions.” “Can one have a friend in the world, in whom one would repose such a confidence,” replied Monsieur de Cleves, “and would a man clear his suspicions at the price of informing another with what one would wish to conceal from oneself? Think rather, Madam, to whom you have spoken; it is more probable this secret should have escaped from you than from me; you was not able alone to support the trouble you found yourself in, and you endeavoured to comfort yourself by complaining to some confidant who has betrayed you.”

“Do not wholly destroy me,” cried she, “and be not so hard-hearted as to accuse me of a fault you have committed yourself: can you suspect me of it? and do you think, because I was capable of informing you of this matter, I was therefore capable of informing another?”

The confession which Madam de Cleves had made to her husband was so great a mark of her sincerity, and she so strongly denied that she had entrusted it to any other, that Monsieur de Cleves did not know what to think. On the other hand he was sure he had never said anything of it; it was a thing that could not have been guessed, and yet it was known; it must therefore come from one of them two; but what grieved him most was to know that this secret was in the hands of somebody else, and that in all probability it would be soon divulged.

Madam de Cleves thought much after the same manner; she found it equally impossible that her husband should, or should not have spoken of it. What the Duke de Nemours had said to her, that curiosity might make a husband do indiscreet things, seemed so justly applicable to Monsieur de Cleves’s condition, that she could not think he said it by chance, and the probability of this made her conclude that Monsieur de Cleves had abused the confidence she had placed in him. They were so taken up, the one and the other, with their respective thoughts, that they continued silent a great while; and when they broke from this silence, they only repeated the same things they had already said very often; their hearts and affections grew more and more estranged from each other.

It is easy to imagine how they passed the night; Monsieur de Cleves could no longer sustain the misfortune of seeing a woman whom he adored in love with another; he grew quite heartless, and thought he had reason to be so in an affair where his honour and reputation were so deeply wounded: he knew not what to think of his wife, and was at a loss what conduct he should prescribe to her, or what he should follow himself; he saw nothing on all sides but precipices and rocks; at last, after having been long tossed to and fro in suspense, he considered he was soon to set out for Spain, and resolved to do nothing which might increase the suspicion or knowledge of his unfortunate condition. He went to his wife, and told her that what they had to do was not to debate between themselves who had discovered the secret; but to make it appear that the story which was got abroad was a business in which she had no concern; that it depended upon her to convince the Duke de Nemours and others of it; that she had nothing to do but to behave herself to him with that coldness and reserve which she ought to have for a man who professed love to her; that by this proceeding she would easily remove the opinion he entertained of her being in love with him; and therefore she needed not to trouble herself as to what he might hitherto have thought, since if for the future she discovered no weakness, his former thoughts would vanish of themselves; and that especially she ought to frequent the Louvre and the assemblies as usual.

Having said this, Monsieur de Cleves left his wife without waiting her answer; she thought what he said very reasonable, and the resentment she had against the Duke de Nemours made her believe she should be able to comply with it with a great deal of ease; but it seemed a hard task to her to appear at the marriage with that freedom and tranquillity of spirit as the occasion required. Nevertheless as she was to carry the Queen-Dauphin’s train, and had been distinguished with that honour in preference to a great many other Princesses, it was impossible to excuse herself from it without making a great deal of noise and putting people upon enquiring into the reasons of it. She resolved therefore to do her utmost, and employed the rest of the day in preparing herself for it, and in endeavouring to forget the thoughts that gave her so much uneasiness; and to this purpose she locked herself up in her closet. Of all her griefs the most violent was that she had reason to complain of the Duke de Nemours, and could find no excuse to urge in his favour; she could not doubt but he had related this adventure to the Viscount de Chartres; he had owned it himself, nor could she any more doubt from his manner of speaking of it, but that he knew the adventure related to her; how could she excuse so great an imprudence? and what was become of that extreme discretion which she had so much admired in this Prince? “He was discreet,” said she, “while he was unhappy; but the thought of being happy, though on uncertain grounds, has put an end to his discretion; he could not consider that he was beloved, without desiring to have it known; he said everything he could say; I never acknowledged it was he I was in love with; he suspected it, and has declared his suspicions; if he had been sure of it, he might have acted as he has; I was to blame for thinking him a man capable of concealing what flattered his vanity; and yet it is for this man, whom I thought so different from other men, that I am become like other women, who was so unlike them before. I have lost the heart and esteem of a husband who ought to have been my happiness; I shall soon be looked upon by all the world as a person led away by an idle and violent passion; he for whom I entertain this passion is no longer ignorant of it; and it was to avoid these misfortunes that I hazarded my quiet, and even my life.” These sad reflections were followed by a torrent of tears; but however great her grief was, she plainly perceived she should be able to support it, were she but satisfied in the Duke de Nemours.

The Duke was no less uneasy than she; the indiscretion he had been guilty of in telling what he did to the Viscount de Chartres, and the mischievous consequences of it, vexed him to the heart; he could not represent to himself the affliction and sorrow he had seen Madam de Cleves in without being pierced with anguish; he was inconsolable for having said things to her about this adventure, which, though gallant enough in themselves, seemed on this occasion too gross and impolite, since they gave Madam de Cleves to understand he was not ignorant that she was the woman who had that violent passion, and that he was the object of it. It was before the utmost of his wishes to have a conversation with her, but now he found he ought rather to fear than desire it. “What should I say to her!” says he; “should I go to discover further to her what I have made her too sensible of already! Shall I tell how I know she loves me; I, who have never dared to say I loved her? Shall I begin with speaking openly of my passion, that she may see my hopes have inspired me with boldness? Can I even think of approaching her, and of giving her the trouble to endure my sight? Which way could I justify myself? I have no excuse, I am unworthy of the least regard from Madam de Cleves, and I even despair of her ever looking upon me: I have given her by my own fault better means of defending herself against me than any she was searching for, and perhaps searching for to no purpose. I lose by my imprudence the glory and happiness of being loved by the most beautiful and deserving lady in the world; but if I had lost this happiness, without involving her in the most extreme grief and sufferings at the same time, I should have had some comfort; for at this moment I am more sensible of the harm I have done her, than of that I have done myself in forfeiting her favour.”

The Duke de Nemours continued turning the same thoughts over and over, and tormenting himself a great while; the desire he had to speak to Madam de Cleves came constantly into his mind; he thought of the means to do it; he thought of writing to her; but at last he found, considering the fault he had committed and the temper she was in, his best way was to show her a profound respect by his affliction and his silence, to let her see he durst not present himself before her, and to wait for what time, chance, and the inclination she had for him might produce to his advantage. He resolved also not to reproach the Viscount de Chartres for his unfaithfulness, for fear of confirming his suspicions.

The preparations for the espousals and marriage of Madame on the next day so entirely took up the thoughts of the Court, that Madam de Cleves and the Duke de Nemours easily concealed from the public their grief and uneasiness. The Queen-Dauphin spoke but slightly to Madam de Cleves of the conversation they had had with the Duke de Nemours; and Monsieur de Cleves industriously shunned speaking to his wife of what was past; so that she did not find herself under so much embarrassment as she had imagined.

The espousals were solemnised at the Louvre; and after the feast and ball all the Royal family went to lie at the Bishop’s Palace, according to custom. In the morning, the Duke of Alva, who always had appeared very plainly dressed, put on a habit of cloth of gold, mixed with flame-colour, yellow and black, all covered over with jewels, and wore a close crown on his head. The Prince of Orange very richly dressed also, with his liveries, and all the Spaniards with theirs, came to attend the Duke of Alva from the Hotel de Villeroy where he lodged, and set out, marching four by four, till they came to the Bishop’s Palace. As soon as he was arrived, they went in order to the Church; the King led Madame, who wore also a close crown, her train being borne by Mademoiselles de Montpensier and Longueville; the Queen came next, but without a crown; after her followed the Queen-Dauphin, Madame the King’s sister, the Duchess of Loraine, and the Queen of Navarre, their trains being home by the Princesses; the Queens and the Princesses were all of them attended with their maids of honour, who were richly dressed in the same colour which they wore themselves; so that it was known by the colour of their habits whose maids they were: they mounted the place that was prepared in the Church, and there the marriage ceremonies were performed; they returned afterwards to dine at the Bishop’s Palace, and went from thence about five o’clock to the Palace where the feast was, and where the Parliament, the Sovereign Courts, and the Corporation of the City were desired to assist. The King, the Queens, the Princes and Princesses sat at the marble table in the great hall of the Palace; the Duke of Alva sat near the new Queen of Spain, below the steps of the marble table, and at the King’s right hand was a table for the ambassadors, the archbishops, and the Knights of the Order, and on the other side one for the Parliament.

The Duke of Guise, dressed in a robe of cloth of gold frieze, served the King as Great Chamberlain; the Prince of Conde as Steward of the Household, and the Duke de Nemours as Cup-bearer. After the tables were removed the ball began, and was interrupted by interludes and a great deal of extraordinary machinery; then the ball was resumed, and after midnight the King and the whole Court returned to the Louvre. However full of grief Madam de Cleves was, she appeared in the eyes of all beholders, and particularly in those of the Duke de Nemours, incomparably beautiful. He durst not speak to her, though the hurry of the ceremony gave him frequent opportunities; but he expressed so much sorrow and so respectful a fear of approaching her, that she no longer thought him to blame, though he had said nothing in his justification; his conduct was the same the following days, and wrought the same effect on the heart of Madam de Cleves.

At last the day of the tournament came; the Queens were placed in the galleries that were prepared for them; the four champions appeared at the end of the lists with a number of horses and liveries, the most magnificent sight that ever was seen in France.

The King’s colours were white and black, which he always wore in honour of the Duchess of Valentinois, who was a widow. The Duke of Ferrara and his retinue had yellow and red. Monsieur de Guise’s carnation and white. It was not known at first for what reason he wore those colours, but it was soon remembered that they were the colours of a beautiful young lady whom he had been in love with, while she was a maid, and whom he yet loved though he durst not show it. The Duke de Nemours had yellow and black; why he had them could not be found out: Madam de Cleves only knew the reason of it; she remembered to have said before him she loved yellow, and that she was sorry her complexion did not suit that colour. As for the Duke, he thought he might take that colour without any indiscretion, since not being worn by Madam de Cleves it could not be suspected to be hers.

The four champions showed the greatest address that can be imagined; though the King was the best horseman in his kingdom, it was hard to say which of them most excelled. The Duke de Nemours had a grace in all his actions which might have inclined to his favour persons less interested than Madam de Cleves. She no sooner saw him appear at the end of the lists, but her heart felt uncommon emotions, and every course he made she could scarce hide her joy when he had successfully finished his career.

In the evening, when all was almost over, and the company ready to break up, so it was for the misfortune of the State, that the King would needs break another lance; he sent orders to the Count de Montgomery, who was a very dextrous combatant, to appear in the lists. The Count begged the King to excuse him, and alleged all the reasons for it he could think of; but the King, almost angry, sent him word he absolutely commanded him to do it. The Queen conjured the King not to run any more, told him he had performed so well that he ought to be satisfied, and desired him to go with her to her apartments; he made answer, it was for her sake that he would run again; and entered the barrier; she sent the Duke of Savoy to him to entreat him a second time to return, but to no purpose; he ran; the lances were broke, and a splinter of the Count de Montgomery’s lance hit the King’s eye, and stuck there. The King fell; his gentlemen and Monsieur de Montmorency, who was one of the Mareschals of the field, ran to him; they were astonished to see him wounded, but the King was not at all disheartened; he said, that it was but a slight hurt, and that he forgave the Count de Montgomery. One may imagine what sorrow and affliction so fatal an accident occasioned on a day set apart to mirth and joy. The King was carried to bed, and the surgeons having examined his wound found it very considerable. The Constable immediately called to mind the prediction which had been told the King, that he should be killed in single fight; and he made no doubt but the prediction would be now accomplished. The King of Spain, who was then at Brussels, being advertised of this accident, sent his physician, who was a man of great reputation, but that physician judged the King past hope.

A Court so divided, and filled with so many opposite interests, could not but be in great agitation on the breaking out of so grand an event; nevertheless all things were kept quiet, and nothing was seen but a general anxiety for the King’s health. The Queens, the Princes and Princesses hardly ever went out of his anti-chamber.

Madam de Cleves, knowing that she was obliged to be there, that she should see there the Duke de Nemours, and that she could not conceal from her husband the disorder she should be in upon seeing him, and being sensible also that the mere presence of that Prince would justify him in her eyes and destroy all her resolutions, thought proper to feign herself ill. The Court was too busy to give attention to her conduct, or to enquire whether her illness was real or counterfeit; her husband alone was able to come at the truth of the matter, but she was not at all averse to his knowing it. Thus she continued at home, altogether heedless of the great change that was soon expected, and full of her own thoughts, which she was at full liberty to give herself up to. Everyone went to Court to enquire after the King’s health, and Monsieur de Cleves came home at certain times to give her an account of it; he behaved himself to her in the same manner he used to do, except when they were alone, and then there appeared something of coldness and reserve: he had not spoke to her again concerning what had passed, nor had she power, nor did she think it convenient to resume the discourse of it.

The Duke de Nemours, who had waited for an opportunity of speaking to Madam de Cleves, was surprised and afflicted not to have had so much as the pleasure to see her. The King’s illness increased so much, that the seventh day he was given over by the physicians; he received the news of the certainty of his death with an uncommon firmness of mind; which was the more to be admired, considering that he lost his life by so unfortunate an accident, that he died in the flower of his age, happy, adored by his people, and beloved by a mistress he was desperately in love with. The evening before his death he caused Madame his sister to be married to the Duke of Savoy without ceremony. One may judge what condition the Duchess of Valentinois was in; the Queen would not permit her to see the King, but sent to demand of her the King’s signets, and the jewels of the crown which she had in her custody. The Duchess enquired if the King was dead, and being answered, “No”; “I have then as yet no other matter,” said she, “and nobody can oblige me to restore what he has trusted in my hands.” As soon as the King expired at Chateau de Toumelles, the Duke of Ferrara, the Duke of Guise, and the Duke de Nemours conducted the Queen-Mother, the New King and the Queen-Consort to the Louvre. The Duke de Nemours led the Queen-Mother. As they began to march, she stepped back a little, and told the Queen her daughter-in-law, it was her place to go first; but it was easy to see, that there was more of spleen than decorum in this compliment.

IV

The Queen-mother was now wholly governed by the Cardinal of Loraine; the Viscount de Chartres had no interest with her, and the passion he had for Madam de Martigues and for liberty hindered him from feeling this loss as it deserved to be felt. The Cardinal, during the ten days’ illness of the King, was at leisure to form his designs, and lead the Queen into resolutions agreeable to what he had projected; so that the King was no sooner dead but the Queen ordered the Constable to stay at Tournelles with the corpse of the deceased King in order to perform the usual ceremonies. This commission kept him at a distance and out of the scene of action; for this reason the Constable dispatched a courier to the King of Navarre, to hasten him to Court that they might join their interest to oppose the great rise of the House of Guise. The command of the Army was given to the Duke of Guise and the care of the finances to the Cardinal of Loraine. The Duchess of Valentinois was driven from Court; the Cardinal de Tournon, the Constable’s declared enemy, and the Chancellor Olivier, the declared enemy of the Duchess of Valentinois, were both recalled. In a word, the complexion of the Court was entirely changed; the Duke of Guise took the same rank as the Princes of the blood, in carrying the King’s mantle at the funeral ceremonies: He and his brothers carried all before them at Court, not only by reason of the Cardinal’s power with the Queen-Mother, but because she thought it in her power to remove them should they give her umbrage; whereas she could not so easily remove the Constable, who was supported by the Princes of the blood.

When the ceremonial of the mourning was over, the Constable came to the Louvre, and was very coldly received by the King; he desired to speak with him in private, but the King called for Messieurs de Guise, and told him before them, that he advised him to live at ease; that the finances and the command of the Army were disposed of, and that when he had occasion for his advice, he would send for him to Court. The Queen received him in a yet colder manner than the King, and she even reproached him for having told the late King, that his children by her did not resemble him. The King of Navarre arrived, and was no better received; the Prince of Conde, more impatient than his brother, complained aloud, but to no purpose: he was removed from Court, under pretence of being sent to Flanders to sign the ratification of the peace. They showed the King of Navarre a forged letter from the King of Spain, which charged him with a design of seizing that King’s fortresses; they put him in fear for his dominions, and made him take a resolution to go to Bearn; the Queen furnished him with an opportunity, by appointing him to conduct Madam Elizabeth, and obliged him to set out before her, so that there remained nobody at Court that could balance the power of the House of Guise.

Though it was a mortifying circumstance for Monsieur de Cleves not to conduct Madam Elizabeth, yet he could not complain of it, by reason of the greatness of the person preferred before him; he regretted the loss of this employment not so much on account of the honour he should have received from it, as because it would have given him an opportunity of removing his wife from Court without the appearance of design in it.

A few days after the King’s death, it was resolved the new King should go to Rheims to be crowned. As soon as this journey was talked of, Madam de Cleves, who had stayed at home all this while under pretence of illness, entreated her husband to dispense with her following the Court, and to give her leave to go to take the air at Colomiers for her health: he answered, that whether her health was the reason or not of her desire, however he consented to it: nor was it very difficult for him to consent to a thing he had resolved upon before: as good an opinion as he had of his wife’s virtue, he thought it imprudent to expose her any longer to the sight of a man she was in love with.

The Duke de Nemours was soon informed that Madam de Cleves was not to go along with the Court; he could not find in his heart to set out without seeing her, and therefore the night before his journey he went to her house as late as decency would allow him, in order to find her alone. Fortune favoured his intention; and Madam de Nevers and Madam de Martigues, whom he met in the Court as they were coming out, informed him they had left her alone. He went up in a concern and ferment of mind to be paralleled only by that which Madam de Cleves was under, when she was told the Duke de Nemours was come to see her; the fear lest he should speak to her of his passion, and lest she should answer him too favourably, the uneasiness this visit might give her husband, the difficulty of giving him an account of it, or of concealing it from him, all these things presented themselves to her imagination at once, and threw her into so great an embarrassment, that she resolved to avoid the thing of the world which perhaps she wished for the most. She sent one of her women to the Duke de Nemours, who was in her anti-chamber, to tell him that she had lately been very ill, and that she was sorry she could not receive the honour which he designed her. What an affliction was it to the Duke, not to see Madam de Cleves, and therefore not to see her, because she had no mind he should! He was to go away the next morning, and had nothing further to hope from fortune. He had said nothing to her since that conversation at the Queen-Dauphin’s apartments, and he had reason to believe that his imprudence in telling the Viscount his adventure had destroyed all his expectations; in a word, he went away with everything that could exasperate his grief.

No sooner was Madam de Cleves recovered from the confusion which the thought of receiving a visit from the Duke had given her, but all the reasons which had made her refuse it vanished; she was even satisfied she had been to blame; and had she dared, or had it not been too late, she would have had him called back.

Madam de Nevers and Madam de Martigues went from the Princess of Cleves to the Queen-Dauphin’s, where they found Monsieur de Cleves: the Queen-Dauphin asked them from whence they came; they said they came from Madam de Cleves, where they had spent part of the afternoon with a great deal of company, and that they had left nobody there but the Duke de Nemours. These words, which they thought so indifferent, were not such with Monsieur de Cleves: though he might well imagine the Duke de Nemours had frequent opportunities of speaking to his wife, yet the thought that he was now with her, that he was there alone, and that he might speak to her of his life, appeared to him at this time a thing so new and insupportable, that jealousy kindled in his heart with greater violence than ever. It was impossible for him to stay at the Queen’s; he returned from thence, without knowing why he returned, or if he designed to go and interrupt the Duke de Nemours: he was no sooner come home, but he looked about him to see if there was anything by which he could judge if the Duke was still there; it was some comfort to him to find he was gone, and it was a pleasure to reflect that he could not have been long there: he fancied, that, perhaps, it was not the Duke de Nemours of whom he had reason to be jealous; and though he did not doubt of it, yet he endeavoured to doubt of it; but he was convinced of it by so many circumstances, that he continued not long in that pleasing uncertainty. He immediately went into his wife’s room, and after having talked to her for some time about indifferent matters, he could not forbear asking her what she had done, and who she had seen, and accordingly she gave him an account: when he found she did not name the Duke de Nemours he asked her trembling, if those were all she had seen, in order to give her an occasion to name the Duke, and that he might not have the grief to see she made use of any evasion. As she had not seen him, she did not name him; when Monsieur de Cleves with accents of sorrow, said, “And have you not seen the Duke de Nemours, or have you forgot him?” “I have not seen him indeed,” answered she; “I was ill, and I sent one of my women to make my excuses.” “You was ill then only for him,” replied Monsieur de Cleves, “since you admitted the visits of others: why this distinction with respect to the Duke de Nemours? Why is not he to you as another man? Why should you be afraid of seeing him? Why do you let him perceive that you are so? Why do you show him that you make use of the power which his passion gives you over him? Would you dare refuse to see him, but that you knew he distinguishes your rigour from incivility? But why should you exercise that rigour towards him? From a person like you, all things are favours, except indifference.” “I did not think,” replied Madam de Cleves, “whatever suspicions you have of the Duke de Nemours, that you could reproach me for not admitting a visit from him.” “But I do reproach you, Madam,” replied he, “and I have good ground for so doing; why should you not see him, if he has said nothing to you? but Madam, he has spoke to you; if his passion had been expressed only by silence, it would not have made so great an impression upon you; you have not thought fit to tell me the whole truth; you have concealed the greatest part from me; you have repented even of the little you have acknowledged, and you have not the resolution to go on; I am more unhappy than I imagined, more unhappy than any other man in the world: you are my wife, I love you as my mistress, and I see you at the same time in love with another, with the most amiable man of the Court, and he sees you every day, and knows you are in love with him: Alas! I believed that you would conquer your passion for him, but sure I had lost my reason when I believed it was possible.” “I don’t know,” replied Madam de Cleves very sorrowfully, “whether you was to blame in judging favourably of so extraordinary a proceeding as mine; nor do I know if I was not mistaken when I thought you would do me justice.” “Doubt it not, Madam,” replied Monsieur de Cleves, “you was mistaken; you expected from me things as impossible as those I expected from you: how could you hope I should continue master of my reason? Had you forgot that I was desperately in love with you, and that I was your husband? Either of these two circumstances is enough to hurry a man into extremities; what may they not do both together? Alas! What do they not do? My thoughts are violent and uncertain, and I am not able to control them; I no longer think myself worthy of you, nor do I think you are worthy of me; I adore you, I hate you, I offend you, I ask your pardon, I admire you, I blush for my admiration: in a word, I have nothing of tranquillity or reason left about me: I wonder how I have been able to live since you spoke to me at Colomiers, and since you learned, from what the Queen-Dauphin told you, that your adventure was known; I can’t discover how it came to be known, nor what passed between the Duke de Nemours and you upon the subject; you will never explain it to me, nor do I desire you to do it; I only desire you to remember that you have made me the most unfortunate, the most wretched of men.”

Having spoke these words, Monsieur de Cleves left his wife, and set out the next day without seeing her; but he wrote her a letter full of sorrow, and at the same time very kind and obliging: she gave an answer to it so moving and so full of assurances both as to her past and future conduct, that as those assurances were grounded in truth, and were the real effect of her sentiments, the letter made great impressions on Monsieur de Cleves, and gave him some tranquillity; add to this that the Duke de Nemours going to the King as well as himself, he had the satisfaction to know that he would not be in the same place with Madam de Cleves. Everytime that lady spoke to her husband, the passion he expressed for her, the handsomeness of his behaviour, the friendship she had for him, and the thought of what she owed him, made impressions in her heart that weakened the idea of the Duke de Nemours; but it did not continue long, that idea soon returned more lively than before.

For a few days after the Duke was gone, she was hardly sensible of his absence; afterwards it tortured her; ever since she had been in love with him, there did not pass a day, but she either feared or wished to meet him, and it was a wounding thought to her to consider that it was no more in the power of fortune to contrive their meeting.

She went to Colomiers, and ordered to be carried thither the large pictures she had caused to be copied from the originals which the Duchess of Valentinois had procured to be drawn for her fine house of Annett. All the remarkable actions that had passed in the late King’s reign were represented in these pieces, and among the rest was the Siege of Mets, and all those who had distinguished themselves at that Siege were painted much to the life. The Duke de Nemours was of this number, and it was that perhaps which had made Madam de Cleves desirous of having the pictures.

Madam de Martigues not being able to go along with the Court, promised her to come and pass some days at Colomiers. Though they divided the Queen’s favour, they lived together without envy or coldness; they were friends, but not confidants; Madam de Cleves knew that Madam de Martigues was in love with the Viscount, but Madam de Martigues did not know that Madam de Cleves was in love with the Duke de Nemours, nor that she was beloved by him. The relation Madam de Cleves had to the Viscount made her more dear to Madam de Martigues, and Madam de Cleves was also fond of her as a person who was in love as well as herself, and with an intimate friend of her own lover.

Madam de Martigues came to Colomiers according to her promise, and found Madam de Cleves living in a very solitary manner: that Princess affected a perfect solitude, and passed the evenings in her garden without being accompanied even by her domestics; she frequently came into the pavilion where the Duke de Nemours had overheard her conversation with her husband; she delighted to be in the bower that was open to the garden, while her women and attendants waited in the other bower under the pavilion, and never came to her but when she called them. Madam de Martigues having never seen Colomiers was surprised at the extraordinary beauty of it, and particularly with the pleasantness of the pavilion. Madam de Cleves and she usually passed the evenings there. The liberty of being alone in the night in so agreeable a place would not permit the conversation to end soon between two young ladies, whose hearts were enflamed with violent passions, and they took great pleasure in conversing together, though they were not confidants.

Madam de Martigues would have left Colomiers with great reluctance had she not quitted it to go to a place where the Viscount was; she set out for Chambort, the Court being there.

The King had been anointed at Rheims by the Cardinal of Loraine, and the design was to pass the rest of the summer at the castle of Chambort, which was newly built; the Queen expressed a great deal of joy upon seeing Madam de Martigues again at Court, and after having given her several proofs of it, she asked her how Madam de Cleves did, and in what manner she passed her time in the country. The Duke de Nemours and the Prince of Cleves were with the Queen at that time. Madam de Martigues, who had been charmed with Colomiers, related all the beauties of it, and enlarged extremely on the description of the pavilion in the forest, and on the pleasure Madam de Cleves took in walking there alone part of the night. The Duke de Nemours, who knew the place well enough to understand what Madam de Martigues said of it, thought it was not impossible to see Madam de Cleves there, without being seen by anybody but her. He asked Madam de Martigues some questions to get further lights; and the Prince of Cleves, who had eyed him very strictly while Madam de Martigues was speaking, thought he knew what his design was. The questions the Duke asked still more confirmed him in that thought, so that he made no doubt but his intention was to go and see his wife; he was not mistaken in his suspicions: this design entered so deeply into the Duke de Nemours’s mind, that after having spent the night in considering the proper methods to execute it, he went betimes the next morning to ask the King’s leave to go to Paris, on some pretended occasion.

Monsieur de Cleves was in no doubt concerning the occasion of his journey; and he resolved to inform himself as to his wife’s conduct, and to continue no longer in so cruel an uncertainty; he had a desire to set out the same time as the Duke de Nemours did, and to hide himself where he might discover the success of the journey; but fearing his departure might appear extraordinary, and lest the Duke, being advertised of it, might take other measures, he resolved to trust this business to a gentleman of his, whose fidelity and wit he was assured of; he related to him the embarrassment he was under, and what the virtue of his wife had been till that time, and ordered him to follow the Duke de Nemours, to watch him narrowly, to see if he did not go to Colomiers, and if he did not enter the garden in the night.

The gentleman, who was very capable of this commission, acquitted himself of it with all the exactness imaginable. He followed the Duke to a village within half a league of Colomiers, where the Duke stopped and the gentleman easily guessed his meaning was to stay there till night. He did not think it convenient to wait there, but passed on, and placed himself in that part of the forest where he thought the Duke would pass: he took his measures very right; for it was no sooner night but he heard somebody coming that way, and though it was dark, he easily knew the Duke de Nemours; he saw him walk round the garden, as with a design to listen if he could hear anybody, and to choose the most convenient place to enter: the palisades were very high and double, in order to prevent people from coming in, so that it was very difficult for the Duke to get over, however he made a shift to do it. He was no sooner in the garden but he discovered where Madam de Cleves was; he saw a great light in the bower, all the windows of it were open; upon this, slipping along by the side of the palisades, he came up close to it, and one may easily judge what were the emotions of his heart at that instant: he took his station behind one of the windows, which served him conveniently to see what Madam de Cleves was doing. He saw she was alone; he saw her so inimitably beautiful, that he could scarce govern the transports which that sight gave him: the weather was hot, her head and neck were uncovered, and her hair hung carelessly about her. She lay on a couch with a table before her, on which were several baskets full of ribbons, out of which she chose some, and he observed she chose those colours which he wore at the tournament; he saw her make them up into knots for an Indian cane, which had been his, and which he had given to his sister; Madam de Cleves took it from her, without seeming to know it had belonged to the Duke. After she had finished her work with the sweetest grace imaginable, the sentiments of her heart showing themselves in her countenance, she took a wax candle and came to a great table over against the picture of the Siege of Mets, in which was the portrait of the Duke de Nemours; she sat down and set herself to look upon that portrait, with an attention and thoughtfulness which love only can give.

It is impossible to express what Monsieur de Nemours felt at this moment; to see, at midnight, in the finest place in the world, a lady he adored, to see her without her knowing that he saw her, and to find her wholly taken up with things that related to him, and to the passion which she concealed from him; this is what was never tasted nor imagined by any other lover.

The Duke was so transported and beside himself, that he continued motionless, with his eyes fixed on Madam de Cleves, without thinking how precious his time was; when he was a little recovered, he thought it best not to speak to her till she came into the garden, and he imagined he might do it there with more safety, because she would be at a greater distance from her women; but finding she stayed in the bower, he resolved to go in : when he was upon the point of doing it, what was his confusion; how fearful was he of displeasing her, and of changing that countenance, where so much sweetness dwelt, into looks of anger and resentment!

To come to see Madam de Cleves without being seen by her had no impudence in it, but to think of showing himself appeared very unwise; a thousand things now came into his mind which he had not thought of before; it carried in it somewhat extremely bold and extravagant, to surprise in the middle of the night a person to whom he had never yet spoke of his passion. He thought he had no reason to expect she would hear him, but that she would justly resent the danger to which he exposed her, by accidents which might rise from this attempt; all his courage left him, and he was several times upon the point of resolving to go back again without showing himself; yet urged by the desire of speaking to her, and heartened by the hopes which everything he had seen gave him, he advanced some steps, but in such disorder, that a scarf he had on entangled in the window, and made a noise. Madam de Cleves turned about, and whether her fancy was full of him, or that she stood in a place so directly to the light that she might know him, she thought it was he, and without the least hesitation or turning towards the place where he was, she entered the bower where her women were. On her entering she was in such disorder, that to conceal it she was forced to say she was ill; she said it too in order to employ her people about her, and to give the Duke time to retire. When she had made some reflection, she thought she had been deceived, and that her fancying she saw Monsieur de Nemours was only the effect of imagination. She knew he was at Chambort; she saw no probability of his engaging in so hazardous an enterprise; she had a desire several times to re-enter the bower, and to see if there was anybody in the garden. She wished perhaps as much as she feared to find the Duke de Nemours there; but at last reason and prudence prevailed over her other thoughts, and she found it better to continue in the doubt she was in, than to run the hazard of satisfying herself about it; she was a long time ere she could resolve to leave a place to which she thought the Duke was so near, and it was almost daybreak when she returned to the castle.

The Duke de Nemours stayed in the garden, as long as there was any light; he was not without hopes of seeing Madam de Cleves again, though he was convinced that she knew him, and that she went away only to avoid him; but when he found the doors were shut, he knew he had nothing more to hope; he went to take horse near the place where Monsieur de Cleves’s gentleman was watching him; this gentleman followed him to the same village, where he had left him in the evening. The Duke resolved to stay there all the day, in order to return at night to Colomiers, to see if Madam de Cleves would yet have the cruelty to shun him or not expose herself to view: though he was very much pleased to find himself so much in her thoughts, yet was he extremely grieved at the same time to see her so naturally bent to avoid him.

Never was passion so tender and so violent as that of Monsieur de Nemours; he walked under the willows, along a little brook which ran behind the house, where he lay concealed; he kept himself as much out of the way as possible, that he might not be seen by anybody; he abandoned himself to the transports of his love, and his heart was so full of tenderness, that he was forced to let fall some tears, but those tears were such as grief alone could not shed; they had a mixture of sweetness and pleasure in them which is to be found only in love.

He set himself to recall to mind all the actions of Madam de Cleves ever since he had been in love with her; her cruelty and rigour, and that modesty and decency of behaviour she had always observed towards him, though she loved him; “For, after all, she loves me,” said he, “she loves me, I cannot doubt of it, the deepest engagements and the greatest favours are not more certain proofs than those I have had. In the meantime, I am treated with the same rigour as if I were hated; I hoped something from time, but I have no reason to expect it any longer; I see her always equally on her guard against me and against herself; if I were not loved, I should make it my business to please; but I do please; she loves me, and tries to hide it from me. What have I then to hope, and what change am I to expect in my fortune? though I am loved by the most amiable person in the world, I am under that excess of passion which proceeds from the first certainty of being loved by her, only to make me more sensible of being ill used; let me see that you love me, fair Princess,” cried he, “make me acquainted with your sentiments; provided I know them once in my life from you, I am content that you resume for ever the cruelties with which you oppress me; look upon me at least with the same eyes with which I saw you look that night upon my picture; could you behold that with such sweet complacency, and yet avoid me with so much cruelty? What are you afraid of? Why does my love appear so terrible to you? You love me, and you endeavour in vain to conceal it; you have even given me involuntary proofs of it; I know my happiness, permit me to enjoy it, and cease to make me unhappy. Is it possible I should be loved by the Princess of Cleves, and yet be unhappy? how beautiful was she last night? how could I forbear throwing myself at her feet? If I had done it, I might perhaps have hindered her from shunning me, my respectful behaviour would have removed her fears; but perhaps, after all, she did not know it was I; I afflict myself more than I need; she was only frightened to see a man at so unseasonable an hour.”

These thoughts employed the Duke de Nemours all the day; he wished impatiently for the night, and as soon as it came he returned to Colomiers. Monsieur de Cleves’s gentleman, who was disguised that he might be less observed, followed him to the place to which he had followed him the evening before, and saw him enter the garden again. The Duke soon perceived that Madam de Cleves had not run the risk of his making another effort to see her, the doors being all shut; he looked about on all sides to see if he could discover any light, but he saw none.

Madam de Cleves, suspecting he might return, continued in her chamber; she had reason to apprehend she should not always have the power to avoid him, and she would not submit herself to the hazard of speaking to him in a manner that would have been unsuitable to the conduct she had hitherto observed.

Monsieur de Nemours, though he had no hopes of seeing her, could not find in his heart soon to leave a place where she so often was; he passed the whole night in the garden, and found some pleasure at least in seeing the same objects which she saw every day; it was near sunrise before he thought of retiring; but as last the fear of being discovered obliged him to go away.

It was impossible for him to return to Court without seeing Madam de Cleves; he made a visit to his sister the Duchess of Mercoeur, at her house near Colomiers. She was extremely surprised at her brother’s arrival; but he invented so probable a pretence for his journey, and conducted his plot so skilfully, that he drew her to make the first proposal herself of visiting Madam de Cleves. This proposal was executed that very day, and Monsieur de Nemours told his sister, that he would leave her at Colomiers, in order to go directly to the King; he formed this pretence of leaving her at Colomiers in hopes she would take her leave before him, and he thought he had found out by that means an infallible way of speaking to Madam de Cleves.

The Princess of Cleves, when they arrived, was walking in her garden the sight of Monsieur de Nemours gave her no small uneasiness, and put her out of doubt that it was he she had seen the foregoing night. The certainty of his having done so bold and imprudent a thing gave her some little resentment against him, and the Duke observed an air of coldness in her face, which sensibly grieved him; the conversation turned upon indifferent matters, and yet he had the skill all the while to show so much wit, complaisance, and admiration for Madam de Cleves, that part of the coldness she expressed towards him at first left her in spite of herself.

When his fears were over and he began to take heart, he showed an extreme curiosity to see the pavilion in the forest; he spoke of it as of the most agreeable place in the world, and gave so exact a description of it, that Madam de Mercoeur said he must needs have been there several times to know all the particular beauties of it so well. “And yet, I don’t believe,” replied Madam de Cleves, “that the Duke de Nemours was ever there; it has been finished but a little while.” “It is not long since I was there,” replied the Duke, looking upon her, “and I don’t know if I ought not to be glad you have forgot you saw me there.” Madam de Mercoeur, being taken up in observing the beauties of the gardens, did not attend to what her brother said; Madam de Cleves blushed, and with her eyes cast down, without looking on Monsieur de Nemours, “I don’t remember,” said she, “to have seen you there; and if you have been there, it was without my knowledge.” “It is true, Madam,” replied he, “I was there without your orders, and I passed there the most sweet and cruel moments of my life.”

Madam de Cleves understood very well what he said, but made him no answer; her care was to prevent Madam de Mercoeur from going into the bower, because the Duke de Nemours’s picture was there, and she had no mind she should see it; she managed the matter so well, that the time passed away insensibly, and Madam de Mercoeur began to talk of going home: but when Madam de Cleves found that the Duke and his sister did not go together, she plainly saw to what she was going to be exposed; she found herself under the same embarrassment she was in at Paris, and took also the same resolution; her fear, lest this visit should be a further confirmation of her husband’s suspicions, did not a little contribute to determine her; and to the end Monsieur de Nemours might not remain alone with her, she told Madam de Mercoeur she would wait upon her to the borders of the forest, and ordered her chariot to be got ready. The Duke was struck with such a violent grief to find that Madam de Cleves still continued to exercise the same rigours towards him, that he turned pale that moment. Madam de Mercoeur asked him if he was ill, but he looked upon Madam de Cleves without being perceived by anybody else, and made her sensible by his looks that he had no other illness besides despair: however, there was no remedy but he must let them go together without daring to follow them; after what he had told his sister, that he was to go directly to Court, he could not return with her, but went to Paris, and set out from thence the next day.

Monsieur de Cleves’s gentleman had observed him all the while; he returned also to Paris, and when he found Monsieur de Nemours was set out for Chambort, he took post to get thither before him, and to give an account of his journey; his master expected his return with impatience, as if the happiness or unhappiness of his life depended upon it.

As soon as he saw him, he judged from his countenance and his silence, that the news he brought was very disagreeable; he was struck with sorrow, and continued some time with his head hung down, without being able to speak; at last he made signs with his hand to him to withdraw; “Go,” says he, “I see what you have to say to me, but I have not the power to hear it.” “I can acquaint you with nothing,” said the gentleman, “upon which one can form any certain judgment; it is true, the Duke de Nemours went two nights successively into the garden in the forest, and the day after he was at Colomiers with the Duchess of Mercoeur.” “‘Tis enough,” replied Monsieur de Cleves, still making signs to him to withdraw, “’tis enough; I want no further information.” The gentleman was forced to leave his master, abandoned to his despair; nor ever was despair more violent. Few men of so high a spirit, and so passionately in love, as the Prince of Cleves, have experienced at the same time the grief arising from the falsehood of a mistress, and the shame of being deceived by a wife.

Monsieur de Cleves could set no bounds to his affliction; he felt ill of a fever that very night, and his distemper was accompanied with such ill symptoms that it was thought very dangerous. Madam de Cleves was informed of it, and came in all haste to him; when she arrived, he was still worse; besides, she observed something in him so cold and chilling with respect to her, that she was equally surprised and grieved at it; he even seemed to receive with pain the services she did him in his sickness, but at last she imagined it was perhaps only the effect of his distemper.

When she was come to Blois where the Court then was, the Duke de Nemours was overjoyed to think she was at the same place where he was; he endeavoured to see her, and went every day to the Prince of Cleves’s under pretence of enquiring how he did, but it was to no purpose; she did not stir out of her husband’s room, and was grieved at heart for the condition he was in. It vexed Monsieur de Nemours to see her under such affliction, an affliction which he plainly saw revived the friendship she had for Monsieur de Cleves, and diverted the passion that lay kindling in her heart. The thought of this shocked him severely for some time; but the extremity, to which Monsieur de Cleves’s sickness was grown, opened to him a scene of new hopes; he saw it was probable that Madam de Cleves would be at liberty to follow her own inclinations, and that he might expect for the future a series of happiness and lasting pleasures; he could not support the ecstasy of that thought, a thought so full of transport! he banished it out of his mind for fear of becoming doubly wretched, if he happened to be disappointed in his hopes.

In the meantime Monsieur de Cleves was almost given over by his physicians. One of the last days of his illness, after having had a very bad night, he said in the morning, he had a desire to sleep; but Madam de Cleves, who remained alone in his chamber, found that instead of taking repose he was extremely restless; she came to him, and fell on her knees by his bedside, her face all covered with tears; and though Monsieur de Cleves had taken a resolution not to show her the violent displeasure he had conceived against her, yet the care she took of him, and the sorrow she expressed, which sometimes he thought sincere, and at other times the effect of her dissimulation and perfidiousness, distracted him so violently with opposite sentiments full of woe, that he could not forbear giving them vent.

“You shed plenty of tears, Madam,” said he, “for a death which you are the cause of, and which cannot give you the trouble you pretend to be in; I am no longer in a condition to reproach you,” added he with a voice weakened by sickness and grief; “I die through the dreadful grief and discontent you have given me; ought so extraordinary an action, as that of your speaking to me at Colomiers, to have had so little consequences? Why did you inform me of your passion for the Duke de Nemours, if your virtue was no longer able to oppose it? I loved you to that extremity, I would have been glad to have been deceived, I confess it to my shame; I have regretted that pleasing false security out of which you drew me; why did not you leave me in that blind tranquillity which so many husbands enjoy? I should perhaps have been ignorant all my life, that you was in love with Monsieur de Nemours; I shall die,” added he, “but know that you make death pleasing to me, and that, after you have taken from me the esteem and affection I had for you, life would be odious to me. What should I live for? to spend my days with a person whom I have loved so much, and by whom I have been so cruelly deceived; or to live apart from her and break out openly into violences so opposite to my temper, and the love I had for you? That love, Madam, was far greater than it appeared to you; I concealed the greatest part of it from you, for fear of being importunate, or of losing somewhat in your esteem by a behaviour not becoming a husband: in a word, I deserved your affection more than once, and I die without regret, since I have not been able to obtain it, and since I can no longer desire it. Adieu, Madam; you will one day regret a man who loved you with a sincere and virtuous passion; you will feel the anxiety which reasonable persons meet with in intrigue and gallantry, and you will know the difference between such a love as I had for you, and the love of people who only profess admiration for you to gratify their vanity in seducing you; but my death will leave you at liberty, and you may make the Duke de Nemours happy without guilt: what signifies anything that can happen when I am no more, and why should I have the weakness to trouble myself about it?

Madam de Cleves was so far from imagining that her husband suspected her virtue, that she heard all this discourse without comprehending the meaning of it, and without having any other notion about it, except that he reproached her for her inclination for the Duke de Nemours; at last, starting all of a sudden out of her blindness, “I guilty!” cried she, “I am a stranger to the very thought of guilt; the severest virtue could not have inspired any other conduct than that which I have followed, and I never acted anything but what I could have wished you to have been witness to.” “Could you have wished,” replied Monsieur de Cleves, looking on her with disdain, “I had been a witness of those nights you passed with Monsieur de Nemours? Ah! Madam; is it you I speak of, when I speak of a lady that has passed nights with a man, not her husband?” “No, sir,” replied she, “it is not me you speak of; I never spent a night nor a moment with the Duke de Nemours; he never saw me in private, I never suffered him to do it, nor would give him a hearing. I’ll take all the oaths . . .” “Speak no more of it,” said he interrupting her, “false oaths or a confession would perhaps give me equal pain.”

Madam de Cleves could not answer him; her tears and her grief took away her speech; at last, struggling for utterance, “Look on me at least, hear me,” said she; “if my interest only were concerned I would suffer these reproaches, but your life is at stake; hear me for your own sake; I am so innocent, truth pleads so strongly for me, it is impossible but I must convince you.” “Would to God you could!” cried he; “but what can you say? the Duke de Nemours, has not he been at Colomiers with his sister? And did not he pass the two foregoing nights with you in the garden in the forest?” “If that be my crime,” replied she, “it is easy to justify myself; I do not desire you to believe me, believe your servants and domestics; ask them if I went into the garden the evening before Monsieur de Nemours came to Colomiers, and if I did not go out, of it the night before two hours sooner than I used to do.” After this she told him how she imagined she had seen somebody in the garden, and acknowledged that she believed it to be the Duke de Nemours; she spoke to him with so much confidence, and truth so naturally persuades, even where it is not probable, that Monsieur de Cleves was almost convinced of her innocence. “I don’t know,” said he, “whether I ought to believe you; I am so near death, that I would not know anything that might make me die with reluctance; you have cleared your innocence too late; however it will be a comfort to me to go away with the thought that you are worthy of the esteem I have had for you; I beg you I may be assured of this further comfort, that my memory will be dear to you, and that if it had been in your power you would have had for me the same passion which you had for another.” He would have gone on, but was so weak that his speech failed him. Madam de Cleves sent for the physicians, who found him almost lifeless; yet he languished some days, and died at last with admirable constancy.

Madam de Cleves was afflicted to so violent a degree, that she lost in a manner the use of her reason; the Queen was so kind as to come to see her, and carried her to a convent without her being sensible whither she was conducted; her sisters-in-law brought her back to Paris, before she was in a condition to feel distinctly even her griefs: when she was restored to her faculty of thinking, and reflected what a husband she had lost, and considered that she had caused his death by the passion which she had for another, the horror she had for herself and the Duke de Nemours was not to be expressed.

The Duke in the beginning of her mourning durst pay her no other respects but such as decency required; he knew Madam de Cleves enough to be sensible that great importunities and eagerness would be disagreeable to her; but what he learned afterwards plainly convinced him that he ought to observe the same conduct a great while longer.

A servant of the Duke’s informed him that Monsieur de Cleves’s gentleman, who was his intimate friend, had told him, in the excess of his grief for the loss of his master, that Monsieur de Nemours’s journey to Colomiers was the occasion of his death. The Duke was extremely surprised to hear this; but after having reflected upon it, he guessed the truth in part, and rightly judged what Madam de Cleves’s sentiments would be at first, and what a distance it would throw him from her, if she thought her husband’s illness was occasioned by his jealousy; he was of opinion that he ought not so much as to put her in mind of his name very soon, and he abided by that conduct, however severe it appeared to him.

He took a journey to Paris, nor could he forbear calling at her house to enquire how she did. He was told, that she saw nobody, and that she had even given strict orders that they should not trouble her with an account of any that might come to see her; those very strict orders, perhaps, were given with a view to the Duke, and to prevent her hearing him spoken of; but he was too much in love to be able to live so absolutely deprived of the sight of Madam de Cleves; he resolved to find the means, let the difficulty be what it would, to get out of a condition which was so insupportable to him.

The grief of that Princess exceeded the bounds of reason; a husband dying, and dying on her account, and with so much tenderness for her, never went out of her mind: she continually revolved in her thoughts what she owed him, and she condemned herself for not having had a passion for him, as if that had been a thing which depended on herself; she found no consolation but in the thought that she lamented him as he deserved to be lamented, and that she would do nothing during the remainder of her life, but what he would have been glad she should have done, had he lived.

She had often been thinking how he came to know, that the Duke de Nemours had been at Colomiers; she could not suspect that the Duke himself had told it; though it was indifferent to her whether he had or no, she thought herself so perfectly cured of the passion she had had for him; and yet she was grieved at the heart to think that he was the cause of her husband’s death; and she remembered with pain the fear Monsieur de Cleves expressed, when dying, lest she should marry the Duke; but all these griefs were swallowed up in that for the loss of her husband, and she thought she had no other but that one.

After several months the violence of her grief abated, and she fell into a languishing kind of melancholy. Madam de Martigues made a journey to Paris, and constantly visited her during the time she stayed there: she entertained her with an account of the Court, and what passed there; and though Madam de Cleves appeared unconcerned, yet still she continued talking on that subject in hopes to divert her.

She talked to her of the Viscount, of Monsieur de Guise, and of all others that were distinguished either in person or merit. “As for the Duke de Nemours,” says she, “I don’t know if State affairs have not taken possession of his heart in the room of gallantry; he is abundantly less gay than he used to be, and seems wholly to decline the company of women; he often makes journeys to Paris, and I believe he is there now.” The Duke de Nemours’s name surprised Madam de Cleves, and made her blush; she changed the discourse, nor did Madam de Martigues take notice of her concern.

The next day Madam de Cleves, who employed herself in things suitable to the condition she was in, went to a man’s house in her neighbourhood, that was famous for working silk after a particular manner, and she designed to bespeak some pieces for herself; having seen several kinds of his work, she spied a chamber door, where she thought there were more, and desired it might be opened: the master answered, he had not the key, and that the room was taken by a man, who came there sometimes in the daytime to draw the plans and prospects of the fine houses and gardens that were to be seen from his windows; “he is one of the handsomest men I ever saw,” added he, “and does not look much like one that works for his living; whenever he comes here, I observe he always looks towards the gardens and houses, but I never see him work.”

Madam de Cleves listened to this story very attentively, and what Madam de Martigues had told her of Monsieur de Nemours’s coming now and then to Paris, she applied in her fancy to that handsome man, who came to a place so near her house; and this gave her an idea of Monsieur de Nemours endeavouring to see her; which raised a disorder in her, of which she did not know the cause: she went towards the windows to see where they looked into, and she found they overlooked all her gardens, and directly faced her apartment: and when she was in her own room, she could easily see that very window where she was told the man came to take his prospects. The thought that it was the Duke de Nemours, entirely changed the situation of her mind; she no longer found herself in that pensive tranquillity which she had begun to enjoy, her spirits were ruffled again as with a tempest: at last, not being able to stay at home, she went abroad to take the air in a garden without the suburbs, where she hoped to be alone; she walked about a great while, and found no likelihood of anyone’s being there.

Having crossed a little wilderness she perceived at the end of the walk, in the most remote part of the garden, a kind of a bower, open on all sides, and went towards it; when she was near, she saw a man lying on the benches, who seemed sunk into a deep contemplation, and she discovered it was the Duke de Nemours. Upon this she stopped short: but her attendants made some noise, which roused the Duke out of his musing: he took no notice who the persons were that disturbed him, but got up in order to avoid the company that was coming towards him, and making a low bow, which hindered him from seeing those he saluted, he turned into another walk.

If he had known whom he avoided, with what eagerness would he have returned? But he walked down the alley, and Madam de Cleves saw him go out at a back door, where his coach waited for him. What an effect did this transient view produce in the heart of Madam de Cleves? What a flame rekindled out of the embers of her love, and with what violence did it burn? She went and sat down in the same place from which Monsieur de Nemours was newly risen, and seemed perfectly overwhelmed; his image immediately possessed her fancy, and she considered him as the most amiable person in the world, as one who had long loved her with a passion full of veneration and sincerity, slighting all for her, paying respect even to her grief, to his own torture, labouring to see her without a thought of being seen by her, quitting the Court (though the Court’s delight) to come and look on the walls where she was shut up, and to pass his melancholy hours in places where he could not hope to meet her; in a word, a man whose attachment to her alone merited returns of love, and for whom she had so strong an inclination, that she should have loved him, though she had not been beloved by him; and besides, one whose quality was suitable to hers: all the obstacles that could rise from duty and virtue were now removed, and all the trace that remained on her mind of their former condition was the passion the Duke de Nemours had for her, and that which she had for him.

All these ideas were new to her; her affliction for the death of her husband had left her no room for thoughts of this kind, but the sight of Monsieur de Nemours revived them, and they crowded again into her mind; but when she had taken her fill of them, and remembered that this very man, whom she considered as a proper match for her, was the same she had loved in her husband’s lifetime, and was the cause of his death, and that on his death-bed he had expressed a fear of her marrying him, her severe virtue was so shocked at the imagination, that she thought it would be as criminal in her to marry Monsieur de Nemours now, as it was to love him before: in short, she abandoned herself to these reflections so pernicious to her happiness, and fortified herself in them by the inconveniency which she foresaw would attend such a marriage. After two hours’ stay in this place she returned home, convinced that it was indispensably her duty to avoid the sight of the man she loved.

But this conviction, which was the effect of reason and virtue, did not carry her heart along with it; her heart was so violently fixed on the Duke de Nemours, that she became even an object of compassion, and was wholly deprived of rest. Never did she pass a night in so uneasy a manner; in the morning, the first thing she did was to see if there was anybody at the window which looked towards her apartment; she saw there Monsieur de Nemours, and was so surprised upon it, and withdrew so hastily, as made him judge she knew him; he had often wished to be seen by her, ever since he had found out that method of seeing her, and when he had no hopes of obtaining that satisfaction, his way was to go to muse in the garden where she found him.

Tired at last with so unfortunate and uncertain a condition, he resolved to attempt something to determine his fate: “What should I wait for?” said he. “I have long known she loves me; she is free; she has no duty now to plead against me; why should I submit myself to the hardship of seeing her, without being seen by her or speaking to her? Is it possible for love so absolutely to have deprived me of reason and courage, and to have rendered me so different from what I have been in all my other amours? It was fit I should pay a regard to Madam de Cleves’s grief; but I do it too long, and I give her leisure to extinguish the inclination she had for me.”

After these reflections, he considered what measures he ought to take to see her; he found he had no longer any reason to conceal his passion from the Viscount de Chartres; he resolved to speak to him of it, and to communicate to him his design with regard to his niece.

The Viscount was then at Paris, the town being extremely full, and everybody busy in preparing equipages and dresses to attend the King of Navarre, who was to conduct the Queen of Spain: Monsieur de Nemours, went to the Viscount, and made an ingenuous confession to him of all he had concealed hitherto, except Madam de Cleves’s sentiments, which he would not seem to know.

The Viscount received what he told him with a great deal of pleasure, and assured him, that though he was not acquainted with his sentiments on that subject, he had often thought, since Madam de Cleves had been a widow, that she was the only lady that deserved him. Monsieur de Nemours entreated him to give him an opportunity of speaking to her, and learning what disposition she was in.

The Viscount proposed to carry him to her house, but the Duke was of opinion she would be shocked at it, because as yet she saw nobody; so that they agreed, it would be better for the Viscount to ask her to come to him, under some pretence, and for the Duke to come to them by a private staircase, that he might not be observed. Accordingly this was executed; Madam de Cleves came, the Viscount went to receive her, and led her into a great closet at the end of his apartment; some time after Monsieur de Nemours came in, as by chance: Madam de Cleves was in great surprise to see him; she blushed and endeavoured to hide it; the Viscount at first spoke of indifferent matters, and then went out, as if he had some orders to give, telling Madam de Cleves he must desire her to entertain the Duke in his stead, and that he would return immediately.

It is impossible to express the sentiments of Monsieur de Nemours, and Madam de Cleves, when they saw themselves alone, and at liberty to speak to one another, as they had never been before: they continued silent a while; at length, said Monsieur de Nemours, “Can you, Madam, pardon the Viscount for giving me an opportunity of seeing you, and speaking to you, an opportunity which you have always so cruelly denied me?” “I ought not to pardon him,” replied she, “for having forgot the condition I am in, and to what he exposes my reputation.” Having spoke these words, she would have gone away; but Monsieur de Nemours stopping her, “Fear not, Madam,” said he; “you have nothing to apprehend; nobody knows I am here; hear me, Madam, hear me, if not out of goodness, yet at least for your own sake, and to free yourself from the extravagancies which a passion I am no longer master of will infallibly hurry me into.” Madam de Cleves now first yielded to the inclination she had for the Duke de Nemours, and beholding him with eyes full of softness and charms, “But what can you hope for,” says she, “from the complaisance you desire of me? You will perhaps repent that you have obtained it, and I shall certainly repent that I have granted it. You deserve a happier fortune than you have hitherto had, or than you can have for the future, unless you seek it elsewhere.” “I, Madam,” said he, “seek happiness anywhere else? Or is there any happiness for me, but in your love? Though I never spoke of it before, I cannot believe, Madam, that you are not acquainted with my passion, or that you do not know it to be the greatest and most sincere that ever was; what trials has it suffered in things you are a stranger to? What trials have you put it to by your rigour?”

“Since you are desirous I should open myself to you,” answered Madam de Cleves, “I’ll comply with your desire, and I’ll do it with a sincerity that is rarely to be met with in persons of my sex: I shall not tell you that I have not observed your passion for me; perhaps you would not believe me if I should tell you so; I confess therefore to you, not only that I have observed it, but that I have observed it in such lights as you yourself could wish it might appear to me in.” “And if you have seen my passion, Madam,” said he, “is it possible for you not to have been moved by it? And may I venture to ask, if it has made no impression on your heart?” “You should have judged of that from my conduct,” replied she; “but I should be glad to know what you thought of it.” “I ought to be in a happier condition,” replied he, “to venture to inform you; my fortune would contradict what I should say; all I can tell you, Madam, is that I heartily wished you had not acknowledged to Monsieur de Cleves what you concealed from me, and that you had concealed from him what you made appear to me.” “How came you to discover,” replied she blushing, “that I acknowledged anything to Monsieur de Cleves?” “I learned it from yourself, Madam,” replied he; “but that you may the better pardon the boldness I showed in listening to what you said, remember if I have made an ill use of what I heard, if my hopes rose upon it, or if I was the more encouraged to speak to you.”

Here he began to relate how he had overheard her conversation with Monsieur de Cleves; but she interrupted him before he had finished; “Say no more of it,” said she, “I see how you came to be so well informed; I suspected you knew the business but too well at the Queen-Dauphin’s, who learned this adventure from those you had entrusted with it.”

Upon this Monsieur de Nemours informed her in what manner the thing came to pass; “No excuses,” says she; “I have long forgiven you, without being informed how it was brought about; but since you have learned from my ownself what I designed to conceal from you all my life, I will acknowledge to you that you have inspired me with sentiments I was unacquainted with before I saw you, and of which I had so slender an idea, that they gave me at first a surprise which still added to the pain that constantly attends them: I am the less ashamed to make you this confession, because I do it at a time when I may do it without a crime, and because you have seen that my conduct has not been governed by my affections.”

“Can you believe, Madam,” said Monsieur de Nemours, falling on his knees, “but I shall expire at your feet with joy and transport?” “I have told you nothing,” said she smiling, “but what you knew too well before.” “Ah! Madam,” said he, “what a difference is there between learning it by chance, and knowing it from yourself, and seeing withal that you are pleased I know it.” “It is true,” answered she, “I would have you know it, and I find a pleasure in telling it you; I don’t even know if I do not tell it you more for my own sake, than for yours; for, after all, this confession will have no consequences, and I shall follow the austere rules which my duty imposes upon me.” “How! Madam; you are not of this opinion,” replied Monsieur de Nemours; “you are no longer under any obligation of duty; you are at liberty; and if I durst, I should even tell you, that it is in your power to act so, that your duty shall one day oblige you to preserve the sentiments you have for me.” “My duty,” replied she, “forbids me to think of any man, but of you the last in the world, and for reasons which are unknown to you.” “Those reasons perhaps are not unknown to me,” answered he, “but they are far from being good ones. I believe that Monsieur de Cleves thought me happier than I was, and imagined that you approved of those extravagancies which my passion led me into without your approbation.” “Let us talk no more of that adventure,” said she; “I cannot bear the thought of it, it giving me shame, and the consequences of it have been such that it is too melancholy a subject to be spoken of; it is but too true that you were the cause of Monsieur de Cleves’s death; the suspicions which your inconsiderate conduct gave him, cost him his life as much as if you had taken it away with your own hands: judge what I ought to have done, had you two fought a duel, and he been killed; I know very well, it is not the same thing in the eye of the world, but with me there’s no difference, since I know that his death was owing to you, and that it was on my account.” “Ah! Madam,” said Monsieur de Nemours, “what phantom of duty do you oppose to my happiness? What! Madam, shall a vain and groundless fancy hinder you from making a man happy, for whom you have an inclination? What, have I had some ground to hope I might pass my life with you? has my fate led me to love the most deserving lady in the world? have I observed in her all that can make a mistress adorable? Has she had no disliking to me? Have I found in her conduct everything which perhaps I could wish for in a wife? For in short, Madam, you are perhaps the only person in whom those two characters have ever concurred to the degree they are in you; those who marry mistresses, by whom they are loved, tremble when they marry them, and cannot but fear lest they should observe the same conduct towards others which they observed towards them; but in you, Madam, I can fear nothing, I see nothing in you but matter of admiration: have I had a prospect of so much felicity for no other end but to see it obstructed by you? Ah! Madam, you forget, that you have distinguished me above other men; or rather, you have not distinguished me; you have deceived yourself, and I have flattered myself.”

“You have not flattered yourself,” replied she; “the reasons of my duty would not perhaps appear so strong to me without that distinction of which you doubt, and it is that which makes me apprehend unfortunate consequences from your alliance.” “I have nothing to answer, Madam,” replied he, “when you tell me you apprehend unfortunate consequences; but I own, that after all you have been pleased to say to me, I did not expect from you so cruel a reason.” “The reason you speak of,” replied Madam de Cleves, “is so little disobliging as to you, that I don’t know how to tell it you.” “Alas! Madam,” said he, ” how can you fear I should flatter myself too much after what you have been saying to me?” “I shall continue to speak to you,” says she, “with the same sincerity with which I begun, and I’ll lay aside that delicacy and reserve that modesty obliges one to in a first conversation, but I conjure you to hear me without interruption.

“I think I owe the affection you have for me, the poor recompsense not to hide from you any of my thoughts, and to let you see them such as they really are; this in all probability will be the only time I shall allow myself the freedom to discover them to you; and I cannot confess without a blush, that the certainty of not being loved by you, as I am, appears to me so dreadful a misfortune, that if I had not invincible reasons grounded on my duty, I could not resolve to subject myself to it; I know that you are free, that I am so too, and that circumstances are such, that the public perhaps would have no reason to blame either you or me, should we unite ourselves forever; but do men continue to love, when under engagements for life? Ought I to expect a miracle in my favour? And shall I place myself in a condition of seeing certainly that passion come to an end, in which I should place all my felicity? Monsieur de Cleves was perhaps the only man in the world capable of continuing to love after marriage; it was my ill fate that I was not able to enjoy that happiness, and perhaps his passion had not lasted but that he found none, in me; but I should not have the, same way of preserving yours; I even think your constancy is owing to the obstacles you have met with; you have met with enough to animate you to conquer them; and my unguarded actions, or what you learned by chance, gave you hopes enough not to be discouraged.” “Ah! Madam,” replied Monsieur de Nemours, “I cannot keep the silence you enjoined me; you do me too much injustice, and make it appear too clearly that you are far from being prepossessed in my favour.” “I confess,” answered she, “that my passions may lead me, but they cannot blind me; nothing can hinder me from knowing that you are born with a disposition for gallantry, and have all the qualities proper to give success; you have already had a great many amours, and you will have more; I should no longer be she you placed your happiness in; I should see you as warm for another as you had been for me; this would grievously vex me, and I am not sure I should not have the torment of jealousy; I have said too much to conceal from you that you have already made me know what jealousy is, and that I suffered such cruel inquietudes the evening the Queen gave me Madam de Themines’s letter, which it was said was addressed to you, that to this moment I retain an idea of it, which makes me believe it is the worst of all ills.

“There is scarce a woman but out of vanity or inclination desires to engage you; there are very few whom you do not please, and my own experience would make me believe, that there are none whom it is not in your power to please; I should think you always in love and beloved, nor should I be often mistaken; and yet in this case I should have no remedy but patience, nay I question if I should dare to complain: a lover may be reproached; but can a husband be so, when one has nothing to urge, but that he loves one no longer? But admit I could accustom myself to bear a misfortune of this nature, yet how could I bear that of imagining I constantly saw Monsieur de Cleves, accusing you of his death, reproaching me with having loved you, with having married you, and showing me the difference betwixt his affection and yours? It is impossible to over-rule such strong reasons as these; I must continue in the condition I am in, and in the resolution I have taken never to alter it.” “Do you believe you have the power to do it, Madam?” cried the Duke de Nemours. “Do you think your resolution can hold out against a man who adores, and who has the happiness to please you? It is more difficult than you imagine, Madam, to resist a person who pleases and loves one at the same time; you have done it by an austerity of virtue, which is almost without example; but that virtue no longer opposes your inclinations, and I hope you will follow them in spite of yourself.” “I know nothing can be more difficult than what I undertake,” replied Madam de Cleves; “I distrust my strength in the midst of my reasons; what I think I owe to the memory of Monsieur de Cleves would be a weak consideration, if not supported by the interest of my ease and repose; and the reasons of my repose have need to be supported by those of my duty; but though I distrust myself, I believe I shall never overcome my scruples, nor do I so much as hope to overcome the inclination I have for you; that inclination will make me unhappy, and I will deny myself the sight of you, whatever violence it is to me: I conjure you, by all the power I have over you, to seek no occasion of seeing me; I am in a condition which makes that criminal which might be lawful at another time; decency forbids all commerce between us.” Monsieur de Nemours threw himself at her feet, and gave a loose to all the violent motions with which he was agitated; he expressed both by his words and tears the liveliest and most tender passion that ever heart was touched with; nor was the heart of Madam de Cleves insensible; she looked upon him with eyes swelled with tears: “Why was it,” cries she, “that I can charge you with Monsieur de Cleves’s death? Why did not my first acquaintance with you begin since I have been at liberty, or why did not I know you before I was engaged? Why does fate separate us by such invincible obstacles?” “There are no obstacles, Madam,” replied Monsieur de Nemours; “it is you alone oppose my happiness; you impose on yourself a law which virtue and reason do not require you to obey.” “‘Tis true,” says she, “I sacrifice a great deal to a duty which does not subsist but in my imagination; have patience, and expect what time may produce; Monsieur de Cleves is but just expired, and that mournful object is too near to leave me clear and distinct views; in the meantime enjoy the satisfaction to know you have gained the heart of a person who would never have loved anyone, had she not seen you: believe the inclination I have for you will last forever, and that it will be uniform and the same, whatever becomes of me: Adieu,” said she; “this is a conversation I ought to blush for; however, give an account of it to the Viscount; I agree to it, and desire you to do it.”

With these words she went away, nor could Monsieur de Nemours detain her. In the next room she met with the Viscount, who seeing her under so much concern would not speak to her, but led her to her coach without saying a word; he returned to Monsieur de Nemours, who was so full of joy, grief, admiration, and of all those affections that attend a passion full of hope and fear, that he had not the use of his reason. It was a long time ere the Viscount could get from him an account of the conversation; at last the Duke related it to him, and Monsieur de Chartres, without being in love, no less admired the virtue, wit and merit of Madam de Cleves, than did Monsieur de Nemours himself; they began to examine what issue could reasonably be hoped for in this affair; and however fearful the Duke de Nemours was from his love, he agreed with the Viscount, that it was impossible Madam de Cleves should continue in the resolution she was in; they were of opinion nevertheless that it was necessary to follow her orders, for fear, upon the public’s perceiving the inclination he had for her, she should make declarations and enter into engagements with respect to the world, that she would afterwards abide by, lest it should be thought she loved him in her husband’s lifetime.

Monsieur de Nemours determined to follow the King; it was a journey he could not well excuse himself from, and so he resolved to go without endeavouring to see Madam de Cleves again from the window out of which he had sometimes seen her; he begged the Viscount to speak to her; and what did he not desire him to say in his behalf? What an infinite number of reasons did he furnish him with, to persuade her to conquer her scruples? In short, great part of the night was spent before he thought of going away.

As for Madam de Cleves, she was in no condition to rest; it was a thing so new to her to have broke loose from the restraints she had laid on herself, to have endured the first declarations of love that ever were made to her, and to have confessed that she herself was in love with him that made them, all this was so new to her, that she seemed quite another person; she was surprised at what she had done; she repented of it; she was glad of it; all her thoughts were full of anxiety and passion; she examined again the reasons of her duty, which obstructed her happiness; she was grieved to find them so strong, and was sorry that she had made them out so clear to Monsieur de Nemours: though she had entertained thoughts of marrying him, as soon as she beheld him in the garden of the suburbs, yet her late conversation with him made a much greater impression on her mind; at some moments she could not comprehend how she could be unhappy by marrying him, and she was ready to say in her heart, that her scruples as to what was past, and her fears for the future, were equally groundless: at other times, reason and her duty prevailed in her thoughts, and violently hurried her into a resolution not to marry again, and never to see Monsieur de Nemours; but this was a resolution hard to be established in a heart so softened as hers, and so lately abandoned to the charms of love. At last, to give herself a little ease, she concluded that it was not yet necessary to do herself the violence of coming to any resolution, and decency allowed her a considerable time to determine what to do: however she resolved to continue firm in having no commerce with Monsieur de Nemours. The Viscount came to see her, and pleaded his friend’s cause with all the wit and application imaginable, but could not make her alter her conduct, or recall the severe orders she had given to Monsieur de Nemours; she told him her design was not to change her condition; that she knew how difficult it was to stand to that design, but that she hoped she should be able to do it; she made him so sensible how far she was affected with the opinion that Monsieur de Nemours was the cause of her husband’s death, and how much she was convinced that it would be contrary to her duty to marry him, that the Viscount was afraid it would be very difficult to take away those impressions; he did not, however, tell the Duke what he thought, when he gave him an account of his conversation with her, but left him as much hope as a man who is loved may reasonably have.

They set out the next day, and went after the King; the Viscount wrote to Madam de Cleves at Monsieur de Nemours’s request, and in a second letter, which soon followed the first, the Duke wrote a line or two in his own hand; but Madam de Cleves determined not to depart from the rules she had prescribed herself, and fearing the accidents that might happen from letters, informed the Viscount that she would receive his letters no more, if he continued to speak of Monsieur de Nemours, and did it in so peremptory a manner, that the Duke desired him not to mention him.

During the absence of the Court, which was gone to conduct the Queen of Spain as far as Poitou, Madam de Cleves continued at home; and the more distant she was from Monsieur de Nemours, and from everything that could put her in mind of him, the more she recalled the memory of the Prince of Cleves, which she made it her glory to preserve; the reasons she had not to marry the Duke de Nemours appeared strong with respect to her duty, but invincible with respect to her quiet; the opinion she had, that marriage would put an end to his love, and the torments of jealousy, which she thought the infallible consequences of marriage, gave her the prospect of a certain unhappiness if she consented to his desires; on the other hand, she thought it impossible, if he were present, to refuse the most amiable man in the world, the man who loved her, and whom she loved, and to oppose him in a thing that was neither inconsistent with virtue nor decency: she thought that nothing but absence and distance could give her the power to do it; and she found she stood in need of them, not only to support her resolution not to marry, but even to keep her from seeing Monsieur de Nemours; she resolved therefore to take a long journey, in order to pass away the time which decency obliged her to spend in retirement; the fine estate she had near the Pyrenees seemed the most proper place she could make choice of; she set out a few days before the Court returned, and wrote at parting to the Viscount to conjure him not to think of once enquiring after her, or of writing to her.

Monsieur de Nemours was as much troubled at this journey as another would have been for the death of his mistress; the thought of being deprived so long a time of the sight of Madam de Cleves grieved him to the soul, especially as it happened at a time when he had lately enjoyed the pleasure of seeing her, and of seeing her moved by his passion; however he could do nothing but afflict himself, and his affliction increased every day. Madam de Cleves, whose spirits had been so much agitated, was no sooner arrived at her country seat, but she fell desperately ill; the news of it was brought to Court; Monsieur de Nemours was inconsolable; his grief proceeded even to despair and extravagance; the Viscount had much a-do to hinder him from discovering his passion in public, and as much a-do to keep him from going in person to know how she did; the relation and friendship between her and the Viscount served as an excuse for sending frequent messengers; at last they heard she was out of the extremity of danger she had been in, but continued in a languishing malady that left but little hopes of life.

The nature of her disease gave her a prospect of death both near, and at a distance, and showed her the things of this life in a very different view from that in which they are seen by people in health; the necessity of dying, to which she saw herself so near, taught her to wean herself from the world, and the lingeringness of her distemper brought her to a habit in it; yet when she was a little recovered, she found that Monsieur de Nemours was not effaced from her heart; but to defend herself against him, she called to her aid all the reasons which she thought she had never to marry him; after a long conflict in herself, she subdued the relics of that passion which had been weakened by the sentiments her illness had given her; the thoughts of death had reproached her with the memory of Monsieur de Cleves, and this remembrance was so agreeable to her duty, that it made deep impressions in her heart; the passions and engagements of the world appeared to her in the light, in which they appear to persons who have more great and more distant views. The weakness of her body, which was brought very low, aided her in preserving these sentiments; but as she knew what power opportunities have over the wisest resolutions, she would not hazard the breach of those she had taken, by returning into any place where she might see him she loved; she retired, under pretence of change of air, into a convent, but without declaring a settled resolution of quitting the Court.

Upon the first news of it, Monsieur de Nemours felt the weight of this retreat, and saw the importance of it; he presently thought he had nothing more to hope, but omitted not anything that might oblige her to return; he prevailed with the Queen to write; he made the Viscount not only write, but go to her, but all to no purpose; the Viscount saw her, but she did not tell him she had fixed her resolution; and yet he judged, she would never return to Court; at last Monsieur de Nemours himself went to her, under pretence of using the waters; she was extremely grieved and surprised to hear he was come, and sent him word by a person of merit about her, that she desired him not to take it ill if she did not expose herself to the danger of seeing him, and of destroying by his presence those sentiments she was obliged to preserve; that she desired he should know, that having found it both against her duty and peace of mind to yield to the inclination she had to be his, all things else were become so indifferent to her, that she had renounced them for ever; that she thought only of another life, and had no sentiment remaining as to this, but the desire of seeing him in the same dispositions she was in.

Monsieur de Nemours was like to have expired in the presence of the lady who told him this; he begged her a thousand times to return to Madam de Cleves, and to get leave for him to see her; but she told him the Princess had not only forbidden her to come back with any message from him, but even to report the conversation that should pass between them. At length Monsieur de Nemours was obliged to go back, oppressed with the heaviest grief a man is capable of, who has lost all hopes of ever seeing again a person, whom he loved not only with the most violent, but most natural and sincere passion that ever was; yet still he was not utterly discouraged, but used all imaginable methods to make her alter her resolution; at last, after several years, time and absence abated his grief, and extinguished his passion. Madam de Cleves lived in a manner that left no probability of her ever returning to Court; she spent one part of the year in that religious house, and the other at her own, but still continued the austerity of retirement, and constantly employed herself in exercises more holy than the severest convents can pretend to; and her life, though it was short, left examples of inimitable virtues.