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closely into the merits of those questions, at the bottom of which a secret instinct tells us that we should find our condemnation. He had arranged the matter with himself as do those romance writers, whose plots contain the grossest adultery, and who con. sider themselves moral writers, because the worst is not there.
"And what is to be done? What is to be done?" he at length said, in the half interrogative tone of a man who sees very clearly what is to be done, but does not wish to see it; who asks, but would be delighted if no answer were given him.
"What is to be done? Your Majesty knows better than I do. First-Madame de Montespan must leave the court."
"She will never consent to it—"
These words escaped the king with the rapidity of lightning. He bit his lips.
"Consent to it, Sire !-Did I say a word about your supplicating her to go?"
Not in presence of several
The king blushed at finding himself understood, and began to walk faster than ever. He was evidently afraid of the proud Sultana. This was known to be the case, besides; many proofs of it had been seen. "She had a pride reaching to the clouds, from whose effects none were exempt, the king as little as any other person."* long before, she had openly chidden him, persons, because her brother, the Duke de Vivonne, had not been included in a promotion of Marshals; and the monarch had been not only seen to take a pen immediately, in order to add to the other names that of the Duke de Vivonne, but further, in the tone of a child caught in a fault,-to essay an excuse for himself by putting it to the score of the forgetfulness of the Minister of War. This, then, was the yoke which he dared not throw off, he the most imperious of men. Once subjected, the man who is most difficult to subject, is often more
submiss ve than any other. The more conscious a man is of his power, the less he thinks it to the interest of his glory never to appear weak.
However, it is one thing to wear the yoke in silence, and another to confess to the wearing of it. Therefore a lively vexation was depicted in the countenance of the king; what would he not have given to withdraw his unlucky confession! But Bossuet had gone too far to let go his hold now, and the king's vexation gave him the best of the game. "Did I say a word about your supplicating her to go?" was almost an irony in itself.—
"I never would have believed," he pursued, in the same tone, "that I should be obliged to remind the king, Louis XIV., that he is master at Versailles. Say one word, Sire—”
The king was silent, and continued to walk.
"Do you fear to speak this word ?-Do you wish that I should charge myself with it?"
The king stopped suddenly. To refuse this offer, would be to take upon himself the performance of an act, for which he felt he had neither strength nor courage; to accept it, would be to renew the confession of his weakness and terror, it would be besides the consummation of the sacrifice, and this idea filled him with dread. Not that he loved Madame de Montespan as he had loved Madame de la Vallière; but she was the life of his court; she had the art of amusing him; him of whom Madame de Maintenon said, many years afterwards, that he was no longer amusable; she was in fact quite as invaluable to him, perhaps more so, from her wit, rather than her beauty. "The court of Madame de Montespan," says Saint-Simon, "was the centre of wit,-and wit of so peculiar a turn, so delicate, so fine, but always so natural and so agreeable, that it came to be distinguished by its unique characte* This wit was her own, and she had the art
*"One may still perceive this charming manner,"-wrote St. Simon
of communicating it to others." Now, of all the methods of captivating Louis XIV., this last was the surest. Besides being by nature rather wise than witty, this prince, with a very high opinion of his genius and his intelligence was somewhat inclined to distrust himself in regard to wit, properly speaking; he did not even venture to be as spirituel as he could have been, and, like all people in this case, he was infinitely obliged to those who could put him at his ease, and it was not only in a tête-à-tête, that Madame de Montespan possessed this influence. In the midst of a numerous circle, among all the wittiest men and women of the court, she still knew how to draw him out, to sustain him, and to keep him in the most prominent place, or at least to make him share it.
Thus, to the ties of his guilty attachment, were joined those of habit and necessity; to those of the heart, those of the head. It is not astonishing, that at the moment of breaking all these, he should hesitate, uncertain and disturbed.
"No," he said, after a long silence, and as if with effort; "I will give no orders. I am resolved, as you see,-do not exact more than this. Go and see her; act for the best. Only bring her to the point where I am, and then-"
This was not what Bossuet wished. These words left too many doors still open. In fact, they shut none.
"I fear-" he said.
There was no reply to be made to this.
nearly forty years after this time,—"in those ladies yet remaining, who were brought up by herself and her sisters, or connected with them. They could be distinguished among a thousand others even in the commonest conversations." As this is the only thing St. Simon ever says in praise of her, it may be believed.
BOSSUET WAITS UPON MADAME DE MONTESPAN.-COURT PIETY. UNEASINESS OF MADAME DE MONTESPAN.-MADAME DE LA VALLIERE.-ROYAL CONFESSORS. APPEAL TO BOSSUET'S AMBITION.--APPEAL TO MADAME DE MONTES
PAN'S CONSCIENCE.-BOSSUET LOSES WHAT HE HAD GAINED.
Most assuredly it was not the first time that Bossuet found himself in one of those combinations of circumstances which make the stoutest hearts throb more quickly. He never, without a kind of shudder, recalled the agonies of the famous day, when, an orator at seventeen years, he had culled his first laurels at the hotel de Rambouillet; he never retraced without horror, that night far more terrible, the night of "Madame is dying," when awakened by that thunderstroke, whose sound his eloquent words were destined to immortalize, he had hastened to open to Madame the doors of eternity.
But, if he had often been more agitated, and with more reason for being so, he had certainly never found himself in a more embarrassing or false position. Sent to Madame de Montespan, in whose name is he to speak? In the king's name? But the king has given no commands; he who has not his equal in the art of willing, it is plain that if he has not said, I will, it is because in reality he will not. In the name of religion? Madame de Montespan is in too good health to be thinking already of the state of her soul.*
* "Thou shalt make of thy King, thy God,-
In order to show thy dress.
Not that she had not, like everybody else, certain sentiments, (or more correctly speaking,) certain habits, of devotion; for in fact, although the time had not yet arrived when Madame de La Fayette said; "Without piety, there is no salvation to be found any more at court than in the other world," it is a great error to attribute entirely to the influence of Madame de Maintenon upon Louis XIV., and his influence upon the court, that impulse towards religious observances, devoteeism, if it may be so called, which took place subsequently. With the exception of some avowed unbelievers, more boasters than blasphemers, the society of the day was, and never had ceased to be, religious, in so far at least, as that a certain necessity for religion, piety and faith, was universally acknowledged. Hence those inconsistencies which shock and bewilder us, hence those contradictions between faith and works, which one is almost tempted to believe impossible, but which at that time seemed only quite simple and natural. There is to be found in Mme. de Sévigné, (accompanied by details which we would not venture to reproduce,) the adventure of a lady who reproaches the accomplice of her immorality with not having been fervent enough in his devotions to the Virgin. Louis XIV.'s access of devotion did not then create as many hypocrites as might be believed, and as many historians have asserted; it only brought to light that which already in great measure existed, we will not say in the hearts, but at least in the habits of his courtiers.*
Thou shalt see thy father and mother,
At most once every year,—
But when thou shalt come to die,
Thou shalt have recourse to the sacraments."
THE COMMANDMENTS. A parody of the day.
* There is in general too great an inclination to accusations of hypocrisy. Because a courtier who has had very little religion, becomes suddenly pious from seeing his king become so,-it does not follow that