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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 susain 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 In fact, they shut none.
open. "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 MONTESBOSSUET 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,
Thou shalt go on Sunday to mass,
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
Madame de Montespan sometimes quitted the king to go and say her prayers. During Lent, she had her bread weighed; at Easter she would on no account have omitted to take the communion. But although this altogether external religion, which was also that which the king practised, does not appear to have been infected with hypocrisy, it is certain, that even at that time, few persons could have been found whose piety was less really resident in the heart. Accustomed to withstand all restrictions, she wished to hold to religion, but only by a thread, and Bossuet felt that this thread would break in his hand as soon as he began to pull it.
Disturbed, almost disheartened, he had notwithstanding, the self-command to betray nothing to the courtiers who were crowding into the great gallery, for everybody had gone in there, and curiosity was at its height. It was still worse when he was seen to direct his steps to Madame de Montespan's apartment. A short time before he had quitted the king, a great movement had taken place in this gallery. The ladies had risen from their seats, the men had ceased walking about; silence had succeeded to the buzz of voices, and immobility to restlessness. Followed by more than twenty persons, a woman had slowly passed through all this crowd, and all eyes were lowered, all heads were bowed. It was the Marquise de Montespan.
A short time afterwards another woman appeared. She was followed by four attendants. All rose, and saluted her;
the only cause and end of his piety is that of his master. Religion becomes very soon a necessity; after having drawn near to God in the eyes of men, it is not at all impossible that you should become really devoted to his service. "Alas! there are no longer any hypocrites!" cried the Abbé Poulle, about the middle of the last century. The expression was strange, but its meaning profound. When there are no more hypocrites, it is because there is no more piety; when there are no more insects to be found, it is because the cold has destroyed them.
but she had not reached the middle of the gallery, before the conversation had already recommenced behind her. This was
only the queen.
Bossuet found the anti-chamber crowded. He had never before been seen there. Not that he had never visited the marquise, but he had taken care never to come save with the king; he was particular to show that it was not for her he came. The king had understood this, and she still better. Great then was the astonishment of the occupants of the anti-chamber. But scarcely had he appeared, when a door was opened.
"Madame will not receive to-day. She is indisposed."
And away went the courtiers, not without exhausting their conjectures as to the cause of this new incident. Dismissed at the moment when the bishop entered, they could not doubt that it was an arranged thing. They were mistaken. It was accidental.
"Announce Monsieur de Condom," he said in a low voice to the valet who was re-entering the apartment.
And as the man hesitated;
"By order of the king," he added.
The valet bowed. A few moments after, both of the folding doors were opened to their full extent, as if for the king in person. But this was not an honor which Bossuet could take to himself. With the words; "By order of the king," were it but a footman, etiquette commanded that he should be received like a prince of the blood; and the princes of the blood themselves made it a point, in such cases, to conduct as far as their antichamber, men whom they would not have deigned even to look at in that of the king.
Madame de Montespan had risen, but without leaving her place. It is unnecessary to add that her indisposition was a fable, unless indeed this name should be given to the uneasiness which agitated her; but in that case, indisposed, would be far