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from one end to the other, as a long and continued allusion? And if I should be silent,-if the pulpit should remain vacant, do you know who will be there? Do you know what preacher, quite otherwise heard from me, will say more by her presence alone, than the longest and boldest of discourses? The queen, madame, the queen! Upon seeing the outraged wife herself, conduct to the altar, humble and repentant, one who has wronged her,—what will hinder the thoughts of those present from recurring to another who still wrongs her?-This word offends you, madame.—Well, I withdraw it. Yes; I understand, how in the midst of such seductions, you have not really had a correct idea of your faults and your perils; I understand that one who has lived so near to the throne, has some right to the indulgence which we are forced to exercise towards those who have the misfortune to be seated there. The greater the king, the more you have been able to deceive yourself in regard to the nature and tendency of the errors in which he has invited you to partake. But this excuse, if it be one, was admissible six years ago; admissible by men, that is, if not by God. But nowAh! if you could read in the hearts of men! If you knew what condemnation may be concealed beneath much adulation! God, who can never be deceived—”
"No, but who is made use of to deceive others!—Why two weights and two measures? What have I done more than the king? You have just said yourself, that it was he who carried me away. How does it happen, that another gives him the ab solution, which a priest refuses to me? Come, monsieur, come, there is something in all this more scandalous than either my conduct or his. I have no need to continue."
It is certain, that the method of proceeding of the king's confessor, was not one of the least scandals of the day. It is difficult to conceive how a priest, even an ambitious one and a
complete courtier, even fascinated, like every one, by the grandeur of Louis XIV., could dare so far to sport with holy things, as to grant him under existing circumstances that sacramental absolution without which a Catholic cannot take the communion. What passed between himself and his confessor, on these occasions? Did he promise to put an end to his excesses? It is not very probable;-for, either it would have been a lie, and we do not think that he would degrade himself so far as to lie,—or, the promise would have been a sincere one, and there would have been some attempt to fulfil it.-Was he silent upon this point? It is still less probable.-Did he order the confessor to be silent? Did he request this from him as a favor? Did he threaten to address himself to another?-It is impossible to guess. It is however, certain, that the two Jesuits who played successfully so conspicuous a part in this sad comedy, did not adopt a very good method of banishing the "Provincial letters" from remembrance. It is true that Father Ferrier, the predecessor of Father La Chaise, showed, from time to time, a disposition to resist.-A curious spectacle must have been presented at these times. The Jesuit and his penitent played at hide and seek, and opened their eyes at each other, and the whole affair at length resulted in an agreement, of which the conditions remained a mystery, but of which the public result was another communion, which necessarily supposed another absolution. As to Father La Chaise, "the Easter holidays," says Saint Simon, "often give him a politic illness," which failed not to attack him the evening before, or even the very morning of the day when he was to receive the king's confession. The latter, as we may well think, did not insist upon looking into the matter. He waited twenty-four hours, and the good father growing no better, he begged him to send a substitute. La Chaise had his man ready. It was always one of the least cunning, or the most cun
ning of the order. In both cases the confession was finished in short order; the same with the absolution.*
This was precisely what had now taken place for the first time, for father Ferrier had died in the close of the year 1674, and it was only in the beginning of 1675 that father La Chaise had received this coveted situation, which he was destined to keep for thirty-four years. Madame de Montespan had done everything she could, to dispose him in her favor. She was according y not the person to declare it scandalous that he should not forbid the king's performance of his Easter devotions; but when she was offended she did not look very closely into matters. Was she not heard in 1680 to inveigh loudly against him, and to wish his dismission, because he did not force the king to break with Mlle. Fontanges? She had actually got so far as to think herself entitled to all the rights of a legitimate wife.
However it may be, the objection was a plausible one, and it was only too true, as she had said, that two weights and two measures had been used.
"You are striving to embarrass me," said Bossuet, "and in this have almost succeeded. But even suppose I gave you the pleasure of hearing a bishop condemning a priest, what would you gain by that? If I should say that the king's confessor was wrong in authorizing him to commune, does it follow that yours was wrong in forbidding you to do so? Ah, reflect well; if you should pass your life in collecting and noting down all the faults and inconsistencies committed by the ministers of
* We may however add, that if such laxity could be pardoned, it would be so more readily to Father La Chaise than any other. He was a man naturally of a good, gentle, obliging disposition: "a good gentleman,” says d'Aguesseau,—" who liked to live peaceably, and to allow others to do so." Further, it was not he who counselled the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. It appears that he would even have opposed it, if he had dared.
religion, you would not by that efface one letter of the law which they preach to you, and by whose authority you are condemned. It was then a very useless trouble, be it said in passing, which you have taken in making inquiries-"
"This promptitude to exclaim against it, would complete my certainty, even if I had not already every proof of it. Yes, madame; since you have begun to fear the little influence I may have upon the mind of the king, you have sought out-or ordered to be sought out, all the details of my life. My servants, my friends, all those who approach me, have been thoroughly sounded; there is not one of your courtiers who would not have been enraptured to bring you information of some scandal—”
"Do not deny it; it would have been certain of a favorable reception. What would you not have given, above all, to succeed in discovering something criminal, or even suspicious in my relations with Mlle. de Mauléon ?* And nevertheless, permit me to ask what that would have proved? Because you had discovered something to destroy my credit in the king's eyes, would it have been excusable for you to continue to lose yourself in the sight of God? What a consolation! But that consolation you have not had—”
"You may believe me or not," exclaims the marquise, with
* Some authors have gone so far as to say, that Bossuet had secretly married her, with the permission of the Pope. Jurien, in his "Pastoral letters" speaks of it as an averred fact. Voltaire appears to believe it. Roman Catholic historians regard it as a fable, and we are of this opinion but still, in rejecting the idea of a marriage, we are forced to admit, that all is not quite clear in regard to the affair. See, for further details, the "Memoirs of Mme. de Maintenon," by La Baumelle, and the "Memoirs of Bossuet," by de Bausset. However this may be, Mme. de Montespan had been able to discover nothing.
that vivacity with which a passing idea is seized upon when one wishes to draw advantage from it," but I was not so sorry for it as you seeem to think. Whatever desire I may have had, and why should I deny it? to discover some blemishes in your greatness, it could only increase in my eyes, after being subjected to such an examination, and as I had made a violent effort in order to withdraw my esteem for a moment, it could not be unpleasant to restore it to you again. Have you ever even perceived that it has undergone the least diminution? Ask the king if, whenever anything advantageous and honorable has presented itself, I have not been the first to remind him of your merits. I will not say that you owe to me your being the Dauphin's preceptor, but if I had been ill-disposed towards you, perhaps you would not be in this situation. Quite recently too, when the king was spoken to of a promotion of cardinals-"
Bossuet saw the trap. It was not the first time that she had showed a disposition to purchase his approbation and silence by services, and though she had in effect rendered him several, he could neither permit her to consider him as under obligations to her, nor to hope to enchain him by gratitude.
So he hastened to interrupt her.
"Madame," he said, "I know very well that I may lose by exposing myself to your displeasure; and as to that which I should gain in preserving myself in your good graces, the devil has told me of it more eloquently than you have. When the share which I had in the resolution of Madame de la Vallière was known, were there not persons found, who concluded from it, that I wished to rid you of a rival? It was only necessary that I should allow you to believe this, in order to assure myself of your friendship. But no, I protested against it. Conscience, had spoken—” "And ambition also," she said, excessively piqued by the failure of her manœuvre.