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“And besides ?” she said, with her eyes fixed inquiringly upon
"If the king's love had been regulated by yours-"
"It would have been long ago all over. You do not love the king-you never have loved him”
"I!" she cried, "I!" But her expression was rather that of inquietude than indignation. Evidently she did not venture to deny it; the eye of Bossuet had penetrated into the very depths of her mind.
"No, madame," he continued, "no, you do not love the king, —or rather,—yes, it is the king, the king of France, the master of twenty millions of men, the homage which surrounds him, the splendor which is reflected upon you-it is this which you loved, and which you still love; but Louis the man, you do not love-"
"She was silent, and cast down her eyes. An inexplicable influence seemed to press upon her; the voice of Bossuet was but the voice of her conscience.
"Thus," he slowly resumed, after a moment's silence," in trampling the holiest duties under your feet, you have not even the common excuse, of a love too strong to be conquered by honor! But we will speak no more of the past; the world will forget it, and it only rests with you that God should forget it. Now, therefore, listen to me. The king's salvation, yours, and that of so many unfortunates whom you encourage to sin, is in your hands. The king has not yet the resolution to order you to quit the court; retire then of yourself, and the king will bless you for having had pity on his weakness. In seeing you struggle, he will struggle also. Rejoiced to find himself stronger, he cannot but esteem the more her who will have forced him to be so.
Love must have an end some time; perhaps soon; esteem will never end. Decide, Madame, decide—”
She remained motionless. It was a good deal gained to have brought her thus far; but he wanted an answer.
"You are silent," he continued, after a long pause.
"The king awaits me; what shall I say to him? He has begun to feel uneasiness in regard to the state of his soul, and you, -loaded with his favors, will you refuse to recognize them, save in perpetuating by your presence the temptations under which groans ? But no,-that cannot be ;—yet another step, Madame,-in heaven's name,‚—a word,—a single word—”
She opened her lips to reply. What would she have said? We cannot tell; perhaps she herself did not know. But a slight noise was heard, and two ladies appeared. It was Madame de Thianges and the Abbess of Fontevrault, the two sisters of Madame de Montespan.
By turning, in order to salute them, Bossuet spared himself the pain of seeing the alteration which their arrival had produced in the physiognomy of her whom he had believed almost subdued,—and whom perhaps, he might have subdued but for this unlooked-for succour. Madame de Thianges was a woman of much levity, incapable of entertaining any scruples in regard to the conduct of her sister.* Madame de Fontevrault had in
*Notwithstanding, like many others, she had had her slight attacks of devotion. Madame de Sevigné relates, (Jan. 5th, 1674,) that she dined with Madame de Thianges, and that a footman having presented a glass of wine to the latter," Madame," said the convert gravely, "this man does not yet know that I have become religious." This devotion commenced and terminated like a situation or a charge; the expression become religious, was used as we say become a lawyer, or become a merchant. The principal exterior sign of conversion with women, was to wear no more rouge; the fit over, the rouge resumed its place. "This rouge," says Madame de Sevigné, "is the law and the prophets; it is upon this rouge, that the whole of Christianity turns."
reality some few, but she had determined to seem to hear and see nothing,—and it had become quite a matter of course, to see her displaying her abbess' cross in the saloons of the king's mistress. The court was their atmosphere, their life, their all; they would have shuddered at the idea of no longer seeing there her who sustained them. It was accordingly not by accident that they entered their sister's apartment at this moment. They were still ignorant of the affair of the confession; but officious people had hastened to inform them of Bossuet's visit to the Marquise. Although informed of it separately, they had no need of an understanding, in order to arrive at the same moment, with the sole purpose of putting an end to a conversation, which they felt augured no good either to their sister or themselves.
They arrived just in time, as we have seen; and if Bossuet did not immediately perceive the effect produced by their arrival, Madame de Montespan did not leave him in error. He had only to glance at her to see that all was lost, and as she accompanied him out, for he considered it proper to retire,-he said in a low voice,
"The king is master, Monsieur," she replied, aloud and in a tone of the utmost indifference.
"And I shall make him remember it," he replied, like herself, aloud.
* "People would have been edified by it, if the king had desired," says Duclos. "She was," says St. Simon, "the most talented of the three sisters, and perhaps, also, the most beautiful. With this was united a rare learning, for she was acquainted with theology and the fathers; she was versed in the Scriptures, and she understood the learned languages. Although she had been made a nun in the most cavalier manner, her regularity in her abbey was exact. Her visits to the court never caused anything to be said against her reputation, save in regard to the singularity of seeing the wearer of such a habit participate in favors of such a nature."
BOSSUET'S LETTER TO THE KING.
AND in effect, less than an hour after, the king received the following letter:*
"Will your Majesty pardon me, if I do not present myself in person to give an account of my mission. It is not necessary that you should know the details; I will even venture to beg you not to demand them.
"You have taken, and have forced me to take as arbiter, the person of all others most interested in retaining you in the state from which you appeared to wish for deliverance; you have taken a step, in regard to the interests of your soul, which neither you, nor any other king, would be willing to take in regard to one of your most unimportant provinces. I thought for a moment, that, in default of more elevated considerations the feeling of your dignity would be enough to sustain you; you have not chosen that it should be so, and as if your own weakness were not sufficient, you have taken refuge in that of another.
"I went whither your Majesty sent me; but with the firm resolution not to accept, either as a defeat or a victory, the failure or the success of this proceeding. If it had succeeded, I should
* Authentic. See, in Memoirs of Bossuet, several letters written by him to Louis XIV. in the course of this same year, 1675.
use the same language. I should think that I insulted you in telling you that a separation had been agreed to; I should confine myself to repeating, as I do at this moment, that it is yours to will, yours to command, and that in this case you cannot as a king be feeble, without being as a Christian, criminal.
"Do not, however, conclude from this, that Madame de Montespan was entirely deaf to my exhortations. Perhaps the above lines have already caused you a secret joy.-Undeceive yourself. If duty has not conquered, still the struggle has been violent. Yes, like you, she trembled; then she strove to banish thought. She succeeded. Ah! Sire, God preserve you from succeeding in this! Madame de Montespan could not become guilty without your becoming more so; she cannot remain guilty, without your becoming a hundred times more so, since the sacrifice to be made is a hundred times more cruel for her, who owes you all and is nothing without you, than to you, who owe her nothing and are everything without her.
"In truth, Sire, it must be. This word sounds ill to your ears; you have not often heard it save when it has left your own lips. No matter! I will go on. It must be, I say again, or there is no salvation to be hoped for. One of the first things which Madame Montespan said to me, was, that she did not see how you had the right to perform your Easter devotions, while she was forbidden hers. I evaded the question. I replied, that that did not prove it was wrong to have prohibited hers; but with you why should I be evasive: why should I not tell you plainly, if we can feel the least doubt in regard to our fitness for approaching the holy supper, the authorization to do so which we may have received from a man, is null before God.* Now,
* Every reasonable Roman Catholic is forced to arrive at this conclusion, if he be a little pressed on the subject of confession. One of two things,—either absolution is valid from the sole fact of its being pro