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.

[ocr errors]

"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

you have those scruples at present; you cannot banish them; you cannot silence them between now and Saturday, unless you submit, and submit fully and humbly to the conditions which God dictates to you. Without that, warned as you now are, you will be sacrilegious. My heart is oppressed at the thought, that in my struggles to save you, I should only have succeeded in making you more criminal!

"Courage then, Sire, courage! Here is an opportunity for a more glorious victory than any of those for which the world has applauded you; and be assured that on your death-bed you would not give that for all the others."

When Bossuet read over this letter, he was alarmed at it; no one had ever yet talked in this strain to Louis XIV. At first he resolved to soften the expressions a little, without changing any of the thoughts; but he had scarcely re-copied a few lines before he tore them. After several new attempts, he finished by folding the original, and sending it just as it was.

In the meantime, he walked to and fro, he could not remain still. Joy at having acted aright;—fear of having it ill-received, the pious desire of saving the king, and the worldly fear of wounding him; all these mingled feelings agitated him, and whirled through his mind. He calculated the steps which his messenger had to take.* Sometimes he wished for his letter again in order to change it; sometimes he was rejoiced that this

nounced,- —or it is conditional. If it be valid ipse facto, it must be ad mitted, that the greatest villain in the world, absolved by a priest, is free from all sin; if it be conditional, the priest is but an adviser; he gives you directions in regard to the means of being absolved, but he does not actually absolve you.

Absurd, or null-one of the two must of necessity be this pretended right of loosing and binding.

* Bossuet, as the preceptor of the Dauphin, had his residence in the ghateau.

was no longer in his power. According as one phrase or another recurred to him, he passed from discouragement to hope, from confidence to fear.

Suddenly, he paused. His countenance cleared up, and after a few seconds of reflection, he ordered his chair.




Ir was about eight o'clock, and the last rays of twilight had just abandoned the streets of Versailles. In a dwelling, close beside the parish-church, (at the present time cathedral,) of St. Louis, the shadow of a tall man, slightly stooping, could be seen passing to and fro behind the curtains of a window. With sharp eyes, and a little attention, it might have been perceived, from the movement of his lips, that he was speaking quite rapidly; but he did not appear to be addressing any one. He was making no gesticulations; but from time to time one of his hands was raised as high as his breast; this hand appeared to hold a manuscript, upon which he cast his eyes. Otherwise, nothing could be more regular than his movements to and fro,— they might have been compared to those of a pendulum.

It was there that Bossuet was to stop. As he approached the house, he perceived the shadow, and smiled; which smile probably signified: "I do not find it necessary to run about my room so much."

"Father Bourdaloue," he said to the footman who opened the door.

"He is gone out, my lord-"

« VorigeDoorgaan »