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THE KING'S D 3PLEASURE.-MONTAUSIER AND BOSSUET IN THE CABINET OF THE KING. MADAME DE MONTESPAN REFUSED ABSOLUTION.
THE internal storm, which manifested itself on this particular day by such an alteration in his usual manners, must have been very violent.
In the first place, he had come into the park half an hour later than usual. This was an event in itself, for never was the life of a prince, or even of a private individual, who was master of his own time, more systematically regulated. Every morning, after rising, he determined upon the arrangements for the day; everybody was enabled to tell, within a few minutes of the truth, where he would be at such an hour, where he would go at such another. This was another of the secrets of the art of ruling. "If you wish to have your will habitually respected," he wrote, thirty years after, to his grandson the king of Spain, "you must show that you yourself are a slave to it."
But what was still more extraordinary than this delay, was the physiognomy of the king. He whose countenance, at least in public, was so constantly the same, that it had without too gross a flattery been compared to that of a bronze or marble god,-he seemed almost to have lost all care for his dignity, all recollection of his almost invariable habits. He hastened his pace, he slackened it; he walked straight towards the basin of a fountain,
and did not perceive it until he was on the brink. The seven or eight lords and pages who followed him bare-headed,—for he had not thought of desiring them to be covered,-neither dared to speak to him nor to each other; a number of ladies had been met by him cn his way, and he had not saluted them,—he who was not able to meet a chambermaid upon the staircase of the palace, without carrying his hand to his hat!
All eyes far and near, followed him, but secretly. It was generally the contrary; he loved to have it seem as if he were sought for, and gazed at, and not lost out of sight;—the more eyes were fixed upon him, the more he was at his ease;-and the courtiers took care not to neglect so easy a method of paying their court to him. But if at this moment his mind had been disengaged enough to observe what was passing, he would have only seen backs turned to him, and eyes gazing at the heavens, or the earth, so much was it dreaded to encounter a look now! More than one heart throbbed without knowing why; the very atmosphere seemed to contain something mysterious and unusual. So well had he succeeded in disciplining them to live only by him, for him, and in him. The queen herself, never appeared in his presence without a little alteration of the voice, and a slight trembling of the hands;* and we will not venture to answer for it that Bossuet did not experience something of the same kind when his majesty called him.
Thus, he was not sorry to find in the cabinet of the king, the two men, whose presence could the best reassure him; these were, the duke of Montausier, (his colleague in the education of
* "It was necessary to become accustomed to looking upon him, if an orator in haranguing him did not wish to expose himself to the risk of stopping short. The respect inspired by his presence, wherever he was, caused a silence, and even a sort of fear."-ST. SIMON. "You see me here deprived of all grandeur," he said one day at Marly to a foreign nobleman. "Sire," said the latter, "one would never suspect it."
the dauphin,) and the Curé* of Versailles, Monsieur Thibaut, an honorable and honored priest.
"You are still here, gentlemen ?" said the king.
"Did not your majesty order us to wait ?"
"True; I had forgotten it."
Louis XIV. forget! Decidedly it was an extraordinary day. Bossuet lost himself in conjectures.
"After all," said the king, "it is just as well that you should be here. Remain."
And he sat down, as if not knowing where to commence. Louis XIV., embarrassed, and allowing it to be perceived! It became more and more extraordinary;-but Bossuet began to guess. He began at least to foresee, confusedly, of what nature were to be the confidences of the king.
However, there the king left them, motionless and standing. It is true that no one ever sat down in his presence; not even in the council of state, where the chancellor alone, on account of his great age, was seated on a small stool; and the king had taken the precaution to have noted upon the registers of the chief master of the ceremonial, that he did not mean that the future chancellors should make this a precedent, and consider this favor as one of the privileges of their rank. As for himself,
* Versailles was not yet a bishopric.
+ "I have seen the dauphin and his sons present at the king's dinner, without his ever proposing to them to take seats. I have often seen Monsieur, the king's brother, present also. He handed the king's napkin and remained standing. A little after, the king, perceiving that he remained, asked him if he would not take a seat. He made a reverence, and the king ordered that a seat should be brought him. A tabouret was placed behind him, but he did not sit down. Some moments afterward the king said, 'Pray be seated, my brother. erence, and took his seat."-ST. SIMON.
Then he made another rev
"The king is reserved from policy. The fear which he has, that the French,-who easily take advantage of any condescension which is showed
even with the arm, he never seated himself save in an arm-chair. One was carried among his effects, and it was always the first article installed in whatever place he put his foot upon the ground, if he were to remain in this spot only an hour.
"Monsieur de Condom," he said at length, "this is the question. Madame de Montespan went this morning, to confess to a priest of Versailles,-Monsieur Lécuyer, I believe. He refused her absolution. Monsieur Thibaut here, says that this confessor only did his duty. There is Monsieur de Montausier, who is of the same opinion. These gentlemen will permit me to inquire yours."
It was not to look for Bossuet, however, that Louis XIV. had gone out. As soon as he learned from Madame de Montespan the affront which she had just received, he sent for the curé, and demanded from him, the repeal of the sentence pronounced by his vicar. The curé did not at first express himself in regard to the merits of the question; he evaded it, by saying that a confessor had no account to give, and that a curé had no authority over inferior priests in these matters. The king did not insist; he was still tolerably calm, and without discussing the point with the priest, he called the Duke de Montausier, whom he had perceived in the neighboring gallery. The duke did not scruple to speak out; he said that the confessor had done right, and the curé, seeing himself thus sustained, no longer feared to say as much. The king contained himself; but feeling himself on the point of bursting forth, he went out; and it was while walking,
them,-should fail in the respect which they owe him, makes him retain a distant manner;-and from his extraordinary benevolence, he would rather constrain himself, than furnish them with the smallest occasion for doing anything which would oblige him to be displeased with them."-BUSSY RABUTIN. If the explanation is not a good one, it must at least be confessed, that it is perfectly courtier-like.
or rather wandering in the garden, that the idea suddenly occurred to him, of summoning Bossuet.
What did he wish? What did he hope!-One is always strongly inclined to believe what one desires; but the king must have left his usual coolness a great way behind him, to allow himself even vaguely, to hope that Bossuet could enter into his views. It may even be doubted whether among so many other less scrupulous bishops, any could have been found so complaisant as to go to such a length.-It was possible for them to shut their eyes;-but it was another thing to blame the courageous priest who had dared to open his, and Monsieur de Harlay himself,* would have thought twice about it.
So Bossuet did not hesitate.
"If I could think," he said, "that your Majesty seriously hoped to find me disagreeing with these gentlemen, I should ask what I had done to fall so low in his estimation. But I know too well his enlightenment, his piety-"
"Well," cried the king, "they agree. Because an obscure priest-"
"An obscure priest !" interrupted the duke.
"Obscure!" said the curé; "no, Sire. A priest is never obscure when he fulfils-"
"Well," he resumed, "because a priest has had the audacity to judge his king-"
“In the name of God, Sire!" said Bossuet, "do not continue! Do not submit so completely to the passion which misleads you—”
* Archbishop of Paris. He had, however, less right than any one else to censure the king's morals; and it was for that very reason that Louis XIV., or rather Mme. de Montespan raised him to the see of Paris. It is of him that it was said, that the orator charged with his funeral oration, only found two embarrassing points,-his life, and his death. One was however found to write it,-Father Gailliard, a Jesuit; but he was not allowed to deliver it.