Louis drew himself up; this last word had offended him. and which," pursued Bossuet, "you will soon be the first to condemn. A priest has dared to judge you! Alas! it is

not he,—but you, yourself!—”


"Yes-in the very words which you have just pronounced. If Madame de Montespan were only that to you, which she should be, you would not declare yourself touched by the blow of which she complains."

Bossuet felt himself in a courageous vein; he could have wished Monsieur de Fénélon to be there.

But the king no longer listened to him.

"What a scandal!" he murmured; "what a scandal !"

These words, in his mind, were only applicable to the audacity of the confessor; the moment was scarcely favorable for answering him, that there was no other scandal in the whole matter, excepting that of his own conduct. The curé made an effort.

"If your Majesty," he said, "would take the trouble to question this priest;-your Majesty would see whether the wish to cause a scandal has had anything at all to do with this action of his. I know no man more unlikely—"


"That may be; but the best proof he could have given of it, would have been to hold his tongue. After all, what difference does it make? Madame de Montespan will not commune; neither shall I; what will have been gained ?"

All this was so contrary to the usual tone, language and manner of the king, that the best thing was, to have patience, and wait for the termination of an anger, which, it might be seen, could not last long. But the wound was deep; the monarch was still more offended than the man. Habituated as he was, to find in his clergy a boundless docility,* he was indignant

[ocr errors]

* Externally, at least, for he was more frequently the led than the

now to stumble over a priest on his path. It made but little difference whether this priest were right or wrong; he was a priest, and the kingly instinct was wounded by this. Louis XIV. had no very thorough knowledge of history, but what had most firmly remained in his memory, were the former enterprises of the clergy against the authority of the crown, and he could not suffer even the appearance of a step towards a reestablishment of the humiliation of kings.

On the other hand, he could not but feel the weakness of his cause, and this further contributed to put him beside himself. He saw this royal authority of which he had so exalted an idea, concerned in a matter where it had no hold, where it could not interfere, either legally or in deed. Left to himself, he would have distinguished better his proper part in the matter. When Madame de Montespan came to him, indignant and breathless, to relate the occurrence, he had at first appeared little enough concerned by it; it was she who had had the art to excite him, to call the passions of the king in aid of those of the man. There is no worse anger than that which comes on gradually, which is not directed towards any fixed object, and which one allows to be partially or entirely kindled by a person interested in exciting it.

Bossuet, however, after having for a moment, feared to be left alone with the king, began to desire this. He discerned what there was factitious in this anger; he understood that a frank explanation alone, could produce any result;-but he also felt that the two other witnesses were in the way. After an instant of indecision an idea struck him.

leader;-but care was taken that he should always think himself master. Steele having published a parallel between Louis XIV. and Peter the Great, the latter was much flattered by it, but he said, "I have subjected my clergy,-while he obeys his.”

"Let us retire, gentlemen," he exclaimed; "his Majesty no longer finds our presence necessary here.”

The king, already calmer, but more and more abstracted, mechanically made the half-polite, half-imperious gesture of the hand, with which it was his custom to dismiss the people of his court. They saluted him and went out. But they were scarcely outside of the door, when the duke said to Bossuet,—

"Go in again! go in again! That was your idea, was it not? I guessed as much,-go in quickly,-courage !"

And he pushed him into the cabinet.



THE Duke de Montausier had really guessed the truth. Bossuet had indeed resolved to return without delay, but he was far from being prepared for such a bold stroke. However, this was always the old duke's manner of doing things; there was never a day passed that he did not by his virtuous bluntness, put into an embarrassing situation some one of his best friends, and no one would have been more capable than he, of imitating Mentor casting his pupil into the sea, in order to force him to quit the island.

It is true, that once in the water, poor Telemachus is very glad to have no one but himself to struggle against; Bossuet also very soon acknowledged that M. de Montausier had done him a great service. Would he have been sure of finding, an hour after, the courage which he was now forced to have?

The king had not changed his position. He knit his brow slightly; it was rather surprise than anger.

"It is you!" he said.

"It is I, sire. I know that I am very bold; but to call me, to order me to speak, was also to order me to be sincere. I have been so


"Did I appear to doubt it?"


'No; but your majesty did not allow me time to be thor

oughly so. Will your majesty permit me to finish?"

[ocr errors]

"Go on; you will probably tell me nothing which I do not


"I am sure of it. Nothing which has not been said to you an hundred times-"

"A thousand times."

"I do not doubt it. Therefore, what I ask from God for you, is not understanding; you have that; but the strength to listen to and obey it. You know better than any one else, that you have not always this strength. For the good that I would, I do not,' said an apostle; but the evil which I would not, that I do;' I find two men in me


"Ah! these two men, I know them well!"* cried the king. "It is already something to know them, sire, but it is not enough. One of the two must perish. Why do yo you delay to condemn him to death? In allowing you, as a king, to be exposed to more temptations than others, God has also placed in your hands more means of resisting them. All those qualities, solid as well as brilliant, of which we admire the union in your character, shall it be said that they have done nothing for you yourself, while they have made the happiness and glory of France? You owe the high position which you have gained abroad among all the kings of Europe, perhaps as much to your firmness as to your victories; at home also, everything proclaims that the reins of state have never been held by a firmer hand; and in the very centre of power, there is a man who defies you, a man who remains disobedient to those laws of order and morality which you have held up for reverence; and this man is yourself!"

The king made no reply. But it was not only because he had nothing to answer, it was unhappily also because the commendations of Bossuet, although joined with reproofs, and only

* Historical.

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »