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Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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Mademoiselle.


Mademoiselle, having by means of her donations to the Duc du Maine
obtained, at first, the release, and subsequently the entire liberty of
Lauzun, wished to go to meet him and to receive him in a superb carriage
with six horses. The King had her informed secretly that she should
manage matters with more moderation; and the King only spoke so because
he was better informed than any one of the ungrateful aversion of Lauzun
to Mademoiselle. No one wished to open her eyes, for she had refused to
see; time itself had to instruct her, and time, which wears wings,
arrived at that result quickly enough.

M. de Lauzun was, beyond gainsaying, a man of feeling and courage, but he
nourished in his heart a limitless ambition, and his head, subject to
whims and caprices, would not suffer him to follow methodically a fixed
plan of conduct. The King had just pardoned him as a favour to his
cousin; but, knowing him well, he was not at all fond of him. They had
disposed of his office of Captain of the Guards and of the other command
of the 'Becs de Corbins'. It was decided that Lauzun should not return
to his employment; but his Majesty charged Monsieur Colbert to make good
to him the amount and to add to it the arrears.

These different sums, added together, formed a capital of nine hundred
and eighty thousand francs, which was paid at once in notes on the
treasury, which were equal in value to ready cash. On news of this, he
broke into the most violent rage possible; he was tempted to throw these
notes into the fire. It was his offices which he wanted, and not these
sums, with which he could do nothing.

The King received him with an easy, kind air; he, always a flatterer with
his lips, cast himself ten times on his knees before the prince, and
gained nothing by all these demonstrations. He went to rejoin
Mademoiselle on the following day at Choisy, and dared to scold her for
having constructed and even bought this pretty pleasure-house.

"This must have cost treasures," said he. "Had you not parks and
chateaus enough? It would have been better to keep all these sums and
give them to me now."

After this exordium, he set himself to criticise the coiffure of the
Queen, on account of the coloured knots that he had remarked in it.

"But you mean, then, to satirise me personally," said the Princess to
him, "since you see my hair dressed in the same fashion, and I am older
than my cousin!

"What became of you on leaving the King?" she asked him. "I waited for
you till two hours after midnight."

"I went," said he, "to visit M. de Louvois, who is not my friend, and who
requires humouring; then to visit M. Colbert, who favours me."

"You ought to have seen Madame de Maintenon, I gave you that advice
before leaving you," she said; "it is to her, above all, that you owe
your liberty."

"But your Madame de Maintenon," he resumed, "is she, too, one of the
powers? Ah, my God! what a new geography since I left these regions ten
years ago!"

To avoid tete-a-tete, M. de Lauzun was always in a surly humour; he put
his left arm into a sling; he never ceased talking of his rheumatism and
his pains.

Mademoiselle learned, now from one person, now from another, that he was
dining to-day with one fair lady, to-morrow with another, and the next
day with a third. She finally understood that she was despised and
tricked; she showed one last generosity (out of pride) towards her former
friend, - solicited for him the title of Duke, and begged him, for the
future, to arrange his life to please himself, and to let her alone.

The Marquis de Lauzun took her at her word, and never forgave her for the
cession of the principalities of Dombes and Eu to M. le Duc du Maine; he
wanted them for himself.




CHAPTER XXII.

Progress of Madame de Maintenon. - The Anonymous Letter.


Since the birth of Mademoiselle de Blois, and the death of Mademoiselle
de Fontanges, the King hardly ever saw me except a few minutes
ceremoniously, - a few minutes before and after supper. He showed himself
always assiduous with Madame de Maintenon, who, by her animated and
unflagging talk, had the very profitable secret of keeping him amused.
Although equally clever, I venture to flatter myself, in the art of
manipulating speech, I could not stoop to such condescensions. You
cannot easily divert when you have a heart and are sincere - a man who
deserts you, who does not even take the trouble to acknowledge it and
excuse himself.

The Marquise sailed, then, on the open sea, with all sail set; whilst my
little barque did little more than tack about near the shore. One day I
received the following letter; it was in a pleasant and careful
handwriting, and orthography was observed with complete regularity, which
suggested that a man had been its writer, or its editor:

The person who writes these lines, Madame la Marquise, sees you but
rarely, but is none the less attached to you. The advice which he is
going to give you in writing he would have made it a duty to come and
give you himself; he has been deterred by the fear either of appearing to
you indiscreet, or of finding you too deeply engrossed with occupations,
or with visitors, as is so often the case, in your own apartments.

These visitors, this former affluence of greedy and interested hearts,
you will soon see revealed and diminishing; probably your eyes, which are
so alert, have already remarked this diminution. The monarch no longer
loves you; coolness and inconstancy are maladies of the human heart. In
the midst of the most splendid health, our King has for some time past
experienced this malady.

In your place, I should not wait to see myself repudiated. By whatever
outward respect such an injunction be accompanied, the bottom of the cup
is always the same, and the honey at the edge is but a weak palliative.
Being no ordinary woman by birth, do not terminate like an ordinary
actress your splendid and magnificent role on this great stage. Know how
to leave before the audience is weary; while they can say, when they miss
you from the scene, "She was still fine in her role. It is a pity!"

Since a new taste or new caprice of the monarch has led his affections
away, know how to endure a fantasy which you have not the power to
remove. Despatch yourself with a good grace; and let the world believe
that sober reflections have come to you, and that you return, of your own
free will, into the paths of independence, of true glory, and of honour.

Your position of superintendent with the Queen has been from the very
first almost a sinecure. Give up to Madame de Maintenon, or to any one
else, a dignity which is of no use to you, for which you will be paid now
its full value; which, later, is likely to cause you a sensible
disappointment; for that is always sold at a loss which must be sold at a
given moment.

Nature, so prodigal to you, Madame la Marquise, has not yet deflowered,
nor recalled in the least degree, those graces and attractions which were
lavished on you. Retire with the honours of war.

Annoyance, vexation, irritation, do not make your veins flow with milk
and honey; you would lose upon the field of battle all those treasures
which it is in your power to save.

Adieu, madame.

This communication, though anonymous, is none the less benevolent. I
desire your peace and your happiness.




CHAPTER XXIII.

Madame de Maintenon at Loggerheads with Madame de Thianges. - The Mint of
the D'Aubigne Family. - Creme de Negresse, the Elixir of Long
Life. - Ninon's Secret for Beauty. - The King Would Remain Young or Become
So. - Good-will of Madame de Maintenon.


This letter was not, in my eyes, a masterpiece, but neither was it from a
vulgar hand. For a moment I suspected Madame de Maintenon. She was
named in it, it is true, as though by the way, but her interest in it was
easy to discover, since the writer dared to try to induce me to sell her,
to give up to her, my superintendence. I communicated my suspicions to
the Marquise de Thianges. She said to me: "We must see her, - her face
expresses her emotions very clearly; she is not good at lying; we shall
easily extract her secret, and make her blush for her stratagem."

Ibrahim, faithful to his old friendship for me, had recently sent me
stuffs of Asia and essences of the seraglio, under the pretence of
politeness and as a remembrance. I wrote two lines to the Marquise,
engaging her to come and sacrifice half an hour to me to admire with me
these curiosities. Suspecting nothing, she came to my apartments, when
she accepted some perfumes, and found all these stuffs divine. My
sister, Madame de Thianges, said to her:

"Madame, I do not wish to be the last to congratulate you on that
boundless confidence and friendship that our Queen accords you.
Assuredly, no one deserves more than you this feeling of preference; it
appears that the princess is developing, and that, at last, she is taking
a liking for choice conversation and for wit."

"Madame," answered the lady in waiting, "her Majesty does not prefer me
to any one here. You are badly informed. She has the goodness to accord
to me a little confidence; and since she finds in me some facility in the
Spanish tongue, of which she wishes to remain the idolater all her life,
she loves to speak that tongue with me, catching me up when I go wrong
either in the pronunciation or the grammar, as she desires to be
corrected herself when she commits some offence against our French."

"You were born," added Madame de Thianges, "to work at the education of
kings. It is true that few governesses or tutors are as amiable. There
is a sound in your voice which goes straight to the heart; and what
others teach rudely or monotonously, you teach musically and almost
singing. Since the Queen loves your French and your Spanish, everything
has been said; you are indispensable to her. Things being so, I dare to
propose to you, Madame, a third occupation, which will suit you better
than anything else in the world, and which will complete the happiness of
her Majesty.

"Here is Madame de Montespan, who is growing disgusted with grandeur,
after having recognised its emptiness, who is enthusiastically desiring
to go and enjoy her House of Saint Joseph, and wishes to get rid of her
superintendence forthwith, at any cost."

"What!" said Madame de Maintenon. Then to me, "You wish to sell your
office without having first assured yourself whether it be pleasing to
the King? It appears to me that you are not acting on this occasion with
the caution with which you are generally credited."

"What need has she of so many preliminary cautions," added the Marquise,
"if it is to you that she desires to sell it? Her choice guarantees the
consent of the princess; your name will make everything easy."

"I reason quite otherwise, Madame la Marquise," replied the former
governess of the princes; "the Queen may have her ideas. It is right and
fitting to find out first her intention and wishes."

"Madame, madame," said my sister then, "everything has been sufficiently
considered, and even approved of. You will be the purchaser; you desire
to buy, it is to you that one desires to sell."

Madame de Maintenon began to laugh, and besought the Marquise to believe
that she had neither the desire nor the money for that object.

"Money," answered my sister, "will cause you no trouble on this occasion.
Money has been coined in pour family."

[Constant d'Aubigne, father of Madame de Maintenon, in his wild youth,
was said to have taken refuge in a den of comers. - Ed. Note]

Madame de Maintenon, profoundly moved, said to the Marquise:

"I thought, madame, that I had come to see Madame de Montespan, to look
at her stuffs from the seraglio, and not to receive insults. All your
teasing affects me, because up to to-day I believed in your kindly
feeling. It has been made clear to me now that I must put up with this
loss; but, whatever be your injustice towards me, I will not depart from
my customs or from my element. The superintendence of the Queen's
Council is for sale, or it is not; either way, it is all the same to me.
I have never made any claim to this office, and I never shall."

These words, of which I perceived the sincerity, touched me. I made some
trifling excuses to the lady in waiting, and, tired of all these
insignificant mysteries, I went and took the anonymous letter from my
bureau and showed it to the governess.

She read it thoughtfully. After having read it, she assured me that this
script was a riddle to her.

Madame de Maintenon, on leaving us, made quite a deep courtesy to my
sister, which caused me pain, preserving an icy gravity and exaggerating
her salutation and her courtesy.

When we were alone, I confessed to the Marquise de Thianges that her
words had passed all bounds, and that she could have reached her end by
other means.

"I cannot endure that woman," she answered. "She knows that you have
made her, that without you she would be languishing still in her little
apartment in the Maree; and when for more than a year she sees you
neglected by the King and almost deserted, she abandons you to your
destiny, and does not condescend to offer you any consolation. I have
mortified her; I do not repent of it in the least, and every time that I
come across her I shall permit myself that gratification.

"What is she thinking of at her age; with her pretensions to a fine
figure, an ethereal carriage, and beauty? And yet it must be admitted
that her complexion is not made up. She has the sheen of the lily
mingled with that of the rose, and her eyes exhibit a smiling vivacity
which leaves our great coquettes of the day far behind!"

"She is nature unadorned as far as her complexion goes, believe me," said
I to my sister. "During my constant journeys she has always slept at my
side, and her face at waking has always been as at noon and all day long.
She related to us once at the Marechale d'Albret's, where I knew her,
that at Martinique - that distant country which was her cradle - an ancient
negress, well preserved and robust, had been kind enough to take her into
her dwelling. This woman led her one day into the woods. She stripped
of its bark some shrub, after having sought it a long time. She grated
this bark and mixed it with the juice of chosen herbs. She wrapped up
all this concoction in half a banana skin, and gave the specific to the
little D'Aubigne.

"This mess having no nasty taste, the little girl consented to return
fifteen or twenty times into the grove, where her negress carefully
composed and served up to her the same feast.

"'Why do you care to give me this green paste?' the young creole asked
her one day.

"The old woman said: 'My dear child, I cannot wait till you have enough
sense to learn to understand these plants, for I love you as if you were
my own daughter, and I want to leave you a secret which will cause you to
live a long time. Though I look as I do, I am 138 years old already. I
am the oldest person in the colony, and this paste that I make for you
has preserved my strength and my freshness. It will produce the same
effect on my dear little girl, and will keep her young and pretty too for
a long time.'

"This negress, unhappily, fell asleep one day under a wild pear-tree in
the Savannah, and a crocodile came out of the river hard by and devoured
her."

"I have heard tell," replied my sister, "that Mademoiselle d'Aubigne,
after the death of her mother, or husband, was bound by the ties of a
close friendship with Ninon de l'Enclos, whose beauty made such a
sensation among the gallants, and still occupies them.

"One was assured, you know, that Ninon possesses a potion, and that in
her generosity to her friend, the fair Indian, she lent her her phial of
elixir."

"No, no," said I to the Marquise, "that piece of gallantry of Ninon is
only a myth; it is the composition of Martinique, or of the negress,
which is the real recipe of Madame de Maintenon. She talked of it one
day, when I was present, in the King's carriage. His Majesty said to
her: 'I am astonished that, with your natural intelligence, you have not
kept in your mind the nature of this Indian shrub and herbs; with such a
secret you would be able to-day to make many happy, and there are some
kings, who, to grow young again, would give you half their empire.'

"'I am not a worshipper of riches,' said this mistress of talk; 'bad
kings might offer me all the treasures and crowns they liked, and I would
not make them young again.'

"'And me, madame,' said the prince, 'would you consent to make me young
again?'

"'You will not need it for a long time,' she replied, cleverly, with a
smile; 'but when the moment comes, or is near, I should set about it with
zeal.'

"The whole carriage applauded this reply, and the King took the hand of
the Marquise and insisted on kissing it."




CHAPTER XXIV.

The Casket of M. de Lauzun. - His Historical Gallery. - He Makes Some
Nuns. - M. de Lauzun in the Lottery. - The Loser Wins. - Queen out of
Pique. - Letter from the Queen of Portugal. - The Ingratitude of M. de
Lauzun.


Twice during the captivity of M. de Lauzun the Queen of Portugal had
charged her ambassador to carry to the King that young sovereign's
solicitations in favour of the disgraced gentleman. Each time the
negotiators had been answered with vague and ambiguous words; with those
promises which potentates are not chary of, even between themselves, and
which we poor mortals of the second rank call Court holy water. These
exertions of the Court of Lisbon were speedily discovered, and it then
became known how many women of high degree M. de Peguilain had the honour
of fluttering. The officer of D'Artagnan, who had the task of seizing
his papers when he was arrested to be taken to Pignerol, was obliged, in
the course of his duty, to open a rather large casket, where he found the
portraits of more than sixty women, of whom the greater number lived
almost in the odour of sanctity. There were descriptive or biographical
notes upon all these heroines, and correspondence to match. His Majesty
had cognisance of it, and forbade the publication of the names. But the
Marquis d'Artagnan and his subordinate officer committed some almost
inevitable indiscretions, and all these ladies found their names public
property. Several of them, who were either widows or young ladies,
retired into convents, not daring to show their faces in the light of
day.

The Queen of Portugal, before this scandal, had passionately loved the
Marquis de Lauzun. She was then called Mademoiselle d'Aumale, and her
sister who was soon afterwards Duchess of Savoy was called at Paris
Mademoiselle de Nemours. These two princesses, after having exchanged
confidences and confessions, were astonished and grieved to find
themselves antagonists and rivals. Happily they had a saving wit, both
of them, and made a treaty of peace, by which it was recognised and
agreed that, since their patrimony was small, it should be neither
divided nor drawn upon, in order that it might make of M. de Lauzun, when
he came to marry, a rich man and a great lord. The two rivals, in the
excess of their love, stipulated that this indivisible inheritance should
be drawn for by lot, that the victorious number should have M. de Lauzun
thrown in, and that the losing number should go and bury herself in a
convent.

Mademoiselle d'Aumale - that is to say, the pretty blonde - won M. de
Lauzun; but he, being bizarre in his tastes, and who only had a fancy for
the brunette (the less charming of the two), went and besought the King
to refuse his consent.

Mademoiselle d'Aumale thought of dying of grief and pique, and, as a
consequence of her despair, listened to the proposals of the King of
Portugal, and consented to take a crown.

The disgrace and imprisonment of her old friend having reached her ear,
this princess gave him the honour of her tears, although she had two
husbands alive. Twice she had solicited his liberty, which was certainly
not granted in answer to her prayers.

When she learned of the release of the prisoner, she showed her joy
publicly at it, in the middle of her Court; wrote her congratulations
upon it to Mademoiselle, apparently to annoy her, and, a few days
afterwards, indited with her own hand the letter you are going to read,
addressed to the King, which was variously criticised.

TO HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF FRANCE.

BROTHER: - Kings owe one another no account of their motives of action,
especially when their authority falls heavily upon the officers of their
own palace, till then invested with their confidence and overwhelmed with
the tokens of their kindness. The disgrace of the Marquis de Lauzun can
only appear in my eyes an act of justice, coming as it does from the
justest of sovereigns. So I confined myself in the past to soliciting
for this lord - gifted with all the talents, with bravery and merit - your
Majesty's pity and indulgence. He owed later the end of his suffering,
not to my instances, but to your magnanimity. I rejoice at the change in
his destiny, and I have charged my ambassador at your Court to express my
sincere participation in it. To-day, Sire, I beg you to accept my
thanks. M. de Lauzun, so they assure me, has not been restored to his
offices, and though still young, does not obtain employment in his
country, where men of feeling and of talent are innumerable. Allow us,
Sire, to summon this exceptional gentleman to my State, where French
officers win easily the kindly feelings of my nobles, accustomed as they
are to cherish all that is born in your illustrious Empire. I will give
M. de Lauzun a command worthy of him, worthy of me, - a command that will
enable him to render lasting and essential services to my Crown and to
yours. Do not refuse me this favour, which does not at all impoverish
your armies, and which may be of use to a kingdom of which you are the
protector and the friend. Accept, Sire, etc.

I did not see the answer which was vouchsafed to this singular letter;
the King did not judge me worthy to enjoy such confidence that he had
made no difficulty in granting to me formerly; but he confided in Madame
de Maintenon, and even charged her to obtain the opinion of Mademoiselle
touching this matter, and Mademoiselle, who never hid aught from me,
brought the details of it to my country-house.

This Princess, now enlightened as to the falseness of Monsieur de Lauzun,
entreated the King to give up this gentleman to the blond Queen, or to
give him a command himself.

The Marquis de Lauzun, having learnt the steps taken by the Queen of
Portugal, whom he had never been able to endure, grew violently angry,
and said in twenty houses that he had not come out of one prison to throw
himself into another.

These were all the thanks the Queen got for her efforts; and, like
Mademoiselle de Montpensier, she detested, with all her soul, the man she
had loved with all her heart.

The Marquis de Lauzun was one of the handsomest men in the world; but his
character spoiled everything.




CHAPTER XXV.

The Nephews, the Nieces, the Cousins and the Brother of Madame de
Maintenon. - The King's Debut. - The Marshal's Silver Staff.


The family of Madame de Maintenon had not only neglected but despised her
when she was poor and living on her pension of two thousand francs. Since
my protection and favour had brought her into contact with the sun that
gives life to all things, and this radiant star had shed on-her his own
proper rays and light, all her relatives in the direct, oblique, and
collateral line had remembered her, and one saw no one but them in her
antechambers, in her chamber, and at Court.

Some of them were not examples of deportment and good breeding; they were
gentlemen who had spent all their lives in little castles in Angoumois
and Poitou, a kind of noble ploughmen, who had only their silver swords
to distinguish them from their vine-growers and herds. Others, to be
just, honoured the new position of the Marquise; and amongst those I must
place first the Marquis de Langallerie and the two sons of the Marquis de
Villette, his cousin, german. The Abbe d'Aubigne, whom she had
discovered obscurely hidden among the priests of Saint Sulpice, she had
herself presented to the King, who had discovered in him the air of an
apostle, and then to Pere de la Chaise, who had hastened to make him
Archbishop of Rouen, reserving for him 'in petto' the cardinal's hat, if
the favour of the lady in waiting was maintained.



Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 21 of 30)