in which the world has been pleased to hold me. I have now an opportunity of proving my gratitude, and I beseech of you to assist my endeavors." "But tell me, first," cried I, "what is the nature of this very important service you say madame de Boncault has rendered you; is it a secret, or may I hear it?" "Certainly," replied the countess, "although the recital is calculated to bring the blush of shame into my cheek. Are we alone, and secure from interruption?" I rang and gave orders that no person should be suffered to disturb us; after which madame de Forcalquier proceeded as follows:-- "I was scarcely seventeen years old, when my parents informed me that they had disposed of my hand, and that I must prepare myself to receive a husband immediately. My sentiments were not inquired into, nor, to confess the truth, was such an investigation usual, or deemed a matter of any import. A young female of any rank has no voice in any transaction till the day which follows her marriage; until then her wishes are those of her family, and her desires bounded by the rules of worldly etiquette. I had scarcely conversed twice or thrice with my future lord, and then only for a few minutes at a time, before he conducted me to the foot of the altar, there to pronounce the solemn vow which bound me his for life. I had scarcely seen him, and barely knew whether he was agreeable or disagreeable. He was neither young nor old, handsome nor ugly, pleasing nor displeasing; just one of those persons of whom the world is principally composed; one of those men who enter or leave a saloon without the slightest curiosity being excited respecting him. I had been told that I ought to love my husband, and accordingly I taught myself to do so; but scarcely had the honeymoon waned, than my fickle partner transferred his affections from me to one of my attendants; and to such a height did his guilty passion carry him, that he quitted his home for Italy, carrying with him the unfortunate victim of his seductive arts. It was during his absence that I first became acquainted with madame Boncault; she was my own age, and equally unfortunate in her domestic life; the same tests, griefs, and a great similarity of temper and disposition soon united us in the bonds of the firmest friendship; but as she possessed a stronger and more reasonable mind than I did, she forgot her own sorrows to administer to mine. However, if the whole truth must be owned, I ought to confess that my chief consolation was derived from a young cousin of my own, who freely lavished upon me that unbounded affection I would fain have sought from my husband. "Meanwhile, wearied of his folly, this latter returned; and, after having transferred his capricious fancies to at least half a dozen mistresses, he finished where he should have begun by attaching himself to her, who, as his wife, had every claim to his homage. Men are unaccountable creatures, but unfortunately for my husband his senses returned too late; my heart was too entirely occupied to restore him to that place he had so hastily vacated. My affections were no longer mine to bestow, but equally shared by my estimable friend madame Boncault and my young and captivating cousin. I was a bad hand at dissimulating, and M. de Forcalquier perceived enough of my sentiments to excite his jealous suspicions, and immediately removed with me to one of his estates. "However, my cousin (whom my husband was far from suspecting) and madame Boncault accompanied me in my retreat; there myself and my admirer, more thrown together than we had been at Paris, began insensibly to lay aside the restraint we had hitherto imposed on our inclinations, and commenced a train of imprudences which would quickly have betrayed us had not friendship watched over us. The excellent madame Boncault, in order to save my reputation, took so little care to preserve her own, that M. de Forcalquier was completely caught by her manoeuvre. One morning, finding me alone, he said, "' Madam, I am by no means satisfied with what is going on here. Your friend is wholly devoid of shame and modesty; she has been with us but one short fortnight, and is now the open and confessed mistress of your cousin.' "'Sir,' exclaimed I, trembling for what was to follow, 'you are, you must be mistaken: the thing is impossible. Madame Boncault is incapable--' "'Nonsense, madam,' replied M. de Forcalquier; 'I know what I am saying. Several things have induced me to suspect for a long while what I now assert with perfect confidence of its truth; but if you are still incredulous, behold this proof of guilt which I found just now in your cousin's chamber.' "So saying, my husband put into my hands a letter written by my cousin evidently to some female in the chateau, whom he solicited to admit him that evening to the usual place of rendezvous, where he flattered himself their late misunderstanding would be cleared up. "After having read, or, to speak more correctly, guessed at the contents of this fatal letter, I conjured my husband to replace it where he had found it, lest his guests should suspect him of having dishonorably obtained possession of their secret. He quitted me, and I hastened in search of my friend: I threw myself on my knees before her, and related all that had passed, accusing myself of the basest selfishness in having consented to save my honor at the expense of hers; then rising with renewed courage I declared my intention of confessing my imprudence to my husband. Madame Boncault withheld me. 'Do you doubt my regard for you?' asked she; 'if indeed you do justice to my sincere attachment to you, permit me to make this one sacrifice for your safety. Leave your husband at liberty to entertain his present suspicions respecting me, but grant me one favor in your turn. Speak to your cousin; request him to quit the chateau, for should he remain the truth will be discovered, and then, my friend, you are lost past my endeavors to save you.' "Less generous than madame Boncault, I consented to follow her advice. However, I have never forgotten her generous devotion; and now that the opportunity has presented itself of proving my gratitude, I beseech of you, my dear countess, to aid me in the discharge of my debt of gratitude." As madame de Forcalquier finished speaking, I threw myself into her arms. "From this moment," cried I, "madame Boncault is my dear and esteemed
; and if I have any influence over the mind of the king, she shall be appointed lady in waiting to our young princess. Such a woman is a treasure, and I heartily thank you for having mentioned her to me." CHAPTER XXXV Marriage of madame Boncault--The comte de Bourbon Busset --Marriage of comte d'Hargicourt--Disgrace of the comte de Broglie--He is replaced by M. Lemoine--The king complains of ennui--Conversations on the subject--Entry into Paris Spite of the merit of madame Boncault, and the many eulogiums I bestowed on her whilst relating her history to the king, I could not immediately obtain the post madame de Forcalquier had requested for this paragon of friends. His majesty replied to me by saying, that no doubt so many virtues merited a high reward, but that ere madame Boncault could be appointed lady in waiting to his granddaughter, she must be presented at court under some other name than the one she now bore. "Oh, if that be all, sire,"' replied I, "it will soon be effected. Ladies who have the good fortune to possess a rich dowry and powerful friends need never look far for a choice of husbands. Only let madame Boncault have reason to reckon upon your patronage, and she will have no lack of admirers." The king, always ready to oblige me, caused it to be understood throughout the chateau that he was desirous of seeing madame Boncault well established, as he had it in contemplation to confide to her a place of great trust. Immediately a score of suitors presented themselves; the preference was given to the comte de Bourbon Busset as the person most calculated in every respect to answer our purpose; he possessed elegant manners, an unblemished reputation, and a descent so illustrious as to be traced even to the reigning family. No sooner were the celebrations of this marriage over, than I procured the formal appointment of madame de Bourbon Busset to the post of lady in waiting to the new princess. This nomination tended greatly to increase the high opinion entertained of the judgment and discrimination of the comtesse de Forcalquier, and you may easily believe, from the f friendship I bore this lady, that I fully entered into her triumph on the occasion. When the comtesse de Bourbon Busset came to return me her acknowledgments for what I had done, she accompanied it with a request for a fresh interference on my part: this was to obtain for her husband the title of duke and peer. Accordingly I mentioned her wishes to the king, observing at the same time how very surprising it was that one so nearly related to the house of Bourbon should not have reached the honors of the ducal peerage: to which Louis XV replied, that he had no desire to increase the number of princes of the blood, of whom there were quite sufficient of legitimate birth without placing the illegitimate upon the same footing; that Louis XIV had been a sufficient warning of the folly of acting too indulgently towards these latter, who were only so many additional enemies to the royal authority. To all this I answered, that it was not fitting to treat the family of Bourbon Busset, however illegitimate might be its origin, as though it merely belonged to the , etc.; but my arguments were in vain, and, as the proverb says, "I talked to the wind." My friends recommended me not to press the subject, and the matter ended there. However, in order to smooth the refusal as much as possible, I procured M. de Bourbon Busset the appointment of first gentleman usher to the young prince. The establishment of the comtesse d'Artois was now formed. M.
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