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Vrilliere is abominable and unpardonable."

"Why, bless your heart, my dear," exclaimed the marechale, "do
you expect that his majesty should recollect all the pretty
women he has intrigued with, any more than the poor duke can be
expected to keep a list in his memory of the different persons
he has sent to a prison?  He would require a prodigious recollection
for such a purpose."  This unfeeling reply filled me with indignation,
and redoubled the pity I already felt for the poor prisoners.  I
immediately despatched a note to the duc de Saint Florentin,
requesting he would come to me without delay: he hastened to obey
my summons.  When he had heard my recital he remained silent
some minutes, as though collecting his recollections upon the
subject, and then replied,

"I do indeed remember that some obscure female was confined in
the chateau of the isle Sainte Marguerite at the request of madame
de Pompadour, but I cannot now say, whether at the death of the
marchioness any person thought of interceding for her release."

"That is precisely what I wish to ascertain," cried I; "return to
your offices, monsieur le duc, and use your best endeavors to
discover whether this unfortunate girl and her parent are still
in confinement; nor venture again in my presence until you have
despatched the order for their deliverance: you will procure a
conveyance for them from their prison to Paris at the expense of
government.  You understand, my lord?"

The following morning the duke brought me the desired information.
He told me, that the father had been dead seven years,  but the
daughter still remained a prisoner: the order for restoring her
to liberty had been forwarded the night preceding.  I will now
briefly relate the end of this mournful story.

Three weeks after this I received an early visit from  the duc de
la Vrilliere, who came to apprize me, that  my protegee from the
isle of  St. Marguerite was in my  antechamber awaiting permission
to offer me her grateful thanks.  I desired she might instantly be
admitted; her appearance shocked me; not a single trace of that
beauty which had proved so fatal to its possessor now remained.
She was pale, emaciated, and her countenance, on which care and
confinement had imprinted the wrinkles of premature old age, was
sad and dejected even to idiocy.  I could have wished that madame
de Pompadour, by way of punishment for her cruelty, could but
have seen the object of her relentless persecution.  I think she
would have blushed for herself.  When the poor girl entered my
apartment she looked wildly around her, and casting herself at
my feet, inquired with many tears to what motive she was indebted
for my generous interference in her behalf.  The duc de la
Vrilliere contemplated with the utmost  the spectacle
of a misery he had so largely contributed to.  I requested of him
to leave us to ourselves.  I then raised my weeping ,
consoled her to the best of my ability, and then requested her
to give me the history of her captivity.  Her story was soon
told: she had been an inhabitant of the same prison for seventeen
years and five months, without either seeing a human being, or
hearing the sound of a human voice.  Her recital made me shudder,
and I promised her that henceforward her life should be rendered
as happy as it had hitherto been miserable.

The king supped with me that evening.  By some singular chance he
was on this occasion in the happiest temper possible: he laughed,
sung, joked with such unusual spirits, that I hesitated ere I
disturbed a gaiety to which Louis XV was so little prone.
However, I took him aside, saying, "Sire, I have to ask atonement
and reparation for a most horrible piece of injustice."  After which,
I proceeded to acquaint him with the distressing history of his
unfortunate mistress.  He appeared perfectly well to recollect
the female to whom I alluded; and when I ceased speaking, he
said, with a half-suppressed sigh,

"Poor creature!  she has indeed been unfortunate; seventeen years
and five months in prison!  The duc de la  Vrilliere is greatly to
blame in the affair; but when once he has placed persons between
four walls, he thinks he has fulfilled the whole of his duty.  He
should recollect, that a good memory is a necessary qualification
for situation he holds; it is indeed an imperative duty in him to
think of the poor wretches he deprives of their liberty."

"And in you too, sire," interrupted I; "and it appears to me that
you have lost sight of it, in the present affair, as culpably as
your minister."

"I confess it, indeed," answered Louis XV; "but the unfortunate
sufferer herself was not without a due share of blame in the
matter.  Her presumption had greatly irritated madame de Pompadour,
who punished her as she thought fit: of course I could not,
consistently with the regard I professed for the marchioness,
interfere in the execution of her vengeance."

"I do not agree with you," said I.

"Why, what else could I do?"  asked Louis XV, with the most
imperturbable calmness; "she had superior claims, was acknowledged
as chief favorite, and I could not refuse her the sacrifice of a
mere temporary caprice."

"Very well said," answered I, "and founded upon excellent
principles; but surely it was not necessary to shut up the object
of your caprice in a state prison, and, above all, to leave her
there for such a length of time.  However, the mischief is done;
and all we have to think of is to repair it.  You have now, sire,
a fine opportunity of displaying your royal munificence."

"You think, then," returned Louis XV, "that I am bound to make
this unhappy girl some present?  Well, I will; to-morrow I will
send her 10,000 louis."

"A thousand louis!"  exclaimed I, clasping my hands; "what, as a
recompense for seventeen years' imprisonment?  No, no, sire, you
shall not get off so easily; you must settle on her a pension
of 12,000 livres, and present her with an order for 100,000 more
as an immediate supply."

"Bless me!"  ejaculated the king, "why all, the girls in my
kingdom would go to prison for such a dowry: however, she shall
have the pension; but, in truth, my treasury is exhausted."

"Then, sire," returned I, "borrow of your friends."

"Come, come, let us finish this business; I will give your
 4000 louis."

"No, I cannot agree," answered I, "to less than 5000."

The king promised me I should have them; and, on the following
day, his valet Turpigny brought me the order for the pension, and
a bag, in which I found only 4000 louis.  This piece of meanness
did not surprise me, but it made me shrug up my shoulders, and
sent me to my cabinet to take the sum deficient from my own funds.
With this dowry my poor  soon found a suitable husband
in the person of one of her cousins, for whom I procured a
lucrative post under government.  These worthy people have since
well repaid me by their grateful and devoted attachment for the
service I was enabled to render them.  One individual of their
family was, however, far from resembling them either in goodness
of heart or generosity of sentiment--I allude to the brother of the
lady; that same brother who formerly supplied his sister with his
clothes, that she might visit the king unsuspected.  Upon the
incarceration of the father the son succeeded him in his office
of , and acquired considerable credit at court;
yet, although in the daily habit of seeing the king, he neither
by word nor deed sought to obtain the deliverance of either his
parent or sister.  On the contrary, he suffered the former to
perish in a dungeon, and allowed the latter to languish in one
during more than seventeen years, and in all probability she
would have ended her days without receiving the slightest mark
of his recollection of his unfortunate relative.  I know no trait
of base selfishness more truly revolting than the one I have
just related.

But this story has led me far from the subject I was previously
commencing: this narrative, which I never call to mind without a
feeling of pleasure, has led me away in spite of myself.  Still I
trust that my narrative has been sufficiently interesting to induce
you to pardon the digression it has occasioned, and now I will
resume the thread of my discourse.



CHAPTER XXXVII


 A conspiracy--A scheme for poisoning madame du Barry--The four
bottles--Letter to the duc d'Aiguillon--Advice of the ministers--
Opinion of the physicians--The chancellor and lieutenant of
police--Resolution of the council

Have you any curiosity to learn the denouement of the story I
was telling you of my anonymous correspondent?  Read what follows,
then, and your wishes shall be gratified: that is, if you have
patience to hear a rather long story; for I cannot promise you
that mine will very speedily be completed.  Let me see: where
did I leave off?  Oh, I recollect.

I was telling you that madame de Mirepoix urged me to repair, as
I was requested, to the Baths of Apollo.  I had a key which opened
all the park gates; we entered the park, took the path which turns
off to the left, and after having walked for about five minutes,
found ourselves opposite the person we were in search of.  It
was a female of from thirty to forty years of age, of diminutive
stature, dressed after the fashion of the  of the
day, but still an air of good taste was evident through the
simplicity of her attire.  Her countenance must once have been
handsome, if one might judge by the beauty of her eyes and mouth,
but she was pale, withered and already impressed with the traces
of a premature old age.  But her beauties, although faded, were
still animated by a quick and ever-varying expression of a keen
and lively wit.

Whilst I made these hasty remarks the stranger saluted me, and
afterwards the marechale de Mirepoix, with a ease of manner
which perfectly surprised me.  Nor did she in any other instance
betray the embarrassment of a person who finds herself for the
first time in the presence of persons of a rank superior to her own.

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