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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