List Of Contents | Contents of Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry
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they should lose neither pains nor trouble to attain their object;
and to encourage each other, they reckoned upon their fingers
the names of every person of their acquaintance, or even belonging
to the court, who had derived profit and advantage from the
predictions of fortune-tellers.

"The minds of all at this period were still imbued with those
superstitious feelings, of which many of the most illustrious
persons had given ample proof even in the preceding reign.  We
have become either more wicked or more sceptical, whichever
you please to term it; but this is certain, that many of the
things predicted were accomplished with an exact punctuality,
which might serve to overthrow the finest arguments of the
greatest philosophers, and which has indeed destroyed many
ingenious theories.  Doubtless the hidden laws of nature have
reference to other beings than ourselves; and, beyond dispute,
may be said to govern the creatures of an unknown world as well
as exercising control over poor mortals like us."  After this short
digression, of which I give you the precise wording, the king
continued as follows:

"On the following day madame de Montchevreuil paid a visit to
madame de Maintenon, in which she declared, that upon mature
reflection, she could not proceed with the commission she had
undertaken: that it was tempting Providence, and had better be
abandoned.  This remonstrance had no effect upon madame de
Maintenon, who shielded herself from any necessity of retracting,
by repeating to herself, that she had pledged herself to join
Louis XIV in the undertaking, and it would never do for her to
forfeit her character for firmness and good sense by now appearing
trifling and capricious.  However, she feigned a seeming
compliance with the advice of madame de Montchevreuil, whilst,
in reality, her mind was resolved upon executing her project.

"There was in her household a female who was not immediately one
of her establishment, altho' generally ranking as such; one of
those active, stirring persons, who thrust themselves into a
noble family under the equivocal title of half servant, half lady.
This one had charge of all the necessary purchases of linen,
Engaged the servants, kept watch over their conduct, procured
for the marchioness whatever particulars she might require upon
any subject; and took upon herself, in a word, any piece of service
by which she could more firmly plant herself in the family of her
employers.  She received no fixed wages, but their absence was
abundantly compensated in the numerous rich presents that were
continually made her.  Her sleeping apartment was always
immediately adjoining that of madame de Maintenon in the castle.
A person of this description (as may be readily supposed) knew
the world too well to find any difficulty in procuring a mere
fortune-teller; and as her discretion might be confidently relied
on, it was resolved by her mistress to intrust her with the design.

"Two days after, she had removed all difficulties by discovering
an Italian priest, famed as the most skilful necromancer of his
day, one who undertook to reveal the decrees of fate to all
those who should consult him, as clearly and readily as tho' its
leaves lay open, as a book before his eyes.  But this gifted
person lived in the utmost dread of attracting the notice of
parliament, and exercised his art only under the strictest
assurances of secrecy, in the most retired and secluded manner,
with every precaution to prevent the possibility of a surprise.

"These conditions were too gratifying to madame de Maintenon to
cause much delay in subscribing to them; and it was finally
arranged, that the prophet and his new applicants should meet at a
house in Sevres belonging to the royal family, then in the
occupation of madame Cerfol (the lady of whom mention has been
already made).  The marchioness was to repair thither at one
o'clock in the morning with a single friend.  To have taken such a
measure in open daylight would have been to proclaim their
secret to all Paris.  One person besides madame de Cerfol was
necessarily admitted into their confidence, and that was the
duc de Noailles, who was charged, by the king's express orders,
to take every possible precaution to ensure their safety, as far
as it could be done without attracting public attention to so
extraordinary an affair.

"At the hour appointed madame de Maintenon and the duc de Noailles
ascended a carriage which awaited them at one of the park gates,
and soon conveyed them to Sevres, whither the Italian priest had
gone the preceding  night.  This wretched man had celebrated alone
the sacrifice of the mass, and had consecrated several wafers.

"Everything confirmed the opinion, that the conjuror, up to the
present moment, merely supposed himself sent for to satisfy the
curiosity of some country nobleman and his lady, who were both
anxious and eager to read their future fortune thro' his assistance.
I can only suppose, if he had been in ignorance of the real rank
of those who addressed him, the sight of the king must have
quickly undeceived him, as the conclusion of the story proves he
well knew to whom he spoke when he delivered his prediction.
However this may have been, he was no sooner alone with the
marchioness, than he commenced the necessary preparations for
the performance of his sorceries and enchantments; he burned
perfumes, offered prayers, and with loud invocations adjured the
powers of hell to answer him; and in the midst of a wild and
agitating sound which pervaded the whole building, during the
heavy swell of noises too dreadful to have arisen from mortal
sources, and whilst a thousand visions were flitting to and fro,
he drew the horoscope of the king and madame de Maintenon.  He
promised Louis XIV that he should succeed in all his undertakings;
and that, on the very day on which he spoke the words (the 2nd
of October) one of his children had been called to the inheritance
of an immense fortune.  Then giving him a small packet, wrapped
in new parchment, 'The day in which you form the fatal resolution
of acquainting yourself with the contents of this packet,' said
he, 'will be the last of your prosperity; but if you desire to
carry your good fortune to the highest pitch, be careful upon
every great festival, that is to say, Easter, Whit-Sunday, the
Assumption, and Christmas, to plunge a pin in this talisman, so
that the point shall pass directly thro' it; observe to do this,
and you will live perfectly happy.'

"The king accepted this fatal present, and swore upon the Gospel
never to open the packet; he richly rewarded the priest, who from
 that period lived in a retreat so well concealed as to evade the
most diligent researches of those who sought to discover it.

"Some time after news was received, that on the very 2nd of
October, 1700, named by the priest, Charles II, king of Spain,
had appointed in his will Philip of France, son of the dauphin,
his successor and heir, an inheritance truly immense, as the
astrologer had foretold.  You may well think how highly this
realization of the prediction inspired the king with confidence
as to the fulfilment of the remainder: and, on his part, he never
failed upon any saint's day or other solemn festival to stick the
mysterious pin in the talisman upon which so much depended.

"Nevertheless, spite of all these observances, his undertakings 
did not invariably succeed, which astonished him greatly; when one
day the great Bossuet, happening to be at madame de Maintenon's,
the conversation turned upon magic and sorcery, necromancy and
their horrible profanations; and he expressed himself with so much
force and energy, that the king and madame de Maintenon looked
at each other without knowing what to say, and began, for the
first time, to feel compunction for what they had done, and to
regret their imprudence.  They talked of it much together, and at
length resolved to reveal their crime to their confessors.  The
punishment imposed on the king by his spiritual adviser was, that
he should evince his contempt for the talismanic properties of
the parchment packet, by immediately opening it.

"Louis XIV did not by any means admire this method of expiating
his fault; and a sort of involuntary dread took possession of him,
as, in obedience to the command of his confessor, he went to
procure the magic parcel, which he tore open in the presence of
madame de Maintenon and father la Chaise.  The packet contained
nothing but a consecrated wafer, pierced thro' with as many pins
as there had been saints' days since the king had received it.  At
the sight of this horrible sacrilege my grandfather was filled
with deep remorse and consternation, from which it was a long
time ere he recovered; and it was not until he had undergone
many severe penances, fastings, and caused numberless masses to
be said, that he felt himself at all relieved from the weight of
his crime.

"But all this was only the commencement of the divine vengeance:
and those in the secret of this unfortunate affair remarked, that
this great monarch lost from that time as many male descendants
in a direct line as he had stuck pins into the holy wafer."

Louis XV here terminated his singular history, which struck my
mind with a sort of religious terror.  I strove by every possible
effort to dissimulate, concealing from the king the emotions to
which his narration had given rise.  I contented myself with
observing, "that after hearing his marvelous recital, I should
only be more confirmed in my determination to leave my young
prophet to the tranquillity he desired."

"It will be far best so," added Louis; "I know so many
fatal results which have followed any indiscreet curiosity,
that I am persuaded you had much better leave such
mysterious affairs to work their own solution."

I promised to follow his advice, and we then conversed
upon other subjects.  Since then this anecdote has recurred to
my memory; and without wishing to impeach the sincerity of
Louis XV, I have asked myself, whether, by the opportune relation

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