"I thank you—oh, I thank you!" cried Marie Antoinette. "You have lifted heavy doubts from my heart and strengthened my courage. I thank you!"
And, with beaming eyes and a sweet smile, she extended both her hands to the baron.
He pressed them tightly within his own, and, sinking upon his knee, drew the royal hands with a glow to his lips.
"Oh, my queen, my mistress!" he cried, passionately, "behold at your feet your most faithful servant, your most devoted slave. Receive from me the oath of my eternal devotion and love. You have honored me with your confidence, you have called me your friend. But my soul and my heart glow for another name. Speak the word, Marie Antoinette, the word—"
The queen drew back, and the paleness of death spread over her cheeks. She had at the outset listened with amazement, then with horror and indignation, to the insolent words of the baron, and gradually her gentle features assumed a fierce and disdainful expression.
"My lord," she said, with the noble dignity of a queen, "I told you before that God is above us, and hears our words. You have spoken, wantonly, and God has heard you. To Him I leave the punishment of your wantonness. Stand up, my lord! the king shall know nothing of an insult which would have brought you into ignominy with him forever. But if you ever, by a glance or a gesture, recall this both wanton and ridiculous scene, the king shall hear all from me!"
And while the queen pointed, with a proud and dignified gesture, to the place which was their goal, she said, with commanding tone:
"Go before, my lord; I will follow you alone." The Baron de Besenval, the experienced courtier, the practised man of the world, was undergoing what was new to him; he felt himself perplexed, ashamed, and no longer master of his words. He had risen from his knees, and, after making a stiff obeisance to the queen, he turned and went with a swift step and crestfallen look along the path which the queen had indicated.
Marie Antoinette followed him with her eyes so long as he remained in sight, then looked with a long, sad glance around her.
"And so I am alone again," she whispered, "and poorer by one illusion more. Ah, and is it then true that there is no friendship for me; must every friend be an envier or else a lover? Even this man, whom I honored with my confidence, toward whom I cherished the feeling of a pupil toward a teacher, even this man has dared to insult me! Ah, must my heart encounter a new wonder every day, and must my happiness be purchased with so many pains?"
And with a deep cry of pain the queen drew her hands to her face, and wept bitterly. All around was still. Only here and there were heard the songs of the birds in the bushes, light and dreamy; while the trees, swayed by the wind, gently whispered, as if they wanted to quiet the grief of the queen, and dry up those tears which fell upon the flowers.
All at once, after a short pause, the queen let her hands fall again, and raised her head with proud and defiant energy.
"Away with tears!" she said. "What would my friends say were they to see me? What buzzing and whispering would there be, were they to see that the gentle queen, the always happy and careless Marie Antoinette, had shed tears? Oh, my God!" she cried, raising her large eyes to heaven, "I have today paid interest enough for my happiness; preserve for me at least the capital, and I will cheerfully pay the world the highest rates, such as only a miserly usurer can desire."
And with a proud spirit, and a lofty carriage, the queen strode forward along the path. The bushes began to let the light through, and the queen emerged from the English garden into the small plain, in whose midst Marie Antoinette had erected her Arcadia, her dream of paradise. The queen stood still, and with a countenance which quickly kindled with joy, and with eyes which beamed with pleasure, looked at the lovely view which had been called into being by the skill of her architect, Hubert Robert.
And the queen might well rejoice in this creation, this poetic idyl, which arose out of the splendor of palaces like a violet in the sand, and among the variegated tropical flowers which adorn the table of a king. Closely adjoining each other were little houses like those in which peasants live, the peasant women being the proud ladies of the royal court. A little brook babbled behind the houses, and turned with its foaming torrent the white wheel of the mill which was at the extremity of the village. Near the mill, farther on, stood entirely alone a little peasant's house, especially tasteful and elegant. It was surrounded by flower beds, vineyards, and laurel paths. The roof was covered with straw; the little panes were held by leads to the sashes. It was the home of Marie Antoinette. The queen herself made the drawings, and wrought out the plan. It was her choice that it should be small, simple, and modest; that it should have not the slightest appearance of newness, and that rents and fissures should be represented on the wall by artificial contrivances, so as to give the house an old look, and an appearance of having been injured. She had little thought how speedily time could demolish the simple pastimes of a queen. Close by stood a still smaller house, known as the milk room. It was close to the brook. And when Marie Antoinette, with her peasant women, had milked the cows, they bore the milk through the village in white buckets, with silver handles, to the milk room, where it was poured out into pretty, white pans standing on tables of white marble. On the other side of the road was the house of the chief magistrate of the village, and close by lived the schoolmaster.
Marie Antoinette had had a care for everything. There were bins to preserve the new crops in, and before the hay scaffoldings were ladders leading up to the fragrant hay. "Ah, the world is beautiful," said Marie Antoinette, surveying her creation with a cheerful look. "I will enjoy the pleasant hours, and be happy here."
She walked rapidly forward, casting friendly glances up to the houses to see whether the peasants had not hid them-selves within, and were waiting for her. But all was still, and not one of the inhabitants peeped out from a single window. All at once the stillness was broken by a loud clattering sound. The white wheel of the mill began to turn, and at the door appeared the corpulent form of the miller in his white garments, with his smiling, meal powdered face, and with the white cap upon his head.
The queen uttered an exclamation of delight, and ran with quick steps toward the mill. But before she could reach it, the door of the official's house opposite opened, and the mayor, in his black costume, and with the broad white ribbon around his neck; the Spanish cane, with a gold knob, in his hand, and wearing his black, three-cornered hat, issued from the dwelling. He advanced directly to Marie Antoinette, and resting his hands upon his sides and assuming a threatening mien, placed himself in front of her.
"We are very much dissatisfied with you, for you neglect your duties of hospitality in a most unbecoming manner. We must have you give your testimony why you have come so late, for the flowers are all hanging their heads, the nightingales will not sing any more, and the lambs in the meadow will not touch the sweetest grass. Every thing is parching and dying because you are not here, and with desire to see you."
"That is not true," cried another merry voice; the window of the school house opened with a rattle, and the jolly young schoolmaster looked out and threatened with his rod the grave mayor.
"How can you say, sir, that every thing is going to ruin? Am I not here to keep the whole together? Since the unwise people stopped learning, I have become the schoolmaster of the dear kine, and am giving them lessons in the art of making life agreeable. I am the dancing master of the goats, and have opened a ballet school for the kids."
Marie Antoinette laughed aloud. "Mister schoolmaster," said she, "I am very desirous to have a taste of your skill, and I desire you to give a ballet display this afternoon upon the great meadow. So far as you are concerned, Mr. Mayor," she said, with a laughing nod, "I desire you to exercise a little forbearance, and to pardon some things in me for my youth's sake."
"As if my dear sister-in-law now needed any looking after!" cried the mayor, with an emphatic tone.
"Ah, my Lord de Provence," said the queen, smiling, "you are falling out of your part, and forgetting two things. The first, that I am not the queen here; and the second, that here in Trianon all flatteries are forbidden."
"It lies in you, whether the truth should appear as flattery," answered the Count de Provence, slightly bowing.
"That is an answer worthy of a scholar," cried the schoolmaster, Count d'Artois. "Brother, you do not know the A B C of gallantry. You must go to school to me."
"I do not doubt, brother Charles, that in this thing I could learn very much of you," said the Count de Provence, smiling. "Meanwhile, I am not sure that my wife would be satisfied with the instruction."
"Some time we will ask her about it," said the queen. "Good-by, my brothers, I must first greet my dear miller."
She rushed forward, sprang with a flying step up the little wooden stairway, and threw both her arms around the neck of the miller, who, laughingly, pressed her to his heart, and drew her within the mill.
"I thank you, Louis!" cried the queen, bending forward and pressing the hand of her husband to her lips. "What a pleasant surprise you have prepared for me; and how good it is in you to meet me here in my pleasant plantation!"
"Did you not say but lately that you wanted this masquerade?" asked the king, with a pleasant smile. "Did not you yourself assign the parts, and appoint me to be the miller, the Count de Provence to be mayor, and the whimsical Artois to be schoolmaster de par la reine, as it runs here in Trianon, and do you wonder now that we, as it becomes the obedient, follow our queen's commands, and undertake the charge which she intrusts to us?" "Oh, Louis, how good you are!" said the queen, with tears in her eyes. "I know indeed how little pleasure you, so far as you yourself are concerned, find in these foolish sports and idle acts, and yet you sacrifice your own wishes and take part in our games." "That is because I love you!" said the king with simplicity, and a smile of pleasure beautified his broad, good natured face. "Yes, Marie, I love you tenderly, and it gives me joy to contribute to your happiness."
The queen gently laid her arm around Louis's neck, and let her head fall upon his shoulder. "Do you still know, Louis," asked she, "do you still know what you said to me when you gave Trianon to me?"
"Well," said the king, shaking his head slowly. "You said to me, 'You love flowers. I will present to you a whole bouquet. I give you Little Trianon.' [Footnote: The very words of the king.—See "Memoire de Marquis de Crequy," vol. iv.] My dear sire! you have given me not only a bouquet of flowers, but a bouquet of pleasant hours, of happy years, for which I thank you, and you alone."
"And may this bouquet never wither, Marie!" said the king, laying his hand as if in blessing on the head of his wife, and raising his good, blue eyes with a pious and prayerful look. "But, my good woman," said he then, after a little pause, "you quite let me forget the part I have to play, and the mill wheel is standing still again, since the miller is not there. It is, besides, in wretched order, and it is full needful that I practise my art of black smith here a little, and put better screws and springs in the machine. But listen! what kind of song is that without?"
"Those are the peasants greeting us with their singing," said the queen, smiling. "Come, Mr. Miller, let us show ourselves to them."
She drew the king out upon the small staircase. Directly at the foot of it stood the king's two brothers, the Counts de Provence and Artois, as chief official and schoolmaster, and behind them the duchesses and princesses, dukes and counts, arrayed as peasants. In united chorus they greeted the mistress and the miller:
"Oil peut-on etre mieux, Qu'au seiu de sa famille?"
The queen smiled, and yet tears glittered in her eyes, tears of joy.
Those were happy hours which the royal pair spent that day in Trianon—hours of such bright sunshine that Marie Antoinette quite forgot the sad clouds of the morning, and gave herself undisturbed to the enjoyment of this simple, country life. They sat down to a country dinner—a slight, simple repast, brought together from the resources of the hen-coop, the mill, and the milk-room. Then the whole company went out to lie down in the luxuriant grass which grew on the border of the little grove, and looked at the cows grazing before them on the meadow, and with stately dignity pursuing the serious occupation of chewing the cud. But as peasants have something else to do than to live and enjoy, their mistress, Marie Antoinette, soon left her resting-place to set her people a good example in working. The spinning-wheel was brought and set upon a low stool; Marie Antoinette began to spin. How quickly the wheel began to turn, as if it were the wheel of fortune—to-day bringing joy, and to-morrow calamity!
The evening has not yet come, and the wheel of fortune is yet turning, yet calamity is there.
Marie Antoinette does not yet know it; her eye still beams with joy, a happy smile still plays upon her rosy lips. She is sitting now with her company by the lake, with the hook in her hand, and looking with laughing face and fixed attention at the rod, and crying aloud as often as she catches a fish. For these fishes are to serve as supper for the company, and the queen has ceremoniously invited her husband to an evening meal, which she herself will serve and prepare. The queen smiles still and is happy; her spinning-wheel is silent, but the wheel of fate is moving still.
The king is no longer there. He has withdrawn into the mill to rest himself.
And yet there he is not alone. Who ventures to disturb him? It must be something very serious. For it is well known that the king very seldom goes to Trianon, and that when he is there he wishes to be entirely free from business.
And yet he is disturbed today; yet the premier, Baron de Breteuil, is come to seek the miller of Little Trianon, and to beseech him even there to be the king again.
THE QUEEN'S NECKLACE.
Directly after a page, arrayed in the attire of a miller's boy, had announced the Baron de Breteuil, the king with drew into his chamber and resumed his own proper clothing. He drew on the long, gray coat, the short trousers of black velvet, the long, gold embroidered waistcoat of gray satin; and over this the bright, thin ribbon of the Order of Louis-the attire in which the king was accustomed to present himself on gala-days.
With troubled, disturbed countenance, he then entered the little apartment where his chief minister, the Baron de Breteuil, was awaiting him.
"Tell me quickly," ejaculated the king, "do you bring bad news? Has any thing unexpected occurred?"
"Sire," answered the minister, respectfully, "something unexpected at all events, but whether something bad will be learned after further investigation."
"Investigation!" cried the king. "Then do you speak of a crime?"
"Yes, sire, of a crime-the crime of a base deception, and, as it seems, of a defalcation involving immense sums and objects of great value."
"Ah," said the king, with a sigh of relief, "then the trouble is only one of money."
"No, sire, it is one which concerns the honor of the queen."
Louis arose, while a burning flush of indignation passed over his face.
"Will they venture again to assail the honor of the queen?" he asked.
"Yes, sire," answered Breteuil, with his invincible calmness—"yes, sire, they will venture to do so. And at this time it is so infernal and deeply-laid a plan that it will be difficult to get at the truth. Will your majesty allow me to unfold the details of the matter somewhat fully?"
"Speak, baron, speak," said the king, eagerly, taking his seat upon a wooden stool, and motioning to the minister to do the same.
"Sire," answered the premier, with a bow, "I will venture to sit, because I am in fact a little exhausted with my quick run hither."
"And is the matter so pressing?" muttered the king, drawing out his tobacco-box, and in his impatience rolling it between his fingers.
"Yes, very pressing," answered Breteuil, taking his seat. "Does your majesty remember the beautiful necklace which the court jeweller, Bohmer, some time since had the honor to offer to your majesty?"
"Certainly, I remember it," answered the king, quickly nodding. "The queen showed herself on that occasion just as unselfish and magnanimous as she always is. It was told me that her majesty had very much admired the necklace which Bohmer had showed to her, and yet had declined to purchase it, because it seemed to her too dear. I wanted to buy it and have the pleasure of offering it to the queen, but she decisively refused it."
"We well remember the beautiful answer which her majesty gave to her husband," said Breteuil, gently bowing. "All Paris repeated with delight the words which her majesty uttered: 'Sir, we have more diamonds than ships. Buy a ship with this money!'" [Footnote: "Correspondence Secrete de la Cour de Louis XVI."]
"You have a good memory," said the king, "for it is five years since this happened. Bohmer has twice made the attempt since then to sell this costly necklace to me, but I have dismissed him, and at last forbidden him to allude to the matter again."
"I believe that he has, meanwhile, ventured to trouble the queen several times about the necklace. It appears that he had almost persuaded himself that your majesty would purchase it. Years ago he caused stones to be selected through all Europe, wishing to make a necklace of diamonds which should be alike large, heavy, and brilliant. The queen refusing to give him his price of two million francs, he offered it at last for one million eight hundred thousand."
"I have heard of that," said the king. "Her majesty was at last weary of the trouble, and gave command that the court jeweller, Bohmer, should not be admitted."
"Every time, therefore, that he came to Versailles he was refused admittance. He then had recourse to writing, and two weeks ago her majesty received from him a begging letter, in which he said that he should be very happy if, through his instrumentality, the queen could possess the finest diamonds in Europe, and imploring her majesty not to forget her court jeweller. The queen read this letter, laughing, to her lady-in-waiting, Madame de Campan, and said it seemed as if the necklace had deprived the good Bohmer of his reason. But not wishing to pay any further attention to his letter or to answer it, she burned the paper in a candle which was accidentally standing on her table."
"Good Heaven! How do you know these details?" asked the king, in amazement.
"Sire, I have learned them from Madame de Campan herself, as I was compelled to speak with her about the necklace."
"But what is it about this necklace? What has the queen to do with that?" asked the king, wiping with a lace handkerchief the sweat which stood in great drops upon his lofty forehead.
"Sire, the court jeweller, Bohmer, asserts that he sold the necklace of brilliants to the queen, and now desires to be paid."
"The queen is right," exclaimed the king, "the man is out of his head. If he did sell the necklace to the queen, there must have been witnesses present to confirm it, and the keepers of her majesty's purse would certainly know about it."
"Sire, Bohmer asserts that the queen caused it to be bought of him in secret, through a third hand, and that this confidential messenger was empowered to pay down thirty thousand francs, and to promise two hundred thousand more."
"What is the name of this confidential messenger? What do they call him?"
"Sire," answered the Baron de Breteuil, solemnly—"sire, it is the cardinal and grand almoner of your majesty, Prince Louis de Rohan."
The king uttered a loud cry, and sprang quickly from his seat.
"Rohan?" asked he. "And do they dare to bring this man whom the queen hates, whom she scorns, into relations with her? Ha, Breteuil! you can go; the story is too foolishly put together for any one to believe it."
"Your majesty, Bohmer has, in the mean while, believed it, and has delivered the necklace to the cardinal, and received the queen's promise to pay, written with her own hand."
"Who says that? How do you know all the details?"
"Sire, I know it by a paper of Bohmer's, who wrote to me after trying in vain several times to see me. The letter was a tolerably confused one, and I did not understand it. But as he stated in it that the queen's lady-in-waiting advised him to apply to me as the minister of the royal house, I considered it best to speak with Madame de Campan. What I learned of her is so important that I begged her to accompany me to Trianon, and to repeat her statement before your majesty."
"Is Campan then in Trianon?" asked the king.
"Yes, sire; and on our arrival we learned that Bohmer had just been there, and was most anxious to speak to the queen. He had been denied admission as always, and had gone away weeping and scolding."
"Come," said the king, "let us go to Trianon; I want to speak with Campan."
And with quick, rapid steps the king, followed by the minister Breteuil, left the mill, and shunning the main road in order not to be seen by the queen, struck into the little side-path that led thither behind the houses.
"Campan," said the king, hastily entering the little toilet-room of the queen, where the lady-in-waiting was—"Campan, the minister has just been telling me a singular and incredible history. Yet repeat to me your last conversation with Bohmer."
"Sire," replied Madame de Campan, bowing low, "does your majesty command that I speak before the queen knows of the matter?"
"Ah," said the king, turning to the minister, "you see I am right. The queen knows nothing of this, else she would certainly have spoken to me about it. Thank God, the queen withholds no secrets from me! I thank you for your question, Campan. It is better that the queen be present at our interview. I will send for her to come here." And the king hastened to the door, opened it, and called, "Are any of the queen's servants here?"
The voice of the king was so loud and violent that the chamberlain, Weber, who was in the little outer antechamber, heard it, and at once rushed in.
"Weber," cried the king to him, "hasten at once to Little Trianon. Beg the queen, in my name, to have the goodness to come to the palace within a quarter of an hour, to consult about a weighty matter that allows no delay. But take care that the queen be not alarmed, and that she do not suspect that sad news has come regarding her family. Hasten, Weber! And now, baron," continued the king, closing the door, "now you shall be convinced by your own eyes and ears that the queen will be as amazed and as little acquainted with all these things as I myself. I wish, therefore, that you would be present at the interview which I shall have with my wife and Campan, without the queen's knowing that you are near. You will be convinced at once in this way of the impudent and shameless deception that they have dared to play. Where does that door lead to, Campan?" asked the king, pointing to the white, gold-bordered door, at whose side two curtains of white satin, wrought with roses, were secured.
"Sire, it leads to the small reception room."
"Will the queen pass that way when she comes?"
"No, your majesty, she is accustomed to take the same way which your majesty took, through the antechamber."
"Good. Then, baron, go into the little saloon. Leave the door open, and do you, Campan, loosen the curtains and let them fall over the door, that the minister may hear without being seen."
A quarter of an hour had scarcely elapsed when the queen entered the toilet-chamber, with glowing cheeks, and under visible excitement. The king went hastily to her, took her hand and pressed it to his lips.
"Forgiveness, Marie, that I have disturbed you in the midst of your pleasures."
"Tell me, quickly," cried the queen, impatiently. "What is it? Is it a great misfortune?"
"No, Marie, but a great annoyance, which is so far a misfortune in that the name of your majesty is involved in a disagreeable and absurd plot. The court jeweller, Bohmer, asserts that he has sold a necklace to your majesty for one million eight hundred thousand francs."
"But the man is crazy," cried the queen. "Is that all your majesty had to say to me?"
"I beg that Campan will repeat the conversation which she had yesterday with Bohmer."
And the king beckoned with his hand to the lady-in-waiting, who, at the entrance of the queen, had modestly taken her seat at the back part of the room.
"How!" cried the queen, amazed, now first perceiving Campan. "What do you here? What does all this mean?"
"Your majesty, I came to Trianon to inform you about the conversation which I had yesterday with Bohmer. When I arrived I found he had just been here."
"And what did he want?" cried the queen. "Did you not tell me, Campan, that he no longer possesses this unfortunate necklace, with which he has been making a martyr of me for years? Did you not tell me that he had sold it to the Grand Sultan, to go to Constantinople?"
"I repeated to your majesty what Bohmer said to me. Meanwhile I beg now your gracious permission to repeat my to-day's interview with Bohmer. Directly after your majesty had gone to Trianon with the Duchess de Polignac, the court jeweller Bohmer was announced. He came with visible disquiet and perplexity, and asked me whether your majesty had left no commission for him. I answered him that the queen had not done so, that in one word she had no commission for him, and that she was tired of his eternal pestering. ' But,' said Bohmer, 'I must have an answer to the letter that I sent to her, and to whom must I apply?' 'To nobody,' I answered. 'Her majesty has burned your letter without reading it.' 'Ah! madame,' cried he, 'that is impossible. The queen knows that she owes me money.' "
"I owe him money!" cried the queen, horrified. "How can the miserable man dare to assert such a thing?"
"That I said to him, your majesty, but he answered, with complete self possession, that your majesty owed him a million and some five hundred thousand francs, and when I asked him in complete amazement for what articles your majesty owed him such a monstrous sum, he answered, 'For my necklace.'"
"This miserable necklace again!" exclaimed the queen. "It seems as if the man made it only to make a martyr of me with it. Year after year I hear perpetually about this necklace, and it has been quite in vain that, with all my care and good-will, I have sought to drive from him this fixed idea that I must buy it. He is so far gone in his illusion as to assert that I have bought it."
"Madame, this man is not insane," said the king, seriously. "Listen further. Go on, Campan."
"I laughed," continued Madame de Campan, "and asked him how he could assert such a thing, when he told me only a few months ago that he had sold the necklace to the Sultan. Then he replied that the queen had ordered him to give this answer to every one that asked about the necklace. Then he told me further, that your majesty had secretly bought the necklace, and through the instrumentality of the Lord Cardinal de Rohan."
"Through Rohan?" cried the queen, rising. "Through the man whom I hate and despise? And is there a man in France who can believe this, and who does not know that the cardinal is the one who stands the lowest in my favor!"
"I said to Mr. Bohmer—I said to him that he was deceived, that the queen would never make a confidant of Cardinal Rohan, and he made me this very answer: 'You deceive yourself, madame. The cardinal stands so high in favor, and maintains such confidential relations with her majesty, that she had sent, through his hands, thirty thousand francs as a first payment. The queen took this money in the presence of the cardinal, from the little secretary of Sevres porcelain, which stands near to the chimney in her boudoir.' 'And did the cardinal really say that?' I asked; and when he reaffirmed it, I told him that he was deceived. He now began to be very much troubled, and said, 'Good Heaven! what if you are right, what if I am deceived! There has already a suspicion come to me; the cardinal promised me that on Whit-sunday the queen would wear the collar, and she did not do so; so this determined me to write to her.' When now, full of anxiety, he asked what advice I could give him, I at once bade him go to Lord Breteuil and tell him all. He promised to do so, and went. But I hastened to come hither to tell your majesty the whole story, but when I arrived I found the unhappy jeweller already here, and he only went away after I gave him my promise to speak to- day with your majesty."
The queen had at the outset listened with speechless amazement, and as Campan approached the close of her communication, her eyes opened wider and wider. She had stood as rigid as a statue. But now all at once life and animation took possession of this statue; a glowing purple-red diffused itself over her cheeks, and directing her eyes, which blazed with wonderful fire, to the king, she said, with a loud and commanding voice, "Sire, you have heard this story. Your wife is accused, and the queen is even charged with having a secret understanding with Cardinal Rohan. I desire an investigation—a rigid, strict investigation. Call at once, Lord Breteuil, that we may take counsel with him. But I insist upon having this done."
"And your will is law, madame," said the king, directing an affectionate glance at the excited face of the queen. "Come out, Breteuil!"
And as between the curtains appeared the serious, sad face of the minister, the king turned to his wife and said: "I wished that he might be a secret witness of this interview, and survey the position which you should take in this matter."
"Oh, sire!" exclaimed Marie Antoinette, extending her hand to him, "so you did not for an instant doubt my innocence?"
"No, truly, not a moment," answered the king, with a smile. "But now come, madame, we will consider with Breteuil what is to be done, and then we will summon the Abbe de Viermont, that he may take part in our deliberations."
On the next day, the 15th of August, a brilliant, select company was assembled in the saloons of Versailles. It was a great holiday, Ascension-day, and the king and the queen, with the entire court, intended to be present at the mass, which the cardinal and the grand almoner would celebrate in the chapel.
The entire brilliant court was assembled; the cardinal arrayed in his suitable apparel, and wearing all the tokens of his rank, had entered the great reception room, and only awaited the arrival of the royal pair, to lead them into the church. The fine and much admired face of the cardinal wore today a beaming expression, and his great black eyes were continually directed, while he was talking with the Duke de Conti and the Count d'Artois, toward the door through which the royal couple would enter. All at once the portal opened, a royal page stepped in and glanced searchingly around; and seeing the towering figure of the cardinal in the middle of the hall, he at once advanced through the glittering company, and approached the cardinal. "Monseigneur," he whispered to him, "his majesty is awaiting your eminence's immediate appearance in the cabinet."
The cardinal broke off abruptly his conversation with Lord Conti, hurried through the hall and entered the cabinet.
No one was there except the king and queen, and in the background of the apartment, in the recess formed by a window, the premier, Baron Breteuil, the old and irreconcilable enemy of the proud cardinal, who in this hour would have his reward for his year long and ignominious treatment of the prince.
The cardinal had entered with a confident, dignified bearing; but the cold look of the king and the flaming eye of the queen appeared to confuse him a little, and his proud eye sank to the ground.
"You have been buying diamonds of Bohmer?" asked the king, brusquely.
"Yes, sire," answered the cardinal.
"What have you done with them? Answer me, I command you."
"Sire," said the cardinal, after a pause, "I supposed that they were given to the queen."
"Who intrusted you with this commission?"
"Sire, a lady named Countess Lamotte-Valois. She gave me a letter from her majesty, and I believed that I should be doing the queen a favor if I should undertake the care of the commission which the queen had the grace to intrust to me."
"I!" cried the queen, with an expression of intense scorn, "should I intrust you with a commission in my behalf? I, who for eight years have never deigned to bestow a word upon you? And I should employ such a person as you, a beggar of places?"
"I see plainly," cried the cardinal, "I see plainly that some one has deceived you grievously about me. I will pay for the necklace. The earnest wish to please your majesty has blinded your eyes regarding me. I have planned no deception, and am now bitterly undeceived. But I will pay for the necklace."
"And you suppose that that ends all!" said the queen, with a burst of anger. "You think that, with a pitiful paying for the brilliants, you can atone for the disgrace which you have brought upon your queen? No, no, sir; I desire a rigid investigation. I insist upon it that all who have taken part in this ignominious deception be brought to a relentless investigation. Give me the proofs that you have been deceived, and that you are not much rather the deceiver."
"Ah, madame," cried the cardinal, with a look at once so full of reproach and confidence, that the queen fairly shook with anger. "Here are the proofs of my innocence," continued he, drawing a small portfolio from his pocket, and taking from it a folded paper. "There is the letter of the queen to the Countess Lamotte, in which her majesty empowered me to purchase the diamonds."
The king took the paper, looked over it hastily, read the signature, and gave it, with a suspicious shrug of the shoulders, to his wife.
The queen seized the letter with the wild fury of a tigress, which has at last found its prey, and with breathless haste ran over the paper. Then she broke out into loud, scornful laughter, and, pointing to the letter, she looked at the cardinal with glances of flame.
"That is not my handwriting, that is not my signature!" cried she, furiously. "How are you—sir, a prince and grand almoner of France— how are you so ignorant, so foolish, as to believe that I could subscribe myself 'Marie Antoinette of France?' Everybody knows that queens write only their baptismal names as signatures, and you alone have not known that?"
"I see into it," muttered the cardinal, pale under the look of the queen, and so weak that he had to rest upon the table for support, "I see into it; I have been dreadfully deceived."
The king took a paper from his table and gave it to the cardinal. "Do you confess that you wrote this letter to Bohmer, in which you send him thirty thousand francs in behalf of the queen, in part payment for the necklace?"
"Yes, sire, I confess it," answered the cardinal, with a low voice, which seemed to contradict what he uttered.
"He confesses it," cried the queen, gnashing her teeth, and making up her little hand into a clinched fist. "He has held me fit for such infamy—me, his queen!"
"You assert that you bought the jewels for the queen. Did you deliver them in person?"
"No, sire, the Countess Lamotte did that."
"In your name, cardinal?"
"Yes, in my name, sire, and she gave at the same time a receipt to the queen for one hundred and fifty thousand francs, which I lent the queen toward the purchase."
"And what reward did you have from the queen?"
The cardinal hesitated; then, as he felt the angry, cold, and contemning look of the queen resting upon him, the red blood mounted into his face, and with a withering glance at Marie Antoinette, he said:
"You wish, madame, that I should speak the whole truth! Sire, the queen rewarded me for this little work of love in a manner worthy of a queen. She granted me an appointment in the park of Versailles."
At this new and fearful charge, the queen cried aloud, and, springing forward like a tigress, she seized the arm of her husband and shook it.
"Sire," said she, "listen to this high traitor, bringing infamy upon a queen! Will you bear it? Can his purple protect the villain?"
"No, it cannot, and it shall not!" cried the king. "Breteuil, do your duty. And you, cardinal, who venture to accuse your queen, to scandalize the good name of the wife of your king, go."
"Sire," stammered the cardinal, "sire, I—"
"Not a word," interrupted the king, raising his hand and pointing toward the door, "out, I say, out with you!"
The cardinal staggered to the door, and entered the hall filled with a glittering throng, who were still whispering, laughing, and walking to and fro.
But hardly had he advanced a few steps, when behind him, upon the threshold of the royal cabinet, appeared the minister Breteuil.
"Lieutenant," cried Breteuil, with a loud voice, turning to the officer in command of the guard, "lieutenant, in the name of the king, arrest the Cardinal de Rohan, and take him under escort to the Bastile."
A general cry of horror followed these words, which rolled like a crashing thunder-clap through the careless, coquetting, and unsuspecting company. Then followed a breathless silence.
All eyes were directed to the cardinal, who, pale as death, and yet maintaining his noble carriage, walked along at ease.
At this point a young officer, pale like the cardinal, like all in fact, approached the great ecclesiastic, and gently took his arm.
"Cardinal," said he, with sorrowful tone, "in the name of the king, I arrest your eminence. I am ordered, monseigneur, to conduct you to the Bastile."
"Come, then, my son," answered the cardinal, quickly, making his way slowly through the throng, which respectfully opened to let him pass—" come, since the king commands it, let us go to the Bastile."
He passed on to the door. But when the officer had opened it, he turned round once more to the hall. Standing erect, with all the exalted dignity of his station and his person, he gave the amazed company his blessing.
Then the door closed behind him, and with pale faces the lords and ladies of the court dispersed to convey the horrible tidings to Versailles and Paris, that the king had caused the cardinal, the grand almoner of France, to be arrested in his official robes, and that it was the will of the queen.
And the farther the tidings rolled the more the report enlarged, like an avalanche of calumnies.
In the evening, Marat thundered in his club: "Woe, woe to the Austrian! She borrowed money of the Cardinal de Rohan to buy jewels for herself, jewels while the people hungered. Now, when the cardinal wants his money, the queen denies having received the money, and lets the head of the Church be dragged to the Bastile.
"Woe, woe to the Austrian!"
"Woe, woe to the Austrian!" muttered brother Simon, who sat near the platform on which Marat was. "We shall not forget it that she buys her jewels for millions of francs, while we have not a sou to buy bread with. Woe to the Austrian!"
And all the men of the club raised their fists and muttered with him, "Woe to the Austrian!"
ENEMIES AND FRIENDS.
All Paris was in an uproar and in motion in all the streets; the people assembled in immense masses at all the squares, and listened with abated breath to the speakers who had taken their stand amid the groups, and who were confirming the astonished hearers respecting the great news of the day.
"The Lord Cardinal de Rohan, the grand almoner of the king," cried a Franciscan monk, who had taken his station upon a curbstone, at the corner of the Tuileries and the great Place de Carrousel—"Cardinal de Rohan has in a despotic manner been deprived of his rights and his freedom. As a dignitary of the Church, he is not under the ordinary jurisdiction, and only the Pope is the rightful lord of a cardinal; only before the Holy Father can an accusation be brought against a servant of the Church. For it has been the law of the Church for centuries that it alone has the power to punish and accuse its servants, and no one has ever attempted to challenge that power. But do you know what has taken place? Cardinal de Rohan has been withdrawn from the jurisdiction of his rightful judges; he has been denied an ecclesiastical tribunal, and he is to be tried before Parliament as if he were an ordinary servant of the king; secular judges are going to sit in judgment upon this great church dignitary, and to charge him with a crime, when no crime has been committed! For what has he done, the grand almoner of France, cardinal, and cousin of the king? A lady, whom he believed to be in the queen's confidence, had told him that the queen wanted to procure a set of jewels, which she was unfortunately not able to buy, because her coffers, as a natural result of her well-known extravagance, were empty. The lady indicated to the lord cardinal that the queen would be delighted if he would advance a sum sufficient to buy the jewels with, and in his name she would cause the costly fabric to be purchased. The cardinal, all the while a devoted and true servant of the king, hastened to gratify the desire of the queen. He took this course with wise precaution, in order that the queen, whose violence is well known, should not apply to any other member of the court, and still further compromise the royal honor. And say yourselves, my noble friends, was it not much better that it should be the lord cardinal who should lend money to the queen, than Lord Lauzun, Count Coigny, or the musical Count Vaudreuil, the special favorite of the queen? Was it not better for him to make this sacrifice and do the queen this great favor?"
"Certainly it was better," cried the mob. "The lord cardinal is a noble man. Long live Cardinal de Rohan!"
"Perish the Austrian, perish the jewelled queen!" cried the cobbler Simon, who was standing amid the crowd, and a hundred voices muttered after him, "Perish the Austrian!"
"Listen, my dear people of Paris, you good natured lambs, whose wool is plucked off that the Austrian woman may have a softer bed," cried a shrieking voice; "hear what has occurred to-day. I can tell you accurately, for I have just come from Parliament, and a good friend of mine has copied for me the address with which the king is going to open the session today."
"Read it to us," cried the crowd. "Keep quiet there! keep still there! We want to hear the address. Read it to us."
"I will do it gladly, but you will not be able to understand me," shrieked the voice. "I am only little in comparison with you, as every one is little who opposes himself to the highest majesty of the earth, the people."
"Hear that," cried one of those who stood nearest to those a little farther away " hear that, he calls us majesties! He seems to be an excellent gentleman, and he does not look down upon us."
"Did you ever hear of a wise man looking down upon the prince royal, who is young, fair, and strong?" asked the barking voice.
"He is right, we cannot understand him," cried those who stood farthest away, pressing forward. "What did he say? He must repeat his words. Lift him up so that we all may hear him."
A broad shouldered, gigantic citizen, in good clothing, and with an open, spirited countenance, and a bold, defiant bearing, pressed through the crowd to the neighborhood of the speaker.
"Come, little man," cried he, "I will raise you up on my shoulder, and, but see, it is our friend Marat, the little man, but the great doctor!"
"And you truly, you are my friend Santerre, the great man and the greatest of doctors. For the beer which you get from his brewery is a better medicine for the people than all my electuaries can be. And you, my worthy friend of the hop-pole, will you condescend to take the ugly monkey Marat on your shoulders, that he may tell the people the great news of the day?"
Instead of answering, the brewer Santerre seized the little crooked man by both arms, swung him up with giant strength, and set him on his shoulders.
The people, delighted with the dexterity and strength of the herculean man, broke into a loud cheer, and applauded the brewer, whom all knew, and who was a popular personage in the city. But Marat, too, the horse-doctor of the Count d'Artois, as he called himself derisively, the doctor of poverty and misfortune, as his flatterers termed him—Marat, too, was known to many in the throng, and after Santerre had been applauded, they saluted Marat with a loud vivat, and with boisterous clapping of hands.
He turned his distorted, ugly visage toward the Tuileries, whose massive proportions towered up above the lofty trees of the gardens, and with a threatening gesture shook his fist at the royal palace.
"Have you heard it, you proud gods of the earth? Have you heard the sacred thunder mutterings of majesty? Are you not startled from the sleep of your vice, and compelled to fall upon your knees and pray, as poor sinners do before their judgment? But no. You do not see and you do not hear. Your ears are deaf and your hearts are sealed! Behind the lofty walls of Versailles, which a most vicious king erected for his menus plaisirs, there you indulge in your lusts, and shut out the voice of truth, which would speak to you here in Paris from the hallowed lips of the people."
"Long live Marat!" cried the cobbler Simon, who, drawn by the shouting, had left the Franciscan, and joined the throng in whose midst stood Santerre, with Marat on his shoulders. "Long live the great friend of the people! Long live Marat!"
"Long live Marat!" cried and muttered the people. "Marat heals the people when the gentry have made them sick, and taken the very marrow from their bones. Marat is no 'gentleman.' Marat does not look down upon the people!"
"My friends, I repeat to you what I said before," shrieked Marat. "Did you ever hear of a wise man looking down upon the crown prince, and thinking more of the king, who is old, unnerved by his vices, and blase! You, the people, you are the crown prince of France, and if you, at last, in your righteous and noble indignation, tread the tyrant under your feet, then the young prince, the people, will rule over France, and the beautiful words of the Bible will be fulfilled: 'There shall be one fold and one shepherd.' I have taken this improvised throne on the shoulders of a noble citizen only to tell you of an impropriety which the Queen of France has committed, and of the new usurpation with which she treads our laws under her feet, not tired out with opera-house balls and promenades by night. I will read you the address which the king sent to Parliament to-day, and with which the hearing of Cardinal de Rohan's case is to begin. Will the people hear it?"
"Yes, we will hear it," was the cry from all sides. "Read us the address."
Marat drew a dirty piece of paper from his pocket, and began to read with a loud, barking voice:
"Louis, by the grace of God, King of France and Navarre, to our dear and faithful counsellors, members of the court of our Parliament, greeting:
"It has come to our knowledge that parties named Bohmer and Bassenge have, without the knowledge of the queen, our much-loved consort and spouse, sold a diamond necklace, valued at one million six hundred thousand francs, to Cardinal de Rohan, who stated to them that he was acting in the matter under the queen's instructions. Papers were laid before them which they considered as approved and subscribed by the queen. After the said Bohmer and Bassenge had delivered the said necklace to the said cardinal, and had not received the first payment, they applied to the queen herself. We have beheld, not without righteous indignation, the eminent name, which in many ways is so dear to us, lightly spoken of, and denied the respect which is due to the royal majesty. We have thought that it pertains to the jurisdiction of our court to give a hearing to the said cardinal, and in view of the declaration which he has made before us, that he was deceived by a woman named Lamotte-Valois, we have held it necessary to secure his person, as well as that of Madame Valois, in order to bring all the parties to light who have been the instigators or abettors of such a plot. It is our will, therefore, that that matter come before the high court of Parliament, and that it be duly tried and judgment given."
"There you have this fine message," cried Marat; "there you have the web of his, which this Austrian woman has woven around us. For it is she who has sent this message to Parliament. You know well that we have no longer a King of France, but that all France is only the Trianon of the Austrian. It stands on all our houses, written over all the doors of government buildings, 'De par la reine!' The Austrian woman is the Queen of France, and the good-natured king only writes what she dictates to him. She says in this paper that these precautions have been taken in order that she may learn who are the persons who have joined in the attack upon her distinguished and much-loved person. Who, then, is the abettor of Madame Valois? Who has received the diamonds from the cardinal, through the instrumentality of Madame Valois? I assert, it is the queen who has done it. She received the jewels, and now she denies the whole story. And now this woman Lamotte-Valois must draw the hot chestnuts out from the ashes. You know this; so it always is! Kings may go unpunished, they always have a bete de souffrance, which has to bear their burdens. But now that a cardinal, the grand almoner of France, is compelled to become the bete de souffrance for this Austrian woman, must show you, my friends, that her arrogance has reached its highest point. She has trodden modesty and morals under foot, and now she will tread the Church under foot also."
"Be still!" was the cry on all sides. "The carbineers and gendarmes are coming. Be still, Marat, be still! You must not be arrested. We do not want all our friends to be taken to the Bastile."
And really just at that instant, at the entrance of the street that led to the square on the side of the Tuileries, appeared a division of carbineers, advancing at great speed.
Marat jumped with the speed of a cat down from the huge form of the brewer. The crowd opened and made way for him, and before the carbineers had approached, Marat had disappeared.
With this day began the investigations respecting the necklace which Messrs. Bohmer and Bassenge had wanted to sell the queen through the agency of Cardinal Bohan. The latter was still a prisoner in the Bastile. He was treated with all the respect due to his rank. He had a whole suite of apartments assigned to him; he was allowed to retain the service of both his chamberlains, and at times was permitted to see and converse with his relatives, although, it is true, in the presence of the governor of the Bastile. But Foulon was a very pious Catholic, and kept a respectful distance from the lord cardinal, who never failed on such occasions to give him his blessing. In the many hearings which the cardinal had to undergo, the president of the committee of investigation treated him with extreme consideration, and if the cardinal felt himself wearied, the sitting was postponed till another day. Moreover, at these hearings the defender of the cardinal could take part, in order to summon those witnesses or accused persons who could contribute to the release of the cardinal, and show that he had been the victim of a deeply-laid plot, and had committed no other wrong than that of being too zealous in the service of the queen.
News spread abroad of numerous arrests occurring in Paris. It had been known from the royal decree that the Countess Lamotte-Valois had likewise been arrested and imprisoned in the Bastile; but people were anxious to learn decisively whether Count Cagliostro, the wonder-doctor, had been seized. The story ran that a young woman in Brussels, who had been involved in the affair, and who had an extraordinary resemblance to the Queen Marie Antoinette, had been arrested, and brought to Paris for confinement in the Bastile.
All Paris, all France watched this contest with eager interest, which, after many months, was still far from a conclusion, and respecting which so much could be said.
The friends of the queen asserted that her majesty was completely innocent; that she had never spoken to the Countess Lamotte-Valois, and only once through her chamberlain. Weber had never sent her any assistance. But these friends of the queen were not numerous, and their number diminished every day.
The king had seen the necessity of making great reductions in the cost of maintaining his establishment, and in the government of the realm. France had had during the last years poor harvests. The people were suffering from a want of the bare necessities of life. The taxes could not be collected. A reform must be introduced, and those who before had rejoiced in a superfluity of royal gifts had to be contented with a diminution of them.
It had been the queen who allowed the tokens of royal favor to pour upon her friends, her companions in Trianon, like a golden rain. She had at the outset done this out of a hearty love for them. It was so sweet to cause those to rejoice whom she loved; so pleasant to see that charming smile upon the countenance of the Duchess de Polignac- -that smile which only appeared when she had succeeded in making others happy. For herself the duchess never asked a favor; her royal friend could only, after a long struggle and threatening her with her displeasure, induce her to take the gifts which were offered out of a really loving heart.
But behind the Duchess Diana stood her brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess de Polignac, who were ambitious, proud, and avaricious; behind the Duchess Diana stood the three favorites of the royal society in Trianon —Lords Vaudreuil, Besenval, D'Adhemar- -who desired embassies, ministerial posts, orders, and other tokens of honor.
Diana de Polignac was the channel through whom all these addressed themselves to the queen; she was the loved friend who asked whether the queen could not grant their demands. Louis granted all the requests to the queen, and Marie Antoinette then went to her loved friend Diana, in order to gratify her wishes, to receive a kiss, and to be rewarded with a smile.
The great noble families saw with envy and displeasure this supremacy of the Polignacs and the favorites of Trianon. They withdrew from the court; gave the "Queen of Trianon" over to her special friends and their citizen pleasures and sports, which, as they asserted, were not becoming to the great nobility. They gave the king over to his wife who ruled through him, and who, in turn, was governed by the Polignacs and the other favorites. To them and to their friends belonged all places, all honors; to them all applied who wanted to gain any thing for the court, and even they who wanted to get justice done them. Around the royal pair there was nothing but intrigues, cabals, envy, and hostility. Every one wanted to be first in the favor of the queen, in order to gain influence and consideration; every one wanted to cast suspicion on the one who was next to him, in order to supplant him in the favor of Marie Antoinette.
The fair days of fortune and peace, of which the queen dreamed in her charming country home, thinking that her realizations were met when the sun had scarcely risen upon them, were gone. Trianon was still there, and the happy peasant-girl of Trianon had been unchanged in heart; but those to whom she had given her heart, those who had joined in her harmless amusement in her village there, were changed! They had cast aside the idyllic masks with which the good- natured and confiding queen had deceived herself. They were no longer friends, no longer devoted servants; they were mere place- hunters, intriguers, flatterers, not acting out of love, but out of selfishness.
Yet the queen would not believe this; she continued to be the tender friend of her friends, trusted them, depended upon their love, was happy in their neighborhood, and let herself be led by them just as the king let himself be led by her.
They set ministers aside, appointed new ones, placed their favorites in places of power, and drove their opponents into obscurity.
But there came a day when the queen began to see that she was not the ruler but the ruled,—when she saw that she was not acting out her own will, but was tyrannized over by those who had been made powerful through her favor.
"I have been compelled to take part in political affairs," said she, "because the king, in his noble, good-humored way, has too little confidence in himself, and, out of his self-distrust, lets himself be controlled by the opinions of others. And so it is best that I should be his first confidante, and that he should take me to be his chief adviser, for his interests are mine, and these children are mine, and surely no one can speak more truly and honestly to the King of France than his queen, his wife, the mother of his children! And so if the king is not perfectly independent, and feels himself too weak to stand alone, and independently to exert power, he ought to rest on me; I will bear a part in his government, his business, that at any rate they who control be not my opponents, my enemies!"
For a while she yielded to her friends and favorites who wanted to stand in the same relation to the queen that she did to the king— she yielded, not like Louis, from weakness, but from the very power of her love for them.
She yielded at the time when Diana de Polignac, urged by her brother-in-law, Polignac, and by Lord Besenval, conjured the queen to nominate Lord Calonne to be general comptroller of the finances. She yielded, and Calonne, the flatterer, the courtier of Polignac, received the important appointment, although Marie Antoinette experienced twinges of conscience for it, and did not trust the man whom she herself advanced to this high place. Public opinion, meanwhile, gave out that Lord Calonne was a favorite of the queen; and, while she bore him no special favor, and considered his appointment as a misfortune to France, she who herself promoted him became the object of public indignation.
Meanwhile the nomination of Lord Calonne was to be productive of real good. It gave rise to the publication of a host of libels and pamphlets which discussed the financial condition of France, and, in biting and scornful words, in the language of sadness and despair, developed the need and the misfortune of the land. The king gave the chief minister of police strict injunctions to send him all these ephemeral publications. He wanted to read them all, wanted to find the kernel of wheat which each contained, and, from his enemies, who assuredly would not flatter, he wanted to learn how to be a good king. And the first of his cares he saw to be a frugal king, and to limit his household expenses.
This time he acted independently; he asked no one's counsel, not even the queen's. As his own unconstrained act, he ordered a diminution of the court luxury, and a limitation of the great pensions which were paid to favorites. The great stable of the king must be reduced, the chief directorship of the post bureau must be abolished, the high salary of the governess of the royal children as well as that of the maid of honor of Madame Elizabeth, sister of the king, must be reduced.
And who were the ones affected by this? Chiefly the Polignac family. The Duke de Polignac was director of the royal mews, and next to him the Duke de Coigny. The Duke de Polignac was also chief director of the post department. His wife, Diana de Polignac, was also maid of honor to Madame Elizabeth, and Julia de Polignac was governess of the children of Prance.
They would not believe it; they held it impossible that so unheard- of a thing should happen, that their income should be reduced. The whole circle of intimate friends resorted to Trianon, to have an interview with the queen, to receive from her the assurance that she would not tolerate such a robbing of her friends, and that she would induce the king to take back his commands.
The queen, however, for the first time, made a stand against her friends.
"It is the will of the king," said she, "and I am too happy that the king has a will, to dare opposing it. May the king reign! It is his duty and his right, as it is the duty and right of all his subjects to conform to his wish and be subject to his will."
"But," cried Lord Besenval, "it is horrible to live in a country where one is not sure but he may lose tomorrow what he holds to-day; down to this time that has always been the Turkish fashion." [Footnote: His very words. See Goncourt's "Histoire de Marie Antoinette," p. 181.]
The queen trembled and raised her great eyes with a look full of astonishment and pain to Besenval, then to the other friends; she read upon all faces alienation and unkindly feeling. The mask of devoted courtiers and true servants had for the first time fallen from their faces, and Marie Antoinette discovered these all at once wholly estranged and unknown countenances; eyes without the beam of friendship, lips without the smile of devotion.
The queen sought to put her hand to her heart. It seemed to her as if she had been wounded with a dagger. She felt as if she must cry aloud with pain and grief. But she commanded herself and only gave utterance to a faint sigh.
"You are not the only ones who will lose, my friends," said she, gently. "The king is a loser, too; for if he gives up the great stables, he sacrifices to the common good his horses, his equipages, and, above all, his true servants. We must all learn to put up with limitations and a reduction of outlay. But we can still remain good friends, and here in Trianon pass many pleasant days with one another in harmless gayety and happy contentment. Come, my friends, let us forget these cares and these constraints; let us, despite all these things, be merry and glad. Duke de Coigny, you have been for a week my debtor in billiards, to-day you must make it up. Come, my friends, let us go into the billiard-room."
And the queen, who had found her gayety again, went laughing in advance of her friends into the next apartment, where the billiard- table stood. She took up her cue, and, brandishing it like a sceptre, cried, "Now, my friends, away with care—"
She ceased, for as she looked around her she saw that her friends had not obeyed her call. Only the Duke de Coigny, whom she had specially summoned, had followed the queen into the billiard-room.
A flash of anger shot from the eyes of the queen.
"How!" cried she, aloud, "did my companions not hear that I commanded them to follow me hither?"
"Your majesty," answered the Duke de Coigny, peevishly, "the ladies and gentlemen have probably recalled the fact that your majesty once made it a rule here in Trianon that every one should do as he pleases, and your majesty sees that they hold more strictly to the laws than others do."
"My lord," sighed the queen, "do you bring reproaches against me too? Are you also discontented?"
"And why should I be contented, your majesty?" asked the duke, with choler. "I am deprived of a post which hitherto has been held for life, and does your majesty desire that I should be contented? No, I am not contented. No, I do as the others do. I am full of anger and pain to see that nothing is secure more, that nothing is stable more, that one can rely upon nothing more—not even upon the word of kings."
"My lord duke," cried Marie Antoinette, with flashing anger, "you go too far, you forget that you are speaking to your queen."
"Madame," cried he, still louder, "here in Trianon there is no queen, there are no subjects! You yourself have said it, and I at least will hold to your words, even if you yourself do not. Let us play billiards, madame. I am at your service."
And while the Duke de Coigny said this, he seized with an angry movement the billiard-cue of the queen. It was a present which Marie Antoinette had received from her brother, the Emperor Joseph. It was made of a single rhinoceros skin, and was adorned with golden knobs. The king had a great regard for it, and no one before had ever ventured to use it excepting her alone.
"Give it to me, Coigny," said she, earnestly. "You deceive yourself, that is not your billiard-cue, that is mine."
"Madame," cried he, angrily, "what is mine is taken from me, and why should I not take what is not mine? It seems as if this were the latest fashion, to do what one pleases with the property of others; I shall hasten to have a share in this fashion, even were it only to show that I have learned something from your majesty. Let us begin."
Trembling with anger and excitement, he took two balls, laid them in the middle of the table, and gave the stroke. But it was so passionately given, and in such rage, that the cue glided by the balls and struck so strongly against the raised rim of the table that it broke.
The queen uttered an exclamation of indignation, and, raising the hand, pointed with a commanding gesture to the door.
"My Lord Duke de Coigny," said she, proudly, "I release you from the duty of ever coming again to Trianon. You are dismissed."
The duke, trembling with anger, muttering a few unintelligible words, made a slight, careless obeisance to the queen, and left the billiard-hall with a quick step.[Footnote: This scene is historical. See "Memoires de Madame de Campan," vol. ii.]
Marie Antoinette looked after him with a long and pained look. Then, with a deep sigh, she took up the bits of the broken cue and went into her little porcelain cabinet, in order to gain rest and self- command in solitude and stillness.
Reaching that place, and now sure that no one could observe her, Marie Antoinette sank with a deep sigh into an arm-chair, and the long-restrained tears started from her eyes.
"Oh," sighed she, sadly, "they will destroy every thing I have, every thing—my confidence, my spirit, my heart itself. They will leave me nothing but pain and misfortune, and not one of them whom I till now have held to be my friends, will share it with me."
For a whole year the preparation for the trial had lasted, and to- day, the 31st of August, 1786, the matter would be decided. The friends and relatives of the cardinal had had time to manipulate not only public opinion, but also to win over the judges, the members of Parliament, to the cause of the cardinal, and to prejudice them against the queen. All the enemies of Marie Antoinette, the legitimists even, who saw their old rights of nobility encroached upon by the preference given to the Polignacs and other families which had sprung from obscurity; the party of the royal princes and princesses, whom Marie Antoinette had always offended, first because she was an Austrian, and later because she had allowed herself to win the love of the king; the men of the agitation and freedom party, who thundered in their clubs against the realm, and held it to be their sacred duty to destroy the nimbus which, had hitherto enveloped the throne, and to show to the hungering people that the queen who lived in luxury was nothing more than a light-minded, voluptuous woman,—all these enemies of the queen had had time to gain over public opinion and the judges. The trial had been a welcome opportunity to all to give free play to their revenge, their indignation, and their hate. The family of the cardinal, sorely touched by the degradation which had come upon them all in their head, would, at the least, see the queen compromised with the cardinal, and if the latter should really come out from the trial as the deceived and duped one, Marie Antoinette should, nevertheless, share in the stain.
The Rohan family and their friends set therefore all means in motion, in order to win over public opinion and the judges. To this end they visited the members of Parliament, brought presents to those of them who were willing to receive them, made use of mercenary authors to hurl libellous pamphlets at the queen, published brochures which, in dignified language, defended the cardinal in advance, and exhibited him as the victim of his devotion and love to the royal family. Everybody read these pamphlets; and when at last the day of decision came, public opinion had already declared itself in favor of the cardinal and against the queen.
On the 31st of August, 1786, as already said, the trial so long in preparation was to be decided. The night before, the cardinal had been transferred from the Bastile to the prison, as had also the other prisoners who were involved in the case.
At early dawn the whole square before the prison was full of men, and the dependants of Rohan and the Agitators of Freedom, as Marat and his companions called themselves, were active here as ever to turn the feeling of the people against the queen.
In the court-house, on the other side of the great square, meanwhile, the great drama of the trial had begun. The members of Parliament, the judges in the case, sat in their flowing black garments, in long rows before the green table, and their serious, sad faces and sympathetic looks were all directed toward the cardinal, Louis de Rohan. But in spite of the danger of the situation, the noble face of the cardinal was completely undisturbed, and his bearing princely. He appeared in his full priestly array, substituting in place of the purple-red under- garment one of violet, as cardinals do when they appear in mourning. Over this he wore the short red cloak, and displayed all his orders; the red stockings, the silk shoes with jewelled buckles, completed his array. While entering, he raised his hands and gave his priestly blessing to those who should judge him, and perhaps condemn him. He then, in simple and dignified words, spoke as follows:
A relative of his, Madame de Boulainvillier, had, three years before, brought a young woman to him, and requested him to maintain her. She was of the most exalted lineage, the last in descent from the earlier kings of France, of the family of Valois. She called herself the Countess of Lamotte-Valois; her husband, the Count Lamotte, was the royal sub-lieutenant in some little garrison city, and his salary was not able to support them except meagrely. The young lady was beautiful, intellectual, of noble manners, and it was natural that the cardinal should interest himself in behalf of the unfortunate daughter of the kings of France. He supported her for a while, and after many exertions succeeded in obtaining a pension of fifteen hundred francs from King Louis XVI., in behalf of the last descendant of the Valois family. Upon this the countess went herself to Versailles, in order to render thanks in person for this favor. She returned the next day to Paris, beaming with joy, and told the cardinal that she had not only been received by the queen, but that Marie Antoinette had been exceedingly gracious to her, and had requested her to visit her often. From this day on, the countess had naturally gained new favor in the eyes of the cardinal, for she often went to Versailles; and from the accounts of her visits there, when she returned, it was clear that she stood in high favor with the queen. But now, unfortunately, the cardinal found himself in precisely the opposite situation. He stood in extreme disfavor with the queen. She never condescended to bestow a glance upon him, nor a word. The cardinal was for a long time inconsolable on account of this, and sought in vain to regain the favor of the queen. This he intrusted with the deepest confidence to the Countess Lamotte- Valois, and she, full of friendly zeal, had undertaken to speak to the queen in his behalf. Some days later she told the cardinal that she had fulfilled her promise; she had painted his sadness in such moving words that the queen appeared to be very much affected, and had told the countess that she would pardon all, if the cardinal would send her in writing an apology for the mortifications which he had inflicted upon herself and her mother Maria Theresa. The cardinal, of course, joyfully consented to this. He sent to the countess a document in which he humbly begged pardon for asking the Empress Maria Theresa, years before, when Marie Antoinette was yet Dauphiness of France, and he, the cardinal, was French ambassador in Vienna, to chide her daughter on account of her light and haughty behavior, and to charge herself with seeing it bettered. This was the only offence against the queen of which he felt himself guilty, and for this he humbly implored forgiveness. He had, at the same time, begged the queen for an audience, that he might pay his respects to her, and on bended knee ask her pardon. Some days after, the Countess Lamotte-Valois had handed him a paper, written with the queen's hand, as an answer to his letter.
The president here interrupted the cardinal: "Are you still in possession of this document, your eminence?"
The cardinal bowed. "I have always, since I had the fortune to receive them, carried with me the dear, and to me invaluable, letters of the queen. On the day when I was arrested in Versailles, they lay in my breast coat-pocket. It was my fortune, and the misfortune of those who, after I had been carried to the Bastile, burst into my palace, sealed my papers, and at once burned what displeased them. In this way these letters escaped the auto-da-fe. Here is the first letter of the queen."
He drew a pocket-book from his robe, took from it a small folded paper, and laid it upon the table before the president.
The president opened it and read: "I have received your brief, and am delighted to find you no longer culpable; in the mean while, I am sorry not to be able to give you the audience which you ask. As soon, however, as circumstances allow me, I shall inform you; till then, silence. Marie Antoinette of France." [Footnote: Goncourt.— "Histoire de Marie Antoinette," p. 143.]
A murmur of astonishment arose among the judges after this reading, and all looks were directed with deep sympathy to the cardinal, who, with a quiet, modest bearing, stood over against them. The glances of the president of the high court, directed themselves, after he had read the letter and laid it upon the green table, to the great dignitary of the Church, and then he seemed to notice for the first time that the cardinal, a prince and grand almoner of the King of Prance, was standing like a common criminal.
"Give the lord cardinal an arm-chair," he ordered, with a loud voice, and one of the guards ran to bring one of the broad, comfortable chairs of the judges, which was just then unoccupied, and carried it to the cardinal.
Prince Rohan thanked the judges with a slight inclination of his proud head, and sank into the arm-chair. The accused and the judges now sat on the same seats, and one would almost have suspected that the cardinal, in his magnificent costume, with his noble, lofty bearing, his peaceful, passionless face, and sitting in his arm- chair, alone and separated from all others, was himself the judge of those who, in their dark garments and troubled and oppressed spirits, and restless mien, were sitting opposite him.
"Will your eminence have the goodness to proceed?" humbly asked the president of the court, after a pause. The cardinal nodded as the sign of assent, and continued his narrative.
This letter of the queen naturally filled him with great delight, particularly as he had a personal interview with her majesty in prospect, and he had implored the Countess Valois all the more to procure this meeting, because, in spite of the forgiveness which the queen had given to the cardinal, she continued on all occasions, where he had the happiness to be in her presence, to treat him with extreme disdain. On one Sunday, when he was reading mass before their majesties, he took the liberty to enter the audience-room and to address the queen. Marie Antoinette bestowed upon him only an annihilating look of anger and scorn, and turned her back upon him, saying, at the same time, with a loud voice, to the Duchess of Polignac: "What a shameless act! These people believe they may do any thing if they wear the purple. They believe they may rank with kings, and even address them."
These proud and cutting words had naturally deeply wounded the cardinal, and, for the first time, the doubt was suggested to him whether, in the end, all the communications of the Countess Valois, even the letter of the queen, might not prove to be false, for it appeared to him impossible that the queen could be secretly, favorably inclined to a man whom she openly scorned. In his anger he said so to the Countess Lamotte, and told her that he should hold all that she had brought him from the queen to be false, unless, within a very short time, she could procure what he had so long and so urgently besought, namely, an audience with the queen. He desired this audience as a proof that Marie Antoinette was really changed, and, at the same time, as a proof that the Countess Lamotte-Valois had told him the truth. The countess laughed at his distrust, and promised to try all the arts of address with the queen, in order to gain for the cardinal the desired audience. The latter, who thought he recognized in the beautiful and expressive countenance of the lady innocence and honorableness, now regretted his hasty words, and said to Madame Lamotte, that in case the queen would really grant him a private audience, he would give her (the countess) fifty thousand francs as a sign of his gratitude.
A murmur of applause and of astonishment rose at these words from the spectators, comprising some of the greatest noble families of France, the Rohans, the Guemenes, the Count de Vergennes, and all the most powerful enemies of the queen, who had taken advantage of this occasion in order to avenge themselves on the Austrian, who had dared to choose her friends and select her society, not in accordance with lineage, but as her own pleasure dictated.
The president of the court did not consider this murmur of applause marked enough to be reprimanded, and let it be continued.
"And did the Countess Lamotte-Valois procure for you this audience?" he then asked.
Prince Rohan was silent a moment, his face grew pale, his features assumed for the first time a troubled expression, and the painful struggles which disturbed his soul could be seen working within him.
"May it please this noble court," he replied, after a pause, with feeling, trembling voice, "I feel at this moment that, beneath the robe of the priest, the heart of the man beats yet. It is, however, for every man a wrong, an unpardonable wrong, to disclose the confidence of a lady, and to reveal to the open light of day the favors which have been granted by her. But I must take this crime upon myself, because I have to defend the honor of a priest, even of a dignitary in the Church, and also because I do not dare to suffer my purple to be soiled with even the suspicion of a lie, or an act of falsehood. It may be—and I fear it even myself—it may be, that in this matter, I myself was the deceived one, but I dare not bring suspicion upon my tiara that I was the deceiver, and, therefore, I have to meet the stern necessity of disclosing the secret of a lady and a queen."
"Besides this," said the president, solemnly—"besides this, your eminence may graciously consider, in presence of the authority given you by God, all the tender thoughts of the cardinal must be silent. The duty of a dignitary of the Church commands you to go before all other men in setting them a noble example, and one worthy of imitation. It is your sacred duty, in accordance with the demands of truth, to give the most detailed information regarding every thing that concerns this affair, and your eminence will have the goodness to remember that we are the secular priests of God, before whom every accused person must confess the whole truth with a perfect conscience."
"I thank you, Mr. President," said the cardinal, with so gentle and tremulous a voice, that you might hear after it a faint sob from some deeply-veiled ladies who sat on the spectators' seats, and so that even the eyes of President de l'Aigro filled with tears—" I thank you, Mr. President," repeated the cardinal, breathing more freely. "You take a heavy burden from my heart, and your wisdom instructs me as to my own duty."
The president blushed with pleasure at the high praises of the cardinal.
"And now," he said, "I take the liberty of repeating my question, did the Countess Lamotte-Valois succeed in procuring for your eminence a secret audience with the queen?"
"She did," replied the cardinal, "she did procure an interview for me."
And compelling himself to a quiet manner, he went on with his story: The Countess de Valois came to him after two days with a joyful countenance, and brought to him the request to accompany the Countess Valois two days after to Versailles, where, in the garden, in a place indicated by the countess, the meeting of the queen and the cardinal should take place. The cardinal was to put on the simple, unpretending dress of a citizen of Paris, a blue cloth coat, a round hat, and high leather boots. The cardinal, full of inexpressible delight at this, could, notwithstanding, scarcely believe that the queen would show him this intoxicating mark of her favor; upon which the Countess Valois, laughing, showed him a letter of the queen, directed to her, on gold-bordered paper, and signed like the note which he had received before—" Marie Antoinette of France." In this note the queen requested her dear friend to go carefully to work to warn the cardinal to speak softly during the interview, because there were ears lurking in the neighborhood, and not to come out from the thicket till the queen should give a sign.
After reading this letter, the cardinal had no more doubts, but surrendered himself completely to his joy, his impatience, and longed for the appointed hour to arrive. At last this hour came, and, in company with the countess, the cardinal, arrayed in the appointed dress, repaired in a simple hired carriage to Versailles. The countess led him to the terrace of the palace, where she directed the cardinal to hide behind a clump of laurel-trees, and then left him, in order to inform the queen, who walked every evening in the park, in company with the Count and Countess d'Artois, of the presence of the cardinal, and to conduct her to him. The latter now remained alone, and, with loud-beating heart, listened to every sound, and, moving gently around, looked down the long alley which ran between the two fountains, in order to catch sight of the approach of the queen. It was a delightful evening; the full moon shone in golden clearness from the deep-blue sky, and illuminated all the objects in the neighborhood with a light like that of day. It now disclosed a tall, noble figure, clad in a dark- red robe, and with large blue pins in her hair, hurrying to the terrace, and followed by the Countess Valois.
To the present moment the cardinal had slightly doubted as to his unmeasurable good fortune—now he doubted no more. It was the queen, Marie Antoinette, who was approaching. She wore the same dress, the same coiffure which she had worn the last Sunday, when after the mass he had gone to Versailles to drive.
Yes, it was the queen, who was hurrying across the terrace, and approaching the thicket behind which the cardinal was standing.
"Come," whispered she, softly, and the cardinal quickly emerged from the shade, sank upon his knee before the queen, and eagerly pressed the fair hand which she extended to him to his lips. "Your eminence," whispered the queen to him, "I can unfortunately spend only a moment here. I cherish nothing against you, and shall soon show you marks of my highest favor. Meantime, accept this token of my grace." And Marie Antoinette took a rose from her bosom and gave it to the cardinal. "Accept, also, this remembrancer," whispered the queen, again placing a little case in his hand. "It is my portrait. Look often at it, and never doubt me, I—"
At this moment the Countess Valois, who had been waiting at some distance, hastily came up.
"Some one is coming," whispered she; "for God's sake, your majesty, fly!"
Voices were audible in the distance, and soon they approached. The queen grasped the hand of the Countess Lamotte.
"Come, my friend," said she. "Farewell, cardinal, au revoir!"
Full of joy at the high good fortune which had fallen to him, and at the same time saddened at the abrupt departure of the queen, the cardinal turned back to Paris. On the next day the Countess Valois brought a billet from the queen, in which she deeply regretted that their interview yesterday had been so brief, and promising a speedy appointment again. Some days after this occurrence, which constantly occupied the mind of the cardinal, he was obliged to go to Alsace, to celebrate a church festival. On the very next day, however, came the husband of the countess, Count Lamotte, sent as a courier by the countess. He handed the cardinal a letter from the queen, short and full of secrecy, like the earlier ones.
"The moment," wrote the queen—" the moment which I desired is not yet come. But I beg you to return at once to Paris, because I am in a secret affair, which concerns me personally, and which I shall intrust to you alone, and in which I need your assistance. The Countess Lamotte-Valois will give you the key to this riddle."
As if on the wings of birds, the cardinal returned to Paris, and at once repaired to the little palace which the countess had purchased with the fruits of his liberality. Here he learned of her the reason of his being sent for. The matter in question was the purchasing of a set of jewels, which the royal jewellers, Bohmer and Bassenge, had often offered to the queen. Marie Antoinette had seen the necklace, and had been enraptured with the size and beauty of the diamonds. But she had had the spirit to refuse to purchase the collar, in consequence of the enormous price which the jewellers demanded. She had, however, subsequently regretted her refusal, and the princely set of gems, the like of which did not exist in Europe, had awakened the most intense desire on the part of the queen to possess it. She wanted to purchase it secretly, without the knowledge of the king, and to pay for it gradually out of the savings of her own purse. But just then the jewellers Bohmer and Bassenge had it in view to send the necklace to Constantinople for the Sultan, who wanted to present it to the best-loved of his wives.
But before completing the sale, the crown jewellers made one more application to the queen, declaring that if she would consent to take the necklace, they would be content with any conditions of payment. In the mean time, the private treasury of the queen was empty. The severe winter had induced much suffering and misfortune, and the queen had given all her funds to the poor. But as she earnestly desired to purchase the necklace, she would give her grand almoner a special mark of her favor in granting to him the commission of purchasing it in her name. He should receive a paper from the queen's own hand authorizing the purchase, yet he should keep this to himself, and show it only to the court jewellers at the time of the purchase. The first payment of six hundred thousand francs the cardinal was to pay from his own purse, the remaining million the queen would pay in instalments of one hundred thousand francs each, at the expiration of every three months. In the next three months, the six hundred thousand francs advanced by the cardinal should be refunded.
The cardinal felt himself highly flattered by this token of the queen's confidence, and desired nothing more than the written authorization of the queen, empowering him to make the purchase at once. This document was not waited for long. Two days only passed before the Countess Lamotte-Valois brought it, dated at Trianon, and subscribed Marie Antoinette of France. Meanwhile some doubts arose in the mind of the cardinal. He turned to his friend and adviser, Count Cagliostro, for counsel. The latter had cured him years before while very sick, and since that time had always been his disinterested friend, and the prophet, so to speak, who always indicated the cardinal's future to him. This man, so clear in his foresight, so skilful in medicine, was now taken into confidence, and his advice asked. Count Cagliostro summoned the spirits that waited upon him, before the cardinal, one solitary night. He asked these invisible presences what their counsel was, and the oracle answered, that the affair was one worthy of the station of the cardinal; that it would have a fortunate issue; that it put the seal upon the favors of the queen, and would usher in the fortunate day which would bring the great talents of the cardinal into employment for the benefit of France and the world. The cardinal doubted and hesitated no longer. He went at once to the court jewellers Bohmer and Bassenge: he did not conceal from them that he was going to buy the necklace in the name of the queen, and showed them the written authorization. The jewellers entered readily into the transaction. The cardinal made a deposit of six hundred thousand francs, and Bohmer and Bassenge gave him the necklace. It was the day before a great festival, and at the festival the queen wanted to wear the necklace. In the evening a trusted servant of the queen was to take the necklace from the dwelling of the Countess Lamotte-Valois. The countess herself requested the cardinal to be present, though unseen, when the delivery should take place.
In accordance with this agreement, the cardinal repaired to the palace of the countess on the evening of February 1st, 1784, accompanied by a trusted valet, who carried the casket with the necklace. At the doorway he himself took the collar and gave it to the countess. She conducted the cardinal to an alcove adjoining her sitting-room. Through the door provided with glass windows he could dimly see the sitting-room.
After some minutes the main entrance opened, and a voice cried: "In the service of the queen!" A man in the livery of the queen, whom the cardinal had often seen at the countess's, and whom she had told was a confidential servant of the queen, entered and demanded the casket in the name of the queen. The Countess Valois took it and gave it to the servant, who bowed and took his leave. At the moment when the man departed, bearing this costly set of jewels, the cardinal experienced an inexpressible sense of satisfaction at having had the happiness of conferring a service upon the Queen of France, the wife of the king, the mother of the future king,—not merely in the purchase of the diamonds which she desired, but still more in preventing the young and impulsive woman from taking the unbecoming step of applying to any other gentleman of the court for this assistance.
At these words the spectators broke into loud exclamations, and one of the veiled ladies cried: "Lords Vaudreuil and Coigny would not have paid so much, but they would have demanded more." And this expression, too, was greeted with loud acclaims.
The first president of the court, Baron de L'Aigre, here cast a grave look toward the tribune where the spectators sat, but his reproach died away upon lips which disclosed a faint inclination to smile.
"I now beg your eminence," he said, "to answer the following question: " Did Queen Marie Antoinette personally thank you for the great service which, according to your showing, you did her? How is it with the payments which the queen pledged herself to make?"
The cardinal was silent for a short time, and looked sadly before him. "Since the day when I closed this unfortunate purchase, I have experienced only disquietudes, griefs, and humiliations. This is the only return which I have received for my devotion. The queen has never bestowed a word upon me. At the great festival she did not even wear the necklace which she had sent for on the evening before. I complained of this to the countess, and the queen had the goodness to write me a note, saying that she had found the necklace too valuable to wear on that day, because it would have attracted the attention of the king and the court. I confided in the words of the queen, and experienced no doubts about the matter till the unhappy day when the queen was to make the first payment to the jewellers, and when she sent neither to me nor to the jewellers a word. Upon this a fearful suspicion began to trouble me,—that my devotion to the queen might have been taken advantage of, in order to deceive and mislead me. When this dreadful thought seized me, I shuddered, and had not power to look down into the abyss which suddenly yawned beneath me. I at once summoned the Countess Lamotte, and desired her solution of this inexplicable conduct of the queen. She told me that she had been on the point of coming to me and informing me, at the request of the queen, that other necessary outlays had prevented the queen's paying me the six hundred thousand francs that I had disbursed to Bohmer at the purchase of the necklace, and that she must be content with paying the interest of this sum, thirty thousand francs. The queen requested me to be satisfied for the present with this arrangement, and to be sure of her favor. I trusted the words of the countess once more, took fresh courage, and sent word to the queen that I should always count myself happy to conform to her arrangements, and be her devoted servant. The countess dismissed me, saying that she would bring the money on the morrow. In the mean time, something occurred that awakened all my doubts and all my anxieties afresh. I visited the Duchess de Polignac, and while I was with her, there was handed her a note from the queen. I requested the duchess, in case the billet contained no secret, to show it to me, that I might see the handwriting of the queen. The duchess complied with my request, and—"