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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

It was but a question of carp with them


He lost through this obedience a great deal that is charming and sweet in daily intercourse. For him and for Madame de Maintenon the great and inexhaustible attraction of the Duchess of Burgundy was her gayety and unconstrained ease, tempered by the most delicate respect, which this young princess, on coming as quite a child to France from the court of Savoy, had tact enough to introduce, and always maintain, amidst the most intimate familiarity. "In public, demure, respectful with the king, and on terms of timid propriety with Madame de Maintenon, whom she never called anything but aunt, thus prettily blending rank and affection. In private, chattering, frisking, fluttering around them, at one time perched on the arm of one or the other's chair, at another playfully sitting on their knee, she would throw herself upon their necks, embrace them, kiss them, fondle them, pull them to pieces, chuck them under the chin, tease them, rummage their tables, their papers, their letters, reading them sometimes against their will, according as she saw that they were in the humor to laugh at it, and occasionally speaking thereon. Admitted to everything, even at the reception of couriers bringing the most important news, going into the king at any hour, even at the time the council was sitting, useful and also fatal to ministers themselves, but always inclined to help, to excuse, to benefit, unless she were violently set against anybody. The king could not do without her; when, rarely, she was absent from his supper in public, it was plainly shown by a cloud of more than usual gravity and taciturnity over the king's whole person; and so, when it happened that some ball in winter or some party in summer made her break into the night, she arranged matters so well that she was there to kiss the king the moment he was awake, and to amuse him with an account of the affair." [Memoires de St. Simon, t. x. p. 186.]

[Illustration: Madame de Maintenon and the Duchess of Burgundy.----27]

The dauphiness had died in 1690; the Duchess of Burgundy was, therefore, almost from childhood queen of the court, and before long the idol of the courtiers; it was around her that pleasures sprang up; it was for her that the king gave the entertainments to which he had habituated Versailles, not that for her sake or to take care of her health he would ever consent to modify his habits or make the least change in his plans. "Thank God, it is over!" he exclaimed one day, after an accident to the princess; "I shall no longer be thwarted in my trips, and in all I desire to do, by the representations of physicians. I shall come and go as I fancy; and I shall be left in peace." Even in his court, and amongst his most devoted servants, this monstrous egotism astounded and scandalized everybody. "A silence in which you might have heard an ant move succeeded this sally," says St. Simon, who relates the scene; "we looked down; we hardly dared draw breath. Everybody stood aghast. To the very builders-men and gardeners everybody was motionless. This silence lasted more than a quarter of an hour. The king broke it, as he leaned against a balustrade of the great basin, to speak about a carp. Nobody made any answer. He afterwards addressed his remarks about these carp to some builder's-men who did not keep up the conversation in the regular way; it was but a question of carp with them. Everything was at a low ebb, and the king went away some little time after. As soon as we dared look at one another out of his sight, our eyes meeting told all." There was no venturing beyond looks. Fenelon had said, with severe charity, "God will have compassion upon a prince beset from his youth up by flatterers."


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