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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Madame de Montespan lost and won back four millions


king entered benevolently into the affairs of a marshal of France; he paid his debts, and the marshal was his domestic; all the court had come to that; the duties which brought servants in proximity to the king's person were eagerly sought after by the greatest lords. Bontemps, his chief valet, and Fagon, his physician, as well as his surgeon Marachal, very excellent men, too, were all-powerful amongst the courtiers. Louis XIV. had possessed the art of making his slightest favors prized; to hold the candlestick at bedtime (_au petit coucher_), to make one in the trips to Marly, to play in the king's own game, such was the ambition of the most distinguished; the possessors of grand historic castles, of fine houses at Paris, crowded together in attics at Versailles, too happy to obtain a lodging in the palace. The whole mind of the greatest personages, his favorites at the head, was set upon devising means of pleasing the king; Madame de Montespan had pictures painted in miniature of all the towns he had taken in Holland; they were made into a book which was worth four thousand pistoles, and of which Racine and Boileau wrote the text; people of tact, like M. de Langlee, paid court to the master through those whom he loved. "M. de Langlee has given Madame de Montespan a dress of the most divine material ever imagined; the fairies did this work in secret, no living soul had any notion of it; and it seemed good to present it as mysteriously as it had been fashioned. Madame de Montespan's
dressmaker brought her the dress she had ordered of him; he had made the body a ridiculous fit; there was shrieking and scolding as you may suppose. The dressmaker said, all in a tremble, 'As time presses, madame, see if this other dress that I have here might not suit you for lack of anything else.' 'Ah! what material! Does it come from heaven? There is none such on earth.' The body is tried on; it is a picture. The king comes in. The dressmaker says, 'Madame, it is made for you.' Everybody sees that it is a piece of gallantry; but on whose part? 'It is Langl4e,' says the king; 'it is Langlee.' 'Of course,' says Madame de Montespan, 'none but he could have devised such a device; it is Langlee, it is Langlee.' Everybody repeats, 'it is Langlee;' the echoes are agreed and say, 'it is Langlee;' and as for me, my child, I tell you, to be in the fashion, 'it is Langlle.' "

[Illustration: Bed-chamber Etiquette----15]

All the style of living at court was in accordance with the magnificence of the king and his courtiers; Colbert was beside himself at the sums the queen lavished on play. Madame de Montespan lost and won back four millions, in one night at bassette; Mdlle. de Fontanges gave away twenty thousand crowns' worth of New Year's gifts; the king had just accomplished the dauphin's marriage. "He made immense presents on this occasion; there is certainly no need to despair," said Madame de Sevigne, "though one does not happen to be his valet; it may happen that, whilst paying one's court, one will find one's self underneath what he showers around. One thing is certain, and that is, that away from him all services go for nothing; it used to be the contrary." All the court were of the same opinion as Madame de Sevigne.

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