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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The star of Quanto Madame de Montespan is paling

and withdrawing from a position that vexes us every moment. I explained myself badly if you understood me to mean that I am thinking of being a nun; I am too old for a change of condition, and, according to the property I shall have, I shall look out for securing one full of tranquillity. In the world, all reaction is towards God; in a convent, all reaction is towards the world; there is one great reason; that of age comes next." She did not, however, leave the court except to take to the waters the little Duke of Maine, who had become a cripple after a series of violent convulsions. "Never was anything more agreeable than the surprise which Madame de Maintenon gave the king," writes Madame de Sdvigne to her daughter. "He had not expected the Duke of Maine till the next day, when he saw him come walking into his room, and only holding by the hand of his governess; he was transported with joy. M. do Louvois on her arrival went to call upon Madame de Maintenon; she supped at Madame de Richelieu's, some kissing her hand, others her gown, and she making fun of them all, if she is not much changed; but they say that she is." The king's pleasure in conversing with the governess became more marked every day; Madame de Montespan frequently burst out into bitter complaints. "She reproaches me with her kindnesses, with her presents, with those of the king, and has told me that she fed me, and that I am strangling her; you know what the fact is; it is a strange thing that we cannot live together and that we cannot separate. I love her, and I cannot persuade myself that she hates me." They found themselves alone together in one of the court carriages. "Let us not be duped by such a thing as this," said Madame de Montespan, rudely; "let us talk as if we had no entanglements between us to arrange; it being understood, of course," added she, "that we resume our entanglements when we get back." "Madame de Maintenon accepted the proposal," says Madame de Caylus, who tells the story, "and they kept their word to the letter." Madame de Maintenon had taken a turn for preaching virtue. "The king passed two hours in my closet," she wrote to Madame de St. Geran; "he is the most amiable man in his kingdom. I spoke to him of Father Bourdaloue. He listened to me attentively. Perhaps he is not so far from thinking of his salvation as the court suppose. He has good sentiments and frequent reactions towards God." "The star of Quanto (Madame de Montespan) is paling," writes Madame de Sevigne to her daughter; "there are tears, natural pets, affected gayeties, poutings--in fact, my dear, all is coming to an end. People look, observe, imagine, believe that there are to be seen as it were rays of light upon faces which, a month ago, were thought to be unworthy of comparison with others. If Quanto had hidden her face with her cap at Easter in the year she returned to Paris, she would not be in the agitated state in which she now is. The spirit, indeed, was willing, but great is human weakness; one likes to make the most of a remnant of beauty. This is an economy which ruins rather than enriches." "Madame de Montespan asks advice of me," said Madame de Maintenon; "I speak to her of God, and she thinks I have some understanding with the king; I was present yesterday at a very animated conversation between them. I wondered at the king's patience, and at the rage of that vain creature. It all ended with these terrible words: 'I have told you already, madame; I will not be interfered with.'"

Henceforth Madame de Montespan "interfered with" the king. He gave the new dauphiness Madame de Maintenon as her mistress of the robes. "I am told," writes Madame de Sevigne, "that the king's conversations do nothing but increase and improve, that they last from six to ten o'clock, that the daughter-in-law goes occasionally to pay them a shortish visit, that they are found each in a big chair, and that, when the visit is over, the talk is resumed. The lady is no longer accosted without awe and respect, and the ministers pay her the court which the rest do. No friend was ever so careful and attentive as the king is to her; she makes him acquainted with a perfectly new line of country--I mean the intercourse of friendship and conversation, without chicanery and without constraint; he appears to be charmed with it."

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