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CHAPTER IV
The Marquis de Montagu rejoins his regiment—Life of Pauline at the h?tel de Montagu—Affection of her father-in-law—Brilliant society—Story of M. de Continges—Death of Pauline’s child—Marriage of Rosalie to Marquis de Grammont—Birth of Pauline’s daughters—The court of Louis XVI.—The Royal Family—Dissensions at court—Madame Sophie and the Storm—Extravagance of the Queen and Comte d’Artois—The Comte d’Artois and Mlle. Duthé—Scene with the King—Le petit Trianon—The Palace of Marly—A sinister guest.
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AT the end of seven weeks her husband went back to rejoin his regiment, and Pauline was left with her father-in-law and her new aunt, Mme. de Bouzolz, a very young, lively woman, whose husband had also just returned to the army. Both were very kind and fond of her, but their ideas were not so strict as those of the Duchesse d’Ayen.

Mme. de Bouzolz delighted in novels, balls, and all the amusements natural to her age; was affectionate, good-hearted, rather thoughtless, but with no harm in her. She soon became devoted to Pauline, and fell a great deal under her influence.

M. de Beaune was an excellent man, rather hasty-tempered, but generous, honourable, delighted with his daughter-in-law, and most kind and indulgent to her. He took the deepest interest in her health, her [195] dress, and her success in society, into which he constantly went, always insisting upon her accompanying him.

And society was very fascinating just then: all the stately charm and grace of the old régime mingled with the interest and excitement of the new.

Pauline never cared much for society, and her tastes were not sufficiently intellectual to enable her to take much part in the brilliant conversation or to enter with enthusiasm into the political ideas and principles discussed at the various houses to which she went with Mme. de Bouzolz, who did not trouble herself about philosophy or “ideas”; and M. de Beaune, who was a strong Conservative, and held revolutionary notions in abhorrence.

They frequented the society of the Queen, went to balls, theatricals, and to suppers given by the esprits forts, such as the Maréchale de Luxembourg, the old Duchesse de la Vallière, a great friend of M. de Beaune, who was a Noailles, and a contemporary of Louis XIV. [75]; also of the Maréchale de Mirepoix, a leading member of society.

An amusing anecdote is related by Mme. de Bassanville [76] concerning the marriage of a certain Mlle. de Mirepoix, who belonged to that family, but apparently to a younger and poorer branch of it.

The Marquis de Continges, a dissipated roué of the court of Louis XV., an encyclop?dist and friend of Voltaire, finding in the reign of Louis XVI. that he was getting old, thought he would marry. He [196] was noble, rich, and a good parti; but after making many inquiries he could not hear of any one he especially fancied. One evening he appeared at a great party given by the Princesse de Lamballe, at which every one of importance was present, dressed in black velvet, with lace ruffles, a sword by his side, and in his hand an embroidered hat full of mysterious tickets.

“What is that, M. le Marquis?” asked his hostess.

“I have come to consult Destiny in your temple, Madame, if your Highness permits,” said he with a bow.

“Have you found means to conciliate her?” asked the Princess amidst the laughter aroused by this speech.

“I hope so, Madame. In my hat are 100,000 livres de rente, a Marquisate, and a dowry, besides my heart and my hand. Thus I put myself into a lottery: here is a heap of tickets of which only one is black, the winning one. So let all the young ladies who wish to marry come and choose one.”

All the young girls, laughing and treating it as a capital joke, crowded round to draw. One of the last drew the black; it was Mlle. de Mirepoix, a dark, handsome girl of five-and-twenty, who was poor and had not yet found a husband.

“Mademoiselle,” said the Marquis, “what you have won there is myself, your very humble servant, who, if you will allow him, will become your husband. I put myself into my hat, with all my fortune; accept both, for they are yours.”

Mlle. de Mirepoix thought at first that he was [197] joking, but finding the transaction was serious, fainted with joy. They were married and belonged to the Queen’s intimate circle, but the union did not turn out any more happily than might have been expected. Soon the Revolution swept all away; they emigrated, but not together; he went to Germany, she to England. When afterwards he came to London, his wife went to Italy.

Pauline went out a great deal, more as a duty than a pleasure. What she really cared for most were the interviews with her mother twice a week, and the time she snatched to be with her sisters when she could.

When Mme. de Bouzolz had a baby, she nursed her devotedly, and took the deepest interest in the child. But the height of bliss seemed to be attained when soon after she had a daughter herself, with which she was so enraptured and about which she made such a fuss, that one can well imagine how tiresome it must have been for the rest of the family. She thought of nothing else, would go nowhere, except to the wedding of her sister, Mme. du Roure, with M. de Thésan; and when in the following spring the poor little thing died after a short illness, she fell into a state of grief and despair which alarmed the whole family, who found it impossible to comfort her. She would sit by the empty cradle, crying, and making drawings in pastel of the child from memory after its portrait had been put away out of her sight. But her unceasing depression and lamentation so worried M. de Beaune that, seeing this, she left off talking about it, and he, hoping she was becoming [198] more resigned to the loss, proposed that she should begin again to go into society after more than a year of retirement. She consented, to please him, for as he would not leave her his life was, of course, very dull. But the effort and strain of it made her so ill that the next year she was obliged to go to Bagnères de Luchon. M. de Beaune, who was certainly a devoted father-in-law, went with her. Her mother and eldest sister came to visit her there; her husband travelled three hundred leagues, although he was ill at the time, to see how she was getting on, and in the autumn she was much better, and able to go to the wedding of her favourite sister, Rosalie, with the Marquis de Grammont.

In 1786-8 she had two daughters, Noémi and Clotilde, soon after whose birth the family had to mourn the loss of Mme. de Thésan, who died before she was five-and-twenty, and who was certainly, as events soon proved, taken away from the evil to come.

The same may be said of Pauline’s young aunt, Mme. de Bouzolz, who died the same year.

M. de Montagu, remembering his wife’s proceedings with the former baby, insisted upon the others being brought up in the country, and Pauline again went out with her father-in-law, receiving a great deal of admiration which delighted him, but about which she cared very little. She was very pretty, considered very like what the Duchess, her mother, had been at her age, and perfectly at her ease in society, even when very young, and timid with her new relations; not being the least nervous [199] during her presentation at Versailles, which was rather a trying and imposing ceremony.

People were presented first to the King, then to the Queen, in different salons; of course magnificently dressed. The King, now that he was Louis XVI., very often did not speak but always made a friendly, gracious gesture, and kissed the lady presented, on one cheek only if she was a simple femme de qualité; on both if she was a duchess or grande d’Espagne, or bore the name of one of the families who possessed the hereditary right to the honours of the Louvre and the title of cousin of the King.

Soon after his accession the young Marquise de Pracontal, who was very pretty, very dévote, and very timid, was presented to Louis XVI., who kissed her with such fervour on one cheek that she was dreadfully embarrassed and frightened; and was just going to kiss her other cheek, when the Duc d’Aumont threw himself between them, exclaiming in consternation that she was not a duchess.

When presented to the Queen it was customary to bow low enough to appear to kneel in order to take up the edge of her dress, but her Majesty never allowed that to be carried to the lips of the lady presented, but let it fall with a slight movement of her fan, which Marie Antoinette always executed with singular grace. A duchess or grande d’Espagne then seated herself before the Queen, but only for a moment, a privilege known as the tabouret. After retiring, of course backwards, with a mantle the train of which had to be eight ells on the ground, [200] people went to be presented to all the other princes and princesses of the royal family.

It consisted, at the death of Louis XV., of the King, aged nineteen; the Queen, eighteen; the Comte de Provence, eighteen; the Comtesse de Provence, twenty; the Comte d’Artois, seventeen; and the Comtesse d’Artois, eighteen. Of Mesdames Adéla?de, Victoire, Sophie, and Louise, the last of whom was a Carmelite nun, and whose ages were from thirty-eight to forty-three.

Mesdames de France were in many respects excellent women: religious, charitable to the poor, strict in their duties. The three elder ones had stayed by their father in his fatal illness, by which Adéla?de and Sophie had caught the small-pox. Louise was a saintly person; and all of them were devoted to their family and friends. But they were narrow-minded, obstinate, and prejudiced to an extraordinary degree, and they allowed their hatred of the house of Austria to include their niece, the young Queen; their unjust animosity against whom was the cause of incalculable mischief.

From her first arrival they set themselves against the Dauphine, they exaggerated the faults and follies which were only those of a thoughtless, wilful child of fifteen, and by their unjustifiable spite gave colour to the infamous and false reports circulated by her enemies. They tried to sow dissension between her and the Comtesse de Provence, hoping by means of his wife to engage their second nephew in a party against her. The fault was chiefly that of Madame Adéla?de, for Madame Victoire was far [201] more gentle and easygoing, and Madame Sophie so dreadfully shy and nervous that she was incapable of taking a leading part in anything.
Nattier
MADAME SOPHIE

She was so terribly frightened at a thunderstorm that once when visiting the Comte and Comtesse de Provence, as she stayed rather long and they wanted to go out, the Count had some heavy thing rolled on the floor of the room above, which she took for distant thunder and hurried away to reach home before the storm.

The young princes and princesses, however, in spite of the disputes, jealousies, and quarrels that occurred amongst them, agreed in amusing themselves very well together. They gave balls, theatricals and fêtes of all kinds; the Queen was very fond of cards, and gambling went on to an extent which, with the money spent on fêtes and in other still more reprehensible ways, especially by the Comte d’Artois, though it could have passed as a matter of course under former reigns, now increased the irritation and discontent which every year grew stronger and more dangerous. For the distress amongst the lower orders was terrible; for years marriages and the birthrate had been decreasing in an alarming manner; the peasants declaring that it was no use bringing into the world children to be as miserable as themselves.

The young princes and princesses could not understand that the resources of the State were not inexhaustible, or that they might not draw whatever they liked from the Treasury when they had spent all their own allowances.

The Comte d’Artois had an affair with Mlle. [202] Duthé, who had ruined numbers of people, and thought her liaison with a fils de France would open the Treasury to her rapacity. She contracted enormous debts at all the great shops in Paris, and very soon bills for plate, pictures, jewels, furniture, dresses, &c., &c., poured in upon the Prince, who, finding himself utterly unable to pay them, sent for Turgot, then Contr?leur-Général, and asked him to get him out of the difficulty.

Turgot replied coldly that as the money in the treasury did not belong to him, he could not dispose of it without the King’s permission.

The Comte d’Artois flew into a passion with Turgot, who went to the King and laid the matter before him.

Louis XVI., the only one of the family who saw the necessity of order and economy, was furious, and declared that the treasury of the State should not be squandered to satisfy the fancies of a prostitute, that the Comte d’Artois must manage as he could, that he forbade Turgot to give him the money, and that the Comte d’Artois was to be sent to him at once.

The whole affair was an exact specimen of the mingled extravagance, folly, vice, and weakness which were leading to the terrible retribution so swiftly approaching.

There was a violent scene between the two brothers, the Comte d’Artois threatened to borrow the money he could not extort, and the King, after reproaching him for his conduct, ordered him to his own apartment, intending to punish him by means of a lettre de cachet. But then, as always, [203] the irresolution and weakness of Louis XVI. more than counterbalanced his good intentions.

The Comte d’Artois appealed to the Queen and the Comte de Provence, who went to intercede for him with the King. Louis, irritated by the vehemence with which Marie Antoinette took the part of the Comte d’Artois, asked her whether she knew what he wanted the money for, and on her replying that she did not, proceeded to tell her. The Queen looked thunderstruck, gave way to a torrent of indignation against the conduct of the Comte d’Artois, and left the room. But Louis, instead of abiding by the decision he had so vehemently announced, allowed himself to be persuaded by the Comte de Provence and his aunts to revoke everything he had said, and do everything he had inveighed against. The Comte d’Artois was not punished and the disgraceful debts were paid.

The King had given le petit Trianon to the Queen, who delighted in the absence of restraint and formality with which she could amuse herself there, and if she had been satisfied with the suppers and picnics with her family and friends in the little palace and its shady gardens, it would have been better for her and for every one. But she gave fêtes so costly that the King on one occasion, hearing that he was to be invited to one that was to cost 100,000 francs, refused to go, and on the Queen, much hurt at his decision, assuring him that it would only cost a mere trifle, he told her to get the estimates and look at them. However, as usual, he was persuaded to yield and be present at the fête.
E. H. Bearne
LE PETIT TRIANON

Then the Comte d’Artois insisted on having a [204] place of the same kind, and on its being made and finished in a week; which at enormous expense he succeeded in accomplishing, besides winning from the Queen a bet of 100,000 francs made upon the subject.

The Comte d’Artois did not hesitate to give 1,700 louis for a race horse, or to lose four or five hundred thousand francs in an evening at cards; and the Emperor Joseph II., when under the name of Count von Falkenstein he paid the celebrated visit to France and his sister, wherein he made himself so disagreeable and gave so much offence, was well justified in the contemptuous sarcasm with which he spoke of the squandering of the revenues in racing and gambling.

It was, perhaps, worst of all at Marly, beautiful Marly, so soon to be utterly swept away; for there such was the relaxation of etiquette that any decently-dressed person might enter the salon and join in the play, with the permission of the ladies of high rank to whom they gave part of their winnings. People came there in crowds, and on one occasion the Comte de Tavannes, coming up with a look of consternation to the Comte de Provence, whispered—

“Ah! Monseigneur! What an indignity! Do you see that man near that console? a man in a pink coat with a waistcoat of blue and silver, wearing spectacles?”

“Yes; and there is nothing in his appearance to justify your horror.”

“You don’t know who the person is, Monseigneur, or your hair would stand on end.”

[205]

“Can it be the ——”

“The executioner? You have guessed it, Monseigneur, and that fearful name explains the state of mind in which you see me.”

“Do not say a word to any one,” said the Prince. “I will undertake to turn out the insolent fellow without making a scandal, unless you will do it yourself.”

Tavannes drew back, and just then, seeing Prince Maurice de Montbarrey, Colonel of the Cent-Suisses of his guard, the Comte de Provence sent him to tell the man to go. Saint-Maurice obeyed, without knowing who the man was, and the Comte de Provence saw him turn pale and cast a terrible look at Saint-Maurice. He retired in silence, and not many years afterwards Saint-Maurice fell under his hand.


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