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When we returned to my apartments I saw plainly, by her mutterings, her sighs, and the shrugging of her shoulders, that she was deeply irritated at what had just taken place. She was desirous of provoking an explanation, but as that could only tend to her disadvantage, she contented herself with leaving me earlier than her usual want, without saying anything disagreeable. Her custom was not to leave me alone, and her abrupt departure confirmed me in the idea I had imbibed, that this sort of comedy had much thwarted her.
In the course of the same day I received a visit from the comtesse de Flaracourt. This lady, whose sparkling eyes shone with an air of mischief, presented herself to me with an appearance of openness and confidence which completely cloaked the malignity and treachery of her character. She threw her arms round my neck with as much grace as tenderness, and taking my hand, as if to arrest my attention, said:
"I ought, madame, to explain to you the delay that I have made before I introduce myself to you, as well as the promptitude of this my first visit. I was prejudiced against you, and had formed a false estimate of you. My liaison with mesdames d'Egmont, de Brionne, and de Grammont naturally placed me in the rank opposed to you: so much for what has passed. But I have seen you: I have studied you at a distance, as well as close, and I have recognised, without difficulty, the injustice of your enemies. I have been enraged with myself for having been deceived regarding you: I wish to repair my wrongs. Enlightened by the opinion of the marechale de Mirepoix, I have not hesitated to approach you under her auspices, and our first meeting has so happily furnished me with an opportunity of appreciating you, that I would not delay any longer the pleasure of making you a personal avowal of my past sentiments, and of those with which you now inspire me."
The tone in which madame de Flaracourt uttered these words was so gracious and so persuasive, that I could not resist the pleasure of embracing her. She returned my kiss with the same eagerness, and would not listen to my thanks.
"All is explained between us," she continued, "let us forget the past, and let us do as if meeting for the first time to-day; we henceforward date this as the first of our acquaintance."
"The affability with which you have presented yourself to me," I replied, "does not permit me to believe that I have only known you from this morning; I am in an illusion which will only allow me to look on our recent alliance as an ancient friendship."
After having exchanged some conversation of the same tenor, we talked of my situation as regarded the other females of the court.
"They hate you for two reasons," said the countess: "in the first place, because you have made a conquest which all the world envies you; secondly because you are not one of us. There is not one family who can lean on you in virtue of the rights of blood, or alliances which stand instead of it. You have superseded a woman who more than any other could have a claim to your good fortune: she is sister to the prime minister, who has in her train, like Lucifer, more than a third part of heaven, for all the courtiers hang on her brother.
"On the other hand, we are not accustomed to remain so long in opposition to the will of the king. Such a resistance is not natural to us; it weighs upon us, it harms us, the favor of our master being our chief good. We are only something thro' him, and when combatting against him we have neither the courage nor the perseverance. Thus you may be very certain that the majority of women who oppose you do it against the grain: and if you add to this that they are incessantly exposed to the murmurs and complaints of their husbands, sons, brothers, and lovers, you will easily be convinced that they only aspire to finding a means of reconciling the regard they owe to the Choiseuls and the terror which they inspire, with the desire they have to seek your protection and the friendship of the king. The cabal only flies on one wing, and I cannot divine its situation at the commencement of the next winter. Do not disquiet yourself any more with what it can do: keep yourself quiet; continue to please the 'master,' and you will triumph over the multitude as easily as you have conquered the resistance of mesdames."
Such was the language of the comtesse de Flaracourt: it agreed, as you will perceive, with that of madame de Mirepoix, and I ought the more to believe it, as it was the fruit of their experience and profound knowledge of court manners. Their example proved to me, as well as their words, that all those who approached the king could not bear for a long time the position in which he placed those whom he did not look upon with pleasure. However, Louis XV evinced more plainly from day to day the ascendancy I had over his mind. He assisted publicly at my toilet*, he walked out with me, left me as little as possible, and sought by every attention to console me for the impertinences with which my enemies bespattered me. The following anecdote will prove to you how little consideration he had for those persons who dared to insult me openly.
One day at Marly, I entered the drawing-room; there was a vacant seat near the princesse de Guemenee, I went to it, and scarcely was seated when my neighbor got up, saying, "What horror!" and betook herself to the further end of the room. I was much confused: the offence was too public for me to restrain my resentment, and even when I wished to do so the thing was scarcely possible. The comte Jean, who had witnessed it, and my sisters-in-law, who learnt it from him, were enraged. I was compelled to complain to the king, who instantly sent the princesse de Guemenee an order to quit Marly forthwith, and betake herself to the princesse de Marsan, gouvernante of the children of the royal family of France, of whose post she had the reversion.
Never did a just chastisement produce a greater effect. The outcry against me was louder than ever, it seemed as tho' the whole nobility of France was immolated at "one fell swoop." To have heard the universal clamor, it would have been thought that the princess had been sent to the most obscure prison in the kingdom. This proof of the king's regard for me did much mischief, no doubt, as it furnished my enemies with a pretext to accuse me of a vindictive spirit. Could I do otherwise? Ought I to have allowed myself to be overwhelmed with impunity, and was it consistent with the dignity of my august protector, that I should be insulted thus openly by his subjects, his courtiers, his guests, even in the private apartments of his palace?
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Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry -by- Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon