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However, this wrath of the nobility did not prevent the Choiseul family from experiencing a feeling of fright. They had just received a signal favor. The government of Strasbourg, considered as the key of France and Alsace, had been given in reversion to the comte de Stainville, brother of the duc de Choiseul. Certainly this choice was a very great proof of the indulgence of the king, and the moment was badly chosen to pay with ingratitude a benefit so important. This did not hinder the duchesse de Grammont, and all the women of her house, or who were her allies, from continuing to intrigue against me. It was natural to believe that the king would not permit such doing for a long time, and that should he become enraged at them, that I should attempt to soothe his anger.
Matters were in this state, when one morning, after his accustomed routine, the duc de Choiseul requested a private audience of the king. "I grant it this moment," said the prince, "what have you to say to me?"
"I wish to explain to your majesty how excessively painful is the situation in which I am placed with regard to some of the members of my family. All the females, and my sister at their head, attack me about a quarrel which is strange to me, and with which I have declared I would not meddle."
"You do well, monsieur le duc," said the king, with cool gravity, "I am much vexed at all that is going on, and have resolved not to suffer it any longer."
The decision of this discourse made a deep impression M. de Choiseul: he sought to conceal it whilst he replied:
"It is difficult, sire, to make women listen to reason."
"All are not unreasonable," rejoined the king: "your wife, for instance, is a model of reason and wisdom: she has perfect control of herself. She is the wise woman of scripture."
This flattery and justly merited eulogium, which the king made of the duchess whenever he found an opportunity, was the more painful to M. de Choiseul, as his conduct was not irreproachable towards a woman whose virtues he alone did not justly appreciate. It was a direct satire against his sister's conduct, whose ascendancy over him, her brother, the king well knew. He replied that the good behavior of his wife was the safeguard of his family, and he greatly regretted that the duchesse de Grammont had not a right to the same eulogium.
"I beg you," said the prince, "to engage her to change her language, and to conduct herself with less boldness, if she would not have me force her to repent."
"That, sire, is a mission painful to fulfil, and words very hard to convey to her."
"So much the worse for her," replied the king, elevating his voice, "if she bear any friendship for you, let her prove it in
this particular: your interests should keep her mouth shut."
The duke had no difficulty to comprehend the indirect menace implied: he instantly renewed his regrets for the disagreeable disturbances that had occurred.
"Add insulting," said Louis XV. "I am content with you and your services, duke. I have just proved this to you, by giving your brother more than he could expect from me; but have not I the right to have my intimacies respected? It appears to me that if you spoke more decidedly in your family you would command more attention."
"This makes me fear, sire, that your majesty does not believe me sincere in my expression of the regret which I just took the liberty to utter to your majesty."
"Mon Dieu, monsieur le duc, you certainly do not like madame du Barry."
"I neither like nor hate her, sire; but I see with trouble that she receives at her house all my enemies."
"Whose fault is that if it be so? Your own; you, who would never visit her; she would have received you with pleasure, and I have not concealed from you the satisfaction I should have experienced."
These last words made the duke start, his eyes became animated. After a moment's reflection he said to the king,
"Sire, is it indispensably necessary for the service of the state that I endeavor to attain the good-will of madame la comtesse du Barry?"
"Well, then, sire, allow matters to remain as they are. It would cost me much to quarrel with my whole family, the more so as this sacrifice is not useful to you, and would in no wise alter my position with your majesty."
However painful to the king such a determination might be, he did not allow the duke to perceive it; he dissembled the resentment he felt, and contented himself with saying,
"Duc de Choiseul, I do not pretend to impose chains on you; I have spoken to you as a friend rather than as a sovereign. Now I return to what was said at first, and accept with confidence the promise you make me not to torment a lady whom I love most sincerely."
Thus ended a conversation from which the duke, with a less haughty disposition, might have extracted greater advantages and played a surer game. It was the last plank of safety offered in the shipwreck which menaced him. He disdained it: the opportunity of seizing it did not present itself again. I doubt not but that if he would have united himself freely and sincerely with me I should not have played him false. Louis XV, satisfied with his condescension in my behalf, would have kept him at the head of his ministry: but his pride ruined him, he could not throw off the yoke which the duchesse de Grammont had imposed on him: he recoiled from the idea of telling her that he had made a treaty of peace with me, and that was not one of the least causes of his disgrace.
The journey to Marly gave birth to a multitude of intrigues of persons who thought to wrap themselves up in profound mystery, and all whose actions we knew. The police were very active about the royal abodes, especially since the fatal deed of the regicide Damiens. To keep them perpetually on the watch, they were ordered to watch attentively the amours of the lords and ladies of the court.
The daughter of the duc de Richelieu, the comtesse d'Egmont, whose age was no pretext for her follies, dearly liked low love adventures. She used to seek them out in Paris, when she could find none at Versailles. She was not, however, the more indulgent towards me. This lady was not always content with noble lovers, but sought them in all classes, and more than once, simple mortals, men of low order, obtained preference over demi-gods. Her conduct in this respect was the result of long experience. She used to go out alone, and traverse the streets of Paris. She entered the shops, and when her eye rested on a good figure, having wide shoulders, sinewy limbs, and a good looking face, she then called up all the resources of her mind to form and carry on an intrigue, of which the consequences, at first agreeable to him who was the object of it, terminated most frequently fatally. The following adventure will give you an idea of the talent of madame d'Egmont in this way, and how she got rid of her adorers when she had exhausted with them the cup of pleasure.
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Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry -by- Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon