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"What would you have me do?" said Louis; "how can I interfere without compromising the reputation of madame d'Egmont?"
"Allow me to say," replied I, "that this fear ought not to prevent your majesty's interference. You are father of your subjects; and the respect you entertain for madame d'Egmont should not outweigh your duty, which imperatively calls upon you to command the release of this wretched young man."
"But," argued the king, "by such a step I shall for ever disoblige the duc de Richelieu and his family."
"Fear it not," cried I, "if your majesty will trust to me, I will undertake to bring the marechal and his nephew to approve of your proceedings; and as for the rest of his family, let them go where they will; for the empire of the world I should be sorry to bear them company."
This manner of speaking pleased the king; and, turning to M. de Sartines, "Lieutenant of police," said he, "you have heard my fair chancellor; you will act in strict conformity with the orders she will transmit you from me."
"Then take these orders now, sir," said I: "in the first place, this ill-treated young Moireau must immediately be set at liberty, and my own police (for I must tell you I had them) will give me the faithful account of all your proceedings in this affair."
The king comprehended my meaning. "You will keep a careful watch," added he to M. de Sartines, "that no harm befalls this unfortunate youth, whom, I beg, you will discreetly recommend to quit France ere the malice of those who have reason to fear his reappearance works him some evil."
"And who, sire," asked I, "shall dare injure one whom your majesty deigns to honor with your protection?"
"Madame," replied M. de Sartines, "even his majesty's high patronage cannot prevent a secret blow from some daring hand; a quarrel purposely got up; a beverage previously drugged; a fall from any of the bridges into the river; or, even the supposition of one found dead, having destroyed himself."
"You make me shudder," said I, "in thus unveiling the extent of human depravity. So, then, this young man, whose only fault appears to have been that captivating the eyes of a noble lady, should perish in a dungeon, or save his life at the sacrifice of country, friends, connections; and all this for having listened to the passion of a woman, as licentious in manners as illustrious by birth: this frightful injustice rouses all my indignation. Well, then, since the power of the monarch of France is insufficient to protect his oppressed subject in his own realms, let him shield him from want in a foreign land, by allowing him a pension of one hundred louis. I will take upon myself to defray the expenses of his journey."
Thus saying, I was hastening to the adjoining room, where stood my secretaire, to take from it a thousand crowns I wished to give for the purpose. The king held me back by my arm, saying to me,
"You are the most excellent creature I know of, but you see I am always master. I will undertake to provide for this young man. M. de Sartines," pursued he, "I wish to secure to him a thousand crowns yearly; and, further, you will supply him with six thousand francs ready money, which M. de la Borde will repay to your order. Now are you satisfied, Couci?" said the king, turning to me.
My only reply was to throw my arms around his neck without ceremony, spite of the presence of a witness, who might blush at my familiarity. "You are indeed," said I, "a really good prince; it is only a pity you will not assert your right to rule alone."
"You are a little rebel," cried he, "to doubt my absolute power." This tone of playful gaiety was kept up some time after the departure of the lieutenant of police.
M. de Sartines returned next day to tell me that everything had been accomplished to my desire. "M. Moireau," said he, "has left prison, and departs for Spain to-morrow morning: his intention is to join some friends of his at Madrid. He is informed of all he owes you, and entreats your acceptance of his most grateful and respectful acknowledgments. Will you see him?"
"That would be useless," answered I; "say to him only, that I request he will write to me upon his arrival at Madrid, and give me the history of his late adventure in its fullest details."
Moireau did not disappoint me; and so soon as his letter reached me I hastened to copy it, merely suppressing the date of the place from which it was written, and forwarded it immediately to the comtesse d'Egmont, with the following note:--
"The many proofs of tender attachment with which the widow Rossin honored young Moireau make me believe that she will learn with pleasure of my having the good fortune to rescue the ill-fated youth from the cruelty of the comtesse d'Egmont. This interesting young man no longer groans a wretched prisoner in the gloomy abode that haughty lady had selected for him, but is at this minute safe in a neighboring kingdom, under the powerful patronage of king of France, who is in possession of every circumstance relative to the affair. I likewise know the whole of the matter, and have in my keeping the most irrefragable proofs of all that took place and should I henceforward have any reason to complain of the comtesse d'Egmont, I shall publish these documents with permission of those concerned.
"The public will then be enabled to judge of the virtue and humanity of one who affects to treat me with a ridiculous disdain. There exists no law against a fair lady having lovers and admirers, but a stern one forbids her to command or procure their destruction. I KNOW ALL; and madame d'Egmont's future conduct will decide my silence and discretion. The affair with Moireau is not the only one, others of even a graver sin preceded it. I can publish the whole together; and, I repeat, my determination on this head depends wholly and entirely upon the manner in which madame d'Egmont shall henceforward conduct herself towards me. I beg madame de Rossin will allow me to subscribe myself, with every feeling she so well, merits,
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Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry -by- Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon