|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
My cousin, the chancellor of France, had remained to keep me company instead of joining the party at Chantilly. My cousin, say you, and by what right or title could M. de Maupeou become such? I will tell you. First of all he only aspired to the honor of relationship, but afterwards, turning over the archives of his family, he found the most incontestable proofs of his belonging to the ancient families of the du Barry; and full of joy, he hurried to me, unrolling at my feet his genealogical tree, to the great amusement of comte Jean and my sisters-in-law, who, after a long examination, declared that he was justly entitled to the appellation of first cousin; from that period he always addressed me cousin, which I flattered him by returning whenever I was in the humor.
About this period I was the happy instrument in saving from death a young girl whose judges (as will be seen) were about to sentence her to be hanged without fully understanding whether she were innocent or guilty. This unfortunate creature was a young and pretty country girl, whose worthy pastor, the cure de Liancourt, had availed himself of the influence he possessed, and of the advantages of his authority over the poor creature's mind, to seduce her from the paths of virtue. Unfortunately, just at the time when she expected to produce a living witness of their amour, and when she trusted to the cares of the cure to procure for her those comforts her unfortunate situation required, the author of her shame was suddenly carried off by a violent death, and the wretched girl, either thro' ignorance or the shame of having listened to the illicit passion of a priest, neglected to make any of those formal declarations required by the law, and gave birth to a dead infant. The justice of the village, informed of her fault, caused her to be arrested, and recorded against her sentence of death, a decision which was afterwards approved by parliament.
The poor girl was in this extremity when, happily for her, M. de Mandeville, a worthy man from either Normandy or Picardy, who had served in the black musketeers, resolved upon attempting the revocation of the severe sentence which had been passed upon her, by addressing the king thro' my mediation; he accordingly followed me to Marly, where I then was, and lost no time in forwarding to me the following billet:--
"MADAME,-- Beauty has ever been found the inseparable companion of goodness; to yours I would appeal to obtain the favor of an immediate audience. My reasons for requesting it are not to solicit either place or pension, but to save the life of an erring creature whose crime has been that of ignorance. I await your reply with the most lively impatience, and have the honor to remain, etc., etc."
This note puzzled me excessively, however I gave orders for the immediate introduction of M. de Mandeville, whose appearance was even more prepossessing than his note; he looked and spoke like an honorable man endowed with that sensibility so precious and so rare; he put into my hands the petition, whilst he explained to me the particulars relative to it, and I instantly wrote to the chancellor the following note, of which a thousand copies were taken in the course of the day. Altho' it has been many times in print, I shall offer no apologies for again submitting it to your perusal.
"MONSIEUR LE CHANCELLOR,--I do not profess to understand your laws, but they seem to me as unjust as barbarous. They are contrary to both reason and humanity, if they put to death an unfortunate female for giving birth to a still-born child without having previously disclosed her situation to any one; and yet, according to the memorial annexed to this, the petitioner is so circumstanced. Here is an unhappy girl about to pay with the forfeit of her life for her ignorance of such a law, or because the modesty and even shame attendant upon her disgraced condition prevented her conforming to it. I appeal to your sense of justice; the wretched girl, concerning whom I write, is a fit object for the exercise of your lenity, and I venture to assure myself that you will at least effect the commutation of her punishment. Your own kind feelings will dictate all I would ask further for her.
"I am, etc., etc."
I felt very certain that, from the manner in which I had expressed myself, the consent of M. de Maupeou was quite certain; I therefore said to my visitor, the handsome musketeer,
"And now, sir, the noble work of charity, in which you have associated me must be completed: go yourself and see the chancellor, tell him you come from me, and do not quit him till you obtain the reply I have solicited."
M. de Mandeville loaded me with thanks and praises which I did not really merit, because in the present instance I acted as much from the wish to gratify my own feelings as his. My name and my letter were talismans before which all doors flew open, and he reached, without difficulty, the presence of the chief administrator of justice, who, having read the memorial and the note I had affixed to it, said, "That is sufficient, sir; have the goodness to assure madame la comtesse du Barry, my cousin, that the reprieve she desires is already granted; and as my fair relation appears to fear trusting implicitly to my personal friendship and humanity, I will set her mind at rest by putting you in possession of the legal forms requisite for the prisoner."
|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry -by- Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon