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"Well, but," said I, "since you really do know all about this man with the iron mask, you will tell it to me, will you not?"
"I should be very careful how I gratified your curiosity," said he; "this is a point of history which must never be cleared up; state reasons require that it should for ever remain a matter of doubt."
"And I must have you tell me," returned I; "do pray tell, and I will love you with all my heart."
"It cannot be."
"And why not? This unfortunate person has been long dead without leaving any posterity."
"Are you quite sure of that?" inquired the king, in a serious tone.
"But what signifies," said I, "whether he be dead or alive? I entreat of you to bestow upon me this proof of your confidence. Who of all those who have spoken of him have told the truth?"
"Nobody; but Voltaire has approached it more nearly than any one else."
After this partial confession the king implored of me to change the conversation, which I could easily perceive was extremely disagreeable to him. Nevertheless, it seemed to me quite clear, that this celebrated person belonged to the royal family, but by what title I could not devise. It was in vain that I afterwards revived the subject; not even during the most tender confidences could I obtain the information I desired. Possibly had I lived with him some years more I might have succeeded in drawing from him all he knew respecting the object of my curiosity. Old men, like children, can conceal nothing from those they love, and who have obtained over them an influence they willingly submit to.
Before I proceed to more important events, I would fain speak of persons with whom I lived before my elevation. My godfather, M. Billard du Monceau, was still living, as well as madame Lagarde, with whom I had resided as companion. My interview with the former is well known; and the authors of "Anecdotes of My Life," published thirteen years since, have strictly adhered to the truth, with the exception of some vulgarisms they have put into the mouth of that excellent man which he never uttered.
As to madame Lagarde, she was strangely surprised to see me arrive at her house; and the evident embarrassment my presence occasioned her was a sufficient revenge on my part for the many unkind things she had said and done respecting me. I would not prolong her uncomfortable situation, but studied to conduct myself with the same unaffected simplicity of former days. I talked over the past, inquired after her family, and offered my best services and protection without malice for what was gone by, and with perfect sincerity for the future. But spite of all my endeavors to spare her feelings, it was evident that rage and humiliation at the advantage my altered fortunes gave me over her, struggled within her, and the conflict of her mind was but too plainly depicted in her countenance. However, that was the least of my troubles; I soon restored her to comparative calmness; and before I quitted her, made her promise she would come and see me.
She would gladly have evaded this request; but her son, the master of requests, who sufficiently misjudged me to fear my resentment, and who possessed great influence over her, induced her to present herself at my house. She accordingly came to call upon me, with a mind bursting with spite and jealousy; yet she choked down her angry passions, and so far humbled herself, as to entreat my pardon for her own sake and that of her family, for all her unkindness towards me. I would not allow her to finish; "Madame," said I, "I only allow agreeable recollections to find a place in my memory; had I entertained the slightest resentment against either you or yours, you may be quite certain I should not have again entered your dwelling; and I again repeat the offer I made the other day, of gladly seizing the first opportunity of being useful to you."
Each of these words expressive of the kindest feelings towards her was like the stab of a poniard. She, however, extolled them with the most exaggerated praise, imploring me to believe how deeply she regretted her behavior, and talked so long and so much about it, that when she quitted me, it was with the most certain impression on my mind, that in her I possessed a most violent and implacable enemy, and in this conclusion I was quite correct. M. Dudelay, her son, had the effrontery to request to be presented to me, and charged the excellent M. de Laborde to make known his wishes to me. I begged he would inform M. Dudelay, that I admitted into the circle of my acquaintance only such as were known to the king; and that if he thought proper to apply to his majesty, I should obey his royal will on the subject, whatever it might be. He justly considered this repulse as a biting raillery, for which he never forgave me. I entertained no ill will against him for his past perfidy, but I considered it strange that he should presume to approach me with familiarity. I should not have adopted the same line of conduct towards the farmer-general, his brother, who, less assuming, contented himself with assuring me of his devotion, and the sincere regret with which he contemplated the past, without ever seeking to introduce himself into my presence.
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Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry -by- Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon