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She left the court and retired to her chateau of La Roche-Guyon, on the Seine, ten leagues below Paris, where, fond of magnificence, she is said to have lived in much expense and splendor. The indefatigable King, haunted by her memory, made a hunting-party in the neighboring forests; and, as evening drew near, separating himself from his courtiers, he sent a gentleman of his train to ask of Madame de Guercheville the shelter of her roof. The reply conveyed a dutiful acknowledgment of the honor, and an offer of the best entertainment within her power. It was night when Henry with his little band of horsemen, approached the chateau, where lights were burning in every window, after a fashion of the day on occasions of welcome to an honored guest. Pages stood in the gateway, each with a blazing torch; and here, too, were gentlemen of the neighborhood, gathered to greet their sovereign. Madame de Guercheville came forth, followed by the women of her household; and when the King, unprepared for so benign a welcome, giddy with love and hope, saw her radiant in pearls and more radiant yet in a beauty enhanced by the wavy torchlight and the surrounding shadows, he scarcely dared trust his senses:--
"Que vois-je, madame; est-ce bien vous, et suis-je ce roi meprise?"
He gave her his hand, and she led him within the chateau, where, at the door of the apartment destined for him, she left him, with a graceful reverence. The King, nowise disconcerted, did not doubt that she had gone to give orders for his entertainment, when an attendant came to tell him that she had descended to the courtyard and called for her coach. Thither he hastened in alarm:
"What! am I driving you from your house?"
"Sire," replied Madame de Guercheville, "where a king is, he should be the sole master; but, for my part, I like to preserve some little authority wherever I may be."
With another deep reverence, she entered her coach and disappeared, seeking shelter under the roof of a friend, some two leagues off, and leaving the baffled King to such consolation as he might find in a magnificent repast, bereft of the presence of the hostess.
Henry could admire the virtue which he could not vanquish; and, long after, on his marriage, he acknowledged his sense of her worth by begging her to accept an honorable post near the person of the Queen.
"Madame," he said, presenting her to Marie de Medicis, "I give you a lady of honor who is a lady of honor indeed."
Some twenty years had passed since the adventure of La Roche-Guyon. Madame de Guercheville had outlived the charms which had attracted her royal suitor, but the virtue which repelled him was reinforced by a devotion no less uncompromising. A rosary in her hand and a Jesuit at her side, she realized the utmost wishes of the subtle fathers who had moulded and who guided her. She readily took fire when they told her of the benighted souls of New France, and the wrongs of Father Biard kindled her utmost indignation. She declared herself the protectress of the American missions; and the only difficulty, as a Jesuit writer tells us, was to restrain her zeal within reasonable bounds.
She had two illustrious coadjutors. The first was the jealous Queen, whose unbridled rage and vulgar clamor had made the Louvre a hell. The second was Henriette d'Entragues, Marquise de Vernenil, the crafty and capricious siren who had awakened these conjugal tempests. To this singular coalition were joined many other ladies of the court; for the pious flame, fanned by the Jesuits, spread through hall and boudoir, and fair votaries of the Loves and Graces found it a more grateful task to win heaven for the heathen than to merit it for themselves.
Young Biencourt saw it vain to resist. Biard must go with him in the returning ship, and also another Jesuit, Enemond Masse. The two fathers repaired to Dieppe, wafted on the wind of court favor, which they never doubted would bear them to their journey s end. Not so, however. Poutrincourt and his associates, in the dearth of their own resources, had bargained with two Huguenot merchants of Dieppe, Du Jardin and Du Quesne, to equip and load the vessel, in consideration of their becoming partners in the expected profits. Their indignation was extreme when they saw the intended passengers. They declared that they would not aid in building up a colony for the profit of the King of Spain, nor risk their money in a venture where Jesuits were allowed to intermeddle; and they closed with a fiat refusal to receive them on board, unless, they added with patriotic sarcasm, the Queen would direct them to transport the whole order beyond sea. Biard and Masse insisted, on which the merchants demanded reimbursement for their outlay, as they would have no further concern in the business.
Biard communicated with Father Coton, Father Coton with Madame de Guercheville. No more was needed. The zealous lady of honor, "indignant," says Biard, "to see the efforts of hell prevail," and resolved "that Satan should not remain master of the field," set on foot a subscription, and raised an ample fund within the precincts of the court. Biard, in the name of the "Province of France of the Order of Jesus," bought out the interest of the two merchants for thirty-eight hundred livres, thus constituting the Jesuits equal partners in business with their enemies. Nor was this all; for, out of the ample proceeds of the subscription, he lent to the needy associates a further sum of seven hundred and thirty-seven livres, and advanced twelve hundred and twenty-five more to complete the outfit of the ship. Well pleased, the triumphant priests now embarked, and friend and foe set sail together on the twenty-sixth of January, 1611.
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Pioneers of France in the New World -by- Francis Parkman