Chapter cxiii icon

Chapter cxiii



НазваниеChapter cxiii
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part in what he wished to relate. He instantly quitted the principal

object of the story in order to hang on to one of these persons, and

immediately after to some other person connected with the first, then to

a third, in the manner of the romances; he threaded through a dozen

histories at once, which made him lose ground and drove him from one to

the other without ever finishing anything; and with this his words were

very confused, so that it was impossible to learn anything from him or

retain anything he said. For the rest, his conversation was always

constrained by caprice or policy; and was amusing only by starts, and by

the malicious witticisms which sprung out of it. A few months after his

last illness, that is to say, when he was more than ninety years of age,

he broke in his horses and made a hundred passades at the Bois de

Boulogne (before the King, who was going to the Muette), upon a colt he

had just trained, surprising the spectators by his address, his firmness,

and his grace. These details about him might go on for ever.


His last illness came on without warning, almost in a moment, with the

most horrible of all ills, a cancer in the mouth. He endured it to the

last with incredible patience and firmness, without complaint, without

spleen, without the slightest repining; he was insupportable to himself.

When he saw his illness somewhat advanced, he withdrew into a little

apartment (which he had hired with this object in the interior of the

Convent of the Petits Augustins, into which there was an entrance from

his house) to die in repose there, inaccessible to Madame de Biron and

every other woman, except his wife, who had permission to go in at all

hours, followed by one of her attendants.


Into this retreat Lauzun gave access only to his nephews and brothers-in-

law, and to them as little as possible. He thought only of profiting by

his terrible state, of giving all his time to the pious discourses of his

confessor and of some of the pious people of the house, and to holy

reading; to everything, in fact, which best could prepare him for death.


When we saw him, no disorder, nothing lugubrious, no trace of suffering,

politeness, tranquillity, conversation but little animated, indifference

to what was passing in the world, speaking of it little and with

difficulty; little or no morality, still less talk of his state; and this

uniformity, so courageous and so peaceful, was sustained full four months

until the end; but during the last ten or twelve days he would see

neither brothers-in-law nor nephews, and as for his wife, promptly

dismissed her. He received all the sacraments very edifyingly, and

preserved his senses to the last moment: The morning of the day during

the night of which he died, he sent for Biron, said he had done for him

all that Madame de Lauzun had wished; that by his testament he gave him

all his wealth, except a trifling legacy to the son of his other sister,

and some recompenses to his domestics; that all he had done for him since

his marriage, and what he did in dying, he (Biron) entirely owed to

Madame de Lauzun; that he must never forget the gratitude he owed her;

that he prohibited him, by the authority of uncle and testator, ever to

cause her any trouble or annoyance, or to have any process against her,

no matter of what kind. It was Biron himself who told me this the next

day, in the terms I have given. M. de Lauzun said adieu to him in a firm

tone, and dismissed him. He prohibited, and reasonably, all ceremony; he

was buried at the Petits Augustins; he had nothing from the King but the

ancient company of the battle-axes, which was suppressed two days after.

A month before his death he had sent for Dillon (charged here with the

affairs of King James, and a very distinguished officer general), to whom

he surrendered his collar of the Order of the Garter, and a George of

onyx, encircled with perfectly beautiful and large diamonds, to be sent

back to the Prince.


I perceive at last, that I have been very prolix upon this man, but the

extraordinary singularity of his life, and my close connexion with him,

appear to me sufficient excuses for making him known, especially as he

did not sufficiently figure in general affairs to expect much notice in

the histories that will appear. Another sentiment has extended my

recital. I am drawing near a term I fear to reach, because my desires

cannot be in harmony with the truth; they are ardent, consequently

gainful, because the other sentiment is terrible, and cannot in any way

be palliated; the terror of arriving there has stopped me--nailed me

where I was--frozen me.


It will easily be seen that I speak of the death (and what a death!) of

M. le Duc d'Orleans; and this frightful recital, especially after such a

long attachment (it lasted all his life, and will last all mine),

penetrates me with terror and with grief for him. The Regent had said,

when he died he should like to die suddenly: I shudder to my very marrow,

with the horrible suspicion that God, in His anger, granted his desire.


^ CHAPTER CXIX


The new chateau of Meudon, completely furnished, had been restored to me

since the return of the Court to Versailles, just as I had had it before

the Court came to Meudon. The Duc and Duchesse d'Humieres were with us

there, and good company. One morning towards the end of October, 1723,

the Duc d'Humieres wished me to conduct him to Versailles, to thank M. le

Duc d'Orleans.


We found the Regent dressing in the vault he used as his wardrobe. He

was upon his chair among his valets, and one or two of his principal

officers. His look terrified me. I saw a man with hanging head, a

purple-red complexion, and a heavy stupid air. He did not even see me

approach. His people told him. He slowly turned his head towards me,

and asked me with a thick tongue what brought me. I told him. I had

intended to pass him to come into the room where he dressed himself, so

as not to keep the Duc d'Humieres waiting; but I was so astonished that I

stood stock still.


I took Simiane, first gentleman of his chamber, into a window, and

testified to him my surprise and my fear at the state in which I saw M.

le Duc d'Orleans.


Simiane replied that for a long time he had been so in the morning; that

to-day there was nothing extraordinary about him, and that I was

surprised simply because I did not see him at those hours; that nothing

would be seen when he had shaken himself a little in dressing. There was

still, however, much to be seen when he came to dress himself. The

Regent received the thanks of the Duc d'Humieres with an astonished and

heavy air; he who always was so gracious and so polite to everybody, and

who so well knew how to express himself, scarcely replied to him! A

moment after, M. d'Humieres and I withdrew. We dined with the Duc de

Gesvres, who led him to the King to thank his Majesty.


The condition of M. le Duc d'Orleans made me make many reflections. For

a very long time the Secretaries of State had told me that during the

first hours of the morning they could have made him pass anything they

wished, or sign what might have been the most hurtful to him. It was the

fruit of his suppers. Within the last year he himself had more than once

told me that Chirac doctored him unceasingly, without effect; because he

was so full that he sat down to table every evening without hunger,

without any desire to eat, though he took nothing in the morning, and

simply a cup of chocolate between one and two o'clock in the day (before

everybody), it being then the time to see him in public. I had not kept

dumb with him thereupon, but all my representations were perfectly

useless. I knew moreover, that Chirac had continually told him that the

habitual continuance of his suppers would lead him to apoplexy, or dropsy

on the chest, because his respiration was interrupted at times; upon

which he had cried out against this latter malady, which was a slow,

suffocating, annoying preparation for death, saying that he preferred

apoplexy, which surprised and which killed at once, without allowing time

to think of it!


Another man, instead of crying out against this kind of death with which

he was menaced, and of preferring another, allowing him no time for

reflection, would have thought about leading a sober, healthy, and decent

life, which, with the temperament he had, would have procured him a very

long time, exceeding agreeable in the situation--very probably durable--

in which he found himself; but such was the double blindness of this

unhappy prince.


I was on terms of much intimacy with M. de Frejus, and since, in default

of M. le Duc d'Orleans, there must be another master besides the King,

until he could take command, I preferred this prelate to any other. I

went to him, therefore, and told him what I had seen this morning of the

state of M. le Duc d'Orleans. I predicted that his death must soon come,

and that it would arrive suddenly, without warning. I counselled Frejus,

therefore, to have all his arrangements ready with the King, in order to

fill up the Regent's place of prime minister when it should become

vacant. M. de Frejus appeared very grateful for the advice, but was

measured and modest as though he thought the post much above him!


On the 22nd of December, 1723, I went from Meudon to Versailles to see

M. le Duc d'Orleans; I was three-quarters of an hour with him in his

cabinet, where I had found him alone. We walked to and fro there,

talking of affairs of which he was going to give an account to the King

that day. I found no difference in him, his state was, as usual, languid

and heavy, as it had been for some time, but his judgment was clear as

ever. I immediately returned to Meudon, and chatted there some time with

Madame de Saint-Simon on arriving. On account of the season we had

little company. I left Madame de Saint-Simon in her cabinet, and went

into mine.


About an hour after, at most, I heard cries and a sudden uproar. I ran

out and I found Madame de Saint-Simon quite terrified, bringing to me a

groom of the Marquis de Ruffec, who wrote to me from Versailles, that

M. le Duc d'Orleans was in a apoplectic fit. I was deeply moved, but not

surprised; I had expected it, as I have shown, for a long time.

I impatiently waited for my carriage, which was a long while coming,

on account of the distance of the new chateau from the stables. I flung

myself inside; and was driven as fast as possible.


At the park gate I met another courier from M. de Ruffec, who stopped me,

and said it was all over. I remained there more than half an hour

absorbed in grief and reflection. At the end I resolved to go to

Versailles, and shut myself up in my rooms; I learnt there the

particulars of the event.


M. le Duc d'Orleans had everything prepared to go and work with the King.

While waiting the hour, he chatted with Madame Falari, one of his

mistresses. They were close to each other, both seated in armchairs,

when suddenly he fell against her, and never from that moment had the

slightest glimmer of consciousness.


La Falari, frightened as much as may be imagined, cried with all her

might for help, and redoubled her cries. Seeing that nobody replied, she

supported as best she could this poor prince upon the contiguous arms of

the two chairs, ran into the grand cabinet, into the chamber, into the

ante-chambers, without finding a soul; finally, into the court and the

lower gallery. It was the hour at which M. le Duc d'Orleans worked with

the King, an hour when people were sure no one would come and see him,

and that he had no need of them, because he ascended to the King's room

by the little staircase from his vault, that is to say his wardrobe. At

last La Falari found somebody, and sent the first who came to hand for

help. Chance; or rather providence, had arranged this sad event at a

time when everybody was ordinarily away upon business or visits, so that

a full half-hour elapsed before doctor or surgeon appeared, and about as

long before any domestics of M. le Duc d'Orleans could be found.


As soon as the faculty had examined the Regent; they judged his case

hopeless. He was hastily extended upon the floor, and bled, but he gave

not the slightest sign of life, do what they might to him. In an

instant, after the first announcement, everybody flocked to the spot; the

great and the little cabinet were full of people. In less than two hours

all was over, and little by little the solitude became as great as the

crowd had been. As soon as assistance came, La Falari flew away and

gained Paris as quickly as possible.


La Vrilliere was one of the first who learnt of the attack of apoplexy.

He instantly ran and informed the King and the Bishop of Frejus. Then M.

le Duc, like a skilful courtier, resolved to make the best of his time;

he at once ran home and drew up at all hazards the patent appointing M.

le Duc prime minister, thinking it probable that that prince would be

named. Nor was he deceived. At the first intelligence of apoplexy,

Frejus proposed M. le Duc to the King, having probably made his

arrangements in advance. M. le Duc arrived soon after, and entered the

cabinet where he saw the King, looking very sad, his eyes red and

tearful.


Scarcely had he entered than Frejus said aloud to the King, that in the

loss he had sustained by the death of M. le Duc d'Orleans (whom he very

briefly eulogised), his Majesty could not do better than beg M. le Duc,

there present, to charge himself with everything, and accept the post of

prime minister M. le Duc d'Orleans had filled. The King, without saying

a word, looked at Frejus, and consented by a sign of the head, and M. le

Duc uttered his thanks.


La Vrilliere, transported with joy at the prompt policy he had followed,

had in his pocket the form of an oath taken by the prime minister, copied

from that taken by M. le Duc d'Orleans, and proposed to Frejus to

administer it immediately. Frejus proposed it to the King as a fitting

thing, and M. le Duc instantly took it. Shortly after, M. le Duc went

away; the crowd in the adjoining rooms augmented his suite, and in a

moment nothing was talked of but M. le Duc.


M. le Duc de Chartres (the Regent's son), very awkward, but a libertine,

was at Paris with an opera dancer he kept. He received the courier which

brought him the news of the apoplexy, and on the road (to Versailles),

another with the news of death. Upon descending from his coach, he found

no crowd, but simply the Duc de Noailles, and De Guiche, who very

'apertement' offered him their services, and all they could do for him.

He received them as though they were begging-messengers whom he was in a

hurry to get rid of, bolted upstairs to his mother, to whom he said he

had just met two men who wished to bamboozle him, but that he had not

been such a fool as to let them. This remarkable evidence of

intelligence, judgment, and policy, promised at once all that this prince

has since performed. It was with much trouble he was made to comprehend

that he had acted with gross stupidity; he continued, nevertheless, to

act as before.


He was not less of a cub in the interview I shortly afterwards had with

him. Feeling it my duty to pay a visit of condolence to Madame la

Duchesse d'Orleans, although I had not been on terms of intimacy with her

for a long while, I sent a message to her to learn whether my presence

would be agreeable. I was told that Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans would

be very glad to see me. I accordingly immediately went to her.


I found her in bed, with a few ladies and her chief officers around, and

M. le Duc de Chartres making decorum do double duty for grief. As soon

as I approached her she spoke to me of the grievous misfortune--not a

word of our private differences. I had stipulated thus. M. le Duc de

Chartres went away to his own rooms. Our dragging conversation I put an

end to as soon as possible.


From Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans I went to M. le Duc de Chartres. He

occupied the room his father had used before being Regent. They told me

he was engaged. I went again three times during the same morning. At

the last his valet de chambre was ashamed, and apprised him of my visit,

in despite of me. He came across the threshold of the door of his

cabinet, where he had been occupied with some very common people; they

were just the sort of people suited to him.


I saw a man before me stupefied and dumfounded, not afflicted, but so

embarrassed that he knew not where he was. I paid him the strongest, the

clearest, the most energetic of compliments, in a loud voice. He took

me, apparently, for some repetition of the Ducs de Guiche and de

Noailles, and did not do me the honour to reply one word.


I waited some moments, and seeing that nothing would come out of the

mouth of this image, I made my reverence and withdrew, he advancing not

one step to conduct me, as he ought to have done, all along his

apartment, but reburying himself in his cabinet. It is true that in

retiring I cast my eyes upon the company, right and left, who appeared to

me much surprised. I went home very weary of dancing attendance at the

chateau.


The death of M. le Duc d'Orleans made a great sensation abroad and at

home; but foreign countries rendered him incomparably more justice, and

regretted him much more, than the French. Although foreigners knew his

feebleness, and although the English had strangely abused it, their

experience had not the less persuaded them of the range of his mind, of

the greatness of his genius and of his views, of his singular

penetration, of the sagacity and address of his policy, of the fertility

of his expedients and of his resources, of the dexterity of his conduct

under all changes of circumstances and events, of his clearness in

considering objects and combining things; of his superiority over his

ministers, and over those that various powers sent to him; of the

exquisite discernment he displayed in investigating affairs; of his

learned ability in immediately replying to everything when he wished.

The majority of our Court did not regret him, however. The life he had

led displeased the Church people; but more still, the treatment they had

received from his hands.


The day after death, the corpse of M. le Duc d'Orleans was taken from

Versailles to Saint-Cloud, and the next day the ceremonies commenced.

His heart was carried from Saint-Cloud to the Val de Grace by the

Archbishop of Rouen, chief almoner of the defunct Prince. The burial

took place at Saint-Denis, the funeral procession passing through Paris,

with the greatest pomp. The obsequies were delayed until the 12th of

February. M. le Duc de Chartres became Duc d'Orleans.


After this event, I carried out a determination I had long resolved on.

I appeared before the new masters of the realm as seldom as possible--

only, in fact, upon such occasions where it would have been inconsistent

with my position to stop away. My situation at the Court had totally

changed. The loss of the dear Prince, the Duc de Bourgogne, was the

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