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'dinal Mazarin.' Her youthful admiration for the King betrays itself in her letter to Madame de Villarceaux: The 'Queen must have gone to bed last night rather satisfied. ' with the husband she has chosen.'
In 1660 she was left poor and a widow. 'M. Scarron has left 10,000 francs worth of property, and 22,000 francs ' worth of debts. . . . If I go to law I may get four or five 'thousand francs in all. . . . You will see that I am not de'stined to be happy, but we devout people call these troubles 'visitations of the Lord.' She did not intend to be unhappy long, for in December, 1660, she writes that Mesdames de 'Navailles and De Montausier are trying to get a pension for her from the Queen.' Many years later, in 1716, she wrote that it was at the request of the Marshal de Villeroy that the pension she got, and which ceased for a few 'weeks in 1666 on the death of Anne of Austria, was reestablished in her favour.' M. Geffroy, commenting on that gratitude which we believe was her special characteristic, sadly remarks: This was perhaps the origin of that continued favour enjoyed by the Marshal, and which proved 'so disastrous to France.'
Of the years between the death of Scarron and the beginning of his widow's friendship with Madame de Montespan we possess scant information. From fragments of conversation held by her with her friends at St. Cyr, all we gather from her own lips is that as a child she was what is called good;' that when bigger she was loved by her masters and companions at school;' that in the world she was sought by everyone-men and women,' and that when youth had gone her favour at Court began;' and she attributes all her success to her great love of being honoured and esteemed. When a widow she wanted nothing; she 'was surrounded by agreeable people anxious to be civil to her, but she preferred being as much as possible with 'Madame de Montchevreuil, as she could be of use to her;' for she remarks There is no greater pleasure than to 'oblige.' In fact, she once said "To oblige is to merit a good repute,' and The love of such good name, though perhaps 'mixed with pride, and therefore subject to correction, is 'the supplement of piety in preserving young girls from 'greater evils.'
The Marquis de Villarceaux and the Marquis de Montchevreuil were relations, and lived in neighbouring country houses. For reasons of a pecuniary character, no doubt, they agreed to live together in one house, and there the
widow Scarron made the acquaintance of Madame de Brinon, afterwards first lady president of St. Cyr. In a letter of September, 1669, published for the first time, and addressed to Madame de Brinon, Françoise Scarron regrets not being able to go to Montchevreuil and console the virtuous old Marquise, who knows that acts of faith and of ' resignation to the will of God have greater merit than any 'other,' because she does not quite know when she can 'leave Paris.'
She was then living at the Hôtel d'Albret in Paris, where she was much considered by César de Miossens, Maréchal d'Albret, an old friend of Scarron, and by his wife, a lady of a dull and harmless disposition. Madame de Maintenon once said of her 'that it is better to be bored with women like her than to rejoice with others.' At this house, however, the Montespans were wont frequently to visit, and Madame de Montespan remained in favour even after 1668, when she was officially recognised as the King's mistress. In 1669, Madame Scarron became secretly governess to her children by the King, because (says Madame de Caylus) they were mutually pleased with one another, and each found the other as full of esprit as herself.'
In confirmation of this, the letter found in the State Archives' by M. de Geffroy has its value, and it is interesting to note how Madame Scarron's great desire to serve those who had been kind to her or whom she loved was probably the sole motive which led her impulsively to accept a charge which afterwards, as the desire to serve and oblige went on diminishing, created so many scruples of conscience.
At the date of July 19, 1671, she is installed in her new position, and writes from Paris to the Maréchal d'Albret all the news of the Court she can gather; but as 'I spend all my days working at tapestry and shut up in my room I 'am badly informed of what is going on.' On September 3 she expresses the opinion that were it not for the pleasure she had in the friendship of their common acquaintance ' (Madame de Montespan) she would give way to impatience, as when she is not present she has little to console her.' On September 10 she goes to Versailles with Madame de Vivonne, sister-in-law of Madame de Montespan.
I found our friend handsomer than ever and in good health. She received me as well as I could wish, and I had the honour of meeting people in her room "qui me firent assez bonne mine." . . . I even had the honour of going out driving in the King's suite, which surprised
the courtiers and myself, for I had not had previous warning, and never expected such a favour.'
These letters only point to her new position without asserting it, but in later years, at St. Cyr, Madame de Maintenon commented on the singular life she was made to lead at this time.
I had to do the work of upholsterers and workmen and go up ladders, no one being allowed inside the rooms. I did everything myself, the nurses being forbidden to help, lest their milk might suffer. Sometimes I spent the whole night with one of the children if sick in a small house outside Paris, and returned home in the morning by a back door, so as not to be observed. When I had dressed I drove to the Hôtel d'Albret or Richelieu, that my friends should not perceive any difference in my habits, or even suspect I had a secret to keep. I wasted away, but no one could guess the cause of it.'
This statement, which M. Geffroy accepts, is not reconcileable with the letters to Maréchal d'Albret, which, if they do not actually tell, most decidedly hint, the secret she is keeping, and which she knew the Marshal was too much of the courtier not to respect.
In 1672 no royal order had yet appeared legitimising the charge over which the widow Scarron watched so conscientiously. Madame de Coulanges informed Madame de Sévigné that 'aucun mortel, sans exception, n'a commerce avec elle; c'est une chose étonnante que sa vie.' On December 20, 1673, the bastards were recognised by the King, and a few days previously Madame de Sévigné wrote to her daughter that Madame Scarron had a fine country 'house, near to Vaugirard, with carriage, horses, lackeys; that she was modestly but magnificently dressed; was amiable, handsome, good, and somewhat slovenly; a plea6 sant talker.'
From this time dates that second period in the developement of her character to which we have alluded. Gratitude to her benefactors has alone up to this time been the prime motor of all her actions. Henceforward she is to taste power and to use it for the benefit of those she has learnt to love. She openly appeared at Court as the governess of the King's illegitimate children; but the ample reward she now clearly was entitled to dimmed the purity of her original motive in accepting the charge; and though she received the salary of dependence, her conscience was not at ease. The Abbé Gobelin, a simple, timid, but honest priest, was her spiritual adviser. To him she confided her scruples, while somewhat cleverly saddling him with the responsi
bility of her own acts. You will remember that you desire me to remain at Court, and that I will leave it as soon as 'you advise it.' To him also she communicates all her troubles at this period of her existence.
'I have an extreme desire to buy an estate, but cannot succeed. . . . Madame de Montespan and the Duchesse de Richelieu are anxious I should marry a disreputable old duke (De Villars), but I have trouble enough in a position which is envied by everyone to seek it in one which is the cause of the misfortunes of three-quarters of mankind. But I have not stopped all negotiations, as I wish Madame de Richelieu to see the coldness and indifference of Madame de Montespan to all my most important material advantages. . . . How stupid it is to love with such excess a child which is not mine (the Duc du Maine), of whom I can never dispose, and who will never give me in the future anything but sorrows, which will kill me! Truly, I must be a slave of habit not to change a condition which would set me at rest.'
These complaints are very significant of the struggle Madame Scarron at this time (1674) was mentally carrying on between her desire to convert her precarious fortune into one which might insure her independence for life and that nobility of her nature which could not brook the imperiousness of the haughty Montespan. Prudence was evidently the keynote of her conduct. In August 1674 she writes to the Abbé Gobelin that she has had an explanation ' with Madame de Montespan, that she has roundly accused the favourite of setting the King against her;' that she may have spoken too freely, though it is not possible for 'her to speak otherwise than with sincerity;' and that she ' is determined to leave them at the end of the year,' though ' in the meantime she intends to pray God to guide her in what she had best do towards her salvation.' Then comes a fresh combat between the fear of being selfish and her love for the children of whom she has charge and the duties she considers she owes them. I sometimes resolve to leave 'these children to the care of their mother, but I fear to 'offend God by such abandonment, and then I double my 'attention to them, which naturally increases my love for 'them; so you see my condition is one of trouble."
A climax seemed to have been reached on September 13, when, writing to her usual confidant, the poor widow Scarron informs him :
'Madame de Montespan and I have had a very lively explanation this day. I cannot stay in a position which exposes me daily to such adventures. I know I can work for my salvation here, but I could do so better elsewhere. I cannot comprehend that God's will should be that my sufferings must be caused by Madame de Montespan. She is
incapable of friendship, and I cannot do without it; she cannot find me so opposed to her wishes without hating me. She can tell the King what she pleases, and I am on the footing of an eccentric being that must be humoured. I dare not speak to the King, because she would not forgive me; and were I to do so my gratitude to Madame de Montespan does not allow of my speaking against her. Thus there is no end possible to my sufferings.'
At the beginning of October, however, her spirits appear to have revived.
'I am impatient to inform you that the King has given me another hundred thousand francs, and thus I have two hundred thousand at your command. I know not whether you are satisfied, but I am; and I shall require to change very much before I ever ask them for a penny. It is enough for necessity; any more would only gratify avidity, which never has aniy limits. Still, I have not changed in regard to my desire to leave. I am useless here, both to myself and to others.'
In November she informs the Abbé that she is buying a beautiful and noble' property called Maintenon, 'fourteen leagues from Paris, ten from Versailles, and four from Chartres, yielding an annual rental of between ten and eleven thousand francs, the purchase price being 250,000 francs.' In January, 1675, she expresses herself much satisfied with and anxious to be already installed in her new house, it being true that the King has given her the name of Maintenon. In February the hostility between Madame de Montespan and Madame de Maintenon becomes accentuated: "Terrible things take place here; the King was witness of them yesterday. I cannot bear it long;' but in the following month she was able to write, 'If anyone of good sense and known 'piety would counsel me to stop where I am, I would do it at any cost; ask God to bless my views ;' and in April, before proceeding to Barèges: I saw the King yesterday. Fear not, it strikes me that I spoke to him as a Christian and as the true friend of Madame de Montespan.' At Easter, Louis XIV. and his beautiful mistress separated under the pressure of religious influence. Bourdaloue and Bossuet, friends of Madame de Maintenon, had won the day. Madame de Montespan retired to the country, the King went to Flanders; but on that occasion began the long correspondence with Madame de Maintenon which would have been so invaluable to our knowledge of his reign had it been preserved. On his return from Flanders in October the effects of Bourdaloue's preaching had worn off, and the King, who had been adjured not to see his favourite, could not resist the temptation, et il en advint Mademoiselle de Blois et M. le Comte