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I hastened to soften down my exclamation, but M. de Brin. villiers, scarcely appeared to notice my confused apologies.
“Yes, sir, you are right, she was an execrable woman. I stated that she was born in this village, and christened in that church, but it is a very remarkable fact, that, notwithstanding all the researches subsequently made into the history of our family, this circumstance has escaped discovery.”
“ How does it happen, sir, that a matter so notorious, should have been overlooked by historians ?”
“ Because nearly all modern bistory is false, erroneous, and incomplete. Voltaire in his day, exclaimed, when exposing the faults of contemporaneous historians, behold how history is written,' and I am of opinion, if that remark was now made, it would not be a very unjust one."
“I now remember that the dreadful drama, of which the marchioness was the heroine, occurred at Paris, and I always supposed that her history was handed down to posterity, compiled from actual documents, and the legal evidence adduced on her trial."
“No, sir, the only guide followed by our biographers, historians, and dramatists, was merely an erroneous romantic work, entitled Les Causes célébres, (remarkable trials,) edited by an advocate named Richer, whose object was the lucre of gain, and he did not for a moment hesitate in sacrificing truth and integrity to that end. His work contains some leading facts, but they are worked up with fictitious details, into a melodrama, in which nothing but effect remains to interest the reader. I, sir, have long been engaged in collecting materials to complete a history of my relative, which I shall shortly publish, if my life is spared. I have no intention of vindicating her life and actions, it would be a troublesome, useless, and mal-apropos task to attempt: my sole object is to give an authentic narrative of her remarkable history, from the hour of her birth, to the period of her disgraceful death ; as your poet Shakespeare says, “I will nothing extenuate, nor aught set down in malice,' but leave it to my readers to draw their own moral reflections, from one of the most extraordinary lives that ever sullied the fair fame of a ancient noble family, whose last descendant I am.
" In order to complete this long and painful task, I have neither spared time nor expense. I have carefully consulted the archives and letters of my own and other families connected with it. I have examined the parliamentary registers, the archives of the criminal court, the briefs of council employed
on both sides, the factums, and other decrees published in 1676, both for and against the marchioness, the MSS. of her own council, and those of her confessor, the memoirs and gazettes of that period ; in short everything has been consulted that could, directly or indirectly, throw any light upon the fatal tragedy, or the history of the parties concerned in it.
“ If your leisure permitted, sir," continued M. de Brinvil. liers, at the same time opening a portfolio, containing many closely written sheets, " I would go over such part of my narrative, as I have already arranged, and you perceive,” observed he, pointing to marginal references, “ I give my authority for every word of the detail.”
Delighted with the offer, I immediately embraced it, add. ing, in a supplicating manner, that we had yet a good hour's daylight, the weather fine, the heat supportable, and, should it fatigue him too much to continue to the end of his history upon this opportunity, I should most happily devote a day or two at Inmiéges, if he would permit me to take that advantage of his obliging offer, having no occupation to require my attention, beyond that of seeking information or amusement.”
My companion consulted his watch, reflected for a second, and then with an air of satisfaction, observed,
“ I shall feel pleased by your attention, sir, and flatter my. self that I shall be enabled to give a very dramatic sketch of this melancholy story, strictly founded on fact and as yet totally unknown to the public, except in its general features."
We relaxed our pace, when he commenced as follows, and, on our arrival at Inmiéges completed, on the next day, the interesting, though melancholy recital.
ST. PAUL NEW STREET.
“ A STREET existed in 1638, formed during the previous century, on the site of the manor of the abbey of St. Maur des Fossés, at Paris. This was named La Rue Neuve St. Paul au Marais ; at that period more silent, more gloomy, more deserted, than it is at this moment. It was composed of solidly built mansion-houses of the time of Louis XIII., and inhabited by the nobility, magistrates, and public functionaries. Being a street but little frequented, the inhabitants enjoyed great tranquility; moreover it possessed the advantage of being situate between the arsenal, the bastille, and the place royal, that is
to say, in the heart of all the fashion, pleasure, and business of the French capital at that period.
“On entering this street there stood, on the right hand a mansion of greater size, and richer architecture than any of the others; it had been recently built by the celebrated archi. tect Lemercier, by whom it was ornamented with statues and decorated with splendour. This was the hotel of M. d'Aubray, (lieutenant civil of Paris.) A richly sculptured carriage entrance, conducted into an enclosed court-yard, from whence a magnificent stone staircase led to the grand apartments on the first floor. We must have seen these splendid rooms, to form the least idea of their magnificence, space, and decorations, during the early part of the seventeenth century ; and the mansion of M. d'Aubray, was one of the most remarkable of the age.
“ The ante-chamber of this public functionary then pred sented a peculiar character, and, in its decorations, recalled some of the principal events of French history. The walls were decorated with paintings representing the battles of Charles-VII., Francis I., and Henry IV. with whole length portraits of the French monarchs, and great men, maps of the French provinces, Paris and its various additions, filled up the vacancies of this spacious saloon. From this antechamber you passed through a suite of vast apartments, leading to a smaller saloon, ornamented with sculptured furniture, enormous mirrors, gilded fret-work freizes, needle-work tapestry, inlaid floor of coloured woods, cabinet pictures of great value, and redolent of perfume from burning aromatics, or the choicest flowers of the season. The extreme elegance, and, if I may use the expression, the coquetry of this room, indicated the luxury, wealth, and taste of its proprietor.
Any one at this moment entering this sanctum, would have experienced extreme surprise on beholding the extraordi. nary attitude of two young ladies, seated beside the fire-place. One of them, who was seated in front of the entrance, appeared about twenty-three years of age. She was a pale, elegantlyformed, delicate woman, seated in a large richly carved, gilded arm-chair, her head resting on a head and arm of perfect symmetry, and dazzling whiteness. Long black tresses fell in curling profusion over her finely expanded shoulders and bosom, partially concealed with a lace collar, attached to a white satin dress, the front of which was open, and ornamented with rosettes of pink and blue ribbons, at equal distances, in the marter of clasps ; at her waist was pendant sup.
ported by elaborately worked gold chains, a magnificent gold watch and miniature, richly ornamented with diamonds of great value. The countenance of this lady exhibited deepseated mental anguish, and tears silently streamed from her downcast eyes.
• The other lady, sitting facing her, was some years older, and of a more fully developed form and size, she was attired in the plain black garb of one of the sisters of charity, a religious society, at that time extremely numerous, and composed of ladies, for the greater part, belonging to noble famia lies; her face expressed dignity, internal calm, and gentleness, which rendered it extremely pleasing ; though she was not regularly handsome, she nevertheless appeared to have experienced her share of mortal sorrow.
Seated in one of those large arm-chairs with inclined backs, since called à la Voltaire, her eyes were steadfastly fixed upon the lady before ber, as if to read her inmost thoughts, or to interpret her slightest gesture.
“ Profound silence reigned in this luxurious boudoir, interrupted only by the crackling of the wood fire, and the heavy measured beat of a splendid chimney clock, placed between a Converted Magdalen, painted by Le Brun, and a Holy Family, by Lesueur.
“This silence was at length broken by the nun, who enquired, with angelic sweetness,
" • Margaret, my dearest, what is this secret ? do you not already know that I am, and ever have been, your companion ? and that I am your most attached and faithful friend ? confide then to me this secret that preys upon your heart, and overcasts every action of your life with sorrow, in the midst of all the wealth and luxury that surround you.'
" • Yes, my beloved sister, you have ever been this to me ; but I know not if you will so remain, if thy counsels will soothe my lacerated heart, if thy pardon will restore me to lost happiness and peace of mind, should my fatal secret once escape its prison bounds ; yet I feel it a duty I owe your love, to unfold it,' said the speaker in accents of extreme emotion.
"God is great, and merciful! my sister ; place your trust in his mercy, the sighs of true repentance will reach the throne of grace.'
“ These simple words, pronounced with unaffected solenın piety, were deeply felt, and the lady to whom they were ad.
dressed, after a long pause of internal struggle, thus commenced, in faltering accents :
You must remember that on attaining sixteen, about seven years since, our father, coming to see me at the cons vent, announced with more than his usual kindness, his in, tention of shortly bestowing me in marriage to the Marquis of Brinvilliers, an officer in the army, then with his regiment in Normandy.'
" " I remember it well,' observed sister Mary, and some days after, you became the pretty little Marchioness de Brin. villiers, as Cardinal Mazarin styled you.'
" • Would to God I had never become so l' esclaimed Margaret , who, drawing nearer to her sister, continued, .at sixteen I was ignorant that any other sentiment existed under heaven than friendship, that any other feeling could enter the human heart. I loved my companions as sisters, I loved every one alike, I confided every inmost thought to them, and participated with them in all their innocent enjoyments. I knew no other pleasures; sorrow was a stranger to me, and the purest friendship the warmest sentiment of my young heart. In an instant this peaceful life was for ever changed! I quitted the convent, and all the scenes of bappiness that had blessed my youth, to become the wife of the Marquis de Brin. villiers,-- not from love, but in obedience to a parent's wish,and soon discovered the horrid truth, that my husband loved menot; he had been induced to ask my band from the temptation of two hundred thousand francs given as my marriage portion, which he expended in every species of low intrigue and licentious company. During four years I suffered but little from his cruel indifference, I was launched upon a sea of povelty and pleasure, whose daily routine of change filled up all my thoughts. I felt no love towards my husband, and he experienced none for me.'
“ She ceased for a few seconds, to overcome her emotion.
". Five years after my marriage, that is in 1656, the disputes and riots between the pages and servants of the nobilty encreased daily, and became a sort of civil warfare in Paris. These servants, not content with fighting among themselves, robbed the tradesmen, insulted every respectable female, who unfortunately crossed their passage, broke the house and carriage windows of those against whom their anger was directed, disturbed the sittings of the tribunals, rescued criminals from punishment, and fought desperate battles with the officers of police. At this period my husband was absent from Paris,