The Princess of Cleves PART III

“In the meantime, however busy and full I was of my new engagement with the Queen, I still kept fair with Madam de Themines by a natural inclination which it was not in my power to conquer; I thought she cooled in her love to me, and whereas, had I been prudent, I should have made use of the change I observed in her for my cure, my love redoubled upon it, and I managed so ill that the Queen got some knowledge of this intrigue. Jealousy is natural to persons of her nation, and perhaps she had a greater affection for me than she even imagined herself; at least the report of my being in love gave her so much uneasiness, that I thought myself entirely ruined with her; however I came into favour again by virtue of submissions, false oaths, and assiduity; but I should not have been able to have deceived her long, had not Madam de Themines’s change disengaged me from her against my will; she convinced me she no longer loved me, and I was so thoroughly satisfied of it, that I was obliged to give her no further uneasiness, but to let her be quiet. Some time after she wrote me this letter which I have lost; I learned from it, she had heard of the correspondence I had with the other woman I told you of, and that that was the reason of her change. As I had then nothing further left to divide me, the Queen was well enough satisfied with me; but the sentiments I have for her not being of a nature to render me incapable of other engagements, and love not being a thing that depends on our will, I fell in love with Madam de Martigues, of whom I was formerly a great admirer, while she was with Villemontais, maid of honour to the Queen-Dauphin; I have reason to believe she does not hate me; the discretion I observe towards her, and which she does not wholly know the reasons of, is very agreeable to her; the Queen has not the least suspicion on her account, but she has another jealousy which is not less troublesome; as Madam de Martigues is constantly with the Queen-Dauphin, I go there much oftener than usual; the Queen imagines that ’tis this Princess I am in love with; the Queen-Dauphin’s rank, which is equal to her own, and the superiority of her youth and beauty, create a jealousy that rises even to fury, and fills her with a hatred against her daughter-in-law that cannot be concealed. The Cardinal of Loraine, who, I believe has been long aspiring to the Queen’s favour, and would be glad to fill the place I possess, is, under pretence of reconciling the two Queens, become master of the differences between them; I doubt not but he has discovered the true cause of the Queen’s anger, and I believe he does me all manner of ill offices, without letting her see that he designs it. This is the condition my affairs are in at present; judge what effect may be produced by the letter which I have lost, and which I unfortunately put in my pocket with design to restore it to Madam de Themines: if the Queen sees this letter, she will know I have deceived her; and that almost at the very same time that I deceived her for Madam de Themines, I deceived Madam de Themines for another; judge what an idea this will give her of me, and whether she will ever trust me again. If she does not see the letter, what shall I say to her? She knows it has been given to the Queen-Dauphin; she will think Chatelart knew that Queen’s hand, and that the letter is from her; she will fancy the person of whom the letter expresses a jealousy, is perhaps herself; in short, there is nothing which she may not think, and there is nothing which I ought not to fear from her thoughts; add to this, that I am desperately in love with Madam de Martigues, and that the Queen-Dauphin will certainly show her this letter, which she will conclude to have been lately writ. Thus shall I be equally embroiled both with the person I love most, and with the person I have most cause to fear. Judge, after this, if I have not reason to conjure you to say the letter is yours, and to beg of you to get it out of the Queen-Dauphin’s hands.”

“I am very well satisfied,” answered the Duke de Nemours, “that one cannot be in a greater embarrassment than that you are in, and it must be confessed you deserve it; I have been accused of being inconstant in my amours, and of having had several intrigues at the same time, but you out-go me so far, that I should not so much as have dared to imagine what you have undertaken; could you pretend to keep Madam de Themines, and be at the same engaged with the Queen? did you hope to have an engagement with the Queen, and be able to deceive her? she is both an Italian and a Queen, and by consequence full of jealousy, suspicion, and pride. As soon as your good fortune, rather than your good conduct, had set you at liberty from an engagement you was entangled in, you involved yourself in new ones, and you fancied that in the midst of the Court you could be in love with Madam de Martigues without the Queen’s perceiving it: you could not have been too careful to take from her the shame of having made the first advances; she has a violent passion for you; you have more discretion than to tell it me, and I than to ask you to tell it; it is certain she is jealous of you, and has truth on her side.” “And does it belong to you,” interrupted the Viscount, “to load me with reprimands, and ought not your own experience to make you indulgent to my faults? However I grant I am to blame; but think, I conjure you, how to draw me out of this difficulty”; “I think you must go to the Queen-Dauphin as soon as she is awake, and ask her for the letter, as if you had lost it.” “I have told you already,” replied the Duke de Nemours, “that what you propose is somewhat extraordinary, and that there are difficulties in it which may affect my own particular interest; but besides, if this letter has been seen to drop out of your pocket, I should think it would be hard to persuade people that it dropped out of mine.” “I thought I had told you,” replied the Viscount, “that the Queen-Dauphin had been informed that you dropped it.” “How,” said the Duke de Nemours hastily, apprehending the ill consequence this mistake might be of to him with Madam de Cleves, “has the Queen-Dauphin been told I dropped the letter?” “Yes,” replied the Viscount, “she has been told so; and what occasioned the mistake was, that there were several gentlemen of the two Queens in a room belonging to the tennis court, where our clothes were put up, when your servants and mine went together to fetch them; then it was the letter fell out of the pocket; those gentlemen took it up, and read it aloud; some believed it belonged to you, and others to me; Chatelart, who took it, and to whom I have just sent for it, says, he gave it to the Queen-Dauphin as a letter of yours; and those who have spoken of it to the Queen have unfortunately told her it was mine; so that you may easily do what I desire of you, and free me from this perplexity.”

The Duke de Nemours had always had a great friendship for the Viscount de Chartres, and the relation he bore to Madam de Cleves still made him more dear to him; nevertheless he could not prevail with himself to run the risk of her having heard of this letter, as of a thing in which he was concerned; he fell into a deep musing, and the Viscount guessed pretty near what was the subject of his meditations; “I plainly see,” said he, “that you are afraid of embroiling yourself with your mistress, and I should almost fancy the Queen-Dauphin was she, if the little jealousy you seem to have of Monsieur d’Anville did not take me off from that thought; but be that as it will, it is not reasonable you should sacrifice your repose to mine, and I’ll put you in a way of convincing her you love, that this letter is directed to me, and not to you; here is a billet from Madam d’Amboise, who is a friend of Madam de Themines, and was her confidant in the amour between her and me; in this she desires me to send her Madam de Themines’s letter, which I have lost; my name is on the superscription, and the contents of the billet prove, without question, that the letter she desires is the same with that which has been found; I’ll leave this billet in your hands, and agree that you may show it to your mistress in your justification; I conjure you not to lose a moment, but to go this morning to the Queen-Dauphin.”

The Duke de Nemours promised the Viscount he would, and took Madam d’Amboise’s billet; nevertheless his design was not to see the Queen-Dauphin; he thought more pressing business required his care; he made no question, but she had already spoke of the letter to Madam de Cleves, and could not bear that a person he loved so desperately, should have ground to believe he had engagements with any other.

He went to the Princess of Cleves as soon as he thought she might be awake; and ordered her to be told, that, if he had not business of the last consequence, he would not have desired the honour to see her at so extraordinary an hour. Madam de Cleves was in bed, and her mind was tossed to and fro by a thousand melancholy thoughts that she had had during the night; she was extremely surprised to hear the Duke de Nemours asked for her; the anxiety she was in made her presently answer, that she was ill, and could not speak with him.

The Duke was not at all shocked at this refusal; he thought it presaged him no ill, that she expressed a little coldness at a time when she might be touched with jealousy. He went to the Prince of Cleves’s apartment, and told him he came from that of his lady, and that he was very sorry he could not see her, because he had an affair to communicate to her of great consequence to the Viscount de Chartres; he explained in few words to the Prince the importance of this business, and the Prince immediately introduced him into his lady’s chamber. Had she not been in the dark, she would have found it hard to have concealed the trouble and astonishment she was in to see the Duke de Nemours introduced by her husband. Monsieur de Cleves told her the business was about a letter, wherein her assistance was wanting for the interest of the Viscount, that she was to consult with Monsieur de Nemours what was to be done; and that as for him he was going to the King, who had just sent for him.

The Duke de Nemours had his heart’s desire, in being alone with Madam de Cleves; “I am come to ask you, Madam,” said he, “if the Queen-Dauphin has not spoke to you of a letter which Chatelart gave her yesterday.” “She said something to me of it,” replied Madam de Cleves, “but I don’t see what relation this letter his to the interests of my uncle, and I can assure you that he is not named in it.” “It is true, Madam,” replied the Duke de Nemours, “he is not named in it but yet it is addressed to him, and it very much imports him that you should get it out of the Queen-Dauphin’s hands.” “I cannot comprehend,” replied the Princess, “how it should be of any consequence to him, if this letter should be seen, nor what reason there is to redemand it in his name.” “If you please to be at leisure to hear me, Madam,” said Monsieur de Nemours, “I’ll presently make you acquainted with the true state of the thing, and inform you of matters of so great importance to the Viscount, that I would not even have trusted the Prince of Cleves with them, had I not stood in need of his assistance to have the honour to see you.” “I believe,” said Madam de Cleves in a very unconcerned manner, “that anything you may give yourself the trouble of telling me, will be to little purpose; you had better go to the Queen-Dauphin, and plainly tell her, without using these roundabout ways, the interest you have in that letter, since she has been told, as well as I, that it belongs to you.”

The uneasiness of mind which Monsieur de Nemours observed in Madam de Cleves gave him the most sensible pleasure he ever knew, and lessened his impatience to justify himself: “I don’t know, Madam,” replied he, “what the Queen-Dauphin may have been told; but I am not at all concerned in that letter; it is addressed to the Viscount.” “I believe so,” replied Madam de Cleves, “but the Queen-Dauphin has heard to the contrary, and she won’t think it very probable that the Viscount’s letters should fall out of your pocket; you must therefore have some reason, that I don’t know of, for concealing the truth of this matter from the Queen-Dauphin; I advise you to confess it to her.” “I have nothing to confess to her,” says he, “the letter is not directed to me, and if there be anyone that I would have satisfied of it, it is not the Queen-Dauphin; but, Madam, since the Viscount’s interest is nearly concerned in this, be pleased to let me acquaint you with some matters that are worthy of your curiosity.” Madam de Cleves by her silence showed her readiness to hear him, and he as succinctly as possible related to her all he had just heard from the Viscount. Though the circumstances were naturally surprising, and proper to create attention, yet Madam de Cleves heard them with such coldness, that she seemed either not to believe them true, or to think them indifferent to her; she continued in this temper until the Duke de Nemours spoke of Madam d’Amboise’s billet, which was directed to the Viscount, and was a proof of all he had been saying; as Madam de Cleves knew that this lady was a friend of Madam de Themines, she found some probability in what the Duke de Nemours had said, which made her think, that the letter perhaps was not addressed to him; this thought suddenly, and in spite of herself, drew her out of the coldness and indifferency she had until then been in. The Duke having read the billet, which fully justified him, presented it to her to read, and told her she might possibly know the hand. She could not forbear taking it, and examining the superscription to see if it was addressed to the Viscount de Chartres, and reading it all over, that she might the better judge, if the letter which was redemanded was the same with that she had in her hand. The Duke de Nemours added whatever he thought proper to persuade her of it; and as one is easily persuaded of the truth of what one wishes, he soon convinced Madam de Cleves that he had no concern in the letter.

She began now to reason with him concerning the embarrassment and danger the Viscount was in, to blame his ill conduct, and to think of means to help him: she was astonished at the Queen’s proceedings, and confessed to the Duke that she had the letter; in short, she no sooner believed him innocent, but she discoursed with him with greater ease and freedom, concerning what she would scarce before vouchsafe to hear; they agreed that the letter should not be restored to the Queen-Dauphin, for fear she should show it to Madam de Martigues, who knew Madam de Themines’s hand, and would easily guess, by the interest she had in the Viscount, that it was addressed to him; they agreed also, that they ought not to entrust the Queen-Dauphin with all that concerned the Queen her mother-in-law. Madam de Cleves, under pretence of serving her uncle, was pleased to be the Duke de Nemours’s confidant in the secrets he had imparted to her.

The Duke would not have confined his discourse to the Viscount’s concerns, but from the liberty he had of free conversation with her, would have assumed a boldness he had never yet done, had not a message been brought in to Madam de Cleves, that the Queen-Dauphin had sent for her. The Duke was forced to withdraw; he went to the Viscount to inform him, that after he had left him, he thought it more proper to apply to Madam de Cleves, his niece, than to go directly to the Queen-Dauphin; he did not want reasons to make him approve what he had done, and to give him hopes of good success.

In the meantime Madam de Cleves dressed herself in all haste to go to the Queen-Dauphin; she was no sooner entered her chamber, but she called her to her, and whispered her, “I have been waiting for you these two hours, and was never so perplexed about disguising a truth as I have been this morning: the Queen has heard of the letter I gave you yesterday, and believes it was the Viscount de Chartres that dropped it; you know, she has some interest to be satisfied in it; she has been in search for the letter, and has caused Chatelart to be asked for it; who said he had given it to me; they have been to ask me for it, under pretence it was an ingenious letter which the Queen had a curiosity to see; I durst not say that you had it, for fear she should think I had given it you on your uncle the Viscount’s account, and that there was a correspondence between him and me. I was already satisfied that his seeing me so often gave her uneasiness, so that I said the letter was in the clothes I had on yesterday, and that those who had them in keeping were gone abroad; give me the letter immediately,” added she, “that I may send it her, and that I may read it before I send it to see if I know the hand.”

Madam de Cleves was harder put to it than she expected; “I don’t know, Madam, what you will do,” answered she, “for Monsieur de Cleves, to whom I gave it to read, returned it to the Duke of Nemours, who came early this morning to beg him to get it of you. Monsieur de Cleves had the imprudence to tell him he had it, and the weakness to yield to the entreaties the Duke de Nemours made that he would restore it him.” “You throw me into the greatest embarrassment I can possibly be in,” replied the Queen-Dauphin; “and you have given this letter to the Duke de Nemours. Since it was I that gave it you, you ought not to have restored it without my leave; what would you have me say to the Queen, and what can she imagine? She will think, and not without reason, that this letter concerns myself, and that there is something between the Viscount and me; she will never be persuaded the letter belonged to the Duke de Nemours.” “I am very much concerned,” replied Madam de Cleves, “for the misfortune I have occasioned, and I believe the difficulty I have brought you into is very great; but ’twas Monsieur de Cleves’s fault, and not mine.” “You are in fault,” replied the Queen-Dauphin, “for having given him the letter; and I believe you are the only woman in the world that acquaints her husband with all she knows.” “I acknowledge myself in fault, Madam,” replied the Princess of Cleves, “but let us rather think of preventing the consequences of what I have done, than insist on the fault itself.” “Do you remember, pretty near, what the letter contains?” says the Queen-Dauphin. “Yes, Madam, I do,” replied she, “for I have read it over more than once.” “If so,” said the Queen-Dauphin, “you must immediately get it written out in an unknown hand, and I’ll send it to the Queen; she’ll not show it those who have seen it already; and though she should, I’ll stand in it, that it is the same Chatelart gave me; and he’ll not dare to say otherwise.”

Madam de Cleves approved of this expedient, and the more because it gave her an opportunity of sending for the Duke de Nemours, to have the letter itself again, in order to have it copied word for word, imitating as near as may be the hand it was written in, and she thought this would effectually deceive the Queen. As soon as she was got home, she informed her husband of what had passed between her and the Queen-Dauphin, and begged him to send for the Duke de Nemours. The Duke was sent for, and came immediately; Madam de Cleves told him all she had told her husband, and asked for the letter; but the Duke answered, that he had already returned it to the Viscount de Chartres, who was so overjoyed upon having it again, and being freed from the danger he was in, that he sent it immediately to Madam de Themines’s friend. Madam de Cleves was in a new embarrassment on this occasion: in short, after having consulted together, they resolved to form the letter by memory; and, in order to go about it, they locked themselves up, and left orders that nobody should be admitted, and that all the Duke de Nemours’s attendants should be sent away. Such an appearance of secret confidence was no small charm to Monsieur de Nemours, and even to Madam de Cleves; her husband’s presence, and the interests of her uncle the Viscount de Chartres, were considerations which in great measure removed her scruples, and made this opportunity of seeing and being with the Duke de Nemours so agreeable to her, that she never before experienced a joy so pure and free from allay; this threw her into a freedom and gaiety of spirit which the Duke had never observed in her till now, and which made him still more passionately in love with her: as he had never known such agreeable moments, his vivacity was much heightened; and whenever Madam de Cleves was beginning to recollect and write the letter, instead of assisting her seriously, did nothing but interrupt her with wit and pleasantry. Madam de Cleves was as gay as he, so that they had been locked up a considerable time, and two messages had come from the Queen-Dauphin to hasten Madam de Cleves, before they had half finished the letter.

The Duke de Nemours was glad to prolong the time that was so agreeable to him, and neglected the concerns of his friend; Madam de Cleves was not at all tired, and neglected also the concerns of her uncle: at last, with much ado, about four o’clock the letter was finished, and was so ill done, and the copy so unlike the original, as to the handwriting, that the queen must have taken very little care to come at the truth of the matter, if she had been imposed on by so ill a counterfeit. Accordingly she was not deceived; and however industrious they were to persuade her, that this letter was addressed to the Duke de Nemours, she remained satisfied not only that it was addressed to the Viscount de Chartres, but that the Queen-Dauphin was concerned in it, and that there was a correspondence between them; this heightened her hatred against that Princess to such a degree, that she never forgave her, and never ceased persecuting her till she had driven her out of France.

As for the Viscount de Chartres, his credit was entirely ruined with her; and whether the Cardinal of Loraine had already insinuated himself so far into her esteem as to govern her, or whether the accident of this letter, which made it appear that the Viscount had deceived her, enabled her to discover the other tricks he had played her, it is certain he could never after entirely reconcile himself to her; their correspondence was broke off, and at length she ruined him by means of the conspiracy of Amboise, in which he was involved.

After the letter was sent to the Queen-Dauphin, Monsieur de Cleves and Monsieur de Nemours went away; Madam de Cleves continued alone, and being no longer supported by the joy which the presence of what one loves gives one, she seemed like one newly waked from a dream; she beheld, with astonishment, the difference between the condition she was in the night before, and that she was in at this time: she called to mind, how cold and sullen she was to the Duke de Nemours, while she thought Madam de Themines’s letter was addressed to him, and how calm and sweet a situation of mind succeeded that uneasiness, as soon as he was satisfied he was not concerned in that letter; when she reflected, that she reproached herself as guilty for having given him the foregoing day only some marks of sensibility, which mere compassion might have produced, and that by her peevish humour this morning, she had expressed such a jealousy as was a certain proof of passion, she thought she was not herself; when she reflected further, that the Duke de Nemours saw plainly that she knew he was in love with her, and that, notwithstanding her knowing it, she did not use him the worse for it, even in her husband’s presence; but that, on the contrary, she had never behaved so favourably to him; when she considered, she was the cause of Monsieur de Cleves’s sending for him, and that she had just passed an afternoon in private with him; when she considered all this, she found, there was something within her that held intelligence with the Duke de Nemours, and that she deceived a husband who least deserved it; and she was ashamed to appear so little worthy of esteem, even in the eyes of her lover; but what she was able to support less than all the rest was, the remembrance of the condition in which she spent the last night, and the pricking griefs she felt from a suspicion that the Duke de Nemours was in love with another, and that she was deceived by him.

Never till then was she acquainted with the dreadful inquietudes that flow from jealousy and distrust; she had applied all her cares to prevent herself from falling in love with the Duke de Nemours, and had not before had any fear of his being in love with another: though the suspicions which this letter had given her were effaced, yet they left her sensible of the hazard there was of being deceived, and gave her impressions of distrust and jealousy which she had never felt till that time; she was surprised that she had never yet reflected how improbable it was that a man of the Duke de Nemours’s turn, who had showed so much inconstancy towards women, should be capable of a lasting and sincere passion; she thought it next to impossible for her to be convinced of the truth of his love; “But though I could be convinced of it,” says she, “what have I to do in it? Shall I permit it? Shall I make a return? Shall I engage in gallantry, be false to Monsieur de Cleves, and be false to myself? In a word, shall I go to expose myself to the cruel remorses and deadly griefs that rise from love? I am subdued and vanquished by a passion, which hurries me away in spite of myself; all my resolutions are vain; I had the same thoughts yesterday that I have today, and I act today contrary to what I resolved yesterday; I must convey myself out of the sight of the Duke de Nemours; I must go into the country, however fantastical my journey may appear; and if Monseur de Cleves is obstinately bent to hinder me, or to know my reasons for it, perhaps I shall do him and myself the injury to acquaint him with them.” She continued in this resolution, and spent the whole evening at home, without going to the Queen-Dauphin to enquire what had happened with respect to the counterfeited letter.

When the Prince of Cleves returned home, she told him she was resolved to go into the country; that she was not very well, and had occasion to take the air. Monsieur de Cleves, to whom she appeared so beautiful that he could not think her indisposition very considerable, at first made a jest of her design, and answered that she had forgot that the nuptials of the Princesses and the tournament were very near, and that she had not too much time to prepare matters so as to appear there as magnificently as other ladies. What her husband said did not make her change her resolution, and she begged he would agree, that while he was at Compiegne with the King, she might go to Colomiers, a pretty house then building, within a day’s journey of Paris. Monsieur de Cleves consented to it; she went thither with a design of not returning so soon, and the King set out for Compiegne, where he was to stay but few days.

The Duke de Nemours was mightily concerned he had not seen Madam de Cleves since that afternoon which he had spent so agreeably with her, and which had increased his hopes; he was so impatient to see her again that he could not rest; so that when the King returned to Paris, the Duke resolved to go to see his sister the Duchess de Mercoeur, who was at a country seat of hers very near Colomiers; he asked the Viscount to go with him, who readily consented to it. The Duke de Nemours did this in hopes of visiting Madam de Cleves, in company of the Viscount.

Madam de Mercoeur received them with a great deal of joy, and thought of nothing but giving them all the pleasures and diversions of the country; one day, as they were hunting a stag, the Duke de Nemours lost himself in the forest, and upon enquiring his way was told he was near Colomiers; at that word, Colomiers, without further reflection, or so much as knowing what design he was upon, he galloped on full speed the way that had been showed him; as he rode along he came by chance to the made-ways and walks, which he judged led to the castle: at the end of these walks he found a pavilion, at the lower end of which was a large room with two closets, the one opening into a flower-garden, and the other looking into a spacious walk in the park; he entered the pavilion, and would have stopped to observe the beauty of it, if he had not seen in the walk the Prince and Princess of Cleves, attended with a numerous train of their domestics. As he did not expect to meet Monsieur de Cleves there, whom he had left with the King, he thought at first of hiding himself; he entered the closet which looked into the flower-garden, with design to go out that way by a door which opened to the forest; but observing Madam de Cleves and her husband were sat down under the pavilion, and that their attendants stayed in the park, and could not come to him without passing by the place where Monsieur and Madam de Cleves were, he could not deny himself the pleasure of seeing this Princess, nor resist the curiosity he had to hear her conversation with a husband, who gave him more jealousy than any of his rivals. He heard Monsieur de Cleves say to his wife, “But why will you not return to Paris? What can keep you here in the country? You have of late taken a fancy for solitude, at which I am both surprised and concerned, because it deprives me of your company: I find too, you are more melancholy than usual, and I am afraid you have some cause of grief.” “I have nothing to trouble my mind,” answered she with an air of confusion, “but there is such a bustle at Court, and such a multitude of people always at your house, that it is impossible but both body and mind should be fatigued, and one cannot but desire repose.” “Repose,” answered he, “is not very proper for one of your age; you are at home, and at Court, in such a manner as cannot occasion weariness, and I am rather afraid you desire to live apart from me.” “You would do me great wrong to think so,” replied she with yet more confusion, “but I beg you to leave me here; if you could stay here, and without company, I should be very glad of it; nothing would be more agreeable to me than your conversation in this retirement, provided you would approve not to have about you that infinite number of people, who in a manner never leave you.” “Ah! Madam,” cries Monsieur de Cleves, “both your looks and words convince me that you have reasons to desire to be alone, which I don’t know; I conjure you to tell them me.” He urged her a great while to inform him, without being able to oblige her to it; and after she had excused herself in a manner which still increased her husband’s curiosity, she continued in a deep silence, with her eyes cast down then, taking up the discourse on a sudden, and looking upon him, “Force me not,” said she, “to confess a thing to you which I have not the power to confess, though I have often designed it; remember only, that it is not prudent a woman of my years, and mistress of her own conduct, should remain exposed in the midst of a Court.” “What is it, Madam,” cried Monsieur de Cleves, “that you lead me to imagine? I dare not speak it, for fear of offending you.” Madam de Cleves making no answer, her silence confirmed her husband in what he thought; “You say nothing to me,” says he, “and that tells me clearly, that I am not mistaken.” “Alas, sir,” answered she, falling on her knees, “I am going to make a confession to you, such as no woman ever yet made to her husband; but the innocence of my intentions, and of my conduct, give me power to do it; it is true, I have reasons to absent myself from Court, and I would avoid the dangers persons of my age are sometimes liable to; I have never shown any mark of weakness, and I cannot apprehend I ever shall, if you will permit me to retire from Court, since now I have not Madam de Chartres to assist me in my conduct; however dangerous a step I am taking, I take it with pleasure to preserve myself worthy of you; I ask you a thousand pardons, if I have sentiments which displease you, at least I will never displease you by my actions; consider, that to do what I do, requires more friendship and esteem for a husband than ever wife had; direct my conduct, have pity on me, and if you can still love me.”

Monsieur de Cleves, all the while she spoke, continued leaning his head on his hand, almost beside himself, and never thought of raising her up. When she had done speaking, and he cast his eyes upon her, and saw her on her knees with her face drowned in tears, inimitably beautiful, he was ready to die for grief, and taking her up in his arms, “Have you pity on me, Madam,” says he, “for I deserve it, and pardon me, if in the first moments of an affliction so violent as mine, I do not answer as I ought to so generous a proceeding as yours; I think you more worthy of esteem and admiration than any woman that ever was, but I find myself also the most unfortunate of men: you inspired me with passion the first moment I saw you, and that passion has never decayed; not your coldness, nor even enjoyment itself, has been able to extinguish it; it still continues in its first force, and yet it has not been in my power to kindle in your breast any spark of love for me, and now I find you fear you have an inclination for another; and who is he, Madam, this happy man that gives you such apprehensions? How long has he charmed you? What has he done to charm you? What method has he taken to get into your heart? When I could not gain your affections myself, it was some comfort to me to think, that no other could gain them; in the meantime, another has effected what I could not, and I have at once the jealousy of a husband and lover. But it is impossible for me to retain that of a husband after such a proceeding on your part, which is too noble and ingenuous not to give me an entire security; it even comforts me as a lover; the sincerity you have expressed, and the confidence you have placed in me are of infinite value: you have esteem enough for me to believe I shall not abuse the confession you have made to me; you are in the right, Madam, I will not abuse it, or love you the less for it; you make me unhappy by the greatest mark of fidelity ever woman gave her husband; but go on, Madam, and inform me who he is whom you would avoid.” “I beg you not to ask me,” replied she; “I am resolved not to tell you, nor do I think it prudent to name him.” “Fear not, Madam,” replied Monsieur de Cleves, “I know the world too well to be ignorant that a woman’s having a husband does not hinder people from being in love with her; such lovers may be the objects of one’s hatred, but we are not to complain of it; once again, Madam, I conjure you to tell me what I so much desire to know.” “It is in vain to press me,” replied she, “I have the power to be silent in what I think I ought not to tell; the confession I made to you was not owing to any weakness, and it required more courage to declare such a truth than it would have done to conceal it.”

The Duke de Nemours did not lose a word of this conversation, and what Madam de Cleves had said gave him no less jealousy than her husband; he was so desperately in love with her, that he believed all the world was so too; it is true, he had many rivals, yet he fancied them still more, and his thoughts wandered to find out who it was Madam de Cleves meant: he had often thought he was not disagreeable to her, but the grounds of his judgment on this occasion appeared so slight, that he could not imagine he had raised in her heart a passion violent enough to oblige her to have recourse to so extraordinary a remedy; he was so transported, that he scarce knew what he saw, and he could not pardon Monsieur de Cleves for not having pressed his wife enough to tell him the name of the person she concealed from him.

Monsieur de Cleves nevertheless used his utmost endeavours to know it; and having urged her very much on the subject; “I think,” answered she, “that you ought to be satisfied with my sincerity; ask me no more about it, and don’t give me cause to repent of what I have done; content yourself with the assurance which I once more give you, that my sentiments have never appeared by any of my actions, and that no address hath been made to me that could give me offence.” “Ah! Madam,” replied Monsieur de Cleves on a sudden, “I cannot believe it; I remember the confusion you was in when your picture was lost; you have given away, Madam, you have given away that picture, which was so dear to me, and which I had so just a right to; you have not been able to conceal your inclinations, you are in love; it is known; your virtue has hitherto saved you from the rest.” “Is it possible,” cried Madam de Cleves, “you can imagine there was any reserve or disguise in a confession like mine, which I was no way obliged to? Take my word, I purchase dearly the confidence I desire of you; I conjure you to believe I have not given away my picture; it is true, I saw it taken, but I would not seem to see it, for fear of subjecting myself to hear such things as no one has yet dared to mention to me.” “How do you know then that you are loved,” said Monsieur de Cleves? “What mark, what proof of it has been given you?” “Spare me the pain,” replied she, “of repeating to you circumstances which I am ashamed to have observed, and which have convinced me but too much of my own weakness.” “You are in the right, Madam,” answered he, “I am unjust; always refuse me when I ask you such things, and yet don’t be angry with me for asking them.”

Just then several of the servants, who had stayed in the walks, came to acquaint Monsieur de Cleves, that a gentleman was arrived from the King, with orders for him to be at Paris that evening. Monsieur de Cleves was obliged to go, and had only time to tell his wife that he desired her to come to Paris the next day; and that he conjured her to believe, that however afflicted he was, he had a tenderness and esteem for her, with which she ought to be satisfied.

When he was gone, and Madam de Cleves being alone, considered what she had done, she was so frightened at the thought of it, she could hardly believe it to be true. She found she had deprived herself of the heart and esteem of her husband, and was involved in a labyrinth she should never get out of; she asked herself why she had ventured on so dangerous a step, and perceived she was engaged in it almost without having designed it; the singularity of such a confession, for which she saw no precedent, made her fully sensible of her danger.

But on the other hand, when she came to think that this remedy, however violent it was, was the only effectual one she could make use of against Monsieur de Nemours, she found she had no cause to repent, or to believe she had ventured too far; she passed the whole night full of doubts, anxiety and fear; but at last her spirits grew calm again; she even felt a pleasure arise in her mind, from a sense of having given such a proof of fidelity to a husband who deserved it so well, who had so great a friendship and esteem for her, and had so lately manifested it by the manner in which he received the confession she had made him.

In the meantime Monsieur de Nemours was gone away from the place, in which he had overheard a conversation which so sensibly affected him, and was got deep into the forest; what Madam de Cleves said of her picture had revived him, since it was certain from thence that he was the person she had an inclination for; at first he gave a leap of joy, but his raptures were at an end as soon as he began to reflect, that the same thing that convinced him he had touched the heart of Madam de Cleves, ought to convince him also that he should never receive any marks of it, and that it would be impossible to engage a lady who had recourse to so extraordinary a remedy; and yet he could not but be sensibly pleased to have reduced her to that extremity; he thought it glorious for him to have gained the affections of a woman so different from the rest of her sex; in a word, he thought himself very happy and very unhappy at the same time. He was benighted in the forest, and was very much put to it to find his way again to his sister’s the Duchess of Mercoeur; he arrived there at break of day, and was extremely at a loss what account to give of his absence, but he made out the matter as well as he could, and returned that very day to Paris with the Viscount.

The Duke was so taken up with his passion, and so surprised at the conversation he had heard, that he fell into an indiscretion very common, which is, to speak one’s own particular sentiments in general terms, and to relate one’s proper adventures under borrowed names. As they were travelling he began to talk of love, and exaggerated the pleasure of being in love with a person that deserved it; he spoke of the fantastical effects of this passion, and at last not being able to contain within himself the admiration he was in at the action of Madam de Cleves, he related it to the Viscount without naming the person, or owning he had any share in it; but he told it with so much warmth and surprise, that the Viscount easily suspected the story concerned himself. The Viscount urged him very much to confess it, and told him he had known a great while that he was violently in love, and that it was unjust in him to show a distrust of a man who had committed to him a secret on which his life depended. The Duke de Nemours was too much in love to own it, and had always concealed it from the Viscount, though he valued him the most of any man at Court; he answered that one of his friends had told him this adventure, and made him promise not to speak of it; and he also conjured the Viscount to keep the secret: the Viscount assured him he would say nothing of it but notwithstanding Monsieur de Nemours repented that he had told him so much.

In the meantime Monsieur de Cleves was gone to the King, with a heart full of sorrow and affliction. Never had husband so violent a passion for his wife, or so great an esteem; what she had told him did not take away his esteem of her, but made it of a different nature from that he had had before; what chiefly employed his thoughts, was a desire to guess who it was that had found out the secret to win her heart; the Duke de Nemours was the first person he thought of on this occasion, as being the handsomest man at Court; and the Chevalier de Guise, and the Mareschal de St. Andre occurred next, as two persons who had made it their endeavour to get her love, and who were still very assiduous in courting her, so that he was fully persuaded it must be one of the three. He arrived at the Louvre, and the King carried him into his closet to inform him he had made choice of him to conduct Madame into Spain, and that he believed nobody could acquit himself better of that charge, nor that any lady would do France greater honour than Madam de Cleves. Monsieur de Cleves received the honour the King had done him by this choice with the respect he ought, and he considered it also as what would take his wife from Court, without leaving room to suspect any change in her conduct; but the embarrassment he was under required a speedier remedy than that journey, which was to be deferred a great while, could afford; he immediately wrote to Madam de Cleves to acquaint her with what the King had told him, and gave her to understand he absolutely expected she should return to Paris. She returned according to his orders, and when they met, they found one another overwhelmed with melancholy.

Monsieur de Cleves spoke to her, as a man of the greatest honour in the world, and the best deserving the confidence she had reposed in him; “I am not alarmed as to your conduct,” said he, “you have more strength and virtue than you imagine; I am not alarmed with fears of what may happen hereafter; what troubles me is that I see you have those sentiments for another which you want for me.” “I don’t know what to answer you,” said she, “I die with shame when I speak of this subject spare me, I conjure you, such cruel conversations; regulate my conduct, and never let me see anybody; this is all I desire of you; but take it not ill of me, if I speak no more of a thing which makes me appear so little worthy of you, and which I think so unbecoming me.” “You are in the right, Madam;” replied he, “I abuse your goodness and your confidence in me; but have some compassion also on the condition you have brought me to, and think that whatever you have told me, you conceal from me a name, which creates in me a curiosity I cannot live without satisfying; and yet I ask you not to satisfy it; I cannot, however, forbear telling you, that I believe the man I am to envy is the Mareschal de St. Andre, the Duke de Nemours, or the Chevalier de Guise.” “I shall make you no answer,” says she blushing, “nor give you any ground from what I say, either to lessen or strengthen your suspicions; but if you endeavour to inform yourself by observing me, you will throw me into a confusion all the world will take notice of, for God’s sake,” continued she, “allow me under pretence of an indisposition to see nobody.” “No, Madam,” said he, “it will quickly be discovered to be a feigned business; and besides, I am unwilling to trust you to anything but yourself; my heart tells me this is the best way I can take, and my reason tells me so also, considering the temper of mind you are in, I cannot put a greater restraint upon you than by leaving you to your liberty.”

Monsieur de Cleves was not mistaken; the confidence he showed he had in his wife, fortified her the more against Monsieur de Nemours, and made her take more severe resolutions than any restraint could have brought her to. She went to wait on the Queen-Dauphin at the Louvre as she used to do, but avoided the presence and eyes of Monsieur de Nemours with so much care, that she deprived him of almost all the joy he had in thinking she loved him; he saw nothing in her actions but what seemed to show the contrary; he scarcely knew if what he had heard was not a dream, so very improbable it seemed to him; the only thing which assured him that he was not mistaken, was Madam de Cleves’s extreme melancholy, which appeared, whatever pains she took to hide it; and perhaps kind words and looks would not have increased the Duke of Nemours’s love so much as this severe conduct did.

One evening, as Monsieur and Madam de Cleves were at the Queen’s apartment, it was said there was a report that the King would name another great lord to wait on Madame into Spain. Monsieur de Cleves had his eye fixed on his wife, when it was further said, the Chevalier de Guise, or the Mareschal de St. Andre, was the person; he observed she was not at all moved at either of those names, nor the discourse of their going along with her; this made him believe, it was not either of them whose presence she feared. In order to clear up his suspicions, he went into the Queen’s closet, where the King then was, and after having stayed there some time came back to his wife, and whispered her, that he had just heard the Duke de Nemours was the person designed to go along with them to Spain.

The name of the Duke de Nemours, and the thought of being exposed to see him every day, during a very long journey, in her husband’s presence, so affected Madam de Cleves, that she could not conceal her trouble: and being willing to give other reasons for it, “No choice,” says she, “could have been made more disagreeable for you; he will share all honours with you, and I think you ought to endeavour to get some other chosen.” “It is not honour, Madam,” replied Monsieur de Cleves, “that makes you apprehensive of the Duke de Nemours’s going with me, the uneasiness you are in proceeds from another cause; and from this uneasiness of yours I learn, that which I should have discovered in another woman, by the joy she would have expressed on such an occasion; but be not afraid; what I have told you is not true, it was an invention of mine to assure myself of a thing which I already believed but too much.”

Having said this, he went out, being unwilling to increase, by his presence, the concern he saw his wife in.

The Duke de Nemours came in that instant, and presently observed Madam de Cleves’s condition; he came up to her, and told her softly, he had that respect for her, he durst not ask what it was made her more pensive than usual. The voice of the Duke de Nemours brought her to herself again, and looking at him, without having heard what he had said to her, full of her own thoughts, and afraid lest her husband should see him with her, “For God’s sake,” says she, “leave me to myself in quiet.” “Alas, Madam,” answered he, “I disturb you too little; what is it you can complain of? I dare not speak to you, I dare not look upon you, I tremble whenever I approach you. How have I drawn upon myself what you have said to me, and why do you show me that I am in part the cause of the trouble I see you in?” Madam de Cleves was very sorry to have given the Duke an opportunity of explaining himself more clearly than ever he had done before; she left him without making any answer, and went home with her mind more agitated than ever. Her husband perceived her concern was increased, and that she was afraid he would speak to her of what had passed, and followed her into her closet; “Do not shun me, Madam,” says he, “I will say nothing to you that shall displease you; I ask pardon for the surprise I gave you a while ago; I am sufficiently punished by what I have learnt from it; the Duke de Nemours was of all men he whom I most feared; I see the danger you are in; command yourself for your own sake, and, if it is possible, for mine; I do not ask this of you as a husband, but as a man whose happiness wholly depends on you, and who loves you more violently and more tenderly than he whom your heart prefers to me.” Monsieur de Cleves was melted upon speaking these words, and could scarce make an end of them; his wife was so moved, she burst into tears, and embraced him with a tenderness and sorrow that put him into a condition not very different from her own; they continued silent a while, and parted without having the power to speak to one another.

All things were ready for the marriage of Madame, and the Duke of Alva was arrived to espouse her; he was received with all the ceremony and magnificence that could be displayed on such an occasion; the King sent to meet him the Prince of Conde, the Cardinals of Loraine and Guise, the Dukes of Loraine and Ferrara, d’Aumale, de Bouillon, de Guise, and de Nemours; they had a great number of gentlemen, and a great many pages in livery; the King himself, attended with two hundred gentlemen, and the Constable at their head, received the Duke of Alva at the first gate of the Louvre; the Duke would have kneeled down, but the King refused it, and made him walk by his side to the Queen’s apartment, and to Madame’s, to whom the Duke of Alva had brought a magnificent present from his master; he went thence to the apartment of Madam Margaret the King’s sister, to compliment her on the part of the Duke of Savoy, and to assure her he would arrive in a few days; there were great assemblies at the Louvre, the show the Duke of Alva, and the Prince of Orange who accompanied him, the beauties of the Court.

Madam de Cleves could not dispense with going to these assemblies, however desirous she was to be absent, for fear of disobliging her husband, who absolutely commanded her to be there; and what yet more induced her to it, was the absence of the Duke de Nemours; he was gone to meet the Duke of Savoy, and after the arrival of that Prince, he was obliged to be almost always with him, to assist him in everything relating to the ceremonies of the nuptials; for this reason Madam de Cleves did not meet him so often as she used to do, which gave her some sort of ease.

The Viscount de Chartres had not forgot the conversation he had had with the Duke de Nemours: it still ran in his mind that the adventure the Duke had related to him was his own; and he observed him so carefully that it is probable he would have unravelled the business, if the arrival of the Duke of Alva and of the Duke of Savoy had not made such an alteration in the Court, and filled it with so much business, as left no opportunities for a discovery of that nature; the desire he had to get some information about it, or rather the natural disposition one has to relate all one knows to those one loves, made him acquaint Madam de Martigues with the extraordinary action of that person who had confessed to her husband the passion she had for another; he assured her the Duke de Nemours was the man who had inspired so violent a love, and begged her assistance in observing him. Madam de Martigues was glad to hear what the Viscount told her, and the curiosity she had always observed in the Queen-Dauphin for what concerned the Duke de Nemours made her yet more desirous to search into the bottom of the affair.

A few days before that which was fixed for the ceremony of the marriage, the Queen-Dauphin entertained at supper the King her father-in-law, and the Duchess of Valentinois. Madam de Cleves, who had been busy in dressing herself, went to the Louvre later than ordinary; as she was going, she met a gentleman that was coming from the Queen-Dauphin to fetch her; as soon as she entered the room, that Princess, who was sitting upon her bed, told her aloud, that she had expected her with great impatience. “I believe, Madam,” answered she, “that I am not obliged to you for it, and that your impatience was caused by something else, and not your desire to see me.” “You are in the right,” answered the Queen-Dauphin, “but, nevertheless, you are obliged to me; for I’ll tell you an adventure, which I am sure you’ll be glad to know.”

Madam de Cleves kneeled at her bedside, and, very luckily for her, with her face from the light: “You know,” said the Queen, “how desirous we have been to find out what had caused so great a change in the Duke de Nemours; I believe I know it, and it is what will surprise you; he is desperately in love with, and as much beloved by, one of the finest ladies of the Court.” It is easy to imagine the grief Madam de Cleves felt upon hearing these words, which she could not apply to herself, since she thought nobody knew anything of her passion for the Duke; “I see nothing extraordinary in that,” replied she, “considering how young and handsome a man the Duke de Nemours is.” “No,” replied the Queen-Dauphin, “there is nothing extraordinary in it; but what will surprise you is, that this lady, who is in love with the Duke de Nemours, has never given him any mark of it, and that the fear she was in lest she should not always be mistress of her passion, has made her confess it to her husband, that he may take her away from Court; and it is the Duke de Nemours himself who has related what I tell you.”

If Madam de Cleves was grieved at first through the thought that she had no concern in this adventure, the Queen-Dauphin’s last words threw her into an agony, by making it certain she had too much in it; she could not answer, but continued leaning her head on the bed; meanwhile the Queen went on, and was so intent on what she was saying, that she took no notice of her embarrassment. When Madam de Cleves was a little come to herself, “This story, Madam,” says she, “does not seem very probable to me, and I should be glad to know who told it you.” “It was Madam de Martigues,” replied the Queen-Dauphin, “and she heard it from the Viscount de Chartres; you know the Viscount is in love with her; he entrusted this matter to her as a secret, and he was told it by the Duke de Nemours himself; it is true the Duke did not tell the lady’s name, nor acknowledge that he was the person she was in love with, but the Viscount makes no manner of question of it.” When the Queen-Dauphin had done speaking, somebody came up to the bed; Madam de Cleves was so placed that she could not see who it was, but she was presently convinced, when the Queen-Dauphin cried out with an air of gaiety and surprise, “Here he is himself, I’ll ask him what there is in it.” Madam de Cleves knew very well it was the Duke de Nemours, without turning herself, as it really was; upon which she went up hastily to the Queen-Dauphin, and told her softly, that she ought to be cautious of speaking to him of this adventure, which he had entrusted to the Viscount de Chartres as a secret, and that it was a thing which might create a quarrel between them. “You are too wise,” said the Queen-Dauphin smiling, and turned to the Duke de Nemours. He was dressed for the evening assembly, and taking up the discourse with that grace which was natural to him, “I believe, Madam,” says he, “I may venture to think you were speaking of me as I came in, that you had a design to ask me something, and that Madam de Cleves is against it.” “It is true,” replied the Queen-Dauphin, “but I shall not be so complaisant to her on this occasion as I was used to be; I would know of you, whether a story I have been told is true, and whether you are not the person who is in love with, and beloved by a lady of the Court, who endeavours to conceal her passion from you, and has confessed it to her husband.”

The concern and confusion Madam de Cleves was in was above all that can be imagined, and if death itself could have drawn her out of this condition, she would have gladly embraced it; but the Duke de Nemours was yet more embarrassed if possible: the discourse of the Queen-Dauphin, by whom he had reason to believe he was not hated, in the presence of Madam de Cleves, who was confided in by her more than anybody of the Court, and who confided more in her, threw him into such confusion and extravagance of thought, that it was impossible for him to be master of his countenance: the concern he saw Madam de Cleves in through his fault, and the thought of having given her just cause to hate him, so shocked him he could not speak a word. The Queen-Dauphin, seeing how thunderstruck she was, “Look upon him, look upon him,” said she to Madam de Cleves, “and judge if this adventure be not his own.”

In the meantime the Duke de Nemours, finding of what importance it was to him to extricate himself out of so dangerous a difficulty, recovered himself from his first surprise, and became at once master of his wit and looks. “I acknowledge, Madam,” said he, “it is impossible to be more surprised and concerned than I was at the treachery of the Viscount de Chartres, in relating an adventure of a friend of mine, which I had in confidence imparted to him. I know how to be revenged of him,” continued he, smiling with a calm air, which removed the suspicions the Queen-Dauphin had entertained of him: “He has entrusted me with things of no very small importance; but I don’t know, Madam, why you do me the honour to make me a party in this affair. The Viscount can’t say I am concerned in it, for I told him the contrary; I may very well be taken to be a man in love, but I cannot believe, Madam, you will think me of the number of those who are loved again.” The Duke was glad to say anything to the Queen-Dauphin, which alluded to the inclination he had expressed for her formerly, in order to divert her thoughts from the subject in question. She imagined she understood well enough the drift of what he said, but without making any answer to it, she continued to rally him upon the embarrassment he was in. “I was concerned, Madam,” said he, “for the interest of my friend, and on account of the just reproaches he might make me for having told a secret which is dearer to him than life. He has nevertheless entrusted me but with one half of it, and has not told me the name of the person he loves; all I know is, that he’s the most deeply in love of any man in the world, and has the most reason to complain.” “Do you think he has reason to complain,” replied the Queen-Dauphin, “when he is loved again?” “Do you believe he is, Madam,” replied he, “and that a person who had a real passion could discover it to her husband? That lady, doubtless, is not acquainted with love, and has mistaken for it a slight acknowledgment of the fondness her lover had for her. My friend can’t flatter himself with the lent hopes; but, unfortunate as he is, he thinks himself happy at least in having made her afraid of falling in love with him, and he would not change his condition for that of the happiest lover in the world.” “Your friend has a passion very easy to be satisfied,” said the Queen-Dauphin, “and I begin to believe it is not yourself you are speaking of; I am almost,” continued she, “of the opinion of Madam de Cleves, who maintains that this story cannot be true.” “I don’t really believe it can be true,” answered Madam de Cleves, who had been silent hitherto; “and though it were possible to be true, how should it have been known? It is very unlikely that a woman, capable of so extraordinary a resolution, would have the weakness to publish it; and surely her husband would not have told it neither, or he must be a husband very unworthy to have been dealt with in so generous a manner.” The Duke de Nemours, who perceived the suspicions Madam de Cleves had of her husband, was glad to confirm her in them, knowing he was the most formidable rival he had to overcome. “Jealousy,” said he, “and a curiosity perhaps of knowing more than a wife has thought fit to discover, may make a husband do a great many imprudent things.”

Madam de Cleves was put to the last proof of her power and courage, and not being able to endure the conversation any longer, she was going to say she was not well, when by good fortune for her the Duchess of Valentinois came in, and told the Queen-Dauphin that the King was just coming; the Queen-Dauphin went into the closet to dress herself, and the Duke de Nemours came up to Madam de Cleves as she was following her. “I would give my life, Madam,” said he, “to have a moment’s conversation with you; but though I have a world of important things to say to you, I think nothing is more so, than to entreat you to believe, that if I have said anything in which the Queen-Dauphin may seem concerned, I did it for reasons which do not relate to her.” Madam de Cleves pretended not to hear him, and left him without giving him a look, and went towards the King, who was just come in. As there were abundance of people there, she trod upon her gown, and made a false step, which served her as an excuse to go out of a place she had not the power to stay in, and so pretending to have received some hurt she went home.

Monsieur de Cleves came to the Louvre, and was surprised not to find his wife there; they told him of the accident that had befallen her, and he went immediately home to enquire after her; he found her in bed, and perceived her hurt was not considerable. When he had been some time with her, he found her so excessive melancholy that he was surprised at it; “What ails you, Madam?” says he; “you seem to have some other grief than that which you complain of.” “I feel the most sensible grief I can ever experience,” answered she; “what use have you made of that extraordinary, or rather foolish confidence which I placed in you? Did not I deserve to have my secret kept? and though I had not deserved it, did not your own interest engage you to it? Should your curiosity to know a name it was not reasonable for me to tell you have obliged you to make a confidant to assist you in the discovery? Nothing but that curiosity could have made you guilty of so cruel an indiscretion; the consequences of it are as bad as they possibly can be. This adventure is known, and I have been told it by those who are not aware that I am principally concerned in it.” “What do you say, Madam?” answered he; “you accuse me of having told what passed between you and me, and you inform me that the thing is known; I don’t go about to clear myself from this charge, you can’t think me guilty of it; without doubt you have applied to yourself what was told you of some other.” “Ah! Sir,” replied she, “the world has not an adventure like mine, there is not another woman capable of such a thing. The story I have heard could not have been invented by chance; nobody could imagine any like it; an action of this nature never entered any thoughts but mine. The Queen-Dauphin has just told me the story; she had it from the Viscount de Chartres, and the Viscount from the Duke de Nemours.” “The Duke de Nemours!” cried Monsieur de Cleves, like a man transported and desperate: “How! does the Duke de Nemours know that you are in love with him, and that I am acquainted with it?” “You are always for singling out the Duke de Nemours rather than any other,” replied she; “I have told you I will never answer you concerning your suspicions: I am ignorant whether the Duke de Nemours knows the part I have in this adventure, and that which you have ascribed to him; but he told it to the Viscount de Chartres, and said he had it from one of his friends, who did not name the lady: this friend of the Duke de Nemours must needs be one of yours, whom you entrusted the secret to, in order to clear up your suspicions.” “Can one have a friend in the world, in whom one would repose such a confidence,” replied Monsieur de Cleves, “and would a man clear his suspicions at the price of informing another with what one would wish to conceal from oneself? Think rather, Madam, to whom you have spoken; it is more probable this secret should have escaped from you than from me; you was not able alone to support the trouble you found yourself in, and you endeavoured to comfort yourself by complaining to some confidant who has betrayed you.”

“Do not wholly destroy me,” cried she, “and be not so hard-hearted as to accuse me of a fault you have committed yourself: can you suspect me of it? and do you think, because I was capable of informing you of this matter, I was therefore capable of informing another?”

The confession which Madam de Cleves had made to her husband was so great a mark of her sincerity, and she so strongly denied that she had entrusted it to any other, that Monsieur de Cleves did not know what to think. On the other hand he was sure he had never said anything of it; it was a thing that could not have been guessed, and yet it was known; it must therefore come from one of them two; but what grieved him most was to know that this secret was in the hands of somebody else, and that in all probability it would be soon divulged.

Madam de Cleves thought much after the same manner; she found it equally impossible that her husband should, or should not have spoken of it. What the Duke de Nemours had said to her, that curiosity might make a husband do indiscreet things, seemed so justly applicable to Monsieur de Cleves’s condition, that she could not think he said it by chance, and the probability of this made her conclude that Monsieur de Cleves had abused the confidence she had placed in him. They were so taken up, the one and the other, with their respective thoughts, that they continued silent a great while; and when they broke from this silence, they only repeated the same things they had already said very often; their hearts and affections grew more and more estranged from each other.

It is easy to imagine how they passed the night; Monsieur de Cleves could no longer sustain the misfortune of seeing a woman whom he adored in love with another; he grew quite heartless, and thought he had reason to be so in an affair where his honour and reputation were so deeply wounded: he knew not what to think of his wife, and was at a loss what conduct he should prescribe to her, or what he should follow himself; he saw nothing on all sides but precipices and rocks; at last, after having been long tossed to and fro in suspense, he considered he was soon to set out for Spain, and resolved to do nothing which might increase the suspicion or knowledge of his unfortunate condition. He went to his wife, and told her that what they had to do was not to debate between themselves who had discovered the secret; but to make it appear that the story which was got abroad was a business in which she had no concern; that it depended upon her to convince the Duke de Nemours and others of it; that she had nothing to do but to behave herself to him with that coldness and reserve which she ought to have for a man who professed love to her; that by this proceeding she would easily remove the opinion he entertained of her being in love with him; and therefore she needed not to trouble herself as to what he might hitherto have thought, since if for the future she discovered no weakness, his former thoughts would vanish of themselves; and that especially she ought to frequent the Louvre and the assemblies as usual.

Having said this, Monsieur de Cleves left his wife without waiting her answer; she thought what he said very reasonable, and the resentment she had against the Duke de Nemours made her believe she should be able to comply with it with a great deal of ease; but it seemed a hard task to her to appear at the marriage with that freedom and tranquillity of spirit as the occasion required. Nevertheless as she was to carry the Queen-Dauphin’s train, and had been distinguished with that honour in preference to a great many other Princesses, it was impossible to excuse herself from it without making a great deal of noise and putting people upon enquiring into the reasons of it. She resolved therefore to do her utmost, and employed the rest of the day in preparing herself for it, and in endeavouring to forget the thoughts that gave her so much uneasiness; and to this purpose she locked herself up in her closet. Of all her griefs the most violent was that she had reason to complain of the Duke de Nemours, and could find no excuse to urge in his favour; she could not doubt but he had related this adventure to the Viscount de Chartres; he had owned it himself, nor could she any more doubt from his manner of speaking of it, but that he knew the adventure related to her; how could she excuse so great an imprudence? and what was become of that extreme discretion which she had so much admired in this Prince? “He was discreet,” said she, “while he was unhappy; but the thought of being happy, though on uncertain grounds, has put an end to his discretion; he could not consider that he was beloved, without desiring to have it known; he said everything he could say; I never acknowledged it was he I was in love with; he suspected it, and has declared his suspicions; if he had been sure of it, he might have acted as he has; I was to blame for thinking him a man capable of concealing what flattered his vanity; and yet it is for this man, whom I thought so different from other men, that I am become like other women, who was so unlike them before. I have lost the heart and esteem of a husband who ought to have been my happiness; I shall soon be looked upon by all the world as a person led away by an idle and violent passion; he for whom I entertain this passion is no longer ignorant of it; and it was to avoid these misfortunes that I hazarded my quiet, and even my life.” These sad reflections were followed by a torrent of tears; but however great her grief was, she plainly perceived she should be able to support it, were she but satisfied in the Duke de Nemours.

The Duke was no less uneasy than she; the indiscretion he had been guilty of in telling what he did to the Viscount de Chartres, and the mischievous consequences of it, vexed him to the heart; he could not represent to himself the affliction and sorrow he had seen Madam de Cleves in without being pierced with anguish; he was inconsolable for having said things to her about this adventure, which, though gallant enough in themselves, seemed on this occasion too gross and impolite, since they gave Madam de Cleves to understand he was not ignorant that she was the woman who had that violent passion, and that he was the object of it. It was before the utmost of his wishes to have a conversation with her, but now he found he ought rather to fear than desire it. “What should I say to her!” says he; “should I go to discover further to her what I have made her too sensible of already! Shall I tell how I know she loves me; I, who have never dared to say I loved her? Shall I begin with speaking openly of my passion, that she may see my hopes have inspired me with boldness? Can I even think of approaching her, and of giving her the trouble to endure my sight? Which way could I justify myself? I have no excuse, I am unworthy of the least regard from Madam de Cleves, and I even despair of her ever looking upon me: I have given her by my own fault better means of defending herself against me than any she was searching for, and perhaps searching for to no purpose. I lose by my imprudence the glory and happiness of being loved by the most beautiful and deserving lady in the world; but if I had lost this happiness, without involving her in the most extreme grief and sufferings at the same time, I should have had some comfort; for at this moment I am more sensible of the harm I have done her, than of that I have done myself in forfeiting her favour.”

The Duke de Nemours continued turning the same thoughts over and over, and tormenting himself a great while; the desire he had to speak to Madam de Cleves came constantly into his mind; he thought of the means to do it; he thought of writing to her; but at last he found, considering the fault he had committed and the temper she was in, his best way was to show her a profound respect by his affliction and his silence, to let her see he durst not present himself before her, and to wait for what time, chance, and the inclination she had for him might produce to his advantage. He resolved also not to reproach the Viscount de Chartres for his unfaithfulness, for fear of confirming his suspicions.

The preparations for the espousals and marriage of Madame on the next day so entirely took up the thoughts of the Court, that Madam de Cleves and the Duke de Nemours easily concealed from the public their grief and uneasiness. The Queen-Dauphin spoke but slightly to Madam de Cleves of the conversation they had had with the Duke de Nemours; and Monsieur de Cleves industriously shunned speaking to his wife of what was past; so that she did not find herself under so much embarrassment as she had imagined.

The espousals were solemnised at the Louvre; and after the feast and ball all the Royal family went to lie at the Bishop’s Palace, according to custom. In the morning, the Duke of Alva, who always had appeared very plainly dressed, put on a habit of cloth of gold, mixed with flame-colour, yellow and black, all covered over with jewels, and wore a close crown on his head. The Prince of Orange very richly dressed also, with his liveries, and all the Spaniards with theirs, came to attend the Duke of Alva from the Hotel de Villeroy where he lodged, and set out, marching four by four, till they came to the Bishop’s Palace. As soon as he was arrived, they went in order to the Church; the King led Madame, who wore also a close crown, her train being borne by Mademoiselles de Montpensier and Longueville; the Queen came next, but without a crown; after her followed the Queen-Dauphin, Madame the King’s sister, the Duchess of Loraine, and the Queen of Navarre, their trains being home by the Princesses; the Queens and the Princesses were all of them attended with their maids of honour, who were richly dressed in the same colour which they wore themselves; so that it was known by the colour of their habits whose maids they were: they mounted the place that was prepared in the Church, and there the marriage ceremonies were performed; they returned afterwards to dine at the Bishop’s Palace, and went from thence about five o’clock to the Palace where the feast was, and where the Parliament, the Sovereign Courts, and the Corporation of the City were desired to assist. The King, the Queens, the Princes and Princesses sat at the marble table in the great hall of the Palace; the Duke of Alva sat near the new Queen of Spain, below the steps of the marble table, and at the King’s right hand was a table for the ambassadors, the archbishops, and the Knights of the Order, and on the other side one for the Parliament.

The Duke of Guise, dressed in a robe of cloth of gold frieze, served the King as Great Chamberlain; the Prince of Conde as Steward of the Household, and the Duke de Nemours as Cup-bearer. After the tables were removed the ball began, and was interrupted by interludes and a great deal of extraordinary machinery; then the ball was resumed, and after midnight the King and the whole Court returned to the Louvre. However full of grief Madam de Cleves was, she appeared in the eyes of all beholders, and particularly in those of the Duke de Nemours, incomparably beautiful. He durst not speak to her, though the hurry of the ceremony gave him frequent opportunities; but he expressed so much sorrow and so respectful a fear of approaching her, that she no longer thought him to blame, though he had said nothing in his justification; his conduct was the same the following days, and wrought the same effect on the heart of Madam de Cleves.

At last the day of the tournament came; the Queens were placed in the galleries that were prepared for them; the four champions appeared at the end of the lists with a number of horses and liveries, the most magnificent sight that ever was seen in France.

The King’s colours were white and black, which he always wore in honour of the Duchess of Valentinois, who was a widow. The Duke of Ferrara and his retinue had yellow and red. Monsieur de Guise’s carnation and white. It was not known at first for what reason he wore those colours, but it was soon remembered that they were the colours of a beautiful young lady whom he had been in love with, while she was a maid, and whom he yet loved though he durst not show it. The Duke de Nemours had yellow and black; why he had them could not be found out: Madam de Cleves only knew the reason of it; she remembered to have said before him she loved yellow, and that she was sorry her complexion did not suit that colour. As for the Duke, he thought he might take that colour without any indiscretion, since not being worn by Madam de Cleves it could not be suspected to be hers.

The four champions showed the greatest address that can be imagined; though the King was the best horseman in his kingdom, it was hard to say which of them most excelled. The Duke de Nemours had a grace in all his actions which might have inclined to his favour persons less interested than Madam de Cleves. She no sooner saw him appear at the end of the lists, but her heart felt uncommon emotions, and every course he made she could scarce hide her joy when he had successfully finished his career.

In the evening, when all was almost over, and the company ready to break up, so it was for the misfortune of the State, that the King would needs break another lance; he sent orders to the Count de Montgomery, who was a very dextrous combatant, to appear in the lists. The Count begged the King to excuse him, and alleged all the reasons for it he could think of; but the King, almost angry, sent him word he absolutely commanded him to do it. The Queen conjured the King not to run any more, told him he had performed so well that he ought to be satisfied, and desired him to go with her to her apartments; he made answer, it was for her sake that he would run again; and entered the barrier; she sent the Duke of Savoy to him to entreat him a second time to return, but to no purpose; he ran; the lances were broke, and a splinter of the Count de Montgomery’s lance hit the King’s eye, and stuck there. The King fell; his gentlemen and Monsieur de Montmorency, who was one of the Mareschals of the field, ran to him; they were astonished to see him wounded, but the King was not at all disheartened; he said, that it was but a slight hurt, and that he forgave the Count de Montgomery. One may imagine what sorrow and affliction so fatal an accident occasioned on a day set apart to mirth and joy. The King was carried to bed, and the surgeons having examined his wound found it very considerable. The Constable immediately called to mind the prediction which had been told the King, that he should be killed in single fight; and he made no doubt but the prediction would be now accomplished. The King of Spain, who was then at Brussels, being advertised of this accident, sent his physician, who was a man of great reputation, but that physician judged the King past hope.

A Court so divided, and filled with so many opposite interests, could not but be in great agitation on the breaking out of so grand an event; nevertheless all things were kept quiet, and nothing was seen but a general anxiety for the King’s health. The Queens, the Princes and Princesses hardly ever went out of his anti-chamber.

Madam de Cleves, knowing that she was obliged to be there, that she should see there the Duke de Nemours, and that she could not conceal from her husband the disorder she should be in upon seeing him, and being sensible also that the mere presence of that Prince would justify him in her eyes and destroy all her resolutions, thought proper to feign herself ill. The Court was too busy to give attention to her conduct, or to enquire whether her illness was real or counterfeit; her husband alone was able to come at the truth of the matter, but she was not at all averse to his knowing it. Thus she continued at home, altogether heedless of the great change that was soon expected, and full of her own thoughts, which she was at full liberty to give herself up to. Everyone went to Court to enquire after the King’s health, and Monsieur de Cleves came home at certain times to give her an account of it; he behaved himself to her in the same manner he used to do, except when they were alone, and then there appeared something of coldness and reserve: he had not spoke to her again concerning what had passed, nor had she power, nor did she think it convenient to resume the discourse of it.

The Duke de Nemours, who had waited for an opportunity of speaking to Madam de Cleves, was surprised and afflicted not to have had so much as the pleasure to see her. The King’s illness increased so much, that the seventh day he was given over by the physicians; he received the news of the certainty of his death with an uncommon firmness of mind; which was the more to be admired, considering that he lost his life by so unfortunate an accident, that he died in the flower of his age, happy, adored by his people, and beloved by a mistress he was desperately in love with. The evening before his death he caused Madame his sister to be married to the Duke of Savoy without ceremony. One may judge what condition the Duchess of Valentinois was in; the Queen would not permit her to see the King, but sent to demand of her the King’s signets, and the jewels of the crown which she had in her custody. The Duchess enquired if the King was dead, and being answered, “No”; “I have then as yet no other matter,” said she, “and nobody can oblige me to restore what he has trusted in my hands.” As soon as the King expired at Chateau de Toumelles, the Duke of Ferrara, the Duke of Guise, and the Duke de Nemours conducted the Queen-Mother, the New King and the Queen-Consort to the Louvre. The Duke de Nemours led the Queen-Mother. As they began to march, she stepped back a little, and told the Queen her daughter-in-law, it was her place to go first; but it was easy to see, that there was more of spleen than decorum in this compliment.