MILITARY glory is at most but one half of the accomplishments which distinguish heroes. Love must give the finishing stroke, and adorn their character by the difficulties they encounter, the temerity of their enterprises, and finally, by the lustre of success. We have examples of this, not only in romances, but also in the genuine histories of the most famous warriors, and the most celebrated conquerors.
The Chevalier de Grammont and Matta, who did not think much of these examples, were, however, of opinion, that it would be very agreeable to refresh themselves after the fatigues of the siege of Trino, by forming some other sieges, at the expense of the beauties and the husbands of Turin. As the campaign had finished early, they thought they should have time to perform some exploits before the bad weather obliged them to repass the mountains.
They sallied forth, therefore, not unlike Amadis de Gaul, or Don Galaor, after they had been dubbed knights, eager in their search after adventures in love, war, and enchantments. They were greatly superior to those two brothers, who only knew how to cleave in twain giants, to break lances, and to carry off fair damsels behind them on horseback, without saying a single word to them; whereas our heroes were adepts at cards and dice, of which the others were totally ignorant.
They went to Turin, met with an agreeable reception, and were greatly distinguished at court. Could it be otherwise? They were young and handsome; they had wit at command, and spent their money liberally. In what country will not a man succeed, possessing such advantages? As Turin was at that time the seat of gallantry and of love, two strangers of this description, who were always cheerful, brisk, and lively, could not fail to please the ladies of the court.
Though the men of Turin were extremely handsome, they were not, however, possessed of the art of pleasing. They treated their wives with respect, and were courteous to strangers. Their wives, still more handsome, were full as courteous to strangers, and less respectful to their husbands.
Madame Royale, a worthy daughter of Henry IV., rendered her little court the most agreeable in the world. She inherited such of her father's virtues, as compose the proper ornament of her sex; and with regard to what are termed the foibles of great souls, her highness had in no wise degenerated.
The Count de Tanes was her prime minister. It was not difficult to conduct affairs of state during his administration. No complaints were alleged against him; and the princess, satisfied with his conduct herself, was, above all, glad to have her choice approved by her whole court, where people lived nearly according to the manners and customs of ancient chivalry.
The ladies had each a professed lover, for fashion's sake, besides volunteers, whose numbers were unlimited. The declared admirers wore their mistresses' liveries, their arms, and sometimes even took their names. Their office was, never to quit them in public, and never to approach them in private; to be their squires upon all occasions, and, in justs and tournaments, to adorn their lances, their housings, and their coats, with the cyphers and the colours of their dulcineas.
Matta was far from being averse to gallantry; but would have liked it more simple than as it was practised at Turin The ordinary forms would not have disgusted him; but he found here a sort of superstition in the ceremonies and worship of love, which he thought very inconsistent: however. as he had submitted his conduct in that matter to the direction of the Chevalier de Grammont, he was obliged to follow his example, and to conform to the customs of the country.
They enlisted themselves at the same time in the service of two beauties, whose former squires gave them up immediately from motives of politeness. The Chevalier de Grammont chose Mademoiselle de Saint-Germain, and told Matta to offer his services to Madame de Senantes. Matta consented, though he liked the other better; but the Chevalier de Grammont persuaded him, that Madame de Senantes was more suitable for him. As he had reaped advantage from the Chevalier's talents in the first projects they had formed, he resolved to follow his instructions in love, as lie had done his advice in play.
Mademoiselle de Saint-Germain was in the bloom of youth; her eyes were small, but very bright and sparkling, and like her hair were black; her complexion was lively and clear, though not fair: she had an agreeable mouth, two fine rows of teeth, a neck as handsome as one could wish, and a most delightful shape; she had a particular elegance in her elbows, which, however, she did not shew to advantage; her hands were rather large and not very white; her feet, though not of the smallest, were well shaped; she trusted to Providence, and used no art to set off those graces which she had received from nature; but notwithstanding her negligence in the embellishment of her charms, there was something so lively in her person, that the Chevalier de Grammont was caught at first sight; her wit and humour corresponded with her other qualities, being quite easy and perfectly charming; she was all mirth, all life, all complaisance and politeness, and all was natural, and always the same without any variation.
The Marchioness de Senantes was esteemed fair, and she might have enjoyed, if she had pleased, the reputation of having red hair, had she not rather chosen to conform to the taste of the age in which she lived, than to follow that of the ancients: she had all the advantages of red hair without any of the inconveniences; a constant attention to her person served as a corrective to the natural defects of her complexion. After all, what does it signify, whether cleanliness be owing to nature or to art? it argues an invidious temper, to be very inquisitive about it. She had a great deal of wit, a good memory, more reading, and a still greater inclination towards tenderness.
She had a husband, whom it would have been criminal even in chastity to spare. He piqued himself upon being a Stoic, and gloried in being slovenly and disgusting in honour of his profession. In this he succeeded to admiration; for he was very fat, so that he perspired almost as much in winter as in summer. Erudition and brutality seemed to be the most conspicuous features of his character, and were displayed in his conversation, sometimes together, sometimes alternately, but always disagreeably: he was not jealous, and yet he was troublesome; he was very well pleased to see attentions paid to his wife, provided more were paid to him.
As soon as our adventurers had declared themselves, the Chevalier de Grammont arrayed himself in green habiliments, and dressed Matta in blue, these being the favourite colours of their new mistresses. They entered immediately upon duty: the Chevalier learned and practised all the ceremonies of this species of gallantry, as if he always had been accustomed to them; but Matta commonly forgot one half, and was not over perfect in practising the other. He never could remember, that his office was to promote the glory, and not the interest, of his mistress.
The Duchess of Savoy gave the very next day an entertainment at La Venerie, where all the ladies were invited. The Chevalier was so agreeable and diverting, that he made his mistress almost die with laughing. Matta, in leading his lady to the coach, squeezed her hand, and at their return from the promenade he begged of her to pity his sufferings. This was proceeding rather too precipitately, and, although Madame de Senantes was not destitute of the natural compassion of her sex, she nevertheless was shocked at the familiarity of this treatment; she thought herself obliged to shew some degree of resentment, and, pulling away her hand, which he had pressed with still greater fervency upon this declaration, she went up to the royal apartments without even looking at her new lover. Matta, never thinking that he had offended her, suffered her to go, and went in search of some company to sup with him: nothing was more easy for a man of his disposition; he soon found what he wanted, sat a long time at table to refresh himself after the fatigues of love, and went to bed completely satisfied that he had performed his part to perfection.
During all this time the Chevalier de Grammont acquitted himself towards Mademoiselle de Saint-Germain with universal applause; and, without remitting his assiduities, he found means to shine, as they went along, in the relation of a thousand entertaining anecdotes, which he introduced in the general conversation. Her Royal Highness heard them with pleasure, and the solitary Senantes likewise attended to them. He perceived this, and quitted his mistress to inquire what she had done with Matta. "I!" said she, "I have done nothing with him; but I don't know what he would have done with me, if I had been obliging enough to listen to his most humble solicitations." She then told him in what manner his friend had treated her the very second day of their acquaintance.
The Chevalier could not forbear laughing at it: he told her Matta was rather too unceremonious, but yet she would like him better as their intimacy more improved, and for her consolation he assured her, that he would have spoken in the same manner to her Royal Highness herself; however, he would not fail to give him a severe reprimand. He went the next morning into his room for that purpose; but Matta had gone out early in the morning on a shooting party, in which he had been engaged by his supper companions in the preceding evening. At his return he took a brace of partridges and went to his mistress. Being asked whether he wished to see the marquis, he said no; and the Swiss telling him his lady was not at home, he left his partridges, and desired him to present them to his mistress from him.
The marchioness was at her toilet, and was decorating her head with all the grace she could devise to captivate Matta, at the moment he was denied admittance: she knew nothing of the matter; but her husband knew every particular. He had taken it in dudgeon, that the first visit was not paid to him, and as he was resolved that it should not be paid to his wife, the Swiss had received his orders, and had almost been beaten for receiving the present which had been left. The partridges, however, were immediately sent back; and Matta, without examining into the cause, was glad to have them again. He went to court without ever changing his clothes, or in the least considering he ought not to appear there without his lady's colours. He found her becomingly dressed; her eyes appeared to him more than usually sparkling, and her whole person altogether divine. He began from that day to be much pleased with himself for his complaisance to the Chevalier de Grammont; however, he could not help remarking that she looked but coldly upon him. This appeared to him a very extraordinary return for his services, and, imagining that she was unmindful of her weighty obligations to him, he entered into conversation with her, and severely reprimanded her for having sent back his partridges with so much indifference.
She did not understand what he meant; and highly offended that he did not apologize, after the reprimand which she concluded him to have received, told him, that he certainly had met with ladies of very complying dispositions in his travels, as he seemed to give himself airs that she was by no means accustomed to endure. Matta desired to know, wherein he could be said to have given himself any. "Wherein?" said she: "the second day that you honoured me with your attentions, you treated me as if I had been your humble servant for a thousand years: the first time that I gave you my hand, you squeezed it as violently as you were able. After this commencement of your courtship, I got into my coach, and you mounted your horse; but, instead of riding by the side of the coach, as any reasonable gallant would have done, no sooner did a hare start from her form, than you immediately galloped full speed after her: having regaled yourself, during the promenade, by taking snuff, without ever deigning to bestow a thought on me, the only proof you gave me, on your return, that you recollected me, was by soliciting me to surrender my reputation in terms polite enough, but very explicit. And now you talk to me of having been shooting of partridges, and of some visit or other, which, I suppose, you have been dreaming of, as well as of all the rest."
The Chevalier de Grammont now advanced, to the interruption of this whimsical dialogue. Matta was rebuked for his forwardness, and his friend took abundant pains to convince him, that his conduct bordered more upon insolence than familiarity. Matta endeavoured to exculpate himself, but succeeded ill. His mistress took compassion upon him, and consented to admit his excuses for the manner, rather than his repentance for the fact, and declared, that it was the intention alone, which could either justify or condemn, in such cases; that it was very easy to pardon those transgressions which arise from, excess of tenderness, but not such as proceeded from too great a presumption of success. Matta swore, that he only squeezed her hand from the violence of his passion, and that he had been driven,, by necessity, to ask her to relieve it; that he was yet a novice in the arts of solicitation; that he could not possibly think her more worthy of his affection, after a month's service, than at the present moment; and that he entreated her to cast away an occasional thought upon him when her leisure admitted. The marchioness was not offended: she saw very well, that she must not require an implicit conformity to the established rule of decorum, when she had to deal with such a character; and the Chevalier de Grammont, after this sort of reconciliation, went to look after his own affair with Mademoiselle de St. Germain.
His concern was not the offspring of mere good nature, nay it was the reverse; for no sooner did he perceive, that the marchioness looked with an eye of favour upon him, than this conquest, appearing to him more easy than the other, he thought it was prudent to take advantage of it, for fear of losing the opportunity, and that he might not have spent all his time to no purpose, in case he should prove unsuccessful with the little St. Germain.
In the mean time, in order to maintain that authority which he had usurped over the conduct of his friend, he, that very evening, notwithstanding what had been already said, reprimanded him for presuming to appear at court in his morning suit, and without his mistress's badge; for not having had the wit or prudence to pay his first visit to the Marquis de Senantes, instead of consuming his time to no purpose, in inquiries for the lady; and, to conclude, he asked him what the devil he meant by presenting her with a brace of miserable red partridges. "And why not?" said Matta: "ought they to have been blue, too, to match the cockade and swordknots you made me wear the other day? Plague not me with your nonsensical whimsies: my life on it, in one fortnight your equal in foppery and folly will not be found throughout the confines of Turin; but, to reply to your questions, I did not call upon Monsieur de Senantes, because I had nothing to do with him, and because he is of a species of animals which I dislike, and always shall dislike: as for you, you appear quite charmed with being decked out in green ribands, with writing letters to your mistress, and filling your pockets with citrons, pistachios, and such sort of stuff, with which you are always cramming the poor girl's mouth, in spite of her teeth: you hope to succeed by chanting ditties, composed in the days of Corisande and of Henry IV. which you will swear yourself have made upon her: happy in practising the ceremonials of gallantry, you have no ambition for the essentials. Very well: every one has a particular way of acting, as well as a particular taste: yours is to trifle in love; and, provided you can make Mademoiselle de St. Germain laugh, you are satisfied: as for my part, I am persuaded that women here are made of the same materials as in other places; and I do not think that they can be mightily offended, if one sometimes leaves off trifling, to come to the point: however, if the Marchioness is not of this way of thinking, she may e'en provide herself elsewhere; for I can assure her, that I shall not long act the part of her squire."
This was an unnecessary menace; for the Marchioness in reality liked him very well, was nearly of the same way of thinking herself, and wished for nothing more than to put his gallantry to the test. But Matta proceeded upon a wrong plan; he had conceived such an aversion for her husband, that he could not prevail upon himself to make the smallest advance towards his good graces. He was given to understand, that he ought to begin by endeavouring to lull the dragon to sleep, before he could gain possession of the treasure; but this was all to no purpose, though, at the same time, he could never see his mistress but in public. This made him impatient, and as he was lamenting his ill-fortune to her one day: "Have the goodness, Madam," said he, "to let me know where you live: there is never a day that I do not call upon you, at least three or four times, without ever being blessed with a sight of you." "I generally sleep at home," replied she, laughing; "but I must tell you, that you will never find me there, if you do not first pay a visit to the Marquis: I am not mistress of the house. I do not tell you," continued she, "that he is a man, whose acquaintance any one would very impatiently covet for his conversation: on the contrary, I agree that his humour is fantastical, and his manners not of the pleasing cast; but there is nothing so savage and inhuman, which a little care, attention, and complaisance, may not tame into docility. I must repeat to you some verses upon the subject: I have got them by heart, because they contain a little advice, which you may accommodate, if you please, to your own case."
Keep in mind these maxims rare.
You who hope to win the fair;
Who are, or would esteemed be,
The quintessence of gallantry,
That fopp'ry, grinning, and grimace
And fertile store of common-place;
That oaths as false as dicers swear,
And iv'ry teeth, and scented hair;
That trinkets, and the pride of dress,
Can only give your scheme success.
|Keep in mind.|
Has thy charmer e'er an aunt?
Then learn the rules of woman's cant,
And forge a tale, and swear you read it,
Such as, save woman, none would credit:
Win o'er her confidante and pages,
By gold, for this a golden age is;
And should it be her wayward fate,
To be incumbered with a mate,
A dull, old dotard should he be,
That dulness claims thy courtesy.
|Keep in mind.|
"Truly," said Matta, "the song may say what it pleases, but I cannot put it in practice: your husband is far too exquisite a monster for me. Why what a plaguy odd ceremony do you require of us in this country if we cannot pay our compliments to the wife without being in love with the husband?"
The Marchioness was much offended at this answer; and as she thought she had done enough in pointing out to him the path which would conduct him to success, if he had deserved it, she did not think it worth while to enter into any farther explanation; since he refused to cede, for her sake, so trifling an objection: from this instant she resolved to have done with him.
The Chevalier de Grammont had taken leave of his mistress nearly at the same time: the ardour of his pursuit was extinguished. It was not that Mademoiselle de Saint-Germain was less worthy than hitherto of his attentions: on the contrary, her attractions visibly increased: she retired to her pillow with a thousand charms, and ever rose from it with additional beauty; the phrase of increasing in beauty as she increased in years, seemed to have been purposely made for her. The Chevalier could not deny these truths, but yet he could not find his account in them: a little less merit, with a little less discretion, would have been more agreeable. He perceived that she attended to him with pleasure, that she was diverted with his stories as much as he could wish, and that she received his billets and presents without scruple; but then he also discovered that she did not wish to proceed any farther. He had exhausted every species of address upon her, and all to no purpose: her attendant was gained; her family, charmed with the music of his conversation and his great attention, were never happy without him: in short, he had reduced to practice the advice contained in the Marchioness's song, and every thing conspired to deliver the little Saint-Germain into his hands, if the little Saint-Germain had herself been willing: but alas ! she was not inclined. It was in vain he told her the favour he desired would cost her nothing; and that since these treasures were rarely comprised in the fortune a lady brings with her in marriage, she would never find any person, who, by unremitting tenderness, unwearied attachment, and inviolable secrecy, would prove more worthy of them than himself. He then told her, no husband was ever able to convey a proper idea of the sweets of love, and that nothing could be more different than the passionate fondness of a lover, always tender, always affectionate, yet always respectful, and the careless indifference of a husband.
Mademoiselle de Saint-Germain, not wishing to take the matter in a serious light, that she might not be forced to resent it, answered, that since it was generally the custom in her country to marry, she thought it was right to conform to it. without entering into the knowledge of those distinctions, and those marvellous particulars which she did not very well understand, and of which she did not wish to have any further explanation; that she had submitted to listen to him this one time, but desired he would never speak to her again in the same strain, since such sort of conversation was neither entertaining to her, nor could be serviceable to him. Though no one was ever more facetious than Mademoiselle de Saint-Germain, she yet knew how to assume a very serious air, whenever occasion required it. The Chevalier de Grammont soon saw that she was in earnest; and finding it would cost him a great deal of time to effect a change in her sentiments, he was so far cooled in this pursuit, that he only made use of it to hide the designs he had upon the Marchioness de Senantes.
He found this lady much disgusted at Matta's want of complaisance; and his seeming contempt for her erased every favourable impression which she had once entertained for him. While she was in this humour, the Chevalier told her, that her resentment was just; he exaggerated the loss which his friend had sustained; he told her that her charms were a thousand times superior to those of the little Saint-Germain, and requested that favour for himself which his friend did not deserve. He was soon favourably heard upon this topic, and as soon as they were agreed, they consulted upon two measures necessary to be taken, the one to deceive her husband, the other his friend, which was not very difficult: Matta was not at all suspicious: and the stupid Senantes, towards whom the Chevalier had already behaved as Matta had refused to do, could not be easy without him. This was much more than was wanted; for as soon as ever the Chevalier was with the Marchioness, her husband immediately joined them out of politeness; and on no account would have left them alone together, for fear they should grow weary of each other without him.
Matta, who all this time was entirely ignorant that he was disgraced, continued to serve his mistress in his own way. She had agreed with the Chevalier de Grammont, that to all appearance every thing should be carried on as before; so that the court always believed that the Marchioness only thought of Matta and that the Chevalier was entirely devoted to Mademoiselle de Saint-Germain.
There were very frequently little lotteries for trinkets; the Chevalier de Grammont always tried his fortune, and was sometimes fortunate; and under pretence of the prizes he had won, he bought a thousand things which he indiscreetly gave to the Marchioness, and which she still more indiscreetly accepted: the little Saint-Germain very seldom received any thing. There are meddling whisperers everywhere; remarks were made upon these proceedings, and the same person that made them communicated them likewise to Mademoiselle de Saint-Germain. She pretended to laugh, but in reality was piqued. It is a maxim religiously observed by the fair sex, to envy each other those indulgences which themselves refuse. She took this very ill of the Marchioness. On the other hand, Matta was asked, if he was not old enough to make his own presents himself to the Marchioness de Senantes, without sending them by the Chevalier de Grammont. This roused him; for, of himself, he would never have perceived it: his suspicions, however, were but slight, and he was willing to have them removed. "I must confess," said he to the Chevalier de Grammont, "that they make love here quite in a new style: a man serves here without reward; he addresses himself to the husband when he is in love with the wife, and makes presents to another man's mistress, to get into the good graces of his own. The Marchioness is much obliged to you for" -------- "It is you who are obliged," replied the Chevalier, "since this was done on your account: I was ashamed to find you had never yet thought of presenting her with any trifling token of your attention. Do you know that the people of this court have such extraordinary notions, as to think that it is rather owing to inadvertency that you never yet have had the spirit to make your mistress the smallest present? For shame! how ridiculous it is, that you can never think for yourself!"
Matta took this rebuke, without making any answer, being persuaded that he had in some measure deserved it; besides, he was neither sufficiently jealous, nor sufficiently amorous, to think any more of it; however, as it was necessary for the Chevalier's affairs, that Matta should be acquainted with the Marquis de Senantes, he plagued him so much about it, that at last he complied. His friend introduced him, and his mistress seemed pleased with this proof of complaisance, though she was resolved that he should gain nothing by it; and the husband, being gratified with a piece of civility which he had long expected, determined, that very evening, to give them a supper at a little country seat of his, on the banks of the river, very near the city.
The Chevalier de Grammont answering for them both, accepted the offer; and as this was the only one Matta would not have refused from the Marquis, he likewise consented. The Marquis came to convey them in his carriage at the hour appointed; but he found only Matta. The Chevalier had engaged himself to play, on purpose that they might go without him; Matta was for waiting for him, so great was his fear of being left alone with the Marquis; but the Chevalier having sent to desire them to go on before, and that he would be with them as soon as he had finished his game, poor Matta was obliged to set out with the man, who, of all the world, was most offensive to him. It was not the Chevalier's intention quickly to extricate Matta out of this embarrassment; he no sooner knew that they were gone, than he waited on the Marchioness, under pretence of still finding her husband, that they might all go together to supper.
The plot was in a fair way; and as the Marchioness was of opinion that Matta's indifference merited no better treatment from her, she made no scruple of acting her part in it: she therefore waited for the Chevalier de Grammont with intentions so much the more favourable, as she had for a long time expected him, and had some curiosity to receive a visit from him in the absence of her husband. We may therefore suppose that this first opportunity would not have been lost, if Mademoiselle de Saint-Germain had not unexpectedly come in, almost at the same time with the Chevalier.
She was more handsome and more entertaining that day than she had ever been before; however, she appeared to them very ugly, and very tiresome: she soon perceived that her company was disagreeable, and being determined that they should not be out of humour with her for nothing, after having passed above a long half-hour in diverting herself with their uneasiness, and in playing a thousand monkey tricks, which she plainly saw could never be more unseasonable, she pulled off her hood, scarf, and all that part of her dress which ladies lay aside, when in a familiar manner they intend to pass the day anywhere. The Chevalier de Grammont cursed her in his heart, while she continued to torment him for being in such ill-humour in such good company. At last the Marchioness, who was as much vexed as he was, said, rather drily, that she was obliged to wait on her Royal Highness: Mademoiselle de Saint-Germain told her, that she would have the honour to accompany her, if it would not be disagreeable. She took not the smallest notice of her offer; and the Chevalier finding that it would be entirely useless to prolong his visit at that time, retired with a good grace.
As soon as he had left the house, he sent one of his scouts to desire the Marquis to sit down to table with his company, without waiting for him, because the game might not perhaps be finished so soon as he expected, but that he would be with him before supper was over. Having despatched this messenger, he placed a sentinel at the Marchioness's door, in hopes that the tedious Saint-Germain might go out before her; but this was in vain, for his spy came and told him, after an hour's impatience and suspense, that they were gone out together. He found there was no chance of seeing her again that day; every thing falling out contrary to his wishes: he was forced therefore to leave the Marchioness, and go in quest of the Marquis.
While these things were going on in the city, Matta was not much diverted in the country: as he was prejudiced against the Marquis, all that he said displeased him. He cursed the Chevalier heartily for the téte-à-téte which he had procured him; and he was upon the point of going away, when he found that he was to sit down to supper without any other company.
However, as his host was very choice in his entertainments, and had the best wine and the best cook in all Piedmont, the sight of the first course appeased him; and eating most voraciously, without paying any attention to the Marquis, he flattered himself that the supper would end without any dispute; but he was mistaken.
When the Chevalier de Grammont was at first endeavouring to bring about an intercourse between the Marquis and Matta, he had given a very advantageous character of the latter, to make the former more desirous of his acquaintance; and in the display of a thousand other accomplishments, knowing what an infatuation the Marquis had for the very name of erudition, he assured him that Matta was one of the most learned men in Europe.
The Marquis, therefore, from the moment they sat down to supper, had expected some stroke of learning from Matta, to bring his own into play; but he was much out in his reckoning. No one had read less, no one thought less, and no one had ever spoken so little at an entertainment as he had done: as he did not wish to enter into conversation, he opened his mouth only to eat, or ask for wine.
The other, being offended at a silence which appeared to him affected, and wearied with having uselessly attacked him upon other subjects, thought he might get something out of him by changing the discourse to love and gallantry; and therefore, to begin the subject, he accosted him in this manner:--
"Since you are my wife's gallant" -- "I!" said Matta, who wished to carry it discreetly: "those who told you so, told a damned lie." "Zounds, Sir," said the Marquis, "you speak in a tone which does not at all become you; for I would have you to know, notwithstanding your contemptuous airs, that the Marchioness de Senantes is perhaps as worthy of your attentions as any of your French ladies, and that I have known some, greatly your superiors, who have thought it an honour to serve her." "Very well," said Matta; "I think she is very deserving, and since you insist upon it, I am her servant and gallant, to oblige you."
"You think, perhaps," continued the other, "that the same custom prevails in this country as in your own, and that the ladies have lovers, with no other intentions than to grant them favours: undeceive yourself, if you please, and know likewise, that even if such events were frequent in this court, I should not be at all uneasy." "Nothing can be more civil," said Matta, "but wherefore would you not?" "I will tell you why," replied he: "I am well acquainted with the affection my wife entertains for me; I am acquainted witn her discretion towards all the world; and what is more, I am acquainted with my own merit."
"You have a most uncommon acquaintance then," replied Matta; "I congratulate you upon it; I have the honour to drink it in a bumper." The Marquis pledged him; but seeing that the conversation dropped on their ceasing to drink, after two or three healths, he wished to make a second attempt, and attacked Matta on his strong side, that is to say, on his learning.
He desired him, therefore, to tell him, at what time he thought the Allobroges came to settle in Piedmont. Matta, who wished him and his Allobroges at the devil, said, "that it must be in the time of the civil wars." "I doubt that," said the other. "Just as you like," said Matta. "Under what consulate?" replied the Marquis. "Under that of the League," said Matta, "when the Guises brought the Lansquenets into France; but what the devil does that signify?"
The Marquis was tolerably warm, and naturally savage, so that God knows how the conversation would have ended, if the Chevalier de Grammont had not unexpectedly come in to appease them. It was some time before he could find out what their debate was; for the one had forgotten the questions, and the other the answers, which had disobliged him, in order to reproach the Chevalier with his eternal passion for play, which made him always uncertain. The Chevalier, who knew that he was still more culpable than they thought, bore it all with patience, and condemned himself more than they desired.
This appeased them; and the entertainment ended with greater tranquillity than it had begun. The conversation was again reduced to order; but he could not enliven it as he usually did. He was in very ill humour, and as he pressed them every minute to rise from table, the Marquis was of opinion that he had lost a great deal. Matta said, on the contrary, that he had won; but for want of precautions had made perhaps an unfortunate retreat; and asked him if he had not stood in need of Sergeant La Place, with his ambuscade.
This piece of history was beyond the comprehension of the Marquis, and being afraid that Matta might explain it, the Chevalier changed the discourse, and was for rising from table; but Matta would not consent to it. This effected a reconciliation between him and the Marquis, who thought this was a piece of civility intended for him; however, it was not for him, but for his wine, to which Matta had taken a prodigious liking.
The Duchess, who knew the character of the Marquis, was charmed with the account which the Chevalier de Grammont gave her of the entertainment and conversation; she sent for Matta to know the truth of it from himself; he confessed, that before the Allobroges were mentioned the Marquis was for quarrelling with him, because he was not in love with his wife.
Their acquaintance having begun in this manner, all the esteem which the Marquis had formerly expressed for tht Chevalier seemed now directed towards Matta. He went every day to pay Matta a visit, and Matta was every day with his wife. This did not at all suit the Chevalier. He repented of his having chid Matta, whose assiduity now interrupted all his schemes; and the Marchioness was still more embarrassed. Whatever wit a man may have, it will never please where his company is disliked; and she repented that she had been formerly guilty of some trifling advances towards him.
Matta began to find charms in her person, and might have found the same in her conversation, if she had been inclined to display them; but it is impossible to be in good humour with persons who thwart our designs. While his passion increased, the Chevalier de Grammont was solely occupied in endeavouring to find out some method, by which he might accomplish his intrigue; and this was the stratagem which he put in execution, to clear the coast, by removing at one and the same time both the lover and the husband.
He told Matta, that they ought to invite the Marquis to supper at their lodgings, and he would take upon himself to provide every thing proper for the occasion. Matta desired to know if it was to play at quinze, and assured him that he should take care to render abortive any intention he might have to engage in play, and leave him alone with the greatest blockhead in all Europe. The Chevalier de Grammont did not entertain any such thought, being persuaded that it would be impossible to take advantage of any such opportunity, in whatever manner he might take his measures, and that they would seek for him in every corner of the city rather than allow him the least repose: his whole attention was therefore employed in rendering the entertainment agreeable, in finding out means of prolonging it, in order ultimately to kindle some dispute between the Marquis and Matta. For this purpose he put himself in the best humour in the world, and the wine produced the same effect on the rest of the company.
The Chevalier de Grammont expressed his concern, that he had not been able to give the Marquis a little concert, as he had intended in the morning; for the musicians had been all pre-engaged. Upon this the Marquis undertook to have them at his country-house the following evening, and invited the same company to sup with him there. Matta asked what the devil they wanted with music, and maintained, that it was of no use on such occasions but for women, who had something to say to their lovers, while the fiddles prevented them from being overheard; or for fools, who had nothing to say when the music ended. They ridiculed all his arguments: the party was fixed for the next day, and the music was voted by the majority of voices. The Marquis, to console Matta, as well as to do honour to the entertainment, toasted a great many healths: Matta was more ready to listen to his arguments on this topic tnan in a dispute; but the Chevalier, perceiving that a little would irritate them, desired nothing more earnestly than to see them engaged in some new controversy. It was in vain that he had from time to time started some subject of discourse with this intention; but having luckily thought of asking what was his lady's maiden name, Senantes, who was a great genealogist, as all fools are who have good memories, immediately began by tracing out her family, by an endless confused string of lineage. The Chevalier seemed to listen to him with great attention; and perceiving that Matta was almost out of patience, he desired him to attend to what the Marquis was saying, for that nothing could be more entertaining. "All this may be very true," said Matta; "but for my part, I must confess, if I were married, I should rather choose to inform myself who was the real father of my children, than who were my wife's grandfathers." The Marquis, smiling at this rudeness, did not leave off until he had traced back the ancestors of his spouse, from line to line, as far as Yolande de Senantes; after this, he offered to prove, in less than half an hour, that the Grammonts came originally from Spain. "Very well," said Matta, "and pray what does it signify to us from whence the Grammonts are descended? Do not you know, Sir, that it is better to know nothing at all than to know too much?"
The Marquis maintained the contrary with great warmth, and was preparing a formal argument to prove that an ignorant man is a fool; but the Chevalier de Grammont, who was thoroughly acquainted with Matta, saw very clearly that he would send the logician to the devil before he should arrive at the conclusion of his syllogism: for which reason, interposing as soon as they began to raise their voices, he told them, it was ridiculous to quarrel about an affair in itself so trivial, and treated the matter in a serious light, that it might make the greater impression. Thus supper terminated peaceably, owing to the care he took to suppress all disputes, and to substitute plenty of wine in their stead.
The next day Matta went to the chase, the Chevalier de Grammont to the bagnio, and the Marquis to his country-house. While the latter was making the necessary preparations for his guests, not forgetting the music, and Matta pursuing his game to get an appetite, the Chevalier was meditating on the execution of his project.
As soon as he had regulated his plan of operations in his own mind, he privately sent anonymous intelligence to the officer of the guard at the palace, that the Marquis de Senantes had had some words with Monsieur de Matta the preceding night at supper; that the one had gone out in the morning, and that the other could not be found in the city.
Madame Royale, alarmed at this advice, immediately sent for the Chevalier de Grammont: he appeared surprised when her Highness mentioned the affair: he confessed, indeed, that some high words had passed between them, but that he did not believe either of them would have remembered them the next day. He said, that if no mischief had yet taken place, the best way would be to secure them both until the morning, and that if they could be found, he would undertake to reconcile them, and to obliterate all grievances: in this there was no great difficulty. On inquiry at the Marquis's, they were informed that he was gone to his country-house: there certainly he was, and there they found him; the officer put him under an arrest, without assigning any reason for so doing, and left him in very great surprise.
Immediately upon Matta's return from hunting, her Royal Highness sent the same officer to desire him to give her his word that he would not stir out that evening. This compliment very much surprised him, more particularly as no reason was assigned for it. He was expected at a good entertainment, he was dying with hunger, and nothing appeared to him more unreasonable than to oblige him to stay at home, in a situation like the present; but he had given his word, and not knowing to what this might tend, his only resource was to send for his friend; but his friend did not come to him until his return from the country. He had there found the Marquis in the midst of his fiddlers, and very much vexed to find himself a prisoner in his own house on account of Matta, whom he was waiting for in order to feast him. He complained of him bitterly to the Chevalier de Grammont: he said that he did not believe that he had offended him; but that, since he was very desirous of a quarrel, he desired the Chevalier to acquaint him, if he felt the least displeasure on the present occasion, he should, on the very first opportunity, receive what is called satisfaction. The Chevalier de Grammont assured him, that no such thought had ever entered the mind of Matta; that, on the contrary, he knew that he very greatly esteemed him; that all this could alone arise from the extreme tenderness of his lady, who being alarmed upon the report of the servants who waited at table, must have gone to her Royal Highness, in order to prevent any unpleasant consequences; that he thought this the more probable, as he had often told the Marchioness, when speaking of Matta, that he was the best swordsman in France; for in truth, the poor gentleman had never fought without having the misfortune of killing his man.
The Marquis, being a little pacified, said, he was yery much obliged to him; that he would severely chide his wife for her unseasonable tenderness, and that he was extremely desirous of again enjoying the pleasure of his dear friend Matta's company.
The Chevalier de Grammont assured him that he would use all his endeavours for that purpose, and at the same time gave strict charge to his guard not to let him escape without orders from the court, as he seemed fully bent upon fighting, and they would be responsible for him: there was no occasion to say more to have him strictly watched, though there was no necessity for it.
One being thus safely lodged, his next step was to secure the other. He returned immediately to town; and as soon as Matta saw him: "What the devil," said he, "is the meaning of this farce which I am obliged to act? For my part, I cannot understand the foolish customs of this country: how comes it that they make me a prisoner upon my parole?" "How comes it?" said the Chevalier de Grammont; "it is because you yourself are far more unaccountable than all their customs: you cannot help disputing with a peevish fellow, whom you ought only to laugh at: some officious footman has no doubt been talking of your last night's dispute: you were seen to go out of town in the morning, and the Marquis soon after: was not this sufficient to make her Royal Highness think herself obliged to take these precautions? The Marquis is in custody; they have only required your parole; so far, therefore, from taking the affair in the sense you do, I should send very humbly to thank her Highness for the kindness she has manifested towards you, in putting you under arrest, since it is only on your account that she interests herself in the affair. I shall take a walk to the palace, where I will endeavour to unravel this mystery; in the mean time, as there is but little probability that the matter should be settled this evening, you would do well to order supper; for I shall come back to you immediately."
Matta charged him not to fail to express to her Royal Highness the grateful sense he had of her favour, though in truth he as little feared the Marquis as he loved him; and it is impossible to express the degree of his fortitude in stronger terms.
The Chevalier de Grammont returned in about half an hour, with two or three gentlemen whom Matta had got acquainted with at the chase, and who, upon the report of the quarrel, waited upon him, and each offered him separately his services against the unassisted and pacific Marquis. Matta having returned them his thanks, insisted upon their staying supper, and put on his robe de chambre.
As soon as the Chevalier de Grammont perceived that every thing coincided with his wishes, and that towards the end of the entertainment the toasts went merrily round, he knew he was sure of his man till next day. Then taking him aside, with the permission of the company, and making use of a false confidence in order to disguise a real treachery, he acquainted him, after having sworn him several times to secrecy, that he had at last prevailed upon the little Saint-Germain to grant him an interview that night; for which reason he would take his leave, under pretence of going to play at court; he therefore desired him fully to satisfy the company that he would not have left them on any other account, as the Piedmontese are naturally mistrustful. Matta promised he would manage this point with discretion; that he would make an apology for him, and that there was no occasion for his personally taking leave. Then, after congratulating him upon the happy posture of his affairs, he sent him away with all the expedition and secrecy imaginable; so great was his fear lest his friend should lose the present opportunity.
Matta then returned to the company, much pleased with the confidence which had been placed in him, and with the share he had in the success of this adventure. He put himself into the best humour imaginable in order to divert the attention of his guests; he severely satirized those, whose rage for gaming induced them to sacrifice to it every other consideration; he loudly ridiculed the folly of the Chevalier upon this article, and secretly laughed at the credulity of the Piedmontese, whom he had deceived with so much ingenuity.
It was late at night before the company broke up, and Matta went to bed, very well satisfied with what he had done for his friend; and, if we may credit appearances, this friend enjoyed the fruit of his perfidy. The amorous Marchioness received him like one who wished to enhance the value of the favour she bestowed. Her charms were far from being neglected; and if there are any circumstances in which we may detest the traitor, while we profit by the treason, this was not one of them. And however successful the Chevalier de Grammont was in his intrigues, it was not owing to him that the contrary was not believed; but be that as it may, being convinced, that in love whatever is gained by address, is gained fairly, it does not appear that he ever shewed the smallest degree of repentance for this trick. But it is now time for us to take him from the court of Savoy, to see him shine in that of France.
Memoirs of Count Grammont