"To each question a negative answer.
"'But who is it, then, my dear?'
"I treated my maid with familiarity. She was born the same day as myself, in the same house, that of my father, with the difference that I came into the world in a handsome apartment[p. 57]
and she in the lodge of our house porter. Her father, a worthy Languedoc man, was a superannuated pensioner in our service.
"'I thought,' answered my maid, 'with all due respect to Madame la Comtesse, that the devil had long since made a mantle out of the skin of this personage.'
"I passed in review all those of my acquaintance who could have deserved any special treatment by Satan, and I found so many of them that I did not know on whom to fasten my conjectures.
"'Since Madame does not guess,' continued Mdlle. Rostande, 'I will take the liberty of telling her that it is the Comte de Saint-Germain!'
"'Comte de Saint-Germain!' I exclaimed, 'the man of miracles.'
"My surprise was great on finding that he was at Paris and in my house. It was eight years since he had left France, and no one knew in the least what had become of him. Heeding nothing but my curiosity, I ordered her to show him in.
"'Did he tell you to announce him to me under his own name?'
"'It is M. de Saint-Noel that he calls himself now. No matter, I should recognise him among a thousand.'[p. 58]
"She went out, and a moment after the Count appeared. He looked fresh and well, and almost grown younger. He paid me the same compliment, but it may be doubted whether it was as sincere as mine.
"'You have lost,' I said to him, 'a friend, a protector in the late King.'
"'I doubly regret this loss, both for myself and for France.'
"'The nation is not of your opinion; it looks to the new reign for its welfare.'
"'It is a mistake; this reign will be fatal to it.'
"'What are you saying?' I replied, lowering my voice and looking around me.
"'The truth. . . . A gigantic conspiracy is being formed, which as yet has no visible chief, but he will appear before long. The aim is nothing less than the overthrow of what exists, to reconstruct it on a new plan. There is ill-will towards the royal family, the clergy, the nobility, the magistracy. There is still time, however, to baffle the plot; later, this would be impossible.'
Where have you seen all this? Is it in dreaming, or awake?'
"Partly with the help of my two ears, and partly through revelations. The King of France, I repeat, has no time to lose.'
"'You must seek an audience of the Comte de[p. 59] [paragraph continues] Maurepas, and let him know your fears, for he can do everything, being entirely in the confidence of the King.'
"'He can do everything I know, except save France; or rather, it is he who will hasten her ruin. This man will undo you, Madame.'
"'You are telling me enough about it to get yourself sent to the Bastille for the rest of your days.'
"'I do not speak thus except to friends of whom I am sure.'
"'Nevertheless, see M. de Maurepas; he has good intentions, though wanting in ability.'
"'He would reject the evidence; besides, he detests me. Do you not know the silly quatrain which caused his exile?
'Beautiful Marquise, they praise your charms.
Lovely are you and very frank;
But all that does not prevent
Your flowers being flowers.'
"'The rhyme is inaccurate, Count.'
"'Oh! the Marquise paid little attention to it; but she knew that M. de Maurepas was the author of it, and he pretended that I had taken away the original manuscript from him to send it to the haughty Sultana. His exile followed the publication of these wretched verses, and from that time he included me in his schemes of vengeance. He will never forgive me. , Madame[p. 60]
la Comtesse, this is what I propose to you. Speak of me to the Queen, of the services that I have rendered to the government in the missions that have been entrusted to me at the various courts of Europe. If her Majesty will listen to me, I will reveal to her what I know; then she will judge whether it will be well for me to enter into the King's presence; without the intervention, however, of M. de Maurepas--that is my sine qua non.'
"I listened attentively to M. de Saint-Germain, and I understood all the dangers that would again fall on my head, if I interfered in such an affair. On the other hand, I knew the Count to be perfectly conversant with European politics, and I feared to lose the opportunity of serving the State and the King. The Comte de Saint-Germain, guessing my perplexity, said to me:--
"'Think over my proposal; I am in Paris incognito; do not speak of me to anyone; and if to-morrow you will come to meet me in the church of the Jacobins in the Rue Saint-Honore, I will await your answer there at eleven o'clock precisely.'
"'I would rather see you in my own house.'
"'Willingly; to-morrow, then, Madame.'
"He departed. I pondered all day on this apparition, as it were, and on the menacing words of the Comte de Saint-Germain. What! we were[p. 61]
on the eve of social disorganisation; this reign, which was ushered in under such happy auspices, was brewing the tempest! After long meditation on this text, I determined to present M. de Saint-Germain to the Queen, if she consented to it. He was punctual to the appointment, and delighted at the resolution that I had made. I asked him if he was going to settle in Paris; he answered in the negative, his plans no longer permitting him to live in France.
"'A century will pass,' he said, 'before I shall re-appear there.'
"I burst out laughing, and he did the same. That very day I went to Versailles; I passed through the small apartments, and finding Madame de Misery there, I begged her to let the Queen know that I wished to see her as soon as she could receive me. The head chamber-woman returned with the command to conduct me in. I entered; the Queen was sitting in front of a charming porcelain writing-table, which the King had given her; she was writing, and turning her head she said to me with one of her gracious smiles:--
"'What do you want with me?'
"'A trifle, Madame; I merely aspire to save the monarchy.'
"Her Majesty looked at me with amazement.
"'Explain yourself.'[p. 62]
"At this command I mentioned the Comte de Saint-Germain; I told all that I knew of him, of his intimacy with the late King, Madame de Pompadour, the Duke de Choiseul; I spoke of the real services that he had rendered to the State by his diplomatic ability; I added that since the death of the Marquise he had disappeared from Court, and that no one knew the place of his retirement. When I had sufficiently piqued the Queen's curiosity, I ended by repeating to her what the Count had said to me the previous day, and had confirmed that morning.
"The Queen appeared to reflect; then she replied.
"'It is strange; yesterday I received a letter from my mysterious correspondent; he warned me that an important communication would shortly be made to me, and that I must take it into serious consideration, on pain of the greatest misfortunes. The coincidence of these two things is remarkable, unless, however, they come from the same source; what do you think about it?'
"'I scarcely know what to say of it. Here has the Queen been receiving these mysterious communications for several years, and the Comte de Saint-Germain re-appeared only yesterday.'
"'Perhaps he acts in this way in order the better to conceal himself.'
"'That is possible; nevertheless, something tells me that one ought to put faith in his words.''[p. 63]
"'After all, one is not sorry to see him, were it only in passing. I authorise you, then, to bring him to-morrow to Versailles, disguised in your livery. He shall remain in your apartments, and as soon as it is possible for me to admit him, I will have you both summoned. I will not listen to him except in your presence; that, too, is my sine qua non.'
"I bowed profoundly, and the Queen dismissed me with the usual signal. I own, however, that my confidence in the Comte de Saint-Germain was lessened by the coincidence of his coming to Paris with the warning received the day before by Marie-Antoinette. I fancied I saw in it a regular scheme of trickery, and I asked myself if I ought to speak to him about it; but, considering all, I resolved to be silent, certain that he was prepared beforehand to answer this question.
"M. de Saint-Germain was awaiting me outside. As soon as I perceived him, I stopped my carriage; he got into it with me, and we returned together to my house. He was present at my dinner, but according to his custom he did not eat; after this he proposed to go back to Versailles. He would sleep at the inn, he added, and rejoin me the next day. I consented to this, eager as I was to neglect nothing for the success of this business.
* *[p. 64]
"We were in my dwelling, then, in quarters which at Versailles were called a suite of apartments, when one of the Queen's pages came to ask me on her Majesty's behalf for the second volume of the book that she had desired me to bring her from Paris. This was the signal agreed upon. I handed the page a volume of some new novel, I know not what, and as soon as he had gone, I followed, accompanied by my lackey.
"We entered through the cabinets; Madame de Misery conducted us into the private room where the Queen was awaiting us. She rose with affable dignity.
"'Monsieur le Comte,' she said to him, 'Versailles is a place which is familiar to you.'
"'Madame, for nearly twenty years I was on intimate terms with the late King; he deigned to listen to me with kindness; he made use of my poor abilities on several occasions, and I do not think that he regretted having given me his confidence.'
"'You have wished Madame d'Adhemar to bring you to me; I have great affection for her and I do not doubt that what you have to tell me deserves listening to.'
"'The Queen,' answered the Count in a solemn voice, 'will in her wisdom weigh what I am about to confide to her. The Encyclopaedist party desire power; they will only obtain it by the[p. 65]
absolute downfall of the clergy, and to ensure this result they will overthrow the monarchy. This party, who seek a chief among the members of the royal family, have turned their eyes on the Duc de Chartres; this prince will become the tool of men who will sacrifice him when he has ceased to be useful to them; the crown of France will be offered him, and he will find the scaffold instead of the throne. But before this day of retribution, what cruelties! what crimes! Laws will no longer be the protection of the good and the terror of the wicked. It is these last who will seize power with their blood-stained hands; they will abolish the Catholic religion, the nobility, the magistracy.'
"'So that nothing but royalty will be left!' interrupted the Queen, impatiently.
"'Not even royalty! . . . but a greedy republic, whose sceptre will be the axe of the executioner.'
"At these words I could not contain myself, and taking upon me to interrupt the Count in the Queen's presence:
"'Monsieur!' I cried, 'do you think of what you are saying, and before whom you are speaking?'
"'In truth,' added Marie-Antoinette, a little agitated, 'these are things that my ears are not accustomed to hear.'[p. 66]
"'And it is in the gravity of the circumstances that I find this boldness,' coolly replied M. de Saint-Germain. 'I have not come with the intention of paying a homage to the Queen of which she must be weary, but indeed to point out to her the dangers which threaten her crown, if prompt measures are not taken to avert them.'
"'You are positive, Monsieur,' said Marie-Antoinette, petulantly.
"'I am deeply grieved to displease your Majesty, but I can only speak the truth.'
"'Monsieur,' replied the Queen, affecting a playful tone, 'the true, perhaps, may sometimes not be the probable.'
"'I admit, Madame, that this is a case in point; but your Majesty will permit me in my turn to remind you that Cassandra foretold the ruin of Troy, and that they refused to believe it. I am Cassandra, France is the kingdom of Priam. Some years yet will pass by in a deceitful calm; then from all parts of the kingdom will up men greedy for vengeance, for power, and for money; they will overthrow all in their way. The seditious populace and some great members of the State will lend them support; a spirit of delirium will take possession of the citizens; civil war will burst out with all its horrors; it will bring in its train murder, pillage, exile. Then it will be regretted that I was not[p. 67]
listened to; perhaps I shall be asked for again, but the time will be past . . . the storm will have swept all before it.'
"'I confess, Monsieur, that this discourse astonishes me more and more, and did I not know that the late King had an affection for you, and that you had served him faithfully. . You wish to speak to the King?'
"'But without the concurrence of M. de Maurepas?'
"'He is my enemy; besides, I rank him among those who will further the ruin of the kingdom, not from malice, but from incapacity.'
"'You are a severe judge of a man who has the approbation of the majority.'
"'He is more than prime minister, Madame, and by right of this he is sure to have flatterers.'
"'If you exclude him from your relations with the King, I fear that you will find it difficult to approach his Majesty, who cannot act without his chief adviser.'
"'I shall be at their Majesties' command as long as they wish to employ me; but as I am not their subject, all obedience on my part is a gratuitous act.'
"'Monsieur,' said the Queen, who at this period could not treat any matter seriously for long together, 'where were you born?'[p. 68]
"'At Jerusalem, Madame.'
"'And that was . . . when?'