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Whilst the unfortunate Hercules was more enlightened than consoled; whilst his genius, so long stifled, unfolded itself with so much rapidity and strength; whilst nature, which was attaining a degree of perfection in him, avenged herself of the outrages of fortune; what became of the Prior, his good sister, and the beautiful recluse, Miss St. Yves? The first month they were uneasy, and the third they were immersed in sorrow. False conjectures, ill-grounded reports, alarmed them. At the end of six months, it was concluded he was dead. At length, Mr. and Miss Kerkabon learned, by a letter of ancient date, which one of the king's guards had written to Britany, that a young man resembling the Huron arrived one night at Versailles, but that since that time no one had heard him spoken of.
"Alas," said Miss Kerkabon, "our nephew has done some ridiculous thing, which has brought on some terrible consequences. He is young, a Low Breton, and cannot know how to behave at court. My dear brother, I never saw Versailles nor Paris; here is a fine opportunity, and we shall perhaps find our poor nephew. He is our brother's son, and it is our duty to assist him. Who knows? we may perhaps at length prevail upon him to become a sub-deacon when the fire of youth is somewhat abated. He was much inclined to the sciences. Do you recollect how he reasoned upon the Old and New Testaments? We are answerable for his soul. He was baptized at our instigation. His dear mistress Miss St. Yves does nothing but weep incessantly. Indeed, we must go to Paris. If he is concealed in any of those infamous houses of pleasure, which I have often heard of, we will get him out."
The Prior was affected at his sister's discourse. He went in search of the Bishop of St. Malo's, who had baptized the Huron, and requested his protection and advice. The Prelate approved of the journey. He gave the Prior letters of recommendation to Father la Chaise, the king's confessor, who was invested with the first dignity in the kingdom; to Harlai, the Archbishop of Paris, and to Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux.
At length, the brother and sister set out; but when they came to Paris, they found themselves bewildered in a great labyrinth without clue or end. Their fortune was but middling, and they had occasion every day for carriages to pursue their discovery, which they could not accomplish.
The Prior waited upon the Reverend Father la Chaise; he was with Mademoiselle du Tron, and could not give audience to Priors. He went to the Archbishop's door: the Prelate was shut up with the beautiful Mademoiselle de Lesdiguières about church matters. He flew to the country house of the Bishop of Meaux: he was engaged in a close examination with Mademoiselle de Mauleon, of the mystery relating to Mademoiselle Guyon. At length, however, he gained access to these two prelates; they both declared they could not interfere with regard to his nephew, as he was not a sub-deacon.
He at length saw the Jesuit, who received him with open arms, protesting he had always entertained the greatest private esteem for him, though he had never known him. He swore that his society had always been attached to the inhabitants of Lower Britany.
"But," said he, "has not your nephew the misfortune of being a Huguenot?"
"No, certainly, Reverend Father."
"May he not be a Jansenist?"
"I can assure your Reverence, that he is scarce a Christian. It is about eleven months since he was christened."
"This is very well;—we will take care of him. Is your benefice considerable?"
"No, a very trifle, and our nephew costs us a great deal."
"Are there any Jansenists in your neighborhood? Take great care, my dear Mr. Prior, they are more dangerous than Huguenots, or even Atheists."
"My Reverend Father, we have none; it is not even known at our Lady of the Mountain what Jansenism is."
"So much the better; go, there is nothing I will not do for you."
He dismissed the Prior in this affectionate manner, but thought no more about him.
Time slipped away, and the Prior and his good sister were almost in despair.
In the meanwhile, the cursed bailiff urged very strenuously the marriage of his great booby son with the beautiful Miss St. Yves, who was taken purposely out of the convent. She always entertained a passion for her god-son in proportion as she detested the husband who was designed for her. The insult that had been offered her, by shutting her up in a convent, increased her affection; and the mandate for wedding the bailiff's son completed her antipathy for him. Chagrin, tenderness, and terror, racked her soul. Love, we know, is much more inventive and more daring in a young woman than friendship in an aged Prior and an aunt upwards of forty-five. Besides, she had received good instructions in her convent with the assistance of romances, which she read by stealth.
The beautiful Miss St. Yves remembered the letter that had been sent by one of the king's guards to Lower Britany, which had been spoken of in the province. She resolved to go herself and gain information at Versailles; to throw herself at the minister's feet, if her husband should be in prison as it was said, and obtain justice for him. I know not what secret intelligence she had gained that at court nothing is refused to a pretty woman; but she knew not the price of these boons.
Having taken this resolution, it afforded her some consolation; and she enjoyed some tranquillity without upraiding Providence with the severity of her lot. She receives her detested intended father-in-law, caresses her brother, and spreads happiness throughout the house. On the day appointed for the ceremony, she secretly departs at four o'clock in the morning, with the little nuptial presents she has received, and all she could gather. Her plan was so well laid, that she was about ten leagues upon her journey, when, about noon, her absence was discovered, and when every one's consternation and surprise was inexpressible. The inquisitive bailiff asked more questions that day than he had done for a week before; the intended bridegroom was more stupefied than ever. The Abbé St. Yves resolved in his rage to pursue his sister. The bailiff and his son were disposed to accompany him. Thus fate led almost the whole canton of Lower Britany to Paris.
The beautiful Miss St. Yves was not without apprehensions that she should be pursued. She rode on horseback, and she got all the intelligence she could from the couriers, without being suspected. She asked if they had not met a fat abbé, an enormous bailiff, and a young booby, galloping as fast as they could to Paris. Having learned, on the third day, that they were not far behind, she took quite a different road, and was skillful and lucky enough to arrive at Versailles, whilst they were in a fruitless pursuit after her, at Paris. But how was she to behave at Versailles? Young, handsome, untutored, unsupported, unknown, exposed to every danger, how could she dare go in search of one of the king's guards? She had some thoughts of applying to a Jesuit of low rank, for there were some for every station of life; as God, they say, has given different aliments to every species of animals. He had given the king his confessor, who was called, by all solicitors of benefices, the head of the Gallican Church. Then came the princes' confessors. The ministers had none, they were not such dupes. There were Jesuits for the genteel mob, and particularly those for chambermaids, by whom were known the secrets of their mistresses; and this was no small vocation, the beautiful Miss St. Yves addressed herself to one of these last, who was called Father Tout-à-tous (all to every one). She confessed to him, set forth her adventure, her situation, her danger, and conjured him to get her a lodging with some good devotee, who might shelter her from temptation.
Father Tout-à-tous introduced her to the wife of the cup-bearer, one of his most trusty penitents. From the moment Miss St. Yves became her lodger, she did her utmost to obtain the confidence and friendship of this penitent. She gained intelligence of the Breton-Guard, and invited him to visit her. Having learned from him that her lover had been carried off after having had a conference with one of the clerks, she flew to this clerk. The sight of a fine woman softened him, for it must be allowed God created woman only to tame mankind.
The scribe, thus mollified, acknowledged to her every thing.
"Your lover has been in the bastile almost a year, and without your intercession he would, perhaps, have ended hid days there."
The tender Miss St. Yves swooned at this intelligence. When she had recovered herself, her informer told her:
"I have no power to do good; all my influence extends to doing harm. Take my advice, wait upon M. de St. Pouange, who has the power of doing both good and ill; he is Mons. de Louvois's cousin and favorite. This minister has two souls: the one is M. de St. Pouange, and Mademoiselle de Belle is the other, but she is at present absent from Versailles; so that you have nothing to do but captivate the protector I have pointed out to you."
The beautiful Miss St. Yves, divided between some trifling joy and excessive grief, between a glimmering of hope and dreadful apprehensions,—pursued by her brother, idolizing her lover, wiping her tears, which flowed in torrents; trembling and feeble, yet summoning all her courage;—in this situation, she flew on the wings of love to M. de St. Pouange's.
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