“I am unfortunate,” said Madame de Stael to Countess Ducayla; “Napoleon hated me because he believed me to possess intellect; these people repel me because I at least possess ordinary human understanding! I can certainly get on very well without them; but, as my presence displeases them, I shall, at least, endeavor to get my money from them.”
The “sacred debt” had not been paid under the empire, and it was now Madame de Stael’s intention to obtain from the king what the emperor had refused.
She was well aware of the influence which Countess Ducayla exercised over Louis XVIII., and she now hastened to call on the beautiful countess—whose acquaintance she had made under peculiar circumstances, in a romantic love intrigue—in order to renew the friendship they had then vowed to each other.
The countess had not forgotten this friendship, and she was now grateful for the service Madame de Stael had then shown her. She helped to secure the liquidation of the sacred debt, and, upon the order of King Louis, the million was paid over to Madame de Stael. “But,” says the countess, in her memoirs, “I believe the recovery of this million cost Madame de Stael four hundred thousand francs, besides a set of jewelry that was worth at least one hundred thousand.”
The countess’s purse and the jewelry case, however, doubtlessly bore evidence that she might as well have said “I know” as “I believe.”
Besides the four hundred thousand francs and the jewelry, Madame de Stael also gave the countess a piece of advice. “Make the most of the favor you now enjoy,” said she to her; “but do so quickly, for, as matters are now conducted, I fear that the restoration will soon have to be restored.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked the countess, smiling.
“I mean that, with the exception of the king, who perhaps does not say all he thinks, the others are still doing precisely as they always have done, and Heaven knows to what extremities their folly is destined to bring them! They mock at the old soldiers and assist the young priests, and this is the best means of ruining France.”
Countess Ducayla considered this prediction of her intellectual friend as a mere cloud with which discontent and disappointed ambition had obscured the otherwise clear vision of Madame de Stael, and ridiculed the idea, little dreaming how soon her words were to be fulfilled.
Madame de Stael consoled herself for her cold reception at court, by receiving the best society of Paris in her parlors, and entertaining them with biting bon mots and witty persiflage, at the expense of the grand notabilities, who had suddenly arisen with their imposing genealogical trees out of the ruins and oblivion of the past.