“You put us completely at our ease,” replied the King, who had not even the courage to be gallant. “I must thank you on behalf of these ladies for your candour and wit.” Ten or twelve of us began to titter at this speech of hers. The Robust Lady never forgave those who laughed.
Directly she arrived, she singled me out as the object of her ponderous Palatine sarcasms. She exaggerated my style of dress, my ways and habits. She thought to make fun of my little spaniels by causing herself to be followed, even into the King’s presence-chamber, by a large turnspit, which in mockery she called by the name of my favourite dog.
When I had had my hair dressed, ornamented with quantities of little curls, diamonds, and jewelled pins, she had the impertinence to appear at Court wearing a huge wig, a grotesque travesty of my coiffure. I was told of it. I entered the King’s apartment without deigning to salute Madame, or even to look at her.
I had also been told that, in society, she referred to me as “the Montespan woman.” I met her one day in company with a good many other people, and said to her:
“Madame, you managed to give up your religion in order to marry a French prince; you might just as well have left behind your gross Palatine vulgarity also. I have the honour to inform you that, in the exalted society to which you have been admitted, one can no more say ’the Montespan woman,’ than one can say ‘the Orleans woman.’ I have never offended you in the slightest degree, and I fail to see why I should have been chosen as the favoured object of your vulgar insults.”
She blushed, and ventured to inform me that this way of expressing herself was a turn of speech taken from her own native language, and that by saying “the,” as a matter of course “Marquise” was understood.
“No, madame,” I said, without appearing irritated; “in Paris, such an excuse as that is quite inadmissible, and since you associate with turnspits, pray ask your cooks, and they will tell you.”
Fearing to quarrel with the King, she was obliged to be more careful, but to change one’s disposition is impossible, and she has loathed and insulted me ever since. Her husband, who himself probably taught her to do so, one day tried to make apologies for what he ruefully termed her reprehensible conduct. “There, there, it doesn’t matter,” I said to him; “it is easier to offend me than to deceive me. Allow me to quote to you the speech of Mademoiselle de Montpensier, ’You had a charming and accomplished wife, you ought to have prevented her from being poisoned, and then we should not have had this hag at Court.’”
Madame de Montespan’s Father-confessor.—He Alters His Opinion.—Madame de Maintenon Is Consulted.—A General on Theology.—A Country Priest.—The Marquise Postpones Her Repentance and Her Absolution.