The Abbe was now five-and-twenty, had received the tonsure, and had been admitted to minor Orders, but there was no necessity for him to proceed any farther unless higher promotion should be accorded to him in recompense of his brother’s services. He was a gentle, amiable being, not at all fit to take care of himself; and since the death of his mother, he had been the charge of his brother and sister-in-law, or perhaps more correctly speaking, of the Dowager Marquise de Varennes, for all the branches of the family lived together in the Hotel de Varennes at Paris, or its chateau in the country, and the fine old lady ruled over all, her son and son-in-law being often absent, as was the case at present.
A fresh European war had been provoked by the ambition of the second wife of Philip V. of Spain, the Prince for whose cause Berwick had fought. This Queen, Elizabeth Farnese, wanted rank and dominion for her own son; moreover, Philip looked with longing eyes at his native kingdom of France, all claim to which he had resigned when Spain was bequeathed to him; but now that only a sickly child, Louis XV., stood between him and the succession in right of blood, he felt his rights superior to those of the Duke of Orleans. Thus Spain was induced to become hostile to France, and to commence the war known as that of the Quadruple Alliance.
While there was still hope of accommodation, the Comte de Bourke had been sent as a special envoy to Madrid, and there continued even after the war had broken out, and the Duke of Berwick, resigning all the estates he had received from the gratitude of Philip V., had led an army across the frontier.
The Count had, however, just been appointed Ambassador to Sweden, and was anxious to be joined by his family on the way thither.
The tidings had created great commotion. Madame de Varennes looked on Sweden as an Ultima Thule of frost and snow, but knew that a lady’s presence was essential to the display required of an ambassador. She strove, however, to have the children left with her; but her daughter declared that she could not part with Estelle, who was already a companion and friend, and that Ulysse must be with his father, who longed for his eldest son, so that only little Jacques, a delicate child, was to be left to console his grandmother.
’Sac now he’s o’er the floods sae
And Lord Maxwell has ta’en his good-night.’
Lord MAXWELL’S Good-night.
Madame La Comtesse de Bourke was by no means a helpless fine lady. She had several times accompanied her husband on his expeditions, and had only not gone with him to Madrid because he did not expect to be long absent, and she sorely rued the separation.
She was very busy in her own room, superintending the packing, and assisting in it, when her own clever fingers were more effective than those of her maids. She was in her robe de chambre, a dark blue wrapper, embroidered with white, and put on more neatly than was always the case with French ladies in deshabille. The hoop, long stiff stays, rich brocade robe, and fabric of powdered hair were equally unsuitable to ease or exertion, and consequently were seldom assumed till late in the day, when the toilette was often made in public.