VICTORY DEARLY BOUGHT
No difficulty was made about enrolling the Chevalier d’Aubepine as a volunteer in the regiment of Conde, and as the lettre de cachet, as my brother De Solivet said, the Cardinal understood his game too well to send one to bring back a youth who had rushed to place himself beneath the banners of his country in the hands of a prince of the blood.
Indeed, we soon learned that there was no one to pursue him. His grandfather had a stroke of apoplexy in his rage on hearing of the arrest, and did not survive it a week, so that he had become Count of Aubepine. The same courier brought to my husband a letter from his sister, which I thought very stiff and formal, all except the conclusion: ’Oh, my brother, I implore you on my knees to watch over him and bring him back to me!’
Yet, as far as we knew and believed, the young man had never written at all to his poor little wife. My husband had insisted on his producing a letter to his grandfather; but as to his wife, he shrugged his shoulders, said that she could see that he was safe, and that was enough for her.
He was, in fact, like one intoxicated with the delights of liberty and companionship. He enjoyed a certain eclat from the manner of his coming, and was soon a universal favourite among the officers. Unfortunately, the influence and example there were not such as to lead him to think more of his wife. The Duke of Enghien had been married against his will to a poor little childish creature, niece to Cardinal de Richelieu, and he made it the fashion to parade, not only neglect, but contempt, of one’s wife. He was the especial hero of our young Count’s adoration, and therefore it was the less wonder that, when in the course of the winter, the chaplain wrote that the young Madame le Comtesse was in the most imminent danger, after having given birth to the long desired son and heir, he treated the news with supreme carelessness. We should never have known whether she lived or died, had not the courier, by whom M. de Bellaise wrote to her as well as to his uncle, brought back one of her formal little letters, ill-spelt and unmeaning, thanking Monsieur son frere and Madame sa femme for their goodness, and saying she was nearly recovered.
‘It cuts me to the heart to receive such letters,’ said my husband, ’and to feel how little I can be to her. Some day I hope I may know her better, and make her feel what a brother means.’
All this happened while we were in garrison for the winter at Nancy. Again we offered M. d’Aubepine a room in our house; but though he was, in his way, fond of my husband, and was polite to me, he thought a residence with us would interfere with his liberty, and, alas! his liberty consisted in plunging deeper and deeper into dissipation, gambling, and all those other sports which those about him made him think the privileges of manhood. We could do nothing; he laughed at M. de Bellaise, and so indeed did these chosen friends of his. I believe plenty of wit was expended on us and our happy domestic life; but what was that to us? The courage of M. de Bellaise was well known, and he had so much good-temper and kindness that no one durst insult him.