In this manner the day passed away. I visited the king from time to time, and he, although evidently much oppressed and indisposed, conversed with me without any painful effort. His affection for me seemed to gain fresh strength as his bodily vigour declined, and the fervent attachment he expressed for me, at a time when self might reasonably have been expected to hold possession of his mind, filled me with regret at not being able more fully to return so much tenderness. In the evening I wished to be alone, the marechale de Mirepoix had sent to request a private interview, and I awaited her arrival in my chamber, whilst an immense concourse of visitors filled my salons. The king's danger was not yet sufficiently decided for the courtiers to abandon me, and the chances continued too strongly in my favour to warrant any one of them in withdrawing from me their usual attentions. Comte Jean, however, presented himself before me, spite of the orders I had given to exclude every person but the marechale.
"My dear sister," cried he, as he entered, "Chamilly has just told me that he has received the royal command to have Julie married off without delay; now this is a piece of delicacy towards yourself on the part of the king for which you owe him many thanks. But I have another communication to make you, of a less pleasing nature. The unfortunate girl who has been left at Trianon, has called incessantly for you the whole of this day; she asserts that she has matters of importance to communicate to you."
Whatever surprise I experienced at this intelligence, it was impossible it could be otherwise than true, for was it likely that, at a time like the present, comte Jean would attempt to impose such a tale upon me.
"What would you have me do?" asked I of my brother-in-law.
"Hark ye, sister," replied he, "we are both of us in a very critical situation just now, and should spare no endeavour to extricate ourselves from it. Very possibly this girl may be in possession of facts more important than you at present conceive possible; the earnestness with which she perseveres in her desire of seeing you, and her repeated prayers to those around her to beg your attendance, proves that it is something more than the mere whim of a sick person, and in your place, I should not hesitate to comply with her wishes."
"And how could we do so? "said I.
"To-night," returned he, "when all your guests have retired, and Versailles is in a manner deserted, I will fetch you; we have keys which open the various gates in the park, and walking through which, and the gardens, we can reach Trianon unobserved. No person will be aware of our excursion, and we shall return with the same caution with which we went. We will, after our visit, cause our clothes to be burnt, take a bath, and use every possible precaution to purify ourselves from all chance of infection. When that is done you may venture into the apartment of his majesty, even if that malady which at present hangs over him should turn out to be the small-pox."
I thought but little of the consequences of our scheme, or of the personal danger I incurred, and I promised my brother-in-law that I would hold myself in readiness to accompany him. We then conversed together upon the state of the king, and, what you will have some difficulty in crediting, not one word escaped either of us relative to our future plans or prospects; still it was the point to which the thoughts of comte Jean must naturally have turned.
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