On this evening my guests were more numerous and brilliant than usual, for no person entertaining the least suspicion of the king's danger, all vied with each other in evincing, by their presence, the desire they felt of expressing their regard for me. My friends, acquaintances, people whom I scarcely knew at all, were collected together in my drawing-rooms; this large assemblage of joyous and cheerful faces, drove away for a moment all the gloom which had bung over me. I even forgot the morning's visitor, and if the health of the king were at all alluded to, it was only
Could a stranger have seen us, so careless, thoughtless, and gay, he would have been far from suspecting that we were upon the eve of a catastrophe which must change the whole face of affairs in France. For my own part, my spirits rose to a height with the giddy crowd around me, and in levity and folly, I really believe I exceeded them.
At a late hour my rooms were at length forsaken, and I retired to my chamber where, having dismissed my other attendants, I remained alone (as was frequently my custom) with my faithful Henriette, whom I caused to exchange my evening dress for a dark robe, which I covered with a large Spanish mantle I had never before worn, and thus equipped, I waited the arrival of comte Jean. Henriette, surprised at these preparations, pressed me with so many questions, that at last I explained my whole purpose to her. The attached creature exerted all her eloquence to point out the dangers of the enterprise, which she implored of me to abandon, but I refused to listen to her remonstrances, and she ceased urging me further, only protesting she should await my return with the most lively impatience.
At length, comte Jean appeared, armed with a small sword-stick and pistols in his pocket, with every other precaution necessary for undertaking so perilous an adventure. We descended into the garden with many smiles at the singular figures we made, but no sooner were we in the open air, than the sight of the clear heavens sparkling with stars, the cool still night, the vast walks lined with statues, which resembled a troop of white phantoms, the gentle waving of the branches, as the evening breeze stirred their leaves, with that feeling of awe and solemnity generally attendant upon the midnight hour, awoke in our minds ideas more suitable to our situation. We ceased speaking and walked slowly down the walk past the basin of the dragon, in order, by crossing the park, to reach the chateau de Trianon.
Fortune favoured us, for we met only one guard in the park, this man having recognised us as we drew near, saluted us, and was about to retire, when my brother-in-law called him back an desired him to take our key, and open with it the nearest gates to the place which we wished to go to. He also commanded him to await our return. The soldier was accustomed to these nocturnal excursions even on the part of the most scrupulous and correct gentlemen and ladies of the court. He, therefore, assured us of his punctuality, and opened for us a great iron gate, which it would have cost my brother-in-law much trouble to have turned upon its hinges.
The nearer we approached the end of our journey, the more fully did our minds become impressed with new and painful disquietudes. At length, we reached the place of our destination.
My brother-in-law desired he might be announced but said nothing
of who I was. We were expected, for a Swiss belonging to the palace conducted us to a chamber at one end of the chateau, where, stretched on a bed of loathsome disease, was the creature who, but a few hours before, had been deemed worthy the embraces of a powerful monarch. Beside her were an elderly female, her mother, and an aged priest, who had been likewise summoned by the unfortunate girl, and her brother, a young man of about twenty-four years of age, with an eye of fire, and a frame of Herculean power. He was sitting with his back turned towards the door; the mother, half reclining on the bed, held in her hand a handkerchief steeped in her tears, while the ecclesiastic read prayers to them from a book which he held. A nurse, whom we had not before perceived, answered the call of the Swiss, and inquired of him what he wanted.