THE Chevalier de Grammont, never satisfied in his amours, was fortunate without being beloved, and became jealous without having an attachment.
Mrs. Middleton, as we have said, was going to experience what methods he could invent to torment, after having experienced his powers of pleasing.
He went in search of her to the queen's drawing-room, where there was a ball: there she was; but fortunately for her, Miss Hamilton was there likewise. It had so happened, that of all the beautiful women at court, this was the lady whom he had least seen, and whom he had heard most commended: this, therefore, was the first time that he had a close view of her, and he soon found that he had seen nothing at court before this instant: he asked her some questions, to which she replied: as long as she was dancing, his eyes were fixed upon her; and from this time he no longer resented Mrs. Middleton's conduct. Miss Hamilton was at the happy age when the charms of the fair sex begin to bloom: she had the finest shape, the loveliest neck, and most beautiful arms in the world: she was majestic and graceful in all her movements; and she was the original after which all the ladies copied in their taste and air of dress. Her forehead was open, white, and smooth: her hair was well set, and fell with ease into that natural order which it is so difficult to imitate. Her complexion was possessed of a certain freshness, not to be equalled by borrowed colours: her eyes were not large, but they were lively, and capable of expressing whatever she pleased: her mouth was full of graces, and her contour uncommonly perfect: nor was her nose, which was small, delicate, and turned up, the least ornament of so lovely a face. In fine, her air, her carriage, and the numberless graces dispersed over her whole person, made the Chevalier de Grammont not doubt, but that she was possessed of every other qualification. Her mind was a proper companion for such a form: she did not endeavour to shine in conversation by those sprightly sallies which only puzzle; and with still greater care she avoided that affected solemnity in her discourse, which produces stupidity; but, without any eagerness to talk, she just said what she ought, and no more. She had an admirable discernment in distinguishing between solid and false wit; and far from making an ostentatious display of her abilities, she was reserved, though very just in her decisions: her sentiments were always noble, and even lofty to the highest extent, when there was occasion: nevertheless, she was less prepossessed with her own merit than is usually the case with those who have so much. Formed, as we have described, she could not fail of commanding love; but so far was she from courting it, that she was scrupulously nice with respect to those whose merit might entitle them to form any pretensions to her.
The more the Chevalier de Grammont was convinced of these truths, the more did he endeavour to please and engage her in his turn: his entertaining wit, his conversation, lively, easy, and always distinguished by novelty, constantly gained him attention; but he was much embarrassed to find that presents, which so easily made their way in his former method of courtship, were no longer proper in the mode which, for the future, he was obliged to pursue.
He had an old valet-de-chambre, called Termes, a bold thief, and a still more impudent liar: he used to send this man from London every week, on the commissions we have before mentioned; but after the disgrace of Mrs. Middleton, and the adventure of Miss Warmestre, Mr. Termes was only employed in bringing his master's clothes from Paris, and he did not always acquit himself with the greatest fidelity in that employment, as will appear hereafter.
The queen was a woman of sense, and used all her endeavours to please the king, by that kind obliging behaviour which her affection made natural to her: she was particularly attentive in promoting every sort of pleasure and amusement, especially such as she could be present at herself.
She had contrived, for this purpose, a splendid masquerade, where those, whom she appointed to dance, had to represent different nations: she allowed some time for preparation, during which we may suppose, the tailors, the mantua-makers, and embroiderers were not idle: nor were the beauties, who were to be there, less anxiously employed; however, Miss Hamilton found time enough to invent two or three little tricks, in a conjuncture so favourable, for turning into ridicule the vain fools of the court. There were two who were very eminently such: the one was Lady Muskerry, who had married her cousin-german; and the other a maid of honour to the duchess, called Blague.
The first, whose husband most assuredly never married her for beauty, was made like the generality of rich heiresses, to whom just nature seems sparing of her gifts, in proportion as they are loaded with those of fortune: she had the shape of a woman big with child, without being so; but had a very good reason for limping; for, of two legs uncommonly short, one was much shorter than the other: a face suitable to this description gave the finishing stroke to this disagreeable figure.
Miss Blague was another species of ridicule: her shape was neither good nor bad: her countenance bore the appearance of the greatest insipidity, and her complexion was the same all over; with two little hollow eyes, adorned with white eyelashes, as long as one's finger. With these attractions she placed herself in ambuscade to surprise unwary hearts; but she might have done so in vain, had it not been for the arrival of the Marquis de Brisacier. Heaven seemed to have made them for each other: he had in his person and manners every requisite to dazzle a creature of her character: he talked eternally, without saying any thing, and in his dress exceeded the most extravagant fashions. Miss Blague believed that all this finery was on her account; and the marquis believed that her long eyelashes had never taken aim at any but himself: every body perceived their inclination for each other: but they had only conversed by mute interpreters, when Miss Hamilton took it into her head to intermeddle in their affairs.
She was willing to do every thing in order, and therefore began with her cousin Muskerry, on account of her rank. Her two darling foibles were dress and dancing. Magnificence of dress was intolerable with her figure; and though her dancing was still more insupportable, she never missed a ball at court: and the queen had so much complaisance for the public, as always to make her dance; but it was impossible to give her a part in an entertainment so important and splendid as this masquerade: however, she was dying with impatience for the orders she expected.
It was in consequence of this impatience, of which Miss Hamilton was informed, that she founded the design of diverting herself at the expense of this silly woman. The queen sent notes to those whom she appointed to be present, and described the manner in which they were to be dressed. Miss Hamilton wrote a note exactly in the same manner to Lady Muskerry, with directions for her to be dressed in the Babylonian fashion.
She assembled her counsel to advise about the means of sending it: this cabinet was composed of one of her brothers and a sister, who were glad to divert themselves at the expense of those who deserved it. After having consulted some time, they at last resolved upon a mode of conveying it into her own hands. Lord Muskerry was just going out, when she received it: he was a man of honour, rather serious, very severe, and a mortal enemy to ridicule. His wife's deformity was not so intolerable to him, as the ridiculous figure she made upon all occasions. He thought that he was safe in the present case, not believing that the queen would spoil her masquerade by naming Lady Muskerry as one of the dancers; nevertheless, as he was acquainted with the passion his wife had to expose herself in public, by her dress and dancing, he had just been advising her very seriously to content herself with being a spectator of this entertainment, even though the queen should have the cruelty to engage her in it: he then took the liberty to shew her what little similarity there was between her figure, and that of persons to whom dancing and magnificence in dress were allowable. His sermon concluded at last, by an express prohibition to solicit a place at this entertainment, which they had no thoughts of giving her; but far from taking his advice in good part, she imagined that he was the only person who had prevented the queen from doing her an honour she so ardently desired; and as soon as he was gone out, her design was to go and throw herself at her Majesty's feet to demand justice. She was in this very disposition when she received the billet; three times did she kiss it, and without regarding her husband's injunctions, she immediately got into her coach in order to get information of the merchants who traded to the Levant, in what manner the ladies of quality dressed in Babylon.
The plot laid for Miss Blague was of a different kind: she had such faith in her charms, and was so confident of their effects, that she could believe any thing. Brisacier, whom she looked upon as desperately smitten, had wit, which he set off with common-place talk, and with little sonnets: he sung out of tune most methodically, and was continually exerting one or other of these happy talents: the Duke of Buckingham did all he could to spoil him, by the praises he bestowed both upon his voice and upon his wit.
Miss Blague, who hardly understood a word of French, regulated herself upon the duke's authority, in admiring the one and the other. It was remarked, that all the words which he sung to her were in praise of fair women, and that always taking this to herself, she cast down her eyes in acknowledgment and consciousness. It was upon these observations they resolved to make a jest of her, the first opportunity.
While these little projects were forming, the king, who always wished to oblige the Chevalier de Grammont, asked him if he would make one at the masquerade, on condition of being Miss Hamilton's partner? He did not pretend to dance sufficiently well for an occasion like the present; yet he was far from refusing the offer: "Sire," said he, "of all the favours you have been pleased to shew me, since my arrival, I feel this more sensibly than any other; and to convince you of my gratitude, I promise you all the good offices in my power with Miss Stewart." He said this, because they had just given her an apartment separate from the rest of the maids of honour, which made the courtiers begin to pay respect to her. The king was very well pleased at this pleasantry, and having thanked him for so necessary an offer: "Monsieur le Chevalier," said he, "in what style do you intend to dress yourself for the ball? I leave you the choice of all countries." "If so," said the Chevalier, "I will dress after the French manner, in order to disguise myself; for they already do me the honour to take me for an Englishman in your city of London. Had it not been for this, I should have wished to have appeared as a Roman; but for fear of embroiling myself with Prince Rupert, who so warmly espouses the interests of Alexander against Lord Thanet, who declares himself for Cæsar, I dare no longer think of assuming the hero; nevertheless, though I may dance awkwardly, yet, by observing the tune, and with a little alertness, I hope to come off pretty well; besides. Miss Hamilton will take care that too much attention shall not be paid to me. As for my dress, I shall send Termes off to-morrow morning; and if I do not shew you at his return the most splendid habit you have ever seen, look upon mine as the most disgraced nation in your masquerade."
Termes set out with ample instructions, on the subject of his journey; and his master redoubling his impatience on an occasion like the present, before the courier could be landed, began to count the minutes in expectation of his return: thus was he employed, until the very eve of the ball; and that was the day that Miss Hamilton and her little society had fixed for the execution of their project.
Martial gloves were then very much in fashion: she had by chance several pairs of them: she sent one to Miss Blague, accompanied with four yards of yellow riband, the palest she could find, to which she added this note: --
"You were the other day more charming than all the fair women in the world: you looked yesterday still more fair than you did the day before: if you go on, what will become of my heart? But it is a long time sinee that has been a prey to your pretty little young wild boar's eyes. Shall you be at the masquerade to-morrow? But can there be any charms at an entertainment at which you are not present? It does not signify: I shall know you in whatever disguise you may be: but I shall be better informed of my fate by the present I send you; you will wear knots of this riband in your hair; and these gloves will kiss the most beautiful hands in the universe."
This billet, with the present, were delivered to Miss Blague, with the same success as the other had been conveyed to Lady Muskerry. Miss Hamilton had just received an account of it, when the latter came to pay her a visit: something seemed to possess her thoughts very much; when, having staid some time, her cousin desired her to walk into her cabinet. As soon as they were there: "I desire your secrecy for what I am going to tell you," said Lady Muskerry. "Do not you wonder what strange creatures men are? Do not trust to them, my dear cousin: my Lord Muskerry, who, before our marriage, could have passed whole days and nights in seeing me dance, thinks proper now to forbid me dancing, and says it does not become me. This is not all: he has so often rung in my ears the subject of this masquerade, that I am obliged to hide from him the honour the queen has done me, in inviting me to it. However, I am surprised I am not informed who is to be my partner: but if you knew what a plague it is, to find out, in this cursed town, in what manner the people of Babylon dress, you would pity me for what I have suffered since the time I have been appointed: besides, the cost which it puts me to is beyond all imagination."
Here it was that Miss Hamilton's inclination to laugh, which had increased in proportion as she endeavoured to suppress it, at length overcame her, and broke out in an immoderate fit. Lady Muskerry took it in good humour, not doubting but that it was the fantastical conduct of her husband that she was laughing at. Miss Hamilton told her, that all husbands were much the same, and that one ought not to be concerned at their whims; that she did not know who was to be her partner at the masquerade; but that, as she was named, the gentleman named with her would certainly not fail to attend her; although she could not comprehend why he had not yet declared himself, unless he likewise had some fantastical spouse, who had forbid him to dance.
This conversation being finished, Lady Muskerry went away in great haste, to endeavour to learn some news of her partner. Those who were accomplices in the plot were laughing very heartily at this visit, when Lord Muskerry paid them one in his turn, and taking Miss Hamilton aside: "Do you know," said he, "whether there is to be any ball in the city to-morrow?" "No," said she; "but why do you ask?" "Because," said he, "I am informed that my wife is making great preparations of dress. I know very well she is not to be at the masquerade: that I have taken care of; but as the devil is in her for dancing, I am very much afraid that she will be affording some fresh subject for ridicule, notwithstanding all my precautions: however, if it was amongst the citizens, at some private party, I should not much mind it."
They satisfied him as well as they could, and having dismissed him, under pretence of a thousand things they had to prepare for the next day, Miss Hamilton thought herself at liberty for that morning, when in came Miss Price, one of the maids of honour to the duchess. This was just what she was wishing for: this lady and Miss Blague had been at variance some time, on account of Duncan, whom Miss Price had drawn away from the other; and hatred still subsisted between these two divinities.
Though the maids of honour were not nominated for the masquerade, yet they were to assist at it: and consequently were to neglect nothing to set themselves off to advantage. Miss Hamilton had still another pair of gloves of the same sort as those she had sent to Miss Blague, which she made a present of to her rival, with a few knots of the same riband, which appeared to have been made on purpose for her, brown as she was. Miss Price returned her a thousand thanks, and promised to do herself the honour of wearing them at the ball. "You will oblige me if you do," said Miss Hamilton, "but if you mention that such a trifle as this comes from me, I shall never forgive you; but," continued she, "do not go and rob poor Miss Blague of the Marquis Brisacier, as you already have of Duncan: I know very well that it is wholly in your power: you have wit: you speak French; and were he once to converse with you ever so little, the other could have no pretensions to him." This was enough: Miss Blague was only ridiculous and coquettish: Miss Price was ridiculous, coquettish, and something else besides,
The day being come, the court, more splendid than ever, exhibited all its magnificence at this masquerade. The company were all met except the Chevalier de Grammont: everybody was astonished that he should be one of the last at such a time, as his readiness was so remarkable on every occasion; but they were still more surprised, to see him at length appear in an ordinary court-dress, which he had worn before. The thing was preposterous on such an occasion, and very extraordinary with respect to him: in vain had he the finest point-lace, with the largest and best powdered peruke imaginable: his dress, magnificent enough for any other purpose, was not at all proper for this entertainment.
The king immediately took notiee of it: "Chevalier," said he, "Termes is not arrived then?" "Pardon me, Sire," said he, "God be thanked!" "Why God be thanked?'' said the king; "has any thing happened to him on the road?" "Sire," said the Chevalier de Grammont, "this is the history of my dress, and of Termes, my messenger." At these words the ball, ready to begin, was suspended: the dancers making a circle around the Chevalier de Grammont, he continued his story in the following manner :
"It is now two days since this fellow ought to have been here, according to my orders and his protestations: you may judge of my impatience all this day, when I found he did not come; at last, after I had heartily cursed him, about an hour ago ho arrived, splashed all over from head to foot, booted up to the waist, and looking as if he had been excommunicated: 'Very well, Mr. Scoundrel,' said I, 'this is just like you; you must be waited for to the very last minute, and it is a miracle that you are arrived at all.' 'Yes, faith,' said he, 'it is a miracle. You are always grumbling: I had the finest suit in the world made for you, which the Duke de Guise himself was at the trouble of ordering.' 'Give it me, then, scoundrel,' said I. ' Sir,' said he, 'if I did not employ a dozen embroiderers upon it, who did nothing but work day and night, I am a rascal: I never left them one moment.' ' And where is it, traitor? ' said I: 'do not stand here prating, while I should be dressing.' 'I had,' continued he, 'packed it up, made it tight, and folded it in such a manner that all the rain in the world could never have been able to reach it; and I rid post, day and night, knowing your impatience, and that you were not to be trifled with.' ------ 'But where is it?' said I. ' Lost, Sir,' said he, clasping his hands. 'How! lost,' said I, in surprise. 'Yes, lost, perished, swallowed up: what can I say more?' 'What, was the packet-boat cast away then?' said I. ' Oh ! indeed, Sir, a great deal worse, as you shall see,' answered he: 'I was within half a league of Calais yesterday morning, and I was resolved to go by the seaside, to make greater haste; but, indeed they say very true, that nothing is like the highway; for I got into a quicksand, where I sunk up to the chin.' 'A quicksand,' said I, ' near Calais?' 'Yes, Sir,' said he, 'and such a quicksand, that, the devil take me, if they saw any thing but the top of my head when they pulled me out: as for my horse, fifteen men could scarce get him out; but the portmanteau, where I had unfortunately put your clothes, could never be found: it must be at least a league under-ground.'
"This, Sire," continued the Chevalier de Grammont, "is the adventure, and the relation which this honest gentleman has given me of it. I should certainly have killed him, but I was afraid of making Miss Hamilton wait, and I was desirous of giving your Majesty immediate advice of the quicksand, that your couriers may take care to avoid it."
The king was ready to split his sides with laughing, when the Chevalier de Grammont, resuming the discourse, "Apropos, Sire," said he, "I had forgot to tell you, that to increase my ill humour, I was stopped, as I was getting out of my chair, by the devil of a phantom in masquerade, who would by all means persuade me, that the queen had commanded me to dance with her; and, as I excused myself with the least rudeness possible, she charged me to find out who was to be her partner, and desired me to send him to her immediately: so that your Majesty will do well to give orders about it; for she has placed herself in ambush in a coach, to seize upon all those who pass through Whitehall. However, I must tell you, that it is worth while to see her dress; for she must have at least sixty ells of gauze and silver tissue about her, not to mention a sort of a pyramid upon her head, adorned with a hundred thousand baubles."
This last account surprised all the assembly, except those who had a share in the plot. The queen assured them that all she had appointed for the ball were present; and the king, having paused some minutes: "I bet," said he, "that it is the Duchess of Newcastle." "And I," said Lord Muskerry, coming up to Miss Hamilton, "will bet it is another fool; for I am very much mistaken if it is not my wife."
The king was for sending to know who it was, and to bring her in: Lord Muskerry offered himself for that service, for the reason already mentioned; and it was very well he did so. Miss Hamilton was not sorry for this, knowing very well that he was not mistaken in his conjecture: the jest would have gone much farther than she intended, if the princess of Babylon had appeared in all her glory.
The ball was not very well executed, if one may be allowed the expression, so long as they danced only slow dances; and yet there were as good dancers, and as beautiful women in this assembly, as were to be found in the whole world: but as their number was not great, they left the French, and went to country dances. When they had danced some time, the king thought fit to introduce his auxiliaries, to give the others a little respite: the queen's and the duchess's maids of honour were therefore called in to dance with the gentlemen.
Then it was that they were at leisure to take notice of Miss Blague, and they found that the billet they had conveyed to her on the part of Brisacier had its effect: she was more yellow than saffron: her hair was stuffed with the citron-coloured riband, which she had put there out of complaisance; and, to inform Brisacier of his fate, she raised often to her head her victorious hands, adorned with the gloves we have before mentioned: but, if they were surprised to see her in a headdress that made her look more wan than ever, she was very differently surprised to see Miss Price partake with her in every particular of Brisacier's present: her surprise soon turned to jealousy; for her rival had not failed to join in conversation with him, on account of what had been insinuated to her the evening before; nor did Brisacier fail to return her first advances, without paying the least attention to the fair Blague, nor to the signs which she was tormenting herself to make him, to inform him of his happy destiny.
Miss Price was short and thick, and consequently no dancer: the Duke of Buckingham, who brought Brisacier forward as often as he could, came to desire him, on the part of the king, to dance with Miss Blague, without knowing what was then passing in this nymph's heart: Brisacier excused himself, on account of the contempt that he had for country dances: Miss Blague thought that it was herself that he despised; and, seeing that he was engaged in conversation with her mortal enemy, she began to dance, without knowing what she was doing. Though her indignation and jealousy were sufficiently remarkable to divert the court, none but Miss Hamilton and her accomplices understood the joke perfectly: their pleasure was quite complete; for Lord Muskerry returned, still more confounded at the vision, of which the Chevalier de Grammont had given the description: he acquainted Miss Hamilton, that it was Lady Muskerry herself, a thousand times more ridiculous than she had ever been before, and that he had had an immense trouble to get her home, and place a sentry at her chamber door.
The reader may think, perhaps, that we have dwelt too long on these trifling incidents; perhaps he may be right: we will, therefore, pass to others.
Every thing favoured the Chevalier de Grammont in the new passion which he entertained: he was not, however, without rivals; but, what is a great deal more extraordinary, he was without uneasiness: he was acquainted with their understandings, and no stranger to Miss Hamilton's way of thinking.
Among her lovers, the most considerable, though the least professedly so, was the Duke of York: it was in vain for him to conceal it, the court was too well acquainted with his character to doubt of his inclinations for her: he did not think it proper to declare such sentiments as were not fit for Miss Hamilton to hear; but he talked to her as much as he could, and ogled her with great assiduity. As hunting was his favourite diversion, that sport employed him one part of the day, and he came home generally much fatigued; but Miss Hamilton's presence revived him, when he found her either with the queen or the duchess: there it was that, not daring to tell her of what lay heavy on his heart, he entertained her with what he had in his head; telling her miracles of the cunning of foxes and the mettle of horses; giving her accounts of broken legs and arms, dislocated shoulders, and other curious and entertaining adventures; after which, his eyes told her the rest, till such time as sleep interrupted their conversation; for these tender interpreters could not help sometimes composing themselves in the midst of their ogling.
The duchess was not at all alarmed at a passion which her rival was far from thinking sincere, and with which she used to divert herself, as far as respect would admit her: on the contrary, as her highness Lad an affection and esteem for Miss Hamilton, she never treated her more graciously than on the present occasion.
The two Russells, uncle and nephew, were two other of the Chevalier de Grammont's rivals: the uncle was full seventy, and had distinguished himself by his courage and fidelity in the civil wars: his passions and intentions, with regard to Miss Hamilton, appeared both at once; but his magnificence only appeared by halves in those gallantries which love inspires. It was not long since the fashion of high-crowned hats had been left off, in order to fall into the other extreme: old Russell, amazed at so terrible a change, resolved to keep a medium, which made him remarkable: he was still more so, by his constancy for cut doublets, which he supported a long time after they had been universally suppressed; but, what was more surprising than all, was a certain mixture of avarice and liberality, constantly at war with each other, ever since he had entered the lists with love.
His nephew was only of a younger brother's family, but was considered as his uncle's heir; and though he was under the necessity of attending to nis uncle for an establishment, and still more so of humouring him, in order to get his estate, he could not avoid his fate. Mrs. Middleton shewed him a sufficient degree of preference; but her favours could not secure him from the charms of Miss Hamilton: his person would have had nothing disagreeable in it, If he had but left it to nature; but he was formal in all his actions, and silent even to stupidity; and yet rather more tiresome when he did speak.
The Chevalier de Grammont, very much at his ease in all these competitions, engaged himself more and more in his passion, without forming other designs, or conceiving other hopes, than to render himself agreeable: though his passion was openly declared, no person at court regarded it otherwise than as a habit of gallantry, which goes no farther than to do justice to merit.
His monitor, Saint Evremond, was quite of a different opinion; and finding, that, besides an immense increase of magnificence and assiduity, he regretted those hours which he bestowed on play; that he no longer sought after those long and agreeable conversations they used to have together; and that this new attachment everywhere robbed him of himself. "Monsieur le Chevalier," said he, "methinks that for some time you have left the town beauties and their lovers in perfect repose: Mrs. Middleton makes fresh conquests with impunity, and wears your presents, under your nose, without your taking the smallest notice: poor Miss Warmestre has been very quietly brought to bed in the midst of the court, without your having even said a word about it: I foresaw it plain enough, Monsieur le Chevalier, you have got acquainted with Miss Hamilton, and, what has never before happened to you, you are really in love; but let us consider a little what may be the consequence. In the first place, then, I believe, you have not the least intention of seducing her: such is her birth and merit, that if you were in possession of the estate and title of your family, it might be excusable in you to offer yourself upon honourable terms, however ridiculous marriage may be in general; for, if you only wish for wit, prudence, and the treasures of beauty, you could not pay your addresses to a more proper person: but for you, who possess only a very moderate share of those of fortune, you cannot pay your addresses more improperly.
"For your brother Toulongeon, whose disposition I am acquainted with, will not have the complaisance to die, to favour your pretensions: but suppose you had a competent fortune for you both, and that is supposing a good deal, are you acquainted with the delicacy, not to say capriciousness, of this fair one about such an engagement? Do you know that she has had the choice of the best matches in England? The Duke of Richmond paid his addresses to her first; but though he was in love with her, still he was mercenary: however, the king, observing that want of fortune was the only impediment to the match, took that article upon himself, out of regard to the Duke of Ormond, to the merit and birth of Miss Hamilton, and to her father's services; but, resenting that a man who pretended to be in love should bargain like a merchant, and likewise reflecting upon his character in the world, she did not think that being duchess of Richmond was a sufficient recompense for the danger that was to be feared from a brute and a debauchee.
"Has not little Jermyn, notwithstanding his uncle's great estate and his own brilliant reputation, failed in his suit to her? And has she ever so much as vouchsafed to look at Henry Howard, who is upon the point of being the first duke in England, and who is already in actual possession of all the estates of the house of Norfolk? I confess that he is a clown; but what other lady in all England would not have dispensed with his stupidity, and his disagreeable person, to be the first duchess in the kingdom, with twenty-five thousand a year?
"To conclude; Lord Falmouth has told me himself, that he has always looked upon her as the only acquisition wanting to complete his happiness; but that, even at the height of the splendour of his fortune, he never had had the assurance to open his sentiments to her; that he either felt in himself too much weakness, or too much pride, to be satisfied with obtaining her solely by the persuasion of her relations; and that, though the first refusals of the fair on such occasions are not much minded, he knew with what an air she had received the addresses of those whose persons she did not like. After this, Monsieur le Chevalier, consider what method you intend to pursue; for, if you are in love, the passion will still increase, and the greater the attachment, the less capable will you be of making those serious reflections that are now in your power."
"My poor philosopher," answered the Chevalier de Grammont, "you understand Latin very well, you can make good verses, you understand the course, and are acquainted with the nature of the stars in the firmament; but, as for the luminaries of the terrestrial globe, you are utterly unacquainted with them; you have told me nothing about Miss Hamilton, but what the king told me three days ago. That she has refused the savages you have mentioned is all in her favour; if she had admitted their addresses, I would have had nothing to say to her, though I love her to distraction. Attend now to what I am going to say; I am resolved to marry her, and I will have my tutor Saint Evremond himself to be the first man to commend me for it. As for an establishment, I shall make my peace with the king, and will solicit him to make her one of the ladies of the bedchamber to the queen; this he will grant me. Toulongeon will die, without my assistance, and notwithstanding all his care; and Miss Hamilton will have Semeat, with the Chevalier de Grammont, as an indemnification for the Norfolks and Richmonds. Now, have you any thing to advance against this project? For I will bet you a hundred louis, that every thing will happen as I have foretold it."
At this time the king's attachment to Miss Stewart was so public, that every person perceived, that if she was but possessed of art, she might become as absolute a mistress over his conduct as she was over his heart. This was a fine opportunity for those who had experience and ambition. The Duke of Buckingham formed the design of governing her in order to ingratiate himself with the king; God knows what a governor he would have been, and what a head he was possessed of, to guide another; however, he was the properest man in the world to insinuate himself with Miss Stewart; she was childish in her behaviour, and laughed at every thing, and her taste for frivolous amusements, though unaffected, was only allowable in a girl about twelve or thirteen years old. A child, however, she was, in every other respect, except playing with a doll; blind-man's buff was her most favourite amusement; she was building castles of cards, while the deepest play was going on in her apartments, where you saw her surrounded by eager courtiers, who handed her the cards, or young architects, who endeavoured to imitate her.
She had, however, a passion for music, and had some taste for singing. The Duke of Buckingham, who built the finest towers of cards imaginable, had an agreeable voice: she had no aversion to scandal; and the duke was both the father and the mother of scandal; he made songs, and invented old women's stories with which she was delighted; but his particular talent consisted in turning into ridicule whatever was ridiculous in other people, and in taking them off, even in their presence, without their perceiving it. In short, he knew how to act all parts, with so much grace arid pleasantry, that it was difficult to do without him, when he had a mind to make himself agreeable; and he made himself so necessary to Miss Stewards amusement, that she sent all over the town to seek for him, when he did not attend the king to her apart merits.
He was extremely handsome, and still thought himself much more so than he really was; although he had a great deal of discernment, yet his vanity made him mistake some civilities as intended for his person, which were only bestowed on his wit and drollery. In short, being seduced by too good an opinion of his own merit, he forgot his first project and his Portuguese mistress, in order to pursue a fancy in which he mistook himself; for he no sooner began to act a serious part with Miss Stewart, than he met with so severe a repulse, that he abandoned, at once, all his designs upon her; however, the familiarity she had procured him with the king opened the way to those favours to which he was afterwards ad-ranced.
Lord Arlington took up the project which the Duke of Buckingham had abandoned, and endeavoured to gain possession of the mind of the mistress, in order to govern the master. A man of greater merit and higher birth than himself might, however, have been satisfied with the fortune he had already acquired. His first negotiations were during the treaty of the Pyrenees; and though he was unsuccessful in his proceedings for his employer, yet he did not altogether lose his time; for he perfectly acquired, in his exterior, the serious air and profound gravity of the Spaniards, and imitated pretty well their tardiness in business; he had a scar across his nose, which was covered by a long patch, or, rather, by a small plaster, in form of a lozenge.
Scars in the face commonly give a man a certain fierce and martial air, which sets him off to advantage; but it was quite the contrary with him, and this remarkable plaster so well suited his mysterious looks, that it seemed an addition to his gravity and self-sufficiency.
Arlington, under the mask of this compound countenance, where great earnestness passed for business, and impenetrable stupidity for secrecy, had given himself the character of a great politician; and no one having leisure to examine him, he was taken at his word, and had been made minister and secretary of state, upon the credit of his own importance.
His ambition soaring still above these high stations, after having provided himself with a great number of fine maxims, and some historical anecdotes, he obtained an audience of Miss Stewart, in order to display them; at the same time offering her his most humble services, and best advice, to assist her in conducting herself in the situation to which it had pleased God, and her virtue, to raise her. But he was only in the preface of his speech, when she recollected that he was at the head of those whom the Duke of Buckingham used to mimic; and as his presence and his language exactly revived the ridiculous ideas that had been given her of him, she could not forbear bursting out into a fit of laughter in his face, so much the more violent as she had for a long time struggled to suppress it.
The minister was enraged: his pride became his post, and his punctilious behaviour merited all the ridicule which could be attached to it: he quitted her abruptly, with all the fine advice he had prepared for her, and was almost tempted to carry it to Lady Castlemaine, and to unite himself with her interests; or immediately to quit the court party, and declaim freely in parliament against the grievances of the state, and particularly to propose an act to forbid the keeping of mistresses; but his prudence conquered his resentments; and thinking only how to enjoy with pleasure the blessings of fortune, he sent to Holland for a wife, in order to complete his felicity.
Hamilton was, of all the courtiers, the best qualified to succeed in an enterprise in which the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Arlington had miscarried: he was thinking upon it; but his natural coquetry traversed his intentions, and made him neglect the most advantageous prospects in the world, in order unnecessarily to attend to the advances and allurements thrown out to him by the Countess of Chesterfield. This was one of the most agreeable women in the world: she had a most exquisite shape, though she was not very tall: her complexion was extremely fair, with ali the expressive charms of a brunette: she had large blue eyes, very tempting and alluring: her manners were engaging: her wit lively and amusing; but her heart, ever open to tender sentiments, was neither scrupulous in point of constancy, nor nice in point of sincerity. She was daughter to the Duke of Ormond, and Hamilton, being her cousin-german, they might be as much as they pleased in each other's company without being particular; but as soon as her eyes gave him some encouragement, he entertained no other thoughts than how to please her, without considering her fickleness, or the obstacles he had to encounter. His intention, which we mentioned before, of establishing himself in the confidence of Miss Stewart, no longer occupied his thoughts: she now was of opinion that she was capable of being the mistress of her own conduct: she had done all that was necessary to inflame the king's passions, without exposing her virtue by granting the last favours; but the eagerness of a passionate lover, blessed with favourable opportunities, is difficult to withstand, and still more difficult to vanquish; and Miss Stewards virtue was almost exhausted, when the queen was attacked with a violent fever, which soon reduced her to extreme danger.
Then it was that Miss Stewart was greatly pleased with herself for the resistance she had made, though she had paid dearly for it: a thousand flattering hopes of greatness and glory filled her heart, and the additional respect that was universally paid her contributed not a little to increase them. The queen was given over by her physicians: the few Portuguese women, that had not been sent back to their own country, filled the court with doleful cries; and the good nature of the king was much affected with the situation in which he saw a princess, whom, though he did not love her, yet he greatly esteemed. She loved him tenderly, and thinking that it was the last time she should ever speak to him, she told him, "That the concern he shewed for her death was enough to make her quit life with regret; but that not possessing charms sufficient to merit his tenderness, she had at least the consolation in dying to give place to a consort, who might be more worthy of it, and to whom heaven, perhaps, might grant a blessing that had been refused to her." At these words, she bathed his hands with some tears, which he thought would be her last: he mingled his own with hers; and without supposing she would take him at his word, he conjured her to live for his sake. She had never yet disobeyed him; and, however dangerous sudden impulses may be, when one is between life and death, this transport of joy, which might have proved fatal to her, saved her life, and the king's wonderful tenderness had an effect, for which every person did not thank heaven in the same manner.
Jermyn had now for some time been recovered of his wounds: however, Lady Castlemaine, finding his health in as deplorable a condition as ever, resolved to regain the king's heart, but in vain: for notwithstanding the softness of her tears, and the violence of her passions. Miss Stewart wholly possessed it. During this period the court was variously entertained: sometimes there were promenades, and at others the court beauties sallied out on horseback, and to make attacks with their charms and graces, sometimes successfully, sometimes otherwise, but always to the best of their abilities: at other seasons there were such shows on the river, as the city of London alone can afford.
The Thames washes the sides of a large though not a magnificent palace of the kings of Great Britain: from the stairs of this palace the court used to take water, in the summer evenings, when the heat and dust prevented their walking in the park: an infinite number of open boats, filled with the court and city beauties, attended the barges, in which were the royal family: collations, music, and fireworks completed the scene. The Chevalier de Grammont always made one of the company, and it was very seldom that he did not add something of his own invention, agreeably to surprise by some unexpected stroke of magnificence and gallantry. Sometimes he had complete concerts of vocal and instrumental music, which he privately brought from Paris, and which struck up on a sudden in the midst of these parties: sometimes he gave banquets, which likewise came from France, and which, even in the midst of London, surpassed the king's collations. These entertainments sometimes exceeded, at others fell short of his expectations, but they always cost him an immense deal of money.
Lord Falmouth was one of those who had the greatest friendship and esteem for the Chevalier do Grammont: this profusion gave him concern, and as he often used to go and sup with him without ceremony, one day finding only Saint Evremond there, and a supper fit for half a dozen guests, who had been invited in form: "You must not," said he, addressing himself to the Chevalier de Grammont, "be obliged to me for this visit: I come from the king's coucher, where all the discourse was about you; and I can assure you that the manner in which the king spoke of you could not afford you so much pleasure as I myself felt upon the occasion. You know very well, that he has long since offered you his good offices with the king of France; and for my own part," continued he, smiling, "you know very well that I would solicit him so to do, if it was not through fear of losing you as soon as your peace is made; but, thanks to Miss Hamilton, you are in no great haste: however, I am ordered by the king my master to acquaint you, that while you remain here, until you are restored to the favour of your sovereign, he presents you with a pension of fifteen hundred Jacobus's: it is indeed a trifle, considering the figure the Chevalier de Grammont makes among us; but it will assist him," said he, embracing him, "to give us sometimes a supper."
The Chevalier de Grammont received, as he ought, the offer of a favour he did not think, proper to accept: "I acknowledge," said he, "the king's bounty in this proposal, but I am still more sensible of Lord Falmouth's generosity in it; and I request him to assure his Majesty of my perfect gratitude: the king my master will not suffer me to want, when he thinks fit to recall me; and while I continue here, I will let you see that I have wherewithal to give my English friends now and then a supper."
At these words, he called for his strong box, and shewed him seven or eight thousand guineas in solid gold. Lord Falmouth, willing to improve to the Chevalier's advantage the refusal of so advantageous an offer, gave Monsieur de Comminge, then ambassador at the English court, an account of it; nor did Monsieur de Comminge fail to represent properly the merit of such a refusal to the French court.
Hyde Park, every one knows, is the promenade of London; nothing was so much in fashion, during the fine weather, as that promenade, which was the rendezvous of magnificence and beauty: every one, therefore, who had either sparkling eyes, or a splendid equipage, constantly repaired thither, and the king seemed pleased with the place.
Coaches with glasses were then a late invention: the ladies were afraid of being shut up in them: they greatly preferred the pleasure of shewing almost their whole persons, to the conveniences of modern coaches: that which was, made for the king not being remarkable for its elegance, the Chevalier de Grammont was of opinion that something ingenious might be invented, which should partake of the ancient fashion, and likewise prove preferable to the modern; he therefore sent away Termes privately with all the necessary instructions to Paris: the Duke of Guise was likewise charged with this commission; and the courier, having by the favour of Providence escaped the quicksand, in a month's time brought safely over to England the most elegant and magnificent calash that had ever been seen, which the Chevalier presented to the king.
The Chevalier de Grammont had given orders, that fifteen hundred louis should be expended upon it; but the Duke of Guise, who was his friend, to oblige him, laid out two thousand. All the court was in admiration at the magnificence of the present; and the king, charmed with the Chevalier's attention to every thing which could afford him pleasure, failed not to acknowledge it: he would not, however, accept a present of so much value, but upon condition that the Chevalier should not refuse another from him.
The queen, imagining that so splendid a carriage might prove fortunate for her, wished to appear in it first, with the Duchess of York. Lady Castlemaine, who had seen them in it, thinking that it set off a fine figure to greater advantage than any other, desired the king to lend her this wonderful calash to appear in it the first fine day in Hyde Park. Miss Stewart had the same wish, and requested to have it on the same day. As it was impossible to reconcile these two goddesses, whose former union was turned into mortal hatred, the king was very much perplexed.
Lady Castlemaine was with child, and threatened to miscarry, if her rival was preferred. Miss Stewart threatened that she never would be with child, if her request was not granted: this menace prevailed, and Lady Castlemaine's rage was so great, that she had almost kept her word; and it was believed that this triumph cost her rival some of her innocence.
The queen dowager, who, though she had no share in these broils, had no objection to them, and as usual being diverted with this circumstance, she took occasion to joke with the Chevalier de Grammont, for having thrown this bone of contention among such competitors; and did not fail to give him, in the presence of the whole court, those praises which so magnificent a present deserved: "But how comes it," said she, "that you have no equipage yourself, though you are at so great an expense? for I am told that you do not keep even a single footman, and that one of the common runners in the streets lights you home with a stinking link." "Madam," said he, "the Chevalier de Grammont hates pomp: my link-boy, of whom you speak, is faithful to my service; and besides, he is one of the bravest fellows in the world. Your Majesty is unacquainted with the nation of link-boys: it is a charming one, I can assure you: a man cannot step out in the night without being surrounded by a dozen of them. The first time I became acquainted with them, I retained all that offered me their services; so that when I arrived at Whitehall, I had at least two hundred about my chair. The sight was new; for those who had seen me pass with this illumination, asked whose funeral it was. These gentlemen, however, began fighting about some dozen shillings I had thrown among them then; and he whom your Majesty mentions having beaten three or four of his companions, I retained him for his valour. As for the parade of coaches and footmen, I despise it: I have sometimes had five or six valets-de-chambre at once, without having a single servant in livery, except my chaplain Poussatin." "How !" said the queen, bursting out a laughing, "a chaplain in your livery! he surely was not a priest?" "Pardon me, Madam," said he, "and the first priest in the world for dancing the Biscayan jig." "Chevalier," said the king, "pray tell us the history of your chaplain Poussatin."
Memoirs of Count Grammont