The Huron; or, Pupil of Nature/Chapter XV
THE BEAUTIFUL MISS ST. YVES VISITS M. DE ST. POUANGE.
The charming Miss St. Yves, still more afflicted than her lover, waited accordingly upon M. de St. Pouange, accompanied by her friend with whom she lodged, each having their faces covered with their hoods. The first thing she saw at the door was the Abbé St. Yves, her brother, coming out. She was terrified, but her friend supported her spirits.
"For the very reason," said she, "that people have been speaking against you, speak to him for yourself. You may be assured that the accusers in this part of the world are always in the right, unless they are immediately detected. Besides, unless I am much mistaken, your presence will have greater effect than the words of your brother."
Ever so little encouragement to a passionate lover makes her intrepid. Miss St. Yves appeared at the audience. Her youth, her charms, her languishing eyes, moistened with some involuntary tears, attracted every one's attention. Every sycophant to the deputy minister forgot for an instant the idol of power to contemplate that of beauty. St. Pouange conducted her into a closet. She spoke with an affecting grace. St. Pouange felt some emotion. She trembled, but he told her not to be afraid.
"Return to-night," said he; "your business requires some reflection and it must be discussed at leisure. There are too many people here at present. Audiences are rapidly despatched. I must get to the bottom of all that concerns you."
He then paid her some compliments upon her beauty and address and advised her to come at seven in the evening.
She did not fail to attend at the hour appointed, and her pious friend again accompanied her; but she remained in the hall, where she read the "Christian Pedagogue," whilst St. Pouange and the beauteous Miss St. Yves were in the back closet. He began by saying:
"Would you believe it, Miss, that your brother has been to request me to grant him a lettre de cachet against you; but, indeed, I would sooner grant one to send him back to Lower Brittany."
"Alas! sir," said she, "lettres de cachet are granted very liberally in your offices, since people come from the extremity of the kingdom to solicit them like pensions. I am very far from requesting one against my brother, yet I have much reason to complain of him. But I respect the liberty of mankind, and, therefore, supplicate for that of a man whom I want to make my husband; of a man to whom the king is indebted for the preservation of a province; who can beneficially serve him, and who is the son of an officer killed in his service. Of what is he accused? How could he be treated so cruelly without being heard?"
The deputy minister then showed her the letter of the spy Jesuit and that of the perfidious bailiff.
"What!" said she with astonishment, "are there such monsters upon earth? and would they force me to marry the stupid son of a ridiculous, wicked man? and is it upon such evidence that the fate of citizens is determined?"
She threw herself upon her knees and with a flood of tears solicited the freedom of a brave man who adored her. Her charms appeared to the greatest advantage in such a situation. She was so beautiful that St. Pouange, bereft of all shame, used words with some reserve, which brought on others less delicate, which were succeeded by those still more expressive. The revocation of the lettre de cachet was proposed, and he at length went so far as to state the only means of obtaining the liberty of the man whose interest she had so violently and affectionately at heart.
This uncommon conversation continued for a long time. The devotee in the anti-chamber, in reading her "Christian Pedagogue," said to herself:
"My lord St. Pouange never before gave so long an audience. Perhaps he has refused everything to this poor girl and she is still entreating him."
At length her companion came out of the closet in the greatest confusion, without being able to speak. She was lost in deep meditation upon the character of the great and the half-great, who so slightly sacrifice the liberty of men and the honor of women.
She did not utter a word all the way back. But having returned to her friend's, she burst out and told all that had happened. Her pious friend made frequent signs of the cross.
"My dear friend," said she, "you must consult tomorrow Father Tout-a-tous, our director. He has much influence over M. de St. Pouange. He is confessor of many of the female servants of the house. He is a pious, accommodating man, who has also the direction of some women of fashion. Yield to him; this is my way, and I always found myself right. We weak women stand in need of a man to lead us: and so, my dear friend, I'll go to-morrow in search of Father Tout-a-tous."