However, if I have not time to get away in twenty-four hours, his majesty must work his dread will on me."
"My dear sir, the twenty-four hours are a mere formality. Subscribe the order and give me a receipt for the lettre de cachet, and you can go at your convenience. All I ask of you is that you give me your word of honour not to go to the theatres or public places of amusement on foot."
"I give you my word with pleasure."
I took the chevalier to my room and gave him the necessary acknowledgment, and with the observation that he would be glad to see my brother, whom he knew already, I led him into the dining-room, and explained with a cheerful face the purport of his visit.
My brother laughed and said,--
"But, M. Buhot, this news is like March in Lent, it was quite unnecessary; my brother was going in the course of a week."
"All the better. If the minister had been aware of that he would not have troubled himself about it."
"Is the reason known?"
"I have heard something about a proposal to kick a gentleman, who though young, is too exalted a person to be spoken to in such a manner."
"Why, chevalier," said I, "the phrase is a mere formality like the twenty-four hours for if the impudent young rascal had come out he would have met me, and his sword should have been sufficient to ward off any kicks."
I then told the whole story, and Buhot agreed that I was in the right throughout; adding that the police were also in the right to prevent any encounter between us. He advised me to go next morning and tell the tale to M. de Sartine, who knew me, and would be glad to have the account from my own lips. I said nothing, as I knew the famous superintendent of police to be a dreadful sermoniser.
The lettre de cachet was dated November 6th, and I did not leave Paris till the 20th.
I informed all my friends of the great honour his majesty had done me, and I would not hear of Madame du Rumain appealing to the king on my behalf, though she said she felt certain she could get the order revoked. The Duc de Choiseul gave me a posting passport dated November 19th, which I still preserve.
I left Paris without any servant, still grieving, though quietly, over Charlotte's fate. I had a hundred Louis in cash, and a bill of exchange on Bordeaux for eight thousand francs. I enjoyed perfect health, and almost felt as if I had been rejuvenated. I had need of the utmost prudence and discretion for the future. The deaths of M. de Bragadin and Madame d'Urfe had left me alone in the world, and I was slowly but steadily approaching what is called a certain age, when women begin to look on a man with coldness.
I only called on Madame Valville on the eve of my departure: and found her in a richly-furnished house, and her casket well filled with diamonds. When I proposed to return her the fifty louis, she asked me if I had got a thousand; and on learning that I had only five hundred she refused the money absolutely and offered me her purse, which I in my turn refused. I have not seen the excellent creature since then, but before I left I gave her some excellent advice as to the necessity of saving her gains for the time of her old age, when her charms would be no more. I hope she has profited by my counsel. I bade farewell to my brother and my sister-in-law at six o'clock in the evening, and got into my chaise in the moonlight, intending to travel all night so as to dine next day at Orleans, where I wanted to see an old friend. In half an hour I was at Bourg-la-Reine, and there I began to fall asleep. At seven in the morning I reached Orleans.
Fair and beloved France, that went so well in those days, despite lettres de cachet, despite corvees, despite the people's misery and the king's "good pleasure," dear France, where art thou now? Thy sovereign is the people now, the most brutal and tyrannical sovereign in the world. You have no longer to bear the "good pleasure" of the sovereign, but you have to endure the whims of the mob and the fancies of the Republic--the ruin of all good Government.