The Carmelite Convent at Béthune

Great criminals carry with them a kind of predestination, causing them to surmount all obstacles, causing them to escape all dangers up to the moment which Providence, exhausted, has designated as the reef of their impious fortunes.

Thus it was with milady. She passed through the cruisers of both nations, and reached Boulogne without accident.

On landing at Portsmouth milady was an Englishwoman, driven from Rochelle by the persecutions of the French. On landing at Boulogne, after a two days’ passage, she claimed to be a Frenchwoman, whom the English persecuted at Portsmouth, out of their hatred for France.

Milady had likewise the most efficacious of passports—her beauty, her noble appearance, and the generosity with which she scattered pistoles. Freed from the usual formalities by the affable smile and gallant manners of an old governor of the port, who kissed her hand, she only stayed long enough at Boulogne to post a letter, conceived in the following terms:

“To his Eminence Monseigneur Cardinal Richelieu, in his camp before Rochelle:

“Monseigneur, let your Eminence be reassured: his Grace the Duke of Buckingham will not set out for France.

“Boulogne, evening of the 25th.

“Lady de—.

“P.S.—According to your Eminence’s desire, I am going to the convent of the Carmelites at Béthune, where I will await your orders.”

In fact, that same evening milady began her journey. Night overtook her. She stopped and slept at an inn. At five o’clock the next morning she was on her way again, and three hours later entered Béthune.

She inquired for the Carmelite convent, and went to it immediately.

The superior came to meet her. Milady showed her the cardinal’s order. The abbess assigned her a chamber, and had breakfast served.

After breakfast the abbess came to pay her a visit. There are very few distractions in the cloister, and the good mother-superior was eager to make acquaintance with her new inmate.

Milady wished to please the abbess. Now this was an easy matter for a woman so really superior as she was. She tried to be agreeable. She was charming, and won the good nun by her varied conversation, and by the graces of her whole person.

But here she was greatly embarrassed. She did not know whether the abbess was a royalist or a cardinalist; she therefore confined herself to a prudent middle course. But the abbess on her part maintained a still more prudent reserve, contenting herself with making a profound inclination of the head every time that the fair traveller pronounced his Eminence’s name.

Milady began to think she should be very greatly bored in the convent; so she resolved to risk something, in order immediately to know how to act afterwards. Desirous of seeing how far the good abbess’s discretion would go, she began to tell a scandal, carefully veiled at first, but very circumstantial afterwards, about the cardinal, relating the minister’s amours with Madame d’Aiguillon, Marion de Lorme, and several other women of easy virtue.

The abbess listened more attentively, grew animated by degrees, and smiled.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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