Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete

Contents:
Author: Various

Chapter XLIX.

President de Nesmond.—Melladoro.—A Complacent Husband and His Love-sick Wife.—Tragic Sequel.

President de Nesmond—upright, clear-headed magistrate as he was—was of very great service to me at the Courts of Justice. He always managed to oblige me and look after my interests and my rights in any legal dispute of mine, or when I had reason to fear annoyance on the part of my husband.

I will here relate the grief that his young wife caused him, and it will be seen that, by the side of this poor President, M. de Montespan might count himself lucky. Having long been a widower, he was in some measure accustomed to this state, until love laid a snare for him just at the age of sixty-five.

In the garden that lay below his windows—a garden owned by his neighbour, a farmer—he saw Clorinde. She was this yeoman’s only daughter. He at once fell passionately in love with her, as David once loved Bathsheba.

The President married Clorinde, who was very pleased to have a fine name and a title. But her husband soon saw—if not with surprise, at least with pain—that his wife did not love him. A young and handsome Spaniard, belonging to the Spanish Legation, danced one day with Clorinde; to her he seemed as radiant as the god of melody and song. She lost her heart, and without further delay confessed to him this loss.

On returning home, the President said to his youthful consort, "Madame, every one is noticing and censuring your imprudent conduct; even the young Spaniard himself finds it compromising."

"Nothing you say can please me more," she replied, "for this proves that he is aware of my love. As he knows this, and finds my looks to his liking, I hope that he will wish to see me again."

Soon afterwards there was a grand ball given at the Spanish Embassy. Madame de Nesmond managed to secure an invitation, and went with one of her cousins. The young Spaniard did the honours of the evening, and showed them every attention.

As the President was obliged to attend an all-night sitting at the Tourelle,—[The parliamentary criminal court.]— and as these young ladies did not like going home alone,—for their residence was some way off,—the young Spaniard had the privilege of conducting them to their coach and of driving back with them. After cards and a little music, they had supper about daybreak; and when the President returned, at five o’clock, he saw Melladoro, to whom he was formally introduced by madame.

The President’s welcome was a blend of surprise, anger, forced condescension, and diplomatic politeness. All these shades of feeling were easily perceived by the Spaniard, who showed not a trace of astonishment. This was because Clorinde’s absolute sway over her husband was as patent as the fact that, in his own house, the President was powerless to do as he liked.

Melladoro, who was only twenty years old, thought he had made a charming conquest. He asked to be allowed to present his respects occasionally, when Clorinde promptly invited him to do so, in her husband’s name as well as in her own.

It was now morning, and he took leave of the ladies. Two days after this he reappeared; then he came five or six times a week, until at last it was settled that a place should be laid for him every day at the President’s table.

That year it was M. de Nesmond’s turn to preside at the courts during vacation-time. He pleaded urgent motives of health, which made it imperative for him to have country air and complete rest. Another judge consented to forego his vacation and take his place on the bench for four months; so M. de Nesmond was able to leave Paris.

When the time came to set out by coach, madame went off into violent hysterics; but the magistrate, backed up by his father-in-law, showed firmness, and they set out for the Chateau de Nesmond, about thirty leagues from Paris.

M. de Nesmond found the country far from enjoyable. His wife, who always sat by herself in her dressing-gown and seldom consented to see a soul, on more than one occasion left her guests at table in order to sulk and mope in her closet.

She fell ill. During her periods of suffering and depression, she continually mentioned the Spaniard’s name. Failing his person, she desired to have his portrait. Alarmed at his wife’s condition, the President agreed to write a letter himself to the author of all this trouble, who soon sent the lady a handsome sweetmeat-box ornamented with his crest and his portrait.

At the sight of this, Clorinde became like another woman. She had her hair dressed and put on a smart gown, to show the portrait how deeply enamoured she was of the original.

"Monsieur," she said to her husband, "I am the only daughter of a wealthy man, who, when he gave me to a magistrate older than himself, did not intend to sacrifice me. You have been young, no doubt, and you, therefore, ought to know how revolting to youth, all freshness and perfume, are the cuddlings and caresses of decrepitude. As yet I do not detest you, but it is absolutely impossible to love you. On the contrary, I am in love with Melladoro; perhaps in your day you were as attractive as he is, and knew how to make the most of what you then possessed. Now, will you please me by going back to Paris? I shall be ever so grateful to you if you will. Or must you spend the autumn in this gloomy abode of your ancestors? To show myself obedient, I will consent; only in this case you must send your secretary to the Spanish Legation, and your coach-and-six, to bring Melladoro here without delay."

At this speech M. de Nesmond could no longer hide his disgust, but frankly refused to entertain such a proposal for one moment. Whereupon, his wife gave way to violent grief. She could neither eat nor sleep, and being already in a weakly state, soon developed symptoms which frightened her doctors.

M. de Nesmond was frightened too, and at length sent his rival a polite and pressing invitation to come and stay at the chateau.

This state of affairs went on for six whole years, during which time Madame de Nesmond lavished upon her comely paramour all the wealth amassed by her frugal, orderly spouse.

At last the President could stand it no longer, but went and made a bitter complaint to the King. His Majesty at once asked the Spanish Ambassador to have Melladoro recalled.

At this news, Clorinde was seized with violent convulsions; so severe, indeed, was this attack, that her wretched husband at once sought to have the order rescinded. But as it transpired, the King’s wish had been instantly complied with, and the unwelcome news had to be told to Clorinde.

"If you love me," quoth she to her husband, "then grant me this last favour, after which, I swear it, Clorinde will never make further appeal to your kind-heartedness. However quick they have been, my young friend cannot yet have reached the coast. Let me have sight of him once more; let me give him a lock of my hair, a few loving words of advice, and one last kiss before he is lost to me forever."

So fervent was her pleading and so profuse her tears, that M. de Nesmond consented to do all. His coach-and-six was got ready there and then. An hour before sunset the belfries of Havre came in sight, and as it was high tide, they drove right up to the harbour wharf.

The ship had just loosed her moorings, and was gliding out to sea. Clorinde could recognise Melladoro standing amid the passengers on deck. Half fainting, she stretched out her arms and called him in a piteous voice. Blushing, he sought to hide behind his companions, who all begged him to show himself. By means of a wherry Clorinde soon reached the frigate, and the good-natured sailors helped her to climb up the side of the vessel. But in her agitation and bewilderment her foot slipped, and she fell into the sea, whence she was soon rescued by several of the pluckiest of the crew.

As she was being removed to her carriage, the vessel sailed out of harbour. M. de Nesmond took a large house at Havre, in order to nurse her with greater convenience, and had to stop there for a whole month, his wife being at length brought back on a litter to Paris.

Her convalescence was but an illusion after all. Hardly had she reached home when fatal symptoms appeared; she felt that she must die, but showed little concern thereat. The portrait of the handsome Spaniard lay close beside her on her couch. She smiled at it, besought it to have pity on her loneliness, or scolded it bitterly for indifference, and for going away.

A short time before her death, she sent for her husband and her father, to whom she entrusted the care of her three children.

"Monsieur," said she to the President de Nesmond, "be kind to my son; he has a right to your name and arms, and though he is my living image, dearest Theodore is your son." Then turning to her father, who was weeping, she said briefly, "All that to-day remains to you of Clorinde are her two daughters.

"Pray love them as you loved me, and be more strict with them than you were with me. M. de Nesmond owes these orphans nothing. All that Melladoro owes them is affection. Tell him, I pray you, of my constancy and of my death."

Such was the sad end of a young wife who committed no greater crime than to love a man who was agreeable and after her own heart. M. de Nesmond was just enough to admit that, in ill-assorted unions, good sense or good nature must intervene, to ensure that the one most to be pitied receive indulgent treatment at the hands of the most culpable, if the latter be also the stronger of the two.

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Chicago: Various, "Chapter XLIX.," Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Holcroft, Thomas, 1745-1809 in Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed January 26, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8E7KSFPTUB25JPC.

MLA: Various. "Chapter XLIX." Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Holcroft, Thomas, 1745-1809, in Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 26 Jan. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8E7KSFPTUB25JPC.

Harvard: Various, 'Chapter XLIX.' in Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 26 January 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8E7KSFPTUB25JPC.