The Rivals of Versailles: A Novel (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy)

The Rivals of Versailles: A Novel (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy) by Sally Christie Page A

Book: The Rivals of Versailles: A Novel (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy) by Sally Christie Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sally Christie
continued glory of France. All our triumphs have put His Majesty in excellent humor, but if I may be so bold, Madame, I avow our victories account for only a small portion of his happiness.
    I assure you, Madame, of his continued devotion. He delights in your letters and keeps the ribbons that bind them; an affectation expected of a convent girl, and in our sovereign one that is both touching and enchanting. If you permit me, Madame, I will blink back a tear, as such tender scenes remind me of my youth and when I first met my dear wife, and then my dear mistress.
    I am ever in your charge and in your employ, Madame, and I will continue to keep you informed of all that concerns Our Most Christian Majesty.
    Madame, I remain your faithful servant,
    Louis de Saxe

Chapter Seventeen
    V ersailles, full to the rafters, holds its collective breath as the dauphine’s labor begins. I stay away from her crowded chambers and pass the hours in my apartment with Elisabeth and Frannie. I try to read my book—a new French translation of Pamela —but my thoughts constantly drift over to Louis, far away in the grand staterooms, trapped in the ceremonial machine surrounding the birth of a future king. He has only been back four days and our reunion exceeded my expectations. I cried, as did he.
    Even if I had the entrées to the dauphine’s apartment, I would not wish to be part of the throng of spectators, crowding around, chatting, even playing cards. The rawness of my miscarriage still haunts me and I have no fond feelings for the dauphine. She has been nothing but cold to me since her arrival, and her husband has continued to metaphorically stick his tongue out at me. But, for Louis’ sake, and for France’s, I wish her well.
    “The poor dauphine,” I remark, thumbing to the back of the book to see whether Mr. B achieves his seduction of Pamela. “Those crowds in her rooms—how frightful.”
    “Oh, Jeanne, don’t be so bourgeois. People may not care who your father was, or wasn’t”—Elisabeth arches an eyebrow at me—“but amongst the best families this is the way things are.”
    I do not like the way Elisabeth constantly reminds me of my roots, as if I do not get enough of that outside my apartment. Still, she is a good friend and I value her frankness, for truth is a rare commodity at Versailles.
    Frannie shudders. “Luckily my husband was seventy-four when we wed, and congress was an act that required a perfect constellation of wine, health, and, oddly, a new moon. I escaped the horrors of childbirth, but with his first wife it was done in the old public style. Two hundred people, they say, attended the birth of the fourth Duc de Brancas. Thank goodness such old customs are passing, for all but royalty.”
    “You’ll come with me to the chapel, later? To pray?” I ask her. Frannie is a soothing aloe ointment; she always knows what needs to be done and said. She is wearing a pale white dress, wrapped with a white wool shawl, and with her ivory skin the overall effect is of an elegant, albino swan. She once told me she leeches her skin, occasionally, to achieve the right paleness.
    “Of course, darling, of course. The poor dauphine, they say she is terrified; the dauphin comforted her by saying the pain would be less than a tooth pulling.”
    “Men!” snorts Elisabeth.
    I think of the birth of Alexandrine nearly three years ago, the agony and the burning thirst, the anger and the rage that had surprised both myself and the midwife—but somehow, all quickly forgotten, the fruit erasing the pain.
    I flip through my book, trying to determine where Pamela went wrong, then think again of our future King Louis XVII, if they name the baby Louis. Which of course they will. So far into the future, if I live to see the day.
    Of course I won’t see the day, I think in alarm: it would mean I had outlived my Louis.
    Eleven hours later the dauphine is delivered of a baby girl. Madame de Tallard, the governess of the king’s

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