Friends in High Places

Madame De La Fayette in 1558 from Lapham’s Quarterly:

“Ever since I have been at court,” exclaimed the vidame, “the queen has always treated me with much distinction and amiability, and I have reason to believe she has had a kindly feeling for me. Yet there was nothing marked about it, and I had never dreamed of other feelings toward me than those of respect. I was even much in love with Madame de Themines. The sight of her is enough to prove that a man can have a great deal of love for her when she loves him—and she loved me.

“Nearly two years ago, when the court was at Fontaine­bleau, I happened to talk with the queen two or three times when very few people were there. It seemed to me that I pleased her and that she was interested in all I said. One day especially we were talking about confidence. I said I did not confide wholly in anyone; that one always repented absolute unreserve sooner or later; and that I knew a number of things of which I had never spoken to anyone. The queen said she thought better of me for that; that she had not found anyone in France who had any reserve; and that this had troubled her greatly, because it had prevented her confiding in anyone; that one must have somebody to talk to, especially persons of her rank. The following days she several times resumed the same conversation and told me many tolerably secret things that were happening. At last it seemed to me that she wanted to test my reserve and wished to entrust me with some of her own secrets. This thought attached me to her. I was flattered by the distinction, and I paid her my court with more assiduity than usual. One evening, when the king and all the ladies had gone out to ride in the forest, she remained at home, because she did not feel well, and I stayed with her. She went down to the edge of the pond and let go of the equerry’s hand, to walk more freely. After she had made a few turns, she came near me and bade me follow her. ‘I want to speak to you,’ she said, ‘and you will see from what I wish to say that I am a friend of yours.’ Then she stopped and gazed at me intently. ‘You are in love,’ she went on, ‘and because you do not confide in anyone, you think your love is not known. But it is known even to the persons interested. You are watched. It is known where you see your mistress; a plan has been made to surprise you. I do not know who she is, I do not ask you. I only wish to save you from the misfortunes into which you may fall.’ Observe, please, the snare the queen set for me, and how difficult it was to escape it. She wanted to find out whether I was in love, and by not asking with whom, and by showing that her sole intention was to aid me, she prevented my thinking that she was speaking to me from curiosity or with premeditation.

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