CH. X. -- A difficult, but successful, weaning from the world. The minister's employments in his retreat.
MADAME D'OLIVAREZ stayed behind her husband some few days, with the intention of trying what her tears and entreaties might do towards his recall; but in vain did she prostrate herself before their majesties: the king paid not the least attention to her pleadings and remonstrances, though artfully adapted for effect; and the queen, who hated her mortally, took a savage pleasure in her tears. The minister's lady, however, was not easily discouraged: she stooped so low as to solicit their good offices from the ladies of the bed-chamber; but the fruit of all this meanness was only the sad conviction that it excited more contempt than pity. Heart-broken at having degraded herself by supplications so humiliating, and yet so unavailing, she departed to her husband, and mourned with him the loss of a situation, which under a reign like that of Philip the Fourth, was little short of sovereign power.
The accounts her ladyship brought from Madrid were wormwood to the duke. Your enemies, said she, sobbing, with the Duke of Medina Coeli at their head, are loud in the king's praises for your removal; and the people triumph in your disgrace with an insolent joy, as if the cloud of adversity were to be dispelled by the breath which dissolved your administration. Madam, said my master, follow my example; suppress your discontent: we must drive before the storm, when we cannot weather it. I did think, indeed, that my favour would only be eclipsed with the lamp of life: a common illusion of ministers and favourites, who forget that they breathe but at the good pleasure of their sovereign. Was not the Duke of Lerma as much mistaken as myself, though fondly relying on his purple, as a pledge for the lasting tenure of his authority?
Thus did my lord duke preach patience to the partner of his cares, while his own bosom heaved under the direst pressure of anxiety. The frequent dispatches from Don Henry, who was staying about the court to pick up information, kept him continually on the fret. Scipio was the messenger; for he was still about the person of that young nobleman, though I had relinquished my post on his marriage. Sometimes we heard of changes in the inferior departments of office, solely for the purpose of wreaking vengeance on his creatures, and filling up the vacancies with his enemies. Then Don Lewis de Haro was represented as advancing in favour, and likely to be made prime minister. But the most mortifying circumstance of all was the change in the viceroyalty of Naples, which was taken from his friend, the Duke de Medina de Las Torres, and bestowed on the High Admiral of Castile, who was his bitterest enemy. For this there was no other motive but the pleasure of giving pain to a fallen favourite.
For the first three months, his lordship gave himself up in his solitude a prey to disappointment and regret: but his confessor, a holy and pious Dominican, supporting his religious zeal with manly eloquence, succeeded in pouring the balm of consolation into his soul. By continually representing to him, with apostolic energy, that his eternal salvation was now the only object worth his care, he weaned him gradually from the uses of this world. His excellency was no longer panting for news from Madrid, but learning a new and important lesson, how to die. Madame d'Olivarez too, making a virtue of necessity, sought refuge for herself in the maternal guardianship of her convent, where Providence had reared up, for her edification in faith and good works, a sisterhood of holy maidens, whose spiritual discourses fed her soul, as if with manna in the wilderness. My master's peace within his own bosom advanced, as he withdrew more backward from sublunary things. The employment of his day was thus laid out: almost the whole morning was devoted to religious duties, till dinner-time; and after dinner, for about two hours, he played at different games with me and some of his confidential domestics: be then generally retired alone into his closet till sunset, when he walked round his garden, or rode out into the neighbourhood either with his confessor or me.
One day when I was alone with him, and was particularly struck with his apparent self-complacency, I took the liberty of congratulating his lordship on his complete reconciliation to retirement. Use, however late acquired, is second nature, answered he: for though I have all my life been accustomed to the bustle of business, I assure you that I become every day more and more attached to this calm and peaceful mode of life.