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Adrienne De Lafayette: A Young Patriot’s Wife
by [?]

MADAME DE LAFAYETTE! How stately the title sounds, and how slender and girlish the little bride looks in her wedding finery, her dark eyes large with excitement, and a soft flush on her delicate cheeks as she gazes admiringly into the eyes of her “Big boy with the red hair,” as the young Marquis de Lafayette was called by his intimate friends.

Having seen the young bride and groom, for Lafayette was only nineteen, while pretty Adrienne, his wife, was just fourteen, let us turn back the pages of history for a moment and see what led up to this remarkably youthful marriage.

To begin with, in the days of the reign of Louis XVI and the beautiful young queen, Marie Antoinette, there was no more palatial residence in all Paris than that which in 1711 came into the possession of the Duc de Noailles and was thereafter called the Hotel de Noailles.

The finest artists of the day had re-decorated its stately rooms for the Duc; its walls were hung with costly silk, its picture gallery was famous even in a city rich in art treasures, even its stables were fabulously large and far-famed. All that could minister to the joy of life was to be found in the Hotel de Noailles in those happy days before the clouds hanging low over France broke in a storm of disaster. Later in 1768, Madame D’Ayen,–wife of the Duc de Noailles, who was also the Duc D’Ayen,–mistress of the beautiful home, was leading a happy life there with her four daughters, to whose education and care she devoted most of her time.

It was the early afternoon of a day in spring. At three o’clock Madame D’Ayen had dined with her children in the huge dining-room hung with dull tapestries and family portraits, then with cheery laughter the girls had run ahead of Madame to her bedroom, which was very large and hung with crimson satin damask embroidered in gold, on which the sun cast a cheerful glow. Louise and Adrienne, the two older girls,–Louise only a year the elder,–handed their mother her knitting, her books and her snuff, and then seated themselves, while the younger children disputed as to which one should have the coveted place nearest Madame. Comfortably settled at last, the older girls busy with their sewing, Madame told them the story from the Old Testament of Joseph and his coat of many colours. When she finished Louise asked question after question, which her mother patiently answered, but Adrienne drank in the story told in her mother’s vivacious way, in silence. Begged for just one more story, Madame then told an amusing experience of her convent days, on which both of the girls offered so many comments that at last Madame rose, saying rather impatiently:

“You speak in a forward and disobedient manner, such as other girls of your age would never show to their parent.”

Louise looked her mortification, but Adrienne said quietly, “That may be, Madame, because you allow us to argue and reason with you as other mothers do not, but you will see that at fifteen we shall be more obedient than other children,” and the girl’s prediction was true.

Every month of the year was a pleasure to the happy children at the Hotel de Noailles, but to both vivacious Louise and quiet Adrienne summer was the crowning joy of their year, for then they were always taken to visit their grandfather, the Marechal de Noailles, who cheerfully gave himself up to making the visit as gay for the children as possible. He played games with them in the house, delightful games such as they never played at home, and better yet, planned wonderful picnics for them, when with other cousins, and a governess in charge of the cavalcade, they rode on donkeys to the appointed spot. The governess, it is said, was a tiny person, blonde, pinched, and touchy, and very punctilious in the performance of her duties. Once mounted on her donkey, however, she entirely lost her dignity and appeared so wild-eyed, scared, and stiff that one could not look at her without feeling an irresistible desire to smile, which made her angry, though what angered her most was the peals of laughter when she tumbled off her donkey, as she seldom failed to do on an excursion. She usually fell on the grass and the pace of her donkey was not rapid, so she was never hurt, and the frolicsome children filed by her, for if one of them tried to help her up, as Adrienne always wanted to do, a scolding was the reward.