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I introduce you at once to the Marquis de la Chetardie—a
diplomatist who figured largely in the gay age of Louis XV.—and
the story is but one of the illuminated pages of the dark book of

Charles de la Chetardie appeared for the first time to the eyes
of the king at a masquerade ball, given at Versailles, under the
auspices of la belle Pompadour. He was dressed as a young lady
of high rank, making her début; and, so perfect was his acting,
and the deception altogether, that Louis became enamored of the
disguised marquis, and violently excited the jealousy of “Madame,”
by his amorous attentions. An eclaircissement, of course,
took place, and the result was a great partiality for the marquis's
society, and his subsequent employment, in and out of petticoats,
in many a scheme of state diplomacy and royal amusement.

La Chetardie was at this time just eighteen. He was very
slight, and had remarkably small hands and feet, and the radiant
fairness of his skin and the luxuriant softness of his profuse
chestnut curls, might justly have been the envy of the most
delicate woman. He was, at first, subjected to some ridicule for


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his effeminacy, but the merry courtiers were soon made aware,
that, under this velvet fragility lay concealed the strength and
ferocity of the tiger The grasp of his small hand was like an
iron vice, and his singular activity, and the cool courage which
afterward gave him a brilliant career on the battle-field, established
him, in a very short time, as the most formidable swordsman
of the court. His ferocity, however, lay deeply concealed
in his character, and, unprovoked, he was the gayest and most
brilliant of merry companions.

This was the age of occult and treacherous diplomacy, and the
court of Russia, where Louis would fain have exercised an influence
(private as well as political in its results), was guarded by an
implacable Argus, in the person of the prime minister, Bestucheff.
Aided by Sir Hambury Williams, the English ambassador,
one of the craftiest men of that crafty period, he had succeeded
for some years in defeating every attempt at access to the
imperial ear by the secret emissaries of France. The sudden
appearance of La Chetardie, his cool self-command, and his
successful personation of a female, suggested a new hope to the
king, however; and, called to Versailles by royal mandate, the
young marquis was taken into cabinet confidence, and a secret
mission to St. Petersburgh, in petticoats, proposed to him and

With his instructions and secret dispatches stitched into his
corsets, and under the ostensible protection of a scientific man,
who was to present him to the tzarine as a Mademoiselle de
Beaumont, desirous of entering the service of Elizabeth, the
marquis reached St. Petersburgh without accident or adventure.
The young lady's guardian requested an audience through Bestucheff,
and having delivered the open letters recommending her


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for her accomplishments to the imperial protection, he begged
leave to continue on his scientific tour to the central regions of

Congé was immediately granted, and on the disappearance of
the savant, and before the departure of Bestucheff, the tzarine
threw off all ceremony, and pinching the cheeks and imprinting
a kiss on the forehead of the beautiful stranger, appointed her,
by one of those sudden whims of preference against which her
ministers had so much trouble to guard, lectrice intime et particulière—in
short, confidential personal attendant. The blushes of
the confused marquis, who was unprepared for so affectionate a
reception, served rather to heighten the disguise, and old
Bestucheff bowed himself out with a compliment to the beauty
of Mademoiselle de Beaumont, veiled in a diplomatic congratulation
to her imperial mistress.

Elizabeth was forty and a little passée, but she still had pretensions,
and was particularly fond of beauty in her attendants,
female as well as male. Her favorite, of her personal suite,
at the time of the arrival of the marquis, was an exquisite
little creature who had been sent to her, as a compliment to this
particular taste, by the Dutchess of Mecklenberg-Strelitz—a kind
of German “Fenella,” or “Mignon,” by the name of Nadége
Stein. Not much below the middle size, Nadége was a model of
symmetrical proportion, and of very extraordinary beauty. She
had been carefully educated for her present situation, and was
highly accomplished; a fine reader, and a singularly sweet
musician and dancer. The tzarine's passion for this lovely
attendant was excessive, and the arrival of a new favorite of the
same sex was looked upon with some pleasure by the eclipsed
remainder of the palace idlers.


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Elizabeth summoned Nadége, and committed Mademoiselle de
Beaumont temporarily to her charge; but the same mysterious
magnetism which had reached the heart of the tzarine, seemed to
kindle, quite as promptly, the affections of her attendant.
Nadége was no sooner alone with her new friend, than she
jumped to her neck, smothered her with kisses, called her by
every endearing epithet, and overwhelmed her with questions,
mingled with the most childlike exclamations of wonder at her
own inexplicable love for a stranger. In an hour she had shown
to the new demoiselle all the contents of the little boudoir in
which she lived; talked to her of her loves and hates at the
Russian court; of her home in Mecklenberg, and her present
situation—in short, poured out her heart with the naif abandon
of a child. The young marquis had never seen so lovely a creature;
and, responsibly as he felt his difficult and delicate situation,
he returned the affection so innocently lavished upon him,
and by the end of this first fatal hour, was irrecoverably in love.
And, gay as his life had been at the French court, it was the first
and subsequently proved to be the deepest passion of his life.

On the tzarine's return to her private apartment, she summoned
her new favorite, and superintended, with condescending solicitude,
the arrangements for her palace lodging. Nadége inhabited
a small tower adjoining the bedroom of her mistress, and above
this was an unoccupied room, which, at the present suggestion of
the fairy little attendant, was allotted to the new-comer. The
staircase opened by one door into the private gardens, and by the
opposite, into the corridor leading immediately to the imperial
chamber. The marquis's delicacy would fain have made some
objection to this very intimate location; but he could hazard nothing
against the interests of his sovereign, and he trusted to a


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speedy termination of his disguise with the attainment of his
object. Meantime, the close neighborhood of the fair Nadége
was not the most intolerable of necessities.

The marquis's task was a very difficult one. He was instructed,
before abandoning his disguise and delivering his secret
despatches, to awaken the interest of the tzarine on the two subjects
to which the documents had reference: viz., a former partiality
of her majesty for Louis, and a formerly discussed project
of seating the Prince de Conti on the throne of Poland. Bestucheff
had so long succeeded in cutting off all approach of these
topics to the ear of the tzarine, that her majesty had probably
forgotten them altogether.

Weeks passed and the opportunities to broach these delicate
subjects had been inauspiciously rare. Mademoiselle de Beaumont,
it is true, had completely eclipsed the favorite Nadége;
and Elizabeth, in her hours of relaxation from state affairs,
exacted the constant attendance of the new favorite in her private
apartments. But the almost constant presence of some
other of the maids of honor, opposed continual obstacles and interruptions,
and the tzarine herself was not always disposed to
talk of matters more serious than the current trifles of the hour.
She was extremely indolent in her personal habits; and often
reclining at length upon cushions on the floor of her boudoir, she
laid her imperial head in the lap of the embarrassed demoiselle,
and was soothed to sleep by reading and the bathing of her temples.
And during this period, she exacted frequently of the marquis,
with a kind of instinctive mistrust, promises of continuance
for life in her personal service.

But there were sweeter hours for the enamored La Chetardie
than those passed in the presence of his partial and imperial


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mistress. Encircled by sentinels, and guarded from all intrusion
of other eyes, in the inviolable sanctuary of royalty, the beautiful
Nadége, impassioned, she knew not why, in her love for her
new companion, was ever within call, and happy in devoting to
him all her faculties of caressing endearment. He had not yet
dared to risk the interests of his sovereign by a disclosure of his
sex, even in the confidence of love. He could not trust Nadége
to play so difficult a part as that of possessor of so embarrassing
a secret in the presence of the shrewd and observing tzarine. A
betrayal, too, would at once put an end to his happiness. With
the slight arm of the fair and relying creature about his waist,
and her head pressed close against his breast, they passed the
balmy nights of the Russian summer in pacing the flowery alleys
of the imperial garden, discoursing, with but one reserve, on
every subject that floated to their lips. It required, however, all
the self-control of La Chetardie, and all the favoring darkness of
the night, to conceal his smiles at the naive confessions of the
unconscious girl, and her wonderings at the peculiarity of her
feelings. She had thought, hitherto, that there were affections in
her nature which could only be called forth by a lover. Yet
now, the thought of caressing another than her friend—of repeating
to any human ear, least of all to a man, those new-born vows
of love—filled her with alarm and horror. She felt that she had
given her heart irrevocably away—and to a woman! Ali, with
what delirious, though silent passion, La Chetardie drew her to
his bosom, and with the pressure of his lips upon hers, interrupted
those sweet confessions!

Yet the time at last drew near for the waking from this celestial
dream. The disguised diplomatist had found his opportunity,
and had successfully awakened in Elizabeth's mind both curiosity


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and interest as to the subjects of the despatches still sewed safely
in his corsets. There remained nothing for him now but to seize
a favorable opportunity, and, with the delivery of his missives, to
declare his sex to the tzarine. There was risk to life and liberty
in this, but the marquis knew not fear, and he thought but of its
consequences to his love.

In La Chetardie's last interview with the savant who conducted
him to Russia, his male attire had been successfully transferred
from one portmanteau to the other, and it was now in his
possession, ready for the moment of need. With his plans
brought to within a single night of the dénouement, he parted
from the tzarine, having asked the imperial permission for an
hour's private interview on the morrow, and, with gentle force
excluding Nadége from his apartment, he dressed himself in his
proper costume, and cut open the warm envelope of his despatches.
This done, he threw his cloak over him, and, with a dark
lantern in his hand, sought Nadége in the garden. He had
determined to disclose himself to her, renew his vows of love in
his proper guise, and arrange, while he had access and opportunity,
some means for uniting their destinies hereafter.

As he opened the door of the turret, Nadége flew up the stair
to meet him, and observing the cloak in the faint glimmer of the
stars, she playfully endeavored to envelope herself in it. But
seizing her hands, La Chetardie turned and glided backward,
drawing her after him toward a small pavilion in the remoter part
of the garden. Here they had never been interrupted, the
empress alone having the power to intrude upon them, and La
Chetardie felt safe in devoting this place and time to the double
disclosure of his secret and his suppressed passion.

Persuading her with difficulty to desist from putting her arms


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about him and sit down without a caress, he retreated a few steps,
and in the darkness of the pavilion, shook down his imprisoned
locks to their masculine abandon, threw off his cloak, and drew
up the blind of his lantern. The scream of surprise, which
instantly parted from the lips of Nadége, made him regret his
imprudence in not having prepared her for the transformation,
but her second thought was mirth, for she could believe it of
course to be nothing but a playful masquerade; and with delighted
laughter she sprang to his neck, and overwhelmed him with
her kisses—another voice, however, joining very unexpectedly in
the laughter!

The empress stood before them!

For an instant, with all his self-possession, La Chetardie was
confounded and dismayed. Siberia, the knout, the scaffold, flitted
before his eyes, and Nadége was the sufferer! But a glance
at the face of the tzarine reassured him. She, too, took it for a
girlish masquerade

But the empress, unfortunately, was not disposed to have a
partner in her enjoyment of the society of this new apparition of
“hose and doublet.” She ordered Nadége to her turret, with
one of those petulant commands which her attendants understood
to admit of no delay, and while the eclipsed favorite disappeared
with the tears of unwilling submission in her soft eyes, La Chetardie
looked after her with the anguish of eternal separation at
his heart, for a presentiment crowded irresistibly upon him that
he should never see her more!

The empress was in slippers and robe de nuit, and, as if fate
had determined that this well-kept secret should not survive the
hour, her majesty laid her arm within that of her supposed masquerader,
and led the way to the palace. She was wakeful, and


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wished to be read to sleep. And, with many a compliment to
the beauty of her favorite in male attire, and many a playful
caress, she arrived at the door of her chamber.

But the marquis could go no farther. He had hitherto been
spared the embarrassment of passing this sacred threshold, for
the passée empress had secrets of toilet for the embellishment of
her person, which she trusted only to the eyes of an antiquated
attendant. La Chetardie had never passed beyond the boudoir
which was between the antechamber and the bed-room, and the
time had come for the disclosure of his secret. He fell on his
knees and announced himself a man!

Fortunately they were alone. Incredulous at first, the empress
listened to his asseverations, however, with more amusement
than displeasure, and the immediate delivery of the despatches,
with the commendations of the disguised ambassador by his royal
master to the forgiveness and kindness of the empress, amply
secured his pardon. But it was on condition that he should
resume his disguise and remain in her service.

Alone in his tower (for Nadége had disappeared, and he knew
enough of the cruelty of Elizabeth to dread the consequences to
the poor girl of venturing on direct inquiries as to her fate), La
Chetardie after a few weeks fell ill; and fortunate, even at this
price, to escape from the silken fetters of the enamored tzarine,
he departed under the care of the imperial physician, for the
more genial climate of France—not without reiterated promises
of return, however, and offers, in that event, of unlimited wealth
and advancement.

But, as the marquis made his way slowly toward Vienna, a
gleam of light dawned on his sadness. The Princess Sophia
Charlotte was newly affianced to George the Third of England,


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and this daughter of the house of Mecklenberg had been the
playmate of Nadége Stein from infancy till the time when
Nadége was sent to the tzarine by the Duchess of Mecklenberg.
Making a confident of the kind physician who accompanied him,
La Chetardie was confirmed, by the good man's better experience
and knowledge, in the belief that Nadége had shared the same
fate of every female of the court who had ever awakened the
jealousy of the empress. She was doubtless exiled to Siberia;
but, as she had committed no voluntary fault, it was probably
without other punishment; and, with a playmate on the throne of
England, she might be demanded and recovered ere long, in all
her freshness and beauty. Yet the recent fate of the fair
Eudoxie Lapoukin, who, for an offence but little more distasteful
to the tzarine, had been pierced through the tongue with hot iron,
whipped with the knout, and exiled for life to Siberia, hung like
a cloud of evil augury over his mind.

The marquis suddenly determined that he would see the
affianced princess, and plead with her for her friend, before the
splendors of a throne should make her inaccessible. The excitement
of this hope had given him new life, and he easily persuaded
his attendant, as they entered the gates of Vienna, that he
required his attendance no farther. Alone, with his own servants,
he resumed his female attire, and directed his course to Mecklenberg-Strelitz.

The princess had maintained an intimate correspondence with
her playmate up to the time of her betrothal, and the name of
Mademoiselle de Beaumont was passport enough. La Chetardie
had sent forward his servant, on arriving at the town, in the
neighborhood of the ducal residence, and the reply to his missive
was brought back by one of the officers in attendance, with orders


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to conduct the demoiselle to apartments in the castle. He was
received with all honor at the palace-gate by a chamberlain in
waiting, who led the way to a suite of rooms adjoining those of
the princess, where, after being left alone for a few minutes, he
was familiarly visited by the betrothed girl, and overwhelmed, as
formerly by her friend, with most embarrassing caresses. In the
next moment, however, the door was hastily flung open, and
Nadége, like a stream of light, fled through the room, hung upon
the neck of the speechless and overjoyed marquis, and ended
with convulsions of mingled tears and laughter. The moment
that he could disengage himself from her arms, La Chetardie
requested to be left for a moment alone. He felt the danger and
impropriety of longer maintaining his disguise. He closed his
door on the unwilling demoiselles, hastily changed his dress, and,
with his sword at his side, entered the adjoining reception-room
of the princess, where Mademoiselle de Beaumont was impatiently

The scene which followed, the mingled confusion and joy of
Nadége, the subsequent hilarity and masquerading at the castle,
and the particulars of the marriage of the Marquis de la Chetardie
to his fair fellow maid-of-honor, must be left to the reader's
imagination. We have room only to explain the reappearance of
Nadége at Mecklenberg.

Nadége retired to her turret at the imperative command of the
empress, sad and troubled; but waited wakefully and anxiously
for the re-entrance of her disguised companion. In the course
of an hour, however, the sound of a sentinel's musket, set down
at her door, informed her that she was a prisoner. She knew
Elizabeth, and the Duchess of Mecklenberg, with an equal
knowledge of the tzarine's character, had provided her with a


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resource against the imperial cruelty, should she have occasion to
use it. She crept to the battlements of the tower, and fastened
a handkerchief to the side looking over the public square.

The following morning, at daylight, Nadége was summoned to
prepare for a journey, and, in an hour, she was led between
soldiers to a carriage at the palace-gate, and departed by the
northern egress of the city, with a guard of three mounted Cossacks.
In two hours from that time, the carriage was overtaken,
the guard overpowered, and the horses' heads turned in the direction
of Moscow. After many difficulties and dangers, during
which she found herself under the charge of a Mecklenbergian
officer in the service of the tzarine, she reached Vienna in safety,
and was immediately concealed by her friends in the neighborhood
of the palace at Mecklenberg, to remain hidden till inquiry
should be over. The arrival of Mademoiselle de Beaumont, for
the loss of whose life or liberty she had incessantly wept with
dread and apprehension, was joyfully communicated to her by her
friends; and so the reader knows some of the passages in the
early life of the far-famed beauty in the French court in the time
of Louis XV.—the Marchioness de la Chetardie.