I was again examined by a military court respecting those fearful papers, but they, as well as myself, were not satisfied, I for being sent for on so useless an errand, and losing my French lesson, and they because they could not discover whether I was a spy, or prove that I had circulated those papers among the fishing boats. After this tedious and ridiculous examination the President, who appeared half sailor and half soldier, asked me in so mild a manner as if sugar-candy would not have dissolved in his mouth, "Pray, sir, will you acquaint me how many cruisers you have in the Channel?" "Your question, Mr. President, is a delicate one," replied I, "and the only way you can gain that information is to send all your frigates that have been lying at anchor so long in your different harbours to ascertain the fact." I thought my answer made him look cross, two others look sulky, and the remainder smile. "I think we may discharge the prisoner," said he, turning to the other wise men; "we can elucidate nothing." "No," said I to myself, "you will get nothing out of me." On the tenth day after the shipwreck we were ordered to march, and had the honour of having two livery servants, in the shape of gendarmes on horseback, to attend us. I begged to have a carriage, but I was refused, although I offered to pay liberally for one.
We reached Montreuil-sur-Mer in the evening, where we marched into the common gaol. I was much fatigued, as I had never walked so far in my life; my feet were becoming blistered, and I was very hungry. "Do," said I, "doctor, let us have something to eat, for we have fasted since breakfast. Have they any eggs?" The gouverneur du chateau appeared, and informed us he had plenty of eggs, and could give us a fricassee de mouton and pommes de terre au maitre d'hotel, "but," added the doctor, "those d——d fellows the gendarmes must dine with us." This I did not like, and requested him to speak to the gaoler, which he did; but the former declared it was customary, when they escorted prisoners they always eat with them. We were obliged to conform to the nuisance. After dinner, or rather supper, or, more correctly speaking, the two in one, I fell asleep in my chair until a dirty-looking girl shook me by the arm to say that my bed was ready. I gave her a look that had she been milk it would have turned her into vinegar. I followed her, however, into a room about twelve feet by seven, where there were two crib bedplaces like those on board the packets. They were, considering the place, tolerably decent, and I turned in half-rigged. At half after two in the morning our two horse attendants had the civility to wake us out of tired Nature's sweet reposer, balmy sleep. I looked daggers, and they looked determined on their plan of making us march at three o'clock. The dirty, but civil damsel, brought me a basin of water. I shook my feathers and refreshed myself. She then appeared with some porringers filled with what she called cafe-au-lait—i.e., milk bedevilled, and some tolerable bread and salt butter. However, as we presumed we had another long march to encounter, we made no hesitation in accepting it, and for which and the supper I had to pay most extravagantly. We began our agreeable walk before daybreak, accompanied by our two attendant cavaliers. As I walked rather lame one of them offered me his horse, which I thought civil. I declined it, as I preferred walking with my officers, although in pain.
About three in the afternoon we reached Hesdin, our destination for that night, having marched nineteen miles, and were ushered into the gaol. "May the devil run a-hunting with these rascally vagabonds!" said the doctor. "Amen," responded the rest. We were put into a dirty brick-floored room with a grated window, in which there were three beds. "Now," said I to the doctor, "let us hunt for something to eat, for notwithstanding all my miseries I am very hungry." The gouverneur du chateau made his appearance; he was a brigadier of gendarmes. "What do you wish?" said he. "What have you to eat?" asked the man of physic. "Eggs, a fowl, and some excellent ham." "Let us have them," cried I, "as soon as possible." Whilst these good things were getting ready I bathed my feet in warm water, they were much swollen, and the blisters on them had broken. I afterwards rubbed them with brandy. The dinner was put on table, and the gendarmes took their seats sans facons. After I had taken my second tumbler of wine I began to revive. The dinner was not bad, and by the time it was finished we were in good humour. "Now," said I, "doctor," for he was my factotum, "tell our attendants if they will not allow me to have some kind of carriage I will not step a foot further. My feet are so bad I cannot walk, and they must carry me." The Brigadier was sent for, and after a consultation of a few minutes I was told I might have one if I paid for it, but it could be only a covered cart. "Very well," said I, "any port in a storm." We were now informed it was time to go to rest. This was no punishment; and notwithstanding being bug- and flea-bitten, I slept well and forgot all my sorrows. At six I was roused by the men at arms, had a tolerable good breakfast, and stepped into my travelling machine with two of my officers, the top of the cart being so low we were obliged to lie down, and if it had not been for its abominable jolting we should have found ourselves snug enough.
Meet an Englishman—At last put on parole—Dine with Lieutenant Horton—Proceed to Cambray—Relics of Archbishop Fenelon—Meet Captain Otter at Verdun—Prisoners' amusements—Author and Captain Otter establish a school for midshipmen—Author moves into country quarters—Severe censorship of prisoner's letters—Ordered to Blois—Purchase a cart and horses.
We reached Arras in the afternoon. On entering the town we were followed by a crowd of idlers, who I rather think took us for a caravan of wild beasts. Among this choice assemblage I perceived a sailor who looked like an Englishman. "What are you doing here?" I called out at a venture. "I am Lieutenant Horton's servant," answered he. "Pray," said I, "who is he?" "He is the lieutenant of the sailors at this depot."
"Then," said I, "take this to him," giving him a piece of paper with my name on it. "Aye, aye, sir," said he, and ran off to execute his errand. We were, as before, ushered into the common gaol with due ceremony, where we were received by another Brigadier, who had the honour of being gouverneur. The gaol was considerably larger than those we had lodged in on the road, and the people were civil. We ordered dinner, which I had to pay for without doing it justice, in consequence of the appearance of Lieutenant Horton with a French commissary, to inform myself and officers we were on parole, and the former, like a generous sailor, begged us all to dine with him at his house. We made ourselves as smart as circumstances would allow, and accompanied him to a snug little house where he lived. He introduced us to his wife, who was a very kind person and paid us every attention, and I shall ever retain a feeling of gratitude for their hospitality. In the evening we were joined by the English surgeon of the depot, who engaged us to dine with him the following day. A servant was sent to the American hotel to bespeak rooms for us, and the day after I engaged a carriage to take us to Verdun, for which I was to pay eight napoleons, and find the coachman. In the evening, or rather night, we took possession of our new quarters, which from what I had lately been accustomed to, appeared a paradise, although the doctor and purser declared they were half bled to death by bugs and fleas. We breakfasted like gentlemen, and afterwards strolled about the town, to the amusement of the inhabitants, who, as we passed them, made great eyes at us. I shall not trouble my readers with a description of Arras, as they may satisfy their curiosity, if they wish it, by consulting a Gazeteer. At five o'clock the lieutenant called on me, and we all repaired to the surgeon's house. He gave us a good dinner, and was very attentive. At ten o'clock they accompanied us to the inn, where they took their final leave, as we were to start in our new vehicle at five in the morning.
At the appointed time behold us seated in our coach chattering like magpies, and going at the rapid speed of about five miles an hour. At Cambray we dined and slept. We visited the cathedral, which, thanks to those honest, religious men, the Republicans, was in total ruins. All the Virgins and saints were decapitated and the quiet repose of the dead disturbed by their pure, delicate hands. "Erin's curse be upon them!" exclaimed my man of medicine. "The devil has them by this time," said the purser. "What a set of impious scoundrels," ejaculated the midshipman. "I am afraid," added I, "France has in a great measure brought all her misfortunes on herself. If the King and the nobles had stood firm to their guns and given a more liberal constitution, millions of lives might have been saved, and we should not have had the supreme happiness of being attended by the gendarmes or of taking up our abode in their filthy, loathsome gaols, besides a thousand other circumstances, of which, as you have been partakers, I need not mention, as they are too agreeable to bear in memory." We reached a small place called Cateau Cambresis, where we dined at a fourth-rate inn, formerly the country palace of the good Archbishop Fenelon. At dinner, which, like the _auberge_, was also of the fourth class, I had a silver fork with the armorial bearings of an archbishop. I remarked the fact to my _maitre d'_hotel_, the doctor. "I have a spoon with the same," replied he. "This, you are aware, was Fenelon's favourite country palace, and as a quantity of family plate was buried during the Revolution, these very likely belonged to him." When the woman who attended us at dinner came in again, the doctor interrogated her respecting them. She informed him they had been found among some old rubbish in the yard. I asked her if she would sell them; she answered in the affirmative, and demanded thirty francs. I gave her twenty-four, and took possession of my prizes.
In a remote part of the building I found some Englishmen at work manufacturing what the French were then little acquainted with, dimity. They told me they had permission to sleep out of the prison, and that the French allowed them a franc a day and some wine. I asked them if they were working on their own account; they answered, no, but on that of the French Government. "Bonaparte has his wits about him," said I to myself, "and appears wide awake."
We reached Verdun on the sixth day. I waited on Captain Otter of the navy and the senior officer, who introduced me to the commandant, the Baron de Beauchene, who, by his rubicund face, appeared to be fond of good living. My name was registered at the police office, where I was desired to sport my graceful figure the first day of every month. Several officers did me the honour of a visit, but as my news was like salted cod—rather stale—they were not much edified. The day following I dined with Captain and Mrs. Otter, who were good, kind of homespun people. I met at their table the worthy chaplain, Gordon. Some of his friends said he was too mundane, and bowed to the pleasures of the world most unclerically. I found him an agreeable, gentlemanly person in society, and a plain-sailing parson in the pulpit. There were two officers here who were most amusing, Captains Miller and Lyall, and when dining with them, which I frequently did, I do not know which I enjoyed most, their dinner or their dry jokes. I also became acquainted with Captain Blennerhassett, and sometimes took a cold dinner at a small house he rented on the banks of the Meuse. We dubbed it Frogmore Hall, in consequence of a vast quantity of those creatures infesting it. Lord Blaney, who once wrote a book, principally on the best mode of cooking, figured away here. He was a good-natured but not a very wise man. He could not bear the midshipmen, because, he said, they cheated him out of his best cigars and made him give them a dinner when he did not wish for their company. This was, strange to say, sometimes the case.
There were about twelve hundred prisoners at this depot, principally officers of the army and navy, and a few masters of merchant ships, as well as some people detained in a most unjust manner by a decree of Bonaparte when the war broke out. About two miles from the town was a racecourse, made by the officers and kept up by subscription, where, I was informed, there was as much jockeyship practised as at Newmarket. It made a variety, and the ladies say variety is charming. After residing in this town, where every description of vice was practised, about a month, I remarked that the mids, of whom there were about one hundred and twenty, were idle, dissipated, and running into debt. The greater part of them were fine lads. I proposed to Captain Otter the establishment of a school for them, and said that if the requisite masters could be procured I would superintend it. He entered into my views most willingly and wrote to the Admiralty respecting them, informing their lordships the expenses for a hundred midshipmen would not be more than eighty pounds a year. Not receiving an answer, he established it at his own risk; whether he was ever remunerated is a problem I am not enabled to solve. Six lieutenants volunteered to assist me, and attended the school hours in turn.(7) Everything went on exceedingly well for twelve months, when unfortunately the Baron de Beauchene died, and was succeeded by a man who ordered the school to be broken up. This was as unexpected as unmerited. Captain Otter and myself remonstrated, but in vain. The youngsters were sent to the right-about; but I am happy to say that the greater part of them had the good sense to form themselves into classes at their own lodgings, where the same masters attended them. Finding my services of no further use, I sighed for country air and a change of scene. The town manners shocked my delicacy, and I much feared I should lose my innocence. The copy I frequently wrote when at school stared me in the face—that "Evil communications corrupt good manners." I therefore determined before I became contaminated to change my quarters. I waited on the commandant and obtained leave to live at a small village two miles from the town. My new residence was a small chateau, the proprietress of which was the widow of a colonel of cuirassiers in the old time. I took possession of a good-sized bedroom and drawing-room, for which I paid, with my board, seventy napoleons a year. The establishment consisted of a housekeeper, more like a man than a woman, one maid servant, and two men. The widow was an agreeable person, nearly in her seventieth year, but very healthy and active. At the back of the chateau was a delightful garden, with a brook running through it, in which were some trout, carp and tench. Adjoining it were vineyards belonging to the house. I could now, in the literal sense of the word, in which one of our poets intended it, "From the loop-holes of my retreat peep at such a world" without partaking of its folly.
My time was occupied with a French master, and in drawing, and reading French authors, and if my mind had not been tortured by my being a captive, and not knowing how long I was likely to remain so, I should have been comparatively happy. Our letters, when we did receive them, were always broken open and read to the commandant by one of the gendarmes who could blunder out a little English. If they contained anything against the French Government, or treated on politics, they never reached us. By these honourable means all our domestic concerns became known to the mighty chief, the ignorant, left-handed, blundering translator, and a host of others. In short, our letters, after having run the gauntlet through a number of dirty hands, with still more dirty minds, were scarcely worth receiving.
One morning, as I was sitting at breakfast in not a very cheerful mood, a woman, of not very prepossessing appearance, entered. She came, she said, to make a complaint against three wicked mids. They had taken the figure of Bonaparte from the mantelpiece and knocked his head off; for so doing she threatened to complain to the commandant if they did not pay her a five-franc piece. I told her I would send for the decapitating youngsters, and, if I found her complaint to be well-grounded, they should remunerate her by giving her another Emperor, or paying her for the old one. She departed, but not in peace, as I could hear her grumbling as she went along the vestibule. At noon next day these Emperor-destroying lads came to my lodgings to answer the complaint.
"We lodge in this woman's house," said one of them, "and one morning we thought we would amuse ourselves by bringing Bonaparte fairly to a court martial. Our charges against him were tyranny and oppression, imprisonment against our consent, and not granting an exchange of prisoners. We found him guilty on all the charges, and as he could make no defence, we sentenced him first to be shot, but we thought that too honourable for him; then to be hanged, and lastly, to have his mischief-making head chopped off by a case-knife, which sentence was carried into execution; but as we do not wish the woman to quarrel with us, we have no objection to pay her two francs, which we think is too much by thirty-nine sous."
"You value Emperors, gentlemen," said I, "at a very cheap rate." "Yes," replied they, "such an Emperor as Bonaparte, who we think is a most unrelenting tyrant." "Hush!" cried I, "walls sometimes have ears. Go and make your peace with your landlady, offer her the two francs, and if she will not accept it send her to me, for, to tell you the truth, were she to go with her complaint to the commandant, you most likely would be shut up in the old convent and kept there for a month." I gave them a glass of wine, in which they drank the downfall of Bonaparte and departed. I understood afterwards this knotty point was settled amicably; the woman, not wishing to lose her lodgers, accepted the money. As the lying "Moniteur" was the only paper we could read, we of course were always deceived, and supposed from its contents that France was carrying everything before her. More than eighteen months had now passed away, like a disturbed dream, since I became a prisoner, when the order came, like a flash of lightning, from the police to desire all the English prisoners to be ready to quit Verdun in forty-eight hours and proceed to Blois. To those who had the misfortune to be married to French women and had children it was a thunder-stroke. The weather had set in with great severity, it being the month of December. Another brother officer and his nephew joined me in purchasing a covered cart and two cart horses; and a captain of a merchant vessel, said to be a descendant of the immortal Bruce, volunteered to be our coachman, provided we lodged and fed him on the road, to which we, without hesitation, agreed.
END OF CAPTIVITY.
Horses bolt, and cart upsets—Reach Blois after six days' travelling—Miserable condition of French troops after return from Moscow—Ordered to Gueret on the Creuse—A miserable journey of five days—Poor accommodation—Allowed to move to country quarters at Masignon—An earthquake shock—News of Napoleon's abdication—Start for Paris—Reach Fontainebleau in nine days—Proceed to Paris—Lodgings dear and scarce—State entrance of Louis XVIII. into Paris.
At the time appointed we had our machine ready. The gendarmes were literally driving some of the officers out of the town. To save them the trouble of doing us the same favour we departed early. On the first stage from Verdun, in descending a steep, long hill, a hailstorm overtook us, and as the hailstones fell they froze. The horses could not keep their feet, nor could our sailor coachman keep his seat. The animals slid down part of the way very comfortably. At length, after much struggling, they once more gained a footing, and in so doing, the fore wheels came in contact with their hinder feet, which unfortunately frightened and set them off at full speed. I got hold of the reins with the coachman, and endeavoured to pull them into a ditch to the left—on the right was a precipice—the reins broke, and we had no longer command over them. We were in this state of anxiety for a few minutes, when the fore wheels detached themselves from the carriage, and over it went on its larboard broadside. I was, with the coachman, thrown head foremost into the ditch, which, being half filled with snow, broke the violence of our launch. I soon floundered out of it, without being much hurt. My falling companion, being a much stouter man than myself did not fare so well, as his right shoulder received a severe contusion. The noble man-of-war captain inside had his face much cut with the bottles of wine that were in the pockets of the vehicle, and he would have made an excellent phantasmagoria. His nephew had one of his legs very much injured. Here we were in a most pitiable condition, not knowing what to do, as we could not move our travelling machine without assistance. As we were scratching our wise heads, and looking at each other with forlorn faces, a party of French soldiers approached, and for a five-franc piece they assisted us in righting the carriage and catching the horses, which had been stopped at the bottom of the hill. On an examination of our cart we found that, fortunately for us, the traverse pin of the fore-wheels had jumped out, which freed them and the horses, and occasioned our turning turtle. Had not this taken place, we most likely should have gone over the precipice. We, after some sailor-like contrivances, got under weigh. As we were grown wiser by this mishap, we took care to lock the hinder wheels when going down hill in future. We reached Clermont in the dusk of the evening, and glad I was to turn into a bed replete with hoppers, crawlers, and wisdom, for it was very hard. Being much fatigued, I slept soundly, notwithstanding my numerous biting companions.
After a most suffering, cold, and uncomfortable journey of six days we reached Blois. A number of our soldiers and sailors perished with cold on the road. We assisted some few of them with money and something to eat. Poor fellows! some were so worn out that they threw themselves down on the stubble in the fields, where the severe frost soon put an end to their sufferings. The day we quitted Verdun the retreating French army from Moscow, with numerous waggons full of their frostbitten and wounded men, entered it. That and the allied army advancing on the French borders were the cause of our being sent away with so much speed. When this division of the enemy's army marched through Verdun for the purpose of conquering Russia, it was the general remark amongst the English that the appearance of the men and their appointments could not be better in any country; but to see them return in the extreme of wretchedness and suffering was truly pitiable. Oh, Bonaparte! I charge thee fling away ambition; it is, unfortunately for the world, thy besetting sin. It cannot continue for ever, and you will be brought up with a severe round turn before you are many years older—such is my prophecy.
We had not been settled at Blois a month before we had orders to quit it and to proceed to Gueret on the river Creuse. We understood the allied army having entered France was the cause of our removal.
As I had never heard of Gueret before, I requested my landlord to give me some information respecting it. "Why," said he, with a most awful shrug of his shoulders, "it is where Louis the Fourteenth banished his petite noblesse, and is now filled with lawyers, who, as the town is small and the inhabitants are not numerous, go to law with each other to keep themselves, I suppose, in practice. Oh, you will find the roads rough and much out of order; we call it 'un chemin perdu,' and as the town is insignificant, and produces nothing, we call it 'un endroit inconnu.' I do not think," added he, "there are more than cinquante cheminees a feu in the whole town."
This information did not raise my spirits. However, there was no alternative, and it was of little use to be downhearted. The weather continued very severe, and we had again to encounter frost, snow, and intense cold. We prayed for the humane Emperor of France, and wished him elevated on Haman's gibbet. Our journey was most horrible and fatiguing; the roads in some places were literally lost, and we were obliged to drive over ploughed fields in order to avoid the deep ruts. I thought we should have had all our bones dislocated. The five days we were on this wretched road will never be effaced from my memory. We slept where we could. Inns there were very few, and those few the abodes of poverty, filth, and rags. The small farms sometimes took us in, where, whilst eating the coarse brown bread and tough fowls they put before us, and for which they made us pay most extravagantly, the pigs and poultry kept us company during our repast.
One night, at one of these abominable places, I was obliged to lie on a table, as they had not a bed to give me. I was awakened early by a most horrible smell. I thought I should be suffocated. I procured a light and inspected the room. On opening an old press I found several half-putrid cheeses, full of jumping gentlemen, and probably ladies, for there was a large assembly of them. I made my escape from this savoury, not sweet-smelling den, and threw myself into what they called a chair, which, from its form and ease must have been fabricated before the time of Adam. I found I had seated myself before a kind of crib, something like a corn-bin, in which was lying, fast asleep and snoring, the landlady, who was a coarse, dingy beauty of about forty. "Lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil," ejaculated I to myself. At this time a huge cock that had been roosting in some part of the kitchen gave a loud crow. She started up and called out "Oh, mon Dieu, je ne puis pas dormir a cause de cette bete la!" I pretended to be asleep, although I made a loop-hole with my left eye. A short time afterwards she was snoring as loud as before.
When daylight began to break I went out into the yard, and was saluted by the barking of a very large dog, who was chained to a small shed. This roused all the inmates of the house. We had some milk and eggs, and once more assumed our most agreeable journey. On entering Gueret, I verily believe all the men, women, children and dogs came to meet us. I do not know what they thought of us. We appeared, I thought, like a set of wild men in search of a more civilised country than that whence they came. It was soon understood we wanted lodgings, and the importunity of the females was most embarrassing. I took up my abode over a small grocer's shop. The only room I could obtain, which contained a small bed, a minikin table, and two common chairs, cost me fifty francs a month, (about two pounds sterling), and I was considered fortunate in having such good lodgings. I sometimes dined at the principal inn, where I met the elite of the town, such as bankers and half broken-down noblemen who had been pigeoned by their dearly-beloved Napoleon. One day at dinner I overheard a conversation between two of these last, one of whom wished, if he could find two officers among us who preferred living in the country, to have them as lodgers. I seized the opportunity of introducing myself to them when we rose from table. An officer in one of our regiments offered himself as the other inmate.
We were mutually satisfied with each other, and two days afterwards I obtained leave from the French commandant to remove to Masignon, about four leagues from Gueret. On reaching the village I was directed to a large chateau with two embattled towers. I was much pleased with its romantic appearance, but more so with its amiable inmates, which consisted of the Dowager Countess de Barton, the count, her son, and the two young countesses, her daughters, the eldest in her twenty-fourth and the youngest in her twenty-second year.
There were seven saddle horses and a carriage, all of which were at our service, and I had a chamberlain to attend on me. The domain was very extensive. We had the privilege of shooting and fishing, and I found myself as comfortable as I could possibly wish, and I much regretted I was deprived of the happiness of seeing my wife and dear children in such distinguished and amiable society.
One evening as we were all sitting in the large drawing room, it suddenly appeared to be going on one side, and immediately after we were much alarmed by a roaring noise like the flame in a chimney when on fire. I attempted to move and nearly fell.
This was occasioned by the shock of an earthquake. During the anxious suspense we were in, the servants had rushed into the room with horror in their countenances, exclaiming, "Oh, mesdames, le chateau va tomber, et nous serons ecrasees!"
"Peace," said the elder countess; "remain where you are." By the time she had spoken the trembling ceased, nor had we another shock. After a short interval we resumed our conversation as if nothing had occurred.
This part of France is much infested with wolves, and I frequently in the night heard them near the house, but I only saw one of them in the day. I fired at him, but as he was at some distance, he escaped without injury.
I had resided with this amiable family nearly a month, when one of the servants who had been to Gueret entered nearly out of breath to say that, "La belle France etait prise!" At the same time he handed a small printed paper to the mother countess.
She smiled at the idea of the servant's report, and turning to me she said, "I am rejoiced to be the first to announce to you that you are no longer in captivity. The allied armies have taken Paris and Bonaparte has abdicated. This is the 'Gazette,' I am happy to see once more decorated with the Fleur de Lys."
I kissed her hand for the intelligence, and assured her although the joyful news was everything I wished, I should much regret quitting her family, where, during my short stay, I could not have experienced more affection and kindness from my own relations than she had shown to me.
On the second day after this delightful intelligence, I took an affectionate leave of the ladies. The count was absent.
At Gueret I joined the same party who had been my companions in misery and fatigue. Our nags had been well taken care of, and the nine hundred and ninety-ninth cousin of the brave, but unfortunate, Bruce deserved praise.
I will not describe our tiresome and wretched journey of nine days. At length we reached Fontainebleau, where we remained two days to rest ourselves as well as the horses. In passing through its forest, which is very fine, we were almost poisoned by the stench occasioned by dead men and horses. We saw the palace, and the ink on the table where Bonaparte had signed his abdication was so fresh that it came off by rubbing it a little with the finger.
Two days after we entered Paris, which we found in possession of the allied armies, and it was with the greatest difficulty that we procured lodgings even in the Faubourg St. Antoine. They were at the top of the house, only five stories and an entresol to mount! and alarmingly dear as well as dirty and small. We sold our stud and carriage for a little more than we gave for them.
During the three days we remained in Paris, I visited the Louvre and its stolen goods. It was a brilliant treat; never was any palace so decorated with such gems of art, nor, I hope, under the same circumstances, ever will be again. On the day Louis le Desire entered, I paid a napoleon for half a window in the Rue St. Denis to view the procession.
Nearly opposite the window the King halted to receive the address from the Moulins and Poissardes, some of whom appeared to me drunk. A child dressed like a cupid, with a chaplet of flowers in its hand, was handed to the Duchess d'Angouleme, who sat on the left hand of the King. I remarked she was much confused and scarcely knew what to do with the child, who was about five years of age, and who put the chaplet on her head. At length she kissed it and returned it to its mother.
The windows of the houses were dressed with pieces of tapestry and white flags, which appeared to my view nothing more than sheets and table-cloths. The Garde Nationale lined the streets, and by the acclamations of, "Vive Louis le Dix-huit, Louis le Desire, les Bourbons!" and other cries, all foreigners who had never visited France or conversed with its natives, would have exclaimed, "Look at these loyal people; how they love the Bourbon dynasty!"
The mounted National Guard who came after the royal carriage out-Heroded Herod by their deafening cries of loyalty. Who would have imagined these gentlemen would have played the harlequin and receive their dethroned Emperor as they did when he entered Paris again? "Put not your trust in men, particularly Frenchmen in 1814, O ye house of Bourbon, for they made ye march out of France without beat of drum."
I was much amused with the conduct of the Imperial Guard who followed the national heroes. The Poissardes cried out, "Vive le Garde Imperiale!" All they uttered was "Vive les Poissardes!" They looked as black as thunder.
I understood there was a cause of dissatisfaction among them in consequence of a mark of distinction having been given to the shop-keeping soldiers and not any to them. This was the Comte d'Artois' clever policy; at least, so I was informed by my companion who had taken the other half of the window where we stood. My thoughts were seven fathoms deep.
Obtain a passport after some difficulty from Prince Metternich—Start for England via Rouen and Havre—Sail to Spithead—Amused at Englishwomen's queer dress—Return to family—Acquitted for loss of H.M.S. Apelles.
The morning before my departure I waited on Lord Aberdeen, requesting a passport to England; he referred me to Prince Metternich. I reached his hotel, and had to wade through a host of long-whiskered, long-piped gentlemen, who were smoking with all their might and main, and spitting in all directions.
As I advanced, a genteel-looking young man, who was dressed in an aide-de-camp's uniform, came to me and asked in French the purport of my visit. I informed him. He left me, and soon returned and requested I would walk into another room, where I found the German Prince, who received me very cavalierly, and asked me what I did in Paris when there were transports waiting at Bordeaux to carry over the English.
"I thank your Highness for the information, but I do not wish to go by that route. My intention is to return to England by Havre, and I shall feel obliged by your granting me a passport to that effect."
"You should go to Lord Aberdeen for one."
"I have already seen him, and he directed me to you, as you were in command of the capital," I replied.
He muttered something which I could not, nor did I wish to, understand. After a pause he asked me my rank. I informed him, when he directed his secretary to make out my passport, and here ended much ado about nothing.
We started next morning, slept at Rouen, revisited its ancient cathedral, which had been struck by lightning, breakfasted, and arrived at Havre, where we remained two days, waiting for a vessel to take us across the Channel. I viewed this town with much interest, as it had saluted the vessels I had belonged to with several hundred shot.
We arrived at Spithead in the evening, but too late to go on shore. There were nine of us—men, women, and squalling children—and we had the comfort of lying on the cabin deck, there being no sleeping berths, as the vessel was only about fifty tons, and not fitted up for passengers.
When I landed next morning I appeared to tread on air, but I could not help laughing out aloud at the, I thought, ridiculous and anything but picturesque dresses of the women. Their coal-scuttle bonnets and their long waists diverted me, although I was sorry to observe in my healthy and fair countrywomen such an ignorance of good taste. I took a hasty mutton chop at the "Fountain," and started for London by the first stage coach.
On my arrival at dear home I found all I loved in good health. My excellent wife and affectionate boys and girls clung round me, and I was as happy as an innocent sucking pig, or, if my reader thinks the simile not in place, as happy as a city alderman at a turtle feast.
A few days after my appearance at the Admiralty I was ordered to proceed to Portsmouth, to undergo my trial for the loss of the ship, which, as a son of the Emerald Isle would say, was no loss at all, as she was retaken afterwards.
My sentence was as honourable to the officers of the court martial as it was to myself. I received my sword from the President, Admiral Sir George Martin, with a high encomium.
The days of my youth have floated by like a dream, and after having been forty-five years in the Navy my remuneration is a hundred and eighty pounds a year, without any prospect of its being increased. If the generality of parents would take my advice they never would send one of their boys into the service without sufficient interest and some fortune. If they do, their child, if he behaves well, may die in his old age, possibly as a lieutenant, with scarcely an income to support himself; and if he should under these circumstances have the misfortune to have married and have children, God, I hope, will help him, for I very much fear no one else will!
Here ends my eventful but matter-of-fact history, which, if it has afforded my reader any amusement, my pains are well repaid.
If the French accounts are to be credited General Rochambeau had a garrison of only 600 men, 400 of whom were militia (cf. "Victoires et Conquetes," tome iii., p. 249). At any rate, when Fort Bourbon surrendered the garrison was found to be only 200, including the wounded (cf. James, vol. i., p. 219).
James, in his account of this brilliant feat (vol. ii., p. 360 et seq.), gives several interesting details of the affair. "Every man was to be dressed in blue, and no white of any kind to be seen. The password was 'Britannia' and the answer 'Ireland.'" The boarding party proceeded in six boats, each being instructed to effect an entrance on a particular part of the Hermione. "From the moment of quitting the Surprise till the Hermione was boarded Captain Hamilton never lost sight of her for a moment. He stood up in the pinnace with his nightglass, by the aid of which he steered a direct course towards the frigate." When still a mile from the Hermione the boats were discovered by two Spanish gunboats. Some of Hamilton's boats disobeyed orders by attacking these gunboats instead of concentrating their attention on the Hermione, and thus nearly spoilt the attack.
James adds that: "In effecting this surprising capture the British sustained so comparatively slight a loss as 12 wounded, including Captain Hamilton. Of their 365 in crew the Spaniards had 119 killed and 97 wounded, most of them dangerously."
Copy of letter written by Lieutenant Hoffman to his wife immediately after the action of Trafalgar:—
"TONNANT, Oct. 27th, 1805. Off Cadiz.
"MY BELOVED SARAH,—It has pleased Providence once more to bless our favoured isle with astonishing success. On the 21st of the month the combined enemy's fleet, consisting of thirty-four sail of the line, four frigates, and two brigs, were seen by us. At five minutes after twelve afternoon we broke their line and engaged them. Captain Tyler gallantly placed the Tonnant, and I hope we as gallantly defended her. We have lost twenty-six brave fellows and fifty wounded in our ship only. We have captured sixteen sail of the line, French and Spanish, and sunk one of the line and one blew up. We are now going for Gibraltar to refit, as we are decently maul'd. We were twenty-six of the line, three frigates, a cutter and a schooner. I am very sorry to relate Lord Nelson has gloriously fallen, covered with heroic wounds. Captain Tyler is wounded rather dangerously, but I hope he will soon recover. The French Admiral Magon, in the Algerzaries (sic), of equal force, laid us alongside, and attempted boarding, but found it ineffectual. At the same time we were engaged by three other sail of the line. After engaging this fine fellow for about an hour he struck his flag, and we took possession of her (sic); in short, with this noble ship's company we humbled three of nearly equal force. This battle, my beloved, plainly shows it is not always to the strong. An Almighty Hand fought it for us. To Him we trust in this and every future event. May He protect my Sarah."
Captain Hoffman's report to the Admiralty of the loss of the Apelles:—
"VERDUN, FRANCE, May 28th, 1812.
"SIR,—Captain Boxer, of H.M.S. Skylark, and my senior officer, having communicated to me on the evening of the 2nd of May he had received information of a large division of the flotilla being in readiness to escape from Boulogne to Cherberg that night, he thought it necessary that his sloop the Skylark and the Apelles, under my command, should be kept as close in shore as possible between Boulogne and Etaples in order to intercept them. But it is with feelings of regret I have to acquaint you, for the information of the Lords of the Admiralty, that on Sunday, A.M. the 3rd of May, H.M.S. Apelles ran aground about eighteen miles to the westward of Boulogne, as also did H.M.S. Skylark. The wind at this time was moderate at N.E. with a dense fog.
"The sloop, on a wind, heads E.S.E., going about five knots an hour, the land not perceived. Shortly after it became clear enough to discern that we were about a musket shot from a battery elevated above our mastheads, which, on perceiving our situation, opened a most destructive fire on the Apelles, she being the nearest vessel. During this time the boats were got out, and an anchor carried astern to heave the sloop off. Guns, shot, and heavy stores, etc., were thrown overboard, from before the chest tree the water started and pumped out, in order to lighten the vessel, but without effect, as, unfortunately, the sloops had run on shore on the infant ebb spring tide, and it receded much faster than it was possible to lighten them. About half-past five the Apelles fell over on her starboard side, with her decks entirely exposed to the battery, field pieces, and musketry from the beach and sandhills. At six she became a complete wreck, the shot from the enemy having cut away nearly all the standing rigging, as well as the sails to ribands. In this state Captain Boxer sent his first lieutenant on board the Apelles to request I would set fire to her and abandon her without loss of time, as he thought it was impracticable to get either of the vessels off. I then called a council of the officers and pilots, who were unanimous in the positive necessity of quitting the vessels. The pilots further added that as the tide was so rapidly ebbing, the vessels would soon be left dry on the beach, and if the crews were not sent immediately away there would be no possibility of escape. I then ordered the boats to be manned, and shortly afterwards they left the Apelles with the greater part of the officers, leaving on board the following in consequence of their not being able to contain more, some of them (boats) having been struck by shot:
"F. HOFFMAN, Commander. Mr. MANNING, Surgeon. Mr. HANNEY, Purser. Mr. TAYLOR, Gunner. Mr. JOHNSTON, Mid. WM. WHITTAKER, Clerk. J. THOMPSON } DAVIES } CROSBIE } Seamen. GEORGE } RAYMOND } Sergt. OWEN } Corp. CLEVERLY } READY } Marines. KING } BAXFIELD }
"On the boats of the Apelles joining those of the Skylark Captain Boxer, finding I remained behind, he, in a most gallant manner, pulled towards the Apelles with his deeply laden boat under a heavy discharge of shot and musketry from the enemy to entreat me to go with him. This I refused, but begged him to make the best of his way with the boats to England, for as he had not room in the boats for those remaining as well as myself I could not, as a point of humanity, as well as duty, think of quitting the Apelles whilst a man was compelled to remain behind. Finding he could not prevail he gave up the point. He joined the other boats, and was soon out of sight. I need not express my feelings to their Lordships, or to you, Sir, on this trying occasion; I cannot describe them. Shortly after the boats had left the sloops both masts of the Apelles fell by the board, having been nearly severed in two by the shot of the enemy. At this time the Skylark, having grounded within hail of us, was enveloped in flame and partially exploded, some of her shot striking the Apelles. I now ordered a white flag to be shown by holding it up. This at length appeared to silence the enemy, who had been incessantly firing at us from the time we grounded until about seven o'clock. About twenty minutes afterwards the Apelles, being partly dry, was boarded by about 200 men, principally soldiers, who compelled us to leave the sloop, and almost immediately afterwards followed us, as the Skylark exploded with an appalling report, setting fire to the Apelles. Owing to her being previously dismasted consisted her safety. The enemy soon after the explosion returned to the Apelles, and extinguished the fire on board her. Only a vestige of the sternpost of Skylark now remained, half buried in the sand.
"Through this severe trial of more than three hours, whilst the shot were going through the sides of the Apelles, and destroying her masts and rigging, every officer and man behaved with that coolness inherent in British seamen, and which I trust will speak favourably of their conduct to their Lordships.
"I have now to remark that although we were under the painful necessity of lowering His Majesty's colours, which was not done until the last extremity, the enemy did not desist from firing into us for an hour afterwards. Seeing the crippled and distressed state we were in, his motive was certainly not that of humanity. I have to add that Mr. Hanney, the purser, was wounded in the head, and Mr. Taylor, the gunner, in the shoulder and left hand, but neither dangerously. I am now happy to add their wounds are nearly healed.
"The signal books and instructions of every description were burnt in the galley fire by the Purser and myself when we saw there was no possibility of our escape.
"I have the honour to remain, Sir, "Your obedient servant, (Signed) "F. HOFFMAN, "Late Commander of H.M.S. Apelles. "WM. CROKER, Esq., &c., &c., &c., Admiralty."
Letter from Captain Otter respecting the establishment of a school for midshipmen at Verdun.
"VERDUN, Oct. 26th, 1812.
"DEAR SIR,—As I am very anxious that the establishment of a school should be supported with our utmost endeavours, it is with the greatest satisfaction I perceive you enter into the plans, and undertake the conducting of it, with all the energy I could wish. I have already spoken to Lieutenants Lambert, Brown, Thackstone, Carslake, Robins, Boyack, Bogle, and Kennicote, who have volunteered to assist you, and I have no doubt but that they will always be ready to follow such instruction as you may think proper to give them.
"It is my wish that all the young gentlemen of the age of eighteen and under attend the school, and that it may be open to those above that age who will submit to the rules, and who wish to benefit by the attending masters.
"As the intention of the school is solely for the improvement of the young gentlemen of the Navy, it is presumed they will be sufficiently sensible of the advantages they may derive from it, and by their regular attendance and strict attention when in school, both show their desire of improvement, and their respect to the gentlemen who have so kindly volunteered to attend during the school hours.
"Wishing you every success in this your laudable undertaking,
"I remain, dear Sir, "Yours truly, "C. OTTER, "Senior full-pay Captain of the Naval Department."
Testimonial from Captain Otter.
"BIDEFORD, DEVON, Aug. 1st, 1827.
"MY DEAR SIR,—I have sincere pleasure in acknowledging the great assistance you afforded me by your voluntarily taking the trouble of superintending, and also the able manner you conducted the school established by me, as senior naval officer of the depot of Verdun.
"I have likewise great satisfaction in testifying to your good conduct as an officer and gentleman during the time you were a prisoner in France.
"I remain, dear Sir, "Yours very truly, "C. OTTER. "F. HOFFMAN, Esq., Commander R.N."
1 Plymouth Dock.
2 A pie made of pilchards with their heads peeping through the crust, hence the name "Star gazing."
3 See note (a).
4 See note (b).
5 Note C.
6 See Note D.
7 See Notes E and F.
The author's footnotes have been moved to the end of the volume.
The following typographical errors were corrected:
page XII, "prisoners" changed to "prisoner's" (see page 311) page 31, "mens'" changed to "men's" page 39, missing quote added (after "in about an hour.") page 67, "of" added (between "north side" and "St. Domingo") page 190, "lieuteuant" changed to "lieutenant" page 192, missing quote added (after "fourpence") page 251, "manchinel" changed to "manchineel" page 271, missing quote added (after "he became my servant.") page 302, "Lemarois" changed to "Lemaroix" page 313, "hotel" changed to "hotel" page 330, "window" changed to "windows"
Several unusual spellings were retained ("pigstye", "fidgetty"), as were small errors in French quotations: "Vive le Garde Imperiale!" (for "Vive la Garde Imperiale"), "Presqu' Isle" (for "Presqu'Isle"), "petit soupers" (for "petits soupers").
The following words appear both in hyphenated and unhyphenated forms: "cocoa-nut/cocoanut", "cray-fish/crayfish", "fire-arms/firearms", "fire-flies/fireflies", "flag-ship/flagship", "flag-staffs/flagstaffs", "fore-mast/foremast", "fore-yard/foreyard", "gun-boat/gunboat", "gun-shot/gunshot", "main-mast/mainmast", "main-top/maintop", "mast-headed/mastheaded", "mast-heading/mastheading", "pine-apple/pineapple", "post-chaise/postchaise", "quarter-master/quartermaster", "thunder-storm/thunderstorm", "top-mast/topmast", "top-sail/topsail".