What she thought of so sudden a change of dialect I have no means of knowing ; hut I could not, for a long time afterwards, think of it myself with a grave countenance. From that time, however, I failed not to address her with appropriate reverence, though, as it was too late now to assume the distant homage pertaining, of course, to her very high rank, I insensibly suffered one irregularity to lead to, nay to excuse another; for I passed over all the etiquette d'usage, of never speaking but en rponse; and animated myself to attempt to catch her attention, by conversing with fullness and spirit upon every subject she began, or led to ; and even by starting subjects myself, when she was silent. This gave me an opportunity of mentioning many things that had happened in Paris during my long ten years' uninterrupted residence, which were evidently very interesting to her. Had she become grave, or inattentive, I should have drawn back _; but, on the contrary, she grew more and more veille, and her countenance was lighted up with the most encouraging approval.
CONVERSATION ON MADAME D'ARBLAY's ESCAPE AND M. D'ARBLAY'S LOYALTY.
She was curious, she said, to know how I got over to England in the year 1812, having been told that I had effected my escape by an extraordinary disguise. I assured her that Page 298
I had not escaped at all; as so to have done must have endangered the generous husband and father, who permitted mine and his son's departure. I had procured a passport for us both, which was registered in the ordinary manner, chez le ministre de police for foreign affairs; ches- one, I added, whose name I could not pronounce in her royal highness's hearing; but to whom I had not myself applied. She well knew I meant Savary, Duc de Rovigo, whose history with respect to the murdered Due d'Enghien has, since that period, been so variously related. I was then embarrassed, for I had owed my passport to the request of Madame d'A., who was distantly connected with Savary, and who had obtained it to oblige a mutual friend ; I found, however, to my great relief, that the duchess possessed the same noble delicacy that renders all private intercourse with my own exemplary princesses as safe for others as it is honourable to myself; for she suffered me to pass by the names of my assistants, when I said they were friends who exerted themselves for me in consideration of my heavy grief, in an absence of ten years from a father whom I had left at the advanced age of seventy-five; joined to my terror lest my son should remain till he attained the period of the conscription, and be necessarily drawn into the military service of Bonaparte. And, indeed, these two points could alone, with all my eagerness to revisit my native land, have induced me to make the journey by a separation from my best friend.
This led me to assume courage to recount some of the prominent parts of the conduct of M. d'Arblay during our ten years' confinement, rather than residence, in France ; I thought this necessary, lest our sojourn during the usurpation should be misunderstood. I told her, in particular, of three high military appointments which he had declined. The first was to be head of l'tat major of a regiment under a general whose name I cannot spell—in the army of Poland, a post of which the offer was procured for him by M. de Narbonne, then aide-de-camp to Bonaparte. The second was an offer, through General Gassendi, of being Commander of Palma Nuova, whither M. d'A. might carry his wife and son, as he was to have the castle for his residence, and there was no war with Italy at that time. The third offer was a very high one: it was no less than the command of Cherbourg, as successor to M. le Comte de la Tour Maubourg, who was sent elsewhere, by still higher promotion. Steady, however, Page 299
invariably steady was M. d'Arblay never to serve against his liege sovereign, General Gassendi, one of the most zealous of his friends, contrived to cover up this dangerous rejection and M. d'Arblay continued In his humbler but far more' meritorious Office Of sous Chef to one of the bureaux de l,intrieur.
I had now the pleasure to hear the princess say, "Il a aqi bien noblement."(252) "For though he would take no part," I added, la guerre, nor yet in the diplomatie, he could have no objection to making plans, arrangements, buildings, and so forth, of monuments, hospitals, and palaces; for at that period, palaces, like princes, were levs tous les jours."(253)
She could not forbear smiling; and her smile, which is rare, is so peculiarly becoming, that it brightens her countenance into a look of youth and beauty.
"But why," I cried, recollecting myself, "should I speak French, when your royal highness knows English so well?"
"O, no!" cried she, shaking her head, "very bad!"
>From that time, however, I spoke in my own tongue, and saw myself perfectly understood, though those two little words were the only English ones she uttered herself, replying always in French.
"Le roi," she said, "se rapelle trs bien de vous avoir vu Londres."(254)
"O, je n'en doute nullement,"(255) I replied, rather navely, "for there passed a scene that cannot be forgotten, and that surprised me into courage to come forward, after I had spent the whole morning in endeavouring to shrink backward. And I could not be sorry—for I felt that his majesty could not he offended at a vivacity which his own courtesy to England excited."
The princess smiled, with a graciousness that assured me I had not mistaken the king's benevolence, of which she evidently partook.
THE PRINCE REGENT THE DUCHEss's FAVOURITE.
The conversation then turned upon the royal family of England, and it was inexpressibly gratifying to me to hear her just appreciation of the virtues, the intellectual endowments, the '
sweetness of manner, and the striking grace of every one, according to their different character, that was mentioned. The prince regent, however, was evidently her favourite. The noble style in which he had treated her and all her family at his Carlton House fte, in the midst of their misfortunes, and while so much doubt hung against every chance of those misfortunes being ever reversed, did so much honour to his heart and proved so solacing to their woes and humiliation, that she could never revert to that public testimony of his esteem and goodwill without the most glowing gratitude.
"O!" she cried, "il a t parfait!"(256)
The Princesse Elise,(257) with whom she was in correspondence, seemed to stand next. "C'est elle," she said, "qui fait les honneurs de la famille royale,(258) and with a charm the most enlivening and delightful."
The conference was only broken up by a summons to the king's dinner. My audience, however, instead of a few minutes, for which the Duchesse de Duras had prepared me, was extended to three-quarters of an hour, by the watch of my kind husband, who waited, with some of his old friends whom he had joined in the palace, to take me home.
The princess, as she left me to go down a long corridor to the dining apartment, took leave of me in a manner the most gracious, honouring me with a message to her majesty the queen of England, of her most respectful homage, and with her kind and affectionate remembrance to all the princesses, with warm assurances of her eternal attachment. She then moved on, but again stopped when going, to utter some sentences most grateful to my ears, of her high devotion to the queen and deep sense of all her virtues. I little thought that this, my first, would prove also my last, meeting with this exemplary princess, whose worth, courage, fortitude, and piety are universally acknowledged, but whose powers of pleasing seem little known. After an opening such as this, how little could I foresee that this interview was to be a final one! . . . Alas! in a day or two after it had taken place, son altesse royale set out for Bordeaux. . . . And then followed the return of Bonaparte from Elba, and then the Hundred Days.
NARRATIVE OF MADAME D'ARBLAY'S FLIGHT FROM PARIS TO BRUSSELS
[The following Narrative was written some time after the events described took place. It is judged better to print it in a connected form : a few of the letters written on the spot being subsequently given.]
PREVAILING INERTIA ON BONAPARTE'S RETURN FROM ELBA.
I have no remembrance how I first heard of the return of Bonaparte from Elba. Wonder at his temerity was the impression made by the news, but wonder unmixed with apprehension. This inactivity of foresight was universal. A torpor indescribable, a species of stupor utterly indefinable, seemed to have enveloped the capital with a mist that was impervious. Everybody went about their affairs, made or received visits, met, and parted, without speaking, or, I suppose , thinking of this event as of a matter of any importance. My own participation in this improvident blindness is to myself incomprehensible. Ten years I had lived under the dominion of Bonaparte; I had been in habits of intimacy with many friends of those who most closely surrounded him; I was generously trusted, as one with whom information, while interesting and precious, would be inviolably safe-as one, in fact, whose honour was the honour of her spotless husband, and therefore invulnerable : well, therefore, by narrations the most authentic, and by documents the most indisputable, I knew the character of Bonaparte ; and marvellous beyond the reach of my comprehension is my participation in this inertia. . . .
Thus familiar to his practices, thus initiated in his resources, thus aware of his gigantic ideas of his own destiny, how could I for a moment suppose he would re-visit France without a consciousness of success, founded upon some secret conviction that it was infallible, through measures previously arranged ? I can only conclude that my understanding, such as it is, was utterly tired out by a long harass of perpetual alarm and sleepless apprehension. Unmoved, therefore, I remained in the general apparent repose which, if it were as real in those with whom I mixed as in myself, I now deem a species of infatuation. Whether or not M. d'Arblay was involved in the general failure of foresight I have mentioned, I never now can ascertain. To spare me any evil tidings, and save me from
even the shadow of any unnecessary alarm, was the first and constant solicitude of his indulgent goodness.
At this period he returned to Paris to settle various matters for our Senlis residence. We both now knew the event that so soon was to monopolize all thought and all interest throughout Europe: but we knew it without any change in our way of life; on the contrary, we even resumed our delightful airings in the Bois de Boulogne, whither the general drove me every morning in a light calche, of which he had possessed himself upon his entrance into the king's body-guard the preceding year.
Brief, however, was this illusion, and fearful was the light by which its darkness was dispersed. In a few days we hear that Bonaparte, whom we had concluded to be, of course, either stopped at landing and taken prisoner, or forced to save himself by flight, was, on the contrary, pursuing unimpeded his route to Lyons.
>From this moment disguise, if any there had been, was over with the most open and frank of human beings, who never even transitorily practised it but to keep off evil, or its apprehension, from others. He communicated to me now his strong view of danger ; not alone that measures might be taken to secure my safety, but to spare me any sudden agitation. Alas! none was spared to himself! More clearly than any one he anticipated the impending tempest, and foreboded its devastating effects. He spoke aloud and strenuously, with prophetic energy, to all with whom he was then officially associated but the greater part either despaired of resisting the torrent, or disbelieved its approach. What deeply interesting scenes crowd upon my remembrance, of his noble, his daring, but successless exertions! The king's body-guard immediately de service,(259) at that time, was the compagnie of the Prince de Poix, a man of the most heartfelt loyalty, but who had never served, and who was incapable of so great a command at so critical a juncture, from utter inexperience.
BONAPARTE'S ADVANCE: CONTEMPLATED MIGRATION FROM PARIS.
At this opening of the famous Hundred Days it seemed to occur to no one that Bonaparte would make any attempt upon Paris. It was calmly taken for granted he would
speedily escape back to Elba, or remain in the south a prisoner - and it was only amongst deep or restless politicians that any inquietude was manifested with respect to either of these results. Madame la Princesse d'Henin, indeed, whom I was in the habit of frequently meeting, had an air and Manner that announced perturbation ; but her impetuous spirit in politics kept her mind always in a state of energy upon public affairs.
But when Bonaparte actually arrived at Lyons the face of affairs changed. Expectation was then awakened—consternation began to spread; and report went rapidly to her usual work, of now exciting nameless terror, and now allaying even reasonable apprehension.
To me, every moment became more anxious. I saw General d'Arblay imposing upon himself a severity of service for which he had no longer health or strength, and imposing it only the more rigidly from the fear that his then beginning weakness and infirmities should seem to plead for indulgence. it was thus that he insisted upon going through the double duty of artillery officer at the barracks, and of officier suprieur in the king's body-guards at the Tuileries, The smallest representation to M. le Duc de Luxembourg, who had a true value for him, would have procured a substitute: but he would not hear me upon such a proposition; he would sooner, far, have died at his post, He now almost lived either at the Tuileries or at the barracks. I only saw him when business or military arrangements brought him home; but he kindly sent me billets to appease my suspense every two or three hours.
The project upon Paris became at length obvious, yet its success was little feared, though the horrors of a civil war seemed inevitable. M. d'Arblay began to wish me away; he made various propositions for ensuring my safety; he even pressed me to depart for England to rejoin Alexander and my family: but I knew them to be in security, whilst my first earthly tie was exposed to every species of danger, and I besought him not to force me away. He was greatly distressed, but could not oppose my urgency. He procured me, however, a passport from M. le Comte de Jaucourt, his long attached friend, who was minister aux affaires trangres(260) ad interim, while Talleyrand Perigord was with the Congress at Vienna.
I received it most unwillingly: I could not endure to absent myself from the seat of government,-for I little divined how soon that government was to change its master. Nevertheless, the prudence of this preparatory measure soon became conspicuous, for the very following day I heard of nothing but purposed emigrations from Paris-retirement, concealment, embarrassments, and difficulties. My sole personal joy was that my younger Alexander was far away, and safely lodged in the only country of safety.
But, on the 17th, hope again revived. I received these words from my best friend, written on a scrap of paper torn from a parcel, and brought to me by his groom from the palace of the Tuileries, where their writer had passed the night mounting guard:—
"Nous avons de meilleures nouvelles. Je ne puis entrer dans aucun dtail; mais sois tranquille, et aime bien qui t'aime uniquement.(261) God bless you."
This news hung upon the departure of Marshal Ney to meet Bonaparte and stop his progress, with the memorable words uttered publicly to the king, that he would bring him to Paris in an iron cage. The king at this time positively announced and protested that he would never abandon his throne nor quit his capital, Paris.
Various of my friends called upon me this day, all believing the storm was blowing over. Madame Chastel and her two daughters were calm, but, nevertheless, resolved to visit a small terre(262) which they possessed, till the metropolis was free from all contradictory rumours. Madame de Cadignan preserved her imperturbable gaiety and carelessness, and said she should stay, happen what might ; for what mischief could befall a poor widow ? Her sportive smiles and laughing eyes displayed her security in the power of her charms. Madame de Maisonneuve was filled with apprehensions for her brothers, who were all in highly responsible situations, and determined to remain in Paris to be in the midst of them. The Princesse d'Henin came to me daily to communicate all the intelligence she gathered from the numerous friends and connections through whom she was furnished with supplies. Her own plans were incessantly changing, but her friendship knew no
alteration; and in every various modification of her intentions she always offered to include me in their execution, should my affairs reduce me, finally, to flight.
Flight, however, was intolerable to my thoughts. I weighed it not as saving me from Bonaparte - I could consider it only as separating me from all to which my heart most dearly clung. Madame d'Henin was undecided whether to go to the north or to the south-to Bordeaux or to Brussels ; I could not, therefore, even give a direction to M. d'Arblay where I could receive any intelligence, and the body-guard of the king was held in utter suspense as to its destination. This, also, was unavoidable, since the king himself could only be guided by events.
The next day, the 18th of March, all hope disappeared. From north, from south, from east, from west, alarm took the field, danger flashed its lightnings, and contention growled its thunders: yet in Paris there was no rising, no disturbance, no confusion—all was taciturn suspense, dark dismay, or sullen passiveness. The dread necessity which had reduced the king, Louis XVIII., to be placed on his throne by foreigners, would have annihilated all enthusiasm of loyalty, if any had been left by the long underminings of revolutionary principles.
What a day was *this of gloomy solitude! Not a soul approached me, save, for a few moments, my active Madame d'Henin, who came to tell me she was preparing to depart, unless a successful battle should secure the capital from the conqueror. I now promised that if I should ultimately be compelled to fly my home, I would thankfully be of her party; and she grasped at this engagement with an eagerness that gave proof of her sincere and animated friendship. This intimation was balm to the heart of my dearest partner, and he wished the measure to be executed and expedited; but I besought him, as he valued my existence, not to force me away till every other resource was hopeless.
GENERAL D'ARBLAY'S MILITARY PREPARATIONS.
He passed the day almost wholly at the barracks. When he entered his dwelling, in the Rue de Miromenil, it was only upon military business, and from that he could spare me scarcely a second. He was shut up in his library with continual comers and goers; and though I durst not follow
him, I could not avoid gathering, from various circumstances, that he was now preparing to take the field, in full expectation of being sent out with his comrades of the guard, to check the rapid progress of the invader. I knew this to be his earnest wish, as the only chance of saving the king and the throne; but he well knew it was my greatest dread, though I was always silent upon the subject, well aware that while his honour was dearer to him than his life, my own sense of duty was dearer to me also than mine. While he sought, therefore, to spare me the view of his arms and warlike equipage and habiliments, I felt his wisdom as well as his kindness, and tried to appear as if I had no suspicion of his proceedings, remaining almost wholly in my own room, to avoid any accidental surprise, and to avoid paining him with the sight of my anguish. I masked it as well as I could for the little instant he had from time to time to spare me; but before dinner he left me entirely, having to pass the night cheval at the barracks, as he had done the preceding night at the Tuileries.
The length of this afternoon, evening, and night was scarcely supportable : his broken health, his altered looks, his frequent sufferings, and diminished strength, all haunted me with terror, in the now advancing prospect of his taking the field. And where? And how? No one knew! Yet he was uncertain whether he could even see me once more the next day! . . .
I come now to the detail of one of the most dreadful days of my existence, the 19th of March, 1815, the last which preceded the triumphant return of Bonaparte to the capital of France. Little, on its opening, did I imagine that return so near, or believe it would be brought about without even any attempted resistance. General d'Arblay, more in the way of immediate intelligence, and more able to judge of its result, was deeply affected by the most gloomy prognostics. He came home at about six in the morning, harassed, worn, almost wasted with fatigue, and yet more with a baleful view of all around him, and with a sense of wounded military honour in the inertia which seemed to paralyze all effort to save the king and his cause. He had spent two nights following armed on guard, one at the Tuileries, in his duty of garde du corps to the king; the other on duty as artillery captain at the barracks. He went to bed for a few hours ; and then, after a wretched breakfast in which he Page 307
briefly narrated the state of things he had witnessed and his apprehensions, be conjured me, in the most solemn and earnest manner, to yield to the necessity of the times, and consent to quit Paris with Madame d'Henin, should she ultimately decide to depart. I could not, when I saw his sufferings, endure to augment them by any further opposition; but never was acquiescence so painful! To lose even the knowledge whither he went, or the means of acquainting him whither I might go myself—to be deprived of the power to join him, should he be made prisoner—or to attend him, should he be wounded. . . . I could not pronounce my consent; but he accepted it so decidedly in my silence, that he treated it as arranged, and hastened its confirmation by assuring me I had relieved his mind from a weight of care and distress nearly intolerable. As the wife of an officer in the king's body-guard, in actual service, I might be seized, he thought, as a kind of hostage, and might probably fare all the worse for being also an Englishwoman.
He then wrote a most touching note to the Princesse d'Henin, supplicating her generous friendship to take the charge not only of my safety, but of supporting and consoling me.
After this, he hurried back to the Tuileries for orders, apparently more composed; and that alone enabled me to sustain my so nearly compulsory and so repugnant agreement. His return was speedy: he came, as he had departed, tolerably composed, for he had secured me a refuge, and he had received orders to prepare to march—to Melun, he concluded, to encounter Bonaparte, and to battle; for certain news had arrived of the invader's rapid approach. . . . at half-past two; at noon it was expected that the body-guard would be put in motion. Having told me this history, he could not spare me another moment till that which preceded his leaving home to join the Due de Luxembourg's company. He then came to me, with an air of assumed serenity, and again, in the most kindly, soothing terms, called upon me to give him an example of courage. I obeyed his injunction with my best ability-yet how dreadful was our parting! We knelt together in short but fervent prayer to heaven for each other's preservation, and then separated. At the door he turned back, and with a smile which, though forced, had inexpressible sweetness, he half gaily exclaimed, "Vive le roi!" I instantly caught his wise Page 308
wish that we should part with apparent cheerfulness, and reechoed his words-and then he darted from my sight.
This had passed in an ante-room ; but I then retired to my bedchamber, where, all effort over, I remained for some minutes abandoned to an affliction nearly allied to despair, though rescued from it by fervent devotion.
But an idea then started into my mind that yet again I might behold him. I ran to a window which looked upon the inward court-yard. There, indeed, behold him I did, but oh, with what anguish ! just mounting his war-horse, a noble animal, of which he was singularly fond, but which at this moment I viewed with acutest terror, for it seemed loaded with pistols, and equipped completely for immediate service on the field of battle; while Deprez, the groom, prepared to mount another, and our cabriolet was filled with baggage and implements of war.
I could not be surprised, since I knew the destination of the general ; but so carefully had he spared me the progress of his preparations, which he thought would be killing me by inches, that I had not the most distant idea he was thus armed and encircled with instruments of death-bayonets, lances, pistols, guns, sabres, daggers !-what horror assailed me at the sight! I had only so much sense and self-control left as to crawl softly and silently away, that I might not inflict upon him the suffering of beholding my distress - but when he had passed the windows, I opened them to look after him. The street was empty - the gay constant gala of a Parisian Sunday was changed into fearful solitude : no sound was heard, but that of here and there some hurried footstep, on one hand hastening for a passport to secure safety by flight ; on the other, rushing abruptly from or to some concealment, to devise means of accelerating and hailing the entrance of the conqueror. Well in tune with this air of an impending crisis, was my miserable mind, which from grief little short of torture sunk, at its view, into a state of morbid quiet, that seemed the produce of feelings totally exhausted.
PREPARATIONS FOR FLIGHT: LEAVE-TAKINGS.
Thus I continued, inert, helpless, motionless, till the Princesse d'Henin came into my apartment. Her first news was, that Bonaparte had already reached Compigne, and that to-morrow, the 20th of March, he might arrive in Paris, if the Page 309
army of the king stopped not his progress. It was now necessary to make a prompt decision; my word was given, and I agreed to accompany her whithersoever she fixed to go. She was STILL hesitating; but it was settled I should join her in the evening, bag and baggage, and partake of her destination. . . .
I was now sufficiently roused for action, and my first return to conscious understanding was a desire to call in and pay every bill that might be owing, as well as the rent of our apartments up to the present moment, that no pretence might be assumed from our absence for disposing of our goods, books, or property of any description. As we never had any avoidable debts, this was soon settled ; but the proprietor of the house was thunderstruck by the measure, saying, the king had reiterated his proclamation that he would not desert his capital. I could only reply that the general was at his majesty's orders, and that my absence Would be short. I then began collecting our small portion of plate, etc.; but while thus occupied, I received a message from Madame d'Henin, to tell me I must bring nothing but a small change of linen, and one band-box, as by the news she had just heard, she was convinced we should be back again in two or three days, and she charged me to be with her in an hour from that time. I did what she directed, and put what I most valued, that was not too large, into a hand-basket, made by some French prisoners in England, that had been given me by my beloved friend Mrs. Locke. I then swallowed, standing, my neglected dinner, and, with Madame Deprez, and my small allowance of baggage, I got into a fiacre, and drove to General Victor de la Tour Maubourg, to bid adieu to my dearest Madame de Maisonneuve, and her family.
It was about nine o'clock at night, and very dark. I sent on Madame Deprez to the princess, and charged her not to return to summon me till the last moment. The distance was small.
I found the -house of the Marquis Victor de la Tour Maubourg in a state of the most gloomy dismay. No portier was in the way, but the door of the porte CocHre was ajar, and I entered on foot, no fiacre being ever admitted into les cours des hTels. Officers and strangers were passing to and fro, some to receive, others to resign commissions, but all with quick steps, though in dead silence. Not a servant was in the way, and hardly any light; all seemed in disorder.
groped along till I came to the drawing-room, in which were several people, waiting for orders, or for an audience ; but in no communication with each other, for here, also, a dismal taciturnity prevailed, From my own disturbance, joined to my short-sightedness, I was some time ere I distinguished Madame Victor de la Tour Maubourg, and when at last I saw her, I ventured not to address or to approach her. She was at a table, endeavouring to make some arrangement, or package, or examination, with papers and boxes before her, but deluged in tears, which flowed so fast that she appeared to have relinquished all effort to restrain them, And this was the more affecting to witness, as she is eminently equal and cheerful in her disposition. I kept aloof, and am not certain that she even perceived me. The general was in his own apartment, transacting military business of moment. But no sooner was I espied by my dearest Madame de Maisonneuve, than I was in her kind arms. She took me apart to reveal to me that the advance of the late emperor was still more rapid than its report. All were quitting Paris, or resigning themselves to passive submission. For herself, she meant to abide by whatever should be the destination of her darling brother Victor, who was now finishing a commission that no longer could be continued, of raising volunteers-for there was no longer any royal army for them to join ! Whether the king would make a stand at the Tuileries, as he had unhappily promised, or whether he would fly, was yet unknown ; but General Victor de Maubourg was now going to equip himself in full uniform, that he might wait upon his majesty in person, decidedly fixed to take his orders, be they what they might.
With danger thus before him, in his mutilated state, having undergone an amputation of the leg and thigh on the field of battle, who can wonder at the desolation of Madame Victor when he resolved to sustain the risk of such an offer? Presently, what was my emotion at the sudden and abrupt entrance into the room of an officer of the king's garde du corps! in the self-same uniform as that from which I had parted with such anguish in the morning! A transitory hope glanced like lightning upon my brain, with an idea that the body-guard was all at hand; but as evanescent as bright was the flash! The concentrated and mournful look of the officer assured me nothing genial was awaiting me - and when the next minute we recognized each other, I saw it was the Count Charles de la Tour Maubourg, the youngest brother of Madame de
Maisonneuve; and he then told me he had a note for me from M. d'Arblay.
Did I breathe then? i think not! I grasped the paper in my hand, but a mist was before my eyes, and I could not read a word. Madame de Maisonneuve held a hurried conference with her brother, and then informed me that the body-guard was all. called out) the whole four companies, with their servants, equipage, arms and horses, to accompany and protect the king in his flight from Paris! But whither he would go, or with what intent, whether of battle or of escape, had not been announced. The Count Charles had obtained leave of absence for one hour to see his wife (Mademoiselle de Lafayette) and his children; but M. d'Arblay, who belonged to the artillery company, could not be spared even a moment. He had therefore seized a cover of a letter of M. de Bethizy, the commandant, to write me a few words.
I now read them, and found—
"Ma chre amie—Tout est perdu! je ne puis entrer dans aucun dtail—de grce, partez! le plutt sera le mieux. A la vie et la mort, A. D'A."(263)
Scarcely had I read these lines, when I was told that Madame d'Henin had sent me a summons. I now could but embrace my Madame de Maisonneuve in silence, and depart. . . .
Arrived at Madame la Princesse d'Henin's, all was in a perturbation yet greater than what I had left, though not equally afflicting. Madame d'Henin was so little herself, that every moment presented a new view of things, and urged her impatiently, nay imperiously, to differ from whatever was offered.
Now she saw instantly impending danger, and was for precipitate flight; now she saw fearless security, and determined not to move a step ; the next moment all was alarm again, and she wanted wings for speed - and the next, the smallest apprehension awakened derision and contempt. I, who had never yet seen her but all that was elegant, rational, and kind, was thunderstruck by this effect of threatening
evil upon her high and susceptible spirit. From manners of dignified serenity, she so lost all self-possession as to answer nearly with fury whatever was not acquiescent concurrence in her opinion: from sentiments of the most elevated nobleness she was urged, by every report that opposed her expectations, to the utterance of wishes and of assertions that owed their impulse to passion, and their foundation to prejudice ; and from having sought, with the most flattering partiality, to attach me to her party, she gave me the severe shock of intimating that my joining her confused all er measures.
To change my plan now was impossible ; my husband and my best friends knew me to be with her, and could seek me, or bestow information upon me, in no other direction; I had given up my own home, and to return thither, or to stay any where in Paris, was to constitute myself a prisoner: nevertheless, it was equally a sorrow and a violence to my feelings to remain with her another moment after so astonishing a reproach. Displeasure at it, however, subsided, when I found that it proceeded neither from weakened regard, nor a wanton abuse of power, but from a mind absolutely disorganized.
M. le Comte de Lally Tolendal, the Cicero of France, and most eloquent man of his day, and one of the most honourable, as well as most highly gifted, was, I now found, to be of our fugitive party. He was her admiring and truly devoted friend, and by many believed to be privately married to her. I am myself of that opinion, and that the union, on account of prior and unhappy circumstances, was forborne to be avowed. Certainly their mutual conduct warranted this conclusion. Nevertheless, his whole demeanour towards her announced the most profound respect as well as attachment ; and hers to him the deepest consideration, with a delight in his talents amounting to an adoration that met his for her noble mind and winning qualities. She wanted, however, despotically to sway him ; and little as he might like the submission she required, he commonly yielded, to avoid, as I conceive, the dangerous conjectures to which dissension might make them liable.
But at this moment, revolutionary terrors and conflicting sensations robbed each of them of that self-command which till now had regulated their public intercourse. She, off all guard, let loose alike the anxious sensibility and the arbitrary impetuosity of her nature: he, occupied with too mighty a trouble to have time or care for his wonted watchful Page 313
attentions, heard alike her admonitions or lamentations with an air of angry, but silent displeasure ; or, when urged too pointedly for maintaining his taciturnity, retorted her reproaches or remarks with a vehemence that seemed the echo of her own. Yet in the midst of this unguarded contention, which had its secret incitement, I doubt not, from some cruelly opposing difference of feelings—of ideas upon the present momentous crisis, nothing could be more clear than that their attachment to each other, though it could not subdue their violent tempers, was, nevertheless, the predominant passion of their souls.
THE COUNTESS D'AUCH'S COMPOSURE.
The turbulence of these two animated characters upon this trying occasion was strongly contrasted by the placid suffering and feminine endurance of Madame la Comtesse d'Auch, the daughter and sole heiress and descendant of M. de Lally. Her husband, like mine, was in the body-guard of Louis XVIII., and going, or gone, no one knew whither, nor with what intent; her estate and property were all near Bordeaux, and her little children were with her at Paris. The difficult task, in the great uncertainty of events, was now hers to decide, whether to seek the same refuge that her father and Madame Henin should resolve upon seeking, or whether to run every personal risk in trying to save her lands and fortune from confiscation, by traversing, with only her babies and servants, two or three hundred miles, to reach her chateau at Auch ere it might be seized by the conquering party. Quietly, and in total silence, she communed with herself, not mixing in the discourse, nor seeming to heed the disturbance around her; but, when at length applied to, her resolution, from her Own concentrated meditations, was fixedly taken, to preserve, if possible, by her exertions and courage, the property of her absent and beloved husband, for his hoped return and for her children. This steadiness and composure called not forth any imitation. M. de Lally breathed hard with absolute agony of internal debate; and Madame d'Henin now declared she was sure all would blow over in a false alarm, and that she would not hesitate any longer between Brussels and Bordeaux, but remain quietly in Paris, and merely sit up all night to be on the watch. Page 314
RUMOURS OF BONAPARTE'S NEAR APPROACH.
M. de Lally determined to go now in person to the Tuileries, to procure such information as might decide his shattered and irresolute friend. When he was gone, a total silence ensued. Madame d'Auch was absorbed in her fearful enterprise, and Madame d'Henin, finding no one opposed her (for my thoughts were with no one present), walked up and down the room, with hasty movement, as if performing some task. Various persons came and went, messengers, friends, or people upon business. She seized upon them all, impatiently demanding their news, and their opinions, but so volubly, at the same time, uttering her own, as to give them no time to reply, though as they left her, too much hurried themselves to wait her leisure for listening, she indignantly exclaimed against their stupidity and insensibility.
But what a new and terrible commotion was raised in her mind, in that of Madame d'Auch, and in mine, upon receiving a pencil billet from M. de Lally, brought by a confidential servant, to announce that Bonaparte was within a few hours' march of Paris! He begged her to hasten off, and said he would follow in his cabriolet when he had made certain arrangements, and could gain some information as to the motions of the king.
She now instantly ordered horses to her berlin,(264) which had long been loaded, and calling up all her people and dependants, was giving her orders with the utmost vivacity, when intelligence was brought her that no horses could now be had, the government having put them all in requisition. I was struck with horror. To be detained in Paris, the seat of impending conquest, and the destined capital of the conqueror—detained a helpless prisoner, where all would be darkly unknown to me, where Truth could find no entrance, Falsehood no detection—where no news could reach me, except news that was fatal—oh! what dire feelings were mine at this period!
Madame d'Auch, who had taken her precautions, instantly though sadly, went away, to secure her own carriage, and preserve her little babies.
DEPARTURE FROM PARIS AT NIGHT TIME.
Madame d'Henin was now almost distracted, but this dreadful prospect of indefinite detention, with all the horrors
of captivity, lasted not long: Le Roy, her faithful domestic from his childhood, prevailed upon some stable friend to grant the use of his horses for one stage from Paris, and the berlin and four was at the porte cochre in another moment, The servants and dependants of Madame d'Henin accompanied her to the carriage in tears ; and all her fine qualities were now unmixed, as she took an affectionate leave of them, with a sweetness the most engaging, suffering the women to kiss her cheek, and smiling kindly on the men, who kissed her robe. Vivacity like hers creates alarm, but, in France, breeds no resentment ; and where, like hers, the character is eminently noble and generous, it is but considered as a mark of conscious rank, and augments rather than diminishes personal devotion.
We now rushed into the carriage, averse, yet eager, between ten and eleven o'clock at night, 19th March, 1815. As Madame d'Henin had a passport for herself, et sa famille, we resolved to keep mine in reserve, in case of accidents or separation, and only to produce hers, while I should be included in its privileges. The decision for our route was for Brussels ; the femme de chambre of Madame d'Henin-within, and the valet, Le Roy, outside the carriage, alone accompanied us, with two postilions for the four horses. Madame d'Henin, greatly agitated, spoke from time to time, though rather in ejaculations upon our flight, its uncertainties and alarms, than with any view to conversation; but if she had any answer, it was of simple acquiescence from her good and gentle femme de chambre; as to me . . . I could not utter a word—my husband on his war-horse—his shattered state of health—his long disuse to military service, yet high-wrought sense of military honour—all these were before me. I saw, heard, and was conscious of nothing else, till we arrived at Le Bourget,(265) a long, straggling, small town. And here, Madame d'Henin meant to stop, or at least change horses.
A HALT AT LE BOURGET.
But all was still, and dark, and shut up. It was the dead of night, and no sort of alarm seemed to disturb the inhabitants
of the place. We knocked at the first inn: but after waiting a quarter of an hour, some stable-man came Out to say there was not a room vacant. The same reply was with the same delay given us at two other inns; but, finally, we were more successful, though even then we could obtain only a single apartment, with three beds. These we appropriated for Madame d'Henin, myself, and her maid; and the men-servants were obliged to content themselves with mattresses in the kitchen. The town, probably, was filled with fugitives from Paris.
A supper was directly provided, but Madame d'Henin, who now again repented having hurried off, resolved upon sending her faithful Le Roy back to the metropolis, to discover whether it were positively true that the king had quitted it, He hired a horse, and we then endeavoured to repose . . . but oh, how far from me was all possibility of obtaining it!
About three in the morning M. de Lally overtook us. His information was immediately conveyed to the Princesse d'Henin. It was gloomily affrighting. The approach of Bonaparte was wholly unresisted; all bowed before, that did not spring forward to meet him.
Le Roy returned about six in the morning. The king, and his guards, and his family, had all suddenly left Paris, but whither had not transpired. He was preceded, encircled, and followed by his four companies of body-guards.
Horror and distress at such a flight and such uncertainty were not mine only, though circumstances rendered mine the most poignant; but M. de Lally had a thousand fears for the excellent and loved husband of his daughter, M. le Comte d'Auch; and Madame d'Henin trembled, for herself and all her family, at the danger of the young Hombert La Tour du Pin.
THE JOURNEY RESUMED.
No longer easy to be so near Paris, we hastily prepared to get on for Brussels, our destined harbour. M. de Lally now accompanied us, followed by his valet in a cabriolet. Our journey commenced in almost total silence on all parts: the greatness of the change of government thus marvellously effecting, the impenetrable uncertainty of coming events, and our dreadful ignorance of the fate of those most precious to us, who were involved in the deeds and the consequences Page 317
of immediate action, filled every mind too awfully for speech and our sole apparent attention was to the passengers we overtook, or by whom we were overtaken.
These were so few, that I think we could not count half a dozen on our way to Senlis, and those seemed absorbed in deadly thought and silence, neither looking at us, nor caring to encounter our looks. The road, the fields, the hamlets, all appeared deserted. Desolate and lone was the universal air. I have since concluded that the people of these parts had separated into two divisions; one of which had hastily escaped, to save their lives and loyalty, while the other had hurried to the capital to greet the conqueror - for this was Sunday,(266) the 20th of March.
Oh, what were my sensations on passing through Senlis Senlis, so lately fixed for my three months' abode with my general, during his being de service. When we stopped at a nearly empty inn, during the change of horses, I inquired after Madame Le Quint, and some other ladies who had been prepared to kindly receive me—but they were all gone! hastily they had quitted the town, which, like its environs, had an air of being generally abandoned.
The desire of obtaining intelligence made Madame d'Henin most unwilling to continue a straightforward journey, that must separate her more and more from the scene of action. M. de Lally wished to see his friend the young Duc d'Orlans,(267) who was at Peronne, with his sister and part of his family; and he was preparing to gratify this desire, when a discussion relative to the danger of some political misconstruction, the duke being at that time upon ill terms with Monsieur, Comte d'Artois,(268) made him relinquish his purpose. We wandered about, however, I hardly know where, save that we stopped from time to time at small hovels in which resided tenants of the Prince or of the Princess de Poix, who received Madame d'Henin with as much devotion of attachment as they could have done in the fullest splendour of her power to reward their kindness ; though with an entire familiarity of discourse that, had I been new to French Customs, would have seemed to me marks of total loss of respect. But after a ten years' unbroken residence in France,
I was too well initiated in the ways of the dependants Upon the great belonging to their own tenantry, to make a mistake so unjust to their characters. We touched, as I think, at Noailles, at St. just, at Mouchy, and at Poix—but I am only sure we finished the day by arriving at Roy, where still the news of that day was unknown. What made it travel so slowly I cannot tell; but from utter dearth of all the intelligence by which we meant to be guided, we remained, languidly and helplessly, at Roy till the middle of the following Monday,(269) the 21st March.
About that time some military entered the town and our inn. We durst not ask a single question, in our uncertainty to which side they belonged ; but the four horses were hastily ordered, since to decamp seemed what was most necessary. But Brussels was no longer the indisputable spot, as the servants Overheard some words that implied a belief that Louis XVIII. was quitting France to return to his old asylum, England. It was determined, therefore, though not till after a tumultuous debate between the princess and M. de Lally, to go straight to Amiens, where the prefect, M. Lameth, was a former friend, if not connection, of the princess.
We had now to travel by a cross-road, and a very bad one, and it was not till night that we arrived at the suburbs. It was here first we met with those difficulties that announced, by vigilance with disturbance, a kind of suspended government; for the officers of the police who demanded our passports were evidently at a loss whether to regard them as valid or not. Their interrogatories, meanwhile, were endless; and, finally, they desired us, as it was so late and dark, to find ourselves a lodging in the suburbs, and not enter the city of Amiens till the next morning.
Clouded as were alike our perceptions and our information, we could not but be aware of the danger of to-morrow, when our entrance might be of a sort to make our exit prohibited. Again followed a tumultuous debate, which ended in the hazardous resolve of appealing to the prefect and casting ourselves upon his protection. This appeal ended all inquisition : we were treated with deference, and accommodated in a decent room, while the passports of Madame d'Henin and of M. de Lally were forwarded to the prefecture. We remained here some time in the utmost stillness, no one pronouncing a word. We knew not who might listen, nor
with what ears ! But far from still was all within, because far from confident how the prefect might judge necessary to arrest, or to suffer our proceeding further. The answer was, at length, an order to the police officers to let us enter the city and be conducted to an hotel named by M. Lameth.
A SUPPER AT AmIENS WITH THE PREFECT.
We had an immensely long drive through the city of Amiens ere we came to the indicated hotel. But here Madame d'Henin found a note that was delivered to her by the secretary of the prefecture, announcing the intention of the prefect to have the honour of waiting upon her; and when M. Lameth was announced, M. de Lally and I retired to our several chambers.
Her tte—tte with him was very long, and ended in a summons to M. de Lally to make it a trio. This interview was longer still, and my anxiety for the news with which it might terminate relative to the king, the body-guard, and our detention or progression, was acute. At length I also was summoned.
Madame d'Henin came out to me upon the landing-place, hastily and confusedly, to say that the prefect did not judge proper to receive her at the prefecture, but that he would stay and sup with her, and that I was to pass for her premire femme de chambre, as it would not be prudent to give in my name, though it had been made known to M. Lameth; but the wife of an officer so immediately in the service of the king must not be specified as the host of a prefect, if that prefect meant , to yield to the tide of a new government. Tide? Nay, torrent it was at this moment ; and any resistance that had not been previously organized, and with military force, must have been vain. I made, however, no inquiry. I was simply acquiescent; and, distantly following Madame d'Henin, remained at the end of the room while the servants and the waiters adjusted matters for supper.
In a situation of such embarrassment I never before was placed. I knew not which way to look, nor what to do. Discovery at such a crisis might have been fatal, as far as might hang upon detention; and detention, which would rob me of all means of hearing of M. d'Arblay, should I gather what was his route, and be able to write to him, was death to my peace. I regretted I had not demanded to stay in Page 320
another room; but, in such heart-piercing moments, to be in the way of intelligence is the involuntary first movement.
When all was arranged, and Madame d'Henin was seated M. de Lally set a chair for me, slightly bowing to me to take it. I complied, and supper began. I was helped, of course the last, and not once spoken to by any body. The repast' was not very gay, yet by no means dejected. The conversation was upon general topics, and M. de Lameth was entirely master of himself, seeming wholly without emotion.
I was afterwards informed that news had just reached him, but not officially, that Bonaparte had returned to Paris. Having heard, therefore, nothing from the new government he was able to act as if there were none such, and he kindly obliged Madame d'Henin by giving her new passports, which should the conquest be confirmed, would be safer than passports from the ministers of Louis XVIII. at Paris. . . .
M. Lameth could not, however, answer for retaining his powers, nor for what might be their modification even from hour to hour: he advised us, therefore, by no means to risk his being either replaced or restrained, but to get on as fast as possible with his passports while certain they were efficient. He thought it safer, also, to make a circuit than to go back again to the high-road we had quitted. Our design of following the king, whom we imagined gaining the sea-coast to embark for England, was rendered abortive from the number of contradictory accounts which had reached M. Lameth as to the route he had taken. Brussels, therefore, became again our point of desire; but M. Lameth counselled us to proceed for the moment to Arras, where M. —- (I forget his name) would aid us either to proceed, or to change, according to circumstances, our destination. Not an instant, however, was to be lost, lest M. Lameth should be forced himself to detain us. Horses, therefore, he ordered for us, and a guide across the country for Arras.
I learnt nothing of this till we re-entered our carriage. The servants and waiters never quitted the room, and the prefect had as much his own safety to guard from ill construction or report as ours. Madame d'Henin, though rouged the whole time with confusion, never ventured to address a word to me. It was, indeed, more easy to be silent than to speak to me either with a tone of condescension or of command, and any other must have been suspicious. M. de Page 321
Lally was equally dumb, but active in holding out every plat to me, though always looking another way. M. Lameth eyed me with curiosity, but had no resource against surmise save that adopted by Madame d'Henin. However, he had the skill and the politeness to name, in the course of the repast, M. d'Arblay, as if accidentally, yet with an expression of respect and distinction, carefully, as he spoke, turning his eyes from mine, though it was the only time that, voluntarily, he would have met them.
The horses being ready, M. Lameth took leave.
RECEPTION AT THE PREFECTURE AT ARRAS.
It was now about eleven at night. The road was of the roughest sort, and we were jerked up and down the ruts so as with difficulty to keep our seats : it was also very dark, and the drivers could not help frequently going out of their way, though the guide, groping on upon such occasions on foot, soon set them right. It was every way a frightful night. Misery, both public and private, oppressed us all, and the fear of pursuit and captivity had the gloomy effect of causing general taciturnity ; so that no kind voice, nor social suggestion, diverted the sense of danger, or excited one of hope.
At what hour we arrived at Arras on Wednesday, the 22nd March, I cannot tell; but we drove straight to the prefecture, a very considerable mansion, surrounded with spacious grounds and gardens, which to me, nevertheless, had a bleak, flat, and desolate air, though the sun was brightly shining. We stopped at the furthest of many gates on the high road, while madame sent in to M. — (I forget his name) the note with which we had been favoured by M. Lameth. The answer was a most courteous invitation of entrance, and the moment the carriage stopped at the great door of the portico, the prefect, M. -, hastened out to give Madame d'Henin le bras. He was an old soldier and in full uniform, and he came to us from a battalion drawn out in array on one side the park. Tall, and with still a goodly port, though with a face worn and weather-beaten, he had the air of a gentleman as well as of a general officer - and the open and hospitable smile with which he received the princess, while bareheaded and baldheaded he led her into his palace, diffused a welcome around that gave an involuntary cheeriness even to poor dejected me. How indescribably gifted is the human face Y
divine," in those who are invested with power, to transmit Or to blight comfort even by a glance!
As Madame d'Henin demanded a private audience, I know not what passed; but I have reason to believe we were the first who brought news to Arras that approached to the truth of the actual position of Paris. M. Lameth, for Political reasons, had as studiously avoided naming M. de Lally as myself in his note .- but M. de Lally was treated by the mistress of the house with the distinction due to a gentleman travelling with the princess ; and as to me, some of the younger branches of the family took me under their protection, and very kind they were, showing me the garden, library, and views of the surrounding country.
A CHEERFUL DEJEUNER SOMEWHAT RUFFLED.
Meanwhile, an elegant breakfast was prepared for a large company, a review having been ordered for that morning, and several general officers being invited by the prefect. This repast had a cheerfulness that to me, an Englishwoman, was unaccountable and is indefinable. The king had been compelled to fly his capital , no one knew where he was seeking shelter; no one knew whether he meant to resign his crown in hopeless inaction, or whether to contest it in sanguinary civil war. Every family, therefore, with its every connection in the whole empire of the French, was involved in scenes upon which hung prosperity or adversity, reputation or disgrace, honour or captivity ; yet at such a crisis the large assembled family met with cheerfulness, the many guests were attended to with politeness, and the goodly fare of that medley of refreshments called a djeuner in France was met with appetites as goodly as its incitements.
This could not be from insensibility; the French are anything rather than insensible : it could not be from attachment to Bonaparte, the prefect loudly declaring his devotion to Louis XVIII. I can only, therefore, attribute it to the long revolutionary state of the French mind, as well as nation, which had made it so familiar to insurrection, change, and incertitude, that they met it as a man meets some unpleasant business which he must unavoidably transact, and which, since he has no choice to get rid of, he resolves to get through to the best of his ability.
We were still, however, smelling sweet flowers and regaled Page 323
with fine fruits, when this serenity was somewhat ruffled by the arrival of the commander of the forces which had been reviewed, or destined for review, I know not which. He took the prefect aside, and they were some time together. He then, only bowing to the ladies of the house, hastened off. The prefect told us the news that imperfectly arrived was very bad, but he hoped a stand would be made against any obstinate revolt ; and he resolved to assemble every officer and soldier belonging to his government, and to call upon each separately to take again, and solemnly, his oath of allegiance. . While preparing for this ceremony the commander again returned, and told him he had positive information that the. defection was spreading, and that whole troops and' companies were either sturdily waiting in inaction, or boldly marching on to meet the conqueror.
A LOYAL PREFECT.
Our table was now broken up, and we were wishing to depart ere official intimation from the capital might arrest our further progress - but our horses were still too tired, and no others were to be procured. We became again very uneasy, and uneasiness began to steal upon all around us. The prefect was engaged in perpetual little groups of consultation, chiefly with general officers, who came and went with incessant bustle, and occasionally and anxiously were joined by persons of consequence of the vicinity. The greater the danger appeared, the more intrepidly the brave old prefect declared his loyalty ; yet he was advised by all parties to give up his scheme till he knew whether the king himself 'made a stand in his own cause. $
He yielded reluctantly; and when Madame d'Henin found his steady adhesion to his king, she came up to him and said, that, finding the firmness of his devotion to Louis XVIII., she was sure it would give him pleasure to know he had at that moment under his roof the wife of a general officer in the actual escort of his majesty. He instantly came to me with a benevolent smile, and we had a conversation of deep Interest upon the present state of things. I had the heartfelt satisfaction to find that my honoured husband was known to him, not alone by reputation, but personally; and to find that, and to hear his praise, has always been one and the same thing. Alas! those sounds on these sad ears vibrate no Page 324
more!.....At length, however, about noon, we set off, accompanied by the prefect and all his family to our carriage.
EMBLEMS OF LOYALTY AT DOUAY.
At Douay, we had the satisfaction to see still stronger outward marks of attachment to the king and his cause, for in every street through which we passed, the windows were decked with emblems of faithfulness to the Bourbon dynasty, white flags, or ribands, or, handkerchiefs. All, however, without commotion, all was a simple manifestation of respect, No insurrection was checked, for none had been excited - no mob was dispersed, for scarcely any one seemed to venture from his house.
Our intention was to quit the French territory that night, and sleep in more security at Tournay ; but the roads became so bad, and our horses grew so tired, that it was already dark before we reached Orchies. M. de Lally went on from Douay in his cabriolet, to lighten our weight, as Madame d'Henin had a good deal of baggage. We were less at our ease, while thus perforce travelling slower, to find the roads, as we proceeded from Douay, become more peopled. Hitherto they had seemed nearly a blank. We now began, also, to be met, or to be overtaken, by small parties of troops. We naturally looked out with earnestness on each side, to discover to whom or to what they belonged : but the compliment of a similar curiosity on their part was all we gained. Sometimes they called out a "Vive—" but without finishing their wish; and we repeated—that is, we bowed to—the same hailing exclamation, without knowing or daring to inquire its purport.
STATE OF UNCERTAINTY AT ORCHIES.
At Orchies, where we arrived rather late in the evening, we first found decided marks of a revolutionary state of things. No orders were sent by either party. The king and his government were too imminently in personal danger to assert their rights, or retain their authority for directing the provinces; Bonaparte and his followers and supporters were too much engrossed by taking possession of the capital, and too uncertain of their success, to try a power which had as yet no basis, or risk a disobedience which they had no means to resent. The people, as far as we could see or learn
seemed passively waiting the event ; and the constituted authorities appeared to be self-suspended from their functions till the droit des plus fort(270) should ascertain who were their masters. Nevertheless, while we waited at Orchies for horses, news arrived by straggling parties which, though only whispered, created evidently some disturbance - a sort of wondering expectation soon stared from face to face, asking by the eye what no one durst pronounce by the voice; what does all this portend? and for what ought we to prepare?
A MISHAP ON THE ROAD.
it was past eleven o'clock, and the night was dark and damp, ere we could get again into our carriages - but the increasing bustle warned us off, and a nocturnal journey had nothing to appal us equally with the danger of remaining. We eagerly, therefore, set off, but we were still in the suburbs of Orchies, when a call for help struck our ears, and the berlin stopped. It was so dark, we could not at first discern what was the matter, but we soon found that the carriage of M. de Lally had broken down. Madame d'Henin darted out of the berlin with the activity of fifteen. Her maid accompanied her, and I eagerly followed.
Neither M. de Lally nor his man had received any injury, but the cabriolet could no longer proceed without being repaired. The groom was sent to discover the nearest blacksmith, who came soon to examine the mischief, and declared that it could not be remedied before daylight. We were forced to submit the vehicle to his decree - but our distress what to do with ourselves was now very serious. We knew there was no accommodation for us at the inn we had 'just quitted, but that of passing the night by the kitchen fire, exposed to all the hazards of suspicious observation upon our evident flight. To remain upon the high road stationary in our berlin might, at such a period, encompass us with dangers yet more serious.
A KINDLY OFFER OF SHELTER.
We were yet unresolved, when a light from the windows of a small house attracted our attention, and a door was opened, at which a gentlewoman somewhat more than elderly stood, with a candle in her hand, that lighted up a face full of Page 326
benevolence, in which was painted strong compassion on the view of our palpable distress. Her countenance encouraged us to approach her, and the smile with which she saw us come forward soon accelerated our advance; and when We reached her threshold, she waited neither for solicitation nor representation, but let us into her small dwelling without a single question, silently, as if fearful herself we might be observed, shutting the street door before she spoke. She then lamented, as we must needs, she said, be cold and comfortless, that she had no fire, but added that she and her little maid were in bed and asleep, when the disturbance on the road had awakened her, and made her hasten up, to inquire if any one were hurt. We told as much of our Story as belonged to our immediate situation, and she then instantly, assured us we should be welcome to stay in her house till the cabriolet was repaired.
Without waiting for our thanks, she then gave to each a chair, and fetched great plenty of fuel, with which she made an ample and most reviving fire, in a large stove that was placed in the middle of the room. She had bedding, she said, for two, and begged that, when we were warmed and comforted, we would decide which of us most wanted rest. We durst not, however, risk, at such a moment, either being separated or surprised; we entreated her, therefore, to let us remain together, and to retire herself to the repose her humanity had thus broken. But she would not leave us. She brought forth bread, butter, and cheese, with wine and some other beverage, and then made us each a large bowl of tea. And when we could no longer partake of her hospitable fare, she fetched us each a pillow, and a double chair, to rest our heads and our feet.
ALARMED BY POLISH LANCERS.
Thus cheered and refreshed, we blessed our kind hostess, and fell into something like a slumber, when we were suddenly roused by the sound of trumpets, and warlike instruments, and the trampling of many horses, coming from afar, but approaching with rapidity. We all started up alarmed, and presently the group, perceiving, I imagine, through the ill-closed shutters, some light, stopped before the house, and battered the door and the window, demanding admission. We hesitated whether to remain or endeavour to conceal ourselves
but our admirable hostess bid us be still, while, calm herself, she opened the street door, where she parleyed with the party, cheerfully and without any appearance of fear, and told them she had no room for their accommodation, because she had given up even her own bed to some relations who were travelling, she gained from them an applauding huzza and their departure. She then informed us they were Polish lancers, and that she believed they were advancing to scour the country in favour of Bonaparte. She expressed herself an open 'and ardent loyalist for the Bourbons, but said she had no safety except in submitting, like all around her, to the stronger powers.
Again, by her persuasion, we sought to compose ourselves; but a second party soon startled us from our purpose, and from that time we made no similar attempt. I felt horrified at every blast of the trumpet, and the fear of being made prisoner, or pillaged, assailed me unremittingly.
At about five o'clock in the morning our carriages were at the door. We blessed our benevolent hostess, took her name and address, that we might seek some means of manifesting our gratitude, and then quitted Orchies. For the rest of our journey till we reached the frontiers, we were annoyed with incessant small military groups or horsemen; but though suspiciously regarded, we were not stopped. The fact is, the new government was not yet, in those parts, sufficiently organised to have been able to keep if they had been strong enough to detain us. But we had much difficulty to have our passports honoured for passing the frontiers ; and if they had not been so recently renewed at Amiens, I think it most probable our progress would have been impeded till new orders and officers were entitled to make us halt.
ARRIVAL AT TOURNAY.
Great, therefore, was our satisfaction when, through all these difficulties, we entered Tournay-where, being no longer in the lately restored kingdom of France, we considered ourselves to be escaped from the dominion of Bonaparte, and where we determined therefore to remain till we could guide our further proceedings by tidings of the plan and the position of Louis XVIII. We went to the most considerable inn, and all retired to rest which, after so much fatigue, mental and bodily, we required, and happily obtained. Page 328
The next day we had the melancholy satisfaction of hearing that Louis XVIII. also had safely passed the frontiers of his lost kingdom. As we were less fearful, now, of making inquiries, M. de Lally soon learnt that his majesty had halted at Lille, where he was then waiting permission and directions for a place of retreat from the King of Holland, or the Netherlands. But no intelligence whatsoever could we gain relative to the body-guards, and my disturbance increased, every moment.
There was far more commotion at Tournay than at any other town through which we passed; for as the people here were not under the French government, either old or new, they were not awed into waiting to know to which they should belong, in fearful passiveness : yet they had all the perplexity upon their minds of disquieting ignorance whether they were to be treated as friends or foes, since if Bonaparte prevailed they could not but expect to be joined again to his dominions. All the commotion, therefore, of divided interests and jarring opinions was awake, and in full operation upon the faculties and feelings of every Belgian at this critical moment.
FUTILE EFFORTS TO COMMUNICATE WITH M. D'ARBLAY.
The horror of my suspense relative to the safety and the fate of Monsieur d'Arblay reduced my mind to a sort of chaos, that makes it impossible to recollect what was our abode at Tournay. I can but relate my distress and my researches.
My first thought was to send a letter to my general at Lille, which if he was there would inform him of my vicinity, and if not, might perhaps find its way to his destination. At all events, I resolved only to write what would be harmless should it fall even into the hands of the enemy. I directed those few lines to M. le Chevalier d'Arblay, officier suprieur du garde du corps de sa majest Louis XVIII. But when I would have sent them to the post, I was informed there was no post then to Lille.
I then sought for a messenger, but was told that Lille was inaccessible. The few letters that were permitted to enter it were placed in a basket, the handle of which was tied to a long cord, that was hooked up to the top of the walls, and thence descended to appointed magistrates.
Vainly I made every effort in my power to avail myself Of this method, no one of my party, nor at the inn,,knew or Page 329
could indicate any means that promised success, or even a trial. Worn at length by an anxiety I found insupportable, I took a resolution to go forth myself, stranger as I was to the place, and try to get my letter conveyed to the basket, however difficult or costly might be its carriage. Quite alone, therefore, I sallied forth, purposing to find, if possible, some sturdy boy who would be glad of such remuneration as I could offer, to pass over to Lille.
Again, however, vain was every attempt. I entered all decent poor houses; sauntered to the suburbs, and entered sundry cottages; but no inquiry could procure either a man or a boy that would execute my commission. French was so generally known that I commonly made myself understood, though I only received a shake of the head, or a silent walking off, in return to my propositions. But in the end, a lad told me he thought he had heard that Madame la Duchesse de St. Agnes had had some intercourse with Lille. Delighted, I desired him to show me the house she inhabited. We walked to it together, and I then said I would saunter near the spot while he entered, with my earnest petition to know whether madame could give me any tidings of the king's body-guard. He returned with an answer that madame would reply to a written note, but to nothing verbal. I bid the boy hie with me to the inn; but as I had no writing tackle, I sent him forward to procure me proper implements at the stationer's.
How it happened I know not, but I missed the boy, whom I could never regain and I soon after lost my way myself.
In much perplexity I was seeking information which way to steer, when a distant sound of a party of horse caught my attention. I stopped. The sound approached nearer; the boys and idle people in the street ran forward to meet it, and presently were joined or followed by the more decent inhabitants. I had not the temerity to make one among them, yet my anxiety for news of any sort was too acute to permit me to retire. I stood therefore still, waiting for what might arrive, till I perceived some outriders galloping forward in the royal livery of France. Immediately after, a chariot and four with the arms of France followed, encircled by horsemen, and nearly enveloped by a continually increasing crowd, whence, from time to time, issued a feeble cry of "Vive le roi!" while two or three other carriages brought up the rear. With difficulty now could I forbear plunging into the midst of them, for my big expectations painted to me Louis XVIII. arrived Page 330
at Tournay, and my bigger hopes pictured with him his loyal guard. They had soon however passed by, but their straggling followers showed me their route, which I pursued till I lost both sight and sound belonging to them.
I then loitered for my errand boy, till I found myself, by some indications that helped my remembrance, near the spot whence I had started. . Glad, for safety's sake, to be so near my then home, though mourning my fruitless wandering, I hastened my footsteps; but what was my emotion on arriving within a few yards of the inn, to observe the royal carriage which had galloped past me, the horsemen, the royal livery and all the appearance that had awakened my dearest hopes' The crowd was dispersed, but the porter's lodge, or perhaps bookkeeper's, was filled with gentlemen, or officers in full uniform. I hurried on, and hastily inquired who it was that had just arrived. My answer was, the Prince de Cond.
A thousand projects now occurred to me for gaining intelligence from such high authority, but in the large courtyard I espied Madame d'Henin sauntering up and down, while holding by the arm of a gentleman I had never before seen. Anxious to avoid delay, and almost equally desirous to escape remonstrances on my enterprise, since I could listen only to my restless anxiety, I would have glided by unnoticed; but she called after me aloud, and I was compelled to approach her. She was all astonishment at my courage in thus issuing forth alone, I knew not where nor whither, and declared that I was mconnoissable; but I only answered by entreating her to inquire the names of some of the gentlemen just arrived, that I might judge whether any among them could give me the information for which I sighed.
No sooner did I hear that M. le Comte de Viomenil was of the number, than, recollecting his recent appointment at Paris, in conjunction with Victor de Maubourg, to raise volunteers for the king, I decided upon seeking him. Madame d'Henin would have given me some counsel, but I could not hear her; as I hurried off, however, the gentleman whose arm she held offered me his assistance in a tone and with a look of so much benevolence, that I frankly accepted it, and we sallied in search of a person known to me only by name. My stranger friend now saved me every exertion, by making every inquiry and led me from corridor to corridor, above, below, and to almost every apartment, asking incessantly if M. le Comte de Viomenil was not in the inn. Page 331
At length we learned that M. de Viomenil was dining quite alone in an upper chamber.
My kind-hearted conductor led me to the door of the room assigned, and then tapped at it; and on an answer of "entrez!" he let go my arm, and with a bow silently left me. I found M. de Viomenil at table : he said he could give no possible account of his majesty, save that he was at Gand, but that of the body-guard he knew positively nothing.
INTERVIEWS WITH M. DE CHATEAUBRIAND.
I afterwards learnt that my benevolent strange chevalier was no other than the celebrated M. de Chteaubriand.(271) I saw nothing more of him, save for a moment, when, in passing by a small staircase that led to my chamber, a door was suddenly opened, whence Madame d'Henin put out her head to invite me to enter, when she presented me to him and to Madame de Chteaubriand, a very elegant woman, but of a cold, reserved demeanour.
I expressed eagerly the pleasure I had experienced in seeing the author of " The Itinerary to Jerusalem," a work I had read in Paris with extraordinary interest and satisfaction ; but I believe the "Gnie du Christianisme," and perhaps the "Atala," were works so much more prized by that author as to make my compliment misplaced. However, I so much more enjoy the natural, pleasing, instructive, and simple, though ingenious style and matter of the " Itinerary " than I do the overpowering sort of heroic eloquence of those more popular performances, that the zest of dear hallowed truth would have been wanting had I not expressed my choice. The "Itinerary" is, indeed, one of the most agreeable books I know.
M. de Chteaubriand hung back, whether pleased or not,
with an air of gentlemanly serenity. I had opportunity for further effort : we left Tournay to proceed to Brussels, and heavy was my heart and my will to quit, thus in ignorance, the vicinity of Lille.
At the town at which we stopped to dine which, I think, was Atot, we again met M. et Madame de Chteaubriand. This was a mutual satisfaction, and we agreed to have our meal in common. I now had more leisure, not of time alone, but of faculty, for doing justice to M. de Chateaubriand, whom I found amiable, unassuming, and, though somewhat spoilt by the egregious flattery to which he had been accustomed, wholly free from airs or impertinent selfconceit. Excessive praise seemed only to cause him excessive pleasure in himself, without leading to contempt or scorn of others. He is by no means tall, and is rather thickset - but his features are good, his countenance is very fine, and his eyes are beautiful, alike from colour, shape, and expression ; while there is a striking benevolence in his look, tone of voice, and manner.
Madame de Chteaubriand also gained ground by farther acquaintance. She was faded, but not passe, and was still handsome, and of a most graceful carriage, though distant and uninviting. Her loftiness had in it something so pensive mixed with its haughtiness, that though it could not inspire confidence, it did not create displeasure. She possessed also a claim to sympathy and respect in being the niece of M. de Malesherbes, that wise, tender, generous, noble defender of Louis XVI.
The conversation during and after dinner was highly interesting. M. de Chteaubriand opened upon his situation with a trusting unreserve that impressed me with an opinion of the nobleness of his mind. Bonaparte had conceived against him, he said, a peculiar antipathy, for which various motives might be assigned: he enumerated them not, however, probably from the presence of his wife ; as his marriage with a niece of that martyr to the service of the murdered king, Louis XVI., I conclude to be at their head. The astonishing and almost boundless success of his works, since he was dissatisfied with his principles, and more than suspicious of his disaffection to the imperial government, must have augmented aversion by mixing with it some species of apprehension. I know not what were the first publications of M. de Chteaubriand, but they were in such high estimation Page 333
when first I heard him mentioned, that no author was more celebrated in France; when his "Martyres" came out, no other book was mentioned; and the famous critic Geoffroyq who guided the taste of Paris, kept it alive by criticisms of alternate praise and censure without end. "Atala," the pastoral heroic romance, bewitched all the reading ladies into a sort of idolatry of its writer, and scarcely a page of it remained unadorned by some representation in painting. The enthusiasm, indeed, of the draughtsmen and of the fair sex seemed equally emulous to place the author and the work at the head of celebrity and the fashion.
Of all this, of course, he spoke not - but he related the story of his persecution by Napoleon concerning his being elected a member of the French Institute. I was in too much disturbance to be able to clearly listen to the narrative, but I perfectly recollect that the censor, to soften Napoleon, had sent back the manuscript to M. de Chteaubriand, with an intimation that no public discourse could be delivered that did not contain an loge of the Emperor. M. de Chteaubriand complied with the ordinance; but whether the forced praise was too feeble, or whether the aversion was too insuperable, I know not : all that is certain is, that Napoleon, after repeated efforts from the Institute of reelection, positively refused to ratify that of M. de Chteaubriand.(272)
Another time a cousin of this gentleman was reputed to be engaged In a conspiracy against the emperor. M. de Chteaubriand solemnly declared he disbelieved the charge; and, as his weight in public opinion was so great, he ventured to address a supplique to Napoleon in favour of his kinsman; but the answer which reached him the following day was an account of his execution !
(248) Horne's"History of Napoleon."
(249) This portion of the Diary is not dated, but the meeting with the Duchess of Angoulme must have taken place in January or February, 1815. Madame d'Arblay had joined her husband in France, her son remaining at Cambridge.-ED.