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Title: Reminiscences of Prince Talleyrand, Volume I (of 2)
Author: Colmache, Édouard
Language: English
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[Illustration: ch. maurice de talleyrand]


REMINISCENCES OF PRINCE TALLEYRAND.

Edited from the Papers of the Late

M. COLMACHE,

Private Secretary to the Prince,

by

Madame Colmache.

In Two Volumes.

VOL. I.



London:
Henry Colburn, Publisher,
Great Marlborough Street.
1848.



PREFACE.


Prince Talleyrand has left a name in Europe perhaps the greatest ever
achieved by any man in France who has devoted himself exclusively to
the civil offices of the state. In the present century, he has become
as great a diplomatic authority as was Machiavelli in the sixteenth;
and hence the Hôtel Talleyrand, in the Rue St. Florentin, has been
regarded by every disciple of state-craft who has visited the French
capital, with perhaps as much veneration as the literary devotee
accords to the more humble abode at Stratford of the great master of
English poetry.

The brilliant career of so public a character as Prince Talleyrand
has necessarily become much canvassed, but up to the present time, no
account has been published of his private history, more particularly
of his early life. This, however, could only be written by some one
peculiarly in the Prince’s confidence, who possessed favourable
opportunities for studying his personal characteristics, and of
becoming acquainted with his first struggles, experiences, and
adventures.

The writer of this work enjoyed such opportunities in an eminent
degree, and was in the habit of noting down Talleyrand’s revelations
and recollections, which were from time to time imparted to him; and
the result, as now laid before the public, it will readily be allowed,
affords a more interesting portrait of this illustrious statesman
than has hitherto been given to the world. Very curious particulars
and scenes in Prince Talleyrand’s own career are combined with
extraordinary anecdotes of his contemporaries, and details are given
of private adventure and domestic habits, which, in a truly remarkable
and novel manner, illustrate the events of that great drama in which he
acted so conspicuous a part.



CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.


  CHAPTER I.
                                                               PAGE
  Talleyrand at Valençay                                          1


  CHAPTER II.

  Conduct of Talleyrand at the Revolution of 1830                46


  CHAPTER III.

  Seizure and Confinement of the Spanish Princes at Valençay     74


  CHAPTER IV.

  Cagliostro—Voltaire—The Marquis de J——                        122


  CHAPTER V.

  Childhood and Juvenile Years of Talleyrand                    168


  CHAPTER VI.

  Mirabeau—The Princess T——.—The Mayor of Valençay              214


  CHAPTER VII.

  Recollections of Early Life by Prince Talleyrand              260


  CHAPTER VIII.

  The Countess de la Motte, of Necklace Notoriety               307



  REMINISCENCES
  OF THE LATE
  PRINCE TALLEYRAND.



CHAPTER I.

TALLEYRAND AT VALENÇAY.


It was during the autumn of 18—, that, passing through Paris on my way
to the south of Europe, I ventured to pay my _visite de rigueur_ to
that hallowed shrine—that Mecca of all young diplomatists—the Hôtel
Talleyrand, in the Rue St. Florentin, to obtain, as it were, a blessing
and an imposition of hands from the high-priest of the diplomatic
craft, ere I ventured, novice and without guile as I then was, to put
forth on the unknown sea of politics. Perhaps there lingered in my mind
a latent hope of acquiring some new information concerning the hidden
rocks and shoals, the under-currents, which were not yet marked down
in the very imperfect chart at that time existing in my brain, and by
the aid of which I might, by steering aright, gain more quickly than my
colleagues the glorious port of ambassadorship.

I had once had the good fortune to form part of a company, assembled by
the owner of P—— House, to meet the Prince de Talleyrand, during the
very last Easter vacation which he had spent in England; so that it
was not as a complete stranger that I now ventured, all trembling and
awe-struck, to seek the presence of his excellency.

The hour was somewhat late for a morning visit, when I called at the
hotel; but I had been told by one who knew him well, that his hour
of _confidence_ and kindness, his hour of _benevolence_, in short,
was decidedly the one hour before dinner; and so already, even in the
smallest matter, beginning to move professionally, I had acted entirely
upon the strength of this friendly warning.

I was not disappointed; for I found the veteran diplomatist enjoying
the _otium cum dignitate_, after the fatigues of the day. He was
seated in his easy chair, reclining with that peculiarly easy grace
which, in spite of his lameness, characterized his every attitude and
movement. A bundle of newspapers lay upon the table before him; some
were scattered on the floor around; but he had evidently forgotten,
for the moment, the world and all its fretful politics, and was gazing
with fond affection at the gambols of his fair young niece, who was on
her knees upon the floor by his side, her arm resting upon the elbow of
his chair, teasing and provoking the large English spaniel, Carlo, the
delight of the prince, and his constant companion.

It would be difficult for a painter to imagine a scene more
interesting, or even more poetical, than the one which thus suddenly
presented itself to me. The long golden hair of the child fell forward
in a glittering shower, blending with the silvery masses which, to the
latest hour of his life, shaded in such luxuriant abundance the calm
brow of the prince; and, as he bent down over her, the contrast between
the fair and blooming face, animated as it was by the glow of youth and
the excitement of the game, with that cold, impenetrable countenance,
those fixed and marble features, was rendered yet more striking. It
was the dim immovable Past, seeking to interrogate the busy, smiling
Future; Old Time striving to detain one single rosy hour, and pausing
to gaze while yet the charm endured. There was, indeed, over the whole
scene a shadow of bygone times, which the graceful figure of that fair
girl alone seemed to attach to the Present.

The drawing-room into which I was ushered was noble and lofty, although
an _entresol_, and through the high casements the setting sun of autumn
poured in its rich and glowing beams, seeming to pause in fondness
over that scene, and, forgetting all besides, to linger there. Through
the arched vista of the Tuileries, late so green, but already bared of
foliage, the darkening sky gave token of the near approach of twilight,
and I could not help being struck with the fitness of the emblem.

I had leisure to contemplate the scene, for the low suppressed laughter
of the child, and the playful growling of old Carlo, had prevented
the announcement of my name from immediately reaching the ear of his
excellency, and it was not till I stood within a step or two of his
chair that he became aware of my presence. He then rose slightly,
leaning on his cane, and gave me that gracious and courtly welcome—a
reminiscence of the old _régime_—which neither his passage through the
revolutionary mire, nor even across the broad Atlantic, had been able
to mar. That bland and polished urbanity was the attribute of a race of
men of which he was the last representative, and of which we shall see
the like no more.

My conference with him was but short, and passed chiefly in inquiry
after the friends I had left; some few questions concerning my future
destination; an observation or two respecting the _chargé d’affaires_
at that time resident at the court to which I was bound; but nothing
further; and I, who had indulged in vague dreams of the treasures of
advice concerning my new career, to be gathered during this interview,
was just on the point of taking my leave, without having dared to
breathe a hint upon the subject which lay uppermost in my thoughts,
when, to my delight, amid the numberless kind things he uttered upon
the subject of my journey, he added, with a bland and courteous smile,
which from the old to the young so greatly enhances the value of the
kind speech, “Vous viendrez nous voir à Valençay?”

And then, as though he had reserved all his urbanity till the last,
acting upon his own principle of “always waiting to the end,” he told
me that he himself was on the point of hastening thither,—that I
should see him no more in Paris,—that the place would not be far out
of my road on my journey southwards; and the kindness of the tone, the
friendly glance with which the words were accompanied, left me no doubt
of their sincerity: so I accepted the invitation with the most joyful
alacrity, and, before we parted, he himself had fixed the day for our
meeting again—at Valençay!

At Valençay! Here, then, was I about to accomplish by a mighty stride,
to overleap by a single bound, many a weary league on the highway of
politics; and moreover, to gain ease for the remainder of the dusty
journey. So, with these pleasant illusions in my mind, it cannot be
wondered at if I rather hastened than retarded my movements. With a
heart beating high with expectation did I set forth on this pilgrimage.
It had been one of my day-dreams, which I was about to convert into
reality. I had so often longed to behold the great statesman in his
retirement, and now I was about to see him in his hours of leisure
and of _laisser-aller_, and to share with his chosen inmates all the
treasures of his rich and varied store of reminiscences!

I had heard that it was his great delight, when at Valençay, to call
up the spirits of the shadowy past, and that here he seemed to live
and breathe amongst them; that here he took no heed of to-day, or of
what might befal on the morrow; that his soul was with the past—his
thoughts were all of days gone by, and lingered not with the present.
By turns abiding amid the courtly saloons of the days previous to the
Revolution, he would tell of Madame de Boufflers and Marie Antoinette,
and of the _folle vie_ led by the young, when he, too, was in his
youth. Then the rude Conventional—the stern Republican—the warlike
figures of the Empire—the pale, dim Silhouettes of the Restoration,
would all arise, and pass in crowded array before his enchanted
audience; with such grace and truth, too, were they all endowed, that
sometimes the listener could believe that he had seen and heard the
like, and that he too had been of them and among them.

Valençay had ever been the favourite residence of the prince. It was
here that he had ever preferred seeking relief from the political
turmoil of the moment,—perhaps to repose after the fatigues of the last
struggle,—perhaps to gain fresh courage and vigour for that which, with
his unerring foresight, he knew to be inevitable. It was here that he
sought the rest which he sometimes needed—it is here that, by his own
desire, he now reposes for ever.

These are the reminiscences which must henceforth render Valençay one
of those few favoured spots, scattered here and there over the surface
of our dull earth, towards which fancy hurries on before, and where
Memory lingers long behind; places that shine out, amid the dulness of
this dreary world, with the bright lustre which the memory of the great
and good has shed around them, and which, to the traveller through the
land where they are found, become hallowed shrines, that it is scorn
and reproach to have visited the country without beholding.

In my case, and young as I then was, it is no wonder if I approached,
with feelings of almost undue reverence, the spot where dwelt the
last great statesman of the age—the last, at least, of that class
of men who, singlehanded and alone, could lead, by the very force
of their spirit, whole nations to think as they thought, and to act
as they directed. Imagination had indeed gone on long before, and
paused to await me at the gates of the Château of Valençay. Nor was
I disappointed on my first approach. It is a noble and stately pile,
well suited to the regal tastes and habits of him who at that time shed
additional lustre over its sumptuous retirement.

The dark forest, through which the road lies for many miles, gives a
grandeur to the scenery, of which this part of France is elsewhere
almost entirely devoid. The broad Moorish towers of the château are
seen for some time, alternately appearing, and then lost to sight,
until finally they form the termination of the splendid avenue de
Gâtines, through which they are beheld at a great distance, gradually
rising in the perspective, and seeming to increase in size as the
traveller draws near, with an effect almost magical. Nothing can be
finer or more original than the appearance of these far-famed towers,
which give to the building an air of oriental grandeur, perfectly
unique. They were built at different periods, the first one having
been added to the edifice, which at the time was already a mixture
of Gothic and _moyen age_ architecture, by M. de Luçay, on his return
from his travels in the East, and their broad shining domes, surmounted
by light gilt weathercocks, bring strangely to mind the mosques and
palaces of the Asiatic cities.

The approach to the château is particularly grand and magnificent,
being through an avenue of glorious old chestnut-trees, through
which, at the moment of my arrival, the long rays of the evening sun
were pouring, all aslant, over the green turf, making wide patches
of the soft grass appear all on flame, while the shadows thrown
between appeared black and mysterious from the contrast. The carriage
drove up the noble avenue de Gâtines. The gay postillions, with long
tricoloured ribbons fluttering in the wind, with plaited pigtail and
heavy jack-boots, cracking their whips, with loud halloo, to cheer
forward the wild, scampering, rope-harnessed horses, gave such an _air
de regence_ to the scene, that I could almost fancy myself, as I leaned
eagerly forward in the carriage, to be the hero of one of Marivaux’s
delightful novels, and to be some one of his dear ingenious Counts de
P., about to pay his first visit to some fascinating, rebellious,
unfaithful Marquise de F. or de N. Had such indeed been the case, I do
not think the said hero could have felt more alarmed and embarrassed
than I did during the few moments when the carriage, having turned into
the great gates, drove with stunning _fracas_ round the wide _cour
d’honneur_, and stopped at the princely _perron_ of the vestibule.

It was quite a relief to learn from the domestic, who conducted me,
through an endless labyrinth of staircases and corridors, to my room,
that the large party then assembled at the château had all dispersed
after the usual early dinner, and that the building was at the moment a
complete desert. Nothing could suit me better, for it gave me time to
collect all my scattered ideas, and to establish myself in the great
drawing-room, _receiving_ not _received_; and all timid juveniles know
well the full value of this difference. The view from the windows of
this room was magnificent. An ancient and heavy cloister, forming a
cool, shady piazza during the summer, and a dry and cheerful retreat
in winter, lay immediately without, and through each arch the varied
and rich landscape was enframed. The broad expanse of park, with its
dark belt of forest beyond, and the little town of Valençay, with the
Gothic spire of its church, and the white roofs glittering in the sun,
by turns appeared, as I moved on, like the images in a child’s magic
lantern.

In a short time, the various stragglers began to return from their
walks, and I was delighted when, among the very first persons who
greeted me, I recognised an old acquaintance, whom I had often seen in
society during the prince’s embassy in London. Those who have ever felt
the delight of finding an acquaintance in a strange land, and where we
had anticipated meeting none but strangers, will readily believe my joy
at being greeted in well-remembered accents by C., who became from that
moment a valued and precious friend, more so than many whom I had known
and loved from childhood, but who were now absent, and could afford
me no aid in encountering the mighty leviathan within reach of whose
tremendous jaws I seemed so thoughtlessly to have wandered.

With the kind assistance of this friend, however, I began, in a very
short time, to regain my confidence, and, before the creaking of
carriage-wheels upon the gravel without had announced the return of
the Prince from his evening drive, I had been _mis au courant_ of all
the _habitudes de la maison_, and the station and character of each
individual had been so fully laid down to me, that I now felt armed
with too much foreknowledge to dread any longer the ignorance and
inexperience which had so often been my worst enemies.

The room was wellnigh filled by the time the Prince had descended
from his carriage, and, preceded by old Carlo, barking and yelping,
had slowly traversed the wide vestibule. For such is the courtierlike
propensity of human nature, that, although no warning-bell had summoned
the different stragglers homeward, yet, by marvellous instinct, they
all seemed aware of the very moment of the prince’s return to the
château, and pressed eagerly to the saloon to receive him. There was a
general advance towards the door when the prince entered, leaning on
his gold-headed cane, and then the assembly divided in the midst, to
allow him to pass through, to gain his large fauteuil by the fire. This
movement gave an effect to his _entrée_, of indescribable interest.
Altogether, it was one of the prettiest pieces of small-court ceremony
I ever witnessed.

The conversation was carried on, for some little time, standing, the
company separating in small groups; but, when lights were brought, and
the prince had fairly taken his seat at the whist-table, the _salon_
began, though gradually, to clear. Some of the guests retired to rest,
in order to be abroad betimes on the morrow; some withdrew stealthily
by a side door, and presently the noise of feet and the clattering of
billiard-balls told plainly the reason of their absence; anon, another
group would disappear, and then I was sure that a faint odour of cigars
would blow in from the half-closed window. For me, I bravely resisted
every invitation to move from the seat wherein I had so comfortably
ensconced myself, being sufficiently occupied, this first evening, in
making myself familiar with all the actors in the scene going on around
me; and I was well repaid for my self-denial, for at that very moment
were assembled, in that old courtly saloon, some of the brightest
intellectual luminaries of the kingdom.

“You are fortunate,” exclaimed C., as he kindly came to take his
seat beside me, “in being a guest with some of our most remarkable
illustrations of the ancient _régime_—men who remain, few in number,
to tell the generation of our day what is meant by the ‘wits’ and
_beaux esprits_ of a period which, although not distant, yet seems
driven centuries back by the rapidity with which new eras, new
societies, and new dynasties have succeeded each other. For instance,”
continued he, “there is the Count de M.; I dare not call him the _old_
count, although, were age measured by years alone, he would certainly
be considered to have well earned the title. He is already past the
threescore years and ten fixed by the great Psalmist as the term of
man’s life, and yet here he is, more alive, more pungent, more racy
than ever. I know of no greater contrast than that which exists between
this man and our princely host.

“Look at them as they sit opposite to each other, both intent upon the
chances of the game; the one so calm and dignified, reflecting almost
tediously upon the card he ought to play; then placing it, slowly and
deliberately, upon the table. Watch him for ever so long a time, you
will detect no symptom of impatience, no gesture of disappointment, as
the tricks are carried from the board by his rival. But seldom, even
during a run of decided ill luck, have I seen him bite his pale lip
slightly and in silence. Now, look at the count: see with what bitter
merriment he shoves the cards towards his adversary—how the stinging
gibe, the acid _bon mots_ fall from his lips, each sufficient to ensure
success to a whole act of a modern vaudeville—how he grasps the cards
with impatient glee when they have fallen to his share—his keen eye
lighting up, and his tall, thin figure rising in his chair, while he
pours a burning torrent of witty pun and quolibet into the ear of his
neighbour. There is more life in that man, in spite of his years, and
the hard life he has led, than in a dozen of the poor, stunted _jeunes
Frances_ who surround him.

“The prince and M. are like two schoolboys, hating, dreading each
other, yet each one feeling that the presence of the other is needed
to bring out his own value; they are steel and flint, by turns giving
and receiving blows, and sending up sparks which dazzle the listener
and hold him entranced. The one, cold and reflective, could crush his
tormentor, were he but allowed time and opportunity; while the other,
by his great presence of mind, never at fault, and his brilliant and
pungent satire, will sometimes cause his _friend_ to writhe, even
while he bears the same placid countenance and the same calm smile.

“An instance of the count’s readiness at repartee,” continued
my friend, “occurred this very day at dinner. The prosy old
dowager-duchess down yonder, with the lavender satin and the marabout
head-gear, had been descanting most lengthily upon her genealogy,
during the greater part of the repast. Everybody was yawning most
mournfully, and there were certain symptoms in the brilliant hawk’s-eye
of M., which told to all who knew him that he was waiting with
impatience for a pounce. The opportunity was not long in presenting
itself. The poor old duchess, by dint of twaddling on undisturbed,
had arrived at the period preceding the revolutionary war—‘At which
time,’ said she, ‘some of our family emigrated to Canada, where a
branch remains to this very day. I have a cousin there who writes to me
sometimes. Her name is _Mousseline_—a curious name, is it not, count?”
appealing to M., whose eyes were fixed upon her with foul intent.

“‘Not at all,’ returned he, quickly, ‘_I_ have a cousin called
_Batiste_, _you_ have one called _Mousseline_;—rien de plus simple!’

“Of course, the whole table was convulsed with laughter. The one object
was gained; the prosy old duchess was silenced for the rest of the
dinner, and M., elated by his triumph, was more brilliant and witty
than ever. He has made a bitter enemy; but what cares he so long as the
old proser does not inflict her _ennuyeux bavardage_ upon him while she
remains. Of this there is no fear, for I overheard her servant mention
that her carriage must be ready to depart to-morrow. Life is too short,
according to M.’s declaration, to waste it in listening to other
people’s _mauvaise prose_.’

“The career of the Count M—— has been, like that of most of the men of
note of his own time, checkered with startling gleams of light, with
fearful intervals of darkness; but his ready wit and great tact have
made him float to this very hour upon the surface of politics, while
many of his contemporaries, with infinitely more talent, and certainly
more principle, have sunk to rise no more. The man’s very life has
been, for years past, even to his most intimate friends, a complete
mystery. _They_ only know that he is ruined. He has been beggared more
than once even during the time that I have known him, but has always
risen again, more brilliant and more sparkling than ever. His fire
seems, verily, unquenchable, for it bursts forth from amid the ashes
with which poverty and humiliation would fain seek to smother it, and
burns with a brighter glow after each fruitless endeavour that his
enemies have made to extinguish it altogether.

“‘_Mon pauvre ami!_’ said one of his _roué_ friends to him, after one
of the many tornadoes to which, during his life he had been exposed—an
execution in his house, and his horses all sold—‘_mon pauvre ami—que te
reste-t-il?_’

“‘_Moi!_’ exclaimed the count, as he turned away, with light, buoyant
step and smiling countenance. In less than a year he was again
_remonté_, in full credit and full success; his house, as before, the
resort of all that was gay and brilliant in the metropolis—himself
again the oracle of a wide and fashionable circle. The answer and
the result, display the character of the man better than whole pages
of written biography could do. His faith lies in his own capacity
for turning to account the weakness of others, and never has it been
deceived.”

“Who is the tall, thin adversary of the count?” said I, struck
with the appearance of the person, as he turned and spoke in a low
confidential tone to the prince.

“Oh, that is the Count de F.,” said my friend, “the antiquated beau of
Parisian high life. He is the same gay philanderer, the same favoured
swain, the object of as many fluttering sighs and tender regrets, as
he was thirty years ago, when he was in his prime, or forty years ago,
when he was young. Some people have affixed a nearer relationship
between him and the prince than the latter has ever chosen to avow. Be
this as it may, the count, whether from this cause, or from the number
of years which he has spent in the friendship and society of the Prince
de Talleyrand, has imbibed much of his ready wit and cold, sarcastic
philosophy, and displays them sometimes at the expense of others, with
the same reckless disregard of feelings or _amour propre_. His victims
are numerous, but they too are sometimes fully revenged by the prince,
with whom he cannot vie, in spite of the florid wit and forked satire
in which he will indulge.

“The poor count had well nigh been overwhelmed, sunk for ever, on one
occasion, by a witticism of Talleyrand’s, which spread over Paris in
an incredibly short space, and filled the heart of the poor old dandy
with gall and bitterness. The prince had always rallied the count most
unmercifully upon his absurd pretensions to youth and gallantry, and
yet, in spite of this, so great is the infatuating effect of love, that
the latter was foolish and unguarded enough to mention, with great
mystery, a new conquest which he had made, and upon which he piqued
himself not a little. This time it was a lady of talent, rank, and
fashion, and he wished most particularly to _keep_ his conquest, now
that he had so fairly won it. It was just at the period of the new
year, and _étrennes_ were flying in every direction.

“‘I should like to give the lady of my heart something that would
please her,’ said the count; ‘do assist me, prince; what can I procure
that would be most rare—something unique of its kind—something that is
but seldom seen, and of which the like could not be brought to her from
anybody else.’

“The prince appeared to reflect for a moment, and the count waited
impatiently for the answer.

“‘I have it—I have it,’ at length exclaimed the prince, joyfully.

“‘What? tell me quickly, I will go this moment and procure it.’

“‘No need to stir,’ returned the prince, drily; ‘give her one of the
hairs of your head—if you can;—it must indeed be a thing unique of its
kind, and of which none could bring her the fellow.’

“This allusion to the baldness of the antiquated Adonis was
irresistible; the _bon mot_ was sure to be remembered wherever he
appeared, and for a long time it drove him from the society of those
who had heard it. It was only when he had _proved_ the reality of his
pretensions, by the splendid marriage which he made soon afterwards,
that he regained confidence, and once more appeared as you now behold
him, more soft and Cupid-like, more captivating, and more _papillonant_
than ever.

“The guest, who sits opposite to him, his partner in the game, is the
celebrated Royer Collard, perhaps, saving our host, the best specimen
of the _ancien régime_ now existing in the country. As Talleyrand may
be taken as type of the old French nobleman, so may Royer Collard be
admitted as specimen of the ancient French gentleman. It is a pleasure
to look upon that man, and behold in his calm, open eye, and his
broad expanse of forehead, denoting at once the union of genius and
benevolence, a perfect corroboration of all the good which one has
heard from all parties concerning him. Throughout every change and form
of government under which he has been called into action, he has been
remarkable for his inflexible integrity. No swerving—no deviation—no
compromise—but straight-forward has he marched, without flinching,
in the path which he had chosen. It was he who applied to Guizot the
epithet which it is said so diverted the king. ‘_Austère intrigant!_’
exclaimed he, when he heard that Guizot had again accepted office,
after his expressed determination not to act with the then existing
government. The _mot_ flew from mouth to mouth, and, whether correct or
not, was at least _successful_, which is everything in Paris.

“I firmly believe Royer Collard to be a true and disinterested friend
of the prince. In Paris, they live much together; scarcely a single
day being suffered to pass without his paying his visit at the Hôtel
Talleyrand. Perhaps he is the only person amid the crowd by whom the
prince is surrounded, in whom the latter places perfect reliance,
because, with his keen judgment and great knowledge of human nature,
he knows well enough that he is the only one with whom interest will
yield to friendship.

“Of course,” proceeded my friend C., “the château is sometimes visited,
like every other château in the kingdom, by all the ‘_fâcheux_’ and the
‘_importuns_’ of the country round, and the prince, being in a more
elevated position than his neighbours, has also more than their share
of hospitality to bestow. Just observe yonder old gentleman with the
powdered head, looking over M.’s cards, with a knowing air. That is
a near neighbour of the prince, to whom he is compelled by policy to
do the honours of the house. It is impossible to behold a better type
of the ‘Berrichon,’ whom their own George Sand has so aptly described
as ‘_moitié ours, moitié mouton_.’ His estate joins that of Valençay;
part of it can be seen from the windows of the gallery of the château,
and, on looking thence the other day, he exclaimed to the Count de M.,
who was admiring it, ‘_Mon Dieu, comte!_ just think: if I had only had
the misfortune to lose my father last year, I might have bought all
the land right away to the left, and made the place worth having!’
A whole written volume could not paint the Berrichon character more
clearly than this single speech. It is verily believed, that were the
thing permitted by law, the Berrichon would throw his own children into
the balance, if it were necessary to complete a good bargain in the
disposal of his sheep.

“You would be much diverted were you to witness all the intriguing
and manœuvring that is going forward among the _propriétaires_ and
_gentilâtres_ of this part of the country, to gain admission here. This
château is looked upon with wonder and awe, and its broad bastions and
Moorish towers are fabled through the province to contain more dark
secrets and more hidden mysteries than ever were confided to the grim
keeping of the Bastile or the Seven Towers. A short time ago, the Mayor
of C., a large town of this province, at some little distance from
this, was invited by the prince to dine at the château, and, as the
roads were bad, and the nights without moon, he was courteously asked
to delay his return home until the following morning. You may imagine
the sudden increase of importance, the sudden puffing of pride, with
which the worthy mayor accepted the invitation, and also the parting
injunctions of _madame son épouse_, to bring back to her and her
daughters the long history of all the wondrous deeds which were going
forward inside those aristocratic walls—a sealed mystery which, from
their own experience, they knew that they could never hope to solve.

“It so happened that, on the very morning of the day so rife with
expectation to the poor mayor, Comte Molé had arrived at Valençay.
Nothing could be more propitious, and the worthy official rubbed his
hands with glee, at the thought of the immense information he should
gain, by listening to the conversation of two such distinguished
politicians—of the awful importance of his position with regard to his
colleagues at the _conseil_ at home—of the delight and pride of his
ambitious wife, while she listened to the detail of all her husband had
heard concerning the secret affairs of the nation; in short, the honest
_bourgeois_ felt, from the very moment of his arrival, that tremulous,
uncertain kind of emotion (one hardly knows whether to call it pain or
pleasure), which precedes in most minds the realization of some dream
which has long been nursed and fostered with great care.

“Dinner passed away; the honest functionary, all eyes and ears to what
was going forward, listened intently on every side to catch the least
significant observation which should fall, either from the lips of his
host or of the illustrious guest. But it was in vain he strained his
hearing, listening so intently that his neighbour was once or twice
compelled to remind him of the dish before him; not a word of politics
was breathed during the whole repast; and when once, during a short
silence which occurred, he ventured, in a timid voice, to ask the
prince if he thought the Belgian monarchy would be of long duration,
he was merely answered by a request to take more champagne, and the
conversation once more resumed its light and frivolous tone. Wit there
was in abundance; sparkling showers, and bold satire, and learning too;
but the ‘_maire de son endroit_’ cared not for all the good things
which were flying past him from one end of the table to the other, and
convulsing every listener with bursts of hearty laughter; he smiled
not, poor man, but rather sat lost in painful wonder, that the great
ones of the earth should thus lose the precious hours in idle bantering
and unseemly mirth! But he hoped that, once in the _salon_, the
conversation might at length fall into a more serious and profitable
vein, and he had already taken his place close to the prince,
determined to catch each syllable that fell from his lips when Count
Molé approached. This he felt sure would happen; of course it could not
chance otherwise. At length, Count Molé approached, and leant over the
back of the prince’s chair. He spoke, in the very ear of the prince, a
confidential whisper, which the mayor heard, however, distinctly, so
close had he drawn to the illustrious friends.

“‘Prince,’ said the count, ‘have you forgotten old times and all our
fierce encounters? Come, and renew our skill at billiards in the next
room; it will make us both all the younger by twenty years!’

“Billiards! the Prince de Talleyrand play at billiards! it could not
be; he should have imagined that his lameness would have saved him
from _that_. Yet so it was; the Prince de Talleyrand _did_ play at
billiards; and, in spite of his lameness, was considered one of the
most expert players of his day; and so the poor mayor sat the long
evening through, discomfited and unhappy, with nothing to tell his
wife, and nothing to report to the town council when next it should
meet. The disappointment was almost too bitter to be borne.

“Hope, however, did not desert him. He well knew that the prince
and his noble guest could not play at billiards the whole night, so
he sat awhile waiting with patience, until they should grow tired of
the game, and return to the fireside. And they _did_ return as he had
foreseen, and they _did_ seat themselves comfortably, one on each
side of the chimney. ‘Now will they discuss their latest protocols,’
thought the little mayor, as he rubbed his hands in glee. No; the
prince was in high spirits, for he had won at billiards. The count was
in high spirits too, for he declared he had _let_ him win; and the
whole conversation was engrossed by the discussion—eternal thrust and
parry—attack and _repartee_—which had so worried the mayor at dinner,
and of which he could not at all see the wit—not he.

“‘At last he was growing quite beside himself, when the prince arose;
which action was the signal that the _soirée_ was concluded, and that
the different guests were free to retire. Yet he had not heard one
single word of politics! What would he have to say at the _conseil_?
What could he tell his wife? _She_ would greet him with reproaches on
his return home, and would say that such introductions to the great
were of little use, unless he knew better how to profit by them; for
he felt that, were he to talk till doomsday, he never should be able
to persuade her that he had heard not one word of politics. She would
accuse him of having napped, as he always did, and always would do,
despite her admonition.

“Well; the guests all withdrew, our excellent mayor among the number;
but, as he passed the screen down yonder at the door, upon turning back
to take a wistful glance at the blazing hearth, he perceived the count
reseat himself in the great arm-chair which he had quitted but for an
instant, and the prince ensconced once more in the one he had occupied
all the evening; he saw the latter draw forward a little _gueridon_
which stood near, place upon it a roll of papers which he took from his
pocket, and pointing to them, he heard him say to the count—‘You see we
have _besogne_ enough before us. I hope you are not sleepy?’

“The curiosity, the ambition, the _amour propre_ of the poor mayor were
all roused, and, forgetting the risk he was about to incur—in short,
forgetting all but the opportunity of retrieving lost time—he slid
himself into a chair which stood most invitingly near the door, in the
shadow of the screen, and prepared to listen with due attention. There
was a pause, however, during which the prince rose slightly in his
chair, to reach down one of the flambeaux from the mantel-piece. The
mayor stretched forward eagerly, when his horror may be guessed; for
instead of unrolling the mysterious budget, the prince turned to the
count, and said, ‘Before we begin upon this business, let us conclude
the affair we were speaking of before dinner. I am sorry that you have
reason to suspect the disaffection of the municipal council of our
town; if so, I think your are quite right to have it remodelled. Whom
did you say you would like to replace the mayor?’

“The functionary started, and uttered a deep groan, which no doubt
prevented him from hearing the count’s answer; but the prince again
spoke, and asked his friend what he thought of the present one. Of
course, the answer was most humiliating for the poor victim, telling
of apparent inaptitude for the office, of his impertinent familiarity,
and of his eager, inconvenient curiosity—until the unfortunate actually
writhed with the pain each word inflicted.

“When the unwelcome harangue was concluded, the prince arose to take
a caraffe of water from the console. The poor mayor was in an awful
fright, for the action brought the prince immediately opposite to where
he sat, trembling and perspiring from head to foot. The prince poured
the water into a tumbler and drank it off, and was about retiring to
his seat, when his eye fell upon the figure of the poor little mayor,
who would gladly at that moment have been a hundred feet below the
earth.

“‘Ah! Monsieur L.!’ exclaimed he, ‘why, in the name of Heaven, have
you been thus neglected? Ring, M. de Molé, here is our worthy friend
L. actually freezing behind the screen, while waiting for some one to
conduct him to his chamber. _Mille pardons_, Monsieur L., for this
extraordinary neglect on the part of the servants.’

“The valet-de-chambre appeared.

“‘Conduct Monsieur L., immediately to his chamber,’ said the prince,
significantly, ‘and see that the like forgetfulness never happens again
with any of the visitors to this house. _Bon soir_, M. le Maire, _bonne
nuit, et dormez bien_!’

“The trembling culprit hurried off without uttering a word, so great
was his confusion, and departed the next morning at daybreak for his
own home.

“It is needless to say that the story of his removal from office was
a hoax. The prince, in rising to reach the light from the chimney,
had descried, in the looking glass, the shadow of a figure on the
opposite wall. His quick perceptions enabled him at once to guess to
whom it belonged, from remembrance of the mayor’s uneasy curiosity,
and indiscreet listening to all that passed during dinner, and he felt
determined to punish the mean and cowardly listener. A wink at the
count was sufficient; _he_ was not one to refuse a hint, and together
they thus fooled the victim to their heart’s content. The story got
abroad, and created great laughter throughout the whole country, and,
as might be expected, the little Mayor of C. was ere long caricatured,
pamphleted, and paragraphed into resigning, and it was only then that
he was allowed to live in peace, and to forget his fatal visit to
Valençay.”

As my friend concluded his story, the whist-table broke up, and the
prince rising, moved towards the fire, where we were seated, and took
the arm-chair which was always reserved for him. I must confess that
at that identical moment I could enter into the feelings of the worthy
Mayor of C., for I, too, longed for the moment when he would expand,
and share with us some of the varied riches of anecdote with which his
mind was stored.

It needed but a single spark to fire the train: the prince was _en
verve_ that evening, and I verily believe a whole volume might be
filled with the bare leaves and cuttings of the “Flowers of Rhetoric,”
with which he charmed us. If he did not possess, like the antique poet
of Dante’s vision, the power of carrying us into the nether regions,
his charm was greater still; for with a beck he conjured up the shadows
he wished us to behold, and made them pass in long array before us.
One or two of the anecdotes I will relate, for the benefit of my
readers, but they must not expect to find one jot of the _manner_ of
the narrator—the piquancy, the _verve_, the irresistible charm which
made the Prince de Talleyrand avowedly the first story-teller of his
day. If I can give but a faint idea of the style of conversation which
enlivened the long evenings of autumn beneath the princely domes of
Valençay, it will be as much as I can hope to accomplish, for the
very warmth and vivacity of the prince’s manner of relating renders
it impossible to repeat his words, and memory fails to retrace the
fairy chain by which imagination was so sportively held captive and
enthralled.

The conversation had turned upon bonnie Scotland, and the prince, amid
many regrets at his inability to visit the land where dwelt so many of
his best friends, expressed much curiosity respecting divers usages and
customs of the Scotch, some of which are so unlike those of any other
nation on the face of the globe. Among other things, he said he had
ever felt an eager desire to witness an example of second sight, and
asked me many questions concerning this extraordinary gift; to which
I was happily enabled to answer in a satisfactory manner, from having
heard in my own family of many illustrations of this peculiarity,
all witnessed and backed by the evidence of sundry old nurses and
attendants, who had been for ages in the family, and of course believed
without inquiry. My poor anecdotes, rough and uncouth as they were,
seemed to interest the company—this kind of superstition being a thing
unknown among the French, who, if they are gifted with the most florid
wit, have certainly the driest imaginations of any people in Europe.

“Somnambulism, and the waking sleep, might account for the origin of
such a wild belief,” said one of the company.

“Or the faculty of fixing the mind with straining energy on one point,”
said another.

“Or, perhaps the sudden light—the quick, vivid flash, which reveals to
some strong and powerful minds the POSSIBLE, the TRUE,” said the prince.

“I remember,” continued he, “upon one occasion having been gifted for
one single instant, with this unknown and nameless power. I know not to
this moment whence it came; it has never once returned; and yet, upon
that one occasion it saved my life; without that sudden and mysterious
inspiration, I should not now be here to tell the tale. I had freighted
a ship in concert with my friend Beaumetz. He was a good fellow,
Beaumetz, with whom I had ever lived on the most intimate terms; and,
in those stormy times, when it needed not only friendship to bind men
together, but almost godlike courage to dare to show that friendship, I
could not but prize most highly all his bold and loyal demonstrations
of kindness and attachment to me. I had not a single reason to doubt
his friendship; on the contrary, he had given me on several occasions
most positive proofs of his sincere devotion to my interests and
well-being. We had fled from France together, we had arrived at New
York together, and together we had lived in perfect harmony during
our stay there. So, after having resolved upon improving the little
money that was left us by speculation, it was still in partnership and
together that we freighted a small vessel for India, trusting all to
the goodly chance which had befriended us in our escape from danger and
from death, to venture once more _together_ to brave the storms and
perils of a yet longer and more adventurous voyage.

“Everything was embarked for our departure; bills were all paid and
farewells all taken, and we were waiting for a fair wind with most
eager expectation—being prepared to embark at any hour of the day
or night, in obedience to the warning of the captain. This state of
uncertainty seemed to irritate the temper of poor Beaumetz to an
extraordinary degree, and, unable to remain quietly at home, he hurried
to and from the city, with an eager, restless activity which at times
excited my astonishment, for he had ever been remarkable for great
calmness and placidity of temper.

“One day, he entered our lodging, evidently labouring under great
excitement, although commanding himself to appear calm. I was engaged
at the moment, writing letters to Europe, and, looking over my
shoulder, he said with forced gaiety, ‘What need to waste time in
penning those letters? they will never reach their destination. Come
with me, and let us take a turn on the Battery; perhaps the wind may be
chopping round; we may be nearer our departure than we imagine.’

“The day was very fine, although the wind was blowing hard, and I
suffered myself to be persuaded. Beaumetz, I remembered afterwards,
displayed an unusual officiousness in aiding me to close my desk and
put away my papers, handing me, with hurried eagerness, my hat and
cane, and doing other little services to quicken my departure, which at
the time I attributed to the restless desire for change, the love of
activity, with which he seemed to have been devoured during the whole
period of our delay.

“We walked through the crowded streets, to the Battery. He had seized
my arm, and hurried me along, seemingly in eager haste to advance.
When we had arrived on the broad esplanade, the glory then, as now, of
the city of New York, Beaumetz quickened his step yet more, until we
arrived close to the water’s edge. He talked loud and quickly, admiring
in energetic terms the beauty of the scenery, the Brooklyn Heights,
the shady groves of the island, the ships riding at anchor, and the
busy scene on the peopled wharf; when suddenly he paused in his mad,
incoherent discourse, for I had freed my arm from his grasp, and stood
immovable before him. Staying his wild and rapid steps, I fixed my
eyes upon his face. _He turned aside, cowed and dismayed._ ‘Beaumetz,’
I shouted, ‘_you mean to murder me_—you intend to throw me from the
height into the sea below. Deny it, monster, if you can!’

“The maniac stared at me for a moment, but I took especial care not
to avert my gaze from his countenance, and he quailed beneath it. He
stammered a few incoherent words, and strove to pass me, but I barred
his passage with extended arms. He looked vacantly right and left, and
then flung himself upon my neck and burst into tears. ‘’Tis true—’tis
true, my friend. The thought has haunted me day and night, like a flash
from the lurid fire of hell. It was for this I brought you here. Look,
you stand within a foot of the edge of the parapet—in another instant,
the work would have been done!’

“The demon had left him; his eye was still unsettled, and the white
foam stood in bubbles on his parched lips; but he was no longer tossed
by the same mad excitement under which he had been labouring so long,
for he suffered me to lead him home without a single word. A few days’
repose and silence, bleeding and abstinence, completely restored him to
his former self, and, what is most extraordinary, the circumstance was
never mentioned between us. My FATE was at work. It was during those
few days of watching by the bedside of poor Beaumetz, that I received
the letters from France which announced to me the revocation of the
decree which had sent me a wanderer to America. The _Directoire_ had
relented, and I was invited to return with all speed. I sought not to
resist the appeal, and at once decided on leaving Beaumetz to prosecute
our speculation alone, and on returning to Paris immediately.

“The blow was cruel to poor Beaumetz, who was fully persuaded, I have
no doubt, that it was in dread of another attack on his part that
I had now the wish to leave him. No argument I could make use of,
no assurances of unchanged friendship, could shake his opinion, and
our parting was a most stormy and painful one. I made over to him my
interest in the ship which we had freighted together, and he departed
for India, while I bent my course once more towards my _belle France_.

“Once more in a position to assist my friends, my first thought was
of Beaumetz, and one of my first acts was the cancelling of his
death-warrant. I wrote to him to announce the joyful news, addressing
my letter to the merchant at Calcutta to whom he had been recommended.
In due time, receiving no answer, I wrote again; but my letters were
returned, with the information that the ship, which had sailed from
New York some months before, and of which M. Beaumetz was supercargo,
had not arrived, that no tidings had been received of its fate, and
that great fears were entertained of its total loss. The apprehension
was justified, _for from that day to this no tidings have ever been
received of the ship, nor, alas! of my poor friend Beaumetz!_”

The prince paused a moment, seeming to collect his sad remembrances of
Beaumetz, and I could not but admire the singular good fortune which
had caused him to abandon his voyage to India. How different might
have been the fate of France, nay, of Europe, had he sailed in that
ship! Well may he have gained among his friends the title of “Fortune’s
master!”

“But what was really the motive of your first suspicion of the
murderous intent of Beaumetz?” said one of the company.

“I know not to this very hour,” replied the Prince de Talleyrand;
“it was not his eye, for I was not looking at him at the moment, I
was gazing at the sublime view which he himself was pointing out to
my notice;—it was not in the tone of his voice either, in which lay
the warning of my danger; it was a sudden and mysterious impulse for
which I have never been able to account—one of those startling and
fearful mysteries which even the strongest minds are contented to
accept without inquiry, being satisfied that such things are, and never
daring to ask wherefore. Many persons, the _Illuminés_ for example, who
ruled the _monde philosophique_ for so long a period, have ascribed
this sudden revelation of the hidden TRUTH entirely to the effects
of magnetism, and there are instances well known, wherein the great
masters of the art have been able to produce the same effect at
pleasure. Cagliostro, to whom I once mentioned the circumstance, had
often obtained the same results by his wonderful powers of magnetism.”

“What, _mon prince_, have you ever seen Cagliostro?” exclaimed the fair
Duchess de V., raising her head from her tapestry frame, and gazing
into the prince’s face, with an amusing expression of wonder and of awe.

“Ay, that have I,” returned the prince, gravely; “often have I seen
him, fair lady, and am not of those who condemn him at once, without
examination, unthinkingly, as an impostor; for the man _believed_
himself: no wonder, then, that he could so easily persuade others.”

“Oh, now, do tell us something about this Cagliostro!” exclaimed the
young duchess, shaking back her fair ringlets, as she leant eagerly
forward, and laid her white and jewelled hand upon the elbow of the
prince’s chair; “do tell us all about your interview with the famous
magician; but mind, tell us the truth. Where did he live?—how did he
look?—what did he wear?”

“Nay,” returned the prince, smiling, “were I to tell all I know
concerning him, my story would not be done till to-morrow night, at
this same hour.”

We all involuntarily followed the direction of his gaze towards the
clock upon the mantelpiece. Alas! the hand was wearing round, and stood
within a very few minutes of the hour of one.

“We must defer the story of Cagliostro’s wonders till another time,”
said he, “but you shall not lose by waiting. _Vous n’y perdrez rien,
madame._ But you shall sleep _this_ night at least in peace; which you
might never do again should you happen to _believe_! So, messieurs,
_bonne nuit—à demain_.”

He arose. Of course the whole assembly followed the movement, and in a
few moments each one had retired.

My chamber was in one of the turrets which form the corner towers of
the château, and, by a most singular piece of good fortune, I found
that it was close to that of my friend. We lingered some few minutes,
taper in hand, upon the threshold, and, with his usual kindness, C.
proposed to me, as he took his leave for the night, to conduct me
through the château and grounds on the morrow.

“We are all independent here,” said he; “you must not feel surprised
if you are left to cater for your own amusement until dinner, for
each one does what is right in his own eyes, and the morrow’s plans
are determined on before night; so that interlopers must necessarily
be excluded, for the first day at least. But you shall not be quite
abandoned; I will be with you betimes in the morning, and we shall have
ample occupation for a long day, in wandering over the beauties of this
place, which must some day become one of the most celebrated spots in
our country.”

He left me, and I soon sank to sleep, dreaming of all I had seen and
heard, and with anticipations, too, of what more I was to see and hear
before I took my departure from Valençay.



CHAPTER II.

CONDUCT OF TALLEYRAND AT THE REVOLUTION OF 1830.


It will be readily believed that I needed no arousing on the morrow.
In spite of my weary journey, and the late hour of retiring to rest,
I was up and _sur pied_ long before my friend had left his chamber.
The morning was beautiful, and from my window it was pleasant to watch
the departure of the hounds and sportsmen from the court-yard to the
green forest. For my part, however, I felt no envy, but rather stood
wondering that people endowed with the sense of hearing could endure
with patience the eternal twang of the _cor de chasse_, of all sounds,
I verily believe, the most fatiguing and abominable.

I went down to await C. upon the green _pelouse_ which lay so
invitingly before my window, and I paused to look up with interest
at the broad frontage of the château, which lay in the light of the
morning sun, whose beams, reflected on the shining domes of the huge
Moorish towers, made the whole building bring to mind some rich and
sumptuous palace of the Levant. It was the delight of the prince to
say that “many were the seigneurs of the country who could put forth
the old feudal boast of _pignon sur rue_, and _donjon sur roche_, but
that it was reserved for him to display the broad flanking towers of
the Turkish seraï or Moorish generalife. It was not long before I was
aroused from my gaze of admiration by my friend, who came bounding
over the grass to meet me. He smiled as he beheld the reverential look
I fixed upon the window which he had pointed out as belonging to the
chamber of the prince, where the drawn curtains and closed _jalousies_
announced the profound repose in which its inmate was still buried.

“You are like the rest of the world,” said he, taking my arm. “I know
that at this moment you are nursing all kinds of fancies, the one more
absurd and ‘_banal_’ than the other, concerning the old diplomate’s
sleeping visions, which already I have seen compared in one of your
newspapers to the ‘slumbers of the rattlesnake, or the solitary
dreamings of the hyæna waiting for his prey, and sure that it cannot
escape his cruel jaws.’ Nothing,” continued he, “can be more unjust
than the opinions, formed in England of the extreme cunning of the
character of Prince Talleyrand, of the far sight of his self-interest,
of his habitual deception. They add another example to the many on
record of most extraordinary popular delusions. No man was ever perhaps
more influenced by the circumstances of the moment, and less resolved
upon the course he would pursue until the time arrived for action,
than the prince. The conduct which he pursued during the events of the
revolution of July has fully proved this, and, when you and I have time
and privacy, I think I could win you over to my opinion.”

“And why not at this moment?” said I. “The occasion is among the best.
We are alone, and scarcely likely to be interrupted; and, while we
wander across the park, I can listen with as much attention as though
we were closeted together in the most silent chamber of the château.”

C. took my arm and moved forward.

“I can but give you my own impressions concerning the opinions of
Prince Talleyrand during the eventful struggle of the three days,” said
he; “but you may rely upon the truth of my statement of the _facts_
which took place upon that occasion. I was present with him during the
whole time, an eye-witness to the various emotions by which he was
governed, and could judge, as far as my own powers of observation went,
of the divers motives by which he was actuated.”

As such, I give my friend’s opinions to the reader, begging him to
remember that they are those of one who knew Prince Talleyrand well,
who had been admitted to his intimacy for many years before his death,
and that they may be of value, as furnishing the interpretation of many
things hitherto problematical.

“Many people,” continued my friend, “have been led by the political
writers of the day into error, concerning the real causes of the
revolution of July; they are eager to represent the courage and
patriotism displayed by the liberal party on that occasion of sudden
and spontaneous explosion of popular fury, as the effect of a
deeply-laid plot, conceived for many months before; and they seek to
impress the public with a false idea of the diplomacy of the _chefs de
parti_ in the triumphs of the three days. Another idea which has become
as general is, that the statesman who had played so conspicuous a part
in all our revolutions, from that of 1789 to that of 1830, and had
lent with such good grace to each successive government the aid of his
splendid talents—whose word, indeed, seemed to decide upon their very
existence—was no stranger to the struggles and intrigues which ended in
the downfal of Charles X., and the banishment of his dynasty from the
soil of France. Without pretending here either to condemn or justify
the conduct pursued by Prince Talleyrand under other governments, and
which history, freed by time from party spirit and from political
passion, will alone be able to judge with equity, let us examine coolly
the part he took in the revolution of July. _Facts_ may serve better
than _opinions_, to enable the observer to judge with more correctness
the character of this great man, so little known in reality, even at
the present time.

“It cannot be denied that, at the period to which I now refer
(1830), the opinions of M. de Talleyrand were most unfavourable to
the government of Charles X. Like every other man of sense and
foresight throughout the kingdom, he beheld with dread the dissolution
of the Martignac ministry, and the substitution of the Polignac
administration; but such political inconsistencies could not astonish,
coming from a man of the stamp of Charles X., whose whole life had
been a tissue of inconsistencies, from the famous protest of the Count
d’Artois, upon the occasion of the States-General in 1789, to the fatal
appointment of the ministry which was to send him forth a second time
to emigration, from which he had returned once before, according to
Prince Talleyrand’s own expression long previous to the catastrophe,
‘_having learnt little and forgotten nothing_.’ M. de Talleyrand,
nevertheless, did ample justice to the many good qualities which
distinguished the king in private life, and the more he overwhelmed
him with contempt as a _chef de parti_, the more he was pleased to
acknowledge in him a feeling and generous nature, and a faithful and
grateful friend. In point of real and sterling worth he placed him
far above his brother Louis XVIII., whom he accused of ‘having no
friends—only favourites,’ and who in his whole life never had the heart
to grant a pardon to a single criminal. The one was a better king, the
other a far better man.

“Charles X., however, returned tenfold in hatred and suspicion all
the pity and contempt which the wily diplomate sought to cast upon
his government; and moreover, the devout monarch never could forget
that the Bishop of Autun had renounced the Church, and had married,
in spite of the threatened excommunication and eternal damnation
voted by Rome as the punishment of such a step; for, although Pope
Pius VII. had absolved the bishop from his vows of priesthood, it was
never without a thrill of horror that the king beheld on court days
his grand chamberlain, who seldom failed on occasions of ceremony and
etiquette to present himself before his royal master, in spite of the
cold reception he met with in the court circles, where his tottering
gait and sarcastic speech had earned for him the sobriquet of ‘_Le
Diable Boiteux_.’ The king, blinded by prejudice, even forgot, in this
instance, the papal authority; for the marriage of the prince had been
sanctioned by the Pope, and was therefore legal in the eyes of the most
pious Catholics.

“Nevertheless, at the epoch of the Martignac administration, it seemed
as if a kind of _rapprochement_ had taken place, if not between M. de
Talleyrand and the king, at least between the former and the ministry.
The men who composed this ministry[A] all of them possessed a degree
of moderation in their political opinions, which M. de Talleyrand
could not but admire, and, wishing to prove that until then he had
been opposed, not to the king’s government, but to the principles of
the ministry who had conducted it, he sought by every means to show
publicly his sympathy for the new ministers. He was seen once more to
frequent the ministerial salons, and received the ministers at his own
hotel with that _haute politesse_ and courtly urbanity for which he
was so distinguished, expressing upon every occasion the satisfaction
which he felt at seeing the helm of public affairs at last in the
grasp of men whose experience rendered them able to comprehend the
exigencies of the country, and possessed of resources enabling them to
provide the most efficient means of meeting them. This satisfaction
was but of short duration. In the month of August following, Charles
X., yielding to the instigations of his secret counsellors, who worked
upon his unenlightened conscience—taking, himself, undue alarm at the
first check sustained by the _ministère_ Martignac in the Chamber
of Deputies—replaced the members of his cabinet by the Polignac
administration. Throughout the kingdom there arose a cry of indignation
at this step.

      [A] M. de Martignac    Interior.
          De la Ferronaye    Affaires Etrangères.
          Feutrier           Cultes.
          Portalis           Justice.

“M. de Talleyrand, grieved to see the false line of conduct into
which the king was falling, but incapacitated from affording help,
and moreover, assailed each day by some new vexation, took advantage
of a short illness to withdraw for a while from court, in order to
restore his health at the château of his niece, the Duchess de Dino, at
Rochecotte, in Touraine, where he resolved to pass the ensuing winter.

“Various have been the motives attributed to this retirement at
Rochecotte. I am aware that many of the public papers have asserted,
and other writers of graver stamp have repeated, that it was during
this winter that the plan of attack against Charles X. was conceived
and matured, between the _chefs_ of the liberal party and M. de
Talleyrand, who, according to general belief, had engaged himself to
lend them the aid of his counsel and high influence.

“What gave some little colouring to these reports was the fact, that M.
de Talleyrand reckoned among his most intimate friends some of the most
violent members of the opposition, who, at the moment of the revolution
of 1830, by the force of circumstances, found themselves at the head
of the new code of things which they had so long and so ardently
desired, and which, after all, was established without their direct
influence, as will be proved by a bare recital of facts. Thus, M. de
Talleyrand received into his daily intimacy General Sébastiani, the Duc
de Broglie, M. Villemain, M. Bertin de Vaux, and M. Molé; all of whom,
however, remained passive spectators of the struggle, until the moment
when the chance turned in favour of the popular party. There was one
man, however, who took an active part in the revolutionary movement,
who had prepared and ordered its march by his attacks in the journal
of which he was principal editor, and whom M. de Talleyrand encouraged
and distinguished by most particular favour. It was, indeed, at
Rochecotte, during the month of May, which Thiers spent there with M.
de Talleyrand, that he conceived the plan of those terrific articles in
the _National_, which every morning, like the battering ram of ancient
warfare, laid in ruins the wretched bulwarks behind which the tottering
monarchy thought itself secure.

“Thiers, in fact, did conspire against the government of Charles X.;
but it was conspiracy not with this leader or with that; not with such
and such a party; but with the immense majority of the nation, to
whom he spoke the language they had seldom heard, and which they all
could understand; the language of their old affections and of their
craving need. But thence to argue that M. Thiers came to Rochecotte
to concert with M. de Talleyrand the plan of the _National_, and the
overthrow of the government, would be to make M. de Talleyrand play
a part much beneath him. It must also be remembered that Thiers was
at that time a sub-editor of the _Constitutionnel_, and that nothing
foretold in him the future President of Louis Philippe’s council. His
History of the Revolution, full as it was of false ideas and monstrous
principles, thanks to some few narratives of interest, and to the great
name of Napoleon, which is retraced in grand and noble characters, had
established for its author a certain reputation in the literary world.
But of a surety, M. de Talleyrand, notwithstanding the high opinion he
entertained of the talents of Thiers as a man of business, would have
been much astonished if, at that period, in his salon at Rochecotte,
some modern Cassandra had predicted that the author of the “Revolution
Française” would one day become Prime Minister and Chief of the French
Cabinet! M. de Talleyrand, with all his boasted perspicacity, his
foresight, and his _justesse d’esprit_, would have considered it as a
_mauvaise plaisanterie_ that a man _sans position sociale_, an _homme
de rien_, should ever be considered eligible as a leader of public
affairs in a country like France.

“M. Thiers was, in the eyes of M. de Talleyrand, nothing more than a
young writer, full of vigour and talent, whom the old seigneur loved to
protect, and to initiate into the manners and customs of good society,
without a knowledge of which (he would often say) there can be no good
taste in literature. But he was the last person in the world who, at
that time, could have looked upon Thiers as a conspirator, of whom he
was making himself, by such protection, the vile associate.

“The men of July, whether to curry favour with the new dynasty, or to
assume the part of profound politicians, have pretended that they had
prepared the fall of Charles X., and they boast that their machinations
had aroused the tempest which, in three short days, swallowed up a
whole generation of kings. These men have either sought to deceive
public opinion, or else have been themselves grossly deceived. Nothing
was ever more unlike a conspiracy than the Revolution of 1830; or if
conspiracy _did_ exist, it was public, general, and unanimous; one in
which the whole country bore a part, saving only that small portion
of the community bound by ties of honour and gratitude to the elder
branch of the House of Bourbon. In fact, there was not a single human
being endowed with sense, from one end of France to the other, who,
even long before the issuing of the fatal ‘Ordonnances’ of July, could
not have foretold whither the multifarious blunders of Charles X.’s
government were hurling the monarchy; but not a soul had the slightest
presentiment that the day of reckoning was so nigh; and, as proof of
this, it may be remembered that those men of talent most opposed to
the Restoration, such as MM. Pasquier, Molé, Royer Collard, Sébastiani,
De Barante, Guizot, De Broglie, and many others, were struck as by a
thunderbolt at the first news of those accursed ‘Ordonnances.’

“Among these men stood first and foremost M. de Talleyrand, who could
scarcely credit the _Moniteur Officiel_ which contained them. To assert
then that M. de Talleyrand _conspired_ against the Bourbons—that by
his _liaisons_ with the opposition, and above all, with the Duke of
Orleans, he brought on the fall of the elder branch, and the rise of
the younger (which it may be allowed he had long foretold)—proves a
total ignorance of the circumstances in which M. de Talleyrand was
placed, and adds one more to the numerous calumnies which it has
been the pleasure of so many writers to heap upon the head of this
celebrated statesman. But, if the prince did not absolutely rush to
meet the events of July, it cannot be denied that, with his accustomed
tact, he knew how to profit by the _faits accomplis_, and that, being
once certain of the flight of Charles X., he pointed out, with the rare
sagacity with which he was gifted, and which age had rather increased
than diminished, to his old friend the Duke of Orleans, the line of
conduct to be pursued in order to avoid, amid the stormy tides by which
he was beset, seeking to steer his course against the will of the
people.

“It has been to this day a matter of speculation whether the Duke of
Orleans had anticipated being called to the throne, or whether it was
the force of circumstances which had brought him to it. These are the
facts:—although the Duke of Orleans had for a long time looked upon the
event of a change in the dynasty as _possible_, and was most certainly
_prepared_ to place the crown upon his own head in case of such an
event, yet even so late as the 30th of July, he hesitated to grasp it,
and resisted the arguments and persuasions of Thiers. It is a known
fact that the duke was concealed in the environs of Neuilly, in fear of
a popular outbreak, when a secret message from M. de Talleyrand, which
he received on the evening of that day, caused him to decide at length
upon re-entering Paris, and proclaiming himself Lieutenant-General
of the Kingdom—the Head of the new Power. The new king soon forgot,
however, this proof of attachment on the part of his old friend; and
M. de Talleyrand, who knew that kings, even when chosen by the will
of the people, are, for the most part, compelled to be _illustres
ingrats_, never, during the years which followed these events, alluded
to the circumstances which brought about the _avénement_ of Louis
Philippe.”

Nevertheless, as it is entirely to this secret influence of Prince
Talleyrand, which swayed the decision of the Duke of Orleans, that
France is indebted for the new dynasty, it may be interesting to the
reader to give, from the authority of one who was with the prince
during the memorable days, and the truth of whose statements may be
relied on, some account of what took place on that occasion.

“M. de Talleyrand,” continued C., “was, at the time, in his hotel in
the Rue St. Florentin, and, on the first day, before any one could
foretel the issue of the terrible drama which had just begun, far
from displaying any degree of sympathy for the resistance which was
beginning to be organized in every quarter of Paris, he looked on with
a feeling of terror at the unchaining of the populace; for he had often
said, that “neither experience nor prophecy could ever calculate the
chances of a dawning revolution. Would the people, when once let loose
in the revolutionary arena, renew the bloody scenes of ’93, or would
they pause before the memory of that dread, terrific epoch? Could any
one, at that hour, have dared to hope that Paris would have given to
the world the sole example in history of a roused and angry multitude,
staying its tide of fury even in the midst of intoxicating triumph?

“M. de Talleyrand _did not_ foresee this possibility. The souvenirs of
youth came back upon his age, and showed him the people conquering,
using and abusing the right that conquest gives; pillaging the hotels
of the _noblesse_, and, in bloody triumph, sparing no superiority,
either of station, rank, or fortune; and, it might be also, if the
truth were known, trembling himself to be the first victim of popular
rage; for he knew that the people loved him not: he had been the
instrument of the restoration of the Bourbons. Such were the thoughts
which occupied the mind of M. de Talleyrand during the first of these
days, and, with those who can bear witness to the uneasiness which
he betrayed during those hours of doubt and terror, he is perfectly
exonerated from the suspicion of having _prepared_ the change which
was taking place before his eyes.

“On the second day, the 28th, when the people were combating against
the king’s troops for the possession of the Hôtel de Ville, while the
air was filled with the old and dreaded sounds, the cannon’s roar,
the tocsin’s boom, his confidence in the success of the king’s power
of defence forsook him at once, and he then pronounced the memorable
sentence which has since become familiar to the readers of French
literature: ‘The cannon which is fired against the people cannot but
shake the sovereign’s throne.’ At the moment when the tocsin announced
the triumph of the people at the Hôtel de Ville, he looked at the clock
upon the mantelpiece. It was then just upon the stroke of five. ‘A
few minutes more,’ exclaimed he, ‘and Charles X. is no longer King of
France.’

“One good instance of his presence of mind occurred at this very
moment, for he turned to his valet-de-chambre, and made him immediately
collect together the men-servants of the hotel, and take down the words
‘HOTEL TALLEYRAND,’ which flaunted in large golden characters over the
gateway, the feudal pride of other times.

“I still maintain the perfect conviction that, even up to the very hour
of which I speak, he was undecided as to the course he would adopt; he
was evidently waiting for the issue of the struggle. Public rumour has
lent him a _bon mot_, which is certainly in his style, although I was
with him the whole day, and did not hear him pronounce it.

“‘Hark! the tocsin ceases—we triumph!’

“‘_We!_ who, mon prince?’

“‘Chut, not a word! I will tell you that to-morrow.’

“If his secret wishes were really in favour of a new order of things,
with his habitual prudence, he made it a duty to conceal them; and
he spent the whole of the second day fixed at the windows of the
drawing-room of the hotel, which looks into the Place Louis Quinze,
sending every now and then his emissaries into the divers quarters of
Paris, to bring back accounts of the progress of the revolution. MM.
de Broglie, Bertin de Vaux, and Sébastiani were with him, and all,
excepting the prince, were of opinion that the king would attempt,
before the morning, to re-enter Paris at the head of his troops. _He_
knew the character of the man too well either to hope or to fear this
decision.

“On the 29th, however, when M. de Talleyrand began to be convinced
that the cause of the revolution was triumphant, that the liberal
deputies, Casimir Périer, Laffitte, Lafayette, all, not only pronounced
themselves in its favour, but sought to direct the insurrection, and
to place themselves at its head, he felt at once the immense advantage
that such a demonstration would give to the Chamber of Deputies over
the Chamber of Peers; and his only thought during the whole day was to
collect together at his own house the few men of intelligence among the
peers of the opposition, in order to balance, in the public opinion,
by some patriotic declaration, the influence already gained by the
deputies, from the position in which they had placed themselves—that
of ‘Defenders of the Charter.’ But all the efforts of the prince were
unavailing. The great number of his friends, such as Pasquier and
Molé, hesitating to declare their opinions thus openly, in dread of
the return of Charles X., declined taking a part in the protest of
the deputies. M. de Talleyrand was pained to the quick by this want
of decision, and foretold, with an accuracy which has since become
manifest, all the bad consequences which would fall upon the Chamber
of Peers, from having remained passive during this eventful crisis.

“By early dawn on the 30th, the people were, however, masters
of Paris—of all the military posts—of all the barricades of the
Tuileries—of the Louvre, and of the hotels of the ministers. The
royalist troops had withdrawn, and were encamped round St. Cloud, where
still lingered, in faint hope, in inert expectation, Charles X. and his
court.

“Suddenly a report arose, and spread like wild-fire through Paris! The
old king, alarmed at the consequences of a civil war, had decided on
immediate flight! M. de Talleyrand, at first, would give no credence
to the rumours. He could not believe it possible that the king, being
still surrounded by 12,000 devoted troops, would so soon abandon the
chances of the game, and, before he declared himself, he sent to St.
Cloud to ascertain the truth of the statement. The return of the
messenger staggered us all. He brought word that Charles had fled from
St. Cloud, and was proceeding with all expedition to Rambouillet. At
that moment, M. de Talleyrand’s doubts were at an end; he decided at
once upon the course he would pursue; and, in this circumstance, as in
so many others wherein he has been accused of changing his politics to
suit the hour, he might have answered as he had once done before, ‘It
is not I who desert the king—it is the king who deserts us.’

“Now came the time when the high intelligence and marvellous sagacity
of the prince were brought into action, and, I hesitate not to repeat,
saved the country. M. de Talleyrand dispatched to Neuilly, with all
possible speed, a little billet written with his own hand. The bearer
was a person of high courage and great integrity, and was charged,
should he fall into danger, or be arrested at the barrier, to destroy
the billet. He could not in honour read its contents, but saw that
there were but few words traced upon the paper. They were addressed to
the king’s sister, Madame Adelaide. This messenger was commissioned to
place the billet himself in the hands of the princess, and to tell her
that the Prince de Talleyrand conjured her to warn the Duke of Orleans
that not a moment was to be lost—that the Duke might reckon upon his
aid, and that he must appear immediately—that he must come at once
to Paris, to place himself at the head of the movement, or all would
be lost without recall. Above all, he was only to take the title of
Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom, which Charles had conferred upon him
before leaving St. Cloud:—he implored him not to manifest any other
intention. In this advice the old diplomatist was reserving for himself
a back door to creep out at in case Charles should march on Paris.

“Madame Adelaide received the message with ill-dissembled joy. With
woman’s _astuce_, however, she declined giving an answer in writing,
as there were no writing implements in the room, and she dared not ask
the servants for them; being aware that the whole house was filled with
spies, she knew not whom to trust at such a moment. She even took the
precaution of returning the paper received from the prince, fearing
either to retain or destroy it, lest its traces might be discovered.
The messenger then took back this verbal message: ‘That her brother
would be most grateful for the assistance which Prince Talleyrand thus
offered—that he was for the moment _absent from Neuilly_—but that she
would immediately have the prince’s message conveyed to him, and would
herself use her most earnest endeavour to persuade him to go at once
to Paris.’ The Duke of Orleans was, before night, established in the
Palais Royal, and, in a few hours after his arrival, the walls of the
capital were covered with placards and proclamations, signed LOUIS
PHILIPPE, LIEUTENANT-GENERAL OF THE KINGDOM.

“Still, there remained an immense distance to overleap before the
crown could be grasped by the lieutenant-general. On the one hand, the
republican party were howling with rage, to find the republic vanishing
still further from their embrace—that dear-beloved republic, for whose
sake they had rushed so blindly on the chances of a revolution. On
the other side, the great mass of the citizens remained calm, and
indifferent to the rise of another Bourbon. As to the party calling
itself Carlist at the present day, it must have been very small
indeed, for, in the hour of danger, it was invisible! The Orleans
party, meanwhile, comprised all the leading members of the Opposition
in both Chambers. At the head of this party was M. de Talleyrand,
who, without exactly declaring himself in favour of the new dynasty,
already directed all its movements, by the advice which he found means
to transmit through a person in his confidence; for the barricades, by
which the streets were still rendered impassable, prevented him from
going in person to the Palais Royal.

“Nevertheless, M. de Talleyrand beheld with uneasiness the republicans
beginning to profit by the kind of interregnum which followed the
flight of Charles X. This party, with the perseverance which still
characterises it, were every hour gaining ground. Already the populace,
which, during the three days had shown itself so magnanimous, so
disinterested and generous, was beginning almost to murmur at its
victory, and to lend a greedy ear to the furious declamations of the
jacobins of 1830. A little longer hesitation, and the re-establishment
of royalty would have become a thing impossible without another direful
struggle, in which it is not quite clear that the Orleans party would
have been victorious. Already were the piazzas and the gardens of
the Palais Royal echoing with inflammatory appeals to the sovereign
people, to stand forth while yet it was time, and to take into its
own hands the government of what were virtually and morally its own
interests. The approaches to the Chamber of Deputies, where the famous
declaration of the 7th of August was concocting, were crowded with
fierce and savage-looking men, calling with bloodthirsty cries for
the establishment of the Republic, and vociferating horrible menaces
against those deputies who would dare to set up another throne;
above all, to seat upon it another Bourbon. A crisis was imminent.
The government which was sitting at the Palais Royal had the utmost
difficulty in restraining the people, by dint of intoxicating its
self-love and vanity with the praises bestowed with liberal hand
each morning in the journals. The people were beginning to discover,
meanwhile, that the victory which they had gained, and for which they
were so lauded, gave them neither bread for their starving families,
nor work whereby to earn it; and they who, after having broken the
sceptre of royalty, thought to be freed from all control, could
not support, without shuddering, the restraint which a government,
unsanctioned by the popular voice, sought to impose upon them.

“Dreadful rumours of revolt and massacre were circulated on all sides,
and the family of the Duke of Orleans were not without alarm for the
very life of its chief. The moment, then, was come at last—the moment
to decide. Charles X. was taking, without resistance, the road to a new
exile. From that quarter, then, all danger ceased. The deputies, now
gathered together in sufficient number to deliberate, had come to offer
the crown to the lieutenant-general of the kingdom. M. de Talleyrand
was consulted at this crisis, and he it was who caused the faint
resistance of Louis Philippe to cease, and induced him to place upon
his brow the crown offered by the people, and he it was whose opinion
decided the king to go at once to the Hôtel de Ville, there to receive
publicly the sceptre of France, and to swear allegiance to the Charter.
This truth may be relied on; and, moreover, M. de Talleyrand, in order
to give to the new power the sanction of his old experience, appeared
at the public reception of the Palais Royal for the first time since
the revolution.

“Such was the part played by M. de Talleyrand in the revolution of
1830. Immense it was, if judged by its results, but neither studied
beforehand nor rehearsed, as it has been so often unjustly asserted
since that day. This part, indeed, was so entirely _impromptu_, that
many persons of the intimate circle of the prince know that, more
than once, M. de Talleyrand has let fall a regret that Charles,
in his blind folly, should have destroyed in three days the whole
fabric of the Restoration, which had been looked upon by all Europe
as the masterpiece of Talleyrand’s diplomatic works. The weakness of
seigneurial pride, too, the only one which I think he ever possessed,
will sometimes cause him to sigh over the wreck of that principle of
legitimacy which he had been at so much pains to re-establish in favour
of the Bourbons, a principle which he still considers necessary to the
repose of the country, perhaps compromised for many generations by the
events of the three glorious days. The lesson which such regrets imply,
conveys, to the thinking mind, its own moral.”



CHAPTER III.

SEIZURE AND CONFINEMENT OF THE SPANISH PRINCES AT VALENÇAY.


While my friend had been thus discoursing of kings and revolutions,
we had, after crossing a part of the park, turned in the court-yard,
where stood the stables. I knew that the prince cared but little for
his stud; I was surprised, therefore, when C. pulled the cord of the
huge bell which hung at the entrance. At the sound, the groom, who
was standing in the court, evidently knowing for what purpose he was
summoned, flung back the wide doors of an outhouse near the gate.

“It is fit,” said C., laughing, “that, as our discourse is all of
chance and change, of fallen kings and falling governments, we should
now behold the very type of these: although, fallen and faded as it
is, it may be regarded as the great lion of Valençay.”

Saying this, he stepped into the building, and I followed, and beheld,
not, as I had imagined, some fine high-mettled racer, the gift of this
or that sovereign, presented in gratitude for the services of the
diplomate, but a sight far more interesting—a sight which carried me
back to the days of Philip V. and Cardinal Olivarez.

It was the carriage which had conveyed the Spanish princes across
the frontier to Valençay, in 1808, and which they had left behind
them under peculiar circumstances. The vehicle is of most antique and
extraordinary construction. It must, indeed, be coeval with the Spanish
monarchy; a huge, uncouth piece of Spanish workmanship, like nothing
on earth but our Lord Mayor’s state barge, or the car of Juggernaut.
The panels are emblazoned in gold and silver, with the arms of all the
royalties of Spain, and all the quarterings thereof besides. When new,
and on a sunny day, these panels must have blinded the beholder. The
roof is adorned in the quaint old style, with massive cornices and rich
carvings. The hangings within and without were of crimson silk damask,
and even the very wheels, although rude and ponderous, were curiously
wrought and richly gilt.

The circumstances of the huge machine having remained at Valençay
are curious and amusing. When the morning arrived which was to send
Ferdinand and his brother forth from their place of exile, to resume
the crown and royalty in their own land, the huge carriage which had
brought them to Valençay was drawn from its _remise_, and laden with
the moveables which had been collected during their long captivity.
There are a few persons living now at the château, who well remember
the morning of the departure, and they will tell you all the ludicrous
circumstances connected therewith, some of which would form valuable
acquisitions to collectors of “whims and oddities.”

“The day was fine: not a cloud obscured the horizon; all nature was gay
and smiling. The old coach, roused from its long repose, and furbished
up with new hangings and velvet cushions, had been dragged round to the
_perron_ to be loaded. This task being accomplished, the princes and
their suite had squeezed themselves into the interior; the little pages
stood upon the steps, and hung by the door, after a fashion which may
still be seen in ancient prints; and, as for the valets and footmen,
they clustered on behind, pell-mell, clinging to each other as best
they could. Some say this ponderous machine contained at that moment
no fewer than seventeen persons. In Spain, it had always been set in
motion by eight stout mules, but upon this occasion six brisk and
capering post-horses were attached to it, with good stout ropes, too,
for it was evident that it would require a strong pull to get it under
weigh.

“The beautiful princess, the fair hostess, with her whole court, was
standing on the _perron_, in picturesque and wailing grief. There were
clouds on many a youthful brow, and the tears fell like rain from
many a bright eye, for the princes had been beloved during their long
and weary captivity, and in return they had felt a depth of gratitude
towards the soft beguilers of their weary hours. Some there are who
say that time hung not so heavy on their hands, as it might have done
had they remained amid the dull and heavy splendours of the Escurial.
It is certain that, upon this occasion, when they should have been
joyous, they displayed faces of such weeping melancholy at either
window of the vehicle, that you would have thought them going forth
into exile still more dreary, instead of being about to resume their
glorious birthright. They sobbed forth faint farewells, which were
echoed back by the weeping beauties on the _perron_, until the uncle,
old Don Antonio, in this case more impatient than his youthful nephews,
urged the postillions to their greatest speed, with promise of princely
reward.

“At length the cry of ‘_En route!_’ burst from the guide; whips were
cracked with energy tremendous, and handkerchiefs waved in graceful
agitation. A louder sob burst from the ladies on the _perron_—a cry
of absolute despair echoed from the carriage—the horses pulled—the
postillions shouted—they even let fly sundry choice oaths which are
ever ready at hand—the old coach groaned and creaked—that was all—the
spurs were dug into the flinching sides of the poor animals—the old
coach swayed to and fro, and swung with a rumbling sound—but it moved
not! In vain did both man and beast toil and pull at the cords—they all
broke one after another, and not an inch of ground was gained.

“I have heard it said that no scene of the broadest farce could surpass
in ludicrous effect that which took place, when it was discovered that
it would be impossible, by any human means, to drag the machine even
so far as the gate of the courtyard. The royal party were compelled to
alight forthwith. All the baggage had to be unpacked, and they left
Valençay in a much more humble conveyance,—a good, modern travelling
carriage, belonging to the prince. I have often wondered if Don Carlos,
when fighting in his Biscayan mountains, ever remembered that moment,
and if so, whether with a smile or with a sigh.”

I looked at the carriage with great interest, for there it still
remains, just as it was rolled back to its old station under the
_remise_. Through all the changes of the country from which it had
rumbled over the frontier, laden with its royal freight, has it stood
silently falling to decay—the gay emblazoned panels blistering and
fading in the damp, and the splendid hangings all moth-eaten and
falling to tatters—a curious memento, and one which even in our own day
may find its way to some museum. It certainly would not disgrace any
collection of “_pièces curieuses_,” however rare and valuable.

C. told me that, “not being at Valençay at the period of the arrival
of the Spanish princes, he could not bear witness to the effect which
the sudden seizure of their persons, the breach of faith of Napoleon,
and the strict captivity in which they were held, had produced in the
country. He had, however, seen much of them during the time of their
stay, and gave me some curious anecdotes concerning them. Ferdinand,
and his brother Don Carlos, were both young, almost mere lads, at the
time, and, at first, as it may well be supposed, they were overcome
by grief and rage at being thus torn from their country by fraud and
violence; but, after some little while, they grew reconciled to their
fate, and even, with true youthful volatility, preferred it to the
awful state and grandeur of the Spanish court, which, in these days,
still maintains the same absurd etiquette that had for ages rendered it
the terror of foreign ambassadors, and gained for it the nickname of
the “grave of the gay.”

“It is an error to suppose that the smiles and fascinations of the
Princess de Benevent herself had any share in this sudden change of
sentiment, for she was already past the age to captivate the fancy of
her youthful guests; but there were some among her fair maids of honour
for whom the young princes would gladly have sworn never to return to
Spain, not even to rule over it in splendour.

“They were a curious collection assembled at Valençay. First and
foremost came the two princes, Don Ferdinand, Prince of the Asturias,
and Don Carlos, his younger brother. Of these, more anon. Then came
old Don Antonio, brother to the reigning King of Spain, and uncle of
the two boys, guardian likewise of their welfare and their morals. The
latter was a true Spaniard of the _vieille roche_; such a character
as may be found in the old Spanish novels; ignorant and haughty as
the hidalgo of Columbus’s day, yet _bonhomme_ withal, credulous and
unsuspicious as a child.

“At the same time with the Spanish princes and their suite, arrived
at the château the commandant Henri, delegate and spy of the police,
commissioned to keep close watch over the youthful heroes, and not to
suffer them to leave his sight either night or day. I really think
that the presence of this man was the only source of uneasiness or
annoyance that the royal personages experienced during their stay.
He was a hard and vulgar individual, whose life had been passed amid
scenes of strife and treason, and he fulfilled the duties allotted to
him with a pertinacity and minuteness which embittered the lives of
those entrusted to his charge. Of course, from his position about the
persons of the princes, he became at once the object of their hatred
and contempt, and if in wantonness of power he often inflicted useless
vexation, they in the wantonness of youth managed to revenge themselves
with great ingenuity. Some of the scenes to which this state of things
gave rise were most amusing. One of the greatest delights enjoyed by
Don Ferdinand was, at the hour of prayer, night and morning, to compel
the attendance of the commander, to whom, from his republican and
anti-religious principles, the idea of bending to a Supreme Being was
odious, and who would growl forth his republican oaths in cadence with
the chant of the officiating priest. He had been wounded, too, in his
youth, and in his age was stiff-jointed besides, so that to kneel was
absolute agony.

“Don Ferdinand would provide amusement for the whole company, by
assisting him with mock condescension to drop upon his knees, and would
convulse them with laughter at the sly shoves and friendly pinches
which this operation would give him the opportunity of bestowing. In
vain the commander would seek to excuse himself from attending at this
precise hour. No excuse would be taken; his royal charges would rather
wait any length of time than dispense with his company. The annoyance
grew so great for the poor commander, that all his days were embittered
by the torture of that single hour, and the poor tormented princes were
amply revenged by this gentle and gentlemanlike chastisement.

“Don Antonio, the dear good old soul, was at first much admired and
venerated by every one around him, for the assiduity with which he
visited the library of the château. Many and long, indeed, were the
hours he spent there, much to the edification of those who, beholding
the utter ignorance in which the princes had been brought up, began
to hope that so much study and meditation on the part of the tutor
would in good time turn to profit and improvement for his pupils.
But alas! soon were the fond believers undeceived. The good old man
suddenly ceased his visits to the library, and, on being questioned by
the Princess de Benevent as to this sudden alteration in his mode of
passing his time, he replied, with composure, “Thank God, my work is
over, and I can smoke my cigaretto in the shade beneath the piazza,
without the fear that the morals of my pupils may be corrupted by those
naughty books.”

“‘Nay,’ replied the princess, ‘if your Excellency had but pointed out
which were those you thought objectionable, I would have had them
removed; my servants should have done it long ago, and saved you all
this trouble.’

“‘Oh, do not mention trouble,’ replied the Don, with calm politeness;
‘besides, removing the books would have spoilt your library. It was
only the vile Latin authors whom I dreaded; but fortunately, neither
Don Ferdinand nor his brother can read them, and the engravings were
soon removed by my care and trouble. I promise you, madame, not one
remains, in all those books the Prince de Benevent pointed out to me as
being those most studied by the youth of this country.’

“Judge of the dismay of the princess on hearing these words. Instant
search was made among the volumes of which he spoke, some of the most
rare and valuable editions in the whole collection. It was too true.
The pious Don, in terror for the morals of his pupils, had taken the
pains to tear out the beautiful engravings, which in many cases formed
the chief value of the books. Every one the least objectionable was
gone. The beautiful Ovid, the magnificent Strasburg Bible, and many
others of equal value, were stripped, and may be seen to this day, as
positive proofs of the _ignorance crasse_ in which the royal family of
Spain were at that time reared.

“The ignorance of Don Ferdinand would have been remarkable even in
a convent of Spanish friars. He _could_ read, indeed, but made it
his boast that he never did so, having a ‘valet in his service who
understood all the mysteries of science.’ This was _verbatim_ his own
expression. He was of quiet and taciturn habits, however, and loved to
spend his time in cutting out with scissors divers little devices, with
which he enclosed the _bon-bons_ he loved to present to the ladies of
the princess’s court. He was fond, too, of searching in books; but it
was soon discovered that Don Antonio’s alarm was but too well founded;
the royal youth loved books for the sake of the ‘pretty pictures’ they
contained, and nothing more.

“The younger brother, Don Carlos, was far less gentle in his manner,
and less favoured in person. His great passion was the chase, in which
the commander loved to indulge him, as he himself partook of the same
taste.

“But if,” said my friend, “you would like to know more of their deeds
and doings, I will give you a sketch of all the circumstances which
took place, from the time of their _enlèvement_ at Bayonne, to their
return to Madrid. It was given me by a gentleman of their suite. It may
amuse you, and you may read it at your leisure.”

Just at the moment my friend uttered this promise, the breakfast-bell
sounded a joyous peal across the park, and we hastened to obey its
summons. C. being engaged during the morning, gave me the paper he had
promised, to amuse my _ennui_, and, in the hope that its contents may
afford to others the same delight they occasioned me, I shall give them
to the reader.

       *       *       *       *       *

The little manuscript which my friend placed in my hand, had been found
in the château after the departure of the young princes of Spain from
Valençay. It was written in a fair hand, and bore the following title:

  “_The Secret History of the Intrigues, which ended in the Seizure
    and Imprisonment of Ferdinand VII. and his Brothers at Valençay._”

The _cahier_ was found in the library, and as there was but ONE person
of the whole suite who ever went thither, it is well known by whom it
was written, a gentleman of truth and honour, at the very moment I am
now writing this, holding a high situation about the person of the
Queen of Spain, Isabella. The manuscript began as follows:

  “In the month of March, 1807, the Prince of Asturias, who was
  in active and secret correspondence with Don Juan d’Escoïquiz,
  Archdeacon and Canon of Toledo, his former preceptor, sent to him
  at Toledo, where he then resided, a person in his confidence,
  named Jose Marrique. The prince forwarded by this person a letter
  to be delivered into M. d’Escoïquiz’s own hand, wherein he spoke
  of his suspicions concerning the ambitious views of the Prince of
  the Peace, who, in consequence of obtaining daily, either from the
  king or queen, some new dignity or favour, became, more and more
  powerful, particularly in possessing, as he did, the command of
  the army, the navy, and the militia. Already the rumour had arisen
  that Charles IV., whose health was declining fast, had appointed
  him Regent of the Kingdom. Once regent, the death of the king would
  open a new career to his ambition. The character of the Prince of
  the Peace, and his proximity to the throne, tended to excite alarm
  in the friends of the royal family.

  “M. d’Escoïquiz, in dismay at the contents of the prince’s letter,
  flattered himself that it would be easy to undeceive the king
  and queen with regard to the real character of the Prince of the
  Peace. He immediately penned a letter, which was to be delivered
  by the Prince of Asturias into the hands of the queen, in which
  he displayed, with great eloquence, all the danger in which the
  royal family stood, by the blind confidence the king reposed in
  the Prince of the Peace. This letter, full of reason and of truth,
  so much alarmed the Prince of Asturias, that he could never find
  courage to present it to his mother, and he merely copied it in his
  own hand. Somewhat ashamed of his own want of resolution, he wrote
  to M. d’Escoïquiz, that he judged it impossible ever to enlighten
  the queen, and that he thought it would be easier to persuade the
  king to reason, if he could get an opportunity of speaking with him
  _tête-à-tête_.

  “The worthy Canon of Toledo immediately set about inditing another
  letter, which he endeavoured to adapt to the weak understanding
  of the king, and sent it to the prince, who waited in vain for an
  opportunity of giving it in private to his father. This document
  was copied, like the former one, by the prince himself, and
  likewise locked up in his desk, where they were both found on the
  seizure of his papers some time afterwards.

  “The Prince of the Peace, who suspected that the reserve and
  taciturn habits of the Prince of Asturias served to conceal hostile
  intentions towards himself, sought every means of undermining the
  fidelity of the young prince’s household, and made a proposition
  through the queen to many him to Donna Maria Theresa, his
  sister-in-law, second daughter of the Infant Don Luiz. This
  princess was remarkable for her great beauty and ambition, and had
  already exhibited an inclination for gallantry. The prince, who
  knew but little of her beyond her personal attractions, had already
  given his consent to this union, when suddenly, the ambition of the
  Prince of the Peace had become more insatiable than ever, and the
  marriage was broken off.

  “M. d’Escoïquiz, on perceiving that every means of gaining access
  to the king and queen had failed, and that the marriage with
  Donna Maria had failed also, began to imagine that the only hope
  of support for the Prince of Asturias would lie in his marriage
  with a princess of the family of Bonaparte. M. d’Escoïquiz grew,
  in fact, quite enraptured with the scheme, which he himself had
  planned, and, wishing to preside over its execution, he left his
  quiet retreat at Toledo, and came to reside at Madrid. There he
  became acquainted with Count Orquez, a gentleman much attached
  to the Prince of Asturias, and communicated to him his alarms
  and his future plans. In one of their secret conversations, M.
  de Orquez informed him that Don Diego Godoï, the father of the
  Prince of the Peace, was distributing money among the garrison of
  Madrid, and had thus corrupted a great number of the officers. A
  colonel of dragoons, Don Joaquin Jauregui, gave them intelligence
  of all that transpired, and informed them that to every officer
  of distinction, Godoï had said, ‘You see the miserable state into
  which the kingdom has fallen—the Bourbon dynasty is degenerated—the
  king cannot live much longer—the prince is a weak, capricious fool.
  Some change is necessary—we reckon on your aid.’ Throughout the
  whole of Madrid, the secret agents of Godoï were at work night and
  day. The Abbé Stata, librarian of St. Isidore, had been imprudent
  enough to spread inflammatory writings, the object of which was to
  prove to the Spanish nation, that in the existing crisis, the only
  hope of salvation lay in an entire confidence in the judgment and
  experience of the Prince of the Peace.

  “In this state of affairs, M. d’Escoïquiz was aware that not a
  moment was to be lost, and that all true friends of the throne
  must at once league together for its defence. His first step was
  to obtain from the Prince of Asturias a kind of letter of credit,
  which authorized him to speak confidentially with the Duke del’
  Infantado, a young man of exalted birth, of great integrity, and
  chivalrous courage, holding a high place in public esteem. Armed
  with this letter, written in the prince’s own hand, he appointed
  a meeting with the duke, and together they swore fidelity to the
  throne, vowing respect even to the absurd blindness of the king,
  and merely concerting the measures to be taken in the house, when
  the king, whose health was declining daily, should breathe his
  last, at which moment it would be the easiest thing in the world
  for the Prince of the Peace to conceal the death of the sovereign
  as long as it should please him so to do. The hatred and suspicion
  which he had so craftily engendered in the bosom of the queen
  against her son, had compelled her to fill the palace with troops,
  all devoted to herself and to Godoï. It was his design when, by
  the rules of etiquette established at the Spanish court, the exact
  moment arrived for the heir to the throne to appear at the bedside
  of the dying king, to have the young prince arrested, and to make
  him sign by force the necessary decree, which would place the whole
  power in the hands of the favourite. The Duke del’ Infantado and
  M. d’Escoïquiz judged then, that the only means to guard against
  this outrage, would be to provide themselves with a decree, signed
  and sealed by the new king, by which the whole power, civil and
  military, would be placed in the hands of the Duke del’ Infantado,
  placing also beneath his command the Prince of the Peace himself.

  “Empowered by this decree, the Duke del’ Infantado, on the first
  signification of the approaching death of the king, was to declare
  his power, take possession of all the military forces, and to
  appear in the city and in the royal palaces, habited in the costume
  of Generalissimo of the Kingdom, with full intentions to arrest
  immediately the Prince of the Peace, if the conduct of the latter
  gave any cause for umbrage. M. d’Escoïquiz drew up this decree, and
  had it conveyed to the prince, with the necessary instructions,
  begging him to copy it with his own hand, and to fix his own
  seal upon the paper. The prince complied with the whole of those
  directions, and the letter was placed at once in the hands of the
  Duke del’ Infantado, who was to preserve it carefully until the
  moment arrived when it would be required. The act was complete,
  signed according to Spanish usage, ‘_Yo el Re_,’ and a vacant space
  left for the date, which was to be filled up by the Duke del’
  Infantado at the moment of the King’s death.

  “About the middle of the month of June, M. d’Escoïquiz received
  another letter from the Prince of Asturias; in it was announced
  that, through the medium of Don Juan Emanuel de Villena, his first
  equerry, he had received an important billet, signed by Don Pedro
  Giraldo, tutor to the Infant Don Francisco, and that this billet
  was written by an individual belonging to the French Legation.
  It contained the announcement of a most important and secret
  communication, which it was the wish of the French ambassador,
  M. de Beauharnais, to make to the prince. M. d’Escoïquiz, whom
  the latter had consulted with regard to the line of conduct which
  he ought to adopt, was of opinion that the prince’s reply should
  be peremptory—that ‘he meddled not with public affairs, nor held
  interviews with public men.’ Meanwhile, he undertook to discover if
  the message really came from the French ambassador, or was merely
  a trap laid by Godoï to condemn the young prince. This tried and
  valued friend, never at a loss, had soon invented a pretext to
  call upon the ambassador, to whom he was unknown. He requested
  permission to present to M. l’Ambassadeur the first volume of an
  epic poem, to be entitled ‘The Conquest of Mexico.’

  “The ambassador, without appearing surprised at the sudden literary
  reputation usurped by M. d’Escoïquiz, answered with courtesy that
  he would receive with pleasure the book and its author. After a
  few observations relating to ‘the Conquest of Mexico,’ some few
  remarks on the state of affairs bringing each of them nearer to the
  object they both had in view, M. d’Escoïquiz frankly questioned the
  ambassador on the subject of the billet which had been delivered to
  the Prince of Asturias, and begged him, as a point of honour, to
  tell him the truth concerning it.

  “The ambassador feigned a certain embarrassment, denied being
  the author of the billet, yet wished it to be understood that in
  reality he was; said that a message from an ambassador to the
  heir-apparent would scarcely have been admissible, but declared
  he felt much esteem for his royal highness, and that he would
  be greatly pleased by the permission to pay his court, _en
  particulier_, to the young prince. By all this specious reasoning
  M. d’Escoïquiz judged of the truth, and at once told him, without
  further disguise, that the prince firmly believed that the message
  came from him.

  “‘Then why have you not brought me a _written_ message in return?’
  said M. de Beauharnais, involuntarily betraying himself; whereupon
  M. d’Escoïquiz, laughing, replied, ‘That _written messages could
  be denied_, therefore a preconcerted signal would, in his opinion,
  be more efficacious;’ and, before the conclusion of the interview,
  it was agreed that, as the court was in a few days to return to
  Madrid, the ambassador would present himself, as usual, at the
  head of the _corps diplomatique_ at the reception of his royal
  highness, and that the prince would ask him ‘_if he had ever been
  at Naples?_’ and that, on turning as he would leave him, to pass to
  another ambassador, he would take his handkerchief from his pocket
  and wave it as he passed.

  “On the 1st of July, the ambassadors were received by his royal
  highness, who supported M. d’Escoïquiz by giving the preconcerted
  signal. Two days after this, M. d’Escoïquiz had another interview
  with M. de Beauharnais, who bade him rely on the sentiments of
  affection which Napoleon had ever felt towards the Prince of
  Asturias, and his readiness to maintain his cause against the
  Prince of the Peace. It was then that M. d’Escoïquiz thought it
  proper to bring forward the question concerning the marriage, and
  even went so far as to leave to Napoleon the choice of the princess
  of his own family whom he would prefer to place upon the throne
  of Spain. The utmost secrecy was sworn to on both sides, M. de
  Beauharnais promising to write immediately to Paris, in order that
  proper measures might be taken with regard to the king, so as to
  prevent any imputation of intrigue being laid to the charge of his
  son.

  “In consequence of the surveillance which was exercised by Godoï
  over every movement of the French ambassador, it was agreed that
  M. de Beauharnais and M. d’Escoïquiz were to meet for the first
  interview in a secluded spot of the gardens of the Retiro. It
  was about twenty days afterwards that M. d’Escoïquiz received an
  intimation that he would be expected during the hour of siesta,
  when they would have little fear of surprise, at the place which
  had been appointed. Here M. d’Escoïquiz learnt, with the greatest
  astonishment, that the answer which the ambassador had received
  from Napoleon was perfectly puerile and insignificant, never even
  alluding to the marriage; and M. de Beauharnais, attributing this
  silence to the absence of any _written_ communication on the part
  of the young prince, advised M. d’Escoïquiz to persuade him to
  write directly to Napoleon. (Was this a snare?) It is certain that
  M. de Beauharnais _must_ have received some positive instructions,
  which he did not choose to reveal until the prince had further
  committed himself, and he suffered M. d’Escoïquiz to return to
  Toledo in disgust.

  “It was on the 30th September, 1807, that M. d’Escoïquiz received
  a letter from the ambassador, in which were quoted, as an extract
  from a private communication of Napoleon’s, the following words,
  each underlined: ‘_I beg not, neither do I sell—I act not without
  security. Have you received any official communication touching
  this affair?_’ The forms of political quackery employed in this
  letter induced M. d’Escoïquiz once more to return to Madrid;
  again did he meet the ambassador at the Retiro; again did M. de
  Beauharnais endeavour to persuade M. d’Escoïquiz to prevail upon
  the prince to write directly to Napoleon; and the good canon,
  having the welfare of the prince at heart, yielded at last, and
  promised that such a letter should be written.

  “Now, the Prince of the Peace was all this time perfectly aware of
  everything that was passing in the house of the ambassador, through
  the medium of the spies with whom the latter was surrounded, and
  he caused the king immediately to write, himself, to Napoleon,
  which epistle was instantly despatched to the Spanish ambassador
  in Paris, the Prince de Masserano, with orders to convey it, the
  very moment of its arrival, to the emperor, in whatever place
  he might chance to be. It was natural enough that, with the
  dilatory character of the Prince of Asturias, his father’s letter
  should arrive long before his own. It reached the emperor at
  Fontainebleau, and excited much astonishment and indignation. It
  was full of bitter reproach against Napoleon for having encouraged
  a secret correspondence with the young heir to the Spanish throne,
  telling him beforehand of the despatch he was about to receive from
  the prince, _and of all that the letter would contain_.

  “That letter was full of protestations of devotion to Napoleon, and
  of admiration of his brilliant qualities, of the before-mentioned
  proposal of marriage, and of supplications to the emperor to aid in
  rescuing the country from the hands of the Prince of the Peace. It
  was upon the strength of this letter that the Prince of the Peace,
  gained over by Napoleon, persuaded the old king to allow of the
  entry of French troops, ostensibly to compel Portugal to separate
  her cause from that of England—it being understood that it was
  merely as a passage to that country that these troops were allowed
  to cross the line.

  “On the 27th of October, at ten o’clock at night, the Prince of
  Asturias was arrested in the Palace of the Escurial, under the
  accusation of having conspired to rob his father of the throne, and
  of having sought to assassinate him. The act of arrest went on to
  say, that these particulars had come to the knowledge of the king
  _through an unknown channel_, and that he would be tried for the
  crime of high treason. M. d’Escoïquiz and the Duke del’ Infantado
  were arraigned as accomplices. They were confined in the dungeons
  of the Escurial, deprived of all communication with each other, or
  with the world without, and two sentinels were stationed at the
  door of each cell.

  “During the process of the prince, the number of French troops
  had increased to more than double. It was observed that they had
  taken up positions entirely contrary to the direction they had
  professed to follow, and that they were each day drawing nearer to
  Madrid, and the people, in every country more clear-sighted than
  its rulers, began to feel alarm at the intrusion. It was necessary
  to give some diplomatic explanations concerning these singular
  marches, but these were so ill received, that the Prince of the
  Peace was compelled to order back the Spanish regiments already on
  their road to Portugal. The ambassador feigned total ignorance,
  and, after the lapse of a few days, received instructions to say
  that, by commanding the retrograde movement, the Prince of the
  Peace must be prepared to allow of an increase of French forces.
  In the fear of a counter-order, these latter troops, by forced
  marches, soon took possession of the whole frontier of Catalonia,
  Navarre, and Guipuscoa. The court wishing to appear free from
  anxiety, negotiations went on as usual between the two governments.
  Meanwhile, the country was invaded, and the Prince of the Peace
  began to lose somewhat of his overweening confidence in the
  disinterested friendship of Napoleon, but, like all weak-minded
  persons, thought that everything would be saved by gaining time. He
  accordingly proposed a journey into Andalusia on the 13th of March,
  and that very same night he gave orders for departure; but it was
  impossible to keep the preparations so secret as to escape the
  observation of some of the hangers-on who always throng about royal
  palaces. The orders all along the road for relays of horses, the
  departure of the luggage, the sudden disappearance of Madame Yudo,
  with her children, all these circumstances united, had produced an
  uneasiness among the people, and roused the feeling of hatred and
  indignation towards the Prince of the Peace, which had slumbered,
  but had never been extinguished, and it was declared that he was
  counselling the king to desert Madrid.

  “In these popular movements, it needs but a spark to light the
  brand, and in less time than could be conceived possible, a crowd
  had assembled before Godoï’s residence, with loud and furious cries
  demanding justice on the oppressor of the people. Godoï escaped,
  thanks to his foresight in preparing for a day of reckoning. He
  had planned and accomplished a secret retreat beneath the roof of
  his palace, where he remained concealed while the work of pillage
  and devastation was going on around him. It was not till the 19th,
  that he was discovered by a sentinel, who could not be bribed to
  facilitate his flight. He was secured, and conveyed through the
  streets in a piteous plight.

  “The king, justly deeming that the Prince of Asturias would have
  greater influence with the crowd than himself, was reduced to
  implore his son to intercede in favour of the unfortunate minister.
  This the prince, with true Christian feeling, in spite of all cause
  of grievance which he himself had to complain of, immediately
  consented to do; and, suddenly appearing on the balcony of the
  palace, he promised the assembled multitude that, if they would
  disperse, the Prince of the Peace should be tried and judged
  according to the law. This address had the desired effect; the
  crowd retired, and Godoï was taken prisoner to the barracks of the
  _gardes du corps_, where, by one of those strange coincidences by
  which it would appear as if Providence sought to remind ambitious
  men of a day of retribution, he was locked up in the very chamber
  which he had occupied when a simple private soldier in that
  identical corps.

  “It was after this event that the Prince of Asturias was received
  into favour, and with him, the friends who had been so devoted to
  his cause. M. d’Escoïquiz was appointed to superintend all the
  negotiations with the French ambassador, as it was thought in
  council that M. de Beauharnais, after what had taken place, would
  find himself more at ease with M. d’Escoïquiz than with any other
  of its members.”

  It was immediately after these events that Charles IV., by his own
  spontaneous act, abdicated the throne in favour of his son, who
  took his father’s place as Ferdinand VII. All the circumstances
  which followed are fully detailed in the work of M. de Pradt, and
  need not be repeated here. The details of the manuscript tally
  in every respect with those given by that author, and I shall
  therefore content myself with giving to the reader the gossiping
  portion of the narrative; the hitherto _unpublished_ history of
  one of the most striking and audacious _coups-de-main_ of modern
  history.

  “From this hour was that _coup-de-main_ evidently planned and
  meditated, and one scarcely knows which to admire most—the fond
  and simple security of the Spaniards, or the boldness and contempt
  of all social respect which characterized the proceedings of
  the French. The ambassador announced at length the arrival of
  the Emperor Napoleon at Bordeaux, and was pleased to renew the
  protestations of friendship on the part of his master, with which
  he had already beguiled the faith and credulity of the poor young
  Prince of Asturias. It was not, however, until the 8th of April
  that King Ferdinand decided on despatching his young brother, Don
  Carlos, to meet the emperor, with instructions to proceed even to
  Paris, should he fail to meet him on the road. Don Carlos was the
  bearer of a letter from Ferdinand to Napoleon, in which, after
  speaking of the strict alliance which it was the interest of
  both countries to maintain, and having again urged the subject of
  his marriage with one of the emperor’s nieces, he announced his
  intention of going forward to meet his imperial majesty, as soon as
  he should have approached the frontiers of Spain.

  “Don Carlos took his departure on the 9th of April. The news of
  the departure of the emperor from Paris, reached Madrid on the
  11th. Ferdinand, meanwhile, worn out with the persecutions of the
  Grand-duke of Berg and General Savary, quitted Madrid, for Burgos,
  on the 14th. His council advised him to this measure; perceiving
  that he had not the means either of attack or defence, it was
  thought to be the wisest plan to throw himself into the arms of
  Napoleon.

  “It was now observed that not a single negotiation had taken place
  with the new king, and that he had not been formally acknowledged
  by Napoleon, who had never taken the trouble to answer any of his
  letters, and now, too late, it was beginning to be feared that
  the frequent conferences which had taken place between Charles
  IV., the queen, and the Grand-duke of Berg, through the medium of
  the Queen of Etruria, had for their only aim the replacing of
  Charles upon the throne, by causing him to protest against the
  act of abdication. This secret intrigue, of which M. de Monthion,
  adjutant-general, had been the messenger, and the Queen of Etruria
  the instrument, produced the act of the 21st of April, in which
  Charles IV. speaks thus:

  “‘I protest and declare that my decree of the 19th of March, by
  which I abdicated the throne in favour of my son, was extorted from
  me by force, and the desire of preventing great disorder in my
  kingdom, and the effusion of the blood of my well-beloved people,
  and ought therefore to be regarded as an act null and void.

            “‘YO EL REY.’

“The natural consequence of this protest was of course the application
to Napoleon for help against his son, thus pronounced a rebel and
usurper. Ferdinand had authorized a junta, under the presidency of his
uncle Don Antonio, to take charge of the government during his absence.
He had with him a single squadron of the _gardes du corps_; and two
companies of foot had orders to await him at Burgos. He was three
days upon the road, and found every post occupied by French troops,
among which he could not discern a single Spanish soldier. At Burgos,
he found Marshal Bessières, in command of 10,000 men. The marshal
courteously offered the use of the relays which had been provided for
Napoleon, for the conveyance of Ferdinand to Vittoria, which offer
was accepted. Here the unfortunate prince found a corps composed of
two hundred dragoons, and a _compagnie d’élite_ of fifty gendarmes,
commanded by Colonel Fleury.

“The prince remained three days at Vittoria, and lodged at the Hotel
de Ville. Savary grew impatient at this long delay; his orders were
to bring the prince on to Bayonne, _nolens volens_. Every measure had
been taken to carry him off on the 19th, if he had not listened to
the last endeavour at persuasion on the 18th. But the king removed
every difficulty, by announcing his intention of once more setting
forward on his journey. At nine o’clock on the morning of the 19th, at
the moment of his getting into the carriage, a popular instinct had
drawn together a vast concourse of people at the door of the Hôtel
de Ville; a universal cry of execration arose from the multitude as
the young prince mounted the vehicle; the traces were cut, and the
mules unharnessed. Ferdinand was compelled to harangue the populace,
and succeeded in quieting them by assurances of his perfect safety;
the furious cries which had been heard gave place to tears, and, soon
afterwards, he was allowed to depart; but in consequence of the delay,
did not arrive at Irun until eleven o’clock at night.

“Here the king and his brother were lodged at the house of M.
d’Alozabal, outside the town, and they were guarded by a Spanish
regiment. General Savary did not arrive at Irun until the 20th, at
seven in the morning, owing to an accident which occurred to his
carriage. Thus the king and his council were left for eight hours
alone, without their French escort, guarded by Spanish troops, in the
house of a Spaniard, situated on the sea-shore, where a number of boats
were lying attached to stakes planted at the bottom of the garden.
General Savary, immediately on his arrival, rushed like a terrified
culprit to the house where the king had alighted. Oh, joy!—he found him
still sleeping quietly in his bed.

“At eight o’clock, the _cortège_ set out for Bayonne, and in that
place was accomplished one of the most extraordinary events which,
perhaps, has ever taken place in the history of nations. At the moment
when the king passed over the frontier, the carriage was surrounded
by detachments of the imperial guard. Their numbers appeared rather
extraordinary for a mere guard of honour. This reflection, vague enough
on its first adoption, changed to a sinister foreboding, when, on
passing beneath the triumphal arch which had been thrown across the
road, they beheld the following words inscribed amidst the boughs of
laurel with which it was decorated:—‘He who can make and destroy Kings
at pleasure is himself more than a King.’

“Now were the princes of Spain beyond the jurisdiction of their own
country, and in the power of Napoleon. Between Vivau and Bayonne,
Ferdinand found the Infant Don Paulo, who, with three Spanish noblemen,
had come to greet his unhappy brother. The king requested them to join
him in his carriage, and then he learned, with the greatest surprise,
that Napoleon himself had declared to them on the day before, at _ten
in the morning_, that they might never expect to return to Madrid, and
that one of his own brothers was about to occupy the throne of Spain. I
have marked the hour at which this declaration had taken place, because
it must have taken eighteen hours to get the news conveyed to Irun, and
at Irun, as we have seen, there had been ample time and opportunity for
the escape of the princes.

“Nothing was left but resignation to their fate; the carriage was
drawing near to Bayonne; at half-past twelve o’clock, the princes
arrived in the good old city, and, a few moments afterwards, the king
received a visit from Napoleon in person. In this interview, doubtless
by design, the conversation was insignificant, excepting that it was
observed that, in the style of Napoleon’s address to the king, there
existed an affectation of addressing him in the third person, using the
pronoun _elle_, which might be applicable in the French language either
to majesty or royalty.

“Ferdinand hastened to pay his respects to Napoleon, in grateful homage
for this first visit, and the emperor invited him to dine at the
Château de Maroc. The Dukes de San Carlos, de Medina Cœli, and del’
Infantado, were also invited. The Prince de Neufchâtel was the only
Frenchman present at this dinner.

“On the next day, Napoleon granted a private audience to M.
d’Escoïquiz, and bade him comprehend that he was determined to alter
the dynasty which had sat upon the throne of Spain; forgetting that he
had a thousand times declared that his own existence was incompatible
with the fact of any sovereign of the house of Bourbon being allowed
to remain on any of the thrones of Europe. He alleged in excuse of his
proceedings the proclamation of the Spanish government at the period
of the battle of Jena, which proclamation, he said, had been regarded
in France as a measure of war. He then added, in a loud, fierce voice,
that it would be useless to seek to alter his determination, for that
nothing on earth could make him change. He paused after the utterance
of these terrible words, and then spoke, in a softened voice, of the
misfortunes into which the young princes had fallen, and regretted for
their sakes that he was compelled to take such harsh measures, wishing
them to be assured that nothing but the necessity of perfecting his
system could have induced him to behave thus hardly towards them. He
even went so far as to offer to the young king, upon condition that he
would renounce all pretensions to the Crown of Spain, the kingdom of
Etruria, with one year’s revenue, to be spent in forming a household,
one of his nieces in marriage, and, in case he himself died without
heirs, a right to share his property with his younger brothers.

“M. d’Escoïquiz, who was a brave and clever man, answered to all this
disloyal cant as became a Spaniard and a gentleman, without acrimony
and without passion, stating that it was not in the power of the
emperor to compensate the king for the loss of the crown of which he
was depriving him, and appealing at great length to every feeling of
honour and humanity in the emperor’s bosom. Napoleon listened to all
without betraying the slightest mark of impatience, but merely replied
that he had been for a long time engaged in examining the question on
every side; that his present determination was dictated by the _system_
which he had in view, and which, although against the feelings of his
heart, he must continue to persevere in. The canon then retired. The
result of his visit was submitted to the other friends of Ferdinand.
M. de Cevallos was _alone_ of opinion that every proposition of
Napoleon should be refused, and that all communication between the
two sovereigns should be suspended; and he exacted, seeing the great
responsibility which the council was incurring with the Spanish nation,
that each member should certify his opinion in writing.

“Is it not strange that the courage of these men should have been
roused just at the moment when they had need of nought but resignation?
But so it was: their Spanish pride had taken umbrage at last, and
the Duke del’ Infantado was commissioned to announce to Napoleon
the prince’s intention of naming a plenipotentiary to negotiate in
writing every subject which it might be the emperor’s pleasure to have
discussed. The proceeding of Napoleon on this occasion was highly
characteristic of the man. He sent for M. d’Escoïquiz, and told him, in
blunt and coarse language, that, if before eleven o’clock that night
the councillors did not bring the formal renunciation of Ferdinand to
the throne of Spain, and the formal demand of that of Etruria, he would
treat with Charles IV., who was to arrive on the morrow. M. de Cevallos
implored the young king not to accede to any proposition of Napoleon;
but, the day after, M. d’Escoïquiz ventured to speak again concerning
Tuscany, when Napoleon answered abruptly, ‘Par Dieu, mon cher, il n’est
plus temps!’

“On the 30th, at four in the afternoon, Charles IV. and the queen,
arrived at Bayonne. Napoleon had despatched one of his chamberlains to
compliment them at Irun. In the same carriage with the king was the
Princess d’Alcudia, daughter of the Prince of the Peace. The entry of
the king and queen was most brilliant. The princes were allowed to go
forward to meet them, and returned to Bayonne in their suite.

“The arrival of Charles completely altered the face of things. He
consented to all that was required of him. Napoleon sent a message,
through M. d’Escoïquiz, to Ferdinand, to the effect that, as King
Charles IV. had refused to adhere to his abdication, it was the
duty of the Prince of Asturias to give in his renunciation at the
instant. The young prince, through weakness, consented to this mark
of respect to his father, although aware that in this proposition
some sinister design of Napoleon must be concealed. The first act of
authority on the part of Charles was to name the Grand-duke of Berg
lieutenant-general of the kingdom, thus excluding Don Antonio, who had
been called to Bayonne by an order of Charles himself. Don Antonio had
yielded without a murmur; and an aide-de-camp of the Grand-duke of Berg
escorted him to Bayonne, where he arrived on the 25th. He had incurred
some danger on the road, for the people had unharnessed the mules of
his carriage at Tolosa, and thrown down cart-loads of rubbish on the
bridge. Don Antonio had owed his safety entirely to the courage of the
captain of cuirassiers who commanded his escort.

“Soon after the arrival of Don Antonio, the Queen of Etruria joined the
royal party, bringing with her the Infant Don Francisco. It was at this
moment that the princes were greeted with the astounding information
that they were immediately to depart as prisoners for Valençay, and
here they arrived on the 18th of May.

“Their entrance into the château will never be forgotten, for it left
upon the mind of every beholder the most singular impression. The
princes (all excepting Don Antonio) were young, and blooming with
health and innocence, while everything about them, the habiliments
which they wore, the carriages which conveyed them, the liveries of
their attendants, brought back the memory of past centuries. The
very coach from which they alighted might have belonged to Philip
V. This air of antiquity reminded the bystanders of their grandeur,
and rendered their position still more interesting. They were the
first Bourbons who had touched the soil of France after so many years
of troubles and disasters, and it was with tears that they were
received. The Princess de Talleyrand and the ladies of her suite
crowded round to greet them on their arrival, and by their attentions
succeeded in diverting the grief which they expressed at this cruel
and unjustifiable exile. It was the object of every inhabitant of the
château to render this exile as easy to be borne as possible.

“On the very morrow of their arrival, the young princes were assured
by all they saw, that Napoleon reigned not either in the château or
in the park of Valençay. No one was permitted to appear before them
without an order from themselves, and it was agreed that no one should
approach them save in court costume. Such marks of honour and respect
were pleasing to young men who had been brought up amid the ceremony
and etiquette of the Escurial. Every hour of the day was allotted to
some pursuit. In the morning, mass at the chapel—then the _siesta_—then
driving or riding in the park, and then again to prayer. In a few days,
the young princes found themselves more at home than they had ever done
in their father’s palace at Madrid. They had never been accustomed even
to go out to take an airing without a ceremonious permission from the
king; they had never been allowed even to walk together, it not being
etiquette for more than one royal prince to be absent from the palace
at a time. It is a singular fact, that the amusements of the chase,
riding on horseback, and dancing, had been strictly prohibited at the
court of Spain. It was at Valençay that Ferdinand fired his first shot.

“The young princes were all delighted at the change in their habits,
and at the kindness with which they were surrounded. The _garde de
chasse_ who accompanied them through the park, had served the Prince de
Condé; the riding-master who was employed to teach them to ride, had
been for years in the _grande ecurie_, and had given instructions to
Madame Elizabeth; so that they were constantly reminded of individuals
of their own family. Boucher, the cook, was continually employed in
concocting detestable Spanish ollas. The terrace before the château was
converted for their amusement into a _salle de bal_, where they would
sometimes join in those dances of their country, which require no art
to follow the movements or the step. Guitars were left in every corner
of the garden, and the kind-hearted Dussek himself would devote his
time and talent to the execution of simple Spanish airs, which they
would love to hear, as being the only music they could understand.

“But all these amusements were only minor points of interest in the
history of their lives. It was at the hour of prayer, when the bell of
the chapel rang at sunset, that all the etiquette of Spanish form was
most strictly adhered to. Every soul in the château, whether visitor,
attendant, gaoler, or guard, was compelled to attend at the chapel;
and it was really a touching sight to behold prisoners and gaolers,
oppressors and oppressed, kneeling together before the same God, laying
aside their bitterness and enmities before Him who was one day to judge
them all.”

During this period of uncertainty, while his European allies were
still dubious as to the manner in which his brother Joseph would be
received as king of Spain, Napoleon was in a state of constant terror
and alarm with regard to the prisoners of Valençay; he could not hear
of the place, nor of the persons who inhabited it, without giving way
to transports of rage, and to the utterance of injurious epithets
concerning those whom he had already wronged and oppressed. One day,
the young prince received a billet, couched in the following terms:
‘Prince Ferdinand, in writing to me, addresses me as his cousin. Let
him understand that such address is ridiculous, and let him henceforth
simply call me “SIRE.”’

“From this time forward, the existence of the princes seemed to have
been forgotten; and all that can be said of them during the five years
that they spent at Valençay is, that they existed. The treaty which
fixed their departure to Spain was negotiated at Valençay, and they
left the place full of unspeakable gratitude for the kindness and
princely generosity of its owner.”

Just as I had finished the reading of this tale of wonder, C. entered
the room. “What think you of this strange statement?” said he. “The
history of your own country, all wild and furious as it is, cannot
offer an example of such audacity as this.” I was fain humbly to
confess our inferiority in these matters. “But know you,” said I, “the
opinion of Prince Talleyrand with regard to this affair?”

“He has been calumniated even in this,” was C.’s reply, “and accused
of having advised the measure; whereas his indignation on learning
from Napoleon himself the step which had been taken, dictated the
boldest and most eloquent speech which, perhaps, ever fell from his
lips: ‘Sire,’ said he, warmly, ‘a young man of family (_un enfant
de famille_) may gamble away his last farthing—the heritage of his
ancestors—the dower of his mother—the portion of his sisters—and
yet be courted and admired for his wit—be sought for his talents or
distinction—but let him once be detected in _cheating_ at the game,
and he is lost—society is for ever shut against him.’ With these words
he turned upon his heel, leaving the emperor pale and quivering with
rage, and vowing vengeance against the bold speaker of the unwholesome
truth. Such was the real opinion of the Prince de Talleyrand
concerning this unprincipled transaction—the expression of the man who
has been accused, not only of having been the instigator of the whole
proceeding, but of having aided in its execution. ‘Et voilà comme on
écrit l’histoire!’”



CHAPTER IV.

CAGLIOSTRO—VOLTAIRE—THE MARQUIS DE J——.


It was the hour of noon, and C. had kindly come to fetch me to the
luncheon-room, where I found the guests all assembled, listening
greedily to the conversation of the prince, who was that morning _en
verve_, and relating with great good-nature the anecdotes which he
had promised us on the preceding evening; the first claimant to be
satisfied was, of course, by right, the youthful duchess, to whom he
had held out hopes of the history of his famous visit to the great
Cagliostro, and which I will give to the reader.

“It was just at the dawning of the new lights which had arisen on
the political horizon,” began the prince, “or rather, I should say,
perhaps, with more justice, at the first extinguishing of the old
beacons which had served to guide our ancestors for ages, that so many
new doctrinaires and charlatans of every kind came swarming in crowds
to Paris. Those were, indeed, most troublous times. Every brain seemed
reeling with political vertigo—every heart seemed to beat thick and
fast, with an ardour hitherto unknown in the annals of any country
on the face of the globe. With the warm and passionate temperaments,
enthusiasm had reached to frenzy, while, with the cold and passionless,
it smouldered, a hidden fire, ready to burst out into lurid flame upon
the first occasion of excitement.

“Among the many quacks and impostors who abounded at the time, none
was more conspicuous than the famous Cagliostro. He had arrived from
Italy under extraordinary and mysterious circumstances; his coming had
been preceded by rumours more strange, more surprising still, and his
door was besieged at once by all the rich and idle, the marvel-loving
portion of the population of Paris. Among the rest, I am ashamed to
confess that I was one of the most ardent. I was very young at the
time, and had not acquired that distrust of all pretension which years
alone can give. Many months, however, had elapsed before I could
obtain the audience I so much coveted. Thousands of persons had to pass
by right before me, and it was said that, immediately on his arrival,
his books were so filled with the names of the highest and mightiest,
that, had he been _just_, and received them each _in turn_, the
candidates at the _bottom_ of the list would have known their future by
experience long before he could by any possible means have foretold it.

“I myself knew an officer in the regiment de Flandre, who, being
quartered at Metz, and not being able to obtain from his colonel leave
of absence, threw up his commission, in order to keep his appointment
with Cagliostro on a certain day in Paris, so fearful was he of losing
the valuable information concerning the future, which the magician had
to give him.

“I cannot even now repress a smile, when I remember the awe and terror
with which I entered the presence of the conjuror. I had not dared to
go alone; M. de Boufflers had kindly consented to accompany me; and
yet my embarrassment was not wholly dissipated even with the prospect
of his company; so fearful was I of missing the object of my visit,
that I had wasted so much time in thinking of all the questions which
I meant to propound to him, as to have even written many of them upon
my _calpin_, with the intention of consulting it in case of need. It
was already dusk when we were admitted into the awful presence of the
conjuror; not quite dark without doors, yet sufficiently so within to
require the aid of tapers. The antechamber was filled with impatient
applicants, who railed at us as we passed through the door of the
chamber where the wizard was holding his incantations. The whole
scene was very like those introduced in the early Spanish dramas, and
inspired one with the most awful forebodings as to what was about to
follow.

“We found the magician in his study. He was just at the moment
engaged in dismissing two poor patients, to whom he had given advice
gratuitously. The one was a cripple figure, whose distorted and haggard
countenance formed a most fitting accessory to the scene of devilry;
the other was an old mendicant friar, afflicted with the shaking palsy,
whose restless limbs and hesitating speech made him appear as if under
the influence of some wizard spell.

“As soon as we entered, Cagliostro led his guests to a door at the
farther end of the chamber, which was veiled by a thick tapestry, and,
opening it without the slightest noise, ushered them through it into
the passage beyond, and then, closing it again with the same attention
to silence, returned to the spot where we were standing, and, placing
his finger on his lips, pointed towards a still and motionless figure
seated in one corner of the room, and which, from the obscurity that
reigned around, we had not observed on our entrance. The figure was
that of a female, covered from head to foot with a veil of black crape,
so long and ample that it disguised even the form of the fauteuil in
which she was seated.

“Cagliostro bade us take seats at a table covered with green velvet,
upon which were placed divers mysterious-looking instruments of
torture, sundry queer-shaped bottles and diabolical volumes, and
then, standing up before us, in solemn and biblical language inquired
wherefore we had sought him, and what it was that we desired to know.
Such was the effect of the sudden questioning, the mystery of the
interview, the silence and the darkness, that Boufflers, who was to
have spoken first, and who had the reputation of being a _raffiné
de premier ordre_, a _roué de la Régence_, was quite overawed by the
whole scene, and could find no words to answer the summons, but sat
stammering and hesitating, while I took the opportunity of examining
slowly and at leisure the wondrous adept.

“Cagliostro was then a man in the very flower of his age, of
exceedingly prepossessing appearance. His person, although small, was
so well and firmly knit that its proportions seemed those of a much
larger man. His countenance was remarkably keen and penetrating, being
formed of a succession of sharp angular lines, which gave him a look
of cunning that he would willingly have disguised, and with which the
solemn tone and mysterious aspect were altogether at variance. His
sharp piercing eyes I shall never forget; they absolutely seemed to
light up the obscurity of the chamber, and, as they flashed from the
one to the other of his visitors, they seemed to belong to some wild
bird of prey hesitating between two victims which to devour first.
His beard and eyebrows were black and bushy, with here and there a
streak of grey amid their jetty blackness, telling more of the hand
of woe than of the passage of time. When we entered, he had upon his
head a velvet cap, which, with gentlemanlike courtesy, he doffed when
he addressed us, and then I perceived that the summit of his crown
was already bald, although his hair curled downward upon his neck and
shoulders in a thick and silky mass. The hand which rested upon the
table, and upon which he seemed to be leaning his whole weight as he
stood in graceful and theatrical attitude, awaiting our communication,
was small and delicate as that of a lady of the court, and shone out
upon the dark green velvet as white as snow; and yet it needed not any
very profound knowledge of anatomy to enable the beholder to discern at
once that it was the hand of a man possessed of most herculean strength
and power, so vigorous were the firm knit muscles, so well strung the
tightened, cord-like nerves. I think he observed with some displeasure
the curiosity with which I gazed towards it, for he withdrew it
suddenly, and let it fall by his side.

“Boufflers still remaining mute, the conjuror turned to me, and asked
me, in a voice which had already lost much of its solemnity, and
partook of something like harshness, if I also had come unprepared
with a subject of consultation, as, if so, we had best depart at
once, and leave the field to others whose business might be of more
importance, and who were waiting with such impatience without. The
question roused all the courage which was left within me, for I began
to fear that the magician might grow wearied, and dismiss us as he
threatened, and I answered in a low voice that I wished to consult him
concerning the health of a person who was dear to me. (I had already
forgotten all the questions I had intended to propound, as well as the
_calpin_ which I had so laden with notes.)

“Cagliostro turned, and by a movement so abrupt and sudden that it
made us both start to our feet, drew the fauteuil wherein was seated
the veiled mysterious form of the female who had remained all this
time silent and motionless, across the floor, and still the figure
moved not. The feet resting on a board attached to the bottom of the
fauteuil, moved with the rest, producing an indescribable effect. At
the present day, when the mysteries of mesmerism have become common
household talk, and somnambulism has been made a general _voie de
guerison_ for every complaint under heaven, all this will appear vain
and puerile ceremony; but, at the period of which I am now speaking,
they were familiar but to the initiated few, and Boufflers and I, poor
ignorant novices, were struck with awe and wonder.

“‘What is it you seek to know?’ said Cagliostro, resuming once more
his solemn and theatrical air, and, drawing a little aside the veil of
black crape, he bent towards the ear of the female, and whispered a few
words which we could not understand.

“I was so afraid at the moment of losing, as my friend Boufflers
had already done, the memory of what I had to say, that I replied
hurriedly, never thinking of myself, nor of the thousand and one
questions which I had predetermined to ask—‘I wish to learn the cause
of the migraine of my friend the Marquise de ——’

“‘Chut,’ interrupted Cagliostro. ‘The name is of little import. What
see you?’ added he, in a loud deep tone, turning to the veiled figure.

“‘I see a fair and beauteous lady,’ replied a sweet soft voice from
beneath the veil. ‘She is attired in a dress of sea-green Padua silk,
her powdered hair is wreathed with rosebuds, and she wears long and
splendid eardrops of emerald and topaz.’

“Boufflers caught my arm, with a smile, which the excitement of the
moment had converted into a grimace, for he knew well enough the person
for whom I was so anxious, and knew, moreover, that there were certain
nights on which she wore the emerald and topaz suit, and that this
very night was one of them. The veiled form continued, in the same low
voice: ‘The lady is pressing her hand to her brow at this very instant.
Is it with pain, or is it with care? She is waiting for some one, for
now she rises and looks at the clock upon the console, and now she goes
to the small side-door to listen.’

“‘Enough, enough,’ said I, in my turn, growing impatient; ‘tell me at
once what it is that ails the lady, and what may be the remedy.’

“The figure spoke aloud no more, but whispered long in Cagliostro’s
ear, and the latter, turning to me, said, with ease and _àplomb_, ‘The
lady’s migraines are caused by overwatching and anxiety—the _cure_ is
easy, and must be applied at once—the _cause_ will be removed in time.’

“He pushed back the fauteuil into the corner whence he had drawn
it; the veiled figure by which it was occupied remained still and
motionless as death. He then opened a small door in the wainscot,
belonging to a cupboard filled with shelves, containing bottles of
all sorts and sizes, and drew from it a phial, which he filled from a
jug of that which stood upon the floor, and having performed various
‘_passes_’ and evolutions over it, he handed it to me, bidding my
companion and myself to lose no time in retiring, for others were
waiting outside.

“His dismissal of us was as abrupt as possible, scarcely, indeed,
consistent with politeness. ‘You have told your ailments and your
griefs—you bear with you the never-failing cure—now begone.’

“With these words he opened the same low door through which he had
let out the two visitors whom we had succeeded; and Boufflers and I
passed out, obeying, without a word, the gesture of the magician, which
pointed towards the passage beyond.

“Such is the history of my first interview with the great Cagliostro.
To you, who behold daily the strange and varied examples of magnetism,
my story will perhaps appear pale and puerile; but you must remember
that, at the time, the thing was new, and, notwithstanding all that
has been discovered since, none has surpassed him; even to this very
hour, the secret of Cagliostro has not been discovered. It is supposed
that ventriloquism was much employed by him in his various _tours de
force_. Perhaps it was made the agent of deception in my own case,
and the figure veiled with black crape may have been a mere puppet
set up to delude the credulous. The circumstance which would seem to
favour greatly the suspicion of imposture is, that, as Cagliostro
never employed twice the same agency, the _consultant_ could never
come _prepared_ to watch and detect the machinery of his experiments,
and in fact, being always taken by surprise, had no leisure to think
of anything else than the consultation he had come to hold. Again, how
_could_ the adept have known, by natural means, that the Marquise de
Br**, whom he had not suffered me to name, was young and beauteous—that
she possessed eardrops of emerald and topaz, which mixture of jewels
was peculiar, and that she would wear them on that very night? All
these reflections completely bewildered me, as I hastened on to the
Opera, certain that the marquise would be there, full of curiosity to
see if her dress and appearance would correspond with Cagliostro’s
description. Boufflers could not help me, nor suggest a single idea
to solve the mystery, so absorbed was he in the memory of the strange
scene he had been witnessing—so completely wonder-struck by the silence
and mystery of the whole proceeding.

“We arrived at the Opera just as the curtain was about to rise. I shall
never forget the performance, so linked is it in memory with that
night’s adventure. It was Gluck’s opera of ‘Alceste.’ Boufflers and
myself took our places in the parterre, immediately below the loge of
the marquise, which was empty, and remained so for some time; and I can
assure you that, when, in the midst of one of the most pathetic scenes
of the opera, I heard the door of the box open, and a valet-de-chambre
announce, as was the usage among the fashionables of the day, ‘Madame
la Marquise de Br**,’ we both turned sharply round. She entered,
muffled up to the chin, and evidently suffering greatly from her old
enemy the migraine, for she held a screen before her eyes to shield
them from the glare of light, and bent her head upon her hand as soon
as she had taken her seat.

“‘Look! she _has_ roses in her hair,’ exclaimed Boufflers, all aghast.

“It was true enough the roses were there; and _I_ could see even more,
for the eardrops of emerald and topaz caught the light of the girandole
in front of her box, and played before my eyes in a most tantalizing
manner.

Presently the marquise, overcome by the heat, withdrew her cloak and
muffles, and stood revealed to us in the full light, exactly as she had
been described to us so short a time before. The dress of sea-green
Padua silk, looped with roses, seemed completely to choke poor
Boufflers, as he stood gazing on her in mute amazement. So far, the
wizard had told us truth. Since his day, the same experiment has been
repeated, and in thousands of instances has succeeded. You have all, I
doubt not, some little story of the kind to tell, much more striking
and interesting than mine, but the sequel of my anecdote, I think, may
be unique, so completely did the adventure jump from the sublime to the
ridiculous at a single bound.

“At the conclusion of the piece we both repaired to the box of the
Marquise de Br**. She was suffering greatly from her migraine, and
greeted me ironically, observing that I was ‘_bien aimable et bien
galant_—that she had waited for me to escort her to the Opera, and
had been compelled to depart from home alone. After the performance,
we all adjourned to her hotel. I had completely reinstated myself in
her good graces, by the promise of a complete cure for her migraine.
The gentlemen of the company, however, all voted that a glass or two
of champagne should be tried first, before the dear marquise was put
to pain and torture by any of the diabolical remedies of the sorcerer
Cagliostro. The vote was carried, and the marquise compelled to submit
to their prescription first, which she did with the greatest grace
and good-humour, using every effort to appear gay, although evidently
suffering much pain at the very moment.

I will not attempt to record all the good things which were uttered at
the _petit souper_, nor all the _idées folles_ to which the champagne
gave birth. Boufflers was quite himself again, and had recovered all
his wonted vivacity, all his mad gaiety, and kept us in a roar of
laughter by his wicked sallies and pointed jokes concerning our visit
to Cagliostro. He counterfeited with such excessive humour the whole
scene as it had passed before his eyes, that no one could have imagined
him to be the same individual who had sat quaking in fear and awe
before the very man whose power he was now deriding in such exquisite
glee.

“Of course, the phial and the contents became soon the objects of
attack, and I was petitioned on all sides for a view of them. By the
permission of the marquise herself, I yielded to the clamour, and it
was handed round amid the commentaries of the laughing guests, until
Boufflers proposed that the remedy should at once be tried in the
presence of us all, so that, if it failed, we might at once go and give
Cagliostro the _charivari_ which he would so richly deserve; and, if
it succeeded, we might publish its virtues and the compounder’s skill
throughout the world.

“It was not till I had uncorked the phial, and was about to pour it
into a glass, that it all at once occurred to me, that, in the hurry of
our dismissal from the presence of Cagliostro, I had entirely omitted
to ascertain whether the liquid was to be taken as a medicine, or to
be applied externally. To the eye, it was nothing but pure water from
the fountain, it possessed neither smell nor colour, and the greatest
curiosity was excited to behold its marvellous effects. At length,
by the suggestion of the marquise herself, who was growing weary
of our _badinage_, it was decided that there would be less danger
in misapplying it externally than in swallowing it, should it prove
pernicious; and as I was chosen to be the operator, I poured a small
quantity of the water into the hollow of my hand, which Boufflers
guiding, so that not a drop was spilt, I placed gently as possible over
the forehead of the marquise, pressing it there, but certainly not with
violence, and, supporting the back of her head with the hand that was
free, held her, thus awaiting the result.

“The marquise closed her eyes, but uttered not a word, and there was a
moment’s silence among the clamorous group bending over her with such
eager curiosity to witness the effect of the miraculous cure, when
suddenly it was broken by a loud convulsive shriek from the marquise
herself, which was almost echoed by many of those present, so sudden
and startling did it burst from her lips. ‘Take away your hand! For
God’s sake, take away your hand!’ exclaimed she, in a voice of agony;
and, starting to her feet, she endeavoured, with all her strength, to
pull my wrist downwards. But strange to tell, not all the efforts of
the marquise, nor those I used myself, could tear away my hand from
her forehead! No words can describe the sensation of terror with which
I found myself not only deprived of the faculty of withdrawing my arm,
but drawn by some powerful attraction closer and closer still, until it
almost seemed as if the fingers were about to bury themselves in the
flesh.

“At first, as you may suppose, it was imagined by those present that
the whole event was a jest, and the piteous shrieks of the marquise,
and my own supplications for assistance, had at first been greeted
with roars of laughter; but when it was found that the affair was
serious, the company began to take alarm. It was not, however, till the
unfortunate marquise sank back in her chair, fainting and exhausted,
that the Duc d’Argenton, recovering from the consternation into
which the discovery of the extraordinary event had thrown the whole
assembly, seized my wrist in a nervous grasp, and tore it by main
force away, drawing with it large patches of skin from the forehead of
the marquise, upon which the imprint of my touch remained in bleeding
characters. My hand was torn and lacerated likewise, and the pain was
unbearable. I bound it in my handkerchief, and gave all the assistance
in my power towards the recovery of Madame de Br**, who was conveyed
to bed, still in a deep swoon. We all remained in the saloon, which
had so lately been the scene of our mad gaiety, with downcast looks
and subdued voices, waiting the report of the surgeon who had been
sent for to apply the proper remedies to the wounds of the marquise,
who was not pronounced out of danger till towards morning. We then
dispersed, with the firm determination of having the mystery cleared by
Cagliostro himself as soon as possible. Boufflers instantly repaired to
M. de Sartines, the head of the police, and he furnished us with two
officers, and with all power to make search at the magician’s house, or
take any steps which we might deem necessary.

“Cagliostro received the visit with the greatest _sang froid_, and,
without the slightest resistance, allowed the officer to prosecute his
search among the various tools and utensils which he employed in his
calling. The large jug from which he had taken the liquid contained
in the phial which he had given to me, still stood in the same place
as on the preceding day. There remained but a few drops, for his
patients had been numerous, but these the officer poured into a bottle
and conveyed to the nearest chemist, who laughed in the man’s face,
and pronounced them to be clear water. To my bitter reproaches and
angry exclamations, Cagliostro replied, with perfect calmness, that
the liquid was pure and innocent when he placed it in my hands, and
that if it had grown pernicious it must have been owing to the guilty
passions or to the evil sympathies of those who had used it. No further
explanation could be elicited, and the affair, which made a great
noise at the time, remains a mystery to this hour. As for me, I lost
an amiable and valued friend, for the Marquise de Br**, either through
fear of the ridicule which attached to the adventure, or from memory
of the pain which she had suffered, could never endure me to approach
her after that. She would not even grant me an interview in order to
express my regrets at the strange accident which had happened. She
avoided me when by chance we met in public, scarcely even returning my
salutation but by a cold and formal acknowledgment. She refused all
the efforts of our mutual friends at effecting a reconciliation, and,
wearied with my importunities (for I really felt anxious to do away
the unjust impression), she ended by returning my letters of apologies
and supplications unopened.”

The prince paused thoughtfully. The story was at an end.

“Did there remain a scar or trace of the wound which the marquise had
incurred?” said Madame de V——.

“She carried the mark of that night’s adventure to her grave,” replied
the prince; “a long, narrow scar, which all the art of the coiffeur
could not disguise. The corner of one her exquisitely traced eyebrows,
too, had been torn off, and never grew again; but she replaced it with
great effect by an _assassin_, which she wore there ever after.”

The prince paused again for a moment, and then added, while a smile
full of malicious glee, of exquisite _finesse_, passed across his
countenance, “The _girandole_ eardrops of emerald and topaz she not
only wore no more, but had the cruelty to bestow upon her maid, who
adorned herself with them at the next Opera ball, whither she was sent
by her mistress to _intriguer_ me, while the lovely marquise replaced
them at times with long pendants of snowy pearl, emblem of innocence
and simplicity, and I soon began to observe, with bitterness, that,
on these occasions, whether I proposed Opera, ball, or play, Boufflers
always had some ‘particular engagement’ which prevented him from
joining our party.”

Many were the comments upon this adventure, and many the discussions
upon the possible contents of the phial, which it would be absurd to
suppose consisted of nought but pure water. Some defended Cagliostro,
others were loud against him, when the dear Duchess de V——, fearing
that the time might be lost in dissertations on mesmerism, suddenly
exclaimed, “Dear prince, you who have seen so many great men in your
time, did you ever see Voltaire?”

“Yes, indeed, fair lady, I _did_ once behold M. de Voltaire,” (the
prince always called him so to the last day of his life,) “and my
interview with him is connected in my mind with a curious fact. The
narrative of my adventure may perhaps amuse you. It was in 1778, the
year before his death, that I had the singular good fortune to obtain
an audience of the great philosopher. He lived at the corner of the
Rue de Beaune and the quai which has since been called by his name.
He had intimated to my friend, Champfort, his great desire to become
acquainted with me, and I, who all my life had been tormented with the
wish to behold this greatest genius of the age, the master spirit of
his own time, the guide of that which was to follow, did not need a
second bidding.

“The philosopher received us with great urbanity. He had been prepared
for our visit in the morning, for he still loved dearly all kinds
of form and ceremony, and, to the very last day of his life, set a
higher price upon his title of M. _de_ Voltaire (which, by the by, was
usurped) than on the popular and honourable abbreviation of ‘Voltaire,’
_tout court_, by which he was designated long before his death. M. de
Voltaire was seated on the edge of his bed, attired in one of those
short loose dressing-gowns much worn at the time, and which displayed
his spindle legs and shrunken feet in all their unveiled ugliness.
Never have I beheld a form so withered, so diminished; every vein in
his whole frame was visible and defined, like those in an anatomical
study. The later portraits of M. de Voltaire give a very just idea of
his appearance, but they generally fail in expressing the singular
look of the eyes—an expression which I never have seen in any one
since that time—an anxious, unquiet, restless look—a hungry, thirsty,
keenly-searching glance (hunger and thirst of praise), and searching
with avidity for admiration, which, such was the Voltairian fever of
the time, he never failed to obtain, and yet, as ‘_l’appétit vient en
mangeant_,’ never wholly satisfied his craving.

“The room wherein the great man received his visitors was entirely
darkened (such was his whim), save where one single shutter, folded
back, allowed the light to stream in through a long, narrow aperture,
immediately opposite to which he himself was placed, so that he became
thus the sole object clearly visible in the apartment. And here he
sat to receive visitors, although, the sun shining at the moment, the
light was so strong that it must almost have blinded him. His niece,
Madame Denis, ‘_belle et bonne_,’ was seated at the foot of the bed
near the chimney, attired in a dimity camisole, rather soiled, and her
hair, escaping in disorder from the little cap placed on the top of her
head, was tied in a fantastical _fontange_ with a faded blue ribbon.
She was no longer young, poor _belle et bonne_, and her sedentary life
had induced a degree of corpulence which made her look older still. She
had certainly forfeited all pretensions to her first title, and there
was much in her face that to a physiognomist would have given a flat
contradiction to the second. She had evidently been engaged in writing
from M. de Voltaire’s dictation, for she had risen from the bureau,
and turned to the fire, where there was placed some cooking utensil to
which she soon directed her attention.

“But it was not long before I had forgotten the very existence of
Madame Denis, in the interest of the conversation with M. de Voltaire
himself. He spoke quickly and nervously, with a play of feature I
have never seen in any man except him. His eye kindled with a vivid
fire almost dazzling, as it danced in the ray of sunlight from the
window, and moved about from one to the other of his listeners, rapid
and quivering like the summer lightning. He had just been receiving,
that very morning, a deputation from the Théâtre Français, begging
permission to commence the performance of ‘Zaïre’ that evening with a
complimentary address to himself, which permission of course the poet
had granted with an enviable self-satisfaction, merely requesting that
the verses should be submitted to his own inspection, and subjected
to his own corrections and improvements, if any such were needed. He
was in high good humour at this mark of honour and distinction, for,
as I have said before, flattery had become of more importance to his
existence than the very food and nourishment of each day.

“When the great man had conversed for some little time with my friend,
with whom he had been intimate for many years, he turned to me, and,
after courteously expressing the pleasure which my visit gave him, he
added, ‘I had desired to see you, M. de Perigord, to communicate to
you a fact concerning your family, which happened some years ago, and
may be of importance to you hereafter. As you are the youngest of your
family, you may one day like to be its chronicler.’

“He then commenced the relation of some interesting particulars
regarding the Talleyrands and Perigords, intermixing, with a precision
of memory quite marvellous, the different branches and connexions
either by birth or marriage. All these, of course, were familiar to
me, but, as it was not natural that a narrator like M. de Voltaire
should ever tell a story without a point, all this preamble ended
in a tale of interest and wonder which completely riveted my whole
attention, and kept me in a thrill of delight, not so much by the
story itself, which, however, was full of most powerful interest, as
by the irresistible charm of the diction. I can safely affirm that
M. de Voltaire spoke with even more ease and grace than distinguish
his writings. I think he would have made a splendid orator. His words
seemed to _fly_ from his lips, so rapid, yet so neat, so distinct and
clear was every expression. His meaning was so precisely defined, that
you never had an instant’s doubt or hesitation whether you were quite
sure that you fully understood him. The language of Champfort, bold
and vigorous as it was—full of fire and passion—seemed to lack energy
and spirit as he answered M. de Voltaire. The fire of the one was like
the red beacon light, steady and strong, lurid and fierce; the other
was the treacherous spark which, flying upwards in seemingly harmless
sport, yet driven this way or that by the most trifling breeze, may
spread ruin and devastation wherever it may chance to fall.

“We remained for more than an hour with the great philosopher. _Belle
et bonne_ had completed the cooking of her chocolate, and M. de
Voltaire had taken it, without the slightest ceremony, in our presence.
Letters had arrived, to some few of which he had dictated short
replies through the medium of his niece. I had listened in rapture to
the story which I had come to hear; Champfort had already been twice
confuted in argument, and M. de Voltaire obliged once to yield, before
we arose to depart, and even then I think we were hurried away by
Madame Denis, who reminded her uncle, with a look full of meaning at
us, that it was just the hour for his siesta; which clear, unmistakable
hint, of course, we immediately took, and left him to enjoy his repose
unmolested. I looked at him long and earnestly as he shook me cordially
by the hand, and bade me a most paternal farewell. Every line of that
remarkable countenance is engraven on my memory. I see it now before
me—the small fiery eyes staring from the shrunken sockets, not unlike
those of a cameleon; the dried and withered cheek traversed in every
direction by deep cut lines; the compressed lips and puckered mouth,
round which played a perpetual, sarcastic smile, giving him altogether
the air of a merry fiend. Every feature of that face is as present
to my memory now as it was at that moment while I was gazing on it,
impressed with a kind of sorrowful conviction that I should behold it
no more.

“The event proved that I was right in my presentiment: M. de Voltaire,
soon after that, denied himself entirely to strangers, and none but
his intimate friends were admitted. These, however, were sufficiently
numerous to form a little court around him, and to do him all the
honour which he so much loved, and amid which he died, surrounded by
flatterers and sycophants until the latest hour of his life.”

“Now, if it is not an indiscretion, do tell us the story that he told
you, prince,” exclaimed the Princess de C——, as Prince Talleyrand
concluded his recital; “do tell us the tale that Voltaire could think
worthy a place in his memory: it must be a curious one. Try and recount
it in the same manner that he used when telling it to you. I am sure
you would imitate it admirably.”

The prince smiled, (he never laughed,) as he replied, “Now have I to
make a strange confession, for which I know you will never pardon
me, and which I would willingly have been spared. Indeed, had it not
happened to myself, I could scarcely have credited it. On leaving
Voltaire, Champfort and myself had separated; he had taken the
direction of the Tuileries, and I had sauntered along to the Palais
Royal, thinking all the while of the great man to whose presence I had
just been admitted, and retracing in memory every word, every gesture,
he had used during the interview. In the garden I was accosted by the
young Duc d’Aiguillon, who had just arrived from Versailles, and who
began in his usual rattling manner telling me a long story about the
ball which had taken place the evening before in the Orangerie, of
which story, mark you, I remember every word. It was about the Duchesse
de Levis, a sort of court butt just at that time, and the changing of
her shoulder-knot by some wag, which _plaisanterie_ had caused the most
laughable mistakes during the whole ball.

“When I had got rid of this wild talker, I adjourned to the hotel of
the Marquise de J——, where there was _grande reception_, followed by
_grand jeu_ and _souper_. There I remained until a late hour of the
night, alternately winning and losing considerable sums at the faro
table, until I rose winner of a hundred and twenty louis d’or from
Maurice Duvernay, of which he paid me seventy down, but having lost
immensely, wrote an order for the rest on the back of one of the Queens
of Diamonds.

“I tell you all this to show you that I can, to this very hour, account
for every minute of that day, one of the most memorable of my whole
life, from the moment of my leaving M. de Voltaire; and when I returned
home, late as was the hour, before retiring to rest, I sat down to
begin a letter to my uncle, the Cardinal de Perigord, in order to
recount to him the adventure of the morning, and above all, to tell him
the anecdote concerning our family, which M. de Voltaire had related,
and in which I knew my uncle would take a most peculiar delight, both
from the source whence it came, and the personal interest inspired
by the subject. Judge, then, of the mortification I experienced upon
finding that, in spite of all my endeavours to collect my wandering
ideas to the one point in question, I could not recollect the story
which M. de Voltaire had been at so much pains to tell me, to which
I had listened with so much attention and with such extraordinary
relish; I could not even write in my letter the immediate object of the
story—neither detail, nor hero, nor point, (which last I remembered had
diverted me beyond measure,) would present itself to my remembrance;
and, after much vexation of spirit, I was fain to leave my letter
unfinished, until I had met with Champfort, whose memory I doubted not
would be fully able to supply the deficiency of mine.

“I was determined to lose no time in assuring myself of this, and
called upon the poet the very next day. What, think you, was his answer
to my urgent entreaties that he would assist me? ‘Parbleu, _mon cher_,
I was too much occupied in thinking what I should say to M. de Voltaire
to notice what _he_ was saying to me. I heard not a word of his story,
but you must own that I completely succeeded in proving the false
quantity in the second canto of the Henriade.’

“He had not even heard the story! so there was no hope in that quarter,
and I was obliged to content myself with the trust, that at some future
day I might be fortunate enough again to meet M. de Voltaire, and
induce him to tell the tale once more. As I have already said, however,
I had not the good fortune to see him afterwards.

“Often and often, in the long years that have passed since then, have
I endeavoured to catch the purport of his tale, but in vain. The whole
scene of that interview rises at command—the welcome, the farewell, and
the various arguments of the two _beaux-esprits_—but that narrative,
which I would often give much to remember, is gone for ever! The
pre-occupation of the scene, the wonder, the delight inspired by the
philosopher’s conversation, have left a blank, which neither time
nor reflection have ever been able to fill up; and even now I cannot
remember the incident without feeling the same kind of embarrassment
which I experienced on that occasion, and often surprise myself when,
falling into reverie, chasing the phantoms of that hour through my
puzzled brain, and endeavouring, in spite of experience, to arrest
the fugitive impressions made by the story at the time, but without
success.”

The prince now paused, and leant back in his chair for a moment, with
his eyes closed, evidently lost in thought. It was well that no one
spoke, or we might have been deprived of the tale which followed, and
in which, at the age I was then, I took more interest, and remembered
with more pleasure, than any which had preceded it.

“How mysterious a thing is memory,” said he, as he bent forward once
more, and smiled upon his listeners. “The name of Champfort has brought
to my mind the story, long-forgotten, of his fellow-prisoner, a young
officer formerly in the mousquetaires. His name we all know, for he is
among us still, and, in short, he has promised that he will visit us,
before the autumn is over, here at Valençay. He was, without exception,
the handsomest youth I have ever seen; and his manners and address
being remarkable for a grace peculiarly his own, and his reputation
for high courage and chivalrous bearing having been fully established
by one or two _affaires brillantes_ in which he had been engaged, it
may naturally be supposed that his _succès_ of every kind left him
nothing to desire. But he sought no conquest, even where the enemy
held out offers of surrender; he seemed callous and indifferent to
all the advances, the allurements, of which he was the object, until,
such was the state of morals at that time, the ladies of the great
world in which he moved began to act as spies upon each other, being
fully convinced of the impossibility of his having remained so long
insensible to the arts and blandishments by which he was surrounded.

“For a long time his secret remained impenetrable; his part was so
well acted, his measures so well taken, that the scandal-mongers were
in despair, and the charitable souls, of whom there are always a
few, were beginning to hope, when the mystery was divulged in a most
extraordinary manner, and formed the town talk for many a day; and,
as the story has been told with divers variations, and has got abroad
under different versions, I will tell you the right one, which I had
from the Marquis de J——’s own lips:

“In those days there were _fermiers généraux_, and the said _fermiers
généraux_ were almost always among the oldest, ugliest, richest, and
most disagreeable men that the kingdom could produce. One of these, who
united in himself all these superlatives, had just deceived all the
cherished hopes of the ladies of the court by marrying a young girl
from his own province, of noble birth, although of slender fortune,
who was described as being of little beauty, and glad to acquire by
marriage, wealth and station, even at the sacrifice of those other
qualities in a husband which are generally sought for by young ladies.

“A year had elapsed since the return of M. de B. from Besançon, where
the marriage had taken place. No one had seen his bride; she remained
entirety at his country house—a delicious little ‘Folie,’ so it was
said, at Auteuil, close to the Bois de Boulogne. The lady had not
been presented at court, and M. de B. had never requested any of his
friends to visit her, so that she was at first supposed to be imbecile
or ugly, and was then forgotten. But the devil’s hoof, which certainly
is busy with all men’s concerns, trotted one day through the muddled
brain of the old Dowager de Marville, and suggested to her that it
would be a mighty pleasant thing to have a _feu d’artifice_ in the Bois
de Bologne, on some dark night when there would be no moon, and that
it would be quite a funny sight to behold all the skirts of the wood
festooned with coloured lamps, and adorned with flambeaux; and then she
began to torment M. de B. to throw open his ‘Folie’ to the _élite_, and
give a fête there to his friends without delay. He was a good-natured
man, but, nevertheless, he took a great deal of persuading before he
would consent to have his privacy thus broken in upon. He offered the
ladies of his acquaintance a ball at his own hôtel in Paris, with
interludes of opera-dancers. But no, the fête at the ‘Folie’—nothing
else would do, and the poor man was obliged at last to promise the
much-desired entertainment. His excuses had all a relation to his
wife; her ignorance of the world, her innocence and utter simplicity,
had all been put forward as motives for refusing, but no excuse could
be taken. Give the fête he must, and the ladies, on their part,
promised to treat the rustic bride with indulgence, and not to crush
her by too great an assumption of superiority.

“The day of the fête arrived. The most brilliant anticipations had
been formed of the entertainment to be given in such a sweet place, by
so rich a man, and they were most certainly not disappointed. Every
arrangement was of the best, and the whole place illuminated like a
dream of fairy-land; which last circumstance did not vex the ladies
so much as one would have imagined, for it helped to prove that the
opinions which had been formed of the bride of M. de B. were correct
in all points. She was very young, very timid, and very reserved
and _gauche_, like a little _pensionnaire de couvent_ as she was;
and, what was worse, like all _provinciales_, who think nothing more
beautiful than what is to be found in their own province, she never
once expressed the slightest admiration or astonishment at anything
she saw—nay, she preserved the same cold, unmoved air, even when her
husband presented to her, in due form, the vanquisher of all hearts,
the renowned Marquis de J——! Some of the ladies said that she was
pretty; some said not; some that she might become dangerous in time,
from her paleness and the languishing expression of her eyes. Others
again laughed at this opinion, and felt sure that there would never be
anything to dread from her. These last expressed surprise that she had
even made the conquest of her stupid old husband.

“Well, the company left the ‘Folie,’ enchanted with their
entertainment, and dispersed at daybreak to their respective hotels,
without so much as bestowing a thought either on Madame de B. or her
husband. The next day, however, loud was the wailing among the ladies,
for the Marquis de J—— was missing from all his accustomed haunts,
where he had been used daily to charm the eyes and captivate the hearts
of his fair admirers. Kind and anxious messages were despatched to
his quarters, and the answer given was, that the marquis was slightly
indisposed, but would appear again in a day or two. The next rumour
afloat was, that old B., the _fermier-général_, had sent back his
wife to the convent from which he had taken her the year before to
marry her; but no one felt astonishment at this—so cold, so awkward, so
shy—not even polite to the Marquis de J——! Of course, poor old B. must
feel assured he never could get on in the world with such a wife as
that.

“The marquis appeared again in a few days after the fête, but much
altered in appearance, with haggard, melancholy look, and sad, dejected
spirits. His arm was in a sling, too, which gave rise to more tender
questioning, which he sought to parry as well as he was able, by saying
that he had met with an accident at M. de B——’s Folie.

“The history of the case was this. (Oh, _jeune_ France, know you
what even the meaning of the word ‘love’ is?) After the company
had departed, M. and Madame de B—— had retired to their respective
apartments, but M. de B——, being unable to sleep, had descended into
the garden, to take a refreshing walk amid the groves, where still hung
suspended the variegated _lampions_, extinguished, drowning with their
vile odour the scent of the flowers. There was no moon, but the night
was wearing away, and the dawn was just beginning to change the pitchy
darkness to a pale tint of grey, when M. de B—— thought of retiring
towards the house. Just as he was in the act of mounting the steps
which led to the long glass windows of his own room, his attention was
attracted by the sound of footsteps on the gravel walk beneath. He
was by no means a coward, M. de B——, and his first thought was of his
wife, and of the alarm which a hue and cry raised at such an hour might
occasion her; so after calling ‘_Qui vive?_’ and receiving no answer,
he slid gently down over the balustrade of the _perron_ into the
flower-garden below, feeling quite sure of the capture of the thief,
as the little plot of ground belonging to his wife’s apartment had no
communication with the park, save by a door of which she herself always
kept the key. He ran lightly over the grass and along the gravel-walk;
he could hear retreating footsteps; as he advanced he was sure of
this, but the bushes overhung the narrow pathway in such luxuriance,
that he could not discern the form which he was pursuing. At length he
reached the bottom of the path—he distinctly heard the swinging of the
gate as it was opened cautiously—he made one frantic bound across the
flower-bed which skirted the path—the door _must_ have been opened
by some one, for it banged-to just as he approached—he heard a faint
cry on the outer side, and then all was silent as the grave. M. de B——
could proceed no farther, for the key was not in the lock, and the
door was closed, but he immediately sought the apartment of his wife,
full of alarm concerning her, and dreading lest some thief, lured by
the display of jewels which she had worn on the previous evening,
might have endeavoured to force an entry through the ill-secured
glass-windows of the chamber, which looked into the garden. To his
utter astonishment, after having with difficulty regained his own room,
and thence by the inner passages of the house arrived at the chamber
of his wife, he found her up and dressed, still decked with the same
jewels which she had worn at the fête. She evinced great alarm and
trepidation at first, on hearing his recital, but, after a moment’s
reflection, declared her belief that M. de B—— must have been under the
influence of a dream, as she had herself been standing at the window
taking the air, and had heard no sound nor beheld any shadow pass. He
asked for the key of the gate: she had mislaid it, she said, and, the
gate being so seldom used, she had not cared to search for it. So M.
de B—— was fain to content himself with this assurance until daybreak,
when he was determined to renew his search more minutely. The garden
was torn and trampled towards the direction of the gate, but that might
be by his own footsteps, for he had hurried in his pursuit after the
flying thief. The gate was closed and locked, and yet there was still
some mystery in the adventure, for, on the outer side, which opened
into the park, the ground was stained by drops of blood, which could be
traced to some little distance, and then ceased altogether. Here was
more mystery still, for the gardener, on searching amid the bushes,
found the key of the gate, which had so long been missing. M. de B——
instantly applied it to the lock, and the door yielded slowly and with
difficulty to his endeavours to push it forward, and when at length it
opened, and the obstacle was sought for, it was found to be a _human
finger_, crushed and jammed against the doorpost, which, upon a close
inspection, appeared to have been cut off close to the root by some
rude and hurried operation.

“Alas! Madame de B——, who had remained calm and passive during the
whole of this adventure, could not support this last disclosure, but
was seized with violent hysterics upon being informed of the discovery
which had taken place, and in the midst of her tears and convulsions,
the name of the Marquis de J—— was for ever on her lips. Of course
the adventure could no longer be kept secret; the coincidence of the
wound, the utterance of the name of M. de J——, determined at once the
nature of the occurrence. He himself described to me the terror of
his flight through the flower-garden, the agony of fear with which he
hurried forth lest _she_ should be discovered. It was M. de B——, who,
in pushing against the door, had jammed his finger in the lock, but
he cared not for the pain so long as _she_ was safe and secure from
all suspicion, and, disdaining to call for help, he had himself drawn
forth the little pocket-knife which he always carried, and cut off
the finger by which he was detained. He had never once thought of the
danger or disfigurement; he did it, not complaining, but rejoicing to
think that _she_ was unsuspected at least, and her reputation secure.
His only regret was at having lost the key of the gate, which he had
dropped among the bushes, when he had stopped to bandage with his
pocket-handkerchief the bleeding wound. Had _she_ not betrayed herself
in her grief for him, their secret might yet have been kept. M. de J——
left Paris soon after, and travelled for some years, and Madame de B——
was despatched back again to the convent at Besançon, from which she
had not been absent more than a twelvemonth in all. It is said that M.
de J—— remained for ever faithful to his first love. It is certain that
when he returned among us, handsome, brilliant as before, although less
gay, he never sought to inspire affection in any of the fair ladies who
were at so much pains to please him. He steadily refused all offers
of marriage which were made him, although some of the most splendid
_partis_, both maids and widows, were among the number. From the first
moment of his beholding Madame de B——, which was on her arrival with
her husband, while changing horses at the last relay towards Paris,
at the post-house, where he happened to be halting with his troop—he
had owned himself her slave; he vowed to me for years afterwards, that
no other woman should ever boast of having won a thought from him,
and that no other female hand should ever feel the pressure of his
own. His heart was with her who was suffering loneliness and captivity
for his sake, and he regarded as sacrilege the idea of a possibility
that he could break his vow of fidelity to her. At the revolution, he
was imprisoned, but released _faute de preuves_, and, meanwhile, the
convents having been broken up and dispersed, his first step was to
secure a safe retreat for Madame de B——. Together they fled to Holland,
where they remained for some years, and returned, when the storm was
over, as man and wife. They lived together in happiness, and we all can
bear witness to the grace and distinction which she shed around the
circle she frequented, and to the respect with which she inspired all
who approached her, as well as to the regret which was universally felt
when she was withdrawn from us for ever. Such is the true story of the
Marquis de J——: now tell me, Jeune France, will ye dare to condemn the
_ancien régime_, or say that you even understand the depth of devotion
and of love from which such faith as this could spring?”

       *       *       *       *       *

The prince rose as he concluded his story, and the grating of
carriage-wheels on the gravel walk without the windows, announced the
hour for the promenade. I took my seat in one of the landaus by the
side of C., who had promised to show me the lions of the place, but
it was some time before I could command my attention to the beauties
of the scene, for the story of the prince had brought back the memory
of my last _soirée_ in Paris, where I had beheld a withered old man
playing with avidity at _bouillotte_, and I remembered to have been
startled and disgusted when he took up his cards in a _three-fingered_
grasp. And now I remembered, too, that his partner had addressed him by
the name of De J——.



CHAPTER V.

CHILDHOOD AND JUVENILE YEARS OF TALLEYRAND.


Our drive was delightful over the green turf beneath the arched vista
of the old avenue. The rain-drops glittered on every leaf, and the
turf, moistened by the shower, after the long drought, sent up a
delicious fragrance beneath each pressure of our horses’ feet. The
prince was alone in his carriage, with his dog Carlo. There was but
one person in the whole world whom he ever allowed to take the seat
beside him in his drives, and she was that day absent from Valençay.
There was something touching and poetical in the solitary figure as he
reclined back, leaning on his cane, not gazing on the landscape, but
musing, abstracted and motionless, save that from time to time he would
bend slightly forward, and pat old Carlo fondly on the neck, as if his
train of thought had led him into recollections of the long attachment
of the faithful animal, contrasting it, perhaps, with the treachery and
ingratitude which he had met with in man.

In the poetic fervour of the moment I could not help hazarding
this supposition to my friend, who laughed heartily at my youthful
enthusiasm, but declared that it was never so ill-bestowed, for that
it had been subject of astonishment that the Prince was never known to
give way, after the fashion of age, to any of those loud and bitter
railings against the injustice and ingratitude of mankind, which
sometimes render the society of elderly persons liable to the complaint
of querulousness and discontent, and yet none had ever perhaps better
cause of complaint than he has had.

“The destiny of that man,” said C., musingly, and scarcely conscious
that he was speaking aloud, “has been a most singular and mysterious
one. Each great event of his life might serve as a type of the people
among whom it took place, and illustrative of the times in which it
_could_ have happened. The history of his childhood alone would serve
to paint the epoch. It was one of the latest examples of a style of
morals and manners which the great revolution wholly swept away. He
was born in Paris, in the year 1754. As was usual with families of
distinction at that period, a nurse had been provided, who lodged in
the hotel for some time previously to the birth of the expected babe,
so that, immediately on the arrival of the offensive object, she might
be at hand to carry it away. This arrangement was most agreeable and
convenient. In a little space the mother re-appeared, brilliant and gay
as ever, amid the circles she had deserted but for a moment. She had to
endure at first, on the part of her ‘_essaim d’adorateurs_,’ some few
tender reproaches upon her cruelty in having deprived her friends of
the charm of her society ‘for so many centuries,’ some few _grivois_
remarks upon the _accident_ which had caused this absence, and then the
event was forgotten by all, even by the lady herself, who resumed, with
increased ardour, her gambling and flirtations, while the poor wretched
infant, abandoned by its natural protectors, and condemned to the care
of mercenaries, was left either to vegetate in ignorance and filth, or
to die without even having known a single moment of its mother’s love.

“Such was the fate of Charles Maurice, the eldest son of the Comte de
Talleyrand. Hurried from the paternal home in the very hour of his
birth, he was taken into a distant part of the country by a nurse whose
trade it was to tend and bring up children _tant bien que mal_, as he
himself has often said. Here he remained until he had arrived at the
age of seven years. The nurse was regularly paid—her reports of the
child were always good—he was her ‘_cher coco_’—‘the darling of her
heart,’ ‘the pride of the whole country.’ He was well in health—he
had fresh air and exercise—he wanted neither food nor clothing—what
then could the boy require more than all these? His mother must
have answered this question, if ever she put it to herself, most
satisfactorily; for it is certain she continued the business of her
life—the _petit jeu_, the _grand jeu_, the _petit lever_, the _grand
lever_—with as much energy and ardour as if no child had ever been.
About this time, however, another ‘_fâcheux accident_’ occurred—the
birth of another son. Again was the lady obliged to retire for a while;
again were her sentimental swains in deep distress. The second son
appeared, and, like the first, was full of health and vigour; like
the eldest, cast in the mould of a manly race, with neither spot nor
blemish. Such had been the will of God—but how was his goodly work
perverted!

“The poor little new-comer was, like Charles Maurice, despatched to
the same village where _he_ still dwelt—revelling in village ignorance
and liberty, with no care and no constraint, knowing no master, for he
was the young seigneur; fearing no God, for he himself was the idol of
the whole canton. None of his own family had been to see him during
the whole of those weary years, and the little brother, whose arrival
he now welcomed with such glee, in consideration of sundry boxes of
delicious bon-bons, with which the nurse, according to old French
custom, returned laden, was the only individual, not only of his race,
but also of his own rank and station, whom he had ever seen! The father
was frequently absent with the army for whole years together, in the
pursuit of fame; the mother was entirely absorbed in the duties of the
court, and stirred not further from Paris than Versailles. _She_ was
steady in pursuit of fortune. Did either of them succeed? The one died
young, obscure in the annals of his house; the other died old and
dependent; while the poor neglected child lived to make all Europe ring
with his renown; and to found, by his own exertions, one of the most
splendid fortunes of the Continent! Thus will Fortune mock at the weak
endeavours of poor vain mortals, to work out their own destiny!

“Such was the tender care and nursing that befel Charles Maurice, the
eldest son of the Comte de Talleyrand Perigord, and the circumstances
of his childhood, so far from being remarkable or uncommon, may be
taken as an example of the manner in which the nobles of that day
fulfilled the first and most solemn duty of the whole existence of
man—that of tending and fostering with care the offspring which God
has been pleased to bestow. However, all evil, as well as good, must
cease in time, and Providence has granted for our consolation that,
as the one must have an end, so shall the other not endure for ever;
and thus, about three years after the arrival in the village of the
little Archambault, his brother Charles Maurice did at length behold
the countenance of one of his own kith and kin. The youngest brother of
his father, the Bailli de Talleyrand, capitaine des galères, and knight
of Malta, had just returned from a cruise. He had been absent from
his family for many years, and came with a heart overflowing with love
towards his whole kindred; among whom stood first his brother and his
young children.

“He was much grieved at the absence of the children, and immediately
declared his intention of proceeding to the village where they had been
placed, in order to embrace them before he set sail again, perhaps
never to return. It was the depth of winter—the snow lay heavy on the
ground—the roads were dangerous, but, ‘_corbleu! morbleu! ventrebleu!_’
what cared he for danger? and what danger should prevent him from
visiting the _petits drôles_, and even from carrying the eldest off
to serve with him on board the Saint Joseph, if he found him, as he
doubted not he should, full of fire and courage, and willing to assist
in rebuilding the fortunes of his family by serving on the seas? He
arrived at the village near nightfall, and alone, for the roads were so
bad that he had been obliged to take horse; and, but one having been
found in a serviceable condition, his servant had been obliged to stay
at the town some miles distant.

“The entrance of the brave bailli into that solitary village must have
caused quite a sensation; and I have heard that the whole scene has
remained graven on the powerful memory of the prince, as though it had
occurred but yesterday. He will sometimes recount it to his intimates,
and laugh at the singularity of the circumstances; but that laugh,
believe me, must be one of bitterness and scorn. No wonder that this
man should have felt such strange contempt for his fellow man—no wonder
that he should at times have acted as though he fancied that he alone
existed in the world.

“Well, just at a turn of the road which led down into the village, the
bailli bethought himself that he knew not the way to the house of the
Mère Rigaut, the nurse to whom he had been directed; and he checked his
steed, to gaze around and see if any one was in view who could assist
him. While he thus paused, there came hobbling up the hill a pale,
delicate-looking boy, with long ringlets of very fair hair, hanging
loose over his shoulders, and an indescribable look of gentility, which
the bailli perceived at once—at least he always said so afterwards. He
carried a bird-trap in his hand, for he was just going out to seek
for larks among the snow. The bailli called to him to come on faster;
but, alas! as he drew near, he perceived that he was very lame, and
that he bore a little crutch, which, however, he did not always use,
but sometimes walking several steps without its aid, would flourish it
before him as if in defiance, until a roughness in the road, or a loose
stone, compelled him to place it again beneath his arm.

“‘Hallo, _mon garçon_!’ shouted the bailli, ‘will you tell me the way
to the house of the Mère Rigaut?’

“‘That I will,’ cried the boy, eyeing the bailli askance and smiling
slyly; ‘and, moreover, I will conduct you thither, if you will give
me——’

“‘Ay, ay,’ said the bailli, ‘never fear; but make haste child—the wind
blows cold and sharp, and you shall have no cause to complain of my
want of generosity.’

“‘Nay, nay,’ replied the boy, colouring, ‘I meant to have asked you but
for a ride on your steed to Mother Rigaut’s door.’

“And as the child spoke, he looked with envy at the rough post-horse,
which, all unkempt and shaggy as he was, appeared far superior to the
rude animals employed in plough or cart—the only ones ever seen in that
distant village.

“‘Is that all?’ said the good-natured bailli, ‘then come
along—mount—quick, my lad—there—jump up in the twinkling of an eye.’

“The boy, lame as he was, sprang into the saddle, but the portly person
of the bailli prevented him from taking a safe seat, so he leaned
his little crutch upon the toe of the bailli’s boot, and grappled
the horse’s mane with a firm grasp, almost standing upright; while
the bailli, heedless of his perilous situation, trotted over the
rough stones of the village pavement, the bells at the horse’s bridle
jingling merrily, and the loud laugh—half fear, half delight—of the
bold urchin echoing far and near. Of course the whole village was
roused in an instant, and the astonishment was great at beholding
Mother Rigaut’s ‘Charlot’ trotting down the street upon a strange
gentleman’s steed, his long fair hair blown about by the wind, and his
face shining and glowing amid the golden masses of silken curls which
fell over it.

“The bailli stopped at Mother Rigaut’s door, but so little was he
prepared to meet the truth, that he bade the boy, with whom he seemed
mightily pleased, hold the horse while he entered the house to speak
to the good woman, who was already standing on the threshold, all
smiles and courtesies, to welcome the strange gentleman. The bailli
entered and closed the door after him. What passed within none can
tell. It must have been an extraordinary scene, for the sound of voices
in high dispute was heard for some minutes—a sound of sobbing and
of wailing, and of loud expostulation; and presently the bailli was
seen bursting from the cottage, and rushing upon the boy, and hugging
and embracing him with transports of affection; then, all pale and
trembling with emotion, he waved back with his riding-whip the advances
of Mère Rigaut, who was pressing forward to clasp the child in her
arms, and, seizing him in a sturdy grasp, he threw him on the saddle,
and sprang up after him. But this time he allowed him room enough to
ride at ease, and bade him sit in comfort, and then he placed his
brawny arm round the boy’s middle with solicitude, to keep him firm
upon the saddle, and, putting spurs to the capering post-horse, he
dashed out of the village without even asking news of any other child,
or suffering the boy to take a last farewell of the Mère Rigaut, who
followed him with shrieks and lamentations until he was lost to sight.

“It was not till they had arrived at the little town, distant about two
leagues from the village wherein Charles Maurice de Talleyrand—Mother
Rigaut’s ‘Charlot’—had passed these first twelve years of his eventful
life, and which he was destined to behold no more—that he was informed
that the strange gentleman who had carried him off so abruptly, and
in such a storm of indignation that he had not even stayed to see the
little Archambaut, was his own uncle, the Bailli de Talleyrand, his
father’s brave and loving brother, whose generous heart had glowed
with such indignation at sight of the unheeded state in which the poor
child had been left, crippled for life through the awkwardness of the
ignorant nurse, that, without hesitation, without permission, he had
torn him from his misery, and, although greatly disappointed in the
hope he had conceived of being able to take him on board the ship he
commanded, in consequence of his infirmity, yet he would not suffer him
to remain a moment longer abandoned to the ignorant kindness of which
he had so long been a victim.

“As he was compelled to delay his return to Paris for some little
time, he immediately wrote to the count, to inform him of the
circumstances in which he had found his nephew, Charles Maurice, and
his intention of bringing him at once to Paris. The letter reached its
destination some days before the worthy bailli, accompanied by his
young charge, drove into the courtyard of the hotel where the Comte de
Talleyrand resided. Here, to his great mortification, he found that the
count was absent with the _armée de Flandre_; the countess was also
absent on duty at the palace, it being her _semaine de service_, and
not for worlds would she neglect her duty. She had, however, with an
affectionate _prévoyance_, worthy of the greatest praise, appointed a
gentleman to receive the boy from the hands of the bailli—a professor,
who was to be his tutor at the College Louis le Grand, whither he was
immediately to conduct his pupil, arrangements having already been made
for his reception. The bailli sighed as he consigned the lad to the
care of another stranger, and, taking an affectionate farewell, which
was his last, immediately set off for Toulon, where he embarked, and
was drowned at sea some few months afterwards.

“Had the worthy bailli lived, the destiny of Charles Maurice would
have been far different, and the fate of Europe have been changed.
He would have found protection and support in his own family—in one
of its members at least—and they would not have dared to wreak upon
his head that deadly wrong, which changed the whole current of his
existence, and compelled him to struggle and to toil for that which was
by right his own. However, bad as matters were, they certainly might
have been worse; for the gentleman to whose care Charles Maurice was
confided, was at all events a kind and liberal person, and soon became
greatly attached to his pupil. I have frequently seen him at the Hotel
Talleyrand, even so lately as the year 1828. He was but a very few
years older than the prince, and it was like a dream of other days to
hear the ancient pupil and his more ancient tutor discourse for hours
together of those early times, so long gone by, and of their friends
and companions, all, with very few exceptions, long since in the grave.
I have often thought that it must have been to the society and counsels
of this most excellent man that the prince chiefly owed the softness
and humanity of his character, which even his enemies, amid all their
absurd accusations, have never been able to deny.

“I have heard the prince, even very lately, speak of _ce cher_ Père
Langlois, as one of the most benevolent and pure-minded of men, and
his friendship and affection for him knew no change, through all the
vicissitudes of fortune, or the changes in politics. The prince, I
believe, allowed him a very handsome income up to the day of his death;
but this circumstance did not prevent him from sometimes indulging his
quondam pupil with a few gentle remonstrances and _réprésentations_,
whenever, by any misplaced word, or ill-timed reflection, he wounded
the old professor’s prejudices; and it was a most curious sight to
witness the deference with which his observations would be received
by the prince, who, so strong was the power of old association, bowed
his mighty intellect, and submitted to the reprimands of the obscure
and dependent professor. I have often been present at his visits, and
always took most especial delight in witnessing the kindly feeling,
the true affection, which existed between the pair. M. Langlois still
wore, in 1828, the costume he had worn before the revolution, when,
as professor of rhetoric at the college of Louis le Grand, he had
undertaken the care and education of the poor neglected boy from the
distant village in Perigord—a long-skirted black coat, without a
collar, and buttoned up to the chin, black knee breeches and silk
stockings, with large shoes and bright plated knee-buckles. His
coiffure was in _ailes de pigeon_, with a long and goodly queue, well
powdered; the large, flat snuff-box which he drew from the vasty deep
of his ample pocket, and the brown checquered handkerchief which he
used with a flourish and a loud report, brought back to memory at once
the whole herd of _savans crasseux_ of the eighteenth century.

“Well, to return to my tale. At the college, Charles Maurice devoted
himself most manfully to study. This is proved by the fact of his
having obtained, the second year of his admission, the first prize of
his class, although competition must have been hard with boys who had
been in the college for many years, while he had been running wild and
barefoot on the plains of Perigord. Three years passed away cheerily
enough at the college. His life of study had, however, but little
variety, for he was during that time one of the unfavoured few who were
compelled by the arrangements of their parents to remain at the college
during the short vacation. His mother came but seldom to visit him,
and never came alone. She was mostly accompanied by an eminent surgeon
of Paris, who examined the boy’s leg, and bandaged it and pulled it
out to force it to match in length with the other, and burnt and
cauterized the offending nerve until the poor fellow learned to dread
with extreme terror the summons to the _parloir_, and the announcement
that _madame sa mère_ was awaiting him there. I have often heard him
tell of the agony of these visits, and of the disappointment which he
experienced on seeing all his playmates depart to their various homes
for the holidays, but I never heard him utter a single complaint or
condemnation of his mother’s conduct.

“It was at this time that his father died from the consequences of
an old wound received in a skirmish some years before, and Charles
Maurice was now the Comte de Talleyrand, and head of that branch of the
family to which he belonged. Meanwhile, the younger son, Archambaut,
had likewise returned from his most refined and tender nursing; but
_he_ had had the better chance; _his_ limbs were sound and well
developed, as God had made them. No dire accident, the consequence
of foul neglect, had marred his shape or tarnished his comeliness.
So, one fine day, and as a natural consequence, mark you, of this
fortunate circumstance, when Charles Maurice, the _eldest_ son, had
finished his course of study at Louis le Grand, having passed through
his classes with great _éclat_, there came a tall, sallow, black-robed
priest, and took him away from the midst of friends to the grim old
_seminaire_ of St. Sulpice, and it was there that he received the
astounding intimation, from the lips of the superior himself, that, by
the decision of a _conseil de famille_, from which there was no appeal,
his birthright had been taken from him, and transferred to his younger
brother.

“‘Why so?’ faltered the boy, unable to conceal his emotion.

“‘He is not a cripple,’ was the stern and cruel answer.

“It must have been that hour—nay, that very instant—the echo of those
heartless words—which made the Prince de Talleyrand what he is even
to this very day. Who shall tell the bitter throes of that bold,
strong-hearted youth, as he heard the unjust sentence? Was it defiance
and despair, the gift of hell, or resignation, the blessed boon of
Heaven, which caused him to suffer the coarse, black robe to be thrown
at once above his college uniform, without a cry, without a murmur?
None will ever be able to divine what his feelings were, for this one
incident is always passed over by the prince. He never refers to it,
even when in familiar conversation with his most loved intimates. It is
certain, therefore, that the single hour of which I speak, bore with it
a whole life of bitterness and agony.

“It is evident, as usual with him throughout his whole life, that his
decision, however, was taken on the instant. He murmured not—he sued
not for commutation of the hateful sentence. He knew that it would be
in vain. He even sought at once to conform, outwardly at least, to all
the tedium of the endless rules and regulations by which the house
was governed; but his whole character was changed—his very nature
was warped and blasted. Whatever historians may write, and credulous
readers choose to believe, he was _not_ a ‘silent, solitary boy, loving
to muse while his comrades played around him,’ as I have seen it
written in a recent account of his life. Just the contrary. While at
Louis le Grand, he was remarkable for his skill and dexterity at all
kinds of games requiring either fleetness of foot or strength of limb;
which fact was so extraordinary, from his infirmity, that the tradition
has been preserved in the college. He was strong and hardy, in spite
of his lameness. This he owed to the fresh air and free exercise he
had enjoyed in his early childhood. His temper was mild and tractable,
and, when attacked, his only weapon of defence was his tongue. His
sharp, quick speech became, indeed, the terror of his comrades. Even
then he had learned that the art of governing others consisted merely
in self-command. What a pity that some of his juvenile _bon mots_ have
not been preserved; they must have been delightful; the very sap and
freshness of his mental vigour.

“At Louis le Grand he had been surrounded by the bold, ambitious
spirits of the rising generation of that day, boys of all classes of
society, all animated with the same eager desire for distinction, and,
each in his degree, with the same thirst for glory. Even these children
were awaking to the conviction that a new light was about to break
upon the world, that the triumph of mind over matter was nigh at hand,
and that the power of brute force must yield at length to the mightier
power of intellect. A discontented spirit had gone forth, and even
walked abroad into the very nurseries throughout the land. The days
were past when the boys of noble blood sat down to table first and were
served by the urchin _roturiers_, their fellow-students. At board, in
class, or at play, the sons of the noble and the lowly, of the wealthy
and the poor, were now jostled together. The high-born dunce, who was
at college merely to while away the useless years between the epoch of
actual childhood and that of his admission (still a child) into the
army, no longer took precedence of the plebeian boy who was toiling
and striving to acquire knowledge, even though it might have been the
credit of the former which obtained the admission of the latter into
the college.

“In this struggle, the talents and quickness of young Talleyrand had
shone conspicuously. His position on his first entrance into the
college had been most undefined and false. He had arrived from Perigord
wild and untutored, ignorant of the simplest social tradition of the
_noblesse_; therefore had he no place or influence among the nobles;
while, without wealth, or any of the dazzling appurtenances of his
rank at command, he could scarcely be expected to have sway with the
_roturiers_; and yet, before the first half year had passed away, he
was found to be the prime mover and counsel of both factions by the
power of his intellect alone. These are facts which still live in the
memory of some few of the prince’s old associates, and show how early
that grasping mind, which was destined to govern those who governed the
world itself, began to assert its dominion and to exercise its powers.

“I have dwelt thus lengthily upon the childhood of the Prince de
Talleyrand, because, in the events by which it was marked, you may find
both cause and excuse for many things that took place in after years.
Such had been his life at Louis le Grand. Now, at the Seminaire, he
was thrown at once among a set of creatures of a far different stamp
from the bold and independent beings he had left. His new companions
were mostly, like himself sons of the poor _noblesse_; but, unlike
himself, they were either the _younger_ or the _bastard_ sons. Not one
of these had been deprived, as he had been, of his name and birthright,
therefore none could have sympathy with all the bitterness that must
have lain so heavy on his heart. Instead of the variety which gave
such interest to his college life, and such constant food to his
perceptive powers, he was surrounded in his new abode by beings all
actuated by one single motive, and who had therefore been moulded by
the same views into the same character. The sleepy dream of life at
St. Sulpice centred wholly in ecclesiastical distinction and honour,
and merely resolved itself into either riches or dignities, according
to the temper of the dreamer. The ready wit, the lively perceptions of
young Talleyrand, could not be appreciated in a community where hope
was deadened, and imagination dulled, by the certainty that robbed the
Future of the dim veil with which it is hidden from the great mass of
mankind, and which, according to the morals of the period, rendered
the after years of the younger son of the poor noble, or the bastard
child of the rich one, as easily to be defined, and as easy to unravel
as a record of the past. So must have thought that little congregation
of the Seminaire of Saint Sulpice, who were gathered there in 1770,
the year of the admission of Charles Maurice. But God had ordained it
otherwise; and, could some few of the fortunes of those lads be told
at this day, we should perhaps find as great diversity of adventure,
and many a tale of interest as wild and fearful, as those which could
be furnished by the youthful denizens of the Royal College of Louis le
Grand at the same period.

“However, it does not appear that the young candidate for church
preferment was guilty, for a single moment, of deception, with regard
to those who had thus fashioned out his destiny. He wore no mask of
hypocrisy at that time certainly, made no false pretence of fasting or
of penance; but openly and freely shared in all the amusements which
were within his reach, perhaps buoyed up with the presentiment that the
time was drawing nigh when the cowled monk and the stoled priest would
be bound by no obligation to keep the vow which had been breathed from
terror or necessity.

“It is pleasant to listen to his quiet and even mirthful tales of the
life he led when staying at the _succursale_ of the establishment,
which was situated at Vaugirard, near which place (at Issy) the Duchess
of Orleans, mother of our present King Louis Philippe, possessed a most
splendid château. Here she used to assemble all the _élite_ of the
society of Paris, and on the boards of the little theatre belonging
to the château were first produced some of the dramatic pieces which
afterwards had the greatest vogue in the capital. To be present
at these representations was an honour, of course, far beyond the
pretensions of the poor seminaristes, whose ears were tantalized during
the long summer nights by the rattling of carriage-wheels, and the
hallooing of livered attendants, as all the rank and beauty of Paris
flew by the old gray convent, where the priestly inhabitants should
have been slumbering in holy calm. But young Talleyrand slumbered not.
He would remain gazing for hours through the narrow apertures of the
jalousies,—which the watchful eye of the _surveillant_ caused always
to be closed,—and, with straining eyes and yearning heart, seek to
picture to his fancy the faces and the forms of the fair occupants
of the carriages which passed in rapid succession, until the desire
to join the happy groups he beheld thus fleeting before him became
irresistible, and he resolved _coûte que coûte_ to gratify it. No
sooner was the resolution formed than he hastened to its execution.

“Accordingly, one bright balmy night in August, he flung his black
serge frock _aux orties_, and, without assistance and without a
confidant (he never asked or took advice), he climbed the old
crumbling wall of the garden, and jumped up behind one of the gay
carriages which had so excited his envy. He will sometimes smile even
now at the self-confidence with which he planted himself, all terrified
and blushing, however, at the heels of the party who alighted at the
_perron_ of the château. He was fairly astonished at his own impudence,
when he found himself comfortably seated in the parterre of the
theatre, with an officer of the Gardes Françaises on one side, and a
little masked and mincing _abbé petit-maître_ on the other; nor could
he believe, as he raised his eyes and gazed around on that bright and
brilliant company, that he was not in reality where he ought at that
moment to have been, stretched on his lowly pallet, and dreaming of
paradise.

“When the curtain rose, and the play began, his admiration and delight
became almost painful. The piece was Racine’s ‘Phèdre,’ and the famous
Mademoiselle Contat, who performed the part of the wretched wife and
mother, was in more senses than one the heroine of the evening. She
had just been released from the prison of Fort l’Evêque, where she
had been confined for some time, in consequence of having refused to
apologize to the Paris parterre, for treating its opinion and authority
with contempt. Enthusiasm was at its height on her account. Party
spirit had run so high, that duels had been fought between old friends,
and _liaisons_ of long standing been broken off, in consequence of
differences of opinion with regard to her conduct in this matter.
Madame de L——, a great patroness of the drama, had not hesitated at
making herself the public talk, by taking to prison, in her open
carriage in broad day, and in the face of all Paris, seated on her
lap, with dishevelled hair and streaming eyes, the fair and injured
Emilie! The new perfume, _larmes de Contat_, had become indispensable.
Better go without a pocket-handkerchief at all than produce one which
was not redolent of the complicated fragrance. There had been but a
single incident to divert from tears and sobs in this adventure. The
police-officer, who had been charged with the arrest of Mademoiselle
Contat, had found her in the tragic mood, lofty and sullen. ‘Take all!’
she had exclaimed, with theatrical grandeur; ‘you are welcome to take
all—my liberty—my very life itself—but you cannot take my honour!’
‘Fear not, mademoiselle,’ replied the man; ‘_où il n’y a rien, le roi
perd ses droits_.’

“Some had laughed at the witticism—others had felt it most deeply, as
the unkindest cut of all. In short, her punishment and its cause had
created a species of frenzy in the public mind, which had occasioned
all minor troubles, whether of politics or finance, to be forgotten
for a while. You may judge, then, of the effect produced by the
appearance of Mdlle. Contat on the stage of this little _théâtre de
bonne compagnie_, before an audience of whom she was the idol, and
who had taken her imprisonment as the deepest personal offence to
themselves. Every individual in the house rose and greeted her with
transport. There was loud clapping of hands, and stamping of feet; and
some wept salt tears, and embraced their neighbours lovingly, so great
was the common joy, so universal the gratification afforded by the
release of the great Contat! Charles Maurice alone remained impassible
amid all the clamour, for he knew not what it meant, until the Garde
Française gave him a cuff, and bade him shout, or he would pink him,
and the perfumed abbé fell upon his neck, and with sobs begged him,
for Heaven’s sake, to clap his hands, that he might be quite sure he
was not seated next to a corpse, for nothing else could thus long have
borne the presence of a beauty so divine without some demonstration of
delight.

“It was when the clamour had ceased, and the play was allowed to
proceed, that the real delight of young Talleyrand commenced. I have
often heard him say, that never, during the lengthened years of his
brilliant life, does he remember to have experienced an admiration so
glowing, so intense, as on that memorable evening. During the whole
of the performance, he had remained in a perfect trance, and, when it
was concluded, he almost wept at the thought that he might possibly
behold it no more. The play was followed by a supper, again followed
by dancing, which doubtless lasted till the dawn, but our seminariste
deemed it prudent to hasten homeward before matins, for fear of
detection. This he accomplished on foot, and with celerity, and he was
just comfortably settled in his bed when the odious clang of the chapel
bell roused him ere he had yet fallen asleep. And it was long, indeed,
before he again slept calmly as he had done before. That night’s
entrancement had opened to his sight visions of forbidden things, of
which till then he had never dreamed, and the possibility of returning
again with composure to the dull life of the seminaire was gone for
ever! His passion for Mademoiselle Contat grew to be the one sole
thought which occupied his mind, and he soon found means to indulge it.
Night after night would he escape from his prison, and walk to Paris
(after her return to the Théâtre Royal), in order to witness the least
fragment of her acting. Sometimes, on the vigils of great festivals,
when prayers had continued late at the chapel, or the superior had
indulged his flock with an over-long story at the supper-table, the
poor youth could not set out on his perilous journey until it was too
late; and many a time has he had the mortification of arriving at the
theatre, after an expensive ride or a fatiguing walk from Vaugirard,
just as the curtain was about to fall, and shut out the goddess from
his sight. He often recalls those few short months of peril and
excitement, as among the happiest of his life.

“It was just about this time that he met with a romantic adventure,
which he cannot even now relate without emotion, and which has all the
character of the events which compose the most pure and healthy of the
novels of the period. He was one day returning from the _Bibliothèque_
of the Sorbonne to the Seminaire Saint Sulpice, laden with books and
papers, when a violent storm of rain coming on, he was forced to seek
shelter beneath a gateway in the Rue du Pot de Fer. The neighbourhood
at that time was full of convents and ecclesiastical establishments—the
Benedictines—the Carmelites—the Frères Minimes—the Cordeliers—all had
houses or _succursales_, about the Place Saint Sulpice; so that you
might have walked down whole streets of dark gloomy wall, without
finding a single refuge from the rain—the convent doors being kept
inhospitably closed, and the small space beneath the eaves being
even more drenched than the middle of the street, from the dripping
gutters which poured down upon the miserable wayfarer one continued
sheet of water, certainly not so pure as that which fell straight
from heaven. There was but a single space in the whole street where
the passenger could hope for a dry footing, and young Talleyrand knew
it well; a little archway, leading to the back-door of a convent of
Benedictines—the name of which I forget—whose principal entrance was in
the Rue de Vaugirard.

“It was a long, narrow passage, so dark that it was impossible to
perceive any one concealed there, and might have served admirably as
a place of ambush for any lurking thief or assassin, who might have
chosen to harbour in its gloomy recess. Here the youth had stood some
time watching the rain—which continued to fall in torrents—still laden
with his books, yet not daring to open one of them, fearful that the
rest might fall into the mud—of course devoured with _ennui_, and
stamping with impatience,—just, in fact, on the point of launching
forth once more—if it were merely for the sake of changing his station
for another more amusing,—when suddenly he became conscious of the
presence of another person in the passage. He says that he was rather
startled at first, but it did not belong either to his age or character
to pass without investigation any circumstance which had arrested his
attention: so clearing his throat with a successful effort, he called
out manfully, ‘_Qui vive?_’

“The exclamation was answered by a faint and stifled cry, issuing
from the very furthermost corner of the obscure passage. The young
man ventured forward without hesitation, and discovered a dark and
shapeless form huddled up in one corner of the threshold of the
convent-door, whose outline, so dark was the place, was invisible, even
at arm’s length. He was conscious that the form was that of a female,
and he stretched out his hand, and said kindly,—‘What fear you?—are you
in trouble?—why are you hidden thus? Let me assist you, if you are in
pain.’

“As he spoke these words, the figure slowly rose—a slight, frail,
delicate form, that of a girl scarcely beyond the age of childhood,
attired in the loose black dress of serge and large capuchon of the
convent beneath the gateway of which they were standing. He took her
gently by the hand and led her forward to the light. The poor girl
was so terrified, that she offered no resistance, and, conducting her
to the entrance of the passage, he gently withdrew the capuchon, with
which she had covered her face, bidding her take comfort, for that he
would do her no harm. The girl looked up into his countenance with an
expression of anxiety and doubt, but the gentle kindness which she saw
written there must have relieved her instantly, for she exclaimed, in
a whisper, ‘Oh no—I _know_ you will not betray me—but how _can_ you
assist me? I am lost for ever!’ and then she buried her face in her
hands, and sobbed aloud.

“The youth remained gazing upon the girl, in mingled admiration and
surprise. Never, to this very hour, he has often said, has he beheld
a face of greater beauty than that which stood thus revealed to him
in the dim light. It was a small and exquisitely delicate cast of
countenance, with large wild eyes and arched eyebrows, and a calm,
snow-white forehead, which a painter might have given to the Madonna
standing at Saint Anne’s knee. Her hair was hanging loose about her
face, in dripping masses, from the rain through which she had passed,
and the steam of the capuchon. Her small chiselled mouth was parted,
and disclosed two rows of pearly teeth. But Talleyrand was most struck
by the singular beauty of her complexion, which, although she evidently
had been terrified, was not pale, but of the most vivid bloom, like
the petals of the damask rose; while her eyes almost dazzled him, so
bright and flashing was their lustre. By his patience and his kindly
manner, he soon succeeded in winning the little maiden’s confidence;
and, although still in great agitation, she told him the story of her
troubles, which was a singular one, and most affecting.

“She said that she was a novice of the convent of the Benedictine
ladies, of the Rue de Vaugirard, and that the passage where they were
standing formed part of the premises belonging to the building. She
had been in that house ever since the age of four years—she was now
fifteen—and during all that time she had never once been allowed to go
beyond those walls. She had often yearned most intensely, she said,
to see the world, which the other novices and the _pensionnaires_
had described to her as being so very beautiful. She had sometimes
begged very earnestly, too, to be permitted to accompany one of the
lay sisters, who went sometimes into the country, to see a sick nun of
the order, who was staying there for the recovery of her health; but
she had been told that out of kindness she must be refused; for, as it
was her destiny to pass her whole life in that old convent, it would
be much better that she should behold no other place, and those who
had more experience than herself could tell what regret and misery she
would avoid by her ignorance of other scenes. She was to have renewed
her vows of novitiate on the Thursday before, but she had been so ill,
that the ceremony had been deferred until the week following, and then
she should enter into the last year of novitiate, and when that had
passed away, she should take the black veil and be cloistered for the
rest of her life. Her name, she added, was Constance de V., but she
knew not of any friends or kindred which she had. A notary had always
remitted to the abbess the sums necessary for the expenses of her board
and education, and the dower money also was already lodged in the
lady’s hands, so that there was no hope—none—none—that she should ever
realize her dream of beholding ever so small a portion of the world,
of whose beauty she had heard so much. She said this with such a deep
sigh, and such a yearning look towards the gloomy street where the rain
still plashed in torrents, that the listener was moved almost to tears.

“‘But how came you here, mademoiselle?’ said he, ‘and in this state,
too?’ pointing to her dress, which was wet through, and clung to her
form in damp and streaming folds.

“‘Oh, I have not told you all,’ replied she, hesitatingly. ‘I know
that I have done wrong, but my punishment is great as my offence:’
and she looked down the dark passage towards the door with a shudder
of affright. ‘But thus it was. I had been ill in bed for more than a
week, and had grown so weary of my little cell—and last night I could
not sleep for thinking of all the brightness of the world I never was
to see. I prayed to the Holy Virgin to take away these wicked thoughts
from my mind, but she did not think fit to give me grace, for towards
morning my desire to go abroad became even more intense; and so, when
sister Marthe, who watches me, left me, still thinking that I was
asleep, to go to matins, I rose from my bed and came down, to walk for
a few moments beneath the cloisters of the outer court, in the hope
that the air of the place, confined as it was, might help to cool the
fever of the past night. I have long been forbidden to go into the
garden; they say it is too cold and damp, and that my cough will be
worse than ever if I stay beneath the trees. Well, I turned round and
round the court, listening to the chimes of Saint Sulpice, and thinking
of what our Lady Abbess tells me I should never think of—the delight of
lying in some cool green meadow, on the grass, beneath the overhanging
branches of some old tree—when the tempter, who, as Sister Marthe has
often told me, already half possesses my lost soul (alas! she _must_
speak truth), led me this way—into the cloister which leads to yonder
door. It was ajar—Mother Jeanne, the _femme de peine_, had just been
cleaning it with broom and pail, and had opened it to sweep the rubbish
into this dark passage. How she could have left it open thus I cannot
tell—yes, Sister Marthe is right—it _must_ have been the tempter’s
work! My heart beat violently at sight of that open door. I thought to
have fled, but I yielded to temptation, and peeped through the long
dark passage into the street beyond. Scarcely had I thus gazed for an
instant, when I was seized with a desire so burning, so intense, to
see the _Place_, which I had been told was at the end of this little
street, that, without a moment’s reflection, I rushed down the passage
and was free. I meant to have merely cast one look upon the _Place_,
and have returned immediately. I thought it might be possible that in
this illness I might die, and it was very hard that I should leave
a world, which they tell me God has made so full of beauty, without
having beheld aught besides this dull old pile; so I stepped out into
the street with more delight than I ought to have done, considering
that I was doing what was wrong. I buried my head in my capuchon,
and turned boldly down the street to the left; but I had not gone far
before I perceived that I must have taken the wrong direction, for as
I drew near to the end, I saw not the fine open square which I had
been promised, but another street more dirty and more dull than the
one I had just traversed. During the walk, I did not meet a soul, or I
think I should have fainted, for it was not till I thus stood for the
first time alone and unaided that I remembered that my dress must at
once betray me. I was resolved to return immediately, but, in the mean
time, this storm of rain came suddenly beating down with such intense
fury that my dress was wet through in an instant. I ran with all the
swiftness of which I was capable, to regain this dark passage; but
judge of the agony of affright that I experienced on beholding the door
which I had closed, and of which I had taken the key, fastened on the
inside! Mother Jeanne must have perceived the absence of the key, and
have bolted it within. Oh, I am lost! She has doubtless already been to
tell our lady mother. They will all know ’tis I who am the guilty one,
for everybody else will be at matins!’

“As the poor girl concluded her story, she again burst into a paroxysm
of grief. The young seminariste endeavoured to soothe her, and offered
to go round to the great gate to try and obtain admittance there, but
the trembling girl clung to him with such energy, that he could not
tear himself away.

“‘No, no; do not leave me now,’ exclaimed she. ‘I dare not be left thus
alone. What shall I say when they come and find me here? They will
come, I know, directly, and bear me back with hootings and with shame.’

“As she spoke, so great was her terror, that she shook like the aspen
leaf, and her companion was obliged to support her by placing his arm
gently round her waist, or she would have fallen. He then perceived,
with great distress, that this violent trembling was the spasmodic
shuddering of fever; and, as she placed her hand upon her bosom to
still the convulsive throe, he beheld with yet greater horror that
she wore nothing beneath her robe but the night dress which she had
on when she left her bed. His heart was wrung at the thought of that
delicate creature abroad thus, burnt with fever, and wet to the skin.
It must be death to so fragile a being. Something, however, must be
done. He durst not leave her. She was in that state of mind that she
might have fallen senseless to the earth if she had been left alone;
neither could he drag her with him the whole length of the street
through the pouring rain, in order to arrive at the great gate of the
convent. The scandal would have been terrific, had they been seen
together in the costume which they each wore. In the midst of this
painful embarrassment, like the drowning man who clings to a straw, he
went up to the door and turned the key. There was no impediment in the
lock. He shook the door violently, then pushed it with all his might.
Oh, God of mercy, it yields! It is _not_ bolted, for daylight may be
seen through the opening. Once more he brings all his strength to bear
against the iron-studded door. The drops of sweat stand like beads upon
his forehead, with the anxiety of the moment and the violence of his
exertions. But he is presently rewarded by the grating noise caused by
the removal of the obstacle within, and the faint shriek of joy which
escaped the lips of the sweet Constance. She sees it all now! Mother
Jeanne, in her rage for cleaning, had moved the old oaken bench from
the archway of the cloister, and had placed it crosswise before the
door, where it had resisted all her own puny efforts, as though it had
been a wall of iron; and now her laugh of delight is so convulsive
that it is more painful than were her tears and sobs. Meanwhile, young
Talleyrand had pushed open a space sufficient for her passage into the
cloister, and he assisted her to mount the bench and pass through.
The hand which she gave him, and which but a little while before had
startled him by its burning touch, was now as cold as marble. He
imprinted one pure and holy kiss upon it before he closed the door for
ever; and when he found that she withdrew it not, but thanked him, and
blessed him fervently, and called him her deliverer, and said ‘_that
he had saved her life_,’ he shut the door abruptly, for he could bear
no more. He stood for a moment listening at the keyhole for the sound
of her retreating step. It must have been very light, however, for he
heard it not. He then walked slowly home to the _seminaire_, insensible
now to either wind or rain.

“The books which the young student had brought from the Sorbonne
were unperused that day. His mind was too much absorbed with the
memory of that beauteous maiden, and with the undefined terror which
he experienced for her sake. On the morrow, he walked several times
completely round the convent walls, but he saw not an evidence that the
building was inhabited by a single human being. On the third day, he
could not control his impatience, and bestowed a silver crown on the
_commissionaire_ to go and ask, as if despatched by some great lady,
whose name he was to forget, for news of the health of Mademoiselle
Constance de V. The answer he brought back was that ‘Mademoiselle
Constance de V., in an attack of fever, being for a few moments
unwatched, had risen from her bed and gone down into the cloisters,
no doubt feeling grievously ill, and in search of assistance. It was
supposed that she had wandered for some time in the quadrangle, for she
was found lying drenched with wet upon the oaken bench, by the _porte
de service_ of the outer court. She was without sense or motion when
taken up, and it was certain that she had already been dead for some
time (this was the private opinion of the _tourière_), although the
superior would insist on having the viaticum administered all the same.
She had been buried that very morning at daybreak, and Mademoiselle
de Breteuil, the favourite _pensionnaire_ of the abbess, had got the
promise of her cell to keep her birds in, until the arrival of another
_pensionnaire_ to occupy it. The abbess was very angry with sister
Marthe for having left the bedside of Mademoiselle de V., but could not
punish her, it having been proved that she had only gone to matins.

“Such had been the fate of that beauteous girl! The earth already
covered her, before she had even seen the light. That stealthy walk
along the dreary street, amid the cold and pelting rain, was all the
experience she had earned to the grave, of the world she had longed so
ardently to see; and, when the _seminariste_ thought on the story of
her life, and compared it with his own, he felt that he no longer had
a right to complain. He had spent his childhood at least amid fresh
air and free exercise wholesome to the body, and also amid the rude
kindness and overwhelming affection wholesome to the mind; while the
poor child whose dying grasp he almost fancied that he could still
feel, had never been allowed to roam beyond the gloomy precincts of her
prison-house. With her innocence and loveliness, she had been suffered
to grow like some rank weed which springs amid the crevice of the
pavement stone of the foul jail-yard, and struggles but in vain to
catch a gleam of sunshine or a breath of air, until, wearied with the
effort, it sinks back dead into the crevice from which it sprung.

“This event made a great impression upon M. de Talleyrand, and
sobered him for some time after its occurrence. He took to studying
more diligently than hitherto, and shone among his competitors as
brilliantly as he had already done at Louis le Grand. His speeches at
the conferences which were held every month at Saint Sulpice, were
judged to be masterpieces of reasoning and logic, and were thought
worthy of being preserved among the records of the _seminaire_—an
immense honour for so young a man. He was now seventeen: it was judged
advisable that he should go to finish his theological studies ‘_en
Sorbonne_,’ and it was during the short interval which elapsed between
leaving the _seminaire_ and entering the _Sorbonne_, that he first
lodged at home. Note this when ye talk of the ‘good old times:’—the
Prince de Talleyrand was seventeen years of age _before he had slept
a single night beneath his father’s roof_! Well might Jean Jacques
thunder forth his maledictions upon the fine ladies, the ‘_marâtres
sans entrailles_’ of his day!”

My friend here paused, to my great sorrow, with all the
self-complacency of a professed lion exhibitor, to descant upon
the beauty of the landscape as seen from the point at which we had
arrived. Of course there were the well-known wonders familiar to all
natural-beauty-hunters ever since the world began—the seeing into so
many departments—the commanding a view of so many parishes, but which
always worry me to death.

“What is that ruin?” said I, pointing to a pile of rubbish which lay
close at hand.

“Ah, that is no ruin,” replied C., laughing, “it is just the contrary,
for it is an unfinished building. The history of that ‘ruin’ would
amuse you, more than all the history of the person whose work it was.
The prince calls it the ‘_Folie Princesse_,’ and you shall have the
story as we go home.”



CHAPTER VI.

MIRABEAU—THE PRINCESS T.—THE MAYOR OF VALENÇAY.


We alighted from the carriage, and sat down on one of the blocks of
stone which lay scattered about in all directions, bearing witness
to the gigantic intentions of the projector, and also to the signal
failure of the enterprise. C. looked around with sadness.

“The sight of this place,” said he, “recalls to mind so much both of
pain and pleasure, so many associations for ever lost to Valençay, that
I cannot behold it without a certain feeling of melancholy, which I
little thought it would ever have inspired. And yet, in spite of all
the jesting and merry sarcasm, the bon-mots and epigrams to which the
first discovery of the little monument gave rise, it might serve to
illustrate my favourite argument, when answering those who attack, by
sweeping generalities, the whole life of the prince, and which I frame
thus: ‘No man can be so very worthless who has made such friendships as
he has done, and won attachments so lasting and so true.’

“It is, in fact, one of the most extraordinary qualifications of this
great man, and forms a parallel to what is told of the fascinating
influence of Napoleon. His powers of pleasing are so great, that he
can with justice boast of never having failed to captivate, where
he has been willing to do so, even when having to combat enmity and
prejudice. Those who are accustomed to the bland and polished courtesy
of his old age can readily imagine that in youth his influence must
have been all-powerful. With this fascination of manner he must have
also been possessed of the most aristocratic and handsome person, from
the dignity of which, strange to say, the deformity of his foot never
detracted. He was very fair, of most brilliant yet delicate complexion,
with eyes of a soft dark blue, much covered by the lids, which
contributed greatly to the air of quiet _recueillement_, misconstrued
by many into an expression of cunning, which was habitual to him. His
hair has always been considered one of his greatest attractions, being
of the bright golden hue, so uncommon even in the north; and when he
wore it loose over his shoulders, neither discoloured by powder nor
disfigured by the torturing iron of the perruquier, it must have been
most beautiful. Even to this very hour, you cannot fail to remark its
rich luxuriance. It is not yet wholly white, but merely grey, and its
original golden colour still shines bright amid the silver.

“I have seen several portraits of the prince, taken in his youth. There
is one, a miniature, which, set in a bracelet, has met my eye every
day for some years past, upon the arm of the fair Duchess de D., which
never fails to arrest my attention, and to inspire me with the same
interest, the same dreams and illusions of the past, as though, upon
each occasion I behold it, it was for the first time. The likeness may
be strongly traced even now. The features are moulded with a delicacy
peculiar to the race of the Perigords, and the countenance is one
which might certainly have been suspected of having greatly aided
his varied talents and endowments, in the success for which he was
so applauded and so envied. The costume in this picture is of about
the year 1775, when Talleyrand was in the prime of youth, and when he
had not long emerged from St. Sulpice; and yet the portrait is rather
that of a young man of fashion of the time than of a youth vowed to
a life of penance and austerity. The hair, of which he was always
proud, hangs loose and unshorn over his embroidered coat; no sign of
monkish scissors or of priestly tonsure is there. There does not exist
a picture of the prince either as Abbé de Perigord or as Bishop of
Autun. So completely did he ever separate himself from the state of
life into which he had been thrust by the force of circumstances, that
he never would consent to have a palpable record of his profession
brought in after times as a memorial against him. There is a beautiful
portrait of Talleyrand when Prince de Benevent and Vice Grand Elector,
painted by Gerard, and one of the best performances of that artist, now
at Rochecotte, wherein the physiognomist might have _beau jeu_, for
the countenance in this picture bears the most lively and _spirituel_
expression that could possibly be represented by art. The painting
by Scheffer, which has been engraved in London, and published by
Colnaghi, is the best in existence as to the likeness, which is most
striking. The artist has represented, in a manner almost sublime, the
peculiar _mélange_ of melancholy and _finesse_ which the countenance
of the prince always wears when in meditation,—an expression which
sometimes inspires me with a feeling of the deepest sadness; it is the
cheerfulness of the mind contending against physical infirmity and pain.

“You will readily believe that, with all the advantages both of mind
and person which he possessed—with ambition of that quiet kind, which
knows no obstacle in the attainment of its ends, and yet can wait with
calm and bide its time—which is slow to decide, yet quick to move
when the hour is arrived for action—with the courtly manners which
must have been hereditary, joined to the calm dignity which he had
acquired in the _Séminaire_ de St. Sulpice, his first appearance in
the world wherein he was destined to live and move, was hailed with
peculiar triumph and satisfaction. The fame of his skill in argument,
his subtlety in wrangling, had got beyond the walls of the _Séminaire_,
long before he himself had left it for the independence of the
Sorbonne. The _conférences_ which took place weekly in the old hall of
the _Séminaire_ had brought out his powers of persuasion, and his great
quickness of imagination, which displayed itself admirably in pointed
epigram and brilliant repartee.

“There are people living even now who can remember the effect which
some of his controversial arguments produced at the time, among the
audiences who enjoyed the privilege of a seat upon the old oaken
benches of the _Séminaire_, on the days reserved for these public
discussions. They must have been _chefs-d’œuvres_, full of point
and pith, and generally sent the listeners away laughing with him,
and sympathising with his adversary. These discourses were always
read in public from a manuscript _cahier_, and were preserved in the
_archives_ of the _Séminaire_, until the revolution dispersed the
whole of the property of the establishment, and they were lost. It
is a great pity they were not preserved, as they must have contained
much of the vivacity and energy of his youth, which were sadly wanting
in his subsequent speeches; for Talleyrand has never possessed the
qualifications necessary to the success of an orator; his delivery was
lengthened, and his voice too deep and hollow to produce an effect
upon a large assembly. Had it not been for these natural defects, all
the vigour and fire of a Mirabeau would have been reckoned as nought,
compared with the steady wit and cool philosophy of which Talleyrand
was master.

“The world of fashion, ever on the look-out for novelty, stretched
forth its arms to hug to its bosom the young abbé on his first
appearance within its charmed ring. The reverend title with which he
was invested, so far from being a preventive to his enjoyment of all
the pleasures of the corrupt society of the period, rather served as
an additional pretext for claiming his full share. The youthful Abbé
de Perigord was courted and flattered by all parties; his sayings were
repeated, his sentiments quoted upon all occasions. The world would
now most willingly have spoiled him, and avenged the neglect of his
relations, and the wrongs and insults which had been heaped upon his
childhood. But it was too late: he had already learned to despise
that world to whose mean prejudices he had been made a sacrifice, and
his heart and soul were already devoted to the cause of those whose
struggles were beginning to make the old fabric of society quake and
totter to its very foundations. It was while he was studying at the
Sorbonne that the first shocks of the new era were beginning to be
felt; but young Talleyrand, as yet, took no share in the struggle.
His whole ambition for the moment was devoted to retrieving lost time
in literature, and I have heard him say that the happiest days of his
existence were spent alone, in the gloomy library of the Sorbonne,
seated coiled up on the steps of the library ladder, while his cousin
went abroad to pick up the news, and bring home reports of the progress
of events. The practical knowledge of books which he acquired in this
way was immense, and has served him all through life to season his
conversation with quotation or parody.

“He was soon, however, torn from the enjoyment of this quiet mode of
existence, by being named coadjutor to his uncle, the Archbishop of
Rheims. From that time forward, books were laid aside, and he returned
to them no more. The human heart became his only study, and one in
which he soon became a perfect adept. The history of his life must
prove, to every thinking mind, that at this very period his decision
was thoroughly taken as to the line of conduct he would pursue, and
the party in politics it was his intention to adopt, for he never
gave himself up to the seductions of that world which sought him with
such eagerness. He entered into its enjoyments, and profited by its
indulgence; but there is no record of any strong friendship having been
formed with any of its members. He allied himself at once to the new
party, and among its leaders were his attachments chosen. Sièyes and
Mirabeau were the beacon stars of his youth. The latter, in particular,
was known to entertain the highest opinion of Talleyrand, and has left
ample proof, in his letters and papers, that he considered him the
only man capable of succeeding him as leader of the party he had so
triumphantly created.

“You will scarcely credit the assurance, that not even to this very
hour can the prince speak without emotion of the ‘giant Mirabeau.’ I
verily believe that this affection has never been supplanted in his
bosom. It was not long since he was compelled to break off suddenly, in
the midst of an anecdote which he was telling, wherein were mentioned
the circumstances of Mirabeau’s death. He became all at once silent,
and no one dared request him to renew the thread of his story.”

“Did you ever hear him allude to those circumstances on any other
occasion?”

“Once only,” replied C.; “we were alone together in his study in the
Rue St. Florentin, one fine summer’s evening. I had been reading to him
some pages of Thiers’s ‘History of the Revolution,’ and had just closed
the book, for want of light, at the mention of Petion.

“‘That man,’ said the prince, ‘was the greatest scoundrel this country
ever produced. Mirabeau, whose greatest defect in political conduct was
the extraordinary facility with which he gave himself entirely up to
the first person possessed of the slightest show of talent, who could
take off his own hands any part of the labour, had grown _entiché_
with Petion. For it was extraordinary that Mirabeau, whose mental
vigour could, Atlas-like, have borne the world, was yet possessed of so
much physical indolence that he was seldom known to carry out his own
gigantic designs. Upon how many occasions, when his burning eloquence,
his energy, had roused the angry lion, has he been known to laugh in
pity, to see the _meute_ whom his own fiery zeal had urged into hot
pursuit, rush madly by, while he himself lay down to rest until some
newer game was started. From the moment that such men as Petion,
Brissot, and Condorcet, began to surround Mirabeau, and were admitted
into his privacy, with Cabanis, whom he had chosen as his medical
attendant, I augured ill for the future fate of my friend. Already
were Mirabeau’s views and principles grown too tame, too reasonable,
for these infuriated demagogues, and they had several times received
with ill temper his biting sarcasms at what he called their _exaltation
republicaine_. I remember the effect produced upon one occasion at
a private meeting of his friends, and the gloom and murmurs of rage
with which the concluding words of a speech he had risen to make were
received. ‘_Even supposing, my friends, that royalty were now to be
abolished, it is not a republic that must be established—we are not yet
ripe for this—it must be a commonwealth._’ From that moment, such is
my firm belief, his ruin was decided; but whether he really did meet
his death by unfair means, or whether it was the consequence, as was
proclaimed at the time, of excitement and fever of the blood, brought
on by over-exertion and anxiety, none can tell to this hour. The
circumstances of his death will certainly justify, both to his friends
and to posterity, every suspicion of poison; while, on the other
hand, there were no symptoms which could not be accounted for by the
complaint under which it had from the first been proclaimed that he was
sinking.’

“The prince paused for a moment, and I feared that he was about to fall
into a reverie, as is sometimes the case when he has called up any
touching souvenir of his early days; but presently he resumed:

“‘It was just such an evening as this, warm, glowing, early spring,
when the fiery spirit of Mirabeau was passing away. The whole thing had
been so sudden, so unlooked-for, that we could scarcely believe him in
danger, before we learned that he was gone. It was the 2nd of April,
and but two days before, he had come to fetch me, full of life and
spirit, to dine in the Palais Royal with a party of friends, to talk
over the proposition of a law of succession, which he had had for some
time under consideration, and which it was his intention to present
to the National Assembly. We walked together from my lodgings to the
_restaurateur_ Robert’s, where dinner had been ordered. I thought,
in the conversation concerning his _projet de loi_, that Mirabeau
was somewhat more depressed than usual, and that his words came less
freely and less flowing from his tongue. He certainly did complain of
oppression and pain in his head, and, although the evening was far
from sultry, he walked without his hat. I was particularly struck with
the lassitude and weariness which he seemed to experience when we had
arrived at our destination, and which could not be accounted for by our
short slow walk from the Rue St. Honoré. He flung himself listlessly
upon one of the benches beside the fountain in the middle of the garden
of the Palais Royal, and said, sadly, that he was well pleased that
our friends had not yet arrived at the rendezvous, for he was desirous
of having a few moments’ private conversation with me, not, for once,
about public affairs, but concerning his own. “Is it not strange,” said
he, “that I, who am about to present to the Assembly a law, and to
pronounce a speech, the result of long study, upon wills, should never
during my whole life, have given one single thought to the making of my
own? Do you not think that it’s growing high time to think of _every
possibility_, with such strange proceedings going on around us—eh, my
friend?”

“‘I was surprised at this sudden revolution in Mirabeau, for, of all
men on earth, he had ever been one of the most thoughtless as to the
future, caring little indeed even for the present, living _au jour le
jour_, heeding not if the morrow never came; and I could only attribute
his unwonted _accablement_ to over-exertion and fatigue. He had spoken
much in the Assembly, and had, I well knew, passed many nights of late
in the framing and preparation of other acts and decrees, to be brought
forward before the close of the session.

“‘I tried to cheer him with soothing words, and told him it was likely
that his day for thinking of this sort of thing was yet far off; that
it was a mere fit of depression which caused him to dwell upon such
gloomy possibilities; and I ventured to assure him that a good dinner
and a glass of our friend Robert’s best Chambertin would soon produce a
good effect in calming his sudden misgivings about the future.

“‘He shook his head mournfully: “These are _banal_ phrases, and you
know it,” said he; “they are unworthy of you. I am neither a child nor
a woman, and fear not to listen to the whispering voice of my own soul.
The truth is, I _do_ feel, at this moment, most singularly overcome by
a sadness hitherto unknown—as if my task being, as it were, but just
begun, needed no longer my exertions to finish it.” He laid his hand
upon my knee, and looked in my face, wherein must have been expressed
some anxiety, for I knew not what to think of the mood in which I
beheld him, and added gently, “Should anything happen to me before
long, you will think of what I have been saying.”

“His voice was so altered, and his countenance so drawn, that I became
moved with sympathy, and began to fancy that he really felt very
ill, but, with an _amour propre_, which, however misplaced on such
an occasion, would still have been compatible with his character,
I thought he might have been concealing his state until he could
no longer bear up against it. I now listened, in mingled pity and
interest, while he explained to me many of his intentions regarding
the disposal of his property, in case he should die without a written
testament. The education of his natural son, and the proper disposal of
his papers, were the subjects upon which he displayed the most concern.
He had already taken the precaution to have the greater part of his
documents of importance conveyed to a trusty friend in Holland, and
but few of those which remained in France were in his own house. He
told me where these few were concealed, and bade me to take charge of
them, “In case,” he always would repeat, “that anything _fâcheux_ (that
was his word) should befal him.”

“‘He then spoke long and earnestly about his political career. In the
single hour that we passed thus seated side by side, amid the hurry and
bustle of the crowds who were hastening on all sides to the different
_restaurateurs_ beneath the galleries, did we converse together upon
the splendid past, the exciting present, and the TERRIFIC FUTURE.
We spoke in earnest whispers, pre-occupied and abstracted from all
around, as though we had been conspirators in the bosom of some forest
solitude. The whole scene—the day—the hour, I can conjure up in colours
fresh and vivid, as though they had vanished but one moment ago, and
nothing else had been impressed on the canvas of my memory during all
the long years since!’

“I have seldom, very seldom indeed, beheld Prince Talleyrand give way
to any demonstration of feeling, even when cause sufficient may have
been found in some particular event going on around him. Perhaps,
indeed, I may say that I never saw him betray anything like emotion,
excepting on the occasion of this reminiscence of Mirabeau. But he had
taught himself from his youth up to subdue speedily all outward display
of his inward feeling, and he resumed, in his own subdued manner:

“‘It will surprise you when I tell you that scarcely a day passes, even
now, that I do not call to mind that scene: in fact, it is often forced
upon me by the occurrences which are continually taking place before my
eyes. It was a cunning device of the ancient seers to affirm that the
gift of prophecy might sometimes fall on men about to die. It is not
thus; but the words of those we loved are garnered up, when they who
perhaps had spoken them many times before unheeded, can speak them no
more, and we remember them as something new, although ’tis likely we
may have heard them oft and oft before.

“‘Mirabeau had doubtless many times, as upon this occasion, held forth
to me his fears and doubts, his hopes and his despair, but I remember
it not. I can find place in memory for but this one interview, and I
have treasured up each word and phrase with a jealous vigilance, as
though they had been uttered during the brief visit of a spirit. I had
never been thoroughly inspired with the conviction of the Herculean
powers of the man until this conversation. He seemed to toy with
difficulties; nothing was beyond his grasp; nothing beyond the power of
his will to bend. There is scarcely a single _prévision_ of his which
time has not realized, and often am I startled even now at events,
which, seemingly the consequence of yesterday, had been foretold by
him that evening, beside the fountain in the Palais Royal. He gave
me many kind admonitions and warnings against some who were in our
intimacy, and whom he deemed unworthy of friendship. He counselled me
respecting the path that I should take in case this _quelque chose de
fâcheux_, which seemed to haunt him so strangely, should take place,
while affairs were in such a troubled state. In every case did I follow
this advice, and in every case had I cause to rejoice that I had done
so. Mirabeau was certainly inspired on that evening—he was sublime. I
remember being struck with a saying of his, which I have since found of
the greatest value. After having traced out for me a plan of conduct,
in case public events should take the turn which he was anticipating,
he concluded by saying, solemnly, “But, above all things, my friend,
slight not public opinion. Listen with open ears to the public
clamour—for remember that the voice of the people is the VOICE OF GOD!”

“‘It was thus we conversed for more than an hour, during which I
learned more of Mirabeau than I had done during the many years of
strict friendship in which we had lived together. I should have
regretted him far less, had this confidence never taken place, for I
should less have learned to estimate his stupendous intellect, and
the grandeur of his mighty heart. As you may suppose, I could have
listened, entranced as I was, until midnight, and was angry when
Condorcet, who was of our party, came running gaily up to our bench,
and seated himself beside us, with a loud exclamation of surprise at
the unusual gravity of our demeanour. Of course the spell was broken
at once, and the conversation became general. Soon afterwards, our two
other friends joined us, and we adjourned to Robert’s, at that time the
first _restaurateur_ in Paris, where we found dinner waiting.

“‘The dinner was gay enough. I alone, of all the company, was sad,
and spoke but little. Mirabeau, at first absorbed and pre-occupied,
gradually yielding to the influence which he never could resist, that
of wine and good fellowship, by degrees shook off the recollection of
the colloquy we had had together so short a time before, and became
as usual the light and life of the _réunion_. It would be a hopeless
task to endeavour to recal one tithe of all the brilliant sayings, the
startling epigrams, uttered by Mirabeau during this his last flash of
existence. I had never beheld him so excited, so madly gay. He drank
largely, and the wine seemed to inflame his blood until his excitement
bordered on delirium. He raved—he sang—he spoke in loud harangues—he
laughed fiercely at us all—at the court, at the people, at himself, in
short, at everything; and our companions hailed with loud shouts and
applause every _bon mot_ that he uttered. I alone could not share in
this strange mirth, for I was yet shaken by the solemn foreboding, the
dismal presentiment with which he had inspired me.

“‘At about four o’clock in the morning, the spirit, no longer to be
controlled even by the gigantic physical strength which he possessed,
gave way at last. He complained that his head felt heavy, and said
that the daylight, which was just beginning to peep in from the
window opposite, fatigued his sight. Coffee was then proposed before
we parted, and Mirabeau eagerly took a cup, which he himself poured
out and sweetened. His hand trembled violently as he raised it to his
lips, and he had scarcely replaced the cup upon the table when he fell
forward with his head upon his hands, exclaiming, “My God! what strange
new pain is this?”

“‘He rallied again, however, presently, and bade the waiter fetch
a coach instantly, saying that he foresaw an attack of spasms in
the chest, and that he knew his remedy, which was a hot bath and
fumigations as quickly as possible. He requested me alone to accompany
him, and from that moment until his death I never left his side. We
drove to the public baths on the Boulevard, opposite to the street
where Mirabeau then lived, the Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin. Here his
sufferings increased to such a frightful degree that I sent for
Cabanis, who, however, did not arrive until the patient had left the
bath, after having taken, against my most earnest desire, a large bowl
of milk and cocoa, of which he was extremely fond. Strange to say,
he was considerably better after this, and left the bath for his own
house, _on foot_. It is this circumstance, I have no doubt, which has
given consistency to the belief that he had been _poisoned_, as it is
averred that, had the mess of milk not been absorbed as _antidote_,
Mirabeau must, in the state in which he was at the time, have died
immediately on taking it. Such sweeping reasoning as this is of course
beneath comment.

“‘It was with some difficulty that he could be prevailed upon to go to
bed. He resisted to the last, declaring that the bright morning sun,
which by this time was streaming in glory through his windows, would
renovate him better than any physician’s advice. Soon after he had lain
down, however, a change, from which he never rallied, came over him,
and he continued to get worse until he died. It was a dreadful sight
to behold his face, all swollen and bloated, and speckled with livid
spots, and the white foam which gathered upon his lips as fast as his
attendants could wipe it away. It certainly should not have been made a
public show, which, before the end of the day, the death-bed of poor
Mirabeau had become. Those foul suspicions of treachery and poison had
their origin, I doubt not, in the extraordinary symptoms which his
disease presented.

“‘Never from the first instant did Mirabeau deceive himself, or shrink
from the decree. It has never been my lot to witness a death so
dignified, so sublime. In the morning, through the day, surrounded by
friends and admirers, all was well; but then came the silent watches of
the night, when his whole heart was bared to me, his only comforter.
Not once did he swerve, neither did he throw back one single look of
regret over the road which he had for so many years been travelling.
Quite the contrary;—he met the grim enemy with a courage and equanimity
of temper, the gift of a philosophy of the highest order.

“‘If popularity could have satisfied the soul of Mirabeau, he surely
must have died content. His house was besieged, and, from the moment he
was declared to be in danger, the very street became impassable from
the crowd of messengers who thronged his door. High and low, rich and
poor, felt alike an interest in the fate of the great man who was to
protect them between monarchy and anarchy, which it is certain the
mighty intellect of Mirabeau would have made an easy task.

“‘He lingered thus in pain and agony during the whole of this day and
night, and died in my arms on the following morning at eight o’clock,
having preserved his firmness of intellect until the very last moment.
It _is_ true (for there were some absurd stories afloat) that, about
five minutes before he actually expired, he wrote on a piece of paper
(for speech was already gone) these words: “_It is far easier to die
than to sleep!_” The movement which he made to place the paper in
my hand was his last. He never stirred afterwards. I have kept that
precious scrap of writing through every change of fortune; and in the
hope of keeping it to my dying day, have taken measures to have it
preserved when I shall be no more. During his illness, he frequently
reverted to the conversation which had passed between us on the bench
at the Palais Royal. He told me that he then already _knew_ that his
fate was sealed, and dared me to maintain a conviction of the contrary.
Throughout my whole life, I have ever resisted superstitious feeling,
but there certainly does seem something strange and unaccountable in
this gloomy foreboding of Mirabeau, that gives the lie direct to all
one’s predetermined disbelief in the doctrine of “presentiments.”

“‘The generation of to-day, contrary to anticipation, has learnt to
undervalue Mirabeau; but I think a re-action may come even in your
time, because he was not a mere orator, whose fame must die when his
powers of speech are gone, but he was also the greatest thinker of
his age. How would the face of the country have been changed had he
lived but a few months, nay, even a few weeks longer! This has been
so strongly felt by all parties, that there were many who blindly
_rejoiced_ at his death, even among those who had known and loved him;
while those who had most cause to mourn, declared, in their terror,
that he must have been poisoned.

“‘I have told you all the facts connected with his illness and his
death, and with me you will cease to feel astonishment that the
suspicion of such a crime should have gone abroad, when you consider
the suddenness of his illness, its short duration, and the dreadful
sufferings amid which his life was closed. These must have been
terrific; for, about an hour before his death, he turned angrily round
to Cabanis, and said, ‘A physician who is a true friend to the patient
would not hesitate at giving a dose of opium strong enough to quiet
such pain as this for ever.’ And yet, so powerful was the _morale_ of
the man, that even when thus writhing in agony, he could not refrain
from laughing most heartily at some popular _lazzis_ which were
bandying between a screaming _ecaillière_ and the lackey of some person
of quality, who were contending for the first hearing of the bulletin
of the past night, and which reached his ear through the open window
looking on the court-yard below.

“‘The public grief at the death of Mirabeau told more for his worth
and greatness than whole volumes of written eulogium could now do.
Perhaps there never before was an example of a _chef de parti_ having
been mourned as sincerely by the adverse party as by his own. The court
was in consternation; the queen concealed not her despair, for she
foresaw the dread consequence; the last barrier between the furious
people and the angry _noblesse_ was down, and the bitter tide would,
ere long, rush in through the breach which the falling of this goodly
corner-stone had made. I myself was so overcome by regret at the
sudden loss which I had sustained, that I retired for some little time
to Auteuil, scarcely daring to look at the future, or to speculate for
an instant upon what was next to happen.’

“Such,” said C., “is the account given of the death of Mirabeau, by one
who was with him from the moment of his first being seized with illness
to that when the troublous scene closed for ever. The history contains,
perhaps, as fine a moral lesson as ever was preached from pulpit-desk
or read in school.

“The sentiment which subsisted between Sièyes and the prince was of a
different nature. There might have existed, in the origin, some little
feeling of jealousy between them; it is certain they never were free
from the _esprit de critique_ indicative of rivalry, either secret or
avowed. On no one subject did they differ more than on the subject of
Mirabeau, Sièyes refusing him the mighty powers that the prince loved
to allow him; and I have been witness to long and severe discussions on
this one topic alone.

The prince was fond of telling a story _à propos_ of Sièyes,
illustrative of the theory of great results from little causes. He was
one day walking with him through the Tuileries, when, just opposite to
the gate in the Place de la Concorde, a little beggar girl, leading an
old woman on crutches, came up to solicit alms. Sièyes gave her a sou,
which, in her hurry to seize, she let fall, and the coin rolled under
the hoofs of the charger mounted by the _garde du corps_ on duty at
the gate. The child pressed forward to pick it up, but each time that
she stooped, almost at the risk of her life, the soldier, apparently
glad to divert the _ennui_ of sentry by an event of this kind, spurred
the animal to one side, and the wretched little girl, to avoid being
crushed to death, was compelled to withdraw, to renew her endeavours
again as soon as the beast stood still, but each time with as little
success as before. The whole scene—the terror of the child—the
overboiling wrath of the old cripple, and the insolent and cruel
mirth of the _garde du corps_, presented altogether a most exciting
spectacle, and, combined with the angry passions of the crowd, who were
not slow to take the part of the child, formed a picture not easily
forgotten.

“Sièyes, finding that the people were growing angry, thought it best
to put an end to the scene at once; so, giving the girl a double sou,
he bade her begone, which injunction she immediately obeyed, and
the crowd forthwith dispersed. But Sièyes remained thoughtful and
pre-occupied during the whole evening; and, when he parted with his
friend, he said, ‘I have been thinking over the occurrence we witnessed
together this morning. Something must be done for the people. _When
they have an army of their own_, they will not run the risk of being
insulted by hired mercenaries.’

“This was the very first idea which had ever entered human brain
respecting the formation of a national guard. Once started, the idea
found favour with all the disaffected. Sièyes himself planned and
invented the _projet_, and, by dint of perseverance, got it accepted
some long time afterwards. Little did the proud _Garde Nationale_,
when they marched to the frontier—when they dictated laws to the
country—when they barricaded Paris—dream that they owed their existence
and creation to a halfpenny which a starving beggar wench found it hard
to pick out of the gutter!

“_Apropos_ of this story, there is an addition to it which the prince
always gives us, and which you, who are come of a superstitious race,
and plead guilty to the accusation of superstition yourself, will
perhaps like to hear. M. de Talleyrand had taken peculiar notice of the
soldier who bestrode the charger. He was a remarkably handsome youth,
quite an exquisite, an _incroyable_, with coal-black moustaches and
_royale_, and snow-white powdered hair,—a combination that certainly
gives a piquant expression to the countenance, which all the fine
chestnut hair or raven locks in the world, however redundant, however
silky, can never impart. Besides, it suited so well with the costume
of the period, that it would seem as if the one had been invented on
purpose to show off the other. However, to my story. You may well
imagine that the old cripple had not left the spot, however well
satisfied she might be with the unexpected generosity of Sièyes,
without loading the air with curses upon the head of the young _garde
du corps_. She was a filthy hag, blear-eyed, and lame; and it was
fearful to hear her, as she tossed her rags aloft upon the wind, utter
such awful maledictions, in a screaming, discordant voice, that the
blood ran cold to listen. The soldier sat in calm defiance on his
saddle, in the prettiest attitude imaginable. Stiff, starched, on duty,
without moving a muscle, with his hat on one side, and his hand bent,
and resting on his thigh, he looked straight at the woman, for fear of
being suspected of wishing to shun her gaze; but he betrayed no heed of
her words, save by a slight smile, which curled his lip, whereon rested
a green leaf (as was the fashion among the bucks of that day), to keep
it moist, and prevent its cracking by exposure to the sun.

“The old witch, enraged at finding that her words produced no greater
effect, at length raised her crutch in the young man’s face, and
shrieked a fearful malison. ‘Proud as you are, jackanapes, I shall live
to see your soul in h—, and your body devoured by the dogs!’ With this,
she hobbled away, and we also turned aside in disgust, while the young
man remained immovable and unconcerned, as though the words had not
been addressed to him at all.

“The event I have been relating took place before the breaking out of
the revolution. Now rejoice, and listen, thou northern believer in
prophecy and witches. The very day after the return of the king and
queen from Versailles, when traversing the Place Louis Quinze, M. de
Talleyrand was attracted by a crowd gathered round one of the deep
fossés, by which the place is intersected, and, on going up, there
beheld the body of the unhappy _garde-du-corps_, lying all mangled
and bloody at the bottom. Some men belonging to the police were
endeavouring to catch at the corpse with hooks, in order to drag it to
the surface; and, as they did so, it was discovered that a great part
of the throat and breast had been gnawed away by starving dogs during
the night. The poor lad had been doubtless murdered by some unknown
hand during the bustle and confusion of the previous day, and thrown
into this convenient place, and thus was the prophecy fulfilled.”

C. rose as he finished his story, and gazing around, said, laughingly,
“See you now the misfortune of having to do with professed
story-tellers? We began with the history of this unfinished hunting
seat, and have paused at the beginning of the French Revolution!”

“I need not lose by the delay, however,” said I; “you can tell me the
tale of this ruin as we go home.”

“I remember,” replied C., “the sight of the building brought to mind
the subject, which has formed a study of mine ever since I have been
with the prince—his powerful and varied influence with all who
approach him—and it was thus that I was led into this long digression.
This building, which you now see so ruined and degraded, was intended
to have been one of the most remarkable objects of the whole country
round. It was planned and designed by the late Princess T——, as a
surprise and _galanterie_ for the prince, who had once, when taking a
drive in her company, expressed an opinion that this would be a good
site for a _maison de plaisance_. The princess said nothing in reply,
but immediately on her return to the château, despatched a courier with
letters to Chateauroux, containing orders for architects, surveyors,
masons, and all the _attirail_ of building, to be sent immediately to
the spot; and, in less time than you can well imagine, the foundations
of a goodly-sized building, with courts and _dépendances_, befitting
the residence of a repose-seeking prince, were erected. Expense was to
be considered nought—despatch everything—workmen were to be employed
night and day until the edifice was completed. All this was, moreover,
to be kept a profound secret until the building was quite ready to
inhabit, when the princess proposed leading the company at the château
through the wood to the spot, and then, enjoying their surprise, to
request their attendance at a ball and collation of her own providing,
in the _maison de plaisance_, ‘which she had built as a present to the
Prince de Talleyrand.’

“Meanwhile the prince, being again abroad with the princess on another
fine day—in quite an opposite direction, almost drove her mad, by
suddenly stopping to admire another view. ‘Of all places in the wood,
this is the exact spot I should choose, were I consulted, to erect a
_maison de plaisance_!’ said he.

“The princess was glad to hear this in time, although it gave her great
trouble and caused immense outlay; however, she consoled herself with
the hope that she should succeed at last in delighting the prince. She
immediately gave orders for the transport of the workmen and materials
to this new ‘Folie,’ and once more did the hammer and saw resound
through the silent wood, and again did the grinding cart-wheels disturb
another solitude. Scarcely, however, were the foundations of this
second pavilion laid, when the prince again disconcerted all the plans
of the poor princess, by exclaiming one day after dinner, ‘I drove
this morning by the river side—what a beautiful _point-de-vue_ there
is down by the Willows; most assuredly if I ever built a _maison de
plaisance_, that is the spot I should choose.’

“This was too much. The princess was completely overcome. She burst
into tears, and left the table, much to the astonishment of the
company. Nothing could persuade her that the allusion was not wilful on
the part of the prince, and she was in actual despair of being able to
please him. She regretted not the large sums which she had expended,
and which had already grown serious, but only the misfortune under
which she had laboured in not having chosen the right spot. The prince
laughed heartily at the joke, and, during the whole of that season,
his favourite promenade was to the hill upon which the magnificent,
unfinished Folie Princesse remains a memento of the devotion of her
highness, and of her inability to give satisfaction.

“This lady was one of the ‘_illustrations_’ of Valençay, and her
death has caused an immense vacuum in our circle. Both by birth and
marriage allied to many of the sovereign families of Europe—with a
colossal fortune—with the tradition and remains of great beauty—she
gave up even her own identity, to become a mere part and parcel of the
_apanage_ of the Prince de Talleyrand, content to live in his shadow,
and to borrow her importance from him alone. There was a great deal
that was touching, from its total disinterestedness, amid all the
absurdity of this romantic devotion.

“The prince was often annoyed by the extent to which she carried this
_culte_, but, _en homme d’esprit_, he generally succeeded in throwing
back the ridicule, which he felt was likely to attach to him, upon
herself, and scrupled not to enliven the dulness of the evening circle
by drawing her out; while she, poor soul, too happy to occupy his
attention even for an instant, consented willingly to become his butt;
and thus it often happened that the Princess T——, daughter, widow, and
sister of princes and heroes, was employed to divert the _ennui_ of
many a little _gentilhomme campagnard_, or _hobereau de province_, who
might, as matter of form and neighbourly feeling, chance to be invited
to dine at the château. But, as I tell you, although perfectly aware of
this—for she was by no means wanting in penetration—she cared not so
that ‘_ce cher prince_’ found amusement; indeed, I think she even felt
honoured by the preference accorded to her above the other guests.

“However, she failed not upon other occasions to avenge herself upon
these witnesses of her discomfiture, and in her turn crushed without
pity every one around her who was not the ‘prince,’ or allied in some
way with him, or one whom he delighted to honour. With others, never
was there a more _rogue et fière Allemande_, and in spite of her good
nature and generosity, she had more enemies than many who sought less
applause.

“She was the most eccentric person I ever met with; the last of a race
of which it will be impossible, from the change in human ideas, ever
to behold another specimen. In her youth she had been most beautiful,
and still retained, saving the loss of an eye, traces of loveliness
even in advanced age. She could not be called either clever or witty,
but was the cause of such interminable wit in others, of such endless
good sayings on the part of the prince, that Valençay, to those who
were accustomed to her society, seemed dull _à périr_ when she was not
there. She had the greatest fund of originality and natural vivacity
that could be possessed by any human being. Her ideas could not be
made, by any force of reasoning or persuasion, to follow the tide of
improvement of the times, and she could never be taught to believe that
the revolution had wrought any change in the relative positions of the
aristocracy and the people, but continued, to the latest period of her
life, to treat all plebeians and _roturiers_ as though they had still
been serfs and vassals, subject at her will and pleasure to _détresse_
and _corvée_. She was an invaluable specimen of the old insolent
noblesse; and after a day spent in her company, you might retire to
rest, no longer wondering at the horrors of the great revolution, nor
yet at the hatred by which they had been instigated.

On one occasion, she had nearly set the whole province in an uproar
by an unseasonable display of what the prince was wont to call her
_impertinence Régence_. A large party had been invited to dinner at the
château, a party in honour of the arrival of some high and illustrious
visitor at Valençay; I think there were even scions of royalty among
the guests. In short, it was one of the gaudy days of the castle, when
the flaming yellow liveries, and the antique silver, and the royal
gifts, were all displayed. Of course the _préfet_ of the department,
the _maire_ of Valençay, the _curé_, and, in short, all the authorities
of the place had been invited, and with true provincial punctuality had
arrived at the exact hour named in the invitation, which, as usual in
modern times, was long before the princely host expected to receive his
guests; and, when they were ushered into the drawing-room, they found
that none of the family had as yet appeared, and that they would be
consequently compelled to amuse themselves as they best could until the
ringing of the bell, which would gather together the stray members of
the household.

“In a short time, however, the great doors of the drawing-room were
thrown back with a loud _fracas_, and in sailed, in all the majesty of
stiffened silks and fluttering plumes, her highness the Princess T——.
The troubled provincials immediately with one accord turned from the
chimney, where they had been talking in mysterious murmurs concerning
the mighty individuals whom they were to meet at dinner, and moved
in a body with sundry low bows, and a great display of gymnastic
prostrations, towards the fair princess. The latter stood for a moment,
and gazed as they advanced, then turning suddenly round to the grinning
domestic, who had remained standing at the door:

“‘Fool!’ exclaimed she, indignantly, ‘did I not bid you ascertain if
anybody had arrived, before I troubled myself to come down to the
_salon_?’

“‘Yes, princesse, and I came myself to see,’ answered the servant,
looking rather puzzled and embarrassed, first at his mistress, then at
the guests, who stood wondering where the questioning would lead to,
‘and when I found these gentlemen here, I——’

“‘Idiot!’ interrupted the princess, ‘not to know your business better;
remember that such as these are not anybody, but NOBODY.’

“With these words she tossed out of the room, pointing with her fan
over her shoulder at the poor stupified provincials, whose rage and
mortification defy description. They were not slow to spread the tale
of her insolence and haughtiness throughout the country round, and the
circumstance caused the princess to be viewed with no very friendly
eye, as you may well imagine.

“Soon after this occurrence, having occasion to visit Paris, she
left Valençay in her carriage, drawn by four horses, and driven by
the postmaster himself. Her highness was always in a most tremendous
hurry, and loved to be driven at a tremendous rate. This the postmaster
knew well, as he had been in the habit of driving her for years. He
accordingly took much pains upon the occasion to which I refer, to go
as slowly as possible, in order to vex and worry the princess, whose
temper was not long in breaking forth, and she presently began by
calling after the driver in the most imperious manner to hasten his
speed. This injunction not being attended to with as much alacrity
as she could have wished, she began to pour forth volleys of abuse,
seasoned with sundry fierce sounding exclamations and oaths in the
Polish language, to which, upon great occasions like the present,
she was wont to give utterance, (according to her own account, quite
unconsciously.) The man bore this for some little time, perhaps rather
more diverted than otherwise at the thought of the trick he was playing
one of those ‘infernal aristocrats;’ until at length, no longer able to
contain her indignation, the princess seized the footstool which was at
the bottom of the carriage, and hurled it at the postillion, with such
unsteady aim however, that the missile flew far above his head. ‘Dolt!’
shouted she, standing upright in the carriage, and gesticulating
fiercely, ‘do you imagine you are carrying a load of manure to market?’
‘_Ma foi!_’ exclaimed the postmaster, coolly dismounting from the
saddle, ‘many’s the load of manure I’ve taken which has fetched at
market twenty times more than you would have done there!’ With these
words, he deliberately set about unharnessing the horses from the
carriage, and bidding the other postillion do likewise, he turned
back towards Valençay, leaving the carriage standing alone in the
midst of the long solitary road, with not a human habitation in sight
and night coming on. The shrieks and menaces of the lady were all in
vain; the man having paused to light his pipe, with the greatest _sang
froid_, jogged by the carriage window, cracking his whip with fiendish
enjoyment of her terror, until he got to the very bottom of the hill,
and was lost sight of. The princess could never be prevailed upon to
tell the sequel of the story, nor of the means by which she had been
extricated from her most mortifying situation; and, as neither of her
tall valets nor her talkative maids could ever be induced to betray the
secret, it was thought that she had compelled them all four to turn out
into the road and drag the carriage to some wayside ale-house, where
she could rest till horses arrived. I know not if this was the case,
but she certainly was quite capable of doing it.

“A goodly volume might be filled with her _naïvetés_ and unconscious
witticisms; for it was her total indifference to the good things that
she uttered, and her contempt for the effect which they produced, that
constituted their greatest charm.

“I shall never forget the effect produced in the _salon_ one evening
by an event which occurred a short time before the prince’s embassy to
London, and which served to _égayer_ the society for some time. Among
other ancient traditions of the courtly life of former days which she
loved to keep up, and one, too, which completely coincided with her
tastes and habits, was the custom of the _petit billet_, a usage which
has been completely lost since the time of the great revolution, and
which might be taken as a specimen of the time-killing, fiddle-faddle
occupations in which the _noblesse_ of that day passed their lives.

“This custom of the _petit billet_ still exists in many of the old
families wherein courtesy and etiquette are still maintained, at least
among the elder members. It consisted in writing a short note of
inquiry every morning to the person beloved, who answered it likewise
in writing, for no verbal message would have been received. Of course
the contents of the note could not be much varied. There could be
nothing to say but day after day the same ‘good morrow,’ with inquiries
how the night had been passed, and other questions of small interest,
which the present generation, who live deep and fast, expending their
sentiments and energies on greater things, have no time to make. I
myself know a married couple of the old school who, like all married
couples of the old (French) school, have been separated _de corps et de
biens_ for the last forty years, and who have never missed once during
the whole of that time sending the _petit billet de matin_. I was once
thoughtless enough to rally the lady upon this constancy, when she
replied, angrily, ‘Monsieur, although Monsieur le Comte and myself may
not choose to live together, yet our mutual position, and the rank we
both hold in society, prevent our enjoying the privilege of dispensing
with the common customs and formalities of the circles in which we have
both been bred. In renouncing all idea of love for each other, we have
not renounced good breeding.’

“Well, the princess, who was, as I tell you, _à cheval_ upon etiquette
with regard to the prince, never appeared in the morning without
having been preceded by her _petit billet_, although the prince never
thought fit to encourage her absurdity by sending a written answer.
One evening, she had retired earlier than usual, and, shortly after,
just as the company was breaking up, a note was handed to the prince
by the princess’s valet. We were all rather alarmed at first, fearing
that she might have been seized with illness; but presently the billet
was handed about amid roars of laughter; there was nought to fear;
it ran thus: ‘Cher prince. How are you this morning? I myself am far
from well, having passed a wretched night, although when I _did_
sleep, I dreamed of you, which was some little consolation amid all
my agitation and restlessness.’ The note bore the morrow’s date, and
had been given by the careless servant some twelve or fourteen hours
too soon! Upon inquiry, it proved to be the habit of the princess to
write these little billets over night, to avoid being disturbed in
the morning; they were laid on her toilet table, whence the valet had
taken the one in question, without inquiry and without reflection. Of
course the prince was merciless; the Princess de T—— furnished the
standing joke of the season, and was never left in peace until some new
absurdity caused the story of her ‘precautionary measure’ to fade in
the background.”



CHAPTER VII.

RECOLLECTIONS OF EARLY LIFE, BY PRINCE TALLEYRAND.


“It is a most extraordinary circumstance,” said I to C., one
evening, as we sat together in the little turret-chamber, “that no
well-authenticated life of the prince has ever been written. It would,
I have no doubt, attract more attention than any work of the kind which
has appeared for years. Why do you not attempt the task? You are better
qualified, from the length of time you have been in his intimacy, from
your very admiration of the man, to undertake the task, than any one
else now living.”

“You flatter me,” said C., smiling; “the undertaking would be far
beyond my power, or, indeed, it would be within the limit of the
capabilities but of one man alone. The sole biographer of Prince
Talleyrand must be Prince Talleyrand himself. Any clever, well-informed
historian might give the facts of the prince’s life, but who but
himself could render to posterity a satisfactory account of the
_motives_ which had led to action, the _consequences_ which have
accrued from the various decisions which he has taken, and which, in
most instances, as he himself is always declaring, have been totally
in opposition to the results foreseen? Such a biography of himself as
_he_ could write, would be a literary monument as lasting as the world
itself. It would be the _secret_ history of every government of Europe
for the last sixty years—the private memoirs of every distinguished
individual would have to be incorporated into such a biography, where,
of necessity, every distinguished individual in Europe _must_ be made
to play a part. I know that M. de Talleyrand has been for years past
compiling his diplomatic memoirs, but, by a singular infatuation, he
has proclaimed his intention of not permitting their publication to the
world until forty years after his death. This determination, _à la_
Voltaire, is singularly in accordance with the character of the man,
who is always repeating so playfully, ‘No one can doubt my powers of
waiting.’

“Some of those most interested in the matter, to whom he has
communicated his malicious decision, rail loudly against such a
determination; whilst others, with perhaps equally good reason, as
loudly applaud; so that it is evident to the unconcerned looker-on,
that whatever may be his secret motive for thus deciding, it is already
justified by the different passions which it has excited. He has in
this, as in everything else, displayed the depth of his reflective
powers, and refused to sacrifice high interests and grave results to
a paltry feeling of _amour propre_. He has reflected that, in those
intervening years, all the loud baying pack of fierce detractors of his
fame will have yelped forth their calumnies—the smaller fry will also
have all expended their puny efforts, and then _he_ will come and call
upon posterity to judge between him and them. Doubt it not—posterity
will answer the appeal. The next generation will be more just than his
own. The fierce passions, the deadly struggles, the political hatreds,
amid which his own existence has been passed, will all have died away,
and men will sit in calm, unbiassed judgment on the various actions
of his life, and will be the better able to pronounce their verdict
when they have beheld the _consequences_ of his counsels; when they
shall have been enabled to compare his adoration of his country, his
indifference to its _rulers_, with the slavish self-interest, the
narrow-minded, mercenary views of those with whom he had so often to
contend.

“Believe me, a man must entertain a tolerably good opinion of his own
discrimination, and have the organ of self-esteem developed in no
mean degree, who could sit down coolly with a pretension of giving to
the world a correct, nay, even a _lucid_ life of Prince Talleyrand.
He has out-lived the greater portion of the comrades of his youth,
of whom even then he lived so far in advance, that it was said of
him, he had ‘comrades and colleagues, but no contemporaries.’ Long
before middle age, he had learned that, in public life, the one thing
needful is discretion; while he it was who first published to mankind
the discovery he had made, that ‘speech was given to man to conceal
his thoughts.’ Therefore, it is not probable that there exists a soul
who could ever have penetrated sufficiently into the wily statesman’s
confidence ever to gain enough knowledge of his aims and views, to
_account_ for the different changes in his principles, with which
he has been so taunted by all parties. There is not a single epoch
of his life which is not, besides, so bound up with anecdotes and
incidents of the ‘times in which he lived,’ that often the most simple
recital of facts, as connected with any adventure in which he may have
been engaged, might give deep offence in other quarters, and cause
recrimination, and perhaps even, in some cases, litigation, on the part
of other high personages, whose names would have to be brought forward.

“No man was ever made the object of so much unjust vituperation as
the Prince de Talleyrand, of calumnies which have been accepted by
the credulous with as much good faith as proofs of holy writ; while
not one single _proof_ of perfidy or baseness has ever been brought
against him—nothing but supposition, for the most part ill-sustained,
and sometimes even completely belied by his subsequent conduct.
Notwithstanding the apparent freedom with which he admitted all his
_entourage_ to his intimates, how little is really known of his private
life! Notwithstanding the greediness with which the public have always
sucked in any stray anecdote, any fugitive _bon mot_, or axiom of this
great man’s, yet how strangely ignorant do they still remain of his
real character—how blind to the real grandeur of soul, which he ever
displayed amid the most trying circumstances—where any other than he
would have clutched at the shadow, he let both the empty substance and
the emptier shadow pass, while he calmly paused for that which was to
follow. The truth is this—the _mind_ is made the judge of the public
character; the _heart_ alone can understand the value of the private
one.

“I have often myself seen him smile at the idea of any one attempting
his biography, and, whenever by chance he found himself compelled to
receive at Valençay any of the petty journalists, the stray collectors
of _bon mots_ and epigrams for the _salons_ of Paris, I have beheld him
take a malicious pleasure in mystifying their credulity by relations
of the most extravagant adventures connected with himself, or with the
great public men with whom he had come in contact. One of his keenest
enjoyments consists in making me read, while he is at his toilet, these
same anecdotes as they appear in the peculiar journal for which the
poor _gobe-mouche_ has been catering. As I have said before, there
is so much that is real, and so much that is false, mixed up with
everything connected with the prince, that the historian who would seek
to be veracious, finds himself completely baffled. On the other hand,
the world of anecdote is our own. He is no niggard, in sooth, of his
rich store of souvenirs, and loves to dispense them to his intimates
with a bounteous hand. The mention of an obscure name, the raising of
the simplest doubt, will draw forth, when he is in the vein, such ample
fund of amusement, that many a thick, closely-printed volume might have
been compiled from this source alone.

“I remember that, one evening, by some unaccountable circumstance which
I now forget, we were fated to spend the hours from dinner till bedtime
alone. The ladies of the family had gone to do honour to the bridal
of a rich vassal in the neighbourhood of the château, and had most
especially recommended the prince to retire early, as he was labouring
under severe cold on the chest. You will scarcely believe me when I
tell you that we remained up together until daylight—so absorbed was
he in the remembrance of events of years gone by, and of which some
simple observation on my part had touched, as it were, the galvanic
train, and roused the reminiscences which had slumbered perhaps since
his youth, while I thought not of rest or sleep so long as he talked
on. I could have listened until doomsday. One of the subjects on which
he spoke that evening was the very one upon which I have just been
entertaining you; that of his memoirs. There had been an advertisement
in one of the Paris papers that morning announcing sketches of ‘the
Arch-Diplomatist, from Original Documents.’

“‘This is about the fortieth attempt of the kind within the last dozen
years,’ said he, in answer to my information of the circumstance, ‘and,
what is more astonishing is the fact, as I am told, of their having
all met with more or less success. The public love to be duped, and
seek with eagerness every occasion to be deceived. It is the charlatans
alone whose numbers fail, dupes are never wanting.’

“Had I not been already convinced of the utter impossibility which
must ever exist of any individual of our day being able to do justice
to the ‘Life of Prince Talleyrand,’ that evening’s conversation, in
the old Perrault-looking drawing-room of Valençay, would have amply
proved it. A volume might be filled with the anecdotes he told me
merely relating to the first years of his youth—just at his _début_
in the fashionable world, before the revolution. He began with the
_Séminaire_, recounting with peculiar delight the history of his
intimate associates there—his prodigious memory seeming to grasp
the most trifling details relating to each with as much vigour and
freshness as though he were speaking of yesterday. Many were the
curious customs, the picturesque observances, of the old place, the
very tradition of which has since been lost, obliterated, and trodden
under foot in the mire of the revolution, and of which he alone, in the
whole world, was left the chronicler.

“‘It cannot be denied,’ said he, in speaking of this establishment,
‘that vice and infidelity had crept in there as elsewhere, as how
could it be otherwise, when all the talent and brilliancy which have
dazzled youth in all ages were on the side of doubt and irreligion? And
yet there were still some bright examples, some few specimens of a
higher order of beings, gathered among us, whose light shone out yet
brighter from amid the utter darkness by which they were surrounded.
The histories of some of those young men would better serve as themes
for novel or romance than for book of saintly lore; for the revolution
dispersed them right and left, and sent them forth to the world, some
to battle with their fierce, pent-up passions, others to struggle with
their timid fears.

“‘Not all the romance that ever was written could equal in interest
the plain narration of some of the adventures which, in after life,
befel my fellow-students. Some perished beneath the revolutionary
axe, voluntary martyrs—others were found in the ranks of Napoleon’s
army, wearing the epaulettes and moustaches of his _avant garde_, or
caracoling among his voltigeurs. There still live some few who occupy
posts of honour and of trust, which the government of Louis Dixhuit
bestowed in utter ignorance of antecedents, while many of those who
had mourned their bondage the most bitterly, lived to regret it, with
yearning for the quiet which it yielded, and which they have lost for
ever.

“‘One of the most striking examples of the vanity of human wishes
may be found in the history of Eugène de B——, who had been my fellow
salver-bearer at the visit of the Bishop of Bordeaux to St. Sulpice.
This was considered an office of honour, and bestowed upon the two best
wranglers of the season. My companion was one of the handsomest young
men I ever beheld; tall and dark, with all the fire of the south in
his black eye and swarthy complexion, and the impress of high descent
stamped upon his features. He was the natural son of a nobleman holding
a high office about the court, and might hope through this channel to
rise to the loftiest dignity and honour in the church. It was not known
who his mother was, but it was whispered amongst us that she must have
been either Jewess or Bohemian—a belief to which his singular eye and
chiselled features gave rise. He was of a proud, impassioned character,
violent and indomitable; one with whom his teachers and those in
authority were obliged to pause before they ventured to rush into open
warfare. Neither penitence nor reprimand had ever been able to tame
his violent, irascible nature, and, on more than one occasion, had
it not been for the great honour which his learning and acquirements
conferred on the establishment, he would have been expelled.

“‘His fiery soul revolted at the idea of entering the Church. I have
seen him shudder with disgust as he donned the black serge dress which
denoted his calling, and absolutely refuse to walk in his rank in the
processions, which, at certain festivals, formed part of the ceremonies
of the day. His dreams were all of a military life and military
glory. He told me himself, that, proud as he was, he had _knelt_ to
his father to beg him to suffer him to embrace the profession of
arms. He would have been a Knight of Malta—a volunteer—even a private
soldier—anything, so long as he might be permitted to follow the bent
of his inclination, and join the army; but his father had said coldly,
that his interest in the army was all swallowed up by his other sons,
and, besides, that he disapproved greatly of this clashing of interests
between young men of the same name, who yet bore it under circumstances
so different; that he would not countenance any change of profession;
that he might rely on his protection so long as he continued obedient
to his commands, and that a fortune, such as would satisfy his most
ardent ambition, awaited him on the completion of his studies, if he
would remain content in the calling which his relatives had chosen for
him.

“‘From such reasoning there was no appeal, and poor Eugène remained at
the _Séminaire_, cursing his fate, and nursing his bitterness against
the existing order of things, which thus left him helpless and without
defence, the slave of another’s will, to follow the very calling he so
much despised. You will readily believe that, with these sentiments, he
was one of those who yielded the most readily to the influence of the
new doctrines which the philosophers of that day had begun to preach
with so much success. He had frequently been severely reprimanded, and
sometimes even harshly punished for his undisguised approval of the
new tenets, for among his class-fellows, he sought not to conceal his
sentiments, but proclaimed aloud his contempt of the aristocracy, his
hatred of the oppressors of the people, his opinion that the king would
one day be taken to task for his weak administration; and, above all,
his tongue waged loudest war against the queen, poor Marie Antoinette,
‘_Autrichienne_,’ _l’étrangère_, the ‘cruel she-wolf,’ the heartless
dissipator of the _deniers du peuple_.

“‘He left the _Séminaire_ with these feelings still existing; he was
much younger than myself, and I lost sight of him for some time; I
only heard accidentally that he had been appointed to serve one of the
chapels of Notre Dame, merely while awaiting a vacancy to occur in
some rich prebend or fat abbaye, to which his father might have credit
to get him appointed. Meanwhile, the revolution broke out, and Eugène
stood free to take the path from which he had been forcibly driven
while dependent on his father’s will. Of course, after what I knew
of his character, it did not in the least surprise me to learn that
he had thrown his frock _aux orties_, or that he had chosen to enter
the army; but what really did surprise me to a great degree was the
astounding information which was given me by his brother, the Marquis
de B——, that he had attached himself to the broken remnants of the
_gardes-du-corps_; that he had followed them most pertinaciously as a
volunteer; that he had twice been severely wounded in defending the
queen from the fury of the mob; and that he was the individual who had
carried the dauphin, at the very risk and peril of his life, across the
Allée des Feuillans, on the day of the memorable attack!

“‘And what became of him after this?’ inquired I of his brother,
already in my own mind anticipating the answer, for there were but few
of those who had made themselves the least conspicuous in the like
manner who escaped.

“‘Why, he was of course arrested,’ replied the marquis, ‘and thrown
into prison, but was discharged on suspicion of madness, although
he was no more mad than I am. He remained in Paris without seeking
concealment during the hottest period of the _terreur_, and by a most
extraordinary chance, was suffered to go unharmed, doubtless protected
by the same suspicion of insanity. My father and myself had joined the
_armée de Condé_, and would then have been glad of the acquisition of
such a bold, brave spirit, to the cause. With the view of his passing
the frontier, we succeeded, by dint of the greatest privations, in
raising a sum of money which we had conveyed to him. He thanked us
sincerely, but said _he could not desert his post nor join us till
his task was fulfilled_! With alarm we heard of him again at the
execution of the queen, when he made himself remarkable by his conduct
at the scaffold. It appears that he threw himself beneath the wheels
of the cart in which that unfortunate princess was transported to
her doom, and narrowly escaped being torn to pieces by the infuriated
_poissardes_ for his loud and outrageous vituperations at their
cruelty. He escaped, however, by his extreme good fortune once again,
and we were once more appealed to for money to “procure him a passage
out of this horrid country,” wrote he, “where neither innocence nor
beauty could find favour in the sight of men more savage and cruel
than the beasts of the field.” He refused to tell us in what manner
he had disposed of the immense sum we had already, at great risk and
inconvenience, sent him for the same purpose. Nevertheless, so great
was our anxiety for his safety, and so great the desire that was
felt throughout the whole _armée de Condé_ for the acquisition of so
valuable a member to its ranks, that a subscription was raised among
us, poor as we were, and once more was the sum required despatched to
this _enfant prodigue_, while we awaited in terror his safe arrival.’

“The marquis paused in his narrative, and then added, ‘And, from that
hour to this, I have never beheld him, although he was living, until
lately, not far from my own château in Bretagne.’

“‘Why, then, came he not to join you?’ said I. ‘Did he escape from the
country?’

“‘He did.’

“‘And what became of him after this?’

“‘He became a MONK!’ replied the marquis, ‘with the money we had raised
at so much toil and pains; he left the country and went to Italy, where
he entered a convent of Camuldules; but, after the Restoration, finding
the rules of this order not severe enough, he returned to France, and
entered the monastery of La Trappe. It is but a few months ago that I
received a letter from the superior of the convent, informing me of
my brother’s death, and mentioning that, although it was against the
regulations of the order to admit of the bequeathing of any legacy to
the laity, yet, in consideration of the marvellous piety of brother
Eugène, he was willing to forward to me, according to his dying wish,
the bequest which he had made me. This letter was accompanied by a
small sealed packet, which contained about a yard of narrow black
ribbon, and a receipt in due form for a sum of money which I instantly
remembered was the exact amount despatched in the first instance to
my brother from the _armée de Condé_! The writing was in the hand of
_Henri Samson, the executioner_, signed by him, and bearing witness
that the money had been received on delivery to the citizen Eugène B——
of the black ribbon which had bound the forehead and held back the hair
of the _citoyenne_ Capet on the morning of her execution.

“‘It was all stained, and stiff with drops of blood. There were a
few lines hurriedly written on the back of this paper by the hand of
Eugène, wherein he said that he wished not to leave behind him the
suspicion that he had disposed in an unworthy manner of the money which
we had had so much difficulty in raising, and that he desired that I
should become possessor of this relic, and that if possible, it should
be preserved in the family from generation to generation. He then
merely added that he felt sure, from the knowledge of my sentiments,
that I should cast no reproach upon his memory for having spent the sum
in the acquisition of this treasure—this memorial of one, who, from
having been a martyr upon earth, was now a saint in heaven.’

“‘The marquis told me that he had immediately despatched the ribbon to
Gratz, deeming that the relic would be most appreciated by the royal
lady who sits there in desolate grandeur to mourn the fate of all whom
she has loved in this world. He showed me, however, the receipt, which
is, perhaps, one of the most extraordinary _pièces justificatives_,
which could possibly be produced, and would, I doubt not, readily find
a purchaser at a higher price than that for which it was given in
acknowledgment.

“‘Such was the history of my fellow salver-bearer. After a youth
spent in burning vows, in oaths and protestations of what would be
his achievements, should he ever be freed from that sombre habit and
that slavish tonsure—with a heart beating high with courage, a soul
burning for honour and distinction, no sooner had he obtained the
freedom for which he had so long sighed, than he hastened to bury all
hope, ambition, and liberty beneath the cowl and lowly gabardine of the
Trappist. It is evident that his boiling imagination and ardent fancy
had been struck with the charms and matchless grace of Marie Antoinette
as soon as he had beheld her; he had nursed this passion through years
of sorrow and despair, and, when all was over, had sought this solitude
but to dwell undisturbed with the memory of her whom he had loved so
long, and with devotion so true and yet so hopeless.

“‘What a pity,’ said the prince, with a malicious smile, as he
concluded his story, ‘that your favourite, Alexandre Dumas, or Eugène
Sue, should not have been apprised of the existence of my poor comrade!
What a fine five-act melodrama or eight-volumed romance would have
been drawn from such materials, could either of them but have procured
an hour’s interview with him, even through the famous hole in the
garden-wall at Meilleraye, by which I am told much knowledge of the
interior arrangements of the Trappists gets abroad into the world.’

“M. de Talleyrand never will lose an opportunity of giving a playful
_coup de patte_ to the _romantiques_, whom, like all the followers of
the school of Voltaire, he holds in most especial aversion; and many
are the amicable battles which he and I are in the habit of fighting
together upon this subject.”

“Do you ever meet any of the prince’s fellow-students of Saint Sulpice
at the Hôtel Talleyrand?”

“There is but one who frequents it,” replied C.; “for in general it is
they who rather shun the recollections which the _ci-devant_ Abbé de
Perigord must bear with him. _His_ intercourse with them has ever been
frank and free. As he never played the part of a hypocrite with them,
so has he never had to fear detection, or to dread an encounter with
those who could tell of his early life.

“There is something touching in the candour and simplicity with which
the prince will sometimes converse of Saint Sulpice with the individual
to whom I now allude: the only one of his class-fellows with whom he
has maintained any degree of intimacy, and whom he has bound to himself
by ties of the deepest gratitude. He is the Curé of Saint Thomas,
one of the most simple-hearted and virtuous of men, and one whom, I
think, it would much surprise were he to be told that the Prince de
Talleyrand, in spite of his apostasy, had ever been taxed with foul
falsehood and black treason, and all the other crimes which have been
laid to his charge by the hackneyed writers of the day. In the eyes of
the good man (and if ever there was a saint upon earth, it is he),
M. de Talleyrand has never been guilty but of one fault, which he
qualifies by naming it a _tort_, when, in a misguided moment, he left
the Church for the allurements of the world; but nothing, however, can
persuade the worthy curé that the prince would not have returned, had
he not been prevented by his marriage. I know nothing more delightful
than to listen to the conversation of these two old friends, most
particularly when relating to the olden days, and to the _Séminaire_.
The prince is really much attached to M. D——; and I remember his being
highly incensed upon taking up a volume of some of the modern spurious
memoirs, wherein the old curé was mentioned with ridicule, on account
of his extreme simplicity. He told me the true story of the good man,
which was there related in a garbled form, and which he, who was at
Saint Sulpice at the time the adventure occurred, of course remembered
well, and told _con gusto_.

“It appears that the good curé, who all his life has been remarkable
for his childlike simplicity and credulity, was known at the
_Séminaire_ by the sobriquet of ‘_Providence_,’ which he had acquired
from his readiness to believe in the intervention of Heaven, whenever
the cause was a worthy one, however trifling it might appear, to vain,
weak mortals like ourselves. He had risen one cold, snowy morning in
December, to attend early matins at some church in the neighbourhood,
and had dressed himself stealthily and in darkness, fearing to disturb
his chum, M. de Sèze, who, worldling as he was, snored on, heedless
that it was one of the most solemn festivals in all the year, the feast
of St. Nicolas. Meanwhile, the good youth stole shivering down the
stairs and through the gloomy streets, clasping his breviary beneath
his arm, and repeating all the way most eloquent invocations to Our
Lady of the Burning Brand, the patroness of charcoal burners, for a
little of that warmth which she bestows so liberally upon her votaries,
to enable him even to feel the beads of his rosary as he passed them
through his stiffened fingers.

“On arriving at the church-door, he was assailed, or rather waylaid,
by a poor woman, an old pensioner of his, who rushed forward and fell
at his feet the moment he appeared, declaring that she was a lost
creature unless he came to her help; that she had passed the whole
night wandering in the streets; that her landlord refused to give
her admittance to her lodging to take away her few paltry rags,
unless she paid him what was owing for the rent, which she had no
means of doing unless through his bounty. Now it so happened that the
young _Séminariste_, never overburdened with the good things of this
world, found himself at that peculiar moment entirely _à sec_, and
was awaiting his monthly allowance of pocket-money before he could
venture to make his appearance among his poor pensioners, so boundless
were his charities, so great his nervous dread of being compelled to
refuse himself the pleasure of bestowing relief upon the needy—the
only pleasure, indeed, which he ever allowed himself to enjoy—the only
way in which he suffered himself to expend the scanty pittance which
his aged mother could spare from her poor income for procuring, as she
imagined, some few luxuries for her son.

“It was in vain, however, that the young abbé endeavoured to assure
the poor woman of his utter inability to assist her this once. In vain
he endeavoured to shake her off—she clung to his knees—she bathed his
feet with her tears—she called on the Lord to bless him, her tender
benefactor—she _knew_ that he would relieve her—that he would not
have the heart to see her four poor fatherless children turned into
the streets to starve. What was a miserable sum of three small crowns
(_petits écus_) to such a noble gentleman? Why, he would not miss such
a paltry sum at night, were his pocket picked of it before he returned
home.

“‘But my good woman,’ said he, completely overcome by her importunity,
‘rich as you think me, I have not at this moment a single _sou_ in my
possession.’

“‘Nay, nay, feel in your pockets, monseigneur; you will surely find
enough to save me and my helpless babes from starving. It is not much,
my lord bishop (for you will surely become one day a bishop), only
three poor crowns!’

“‘But on my word, _ma bonne amie_, I have it not—were you to search my
pockets through, I tell you again, you would not find a single _sou_.’

“‘Ay, that is ever the way,’ screamed the woman, clinging to the skirt
of his _soutane_, which she held fast in her grasp; ‘that is ever the
way with rich and noble gentlemen whose pockets are lined with gold and
silver—they never have a coin so small as a single _sou_—but search, in
Heaven’s name, and you will surely find my three poor crowns, which
are all that stand between me and perdition.’

“‘Nay, then, if you believe me not—see rather if I tell not truth,’
said the poor lad, completely at his wit’s end; and, as he said the
words, he turned the pockets of his _soutane_ inside out—when, what
was his surprise (oh, miracle!) out rolled upon the ground three bran
new silver small crowns, which seemed to jingle with most heavenly
music as they fell at the feet of the poor mendicant, who, with a
shriek of joy, gathered them up, and rushed from the church, before
the thunderstruck abbé had as yet recovered from the awe and wonder
into which the occurrence had thrown him. He remained for some moments
riveted to the spot in a sort of beatified trance, unable to imagine
it possible that so great a miracle could have been vouchsafed to so
unworthy a sinner as himself. Once more he plunged his hands eagerly
into the pockets of his _soutane_—but no other coin was forthcoming.
Yes—it was evident—Providence had vouchsafed this miracle by way of
encouragement to his weak endeavours. He put up an inward prayer for
protection against the sin of self-conceit, as the thought overtook
him, and, presently recovering himself, he rushed to the altar of the
Virgin, and breathed forth his gratitude at her feet. So great was his
emotion, that he resolved at once to spend the whole day in the church,
in fasting and in prayer, that no earthly sentiment might mingle with
the heavenly feeling thus awakened within him.

“The poor abbé was, indeed, so elevated with the adventure, that he
felt neither cold nor hunger, but remained the whole day praying at
the different altars; nor did he suffer a morsel to pass his lips
until set of sun. He then returned to the _Séminaire_ full of humility
and gratitude, determined not to tell his adventure to any of his
comrades, in dread of their unbelieving mockery. They were, however,
all abroad—for was it not the feast of St. Nicolas, the gayest holiday
in the year, the festival of the patron saint of all the youths and
unmarried men in France; when even the poor _Séminaristes_ were allowed
to spend the evening outside the walls of Saint Sulpice—and they had,
of course, all taken advantage of the permission, excepting M. de Sèze,
who rushed down the stairs in a perfect fury, as soon as the step of
poor ‘Providence’ was heard; and, without a word of explanation, began
to kick and cuff him most unmercifully, loading him with reproaches,
until he was forced to pause for want of breath; and then the unhappy
object of all this wrath was told that he deserved to be thrown
from the window of the seventh story, for having deprived, by his
carelessness, an old chum and comrade of his day’s holiday, by taking
his new _soutane_ in the dark, and leaving his old rusty one in its
place; and, worse than all, depriving him of the means of diverting his
_ennui_, by robbing him of his money, three bran new crowns which he
had put aside for this very occasion, and which he would find in the
left-hand pocket!

“The miracle was then explained! The poor abbé, crest-fallen and
discomfited, slunk away, forced to confess the truth, and his utter
inability to make good the sum at that moment. The good-natured
M. de Sèze was, however, so diverted at the adventure, that he
thought himself amply revenged for the annoyance he had suffered,
by the mortification which poor ‘Providence’ had to endure and the
disappointment he expressed at finding that, after all, he had not been
made the object of a _miracle_.

“‘It is most extraordinary,’ said the prince, who had been telling
me this anecdote of M. D——, one day after he had just left us, ‘that
this adventure did not in any degree lessen his confidence in the
interposition of Providence in his affairs, notwithstanding all the
mockery and derision of which he had been made the object after this
misadventure. On the contrary, he gave himself up with the greatest
confidence to the decrees of that Providence which had never deceived
him, and which certainly bore him through the most perilous and
troublous times without harm or molestation. He never emigrated during
the revolution; he remained at his post; and, whether he was deemed too
insignificant for annoyance, or whether, in consequence of the great
love which was borne him by his parishioners, it was thought prudent
to overlook the fact of his remaining in the country, I know not; but
it is certain that, without defiance, and yet without servility, he
remained, and was unharmed—perhaps the only instance throughout the
whole of France.

“‘Another specimen of his trust in Providence is worth recording, as
it may give you an insight into the state of feeling at the time, and
of the enthusiasm which existed, even in remote country districts,
at the period of the breaking up of the old system. After leaving the
_Séminaire_, M. D—— was appointed to a small cure in the neighbourhood
of Rambouillet, which yielded him not more than about twelve hundred
francs per annum. You may readily suppose that, with a knowledge of
this fact, I was much surprised to find, on paying him a visit at his
_Presbytère_, that throughout the whole country round his name was
mentioned with prayers and blessings by the poor: not for his attention
to their ghostly comforts, not for his guidance in spiritual matters;
but for his munificent charities, his assistance in all their pecuniary
difficulties, wherein he always came to their aid, with even more
readiness than the inhabitants of the _château_ themselves. Meanwhile,
as far as his own personal indulgences were concerned, the poorest
peasant in his parish lived more sumptuously than he.

“‘I found him in a ruinous old parsonage-house, with scarcely the
smallest of the comforts of life; and yet full of the most splendid
dreams of all the happiness he meant to confer by his administration
in the district to which he had been appointed pastor. There was to
be no more misery, no more want—the golden age was to be revived—in
short, his visions were much of the same nature, only partaking of more
simplicity, as those of your idol, Fourier. I could not help smiling,
as we sat down to our repast of two hard-boiled eggs, and water _à
discrétion_, to hear him declare his resolution of enabling his
parishioners to have each one, according to the vow of Henri Quatre, a
fat fowl to boil for his Sunday dinner.

“‘But, my good friend, how will you be enabled to procure for them all
these luxuries?’

“‘Oh, I have hit upon a plan,’ replied he, chuckling with glee, ‘which
is a much better financial scheme, than any ever devised by either
Calonne or Necker. So simple too—to be understood by the meanest
capacity;’ as he spoke, he went to a small cupboard in the wall, and
drew from thence a long string of old and dirty playing cards. ‘This is
my coin,’ exclaimed he, triumphantly, waving the greasy mass before my
eyes; ‘with these simple pieces, which my poor pensioners deliver to
the various tradespeople, they can procure in the village, food, fire,
and clothing—with these old cards, begged from my evening games of
piquet with the old Marquise de Beaugency, I can purchase for them the
comforts, without which they cannot live.’

“‘But in the name of Heaven, who will pay the providers?’

“‘Oh, I must trust to Providence for that!’

“‘I must confess that I left my worthy friend with a mind full of
uneasiness, notwithstanding his trust—the more so, when I found, upon
inquiry, that he was deeply indebted in every direction for the very
provisions which he continued to distribute with such lavish hand. But
so great was the respect his name inspired—so great the confidence felt
by his flock in his honour and integrity, that no alarm was experienced
respecting the payment, it being imagined generally, that he was the
agent of some rich and charitable person, for the distribution of these
alms, and that they would be paid as soon as he himself received the
money. After having given him for his poor what I could spare—a mere
drop in the ocean, when viewed with reference to the heaviness of
the debts which he had incurred—I took my departure, full of anxiety
respecting the future consequences of this thoughtless expenditure on
the part of one, whose whole stock of worldly goods would not have
satisfied the demands of even one of his numerous creditors.

“‘However, other more serious events coming, meanwhile, to occupy my
attention, I lost sight of my old friend, or if ever I _did_ think of
him, it was with a faint terror, lest, never having heard of him since
my visit to Rambouillet, he might have been reported to the bishop
of his diocese, and have incurred imprisonment and disgrace for his
imprudent practices. The great encounter between the people and their
rulers had commenced, and all France was summoned to assist at the
first parley, before hostilities began—the assembling of the _états
généraux_ at Versailles.

“‘I arrived at Versailles the day before the procession from the
Palace to St. Louis, and was walking arm and arm with Sièyes upon
the _tapis vert_, gazing with curiosity on the scene. The day was
heavenly, (it sometimes seems to me as though we have no such weather
now, as we had then,) the _tapis vert_ was crowded—courtiers in their
court costume—officers in uniform—the _haut clergé_ attired with the
brilliant tokens of the rank each held in the Church—were all gathered
in groups, either sauntering beneath the shade of the _charmille_
hedge, where the first tender buds of May were just sufficient to
screen the promenaders from the rays of the spring-tide sun—or else
seated on the stone benches along the alleys, conversing with the
ladies, who, all adorned in the gayest colours, and wearing the
brightest smiles, seemed bent on rendering the holiday as brilliant as
it was possible it could be.

“‘On the other side, (the truth _may_ be told now without mischief,)
avoided by the rest, as though they bore the seeds of pestilence within
them, the members of the _tiers état_ conversed in busy, whispering
knots; no merry laughter was heard from _them_, no pleasant trifling
or mirthful jesting was seen lighting up _their_ discourse. All was
dark and gloomy, care sat on every brow, and that their converse was
of weighty matters, was evident, by the tone of mystery in which it
was carried on, and the sudden silence which took place among them
whenever any stray member of the _noblesse_ happened to pass by to join
the glittering throng on the other side. Their very costume contrasted
strongly with that of their contemptuous superiors; they all wore,
and contrary to anticipation, were _proud_ to wear the dress to which
they had been condemned—the black hose and surtout, and short black
cloak, which, by the antique sumptuary law, denoted the vile, base-born
_roturier_.

“‘It was altogether a scene such as I shall never forget while memory
has power to act. I never remember in my whole life to have been
inspired with so profound a sentiment of melancholy as at that hour.
I could scarcely refrain from shedding tears, at perceiving, by what
was already taking place, what must of necessity come to pass before
long. As we drew near to the palace, the long windows of the suite
of apartments looking towards the _Pièce d’Apollon_, and then known
as the _Appartements du Dauphin_, were thrown open, and out rushed,
like a flight of butterflies, the whole bevy of court beauties, all in
high glee, in towering spirits, elated at the prospect of the morrow’s
pageant, which they evidently looked upon but as a show wherein they
were to see much that would amuse, and wherein they should be seen to
the very best advantage, as, fortunately, the _Salle des Menus_ was
lighted from _above_, which was so much more favourable to the effect
of rouge and _mouches_ than the broad, glaring, side light of the
_grande galerie_.

I cannot tell you how the sound of that joyous laughter grated on my
ear, as it caused both Sièyes and myself to pause while we watched
those light forms, as they playfully chased each other on the terrace
among the flowers. The queen was with them there; and I think I see
her now, as she stood leaning for support against the pedestal of the
statue of Silenus, opposite to the marble staircase, so greatly was she
overcome by the fit of laughter into which she had been thrown by some
absurd mistake on the part of the Countess de Provence, for her ringing
voice and childlike accent reached our ears as we stood close below the
balustrade, as she exclaimed, pointing to her sister-in-law, “_Cette
chère Sœur_ will _never_ learn to speak French!” That radiant face
and beaming eye could not at such a moment be seen without exciting a
feeling of _pity_, and this I know was shared by Sièyes, for, without
uttering a word, he pressed my arm significantly, and led me from the
spot towards a group of the _tiers-état_ who were standing at the
entrance of the _bosquets_. As we drew near, I descried the Abbé Maury,
who was, as usual, declaiming with all his might, although in a low
tone, to an eager crowd of listeners. Just as we came up, he concluded
some section of his discourse with this question, ‘Eh bien, Messieurs,
if the noblesse treat us so, what are we to do?’

“‘_Why, trust to Providence!_’ was the answer, from one of those
standing near. The voice made me start, so little was I prepared to
hear it in such a place. I turned to the speaker—it was indeed my own
dear D——!

“‘Of course my inquiries and his replies followed each other in rapid
succession, and I was almost led to believe that his philosophy was
the best that had ever been devised, when he informed me that he had
come to Versailles as representative of the clergy, deputed by his
_commune_, the electors being of course in this, as in every other
case, compelled to disburden him of his debts before he could leave
the canton. ‘It was quite unexpected,’ said the good man, ‘almost a
miracle; for how could I dream even a short month ago of deputies,
and notables, and gatherings at Versailles. You see I was right in
trusting to Heaven for relief. However, it _did_ astonish the worthy
_bourgeois_ a little, when they discovered how dearly they would have
to pay for their choice; and they might perhaps have cancelled it had
such a proceeding been allowed. _Mais, c’est égal!_—summer is coming
on, harvest time will soon draw near, and the poor of my parish have,
meanwhile, been clothed and fed!’

“‘It would perhaps be difficult to meet with a more beautiful
realization of the spirit of Scripture than is to be found in this
anecdote. He has met with his reward, for “_mes pauvres_,” as he
always called his little flock, protected him through the dangers
and persecutions which he subsequently had to undergo; and, at the
Restoration, he was appointed to the cure of St. Thomas, one of the
best _bénéfices_ of Paris, which he still holds, and where, until these
very few years, when, from old age, he has become incapacitated for
preaching, he was wont to deliver many and many a pithy sermon upon the
wonderful “bounty of Providence.”’

“There is scarcely a visitor at the Hotel Talleyrand,” resumed C.,
“who does not, as in the case of the _curé_ of St. Thomas, elicit some
quaint history, some _piquant_ anecdote of days gone by, on the part
of the prince. His memory is so wonderful, that he can scarcely relate
the simplest trait of his own life without being led into many other
stories illustrative of the times in which the incidents happened, and
to which he knows better than any living being how to give a charm,
an interest, which will sometimes render the smallest circumstance
of value, and which is a gift so highly esteemed by our nation,
that _l’art de raconter_ has ever been placed far above any other
accomplishment in the qualifications requisite to form an agreeable
member of society. You will in general find the prince _indulgent_ when
relating anecdotes even of persons from whom it may be a well-known
fact that he has differed all his life. I have often heard him say that
‘experience teaches us indulgence,’ and that ‘the wisest man is he
who doubts his own judgment with regard to the motives which actuate
his fellow-men.’ I have sometimes heard him entertain his intimate
circle, during a long evening, with a vast number of amusing traits and
anecdotes relating to his ‘fellow-labourers in the vineyard,’ without
once having recourse to scandal or ridicule; which I consider the very
perfection of the story-teller’s science. The only person with whose
name he likes, even now, sometimes, to disport himself in his _moments
de malice_ is Madame Necker, whom he never could tolerate, and with
whom, even in her most palmy days, he scrupled not to declare himself
openly at war. He really _felt_ with regard to her what he so happily
expressed, ‘She has every virtue and but one fault, and that is, she
is insupportable!’ The good lady never forgave his comparing her to
a ‘frigate riding at anchor, and receiving a salute from a friendly
power,’ when she stood upon her own hearth-rug at the Hôtel Necker,
upon the occasion of her weekly receptions; her ample proportions
obscuring the light of the fire, as, with pinched-up features and
prudish smile, she listened to the compliments of the Academicians,
whom she assembled but for this purpose. The ‘strait-laced Genevese,’
as he calls her, has furnished him, I verily believe, with more witty
_bon mots_, with more stinging epigrams, than even his most bitter
enemy.

“His feeling towards her daughter, Madame de Staël, has much of
the same nature. To this hour, his _amour propre_ is wounded by
the obligation he owes her for having obtained, through her credit
with Barras, his recall from exile, and thus, in reality, laid the
foundation of his fortune. This unwillingness to own a debt may savour
somewhat of ingratitude; but the prince will be excused when it is
remembered that Madame de Staël possessed, in common with all persons
of a nervous, irritable temperament, an excess of that susceptibility
which phrenologists have denominated ‘approbativeness,’ which made her
over-value her success, and never cease bringing it to the memory of
the person obliged. This, to a proud, sarcastic temper like that of the
prince, must have been peculiarly annoying, the more so as Napoleon,
with the gross, soldier-like want of tact which he would sometimes
display, loved to remind him both of the immensity of the service, and
by whom it had been rendered, and then would laugh coarsely to see
him wince under the reproach, which all his wonted philosophy did not
enable him to bear with calmness.

“He had never the same high opinion of Madame de Staël which the world
professed. He thought her style pedantic and _guindé_, and would
complain, when any of her compositions were read to him, of their
total want of nature and _coloris_. I have often heard him say, that
those who read the writings might fairly boast of knowing the writer,
for that nothing could more resemble Madame de Staël herself than
the false, exaggerated sentiments and superficial erudition of her
compositions. I have seldom seen him enjoy more keenly a story than
the one he will sometimes tell of an adventure which befel Madame
de Staël at a party where he himself was present. I think it was at
a _fête champêtre_ given by Madame Helvetius at her pretty little
château at Auteuil. The garden was full of all the talent of Europe and
America combined, for it was just at the height of the American mania,
and the fête, indeed, was given to the great champion of liberty, the
regenerator of his race—_l’homme de la nature_—the immortal Franklin. I
could tell you, by the bye, some curious circumstances connected with
the great patriot, which you, as an Englishman, would be glad to hear,
and which I am sure the prince would be equally glad to communicate,
for he has but small esteem for the _faux bonhomme_, as he called him.

“Madame Helvetius was one of the most charming women that the world
ever produced. The style and type of such beings seem lost ever since
the revolution. Without being strictly handsome, she always succeeded,
without effort, in obtaining more admiration than the professed
beauties who might be in the same company with her. There was a charm,
a grace in every action, in every word she uttered, which has never
been surpassed. Although she herself possessed no literary talent,
there was not a celebrity in Europe who was not proud of her notice;
and her assemblies in Paris, and her fêtes at Auteuil are not forgotten
to this day. Upon the occasion to which I refer, Madame de Staël was
making her _début_ in the Parisian literary world, and calculating upon
even more success than she obtained, although, had she been a person of
moderate pretensions, she would have been more than satisfied. She had
just arrived in Paris; she herself and all those connected with her,
had been bright particular stars in the somewhat dim and cloudy horizon
of Geneva.

“On her first appearance at the réunion, Madame Helvetius had, of
course, with well-bred courtesy, paid her most particular attention,
but having other guests to welcome, had left her after a while, to
superintend the distribution of the amusements about the grounds. Once
or twice she had passed Madame de Staël sitting gloomily on the bench
where she had left her, and at last sent M. de Talleyrand to keep her
company; but M. de Talleyrand had tact enough to know that, being
himself no literary lion, he was no company for Madame de Staël, and so
immediately went in quest of society more congenial to her taste. He
soon returned, in company with the Abbé Monti, whose poems were at that
time the rage all over Europe, and whose coming put the fair authoress
into the best of humours. M. de Talleyrand sate down on the bench
beside them, in silence, feeling himself quite extinguished by so much
talent, and remained a passive listener, anxious for improvement. The
conversation was overwhelming with erudition, and then the compliments
were poured forth like rain from an April sky,—the Abbé ‘had never
reckoned upon so great an honour as that of meeting the first writer of
the age;’ madame ‘little dreamed when she arose that morning, that the
day would be marked by so auspicious an event as the meeting with the
Abbé.’

“‘I have devoured every word that has escaped from Sappho’s pen,’ said
the abbé.

“‘I cannot sleep until I read the charming odes from the Italian
“Tyrtæus,”’ said the lady.

“‘Have you seen my last endeavour?’ said the abbé.

“‘Alas! not yet,’ sighed the lady, ‘although report speaks of it more
highly than of any which have preceded it.’

“‘I have it here!’ exclaimed the abbé, eagerly drawing a small volume
from his pocket. ‘Allow me to present it to you, madame; a poor homage,
indeed, to so much genius, but it may prove interesting to one who has
had so much success in heroic poetry.’

“‘Thanks, thanks,’ cried Madame de Staël, seizing the little volume
with every demonstration of overpowering gratitude. ‘This is indeed a
treasure, and will be prized by me far beyond gold or jewels.’

“She turned over the leaves slowly, while the delighted abbé watched
her with a charming self-complacency—then suddenly dropping it into her
lap, she exclaimed, turning on the abbé a languid glance, ‘You were
talking of heroic poetry, dear abbé; have you seen my last attempt—a
dramatic scene, “l’Exilé”—a slight and poor imitation of some of your
own?’

“‘I have not been so blessed as to obtain a copy,’ replied the abbé.

“‘How fortunate that I should have one in my reticule!’ said madame,
hurriedly seizing the strings of the bag suspended from her arm, and
drawing forth a thin volume in boards. The abbé bent low over it as she
presented it, and kissing it with reverence, placed it by his side,
and the conversation—that is to say, the complimenting—was continued
with redoubled vigour.

“M. de Talleyrand then departed, and did not return till the company
broke up, when he found that they had both left the bench whereon they
had been seated so long together, leaving, however, the ‘precious
treasures,’ which they had received from each other with so much
gratitude, behind them! M. de Talleyrand seized upon them with
inexpressible delight, thinking that they would furnish matter for
innocent _persiflage_, when the loss came to be remembered by either
party. But the thing was complete—_they were never sought and never
asked for_, and he has them now in his library, and loves to show them
as he tells the story of their coming into his possession.

“It is in this manner,” said C., as he pulled out his watch, surprised
at the lateness of the hour, “that M. de Talleyrand will sometimes
entertain us with familiar histories of many whom the world has set
upon pedestals of its own erecting, and from which he is fain to bring
them down, although without scorn or malice, in order that we may see
them more closely and know them better. You will now understand the
reason why it must be so difficult to write a good ‘Life of Prince
Talleyrand;’ there would be so little of himself, compared to what must
be told of other people—the work would be so full of digressions, that
it would become as bulky as a cyclopædia. Besides, a single person
could not do the whole. It would require writers of different talent,
of different character, of different nations—I was almost going to say
of different ages—to do justice to the varied scenes wherein he himself
displayed such variety of talents.”

“Then why do you not, my dear friend, seize upon the branch which you
have at your own disposal, and give the world the _Vie Anecdotique_ of
the prince?” said I. “Supposing you were to begin and try your skill by
relating to me by way of practice before you publish?”

“Well, well, the idea is not a bad one,” said C., laughing heartily;
“it is certainly not the _matériel_ that would be wanting, and when we
have time and solitude it may amuse us both. _One_ talent at least is
secure, for you are undoubtedly a capital listener.”



CHAPTER VIII.

THE COUNTESS DE LA MOTTE, OF NECKLACE NOTORIETY.


It will easily be believed that I did not lose sight of the promise
which my friend had made with so much _bonhomie_, and the very first
time I found myself alone with him, I did not forget to claim it. The
opportunity occurred soon after the conversation I have just recorded.
We were pacing together the long picture-gallery of the château; the
rain was beating in torrents against the Gothic casements, and all
hopes of going abroad had been abandoned. The prince had not left his
chamber that morning. He was busily engaged, and had announced his
intention of remaining _invisible_ until dinner. He was occupied “_à
faire son Courier_,” as he called it, upon which occasion I have
known him sign and send off an entire bag full of letters, not one of
which was despatched without having first been carefully perused and
corrected by himself. The facility and precision with which he could
always find the exact word which was needed, and which his secretaries
would, perhaps, have been seeking for some time in vain, was matter of
the greatest admiration to all who witnessed it; but he could neither
write nor dictate with ease; the most trifling _petit billet_ which,
when completed, appeared the very model of graceful _laiser-aller_ and
badinage, often gave him as much trouble to indite as one of his most
complicated despatches.

This, I think, may be attributable to the neglect of his early
education. Subsequent study and careful reading may impart taste and
erudition, but can rarely give facility. C. told me that he has known
the prince remain for more than a week upon the composition of a letter
of condolence or congratulation, if it chanced to be addressed to a
brother wit, or one of whose criticism he might happen to stand in awe.
In these cases, he would cause his secretary to write two or three
letters, in different styles, upon the subject he had at heart, and
would then compile from the number, one in his own writing, with his
own piquant additions and improvements, which was soon bandied from
hand to hand, and quoted in every _salon_ as a _chef-d’œuvre_ of wit
and epigram. Those who were in the secret would smile at the unbounded
praise bestowed by the journals upon the composition of his despatches
(some of which are really masterpieces), and the wording of his
protocols; for they well knew that they would scarcely have attracted a
single moment’s notice had the truth been known.

“Does he give much time to the writing of his memoirs?” asked I of
C., as he was pacing thoughtfully the polished oaken boards of the
gallery, in which the double line of pictures, which garnish the walls
on either side, is reflected as in a mirror, so that at each step we
seemed to tread upon the semblance of some great king or warrior; for,
with a tacit self-homage, the prince had furnished the gallery with the
portraits of the sovereigns and great men of all countries, with whom
he had come in contact.

“I think his memoirs were concluded some years ago,” replied C., in
answer to my question, “and that they have been deposited in safety,
out of the pale of his own country, _comme de raison_, where they
will remain until the time fixed by himself for their publication
shall have expired. Many competent judges are of opinion that, even
at that distant period, the interest of their promulgation to the
world will be but little diminished. There is yet so much mystery, so
much which has been withheld from public scrutiny, in all the great
political changes which have taken place, that there will be as much
novelty in the plain, straight-forward narrative of the causes which
led to their occurrence, as though they were events of yesterday. From
the very first years of the reign of Louis Seize, when the tone and
manners of society yet smacked of the wild and dissolute freedom of the
Regency, to the restraint and affectation of the Restoration, has M.
de Talleyrand always borne a part in public affairs. Always floating
on the tide of circumstance, he has kept himself in full view of the
wondering crowd of beholders, while many of those who had set forth
with better chances of success, by opposing the current, have been
overwhelmed by its resistless rush.

“There cannot exist a greater proof of his cleverness and good taste,
than his steady avoidance of anything like public condemnation. He
has been _accused_ of every crime of which humanity can be guilty,
according to the caprice or fury of his enemies, but not even a
misdemeanour has ever been _proved_ against him. Even so long ago as
when he was as yet, according to his own expression, ‘_un assez mince
particulier_,’ long before the revolution, he had tact and sense enough
to steer clear of intrigue, and to avoid the society of those who were
suspected of dabbling in obscure political manœuvre. Indeed, had he
not been wise beyond his years, he could not have escaped intimacy
with the Prince-Cardinal, Louis de Rohan, he who has become famous
in history for his credulity in the affair of the diamond necklace,
and who, fool as he was, has yet been by many historians quoted as
the origin, the first great cause, of the Revolution. This prelate,
who at the time when M. de Talleyrand was a simple abbé, waiting for
preferment, was already at the very acmé of dignity and power, spared
no pains to conciliate the young ecclesiastic. But the Abbé de Perigord
was already possessed of too much discernment not to be fully aware
that these advances were less owing to any merit of his own, than to
the circumstance of his mother being at the time _Dame du Palais_ to
Marie Antoinette, whose good graces it had become a kind of monomania
with the unfortunate cardinal to gain. The prince, to this very day,
however, blesses the good fortune which sent him from Paris upon
business connected with his office as _Agent du Clergé_, just at the
very moment when the poor befooled cardinal, and his wily accomplice,
were in the very thickest of their plot; so that his name was never
mentioned throughout the whole course of the proceedings, neither as
frequenter of the cardinal’s hôtel, nor even as an acquaintance of his.”

“Did he ever chance to meet with Madame de la Motte?”

“But once, and that was on the very occasion of his going to take leave
of the cardinal, before he left Paris. He had been invited to sup with
his Eminence, _en petit comité_, and had come, prepared to undergo
long and _ennuyeux_ discourses upon the various duties of his new
office—the necessity of vigilance in detecting fraud—of conciliation
to prevent discord; in short, he almost dreaded the interview, fully
anticipating the _mauvais quart d’heure_ which is usually spent by
a young, inexperienced priest, when delivered up defenceless to the
torrent of recommendations and warning, of advice and moral instances,
which invariably fall to his share when alone with his superior. Great,
therefore, was the astonishment of the Abbé de Perigord, when, in spite
of the terms in which the invitation had been couched in the cardinal’s
own hand-writing—‘_Venez souper tête-à-tête avec moi_’—to find the
apartment into which he was ushered blazing with light, and signs of
ceremony and festivity evident in all the arrangements which had been
made for his reception.

“‘I found,’ said the prince, in whose words I will tell you the
history of this adventure, ‘on entering the _petit salon_, which was
already lighted with perfumed tapers, and redolent of the fragrant
essences which the cardinal loved so much, seated by the blazing
fire, which was, according to the custom of the Hôtel Cardinal,
composed of scented woods, a lady, whom I instantly recognised as the
Princesse de Guéménée, ex-governess to the royal children, but who
had some time before been compelled to resign office, in consequence
of the disgraceful bankruptcy of her husband, which had not a little
contributed to lower the _noblesse_ in the eyes of the people, and
formed one of the most astounding events by which that turbulent
era was marked. The princess was alone; which circumstance rather
astonished me, for I had come prepared with an apology for being late,
and I wondered at the absence of the cardinal, as it was already
considerably past the time at which he had requested me to be present.
The princess herself seemed annoyed as I entered. She had evidently
been waiting for some time, for she was in no very pleasant humour,
and scarcely deigned to return a civil acknowledgment to my humble
salutations and inquiries. However, I was easily consoled for any
mortification I might have experienced at this apparent indifference,
for the poor princess had but few ideas to dispense, and I therefore
considered that it might be as a matter of prudence that she hesitated
about wasting them on so humble an individual as myself.

“‘Upon this occasion, I was contented with warming my hands at the
scented blaze, and gazing on the portly form of the princess, reclining
in ample majesty on the green satin fauteuil before me. Perhaps there
never existed a type of ridicule and exaggeration more strongly defined
than the Princesse de Guéménée, particularly at this period of her
life, when, having lost, by extravagance and folly, the position to
which she was entitled by birth and fortune, she appeared as though
seeking to gain distinction in another way, by exaggerating the
follies of the times, and affording in her person a complete epitome
of all the extravagance and bad taste for which the court had become,
even then, proverbial. At the very hour of which I am speaking, even
when under the ban of dismissal from the court, of reproval from
the sovereign, and of the condemnation of all persons of credit and
character throughout the kingdom—when it was a notorious fact that
her husband and herself were paying loans upon the estates which yet
remained to them at the rate of fifty and seventy per cent.—was she
attired in all the absurd and costly frippery which a depraved fashion
might have excused some years before, when she was yet in possession
of the stupendous fortune which so long had caused the Rohans to rival
in splendour the sovereign himself, but which would only excite pity
and disgust in the minds of those aware of the desperate state of her
affairs.

“‘She was attired in a robe of I know not what kind of rich stuff,
which stood on end, and completely filled the immense arm-chair
in which she was seated. This again was entirely covered with the
richest lace, which, looped with ornaments in brilliants, representing
_scorpions_, fell over either elbow of the chair, completely disguising
its form, thus leaving the princess to represent to the beholder the
richly-decorated joss of some Chinese temple, that scorns, in virtue of
its divinity, the support which mortals need when seated. Altogether I
scarcely ever remember to have seen a more ridiculous figure than that
of the Princesse de Guéménée as she sat thus before me, the light of
the fire dancing upon the diamonds with which she was covered from head
to foot, now resting upon the thick rouge upon her cheeks, then flying
off to some absurd and comical ornament with which she had thought
fit to load the towering fabric of her powdered hair, and making her
countenance take all kinds of fantastic expressions, as though she had
been the sport of some merry demon.

“‘I endeavoured, as in duty bound, to divert the _ennui_ under which
the princess was labouring, by trying to recount some of the latest
news of the court. I had just returned from Versailles, where I had
spent the day bidding adieu to my friends, and thought that it might
be agreeable to her to hear the newest gossip. But I could gain no
attention. She suffered me to talk on until I was weary, and I could
see that she was not paying the slightest heed to my endeavours to
amuse her. Suddenly, and in the midst of one of my most diverting
anecdotes, she roused herself by a strong effort from the fit of
abstraction into which she had been plunged, and turned sharply round
towards me.

“‘You say you have just returned from Versailles?’

“‘As I have had the honour to tell you, princess.’

“‘Did you hear of my nephew being at court, to-day?’

“‘Indeed I did not hear the cardinal’s name pronounced during the whole
day, although I did not leave until the latest hour of admission.’

“‘_Mon Dieu!_’ exclaimed the princess, in a tone of the deepest
emotion, ‘then he has gone thither _en secret avec cette intrigante_!”

“‘These were her very words, and, just as she had pronounced them, the
rattle of carriage-wheels was heard in the court-yard of the Hôtel
Cardinal, and presently a great noise and bustle were heard upon the
staircase, with loud laughter in a female voice, which seemed to give a
sort of nervous spasm to the poor Princesse de Guéménée, for she opened
and shut the huge fan which she carried, with a loud, impatient jerk,
each time that the echo of that excited laughter reached the little
_salon_ where we were seated. At length, the door opened, and the
cardinal entered, leading by the hand, or rather, as was the fashion
of the time, by the tips of the fingers, a lady whom he introduced to
the princess as the Comtesse de Valois de la Motte. The name excited my
curiosity, for I had heard her story but a short time before from the
lips of my mother, and had been much moved by her misfortunes. I looked
at the lady with the greatest interest, and with a predetermination to
discover traces of her royal descent in her person and demeanour. I was
moreover wounded by the coldness of the manner of the princess towards
her. I thought her conduct uncivil and inhospitable in the extreme.
She never rose from her chair on the introduction taking place, but
had preserved the same idol-like rigidity of posture, neither did she
even condescend to return a smile in acknowledgment of all the sweet
things with which the Comtesse de la Motte ceased not to overwhelm her
from the first moment of her entrance—assuring her that she had been
longing for this meeting for some time past—that there was no one in
the world whose acquaintance she had so much desired to make as that
of the Princesse de Guéménée—in short, all the common-place flatteries
with which little people are in the habit of soothing and allaying the
adverse tempers of the great.

“‘It is a singular fact (and I do assure you the notion has not been
forced upon my imagination by subsequent events), but I was struck with
the extreme vulgarity of the tone of her address to the princess, even
in the few moments which preceded our summons to the supper-table;
and I had already a certain misgiving about the character of the lady
from this circumstance alone. But I reserved my definitive judgment of
her until we were ushered into the supper-room, for the _petit salon_
was lighted with lamps of alabaster, and the light, thus beautifully
softened to the eye, was rendered too dim to enable one to distinguish
the play of the features, the changes of expression, all the little
tokens of character which are exhibited in the countenance when
under the influence of any one predominant passion. I waited then,
with patience, until we were comfortably seated at supper. By good
fortune, my place was opposite to the comtesse, and I was thus enabled
to contemplate her to my heart’s content. It was fortunate, too, that
she scarcely deigned to notice my presence, so absorbed was she in her
endeavours to win a smile from the princess. I was thus rendered a
mere spectator of a scene, which time and the subsequent events that
took place have rendered worthy of being registered among my own most
interesting _souvenirs_.

“‘As to the cardinal, when once he had apologized to me for his late
return to the hôtel, and excused himself upon the plea of having
been detained at Versailles upon business connected with the affairs
of Madame la Comtesse, he scarcely seemed to remember that I was
in existence, so entirely engrossed was he with the efforts he was
compelled to make, in order to excite the princess to conversation on
the one hand, and to restrain the volubility of the Comtesse de la
Motte on the other. The contrast between the two female guests of the
cardinal was, indeed, striking, and one was led to wonder at seeing
them together at the same table.

“‘You have already heard the description of Madame de Guéménée: now,
Madame de la Motte was, in all points of outward appearance and manner,
exactly the reverse of that mighty dame. She was a small, lively
person, full of fire, and talking with a strong accent and active
gesticulation. She was, without doubt, what, in the world, is called
a pretty woman, for she had a fine complexion, with sparkling black
eyes, and a superb range of ivory teeth, which she took every pains
to display, by an incessant twist of her lips, which I remember to
this day, as having produced the most unpleasant effect possible upon
my nerves. She had a remarkable profusion of really fine chestnut
hair, which was but half-powdered, and clustered in most bewitching
ringlets round her face. Her age might have been about seven or
eight-and-twenty—the very age most to be dreaded in woman; the mind,
possessing all the experience of maturity—the person yet retaining all
the bloom and charm of youth. Her attire was well chosen to set off
her complexion, but it shocked my taste to witness the profusion of
ornament and jewels with which she was adorned, even while speaking of
herself as a _pauvre solliciteuse_, to whom a miserly government would
only accord a beggarly pension of eight hundred livres. Her diamonds,
indeed, rivalled both in beauty and profusion those of the Princesse de
Guéménée herself, and her dress consisted of a robe of orange-coloured
_brocatelle_, shot with black, and flowered with gold. Her hands and
arms were hidden by long gloves of Spanish kid, and I could readily
imagine that there was coquetry in this precaution, as the hardships
in which her early years had been spent, must, of necessity, have left
their traces _there_.

“‘I remember being struck with the reflection which forced itself
upon me at the time, and being lost in admiration as I gazed upon the
Comtesse de la Motte, at the extreme ease and facility with which she
had acquired the jargon and petty graces of high society. Her manners
certainly gave the lie direct to the old prejudice, that it requires
many years of apprenticeship to become an adept in the fashionable art.
Neither did she betray at first, by any one triviality or vulgarity
of expression or pronunciation, that she had not all her life been
accustomed to the society in which she then found herself. The only
peculiarity which might have excited suspicion in _very_ particular
persons, was the hurry and agitation in which she seemed to exist—a
perpetual restlessness—an over-desire to excite interest and to produce
effect. Mind you, I am speaking of the first hour or so, while yet she
was uncertain as to the opinion which the princess might have formed of
her. But after this restraint had a little worn off, and she had grown
a little less guarded in her conversation, I began to perceive many
incongruities in her behaviour. The effect was most extraordinary—she
appeared, at one and the same moment, two distinct characters; her very
voice altered, sometimes before she had concluded her sentence.

“‘I must do the Princesse de Guéménée the justice to declare that,
throughout the whole evening, her conduct was perfect. She listened
in silence, but without any evidence of ill-humour or contempt, to
all the _agaceries_ and lively sallies with which the comtesse sought
so earnestly to divert her. She even condescended, now and then, to
applaud, but without favour, and from a distance, as she would have
done from her box at the Opera to the successful efforts of the actress
whose talent might for a moment have succeeded in charming her into
this demonstration of approval. But it was when, at the solicitation
of the cardinal, excited with the wine, of which she had partaken
unsparingly, and elevated by the hope of winning the good graces of the
company, Madame de la Motte launched forth into the eternal history of
her “_infortunes_,” which had been her great _moyen de succès_ with the
numberless dupes she had made, that to me all delusion ceased at once.
The imposture was easy to discover beneath the envelope of affected
high breeding with which she had at first concealed her determination
of charming the princess, and the _aventurière_ stood revealed without
disguise.

“‘I know that you will suspect my judgment of being influenced by the
conclusion of her story; but I do assure you that even then I could not
help wondering that his Eminence should have admitted to his intimacy a
person like Madame de la Motte. It has since become matter of surprise
to all the world, that the cardinal, credulous and simple as it had
pleased Heaven to make him, could ever have been so beguiled as to give
the slightest degree of credit to her representations; but as for
me, after having passed that single evening in her company, I almost
feel inclined to believe in witchcraft. There _must_ have been some
evil power at work, when the Cardinal de Rohan was delivered up to the
possession (no other word can express this infatuation) of the Comtesse
de Valois de la Motte!’

“‘How I should have liked to be present!’ said I, ‘and to hear from her
own lips the recital of her adventures!’

“‘Bah!’ said the prince, laughing, ‘I can tell you the tale, and if it
prove as interesting to you as it did to me, you will not forget it
more than I have done. I believe it to be strictly true in all its main
points. It is a singular story, and but little known. She told it well,
too, and I leave you to judge of the effect which it must have produced
at the time.

“‘She said that her father, who, there can be no doubt was, in reality,
the Count de Saint Remy de Valois, descended from Henry II., had
sold the whole of his estates to a rich _fermier-général_, in order
to satisfy the debts incurred by the inordinate love of splendour
and expense in which his wife had indulged since their marriage.
The family was, in consequence, reduced to the very lowest ebb of
destitution and poverty. The mother, who was the daughter of one of the
Count de Saint Remy’s vassals, had not strength of mind to bear the
poverty which her own extravagance had brought upon her family, and
fled, leaving her husband and three children to endure the privations
which she was so ill-disposed to share. There was an old Gothic ruin
in the park, belonging to what had once been the château of the Counts
de Saint Remy, and this the _fermier-général_ consented to give up to
the count and his young family. Hither, then, did the hapless little
band retire, with no hope but in Heaven. The count became a confirmed
misanthrope, and never stirred from the old ruin from the moment that
he had fixed his abode within it. He suffered his hair and beard to
grow, and refused to hold communication with any living being, save
with his young children. But he took little heed of their welfare,
notwithstanding his affection for them, nor seemed to care whether they
were provided with bread or left to starve; and, had it not been for
the kindness of the peasants of the neighbourhood, who, with native
delicacy and good feeling, fearing to wound his pride, would come in
secret and at night to deposit provisions upon the threshold of the
mouldering edifice wherein they had taken refuge, the whole family
would sometimes have been for days together without a morsel of food.

“‘This, however, was far from being sufficient to satisfy their wants,
and the care of providing food devolved, of course, upon the eldest
child Jeanne (Madame de la Motte herself). She would wander along the
public road from sunrise to sunset, holding her little brother by the
hand, and carrying her sister, yet a helpless infant, on her back, and
thus the little trio, faint and weary, and covered with sordid rags,
would run by the side of every carriage that passed on the highway,
calling out in a piteous tone, “Charity, charity, for the love of God!
A morsel of bread for three poor starving orphans, descended from the
royal blood of the Valois!” This appeal failed not, of course, to
attract notice.

“‘I was fair, and pretty,’ said the comtesse, as she told the tale,
‘and sometimes returned laden with silver, which I hastened to convert
into necessaries for our use, and comforts for my father, ere I sought
my home at night. This state of things lasted fur more than two years.
The old ruin had fallen into greater decay; the count had fallen into a
state of greater gloom and apathy, scarcely ever uttering a syllable to
the children, nor seeming to take the least notice of their departure
or return, nor of their efforts to procure for themselves and him the
nourishment which was needful to sustain existence.

“‘One evening, poor Jeanne returned with her little companions, weary
and footsore, to the old tower. They had been out a longer time than
usual, the day had been wild and stormy, and but few travellers had
passed the road, so that but small profit had been made, and there was
a prospect of a supper even more scanty than usual. On entering the
tower, they were struck by the unwonted silence and darkness of the
place, for the count generally took upon himself the charge of feeding
the fire, and at nightfall lighted a torch to read over and over
again, for the millionth time, the genealogy of his family, and the
title-deeds proving his descent from the Valois, the only occupation in
which he now seemed to find amusement or consolation.

“‘Upon this occasion, however, all was dark and silent as the grave,
and Jeanne, after having called her father without receiving any
answer, drew near to the hearth, and blew up the few remaining embers
into a sickly blaze, which just sufficed to light the interior of the
tower. Her father was seated, drooping and motionless, in his customary
seat in the chimney corner, leaning against the wall, with his head
bent low upon his bosom, and his hand upon his heart.’

“‘He is asleep,’ said Jeanne, to the little ones; ‘let us make no
noise, but hurry to bed as quickly as possible, that he may not be
disturbed.’

“‘So she gave each of the children a morsel of bread and a piece of the
curd-cheese eaten by the poor peasants in that part of the country, and
they all three sought in haste and silence the bundle of straw allotted
to their use. Here they slept soundly until the dawn. Jeanne was the
first to wake, and, on perceiving the sunbeams struggling through the
loop-hole in the wall, rose with the hope of having better luck than
on the preceding day, and hurriedly gathered on her rags, determined
to set forth at once upon her daily errand. She was just preparing to
rouse her little brother, when she was struck with terror, on turning
to bid adieu to her father, to perceive that he was still seated in
the chimney-nook, in the same attitude in which she had found him on
returning to the tower on the evening before. He had passed the whole
night seated thus without moving; his head still drooping on his
bosom—his hand still pressed upon his heart! There was something so
unnatural in this immobility, that the child, young as she was, felt
overcome with dread. She approached the count and listened, but she
heard not his breathing, nothing but the beating of her own heart. She
laid her hand upon his shoulder, and pushed him gently.

“‘Father, it is time to rise!’ said she, in a low voice, and then the
loud shriek, which burst from her lips, echoed through the tower, and
roused from their slumber the two babes, who ran crying towards her.

“‘The body of her father had yielded to her touch, and had sunk
forward into the fire-place, where it lay upon the hearth, among the
cold ashes. It was evident that he had been dead for many hours, and,
in her fright, poor Jeanne, scarcely knowing what to do, seized the
little Marguerite in her arms, and ran screaming from the tower, nor
paused until she reached the town, where instantly, with a prudence and
foresight beyond her years, she went to seek the curé. Great was the
excitement among the peasantry on the estate when they heard of the
death of the Count de St. Remy, and they assembled in great numbers
around the old tower, and bore away the body to the chapel of the
château. But the hard-hearted _fermier-général_, well aware that his
possession of the estate was illegal—for the count had not the power
to dispose of the land, which belonged of right to his children after
him—refused to receive the corpse, and it remained for two whole days
outside the chapel-door, whence it was carried to the burying-ground of
the village, where it was thrown without ceremony, still covered with
the rags in which he had died, into the common fosse,—the curé having
refused the prayers of the church to one who had died without its aid,
consequently in a state of _impénitence finale_.

“‘After the death of her father, Jeanne, still, as usual, accompanied
by her little brother, and carrying her sister on her back, set off on
foot for Paris, with the papers which proved her descent from Henry
II., and which constituted her whole worldly store, all soiled and
ragged, sown up in her tattered _casaquin_. In this plight did she
traverse the whole of France, a distance of nearly two hundred leagues,
with no support by the way, but from the charity of travellers, until
she arrived at the last stage of her journey, within one league of
the capital. She declared that, on that memorable day, she had walked
more than twenty miles, with the determination of arriving at Paris
before nightfall; but here, just at the very moment of seeing her
hopes realized, she sank exhausted by the roadside, unable to move a
step farther. Her feet were torn and bleeding, and she was drenched
to the skin; the rain, which had fallen in torrents during the whole
afternoon, had rendered the roads so slippery, that her fatigue had
been doubled; added to which, she had scarcely tasted food since
morning, for she discovered that, as she drew nearer to the capital,
travellers were possessed of sterner feelings; they either turned a
deaf ear to her petition, or else laughed to scorn the terms in which
it was couched.

“‘Night was coming on apace; it was impossible to remain till morning
on the wet and muddy bank. Her heart was pierced by the wailings of
her little sister, and the cries of her brother for food and warmth
were most piteous. Once more did she call her courage to her aid, and
essayed to walk, but she was too weak, and, staggering forward a few
paces, fell with her head against a door in the wall, which ran along
the footpath. The shock burst it open, and discovered to the astonished
gaze of the poor famished children, a scene which appeared to them
like fairy-land—a garden filled with blooming shrubs and flowers, and
lighted by myriads of coloured lamps. There was no one walking in
the garden—the ground was too wet for that—but a few paces from the
gate stood a Chinese pavilion, raised by a flight of steps from the
ground, all decorated with party-coloured streamers, and blazing with
light, within which was gathered a crowd of magnificently-attired
ladies and cavaliers, and whence issued sounds of mirth and laughter,
and strains of low soft music. It was like a dream of heaven! Jeanne
never could tell who among this gay company was the first to perceive
the three little miserable wanderers as they stood shivering at the
gate, for she stood entranced, until she was brought back to reality
by a loud voice shouting a coarse reprimand to a servant in rich
livery, who was standing at the door of the pavilion, for having left
the garden-gate unlocked. Presently the servant in rich livery came
hurriedly down the steps, and taking Jeanne by the arm, was proceeding
to turn her without ceremony into the road, when a sudden instinct
caused her to resist the attack, and springing forward with a desperate
effort, with outstretched arms, she darted towards the pavilion, and
called out in a piteous voice, in which the two younger children
joined, as soon as ever they heard the first note, so familiar was
the cry—“Charity—charity, for the love of Heaven! A morsel of bread
for three poor starving orphans, _descendants of the royal house of
Valois_!”

“‘In an instant the whole company rushed to the balcony which
surrounded the pavilion, attracted by the piercing shriek of Jeanne
and the novelty of the appeal. She had sunk upon her knees at the foot
of the balustrade, awaiting in silence the success of her bold attack.
For a moment it was doubtful, for the lacquey in rich livery had again
got fast hold of the child’s arm, and in obedience to the same rough
command which had sentenced her to a dismissal before, was about to
push her again towards the gate, when suddenly a lady, one of the most
richly attired among the company, calling to him in an authoritative
tone to desist, and forcing her way through the crowd, came down the
steps to where poor Jeanne was still kneeling, pale and trembling, with
her little brother clinging to her skirts, and the baby-sister wailing
piteously at her back. The garden where this scene took place belonged
to the magnificent château of M. le Marquis de Boulainvilliers, at
Passy; the gentleman who had commanded the lacquey to turn the children
from the gate was M. de Boulainvilliers himself, and consequently the
lady who had desired him do so at his peril, could be no other than
Madame la Marquise de Boulainvilliers!

“‘The fates had been kind indeed, when they led poor Jeanne into the
friendly domain of the marquise. I knew her well: she was, I believe, a
truly benevolent person, but had perverted her real, honest, charitable
disposition into a sickly sentimentality, by her intercourse with the
Neckers, and her admiration of all the _fade_ doctrines emanating from
the academic grove established at Coppet. She was, moreover “_folle de
ce cher Jean Jacques, l’homme de la Nature, et citoyen de Genève_,”
and raved about sentiment and presentiment, and the errors and vices
of civilization, and the far more preferable state of savage life,
and “the feelings implanted in our bosoms by the God of Nature,” &c.;
until she, being rather a portly person, and always overlaced, would
sometimes turn suddenly black in the face, and alarm her auditors by a
desperate fit of coughing, which she owed to her asthma, and which was
only quelled by the exertions of the two tall valets who stood behind
her chair; the one patted her most vigorously on the back, while the
other jerked cold water in her face from a glass ewer, which always
stood ready at hand for the purpose. This is the only remembrance _I_
have preserved of Madame de Boulainvilliers; but, slight as it is, it
will be quite sufficient to show you all the extent of the good fortune
which had befallen “the descendants of the royal house of Valois.”

“‘The marquise took the poor child by the hand and raised her from
the ground, without any apparent fear lest the contact of such dirty
rags should soil the coloured satin brocade in which she herself
was attired. She spoke to her kindly, and endeavoured to soothe her
agitation, and finally led the whole party into the very midst of the
assembly of dainty ladies and mincing cavaliers, and made them repeat
the extraordinary appeal which had attracted her attention. Jeanne
needed no pressing to induce her to comply with her request, and the
music was hushed and the tittering of the company silenced by the
whining cry, “_Charité! charité!_—a morsel of bread for the starving
orphans of the royal house of Valois!”

“‘Curiosity was of course excited; the event had given variety to
the amusements of the evening. Madame de Boulainvilliers questioned
the child, who told her history in a plain and artless manner, and,
when she had concluded, drew from the lining of her _casaquin_ the
papers relating to her birth, which Madame la Marquise read aloud to
the astonished assembly. There was a universal movement in favour of
the orphans; a most liberal subscription was raised on the instant,
everybody present proposed assistance in some way or another to get a
_placet_ presented to the king, and so great was the interest excited,
that the worthy marquise hurried them away to bed, fearing lest some
one else might rob her of her _bonne œuvre_, by taking charge of
the children, concerning whom she had already formed a multitude of
projects in support of her favourite theory. Here was a fine occasion
for displaying the superiority of the philosophy of Jean Jacques! What
good fortune to have discovered these children, fresh from the hands of
nature, uncorrupted by intercourse with the world, and yet of noble,
nay more, of royal blood! How she would love to show to the incredulous
and scoffers at the new doctrines the wondrous effects to be produced
by the new system of education—the candour, the innocence, the absence
of all artifice, which characterise the human heart when untrammelled
by the hypocritical conventions of society! She really was alarmed lest
any of her friends should beg the children of her, and so ordered them
to be put to bed in the apartment adjoining her own.

“‘Had they not better have a hot bath first?’ drily exclaimed the old
Chevalier de Meylau.

“‘Fie, chevalier; there is no disgrace in their neglected state. In all
artificial communities like ours, it is the seal affixed to poverty!’
exclaimed the marquise, indignantly.

“‘Ay, or the _soil_,’ retorted the chevalier; but fortunately the
marquise did not hear him; she had been seized with one of her most
desperate fits of coughing.

“‘Behold, meanwhile, the orphan mendicants, whose resting-place the
night before had been a heap of filthy straw, beneath the manger of
a cowshed, reclining on a bed of down, beneath a velvet canopy! But
Jeanne declared to us that she did not sleep a whit the sounder, so
tormented was she the whole of that night with the fear that Madame
de Boulainvilliers might keep and appropriate to her own use the
title-deeds which she had imprudently suffered to pass from her hands,
and which she had been used to regard as the means whereby she should
one day be raised to a level with royalty itself. So much for the
candour and innocence, and freedom from suspicion, upon which poor
Madame de Boulainvilliers had reckoned so blindly!

“‘Once fairly established in the household of the Marquise de
Boulainvilliers, the fortune of the children of the Count de Saint
Remy changed from the lowest depths of misery to a state of ease and
affluence, of which they could not even have dreamed. It appears,
however, that the marquise, for some reason or other, very soon
abandoned her darling project of rearing her little protegées _à la
Jean Jacques_; for, after suffering them to run wild about her park at
Passy, well-dressed but barefoot, for some time, she procured the boy’s
admission into the Ecole de Marine, despatched the little Marguerite
to the care of a nurse in Burgundy, but retained among her dependents
the lively Jeanne, always with the promise that she would prosecute her
cause at court with the utmost vigour and perseverance, and declaring
that she had no doubt of the ultimate success of her undertaking, for
that Madame Elizabeth, with all the ardour and warmth of benevolence
which characterizes youth, had promised to second her application to
the king. It was in the midst of this good will, and Madame de la Motte
declared without any fault on her part, that, by a singular caprice,
for which she could not account, and which, by the bye, she slurred
over in rather an embarrassed tone, her protectress suddenly changed
her manner towards her, and one day, having declared to her that it
was considered in the society in which she moved, both imprudent
and derogatory to retain in her family a person in the position of
Mademoiselle de Saint Remy, announced to her that she had taken the
necessary measures to place her with Madame Leclercq, the most famous
_couturière_ of the day in Paris!

“‘The astonishment and indignation of poor Jeanne, on hearing this
sentence, can well be imagined, but there was no appeal. What right
had she to complain, who had been taken from the streets but a short
time before by the kindness of the marquise? Besides, there was some
consolation still amid her trouble, for Madame de Boulainvilliers
promised not to neglect her suit at court, and I really believe did
continue to prosecute it with undiminished zeal. It appears that it was
Monsieur le Marquis who had insisted upon the dismissal of Jeanne—for
what offence remains a mystery—but there must have been a grievous
cause of displeasure, I judge, by the hatred which existed between the
pair, and which was not satisfied on the part of the marquis, even by
the imprisonment and disgrace of his victim.[B]

  [B] I have heard the circumstance of this dire offending variously
      discussed, but I believe the true version of the tale to run
      thus:—Poor Jeanne, who had been afflicted by nature with an
      incurable curiosity, had discovered, in one of her barefooted
      rambles in the park at Passy, the entrance to the secret still
      which M. le Marquis de Boulainvilliers, in common with many
      French noblemen of the time, worked illicitly, in defiance
      of law or justice, and from which many of them derived the
      principal source of the colossal fortunes which they possessed.
      With primitive simplicity, Jeanne kept her discovery a profound
      secret, but used to spend her time suspended by a branch above
      the hole in the mound of earth, which concealed, by a clump
      of brambles and wild barberries, the entrance to the passage
      which served for the descent to the unlawful hiding-place.
      Here she would remain for whole hours together, gazing down,
      and watching with interest and amusement the whole process of
      the conversion of good grain into liquor, never once betraying
      herself by the slightest exclamation or gesture to the poor
      fools who worked on below, little supposing they were thus
      overlooked and noted.

      The day of reckoning arrived at last; the château—the park—the
      gardens of Passy, were one morning filled with the emissaries
      of the police; every closet and cellar underwent a thorough
      scrutiny; the servants were strictly examined; but M. de
      Boulainvilliers laughed to scorn every attempt at detection;
      for he alone of all the household was in the secret of the
      illicit still. Disappointed and confused, the officers were
      retiring to report upon the fruitlessness of their errand, when
      Jeanne came bursting into the apartment, exclaiming, ‘I know
      where it is—I know it—this way, gentlemen—this way! To think
      of all this trouble, when I knew it so well! How fortunate I
      should have just been told what it was you were seeking! Come
      along, _I_ will show you the still. How strange that Monsieur
      le Marquis should not have known that it was in the park! but
      I will show him the nearest way. Oh, come along quick! it is
      in full glory at this very moment—the fire blazing—the sparks
      flying splendidly; _two_ men were at the bellows when I left!’

      The consternation, the rage, the terror which these words
      produced, cannot be described. M. le Marquis was hurried off
      to prison, amid the laughter of the officers and the sobs
      and tears of the Marquise; while poor Jeanne received, with
      astonishment, the furious kicks and cuffs of the marquis,
      instead of the thanks and praises to which she deemed herself
      entitled. From this hour the marquis, who had ever hated the
      child, vowed most bitter vengeance against her, and, on his
      leaving prison, commenced his system of persecution, which
      ceased not until he had contributed to bring down his victim to
      the lowest depths of desolation and infamy.

“‘Jeanne remained with the _couturière_ for two long mortal years,
during which the marquise wearied every minister, every man in place,
with prayers and _placets_ on behalf of her _protégée_; and, at length,
one fine day, she sent for her to meet her brother, whom she had not
seen since his departure for Brest, and when she arrived, the lacquey
in waiting introduced them both into the _salon_, filled with the
highest company, as Monsieur le Baron de Valois, and Mademoiselle de
Valois!

“‘Madame de Boulainvilliers had prepared the scene—she expected tears
of gratitude and _élans_ of sentiment—but she was disappointed: the boy
drew back, abashed at the novelty of his situation, and Jeanne uttered
not a single word, but fainted! From this hour did a change take place
in her character; her real nature, Stirring and ambitious, now began to
show itself without disguise; the years of rags and starvation were
forgotten, as likewise the humiliation of her days of toil and labour
with the _couturière_. She had but one drawback—the insufficiency of
the pension allotted by the government, until the estates in Dauphiné
and the châteaux in Brittany, and the forests in Maine, belonging to
the title, and upon which the crown had seized in former reigns, were
restored to her family,—when she might move with the splendour becoming
her rank, and take her place among the princesses of the blood royal,
as beseemed her name and descent. The pension was of eight hundred
livres only per annum—a pittance barely sufficient to enable her to
clothe herself with decency; but again did Madame de Boulainvilliers,
the tried friend, come to her assistance, and, proud of her work, of
having by her exertions caused the title to be recognised, now offered
to pay her board in some convent, which she had refused to do so long
as she was only poor Jeanne de Saint Remy.

“‘She retired then to a convent at Bar-sur-Aube, her native place,
where she captivated the affections of the Count de la Motte, a
young man of excellent family but small fortune, and they were soon
afterwards married; and, with this auspicious event, _her_ romance,
like many others, might have been supposed to be concluded. But,
alas, for her! there was yet a second volume. When I saw her, as I
have described to you, at the Hôtel Cardinal, she had come to Paris
to prosecute her suit with the ministers for the restoration of her
estates. She was supported by the powerful interest of the Rohans. She
was of a bold, enterprising, ambitious nature, fearless and intriguing,
with friends at court devoted to her cause; and yet it will to this
day excite a certain suspicion in my mind whenever I think of all the
circumstances which followed—she never could gain access to the queen!

“‘It is said that Marie Antoinette had, in reality, the greatest
desire to converse with her, but was prevented from receiving her
by the express command of his majesty, who had conceived the most
invincible dread of her presence near the throne, from having been
told of her extraordinary powers of fascination. He had a great horror
of this species of character about the queen; and Madame de la Motte
had already acquired (it seemed with great injustice _then_) the
reputation of a troublesome, ambitious _intrigante_. Like all persons
of indolent temperament, Louis Seize ever felt a mortal dread of
stirring, active people. Infirm of purpose himself, he disliked those
who were resolute and steady in the accomplishment of their designs;
therefore his aversion to Madame de la Motte would not have been
remarkable, had it not been for the very perseverance which it gave
him occasion to exercise—perhaps the only instance of tenacity he ever
displayed—for he resisted on this occasion the prayers and entreaties
of the queen, and the supplications of Madame Elizabeth. Nothing could
soften him, and, when pressed to give a reason for this steadiness of
hatred, he could not tell—_c’etait plus fort que lui_!

“‘Of course, the enemies of royalty and the partisans of Madame de la
Motte did not fail, in after times, to lay this preconceived antipathy
on the part of the king to the score of avarice, and to the dread he
most naturally felt at the prospect of being compelled to resign the
magnificent estates and royal privileges of the Valois to the legal
claimants. If the suspicion had been just, he certainly would not have
admitted their claim to the title at all. He might have resorted to
delay, or have avoided the recognition altogether. As it was, however,
the affair certainly displayed want of tact, and great mismanagement,
in the allotment of the pension. Either the claim set forth by the
Saint Remys was an imposture, and should have been treated with
contempt, or it was just, and, when once recognised as such, should
have been met with the liberality and consideration which it deserved.
This first error was most bitterly expiated, and Louis Seize must often
have mourned most grievously over the want of consistency and false
economy of his ministers.

“‘I cannot help thinking that a more liberal allowance, by rendering
unnecessary all the struggles for existence which Madame de la Motte
was compelled to make, might have deadened her ambition, and she
might have spent her days, satisfied to display her love of intrigue,
and exhibit her powers of fascination, on the restricted theatre of
Bar-sur-Aube, her husband’s birthplace and her own, to which she was
much attached, and which she herself declared she never would have
left, had not her presence been considered necessary in Paris, so
long as there was hope that the estates might be restored to her
family. Every one who knows the sequel of her history must remember
that (supposing her to be guilty) it was the affection she bore to her
native place, which was the ultimate cause of her ruin; for, had she
followed the advice of friends, and fled to England immediately, she
might have been saved. But no—how _could_ she leave the country without
taking one last farewell of her beloved Bar-sur-Aube?—one of the
ugliest places, by the bye, throughout the whole of France.

“‘I have told you the story which I heard from the lips of Madame de
la Motte herself, at the Cardinal de Rohan’s table, and I again say
that I believe most of the particulars to be strictly true, although
they differ in some points from the tale she afterwards told in her
memoirs. But therein she might have been influenced by many motives in
the recital, whereas with us she was evidently governed but by one—that
of exciting as much interest as possible in the breast of the Princesse
de Guéménée; for, of course, the cardinal had already heard the story
many times before, and I was reckoned as nothing. In itself the history
is undoubtedly a most touching one; but when told as I then heard
it, by the heroine herself, with the most expressive action, the most
varied intonation, and _real_ tears, the effect was irresistible,
and I then understood, without further explanation, the fascination
in which she held the cardinal, and which had excited my wonder and
disgust but so short a time before. Even the princess herself, with
all her preconceived aversion, was subdued at length, and, before she
took her leave, graciously invited the countess to meet at supper on
the following evening a party of friends, among whom were some whose
acquaintance might facilitate the prosecution of her suit. Among others
I perfectly remember that she named M. de Crosne, _lieutenant de
police_. Little did the poor countess dream, when her eyes flashed such
proud triumph even on _me_, that the time would come when she would be
favoured with many and many an unsought interview with M. de Crosne,
in the Bastile, and that from his lips would she have to listen to the
repetition of the sentence which condemned her to the most ignominious
fate that could in our country befal a woman.

“‘I know not by what chance, on my taking leave of the cardinal for the
night, his Eminence happened to mention the name of my mother; but
suddenly the whole demeanour of Madame de la Motte was changed towards
me, upon learning that I was the son of the Countess de Talleyrand,
dame du palais to the queen, and she began immediately to _agacer_
me with her attentions, with as much determination as she had before
avoided even a glance in my direction. She turned, all smiles and
affability, to inquire if I had a carriage in waiting to convey me
to my residence, and, on my replying in the negative, insisted on my
taking the vacant seat in her own, to which I most willingly assented.
It was during the short drive from the Hôtel Cardinal to the Place
Dauphine, where she resided, that I was enabled to judge more fully of
her extraordinary vivacity and tact, and above all, of her wonderful
aptitude for business; for, before we parted, she had extorted from me
a promise to induce my mother to present her statement to the queen,
which promise I religiously kept, although I obtained nought but a flat
refusal for my pains, followed by many a bitter reproach for meddling
with the affairs ‘of this _aventurière_.’ I his was the first and
last time I ever beheld the countess; and, when she became a public
character through her participation in the affair of the necklace, I
had reason to rejoice that such was the case, for had she but imagined
that I was fit to serve her purpose, I feel that it is not unlikely I
might have lost the right of regarding with scorn the infatuation of
the cardinal prince. So great was the power of will possessed by this
woman, that there must have been inordinate self-conceit in the man who
would have dared to pretend to defy it.’”

“What was the opinion of M. de Talleyrand concerning the affair of the
necklace? Did he believe Madame de la Motte really guilty of the theft?”

“‘Much less than is supposed by the public, and certainly infinitely
less so than her condemnation purported. I once ventured to ask him
if he knew any of the particulars connected with this extraordinary
business, and his reply, although guarded, gave me a suspicion that,
although he did not believe her innocent, he felt convinced that her
guilt was shared by some whose birth and influence near the throne
shielded them from exposure.

“‘There is a degree of mystery throughout the whole transaction,’
replied he, in answer to my inquiries, ‘which is, perhaps, destined
never to be cleared up. Had Madame de la Motte possessed the cunning of
the arch-fiend himself, she _could_ not have been guilty of one-tenth
part of the baseness which was imputed to her in the act of accusation;
there were impediments both social and commercial to many of the
manœuvres, which were _proved_ against her on her trial. You can form
no conception of the excitement produced by this event. The whole
kingdom was divided for her sake into two sects, the unbelieving and
the credulous; those who believed her guilty, and those who _knew_ her
to be innocent. For myself, I have heard so much on both sides, that
my opinion is scarcely stable even now. It is a singular fact that all
the persons who visited her were fully convinced of her innocence, and
fought like lions in her defence.

“‘The Abbé de Kel, the almoner of the Bastile, and confessor of
Madame de la Motte, told me himself, that his firm opinion in the
case was this: ‘That, had she not been unfortunate enough to have
already obtained the recognition of her title, she would not have been
condemned.’ Monsieur de Breteuil, the great enemy of the cardinal,
and favourite of the queen, was most active in procuring materials
to inculpate this unfortunate woman, and this circumstance having
got abroad, greatly contributed to excite suspicion against Marie
Antoinette. But the circumstance which in reality formed the basis of
her ruin, was the denial of the cardinal that he had ever furnished her
with money. _This must have been false_, for, long before her arrest,
she was living in splendour, had an hôtel in the Place Dauphine, with
servants and equipages, was richly attired, and covered with jewels,
and all this, forsooth, upon her husband’s limited income, and her
own pittance of eight hundred livres! I remember being told that the
furniture of her hôtel equalled in richness that of the palace at
Trianon. Mention was made of polished steel mirrors, set in gold, and
of a famous bed, the hangings of which were worked in seed pearl, which
was bought for an enormous sum by Madame du Barry, the late king’s
mistress.

“‘Another mystery, which completely baffles all speculation, is the
total disappearance of the necklace itself, the object of all this
turmoil. It was a jewel so well known among the trade in Paris that
every single stone would have been recognised. There was scarcely
a person of any note in the capital who had not seen it, as it had
lain at Boehmer’s, the jeweller’s, for more than a year, open to the
inspection of any one who chose to ask for the sight of it. I recollect
having seen it not a long while before it created so much disturbance.
Boehmer had been employed to furnish the wedding jewels for one of my
relations, and the morning that he came to deliver them, he brought the
necklace for us to view, as a curiosity. Neither in the workmanship
nor the size of the stones did it give any notion of the immense value
which was set upon it. I believe, however, that this consisted in the
stones being all brilliants of the first water, and, as a collection,
the most perfect and free from blemish (so Boehmer told my aunt) in the
whole world.

“‘There is one more story connected with the jewel, which greatly
complicates the mystery of the whole transaction, and which is known
but to few persons. During the time that I held the Portefeuille of
Foreign Affairs, I received a letter from our ambassador at one of the
northern courts, wherein he announced to me, with great excitement,
the arrival at his court of the Count de M——y and his wife. They had
been presented by himself to the sovereign; for, although they might,
strictly speaking, have been considered _emigrés_, not having returned
to France during the reign of Napoleon, yet, as the count was not at
that time the head of his family, and had never meddled in politics, he
had a right to claim the protection of the ambassador of his country.
The lady had chosen for her _début_ at court the occasion of a royal
birthday, and she had made her appearance laden with all her jewels,
and, “upon her neck,” wrote the baron, “she wore a necklace of the
exact pattern of that, concerning which all Europe had been roused
before the revolution—that is to say, the only difference being, that
the three scroll ornaments which are so remarkable, and to which I
could swear as being the same, are held by a chain of small rose
diamonds instead of the _rivière_, by which they were joined before.”

“‘The letter gave us all great diversion at home, from the excitement
in which it was written; but the emperor, to whom I of course
communicated the fact, took it more gravely, and begged me to ask for a
drawing of the necklace, which the ambassador found means to obtain,
and which was found to correspond with that preserved among the _pièces
du procès_ in the Archives; moreover, on its being submitted to young
Boehmer, he declared his full and entire conviction that the jewel
was the same, from the remarkable circumstance of a mistake having
occurred in the execution of the middle ornament, one side of the
scroll containing two small diamonds more than the other, and which he
remembered had much distressed his father, but which could never have
been discovered save by a member of the trade. It was then remembered,
and by the emperor himself first of all, that the lady’s mother had
been attached to the person of Marie Antoinette, and that she had
retired from court and gone to reside abroad soon after the trial of
Madame de la Motte!

“‘So you see there is another link in the chain of evidence which
historians, when writing any future history of the Diamond Necklace,
would do well to examine.

“‘Louis Dixhuit was evidently aware of the history, for I remember
once being struck with a conversation reported to me by the Marquis
de F——. The young Count de B——, one of the most notorious _bêtes_ at
court, said one day in the presence of the king, “I wonder why the M——y
family do not come back to claim their hereditary charges at court?
What pleasure can they find in the horrid country they have chosen?—_I_
could not live there for a single hour.”

“‘Perhaps you could not,’ retorted Louis Dixhuit, in his penny-trumpet
voice, and with his childish titter, ‘but the Count de M——y _can_,—for
it is a woody country, and unlike France, _on y brûle la bûche et
jamais_ LA MOTTE.’

“‘The Marquis de F—— had applied to me to know the meaning of the pun.
The ambassador’s letter immediately flashed on my memory, but I did not
choose to have the affair discussed with my name, so held my peace.’

“This is all the information I could ever obtain from the prince,”
added C., in conclusion, “concerning the _fameux collier_; but this
last anecdote so excited my curiosity, that I immediately set to work
and procured every pamphlet of note which had been written on the
subject, and, by the help of this new light, was enabled to penetrate
much of the darkness by which the affair is enveloped to the generality
of the world. If you take any interest in the matter, it is really
worth your while to do the same. What is still further worthy of remark
is the fact that the family of the lady in question did not return to
France even after the Restoration, and have continued to dwell abroad
ever since. The name is one of the highest in France, and it excites
astonishment to find it enrolled in the service of a foreign country.”

END OF VOL. I.


T. C. Savill, Printer, 4, Chandos-street, Covent-garden.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Frequent missing or unpaired quotation marks were retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences of
inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed.

Some French words may have missing or incorrect accents. The ones
found and corrected by Transcriber are noted below. The spelling of
non-English words was not systematically checked.

Page 39: “the edge of the parapet” was missing the word “of”; added
here.

Page 121: “écrit” was printed as “ecrit”; changed here.

Page 145: “appétit” was printed as “appetit”; changed here.

Page 171: “fâcheux” was printed as “facheux”; changed here.

Page 250: “périr” was printed as “perir”; changed here.





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