Back to the Index Page


Ange Pitou by Alexandre Dumas

Introductory Note
Volume I
Chapter I. In which the Reader is made acquainted with the Hero of this History, as well as with the Country in which he first saw the Light
Chapter II. In which it is proved that an Aunt is not always a Mother
Chapter III. Ange Pitou at his Aunt's
Chapter IV. Of the Influence which a Barbarism and Seven Solecisms may have upon the Whole Life of a Man
Chapter V. A Philosophical Farmer
Chapter VI. Pastoral Scenes
Chapter VII. In which it is demonstrated that although Long Legs's may be somewhat Ungraceful in Dancing, they are very useful in Running
Chapter VIII. Showing why the Gentleman in Black had gone into the Farm at the same time with the Two Sergeants
Chapter IX. The Road to Paris
Chapter X. What was happening at the End of the Road which Pitou was travelling upon,—that is to say, at Paris
Chapter XI. The Night between the 12th and 13th of July
Chapter XII. What occurred during the Night of the 12th July, 1789
Chapter XIII. The King is so good! the Queen is so good!
Chapter XIV. The Three Powers of France
Chapter XV. Monsieur de Launay, Governor of the Bastille
Chapter XVI. The Bastille and it's Governor
Chapter XVII. The Bastille
Chapter XVIII. Doctor Gilbert
Chapter XIX. The Triangle
Chapter XX. Sebastien Gilbert
Chapter XXI. Madame de Staël
Chapter XXII. The King Louis XVI
Chapter XXIII. The Countess de Charny
Chapter XXIV. Royal Philosophy
Chapter XXV. In The Queen's Apartments
Chapter XXVI. How the King supped on the 14th of July, 1789
Chapter XXVII. Olivier de Charny
Chapter XXVIII. Olivier de Charny
Chapter XXIX. A Trio
Chapter XXX. A King and a Queen
Volume II
Chapter I. What the Queen's Thoughts were, during the Night from July 14 to July 15, 1789
Chapter II. The King's Physician
Chapter III. The Council
Chapter IV. Decision
Chapter V. The Shirt of Mail
Chapter VI. The Departure
Chapter VII. The Journey
Chapter VIII. Showing what was taking place at Versailles while the King was listening to the Speeches of the Municipality
Chapter IX. The Return
Chapter X. Foulon
Chapter XI. The Father-in-Law
Chapter XII. The Son-in-Law
Chapter XIII. Billot begins to perceive that all is not Roses in Revolutions
Chapter XIV. The Pitts
Chapter XV. Medea
Chapter XVI. What the Queen wished
Chapter XVII. The Flanders Regiment
Chapter XVIII. The Banquet given by the Guards
Chapter XIX. The Wowen begin to stir
Chapter XX. Maillard a General
Chapter XXI. Versailles
Chapter XXII. The Fifth October
Chapter XXIII. The Evening of the Fifth and Sixth of October
Chapter XXIV. The Night of the Fifth and Sixth of October
Chapter XXV. The Morning
Chapter XXVI. George de Charny
Chapter XXVII. Departure, Journey, and Arrival of Pitou and Sebastien Gilbert
Chapter XXVIII. How Pitou, after having been cursed and turned out of doors by his Aunt on account of a Barbarism and three Solecisms, was again cursed and turned out by her on account of a fowl cooked with rice
Chapter XXIX. Pitou a Revolutionist
Chapter XXX. Madame Billot Abdicates
Chapter XXXI. What decided Pitou to leave the Farm and return to Haramont, his real and only Country
Chapter XXXII. Pitou an Orator
Chapter XXXIII. Pitou a Conspirator
Chapter XXXIV. In which will be seen opposed to each other the Monarchical Principle represented by the Abbé Fortier, and the Revolutionary Principle represented by Pitou
Chapter XXXV. Pitou a Diplomatist
Chapter XXXVI. Pitou Triumphs
Chapter XXXVII. How Pitou learned Tactics, and Acquired a Noble Bearing
Chapter XXXVIII. Catherine becomes a Diplomatist
Chapter XXXIX. Honey and Absinthe
Chapter XL. An Unexpected Dénouement

Introductory Note

ON Christmas Day, 1753, Lord Chesterfield wrote from Paris, summing up his observations on the state of France: “In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in history, previous to great changes and revolutions in government, now exist and daily increase in France.”

This, being written so early and by a foreigner, is perhaps the most noteworthy of the prophecies of disaster to come which were trumpeted forth by so many keen-sighted intellects during the last half of the eighteenth century. It was floating in the air; it was written upon the faces of the starving, down-trodden people, who found themselves burdened with this tax and that tax, with tithes and tailles, from which the nobility and clergy Were exempt; while on the other hand, the luxury and extravagance of those privileged classes grew every day more wanton, and their vices more shameless. Upon such a foundation the philosophers and encyclopædists had built solidly and well, so that Voltaire wrote exultingly of the “glorious sights” which the young men of his day would live to see; wherefore they were greatly to be envied!

The old Marquis de Mirabeau, father of him who became so prominent a figure during the early months of the Revolution,—a curious, crabbed old fellow, who called himself the “friend of men,” and whose peculiarities are described by Dumas in the “Comtesse de Charny,”—wrote in his memoirs a description of a peasant's holiday which he witnessed in the provinces about the time of the death of Louis XV. (1774). After describing the dance which ended in a battle, and “the frightful men, or rather frightful wild animals,of gigantic stature, heightened by high wooden clogs,their faces haggard and covered with long greasy hair,-the upper part of the visage waxing pale, the lower, distorting itself into the attempt at a cruel laugh and a sort of ferocious impatience,”—he moralizes thus: “And these people pay the taille! And you want, further, to take their salt from them! And you know not what it is you are stripping barer, or as you call it, governing,—what, by a spurt of your pen, in its cold, dastard indifference, you will fancy you can starve always with impunity, always till the catastrophe come! Ah, Madame, such government by blindman's-buff, stumbling along too far, will end in a general overturn.”

It is curious to notice with what unanimity the good intentions of Louis XVI. are admitted, almost taken for granted, by all writers upon this period, except the virulent pamphleteers of the day. Even Michelet admits it, though somewhat grudgingly,—Michelet, who went out of his way to charge Louis XV., whose load of sin was heavy enough in all conscience, with a foul crime for which there seems to be no shadow of authority.

But it is hard to convince one's self that the general overturn could have been avoided, even had the will and character of the young king been as worthy of praise as his impulses and intentions undoubtedly were. Hastened it was, beyond question, by his weakness at critical moments, by his subserviency to the will of the queen, which was exerted uninterruptedly, and with what now seems like fatal perversity, in the wrong direction, during the years when there was still a chance, at least, of saving the monarchy. It was through the influence of the queen and her intimate circle that step after step, which, if taken in time, would have made a favorable impression upon an impressionable people, “whose nature it was to love their kings,” was delayed until it was, so to say, extorted, and hence bereft of all appearance of a willing, voluntary concession. Numerous instances of this fatality, if we may so call it, are told by Dumas; notably the day's postponement of the king's journey to Paris after the day of the Bastille.

With the virtuous, philosophic Turgot, “who had a whole reformed France in his head,” for Controller-General of the Finances, the reign of Louis XVI. seemed to start off under the best of auspices. But, as Carlyle tersely puts it, “Turgot has faculties, honesty, insight, heroic volition, but the Fortunatus's purse he has not. Sanguine controller-general! a whole pacific French Revolution may stand schemed in the head of the thinker, but who shall pay the unspeakable 'indemnities' that will be needed? Alas! far from that; on the very threshold of the business he proposes that the clergy, the noblesse , the very parliaments, be subjected to taxes like the people! One shriek of indignation and astonishment reverberates through all the chateau galleries;the poor king, who had written to him a few weeks ago, 'You and I are the only ones who have the people's interest at heart,' must write now a dismissal, and let the French Revolution accomplish itself, pacifically or not, as it can.”

To Turgot succeeded Necker, also a skilful and honest financier, also with schemes of peaceful reform in his head. For five years he carried the burden; and at last he, too, was driven to propose the taxation of clergy and nobility, and thereupon to take his departure, May, 1781.

Under the short administrations of Joly de Fleury and D'Ormesson, matters failed to improve (as indeed, how could they do otherwise?), until on the retirement of the latter, when the king purchased Rambouillet, without consulting him, in the autumn of 1783, “matters threaten to come to a still-stand,” says Carlyle.

At such a crisis destiny decreed that M. de Calonne should be put forward to fill the vacancy,—a man of indisputable genius, “before all things, for borrowing.”

“Hope radiates from his face, persuasion hangs on his tongue. For all straits he has present remedy, and will make the world roll on wheels before him.”

In the “Diamond Necklace,” Dumas has given us a faithful picture of Calonne and his method of exploiting his financial genius. His grandiloquent, “Madame, if it is but difficult, it is done; if it is impossible, it shall be done,” seems hardly to stamp him as the man for the place at that critical period, however great may have been the felicity of the il-de-Buf under the temporary plenty which resulted from the policy of “borrowing at any price.”

It would be hard to exaggerate the effect upon the growing aspirations of the French people after the unfamiliar something which they came to call “liberty,” of the result of the struggle in America, in which the cause of the colonists was so powerfully supported by the little band of Frenchmen of whom Lafayette was the most prominent and the most notable. He returned to France in 1783, to be dubbed in some quarters “Scipio Americanus.”

The scandalous affair of the necklace was, as we have heretofore seen, seized upon by the enemies of the queen as a weapon with which to assail her reputation, although her absolute innocence of any guilty connection with it is now beyond doubt. The results of this unfortunate episode—the “immense rumor and conjecture from all mankind,” coupled with the slanderous charges made by Madame Lamotte in a letter from London after her escape from the Salpétrière—went far towards creating the unreasoning hatred of the “Austrian woman,” which she herself did so little to assuage when the clouds became blacker than night, and began to emit the thunder and lightning of the Revolution.

In the spring of 1787, Calonne, his borrowing powers being at an end, conceived the idea of convoking the “Notables”—an expedient unheard of for one hundred and sixty years—to sanction his new plan of taxation. They met on the 22d of February, 1787, one hundred and thirty-seven of them, “men of the sword, men of the robe, peers, dignified clergy, parliamentary presidents,” with seven princes of the blood to preside over the seven bureaux,—“a round gross in all.” They would have none of Calonne or his plans; and he was dismissed in April, after which the “Notables” sat until May 25, “treating of all manner of public things,” and then first were the States-General mentioned.

Calonne was succeeded by Cardinal Loménie de Brienne,—a dissolute, worthless sexagenarian, who devised various tax-edicts, stamp-taxes, and the like, all of which the Parliament of Paris refused to register. The expedient of a Bed of Justice was resorted to, and resulted in the most ominous of all portents: for the first time in history the Parliament refused to obey the royal “Je veux” (I wish it.) They were exiled for a month,—August to September, 1787,—and returned upon conditions.

In the spring of 1788, Loménie's great scheme of dismissing the parliaments altogether, and substituting a more subservient “Plenary Court” was detected before it was ripe, and denounced to the Parliament of Paris, which body, upon remonstrating, was again exiled (May). An attempt thereafter to raise supplies by royal edict simply, led to the rebellion of all the provincial parliaments, the public expressing its approval more noisily than ever. On August 8 appeared a royal edict to the effect that the States-General should be convoked for May following; it was followed by another edict, that treasury payments should thenceforth be made three-fifths in cash and two-fifths in paper,—a virtual confession that the treasury was insolvent. Thereupon Loménie was incontinently dismissed, and Necker recalled from Switzerland to become the “Savior of France.”

A second convocation of the “Notables” (November 6 to December 12, 1788) undertook to decide how the States should be held: whether the three estates should meet as one deliberative body, or as three, or two; and, most important of all, what should be the relative force, in voting, of the Third Estate, or Commonalty. They separated without settling any of the points in question.

In January, 1789, the elections began,—the real beginning of the French Revolution in the opinion of Carlyle, and indeed, of most writers.

On the 13th of July, 1788, there had been a most destructive hail-storm throughout France, and the growing crops were literally destroyed; whereby the extreme destitution which had come to be the natural condition of the lower classes had been accentuated. In addition, the winter of 1788-89 was one of extreme rigor, so that it seemed almost as if God himself were openly manifesting his will that the general overturn should come.

The riot in which Réveillon, the paper manufacturer, was concerned occurred in April, 1789, just prior to the assembling of the States-General on May 4.

The clergy and nobility at once exhibited their purpose to act as separate bodies; and the Third Estate, led by Mirabeau and others, decided that it must be the mainspring of the whole, and that it would remain “inert” until the other two estates should join with it; under which circumstances it could outvote them and do what it chose. For seven weeks this state of “inertia” endured, until the court decided to intervene and the assembly hall was found closed against the representatives of the people on June 20. Thereupon they met in the old tennis-court (Jeu de Paume), and there the celebrated “Oath of the Tennis-Court” was taken by every man of them but one,—an oath “that they will not separate for man below, but will meet in all places, under all circumstances, wheresoever two or three can get together, till they have made the Constitution.”

One subsequent attempt was made by the king to intimidate this ominously persistent body; but the messenger whom he despatched to command them to separate (“Mercury” de Brézé, Carlyle calls him) was addressed in very plain language by the lion-headed Mirabeau, and retired in confusion. The court recoiled before the spectacle of “all France on the edge of blazing out;” the other two estates joined the Third, which triumphed in every particular. Henceforth the States-General are the “National Assembly,” sometimes called the “Constituent Assembly,” or assembly met to make the constitution.

This cursory sketch of the leading events of the early years of the reign of Louis XVI. is offered as a sort of supplement to that presented by Dumas before he takes his readers into the “thick of the business” in Paris.

The badly veiled military preparations to which the terror of the queen and the court led the king to consent, kept the Parisian populace in a constant state of fermentation, which was powerfully helped on by the continued scarcity of food and the consequent influx of starving provincials into the metropolis. The Gardes Françaises gave indubitable symptoms of popular leanings, which perhaps emboldened the effervescent spirits of the mob more than a little.

The news of the dismissal of Necker, circulated on Sunday, July 12, kindled the first panic terror of Paris into a wild frenzy, and resulted in the siege of the Bastille, “perhaps the most momentous known to history.”

The course of events immediately preceding the descent upon that “stronghold of tyranny, called Bastille, or 'building,' as if there were no other building,” as well as those of the siege itself, is traced with marvellous fidelity by Dumas, due allowance being made, of course, for the necessities of the romance. He closely follows Michelet; but the details are told, with substantial unanimity, by all historians of the fateful event.

The part assigned to Billot in the narrative before us was in reality played by several persons. It was Thuriot, an elector from the Hôtel de Ville, who gained admission to the fortress and investigated its condition; who ascended with De Launay to the battlements and showed himself to the mob to quiet their fears that he had been foully dealt with. This same Thuriot, as president of the convention, refused to allow Robespierre to speak in his own defence on the 10th Thermidor, year II. (July 28, 1794). It was Louis Tournay, a blacksmith and old soldier of the Regiment Dauphiné, who hacked away the chain which upheld the first drawbridge. It was an unknown man who first essayed to cross the ditch to take the note dictating terms and fell to the bottom (and was killed); but it was Stanislas Maillard who followed and made the passage in safety.

Élie and Hullin, it is needless to say, are historical characters; and worthy of an honorable place in history for their heroic attempts, then and afterwards, to prevent the needless shedding of blood.

The extraordinary thing about the attack on the Bastille is the startling unanimity of the people that it was the first and fittest object of attack. It seems the more extraordinary because, as Michelet has said, it “was by no means reasonable;” for the lower orders had suffered but little from imprisonment in the Bastille.

“Nobody proposed, but all believed and all acted. Along the streets, the quays, the bridges, and the boulevards, the crowd shouted to the crowd: 'To the Bastille! The Bastille!' And the tolling of the tocsin sounded in every ear: à la Bastille!

“Nobody, I repeat, gave the impulse. The orators of the Palais Royal passed the time in drawing up a list of proscriptions, in condemning the queen to death, as well as Madame de Polignac, Artois, Flesselles, the provost, and others. The names of the conquerors of the Bastille do not include one of these makers of motions.”

Perhaps we may accept, in the absence of a better, Michelet's explanation of this instinctive action of the mob, as having been caused by the recent publicity given to the experience of one Latude, who was first confined in the Bastille during the reign of Madame de Pompadour, and had since “worn out all their prisons,” and had finally reached the “dunghillss of Bicêtre,” by way of Vincennes and Charenton. He was at last released through the pertinacious efforts of one Madame Legros, a poor mercer, who became interested in him by chance, and persevered for three years, meeting with obstacles of every sort and exposed to the vilest calumny, until success came at last, and Latude was released in 1784, after more than forty years of confinement. His release was followed by an ordinance enjoining intendants never again to incarcerate anybody at the request of families without a well-grounded reason, and in every case to indicate the duration of confinement,—a decidedly naive confession of the degree of arbitrariness which had been reached.

“From that day” (of Latude's deliverance), says Michelet, “the people of the town and the faubourg, who, in that much-frequented quarter, were ever passing and repassing in its shadow, never failed to curse it.”

It is proper to observe that the state of things which existed in the Bastille when the Cellamare conspirators underwent mock imprisonment there (witness the Regency Romances) had been done away with. While other prisons had become more merciful, this had become more cruel. From reign to reign the privileges were taken away, the windows were walled up one after another, and new bars were added. The other encroachments by De Launay upon the “liberties of the Bastille” are described by Dumas in the course of the narrative.

To quote Michelet once more: “The Bastille was known and detested by the whole world. 'Bastille' and 'tyranny' were in every language synonymous terms. Every nation, at the news of its destruction, believed it had recovered its liberty.”

The Comte de Ségur, then ambassador at Russia, relates that when the news arrived in St. Petersburg, men of every nation were to be seen shouting and weeping in the streets, and repeating, as they embraced one another: “Who can help weeping for joy? The Bastille is taken!”

The Duc de Liancourt announced the fall of the fortress to Louis XVI. “Why,” said the king, “it is downright revolt!” “It's more than that,” replied Liancourt, “it is revolution.”

Nothing need be added to the description given by Dumas of the painful excitement at Versailles, or of the king's journey to Paris and experience there. The scenes attending the summary vengeance wreaked upon Foulon and Berthier, who were the very incarnation of the old régime, are also portrayed with the careful attention to detail which is so striking a characteristic of the historical portions of the author's romances; and the same may be said of the assassination of Flesselles, and, by anticipation, of the events of the 5th of October in the streets of Paris and at the Hôtel de Ville, when Stanislas Maillard assumed the leadership of the women (“the Menadic hosts"), and Lafayette was reluctantly compelled to lead the march of the thirty thousand upon Versailles.

The fall of the Bastille was followed throughout France by the enlistment of National Guards, ostensibly, in most instances, as a protection against mythical brigands, whose coming in great numbers was continually heralded in every town and village, but who never came. The experience of Pitou, in Haramont, is typical of the great movement which was in progress everywhere.

“It is a terrible but certain fact,” says Michelet, “that in Paris, that city of eight hundred thousand souls, there was no public authority for the space of three months, from July to October.”

Meanwhile the National Assembly was going haltingly on with its work of constitution-making. The session of the 4th of August shines out with peculiar prominence, as it was the occasion of all the privileged classes vying with one another in renouncing their privileges. Such good effect as this tardy renunciation might have had, however, was destroyed by the king's refusal to sanction it, except in so far as he was personally affected.

Towards the end of August the knotty question of the veto was duly reached: whether the king should have any veto upon the acts of the Assembly, and if so, whether it should be absolute or suspensive.

Throughout Lafayette assumed a position of great prominence in other directions than as commander-in-chief of the National Guard. The suspensive” veto was finally decided upon, and there was a vague prospect of a return of quieter times, except for the continued scarcity and dearness of grain. “Our rights of man are voted,” says Carlyle; “feudalism and all tyranny abolished; yet behold we stand in queue [at the bakers' doors]! Is it aristocrat forestallers—a court still bent on intrigue? Something is rotten somewhere.”

With hope, terror, suspicion, excitement, succeeding one another with bewildering rapidity, comes the certainty that the “il-de-Buf is rallying,” that the Flanders regiment has been summoned to Versailles, and that some scheme of flight or repression is in the wind. Then comes the news of the banquet of the 1st of October,—of the appearance of the king and queen, the trampling under foot of cockades, and the announcement of Marie Antoinette the next day, that she was “enchanted with the events of the supper.” Of all fatuous performances of mortals foredoomed to destroy themselves, surely that was the most fatuous. It is significant, by the way, of the extreme caution with which the statements of Madame Campan must be accepted, that in describing this scene, at which she was present, she does not mention the word “cockade,” nor does she imply that it was aught but a quiet, orderly function, at which, perhaps, some one or two may have imbibed a thought too freely.

With regard to the events of the night of October 5-6 at Versailles, nothing need be said, save that the body-guard who heroically defended the door to the queen's apartments, where Georges de Charny is said to have been slain, was one Miomandre de Sainte-Marie; and that although “fractured, slashed, lacerated, left for dead, he has crawled to the il-de-Buf, and shall live honored of loyal France.”

In the “Comtesse de Charny” we shall find the king and queen on the road to Paris, on the 6th of October. We shall there meet many old acquaintances and make some new ones, and shall follow the setting sun of the time-honored monarchy of France till it sinks at last below the horizon.

Volume I

Chapter I. In which the Reader is made acquainted with the Hero of this History, as well as with the Country in which he first saw the Light

ON the borders of Picardy and the province of Soissons, and on that part of the national territory which, under the name of the Isle of France, formed a portion of the ancient patrimony of our kings, and in the centre of an immense crescent formed by a forest of fifty thousand acres which stretches its horns to the north and south, rises, almost buried amid the shades of a vast park planted by Francis I. and Henry II., the small city of Villers-Cotterets. This place is celebrated from having given birth to Charles Albert Demoustier, who, at the period when our present history commences, was there writing his “Letters to Emilie on Mythology,” to the unbounded satisfaction of the pretty women of those days, who eagerly snatched his publications from each other as soon as printed.

Let us add, to complete the poetical reputation of this little city, whose detractors, not withstanding its royal chateau and its two thousand four hundred inhabitants, obstinately persist in calling it a mere village,—let us add, we say, to complete its poetical reputation, that it is situated at two leagues' distance from Laferté-Milon, where Racine was born, and eight leagues from Château-Thierry, the birthplace of La Fontaine.

Let us also state that the mother of the author of “Britannicus” and “Athalie” was from Villers-Cotterets.

But now we must return to its royal chateau and its two thousand four hundred inhabitants.

This royal chateau, begun by Francis I., whose salamanders still decorate it, and finished by Henry II., whose cipher it bears entwined with that of Catherine de Médicis and encircled by the three crescents of Diana of Poictiers, after having sheltered the loves of the knightking with Madame d'Étampes, and those of Louis-Philippe of Orleans with the beautiful Madame de Montesson, had become almost uninhabited since the death of this last named prince; his son, Philippe d'Orléans, afterwards called Égalité, having reduced it from the rank of a royal residence to that of a mere hunting rendezvous.

It is well known that the chateau and forest of Villers-Cotterets formed part of the appanage settled by Louis XIV. on his brother Monsieur, when the second son of Anne of Austria married the sister of Charles II., the Princess Henrietta of England.

As to the two thousand four hundred inhabitants of whom we have promised our readers to say a word, they were, as in all localities where two thousand four hundred people are united, a heterogeneous assemblage.

First, of a few nobles, who spent their summers in the neighboring châteaux and their winters in Paris, and who, mimicking the prince, had only a lodging-place in the city.

Secondly, of a goodly number of citizens, who could be seen, let the weather be what it might, leaving their houses after dinner, umbrella in hand, to take their daily walk,—a walk which was regularly bounded by a wide ditch which separated the park from the forest, situated about a quarter of a league from the town, and which was called, doubtless on account of the exclamation which the sight of it drew from the asthmatic lungs of the promenaders, satisfied at finding themselves, after so long a walk, not too much out of breath, the “Ha! ha!”

Thirdly, of a considerably greater number of artisans, who worked the whole of the week, and only allowed themselves to take a walk on the Sunday; whereas their fellow-townsmen, more favored by fortune, could enjoy it every day.

Fourthly and finally, of some miserable proletarians, for whom the week had not even a Sabbath, and who, after having toiled six days in the pay of the nobles, the citizens, or even of the artisans, wandered on the seventh day through the forest to gather up dry wood or branches of the lofty trees, torn from them by the storm,—that mower of the forest, to whom oak-trees are but as ears of wheat,—and which it scattered over the humid soil beneath the lofty trees, the magnificent appanage of a prince.

If Villers-Cotterets (Villerii ad Cotiam Retiæ) had been, unfortunately, a town of sufficient importance in history to induce archaeologists to ascertain and follow up its successive changes from a village to a burgh and from a burgh to a city,—the last, as we have said, being strongly contested,—they would certainly have proved this fact, that the village had begun by being a row of houses on either side of the road from Paris to Soissons; then they would have added that its situation on the borders of a beautiful forest having, though by slow degrees, brought to it a great increase of inhabitants, other streets were added to the first, diverging like the rays of a star and leading towards other small villages with which it was important to keep up communication, and converging towards a point which naturally became the centre,—that is to say, what in the provinces is called The Square,—around which the handsomest buildings of the village, now become a burgh, were erected, and in the middle of which rises a fountain, now decorated with a quadruple dial; in short, they would have fixed the precise date when, near the modest village church—the first want of a people—arose the first turrets of the vast château, the last caprice of a king; a château which, after having been, as we have already said, by turns a royal and a princely residence, has in our days become a melancholy and hideous receptacle for mendicants under the direction of the Prefecture of the Seine.

But at the period at which this history commences, royal affairs, though already somewhat tottering, had not yet fallen to the low degree to which they have fallen in our days; the château was no longer inhabited by a prince, 't is true, but it had not yet become the abode of beggars; it was simply uninhabited, excepting the indispensable attendants required for its preservation; among whom were to be remarked the doorkeeper, the master of the tennis court, and the house steward; and therefore the windows of this immense edifice, some of which looked toward the park and others on a large court aristocratically called the square of the chateau, were all closed, which added not a little to the gloominess and solitary appearance of this square, at one of the extremities of which rose a small house, regarding which the reader, we hope, will permit us to say a few words.

It was a small house, of which, if we may be allowed to use the term, the back only was to be seen. But, as is the case with many individuals, this back had the privilege of being the most presentable part. In fact, the front, which was towards the Rue de Soissons, one of the principal streets of the town, opened upon it by an awkwardly constructed gate, which was ill-naturedly kept closed eighteen hours out of the twenty-four, while the back was gay and smiling; that is to say, on the back was a garden, above the wall of which could be seen the tops of cherry, pear, and plum trees, while on each side of a small gate by which the garden was entered from the square was a centenary acacia-tree, which in the spring appeared to stretch out their branches above the wall to scatter their perfumed flowers over the surrounding grounds.

The abode was the residence of the chaplain of the chateau, who, notwithstanding the absence of the master, performed mass every Sunday in the seignorial church. He had a small pension, and besides this had the charge of two purses,—the one to send a scholar yearly to the college of Plessis, the other for one to the seminary at Soissons. It is needless to say that it was the Orleans family who supplied these purses,—founded, that of the seminary by the son of the Regent, that for the college by the father of the prince,—and that these two purses were the objects of ambition to all parents, at the same time that they were a cause of absolute despair to the pupils, being the source of extraordinary compositions, which compositions were to be presented for approval of the chaplain every Thursday.

Well, one Thursday in the month of July, 1789, a somewhat disagreeable day, being darkened by a storm, beneath which the two magnificent acacias we have spoken of, having already lost the virginal whiteness of their spring attire, shed a few leaves yellowed by the first heats of summer, after a silence of some duration, broken only by the rustling of those leaves as they whirled against each other upon the beaten ground of the square, or by the shrill cry of the martin pursuing flies as it skimmed along the ground, eleven o'clock resounded from the pointed and slated belfry of the town hall.

Instantly a hurrah, loud as could have been uttered by a whole regiment of fusileers, accompanied by a rushing sound like that of the avalanche when bounding from crag to crag, was heard; the door between the two acaciatrees was opened, or rather burst open, and gave egress to a torrent of boys, who spread themselves over the square, when instantly some five or six joyous and noisy groups were formed,—one around a circle formed to keep pegtops prisoners, another about a game of hop-scotch traced with chalk upon the ground, another before several holes scientifically hollowed out, where those who were fortunate enough to have sous might lose them at pitch and toss.

At the same time that these gambling and playful scholars—who were apostrophized by the few neighbors whose windows opened on this square as wicked do-no-goods, and who, in general, wore trousers the knees of which were torn, as were also the elbows of their jackets—assembled to play upon the square, those who were called good and reasonable boys, and who, in the opinion of the gossips, must be the pride and joy of their respective parents, were seen to detach themselves from the general mass, and by various paths, though with slow steps, indicative of their regret, to walk, basket in hand, towards their paternal roofs, where awaited them the slice of bread and butter, or of bread and preserved fruit, destined to be their compensation for the games they had thus abjured. The latter were, in general, dressed in jackets in tolerably good condition, and in breeches which were almost irreproachable; and this, together with their boasted propriety of demeanor, rendered them objects of derision and even of hatred to their worse-dressed and, above all, worse-disciplined companions.

Besides the two classes we have pointed out under the denomination of gambling and well-conducted scholars, there was still a third, which we shall designate by the name of idle scholars, who scarcely ever left school with the others, whether to play in the square or to return to their paternal homes; seeing that this unfortunate class were almost constantly, what in school language is termed “kept,” which means to say, that while their companions, after having said their lessons and written their themes, were playing at top or eating their bread and jam, they remained nailed to their school benches or before their desks, that they might learn their lessons or write their themes during the hours of recreation, which they had not been able to accomplish satisfactorily during the class, when, indeed, the gravity of their faults did not demand a punishment more severe than that of mere detention, such as the rod, the cane, or the cat-o'-nine-tails.

And had any one followed the path which led into the schoolroom, and which the pupils had just used, in the inverse sense, to get out of it, he would,—after going through a narrow alley, which prudently ran outside of the fruit garden and opened into a large yard which served as a private playground,—he would, as we have said, have heard, on entering this courtyard, a loud harsh voice resounding from the upper part of a staircase, while a scholar, whom our impartiality as historians compels us to acknowledge as belonging to the third class we have mentioned, that is to say, to that of the idle boys, was precipitately descending the said staircase, making just such a movement with his shoulders as asses are wont to do when endeavoring to rid themselves of a cruel rider, or as scholars when they have received a sharp blow from the cat-o'-nine-tails, to alleviate the pain they are enduring.

“Ah! miscreant; ah! you little excommunicated villain,” cried the voice, “ah! you young serpent, away with you, off with you; vade, vade! Remember that for three whole years have I been patient with you; but there are rascals who would tire the patience of even God himself. But now it is all over. I have done with you. Take your squirrels, take your frogs, take your lizards, take your silk-worms, take your cock-chafers, and go to your aunt, go to your uncle if you have one, or to the devil if you will, so that I never more set eyes upon you; vade, vade!”

“Oh, my good Monsieur Fortier, do pray forgive me,” replied the other voice, still upon the staircase and in a supplicating tone; “is it worth your while to put yourself into such a towering passion for a poor little barbarism and a few solecisms, as you call them?”

“Three barbarisms and seven solecisms in a theme of only twenty-five lines!” replied the voice, in a rougher and still more angry tone.

“It has been so to-day, sir, I acknowledge; Thursday is always my unlucky day; but if by chance to-morrow my theme should be well written, would you not forgive me my misfortunes of to-day? Tell me, now, would you not, my good Abbé?”

“On every composition day for the last three years you have repeated that same thing to me, you idle fellow, and the examination is fixed for the first of November, and I, on the entreaty of your aunt Angelique, have had the weakness to put your name down on the list of candidates for the Soissons purse; I shall have the shame of seeing my pupil rejected, and of hearing it everywhere declared that Pitou is an ass,—Angelus Petovius asinus est.

Let us hasten to say—that the kind-hearted reader may from the first moment feel for him all the interest he deserves—that Ange Pitou, whose name the Abbé Fortier had so picturesquely Latinized, is the hero of this story.

“Oh, my good Monsieur Fortier! oh, my dear master!” replied the scholar, in despair.

“I, your master!” exclaimed the abbé, deeply humiliated by the appellation. “God be thanked, I am no more your master than you are my pupil. I disown you,—I do not know you. I would that I had never seen you. I forbid you to mention my name, or even to bow to me. Retro , miserable boy, retro!”

“Oh, Monsieur l'Abbé,” insisted the unhappy Pitou, who appeared to have some weighty motive for not falling out with his master, “do not, I entreat you, withdraw your interest in me on account of a poor halting theme.”

“Ah!” exclaimed the abbé, quite beside himself on hearing this last supplication, and running down the first four steps of the staircase, while Ange Pitou jumped down the four bottom ones and made his appearance in the courtyard,—“ah! you are chopping logic when you cannot even write a theme; you are calculating the extent of my patience, when you know not how to distinguish the nominative from the accusative.”

“You have always been so kind to me, Monsieur l'Abbé,” replied the committer of barbarisms, “and you will only have to say a word in my favor to my lord the bishop.”

“Would you have me belie my conscience, wretched boy?”

“If it be to do a good action, Monsieur l'Abbé, the God of mercy will forgive you for it.”

“Never! never!”

“And besides, who knows, the examiners perhaps will not be more severe towards me than they were towards my foster-brother, Sebastian Gilbert, when last year he was a candidate for the Paris purse; and he was a famous fellow for barbarisms, if ever there was one, although he was only thirteen years old, and I was seventeen.”

“Ah! indeed; and this is another precious stupidity which you have uttered,” cried the abbé, coming down the remaining steps, and in his turn appearing at the door with his cat-o'-nine-tails in his hand, while Pitou took care to keep at the prudent distance from his professor which he had all along maintained. “Yes, I say stupidity,” continued the abbé, crossing his arms and looking indignantly at his scholar; “and this is the reward of my lessons in logic. Triple animal that you are! it is thus you remember the old axiom,—Noli minora, loqui majora volens. Why, it was precisely because Gilbert was so much younger, that they were more indulgent towards a child—a child of fourteen years old—than they would have been to a great simpleton of nearly eighteen.”

“Yes, and because he is the son of Monsieur Honoré Gilbert, who has an income of eighteen thousand livres from good landed property, and this on the plain of Pillaleux,” replied the logician, in a piteous tone.

The Abbé Fortier looked at Pitou, pouting his lips and knitting his brows.

“This is somewhat less stupid,” grumbled he, after a moment's silence and scrutiny. “And yet it is but specious, and without any basis: Species, non autem corpus.

“Oh, if I were the son of a man possessing an income of eighteen thousand livres!” repeated Ange Pitou, who thought he perceived that his answer had made some impression on the professor.

“Yes, but you are not so, and to make up for it, you are as ignorant as the clown of whom Juvenal speaks,—a profane citation,” the abbe crossed himself, “but no less just,—Arcadius juvenis. I would wager that you do not even know what Arcadius means?”

“Why, Arcadian, to be sure,” replied Ange Pitou, drawing himself up with the majesty of pride.

“And what besides?”

“Besides what?”

“Arcadia was the country of donkeys, and with the ancients, as with us, asinus was synonymous with stultus.

“I did not wish to understand your question in that sense,” rejoined Pitou, “seeing that it was far from my imagination that the austere mind of my worthy preceptor could have descended to satire.”

The Abbé Fortier looked at him a second time, and with as profound attention as the first.

“Upon my word!” cried he, somewhat mollified by the incense which his disciple had offered him; “there are really moments when one would swear that the fellow is less stupid than he appears to be.”

“Come, Monsieur l'Abbé,” said Pitou, who, if he had not heard the words the abbe had uttered, had caught the expression of a return to a more merciful consideration which had passed over his countenance, “forgive me this time, and you will see what a beautiful theme I will write by to-morrow.”

“Well, then, I will consent,” said the abbé, placing, in sign of truce, his cat-o'-nine-tails in his belt and approaching Pitou, who observing this pacific demonstration, made no further attempt to move.

“Oh, thanks, thanks!” cried the pupil.

“Wait a moment, and be not so hasty with your thanks. Yes, I forgive you, but on one condition.”

Pitou hung down his head, and as he was now at the discretion of the abbé, he waited with resignation.

“It is that you shall correctly reply to a question I shall put to you.”

“In Latin?” inquired Pitou with much anxiety.

“Latinè,” replied the professor.

Pitou drew a deep sigh.

There was a momentary silence, during which the joyous cries of the schoolboys who were playing on the square reached the ears of Ange Pitou. He sighed a second time, more deeply than the first.

“Quid virtus, quid religion?” asked the abbé.

These words, pronounced with all the pomposity of a pedagogue, rang in the ears of poor Ange Pitou like the trumpet of the angel on the day of judgment; a cloud passed before his eyes, and such an effect was produced upon his intellect by it, that he thought for a moment he was on the point of becoming mad.

However, as this violent cerebral labor did not appear to produce any result, the required answer was indefinitely postponed. A prolonged noise was then heard, as the professor slowly inhaled a pinch of snuff.

Pitou clearly saw that it was necessary to say something.

“Nescio,” he replied, hoping that his ignorance would be pardoned by his avowing that ignorance in Latin.

“You do not know what is virtue!” exclaimed the abbé, choking with rage; “you do not know what is religion!”

“I know very well what it is in French,” replied Ange, “but I do not know it in Latin.”

“Well, then, get thee to Arcadia, juvenis; all is now ended between us, pitiful wretch!”

Pitou was so overwhelmed that he did not move a step, although the Abbé Fortier had drawn his cat-o'-nine-tails from his belt with as much dignity as the commander of an army would, at the commencement of a battle, have drawn his sword from the scabbard.

“But what is to become of me?” cried the poor youth, letting his arms fall listlessly by his side. “What will become of me if I lose the hope of being admitted into the seminary?”

“Become whatever you can. It is, by heaven! the same to me.”

The good abbé was so angry that he almost swore.

“But you do not know, then, that my aunt believes I am already an abbé?”

“Well, then, she will know that you are not fit to be made even a sacristan!”

“But, Monsieur Fortier—”

“I tell you to depart—limine linguæ.”

“Well, then,” cried Pitou, as a man who makes up his mind to a painful resolution, but who in fact does make it, “will you allow me to take my desk?” said he to the abbé, hoping that during the time he would be performing this operation a respite would be given him, and the abbé's heart would become impressed with more merciful feelings.

“Most assuredly,” said the latter; “your desk, with all that it contains.”

Pitou sorrowfully reascended the staircase, for the schoolroom was on the first floor. On returning to the room—in which, assembled around a large table, and pretending to be hard at work, were seated some fourteen boys—and carefully raising the flap of his desk to ascertain whether all the animals and insects which belonged to him were safely stowed in it, and lifting it so gently that it proved the great care he took of his favorites, he walked with slow and measured steps along the corridor.

At the top of the stairs was the Abbé Fortier, with outstretched arm, pointing to the staircase with the end of his cat-o'-nine-tails.

It was necessary to run the gauntlet. Ange Pitou made himself as humble and as small as he possibly could, but this did not prevent him from receiving, as he passed by, a last thwack from the instrument to which Abbé Fortier owed his best pupils, and the employment of which, although more frequent and more prolonged on the back of Ange Pitou, had produced the sorrowful results just witnessed.

While Ange Pitou, wiping away a last tear, was bending his steps, his desk upon his head, towards Pleux, the quarter of the town in which his aunt resided, let us say a few words as to his physical appearance and his antecedents.

Chapter II. In which it is proved that an Aunt is not always a Mother

LOUIS ANGE PITOU, as he himself said in his dialogue with the Abbé Fortier, was, at the period when this history commences, seventeen and a half years old. He was a tall, slender youth, with yellow hair, red cheeks, and blue eyes. The bloom of youth, fresh and innocent, was expanded over his wide mouth, the thick lips of which discovered, when extended by a hearty laugh, two perfectly complete rows of formidable teeth,—particularly formidable to those of whose dinner he was about to partake. At the end of his long bony arms were solidly attached hands as large as beetles, legs rather inclined to be bowed, knees as big as a child's head, which regularly made their way through his tight black breeches, and immense feet, which, notwithstanding, were at their ease in calfskin shoes reddened by constant use; such, with a sort of cassock of brown serge, a garment something between a frock-coat and a blouse, is an exact and impartial description of the ex-disciple of the Abbé Fortier.

We must now sketch his moral character.

Ange Pitou had been left an orphan when only twelve years old, the time at which he had the misfortune to lose his mother, of whom he was the only child. That is to say, that since the death of his father, which event had occurred before he had attained the years of recollection, Ange Pitou, adored by his poor mother, had been allowed to do whatever he thought fit, which had greatly developed his physical education, but had altogether retarded the advancement of his moral faculties. Born in a charming village called Haramont, situated at the distance of a league from the town, and in the centre of a wood, his first walks had been to explore the depths of his native forest, and the first application of his intelligence was that of making war upon the animals by which it was inhabited. The result of this application, thus directed towards one sole object, was, that at ten years old Pitou was a very distinguished poacher, and a birdcatcher of the first order; and that almost without any labor, and above all without receiving lessons from any one, but by the sole power of that instinct given by nature to man when born in the midst of woods, and which would seem to be a portion of that same instinct with which she has endowed the animal kingdom. And therefore every run of hare or rabbit within the circle of three leagues was known to him, and not a marshy pool, where birds were wont to drink, had escaped his investigation. In every direction were to be seen the marks made by his pruning-knife on trees that were adapted to catching birds by imitating their calls. From these different exercises it resulted that in some of them Pitou had attained the most extraordinary skill.

Thanks to his long arms and his prominent knees, which enabled him to climb the largest standard trees, he would ascend to their very summits, to take the highest nests, with an agility and a certainty which attracted the admiration of his companions, and which, in a latitude nearer to the Equator, would have excited the esteem even of monkeys. In that sport, so attractive even to grown people, in which the bird-catcher inveigles the birds to light upon a tree set with limed twigs, by imi- tating the cry of the jay or the owlet,—birds which, among the plumed tribe, enjoy the bitter hatred of the whole species, and to such an extent that every sparrow, every finch or tomtit, hastens at the call in the hope of plucking out a single feather from the common enemy, and, for the most, leave all their own,—Pitou's companions either made use of a natural owlet or a natural jay, or with some particular plant formed a pipe, by aid of which they managed to imitate indifferently the cry of either the one or the other of these birds. But Pitou disdained all such preparations, despised such petty subterfuges. It was upon his own resources that he relied, it was with his own natural means that he drew them into the snare. It was, in short, his own lips that modulated the shrieking and discordant cries, which brought around him not only other birds, but birds of the same species, who allowed themselves to be enticed, we will not say by this note, but by this cry, so admirably did he imitate it. As to the sport in the marshy pools, it was to Pitou the easiest thing in the world, and he would certainly have despised it as a pursuit of art had it been less productive as an object of profit. But notwithstanding the contempt with which he regarded this sport, there was not one of the most expert in the art who could have vied with Pitou in covering with fern a pool that was too extensive to be completely “laid,”—that is the technical term; none of them knew so well as he how to give the proper inclination to his limed twigs, so that the most cunning birds could not drink either over or under them; and finally, none of them had that steadiness of hand and that clearsightedness which must insure the due mixture, though in scientifically unequal quantities, of the rosin, oil, and glue, in order that the glue should not become either too fluid or too brittle.

Now, as the estimation of the qualities of a man changes according to the theatre on which these qualities are produced, and according to the spectators before whom they are exhibited, Pitou, in his own native village, Haramont, amidst his country neighbors,—that is to say, men accustomed to demand of nature at least half their resources, and, like all peasants, possessing an instinctive hatred of civilization,—Pitou enjoyed such distinguished consideration that his poor mother could not for a moment entertain the idea that he was pursuing a wrong path, and that the most perfect education that can be given, and at great expense, to a man, was not precisely that which her son, a privileged person in this respect, had given, gratis, to himself.

But when the good woman fell sick, when she felt that death was approaching, when she understood that she was about to leave her child alone and isolated in the world, she began to entertain doubts, and looked around her for some one who would be the stay and the support of the future orphan. She then remembered that ten years before, a young man had knocked at her door in the middle of the night, bringing with him a newly born child, to take charge of which he had not only given her a tolerably good round sum, but had deposited a still larger sum for the benefit of the child with a notary at Villers-Cotterets. All that she had then known of this mysterious young man was that his name was Gilbert, but about three years previous to her falling ill he had reappeared. He was then a man about twenty-seven years of age, somewhat stiff in his demeanor, dogmatical in his conversation, and cold in his manner; but this first layer of ice melted at once when his child was brought to him, on finding that he was hale, hearty, and smiling, and brought up in the way in which he had directed,—that is to say, as a child of nature. He then pressed the hand of the good woman and merely said to her,—

“In the hour of need calculate upon me.”

Then he had taken the child, had inquired the way to Ermenonville, and with his son performed the pilgrimage to the tomb of Rousseau, after which he returned to Villers-Cotterets. Then, induced, no doubt, by the wholesome air he breathed there, by the favorable manner in which the notary had spoken of the school under the charge of the Abbé Fortier, he had left little Gilbert with the worthy man, whose philosophic appearance had struck him at first sight; for at that period philosophy held such great sway that it had insinuated itself even among churchmen.

After this he had set out again for Paris, leaving his address with the Abbé Fortier.

Pitou's mother was aware of all these circumstances. When at the point of death, those words, 'In the hour of need calculate upon me,' returned to her recollection. This was at once a ray of light to her; doubtless Providence had regulated all this in such a manner that poor Pitou might find even more than he was about to lose. She sent for the curate of the parish; as she had never learned to write, the curate wrote, and the same day the letter was taken to the Abbé Fortier, who immediately added Gilbert's address, and took it to the post-office.

It was high time, for the poor woman died two days afterwards. Pitou was too young to feel the full extent of the loss he had suffered. He wept for his mother, not from comprehending the eternal separation of the grave, but because he saw his mother cold, pale, disfigured. Then the poor lad felt instinctively that the guardian angel of their hearth had fled; that the house, deprived of his mother, had become deserted and uninhabitable. Not only could he not comprehend what was to be his future fate, but even how he was to exist the following day. Therefore, after following his mother's remains to the churchyard, when the earth, thrown into the grave, resounded upon her coffin, when the modest mound that covered it had been rounded off, he sat down upon it, and replied to every observation that was made to him as to his leaving it, by shaking his head and saying that he had never left his mother Madeleine, and that he would remain where she remained.

He stayed during the whole of that day and night, seated upon his mother's grave.

It was there that the worthy Doctor Gilbert,—have we not already informed the reader that the future protector of Pitou was a physician?—it was there that the worthy doctor found him, when, feeling the full extent of the duty imposed upon him by the promise he had made, he had hastened to fulfil it, and this within forty-eight hours after the letter had been despatched.

Ange was very young when he had first seen the doctor, but it is well known that the impressions received in youth are so strong that they leave eternal reminiscences. Then the passage of the mysterious young man had left its trace in the house. He had there left the young child of whom we have spoken, and with him comparative ease and comfort; every time that Ange had heard his mother pronounce the name of Gilbert, it had been with a feeling that approached to adoration; then again, when he had reappeared at the house a grown man, and with the title of doctor, when he had added to the benefits he had showered upon it the promise of future protection, Pitou had comprehended, from the fervent gratitude of his mother, that he himself ought also to be grateful, and the poor youth, without precisely understanding what he was saying, had stammered out the words of eternal remembrance and profound gratitude which had before been uttered by his mother.

Therefore, as soon as he saw the doctor appear at the grated gate of the cemetery, and saw him advancing towards him amid the mossy graves and broken crosses, he recognized him, rose up and went to meet him, for he understood that to the person who had thus come on being called for by his mother he could not say no, as he had done to others; he therefore made no further resistance than that of turning back to give a last look at the grave, when Gilbert took him by the hand and gently drew him away from the gloomy enclosure. An elegant cabriolet was standing at the gate; he made the poor child get into it, and for the moment leaving the house of Pitou's mother under the guardianship of public faith and the interest which misfortune always inspires, he drove his young protégé to the town and alighted with him at the best inn, which at that time was called The Dauphin. He was scarcely installed there when he sent for a tailor, who, having been forewarned, brought with him a quantity of ready-made clothes. He with due precaution selected for Pitou garments which were too long for him by two or three inches,—a superfluity which, from the rate at which our hero was growing, promised not to be of long duration. After this he walked with him towards that quarter of the town which we have designated, and which was called Pleux.

The nearer Pitou approached this quarter, the slower did his steps become, for it was evident that he was about to be conducted to the house of his aunt Angélique; and notwithstanding that he had but seldom seen his godmother,—for it was Aunt Angélique who had bestowed on Pitou his poetical Christian name,—he had retained a very formidable remembrance of his respectable relative.

And in fact there was nothing about Aunt Angélique that could be in any way attractive to a child accustomed to all the tender care of maternal solicitude. Aunt Angélique was at that time an old maid between fifty-five and fifty-eight years of age, stultified by the most minute practices of religious bigotry, and in whom an ill-understood piety had inverted every charitable, merciful, and humane feeling, to cultivate in their stead an unnatural thirst for malicious gossip, which was increased day by day from her constant intercourse with the bigoted old gossips of the town. She did not precisely live on charity; but besides the sale of the thread she spun upon her wheel, and the letting out of chairs in the church, which office had been granted to her by the chapter, she from time to time received from pious souls, who allowed themselves to be deceived by her pretensions to religion, small sums, which from their original copper she converted into silver, and then from silver into golden louis, which disappeared not only without any person seeing them disappear, but without any one ever suspecting their existence, and which were buried, one by one, in the cushion of the arm-chair upon which she sat at work; and when once in this hiding-place, they rejoined by degrees a certain number of their fellow-coins, which had been gathered one by one, and like them destined thenceforth to be sequestered from circulation until the unknown day of the death of the old maid should place them in the hands of her heir.

It was, then, towards the abode of this venerable relation that Doctor Gilbert was advancing, leading the great Pitou by the hand.

We say the great Pitou, because from three months after his birth Pitou had been too tall for his age.

Mademoiselle Rose Angélique Pitou, at the moment when her door opened to give ingress to her nephew and the doctor, was in a perfect transport of joyous humor. While they were singing mass for the dead over the dead body of her sister-in-law in the church at Haramont, there was a wedding and several baptisms in the church of Villers-Cotterets, so that her chair-letting had in a single day amounted to six livres. Mademoiselle Angélique had therefore converted her sous into a silver crown, which, in its turn, added to three others which had been put by at different periods, had given her a golden louis. This louis had at this precise moment been sent to rejoin the others in the chair-cushion, and these days of reunion were naturally days of high festivity to Mademoiselle Angélique.

It was at the moment, and after having opened her door, which had been closed during the important operation, and Aunt Angélique had taken a last walk round her arm-chair to assure herself that no external demonstration could reveal the existence of the treasure concealed within, that the doctor and Pitou entered.

The scene might have been particularly affecting, but in the eyes of a man who was so perspicacious an observer as Doctor Gilbert, it was merely grotesque. On perceiving her nephew, the old bigot uttered a few words about her poor dear sister, whom she had loved so much; and then she appeared to wipe away a tear. On his side the doctor, who wished to examine the deepest recesses of the old maid's heart before coming to any determination with respect to her, took upon himself to utter a sort of sermon on the duties of aunts toward their nephews. But by degrees, as the sermon was progressing and the unctuous words fell from the doctor's lips, the arid eyes of the old maid drank up the imperceptible tear which had moistened them; all her features resumed the dryness of parchment, with which they appeared to be covered; she raised her left hand to the height of her pointed chin, and with the right hand she began to calculate on her skinny fingers the quantity of sous which her letting of chairs produced to her per annum. So that chance having so directed it that her calculation had terminated at the same time with the doctor's sermon, she could reply at the very moment, that whatever might have been the love she entertained for her poor sister, and the degree of interest she might feel for her dear nephew, the mediocrity of her receipts did not permit her, notwithstanding her double title of aunt and godmother, to incur any increased expense.

The doctor, however, was prepared for this refusal. It did not, therefore, in any way surprise him. He was a great advocate for new ideas; and as the first volume of Lavater had just then appeared, he had already applied the physiognomic doctrines of the Zurich philosopher to the yellow and skinny features of Mademoiselle Angélique.

The result of this examination was, that the doctor felt assured, from the small sharp eyes of the old maid, her long and pinched-up nose and thin lips, that she united in her single person the three sins of avarice, selfishness, and hypocrisy.

Her answer, as we have said, did not cause any species of astonishment. However, he wished to convince himself, in his quality of observer of human nature, how far the devotee would carry the development of these three defects.

“But, Mademoiselle,” said he, “Ange Pitou is a poor orphan child, the son of your own brother, and in the name of humanity you cannot abandon your brother's son to be dependent on public charity.”

“Well, now, listen to me, Monsieur Gilbert,” said the old maid; “it would be an increase of expense of at least six sous a day, and that at the lowest calculation; for that great fellow would eat at least a pound of bread a day.”

Pitou made a wry face: he was in the habit of eating a pound and a half at his breakfast alone.

“And without calculating the soap for his washing,” added Mademoiselle Angélique; “and I recollect that he is a sad one for dirtying clothes.”

In fact, Pitou did sadly dirty his clothes, and that is very conceivable, when we remember the life he had led, climbing trees and lying down in marshes; but we must render him this justice, that he tore his clothes even more than he soiled them.

“Oh, fie, Mademoiselle,” cried the doctor, “fie, Mademoiselle Angélique! Can you, who so well practise Christian charity, enter into such minute calculations with regard to your own nephew and godson?”

“And without calculating the cost of his clothes,” cried the old devotee most energetically, who suddenly remembered having seen her sister Madeleine busily employed in sewing patches on her nephew's jacket and knee-caps on his small-clothes.

“Then,” said the doctor, “am I to understand that you refuse to take charge of your nephew? The orphan who has been repulsed from his aunt's threshold will be compelled to beg for alms at the threshold of strangers.”

Mademoiselle Angélique, notwithstanding her avarice, was alive to the odium which would naturally attach to her if from her refusal to receive her nephew he should be compelled to have recourse to such an extremity.

“No,” said she, “I will take charge of him.”

“Ah!” exclaimed the doctor, happy to find a single good feeling in a heart which he had thought completely withered.

“Yes,” continued the devotee, “I will recommend him to the Augustin Friars at Bourg Fontaine, and he shall enter their monastery as a lay-servant.”

We have already said that the doctor was a philosopher. We know what was the meaning of the word philosopher in those days.

He therefore instantly resolved to snatch a neophyte from the Augustin brotherhood, and that with as much zealous fervor as the Augustins, on their side, could have displayed in carrying off an adept from the philosopher.

“Well, then,” he rejoined, plunging his hand into his deep pocket, “since you are in such a position of pecuniary difficulty, my dear Mademoiselle Angélique, as to be compelled, from your deficiency in personal resources, to recommend your nephew to the charity of others, I will seek elsewhere for some one who can more efficaciously than yourself apply to the maintenance of your nephew the sum which I had designed for him. I am obliged to return to America. I will, before I set out, apprentice your nephew Pitou to some joiner, or a smith. He shall, however, himself choose the trade for which he feels a vocation. During my absence he will grow bigger, and on my return he will already have become acquainted with his business, and then—why, I shall see what can be made of him. Come, my child, kiss your aunt,” continued the doctor, “and let us be off at once.”

The doctor had not concluded the sentence when Pitou rushed towards the antiquated spinster; his long arms were extended, and he was in fact most eager to embrace his aunt, on the condition that this kiss was to be the signal, between him and her, of an eternal separation.

But at the words “the sum,” the gesture with which the doctor had accompanied them, the thrusting his hand into his pocket, the silvery sound which that hand had incontinently given to a heap of crown-pieces, the amount of which might have been estimated by the tension of the pocket, the old maid had felt the fire of cupidity mount even to her heart.

“Oh,” cried she, “my dear Monsieur Gilbert, you must be well aware of one thing!”

“And what is that?” asked the doctor.

“Why, good heaven! that no one in the world can love this poor child half so much as I do.”

And entwining her scraggy arms round Pitou's neck, she imprinted a sour kiss on each of his cheeks, which made him shudder from the tips of his toes to the roots of his hair.

“Oh, certainly,” replied the doctor; “I know that well, and I so little doubted your affection for him that I brought him at once to you as his natural support. But that which you have just said to me, dear mademoiselle, has convinced me at the same time of your good-will and of your inability, and I see clearly that you are too poor to aid those who are poorer than yourself.”

“Why, my good Monsieur Gilbert,” rejoined the old devotee, “there is a merciful God in heaven, and from heaven does he not feed all his creatures?”

“That is true,” replied Gilbert; “but although he gives food to the ravens, he does not put out orphans as apprentices. Now, this is what must be done for Ange Pitou, and this, with your small means, would doubtless cost you too much.”

“But yet, if you were to give that sum, good Doctor.”

“What sum?”

“The sum of which you spoke, the sum which is there in your pocket,” added the devotee, stretching her crooked finger toward the doctor's coat.

“I will assuredly give it, dear Mademoiselle Angélique,” said the doctor; “but I forewarn you it will be on one condition.”

“And what is that?”

“That the boy shall have a profession.”

“He shall have one, and that I promise you on the faith of Angélique Pitou, most worthy Doctor,” cried the devotee, her eyes riveted on the pocket which was swaying to and fro.

“You promise it?”

“I promise you it shall be so.”

“Seriously, is it not?”

“On the truth of the living God, my dear Monsieur Gilbert, I swear to do it.”

And Mademoiselle Angélique horizontally extended her emaciated hand.

“Well, then, be it so,” said the doctor, drawing from his pocket a well-rounded bag; “I am ready to give the money, as you see. On your side, are you ready to make yourself responsible to me for the child?”

“Upon the true cross, Monsieur Gilbert.”

“Do not let us swear so much, dear Mademoiselle, but let us sign a little more.”

“I will sign, Monsieur Gilbert, I will sign.”

“Before a notary?”

“Before a notary.”

“Well, then, let us go at once to Papa Niguet.”

Papa Niguet, to whom, thanks to his long acquaintance with him, the doctor applied this friendly title, was, as those know who are familiar with our work entitled “Joseph Balsamo,” the notary of greatest reputation in the town.

Mademoiselle Angélique, of whom Master Niguet was also the notary, had no objection to offer to the choice made by the doctor. She followed him therefore to the notary's office. There the scrivener registered the promise made by Mademoiselle Rose Angélique Pitou, to take charge of and to place in the exercise of an honorable profession Louis Ange Pitou, her nephew, and so doing should annually receive the sum of two hundred livres. The contract was made for five years. The doctor deposited eight hundred livres in the hands of the notary; the other two hundred were to be paid to Mademoiselle Angélique in advance.

The following day the doctor left Villers-Cotterêts after having settled some accounts with one of his farmers, with regard to whom we shall speak hereafter; and Mademoiselle Pitou, pouncing like a vulture upon the aforesaid two hundred livres payable in advance, deposited eight golden louis in the cushion of her arm-chair.

As to the eight livres which remained, they waited, in a small delf saucer which had, during the last thirty or forty years, been the receptacle of clouds of coins of every description, until the harvest of the following two or three Sunday had made up the sum of twenty-four livres, on attaining which, as we have already stated, the abovenamed sum underwent the golden metamorphosis, and passed from the saucer into the arm-chair.

Chapter III. Ange Pitou at his Aunt's

WE have observed the very slight degree of inclination which Ange Pitou felt towards a long-continued sojourn with his Aunt Angélique; the poor child, endowed with instinct equal to, and perhaps superior to, that of the animals against whom he continually made war, had divined at once, we will not say all the disappointments—we have seen that he did not for a single moment delude himself upon the subject—but all the vexations, tribulations, and annoyances to which he would be exposed.

In the first place—but we must admit that this was by no means the reason which most influenced Pitou to dislike his aunt—Doctor Gilbert having left VillersCotterêts, there never was a word said about placing the child as an apprentice. The good notary had indeed given her a hint or two with regard to her formal obligation; but Mademoiselle Angélique had replied that her nephew was very young, and above all, that his health was too delicate to be subjected to labor which would probably be beyond his strength. The notary, on hearing this observation, had in good faith admired the kindness of heart of Mademoiselle Pitou, and had deferred taking any steps as to the apprenticeship until the following year. There was no time lost, the child being then only in his twelfth year.

Once installed at his aunt's, and while the latter was ruminating as to the mode she should adopt whereby to make the most of her dear nephew, Pitou, who once more found himself in his forest, or very near to it, had already made his topographical observations in order to lead the same life at Villers-Cotterêts as at Haramont.

In fact, he had made a circuit of the neighborhood, in which he had convinced himself that the best pools were those on the road to Dampleux, that to Compiègne and that to Vivières, and that the best district for game was that of the Wolf's Heath.

Pitou, having made this survey, took all the necessary measures for pursuing his juvenile sport.

The thing most easy to be procured, as it did not require any outlay of capital, was bird-lime; the bark of the holly, brayed in a mortar and steeped in water, gave the lime; and as to the twigs to be limed, they were to be found by thousands on every birch-tree in the neighborhood. Pitou therefore manufactured, without saying a word to any one on the subject, a thousand of limed twigs and a pot of glue of the first quality; and one fine morning, after having the previous evening taken on his aunt's account at the baker's a four-pound loaf, he set off at daybreak, remained out the whole day, and returned home when the evening had closed in.

Pitou had not formed such a resolution without duly calculating the effect it would produce. He had foreseen a tempest. Without possessing the wisdom of Socrates, he knew the temper of his Aunt Angélique as well as the illustrious tutor of Alcibiades knew that of his wife Xantippe.

Pitou had not deceived himself in his foresight, but he thought he would be able to brave the storm by presenting to the old devotee the produce of his day's sport; only he had not been able to foretell from what spot the thunder would be hurled at him.

The thunderbolt struck him immediately on entering the house.

Mademoiselle Angélique had ensconced herself behind the door, that she might not miss her nephew as he entered, so that at the very moment he ventured to put his foot into the room, he received a cuff upon the occiput, and in which, without further information, he at once recognized the withered hand of the old devotee.

Fortunately, Pitou's head was a tolerably hard one, and although the blow had scarcely staggered him, he pretended, in order to mollify his aunt, whose anger had increased, from having hurt her fingers in striking with such violence, to fall, stumbling as he went, at the opposite end of the room; there, seated on the floor, and seeing that his aunt was returning to the assault, her distaff in her hand, he hastened to draw from his pocket the talisman on which he had relied to allay the storm, and obtain pardon for his flight. And this was two dozen of birds, among which were a dozen redbreasts and half-a-dozen thrushes.

Mademoiselle Angélique, perfectly astounded, opened her eyes widely, continuing to scold for form's sake; but although still scolding, she took possession of her nephew's sport, retreating three paces towards the lamp.

“What is all this?” she asked.

“You must see clearly enough, my dear little Aunt Angélique,” replied Pitou, “that they are birds.”

“Good to eat?” eagerly inquired the old maid, who, in her quality of devotee, was naturally a great eater.

“Good to eat!” reiterated Pitou; “well, that is singular. Redbreasts and thrushes good to eat! I believe they are, indeed!”

“And where did you steal these birds, you little wretch?”

“I did not steal them; I caught them.”

“Caught them! how?”

“By lime-twigging them.”

“Lime-twigging,—what do you mean by that?”

Pitou looked at his aunt with an air of astonishment; he could not comprehend that the education of any person in existence could have been so neglected as not to know the meaning of lime-twigging.

“Lime-twigging?” said he; “why, zounds! 'tis lime-twigging.”

“Yes; but, saucy fellow, I do not understand what you mean by lime-twigging.”

As Pitou was full of compassion for the uninitiated, “Well, you see, Aunt,” said he, “in the forest here there are at least thirty small pools; you place the lime twigs around them, and when the birds go to drink there, as they do not—poor silly things!—know anything about them, they run their heads into them and are caught.”

“By what?”

“By the birdlime.”

“Ah! ah!” exclaimed Aunt Angélique, “I understand; but who gave you the money?”

“Money!” cried Pitou, astonished that any one could have believed that he had ever possessed a sou; “money, Aunt Angélique?”


“No one.”

“But where did you buy the birdlime, then?”

“I made it myself.”

“And the lime-twigs?”

“I made them also, to be sure.”

“Therefore, these birds—”

“Well, Aunt?”

“Cost you nothing?”

“The trouble of stooping to pick them up.”

“And can you go often to these pools?”

“One might go every day.”


“Only, it would not do.”

“What would not do?”

“To go there every day.”

“And for what reason?”

“Why, because it would ruin it.”

“Ruin what?”

“The lime-twigging. You understand, Aunt Angélique, that the birds which are caught—”


“Well, they can't return to the pool.”

“That is true,” said the aunt.

This was the first time, since Pitou had lived with her, that Aunt Angélique had allowed her nephew was in the right, and this unaccustomed approbation perfectly delighted him.

“But,” said he, “the days that one does not go to the pools one goes somewhere else. The days we do not catch birds, we catch something else.”

“And what do you catch?”

“Why, we catch rabbits.”


“Yes; we eat the rabbits and sell their skins. A rabbitskin is worth two sous.”

Aunt Angélique gazed at her nephew with astonished eyes; she had never considered him so great an economist. Pitou had suddenly revealed himself.

“But will it not be my business to sell the skins?”

“Undoubtedly,” replied Pitou; “as Mamma Madeleine used to do.”

It had never entered the mind of the boy that he could claim any part of the produce of his sport excepting that which he consumed.

“And when will you go out to catch rabbits?”

“Ah! that's another matter; when I can get the wires,” replied Pitou.

“Well, then, make the wires.”

Pitou shook his head.

“Why, you made the birdlime and the twigs.”

“Oh, yes, I can make birdlime and I can set the twigs, but I cannot make brass wire; that is bought ready made at the grocer's.”

“And how much does it cost?”

“Oh, for four sous,” replied Pitou, calculating upon his fingers, “I could make at least two dozen.”

“And with two dozen how many rabbits could you catch?”

“That is as it may happen,—four, five, six perhaps,—and they can be used over and over again if the gamekeeper does not find them.”

“See, now, here are four sous,” said Aunt Angélique; “go and buy some brass wire at Monsieur Dambrun's, and go to-morrow and catch rabbits.”

“I will lay them to-morrow,” said Pitou, “but it will only be the next morning that I shall know whether I have caught any.”

“Well, be it so; but go and buy the wire.”

Brass wire was cheaper at Villers-Cotterets than in the country, seeing that the grocers at Haramont purchased their supplies in the town; Pitou, therefore, bought wire enough for twenty-four snares for three sous. He took the remaining sou back to his aunt.

This unexpected probity in her nephew almost touched the heart of the old maid. For a moment she had the idea, the intention, of bestowing upon her nephew the sou which he had not expended; unfortunately for Pitou, it was one that had been beaten out with a hammer, and which, in the dusk, might be passed for a twosous piece. Mademoiselle Angélique thought it would never do to dispossess herself of a coin by which she could make cent per cent, and she let it drop again into her pocket.

Pitou had remarked this hesitation, but had not analyzed it; he never could have imagined that his aunt would give him a sou.

He at once set to work to make his wires. The next day he asked his aunt for a bag.

“What for?” inquired the old maid.

“Because I want it,” replied Pitou.—Pitou was full of mystery.

Mademoiselle Angélique gave him the required bag, put into it the provision of bread and cheese which was to serve for breakfast and dinner to her nephew, who set out very early for Wolf's Heath.

As to Aunt Angélique, she set to work to pick the twelve redbreasts which she had destined for her own breakfast and dinner. She carried two thrushes to the Abbé Fortier, and sold the remaining four to the host of the Golden Ball, who paid her three sous apiece for them, promising her to take as many as she would bring him at the same price.

Aunt Angélique returned home transported with joy. The blessing of heaven had entered beneath her roof with Ange Pitou.

“Ah!” cried she, while eating her robin-redbreasts, which were as fat as ortolans and as delicate as beccaficos, “people are right in saying that a good deed never goes unrewarded.”

In the evening Ange returned; his bag, which was magnificently rounded, he carried on his shoulders. On this occasion Aunt Angélique did not waylay him behind the door, but waited for him on the threshold, and instead of giving him a box on the ear, she received the lad with a grimace which very much resembled a smile.

“Here I am!” cried Pitou, on entering the room with all that firmness which denotes a conviction of having well employed one's time.

“You and your bag,” said Aunt Angélique.

“I and my bag,” said Pitou

“And what have you in your bag?” inquired Aunt Angélique, stretching forth her hand with curiosity.

“Beech-mast,” said Pitou.


“Undoubtedly; you must understand, Aunt Angélique, that if old Father La Jeunesse, the gamekeeper at the Wolf's Heath, had seen me prowling over his grounds without my bag, he would have said to me, 'What do you come here after, you little vagabond?' And this without calculating that he might have suspected something; while having my bag, were he to ask me what I was doing there, I should say to him, 'why I am come to gather mast; is it forbidden to gather mast?' 'No.' 'Well, then, if it is not forbidden, you have nothing to say.' And indeed, should he say anything, Father La Jeunesse would be in the wrong.”

“Then you have spent your whole day in gathering mast instead of laying your wires, you idle fellow!” exclaimed aunt Angélique angrily, who thought that the rabbits were escaping her through her nephew's excessive cunning.

“On the contrary, I laid my snares while he saw me at work gathering the mast.”

“And did he say nothing to you?”

“Oh, yes, he said to me, 'You will present my compliments to your aunt, Pitou.' Hey! Is not Father La Jeunesse a kind, good man?”

“But the rabbits?” again repeated the old devotee, whom nothing could divert from her fixed idea.

“The rabbits? Why, the moon will rise at midnight, and at one o'clock I will go and see if there are any caught.”


“In the woods.”

“How! would you go into the woods at one o'clock in the morning?”

“To be sure.”

“And without being afraid?”

“Afraid! of what?”

Angélique was as much astounded at Pitou's courage as she had been astonished at his calculations.

The fact is, that Pitou, as simple as a child of nature, knew nothing of those factitious dangers which terrify children born in cities.

Therefore at midnight he went his way, walking along the churchyard wall without once looking back. The innocent youth who had never offended, at least according to his ideas of independence, either God or man, feared not the dead more than he did the living.

There was only one person of whom he felt any sort of apprehension, and this was Father La Jeunesse; and therefore did he take the precaution to go somewhat out of his way to pass by his house. As the doors and shutters were all closed, and there was no light to be perceived, Pitou, in order to assure himself that the keeper was really at home and not upon the watch, began to imitate the barking of a dog, and so perfectly that Ronflot, the keeper's terrier, was deceived by it, and answered it by giving tongue with all his might, and by sniffing the air under the door.

From that moment Pitou was perfectly reassured; as Ronflot was at home, Father La Jeunesse must be there also. Ronflot and Father La Jeunesse were inseparable; and at the moment the one was seen, it was certain that the other would soon make his appearance.

Pitou, being perfectly satisfied of this fact, went on towards the Wolf's Heath. The snares had done their work; two rabbits had been caught and strangled.

Pitou put them into the capacious pocket of that coat, which, then too long for him, was destined within a year to become too short, and then returned to his aunt's house.

The old maid had gone to bed, but her cupidity had kept her awake; like Perrette, she had been calculating what her rabbit-skins might produce, and this calculation had led her on so far, that she had not been able to close her eyes; and therefore was it with nervous tremulation that she asked the boy what success he had had.

“A couple,” said he. “Ah! the deuce! Aunt Angélique, it is not my fault that I have not brought more, but it appears that Father Jeunesse's rabbits are of a cunning sort.”

The hopes of Aunt Angélique were fulfilled, and even more. She seized, trembling with joy, the two unlucky quadrupeds and examined their skins, which had remained intact, and locked them up in her meat-safe, which never had seen such provisions as those it had contained since Pitou had hit upon the idea of supplying it.

Then, in a very honeyed tone, she advised Pitou to go to bed, which the lad, who was much fatigued, did instantly, and that without even asking for his supper, which raised him greatly in the opinion of his aunt.

Two days after this Pitou renewed his attempts, and on this occasion was more fortunate than the first. He brought home three rabbits. Two of them took the road to the Golden Ball, and the third that of the presbytery. Aunt Angélique was very attentive to the Abbé Fortier, who on his side strongly recommended her to the pious souls of the parish.

Things went on in this manner during three or four months. Aunt Angélique was enchanted, and Pitou found his position somewhat supportable. In fact, with the exception of the tender cares of his mother, Pitou led nearly the same life at Villers-Cotterets which he had done at Haramont. But an unexpected circumstance, which, however, might have been foreseen, at once dashed to the ground the milk-pitcher of the aunt and put a stop to the excursions of the nephew.

A letter had been received from Doctor Gilbert, dated from New York. On placing his foot on the soil of the United States the philosophic traveller had not forgotten his protégé. He had written to Master Niguet, the notary, to inquire whether his instructions had been carried into effect, and to claim the execution of the agreement if they had not been, or to cancel it altogether if the old aunt would not abide by her engagements.

The case was a serious one; the responsibility of the public officer was at stake; he presented himself at the house of Aunt Pitou, and with the doctor's letter in his hand called upon her to perform the promise she had made.

There was no backing out; all allegations as to illhealth were at once belied by the physical appearance of Pitou. Pitou was tall and thin. Every sapling of the forest was also thin and tall, but this did not prevent it from being in a perfectly healthy and thriving condition.

Mademoiselle Angélique asked for a delay of eight days, in order to make up her mind as to the trade or occupation in which she should place her nephew.

Pitou was quite as sorrowful as his aunt. The mode of life he led appeared to him a very excellent one, and he did not desire any other.

During these eight days there was no thought of going bird-catching or poaching; moreover, the winter had arrived, and in winter the birds find water everywhere; but some snow had fallen, and while that was on the ground Pitou did not dare go out to lay his snares. Snow retains the impression of footsteps, and Pitou possessed a pair of feet so huge that they gave Father La Jeunesse the greatest possible chance of ascertaining in four-andtwenty hours who was the skilful poacher who had depopulated his rabbit warren.

During these eight days the claws of the old maid again showed themselves. Pitou had once more found the aunt of former days, she who had caused him so much terror, and whom self-interest, the primum mobile of her whole life, had for a while rendered as smooth as velvet.

As the day for the important decision approached, the temper of the old maid became more and more crabbed, and to such a degree that, about the fifth day, Pitou sincerely desired that his aunt would immediately decide upon some trade, be it what it might, provided it should no longer be that of the scolded drudge which he had been filling in the old maid's house.

Suddenly a sublime idea struck the mind of the old woman who had been so cruelly agitated. This idea restored her equanimity, which for six days had altogether abandoned her.

This idea consisted in entreating the Abbé Fortier to receive into his school, and this without any remuneration whatever, poor Pitou, and enable him to obtain the purse for entering the seminary, founded by his highness the Duke of Orleans. This was an apprenticeship which would cost nothing to Aunt Angélique; and Monsieur Fortier, without taking into calculation the thrushes, blackbirds, and rabbits with which the old devotee had so abundantly supplied him for the last month, was bound to do something, more than for any other, for the nephew of the chair-letter of his own church. Thus kept as under a glass frame, Ange would continue to be profitable to her at the present time, and promised to be much more so in the future.

Consequently Ange was received into the Abbé Fortier's school without any charge for his education. This abbé was a worthy man, and not in any way interested, giving his knowledge to the poor in mind, and his money to the poor in body. He was, however, intractable on one single point; solecisms rendered him altogether furious, barbarisms would send him almost out of his mind; on these occasions he considered neither friends nor foes, neither poor nor rich, nor paying pupils nor gratuitous scholars; he struck all with agrarian impartiality and with Lacedemonian stoicism, and as his arm was strong he struck severely.

This was well known to the parents, and it was for them to decide whether they would or would not send their sons to the Abbé Fortier's school; or if they did send them there, they knew they must abandon them entirely to his mercy, for when any maternal complaint was made to him, the abbé always replied to it by this device, which he had engraved on the handle of his cane and on that of his cat-o'-nine-tails, “Who loves well chastises well.”

Upon the recommendation of his aunt, Ange Pitou was therefore received by the Abbé Fortier. The old devotee, quite proud of this reception,—which was much less agreeable to Pitou, whose wandering and independent mode of life it altogether destroyed,—presented herself to Master Niguet, and told him that she had not only conformed to her agreement with Doctor Gilbert, but had even gone beyond it. In fact, Doctor Gilbert had demanded for Ange Pitou an honorable means of living, and she gave him much more than this, since she gave him an excellent education. And where was it that she gave him this education? Why, in the very academy in which Sebastian Gilbert received his, and for which he paid no less than fifty livres per month.

It was indeed true that Ange Pitou received his education gratis; but there was no necessity whatever for letting Doctor Gilbert into this secret. And if he should discover it, the impartiality and the disinterestedness of the Abbé Fortier were well known; as his sublime Master, he stretched out his arms, saying, “Suffer little children to come unto me;” only the two hands affixed to these two paternal arms were armed, the one with a Latin grammar, and the other with a large birch rod; so that in the greater number of instances, instead of, like the Saviour, receiving the children weeping and sending them away consoled, the Abbé Fortier saw the children approach him with terror in their countenances and sent them away weeping.

The new scholar made his entrance into the schoolroom with an old trunk under his arm, a horn inkstand in his hand, and two or three stumps of pens stuck behind his ears. The old trunk was intended to supply, as it best might, the absence of a regular desk. The inkstand was a gift from the grocer, and Mademoiselle Angélique had picked up the stumps of pens at Monsieur Niguet, the notary's, when she had paid him a visit the evening before.

Ange Pitou was welcomed with that fraternal gentleness which is born in children and perpetuated in grown men,—that is to say, with hootings. The whole time devoted to the morning class was passed in making game of him. Two of the scholars were kept for laughing at his yellow hair, and two others for ridiculing his marvellous knees, of which we have already slightly made mention. The two latter had said that each of Pitou's legs looked like a well-rope in which a knot had been tied. This jest was attended with great success, had gone round the room and excited general hilarity, and consequently the susceptibility of the Abbé Fortier.

Therefore, the account being made up at noon when about to leave the school,—that is to say, after having remained four hours in class,—Pitou, without having addressed a single word to any one, without having done anything but gape behind his trunk, Pitou had made six enemies in the school; six enemies, so much the more inveterate that he had not inflicted any wrong upon them, and therefore did they over the fire-stove, which in the schoolroom represented the altar of their country, swear a solemn oath, some to tear out his yellow hair, others to punch out his earthenware blue eyes, and the remainder to straighten his crooked knees.

Pitou was altogether ignorant of these hostile intentions. As he was going out he asked a boy near him why six of their comrades remained in school, when all the rest were leaving it.

The boy looked askance at Pitou, called him a shabby tale-bearer, and went away, unwilling to enter into conversation with him.

Pitou asked himself how it could have happened that he, not having uttered a single word during the whole time, could be called a shabby tale-bearer. But while the class had lasted he had heard so many things said, either by the pupils or by the Abbé Fortier, which he could in no way comprehend, that he classed this accusation of his schoolfellow with those things which were too elevated for him to understand.

On seeing Pitou return at noon, Aunt Angélique, with great ardor for the success of an education for which it was generally understood she made great sacrifices, inquired of him what he had learned.

Pitou replied that he had learned to remain silent. The answer was worthy of a Pythagorean; only a Pythagorean would have made it by a sign.

The new scholar returned to school at one o'clock without too much repugnance. The hours of study in the morning had been passed by the pupils in examining the physical appearance of Pitou; those of the afternoon were employed by the professor in examining his moral capabilities. This examination being made, the Abbé Fortier remained convinced that Pitou had every possible disposition to become a Robinson Crusoe, but very little chance of ever becoming a Fontenelle or a Bossuet.

During the whole time that the class lasted, and which was much more fatiguing to the future seminarist than that of the morning, the scholars who had been punished on account of him repeatedly shook their fists at him. In all countries, whether blessed with civilization or not, this demonstration is considered as a sign of threat. Pitou therefore determined to be on his guard.

Our hero was not mistaken. On leaving, or rather when he had left, and got clear away from all the dependencies of the collegiate house, it was notified to Pitou by the six scholars who had been kept in the morning, that he would have to pay for the two hours of arbitrary detention, with damages, interest and capital.

Pitou at once understood that he would have to fight a pugilistic duel. Although he was far from having studied the fifth book of the Æneid, in which young Dares and the old Entellus give proofs of their great skill in this manly exercise before the loudly applauding Trojan fugitives, he knew something of this species of recreation, to which the country people in his village were not altogether strangers. He therefore declared that he was ready to enter the lists with either of his adversaries who might wish to begin, and to combat successively with all his six enemies. This demonstration began to raise the last comer in the consideration of his schoolfellows.

The conditions were agreed on as Pitou had proposed. A circle was soon formed round the place of combat, and the champions, the one having thrown off his jacket, the other his coat, advanced towards each other.

We have already spoken of Pitou's hands. These hands, which were by no means agreeable to look at, were still less agreeable to feel. Pitou at the end of each arm whirled round a fist equal in size to a child's head, and although boxing had not at that time been introduced into France, and consequently Pitou had not studied the elementary principles of the science, he managed to apply to one of the eyes of his adversary a blow so well directed that the eye he struck was instantly surrounded by a dark bistre-colored circle, so geometrically drawn that the most skilful mathematician could not have formed it more correctly with his compasses.

The second then presented himself. If Pitou had against him the fatigue occasioned by his first combat, on the other side, his adversary was visibly less powerful than his former antagonist. The battle did not last long. Pitou aimed a straightforward blow at his enemy's nose, and his formidable fist fell with such weight that instantly his opponent's two nostrils gave evidence of the validity of the blow by spouting forth a double stream of blood.

The third got off with merely a broken tooth; he received much less damage than the two former. The other three declared that they were satisfied.

Pitou then pressed through the crowd, which opened as he approached with the respect due to a conqueror, and he withdrew safe and sound to his own fireside, or rather to that of his aunt.

The next morning, when the three pupils reached the school, the one with his eye poached, the second with a fearfully lacerated nose, and the third with his lips swelled, the Abbé Fortier instituted an inquiry. But young collegians have their good points too. Not one of the wounded whispered a word against Pitou, and it was only through an indirect channel, that is to say, from a person who had been a witness of the fight, but who was altogether unconnected with the school, that the Abbé Fortier learned, the following day, that it was Pitou who had done the damage to the faces of his pupils, which had caused him so much uneasiness the day before.

And, in fact, the Abbé Fortier was responsible to the parents, not only for the morals, but for the physical state of his pupils. He had received complaints from the three families. A reparation was absolutely necessary. Pitou was kept in school three days: one day for the eye, one day for the bloody nose, and one day for the tooth.

This three days' detention suggested an ingenious idea to Mademoiselle Angélique. It was to deprive Pitou of his dinner every time that the Abbé Fortier kept him in school. This determination must necessarily have an advantageous effect on Pitou's education, since it would naturally induce him to think twice before committing a fault which would subject him to this double punishment.

Only, Pitou could never rightly comprehend why it was that he had been called a tale-bearer, when he had not opened his lips, and why it was he had been punished for beating those who had wished to beat him; but if people were to comprehend everything that happens in this world, they would lose one of the principal charms of life,—that of mystery and the unforeseen.

Pitou was therefore detained three days in school, and during those three days he contented himself with his breakfast and supper.

Contented himself is not the word, for Pitou was by no means content; but our language is so poor, and the Academy so severe, that we must content ourselves with what we have.

Only that this punishment submitted to by Pitou, without saying a word of the aggression to which he had been subjected, and to which he had only properly replied, won him the esteem of the whole school. It is true that the three majestic blows he had been seen to deliver might also have had some little influence on his schoolfellows.

From that time forward the life of Pitou was pretty nearly that of most of the scholars, with this sole difference, that from his compositions being more defective than those of any of the rest, he was kept twice as often as any of his condisciples.

But it must be said there was one thing in Pitou's nature which arose from the primary education he had received, or rather from that which he had not received,-a thing which is necessary to consider as contributing at least a third to the numerous penalties he underwent; and this was his natural inclination for animals.

The famous trunk which his Aunt Angélique had dignified with the name of desk, had become, thanks to its vastness, and the numerous compartments with which Pitou had decorated its interior, a sort of Noah's ark, containing a couple of every species of climbing, crawling, or flying reptiles. There were lizards, adders, ant-eaters, beetles, and frogs, which reptiles became so much dearer to Pitou from their being the cause of his being subjected to punishment more or less severe.

It was in his walks during the week that Pitou made collections for his menagerie. He had wished for salamanders, which were very popular at Villers-Cotterets, being the crest of François I., who had them sculptured on every chimney-piece in the chateau. He had succeeded in obtaining them; only one thing had strongly preoccupied his mind, and he ended by placing this thing among the number of those which were beyond his intelligence; it was, that he had constantly found in the water these reptiles which poets have pretended exist only in fire. This circumstance had given to Pitou, who was a lad of precise mind, a profound contempt for poets.

Pitou, being the proprietor of two salamanders, set to work to find a chameleon; but this time his search was altogether vain, and success did not attend his labors. Pitou at last concluded, from these unfruitful researches, that the chameleon did not exist, or at all events that it existed in some other latitude.

This point being settled, Pitou did not obstinately continue his search for the chameleon.

The two other thirds of Pitou's punishments were occasioned by those accursed solecisms and those confounded barbarisms, which sprang up in the themes written by Pitou as tares do in a field of wheat.

As to Sundays and Thursdays, days when there was no attendance at school, he had continued to employ them in laying his lime-twigs or in poaching; only, as Pitou was still growing taller, as he was already five feet six, and sixteen years of age, a circumstance occurred which somewhat withdrew Pitou's attention from his favorite occupations.

Upon the road to the Wolf's Heath is situated the village of Pisseleu, the same perhaps which gave a name to the beautiful Anne d'Heilly, the mistress of François I.

Near this village stood the farm-house of Father Billot, as he was called throughout the neighborhood, and at the door of this farm-house was standing, no doubt by chance, but almost every time when Pitou passed and repassed, a pretty girl from seventeen to eighteen years of age, fresh-colored, lively, jovial, and who was called by her baptismal name, Catherine, but still more frequently after her father's name, La Billote.

Pitou began by bowing to La Billote; afterwards he by degrees became emboldened, and smiled while he was bowing; then at last one fine day, after having bowed, after having smiled, he stopped, and although blushing deeply, ventured to stammer out the following words, which he considered as great audacity on his part:

Chapter IV. Of the Influence which a Barbarism and Seven Solecisms may have upon the Whole Life of a Man

THESE details were indispensable to the reader, whatever be the degree of intelligence we suppose him to possess, in order that he might comprehend the whole horror of the position in which Pitou found himself on being finally expelled from the school.

With one arm hanging down, the other maintaining the equilibrium of the trunk upon his head, his ears still ringing with the furious vituperations of the Abbé Fortier, he slowly directed his steps towards Pleux, in a state of meditation which was nothing more than stupor carried to the highest possible degree.

At last an idea presented itself to his imagination, and four words, which composed his whole thought, escaped his lips:—

“O Lord! my aunt!”

And indeed what would Mademoiselle Angélique Pitou say to this complete overthrow of all her hopes?

However, Ange Pitou knew nothing of the projects of the old maid, excepting as a faithful dog surmises the intentions of his master, that is to say, by an inspection of his physiognomy. Instinct is a most valuable guide,—it seldom deceives; while reason, on the contrary, may be led astray by the imagination.

The result of these reflections on the part of Ange Pitou, and which had given birth to the doleful exclama- tion we have given above, was the apprehension of the violent outbreak of discontent to which the old maid would give way on receiving the fatal news. Now, he knew from sad experience the result of discontent in Mademoiselle Angélique. Only upon this occasion the cause of discontent arising from an incalculably important event, the result would attain a degree altogether incalculable.

It was under these terrific impressions that Pitou entered Pleux. He had taken a quarter of an hour to traverse the distance between the great gate at the Abbé Fortier's and the entrance to this street, and yet it was scarcely three hundred yards.

At that moment the church clock struck one; he then perceived that his final conversation with the Abbé Fortier and the slowness with which he had walked had delayed him in all sixty minutes, and that consequently he was half an hour later than the time at which no more dinner was to be had in Aunt Angélique's abode.

We have already said that such was the salutary restraint which Aunt Angélique had added to his being kept in school, and on the wild ramblings of her nephew; it was thus that in the course of a year she managed to economize some sixty dinners at the expense of her poor nephew's stomach.

But this time, that which rendered more uneasy the retarded schoolboy was not the loss of his aunt's meagre dinner, although his breakfast had been meagre enough, for his heart was too full to allow him to perceive the emptiness of his stomach.

There is a frightful torment, well known to a student, however perverse he may be, and this is the illegitimate hiding in some retired corner, after being expelled from college; it is the definitive and compelled holiday which he is constrained to take advantage of, while his fellowstudents pass by him with their books and writings under their arm, proceeding to their daily task. That college, formerly so hated, then assumes a most desirable form; the scholar occupies his mind with the great affairs of themes and exercises, to which he before so little directed his attention, and which are being proceeded with in his absence. There is a great similarity between a pupil so expelled by his professor and a man who has been excommunicated for his impiety, and who no longer has a right to enter the church, although burning with desire to hear a mass.

And this was why, the nearer he approached his aunt's house, his residence in that house appeared the more frightful to poor Pitou. And this was why, for the first time in his life, his imagination pictured to him the school as a terrestrial paradise, from which the Abbé Fortier, as the exterminating angel, had driven him forth, with his cat-o'-nine-tails wielded as a flaming sword.

But yet, slowly as he walked, and although he halted at every ten steps,—halts which became still longer as he approached nearer,—he could not avoid at last reaching the threshold of that most formidable house. Pitou then crossed the threshold with shuffling feet, and mechanically rubbing his hand on the seam of his nether garment.

“Ah, Aunt Angélique, I am really very sick,” said he, in order to stop her raillery or her reproaches, and perhaps also to induce her to pity him, poor boy.

“Pshaw!” said Angélique. “I well know what your sickness is; and it would be cured at once by putting back the hands of the clock an hour and a half.”

“Oh, good heavens, no!” cried Pitou; “for I am not hungry.”

Aunt Angélique was surprised and almost anxious. Sickness equally alarms affectionate mothers and crabbed stepmothers,—affectionate mothers from the dangers caused by sickness, and stepmothers from the heavy pulls it makes upon their purse.

“Well, what is the matter? Come, now, speak out at once,” said the old maid.

On hearing these words, which were, however, pronounced without any very tender sympathy, Ange Pitou burst into tears; and it must be acknowledged that the wry faces he made when proceeding from complaints to tears were the most terrifically ugly wry faces that could be seen.

“Oh, my good Aunt,” cried he, sobbing, “a great misfortune has happened to me!”

“And what is it?” asked the old maid.

“The Abbé Fortier has sent me away,” replied Ange, sobbing so violently that he was scarcely intelligible.

“Sent you away?” repeated Mademoiselle Angélique, as if she had not perfectly comprehended what he said.

“Yes, Aunt.”

“And from where has he sent you!”

“From the school.”

And Pitou's sobs redoubled.

“From the school?”

“Yes, Aunt.”

“What! altogether?”

“Yes, Aunt.”

“So there is to be no examination, no competition, no purse, no seminary?”

Pitou's sobs were changed into perfect howlings.

Mademoiselle Angélique looked at him, as if she would read the very heart of her nephew to ascertain the cause of his dismissal.

“I will wager that you have again been among the bushes instead of going to school. I would wager that you have again been prowling about Father Billot's farm. Oh, fie! and a future abbé!”

Ange shook his head.

“You are lying,” cried the old maid, whose anger augmented in proportion as she acquired the certainty that the state of matters was very serious. “You are lying. Only last Sunday you were seen in the Lane of Sighs with La Billote.”

It was Mademoiselle Angélique who was lying. But devotees have, in all ages, considered themselves authorized to lie, in virtue of that Jesuitical axiom, “It is permitted to assert that which is false, in order to discover that which is true.”

“No one could have seen me in the Lane of Sighs,” replied Pitou; “that is impossible, for we were walking near the orangery.”

“Ah, wretch! you see that you were with her.”

“But, Aunt,” rejoined Pitou, blushing, “Mademoiselle Billot has nothing to do with this affair.”

“Yes, call her mademoiselle, in order to conceal your impure conduct. But I will let this minx's confessor know all about it.”

“But, Aunt, I swear to you that Mademoiselle Billot is not a minx.”

“Ah! you defend her, when it is you that stand in need of being excused. Oh, yes; you understand each other better and better. What are we coming to, good heaven! and children only sixteen years old.”

“Aunt, so far from there being any understanding between me and Catherine, it is Catherine who always drives me away from her.”

“Ah! you see you are cutting your own throat; for now you call her Catherine, right out. Yes, she drives you away from her, hypocrite, when people are looking at you.”

“Ho! ho!” said Pitou to himself, illuminated by this idea. “Well, that is true. I had never thought of that.”

“Ah, there again!” said the old maid, taking advantage of the ingenuous exclamation of her nephew to prove his connivance with La Billote; “but let me manage it. I will soon put all this to rights again. Monsieur Fortier is her confessor. I will beg him to have you shut up in prison, and order you to live on bread and water for a fortnight; as to Mademoiselle Catherine, if she requires a convent to moderate her passion for you, well, she shall have a taste of it. We will send her to St. Remy.”

The old maid uttered these last words with such authority, and with such conviction of her power, that they made Pitou tremble.

“My good aunt,” cried he, clasping his hands, “you are mistaken, I swear to you, if you believe that Mademoiselle Billot has anything to do with the misfortune that has befallen me.”

“Impurity is the mother of all vices,” sententiously rejoined Mademoiselle Angélique.

“Aunt, I again tell you that the Abbé Fortier did not send me away because I was impure; but he has dismissed me because I make too many barbarisms, mingled with solecisms, which every now and then escape me, and which deprive me, as he says, of all chance of obtaining the purse for the seminary.”

“All chance, say you? Then you will not have that purse; then you will not be an abbé; then I shall not be your housekeeper?”

“Ah, good heaven, no! dear Aunt.”

“And what is to become of you, then?” cried the old maid, in a savage tone.

“I know not,” cried Pitou, piteously, raising his eyes to heaven. “Whatever it may please Providence to order,” he added.

“Ah! Providence, you say. I see how it is,” exclaimed Mademoiselle Angélique. “Some one has been exciting his brain. Some one has been talking to him of these new ideas; some one has been endeavoring to fill him with these principles of philosophy.”

“It cannot be that, Aunt; because no one gets into philosophy before having gone through his rhetoric, and I have never yet been able to get even so far as that.”

“Oh, yes!—jest—jest! It is not of that philosophy that I am speaking. I speak of the philosophy of the philosophers, you wretch. I speak of the philosophy of Monsieur Arouet; I speak of the philosophy of Monsieur Jean Jacques; of the philosophy of Monsieur Diderot, who wrote 'La Religieuse.'“

Mademoiselle Angélique crossed herself.

“'La Religieuse!'“ cried Pitou; “what is that, Aunt?”

“You have read it, wretch!”

“I swear to you, Aunt, that I have not.”

“And this is the reason why you will not go into the church.”

“Aunt, Aunt, you are mistaken. It is the church that will not admit me.”

“Why, decidedly, this child is a perfect serpent. He even dares to retort.”

“No, Aunt; I answer, and that is all.”

“Oh, he is lost!” exclaimed Mademoiselle Angélique, with all the signs of most profound discouragement, and falling into her favorite arm-chair.

In fact, “He is lost!” merely signified, “I am lost!”

The danger was imminent; Aunt Angélique formed an extreme resolve. She rose as if some secret spring had forced her to her feet, and ran off to the Abbé Fortier to ask him for an explanation, and above all to make a last effort to get him to change his determination.

Pitou followed his aunt with his eyes till she had reached the door, and when she had disappeared, he went to the threshold and watched her walking with extraordinary rapidity towards the Rue de Soissons. He was surprised at the quickness of her movements; but he had no longer any doubt as to the intentions of Mademoiselle Angélique, and was convinced that she was going to his professor's house.

He could therefore calculate on at least a quarter of an hour's tranquillity. Pitou thought of making a good use of this quarter of an hour which Providence had granted to him. He snatched up the remainder of his aunt's dinner to feed his lizards, caught two or three flies for his ants and frogs, then, opening successively a hutch and a cupboard, he set about feeding himself; for with solitude his appetite had returned to him.

Having arranged all these matters, he returned to watch at the door, that he might not be surprised by the return of his second mother.

Mademoiselle Angélique had given herself the title of Pitou's second mother.

While he was watching, a handsome young girl passed at the end of the Pleux, going along a narrow lane which led from the end of the Rue de Soissons to that of the Rue de Lormet. She was seated on a pillion on the back of a horse loaded with two panniers, the one full of fowls, the other of pigeons. It was Catherine. On perceiving Pitou standing at his door, she stopped.

Pitou blushed as was his wont, then remained with his mouth wide open, looking at her, that is to say, admiring her,—for Mademoiselle Billot was in his eyes the most heavenly sample of human beauty.

The young girl darted a glance into the street, saluted Pitou with a little graceful nod, and continued on her way.

Pitou replied to it, trembling with satisfaction.

This little scene lasted just time enough to occupy the tall scholar's attention, who was quite lost in his contemplation, and continued eagerly gazing at the spot where Mademoiselle Catherine had appeared, so as to prevent him from perceiving his aunt when she returned from the Abbé Fortier, who suddenly seized his hand, turning pale with anger.

Ange being thus startlingly awakened from his sweet dream by that electrical shock which the touch of Mademoiselle Angélique always communicated to him, turned round, and seeing that the enraged looks of his aunt were fixed upon his hand, cast his own eyes down upon it, and saw with horror that it was holding the half of a large round of bread upon which he had apparently spread a too generous layer of butter, with a corresponding slice of cheese.

Mademoiselle Angélique uttered a cry of terror, and Pitou a groan of alarm; Angélique raised her bony hand, Pitou bobbed down his head; Angélique seized a broomhandle which unluckily was but too near her, Pitou let fall his slice of bread-and-butter, and took to his heels without further explanation.

These two hearts now understood each other, and felt that henceforth there could be no communion between them.

Mademoiselle Angélique went into her house and double-locked the door. Pitou, whom the grating noise alarmed as a continuation of the storm, ran on still faster.

From this scene resulted an effect which Mademoiselle Angélique was very far from foreseeing, and which certainly Pitou in no way expected.

Chapter V. A Philosophical Farmer

PITOU ran as if all the demons of the infernal regions were at his heels, and in a few seconds he was outside the town.

On turning round the corner of the cemetery, he very nearly ran his head against the hind part of a horse.

“Why, good Lord!” cried a sweet voice well known to Pitou, “where are you running to at this rate, Monsieur Ange? You have very nearly made Cadet run away with me, you frightened us both so much.”

“Ah, Mademoiselle Catherine!” cried Pitou, replying rather to his own thoughts than to the question of the young girl. “Ah, Mademoiselle Catherine, what a misfortune! great God, what a misfortune!”

“Oh, you quite terrify me!” said the young girl, pulling up her horse in the middle of the road. “What, then, has happened, Monsieur Ange?”

“What has happened!” said Pitou; and then, lowering his voice as if about to reveal some mysterious iniquity, “why, it is, that I am not to be an abbé, Mademoiselle.”

But instead of receiving the fatal intelligence with all those signs of commiseration which Pitou had expected, Mademoiselle Billot gave way to a long burst of laughter.

“You are not to be an abbé?” asked Catherine.

“No,” replied Pitou, in perfect consternation; “it appears that it is impossible.”

“Well, then, you can be a soldier,” said Catherine.

“A soldier?”

“Undoubtedly. You should not be in despair for such a trifle. Good Lord! I at first thought that you had come to announce to me the sudden death of your aunt.”

“Oh,” said Pitou, feelingly, “it is precisely the same thing to me as if she were dead indeed, since she has driven me out of her house.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Catherine, laughing; “you have not now the satisfaction of weeping for her.”

And Catherine began to laugh more heartily than before, which scandalized poor Pitou more than ever.

“But did you not hear that she has turned me out of doors?” rejoined the student, in despair.

“Well, so much the better,” she replied.

“You are very happy in being able to laugh in that manner, Mademoiselle Billot; and it proves that you have a most agreeable disposition, since the sorrows of others make so little impression upon you.”

“And who has told you, then, that, should a real misfortune happen to you, I would not pity you, Monsieur Ange?”

“You would pity me if a real misfortune should befall me! But do you not, then, know that I have no other resource?”

“So much the better again!” cried Catherine.

Pitou was perplexed.

“But one must eat!” said he; “one cannot live without eating! and I, above all, for I am always hungry.”

“You do not wish to work, then, Monsieur Pitou?”

“Work, and at what? Monsieur Fortier and my Aunt Angélique have told me more than a hundred times that I was fit for nothing. Ah! if they had only apprenticed me to a carpenter or a blacksmith, instead of wanting to make an abbé of me! Decidedly, now, Mademoiselle Catherine,” said Pitou, with a gesture of despair, “decidedly there is a curse upon me.”

“Alas!” said the young girl, compassionately, for she knew, as did all the neighborhood, Pitou's lamentable story. “There is some truth in what you have just now said, my dear Monsieur Ange; but why do you not do one thing?”

“What is it?” cried Pitou, eagerly clinging to the proposal which Mademoiselle Billot was about to make, as a drowning man clings to a willow branch. “What is it; tell me?”

“You had a protector; at least, I think I have heard so.”

“Doctor Gilbert.”

“You were the schoolfellow of his son, since he was educated, as you have been, by the Abbé Fortier.”

“I believe I was indeed, and I have more than once saved him from being thrashed.”

“Well, then, why do you not write to his father? He will not abandon you.”

“Why, I would certainly do so, did I know what had become of him; but your father perhaps knows this, Mademoiselle Billot, since Doctor Gilbert is his landlord.”

“I know that he sends part of the rent of the farm to him in America, and pays the remainder to a notary at Paris.”

“Ah!” said Pitou, sighing, “in America; that is very far.”

“You would go to America,—you?” cried the young girl, almost terrified at Pitou's resolution.

“Who, I, Mademoiselle Catherine! Never, never! If I knew where to go, and how to procure food, I should be very happy in France.”

“Very happy!” repeated Mademoiselle Billot.

Pitou cast down his eyes. The young girl remained silent. This silence lasted some time. Pitou was plunged in meditations which would have greatly surprised the Abbé Fortier, with all his logic.

These meditations, though rising from an obscure point, had become lucid; then they again became confused, though brilliant, like the lightning whose origin is concealed, whose source is lost.

During this time Cadet had again moved on, though at a walk, and Pitou walked at Cadet's side, with one hand leaning on one of the panniers. As to Mademoiselle Catherine, who had also become full of thought, she allowed her reins to fall upon her courser's neck, without fearing that he would run away with her. Moreover, there were no monsters on the road, and Cadet was of a race which had no sort of relation to the steeds of Hippolytus.

Pitou stopped mechanically when the horse stopped. They had arrived at the farm.

“Well, now, is it you, Pitou?” cried a broad-shouldered man, standing somewhat proudly by the side of a pond to which he had led his horse to drink.

“Eh! good Lord! Yes, Monsieur Billot, it is myself.”

“Another misfortune has befallen this poor Pitou,” said the young girl, jumping off her horse, without feeling at all uneasy as to whether her petticoat hitched or not, to show the color of her garters; “his aunt has turned him out of doors.”

“And what has he done to the old bigot?” said the farmer.

“It appears that I am not strong enough in Greek.”

He was boasting, the puppy. He ought to have said in Latin.

“Not strong enough in Greek!” exclaimed the broadshouldered man. “And why should you wish to be strong in Greek?”

“To construe Theocritus and read the Iliad.”

“And of what use would it be to you to construe Theocritus and read the Iliad?”

“It would be of use in making me an abbé.”

“Bah!” ejaculated Monsieur Billot, “and do I know Greek? do I know Latin? do I know even French? do I know how to read do I know how to write? That does not hinder me from sowing, from reaping, and getting my harvest into the granary.”

“Yes, but you, Monsieur Billot, you are not an abbé; you are a cultivator of the earth, agricola, as Virgil says. O fortunatos nimium—

“Well, and do you then believe that a cultivator is not equal to a black-cap; say, then, you shabby chorister you, is he not so, particularly when this cultivator has sixty acres of good land in the sunshine, and a thousand louis in the shade?”

“I had been always told that to be an abbé was the best thing in the world. It is true,” added Pitou, smiling with his most agreeable smile, “that I did not always listen to what was told me.”

“And I give you joy, my boy. You see that I can rhyme like any one else when I set to work. It appears to me that there is stuff in you to make something better than an abbé, and that it is a lucky thing for you not to take to that trade, particularly as times now go. Do you see now, as a farmer I know something of the weather, and the weather just now is bad for abbés.”

“Bah!” exclaimed Pitou.

“Yes, we shall have a storm,” rejoined the farmer, “and that ere long, believe me. You are honest, you are learned—”

Pitou bowed, much honored at being called learned, for the first time in his life.

“You can therefore gain a livelihood without that.”

Mademoiselle Billot, while taking the fowls and pigeons out of the panniers, was listening with much interest to the dialogue between Pitou and her father.

“Gain a livelihood,” rejoined Pitou; “that appears a difficult matter to me.”

“What can you do?”

“Do! why, I can lay lime-twigs, and set wires for rabbits. I can imitate, and tolerably well, the notes of birds, can I not, Mademoiselle Catherine?”

“Oh, that is true enough!” she replied. “He can whistle like a blackbird.”

“Yes, but all this is not a trade, a profession,” observed Father Billot.

“And that is what I say, by heaven!”

“You swear,—that is already something.”

“How, did I swear?” said Pitou. “I beg your pardon for having done so, Monsieur Billot.”

“Oh, there is no occasion, none at all,” said the farmer; “it happens also to me sometimes. Eh! thunder of heaven!” cried he, turning to his horse, “will you be quiet, hey? These devils of Perch horses, they must be always neighing and fidgeting about. But now, tell me,” said he, again addressing Pitou, “are you lazy?”

“I do not know. I have never done anything but Latin and Greek, and—”

“And what?”

“And I must admit that I did not take to them very readily.”

“So much the better,” cried Billot; “that proves you are not so stupid as I thought you.”

Pitou opened his eyes to an almost terrific width; it was the first time he had ever heard such an order of things advocated, and which was completely subversive of all the theories which up to that time he had been taught.

“I ask you,” said Billot, “if you are so lazy as to be afraid of fatigue.”

“Oh, with regard to fatigue, that is quite another thing,” replied Pitou; “no, no, no; I could go ten leagues without being fatigued.”

“Good! that's something, at all events,” rejoined Billot; “by getting a few pounds of flesh more off your bones, you could set up for a runner.”

“A few pounds more!” cried Pitou, looking at his own lanky form, his long arms and his legs, which had much the appearance of stilts; “it seems to me, Monsieur Billot, that I am thin enough as it is.”

“Upon my word, my friend,” cried Billot, laughing very heartily, “you are a perfect treasure.”

It was also the first time that Pitou had been estimated at so high a price, and therefore was he advancing from surprise to surprise.

“Listen to me,” said the farmer; “I ask you whether you are lazy in respect to work?”

“What sort of work?”

“Why, work in general.”

“I do not know, not I; for I have never worked.”

Catherine also began to laugh, but this time Père Billot took the matter in a serious point of view.

“Those rascally priests!” said he, shaking his clenched fist towards the town; “and this is the way they bring up lads, in idleness and uselessness. In what way, I ask you, can this great stripling here be of service to his brethren?”

“Ah! not of much use, certainly; that I know full well,” replied Pitou; “fortunately I have no brothers.”

“By brethren I mean men in general,” observed Billot. “Would you, perchance, insist that all men are not brothers?”

“Oh, that I acknowledge; moreover, it is so said in the gospel.”

“And equals,” continued the farmer.

“Ah! as to that,” said Pitou, “that is quite another affair. If I had been the equal of Monsieur Fortier, he would not so often have thrashed me with his cat-o'-ninetails and his cane; and if I had been the equal of my aunt, she would not have turned me out of doors.”

“I tell you that all men are equal,” rejoined the farmer, “and we will very soon prove it to the tyrants.”

“Tyrannis,” added Pitou.

“And the proof of this is, that I will take you into my house.”

“You will take me into your house, my dear Monsieur Billot? cried Pitou, amazed. “Is it not to make game of me that you say this?”

“No; come now, tell me, what would you require to live?”

“Zounds! about three pounds of bread daily.”

“And with your bread?”

“A little butter or cheese.”

“Well, well,” said the farmer; “I see it will not be very expensive to keep you in food. My lad, you shall be fed.”

“Monsieur Pitou,” said Catherine, “ had you not something to ask my father?”

“Who? I, Mademoiselle! Oh, good Lord, no!”

“And why was it that you came here, then?”

“Because you were coming here.”

“Ah!” cried Catherine, “that is really very gallant; but I accept compliments only at their true value. You came, Monsieur Pitou, to ask my father if he had any news of your protector.”

“Ah, that is true!” replied Pitou. “Well, now, how very droll! I had forgotten that altogether.”

“You are speaking of our worthy Monsieur Gilbert?” said the farmer, in a tone which evinced the very high consideration he felt for his landlord.

“Precisely,” said Pitou. “But I have no longer any need of him; and since Monsieur Billot takes me into his house, I can tranquilly wait his return from America.”

“In that case, my friend, you will not have to wait long, for he has returned.”

“Really!” cried Pitou; “and when did he arrive?”

“I do not know exactly; but what I know is, that he was at Havre a week ago; for I have in my holsters a packet which comes from him, which he sent to me as soon as he arrived, and which was delivered to me this very morning at Villers-Cotterets; and in proof of that, here it is.”

“Who was it told you that it was from him, Father?” said Catherine.

“Why, zounds! since there is a letter in the packet—”

“Excuse me, Father,” said Catherine, smiling, “but I thought that you could not read. I only say this, Father, because you make a boast of not knowing how to read.”

“Yes, I do boast of it. I wish that people should say, 'Father Billot owes nothing to any man,—not even a schoolmaster. Father Billot made his fortune himself.' That is what I wish people to say. It was not, therefore, I who read the letter. It was the quartermaster of the gendarmerie, whom I happened to meet.”

“And what did this letter tell you, Father? He is always well satisfied with us, is he not?”

“Judge for yourself.”

And the farmer drew from his leather wallet a letter, which he handed to his daughter. Catherine read as follows:—

MY DEAR MONSIEUR BILLOT,—I have arrived from America, where I found a people richer, greater, and happier than the people of our country. This arises from their being free, which we are not. But we are also advanced toward a new era. Every one should labor to hasten the day when the light shall shine. I know your principles, Monsieur Billot. I know your influence over your brother farmers, and over the whole of that worthy population of workmen and laborers whom you order, not as a king, but as a father. Inculcate in them principles of self-devotedness and fraternity, which I have observed that you possess. Philosophy is universal: all men ought to read their duties by the light of its torch. I send you a small book, in which all these duties and all these rights are set forth. This little book was written by me, although my name does not appear upon the titlepage. Propagate the principles it contains, which are those of universal equality. Let it be read aloud in the long winter evenings. Reading is the pasture of the mind, as bread is the food of the body.

One of these days I shall go to see you, and propose to you a new system of farm-letting, which is much in use in America. It consists in dividing the produce of the land between the farmer and landlord. This appears to me more in conformity with the laws of primitive society, and above all more in accordance with the goodness of God. Health and fraternity.

Citizen of Philadelphia.

“Oh! oh!” cried Pitou; “this is a well-written letter.”

“Is it not?” said Billot, delighted.

“Yes, my dear father,” observed Catherine; “but I doubt whether the quartermaster of the gendarmerie is of your opinion.”

“And why do you think so?”

“Because it appears to me that this letter may not only bring the doctor into trouble, but you also, my dear father.”

“Pshaw!” said Billot; “you are always afraid. But that matters not. Here is the pamphlet; and here is employment ready found for you, Pitou. In the evenings you shall read it.”

“And in the daytime?”

“In the daytime you will take care of the sheep and cows. In the mean time, there is your pamphlet.”

And the farmer took from one of his holsters one of those small pamphlets with a red cover of which so great a number were published in those days, either with or without permission of the authorities.

Only, in the latter case, the author ran the risk of being sent to the galleys.

“Read me the title of that book, Pitou, that I may always speak of the title until I shall be able to speak of the work itself. You shall read the remainder to me another time.”

Pitou read on the first page these words, which habit has since rendered very vague and very insignificant, but which at that period struck to the very fibres of all hearts:

“Of the Independence of Man, and the Liberty of Nations.”

“What do you say to that, Pitou?” inquired the farmer.

“I say that it appears to me, Monsieur Billot, that independence and liberty are the same thing. My protector would be turned out of Monsieur Fortier's class for being guilty of a pleonasm.”

“Pleonasm or not,” cried the farmer, “that book is the book of a man.”

“That matters not, Father,” said Catherine, with woman's admirable instinct. “Hide it, I entreat you! It will bring you into trouble. As to myself, I know that I am trembling even at the sight of it.”

“And why would you have it injure me, since it has not injured its author?”

“And how can you tell that, Father? It is eight days since that letter was written; and it could not have taken eight days for the parcel to have come from Havre. I also have received a letter this morning.”

“And from whom?”

“From Sebastian Gilbert, who has written to make inquiries. He desires me, even, to remember him to his foster-brother, Pitou. I had forgotten to deliver his message.”


“Well! he says that for three days he had been expecting his father's arrival in Paris, and that he had not arrived.”

“Mademoiselle is right,” said Pitou. “It seems to me that this non-arrival is disquieting.”

“Hold your tongue, you timid fellow, and read the doctor's treatise,” said the farmer; “then you will become not only learned, but a man.”

It was thus people spoke in those days; for they were at the preface of that great Grecian and Roman history which the French nation imitated, during ten years, in all its phases, devotedness, proscriptions, victories, and slavery.

Pitou put the book under his arm with so solemn a gesture that he completely gained the farmer's heart.

“And now,” said Billot, “have you dined?”

“No, sir,” replied Pitou, maintaining the semi-religious, semi-heroic attitude he had assumed since the book had been intrusted to his care.

“He was just going to get his dinner, when he was driven out of doors,” said the young girl.

“Well, then,” said Billot, “go in and ask my wife for the usual farm fare, and to-morrow you shall enter on your functions.”

Pitou, with an eloquent look, thanked Monsieur Billot, and, led by Catherine, entered the kitchen,—a domain placed under the absolute direction of Madame Billot.

Chapter VI. Pastoral Scenes

MADAME BILLOT was a stout, buxom mamma, between thirty-five and thirty-six years old, round as a ball, fresh-colored, smooth-skinned, and cordial in her manners. She trotted continually from the fowl-house to the dovecote, from the sheep-pens to the cow-stable. She inspected the simmering of her soup, the stoves on which her fricassees and ragouts were cooking, and the spit on which the joint was roasting, as does a general when surveying his cantonments, judging by a mere glance whether everything was in its right place, and by their very odor, whether the thyme and laurel-leaves were distributed in due proportions in the stewpans. She scolded from habit, but without the slightest intention that her scolding should be disagreeable; and her husband, whom she honored as she would the greatest potentate of the earth, did not escape. Her daughter also got her share, though she loved her more than Madame de Sevigné loved Madame de Grignan; and neither were her workpeople overlooked, though she fed them better than any farmer in a circuit of ten leagues fed his. Therefore was it, that when a vacancy occurred in her household, there was great competition to obtain the place. But, as in heaven, unfortunately there were many applicants and comparatively but few chosen.

We have seen that Pitou, without having been an applicant, had been elected. This was a happiness that he appreciated at its just value, especially when he saw the well-browned loaf which was placed at his left hand, the pot of cider which was on his right, and the piece of pickled pork on a plate before him. Since the moment that he lost his poor mother, and that was about five years since, Pitou had not, even on great festival days, partaken of such fare.

Therefore Pitou, full of gratitude, felt, as by degrees he bolted the bread which he devoured, and as he washed down the pork with large draughts of the cider,—therefore Pitou felt a vast augmentation of respect for the farmer, of admiration for his wife, and of love for his daughter. There was only one thing which disquieted him, and that was the humiliating function he would have to fulfil, during the day, of herding the sheep and cows,—a function so little in harmony with that which awaited him each evening, and the object of which was to instruct humanity in the most elevated principles of socialism and philosophy.

It was on this subject that Pitou was meditating immediately after his dinner. But even in this reverie the influence of that excellent dinner was sensibly manifested. He began to consider things in a very different point of view from that which he had taken of them when fasting. The functions of a shepherd and a cow-driver, which he considered as so far beneath him, had been fulfilled by gods and demi-gods.

Apollo, in a situation very similar to his own, that is to say, driven from Olympus by Jupiter, as he, Pitou had been driven from Pleux by his aunt, had become a shepherd, and tended the flocks of Admetus. It is true that Admetus was a shepherd-king; but then, Apollo was a god!

Hercules had been a cow-keeper, or something very like it, since—as we are told by mythology—he seized the cows of Geryon by the tail; for whether a man leads a cow by the tail or by the head depends entirely on the difference of custom of those who take care of them, and that is all; and this would not in any way change the fact itself that he was a cow-leader, that is to say, a cow-keeper.

And moreover, Tityrus, reclining at the foot of a beech-tree, of whom Virgil speaks, and who congratulates himself, in such beautiful verses, on the repose which Augustus has granted to him,—he also was a shepherd. And, finally, Melibæus was a shepherd, who so poetically bewails having left his domestic hearth.

Certainly, all these persons spoke Latin well enough to have been abbés, and yet they preferred seeing their goats browse on the bitter cytisus to saying mass or to chanting vespers. Therefore, taking everything into consideration, the calling of a shepherd had its charms. Moreover, what was to prevent Pitou from restoring to it the poetry and the dignity it had lost? who could prevent Pitou from proposing trials of skill in singing, to the Menalcas and the Palemons of the neighboring villages? No one, undoubtedly. Pitou had more than once sung in the choir; and but for his having once been caught drinking the wine out of the Abbé Fortier's cruet, who, with his usual rigor, had on the instant dismissed the singing boy, this talent might have become transcendent. He could not play upon the pipe, 't is true, but he could imitate the note of every bird, which is very nearly the same thing. He could not make himself a lute with pipes of unequal thickness, as did the lover of Syrinx; but from the linden-tree or the chestnut he could cut whistles whose perfection had more than once aroused the enthusiastic applause of his companions. Pitou therefore could become a shepherd without great derogation of his dignity. He did not lower himself to this profession, so ill appreciated in modern days; he elevated the profession to his own standard.

Besides which, the sheepfolds were placed under the special direction of Mademoiselle Billot, and receiving orders from her lips was not receiving orders.

But, on her part, Catherine watched over the dignity of Pitou.

In the evening, when the young man approached her, and asked her at what hour he ought to go out to rejoin the shepherds, she said, smiling,—

“You will not go out at all.”

“And why so?” said Pitou, with astonishment.

“I have made my father comprehend that the education you have received places you above the functions which he had allotted to you. You will remain at the farm.”

“Ah! so much the better,” said Pitou. “In this way, I shall not leave you.”

The exclamation had escaped the ingenuous Pitou. But he had no sooner uttered it, than he blushed to his very ears; while Catherine, on her part, held down her head and smiled.

“Ah! forgive me, Mademoiselle. It came from my heart in spite of me. You must not be angry with me on that account,” said Pitou.

“I am not angry with you, Monsieur Pitou,” said Catherine; “and it is no fault of yours if you feel pleasure in remaining with me.”

There was a silence of some moments. This was not at all astonishing, the poor children had said so much to each other in so few words.

“But,” said Pitou, “I cannot remain at the farm doing nothing. What am I to do at the farm?”

“You will do what I used to do. You will keep the books, the accounts with the work-people, and of our receipts and expenses. You know how to reckon, do you not?”

“I know my four rules,” proudly replied Pitou.

“That is one more than ever I knew,” said Catherine. “I never was able to get farther than the third. You see, therefore, that my father will be a gainer by having you for his accountant; and as I also shall gain, and you yourself will gain by it, everybody will be a gainer.”

“And in what way will you gain by it, Mademoiselle?” inquired Pitou.

“I shall gain time by it, and in that time I will make myself caps, that I may look prettier.”

“Ah!” cried Pitou, “I think you quite pretty enough without caps.”

“That is possible; but it is only your own individual taste,” said the young girl, laughing. “Moreover, I cannot go and dance on a Sunday at Villers-Cotterets, without having some sort of a cap upon my head. That is all very well for your great ladies, who have the right of wearing powder and going bareheaded.”

“I think your hair more beautiful as it is, than if it were powdered,” said Pitou.

“Come, come, now; I see you are bent on paying me compliments.”

“No, Mademoiselle, I do not know how to make them. We did not learn that at the Abbé Fortier's.”

“And did you learn to dance there?”

“To dance?” inquired Pitou, greatly astonished.

“Yes—to dance?”

“To dance, and at the Abbé Fortier's? Good Lord, Mademoiselle!—oh! learn to dance, indeed!”

“Then, you do not know how to dance?”

“No,” said Pitou.

“Well, then, you shall go with me to the ball on Sunday, and you will look at Monsieur de Charny while he is dancing. He is the best dancer of all the young men in the neighborhood.”

“And who is this Monsieur de Charny?” demanded Pitou.

“He is the proprietor of the Château de Boursonne.”

“And he will dance on Sunday?”


“And with whom?”

“With me.”

Pitou's heart sank within him, without his being able to ascertain a reason for it.

“Then,” said he, “it is in order to dance with him that you wish to dress yourself so finely.”

“To dance with him—with others—with everybody.”

“Excepting with me.”

“And why not with you?”

“Because I do not know how to dance.”

“You will learn.”

“Ah! if you would but teach me,—you, Mademoiselle Catherine. I should learn much better than by seeing Monsieur de Charny, I can assure you.”

“We shall see as to that,” said Catherine. “In the mean time, it is bedtime. Good-night, Pitou.”

“Good-night, Mademoiselle Catherine.”

There was something both agreeable and disagreeable in what Mademoiselle Catherine had said to Pitou. The agreeable was, that he had been promoted from the rank of a cow-keeper and shepherd to that of book-keeper. The disagreeable was, that he did not know how to dance, and that Monsieur de Charny did know. According to what Catherine had said, he was the best dancer in the whole neighborhood.

Pitou was dreaming all night that he saw Monsieur de Charny dancing, and that he danced very badly.

The next day Pitou entered upon his new office, under the direction of Catherine. Then one thing struck him, and it was that, under some masters, study is altogether delightful. In the space of about two hours he completely understood the duties he had to perform.

“Ah, Mademoiselle!” exclaimed he, “if you had but taught me Latin, instead of that Abbé Fortier, I believe I never should have committed any barbarisms.”

“And you would have become an abbé?”

“And I should have been an abbé,” replied Pitou.

“So, then, you would have shut yourself up in a seminary, in which no woman would have entered.”

“Well, now,” cried Pitou, “I really had never thought of that, Mademoiselle Catherine. I would much rather, then, not be an abbé.”

The good man Billot returned home at nine o'clock. He had gone out before Pitou was up. Every morning the farmer rose at three o'clock, to see to the sending out of his horses and his wagoners. Then he went over his fields until nine o'clock, to see that every one was at his post, and that all his laborers were doing their duty. At nine o'clock he returned to the house to breakfast, and went out again at ten. One o'clock was the dinner-hour; and the afternoon was, like the morning, spent in looking after the workmen. Thus the affairs of worthy Billot were prospering marvellously. As he had said, he possessed sixty acres in the sunshine, and a thousand louis in the shade; and it was even probable that, had the calculation been correctly made—had Pitou made up the account, and had not been too much agitated by the presence or remembrance of Mademoiselle Catherine, some few acres of land, and some few hundred louis more, would have been found than the worthy farmer had himself admitted.

At breakfast, Billot informed Pitou that the first reading of Dr. Gilbert's new book was to take place in the barn, two days after, at ten in the morning.

Pitou then timidly observed that ten o'clock was the hour for attending mass. But the farmer said that he had specially selected that hour to try his workmen.

We have already said that Father Billot was a philosopher.

He detested the priests, whom he considered as the apostles of tyranny; and finding an opportunity for raising an altar against an altar, he eagerly took advantage of it.

Madame Billot and Catherine ventured to offer some observations; but the farmer replied that the women might, if they chose, go to mass, seeing that religion had been made expressly for women; but as to the men, they should attend the reading of the doctor's work, or they should leave his service.

Billot, the philosopher, was very despotic in his own house. Catherine alone had the privilege of raising her voice against his decrees. But if these decrees were so tenaciously determined upon that he knitted his brows when replying to her, Catherine became as silent as the rest.

Catherine, however, thought of taking advantage of the circumstance to benefit Pitou. On rising from table she observed to her father that, in order to read all the magnificent phrases he would have to read on the Sunday morning, Pitou was but miserably clad; that he was about to play the part of a master, since he was to instruct others; and that the master ought not to be placed in a position to blush in the presence of his disciples.

Billot authorized his daughter to make an arrangement with Monsieur Dulauroy, the tailor at Villers-Cotterets, for a new suit of clothes for Pitou.

Catherine was right; for new garments were not merely a matter of taste with regard to Pitou. The breeches which he wore were the same which Dr. Gilbert had, five years before, ordered for him. At that time they were too long, but since then had become much too short. We are compelled to acknowledge, however, that, through the care of Mademoiselle Angélique, they had been elongated at least two inches every year. As to the coat and waistcoat, they had both disappeared for upwards of two years, and had been replaced by the serge gown in which our hero first presented himself to the observation of our readers.

Pitou had never paid any attention to his toilet. A looking-glass was an unknown piece of furniture in the abode of Mademoiselle Angélique; and not having, like the handsome Narcissus, any violent tendency to fall in love with himself, Pitou had never thought of looking at himself in the transparent rivulets near which he set his bird-snares.

But from the moment that Mademoiselle Catherine had spoken to him of accompanying her to the ball, from the moment the elegant cavalier, Monsieur de Charny's name had been mentioned, since the conversation about caps, on which the young girl calculated to increase her attractions, Pitou had looked at himself in a mirror, and, being rendered melancholy by the very dilapidated condition of his garments, had asked himself in what way he also could make any addition to his natural advantages.

Unfortunately, Pitou was not able to find any solution to this question. The dilapidation of his clothes was positive. Now, in order to have new clothes made, it was necessary to have ready cash; and during the whole course of his existence Pitou had never possessed a single sou.

Pitou had undoubtedly read that, when shepherds were contending for the prize in music or in poetry, they decorated themselves with roses. But he thought, and with great reason, that although such a wreath might well assort with his expressive features, it would only place in stronger relief the miserable state of his habiliments.

Pitou was, therefore, most agreeably surprised when, on the Sunday morning, at eight o'clock, and at the moment he was racking his brains for some means of embellishing his person, Monsieur Dulauroy entered his room and placed upon a chair a coat and breeches of sky-blue cloth, and a large white waistcoat with red stripes.

At the same instant a sempstress came in, and laid upon another chair, opposite to the above-mentioned one, a new shirt and a cravat. If the shirt fitted well, she had orders to complete the half-dozen.

It was a moment teeming with surprise. Behind the sempstress appeared the hat-maker. He had brought with him a small cocked hat of the very latest fashion and of most elegant shape, and which had been fabricated by Monsieur Cornu, the first hat-maker in Villers-Cotterets.

A shoemaker had also been ordered to bring shoes for Pitou; and he had with him a pair with handsome silver buckles made expressly for him.

Pitou could not recover his amazement; he could not in any way comprehend that all these riches were for him. In his most exaggerated dreams he could not even have dared to wish for so sumptuous a wardrobe. Tears of gratitude gushed from his eyelids, and he could only murmur out these words:—

“Oh! Mademoiselle Catherine! Mademoiselle Catherine! never will I forget what you have done for me.”

Everything fitted remarkably well, and as if Pitou had been actually measured for them, with the sole exception of the shoes, which were too small by half. Monsieur Lauderau, the shoemaker, had taken measure by the foot of his son, who was four years Pitou's senior.

This superiority over young Lauderau gave a momentary feeling of pride to our hero; but this feeling of pride was soon checked by the reflection that he would either be obliged to go to the dance in his old shoes, or in no shoes at all, which would not be in accordance with the remainder of his costume. But this uneasiness was not of long duration. A pair of shoes which had been sent home at the same time to Farmer Billot fitted him exactly. It fortunately happened that Billot's feet and Pitou's were of the same dimensions, which was carefully concealed from Billot, for fear that so alarming a fact might annoy him.

While Pitou was busied in arraying himself in these sumptuous habiliments, the hairdresser came in and divided Pitou's hair into three compartments. One, and the most voluminous, was destined to fall over the collar of his coat, in the form of a tail; the two others were destined to ornament the temples, by the strange and unpoetical name of dog's-ears,—ridiculous enough, but that was the name given to them in those days.

And now there is one thing we must acknowledge,—and that is, that when Pitou, thus combed and frizzled, dressed in his sky-blue coat and breeches, with his rose-striped waistcoat and his frilled shirt, with his tail and his dog's-ear curls, looked at himself in the glass, he found great difficulty in recognizing himself, and twisted himself about to see whether Adonis in person had not redescended on the earth.

He was alone. He smiled graciously at himself; and with head erect, his thumbs thrust into his waistcoat pockets, he said, raising himself upon his toes:—

“We shall see this Monsieur de Charny!”

It is true that Ange Pitou in his new costume resembled, as one pea does another, not one of Virgil's shepherds, but one of those so admirably painted by Watteau.

Consequently, the first step which Pitou made on entering the farm-kitchen was a perfect triumph.

“Oh, mamma, only see,” cried Catherine, “how well Pitou looks now!”

“The fact is, that one would hardly know him again,” replied Madame Billot.

Unfortunately, after the first general survey which had so much struck the young girl, she entered into a more minute examination of the details, and found Pitou less good-looking in the detailed than in the general view.

“Oh, how singular!” cried Catherine! “what great hands you have!”

“Yes,” said Pitou, proudly, “I have famous hands, have I not?”

“And what thick knees!”

“That is a proof that I shall grow taller.”

“Why, it appears to me that you are tall enough already, Monsieur Pitou,” observed Catherine.

“That does not matter; I shall grow taller still,” said Pitou. “I am only seventeen and a half years old.”

“And no calves!”

“Ah, yes, that is true,—none at all; but they will grow soon.”

“That is to be hoped,” said Catherine, “but no matter, you are very well as you are.”

Pitou made a bow.

“Oh! oh!” exclaimed Billot, coming in at that moment, and also struck with Pitou's appearance. “How fine you are, my lad! How I wish your Aunt Angélique could see you now.”

“And so do I,” said Pitou.

“I wonder what she would say?”

“She would not say a word, she would be in a perfect fury.”

“But, Father,” said Catherine, with a certain degree of uneasiness, “would she not have the right to take him back again?”

“Why, she turned him out of doors.”

“And, besides,” said Pitou, “the five years have gone by.”

“What five years?” inquired Catherine.

“The five years for which Doctor Gilbert left a thousand francs.”

“Had he then left a thousand francs with your aunt?”

“Yes, yes, yes: to get me into a good apprenticeship.”

“That is a man!” exclaimed the farmer. “When one thinks that I hear something of the same kind related of him every day. Therefore—to him,” he added, stretching out his hands with a gesture of admiration, “will I be devoted in life and death.”

“He wished that I should learn some trade,” said Pitou.

“And he was right. And this is the way in which good intentions are thwarted. A man leaves a thousand francs that a child may be taught a trade, and instead of having him taught a trade, he is placed under the tuition of a bigoted priest who destines him for the seminary! And how much did she pay to your Abbé Fortier?”


“Your aunt.”

“She never paid him anything.”

“What? Did she pocket the two hundred livres a year, which that good Monsieur Gilbert paid!”


“Listen to me, for I have a bit of advice to give you, Pitou; whenever your bigoted old aunt shall walk off, take care to examine minutely every cupboard, every mattress, every pickle-jar—”

“And for what?” asked Pitou.

“Because, do you see, you will find some hidden treasure, some good old louis, in some old stocking-foot. Why, it must undoubtedly be so, for she could never have found a purse large enough to contain all her savings.”

“Do you think so?”

“Most assuredly. But we will speak of this at a more proper time and place. To-day we must take a little walk. Have you Doctor Gilbert's book?”

“I have it here, in my pocket.”

“Father,” said Catherine, “have you well reflected upon this?”

“There is no need for reflection,” replied the farmer, “when one is about to do a good thing, my child. The doctor told me to have the book read, and to propagate the principles which it contains; the book shall therefore be read, and the principles shall be propagated.”

“And,” said Catherine, timidly, “may my mother and I, then, go to attend mass?”

“Go to mass, my child; go with your mother,” replied Billot. “You are women; we, who are men, have other things to think of. Come, Pitou, we must be off, for we are waited for.”

Pitou bowed majestically to Madame Billot and Mademoiselle Catherine; then with head erect he followed the worthy farmer, proud of having been thus, for the first time, called a man.

Chapter VII. In which it is demonstrated that although Long Legs's may be somewhat Ungraceful in Dancing, they are very useful in Running

THERE was a numerous assemblage in the barn. Billot, as we have said, was much respected by his laborers, inasmuch as, though he scolded them unscrupulously, he fed and paid them well.

Consequently every one of them had hastened eagerly to accept his invitation.

Moreover, at this period the people had been seized with that extraordinary fever which pervades nations when nations are about to set themselves to work to produce some great change. Strange, new words, which until then had scarcely ever been uttered, issued from mouths which had never before pronounced them. They were the words, Liberty, Independence, Emancipation; and, strange to say, it was not only among the people that these words were heard; no, these words had been pronounced in the first place by the nobility, and the voice which responded to them was but an echo.

It was in the west that had first shone forth this light, which was destined to illuminate until it seared. It was in America that arose this sun, which, in accomplishing its course, was to make France one vast conflagration, by the light of which the affrighted nations were to read the word Republic traced in vivid characters of blood.

But notwithstanding this, meetings in which political affairs were discussed were less frequent than one would imagine. Men who had sprung up no one knew from where, apostles of an invisible deity, had traversed town and country, disseminating everywhere words in praise of liberty. The government, blinded heretofore, began at length to open its eyes. Those who were at the head of the immense machine denominated the “state,” felt that some of its wheels were paralyzed, without being able to comprehend whence the obstacle proceeded. The opposition existed in all minds, if it had not yet instilled itself into all hands and arms; invisible, though present, though sensible, though threatening, and still more threatening from being like ghosts intangible, and from being divined although it could not be clutched.

Twenty or twenty-five husbandmen, all in the employment of Billot, had assembled in the barn.

Billot entered it, followed by Pitou. All heads were instantly uncovered, and they waved their hats to welcome their loved master. It was plainly visible that all these men were ready to meet death, should he but give the signal.

The farmer explained to the country-people that the pamphlet which Pitou was about to read to them was the work of Doctor Gilbert. The doctor was well known throughout the whole district, in which he was the proprietor of several farms, the one rented by Billot being the most considerable.

A cask had been prepared for the reader. Pitou ascended this extempore forum, and at once began.

It is to be remarked that people of the lower class, and I might almost venture to say, men in general, listen with most attention to that which they understand the least. It was evident that the general sense of the pamphlet escaped the perceptions of the most enlightened among this rustic auditory, and even of Billot himself. But in the midst of that obscure phraseology from time to time flashed, like lightning in a dark sky charged with electricity, the luminous words, Independence, Liberty, Equality. Nothing more was necessary; shouts of applause burst forth; cries of “Long live Doctor Gilbert!” resounded on every side. Not more than one third of the pamphlet had been read; it was decided that the remainder should be delivered on the two following Sundays.

The auditors were therefore invited for the next Sunday, and every one of them promised to attend.

Pitou had well performed his part; he had read energetically and well. Nothing succeeds so well as success. The reader had taken his share of the plaudits which had been addressed to the work, and, submitting to the influence of this relative science, Billot himself felt growing within him a certain degree of consideration for the pupil of the Abbé Fortier. Pitou, already a giant in his physical proportions, had morally grown ten inches in the opinion of Billot.

But there was one thing wanting to Pitou's happiness; Mademoiselle Catherine had not been present at his triumph.

But Father Billot, enchanted with the effect produced by the doctor's pamphlet, hastened to communicate its success to his wife and daughter. Madame Billot made no reply; she was a short-sighted woman.

Mademoiselle Catherine smiled sorrowfully.

“Well, what is the matter with you now ” said the farmer.

“Father! my dear father!” cried Catherine, “I fear that you are running into danger.”

“There, now; are you going to play the bird of ill omen? You are well aware that I like the lark better than the owl.”

“Father, I have already been told to warn you that eyes are watching you.”

“And who was it that told you this, if you please?”

“A friend.”

“A friend? All advice is deserving of thanks. You must tell me the name of this friend. Who is he? Come, now, let us hear.”

“A man who ought to be well informed upon such matters.”

“But who is it?”

“Monsieur Isidore de Charny.”

“What business has that fop to meddle in such matters? Does he pretend to give me advice upon my way of thinking? Do I give him advice upon his mode of dressing It appears to me that as much might be said on one subject as the other.”

“My dear father, I do not tell you this to vex you. The advice he gave me was well intended.”

“Well, then, in return, I will give him my counsel, which you can on my behalf transmit to him.”

“And what is that?”

“It is that he and his fellows take good care what they are about. They shake these noble gentlemen about very nicely in the National Assembly, and more than once a great deal has been said of court favorites, male and female. Let him forewarn his brother, Monsieur Oliver de Charny, who is out yonder, to look to himself, for it is said he is not on bad terms with the Austrian woman.”

“Father,” said Catherine, “you have more experience than we have; act according to your pleasure.”

“Yes, indeed,” murmured Pitou, whose success had given him great confidence, “what business has your Monsieur Isidore to make and meddle?”

Catherine either did not hear him, or pretended not to hear him, and the conversation dropped.

The dinner was got through as usual. Never did dinner appear so long to Pitou. He was feverishly impatient to show himself abroad with Mademoiselle Catherine leaning on his arm. This Sunday was a momentous day to him, and he resolved that the date, the 12th of July, should ever remain engraved upon his memory.

They left the farm at last at about three o'clock. Catherine was positively charming. She was a pretty, fair-haired girl, with black eyes, slight and flexible as the willows that shaded the small spring from which the farm was supplied with water. She was, moreover, dressed with that natural coquetry which enhances the attractions of every woman, and her pretty little fantastic cap, made with her own hands, as she had told Pitou, became her admirably.

The ball did not in general commence till six o'clock. Four village minstrels, mounted upon a small stage formed of planks, did the honors of this ball-room in the open air, on receiving a contribution of six shillings for every country dance.

While waiting for the opening of the dance, the company walked in the celebrated Lane of Sighs, of which Aunt Angélique had spoken, to see the young gentlemen of the town and the neighborhood play at tennis, under the direction of Master Farollet, tennis-master-in-chief to his Highness the Duke of Orleans. Master Farollet was considered a perfect oracle, and his decision in matters of chasse and passe, and service, was as irrevocable as were the laws of the Medes and Persians.

Pitou, without knowing why, would have very much desired to remain in the Lane of Sighs; but it was not for the purpose of remaining concealed beneath the shade of this double row of beech-trees that Catherine had attired herself in the becoming dress which had so much astonished Pitou.

Women are like the flowers which chance has brought forth in the shade: their tendency is always towards the light; and one way or the other they must expand their fresh and perfumed petals in the sunshine, though it withers and destroys them.

The violet alone, as is asserted by the poets, has the modesty to remain concealed; but then she is arrayed in mourning, as if deploring her useless, because unnoticed, charms.

Catherine, therefore, dragged away at Pitou's arm, and so successfully, that they took the path to the tennis-court. We must, however, hasten to acknowledge that Pitou did not go very unwillingly. He also was as anxious to display his sky-blue suit and his cocked hat, as Catherine was to show her Galatea cap and her shining short silk bodice.

One thing above all flattered our hero, and gave him a momentary advantage over Catherine. As no one recognized him, Pitou never having been seen in such sumptuous habiliments, they took him for some young stranger arrived in the town, some nephew or cousin of the Billot family; some even asserted that he was Catherine's intended. But Pitou felt too great an interest in proving his own identity, to allow the error to be of long continuance.

He gave so many nods to his friends, he so frequently took off his hat to his acquaintance, that at last the unworthy pupil of the Abbé Fortier was recognized in the spruce young countryman.

A sort of buzzing murmur quickly ran through the throng, and many of his former companions exclaimed, “Why, really, it is Pitou!” “Only look at Pitou!” “Did you see Ange Pitou?”

This clamor at length reached the ears of Mademoiselle Angélique; but as this clamor informed her that the good-looking youth pointed out by it was her nephew, walking with his toes turned out and his elbows gracefully curved, the old maid, who had always seen Pitou walk with his toes turned in and his elbows stuck to his ribs, shook her head incredulously, and merely said,—

“You are mistaken; that is not my pitiful nephew.”

The two young people reached the tennis-court. On that day there happened to be a match between the players of Soissons and those of Villers-Cotterets, so that the game was very animated. Catherine and Pitou placed themselves close to the rope stretched to prevent the crowd from interfering with the players; it was Catherine who had selected this place as being the best.

In about a minute the voice of Master Farollet was heard, calling out,—

“Two in—go over.”

The players effectually changed places; that is to say, they each went to defend their quarters and attack those of their adversaries. One of the players, on passing by, bowed to Catherine with a smile; Catherine replied by a courtesy, and blushed. At the same moment Pitou felt a nervous trembling shoot through Catherine's arm, which was leaning on his.

An unknown anguish shot through Pitou's heart.

“That is Monsieur de Charny,” said he, looking at his companion.

“Yes,” replied Catherine. “Ah! you know him, then?”

“I do not know him,” replied Pitou, “but I guessed that it was he.”

And, in fact, Pitou had readily conceived this young man to be Monsieur de Charny, from what Catherine had said to him the previous evening.

The person who had bowed to the young girl was an elegant gentleman, who might be twenty-three or twenty-four years of age; he was handsome, of good stature, well formed, and graceful in his movements, as are all those who have had an aristocratic education from their very cradle. All those manly exercises in which perfection can only be attained on the condition of their being studied from childhood, Monsieur Isidore de Charny executed with remarkable perfection; besides, he was one of those whose costume always harmonizes with the pursuit in which they are engaged. His hunting-dresses were quoted for their perfect taste; his attire in the fencing-room might have served as a pattern to Saint-Georges himself; and his riding-coats were—or rather appeared to be, thanks to his manner of wearing them—of a particularly elegant shape.

On the present occasion Monsieur de Charny, a younger brother of our old acquaintance the Count de Charny, was attired in tight-fitting pantaloons of a light color, which set off to great advantage the shape of his finely formed and muscular limbs; his hair was negligently dressed, as for the morning; elegant tennis sandals for the moment were substituted for the red-heeled shoe or the top-boots; his waistcoat was of white marsella, fitting as closely to his waist as if he had worn stays; and to sum up all, his servant was waiting upon the slope with a green coat embroidered with gold lace, for his master to put on when the match was ended.

The animation of the game communicated to his features all the charm and freshness of youth, notwithstanding his twenty-three years, the nightly excesses he had committed, and the gambling parties he had attended, which frequently the rising sun had illumined with its rays; all this had made sad havoc with his constitution.

None of these personal advantages, which doubtless the young girl had remarked, had escaped the jealous eyes of Pitou. On observing the small hands and feet of Monsieur de Charny, he began to feel less proud of that prodigality of nature which had given him the victory over the shoemaker's son, and he reflected that nature might have distributed in a more skilful manner over every part of his frame the elements of which it was composed.

In fact, with what there was too much in the hands, the feet, and the knees of Pitou, nature might have furnished him with a handsome, well-formed leg. Only, things were not in their right place: where a certain delicacy of proportion was required, there was an unnatural thickness; where a certain sleekness and rotundity would have been advantageous, there was an utter void.

Pitou looked at his legs with the same expression as the stag did of whom we have read in the fable.

“What is the matter with you, Monsieur Pitou?” said Catherine, who had observed his discontented looks.

Pitou did not reply: be could not explain his feelings; he therefore only sighed.

The game had terminated. The Viscount de Charny took advantage of the interval between the game just finished and the one about to commence, to come over to speak to Catherine. As he approached them, Pitou observed the color heightening in the young girl's cheeks, and felt her arm become more and more trembling.

The Viscount gave a nod to Pitou, and then, with that familiar politeness which the nobility of that period knew how to adopt with the citizens' daughters, and grisettes, he inquired of Catherine as to the state of her health, and asked her to be his partner in the first dance. Catherine accepted. A smile conveyed the thanks of the young nobleman. The game was about to begin, and he was called for. He bowed to Catherine, and then left her with the same elegant ease with which he had approached her.

Pitou felt all the superiority which the man possessed over him, who could speak, smile, approach, and take leave in such a manner.

A month's study, employed in endeavoring to imitate the simple though elegant movements of Monsieur de Charny, would only have produced a ridiculous parody, and this Pitou himself acknowledged.

If Pitou had been capable of entertaining a feeling of hatred, he would from that moment have detested the Viscount de Charny.

Catherine remained looking at the tennis-players until the moment when they called their servants to bring their coats to them. She then directed her steps towards the place set apart for dancing, to Pitou's great despair, who on that day appeared to be destined to go everywhere but where he wished.

Monsieur de Charny did not allow Catherine to wait long for him. A slight change in his dress had converted him from a tennis-player into an elegant dancer.

The violins gave the signal, and he at once presented his hand to Catherine, reminding her of the promise she had made to dance with him.

That which Pitou experienced when he felt Catherine withdrawing her arm from within his, and saw the young girl blushing deeply as she advanced with her cavalier into the circle, was one of the most disagreeable sensations of his whole life. A cold perspiration stood upon his brow; a cloud passed over his eyes; he stretched out his hand and caught hold of the balustrade for support, for he felt that his knees, strongly constituted as they were, were giving way.

As to Catherine, she did not appear to have, and very probably even had not, any idea of what was passing in poor Pitou's heart. She was at once happy and proud,—happy at being about to dance, and proud of dancing with the handsomest cavalier of the whole neighborhood.

If Pitou had been constrained to admire Monsieur de Charny as a tennis-player, he was no less compelled to do him justice as a dancer. In those days the fashion had not yet sprung up of walking instead of dancing. Dancing was an art which formed a necessary part of the education of every one. Without citing the case of Monsieur de Lauzun, who had owed his fortune to the manner in which he had danced his first steps in the king's quadrille, more than one nobleman owed the favor he had enjoyed at court to the manner in which he had extended his legs or pointed the extremity of his toe. In this respect the Viscount was a model of grace and perfection, and he might, like Louis XIV., have danced in a theatre with the chance of being applauded, although he was neither a king nor an actor.

For the second time Pitou looked at his own legs, and was obliged to acknowledge that unless some great metamorphosis should take place in that portion of his individuality, he must altogether renounce any attempt to succeed in vying with Monsieur de Charny in the particular art which he was displaying at that moment.

The country dance having ended,—for Catherine it had scarcely lasted a few seconds, but to Pitou it had appeared a century,—she returned to resume the arm of her cavalier, and could not avoid observing the change which had taken place in his countenance. He was pale; the perspiration stood in beads upon his forehead, and a tear, half dried up by jealousy, shone in his humid eye.

“Ah! good heaven!” she exclaimed, “what is the matter with you, Pitou?”

“The matter is,” replied the poor youth, “that I shall never dare to dance with you, after having seen you dance with Monsieur de Charny.”

“Pshaw!” said Catherine, “you must not allow yourself to be cast down in this way; you will dance as well as you are able, and I shall not feel the less pleasure in dancing with you.”

“Ah!” cried Pitou, “you say that, Mademoiselle, to console me; but I know myself, and I feel assured that you will always feel more pleasure in dancing with this young nobleman than with me.”

Catherine made no reply, for she would not utter a falsehood, only, as she was an excellent creature, and had begun to perceive that something extraordinary was passing in the heart of the poor youth, she treated him very kindly; but this kindness could not restore to him his lost joy and peace of mind. Father Billot had spoken truly: Pitou was beginning to be a man,—he was suffering.

Catherine danced five or six country dances after this, one of which was with Monsieur de Charny. This time, without suffering less in reality than before, Pitou was, in appearance, much more calm. He followed with eager eyes each movement of Catherine and her cavalier. He endeavored from the motion of their lips to divine what they were saying to each other, and when, during the figures of the dance, their hands were joined, he tried to discern whether their hands merely touched or pressed each other when thus they came in contact.

Doubtless it was the second dance with De Charny that Catherine had been awaiting, for it was scarcely ended when the young girl proposed to Pitou to return to the farm. Never was proposal acceded to with more alacrity; but the blow was struck, and Pitou, while taking long strides which Catherine from time to time was obliged to restrain, remained perfectly silent.

“What is the matter with you?” at length said Catherine to him, “and why is it that you do not speak to me?”

“I do not speak to you, Mademoiselle,” said Pitou, “because I do not know how to speak as Monsieur de Charny does. What would you have me say to you, after all the fine things which he whispered to you while dancing with you?”

“Only see how unjust you are, Monsieur Ange; why, we were speaking of you.”

“Of me, Mademoiselle, and how so?”

“Why, Monsieur Pitou, if your protector should not return, you must have another found to supply his place.”

“I am then no longer capable of keeping the farm accounts?” inquired Pitou, with a sigh.

“On the contrary, Monsieur Ange, it is the farm accounts which are no longer worthy of being kept by you. With the education that you have received, you can find some more fitting occupation.”

“I do not know what I may be fit for, but this I know, that I will not accept anything better if I am to obtain it through the Viscount de Charny.”

“And why should you refuse his protection? His brother, the Count de Charny, is, it would appear, in high favor at court, and has married an intimate friend of the Queen. He told me that if it would be agreeable to me he could obtain for you a place in the custom-house.”

“Much obliged, Mademoiselle; but I have already told you that I am well satisfied to remain as I am, and unless, indeed, your father wishes to send me away, I will remain at the farm.”

“And why in the Devil's name should I send you away?” cried a gruff voice, which Catherine tremblingly recognized to be that of her father.

“My dear Pitou,” said Catherine in a whisper, “do not say a word of Monsieur Isidore, I beg of you.”

“Well! why don't you answer?”

“Why, really, I don't know,” said Pitou, much confused; “perhaps you do not think me sufficiently well informed to be useful to you?”

“Not sufficiently well informed, when you calculate as well as Barême, and when you read well enough to teach our schoolmaster, who notwithstanding thinks himself a great scholar No, Pitou, it is God who brings to my house the people who enter it, and when once they are in it they shall remain there as long as God pleases.”

Pitou returned to the farm on this assurance; but although this was something, it was not enough. A great change had taken place in his mind between the time of his going out and returning: he had lost a thing which, once lost, is never recovered; this was confidence in himself, and therefore Pitou, contrary to his usual custom, slept very badly. In his waking moments he recalled to mind Doctor Gilbert's book; this book was written principally against the nobility, against the abuses committed by the privileged classes, against the cowardice of those who submitted to them; it appeared to Pitou that he only then began to comprehend all the fine ideas which he had read that morning, and he promised himself, as soon as it should be daylight, to read again for his own satisfaction, and to himself, the masterpiece which he had read aloud and to everybody,

But as Pitou had slept badly he awoke late. He did not, however, the less determine on carrying into effect his project of reading the book. It was seven o'clock; the farmer would not return until nine; besides, were he to return earlier, he could not but approve an occupation which he had himself recommended.

He descended by a small staircase, and seated himself on a low bench which happened to be under Catherine's window. Was it accident that had led Pitou to seat himself precisely in that spot, or did he know the relative positions of that window and that bench?

Be that as it may, Pitou was attired in his old everyday clothes, which there had not yet been time to get replaced, and which were composed of his black breeches, his green cassock, and his rusty-looking shoes. He drew the pamphlet from his pocket and began to read.

We would not venture to say that on beginning to read, the eyes of Pitou were not, from time to time, turned from his book to the window; but as the window did not exhibit the fair face of the young girl in its framework of nasturtiums and convolvuli, Pitou's eyes at length fixed themselves intently on his book.

It is true that as his hand neglected to turn over the leaves, and that the more fixed his attention appeared to be, the less did his hand move, it might be believed that his mind was fixed upon some other object, and that he was meditating instead of reading.

Suddenly it appeared to Pitou that a shade was thrown over the pages of the pamphlet, until then illuminated by the morning sun. This shadow, too dense to be that of a cloud, could therefore only be produced by some opaque body. Now, there are opaque bodies which are so delightful to look upon, that Pitou quickly turned round to ascertain what it was that thus intercepted his sunshine.

Pitou's hopes were, however, delusive. There was in fact an opaque body which robbed him of the daylight and heat which Diogenes desired Alexander not to deprive him of. But this opaque body, instead of being delightful, presented to his view a sufficiently disagreeable appearance.

It was that of a man about forty-five years old, who was taller and thinner than Pitou himself, dressed in a coat almost as threadbare as his own, and who was leaning his head over his shoulder, and appeared to be reading the pamphlet with a curiosity equal to Pitou's absence of mind.

Pitou was very much astonished; a gracious smile was playing round the lips of the dark-looking gentleman, exhibiting a mouth which had only retained four teeth, two in the upper and two in the lower jaw, crossing and sharpening themselves against each other, like the tusks of the wild boar.

“An American edition,” said the man, with a strong nasal twang; “an octavo: 'On the Liberty of Man and the Independence of Nations, Boston, 1788.'“

While the black man was talking, Pitou opened his eyes with progressively increasing astonishment, so that when the man ceased speaking, Pitou's eyes had attained the greatest possible development of which they were capable.

“Boston, 1788. That is right, sir,” replied Pitou.

“It is the treatise of Doctor Gilbert,” said the gentleman in black.

“Yes, sir,” politely replied Pitou, rising from his seat, for he had been told that it was uncivil to remain sitting when speaking to a superior; and in the still ingenuous mind of Pitou this man had the right to claim superiority over him.

But on getting up, Pitou observed something of a rosy color moving towards the window, and which gave him a significant glance. This rosy something was Mademoiselle Catherine. The young girl looked at him with an extraordinary expression, and made strange signs to him.

“Sir, if it is not being indiscreet,” said the gentleman in black, who, having his back turned towards the window, was altogether ignorant of what was passing, “may I ask to whom this book belongs?”

And he pointed with his finger to the pamphlet which Pitou held in his hand.

Pitou was about to say that the book belonged to Monsieur Billot, when he heard the following words uttered in an almost supplicating tone:—

“Say that it is your own.”

The gentleman in black, who was at that moment all eyes, did not hear these words.

“Sir,” replied Pitou majestically, “this book belongs to me.”

The gentleman in black raised his head, for he began to remark that the amazed looks of Pitou were from time to time diverted from him, to fix themselves on one particular spot. He saw the window, but Catherine had divined the movement of the gentleman in black, and, rapid as a bird, she had disappeared.

“What are you looking at, up yonder ” inquired the gentleman in black.

“Well, now,” replied Pitou, smiling, “permit me to observe to you that you are very inquisitive,—curiosus, or rather avidus cognoscendi, as the Abbé Fortier, my preceptor, used to say.”

“You say, then,” rejoined the interrogator, without appearing in the slightest degree intimidated by the proof of learning which Pitou had just given, with the intention of affording the gentleman in black a higher idea of his acquirements than he had before entertained,—“you say, then, that this book is yours?”

Pitou gave his eyes a furtive glance, so that the window came within the scope of his visual organs. Catherine's head again appeared at it, and made him an affirmative sign.

“Yes, sir,” replied Pitou. “You are, perhaps, anxious to read it,— Avidus legendi libri, or legendæ historiæ.

“Sir,” said the gentleman in black, “you appear to be much above the position which your attire would indicate. Non dives vestitu sed ingenio. Consequently, I arrest you.”

“How! you arrest me ” cried Pitou, completely astounded.

“Yes, sir; follow me, I beg of you.”

Pitou no longer looked up in the air, but around him, and perceived two police sergeants who were awaiting the orders of the gentleman in black. The two sergeants seemed to him to have sprung up from beneath the ground.

“Let us draw up our report, gentlemen,” said the gentleman in black.

The sergeants tied Pitou's hands together with a rope, while they took care to secure Doctor Gilbert's book.

Then they fastened Pitou himself to a ring which was in the wall under the window.

Pitou was about to exclaim against this treatment, but he heard the low voice which had so much influence over him, saying, “Let them do what they please.”

Pitou therefore allowed them to do as they pleased, with a docility which perfectly enchanted the sergeants, and above all the gentleman in black; so that without the slightest mistrust they entered the farm-house, the two sergeants to fetch a table, the gentleman in black to—but this we shall learn by-and-by.

The sergeants and the gentleman in black had scarcely entered the house when the soft voice was again heard.

“Hold up your hands,” said the voice.

Pitou not only held up his hands but his head, and he perceived the pale and terrified face of Catherine; she had a knife in her hand.

“Higher! higher!” said she.

Pitou raised himself on tiptoe. Catherine leaned out of the window, the knife touched the rope, and Pitou recovered the liberty of his hands.

“Take the knife,” said Catherine, “ and in your turn cut the rope which fastens you to the ring.”

It was not necessary to repeat this to Pitou. He cut the cord, and was then completely free.

“And now,” said Catherine, “here is a double louis. You have good legs; make your escape. Go to Paris and acquaint the doctor—”

She could not complete the sentence. The two sergeants reappeared, and the double louis fell at Pitou's feet.

Pitou quickly snatched it up. The sergeants were on the threshold of the door, where they remained for a moment or two, astonished at seeing the man at liberty, whom so short a time before they had so securely tied up. On seeing them, Pitou's hair stood on end, and he confusedly remembered the in crinibus angues of the Eumenides.

The two sergeants and Pitou remained for a short time in the position of two pointer dogs and a hare,—motionless, and looking at each other. But as at the slightest movement of the dogs the hare springs off, at the first movement of the sergeants Pitou gave a prodigious bound, and leaped over a high hedge.

The sergeants uttered a cry which made the exempt rush out of the house, carrying a small casket under his arm. The exempt did not lose any time in parleying, but instantly ran after Pitou; the two sergeants imitated his example; but they were not active enough to jump, as he had done, over a hedge three feet and a half in height. They were therefore compelled to go round to a gate.

But when they reached the corner of the hedge, they perceived Pitou five hundred yards off in the plain, and hastening towards the forest, from which he was distant scarcely a quarter of a league, and which he would doubtless reach in some six or seven minutes.

At that moment Pitou turned round and on perceiving the sergeants, who were pursuing him rather from a desire to perform their duty than with the hope of catching him, he redoubled his speed, and soon disappeared in the skirts of the wood.

Pitou ran on at this rate for another quarter of an hour. He could have run two hours had it been necessary, for he had the wind of a stag, as well as its velocity.

But at the end of a quarter of an hour he felt instinctively that he must be out of danger. He stopped, drew breath, and listened; and having assured himself that he had completely distanced his pursuers, he said to himself,—

“It is incredible that so many events can have been crowded into three days;” and he looked alternately at his double louis and his knife.

“Oh,” said he, “I wish I had only time to change my double louis, and give two sous to Mademoiselle Catherine, for I am much afraid that this knife will cut our friendship. No matter,” added he, “since she has desired me to go to Paris, let us go there.”

And Pitou, having looked about him to ascertain what part of the country he had reached, and finding that he was between Bouronne and Yvors, took a narrow path which would lead him straight to Gondreville Heaths, which path was crossed by the road which led direct to Paris.

Chapter VIII. Showing why the Gentleman in Black had gone into the Farm at the same time with the Two Sergeants

BUT now let us return to the farm, and relate the catastrophe of which Pitou's episode was the winding up.

At about six o'clock in the morning an agent of the Paris police, accompanied by two sergeants, arrived at Villers-Cotterets, had presented themselves to the Commissary of Police, and had requested that the residence of Farmer Billot might be pointed out to them.

When they came within about five hundred yards of the farm, the exempt perceived a laborer working in a field. He went to him and asked him whether he should find Monsieur Billot at home. The laborer replied that Monsieur Billot never returned home till nine o'clock,—that is to say, before the breakfast hour. But at that very moment, as chance would have it, the laborer raised his eyes, and pointed to a man on horseback, who was talking with a shepherd at the distance of a quarter of a league from the farm.

“And yonder,” said he, “is the person you are inquiring for.”

“Monsieur Billot?”


“That horseman?”

“Yes; that is Monsieur Billot.”

“Well, then, my friend,” rejoined the exempt, “do you wish to afford great pleasure to your master?”

“I should like it vastly.”

“Go and tell him that a gentleman from Paris is waiting for him at the farm.”

“Oh,” cried the laborer, “can it be Doctor Gilbert?”

“Tell him what I say; that is all.”

The countryman did not wait to have the order repeated, but ran as hard as he could across the fields, while the police-officer and the two sergeants went and concealed themselves behind a half-ruined wall which stood facing the gate of the farm-yard.

In a very few minutes the galloping of a horse was heard. It was Billot, who had hastened back.

He went into the farm-yard, jumped from his horse, threw the bridle to one of the stable-boys, and rushed into the kitchen, being convinced that the first person he should see there would be Dr. Gilbert, standing beneath the immense mantel-piece; but he only saw Madame Billot seated in the middle of the room, plucking the feathers from a duck with all the minute care which this difficult operation demands.

Catherine was in her own room, employed in making a cap for the following Sunday. As it appears, Catherine was determined to be prepared in good time; but if the women have one pleasure almost equal to that of being well-dressed, it is that of preparing the articles with which they are to adorn themselves.

Billot paused on the threshold of the kitchen, and looked around inquiringly.

“Who, then, was it sent for me?” said he.

“It was I,” replied a flute-like voice behind him.

Billot turned round, and perceived the gentleman in black and the two sergeants.

“Hey-day!” cried he, retreating three paces from them; “and what do you want with me?”

“Oh, good heavens! almost nothing, my dear Monsieur Billot,” said the man with the flute-like voice; “only to make a perquisition in your farm, that is all.”

“A perquisition?” exclaimed the astonished Billot.

“A perquisition,” repeated the exempt.

Billot cast a glance at his fowling-piece, which was hanging over the chimney.

“Since we have a National Assembly,” said he, “I thought that citizens were no longer exposed to such vexations, which belong to another age, and which appertain to a bygone state of things. What do you want with me? I am a peaceable and loyal man.”

The agents of every police in the world have one habit which is common to them all,—that of never replying to the questions of their victims; but while they are searching their pockets, while they are arresting them, or tying their hands behind, some appear to be moved by pity. These tender-hearted ones are the most dangerous, inasmuch as they appear to be the most kind-hearted.

The one who was exercising his functions in the house of Farmer Billot was of the true Tapin and Desgrés school, made up of sweets, having always a tear for those whom they are persecuting, but who nevertheless do not use their hands to wipe their eyes.

The one in question, although heaving a deep sigh, made a sign with his hand to the two sergeants, who approached Billot. The worthy farmer sprang backward, and stretched out his hand to seize his gun; but it was diverted from the weapon,—a doubly-dangerous act at such a moment, as it might not only have killed the person about to use it, but the one against whom it was to be pointed. His hand was seized and imprisoned between two little hands, rendered strong by terror and powerful by supplication.

It was Catherine, who had run downstairs on hearing the noise, and had arrived in time to save her father from committing the crime of rebelling against the constituted authorities.

The first moment of anger having passed by, Billot no longer offered any resistance. The exempt ordered that he should be confined in a room on the ground floor, and Catherine in a room on the first story. As to Madame Billot, she was considered so inoffensive that no attention was paid to her, and she was allowed to remain in the kitchen. After this, finding himself master of the place, the exempt began to search the secretaries, wardrobes, and chests-of-drawers.

Billot, on finding himself alone, wished to make his escape. But, like most of the rooms on the ground floor of the farm-house, the windows of the one in which he was imprisoned were secured by iron bars. The gentleman in black had at a glance observed these bars, while Billot, who had had them placed there, had forgotten them.

Then, peeping through the key-hole, he perceived the exempt and his two acolytes, who were ransacking everything throughout the house.

“Hilloa!” cried he; “what is the meaning of all this? What are you doing there?”

“You can very plainly see that, my dear Monsieur Billot,” said the exempt. “We are seeking for something which we have not yet found.”

“But perhaps you are banditti, villains, regular thieves. Who knows?”

“Oh, sir!” replied the exempt, through the door, “you do us wrong. We are honest people, as you are; only that we are in the pay of his Majesty, and consequently compelled to obey his orders.”

“His Majesty's orders!” exclaimed Billot. “The king, Louis XVI., has ordered you to search my secretary, to turn everything topsy-turvy in my closets and my wardrobes?”


“His Majesty,” rejoined Billot, “who last year, when there was such a frightful famine that we were thinking of eating our horses,—his Majesty, who two years ago, when the hail-storm of the 13th of July destroyed our whole harvest, did not then deign to feel any anxiety about us,—what has he now to do with my farm, which he never saw, or with me, whom he does not know?”

“You will pardon me, sir,” said the exempt, opening the door a little, but with great precaution, and exhibiting his order, signed by the lieutenant of police, which, according to the usual form, was headed with these words, “In the king's name,”—“his Majesty has heard you spoken of, although he may not be personally acquainted with you; therefore, do not refuse the honor which he does you, and receive in a fitting manner those who present themselves to you in his name.”

And the exempt, with a polite bow, and a friendly wink of the eye, closed the door again; after which the search was resumed.

Billot said not a word more, but crossed his arms and paced up and down the room, like a lion in a cage. He felt that he was caught, and in the power of these men.

The investigation was silently continued. These men appeared to have dropped from the clouds. No one had seen them, but the laborer who had been sent to fetch Billot. Even the dogs in the yards had not barked on their approach. Assuredly the chief of this expedition must have been considered a skilful man, even by his own fraternity. It was evidently not his first enterprise of this nature.

Billot heard the meanings of his daughter, shut up in the room above his own, and he remembered her prophetic words; for there could not be a doubt that the persecution to which the farmer had been subjected had for its cause the doctor's book.

At length the clock struck nine, and Billot through his grated window could count his laborers as they returned to the farm-house to get their breakfast. On seeing this, he reflected that, in case of any conflict, might, if not right, was not on his side. This conviction made the blood boil in his veins. He had no longer the fortitude to restrain his feelings; and seizing the door with both hands, he shook it so violently, that with two or three efforts of the same nature he would have burst the lock.

The police-agents immediately opened the door, and they saw the farmer standing close by it, with threatening looks. All was confusion in the house.

“But finally,” cried Billot, “ what is it you are seeking for in my house? Tell me, or, zounds! I will make you tell me.”

The successive return of the laborers had not escaped the experienced eye of such a man as the exempt. He had counted the farm-servants, and had admitted to himself that in case of any combat he would not be able to retain possession of the field of battle. He therefore approached Billot with a demeanor more honeyed even than before, and bowing almost to the ground, said:—

“I will tell you what it is, dear Monsieur Billot, although it is against our custom. What we are seeking for in your house is a subversive book, an incendiary pamphlet, placed under ban by our royal censors.”

“A book!—and in the house of a farmer who cannot read?”

“What is there astonishing in that, if you are a friend of the author, and he has sent it to you?”

“I am not the friend of Doctor Gilbert; I am merely his humble servant. The friend of the doctor, indeed!—that would be too great an honor for a poor farmer like me.”

This inconsiderate outbreak, in which Billot betrayed himself by acknowledging that he not only knew the author, which was natural enough, he being his landlord, but that he knew the book, insured the agent's victory. The latter drew himself up, assumed his most amiable air, and touching Billot's arm, said, with a smile which appeared to extend transversely over his face:—

“"Tis thou hast named him.' Do you know that verse, my dear Monsieur Billot?”

“I know no verses.”

“It is by Racine, a very great poet.”

“Well, what is the meaning of that line?” cried Billot.

“It means that you have betrayed yourself.”



“And how so?”

“By being the first to mention Monsieur Gilbert, whom we had the discretion not to name.”

“That is true,” said Billot.

“You acknowledge it, then?”

“I will do more than that.”

“My dear Monsieur Billot, you overwhelm us with kindness: what is it you will do?”

“If it is that book you are hunting after, and I tell you where that book is,” rejoined the farmer, with an uneasiness which he could not altogether control, “you will leave off turning everything topsy-turvy here, will you not?”

The exempt made a sign to his two assistants.

“Most assuredly,” replied the exempt, “since it is that book which is the object of our perquisition. Only,” continued he, with his smiling grimace, “you may perhaps acknowledge one copy of it when you may have ten in your possession.”

“I have only one, and that I swear to you.”

“But it is this we are obliged to ascertain by a most careful search, dear Monsieur Billot,” rejoined the exempt. “Have patience, therefore; in five minutes it will be concluded. We are only poor sergeants obeying the orders of the authorities, and you would not surely prevent men of honor,—there are men of honor in every station of life, dear Monsieur Billot,—you would not throw any impediment in the way of men of honor when they are doing their duty.”

The gentleman in black had adopted the right mode: this was the proper course for persuading Billot.

“Well, do it then,” replied the farmer, “but do it quickly.”

And he turned his back upon them.

The exempt then very gently closed the door, and more gently still turned the key in the lock, at which Billot shrugged his shoulders in disdain, being certain of pulling open the door whenever he might please.

On his side the gentleman in black made a sign to the sergeants, who resumed their investigation, and they set to work much more actively than before. Books, papers, linen, were all opened, examined, unfolded.

Suddenly, at the bottom of a wardrobe which had been completely emptied, they perceived a small oaken casket bound with iron. The exempt darted upon it as a vulture on his prey. At the mere sight, the scent, the handling of this object, he undoubtedly at once recognized that which he was in search of, for he quickly concealed the casket beneath his threadbare coat, and made a sign to the two sergeants that his mission was effected.

Billot was again becoming impatient; he stopped before the locked door.

“Why, I tell you again that you will not find it unless I tell you where it is,” he cried; “it is not worth the while to tumble and destroy all my things for nothing. I am not a conspirator. In the Devil's name listen to me. Do you not hear what I am saying? Answer me, or I will set off for Paris, and will complain to the king, to the National Assembly, to everybody.”

In those days the king was always mentioned before the people.

“Yes, my dear Monsieur Billot, we hear you, and we are quite ready to do justice to your excellent reasoning. Come, now, tell us where is this book And as we are now convinced that you have only that single copy, we will take it, and then we will withdraw, and all will be over.”

“Well,” replied Billot, “the book is in the possession of an honest lad to whom I have given it with the charge of carrying it to a friend.”

“And what is the name of this honest lad?” asked the gentleman in black, in an insinuating tone.

“Ange Pitou; he is a poor orphan whom I have taken into my house from charity, and who does not even know the subject of this book.”

“Thanks, dear Monsieur Billot,” said the exempt.

They threw the linen back into the wardrobe, and locked it up again, but the casket was not there.

“And where is this amiable youth to be found?”

“I think I saw him as I returned, somewhere near the bed of scarlet-runners, close to the arbor. Go, take the book from him; but take care not to do him any injury.”

“Injury! Oh, my dear Monsieur Billot, how little you know us! We would not harm even a fly.”

And they went towards the indicated spot. When they got near the scarlet-runners they perceived Pitou, whose tall stature made him appear more formidable than he was in reality. Thinking that the two sergeants would stand in need of his assistance to master the young giant, the exempt had taken off his cloak, had rolled the casket in it, and had hid the whole in a secret corner, but where he could easily regain possession of it.

But Catherine, who had been listening with her ear glued, as it were, to the door, had vaguely heard the words Book, Doctor, and Pitou. Therefore, finding the storm she had predicted had burst upon them, she had formed the idea of attenuating its effects. It was then that she prompted Pitou to say that he was the owner of the book.

We have related what then passed regarding it: how Pitou, bound and handcuffed by the exempt and his acolytes, had been restored to liberty by Catherine, who had taken advantage of the moment when the two sergeants went into the house to fetch a table to write upon, and the gentleman in black to take his cloak and casket.

We have stated how Pitou made his escape by jumping over a hedge; but that which we did not state is, that, like a man of talent, the exempt had taken advantage of this flight.

And, in fact, the twofold mission intrusted to the exempt having been accomplished, the flight of Pitou afforded an excellent opportunity to the exempt and his two men to make their escape also.

The gentleman in black, although he knew he had not the slightest chance of catching the fugitive, excited the two sergeants by his vociferations and his example to such a degree, that on seeing them racing through the clover, the wheat, and Spanish trefoil fields, one would have imagined that they were the most inveterate enemies of Pitou, whose long legs they were most cordially blessing in their hearts.

But Pitou had scarcely gained the covert of the wood, when the confederates, who had not even passed the skirts of it, halted behind a bush. During their race they had been joined by two other sergeants, who had kept themselves concealed in the neighborhood of the farm, and who had been instructed not to show themselves unless summoned by their chief.

“Upon my word,” said the exempt, “it is very well that our gallant young fellow had not the casket instead of the book, for we should have been obliged to hire post-horses to catch him. By Jupiter! those legs of his are not men's legs, but those of a stag.”

“Yes,” replied one of the sergeants, “but he has not got it, has he, Monsieur Wolfsfoot? for, on the contrary, 't is you who have it.”

“Undoubtedly, my friend, and here it is,” replied the exempt, whose name we have now given for the first time, or we should rather say the nickname which had been given to him on account of the lightness of his step and the stealthiness of his walk.

“Then we are entitled to the reward which was promised us,” observed one of the sergeants.

“Here it is,” said the exempt, taking from his pocket four golden louis, which he divided among his four sergeants, without any distinction as to those who had been actively engaged in the perquisition or those who had merely remained concealed.

“Long live the lieutenant of police!” cried the sergeants.

“There is no harm in crying 'Long live the lieutenant!'“ said Wolfsfoot; “but every time you utter such exclamations you should do it with discernment. It is not the lieutenant who pays.”

“Who is it, then?”

“Some gentleman or lady friend of his, I know not which, but who desires that his or her name may not be mentioned in the business.”

“I would wager that it is the person who wishes for the casket,” said one of the sergeants.

“Hear now, Rigold, my friend,” said the gentleman in black; “I have always affirmed that you are a lad replete with perspicacity, but until the day when this perspicacity shall produce its fruits by being amply recompensed, I advise you to be silent. What we have now to do is to make the best of our way on foot out of this neighborhood. That damned farmer has not the appearance of being conciliatory, and as soon as he discovers that the casket is missing, he will despatch all his farm laborers in pursuit of us, and they are fellows who can aim a gun as truly as any of his Majesty's Swiss guards.”

This opinion was doubtless that of the majority of the party, for they all five set off at once, and, continuing to remain within the border of the forest, which concealed them from all eyes, they rapidly pursued their way, until, after walking three quarters of a league, they came out upon the public road.

This precaution was not a useless one, for Catherine had scarcely seen the gentleman in black and his two attendants disappear in pursuit of Pitou, than, full of confidence in the agility of him whom they pursued, who, unless some accident happened to him, would lead them a long dance, she called the husbandmen, who were well aware that something strange was going on, although they were ignorant of the positive facts, to tell them to open her door for her.

The laborers instantly obeyed her, and Catherine, again free, hastened to set her father at liberty.

Billot appeared to be in a dream. Instead of at once rushing out of the room, he seemed to walk mistrustfully, and returned from the door into the middle of the apartment. It might have been imagined that he did not dare to remain in the same spot, and yet that he was afraid of casting his eyes upon the articles of furniture which had been broken open and emptied by the sergeants.

“But,” cried he on seeing his daughter, “tell me, did they take the book from him?”

“I believe so, Father,” she replied, “but they did not take him.”

“Whom do you mean?”

“Pitou; he has escaped from them, and they are still running after him. They must already have got to Cayolles or Vauciennes.”

“So much the better! Poor fellow! It is I who have brought this upon him.”

“Oh, Father, do not feel uneasy about him, but think only of what we have to do! Pitou, you may rest assured, will get out of this scrape. But what disorder! good heaven! only look, mother.”

“Oh, my linen wardrobe!” cried Madame Billot; “they have not even respected my linen wardrobe! What villains they must be!”

“They have searched the wardrobe where the linen was kept!” exclaimed Billot.

And he rushed towards the wardrobe, which the exempt, as we have before stated, had carefully closed again, and plunged his hands into piles of towels and table napkins, all confusedly huddled together.

“Oh,” cried he, “it cannot be possible!”

“What are you looking for, Father?” inquired Catherine.

Billot gazed around him as if completely bewildered.

“Search,—search if you can see it anywhere! But no; not in that chest-of-drawers,—not in that secretary. Besides, it was there,—there; it was I myself who put it there. I saw it there only yesterday. It was not the book they were seeking for,—the wretches!—but the casket!”

“What casket?” asked Catherine.

“Why, you know well enough.”

“What! Doctor Gilbert's casket?” inquired Madame Billot, who always, in matters of transcendent importance, allowed others to speak and act.

“Yes, Doctor Gilbert's casket!” cried Billot, plunging his fingers into his thick hair; “that casket which was so precious to him.”

“You terrify me, my dear father,” said Catherine.

“Unfortunate man that I am!” cried Billot, with furious anger; “and I, who had not in the slightest imagined such a thing,—I, who did not even for a moment think of that casket! Oh, what will the doctor say? What will he think of me? That I am a traitor, a coward, a miserable wretch!”

“But, good heaven! what did this casket contain, Father?”

“I do not know; but this I know, that I had engaged, even at the hazard of my life, to keep it safe; and I ought to have allowed myself to be killed in order to defend it.”

And Billot made a gesture of such despair, that his wife and daughter started back with terror.

“Oh God! oh God! are you losing your reason, my poor father ” said Catherine.

And she burst into tears.

“Answer me, then,” she cried; “for the love of Heaven, answer me!”

“Pierre, my friend,” said Madame Billot, “answer your daughter; answer your wife.”

“My horse! my horse!” cried the farmer; “bring out my horse!”

“Where are you going, Father?”

“To let the doctor know. The doctor must be informed of this.”

“But where will you find him?”

“At Paris. Did you not read in the letter he wrote to us that he was going to Paris? He must be there by this time. I will go to Paris. My horse! my horse!”

“And you will leave us thus, my dear father? You will leave us in such a moment as this? You will leave us full of anxiety and anguish?”

“It must be so, my child; it must be so,” said the farmer, taking his daughter's face between his hands and convulsively fixing his lips upon it. “'If ever you should lose this casket,' said the doctor to me, 'or rather, should it ever be surreptitiously taken from you, the instant you discover the robbery, set off at once, Billot, and inform me of it, wherever I may be. Let nothing stop you, not even the life of a man.'“

“Good Lord! what can this casket contain?”

“Of that I know nothing; all that I know is, that it was placed under my care, and that I have allowed it to be taken from me. Ah, here is my horse! From the son, who is at college, I shall learn where to find the father.”

And kissing his wife and daughter for the last time, the farmer jumped into his saddle, and galloped across the country, in the direction of the high-road to Paris.

Chapter IX. The Road to Paris

LET us return to Pitou.

Pitou was urged onwards by the two most powerful stimulants known in this great world,—Fear and Love.

Fear whispered to him in direct terms:—

“You may be either arrested or beaten; take care of yourself, Pitou!”

And that sufficed to make him run as swiftly as a roebuck.

Love had said to him, in the voice of Catherine:—

“Escape quickly, my dear Pitou!”

And Pitou had escaped.

These two stimulants combined, as we have said, had such an effect upon him, that Pitou did not merely run: Pitou absolutely flew.

How useful did Pitou's long legs, which appeared to be knotted to him, and his enormous knees, which looked so ungainly in a ballroom, prove to him in the open country, when his heart, enlarged with terror, beat three pulsations in a second.

Monsieur de Charny, with his small feet, his elegantly formed knees, and his symmetrically shaped calves, could not have run at such a rate as that.

Pitou recalled to his mind that pretty fable, in which a stag is represented weeping over his slim shanks, reflected in a fountain; and although he did not bear on his forehead the ornament which the quadruped deemed some compensation for his slender legs, he reproached himself for having so much despised his stilts.

For such was the appellation which Madame Billot gave to Pitou's legs when Pitou looked at them standing before a looking-glass.

Pitou, therefore, continued making his way through the wood, leaving Cayolles on his right and Yvors on his left, turning round at every corner of a bush, to see, or rather to listen; for it was long since he had seen anything of his persecutors, who had been distanced at the outset by the brilliant proof of swiftness Pitou had given, in placing a space of at least a thousand yards between them and himself,—a distance which he was increasing every moment.

Why was Atalanta married? Pitou would have entered the lists with her; and to have excelled Hippomenes he would not assuredly have needed to employ, as he did, the subterfuge of the three golden apples.

It is true, as we have already said, that Monsieur Wolfsfoot's agents, delighted at having possession of their booty, cared not a fig as to what became of Pitou; but Pitou knew not this.

Ceasing to be pursued by the reality, he continued to be pursued by the shadows.

As to the black-clothed gentlemen, they had that confidence in themselves which renders human beings lazy.

“Run! run!” cried they, thrusting their hands into their pockets, and making the reward which Monsieur Wolfsfoot had given them jingle in them: “run, good fellow, run; we can always find you again, should we want you.”

Which, we may say in passing, far from being a vain boast, was the precise truth.

And Pitou continued to run as if he had heard the aside of Monsieur Wolfsfoot's agents.

When he had, by scientifically altering his course, and turning and twisting as do the wild denizens of the forest to throw the hounds off scent, when he had doubled and turned so as to form such a maze that Nimrod himself would not have been able to unravel it, he at once made up his mind as to his route, and taking a sharp turn to the right, went in a direct line to the high road which leads from Villers-Cotterets to Paris, from the hill near Gondreville Heaths.

Having formed this resolution, he bounded through the copse, and after running for a little more than a quarter of an hour, he perceived the road enclosed by its yellow sand and bordered with its green trees.

An hour after his departure from the farm he was on the king's highway.

He had run about four leagues and a half during that hour; as much as any rider could expect from an active horse, going a good round trot.

He cast a glance behind him. There was nothing on the road.

He cast a glance before him. There were two women upon asses.

Pitou had got hold of a small work on mythology, with engravings, belonging to young Gilbert; mythology was much studied in those days.

The history of the gods and goddesses of the Grecian Olympus formed part of the education of young persons. By dint of looking at the engravings Pitou had become acquainted with mythology. He had seen Jupiter metamorphose himself into a bull, to carry off Europa; into a swan, that he might approach and make love to the daughter of King Tyndarus. He had, in short, seen other gods transforming themselves into forms more or less picturesque; but that one of his Majesty's police-officers should have transformed himself into an ass had never come within the scope of his erudition. King Midas himself had never had anything of the animal but the ears,—and he was a king,—he made gold at will,—he had therefore money enough to purchase the whole skin of the quadruped.

Somewhat reassured by what he saw, or rather by what he did not see, Pitou threw himself down on the grassy bank of the roadside, wiped with his sleeve his broad red face, and thus luxuriously reclining on the fresh clover, he yielded himself up to the satisfaction of perspiring in tranquillity.

But the sweet emanations from the clover and marjoram could not make Pitou forget the pickled pork made by Madame Billot, and the quarter of a six-pound loaf which Catherine allotted to him at every meal,—that is to say, three times a day.

This bread at that time cost four sous and a half a pound, a most exorbitant price, equivalent at least to nine sous in our days, and was so scarce throughout France that when it was eatable, it passed for the fabulous brioche, which the Duchess of Polignac advised the Parisians to feed upon when flour should altogether fail them.

Pitou therefore said to himself philosophically that Mademoiselle Catherine was the most generous princess in the world, and that Father Billot's farm was the most sumptuous palace in the universe.

Then, as the Israelites on the banks of the Jordan, he turned a dying eye towards the east, that is to say,

in the direction of that thrice happy farm, and sighed heavily.

But sighing is not so disagreeable an operation to a man who stands in need of taking breath after a violent race.

Pitou breathed more freely when sighing, and he felt his ideas, which for a time had been much confused and agitated, return to him gradually with his breath.

“Why is it,” reasoned he with himself, “that so many extraordinary events have happened to me in so short a space of time? Why should I have met with more accidents within the last three days than during the whole course of my previous life?

“It is because I dreamed of a cat that wanted to fly at me,” continued Pitou.

And he made a gesture signifying that the source of all his misfortunes had been thus already pointed out to him.

“Yes,” added he, after a moment's reflection, “but this is not the logic of my venerable friend the Abbé Fortier. It is not because I dreamed of an irritated cat that all these adventures have happened to me. Dreams are only given to a man as a sort of warning, and this is why an author said, 'Thou hast been dreaming, beware!—Cave, somniasti!'

“Somniasti,” said Pitou, doubtingly, and with somewhat of alarm; “am I then again committing a barbarism? Oh, no; I am only making an elision; it was somniavisti which I should have said, in grammatical language.

“It is astonishing,” cried Pitou, considering himself admiringly, “how well I understand Latin since I no longer study it!”

And after this glorification of himself, Pitou resumed his journey.

Pitou walked on very quickly, though he was much tranquillized. His pace was somewhere about two leagues an hour.

The result of this was that two hours after he had recommenced his walk Pitou had got beyond Nanteuil, and was getting on towards Dammartin.

Suddenly the ears of Pitou, as acute as those of an Osage Indian, were struck with the distant sound of a horse's feet upon the paved road.

“Oh,” cried Pitou, scanning the celebrated verse of Virgil,—

“'Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum.'“

And he looked behind him.

But he saw nothing.

Could it be the asses which he had passed at Levignon, and which had now come on at a gallop? No: for the iron hoof, as the poet calls it, rang upon the paved road; and Pitou, whether at Haramont or at Villers-Cotterets, had never known an ass, excepting that of Mother Sabot, that was shod, and even this was because Mother Sabot performed the duty of letter-carrier between Villers-Cotterets and Crespy.

He therefore momentarily forgot the noise he had heard, to return to his reflections.

Who could these men in black be who had questioned him about Doctor Gilbert, who had tied his hands, who had pursued him, and whom he had at length so completely distanced?

Where could these men have sprung from, for they were altogether unknown in the district?

What could they have in particular to do with Pitou,—he who had never seen them, and who, consequently, did not know them?

How then was it, as he did not know them, that they had known him? Why had Mademoiselle Catherine told him to set off for Paris; and why, in order to facilitate his journey, had she given him a louis of forty-eight francs,—that is to say, two hundred and forty pounds of bread, at four sous a pound. Why, it was enough to supply him with food for eighty days, or three months, if he would stint his rations somewhat.

Could Mademoiselle Catherine suppose that Pitou was to remain eighty days absent from the farm?

Pitou suddenly started.

“Oh! oh!” he exclaimed, “again that horse's hoofs.”

“This time,” said Pitou, all on the alert, “I am not mistaken. The noise I hear is positively that of a horse galloping. I shall see it when he gets to the top of yon hill.”

Pitou had scarcely spoken when a horse appeared at the top of a hill he had just left behind him, that is to say, at the distance of about four hundred yards from the spot on which he stood.

Pitou, who would not allow that a police agent could have transmogrified himself into an ass, admitted at once that he might have got on horseback to regain the prey that had escaped him.

Terror, from which he had been for some time relieved, again seized on Pitou, and immediately his legs became even longer and more intrepid than when he had made such marvellous good use of them some two hours previously.

Therefore, without reflecting, without looking behind, without even endeavoring to conceal his flight, calculating on the excellence of his steel-like sinews, Pitou, with a tremendous leap, sprang across the ditch which ran by the roadside, and began a rapid course across the country in the direction of Ermenonville. Pitou did not know anything of Ermenonville, he only saw upon the horizon the summits of some tall trees, and he said to himself,—

“If I reach those trees, which are undoubtedly on the border of some forest, I am saved.”

And he ran toward Ermenonville.

On this occasion he had to outvie a horse in running. Pitou had no longer legs, but wings.

And his rapidity was increased after having run some hundred yards, for Pitou had cast a glance behind him, and had seen the horseman oblige his horse to take the same immense leap which he had taken over the ditch by the roadside.

From that moment there could be no longer a doubt in the mind of the fugitive that the horseman was, in reality, in pursuit of him, and consequently the fugitive had increased his speed, never again turning his head, for fear of losing time. What most urged him on at that moment was not the clattering on the paved road,—that noise was deadened by the clover and the fallow fields; what most urged him on was a sort of cry which pursued him, the last syllable of his name pronounced by the horseman, a sort of hou! hou! which appeared to be uttered angrily, and which reached him on the wings of the wind, which he was endeavoring to outstrip.

But after having maintained this sharp race during ten minutes, Pitou began to feel that his chest became oppressed,—the blood rushed to his head,—his eyes began to wander. It seemed to him that his knees became more and more developed,—that his loins were filling with small pebbles. From time to time he stumbled over the furrows,—he who usually raised his feet so high, when running, that every nail in the soles of his shoes was visible.

At last the horse, created superior to man in the art of running, gained on the biped Pitou, and at the same time he heard the voice of the horseman, who no longer cried “Hou! hou!” but clearly and distinctly, “Pitou! Pitou!”

All was over. All was lost.

However, Pitou endeavored to continue the race. It had become a sort of mechanical movement; he rushed on, impelled by the power of repulsion. Suddenly, his knees failed him; he staggered and fell at full length, with his face to the ground.

But at the same time that he thus fell, fully resolved not to get up again,—at all events, of his own free will,—he received a lash from a horsewhip which wound round his loins.

With a tremendous oath, which was not unfamiliar to his ears, a well-known voice cried out to him,—

“How now, you stupid fellow! how now, you simpleton! have you sworn to founder Cadet?”

The name of Cadet at once dispelled all Pitou's suspense.

“Ah!” cried he, turning himself round, so that instead of lying upon his face he lay upon his back,—“Ah! I hear the voice of Monsieur Billot!”

It was in fact Goodman Billot. When Pitou was well assured of his identity, he assumed a sitting posture.

The farmer, on his side, had pulled up Cadet, covered with flakes of foam.

“Ah! dear Monsieur Billot,” exclaimed Pitou, “how kind it is of you to ride in this way after me! I swear to you I should have returned to the farm after having expended the double louis Mademoiselle Catherine gave me. But since you are here, take back your double louis,—for of course it must be yours,—and let us return to the farm.”

“A thousand devils!” exclaimed Billot; “who was thinking of the farm? Where are the mouchards?

“The mouchards?” inquired Pitou, who did not comprehend the meaning of this word, which had only just been admitted into the vocabulary of our language.

“Yes, the mouchards,” rejoined Billot; “the men in black. Do you not understand me?”

“Ah! the men in black! You will readily understand, my dear Monsieur Billot, that I did not amuse myself by waiting for them.”

“Bravo! You have left them behind, then?”

“Why, I flatter myself I have; after the race I have run, it was to be expected, as it appears to me.”

“Then, if you were so sure of your affair, what the devil made you run at such a rate?”

“Because I thought it was their chief, who, not to be outwitted, was pursuing me on horseback.”

“Well, well! You are not quite so simple as I thought you. Then, as the road is clear, up up! and away for Dammartin!”

“What do you mean by 'up, up'?”

“Yes, get up and come with me.”

“We are going, then, to Dammartin?”

“Yes. I will borrow a horse, there, of old Lefranc. I will leave Cadet with him, for he can go no farther; and to-night we will push on to Paris.”

“Be it so, Monsieur Billot; be it so.”

“Well, then, up!—up!”

Pitou made an effort to obey him.

“I should much wish to do as you desire,” said he, “but, my dear Monsieur Billot, I cannot.”

“How,—you cannot get up?”


“But just now you could manage to turn round.”

“Oh, just now! that was by no means astonishing. I heard your voice, and at the same moment I received a swingeing cut across the back. But such things can only succeed once. At present, I am accustomed to your voice; and as to your whip, I feel well assured that you can only apply it to managing our poor Cadet, who is almost as heated as I am.”

Pitou's logic, which, after all, was nothing more than the Abbé Fortier's, persuaded, and even affected, the farmer.

“I have not time to sympathize in your fate,” said he to Pitou; “but, come now, make an effort and get up behind me.”

“Why,” said Pitou, “that would be, indeed, the way to founder Cadet at once, poor beast!”

“Pooh! in half an hour we shall be at old Lefranc's.”

“But it appears to me, dear Monsieur Billot,” said Pitou, “that it would be altogether useless for me to go with you to old Lefranc's.”

“And why so?”

“Because, although you have business at Dammartin, I have no business there,—not I.”

“Yes; but I want you to come to Paris with me. In Paris you will be of use to me. You have good stout fists; and I am certain it will not be long before hard knocks will be given there.”

“Ah! ah!” cried Pitou, not much delighted with this prospect; “do you believe that?”

And he managed to get on Cadet's back, Billot dragging him up as he would a sack of flour.

The good farmer soon got on the high-road again, and so well managed his bridle, whip, and spurs, that in less than half an hour, as he had said, they reached Dammartin.

Billot had entered the town by a narrow lane, which was well known to him. He soon arrived at Father Lefranc's farm-house; and leaving Pitou and Cadet in the middle of the farm-yard, he ran straight to the kitchen, where Father Lefranc, who was setting out to take a turn round his fields, was buttoning on his gaiters.

“Quick!—quick! my friend,” cried Billot, before Lefranc had recovered from the astonishment which his arrival had produced; “the strongest horse you have!”

“That is Margot,” replied Lefranc; “and fortunately she is already saddled; I was going out.”

“Well, Margot be it, then; only it is possible I may founder her, and of that I forewarn you.”

“What, founder Margot! and why so, I ask?”

“Because it is necessary that I should be in Paris this very night.”

And he made a masonic sign to Lefranc, which was most significant.

“Well, founder Margot if you will,” said old Lefranc; “you shall give me Cadet, if you do.”


“A glass of wine?”


“But it seemed to me that you were not alone?”

“No; I have a worthy lad there whom I am taking with me, and who is so fatigued that he had not the strength to come in here. Send out something to him.”

“Immediately, immediately,” said the farmer.

In ten minutes the two old comrades had each managed to soak in a bottle of good wine, and Pitou had bolted a two-pound loaf, with half a pound of bacon. While he was eating, one of the farm-servants, a good fellow, rubbed him down with a handful of clean straw, to take the mud from his clothes, and with as much care as if he had been cleaning a favorite horse.

Thus freshened up and invigorated, Pitou had also some wine given to him, taken from a third bottle, which was the sooner emptied from Pitou's having his share of it; after which Billot mounted Margot, and Pitou, stiff as a pair of compasses, was lifted on behind him.

The poor beast, being thereunto urged by whip and spur, trotted off bravely, under this double load, on the road to Paris, and without ceasing whisked away the flies with its formidable tail, the thick hair of which threw the dust of the road on Pitou's back, and every now and then lashed his calfless legs, which were exposed to view, his stockings having fallen down to his ankles.

Chapter X. What was happening at the End of the Road which Pitou was travelling upon,—that is to say, at Paris

IT is eight leagues from Dammartin to Paris. The four first leagues were tolerably well got over; but after they reached Bourget, poor Margot's legs at length began to grow somewhat stiff. Night was closing in.

On arriving at La Villette, Billot thought he perceived a great light extending over Paris.

He made Pitou observe the red light, which rose above the horizon.

“You do not see, then,” said Pitou to him, “that there are troops bivouacking, and that they have lighted their fires.”

“What mean you by troops?” cried Billot.

“There are troops here,” said Pitou; “why should there not be some farther on?”

And, in fact, on examining attentively, Father Billot saw, on looking to the right, that the plain of St. Denis was dotted over with black-looking detachments of infantry and cavalry, which were marching silently in the darkness.

Their arms glistened occasionally with the pale reflection of the stars.

Pitou, whose nocturnal excursions in the woods had accustomed him to see clearly in the dark,—Pitou pointed out to his master pieces of artillery, which had sunk up to the axles in the middle of the muddy plain. “Oh! oh!” cried Billot, “there is something new up yonder, then! Let make haste! Let us make haste! Let us make haste!”

“Yes, yes; there is a fire out yonder,” said Pitou, who had raised himself on Margot's back. “Look!—look! Do you not see the sparks?”

Margot stopped. Billot jumped off her back, and approaching a group of soldiers in blue and yellow uniform, who were bivouacking under the trees by the road-side, “Comrades,” said he to them, “can you tell me what there is going on at Paris?”

But the soldiers merely replied to him by oaths, which they uttered in the German language.

“What the devil is it they say? ” inquired Billot, addressing Pitou.

“It is not Latin, dear Monsieur Billot,” replied Pitou, trembling; “and that is all I can tell you.”

Billot reflected, and looked again.

“Simpleton that I was,” said he, “to attempt to question these Kaiserliks.”

And in his curiosity he remained motionless in the middle of the road.

An officer went up to him.

“Bass on your roat,” said he; “bass on quickly.”

“Your pardon, Captain,” replied Billot; “but I am going to Paris.”

“Vell, mein Gott; vot den?”

“And as I see that you are drawn up across the road,

I fear that we cannot get through the barriers.”

“You can get drough.”

And Billot remounted his mare and went on. But it was only to fall in the midst of the Bercheur

Hussars, who encumbered the street of La Villette.

This time he had to deal with his own countrymen.

He questioned them with more success. “Sir,” said he, “what has there happened at Paris, if you please?”

“That your headstrong Parisians,” replied the hussar, “will have their Necker; and they are firing musket-shots at us, as if we had anything to do with the matter!”

“Have Necker!” exclaimed Billot. “They have lost him, then?”

“Assuredly, since the king has dismissed him.”

“The king has dismissed Monsieur Necker!” exclaimed Billot, with the stupefaction of a devotee calling out against a sacrilege: “the king has dismissed that great man?”

“Oh, in faith he has, my worthy sir; and more than that, this great man is now on his road to Brussels.”

“Well, then, in that case we shall see some fun,” cried Billot, in a tremendous voice, without caring for the danger he was incurring by thus preaching insurrection in the midst of twelve or fifteen hundred royalist sabres.

And he again mounted Margot, spurring her on with cruel violence, until he reached the barrier.

As he advanced, he perceived that the fire was increasing and becoming redder. A long column of flame ascended from the barrier towards the sky.

It was the barrier itself that was burning.

A howling, furious mob, in which there were many women, who, as usual, threatened and vociferated more loudly than the men, were feeding the fire with pieces of wainscoting, and chairs and tables, and other articles of furniture belonging to the clerks employed to collect the city dues.

Upon the road were Hungarian and German regiments, who, leaning upon their grounded arms, were looking on with vacant eyes at this scene of devastation.

Billot did not allow this rampart of flames to arrest his progress. He spurred on Margot through the fire. Margot rushed through the flaming ruins; but when she had reached the inner side of the barrier she was obliged to stop, being met by a crowd of people coming from the centre of the city, towards the suburbs. Some of them were singing, others shouting, “To arms!”

Billot had the appearance of being what he really was, a good farmer coming to Paris on his own affairs. Perhaps he cried out rather too loudly, “Make room! make room!” but Pitou repeated the words so politely, “Room if you please; let us pass!” that the one was a corrective of the other. No one had any interest in preventing Billot from going to his affairs, and he was allowed to pass.

Margot, during all this, had recovered her wind and strength; the fire had singed her coat. All these unaccustomed shouts appeared greatly to amaze her, and Billot was obliged to restrain the efforts she now made to advance, for fear of trampling under foot some of the numerous spectators whom curiosity had drawn together before their doors to see the gate on fire, and as many curious people who were running from their doors towards the burning toll-house.

Billot went on pushing through the crowd, pulling Margot first to the right and then to the left, twisting and turning in every direction, until they reached the Boulevard; but having got thus far he was obliged to stop.

A procession was then passing, coming from the Bastille, and going towards the place called the Garde

Meuble, those two masses of stone which in those days formed a girdle which attached the centre of the city to its outworks.

This procession, which obstructed the whole of the Boulevard, was following a bier; on this bier were borne two busts,—the one veiled with black crape, the other crowned with flowers.

The bust covered with black crape was that of Necker, a minister who had not been disgraced, but dismissed. The one crowned with flowers was that of the Duke of Orleans, who had openly espoused at court the party of the Genevese economist.

Billot immediately inquired what was the meaning of this procession. He was informed that it was a popular homage paid to M. Necker and to his defender, the Duke of Orleans.

Billot had been born in a part of the country where the name of the Duke of Orleans had been venerated for a century and a half. Billot belonged to the new sect of philosophers, and consequently considered Monsieur Necker not only as a great minister, but as an apostle of humanity.

This was more than sufficient to excite Billot. He jumped off his horse, without being exactly aware of what he was about to do, shouting, “Long live the Duke of Orleans! long live Necker!” and then mingled with the crowd. Having once got into the thick of the throng, all personal liberty was at an end at once; as every one knows, the use of our free will at once ceases. We wish what the crowd wishes, we do what it does. Billot, moreover, allowed himself the more easily to be drawn into this movement, from being near the head of the procession.

The mob kept on vociferating most strenuously, “Long live Necker! no more foreign troops! Down with the foreign troops!”

Billot mingled his stentorian voice with all these voices. A superiority, be it of whatsoever nature it may, is always appreciated by the people. The Parisian of the suburbs, with his faint hoarse voice, enfeebled by inanition or worn out by drinking, duly appreciated the full, rich, and sonorous voice of Billot, and readily made way for him, so that without being too much elbowed, too much pushed about, too much pressed by the crowd, Billot at length managed to get close up to the bier.

About ten minutes after this, one of the bearers, whose enthusiasm had been greater than his strength, yielded his place to Billot.

As has been seen, the honest farmer had rapidly obtained promotion.

The day before he had been merely the propagator of the principles contained in Doctor Gilbert's pamphlet, and now he had become one of the instruments of the great triumph of Necker and the Duke of Orleans.

But he had scarcely attained this post when an idea crossed his mind.

“What had become of Pitou,—what had become of


Though carefully bearing his portion of the bier, he gave a glance behind him, and by the light of the torches which accompanied the procession, by the light of the lamps which illuminated every window, he perceived in the midst of the procession a sort of ambulating eminence, formed of five or six men, who were gesticulating and shouting.

Amidst these gesticulations and shouts it was easy to distinguish the voice and recognize the long arms of his follower, Pitou. Pitou was doing all he could to protect Margot; but despite all his efforts Margot had been invaded. Margot no longer bore Billot and Pitou, a very honorable and sufficient burden for the poor animal.

Margot was bearing as many people as could manage to get upon her back, her croup, her neck; Margot looked in the obscurity of the night, which always magnifies the appearance of objects, like an elephant loaded with hunters going to attack a tiger.

Five or six furious fellows had taken possession of Margot's broad back, vociferating, “Long live Necker!”

“Long live the Duke of Orleans!”

“Down with the foreigners!” to which Pitou replied,-"You will break Margot's back!” The enthusiasm was general.

Billot for a moment entertained the idea of rushing to the aid of Pitou and poor Margot; but he reflected that if he should only for a moment resign the honor of carrying one of the corners of the bier, he would not be able to regain his triumphal post. Then he reflected that by the barter he had agreed to with old Lefranc, that of giving him Cadet for Margot, Margot belonged to him, and that, should any accident happen to Margot, it was, after all, but an affair of some three or four hundred livres, and that he, Billot, was undoubtedly rich enough to make the sacrifice of three or four hundred livres to his country.

During this time the procession kept on advancing; it had moved obliquely to the left, and had gone down the Rue Montmartre to the Place des Victoires. When it reached the Palais Royal some great impediment prevented its passing on. A troop of men with green leaves in their hats were shouting “To arms!”

It was necessary to reconnoitre. Were these men who blocked up the Rue Vivienne friends, or enemies? Green was the color of the Count d'Artois. Why, then, these green cockades?

After a minute's conference all was explained. On learning the dismissal of Necker, a young man had issued from the Café Foy, had jumped upon a table in the garden of the Palais Royal, and taking a pistol from his breast, had cried, “To arms!”

On hearing this cry, all the persons who were walking there had assembled round him, and had shouted, “To arms!”

We have already said that all the foreign regiments had been collected around Paris. One might have imagined that it was an invasion by the Austrians. The names of these regiments alarmed the ears of all Frenchmen; they were Reynac, Salis Samade, Diesbach, Esterhazy, Rmer; the very naming of them was sufficient to make the crowd understand that they were the names of enemies. The young man named them; he announced that the Swiss were encamped in the Champs Élysées, with four pieces of artillery, and that they were to enter Paris the same night, preceded by the dragoons commanded by Prince Lambesq. He proposed a new cockade which was not theirs, snatched a leaf from a chestnuttree and placed it in the band of his hat. Upon the instant every one present followed his example. Three thousand persons had in ten minutes unleaved the trees of the Palais Royal.

That morning no one knew the name of that young man; in the evening it was in every mouth.

That young man's name was Camille Desmoulins. The two crowds recognized each other as friends; they fraternized, they embraced each other, and then the procession continued on its way. During the momentary halt we have just described, the curiosity of those who had not been able to discover, even by standing on tiptoe, what was going on, had overloaded Margot with an increasing burden. Every inch on which a foot could be placed had been invaded, so that when the crowd again moved on, the poor beast was literally crushed by the enormous weight which overwhelmed her.

At the corner of the Rue Richelieu Billot cast a look behind him; Margot had disappeared.

He heaved a deep sigh, addressed to the memory of the unfortunate animal; then, soon recovering from his grief, and calling up the whole power of his voice, he three times called Pitou, as did the Romans of ancient times when attending the funeral of a relative. He imagined that he heard, issuing from the centre of the crowd, a voice which replied to his own, but that voice was lost among the confused clamors which ascended towards the heavens, half threatening, half with applauding acclamations.

The procession still moved on. All the shops were closed; but all the windows were open, and from every window issued cries of encouragement which fell like blessings on the heads of those who formed this great ovation.

In this way they reached the Place Vendôme. But on arriving there the procession was obstructed by an unforeseen obstacle.

Like to those trunks of trees rooted up by a river that has overflown its banks, and which, on encountering the piers of a bridge, recoil upon the wreck of matter which is following them, the popular army found a detachment of the Royal Germans on the Place Vendôme.

These foreign soldiers were dragoons, who, seeing an inundation streaming from the Rue St. Honoré, and which began to overflow the Place Vendôme, loosened their horses' reins, who, impatient at having been stationed there during five hours, at once galloped furiously forward, charging upon the people.

The bearers of the bier received the first shock, and were thrown down beneath their burden. A Savoyard, who was walking before Billot, was the first to spring to his feet again; he raised the effigy of the Duke of Orleans, and placing it on the top of a stick, held it above his head, crying,- “Long live the Duke of Orleans!” whom he had never seen; and “Long live Necker!” whom he did not know.

Billot was about to do as much for the bust of Necker, but found himself forestalled. A young man, about twenty-four or twenty-five years old, and sufficiently well-dressed to deserve the title of a beau, had followed it with his eyes, which he could do more easily than Billot, who was carrying it; and as soon as the bust had fallen to the ground, he had rushed towards it and seized upon it.

The good farmer therefore vainly endeavored to find it on the ground; the bust of Necker was already on the point of a sort of pike, and, side by side with that of the Duke of Orleans, rallied around them a good portion of the procession.

Suddenly a great light illuminates the square; at the same moment a peal of musketry is heard; balls whiz through the air; something heavy strikes Billot on the forehead; he falls. At first, Billot imagined himself killed.

But as his senses had not abandoned him, as, excepting a violent pain in the head, he felt no other injury,

Billot comprehended that he was, even at the worst, but wounded. He pressed his hand to his forehead, to ascertain the extent of damage he had received, and perceived at one and the same time that he had only a contusion on the head, and that his hands were streaming with blood.

The elegantly dressed young man who had supplanted Billot had received a ball full in his breast. It was he who was shot. The blood on Billot's hands was his. The blow which Billot had experienced was from the bust of Necker, which, losing its supporter, had fallen upon his head.

Billot utters a cry, partly of anger, partly of terror. He draws back from the young man, who was convulsed in the agonies of death. Those who surrounded him also draw back; and the shout he had uttered, repeated by the crowd, is prolonged like a funeral echo by the groups assembled in the Rue St. Honoré.

This shout was a second rebellion. A second detonation was then heard, and immediately deep vacancies hollowed in the mass attested the passage of the murderous projectiles.

To pick up the bust, the whole face of which was stained with blood; to raise it above his head, and protest against this outrage with his sonorous voice, at the risk of being shot down, as had been the handsome young man whose body was then lying at his feet, was what Billot's indignation prompted him to effect, and which he did in the first moment of his enthusiasm.

But at the same instant a large and powerful hand was placed upon the farmer's shoulder, and with so much vigor that he was compelled to bend down beneath its weight. The farmer wishes to relieve himself from this pressure; another hand, no less heavy than the first, falls on his other shoulder. He turned round, reddening with anger, to ascertain what sort of antagonist he had to contend with.

“Pitou!” he exclaimed.

“Yes, yes,” replied Pitou. “Down! down! and you will soon see.”

And redoubling his efforts, he managed to drag with him to the ground the opposing farmer.

No sooner had he forced Billot to lie down flat upon the pavement, than another discharge was heard. The Savoyard who was carrying the bust of the Duke of Orleans gave way in his turn, struck by a ball in the thigh.

Then was heard the crushing of the pavement beneath the horses' hoofs; then the dragoons charged a second time; a horse, with streaming mane, and furious as that of the Apocalypse, bounds over the unfortunate Savoyard, who feels the cold steel of a lance penetrate his breast. He falls on Billot and Pitou.

The tempest rushed onward towards the end of the street, spreading, as it passed, terror and death. Dead bodies alone remained on the pavement of the square. All those who had formed the procession fled through the adjacent streets. The windows are instantly closed,-a gloomy silence succeeds to the shouts of enthusiasm and the cries of anger.

Billot waited a moment, still restrained by the prudent Pitou; he felt that the danger was becoming more distant with the noise, while Pitou, like a hare in its bed, was beginning to raise, not his head, but his ears.

“Well, Monsieur Billot,” said Pitou, “I think that you spoke truly, and that we have arrived here in the nick of time.”

“Come, now, help me!”

“And what to do,—to run away?”

“No. The young dandy is dead as a door-nail, but the poor Savoyard, in my opinion, has only fainted. Help me to put him on my back. We cannot leave him here, to be finished by those damned Germans.”

Billot spoke a language which went straight to Pitou's heart. He had no answer to make but to obey. He took up the fainting and bleeding body of the poor Savoyard, and threw him, as he would have done a sack, across the shoulders of the robust farmer; who, seeing that the Rue St. Honoré was free, and to all appearance deserted, advanced with Pitou towards the Palais Royal.

Chapter XI. The Night between the 12th and 13th of July

THE street had, in the first place, appeared empty and deserted to Billot and Pitou, because the dragoons, being engaged in the pursuit of the great body of the fugitives, had turned into the market of St. Honor, and had followed them up the Rue Louis—le—Grand and the Rue Gaillon. But as Billot advanced towards the Palais Royal, roaring instinctively, but in a subdued voice, the word “Vengeance!” men made their appearance at the corners of the streets, at the end of alleys, and from under the carriage gateways, who, at first, mute and terrified, looked around them, but being at length assured of the absence of the dragoons, brought up the rear of this funereal march, repeating, first in hollow whispers, but soon aloud, and finally with shouts, the word “Vengeance! vengeance!”

Pitou walked behind the farmer, carrying the Savoyard's black cap in his hand.

They arrived thus, in gloomy and fearful procession, upon the square before the Palais Royal, where a whole people, drunk with rage, was holding council, and soliciting the support of French soldiers against the foreigners.

“Who are these men in uniform?” inquired Billot, on arriving in front of a company who were standing with grounded arms, stopping the passage across the square, from the gate of the palace to the Rue de Chartres.

“They are the French Guards!” cried several voices.

“Ah!” exclaimed Billot, approaching them, and showing them the body of the Savoyard, which was now a lifeless corpse,—“Ah! you are Frenchmen, and you allow us to be murdered by these Germans!”

The French Guards drew back with horror.

“Dead?” murmured a voice from within their ranks.

“Yes, dead! dead! assassinated!—he and many more besides!”

“And by whom?”

“By the Royal German Dragoons. Did you not hear the cries, the firing, the galloping of their horses?”

“Yes, yes, we did!” cried two or three hundred voices. “They were butchering the people on the Place Vendôme!”

“And you are part of the people, by Heaven, you are!” cried Billot, addressing the soldiers. “It is therefore cowardly in you to allow your brothers to be butchered.”

“Cowardly!” exclaimed several threatening voices in the ranks.

“Yes, cowardly! I have said it, and I repeat the word. Come, now,” continued Billot, advancing three steps towards the spot from whence these murmurs had proceeded; “well, now, will you not kill me, in order to prove that you are not cowards?”

“Good that is all well, very well,” said one of the soldiers. “You are a brave fellow, my friend. You are a citizen, and can do what you will; but a military man is a soldier, do you see, and he must obey orders.”

“So that,” replied Billot, “ if you received orders to fire upon us,—that is to say, upon unarmed men,—you would fire, you who have succeeded the men of Fontenoy, who gave the advantage to the English by telling them to fire first!”

“As to me, I know that I would not fire, for one,” said a voice from the ranks.

“Nor I!—Nor I!” repeated a hundred voices.

“Then see that others do not fire upon us,” cried Billot. “To allow the Germans to butcher us is just the same thing as if you slaughtered us yourselves.”

“The dragoons! the dragoons!” cried several voices at the same time that the crowd, driven backwards, began to throng the square, flying by the Rue de Richelieu.

And there was heard the distant sound of the galloping of heavy cavalry upon the pavement, but which became louder at every moment.

“To arms! to arms!” cried the fugitives.

“A thousand gods!” cried Billot, throwing the dead body of the Savoyard upon the ground, which he had till then held in his arms; “give us your muskets, at least, if you will not yourselves make use of them.”

“Well, then, yes; by a thousand thunders, we will make use of them!” said the soldier to whom Billot had addressed himself, snatching out of his hand his musket, which the other had already seized. “Come, come! let us bite our cartridges, and if the Austrians have anything to say to these brave fellows, we shall see!”

“Yes, yes, we'll see!” cried the soldiers, putting their hands into their cartouche—boxes and biting off the ends of their cartridges.

“Oh, thunder!” cried Billot, stamping his feet; “and to think that I have not brought my fowling—piece! But perhaps one of those rascally Austrians will be killed, and then I will take his carbine.”

“In the mean time,” said a voice, “take this carbine; it is ready loaded.”

And at the same time an unknown man slipped a richly mounted carbine into Billot's hands.

At that instant the dragoons galloped into the square, riding down and sabring all that were in their way.

The officer who commanded the French Guards advanced four steps.

“Hilloa, there, gentlemen dragoons!” cried he; “halt there, if you please!”

Whether the dragoons did not hear, or whether they did not choose to hear, or whether they could not at once arrest the violent course of their horses, they rode across the square, making a half—wheel to the right, and ran over a woman and an old man, who disappeared beneath their horses' hoofs.

“Fire, then, fire!” cried Billot.

Billot was standing close to the officer. It might have been thought that it was the latter who had given the word.

The French Guards presented their guns, and fired a volley, which at once brought the dragoons to a stand.

“Why, gentlemen of the Guards,” said a German officer, advancing in front of his disordered squadron, “do you know that you are firing upon us?”

“Do we not know it?” cried Billot; and he fired at the officer, who fell from his horse.

Then the French Guards fired a second volley, and the Germans, seeing that they had on this occasion to deal, not with plain citizens, who would fly at the first sabrecut, but with soldiers, who firmly waited their attack, turned to the right—about, and galloped back to the Place Vendôme, amidst so formidable an explosion of bravoes and shouts of triumph, that several of their horses, terrified at the noise, ran off with their riders, and knocked their heads against the closed shutters of the shops.

“Long live the French Guards!” cried the people.

“Long live the soldiers of the country!” cried Billot.

“Thanks,” replied the latter. “We have smelt gunpowder, and we are now baptized.”

“And I, too,” said Pitou, “I have smelt gunpowder.”

“And what do you think of it?” inquired Billot.

“Why, really, I do not find it so disagreeable as I had expected,” replied Pitou.

“But now,” said Billot, who had had time to examine the carbine, and had ascertained that it was a weapon of some value, “but now, to whom belongs this gun?”

“To my master,” said the voice which had already spoken behind him. “But my master thinks that you make too good use of it to take it back again.”

Billot turned round, and perceived a huntsman in the livery of the Duke of Orleans.

“And where is your master?” said he.

The huntsman pointed to a half—open Venetian blind, behind which the prince had been watching all that had passed.

“Your master is then on our side?” asked Billot. “With the people, heart and soul,” replied the huntsman.

“In that case, once more, 'Long live the Duke of Orleans!'“ cried Billot. “My friends, the Duke of Orleans is with us. Long live the Duke of Orleans!”

And he pointed to the blind behind which the prince stood.

Then the blind was thrown completely open, and the Duke of Orleans bowed three times.

After which the blind was again closed.

Although of such short duration, his appearance had wound up the enthusiasm of the people to its acme.

“Long live the Duke of Orleans!” vociferated two or three thousand voices.

“Let us break open the armorers' shops!” cried a voice in the crowd.

“Let us run to the Invalides!” cried some old soldiers. “Sombreuil has twenty thousand muskets.”

“To the Invalides!”

“To the Hôtel de Ville!” exclaimed several voices. “Flesselles the provost of the merchants, has the key of the depôt in which the arms of the Guards are kept. He will give them to us.”

“To the Hôtel de Ville!” cried a fraction of the crowd.

And the whole crowd dispersed, taking the three directions which had been pointed out.

During this time the dragoons had rallied round the Baron de Besenval and the Prince de Lambesq, on the Place Louis XV.

Of this Billot and Pitou were ignorant. They had not followed either of the three troops of citizens, and they found themselves almost alone in the square before the Palais Royal.

“Well, dear Monsieur Billot, where are we to go next, if you please?” said Pitou.

“Why,” replied Billot, “I should have desired to follow those worthy people,—not to the gunmakers' shops, since I have such a beautiful carbine, but to the Hôtel de Ville or to the Invalides. However, not having come to Paris to fight, but to find out the address of Doctor Gilbert, it appears to me that I ought to go to the College of Louis—le—Grand, where his son now is; and then, after having seen the doctor, why, we can throw ourselves again into this seething whirlpool.” And the eyes of the farmer flashed lightning.

“To go in the first place to the College of Louisle—Grand appears to me quite logical,” sententiously observed Pitou; “since it was for that purpose that we came to Paris.”

“Go, get a musket, a sabre, a weapon of some kind or other from some one or other of those idle fellows who are lying on the pavement yonder,” said Billot, pointing to one out of five or six dragoons who were stretched upon the ground; “and let us at once go to the college.”

“But these arms,” said Pitou, hesitating, “they are not mine.”

“Who, then, do they belong to?” asked Billot.

“To the king.”

“They belong to the people,” rejoined Billot.

And Pitou, yielding implicitly to the opinion of the farmer, whom he knew to be a man who would not rob a neighbor of a grain of millet, approached with every necessary precaution the dragoon who happened to be the nearest to him, and after having assured himself that he was really dead, took from him his sabre, his musketoon, and his cartouche—box.

Pitou had a great desire to take his helmet also, only he was not quite certain that what Father Billot had said with regard to offensive weapons extended to defensive accoutrements.

But while thus arming himself, Pitou directed his ears towards the Place Vendôme.

“Ho, ho!” said he, “it appears to me that the Royal

Germans are coming this way again.”

And in fact the noise of a troop of horsemen returning at a foot—pace could be heard. Pitou peeped from behind the corner of the coffee—house called La Regence, and perceived, at about the distance of the market of St. Honoré, a patrol of dragoons advancing, with their musketoons in hand.

“Oh, quick, quick!” cried Pitou, “here they are, coming back again.”

Billot cast his eyes around him to see if there was any means of offering resistance. There was scarcely a person in the square.

“Let us go, then,” said he, “to the College Louis—le—Grand.”

And he went up the Rue de Chartres, followed by Pitou, who, not knowing the use of the hook upon his belt, was dragging his long sabre after him.

“A thousand thunders!” exclaimed Billot; “why, you look like a dealer in old iron. Fasten me up that lath there.”

“But how?” asked Pitou.

“Why, so, by Heaven!—there!” said Billot. And he hooked Pitou's long sabre up to his belt, which enabled the latter to walk with more celerity than he could have done but for this expedient.

They pursued their way without meeting with any impediment, till they reached the Place Louis XV.; but there Billot and Pitou fell in with the column which had left them to proceed to the Invalides, and which had been stopped short in its progress.

“Well!” cried Billot, “what is the matter?”

“The matter is, that we cannot go across the Bridge Louis XV.”

“But you can go along the quays.”

“All passage is stopped that way, too.”

“And across the Champs Élysées?”


“Then let us retrace our steps, and go over the bridge at the Tuileries.”

The proposal was a perfectly natural one, and the crowd, by following Billot, showed that they were eager to accede to it. But they saw sabres gleaming half—way between them and the Tuileries Gardens. The quay was occupied by a squadron of dragoons.

“Why, these cursed dragoons are, then, everywhere,” murmured the farmer.

“I say, my dear Monsieur Billot,” said Pitou, “I believe that we are caught.”

“Pshaw! they cannot catch five or six thousand men; and we are five or six thousand men, at least.”

The dragoons on the quay were advancing slowly, it is true, at a very gentle walk; but they were visibly advancing.

“The Rue Royale still remains open to us. Come this way; come, Pitou.”

Pitou followed the farmer as if he had been his shadow. But a line of soldiers was drawn across the street, near the St. Honoré gate.

“Ah, ah!” muttered Billot; “you may be in the right, friend Pitou.”

“Hum!” was Pitou's sole reply.

But this word expressed, by the tone in which it had been pronounced, all the regret which Pitou felt at not having been mistaken.

The crowd, by its agitation and its clamors, proved that it was not less sensible than Pitou of the position in which it was then placed.

And, in fact, by a skilful manoeuvre, the Prince de Lambesq had surrounded not only the rebels, but also those who had been drawn there from mere curiosity, and by preventing all egress by the Bridge Louis XV., the quays, the Champs Élysées, the Rue Royale, and Les Feuillants, he had enclosed them in a bow of iron, the string of which was represented by the walls of the Tuileries Gardens, which it would be very difficult to escalade, and the iron gate of the Pont Tournant, which it was almost impossible to force.

Billot reflected on their position; it certainly was not a favorable one; however, as he was a man of calm, cool mind, full of resources when in danger, he cast his eyes around him, and perceiving a pile of timber lying beside the river,—

“I have an idea,” said he to Pitou: “come this way.”

Pitou followed him, without asking him what the idea was.

Billot advanced towards the timber, and seizing the end of a large block, said to Pitou, “ Help me to carry this.”

Pitou, for his part, without questioning him as to his intentions, caught hold of the other end of the piece of timber. He had such implicit confidence in the farmer, that he would have gone down to the infernal regions with him, without even making any observation as to the length of the descent or the depth of the abyss.

They were soon upon the quay again, bearing a load which five or six men of ordinary strength would have found difficult to raise.

Strength is always a subject of admiration to the mob, and although so compactly huddled together, they made way for Billot and Pitou.

Then, as they felt convinced that the manuvre which was being accomplished was one of general interest, some men walked before Billot, crying, “Make way! make way!”

“Tell me now, Father Billot,” inquired Pitou, after having carried the timber some thirty yards, “are we going far?”

“As far as the gate of the Tuileries.”

“Ho! ho!” cried the crowd, who at once divined his intention.

And it made way for them more eagerly even than before.

Pitou looked about him, and saw that the gate was not more than thirty paces distant.

“I can reach it,” said he, with the brevity of a Pythagorean.

The labor was so much the easier to Pitou from five or six of the strongest of the crowd taking their share in the burden.

The result of this was a very notable acceleration in their progress.

In five minutes they had reached the iron gate.

“Come, now,” cried Billot, “clap your shoulders to it, and all push together.”

“Good!” said Pitou. “I understand it now. We have just made a warlike engine; the Romans used to call it a ram.”

“Now, my boys,” cried Billot, “once, twice, thrice!” And the joist, directed with a furious impetus, struck the lock of the gate with resounding violence.

The soldiers who were on guard in the interior of the garden hastened to resist this invasion. But at the third stroke the gate gave way, turning violently on its hinges, and through that gaping and gloomy mouth the crowd rushed impetuously.

From the movement that was then made, the Prince de Lambesq perceived at once that an opening had been effected which allowed the escape of those whom he had considered as his prisoners. He was furious with disappointment. He urged his horse forward in order the better to judge of the position of affairs. The dragoons who were drawn up behind him imagined that the order had been given to charge, and they followed him. The horses, going off at full speed, could not be suddenly pulled up. The men, who wished to be revenged for the check they had received on the square before the Palais Royal, scarcely endeavored to restrain them.

The prince saw that it would be impossible to moderate their advance, and allowed himself to be borne away by it. A sudden shriek uttered by the women and children ascended to heaven crying for vengeance against the brutal soldiers.

A frightful scene then occurred, rendered still more terrific by the darkness. Those who were charged upon became mad with pain; those who charged them were mad with anger.

Then a species of defence was organized from the top of a terrace. Chairs were hurled down on the dragoons. The Prince de Lambesq, who had been struck on the head, replied by giving a sabre—cut to the person nearest to him, without considering that he was punishing an innocent man instead of a guilty one, and an old man more than seventy years of age fell beneath his sword.

Billot saw this man fall, and uttered a loud cry. In a moment his carbine was at his shoulder. A furrow of light for a moment illuminated the darkness, and the prince had then died, had not his horse, by chance, reared at the same instant.

The horse received the ball in his neck, and fell.

It was thought that the prince was killed; the dragoons then rushed into the Tuileries, pursuing the fugitives, and firing their pistols at them.

But the fugitives, having now a greater space, dispersed among the trees.

Billot quietly reloaded his carbine.

“In good faith, Pitou,” said he, “I think that you were right. We really have arrived in the nick of time.”

“If I should become a bold, daring fellow!” said Pitou, discharging his musketoon at the thickest group of the dragoons. “It seems to me not so difficult as I had thought.”

“Yes,” replied Billot; “but useless courage is not real courage. Come this way, Pitou, and take care that your sword does not get between your legs.”

“Wait a moment for me, dear Monsieur Billot; if I should lose you I should not know which way to go. I do not know Paris as you do: I was never here before.”

“Come along, come along,” said Billot; and he went by the terrace by the water—side, until he had got ahead of the line of troops, which were advancing along the quay; but this time as rapidly as they could, to give their aid to the Lambesq dragoons, should such aid be necessary.

When they reached the end of the terrace, Billot seated himself on the parapet and jumped on to the quay.

Pitou followed his example.

Chapter XII. What occurred during the Night of the 12th July, 1789

ONCE upon the quay, the two countrymen saw glittering on the bridge near the Tuileries the arms of another body of men, which in all probability was not a body of friends; they silently glided to the end of the quay and descended the bank which leads along the Seine.

The clock of the Tuileries was just then striking eleven.

When they had got beneath the trees which line the banks of the river, fine aspen-trees and poplars, which bathe their feet in its current; when they were lost to the sight of their pursuers, hid by their friendly foliage, the farmer and Pitou threw themselves upon the grass and opened a council of war.

The question was to know,—and this was suggested by the farmer,—whether they should remain where they were, that is to say, in safety, or comparatively so, or whether they should again throw themselves into the tumult and take their share of the struggle which was going on, and which appeared likely to be continued the greater part of the night.

The question being mooted, Billot awaited the reply of Pitou.

Pitou had risen very greatly in the opinion of the farmer,—in the first place, by the knowledge which he had shown the day before, and afterwards by the courage of which he had given such proofs during the evening.

Pitou instinctively felt this, but instead of being prouder for it, he was only the more grateful towards the good farmer. Pitou was naturally very humble.

“Monsieur Billot,” said he, “it is evident that you are more brave and I less a poltroon than I imagined. Horace, who, however, was a very different man from us, with regard to poetry, at least, threw away his arms and ran off at the very first blow. As to me, I have still my musketoon, my cartridge-box, and my sabre, which proves that I am braver than Horace.”

“Well, what are you driving at?”

“What I mean is this, dear Monsieur Billot,—that the bravest man in the world may be killed by a ball.”

“And what then?” inquired the farmer.

“And then, my dear sir, thus it is: as you stated, on leaving your farm, that you were going to Paris for an important object—”

“Oh, confound it, that is true, for the casket!”

“Well, then, did you come about this casket,—yes, or no?”

“I came about the casket, by a thousand thunders! and for nothing else.”

“If you should allow yourself to be killed by a ball, the affair for which you came cannot be accomplished.”

“In truth, you are ten times right, Pitou.”

“Do you hear that crashing noise—those cries?” continued Pitou, encouraged by the farmer's approbation; “wood is being torn like paper, iron is twisted as if it were but hemp.”

“It is because the people are angry, Pitou.”

“But it appears to me.” Pitou ventured to say, “that the king is tolerably angry too.”

“How say you,—the king?”

“Undoubtedly; the Austrians, the Germans, the Kaiserliks, as you call them, are the king's soldiers. Well, if they charge the people, it is the king who orders them to charge, and for him to give such an order, he must be angry too.”

“You are both right and wrong, Pitou.”

“That does not appear possible to me, Monsieur Billot, and I dare not say to you that had you studied logic, you would not venture on such a paradox.”

“You are right and you are wrong, Pitou and I will presently make you comprehend how this can be.”

“I do not ask anything better, but I doubt it.”

“See you now, Pitou, there are two parties at court,—that of the king, who loves the people, and that of the queen, who loves the Austrians?”

“That is because the king is a Frenchman, and the queen an Austrian,” philosophically replied Pitou.

“Wait a moment. On the king's side are Monsieur Turgot and Monsieur Necker, on the queen's, Monsieur de Breteuil and the Polignacs. The king is not the master, since he has been obliged to send away Monsieur Turgot and Monsieur Necker. It is therefore the queen who is the mistress, the Breteuils and the Polignacs: therefore all goes badly.

“Do you see, Pitou, the evil proceeds from Madame Deficit, and Madame Deficit is in a rage, and it is in her name that the troops charge; the Austrians defend the Austrian woman, that is natural enough.”

“Your pardon, Monsieur Billot,” said Pitou, interrupting him, “but deficit is a Latin word, which means to say a want of something. What is it that is wanting?”

“Zounds! why, money, to be sure; and it is because money is wanting, it is because the queen's favorites have devoured this money which is wanting, that the queen is called Madame Deficit. It is not therefore the king who is angry, but the queen. The king is only vexed,—vexed that everything goes so badly.”

“I comprehend,” said Pitou; but the casket?”

“That is true, that is true, Pitou; these devilish politics always drag me on farther than I would go—yes, the casket, before everything. You are right, Pitou; when I shall have seen Doctor Gilbert, why, then, we can return to politics—it is a sacred duty.”

“There is nothing more sacred than sacred duties,” said Pitou.

“Well, then, let us go to the College Louis-le-Grand, where Sebastien Gilbert now is,” said Billot.

“Let us go,” said Pitou, sighing; for he would be compelled to leave a bed of moss-like grass, to which he had accustomed himself. Besides which, notwithstanding the over-excitement of the evening, sleep, the assiduous host of pure consciences and tired limbs, had descended with all its poppies to welcome the virtuous and heartily tired Pitou.

Billot was already on his feet, and Pitou was about to rise, when the half-hour struck.

“But,” said Billot, “at half-past eleven o'clock the college of Louis-le-Grand must, it would appear to me, be closed.”

“Oh, most assuredly,” said Pitou.

“And then, in the dark,” continued Billot, “we might fall into some ambuscade; it seems to me that I see the fires of a bivouac in the direction of the Palace of Justice. I may be arrested, or I may be killed; you are right, Pitou, I must not be arrested,—I must not be killed.”

It was the third time since morning that Pitou's ears had been saluted with those words so flattering to human pride,—

“You are right.”

Pitou thought he could not do better than to repeat the words of Billot.

“You are right,” he repeated, lying down again upon the grass; “you must not allow yourself to be killed, dear Monsieur Billot.”

And the conclusion of this phrase died away in Pitou's throat. Vox faucibus hæsit, he might have added, had he been awake; but he was fast asleep.

Billot did not perceive it.

“All idea,” said he.

“Ah!” snored Pitou.

“Listen to me; I have an idea. Notwithstanding all the precautions I am taking, I may be killed. I may be cut down by a sabre or killed from a distance by a ball,—killed suddenly upon the spot; if that should happen, you ought to know what you will have to say to Doctor Gilbert in my stead: but you must be mute, Pitou.”

Pitou heard not a word of this, and consequently made no reply.

“Should I be wounded mortally, and not be able to fulfil my mission, you will, in my place, seek out Doctor Gilbert, and you will say to him—do you understand me, Pitou?” added the farmer, stooping towards his companion, “and you will say to him—why, confound him, he is positively snoring, the sad fellow!”

All the excitement of Billot was at once damped on ascertaining that Pitou was asleep.

“Well, let us sleep, then,” said he; and he laid himself down by Pitou's side, without grumbling very seriously. For, however accustomed to fatigue, the ride of the previous day and the events of the evening did not fail to have a soporific effect on the good farmer.

And the day broke about three hours after they had gone to sleep, or rather, we should say, after their senses were benumbed.

When they again opened their eyes, Paris had lost nothing of that savage countenance which they had observed the night before. Only there were no soldiers to be seen; the people were everywhere.

The people armed themselves with pikes hastily manufactured, with muskets which the majority of them knew not how to handle, with magnificent weapons made centuries before, and of which the bearers admired the ornaments, some being inlaid with gold or ivory or mother-of-pearl, without comprehending the use or the mechanism of them.

Immediately after the retreat of the soldiers the populace had pillaged the palace called the Garde-Meuble.

And the people dragged towards the Hôtel de Ville two small pieces of artillery.

The alarm-bell was rung from the towers of Notre Dame, at the Hôtel de Ville, and in all the parish churches. There were seen issuing,—from where no one could tell,—but as from beneath the pavement, legions of men and women, squalid, emaciated, in filthy rags, half naked, who but the evening before cried, “Give us bread!” but now vociferated, “Give us arms!”

Nothing could be more terrifying than these bands of spectres, who, during the last three months had poured into the capital from the country, passing through the city gates silently, and installing themselves in Paris, where famine reigned, like Arabian ghouls in a cemetery.

On that day the whole of France, represented in Paris by the starving people from each province, cried to its king, “Give us liberty!” and to its God, “Give us food!”

Billot, who was first to awake, roused up Pitou, and they both set off to the College Louis-le-Grand; looking around them, shuddering and terrified at the miserable creatures they saw on every side.

By degrees, as they advanced towards that part of the town which we now call the Latin Quarter, as they ascended the Rue de la Harpe, as they approached their destination, the Rue Saint Jacques, they saw, as during the times of La Fronde, barricades being raised in every street. Women and children were carrying to the tops of the houses ponderous folio volumes, heavy pieces of furniture, and precious marble ornaments, destined to crush the foreign soldiers in case of their venturing into the narrow and tortuous streets of old Paris.

From time to time Billot observed one or two of the French Guards forming the centre of some meeting which they were organizing, and which, with marvellous rapidity, they were teaching the handling of a musket,-exercises which women and children were curiously observing, and almost with a desire of learning them themselves.

Billot and Pitou found the College of Louis-le-Grand in flagrant insurrection; the pupils had risen against their teachers, and had driven them from the building. At the moment when the farmer and his companion reached the grated gate, the scholars were attacking this gate, uttering loud threats, to which the affrighted principal replied with tears.

The farmer for a moment gazed on this intestine revolt, when suddenly, in a stentorian voice, he cried out:—

“Which of you here is called Sebastien Gilbert?”

“'Tis I,” replied a young lad, about fifteen years of age, of almost feminine beauty, and who, with the assistance of four or five of his comrades, was carrying a ladder wherewith to escalade the walls, seeing that they could not force open the gate.

“Come nearer to me, my child.”

“What is it that you want with me?” said young Sebastien to Billot.

“Do you wish to take him away?” cried the principal, terrified at the aspect of two armed men, one of whom—the one who had spoken to young Gilbert—was covered with blood.

The boy, on his side, looked with astonishment at these two men, and was endeavoring, but uselessly, to recognize his foster-brother, Pitou, who had grown so immeasurably tall since he last saw him, and who was altogether metamorphosed by the warlike accoutrements he had put on.

“Take him away!” exclaimed Billot, “take away Monsieur Gilbert's son, and lead him into all this turmoil,—expose him to receiving some unhappy blow! Oh! no, indeed!”

“Do you see, Sebastien,” said the principal, “do you see, you furious fellow, that even your friends will have nothing to do with you? For, in short, these gentlemen appear to be your friends. Come, gentlemen, come, my young pupils, come, my children,” cried the poor principal, “obey me—obey me, I command you—obey me, I entreat you.”

Oro obtestorque,” said Pitou.

“Sir,” said young Gilbert, with a firmness that was extraordinary in a youth of his age, “retain my comrades, if such be your pleasure; but as to me, do you understand me, I will go out.”

He made a movement towards the gate; the professor caught him by the arm.

But he, shaking his fine auburn curls upon his pallid forehead,—

“Sir,” said he, “beware what you are doing. I am not in the same position as your other pupils. My father has been arrested, imprisoned; my father is in the power of the tyrants.”

“In the power of the tyrants!” exclaimed Billot; “speak, my child; what is it that you mean?”

“Yes, yes,” cried several of the scholars, “Sebastien is right; his father has been arrested; and since the people have opened the prisons, he wishes they should open his father's prison too.”

“Oh, oh!” said the farmer, shaking the bars of the gate with his herculean arms, “ they have arrested Doctor Gilbert, have they? By Heaven! my little Catherine, then, was right!”

“Yes, sir,” continued young Gilbert, “they have arrested my father, and that is why I wish to get out, why I wish to take a musket, why I wish to fight until I have liberated my dear father.”

And these words were accompanied and encouraged by a hundred furious voices, crying in every key:—

“Arms! arms! let us have arms!”

On hearing these cries, the crowd which had collected in the street, animated in its turn by an heroic ardor, rushed towards the gate to give liberty to the collegians.

The principal threw himself upon his knees between his scholars and the invaders, and held out his arms with a supplicating gesture.

“Oh, my friends! my friends!” cried he, “respect my children!”

“Do we not respect them?” said a French Guard. “I believe we do, indeed. They are fine boys, and they will do their exercise admirably.”

“My friends! my friends! These children are a sacred deposit which their parents have confided to me; I am responsible for them; their parents calculate upon me; for them I would sacrifice my life; but, in the name of Heaven! do not take away these children!”

Hootings, proceeding from the street, that is to say, from the hindmost ranks of the crowd, replied to these piteous supplications.

Billot rushed forward, opposing the French Guards, the crowd, the scholars themselves:—

“He is right, it is a sacred trust; let men fight, let men get themselves killed, but let children live; they are seed for the future.”

A disapproving murmur followed these words.

“Who is it that murmurs?” cried Billot; “assuredly, it cannot be a father. I who am now speaking to you, had two men killed in my arms; their blood is upon my shirt. See this!”

And he showed his shirt and waistcoat all begrimed with blood, and with a dignified movement which electrified the crowd.

“Yesterday,” continued Billot, “I fought at the Palais Royal; and at the Tuileries, and this lad also fought there, but this lad has neither father nor mother; moreover, he is almost a man.”

And he pointed to Pitou, who looked proudly around him.

“To-day,” continued Billot, “I shall fight again; but let no one say to me, 'The Parisians were not strong enough to contend against the foreign soldiers, and they called children to their aid.'“

“Yes, yes,” resounded on every side, proceeding from women in the crowd, and several of the soldiers; “he is right, children: go into the college; go into the college.”

“Oh, thanks, thanks, sir!” murmured the principal of the college, endeavoring to catch hold of Billot's hand through the bars of the gate.

“And, above all, take special care of Sebastien; keep him safe,” said the latter.

“Keep me! I say, on the contrary, that I will not be kept here,” cried the boy, livid with anger, and struggling with the college servants, who were dragging him away.

“Let me in,” said Billot. “I will engage to quiet him.”

The crowd made way for him to pass; the farmer dragged Pitou after him, and entered the courtyard of the college.

Already three or four of the French Guards, and about ten men, placed themselves as sentinels at the gate, and prevented the egress of the young insurgents.

Billot went straight up to young Sebastien, and taking between his huge and horny palms the small white hands of the child—

“Sebastien,” he said, “do you not recognize me?”


“I am old Billot, your father's farmer.”

“I know you now, sir.”

“And this lad,” rejoined Billot, pointing to his companion, “do you know him?”

“Ange Pitou,” said the boy.

“Yes, Sebastien; it is I—it is I.”

And Pitou, weeping with joy, threw his arms round the neck of his foster-brother and former schoolfellow.

“Well,” said the boy, whose brow still remained scowling, “what is now to be done?”

“What?” cried Billot. “Why, if they have taken your father from you, I will restore him to you. Do you understand?”


“Yes, I—I, and all those who are out yonder with me. What the devil! Yesterday, we had to deal with the Austrians, and we saw their cartridge-boxes.”

“In proof of which, I have one of them,” said Pitou.

“Shall we not release his father?” cried Billot, addressing the crowd.

“Yes! yes!” roared the crowd. “We will release him.”

Sebastien shook his head.

“My father is in the Bastille,” said he in a despairing tone.

“And what then?” cried Billot.

“The Bastille cannot be taken,” replied the child.

“Then what was it you wished to do, if such is your conviction?”

“I wished to go to the open space before the castle. There will be fighting there, and my father might have seen me through the bars of his window.”


“Impossible? And why should I not do so? One day, when I was walking out with all the boys here, I saw the head of a prisoner. If I could have seen my father as I saw that prisoner, I should have recognized him, and I would have called out to him, 'Do not be unhappy, Father, I love you!'“

“And if the soldiers of the Bastille should have killed you?”

“Well, then, they would have killed me under the eyes of my father.”

“The death of all the devils!” exclaimed Billot. “You are a wicked lad to think of getting yourself killed in your father's sight, and make him die of grief, in a cage,—he who has only you in the world, he who loves you so tenderly Decidedly, you have a bad heart, Gilbert.”

And the farmer pushed the boy from him.

“Yes, yes; a wicked heart!” howled Pitou, bursting into tears.

Sebastien did not reply.

And, while he was meditating in gloomy silence, Billot was admiring his beautifully pale face, his flashing eyes, his ironical expressive mouth, his well-shaped nose, and his strongly developed chin, all of which gave testimony at once of his nobility of soul and nobility of race.

“You say that your father is in the Bastille,” said the farmer, at length breaking the silence.


“And for what?”

“Because my father is the friend of Lafayette and Washington; because my father has fought with his sword for the independence of America, and with his pen for the liberty of France; because my father is well known in both worlds as the detester of tyranny; because he has called down curses on the Bastille, in which so many have suffered; therefore have they sent him there!”

“And when was this?”

“Six days ago.”

“And where did they arrest him?”

“At Havre, where he had just landed.”

“How do you know all this?”

“I have received a letter from him.”

“Dated from Havre?”


“And it was at Havre itself that he was arrested?”

“It was at Lillebonne.”

“Come now, child, do not feel angry with me, but give me all the particulars that you know. I swear to you that I will either leave my bones on the Place de la Bastille, or you shall see your father again.”

Sebastien looked at the farmer, and seeing that he spoke from his heart, his angry feelings subsided.

“Well, then,” said he, “at Lillebonne he had time to write in a book, with a pencil, these words:—

SEBASTIEN,—I have been arrested, and they are taking me to the Bastille. Be patient, hope, and study diligently.

LILLEBONNE, July 7, 1789.

P.S.—I am arrested in the cause of Liberty. I have a son in the College Louis-le-Grand, at Paris. The person who shall find this book is entreated, in the name of humanity, to get it conveyed to my son. His name is Sebastien Gilbert.

“And this book?” inquired Billot, palpitating with emotion.

“He put a piece of gold into this book, tied a cord round it, and threw it out of the window.”


“The curate of the place found it, and chose from among his parishioners a robust young man, to whom he said:—

“'Leave twelve francs with your family, who are without bread, and with the other twelve go to Paris; carry this book to a poor boy whose father has just been arrested because he has too great a love for the people.'

“The young man arrived here at noon yesterday, and delivered to me my father's book. And this is the way I learned how my father had been arrested.”

“Come, come,” cried Billot, “this reconciles me somewhat to the priests. Unfortunately they are not all like this one. And this worthy young man,—what has become of him?”

“He set off to return home last night. He hoped to carry back with him to his family five francs out of the twelve he had brought with him.”

“Admirable! admirable!” exclaimed Pitou, weeping for joy. “Oh, the people have good feelings! Go on, Gilbert.”

“Why, now you know all.”


“You promised me, if I would tell you all, that you would bring back my father to me. I have told you all; now remember your promise.”

“I told you that I would save him, or I should be killed in the attempt. That is true. And now, show me the book,” said Billot.

“Here it is,” said the boy, taking from his pocket a volume of the “Contrat Social.”

“And where is your father's writing?”

“Here,” replied the boy, pointing to what the doctor had written.

The farmer kissed the written characters.

“And now,” said he, “tranquillize yourself. I am going to seek your father in the Bastille.”

“Unhappy man!” cried the principal of the college, seizing Billot's hands; “how can you obtain access to a prisoner of State?”

“Zounds! by taking the Bastille!”

Some of the French Guards began to laugh. In a few moments the laugh had become general.

“Why,” said Billot, casting around him a glance flashing with anger, ” what then is in the Bastille, if you please?”

“Stone,” said a soldier.

“Iron,” said another.

“And fire,” said a third. “Take care, my worthy man: you may burn your fingers.”

“Yes, yes; you may burn yourself,” reiterated the crowd, with horror.

“Ah! Parisians,” shouted the farmer, “you have pickaxes, and you are afraid of stone! Ah! you have lead, and you fear iron! You have gunpowder, and you are afraid of fire! Parisians!—cowards! Parisians!—poltroons! Parisians!—machines for slavery! A thousand demons!—where is the man of heart who will go with me and Pitou to take the king's Bastille? My name is Billot, a farmer of the Isle de France. Forward!”

Billot had raised himself to the very climax of audacity.

The crowd, rendered enthusiastic by his address, and trembling with excitement, pressed around him, crying, “To the Bastille!”

Sebastien endeavored to cling to Billot, but the latter gently pushed him back.

“Child,” said he, “what is the last word your father wrote to you?”

“Work,” replied Sebastien.

“Well, then, work here. We are going to work down yonder; only our work is called destroying and killing.”

The young man did not utter a word in reply. He hid his face with both hands, without even pressing the hand of Pitou, who embraced him; and he fell into such violent convulsions that he was immediately carried into the infirmary attached to the college.

“To the Bastille!” cried Billot.

“To the Bastille!” cried Pitou.

“To the Bastille!” shouted the crowd.

And they immediately commenced their march towards the Bastille.

Chapter XIII. The King is so good! the Queen is so good!

AND now we request our readers to allow us to give them an insight into the principal political events that have occurred since the period at which, in a previous publication, we abandoned the court of France.

Those who know the history of that period, or those whom dry, plain history may alarm, may skip this chapter, and pass on to the next one, which connects exactly with Chapter XII.; the one we are now writing being intended for those very precise and exacting spirits who are determined to be informed on every point.

During the last year or two something unheard of, unknown, something emanating from the past and looking towards the future, was threatening and growling in the air.

It was the Revolution.

Voltaire had raised himself for a moment, while in his last agony, and, leaning upon his elbow in his death-bed, he had seen shining, even amidst the darkness in which he was about to sleep forever, the brilliant lightning of this dawn.

When Anne of Austria assumed the regency of France, says Cardinal de Retz, there was but one saying in every mouth,—“The queen is so good!”

One day Madame de Pompadour's physician, Quesnoy, who had an apartment in her house, saw Louis XV. coming in. A feeling altogether unconnected with respect agitated him so much that he trembled and turned pale.

“What is the matter with you?” said Madame de Hausset to him.

“The matter is,” replied Quesnoy, “that every time I see the king I say to myself, 'There is a man who, if he should feel so inclined, can have my head cut off.'“

“Oh, there's no danger of that,” rejoined Madame de Hausset. “The king is so good!”

It is with these two phrases—“The king is so good!” “The queen is so good!”—that the French Revolution was effected.

When Louis XV. died, France breathed again. The country was delivered at the same moment from the king, the Pompadours, the Dubarrys, and the Parc aux Cerfs.

The pleasures of Louis XV. had cost the nation very dear. In them alone were expended three millions of livres a year.

Fortunately, after him came a king who was young, moral, philanthropic, almost philosophical.

A king who, like the Émile of Jean Jacques Rousseau, had studied a trade, or rather, we should say, three trades.

He was a locksmith, a watchmaker, and a mechanician.

Being alarmed at the abyss over which he was suspended, the king began by refusing all favors that were asked of him. The courtiers trembled. Fortunately, there was one circumstance which reassured them,—it was not the king who refused, but Turgot,—it was, that the queen was not yet in reality a queen, and consequently could not have that influence to-day which she might acquire to-morrow.

At last, towards the year 1777, she acquired that influence which had been so long desired. The queen became a mother. The king, who was already so good a king, so good a husband, could now also prove himself a good father.

How could anything be now refused to her who had given an heir to the crown?

And, besides, that was not all; the king was also a good brother. The anecdote is well known of Beaumarchais being sacrificed to the Count de Provence; and yet the king did not like the Count de Provence, who was a pedant.

But, to make up for this, he was very fond of his younger brother, the Count d'Artois, the type of French wit, elegance, and nobleness.

He loved him so much that if he sometimes refused the queen any favor she might have asked of him, the Count d'Artois had only to add his solicitations to those of the queen, and the king had no longer the firmness to refuse.

It was, in fact, the reign of amiable men. Monsieur de Calonne, one of the most amiable men in the world, was comptroller-general. It was Calonne who said to the queen,—

“Madame, if it is possible, it is done; and if it is impossible, it shall be done.”

From the very day on which this charming reply was circulated in all the drawing-rooms of Paris and Versailles, the Red Book, which every one had thought closed forever, was reopened.

The queen buys Saint Cloud.

The king buys Rambouillet.

It is no longer the king who has lady favorites, it is the queen. Mesdames Diana and Jules de Polignac cost as much to France as La Pompadour and La Dubarry.

The queen is so good!

A reduction is proposed in the salaries of the high officers of the court. Some of them make up their minds to it. But one of the most habitual frequenters of the palace obstinately refuses to submit to this reduction; it is Monsieur de Coigny. He meets the king in one of the corridors, a terrible scene occurs, the king runs away, and in the evening says laughingly,—

“Upon my word, I believe if I had not yielded, Coigny would have beaten me.”

The king is so good!

And then the fate of a kingdom sometimes depends upon a very trivial circumstance; the spur of a page, for instance.

Louis XV. dies; who is to succeed Monsieur d'Aiguillon?

The king, Louis XVI., is for Machaut. Machaut is one of the ministers who had sustained the already tottering throne. Mesdames, that is to say, the king's aunts, are for Monsieur de Maurepas, who is so amusing, and who writes such pretty songs. He wrote three volumes of them at Pontchartrain, which he called his memoirs.

All this is a steeple-chase affair. The question was as to who should arrive first,—the king and queen at Arnouville, or mesdames at Pontchartrain.

The king has the power in his own hands; the chances are therefore in his favor.

He hastens to write:—

Set out, the very moment you receive this, for Paris; I am waiting for you.

He slips his despatch into an envelope, and on the envelope he writes,—

“Monsieur le Comte de Machaut, at Arnouville.”

A page of the king's stables is sent for; the royal missive is put into his hands, and he is ordered to mount a horse, and to go to Arnouville full speed.

And now that the page is despatched, the king can receive mesdames.

Mesdames,—the same whom the king their father, as has been seen in “Balsamo,” called Loque, Chiffe, and Graille, three names eminently aristocratic,—mesdames are waiting at a door opposite to that by which the page goes out, until he shall have left the room.

The page once gone out, mesdames may go in.

They go in, entreat the king in favor of Monsieur Maurepas; all this is a mere question of time; the king does not like to refuse mesdames anything,—the king is so good!

He will accede to their request when the page shall have got so far on his journey that no one can come up with him.

He contested the point with mesdames, his eyes fixed on the time-piece. Half an hour will be sufficient for him. The time-piece will not deceive him. It is the time-piece which he himself regulates.

Twenty minutes have elapsed, and he yields.

“Let the page be overtaken,” said he, “ and all shall be as you please.”

Mesdames rush out of the room; they will despatch a man on horseback; he shall kill a horse, two horses, ten horses, but the page must be overtaken.

All these determinations are unnecessary; not a single horse will be killed.

In going down the staircase one of the page's spurs struck against one of the stone steps and broke short off. How could any one go at full speed with only one spur?

Besides, the Chevalier d'Abzac is the chief of the great stable, and he would not allow a courier to mount his horse—he whose duty it was to inspect the couriers-if the courier was about to set out in a manner that would not do honor to the royal stables.

The page therefore could not set out without having both his spurs.

The result of all this was, that instead of overtaking the page on the road to Arnouville—galloping at full speed—he was overtaken before he had left the courtyard of the palace.

He was already in the saddle and was about to depart in the most irreproachable good order.

The despatch is taken from him, the text of the missive is left unchanged, for it was as good for the one as the other. Only instead of writing the address, “To Monsieur de Machaut, at Arnouville,” mesdames wrote, “To Monsieur le Comte de Maurepas, at Pontchartrain.”

The honor of the royal stable is saved, but the monarchy is lost.

With Maurepas and Calonne everything goes on marvellously: the one sings, the other pays; but besides the courtiers, there are the receivers-general, who also have their functions to perform.

Louis XIV. began his reign by ordering two receivers-general to be hanged, with the advice of Colbert; after which he took Lavallière for his mistress and built Versailles. Lavallière cost him nothing.

But Versailles, in which he wished to lodge her, cost him a round sum.

Then, in 1685, under the pretext that they were Protestants, he drove a million of industrious men from France.

And thus, in 1707, still under the great king, Boisguilbert said, speaking of 1698:—

“Things still went on well in those days, there was yet some oil in the lamp. But now all has come to an end for want of aliment.”

What could be said eighty years afterwards, when the Dubarrys, the Polignacs, had taken their fill? After having made the people sweat water, they would make them sweat blood. That was all.

And all this in so delightful and polite a manner.

In former days the contractors of the public revenue were harsh, brutal, and cold, as the prison gates into which they cast their victims.

But in these days they are philanthropists: with one hand they despoil the people, it is true; but with the other they build hospitals for them.

One of my friends, a great financier, has assured me that out of one hundred and twenty millions, which the town dues bring in, the contractors managed to keep seventy millions for themselves.

It happened that at a meeting where the state of expenses was demanded, a counsellor, playing upon the word, said:—

“It is not any particular state that we require; what we want are the States-General.”

The spark fell upon gunpowder, the powder ignited and caused a general conflagration.

Every one repeated the saying of the counsellor, and the States-General were loudly called for.

The court fixed the opening of the States-General for the 1st of March, 1789.

On the 24th of August, 1788, Monsieur de Brienne withdrew from public affairs. He was another who had managed the financial affairs with tolerable recklessness.

But on withdrawing, he at least gave good counsel; he advised that Necker should be recalled.

Necker resumed the administration of affairs, and all again breathed confidently.

Notwithstanding this, the great question of the three orders was discussed throughout France.

Sieyès published his famous pamphlets upon the Tiers État

Dauphiny, the States of which province still met in spite of all the court could do, decided that the representation of the Tiers État should be on an equality with that of the nobility and clergy.

The assembly of the notables was reconstructed.

This assembly lasted thirty-two days, that is to say, from the 6th of November to the 8th of December, 1788.

On this occasion the elements performed their part. When the whip of kings does not suffice, the whip of Providence whistles in the air and compels the people to move onward.

Winter came, accompanied by famine. Hunger and cold opened the gates of 1789.

Paris was filled with troops, its streets with patrols.

Two or three times the muskets of the soldiers were loaded in the presence of the people, who were dying of hunger.

And then the muskets being loaded, and the moment having arrived for using them, they did not use them at all.

One morning, the 28th of April, five days before the opening of the States-General, a name was circulated among the crowd.

This name was accompanied by maledictions, and the more vituperative because this name was that of a workman who had become rich.

Réveillon, as was then asserted,—Réveillon, the director of the celebrated paper manufactory of the Faubourg Saint Antoine,—Réveillon had said that the wages of workmen ought to be reduced to fifteen sous a day.

And this was true.

It was also said that the court was about to decorate him with the black ribbon,—that is to say, with the Order of Saint Michael.

But this was an absurdity.

There is always some absurd rumor in popular commotions; and it is remarkable that it is also by this rumor that they increase their numbers, that they recruit, and at last become a revolution.

The crowd makes an effigy, baptizes it with the name of Réveillon, decorates it with the black ribbon, sets fire to it before Réveillon's own door, and then proceeds to the square before the Hôtel de Ville, where it completes the burning of the effigy before the eyes of the municipal authorities, who see it burning.

Impunity emboldens the crowd, who give notice that, after having done justice on the effigy, they will the following day do justice on the real person of the offender.

This was a challenge in due form addressed to the public authorities.

The authorities sent thirty of the French Guards, and even then it was not the authorities who sent them, but their colonel, Monsieur de Biron.

These thirty French Guards were merely witnesses of this great duel, which they could not prevent. They looked on while the mob was pillaging the manufactory, throwing the furniture out of the windows, breaking everything, burning everything. Amid all this hubbub, five hundred louis in gold were stolen.

They drank the wine in the cellars, and when there was no more wine, they drank the dyes of the manufactory, which they took for wine.

The whole of the day of the 27th was employed in effecting this villanous spoliation.

A reinforcement was sent to the thirty men. It consisted of several companies of the French Guards, who in the first place fired blank cartridges, then balls. Towards evening there came to the support of the Guards part of the Swiss regiment of Monsieur de Besenval.

The Swiss never make a jest of matters connected with revolution.

The Swiss forgot to take the balls out of their cartridges, and as the Swiss are naturally sportsmen, and good marksmen too, about twenty of the pillagers remained upon the pavement.

Some of them had about them a portion of the five hundred louis which we have mentioned, and which from the secretary of Réveillon had passed into the pockets of the pillagers, and from the pockets of the pillagers into those of the Swiss Guards.

Besenval had done all this; he had done it “out of his own head,” as the vulgar saying has it.

The king did not thank him for what he had done, nor did he blame him for it.

Now, when the king does not thank, the king blames.

The parliament opened an inquiry.

The king closed it.

The king was so good!

Who it was that had stirred on the people to do this no one could tell.

Has it not been often seen, during the great heats of summer, that conflagrations have taken place without any apparent cause.

The Duke of Orleans was accused of having excited this disturbance.

The accusation was absurd, and it fell to the ground.

On the 29th Paris was perfectly tranquil, or at least appeared to be so.

The 4th of May arrived. The king and the queen went in procession with the whole Court to the Cathedral of Notre Dame to hear “Veni, Creator.”

There were great shouts of “Long live the king!” and above all of, “Long live the queen!”

The queen was so good!

This was the last day of peace. The next day the shouts of “Long live the queen!” were not so frequent, but the mob cried more frequently, “Long live the Duke of Orleans!”

These cries wounded her feelings much, poor woman!—she who detested the duke to such a degree that she said he was a coward.

As if there had ever been a coward in the Orleans family,—from Monsieur, who gained the battle of Cassel, down to the Duke of Chartres, who contributed to the gaining of those at Jemmapes and Valmy!

It went so far that the poor woman was near fainting, but was supported, her head drooping on her shoulder. Madame Campan relates this incident in her memoirs.

But this reclining head raised itself up haughty and disdainful. Those who saw the expression of those features were at once cured, and forever, of using the expression:—

The queen is so good!

There exist three portraits of the queen: one painted in 1776, another in 1784, and a third in 1788.

I have seen all three of them. See them in your turn! If ever these three portraits are placed in the same gallery, the history of Marie Antoinette can be read in those three portraits.

The meeting of the three orders, which was to have produced a general pacification, proved a declaration of war.

“Three orders,” said Sieyès; “no, three nations.”

On the 3d of May, the eve of the Mass of the Holy Ghost, the king received the deputies at Versailles.

Some persons counselled him to substitute cordiality for etiquette.

The king would not listen to anything.

He in the first place received the clergy.

After them the nobility.

At last the Tiers État.

The Third had been waiting a long time.

The Third murmured.

In the assemblies of former times the Tiers État pronounced their discourses on their knees.

There was no possibility of inducing the president of the Tiers État to go down on his knees.

It was decided that the Tiers État should not pronounce an oration.

In the sittings of the 5th the king put on his hat.

The nobility put on their hats.

The Tiers État were about to put on their hats also, but the king then took off his. He preferred holding it in his hand to seeing the Tiers État covered in his presence.

On Wednesday, the 10th of June, Sieyès entered the assembly. He found it almost entirely composed of the Tiers État.

The clergy and the nobility were assembled elsewhere.

“Let us cut the cable,” said Sieyès. “It is now time.”

And Sieyès proposed that the clergy and the nobility should be summoned to attend within an hour from that time at the latest.

In case of non-appearance, default should be pronounced against the absent.

A German and Swiss army surrounded Versailles. A battery of artillery was pointed against the assembly.

Sieyès saw nothing of all this; he saw the people, who were starving; but the Third, Sieyès was told, could not, of itself, form the States-General.

“So much the better,” replied Sieyès, “it will form the National Assembly.”

The absent did not present themselves; the proposal of Sieyès was adopted; the Tiers État calls itself the National Assembly by a majority of four hundred votes.

On the 19th of June the king orders the building in which the National Assembly held their meetings to be closed.

But the king, in order to accomplish such a coup d'état, needed some pretext.

The hall was closed for the purpose of making preparations for a royal sitting, which was to take place on the following Monday.

On the 20th of June, at seven in the morning, the President of the National Assembly is informed that there will be no meeting on that day.

At eight o'clock he presents himself at the door of the hall, with a great number of the deputies.

The doors are closed, and sentinels are guarding the doors.

The rain is falling.

They wish to break open the doors.

The sentinels had received their orders, and they present their bayonets.

One of the deputies proposes that they should meet at the Place d'Armes.

Another that it should be at Marly.

Guillotin proposes the Jeu de Paume.


What a strange thing that it should be Guillotin, whose name, by adding an e to it, should become so celebrated four years afterwards,—how strange that it should be Guillotin who proposed the Jeu de Paume,—the Jeu de Paume, unfurnished, dilapidated, open to the four winds of heaven!

To this great demonstration the king replies by the royal word, “Veto!”

Monsieur de Brézé is sent to the rebels to order them to disperse.

“We are here by the will of the people,” said Mirabeau, “and we will not leave this place but with bayonets pointed at our breasts.”

And not, as it has been asserted, that he said” by the force of bayonets. “Why is it that there is always behind great men some paltry rhetorician who spoils his sayings under pretext of arranging them?

Why was there such a rhetorician behind Mirabeau at the Jeu de Paume?

And behind Cambronne at Waterloo?

The reply was at once reported to the king.

He walked about for some time with the air of a man who was suffering from ennui.

“They will not go away” said he.

“No, Sire.”

“Well, then, leave them where they are.”

As is here shown, royalty was already bending beneath the hand of the people, and bending very low.

From the 21st of June to the 12th of July all appeared tolerably calm; but it was that heavy and stifling calm which precedes the tempest.

It was like the uneasy dream of an uneasy slumber.

On the 11th the king formed a resolution, urged to it by the queen, the Count d'Artois, the Polignacs,—in fact, the whole of the Camarilla of Versailles; in short, he dismissed Necker.

On the 12th this intelligence reached Paris.

The effect which it produced has already been seen.

On the evening of the 13th, Billot arrived just in time to see the barriers burning.

On the 13th, in the evening, Paris was defending itself.

On the 14th, in the morning, Paris was ready to attack.

On the morning of the 14th Billot cried, “To the Bastille!” and three thousand men, imitating Billot, reiterated the same cry, which was about to become that of the whole population of Paris.

The reason was, that there had existed during five centuries a monument weighing heavily upon the breast of France, like the infernal rock upon the shoulders of Sisyphus.

Only that, less confiding than the Titan in his strength, France had never attempted to throw it off.

This monument, the seal of feudality, imprinted on the forehead of Paris, was the Bastille.

The king was too good, as Madame de Hausset had said, to have a head cut off.

But the king sent people to the Bastille.

When once a man became acquainted with the Bastille, by order of the king, that man was forgotten, sequestrated, interred, annihilated.

He remained there until the king remembered him; and kings have so many new things occurring around them every day, of which they are obliged to think, that they often forget to think of old matters.

Moreover, in France there was not only one Bastille, there were twenty other Bastilles, which were called Fort l'Evêque, Saint-Lazare, the Châtelet, the Conciergerie, Vincennes, the Castle of La Roche, the Castle of If, the Isles of St. Marguerite, Pignerolles, etc.

Only the fortress at the gate St. Antoine was called the Bastille , as Rome was called the city.

It was the Bastille, par excellence. It was of more importance than all the others.

During nearly a whole century the governorship of the Bastille had continued in one and the same family.

The grandfather of this elect race was Monsieur de Châteauneuf. His son, Lavrillière, succeeded him, who, in turn, was succeeded by his grandson, Saint Florentin. The dynasty became extinct in 1777.

During this triple reign, the greater part of which passed during the reign of Louis XV., it would be impossible to state the number of lettres de cachet. Saint Florentin alone received more than fifty thousand.

The lettres de cachet were a great source of revenue.

They were sold to fathers who wished to get rid of their sons.

They were sold to women who wished to get rid of their husbands.

The prettier the wives were, the less did the lettre de cachet cost them.

It then became, between them and the minister, an exchange of polite attentions, and that was all.

Since the end of the reign of Louis XIV., all the state

prisons, and particularly the Bastille, were in the hands of the Jesuits.

Among the prisoners, it will be recollected, the following were of the greatest note:—

The Iron Mask, Lauzun, Latude. The Jesuits were father confessors; for greater security they confessed the prisoners.

For greater security still, the prisoners were buried under supposititious names.

The Iron Mask, it will be remembered, was buried under the name of Marchialy. He had remained forty-five years in prison.

Lauzun remained there fourteen years. Latude, thirty years.

But, at all events, the Iron Mask and Lauzun had committed heinous crimes.

The Iron Mask, whether brother or not of Louis XIV., it is asserted, resembled King Louis XIV. so strongly that it was almost impossible to distinguish the one from the other.

It is exceedingly imprudent to dare to resemble a king.

Lauzun had been very near marrying, or did actually marry, the Grande Mademoiselle.

It is exceedingly imprudent to dare to marry the niece of King Louis XIII., the granddaughter of Henry IV.

But Latude, poor devil, what had he done?

He had dared to fall in love with Mademoiselle Poisson, Dame de Pompadour, the king's mistress.

He had written a note to her.

This note, which a respectable woman would have sent back to the man who wrote it, was handed by Madame de Pompadour to Monsieur de Sartines, the lieutenant-general of police.

And Latude, arrested, fugitive, taken and retaken, remained thirty years locked up in the Bastille, the Castle of Vincennes, and Bicêtre.

It was not, therefore, without reason that the Bastille was abhorred.

The people hated it as if it were a living thing. They had formed of it a gigantic chimera, one of those monsters like those of Gévauden, who pitilessly devour the human species.

The grief of poor Sebastien Gilbert will therefore be fully comprehended, when he was informed that his father was in the Bastille.

Billot's conviction will also be understood, that the doctor would never be released from his prison unless he was released by force.

The frenetic impulse of the people will be also understood, when Billot vociferated, “To the Bastille!”

Only that it was a senseless idea, as the soldiers had remarked, that the Bastille could be taken.

The Bastille had provisions, a garrison, artillery.

The Bastille had walls, which were fifteen feet thick at their summit and forty at their base.

The Bastille had a governor, whose name was De Launay, who had stored thirty thousand pounds of gunpowder in his cellars, and who had sworn, in case of being surprised by a coup de main, to blow up the Bastille, and with it half the Faubourg St. Antoine.

Chapter XIV. The Three Powers of France

BILLOT still walked on, but it was no longer he who shouted. The crowd, delighted with his martial air, recognized in this man one of their own class. Commenting on his words and action, they followed him, still increasing like the waves of the incoming tide.

Behind Billot, when he issued from the narrow streets and came upon the Quay St. Michel, marched more than three thousand men, armed with cutlasses or pikes or guns.

They all cried, “To the Bastille! to the Bastille!”

Billot counselled with his own thoughts. The reflections which we made at the close of the last chapter presented themselves to his mind, and by degrees all the fumes of his feverish excitement evaporated.

Then he saw clearly into his own mind.

The enterprise was sublime, but insensate. This was easily to be understood from the affrighted and ironical countenances on which were reflected the impressions produced by the cry of “To the Bastille!” But nevertheless he was only the more strengthened in his resolution.

He could not, however, but comprehend that he was responsible to mothers, wives, and children for the lives of the men who were following him, and he felt bound to use every possible precaution.

Billot, therefore, began by leading his little army on to the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville.

There he appointed his lieutenant and other officers—watch-dogs—to restrain the flock.

“Let us see,” thought Billot, “there is a power in France,—there are even two,—there are even three. Let us consult.”

He entered the Hôtel de Ville, asking who was the chief of the municipality.

He was told it was the Provost of the Merchants, the mayor of Paris, Monsieur de Flesselles.

“Ah, ah!” cried he, with a dissatisfied air. “Monsieur de Flesselles, a noble, that is to say, an enemy of the people.”

“Why no,” they replied to him; “he is a man of talent.”

Billot ascended the staircase of the Hôtel de Ville.

In the ante-chamber he met an usher.

“I wish to speak with Monsieur Flesselles,” said he, perceiving that the usher was approaching him to ask him what he wanted.

“Impossible!” replied the usher; “he is now occupied in drawing up the lists of a militia force which the city is about to organize.”

“That falls out marvellously well,” observed Billot, “for I also am organizing a militia, and as I have already three thousand men enlisted, I am as good as Monsieur de Flesselles, who has not a single soldier yet afoot. Enable me, therefore, to speak with Monsieur de Flesselles, and that instantly. Oh, look out of the window, if you will!”

The usher had, in fact, cast a rapid glance upon the quays, and had perceived Billot's men. He therefore hastened to inform the mayor, to whom he showed the three thousand men in question, as a postscript to his message.

This inspired the provost with a sort of respect for the person who wished to see him: he left the council-room and went into the ante-chamber, looking about for his visitor.

He perceived Billot, guessed that he was the person, and smiled.

“It was you who were asking for me, was it not?” said he.

“You are Monsieur de Flesselles, Provost of the Merchants, I believe?” replied Billot.

“Yes, sir. In what way, may I ask, can I be of service to you? Only speak quickly, for my mind is much occupied.”

“Good Monsieur Provost,” continued Billot, “how many powers are there in France?”

“Why, that is as people may choose to understand it, my dear sir,” replied Flesselles.

“Say it, then, as you yourself understand it.”

“Were you to consult Monsieur Bailly, he would tell you there is but one, the National Assembly; if you consult Monsieur de Dreux Brézé, he would also tell you there is but one—the king.”

“And you, Monsieur Provost,—of these two opinions, which is yours?”

“My own opinion, and above all at the present moment, is, that there is but one.”

“The assembly, or the king?” demanded Billot

“Neither the one nor the other; it is the nation,” replied Flesselles, playing with the frill of his shirt.

“Ah! ah! the nation!” cried the farmer.

“Yes; that is to say, those gentlemen who are waiting down yonder on the quay with knives and roasting-spits. The nation,—by that I mean everybody.”

“You may perhaps be right, Monsieur de Flesselles,” replied Billot, “and they were not wrong in telling me that you are a man of talent.”

De Flesselles bowed.

“To which of these three powers do you think of appealing, sir?” asked Flesselles.

“Upon my faith,” said Billot, “I believe that when one has anything very important to ask, a man had better address himself at once to God and not to his saints.”

“Which means to say that you are about to address yourself to the king.”

“I am inclined to do so.”

“Would it be indiscreet to inquire what it is you think of asking of the king?”

“The liberation of Doctor Gilbert, who is in the Bastille.”

“Doctor Gilbert?” solemnly asked Monsieur de Flesselles; “he is a writer of pamphlets, is he not?”

“Say a philosopher, sir.”

“That is one and the same thing, my dear Monsieur Billot. I think you stand but a poor chance of obtaining what you desire from the king.”

“And why so?”

“In the first place, because, if the king sent Doctor Gilbert to the Bastille he must have had reasons for so doing.”

“'Tis well,” replied Billot; “he shall give me his reasons on the subject, and I will give him mine.”

“My dear Monsieur Billot, the king is just now very busy, and he would not even receive you.”

“Oh, if he does not receive me, I shall find some means of getting in without his permission!”

“Yes; and when you have once got in, you will find there Monsieur de Dreux Brézé, who will have you shoved out of doors.”

“Who will have me shoved out of doors?”

“Yes; he wished to do that to the National Assembly altogether. It is true that he did not succeed; but that is a stronger reason for his being in a furious rage, and taking his revenge on you.”

“Very well; then I will apply to the Assembly.”

“The road to Versailles is intercepted.”

“I will go there with my three thousand men.”

“Take care, my dear sir. You would find on your road some four or five thousand Swiss soldiers and two or three thousand Austrians, who would make only a mouthful of you and your three thousand men. In the twinkling of an eye you would be swallowed.”

“Ah! the devil! What ought I to do, then?”

“Do what you please; but do me the service to take away your three thousand men who are beating the pavement yonder with their pikes, and who are smoking. There are seven or eight thousand pounds of powder in our cellars here. A single spark might blow us all up.”

“In that case, I think, I will neither address myself to the King nor to the National Assembly. I will address myself to the nation, and we will take the Bastille.”

“And with what?”

“With the eight thousand pounds of powder that you are going to give me, Monsieur Provost.”

“Ah, really!” said Flesselles, in a jeering tone.

“It is precisely as I say, sir. The keys of the cellars, if you please.”

“Hey! you are jesting, sure!” cried the provost.

“No, sir, I am not jesting,” said Billot.

And seizing Flesselles by the collar of his coat with both hands,—“The keys,” cried he, “or I call up my men.”

Flesselles turned as pale as death. His lips and his teeth were closed convulsively; but when he spoke, his voice was in no way agitated, and he did not even change the ironical tone he had assumed.

“In fact, sir,” said he, “you are doing me a great service by relieving me from the charge of this powder. I will therefore order the keys to be delivered to you, as you desire. Only please not to forget that I am your first magistrate, and that if you have the misfortune to conduct yourself towards me before others in the way you have done when alone with me, an hour afterwards you would be hanged by the town guards. You insist on having this powder?”

“I insist,” replied Billot.

“And you will distribute it yourself?”


“And when?”

“This very moment.”

“Your pardon. Let us understand each other. I have business which will detain me here about a quarter of an hour, and should rather like, if it is the same to you, that the distribution should not be commenced until I have left the place. It has been predicted to me that I shall die a violent death; but I acknowledge that I have a very decided repugnance to being blown into the air.”

“Be it so. In a quarter of an hour, then. But now, in my turn, I have a request to make.”

“What is it?”

“Let us both go close up to that window.”

“For what purpose?”

“I wish to make you popular.”

“I am greatly obliged; but in what manner?”

“You shall see.”

Billot took the provost to the window, which was open, and called out to his friends in the square below.

“My friends,” said he, “you still wish to take the Bastille, do you not?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” shouted three or four thousand voices.

“But you want gunpowder, do you not?”

“Yes! gunpowder! gunpowder!”

“Well, then, here is his honor the provost, who is willing to give us all he has in the cellars of the Hôtel de Ville. Thank him for it, my friends.”

“Long live the Provost of the Merchants! Long live Monsieur de Flesselles!” shouted the whole crowd.

“Thanks, my friends: thanks for myself, thanks for him,” cried Billot.

Then, turning towards the provost:—

“And now, sir,” said Billot, “it is no longer necessary that I should take you by the collar, while here alone with you, or before all the world; for if you do not give me the gunpowder, the nation, as you call it, the nation will tear you to pieces.”

“Here are the keys, sir,” said the provost. “You have so persuasive a mode of asking, that it does not even admit a refusal.”

“What you say really encourages me,” said Billot, who appeared to be meditating some other project.

“Ah, the deuce! Can you have anything else to ask of me?”

“Yes. Are you acquainted with the governor of the


“Monsieur de Launay?”

“I do not know what his name is.”

“His name is De Launay.”

“Be it so. Well, do you know Monsieur de Launay?”

“He is a friend of mine.”

“In that case, you must desire that no misfortune should happen to him.”

“In fact, I should desire it.”

“Well, then, the way to prevent any misfortune happening to him is, that he should surrender the Bastille to me, or, at all events, liberate the doctor.”

“You do not imagine, surely, that I should have influence enough with him to induce him to surrender to you either his prisoner or his fortress, do you?”

“That is my affair. All that I ask is, that you will give me an introduction to him.”

“My dear Monsieur Billot, I forewarn you that if you go into the Bastille you will go into it alone.”

“Very well.”

“I forewarn you, moreover, that if you enter it alone you will perhaps not get out again.”

“Marvellously well.”

“Then I will give you your permission to go into the Bastille.”

“I will wait for it.”

“But it will be on still another condition.”

“What is that?”

“It is that you will not come to me again to-morrow and ask for a passport to the moon. I forewarn you that I am not acquainted with any one in those regions.”

“Flesselles! Flesselles!” said a hollow and threatening voice from behind the Provost of the Merchants, “if you continue to wear two faces,—the one which laughs with the aristocrats, the other which smiles upon the people,—you will perhaps receive between this and tomorrow morning a passport for a world from which no one returns.”

The provost turned round, shuddering.

“Who is it that speaks thus?” said he.

“'Tis I, Marat.”

“Marat, the philosopher! Marat, the physician!” exclaimed Billot.

“Yes,” replied the same voice.

“Yes, Marat, the philosopher; Marat, the physician,” repeated Flesselles; “who in this last capacity ought to attend to curing lunatics, which would have been a sure means of now having a goodly number of patients.”

“Monsieur de Flesselles,” replied the lugubrious interlocutor, “this worthy citizen has asked you for a passport which will facilitate his seeing Monsieur de Launay. I would observe to you, that not only is he waiting for you, but that three thousand men are waiting for him.”

“'Tis well, sir; he shall soon have it.”

Flesselles went to a table, passed one hand over his brow, and with the other seizing a pen, he rapidly wrote several lines.

“Here is your safe-conduct,” said he, delivering the paper to Billot.

“Read it,” said Marat.

“I cannot read,” said Billot.

“Well, then, give it to me; I can read.”

Billot handed the paper to Marat.

This passport was conceived in the following terms:

M. GOVERNOR,—We, Provost of the Merchants of the city of Paris, send to you M. Billot, in order to concert with you as to the interests of the said city.


July 14, 1789.

“Good!” said Billot, “give it to me.”

“You find this passport good as it is?” said Marat.


“Stop a minute. The provost is going to add a postscript to it, which will make it better.”

And he went up to Flesselles, who had remained standing, his hand on the table, and who looked with a disdainful air at the two men with whom he was so particularly engaged, and at a third one, half naked, who had just presented himself at the door, leaning upon a musketoon.

It was Pitou, who had followed Billot, and who held himself ready to obey the farmer's orders, be they what they might.

“Sir,” said Marat to Flesselles, “the postscript which you are about to add, and which will render the passport so much better, is the following:”

“Say on, Monsieur Marat.”

Marat placed the paper on the table, and, pointing with his finger to the place on which the provost was to write the required postscript:—

“The citizen Billot,” said he, “having the character of bearer of a flag of truce, I confide his care to your honor.”

Flesselles looked at Marat, as if he would rather have smashed his flat face with his fist than do that which he had requested.

“Would you resist, sir?” demanded Marat.

“No,” replied Flesselles, “for, after all, you only ask me what is strictly right.”

And he wrote the postscript demanded of him.

“However, gentlemen, you will be pleased to observe this well, that I do not answer for the safety of Monsieur Billot.”

“And I—I will be answerable for it,” said Marat, jerking the paper out of his hands; “for your liberty is the guarantee of his liberty,—your head for the safety of his head. Here, worthy Billot,” continued Marat, “here is your passport.”

“Labrie!” cried M. de Flesselles,—“Labrie!”

A lackey in grand livery entered the room.

“My carriage,” said the provost.

“It is waiting for you, sir, in the courtyard.”

“Let us go, then,” said the provost. “ There is nothing else which you desire, gentlemen?”

“No,” simultaneously replied Billot and Marat.

“Am I to let them pass?” inquired Pitou.

“My friend,” said Flesselles to him, “I would observe to you that you are rather too indecently attired to mount guard at my door. If you insist upon remaining here, turn your cartouche-box round in front, and set your back against the wall.”

“Am I to let them pass?” Pitou repeated, with an air which indicated that he did not greatly relish the jest of which he had been the subject.

“Yes,” said Billot.

Pitou made way for the provost to pass by him.

“Perhaps you were wrong in allowing that man to go,” said Marat. “He would have been a good hostage to have kept. But, in any case, let him go where he will, you may feel perfectly assured that I will find him again.”

“Labrie,” said the Provost of the Merchants, as he was getting into his carriage, “they are going to distribute powder here. Should the Hôtel de Ville perchance blow up, I should like to be out of the way of the splinters. Let us get out of gunshot, Labrie,—out of gunshot.”

The carriage rattled through the gateway, and appeared upon the square, on which were growling some four or five thousand persons.

Flesselles was afraid that they might misinterpret his departure, which might be considered as a flight.

He leaned half-way out of the door.

“To the National Assembly,” cried he, in a loud voice to the coachman.

This drew upon him from the crowd a loud and continued outburst of applause.

Marat and Billot were on the balcony, and had heard the last words of Flesselles.

“My head against his,” said Marat, “that he is not going to the National Assembly, but to the king.”

“Would it not be well to have him stopped?” said Billot.

“No,” replied Marat, with his hideous smile; “make yourself easy; however quickly he may go, we shall go still quicker than he. But now for the gunpowder.”

“Yes, to the gunpowder,” said Billot.

And they both went down the great staircase, followed by Pitou.

Chapter XV. Monsieur de Launay, Governor of the Bastille

As Monsieur de Flesselles had said, there were eight thousand pounds of gunpowder in the cellars of the Hôtel de Ville.

Marat and Billot went into the first cellar with a lantern, which they suspended to a hook in the ceiling.

Pitou mounted guard at the door.

The powder was in small kegs, containing each about twenty pounds. Men were stationed upon the stairs, forming a chain which reached the square, and they at once began to send up the kegs.

There was at first a momentary confusion. It was not known whether there would be powder enough for everybody, and they all rushed forward to secure their share. But the chain formed by Billot at length succeeded in making the people wait patiently for their turn, and the distribution was effected with something like an approach to order.

Every citizen received half a pound of powder,—about thirty or forty shots.

But when every one had received the powder, it was perceived that muskets were sadly deficient. There were scarcely five hundred among the whole crowd.

While the distribution was going on, a portion of this furious population who were crying out for arms, went up to the rooms where the electors held their sittings. They were occupied in forming the National Guard, of which the usher had spoken to Billot.

They had just decreed that this civic militia should be composed of forty—eight thousand men. This militia but yet existed in the decree, and they were disputing as to the general who should command it.

It was in the midst of this discussion that the people invaded the Hôtel de Ville. They had organized themselves. They only asked to march; all they required was arms.

At that moment the noise of a carriage coming into the courtyard was heard. It was the Provost of the Merchants, who had not been allowed to proceed upon his journey, although he had exhibited a mandate from the king, ordering him to proceed to Versailles, and he was brought back by force to the Hôtel de Ville.

“Give us arms! give us arms!” cried the crowd, as soon as they perceived him at a distance.

“Arms!” cried he; “I have no arms; but there must be some at the arsenal.”

“To the arsenal! to the arsenal!” cried the crowd.

And five or six thousand men rushed on to the Quay de la Grève.

The arsenal was empty.

They returned, with bitter lamentations, to the Hôtel de Ville.

The provost had no arms, or rather would not give them. Pressed by the people, he had the idea of sending them to the Chartreux.

The Chartreux opened its gates. They searched it in every direction, but did not find even a pocket—pistol.

During this time Flesselles, having been informed that Billot and Marat were still in the cellars of the Hôtel de Ville, completing the distribution of the gunpowder, proposed to send a deputation to De Launay, to propose to him that he should withdraw the cannon from his ramparts, so as to be out of sight.

That which the evening before had made the crowd hoot most obstreperously was these guns, which, stretching forth their long necks, were seen beyond the turreted parapets. Flesselles hoped that, by causing them to disappear, the people would be contented by the concession, and would withdraw satisfied.

The deputation had just set forth, when the people returned in great fury.

On hearing the cries they uttered, Billot and Marat ran upstairs into the courtyard.

Flesselles, from an interior balcony, endeavored to calm the people. He proposed a decree which should authorize the districts to manufacture fifty thousand pikes.

The people were about to accept this proposal.

“Decidedly this man is betraying us,” said Marat. Then, turning to Billot,—

“Go to the Bastille,” said he, “and do what you proposed to do. In an hour I will send you there twenty thousand men, and each man with a musket on his shoulder.”

Billot, at first sight, had felt great confidence in this man, whose name had become so popular that it had reached even him. He did not even ask him how he calculated on procuring them. An abbé was there, imbued with the general enthusiasm, and crying, like all the rest, “To the Bastille!” Billot did not like abbés, but this one pleased him. He gave him the charge of continuing the distribution, which the worthy abbé accepted. Then Marat mounted upon a post. There was at that moment the most frightful noise and tumult.

“Silence!” cried he; “I am Marat, and I wish to speak.”

They were at once quieted as if by magic, and every eye was directed towards the orator.

“You wish for arms?” he said.

“Yes, yes!” replied thousands of voices.

“To take the Bastille?”

“Yes! yes! yes!”

“Well then, come with me, and you shall have them.”

“And where?”

“To the Invalides, where there are twenty—five thousand muskets. To the Invalides!”

“To the Invalides! to the Invalides!” cried every voice.

“And now,” said Marat to Billot, who had just called Pitou; “you will go to the Bastille?”


“Stay. It might happen that before my men arrive you may stand in need of assistance.”

“In fact,” said Billot, “that is possible.”

Marat tore out a leaf from a small memorandum book, and wrote four words upon it with a pencil:—

“This comes from Marat.”

Then he drew a sign upon the paper.

“Well!” cried Billot, “what would you have me do with this note, since you do not tell me the name or the address of the person to whom I am to deliver it?”

“As to the address, the man to whom I recommend you has none; as to his name, it is well known. Ask the first workman you may meet for Gonchon, the Mirabeau of the people.”

“Gonchon—you will remember that name, Pitou.”

“Gonchon or Gonchonius,” said Pitou. “I shall not forget it.”

“To the Invalides! to the Invalides!” howled the mob, with increasing ferocity.

“Well, then, go!” said Marat to Billot; “and may the genius of Liberty march before thee!”

“To the Invalides!” he then cried in his turn.

And he went down the Quai de Gévres, followed by more than twenty thousand men.

Billot, on his side, took with him some five or six thousand. These were all armed in one way or another.

At the moment when they were about to proceed along the bank of the river, and the remainder were going towards the Boulevard, the Provost of the Merchants appeared at a window.

“My friends,” said he, “why is it that I see a green cockade in your hats?”

They were the leaves of the linden—trees, of Camille Desmoulins, which many had adopted merely from seeing others wear them, but without even knowing their signification.

“Hope! hope!” cried several voices.

“Yes; but the color that denotes hope is, at the same time, that of the Count d'Artois. Would you have the air of wearing the livery of a prince?”

“No, no!” cried all the crowd in chorus, and Billot louder than the rest.

“Well! then you ought to change that cockade; and, if you will wear a livery, let it at least be that of the city of Paris, the mother of us all,—blue and red, my friends, blue and red.”

“Yes, yes,” cried every tongue; “blue and red.”

Upon these words, every one trampled under foot his green cockade, every one called for ribbons; as if by enchantment, the windows round the square were opened, and blue and red ribbons rained down in floods.

But all the ribbons that fell scarcely sufficed for a thousand men.

Instantly aprons, silk gowns, scarfs, curtains, were torn, stripped, and cut in fragments; these fragments were formed into bows, rosettes, and scarfs. Every one took his share.

After which Billot's small army again moved forward.

It kept on recruiting as it advanced; all the arteries of the Faubourg St. Antoine sent to it as it passed the most ardent and the most active of their population.

They reached, in tolerably good order, the end of the Rue Lesdiguières, where already a mass of curious lookers—on—some timid, others calm, and others insolent—were gazing at the towers of the Bastille, exposed to an ardent sun.

The arrival of the popular drums by the Faubourg St. Antoine;

The arrival of about a hundred of the French Guards from the Boulevards;

The arrival of Billot and his troop, at once changed the character and the aspect of the assembled crowd; the timid became emboldened, the calm became excited, and the insolent began to threaten.

“Down with the cannon! down with the cannon!” cried twenty thousand voices, threatening with their clinched fists the heavy guns which stretched forth their brazen necks from the embrasures of the platforms.

Just at that moment, as if the governor of the Bastille was obeying the injunctions of the crowd, some artillery—men approached the guns, which they drew in, till at last they disappeared entirely.

The crowd clapped their hands; they had then become a power, since the governor had yielded to their threats.

Notwithstanding this, the sentinels continued pacing backwards and forwards on the platforms. At every post was an Invalide and a Swiss.

After having cried, “Down with the cannon!” the crowd shouted, “Down with the Swiss!” It was a continuation of the cry of the night before, “Down with the Germans!”

But the Swiss did not the less continue their guard, crossing the Invalides in their measured pacings up and down.

One of those who cried, “Down with the Swiss!” became impatient; he had a gun in his hand; he pointed the muzzle of his gun at the sentinel, and fired.

The ball struck the gray wall of the Bastille, one foot below the coping—stone of the tower, and immediately in front of the spot where the Swiss had passed. At the spot where the shot had struck, it left a white mark, but the sentinel did not stop, and did not even turn his head.

A loud murmur soon arose around the man who had fired, and thus was given the signal of attack, as unheard of as it was senseless,—a murmur more of terror than of anger. Many persons conceived that it was a crime punishable with death to fire a musket—shot at the Bastille.

Billot gazed upon the dark—green mass like to those fabulous monsters which in ancient legends are represented to us as covered with scales. He counted the embrasures at which the cannon might at any given moment be rolled back to their places. He counted the number of muskets the muzzles of which might be directed through the loop—holes at the assembled crowd.

And Billot shook his head, recalling to mind the words uttered by Flesselles.

“We shall never be able to get in there,” said he.

“And why shall we never be able to get in?” said a voice close beside him.

Billot turned round and saw a man with a savage countenance, dressed in rags, and whose eyes sparkled like two stars.

“Because it appears to me impossible to take such a mass as that by force.”

“The taking of the Bastille,” said the man, “is not a deed of war, but an act of faith. Believe, and thou shalt succeed.”

“Patience!” said Billot, feeling in his pocket for his passport.

The man was deceived as to his meaning. “Patience!” cried he, “oh, yes, I understand you! you are fat—you—you look like a farmer.”

“And I am one, in fact,” said Billot.

“Then I can well understand why you say patience! You have been always well fed; but look behind you for a moment and see those spectres who are now surrounding us. See their dried—up veins, count their bones through the rents in their garments, and then ask them whether they understand the word patience.”

“This is one who speaks well,” said Pitou, “but he terrifies me.”

“He does not terrify me,” said Billot; and turning again towards the man:—“Yes, patience,” he said; “but only for another quarter of an hour, that's all.”

“Ah, ah!” cried the man, smiling; “a quarter of an hour; that indeed is not too much. And what will you do in a quarter of an hour?”

“During that time I shall have visited the Bastille, I shall know the number of its garrison, I shall know the intentions of its governor! I shall know, in fine, the way into it.”

“Yes! if after that you could only find the way out of it?”

“Well, supposing that I do not get out of it. There is a man who will come and show me the way.”

“And who is this man?”

“Gonchon, the Mirabeau of the people.”

The man gave a start. His eyes emitted flashes of fire.

“Do you know him?” inquired he.


“Well, what mean you, then?”

“Why, I am going to know him; for I was told that the first to whom I might speak on the square before the Bastille would lead me to him. You are on the square of the Bastille; take me to him.”

“What do you want with him?”

“To deliver to him this paper.”

“From whom is it?”

“From Marat, the physician.”

“From Marat! you know Marat!” exclaimed the man.

“I have just left him.”


“At the Hôtel de Ville.”

“What is he doing?”

“He has gone to arm twenty thousand men at the Invalides.”

“In that case, give me that paper. I am Gonchon.” Billot drew back a step.

“You are Gonchon?” cried he.

“My friends,” said the man in rags, “here is one who does not know me, and who is asking whether it is true that I am Gonchon.”

The crowd burst into a loud laugh. It appeared to all these men that it was impossible that any one could be so ignorant as not to know their favorite orator.

“Long live Gonchon!” cried two or three thousand voices.

“Take it,” said Billot, handing the paper to him.

“Friends,” cried Gonchon, after having read it, and laying his hand on Billot's shoulder, “this is a brother. Marat recommends him. We can therefore rely upon him. What is your name” said he to the farmer.

“My name is Billot.”

“And mine,” rejoined Gonchon, “is Hache, and between us both I trust we shall be able to do something.”

The crowd smiled at this sanguinary jest.

“Yes, yes, we shall soon do something,” cried they.

“Well! what are we going to do?” asked several voices.

“Why, zounds!” cried Gonchon, “we are going to take the Bastille.”

“This is as it should be,” cried Billot; “that is what I call speaking. Listen to me, brave Gonchon. How many men have you to back you?”

“Thirty thousand, or somewhere near that.”

“Thirty thousand men you have at your disposal, twenty thousand will soon be here from the Invalides, and ten thousand are already here; why, 'tis more than enough to insure our success, or we shall never succeed at all.”

“We shall succeed,” replied Gonchon.

“I believe so. Well, then, call together your thirty thousand men. I, in the mean time, will go to the governor, and summon him to surrender. If he surrenders,

so much the better; we shall avoid much bloodshed. If he will not surrender, the blood that will be spilled will fall upon his head; and in these days, blood that is spilled in an unjust cause brings down misfortunes with it. Ask the Germans if it be not so.”

“How long do you expect to remain with the governor?” asked Gonchon.

“As long as I possibly can, until the Bastille is completely invested. If it be possible, when I come out again, the attack will begin.”

“'tis understood.”

“You do not mistrust me?” said Billot to Gonchon, holding out his hand to him.

“Who, I?” replied Gonchon, with a smile of disdain, at the same time pressing the hand of the stout farmer, and with a strength that could not have been expected from his emaciated appearance; “I mistrust you! and for what reason, pray? If it were my will, upon a word, a sign given by me, I could have you pounded like glass, even were you sheltered by those formidable towers, which to—morrow will no longer exist,—were you protected by these soldiers, who this evening will have espoused our party or will have ceased to exist. Go, then, and rely on Gonchon as he relies on Billot.”

Billot was convinced, and walked towards the entrance of the Bastille, while the strange person with whom he had been conversing darted down the faubourg, amid shouts, repeated a thousand times, of—“Long live Gonchon! Long live the Mirabeau of the people!”

“I do not know what the Mirabeau of the nobles may be,” said Pitou to Billot, “but I think our Mirabeau a hideously ugly personage.”

Some time afterwards, Monsieur de Lafayette also made the observation that blue and red were likewise the colors of the House of Orleans and added to them a third color, white, saying to those who received it from him, “I give you a cockade that will make the tour of the whole world.”

Billot, in French, means block,—the block on which criminals heads are struck off. Hache means axe.—TRANSLATOR.

Chapter XVI. The Bastille and it's Governor

WE will not describe the Bastille; it would be useless.

It lives as an eternal image, both in the memory of the old and in the imagination of the young.

We shall content ourselves with merely stating that, seen from the Boulevard, it presented, in front of the square then called Place de la Bastille, two twin towers, while its two fronts ran parallel with the banks of the canal which now exists.

The entrance to the Bastille was defended, in the first place, by a guardhouse, then by two lines of sentinels, and besides these by two drawbridges.

After having passed through these several obstacles, you came to the courtyard of the government house,—that is to say, the residence of the governor.

From this courtyard a gallery led to the ditches of the Bastille.

At this other entrance, which opened upon the ditches, was a drawbridge, a guardhouse, and an iron gate.

At the first entrance they wished to stop Billot; but Billot shows the passport he received from Flesselles, and they allow him to pass on.

Billot then perceives that Pitou is following him. Pitou had no permission; but he would have followed the farmer's steps down to the infernal regions, or would have ascended to the moon.

“Remain outside,” said Billot. “Should I not come out again, it would be well there should be some one to remind the people that I have come in.”

“That is perfectly right,” said Pitou. “How long am I to wait before I remind them of it?”

“One hour.”

“And the casket?” inquired Pitou.

“Ah, you remind me! Well, then, should I not get out again; should Gonchon not take the Bastille, or, in short, if, after having taken it, I should not be found, you must tell Doctor Gilbert, whom they will find perhaps, that men who came from Paris took from me the casket which he confided to my care five years ago; that I, on the instant, started off to inform him of what had happened; that, on arriving at Paris, I was informed that he was in the Bastille; that I attempted to take the Bastille, and that in the attempt I left my skin there, which was altogether at his service.”

“'Tis well, Father Billot,” said Pitou; “only 'tis rather a long story, and I am much afraid that I may forget it.”

“Forget what I have said to you?”


“I will repeat it to you, then.”

“No,” said a voice close to Billot's ear; “it would be better to write it.”

“I do not know how to write,” said Billot.

“I do. I am an usher.”

“Ah! you are an usher, are you?” inquired Billot.

“Stanislaus Maillard, usher in the Court of the Châtelet.”

And he drew from his pocket a long ink—horn, in which there were pens, paper, and ink; in fine, all that was necessary for writing.

He was a man about forty—five years old, tall, thin, and grave—looking, dressed entirely in black, as became his profession.

“Here is one who looks confoundedly like an undertaker,” muttered Pitou.

“You say,” inquired the usher, with great calmness, “that men who came from Paris carried off a casket which Dr. Gilbert confided to you?”


“That is a punishable crime.”

“These men belonged to the police of Paris.”

“Infamous robbers!” muttered Maillard.

Then, handing the paper to Piton:—“Here, take this, young man,” said he; “it is the memorandum you require; and should he be killed,”—he pointed to Billot—“should you be killed, it is to be hoped that I shall not be killed too.”

“And should you not be killed, what would you do?” asked Pitou.

“I would do that which you were to have done,” replied Maillard.

“Thanks,” said Billot.

And he held out his hand to the usher.

The usher grasped it with a vigor which could not have been anticipated from his lank meagre body.

“Then I may fully depend upon you?” said Billot.

“As on Marat—as on Gonchon.”

“Good!” said Pitou; “they form a trinity which I am sure I shall not find in paradise.”

Then, going up to Billot:—

“Tell me, Father Billot, you will be prudent, will you not?”

“Pitou,” replied the farmer, with an eloquence which sometimes astonished people, when proceeding from one who had always led a country life, “forget not what I say to you,—that the most prudent line of conduct now in France is to be courageous.”

And he passed the first line of sentinels, while Pitou returned towards the square.

At the drawbridge he was again obliged to parley.

Billot showed his passport. The drawbridge was let down, the iron—grated gate was opened.

Close beside the gate stood the governor.

This interior court, in which the governor was waiting for Billot, was the courtyard which served as a promenade to the prisoners. It was guarded by eight towers,—that is to say, by eight giants. No window opened into it. Never did the sun shine on its pavement, which was damp and almost muddy. It might have been taken for the bottom of an immense well.

In this courtyard was a clock, supported by figures representing enchained captives, which measured the hours, and from which fell the regular and slow sounds of the minutes as they passed by, as in a dungeon the droppings from the ceiling eat into the pavement slabs on which they fall.

At the bottom of this well the prisoner, lost amid the abyss of stone, for a moment contemplated its cold nakedness, and soon asked to be allowed to return to his cell.

Close beside the grated gate which opened on this courtyard stood, as we have said, Monsieur de Launay.

Monsieur de Launay was a man from forty—five to fifty years of age. On that day he was dressed in a gray coat. He wore the red ribbon of the order of Saint Louis, and in his hand he carried a sword—cane.

This Monsieur de Launay was a man of wicked disposition. The memoirs of Linguet had just bestowed upon him a sorrowful celebrity; he was almost as much detested as the prison itself.

In fact, the De Launays, like the Châteauneufs, the Levrillières, and the Saint Florentins, who held the lettres de cachet from father to son, also from father to son transmitted the Bastille to one another.

For, as is well known, it was not the minister of war who appointed the officers of this jail. At the Bastille, all the places were sold to the highest bidder, from that of the governor himself, down to that of the scullion. The governor of the Bastille was a jailer on a grand scale, an eating—house keeper wearing epaulettes, who added to his salary of sixty thousand livres, sixty thousand more which he extorted and plundered.

It was highly necessary that he should recover the capital and interest of the money he had invested.

Monsieur de Launay, in point of avarice, far surpassed his predecessors. This might, perhaps, have arisen from his having paid more for the place, and having foreseen that he would not remain in it so long as they did.

He fed his whole house at the expense of his prisoners. He had reduced the quantity of fuel, and doubled the hire of furniture in each room.

He had the right of bringing yearly into Paris a hundred pipes of wine, free of duty. He sold his right to a tavern—keeper, who brought in wines of excellent quality; then with a tenth part of this duty he purchased the vinegar with which he supplied his prisoners.

The unhappy prisoners in the Bastille had only one consolation; this was a small garden, which had been formed on one of the bastions. There they could walk; there for a few moments they could inhale pure air, the perfumes of the flowers, and enjoy the light.

He rented this little garden to a gardener, and for fifty livres a year which he received from him he had deprived the prisoners of this last enjoyment.

It is true that to rich prisoners his complaisance was extreme. He conducted one of them to the house of his own mistress, who had thus her apartments furnished, and was kept in luxury, without its costing a stiver to him, De Launay.

See the work entitled “The Bastille Unveiled,” and you will find in it this fact, and many others besides.

And, notwithstanding, this man was courageous.

Since the previous evening the storm had been threatening around him. Since the previous evening he perceived the waves of this great commotion, which was still ascending, beat against his walls.

And yet he was calm, though pale.

It is true that he had to support him four pieces of artillery, ready prepared to fire; around him, a garrison of Swiss and Invalides; before him, only an unarmed man.

For, on entering the Bastille, Billot had given Pitou his carbine to take care of.

He had understood that within that iron grating which he saw before him, a weapon would be more dangerous than useful to him.

Billot, at a single glance, observed all,—the calm and almost threatening attitude of the governor; the Swiss and Invalides in the several guard—houses and on the platforms; and the silent bustle of the artillerymen, who were stowing their cartridges into the magazines of their ammunition—wagons.

The sentinels held their muskets at the make—ready; the officers had their swords drawn.

The governor remained motionless; Billot was obliged to advance towards him; the iron—grated gate closed behind the bearer of the people's flag of truce with a sinister noise of grating iron, which, brave as he was, made the marrow of his bones chill within him.

“What want you with me again?” said De Launay to him.

“Again!” reiterated Billot; “it appears to me, however, that this is the first time I have seen you, and consequently that you have yet no right to be wearied of seeing me.”

“It is because I have been told that you come from the Hôtel de Ville.”

“That is true. I came from there.”

“Well, then, only just now I received a deputation from the municipality.”

“And for what purpose did it come?”

“It came to obtain a promise from me that I would not be the first to fire.”

“And you promised that you would not?”


“And was this all?”

“It also came to request that I would draw in my guns.”

“And you have them drawn in; I know that, for I was on the square of the Bastille when this manuvre was executed.”

“And you doubtless thought that I was yielding to the threats of the people?”

“Why, zounds! it did look very like it.”

“Did I not tell you so, gentlemen?” exclaimed De Launay, turning towards his officers; “did I not tell you that we should be thought capable of such cowardice?”

Then, turning to Billot,—

“And you,—from whom do you come?”

“I come on behalf of the people,” proudly replied


“'tis well,” said De Launay, smiling; “but you have some other recommendation, I suppose; for with that which you set forth, you would not have been allowed to pass the first line of my sentries.”

“Yes; I have a safe—conduct from Monsieur de Flesselles, your friend.”

“Flesselles! You say that he is my friend,” rejoined De Launay, looking intently at Billot, as if he would have read the inmost recesses of his heart. “Whence know you that Monsieur de Flesselles is my friend?”

“Why, I supposed him to be so.”

“Supposed!—oh, that is all! 'tis well. Let us see your safe—conduct.”

Billot presented the paper to him.

De Launay read it once, then a second time, and turned and twisted it about to discover whether it did not contain some postscript between its pages; held it up to the light, to see whether there were not some lines written between the lines of the missive.

“And this is all he has to say to me?”


“You are sure?”

“Perfectly sure.”

“Nothing verbal?”


“'tis very strange!” exclaimed De Launay, darting through one of the loop—holes a glance at the crowd assembled in the square before the Bastille.

“But what would you have had him say to you?” said Billot.

De Launay made an impatient gesture.

“Oh nothing, nothing! Come, now, tell me what you want; but speak quickly, for I am pressed for time.”

“Well, then, what I want is, that you should surrender the Bastille to us.”

“What said you?” cried De Launay, quickly turning round, as if he thought he had misunderstood the farmer's meaning. “You say—?”

“I say that I have come in the name of the people, to demand that you surrender the Bastille.”

De Launay shrugged his shoulders.

“The people are, in truth, very strange animals,” said he.

“Hey!” cried Billot.

“And what do they want to do with the Bastille?”

“They want to demolish it.”

“And what the devil has the Bastille to do with the people? Was ever a man of the people put into the Bastille? The people, on the contrary, ought to bless every stone of which the Bastille is formed. Who are they who are put into the Bastille? Philosophers, men of science, aristocrats, ministers, princes,—that is to say, the enemies of the people.”

“Well, that proves that the people are not egotists.” retorted Billot.

“My friend,” said De Launay, with a shade of commiseration in his tone, “it is easy to perceive that you are not a soldier.”

“You are quite right. I am a farmer.”

“That you do not inhabit Paris.”

“In fact, I am from the country.”

“That you do not thoroughly know what the Bastille is.”

“That is true. I only know what I have seen of it,—that is to say, the exterior walls.”

“Well, then, come along with me, and I will show you what the Bastille is.”

“Ho! ho!” muttered Billot to himself, “he is going to lead me over some villanous trap—door, which will suddenly open under my feet, and then, good—night, Father Billot.”

But the intrepid farmer did not even blink, and showed himself ready to follow the governor of the Bastille.

“In the first place,” said De Launay, “you must know that I have powder enough in my cellars to blow up, not only the Bastille itself, but with it at least half of the Faubourg St. Antoine.”

“I know that,” tranquilly replied Billot.

“Very well; but now look at those four pieces of artillery.”

“I see them.”

“They enfilade the whole of this gallery, as you can also see; and this gallery is defended, first, by a guardhouse; secondly, by two ditches, which only can be crossed with the assistance of two drawbridges; and lastly, by a grated iron gate.”

“Oh, I do not say that the Bastille is badly defended,” calmly observed Billot; “all that I say is, that it will be well attacked.”

“Let us go on,” said De Launay.

Billot gave an assenting nod.

“Here is a postern which opens on the ditches,” said the governor; “look at the thickness of the walls.”

“Somewhere about forty feet.”

“Yes; forty at the bottom, and fifteen at the top. You see that, although the people may have good nails, they would break them against these stones.”

“I did not say,” rejoined Billot, “that the people would demolish the Bastille before taking it. What I said was, that they would demolish it after having taken it.”

“Let us go up the steps,” said De Launay.

“Let us go up.”

They went up some thirty steps.

The governor stopped.

“See,” said he, “here is another embrasure, which opens on the passage by which you wish to enter; this is only defended by a rampart gun, but it has already acquired a certain reputation. You know the song—

'O my tender Musette,—
Musette, my only love.'“

“Certainly,” said Billot; “I do know it; but I do not think that this is the time to sing it.”

“Wait a moment. Well, Marshal Saxe called this small cannon his Musette, because it sung correctly the air he best liked. That is an historical detail.”

“Oh!” ejaculated Billot.

“Let us go up higher;” and they continued to climb up the stairs.

They soon reached a platform on the tower called La


“Ah! ah!” ejaculated Billot.

“What is it?” inquired De Launay. “You have not had the cannon dismounted.”

“I have had them drawn in, that's all.”

“You know that I shall tell the people that cannon are still here.”

“Tell them so.”

“You will not have them dismounted, then?”



“The king's cannon are here by the king's order, sir; they can only be dismounted by an order from the king.”

“Monsieur de Launay,” said Billot, feeling his thoughts rise within him according to the importance of the moment, “the real king, whom I counsel you to obey, is yonder.”

And he showed to the governor the gray crowd, some of whom were still covered with blood from the combat of the preceding evening, and whose undulating movements before the ditches made their arms gleam in the sunshine.

“Sir,” said De Launay in his turn, throwing his head back with a haughty air, “you may perhaps acknowledge two kings; but I, the governor of the Bastille, know but one, and he is Louis, the Sixteenth of that name, who has affixed his name to a commission by virtue of which I command here, both men and things.”

“You are not, then, a citizen!” cried Billot in anger.

“I am a French gentleman,” said the governor.

“Ah! that is true; you are a soldier, and you speak as a soldier.”

“You have said the word, sir,” said De Launay, bowing. “I am a soldier, and I execute the orders I receive.”

“And I, sir,” said Billot, “am a citizen, and my duty as a citizen being in opposition with your orders as a soldier, one of us two will die,—whether it be the one who obeys his orders, or the one who fulfils his duty.”

“It is probable, sir.”

“Then you are determined to fire upon the people?”

“By no means—so long as they do not fire upon me.

I have pledged my word to the envoys of Monsieur de Flesselles. You see that the guns have been drawn in, but at the first shot fired from the square upon my castle—”

“Well, at the first shot?”

“I will run to one of these guns,—this one, for instance,—I will myself wheel it to the embrasure, I will point it with my own hands, and I will fire it with the match you see standing here.”


“Yes, I.”

“Oh, if I believed that,” said Billot, “before allowing you to commit such a crime—”

“I have told you that I am a soldier, sir, and that I know nothing but my orders.”

“Well, then, look!” said Billot, drawing De Launay towards an embrasure, and pointing out to him alternately two different points, the Faubourg St. Antoine and the Boulevard, “yonder are those from whom in future you will receive your orders.”

And he showed De Launay two dark, dense, and howling masses, who, compelled to take the form of the Boulevards, undulated like an immense serpent, of which the head and the body could be seen, but the last rings of which were lost to sight, from the unevenness of the ground on which it crawled; and all that could be seen of the gigantic reptile was refulgent with luminous scales.

It was the double troop, to which Billot had given rendezvous on the square of the Bastille,—the one led by Marat, and the other by Gonchon.

On both sides they advanced, brandishing their arms and uttering the most terrific cries.

De Launay turned pale at the sight, and raising his cane:—

“To your guns!” cried he.

Then, advancing towards Billot with a threatening gesture:—

“And you, wretch!” he exclaimed, “you who have come here under the pretext of parleying with me while the others are advancing to the attack, do you know that you deserve to die?”

And he half drew his sword from the cane which concealed it.

Billot saw the movement, and, rapid as the lightning, seized De Launay by the collar and the waistband.

“And you,” said he, as he raised him from the ground, “you deserve that I should hurl you over the ramparts, to dash you in pieces against the sides of the ditch! But, God be thanked! I shall fight you in another manner!”

At that moment an immense and universal clamor, ascending from below, and rushing through the air like the wild howlings of the hurricane, reached their ears, and Monsieur de Losme, the major of the Bastille, appeared upon the platform.

“Sir,” cried he, addressing himself to Billot, “sir, be pleased to show yourself; all those people yonder believe that some misfortune has befallen you, and they are calling for you.”

And in fact the name of Billot, which had been spread among the crowd by Pitou, was heard amidst the clamor.

Billot had loosed his hold, and Monsieur de Launay sheathed his sword.

Then there was a momentary hesitation between these three men; while cries calling for vengeance, and threatening shouts were heard.

“Show yourself then, sir,” said De Launay: “not that these clamors intimidate me, but that it may be known that I am a man who loyally keeps his word.”

Then Billot put his head between the battlements, making a sign with his hand.

On seeing this, loud shouts of applause rose from the populace. It was, in a manner, the revolution rising from the forehead of the Bastille in the person of this man of the people, who was the first to trample on its platform as a conqueror.

“'tis well, sir,” then said De Launay; “all is now terminated between us; you have nothing further to do here. You are called for yonder: go down.”

Billot was sensible of this moderation in a man who had him completely in his power; he went down the same staircase by which he had ascended the ramparts, the governor following him.

As to the major, he had remained there; the governor had given him some orders in a whisper.

It was evident that Monsieur de Launay had but one desire, and this was that the bearer of the flag of truce should become his enemy, and that as quickly as possible.

Billot walked across the courtyard without uttering a word. He saw the artillerymen standing by their guns. The match was smoking at the end of a lance.

Billot stepped before them.

“My friends,” said he, “remember that I came to request your chief to prevent the spilling of blood, and that he has refused.”

“In the name of the king, sir,” cried De Launay, stamping his foot “leave this place!”

“Beware!” said Billot; “if you order me out in the name of the king, I shall come in again in the name of the people.”

Then, turning towards the guard—house, before which the Swiss were standing:—

“Come, now,” said he, “tell me for which side are you?”

The Swiss soldiers remained silent.

De Launay pointed with his finger to the iron gate.

Billot wished to make a last effort.

“Sir,” said he to De Launay, “in the name of the nation! in the name of your brothers!”

“Of my brothers! You call my brothers those men who are howling, 'Down with the Bastille!' 'Death to its governor!' They may be your brothers, sir, but most assuredly they are not mine!”

“In the name of humanity, then!”

“In the name of humanity, which urges you on to come here, with a hundred thousand men, to cut the throats of a hundred unfortunate soldiers shut up in these walls.”

“And by surrendering the Bastille you would be doing precisely that which would save their lives.”

“And sacrifice my honor.”

Billot said no more to him. This logic of the soldier completely overcame him; but turning to the Swiss and Invalides:—

“Surrender, my friends!” cried he; “it is still time.

In ten minutes it will be too late.”

“If you do not instantly withdraw, sir,” in his turn cried De Launay, “on the word of a gentleman, I will order you to be shot!”

Billot paused a moment, crossed his arms over his chest in token of defiance, exchanged a last threatening glance with De Launay, and passed through the gate.

Chapter XVII. The Bastille

THE crowd was waiting; scorched by the burning July sun, they were trembling, mad with excitement. Gonchon's men had just joined those of Marat. The Faubourg St. Antoine had recognized and saluted its brother, the Faubourg St. Marceau.

Gonchon was at the head of his patriots. As to Marat, he had disappeared.

The aspect of the square was frightful.

On Billot's appearance the shouts redoubled.

“Well?” said Gonchon, going up to him.

“Well, the man is brave,” said Billot.

“What mean you by saying 'The man is brave'?” inquired Gonchon.

“I mean to say that he is obstinate.”

“He will not surrender the Bastille?”


“He will obstinately sustain the siege?”


“And you believe that he will sustain it long?”

“To the very death.”

“Be it so! Death he shall have!”

“But what numbers of men we are about to expose to death!” exclaimed Billot, doubting assuredly that God had given him the right which generals arrogate to themselves,—as do kings and emperors,—men who have received commissions to shed blood.

“Pooh!” said Gonchon, “there are too many in this world, since there is not bread enough for half the population. Is it not so, friends?” he asked, turning towards the crowd.

“Yes, yes!” they responded, with sublime self—abnegation.

“But the ditch?” observed Billot, inquiringly.

“It is only necessary that it should be filled up at one particular spot,” replied Gonchon, “and I have calculated that with the half of the bodies we have here we could fill it up completely; is it not so, friends?”

“Yes, yes!” repeated the crowd, with no less enthusiasm than before.

“Well, then, be it so!” said Billot, though completely overcome.

At that moment De Launay appeared upon the terrace, followed by Major De Losme and two or three officers.

“Begin!” cried Gonchon to the governor.

The latter turned his back without replying.

Gonchon, who would perhaps have endured a threat, could not endure disdain; he quickly raised his carbine to his shoulder, and a man in the governor's suite fell to the ground.

A hundred shots, a thousand musket—shots, were fired at the same moment, as if they had only waited for this signal, and marbled with white the gray towers of the Bastille.

A silence of some seconds succeeded this discharge, as if the crowd itself had been alarmed at that which it had done.

Then a flash of fire, lost in a cloud of smoke, crowned the summit of a tower; a detonation resounded; cries of pain were heard issuing from the closely pressed crowd; the first cannon—shot had been fired from the Bastille; the first blood had been spilled. The battle had commenced.

What the crowd experienced, which just before had been so threatening, very much resembled terror. That Bastille, defending itself by this sole act, appeared in all its formidable impregnability. The people had doubtless hoped that in those days, when so many concessions had been made to them, the surrender of the Bastille would be accomplished without the effusion of blood.

The people were mistaken. The cannon—shot which had been fired upon them gave them the measure of the Titanic work which they had undertaken.

A volley of musketry, well directed, and coming from the platform of the Bastille, followed closely on the cannon shot.

Then all was again silent for a while, a silence which was interrupted only by a few cries, a few groans, a few wails uttered here and there.

A shuddering, anxious movement could then be perceived among the crowd; it was the people who were picking up their killed and wounded.

But the people thought not of flying, or if they did think of it, they were ashamed of the feeling when they considered their great numbers.

In fact, the Boulevards, the Rue St. Antoine, the Faubourg St. Antoine, formed but one vast human sea; every wave had a head, every head, two flashing eyes, a threatening mouth.

In an instant all the windows of the neighborhood were filled with sharpshooters, even those which were out of gunshot.

Whenever a Swiss soldier or an Invalide appeared upon the terraces or in one of the embrasures, a hundred muskets were at once aimed at him, and a shower of balls splintered the corners of the stones behind which the soldier was sheltered.

But they soon got tired of firing at insensible walls. It was against human flesh that their balls were directed. It was blood that they wished to see spout forth whereever the balls struck, and not dust.

Numerous opinions were emitted from amid the crowd.

A circle would then be formed around the speaker, and when the people thought the proposal was devoid of sense, they at once left him.

A blacksmith proposed to form a catapult upon the model of the ancient Roman machines, and with it to make a breach in the walls of the Bastille.

The firemen proposed to damp with their engines the priming of the cannon and extinguish the matches of the artillerymen, without reflecting that the most powerful of their engines could not throw water even to two—thirds the height of the walls of the Bastille.

A brewer who commanded the Faubourg St. Antoine, and whose name has since acquired a fatal celebrity, proposed to set fire to the fortress, by throwing into it a quantity of oil which had been seized the night before, and which they were to ignite with phosphorus.

Billot listened to all these mad—brained proposals one after the other. On hearing the last, he seized a hatchet from the hands of a carpenter, and advancing amid a storm of bullets, which struck down all around him numbers of men, huddled together as thickly as the ears in a field of wheat, he reached a small guard—house, near to the first drawbridge, and although the grape—shot was whizzing and cracking against the roof, he ascended it, and by his powerful and well—directed blows succeeded in breaking the chains, and the drawbridge fell with a tremendous crash.

During the quarter of an hour which this seemingly insensate enterprise had occupied, the crowd were breathless with excitement. At every report, they expected to see the daring workman fall from the roof. The people forgot the danger to which they were exposed, and thought only of the danger which this brave man was incurring. When the bridge fell, they uttered a loud, joyful cry, and rushed into the first courtyard.

The movement was so rapid, so impetuous, so irresistible, that the garrison did not even attempt to prevent it.

Shouts of frantic joy announced this first advantage to Monsieur de Launay.

No one even observed that a man had been crushed to atoms beneath the mass of wood—work. Then the four pieces of artillery which the governor had shown to Billot were simultaneously discharged with a frightful explosion, and swept the first courtyard of the fortress.

The iron hurricane traced through the crowd a long furrow of blood. Ten men shot dead, fifteen or twenty wounded, were the consequences of this discharge.

Billot slid down from the roof of the guard—house to the ground, on reaching which he found Pitou, who had come there he knew not how. Pitou's eyes were quick, as are those of all poachers. He had seen the artillerymen preparing to put their matches to the touch—holes of their guns, and, seizing Billot by the skirts of his jacket, jerked him violently towards him, and thus they were both protected by the angle of the wall from the effects of the first discharge.

From that moment the affair became serious. The tumult was frightful, the combat mortal. Ten thousand muskets were at once fired round the Bastille, more dangerous in their effect to the besiegers than to the besieged.

At length a cannon served by the French Guards had mixed its thunder with the rattling of the musketry.

The noise was frightful, but the crowd appeared to be more and more intoxicated by it; and this noise began to terrify even the besieged, who, calculating their own small number, felt they could never equal the noise which was then deafening them.

The officers of the Bastille felt instinctively that their soldiers were becoming disheartened. They snatched their muskets from them, and themselves fired them at the crowd.

At this moment, and amid the noise of artillery and musketry, amid the howlings of the crowd, as some of them were rushing to pick up the dead bodies of their companions to form of them a new incitement,—for their gaping wounds would cry aloud for vengeance against the besieged,—there appeared at the entrance of the first courtyard a small group of unarmed, quiet citizens. They made their way through the crowd, and advanced, ready to sacrifice their lives, protected only by a white flag, which preceded them, and which intimated that they were the bearers of a message to the governor. It was a deputation from the Hôtel de Ville. The electors knew that hostilities had commenced, and, anxious to prevent the effusion of blood, had compelled Flesselles to send new proposals to the governor.

The deputies came, therefore, in the name of the city, to summon Monsieur de Launay to cease firing; and, in order to guarantee at once the lives of the citizens, his own, and those of the garrison, to propose that he should receive one hundred men of the civic guard into the interior of the fortress.

This was the rumor which was spread as the deputies advanced. The people, terrified at the enterprise they had undertaken, the people, who saw the dead bodies of their companions carried out in litters, were quite ready to support this proposal. Let De Launay accept a half defeat, and satisfy himself with half a victory.

At their approach the fire of the second courtyard ceased. A sign was made to them that they might approach; and they accordingly advanced, slipping on the ensanguined pavement, striding over carcasses, and holding out their hands to the wounded.

Under this protection the people form themselves into groups. The dead bodies and the wounded are carried out of the fortress; the blood alone remains, marbling with large purple spots the pavement of the courtyard.

The fire from the fortress had ceased. Billot was leaving it, in order to stop that of the besiegers. At the door he meets Gonchon,—Gonchon, altogether unarmed, exposing himself like one inspired, calm, as if he were invulnerable.

“Well,” inquired he of Billot, “what has become of the deputation?”

“It has gone into the fortress,” replied Billot; “order our men to cease firing.”

“It is useless,” said Gonchon, “they will not consent.”

“That matters not,” rejoined Billot; “it is our duty to make the attempt. Let us respect the usages of war, since we have become soldiers.”

“Be it so,” said Gonchon.

Then, addressing himself to two men in the crowd, who appeared to command under him the whole of the assembled mass,—

“Go, Elie,—go, Hullin,” said he, “and see that not a musket—shot be fired.”

The two aides—de—camp rushed out, and, obeying the orders of their chief, pressed through the crowded masses, and soon the firing of the musketry diminished, and then ceased altogether.

A momentary quiet was established. Advantage was taken of it to attend to the wounded, the number of whom had already amounted to thirty—five or forty.

During this respite the prison clock struck two. The attack had begun at noon; the combat had already lasted two hours.

Billot had returned to his post, and it was Gonchon in his turn who followed him.

His eyes were turned anxiously towards the gate. His impatience was visible.

“What is the matter with you?” inquired Billot.

“The matter is,” replied Gonchon, “that if the Bastille is not taken within two hours from this time all is lost.”

“And why so?”

“Because the court will be informed of the work we are about, and will despatch the Swiss to us, under Besenval, and Lambesq's dragoons; so that we shall then be caught between three fires.”

Billot was compelled to acknowledge that there was some truth in what Gonchon was saying.

At length the deputies reappeared. From their countenances it was evident they had obtained no concession.

“Well,” cried Gonchon, whose eyes sparkled with delight, “what did I tell you? Things that are predicted must happen. The accursed fortress is condemned!”

Then, without waiting even to put a question to the deputation, he sprang out of the first courtyard, crying,—

“To arms, my children!—to arms! The commandant refuses.”

And, in fact, the governor had scarcely read the letter from Flesselles, when his countenance brightened; and instead of acceding to the proposals which had been made to him, he exclaimed,—

“Gentlemen Parisians, you have insisted on a battle: and now it is too late to speak of treating.”

The bearers of the flag of truce persisted in urging their suit. They represented to De Launay all the evils which his defending the castle might entail; but he would not listen to them, and he concluded by saying to the deputation what he had said two hours before to Billot,—

“Leave the fortress, or I will have you shot.”

And the bearers of the flag of truce were compelled to depart.

On this occasion it was De Launay who resumed the offensive. He appeared burning with impatience.

Before the deputies had reached the gate of the courtyard, the Musette of Marshal Saxe played a tune, and three persons fell,—one of them dead, two others wounded.

One of the wounded was a French Guard; the other, one of the deputies.

On seeing a man whose office should have rendered him sacred, carried forth covered with blood, the crowd became more enraged than ever.

Gonchon's two aides—de—camp had returned to their places at his side; but each of them had had time to go home to change his dress.

It is true that one of them lived near the arsenal, the other in the Rue de Charonne.

Hullin, who had in the first place been a watchmaker at Geneva, then chasseur to the Marquis de Conflans, returned in his brilliant livery, which gave him the appearance of a Hungarian officer.

Elie, formerly an officer in the Queen's Regiment, had put on his uniform, which inspired the people with greater confidence, as it made them believe that the army was for them and with them.

The firing recommended with greater fury than ever; and at that moment the major of the Bastille, Monsieur de Losme, approached the governor.

He was a brave and faithful soldier; but there were some remains of the citizen in him, and he saw with much regret what had taken place, and above all, what was likely to ensue.

“Sir,” said he to De Launay, “we have no provisions, and of this you must be aware.”

“I know it,” replied the governor.

“You also know that we have no orders.”

“I beg your pardon, Monsieur de Losme; my orders are to keep the gates of the Bastille closed, and it is for that purpose that the keys are intrusted to me.”

“Sir, the keys are used as well to open the gates as to close them. Beware that you do not cause the massacre of the whole of the garrison, without saving the castle,—two triumphs on the same day. Look at those men whom we are killing; they appear to spring up from beneath the pavement. This morning there were at first only five hundred of them; three hours ago there were ten thousand. They are more than sixty thousand now; to—morrow they will be a hundred thousand. When our guns shall be silenced, and it must at last end in that, they will be strong enough to take the Bastille with their hands.”

“You speak not like a soldier, Monsieur de Losme.”

“I speak like a Frenchman, sir. I say that his Majesty, not having given us any order,—I say that the Provost of the Merchants, having made us a proposal which was a very acceptable one, which was that of admitting a hundred men of the civil guard into the castle, you might, to avoid the evils which I foresee, accede to the proposal of Monsieur de Flesselles.”

“In your opinion, then, Monsieur de Losme, the power which represents the city of Paris is a power which we ought to obey?”

“In the absence of the direct authority of his Majesty, yes, sir, it is my opinion.”

“Well, then,” said De Launay, leading the major into a corner of the courtyard, “read that, Monsieur de Losme.”

And he handed him a small square piece of paper. The major read it.

Hold firm! I amuse the Parisians with cockades and promises. Before the close of the day, Monsieur de Besenval will send you a reinforcement.


“How, then, did this note reach you, sir?” inquired the major.

“In the letter which the gentlemen of the deputation brought me. They thought they were delivering to me a request to surrender the Bastille, while they were delivering to me an order to defend it.”

The major bowed his head.

“Go to your post, Monsieur de Losme, and do not leave it until I send for you.”

Monsieur de Losme obeyed.

De Launay very quietly refolded the letter, and put it into his pocket. He then returned to his artillerymen and recommended them to fire low, and to take good aim.

The artillerymen obeyed, as Monsieur de Losme had obeyed.

But the fate of the fortress was predestined. No human power could delay its fulfilment.

To every cannon—shot the people replied by shouting,—

“We will have the Bastille!”

And while mouths were shouting, arms were vigorously acting.

Among the voices which shouted most energetically, among the arms which were acting the most efficaciously, were the voices and arms of Pitou and Billot.

Only each of them proceeded according to his different nature.

Billot, courageous and confident, had like a bull—dog, from the first rushed forward, defying balls and grapeshot.

Pitou, prudent and circumspect, like the fox, Pitou, endowed to a supreme degree with the instinct of self—preservation, made use of all his faculties to watch the danger and avoid it.

His eyes knew the embrasures which sent forth the most deadly fire; they distinguished the almost imperceptible movement of the brazen mouth which was about to be fired. He had learned to divine the precise moment when the battery gun was about to be fired across the drawbridge.

Then his eyes having performed their office, it was the turn of his limbs to work for their proprietor.

His shoulders were drawn in, his chest contracted, his whole body did not seem to offer a larger surface than a plank when seen edgeways.

In these movements of Pitou, of the chubby Pitou,—for Pitou was thin only in the legs,—there remained only a geometrical line, which had neither breadth nor thickness.

He had selected for his post a corner in the passage from the first drawbridge to the second, a sort of vertical parapet formed by jutting stones. His head was protected by one of these stones, his body by another, his knees by a third, and Pitou congratulated himself that nature and the art of fortification were thus so agreeably combined that a stone was given to him to protect each of the parts where a wound might have proved mortal.

From his corner, in which he was covered like a hare in its form, he now and then fired a shot, but merely for form's sake, for he had before him only walls and pieces of timber; but this evidently pleased Billot, who from time to time called out,—

“Fire, you lazy fellow, fire!”

And he, in his turn, would cry to Billot, but in order to calm his exuberant ardor instead of exciting it,—

“Don't expose yourself so much, Father Billot.”

Or else:—

“Take care of yourself, Monsieur Billot, there is a cannon pointed at you; there, I have just heard them cocking the Musette.”

And scarcely had Pitou uttered these words, so full of foresight, than the cannon belched forth its grape—shot, sweeping the passage between the bridges.

Notwithstanding all these injunctions, Billot performed prodigies of strength and activity, but of perfect inutility. Not being able to shed his blood,—and assuredly it was not his fault,—he shed large and abundant drops of perspiration.

Ten times did Pitou seize him by the skirts of his jacket, and pulled him to the ground in spite of his great strength, at the moment when a discharge would have assuredly swept him off.

But each time Billot jumped up again, not only like Antæus with renewed strength, but with some new idea.

At one time this idea consisted in venturing upon the platform of the bridge to hack at the beams which the chains upheld, as he had before done.

Then Pitou uttered fearful howls to restrain the farmer, and finding that his howling was of no avail, he would rush from his place of safety to him, crying,—

“Monsieur Billot, my dear Monsieur Billot, why, Madame Billot will be a widow if you go on in this way.”

And the Swiss soldiers could be seen, aiming their muskets obliquely through the embrasure of the Musette, to hit the audacious man who was endeavoring to reduce their bridge to chips.

At another time he called upon his men to bring up a cannon to destroy the head—work of the bridge; but then the Musette was fired, the gunners retreated, and Billot remained alone to load the gun and fire it, which again brought out Pitou from his retreat.

“Monsieur Billot,” cried he, “Monsieur Billot, in the name of Mademoiselle Catherine I conjure you, reflect a moment. Should you get yourself killed, Mademoiselle Catherine will be an orphan.”

And Billot yielded to this reason, which appeared to have much more influence on his mind than the first.

At length the fruitful imagination of the farmer gave birth to another idea.

He ran towards the square, crying,—

“A cart! Bring a cart here!”

Pitou considered that that which was good would be rendered excellent by being doubled. He followed Billot, vociferating,—

“Two carts! two carts!”

And immediately ten carts were brought.

“Some straw and some dry hay!” cried Billot.

“Some straw and some dry hay!” reiterated Pitou.

And almost instantly two hundred men came forward, each carrying a truss of straw or hay.

They were obliged to call out that they had ten times more than they wanted. In an hour there was a heap of forage which would have equalled the height of the Bastille.

Billot placed himself between the shafts of a cart loaded with straw, and instead of dragging it, he pushed it on before him.

Pitou did the same, without knowing what it could be for, but thinking that he could not do better than to imitate the farmer.

Elie and Hullin divined Billot's intention. They each seized a cart and pushed it before them into the courtyard.

They had scarcely entered, when they were assailed by a discharge of grape—shot. They heard the balls strike with a whizzing sound among the straw or hay, or against the wood—work of the carts; but none of the assailants received a wound.

As soon as this discharge was over, two or three hundred men with muskets rushed on behind those who were pushing forward the carts, and, sheltered by those moving ramparts, they lodged themselves beneath the apron of the bridge itself.

There Billot drew from his pocket a flint, a steel, and some tinder, formed a match by rubbing gunpowder on paper, and set fire to it.

The powder ignited the paper, and the paper ignited the straw and hay.

Each formed a torch for himself, and the four carts were simultaneously set fire to.

The flames reached the apron, caught the timbers with their sharp teeth, and ran along the wood—work of the bridge.

A shout of joy then uttered from the courtyard was taken up by the crowd in the Square St. Antoine, and reiterated with deafening clamors. They saw the smoke rising above the walls, and they hence imagined that something fatal to the besieged was occurring.

In fact the red—hot chains detached themselves from the beams. The bridge fell half broken and half destroyed by fire, smoking and cracking. The firemen rushed forward with their engines, and soon extinguished the flames upon the bridge.

The governor ordered the Invalides to fire upon the people, but they refused.

The Swiss alone obeyed; but they were not artillerymen; they were therefore obliged to abandon the guns.

The French Guards, on the contrary, seeing that the artillery was silenced, brought up their gun and planted it before the gate; their third shot shivered it to pieces.

The governor had gone up to the platform of the castle to see whether the promised reinforcement was approaching, when he found himself suddenly enveloped in smoke. It was then that he precipitately descended and ordered the artillerymen to fire.

The refusal of the Invalides exasperated him. The breaking down of the gate made him at once comprehend that all was lost.

Monsieur de Launay knew that he was hated. He felt that there was no salvation for him. During the whole time that the combat had lasted, he had matured the idea of burying himself beneath the ruins of the Bastille.

At the moment he felt assured that all further defence was hopeless, he snatched a match from the hand of one of the artillerymen, and sprang towards the cellar which served as a powder—magazine.

“The powder! the powder!” cried twenty terrified voices; “the powder! the powder!”

They saw the burning match in the governor's hand.

They guessed his purpose. Two soldiers rush forward and cross their bayonets before his breast just at the moment when he had opened the door.

“You may kill me,” said De Launay, “but you cannot kill me quick enough to prevent me letting this match fall among the powder—casks; and then besieged and besiegers will all be blown to atoms.”

The two soldiers stopped. Their bayonets remained crossed before De Launay's breast, but De Launay was still their commander, for all felt that he had their lives in his power. His action had nailed every one to the spot on which he stood. The assailants perceived that something extraordinary was happening. They looked anxiously into the courtyard, and saw the governor threatened and threatening in his turn.

“Hear me,” cried De Launay to the besiegers; “as surely as I hold this match in my hand, with which I could exterminate you all, should any one of you make a single step to enter this courtyard, so surely will I set fire to the powder.”

Those who heard these words imagined that they already felt the ground tremble beneath their feet.

“What do you wish; what do you ask?” cried several voices with an accent of terror.

“I wish a capitulation,” replied De Launay, “an honorable capitulation.”

The assailants pay but little attention to what the governor said; they cannot credit such an act of despair; they wish to enter the courtyard. Billot is at their head. Suddenly Billot trembles and turns pale; he just remembers Dr. Gilbert.

As long as Billot had thought only of himself, it was a matter of little importance to him whether the Bastille was blown up, and he blown up with it; but Gilbert's life must be saved at any cost.

“Stop!” exclaimed Billot, throwing himself before Elie and Hullin; “stop, in the name of the prisoners!”

And these men who feared not to encounter death themselves retreated, pale and trembling, in their turn.

“What do you demand?” they cried, renewing the question they had previously put to the governor by his own men.

“I demand that you should all withdraw,” replied De Launay, fiercely. “I will not accept any proposal, so long as there remains a single stranger in the Bastille.”

“But,” said Billot, “will you not take advantage of our absence to place yourself again in a state of defence?”

“If the capitulation is refused, you shall find everything in the state it now is,—you at that gate, I where I am now standing.”

“You pledge your word for that?”

“On the honor of a gentleman.”

Some of them shook their heads.

“On the honor of a gentleman,” reiterated De Launay.

“Is there any one here who can still doubt, when a gentleman has pledged his honor?”

“No, no, no!” repeated five hundred voices.

“Let paper, pen, and ink be brought here to me.”

The orders of the governor were instantly obeyed.

“'tis well,” said De Launay.

XXVII. Then, turning towards the assailants:—

“And now you must retire.”

Billot, Hullin, and Elie set the example, and were the first to withdraw.

All the others followed them.

De Launay placed the match by his side, and began writing the capitulation on his knee.

The Invalides and the Swiss soldiers who felt that their existence depended on the result, gazed at him, while he was writing, with a sort of respectful terror.

De Launay looked round before allowing his pen to touch the paper. He saw that the courtyard was free of all intruders.

In an instant the people outside were informed of all that had happened within the fortress.

As Monsieur de Losme had said, the population seemed to spring up from beneath the pavement. One hundred thousand men surrounded the Bastille.

They were no longer merely laborers and artisans, but citizens of every class had joined them. They were not merely men in the prime of life, but children and old men had rushed forward to the fight.

And all of them had arms of some description, all of them shouted vehemently.

Here and there among the groups was to be seen a woman in despair, with hair dishevelled, wringing her hands, and uttering maledictions against the granite giant.

She is some mother whose son the Bastille has just annihilated, some daughter whose father the Bastille has just levelled with the ground, some wife whose husband the Bastille has just exterminated.

But during some moments no sounds had issued from the Bastille, no flames, no smoke. The Bastille had become as silent as the tomb.

It would have been useless to endeavor to count the spots made by the balls which had marbled its surface. Every one had wished to fire a ball at the stone monster, the visible symbol of tyranny.

Therefore, when it was rumored in the crowd that the Bastille was about to capitulate, that its governor had promised to surrender, they could scarcely credit the report.

Amid this general doubt, as they did not yet dare to congratulate themselves, as they were silently awaiting the result, they saw a letter pushed forth through a loophole on the point of a sword. Only between this letter and the besiegers there was the ditch of the Bastille, wide, deep, and full of water.

Billot calls for a plank. Three are brought and are pushed across the ditch, but, being too short, did not reach the opposite side. A fourth is brought, which lodges on either side of the ditch.

Billot had them lashed together as he best could, and then ventured unhesitatingly upon the trembling bridge.

The whole crowd remained breathlessly silent; all eyes were fixed upon the man who appears suspended above the ditch, whose stagnant waters resemble those of the river Cocytus.

Pitou tremblingly seated himself on the edge of the slope, and hid his head between his knees.

His heart failed him, and he wept.

When Billot had got about two thirds of the way over the plank, it twisted beneath his feet. Billot extends his arms, falls, and disappears in the ditch.

Pitou utters a cry of horror and throws himself into the ditch, like a Newfoundland dog anxious to save his master.

A man then approached the plank from which Billot had just before been precipitated.

Without hesitation he walked across the temporary bridge. This man is Stanislaus Maillard, the usher of the Châtelet.

When he had reached the spot below which Pitou and Billot were struggling in the muddy ditch, he for a moment cast a glance upon them, and seeing that there was no doubt they would regain the shore in safety, he continued to walk on.

Half a minute afterwards he had reached the opposite side of the ditch, and had taken the letter which was held out to him on the point of a sword.

Then, with the same tranquillity, the same firmness of step, he recrossed the ditch.

But at the moment when the crowd were pressing round him to hear the letter read, a storm of musketballs rained down upon them from the battlements, and a frightful detonation was heard.

One only cry, but one of those cries which announce the vengeance of a whole people, issues from every mouth.

“Trust, then, in tyrants!” exclaimed Gonchon.

And then, without thinking any more of the capitulation, without thinking any more of the powder—magazine, without thinking of themselves or of the prisoners, without desiring, without demanding anything but vengeance, the people rushed into the courtyard, no longer by hundreds of men, but by thousands.

That which prevents the crowd from entering is no longer the musketry, but the gates, which are too narrow to admit them.

On hearing the detonation we have spoken of, the two soldiers who were still watching Monsieur de Launay threw themselves upon him; a third seized the match and extinguished it under his foot.

De Launay drew the sword which was concealed in his cane, and would have turned it against his own breast, but the soldiers plucked it from him and snapped it in two.

He then felt that all he could do was to abide the result; he therefore tranquilly awaited it.

The people rush forward; the garrison open their arms to them, and the Bastille is taken by assault,—by main force, without a capitulation.

The reason for this was that for more than a hundred years the royal fortress had not merely imprisoned inert matter within its walls, it had imprisoned thought also. Thought had thrown down the walls of the Bastille, and the people entered by the breach.

As to the discharge of musketry, which had taken place amid the general silence, during the suspension of hostilities,—as to this unforeseen aggression, as impolitic as it was murderous, it was never known who had ordered it, who had excited it, how it was accomplished.

There are moments when the destiny of a whole nation is being weighed in the scales of Fate. One of them weighs down the other. Every one already thinks he has attained the proposed end. Suddenly some invisible hand lets fall into the other scale the blade of a poniard or a pistol ball.

Then all changes, and one only cry is heard: “Woe to the vanquished!”

Chapter XVIII. Doctor Gilbert

WHILE the people were thus rushing into the fortress, howling at once with joy and rage, two men were struggling in the muddy waters of the ditch.

These men were Pitou and Billot.

Pitou was supporting Billot. No shot had struck him. He had not been wounded in any way; but his fall had somewhat confused the worthy farmer.

Ropes were thrown to them; poles were held out to them.

Pitou caught hold of a pole, Billot a rope.

Five minutes afterwards they were carried in triumph by the people, and eagerly embraced, notwithstanding their muddy state.

One man gives Billot a glass of brandy, another stuffs Pitou's mouth full of sausages, and gives him wine to wash them down.

A third rubs them down with straw, and wishes to place them in the sun to dry their clothes.

Suddenly an idea, or rather a recollection, shot through the mind of Billot. He tears himself away from their kind cares and rushes into the Bastille.

“To the prisoners!” cried he, “to the prisoners!”

“Yes, to the prisoners!” cried Pitou, in his turn, bounding after the farmer.

The crowd, which until then had thought only of the executioners, shuddered when thinking of their victims.

They with one shout repeated: “Yes, yes, yes,—to the prisoners!”

And a new flood of assailants rush through the barriers, seeming to widen the sides of the fortress by their numbers, and bearing liberty with them to the captives.

A dreadful spectacle then offered itself to the eyes of Billot and Pitou. The excited, enraged, maddened throng had precipitated themselves into the courtyard. The first soldier they had met was at once hacked to pieces.

Gonchon had quietly looked on. Doubtless he had thought that the anger of the people, like the currents of great rivers, does more harm when any impediment is thrown in its way to arrest it than if allowed tranquilly to flow on.

Elie and Hullin, on the contrary, had thrown themselves before the infuriated executioners. They prayed, they supplicated, uttering the sublime lie that they had promised life and safety to the whole garrison.

The arrival of Billot and Pitou was a reinforcement to them.

Billot, whom they were avenging, Billot was living, Billot was not even wounded. The plank had turned under his feet, and that was all; he had taken a mudbath, and nothing more.

It was, above all, against the Swiss that the people were particularly enraged; but the Swiss were nowhere to be found. They had had time to put on gray frocks, and they were taken either for servants or for prisoners.

The mob hurled large stones at the dial of the clock, and destroyed the figures of the two captives which supported it. They rushed to the ramparts to mutilate the cannon which had vomited forth death upon them. They even wreaked their vengeance on the stone walls, tearing their hands in endeavoring to displace them. When the first of the conquerors were seen upon the platform, all those who had remained without the fortress, that is to say, a hundred thousand men, shouted with clamorous joy,—

“The Bastille is taken!”

This cry resounded through Paris, and spread itself over the whole of France, as if borne with the rapidity of eagle's wings.

On hearing this cry all hearts were softened, all eyes shed tears, all arms were extended. There were no longer any contending parties; there were no longer any inimical castes. All Parisians felt that they were brothers, all men felt that they were free.

A million of men pressed one another in a mutual embrace.

Billot and Pitou had entered the Bastille, following some and followed by others; what they wished for was, not to claim their share in the triumph; it was the liberty of the prisoners.

When crossing the courtyard of the government house, they passed near a man in a gray coat, who was standing calmly, his hand resting on a gold—headed cane.

This man was the governor. He was quietly waiting either that his friends should come to save him, or that his enemies should come to strike him down.

Billot, on perceiving him, recognized him, uttered a slight exclamation of surprise, and went straight to him.

De Launay also recognized Billot. He crossed his arms and waited, looking at the farmer with an expression that implied,—”

Let us see: is it you that will give me the first blow?”

Billot at once divined the meaning of his look, and stopped.

“If I speak to him,” said he to himself, “I shall cause him to be recognized, and should he be recognized, his death is certain.”

And yet, how was he to find Doctor Gilbert amid this chaotic confusion? How could he drag from the Bastille the secret which its walls enclosed?

All this hesitation, these heroic scruples, were understood by De Launay.

“What is it that you wish?” asked De Launay, in an undertone.

“Nothing,” replied Billot, pointing with his finger to the gate, indicating to him that escape was yet possible; “nothing. I shall be able readily to find Doctor Gilbert.”

“Third Bertaudière,” replied De Launay, in a gentle and almost affectionate tone of voice.

But he stirred not from the place on which he stood.

Suddenly a voice from behind Billot pronounced these words:—“Ah! there is the governor.”

This voice was so calm, so hollow, that it appeared not to be of this world, and yet each word it had uttered was a sharp poniard turned against the breast of De Launay.

He who had spoken was Gonchon.

These words, like the first sounds of an alarm—bell, excited a fearful commotion; all these men, drunk with revengeful feelings, started on hearing them; they looked around with flaming eyes, perceived De Launay, and at once darted upon and seized him.

“Save him,” said Billot, as he passed near Elie and Hullin, “or they will murder him.”

“Assist us to do so,” said the two men.

“I am obliged to remain here,” replied Billot, “for I also have some one to save.”

In an instant De Launay had been surrounded by a thousand men, who dragged him along, lifted him up, and were bearing him away.

Elie and Hullin bounded after him, crying,—

“Stop! stop! we promised him that his life should be saved.”

This was not true; but the thought of uttering this magnanimous falsehood had risen to the mind of these two generous men at the same moment.

In a second, De Launay, followed by Elie and Hullin, disappeared under the vaulted passage which led from the Bastille, amidst loud voices of, “To the Hôtel de Ville! To the Hôtel de Ville!”

It was a singular spectacle to see this mournful and silent monument, which for four centuries had been tenanted only by prisoners, their jailers, their guards, and a gloomy governor, now become the prey of the people, who ran through the courtyards, ascended and descended the staircases, buzzing like a swarm of flies, and filling this granite hive with noise and movement.

De Launay, a living prey, was to some of the victors of as great value as the dead prey, the captured Bastille.

Billot for a moment or two followed De Launay with his eyes, who was carried rather than led, and appeared to soar above the crowd.

But, as we have said, he soon disappeared. Billot heaved a sigh, looked around him, perceived Pitou, and rushed towards a tower, crying,—

“Third Bertaudière.”

A trembling jailer met him on his way.

“Third Bertaudière,” said Billot.

“This way, sir,” replied the jailer; “but I have not the keys.”

“Where are they?”

“They took them from me.”

“Citizen, lend me your hatchet,” said Billot, to one of the men from the Faubourg.

“I give it to you,” replied the latter; “I do not want it any more, since the Bastille is taken.”

Billot snatched the hatchet, and ran up a staircase, conducted by the jailer.

The jailer stopped before a door.

“Third Bertáudière?” asked Billot.

“Yes, this is it.”

“The prisoner confined in this room is Doctor Gilbert, is it not?”

“I do not know.”

“He was brought here only five or six days ago?”

“I do not know.”

“Well, then,” said Billot, “I shall soon know it.”

And he began chopping at the door with his hatchet.

The door was of oak, but it soon flew into splinters beneath the vigorous blows of the robust farmer.

In a few moments he had cut a hole through it and could look into the room.

Billot placed his eye at the opening. Through it he could see the interior of the cell.

In the line of sunshine which penetrated into the dungeon through its grated window a man was standing, his head thrown rather backwards, holding in his hand one of the posts of his bedstead, and in an attitude of defence.

This man had evidently prepared himself to knock down the first person who should enter his room.

Notwithstanding his long beard, notwithstanding his pallid countenance, notwithstanding his short—cut hair, Billot recognized him. It was Doctor Gilbert.

“Doctor! doctor!” cried Billot to him, “is it you?”

“Who is it that is calling me?” inquired the prisoner.

“It is I—I, Billot, your friend.”

“You, Billot?”

“Yes! yes!—he! he!—we! we!” cried the voices of twenty men, who had run into the passage on hearing the vigorous blows struck by Billot.

“But who are you?”

“We?—why, the conquerors of the Bastille. The Bastille is taken; you are free.”

“The Bastille is taken; I am free!” exclaimed the doctor.

And passing both his hands through the opening, he shook the door so violently that the hinges and the lock appeared nearly yielding to his powerful pressure, and part of a panel, already loosened by Billot, broke off, and remained in the prisoner's hands.

“Wait, wait!” said Billot, who was afraid that a second effort of so violent a nature would exhaust his strength, which had been overtaxed; “wait.”

And he redoubled his blows.

And indeed, through the opening, which was every moment becoming wider, he could see the prisoner, who had seated himself upon his bench, pale as a spectre, and incapable of raising the bedpost which was lying near him, and who but a few moments before, another Samson, seemed strong enough to shake down the walls of the Bastille.

“Billot! Billot!” murmured he.

“Yes, yes! and I also, my good doctor—I, Pitou—you must remember poor Pitou, whom you placed at board with his aunt Angélique,—Pitou has come to liberate you.”

“But I can get through that hole,” cried the doctor.

“No! no!” cried all the voices; “wait.”

All those present uniting their strength in one simultaneous effort, some slipping a crowbar between the door and the framework, others using a lever between the lock and doorpost, and the remainder pushing with all the might of their shoulders or their hands, the oak gave a last cracking sound, the wall gave way, and they all of them stumbled, one over the other, into the room.

In a moment Gilbert found himself in the arms of Pitou and Billot.

Gilbert, the little country lad of the Château de Taverney, Gilbert, whom we left bathed in his blood in a cavern of the Azores, was now a man from thirty—four to thirty—five years old, of pale complexion, though he was not sickly, with black hair, eyes penetrating and fixed; never did his gaze lose itself in vacuity; never did it wander; when it was not fixed on some exterior object worthy to attract, it was fixed on his own thought, and became only more profound and more gloomy; his nose was straight, being attached to his forehead in a direct line; it rose above a lip of rather scornful expression, which, in the slight space between it and the nether lip, allowed one to perceive the dazzling enamel of his teeth. In ordinary times his dress was simple and grave, like that of a Quaker; but this simplicity was closely allied to elegance, from its extreme neatness. His height was somewhat above the medium stature, and he was well formed; as to his strength, we have just seen the feats it could perform when in a state of over—excitement, whether caused by anger or enthusiastic feeling.

Although in prison for five or six days, the doctor had paid the same attention to his person; his beard, which had grown some few lines, caused the paleness of his complexion to contrast favorably with its darkness, and indicated only a negligence which certainly was not the prisoner's, but his jailer's, who had refused to give him a razor, or to allow him to be shaved.

When he had pressed Billot and Pitou in his arms, he turned towards the crowd who had filled his dungeon. Then, as if a moment had sufficed to restore all his self-possession:—

“The day which I had foreseen has then arrived,” said he. “Thanks to you, my friends,—thanks to the eternal genius which watches over the liberty of nations!”

And he held out both his hands to the men who had assisted Billot to break down the door, and who, recognizing in him, from the dignity of his demeanor and his proud look, a man of superior genius, hardly dared to touch them.

On leaving the dungeon, he walked before all these men, leaning on Billot's shoulder, and followed by Pitou and his liberators.

The first moment had been devoted by Gilbert to friendship and to gratitude, the second had re—established the distance which existed between the learned doctor and the ignorant farmer, the warm—hearted Pitou, and the whole throng which had liberated him.

When he reached the door at the foot of the staircase Gilbert stopped, on perceiving the broad sunshine which beamed full upon him. He paused, crossing his arms over his breast and raising his eyes to heaven. “Hail to thee, lovely Liberty!” he exclaimed. “I saw thee spring to life in another world, and we are old friends. Hail to thee, lovely Liberty!”

And the smile of the doctor clearly said that the cries he then heard of a whole people, inebriated with independence, were no new thing to him.

Then, meditating for a few seconds:—

“Billot,” said he, “the people, then, have vanquished despotism?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you came here to fight?”

“I came to liberate you.”

“You knew, then, of my arrest?”

“Your son informed me of it this morning.”

“Poor Sebastien! Have you seen him?”

“I have seen him.”

“And he remained quietly at his school?”

“I left him struggling with four of the attendants of the infirmary.”

“Is he ill—has he been delirious?”

“He wanted to come with us to fight.”

“Ah!” ejaculated the doctor, and a smile of triumph passed over his features. His son had proved himself to be what he had hoped.

“And what did you say to him?” inquired the doctor. “I said, since Doctor Gilbert is in the Bastille, let us take the Bastille; and now the Bastille is taken. But that is not all.”

“What is there, then, besides?” asked the doctor.

“The casket has been stolen.”

“The casket which I had confided to your care?”


“Stolen! and by whom?”

“By some men dressed in black, who came into my house under the pretext of seizing your pamphlets: they arrested me, locked me up in a room; they searched the house all over, found the casket, and carried it off.”

“When did this happen?”


“Ho! ho! there is an evident connection between my arrest and this robbery. The person who caused my arrest, at the same time had the casket stolen. Let me but know the persons who contrived my arrest, and I shall know who it was contrived the robbery. Where are the archives of the fortress” continued the doctor, turning to the jailer.

“In the courtyard of the government house, sir,” replied the jailer.

“Then to the archives, my friends—to the archives!” cried the doctor.

“Sir,” said the jailer, stopping him, “let me go with you, or speak a word in my favor to these worthy people, that no harm may happen to me.”

“Be it so,” said Gilbert.

Then, addressing the crowd who surrounded him, and gazed at him with curiosity mingled with respect:—

“My friends,” said he, “I recommend this worthy man to you; he only fulfilled his office in opening and shutting the prison doors; but he was kind towards the prisoners. Let no injury happen to him.”

“No, no!” cried the crowd with one accord, “no!—he need not fear; no harm shall be done to him. Let him come with us.”

“I thank you, sir,” said the jailer to the doctor; “but if you wish for anything in the archives, I advise you to move quickly, for I believe they are burning the papers.”

“Oh, then there is not an instant to be lost,” cried Gilbert; “to the archives!”

And he hastened towards the courtyard of the government house, followed by the crowd, at the head of which were still Billot and Pitou.

Chapter XIX. The Triangle

ON reaching the door of the office in which the archives were kept, Gilbert perceived that a large heap of old papers was being burnt.

Unhappily, it is a general consequence that after having obtained a victory, the first desire the people have to gratify is that of destruction.

The archives of the Bastille had been invaded.

This office was a vast hall, heaped up with registry books and plans; the documents relating to all the prisoners who had been confined in the Bastille during the last hundred years were confusedly enclosed in it.

The people tore these papers to pieces with senseless rage; it doubtless appeared to them that, by destroying these registrations of imprisonment, they were legally bestowing freedom on the prisoners.

Gilbert went into the hall; seconded by Pitou, he began to examine the register books, which were still standing on the shelves; that of the current year was not to be found.

The doctor, a man who was always so cool and calm, turned pale, and stamped with impatience.

At that moment Pitou caught sight of one of those heroic urchins who are always to be found in popular triumphs, who was carrying off on his head, and running with it towards the fire, a volume similar in shape and binding to that which Dr. Gilbert had been examining.

He ran after him, and, with his long legs, speedily overtook him.

It was the register of the year 1789.

The negotiation did not occupy much time. Pitou was considered as one of the leaders of the conquerors, and explained to the boy that a prisoner had occasion to use that register, and the urchin yielded up his prey to him, consoling himself with the observation,—

“It is all the same to me; I can burn another.”

Pitou opened the book, turned over the leaves, hunted through it, and on the last page found the words:—

“This day, the 9th July, 1789, came in the Sieur G., a philosopher and political writer, a very dangerous person; to be kept in close and secret confinement.”

He carried the book to the doctor.

“Here, Monsieur Gilbert,” said he to him, “is not this what you are seeking for?”

“Oh!” cried the doctor, joyfully, and seizing hold of the book, “yes, that is it.”

And he read the words we have given above.

“And now,” said he, “let us see from whom the order emanated.”

And he examined the margin.

“Necker!” he exclaimed; “the order for my arrest signed by Necker, my friend Necker! Oh, most assuredly there must have been some foul plot!”

“Necker is your friend?” cried the crowd with respect; for it will be remembered that this name had great influence with the people.

“Yes, yes, my friends,” said the doctor; “I am convinced that Monsieur Necker did not know that I was in prison. But I will at once go to him.”

“Go to him,—and where?” inquired Billot.

“To Versailles, to be sure.”

“Monsieur Necker is not at Versailles; Monsieur Necker is exiled.”

“And where?”

“At Brussels.”

“But his daughter?”

“Ah! I know nothing of her,” replied Billot.

“His daughter is at his country-house, at St. Ouen,” said a voice from the crowd.

“I am obliged to you,” replied Gilbert, not knowing even to whom his thanks were addressed.

Then, turning towards those who were occupied in burning the papers:—

“My friends,” he said, “in the name of history, which in these archives would find matter for the condemnation of tyrants, let me conjure you not to pursue this work of destruction; demolish the Bastille, stone by stone, that not a vestige, not a trace of it may remain, but respect the papers, respect the registers; the enlightenment of the future is contained in them.”

The crowd had scarcely heard these words, than, with its usual admirable intelligence, it duly weighed this reasoning.

“The doctor is right,” cried a hundred voices; “no more devastation of these papers. Let us remove all these papers to the Hôtel de Ville.”

A fireman who, with a number of his companions, had dragged an engine into the courtyard, on hearing the report that the governor was about to blow up the fortress, directed the pipe of his hose upon the burning pile, which, like to that of Alexandria, was about to destroy the archives of a world; in a few minutes it was extinguished.

“And at whose request were you arrested?” said Billot to Gilbert.

“Ah! that is precisely what I am endeavoring to discover and cannot ascertain,—the name is left in blank.”

Then, after a moment's reflection:—

“But I will find it out,” said he.

And tearing out the leaf on which the entry was made regarding him, he folded it up, and put it into his pocket. Then, addressing himself to Billot and Pitou:—

“My friends,” said he, “let us leave this place; we have nothing further to do here.”

“Well, let us go,” replied Billot; “only it is a thing more easily said than done.”

And in fact the crowd, urged into the interior courtyards by curiosity, were so closely packed that egress was almost impossible. And, to add to the difficulty, the other liberated prisoners were standing close to the principal gate.

Eight prisoners, including Gilbert, had been liberated that morning.

Their names were: Jean Bechade, Bernard Laroche, Jean Lacaurège, Antoine Pujade, De White, Le Comte de Solage, and Tavernier.

The first four inspired but little interest. They were accused of having forged a bill of exchange, without any proof whatsoever being brought against them, and which led to the supposition that the charge against them was false; they had been only two years in the Bastille.

The Count de Solage was a man about thirty years of age, of joyous and expansive temperament; he embraced his liberators, congratulated them upon their victory, which he loudly extolled, and related to them the story of his captivity. He had been arrested in 1782, and imprisoned at Vincennes, his father having obtained a lettre de cachet against him, and was removed from that castle to the Bastille, where he had remained five years, without ever having seen a judge, or having been examined even once; his father had been dead two years, and no one had ever thought of him. If the Bastille had not been taken, it is probable that no one would have ever remembered that he was there.

De White was a man advanced in years, somewhere about sixty; he uttered strangely incoherent words, and with a foreign accent. To the questions which poured in upon him from all sides, he replied that he did not know how long he had been incarcerated, or what had been the cause of his arrest. He remembered that he was the cousin of Monsieur de Sartines, and that was all. One of the turnkeys, whose name was Guyon, said that he had seen Monsieur de Sartines, on one occasion, go into De White's cell, where he made him sign a power of attorney. But the prisoner had completely forgotten the circumstance.

Tavernier was the oldest of them all. He had been shut up for ten years in the Iles Ste. Marguerite; thirty years had he been immured in the Bastille. He was upwards of ninety years old, with white hair and long white beard; his eyes had become dimmed by remaining so long in a dark cell, and he saw everything as through a cloud. When the crowd broke open his door, he could not comprehend what they wanted with him; when they spoke to him of liberty, he shook his head; then afterwards, when they told him that the Bastille was taken:

“Ho! ho!” cried he, “ what will Louis XV., Madame de Pompadour, and the Duke de la Vrillière say to all this?”

Tavernier was not even mad, like De White; he had become an idiot.

The joy of these men was frightful to behold, for it cried aloud for vengeance, so much did it resemble terror. Two or three of them seemed almost expiring in the midst of the clamor raised by a hundred thousand voices. Poor men! they who, during the whole time of their confinement in the Bastille, had never heard two human voices speaking at the same moment,—they who were no longer accustomed to any noises but the low and mysterious one of wood, when warping with the damp, that of the spider, when, unperceived, he weaves his net with a ticking similar to that of an invisible pendulum, or of the affrighted rat, which gnaws and flies at the least stir.

At the moment that Gilbert made his appearance, the most enthusiastic among the crowd proposed that the prisoners should be carried in triumph,—a proposal which was unanimously adopted.

Gilbert would have much desired to avoid this species of ovation; but there were no means of escaping it; he had been at once recognized, as well as Billot and Pitou.

Cries of “To the Hôtel de Ville! to the Hôtel de Ville!” resounded on all sides, and Gilbert was raised in an instant on the shoulders of twenty persons.

In vain did the doctor resist, in vain did Billot and Pitou distribute among their victorious brethren the most vigorous fisticuffs; joy and enthusiasm had hardened the skins of the populace. These, and even blows given with pike-handles and the butt-ends of muskets, appeared only gentle caresses to the conquerors, and only served to redouble their delight.

Gilbert was therefore compelled to mount the triumphal car.

This car was formed of a square table, in the middle of which was stuck a lance, to serve as a support to the victor, and enable him to preserve his balance.

The doctor, therefore, was raised above this sea of heads, which undulated from the Bastille to the Arcade St. Jean, a tempestuous sea, whose waves were bearing, in the midst of pikes and bayonets, and arms of every description, of every form, and of every age, the triumphant prisoners.

But at the same time this terrible and irresistible ocean was rolling on another group, so compact and closely formed that it appeared an island. This group was the one which was leading away De Launay as a prisoner.

Around this group arose cries not less tumultuous nor less enthusiastic than those which accompanied the prisoners; but they were not shouts of triumph, they were threats of death.

Gilbert, from his elevated position, did not lose a single detail of this frightful spectacle.

He was the only one among all the prisoners who had been restored to liberty, who was in the enjoyment of all his faculties. Five days of captivity were merely a dark spot in his life. His eyes had not been weakened or rendered dim by his short sojourn in the Bastille.

A combat, generally, does not have the effect of rendering the combatants pitiless excepting during the time that it continues. Men, generally, when issuing from a struggle in which they have risked their lives, without receiving injury, are full of kindly feelings towards their enemies.

But in great popular commotions, such as those of which France has seen so many from the times of the Jacquerie down to our own days, the masses whom fear has withheld from aiding in the fight, whom noise has irritated, the masses, at once ferocious and cowardly, endeavor, after the victory has been gained, to claim their share of the triumph which they had not dared to accelerate. They take their share in the vengeance.

From the moment of his leaving the Bastille, the procession was the commencement of the governor's execution.

Elie, who had taken the governor's life under his own responsibility, marched at the head of the group, protected by his uniform and by the admiration of the people, who had seen him one of the first to advance amid the enemy's fire. He carried his sword above his head, on the point of which was the note which Monsieur de Launay had caused to be handed to the people through one of the loop-holes of the Bastille, and which had been brought by Maillard.

After him came the guard of the royal taxes, holding in his hand the keys of the fortress; then Maillard, bearing the standard; and after him a young man carrying the regulations of the Bastille on his bayonet,—an odious rescript by means of which so many bitter tears had flowed.

The governor walked next, protected by Hullin and two or three others, but disappeared amid the throng of threatening fists, of waving sabres, and of quivering lances.

By the side of this group, and rolling onward in an almost parallel line with it in the great artery of the Rue St. Antoine, which leads from the Boulevard to the river, another could be distinguished, not less threatening, not less terrible than the first. It was that which was dragging forward Major de Losme, whom we have seen for a moment combating the will of the governor, and who had at length been compelled to bow down his head before the determination which De Launay had taken to defend himself.

Major de Losme was a worthy, brave, and excellent young man. Since he had been in the Bastille he had alleviated the sorrows of many of the prisoners by his kind treatment of them. But the people were ignorant of this. The people, from his brilliant uniform, imagined that he was the governor. Whereas the governor, thanks to his gray coat, on which there was no embroidery whatsoever, and from which he had torn the ribbon of the order of St. Louis, was surrounded as it were by a protecting doubt which could be dispelled by those only who were acquainted with his person.

Such was the spectacle which offered itself to the grieved eyes of Doctor Gilbert. His face, even in the midst of dangers, bore always a calm and observing expression,—a quality which was inherent in his powerful organization.

Hullin, on leaving the Bastille, had called around him his most trusty and devoted friends, the most valiant of the popular soldiers of that day, and four or five had responded to his call, and endeavored to second him in his generous design of protecting the governor. Among them are three men of whom impartial history has consecrated the memory; their names were Arné, Chollat, and De Lépine.

These men, preceded as we have said by Hullin and Maillard, were therefore endeavoring to defend the life of one for whose death a hundred thousand men were clamorously calling.

Around them had ranged themselves some grenadiers of the French Guard, whose uniform, having become popular during the last two days, was an object of veneration to the people.

Monsieur de Launay had escaped receiving any blow as long as the arms of his generous defenders were able to ward them off; but he had not escaped insulting language and threats.

At the corner of the Rue de Jouy, of the five grenadiers of the French Guards who had joined the procession on leaving the Bastille, not one remained. They had one after the other been carried off on the way, by the enthusiasm of the crowd, and perhaps also by the calculation of assassins, and Gilbert had seen them disappear one after the other, like beads from a rosary of which the cord had been broken.

From that moment he had foreseen that the victory which had been gained was about to be tarnished by a sanguinary sacrifice; he had attempted to jump from the table which served him as a triumphal car, but arms of iron had riveted him to it. In his powerless position, he had directed Billot and Pitou to rush forward to defend the governor, and both of them, obedient to his voice, had made every effort to cleave through the human waves and get near to Monsieur de Launay.

And in fact the little group of his, defenders stood in great need of a reinforcement. Chollat, who had not tasted food since the previous evening, had felt his strength giving way, and at length had fainted; it was with great difficulty that he had been raised and saved from being trampled under foot.

But this was a breach made in the wall, a falling-in of the dyke.

A man rushed through this breach, and whirling the butt of his gun over his head, aimed a deadly blow at the uncovered head of the governor.

But De Lépine, who saw the terrific blow descending, had time enough to throw himself with outstretched arms between the governor and his assailant, and received on his forehead the blow intended for the governor.

Stunned by the shock, blinded with his own blood, which streamed into his eyes, he staggered, and covered his face with his hands, and when he could again see, the governor was twenty paces from him.

It was at this moment that Billot, dragging Pitou after him through the crowd, came up to him.

He perceived that what exposed Monsieur de Launay, above all, to observation, was his being the only man in the crowd who was bareheaded.

Billot took his hat, stretched out his arm, and placed it on the governor's head.

De Launay turned round and recognized Billot.

“I thank you,” he said; “but whatever you may do, you will not save me.”

“Let us only reach the Hôtel de Ville,” said Hullin, “and I will answer for your safety.”

“Yes,” replied De Launay, “but shall we reach it?”

“With the help of God, we will attempt it,” rejoined Hullin.

And in fact there was some hope of succeeding, for they were just entering the square before the Hôtel de Ville; but this square was thronged with men with naked arms, brandishing pikes and sabres. The report, which had flown from street to street, had announced to them that the governor and the major of the Bastille were being brought to them; and like a pack of hungry hounds eager to be loosed upon their prey, they awaited, grinding their teeth and impatient for their approach.

As soon as they saw the procession approach they rushed towards the governor.

Hullin saw that this was the moment of extreme danger, of the last struggle; if he could only get the governor to the front steps, and get him to rush up the staircase, De Launay was saved.

“To me, Elie!—to me, Maillard!—to me, all men with hearts,” cried he: “our honor is at stake.”

Elie and Maillard heard the appeal; they made a rush into the centre of the mob, and the people seconded them but too well; they made way for them to pass, but closed in behind them.

In this manner Elie and Maillard were separated from the principal group, and were prevented returning to it.

The crowd saw the advantage it had gained, and made a furious effort. Like an enormous boa, it entwined its gigantic folds around the group. Billot was lifted off his feet and dragged away; Pitou, who thought only of Billot, allowed himself to be forced away in the same throng. Hullin, being hurried on by the crowd, stumbled against the first step of the Hôtel de Ville, and fell. He got up, but it was to fall again almost immediately, and this time De Launay fell with him.

The governor was constant to the last; up to the final moment, he uttered not a single complaint; he did not ask for mercy, but he cried out in a loud, shrill tone,—

“Tigers that you are, at all events do not allow me to remain thus in suspense; kill me at once!”

Never was order more promptly executed than this reproachful request of the poor governor. In an instant around the fallen De Launay every head was bowed down towards him. For a moment nothing could be seen but upraised and threatening hands, grasping poniards which as suddenly disappeared then was seen a head severed from the body, and which was raised, still streaming with blood, upon the end of a pike; the features had retained their livid and contemptuous smile.

This was the first.

Gilbert, from his elevated position, could see all that was passing; Gilbert had once more attempted to spring to the assistance of the governor, but two hundred arms prevented him.

He turned his head from the disgusting spectacle and sighed.

This head, with its staring eyes, was raised immediately in front, and as if to salute him with a last look, of the window in which De Flesselles was standing, surrounded and protected by the electors.

It would have been difficult to decide whether the face of the living or that of the dead man was the most pale and livid.

Suddenly an immense uproar arose from the spot on which was lying the mutilated body of De Launay. His pockets had been searched by his assassins, and in his breast-pocket had been found the note which the Provost of the Merchants had addressed to him, and which he had shown to De Losme.

This note, our readers may remember, was couched in the following terms:—

Hold firm!—I amuse the Parisians with cockades and promises. Before the close of the day Monsieur de Besenval will send you a reinforcement.


The most blasphemous imprecations rose from the pavement of the square to the window of the Hôtel de Ville in which De Flesselles was standing.

Without guessing the cause of this new tumult, he fully comprehended the threat, and hastily drew back from the window; but he had been seen; every one knew that he was there; the crowd rushed up the staircase, and this time the movement was so universal that the men who had been carrying Doctor Gilbert abandoned him to follow the living tide which in a tempest of passion was overflowing the great staircase.

Gilbert would also have gone into the Hotel de Ville, not to threaten but to protect Flesselles. He had already ascended three or four of the front steps, when he felt himself violently pulled back. He turned round to disengage himself from this new obstruction, but he recognized Billot and Pitou.

“Oh!” exclaimed Gilbert, who from his commanding position could glance over the whole square, “what can they be doing yonder?”

And he pointed with his convulsively clinched hand to the corner of the Rue de la Tixéranderie.

“Come with us, Doctor, come!” simultaneously cried Billot and Pitou.

“Oh, the assassins!” cried the doctor, “the assassins!”

And indeed at that moment Major de Losme fell, killed by a desperate blow from a hatchet,—the people confounding in their rage the egotistical and barbarous governor, who had been the persecutor of his prisoners, with the generous man who had been their friend and reliever.

“Oh, yes, yes,” said he, “let us be gone, for I begin to be ashamed of having been liberated by such men.”

“Doctor,” said Billot, “be not uneasy on that score. The men who fought down yonder are not the same men who are committing these horrid massacres.”

But at the moment when the doctor was about to descend the steps which he had gone up, to hasten to the assistance of Flesselles, the flood which had poured into the building was again vomited forth. Amid this torrent of men was one who was struggling furiously as they dragged him forward.

“To the Palais Royal! to the Palais Royal!” cried the crowd.

“Yes, my friends—yes, my good friends—to the Palais Royal!” repeated the man.

And they went towards the river, as if this human inundation had wished, not to bear him towards the Palais Royal, but to drag him towards the Seine.

“Oh!” cried Gilbert, “here is another they are about to murder!—let us endeavor to save him at least.” But scarcely had he pronounced these words when a pistol-shot was heard, and De Flesselles disappeared amid the smoke.

Gilbert covered his eyes with both his hands, with a gesture of excessive anger; he cursed the people who, after having shown themselves so great, had not the firmness to remain pure, and had sullied the victory they had gained by a triple assassination.

Then, when he removed his hands from his eyes, he saw three heads raised above the crowd, on three pikes.

The first was that of De Flesselles, the second that of De Losme, the third that of De Launay.

The one rose above the front steps of the Hôtel de Ville, the other from the middle of the Rue de la Tixéranderie, the third on the Quai Pelletier.

From their relative positions they assumed the form of a triangle.

“Oh, Balsamo! Balsamo!” murmured the doctor, with a sigh; “is it then such a triangle as this that is to be symbolical of liberty!”

And he ran along the Rue de la Vannerie, Billot and Pitou accompanying him.

Chapter XX. Sebastien Gilbert

AT the corner of the Rue Planche Mibray the doctor met a hackney coach, made a sign to the coachman to stop, and hastily got into it.

Billot and Pitou quickly followed him.

“To the College of Louis-le-Grand!” cried Gilbert, and threw himself into one corner of the vehicle, where he fell into a profound reverie, which was respected by Billot and Pitou.

They went over the Pont au Change by the Rue de la Cité, the Rue St. Jacques, and at length reached the College Louis-le-Grand.

All Paris was trembling with emotion. The news had spread rapidly throughout the city; rumors of the assassinations on the Place de la Grève were mingled with the glorious recital of the taking of the Bastille. On every face could be seen depicted the various emotions to which the news gave rise, according to the varied feelings they excited,—the lightning of the soul which thus betrayed themselves.

Gilbert had not once looked out of the coach window; Gilbert had not uttered a single word. There is always a ridiculous side in popular ovations, and Gilbert contemplated his ovation in that point of view.

And besides, it also appeared to him that notwithstanding all he had done to prevent it, some drops of the blood which had been shed would fall upon his head.

The doctor alighted from the hackney coach at the college gate, and made a sign to Billot to follow him.

As to Pitou, he discreetly remained in the coach.

Sebastien was still in the infirmary; the principal in person, on Doctor Gilbert's being announced, conducted him thither.

Billot, who, although not a very acute observer, well knew the character of both father and son,—Billot attentively observed the scene which was passing before his eyes.

Weak, irritable, and nervous, as the boy had shown himself in the moment of despair, he evinced an equal degree of tranquillity and reserve in the moment of joy.

On perceiving his father he turned pale, and words failed him. His lips quivered, and then he ran and threw his arms round his father's neck, uttering a cry of joy, which resembled a cry of grief, and then held him silently clasped within his arms.

The doctor responded as silently to this mute pressure; only, after having embraced his son, he looked at him with an expression that was more sorrowful than joyous.

A more skilful observer than Billot would have said that some misfortune or some crime existed in the relations between that youth and that man.

The youth was less reserved in his conduct towards Billot. When he could observe any one excepting his father, who had in the first moment engrossed all his attention, he ran to the good farmer, and threw his arms round his neck, saying,—

“You are a worthy man, Monsieur Billot; you have kept your promise to me, and I thank you for it.”

“Yes, yes,” replied Billot, “and it was not without some trouble, I can assure you, Monsieur Sebastien. Your father was very nicely and safely locked up, and it was necessary to do a tolerable deal of damage before we could get him out.”

“Sebastien,” inquired the doctor with some anxiety, “you are in good health?”

“Yes, Father,” replied the young man, “although you find me here in the infirmary.”

Gilbert smiled.

“I know why it was you were brought here,” said he.

The boy smiled in his turn.

“Have you everything you require here?” continued the doctor.

“Everything—thanks to you.”

“I shall then, my dear boy, still recommend to you the same, the only line of conduct,—study assiduously.”

“Yes, Father.”

“I know that to you the word 'study' is not a vain and monotonous word; if I believed it to be so, I would no longer say it.”

“Father, it is not for me to reply to you on that head. It is the province of Monsieur Bérardier, our excellent principal.”

The doctor turned towards Monsieur Bérardier, who made a sign that he had something to say to him.

“I will speak to you again in a moment, Sebastien,” said the doctor.

And he went over to the principal.

“Sir,” said Sebastien, with anxious feeling, to Billot, “can anything unfortunate have happened to Pitou? The poor lad is not with you.”

“He is at the door in a hackney coach,” replied Billot.

“Father,” said Sebastien, “will you allow Monsieur Billot to fetch Pitou to me? I should be very glad to see him.”

Gilbert gave an affirmative nod; Billot left the room “What is it you would say to me?” inquired Gilbert of the Abbé Bérardier.

“I wished to tell you, sir, that it is not study that you should recommend to the young lad, but, on the contrary, to amuse himself.”

“And on what account, good abbé?”

“Yes, he is an excellent young man, whom everybody here loves as a son or as a brother, but—”

The abbé paused.

“But what?” cried Gilbert, with anxiety.

“But if great care be not taken, Monsieur Gilbert, there is something that will kill him.”

“And what is that?” said Gilbert.

“The study which you so strongly recommend to him.”


“Yes, sir, study. If you could but see him seated at his desk, his arms crossed, poring over his dictionary, with eyes fixed—”

“Studying, or dreaming?” asked Gilbert.

“Studying, sir; endeavoring to find a good expression the antique style, the Greek or Latin form—seeking for it for hours together; and see! even at this very moment!—look at him!”

And indeed the young man, although it was not five minutes since his father had been speaking to him, although Billot had scarcely shut the door after him, had fallen into a reverie which seemed closely allied to ecstasy.

“Is he often thus?” anxiously inquired Gilbert.

“Sir, I could almost say that this is his habitual state; only see how deeply he is meditating.”

“You are right, sir; and when you observe him in this state, you should endeavor to divert his thoughts.”

“And yet it would be a pity, for the results of these meditations are compositions which will one day do great honor to the College Louis-le-Grand. I predict that in three years from this time that youth yonder will bear off all the prizes at our examination.”

“Take care!” replied the doctor; “this species of absorption of thought, in which you see Sebastien now plunged, is rather a proof of weakness than of strength, a symptom rather of malady than of health. You are right, Monsieur Principal; it will not do to recommend assiduous application to that child; or, at least, we must know how to distinguish study from such a state of reverie.”

“Sir, I can assure you that he is studying.”

“What, as we see him now?”

“Yes; and the proof is that his task is always finished before that of the other scholars. Do you see how his lips move? He is repeating his lessons.”

“Well, then, whenever he is repeating his lessons in this manner, Monsieur Bérardier, divert his attention from them. He will not know his lessons the worse for it, and his health will be better for it.”

“Do you think so?”

“I am sure of it.”

“Well,” cried the good abbé, “you ought to understand these matters,—you, whom Messieurs de Condorcet and Cabanis proclaim to be one of the most learned men now existing in the world.”

“Only,” rejoined Gilbert, “when you wish to draw him out of such reveries, you must do it with much precaution. Speak to him very softly in the first instance, and then louder.”

“And why so?”

“To bring him gradually back to this world, which his mind has left.”

The abbé looked at the doctor with astonishment. It would not have required much to make him believe that he was mad.

“Observe,” continued the doctor; “you shall see the proof of what I am saying to you.”

Billot and Pitou entered the room at this moment. In three strides Pitou was at the side of the dreaming youth.

“You asked for me, Sebastien,” said Pitou to him; “that was very kind of you.”

And he placed his large head close to the pale face of the young lad.

“Look!” said Gilbert, seizing the abbé's arm.

And indeed Sebastien, thus abruptly aroused from his reverie by the cordial affection of Pitou, staggered, his pale face became livid, his head fell on one side, as if his neck had not sufficient strength to support it, a painful sigh escaped his breast, and then the blood again rushed to his face.

He shook his head and smiled.

“Ah, it is you, Pitou. Yes; that is true: I asked for you.”

And then, looking at him:—

“You have been fighting, then?”

“Yes, and like a brave lad, too,” said Billot.

“Why did you not take me with you?” said the child, in a reproachful tone. “I would have fought also, and then I should at least have done something for my father.”

“Sebastien,” said Gilbert, going to his son, and pressing his head to his breast, “you can do much more for your father than to fight for him; you can listen to his advice, and follow it,—become a distinguished and celebrated man.”

“As you are?” said the boy, with proud emotion. “Oh, it is that which I aspire to.”

“Sebastien,” said the doctor, “now that you have embraced both Billot and Pitou, our good friends, will you come into the garden with me for a few minutes, that we may have a little talk together?”

“With great delight, Father. Only two or three times in my whole life have I been alone with you, and those moments, with all their details, are always present in my memory.”

“You will allow us, good Monsieur Principal ” said Gilbert.

“How can you doubt it?”

“Billot and Pitou, you must, my friends, stand in need of some refreshment?”

“Upon my word, I do,” said Billot. “I have eaten nothing since the morning, and I believe that Pitou has fasted as long as I have.”

“I beg your pardon,” replied Pitou: “I ate a crumb of bread and two or three sausages, just the moment before I dragged you out of the water; but a bath always makes one hungry.”

“Well, then, come to the refectory,” said the Abbé Bérardier, “and you shall have some dinner.”

“Ho, ho!” cried Pitou.

“You are afraid of our college fare!” cried the abbé; “but do not alarm yourselves; you shall be treated as invited guests. Moreover, it appears to me,” continued the abbé, “that it is not alone your stomach that is in a dilapidated state, my dear Monsieur Pitou.”

Pitou cast a look replete with modesty on his own person.

“And that if you were offered a pair of breeches as well as a dinner—”

“The fact is, I would accept them, good Monsieur Bérardier,” replied Pitou.

“Well, then, come with me; both the breeches and the dinner are at your service.”

And he led off Billot and Pitou by one door, while Gilbert and his son, waving their hands to them, went out at another.

The latter crossed a yard which served as a playground to the young collegians, and went into a small garden reserved for the professors, a cool and shady retreat, in which the venerable Abbé Bérardier was wont to read his Tacitus and his Juvenal.

Gilbert seated himself upon a bench, overshadowed by an alcove of clematis and virgin vines; then, drawing Sebastien close to him, and parting the long hair which fell upon his forehead:—

“Well, my child,” said he, “we are, then, once more united.”

Sebastien raised his eyes to heaven.

“Yes, Father, and by a miracle performed by God.”

Gilbert smiled.

“If there be any miracle,” said Gilbert, “it was the brave people of Paris who have accomplished it.”

“My father,” said the boy, “set not God aside in all that has just occurred; for I, when I saw you come in, instinctively offered my thanks to God for your deliverance.”

“And Billot?”

“Billot I thanked after thanking God, as I thanked his carabine after Billot.”

Gilbert reflected.

“You are right, child,” said he; “God is in everything. But now let us talk of you, and let us have some little conversation before we again separate.”

“Are we, then, to be again separated, Father?”

“Not for a long time, I presume. But a casket, containing some very precious documents, has disappeared from Billot's house, at the same time that I was arrested and sent to the Bastille. I must therefore endeavor to discover who it was that caused my imprisonment,—who has carried off the casket.”

“It is well, Father. I will wait to see you again,—till your inquiries shall be completed.”

And the boy sighed deeply.

“You are sorrowful, Sebastien?” said the doctor, inquiringly.


“And why are you sorrowful?”

“I do not know. It appears to me that life has not been shaped for me in the way it has been for other children.”

“What are you saying there, Sebastien?”

“The truth.”

“Explain yourself.”

“They all have amusements, pleasures, while I have none.”

“You have no amusements, no pleasures?”

“I mean to say, Father, that I take no pleasure in those games which form the amusement of boys of my own age.”

“Take care, Sebastien; I should much regret that you should be of such a disposition. Sebastien, minds that give promise of a glorious future are like good fruits during their growth; they have their bitterness, their acidity, their greenness, before they can delight the palate by their matured full flavor. Believe me, my child, it is good to have been young.”

“It is not my fault if I am not so,” replied the young man, with a melancholy smile. Gilbert pressed both his son's hands within his own, and fixing his eye intently upon Sebastien's, continued:—

“Your age, my son, is that of the seed when germinating; nothing should yet appear above the surface of all that study has sown in you. At the age of fourteen, Sebastien, gravity is either pride, or it proceeds from malady. I have asked you whether your health was good, and you replied affirmatively. I am going to ask you whether you are proud; try to reply to me that you are not.”

“Father,” said the boy, “on that head you need not be alarmed. That which renders me so gloomy is neither sickness nor pride; no, it is a settled grief.”

“A settled grief, poor child! And what grief, good heaven, can you have at your age? Come, now, speak out.”

“No, Father, no; some other time. You have told me that you were in a hurry. You have only a quarter of an hour to devote to me. Let us speak of other things than my follies.”

“No, Sebastien; I should be uneasy were I to leave you so. Tell me whence proceeds your grief.”

“In truth, Father, I do not dare.”

“What do you fear?”

“I fear that in your eyes I shall appear a visionary, or perhaps that I may speak to you of things that will afflict you.”

“You afflict me much more by withholding your secret from me.”

“You well know that I have no secrets from you, Father.”

“Speak out, then.”

“Really, I dare not.”

“Sebastien, you who have the pretension of being a man, to—”

“It is precisely for that reason.”

“Come, now, take courage.”

“Well, then, Father, it is a dream.”

“A dream which terrifies you?”

“Yes, and no; for when I am dreaming, I am not terrified, but as if transported into another world.”

“Explain yourself.”

“When still quite a child I had these visions. You cannot but remember that two or three times I lost myself in those great woods which surround the village in which I was brought up?”

“Yes, I remember being told of it.”

“Well, then, at those times I was following a species of phantom.”

“What say you?” cried Gilbert, looking at his son with an astonishment that seemed closely allied to terror.

“Well, then, Father, I will tell you all. I used to play, as did the other children in the village. As long as there were children with me, or near me, I saw nothing; but if I separated from them, or went beyond the last village garden, I felt something near, like the rustling of a gown. I would stretch out my arms to catch it, and I embraced only the air; but as the rustling sound became lost in distance, the phantom itself became visible. It was at first a vapor as transparent as a cloud; then the vapor became more condensed, and assumed a human form. The form was that of a woman gliding along the ground rather than walking, and becoming more and more visible as it plunged into the shady parts of the forest. Then an unknown, extraordinary, and almost irresistible power impelled me to pursue this form. I pursued her with outstretched arms, mute as herself, for often I attempted to call to her, and never could my tongue articulate a sound. I pursued her thus, although she never stopped, although I never could come up with her, until the same prodigy which announced her presence to me warned me of her departure. This woman vanished gradually from my sight, matter became once more vapor, the vapor became volatilized, and all was ended; and I, exhausted with fatigue, would fall down on the spot where she had disappeared. It was there that Pitou would find me, sometimes the same day, but sometimes only the next morning.”

Gilbert continued gazing at his son with increasing anxiety. He had placed his fingers on his pulse. Sebastien at once comprehended the feeling which agitated the doctor.

“Oh, do not be uneasy, Father,” said he. “I know that there was nothing real in all this. I know that it was a vision, and nothing more.”

“And this woman,” inquired the doctor, “what was her appearance?”

“Oh, as majestic as a queen.”

“And her face; did you sometimes see it, child?”


“And how long ago ” asked Gilbert, shuddering.

“Only since I have been here,” replied the youth.

“But here in Paris you have not the forest of Villers-Cotterets, the tall trees forming a dark and mysterious arch of verdure. In Paris you have no longer that silence, that solitude, the natural element of phantoms.”

“Yes, Father, I have all these.”

“Where, then?”

“Here, in this garden.”

“What mean you by saying here? Is not this garden set apart for the professors?”

“It is so, my father; but two or three times it appeared to me that I saw this woman glide from the courtyard into the garden, and each time I would have followed her, but the closed door always prevented me. Then one day the Abbé Bérardier, being highly satisfied with my composition, asked me if there was anything I particularly desired; and I asked him to allow me sometimes to walk in the garden with him. He gave me the permission. I came; and here, Father, the vision reappeared to me.”

Gilbert trembled.

“Strange hallucination,” said he; “but, nevertheless, very possible in a temperament so highly nervous as his. And you have seen her face, then?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Do you remember it?”

The youth smiled.

“Did you ever attempt to go near her?”


“To hold out your hand to her?”

“It was then that she would disappear.”

“And in your own opinion, Sebastien, who is this woman?”

“It appears to me that she is my mother.”

“Your mother!” exclaimed Gilbert, turning pale.

And he pressed his hand against his heart, as if to stop the bleeding of a painful wound.

“But this is all a dream,” cried he; “and really I am almost as mad as you are.”

The youth remained silent, and with pensive eye looked at his father.

“Well?” said the latter, in the accent of inquiry.

“Well,” replied Sebastien, “it is possible that it may be all a dream; but the reality of my dream is no less existing.”

“What say you?”

“I say that at the last Festival of Pentecost, when we were taken to walk in the wood of Satory, near Versailles, and that while there, as I was meditating under a tree, and separated from my companions—”

“The same vision again appeared to you?”

“Yes; but this time in a carriage, drawn by four magnificent horses. But this time real, absolutely living. I very nearly fainted.”

“And why so?”

“I do not know.”

“And what impression remained upon your mind from this new vision?”

“That it was not my mother whom I had seen appearing to me in a dream, since this woman was the same I always saw in my vision, and my mother is dead.”

Gilbert rose and pressed his hand to his forehead. A strange swimming of the head had just seized him.

The young lad remarked his agitation, and was alarmed at his sudden paleness.

“Ah!” said he, “you see now, Father, how wrong I was to relate to you all my follies.”

“No, my child, no. On the contrary,” said the doctor, “speak of them often to me; speak of them to me every time you see me, and we will endeavor to cure you of them.”

Sebastien shook his head.

“Cure me! and for what?” asked he. “I am accustomed to this dream. It has become a portion of my existence. I love that vision, although it flies from me, and sometimes seems to repel me. Do not, therefore, cure me of it, Father. You may again leave me, travel once more, perhaps go again to America. Having this vision, I am not completely alone in the world.”

“In fine,” murmured the doctor, and pressing Sebastien to his breast, “till we meet again, my child,” said he, “and then I hope we shall no more leave each other; for should I again leave France, I will at least endeavor to take you with me.”

“Was my mother beautiful?” asked the child.

“Oh, yes, very beautiful!” replied the doctor, in a voice almost choked by emotion.

“And did she love you as much as I love you?”

“Sebastien! Sebastien! never speak to me of your mother!” cried the doctor.

And pressing his lips for the last time to the forehead of the youth, he rushed out of the garden.

Instead of following him, the child fell back, overcome by his feelings, on the bench.

In the courtyard Gilbert found Billot and Pitou, completely invigorated by the good cheer they had partaken of. They were relating to the Abbé Bérardier all the circumstances regarding the capture of the Bastille.

Gilbert again entered into conversation with the Abbé Bérardier, in which he pointed out to him the line of conduct he should observe with regard to Sebastien.

He then got into the hackney coach with his two companions.

Chapter XXI. Madame de Staël

WHEN Gilbert resumed his place in the hackney coach by the side of Billot and opposite to Pitou, he was pale, and the perspiration was standing in large drops on his forehead.

But it was not in the nature of this man to remain for any time overwhelmed by any emotion whatsoever. He threw himself back into the corner of the carriage, pressed both his hands to his forehead as if he wished to repress the boiling thoughts which raged within it, and after remaining a few moments motionless, he withdrew his hands, and instead of an agitated countenance, he exhibited features which were particularly calm.

“You told me, I think, my dear Monsieur Billot, that the king had dismissed Monsieur de Necker?”

“Yes, indeed, Monsieur Gilbert.”

“And that the commotions in Paris originated in some measure from the disgrace of the minister?”

“Very much.”

“And you added that Monsieur de Necker had immediately left Versailles.”

“He received the king's letter while at dinner. In an hour afterwards he was on the road to Brussels.”

“Where he is now?”

“Or ought to be.”

“Did you not hear it said that he had stopped somewhere on the road?”

“Oh, yes; he stopped at St. Ouen, in order to take leave of his daughter, the Baroness de Staël.”

“Did Madame de Staël go with him?”

“I was told that he and his wife alone set out for Brussels.”

“Coachman!” cried Gilbert, “stop at the first tailor's shop you see.”

“You wish to change your coat?” said Billot.

“Yes. In good sooth, this one smells too much of its contact with the walls of the Bastille; and a man cannot in such a dress discreetly pay a visit to the daughter of an ex-minister in disgrace. Search your pockets, and see if you cannot find a few louis for me.”

“Ho, ho!” cried the farmer, “it seems that you have left your purse in the Bastille.”

“That is according to the regulations,” said Gilbert, smiling. “All articles of value are deposited in the registry office.”

“And they remain there,” said the farmer.

And opening his huge fist, which contained about twenty louis:—

“Take these, Doctor,” said he.

Gilbert took ten louis. Some minutes afterwards the hackney coach stopped at the door of a ready-made clothes shop.

It was still the usage in those days.

Gilbert changed his coat, soiled by the walls of the Bastille, for a very decent black one, such as was worn by the gentlemen of the Tiers État in the National Assembly.

A hair-dresser in his shop, a Savoyard shoe-cleaner in his cellar, completed the doctor's toilette.

The doctor then ordered the coachman to drive him to St. Ouen, by the exterior Boulevards, which they reached by going behind the walls of the park at Monceaux.

Gilbert alighted at the gate of Monsieur Necker's house, at the moment when the cathedral clock of Dagobert struck seven in the evening.

Around this house, which erewhile was so much sought, so much frequented, reigned the most profound silence, disturbed only by the arrival of Gilbert.

And yet there was none of that melancholy appearance which generally surrounds abandoned country-houses,—of that gloominess even generally visible in a mansion, the master of which has been disgraced.

The gates being closed, the garden-walks deserted, merely announced that the heads of the family were absent, but there was no trace of misfortune or of precipitation.

Besides this, one whole portion of the château, the east wing, had still its window-shutters open, and when Gilbert was advancing towards this side, a servant, wearing the livery of Monsieur de Necker, approached the visitor.

The following dialogue then took place through the iron gratings of the gate.

“Monsieur de Necker is not at home, my friend?” said Gilbert.

“No; the baron left St. Ouen last Saturday for Brussels.”

“And her ladyship, the baroness?”

“Went with Monsieur.”

“But Madame de Staël?”

“Madame de Staël has remained here; but I do not know whether madame will receive any one; it is her hour for walking.”

“Please to find out where she is, and announce to her Doctor Gilbert.”

“I will go and inquire whether madame is in the house or not. Doubtless she will receive you, sir; but should she be talking a walk, my orders are that she is not to be disturbed.”

“Very well; go quickly, I beg of you.”

The servant opened the gate, and Gilbert entered the grounds.

While relocking the gate, the servant cast an inquisitive glance on the vehicle which had brought the doctor, and on the extraordinary faces of his two travelling companions; then he went off, shaking his head, like a man who feels somewhat perplexed, but who defies any other intellect to see clearly into a matter where his own has been altogether puzzled.

Gilbert remained alone, waiting his return.

In about five minutes the servant reappeared.

“The Baroness de Staël is taking a walk,” said he, and he bowed in order to dismiss Gilbert.

But the doctor was not so easily got rid of.

“My friend,” said he, “be pleased to make a slight infraction in your orders, and tell the baroness, when you announce me to her, that I am a friend of the Marquis de Lafayette.”

A louis, slipped into the lackey's hands, completely removed the scruples he had entertained, which the name of the marquis had nearly half dispelled.

“Come in, sir,” said the servant.

Gilbert followed him; but instead of taking him into the house he led him into the park.

“This is the favorite walk of the baroness,” said the lackey to Gilbert, pointing out to him the entrance to a species of labyrinth; “will you remain here a moment?”

Ten minutes afterwards he heard a rustling among the leaves, and a woman between twenty-three and twenty-four years of age, and of a figure rather noble than graceful, appeared to the eyes of Gilbert.

She seemed surprised on finding a man who still appeared young, when she had doubtless expected to meet one advanced in years.

Gilbert was a man of sufficiently remarkable appearance to strike at first sight so able an observer as Madame de Staël.

The features of few men were formed with such pure lines, and these lines had assumed, by the exercise of an all-powerful will, a character of extraordinary inflexibility. His fine black eyes, which were always so expressive, had become somewhat veiled by his literary labors and the sufferings he had undergone, and had lost a portion of that mobility which is one of the charms of youth.

A wrinkle, which was at once deep and graceful, hollowed out at the corner of his thin lips, that mysterious cavity in which physiognomists place the seat of circumspection. It appeared that time alone, and a precocious old age, had given to Gilbert that quality with which nature had neglected to endow him.

A wide and well-rounded forehead, slightly receding towards the roots of his fine black hair, which for years powder had no longer whitened, gave evidence at once of knowledge and of thought, of study and imagination. With Gilbert, as with his master, Rousseau, his prominent eyebrows threw a deep shade over his eyes, and from this shade glanced forth the luminous rays which revealed life.

Gilbert, notwithstanding his unassuming dress, presented himself before the future authoress of “Corinne,” with a remarkably dignified and distinguished air,—an air of which his well-shaped tapering white hands, his small feet, and his finely formed and muscular legs, completed the noble appearance.

Madame de Staël devoted some moments to examining Gilbert.

During this, Gilbert, on his side, had given a stiff sort of bow, which slightly recalled the modest civility of the American Quakers, who grant to women only the fraternity which protects instead of the respect which smiles.

Then, with a rapid glance, he, in his turn, analyzed the person of the already celebrated young woman, whose intelligent and expressive features were altogether devoid of beauty; it was the head of an insignificant and frivolous youth, rather than that of a woman, but which surmounted a form of voluptuous luxuriance.

She held in her hand a twig from a pomegranate-tree, from which, from absence of mind, she was biting off the blossoms.

“Is it you, sir,” inquired the baroness, “who are Doctor Gilbert?”

“Yes, Madame, my name is Gilbert.”

“You are very young, to have acquired so great a reputation, or rather, does not that reputation appertain to your father, or to some relative older than yourself?”

“I do not know any one of the name of Gilbert but myself, Madame. And if indeed there is, as you say, some slight degree of reputation attached to the name, I have a fair right to claim it.”

“You made use of the name of the Marquis de Lafayette, in order to obtain this interview with me, sir; and, in fact, the marquis has spoken to us of you, of your inexhaustible knowledge—”

Gilbert bowed.

“A knowledge which is so much the more remarkable and so much the more replete with interest,” continued the baroness, “since it appears that you are not a mere ordinary chemist, a practitioner, like so many others, but that you have sounded all the mysteries of the science of life.”

“I clearly perceive, Madame, that the Marquis de Lafayette must have told you that I am somewhat of a sorcerer,” replied Gilbert, smiling; “and if he has told you so, I know that he has talent enough to prove it to you, had he wished to do so.”

“In fact, sir, he has spoken to us of the marvellous cures you often performed, whether on the field of battle, or in the American hospitals, upon patients whose lives were altogether despaired of; you plunged them, the general told us, into a factitious death, which so much resembled death itself, that it was difficult to believe it was not real.”

“That factitious death, Madame, is the result of a science almost still unknown, now confided only to the hands of some few adepts, but which will soon become common.”

“It is mesmerism you are speaking of, is it not?” asked Madame de Staël with a smile.

“Of mesmerism, yes, it is.”

“Did you take lessons of the master himself?”

“Alas! Madame, Mesmer himself was only a scholar.

Mesmerism, or rather magnetism, was an ancient science, known to the Egyptians and the Greeks. It was lost in the ocean of the middle ages. Shakespeare divined it in Macbeth. Urbain Grandier found it once more, and died for having found it. But the great master—my master—was the Count de Cagliostro.”

“That mountebank!” cried Madame de Staël.

“Madame, Madame, beware of judging as do contemporaries, and not as posterity will judge. To that mountebank I owe my knowledge, and perhaps the world will be indebted to him for its liberty.”

“Be it so,” replied Madame de Staël, again smiling: “I speak without knowing,—you speak with full knowledge of the subject. It is probable that you are right and that I am wrong. But let us return to you. Why is it that you have so long kept yourself at so great a distance from France? Why have you not returned to take your place, your proper station, among the great men of the age, such as Lavoisier, Cabanis, Condorcet, Bailly, and Louis?”

At this last name Gilbert blushed, though almost imperceptibly.

“I have yet too much to study, Madame, to rank myself all at once among these great masters.”

“But you have come at last, though at an unpropitious moment for us; my father, who would, I feel assured, have been happy to be of service to you, has been disgraced, and left here three days ago.”

Gilbert smiled.

“Baroness,” said he, bowing slightly, “ only six days ago I was imprisoned in the Bastille, pursuant to an order from Baron Necker.”

Madame de Staël blushed in her turn.

“Really, sir, you have just told me something that greatly surprises me. You in the Bastille!”

“Myself, Madame.”

“What had you done to occasion your imprisonment?”

“Those alone who threw me into prison can tell that.”

“But you are no longer in prison!”

“No, Madame, because the Bastille no longer exists.”

“How can that be?—does the Bastille no longer exist?” cried Madame de Staël, feigning astonishment.

“Did you not hear the firing of cannon?”

“Yes; but cannons are only cannons, that is all.”

“Oh, permit me to tell you, Madame, that it is impossible that Madame de Staël, the daughter of Monsieur de Necker, should not know, at this present time, that the Bastille has been taken by the people.”

“I assure you, sir,” replied the baroness, somewhat confused, “that being unacquainted with any of the events which have taken place since the departure of my father, I no longer occupy my time but in deploring his absence.”

“Madame! Madame!” said Gilbert, shaking his head, “the State messengers are so familiar with the road that leads to the château of St. Ouen, that at least one bearer of despatches must have arrived during the four hours that have elapsed since the capitulation of the Bastille.”

The baroness saw that it was impossible for her to deny it without positively lying. She abhorred a falsehood; she therefore changed the subject of the conversation.

“And to what lucky event do I owe your visit, sir?” asked she.

“I wished to have the honor of speaking to Monsieur de Necker, Madame.”

“But do you know that he is no longer in France?”

“Madame, it appeared to me so extraordinary that Monsieur de Necker should be absent, so impolitic that he should not have watched the course of events—”


“That I relied upon you, I must confess, Madame, to tell me where I could find him.”

“You will find him at Brussels, sir.”

Gilbert fixed his searching gaze upon the baroness.

“Thank you, Madame,” said he, bowing; “I shall then set out for Brussels, as I have matters of the highest importance to communicate to him.”

Madame de Staël appeared to hesitate, then she rejoined:—

“Fortunately I know you, sir,” said she, “and I know you to be a man of serious character. 'Tis true, important things might lose a great deal of their value by passing through other lips. But what can there be of importance to my father, after his disgrace—after what has taken place?”

“There is the future, Madame; and perhaps I shall not be altogether without influence over the future. But all these reflections are to no purpose. The most important thing for me, and for him, is, that I should see Monsieur de Necker. Thus, Madame, you say that he is at Brussels?”

“Yes, sir.”

“It will take me twenty hours to go there. Do you know what twenty hours are during a revolution, and how many important events may take place during twenty hours? Oh! how imprudent it was for Monsieur de Necker, Madame, to place twenty hours between himself and any event which might take place—between the hand and the object it desires to reach.”

“In truth, sir, you frighten me,” said Madame de Staël, “and I begin to think that my father has really been imprudent.”

“But what would you have, Madame? Things are thus, are they not I have, therefore, merely to make you a most humble apology for the trouble that I have given you. Adieu, Madame.”

But the baroness stopped him.

“I tell you, sir, that you alarm me,” she rejoined; “you owe me an explanation of all this; you must tell me something that will reassure me.”

“Alas! Madame,” replied Gilbert, “I have so many private interests to watch over at this moment, that it is impossible for me to think of those of others; my life and honor are at stake, as would be the life and honor of Monsieur de Necker if he could take advantage of the words which I shall tell him in the course of twenty hours.”

“Sir, allow me to remember something that I have too long forgotten; it is that grave subjects ought not to be discussed in the open air, in a park, within the reach of every ear.”

“Madame,” said Gilbert, “I am now at your house, and permit me to observe that consequently it is you who have chosen the place where we now are. What do you wish? I am entirely at your command.”

“I wish you to do me the favor to finish this conversation in my cabinet.”

“Ah! ah!” said Gilbert to himself, “if I did not fear to confuse her, I would ask her whether her cabinet is at Brussels.”

But without further question he contented himself with following the baroness, who began to walk quickly toward the château.

The same servant who had admitted Gilbert was found standing in front of the house. Madame de Staël made a sign to him, and opening the doors herself, she led Gilbert into her cabinet, a charming retreat, more masculine, it is true, than feminine, of which the second door and the two windows opened into a small garden, which was not only inaccessible to others, but also beyond the reach of all strange eyes.

When they had gone in, Madame de Staël closed the door, and turning towards Gilbert:—

“Sir, in the name of humanity, I call upon you to tell me the secret which is so important to my father, and which has brought you to St. Ouen.”

“Madame,” said Gilbert, “if your father could now hear me, if he could but know that I am the man who sent the king the secret memoirs entitled, 'Of the State of Ideas and of Progress,' I am sure the Baron de Necker would immediately appear, and say to me, 'Doctor Gilbert, what do you desire of me? Speak; I am listening.'“

Gilbert had hardly pronounced these words when a secret door which was concealed by a panel painted by Vanloo was noiselessly slid aside, and the Baron de Necker, with a smiling countenance, suddenly appeared, standing at the foot of a small, winding staircase, at the top of which could be perceived the dim rays of a lamp.

Then the Baroness de Staël courtesied to Gilbert, and kissing her father's forehead, left the room by the same staircase which her father had just descended, and having closed the panel, she disappeared.

Necker advanced towards Gilbert, and gave him his hand, saying,—

“Here I am, Monsieur Gilbert; what do you desire of me? Speak, I am listening.”

They both seated themselves.

“Monsieur le Baron,” said Gilbert, “you have just heard a secret which has revealed all my ideas to you. It was I who, four years ago, sent an essay to the king on the general state of Europe; it is I who, since then, have sent him from the United States the various works he has received on all the questions of conciliation and internal administration which have been discussed in France.”

“Works of which his Majesty,” replied Monsieur de Necker, bowing, “has never spoken to me without expressing a deep admiration of them, though at the same time a profound terror at their contents.”

“Yes, because they told the truth. Was it not because the truth was then terrible to hear, and, having now become a fact, it is still more terrible to witness?”

“That is unquestionably true, sir,” said Necker.

“Did the king send these essays to you for perusal?” asked Gilbert.

“Not all of them, sir; only two: one on the subject of the finances—and you were of my opinion with a very few exceptions; but I nevertheless felt myself much honored by it.”

“But that is not all; there was one in which I predicted all the important events which have taken place.”



“And which of them, sir, I pray?”

“There were two in particular; one was that the king would find himself some day compelled to dismiss you, in consequence of some engagements he had previously entered into.”

“Did you predict my disgrace to him?”


“That was the first event: what was the second?”

“The taking of the Bastille.”

“Did you predict the taking of the Bastille?”

“Monsieur le Baron, the Bastille was more than a royal prison, it was the symbol of tyranny. Liberty has commenced its career by destroying the symbol; the Revolution will do the rest.”

“Have you duly considered the serious nature of the words you have just uttered, sir?”

“Undoubtedly I have.”

“And you are not afraid to express such a theory openly?”

“Afraid of what?”

“Afraid lest some misfortune should befall you.”

“Monsieur de Necker,” said Gilbert, smiling, “ after once having got out of the Bastille, a man has nothing more to fear.”

“Have you, then, come out of the Bastille?”

“This very day.”

“And why were you thrown into the Bastille?”

“I ought to ask you that question.”

“Ask me?”

“You, undoubtedly.”

“And why should you ask me?”

“Because it was you who caused my imprisonment there.”

“I had you thrown into the Bastille?”

“Six days ago; the date, as you see, is not so very remote that you should not be able to recollect it.”

“It is impossible.”

“Do you recognize your own signature?”

And Gilbert showed the ex-minister the leaf of the jail-book of the Bastille, and the lettre de cachet which was annexed to it.

“Yes,” said Necker, “that is doubtless the lettre de cachet. You know that I signed as few as possible, and that the smallest number possible was still four thousand annually; besides, at the moment of my departure, they made me sign several in blank. Your warrant of imprisonment, sir, must have been one of the latter.”

“Do you mean to imply by this that I must in no way attribute my imprisonment to you?”

“Most certainly, I do.”

“But still, Monsieur le Baron,” said Gilbert, smiling, “you understand my motives for being so curious; it is absolutely necessary that I should know to whom I am indebted for my captivity. Be good enough, therefore, to tell me.”

“Oh! there is nothing easier. I have always taken the precaution never to leave my letters at the ministry, and every evening I brought them back here. Those of this month are in the drawer B of this chiffonnier; let us look for the letter G in the bundle.”

Necker opened the drawer, and looked over an enormous file, which might have contained some five or six hundred letters.

“I only keep those letters,” said the ex-minister, “which are of such a nature as to cover my responsibility. Every arrest that I order insures me another enemy. I had therefore to guard myself against such a contingency. An omission to do so would surprise me greatly. Let us see—G—G, that is the one. Yes, Gilbert—your arrest was brought about by some one in the queen's household, my dear sir. Ah—ah!—in the queen's household—yes, here is a request for a warrant against a man named Gilbert. Profession not mentioned; black eyes, black hair. The description of your person follows. Travelling from Havre to Paris. That is all. Then the Gilbert mentioned in the warrant must have been you.”

“It was myself. Can you trust me with that letter?”

“No; but I can tell you by whom it is signed.”

“Please to do so.”

“By the Countess de Charny.”

“The Countess de Charny,” repeated Gilbert. “I do not know her. I have done nothing to displease her.”

And he raised his head gently, as if endeavoring to recall to mind the name of the person in question.

“There is, moreover, a small postscript,” continued Necker, “without any signature, but written in a hand I know.”

Gilbert stooped down and read in the margin of the letter:—

“Do what the Countess de Charny demands immediately.”

“It is strange,” said Gilbert. “I can readily conceive why the queen should have signed it, for I mentioned both her and the Polignacs in my essays. But Madame de Charny—”

“Do you not know her?”

“It must be an assumed name. Besides, it is not at all to be wondered at that the notabilities of Versailles should be unknown to me. I have been absent from France for fifteen years, during which time I only came back twice; and I returned after my second visit to it, some four years ago. Who is this Countess de Charny?”

“The friend, the bosom companion of the queen; the much beloved wife of the Count de Charny; a woman who is both beautiful and virtuous,—a prodigy, in short.”

“Well, then, I do not know this prodigy.”

“If such be the case, doctor, be persuaded of this, that you are the victim of some political intrigue. Have you never spoken of Count Cagliostro?”


“Were you acquainted with him?”

“He was my friend. He was even more than my friend; he was my master, my saviour.”

“Well, then, either Austria or the Holy See must have demanded your incarceration. You have published some pamphlets, have you not?”

“Alas! yes.”

“That is it, precisely. All their petty revenges point towards the queen, like the magnetic needle which points towards the pole,—the iron towards the loadstone. They have been conspiring against you; they have had you followed. The queen has ordered Madame de Charny to sign the letter, in order to prevent any suspicion; and now all the mystery is cleared up.”

Gilbert reflected for a moment. This moment of reflection reminded him of the box which had been stolen from Billot's house; and with which neither the queen, nor Austria, nor the Holy See had any connection. This recollection led his mind to consider the matter in its right point of view.

“No,” said he, “it is not that; it cannot be that. But it matters not. Let us talk of something else.”

“Of what?”

“Of you.”

“Of me? What can you have to say of me?”

“Only what you know as well as any one else. It is that before three days have elapsed you will be reinstated in your ministerial capacity; and then you may govern France as despotically as you please.”

“Do you think so?” said Necker, smiling.

“And you think so, too, since you are not at Brussels.”

“Well then,” exclaimed Necker, “what will be the result? For it is the result I wish to come to.”

“Here it is. You are beloved by the French; you will soon be adored by them. The queen was already tired of seeing you beloved. The king will grow tired of seeing you adored. They will acquire popularity at your expense, and you will not suffer it. Then you will become unpopular in your turn. The people, my dear Monsieur de Necker is like a starving lion, which licks only the hand that supplies it with food, be it whose hand it may.”

“After that?”

“After that you will again be lost in oblivion.”

“I—lost in oblivion?”

“Alas! yes.”

“And what will cause me to be forgotten?”

“The events of the times.”

“My word of honor for it, you speak like a prophet.”

“It is my misfortune to be one to a certain extent.”

“Let us hear now what will happen?”

“Oh, it is not difficult to predict what will happen, for that which is to happen is already in embryo in the Assembly. A party will arise that is slumbering at this moment. I am mistaken; it is not slumbering, but it hides itself. This party has for its chief a principle, and its weapon is an idea.”

“I understand you; you mean the Orleanist party?”

“No. I should have said of that one that its chief was a man, and its weapon popularity. I speak to you of a party whose name has not even yet been pronounced. Of the republican party.”

“Of the republican party? Ah! that is too ridiculous.”

“Do you not believe in its existence?”

“A chimera.”

“Yes, a chimera, with a mouth of fire that will devour you all.”

“Well, then, I shall become a republican. I am one already.”

“A republican from Geneva, certainly.”

“But it seems to me that a republican is a republican.”

“There is your mistake, my good baron. Our republicans do not resemble the republicans of other countries. Our republicans will first have to devour all privileges, then the nobility, and after that the monarchy. You may start with our republicans, but they will reach the goal without you, for you will not desire to follow them so far. No, Monsieur de Necker, you are mistaken; you are not a republican.”

“Oh, if you understand it in that sense, no; I love the king.”

“And I too,” said Gilbert; “and everybody at this moment loves him as we do. If I were to say this to a mind of less calibre than yours, I should be hooted and laughed at; but believe what I tell you, Monsieur de Necker.”

“I would readily do so, indeed, if there were any probability of such an event; but—”

“Do you know any of the secret societies?”

“I have heard them much spoken of.”

“Do you believe in their existence?”

“I believe in their existence, but I do not believe they are very extensively disseminated.”

“Are you affiliated to any one of them?”


“Do you belong even to a Masonic lodge?”


“Well, then, Monsieur de Necker, I do.”

“Are you affiliated to any of these societies?”

“Yes, to all of them. Beware, Monsieur de Necker; they form an immense net that surrounds every throne. It is an invisible dagger that threatens every monarchy. We form a brotherhood of about three millions of men, scattered abroad in every land, disseminated throughout all classes of society. We have friends among the people, among the citizens, among the nobility, among princes, among sovereigns themselves. Take care, Monsieur de Necker; the prince with whom you might be irritated is perhaps an affiliated member. The valet who humbles himself in your presence may be an affiliated member. Your life is not yours; your fortune is not your own; your honor even is not yours. All this is directed by an invisible power, which you cannot combat, for you do not know it, and which may crush you because it knows you. Well, these three millions of men, do you see, who have already made the American republic, these three millions of men will try to form a French republic; then they will try to make a European republic.”

“But,” said Necker, “their republic of the United States does not alarm me much, and I willingly accept such a form of government.”

“Yes, but between America and ourselves there is a deep gulf. America is a new country, without prejudices, without aristocratic privileges, without monarchy. It has a fertile soil, productive land, and virgin forests; America, which is situated between a sea which serves as an outlet for its commerce, and an immense solitude which is a source of wealth to its population, while France,—just consider how much it would be necessary to destroy in France before France can resemble America!”

“But, in fine, what do you intend to prove by this?”

“I mean to point out to you the path into which we are inevitably forced. But I would endeavor to advance into it without causing any shock, by placing the king at the head of the movement.”

“As a standard?”

“No, but as a shield.”

“A shield!” observed Necker, smiling. “You know but little of the king if you wish to make him play such a part.”

“Pardon me,—I know him well. Oh, gracious heaven! I know full well he is a man similar to a thousand others whom I have seen at the head of small districts in America; he is a good man without majesty, incapable of resistance, without originality of mind. But what would you have? Were it only for his sacred title, he would still be a rampart against those men of whom I was speaking to you a short time ago; and however weak the rampart may be, we like it better than no defence at all.

“I remember in our wars with the savage tribes of North America,” continued Gilbert, “I remember having passed whole nights behind a clump of bulrushes, while the enemy was on the opposite bank of the river, and firing upon us.

“A bulrush is certainly no great defence. Still, I must frankly acknowledge to you, Monsieur de Necker, that my heart beat more freely behind those large green tubes, which were cut through by the bullets as if they were thread papers, than it did in the open field. Well, then, the king is my rush. It allows me to see the enemy, and it prevents the enemy from seeing me. That is the reason why I am a republican at New York or at Philadelphia, but a royalist in France. There our dictator was named Washington. Here, God knows what he will be named: either dagger or scaffold.”

“You seem to view things in colors of blood, Doctor.”

“You would see them in the same light as myself, if you had been, as I was, on the Place de Grève to-day.”

“Yes, that is true; I was told that a massacre had taken place there.”

“There is something magnificent, do you see, in the people; but it is when well disposed. Oh, human tempests!” exclaimed Gilbert, “how much do you surpass in fury all the tempests of the skies!”

Necker became thoughtful.

“Why can I not have you near me, Doctor?” said he; “you would be a useful counsellor in time of need.”

“Near you, Monsieur de Necker? I should not be so useful to you, nor so useful to France, as where I wish to go.”

“And where do you wish to go?”

“Listen to me, sir; near the throne itself there is a great enemy of the throne; near the king there is a great enemy of the king; it is the queen. Poor woman! who forgets that she is the daughter of Maria Theresa, or rather, who only remembers it in a vain-glorious point of view; she thinks to save the king, and ruins more than the king, for she destroys the monarchy. Well, it is necessary that we who love the king, we who love France, should unite together to neutralize her power, and to annihilate her influence.”

“Well, then, do as I said, sir: remain with me, assist me.”

“If I were to remain near you, we should have but one sphere of action; you would be I, and I should be you. We must separate our forces, sir, and then they will acquire a double weight.”

“And, with all that, what can we accomplish?”

“We may retard the catastrophe, perhaps, but certainly we cannot prevent it, although I can answer for the assistance of a powerful auxiliary, the Marquis de Lafayette.”

“Is not Lafayette a republican?”

“As far as a Lafayette can be a republican. If we are absolutely to submit to the level of equality, believe me, we had better choose the level of nobility. I like equality that elevates, and not that which lowers mankind.”

“And you can answer for Lafayette?”

“Yes, so long as we shall require nothing of him but honor, courage, and devotedness.”

“Well, then, speak; tell me what is it you desire?”

“A letter of introduction to his Majesty, Louis XVI.”

“A man of your worth does not need a letter of introduction; he may present himself without it.”

“No, it suits me that I should be your creature; it is part of my project to be presented by you.”

“And what is your ambition?”

“To become one of the king's physicians in ordinary.”

“Oh, there is nothing more easy. But the queen?”

“When I have once seen the king, that will be my own affair.”

“But if she should persecute you?”

“Then I will make the king assert his will.”

“The king assert his will? You will be more than a man if you accomplish that.”

“He who can control the physical part of a man, must be a great simpleton indeed if he does not some day succeed in controlling the mind.”

“But do you not think that having been imprisoned in the Bastille is but a sorry recommendation for you, who wish to become the king's physician.”

“On the contrary, it is the very best. Have I not been, according to you, persecuted for the crime of philosophy?”

“I fear such is the case.”

“Then the king will vindicate his reputation; the king will become popular by taking as his physician a pupil of Rousseau, a partisan of the new doctrines,—a prisoner who has left the Bastille, in short. The first time you see him, make him duly weigh the advantage of such a course.”

“You are always in the right; but when once you are employed by the king, can I rely upon you?”

“Entirely, so long as you shall follow the line of politics which we shall adopt.”

“What will you promise me?”

“To warn you of the precise moment when you must retreat.”

Necker looked at Gilbert for a moment; then in a more thoughtful tone:—

“Indeed; that is the greatest service which a devoted friend can render to a minister, for it is the last one.”

And he seated himself at his table to write to the king.

While he was thus occupied, Gilbert was again examining the letter demanding his arrest; he several times repeated,—

“The Countess de Charny? Who can she be?”

“Here, sir,” said Necker, a few moments after, while he presented Gilbert with the letter he had just written.

Gilbert took the letter and read it.

It contained the following lines:—

SIRE,—Your Majesty needs the services of a trustworthy person, with whom you may converse upon your affairs. My last gift, my last service in leaving the king, is the present I make him of Doctor Gilbert.

It will be sufficient for me to tell your Majesty that Doctor Gilbert is not only one of the most skilful physicians living, but also the author of the works entitled “Administrations and Politics,” which made so lively an impression upon your mind.

At your Majesty's feet,     

Necker did not date the letter, and gave it to Doctor Gilbert, closed only with an ordinary seal.

“And now,” added he, “I am again at Brussels, am I not?”

“Yes, certainly, and more so than ever. To-morrow morning, at all events, you shall hear from me.”

The baron struck against the panel in a peculiar manner. Madame de Staël again appeared; only this time, in addition to her branch of pomegranate, she held one of Doctor Gilbert's pamphlets in her hands.

She showed him the title of it with a sort of flattering coquetry.

Gilbert took leave of Monsieur de Necker, and kissed the hand of the baroness, who accompanied him to the door of the cabinet.

And he returned to his coach, where he found Pitou and Billot sleeping upon the front seat, the coachman sleeping on his box, and the horses sleeping upon their exhausted limbs.

Chapter XXII. The King Louis XVI

THE interview between Gilbert, Madame de Staël, and Monsieur de Necker had lasted about an hour and a half. Gilbert re-entered Paris at a quarter-past nine o'clock, drove straight to the post-house, ordered horses and a post-chaise; and while Billot and Pitou were gone to rest themselves, after their fatigue, in a small hotel in the Rue Thiroux, where Billot generally put up when he came to Paris, Gilbert set off at a gallop on the road to Versailles.

It was late, but that mattered little to Gilbert. To men of his nature, activity is a necessity. Perhaps his journey might be a fruitless one. But he even preferred a useless journey to remaining motionless. For nervous temperaments, uncertainty is a greater torment than the most frightful reality.

He arrived at Versailles at half-past ten; in ordinary times, every one would have been in bed and wrapped in the profoundest slumber; but that night no eye was closed at Versailles. They had felt the counter-shock of the terrible concussion with which Paris was still trembling.

The French Guards, the body-guards, the Swiss, drawn up in platoons and grouped near the openings of all the principal streets, were conversing among themselves, or with those of the citizens whose fidelity to the monarchy inspired them with confidence.

For Versailles has, at all times, been a royalist city. Religious respect for the monarchy, if not for the monarch, is engrafted in the hearts of its inhabitants, as if it were a quality of its soil. Having always lived near kings, and fostered by their bounty, beneath the shade of their wonders,—having always inhaled the intoxicating perfume of the fleurs-de-lys, and seen the brilliant gold of their garments, and the smiles upon their august lips, the inhabitants of Versailles, for whom kings have built a city of marble and porphyry, feel almost kings themselves; and even at the present day, even now, when moss is growing round the marble, and grass is springing up between the slabs of the pavement, now that gold has almost disappeared from the wainscoting, and that the shady walks of the parks are more solitary than a graveyard, Versailles must either belie its origin, or must consider itself as a fragment of the fallen monarchy, and no longer feeling the pride of power and wealth, must at least retain the poetical associations of regret, and the sovereign charms of melancholy. Thus, as we have already stated, all Versailles, in the night between the 14th and 15th July, 1789, was confusedly agitated, anxious to ascertain how the King of France would reply to the insult offered to the throne, and the deadly wound inflicted on his power.

By his answer to Monsieur de Dreux Brézé, Mirabeau had struck royalty in the face.

By the taking of the Bastille, the people had struck royalty to the heart.

Still, to narrow-minded and short-sighted persons the question seemed easy of solution. In the eyes of military men in particular, who were accustomed to see nothing more than the triumph or defeat of brute-force in the result of events, it was merely necessary to march upon Paris. Thirty thousand men and twenty pieces of cannon would soon reduce to a nonentity the conceit and the victorious fury of the Parisians.

Never had monarchy so great a number of advisers, for everybody uttered his opinions loudly and publicly.

The most moderate said:—

“It is a very simple matter.”

This form of language, it will be observed, is nearly always applied, with us, to the most difficult circumstances.

“It is a very simple matter,” said they. “Let them begin by obtaining from the National Assembly a sanction which it will not refuse. Its attitude has, for some time, been reassuring to every one; it will not countenance violence committed by the lower classes, any more than abuses perpetrated by the upper.

“The Assembly will plainly declare that insurrection is a crime; that citizens who have representatives to explain their griefs to the king, and a king to do them justice, are wrong in having recourse to arms and in shedding blood.

“Being once armed with this declaration, which could certainly be obtained from the Assembly, the king could not avoid chastising Paris, like a good parent, that is to say, severely.

“And then the tempest would be allayed, and the monarchy would regain the first of its rights. The people would return to their duty, which is obedience, and things would go on in the usual way.”

It was thus that the people in general were settling this great question, upon the squares and the Boulevards.

But before the Place d'Armes, and in the vicinity of the barracks, they treated the subject very differently.

There could be seen men altogether unknown in the neighborhood, men with intelligent countenances and sinister looks, disseminating mysterious advice to all around them, exaggerating the news which was already sufficiently serious, and propagating, almost publicly, the seditious ideas which during two months had agitated Paris and excited the suburbs. Round these men groups were forming, some gloomy and hostile, some excited, composed of people whom these orators were reminding of their misery, their sufferings, the brutal disdain of the monarchy for the privations of the people. An orator said to them:—

“During eight centuries that the people have struggled, what have they obtained? Nothing. No social rights; no political rights. What is their fate? That of the farmer's cow, from whom its calf is led to the shambles, its milk to be sold at the market, its meat to be taken to the slaughter-house, its skin to be dried at the tannery. In short, pressed by want, the monarchy has yielded, it has made an appeal to the States; but now that the States are assembled, what does the monarchy? Since the day of their convocation it weighs heavily upon them. If the National Assembly is formed, it is against the will of the monarchy. Well, then! since our brethren of Paris have just given us such vigorous assistance, let us urge the National Assembly onward. Each step which it takes in the political arena, where the battle has begun, is a victory for us: it is the extension of our field, it is the increase of our fortune, it is the consecration of our rights. Forward! forward, citizens! The Bastille is but the outwork of tyranny! The Bastille is taken; the citadel is before us!”

In remote corners other meetings were formed, and other words pronounced. Those who pronounced them were men evidently belonging to a superior class, who had sought in the costume of the vulgar a disguise with which their white hands and distinguished accent contrasted strangely.

“People,” exclaimed these men, “in truth, you are deceived on both sides! Some ask you to retrace your steps, while others urge you onward. Some speak to you of political rights, of social rights; but are you happier for having been permitted to vote through the medium of your delegates? Are you any the richer since you have been represented? Have you been less hungry, now that the National Assembly makes decrees? No. Leave politics, then, to those who can read. It is not a written phrase or maxim that you need. It is bread, and again bread; it is the well-being of your children, the tranquillity and security of your wives. Who will give you all that? A king, firm in character, young in mind, and of a generous heart. That king is not Louis XVI.,—Louis XVI., who is ruled by his wife, the iron-hearted Austrian. It is—search carefully round the throne; search there for him who can render France happy, and whom the queen naturally detests, and that because he throws a shadow over the picture, because he loves the French, and is beloved by them.”

Thus did public opinion manifest itself at Versailles; thus was civil war fomented everywhere.

Gilbert observed several of these groups, and then, having perceived the state of the public mind, he walked straight to the palace, which was guarded by numerous military posts, to protect it against whom no one knew.

Notwithstanding all these precautions, Gilbert, without the slightest difficulty, crossed the first courtyard, and reached the vestibule without having been asked by any one where he was going.

When he arrived at the Hall of the il-de-Buf, he was stopped by one of the body-guards. Gilbert drew from his pocket the letter of Monsieur de Necker, whose signature he showed.

The guard cast his eyes over it. The instructions he had received were very strict; and as the strictest instructions are precisely those which most need to be interpreted, the guard said to Gilbert:—

“The order, sir, to allow no one to visit the king is positive; but as the case of a person sent by Monsieur de Necker was evidently not foreseen, and as, according to all probability, you are the bearer of important information to his Majesty, go in. I will take the responsibility upon myself.”

Gilbert entered.

The king was not in his apartments, but in the council-room. He was just receiving a deputation from the National Guard of Paris, which had come to request the dismissal of the troops, the formation of a guard of citizens, and his presence in the capital.

Louis had listened coldly; then he had replied that the situation of affairs required investigation; and that, moreover, he was about to deliberate on the subject with his council.

And, accordingly, he deliberated.

During this time the deputies were waiting in the gallery; and through the ground-glass windows of the doors they could observe the shadows of the royal councillors and the threatening attitude which they assumed.

By the study of this species of phantasmagoria they could foresee that the answer would be unfavorable.

In fact, the king contented himself with saying that he would appoint some officers for the national militia, and would order the troops at the Champ-de-Mars to fall back.

As to his presence in Paris, he would only show this favor when the rebellious city had completely submitted.

The deputation begged, insisted, and conjured. The king replied that his heart was grieved, but that he could do nothing more.

And satisfied with this momentary triumph and this manifestation of a power which he no longer possessed, the king returned to his apartment.

He there found Gilbert. The guard was standing near him.

“What is wanted of me?” asked the king.

The body-guard approached him, and while he was apologizing to the king for having disobeyed his orders, Gilbert, who for many years had not seen the king, was silently examining the man whom God had given to France as her pilot during the most violent tempest the country had ever experienced.

That stout, short body, in which there was neither elasticity nor majesty; that inexpressive and low-formed brow; that pallid youthfulness contending against premature old age; the unequal struggle between a powerful physical organization, and a mediocre intelligence, to which the haughtiness of rank alone gave a fitful importance,—all these to the physiognomist who had studied with Lavater, to the magnetizer who had read the future with Balsamo, to the philosopher who had dreamed with Jean Jacques, to the traveller, in short, who had passed all the human races in review,—all these implied degeneracy, dwindling, impotence, and ruin.

Gilbert was therefore struck dumb, not from a feeling of respect, but from grief, while contemplating this mournful spectacle.

The king advanced towards him.

“It is you,” said he, “who bring me a letter from Monsieur de Necker?”

“Yes, Sire.”

“Ah!” cried he, as if he had doubted it; “give it to me quickly.”

And he pronounced these words in the tone of a drowning man who cries, “A rope!”

Gilbert presented the letter to the king.

Louis immediately grasped it, read it hurriedly, then, with a gesture which was not altogether wanting in nobleness of manner:—

“Leave us, Monsieur de Varicourt,” said he to the body-guard.

Gilbert remained alone with the king. The room was lighted but by a single lamp. It might have been thought that the king had diminished the quantity of light, in order that no one should perceive on his wearied rather than careworn brow the anxious thoughts which crowded there.

“Sir,” said he, fixing upon Gilbert a clearer and more penetrating gaze than the latter would have thought him capable of,—“Sir, is it true that you are the author of the memoirs which have so much struck me?”

“Yes, Sire.”

“What is your age?”

“Thirty-two years, Sire; but study and misfortune double age. Treat me as if I were an old man.”

“Why did you omit so long to present yourself to me?”

“Because, Sire, I did not wish to tell your Majesty aloud what I could write to you more freely and more easily.”

Louis XVI. reflected.

“Had you no other reason?” said he, suspiciously.

“No, Sire.”

“But still, either I am mistaken, or there were some peculiar circumstances which ought to have convinced you of my kindly feeling towards you.”

“Your Majesty intends to speak of that sort of rendezvous which I had the temerity to give the king, when, after my first memoir, I begged him, five years ago, to place a light near his window, at eight o'clock in the evening, to indicate that he had read my work.”

“And—?” said the king, with an air of satisfaction.

“And on the day and at the hour appointed, the light was, in fact, placed where I had asked you to place it.”

“And afterwards?”

“Afterwards I saw it lifted up and set down again three times.”

“And then?”

“After that I read the following words in the 'Gazette:'—

“'He whom the light has called three times may present himself to him who has raised it three times, when he will be compensated.'“

“Those are, in fact, the very words of the advertisement,” said the king.

“And there is the advertisement itself,” said Gilbert, drawing from his pocket the number of the 'Gazette' in which the advertisement he had just alluded to had been published five years previously.

“Well—very well,” said the king. “I have long expected you. You arrive at a moment I had quite ceased to expect you. You are welcome; for you come, like good soldiers, at the moment of battle.”

Then, looking once more attentively at Gilbert:—

“Do you know, sir,” said he to him, “that it is not an ordinary thing for a king to await the arrival of a person to whom he has said, 'Come to receive your reward,' and that that person should abstain from coming.”

Gilbert smiled.

“Come now, tell me,” said Louis XVI., “why did you not come?”

“Because I deserved no reward, Sire.”

“For what reason?”

“Born a Frenchman, loving my country, anxious for its prosperity, confounding my individuality with that of thirty millions of men, my fellow-citizens, I labored for myself while laboring for them. A man is not worthy of reward when he labors for his own interest.”

“That is a paradox, sir; you had another reason.”

Gilbert did not reply.

“Speak, sir; I desire it.”

“Perhaps, Sire, you have guessed rightly.”

“Is not this it?” asked the king in an anxious tone. “You found the position a very serious one, and you kept yourself in reserve.”

“For one still more serious. Yes, Sire, your Majesty has divined the truth.”

“I like frankness,” said the king, who could not conceal his agitation; for he was of a timid nature, and blushed easily.

“Then,” continued Louis XVI., “you predicted the king's fall to him, and you feared to be placed too near the ruins.”

“No, Sire, since it is just at the moment that danger is most imminent that I come to face the danger.”

“Yes, yes; you have just left Necker, and you speak like him. The danger!—the danger! Without doubt it is dangerous at this moment to approach me. And where is Necker?”

“Quite ready, I believe, to obey the orders of your Majesty.”

“So much the better; I shall want him,” said the king, with a sigh. “In politics we must not be headstrong. We think to do good, and we do wrong. We even do good, and some capricious event mars our projects; and though the plans laid were in reality good, we are accused of having been mistaken.”

The king sighed again. Gilbert came to his assistance.

“Sire,” said he, “your Majesty reasons admirably; but what is desirable at the present moment is, to see into the future more clearly than has been done hitherto.”

The king raised his head, and his inexpressive eyebrows slightly frowned.

“Sire, forgive me,” said Gilbert; “I am a physician. When the danger is imminent, I speak briefly.”

“Do you, then, attach much importance to the riot of to-day?”

“Sire, it is not a riot—it is a revolution.”

“And you wish me to make terms with rebels and assassins? For, in fine, they have taken the Bastille by force: it is an act of rebellion; they have killed Monsieur de Launay, Monsieur de Losme, and Monsieur de Flesselles: it is murder.”

“I wish you to distinguish more correctly, Sire. Those who, took the Bastille are heroes; those who assassinated Messieurs de Flesselles, de Losme, and de Launay are murderers.”

The king colored slightly, and almost immediately this color disappeared, his lips became pale, and a few drops of perspiration trickled down his forehead.

“You are right, sir. You are a physician indeed, or a surgeon rather, for you cut to the quick. But let us return to the object of our interview. You are Doctor Gilbert, are you not,—or at least it is with this name that your memoirs are signed?”

“Sire, it does me great honor that your Majesty has so good a memory, although, taking it all in all, I have no great reason to be proud of my name.”

“How is that?”

“My name must, indeed, have been pronounced before your Majesty, and that not long ago.”

“I do not understand you.”

“Six days ago I was arrested and thrown into the Bastille. Now I have heard it said that no arrest of any importance was ever made without the king being aware of the fact.”

“You in the Bastille!” said the king, opening his eyes widely.

“Here is the registration of my imprisonment, Sire. Put in prison, as I have the honor to tell your Majesty, six days ago, by order of the king, I came out of it at three o'clock to-day, by the grace of the people.”


“Yes, Sire. Did your Majesty hear the cannon?”

“Most undoubtedly.”

“Well, then, the cannon opened the gates for me.”

“Ah!” murmured the king, “I would willingly say that I am pleased at this event, had not the cannon of this morning been fired at the Bastille and the monarchy at the same time.”

“Oh, Sire, do not make a prison the symbol of a principle: say, on the contrary, Sire, that you rejoice that the Bastille is taken: for henceforward injustice will not be committed in the king's name without his cognizance,—injustice similar to that of which I have just been the victim.”

“But surely, sir, your arrest must have had a cause?”

“None that I know of, Sire; I was arrested on my return to France, and imprisoned, that is all.”

“Really, sir,” said Louis XVI., kindly, “is there not some egotism on your part, in speaking to me thus of yourself, when I so much need to have my own position spoken of?”

“Sire, all I require is, that your Majesty will answer me one single question.”

“What is it?”

“Was or was not your Majesty concerned in my arrest?”

“I was not even aware of your return to France.”

“I rejoice at this answer, Sire; I shall then be enabled to declare openly that when your Majesty is supposed to do wrong, you are nearly always calumniated; and to those who doubt it, I can cite myself as an example.”

The king smiled.

“As a physician,” said he, “you pour balm into the wound.”

“Oh, Sire, I shall pour in the balm abundantly; and if you desire it I will cure the wound, that I will answer for.”

“I most assuredly desire it.”

“You must desire it very firmly, Sire.”

“I do desire it firmly.”

“Before going any farther, Sire,” said Gilbert, “will you read that line written in the margin of my jail-book entry?”

“What line?” asked the king in an anxious tone.

Gilbert presented the page to the king. The king read: “'By request of the queen.'“

The king frowned.

“Of the queen!” said he; “can you have incurred her displeasure?”

“Sire, I am certain her Majesty knows me still less than did your Majesty.”

“But still, you must have committed some fault; a man is not sent to the Bastille for nothing.”

“It would seem that he may be, since I have just come out of it.”

“But Monsieur Necker has sent you to me, and the warrant of imprisonment was signed by him.”

“It was so undoubtedly.”

“Then explain yourself more clearly. Review your past life. See if you do not find some circumstance in it which you had yourself forgotten.”

“Review my past life! Yes, Sire; I shall do it, and aloud; do not fear, it will not occupy much time. I have labored without intermission since I attained the age of sixteen: the pupil of Jean Jacques, the companion of Balsamo, the friend of Lafayette and of Washington, I have never had cause to reproach myself, since the day that I left France, for a single fault, nor even an error. When acquired science permitted me to attend the wounded or the sick, I always thought myself responsible to God for every one of my thoughts, and every action. Since God has given me the care of human beings as a surgeon, I have shed blood for the sake of humanity, while ready to give my own to soothe or to save my patient; as a physician, I have always been a consoler, and sometimes a benefactor. Fifteen years have thus passed away. God has blessed my efforts: I have seen return to life the greater part of the afflicted, who have all kissed my hands. Those who have died, have been taken away by the will of God. No, I repeat, Sire, since the day when I left France, and that was fifteen years ago, I have done nothing with which I can reproach myself.”

“You have in America associated with innovators, and your writings have propagated their principles.”

“Yes, Sire; and I forgot this claim to the gratitude of kings and men.”

The king was silent.

“Sire,” continued Gilbert, “now my life is known to you; I have neither offended nor wounded any one,—neither a beggar nor a queen,—and I come to ask your Majesty why I have been punished.”

“I shall speak to the queen, Monsieur Gilbert; but do you think the lettre de cachet comes directly from the queen?”

“I do not say that, Sire; I even think the queen merely recommended it.”

“Ah! you see,” cried Louis, quite joyfully.

“Yes; but you are aware, Sire, that what a queen recommends, she commands.”

“At whose request was the lettre de cachet granted? May I see it?”

“Yes, Sire,” said Gilbert. “Look at it.”

And he presented him the entry in the jail-book.

“The Countess de Charny!” exclaimed the king. “How, it is she who caused your arrest? But what can you have done to this poor Charny?”

“I did not even know that lady by name this morning, Sire.”

Louis passed his hand over his brow.

“Charny,” murmured he, “Charny,—sweetness, virtue, chastity itself.”

“You will see, Sire,” said Gilbert, laughing, “that I was imprisoned in the Bastille at the request of the three theological virtues!”

“Oh, I will clear this up at once!” said the king.

And he pulled a bell.

An usher appeared.

“See if the Countess de Charny is with the queen,” said Louis.

“Sire,” said the usher, “the countess has this instant crossed the gallery; she is about stepping into her coach.”

“Run after her,” said Louis, eagerly, “and request her to come to my cabinet on an affair of importance.”

Then, turning towards Gilbert:—

“Is that what you desire, sir?” said he.

“Yes, Sire,” answered Gilbert, “and I return a thousand thanks to your Majesty.”

Chapter XXIII. The Countess de Charny

GILBERT, on hearing the order to send for Madame de Charny, had retired into the recess of a window.

As to the king, he was walking up and down in the room called the il-de-Buf, preoccupied at times with public affairs, at others with the pertinacity of this Gilbert, by whom, in spite of himself, he felt strangely influenced, and at a moment when nothing ought to have interested him but the affairs of Paris.

Suddenly the door of the cabinet was thrown open, the usher announced the Countess de Charny, and Gilbert, through the closed curtains, could perceive a woman, whose flowing and silken robes grazed the half-opened door.

This lady was dressed, according to the fashion of the times, in a déshabille of gray silk, striped with a variety of colors, with a petticoat of the same stuff, and a sort of shawl, which, after being crossed over the chest, was fastened behind her waist, and showed to great advantage the beauties of a full and well-developed bosom. A small bonnet, coquettishly fixed on the summit of a high head-dress, high-heeled shoes, which showed the exquisite shape of a beautiful instep, a small cane twirled by the gloved fingers of a slender and delicate hand, with tapering and perfectly aristocratic fingers: such was the person so anxiously expected by Gilbert.

The king stepped forward to meet her.

“You were just going out, Countess, I was told.”

“In truth, Sire,” replied the countess, “I was on the point of stepping into my carriage when I received your Majesty's order.”

On hearing this firm-toned voice, the ears of Gilbert were suddenly assailed as with a rushing sound. The blood instantly suffused his cheeks, and a thousand shudders appeared to thrill through his whole system.

Despite himself, he made a step from the curtain, behind which he had secreted himself.

“She!” stammered he; “she—Andrée—”

“Madame,” continued the king, who, as well as the countess, had not observed the emotion of Gilbert, who was hidden in the shade, “I requested you to visit me, for the purpose of obtaining some information from you.”

“I am ready to comply with your Majesty's wishes.”

The king leaned in the direction of Gilbert as if to warn him.

The latter, perceiving that the moment to show himself had not yet arrived, gradually withdrew himself again behind the curtain.

“Madame,” said the king, “it is now eight or ten days since a warrant of imprisonment was requested of Monsieur de Necker—”

Gilbert, through the almost imperceptible opening between the curtains, fastened his gaze upon Andrée. The young woman was pale, feverish, and anxious, and appeared borne down by the weight of a secret prepossession, for which even she herself could not account.

“You hear me, do you not, Countess?” asked Louis XVI., seeing that Madame de Charny hesitated before answering.

“Yes, Sire.”

“Well, do you understand me, and can you answer my question?”

“I am endeavoring to remember,” said Andrée.

“Permit me to assist your memory, Countess. The warrant of imprisonment was demanded by you, and the demand was countersigned by the queen.”

The countess, instead of answering, appeared to abandon herself more and more to that feverish abstraction which seemed to lead her beyond the limits of real life.

“But answer me, then, Madame,” said the king, who began to grow impatient.

“It is true,” said she, trembling, “it is true. I wrote the letter, and her Majesty, the queen, countersigned it.”

“Then,” asked Louis, “tell me the crime which had been committed by the person against whom such a document was required.”

“Sire,” said Andrée, “I cannot tell you what crime he had committed; but what I can tell you is, that the crime was great.”

“Oh, can you not confide that even to me?”

“No, Sire.”

“Not to the king?”

“No. I hope your Majesty will forgive me; but I cannot.”

“Then you shall tell it to him in person, Madame,” said the king;" for what you have refused to King Louis XVI., you cannot refuse to Doctor Gilbert.”

“To Doctor Gilbert!” exclaimed Andrée. “Great God! where is he then?”

The king stepped aside to allow Gilbert to advance; the curtains were thrown apart, and the doctor appeared, almost as pale as Andrée.

“Here he is, Madame,” said he.

At the sight of Gilbert, the countess staggered. Her limbs shook beneath her. She fell backwards, as does a person who is about to faint, and only maintained a standing position with the assistance of an arm-chair, on which she leaned in the sorrowful, motionless, and almost unconscious attitude of Eurydice at the moment when the serpent's venom reaches her heart.

“Madame,” said Gilbert, bowing to her with mock politeness, “allow me to repeat the question which has just been put to you by his Majesty.”

The lips of Andrée could be seen to move, but no sound issued from them.

“What offence had I committed, Madame, that an order from you should have caused me to be thrown into a loathsome dungeon?”

On hearing this voice, Andrée bounded as if she had felt the tearing asunder of the fibres of her heart.

Then, on a sudden, casting upon Gilbert an icy look, like that of a serpent:—

“Me, sir?” said she. “I do not know you.”

But while she pronounced these words, Gilbert, on his side, had looked at her with such intentness, he had loaded the brightness of his gaze with so much invincible audacity, that the countess cast down her eyes, completely overpowered.

“Countess,” said the king, in a mild tone of reproach, “see where the abuse of a signature may lead you. Here is a gentleman whom you do not know, and you yourself confess it; a man who is a great practitioner, a profound physician, a man who can be reproached for nothing.”

Andrée raised her head, and almost petrified Gilbert by her contemptuous look.

He, however, remained calm and proud.

“I say, then,” continued the king, “that having no cause for complaint against Monsieur Gilbert, by thus persecuting him instead of another, it is on the head of an innocent man that punishment has fallen. Countess, this is wrong.”

“Sire,” said Andrée.

“Ah!” interrupted the king, who already trembled for fear of disobliging the favorite of his wife, “I know that you are kind-hearted, and that if you have punished some one through hatred, that person must have deserved it; but you see that it will be necessary, in future, to avoid the recurrence of such mistakes.”

Then, turning towards Gilbert:—

“You see, Doctor, it is the fault of the times, rather than that of men. We are born in corruption, and we die in it; but we will endeavor at least to ameliorate the condition of posterity, and you will, I trust, assist me in this work, Doctor Gilbert.”

And Louis ceased speaking, thinking he had said enough to satisfy both parties.

Poor king! had he pronounced those words before the National Assembly, not only would he have been applauded, but, moreover, he would have seen them reproduced in all the court journals.

But the two unrelenting enemies present at this interview appreciated but little his conciliating philosophy.

“With your Majesty's permission,” said Gilbert, “I will request the countess to repeat what she has already stated, namely, that she does not know me.”

“Countess,” said the king, “will you do what the doctor requests of you?”

“I do not know Doctor Gilbert,” repeated Andrée in a firm voice.

“But you know another Gilbert, my namesake,—the Gilbert whose crime has been visited on me.”

“Oh,” said Andrée, “I know that person, and I consider him an infamous wretch.”

“Sire, it would not become me to interrogate the countess,” said Gilbert; “but deign to ask her of what that infamous man has been guilty.”

“Countess, you cannot refuse acceding to so just a request.”

“What he has done” said Andrée. “Doubtless the queen knew of what crime he had been guilty, since with her own hand she authorized the letter by means of which I applied for his arrest.”

“But,” said the king, “it is not quite sufficient that the queen should be convinced; it is necessary that I too should be convinced. The queen is the queen, but I am the king.”

“Well then, Sire, the Gilbert mentioned in the warrant is a man who, sixteen years ago, committed a most fearful crime.”

“Will your Majesty ask the countess how old that man is at the present day?”

The king repeated the question.

“From thirty to thirty-two,” said Andrée.

“Sire,” rejoined Gilbert, “if the crime was committed sixteen years ago, it was not committed by a man, but by a child; and if, during these sixteen years, the man has deplored the crime committed by the child, does not that man deserve some little leniency?”

“But, sir,” asked the king, “you then know the Gilbert in question?”

“I know him, Sire,” said Gilbert.

“And has he committed no other fault except this one of his early youth?”

“I do not know that since the day on which he committed—I will not say that fault, Sire, for I am less indulgent than you—but that crime, I do not know that any one in this world has aught to reproach him with.”

“No, unless it is having dipped his pen in poison, and having composed the most odious libels,” cried Andrée.

“Sire, please to ask the countess,” said Gilbert, “if the real object of the arrest of this Gilbert was not to afford every facility to his enemies, or rather to his enemy, to obtain possession of a certain casket containing certain papers, which might have compromised a great lady, a lady of the court.”

Andrée trembled from head to foot.

“Monsieur,” faltered she.

“Countess, what is this casket?” asked the king, who had perceived the trembling and the pallor of the countess.

“Ah, Madame,” cried Gilbert, feeling that he was gaining the mastery, “no tergiversation,—no subterfuge. There have been misstatements enough on both sides. I am the Gilbert who committed the crime; I am the Gilbert of the libels; I am the Gilbert of the casket. You—you are the great lady,—the lady of the court. I call upon the King to be our judge; accept him, and we will tell to this judge,—to the King—to God,—we will tell all that has occurred between us; and the King shall decide, while we await the judgment of God.”

“Say what you will, sir,” rejoined the Countess, “but I can say nothing; I do not know you.”

“And you know nothing of this casket either?”

The countess convulsively closed her hands and bit her pale lips till they bled.

“No,” said she, “I know no more of it than I do of you.”

But the effort she made to pronounce these words was such, that her body trembled as does a statue on its pedestal during an earthquake.

“Madame, beware,” said Gilbert. “I am, as you can hardly have forgotten, the pupil of a man called Joseph Balsamo. The power which he possessed over you, he has transmitted to me. For the last time, will you answer the question I put to you: My casket?”

“No,” cried the countess, a prey to the most indescribable agitation, and making a movement to rush out of the room; “no, no, no!”

“Well, then,” said Gilbert, in his turn becoming pale, and raising his threatening arm; “well then! thou iron nature, thou heart of adamant, bend, burst, and break beneath the irresistible pressure of my will. Wilt thou not speak, Andrée?”

“No, no,” cried the countess; “help me Sire, help me!”

“Thou shalt speak,” cried Gilbert; “and no one, were he the King, or even God himself, can withdraw thee from my power. Thou shalt speak, then; thou shalt reveal thy whole soul to the witness of this solemn scene; and all that is contained in the recesses of thy conscience,—all that which God alone can read in the depths of the deepest souls, you shall know, Sire, from the lips of her who refuses to reveal them. Sleep, Countess de Charny, sleep and speak. I will it!”

Hardly were the words pronounced, when the Countess stopped short in the midst of a suppressed cry, stretched forth her arms, and seeking support for her trembling limbs, fell, as if imploring a refuge, into the arms of the king, who, trembling himself, seated her upon an arm-chair.

“Oh!” said Louis XVI., “I have heard of things of this nature, but I never before witnessed anything to equal it. Is it not to a magnetic sleep that she has just succumbed, sir?”

“Yes, Sire; take the hand of the countess, and ask her why she caused me to be arrested,” said Gilbert, as if the right to command belonged to him alone.

Louis XVI., quite thunderstruck by this marvellous scene, took two steps backwards to convince himself that he was not himself asleep, and that what was taking place before him was not a dream; then, like a mathematician who is interested in some new solution, he approached nearer to the countess, whose hand he took in his.

“Let us see, Countess,” said he; “it was then you who caused the arrest of Doctor Gilbert?”

Still, although asleep, the countess made one last effort, snatched her hand from that of the king, and gathering up all her strength:—

“No,” cried she, “I will not speak.”

The king looked at Gilbert, as if to ask him which of the two would overcome the other,—his will or that of Andrée.

Gilbert smiled.

“You will not speak?” said he.

And, his eyes fixed upon the sleeping Andrée, he advanced a step towards the arm-chair.

Andrée shuddered.

“Will you not speak?” added he, taking a second step, which diminished the distance that separated him from the countess.

Every muscle of Andrée's frame became rigid in a supreme effort of resistance.

“Ah, you will not, speak, then” said he, taking a third stride, which placed him at the side of Andrée, over whose head he placed his outstretched hand; “ah, you will not speak?”

Andrée was writhing in the most fearful convulsions.

“But take care! take care!” cried Louis XVI., “you will kill her!”

“Fear nothing, Sire; it is with the soul alone that I have to contend; the soul is struggling, but it will yield.”

Then, lowering his hand:—

“Speak!” said he.

Andrée extended her arms, and made an effort to breathe, as if she had been under the pressure of a pneumatic machine.

“Speak!” repeated Gilbert, lowering his hand still more.

All the muscles of the young woman's body seemed about to burst. A fringe of froth appeared upon her lips, and a commencement of epilepsy convulsed her from head to foot.

“Doctor! Doctor!” said the king, “take care!”

But he, without noticing the king, lowered his hand a third time, and touching the top of the countess's head with the palm of that hand:—

“Speak!” said he; “it is my will.”

Andrée, on feeling the touch of that hand, heaved a sigh, her arms fell motionless to her side, her head, which had been thrown backwards, fell forward upon her breast, and a copious flood of tears oozed through her closed eyelids.

“My God! my God! my God!” faltered she.

“Invoke the Lord,—be it so; he who operates in the name of God does not fear God.”

“Oh!” said the countess, “how I hate you!”

“Abhor me, if you will, but speak!”

“Sire, Sire,” exclaimed Andrée, “tell him that he consumes me, that he devours me, that he kills me!”

“Speak!” said Gilbert.

Then he made a sign to the king that he might interrogate her.

“So that, Countess,” said the king, again taking her hand, “he whom you wished to arrest, and whom you caused to be arrested, was really the doctor himself?”


“And there was no mistake, no misunderstanding?”


“And the casket?” said the king.

“Well,” articulated the countess slowly, “could I allow that casket to remain in his possession?”

Gilbert and the king exchanged glances.

“And did you take it from him?” said Louis XVI.

“I had it taken from him.”

“Oh! oh! tell me how that was managed, Countess,” said the king, forgetful of all ceremony, and kneeling down before Andrée. “You had it taken?”


“When, and by what means?”

“I ascertained that this Gilbert, who during sixteen years has already made two voyages to France, was about to make a third one, and this last time with the intention of remaining here.”

“But the casket?” asked the king.

“I ascertained by means of the lieutenant of police, Monsieur de Crosne, that during one of his journeys he had bought some lands in the neighborhood of Villers-Cotterets, that the farmer who tenanted his lands enjoyed his whole confidence; I suspected that the casket might be left at his residence.”

“What made you think so?”

“I went to see Mesmer. I made him put me to sleep, and I saw the casket while in that state.”

“It was—”

“In a large linen wardrobe on the ground-floor, hidden under some linen.”

“This is wonderful!” said the king. “After that tell me what took place.”

“I returned to the house of Monsieur de Crosne, who having been recommended to do so by the queen, gave me one of his most skilful agents.”

“What was the name of this agent” asked Gilbert.

Andrée shuddered as if a hot iron had touched her.

“I ask you his name?” repeated Gilbert.

Andrée endeavored to resist.

“His name; I will know it!” said the doctor.

“Wolfsfoot,” she replied.

“After that?” asked the king.

“Well, then, yesterday morning this man got possession of the casket. That is all.”

“No, it is not all,” said Gilbert. “You must now tell the king where the casket is at this moment.”

“Oh,” said Louis XVI., “you ask too much of her.”

“No, Sire.”

“But by this Wolfsfoot, by means of Monsieur de Crosne, one might ascertain—”

“Oh, we shall know everything quicker, and much better, through the Countess!”

Andrée, by a convulsive movement, the object of which was doubtless to prevent the words from escaping her lips, clinched her teeth with such violence as almost to break them.

The king pointed out this nervous convulsion to the doctor.

Gilbert smiled.

He touched with his thumb and forefinger the lower part of the face of Andrée, whose muscles were relaxed at the same moment.

“In the first place, Countess, tell the king clearly that this casket belonged to Doctor Gilbert.”

“Yes, yes, it belongs to him,” said the sleeping woman, angrily.

“And where is it at this moment?” asked Gilbert. “Make haste! the king has not time to wait.”

Andrée hesitated for a moment.

“At Wolfsfoot's house,” said she.

Gilbert observed the hesitation, although it was scarcely perceptible.

“You are telling a falsehood!” said he, “or rather, you are endeavoring to tell one. Where is the casket I insist on knowing.”

“At my house at Versailles,” said Andrée, bursting into tears, with a nervous trembling which shook her whole frame, “at my house, where Wolfsfoot is waiting for me, as we had previously agreed to meet at eleven o'clock to-night.”

Midnight was heard to strike.

“Is he still waiting there?”


“In which room is he?”

“They have just shown him into the drawing-room.”

“What place does he occupy in the drawing-room?”

“He is standing, and leaning against the chimney-piece.”

“And the casket?”

“It is on the table before him. Oh!”

“What is the matter?”

“Let us hasten to get him out of the house. Monsieur de Charny, who was not to return till to-morrow, will come back to-night, on account of the events that have taken place. I see him; he is at Sèvres. Make him go away, so that the count may not find him in the house.”

“Your Majesty hears that; in what part of Versailles does Madame de Charny reside?”

“Where do you reside, Countess?”

“On the Boulevard de la Reine, Sire.”

“Very well.”

“Sire, your Majesty has heard everything. That casket belongs to me. Does the king order it to be returned to me?”

“Immediately, sir.”

And the king, having drawn a screen before Madame de Charny, which prevented her from being seen, called the officer on duty, and gave him an order in a low voice.

Chapter XXIV. Royal Philosophy

A STRANGE preoccupation for a king whose subjects were undermining his throne. The inquisitiveness of the erudite man applied to a physical phenomenon, while the most important political phenomenon was taking place that France had ever known,—that is to say, the transformation of a monarchy into a democracy. This sight, we say, of a king forgetting himself during the most terrible period of a tempest, would certainly have caused the great minds of the time to smile, bent, as they had been during three months, on the solution of their problem.

While riot was raging in all its fury without, Louis, forgetting the terrible events of the day,—the taking of the Bastille, the assassination of Flesselles, De Launay, and De Losme, the disposition of the National Assembly to revolt against the king,—Louis was concentrating his mind on this examination of a theory; and the revelations of this strange scene absorbed him no less than the most vital interests of his government.

And thus, as soon as he had given the order which we have mentioned to the captain of his guards, he returned to Gilbert, who was removing from the countess the excess of fluid with which he had charged her, in order that her slumber might be more tranquil than under the effects of this convulsive somnambulism.

For an instant the respiration of the countess became calm and easy as that of a sleeping child. Then Gilbert, with a single motion of his hand, reopened her eyes, and put her into a state of ecstasy.

It was then that one could see the extraordinary beauty of Andrée, in all its splendor. Being completely freed from all earthly agitations, the blood, which had for an instant rushed to her face, and which momentarily had colored her cheeks, redescended to her heart, whose pulsations had recovered their natural state. Her face had again become pale, but of that beautiful pallor of the women of the East; her eyes, opened rather more than usual, were raised towards heaven, and left the pupils floating, as it were, in the pearl-like whiteness of their eyeballs; the nose, slightly expanded, appeared to inhale a purer atmosphere; and her lips, which had preserved all their vermilion, although her cheeks had lost a little of theirs, were slightly separated, and discovered a row of pearls, of which the sweet moistness increased the brilliancy.

The head was gently thrown backwards with an inexpressible grace, almost angelic. It might have been said that this fixed look, increasing its scope of vision by its intensity, penetrated to the foot of the throne of God.

The king gazed at her as if dazzled. Gilbert turned away his head and sighed. He could not resist the desire to give Andrée this degree of superhuman beauty; and now, like Pygmalion—more unhappy even than Pygmalion, for he knew the insensibility of the beautiful statue he trembled at the sight of his own production.

He made a sign without even turning his head towards Andrée, and her eyes closed instantly.

The king desired Gilbert to explain to him that marvellous state, in which the soul separates itself from the body, and soars, free, happy, and divine, above all terrestrial miseries.

Gilbert, like all men of truly superior genius, could pronounce the words so much dreaded by mediocrity, “I do not know.” He confessed his ignorance to the king. He had produced a phenomenon which he could not explain. The fact itself existed, but the explanation of the fact could not be given.

“Doctor,” said the king, on hearing this avowal of Gilbert, “this is another of those secrets which Nature reserves for the learned men of another generation, and which will be studied thoroughly, like so many other mysteries which were thought insoluble. We call them mysteries; our fathers would have called them sorcery or witchcraft.”

“Yes, Sire,” answered Gilbert, smiling, “and I should have had the honor to be burned on the Place de Grève, for the greater glory of a religion which was not understood, by wise men without learning, and priests devoid of faith.”

“And under whom did you study this science?” rejoined the king; “was it with Mesmer?”

“Oh, Sire!” said Gilbert, smiling, “I had seen the most astonishing phenomena of the science ten years before the name of Mesmer was pronounced in France.”

“Tell me now; this Mesmer, who has revolutionized all France, was he, in your opinion, a charlatan? It seems to me that you operate much more simply than he. I have heard his experiments spoken of, and also those of Deslon and Puységur. You know all that has been said on the subject, whether idle stories or positive truths.”

“I have carefully observed all these discussions, Sire.”

“Well, then, what do you think of the famous vat or tub?”

“I hope your Majesty will excuse me if I answer doubtingly to all you ask me with regard to the magnetic art. Magnetism has not yet become an art.”


“But it assuredly is a power, a terrific power, since it annihilates the will, since it isolates the soul from the body, and places the body of the somnambulist in the power of the magnetizer, while the soul does not retain the power, nor even the desire, to defend itself. As for me, Sire, I have seen strange phenomena produced. I have produced many myself. Well, I nevertheless still doubt.”

“How! you still doubt? You perform miracles, and yet you are in doubt?”

“No, I do not doubt—I do not doubt. At this moment even, I have a proof before my eyes of an extraordinary and incomprehensible power. But when that proof has disappeared, when I am at home alone in my library, face to face with all that human science has written during three thousand years; when science says no; when the mind says no; when reason says no, I doubt.”

“And did your master also doubt, Doctor?”

“Perhaps he did, but he was less sincere than I. He did not express his doubt.”

“Was it Deslon? Was it Puységur?”

“No, Sire, no. My master was a man far superior to all the men you have named. I have seen him perform the most marvellous things, especially with regard to wounds. No science was unknown to him. He had impregnated his mind with Egyptian theories. He had penetrated the arcana of ancient Assyrian civilization. He was a profound scholar, a formidable philosopher, having a great knowledge of human life, combined with a persevering will.”

“Have I ever known him?” asked the king.

Gilbert hesitated a moment.

“I ask you whether I ever knew him?”

“Yes, Sire.”

“And you call him—”

“Sire,” said Gilbert, “to pronounce that name before the king would perhaps render me liable to his displeasure. Now, especially at this moment, when the majority of Frenchmen are contemning all royal authority, I would not throw a shade on the respect we all owe your Majesty.”

“Name that man boldly, Doctor Gilbert; and be persuaded that I too have my philosophy,—a philosophy of sufficiently good material to enable me to smile at all the insults of the present and all the threats of the future.”

Gilbert still continued to hesitate.

The king approached him.

“Sir,” said he to Gilbert, laughing, “call him Satan, if you will; I shall still find a shield to protect me from him,—the one which your dogmatizers do not possess,—one that they never will possess, one which I alone perhaps in this century possess, and bear without feeling shame,—religion.”

“Your Majesty believes as Saint Louis did. It is true,” said Gilbert.

“And in that lies all my strength, I confess, Doctor. I like science; I adore the results of materialism; I am a mathematician, as you well know; you know that the sum total of an addition or an algebraical formula fills my heart with joy; but when I meet people who carry algebra to atheism, I have in reserve my profound, inexhaustible, and eternal faith—a faith which places me a degree above and a degree below them,—above them in good, and beneath them in evil. You see, then, Doctor, that I am a man to whom everything may be said, a king who can hear anything.”

“Sire,” said Gilbert, with a sort of admiration, “I thank your Majesty for what you have just said to me; for you have almost honored me with the confidence of a friend.”

“Oh, I wish,” the timid Louis hastened to exclaim, “I wish all Europe could hear me speak thus. If Frenchmen could read in my heart all the energy of feeling, the tenderness which it contains, I think they would oppose me less.”

The last portion of the king's sentence, which showed that the king was irritated by the attack the royal prerogative had been subjected to, lowered Louis XVI. in the estimation of Gilbert.

He hastened to say, without attempting to spare the king's feelings,—

“Sire, since you insist upon it, my master was the Count de Cagliostro.”

“Oh!” cried Louis, coloring, “that empiric!”

“That empiric!—yes, Sire! Your Majesty is doubtless aware that the word you have just pronounced is one of the noblest used in science. Empiric means the man who experiments: the practitioner, the profound thinker,-the man, in short, who is incessantly investigating,—does all that God permits men to do that is glorious and beautiful. Let but a man experiment during his whole life, and his life will be well occupied.”

“Ah, sir, this Cagliostro whom you defend was a great enemy of kings.”

Gilbert recollected the affair of the necklace.

“Is it not rather the enemy of queens your Majesty intended to say?”

Louis shuddered at this sharp home-thrust.

“Yes,” said he, “he conducted himself, in all the affair of Prince Louis de Rohan, in a manner which was more than equivocal.”

“Sire, in that, as in other circumstances, Cagliostro carried out the human mission: he made his own researches. In science, in morals, in politics, there is neither good nor evil; there are only stated phenomena or accomplished facts. Nevertheless, I will not defend him, Sire. I repeat, the man may often have merited blame; perhaps some day this very blame may be considered as praise: posterity reconsiders the judgments of men. But I did not study under the man, Sire, but under the philosopher, under the great physician.”

“Well, well,” said the king, who still felt the double wound his pride and heart had received, “well; but we are forgetting the Countess de Charny, and perhaps she is suffering.”

“I will wake her up, Sire, if your Majesty desires it; but I had wished that the casket might arrive here during her sleep.”


“To spare her a too harsh lesson.”

“Here is somebody coming at this moment,” said the king. “Wait.”

In fact, the king's order had been punctually obeyed. The casket found at the hotel of the Countess de Charny, in the possession of the agent Wolfsfoot, was brought into the royal cabinet, under the very eyes of the Countess, who did not see it.

The king made a sign of satisfaction to the officer who brought the casket. The officer then left the room.

“Well!” said Louis XVI.

“Well, then, Sire, that is, in fact, the very casket which had been taken away from me.”

“Open it,” said the king.

“Sire, I am willing to do so, if your Majesty desires it; but I have only to forewarn your Majesty of one thing.”

“What is that?”

“Sire, as I told your Majesty, this box contains only papers which are easily read, and might be taken, and on which depends the honor of a woman.”

“And that woman is the countess?”

“Yes, Sire. That honor will not be endangered while this matter is confined to the knowledge of your Majesty. Open it, Sire,” said Gilbert, approaching the casket, and presenting the key of it to the king.

“Sir,” replied Louis XVI. coldly, “take away this box; it belongs to you.”

“Thank you, Sire, but what are we to do with the countess?”

“Oh, do not, above all, wake her up here. I wish to avoid all recriminations and painful scenes.”

“Sire,” said Gilbert, “the countess will only awake in the place where you wish her to be carried.”

“Well, let her be taken to the queen's apartment, then.”

Louis rang the bell. An officer entered the room.

“Captain,” said he, “the Countess de Charny has just fainted here, on hearing the news from Paris. Have her taken to the queen's room.”

“How long will it take to carry her there?” asked Gilbert of the king.

“About ten minutes,” replied the latter.

Gilbert laid his hand on the countess.

“You will awake in three quarters of an hour,” said he.

Two soldiers entered,—the order having been given by the officer,—who carried her away in an arm-chair.

“Now, Monsieur Gilbert, what more do you desire?” asked the king.

“Sire, I desire a favor which would draw me nearer to your Majesty, and procure me at the same time an opportunity to be useful to you.”

The king endeavored to divine what he could mean.

“Explain yourself,” said he.

“I should like to be one of the physicians in ordinary to the king,” replied Gilbert; “I should be in the way of no one; it is a post of honor, but rather a confidential than a brilliant one.”

“Granted,” said the king. “Adieu, Monsieur Gilbert. Ah! by the bye, a thousand compliments to Necker. Adieu.”

Then, as he was leaving the room:—

“My supper!” cried Louis, whom no event, however important, could induce to forget his supper.

Chapter XXV. In The Queen's Apartments

WHILE the king was learning to oppose the revolution philosophically, by going through a course of occult sciences, the queen who was a much more substantial and profound philosopher, had gathered around her in her large cabinet all those who were called her faithful adherents, doubtless because there had been no opportunity afforded to any one of them either to prove or to try his fidelity.

In the queen's circle, also, the events of that terrible day had been related in all their details.

She had even been the first to be informed of them, for, knowing her to be undaunted, they had not feared to inform her of the danger.

Around the queen were assembled generals, courtiers, priests, and ladies. Near the doors and behind the tapestries which hung before them might be seen groups of young officers, full of courage and ardor, who saw in all revolts a long desired opportunity to evince their prowess in presence of the fair sex, as in a tournament.

All of these, whether intimately connected with the court, or devoted servants of the monarchy, had listened with attention to the news from Paris, which had been related by Monsieur de Lambesq, who, having been present during those events, had hastened to Versailles with his regiment, still covered with the sand of the Tuileries, in order to state the real position of affairs to the affrighted courtiers, and thus afford them consolation; for many of them, although the misfortune was sufficiently serious, had greatly exaggerated it in their apprehension.

The queen was seated at a table. It was no longer the gentle and lovely bride, the guardian angel of France, whom we saw appear at the opening of this cycle, crossing the northern frontier, an olive-branch in her hand. It was no longer even that gracious and beautiful princess whom we saw one evening entering with the Princess de Lamballe into the mysterious dwelling of Mesmer, and seating herself, laughing and incredulous, near the symbolical vat, of which she had come to ask a revelation of the future.

No! it was the haughty and resolute queen, with frowning brow and scornful lip; it was a woman whose heart had allowed a portion of its love to escape from it, to harbor, instead of that sweet and vivifying element, the first drops of gall, which by constantly filtering into it was finally to reach her blood.

It was, in short, the woman represented by the third portrait in the gallery of Versailles, that is to say, no longer Marie Antoinette, no longer the Queen of France, but the woman who was now designated only by the name of the Austrian.

Behind her, in the shade, lay a motionless young woman, her head reclining on the cushion of a sofa, and her hand upon her forehead.

This was Madame de Polignac.

Perceiving Monsieur de Lambesq, the queen made one of those gestures indicative of unbounded joy, which mean, “At last we shall know all.”

Monsieur de Lambesq bowed, with a sign that asked pardon at the same time for his soiled boots, his dusty coat, and his sword, which, having been bent in his fall, could not be forced into its scabbard.

“Well, Monsieur de Lambesq,” said the queen, “have you just arrived from Paris?”

“Yes, your Majesty.”

“What are the people doing?”

“They are killing and burning.”

“Through maddening rage or hatred?”

“No; from sheer ferocity.”

The queen reflected, as if she had felt disposed to be of his opinion with regard to the people. Then, shaking her head:—

“No, prince,” said she, “the people are not ferocious; at least, not without a reason. Do not conceal anything from me. Is it madness?—is it hatred?”

“Well, I think it is hatred carried to madness, Madame.”

“Hatred of whom? Ah! I see you are hesitating again, Prince. Take care; if you relate events in that manner, instead of applying to you as I do, I shall send one of my outriders to Paris; he will require one hour to go there, one to acquire information, one to return; and in the course of three hours this man will tell me everything that has happened as accurately and as simply as one of Homer's heralds.”

Monsieur de Dreux Brézé stepped forward, with a smile upon his lips.

“But, Madame,” said he, “of what consequence to you is the hatred of the people? That can in no way concern you. The people may hate all, excepting you.”

The queen did not even rebuke this piece of flattery.

“Come, come, Prince,” said she to Monsieur de Lambesq, “speak out.”

“Well, then, Madame, it is true the people are influenced by hatred.”

“Hatred of me?”

“Of everything that rules.”

“Well said!—that is the truth! I feel it,” exclaimed the queen, resolutely.

“I am a soldier, your Majesty,” said the prince.

“Well, well! speak to us then as a soldier. Let us see what must be done.”

“Nothing, Madame.”

“How—nothing?” cried the queen, taking advantage of the murmurs occasioned by these words among the wearers of embroidered coats and golden-sheathed swords of her company; “nothing! You, a Prince of Lorraine,—you can speak thus to the Queen of France at a moment when the people, according to your own confession, are killing and burning, and you can coolly say there is nothing to be done!”

A second murmur, but this time of approbation, followed the words of Marie Antoinette.

She turned round, fixed her gaze on all the circle which environed her, and among all those fiery eyes sought those which darted forth the brightest flames, as if she could read a greater proof of fidelity in them.

“Nothing!” continued the prince; “but allow the Parisian to become calm—and he will become so-for he is only warlike when he is exasperated. Why give him the honors of a struggle, and risk the chances of a battle? Let us keep quiet, and in three days there will no longer be a question of a commotion in Paris.”

“But the Bastille, sir?”

“The Bastille! Its doors will be closed, and those who took it will be taken, that is all.”

Some laughter was heard among the before silent group.

The queen continued,—

“Take care, Prince; you are now reassuring me too much.” And thoughtfully, her chin resting on the palm of her hand, she advanced towards Madame de Polignac, who, pale and sad, seemed absorbed in thought.

The countess had listened to all the news with visible fear; she only smiled when the queen stopped opposite to her and smiled; although this smile was pale and colorless as a fading flower.

“Well, Countess,” said the queen, “what do you say to all this?”

“Alas! nothing,” she replied. “How, nothing!”


And she shook her head with an indescribable expression of despair.

“Come, come,” said the queen in a very low voice, and stooping to the ear of the countess, “our friend Diana is terrified.”

Then she said aloud,—

“But where is Madame de Charny, the intrepid woman? We need her assistance to reassure us, I think.”

“The countess was about to go out,” said Madame de Misery, “when she was summoned to the king's apartments.”

“Ah! the king's,” absently answered Marie Antoinette.

And only then did the queen perceive the strange silence which pervaded all around her.

The truth was, these wonderful and incredible events, accounts of which had successively reached Versailles like repeated shocks, had prostrated the firmest hearts, perhaps more by astonishment than fear.

The queen understood that it was necessary to revive all these drooping spirits.

“Can no one advise me?” said she. “Be it so; I will advise myself.”

They all drew nearer to Marie Antoinette.

“The people,” said she, “are not bad at heart, they are only misled. They hate us because we are unknown to them; let us approach them more nearly.”

“To punish them, then,” said a voice, “for they have doubted their masters, and that is a crime.”

The queen looked in the direction from which the voice proceeded, and recognized Monsieur de Besenval.

“Oh, it is you, Monsieur le Baron,” said she; “do you come to give us your good counsel?”

“The advice is already given,” said Besenval, bowing.

“Be it so,” said the queen; “the king will punish only as a tender father.”

“Who loves well chastises well,” said the baron.

Then turning towards Monsieur de Lambesq:—

“Are you not of my opinion, Prince? The people have committed several murders—”

“Which they unfortunately call retaliation,” said a sweet, low voice, at the sound of which the queen turned in her seat.

“You are right, princess; but it is precisely in that that their error consists, my dear Lamballe; we shall be indulgent.”

“But,” replied the Princess, in her mild manner, “before asking whether we must punish, I think we ought to ask whether we can conquer.”

A general cry burst forth from those who were present, a cry of protestation against the truth which had just been spoken by those noble lips.

“Conquer! and where are the Swiss?” said one.

“And the Germans?” said another.

“And the body-guards?” said a third.

“Can doubts be entertained about the army and the nobility” exclaimed a young man wearing the uniform of a lieutenant in the Hussars of Bercheny. “Have we then deserved such a reproach? Do but consider, Madame, that no later than to-morrow, if he chose, the king could assemble forty thousand men, throw these forty thousand men into Paris, and destroy the city. Remember that forty thousand faithful troops are worth half a million of revolted Parisians.”

The young man who had just spoken these words had without doubt a good many other similar reasons to advance; but he stopped short on seeing the eyes of the queen fixed upon him. He had spoken from the centre of a group of officers, and his zeal had carried him further than was consistent with etiquette and his rank.

He checked himself, accordingly, as we have already said, feeling quite ashamed at the impression his words had made.

But it was too late; the queen had already been struck with his enthusiasm.

“You understand the present condition of affairs, sir?” said she, kindly.

“Yes, your Majesty,” said the young man, blushing; “I was at the Champs Elysées.”

“Then, do not fear to speak; come nearer, sir.”

The young man stepped forward, blushing, from the group which opened to let him pass, and advanced towards the queen.

At the same moment the Prince de Lambesq and Monsieur de Besenval retired a step or two, as if they considered it beneath their dignity to attend this sort of council.

The queen did not pay, or did not appear to pay any attention to this movement.

“You say, then, sir, that the king has forty thousand men?” asked she.

“Yes, your Majesty.”

“In the environs of Paris?”

“At St. Denis, at St. Mandé, at Montmartre, and at Grenelle.”

“Give me some details, sir,—some details,” exclaimed the queen.

“Madame, the Prince de Lambesq and Monsieur de Besenval can give you them with infinitely more accuracy than myself.”

“Go on, sir. It pleases me to hear these details from your lips. Under whose orders are these forty thousand men?”

“In the first place, under the orders of Monsieur de Besenval and Monsieur de Lambesq; then under those of the Prince de Condé, of Monsieur de Narbonne-Fritzlar, and Monsieur de Salkenaym.”

“Is this true, Prince?” asked the queen, turning towards Monsieur de Lambesq.

“Yes, your Majesty,” answered the prince, bowing.

“On the heights of Montmartre,” said the young man, “there is a complete park of artillery; in six hours the whole quarter of the town within the range of Montmartre could be laid in ashes. Let Montmartre give the signal to open fire; let it be answered by Vincennes; let ten thousand men debouch by the Champs Elysées, ten thousand more by the Barriére d'Enfer, ten thousand more by the Rue St. Martin, ten thousand more by the Bastille; make Paris hear our cannonading from the four cardinal points, and she cannot hold her ground for twenty-four hours.”

“Ah! here is a man who at all events explains his views frankly; here is at least a clear and regular plan. What do you think of it, Monsieur de Lambesq?”

“I think,” answered the prince, disdainfully, “that the lieutenant of hussars is a perfect general.”

“He is, at least,” said the queen, who saw the young officer turn pale with anger, “he is, at least, a soldier who does not despair.”

“I thank you, Madame,” said the young man, bowing.

“I do not know what your Majesty's decision will be, but I beg you to consider me among those who are ready to die for you; and in so doing, I should only do that, I beg your Majesty to believe, which forty thousand soldiers are ready to do, as well as all our chiefs.”

And having said these words, the young man saluted courteously the prince, who had almost insulted him.

This act of courtesy struck the queen still more than the protestations of fidelity which had preceded it.

“What is your name, sir?” asked she of the young officer.

“I am the Baron de Charny, Madame,” replied he, bowing.

“De Charny!” exclaimed Marie Antoinette, blushing in spite of herself; “are you then a relative of the Count de Charny?”

“I am his brother, Madame.”

And the young man bowed gracefully, even lower than he had done before.

“I ought,” said the queen, recovering from her confusion, and casting a firm look around her, “I ought to have recognized you, on hearing your first words, as one of my most faithful servants. Thank you, Baron. How is it that I now see you at court for the first time?”

“Madame, my elder brother, who is taking the place of my father, has ordered me to remain with the regiment, and during the seven years that I have had the honor of serving in the army of the king, I have only twice been at Versailles.”

The queen looked for a considerable time at the young man's face.

“You resemble your brother,” said she. “I shall reprimand him for having so long omitted to present you, and left you to present yourself at court.”

And the queen turned in the direction of her friend the countess, who during all this scene had remained motionless and mute upon the sofa.

But it was not thus with the remainder of those present. The officers, electrified by the reception the queen had given to the young man, were exaggerating to the utmost among themselves their enthusiasm for the royal cause, and from every group expressions burst forth, evincing a heroism capable of subjugating the whole of France.

Marie Antoinette made the most of these manifestations, which evidently flattered her secret wishes.

She preferred to struggle rather than to submit, to die rather than to yield. With this view, as soon as the first news had reached her from Paris, she had determined upon a stubborn resistance to the rebellious spirit which threatened to swallow up all the prerogatives of French society.

If there is a blind and senseless degree of strength, it is that stimulated by figures and vain hopes.

A figure, followed by an agglomeration of zeros, will soon exceed all the resources of the universe.

The same may be said of the plans of a conspirator or a despot. On enthusiasm, which itself is based on imperceptible hope, gigantic conceptions are built, which are dissipated before the first breath of wind, in less time than was required to condense them into a mist.

After hearing these few words pronounced by the Baron de Charny, after the enthusiastic hurrahs of the bystanders, Marie Antoinette could almost imagine herself at the head of a powerful army; she could hear the rolling of her harmless artillery, and she rejoiced at the fear which they would doubtless occasion among the Parisians, and had already gained a victory which she thought decisive.

Around her, men and women, beaming with youth, with confidence and love, were reckoning the number of those brilliant hussars, those heavy dragoons, those terrible Swiss, those well-equipped artillerymen, and laughed at the vulgar pikes and their coarse wooden handles, little thinking that on the points of these vile weapons were to be borne the noblest heads of France.

“As for me,” murmured the Princess de Lamballe, “I am more afraid of a pike than of a gun.”

“Because it is much uglier, my dear Thérèse,” replied the queen, smiling. “But, at all events, compose yourself. Our Parisian pikemen are not a match for the famous Swiss pikemen of Morat; and the Swiss of the present day have something more than pikes; they have good muskets, with which they take good aim, thank Heaven!”

“Oh, as to that, I will answer for it!” said Monsieur de Besenval.

The queen turned round once more towards Madame de Polignac to see if all these assurances had restored her wonted tranquillity; but the countess appeared still paler and more trembling than before.

The queen, whose extreme tenderness of feeling often caused her to sacrifice her royal dignity for the sake of this friend, in vain seemed to solicit her to look more cheerful.

The young woman still continued gloomy, and appeared absorbed in the saddest thoughts. But this despondency only served to increase the queen's sorrow. The enthusiasm among the young officers maintained itself at the same pitch, and all of them, with the exception of the superior officers, were gathered round the Baron de Charny, and drawing up their plans for battle.

In the midst of this febrile excitement the king entered alone, unaccompanied by an usher, and with a smile upon his lips.

The queen, still greatly excited by the warlike emotions which she had aroused, rushed forward to meet him.

At the sight of the king all conversation had ceased, and was followed by the most perfect silence; every one expected a kingly word,—one of those words which electrify and subjugate.

When clouds are sufficiently loaded with electricity, the least disturbance, as is well known, is sufficient to produce a flash.

To the eyes of the courtiers, the king and queen, advancing to meet each other, appeared like two electric bodies, from which the thunder must proceed.

They listened, and trembled, and eagerly waited to catch the first words which were to proceed from the royal lips.

“Madame,” said Louis XVI., “amid all these events, they have forgotten to serve up my supper in my own apartment; be so kind as to have it brought me here.”

“Here?” exclaimed the queen, with an air of stupefaction.

“If you will permit it.”


“You were conversing, it is true; but while at supper I shall converse also.”

The mere word “supper” had chilled the enthusiasm of every one present. But on hearing the king's last words,—“at supper I shall converse also,” the young queen herself could hardly help thinking that so much calmness concealed some small heroism. The king doubtless thought by his tranquillity to overcome all the terror occasioned by the events that had taken place. This must certainly be his design.

The daughter of Marie Thérèse could not conceive that at so critical a moment the son of Saint Louis could still remain subject to the material wants of ordinary life.

Marie Antoinette was mistaken; the king was hungry, that was all.

Chapter XXVI. How the King supped on the 14th of July, 1789

ON a word from Marie Antoinette, the king's supper was served on a small table in the queen's own cabinet.

But the contrary of what the princess had hoped soon happened. Louis XVI. ordered every one to be silent, but it was only that he might not be disturbed while at supper.

While Marie Antoinette was endeavoring to revive enthusiasm, the king was devouring a Périgord pie.

The officers did not think this gastronomical performance worthy of a descendant of Saint Louis, and formed themselves into small groups, whose observations were not perhaps as respectful as circumstances ought to have demanded.

The queen blushed, and her impatience betrayed itself in all her movements. Her delicate, aristocratic, and nervous nature could not comprehend this domination of matter over mind.

She drew nearer to the king, with a view to bring those nearer to the table who had retired to a more distant part of the room.

“Sire,” said she, “have you no orders to give?”

“Ah! ah!” said the king, his mouth full, “what orders, Madame? Let us see; will you be our Egeria in this difficult moment?”

And while saying these words he bravely attacked a partridge stuffed with truffles.

“Sire,” said the queen, “Numa was a pacific king.

Now it is generally thought that what we need at present is a warlike king; and if you are going to take antiquity for your model, as your Majesty cannot become a Tarquin, you must be a Romulus.”

The king smiled with a tranquillity which almost seemed holy.

“Are these gentlemen warlike also?” asked he.

And he turned towards the group of officers, and his eyes being animated by the cheering influence of his meal, appeared to all present to sparkle with courage.

“Yes, Sire,” they all cried with one voice, “war! we only ask for war!”

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” said the king, “you do me in truth the greatest pleasure, by proving to me that when occasion may require it I may rely upon you. But I have for the moment not only a council, but also a stomach; the former will advise me what I ought to do, the second advises me to do what I am now doing.”

And he laughed loudly, and handed his plate, full of fragments, to the officer in waiting, in exchange for a clean one.

A murmur of stupefaction and of rage passed like a shudder through the group of gentlemen, who only required a signal from the king to shed their last drop of blood.

The queen turned round and stamped her foot.

The Prince de Lambesq immediately came to her.

“You see, Madame,” said he, “his Majesty no doubt thinks, as I do, that it is better to wait. It is prudence—and although it is not one of mine, unfortunately, prudence is a necessary virtue in the times we live in.”

“Yes, sir, yes; it is a very necessary virtue,” said the queen, biting her lips till they bled.

With a death-like sadness she reclined against the chimney-piece, her eye lost in darkness, and her soul overwhelmed by despair.

The singular contrast between the disposition of the king and that of the queen struck every one with astonishment. The queen could hardly restrain her tears, while the king continued his supper with the proverbial appetite of the Bourbon family.

The room gradually became empty; the various groups melted away as does the snow in a garden before the rays of the sun,—the snow, beneath which the black and desolate earth soon makes its appearance here and there.

The queen, seeing this warlike group, upon which she relied so much, gradually disappear, imagined that all her power was vanishing; as in former times, the breath of the Lord had melted those vast armies of Assyrians or Amalekites, which one single night sufficed to swallow up in its darkness.

She was aroused from this species of torpor by the sweet voice of the Countess Jules, who approached her with Madame Diana de Polignac, her sister-in-law.

At the sound of this voice, the sweet future, with its flowers and palm-leaves, returned to the mind of this haughty woman. A sincere and devoted friend was to her of more value than ten kingdoms.

“Oh, thou, thou!” murmured she, clasping the Countess Jules in her arms; “I have then one friend left.”

And the tears, which for so long a time had been restrained, burst forth from her eyelids, trickled down her cheeks, and inundated her bosom; but instead of being bitter, these tears were sweet,—instead of oppressing her, they disburdened her heart.

They both remained silent for a few moments, during which the queen continued to hold the countess in her arms.

It was the duchess who first broke this silence, while still holding her sister-in-law by the hand.

“Madame,” said she, with a voice so timid that she almost appeared ashamed, “I do not think your Majesty will disapprove the project which I am about to submit to your notice.”

“What project?” asked the queen attentively; “speak, Duchess, speak?”

And while preparing to listen to the Duchess Diana, the queen leaned upon the shoulder of her favorite, the countess.

“Madame,” continued the duchess, “the opinion which I am about to pronounce comes from a person whose authority will not be doubted by your Majesty; it comes from her Royal Highness, Madame Adelaide, the queen's aunt.”

“What a singular preamble, dear Duchess,” said the queen, gayly, “come, let us hear this opinion.”

“Madame, circumstances are disheartening; the favors which our family enjoy from your Majesty have been much exaggerated; calumny stains the august friendship which you deign to grant us in exchange for our respectful devotion.”

“Well, then, Duchess,” said the queen, with a commencement of astonishment, “do you not think I have evinced sufficient courage? Have I not valiantly sustained my friends against public opinion, against the court, against the people, against the king himself?”

“Oh, Madame, certainly! and your Majesty has so nobly sustained your friends, that you have opposed your breast to every blow, so that to-day when the danger has become great, terrible even, the friends so nobly defended by your Majesty would be cowardly and unfaithful servants, if they did not prove themselves grateful to their queen.”

“Ah, this is well, this is beautiful!” said Marie Antoinette, with enthusiasm, embracing the countess, whom she still pressed against her bosom, while holding the hand of Madame de Polignac in hers.

But both of them turned pale, instead of proudly raising their heads, after they had been thus caressed by their sovereign.

Madame Jules de Polignac made a movement to disengage herself from the arms of the queen; but the latter still pressed her to her heart, despite her efforts to disengage herself.

“But,” stammered Madame Diana de Polignac, “your Majesty does not perhaps well understand what we have the honor to make known to you, in order to enable you to ward off the blows which threaten your throne, your person, perhaps, on account of the very friendship with which you honor us. There is a painful means, a bitter sacrifice to our hearts, but we must endure it; necessity commands it.”

At these words it was the queen's turn to become pale, for she no longer perceived courageous and faithful friendship, but fear, beneath this exordium, and under the veil of this reserve.

“Let us see,” said she; “speak, speak, Duchess; what is this sacrifice?”

“Oh, the sacrifice is entirely on our side, Madame!” replied the latter. “We are, God knows for what reason, execrated in France; by disencumbering your throne, we shall restore to it all the splendor, all the warmth of the popular love, a love either extinguished or intercepted by our presence.”

“You would leave me!” cried the queen, vehemently. “Who has said that? who has asked for that?”

And she cast a despairing look on the Countess Jules de Polignac, gently pushing her from her; the latter held down her head in great confusion.

“Not I,” said the Countess Jules; “I, on the contrary, ask but to remain.”

But these words were uttered in such a tone that they implied, “Order me to leave you, Madame, and I will leave you.”

O holy friendship, thou sacred chain which can link together the hearts of even a sovereign and her subject in indissoluble bonds! O holy friendship, thou engenderest more heroism than even love or ambition, those two noble maladies of the human heart! But thou canst not brook deceit. The queen at once shattered to atoms the adored altar she had raised to thee in her heart; she required but a look, one only look, to reveal to her that which during ten years she had not perceived, she had not even surmised,—coldness and interested calculation, excusable, justifiable, legitimate perhaps; but what can excuse, justify, or legitimize, in the eyes of one who still fondly loves, the abandonment of the one who has ceased to love?

Marie Antoinette's only revenge for the pain which was thus inflicted on her, was the icy coldness with which she gazed upon her friend.

“Ah, Duchess Diana! this, then, is your opinion?” cried she, compressing with her feverish hand the agitated pulsation of her heart.

“Alas! Madame,” answered the latter, “it is not my choice, it is not my will which dictates to me what I am to do: it is the law of destiny!”

“Yes, Duchess,” said Marie Antoinette. And turning to the Countess Jules: “And you, Countess: what say you to this?”

The countess replied by a burning tear, as if from a pang of remorse; but she had exhausted all her strength in the effort she had made.

“Well,” said the queen, “well, it is gratifying to my feelings to see how much I am beloved. Thank you, my dear Countess; yes, you incur great danger here; the anger of the people no longer knows any bounds; yes, you are all in the right, and I alone was foolish. You ask to remain,—that is pure devotedness; but I cannot accept such a sacrifice.”

The Countess Jules raised her beautiful eyes and looked at the queen. But the queen, instead of reading the devotedness of a friend in them, could only perceive the weakness of the woman.

“Thus, Duchess,” replied the queen, “you are resolved to leave me.” And she emphasized the word “you.”

“Yes, your Majesty.”

“Doubtless for some one of your estates—a distant—a very distant one?”

“Madame, in going away, in leaving you, it would be as painful to travel fifty leagues as one hundred and fifty.”

“But do you, then, intend to go abroad?”

“Alas, yes, Madame!”

A suppressed sigh tore the very depths of the queen's heart, but it did not escape her lips.

“And where are you going?”

“To reside on the banks of the Rhine, Madame.”

“Well, you speak German, Duchess,” said the queen, with a look of indescribable sadness, “and it was I who taught it you. The friendship of your queen will at least have been useful to you to that extent, and I rejoice at it.”

Then, turning to the Countess Jules:—

“I do not wish to dismiss you, my dear Countess,” said she. “You desire to remain here, and I deeply appreciate that desire. But I—I, who fear for you-I insist on your departure; I order you to leave me.”

And having said these words, she suddenly stopped, overcome by emotions which, in spite of her heroism, she would perhaps not have had the power to control, had not she heard at that moment the voice of the king who had taken no part whatever in what we have just been relating.

The king was at his dessert.

“Madame,” said the king, “there is somebody in your apartment; they are seeking you.”

“But, Sire,” exclaimed the queen, throwing aside every other feeling but that of royal dignity, “in the first place, you have orders to give! Only three persons remain here; but they are those with whom you have to deal: Monsieur de Lambesq, Monsieur de Besenval, and Monsieur de Broglie. Give your orders, Sire; give your orders.”

The king raised his heavy eyes and appeared to hesitate.

“What do you think of all this, Monsieur de Broglie?” said he.

“Sire,” replied the old marshal, “if you withdraw your army from the sight of the Parisians, it will be said that it was beaten by them. If you leave it in their presence, your army must beat them.”

“Well said!” exclaimed the queen, grasping the marshal's hand.

“Well said!” cried Monsieur de Besenval.

The Prince de Lambesq was the only person present who shook his head.

“Well! and after that?” said the king.

“Command: march!” cried the old marshal.

“Yes—march!” cried the queen.

“Well, then, since you all wish it, march!” said the king.

At that moment a note was handed to the queen; its contents were as follows:—

“In the name of Heaven, Madame, no rashness! I await an audience of your Majesty.”

“His writing!” murmured the queen.

Then, turning round, she said in a low tone to the woman who had brought the note:—

“Is Monsieur de Charny in my room?”

“He has just arrived, completely covered with dust, and I even think with blood,” answered the confidant.

“One moment, gentlemen!” exclaimed the queen, to Monsieur de Besenval and Monsieur de Broglie; “wait for me here; I shall return!”

And she passed into her own apartment in great haste.

The king did not even move his head.

Chapter XXVII. Olivier de Charny

ON entering her dressing-room, the queen found the person there who had written the note brought by her waiting-woman.

He was a man thirty-five years of age, of lofty stature, with a countenance which indicated strength and resolution; his grayish-blue eye, sharp and piercing as that of the eagle, his straight nose, his prominent chin, gave a martial character to his physiognomy, which was enhanced by the elegance with which he wore the uniform of a lieutenant in the body-guards.

His hands were still trembling under his torn and ruffled cambric cuffs.

His sword had been bent, and could hardly be replaced in the scabbard.

On the arrival of the queen, he was pacing hurriedly up and down the dressing-room, absorbed by a thousand feverish and agitated thoughts.

Marie Antoinette advanced straight towards him.

“Monsieur de Charny!” she exclaimed, “Monsieur de Charny, you here?”

And seeing that the person whom she thus addressed bowed respectfully according to etiquette, she made a sign to her waiting-woman, who withdrew and closed the doors.

The queen scarcely waited for the door to be closed, when, seizing the hand of Monsieur de Charny with vehemence,—

“Count,” cried she, “why are you here?”

“Because I considered it my duty to come, Madame,” said the count.

“No; your duty was to fly Versailles; it was to do what we had agreed,—to obey me; it is, in fact, to do as all my friends are doing who fear to share my fate. Your duty is to sacrifice nothing to my destiny; your duty is to flee far from me!”

“To flee from you?” said he.

“Yes; to flee from me.”

“And who, then, flies from you, Madame?”

“Those who are prudent.”

“I think myself very prudent, Madame, and that is why I now come to Versailles.”

“And from where do you come?”

“From Paris.”

“From revolted Paris?”

“From boiling, intoxicated, and ensanguined Paris.” The queen covered her face with her hands.

“Oh,” said she, “no one, not even you, will then come to bring me good news.”

“Madame, in the present circumstances, ask your messengers to tell you but one thing,—the truth.”

“And is it the truth you have just told me?”

“I always tell you the truth, Madame.”

“You have an honest soul, sir, and a stout heart.”

“I am a faithful subject, Madame, that is all.”

“Well, then, spare me for the moment, my friend; do not tell me a single word. You have arrived at a moment when my heart is breaking. My friends, to-day, for the first time overwhelm me with that truth which you have always told me. Oh, it is this truth, Count, which it was impossible for them to withhold from me any longer. It bursts forth everywhere: in the heavens which are red; in the air, which is filled with sinister noises; in the faces of the courtiers, who are pale and serious. No, no, Count; for the first time in your life, tell me not the truth.”

The count looked at the queen with amazement.

“Yes, yes,” said she; “you who know me to be courageous, you are astonished, are you not? Oh, you are not yet at the end of your astonishment!”

Monsieur de Charny allowed an inquiring gesture to escape him.

“You will see by-and-by,” said the queen, with a nervous laugh.

“Does your Majesty suffer?” asked the count.

“No, no, sir. Come and sit down near me, and not a word more about those dreadful politics. Try to make me forget them.”

The count obeyed with a sad smile. Marie Antoinette placed her hand upon his forehead.

“Your forehead burns,” said she.

“Yes, I have a volcano in my head.”

“Your hand is icy cold.”

And she pressed the count's hand between both hers.

“My heart is affected with a deathlike coldness,” said he. “Poor Olivier! I had told you so. Let us forget it. I am no longer queen; I am no longer threatened; I am no longer hated. No, I am no longer a queen. I am a woman, that is all. What is the whole universe to me? One heart that loves me would suffice me.”

The count fell on his knees before the queen, and kissed her feet with the respect the Egyptians had for the goddess Isis.

“Oh, Count, my only friend!” said the queen, trying to raise him up, “do you know what the Duchess Diana is about to do?”

“She is going to emigrate,” answered Charny, without hesitating.

“He has guessed the truth!” exclaimed Marie Antoinette. “He has guessed it. Alas! was it then possible to guess it?”

“Oh, certainly, Madame,” answered the count; “one can imagine anything at such a moment as this.”

“But you and your friends,” exclaimed the queen, “why do you not emigrate, if you consider it so natural a step?”

“In the first place, Madame, I do not emigrate because I am profoundly devoted to your Majesty, and because I have promised, not to you, but to myself, that I will not quit you for a single instant during the impending storm. My brothers will not emigrate, because my conduct will be the model on which they will regulate theirs. In fine, Madame de Charny will not emigrate, because she loves your Majesty sincerely; at least, so I believe.”

“Yes, Andrée has a very noble heart,” said the queen, with perceptible coldness.

“That is the reason why she will not leave Versailles,” answered De Charny.

“Then I shall always have you near me,” said the queen, in the same icy tone, which she varied so as to express either her jealousy or her disdain.

“Your Majesty has done me the honor to make me lieutenant of the guards,” said the Count de Charny; “my post is at Versailles. I should not have left my post if your Majesty had not intrusted me with the care of the Tuileries. 'It is a necessary exile,' said the queen to me, and I accepted that exile. Now, in all this, your Majesty well knows the Countess de Charny has neither reproved the step, nor was she consulted with regard to it.”

“It is true,” replied the queen, in the same freezing tone.

“To-day,” continued the count, with intrepidity, “I think my post is no longer at the Tuileries, but at Versailles. Well, may it not displease the queen, I have violated my orders, thus selecting the service I prefer; and here I am. Whether Madame de Charny be alarmed or not at the complexion of events, whether it be her desire to emigrate or not, I will remain near the queen, unless, indeed, the queen breaks my sword; in which case, having no longer the right to fight and to die for her on the floor of Versailles, I shall still have that of sacrificing it on its threshold, on the pavement.”

The young man pronounced these simple words so valiantly and so loyally, which emanated so evidently from the depths of his heart, that the queen appeared suddenly to lose her haughtiness, a retreat behind which she had just concealed feelings more human than royal.

“Count,” said she, “never utter that word again. Do not say that you would die for me, for in truth I know that you would do as you say.”

“Oh, on the contrary, I shall always say it!” exclaimed Monsieur de Charny. “I shall say it to every one, and in every place. I shall say it, and I shall do it, because the time has come, I fear, when all who have been attached to the kings of this earth must die.”

“Count! Count!—what is it gives you this fatal forewarning?”

“Alas! Madame,” replied De Charny, shaking his head, “and I too, during that fatal American war, I too was affected like the rest with that fever of independence which pervaded all society. I too wished to take an active part in the emancipation of the slaves, as it was customary to say in those days; and I was initiated into the secrets of masonry. I became affiliated with a secret society, with the Lafayettes and the Lameths. Do you know what the object of this society was, Madame? The destruction of thrones. Do you know what it had for its motto? Three letters,—L. P. D.”

“And what did these letters signify?”

Lilia pedibus destrue!—Trample the lilies underfoot!”

“Then, what did you do?”

“I withdrew with honor. But for one who withdrew from the society, there were twenty who applied to be admitted into it. Well, then, what is happening to-day, Madame, is the prologue to the grand drama which has been preparing in silence and in darkness for twenty years. At the head of the men who are stimulating Paris to resistance, who govern the Hôtel de Ville, who occupy the Palais-Royal, and who took the Bastille, I recognized the countenances of my former affiliated brethren. Do not deceive yourself, Madame; all the events which have just taken place are not the results of chance; they are outbreaks which had been planned for years.”

“Oh, you think so!—you think so, my friend!” exclaimed the queen, bursting into tears.

“Do not weep, Madame, but endeavor to comprehend the present crisis,” said the count.

“You wish me to comprehend it!” continued Marie Antoinette. “I, the queen,—I, who was born the sovereign of twenty-five millions of men,—you wish me to understand how these twenty-five millions of subjects, born to obey me, should revolt and murder my friends! No,—that I shall never comprehend.”

“And yet it is absolutely necessary for you to understand it, Madame; for the moment this obedience becomes a burden to these subjects, to these men born to obey you, you become their enemy; and until they have the strength to devour you, to do which they are sharpening their famished teeth, they will devour your friends, still more detested than you are.”

“And perhaps you will next tell me that they are right, most sage philosopher,” exclaimed the queen, imperiously, her eyes dilated, and her nostrils quivering with anger.

“Alas! yes, Madame, they are right,” said the count, in his gentle and affectionate voice; “for when I drive along the Boulevards, with my beautiful English horses, my coat glittering with gold, and my attendants bedecked with more silver than would be necessary to feed three families, your people, that is to say, those twenty-five millions of starving men, ask themselves of what use I am to them,—I, who am only a man like themselves.”

“You serve them with this, Marquis,” exclaimed the queen, seizing the hilt of the count's sword; “you serve them with the sword that your father wielded so heroically at Foutenoy, your grandfather at Steinkirk, your great-grandfather at Lens and at Rocroi, your ancestors at Ivry, at Marignan, and at Agincourt. The nobility serves the French nation by waging war. By war, the nobility has earned, at the price of its blood, the gold which decks its garments, the silver which covers its liveries. Do not, therefore, ask yourself, Olivier, how you serve the people, you who wield in your turn, and bravely too, the sword which has descended to you from your forefathers.”

“Madame!—Madame!” said the count, shaking his head, “do not speak so much of the blood of the nobility: the people, too, have blood in their veins; go and see it running in streams on the Place de la Bastille; go and count their dead, stretched out on the crimsoned pavement, and consider that their hearts, which now no longer beat, throbbed with a feeling as noble as that of a knight, on the day when your cannon were thundering against them; on the day when, seizing a new weapon in their unskilful hands, they sang in the midst of grapeshot,—a thing which even our bravest grenadiers do not always. Ah! Madame, my sovereign, look not on me, I entreat you, with that frowning eye. What is a grenadier? It is a gilt blue coat, covering the heart of which I was speaking to you a moment since. Of what importance is it to the bullet which pierces and kills, that the heart be covered with blue cloth or with a linen rag? Of what importance is it to the heart which is pierced through, whether the cuirass which protected it was cloth or canvas? The time is come to think of all that, Madame. You have no longer twenty-five millions of slaves in France; you have no longer twenty-five millions of subjects; you have no longer even twenty-five millions of men. You have twenty-five millions of soldiers.”

“Who will fight against me, Count?”

“Yes, against you; for they are fighting for liberty, and you stand between them and liberty.”

A long silence followed the words of the count. The queen was the first to break it.

“In fine,” said she, “you have told me this truth, which I had begged you not to tell me.”

“Alas! Madame,” replied De Charny, “under whatever form my devotion may conceal it, under whatever veil my respect disguises it, in spite of me, in spite of yourself, examine it, listen to it, think of it. The truth is there, Madame, is there forever, and you can no longer banish it from your mind, whatever may be your efforts to the contrary. Sleep!—sleep, to forget it, and it will haunt your pillow, will become the phantom of your dreams, a reality at your awakening.”

“Oh, Count,” said the queen, proudly, “ I know asleep which it cannot disturb!”

“As for that sleep, Madame, I fear it no more than does your Majesty, and perhaps I desire it quite as much.”

“Oh,” exclaimed the queen, in despair, “according to you, it is, then, our sole refuge?”

“Yes; but let us do nothing rashly, Madame. Let us go no faster than our enemies, and we shall go straight to that sleep by the fatigue which we shall have to endure during so many stormy days.”

And a new silence, still more gloomy than the first, weighed down the spirits of the two speakers.

They were seated, he near her, and she near him. They touched each other, and yet between them there was an immense abyss, for their minds viewed the future in a different light.

The queen was the first to return to the subject of their conversation, but indirectly. She looked fixedly at the count. Then:— “Let us see, sir,” said she. “One word as to ourselves, and you will tell me al—all—all. You understand me?”

“I am ready to answer you, Madame.”

“Can you swear to me that you came here only for my sake?”

“Oh, do you doubt it?”

“Will you swear to me that Madame de Charny had not written to you?”


“Listen to me. I know that she was going out. I know that she had some plan in her mind. Swear to me, Count, that it was not on her account that you returned!”

At this moment a knock, or rather a scratch, at the door was heard.

“Come in,” said the queen.

The waiting-woman again appeared.

“Madame,” said she, “the king has just finished his supper.”

The count looked at Marie Antoinette with astonishment.

“Well,” said she, shrugging her shoulders, “what is there astonishing in that? Must not the king take his supper?”

Olivier frowned.

“Tell the king,” replied the queen, without at all disturbing herself, “that I am just receiving news from Paris, and that I shall communicate it to him when I have received it.

Then, turning towards Charny:—“Go on,” said she; “now that the king has supped, it is but natural that he should digest his food.”

Chapter XXVIII. Olivier de Charny

THIS interruption had only caused a momentary suspension in the conversation, but had changed in nothing the two-fold sentiment of jealousy which animated the queen at this moment,—jealousy of love as a woman, jealousy of power as a queen.

Hence it resulted that the conversation, which seemed exhausted during its first period, had, on the contrary, only been entered upon, and was about to be revived more sharply than ever; as in a battle, where, after the cessation of the first fire, which had commenced the action at a few points, the fire which decides the victory soon becomes general all along the line.

The count, moreover, as things had arrived at this point, seemed as anxious as the queen to come to an explanation; for which reason, the door being closed again, he was the first to resume the conversation.

“You asked me if it was for Madame de Charny that I had come back,” said he. “Has your Majesty then forgotten that engagements were entered into between us, and that I am a man of honor?”

“Yes,” said the queen, holding down her head, “yes, we have made engagements; yes, you are a man of honor; yes, you have sworn to sacrifice yourself to my happiness, and it is that oath which most tortures me, for in sacrificing yourself to my happiness, you immolate at the same time a beautiful woman and a noble character,—another crime!”

“Oh, Madame, now you are exaggerating the accusation! I only wish you to confess that I have kept my word as a gentleman.”

“It is true; I am insensate; forgive me—”

“Do not call a crime that which originated in chance and necessity. We have both deplored this marriage, which alone could shield the honor of the queen. As for this marriage, there only remains for me to endure it, as I have done for many years.”

“Yes!” exclaimed the queen. “But do you think that I do not perceive your grief, that I do not understand your sorrow, which evince themselves in the shape of the highest respect? Do you think that I do not see all this?”

“Do me the favor, Madame,” said the count, bowing, “to communicate to me what you see, in order that if I have not suffered enough myself, and made others suffer enough, I may double the amount of suffering for myself, and for all those who surround me, as I feel certain of ever falling short of what I owe you.”

The queen held out her hand to the count. The words of the young man had an irresistible power, like everything that emanates from a sincere and impassioned heart.

“Command me, then, Madame,” rejoined he; “I entreat you, do not fear to lay your commands upon me.”

“Oh, yes, yes! I know it well. I am wrong; yes, forgive me; yes, it is true. But if you have anywhere some hidden idol, to whom you offer up mysterious incense,—if for you there is in some corner of the world an adored woman—oh! I no longer dare to pronounce that word, it strikes me with terror; and I fear lest the syllables which compose it should strike the air and vibrate in my ear,—well, then, if such a woman does exist, concealed from every one, do not forget that you have publicly, in the eyes of others as in your own, a young and beautiful wife, whom you surround with care and attentions,—a wife who leans upon your arm, and who, while leaning on your arm, leans at the same time on your heart.”

Olivier knit his brow, and the delicate lines of his face assumed for a moment a severe aspect.

“What do you ask, Madame?” said he; “do I separate myself from the Countess de Charny? You remain silent; is that the reason, then? Well, then, I am ready to obey this order, even; but you know that she is alone in the world—she is an orphan. Her father, the Baron de Taverney, died last year, like a worthy knight of the olden time, who wishes not to see that which is about to take place in ours. Her brother—you know that her brother, Maison-Rouge, makes his appearance once a year, at most—comes to embrace his sister, to pay his respects to your Majesty, and then goes away, without any one knowing what becomes of him.”

“Yes, I know all that.”

“Consider, Madame, that this Countess de Charny, were God to remove me from this world, could resume her maiden name, and the purest angel in heaven could not detect in her dreams, in her thoughts, a single unholy word or thought.”

“Oh, yes, yes,” said the queen. “I know that your Andrée is an angel upon earth; I know that she deserves to be loved. That is the reason why I think she has a brilliant future before her, while mine is hopeless! Oh, no, no! Come, Count, I beg of you, say not another word; I no longer speak to you as a queen—forgive me, I forget myself; but what would you have? there is in my soul a voice which always sings of happiness, joy, and love, although it is too often assailed by those sinister voices which speak of nothing but misfortune, war, and death. It is, the voice of my youth, which I have survived. Charny, forgive me, I shall no longer be young, I shall no longer smile, I shall no longer love!”

And the unhappy woman covered her burning eyes with her thin and delicate hands, and the tear of a queen filtered, brilliant as a diamond, between each of her fingers.

The count once more fell on his knees before her.

“Madame, in the name of Heaven!” said he, “order me to leave you, to fly from you, to die for you, but do not let me see you weep!”

And the count himself could hardly refrain from sobbing as he spoke.

“It is all over,” said Marie Antoinette, raising her head, and speaking gently, with a smile replete with grace.

And, with a beautiful movement, she threw back her thick powdered hair, which had fallen on her neck, white as the driven snow.

“Yes, yes, it is over!” continued the queen; ” I shall not afflict you any more; let us throw aside all these follies. Great God! it is strange that the woman should be so weak, when the queen so much needs to be firm. You come from Paris, do you not Let us converse about it. You told me some things that I have forgotten; and yet they were very serious, were they not, Monsieur de Charny?”

“Be it so, Madame; let us return to that fatal subject: for, as you observe, what I have to tell you is very serious. Yes, I have just arrived from Paris, and I was present at the downfall of the monarchy.”

“I was right to request you to return to serious matters, and most assuredly, Count, you make them more than sufficiently gloomy. A successful riot,—do you call that the downfall of the monarchy? What! is it because the Bastille has been taken, Monsieur de Charny, that you say the monarchy is abolished? Oh, you do not reflect that the Bastille was founded in France only in the fourteenth century, while monarchy has been taking root in the world during the last six thousand years.”

“I should be well pleased to deceive myself in this matter, Madame,” replied the count; “and then, instead of afflicting your Majesty's mind, I should bring to you the most consoling news. Unfortunately, the instrument will not produce any other sounds but those for which it was intended.”

“Let us see, let us see; I will sustain you,—I who am but a woman; I will put you on the right path.”

“Alas! I ask for nothing better.”

“The Parisians have revolted, have they not?”


“In what proportion?”

“In the proportion of twelve to fifteen.”

“How do you arrive at this calculation?”

“Oh, very easily: the people form twelve fifteenths of the body of the nation; there remain two fifteenths for the nobility and one for the clergy.”

“Your calculations are exact, Count, and you have them at your fingers' ends. Have you read the works of Monsieur and Madame de Necker?”

“Those of Monsieur de Necker? Yes, Madame.”

“Well, the proverb holds good,” said the queen, gayly: “we are never betrayed but by our own friends. Well, then, here is my own calculation; will you listen to it?”

“With all respect.”

“Among these twelve fifteenths there are six of women, are there not?”

“Yes, your Majesty. But—”

“Do not interrupt me. We said there were six fifteenths of women, so let us say six; two of indifferent or incapable old men,—is that too much?”


“There still remain four fifteenths, of which you will allow that at least two are cowards or lukewarm individuals,—I flatter the French nation. But finally, there remain two fifteenths; I will grant you that they are furious, robust, brave, and warlike. These two fifteenths, let us consider them as belonging to Paris only, for it is needless to speak of the provinces, is it not? It is only Paris that requires to be retaken?”

“Yes, Madame. But—”

“Always but; wait a moment. You can reply when I have concluded.”

Monsieur de Charny bowed.

“I therefore estimate,” continued the queen, “the two fifteenths of Paris at one hundred thousand men; is that sufficient?”

This time the count did not answer. The queen rejoined:—

“Well, then! to these hundred thousand men, badly armed, badly disciplined, and but little accustomed to battle, hesitating because they know they are doing wrong, I can oppose fifty thousand men, known throughout Europe for their bravery, with officers like you, Monsieur de Charny; besides that sacred cause which is denominated divine right, and in addition to all this, my own firm soul, which it is easy to move, but difficult to break.”

The count still remained silent.

“Do you think,” continued the queen, “that in a battle fought in such a cause, two men of the people are worth more than one of my soldiers?”

Charny said nothing.

“Speak,—answer me!—Do you think so?” exclaimed the queen, growing impatient.

“Madame,” answered the Count, at last, throwing aside, on this order from the Queen, the respectful reserve which he had so long maintained, “on a field of battle, where these hundred thousand men would be isolated, undisciplined and badly armed as they are, your fifty thousand soldiers would defeat them in half an hour.”

“Ah!” said the queen, “I was then right.”

“Wait a moment. But it is not as you imagine. And, in the first place, your hundred thousand insurgents in Paris are five hundred thousand.”

“Five hundred thousand?”

“Quite as many. You had omitted the women and children in your calculation! Oh, Queen of France! Oh, proud and courageous woman! consider them as so many men, these women of Paris; the day will perhaps come when they will compel you to consider them as so many demons.”

“What can you mean, Count?”

“Madame, do you know what part a woman plays in a civil war? No, you do not. Well, I will tell you; and you will see that two soldiers against each woman would not be too many.”

“Count, have you lost your senses?”

Charny smiled sadly.

“Did you see them at the Bastille?” asked he, “in the midst of the fire, in the midst of the shot, crying, 'To arms!' threatening with their fists your redoubtable Swiss soldiers, fully armed and equipped, uttering maledictions over the bodies of the slain, with that voice that excites the hearts of the living. Have we not seen them boiling the pitch, dragging cannon along the streets, giving cartridges to those who were eager for the combat, and to the timid combatants a cartridge and a kiss? Do you know that as many women as men trod the drawbridge of the Bastille, and that at this moment, if the stones of the Bastille are falling, it is by pickaxes wielded by women's hands? Ah! Madame, do not overlook the women of Paris; take them into consideration; think also of the children who cast bullets, who sharpen swords, who throw paving-stones from a sixth story; think of them, for the bullet which was cast by a child may kill your best general from afar off, for the sword which it has sharpened will cut the hamstrings of your war-horses, for the clouds of stones which fall as from the skies will crush your dragoons and your guards; consider the old men, Madame, for if they have no longer the strength to raise a sword, they have still enough to serve as shields. At the taking of the Bastille, Madame, there were old men; do you know what they did,—those aged men whom you affect to despise? They placed themselves before the young men, who steadied their muskets on their shoulders, that they might take sure aim, so that the balls of your Swiss killed the helpless aged man, whose body served as a rampart to the vigorous youth. Include the aged men, for it is they who for the last three hundred years have related to succeeding generations the insults suffered by their mothers,—the desolation of their fields, caused by the devouring of their crops by the noblemen's game; the odium attached to their caste, crushed down by feudal privileges; and then the sons seize a hatchet, a club, a gun, in short, any weapon within their reach, and sally out to kill, fully charged with the curses of the aged against all this tyranny, as the cannon is loaded with powder and iron. At Paris, at this moment, men, women, old men, and children are all crying, 'Liberty, deliverance!' Count everything that has a voice, Madame, and you may estimate the number of combatants in Paris at eight hundred thousand souls.”

“Three hundred Spartans defeated the army of Xerxes, Monsieur de Charny.”

“Yes; but to-day your three hundred Spartans have increased to eight hundred thousand, and your fifty thousand soldiers compose the army of Xerxes.”

The queen raised her head, her hands convulsively clinched, and her face burning with shame and anger.

“Oh, let me fall from my throne,” said she, “let me be torn to pieces by your five hundred thousand Parisians, but do not suffer me to hear a Charny, a man devoted to me, speak to me thus.”

“If he speaks to you thus, Madame, it is because it is necessary; for this Charny has not in his veins a single drop of blood that is unworthy of his ancestors, or that is not all your own.”

“Then let him march upon Paris with me, and there we will die together.”

“Ignominiously,” said the count, “without the possibility of a struggle. We shall not even fight; we shall disappear like the Philistines or the Amalekites. March upon Paris!—but you seem to be ignorant of a very important thing,—that at the moment we shall enter Paris, the houses will fall upon us as did the waves of the Red Sea upon Pharaoh; and you will leave in France a name which will be accursed, and your children will be killed like the cubs of a wolf”

“How then, should I fall, Count ” said the queen, with haughtiness; “teach me, I entreat you.”

“As a victim, Madame,” respectfully replied Monsieur de Charny; “as a queen, smiling and forgiving those who strike the fatal blow. Ah! if you had five hundred thousand men like me, I should say: “Let us set out on our march!—let us march to-night! let us march this very instant! And to-morrow you would reign at the Tuileries; to-morrow you would have reconquered your throne.”

“Oh,” exclaimed the queen, “even you have given way to despair,—you in whom I had founded all my hopes!”

“Yes, I despair, Madame; because all France thinks as Paris does; because your army, if it were victorious in Paris, would be swallowed up by Lyons, Rouen, Lille, Strasbourg, Nantes, and a hundred other devouring cities. Come, come, take courage, Madame; return your sword into its scabbard.”

“Ah! was it for this,” cried the queen, “that I have gathered around me so many brave men? Was it for this that. I have inspired them with so much courage?”

“If that is not your opinion, Madame, give your orders, and we will march upon Paris this very night. Say what is your pleasure.”

There was so much devotion in this offer of the count, that it intimidated the queen more than a refusal would have done. She threw herself in despair on a sofa, where she struggled for a considerable time with her haughty soul.

At length, raising her head:—

“Count,” said she, “do you desire me to remain inactive?”

“I have the honor to advise your Majesty to remain so.”

“It shall be so,—come back.”

“Alas! Madame, have I offended you?” said the count, looking at the queen with a sorrowful expression but in which beamed indescribable love.

“No—your hand.”

The count bowed gracefully, and gave his hand to the queen.

“I must scold you,” said Marie Antoinette, endeavoring to smile.

“For what reason, Madame?”

“How! you have a brother in the army, and I have only been accidentally informed of it.”

“I do not comprehend—”

“This evening, a young officer of the Hussars of


“Ah! my brother George!”

“Why have you never spoken to me of this young man? Why has he not a high rank in a regiment?”

“Because he is yet quite young and inexperienced; because he is not worthy of command as a chief officer; because, in fine, if your Majesty has condescended to look so low as upon me who am called Charny, to honor me with your friendship, it is not a reason that my relatives should be advanced, to the prejudice of a crowd of brave noblemen more deserving than my brothers.”

“Have you then still another brother?”

“Yes, Madame; and one who is as ready to die for your Majesty as the two others.”

“Does he not need anything?”

“Nothing, Madame. We have the happiness to have not only our lives, but also a fortune to lay at the feet of your Majesty.”

While he was pronouncing these last words,—the queen being much moved by a trait of such delicate probity, and he himself palpitating with affection caused by the gracious kindness of her Majesty,—they were suddenly disturbed in their conversation by a groan from the adjoining room.

The queen rose from her seat, went to the door, and screamed aloud. She had just perceived a woman who was writhing on the carpet, and suffering the most horrible convulsions.

“Oh, the countess,” said she in a whisper to Monsieur de Charny; “she has overheard our conversation.”

“No, Madame,” answered he, “otherwise she would have warned your Majesty that we could be overheard.”

And he sprang towards Andrée and raised her in his arms.

The queen remained standing at two steps from her, cold, pale, and trembling with anxiety.

Chapter XXIX. A Trio

ANDRÉE was gradually recovering her senses, without knowing from whom assistance came, but she seemed instinctively to understand that some one had come to her assistance.

She raised her head, and her hands grasped the unhoped-for succor that was offered her.

But her mind did not recover as soon as her body; it still remained vacillating, stupefied, somnolent, during a few minutes.

After having succeeded in recalling her to physical life, Monsieur de Charny attempted to restore her moral senses; but he was struggling against a terrible and concentrated unconsciousness.

Finally she fastened her open but haggard eyes upon him, and with her still remaining delirium, without recognizing the person who was supporting her, she gave a loud shriek, and abruptly pushed him from her.

During all this time the queen turned her eyes in another direction; she, a woman; she, whose mission it was to console, to strengthen this afflicted friend,—she abandoned her.

Charny raised Andrée in his powerful arms, notwithstanding the resistance she attempted to make, and turning round to the queen, who was still standing, pale and motionless:—

“Pardon me, Madame,” said he; “something extraordinary must doubtless have happened. Madame de Charny is not subject to fainting, and this is the first time I have ever seen her in this state.”

“She must then be suffering greatly,” said the queen, who still reverted to the idea that Andrée had overheard their conversation.

“Yes, without doubt she is suffering,” answered the count, “and it is for that reason that I shall ask your Majesty the permission to have her carried to her own apartment. She needs the assistance of her attendants.”

“Do so,” said the queen, raising her hand to the bell.

But scarcely had Andrée heard the ringing of the bell, when she wrestled fearfully, and cried out in her delirium,—

“Oh, Gilbert, that Gilbert!”

The queen trembled at the sound of this name, and the astonished count placed his wife upon a sofa.

At this moment a servant appeared, to answer the bell.

“It is nothing,” said the queen, making a sign to him with her hand to leave the room.

Then, being once more left to themselves, the count and the queen looked at each other. Andrée had again closed her eyes, and seemed to suffer from a second attack.

Monsieur de Charny, who was kneeling near the sofa, prevented her from falling off it.

“Gilbert,” repeated the queen, “what name is that?”

“We must inquire.”

“I think I know it,” said Marie Antoinette; “I think it is not the first time I have heard the countess pronounce that name.”

But as if she had been threatened by this recollection of the queen, and this threat had surprised her in the midst of her convulsions, Andrée opened her eyes, stretched out her arms to heaven, and making a great effort, stood upright.

Her first look, an intelligent look, was this time directed at Monsieur de Charny, whom she recognized, and greeted with caressing smiles.

Then, as if this involuntary manifestation of her thought had been unworthy of her Spartan soul, Andrée turned her eyes in another direction, and perceived the queen. She immediately made a profound inclination.

“Ah! good Heaven, what then is the matter with you, Madame?” said Monsieur de Charny; “you have alarmed me,—you, who are usually so strong and so courageous, to have suffered from a swoon!”

“Sir,” said she, “such fearful events have taken place at Paris, that when men are trembling, it is by no means strange that women should faint. Have you then left Paris?—oh! you have done rightly.”

“Good God! Countess,” said Charny, in a doubting tone, “was it then on my account that you underwent all this suffering!”

Andrée again looked at her husband and the queen, but did not answer.

“Why, certainly that is the reason, Count,—why should you doubt it?” answered Marie Antoinette. “The Countess de Charny is not a queen; she has the right to be alarmed for her husband's safety.”

Charny could detect jealousy in the queen's language.

“Oh, Madame,” said he, “I am quite certain that the countess fears still more for her sovereign's safety than for mine.”

“But, in fine,” asked Marie Antoinette, “why and how is it that we found you in a swoon in this room, Countess?”

“Oh, it would be impossible for me to tell you that, Madame; I cannot myself account for it; but in this life of fatigue, of terror, and painful emotions, which we have led for the last three days, nothing can be more natural, it seems to me, than the fainting of a woman.”

“This is true,” murmured the queen, who perceived that Andrée did not wish to be compelled to speak out.

“But,” rejoined Andrée, in her turn, with that extraordinary degree of calmness which never abandoned her after she had once become the mistress of her will, and which was so much the more embarrassing in difficult circumstances that it could easily be discerned to be mere affectation, and concealed feelings altogether human; “but even your Majesty's eyes are at this moment in tears.”

And the count thought he could perceive in the words of his wife that ironical accent he had remarked but a few moments previously in the language of the queen.

“Madame,” said he to Andrée, with a degree of severity to which his voice was evidently not accustomed, “it is not astonishing that the queen's eyes should be suffused with tears, for the queen loves her people, and the blood of the people has been shed.”

“Fortunately, God has spared yours, sir,” said Andrée, who was still no less cold and impenetrable.

“Yes; but it is not of her Majesty that we are speaking, Madame, but of you; let us then return to our subject; the queen permits us to do so.”

Marie Antoinette made an affirmative gesture with her head.

“You were alarmed, then, were you not?”

“Who, I?

“You have been suffering; do not deny it; some accident has happened to you—what was it?—I know not what it can have been, but you will tell us.”

“You are mistaken, sir.”

“Have you had any reason to complain of any one-of a man?” Andrée turned pale.

“I have had no reason to complain of any one, sir; I have just come from the king's apartment.”

“Did you come direct from there?”

“Yes, direct. Her Majesty can easily ascertain that fact.”

“If such be the case,” said Marie Antoinette, “the countess must be right. The king loves her too well, and knows that my own affection for her is too strong, for him to disoblige her in any way whatever.”

“But you mentioned a name,” said Charny, still persisting.

“A name?”

“Yes; when you were recovering your senses.”

Andrée looked at the queen as if to ask her for assistance; but either because the queen did not understand her, or did not wish to do so:—

“Yes,” said she, “you pronounced the name Gilbert.”

“Gilbert! did I pronounce the name of Gilbert?” exclaimed Andrée, in a tone so full of terror that the count was more affected by this cry than he had been by her fainting.

“Yes!” exclaimed he, “you pronounced that name.”

“Ah, indeed!” said Andrée, “that is singular.”

And by degrees, as the clouds close again after having been rent asunder by the lightning, the countenance of the young woman, so violently agitated at the sound of that fatal name, recovered its serenity, and but a few muscles of her lovely face continued to tremble almost imperceptibly, like the last flashes of the tempest which vanish in the horizon.

“Gilbert!” she repeated; “I do not know that name.”

“Yes, Gilbert,” repeated the queen; “come, try to recollect, my dear Andrée.”

“But, Madame,” said the count to Marie Antoinette, “perhaps it is mere chance, and this name may be unknown to the countess.”

“No,” said Andrée, “no; it is not unknown to me. It is that of a learned man, of a skilful physician who has just arrived from America, I believe, and who became intimate while there with Monsieur de Lafayette.”

“Well, then?” asked the count.

“Well, then!” repeated Andrée, with the greatest presence of mind; “I do not know him personally, but he is said to be a very honorable man.”

“Then why all this emotion, my dear countess?” observed the queen.

“This emotion! Have I then been excited?”

“Yes; one would have said that when you pronounced the name Gilbert, you felt as if undergoing torture.”

“It is possible; I will tell you how it happened. I met a person in the king's cabinet, who was dressed in black, a man of austere countenance, who spoke of gloomy and horrible subjects; he related with the most frightful reality the assassination of Monsieur de Launay and Monsieur de Flesselles. I became terrified on hearing this intelligence, and I fell into the swoon in which you saw me. It may be that I spoke at that time; perhaps I then pronounced the name of Monsieur Gilbert.”

“It is possible,” repeated Monsieur de Charny, who was evidently not disposed to push the questioning any further. “But now you feel recovered, do you not, Madame?”


“I will then beg of you to do one thing, Monsieur de Charny,” said the queen.

“I am at the disposal of your Majesty.”

“Go and find out Messieurs de Besenval, de Broglie, and de Lambesq. Tell them to quarter their troops where they now are. The king will decide to-morrow in council what must be done.”

The count bowed; but before leaving the room, he cast a last look at Andrée.

That look was full of affectionate anxiety.

It did not escape the queen.

“Countess,” said she, “will you not return to the king's apartment with me?”

“No, Madame, no,” replied Andrée, quickly.

“And why not?”

“I ask your Majesty's permission to withdraw to my own apartment. The emotions I have undergone make me feel the want of rest.”

“Come now, Countess, speak frankly,” said the queen.

“Have you had any disagreement with his Majesty?”

“Oh, by no means, Madame! absolutely nothing.”

“Oh, tell me, if anything has happened! The king does not always spare my friends.”

“The king is, as usual, full of kindness to me, but—”

“But you have no great wish to see him. Is it not so? There must positively be something at the bottom of all this, Count,” said the queen, with affected gayety.

At this moment Andrée directed so expressive, so supplicating a look at the queen,—a look so full of revelations, that the latter understood it was time to put an end to this minor war.

“In fact, Countess,” said she, “we will leave Monsieur de Charny to execute the commission I intrusted to him, and you can retire or remain here, according to your choice.”

“Thank you, Madame,” said Andrée.

“Go, then, Monsieur de Charny,” continued Marie Antoinette, while she noticed the expression of gratitude which was visible on the features of Andrée.

Either the count did not perceive, or did not wish to perceive it. He took the hand of his wife, and complimented her on the return of her strength and color.

Then, making a most respectful bow to the queen, he left the room.

But while leaving the room he exchanged a last look with Marie Antoinette.

The queen's look meant to say, “Return quickly.” That of the count replied, “As soon as possible.”

As to Andrée, she followed with her eyes every one of her husband's movements, her bosom palpitating, and almost breathless.

She seemed to accelerate with her wishes the slow and noble step with which he approached the door. She, as it were, pushed him out of the room with the whole power of her will.

Therefore was it that, as soon as he had closed the door, as soon as he had disappeared, all the strength that Andrée had summoned to assist her in surmounting the difficulties of her position abandoned her; her face became pale, her limbs failed beneath her, and she fell into an arm-chair which was within her reach, while she endeavored to apologize to the queen for her involuntary breach of etiquette.

The queen ran to the chimney-piece, took a smelling-bottle of salts, and making Andrée inhale them, she was soon restored to her senses, but more by the power of her own will than by the efficacy of the attentions she received at the royal hands.

In fact, there was something strange in the conduct of these two women. The queen seemed to love Andrée; Andrée respected the queen greatly, and nevertheless at certain moments they did not appear to be, the one an affectionate queen, the other a devoted subject, but two determined enemies.

As we have already said, the potent will of Andrée soon restored her strength. She rose up, respectfully removed the queen's hand, and, courtesying to her:—

“Your Majesty,” said she, “has given me permission to retire to my own room.”

“Yes, undoubtedly; and you are always free, dear Countess, and this you know full well. Etiquette is not intended for you. But before you retire, have you nothing to tell me?”

“I, Madame?” asked Andrée. “Yes, you, without doubt.”

“No: what should I have to tell you?”

“In regard to this Monsieur Gilbert, the sight of whom has made so strong an impression upon you.”

Andrée trembled; but she merely made a sign of denial.

“In that case, I will not detain you any longer, dear Andrée; you may go.”

And the queen took a step towards the door of the dressing-room, which communicated with her bedroom.

Andrée, on her side, having made her obeisance to the queen in the most irreproachable manner, was going towards the door.

But at the very moment she was about to open it, steps were heard in the corridor, and a hand was placed on the external handle of the door.

At the same time the voice of Louis XVI. was heard, giving orders for the night to his valet.

“The king, Madame!” said Andrée, retreating several steps; “the king!”

“And what of that? Yes, it is the king,” said Marie Antoinette. “Does he terrify you to such a degree as this?”

“Madame, in the name of Heaven,” cried Andrée, “let me not see the king! Let me not meet the king face to face, at all events this evening. I should die of shame.”

“But finally you will tell me—”

“Everything—yes, everything—if your Majesty requires it. But hide me!”

“Go into my boudoir,” said Marie Antoinette. “You can leave it as soon as the king himself retires. Rest assured your captivity will not be of long duration; the king never remains here long.”

“Oh, thanks!—thanks!” exclaimed the countess. And rushing into the boudoir, she disappeared at the very moment that the king, having opened the door, appeared upon the threshold of the chamber.

The king entered.

“Good-day, Mademoiselle Catherine.”

Catherine was a good, kind-hearted girl, and she welcomed Pitou as an old acquaintance. He was in point of fact an old acquaintance, for during two or three years she had seen him passing and repassing before the farmgate at least once a week; only that Catherine saw Pitou, and Pitou did not see Catherine. The reason was, that at first when Pitou used to pass by the farm in this manner Catherine was sixteen years old and Pitou but fourteen. We have just seen what happened when Pitou in his turn had attained his sixteenth year.

By degrees Catherine had learned to appreciate the talents of Pitou, for Pitou had given her evidence of his talents by offering to her his finest birds and his fattest rabbits. The result of this was that Catherine complimented him upon these talents, and that Pitou, who was the more sensible to compliments from his being so little habituated to receive them, allowed the charm of novelty to influence him, and instead of going on straightforward, as heretofore, to the Wolf's Heath, he would stop half way, and instead of employing the whole of his day in picking up beech-mast and in laying his wires, he would lose his time in sauntering round Father Billot's farm, in the hope of seeing Catherine, were it only for a moment.

The result of this was a very sensible diminution in the produce of rabbit-skins, and a complete scarcity of robin-redbreasts and thrushes.

Aunt Angélique complained of this. Pitou represented to her that the rabbits had become mistrustful, and that the birds, who had found out the secret of his lime-twigs, now drank out of hollows of trees, or out of leaves that retained the water.

There was one consideration which consoled Aunt Angélique for this increase in the intelligence of the rabbits and the cunning of the birds, which she attributed to the progress of philosophy, and this was that her nephew would obtain the purse, enter the seminary, pass three years there, and on leaving it would be an abbé. Now, being housekeeper to an abbé had been the constant aim of Mademoiselle Angélique's ambition.

This ambition could not fail of being gratified; for Ange Pitou, having once become an abbé, could not do otherwise than take his aunt for housekeeper, and above all, after what his aunt had done for him.

The only thing which disturbed the golden dreams of the old maid was, when speaking of this hope to the Abbé Fortier, the latter replied, shaking his head:—

“My dear Demoiselle Pitou, in order to become an abbe, your nephew should give himself up less to the study of natural history, and much more to De viris illustribus, or to the Selectæ è profanis scriptoribus.”

“And which means?” said Mademoiselle Angélique, inquiringly.

“That he makes too many barbarisms and infinitely too many solecisms,” replied the Abbé Fortier.

An answer which left Mademoiselle Angélique in the most afflicting state of vagueness and uncertainty.

Beech-mast, we must inform our readers who are less acquainted with forest terms than we are, is the fruit of the beech-tree. This fruit, of which a very good sort of oil is made, is, to the poor, a species of manna, which during two months of the year falls for them from heaven.

[Dumas should also have told his readers that beech-mast is excellent for pigs, and that pheasants, and indeed most kinds of game, are very fond of it.—TRANSLATOR.]

Chapter XXX. A King and a Queen

THE queen, after glancing round, exchanged friendly greetings with the king, who gave her his hand.

“To what good chance,” asked Marie Antoinette, “do I owe this visit?”

“Really to chance; you have spoken correctly, Madame. I have just met De Charny, who said he was commissioned by you to go and tell all our warriors to keep themselves quiet. It affords me much pleasure that you have taken so wise a resolution, and I was unwilling to pass your apartment without thanking you.”

“Yes,” said the queen, “I have in fact reconsidered the matter, and have come to the conclusion that it is decidedly the best course to leave the troops at rest, and thus to afford no pretext for intestine war.”

“Good! that is right!” said the king. “I am delighted to find you of that opinion. I knew very well that I should bring you over to it at last.”

“Your Majesty sees that you have gained your object without much trouble; since, uninfluenced by you, I have formed my decision.”

“Well done! that is a proof that you are almost reasonable, and when I have communicated to you some of my reflections, you will be so altogether.”

“But if we are of the same opinion, Sire, to impart to me these reflections would be useless.”

“Oh, calm yourself, Madame! I have no wish to enter upon discussion; you know well that I like it no more than you do. This will be a conversation. Come, now; are you not glad to talk with me occasionally about the affairs of France, as a good wife does with her spouse about domestic matters?”

These last words were uttered with that perfect good-nature which Louis XVI. invariably manifested towards his familiar friends.

“Oh, Sire,” answered the queen, “I am always happy to do so; but is the time well chosen?”

“I believe that it is. You desire that there should be no hostile demonstration. Did you not this moment say so?”

“I did.”

“But you have not explained to me your reason.”

“You did not ask me.”

“Well, I now ask you.”


“Ah! that is the reason, is it? If you thought yourself the stronger, you would make war.”

“If I thought that I was the stronger, I should burn Paris.”

“Oh, I was certain that your motives for not wishing war were not the same as mine.”

“Well, let us hear yours.”

“ Mine?” asked the king. “Yes,” answered Marie Antoinette, “yours.”

“I have but one.”

“Mention it.”

“Oh, that is soon done! I do not wish to enter into war with the people, because I find that the people are right.”

Marie Antoinette made a gesture of surprise.

“Right!” she exclaimed, “the people right in rebelling!”


“Right in storming the Bastille, in killing the governor, in murdering the provost of the merchants, in exterminating your soldiers?”

“Yes, by Heaven, they were!”

“Oh,” exclaimed the queen, “these are your reflections, and it was such reflections as these that you wished me to hear!”

“I have told you them as they occurred to me.”

“At dinner?”

“Good!” said the king, “we are about to fall back on the subject of nourishment. You cannot pardon me for eating. You would have me poetic and ethereal. What do you wish! In my family we eat. Not only did Henry IV. eat, but he was also a hard drinker; the great and poetic Louis XIV. eat enough to make one blush; King Louis XV., to make sure of good eating and drinking, baked his biscuits with his own royal hands, and had his coffee made by Madame Dubarry. As for me, what would you have? When I am hungry, I cannot resist my appetite; I am compelled to follow the example of my ancestors, Louis XV., Louis XIV., and Henry IV. If this is a constitutional necessity, pray be lenient with me; if it is a fault, forgive me.”

“But, Sire, you must confess—”

“That I ought not to eat when I am hungry; no,” said the king, tranquilly shaking his head.

“I am not talking of that: I speak of the people.”


“You must confess that the people have been in the wrong.”

“In rebelling? Not at all. Come, let us review all our ministers. Since we began to reign, how many have really concerned themselves about the welfare of the people? Two,—Turgot and Monsieur de Necker. You and your coterie have banished them. For one of these gentlemen the people have raised a tumult; for the other they will perhaps raise a revolution. Let us speak a little of the others! Ah! they are charming fellows, are they not? Monsieur de Maurepas, that creature of my aunts, a song-writer! It is not the ministers who should sing, it is the people. Monsieur de Calonne? That epigrammatic answer he made you was admirable, I know well,—a sentence that will live. Once when you asked him for something,—I forget what,—he gallantly replied: 'If it is possible, it is done: if it is impossible, it shall be done.' That epigram cost the people to the tune of a hundred millions. You should not be astonished, therefore, if they find it a little less witty than you do. In truth,—pray understand me, Madame,—if I retain all those who fleece the people, and dismiss all those who love them, it will not be the best means of tranquillizing them and of making them more attached to our government.”

“Good! Then insurrection is a right. Proclaim this principle from the house-tops. In truth I am glad that it is to me alone that you have communicated such ideas. If others heard you!”

“Oh, yes, yes!” replied the king; “you tell me nothing new. Yes, I know well that if Polignac, Dreux-Brézé, Clermont-Tonnerre, and Coigny heard me, they would shrug their shoulders behind me,—I know it well; but in reality they pity me after a very different fashion. That Polignac, to whom one fine morning you made over the county of Fénestrange, which cost you twelve hundred thousand livres; Sartine, to whom I have already given a pension of eighty-nine thousand livres, and who has just received from you two hundred thousand livres ostensibly as a stipendiary fund; the prince of Deux-Ponts, to whom you compelled me to grant nine hundred and fortyfive thousand livres to clear off his debts; Marie de Laval and Madame de Magneville, who each finger a pension of eighty thousand livres; Coigny, who is loaded with all sorts of pensions, and who once, when I thought of making some reduction in his appointments, hedged me in between two doors, and would have beaten me, I believe, if I had not consented to give him all that he wished,—all these people are your friends, are they not? Well, speak about them. But this much I will say, and I know you will not believe it, because it is the truth; if instead of being at court, these friends of yours had been in the Bastille, the people would have fortified the place instead of demolishing it.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the queen, with a gesture of anger she was unable to suppress.

“You may say what you please, but that is the case,” said Louis, tranquilly.

“Oh, your beloved people! Ah, well! they will not have occasion much longer to hate my friends, for they are going into exile.”

“They are going away!” exclaimed the king.

“Yes, they are going away.”

“Polignac? the women?”


“So much the better,” exclaimed the king, “so much the better! God be praised!”

“How so much the better? How God be praised? Are you not sorry?”

“No, indeed; far from it. Do they need money to take them away? I will give it them. That money at least will not be ill employed, I will warrant. I wish you a pleasant journey, gentlemen; and you also, ladies,” said the king, all radiant.

“Yes,” said the queen, “I can understand that you like cowardice.”

“Well, let us understand each other; you are doing them justice at last.”

“They are not dismissed; they are deserting.”

“No matter, so that they take themselves off!”

“And to think that it is your family who have advised such despicable conduct!”

“My family advised your favorites to go away! I never gave my family credit for so much sense. And tell me which members of my family have done me this service, that I may thank them.”

“Your aunt Adelaide; your brother D'Artois.”

“My brother D'Artois! Do you believe he will follow the advice he gives? Do you think that he also will go away?”

“Why not?” exclaimed Marie Antoinette, trying to vex the king.

“Heaven grant it!” exclaimed Louis; “let Monsieur d'Artois take his departure; I should say to him what I have said to the others: A good journey to you, brother d'Artois! I wish you a very pleasant journey!”

“Ah! your brother!” exclaimed Marie Antoinette. “True; but what quality has he to make his presence desirable? A good little fellow enough, who lacks neither wit nor courage, I grant you; but who has no brains; who acts the French prince like a fop of the time of Louis XII.,—a blundering blockhead, who has compromised even you, the wife of Cæsar.”

“Cæsar!” muttered the queen, with cutting irony.

“Or Claudius, if you like it better,” answered the king; “for you know, Madame, that Claudius, as well as Nero, was a Cæsar.”

The queen looked down. This historical coolness confused her not a little.

“Claudius,” continued the king,—“since you prefer the name of Claudius to that of Cæsar,—Claudius was obliged one evening, as you are aware, to shut the gate of Versailles, in order to give you a lesson when you stayed out too late. It was Monsieur d'Artois who got you that lesson. I shall not miss, therefore, the Count d'Artois. As for my aunt, ah, well! we know what we know about her. She is another who deserves to be enrolled in the family of the Cæsars. But I say no more; she is my aunt. Let her go in peace; I shall not miss her a whit more than I shall the others. Then, there is Monsieur de Provence; do you think I should feel sorry at his leaving? A good journey to him!”

“Oh, he does not speak of going!”

“So much the worse! You see, my dear, Monsieur de Provence knows Latin too well for me. I am obliged to speak English to be even with him. It was Monsieur de Provence who put Beaumarchais on our shoulders, thrusting him in at Bicêtre, For-Lévêque and I know not where, on his own private authority, and a fine return has been made us for all this by this same Monsieur de Beaumarchais. Ah, Monsieur de Provence will remain, will he? So much the worse, so much the worse! There is one thing of which I should like you to be aware, Madame, and it is this,—in your whole household, I know but one honest man, Monsieur de Charny.”

The queen blushed and turned away.

“We were talking about the Bastille,” continued the king, after a short silence, “and you were lamenting that it was taken.”

“Be seated at least, Sire,” replied the queen, “since it would appear that you have still many things to tell me.”

“No, thank you, I like better to walk while speaking; by thus walking, I attend to my health, about which nobody else seems to take the slightest concern; for though my appetite is good, my digestion is bad. Do you know what they are saying at this moment? They are saying: 'The king has supped; the king sleeps.' Now you see how I sleep,—bolt upright, trying to aid my digestion while I talk on politics with my wife. Ah, Madame, I am expiating,—expiating!”

“Expiating what, if you please?”

“The sins of a century whose scapegoat I am; I am expiating the sins of Madame de Pompadour, Madame Dubarry, the Parc-aux-Cerfs; the sins of poor Latude, who for thirty years rotted in dungeons, and was immortalized by suffering,—one more victim who caused the Bastille to be detested. Poor fellow! Ah, Madame! what blunders I have made in giving effect to the stupid measures of others! Philosophers, political economists, scientists, men of letters, I have taken part in persecuting them all. Good Heavens! these men asked for nothing better than to love me. If they had loved me they would have at once constituted the glory and the happiness of my reign. Monsieur Rousseau, for example, that bugbear of Sartines and others—ah well! I saw him one day myself, that day you made him come to Trianon, you recollect. His clothes, it is true, were ill brushed, and it is also true that his beard was long; but he was nevertheless a good man. If I had donned my rough gray coat and thick stockings, and had said to Monsieur Rousseau, 'Let us go and gather mosses in the woods of Ville d'Avray—'“

“Ah, well! what then?” interrupted the queen, with supreme contempt.

“Well, then Monsieur Rousseau would not have written the 'Vicar of Savoy' nor the 'Social Contract.'“

“Yes, yes, I am well aware of that; that is the way you reason,” said Marie Antoinette. “You are a prudent man; you fear your people as the dog does his master.”

“Not so, but as the master fears his dog; it is something to be sure that one's dog will not bite him. Madame, when I walk with Médor, that Pyrenean hound of which the king of Spain made me a present, I feel quite proud of his friendship. Laugh if you will, but it is nevertheless true that Médor, if he was not my friend, would chew me up with his great white teeth. You see I say to him: 'Pretty Médor, good Médor,' and he licks me. I prefer his tongue to his tusks.”

“Be it so, then; flatter the revolutionists, caress them, throw titbits to them.”

“Oh, the very thing I am going to do I have no other project, believe me. Yes, my decision is taken. I will lay up a little money, and then I will deal with these gentlemen as if they were so many Cerberi. Ah, but stay! There is Monsieur de Mirabeau—”

“Oh, yes! tell me about that ferocious brute.”

“With fifty thousand livres a month he will be a Médor, whereas if we wait, he will not perhaps be satisfied with less than half a million.”

The queen laughed scornfully.

“Oh, the idea of flattering people like him!”

“Monsieur Bailly,” continued the king, “having become minister of arts—an office which I am going to institute for my amusement—will be another Médor. Pardon me, Madame, if I do not entertain the same views that you do, but I am of the same opinion as my ancestor Henry IV. He was a profound politician if there ever was one, and I remember well what he said.”

“What did he say?”

“'Flies are not caught with vinegar.'“

“Sancho said that also, or something very like it.”

“Well, Sancho would have made the people of Barataria very happy, had there been such a place as Barataria.”

“Sire, your ancestor Henry IV., whom you bring forward, caught wolves as well as flies. Witness Marshal de Biron, whose throat he cut. He could say then what he pleased. By reasoning like Henry and acting as you do, you take all prestige from royalty, which can only exist by prestige. You degrade the principle, 'What will majesty become?' Majesty, I am aware, is but a word, but in this word centre all the royal virtues: 'He who respects, loves; he who loves, obeys—'“

“Ah! let us speak of majesty,” interrupted the king, with a smile; “yes, let us speak of it. You, for example, are as majestic as one can be; and I know of none in Europe, not even your mother, Marie Thérèse, who has promoted as you have the science of majesty.”

“I understand you; you mean that my majesty does not prevent my being abhorred by the French people.”

“I do not say 'abhorred,' my dear Antoinette,” said the king, gently; “but perhaps you are not so much loved as you deserve to be.”

“Sir,” said the queen, deeply wounded, “you only echo all that is said. I have, nevertheless, injured nobody; on the contrary, I have often benefited my sub- jets. Why should they hate me as you say? Why should they not love me, were it not that there are people who make it their business to repeat daily, 'The queen is not loved!' Are you aware, sir, that one voice alone is needed to say that, in order that a hundred voices should repeat it; a hundred voices evoke ten thousand. Then, in unison with these ten thousand voices everybody repeats: 'The queen is not loved!' And the queen is not loved simply because one person said: 'The queen is not loved!'“

“Good heavens!” muttered the king.

“Thank goodness,” interrupted the queen, “I have but little faith in popularity; but I also believe that my unpopularity is exaggerated. Praises are not showered down upon me, it is true; but I was once the popular idol, and because they loved me too much, they now run to the opposite extreme and hate me.”

“Stay, Madame,” said the king; “you know not the whole truth, and are still laboring under a delusion; were we not talking of the Bastille?”


“Well, there was a large room in the Bastille full of all sorts of books written against you. They will surely have burned all that.”

“With what did these books accuse me?”

Ah, you very well know, Madame, that I take not upon me to be your accuser, and have no wish to be your judge. When these pamphlets appeared, I had the whole edition seized and buried in the Bastille. But sometimes these books fall into my own hands. For instance, I have one here now,” said the king, striking his coat pocket, “and it is simply abominable.”

“Show it me,” cried the queen.

“I cannot,” said the king; “it contains engravings.”

“And have you come to that? Have you reached that point of blindness and imbecility that you do not even attempt to trace all these base slanders to their source?”

“That is just what I have done. I have traced them to their source; there is not one of my lieutenants of police who has not grown gray in that service.”

“Then you know the author of these indignities?”

“I know one of the authors, at least,—Monsieur Furth, the author of that one; there is his receipt for 22,500 livres. You see when the thing is worth the trouble, I do not regard the expense.”

“But the others,—the others!”

“Ah, they are often poor hungry wretches who vegetate in England or Holland. We are bitten, stung, irritated; we ferret them out, expecting to find a serpent, a crocodile, to crush, to kill. Nothing of the sort; but we find an insect, so mean, so base, so despicable, that we dare not dirty our hands by touching it, even to punish it.”

“That is all very fine! But if you care not to touch insects, why not accuse boldly the sun which calls them into existence. In truth, we may safely affirm that their sun is Philip of Orléans.”

“Ha!” exclaimed the king, clapping his hands, “are you there? Monsieur d'Orléans! nay, nay, seek not to embroil me with him.”

“Embroil you with your enemy, Sire! Oh, the idea is original!”

The king shrugged his shoulders.

“There now,” said he, “there is your system of interpreting matters. Monsieur d'Orléans! You attack Monsieur d'Orléans, who has just placed himself under my orders to fight the rebels,—who leaves Paris and hastens to Versailles! Monsieur d'Orléans my enemy! Truly, Madame, the hatred you bear to the house of Orléans surpasses all conception.”

“Oh, he has come, has he? and do you know the reason? He fears that his absence might be remarked in the general demonstration of loyalty. He has come because he is a coward.”

“Indeed! We are going to begin again. Whoever first imputed such motives to Orléans is a coward. You had it inserted in your gazette that he showed the white feather at Ushant, because you wished to dishonor him. Ah, well! it was a calumny, Madame. Philip was not afraid; Philip did not flee. Had he fled, he would not belong to the family. The Orléans are brave. The fact is indisputable. The chief of the family, who seemed rather to have descended from Henry III. than from Henry IV., was brave, in spite of D'Effiat and Chevalier de Lorraine. He braved death at the battle of Cassel. The regent had indeed some trifling things to say against him on the score of manners; but he exposed his life at Steinkerque, at Nerwinde, and at Almanza like the meanest soldier in his army. Tell only half the truth, Madame, if you will; but tell not the evil that has no existence.”

“Your Majesty is in the vein of whitewashing all the revolutionists. You will see, you will see what that fellow is worth. Oh, if I regret the destruction of the Bastille, it is on his account; yes, I repent that criminals were thrown into it, while he was at large.”

“Ah, well!” said the king, “if Monsieur d'Orléans had been in the Bastille, we should be in a fine predicament to-day.”

“In that case what would have happened, I should like to know?”

“You are aware, Madame, that his bust was prome- naded round, crowned with flowers, together with that of Monsieur de Necker.”

“I am.”

“Ah, well! once out of the Bastille, Monsieur d'Orléans would have been king of France.”

“And perhaps you would have thought that just,” said Marie Antoinette, in a tone of bitter irony.

“I' faith, yes; shrug your shoulders as much as you please. To judge others, I look at matters from their point of view. From the height of the throne we cannot well see the people; I descend to their level, and I ask myself if as a burgess or a clod-hopper I could suffer a noble to count me among his cows and poultry as a chattel! if, as a farmer, I could endure that my lord's ten thousand pigeons should daily eat ten grains each of wheat, oats, or buckwheat, that is to say, about two bushels, whilst his hares and rabbits browsed on my clover, whilst his wild boars rooted up my potatoes, whilst his tax-gatherers tithed my produce, whilst my lord himself kissed my wife and daughters, whilst the king pressed my sons into his army, and whilst the priest, in his moments of passion, condemned my soul to endless misery.”

“Why, sir,” interrupted the queen, whose eyes flashed thunderbolts, “you should take a pickaxe and go and aid in the demolition of the Bastille.”

“You laugh,” replied the king; “but, by my troth, I should go, were it not ridiculous for a king to handle a pickaxe, when he could have the same work done by a single dash of the pen. Yes, I should take the pickaxe, and they would applaud me, as I applauded those who accomplished the business. Nay, Madame, they did me a famous service in demolishing the Bastille, and to you they did a still greater; yes, to you, who can no longer throw, according to the whims of your friends, honest people into dungeons.”

“Honest people in the Bastille! I—I sent honest people there! Oh, perhaps Monsieur de Rohan is an honest man!”

“Oh, speak no more of him; I speak not of him myself. Our sending him there was not a success, seeing that the parliament set him at liberty. Besides, it was no place for a prince of the Church, since in our time forgers were sent to the Bastille; and, indeed, I ask what forgers and robbers were doing there. Have I not prisons in Paris which cost me dear enough for the entertainment of these gentry? But let the forgers and robbers pass; the evil is that honest men were sent there.”

“Honest men?”

“Undoubtedly; I have seen this very day an honest man who was incarcerated there, and who only got out a very short time since.”

“When was that?”

“This morning.”

“You have this evening seen a man who got out of the

Bastille this morning?”

“I have just parted with him.”

“Who is it?”

“Faith, one of your acquaintance.”

“Of my acquaintance!”


“Might I ask his name?”

“Doctor Gilbert.”

“Gilbert! Gilbert!” exclaimed the queen. “What! he whom Andrée named on returning to her senses?”

“Precisely so; it must have been he; I could swear to it.”

“Was that man in the Bastille?”

“Faith, Madame, one would suppose that you were ignorant of the fact.”

“I am entirely ignorant of it.”

And, perceiving that the king looked astonished:—

“Unless,” continued the queen, “for some reason I may have forgotten it.”

“Ah! there,” exclaimed the king, “for these acts of injustice there is always a reason which one forgets. But though you may have forgotten both the reason and the doctor, Madame de Charny has forgotten neither, I will answer for it.”

“Sire! Sire!” exclaimed Marie Antoinette.

“There must have been something between them,” the king continued.

“Sire, please to refrain!” said the queen, looking anxiously towards the boudoir, where Andrée was concealed, and could hear all that was said.

“Oh, yes!” said the king, laughing; “you fear that De Charny may chance to learn. Poor De Charny!”

“Sire, I entreat you; Madame de Charny is one of the purest of women, and I should rather believe, I assure you, that this Doctor Gilbert—”

“Pshaw!” interrupted the king, “do you accuse that honest fellow? I know what I know; and the worst of it is that, knowing so much, I do not yet know all.”

“Really, I am horrified that you should persist in entertaining such suspicions,” said the queen, without removing her eyes from the cabinet.

“Oh,” continued Louis, “I am in no hurry; I shall lose nothing by waiting a little. The beginning promises me an interesting conclusion, and I can learn the conclusion from Gilbert himself, he being now my doctor.”

“Your doctor! that fellow your doctor! You can trust the life of the king to a stranger!”

“Oh,” replied the king, coolly, “I have confidence in my first impressions, and I needed only a glance to read that man's inmost soul.”

The queen uttered a groan, from mingled anger and disdain.

“You can sneer at me as you will,” said the king, “but you can never shake my confidence in the learning and science of Doctor Gilbert.”


“I should like to see you in my place. I should like to know if Monsieur Mesmer was not able to make some impression on you and Madame de Lamballe.”

“Monsieur Mesmer?” asked the queen, blushing.

“Yes; four years ago you went disguised to one of his meetings. Oh, my police are drilled thoroughly. You see I know all.”

And the king, while uttering these words, smiled kindly on Marie Antoinette.

“You know all, Sire,” answered the queen; “and you are a good dissembler, for you have never once spoken to me on the subject.”

“Why should I have done so? I am sure the novelists and newspaper reporters abused you sufficiently on that score. But to return to Gilbert and at the same time to Mesmer. Monsieur Mesmer placed you round a vat, touched you with a steel rod, surrounded himself with a thousand phantasmagories, like the quack that he was. Gilbert uses no such illusions; he extends his hand over a woman; she sleeps, and sleeping, talks.”

“Talks!” muttered the queen, terrified.

“Yes,” replied the king, not unwilling to prolong somewhat his wife's little nervousness; “yes, put to sleep by Gilbert, she talks, and, believe me, says very strange things.”

The queen grew pale.

“Madame de Charny may have said very strange things!” she muttered.

“Most strange,” said the king. “It was very fortunate for her—”

“Hush! hush!” interrupted Marie Antoinette.

“Why hush? I say that it was very fortunate for her that I alone heard what she said in her sleep.”

“Oh, for pity's sake, Sire, say not a word more!”

“Indeed, I had much rather talk no more. I feel ready to drop with weariness; and as I eat when I am hungry, so do I go to bed when I am sleepy. So good-night, Madame, and may our conversation leave upon you a salutary impression.”

“In what way, Sire?”

“The people were right in undoing what we and our friends had done, witness my poor Doctor Gilbert. Adieu, Madame; trust me that after signalling the danger, I shall have the courage to prevent it. Pleasant dreams, Antoinette.”

And the king moved towards the door.

“À propos,” said he, turning round, “warn Madame de Charny that she has to make her peace with the doctor if it is not now too late. Adieu.”

He slowly retired, shutting the doors himself with all the satisfaction of the mechanic when his locks work well under the pressure of his fingers.

The king had not taken half a dozen steps in the corridor, when the countess issued from the boudoir, ran to the doors and bolted them, and to the windows and drew the curtains. She seemed to be excited with all the energy of rage and madness. Then, having assured her- self that she could neither be seen nor heard, she returned to the queen with a heart-rending cry, fell on her knees, and exclaimed,—“Save me, Madame; for Heaven's sake, save me!” Then, after a pause followed by a long sigh, she added:

“And I will tell you all.”


Volume II

Chapter I. What the Queen's Thoughts were, during the Night from July 14 to July 15, 1789

How long the interview between Andrée and the queen lasted, it would be impossible for us to say; but it was certainly of considerable duration, for at about eleven o'clock that night the door of the queen's boudoir was seen to open, and on the threshold Andrée, almost on her knees, kissing the hand of Marie Antoinette. After which, having raised herself up, the young woman dried her eyes, red with weeping, while the queen, on her side, re-entered her room.

Andrée, on the contrary, walked away rapidly, as if she desired to escape from her own thoughts.

After this, the queen was alone. When the lady of the bedchamber entered the room, to assist her in undressing, she found her pacing the room with rapid strides, and her eyes flashing with excitement. She made a quick movement with her hand, which meant to say, “Leave me.”

The lady of the bedchamber left the room, without offering an observation.

The queen again found herself alone. She had given orders that no one should disturb her, unless it was to announce the arrival of important news from Paris.

Andrée did not appear again.

As for the king, after he had conversed with Monsieur de la Rochefoucault, who endeavored to make him comprehend the difference there was between a riot and a revolution,—he declared himself fatigued, went to bed, and slept as quietly as if he had returned from a hunt, and the stag (a well-trained courtier) had suffered himself to be taken in the grand basin of the fountain called the Swiss.

The queen, however, wrote several letters, went into an adjoining room, where her two children slept under the care of Madame de Tourzel, and then went to bed, not for the sake of sleeping, like the king, but merely to meditate more at ease.

But soon after, when silence reigned around Versailles, when the immense palace became plunged in darkness, when there could no longer be heard in the gardens aught but the tramp of the patrols upon the gravel-walks, and in the long passages nothing but the ringing of muskets on the marble pavement, Marie Antoinette, tired of repose, felt the want of air, got out of bed, and putting on her, velvet slippers and a long white dressing-gown, went to the window to inhale the ascending freshness of the cascades, and to seize in their flight those counsels which the night winds murmur to heated minds and oppressed hearts.

Then she reviewed in her mind all the astounding events which this strange day had produced.

The fall of the Bastille, that visible emblem of royal power, the uncertainties of Charny, her devoted friend, that impassioned captive who for so many years had been subjected to her yoke, and who during all those years had never breathed anything but love, now seemed for the first time to sigh from regret and feelings of remorse.

With that synthetic habit with which the knowledge of men and events endows great minds, Marie Antoinette immediately divided the agitation which oppressed her into two portions, the one being her political misfortunes, the other the sorrows of her heart.

The political misfortune was that great event, the news of which had left Paris at three o'clock in the afternoon, and was then spreading itself over the whole world, and weakening in every mind that sacred reverence which until then had always been accorded to kings, God's mandatories upon earth.

The sorrow of her heart was the gloomy resistance of Charny to the omnipotence of his well-beloved sovereign. It appeared to her like a presentiment that, without ceasing to be faithful and devoted, his love would cease to be blind, and might begin to argue with itself on its fidelity and its devotedness.

This thought grieved the queen's heart poignantly, and filled it with that bitter gall which is called jealousy, an acrid poison which ulcerates at the same instant a thousand little wounds in a wounded soul.

Nevertheless, grief in the presence of misfortune was logically of secondary importance.

Thus, rather from reasoning than from conscientious motives, rather from necessity than from instinct, Marie Antoinette first allowed her mind to enter into the grave reflections connected with the dangerous state of political affairs.

In which direction could she turn Before her lay hatred and ambition,—weakness and indifference at her side.

For enemies she had people who, having commenced with calumny, were now organizing a rebellion,—people whom, consequently, no consideration would induce to retreat.

For defenders—we speak of the greater portion at least of those men who, little by little, had accustomed themselves to endure everything, and who, in consequence, no longer felt the depth of their wounds, their degradation—people who would hesitate to defend themselves, for fear of attracting attention.

It was therefore necessary to bury everything in oblivion,—to appear to forget, and yet to remember; to feign to forgive, and yet not pardon.

This would be conduct unworthy of a queen of France; it was especially unworthy of the daughter of Maria Theresa—that high-minded woman.

To resist!—to resist!—that was what offended royal pride most strenuously counselled. But was it prudent to resist? Could hatred be calmed down by shedding blood? Was it not terrible to be surnamed “The Austrian”? Was it necessary, in order to consecrate that name, as Isabeau and Catherine de Médicis consecrated theirs, to give it the baptism of a universal massacre?

And then, if what Charny had said was true, success was doubtful.

To combat and to be defeated!

Such were the political sorrows of the queen, who during certain phases of her meditation felt a sensation like that which we experience on seeing a serpent glide from beneath the brambles, awakened by our advancing steps. She felt, on emerging from the depths of her sufferings as a queen, the despair of the woman who thinks herself but little loved, when in reality she had been loved too much.

Charny had said, what we have already heard him say, not from conviction, but from lassitude. He had, like many others, drunk calumny from the same cup that she had. Charny, for the first time, had spoken in such affectionate terms of his wife, Andrée being until then almost forgotten by her husband. Had Charny then perceived that his young wife was still beautiful? And at this single idea, which stung her like the envenomed bite of the asp, Marie Antoinette was astounded to find that misfortune was nothing in comparison with disappointed love.

For what misfortune had failed to do, unrequited love was gradually effecting within her soul. The woman sprang furiously from the chair in which the queen had calmly contemplated danger.

The whole destiny of this privileged child of suffering revealed itself in the condition of her mind during that night.

For how was it possible to escape misfortune and disappointment at the same time, she would ask herself, with constantly renewing anguish. Was it necessary to determine on abandoning a life of royalty, and could she live happily in a state of mediocrity?—was it necessary to return to her own Trianon, and to her Swiss cottage, to the quiet shores of the lake and the humble amusements of the dairy?—was it necessary to allow the people to divide among them the shreds of monarchy, excepting some few fragments which the woman might appropriate to herself from the imaginary indebtedness of the faithful few, who would still persist in considering themselves her vassals?

Alas! it was now that the serpent of jealousy began to sting still deeper.

Happy! Could she be happy with the humiliation of despised love?

Happy! Could she be happy by the side of the king,—that vulgar husband in whom everything was deficient to form the hero?

Happy! Could she be happy with Monsieur de Charny, who might be so with some woman whom he loved,—by the side of his own wife, perhaps?

And this thought kindled in the poor queen's breast all those flaming torches which consumed Dido even more than her funeral pile.

But in the midst of this feverish torture, she saw a ray of hope; in the midst of this shuddering anguish, she felt a sensation of joy. God, in his infinite mercy, has he not created evil to make us appreciate good?

Andrée had intrusted the queen with all her secrets; she had unveiled the one shame of her life to her rival. Andrée, her eyes full of tears, her head bowed down to the ground, had confessed to the queen that she was no longer worthy of the love and the respect of an honorable man: therefore Charny could never love Andrée.

But Charny is ignorant of this. Charny will ever be ignorant of that catastrophe at Trianon, and its consequences. Therefore, to Charny it is as if the catastrophe had never taken place.

And while making these reflections the queen examined her fading beauty in the mirror of her mind, and deplored the loss of her gayety, the freshness of her youth.

Then she thought of Andrée, of the strange and almost incredible adventures which she had just related to her.

She wondered at the magical working of blind fortune, which had brought to Trianon, from the shade of a hut and the muddy furrows of a farm, a little gardener's boy, to associate his destinies with those of a highly born young lady, who was herself associated with the destinies of a queen.

“Thus,” said she to herself, “the atom which was thus lost in the lowest regions, has come, by a freak of superior attraction, to unite itself, like a fragment of a diamond, with the heavenly light of the stars.”

This gardener's boy, this Gilbert, was he not a living symbol of that which was occurring at that moment,—a man of the people, rising from the lowness of his birth to busy himself with the politics of a great kingdom; a strange comedian, in whom were personified, by a privilege granted to him by the evil spirit who was then hovering over France, not only the insult offered to the nobility, but also the attack made upon the monarchy by a plebeian mob?

This Gilbert, now become a learned man,—this Gilbert, dressed in the black coat of the Tiers État, the counsellor of Monsieur de Necker, the confidant of the king of France, would now find himself, thanks to the Revolution, on an equal footing with the woman whose honor, like a thief, he had stolen in the night.

The queen had again become a woman, and shuddering in spite of herself at the sad story related by Andrée, she was endeavoring to study the character of this Gilbert, and to learn by herself to read in human features what God had placed there to indicate so strange a character; and notwithstanding the pleasure she had experienced on seeing the humiliation of her rival, she still felt a lingering desire to attack the man who had caused a woman such intensity of suffering.

Moreover, notwithstanding the terror generally inspired by the sight of monsters, she felt a desire to look at, and perhaps even to admire, this extraordinary man, who by a crime had infused his vile blood into the most aristocratic veins in France,—this man who appeared to have organized the Revolution, in order that it should open the gates of the Bastille for him, in which, but for that Revolution, he would have remained immured forever, to teach him that a plebeian must remember nothing.

In consequence of this connecting link in her ideas, the queen reverted to her political vexations, and saw the responsibility of all she had suffered accumulate upon one single head.

Thus the author of the popular rebellion that had just shaken the royal power by levelling the Bastille was Gilbert,—he whose principles had placed weapons in the hands of the Billots, the Maillards, the Elies, and the Hullins.

Gilbert was therefore both a venomous and a terrible being,—venomous, because he had caused the loss of Andrée as a lover; terrible, because he had just assisted in overthrowing the Bastille as an enemy.

It was therefore necessary to know, in order to avoid him; or rather, to know him, in order to make use of him.

It was necessary, at any cost, to converse with this man, to examine him closely, and to judge him personally.

Two thirds of the night had already flown away, three o'clock was striking, and the first rays of the rising sun gilded the high tops of the trees in the park, and the summits of the statues of Versailles.

The queen had passed the whole night without sleeping; her eyes wandered vaguely up and down the avenues, where streaks of soft light began to appear.

A heavy and burning slumber gradually seized the unfortunate woman.

She fell back, with her neck overhanging the back of the arm-chair, near the open window.

She dreamed that she was walking in Trianon, and that there appeared to her eyes, at the extremity of a flowerbed, a grinning gnome, similar to those we read of in German ballads; that this sardonic monster was Gilbert, who extended his hooked fingers towards her.

She screamed aloud.

Another cry answered hers.

That cry roused her from her slumber.

It was Madame de Tourzel who had uttered it. She had just entered the queen's apartment, and seeing her exhausted and gasping in an arm-chair, she could not avoid giving utterance to her grief and surprise.

“The queen is indisposed!” she exclaimed.”The queen is suffering. Shall I send for a physician?”

The queen opened her eyes. This question of Madame de Tourzel coincided with the demands of her own curiosity.

“Yes, a physician!” she replied; “Doctor Gilbert!—send for Doctor Gilbert!”

“Who is Doctor Gilbert?” asked Madame de Tourzel.

“A new physician, appointed by the king only yesterday, I believe, and just arrived from America.”

“I know whom her Majesty means,” said one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting.

“Well?” said the queen, inquiringly.

“Well, Madame, the doctor is in the king's antechamber.”

“Do you know him, then?”

“Yes, your Majesty,” stammered the woman.

“But how can you know him? He arrived here from America some eight or ten days ago, and only came out of the Bastille yesterday.”

“I know him.”

“Answer me distinctly. Where did you know him?” asked the queen, in an imperious tone.

The lady cast down her eyes.

“Come, will you make up your mind to tell me how it happens that you know this man?”

“Madame, I have read his works; and his works having given me a desire to see the author, I had him pointed out to me.”

“Ah!” exclaimed the queen, with an indescribable look of haughtiness and reserve,—“ah! it is well. Since you know him, go and tell him that I am suffering, and that I wish to see him.”

While waiting for the doctor's arrival, the queen made her ladies in attendance enter the room; after which she put on a dressing-gown and adjusted her hair.

Chapter II. The King's Physician

A FEW moments after the queen had expressed the above desire,—a desire which the person to whom it had been mentioned had complied with,—Gilbert, who felt astonished, slightly anxious, and profoundly agitated, but still without showing any external marks of it, presented himself to Marie Antoinette.

The firm and noble carriage, the delicate pallor of the man of science and of thought, to whom study had given a second nature,—a pallor still more enhanced by the black dress which was not only worn by all the deputies of the Tiers État, but also by those who had adopted the principles of the Revolution; the delicate white hand of the surgical operator, surrounded by a plain muslin wristband; his slender though well-formed limbs, which none of those at court could surpass in symmetry, even in the estimation of the connoisseurs of the il-de-Buf (combined with all these, there was a mixture of respectful timidity towards the woman, and of calm courage towards the patient, but no signs of servility towards her as a queen),—such were the plainly written signs that Marie Antoinette, with her aristocratic intelligence, could perceive in the countenance of Gilbert at the moment when the door opened to admit him into her bedchamber.

But the less Gilbert was provoking in his demeanor, the more did the queen feel her anger increase. She had figured him to herself as a type of an odious class of men; she had considered him instinctively, though almost involuntarily, as one of those impudent heroes of whom she had so many around her. The author of the sufferings of Andrée, the bastard pupil of Rousseau, that miserable abortion who had grown up to manhood, that pruner of trees who had become a philosopher and a subduer of souls,—Marie Antoinette, in spite of herself, depicted him in her mind as having the features of Mirabeau; that is to say, of the man she most hated, after the Cardinal de Rohan and Lafayette.

It had seemed to her, before she saw Gilbert, that it required a gigantic physical development to contain so colossal a mind.

But when she saw a young, upright, and slender man, of elegant and graceful form, of sweet and amiable countenance, he appeared to her as having committed the new crime of belying himself by his exterior. Gilbert, a man of the people, of obscure and unknown birth!—Gilbert, the peasant, the clown, and the serf!—Gilbert was guilty, in the eyes of the queen, of having usurped the external appearance of a gentleman and a man of honor. The proud Austrian, the sworn enemy of lying and deception in others, became indignant, and immediately conceived a violent hatred for the unfortunate atom whom so many different motives combined to induce her to abhor.

For those who were intimate with her nature, for those who were accustomed to read in her eyes either serenity of temper or indications of an approaching storm, it was easy to discern that a tempest, full of thunder-claps and flashes of lightning, was raging in the depths of her heart.

But how was it possible for a human being, even a woman, to follow, in the midst of this hurricane of passions and anger, the succession of strange and contrasting feelings which clashed together in the queen's brain, and filled her breast with all the mortal poisons described by Homer!

The queen with a single look dismissed all her attendants, even Madame de Misery.

They immediately left the room.

The queen waited till the door had been closed on the last person; then, casting her eyes upon Gilbert, she perceived that he had not ceased to gaze at her.

So much audacity offended her. The doctor's look was apparently inoffensive; but as it was continual, and was full of meaning, it weighed so heavily upon her that Marie Antoinette felt compelled to repress its importunity.

“Well, then, sir,” said she, with the abruptness of a pistol-shot, “what are you doing there, standing before me and gazing at me, instead of telling me with what complaint I am suffering?”

This furious apostrophe, rendered more forcible by the flashing of her eyes, would have annihilated any of the queen's courtiers; it would even have compelled a marshal of France, a hero, or a demi-god, to fall on his knees before her.

But Gilbert tranquilly replied:—

“It is by means of the eyes, Madame, that the physician must first examine his patient. By looking at your Majesty, who sent for me, I do not satisfy an idle curiosity; I exercise my profession: I obey your orders.”

“Then you must have studied me sufficiently.”

“As much as lay in my power, Madame.”

“Am I ill?”

“Not in the strict sense of the word. But your Majesty is suffering from great over-excitement.”

“Ah! ah!” said Marie Antoinette, ironically, “why do you not say at once that I am in a passion?”

“Let your Majesty allow me, since you have ordered the attendance of a physician, to express myself in medical terms.”

“Be it so. But what is the cause of my over-excitement?”

“Your Majesty has too much knowledge not to be aware that the physician discovers the sufferings of the body, thanks to his experience and the traditions of his studies; but he is not a sorcerer, who can discover at first sight the depths of the human soul.”

“By this you mean to imply, that the second or third time you could tell me not only from what I am suffering, but also what are my thoughts?”

“Perhaps so, Madame,” coldly replied Gilbert.

The queen appeared to tremble with anger: her words seemed to be hanging on her lips, ready to burst forth in burning torrents.

She, however, restrained herself.

“I must believe you,” said she,—“you who are a learned man.”

And she emphasized these last words with so much contempt, that the eye of Gilbert appeared to kindle, in its turn, with the fire of anger.

But a struggle of a few seconds' duration sufficed to this man to give him a complete victory.

Accordingly, with a calm brow and an unembarrassed expression he almost immediately rejoined:—

“It is too kind of your Majesty to give me the title of a learned man without having received any proofs of my knowledge.”

The queen bit her lip.

“You must understand that I do not know if you are a scientific man,” she replied; “but I have heard it said, and I repeat what everybody says.”

“Well, then,” said Gilbert, respectfully, and bowing still lower than he had done hitherto, “a superior mind, like that of your Majesty, must not blindly repeat what is said by the vulgar.”

“Do you mean the people?” said the queen, insolently.

“The vulgar, Madame,” repeated Gilbert, with a firmness which made the blood thrill in the queen's veins, and gave rise to emotions which were as painful to her as they had hitherto been unknown.

“In fine,” answered she, “let us not discuss that point. You are said to be learned; that is all that is essential. Where have you studied?”

“Everywhere, Madame.”

“That is not an answer.”

“Nowhere, then.”

“I prefer that answer. Have you studied nowhere?”

As it may please you, Madame,” replied the doctor, bowing, “and yet it is less exact than to say everywhere.”

“Come, answer me, then!” exclaimed the queen, becoming exasperated; “and above all, for Heaven's sake, Monsieur Gilbert, spare me such phrases.”

Then, as if speaking to herself:—

“Everywhere! everywhere! what does that mean It is the language of a charlatan, a quack, of a physician who practises in the public squares! Do you mean to overawe me by your sonorous syllables?”

She stepped forward with ardent eyes and quivering lips.

“Everywhere! Mention some place; come, explain your meaning, Monsieur Gilbert.”

“I said everywhere,” answered Gilbert, coldly, “because in fact I have studied everywhere, Madame,—in the hut and in the palace, in cities and in the desert, upon our own species and upon animals, upon myself and upon others, in a manner suitable to one who loves knowledge, and studies it where it is to be found, that is to say, everywhere.”

The queen, overcome, cast a terrible glance at Gilbert, while he, on his part, was eying her with terrible perseverance. She became convulsively agitated, and turning round, upset a small stand, upon which her chocolate had been served in a cup of Sèvres porcelain. Gilbert saw the table fall, saw the broken cup, but did not move a finger.

The color mounted to the cheeks of Marie Antoinette; she raised her cold, moist hand to her burning temples, but did not dare to raise her eyes again to look at Gilbert.

But her features assumed a more contemptuous, more insolent expression than before.

“Then, under what great master did you study?” continued the queen, again taking up the conversation at the point where she had left it off.

“I hardly know how to answer your Majesty, without running the risk of again wounding you.”

The queen perceived the advantage that Gilbert had given her, and threw herself upon it like a lioness upon her prey.

“Wound me—you wound me—you!” exclaimed she. “Oh, sir, what are you saying there? You wound a queen! You are mistaken, sir, I can affirm to you. Ah, Doctor Gilbert, you have not studied the French language in as good schools as you have studied medicine. People of my station are not to be wounded, Doctor Gilbert. You may weary them, that is all.”

Gilbert bowed, and made a step towards the door; but it was not possible for the queen to discover in his countenance the least show of anger, the least sign of impatience.

The queen, on the contrary, was stamping her feet with rage; she sprang towards Gilbert, as if to prevent him from leaving the room.

He understood her.

“Pardon me, Madame,” said he. “It is true I committed the unpardonable error to forget that, as a physician, I was called to see a patient. Forgive me, Madame; hereafter I shall remember it.”

He reflected for a moment.

“Your Majesty,” continued he, “is rapidly approaching a nervous crisis. I will venture to ask you not to give way to it; for in a short time it would be beyond your power to control it. At this moment your pulse must be imperceptible, the blood is rushing to the heart; your Majesty is suffering, your Majesty is almost suffocating, and perhaps it would be prudent for you to summon one of your ladies-in-waiting.”

The queen took a turn round the room, and seating herself:—

“Is your name Gilbert?” asked she.

“Yes, Gilbert, Madame.”

“Strange! I remember an incident of my youth, the strange nature of which would doubtless wound you much, were I to relate it to you. But it matters not; for if hurt, you will soon cure yourself,—you, who are no less a philosopher than a learned physician.”

And the queen smiled ironically.

“Precisely so, Madame,” said Gilbert; “you may smile, and little by little subdue your nervousness by irony. It is one of the most beautiful prerogatives of the intelligent will to be able thus to control itself. Subdue it, Madame, subdue it; but, however, without making a too violent effort.”

This prescription of the physician was given with so much suavity and such natural good-humor, that the queen, while feeling the bitter irony contained in his words, could not take offence at what Gilbert bad said to her.

She merely returned to the charge, recommencing her attack where she had discontinued it.

“This incident of which I spoke,” continued she, “is the following.”

Gilbert bowed, as a sign that he was listening.

The queen made an effort, and fixed her gaze upon him.

“I was the dauphiness at that time, and I inhabited Trianon. There was in the gardens a little dark-looking, dirty boy, covered with mud, a crabbed boy, a sort of sour Jean Jacques, who weeded, dug, and picked off the caterpillars with his little crooked fingers. His name was Gilbert.”

“It was myself, Madame,” said Gilbert, phlegmatically.

“You!” said Marie Antoinette, with an expression of hatred. “I was, then, right! but you are not, then, a learned man?”

“I think that, as your Majesty's memory is so good, you must also remember dates,” rejoined Gilbert. “It was in 1772, if I am not mistaken, that the little gardener's boy, of whom your Majesty speaks, weeded the flower-beds, of Trianon to earn his bread. We are now in 1789. It is therefore seventeen years, Madame, since the events to which you allude took place. It is more time than is necessary to metamorphose a savage into a learned man; the soul and the mind operate quickly in certain positions, like plants and flowers, which grow rapidly in hothouses. Revolutions, Madame, are the hotbeds of the mind. Your Majesty looks at me, and, notwithstanding the perspicacity of your scrutiny, you do not perceive that the boy of sixteen has become a man of thirty-three; you are therefore wrong to wonder that the ignorant, the ingenuous little Gilbert, should, after having witnessed these revolutions, have become a learned man and a philosopher.”

“Ignorant! be it so; but ingenuous,—ingenuous, did you say" furiously cried the queen. “I think you called that little Gilbert ingenuous.”

“If I am mistaken, Madame, or if I praised this little boy for a quality which he did not possess, I do not know how your Majesty can have ascertained more correctly than myself that he had the opposite defect.”

“Oh, that is quite another matter!” said the queen, gloomily; “perhaps we shall speak of that some other time; but, in the mean time, let me speak of the learned man, of the man brought to perfection, of the perfect man I see before me.”

Gilbert did not take up the word “perfect.” He understood but too well that it was a new insult.

“Let us return to our subject, Madame,” replied Gilbert. “Tell me for what purpose did your Majesty order me to come to your apartment?”

“You propose to become the king's physician,” said she. “Now, you must understand, sir, that I attach too much importance to the health of my husband to trust it in the hands of a man whom I do not know perfectly.”

“I offered myself to the king, Madame,” said Gilbert, “and I was accepted without your Majesty having any just cause to conceive the least suspicion as to my capacity or want of zeal. I am, above all, a political physician, Madame, recommended by Monsieur Necker. As for the rest, if the king is ever in want of my science, I shall prove myself a good physical doctor, so far as human science can be of use to the Creator's works. But what I shall be to the king more particularly, besides being a good adviser and a good physician, is a good friend.”

“A good friend!” exclaimed the queen, with a fresh outburst of contempt. “You, sir, a friend of the king!”

“Certainly,” replied Gilbert, quietly; “why not, Madame?”

“Oh yes! all in virtue of your secret power, by the assistance of your occult science,” murmured she; “who can tell? We have already seen the Jacqueses and the Maillotins; perhaps we shall go back to the dark ages! You have resuscitated philters and charms. You will soon govern France by magic; you will be a Faust or a Nicholas Flamel!”

“I have no such pretensions, Madame.”

“And why have you not, sir?' How many monsters more cruel than those of the gardens of Armida, more cruel than Cerberus himself, would you not put to sleep on the threshold of our hell!”

When she had pronounced the words, “would you not put to sleep,” the queen cast a scrutinizing look on the doctor.

This time Gilbert blushed in spite of himself.

It was a source of indescribable joy to Marie Antoinette; she felt that this time the blow she had struck had inflicted a real wound.

“For you have the power of causing sleep; you, who have studied everything and everywhere, you doubtless have studied magnetic science with the magnetizers of our century, who make sleep a treacherous instrument, and who read their secrets in the sleep of others.”

“In fact, Madame, I have often, and for a long time, studied under the learned Cagliostro.”

“Yes; he who practised and made his followers practise that moral theft of which I was just speaking; the same who, by the aid of that magic sleep which I call infamous, robbed some of their souls, and others of their bodies!”

Gilbert again understood her meaning, but this time he turned pale, instead of reddening. The queen trembled with joy, to the very depths of her heart.

“Ah, wretch” murmured she to herself: “I have wounded you, and I can see the blood.”

But the profoundest emotions were never visible for any length of time on the countenance of Gilbert. Approaching the queen, therefore, who, quite joyful on account of her victory, was imprudently looking at him:—

“Madame,” said he, “your Majesty would be wrong to deny the learned men of whom you have been speaking the most beautiful appendage to their science, which is the power of throwing, not victims, but subjects, into a magnetic sleep; you would be wrong, in particular, to contest the right they have to follow up, by all possible means, a discovery of which the laws, once recognized and regulated, are perhaps intended to revolutionize the world.”

And while approaching the queen, Gilbert had looked at her, in his turn, with that power of will to which the nervous Andrée had succumbed.

The queen felt a chill run through her veins as he drew nearer to her.

“Infamy,” said she, “be the reward of those men who make an abuse of certain dark and mysterious arts to ruin both the soul and body. May infamy rest upon the head of Cagliostro!”

“Ah!” replied Gilbert, with the accent of conviction, “beware, Madame, of judging the faults committed by human beings with so much severity.”


“Every one is liable to err, Madame; all human beings commit injuries on their fellow-creatures, and were it not for individual egotism, which is the foundation of general safety, the world would become but one great battle-field. Those are the best who are good; that is all. Others will tell you that those are best who are the least faulty. Indulgence must be the greater, Madame, in proportion to the elevated rank of the judge. Seated as you are on so exalted a throne, you have less right than any other person to be severe towards the faults of others. On your worldly throne, you should be supremely indulgent, like God, who upon his heavenly throne is supremely merciful.”

“Sir,” said the queen, “I view my rights in a different light from you, and especially my duties. I am on the throne to punish or reward.”

“I do not think so, Madame. In my opinion, on the contrary, you are seated on the throne,—you, a woman and a queen, to conciliate and to forgive.”

“I suppose you are not moralizing, sir.”

“You are right, Madame, and I was only replying to your Majesty. This Cagliostro, for instance, Madame, of whom you were speaking a few moments since, and whose science you were contesting, I remember,—and this is a remembrance of something anterior to your recollections of Trianon,—I remember that in the gardens of the Chateau de Taverney he had occasion to give the dauphiness of France a proof of his science; I know not what it was, Madame, but you must recollect it well, for that proof made a profound impression upon her, even so much as to cause her to faint.”

Gilbert was now striking blows in his turn; it is true that he was dealing them at random, but he was favored by chance, and they hit the mark so truly, that the queen became pale.

“Yes,” said she, in a hoarse voice, “yes, he made me see, as in a dream, a hideous machine; but I know not that, up to the present time, such a machine has ever really existed.”

“I know not what he made you see, Madame,” rejoined Gilbert, who felt satisfied with the effect he had produced; “but I do know that it is impossible to dispute the appellation of 'learned' to a man who wields such a power as that over his fellow-creatures.”

“His fellow-creatures,” murmured the queen, disdainfully.

“Be it so,—I am mistaken,” replied Gilbert; “and his power is so much the more wonderful, that it reduces to a level with himself, under the yoke of fear, the heads of monarchs and princes of the earth.”

“Infamy, infamy, I say again, upon those who take advantage of the weakness or the credulity of others!”

“Infamous! did you call infamous those who make use of science?”

“Their science is nothing but chimeras, lies, and cowardice.”

“What mean you by that, Madame?” asked Gilbert, calmly.

“My meaning is, that this Cagliostro is a cowardly mountebank, and that his pretended magnetic sleep is a crime.”

“A crime!”

“Yes, a crime,” continued the queen; “for it is the result of some potion, some philter, some poison; and human justice, which I represent, will be able to discover the mystery, and punish the inventor.”

“Madame, Madame,” rejoined Gilbert, with the same patience as before, “a little indulgence, I beg, for those who have erred.”

“Ah! you confess their guilt, then?”

The queen was mistaken, and thought from the mild tone of Gilbert's voice, that he was supplicating pardon for himself.

She was in error, and Gilbert did not allow the advantage she had thus given him to escape.

“What?” said he, dilating his flashing eyes, before the gaze of which Marie Antoinette was compelled to lower hers, as if suddenly dazzled by the rays of the sun.

The queen remained confounded for a moment, and then, making an effort to speak:—

“A queen can no more be questioned than she can be wounded,” said she: “learn to know that also, you who have but so newly arrived at court. But you were speaking, it seems to me, of those who have erred, and you asked me to be indulgent towards them.”

“Alas! Madame,” said Gilbert, “where is the human creature who is not liable to reproach? Is it he who has ensconced himself so closely within the deep shell of his conscience that the look of others cannot penetrate it? It is this which is often denominated virtue. Be indulgent, Madame.”

“But according to this opinion, then,” replied the queen, imprudently, “there is no virtuous being in your estimation, sir,—you, who are the pupil of those men whose prying eyes seek the truth, even in the deepest recesses of the human conscience.”

“It is true, Madame.”

She laughed, and without seeking to conceal the contempt which her laughter expressed.

“Oh, pray, sir,” exclaimed she, “do remember that you are not now speaking on a public square, to idiots, to peasants, or to patriots.”

“I am aware to whom I am speaking; Madame; of this you may be fully persuaded,” replied Gilbert.

“Show more respect then, sir, or more adroitness; consider your past life; search the depths of that conscience which men who have studied everywhere must possess in common with the rest of mankind, notwithstanding their genius and their wisdom; recall to your mind all that you may have conceived that was vile, hurtful, and criminal,—all the cruelties, the deeds, the crimes even, you have committed. Do not interrupt me; and when you have summed up all your misdeeds, learned doctor, you will bow down your head, and become more humble. Do not approach the dwelling of kings with such insolent pride, who, until there is a new order of things, were established by Heaven to penetrate the souls of criminals, to examine the folds of the human conscience, and to inflict chastisement upon the guilty, without pity and without appeal.

“That, sir,” continued the queen, “is what you ought to do. You will be thought the better of, on, account of your repentance. Believe me, the best mode of healing a soul so diseased as yours, would be to live in solitude, far from the grandeurs which give men false ideas of their own worth. I would advise you, therefore, not to approach the court, and to abandon the idea of attending the king during sickness. You have a cure to accomplish, for which God will esteem you more than for any other,—the cure of yourself. Antiquity had a proverb, which expressed the following maxim, sir: Medice, cura teipsum.”

Gilbert, instead of being irritated at this proposal, which the queen considered as the most disagreeable of conclusions, replied with gentleness:—

“Madame, I have already done all that your Majesty advises.”

“And what have you done, sir?”

“I have meditated.”

“Upon yourself?”

“Yes, upon myself, Madame.”

“And in regard to your conscience?”

“Especially on the subject of my conscience, Madame.”

“Do you think, then, I am sufficiently well informed of what you saw in it?”

“I do not know what your Majesty means by those words, but I think I can discover their meaning, which is, 'how many times a man of my age must have offended God!'“

“Really—you speak of God?”



“Why not?”

“A philosopher,—do philosophers believe in the existence of a God?”

“I speak of God, and I believe in him.”

“And you are still determined not to withdraw from court?”

“No, Madame, I remain.”

“Monsieur Gilbert, take heed.”

And the queen's countenance assumed a threatening expression, which it would be impossible to describe.

“Oh, I have reflected much upon the subject, Madame, and my reflections have led me to know that I am not less worthy than another; every one has his faults. I learned this axiom not by pondering over books, but by searching the consciences of others.”

“You are universal and infallible, are you not?” said the queen, ironically.

“Alas, Madame, if I am not universal, if I am not infallible, I am nevertheless very learned in human misery, well versed in the greatest sorrows of the mind. And this is so true, that I could tell, by merely seeing the livid circle round your wearied eyes, by merely seeing the line which extends from one eyebrow to the other, by merely seeing at the corners of your mouth a contraction which is called by the prosaic name of wrinkle,—I can tell you, Madame, how many severe trials you have undergone, how many times your heart has palpitated with anguish, to how many secret dreams of joy your heart has abandoned itself, to discover its error on awaking.

“I will tell you all that, Madame, when you shall desire it; I will tell it you, for I am sure of not being contradicted. I will tell it you, by merely fastening upon you a gaze which can read and wishes to read your mind; and when you have felt the power of that gaze, when you have felt the weight of this curiosity sounding to your inmost soul, like the sea that feels the weight of the lead that plunges into its depths, then you will understand that I am able to do much, Madame, and that if I pause awhile, you should be grateful to me for it, instead of provoking me on to war.”

This language, supported by a terrible fixity of the will of provocation, exercised by the man upon the woman, this contempt for all etiquette in presence of the queen, produced an unspeakable effect upon Marie Antoinette.

She felt as if a mist were overshadowing her brow, and sending an icy chill through her ideas: she felt her hatred turning into fear; and letting her hands fall heavily by her side, retreated a step to avoid the approach of the unknown danger.

“And now, Madame,” said Gilbert, who clearly perceived all that was passing in her mind, “do you understand that it would be very easy for me to discover that which you conceal from everybody, and that which you conceal even from yourself; do you understand that it would be easy for me to stretch you on that chair, which your fingers are now instinctively seeking as a support?”

“Ah!” exclaimed the queen, who was terrified, for she felt an unknown chill invading even her heart.

“Were I but to utter to myself a word which I will not utter,” continued Gilbert, “were I but to summon up my will, which I renounce, you would fall as if thunder-stricken into my power. You doubt what I am telling you, Madame. Oh, do not doubt it; you might perhaps tempt me once,—and if once you tempted me! But no, you do not doubt it, do you?”

The queen, almost on the point of falling, exhausted, oppressed, and completely lost, grasped the back of her arm-chair with all the energy of despair and the rage of useless resistance.

“Oh,” continued Gilbert, “mark this well, Madame: it is that if I were not the most respectful, the most devoted, the most humble of your subjects, I should convince you by a terrible experiment. Oh, you need fear nothing. I prostrate myself humbly before the woman rather than before-the queen. I tremble at the idea of entertaining any project which might, even in the slightest way, inquire into your thoughts; I would rather kill myself than disturb your soul.”

“Sir! sir!” exclaimed the queen, striking the air with her arms, as if to repel Gilbert, who was standing more than three paces from her.

“And still,” continued Gilbert, “you caused me to be thrown into the Bastille. You only regret that it is taken, because the people, by taking it, reopened its gates for me. There is hatred visible in your eyes towards a man against whom personally you can have no cause of reproach. And see, now, I feel that since I have lessened the influence by means of which I have controlled you, you are perhaps resuming your doubts with your returning respiration.”

In fact, since Gilbert had ceased to control her with his eyes and gestures, Marie Antoinette had reassumed her threatening attitude, like the bird which, being freed from the suffocating influence of the air-pump, endeavors to regain its song and its power of wing.

“Ah! you still doubt; you are ironical; you despise my warnings. Well, then, do you wish me to tell you, Madame, a terrible idea that has just crossed my mind This is what I was on the point of doing. Madame, I was just about to compel you to reveal to me your most intimate troubles, your most hidden secrets. I thought of compelling you to write them down on the table which you touch at this moment, and afterwards, when you had awakened and come to your senses again, I should have convinced you by your own writing of the existence of that power which you seem to contest; and also how real is the forbearance, and shall I say it,—yes, I will say it,—the generosity of the man whom you have just insulted, whom you have insulted for a whole hour, without his having for a single instant given you either a reason or a pretext for so doing.”

“Compel me to sleep!—compel me to speak in my sleep!—me!—me!” exclaimed the queen, turning quite pale: “would you have dared to do it, sir? But do you know what that is? Do you know the grave nature of the threat you make? Why, it is the crime of high treason, sir. Consider it well. It is a crime which, after awakening from my sleep, I should have punished with death.”

“Madame,” said Gilbert, watching the feverish emotions of the queen, “be not so hasty in accusing, and especially in threatening. Certainly I should have possessed myself of all your secrets; but be convinced that it would not have been on an occasion like this; it would not have been during an interview between the queen and her subject, between a woman and a stranger. No: I should have put the queen to sleep, it is true,—and nothing would have been easier,—but I should not have ventured to put her to sleep, I should not have allowed myself to speak to her, without having a witness.”

“A witness?”

“Yes, Madame, a witness who would faithfully note all your words, all your gestures, all the details, in short, of the scene which I should have brought about, in order that, after its termination, you could not doubt for a single moment longer.”

“A witness, sir!” repeated the queen, terrified; “and who would that witness have been? But consider it maturely, sir, your crime would then have been doubled, for in that case you would have had an accomplice.”

“And if this accomplice, Madame, had been none other than the king?” said Gilbert.

“The king!” exclaimed Marie Antoinette, with an expression of fear that betrayed the wife more energetically than the confession of the somnambulist could have done. “Oh, Monsieur Gilbert!—Monsieur Gilbert!”

“The king,” continued Gilbert, calmly,—” the king is your husband, your supporter, your natural defender. The king would have related to you, when you were awakened from your slumber, how respectful and proud I was in being able to prove my science to the most revered of sovereigns.”

And after having spoken these words, Gilbert allowed her Majesty sufficient time to meditate upon their importance.

The queen remained silent for several minutes, during which nothing was heard but the noise of her agitated breathing.

“Sir,” replied she, after this pause, “from all that you have now told me, you must be a mortal enemy—”

“Or a devoted friend, Madame?”

“It is impossible, sir; friendship cannot exist in unison with fear or mistrust.”

“The friendship, Madame, that exists between a subject and a queen cannot subsist except by the confidence which the subject may inspire her with. You will already have said to yourself that he is not an enemy whom, after the first word, we can deprive of the means of doing harm, especially when he is the first to denounce the use of his weapons.”

“May I believe, sir, what you have been saying?” said the queen, looking thoughtfully at Gilbert.

“Why should you not believe me, Madame, when you have every proof of my sincerity?”

“Men change, sir,—men change.”

“Madame, I have made the same vow that certain illustrious warriors made, before starting on an expedition, as to the use of certain weapons in which they were skilled. I shall never make use of my advantages but to repel the wrong that others may attempt to do me. Not for offence, but for defence. That is my motto.”

“Alas!” said the queen, feeling humbled.

“I understand you, Madame. You suffer because you see your soul in the hands of a physician,—you who rebelled at times against the idea of abandoning the care of your body to him. Take courage; be confident. He wishes to advise you well who has this day given you proof of such forbearance as that you have received from me. I desire to love you, Madame; I desire that you should be beloved by all. The ideas I have already submitted to the king I will discuss with you.”

“Doctor, take care!” exclaimed the queen, gravely. “You caught me in your snare; after having terrified the woman, you think to control the queen.”

“No, Madame,” answered Gilbert, “I am not a contemptible speculator. I have ideas of my own, and I can conceive that you have yours. I must from this very moment repel this accusation—one that you would forever make against me—that I had intimidated you in order to subjugate your reason. I will say more, that you are the first woman in whom I have found united all the passions of a woman and all the commanding qualities of a man. You may be at the same time a woman and a friend. All humanity might be concentred in you, were it necessary. I admire you, and I will serve you. I will serve you without any remuneration from you, merely for the sake of studying you, Madame. I will do still more for your service. In case I should seem to be a too inconvenient piece of palace furniture, or if the impression made by the scene of to-day should not be effaced from your memory, I shall ask you, I shall pray you, to dismiss me.”

“Dismiss you!” exclaimed the queen, with a joyful air that did not escape Gilbert.

“Well, then, it is agreed, Madame,” replied he, with admirable presence of mind. “I shall not even tell the king what I had intended, and I shall depart. Must I go to a great distance to reassure you, Madame?”

She looked at him, and appeared surprised at so much self-denial.

“I perceive,” said he, “what your Majesty thinks. Your Majesty, who is better acquainted than is generally thought with the mysteries of the magnetic influence which so much alarmed you a few minutes since,—your Majesty says to herself that at a distance from her I shall be no less dangerous and troublesome.”

“How is that?” exclaimed the queen.

“Yes, I repeat it, Madame. He who would be hurtful to any one by the moans you have reproached my masters and myself for employing, could practise his hurtful power equally well were the distance a hundred leagues, as at three paces. Fear nothing, Madame. I shall not attempt it.”

The queen remained thoughtful for a moment, not knowing how to answer this extraordinary man, who made her waver even after she had formed the firmest resolutions.

On a sudden, the noise of steps coming from the end of the gallery made Marie Antoinette raise her head.

“The king,” said she,—” the king is coming.”

“In that case, Madame, answer me, I pray you—shall I remain here, or shall I leave you?”


“Make haste, Madame. I can avoid seeing the king, if you desire it. Your Majesty may show me a door by which I can withdraw.”

“Remain!” said the queen to him.

Gilbert bowed courteously, while Marie Antoinette endeavored to read in his features to what extent triumph would reveal more than either anger or anxiety.

Gilbert remained perfectly impassible.

“At least,” said the queen to herself, “he ought to have manifested some slight satisfaction.”

Chapter III. The Council

THE king entered the room quickly and heavily, as was his custom. He had a busy, inquisitive air, that contrasted strangely with the icy rigidity of the queen's demeanor.

The fresh complexion of the king had not abandoned him. Having risen early, and feeling quite proud of the sound health he enjoyed by inhaling the morning air, he was breathing noisily, and stepped out vigorously on the floor.

“The doctor,” said he,—“what has become of the doctor?”

“Good-morning, Sire. How do you do this morning? Do you feel much fatigued?”

“I have slept six hours: that is my allowance. I am very well. My mind is clear. You look rather pale, Madame. I was told that you had sent for the doctor.”

“Here is Doctor Gilbert,” said the queen, stepping from before the recess of a window, in which the doctor had concealed himself till that moment.

The king's brow at once cleared up. Then:—

“Ah! I forgot,” said he. “You sent for the doctor. Have you been unwell?”

The queen blushed.

“You blush!” exclaimed Louis XVI.

She turned crimson.

“Another secret,” said the king.

What secret, Sire?” exclaimed the queen haughtily.

“You do not understand me. I tell you that you, who have your own favorite physicians,—you would not have sent for Doctor Gilbert, unless you felt the desire, which I know—”

“What desire?”

“You always have to conceal your sufferings from me.”

“Ah!” exclaimed the queen, regaining courage.

“Yes,” continued Louis XVI., “but take good care. Monsieur Gilbert is one of my confidential friends; and if you tell him anything he will be sure to tell it me.”

Gilbert smiled.

“As for that, no, Sire,” said he.

“Well, then, the queen is corrupting my people!”

Marie Antoinette gave one of those little stifled laughs which imply merely a wish to interrupt a conversation, or that the conversation is very tedious.

Gilbert understood her; but the king did not.

“Let us see, doctor,” said he; “as it seems to amuse the queen, tell me what she has been saying to you.”

“I was asking the doctor,” said Marie Antoinette, in her turn, “why you had sent for him so early. I must, indeed, confess that his presence at Versailles, at so unusual an hour perplexes me and makes me uneasy.”

“I was waiting for the doctor,” replied the king, looking gloomy, “to speak on politics with him.”

“Ah! very well,” said the queen.

And she seated herself as if to listen.

“Come, Doctor,” rejoined the king, taking a step towards the door.

Gilbert made a profound bow to the queen, and was about to follow Louis XVI.

“Where are you going?” exclaimed the queen. “What! are you going to leave me?”

“We are not going to talk on gay subjects, Madame. It would be as well for us to spare you so much care.”

“Do you call my sorrow care?” exclaimed the queen, majestically.

“A still better reason for doing so, my dear.”

“Remain here; I wish it,” said she. “Monsieur Gilbert, I imagine you will not disobey me.”

“Monsieur Gilbert I Monsieur Gilbert!” exclaimed the king, much vexed.

“Well, then, what is the matter?”

“Why, Monsieur Gilbert, who was to give me some advice, who was to talk freely to me according to his conscience,—Monsieur Gilbert will now no longer do so.”

“And why not?” exclaimed the queen.

“Because you will be present, Madame.”

Gilbert made a sort of gesture, to which the queen immediately attributed some important meaning.

“In what manner,” said she, to second it, “will Monsieur Gilbert risk displeasing me, if he speaks according to his conscience?”

“It is easily understood, Madame,” said the king. “You have a political system of your own. It is not always ours; so that—”

“So that Monsieur Gilbert, you clearly say, differs essentially from me in my line of politics.”

“That must be the case, Madame,” replied Gilbert, “judging from the ideas which your Majesty knows me to entertain. Only your Majesty may rest assured that I shall tell the truth as freely in your presence as to the king alone.”

“Ah! that is already something,” exclaimed Marie Antoinette.

“The truth is not always agreeable,” hastily murmured Louis XVI.

“But if it is useful?” observed Gilbert.

“Or even uttered with good intention,” added the queen.

“In that view of the case, I agree with you,” interposed Louis XVI. “But if you were wise, Madame, you would leave the doctor entire freedom of speech, and which I need—”

“Sire,” replied' Gilbert, “since the queen herself calls for the truth, and as I know her Majesty's mind is sufficiently noble and powerful not to fear it, I prefer to speak in presence of both my sovereigns.”

“Sire,” said the queen, “I request it.”

“I have full faith in your Majesty's good sense,” said Gilbert, bowing to the queen. “The subject is the happiness and glory of his Majesty the king.”

“You are right to put faith in me,” said the queen. “Begin, sir.”

“All this is very well,” continued the king, who was growing obstinate, according to his custom; “but, in short, the question is a delicate one; and I know well that, as to myself, you will greatly embarrass me by being present.”

The queen could not withhold a gesture of impatience. She rose, then seated herself again, and darted a penetrating and cold look at the doctor, as if to divine his thoughts.

Louis XVI., seeing that there was no longer any means of escaping the ordinary and extraordinary inquisitorial question, seated himself in his arm-chair, opposite Gilbert, and heaved a deep sigh.

“What is the point in question?” asked the queen, as soon as this singular species of council had been thus constituted and installed.

Gilbert looked at the king once more, as if to ask him for his authority to speak openly.

“Speak! Good Heavens, go on, sir, since the queen desires it.”

“Well, then, Madame,” said the doctor, “I will inform your Majesty in a few words of the object of my early visit to Versailles. I came to advise his Majesty to proceed to Paris.”

Had a spark fallen among the eight thousand pounds of gunpowder at the Hôtel de Ville, it could not have produced the explosion which those words caused in the queen's heart.

“The king proceed to Paris! The king!—ah!” and she uttered a cry of horror that made Louis XVI. tremble.

“There!” exclaimed the king, looking at Gilbert; “what did I tell you, Doctor?”

“The king!” continued the queen; “the king in the midst of a revolted city!—the king amidst pitchforks and scythes!—the king among the men who massacred the Swiss, and who assassinated Monsieur de Launay and Monsieur de Flesselles!—the king crossing the square of the Hôtel de Ville, and treading in the blood of his defenders! You must be deprived of your senses, sir, to speak thus. Oh, I repeat it; you are mad!”

Gilbert lowered his eyes like a man who is restrained by feelings of respect; but he did not answer a single word.

The king, who felt agitated to the bottom of his soul, turned about in his seat like a man undergoing torture on the gridiron of the Inquisition.

“Is it possible,” continued the queen, “that such an idea should have found a place in an intelligent mind,-in a French heart? What, sir? Do you not, then, know that you are speaking to the successor of St. Louis,—to the great-grandson of Louis XIV.?”

The king was beating the carpet with his feet.

“I do not suppose, however,” continued the queen, “that you desire to deprive the king of the assistance of his guards and his army, or that you are seeking to draw him out of his palace, which is a fortress, to expose him alone and defenceless to the blows of his infuriated enemies; you do not wish to see the king assassinated, I suppose, Mionsieur Gilbert?”

“If I thought that your Majesty for a single moment entertained an idea that I am capable of such treachery, I should not be merely a madman, but should look upon myself as a wretch. But Heaven be thanked, Madame! you do not believe it any more than I do. No; I came to give my king this counsel, because I think the counsel good, and even superior to any other.”

The queen clinched her hand upon her breast with so much violence as to make the cambric crack beneath its pressure.

The king shrugged up his shoulders with a slight movement of impatience.

“But for Heaven's sake!” cried he, “listen to him, Madame; there will be time enough to say, no when you have heard him.”

“The king is right, Madame,” said Gilbert, “for you do not know what I have to tell your Majesties. You think yourself surrounded by an army which is, firm, devoted to your cause, and ready to die for you; it is an error. Of the French regiments, one half are conspiring with the regenerators to carry out their revolutionary ideas.”

“Sir,” exclaimed the queen, “beware! You are insulting the army!”

“On the contrary, Madame,” said Gilbert, “I am its greatest eulogist. We may respect our queen and be devoted to the king, and still love our country and devote ourselves to liberty.”

The queen cast a flaming look, like a flash of lightning, at Gilbert. “Sir,” said she to him, “this language—”

“Yes, this language offends you, Madame. I can readily understand that; for, according to all probability, your Majesty hears it now for the first time.”

“We must, nevertheless, accustom ourselves to it,” muttered Louis XVI., with the submissive good sense that, constituted his chief strength.

“Never!” exclaimed Marie Antoinette, “never!”

“Let us see; listen! listen! I think what the doctor says is full of reason.”

The queen sat down, trembling with rage.

Gilbert continued:—

“I was going to say, Madame, that I have seen Paris, ay, and that you have not even seen Versailles. Do you know what Paris wishes to do at this moment?”

“No,” said the king, anxiously.

“Perhaps it does not wish to take the Bastille a second time,” said the queen, contemptuously.

“Assuredly not, Madame,” continued Gilbert; “but Paris knows that there is another: fortress between the people and their sovereign. Paris proposes to assemble the deputies of' the forty-eight districts of which it is composed, and send them to Versailles.”

“Let them come! let them come!” exclaimed the queen, in a tone of ferocious joy. “Oh, they will be well received here!”

“Wait, Madame,” replied Gilbert, “and beware; these deputies will not come alone.”

“And with whom will they come?”

“They will come supported by twenty thousand National Guards.”

“National Guards!” said the queen,” what are they?”

“Ah! Madame, do not speak lightly of that body; it will some day become a power; it will bind and loosen.”

“Twenty thousand men!” exclaimed the king.

“Well, sir,” replied the queen, in her turn, “you have here ten thousand men that are worth a hundred thousand rebels; call them, call them, I tell you; the twenty thousand wretches will here find their punishment, and the example needed by all this revolutionary slime which I would sweep away, ay, in a week, were I but listened to for an hour.”

Gilbert shook his head sorrowfully.

“Oh, Madame,” said he, “how you deceive yourself, or rather how you have been deceived! Alas! alas! Have you reflected on it?—a civil war, provoked by a queen. One only has done this, and she carried with her to the tomb a terrible epithet: she was called the foreigner.'“

“Provoked by me, sir How do you understand that? Was it I who fired upon the Bastille without provocation?”

“Ah! Madame,” cried the king, “instead of advocating violent measures, listen to reason.”

“To weakness!”

“Come, now, Antoinette, listen to the doctor,” said the king, austerely. “The arrival of twenty thousand men is not a trifling matter, particularly if we should have to fire grape-shot upon them.”

Then, turning towards Gilbert:—

“Go on, sir,” said he; “go on.”

“All these hatreds, which become more inveterate from estrangement—all these boastings, which become courage when opportunity is afforded for their realization—all the confusion of a battle, of which the issue is uncertain—oh! spare the king, spare yourself, Madame, the grief of witnessing them,” said the doctor; “you can perhaps by gentleness disperse the crowd which is advancing. The crowd wishes to come to the king,—let us forestall it; let the king go to the crowd; let him, though now surrounded by his army, give proof to-morrow of audacity and political genius. Those twenty thousand men of whom we are speaking might, perhaps, conquer the king and his army. Let the king go alone and conquer these twenty thousand men, Madame; they are the people.”

The king could not refrain from giving a gesture of assent, which Marie Antoinette at once observed.

“Wretched man!” cried she to Gilbert; “but you do not then perceive what the king's presence in Paris would betoken under the conditions you require?”

“Speak, Madame.”

“It would be saying, 'I approve;' it would be saying, 'You did right to kill my Swiss;' it would be saying, 'You have acted rightly in murdering my officers, in setting fire to and making my capital stream with blood; you have done rightly in dethroning me. I thank you, gentlemen, I thank you!”

And a disdainful smile rose to the lips of Marie Antoinette.

“No, Madame, your Majesty is mistaken.”


“It would be saying, 'There has been some justice in the grief of the people. I am come to pardon. It is I who am the chief of the nation, and the king. It is I who am at the head of the French Revolution, as in former days Henry III. placed himself at the head of the League. Your generals are my officers, your National Guards my soldiers, your magistrates are my men of business. Instead of urging me onward, follow me if you are able to do so. The greatness of my stride will prove to you once more that I am the king of France, the successor of Charlemagne.'“

“He is right,” said the king, in a sorrowful tone.

“Oh!” exclaimed the queen, “for mercy's sake listen not to this man!—this man is your enemy.”

“Madame,” said Gilbert, “his Majesty himself is about to tell you what he thinks of the words I have spoken.”

“I think, sir, that you are the first who up to this moment has dared to speak the truth to me.”

“The truth!” cried the queen. “Gracious Heaven! what is it you are saying.”

“Yes, Madame,” rejoined Gilbert, “and impress yourself fully with this fact, that truth is the only torch which can point out and save royalty from the dark abyss into which it is now being hurried.”

And while uttering, these words, Gilbert bowed humbly, as low as even to the knees of Marie Antoinette.

Chapter IV. Decision

FOR the first time the queen appeared deeply moved. Was it from the reasoning, or from the humility, of the doctor?

Moreover, the king had risen from his seat with a determined air; he was thinking of the execution of Gilbert's project.

However, from the habit which he had acquired of doing nothing without consulting the queen:—

“Madame,” said he to her, “do you approve it?”

“It appears it must be so,” replied the queen.

“I do not ask you for any abnegation,” said the king.

“What is it, then, you ask?”

“I ask you for the expression of a conviction which will strengthen mine.”

“You ask of me a conviction?”


“Oh, if it be only that, I am convinced, sir.”

“Of what?”

“That the moment has arrived which will render monarchy the most deplorable and the most degrading position which exists in the whole world.”

“Oh,” said the king, “you exaggerate; deplorable, I will admit, but degrading, that is impossible.”

“Sir, the kings, your forefathers, have bequeathed to you a very mournful inheritance,” said the queen, sorrowfully.

“Yes,” said Louis XVI., “an inheritance which I have the grief to make you share, Madame.”

“Be pleased to allow me, Sire,” said Gilbert, who truly compassionate the great misfortunes of his fallen sovereigns; “I do not believe that there is any reason for your Majesty to view the future in such terrific colors as you have depicted it. A despotic monarchy has ceased to exist; a constitutional empire commences.”

“Ah, sir,” said the king, “and am I a man capable of founding such an empire in France?”

“And why not, Sire?” cried the queen, somewhat comforted by the last words of Gilbert.

“Madame,” replied the king, “I am a man of good sense and a learned man. I see clearly, instead of endeavoring to see confusedly, into things, and I know precisely all that is not necessary for me to know, to administer the government of this country. From the day on which I shall be precipitated from the height of the inviolability of an absolute prince—from the day on which it shall be allowed to be discovered that I am a mere plain man—I lose all the factitious strength which alone was necessary to govern France, since, to speak truly, Louis XIII., Louis XIV., and Louis XV. sustained themselves completely, thanks to this factitious strength. What do the French now require? A master. I feel that I am only capable of being a father. What do the revolutionists require? A sword. I do not feel that I have strength enough to strike.”

“You do not feel that you have strength to strike!” exclaimed the queen,—“to strike people who are destroying the property of your children, and who would carry off, even from your own brow, one after the other, every gem that adorns the crown of France!”

“What answer can I make to this?” calmly said Louis XVI.; “would you have me reply NO? By doing so I should raise up in your mind one of those storms which are the discomfort of my life. You know how to hate. Oh, so much the better for you! You know how to be unjust, and I do not reproach you with it. It is a great quality in those who have to govern.”

“Do you, perchance, consider me unjust towards the Revolution? Now tell me that.”

“In good faith, yes.”

“You say yes, Sire,—you say yes?”

“If you were the wife of a plain citizen, my dear Antoinette, you would not speak as you do.”

“I am not one.”

“And that is the reason for my excusing you; but that does not mean that I approve your course. No, Madame, no, you must be resigned; we succeeded to the throne of France at a period of storm and tempest. We ought to have strength enough to push on before us that car armed with scythes, and which is called Revolution; but our strength is insufficient.”

“So much the worse,” said Marie Antoinette, “for it is over our children that it will be driven.”

“Alas! that I know; but at all events we shall not urge it forward.”

“We will make it retrograde, Sire!”

“Oh,” cried Gilbert, with a prophetic accent, “beware, Madame; in retrograding, it will crush you.”

“Sir,” said the queen, impatiently, “I observe that you can carry the frankness of your counsels very far.”

“I will be silent, Madame.”

“Oh, good Heaven! let him speak on,” said the king; “what he has now announced to you, if he has not read it in twenty newspapers during the last eight days, it is because he has not chosen to read them. You should, at least, be thankful to him that he does not convey the truths he utters in a bitter spirit.”

Marie Antoinette remained silent for a moment; then, with a deep-drawn sigh:—

“I will sum up,” she said, “or rather, I will repeat my arguments. By going to Paris voluntarily, it will be sanctioning all that has been done there.”

“Yes,” replied the king, “I know that full well.”

“Yes, it would be humiliating,—disowning your army which is preparing to defend you.”

“It is to spare the effusion of French blood,” said the doctor.

“It is to declare that henceforward tumultuous risings and violence may give such a direction to the will of the king as may best suit the views of insurgents and traitors.”

“Madame, I believe,” said Gilbert, “that you had just now the goodness to acknowledge that I had had the good fortune to convince you.”

“Yes, I just now did acknowledge it; one corner of the veil had been raised up before me. But now, sir,—oh, now that I am again becoming blind, as you have termed it, and I prefer looking into my own mind, to see reflected there those splendors to which education, tradition, and history have accustomed me, I prefer considering myself still a queen, than to feel myself a bad mother to this people, who insult and hate me.”

“Antoinette! Antoinette!” cried Louis XVI., terrified at the sudden paleness which pervaded the queen's face, and which was nothing more than the precursor of a terrible storm of anger.

“Oh, no, no, Sire, I will speak,” replied the queen.

“Beware, Madame!” said he.

And with a glance the king directed the attention of Marie Antoinette to the presence of the doctor.

“Oh, this gentleman knows all that I was about to say; he knows even everything I think,” said the queen, with a bitter smile at the recollection of the scene which had just before occurred between her and the doctor; “and therefore why should I restrain myself? This gentleman, moreover, has been taken by us for our confidant, and I know not why I should have any fear of speaking. I know that you are carried, dragged away, like the unhappy prince in my dear old German ballads. Whither are you going? Of that I know nothing; but you are going whence you will never return.”

“Why, no, Madame; I am going simply and plainly to Paris,” replied Louis XVI.

Marie Antoinette raised her shoulders.

“Do you believe me to be insane?” said she, in a voice of deep irritation. “You are going to Paris? 'Tis well. Who tells you that Paris is not an abyss which I see not, but which I can divine? Who can say whether, in the tumultuous crowd by which you will necessarily be surrounded, you will not be killed? Who knows from whence a chance shot may proceed? Who knows, amid a hundred thousand upraised and threatening hands, which it is that has directed the murderous knife?”

“Oh, on that head you need not have the slightest apprehension. They love me!” exclaimed the king.

“Oh, say not that, Sire, or you will make me pity you. They love you, and they kill, they assassinate, they massacre those who represent you on the earth; you, a king,—you, the image of God! Well, the governor of the Bastille was your representative; he was the image of the king. Be well assured of this, and I shall not be accused of exaggeration when I say it. If they have killed De Launay, that brave and faithful servant, they would have killed you, Sire, had you been in his place, and much more easily than they killed him; for they know you, and know that instead of defending yourself, you would have bared your breast to them.”

“Conclude,” said the king.

“But I thought that I had concluded, Sire.”

“They will kill me?”

“Yes, Sire.”


“And my children!” exclaimed the queen.

Gilbert thought it time that he should interfere.

“Madame,” said he, “the king will be so much respected at Paris, and his presence will cause such transports, that if I have a fear, it is not for the king, but for those fanatics who will throw themselves to be crushed beneath his horse's feet, like the Indian Fakirs beneath the car of their idol.”

“Oh, sir, sir!” cried Marie Antoinette.

“This march to Paris will be a triumph, Madame.”

“But, Sire, you do not reply.”

“It is because I agree somewhat with the doctor, Madame.”

“And you are impatient, are you not, to enjoy this great triumph?”

“And the king, in this case, would be right,” said Gilbert, “for this impatience would be a further proof of the profoundly just discrimination with which his Majesty judges men and things. The more his Majesty shall hasten to accomplish this, the greater will his triumph be.”

“Yes, you believe that, sir?”

“I am positive it will be so. For the king, by delaying it, would lose all the advantage to be derived from its spontaneousness. But reflect, Madame, reflect, that the initiative of this measure may proceed from another quarter, and such a request would change, in the eyes of the Parisians, the position of his Majesty, and would give him, in some measure, the appearance of acceding to an order.”

“There, hear you that?” exclaimed the queen. “The doctor acknowledges it—they would order you. Oh, Sire, think of that.”

“The doctor does not say that they have ordered, Madame.”

“Patience—patience! only delay a little, Sire, and the request, or rather the order, will arrive.”

Gilbert slightly compressed his lips with a feeling of vexation, which the queen instantly caught, although it was almost as evanescent as the lightning.

“What have I said?” murmured she. “Poor simpleton! I have been arguing against myself.”

“And in what, Madame?” inquired the king.

“In this,—that by a delay I should make you lose the advantage of your initiative; and, nevertheless, I have to ask for a delay.”

“Ah, Madame, ask everything, exact anything, excepting that.”

“Antoinette,” said the king, taking her hand, “you have sworn to ruin me.”

“Oh, Sire!” exclaimed the queen, in a tone of reproach, which revealed all the anguish of her heart. “And can you speak thus to me?”

“Why, then, do you attempt to delay this journey?” asked the king.

“Consider truly, Madame, that under such circumstances the fitting moment is everything; reflect on the importance of the hours which are flying past us at such a period, when an enraged and furious people are counting them anxiously as they strike.”

“Not to-day, Monsieur Gilbert; to-morrow, Sire, oh, to-morrow! Grant me till to-morrow, and I swear to you I will no longer oppose this journey.”

“A day lost,” murmured the king.

“Twenty-four long hours,” said Gilbert; “reflect on that, Madame.”

“Sire, it must be so,” rejoined the queen, in a supplicating tone.

“A reason—a reason!” cried the king.

“None, but my despair, Sire; none, but my tears; none, but my entreaties.”

“But between this and to-morrow what may happen? Who can tell this?” said the king, completely overcome by seeing the queen's despair.

“And what is there that could happen?” said the queen, at the same time looking at Gilbert with an air of entreaty.

“Oh,” said Gilbert, “out yonder—nothing yet. A hope, were it even as vague as a cloud, would suffice to make them wait patiently till to-morrow; but—”

“But it is here, is it not?” said the king.

“Yes, Sire, it is here that we have to apprehend.”

“It is the Assembly?”

Gilbert gave an affirmative nod.

“The Assembly,” continued the king, “with such men as Monsieur Monnier, Monsieur Mirabeau, and Monsieur Siéyès, is capable of sending me some address which would deprive me of all the advantage of my good intentions.”

“Well, then,” exclaimed the queen, with gloomy fury, “so much the better, because you would then refuse—because then you would maintain your dignity as a king—because then you would not go to Paris, and if we must here sustain a war, well, here will we sustain it—because, if we must die, we will die here, but as illustrious and unshrinking monarchs, which we are, as kings, as masters, as Christians who put their trust in God, from whom we hold the crown.”

On perceiving this feverish excitement of the queen, Louis XVI. saw that there was nothing to be done but to yield to it.

He made a sign to Gilbert, and advancing to Marie Antoinette, whose hand he took:—

“Tranquillize yourself, Madame,” said he to her; “all shall be done as you desire. You know, my dear wife, that I would not do anything which would be displeasing to you, for I have the most unbounded affection for a woman of your merit, and above all, of your virtue.”

And Louis XVI. accentuated these last words with inexpressible nobleness; thus exalting with all his power the so-much calumniated queen, and that in the presence of a witness capable, should it be requisite, of properly reporting all he had heard and seen.

This delicacy profoundly moved Marie Antoinette, who, grasping with both hands the hand which the king held out to her, said:—

“Well, then, only till to-morrow, Sire, no later; that shall be the last delay; but I ask you that as a favor on my knees. To-morrow, at the hour which may please you, I swear to you, you shall set out for Paris.”

“Take care, Madame, the doctor is a witness,” said the king, smiling.

“Sire, you have never known me to forfeit my word,” replied the queen.

“No; but there is only one thing I acknowledge—”

“What is that?”

“It is, that I am anxious, resigned as you appear to be, to know why you have asked me for this delay of twenty-four hours. Do you expect some news from Paris,—some intelligence from Germany? Is there anything—”

“Do not question me, Sire.”

The king was as inquisitive as Figaro was lazy; anything that excited his curiosity delighted him.

“Is there any question as to the arrival of troops,—of a reinforcement,—of any political combination?”

“Sire, Sire!” murmured the queen, in a reproachful tone.

“Is it a question of—”

“There is no question in the matter,” replied the queen.

“Then it is a secret?”

“Well, then, yes! the secret of an anxious woman, that is all.”

“A caprice, is it not?”

“Caprice, if you will.”

“The supreme law.”

“That is true. Why does it not exist in politics as in philosophy? Why are kings not permitted to make their political caprices supreme laws?”

“It will come to that, you may rest assured. As to myself, it is already done,” said the king, in a jocose tone. “Therefore, till to-morrow.”

“Till to-morrow!” sorrowfully rejoined the queen.

“Do you keep the doctor with you?” asked the king.

“Oh, no, no!” cried the queen, with a sort of eagerness which made Gilbert smile.

“I will take him with me, then.”

Gilbert bowed a third time to the Queen Marie Antoinette, who this time returned his salutation more as a woman than a queen.

Then, as the king was going towards the door, he followed the king.

“It appears to me,” said the king, as they proceeded along the gallery, “that you are on good terms with the queen, Monsieur Gilbert.”

“Sire,” replied the doctor, “it is a favor for which I am indebted to your Majesty.”

“Long live the king!” cried the courtiers who already thronged the antechambers.

“Long live the king!” repeated a crowd of officers and foreign soldiers in the courtyard, who were eagerly hastening towards the palace doors.

These acclamations, which became louder as the crowd increased, gave greater delight to the heart of Louis XVI. than any he had before received, although he had so frequently been greeted in the same manner.

As to the queen, still seated where the king had left her, near the window, and where she had just passed such agonizing moments, when she heard the cries of devotedness and love which welcomed the king as he passed by, and which gradually died away in the distance under the porticos, or beneath the thickets of the park:—

“Long live the king!” cried she; “yes, long live the king! The king will live, and that in despite of thee, infamous Paris! Thou odious gulf, thou sanguinary abyss, thou shalt not swallow up this victim! I will drag him from thee, and that with this little, this weak arm. It threatens thee at this moment,—it devotes thee to the execration of the world and to the vengeance of God!”

And pronouncing these words with a violence of hatred which would have terrified the most furious friends of the Revolution, could they have seen and heard her, the queen stretched forth towards Paris her weak arm, which shone from beneath the lace which surrounded it, like a sword starting from its scabbard.

Then she called Madame Campan, the lady-in-waiting in whom she placed the most confidence, and shutting herself up with her in her cabinet, ordered that no one should be admitted to her presence.

Chapter V. The Shirt of Mail

THE following morning the sun rose brilliant and pure as on the preceding day. Its bright rays gilded the marble and the gravel walks of Versailles. The birds, grouped in thousands on the first trees of the park, saluted, with their deafening songs, the new and balmy day of joy thus promised to their love.

The queen had risen at five o'clock. She had given orders that the king should be requested to go to her apartment as soon as he should wake.

Louis XVI., somewhat fatigued from having received a deputation of the Assembly, which had come to the palace the preceding evening, and to which he had been obliged to reply,—this was the commencement of speechmaking,—Louis XVI. had slept somewhat later than usual to recover from his fatigue, and that it might not be said that he was not as vigorous as ever.

Therefore, he was scarcely dressed when the queen's message was delivered to him; he was at that moment putting on his sword. He slightly knit his brow.

“What!” said he, “is the queen already up?”

“Oh, a long time ago, Sire.”

“Is she again ill?”

“No, Sire.”

“And what can the queen want at so early an hour in the morning?”

“Her Majesty did not say.”

The king took his first breakfast, which consisted of a bowl of soup and a little wine, and then went to the queen's apartment.

He found the queen full dressed, as for a ceremonious reception, beautiful, pale, imposing. She welcomed her husband with that cold smile which shone like a winter's sun upon the cheeks of the queen, as when in the grand receptions at court it was necessary she should cast some rays upon the crowd.

The king could not comprehend the sorrow which pervaded that smile and look. He was already preparing himself for one thing; that is to say, the resistance of Marie Antoinette to the project which had been proposed the day before.

“Again some new caprice,” thought he.

And this was the reason for his frowning. The queen did not fail, by the first words she uttered, to strengthen this opinion.

“Sire,” said she, “since yesterday I have been reflecting much—”

“There now! now it is coming!” cried the king.

“Dismiss, if you please, all who are not our intimate friends,” said the queen.

The king, though much annoyed, ordered his officers to leave the room. One only of the queen's women remained; it was Madame Campan.

Then the queen, laying both her beautiful hands on the king's arm, said to him:—

“Why, are you dressed already? That is wrong.”

“How wrong? and why?”

“Did I not send word to you not to dress yourself until you had been here? I see you have already your coat on and your sword. I had hoped you would have come in your dressing-gown.”

The king looked at her, much surprised. This fantasy of the queen awakened in his mind a crowd of strange ideas, the novelty of which only rendered the improbability still stronger. His first gesture was one of mistrust and uneasiness.

“What is it that you wish?” said he. “Do you pretend to retard or prevent that which we had yesterday agreed upon?”

“In no way, Sire.”

“Let me entreat you not to jest on a matter of so serious a nature. I ought and I will go to Paris. I can no longer avoid it. My household troops are prepared. The persons who are to accompany me were summoned last night to be ready.”

“Sire, I have no pretensions of that nature, but—”

“Reflect,” said the king, working himself up by degrees to gain courage,—“reflect that the intelligence of my intended journey must have already reached the Parisians; that they have prepared themselves; that they are expecting me; that the very favorable feelings, as was predicted to us, that this journey has excited in the public mind, may be changed into dangerous hostility. Reflect, in fine—”

“But, Sire, I do not at all contest what you have done me the honor to say to me. I resigned myself to it yesterday; this morning I am still resigned.”

“Then, Madame; why all this preamble?”

“I do not make any.”

“Pardon me, pardon me! then why all these questions regarding my dress, my projects?”

“As to your dress, that I admit,” answered the queen, endeavoring again to smile; but that smile, from so frequently fading away, became more and more funereal.

“What observation have you to make upon my dress?”

“I wish, Sire, that you would take off your coat.”

“Do you not think it becoming? It is a silk coat, of a violet color. The Parisians are accustomed to see me dressed thus; they like to see me in this, with which moreover, the blue ribbon harmonizes well. You have often told me so yourself.”

“I have, Sire, no objection to offer to the color of your coat.”

“Well, then?”

“But to the lining.”

“In truth, you puzzle me with that eternal smile. The lining—what jest—”

“Alas! I no longer jest.”

“There! now you are feeling my waistcoat; does that displease you too? White taffeta and silver, the embroidery worked by your own hand,—it is one of my favorite waistcoats.”

“I have nothing to say against the waistcoat, either.”

“How singular you are! Is it, then, the frill or the embroidered cambric shirt that offends you? Why must I not appear in full dress when I am going to visit my good city of Paris?”

A bitter smile contracted the queen's lips,—the nether lip particularly, that which the “Austrian” was so much reproached for; it became thicker, and advanced as if it were swelled by all the venom of hatred and of anger.

“No,” said she, “I do not reproach you for being so well dressed, Sire; but it is the lining,—the lining, I say again and again.”

“The lining of my embroidered shirt! Ah, will you at least explain yourself?”

“Well, then, I will explain. The king, hated, considered an encumbrance, who is about to throw himself into the midst of seven hundred thousand Parisians, inebriated with their triumph and their revolutionary ideas,—the king is not a prince of the Middle Ages, and yet he ought to make his entry this day into Paris in a good iron cuirass, in a hemlet of good Milan steel; he should protect himself in such a way that no ball, no arrow, no stone, no knife, could reach his person.”

“That is in fact true,” said Louis XVI., pensively. “But, my good friend, as I do not call myself either Charles VIII., or Francis I., or even Henry IV.; as the monarchy of my day is one of velvet and of silk,—I shall go naked under my silken coat, or to speak more correctly, I shall go with a good mark at which they may aim their balls, for I wear the jewel of my orders just over my heart.”

The queen uttered a stifled groan.

“Sire,” said she, “we begin to understand each other. You shall see,—you shall see that your wife jests no longer.”

She made a sign to Madame Campan, who had remained at the farther end of the room, and the latter took from a drawer of the queen's chiffonnier a wide oblong flat parcel, wrapped up in a silken cover.

“Sire,” said the queen, “the heart of the king belongs, in the first place, to France,—that is true; but I fully believe that it belongs to his wife and children. For my part, I will not consent that this heart should be exposed to the balls of the enemy; I have adopted measures to save from every danger my husband, my king, the father of my children.”

While saying this, she unfolded the silk which covered it, and displayed a waistcoat of fine steel mail, crossed with such marvellous art that it might have been thought an Arabian watered stuff, so supple and elastic was its tissue, so admirable the play of its whole surface.

“What is that?” said the king.

“Look at it, Sire.”

“A waistcoat, it appears to me.”

“Why, yes, Sire.”

“A waistcoat that closes up to the neck.”

“With a small collar, intended, as you see, to line the collar of the waistcoat or the cravat.”

The king took the waistcoat in his hands and examined it very minutely.

The queen, on observing this eagerness, was perfectly transported.

The king, on his part, appeared delighted, counting the rings of this fairy net which undulated beneath his fingers with all the flexibility of knitted wool.

“Why,” exclaimed he, “this is admirable steel!”

“Is it not, Sire?”

“It is a perfect miracle of art.”

“Is it not?”

“I really cannot imagine where you can have procured this.”

I bought it last night, Sire, of a man who long since wished me to purchase it of him, in the event of your going out on a campaign.”

“It is admirable! admirable!” repeated the king, examining it as an artist.

“And it will fit you as well as a waistcoat made by your tailor, Sire.”

“Oh, do you believe that?”

“Try it on.”

The king said not a word, but took off his violet-colored coat. The queen trembled with joy; she assisted Louis XVI. in taking off his orders, and Madame Campan the rest. The king, however, unbuckled his sword and laid it on the table.

If any one at that moment had contemplated the face of the queen, they would have seen it lit up by one of those triumphant smiles which supreme felicity alone bestows.

The king allowed her to divest him of his cravat, and the delicate fingers of the queen placed the steel collar round his neck. Then Marie Antoinette herself fastened the hooks of his corselet, which adapted itself beautifully to the shape of the body, being lined throughout with a fine doe-skin, for the purpose of presenting any uncomfortable pressure from the steel.

This waistcoat was longer than an ordinary cuirass; it covered the whole body. With the waistcoat and shirt over it, it did not increase the volume of the body even half a line. It did not in the slightest degree inconvenience any movement of the wearer.

“Is it very heavy?” asked the queen.


“Only see, my king, it is a perfect wonder, is it not?” said the queen, clapping her hands, and turning to Madame Campan, who was just buttoning the king's ruffles.

Madame Campan manifested her joy in as artless a manner as did the queen.

“I have saved my king!” cried Marie Antoinette. “Test this invisible cuirass; prove it; place it upon a table; try if you can make any impression upon it with a knife; try if you can make a hole through it with a ball; try it! try it!”

“Oh!” exclaimed the king, with a doubting air.

“Only try it!” repeated she, with enthusiasm.

“I would willingly do so from curiosity,” replied the king.

“You need not do so; it would be superfluous, Sire.”

“How! it would be superfluous that I should prove to you the excellence of this marvel of yours?”

“Ah! thus it is with all the men. Do you believe that I would have given faith to the judgment of another,—of an indifferent person, when the life of my husband, the welfare of France, was in question?”

“And yet, Antoinette, it seems to me that this is precisely what you have done,—you have put faith in another.”

The queen shook her head with a delightfully playful obstinacy.

“Ask her!” said she, pointing to the woman who was present,—“ask our good Campan there what we have done this morning?”

“What was it, then? Good Heaven!” ejaculated the king, completely puzzled.

“This morning—what am I saying?—this night, after dismissing all the attendants, we went, like two mad-brained women, and shut ourselves up in her room, which is at the far end of the wing occupied by the pages. Now, the pages were sent off last night to prepare the apartments at Rambouillet; and we felt well assured that no one could interrupt us before we had executed our project.”

“Good Heaven! you really alarm me! What were the designs, then, of these two Judiths?”

“Judith effected less, and certainly with less noise. But for that, the comparison would be marvellously appropriate. Campan carried the bag which contained this breast-plate; as for me, I carried a long hunting-knife which belonged to my father,—that infallible blade which killed so many wild boars.”

“Judith! still Judith!” cried the king, laughing.

“Oh, Judith had not the heavy pistol which I took from your armory, and which I made Weber load for me.”

“A pistol?”

“Undoubtedly. You ought to have seen us running in the dark, startled, agitated at the slightest noise, avoiding everybody for fear of their being indiscreet, creeping like two little mice along the deserted corridors. Campan locked three doors and placed a mattress against the last, to prevent our being overheard; we put the cuirass on one of the figures which they use to stretch my gowns on, and placed it against a wall. And I—with a firm hand, too, I can assure you—struck the breastplate with the knife; the blade bent, flew out of my hand, and bounding back, stuck into the floor, to our great terror.”

“The deuce!” exclaimed the king.

“Wait a little.”

“Did it not make a hole?” asked Louis XVI.

“Wait a little, I tell you. Campan pulled the knife out of the board. 'You are not strong enough, Madame,' she said, 'and perhaps your hand trembles. I am stronger, as you shall see.' She therefore raised the knife, and gave the figure so violent a blow, so well applied, that my poor German knife snapped off short against the steel mail.”

“See, here are the two pieces, Sire. I will have a dagger made for you out of one of them.”

“Oh, this is absolutely fabulous!” cried the king; “and the mail was not injured?”

“A slight scratch on the exterior ring, and there are three, one over the other.”

“I should like to see it.”

“You shall see it.”

And the queen began to undress the king again with wonderful celerity, in order that he might the sooner admire her idea and her high feats in arms.

“Here is a place that is somewhat damaged, it would appear to me,” said the king, pointing to a slight depression over a space of about an inch in circumference.

“That was done by the pistol-ball, Sire.”

“How! you fired off a pistol loaded with ball? you?”

“Here is the ball completely flattened, and still black. Here, take it; and now do you believe that your life is in safety?”

“You are my tutelary angel,” said the king, who began slowly to unhook the mailed waistcoat, in order to examine more minutely the traces left by the knife and the pistol-shot.

“Judge of my terror, dear king,” said Marie Antoinette, “when on the point of firing the pistol at the breast-plate. Alas! the fear of the report—that horrible noise which you know has so frightful an effect upon me—was nothing; but it appeared to me that in firing at the waistcoat destined to protect you, I was firing at you yourself. I was afraid of wounding you; I feared to see a hole in the mail, and then my efforts, my trouble, my hopes, were forever lost.”

“My dear wife,” said Louis XVI., having completely unhooked the coat of mail and placed it on the table, “what gratitude do I not owe you!”

“Well, now, what is it you are doing?” asked the queen.

And she took the waistcoat and again presented it to the king. But with a smile replete with nobleness and kindness:—

“No,” said he, “I thank you.”

“You refuse it?” said the queen.

“I refuse it.”

“Oh, but reflect a moment, Sire.”

“Sire,” cried Madame Campan, in a supplicating tone.

“But,” said the queen, “'tis your salvation; 'tis your life!”

“That is possible,” said the king.

“You refuse the succor which God himself has sent us.”

“Enough! enough!” said the king.

“Oh, you refuse! you refuse!”

“Yes, I refuse.”

“But they will kill you.”

“My dear Antoinette, when gentlemen in this eighteenth century are going out to battle, they wear a cloth coat, waistcoat, and shirt; this is all they have to defend them against musket-balls. When they go upon the field of honor to fight a duel, they throw off all but their shirt,—that is for the sword. As to myself, I am the first gentleman of my kingdom; I will do neither more nor less than my friends; and there is more than this,—while they wear cloth, I alone have the right to wear silk. Thanks, my good wife; thanks, my good queen; thanks.”

“Ah!” exclaimed the queen, at once despairing and delighted, “why cannot his army hear him speak thus?”

As to the king, he quietly completed his toilette, without even appearing to understand the act of heroism he had just performed.

“Is the monarchy then lost,” murmured the queen, “when we can feel so proudly at such a moment?”

Chapter VI. The Departure

ON leaving the queen's apartment, the king immediately found himself surrounded by all the officers and all the persons of his household, who had been appointed by him to attend him on his journey to Paris.

The principal personages were Messieurs de Beauvau, de Villeroy, de Nesle, and d'Estaing.

Gilbert was waiting in the middle of the crowd till Louis XVI. should perceive him, were it only to cast a look upon him in passing.

It could be easily perceived that the whole of the throng there present were still in doubt, and that they could not credit that the king would persist in following up the resolution he had come to.

“After breakfast, gentlemen,” said the king, “we will set out.”

Then, perceiving Gilbert:—

“Ah, you are there, Doctor,” he continued, “you know that I take you with me.”

“At your orders, Sire.”

The king went into his cabinet, where he was engaged two hours. He afterwards attended Mass with all his household; then, at about nine o'clock, he sat down to breakfast.

The repast was taken with the usual ceremonies, excepting that the queen, who, after attending Mass, was observed to be out of spirits, her eyes red and swollen, had insisted on being present at the king's repast, but without partaking of it in the slightest manner, that she might be with him to the last moment.

The queen had brought her two children with her, who, already much agitated, doubtless by what the queen had said to them, were looking anxiously from time to time at their father's face, and then at the crowd of officers of the guards, who were present.

The children, moreover, from time to time, by order of their mother, wiped away a tear, which every now and then would rise to their eyelids; and the sight of this excited the pity of some and the anger of others, and filled the whole assembly with profound grief.

The king ate on stoically. He spoke several times to Gilbert, without taking his eyes off his plate; he spoke frequently to the queen, and always with deep affection.

At last he gave instructions to the commanders of his troops.

He was just finishing his breakfast, when an officer came in to announce to him that a compact body of men on foot, coming from Paris, had just appeared at the end of the grand avenue leading to the Place d'Armes.

On hearing this, the officers and guards at once rushed out of the room. The king raised his head and looked at Gilbert; but seeing that Gilbert smiled, he tranquilly continued eating.

The queen turned pale, and leaned towards Monsieur de Beauvau, to request him to obtain information.

Monsieur de Beauvau ran out precipitately.

The queen then drew near to the window.

Five minutes afterwards Monsieur de Beauvau returned.

“Sire,” said he, on entering the room, “they are National Guards, from Paris, who, hearing the rumor spread yesterday in the capital, of your Majesty's intention to visit the Parisians, assembled to the number of some ten thousand, for the purpose of coming out to meet you on the road; and not meeting you so soon as they expected, they have pushed on to Versailles.”

“What appear to be their intentions?” asked the king.

“The best in the world,” replied Monsieur de Beauvau.

“That matters not,” said the queen; “have the gates closed.”

“Take good care not to do that,” said the king; “it is quite enough that the palace-doors remain closed.”

The queen frowned, and darted a look at Gilbert.

The latter was awaiting this look from the queen, for one half his prediction was already fulfilled. He had promised the arrival of twenty thousand men, and ten thousand had already come.

The king turned to Monsieur de Beauvau.

“See that refreshments be given to these worthy people,” said he.

Monsieur de Beauvau went down a second time. He transmitted to the cellar-men the order he had received from the king.

After doing this, he went upstairs again.

“Well?” said the king, in a tone of inquiry.

“Well, Sire, your Parisians are in high discussion with the gentlemen of the Guards.”

“How!” cried the king, “there is a discussion?”

“Oh! one of pure courteousness. As they have been informed that the king is to set out in two hours, they wish to await his departure, and march behind his Majesty's carriage.”

“But,” inquired the queen, in her turn, “they are on foot, I suppose?”

“Yes, Madame.”

“But the king has horses to his carriage, and the king travels fast, very fast; you know, Monsieur de Beauvau, that the king is accustomed to travelling very rapidly.”

These words, pronounced in the tone the queen pronounced them, implied:—

“Put wings to his Majesty's carriage.”

The king made a sign with his hand to stop the colloquy.

“I will go at a walk.”

The queen heaved a sigh which almost resembled a cry of anger.

“It would not be right,” tranquilly added Louis XVI., “that I should make these worthy people run, who have taken the trouble to come so far to do me honor. My carriage shall be driven at a walk, and a slow walk too, so that everybody may be able to follow me.”

The whole of the company testified their admiration by a murmur of approbation; but at the same time there was seen on the countenances of several persons the reflection of the disapproval which was expressed by the features of the queen, at so much goodness of soul, which she considered as mere weakness.

A window was opened.

The queen turned round, amazed. It was Gilbert, who, in his quality of physician, had only exercised the right which appertained to him of renewing the air of the dining-room, thickened by the odors of the viands and the breathing of two hundred persons.

The doctor stood behind the curtains of the open window, through which ascended the voices of the crowd assembled in the courtyard.

“What is that?” asked the king.

“Sire,” replied Gilbert, “the National Guards are down there on the pavement, exposed to the heat of the sun, and they must feel it very oppressive.”

“Why not invite them upstairs to breakfast with the king?” sarcastically said one of her favorite officers to the queen.

“They should be taken to some shady place; put them into the marble courtyard, into the vestibules, wherever it is cool,” said the king.

“Ten thousand men in the vestibules!” exclaimed the queen.

“If they are scattered everywhere, there will be room enough for them,” said the king.

“Scattered everywhere!” cried Marie Antoinette, why, sir, you will teach them the way to your own bedchamber.”

This was the prophecy of terror which was to be realized at Versailles before three months had elapsed.

“They have a great many children with them, Madame,” said Gilbert, in a gentle tone.

“Children!” exclaimed the queen.

“Yes, Madame; a great many have brought their children with them, as if on a party of pleasure. The children are dressed as little National Guards, so great is the enthusiasm for this new institution.”

The queen opened her lips as if about to speak; but almost instantly she held down her head.

She had felt a desire to utter a kind word; but pride and hatred had stopped it ere it escaped her lips.

Gilbert looked at her attentively.

“Ah!” cried the king, “those poor children! When people bring children with them, it is plain that they have no intention to do harm to the father of a family,—another reason for putting them in a cooler place, poor little things! Let them in; let them in.”

Gilbert then, gently shaking his head, appeared to say to the queen, who had remained silent:—

“There, Madame; that is what you ought to have said; I gave you the opportunity. Your kind words would have been repeated, and you would have gained two years of popularity.”

The queen comprehended Gilbert's mute language, and a blush suffused her face.

She felt the error she had committed, and immediately excused herself by a feeling of pride and resistance, which she expressed by a glance, as a reply to Gilbert. During this time Monsieur de Beauvau was following the king's orders relating to the National Guards.

Then were heard shouts of joy and benediction from that armed crowd, admitted by the king's order to the interior of the palace.

The acclamations, the fervent wishes, the loud hurrahs, ascended as a whirlwind to the hall in which the king and queen were seated, whom they reassured with regard to the disposition of the so-much-dreaded inhabitants of Paris.

“Sire,” said Monsieur de Beauvau, “in what order is it that your Majesty determines the procession shall be conducted?”

“And the discussion between the National Guards and my officers?”

“Oh, Sire, it has evaporated, vanished; those worthy people are so happy that they now say, 'We will go wherever you may please to place us. The king is our king as much as he is everybody else's king. Wherever he may be, he is ours.”

The King looked at Marie Antoinette, who curled, with an ironical smile, her disdainful lip.

“Tell the National Guards,” said Louis XVI., “that they may place themselves where they will.”

“Your Majesty,” said the queen, “will not forget that your body-guards have the right of surrounding your carriage.”

The officers, who perceived that the king was somewhat undecided, advanced to support the arguments of the queen.

“That is the case, undoubtedly,” replied the king. “Well, we shall see.”

Monsieur de Beauvau and Monsieur de Villeroy left the room to take their stations and to give the necessary orders.,

The clock of Versailles struck ten. “Well, well,” said the king, “I shall put off my usual labors till to-morrow; these worthy people ought not to be kept waiting.”

The king rose from table.

Marie Antoinette went to the king, clasped him in her arms, and embraced him. The children clung weeping to their father's neck. Louis XVI., who was much moved, endeavored gently to release himself from them; he wished to conceal the emotions which would soon have become overpowering.

The queen stopped all the officers as they passed her, seizing one by his arm, another by his sword.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen!” said she. And this eloquent exclamation recommended to them to be watchful for the safety of the king, who had just descended the staircase.

All of them placed their hands upon their hearts and upon their swords.

The queen smiled to thank them.

Gilbert remained in the room till almost the last.

“Sir,” said the queen to him, “it was you who advised the king to take this step. It was you who induced the king to come to this resolution, in spite of my entreaties. Reflect, sir, that you have assumed a fearful responsibility as regards the wife, as regards the children.”

“I am sensible of that,” coldly replied Gilbert.

“And you will bring the king back to me safe and unhurt?” she said with a solemn gesture.

“Yes, Madame.”

“Reflect that you will answer for his safety with your head.”

Gilbert bowed.

“Reflect that your head is answerable,” cried Marie Antoinette, with the menacing and pitiless authority of an absolute monarch.

“Upon my head be the risk,” said the doctor, again bowing. “Yes, Madame; and this pledge I should consider as a hostage of but little value, if I believed the king's safety to be at all threatened. But I have said, Madame, that it is to a triumph that I this day conduct his Majesty.”

“I must have news of him every hour,” added the queen.

“You shall, Madame; and this I swear to you.”

“Go, sir; go at once. I hear the drums; the king is about to leave the palace.”

Gilbert bowed, and descending the grand staircase, found himself face to face with one of the king's aides-de-camp, who was seeking him by order of his Majesty.

They made him get into a carriage which belonged to Monsieur de Beauvau; the grand master of the ceremonies not allowing, as he had not produced proofs of his nobility, that he should travel in one of the king's carriages.

Gilbert smiled on finding himself alone in a carriage with arms upon its panels, Monsieur de Beauvau being on horseback, curvetting by the side of the royal carriage.

Then it struck him that it was ridiculous in him thus to be occupying a carriage on which was painted a princely coronet and armorial bearings.

This scruple was still annoying him when, from the midst of a crowd of National Guards, who were following the carriage, he heard the following conversation, though carried on in a half-whisper by men who were curiously stretching out their necks to look at him.

“Oh! that one,—that is the Prince de Beauvau.”

“Why,” cried a comrade, “you are mistaken.”

“I tell you it must be so, since the carriage has the prince's arms upon it.”

“The arms! the arms! I say that means nothing.”

“Zounds!” said another, “what do the arms prove?”

“They prove that if the arms of Monsieur de Beauvau are upon the coach, it must be Monsieur de Beauvau who is inside of it.”

“Monsieur de Beauveau,—is he a patriot?” asked a woman.

“Pooh!” exclaimed the National Guard. Gilbert again smiled.

“But I tell you,” said the first contradictor, “that it is not the prince. The prince is stout; that one is thin. The prince wears the uniform of a commandant of the guards; that one wears a black coat,—it is his intendant.”

A murmur, which was by no means favorable to Gilbert, arose among the crowd, who had degraded him by giving him this title, which was not at all flattering.

“Why, no, by the devil's horns!” cried a loud voice, the sound of which made Gilbert start. It was the voice of a man who with his elbows and his fists was clearing his way to get near the carriage. “No,” said he, “it is neither Monsieur de Beauvau nor his intendant. It is that brave and famous patriot, and even the most famous of all the patriots. Why, Monsieur Gilbert, what the devil are you doing in the carriage of a prince?”

“Ha! it is you, Father Billot!” exclaimed the doctor.

“By Heaven,” replied the farmer, “I took good care not to lose the opportunity!”

“And Pitou?” asked Gilbert.

“Oh, he is not far off. Hilloa, Pitou! where are you? Come this way; come quickly!”

And Pitou, on hearing this invitation, managed by a dexterous use of his shoulders to slip through the crowd till he reached Billot's side, and then with admiration bowed to Gilbert.

“Good-day, Monsieur Gilbert,” said he.

“Good-day, Pitou; good-day, my friend.”

“Gilbert! Gilbert who is he?” inquired the crowd of one another.

“Such is fame,” thought the doctor,—“well known at Villers-Cotterets; yes; but at Paris popularity is everything.”

He alighted from the carriage, which continued its onward progress at a walk, while Gilbert moved on with the crowd, on foot, leaning on Billot's arm.

He in a few words related to the farmer his visit to Versailles, the good disposition of the king and the royal family; he in a few minutes preached such a propaganda of royalism to the group by which he was surrounded that, simple and delighted, these worthy people, who were yet easily induced to receive good impressions, uttered loud and continued shouts of “Long live the king!” which, taken up by those who preceded them, soon reached the head of the line, and deafened Louis XVI. in his carriage.

“I will see the king!” cried Billot, electrified. “I must get close to him, and see him well; I came all this way on purpose. I will judge him by his face; the eye of an honest man can always speak for itself. Let us get nearer to his carriage, Monsieur Gilbert, shall we not?”

“Wait a little, and it will be easy for us to do so,” replied Gilbert; “for I see one of Monsieur de Beauvau's aides-de-camp, who is seeking for some one, coming this way.”

And, in fact, a cavalier, who, managing his horse with every sort of precaution, amid the groups of fatigued but joyous pedestrians, was endeavoring to get near the carriage which Gilbert had just left.

Gilbert called to him.

“Are you not looking, sir, for Doctor Gilbert” he inquired.

“Himself,” replied the aide-de-camp.

“In that case, I am he.”

“Monsieur de Beauvau sends for you, at the king's request.”

These high-sounding words made Billot's eyes open widely; and on the crowd they had the effect of making them open their ranks to allow Gilbert to pass. Gilbert glided through them, followed by Billot and Pitou, the aide-de-camp going before them, who kept on repeating:

“Make room, gentlemen, make room; let us pass, in the king's name, let us pass!”

Gilbert soon reached the door of the royal carriage, which was moving onward as if drawn by Merovingian oxen.

Chapter VII. The Journey

THUS pushing and thus pushed, but still following Monsieur de Beauvau's aide-de-camp, Gilbert, Billot, and Pitou at length reached the carriage in which the king, accompanied by Messieurs d'Estaing and de Villequier, was slowly advancing amid the crowd, which continually increased.

Extraordinary, unknown, unheard-of spectacle! for it was the first time that such a one had been seen. All those National Guards from the surrounding villages—impromptu soldiers suddenly sprung up—hastened with cries of joy to greet the king in his progress, saluting him with their benedictions, endeavoring to gain a look from him, and then, instead of returning to their homes, taking place in the procession, and accompanying their monarch towards Paris.

And why? No one could have given a reason for it. Were they obeying an instinct? They had seen, but they wished again to see, this well-beloved king.

For it must he acknowledged that at this period Louis XVI. was an adored king, to whom the French would have raised altars, had it not been for the profound contempt with which Voltaire had inspired them for all altars.

Louis XVI. therefore had no altars raised to him, but solely because the thinkers of that day had too high an esteem for him to inflict upon him such a humiliation.

Louis XVI.perceived Gilbert leaning upon the arm of Billot; behind them marched Pitou, still dragging after him his long sabre.

“Ah, Doctor,” cried the king, “what magnificent weather, and what a magnificent people!”

“You see, Sire,” replied Gilbert. Then, turning towards the king: “What did I promise your Majesty?”

“Yes, sir, yes; and you have worthily fulfilled your promise.”

The king raised his head, and with the intention of being heard:—

“We move but slowly,” said he; “and yet it appears to me that we advance but too rapidly for all that we have to see.”

“Sire,” said Monsieur de Beauvau, “and yet, at the pace your Majesty is going, you are travelling about one league in three hours. It would be difficult to go more slowly.”

In fact, the horses were stopped every moment; harangues and replies were interchanged; the National Guards fraternized—the word was only then invented—with the body-guards of his Majesty.

“Ah!” said Gilbert to himself, who contemplated this singular spectacle as a philosopher, “if they fraternize with the body-guards, it was because before being friends they had been enemies.”

“I say, Monsieur Gilbert,” said Billot, in a half-whisper, “I have had a good look at the king; I have listened to him with all my ears. Well, my opinion is that the king is an honest man!”

And the enthusiasm which animated Billot was so overpowering that he raised his voice in uttering these last words to such a pitch that the king and his staff heard him.

The officers laughed outright. The king smiled, and then, nodding his head:—

“That is praise which pleases me,” said he.

These words were spoken loud enough for Billot to hear them.

“Oh, you are right, Sire, for I do not give it to everybody,” replied Billot, entering at once into conversation with his king, as Michaud, the miller, did with Henry IV.

“And that flatters me so much the more,” rejoined the king, much embarrassed at not knowing how to maintain his dignity as a king, and speak graciously as a good patriot.

Alas! the poor prince was not yet accustomed to call himself King of the French.

He thought that he was still called the King of France.

Billot, beside himself with joy, did not give himself the trouble to reflect whether Louis, in a philosophical point of view, had abdicated the title of king to adopt the title of a man. Billot, who felt how much this language resembled rustic plainness,—Billot applauded himself for having comprehended the king, and for having been comprehended by him.

Therefore from that moment Billot became more and more enthusiastic. He drank from the king's looks, according to the Virgilian expression, deep draughts of love for constitutional royalty, and communicated it to Pitou, who, too full of his own love and the superfluity of Billot's, overflowed at first in stentorian shouts, then in more squeaking, and finally in less articulate ones of:—

“Long live the king! Long live the father of the people!”

This modification in the voice of Pitou was produced by degrees in proportion as he became more and more hoarse.

Pitou was as hoarse as a bull-frog when the procession reached the Point du Jour, where the Marquis de Lafayette, on his celebrated white charger, was keeping in order the undisciplined and agitated cohorts of the National Guard, who had from five o'clock that morning lined the road to receive the royal procession.

At this time it was nearly two o'clock.

The interview between the king and this new chief of armed France passed off in a manner that was satisfactory to all present.

The king, however, began to feel fatigued. He no longer spoke; he contented himself with merely smiling.

The general-in-chief of the Parisian militia could no longer utter a command; he only gesticulated.

The king had the satisfaction to find that the crowd as frequently cried: “Long live the king!” as “Long live Lafayette!” Unfortunately, this was the last time he was destined to enjoy this gratification of his self-love.

During this, Gilbert remained constantly at the door of the king's carriage, Billot near Gilbert, Pitou near Billot.

Gilbert, faithful to his promise, had found means, since his departure from Versailles, to despatch four couriers to the queen.

These couriers had each been the bearer of good news, for at every step of his journey the king had seen caps thrown up in the air as he passed, only on each of these caps shone the colors of the nation, a species of reproach addressed to the white cockade which the king's guards and the king himself wore in their hats.

In the midst of his joy and enthusiasm, this discrepancy in the cockades was the only thing which annoyed Billot.

Billot had on his cocked hat an enormous tricolored cockade.

The king had a white cockade in his hat; the tastes of the subject and the king were not therefore absolutely similar.

This idea so much perplexed him that he could not refrain from unburdening his mind upon the subject to Gilbert, at a moment when the latter was not conversing with the king.

“Monsieur Gilbert,” said he to him, “how is it that his Majesty does not wear the national cockade?”

“Because, my dear Billot, either the king does not know that there is a new cockade, or he considers that the cockade he wears ought to be the cockade of the nation.”

“Oh, no! oh, no! since his cockade is a white one, and our cockade—ours—is a tricolored one.”

“One moment,” said Gilbert, stopping Billot just as he was about to launch with heart and soul into the arguments advanced by the newspapers of the day; “the king's cockade is white, as the flag of France is white. The king is in no way to blame for this. Cockade and flag were white long before he came into the world. Moreover, my dear Billot, that flag has performed great feats, and so has the white cockade. There was a white cockade in the hat of Admiral de Suffren, when he reestablished our flag in the East Indies. There was a white cockade in the hat of Assas, and it was by that the Germans recognized him in the night, when he allowed himself to be killed rather than that they should take his soldiers by surprise. There was a white cockade in the hat of Marshal Saxe, when he defeated the English at Fontenoy. There was, in fine, a white cockade in the hat of the Prince de Condé, when he beat the Imperialists at Rocroi, at Fribourg, and at Lens. The white cockade has done all this, and a great many other things, my dear Billot; while the national cockade, which will perhaps make a tour round the world, as Lafayette has predicted, has not yet had time to accomplish anything, seeing that it has existed only for the last three days. I do not say that it will rest idle, do you understand; but, in short, having as yet done nothing, it gives the king full right to wait till it has done something.”

“How? the national cockade has as yet done nothing?” cried Billot. “Has it not taken the Bastille?”

“It has,” said Gilbert, sorrowfully; “you are right, Billot.”

“And that is why,” triumphantly rejoined the farmer,—“that is why the king ought to adopt it.”

Gilbert gave a furious nudge with his elbow into Billot's ribs, for he had perceived the king was listening, and then, in a low tone:—

“Are you mad, Billot?” said he; “and against whom was the Bastille taken, then? Against royalty, it seems to me. And now you would make the king wear the trophies of your triumph and the insignia of his own defeat. Madman! the king is all heart, all goodness, all candor, and you would wish him to show himself a hypocrite!”

“But,” said Billot, more humbly, without, however, giving up the argument altogether, “it was not precisely against the king that the Bastille was taken; it was against despotism.”

Gilbert shrugged up his shoulders, but with the delicacy of the superior man, who will not place his foot on his inferior, for fear that he should crush him.

“No,” said Billot, again becoming animated, “it is not against our good king that we have fought, but against his satellites.”

Now, in those days they said, speaking politically, satellites instead of saying soldiers, as they said in the theatres, courser instead of horse.

“Moreover,” continued Billot, and with some appearance of reason, “he disapproves them, since he comes thus in the midst of us; and if he disapproves them, he must approve us. It is for our happiness and his honor that we have worked,—we, the conquerors of the Bastille.”

“Alas! alas!” murmured Gilbert, who did not know how to reconcile the appearance of the king's features with that which he knew must be passing in his heart.

As to the king, he began, amid the confused murmurs of the march, to understand some few words of the conversation entered into by his side.

Gilbert, who perceived the attention which the king was paying to the discussion, made every effort to lead Billot on to less slippery ground than that on which he had ventured.

Suddenly the procession stopped; it had arrived at the Cours la Reine, at the gate formerly called La Conférence, in the Champs Élysées.

There a deputation of electors and aldermen, presided over by the new mayor, Bailly, had drawn themselves up in fine array, with a guard of three hundred men, commanded by a colonel, besides at least three hundred members of the National Assembly, taken, as it will be readily imagined, from the ranks of the Tiers État.

Two of the electors united their strength and their address to hold in equilibrium a vast salver of gilt plate, upon which were lying two enormous keys,—the keys of the city of Paris during the days of Henry IV.

This imposing spectacle at once put a stop to all individual conversations; and every one, whether in the crowd or in the ranks, immediately directed their attention to the speeches about to be pronounced on the occasion.

Bailly, the worthy man of science, the admirable astronomer, who had been made a deputy in defiance to his own will, a mayor in spite of his objections, an orator notwithstanding his unwillingness, had prepared a long speech. This speech had for its exordium, according to the strictest laws of rhetoric, a laudatory encomium on the king, from the coming into power of Monsieur Turgot down to the taking of the Bastille. Little was wanting, such privilege has eloquence, to attribute to the king the initiative in the measures which the people had been compelled unwillingly to adopt.

Bailly was delighted with the speech he had prepared, when an incident (it is Bailly himself who relates this incident in his Memoirs) furnished him with a new exordium, very much more picturesque than the one he had prepared,—the only one, moreover, which remained engraved on the minds of the people, always ready to seize upon good and, above all, fine-sounding phrases, when founded upon a material fact.

While walking towards the place of meeting, with the aldermen and the electors, Bailly was alarmed at the weight of the keys which he was about to present to the king.

“Do you believe,” said he, laughingly, “that after having shown these to the king, I will undergo the fatigue of carrying them back to Paris?”

“What will you do with them, then?” asked one of the electors.

“What will I do with them?” said Bailly. Why, I will give them to you, or I will throw them into some ditch at the foot of a tree.”

“Take good care not to do that!” cried the elector, completely horrified. “Do you not know that these keys re the same which the city of Paris offered to Henry IV. after the siege? They are very precious; they are inestimable antiquities.”

“You are right,” rejoined Bailly; “the keys offered to Henry IV., the conqueror of Paris, and which are now to be offered to Louis XVI., heh? Why, I declare, now,” said the worthy mayor to himself, “this would be a capital antithesis in my speech.”

And instantly he took a pencil and wrote above the speech he had prepared the following exordium:—

“Sire, I present to your Majesty the keys of the good city of Paris. They are the same which were offered to Henry IV. He had re-conquered his people; to-day the people have re-conquered their king.”

The phrase was well turned, and it was also true. It implanted itself in the memories of the Parisians; and all the speeches, all the works of Bailly, this only survived.

As to Louis XVI., he approved it by an affirmative d, but coloring deeply at the same time; for he felt epigrammatic irony which it conveyed, although concealed beneath a semblance of respect and oratorical flourishes.

“Oh! Marie Antoinette,” murmured Louis XVI. to self, “would not allow herself to be deceived by this tended veneration of Monsieur Bailly, and would reply a very different manner from that which I am about to do to the untoward astronomer.”

And these reflections were the cause why Louis XVI., who had paid too much attention to the commencement of the speech, did not listen at all to the conclusion of it, nor to that of the president of the electors, Monsieur Delavigne, of which he heard neither the beginning nor the end.

However, the addresses being concluded, the king, fearing not to appear sufficiently delighted with their efforts to say that which was agreeable to him, replied in a very noble tone, and without making any allusion to what the orators had said, that the homage of the city of Paris and of the electors was exceedingly gratifying to him.

After which he gave orders for the procession to move on towards the Hôtel de Ville.

But before it recommended its march, he dismissed his body-guard, wishing to respond by a gracious confidence to the half-politeness which had been evinced to him by the municipality through their organs, the president of the electors and Monsieur Bailly.

Being thus alone, amid the enormous mass of National Guards and spectators, the carriage advanced more rapidly.

Gilbert and his companion Billot still retained their posts on the right of the carriage.

At the moment when they were crossing the Place Louis XV., the report of a gun was heard, fired from the opposite side of the Seine; and a white smoke arose, like a veil of incense, towards the blue sky, where it as suddenly vanished.

As if the report of this musket-shot had found an echo within his breast, Gilbert had felt himself struck, as by a violent blow. For a second his breath failed him, and he hastily pressed his hand to his heart, where he felt a sudden and severe pain.

At the same instant a cry of distress was heard around the royal carriage; a woman had fallen to the ground, shot through the right shoulder.

One of the buttons of Gilbert's coat, a large steel button, cut diamond-fashion, as they were worn at the period, had just been struck diagonally by that same ball.

It had performed the office of a breastplate, and the ball had glanced off from it; this had caused the painful shock which Gilbert had experienced.

Part of his waistcoat and his frill had been torn off by the ball.

This ball, on glancing from the button, had killed the unfortunate woman, who was instantly removed from the spot, bleeding profusely.

The king had heard the shot, but had seen nothing.

He leaned towards Gilbert, and smiling, said:—

“They are burning gunpowder yonder, to do me honor.”

“Yes, Sire,” replied Gilbert.

But he was careful not to mention to his Majesty the nature of the ovation which they were offering to aim.

In his own mind, however, he acknowledged that the queen had some reason for the apprehensions she had expressed, since, but for him standing immediately before, and closing the carriage-door, as it were, hermetically, that ball, which had glanced off from his steel button, would have gone straight to the king's breast.

And now from what hand had proceeded this so well-aimed shot?

No one then wished to inquire, so that it will never now be known.

Billot, pale from what he had just seen, his eyes incessantly attracted to the rent made in Gilbert's coat, waistcoat, and frill, excited Pitou to shout as loudly as he could, “Long live the Father of the French!

The event of the day was so great that this episode was quickly forgotten.

At last Louis XVI. arrived in front of the Hôtel de Ville, after having been saluted on the Pont Neuf by a discharge of cannon, which, at all events, were not loaded with ball.

Upon the facade of the Hôtel de Ville was an inscription, in large letters, black in the daylight, but which, when it was dark, were to form a brilliant transparency. This inscription was the result of the ingenious lucubrations of the municipal authorities.

The inscription was as follows:—


Another antithesis, much more important than the one contained in Monsieur Bailly's speech, and which elicited shouts of admiration from all the Parisians assembled in the square.

The inscription attracted the attention of Billot.

But as Billot could not read, he made Pitou read the inscription to him.

Billot made him read it a second time, as if he had not understood it perfectly at first.

Then, when Pitou had repeated the phrase, without varying in a single word:—

“Is it that?” cried he,—“is it that?”

“Undoubtedly,” replied Pitou.

“The municipality has written that the king is a king of a free people?”

“Yes, Father Billot.”

“Well, then,” exclaimed Billot, “since the nation is free, it has the right to offer its cockade to the king.”

And with one bound, rushing before the king, who was then alighting from his carriage at the front steps of the Hôtel de Ville:—

“Sire,” said he, “you saw on the Pont Neuf that the Henry IV. in bronze wore the national cockade.”

“Well?” cried the king.

“Well, Sire, if Henry IV. wears the national cockade, you can wear it too.”

“Certainly,” said Louis XVI. much embarrassed; “and if I had one—”

“Well,” cried Billot, in a louder tone, and raising his hand, “in the name of the people I offer you this one in the place of yours; accept it.”

Bailly intervened.

The king was pale. He began to see the progressive encroachment. He looked at Bailly as if to ask his opinion.

“Sire,” said the latter, “it is the distinctive sign of every Frenchman.”

“In that case I accept it,” said the king, taking the cockade from Billot's hands.

And putting aside his own white cockade, he placed the tricolored one in his hat.

An immense triumphant hurrah was echoed from the great crowd upon the square.

Gilbert turned away his head, much grieved.

He considered that the people were encroaching too rapidly, and that the king did not resist sufficiently.

“Long live the king!” cried Billot, who thus gave the signal for a second round of applause.

“The king is dead,” murmured Gilbert; “there is no longer a king in France.”

An arch of steel had been formed, by a thousand swords held up, from the place at which the king had alighted from his carriage, to the door of the hall in which the municipal authorities were waiting to receive him.

He passed beneath this arch, and disappeared in the gloomy passages of the Hôtel de Ville.

“That is not a triumphal arch,” said Gilbert, “but the Caudine Forks.”

Then, with a sigh:—

“Ah! what will the queen say to this?”

Chapter VIII. Showing what was taking place at Versailles while the King was listening to the Speeches of the Municipality

IN the interior of the Hôtel de Ville the king received the most flattering welcome; he was styled the Restorer of Liberty.

Being invited to speak,—for the thirst for speeches became every day more intense,—and wishing, in short, to ascertain the feelings of all present, the king placed his hand upon his heart, and said:—

“Gentlemen, you may always calculate on my affection.”

While he was thus listening in the Hôtel de Ville to the communications from the government,—for from that day a real government was constituted in France, besides that of the throne and the National Assembly,-the people outside the building were admiring the beautiful horses, the gilt carriage, the lackeys, and the coachman of his Majesty.

Pitou, since the entry of the king into the Hôtel de Ville, had, thanks to a louis given by Father Billot, amused himself in making a goodly quantity of cockades of red and blue ribbons, which he had purchased with the louis, and with these, which were of all sizes, he had decorated the horses' ears, the harness, and the whole equipage.

On seeing this, the imitative people had literally metamorphosed the king's carriage into a cockade-shop.

The coachman and the footmen were profusely ornamented with them.

They had, moreover, slipped some dozens of them into the carriage itself.

However, it must be said that Monsieur de Lafayette, who had remained on horseback, had endeavored to restrain these honest propagators of the national colors, but had not been able to succeed.

And therefore, when the king came out:—

“Oh, oh!” cried he, on seeing this strange bedizenment of his equipage.

Then, with his hand he made a sign to Monsieur de Lafayette to approach him.

Monsieur de Lafayette respectfully advanced, lowering his sword as he came near the king.

“Monsieur de Lafayette,” said the king to him, “I was looking for you to say to you that I confirm your appointment to the command of the National Guards.”

And Louis XVI. got into his carriage amid a universal acclamation.

As to Gilbert, tranquillized henceforward as to the personal safety of the king, he had remained in the hall with Bailly and the electors.

The speechifying had not yet terminated.

However, on hearing the loud hurrahs which saluted the departure of the king, he approached a window, to cast a last glance on the square, and to observe the conduct of his two country friends.

They were both, or at least they appeared to be, still on the best terms with the king.

Suddenly Gilbert perceived a horseman advancing rapidly along the Quay Pelletier, covered with dust, and obliging the crowd, which was still docile and respectful, to open its ranks and let him pass.

The people, who were good and complaisant on this great day, smiled while repeating:—

“One of the king's officers!—one of the king's officers!”

And cries of “Long live the king!” saluted the officer as he passed on, and women patted his horse's neck, which was white with foam.

This officer at last managed to reach the king's carriage, and arrived there at the moment when a servant was closing the door of it.

“What! is it you, Charny?” cried Louis XVI.

And then, in a lower tone:—

“How are they all out yonder?” he inquired.

Then, in a whisper:—

“The queen?”

“Very anxious, Sire,” replied the officer, who had thrust his head completely into the carriage-window.

“Do you return to Versailles?”

“Yes, Sire.”

“Well, then, tell our friends they have no cause for uneasiness. All has gone off marvellously well.”

Charny bowed, raised his head, and perceived Monsieur de Lafayette, who made a friendly sign to him.

Charny went to him, and Lafayette shook hands with him; and the crowd, seeing this, almost carried both officer and horse as far as the quay, where, thanks to the vigilant orders given to the National Guards, a line was formed to facilitate the king's departure.

The king ordered that the carriage should move out at a walking pace, till it reached the Place Louis XV. There he found his body-guards, who were awaiting the return of the king, and not without impatience; so that this impatience, in which every one participated, kept on increasing every moment, and the horses were driven on at a pace which increased in rapidity as they advanced upon the road to Versailles.

Gilbert, from the balcony of the window, had fully comprehended the meaning of the arrival of this horseman, although he did not know his person. He readily imagined the anguish which the queen must have suffered, and especially for the last three hours; for during that time he had not been able to despatch a single courier to Versailles, amid the throng by which he was surrounded, without exciting suspicion, or betraying weakness.

He had but a faint idea of all that had been occurring at Versailles.

We shall now return there with our readers, for we do not wish to make them read too long a course of history.

The queen had received the last courier from the king at three o'clock.

Gilbert had found means to despatch a courier just at the moment the king entered the Hôtel de Ville, under the arch formed by the swords of the National Guards.

The Countess de Charny was with the queen. The countess had only just left her bed, which from severe indisposition she had kept since the previous day.

She was still very pale. She had hardly strength to raise her eyes, the heavy lids of which seemed to be constantly falling, weighed down either with grief or shame.

The queen, on perceiving her, smiled, but with that habitual smile which appears, to those familiar with the court, to be stereotyped upon the lips of princes and of kings.

Then, as if overjoyed that her husband was in safety:—

“Good news again!” exclaimed the queen to those who surrounded her; “may the whole day pass off as well!”

“Oh, Madame!” said a courtier, “your Majesty alarms yourself too much. The Parisians know too well the responsibility which weighs upon them.”

“But, Madame,” said another courtier, who was not so confiding, “is your Majesty well assured as to the authenticity of this intelligence?”

“Oh, yes,” replied the queen. “The person who writes to me has engaged, at the hazard of his head, to be responsible for the safety of the king. Moreover, I believe him to be a friend.”

“Oh! if he is a friend,” rejoined the courtier, bowing, “that is quite another matter.”

Madame de Lamballe, who was standing at a little distance, approached.

“It is,” said she, “the lately appointed physician, is t not?”

“Yes, Gilbert,” unthinkingly replied the queen, without reflecting that she was striking a fearful blow at one who stood close beside her.

“Gilbert!” exclaimed Andrée, starting as if a viper had bit her to the heart; “Gilbert, your Majesty's friend!”

Andrée had turned round with flashing eyes, her Lands clinched with anger and shame, and seemed proudly to accuse the queen, both by her looks and attitude.

“But still,” said the queen, hesitating.

“Oh, Madame, Madame!” murmured Andrée, in a tone of the bitterest reproach.

A deathlike silence pervaded the whole room after this mysterious incident.

In the midst of this silence, a light step was heard upon the tesselated floor of the adjoining room.

“Monsieur de Charny!” said the queen, in a half-whisper, as if to warn Andrée to compose herself.

Charny had heard—he had seen all—only he could not comprehend it.

He remarked the pallid countenance of Andrée, and the embarrassed air of Marie Antoinette.

It would have been a breach of etiquette to question the queen, but Andrée was his wife; he had the right to question her.

He therefore went to her, and in the most friendly tone—

“What is the matter, Madame?” said he.

Andrée made an effort to recover her composure.

“Nothing, Count,” she replied.

Charny then turned towards the queen, who, notwithstanding her profound experience in equivocal positions, had ten times essayed to muster up a smile, but could not succeed.

“You appear to doubt the devotedness of this Monsieur Gilbert,” said he to Andrée. “Have you any motive for suspecting his fidelity?”

Andrée was silent.

“Speak, Madame; speak!” said Charny, insistingly.

Then, as Andrée still remained mute:—

“Oh, speak, Madame!” cried he. “This delicacy now becomes condemnable. Reflect that on it may depend the safety of our master.”

“I do not know, sir, what can be your motive for saying that,” replied Andrée.

“You said, and I heard you say it, Madame,—I appeal moreover to the princess,”—and Charny bowed to the Princess de Lamballe, “you exclaimed with an expression of great surprise, 'Gilbert, your Majesty's friend!'“

“'Tis true, you did say that, my dear,” said the Princess de Lamballe, with her habitual ingenuousness.

Then, going closer to Andre:—

“If you do know anything, Monsieur de Charny is right.”

“For pity's sake, Madame! for pity's sake!” said Andrée, in an imploring tone, but so low that it could not be heard by any one but the princess.

The princess retired a few steps.

“Oh, good Heaven! it was but a trifling matter,” said the queen, feeling that should she any longer delay to interfere, she would be betraying her trust. “The countess was expressing her apprehensions, which doubtless were but vague. She had said that it was difficult for a man who had taken part in the American Revolution, one who is the friend of Monsieur de Lafayette, to be our friend.”

“Yes, vague,” mechanically repeated Andrée,—“very vague.”

“A fear of a similar nature to one which had been expressed by one of the gentlemen present before the countess had expressed hers,” rejoined Marie Antoinette.

And with her eyes she pointed out the courtier whose doubts had given rise to this discussion.

But it required more than this to convince Charny. The great confusion which had appeared on his entering the room persuaded him that there was some mystery in the affair.

He therefore persisted.

“It matters not, Madame,” said he. “It seems to me that it is your duty not to express vain fears, but on the contrary, to state precise facts.”

“What, sir,” said the queen, with some asperity, “you are returning to that subject!”


“Your pardon, but I find that you are still questioning the Countess de Charny.”

“Excuse me, Madame,” said Charny; “it is from interest for—”

“For your self-love, is it not? Ah, Monsieur de Charny,” added the queen, with an ironical expression of which the count felt the whole weight, “acknowledge the thing frankly. You are jealous.”

“Jealous! jealous!” cried Charny, coloring,—“but of what? I ask this of your Majesty.”

“Of your wife, apparently,” replied the queen, harshly.

“Madame!” stammered Charny, perfectly astounded at this unlooked-for attack.

“It is perfectly natural,” dryly rejoined Marie Antoinette; “and the countess assuredly is worth the trouble.”

Charny darted a look at the queen, to warn her that she was going too far.

But this was useless trouble, superfluous precaution. When this lioness was wounded, and felt the burning pain galling her heart, she no longer knew restraint.

“Yes, I can comprehend your being jealous, Monsieur de Charny,—jealous and uneasy; it is the natural state of every soul that loves, and which consequently is on the watch.”

“Madame!” repeated Charny.

“And therefore I,” pursued the queen,—“I experience precisely the same feelings which you do at this moment, I am at once a prey to jealousy and anxiety.” She emphasized the word “jealousy.” “The king is at Paris and I no longer live.”

“But, Madame,” observed Charny, who could not at all comprehend the meaning of this storm, the thunder of which appeared to growl more fiercely and the lightnings to flash more vividly every moment, “you have just now received news of the king; the news was good, and you must feel more tranquil.”

“And did you feel tranquillized when the countess and myself, a moment ago, endeavored to reassure you?”

Charny bit his lip.

Andrée began to raise her head, at once surprised and alarmed,—surprised at what she heard, alarmed at what she thought she understood.

The silence which had ensued after the first question which Charny had addressed to Andrée was now renewed, and the company seemed anxiously awaiting Charny's answer to the queen. Charny remained silent.

“In fact,” resumed the queen, with still increasing anger, “it is the destiny of people who love to think only of the object of their affection. It would be happiness to those poor hearts to sacrifice pitilessly everything—yes, everything—to the feeling by which they are agitated. Good Heaven! how anxious am I with regard to the king!”

One of the courtiers ventured to remark that other couriers would arrive.

“Oh, why am I not at Paris, instead of being here? I why am I not with the king?” said Marie Antoinette, who had seen that Charny had become agitated since she had been endeavoring to instil that jealousy into his mind which she so violently experienced.

Charny bowed.

“If it be only that, Madame,” said he, “I will go there; and if, as your Majesty apprehends, the king is in any danger, if that valuable life be exposed, you may rely, Madame, that it shall not be from not having exposed mine in his defence.”

Charny bowed and moved towards the door.

“Sir! sir!” cried Andrée, rushing between Charny and the door; “be careful of yourself!”

Nothing was wanting to the completion of this scene but this outburst of the fears of Andrée.

And therefore, as soon as Andrée had been thus impelled, in spite of herself, to cast aside her habitual coldness, no sooner had she uttered these imprudent words and evinced this unwonted solicitude, than the queen became frightfully pale.

“Why, Madame,” she cried to Andrée, “how is this, that you here usurp the part of a queen?”

“Who,—I, Madame?” stammered Andrée, comprehending that she had, for the first time, allowed to burst forth from her lips the fire which for so long a period had consumed her soul.

“What!” continued Marie Antoinette, “your husband is in the king's service. He is about to set out to seek the king. If he is exposing his life, it is for the king; and when the question is the service of the king, you advise Monsieur de Charny to be careful of himself.”

On hearing these appalling words, Andrée was near fainting. She staggered, and would have fallen to the floor had not Charny rushed forward and caught her in his arms.

An indignant look, which Charny could not restrain, completed the despair of Marie Antoinette, who had considered herself an offended rival, but who, in fact, had been an unjust queen.

“The queen is right,” at length said Charny, with some effort, “and your emotion, Madame, was inconsiderate. You have no husband, Madame, when the interests of the king are in question; and I ought to be the first to request you to restrain your sensibility, if I presumed that you deigned to feel any alarm for me.”

Then, turning towards Marie Antoinette:—

“I am at the queen's orders,” said he, coldly, “and I set out at once. It is I who will bring you news of the king,—good news, Madame, or I will not bring any.”

Then, having spoken these words, he bowed almost to the ground, and left the room before the queen, moved at once by terror and by anger, had thought of detaining him.

A moment afterwards the hoofs of a horse galloping at full speed rang over the pavement of the courtyard.

The queen remained motionless, but a prey to internal agitation, so much the more terrible from her making the most violent efforts to conceal it.

Some understood, while others could not comprehend the cause of this agitation; but they all showed that they respected their sovereign's tranquillity.

Marie Antoinette was left to her own thoughts.

Andrée withdrew with the rest from the apartment, abandoning Marie Antoinette to the caresses of her two children, whom she had sent for, and who had been brought to her.

Chapter IX. The Return

NIGHT had returned, bringing with it its train of fears and gloomy visions, when suddenly shouts were heard from the front of the palace.

The queen started and rose. She was not far from a window, which she opened.

Almost at the same instant, servants, transported with joy, ran into the queen's room, crying:—

“A courier, Madame, a courier!”

Three minutes afterwards, a hussar rushed into the antechamber.

He was a lieutenant despatched by Monsieur de Charny. He had ridden at full speed from Sèvres.

“And the king?” said Marie Antoinette.

“His Majesty will be here in a quarter of an hour,” replied the officer, who was so much out of breath that he could scarcely articulate.

“Safe and well?” asked the queen.

“Safe, well, and smiling, Madame,” replied the officer.

“You have seen him, then?”

“No, Madame, but Monsieur de Charny told me so, when he sent me off.”

The queen started once more at hearing this name, which chance had thus associated with that of the king.

“I thank you, sir; you had better rest yourself,” said the queen to the young gentleman.

The young officer made his obedience and withdrew.

Marie Antoinette, taking her children by the hand, went towards the grand entrance of the palace, where were already assembled all the courtiers and the servants.

The penetrating eye of the queen perceived, on the first step, a female form attired in white, her elbow leaning upon the stone balustrade, and looking eagerly into the darkness, that she might first discern the approach of the king's carriage.

It was Andrée, whom even the presence of the queen did not arouse from her fixed gaze.

She, who generally was so eager to fly to the side of her mistress, evidently had not seen her, or disdained to appear to have seen her.

Andrée, then, bore the queen ill-will for the levity which she had shown that afternoon, and from which cruel levity Andrée had so much suffered.

Or else, carried away by the deepest concern, she was with eager anxiety looking for the return of Charny, for whom she had manifested so much affectionate apprehension.

A twofold poniard-stab to the queen, which deepened a wound that was still bleeding.

She lent but an absent ear to the compliments and joyful congratulations of her other friends, and the courtiers generally.

She even felt for a moment her mind abstracted from the violent grief which had overwhelmed her all the evening. There was even a respite to the anxiety excited in her heart by the king's journey, threatened by so many enemies.

But with her strong mind she soon chased all that was not legitimate affection from her heart. At the feet of God she cast her jealousy. She immolated her anger and her secret feelings to the holiness of her conjugal vow.

It was doubtless God who thus endowed her, for her quiet and support, with this faculty of loving the king, her husband, beyond every being in the world.

At that moment, at least, she so felt, or thought she felt it; the pride of royalty raised the queen above all terrestrial passions,—love of the king was her egotism.

She had therefore driven from her breast all the petty vengeance of a woman, and the coquettish frivolity of the lover, when the flambeaux of the escort appeared at the end of the avenue.

These lights increased in volume every moment, from the rapidity with which the escort advanced.

They could hear the neighing and the hard breathing of the horses. The ground trembled, amid the silence of the night, beneath the weight of the squadrons which surrounded and followed the king's carriage.

The gates were thrown open; the guards rushed forth to receive the king with shouts of enthusiasm. The carriage rolled sonorously over the pavement of the great courtyard.

Dazzled, delighted, fascinated, strongly excited by the varied emotions she had experienced during the whole day, by those which she then felt, the queen flew down the stairs to receive the king.

Louis XVI., as soon as he had alighted from his carriage, ascended the staircase with all the rapidity which was possible, surrounded as he was by his officers, all agitated by the events of the day and their triumph; while in the courtyard, the guards, mixing unceremoniously with the grooms and equerries, tore from the carriages and the harness all the cockades which the enthusiasm of the Parisians had attached to them.

The king and the queen met upon a marble landing. The queen, with a cry of joy and love, several times pressed the king to her heart.

She sobbed as if, on thus meeting him, she had believed she was never again to see him.

Yielding thus to the emotions of an overflowing heart, she did not observe the silent pressure of their hands which Charny and Andrée had just exchanged.

This pressure of the hand was nothing; but Andrée was at the foot of the steps; she was the first Charny had seen and touched.

The queen, after having presented her children to the king, made him kiss them; and then the dauphin, seeing in his father's hat the new cockade, on which the torches cast an ensanguined light, exclaimed with childish astonishment:—

“Why, Papa, what have you on your cockade? Is it blood?”

It was the national red.

The queen uttered a cry, and examined it in her turn.

The king bent down his head, under the pretence of again kissing his little daughter, but in reality to conceal his shame.

Marie Antoinette, with profound disgust, tore the cockade from the hat, without seeing—the noble, furious woman—that she was wounding to the heart a nation that would one day know how to avenge itself.

“Throw it away, Sire,” said she; “throw it away!”

And she threw the cockade down the stairs, upon which trampled the feet of the whole escort which accompanied the king to his apartments.

This strange transition had extinguished all conjugal enthusiasm in the queen's breast. She looked around, but without apparent intention, for Monsieur de Charny, who was standing at his ordinary post near the king, with the stiff formality of a soldier.

“I thank you, sir,” she said to him, when their eyes met, after several moments of hesitation on the part of the count,—“I thank you, sir. You have well fulfilled your promise.”

“To whom are you speaking?” inquired the king.

“To Monsieur de Charny,” said she, boldly.

“Yes, poor Charny! he had trouble enough to get near me. And Gilbert—what has become of him? I do not see him,” added Louis.

The queen, who had become more cautious since the lesson of the afternoon, called out:—

“Come in to supper, Sire,” in order to change the conversation. “Monsieur de Charny,” pursued she, “find the Countess de Charny, and bring her with you. We will have a family supper.”

In this she acted as a queen. But she sighed on observing that Charny, who till then had appeared gloomy, at once became smiling and joyful.

Chapter X. Foulon

BILLOT was in a state of perfect ecstasy.

He had taken the Bastille; he had restored Gilbert to liberty; he had been noticed by Lafayette, who called him by his name; and finally, he had seen the burial of Foulon.

Few men in those days were as much execrated as Foulon. One only could in this respect have competed with him, and this was his son-in-law, Monsieur Berthier de Savigny.

They had both of them been singularly lucky the day following the capture of the Bastille.

Foulon died on that day, and Berthier had managed to escape from Paris.

That which had raised to its climax the unpopularity of Foulon, was that on the retirement of Monsieur Necker he had accepted the place of the “virtuous Genevese,” as he was then called, and had been comptroller-general during three days.

And therefore was there much singing and dancing at his burial.

The people had at one time thought of taking the body out of the coffin and hanging it; but Billot had jumped upon a post, and had made a speech on the respect due to the dead, and the hearse was allowed to continue on its way.

As to Pitou, he had become a perfect hero.

Pitou had become the friend of Monsieur Elie and Monsieur Hullin, who deigned to employ him to execute their commissions.

He was, besides, the confidant of Billot,—of Billot, who had been treated with distinction by Monsieur de Lafayette, as we have already said, who sometimes employed him as a police guard about his person, on account of his brawny shoulders, his herculean fists, and his indomitable courage.

Since the journey of the king to Paris, Gilbert, who had been, through Monsieur Necker, put in communication with the principal members of the National Assembly and the Municipality, was incessantly occupied with the education of the republic, still in its infancy.

He therefore neglected Billot and Pitou, who, neglected by him, threw themselves ardently into the meetings of the citizens, in the midst of which political discussions of transcendent interest were constantly agitated.

At length, one day, after Billot had employed three hours in giving his opinion to the electors as to the best mode of victualling Paris, and fatigued with his long speech, though proud of having played the orator, he was resting with delight, lulled by the monotonous voices of his successors, which he took good care not to listen to, Pitou came in, greatly agitated; and gliding like an eel through the Sessions Hall of the electors in the Hôtel de Ville, and in a palpitating tone, which contrasted greatly with the usual placidity of his enunciation: “Oh, Monsieur Billot!” said he, “dear Monsieur Billot!”

“Well, what is it?”

“Great news!”

“Good news?”

“Glorious news!”

“What is it, then?”

“You know that I had gone to the club of the Virtues, at the Fontainebleau barrier?”

“Yes, and what then?”

“Well, they spoke there of a most extraordinary event.”

“What was it?”

“Do you know that that villain Foulon passed himself off for dead, and carried it so far as to allow himself to be buried?”

“How! passed himself for dead? How say you,—pretended to allow himself to be buried? Nonsense! He is dead enough; for was I not at his funeral?”

“Notwithstanding that, Monsieur Billot, he is still living.”


“As much alive as you and I are.”

“You are mad!”

“Dear Monsieur Billot, I am not mad. The traitor, Foulon, the enemy of the people, the leech of France, the peculator, is not dead.”

“But since I tell you he was buried after an apoplectic fit, since I tell you that I saw the funeral go by, and even that I prevented the people from dragging him out of his coffin to hang him?”

“And I have just seen him alive. Ah, what do you say to that?”


“As plainly as I now see you, Monsieur Billot. It appears that it was one of his servants who died, and the villain gave him an aristocratic funeral. Oh, all is discovered! It was from fear of the vengeance of the people that he acted thus.”

“Tell me all about it, Pitou.”

“Come into the vestibule for a moment, then, Monsieur Billot. We shall be more at our ease there.”

They left the hall and went into the vestibule.

“First of all, we must know whether Monsieur Bailly is here.”

“Go on with your story; he is here.”

“Good! Well I was at the club of the Virtues, listening to the speech of a patriot. Didn't he make grammatical faults! It was easily seen that he had not been educated by the Abbé Fortier.”

“Go on, I tell you. A man may be a good patriot, and yet not be able to read or write.”

“That is true,” replied Pitou. “Well, suddenly a man came in, completely out of breath. 'Victory!' cried he. 'Victory! Foulon was not dead! Foulon is still alive! I have found him! I have found him!'

“Everybody there was like you, Father Billot. No one would believe him. Some said, 'How! Foulon?' 'Yes.' Others said, 'Pshaw! impossible!' And others said, 'Well, while you were at it, you might as well have discovered his son-in-law, Berthier.'“

“Berthier!” cried Billot.

“Yes, Berthier de Savigny. Don't you recollect our intendant at Compiègne, the friend of Monsieur Isidore de Charny?”

“Undoubtedly! he who was always so proud with everybody, and so polite with Catherine?”

“Precisely,” said Pitou; “one of those horrible contractors,—a second leech to the French people; the execration of all human nature; the shame of the civilized world, as said the virtuous Loustalot.”

“Well, go on! go on!” cried Billot.

“That is true,” said Pitou; “ad eventum festina,—which means to say, Monsieur Billot, 'Hasten to the winding up.' I shall proceed, then. A man, out of breath, comes running to the club of the Virtues, and shouts: 'I have found Foulon. I have found him.'

“You should have heard the vociferations that followed.”

“He was mistaken,” said Billot, obstinately.

“He was not, for I have seen Foulon.”

“You have seen him, Pitou?”

“With these two eyes. Wait a moment.”

“I am waiting; but you make my blood boil.”

“Ah, but listen. I am hot enough too. I tell you that he had given it out that he was dead, and had one of his servants buried in his place. Fortunately, Providence was watching.”

“Providence, indeed!” disdainfully exclaimed the Voltairean Billot.

“I intended to say the nation,” rejoined Pitou, with humility. “This good citizen, this patriot, out of breath, who announced the news to us, recognized him at Viry, where he had concealed himself.”

“Ah! ah!”

“Having recognized him, he denounced him, and the syndic, whose name is Monsieur Rappe, instantly arrested him.”

“ And what is the name of the brave patriot who had the courage to do all this?”

“Of informing against Foulon?”


Well, his name is Monsieur Saint-Jean.”

“Saint-Jean! Why, that is a lackey's name.”

“And he was precisely the lackey of the villain Foulon. Aristocrat, you are rightly served. Why had you lackeys?”

“Pitou, you interest me,” said Billot, going close to the narrator.

“You are very kind, Monsieur Billot. Well, then, here is Foulon denounced and arrested; they are bringing him to Paris. The informer had run on ahead to announce the news, and receive the reward for his denunciation; and sure enough, in a few moments afterwards Foulon arrived at the barrier.”

“And it was there that you saw him?”

“Yes. He had a very queer look, I can tell you. They had twisted a bunch of stinging-nettles round his neck, by way of cravat.”

“What say you? stinging-nettles? And what was that for?”

“Because it appears that he had said—rascal as he is!—that bread was for men, oats for horses, but that nettles were good enough for the people.”

“Did he say that, the wretch?”

“Yes! by Heaven! he said so, Monsieur Billot.”

“Good! there, now, you are swearing.”

“Bah!” cried Pitou, with a swaggering air, “between military men! Well, they brought him along on foot, and the whole of the way they were giving him smashing blows on his back and head.”

“Oh! oh!” cried Billot, somewhat less enthusiastic.

“It was very amusing,” continued Pitou, “only that everybody could not get at him to give him a blow, seeing that there were ten thousand persons hooting after him.”

“And after this?” asked Billot, who began to reflect.

“After that they took him to the president of the St. Marcel district,—a good patriot, you know.”

“Yes, Monsieur Acloque.”

“Cloque,—yes, that is it; who ordered him to be taken to the Hôtel de Ville, seeing that he did not know what to do with him; so that you will presently see him.”

“But how happens it that it is you who have come to announce this, and not the famous Saint-Jean?”

“Why, because my legs are six inches longer than his. He had set off before me, but I soon came up with, and passed him. I wanted to inform you first, that you might inform Monsieur Bailly of it.”

“What luck you have, Pitou!”

“I shall have much more than this to-morrow.”

“And how can you tell that?”

“Because this same Saint-Jean, who denounced Monsieur Foulon, proposed a plan to catch Monsieur Berthier, who has run away.”

“He knows, then, where he is?”

“Yes; it appears that he was their confidential man,—this good Monsieur Saint-Jean,—and that he received a great deal of money from Foulon and his son-in-law, who wished to bribe him.”

“And he took the money?”

“Certainly, the money of an aristocrat is always good to take; but he said: 'A good patriot will not betray his nation for money.'“

“Yes,” murmured Billot, “he betrays his masters,—that is all. Do you know, Pitou, that your Monsieur Saint-Jean appears to me to be a worthless vagabond?”

“That is possible, but it matters not; they will take Monsieur Berthier, as they have taken Master Foulon, and they will hang them nose to nose. What horrid wry faces they will make, looking at each other,—hey?”

“And why should they be hanged?”

“Why, because they are vile rascals, and I detest them.”

“What! Monsieur Berthier, who has been at the farm,—Monsieur Berthier, who, during his tours into the Île-de-France, has drunk our milk, and eaten of our bread, and sent gold buckles to Catherine from Paris? Oh, no, no! they shall not hang him.”

“Bah!” repeated Pitou, ferociously, “he is an aristocrat,—a wheedling rascal!”

Billot looked at Pitou with stupefaction. Beneath the gaze of the farmer, Pitou blushed to the very whites of his eyes.

Suddenly the worthy cultivator perceived Monsieur Bailly, who was going from the hall into his own cabinet; he rushed after him to inform him of the news.

But it was now for Billot in his turn to be treated with incredulity.

“Foulon! Foulon!” cried the mayor, “what folly!”

“Well, Monsieur Bailly, all I can say is, here is Pitou, who saw him.”

“I saw him, Monsieur Mayor,” said Pitou, placing his hand on his heart, and bowing.

And he related to Monsieur Bailly all he had before related to Billot.

They observed that poor Bailly turned very pale; he at once understood the extent of the catastrophe.

“And Monsieur Acloque sends him here?” murmured he.

“Yes, Monsieur Mayor.”

“But how is he sending him?”

“Oh, there is no occasion to be uneasy,” said Pitou, who misunderstood the anxiety of Bailly; “there are plenty of people to guard the prisoner. He will not be carried off.”

“Would to God he might be carried off!” murmured Bailly.

Then turning to Pitou:—

“Plenty of people,—what mean you by that, my friend?”

“I mean plenty of people.”


“More than twenty thousand men, without counting the women,” said Pitou, triumphantly.

“Unhappy man!” exclaimed Bailly. “Gentlemen, gentlemen electors!”

And he related to the electors all he had just heard.

While he was speaking, exclamations and cries of anguish burst forth from all present.

The silence of terror pervaded the hall, during which a confused, distant, indescribable noise assailed the ears of those assembled, like that produced by the rushing of blood to the head in attacks upon the brain.

“What is that?” inquired an elector.

“Why, the noise of the crowd, to be sure,” replied another.

Suddenly a carriage was heard rolling rapidly across the square; it contained two armed men, who helped a third to alight from it, who was pale and trembling.

Foulon had at length become so exhausted by the ill usage he had experienced that he could no longer walk; and he had been lifted into a coach.

Behind the carriage, led on by Saint-Jean, who was more out of breath than ever, ran about a hundred young men, from sixteen to eighteen years of age, with haggard countenances and flaming eyes.

They cried, “Foulon! Foulon!” running almost as fast as the horses.

The two armed men were, however, some few steps in advance of them, which gave them the time to push Foulon into the Hôtel de Ville; and its doors were closed against the hoarse barkers from without.

“At last we have him here,” said his guards to the electors, who were waiting at the top of the stairs. “By Heaven! it was not without trouble!”

“Gentlemen! gentlemen” cried Foulon, trembling, “will you save me?”

“Ah, sir,” replied Bailly, with a sigh, “you have been very culpable.”

“And yet, sir,” said Foulon, entreatingly, his agitation increasing, “there will, I hope, be justice to defend me.”

At this moment the exterior tumult was redoubled.

“Hide him quickly!” cried Bailly to those around him, “or—”

He turned to Foulon.

“Listen to me,” said he; “the situation is serious enough for you to be consulted. Will you—perhaps it is not yet too late—will you endeavor to escape from the back part of the Hôtel de Ville?”

“Oh, no,” exclaimed Foulon; “I should be recognized—massacred!”

“Do you prefer to remain here in the midst of us? I will do, and these gentlemen will do, all that is humanly possible to defend you; will you not, gentlemen?”

“We promise it,” cried all the electors, with one voice.

“Oh, I prefer remaining with you, gentlemen. Gentlemen, do not abandon me!”

“I have told you, sir,” replied Bailly, with dignity, “that we will do all that may be humanly possible to save you.”

At that moment a frightful clamor arose from the square, ascended into the air, and invaded the Hôtel de Ville through the open windows.

“Do you hear? Do you hear?” murmured Foulon, perfectly livid with terror.

In fact, the mob had rushed, howling and frightful to behold, from all the streets leading to the Hôtel de Ville, and above all from the Quay Pelletier, and the Rue de la Vannerie.

Bailly went to a window.

Knives, pikes, scythes, and muskets glistened in the sunshine. In less than ten minutes the vast square was filled with people. It was the whole of Foulon's train, of which Pitou had spoken, and which had been increased by curious idlers, who, hearing a great noise, had run to the Place de Grève as towards a common centre.

All these voices, and there were more than twenty thousand, cried incessantly: “Foulon! Foulon!”

Then it was seen that the hundred young men who had been the precursors of this furious mob, pointed out to this howling mass the gate by which Foulon had entered the building; this gate was instantly threatened, and they began to beat it down with the butt-ends of their muskets, and with crowbars.

Suddenly it flew open.

The guards of the Hôtel de Ville appeared, and advanced upon the assailants, who, in their first terror, retreated, and left a large open space in the front of the building.

This guard stationed itself upon the front steps, and presented a bold front to the crowd.

The officers, moreover, instead of threatening, harangued the crowd in friendly terms, and endeavored to calm it by their protestations.

Bailly had become quite confused. It was the first time that the poor astronomer had found himself in opposition to the popular tempest.

“What is to be done?” demanded he of the electors,—“what is to be done?”

“We must try him.”

“No trial can take place when under the intimidation of the mob,” said Bailly.

“Zounds!” exclaimed Billot, “have you not, then, men enough to defend you?”

“We have not two hundred men.”

“You must have a reinforcement, then.”

“Oh, if Monsieur de Lafayette were but informed of this!”

“Well, send and inform him of it.”

“And who would venture to attempt it? Who could make his way through such a multitude?”

“I would,” replied Billot.

And he was about to leave the hall.

Bailly stopped him.

“Madman!” cried he; “look at that ocean! You would be swallowed up even by one of its waves. If you wish to get to Monsieur de Lafayette,—and even then I would not answer for your safety,—go out by one of the back doors. Go!”

“'Tis well!” tranquilly replied Billot.

And he darted out of the room with the swiftness of an arrow.

Chapter XI. The Father-in-Law

THE clamor, which kept on constantly increasing from the square, clearly proved that the exasperation of the mob was becoming greater. It was no longer hatred that they felt; it was abhorrence. They no longer merely threatened; they foamed.

The cries of “Down with Foulon! Death to Foulon!” crossed each other in the air, like projectiles in a bombardment. The crowd, which was still augmenting, pressed nearer to the entrance of the Hôtel de Ville, till they, as it may be said, almost suffocated the civic guards at their posts.

And already there began to circulate among the crowd, and to increase in volume, those rumors which are the precursors of violence.

These rumors no longer threatened Foulon only, but the electors who protected him.

“They have let the prisoner escape!” said some.

“Let us go in! let us go in!” said others.

“Let us set fire to the Hôtel de Ville!”

“Forward! forward!”

Bailly felt that as Monsieur de Lafayette did not arrive, there was only one resource left to them.

And this was that the electors should themselves go down, mix in with the groups, and endeavor to pacify the most furious among them.

“Foulon! Foulon!”

Such was the incessant cry, the constant roaring of those furious waves.

A general assault was preparing; the walls could not have resisted it.

“Sir,” said Bailly to Foulon, “if you do not show yourself to the crowd, they will naturally believe that we have allowed you to escape. Then they will force the door, and will come in here; and when once here, should they find you, I can no longer be responsible for anything.”

“Oh, I did not know that I was so much execrated!” exclaimed Foulon.

And supported by Bailly, he dragged himself to the window.

A fearful cry resounded immediately on his presenting himself. The guards were driven back; the doors broken in; a torrent of men precipitated themselves up the staircase into the corridors, into the rooms, which were invaded in an instant.

Bailly threw around the prisoner all the guards who were within call, and then he began to harangue the crowd.

He wished to make these men understand that to assassinate might sometimes be doing justice, but that it was never an act of justice.

He succeeded, after having made the most strenuous efforts, after having twenty times perilled his own existence.

“Yes, yes,” cried the assailants, “let him be tried! let him be tried! but let him be hanged!”

They were at this point in the argument when General de Lafayette reached the Hôtel de Ville, conducted there by Billot.

The sight of his tricolored plume—one of the first which had been worn—at once assuaged their anger, and the tumult ceased.

The commander-in-chief of the National Guard had the way cleared for him, and addressing the crowd, repeated, though in more energetic terms, every argument that Bailly had endeavored to enforce.

His speech produced a great effect on all those who were near enough to hear it, and the cause of Foulon was completely gained in the electors' hall.

But on the square were twenty thousand furious people who had not heard Monsieur de Lafayette, and who remained implacable in their frenzy.

“Come, now,” said Lafayette, at the conclusion of his oration, very naturally imagining that the effect he had produced on those who surrounded him had extended to all outside,—“come, now, this man must be tried.”

“Yes,” cried the mob.

“And consequently I order that he be taken to prison,” added Lafayette.

“To prison! to prison!” howled the mob.

At the same time the general made a sign to the guards of the Hôtel de Ville, who led the prisoner forward.

The crowd outside understood nothing of all that was going on, excepting that their prey was about to appear. They had not even an idea that any one had the slightest hope of disputing it with them.

They scented, if we may be permitted the expression, the odor of the human flesh which was descending the staircase.

Billot had placed himself at the window with several electors, whom Bailly also joined in order to follow the prisoner with their eyes while he was crossing the square, escorted by the civic guards.

On the way, Foulon here and there addressed a few incoherent words to those around him, which, although they were protestations of confidence, clearly evinced the most profound and ill-disguised terror.

“Noble people,” said he, while descending the staircase, “I fear nothing; I am in the midst of my fellow-citizens.”

And already bantering laughs and insults were being uttered around him, when suddenly he found himself outside of the gloomy archway at the top of the stone steps which led into the square, and felt on his face the wind and sunshine.

Immediately one general cry—a cry of rage, a howling threat, a roar of hatred—burst from twenty thousand lungs. On this explosion of the public feeling, the guards conducting the prisoner are lifted from the ground, broken, dispersed; Foulon is seized by twenty powerful arms, raised above their shoulders, and carried into the fatal corner under the lamp-post,—ignoble and brutal executioner of the anger of the people, which they termed their justice.

Billot from his window saw all this, and cried out against it; the electors also did all they could to stimulate the guards, but they were powerless.

Lafayette, in despair, rushed out of the Hôtel de Ville, but he could not break through the first rank of that crowd, which spread out like an immense lake between him and the victim.

The mere spectators of this scene jumped upon posts, on window-sills, on every jutting part of a building, in order to gain a better view; and they encouraged by their savage shouts the frightful effervescence of the actors.

The latter were playing with their victim, as would a troop of tigers with an inoffensive prey.

They were disputing who should hang Foulon; at last they understood that if they wished to enjoy his agony, it was necessary that their several functions should be agreed upon.

But for that he would have been torn to pieces.

Some of them raised up Foulon, who had no longer strength enough to cry out.

Others, who had taken off his cravat and torn off his coat, placed a rope round his neck.

And others, who had climbed up the lamp-post, had handed to their companions below the rope which they put round the neck of the ex-minister.

For a moment they raised Foulon above their heads and showed him thus to the crowd,—a rope twined round his neck, and his hands tied behind him.

Then, when the crowd had had due time to contemplate the sufferer; when they had clapped their hands sufficiently,—the signal was given, and Foulon, pale and bleeding, was hoisted up to a level with the lantern, amid a hooting which was more terrible even than death.

All those who, up to that time, had not been able to see anything, then perceived the public enemy raised above the heads of the crowd.

New shouts were then heard; but these were against the executioners. Were they about to kill Foulon so expeditiously?

The executioners merely shrugged their shoulders, and pointed to the rope.

The rope was old; it could be seen to give way, strand by strand. The movements which Foulon made in his desperate agony at length broke the last strand; and Foulon, only half strangled, fell heavily upon the pavement.

He was only at the preface of his torments; he had only penetrated into the vestibule of death.

They all rushed towards the sufferer; they were perfectly secure with regard to him. There was no chance of his escaping them; in falling he had broken his leg a little below the knee.

And yet some imprecations arose, imprecations which were unintelligible and calumniatory. The executioners were accused; they were considered as clumsy and unskilful,—they who, on the contrary, had been so ingenious that they had expressly chosen an old worn-out rope, in the hope that it would break.

A hope which the event, as has been related, had fully realized.

They made a knot in the rope, and again fixed it round the neck of the unhappy man, who, half dead, with haggard eyes looked around, endeavoring to discover whether in that city which is called the centre of the civilized universe,—whether one of the bayonets of that king whose minister he had been, and who had a hundred thousand, would not be raised in his defence amid that horde of cannibals.

But there was nothing there to meet his eyes but hatred, but insult, but death.

“At least, kill me at once, without making me endure these atrocious torments!” cried the despairing Foulon.

“Well, now,” replied a jeering voice, “why should we abridge your torments? you have made ours last long enough.”

“And besides,” said another, “you have not yet had time enough to digest your nettles.”

“Wait, wait a little!” cried a third; “his son-in-law, Berthier, will be brought to him; there is room enough for him on the opposite lamp-post.”

“We shall see what wry faces the father-in-law and son-in-law will make at each other,” added another.

“Finish me; finish me at once!” cried the wretched man.

During this time, Bailly and Lafayette were begging, supplicating, exclaiming, and endeavoring to get through the crowd; suddenly, Foulon was again hoisted by the rope, which again broke, and their prayers, their supplications, their agony, no less painful than that of the sufferer himself, were lost, confounded, and extinguished amid the universal laugh which accompanied this second fall.

Bailly and Lafayette, who three days before had been the sovereign arbiters of the will of six hundred thousand Parisians,—a child now would not listen to them; the people even murmured at them; they were in their way; they were interrupting this great spectacle.

Billot had vainly given them all the aid of his uncommon strength; the powerful athlete had knocked down twenty men, but in order to reach Foulon it would be necessary to knock down fifty, a hundred, two hundred; and his strength is exhausted, and when he pauses to wipe from his brow the perspiration and the blood which is streaming from it, Foulon is raised a third time to the pulley of the lamp-post.

This time they had taken compassion upon him; the rope was a new one.

At last the condemned is dead; the victim no longer suffers.

Half a minute had sufficed to the crowd to assure itself that the vital spark was extinguished. And now that the tiger has killed, he may devour his prey.

The body, thrown from the top of the lamp-post, did not even fall to the ground. It was torn to pieces before it reached it.

The head was separated from the trunk in a second, and in another second raised on the end of a pike. It was very much in fashion in those days to carry the heads of one's enemies in that way.

At this sanguinary spectacle Bailly was horrified. That head appeared to him to be the head of the Medusa of ancient days.

Lafayette, pale, his drawn sword in his hand, with disgust repulsed the guards who had surrounded him, to excuse themselves for not having been the strongest.

Billot, stamping his feet with rage, and kicking right and left, like one of own fiery Perche horses, returned into the Hôtel de Ville, that he might see no more of what was passing on that ensanguined square.

As to Pitou, his fieriness of popular vengeance was changed into a convulsive movement; and he had fled to the river's bank, where he closed his eyes and stopped his ears, that he might neither see nor hear.

Consternation reigned in the Hôtel de Ville; the electors began to comprehend that they would never be able to direct the movements of the people, save in the manner which should suit the people.

All at once, while the furious mob were amusing themselves with dragging the mutilated remains of Foulon through the gutters, a new cry, a new shout, rolling like distant thunder, was heard, proceeding from the opposite side of the river.

A courier was seen galloping over the bridge. The news he was bringing was already known to the crowd. They had guessed it from the signs of their most skilful leaders, as a pack of hounds take up the scent from the inspiration of their finest-nosed and best-practised bloodhounds.

The crowd rush to meet this courier, whom they surround; they scent that he has touched their new prey; they feel that he is going to speak of Monsieur Berthier.

And it was true.

Interrogated by ten thousand voices, all howling at once, the courier is compelled to reply to them.

“Monsieur Berthier de Savigny has been arrested at Compiègne.”

Then he proceeds into the Hôtel de Ville, where he announces the same tidings to Lafayette and to Bailly.

“Good; good! I knew it,” said Lafayette.

“We knew it,” said Bailly, “and orders have been given that he should be kept there.”

“Kept there?” repeated the courier.

“Undoubtedly; I have sent two commissaries with an escort.”

“An escort of two hundred and fifty men, was it not?” said an elector; “it is more than sufficient.”

“Gentlemen,” replied the courier, “this is precisely what I was sent to tell you. The escort has been dispersed and the prisoner carried off by the multitude.”

“Carried off!” exclaimed Lafayette. “Has the escort allowed the prisoner to be carried off?”

“Do not blame them, General; all that it was possible to do, they did.”

“But Monsieur Berthier?” anxiously inquired Bailly.

“They are bringing him to Paris; and he is at Bourget by this time.”

“But should they bring him here,” cried Billot, “he is lost.”

“Quick! quick!” cried Lafayette, “five hundred men to Bourget. Let the commissioners and Monsieur Berthier stop there; let them sleep there! During the night we will consider what is to be done.”

“But who would venture to undertake such a commission?” said the courier, who was looking with terror at that waving sea of heads, every wave of which sent forth its threatening roar.

“I will!” cried Billot; “at least, I will save him.”

“But you would perish in the attempt,” cried the courier; “the road is black with people.”

“I will go, nevertheless,” said the farmer.

“It is useless now,” murmured Bailly, who had been listening to the noises from without. “Hush! Do you not hear that?”

They then heard, from the direction of the Porte St. Martin, a rushing noise like that of the sea when beating over the shingles on a beach.

This frenzied howl came to them over the roofs like steam over the sides of a boiling caldron.

“It is too late,” said Lafayette.

“They are coming! they are coming!” murmured the courier. “Do you not hear them?”

“A regiment! a regiment!” cried Lafayette, with that generous ebullition of humanity which was the most brilliant feature of his character.

“What! By God's death!” exclaimed Bailly, who swore perhaps for the first time in his life, “you seem to forget that our army—ours!—is precisely that crowd whom you wish to fight.”

And he hid his face in his hands.

The shouts which had been heard in the distance were re-echoed by the people in the streets, and thus communicated to the crowd upon the square with the rapidity of a train of gunpowder.

Chapter XII. The Son-in-Law

THEN those who were insulting the remains of Foulon left their sanguinary game, to rush forward in pursuit of a new vengeance.

The adjacent streets immediately disgorged a large proportion of that howling mob, who hurried from the square with upraised knives and menacing gestures, towards the Rue St. Martin, to meet the new funeral procession.

The junction having been accomplished, both parties were equally eager to return to the square.

A strange scene then ensued.

Some of those ingenious persons whom we have seen upon the Place de Grève presented to the son-in-law the head of Foulon on the end of a pike.

Monsieur Berthier was coming along the Rue St. Martin with the commissary. They were then just crossing the Rue St. Merry.

He was in his own cabriolet,—a vehicle which at that period was considered as eminently aristocratic; a vehicle which more than any other excited popular animadversion; for the people had so often complained of the reckless rapidity with which they were driven, either by young fops or dancing-girls who drove themselves, and which, drawn by a fiery horse, sometimes ran over, but always splashed, the unfortunate pedestrian.

Berthier, in the midst of all the shouts, the hootings, and the threats of the infuriate mob, was talking tranquilly with the elector Rivière,—the commissary sent to Compiègne to save him, but who, being abandoned by his colleague, had with much difficulty saved himself.

The people had begun with the cabriolet; they had turned off the head of it, so that Berthier and his companion were completely exposed, not only to the view, but to the blows of the populace.

As they moved onwards, his misdeeds were related to him, commented upon, and exaggerated by the popular fury.

“He wished to starve Paris,” cried one.

“He had the rye and wheat cut when it was green; and then, a rise in the price of corn having taken place, he realized enormous sums.”

“Not only did he do that,” said they, “which was enough in itself, but he was conspiring.”

In searching him, they had found a pocket-book. In this pocket-book were incendiary letters, orders for massacre, proof that ten thousand cartridges had been distributed to his agents; so said the crowd.

These were all monstrous absurdities; but as is well known, the mob, when in a paroxysm of rage, gives out as positive facts the most absurd improbabilities.

The person whom they accused of all this was a man who was still young, not being more than from thirty to thirty-two years of age, elegantly dressed, almost smiling, though greeted every moment by injurious epithets and even blows. He looked with perfect indifference at the infamous placards which were held up to him, and without affectation continued his conversation with Rivière.

Two men, irritated at his assurance, had wished to terrify him, and to diminish this self-confidence. They had mounted on the steps, on each side of the cabriolet, and each of them placed the point of his bayonet on Berthier's breast.

But Berthier, brave even to temerity, was not to be moved by such a trifle. He had continued to converse with the elector as if those two muskets were but inoffensive accessories to the cabriolet.

The mob, profoundly exasperated by this disdain, which formed so complete a contrast to the terror of Foulon,—the mob roared around the vehicle, and waited with impatience for the moment when instead of a threat they might inflict a wound.

It was then that Berthier had fixed his eyes on a misshapen and bloody object, which was held up and danced before him, and which he suddenly recognized as the head of his father-in-law, and which the ruffians who bore it held down close to his lips.

They wished to make him kiss it.

Monsieur Rivière, indignant at this brutality, pushed the pike away with his hand.

Berthier thanked him by a gesture, and did not even deign to turn round to follow this hideous trophy with his eyes. The executioners carried it behind the cabriolet, holding it over Berthier's head.

They thus arrived on the Place de Grève; and the prisoner, after unheard-of efforts by the civic guards, who had been re-assembled in some order, was delivered into the hands of the electors of the Hôtel de Ville.

A dangerous charge, a fearful responsibility, which made Lafayette once more turn pale, and poor Bailly's heart swell almost to breaking.

The mob, after having hacked away for a while at the cabriolet, which had been left at the foot of the front steps, again placed itself in the most advantageous positions, kept guard on all the issues from the building, made all its preparations, and placed new ropes in the pulleys of the lamp-posts.

Billot, at the sight of Berthier, who was tranquilly ascending the great staircase of the Hôtel de Ville, tore his hair, and could not restrain himself from weeping bitterly.

Pitou, who had left the river's bank, and had come on the quay again when he thought that Foulon's execution had been accomplished; Pitou, terrified, notwithstanding his hatred for Monsieur Berthier, guilty in his eyes not only of all the mob reproached him with, but also of having given gold buckles to Mademoiselle Catherine,—Pitou crouched down sobbing behind a bench.

During this time Berthier had entered the grand Hall of Council as coolly as if all the tumult had reference to some other person, and quietly conversed with the electors.

He knew the greater portion of them, and was even intimate with some of them.

The latter avoided him with the instinctive terror with which timid minds are inspired by the contact of an unpopular man.

Therefore Berthier soon found himself almost alone with Bailly and Lafayette.

He made them relate to him all the particulars of Foulon's death. Then, shrugging his shoulders:—

“Yes,” said he, “I can understand it. They hate us, because we are the instruments with which royalty has tortured the people.”

“Great crimes are laid at your door, sir,” said Bailly, austerely.

“Sir,” replied Berthier, “if I had committed all the crimes with which I am reproached, I should be less or more than man,—a wild beast or a demon. But I shall be tried, I presume, and then the truth will be ascertained.”

“Undoubtedly,” said Bailly.

“Well, then,” rejoined Berthier, “that is all I desire. They have my correspondence, and it will be seen whose orders I have obeyed; and the responsibility will fall on those to whom it rightly appertains.”

The electors cast their eyes upon the square, from which arose the most frightful clamor.

Berthier understood this mute reply.

Then Billot, pushing through the throng which surrounded Bailly, went up to the intendant, and offering him his huge honest hand:—

“Good-day, Monsieur de Sauvigny,” said he to him.

“How! is that you, Billot?” cried Berthier, laughing, and grasping firmly the hand which was held out to him. “What! you have come to Paris to join in these disturbances,—you, my worthy farmer, who used to sell your wheat so well in the market at Villers-Cotterets, Crépy, and Soissons?”

Billot, notwithstanding his democratic tendencies, could not but admire the tranquillity of this man, who could thus smile at a moment when his life was hanging by a thread.

“Install yourselves, gentlemen,” said Bailly to the electors; “we must now proceed to the examination of the charges against the accused.”

“Be it so,” said Berthier; “but I must warn you of one thing, gentlemen, and that is, that I am perfectly exhausted. For the last two days I have not slept. Today, from Compiègne to Paris, I have been pushed about, beaten, dragged along. When I asked for something to eat, they offered me hay, which is not excessively refreshing. Therefore, give me some place where I can sleep, if it. be only for an hour.”

At that moment Lafayette left the room for a short time, to ascertain the state of matters outside. He returned more dispirited than ever.

“My dear Bailly,” said he to the mayor, “exasperation is at its height; to keep Monsieur Berthier here would be exposing ourselves to a siege. To defend the Hôtel de Ville would be giving these furious madmen the pretext which they wish. Not to defend the Hôtel de Ville would be acquiring the habit of yielding every time we are attacked.”

During this time, Berthier had sat down, and then stretched himself at full length upon a bench.

He was preparing himself to sleep.

The desperate howls from below were audible to him, for he was near an open window; but they did not disturb him. His countenance retained the serenity of a man who forgets all, to allow sleep to weigh down his eyelids.

Bailly was deliberating with the electors and Lafayette.

Billot had his eyes fixed upon Berthier.

Lafayette was rapidly taking the votes of the electors; after which, addressing the prisoner, who was beginning to slumber:—

“Sir,” said he, “be pleased to get ready.”

Berthier heaved a sigh; then, raising himself on his elbow:—

“Ready for what?” he inquired.

“These gentlemen have decided that you are to be transferred to the Abbaye.”

“To the Abbaye? Well, be it so,” said the intendant. “But,” continued he, looking at the confused electors, whose confusion he readily comprehended,—“but, one way or the other, let us finish this.”

And an explosion of anger and furious impatience long restrained burst forth from the square.

“No, gentlemen, no,” exclaimed Lafayette; “we cannot allow him to depart at this moment.”

Bailly's kind heart and undaunted courage impelled him to come to a sudden resolution. He went down into the square with two of the electors, and ordered silence.

The people knew as well as he did what he was about to say; but as they were fully bent on committing another crime, they would not even listen to a reproach; and as Bailly was opening his lips to speak, a deafening clamor arose from the mob, drowning his voice before a single word could be heard.

Bailly, seeing that it would be impossible for him to proffer even a syllable, returned into the Hôtel de Ville pursued by cries of “Berthier! Berthier!”

But other cries resounded in the midst of those,—cries similar to those shrill notes which suddenly are heard in the choruses of demons by Weber or by Meyerbeer,—and these were, “To the lamp-post! to the lamp-post!”

On seeing Bailly come back pale and disheartened, Lafayette rushed out in his turn. He is young; he is ardent; he is beloved. That which the old man could not effect, his popularity being but of yesterday, he, Lafayette—he, the friend of Washington and of Necker,—would undoubtedly obtain at the first word.

But in vain was it that the people's general threw himself into the most furious groups. In vain did he speak in the name of justice and humanity. In vain was it that recognizing, or feigning to recognize, certain leaders of the people, did he supplicate them, grasping their hands, and endeavoring to allay their fury.

Not one of his words was listened to; not one or his gestures was understood; not one of the tears he shed was seen.

Repulsed step by step, he threw himself upon his knees on the front steps of the Hôtel de Ville, conjuring these tigers, whom he called his fellow-citizens, not to dishonor the nation, not to dishonor themselves, not to elevate to the rank of martyrs guilty men, to whom the law would award a degrading death, which degradation was a portion of their punishment.

As he persisted in his entreaties, he was at last personally threatened in his turn; but he defied all threats. Some of these furious wretches drew their knives, and raised them as if to strike.

He bared his breast to their blows, and their weapons were instantly lowered.

But if they thus threatened Lafayette, the threat was still more serious to Berthier.

Lafayette, thus overcome, re-entered the Hôtel de Ville as Bailly had done.

The electors had all seen Lafayette vainly contending against the tempest. Their last rampart was overthrown.

They decided that the guard of the Hôtel de Ville should at once conduct Berthier to the Abbaye.

It was sending Berthier to certain death.

“Come, then,” said Berthier, when this decision was announced.

And eying all these men with withering contempt, he took his station in the centre of the guards, after having thanked Bailly and Lafayette for their exertions, and in his turn, held out his hand to Billot.

Bailly turned away his face to conceal his tears, Lafayette to conceal his indignation.

Berthier descended the staircase with the same firm step with which he had ascended it.

At the moment that he appeared on the front steps, a furious howl assailed him, making even the stone step on which he had placed his foot tremble beneath him.

But he, disdainful and impassible, looked at all those flashing eyes calmly and unflinchingly, and shrugging his shoulders, pronounced these words:—

“What a fantastic people? What is there to make them howl thus?”

He had scarcely uttered these words, when he was seized upon by the foremost of the mob. They had rushed on to the front steps and clutched him, though surrounded by his guards. Their iron hands dragged him along. He lost his footing, and fell into the arms of his enemies, who in a second dispersed his escort.

Then an irresistible tide impelled the prisoner over the same path, stained with blood, which Foulon had been dragged over only two hours before.

A man was already seated astride the fatal lamp, holding a rope in his hand.

But another man had clung to Berthier, and this man was dealing out with fury and delirium blows and imprecations on the brutal executioners.

He continually cried:—

“You shall not have him! You shall not kill him!”

This man was Billot, whom despair had driven mad, and as strong as twenty men.

To some he shrieked:—

“I am one of the conquerors of the Bastille!”

And some of those who recognized him became less furious in their attack.

To others he said:—

“Let him be fairly tried. I will be responsible for him. If he is allowed to escape, you shall hang me in his stead.”

Poor Billot! poor worthy man! The whirlwind swept him away,—him and Berthier,—as the water-spout carries away a feather or a straw in its vast spirals.

He moved on without perceiving anything. He had reached the fatal spot.

The thunderbolt is less swift.

Berthier, who had been dragged along backwards,—Berthier, whom they had raised up, seeing that they stopped, raised his eyes and perceived the infamous, degrading halter swinging above his head.

By an effort as violent as it was unexpected, he tore himself from the grasp of those who held him, snatched a musket from the hands of a National Guard, and inflicted several wounds on his self-appointed executioners with his bayonet.

But in a second a thousand blows were aimed at him from behind. He fell, and a thousand other blows from the ruffians who encircled him rained down upon him.

Billot had disappeared beneath the feet of the assassins.

Berthier had not time to suffer. His life's blood and his soul rushed at once from his body through a thousand gaping wounds.

Then Billot was witness to a spectacle more hideous than he had yet seen. He saw a fiend plunge his hand into the open breast of the corpse, and tear out the still smoking heart.

Then, sticking this heart, on the point of his sabre, he held it above the heads of the shouting mob, which opened before him as he advanced, carried it into the Hôtel de Ville, and laid it on the table of the grand council, where the electors held their sessions.

Billot, that man of iron nerve, could not support this frightful sight; he fell fainting against a post at about ten paces from the fatal lantern.

Lafayette, on seeing this infamous insult offered to his authority,—offered to the Revolution which he directed, or rather which he had believed he should direct,—Lafayette broke his sword, and threw it at the faces of the assassins.

Pitou ran to pick up the farmer, and carried him off in his arms, whispering into his ear:—

“Billot! Father Billot! take care; if they see that you are fainting, they will take you for his accomplice, and will kill you too. That would be a pity—so good a patriot!”

And thereupon he dragged him towards the river, concealing him as well as he was able from the inquisitive looks of some zealous patriots who were murmuring.

Chapter XIII. Billot begins to perceive that all is not Roses in Revolutions

BILLOT, who, conjointly with Pitou, had been engaged in all the glorious libations, began to perceive that the cup was becoming bitter.

When he had completely recovered his senses, from the refreshing breezes on the river's banks:—

“Monsieur Billot,” said Pitou to him, “I long for Villers-Cotterets, do not you?”

These words, like the refreshing balm of calmness and virtue, aroused the farmer, whose vigor returned to him, and he pushed through the crowd, to get away at once from the scene of butchery.

“Come,” said he to Pitou, “you are right.”

And he at once determined on going to find Gilbert, who was residing at Versailles, but who, without having revisited the queen after the journey of the king to Paris, had become the right hand of Necker, who had been reappointed minister, and was endeavoring to organize prosperity by generalizing poverty.

Pitou had as usual followed Billot.

Both of them were admitted into the study in which the doctor was writing.

“Doctor,” said Billot, “I am going to return to my farm.”

“And why so?” inquired Gilbert.

“Because I hate Paris.”

“Ah, yes! I understand,” coldly observed Gilbert; “you are tired.”

“Worn out.”

“You no longer like the Revolution?”

“I should like to see it ended.”

Gilbert smiled sorrowfully.

“It is only now beginning,” he rejoined.

“Oh!” exclaimed Billot.

“That astonishes you, Billot?” asked Gilbert.

“What astonishes me the most is your perfect coolness.”

“My friend,” said Gilbert to him, “do you know whence my coolness proceeds?”

“It can only proceed from a firm conviction.”

“Precisely so.”

“And what is that conviction?”


“That all will end well.”

Gilbert smiled still more gloomily than the first time.

“No; on the contrary, from the conviction that all will end badly.”

Billot cried out with astonishment.

As to Pitou, he opened his eyes to an enormous width; he thought the argument altogether illogical.

“Let us hear,” said Billot, rubbing his ear with his big hand,—“let us hear; for it seems to me that I do not rightly understand you.”

“Take a chair, Billot,” said Gilbert, “and sit down close to me.”

Billot did as he was ordered.

“Closer, closer still, that no one may hear but yourself.”

“And I, Monsieur Gilbert?” said Pitou, timidly, making a move towards the door, as if he thought the doctor wished him to withdraw.

“Oh, no! stay here,” replied the Doctor. “You are young; listen.”

Pitou opened his ears, as he had done his eyes, to their fullest extent, and seated himself on the floor at Father Billot's feet.

This council was a singular spectacle, which was thus held in Gilbert's study, near a table heaped up with letters, documents, new pamphlets, and newspapers, and within four steps of a door which was besieged by a swarm of petitioners, or people having some grievance to complain of. These people were all kept in order by an old clerk, who was almost blind, and had lost an arm.

“I am all attention,” said Billot. “Now explain yourself, my master, and tell us how it is that all will finish badly.”

“I will tell you, Billot. Do you see what I am doing at this moment, my friend?”

“You are writing lines.”

“But the meaning of those lines, Billot?”

“How would you have me guess that, when you know that I cannot even read them?”

Pitou timidly raised his head a little above the table, and cast his eyes on the paper which was lying before the doctor.

“They are figures,” said he.

“That is true,” said Gilbert; “they are figures, which are at the same time the salvation and the ruin of France.”

“Well, now!” exclaimed Billot.

“Well, now! well, now!” repeated Pitou.

“These figures, when they are presented to-morrow,” continued the doctor, “will go to the king's palace, to the mansions of the nobility, and to the cottage of the poor man, to demand of all of them one quarter of their income.”

“Hey?” ejaculated Billot.

“Oh, my poor Aunt Angélique!” cried Pitou; “what a wry face she will make!”

“What say you to this, my worthy friend?” said Gilbert. “People make revolutions, do they not? Well, they must pay for them.”

“Perfectly just!” heroically replied Billot. “Well, be it so; it will be paid.”

“Oh, you are a man who is already convinced, and there is nothing to astonish me in your answers; but those who are not convinced?”

“Those who are not so?”

“Yes; what will they do?”

“They will resist!” replied Billot, and in a tone which signified that he would resist energetically if he were required to pay a quarter of his income to accomplish a work which was contrary to his convictions.

“Then there would be a conflict,” said Gilbert.

“But the majority,” said Billot.

“Conclude your sentence, my friend.”

“The majority is there to make known its will.”

“Then there would be oppression.”

Billot looked at Gilbert, at first doubtingly, and then a ray of intelligence sparkled in his eye.

“Hold, Billot!” said the doctor, “I know what you are about to say to me. The nobility and the clergy possess everything, do they not?”

“That is undoubted,” replied Billot; “and therefore the convents—”

“The convents?”

“The convents overflow with riches.”

Notum certumque,” grumbled Pitou.

“The nobles do not pay in proportion to their income. Thus I, a farmer, pay more than twice the amount of taxes paid by my neighbors, the three brothers De Charny, who have between them an income of two hundred thousand livres.”

“But, let us see,” continued Gilbert. “Do you believe that the nobles and the priests are less Frenchmen than you are?”

Pitou pricked up his ears at this proposition, which sounded somewhat heretical at the time, when patriotism was calculated by the strength of elbows on the Place de Grève.

“You do not believe a word of it, do you, my friend? You cannot imagine that these nobles and priests, who absorb everything, and give back nothing, are as good patriots as you are?”

“That is true.”

“An error, my dear friend, an error. They are even better, and I will prove it to you.”

“Oh! that, for example, I deny.”

“On account of their privileges, is it not?”

“Zounds! yes.”

“Wait a moment.”

“Oh, I can wait.”

“Well, then, I certify to you, Billot, that in three days from this time the person who will have the most privileges in France will be the man who possesses nothing.”

“Then I shall be that person,” said Pitou, gravely.

“Well, yes, it will be you.”

“But how can that be?”

“Listen to me, Billot. These nobles and these ecclesiastics, whom you accuse of egotism, are just beginning to be seized with that fever of patriotism which is about to make the tour of France. At this moment they are assembled like so many sheep on the edge of the ditch; they are deliberating. The boldest of them will be the first to leap over it; and this will happen to-morrow, perhaps to-night; and after him, the rest will jump it.”

“What is the meaning of that, Monsieur Gilbert?”

“It means to say that, voluntarily abandoning their prerogatives, feudal lords will liberate their peasants, proprietors of estates their farms and the rents due to them, the dovecot lords their pigeons.”

“Oh, oh!” ejaculated Pitou, with amazement; “you think they will give up all that?”

“Oh,” cried Billot, suddenly catching the idea, “that will be splendid liberty indeed!”

“Well, then; arid after that, when we shall all be free, what shall we do next?”

“The deuce!” cried Billot, somewhat embarrassed; “what shall be done next? Why, we shall see!”

“Ah, there is the great word!” exclaimed Gilbert: “we shall see!”

He rose from his chair with a gloomy brow, and walked up and down the room for a few minutes; then, returning to the farmer, whose hand he seized with a violence which seemed almost a threat:—

“Yes,” said he, “we shall see! We shall all see,—you, as I shall; he, as you and I shall. And that is precisely what I was reflecting on just now, when you observed that composure which so much surprised you.”

“You terrify me. The people united, embracing each other, forming themselves into one mass to insure their general prosperity,—can that be a subject which renders you gloomy, Monsieur Gilbert?”

The latter shrugged his shoulders.

“Then,” said Billot, questioning in his turn, “what will you say of yourself if you now doubt, after having prepared everything in the Old World, by giving liberty to the New?”

“Billot,” rejoined Gilbert, “you have just, without at all suspecting it, uttered a word which is the solution of the enigma,—a word which Lafayette has uttered, and which no one, beginning with himself perhaps, fully understands. Yes, we have given liberty to the New World.”

“You! and Frenchmen, too! That is magnificent.”

“It is magnificent; but it will cost us dear,” said Gilbert, sorrowfully.

“Pooh! the money is spent; the bill is paid,” said Billot, joyously. “A little gold, a great deal of blood, and the debt is liquidated.”

“Blind enthusiast!” said Gilbert, “who sees not in this dawning in the west the germ of ruin to us all! Alas! why do I accuse them, when I did not see more clearly than they? The giving liberty to the New World, I fear, I fear greatly, is to prove the total ruin of the old one.”

“Rerum novus nascitur ordo!” exclaimed Pitou, with great Revolutionary self-possession.

“Silence, child!” said Gilbert.

“Was it, then, more difficult to overcome the English than it is now to quiet the French?” asked Billot.

“A new world,” repeated Gilbert; “that is to say, a vast open space, a clear table to work upon,—no laws, but no abuses; no ideas, but no prejudices. In France, thirty thousand square leagues of territory for thirty millions of people; that is to say, should the space be equally divided, scarcely room for a cradle or a grave for each. Out yonder, in America, two hundred thousand square leagues for three millions of persons; frontiers which are ideal, for they border on the desert, which is to say, immensity. In those two hundred thousand leagues, navigable rivers, having a course of a thousand leagues; virgin forests, of which God alone knows the limits,—that is to say, all the elements of life, of civilization, and of a brilliant future. Oh, how easy it is, Billot, when a man is called Lafayette, and is accustomed to wield a sword when a man is called Washington, and is accustomed to reflect deeply,—how easy is it to combat against walls of wood, of earth, of stone, of human flesh! But when, instead of founding, it is necessary to destroy; when we see in the old order of things that we are obliged to attack walls of bygone, crumbling ideas, and behind the ruins even of these walls, that crowds of people and of interests still take refuge; when, after having found the idea, we find that in order to make the people adopt it, it will be necessary, perhaps, to decimate that people, from the old who remember, down to the child who has still to learn; from the recollection which is the monument, down to the instinct which is the germ of it,-then, oh, then, Billot! it is a task which will make all those shudder who can see behind the horizon. I am far-sighted, Billot, and I shudder.”

“Pardon me, sir,” said Billot, with his sound good sense; “you accused me, a short time since, of hating the Revolution, and now you are making it execrable to me.”

“But have I told you that I renounce it?”

Errare humanum est,” murmured Pitou; “sed perseverare diabolicum.”

And he drew his feet towards him with his hands.

“I shall, however, persevere,” continued Gilbert, “for although I see the obstacles, I can perceive the end; and that end is splendid, Billot. It is not only the liberty of France that I am dreaming of; but it is the liberty of the whole world. It is not physical equality; but it is equality before the laws,—equality of rights. It is not the fraternity of our own citizens, but fraternity between all nations. I may be losing my own soul; my body may perhaps perish in the struggle,” continued Gilbert, in a melancholy tone; “but it matters not. The soldier who is sent to the assault of a fortress, sees the cannon on its ramparts, sees the balls with which they are loaded, sees the match placed near the touch-hole; he sees even more than this,—he sees the direction in which they are pointed, he feels that this piece of black iron may pass through his own breast,—but he still rushes onward; the fortress must be taken. Well, we are all soldiers, Father Billot. Forward, then! and over the heaps of our dead bodies may one day march the generations of which this boy now present is the advanced guard.”

“I do not really know why you despair, Monsieur Gilbert. Is it because an unfortunate man was this day murdered on the Place de Grève?”

“And why were you, then, so much horrified? Go, then, Billot, and cut throats also.”

“Oh, what are you now saying, Monsieur Gilbert?”

“Zounds! a man should be consistent. You came here, all pale, all trembling,—you, who are so brave, so strong,—and you said to me, 'I am tired out.' I laughed in your face, Billot; and now that I explain to you why you were pale, why you were worn out, it is you who laugh at me in turn.”

“Speak! Speak! but first of all give me the hope that I shall return cured, consoled, to my fields.”

“Your fields! Listen to me, Billot; all our hope is there. The country—a sleeping revolution, which wakes up once in a thousand years, and gives royalty the vertigo every time it awakens—the country will wake up in its turn, when the day snail come for purchasing or conquering those wrongly acquired territories of which you just now spoke, and with which the nobility and clergy are gorged, even to choking. But to urge on the country to a harvest of ideas, it will be necessary to urge on the countrymen to the conquest of the soil. Man, by becoming a proprietor, becomes free; and in becoming free, he becomes a better man. To us, then, privileged laborers, to whom God has consented that the veil of the future shall be raised; to us, then, the fearful work, which, after giving liberty to the people, shall give them the property of the soil! Here, Billot, will be a good work, and a sorry recompense perhaps; but an active, powerful work, full of joys and vexations, of glory and calumny. The country is still lulled in a dull, impotent slumber, but it waits only to be awakened by our summons, and that new dawn shall be our work. When once the country is awakened, the sanguinary portion of our labors will be terminated, and its peaceable labors, the labors of the country, will commence.”

“What, then, do you now advise that I should do, Monsieur Gilbert?”

“If you wish to be useful to your country, to the nation, to your brother men, to the world, remain here, Billot; take a hammer and work in this Vulcan's furnace, which is forging thunders for the whole world.”

“Remain here to see men butchered, and perhaps at last learn to butcher them myself?”

“How so?” said Gilbert, with a faint smile. “You, Billot, become a murderer! What is it you are saying?”

“I say that should I remain here as you request me,” cried Billot, trembling with agitation,—“I say that the first man whom I shall see attaching a rope to a lamp-post, I will hang that man with these my hands.”

Gilbert's smile became more positive.

“Well, now,” said he, “I find you understand me, and now you also are a murderer.”

“Yes; a murderer of vile wretches.”

“Tell me, Billot, you have seen De Losme, De Launay, De Flesselles, Foulon, and Berthier slaughtered?”


“What epithet did those who slaughtered them apply to them?”

“They called them wretches.”

“Oh! that is true,” said Pitou; “they did call them wretches.”

“Yes; but it is I who am right, and not they,” rejoined Billot.

“You will be in the right,” said Gilbert, “if you hang them; but in the wrong, if they hang you.”

Billot hung down his head under this heavy blow: then suddenly raising it again, with dignity:—-

“Will you venture to maintain,” said he, “that those who assassinate defenceless men, and who are under the safeguard of public honor,—will you maintain that they are as good Frenchmen as I am?”

“Ah!” said Gilbert, “that is quite another question. Yes, in France we have several sorts of Frenchmen. First of all, we have the people, to which Pitou belongs, to which you belong, to which I belong; then we have the French clergy, and then the French nobility,—three classes of Frenchmen in France, each French in its own point of view; that is to say, as regards its own interests, and this without counting the King of France, who is also a Frenchman in his way. Ah, Billot, here you see, in these different modes of all these Frenchmen considering themselves French, the real secret of the Revolution. You will be a Frenchman in your own way; the Abbé Maury will be a Frenchman in his way; Mirabeau will be a Frenchman in a mode that differs from that of the Abbé Maury; and the king will be a Frenchman in another way than that of Mirabeau. Well, Billot, my excellent friend, thou man of upright heart and sound judgment, you have just entered upon the second part of the question which I am now engaged upon. Do me the pleasure, Billot, to cast your eyes on this.”

And Gilbert presented a printed paper to the farmer.

“What is this?” asked Billot, taking the paper.


“Why, you know full well that I cannot read.”

“Tell Pitou to read it, then.”

Pitou rose, and standing on tiptoe, looked at the paper over the farmer's shoulder.

“That is not French,” said he, “it is not Latin, neither is it Greek.”

“It is English,” replied Gilbert.

“I do not know English,” said Pitou, proudly.

“I do,” said Gilbert, “and I will translate that paper to you; but in the first place, read the signature.”

“PITT,” spelled Pitou; “what does PITT mean?”

“I will explain it to you,” replied Gilbert.

Chapter XIV. The Pitts

“PITT,” rejoined Gilbert, “is the son of Pitt.”

“Well, now!” cried Pitou; “that is just as we have it in the Bible. There is then Pitt the First, and Pitt the Second?”

“Yes, and Pitt the First, my friends—listen attentively to what I am going to tell you—”

“We are listening,” replied Billot and Pitou at the same moment.

“This Pitt the First was during thirty years the sworn enemy of France; he combated in the retirement of his cabinet, to which he was nailed by the gout, Montealm and Vaudreuil in America, the Bailly de Suffren and D'Estaing on the seas, Noailles and Broglie on the Continent. This Pitt the First made it a principle with him that it was necessary to destroy the influence which France had gained over the whole of Europe: during thirty years he reconquered from us, one by one, all our colonies; one by one, all our factories, the whole of our possessions in the East Indies, fifteen hundred leagues of territory in Canada; and then, when he saw that France was three fourths ruined, he brought up his son to ruin her altogether.”

“Ah! ah!” exclaimed Billot, evidently much interested, “so that the Pitt we have now—”

“Precisely,” replied Gilbert, “he is the son of the Pitt whom we have had, and whom you already know, Father Billot, whom Pitou knows, whom all the universe knows; and this Pitt Junior was thirty years old this last May.”

“Thirty years old?”

“Yes; you see that he has well employed his time, my friends. Notwithstanding his youth he has now governed England for seven years; seven years has he put in practice the theory of his father.”

“Well, then, we are likely to have him for a long time yet,” said Billot.

“And it is the more probable because the vital qualities are very tenacious among the Pitts. Let me give you a proof of it.”

Pitou and Billot indicated by a motion of their heads that they were listening with the greatest attention.

Gilbert continued:—

“In 1778, the father of our enemy was dying; his physicians announced to him that his life was merely hanging by a thread, and that the slightest effort would break that thread. The English Parliament was then debating on the question of abandoning the American colonies and yielding to their desire for independence, in order to put a stop to the war, which threatened, fomented as it was by the French, to swallow up the riches and all the soldiers of Great Britain. It was at the moment when Louis XVI., our good king,—he on whom the whole nation has just conferred the title of 'Father of French Liberty,'—had solemnly recognized the independence of America; and on the fields of battle in that country, and in their councils, the swords and genius of the French had obtained the mastery. England had offered to Washington—that is to say, to the chief of the insurgents—the recognition of American nationality, on condition that the new nation should ally itself with England against France.”

“But,” said Billot, “it appears to me this proposition was not a decent one, to be either offered or accepted.”

“My dear Billot, this is what is called diplomacy; and in the political world ideas of this kind are much admired. Well, Billot, however immoral you may consider the matter, in spite of Washington, the most faithful of men, Americans would have been found to accede to this degrading concession to England. But Lord Chatham, the father of Pitt; the man who had been given over by the physicians, this dying man, this phantom who was already standing knee-deep in the grave, this Chatham, who it might be thought could have desired naught more on this earth but repose,—before sleeping beneath his monument, this feeble old man determined on appearing in the Parliament, where the question was about to be discussed.

“On entering the House of Lords, he was leaning on the one side on the arm of his son, William Pitt, then only nineteen years of age, and on the other on that of his son-in-law, Lord Mahon. He was attired in his magnificent robes, which formed a derisive contrast to his own emaciated form. Pale as a spectre, his eyes half-extinguished beneath his languishing eyelids, he desired his friends to lead him to his usual seat on the bench appropriated to earls; while all the lords rose at his entrance, astounded at the unexpected apparition, and bowed to him in admiration, as the Roman Senate might have done had Tiberius, dead and forgotten, returned among them. He listened in silence and with profound attention to the speech of the Duke of Richmond, the mover of the proposition, and when he had concluded, Lord Chatham rose to reply.

“Then this dying man summoned up strength enough to speak for three whole hours; he found fire enough within his heart to lend lightning to his eyes; in his soul he found accents which stirred up the hearts of all who heard him.

“It is true that he was speaking against France; it is true that he was instilling into the minds of his countrymen the hatred which he felt; it is true that he had called up all his energies, all his fervent eloquence, to ruin and devour this country,—the hated rival of his own. He forbade that America should be recognized as independent; he forbade all sort of compromise; he cried, War! war! He spoke as Hannibal spoke against Rome, as Cato against Carthage! He declared that the duty of every loyal Englishman was to perish, ruined, rather than to suffer that a colony, even one single colony, should detach itself from the mother-country. Having concluded his peroration, having hurled his last threat, he fell to the ground as if thunder-stricken.

“He had nothing more to do in this world,—he was carried expiring from the house.

“Some few days afterwards he was dead.”

“Oh! oh!” cried both Billot and Pitou, simultaneously, “what a man this Lord Chatham was!”

“He was the father of the young man of thirty who is now occupying our attention,” pursued Gilbert. “Lord Chatham died at the age of seventy. If the son lives to the same age, we shall have to endure William Pitt for forty years longer. This is the man, Father Billot, with whom we have to contend; this is the man who now governs Great Britain; who well remembers the names of Lameth, of Rochambeau, and Lafayette; who at this moment knows the name of every man in the National Assembly; he who has sworn a deadly hatred to Louis XVI., the author of the treaty of 1778,—the man, in short, who will not breathe freely as long as there shall be a loaded musket in France and a full pocket. Do you begin to understand?”

“I understand that he has a great detestation of France; yes, that is true, but I do not altogether see your meaning.”

“Nor I,” said Pitou.

“Well, then, read these four words.” And he presented a paper to Pitou.

“English again,” cried Pitou.

“Yes; these are the words,—Don't mind the money.”

“I hear the words, but I do not understand them,” rejoined Pitou.

Gilbert translated the words, and then:—

“But more than this: he farther on reiterates the same advice, for he says: 'Tell them not to be sparing of money, and they need not send me any accounts.'“

“Then they are arming,” said Billot.

“No; they are bribing.”

“But to whom is this letter addressed?”

“To everybody and to nobody. The money which is thus given, thus strewn abroad, thus lavished, is given to peasants, to artisans, to wretches,—to men, in short, who will degrade our Revolution.”

Father Billot held down his head. These words explained many things.

“Would you have knocked down De Launay with the butt-end of a musket, Billot?”


“Would you have killed Flesselles by firing a pistol at him?”


“Would you have hanged Foulon?”


“Would you have carried the still bleeding heart of Berthier and placed it on the table of the electors?”

“Infamy!” exclaimed Billot. “On the contrary, however guilty this man may have been, I would have allowed myself to be torn to pieces could I have saved him by it; and the proof of this is that I was wounded in defending him, and that but for Pitou, who dragged me to the riverside—”

“Oh! that is true,” cried Pitou; “but for me, Father Billot would have had but a bad time of it.”

“Well, then, see you now, Billot, there are many men who would act as you have done, when they feel that they have some one to assist them near them, and who, on the contrary, if abandoned to bad examples, become wicked, then ferocious, then frenzied,—then, when the evil is done, why, 'tis done.”

“But, in short,” observed Billot, objectingly, “admitting that Mr. Pitt, or rather his money, had something to do with the death of Flesselles, of Foulon, and of Berthier, what would he gain by it?”

Gilbert began to laugh with that inaudible laugh which astonishes the simple, but which makes the thinking shudder.

“What would he gain by it!” he exclaimed, “can you ask that?”

“Yes, I do ask it.”

“I will tell you. It is this; you were much pleased with the Revolution, were you not,—you who walked in blood to take the Bastille?”

“Yes, I was pleased with it.”

“Well! you now like it less; well! now you long for Villers-Cotterets, your farm, the quietude of your plain, the shades of your great forests.”

Frigida Tempe,” murmured Pitou.

“Oh, yes, you are right,” sighed Billot.

“Well, then, you, Father Billot; you, a farmer; you, the proprietor of land; you, a child of the Île-de-France, and consequently a Frenchman of the olden time,—you represent the third order; you belong to that which is called the majority. Well, then, you are disgusted.”

“I acknowledge it.”

“Then the majority will become disgusted as you are.”

“And what then?”

“And you will one day open your arms to the soldiers of the Duke of Brunswick or of Mr. Pitt, who will come to you in the name of those two liberators of France to restore wholesome doctrine.”


“Pshaw! wait a little.”

“Flesselles, Berthier, and Foulon were at bottom villains,” observed Pitou.

“Assuredly, as Monsieur de Sartines and Monsieur de Maurepas were villains; as Monsieur d'Argenson and Monsieur de Philippeaux were before them; as Monsieur Law was; as the Leblancs, the De Paris, the Duverneys were villains; as Fouquet was; as Mazarin was also; as Semblancey, as Enguerrand de Marigny were villains; as Monsieur de Brieune is towards Monsieur de Calonne; as Monsieur de Calonne is towards Monsieur de Necker; as Monsieur de Necker will be to the administration which we shall have in two years.”

“Oh, oh, Doctor!” murmured Billot, “Monsieur de Necker a villain—never!”

“As you will be, my good Billot, a villain in the eyes of little Pitou here, in case one of Mr. Pitt's agents should teach him certain theories, backed by the influence of a pint of brandy and ten livres per day for getting up disturbances. This word 'villain,' do you see, Billot, is the word by which in revolutions we designate the man who thinks differently from us; we are all destined to bear that name more or less. Some will bear it so far that their countrymen will inscribe it on their tombs, others so much farther that posterity will ratify the epithet. This, my dear Billot, is what I see, and which you do not see. Billot, Billot! people of real worth must therefore not withdraw.”

“Bah!” cried Billot, “even were honest people to withdraw, the Revolution would still run its course; it is in full motion.”

Another smile rose to the lips of Gilbert.

“Great child!” cried he, “who would abandon the handle of the plough, unyoke the horses from it, and then say: 'Good! the plough has no need of me; the plough will trace its furrow by itself.' But, my friends, who was it undertook the Revolution? honest people, were they not?”

“France flatters herself that it is so. It appears to me that Lafayette is an honest man; it appears to me that Bailly is an honest man; it appears to me that Monsieur de Necker is an honest man; it appears to me that Monsieur Elie, Monsieur Hullin, and Monsieur Maillard, who fought side by side with me, are honest people; it appears to me that you yourself—”

“Well, Billot, if honest people, if you, if I, if Maillard, if Hullin, if Elie, if Necker, if Bailly, if Lafayette should withdraw, who would carry on the work? Why, those wretches, those assassins, those villains whom I have pointed out to you,—the agents, the agents of Mr. Pitt!”

“Try to answer that, Father Billot,” said Pitou, convinced of the justice of the doctor's argument.

“Well, then,” replied Billot, “we will arm ourselves, and shoot these villains down as if they were dogs.”

“Wait a moment; who will arm themselves?”


“Billot, Billot! remember one thing, my good friend, and it is this, that what we are doing at this moment is called—what do you call what we are now doing, Billot?”

“Talking politics, Monsieur Gilbert.”

“Well! in politics there is no longer any absolute crime; one is a villain or an honest man, as we favor or thwart the interests of the man who judges us. Those whom you call villains will always give some specious reasons for their crimes; and to many honest people, who may have had a direct or an indirect interest in the commission of these crimes, these very villains will appear honest men also. From the moment that we reach that point, Billot, we must beware. There will then be men to hold the plough-handle. It will move onward, Billot; it will move onward, and without us.”

“It is frightful,” said the farmer; “but if it moves onward without us, where will it stop?”

“God only knows!” exclaimed Gilbert; “as to myself, I know not.”

“Well, then, if you do not know,—