Constance Charlotte Elisa Lennox Russell.

The rose goddess and other sketches of mystery & romance online

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comprends rien, mais j'ai vos passeports directe par un courier
de Paris ' ; to which I answered, ' Oui, monsieur, cela prouve
que votre systeme d'espionage vaut mieux que le notre, car on
savait a Paris que j'etais partie avant qu'on le savait chez nous.'
" In my idea this formed a link in the d'Antraigues' afFair, he
being then supposed to be an English spy, but in reality wis a
French spy in London. With these passports we went all over
the Continent free of annoyance, and Rontgen, whom I had sent
on discoveries some months before, joined us at Berlin. He told
me a lady of Magdeburg had been heard to say that the English


The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

Ambassador, whom everybody was looking for, was in Magdeburg
fortress. To that lady he, ROntgen, went ; she confirmed what
she had said, and added that the governor of Magdeburg had
told her so in these words : ' They are looking for the English
Ambassador, but I have him up there,' pointing to the fortress.
Of course I settled to go myself to the governor of Magdeburg,
though Rontgen had already seen him. He did not deny his
words, but said it was a mistake. I thought, however, that
governors do not make such mistakes, and decided on verifying
it myself.

" We set off, taking Perleberg by the way. There I saw the
woman who found the overalls; I went to the spot where she
found them ; I saw the room my husband inhabited ; the table
on which he slept some hours ; the river which was dragged for
his body ; and followed up every report, going round all the
Hanse towns in hopes of intelligence, and finally, on our way to
Paris, went to Magdeburg, where I had an interview of two
hours with the governor. I begged, I prayed on my knees, I
menaced God's wrath on his head if he deceived me : ' Yes,'
he said, ' I did say so to a lady at a ball, but it was a mistake
of mine ; the person in question was one Louis Fritz, a spy sent
out by Mr. Canning and taken up by the douaniers and brought
here.' ' Well, sir,' said I, ' let me see Louis Fritz.' He
replied, ' He is gone to Spain from Magdeburg.' We went to
Paris, where I got permission from the Emperor to advertise for
my husband in all the papers, even in the Moniteur.'^

In the autumn of i 810, Mrs. Bathurst and Mr. Call returned

to England ; but before they were allowed to leave France they

went through great difficulties. Finally they got away with

passports from the Due de Cadore, although the Due de Rovigo,

Minister of the Police, whom Mrs. Bathurst found " brutal and


The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

overbearing," refused to countersign tliem. They went from

Morlaix in a trawler, which landed them at Saltash after having

journeyed 2054 miles by land and 700 by sea. Mrs. Bathurst

in her account goes on to say : " After embracing my angel

children and my dear mother at Bath, I took up my abode with

my brother in Bond Street, when in November, Rontgen, who

had been to the Foreign Office with a message to Mr. Canning,

asking him if he had ever sent out any one of the name of

Louis Fritz, that gentleman, after taking the trouble of looking

over all the passports of 1809, sent me word no such passport

had been granted and no such person sent by him ! While I

was considering this as a confirmation of my suspicion of the

Magdeburg story, Rontgen told me a gentleman called Comte

d'Antraigues wished to see me. The name, unknown to him,

but familiar to me from my husband's letter, made me start, and

I desired he would come to me as soon as possible. He came

the next day. He began by telling me that I might put on my

weeds, for that he could prove to a certainty the death of my

husband. He abused the Emperor and the French, but I was

on my guard on account of what my husband said. He told

me that had he known I was going to look for him, he would

have given me letters to Fouchet, who would have confirmed

what he said, and that what I heard about Magdeburg was true ;

and that my husband, on going away from Perleberg, had been

taken up by the douaniers-montes (a guard armed to the teeth),

and had been conducted to the fortress of Magdeburg, that

the governor had written to Paris to know what he should do

with him, and received for answer from Fouchet, the Minister

of Police, that the Emperor must not be troubled with all the

madmen England sent out, like Drake, Sir Sydney Smith,

Pichegru, and Rumbold, therefore, to put him out of the way ;


The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

that the governor was alarmed then, having spoken of my
husband, and therefore made up the story he had told me,
but that my husband had perished there. I replied that it was
possible, but that I must have proof of his assertions. He
answered that he desired me to remain in town long enough
for him to write in cipher to Paris, and he would translate and
show me the answer he should get. I did so ; he wrote, as he
assured me, but about the time that the answer should arrive,
he and his wife were murdered by a foreign man-servant whom
they had lately hired. They were coming out of their house
at Twickenham, and the Countess had her foot on the step of
her chariot when the servant came behind her, and over her
shoulder plunged a dagger in her breast, killing her instantly.
The Count, who was following down the little garden, ran back
to his bedroom for pistols — the man after him ; two reports
were heard, and when the servants ran into the room, both
master and man were lying dead on the floor. Now you must
know that this d'Antraigues was a spy of the French and
Russian Governments, and was also being employed by our
Foreign Ofiice in the same capacity. The affair was hushed
up, and so ended that clue." ^

Mr. Bathurst's mother never gave up the idea and the hope
that her son existed to the last moment of her life, and friends
as well as relations continued for many years to prosecute
inquiries. One of the former, Mr. Richard Underwood,
writing in November 1816, says: "On my arrival on the
Continent I sought every one v/ho I thought could give any
information that would tend to elucidate this extraordinary

' The murder of Comte and Comtesse d'Antraigues was thought by many to
be poHtical, in order to get hold of some papers ; but it is more probable that the
servant Lorenzo, who was said to be rather mad, was exasperated by the Countess,
who was a virago, and had dismissed him the previous day.


The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

and mysterious affair. I have been several times in company
with Dr. Armstrong, and the result of all the evidence he
collected at Perleberg is the conviction he feels that Mr.
Bathurst was robbed and murdered in that town, either by
August Schmidt or his friend Hacker, the brandy-distiller,
a notoriously bad character, who was said to have lived after-
wards in Altona as an opulent man."

In 1852 Mrs. Bathurst's sister Tryphena, then Mrs.
Thistlethwayte, visited Perleberg with her daughter and a
courier. Her object, she said, was to see the last spot in which
she had heard of her poor brother and the last persons with
whom he had conversed there. Accordingly she saw at least
five persons in the town who were living at the time of his
disappearance, two of whom had seen and remembered him
perfectly. Mrs. Kestern, the wife of the governor's doctor,
was at the date of Mr. Bathurst's visit to Perleberg a young
woman of about twenty, v;ho acted as housekeeper in the house
where the governor lived, and she recognised a miniature of
Mr. Bathurst which Mrs. Thistlethwayte showed her. She was
the person who had at the time given the following evidence :
namely, that at about five in the evening (the night of the
disappearance) Klitzing came to her and asked her to get some-
thing ready — he thought tea would be the best, as he had a
stranger in his room perished with the cold. She herself took
the tea into the room, and described the stranger as a par-
ticularly fine young man of distinguished manners, wearing a
handsome diamond brooch, light trousers, and a magnificent
fur coat. When the stranger left, to her astonishment he did
not cross the market-place to return to the Post-House from
whence he came, but turned round the corner and entered the

street leading to the shoe-market, where was situated the


The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

suspicious house of Hacker, the brandy-distiller. At first she
thought to run after him and put him on his right way,
particularly as he appeared to be in such a great hurry ; but
then it occurred to her that perhaps he intended to go to the
German Coffee-house where a ball was being given that even-
ing to the provincial nobility. Shortly after this came August
Schmidt and inquired about the lord. She pointed out in what
direction Mr. Bathurst went, and August, she said, must have
been in time to lay hold of him, and upon the word "hold"
she put a particular stress. Soon there came the companion
(Krause) and the servant to ask for him, and the whole place
was in an uproar at the disappearance.

Mrs. Thistlethwayte whilst at Perleberg was shown the
skull and part of the under jaw of a skeleton that had been
found under the floor of a stable adjoining an old house that
was being pulled down, and which had at the time of the dis-
appearance been occupied by Mertens, a waiter at the " White
Sv/an " where Mr. Bathurst dined. The skull had apparently
been fractured by a blow from behind. The chief magistrate
told her that an investigation was at that very time taking
place by command of the Prussian Government, and that the
King of Prussia was extremely interested on the subject.
The moment, however, that Mrs. Thistlethwayte saw the
skull she felt convinced it was not her brother's, as the whole
contour was exactly opposite to the shape of his head, and
the chief magistrate, a medical man, also attested that the
jaw could not have belonged to the person whose portrait
Mrs. Thistlethwayte produced. At the same time it was
considered rather suspicious that Mertens the waiter should
have been able to portion his two daughters, one with >{!i20

and one with ;^ 150, This seems to have been the last inquiry


The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

ever made, and the mystery of the disappearance remains

Captain Klitzing, the governor of Perleberg, believed that
Mr. Bathurst had been murdered for his money. He had
a good deal about him and had foolishly displayed it, and he
was also wearing a valuable diamond pin, besides the very rich
sable coat already alluded to. In England, Germany, and
Prussia the public opinion was that he had been killed by order
of Napoleon or his emissaries, and the Times in a leader on
January 23, 18 10, asserted this so strongly that the Moniteur
took up the controversy and indignantly denied it. In i 840 the
German writer, Varnhagen von Esse, resuscitated the episode,
still accusing the French ; and the Spectator did the same in
1862, suggesting that the crime was committed to get hold of
Mr. Bathurst's despatches and prevent verbal communication.
Furthermore it was known that Mr. Bathurst himself believed
that Napoleon bore him special enmity on account of his
exertions to incite the Austrian Ministry to a declaration of
war. But Mr. Call, his brother-in-law, was of quite a different
opinion, and wrote: "In justice to the Emperor Napoleon,
I must acquit him and his Government of any foul practice
towards Mr. Bathurst." His theory was that his brother-in-
law got alarmed at Perleberg, and thought it wise to escape
without saying anything to anybody. That he did this under
cover of the darkness, dropped his " overalls " in order to be in
better walking order, and finally made his way to Konigsberg.
Mr. Call's theory was in some way borne out by the fact that
evidence came out that shortly after his disappearance a stranger,
who refused to leave his name, had called at the house of the
British agent at Konigsberg, and not finding him at home
asked the servant to say that an T^nglishman requested to see


The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

him next morning at the Post-House. The agent went there
the following day, and was told that a person had been there and
left. Two vessels foundered at sea going from Konigsberg
at this time, and Mr. Call's theory was that Mr. Bathurst had
taken ship in one of them for Stockholm (his former post) and
been lost at sea.

Mr. Bathurst's brother, Sir James Bathurst, also totally
disbelieved that Napoleon had anything to do with the dis-
appearance. Otherwise it was not likely that, on his return from
Egypt, he should have asked to be presented to the First

Mr. Bathurst v/as only twenty-six years of age at the
time of his disappearance, and was described as "handsome,
tall, and slender, fair complexion, with most beautiful hands
and teeth, a calm and thoughtful countenance, remarkably
large blue eyes which fixed the attention of those persons
he addressed, but a gentle kindness in his looks which would
dispel any timidity in a moment." He had brilliant talents,
and at the age of twentv-five had attained a prominent position
as a diplomatist, and a distinguished professional career would
probably have been his if he had been spared to his country
and his friends.

Mr. Bathurst left two infant daughters ; the second one
Emmeline, married in 1830 Edward, Viscount Stuart, who
succeeded his father as Earl of Castle Stewart, and secondly
at Rome in 1867 Signor Alessandro Pistocchi, and died in
1893, having added to her unfortunate mother's bitter sorrows.

The eldest daughter, Rose, or Rosa, Bathurst, who was born

^ It was on this occasion that Napoleon asked him if he had flirted much with
the pretty Egyptian girls. "Sire," replied Sir James, bowing respectfully, "we
had something else to do." "Ah I oui, jeune homme," said Napoleon, " vous
me faites souvenir des circonstances desagrcables — Bonjour."


The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

at Stockholm, grew up to be both beautiful and charming,
as well as good and highly accomplished, and was said greatly
to resemble her father. When she was sixteen years of age
she went to spend the winter with her uncle and aunt, Lord
and Lady Aylmer, at Rome, where she was greatly admired
and much liked by all the society she adorned. On March
1 6, 1824, whilst riding on the banks of the Tiber with the
Aylmers, and accompanied by the French Ambassador, the Due
de Montmorency-Laval, and several other persons, a terrible
tragedy occurred, which is best described by giving the following
narrative, written shortly after by Lady Aylmer in the form
of a letter to an inquiring and sympathising friend :

My dear , — I think you wish for more details of

the melancholy event of our poor Rosa's fatal end, and as I
am the only one whose pen can give them, you shall have facts
and truth from me however painful, even at this distance of
time, the relation may be; on such a subject memory is too
tenacious and every particular of that awful day is deeply
imprinted on my mind. First, it has been a source of con-
solation to us that we did not decide on our choice of road,
or other arrangements, in that fatal ride. On the contrary,'
my poor child and I particularly wished to go some other,'
for the sake of some fine turf on which we wished to canter ;
but Lord Aylmer's horse having come to the door lame, the
amiable Due de Montmorenci made his groom dismount, and-
giving Lord Aylmer his horse, sent the groom back for another,
and he was ordered to meet us at the Ponte Molle ... the
Due proposed a path on the opposite side of the river, and
undertook to guide us to it. A gate through a vineyard,
usually open, on that day being shut, the Due continued in
a path by the river, turning short round by the path; each,
as we turned, disappeared from the sight of those who followed.


The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

I had under my charge that day, at her mother's request, a
youno- lady, on whom, as being a timid rider, my attention
was more particularly directed, and as I was before her, im-
mediately on seeing the line of path, I called back to her
without turning my head to dismount before she came to
a narrower path which I had then reached, where to do so
would have been attended with difficulty. The young lady
had her groom following her and she accordingly jumped off,
and 1 then felt satisfied. Rosa was an excellent horsewoman,
was on her own English horse,^ and I had her before me ;
and as it was impossible without risk to attempt returning,
we had only to go forward and follow the Due and Lord
Aylmer, who were before us, and had ridden on to where
the road widened. Lord Aylmer returned to reassure us,
and to tell us that a few yards farther it was quite safe
and good. As he was approaching us the dear child's mare
seemed to descend into a little dip, or watercourse, before her,
and I called out, ' Do not let your horse turn.' My eyes
fixed on her movements. I jumped off my pony to approach
her, and at that moment the animal backed, and losing her
footing, the bank being rather precipitous, she slid down and
was in one instant plunged with her precious burden into the
dreadful Tiber, and as instantly carried by the impetus out
beyond the reach of any mortal near her, and into the current
of the swollen river. To rush down the steep bank and
plunge in was to Lord Aylmer the desperate act of the
moment. Hat, coat, and all his heavy clothes about him,
he struggled on ; a tolerable swimmer, he was more than
commonly impeded, for, owing to his state of health, he
was encumbered v/ith a good deal of flannel, and when he
found himself unable to contend with the sweeping force
of the swollen river, thick as it was on that day from the
snow and various matters brought to its rapid course from

' Given to her by Lord Algernon Percy, to whom it is said she was engaged.

I lO

The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

the higher grounds, he made for the shore, and hurrying off
with some difficulty his coat and waistcoat, he again plunged
in to struggle a second time with death and the almost
despairing hope of reaching the angel girl who had, during
those agonising moments, divided my interest with him whom
I saw still rising and sinking before me ; and then I beheld
her turn as it were upon her saddle and fall from it into
the river. She never rose again — too certainly something in
the mysterious depths of that horrid Tiber had caught her
habit and dragged her off the horse, which till then she
had clung to, and as she was not unseated when the horse
slid backwards I had the most sanguine expectations it would
have brought her to land. But neither horse nor man could
struggle against such a stream when once in the middle
current of it. Till this moment, even in our agony, all
had been silent ; at first, indeed, I well remember the sound
of my own voice, screaming loudly to the Due to come and
help us, but he was out of sight, hid, I believe, by some
bushes. I called in vain . . . the only man with us was
the groom before mentioned ; on the instant I directed him
to a point of land where, probably, the horse would make
for, on the current driving her to the bank. ' Can you swim ? '
I called out. ' No,' was the answer. ' Then do not attempt
anything.' Thank God ! I had the courage to say this . . .
my wretched and exhausted husband reached the shore, and
then it was that I struggled with him in his distraction.
Then it was that I was mad enough to say, that if he again
attempted to do anything so rash, it should not be alone.
We were both on the very brink of the river, and having
made him comprehend that the body had entirely disappeared,
there was an awful ending to all. 1 had made the young
lady and her groom mount, and they rode home as quickly
as they could for assistance. We made our dispirited way
on foot to the Ponte Molle, where the first person I met

1 1 1

The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

was Lady Coventry, whom I was too wild at that moment
to recognise. She rode back to Rome, sent us on her way
a sort of carnage, into which, without hat or coat, and dripping,
cold and exhausted, my poor Aylmer threw himself, 1 lay
upon him, that my long habit might keep the cold from
his body, and in this way we reached the town and our
apartments, where, after 1 had despatched two perfect strangers,
whom I met before entering the house, for Lord Howden
and Dr. Wilson — and to their credit both executed my com-
missions — I set about, with the help of the servants, cutting
off Lord Aylmer's clothes and getting him to bed, where
many hours passed before our efforts could restore warmth
or animation, and many months after some effects of this
wretched day's tragedy remained in his constitution. . . . We
had the comfort of Dr. Wilson's (himself a good swimmer)
testimony as to the utter impracticability of any man, how-
ever good a swimmer, saving that unfortunate victim. Had
he been there, he said, he should have made the attempt, yet
he thought, in the then state of the impetuous and sweeping
current, he should not have been able to beat the horse, whose
stronger efforts to reach the shore were not successful, not-
withstanding she had her head toward the shore when she
slipped in and naturally made immediate efforts to reach it.
During the following days the young Englishmen then at
Rome, most of whom were acquainted with our poor niece,
headed by the kind Duke of Devonshire, took every proper
measure to search for the body. Boats were out in every
direction, and £^o offered as a reward for the discovery, but
all to no effect. The whole society of Rome was absorbed
in the most intense grief at the Joss of one who, though so
young, was considered one of its most brilliant ornaments and
who was the charm of all her friends from her beauty and
cultivated mind. Lady Blessington, in her Diary, mentions
how she had seen her coming out of the Opera two years

I 12

The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

before, and even then was greatly struck with her appearance ;
and she goes on to say, d propos of her death : ' The dress in
which she was to appear that very night at a Ball was spread
on the bed whence she had risen in all the health and gaiety
of early youth that fatal day, while she — the beloved, whom
her protectors would have shielded with anxious care from
the most genial shower of spring — was sleeping in death with
the waters of the liber booming over her beautiful form,
and sullying those long and silken tresses of which those
who loved her — and they were many — were so proud.' "

Many elegiac verses were written on the sad occasion of
her untimely fate. Amongst others those most admired were
by Lady Flora Hastings and Lord Compton ; but the following
were composed by Mrs. H. de Crespigny, Mrs. Bathurst's
sister : —

" Yes, she was all perfection's self could paint, —
Description sinks beneath the effort faint, —
Her father's talent, and her grandsire's mind.
With every charm of loveliness combined ;
Yet now^ in vain, the heart of all she won,
Britannia's child, the pride of Rome she shone,
Like some bright meteor in the starry sphere,
That burst with splendour but to disappear.
Oh ! who can tell, at that sad hour of awe,
That form divine, that soul-subduing grace.
The heaven that beamed from thy expressive face,
Float for a moment upon Tiber's wave,
Then sink for ever in a watery grave.
No hope was left, all human aid was vain.
Not e'en thy relics could that aid obtain,
Yet on that spot some angel sure will stray,
To chase each rude unhallowed foot away ;
Mute sorrow there shall build herself a shrine.
And breathe around the air some spell divine ;
Soft pity, bathed in tears, shall linger near.
And bid her memory live for ever there."

113 H

The Strange Disappearance of a Diplomat

When all hopes of finding the body were over, Lord and
Lady Aylmer left Rome and retired to a villa near Geneva,
with Mrs. Bathurst and her remaining daughter.

The remainder of the tragic story we will give in Lady
Aylmer's words : —

" Mr. Mills was absent at Naples when the horrid catas-
trophe happened, but returned at once to the Villa Palatina,
and was of much comfort to us ; then when we went away,
he having been so much affected, left Rome for six months.
He returned there in September, and as he passed the Ponte
MoUe, he stopped his travelling carriage from the sad but
inevitable instinct of looking towards a spot which interests

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Online LibraryConstance Charlotte Elisa Lennox RussellThe rose goddess and other sketches of mystery & romance → online text (page 9 of 22)