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charge in the national peril.

Yet, I never saw more expressive evidence of his
genius, than on this night of universal consterna-
tion. His language, ominous and sorrowful, had
the tone of an oracle, and was listened to like an
oracle. No eye or ear strayed from him for a
moment, while he wandered dejectedly among the
leading events of the time ; throwing a brief and
gloomy light over each in passing, as if he carried a
funeral lamp in his hand, and was straying among
tombs. This was to me a wholly new aspect of his
extraordinary faculties. I had regarded rapidity,
brilliancy, and boldness of thought, as his inseparable
attributes ; but his speech was now a magnificent
elegy. I had seen him, when he furnished my mind
almost with the image of some of those men of might
and mystery, sent to denounce the guilt, and heap
coals of fire on the heads of nations. He now gave
me the image of the prophet, lamenting over the de-
solation, which he had once proclaimed, and depre-


eating less the crimes than the calamities of the land
of his nativity. I never was more struck with the
richness and variety of his conceptions, but their sad-
ness was sublime.

Again, I desire to guard against the supposition,
that I implicitly did homage to either his talents, or
his political views. From the latter, I often and
deeply dissented ; in the former I could often perceive
the infirmity, that belongs even to the highest natu-
ral powers. He was no " faultless monster." I am
content to recollect him, as a first-rate human being.
He had enemies, and may have them still. But, all
private feelings are hourly more and more extinguished
in the burst of praise, still ascending round the spot
where his dust is laid. — Time does ultimate justice to
all, and, while it crumbles down the fabricated fame,
only clears and separates the solid renown from th6
common level of things. The foibles of human cha-
racter pass away. The fluctuations of the living
features are forgotten in the fixed majesty of the sta-
tue ; and the foes of the living man unite in carrying
the memorial of the mighty dead to its place in that
temple, where posterity comes to refresh its spirit,
and elevate its nature, with the worship of ancestral
genius and virtue.


" Thy cheek is pale with thought — but not from woe ;
And yet so lovely, that if mirth could flush
Its rose of whiteness with the brightest blush.
My heart would wish away that ruder glow
And dazzle not thy deep blue eyes ; but — oh !
While gazmg on them, sterner eyes will gush.
And into mine my mother's weakness rush,
Soft as the last drops round Heaven's airy bow ;
For, through thy dark, long lashes low depending,
T)ie soul of melancholy Gentleness
Gleams, like a seraph, from the sky descending,
Above all pain, yet pitying all distress."


The speech of the Opposition leader decided the
question.- No man on his side would venture be-
yond the line which he had drawn ; and the resolu-
tions of Government were triumphantly carried ; after
a brief appeal from me to the loyalty and manliness
of the House. I placed before them the undeniable
intention of the cabinet to promote the public pros-
perity; the immeasurable value of unanimity in
the parliament, to produce confidence in the people,
and the magnitude of the stake, for which England


and Ireland were contending with the enemy of
Europe. Those sentiments were received with loud
approval ; my language was continually echoed during
the debate, I was congratulated on all sides ; and
this night of expectancy and alarm closed in a suc-
cess, which relieved me from all future anxiety for
the fate of the Government.

The House broke up earlier than usual ; and, to
cool the fever which the events of the night had
produced in my veins, I rambled into one of the
spacious squares which add so much to the orna-
ment of that fine city. The night was serene, the
air blew fresh and flower-breathing from the walks,
the stars shone in their lustre, and I felt all the
power of nature to soothe the troubled spirit. Some
of the fashionable inhabitants of the surrounding
houses had been induced by the fineness of the
night, to prolong their promenade ; and the light
laugh, and the sound of pleasant voices, added to the
touching and simple charm of the scene. A group
had stopped round a player on the guitar, with which
he made a tolerable accompaniment to some foreign
songs. My ear was caught by a chorus which I had
often heard among the French peasantry, and I
joined in the applause. The minstrel was ragged
and pale, and had evidently met with no small share
of the bufiets of fortune ; but, cheered by our ap-
proval, he volunteered to sing the masterpiece of his
collection — " The Rising of the Vendee" — the rally-
ing-song of the insurrection, a performance chanted
by the Vendean army in the field, by the Vendean


peasant in his cottage, and which he now gave us
with all the enthusiasm of one who had fought and
suffered in the cause.

The Rising of the Vendee.

It was a Sabbath morning, and sweet the summer air,

And brightly shone the summer smi upon the day of prayer ;

And silver-sweet the village bells o'er mount and valley toll'd,

And in the church of St. Florent were gather'd yoimg and old.

When rushing down the woodland hill, in fiery haste was seen,

With panting steed and bloody spur, a noble Angevin.

And bounding on the sacred floor, he gave his fearful cry, —

" Up, up for France ! the time is come, for France to Uve or die.

" Your Queen is in the dimgeon ; your King is in his gore ;
On Paris waves the flag of death, the fiery Tricolor ;
Your nobles, in theu' ancient halls, are hunted down and slain.
In convent cells and holy shrines, the blood is pour'd like rain.
The peasant's vine is rooted up, his cottage is on flame.
His son is to the scaffold sent, his daughter sent to shame ;
With torch in hand, and hate in heart, the rebel host is nigh.
Up, up for France ! the time is come, for France to live or die."

That livelong night the horn was heard, from Orleans to Anjou,
And pour'd from all their quiet fields our shepherds bold and true ;
Along the pleasant banks of Loire shot up the beacon-fires.
And many a torch was blazing bright on Lucon's stately spires ;
The midnight cloud was flush'd with flame, that hung o'er Par-

The blaze that shone o'er proud Brissac was like the breaking day ;
Till east and west, and north and south, the loyal beacons shone,
Like shooting-stars, from haughty Nantz to sea-begirt Olonne.

And through the night, on foot and horse, the sleepless summons

Till morning saw the Lily-flag wide waving o'er Poitou ;
And many an ancient musketoon was taken from the wall.
And many a jovial hunter's steed was hamess'd in the stall ;
And many a noble's armoury gave up the sword and spear.
And many a bride, and many a babe, was left with kiss and tear ;


And many a homely peasant bade " farewell" to his old " dame ;"
As in the days, when France's king unfurl'd the Oriflame.

There, leading his bold marksmen, rode the eagle-eyed Leseure,
And dark Stofflet, who flies to fight, as falcon to the lure ;
And, fearless as the lion roused, but gentle as the liimb,
Came, marching at his people's head, the brave and good Bon-
Charette, where honour was the prize, the hero sure to win ;
And there, with Henri Quatre's plume, the young Rochejaquelin.
And there, in peasant speech and garb — the terror of the foe,
A noble made by Heaven's own hand, the great Cathelineau.

We march'd by tens of thousands on, Ave mareh'd through day and

The Lily standard in our front, like Israel's holy light.
Around us roam'd the rebels, as the wolf around the sheep.
We burst upon their columns, as the lion roused from sleep ;
We tore the bayonets from their hands, we slew them at their guns,
Their boasted horsemen flew like chaff before our forest-sons ;
That eve we heap'd their baggage high, their lines of dead between.
And in the centre blazed to heaven their blood-dyed Guillotine !

In vain they hid their heads in walls ; we rush'd on stout Thenar,

What cared we for its shot or shell, for battlement or bar ?

We burst its gates ; then, like the wmd, we rushed on Fontenaye,

We saw its flag at morning's hght, — 'twas ours by setting day.

We crush'd, like I'ipen'd grapes, Montreuil, we tore down old

Vetier —
We charged them with om* naked breasts, and took them Avith a

We'll hunt the robbers through the land, from Seine to sparkling

Now, " Here's a health to all we love. Our king shall have his


This song had an interest for me, independent of
the spirit of the performer. It revived recollections
of the noblest scene of popular attachment and faith-
ful fortitude since the days of chivalry. I heard in it
the names of all the great leaders of the Royalist


army — names which nothing but the deepest national
ingratitude will ever suffer France to forget ; and it
gave a glance at the succession of those gallant ex-
ploits by which the heroic peasantry and gentlemen
of Anjou and Poitou had gained their imperishable

But the streets of a capital, itself almost in a state
of siege, were not the scene for indulging in romance
by starlight ; and one of the patrols of soldiery, then
going its rounds, suddenly ordered the group to dis-
perse. The Frenchman, unluckily, attempted to
apologize for his own appearance on the spot ; and
the attempt perplexed the matter still more. The
times were suspicious, and a foreigner, and of all
foreigners a Gaul, caught, under cover of night, sing-
ing songs of which the sergeant could not compre-
hend a syllable, was a personage in every way formed
for the guard-house. The startled Frenchman's ex-
clamations and wrath at discovering this purpose,
only made the sergeant more positive ; and he was
marched off, as a traitor convicted of guitar-playing,
and other traitorous qualities.

I interposed, but my interposition was in vain.
My person was unknown to the man in authority ;
and I was evidently, from the frown of the sergeant,
regarded as little better than an accomplice. My
only resource was, to follow the party to the guard-
house, and see the officer of the night. But, he was
absent ; and half-laughing at the singular effect of
the report in the morning, that 1 had been arrested
as the fellow-conspirator of a French mendicant ; I
called for pen, ink, and paper, to explain my position


by a message to the next magistrate. But, this re-
quest only thickened the perplexity. As I approached
the desk to write, the prisoner bounded towards me
with a wild outcry, flung his arms round my neck,
and plunging his hand into the deepest recesses of
his very wayworn costume, at length drew out a
large letter, which he held forth to me with a gesture
of triumph. The sergeant looked graver still ; his
responsibility was more heavily involved by the
despatch, which he intercepted on the spot, and
proceeded to examine ; at least so far as the envelope
was concerned. He and his guard pored over it in
succession. Still it was unintelligible. It was a
mysterious affair altogether. The Frenchman and
I begged, equally in vain, to be allowed to interpret.
Impossible. At length the subaltern on duty was
found ; and on his arrival I was released, with all
due apologies, and carried off the captive and his
despatch together.

The letter was addressed to me, in French, and in
a hand with which I was unacquainted. To obtain
a"ny knowledge of its contents on my way home, or
from its bearer, was out of the question ; until, with
a hundred circumlocutions, I had heai'd the full and
entire hair-breadth 'scapes of Monsieur Hannibal
Auguste Dindon. He had been the domestic of
Madame la Marechale de Tourville, and had attended
her and the countess to England in the emigration ;
in England he had seen me. On the reduction of
the Marechale's household, he had returned to his
own country, and taken service with the Royalist
army in the Vendee. There, too, he had suffered


that '' fortune de la guerre" which is ill-luck with
every body, but the elastic Frenchman. He had
been taken prisoner, and, was on the point of being
shot ; when he saw the countess, a prisoner also in
the Republican hands, who interceded for his safety,
and gave him this letter, to be delivered to me, if he
should escape. After following the march of the
armies, a defeat scattered the Republican division
along with which they were carried ; he procured a
conveyance for the Countess, to the coast of Britanny,
and they embarked in one of the fishing vessels for
England. Again ill-luck came ; a storm caught them
in the Channel, swept them, the crew knew not where,
and finally threw them on the iron-bound shore of the
west of Ireland. — Clotilde was now actually in the
capital, on her way to England !

If ever there was wild joy in the heart of man, it
was in mine at that intelligence. It was a flash
of light, bright, bewildering, overwhelming !

I longed to be alone ; to hear no sound of the
human tongue, to indulge in the deep and silent
delight of the overladen heart. But M. Hannibal
was not a personage, to be disappointed of his share
of interest ; and, to avoid throwing the honest prattler
into absolute despair, I was forced to listen to his
adventures ; until the blaze of the lamps in the vice-
regal residence, and the challenge of the sentries,
reminded him, and me too, that there were other
things in the world than a Frenchman's wanderings.
The substance of his tale, however, was — that his
resources having fallen short on the road, and re-
solving not to burden the finances of the countess,
which he believed to be scarcely Ises exhausted


than his own, he had made use of his voice and
guitar to recruit his purse — a chance which he now
designated as a miracle, devised by the saint who
presided over his birthday, to finish his perils, in all
imaginable felicity.

Giving him into the care of my servants, I was
at length alone. The letter was in my hand. Yet
still I dreaded to break the seal. What might
not be the painful sentiments and sorrowful re-
monstrances within that seal? But, Clotilde was
living ; was near me ; was still the same con-
tiding, generous, and high-souled being; sorrow
and terror were now passed away. — I opened the
letter. It was a detail of her thoughts, written in the
few moments which she could snatch from the insult-
ing surveillance round her ; and was evidently in-
tended less as a letter, than a legacy of her last
feelings, written to relieve an overburdened heart,
with but slight hope of its ever reaching my hand.
It was written on various fragments of paper, and
often blotted with tears. It began abruptly. I
shuddered at the misery which spoke in every

" I am, at this hour, in the lowest depth of
wretchedness. I have but one consolation, that no
life can endure this agony long. After being carried
from garrison to garrison, with my eyes shocked
and my feelings tortured, by the sights and sufferings
of war, I am at last consigned to the hands of the
being, whom on earth I most dread and abhor. Mon-
trecour has arrived, to take the command in Saumur.
I have not yet seen him ; but he has had the cruelty
to announce, that I am his prisoner, and shall be his


wife. But the wife of Montrecour I never will be ;
rather a thousand times would I wed the gi-ave ! —

" This letter may never reach your hands, or, if it
does, it may only be when the great barrier is raised
between us, and this heart shall be dust, Marston,
shall I then be remembered ? Shall my faith, my
feelings, and my sufferings, ever come across your
mind ? — Let not Clotilde be forgotten. I revered,
honoured, loved you. — I feel my heart beat, and my
cheek burn at the words ; but I shall not recall
them. On the verge of the future world, I speak
with the truth of a spirit, and oh, with the sincerity
of a woman !

" From that eventful day when I first met your
glance, I determined, that no power on earth should
ever make me the wife of another. To me you remained
almost a total stranger. Yet the die was cast. I
finally resolved to abandon the world, to hide my
unhappy head in a convent, and there, in loneliness
and silence, endiu'e, for I never could hope to extin-
guish, those struggles of heart which forced me to
leave all the charms of existence behind, for ever.

"The loss of my beloved parent gave me the
power of putting my resolution into effect. I re-
turned to France, though in the midst of its dis-
tractions, and took refuge under the protection of my
venerable relative, the superior of the convent at
Valenciennes. My narrative is now brief, but most
melancholy. On the evening of the day when I
heard your love — a day which I shall remember with
pride and gratitude to the closing hour of my ex-
istence — we were suffered to pass the gates, and take



the route for Italy. But, on the third day of our
journey, we were stopped by a division of the Re-
publican forces on their march to the Vendee. We
were arrested as aristocrats^ and moved from gairison
to garrison, until we reached the Republican head-
quarters at Saumur ; where, to my infinite terror, I
found Montrecour governor of the fortress. He
was a traitor to his unhappy king. The republic
had offered him higher distinctions than he could
hope to obtain from the emigrant princes, and he
had embraced the offer. Betrothed to him in my
childhood, according to the foolish and fatal custom
of our country, I was still in some degree pledged to
him. But, now no human bond shall ever unite me
to one, whom I doubly disdain as a traitor. Still, I
am in his power. What is there now to save me ? I
am at this moment in a prison !

" I hear the sounds of music and dancing on every
side. The town is illuminated for a victory which is
said to have been gained this morning over the troops
of Poitou, advancing to the Loire. The stars are
glittering through my casement with all the brilliancy
of a summer sky ; the breath of the fields flows
sweetly in ; laughing crowds are passing through the
streets ; and here am I, alone, friendless, broken-
hearted, and dreading the dawn.

" I spent the livelong night on my knees. Tears
and prayers were my sole comfort during those me-
lancholy hours. But time rolls on. Montrecour
has just sent to tell me, that my choice must be made
by noon — the altar or the guillotine. An escort is
now preparing to convey prisoners to Nantes, where


the horrible Revolutionary Tribunal holds a perpe-
tual sitting ; and I must follow them, or be his bride !
— Never ! I have given my answer, and gladly I
welcome my fate. I have solemnly bade farewell to
this world.

" No ! My tyrant is not so merciful. He has
this moment sent to * command ' (that is the word)
— to command my presence in the church; ^as he
is about to march against the enemy, and he must be
master of my hand before he takes the field.' The
troops are already preparing for the march. I hear
the drums beating. But one short hour is given me
to prepare. — Would I were dead !

" There are times when the soul longs to quit her
tenement ; when the brain sees visions ; when the
heart feels bursting ; when a thousand weapons seem
ready for the hand, and a voice of temptation urges
to acts of woe. — Marston, Marston, where are you
at this hour ?"

The letter fell from my hands. I had the whole
scene before my eyes. And where was I, while the
one to whom every affection of my nature was indis-
solubly bound, this ci'eature of beauty, fondness, and
magnanimity, was wasting her life in sorrow, in capti-
vity, in the bitterness of the broken heart? If I
could not reproach myself with having increased her
calamities, yet had I assuaged them ? had I flown to
her rescue ; had I protected her against the cruelties
of fortune ; had I defied, sword in hand, the heartless
and arrogant villain who had brought her into such
hopeless peril ? Those thoughts shot through my
brain in torture, and it was some time before I could
G 2

] 24' MARSTON.

resume the reading of the blotted lines upon my table.
I dreaded their next announcement. I shrank from
the pang of certainty. The next sentence might
announce to me that Clotilde had been compelled by
force to a detested marriage; — I dared not hazard
the knowledge.

Yet the recollection, that I was blameless in her
trials, at length calmed me. I felt, that to protect
her had been wholly out of my power, from the day
when she left Valenciennes ; and, while I honoured
the decision and loftiness of spirit which had led her
to that self-denying step, I could lay nothing to my
charge, but the misfortune of being unable to con-
vince her mind of the wisdom of disdaining the
opinion of the world. I took up the letter again.

"Another day has passed, of terror and anguish
unspeakable. Yet it has closed in thanksgiving. I
have been respited. — I was forced from my chamber.
I was forced to the altar. I was forced to endure the
sight of Montrecour at my side. A revolutionary
priest stood prepared to perform the hateful cere-
mony. I resisted, I protested, I wept in vain. The
chapel was thronged with revolutionary soldiers,
who, regarding me as an aristocrat, were probably
incapable of feeling any sympathy with ray suffer-
ings. I was hopeless. But, during the delay pro-
duced by my determination, to die rather than yield,
I could see confusion growing among the spectators.
I heard the hurried trampling of cavalry through
the streets. Drums and trumpets began to sound in
all quarters. The tumult evidently increased. I
could perceive, even in the stony features of Montre-


cour, his perplexity at being detained from showing
himself at the head of the troops ; and, with senses
wound to their utmost pitch by the anxiety of the
moment, I thought that I could hear the distant
shouts of an immense multitude advancing to the
walls. Aide-de-camp after aide-de-camp now came
hurrying in ; each with a fresh summons to their
general. He alternately threatened, insulted, and
implored me. But, no measure or entreaty on earth
could rnake me consent.

" At length, I heard a heavy fire of cannon, followed
by the shattering of houses and the outcries of the
people. The batteries of the town soon returned the
fire, and all was uproar. Montrecour, gnashing his
teeth, and with the look and fury of a fiend, now
rushed towards me, and bore me to the feet of the
priest. I felt the light leaving my eyes, and hoped
that I was dying. At that moment, a cannon-shot
struck the steeple, and dashed down a large portion
of its fragments on the floor. The priest and his at-
tendants, thinking that the whole fabric was falling,
made their escape. Montrecour, with an exclamation
full of the bitterness of his soul, flung me from him,
and, swearing that my respite should be brief, darted
from the chapel, followed by the soldiers. — What
words ever uttered by human lips can tell the grati-
tude, with which I saw myself left alone, and knelt
upon that floor, covered with ruins !

*' I am now on my way once more ; I know not

whither. The battle continued during the day ; and

the sights and sounds were almost too much for the

human senses to bear. At night the Royalists stormed

G 3


the outworks of the fortress ; and, to prevent our
release in the capitulation, the prisoners were sent
away in the darkness. As our cari'iage passed the
gates, I saw Montrecour borne in, wounded. The
spirit of the insulter was in him still. He ordered
the soldiers to bring his litter near me, and in a voice
faint through pain, but bitter with baffled revenge, he
murmured — 'Countess, you shall not have long to
indulge in your caprices. My hurts are trifling. —
You are still in my power.'

" What a hideous desolation is war ! We have
just passed through one of the forest villages, which,
but a few days since, must have been loveliness
itself. — Vineyards, gardens, a bright stream, a rustic
chapel on a hill — every thing shaped for the delight
of the eye! But a desperate skirmish had occurred
there between the retreating Republicans and their
pursuers, and all that man could ruin was ruined.
The cottages were all in ashes, the gardens trampled,
the vineyards cut down for the fires of the bivouac,

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Online LibraryGeorge CrolyMarston, or, The soldier and statesman (Volume 3) → online text (page 8 of 19)