Louis Siffrein Joseph Loncrosé de Salamon.

Unpublished memoirs of the internuncio at Paris during the Revolution, 1790-1901 online

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Online LibraryLouis Siffrein Joseph Loncrosé de SalamonUnpublished memoirs of the internuncio at Paris during the Revolution, 1790-1901 → online text (page 16 of 23)
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him slowly, seemingly without any desire to address
him in particular, until we were near each other.
Then I kept my ears open, to glean what I could in
case he asked or answered a question.

Chance favored me, — indeed, served me better
than I could have hoped for.

The Prince of Reuss, whom I had formerly often met
in society, approached the ambassador, and, after the
usual compliments, inquired if there was anything new.

"Yes," he replied, "peace has been concluded
between the King of Naples and the Directory. I
signed it myself this morning."

My surprise and consternation at this news, news I
had not the slightest grounds for expecting, may be
easily imagined.

I listened eagerly for something else ; but I was
unable to learn anything further of importance.

Accordingly, as soon as I could do so without arous-
ing suspicion, I drew near the Prince of Reuss and
asked him to tell me frankly what the Neapolitan
ambassador had said to him.


This Prince and I had always been on good terms,
and he was acquainted with my mission, having met
me more than once at the Tuileries, when I went
there as internuncio.

He answered freely, without any hesitation : " The
King of Naples has made peace with the Directory,
and such a peace must assuredly have serious conse-
quences for the Holy See."

Without making any response to this reflection, I
inquired if Prince del Belmonte had entered into any

'' No," he replied, " all I know is that his courier is
ready, and on the point of starting."

I thought to myself : " The Pope is betrayed ! He
is lost ! Believing that he has the suppoii; of a
strong army of Neapolitans, he will break the armis-
tice ; the French general will invade Rome and make
him prisoner."

The thought occurred to me, like a flash, that it was
still possible to send a courier to his Holiness, who
could inform him of what had happened, and show
him that it would be imprudent to be the first to break
the armistice.

The Pope kept a courier near me, named Guillaume,
who was always at my disposal. I left immediately
to give him instructions. Naples being a hundred
and fifty miles farther from Paris than Rome was, it
was quite possible to despatch a messenger who could
reach the Pope and acquaint him with the situation of
affairs long before a courier could arrive in Naples.
My courier had always a passport for Switzerland on
his person, so that he might be able to start at a


moment's notice. Accordingly, before it was mid-
night, he was already outside of Paris.

But whether he had spoken of his mission, or
whether he had been " shadowed," I cannot say.
At all events, he was pursued by order of the
Minister of Police, — at that time M. Cochon, —
and arrested at Pontarlier, just as he was about to
eat a morsel in a tavern on the road.

His despatches were seized, but he was allowed to
go free himself.

It was a great pity, and a great fault also, for him
to have delayed his journey on any account. Another
half hour would have brought him across the frontiers
of the Valais, a neutral country, and he could have
fulfilled his mission. In that case, I should not have
groaned for five months in fetters and Pius VI. might
have been saved.

However, I had sent by post a copy of my despatch
at the same time, using a false address, according to
my custom. It reached its destination all right, but it
arrived too late.

I said, toward the close of my letter, that if the
armistice was broken, the only thing his Holiness
could do was to take measures for the safety of his
person and of whatever else he deemed of most

I have been told by the present Pontiff that Pius
VI. was about to follow my advice implicitly, and had
actually given orders to make all the necessary pre-
parations for leaving Rome. Unfortunately, the
generals of the Dominicans and Camalduli, as well
as two cardinals, came to him in the night, and per-


suaded him to change his resolution ; and when Car-
dinal Chiaramonti, now Pius VII., presented liimself
at the Vatican in the morning, he found everything
quiet, and the Pope still asleep.

Pius VI. had good reason afterward to regret that
he had allowed liimself to be guided by the counsels
of the two generals and the two cardinals.

When the latter visited him at the Carthusian
monastery in Florence, he aroused himself from the
lethargy into which he had fallen, and said angrily :
" If I had taken the advice of the Abb^ de Salamon
and my nephew I should not have been here ! "

This anecdote has been told me by Duke Braschi




Police Agents at the Internuncio's. — He is Arrested with
Madame Blanchet, — The Dungeon op the Preeecture op
Police. — Madame Colin. — A Search in the Apartments at
Passt. — Madame Grandin again. — A Tragic Night.

After this short digression, I return to my subject.
I was congratulating myself on my foresight in send-
ing a courier to the Pope, and thinking that this same
courier was making his way successfully through
Switzerland, when all of a sudden Madame Blanchet
entered my room — we lived then in the Rue Floren-
tin — and said : " Monsieur, there are three men be-
longing to the police below; they want to see M.
Eysseri Blanchet."

" Show them up," I answered.

They entered, and asked to see M. Eysseri Blanchet.

" I do not know any such person," I replied.

" In that case we must examine your papers."

" Just as you like. Yonder is my study, and you
can rummage the desks and drawers."

They found absolutely nothing, except some letters
which referred to a sort of commerce I carried on in

I was in the habit, in fact, of sending many books
of piety and all the new publications to the Valais,
from whence they were forwarded to the Pope.


Pius VI. was very inquisitive, and had asked me to
supply him with all the books and caricatures that had
recently appeared, even those directed against his
own person.

On the other hand, I received chocolate from Italy^
and cheese from Gruy^re, the invoices of which
I kept by me. These rascals, furious at discover-
ing nothing else, upset everything in my apart-

During all this time, Blanchet, who was trembling,
did not dare to utter a word. At length, seeing that
the hour for dinner was past, she said she would go
and bring in the soup.

" I want to continue my work also," I added ; " I
was just racking off a barrel of wine, and I cannot
leave it as it is."

" Don't stir, citoyenne ! " cried one of them ; " you
must remain where you are."

^' Have you an order to arrest this woman ? Show
it to me. She can neither read nor write, and she is
here simply to wait upon me."

" We shall see ; but meanwhile we take it upon
ourselves to arrest her."

Thereupon a man left, and returned an hour
after with a warrant for the widow Blanchet's

I recollect there was among these policemen an
abominable man, named Bertrand — but he is dead;
let him rest. God will avenge me on him. As for
myself, besides that God forbids it, I have a nature
that scorns revenge.

The agents drew up a report, which I refused to


sign, and Blanchet and I were conducted between
four men to the police station.

It was eight in the evening.

We had to wait an entire hour in this sinister abode,
and, during all the time, there were persons coming
and going, who looked at us with an air of curiosity,
and then went away, murmuring : " They are con-
spirators ! "

At length, I was led into an old-time dungeon, for
it was underground and had to be reached by a stair-

Its sole furniture was a miserable pallet, as hard as
the floor upon which it was stretched, and a sorry
quilt, utterly worn out. There were no sheets.

Neither was there a seat, except the one in the
corner, which served as a water-closet.

The keeper withdrew, shot the bolts on me, and left
me helpless, not inquiring even if I needed food ; yet
the only thing I had taken since evening was a little

I learned the next day that Blanchet had been in-
carcerated in a prison devoted to thieves and to those
loose women who prowl about the streets.

As for myself, I never slept a wink the whole night,
for I was devoured by fleas and tormented by big
mice, animals that have always inspired me with
horror. It took up all my time to keep beating the
mattress in order to frighten them off.

Daylight was so long in coming that I awaited it
impatiently. This dungeon had only one small win-
dow, and that was at the top of the wall, and only
received its light from another window opposite to it,


of about the same size. Even when the sun had risen,
therefore, it was so dark that, if I had had a book, I
should not have been able to read it.

About ten, the door was noisily opened, and a
pound of black bread, still quite warm, was brought
in, as well as a wooden dish containing a little soup
and some cabbage cooked with rancid butter ; there
were also a pitcher of water and a wooden goblet.

I should not have been able to see these articles
except for the light that penetrated through the half-
open door.

I devoured the crust of the bread greedily, but I
could not eat the soft part, which was still warm and
almost raw. I threw it into the pitcher, so that the
mice might not find it ; but I acted very foolislily, for
I obtained no fresh water for two days, and I was
forced to drink the water in the pitcher at last.

I did better afterward, and threw whatever I did
not use into the water-closet.

I remained in this horrible dungeon an entire week,
seemingly abandoned by all creation, when suddenly
the door was flung back with a great noise : this oc-
curred about the middle of the day.

I was not long in recognizing the wife of my notary,
Madame Colin, with whom I had been on friendly
terms for a number of years. She was a tender-
hearted and kindly woman, a good friend as well
as a good mother ; moreover, full of wit and very
pretty. " So I am not deserted by every one ! " I
said to her. " I am sorry 1 cannot offer you a chair ;
you will have to sit at the foot of the staircase lead-
ing to my prison."



She sat down and gazed on me steadily, and, see-
ing me with a beard of eight days' growth, linen
almost black, clothes in disorder, and looking alto-
gether haggard and forlorn, she burst into tears,
crying: "Ah, my friend, in what a condition do I
behold you! I have actually almost broken through
the walls of the prison to get at you. I have been
threatened, have been inscribed on the register as a
' suspect.' No matter ! I was determined to see you.
You can hardly imagine what an audacious person
I have become ! Catch me taking ' no ' for an an-
swer! Why, I have actually condescended to jest
with these creatures ! Think of it ! But you know,"
she added smiling, "that a pretty woman always
gets what she wants in the end, and so, my dear
friend, here I am ! But what, in the name of good-
ness, have you done? Everybody believes you are
a criminal of the deepest dye, and are sure to have
your head chopped off. All your friends fight shy
of you, for they regard you as a dead man. Tell me
what it is all about. You pass for the head and
front of an awful conspiracy. It is rumored on all
sides that twelve portfolios were found in your house,
full of treasonable documents."

I let her go on as long as she wished, for this
excellent woman loves to hear herself talk. I did
not attempt to interrupt her once until she had

" Are you sure you have finished ? " said I. " Well,
every single thing you have just uttered is a lie, and
the whole is a tissue of falsehoods. I have never
been told the cause of my arrest. I am not a con-


spirator, and neither portfolios nor documents have
been found in my residence."

At these words she jumped on my neck, crying :

" Is what you tell me quite true ? "

"Really, you know me well enough not to think
me capable of deceiving you, and that at the very
moment when you are subjecting yourself to consid-
erable ar_noyance for my sake. What good would
it do me any way? You will soon learn the truth.
No, I repeat, I am not a conspirator."

"How glad you make me! Do not be uneasy,
my friend, I am going to work for you. Meanwhile,
I must send you some clean linen, bread, a few hotr
ties of good wine, and one of those roast turkeys which,
as you know well, my cook prepares so skilfully."

I thanked her with all my heart.

This visit, which I did not at all expect, was a
source of great consolation to me. It was as if an
angel had been sent by God to revive my drooping

Nevertheless, I entreated her not to return before
I was examined. I feared she might incur suspicion
herself, and perhaps be refused admission.

From that moment this excellent woman, as full
of devotion to her friends as she is of sprightliness
and gayety, was constantly on her feet, running to
all her acquaintances and telling them that the stories
related about me were utterly false, that no letters
had been discovered in my house, and that I was
wholly in the dark as to the cause of my detention.
She incurred considerable risk by her advocacy, but
she laughed at danger-


The result was that my friends began to entertain
some hope in my regard and to speak in my favor.

The police, having learned that I had another resi-
dence at Passy, — I kept it for eight years, — resolved
to make a thorough search in it ; and the same indi-
viduals who arrested me in the Rue Florentin came
to my prison to conduct me to Passy, in order that I
might be present at the inspection of my papers.

They offered to provide a carriage to relieve me
from the fatigue of a journey on foot. But I saw
very well the offer was made for their own sake, not
for mine ; so I answered that I could do without it ;
they might hire one for themselves if they liked, but
most assuredly I had no intention of paying for it.

We proceeded, then, on our way to Passy, walking
along the Seine until we came to Chaillot.

I perceived Madame d'Aubusson at some distance
from me on the road ; she is a charming and estima-
ble woman who has always liked me. I did not wish
to look in her direction, but she recognized me, and,
without exhibiting any alarm, cried : " Good day, my
friend! I hope to see you soon." I was afraid I
might compromise her, and, addressing the shirri who
attended me : " Whom is that woman speaking to ? "
said I. They made no answer.

When we reached Passy, they demanded permis-
sion of the judge and mayor of Passy to search my

These gentlemen, who had known me for a long
time, were surprised beyond measure at seeing me in
custody, and they answered: "Citizens, you must
be mistaken. This citizen is a very honest man, and


has never given any cause for complaint as long as
he has lived in this commune."

Nevertheless, they granted the permission asked
for, — indeed, they could not very well refuse it ; but
they pushed their interest in me so far as to be
present in person at the search.

The investigation made by my keepers was of the
most minute character ; but, having absolutely found
nothing of importance, they took possession of some
burlesque verses I had composed as a recreation, and
of a letter written by my sainted mother.

I called their attention to the fact that this letter
had no interest for any one but myself ; that it was
the letter of a tender mother to her son ; and that to
deprive me of such a precious souvenir would be an
act of indescribable infamy.

But they turned a deaf ear to my appeal.

However, I was hungry, and, as I never lose my
head in any difficulty, however serious, I lit a fire in
the chimney, and sent word to Madame Grandin to
bring me bread and biscuits. Madame Grandin was
the virago with whom I lodged during the Terror.
Whether through curiosity or through a kindlier
motive, she hastened to comply with my request.

Accordingly, I made two excellent cups of choco-
late, which I drank in the presence of my jailers.

When I had finished the second cup, one of them
said, —

" Something inside of me tells me it is about the
hour for lunch, and I only wish I could imitate you.
This is a tough job we have been working at, and X
have a good appetite."


" Nothing prevents you from imitating me," I an-
swered; "there is an excellent restaurant close by,
kept by the brother of M. le Juge de Paix ; and,"
I added, drawing myself up proudly, "the time is
past when the victims hired carriages for their execu-
tioners and provided banquets for them."

We returned from Passy on foot also ; it was about
four in the evening.

I was no sooner in the prison than I threw myself
on the pallet. I felt very tired, for I had been on
my legs since seven in the morning, and had walked
over two leagues.

There was no sign, on my return, of the bad soup
and bad bread with which I was in the habit of being
regaled ; and, as I asked the reason of this, I was told
in reply, that, seeing the door of my prison open, no
one expected I should return, but that orders would
be given to supply me with the usual fare.

Nothing came, nevertheless, and for twenty-four
hours I had to content myself with a small loaf.

It was lucky I had swallowed my two cups of

When night fell, I slept better than usual, partly
from fatigue, and partly because I had become better
acquainted with the mice, and they were losing their
terrors for me.

But I was suddenly startled out of sleep ; the door
of the prison was opened.

The grating noise produced by drawing the bolts al-
ways makes a rather alarming impression on prisoners.

At the same instant, a man entered; he was in
rags, and his hair was in wild disorder ; he seemed


di'unk, and was supported by two gendarmes. When
they released him, he rolled on the floor, and then lay
like one dead.

All this horrified me, and I asked who the man
was. " He is," was the answer, " an assassin, and
will stay here the rest of the night." I could not
master the feeling of consternation that took hold
of me.

I entreated, I begged that they would put this man
in some other prison. I grew furious, I tried to pre-
vent them from shutting the door. But they were
deaf to my cries, and, several other persons hurrying
to the scene, I was flung back into my dungeon, and
left alone with the assassin.

You may conceive the appalling nature of my

Every moment I was on the watch, expecting that
this wretch, who for the time was dead drunk, would
start up from some frenzied dream and murder me,
and I was absolutely defenceless. The only resource
I had was to cry out and beat the door, until at last
voice and strength gave way, and I fell back ex-
hausted on my pallet.

Fortunately, the horrible creature did not stir the
whole night, and at five in the morning he was




A Letter from Cardinal Busca. — A Curious Type op an
Examining Magistrate. — The Provisions of Madame Colin.
— "I AM Unworthy of Sleeping alongside that Angel/*
— Before the Jury. — He meets Blanchet.

On the morning of the eleventh day of my im-
prisonment, I was informed that I must undergo my
first examination.

Thus, in my case, the law was violated which en-
acts that a prisoner be examined within twenty-four
hours after his arrest.

The delay, doubtless, arose from the fact that they
were unable to find sufficient evidence against me,
and they hoped to discover in the letters that were
likely to arrive from Rome fresh matter for my

But, by a special mercy of Providence, the post-
man, who was acquainted with my servant,^ met her
in the street and handed her two letters.

However, they managed to get hold of a third,
which did me more good than harm.

It was from the new Secretary of State, Cardinal
Busca. He announced his nomination, and told me

1 The servant he had hired to wait on Blanchet.


that I must henceforth correspond with him, adding :
" Your employer is well pleased with you, and wishes
you to work away at your job."

I was in the habit of using these words, " employer
— yo?>," and the cardinal had merely borrowed them
from me.

On reaching the hall where I was to be examined,
I saw a little man in black, with his hair powdered,
and a harsh, repulsive physiognomy, which he did
his best to render amiable, but it was a failure.

He requested me to sit beside his desk, and asked
my name, surname, and profession. " What is the
use ? " said I, " you know them."

" A mere formality, citizen, a mere formality."

Then I answered the question.

While he was writing, he mumbled between his
teeth, —

"A conspirator! ah! A traitor to his country!
Corresponding with the enemies of the state I "

At the same moment, I perceived on the corner of
the desk a folded letter. I was able to read the head-
ing, however. The date — I always date my letters
at the top of the page — was in my handwriting. It
was like a flash of lightning. "Ah," I thought,
" my courier has been arrested, and that 's my

But he went on writing, slowly and laboriously.

This fellow, who, for the misfortune of honest men,
is still employed in the police department, had any-
thing but a fluent pen, evidently.

When he had finished, he required me to sign the
papers found in my house, and particularly my poor


mother's letter. " No I " I exclaimed indignantly, " I
do not intend to sign ! How can you have had the
atrociousness to present that dear letter to me, which
your hideous satellites have torn from the hands of a
son, — that letter which has been the only consolation
left to me, and which I have treasured as a relic !
What do you intend doing with it ? Do you make it
one of the counts in your indictment ? If you do, I
suppose it is because it breathes nothing but tender-
ness and piety ! No, I will not sign it ! "

Then, taking up the letter I had perceived, he
handed it to me, saying in an ironical tone, —

" And this — does this, too, excite the best senti-
ments of your affectionate heart? You recognize
it, eh?"

" Before I answer you, citizen, have the goodness
to tell me whether you are the person appointed to
decide on my case."

"No, the judge and jury, before whom you are
shortly to appear, must look to that."

" Ah ! so I am to appear in court, and in presence
of a jury, am I? Write down, then, that I have
nothing more to say to you."

This determination of mine seemed to embarrass
him considerably. He became very mild, he adopted
a thousand schemes to get at me; but he had his
labor for his pains, he could worm nothing out of me.
"I see clearly," I added, "that you are absolutely
resolved on finding me guilty. You insult my mis-
fortune with your contemptuous and contemptible
snickering ; you speak of conspiracy, treason, corre-
sponding with the enemies of my country. A hu-


mane and compassionate judge does not act precisely
in this fashion. I repeat it, you shall learn nothing
from me."

Nevertheless, he persisted in reading my letter to
me and demanding explanations of certain passages.

The only answer he got from me was, "I have
nothing to say."

He was beside himself with rage. His forbidding
countenance, although naturally ghastly, became as
red as fire. The perspiration stood in big drops on
his forehead, as he lashed himself into fury.

But I remained quite cool and self-possessed. Far
from depressing me, the presence of danger usually
gives me renewed energy, and it is in such critical
moments that the firmness of my nature shows at its

Not being able to make me speak, he thundered
out, —

" Take him back to prison."

" What ! " I cried, " back to the gloomy dungeon I
have just quitted ! Can any one who has the sem-
blance of humanity send me again to that infectious
den, where no air and no light can penetrate, ex-
cept once in every twenty-four hours, when the door
is opened?"

" You will not be there long," he answered in a

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Online LibraryLouis Siffrein Joseph Loncrosé de SalamonUnpublished memoirs of the internuncio at Paris during the Revolution, 1790-1901 → online text (page 16 of 23)