Page images

“My object," says his Lordship, in a be induced to admit that an entire necommunication which we know was not gation of landlord-claims is not suffi. intended for the public eye

cient to save tenants from oppres.

sion, or to secure agricultural improve"My object was, to put the district in a

ment and prosperity. The bitterest working state, so that any industrious man

hater of the proud Saxon invader might avail himself of what Providence had abundantly provided. To an utter stranger,

might learn that his absolute non-inaccustomed only to a more civilised state of

tervention is not necessarily followed things, the people may appear to have done by Celtic domestic peace and bappiness. but little, and so indeed they have; but yet, Nay, the over-zealous controversialist looking back ten years, the district is much might see that much can be done, changed for the better. I may be very thank ought to be done, and must be done, ful to have been enabled to accomplish this by physical training and discipline, be. much peaceably, without having put out a fore the mind of an uncivilised man single individual, and to have made them can be prepared for the reception of understand, that I only wished to place

the great truths of spiritual religion. them in a more favourable position. We

But the grand moral which, as we have great peace now,' has been sometimes said by them."

think, the progressing experiment in

Gweedore will teach to inen, wbose We looked at the work with eyes not minds and hearts are wide and genial utterly strange, and we can under- enough to render their friendship for stand the fear, as well as the self-gra. Ireland something more than a specutulation here expressed; but we cannot lation in party trade, lies in the truththink that any reflecting man could that social regeneration must be begun visit this district, and not value the by absolute authority, and can advance opportunity it affords for the study and towards permanency and perfection solution of many hard problems in the only in proportion as a capacity for Irish difficulty. Verifying our account self-government is developed among of its past condition on the spot, a the people, by discipline and knowcandid advocate of tenant-right might ledge.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

I PASSED part of the year 1824, and nearly the whole of 1825, in France. I was then more than a boy, though not quite a man- that is, I was able to ob. serve everything, withont having at tained the full power of reasoning upon what I saw. Above all, my memory was more retentive than it has ever been since, for I have remarked that the pictures drawn upon the retina of the mind do not become fastened by after processes. As they first impinge, so they remain, all the more distinctly and permanently from having been traced upon a delicate and virgin surface. Youth employs itself little with the images it stores within its memory. They are kept for after use- a use that wears them out.

One over-clouded afternoon, having just had my fencing lesson, and find ing it quite impossible to remain within doors any longer without getting hope.

lessly into the blue devils, I sallied forth into the street of Tours (the town in which we then resided), without any very definite idea of the next thing to be done. There were two ways, of course, to choose between-one to the left, up the Faubourg, past the Fa. brique de Passementerie, the Pension, and the ancient stone, on which was inscribed the record of some ancient inundation of the Loire, "jusqu'ici," stopped by the visible interposition of St. Anthony. But, then, in that di. rection lay the abbatoir, and the bare idea of a sanguine gush from within the archway and down the kennel whilst I was traversing its brink, was enough to decide me. I turned to the right.

This led me to the more ancient parts of the town, and the congenial vicinity of the great Cathedral of St. Gatien. The echoes of the deep bells

swept over the roofs of the houses, and chimed in with the sombre tone of my contemplations. At a particular break in this ridge of roofs, I caught a sight of the massive towers, staring over omi. nously upon me from the region of tempest, while two or three ravens seemed to be blown out of them ever and anon by the gusts, slowly and perseveringly returning with each lull to the shelter of the ragged tracery near their summits, and forcibly reminding me of those evil thoughts which, when expelled, return again and again to find shelter in some rent of our ruined organisation. It was not without a certain sensation of awe that I found myself thus under the archiepiscopal shadow, for I had learned thus early to succumb to the genius of great structures, and to suffer myself to be bestridden by these dark embodiments of mediæval influences.

Suddenly I observed indications of the avenue coming to an end. Grass started greenly between the stones, and the street appeared untrodden by man or beast. A few steps farther, and a heavy gate stood opposite me, under the skeletons of large timber trees, barring all farther advance. I now cast about me for some means of exit, other than by retracing my steps, which somehow or other conveyed to me a sense of humiliation ; and I did con trive to make out at the right a low arcbway, through which a paved alley sharply descended, I knew not whither, but apparently a public thoroughfare. Down this, after a moment's hesitation, I plunged, and found myself, as soon as I had emerged into the light at the rear of the buildings, in a deserted plot, which seemed to stretch away in one direction, comfortless and grassgrown, nearly to the inner face of the town walls.

Long as I had resided in Tours, I had never seen or heard of this place. Where was I ?- what was it? I determined to find out. Besides, it was sheltered from the wind, which was getting keener every moment, as the short day began to close in. I knew not what it was that urged me on, but I felt a forward impulse, and followed the path for some distance, until a slight bendremoved altogether from my view both the buildings I had left behind, and the distant town wall, and brought me to the foot of an ancient ter race.

Tbe solitude was impressive. The storm, which roared amongst the leafless great trees on the terrace overhead, as through the cordage of a ship, could not get down to where I was, except in an occasional gust and eddy, striking a bare branch against a bare stone, as if bent on killing what the winter had robbed; and the soft, moist black loam about me I could fancy to par. take of the genius of the place, and derive its richness from accumulated relics of mortality.

Here I paused, marvelling at the Cy. clopean proportions of the stones of which the terrace wall was composed. Surely, said I, they were giants who fashioned and put together these huge masses ! But what is this? Why, the terrace looks as if it was undermined !

Thisexclamation was forced from me by my coming suddenly upon a breach, similar to what the waves sometimes make in a sea-wall-that is, the lower courses for some distance appeared to have been removed outwards, the upper remaining hanging together by their own weight, so as to give a cave. like appearance to the aperture.

I had not time, however, to speculate upon the cause of what I saw, for at that instant I perceived, just within the shadow of the opening, the figure of a man kneeling. There is always something startling in stumbling upon the hidden devotions of another. If you add to this, in the stranger's appearance, a stern melancholy of countenance spread over the rigid prominence of protruding bones, scarcely covered by the sallow flesh, and the peculiar expression of eyes, the balls of which seemed, instead of swelling outwards, to hollow inwards, as you look into a rock crystal, some idea of my first sensations may be realised. I felt my heart throb, and drew a step back, in hopes I had not been observed ; but the stranger, without turning his eyes in the direction in which I stood, bent towards the sound, and held up one hand, with a motion which seemed to warn me not to go, as well as not to ad. vance.

I obeyed, as if under the spell of a mesmeriser, and stood there for three or four minutes, during which the great bells of the cathedral came down upon us ever and anon, like puffs of smoke. They were, I now for the first time remarked, tolling solemnly-a mournful peal. Presently they ceased ; and then

the stranger rose, and came out into the entrance of the grotto, towards me. I bowed respectfully, and, in such French as I could muster, apologised for having intruded, however unconsciously, upon his devotions. I now saw that that peculiar expressionless look I had at first remarked could give place to a more searching one. He drew his eyes, as it were, to a focus by an instantaneous effort, and set them burning upon me like a lens; then again retracted them within himself and said, calmly, and almost mournfully

- The Archbishop died an hour ago. I had a prayer to say for his soul as well as the rest. They prayed before the High Altar-I before Heaven. Where should I pray but here?".

You knew him, perhaps ?" I rejoined, scarcely knowing what to say.

“I have known many people, young man. It it not for that alone I knelt under this ruin. But come, sit down here; you, I see, are a stranger - SO am I, though a Frenchman. We have thus a bond between us. You are young--I am old. That, too, is a bond. You are guiltless of the last century. Sit down, we can have a word with each other."

The quiet self-possession with which he addressed me, an utter stranger, surprised me. I could only account for it as the result of that one intense, concentrated glance, by which I fan. cied he had satisfied himself as to my character. But such a man, so nervous, energetic, and decided, must be of no common stamp. Indeed, young and inexperienced as I was, I scarcely needed more than a moment to read thus much.

Whatever it was-whether fear or confidence, or the youthful love of adventure that prevailed with me, I made no demur, but seated myself beside him upon one of the blocks of stone.

“Let us know each other a little better," said he, “and we shall be more at our ease. I ask no particu. lars of you. I will not hear them; for you are too young to be master of your own secrets. All I required, I have discovered. You are English. Had I not been satisfied of this, do not suppose you would have been sitting here,

young man. Ay, and picked up odd relics from the past, as a man who digs into the bed of a stream will come upon coins, and potsherds, and bones. Here is one, now, so out-of-the-way, that I always carry it about me."

So saying, he held up before me a small gold ornament, apparently designed for the neck ; but which, to my inexpressible horror, I perceived at once to be fashioned into the shape of a guillotine! I started up-and he rose too; but instead of entering into an explanation, he stepped over to me, and, taking my hand, led me to the light at the entrance of the grotto, then, holding the ornament so as to exhibit the reverse side, bid me read the inscription there written. It was this

"La tete tombe, le caur reste." As I read, he looked me steadily in the face; and, as soon as I had pronounced the words, he led me back to my seat, and, placing himself once more beside me, said

“Now, I have given you the key to my history. Hearken to it, for it contains instruction :

On the 20th day of October, in the year 1793, I was conducted a prisoner to the Palace of the Luxembourg. They had accused me of the crimes of being rich, noble, and a royalist. My estates having been forfeited, I had been arrested in the provinces, and was now brought up, along with several prisoners of inferior rank, to Paris. “As the gate of the Luxembourg closed after me, I resigned all hope of liberation, except by one exit-the scaffold; and secretly determined to seek, if I could, the most solitary recesses of the prison, there to remain shut up with my own thoughts until my time should arrive for removal to the Conciergerie, and execution. I trusted to what ready money I had the command of for the means of obtaining this indul. gence-for the time had not come when the system of rapiotage had been organised, under which every one of the better class was robbed on entering the prison-gate.

The first person I saw, amidst the crowd who thronged round the wicket, anxious to catch a glimpse of their fel. low-sufferers, was Pierre Levasseur, a travelling companion of mine in former years, and afterwards an occasional

nou !"

« Well. I am."

« Enough. My name you may set down as Jean François Lenoir. I have seen many strange things in my day,

associate, until something incompatible in our positions in society (for he had not the cent années), and then the stormy scenes of the Revolution, had parted us, and I had lost sight of him. He em. braced me with the utmost demonstrations of affection, and taking me by the hand, led me a little apart, and told me that having been some time an inmate of the prison, he could be of great service in introducing me to its customs as well as to its inhabitants, and preventing me making mistakes which might compromise me.

“ But," said I, “I have determined to make no acquaintances here. I have friends enough for the rest of my life, I'm sure. If I want to make å last confidence, you are here, my dear Levasseur, and will shrive me."

" Unless,” replied he, with a laugh, “ I have first to make my confession to you, which, in the order of our arrest, is the most likely thing."

“ And how came you here?" I inquired, suddenly recollecting that he bad never appeared to me a very warm royalist, but, on the contrary, avowed himself, when I parted from him two years before, rather inclined to the popular side.

“Oh, we must not forestall our re. velations. We should be at the mercy of each other, you know, if we became confidants here until compelled by necessity. Enough for me to say, in a whisper, that Robespierre fancied my linen was finer than his, and as we employed the same blanchisseuse, he thought, I presume, that the best way of reducing my fabric to the texture of his own, was to transfer my lingerie to the laveuses of the Luxembourg."

“ The same extravagant dróle as ever!" I exclaimed, recognising the esprit railleur I had so often observed and rebuked. “Take care that your nonsense does not get you into a scrape. I am told that there are eyes and ears bnsy hereabouts

“Hush! I know it; but I know, too, that the best way of disarming suspicion is to be frank, careless, and jovial. Do you think, now,” continued he, lowering his voice to a distinct whisper, at the same time putting his mouth so close to my ear, that he had to lift up my hair for the purpose“ do you think that you could form any guess, amongst the persons about us, as to that character we are all so much in dread of the agent of the police p"

“I don't know,” replied I, venturing a stealthy look round me, which I instantly withdrew, adding_" Is it safe to scrutinise people ? You confirm my suspicions as to our being watched."

Scarcely safe, I believe," he re. plied; "but they have a few marks, nevertheless. For instance, when you see il man sitting gloomily apart, avoiding much converse with the prisoners, and noticing neither the motions nor the conversation of the groups which pass him by, you may be pretty sure that that man is a spy of Fou. quier's. Upon such a fellow as me, now, they have an uncommonly sharp eye; but I laugh at them, and they can make nothing of me. Whatever evidence exists against me outside, they shall add nothing to it here, I promise you. You must act as I do, my dear friend. Come into society (for we have our society here); address every one, get all you can out of them; make your own observations in silence, and if you want to pass remarks, come to me. Ten to one, my superior knowledge of character, gained here at the foot of the scaffold, which strips off all masks, will stand you in stead. And now, remember, there is a select re-union this very evening in the Salle des Pleurs, as we have named it. A few of the better order, as it used to be called you know what that means-meets there, so I will direct (request, I beg his pardon) my peculiar little turnkey to summon you to that apartment at the usual hour, and there you will meet me, and some others of the missing aristocracy of France !”

I was amazed at the levity of Levasseur under such circumstances; still, I was young myself, naturally high-spirited, and was greatly re-assured by meeting an old acquaintance where I had so little expected it; so, after a moment's hesitation, I abandon. ed my original design, and surrendered myself to my friend's invitation.

As soon as we had separated, however, my mind relapsed into despondency. The execution of Marie An. toinette had taken place only a few days before. When I first heard of it, my soul had boiled over with vengeance, but by this time its effect was only to aggravate and deepen my dejection. Besides, the terrible reality of my situation forced itself upon me through every chink of my senses. It was now that I felt, for the first time, the iron

of captivity enter into my soul. Pal. and iron bars, and rude benches, I lid and emaciated faces peered spec stood amongst the nobility of France, trally into mine, as if they envied me and, like a true aristocrat, my heart the flush of health I had borne in and courage instantly bounded with. among them from the world without, in me. I felt that amidst the conand could not communicate. A con. vulsion of society it was still permitted fused wrangling consequent on over me to associate with the ancient blood crowded accommodation incessantly of an ancient kingdom, and I scarcely met my ears ; a contention in which cared even though I were to suffer the every loftier feeling proper to man as penalty of having its current flowing a member of society, gives way to the through my veins, so I were permitted one grovelling instinct of self, degra- to the last to enjoy the exquisite privi. ding his high humanity down to the leges its participation afforded me. level of the brutes. The forced inter « But, M. Lenoir," interrupted I, mixture of ranks and grades, previously you had not previously informed me dissociated by a natural arrangement of your being noble !" assented to on both sides, displayed - Nor had I intended to do so," reits effects in fierce and humiliating plied he, after a moment's pause, draw. collisions, in which the great social ing a long breath, as the strain was drama of the Revolution was enacted taken off his memory; " you have on a small and mean scale under my made an unconscious discovery amidst eyes. I might easily enter into detail, my revelations. Few older families exHere and there a group lay apart, un isted even then-none exist now within conscious, apparently, of the terrible this kingdom-than the Vicomtes de tumult around. The messenger of Martigny, of which I was the sole death had come to these — had taken representative.” one, or two, or more away to the Con. « De Martigny!” cried I. “Why ciergerie, never to be heard of more. I they belonged to this very province !" saw one man, who seemed to be the sur “To this spot, almost,” he replied. vivor of a family; for even the wretch “ Their estates were bounded on two es expecting their own fate, pitied sides by the walls of Tours, and exhim. He sat still, in a ray of sunshine, tended across to the lordship of Monta thing which the full blaze of day was bazon. But what of that? They are powerless to resuscitate. But why gone ; and he who might have transtorture you with all this? It is past- mitted them, he, too, will go; and and here am I.

with him, the last claimant who could Evening came, and, instead of the have recovered them. I stand here, turnkey, appeared Levasseur himself. the sole survivor of my race !" He suspected I might make excuses, I looked with a degree of reverence or be unable to muster my spirits, and upon this solitary representative of a determined, he said, to use his own long line of nobles, many anecdotes influence. I saw it was useless to re- relating to whom I had heard during sist, so I rose from my seat, leaned on my residence at Tours, and who were his arm, and passed along the corridor always spoken of as the Grands Seigto the Salle des Pleurs.

neurs of the district. I entered ; and found myself in an “Let me ask a question," said I, ill-lighted but spacious hall, furnished "arising out of your disclosures. How with some rude chairs, tables, and comes it that you live alone, under an benches, in which were already assem assumed name, and yet remain here, bled probably more than one hundred where you are likely to be most easily persons. It was at once perceptible recognised ?". that here, though a prisoner, I was in "You will understand the reason be. elevated society. The eye of one ac fore I have done. Myimmediate object customed to mix with the world detects, in living as I do, and in renouncing my almost at a glance, and under any dis- proper title, is to elude the curiosity guise, the grade of the company it and the kindness of those who have surveys. Besides, mine was not want nothing to discover which I would not ingin quickness, and at that time, though keep concealed, and can offer no conuninstructed as yet, possessed in fullsolation that could repair the past." vigour those natural powers it learned I entered the Hall of Tears (as with a afterwards to turn to better account. ghastly conceit they named their place I saw that, in spite of those dim lamps, of meeting), and was recognised by

« PreviousContinue »