« PreviousContinue »
of a child repays the cares and solicitudes of a parent. Yet were these hopes unsound--the foundation was unsound on which he built them. As for the native affections of the youth, they were as warm and as fresh as ever; but the self-will, that early indulgence had planted, soon overmastered the wisest of his resolves and the purest of his feelings. At the end of a year, he wrote briefly and languidly to his father-affectionately, indeed, to Hortense--and to Gabrielle, as if he had done, or thought, or was likely to do, that which made him unworthy of such a treasure:-to her great grief and disappointment,--he wrote not at all. And so it was; one by one, his best resolutions gave way. He had been tempted to play, and was the dupe of those who tempted him. Gaming is a sort of pioneer to the vices : it breaks down every obstacle to their entrance. His father, whose commercial speculations had been far from prosperous, became unable to supply his extravagance, and his bills on Pondicherry were returned dishonoured.
Then came the revolution. Louis had caught the fever of the times, was initiated into the bloody rites of Jacobinism, and shared in many of its worst
Covered with the threadbare mantle of a spurious philanthropy, the arguments of the revolution found easy access to the understanding of the illfated youth. Despairing of regaining his father's confidence, and what he prized still more, the forfeited affections of Gabrielle—those affections, the earliest blossomings of her heart – he sought excitement wherever it was to be foundand found it in the political clubs of the day. Louis Perrault was not a solitary instance of the kind. The false doctrines of liberty and equality had corrupted hearts as young and ingenuous as his own, and the ancient loyalty of France had ceased to beat in the bosoms of her children. By.degrees, they dried up the fountains of commiseration and sympathy for man. The manly figure of Louis, his courage, and the ascendancy it gave him over his comrades, procured for him a commission in the army, then on active service in the frontier provinces, threatened by the exiled princes. Yet he did not forget-he strove rather to forget—his father, his sister, and the interesting being.who first taught him to love.
In the mean while, that lovely creature was on her voyage to France. The death of her parents had thrown her guardianshi;. on a relative, who lived on his patrimonial property in Bretagne. The province revolted, and Count Dumas, her guardian, not long after he had sent for Gabrielle, had joined the heroic struggles of the royalists, in whose fortunes Madame de la Roche Jaqueline has pathetically taught us to feel so lively an interest La Vendée (the name given to the anti-revolutionary district) was the only portion of France where noble and peasant, rich and poor, were bound together by an indissoluble attachment. Intersected by canals and ditches, and full of impenetrable thickets, it was impregnable to an invading army; - whilst it was inhabited by à race of men of simple and patriarchal manners, and whose loyalty, for the most part, was a sentiment transmitted through a long line of ancestry. Religion strengthened the political feeling-and the fanatical and savage decree, which drove the parish priests from their cures, kindled a corresponding flame of fanaticism in the hearts of the people. “In these causes,” says Sir Walter Scott,“ originated that celebrated war, which raged so long in the bosom of France, and threatened the overthrow of her government, even while the republic was achieving the most brilliant victories over her foreign enemies."
The peasantry in the neighbourhood of the Count Dumas had shewn more than ordinary zeal amongst those who gained the first advantages over the
troops of the revolution. By universal acclaim, he was chosen their leader.' Young Dumas, his son, was incited to miracles of valour-not by patriotism only, for it was aided by a sentiment that glowed with equal warmth within him it was that of a devoted attachment to Gabrielle de Montfort. The old count, who looked upon that growing attachment with satisfaction, having doubt in his mind of its being returned by Gabrielle, was wont, at the close of each day of that savage warfare, to detail in her hcaring the important services the youth had rendered to the sacred cause of his country. Gabrielle listened, indeed, with attention-nor was that attention unmixed with delight.
But why is not Louis here ?" she could not forbear asking herself ; where is he, that he is 'not fighting for his king, and reaping his share of the laurels the younger Dumas has won so gloriously?”
In spite of the desolating warfare, by which the French army avowedly sought to render the country uninhabitable, the Vendéans fought for some time with renewed courage. More than 100,000 men were employed to subjugate them The battle of Chollet, which was more adverse in its results than any which the Vendéans had yet sustained, determined them to pass the Loire, abandon their beloved bocage, and carry the war into Bretagne, where they expected support from the tenantry of the count, as well as from the general insurrection of the province. A mixed and harassed host, of every age and both sexes, darkened the banks of the river. The means of crossing were few and perilous; the affright of women and children, famished and half-naked, became ungovernable ; and such was the tumult and sorrow of the scene, that Ma-: dame La Roche Jaqueline compares it to the day of judgment. The count and his son, both wounded in the last defeat, were with difficulty retreating from the scourge that followed fast behind, whilst Gabrielle,- for the count with all his household were conipelled to abandon the chateau of his fathers,—who, in the midst of those dreadful trials, lost not her resolution, still clung to him for protection. Without food, exposed to the fury of the elements, they continued their weary pilgrimage towards the heights of St. Laurent, where the whole mass expected to find a ford across the stream; but, having missed the track of the other fugitives, they had wandered nearly two miles from the common place of refuge.
At this moment, they were alarmed by a cry from the peasants of the blues, the blues !” as the revolutionary soldiers were called. The count looked towards the heights, and observed that a considerable party had passed in safety to the opposite side, apparently unpursued. "Fly, fly, Gabrielle !”. said he,
we must remain here and die." "No," she exclaimed; live or die together.” But flight was now too late. A party of republican troops were only a few yards from them. They were conducting a number of prisoners they had inhumanly laden like cattle to convey their baggage. Two ferocious fiends had drawn their sabres to cut down the Dumases; but a voice desired them to desist, for the commanding officer had given orders, to spare their prisoners, it being intended to make them a more memorable sacri. fice to the offended genius of the republic. The wretched party were then goaded onwards, with the rest of their fellow-sufferers, having been laden with knapsacks, under which the aged count tottered, and which the firiner sinews of his son could hardly sustain. Gabrielle, finding herself less burthened than her partners in misery, asked leave to take on herself a share of what had been imposed on the elder Dumas; but she was answered only with a licentious jest. What would have been her anguish, had she kuown that Louis, her
beloved, her betrothed, commanded the battalion, of which the party actually conducting her was only a detachment. He was now about a league in the
When they reached their halting-place, however, a discovery awaited her, which served still more to embitter her sufferings. They were distributed in farm-houses, which answered the purpose of prisons; but what were her feel. ings, when she saw Henri Perrault, who had joined the royalists, brought in, and assigned his quarters in the same apartments with herself and the Dumases ? It was a speedy recognition, for Henri, already known to them by name, was soon introduced to them by Gabrielle. “ But Louis, where is Louis ?” said the poor girl. Henri shook his head. It was dangerous to ask many questions. But there was something still more appalling in the whisperings between Henri and the Dunases. It was, indeed, announced by Henri, that they were all doomed to military execution. Nor was it possible to conceal it from Gabrielle. We shall die without the consolations of our religion," said the count;” but we are in the hands of a merciful God, whose will be done !" The pious resignation was shared by all in this unhappy groupe. Suddenly, loud cries of wretches imploring for life, in an adjoining cottage, were heard. Gabrielle sunk awhile on the bosom of Henri, but was soon restored, wben the door was burst open by the officer commanding the detachment, who was urging on the soldiers to a complete execution of his sanguinary commission. That voice-its tones it was impossible for Gabrielle not to distinguish; and she again sunk down into the arms of Henri. What a recognition was reserved for each! Louis, for it was he himself, was not slow in perceiving that his brother and Gabrielle were the principal figures in this tragic groupe.
Time was precious ;-but the opportunity of saving them had gone by. So, suddenly, so overwhelming had been the discovery, that Louis gazed, with a silent and fixed look, for several seconds. The Dumases he knew not, but his eyes met the expiring glance of Gabrielle, to whom, in that short space, the whole had been revealed. She was a lifeless corse on the floor. “The gentlest of spirits has fled to its last resting-place,” said the count, lifting his eyes to heaven; we shall all ineet there, my children.” Oh, brother, brother,” cried Henri; “is it come to this? Oh, Louis, she blessed you as she died.”
Louis Perrault was aroused to the peril of the moment. He rushed out to order off the soldiers ; but a file of a serjeant and five grenadiers were actually entering the apartment; and as it was beginning to be dusk, they had not remarked that their commander had entered, and overturned him to the ground, in the fury of their savage ministration of his orders. What followed was the work of a moment. Henri, as he saw the soldiers approach, threw himself between them and the Dumases. It was too late. In an instant his body quivered upon a bayonet. Louis had now risen and rushed forward to save the rest. At that instant, a sabre had cleft the grey head of the count; but Louis succeeded in calling off his death-hounds from farther prey. He saved the younger Dumas, and gave him a passport, which permitted the desolate youth, who had now lost all he loved, to wander amidst the plundered ruins of the house where he had first breathed, and to find a shelter amongst the few peasants who still lingered near their beloved bocage.
But for this imperfect atonement to the violated mercy of heaven, he was himself brought to trial, found guilty, and sent to one of the prisons in Paris, which was overflowing with persons accused of the same sort of incivism.
193 Louis, it had been proved before the court-martial, was seen w, the act of banging over the remains of a young woman and a young man, And ejaculating curses against his own fate and the cause of the republic. From this prison, every week, a certain number of wretches were draughted off for the guillotine. Louis awaited his own fate with impatience. Life was a gụilty burthen he longed to throw off. Those three unhappy beings, slaughtered before his eyes, and under his authority, were phantoms, one of them especially, that were for ever before him. The rigours of his imprisonment, however, were occasionally relaxed. He owed it to one of the deputy gaolers, who had once served under him. This man brought him, from day to day, intelligence of what was going on at the revolutionary tribunal, and told him that, by means of a ruse, he had succeeded in putting Louis, who had been ordered for instant execution, at the bottom of the list; so that he might not probably be called for till the following week. He had also rubbed out the chalk upon his door, a symbol that he was marked for one of the victims of the ensuing day, and placed the mark upon a cortiguous one. Why not leave me to my fate, generous friend ?" cried Louis. “ The sooner it comes the better.” cause," answered the gaoler, we know not what time may bring about;" and, having placed before him his niggard allowance of breakfast, retired.
Time did bring about a change, which this wretched man little looked for. The friendly deputy visited him, and brought him a disguise. “The door shall be opened to you,” he said, when
have put on my wife's dress. She is here so often, that her ingress and egress will never be matter of suspicion. Follow me; you will be mistaken for her, since she is tall and masculine, and in figure not unlike you." There was no time for refusing to concur in this friendly stratagem. The gaoler's wife sheltered hiin as long as it was safe to do so—and with a few francs in his pocket, concealing himself by day, and making a short, stealthy journey every night, Louis arrived at the mansion of the younger Dumas, who was permitted to reside there in consequence of some powerful interest that had been exerted at Paris in his behalf, where he threw himself on the youth's protection, and claimed forgiveness for the involuntary crime into which a mistaken sense of duty had misled him. “But you are revenged, count,” he said ; "the bloody deed is written in fiery characters in my brain--there they will remain for ever.” Hospitality is a sacred duty in those provinces. The count accompanied the repentant republican to Brest, where Louis joined Surcouff, who was about to sail on an expedition of plunder to the Indian seas, as a marine.
About a twelvemonth after this, old Casimir Perrault and his daughter were sitting to catch the refreshing sea-breeze that had just reached his verandah. It was dusk, when a step was heard in the compound, Presently, there stood before them, in a ragged sailor's attire, the well-known form of a being once dear to both, and it was the being of whom the old man, who had been gradually sinking under a load of parental sorrows that made other cares comparatively light (though of these too he had his share), and Hortense had been talking “ Let me but see and bless him before I die,” said he. forgive him, why should not I ?" At these words, Louis appeared. He is here, father,” he exclaimed ; "grant him your blessing--he deserves not your forgiveness.” A faint smile of thankfulness to heaven beamed across the furrowed face of Casimir for an instant. · But his last breath was spent in an ineffectual attempt to bless and forgive the wretched wanderer.
The tradition was rife at Pondicherry twenty years ago. Louis succecded to
“ God will
the shattered fortunes of his father, and supplied the place of that affectionate guardian to poor Hortense. He again joined Surcouff, and three years of successful privateership enabled him to retire to Batavia, whence it was understood they embarked for France, when her troubles had subsided into the settlement and repose of imperial despotism.
“ THEY LEFT US IN THE SPRING OF YOUTH."