| ||The Banished Man. Volume 2 of 2|
I come, from exile come,
Revisiting my country; Thou "dear" shade
At whose "lone" tomb I box; shade of my father!
Hear me, Oh Hear!—
IN apostrophizing the spirit of his father, in looking back with painful recollection on the past, and with uneasy conjectures towards the future, D'Alonville continued his way, avoiding, as far as was possible, towns, and even villages; and as night came on, seeking shelter in the lone cottages of the peasantry, many of which he found deserted by all their male inhabitants; while the women and children who remained, were suffering the severest extremes of poverty. "And these," cried he, frequently as he witnessed scenes of want and woe, as he saw the human figure deformed by famine, and the human character rendered ferocious by despair, "these are the boasted blessings of that liberty for which they have been four years contending—infatuated, misled people! The taille, the gabelle, the corves, even the feudal services, however heavily imposed, what were they when compared to the oppressions under which you now labour! If ye had burthens under the government of an arbitrary monarch, ye danced gaily under them; but the yoke ye have put on yourselves weighs ye down to the earth—its iron points are stained
with blood, and dipped in poison!"—Such were the reflections to which the desolate state of his country gave rise in the breast of D'Alonville; and such reflections were natural to a native of France. An Englishman would perhaps have beheld the same scenes with different sensations—an Englishman might have thought the experiment right; and that the attempt to shake off such burthens as the taille, the gabelle, the corvs, and vassalage, was a glorious attempt, and failed only because the headlong vehemence of the French national character, and the impossibility of finding (in a very corrupt nation, and among men never educated in notions of real patriotism)* a sufficient weight of abilities and integrity to guide the vessel in the revolutionary tempest, has occasioned it to fall into the hands of pirates, and utterly to destroy it. A coarser Briton, a plain John Bull, would say—"Those French fellows have not sense enough to be as free as we are;" and both would unquestionably agree in deprecating, in regard to his own country, any attempt at change, if the most complete reform was to be purchased by one week, or even one day, of such scenes as have been exhibited in France. They would, most undoubtedly, unite in declaring that even if the constitution of England had not proved itself to be the most calculated for general happiness, as it undoubtedly has,* if its dilapidations from time
|[Note:] *It should be remembered that such was the mode of education in France among the inferior ranks, for middle rank there was none, that it was hardly possible such men could be entrusted with the legislative power, and not abuse it. They had never been taught what was really liberty, but power and plunder must have been desirable|
|[Note:] *The same sentiment is better expressed in a former work of the author.|
were greater, and its defects more visible, yes, that since there must be faults and errors in every human institution, it is far wiser
"To bear the ills we have
"Than trust to others that we know not of."
Without any accident worth recording, for he was fortunately unsuspected the whole way, D'Alonville at length arrived at Merol, where it was probable he might undergo a stricter examination. In these small towns the lowest of the people had emerged into municipal officers; and in every country it is equally true that no set of men are so offensively insolent as those who have acquired unexpected fortune, or unexpected authority.
Of this D'Alonville had soon a proof. Not many hours after his arrival at Merol, he was strolling through the streets in hopes of meeting St. Remi, or some other person he knew, when he was addressed by one of these newly-elected magistrates, who seeing in the national uniform a man who did not belong to that department, and whose air perhaps betrayed him not to be of the class of common soldiers, he stopped him and rudely enquired, whence he came and whither he was going? and it was not till he had gone through a very rude interrogatory, and even been confined two hours in the guardhouse, that he was released on telling the same story he had before told, and producing his certificate as Philippe Joseph Coud, that he was released from the impertinent enquiries and vulgar insults of this guardian of French liberty. It was, indeed, with the utmost difficulty that he conquered the indignation he felt at being questioned by such a low-born mechanic, and of being compelled, by self-preservation, to descend to the mean evasions of concealing his name
and falsifying conduct, in which he gloried; while the blood of a long line of illustrious ancestors, whom he had been taught to number till they were lost in the remote royalty of Merovingian kings, rose indignantly, and tempted him to spurn, rather than to conciliate citizen Careau the white-smith.
This was but an ill omened beginning. He found, that to continue at Merol would be unsafe; yet should he quit it without meeting the party that had induced him to go thither, he knew not where to seek them, unless at the Castle of Vaudrecour; which the Abbé de St. Remi had informed him, was something more than two leagues from Merol; but from the vague directions he had received, either from Madame de Touranges, or in the obscure description of the Abbé, he doubted whether he should find his way to the place; and he feared to enquire, lest his purposes should be suspected. Melancholy, and uncertain how to act, he continued to wander about the streets of his small bourgh; examining every face that passed him—but he saw none that he knew—in many, he thought he observed marks of reluctant acquiescence under the present government—in other, expressions of stifled rage and resentment. The people in whose house he had taken up his temporary lodging, were extremely poor: the man had kept a little shop at Rennes; but since the revolution, his business, which depended on the assembling of this parliament, that tow, on the persons who at that time frequented it, had failed. One of his sons had taken, much against his consent, a commission in the national army; and the other, who had been his assistant in his business, had emigrated. The father and mother, ruined in their circumstances by the loss
of their former customers, and the heavy tax they were condemned to pay for their emigrant son (from which the patriotism of the other did not exempt them,) retired, quite broken-hearted to Merol; where they possessed a small house; and where they sought, in devotion, for the consolation which the world seemed to withdraw from their old age.
When D'Alonville applied to them for a lodging, it seemed as if they received him rather through fear, as he had the appearance of a soldier, than because they wished for any such inmate in their house: but the ingenuous countenance, and mild manners of their guest, so little resembling what they had been accustomed to sea of late among the young men who had adopted the enthusiasm of the times, soon reconciled the ancient couple to his stay with them; the mistrust, with which they had at first considered him, was changed imperceptibly into kindness; and the old Sieur la Barre, often looked at him as if he regretted to see him in the uniform he wore; at least, such was the interpretation that D'Alonville put on the pensive and sorrowful expression his countenance wore, when he fixed his eyes upon him, as he sometimes did, for many minutes together. Other interpretations, however, might be put upon his behaviour: La Barre always scrupulously avoided all conversation whatever, on the state of public affairs; and whenever D'Alonville seemed disposed to lead the discourse to that subject, he only shrugged up his shoulder, and uttered a short ejaculation of pious resignation to the will of Le bo Dieu! so that D'Alonville could not discover what were his real opinions,
|[Note:] *There was in 1792, 100 louis a year imposed on the parents of every emigrant. What has since been extorted I know not. |
and was afraid of trusting him: though after a few days, this fear would have worn off from his being almost convinced, that the sentiments of his house were the same as his own, had he not observed something of mystery about the whole house, which he could not comprehend. The only servant these poor old people kept, was a girl about seventeen, who was their orphan relation. This young person seemed often in confusion and terror; and once, when D'Alonville was sitting with La Barre and his wife, partaking rather a better dinner than they generally had, which he had purchased for them, the girl came in as pale as death; and trembling so that she could hardly speak, told La Barre, that she had just heard there was a search going to be made throughout the town for refractory priests. La Barre changed countenance; but recovering himself, answered, "Well Denise, we have no such persons you know—Monsieur here, who is certainly no priest, is our only lodger." His tranquillity, however, seemed to be much disturbed by this intelligence; he could not finish his dinner, but hurrying it over, went out on pretence of business; and his wife retired to her devotions; at which she passed great part of every day: she had often told D'Alonville that she had a little Oratory at the top of her house; and all these circumstances, together with footsteps he had heard in the night, over the room where he slept, now made him entertain a strong suspicion, that some unhappy priest was hidden by La Barre, even at the risk of his own life, from the rage of his persecutors; perhaps St. Remi himself, or some one from whom he might learn where to seek the friends he so anxiously desired to find. Still, however probable this appeared, it was not certain; but D'Alonville, whose impatience became hourly greater, was determined to be satisfied, and examine from whence came
the low noises he had heard of a night, at a time when he was almost sure La Barre and his wife were in bed.
Sleep had never been very propitious to him since he had had so many subjects of anxiety, and he was not little disposed to indulge it. The clock at the town-house struck one; and all had long since been quiet in the house of La Barre, when D'Alonville thought he heard light footsteps pass near his door; but the stair-case was of brick, and the sound did not echo as from wood. A door, however, was softly opened above him; and (as he thought the moment was now come to satisfy himself, as to the real principles of the man whose house he was in) he arose from his bed, where he had thrown himself without undressing, and went as softly as possible up stairs, till he came to a door which opened into a room over his own; he saw a light through the crevices, and pushing it gently, it opened. His appearance threw into the most extreme consternation a venerable pale figure, who sitting at the foot of a very mean bed, was eating from a few pieces of board placed on tressels before it, some of the remains of La Barre's dinner of the day before; while Denise, the servant of the house, held a candle near him. The old priest on the appearance of a stranger, and a stranger of D'Alonville's appearance, gave himself up for lost: he cast his eyes to Heaven, as in submission to its decrees; and endeavoured to prevent Denise, who threw herself at D'Alonville's feet, as he yet remained at the door, and implored his mercy for Le bon Prieur—and for them all—She would then have flown down stairs to call for the intercession of her master and mistress, but D'Alonville detaining her by force, shut the door, and assuring her
she entirely mistook his intentions, desired her to be calm, and to hear what he had to say.
The old ecclesiastic had soon recovered his presence of mind; and D'Alonville seated by him, presently satisfied his fears. He even ventured to reveal to him who he was, and with what motive he had quitted England to seek his friends, amidst all the perils, with which they were surrounded he added, that in thus seeking a person who had so many reasons to wish to be concealed, he had indulged no impulse of officious curiosity; but being convinced, from the conduct of the persons in the house, for some days past, that there was a priest concealed in it, he had thus broken in upon him, in the hopes of obtaining some information where he might find the loyalists who were in the town, and particularly the Abbé de St. Remi, and the Marquis de Touranges, whom he had hitherto sought in vain.
The Prieur sighed deeply, "Excellent young man!" said he, "how much your zeal affects me—may it be rewarded! and may you, at the propitious hour when Providence shall restore to our devoted country her honour among the nations; may you be acknowledged in virtue and in good fortune the genuine heir of you illustrious father!" "Did you know my father?" cried D'Alonville. "I knew him well," replied the Prieur; "and I knew too his eldest son—I was his tutor when he was at Paris to finish his education—and I have seen him since."
"I cannot ask any questions about him," said D'Alonville, "being but too certain that I should only hear what would give me pain. But the Abbé de St. Remi—do you believe he has been, or is in this little town?"
"I know he was here," answered the Prieur, "though I conversed with him only once. About
fourteen days ago some persons obnoxious to, or suspected by the ruffians, who call themselves our rulers, were imprisoned, and one of them was murdered—the rest ventured not to meet again in the same places. I was under the necessity of flying from my concealment, where I sometimes conversed with them; and since I have seen nobody—so fearful am I of committing my hospitable friends of this house, who risk so much for my sake." The Prieur then dismissed Denise: "Go, my child," said he, "go to your repose, you leave me here with a friend—speak to nobody of what you have heard, as you value your hopes of Heaven." The poor girl, who began to look on D'Alonville as sent from thence (so forcible an impression as the sudden transition from fear to confidence made upon her), promised to be secret and faithful, and went down more devoted to aristocracy than ever; for though devotion had made her extremely attached to the good old priest, their was something much more fascinating in the loyalty and piety of the handsome young soldier.
When Denise was gone, D'Alonville entered more fully into his hopes and expectation; he repeated what he had deeply engraved on his memory, the purport of the last letter he had received from St. Remi (for the letter itself he had thought it prudent to destroy); and which spoke of the rendezvous that was held at the Chateau of Vaudrecour; to which he declared his intention of going the following night. The Prieur approved of his resolution, and gave him, as well as he could, the necessary directions how to find it: but he did not seem very sanguine in his hopes that the royalists still held there their nocturnal rendezvous; he rather feared that since the
last alarm they might be dispersed, and that such of them as remained, no longer ventured to assemble, even in that remote and abandoned spot.
D'Alonville, however, had better hopes; he knew the calm and persevering courage of St. Remi, and had more apprehensions of De Touranges's rashness, than to suppose that he would easily abandon an enterprise from excessive caution.
D'Alonville left the good Prieur to his repose, after receiving from him many blessings, and retired to bed in the hope that he had thus fortunately found a line of connexion with those he came to seek. He thought also, that La Barre would probably give him farther information; but whether from his natural timidity, or from the party fearing he might be suspected, he did not appear to have been entrusted with their designs, and had contented himself with the share he took in the general danger, by protecting one of the persecuted priests.
With such information, however, as he had collected, D'Alonville began his journey at noon the next day, and found, for some distance, his way by the marks which the Prieur had given him. At the distance of three quarters of a league from the town, he entered on a tract of that kind of country which are called landes in France, and which, when they do occur, are more dreary and desolate even than the heaths of England, where the labourer builds his little cottage on the edge of the waste, for the advantage of its turf, and its summer fees; or the proprietor of the manor clumps it with Scottish firs, or hardy forest tress, to break the lurid hue of its surface; or collects the scattered springs, and enlightens it with sheets of water.
On the wide and wild waste that D'Alonville traversed, not a human being appeared; not an animal that gave intimation of the habitation of man; and, except that the few stunted trees which were thickly dispersed about it were cut for fewel, there was nothing that distinguished this mournful solitude from the rude desarts of an uninhabited country.
In every part of France there were formerly great numbers of those animals which in England are called game; for the preservation of which those forest laws were made, which, though not enforced, remain as records of our subjection; and from whence have sprung the subsequent game laws, the continual source of oppression and dispute. These animals appeared to be extirpated in France; and not only the wild boar, deer, and fox, of whose depredations the farmers so justly complained, were destroyed, but every bird or beast, that had formerly been appropriated to the pleasures of the great. This, and other symptoms of general devastation (which D'Alonville was not, among so many more serious misfortunes, yet philosopher enough to see without regret), became yet more evident, when in following the way that had been pointed out to him, he at length reached what he believed to be the extensive woods which surrounded on all sides the castle of Vaudrecour. Here he found the boundaries broken down, the young trees almost entirely demolished, and a great deal of fine timber mangled, and even burnt, as not plan seemed to have been observed in the destruction, where the sole purpose was to destroy.—A dead silence reined. Even the woodlark, the robin, or the thrush, which at this season are usually heard among the woods, chaunting faint preludes to the
more general music of advancing spring, were scared away, and no sound was among the trees but the chill north east, giving to the sky, and to every object around, the cold and comfortless look of middle winter. Sometimes D'Alonville found a slight path, but oftener wandered without any direction; till he at last got into one of those avenues which are cut for the purposes of hunting. It was almost overgrown with brush wood and rank grass; but he knew that in following it he should get into other wood walks, some of which would lead to the castle, where he wished to be before evening, though he had no intention of reaching it sooner. It appeared through a vista wider than the others he had traversed; the destruction of the trees had just there been less than at the extremity of the woods, and a great number of pines and fires darkly shaded the skirts of the lawn on which this great pile of building was situated. It seemed, at the distance from which D'Alonville saw it, to be quite deserted. He did not choose, while it was yet early in the afternoon, to approach nearer; but sat down on a fallen tree, and surveyed the gloomy scene around him in a disposition of mind well suited to their dreariness. He recollected his first arrival at Rosenheim—the sad event that passed there was as present to his memory as it was the hour after it had happened—and his recollection ran over every circumstance that had befallen him since. A few hours would determine whether he should find his friends in the prospect of showing themselves together in arms; or, missing them, endeavour to rejoin Ellesmere on the frontiers. Which ever way his fate determined, happiness and Angelina seemed to be equally remote. He thought it improbable that he should ever return to England. All that
he had seen or heard since his landing in France had concurred to depress the hopes which he had indulged, of the arrival of that hour, when he should be in a situation to claim, in circumstances less mortifying, the hand of the woman he loved.