'Te Deum laudamus! we shall
have a rest at last!' exclaimed De Mesmai. 'I thought I had forgotten my
Latin ; and yet my old rogue of a tutor rubbed it hard into me with a
tough rod.' He clattered through the room with his heavy jack-boots and
jangling spurs clanking on the floor; and seating himself in the curate's
easy-chair, stretched out his legs, and half closing his eyes,
contemptuously surveyed the place. He threw his heavy casque on the table,
crushing the leaves of a large Bible, which el cura had been reading.
'Diable! my head is ringing
like a kettle-drum with the violence of that unlucky stroke. Monsieur, the
basket-hilts of your Scottish regiments are confoundedly heavy, and their
fluted blades give most uncomfortable thrusts,' said De Mesmai, passing
his hand over his round bullet-head and thick and black curly hair, which
clustered around a bold high forehead. His features were very handsome,
strongly marked, and classically regular. Campaigns in Italy had bronzed
and scarred them in no ordinary degree, and there was a bold recklessness
in his eye and a fierceness in the curl of his moustaches, which seemed
quite to appal the poor old curate, notwithstanding the presence of Ronald
Stuart. Vive la joie! let us drink and be merry. I am a prisoner of war—sacré!
a prisoner! 'Tis something new; but thanks to D'Erlon, and madame his dear
little countess, who will never be able to mount horse without me, I will
not be long so. Vive la joie, Monsieur le Curé—Senor Cura—or what do you
style yourself among the rebels of Joseph Buonaparte— what are we to have
'Gaspacho—only a dish of
gaspacho; 'tis all I have to offer you, gracios senores.'
'Soupe matgre, by the Lord!
Bah! senor Espagnol; 'tis food only for hogs or yourselves, not for a
cuirassier of France.'
''Tis all that France and
misfortune enable me to offer. They have brought me low enough,' replied
the curate meekly, while he appealed astounded by the boisterous behaviour
of the dragoon, for whom Ronald (though secretly angry at his conduct)
endeavoured to apologize, and to reassure their kind host. 'But something
else may be added to the gaspacho, senores, and you will find the latter
very good; my grand daughter is the best preparer of it in the village.'
grand-daughter? what a merry monk you have been in your young days! But
how came you, senor curté, to have a family?
'I was married before I
took upon me the scapulary and girdle—the badges of my holy order,'
replied the other, while the colour came and went in his faded cheek, and
he regarded the Frenchman with a fixed look of indignation, which was
replied to by a contemptuous laugh.
'A jolly monk! Vive la
joie! And is your grand-daughter young and pretty? I hope so, as I feel
ennui creeping over me in this dull dungeon. But be not angry, reverend
cure. Let us have but a measure of decent wine to wash down this same
gaspacho, and we shall manage pretty well'
'If monsieur knew that I
was his countryman,' said the curate gently, 'he might perhaps treat my
gray hairs less insultingly.'
'Not a whit, monsieur
renegade!' cried the cuirassier fiercely. 'What! you are some base
emigrant, I suppose. They are ever the bitterest enemies to the great
Napoleon, to his faithful soldiers, and to la belle France.'
''Tis false, rude soldier!'
said the old man, his faded eye kindling up. 'We are the only true friends
to beautiful France, and the outraged house of Bourbon.'
'Beelzebub strangle the
Bourbons! Get us our supper, and call a halt to your chattering. Also,
take care how you give me the lie, old gentleman, or I swear I will
'Hold! De Mesmai,' said
Stuart, interfering now for the second or third time. 'I, as a British
officer, cannot permit you to persist in insulting a Spanish citizen
'A dog of an emigrant! I
have mown them down by troops—never yet granted quarter, even to their
most pitiable entreaties. Death ! was the word wherever we have fallen in
with them—in Holland, Flanders, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. When I served
with the army of the Moselle, we once formed a thousand emigrant prisoners
into solid squares, and poured in volleys of grape and musketry upon them;
while the cavalry charged them by squadrons, sword in hand, to finish by
hoof and blade what the fire of the platoons had left undone.'
The curate clasped his
hands and turned up his eyes, but made no reply.
'You have little cause to
boast of that exploit,' said Ronald; 'but, Monsieur de Mesmai, we have
been very good friends on the way hither, yet we are likely to quarrel if
you abuse our kind host thus.' At that moment the curate's grand-daughter
entered, and stole close to his side. The two officers rose at once, each
to offer her a seat, and she took Stuart's, bowing coldly to De Mesmai,
who, seating himself in what he thought a fine position, muttered, ' A
dazzling creature, really. Upon my honour, beats Mariette of the Rue Neuve
des Petits Champs quite, and will make amends for the loss of the abbess.'
He raised his glass to his eye, and scanned the poor girl with so intent a
look, that her face became suffused with blushes. She was indeed a very
beautiful creature. She was about twenty years of age; her eyes had a
blackness and brightness in them truly Continental. Her teeth were
perfectly regular, and of the purest white, and the fine proportions of
her figure were displayed to the utmost advantage by a tight black velvet
bodice, with short sleeves, adorned with frills of lace at the elbow,
below which her white arm was bare. Her luxuriant black hair was plaited
in two gigantic tails or braids, which hung down to the red flounce
attached to her brown bunchy petticoat, which was short enough to display
a well-turned foot and ankle.
During supper innumerable
were the fine things and complimentary speeches which the cuirassier
addressed to the Senora Maria, to all of which she listened with a calm
smile, and made such careless yet appropriate replies as showed that she
knew their true value, and which sometimes confounded the Frenchman, who
thought to win her favour thus ; while he altogether lost the curate's by
his insolent remarks and sneers at their humble repast—the gaspacho, a
mess made of toasted bread, water, a sprinkling of vinegar, spices, salt,
and oil, to which as a second course, to De Mesmai's great delight, was
added a dish of stewed meat. After supper the curate rose, and laying
aside his skull-cap, delivered a long prayer, which De Mesmai pronounced
to be confoundedly tedious, and for which he showed his contempt by
humming 'The Austrian Retreat,' and drumming on the table with his
A few stoups of the common
provincial wine were now produced, and while discussing these, the curate
engaged Stuart in along conversation, about Scotland, in the affairs of
which he appeared to be much interested,' like a true French priest of the
old school. His father, he said, had served in Fitz-James's Horse, under
the illustrious Prince Charles Stuart, in the campaigns of 1745-6. He
spoke also of the famous Scottish wizard, Sir Michael Scott, of Balwearie,
Escotillo, as the Spaniards name him. Ronald knew little more about this
ancient Scottish philosopher than what he had acquired from the ' Lay of
the Last Minstrel,' published a few years before, and was not very well
able to answer the interrogations of the curate, who produced from his
little book-case a musty old copy of Sir Michael's ' Commentary on
Aristotle,' published at Venice, a.d. 1496, a prize which would have
thrown the Society of Scottish Antiquarians into ecstasies of delight,
could they have laid their hands upon it. The curate informed Ronald that
there was a countryman of his, a Padre Macdonald, who resided in the town
of Alba de Tormes, and who had formerly been a priest in the Scots College
of Douay,— when a scream from Senora Maria interrupted him.
While Ronald and his host
were conversing, the young lady had been explaining the object of some of
her drawings to the dragoon, who bestowed upon them all, indiscriminately,
such vehement praise, that the poor girl was sometimes quite abashed, and
considered him a perfect connoisseur, though in truth he knew not a line
he saw. But he seemed quite enchanted with the young provincial, his
companion. 'Vive l'amour! ma belle Marie,' he whispered; and throwing his
arm around her, kissed her on the cheek. Her eyes filled with fire, she
screamed aloud, and breaking away from him, drew close to the side of the
'How, monsieur ! how can
you be so very rude?' exclaimed the old man, rising in wrath. ' Do you
dare to treat her as if she was some fille de joie of the Boulevards or
night-promenades of the iniquitous city of Paris?'
'By the bomb! I believe the
old gentleman is getting quite into a passion,' replied the other, coolly
twirling his moustache. Marie, ma princesse, surely you are not so? The
women are all devilish fond of me. When I ride in uniform through the
streets of Paris, the sweet grisettes flock to the doors in hundreds.
Marie, or Maria------'
'Insolent!' exclaimed the
curate. ' By one word I could avenge her, and overwhelm you with confusion
'Pester cried the
astonished cuirassier, into whose head the wine he had taken was rapidly
mounting; 'that would indeed be something new. Overwhelm me with
confusion? me, Monsieur de Mesmai, by the Emperor's grace and my own
deserts captain of No. 4 troop of the 10th Cuirassiers? Diable! that would
be something rare, and rarities are agreeable. Maria, ma belle coquette,
come to me and say that you are not angry. Meanwhile, Monsieur le Curé, 1
should be glad to hear that terrible word.'
He advanced again towards
Marie; but Ronald, who was now seriously angry, interposed between him and
the terrified girl.
'Shame! shame on you,
Captain de Mesmai!' said he. 'This conduct shows me how outrageously you
soldiers of Buonaparte must behave on all occasions towards the Spaniards,
and that the excesses recorded of Massena's troops were not exaggerated in
the London newspapers.'
'Massena is a fine fellow,
and a soldier every inch,' answered the other tartly; 'but let us not come
to blows about a smatchet like this— especially as you, monsieur, have the
advantage of me. You are armed and free; I am weaponless and a prisoner on
parole. But, Monsieur Stuart, I mean no harm. In a soldier-like way, I
love to press my moustaches against a soft cheek. No harm was intended,
and ma belle Marie well knows that.'
Maurice------' began the curate.
'Ha! Maurice?' interrupted
the cuirassier sharply. 'How came you, old gentleman, to know my name so
'Insolent and libertine
soldier!' replied the curate sternly,' I know not if I should tell you. I
would,—I say again I can confound and dismay you as you deserve to be.'
'A rare blockhead this!
rare, as one would meet in a march of ten leagues. Do so; in the devil's
name, Sir Curate; but as for Maria------'
'Name her not, base roué!
She is—she is------'
'Tete-dieu! who is she,
most polite monsieur? A princess in disguise?'
'Your daughter,—your own
child! Maurice de Mesmai of Quinsay,' replied the old priest with solemn
energy; while the dark features of the cuirassier became purple and then
deadly pale, and his eyes wandered from the faces of Ronald and Maria to
the calm features of the curate, whose arm he grasped, as, with emphatic
sternness and in a tone something very like consternation, he answered:
'My daughter? Impossible!
What have you dared to tell me, old man?'
'Truth, truth! as I shall
answer to Heaven, when all men shall stand at the tribunal to be judged on
the great day which is to come. I tell you truth,—she is your daughter.'
'Her mother?' asked the
dragoon, bending forward his dark eyes, as if he would look searchingly
into the very soul of the curate. 'Her mother------'
'Was Justine Rosat,—the
lily of Besancon.'
'Poor Justine!' exclaimed
the other, covering his face for a moment with his hand. 'And, Monsieur le
Curé, you are------'
'Francois Rosat, her
father, and grandsire of this poor orphan.'
'What! the gardener at my
jovial old Chateau of Quinsay, on the banks of the Doubs? Impossible! he
was destroyed when I blew up the hall, with all the base republican
mechanics who filled it.'
'Monsieur, I am he,'
replied the curate.
Maria, with her hands
crossed on her bosom, knelt at the feet of De Mesmai weeping bitterly, and
imploring him, if he was really her father, to speak to her, to look upon
her. But the devil-may-care spirit of the true Parisian roue and libertine
was not at all subdued : he turned from her to Ronald, who had been
listening in silence and wonder.
'Ah! Monsieur Stuart! said
he with a laugh, 'I have been a sad fellow when a subaltern. Tete-dieu!
what would old D'Erlon and his countess think of this?'
'Noble senor,' said the
kneeling girl, in a soft plaintive voice, 'ah, if you are indeed my
father, speak to me;' and she pressed his hand between her own. 'Father,
'Father! ma belle. Very
good, but something new when addressed to me, and sounds odd. How D'Erlon
and his plumed and aiguletted staff would laugh at this! Maurice de Mesmai
of the 10th Cuirassiers,—the most dashing aide-de-camp in the Imperial
service, to be father of a little Spanish paisana. By the bomb 'you do me
infinite honour. What a very odd adventure! And so, monsieur, my old
rebellious gardener escaped the explosion at Quinsay? Excellently planned
affair that was! Hand me wine: thank you. Really, 'pon honour, this
respectable title of father has in it something very overpowering.'
He quaffed a long horn of
the wine, which had already begun to cloud his faculties, and he
endeavoured by talking in his usually careless manner to hide the
confusion that he evidently felt. Maria, who had shrunk from his side,
wept bitterly, and covered her face with her hands.
'Diable/' said the
cuirassier, turning round. ''Tis horrible wine this. Ah ! for a single
glass of Hermitage, Chateau Margot, Vin Ordinaire, Volnay, or glorious
Champagne, such as old Marcel retails at the Eagle on the Quai d'Orsai,
opposite to the Pont Royal, in our good and glorious Paris. But what is
the girl weeping about ? You should rather laugh, having just found your
father, and found him as handsome a fellow as ever stood in jack-boots.
All the girls are in love with me—'pon honour they are. Some of the
fairest creatures at the court of the Empress are dying for me ; and I
mean to act the part of a hard-hearted dragoon, and let them die if they
will. I swear to you, Maria, by a thousand caissons of devils, that as you
appear just now, with your lashes cast down, and your face covered with
tears and blushes, like the western sky in a shower, you are pretty enough
to turn the brain of monsieur the Pope, to whom I drink that he may have a
long and joyful life. But I must retire. My head is buzzing anew with that
sword-stroke. Diable! my gay helmet, what a dinge you have got! But,
messieurs, we will talk over these matters in the morning, when, I
suppose, we shall leap to saddle without blast of trumpet. Adieu !
mademoiselle, my daughter; pleasant dreams to you. Vive la joie—tete-dieu!'
He took up his heavy military cloak and staggered out of the room,
withdrawing to the humble attic set apart lor himself and Ronald. A long
'There, he has gone with
the same swagger as of old—the polished
gentleman, the accomplished and gallant soldier, combined with the
blustering tavern-brawler and the libertinism of the perfect roue. He is
all unchanged, although twenty years have passed into eternity since I
beheld him last,' said the curate, in a mournful accent; ' and yet, when I
remember what he was, I cannot—no. I cannot implore a curse upon him. I
carried him in my arms when he was an infant, and he is the father of this
poor weeping girl. Alas ! from the day that as a stripling-soldier he
first buckled on a sword-belt, time has wrought no change upon him. He is
the same daring and gallant but reckless and hollow-hearted man as ever.'
'Senor Cura, to me this has
been a most incomprehensible scene,' said Stuart; 'so much so, that I
trust you will not consider me impertinent or inquisitive in wishing for
'Quite the reverse,—an
explanation is, indeed, necessary. But retire, Maria, my poor castaway; I
will speak to you of this afterwards. Be seated, monsieur, and draw the
wine-jug towards you.'
He led Maria from the room;
and on returning, seated himself at the table, and commenced in the
'Monsieur officier, I am,
as you already know, a Frenchman, a native of the fertile district of
Besancon. I succeeded my father in the humble occupation of gardener to
the family of this Monsieur Maurice de Mesmai, at the castle of Quinsay, a
noble chateau, built on the banks of the Doubs, which flows through
Besancon. The chateau is of venerable antiquity, and it is said to have
been granted to an ancestor of De Mesmai's by Charles Martel! Ah,
monsieur, when I had only my flowerbeds and vineries to attend to, no man
was happier than I—Francois Rosat. With my flowers, my wife and daughter
were my sole delights ; and when I returned in the evening, after working
during the hot dusty days in the garden of the chateau, what pleasure was
mine to be met by my smiling Suzette, with the little laughing Justine in
arms, stretching out her hands and crowing with delight at the bouquet of
violets and roses I always brought her from my choicest beds. And merrily
we used to spend our evenings, for Suzette sung while I played second on
the flute, and we taught little Justine to dance as soon as she could
walk. My life was all humble happiness then, monsieur; but it was not
destined to continue long so. Justine was just sixteen when my wife died ;
and our old lord dying soon after, this sad roué, Monsieur Maurice, came
to take possession of the chateau, and terrify the poor peasantry by the
wickedness he had learned in Paris and the garrison towns where he had
been stationed : he belonged to the dragoons of Monsieur le Duc de
Choiseul. This dissipated Maurice, arrayed in all the extreme of Parisian
dandyism, the first Sunday we saw him in church, formed a strong contrast
to our venerable old lord his father, who used to occupy the same pew, so
devoutly dressed in his old-fashioned way of Louis XV.'s days,—his deep
waistcoat, silk coat, with its collar covered with powder, and his ruffles
and frills starched as stiff as pasteboard ; and we soon discovered that
if there was a difference in their appearance, there was an equal
difference in their hearts and sentiments.
'My little Justine had now
become a woman, and a very beautiful one —more especially so for the
daughter of a peasant. She was the belle of the rural district, and the
people named her the Lily of Besancon. Ah, monsieur! although the child of
a low-born man, a vassal, she was surprisingly beautiful; too much so to
be happy, as my friend Pierre Raoul told me more than once. Her figure was
not the less handsome or graceful because, instead of satin or brocade,
she wore our homely brown stuffs; and her long black curls, flowing in
freedom, seemed a thousand times more beautiful than the locks of
high-born ladies, powdered and pasted into puffs and bows by the hands of
a fashionable barber.
'Monsieur, I perceive that
you almost comprehend my story, ere it is told. My daughter was charming,
and our lord was a libertine. In that sentence are the causes of all my
woes. I was kept in a constant state of anxiety lest the debauchee, our
young lord, or some accomplished rascal of his acquaintance, might rob me
of my treasure—for such she was to me; and what I had dreaded came to pass
at last. I had observed that the manners of Justine were changed. She
shunned the villagers, and often went out alone ; she seldom laughed, and
never sang as she used to do; but was ever moody and melancholy, and often
I found her weeping in solitary places.
'Never shall I forget the
evening when the dreadful truth broke upon me, with all its maddening
anguish; when I was told that my daughter was lost,—that the bloom of the
lily was blighted. I was no longer Francois Rosat,—no longer the same man
apparently ; a cloud of horror seemed to have enveloped me ; for although
but a poor peasant of Besancon, I held my honour as dear to me as Louis
XVI. could have held his. One evening I returned to my cottage, bearing
with me a basket of choice flowers for the decoration of Justine, who had
been elected queen of a fete which was to be given by the villagers and
tenantry of Quinsay on the morrow. I returned to my home, monsieur,—a
house which was to be no longer a home for me. Justine was not awaiting
me, as usual, under the porch, where I had trained up the honeysuckle and
woodbine,—nor was she in our sitting-room ; but she could not be far off,
I imagined, as her guitar and work-basket lay on the table. I know not how
it was, but I noted these little matters anxiously, and I felt my heart
beat quicker, as if in dread of coming evil.
'"Justine!" said I, laying
down my basket, "come hither. You never saw such flowers as these for
freshness and beauty, and I have been employed the whole day in culling
them for you. Here are anemones, crimson and lilac, and blue and white
pinks, carnations, gillyflowers, auriculas with eyes of scarlet edged with
green, violets as large as lilies, and tulips and roses such as were never
before seen in Besancon. Justine ! come here, girl. Why, where are you?"
But no Justine answered my call. Her little room, the room in which her
mother died, was deserted, and my heart swelled in my breast with an
inward presentiment of evil, as I went forth to seek her by the
river-side. Here I met the steward of Quinsay, Pierre Raoul, a surly
fellow, whose addresses she had rejected. He informed me, with what I
thought a grin of triumph and malice, that my daughter, with Monsieur
Maurice, had just swept through Besancon in a travelling-carriage, and
were off for Paris as fast as four horses could take them. As he spoke,
the earth swam around me, and I saw his lips moving, although I heard not
his conclusion; there was a hissing sensation in my ears,—the cords of my
heart felt as if riven asunder, and I sunk on the turf at the feet of
'When I returned to
consciousness, he was bathing my brow and hands in the cool water of the
river ; but he soon left me,—and oh! monsieur, what a sense of loneliness
and desolation came upon me! That my daughter should desert me thus
heartlessly,—that the little creature I had cherished in my bosom should
turn upon me and sting me thus! I raved like a madman, and tore the hair
from my head and the grass from the earth in handfuls. When this fit
passed away, all was silence and stillness around me : the moon was
shining brightly in the sky, and silvered the boughs of the trees my own
hands had trained, and the petals and buds of the flowers that it had been
my delight to attend; but they were unheeded now, and I turned to where
appeared, in the strong light and shadow, the old Chateau de Quinsay, with
its battlemented towers and elevated turrets. I prayed deeply for my
erring Justine, and implored Heaven and the spirit of her mother to
sustain me under so heavy a dispensation. I would rather have seen the
child of Suzette laid dead by her side, than the dishonoured mistress of
Maurice de Mesmai. But my prayers were impious, as I mingled them with the
bitterest maledictions upon her accomplished seducer. At the chateau the
servants, some with pity, some with the malice felt by little minds,
corroborated the blasting information given me by Pierre Raoul, and that
very night I set out for Paris in pursuit of my lost sheep. I set out on
foot on my sorrowful pilgrimage, almost heart-broken, and without a sous
to defray my expenses by the way. How I reached the capital—a distance of
two hundred and thirty-five miles from Besancon —I know not. But He who
fed the children of Israel in the desert curely assisted me by the way.
How great was my misery, when begging as a miserable mendicant, exposed to
the insults of the gens darmes, I wandered about the wide wilderness of
Paris, with the vague and eager hope of recovering Justine! Once—yes,
once—I got a sight of her; only a single glance, but one I shall never
forget. In a dashing carriage, the panels of which flashed in the sun with
gilding and armorial bearings, she was seated by the side of De Mesmai,
tricked out in all the gaudy and wanton finery that wealth and pride could
bestow upon her. But she looked paler, less happy than she was wont to be,
and the roses had faded from her cheek, and the lustre from her once sunny
eye. They swept past me on the Boulevards, where I was seeking alms as was
my wont, and Justine, mon Dieu! my own fallen but kind-hearted daughter,
threw a demi-franc into my tattered hat, without looking upon my face. I
attempted to cry out; but what I would have said expired on my lips. My
tongue clove to the roof of my mouth, and when I recovered, they were gone
! I never beheld them again.
'I was starving at that
moment, monsieur; food had not passed my lips for three days, and I looked
wistfully, until my eyes became blinded with tears, upon the little coin I
had received from Justine. A sudden thought struck me. I spat upon it, and
tossed it from me as a coin of hell, as the wages of her infamy. Twelve
months,—long and weary months of wretchedness and sorrow, I wandered about
the streets of Paris, a woe-begone mendicant, until all hope of seeing her
again was extinguished, and I returned to Besancon more heart-broken, if
possible, than when I had left it. My cottage had fallen into ruin ; but
honest Pierre Raoul restored me again to the occupation of gardener, and
repaired my old residence for me. Our lord has been absent, no one knew
where, ever since he had carried off Justine, and I began to have some
faint hope that he might have married her.
'These thoughts stole at
length like sunshine into my desolate heart: and I thought so much of the
chances and probabilities, that at last it appeared to me to be beyond a
doubt that Justine was the wife of De Mesmai. I plucked up fresh courage,
and attended from dawn to sunset my loaded orchards and blooming
flower-beds as of old. The garden was again my delight and glory, and not
even does the great Napoleon survey his troops with more delight, than I
did my beds of tulips and anemones: I had brought to perfection the art of
cultivation, and where can it be practised with more success than under
the climate of my own beautiful France? In the garden of the chateau, the
aloe of Africa, the pine of Scotland, the oak of England, the cypress of
Candia, the laurels of Greece and Portugal, the rose-tree of Persia, the
palms of India, the figs of Egypt—all blooming together, and at once.
'In my application to my
old business, the manifold miseries I had endured in Paris were forgotten,
or at least subdued in my remembrance. I pictured bright images of
monsieur's returning, with my beautiful Justine to be mistress of his
chateau. But these were doomed soon to end. One evening I sat on the
turf-seat at my door, employed as usual building castles in the air, while
I made up and dried packages of seed which were never to be sown by me. It
was a beautiful summer evening, and all the fertile landscape seemed
bright and joyous in the light of the setting sun. Clear as a mirror, the
river murmured at my feet, sweeping past the old chateau on its opposite
bank, where, above trees a hundred years old, the slated roofs of its
turrets and gilded vanes were shining in the sun. Afar off, between
openings in the trees of the lawn, could be seen the fortifications of the
citadel and city of Besancon, with its round towers and the tall spires of
its colleges and churches reared against the cloudless sky. I desisted
from my employment and took off my hat, for the sound of the evening
service came floating on the wind towards me from the rich abbey of the
order of Citeaux.
'We French are enthusiastic
creatures, monsieur; and I was filled with delight and ecstasy at the
beauty of the evening and the scenery of my native place, where the deep
blue river wound among fertile hills, vineyards, and green woods, between
happy little hamlets clustering round ivy-clad churches and the stately
chateaux of the old nobility of France,—a nobility, monsieur, in those
days not less proud and haughty than those of your own northern country.
'"Yes," said I aloud,
giving utterance to my thoughts, "the hand of fate has been in all this.
Justine will certainly be the lady of Quinsay, and poor old Francois Rosat
will get a corner in some part of that huge old chateau to rest in. Let me
see, now : the octagon turret which overlooks the orchard will suit me
exactly. It has a window to the south which overlooks the garden.
Excellent! I can watch the buds and blossoms in spring,—I will look at
them the moment I leap from bed; but, alas ! I must not do more. I shall
then be a gentleman, and Monsieur Francois Rosat, father-in-law of the
lord of Quinsay, must not be up with the lark, like Maitre Francois the
gardener,—that would never do. This red nightcap I will exchange for a hat
of the best beaver, tied up with a silver loop, à la Louis XVI. My
'The train of my vain but
happy thoughts was cruelly cut short by the apparition of a woman standing
before me. Her appearance declared her to be sunk to the lowest ebb of
misery and degraded destitution. She was tanned by exposure to the
weather; bareheaded, barefooted,— almost without covering, and bore in her
arms a poor child, almost as wan and meagre as herself. Ah, mon Dieu! how
keenly at this distant time can my memory recall the agony of that
terrible recognition! Oh, what a moment was that ! Disguised as she was, I
recognised her ; but a mist overspread my vision, and I felt her fall into
my open arms, although I could not for some minutes discern her.
'"My father! oh, my
father!" said she. But, alas her voice was not so sweet as of old.
'"Justine, I forgive you,"
was my answer. "Come again to my bosom: the past shall be forgotten."
'She sank down between my
knees upon the earth, and lay motionless and still. Monsieur, I will not
protract this intrusive story of my griefs. She was dead! she had expired
at that moment,—the kindness of my forgiveness had killed her ! Unrequited
love, unkindness, sorrow, shame, and misery had wrought their worst upon
her,—she was destroyed! De Mesmai had taken her to Italy, and there,
ruthlessly abandoning her for some new victim, she was left to find her
way as she best could to Besancon, to place in my charge the infant to
which she had given birth on the way. The child of De Mesmai is the Maria
to whom he behaved so insolently to-night. Two days afterwards the poor
polluted lily of Besancon was laid in her mother's grave ; and as I
strewed the fresh flowers on the green turf which covered her, I knelt
down upon it, and solemnly swore a vow,—a vow at once terrible and
impious,—to seek revenge upon her destroyer.
'I joined one of those
secret bands, or societies, then so numerous in France, composed of men
who were desperate by their characters and fortunes, and the sworn enemies
of kings and of nobility. I longed for desperate vengeance, and the hour
for glutting it seemed at hand. A bloody standard was soon to wave over
France, and destiny had pointed out that, like your own Stuarts, the
Bourbons were a doomed race. The spirit of revolution and destruction was
soon to sweep over my country, blighting and blasting it like the simoom
of the African desert; and, eager as I was for vengeance on De Mesmai, I
hailed the approaching tumult with joy, and entered into the wildest
schemes of the most savage republicans and heaven-daring atheists. So
eagerly did I attend the taverns of Besancon to hear the news from Paris,
that the little innocent confided by Justine to my charge was quite
neglected. My garden became a wilderness ; I became sullen and morose, and
forgot even to hang fresh flowers, as had been my custom daily, on the
grave of Justine.
'About six months after her
return, the once dreary chateau was filled with sudden life and bustle.
Monsieur Maurice had returned, bringing with him a number of wild and
reckless fellows like himself. These were all officers of his own
regiment, except one very sad clog, worse even than the rest, Monsieur
Louis Chateaufleur, captain of the Gens d'armes Ecossois, or first troop
of the French gendarmerie. Nothing was heard of now but feasting,
drinking, and desperate gambling within the chateau: hunting, hawking,
shooting, frolics, and outrages of every sort committed out of it. The
guests of De Mesmai were some of the wildest roues about Paris—and the
mess of the Duc de Choiseul's regiment had produced many of them,—and a
great commotion their appearance made in Besancon and the rural district
of Quinsay. All the lamps in the former were sometimes broken in a single
night, ana the whole city involved in darkness, while these madcaps and
their servants possessed themselves of the steeples, where they rang the
alarum-bells backwards, and rushed through the streets, crying "Fire!
murder! robbery and invasion!" until the peaceable citizens were scared
out of their seven senses.
'Nor were their brawls and
outrages confined to the night alone. The wig of Monsieur le Maire was
dragged off and flung in his face, when he was passing through the Rue de
l'Université. Swords were drawn in the lobbies of the theatre every night,
and the gens d'armes were always beaten and insulted. Monsieur
Chateaufleur, of the Gens d'armes Ecossois, as a crowning outrage, carried
off by force to the chateau a young milliner, or grisette, of the Rue de
Paradis; and the citizens of Besancon were enraged beyond what I can
describe at the insolence of these young aristocrats, who were at once
struck with terror and dismay when news arrived of the revolution which
had broken out in Paris, and of the bloody tumults which had ensued there.
De Mesmai armed his servants, and the inhabitants of the chateau kept
close within its walls.
'The same wild spirit of
uproar and anarchy that prevailed at Paris seemed also to pervade the
provinces, which appeared suddenly in a state of insurrection, the people
of France seeming to consider their allegiance to Louis XVI. at an end.
The spirit of dissatisfaction had spread to the troops. Those in garrison
at Besancon laid down their arms, and abandoned the citadel to the
bourgeois, who, on becoming thus suddenly armed, assumed the cocade de la
liberté, and, wearing this republican badge, committed the most frightful
outrages. No dwelling, sacred or profane, escaped sack and pillage, no
age, or rank, or sex, did we spare, executing indiscriminately, by the
musket and sabre, all who opposed us. Burning for vengeance against the
family of De Mesmai, I had associated myself with and become a leader
among the republicans. We ruined the city of Besancon, giving its public
buildings, its schools, and university to the flames. Alas, monsieur!
deeply at this hour do I repent me of the part I bore in these desperate
outrages. We compelled the proud nobles to acknowledge that they had lost
their privileges, and we burned to the ground their office of records in
the city. We sacked and utterly levelled the rich abbey of the Citeaux,—
that place made so famous by the animadversions of Voltaire. The young and
beautiful Princess de Baufremont; and the Baroness d'Andelion, who dwelt
there, owe their escape from our fury to the interposition of Heaven and
the chivalric gallantry of Louis Chateaufleur, who, with two of the Gens
d'armes Ecossois, cut his way through us, sword in hand, and carried the
noble demoiselles off on horseback. Flushed with success, excitement,
ferocity, and the wines found in the vaults of the rich old abbey, we
became absolutely frantic, and some, imbruing their hands in each other's
blood, slew their comrades; while others daubed themselves with gore or
black paint, to make themselves more hideous. Eager for more plunder and
devastation, we cried out to, or rather commanded, our leader, the
ungrateful Pierre Raoul, to lead us against the stately old Chateau of
Quinsay that its aristocratic guests might be given up to our vengeance.
With the dawn, De Mesmai was roused from his bed by the beating of drums,
the braying of horns, discharge of firearms, the yells, the howls, the
shrieks of the frenzied rabble, mingled with shouts of 'Vive la nation!
Vive la liberié! Perish the name of God and the king! Freedom to France!
Long live Monsieur Beelzebub !' and a hundred other mad and impious cries.
The gay lord of Quinsay, and his comrades of Choiseul's horse, beheld, to
their no small terror, the gardens, the orchards, and parks in possession
of a desperate mob, armed with bayonets, muskets, pikes, scythes, and
every weapon they could lay their hands on—iron rails and fences where
nothing else could be procured. All were full of wine and frenzy : many
were only half-dressed, blackened with smoke and dust, and besmeared with
blood, presenting a frightful troop of hideous faces, distorted by the
worst and wildest of human passions.
'You may imagine the
surprise of Pierre Raoul and his worthies when, at the gate of the
chateau, we were met by Monsieur Maurice and his gay companions, bowing
and smiling, gracefully waving their hats, while they greeted us with
cries of "Long live the nation! Long live the sovereign people! Vive le
diable!" We were astonished, and greeted them with the most tremendous
yells, while a hundred black and dirty hands wrung theirs in burlesque
friendship. The whole band were formally invited to a repast, served up in
the hall of the chateau, from which De Mesmai had hurriedly torn down all
the banners and armorial bearings of his house, substituting in their
place an immense tricoloured cockade, that was fastened to the back of the
chair of state, in which the insolent Pierre Raoul installed his ungainly
figure. Many now strode about, daring and unrestrained intruders into the
very hall where they had often stood as humble dependents, trembling and
abashed in the presence of De Mesmai, who had been, in the neighbourhood
of Besancon, a much greater man than Louis XVI. was at Paris or
Versailles. At the hastily-prepared feast with which he entertained us, we
ate and drank of everything, gorging ourselves like savages as we were.
The richest and most expensive wines in the cellars of the chateau were
flowing at our orders like water. Pipes and puncheons were brought up by
dozens and madly staved, until the floor swam with crimson, purple, and
yellow liquor, to the imminent danger of those who lay upon it in a state
of exhaustion or intoxication. "Wine! wine!" was the cry, and the contents
of well-sealed flasks of Lachrymæ Christi and Coteroti were poured down
our plebeian throats like the commonest beverage. We ordered all sorts of
things, beating and insulting the unoffending servants of the chateau
until they fled from us ; and the noise and uproar in the hall, crowded as
it was to suffocation with armed and intoxicated madmen, became stunning
'A hundred times I had
resolved, by a single thrust of my pike, to sacrifice De Mesmai to the
shade of Justine; but the hourly massacres I saw committed by my barbarous
comrades had glutted my longings for vengeance ; and when I remembered
that De Mesmai was the father of Justine's little girl, my fierce
resolution relented. As often as I raised my hand to stab him to the
heart, my soul died within me,—and he escaped. Very great, however, was
our surprise at the condescension of this once proud noble, and the gay
chevaliers his companions; and while doing the honours of the table, we
subjected them to a thousand mortifications and gross insults. We tore the
lace and facings from their uniform; transferred their epaulettes from
their shoulders to those of Pierre Raoul and our leaders; tossed wine in
their faces, and fully tried their patience to the utmost limits of mortal
endurance ; but dire and unheard of was the vengeance they were
'While we were thus rioting
in the ancient hall, chosen servants of De Mesmai were placing barrels of
gunpowder in the vaults immediately beneath it. When all was prepared, our
host withdrew, and one by one his guests followed him, and left the
'The train was fired, and
the mine sprung. Never shall I forget the expression I read in the faces
of the republicans at that moment,—the last of their existence.
'We heard beneath our feet
an appalling roar—a noise as if the globe was splitting asunder. All
looked aghast, and I cried aloud on that God to help me, whose existence I
had denied a moment before; but the unfortunate wretches around me had
scarcely time either for prayer or blasphemy. The pavement heaved beneath
their feet; the massive walls trembled and sunk inwards; the stone-arched
roof descended thundering on their devoted heads,—all was darkness, chaos,
and indescribable horror! Of a thousand men who crowded the place, not one
escaped save myself: all were buried in the ruins,—the masonry of a whole
wing of the chateau covered them. Yes, monsieur, I alone escaped that
terrible explosion. By Heaven's grace, rather than my own deserts, I
happened at the instant to be standing in the recess of an oriel window,
and was blown into the garden, where, when my senses returned, I found
myself lying safe and whole on my favourite tulip-bed.
'De Mesmai and his friends
had fled to some place at a distance, where they took shipping for
Britain. Messieurs the bourgeois were exasperated to madness at the
explosion of Quinsay. They rose en masse in arms, and the noble old
chateau was razed almost to the foundation, and all the castles in the
neighbourhood of Besancon shared the same fate. The populace were even
under less restraint than before, and committed excesses, inconceivable to
those who beheld them not, under the banner and sacred name of liberty.
The National Assembly offered a reward for De Mesmai's head; but he was
safe in London, and the British Government refused to give him up.
Afterwards, when Louis was no more, and the silver lilies of old France
were trodden as it were to the earth, De Mesmai made his peace with his
countrymen by some means, and fought as a private soldier in the battles
of the Republic. He distinguished himself, and has now, in this noonday of
French heroism, risen to the rank of a captain of cavalry under the
Corsican usurper,—this self-made emperor, who usurps the crown and sceptre
of a better race,—a race now exiled, and finding a refuge in the capital
of Scotland. Napoleon has restored to De Mesmai his estate of Quinsay, and
he is a favourite both with the court and army; he may yet become a
marshal of the empire. 'Of myself I have little more to say, monsieur.
Taking with me my grand-daughter, the little Maria, I abandoned Besancon,
the scene of such tumult and disorder, and wandered I know not why, or
how, across the Pyrenees into Spain, where, as I had received a good
education in my youth, I was admitted as a brother into the order of los
Capuchinos, at Truxillo, and soon after received the situation of curate
here,—at this peaceful little hamlet, Villa Macia, where, for fifteen
years past, I have dwelt in retirement and happiness. Although the memory
of my wife and unfortunate daughter is not effaced, time has, in a great
measure, softened the pangs I feel when thoughts of them occur to my mind.
'I now consider myself a
happy and contented old man. My parishioners, my books, and the fair young
girl my grandchild, have been the companions of my increasing years. But I
am soon to be deprived of my merry and volatile Maria. A very noble
cavalier of Truxillo, Don Gonzago de Conquesta, has not disdained to sue
for and obtain the promise of her hand. They will soon be wedded, and I am
to perform the happy ceremony.
'This is all my tale,
monsieur, in elucidation of the singular scene you saw acted here this
evening. I trust I have not wearied you in this sketch of my life :
although a humble one, it has been full of sorrows. I never thought again
to have recalled them so fully to my mind ; but the unexpected appearance
of their author under my roof has rolled back the tide of years to the
hour in which we first met—I knew the fine and noble features of his race
the moment he laid aside his helmet. But I will not detain you longer from
rest, monsieur. Take another cup of this simple wine, and permit me to bid
you, as we say here in Spain, Buenos noches — Good-night.'