« ElőzőTovább »
extremity, but diminishing gradually to eight or ten inches at the other. The men, in particular, must have suffered great inconvenience, because they had scarcely room to stand upright, even by placing their heads between the rafters. Moreover, the night was damp, and the cold humid air, penetrating through the slates of the roof, fell upon the party, and chilled them almost to death. But no one ventured to complain, as the Duchess did not!
'The cold was so piercing, that the gendarmes stationed in the room could bear it no longer. One of them, therefore, went down stairs, returned with some dried turf, and in ten minutes a beautiful fire was burning in the chimney, behind which the Duchess and her friends were concealed.
'This fire, which was lighted for the benefit of only two individuals, gave out its warmth to six; and, frozen as the prisoners then were, they considered this change of temperature a great blessing. But the good that this fire did them at first was soon converted into a most painful sensation. The chimney-plate and the wall being acted upon by the fire, threw out, in a short time, a frightful degree of heat which continued gradually to increase. The wall at length became so hot, that neither of them could bear to touch it, and the cast-iron plate was nearly red-hot. Almost at the same time, and although the dawn had not yet appeared, the labours of the persons in search of the Duchess recommenced. Iron bars and beams were struck with redoubled force against the wall of the recess, and shook it fearfully. It seemed to the prisoners as if the workmen were pulling down the house, and those adjoining. The Duchess therefore expected, even if she escaped from the flames, to be crushed to death by the falling ruins. Nevertheless, during these trying moments, neither her courage nor her gaiety forsook her; and several times, as she afterwards informed me, she could not help laughing at the conversation and guard-house wit of the two gendarmes on duty in the room. But their talk being at length all spent, one of them went to sleep, and slept soundly too, notwithstanding the horrible din close to his ears, proceeding from the neighbouring houses; for all the efforts of the searchers were now for the twentieth time concentrated round the recess. His companion, being sufficiently warm, had ceased to keep up the fire; the plate and the wall therefore gradually cooled. Meantime, M. de Menars had succeeded in pushing aside some of the slates, so as to make two or three little openings, through which the fresh air from without renewed that in the recess. Now, all the fears of the little party turned towards the workmen, who were sounding with heavy blows the very wall that protected them, and the plate of a chimney close to them, but belonging to another house. Each blow detached the plaster, which fell upon them in powder. The prisoners couid perceive, through the cracks which this violence was every moment making in the wall, almost all the persons in search of them. They at length gave themselves up for lost, when, to their great relief, the workmen suddenly abandoned that part of the house which, from an instinct I cannot explain, they had so minutely nutely explored. The poor fugitives now drew their breath freely, and the Duchess thought herself safe; but this hope did not last long.
'The gendarme who had kept watch, anxious to take advantage of the silence which had succeeded the noise made by the workmen, under whose efforts the whole house had tottered, now awoke his companion in order to have a nap in his turn. The other had become chilled during his sleep, and felt almost frozen when he awoke. No sooner were his eyes open than he thought of warming himself. He therefore relit the fire, and as the turf did not burn fast enough, he threw into it a great number of bundles of newspapers ("the Quotidienne"), which happened to be in the room. They soon caught, and the fire again blazed up in the chimney.
'The paper produced a denser smoke and a greater heat than the fuel which had been used the first time. The prisoners were now in imminent danger of suffocation. The smoke passed through the cracks made by the hammering of the workmen against the wall, and the plate, which was not yet cold, soon became heated to a terrific degree. The air of the recess became every instant less fit for respiration: the persons it contained were obliged to place their mouths against the slates in order to exchange their burning breath for fresh air. The Duchess was the greatest sufferer, for, having entered the last, she was close to the plate. Each of her companions offered several times to change places with her, but she always refused.
'At length, to the danger of being suffocated was added another: that of being burned alive. The plate had become red-hot, and the lower part of the clothes of the four prisoners seemed likely to catch fire. The dress of the duchess had already caught twice, and she had extinguished it with her naked hands, at the expense of two burns, of which she long after bore the marks. Each moment rarefied the air in the recess still more, whilst the external air did not enter in sufficient quantity to enable the poor sufferers to breathe freely. Their lungs became dreadfully oppressed; and to remain ten minutes longer in such a furnace would be to endanger the life of her Royal Highness. Each of her companions entreated her to go out: but she positively refused. Big tears of rage rolled from her eyes, and the burning air immediately dried them upon her cheeks. Her dress again caught fire, and again she extinguished it; but the movement she made in doing so, pushed back the spring which closed the door of the recess, and the plate of the chimney opened a little. Mademoiselle de Kersabiec immediately put forward her hand to close it, and burned herself dreadfully.
• The motion of the plate having made the turf placed against it roll back, this excited the attention of the gendarme, who was trying to kill the time by reading some numbers of the " Quotidienne," and who thought he had built his pyrotechnic edifice with greater solidity than it seemed to possess. The noise made by Mademoiselle de Kersabiec inspired him with a curious idea: fancying that there were rats in the wall of the chimney, and that the heat would force them to come out, he awoke his companion, and they placed themselves, sword in hand, one on each side of the chimney, ready to cut in twain the first rat that should appear.
'They were in this ridiculous attitude, when the Duchess, who must have possessed an extraordinary degree of courage to have supported so long as she had done the agony she endured, declared she could hold out no longer. At the same instant M. de Menars, who had long before pressed her to give herself up, kicked open the plate, The gendarmes started back in astonishment, calling out, "Who's there?" "I," replied the Duchess. "I am the Duchess of Berri; do not hurt me.'' The gendarmes immediately rushed to the fire-place, and kicked the blazing fuel out of the chimney. The Duchess came forth the first, and as she passed was obliged to place her hands and feet upon the burning hearth; her companions followed. It was now half-past nine o'clock in the morning, and the party had been shut up in this recess for sixteen hours, without food. The first words of the Duchess were to ask for me. One of the gendarmes came to fetch me from the ground-floor, which I had chosen not to quit.' *—pp. 296-307.
The Duchess seems to have placed great reliance in the honour of General Dermoncourt, and to have applied to him for protection from the brutalities of some other functionaries, particularly of a M. Maurice Duval, the prefect who was sent to Nantes at the same time with Deutz, and who was honoured with the high trust of co-operating with that Judas. It would seem as if the old General had been in some degree conciliated by this confidence on the part of the Duchess; he afforded her all the respectful protection consistent with his public duty, and in ht3 work has certainly not depreciated her character. The General, at her entreaty, had also shown some kindness to her fellow-prisoner M. de Menars, upon which the Duchess said—
'" I thank you for your kindness to Menars. He is well worthy of it, for he was no advocate for my silly enterprise. He urged every thing he could to dissuade me from it; but when he saw that I was fully bent upon it, he said to me, ' Madam, I have now been with you sixteen years, and it is my duty to follow you; but in so doing, it is without approving of your projects, which may produce the most unhappy results both for yourself and France.'" The Duchess stopped for an instant, and then added with a sigh, "Poor Menars was perhaps right." '—pp. 328, 329.
Long as our extracts have been, we must find room for the character of the Duchess, with which the General concludes his work—
'Marie Caroline, like all young Neapolitan girls, of whatever rank or station, has received scarcely any education. With her, all is nature and instinct She is a creature of impulse; the exigencies of
* We think it right to say that we have, on various occasions, compared thia translation with the text of 'La Vendee et Madame,' and that we consider thu writer of the version much superior t j those commonly employed in these days on this kind, of task,
etiquette etiquette are insupportable to her, and she is ignorant of the very forms of the world. She allows her feelings to carry her away, without attempting to restrain them; and when any one has inspired her with confidence, she yields to it without restriction. She is capable of supporting the greatest fatigue, and encountering the most appalling danger, with the patience and courage of a soldier. The least contradiction exasperates her—then her naturally pale cheeks become flushed; she screams, and jumps about, and threatens, and weeps by turns, like a spoiled child; and then again, like a child, the moment you give way to her, and appear to do what she desires, she smiles, is instantly appeased, and oilers you her hand. Contrary to the general nature of princes, she feels gratitude, and is never ashamed to own it. Moreover, hatred is foreign to her nature; no gall ever tinged her heart, even against those who have done her the most injury. Whoever sees her for an hour becomes well acquainted with her character; whoever sees her for a whole day, becomes acquainted with all the qualities of her heart.'—p. 334-336. He adds—
'I have not seen the Duchess of Berri since, and I have nothing more to say about her. Let another now undertake the task of relating the third act of the drama, which began a la Marie-Thtrese, and has ended a la Marie-Louise.'—pp. 350, 351.
Some readers may perhaps think that the work would have ended in better taste without this last pleasantry, which involves Napoleon's widow, Marie-Louise, in the same censure to which the Duchess of Berri has unfortunately exposed herself: frailty is certainly no excuse for frailty; and the cases are not parallel: for Marie-Louise never volnnteered to make her private conduct a national concern; but General Dermoncourt was probably, and certainly not unreasonably, indignant at the hypocrisy of a party in France which censured so severely—so brutally—in MarieCaroline, a mesalliance which they forgave and even applauded in Marie-Louise. For us, we are not liable to such a reproach, and we accept no such consolation! We feel, as we have already said, from this narrative additional reasons for deploring the scandal and the guilt, the publication of which—thanks to the chivalry of a kinsman-king !—has so wofully tarnished the catastrophe of so noble and so interesting a drama.*
* Our conjectures concerning the getting-up of this book are confirmed by a letter from a friend in Paris, which reached us after the first pages of our article had gone to press. M. Dumas, the author of La Duchesse de Guise ou Henri III.,' and other successful dramas, is a great friend of M. Dermoncourt, who was in early life aide-ducamp to his father, the lute General Dumas, well known in the army of Egypt as 'the Mulatto General.' Young Dumas entertained Dermoncourt at breakfast the morning after he returned to Paris from La Vendee; and was so much struck with the stories he told of the expedition, that the idea of a book immediately suggested Art. IX.—Bergami el la Reine d'Angleterre, en cinq actes.
Par MM. Fontan, Dupeuty, et Maurice Alhoy. Paris. 1833. ri^HE extraordinary success with which this play has been produced on the Parisian stage, even more than the high Eng* lish interest of the subject of the piece, must serve as our apology for proceeding at once in medias res—without enlightening our readers with any preliminary reflections either on the present condition of the French theatre in general; or on the flattering progress which the romantic drama of England has made in revolutionizing the taste of our neighbours; or on that still more flattering testimony to the European importance of our country, her history, her character, and her institutions, which the labours of so many recent French writers, besides Messrs. Fontan, Dupeuty, and Alhoy, must be allowed to present.
We confess that it was impossible for us to cast an eye over the table of dramatis persona without feeling our personal interest and curiosity exceedingly moved. A number of them, once familiar to us, have already passed from this visible diurnal sphere—and others, certainly, we never before heard of;— but there remain to excite and reward our attention the originals, as well as the dramatic images, of Lord Ashley,' 'Sir Brougham (prononcez Broumm) '—' Le President de la Chambre des Lords, Eldon,'—' Le docteur Holland,'—and a huissier of the name of • Sir Robert Inglis'—to say nothing of' M. le Comte Bergami,' who we at least believe is still inter vivos. But, indeed, personages so recently lost to us as ' Georges IV.,'' Sir Wood (prononcez Oudd),'—' Lord Liverpool'—' Augustin' (t. e. Master Austin), —and 'Lord Castlereagh,' can scarcely be named on such a page as this without stirring us almost as vividly. It has often been said, how extraordinary was the audacity of Shakspeare in bringing Henry VIII. and all his court on the stage during the
itself to him. The General said he could no more write a Look than dunce on a tightrope, but if his friend chose to write as he spoke, he was welcome. Dumas took him at his word: and they breakfasted together every morning till the book was done.
The ' Mulatto General' was, we are told, in bed ill of the plague when the revolt of Cairo broke out. Though he was supposed to be dying fast, he jumped out of bed, mounted his horse in his shirt and nightcap, rode into the melés, slew a dozen at least of the insurgent Arabs with his own hand, and was cured of his disease by the exercise. Such is our friend's story.
His son, the dramatist, was employed by the Government of Louis Philippe to inspect La Vendee in 1830, with a view to the establishment of a National Guard thtre; and this circumstance sufficiently explains the happy descriptions of Vendean scenery in the book we have been reviewing. We ought, perhaps, to add to this gossipping note, that General Dermoncourt was superseded hy General Solignac, much to his dissatisfaction, soon after the capture of Madame, in consequence, some say, of a want of' dignity' in his manners; according to others, of a love affair between the vieux caporal and one of her Royal Highness's Unmet.