The French Captain's Story by the Old Sailor

"But, in these cases,
We shall have judgment here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips."

Macbeth.

We left Lord Eustace Dash in his gallant frigate, with the prize in company, running down into the gulf of Genoa, and a strange sail in sight. His lordship swept the horizon with his glass till his keen eye caught the desired object in the field, and in an instant he was as fixed and stationary as a statue. The moon was rising, and her glorious light shone upon the distant sails, which looked like a silver speck on the dark zone of the horizon. Intense and eager was the gaze of the noble captain, and breathless attention pervaded every individual on the forecastle; even old Savage, the boatswain, suffered his rattan to be motionless, and the tongue of Jack Sheavehole was still. At length Lord Eustace raised himself from his recumbent position; every ear was awaiting the announcement of the stranger's character; the boatswain approached his commander rather nearer than etiquette allowed, so eager was he to obtain the information. "Mr. Sinnitt!" said his lordship, and old Savage opened his mouth as well as his ears to catch all that would be uttered. "Mr. Sinnitt!" repeated his lordship; and, that officer's response being heard, the important communication would next be made. "Mr. Sinnitt, trim sails in chase," said the captain, and walked aft to resume his station near the taffrail.

"Now that's what I calls onprincipled," uttered the boatswain, in a low tone, to his mate: "here we are, rambadgering right down somewhere away to the back of November, in chase of the Flying Dutchman, I supposes: but whether yon's she or not may I be bamfoozled into a kettle-drummer if I know, and the skipper arn't never got the politeness to inform us. Well, the sarvice is going to——"

"Trim sails!" shouted Mr. Sinnitt, from the quarter-deck; and then was heard the twittering of Jack Sheavehole's pipe, and a rattling of ropes as the braces were hauled in, the tacks and sheets arranged, till every square inch of canvass performed its own especial and proper duty. Lord Eustace hailed the Hippolito to continue her course, though the Spankaway should do otherwise; and then rejoined Citizen Captain Begaud, who still retained his position, apparently abstracted from all that was passing around him.

"I have another hour to spare, Monsieur," said his lordship; "your star, as you call it, is certainly none of the brightest to-night, and I own I am desirous of hearing the finish of your narrative. Will you favour me by proceeding?"

"I will, my lord," returned the Frenchman; "and I am the more inclined to do so, from a presentiment that hangs over me that my days—ay, even my hours—are numbered. How, when, or where the fatal blow may be given, or whether by friend or foe, I cannot even conjecture; but still I am convinced of the fact, and wish to disburthen my mind before my departure."

"Such presentiments are unworthy a brave man," said Lord Eustace. "You shall dine with me in Plymouth, Captain Begaud. I fancy you take the loss of your frigate too much to heart, though you may be well excused doing so. You fought her nobly, and that rascally first-lieutenant of yours, merits a hangman's noose, though I have cause to thank him; but, there, d—it! a coward is my utter abhorrence. Come, come, Monsieur! your nation is not proverbial for despondency. You will marry the countess yet,—that is, if she be not already your wife."

A thrilling shudder passed over the Frenchman's frame. "Never, never!" exclaimed he, with startling vehemence, as he covered his eyes with his hands, as if to shut out some terrific vision. "No, no, my lord!—no,—it is past,—it is gone! Ha! ha! ha!—hell itself lends me its laugh whenever I think of it!"

There was something so demoniac and unearthly in the agonised chuckle of the Frenchman, that Lord Eustace turned a penetrating look upon him, as if he actually expected to see the Prince of Evil by his side.

"I had no intention of wounding your feelings, Monsieur, and regret that I have done so," said the generous Englishman.

"I know it; I am well aware of it," responded Begaud. "You will presently judge for yourself. But, to proceed. After my audience with Louis the Sixteenth, the grandson of that wretch whose misdeeds laid the foundation of the revolution; who, if he did not sanction, at least did nothing to prevent the murder of his own son, together with his princess; who broke the heart of his queen, and revelled in abomination——What was the Parc aux Cerfs?—I have seen it, Monsieur; I know it all!—the receptacle for his victims,—mere children, whom he taught to read, and write, and pray;—yet, horrible depravity! he made them the companions of his disgusting orgies! Yes; he would nightly kneel with them, and afterwards carry round the crucifix that they might kiss it; and then selecting——Bah! my soul sickens at the thought of such a monster! my heart swells almost to bursting! The daughter of Madame T—— had been there! but I have had my full revenge! Revenge! revenge on whom? Ay, that's the question; it is a hidden mystery! the understanding cannot solve it! the innocent suffer for the guilty!

"After leaving the royal presence, fresh apparel was furnished to me, a chamber and ante-room were set apart for my use, and, on the morrow, I—the sworn enemy to the Bourbons! the outcast, whose parents perished in the fête of 1770! the adorer of the young Countess de M——, who but a few hours before cherished his affection in despair!—I became an attaché to the household of the queen,—though in reality engaged in the confidential service of Monsieur Calonne. Thus both were exposed to my secret scrutiny; my star was in the ascendant! I felt the importance of the part I was called upon to enact; and Fate seemed to be weaving for me a web to catch the royal victims in its trammels!" He drew a convulsive respiration. "I little thought then, that my own soul would be meshed in the snares which were laid for others!

"There was something strange in the unusual reliance which M. Calonne placed upon my fidelity. I was to watch the court party, who flattered whilst they hated the queen; I was especially instructed to notice those who had audience of the king: in fact, I engaged to watch over the interests of my employer by every possible means, fully convinced that by so doing I should be the better able to promote my own. You will say this was a dishonourable occupation, my lord. I grant it; but then, you must remember the bias of my mind,—my oath to Madame T——, (which I considered religiously binding upon my conscience, though she was in all probability numbered with the dead,)—and there was, also, the bewitching felicity of being near to the young countess, whom my very soul ardently adored.

"The courtiers had raised Calonne from comparative obscurity to the high and important office which he held; but this they did to suit their own purposes, not to forward his. But the wily minister soon ascertained that his position would be scarcely tenable, unless by some bold stroke the chances should turn in his favour; or else, by rendering the profligacy of the aristocracy so odious to the people,—especially the middle classes,—that he might fall back upon the latter, and become their leader. Economy had been the object of his predecessors, Neckar and Turgot; but Calonne started a new theory, which he followed up with avidity,—namely, that profusion best contributed to, and formed, the wealth of a state. Paradoxical as this most certainly was, the courtiers could not, or would not, see through it. They hailed the absurdity with the utmost applause, and henceforth extravagant profusion became the order of the day, and soon degenerated into the very extremes of profligacy. The aristocracy delighted in this, for they bore none of the burthens; and history will perhaps record that Calonne acted with self-conceit and ignorance. He did no such thing, my lord; he saw that Neckar, by creating provincial assemblies, had laid the first stone of a republican form of government; that the middle classes, though by far the least in numerical strength, had thereby acquired an influence it was impossible to control; and therefore, as I said before, he endeavoured to take advantage of events as they stood, so as to cajole one party whilst he negociated with the other. Loans were raised to meet the expenditure, and thus the burthens of the people were increased, the revenue of four hundred millions of francs was exceeded by at least one hundred and fifty millions. Complaints, though not loud, were deep. La Fayette was the leader of the popular cause. He advocated the rights of human nature, and he was looked up to, with reverence and esteem. He demanded the convocation of a representative assembly, and M. Calonne secretly encouraged this demand, that he might be the better enabled to enforce his schemes upon the nobility for the payment of the deficit.

"In this emergency, and the more securely to carry out his plans, the minister proposed to assemble the chiefs of the privileged orders,—the Notables: they met at Versailles; Calonne explained the financial state of the nation, declared the amount of his deficit, and suggested the necessity of equalising the taxes, and levying them alike on the noblesse and the clergy, as well as on the commonalty. Need I say how distasteful this was to the individuals he addressed? Need I describe their violent opposition to the proposal, and their determination to crush the man who had the hardihood to bring it before them? His enemies were numerous. The pretended friends, who had elevated him to power to suit their own nefarious arrangements, now united with his avowed foes; whilst the defalcation brought him into disrepute with the middle classes, and every engine was set at work to effect his overthrow. The press, the clergy, and the noblesse took the lead; and the fate of Calonne seemed to be fully decided upon. But, under a show of ostentatious vanity and inflated ambition, the minister concealed consummate penetration and skilful tactics. If the Notables had acceded to his wishes, his end would be answered, and himself continued in power; if they refused, they involved themselves in an odium which would have due weight with the adherents of La Fayette, and to them he hoped to be enabled to look for support when the court should fail him.

"I have been minute, my lord, in these particulars, that you may the better understand what has yet to come, for it was about this time that I made my engagement to serve Calonne; and I was not long in ascertaining that, though apparently the superficial prodigal, and the frivolous man of fashion, there was yet an energetic boldness about him that would, if thwarted in his views, urge him to some deed of desperation. In most instances he behaved to me with the utmost familiarity; but I strongly suspected that, through some secret agency of which I was held in ignorance, he kept up a communication with the disaffected amongst the middle orders; nor was it long before the fact was fully revealed to me, for the individual who had been the accustomed means of correspondence was seized with sudden illness, and negociations were for a time suspended. It was an anxious and trying period for the minister; he stood upon a pinnacle from which a powerful party were concentrating all their force to hurl him, whilst the illness of the agent had separated him from those who, proud in their republicanism, would not of themselves seek him, and yet it was from them alone that he now anticipated succour.

"In his extremity Calonne fixed his attention upon me, and openly and frankly did he communicate his wishes: his pleasing address and fascinating manners were at first, however, vainly brought into play; I suffered them to make but little impression on my mind. To quit the court,—where I was in great favour with her majesty,—and to leave the presence of her whom my soul so ardently worshipped, seemed to be a sacrifice of such magnitude, that I felt I had not the resolution to make it, and therefore I respectfully declined. 'Such, then, is your resolve?' said the minister. I bowed acquiescence. 'I shall not ask your reasons,' continued he, with a smile of mingling scorn and pride, 'they are well known to me; but it is right that you should correctly know the situation in which you are placed. Who has been the architect of your present prosperity? Mark, young man! the hand that raised the structure can also prostrate it to the dust. I have entrusted too much to your keeping, not to make the depository safe. It is true, I have found you faithful; but, if it had been otherwise——' He paused for a moment, and then rapidly added, 'Young man, there is such a place as the Bastille! there is such an instrument of execution as the guillotine!' I smiled in defiance, for threats never produced any other feeling in me. He observed it, and added, 'It is well your personal courage prompts you to surmount all apprehensions of either, and induces you to brave the worst; but reflect!' and his keen eye was fixed upon me: 'the former would prove a delightful bower for a love-sick youth; there you may in heavy fetters deplore the harshness of fortune, and curse the hour that saw you recklessly rend asunder the rosy bonds of Cupid for the iron safeguards of a stern gailor.' He saw he had touched me, though I strove to conceal all emotion; and he went on. 'But what will become of the lovely being whom you worship? Amidst the gaiety and licentiousness of a court she will soon forget the child of fortune—Jacques Begaud! and, though I believe she is not altogether insensible to your merits, yet the memory of ladies is as evanescent as a flower, it soon fades away; and other arms will enfold that loveliness in their embrace! some other head will be pillowed on that fair bosom! another——' 'Hold!' exclaimed I, affecting an indifference, from a hope that the secret of my affection was still secure within my own keeping; 'hold, Monsieur! you are coming to conclusions before you are aware that you have the slightest ground for them. I am yet free from——' 'It is now my turn to cry 'hold!'' said he, interrupting me, and that, too, in a voice and manner that betokened his full sense of the advantage he had obtained; 'do you imagine, Jacques, that one so well versed in the workings of human nature as myself can be easily deceived? Your love for the young Countess de M——! Ay, that flush of the cheek becomes you! I have seen it before, young man! Those flashing eyes are traitors to your confidence! they revealed it to me from the first moment of your entering the royal closet! Your wandering in the forest,—the eagerness with which you complied with my request to attend me to the château,—the delight you manifested when first within the walls of the palace,—all these I knew must have some actuating motive; nor was I long in discovering it. Subsequent occurrences have confirmed my penetration, and——' 'You have not been over-generously employed, Monsieur,' said I, somewhat humbled.—'Young man,' 'returned he, 'bear witness by your own feelings that self-interest is the governing principle of our actions. Circumstanced as I was, I deemed it necessary to ensure your services through a more powerful sentiment than mere gratitude to Monsieur Calonne, and the sequel shows that I am right. I might command,' continued he proudly, 'and fear no denial; but I solicit,' he added mildly, and with a smile; 'will you refuse me, Jacques?'—'You do me too much honour, Monsieur,' responded I, fully aware that further subterfuge would be useless; 'I own I love the countess.'—'And what hope have you of making her your own, Jacques Begaud?' inquired he eagerly, but in a tone of mournful commiseration. 'What hope can you have? Etiquette imposes an impassable barrier between you; what, then, can break it down?' He paused, and a vague sense of his meaning crossed my mind. 'What,' continued he,—'what I ask you is to annihilate all obstacles, and unite two hearts that fervently affect each other?' I remained silent. 'To show that I trust you, Jacques, I will answer my own question. Popular feeling,—the popular voice,—La Fayette,—and the representative assembly,—liberty and equality! do you understand me now?'—'I do,' returned I; and, oh! how often have those very words 'liberty and equality' rung in my ears since then! they seemed a prophetic intimation of events that afterwards occurred. I own that I was not really inimical to his proposal, for my pledge to my injured relative, and my inherent detestation of monarchy, still retained a powerful influence over my mind; but I wished, by withholding my acquiescence for a time, to enhance the value of compliance. How hazardous it is for inexperience to endeavour to cope with long-practised subtlety! Monsieur Calonne had read my inmost heart, whilst I foolishly imagined it was a sealed book! he played a skilful game, and at length, without quitting the court, (which soon returned to Versailles,) I became the creature of his will.

"My first attempt at negotiation was to be at the residence of a celebrated fortune-teller at Paris,—one who would have been crushed by the persecution of the clergy, many of her predictions had been so singularly fulfilled that both the ecclesiastical and the civil power were afraid to meddle with her; superstitious awe held them in abeyance, and she triumphed in despite of both. My embassy was to deliver a packet into her hands, and to receive a secret communication in reply. I readily found the dwelling, for my directions were too clear to be mistaken: it was enclosed within a capacious court-yard, the walls of which were old, and in some parts dilapidated, but, nevertheless, there was a frowning strength about them that typified a stern resistance. The house itself was of ancient structure, with small narrow windows, which seemed more like loop-holes to a fortification than apertures to admit light and air, but they were very numerous; and the exterior masonry had been cut away at an angle of full fifty degrees on each side, so as to command a tolerably wide range over every part of the court-yard, except that which lay immediately beneath. There was not, altogether, an appearance of actual poverty in the exterior; but it rather resembled the habitation of an ancient family in decay, proud of splendour, yet without the means of adequately sustaining it. An aged porter admitted me on my giving a required signal; but, though his years appeared to be many, there was a piercing keenness in his eyes, at variance with the silvery whiteness of his hair. His scrutiny was peculiarly searching, though scarcely more than momentary; and, having satisfied himself, he preceded me through a long narrow passage, and then up a flight of stairs, to an apartment rather meanly furnished, where he demanded my business. I requested an interview with la sorcière, as it was only with herself I could communicate. He hesitated; but at length left me for about a quarter of an hour, and at his return bade me follow him. I obeyed; and we passed through several rooms, of no great pretensions as it regarded furniture,—there was, however, sufficient in each for use, and every one seemed adapted to receive different inmates.

"At length we reached the end of a long gallery, and stopped in a small closet-like place, but well filled with light, and containing numerous emblems of the divining art of the being who ruled as mistress of the whole. There were globes of considerable magnitude, diagrams of the heavenly bodies, curious geometrical figures, two enormous skulls on pedestals, a human skeleton in a glass-case, stuffed snakes, mirrors that unnaturally enlarged the human features,—in short, the place was literally crowded with strange things to attract, or rather to distract, the attention. Here we lingered a few minutes, and then a small door was thrown open, into an extremely dark passage hung with black cloth, and lighted only by a diminutive lamp, that scarcely sent its feeble rays from one extremity to the other; the sombre appearance was well calculated to strike terror, and bewilder the weak minds that traversed its gloom. 'Pass on,' said my conductor; 'open the farther door! I quit you here.' I obeyed without hesitation, though I must own that, when I heard the portal close heavily behind me, and the key harshly grating in the lock, a sickening sensation crept over my spirit, and I was almost fainting with the closeness of the place. I pushed on with what haste I could, and, throwing open the door at the extremity, burst at once from darkness and gloom into a scene of resplendent brightness that dazzled the eyes; and, before I could recover my senses, I felt myself enclosed in the arms of some one who, by her dress, I concluded was the sibyl herself. Such a greeting appalled me, from its being so totally unexpected; but a well-remembered voice soon dispelled alarm. I was in the embrace of my venerable relative,—she who had influenced every action of my early life;—it was Madame T——!

"Need I tell you that I was at once thrown into the very centre of the vortex of sedition? That this powerful woman, who had gained an ascendency that was as extensive as it was astonishing, quickly introduced me to the disaffected of the times, whom she actually ruled with a despotism they could not counteract? Need I tell you that my position at court, and the confidential favour of Calonne, were immediately turned to her advantage, so as to render her more absolute? She had unbounded wealth at her command, supplied from the treasury of the Duke d'Orleans; for, whilst she held council with La Fayette, Mirabeau, and others, the representatives of the middle classes,—who, in humbling the noblesse, had no idea of abolishing monarchy,—she also secretly encouraged the leaders of the mob, several of whom were sheltered in her house. I will not, however, weary you with details of politics; suffice it to say that Calonne was thrown down by those who had elevated him, whilst I retained my station about the royal person, was gradually raised to honour and trust, and became the companion, the favoured lover of the young countess. But the utmost caution was requisite: in public a restrained distance was preserved, for the purpose of concealment; in the hours of stolen privacy our very souls were firmly knit together.

"Oh! my lord, it is not possible to tell the commotions which constantly agitated my mind. I saw the relative whom I had revered from infancy almost, incessantly engaged in overturning the throne, and annihilating royalty. She held an unaccountable control over my actions, and urged me on in the same career with herself; whilst the innocence of the queen, and my affection for the countess, stirred up the better feelings of my nature, and prompted me to fly from Paris. But the noble young lady's attachment to her royal mistress prevailed over every other sentiment, and she would not leave the queen. Day by day the crisis gradually approached. I ventured to reason with Madame T——, and was silenced by reproach; had she used threats we might have been saved. From thenceforth I was narrowly watched; my position with the countess became known; and the sibyl of Paris, to my surprise, rather encouraged than opposed it,—nay, she bade me look forward, as Calonne had done, to popular supremacy as most conducive to the happiness I sought.

"The king, weak and fickle, one moment yielding, and the next annulling his consent, destitute of bold and energetic persons to guide or to defend him, and practised on by treacherous counsellors, became little more than a cipher in authority, though a rallying-point for conspiracy. Monsieur, the revolution had commenced! It called into action, men of ardent passions and extensive talent. The court, the Count d'Artois, the Polignacs, could not cope with them. Liberality gained the ascendency. The noblesse and the clergy, after making a show of resistance to popular demands, hurled themselves into the revolutionary torrent, and were swept away. My detestation of monarchy had been to my heart like the life-streams that supplied the channels of existence; yet, when I saw the fated king in his retirement, amidst his family, with his children on his knees, and the beautiful white arms of the queen around his neck, compunctious visitings would swell my breast; for I knew the national assembly which had been convened was to be the destruction of Louis, and I, on whom benefits had been showered, was sworn an accessory to his downfall!"

"Really, Citizen Captain," said his lordship, rather warmly, "you worked the devil's traverse with a vengeance! Upon my word, you have been a—ha, hem!—excuse my English blood. There's something yet to come; pray proceed. One may gather a useful lesson even from—I beg pardon—proceed."

"An impulse I cannot counteract impels me to continue," returned Begaud proudly, "or, otherwise, my tongue should be silent. If you are an unwilling listener, my lord, have the politeness to say so; all that I desire is a hearer, not a judge."

"True, true!" responded Lord Eustace. "I have to apologise for my warmth. Believe me I am all attention."

"Step by step," continued the French captain, "the revolution proceeded. The chambers became united,—not for the purpose of resisting popular demands, but that by their embrace they might hug each other, to the death of both. The royal sitting took place; the assembly insisted on concessions, well knowing that the sceptre was passing away from the royal grasp; and Louis menaced in return, being, however, wholly destitute of influence or power to carry his menaces into operation;—he was the braggart of the morning, the shrinking imbecile of sun-set. It was shortly after this that the Count d'Artois undertook to stop the revolutionary torrent. He might as well have attempted to control the lightning's forked flash, or tried to have silenced the rolling of the thunder. Arms were seized; bloodshed followed. The Bastille—ha! ha!—the Bastille came down! the populace triumphed! the physical strength of the lower orders had developed itself as superior to every other appliance, and threatened to overwhelm the middle classes, who had stirred up the ponderous and mighty engine to perpetrate devastation. The joy of Madame T—— became unbounded; but her schemes had not yet arrived at the full maturity she wished. Her idol, La Fayette, it is true, was rising to the zenith; but she deceived even him. The Duke d'Orleans was her prompter; his gold was scattered by her amongst the mob with a profuse hand; and neither Bailly, (who had been created mayor of Paris,) La Fayette, nor the leaders of true liberty, were aware of the extent to which corruption was carried to further revolutionary designs, and bribe the mob to renewed sedition.

"Constant in my attendance upon the royal family, I was also assiduous in my attention to the young countess. Monsieur, if ever hearts truly loved, those hearts were ours! Yet, apart from each other, how different were our actions! Hers was all-confiding, fond attachment and devotion; whilst, at the same time, she persisted in following and in sharing the fortunes of her royal mistress. I almost idolized Amelie, and would cheerfully have sacrificed my life to have preserved hers; but I still retained my deadly hatred to monarchy, and had registered an oath to work its overthrow. Oh, Monsieur! had Louis been born in a private station, his amiability would have gained him the love, the estimation of all; but he was a king, and it was against the crown the battery was levelled. Had the noblesse, had the clergy acquiesced in the reasonable plans at first proposed, and then stood firm by the throne, the middle classes must have partially yielded; but they first abandoned their own position, and then deserted their monarch.

"Mirabeau arose: La Fayette began to doubt his powers to allay the revolutionary phrensy; he wished to preserve the monarchical form of government, and opposed the insurrectionary movements with an armed force; but Mirabeau died, and, according to his own prediction, the faction soon tore the last shreds of monarchy asunder. The king attempted to escape; I aided that attempt, Monsieur; and glad should I have been, had the royal family attained a place of safety! But the scheme was frustrated, and frustrated by whom? by Madame T——, whose intelligence, independent of myself, had placed the fugitives within the power of the Orleanists. Amelie, at the earnest request of the queen, remained behind, so that the numbers might not attract notice; but she was at the earliest opportunity to follow Marie Antoinette. That opportunity never offered itself. The royal family were brought back to Paris. Petion and Robespierre clamoured for a republic. In vain Bailly and La Fayette dyed the Champ de Mars with the blood of democrats. The new legislative assembly mocked and insulted the monarch. They began their sitting in puerility; they terminated their decrees in blood!

"The Tuileries was soon afterwards invaded by the mob, and Louis's head assumed the symbol of revolution; the crown was already crushed, the red cap had taken its position even upon the monarch's brow; royalty was no more, and my heart exulted in its annihilation. Still I pitied the fate of the Bourbons. The people feared them; there seemed something in the very name of king which stirred up feelings no earthly power could subdue. The secrecy I had observed with Madame T—— relative to the flight of the royal family had exposed me to suspicion, and my condemnation would have been sealed but for the timely rescue of my aged relative, who saved me from assassination; but I no longer held influence with either party. I exhorted the countess to fly with me; but the noble and heroic woman remained firm to her duty, and I determined rather to perish with her than leave her to the remorseless cruelty of the rabble.

"The northern armies were rapidly marching to the frontiers unresisted. The prisons of Paris were crowded with royalists, and such as were suspected of favouring their views; and, as circumstances had excited a strong feeling against me, I was at length consigned to the Abbaye; but an emissary of Madame T—— assured me that it was more for security than punishment. Horrible were the spectacles that daily succeeded each other. The stones of the court-yard of the Abbaye reddened with the blood of victims till the day of immolation crowned the demons of revolution with a wreath that hell itself might envy. I had been called before Maillard, and questioned; my replies appeared to be satisfactory; I was commanded to act as secretary to this wholesale murderer. A table was placed in the court-yard, at which Maillard took his seat, with a knife yet reeking with blood before him. On either side were arranged about a dozen of the lowest order of sans culottes, to form the mockery of a tribunal, whilst near the entrance stood a ruthless band of sanguinary assassins armed with knives and mallets. The portal was thrown open, a carriage drove in, and from it alighted an ecclesiastic, his robes torn and soiled, his face the semblance of despair, his step, as he descended, feeble,—for he was aged and weak. His feet touched the ground, Maillard raised his bloody token, a blow from a mallet felled him to the earth, the wretches closed upon their victim, and beat and wounded him till his last convulsive shudder proclaimed that life was extinct! Another presented himself; but he was young and active, and he sprang at once into the midst of the assassins, and stood proudly erect. For the moment the hired tools of vengeance were appalled; but again the knife was raised, and rage returned with redoubled energy for having suffered a recoil! Another and another succeeded as the carriages drove in. Age and infirmity had their brief career shortened! Youth and strength were cut off in their prime! The sacred character of priest was no protection; and, Monsieur, I registered the names of twenty-three ecclesiastics whose mangled bodies were piled against the wall. There was yet another; but he was saved almost by miracle, and his preservation is yet to me unaccountable.

"I will not go over the events of that day. Every being within the prison was massacred except the women, and one or two who were saved by their intercession. Goblets of blood—the blood of aristocrats—were handed to daughters and wives, as the test of safety to a parent or a husband; and the disgusting draughts were swallowed with a horrid eagerness lest it should be supposed they shrunk from the task. Monsieur, my very soul sickened. I had hated monarchy; but I had never contemplated the possibility of such enormities as I was then compelled to witness. The infuriated beasts of the wildest forest could not be compared to these hyenas in human form; for, whereas instinct would lead the first to rend their prey for food without the ingenuity of torture, the latter called in the aid of human invention to prolong the sufferings of their victims, for the purpose of glutting their worst and most baneful passions.

"I was released, and sought the residence of Madame T——; but I found that even her protection would not avail me. The torrent had reached even to her, and she feared being carried away by its eddies. There was but one alternative,—a commission in the army of the North. This was accepted; but, previous to my departure, (though only a few hours were allowed,) I endeavoured to obtain intelligence of Amelie. She was in the Temple with her fated mistress, and I was hurried off to join the Duke de Chartres on the frontiers. La Fayette was induced to give himself up to the enemy, who erected the finger of menace before they had power to execute. A manifesto was published, summoning the Parisians to return to their allegiance, and, in case of refusal, threatening to deliver them up to military execution. Bah! Monsieur, it was gasconade! and by whom was this precious document drawn up? By the very man who had first set the revolutionary machine in motion, and who now imagined that the Parisians, having plucked forth the sword and thrown away the scabbard, were to be terrified by mere threats; it was my old master, Monsieur Calonne. This act of his, brought the unfortunate Louis more hurriedly to the scaffold.

"I was present under Dumouriez at Valmy, where the allies, as if panic-stricken, showed the futility of their threats, for we were victorious. Conquest succeeded to conquest. The battle of Jemmapes was fought, and Belgium became ours. It was whilst prosecuting a hazardous march that intelligence reached me that Louis was no more. Madame T——'s revenge was satiated; but she herself perished near the guillotine, an awful instance of fearful retribution. She had hurried in disguise to the place of slaughter, and obtained a near approach to the fatal instrument. Her joy at seeing the axe fall was unbounded; she shrieked with delight, and, being recognised, was raised upon the shoulders of the women, and in the madness of the moment was worshipped with enthusiastic fervour: they bore her along through the swelling crowds, and, amidst their awe and homage, she cried for fresh victims,—'The queen! the queen!' Her shout was reiterated by the mob, in whom the sight of royal blood had quickened the tiger-like ferocity of their sanguinary thirst for gore; and they were hurrying towards the prison of the bereaved wife and wretched mother, when a garde du corps, in female attire, fought his way to the head of the procession. He, too, had witnessed the murder of his royal master; and, terror for his own fate inspiring him with a desire to fall at once, he formed the determination to have a companion in his exit. He stood before the shouting mob, who were compelling every one to do obeisance to their idol; he stooped down, as if in obedience to their mandate; but, making a sudden spring, like the panther from his lair, or the snake from his coil, he gripped the sibyl by the throat, dragged her to the earth, and stabbed her to the heart! 'Twas the work of an instant; the sound of her voice had scarcely died away in the distance as she stirred up the vindictiveness of the populace, when she lay extended on the frost-bound ground a lifeless corpse. The garde du corps was instantly seized, and in a short time his dissevered limbs were scattered through the Place Louis Quinze. Thus terminated the life of Madame T——, and the queen was spared a little longer.

"Anxious for the security of Amelie, I requested leave of absence, but it was refused me,—'my services were required with the army.' Again, and again, at intervals, I renewed my application, with no better success; till, goaded by agony, I threw up my commission, and returned to Paris, where I found Robespierre the leader of the day. The queen had shared the fate of her royal consort, and the countess was under condemnation in a dungeon of the Conciergerie. Maddened and desperate, I sought out Danton, and endeavoured to enlist him on my side for the preservation of her I loved; but he had argued himself into cold-blooded policy, and recommended my abandoning Amelie to her fate. With difficulty I was allowed an interview with the devoted lady; and, oh! Monsieur, language cannot describe the bitterness of those moments! Her affection was unchanged and unsubdued. She was calm and collected, though there was the prospect of only a few hours' division between her and eternity. Young and beautiful, though somewhat wasted by distress and hunger, I could not look upon her resigned and heroic conduct but as something too valuable for my possession, and only worthy of that heaven to which she was hastening. We parted; and I left her with the assurance that no means should be left untried to preserve her life. I hurried to Robespierre, and met Danton coming out; a cold sick shuddering rushed through my heart; nevertheless, I entered the bureau of the tyrant, who commenced a rapid series of questions relative to the defection of Dumouriez, (who had passed over to the enemy,) and the state of the army of the North. Repeatedly did I attempt to introduce the object of my visit, and as often did he foil me. The insatiate monster! the consummate villain! At length I obtained a hearing, described my services, promised the most implicit compliance with every order he might give, provided the life of the countess was granted me as a boon. 'Her attachment to the queen,' said he, 'has rendered her conspicuous, and these are not times in which to suffer the milk of human kindness to overflow the current of a just retribution.'—'Her devotion to her mistress ought to excite admiration, Monsieur Citizen,' returned I; 'but I will answer with my own existence that henceforth she will cause no trouble, but bend to the will of the nation.'—'You promise well,' said he, 'and, did it rest with me, the pardon might be easily accomplished; but we want recruits to meet the enemy, and they refuse to join our standard, lest, during their absence, the aristocrats should again usurp the power, and revenge themselves on the families and friends of those who are in the field. Young man, I fear the case is hopeless.'—'You want trusty servants, Citizen,' rejoined I,—'men on whom you can rely with confidence that they will neither desert nor betray the interests of the nation. Save the life of this innocent, and you bind me yours for ever.' He held me for some time in conversation. I entreated, I implored,—nay more, I wept! and the drops that were wrung from my eyes were like boiling and scalding blood rushing from my heart. He seemed moved to compassion; tears stole down his cheeks! Bah! the wretch was mocking me! no soft distilment of generous sympathy was ever wormed from out his breast! 'I have an important duty for you to execute;' said he, 'perform it with fidelity, and the pardon shall be granted,'—'But the time is short,' remonstrated I; 'Citizen Danton——!' 'You are right,' he answered, and, hastily snatching a piece of paper, he hurriedly wrote a few lines, which he presented to me. 'This will stay the execution,' he added; 'Danton is not to be trusted.'—'The pardon, Monsieur Citizen!' exhorted I; 'let me but see her released, and I am yours, soul and body!'—'The populace, my friend,' returned he; 'the populace and Danton! Has she not seduced a brave officer from the defence of his country? Believe me, she is more safe within the walls of the Conciergerie than if exposed to popular violence.'—'As my wife, Monsieur,' responded I, 'she will immediately return with me to the army. Grant me her pardon and her liberty, let the rest fall upon my head.'—'You are wilful,' said he, somewhat sternly; 'but take your wish.' Again he wrote, and once more I received a document, that seemed like renewed light, and hope, and life to me. 'You will return here,' continued he, 'when your mission is accomplished; I have business for you. Use despatch now, but do not fail hereafter.'

"With a bold step and a bounding heart I hurried from his presence, and ran toward the prison. In one of the streets I met a fiacre accompanied by the officers of justice, and I knew it was some poor wretch whose hours were numbered; and, oh! how did my spirit exult in the thought that Amelie—my own Amelie—would be rescued from a similar fate! I stopped not to ascertain who the condemned prisoner was; but with my quickest speed presented myself at the prison gate. I showed my paper, the porter admitted me; and, oh! Monsieur, what tongue can tell the joyous and eager delight that held a sainted fête within my breast! In a few minutes I should hold her within my arms, should clasp her in my embrace, and lead her forth to freedom. And yet I trembled: the perspiration stood in big drops upon my face. I felt a sickness steal over me; though not a fear, not a doubt arose in my mind of Amelie's liberty. The head gaoler was engaged; but in a time,—though short, it was an age to me,—he came; I delivered the document into his hands; he read it, shook his head, and, whilst a suffocating sensation almost stifled every faculty, I heard him say, 'I fear you are too late. Amelie de M—— has already departed for the place of execution!'"

Here vivid recollection appeared to overcome the Frenchman's strength of mind; he paced the deck athwart-ships with impetuous strides; the picture of desolation was probably present to his imagination in all its horrors; and Lord Eustace could not behold his apparent agony unmoved, but he did not speak, rather preferring to leave nature to its own operations. In a few minutes the captive grew more composed; he again placed himself by his lordship's side, folded his arms, and proceeded.

"Yes, my lord, she had indeed departed, and was the inmate of that fiacre I had passed on my hurried way to the prison. The truth instantly flashed upon me; in my disregard for the sufferings of another, I had consigned her to an ignominious end. I had the pardon in my hand. I might be her murderer!—Might be? there was a hope in that surmise; and, resuming the document, I flew rather than ran towards the fatal spot. People stared at my headlong speed, and gave way before me. I saw the guillotine, with the prostituted figure of Liberty presiding over it. My breath began to fail; but yet I shouted. There was a commotion in the crowd as I held up the paper high above my head. I rushed forward. The few persons who had collected opened a passage, and I reached the scaffold at the very moment the axe fell, and the decapitated trunk of the young and beautiful, sent forth its gush of blood to waste the fountain of life! At first I stood speechless with horror and amazement; but when the head was raised, and I saw those tresses I had loved to weave amongst my fingers, stained with gore,—when I beheld the cheek that had been pressed to mine still quivering in the last death-pang,—phrensy drove reason from her seat. I raved till the air rang with my maledictions. I cursed the Convention, and denounced the monsters Robespierre and Danton. The guard were about to seize my person, when a young man caught me by the arm, claimed me as his brother, and declared I was a lunatic, escaped from the control of my keepers. He dragged me away with him to his lodgings, and, when my fit of passion was passed, I recognised the youth I had saved from drowning during the earthquake of Messina.

"That night we quitted Paris together, for he would not suffer me to remain alone, and despair had fixed a melancholy upon my mind that rendered all places alike to my despondency. For a time we sojourned in the country; but my friend received orders to join the army employed against Toulon, and I accompanied him. He had been a pupil in the artillery school of Brienne; he was soon raised to eminence by his skill and judgment, and the whole artillery department of the army before Toulon was placed at his disposal. Through his talent and intrepidity Toulon fell; and I obtained by his recommendation a lucrative office, and ultimately rose through the several grades to that in which you found me,—capitaine de frégate. Monsieur, the youth of Messina, the artillery officer who snatched me from the myrmidons of Robespierre, is now the First Consul of the French nation,—Napoleon Buonaparte!"

Here Citizen Begaud ceased. The chase was closing nearly within hail, and, without exchanging another word, Lord Eustace walked to the gangway.