Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

his aiddecamp was to leave Paris next day with his horses and baggage. With this young man, reluctantly as we involved him in the affair, it was agreed that he should provide for us a place where an individual, desirous of avoiding publicity, might remain perdu a few hours at Compiegne-a precaution which proved of the greatest use.

“Bruce next procured Lavalette's measure, and a uniform was ordered as if for a quartermaster of the Guards; but the regimental tailor happening to observe that it was for a very stout gentleman, and, moreover, that it had not been taken by a professional snip, the parties got alarmed, and fell on the plan of borrowing for the expedition the coat of a strapping brother guardsman-a very young man, whom they persuaded it was wanted to assist in an elopement.”

It is not the least curious of the many odd features of this remarkable escape, that on Lavalette proceeding under cloud of night, the previous evening, to Captain Hutchinson's lodgings in the Rue de Hilder, he only exchanged one lion's den for another, having for a neighbor, under the same roof, the very judge who had presided at his trial! He was there met by Mr. Bruce—whom he had once or twice seen at the queen of Holland's—and Sir Robert

Wilson, who, after partaking of a bowl of punch—the ostensible pretext for the meeting left him to take on the sofa such slumbers as, on the eve of such an expedition, he could hope to enjoy. These were rudely broken in upon about one in the morning by a prodigious noise and loud colloquy at the outer door, the object of which was plainly to effect a forcible entry. Lavalette, never doubting he was discovered, and firmly grasping his pistols, woke his companion, who, he tells us, went out very quietly, and after five minutes--which to Lavalette seemed ages—came back and said, “It is only a dispute between the porteress and a French - officer, who lodges on the third floor, about letting him in at so late an hour; so we may go to sleep again.”

There was no more sleep, however, for his guest, who got up at six and dressed himself, and at half-past seven was called for by Sir Robert in a general's full uniform, in Bruce's cabriolet, while Captain Hutchinson rode along side, both to give it the air of a pleasure party, and that Lavalette, if hard pressed, might exchange the carriage for a swifter conveyance. “ The weather,” says our hero in his memoirs, “was splendid, all the shops open, every body in the streets; and, by a singular coincidence, as we passed the Greve-the place of execution in Paris—they were setting up the gallows customarily used for the execution in effigy of outlawed criminals.”

Numerous were the occasions on which the party were threatened with discovery; indeed, that one with such marked features as Lavalette-personally known, from his office, to half the postmasters in France, and, moreover, minutely described in placards in almost every body's hands—should have escaped detection, seems little short of a miracle. Before they were out of Paris, they met an English officer, all surprise at seeing a British general with whose person he was unacquainted. The gendarmes at the gate took a hearty stare at him; but the ceremony of presenting arms screened at once his profile and his life. When they met people or carriages, Sir Robert took care to talk very loud in English, and Colonel Losack to sit well back in the carriage, the white feather in his regimental hat serving to divert attention from the wearer. Another object of the same color had, however, nearly served to betray him; namely, a few white hairs straggling from beneath his wig, which Sir Robert observed ere entering Compiegne, and being fortunately provided with scissors, was enabled to act the bar

ber's part.

Their chief peril was at the previous village With post

of La Chapelle, where their relay horse had been stationed at a bustling inn, about the door of which four gendarmes were lounging, and were only got rid of by the presence of mind of Captain Hutchinson, who, by pretending to be on the look-out for cantonments for a corps of English troops, diverted their attention, and kept them drinking till the others had got clear off. Their stay of some hours at Compiegne, to await the arrival from Paris of Sir Robert's carriage, passed off equally well, and under cloud of night it arrived safe. horses the rest of the journey could now be more expeditiously, and, thanks to the words English carriage and English general, passed on from postillion to postillion, was at length safely performed

At Cambray three hours were lost at the gates by the supineness of the English guard, who, having no orders to call up the porter, refused to do so, and might have ruined all. At Valenciennes, the party were three times examined, nay, their passports carried to the commandant. A long time elapsed, and Lavalette felt as if on the brink of shipwreck when almost in port. Luckily, it was very cold weatherearly in January-and day had scarcely dawned; and the officers, instead of coming to inspect the travelers, signed their passports in bed. “On

[ocr errors]

the glacis of the same town,” says Lavalette, "an officious douanier chose to examine if all was right. His curiosity, however, was satisfied, and we were erelong bowling joyously along the firm road to Mons. Now I would peep out of the little back window, to see if we were pursued; and then I would fix my longing eyes on a large building pointed out to me as the first Belgian custom-house, which, drive as we would, never seemed to me to get any nearer.

At length we gained it: I was out of the French territory, and saved! Seizing hold of the General's hand, I poured forth, deeply moved, the whole extent of my gratitude, while he only answered me by a quiet smile.” “Having made at Mons every arrangement for facilitating Monsieur Lavalette's ulterior proceedings, I returned,” says

his

generous deliverer, “to Paris, from whence I had been absent only about sixty hours."

Lavalette was now safely sheltered in a foreign country. From the Netherlands he proceeded to Germany, and there found a refuge in the dominions of the king of Bavaria, though scarcely with the willing consent of that monarch. In a remote country retreat Lavalette lived for years, almost forgotten by the world. The only matter for serious regret was the absence of his affectionate wife, the state of whose

« ForrigeFortsæt »