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ing efforts she had been making on royal clemency and ministerial sympathy, she said : “I am coming as usual to dine with you. Keep up your courage, for we shall require it all! As for myself," added she, with a deep sigh of exhaustion, “I feel I have just strength left for four-and-twenty hours, and not one moment longer, I am so thoroughly worn out !” Poor thing! her hours of energy and consciousness were indeed numbered !
'I had gone through a sad scene in taking leave, as I thought, of my daughter (who had been brought to me the day before by the porteress of her convent), when, to my surprise, she reappeared, along with her mother. “ I have bethought me," said she, “ that you had better have our child to accompany you. She will do more punctually as I desire.”
My wife had put on over her dress a merino pelisse, richly lined with fur, which she used to wear in coming home from balls, and had brought in her bag a black silk petticoat. Having sent the child out of hearing, she said to me rapidly in a whisper :
“ These will suffice to disguise you perfectly. I could have wished to add a veil, but having, unfortunately, not been in the habit of wearing one, it is out of the question now. Be sure, before going into the outer room, to draw on these gloves, and put my handkerchief to your face. Walk very slowly, leaning on Josephine, and take care to stoop as you go out at these low doors, for if they should catch the feathers of your bonnet, all would be lost. The jailers will be as usual in the ante-room, and remember the turnkey always hands me out. The chair to-day will be drawn up close to the staircase. Monsieur Baudus will meet you very soon, and point out your hiding-place. God guide and protect you, my dearest husband ! But oh, be sure and mind my directions, and keep calm! Give me your hand; I wish to feel your pulse. Now, feel mine, and see how quietly it beats; there is not the slightest quickness." ' Poor thing! I ascertained she was in a strong fever! “Nor, above all," added she, “no giving way to our feelings; we should be ruined." ' I could not, however, forbear giving her my wedding ring, on the pretext that if stopped, it might help to betray me.
'She now called back her daughter. “ Listen well, my child,” said she, “to what I am going to say, as I shall ask you to repeat it. I shall leave this evening at seven instead of eight o'clock. Keep behind me in going out, as you know the doors are narrow; but when we come into the outer hall, take care to be on my left, the side the turnkey comes on to hand me out, which I hate. When we are beyond the grating, and going up the outer stair, then come to my right, that the odious gendarmes at the guardhouse may not come and stare under my bonnet, as they always try to do. Do you understand me?” The dear girl rehearsed her lesson very faithfully.
One or two friends who had dropped in with the kindest intentions, but whose emotions would have been fatal to the firmness of the parties, had to be got rid of ere dinner was served; and, more perplexing still, a poor old nurse of Madame Lavalette's, who had been left waiting outside, but whom grief and the heat of the stove had upset, was to be allowed to sit in the room, and yet be kept in ignorance of the scheme, which the slightest alarm or indiscretion on her part might have betrayed.
'This dinner, which might prove my last upon earth, was very frightful. The morsels stuck in our throats, and not a word was exchanged; and thus nearly an hour had to be spent. Threequarters past six at length struck, and my wife rung for the faithful valet, whose services I had dispensed with, that he might attend her. She spoke a few words to him in a whisper, and then added aloud : “Take care that the chairmen are at hand; I am just coming." And when he was gone, turning to me: Now you must be dressed.”
'For want of a dressing-room, I had luckily made them place a large screen in my apartment, behind which we now retired, and while my dear wife made my toilet with equal quickness and dexterity, she kept saying: “Mind you stoop your head at the doors; be sure and walk slowly through the hall, like a person worn out with suffering.” In three minutes my disguise was complete, and we were back into the room; and Emilie said to her daughter :
What do you think of your papa?" An incredulous smile was the poor child's only answer. But seriously, my dear, will he do ?” “ Not very badly,” said she, on seeing me walk a few steps before her; but her head sunk on her breast, and her dejected tone betrayed her apprehensions. Not a word more was spoken till I was close to the door. I then said to Emilie: “The turnkey looks in every evening as soon as he has seen you off. Take care and remain until then behind the screen, and make a noise by moving about some of the things : he will conclude all right, and give me the few minutes indispensable for my getting clear away." She understood me, and as I put forth my hand to ring the bell, I gently pressed her arm : we exchanged looks: “Adieu !” said she, lifting up her eyes to heaven. Had we ventured on an embrace, all would have been lost.
‘The jailer's step was now heard. Emilie sprung behind the screen-the door opened : I passed out first, next my daughter, then the old nurse. On coming to the door leading from the passage to the outer room, I had at the same time to lift my foot and stoop my head, to prevent the catching of my feathers—no easy matter : but I succeeded ; and had now to face in this large room a file of five seated jailers ranged along the wall. I held my handkerchief to my eyes of course, and expected my daughter to come, as directed, on my left; but in her flurry the poor child took the right, thus leaving the jailer at liberty to hand me out as usual. He laid his hand on my arm, evidently much moved (for he concluded we had taken an eternal leave of each other), and said : “You leave early to-night, madam?” It has been said that my child and I gave way to screams and sobs.
So far from that, we durst not so much as indulge in a sigh. At length I got to the further end, where, night and day, sat a jailer in a huge arm-chair, in a space sufficiently contracted to allow him to place his two hands on the keys of two doors; one an iron grating, the other (the outer one), called the first wicket. This man looked at me, but did not open. I had to put my hand through the bars to hurry him. At length he turned his two keys, and we were out! And now, recollecting herself, my daughter took my right arm. We had twelve steps of a stair to go up to get at the court where the chair waited ; and at the foot of them was the guardhouse, where twenty soldiers, with an officer at their head, stood within three steps of me, to see Madame Lavalette pass! My foot was at length on the last step, and I got into the sedan, which was close by. But not a chairman was there—not a servant! only my daughter and the old woman standing beside it, and a sentry not six feet off, immovable on his post, staring at me. My first surprise was giving way to violent agitation : I felt my eyes fixed like a basilisk's on that sentry's musket, which, at the smallest noise or difficulty, I should certainly have sprung on, and used it against any one who offered to take me.
This dreadful suspense may haved lasted some two minutes, which to me appeared the length of a night. At length I heard the voice of Bonneville, my valet, whispering to me : “One of the bearers has failed me, but I have found another !"
'I then felt myself caught up, the chair crossed the court, and we went down a street or two. When it was set down, the door opened, and my friend Baudus offering me his arm, said aloud : “Madam, you know you have a visit to make to the president.” I got out, and he pointed to a cabriolet which stood a short way off down a little dark street. I sprang into it, and the driver said to me : “Hand me my whip.” I sought it in vain; it had fallen. “Never mind,” said my companion, giving the reins a shake, which set off the horses at a round trot. As I passed, I caught sight of my daughter Josephine standing on the quay, with her hands joined, praying for me with all her soul before getting into the chair ; which, as I had predicted, was quickly overtaken, and finding her only in it, was allowed to proceed.
'Beginning to breathe at length, when we had driven a long way, I had time to look at my coachman, and what was my astonishment to recognise the Count de Chassenon, whom I little thought of seeing in that capacity. “Is that you ?” asked I in unfeigned surprise. “Yes; and you have at your back four well-loaded pistols, which I hope you will use in case of need." “Not I, indeed ; I have no mind to involve you in ruin !” Well, then, I suppose I must shew
you the example, and woe to whoever attempts to stop us !” We drove on to the Boulevard Neuf, where we stopped, and I displayed my handkerchief, as agreed, on the apron of the cab; having, by the way, got rid of all my female paraphernalia, and slipped on a groom's frock, with a round laced livery hat. Monsieur Baudus soon joined us : I took leave of the good count, and modestly followed in the wake of my new master. It was now past eight; the rain fell in torrents ; the night was dark; and nothing could be more lonely than this part of the town. It was with the greatest difficulty I could keep pace with Monsieur Baudus before I lost one of my shoes, which did not mend matters. We met several gendarmes at full gallop, little aware that he whom they were probably in quest of was so near them! At length, after an hour's march, worn out with fatigue, and with one foot bare, we came to a large mansion. “I am going in here,” said Monsieur Baudus; "and while I engage the porter in conversation, slip into the courtyard ; you will find a staircase on the left ; go up it to the highest story: At the end of a dark passage to the right is a pile of firewood; stand behind it, and wait.” I grew dizzy, and almost sunk on seeing Monsieur Baudus knock at the very door of the minister for foreign affairs--the Duke de Richelieu ! But while the porter let him in, I passed on quickly. “Where is that man going?” cried the porter. “Oh, 'tis only my servant.” I found the staircase and everything else as directed, and was no sooner on the appointed spot, than I heard the rustling of a gown; my arm was gently taken; I was pushed into a room, and the door closed upon me.'
Lavalette was now concealed in what was in all probability the least suspected place in Paris—the house of the minister of foreign affairs. For an asylum under this roof he was indebted to the gratitude of Madame de Brisson, the wife of the cashier. M. de Brisson, it appears, had been proscribed at the first revolution for voting against the king's death, and was two years in hiding, along with his wife, among the Vosges, a cluster of mountains on the east of France. Here they received so much kindness from the inhabitants, that Madame de Brisson made a vow to save, if ever in her power, a person similarly circumstanced. She now had it in her power to afford a shelter to Lavalette, and nobly did she redeem her vow. Every comfort, down to the minutest luxuries of the toilet (so acceptable to a prisoner long deprived of them), had been provided by this lady's thoughtful kindness; even the felt slippers in which alone he was to dare to move about, and the profusion of books and wax-lights, which were to compensate to a studious man for the necessity of keeping his windows carefully closed all day. When the shades of night permitted him to open them, it was often to hear street-criers bawling forth proclamations, of which he could sometimes catch little more than his own name, threatening with the utmost penalties of the law all landlords or lodgers who might be giving him a harbour; and truly, considering not only the dangers to which their generous conduct in his behalf was exposing his benefactors, but the fearful risk to all involved, in a nephew (who slept next room to him) and a couple of faithful servants being necessarily in the secret, it may be imagined that Lavalette's was not a bed of roses. His meals had to be literally purloined from their own table by Madame de Brisson, who, on some refreshment not habitually consumed by the family being requested by her prisoner, was obliged to remind him of the recapture and death on the scaffold of Monsieur de Montmorine, from the trifling circumstance of some chicken bones being found near the door of his landlady-a woman too poor to indulge in such dainties. She was, however, able to afford him the more substantial alleviation of hearing that, spite of proclamations, at which every one laughed, his escape was the subject of rejoicing‘all over Paris; that Madame Lavalette was extolled to the skies, and every possible allusion to her conduct at the theatre received with rapturous applause.
It is now time to return to that interesting woman, whose agitating suspense after her husband's departure may be easily conceived. No sooner was Lavalette beyond the gates, than the jailer peeped as usual into the room, and hearing some one behind the screen, went out. He returned, however, in five minutes, and still seeing no one, bethought him of pushing aside a leaf of the screen, and at sight of Madame Lavalette, gave a loud cry, and ran towards the door. She flew to prevent him, and, in her despair, kept such fast hold of his coat that he left part of it in her hands. “You have ruined me, madam!' he exclaimed in a rage, and extricating himself by a desperate effort, and calling out as he went along : ‘The prisoner has escaped !' he ran, tearing his hair like a madman, to the prefect of police.
The intelligence of Lavalette's escape, hastily communicated to the prefect, spread universal surprise. Indignant at the trick which had been played, the prefect, who was officially responsible for the safety of the prisoner, instantly ordered the widest and most minute search to be made to recover the lost captive. Gendarmes galloped about in all directions, and every suspicious-looking individual was seized. Cafés, hotels, and all places of public resort were visited. Every supposed lurking-place was searched. The pursuit continued all night, and domiciliary visits of the strictest kind were made, not only at the house of every acquaintance of the count, but of all who had ever held official connection with him. The effort was vain. Clever as the police of Paris unquestionably are, they were completely baffled on this memorable occasion. To intercept a possible fight to the country, the barriers were closed, and no one was permitted to pass without undergoing a personal scrutiny. All, however, would not do.
Lavalette, safe in the house of the minister of foreign affairs, who little knew what guest he entertained, continued undiscovered; and all Paris chuckled to see the police fairly at fault.