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Defeated in their attempts to recover the fugitive, the police and other authorities meanly revenged themselves on Madame Lavalette, who for some time remained in an agony of suspense with respect to the fate of her husband. From the brutal insults of the enraged jailers, she was rescued by the arrival of the attorney-general, but only to be exposed to a set of formal interrogatories and reproaches from that functionary. In the eye of the law, she had been guilty at most of a misdemeanour, for which a severe punishment could not properly be inflicted. By the orders of the attorney-general, however, she was treated with unbecoming disrespect and severity ; and being at the time in a poor state of health, this treatment was not only a sore aggravation of her immediate distresses, bodily and mental, but laid the foundation of complaints which afterwards unsettled her
Instead of throwing open to this magnanimous woman the doors of the prison she had hallowed, her confinement was, for six weeks, as close and rigorous as that of the worst criminals.
She was subjected to the nuisance of being within hearing of the reprobate of her own sex, while no female attendant was allowed her save a jailer; not a line was she permitted either to despatch or receive, and therefore a continual prey to anxieties on her husband's account, which, at every change of sentries, made her start up, concluding they were bringing him_back, and for twenty-five nights wholly deprived her of sleep. Fortunately for her husband, he was kept in ignorance of these distressing details, and taught to believe that, though subject to restraint, she was enjoying every comfort under the roof of the wife of the prefect of police.
To him we must now return. In consequence of the unabated vigilance of the authorities, the friends of Lavalette were anxious to get him conveyed, if possible, beyond the barriers, and thence out of France. Several plans of escape from the country were suggested, without success. One, to escape in the suite of a Russian general, failed, from the dread inspired, by hearing the name of Lavalette, of himself being sent to Siberia. Another, more promising, to join a Bavarian battalion quitting Paris, whose commandant, a friend of Prince Eugène, would have earned praise instead of blame by conniving at it, was frustrated by the surveillance naturally enough exercised by the police over both men and officers of this suspected corps. At length, on the eighteenth day of his seclusion, Monsieur Baudus, in a transport of joy, announced to Lavalette his probable escape through the co-operation of Englishmen.
The political sentiments of some then in Paris had been too openly declared, against the execution of Marshal Ney especially, to make sounding them a matter of difficulty; and the office being undertaken by some French ladies of rank and the most amiable character, had all the success anticipated with Mr Michael Bruce in the first instance, and through him, with yet more efficient
coadjutors, General Sir Robert Wilson, and Captain Hutchinson of the Guards. It was humanely resolved by these gentlemen that Lavalette should, if possible, escape from France by wearing the uniform of a British officer. This plan, which was accordingly put in execution, is described as follows by Sir Robert in a letter to Earl Grey, which was intercepted on its way to England, and led to the subsequent trial and imprisonment of the parties engaged.
'It was agreed,' says Sir Robert, “that the fugitive, wearing, as well as myself, the British uniform, should accompany me beyond the barriers in an English cab; that I should have a fresh horse stationed at La Chapelle, and from thence get on to Compiègne, where I was to be joined by my own carriage, in which Lavalette and I would proceed by Mons to Cambrai. At my request, and on my responsibility, I easily procured passports from Lord Stewart for General Wallis and Colonel Losack; names which we made choice of, because their initials corresponded with the real ones. On their being taken to be signed at the Foreign Office, one of the secretaries took it in his head to ask who Colonel Losack was, when Hutchinson coolly answered : “Oh, the son of the admiral.” Bruce now found out that the brigade of his cousin, General Brisbane, was Compiègne, and that his aide-de-camp 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 Compiègnema precaution which proved of the greatest use.
‘Bruce next procured Lavalette's measure, and a uniform was ordered as if for a quarter-master 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 neighbour 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 a 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 portress 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 alongside, 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, everybody in the streets; and, by a singular coincidence, as we passed the Grève (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 everybody'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 colour had, however, nearly served to betray him; namely, a few white hairs straggling from beneath his wig, which Sir Robert observed ere entering Compiègne, and being fortunately provided with scissors, was enabled to act the barber's part.
Their chief peril was at the previous village of La Chapelle, where their relay borse 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 Compiègne, to await the arrival from Paris of Sir Robert's carriage, passed off equally well, and under cloud of night it arrived safe. With posthorses the rest of the journey could now be more expeditiously, and, thanks to the words - English carriage and English general, passed on from postilion to postilion, was at length safely performed.
At Cambrai 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 weather (early in January), and day had scarcely dawned; and the officer, instead of coming to inspect the travellers, signed their passports in bed.
‘On 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 ere long bowling joyously along the firm road to Mons. Now I would peep out of the little backwindow 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 hands, 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.'
EXILE AND DEATH. 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 mind rendered seclusion from the world indispensably necessary. The manner in which the count spent the greater part of his time may be gathered from a touching letter which he wrote to the Duchess of Ragusa, the wife of General Marmont.
“You ask me where I live, and how. I dwell on the banks of a lake not unworthy of Switzerland, for it is five leagues long by one broad. I have a room and a closet at the lodge of the keeper of a forsaken chateau. My view consists of a fine sheet of water, pretty low hills, and high mountains beyond, covered with snow. For walks, I have wild woodlands, abounding with game, which remain unmolested for me. My hosts are honest peasants, whose Spartan broth and black bread I partake of with tolerable relish. I dare not have in a servant a possible spy, so my sole companion is a poor artist unknown to fame, who smokes all day long, and does not knd
of my language; but I am learning his, and we get on very well. He wakes me every morning at six, and we labour together till nine. After the most frugal of breakfasts, we set to work again till noon, and after dinner from two till five. I then read a couple of hours; and at seven we go to walk till supper.
I have taught him chess, and we play till ten, when I go to my room, but seldom to bed till one o'clock. These hours of night are for the heart's anguish, and a host of bitter reminiscences. I pray and weep over all those I love, and in thinking of my poor, humbled, subjugated country.
‘But do not at all times give way to such sad thoughts. I should be unworthy of my glorious misfortune did I not draw from it the sweetest consolations. I often feel less thankful at having escaped the scaffold, than for being saved from it by such generous hearts. Wife, child, friends, domestics, nay, those noble strangers, all combined to suffer, to sacrifice themselves; but, thank Heaven, ultimately to triumph in my cause. I of all mankind have no right to complain of my fellows. Never was unfortunate being honoured by so much devotedness and courage !
'I am so happy that you are within reach of my poor wife. You love and appreciate her. She is not understood in a world of base wretches, who little thought that that weak, dejected, unhappy woman would prove too strong and bold for them all! Oh, take care of her, I beseech you; watch over her, and shield her from every sorrow! And my poor little Josephine ; good God! what will become of her? How fondly had I looked forward to perfecting her education! When I think of all this, I could beat my head against the very walls, and dread what I may be tempted to do! Above all, my wife !--see her often, console, and protect her if necessary.
It is consolatory to know that Lavalette outlived the vengeance of his enemies. After an exile of six years, the crime of which he stood guilty was remitted, and he was allowed to return to France a free man. He now had the additional happiness of being permitted to see his wife, and to repay by the most devoted attentions her exertions in his behalf
. The acute mental malady brought on by anxiety and terror, under which she had for some years laboured, seems to have gradually yielded to a deep melancholy and frequent abstraction ; 'but she remained,' says Lavalette, “as she had ever been, good, gentle, and amiable, and able to find enjoyment in the country, where for her sake he chiefly resided, pretty much forgotten by the world, until his death in 1830. Whether Madame Lavalette ultimately recovered from her alienated mental condition, we have not heard : it is, however, gratifying to learn that her daughter Josephine, who was married to a man of worth and talent, lived to contribute to her comfort and happiness, in that scene of rural quiet to which she had been removed by an affectionate and grateful husband.