« ForrigeFortsæt »
paralleled by those of the equally unhappy Baron Trenck.
From the 1st of May till the beginning of September, De la Tude remained confined in the Bastile, when he was removed, for some unexplained reason, to the Castle of Vincennes. He had not been long in this gloomy fortress, till he put in execution a project for accomplishing his escape. Being indulged by the lieutenant-governor with the privilege of walking two hours a day in the garden of the castle, he bethought himself of taking advantage of this circumstance for his purpose. Two turnkeys usually attended him, one of whom waited in the garden and the other conducted him down stairs from his room. Having formed his project, he for several days together descended a little faster than the turnkey, who, as he always found him by the side of his companion in the garden, took no notice of this maneuver. Observing this, and taking a favorable opportunity, he tripped as fast as possible down the flight of steps, and shutting the bottom door of the staircase, advanced boldly to the garden-gatee where a sentinel was posted by way of security.
The vigilance of this man, as well as that of several others who were placed on the opposite side of the draw-bridge, he eluded, by pretending to inquire for a person who had just gone
that way; but after having obtained his liberty in this artful manner, he was imprudent enough, through the advice of a friend, to surrender himself up again to the King, trusting that the artless confidence of an innocent man would not be abused. He was, nevertheless, reconducted to the Bastile, where he was closely confined for eighteen months in one of the most dismal dungeons of that prison. At the expiration of that term, he was taken from this horrid situation, and put into another room, with a prisoner named D'Alegre, who was likewise detained by Madame de Pompadour.
Both he and his companion had been long taught to expect with patience the disgrace of the marchioness; but with the unfortunate, days are as tedious as years, and it is no wonder that they should turn their thoughts toward regaining their liberty. This, however, appeared a romantic idea ; for, besides the high walls of the Bastile, which were six feet thick, and four iron grates at each window, the prison was continually guarded by a number of sentinels, and the trenches which surrounded it were most commonly full of water. How, then, could two prisoners, confined in a narrow cell, and destitute of all human assistance, effect their escape ?
M. de la Tude, who was fruitful in expedients, first informed himself, by means of an artful
trick which he played while they were conducted back to the room after hearing mass, that the apartment in which they were confined had a double ceiling; and after mentioning what he had observed to his friend, told him that he had formed a plan for their enlargement, which could not fail of success. From his confidence upon this occasion, D'Alegre thought him disordered in his mind, and asked him, with a sneer, where they were to get the ropes and other implements necessary to such an undertaking
“As for the ropes,” said De la Tude, “give yourself no manner of trouble: in that trunk there are twelve dozen shirts, six dozen pair of silk stockings, twelve dozen pair of under-stockings, five dozen drawers, and as many dozen of napkins; now, by unraveling these, we shall have more than enough to make one thousand feet of rope."
“True," said the other: “but how shall we remove the iron bars from the window? for without instruments it is impossible to do any thing."
De la Tude told him that the hand was the instrument of all instruments, and that men, whose heads are capable of working, are never at a loss for resources; what though neither scissors, knives, nor any edged tools, are allowed
us, have not we the iron hinges of our foldingtable, which, with patience and skill, we can make answer the same purpose ?
From this discourse D'Alegre began to entertain some hopes, and they now employed all their time and talents in the execution of this curious project. The first evening, by means of one of the hinges, they took up a tile from the floor, and after digging for six hours, found it was a double partition, as De la Tude had conjectured. They then carefully replaced the tile, and began to unravel some of the shirts, drawing them out thread by thread, and twisting them together, till they had formed a rope fifty-five feet long; this they made into a ladder, consisting of twenty-five rounds, made of the wood which was brought them for firing.
The next thing to be done was to remove the iron bars from the chimney, by which outlet they had resolved to escape; they accomplished it in about two months, and then returned them to their places, leaving them ready to be removed when they should be wanted. This appears to have been an exceedingly-troublesome operation, as they never descended from the work without bloody hands, and their bodies were so bruised in the chimney, that they could not renew their labor for an hour or two afterward. This toil over, they now set about mak
ing a wooden ladder of twenty feet long, which, as fast as it was finished, was hid with the other things between the two floors.
As the officers and turnkeys often entered the apartment in the day-time, without any previous notice, they were obliged not only to secrete their tools, but the smallest chips and rubbish that were made, the least appearance of which would have betrayed them. To answer this purpose the more effectually, they gave each of them a private name, and when any body was coming in, he who was next the door gave the cant term to the other, that he might conceal them as expeditiously as possible. When their ropes were all ready, their measure was four hundred feet; they had still to make two hundred steps for their ladders, which, when accomplished, they covered with the lining of their bed-gowns and under-waistcoats, to prevent their rustling against the walls as they descended.
These preparations cost them eighteen months' work, night and day, and they now waited for a dark, stormy night to favor their escape. At length, after a great number of difficulties, and many narrow escapes from being detected by the officers, the happy moment they had been so long expecting arrived, and De la Tude was the first to mount the chimney. Here he was almost smothered with the soot, and the blood