Memoirs of Vidocq, Volume II/Chapter XIX
Continuation of the same day—The Cotemporaine—An adjutant de place—The daughters of mother Thomas—The silver lion—Captain Paulet and his lieutenant—The pirates—The bombardment—Departure of Lord Lauderdale—The disguised actress—The executioner—Henry the Ninth and his ladies—I embark—Sea-fight—Paulet's second is killed—Capture of a brig of war—My Sosia—I change my name—Death of Dufailli—Twelfth-day—A frigate sunk—I wish to save two lovers—A tempest—The fishermen's wives.
Whilst giving us the scene of the recruiters, father Dufailli had drank at every sentence. He was of opinion that words flowed best when moistened. He might, to be sure, have used water; but he had a great horror of that, he said, ever since he fell into the sea, which was in 1789. Thus it happened, that, partly through drinking and partly through talking, he got drunk imperceptibly. At last he reached a point, at which he found it impossible to express himself, but with the utmost difficulty; his tongue became what we call thick. And then the forager and serjeant-major retired.
Dufailli and I remained alone: he was asleep and leant on the table, and begun to snore; whilst I coolly gave myself up to a train of reflexions. Three hours elapsed, and he had not finished his sleep. When he awoke, he was quite surprised to find any one near him; at first, he looked at me as through a thick fog, which did not allow him to distinguish my features, but insensibly the vapour disappeared, and he recognized me, which was all he could do. He stumbled as he arose; and ordering a basin of coffee, without milk, into which he emptied a salt-cellar, swallowed the liquid with small gulps; and having got rid of his short sword, he took my arm, dragging me towards the door. My aid was most needful to him; it was the vine twining about the elm. "You are going to tow me," said he, "and I will pilot you. Do you see the telegraph? What does it say, with its arms in the air?"—"It makes signals that the Dufailli is lying to." "The Dufailli,—thousand Gods! a ship of three hundred tons at least. Do not fear; all's right with Dufailli." At the same time, without letting go my arm, he took off his hat, and placing it on the end of his finger, spun it round. "See my compass; attention—we go as the cockade points—weather the cape of the Rue des Prêcheurs; forward, march!" ordered Dufailli; and we took together the road to the lower town, after he had put on his hat with much noise.
Dufailli had promised to advise me, but he was not in a state to do it. I anxiously desired that he should recover his reason, but, unfortunately, the air and exercise produced a precisely opposite effect. On going down the main street, we were obliged to enter every public-house, with which the residence of the army had filled the place; everywhere made a stay, shorter or longer. I endeavoured to make them as brief as possible. Each shop, Dufailli said, was a port, into which we must put, and each port encreased the cargo, which he had already so much difficulty to carry. "I am as full as a beggar," said he to me, in broken words; "and yet I am not a beggar, for beggars never get drunk, do they my boy?"
Twenty times I resolved on leaving him; but Dufailli, when sober, might aid me; I remembered his full girdle, and even without that, I knew well that he had other resources than his serjeant's pay. Having reached the church in the Place d'Alton, he took it into his head to have his shoes brushed, which, when done, he lost his balance in moving from the stool; and, thinking he would fall, I approached to support him. "What, countryman, don't fear because I make a reel or two; I have a sailor's foot." In the mean time the brush had given brightness to his shoes; and when they were completely blackened, "Come, the finishing touch," said Dufailli; "or is that for tomorrow?" At the same time he gave him a sous. "You will not make a rich man of me, serjeant."—"What, do you grumble?—mind I don't kill you." Dufailli made a gesture, but his hat fell off, and, blown by the wind, rolled along the pavement; the shoe-black ran after it and brought it back. "It is not worth twopence," cried Dufailli; "never mind, you are a good fellow." Then thrusting his hands into his pockets, he took out a handful of money: "Here, drink to my health."—"Thanks, my colonel," said the shoe-black, who proportioned his titles to the generosity he met with.
"I must now," said Dufailli, who seemed by degrees to recover his senses, "lead you into good quarters." I had made up my mind to accompany him wherever he went. I had witnessed his liberality, and I was not ignorant that drunkards are the most grateful persons possible to those who give them their company. I allowed myself then to be piloted as he wished, and we reached the Rue des Prêcheurs. At the door of a new house, of elegant appearance, was a sentry and several soldiers. "This is it," said he. "What, here? Are you going to take me to the staff-major?"—"The staff-major!—nonsense; I say it is the beautiful and fair Magdelaine's; or, if you like it better 'madame quarante mille hommes' (madam forty thousand men) as they call her."—"Impossible, Dufailli, you are under some mistake."—"Oh, I see double, do I? Is not that the sentinel?" Dufailli advanced whilst speaking, and asked for admittance. "Go back," said a quarter-master, roughly; "you ought to know well enough that this is not your day." Dufailli persisted. "Go away, I tell you," said the subaltern, "or I will take you to the black hole." This threat made me tremble all over.
Dufailli's obstinacy might be fatal to me, and yet it would not have been prudent to tell him my fears; at all events not where we then were; and I therefore only made some observations to him, which were however entirely lost upon him in his present state. "Let the fellow go and be ——, the sun shines equally for us all: liberty, equality, or death," he repeated, whilst struggling to escape the hold I kept on him, that he might not commit himself in any way. "Equality, I tell you;" and in an attitude better conceived than described, he looked at me with that stupid no-meaning stare which a man has when he has 'put an enemy into his mouth to steal away his brains,' and reduce him to the level of a brute.
I was in despair, when, at the cry "Present arms!" followed by this warning, "Cannoneer, mind what you do; here is the adjutant, here is Bevignac," he suddenly seemed quite to come to himself. A shower-bath fallling from a height of fifty feet, upon a maniac's head, has not so sudden an effect in restoring his senses. The name of Bevignac made a singular impression on the soldiery, who had ranged themselves in front of the ground floor of the fair Magdelaine's house. They looked at one another without, as it seemed, daring to breathe, so much were they alarmed. The adjutant, who was a tall meagre-looking man, having arrived, began to count them, whilst he made motions with his cane. I never saw a face so deeply furrowed; on his thin and lank jaws were two small unpowdered curls; on the whole countenance might be traced a certain something, which declared that adjutant Bevignac was a perfect martinet, and determinately opposed to anything like want of discipline. Anger was visible in his face, his eyes were blood-shot, and a horrible convulsion of his jaws announced that he was about to speak. "By the devil's nest! Well! All quiet! You know orders. None but officers! By satan's nest! and every man in his turn." Then perceiving us, and advancing with uplifted cane, "What are you doing here, you serjeant of powder-monkies?" I thought he was about to strike us. "Oh, I see," he added, "it is nothing; only drunk;" addressing Dufailli. "Well, a jovial cup is excusable; go to bed, and do not let me meet you again."—"Yes, commandant," replied Dufailli, at this order, and we went away down the Rue des Prêcheurs.
There is no occasion to mention the profession of the fair Magdelaine le Picarde; it must have been already guessed. She was a tall woman, about twenty-three years of age, remarkable for the bloom of her complexion, as well as the beauty of her figure. It was her boast, that she belonged to no one person. She devoted herself, from a principle of conscience, entirely and solely to the army—the whole army—but nothing but the army: fifer or field-marshal, all who wore the uniform were equally well received by her; but she professed great contempt for what she called the snobs (pequins). There never was a citizen who could boast of her favours: she was somewhat tenacious with marines, whom she called "tar-buckets," and fleeced at pleasure, because she could not make up her mind to look on them as soldiers; and she used to say, that the navy filled her purse, and the army was her lover. This lady, whom I had occasion to visit at a subsequent period, was, for a long time, the delight of the camp, without her health being at all impaired, and was supposed to be rich. But whether Magdelaine (as I know) was not mercenary, or whether as the old proverb goes, "What is got over the devil's back is spent under his belly," Magdelaine died in 1812, at the hospital of Ardres, poor, but true to her flag: but two years more, and, like another nymph well known in Paris, after the disaster of Waterloo, she would have had the grief of calling herself the "widow of the grand army."
The memory of Magdelaine still lives all over France, I might say Europe, amongst the remnants of the old phalanxes. She was the "cotemporaine" of that period; and, if I did not well know that she is no more, I should fancy that I had again found her in the "cotemporaine" of this period. However, I must remark, that Magdelaine, although her features were rather masculine, had nothing vulgar in her look; the shade of her hair was not of the sickly hue of heckled hemp; the golden reflexion of her silken tresses was in perfect harmony with the tender azure of her eyes; her nose was not ill formed, in the angular curve of its aquiline prominence. There was something of Messalina about her mouth, but yet it was kind and frank; and, besides, Magdelaine only carried on her business: she never wrote; and, amongst all the police, only knew the city serjeants, or the night guards whom she paid to leave her in quiet.
The pleasure I have, after a lapse of more than twenty years, in tracing the portrait of Magdelaine, has made me for an instant forget Dufailli.
It is very difficult to eradicate an idea from a brain troubled with the fumes of wine. Dufailli had resolved on finishing the day in female society, and nothing could turn him from it. Scarcely had we taken half-a-dozen steps, than, looking back, "He has disappeared," said he; "come along, this way;" and, leaving my arm, he advanced towards a door, at which he knocked; and which, after a few minutes, was half opened, and an old woman's head appeared. "What do you want?"—"What do we want," answered Dufailli; "don't you know me! Do not you recognize friends?"—"Ah! ah! is it you, father Dufailli; there is no room for you." "No room for friends! You're joking, mother; you are playing off some trick upon us."—"No, on the word of an honest woman, you know, my old lad, that no one is more welcome than yourself; but my eldest daughter is engaged, and so is Pauline; but we shall be glad to see you bye and bye."—"Well, if it must be so, mother Thomas," said Dufailli, putting a piece of money on his eye, "it cannot be helped, but you must get us something to drink meanwhile; you have some little spare corner to put us into."—"Aye, aye, always a wag, always a wag, father Dufailli; it is impossible to refuse your insinuating requests. Come! quick, quick, let no one see you coming in; hide yourselves there, my boys, and mum."
Madame Thomas had placed us behind an old screen, in a low room, through which all persons going out must pass. We did not wait long alone. Mademoiselle Pauline came to us first, and, having whispered to her mother, came and sat down with us to a flask of Rhenish.
Pauline was not fifteen years of age, and yet she had already acquired the dissipated air, the bold look, the loose discourse, the hoarse voice, and the disguisting manners of the common courtezan. This early prey to dissipation was destined for my amusement, and was lavish in her endearments. Therèse was better suited to the bald head of my companion, who waited until she should be at leisure; and, at length, the quick step of a hussar boot, garnished with spurs, announced that the cavalier was taking leave of his lady fair. Dufailli, who was somewhat impatient, rose abruptly from his seat, but his short sword getting between his legs, he fell, knocking down the screen, table, bottles, and glasses. "Excuse me, captain," he stammered out, whilst endeavouring to rise; "it was the fault of the wall."—"Oh, it is of no consequence," said the officer; who, although rather confused, very readily aided in lifting him up, whilst Pauline, Therèse, and their mother, were seized with a fit of irrepressible laughter. When Dufailli had recovered his feet, the captain departed; and, as the fall had produced no bruise nor wound, nothing checked our mirth. I shall throw a veil over the remaining scenes of this evening. We were in a place where Dufailli was well known, and my readers may guess the rest; suffice it to say, that, about one o'clock in the morning, I was buried in profound sleep, when I was suddenly awakened by a most tremendous uproar. Without suspecting the cause, I dressed myself in haste, and some cries of "Guard! guard! Murder! murder!" from the shrill lungs of mother Thomas, warned me that the danger wad not far off. I was unarmed, and ran immediately to Dufailli's room, to ask for his tinder-box, of which I knew I should make a better use than he would. It was time, for our castle was invaded by five or six marines, who, sword in hand, were endeavouring to get our berths. These gentlemen were threatening, neither more nor less than to force us to jump out of the windows; and, as they swore besides, to put everything to fire and sword in the house, mother Thomas, with her squeaking pipe, was pealing the tocsin of alarm with a noise that aroused the whole neighbourhood. Although a man not easily frightened, I confess I felt a sensation of fear which I could not repress. The event, whatever it might be, would probably end seriously for me.
I was, however, determined to take a resolute part; Pauline earnestly besought me to shut myself up with her. "Fasten the bolt," said she; "I beseech you to fasten the bolt." But the garret in which we were was not impregnable. I might be blockaded; and preferred defending the approach to the place, rather than run the risk of being taken like a rat in a trap. In spite of Pauline's efforts to detain me, I attempted a sortie, and was soon engaged with the assailants. I darted amongst them from the end of a narrow gallery, and with so much impetuosity, that, before they could recover themselves, upset and thrust headlong from a ladder, by which they were attempting to gain an entrance, they were laid sprawling on the ground, bruised and wounded severely. Then Pauline, her sister, and Dufailli, to render the victory more decisive, flung upon them all that came to hand; chairs, tables, stools, and various et ceteras, to detail which would be tedious. At every missile that struck them, the enemy, prostrate on the pavement, cried out with pain and rage. In a moment the passage was filled. This nocturnal brawl could not fail to arouse all in the vicinity; and the night-guard, police agents, and patrole, entered the domicile of madame Thomas;—there must have been at least fifty men, all armed, and making a tremendous hubbub. Madame Thomas endeavoured to testify that her house was quite tranquil, but they would not hear her; and these words, some of which were pretty significant, reached our ears from the ground floor—"Take this woman off."—"Come, old ——, follow us; or shall we get a wheelbarrow to bundle you in, old duchess. Come, no nonsense." "Sweep off the whole party; take every one; seize their arms. I will teach you, you blackguards, to make a row." These words, pronounced in a provincial accent, and mixed with occasional interjections, which, like the garlic and pepper, are fruits of his country, we learnt that adjutant Bevignac was at the head of the party. Dufailli had no inclination to get into his clutches; and, as for me, I had excellent reasons for wishing to escape. "The staircase—go up the staircase, and guard the passage," roared out Bevignac. But whilst he thus bellowed and vociferated, I had time to tie a sheet to the window-bar, and the obstacles which separated us from the armed force had not been removed, when Pauline, Therèse, Dufailli, and myself, were already out of reach. This threat, "Do not trouble yourselves—I will follow you," which we heard at a distance, only moved our laughter. The danger was over.
We consulted as to where we should pass the night. Therèse and Pauline proposed that we should quit the city, and make a pastoral excursion into the country. "No, no," said Dufailli; "let us go to the Silver Lion, to Boutrois;" and this was agreed on. M. Boutrois, although it was an untimely hour, opened his doors with much politeness. "Ah," said he to Dufailli, "I learnt that you had received your prize-money, and you are both right and welcome to pay us a visit. I have some admirable claret. What will the ladies please to take? A two-bedded room, I see." At the same time M. Boutrois, armed with a bunch of keys, and with a candle in his hand, led us to the room destined for us. "You will find yourselves quite at home here. No one will disturb you; where we purvey for the lieutenant of the marine, the commandant in chief, and the commissary-general of police, you know no one dare to interfere. Madame Boutrois now, does not like a joke, so I shall take care and not say that you are not alone. Madame B. is a very good woman—a very good woman; but her manners, you see—her manners are very formal; and on this point she is strictness personified. Women here! If she only had the slightest suspicion of such a thing, she would think herself lost for ever; she has such an opinion of the sex in general! Oh, mon Dieu! must we not live with the living?—the jolly?—the vivacious? I am a philosopher myself, provided—mind, I say provided—that there is no ground for scandal; and suppose there were, why every one to his liking as the elderly gentlewoman said when she embraced her cow; every person to his own way of thinking and doing; the only point being, that it does not offend or prejudice any one."
M. Boutrois treated us to a great many more equally brilliant aphorisms; after which he told us that he had a well-stocked cellar, all of which was at out service. "As for the boiler," he added, "that at the present hour has got rather cool, but your worships have only to order, and in a brace of seconds all shall be ready." Dufailli ordered some claret, and a fire, although it was quite warm enough to have done without.
The claret was brought, five or six logs were cast on the fire, and an ample collation spread before us. Some cold poultry occupied the centre of the table, and formed the resisting point of an unprepared repast where all had been calculated for an enormous appetite. Dufailli desired that nothing should be wanting; and M. Boutrois, sure of being well paid, was most complying. Therèse and her sister devoured all with their eyes, and I was not in a bad humour for commencing the attack and carrying on the war.
Whilst I was cutting up the fowl, Dufailli tasted the claret. "Delicious, delicious!" he repeated, smacking his lips, and then began to drink heartily; and scarcely had we began to eat, than an unconquerable drowsiness nailed him to his chair, when he snored away most comfortably until the dessert came in. He then woke, crying out, "The Devil—it blows hard—where am I? Does it freeze? I feel a sort of an all-overish, I-don't-know-howishness." "Oh," cried Pauline, who took me for a sapper of the guards, "his supper has not well digested."—"The papa's legs and back are asleep," said Therèse, in her turn, and opening a sort of sweetmeat box, in which was some snuff, "Take a pinch, my venerable; that will clear your eyes." Dufailli took a pinch; and if I mention this circumstance, trifling in itself, it is because I have before neglected to say, that Pauline's sister was more than thirty, and from the simple fact that she took snuff like a lawyer or commissary's clerk, we may easily imagine that she was not in the freshness and bloom of youth and beauty.
However that may be, Dufailli made much of her; "I like the little thing," he said occasionally; "she is a good girl."—"Oh, that is nothing new," replied Therèse, "whenever a vessel anchors in our roads, I have gone through the scrutiny of all the crew; and I defy any sailor to say 'black's the white of my eye.' When one knows how to behave as one should, one—"—"The wench says right," interrupted Dufailli. "I like her because she is open, and so I will give her a good turn."—"Ah, ah, ah, cried Pauline, laughing, and then addressing me, "And you, will you give me a similar turn?"
Thus ran on our conversation, when we heard, coming from the road leading to the harbour, a body of men, whose boots made a great noise as they walked. "Captain Paulet for ever!" they cried out, "Captain Paulet for ever!" The troop soon stopped in front of the hotel. "Hallo! father Boutrois, father Boutrois!" they roared out all together. Some tried to force the door; others thumped with the knocker in a most energetic manner; some pulled the bell with incredible violence; and others threw stones at the shutters.
At this uproar I started, imagining that our asylum was to be again attacked; Pauline and her sister were not quite at ease; and at length somebody running hastily down stairs, four steps at a time, the door was opened, and there was a rush, as if the embankments of a ditch had given way. The torrent was headlong; a mixture of voices uttered sounds quite unintelligible to us. "Peter, Paul, Jenny, Eliza, house, everybody, wife, get up! By Jove, they sleep like dormice." One might have thought that the house was on fire. We soon heard doors opening and shutting; there was a noise of tables, an inconceivable uproar, a female servant who was bitterly complaining of indecent treatment, shouts of riotous laughter, and bottles rattling and breaking. Plates, dishes, and glass clashing together, and the winding up of the jack, added to the din; a chinking of money, oaths in English and French occasionally heard amidst this infernal clatter, all made the place a perfect bedlam broke loose. "By Jove it is joy, or I never heard it before," said Dufailli. "What are all these rejoicings for? What does it all mean? Have they captured the Spanish Galleons? But this is not the track for them."
Dufailli cudgelled his brain to make out the cause of all the uproar, which was to me equally inexplicable, when M. Boutrois, with a radiant face, entered, to ask leave to light a fire. "You do not know," said he, "that the 'Revanche' has just come into port. Our Paulet has been carrying on the war in his old way; is he not a fortunate fellow? A capture of three millions (francs) beneath the very cannon of Dover."—"Three millions!" cried Dufailli, "and I not there!"—"Do you hear that, sister? Three millions!" added Pauline, jumping like a young kid. "Three millions!" echoed Therèse, "I am delighted! We shall come in for a share!"—"Ah, woman, woman," interrupted Dufailli, "interest before all; you should rather think of your mother, who is perhaps at this moment in darkness and distress."—"Mother Thomas is an old ——" (what I will not sully my pages by repeating) added Therèse. "Come, that is neat, very neat," observed Boutrois, "for a daughter. 'Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long,' &c."—"I cannot swallow that three millions," said Dufailli. "Tell us, father Boutrois, all about it." Our host excused himself on the plea of business; "besides," he added, "I do not well know the particulars, and am in a great hurry."
The riot continued; I heard them ranging chairs, and the silence that followed betokened that their jaws were filled. As it was probable that there would be some suspension of these noises, I proposed that we should go to bed, which was agreed on; and as day-break was near at hand, that we might not be disturbed by the light, and make up for lost time, we drew the curtains close.
However, we were not aroused so soon as I had anticipated: sailors eat fast and drink long. Songs, which shook the very glasses, at length disturbed our repose; forty discordant voices joining in the chorus of the celebrated hymn of Roland. "Devil take the singers!" cried Dufailli, "I had the most agreeable dream;—I was at Toulon: were you ever at Toulon, old fellow? "I answered Dufailli, that I knew Toulon, but could not see what relation there could be between his agreeable dream and that city. "I was a galley-slave," he replied, "and I had just escaped." Dufailli perceived that this statement made an unpleasant impression on me, which I could not conceal. "Well, what is the matter with you countryman? I had just escaped, and that's no bad dream, I think, for a prisoner. It was only a dream, to be sure; but that is not all, for I entered amongst the corsairs, and got as much gold as I could carry."
Although I have never been superstitious, I must confess I took Dufailli's dream as a prediction on my future lot; it was perhaps a warning from heaven, to determine the course I should pursue. However, said I to myself, at present I do not deserve heaven's interposition, and perhaps I only fancy it. I soon made another reflection. It occurred to me, that the old serjeant might have been venting his suspicions of me, and the idea vexed me. I rose; and Dufailli saw that I had an air more serious than usual, "What ails you," said he, "why, you look as moping as an owl."—"Has anybody sold you pease which you cannot boil?" asked Pauline, taking me by the arm, and swinging me around to disturb my reverie. "Is he in the doldrums," enquired Therèse. "Hold your tongue," replied Dufailli, "and speak when you nave leave to do so; in the mean time, sleep, sluts, sleep, and do not move till we return."
He then beckoned me to follow him; and in obeying he conducted me to a little parlour, where we found captain Paulet and his crew, the majority of whom were drunk with wine and joy. As soon as we appeared, there was an unanimous shout of "Dufailli! Dufailli!"—"Hail to mine ancient!" said Paulet; and then offering my companion a seat beside him, added, "Anchor here my old cock, we may well say that providence is good. M. Boutrois, Boutrois, bring more 'bishops,' as if it rained wine. Come, we will have no sorrow here, from this time henceforward," he added, pressing Dufailli's hand. Paulet then looked attentively at me, and said, "I think I know you, we have met before; you have handled a marlin-spike, my hearty."
I told him that I had been on board the privateer, 'Barras,' but that I did not recollect having ever met him before. "Well, then, we will make acquaintance now. I do not know," he added, "but you look like a jolly dog—a lad for all sorts of weathers, as we say. I say, my boys, has he not the look of a hearty chap? I like the cut of his jib. Sit here, on my right hand; by my fist, what a back and loins; here are shoulders! You are just the lad for fishing for Englishmen." On finishing these words, he put on my head his red cap. "It does not look amiss on the lad," he added, with a knowing look, but in which there was much kindness.
I saw at once that the captain would not be sorry to number me amongst his crew. Dufailli, who had not yet become speechless, exhorted me most energetically to profit by the opportunity; this was the good advice he had promised me, and I followed it. It was agreed that I should go a voyage, and that the next day I should go to the owner, M. Choisnard, who would advance me some money.
It must not be doubted but that I was well received by my new comrades; the captain had placed a thousand crowns to their credit at the hotel, and many of them had other resources in the city. I never witnessed such profusion. Nothing was too dear or delicate for the privateers. M. Boutrois, to satisfy them, was compelled to put the whole city and environs in requisition, and even dispatched couriers to nourish their luxurious palates, the duration of which was not limited to a single day. It was on Monday, and my companion was not sobered by the following Sunday; as for me, my stomach and head agreed delightfully, and neither received the slightest check.
Dufailli had forgotten his promise to the ladies, and I reminded him of it; and quitting our party for a moment, I returned to them, presuming that they were growing impatient at our absence. Pauline was alone, her sister had gone to learn what was become of their mother; she soon returned, and throwing herself on the bed, she exclaimed with an air of despair, "We are undone for ever."—"What is the matter?" I asked. "We are lost," she answered, with her face bathed in tears. "Two men have been carried to the hospital with broken ribs, a guard has been wounded, and the commandant has ordered the house to be shut up. What will become of us? where can we find a home?"
"A home," said I, "you shall always find; but where is your mother?" Therèse answered that her mother was first led to the guardhouse, and afterwards to the city prison, and the report was that she would not very easily get out again.
This information gave me some uneasiness: mother Thomas would be questioned, and perhaps had already been examined at the police office, or by the commissary-general; and she doubtless had mentioned, or would mention, Dufailli's name; and if he were questioned I should be so also. It was important to prevent this; I returned with haste to concert with the serjeant the measures necessary to be pursued. Fortunately, he was not so far gone as not to hear reason. I talked only of the danger which threatened him; he understood me, and taking twenty guineas from his pocket, "Here," said he, "is wherewithal to stop mother Thomas's blabbing tongue;" and then calling a waiter to him, he gave him the money, desiring him to carry it forthwith to the prisoner. "He is the jailor's son," said Dufailli, "and has admittance everywhere; and, moreover, is a close and discreet lad."
Our messenger returned quickly, and told us that mother Thomas, though twice examined, had mentioned no names, and had received the bribe with gratitude; vowing that she was determined, if she died for it, to say nothing that could injure us; and thus I was assured that I had nothing to fear on this head. "And as to the wenches, what must we do with them?" said I to Dufailli." Oh, we must export them to Dunkirk, and I will pay the expenses," he replied; and we then returned to prepare them for their departure. At first they appeared astonished; but after some arguments, proving that it was the best method they could adopt, and that there was danger in remaining longer at Boulogne, they resolved to leave us. The next day we started them off, and the parting did not cost us much pain. Dufailli had put them well in cash, and we hoped for future meetings, &c. In fact, we did meet again at a later period, in a certain house kept by a namesake of the celebrated Jean-Bart, a female descendant of whom, in the bosom of his very country, consecrated herself to the pleasures of the rivals of her great ancestor.
Mother Thomas recovered her liberty after six months' confinement; Pauline and her sister then returning to the maternal bosom, though torn from their native soil, renewed the courses of their former lives. I know not whether they made a fortune; it is not impossible. But for want of accurate information, I here end their history, and resume my own.
Paulet and his crew had scarcely noticed our absence, before we rejoined them; we sang, drank, and eat alternately without stirring, until midnight; thus confounding all repasts in one lengthened meal. Paulet, and Fleuriot his second in command, were the heroes of the feast; physically, as well as morally, they were the perfect antipodes of each other. The former was a stout short man, strong backed, square set, with a neck like a bull; wide shoulders, a full face, and his features like that of a lion, his aspect either fierce or gentle; in fight he was pitiless, elsewhere he was humane and compassionate. At the moment of boarding he was a perfect demon; in the bosom of his family, and with his wife and children, except a little roughness of manner, he was as mild as a dove; then he was the jolly, simple, bluff, and rough farmer; a perfect patriarch, whom it was impossible to discern in the pirate. Once on shipboard, his manners and language entirely changed, and he became harsh and coarse to excess; his will was as despotic as that of an oriental pasha; abrupt and rude, he had an iron arm and will, and woe to him who opposed either. Paulet was a daring and good man, sensible though brutal; no one ever possessed more frankness and loyalty.
Paulet's lieutenant was one of the most singular beings I ever met with: endowed with a most robust constitution, although yet very young, he had tried it with every sort of excess; he was one of those libertines who by dint of anticipating the pleasures of life's stores, spends his revenue before he gets it, eats his calf in the cow's belly. Headstrong, with vivid passions, and a heated imagination, he had early abandoned himself to premature excesses. He had not reached his twentieth year, when the decay of his lungs, together with an universal sinking of his whole frame, had compelled him to quit the artillery, into which he had entered at eighteen years of age; and now this poor fellow had scarcely a breath of life in him; he was frightfully thin; two large eyes, whose blackness made more apparent the melancholy paleness of his complexion, were apparently all that remained of this carcase, in which, however, was a soul of fire. Fleuriot was not ignorant that his days were numbered. The most able physicians had pronounced his sentence of death, and the certainty of his approaching dissolution had suggested to him a strange resolution. This is what he told me upon the subject: "I served," said he, "in the fifth regiment of light artillery, where I was entered as a volunteer. The regiment was quartered at Metz. A gay life and hard work had exhausted me, and I was as dry as parchment. One morning the turn-out was sounded, and we set off. I fell sick by the way, and received an hospital order; and a few days afterwards, the doctors, seeing that I spit blood abundantly, declared that my lungs were not m a state to be subjected to the exercise of a horse, and consequently I was advised to enter the foot artillery; and scarcely was I well, when I did so. I left one berth for another, the small for the large, the six for twelve, the spur for the spatterdash. I had no longer to gallop hard, but I had to turn my body about on the platform; to jump up and down like a goat, to roll gun-carriages about, to dig trenches, to strap up artillery geer, and, worse than that, to carry on my back the infernal knapsack, that eternal calf's skin which has killed more conscripts than the guns of Marengo. The calf's skin gave me a knock-down blow. I could not resist its attack. I offered myself to the depôt, and was admitted. I had only to undergo the inspection of the general. He was that martinet Sarrazin. He came to me. 'I will wager that he is still weak-chested: are you not?' 'Consumption in the second degree,' replied the major. 'Is it so? I thought it. I said so. They are all narrow-shouldered, hollow-chested, lanky limbed, thick visaged. Show your legs. Why there are four campaigns in them yet,' continued the general, striking me on the calf. 'And now what would you? Your dismissal? You shan't have it. Besides,' he added, 'death only comes to him who pauses: go your way.' I wished to speak. 'Begone,' repeated the general, 'and be silent.'
"The inspection concluded; I went and threw myself on my camp-bed, and whilst I reclined on my four-feet-long mattrass, reflecting on the harshness of the general, it occurred to me that I might find him more tractable if I were recommended by one of his brother officers. My father had been intimate with general Legrand, who was then at the camp at Ambleteuse, and I thought I might find a protector in him. I saw him, and he welcomed me as the son of an old friend, gave me a letter to Sarrazin, and sent one of his aide-de-camps to attend me. The recommendation was pressing, and I made sure of success. We arrived at the camp, and making for the general's abode, a soldier pointed it out to us, and we found ourselves at the gate of a dilapidated barrack, which bore no marks of being a general's residence; no sentinel, no inscription, no centry-box. I knocked with my sabre-hilt, and a voice cried 'Enter,' with the accent and tone of displeasure. A packthread, which I pulled, drew up a wooden latch, and the first object that met our eyes on penetrating this asylum, was a woollen covering, under which, lying side by side on the straw, were the general and his negro. In this posture he gave us audience. Sarrazin took the letter, and having read it, without changing his position, he said to the aide-de-camp: 'General Legrand takes an interest in this young man. Well, what would he have? that I put him on half-pay? Oh! he cannot think such a thing.' Then addressing me—'How much fatter should you be, if I put you on half-pay? Oh, you have a fine prospect at home: if you are rich, to die gradually with over-nursing; if you are poor, to encrease the misery of your parents, and finish your days in an hospital. I am a doctor for you: and my prescription is a bullet, and then your cure will follow; if you escape that, the knapsack will do for you, or marching and exercise will put you to rights; these are additional chances. Besides, do as I do, drink tar-water: that is worth all your jalaps, and gruels, and messes.' At the same time, he stretched out his arm, he seized a large pitcher, which was near him, and filled a can, which he offered to me, and all refusal was in vain. I was compelled to swallow some of the nauseous stuff, as was also the aide-de-camp; the general drank after us, and his negro, to whom he handed the can, finished what was left.
"There was then no hope of his recalling the decision against which I had appealed, and we withdrew greatly discontented. The aide-de-camp returned to Ambleseuse and I to Fort Chatillon, which I entered more dead than alive. From this moment I became the prey to an apathetic sadness, which absorbed all my faculties: I then obtained an exemption from service: night and day I remained on my couch, indifferent to all around me; and I think I should have remained in that position till now, if one winter's night the English had not determined to burn our flotilla. An inconceivable fatigue, although I did nothing, seizing on my senses, had induced a profound sleep. Suddenly I was aroused by the report of cannon. I arose, and through the panes o£ my window, I saw a thousand fires crossing each other in the air. On one side were immense trains of fire like rainbows; on the other side were vast stars, which seemed to grow larger and redder, and my first idea was that I saw fireworks. At length a noise like that of torrents, which precipitate themselves in cascades from the tops of rocks, gave me a sort of shuddering feeling: at intervals darkness usurped the place of the ruddy light, which I can only compare to daylight in hell. The very earth seemed scorched by it. I was already agitated by fever, and I thought my head was swelling larger and larger. The muster-call was beaten, I heard the cry 'To arms!' and on the ground the trampling of horses feet. Terror siezed me, and delirium possessed me. I got my boots, and tried to pull them on; it was impossible; they were too tight, my legs were entangled in them; I tried to pull them off again; I could not. During my exertions each moment increased my fears, all my comrades were dressed; the silence which reigned about me warned me that I was alone, and whilst, from all parts, persons were running together, without thinking of the inconvenience of my boots, I fled with haste across the country, carrying my clothes under my arms.
"Next day I reappeared amidst all the people whom I found living. Ashamed of a cowardice at which I was myself astonished, I had trumped up a story, which, if I could ensure belief, would have given me the reputation of a hero. Unfortunately the tale was not swallowed so easily as I could have desired; no one was the dupe of my lies: sarcasms and rude jokes without end were thrown out, until I almost burst with spite and rage; in any other circumstances I would have fought the whole regiment, but I was in a state of weakness, from which I did not rouse till the following night, when I recovered a little of my wonted energy.
"The English had again commenced the bombardment of the city, and were so close to the shore, that we could even hear their voices, and the balls of the thousand cannons on the coast passed over their heads. Moveable batteries were then erected, which to approach them as closely as possible, floated according to the ebb and flow of the tide. I was ordered to the command of a twelve-pounder, which having stationed at the extremity of the rafts, we anchored. At that very moment, a shower of bullets were directed at us: our howitzers were observed under the waggons, and amongst the horses. It was evident that in spite of the obscurity of the night, we had become an object of aim to the enemy. We were about to return the compliment, and had altered the level of our gun, when my corporal, almost as much alarmed as I had been the previous evening, desirous of seeing if the trunnions had got loose in shifting the gun, placed his hand on them, and suddenly uttered a piercing shriek which was re-echoed all along the bank. His fingers were crushed beneath twenty hundred weight of metal. He attempted to disengage them, but the incumbent mass only pressed the more heavily, and he was still held fast, and when enabled to disengage himself he fainted. A dram of brandy revived him, and I offered to lead him to the camp, which was no doubt set down as a pretext for absenting myself.
"The corporal and I walked away together; but the moment of entering the artillery warren, which we had to cross, a burning hand grenade fell between two chests filled with powder. The danger was imminent, and in a few seconds the whole ammunition would have blown up. By running away I could have escaped safely, but a change came over me, and death was no longer fearful. Quicker than lightning I seized on the metal tube whence brimstone and fiery matter were escaping, and attempted to extinguish the flame; but this being impossible, I carried it in my hand, blazing as it was, to a distance; and the instant I threw it on the earth, it burst with a violence that shivered the metal to pieces.
"There was a witness of this deed; my hands, my face, my burnt garments, the sides of the powder boxes already blackened with fire, all testified my courage. I might have been proud, but I was only satisfied: my companions would henceforward have no right to taunt me with their offensive jokes. We went onwards, and scarcely had we advanced a single step, when the whole atmosphere seemed one blaze of fire; the flames appeared in seven places at once, and the brilliant and horrible light seemed at the harbour: the slates cracked, whilst the roofs were burning, and we thought we heard the report of musquetry. Some detachments, deceived by this, scoured about to discover the enemy. Nearer to us, at a short distance from the ship building yard, clouds of smoke and flame rose from a thatch, whence the burning straw was driven in all directions by the wind. We heard a cry of distress—the voice of a child—which struck to my heart; it was perhaps too late, but I determined to attempt its rescue, and succeeded in restoring the infant to its mother, who having left it for an instant, was returning to it in an agony of distress.
"My honour was now redeemed, and cowardice could no longer be charged upon me. I returned to the battery, when every person congratulated me. A chief of a battalion promised me a cross, which, he had, however, been unable to procure for himself for forty years, because he had always had the bad luck to get always behind, and never in front of, the cannon, was now in a fair way of getting renown, and opportunities presented perpetually. There were mediators appointed between England and France to negociate for peace. Lord Lauderdale was in Paris as plenipotentiary, when the telegraph announced the bombardment of Boulogne, which was but the second act to the attack of Copenhagen. At this information, the emperor, indignant at a causeless renewal of hostilities, sent for lord L., reproached him with the perfidy of his cabinet, and ordered him to quit France instantly. A fortnight afterwards, lord Lauderdale arrived here at the Canon d'Or. He was an Englishman, and the exasperated people were desirous of revenging themselves on him: they surrounded him, mobbed him, and pressed upon him; and in defiance of the protection of two officers who were attending him, they showered stones and mud upon him from all sides. Pale, trembling, and faltering, the peer thought he was about to fall a sacrifice, when sword in hand, I cleared my way through the rabble, crying 'Destruction to whoever strikes him!' I harangued the multitude, dispersed them, and led the way to the harbour, where, without being subjected to further insult, he embarked on board a flag of truce boat. He soon reached the English squadron, which the next evening renewed the bombardment. The following night we were again on the shore, and at one o'clock the English, after throwing a few Congreve rockets, suspended their firing; and I, worn out with toil, threw myself on a gun carriage, and slept soundly. I know not how long my sleep lasted, but when I awoke I was up to my neck in water, my blood was frozen, my limbs stiffened, and my sight and memory bewildered. Boulogne had changed its situation, and I took the fire of the flotilla for that of the enemy. It was the commencement of a lengthened malady, during which I obstinately refused to go to the hospital. At length I was convalescent; but as I only recovered slowly, I was again named for the half-pay, and this time was reduced against my own wish; for I had now adopted the opinion of general Sarrazin.
"I had no longer any wish to die in my bed, and applying to myself the sense of the words, 'There is only death for him that pauses,'—that I might not pause, I commenced a career in which, without too painful labours, there is a never-ceasing activity requisite. Persuaded that I have but a short time to live, I am determined to employ that time. I have turned privateer, and what risk do I run? I can but be killed, and have but little to lose; in the mean while I want for nothing, emotions of every sort; perils and pleasures; and now I never pause."
The reader will now judge what sort of men were captain Paulet and his lieutenant. Scarcely had this latter a breath left in his body, and yet in fight, as everywhere else, he was the leader. Sometimes he was lost in dull thought, whence he roughly aroused himself, his head giving the impetus to his system, and he evinced a turbulence which was restrained by no bounds. There was no extravagance, no wild sally of which he was not capable; and in this reckless state of excitation, all was dared by him. He would have scaled heaven itself. I cannot tell all the pranks he played at the first banquet to which Dufailli had presented me. Sometimes he proposed one scheme, sometimes another; at length he bethought him of the theatre. "What do they play to night?"—"'Misanthropy and Repentance.'" "I prefer the 'Two Brothers.' Comrades! which of you is in a snivelling mood? The captain weeps every year at his festival, we fellows know nothing of such joys. They are confined to the fathers of families? Do you ever go to the play, captain? You should go; for there will be all the world there. All the fashionables, shrimp girls in silken gowns; the nobility of the land. Oh God! heaven itself is struck to see sows in ruffles. Never mind; these ladies must have their play, though it would be as well if they understood French. Oh, do so and see them. I remember some ladies at the last ball, who being asked to dance answered 'I'm axed already.'"—"Come, come, will you never hold your gabble?" said Paulet to his lieutenant, whom none of the men had interrupted. "Captain," he replied, "I have made a motion, and no one has answered me; nobody wants to snivel. Well, good by; I will go and blubber alone."
Fleuriot immediately went out, and the captain then commenced his eulogy. "He has," said he, "a burning brain, but for courage he is not equalled by any man under heaven." He then informed us how he was indebted to the daring of Fleuriot for the capture he had just made. The recital was animated and well told, in spite of Paulet's manner, who had a strange way of pronunciation, and who informed us that he had knocked out the brains of a dozen Englishmen with a hand-spike. The evening advanced, and Paulet, who had not seen his wife and children, was about to retire, when Fleuriot returned. He was not alone. "Captain," said he, entering, "what think you of this agreeable sailor I have just engaged? I think that red cap was never placed over a prettier countenance."—"True," replied Paulet, "but is it a cabin-boy you have brought us? He has no beard. Parbleu!" he added, raising his voice, "it is a woman!" Then continuing, with more strongly expressed astonishment, "If I am not mistaken, it is the Saint ——"—"Yes," replied Fleuriot, "it is Eliza, the amiable and better half of the manager of the company which now enchants Boulogne; she has come to congratulate us upon our late good fortune."—"Madame amongst privateers!" said the captain, casting on the disguised actress a look of contempt but too expressive of his thoughts. "I compliment her taste; she will hear agreeable conversation; the devil must possess her! A woman, too!"—"Come, come, captain," cried Fleuriot, "privateers are not cannibals, they will not eat her up. Besides, you know, the old ditty:
'She loves a laugh; she loves a glass;
'She loves a song; a jolly lass.'
What harm is there in it?"—"None; only the season is propitious for a cruise; my crew are all well, and we were in no want of madame to improve their health." At these words, significantly uttered, Eliza cast her eyes on the ground. "My dear girl, do not blush," said Fleuriot, "the captain is only jesting."—"Not I, by Neptune; I never jest; I remember the Saint Napoleon, when the whole staff, beginning with marshal Brune, was in commotion; there was no small battling in that day: madame knows all about it, the how, the when, the why, and the wherefore, and will not wish me to be more explicit."
Eliza, humbled by this language, did not repent however of having accompanied Fleuriot; during her agitation, she attempted to justify her appearance at the 'Lion d'Argent' with that softness of tone, those insinuating manners, that mildness of countenance, which seem so foreign to licentious behaviour; she talked of admiration, glory, valour, heroism, &c., that she might make way in Paulet's estimation; she appealed to his gallantry, and called him a 'chevalier Français.' Flattery has more or less influence over every mind, and Paulet's language became more polished; he excused himself as well as possible, obtained Eliza's pardon, and took leave of his comrades, recommending them to amuse themselves, though there was no fear of growing dull. As for me, I could not keep my eyes open, and I went to my bed, where I heard and saw nothing. Next day I arose, recruited and in spirits, and Fleuriot took me to the owner, who, on the strength of my appearance, advanced me a few five-franc pieces. A week afterwards, seven of our comrades were in the hospital. The name of the actress. Saint ——, had disappeared from the play-bill, and we learnt that she had profitted by the offer of part of a post-chaise, belonging to a colonel who, tormented by a thirst of gaming even to the risking the very epaulets of his uniform, had gone off express to Paris.
I awaited with anxiety the moment of our embarkation. The five-franc pieces of M. Choisnard were spent, and if they allowed me to live, they scarcely permitted me to cut any figure; besides, on shore I daily ran the risk of some unpleasant rencontre. Boulogne was infested with a great many bad fellows: Mansui, Tribout, Salé, were carrying on their trade in the port, where they despoiled the conscripts under the orders of another thief named Canivet, who, in the face of the army and its commander, ventured to call himself the Decapitator (bourreau des crânes.) I think I still see the legend on his police-cap, where were depicted a death's head, swords, and thigh-bones crossed. Canivet was the collector, or rather lord paramount, and had a large number of sub-agents, cabin-boys, and petty fellows who payed him a tax for the privilege of thieving: he watched them incessantly, and if he suspected them of deceiving him, he generally chastised them with his sword. I thought it likely that in this gang there might be some fugitive from the gallies, and I feared recognition. My apprehensions were the better founded, as I had heard a report that many freed galley slaves had been placed either in the corps of sappers, or that of the military workmen in the fleet.
For some time nothing was talked of but murders, assassinations, robberies; and all those crimes were evidences of the presence of hardened villains, amongst whom, perchance, might be some with whom I had compulsorily associated when at Toulon. It was absolutely necessary to avoid them; for to come again in contact would have given me much trouble, from the difficulty of not compromising myself. Robbers are like women; when we would escape their vices and their society, all league against us to prevent it; all seek to retain the comrade who would fly from evil; and it is a glory for them to keep him in the abject state whence they themselves wish not to be emancipated, nor would allow others to escape; I recalled to mind the comrades who denounced me at Lyons, and the motives that induced them to have me apprehended. As my experience was fresh, I was very naturally inclined to profit by it, and be on my guard; and consequently went into the streets as seldom as possible, and passed nearly all my time in the lower town, at madame Henri's, where the privateers boarded, and were accommodated with credit on the strength of their perspective prizes. Madame Henri, supposing she had ever been a wife, was now a good-looking widow, and still attractive, though she owned to thirty-six: she had two charming girls, who, without forgetting themselves, yet gave hopes to every jolly lad whom fortune favoured. Whoever spent his money in the house was a welcome guest, and he who squandered most was always first in estimation with the mother and daughters, as long as his profusion lasted. The hand of these girls had been promised twenty times; twenty times had they been betrothed, and yet their reputations for virtue had never been blown upon. They were free in conversation, but reserved in manners; and although their purity of mind was not unsullied, yet no one could boast of having induced them to commit a faux-pas. Yet how many naval heroes had been subdued by the power of their charms! How many aspirants, deceived by their unmeaning coquetries, had flattered themselves on a predilection which was to lead them to so much bliss! And then, how could one not be mistaken as to the real sentiments of these chaste Dianas, whose perpetual amiability seemed to give the preference to the person last looked upon? The hero of to-day was feasted, fondled; a thousand little attentions were evinced, certain little peculiar privileges permitted,—a kiss, for instance, on the sly; a seducing glance of the eye: economical advice was freely bestowed, whilst seeking to procure something extravagant; they regulated the expenditure of his money, and as funds grew low, which was a matter of course, they learned the fact of approaching penury by the well-timed proffer of a temporary loan; it was rarely refused, and without evincing indifference or disgust, they only expected that necessity and love would send the inamorato to seek new perils. But scarcely was the wind in the sail of the ship of the lover, and he was calculating the happy chances which would ultimately lead to a marriage, and the small loan which he had vowed to return an hundred fold, when already was his place filled by some other fortunate mortal; so that in madame Henri's house, the lovers were constantly succeeding each other, and her two girls were like two citadels, which, always besieged, and always on the point of surrender in appearance, yet never yielded. When one raised the siege, another attacked the spot; there was illusion for all, and nothing but illusion. Cecile, one of madame Henri's daughters, had passed her twentieth year; she was a merry one, a great laugher, and would listen without blushing to the broadest joke; and denied only the final surrender of the fort. Hortense, her sister, was much like her, only younger, and her character more natural; she sometimes said strange things; but it seemed as if honey and orange-flower water flowed in the veins of these two females, for they were so mild and gentle on all occasions. There was no inflammable material in their hearts, although they showed no repugnance to a pressing proposal, and evinced no astonishment at the familiarity of a sailor; yet, be it said, they did not the less deserve the surname bestowed on the shepherdess of Vaucouleurs, as well as on a little town of Picardy.
It was at the fire-side of this amiable family that I seated myself for a month, with a constancy that astonished myself, dividing my hours between piquet, cribbage, and mild ale. The inactivity of my life was irksome, but at last it ceased: Paulet was desirous of resuming his cruise, and we set sail; but the nights were not dark enough, and the days had become too long. All our captures were limited to a few poor coal-brigs, and a sloop of no value; on board which we found lord Somebody, who, in the hopes of regaining his appetite, had undertaken a sea voyage, accompanied by his cook. He was sent to spend his money and eat his trout at Verdun.
The dull season was at hand, and we had as yet made no prizes. The captain was as moody and dull as a country whipping-post. Fleuriot was entirely out of patience, swore and raved from morning till night, and from night till morning was in a tempest of rage; all the crew were quite out of sorts (to use a vulgar expression), and I think we were all in a humour which would have led us on to attack a first-rate man-of-war. It was midnight, and we had just left a small bay near Dunkirk, and were steering towards the English coast, when, by the light of the moon, which bursting forth from the thick clouds, cast her brilliant rays on the waves, at a short distance we saw a sail. It was a brig of war which was ploughing the glittering wave. Paulet instantly discerned it. "My lads," he cried, "it is our own; every man lie down on his face, and I will answer for our success." In an instant we boarded her. The English crew fought bravely, and a bloody struggle ensued on the deck. Fleuriot, who according to custom was the first to board, fell amongst the number of the dead. Paulet was wounded, but was avenged; and well avenged his lieutenant also. He struck down all who faced him, and never did I witness such a scene of slaughter. In less than ten minutes we were masters of the ship, and the tri-coloured flag was hoisted in the place of the red flag. Twelve of our crew had fallen in the action, in which an equal desperation was testified on both sides.
Amongst those who fell was one Lebel, whose resemblance to me was so striking, that it daily caused the most singular mistakes. I called to mind that my "Sosia" had regular credentials, and it occurred to me that I should do wrong to let slip so favourable an opportunity. Lebel had become food for the fishes, and consequently had no farther need of a passport, which would stand me in the greatest stead.
The idea appeared to me admirable. I only had one cause of fear, which was that Lebel might have left his pocket-book with the owner of the privateer. I was overjoyed at discovering it about his person, and immediately took possession of it without being discovered by any person; and when they threw into the sea the sacks of sand in which the dead bodies were put that they might the more readily sink, I felt myself lightened of a great weight, thinking that at length I had got rid of that Vidocq who had played me so many scurvy tricks.
However, I was not completely assured, for Dufailli, who was our master-at-arms, knew my name. This circumstance annoyed me; and that I might have nothing to dread from him, I determined to let him into my secret by some pretended confidence. My precaution was useless. I called for Dufailli and sought him in every part of the vessel, but found him not; I went on board the 'Revanche' and looked for him, called to him, but no answer was given; I went down to the powder room, but no Dufailli. What could have become of him? I went to the spirit room; near a barrel of gin and some bottles I saw an extended body; it was he. I shook him, turned him on his back—he was breathless—livid—dead.
Such was the end of my protector: a congestion of the brain, a sudden apoplexy, or instantaneous choking caused by intoxication, had terminated his career. Since the first creation of marine serjeants, never was there one who got drunk with such consistent regulalarity and unremitting perseverance. A single trait characterised him, and this prince of drunkards related the circumstance as the most delighful event of his life. It occurred on Twelfth-day. Dufailli had drawn king; and to honour his royalty, his comrades seated him on a handbarrow borne by four gunners. On each side of him were placed bottles of brandy for distribution; and elevated on this temporary palanquin, Dufailli made a halt before every booth in the camp, where he drank, and made others drink, amidst overwhelming shouts. These rejoicings were so often repeated, that at last his head became giddy; and his ephemeral majesty, introduced to a public house, swallowed without scarcely tasting it, a pound of bacon, which he mistook for Gruyère cheese. The meat was indigestible; and Dufailli, conducted back to his barrack, threw himself on his bed, when he soon begun to experience a most violent convulsion of the stomach, and in vain did he strive to repress the event that followed. The crisis over, he fell asleep, and was only awakened from his lethargic stupor by the growling of a dog and the noise of a cat, who were quarrelling in his room! O dignity of human nature, where wert thou! Such was the lesson of temperance which the Spartans gave their children, by making their slaves drunken, and then pointing out the effect of their excesses to them.
I have delayed an instant, to give the last and finishing touch to my fellow-countryman. He is no more. Peace be to his manes! Returned on board the brig, where Paulet had left me with the captain of the prize and five men of the crew of the 'Revanche,' scarcely had we closed the hatchways on our prisoners, than we begun coasting our way into Boulogne; but some reports of the cannon fired by the English before we had boarded, had summoned one of their frigates, which bore down upon us, crowding all sail; and was soon so near that several shots passed over us, and we were pursued as far as Calais, when the swell of the sea becoming very great, and a stormy wind blowing on shore, we thought she would sheer off for fear of getting amongst the breakers; but she was no longer under control, and driven towards land had to contend at once with all the violence of the elements. To run aground was her only chance of safety, but that was not attempted. In a moment the frigate was impelled beneath the cross fires of the Batteries de la Côte de Fer, of the jetty, and of Fort Rouge; and from every quarter there came a shower of bombs, chain-shot and grape. Amidst the horrible noise of a thousand shots, a cry of distress was heard, and the frigate sank without any possibility of succour being afforded.
An hour afterwards it was daylight; and in the distance we saw several fragments floating. A man and woman were tied to a mast, and waved a handkerchief, which we saw just as we were doubling Cape Grenet. I thought we could rescue these unfortunate beings, and proposed the attempt to the commander of the prize; and on his refusal to allow us the use of the jolly-boat, in a rage, I threatened to break his skull. "Well," said he, with a disdainful smile, and shrugging his shoulders, "captain Paulet is more humane than you; he has seen them, but does not stir about it because it is useless. They are there, and we are here, and every one for himself in bad weather; we have suffered quite loss enough, if it were only Fleuriot."
This answer restored me to my natural coolness, and made me understand that we ourselves were in greater danger than I had imagined. In fact, the waves evinced it; over our heads were gulls and divers, mingling their piercing cries with the shrill whistling of the north wind; in the horizon, darkening more and more, were long black and red streaks; the face of heaven was disfigured, and all betokened the impending tempest. Fortunately, Paulet had skilfully calculated time and distance; we failed in reaching Boulogne harbour, but found shelter and anchorage at Portel, not far from thence. On going ashore here, we saw lying on the strand the two unfortunates whom I would have succoured; the flow of the tide had cast them lifeless on a foreign shore, on which we gave them burial. They had been lovers perhaps, and I was touched at their fate; but other cares diminished my regrets. All the population of the village, women, children, and old men, were assembled on the coast. The families of a hundred and fifty fishermen were in despair at seeing their frail barks fired upon by six English ships of the line, whose solid hulks were furrowing the waves. Each spectator, with an anxiety more easily imagined than described, followed with his eyes the bark in which he was most interested, and, according as it was sunk or escaped from peril, were cries, tears, lamentations, or transports of rapturous joy evinced. Mothers, daughters, wives, and children, tore their hair, rent their clothes, threw themselves on the earth, uttering imprecations and blasphemies. Others, without reflecting how much they insulted distress, without thinking of rendering thanks to heaven, towards which their suppliant hands had been raised the instant before, danced, sung, and, with faces shining through forgotten tears, manifested every symptom of the most overpowering joy. Fervent vows, the patronage of Saint Nicholas, the efficacy of his intercession, all was forgotten. Perhaps, next day, recollection might have returned, and a little more compassion been evinced for a suffering neighbour; but during the storm egotism was paramount; and, as I was answered, "every one for himself."
- This alludes to a work recently published in Paris, called 'Mémoires d'une Cotemporaine.'—Translator.
- The 'Stranger' of the English Stage.—Translator.
- The name had dearly escaped my pen; but the husband of the lady in question has been for some time manager of one of our theatres in the capital. He is living, and my discretion will be commended.