The Banished Man/Volume 1/Chapter 11
Il n'est, je le vois bien, malheureux sur la terre
Qui ne puisse trouvre plus malheureux que foi.
HEAVY with fogs, and cold and dreary was the morning on which D'Alonville with his two friends took leave of Vienna. United in general calamity, each had his particular sorrows. The Abbé de St. Remi had long passed his fiftieth year; and at his time of life the fatigue of a long journey, and the uncertainty of what would be his reception when he arrived at the end of it, were likely to be considerations more oppressive than they were to younger men, who could more sanguinely indulge hopes of brightening prospects and better days: the Abbé, however, instead of being the most depressed, was the most cheerful of the three.
The Marquis de Touranges, one of the first order of nobility, was about four years older than D'Alonville. Inheriting an immense fortune, from a long line of illustrious ancestors, he had never till the period of the revolution known a wish he could not immediately gratify;—at that time he was rapidly approaching the highest posts of honor and profit that a military man could obtain about the court; and hardly twelve months before the time when his sovereign was compelled to dismiss from the place he held about his person, he had married a very lovely woman. Thus forced from all that had rendered him happy, he was now one of the most miserable beings upon earth; and profiting but little from the friendly or pious remonstrances of his ancient tutor, the thoughts of what he had been and what he was, agitated his mind almost to frenzy. He now vehemently cursed the very name of liberty, which had been used only as a pretext to effectuate the change he execrated; now swore eternal vengeance against the people, the instrument used to produce it, and now sinking into the sullen dejection of despair, remained whole hours apparently unconscious of what was around him: and, reflecting on the past, dared not look forward to the future,
From this state of melancholy, as it was better than paroxysms of rage, the Abbé de St. Remi seldom endeavoured to rouse him, and either talked to D'Alonville, whose character less violent and impetuous, gave his reason more time to operate; or gibing way to reflection, he himself remained silent; and the three travellers, during their first days journey, which they made on horseback, with a servant belonging to de Touranges, and a postillion to bring back the horses frequently rode several miles without exchanging a word. In the morning, when they first left the walls of Vienna, D'Alonville could not help looking back towards them with regret. In leaving the habitation of those friends who he had once flattered himself would alleviate to him the loss of his relations and of his country—those relation and that country seemed to be a second time lost. As the morning mist cleared a little away, he turned his horse, and from a rising ground, looked earnestly and mournfully towards the public buildings of the city, which were still visible; and though silently, he seemed to take so melancholy a leave of it, that the Abbe de St. Remi, who observed him, imputed his concern to sensations very different from those by which he was really affected. The Abbé might indeed have discovered causes enough, in common with his own subject of concern, for the depressed spirits of his new acquaintance; but he imagined, that in addition to the general cause which so sensibly affected them both as Frenchmen, Vienna contained some object from whom D'Alonville was divided, without any hope of ever seeing her again; and this persuasion, together with that mild, yet manly character, which he already remarked in his young friend, created in the breast of this worthy man a warm interest in his behalf, and urged the friendly attempts he made to administer to the wounded spirits of D'Alonville consolation, which the more turbulent and irritated mind of de Touranges was not yet in a condition to receive. Late on the evening of their first days journey they arrived at a small post house, where travellers seldom remain longer than while they change horses; but though nothing could be more desolate and discouraging than the appearance of the house, situated in a wide and uncultivated plain, where the deep and barren sands hardly produced the ragged furze and scanty heath, now equally withered and brown; yet as de Touranges took it into his head to remain there all night, and the Abbe de St. Remi was enough fatigued to consider even such a resting place as considerable, D'Alonville, who cared not at any time where he lay down to sleep, readily consented. He was glad indeed of this opportunity to examine the contents of the box Madame de Rosenheim had given; he was now near forty miles from Vienna, and could open it without a breach of the promise which, though he had not given it, had been understood when it was left in his possession. De Touranges, who was not disposed to take any refreshment would have retired immediately and alone to one of the wretched rooms the house afforded; but in such a temper of mind the Abbé de St. Remi would not consent to leave him. He went with him, therefore, and by his usual humane and friendly attention endeavoured to soothe the anguish which every hour seemed to render more acute to this unhappy friend. D'Alonville sat down by the sad light of a lamp placed against a wall, and inspected the present that had been forced upon him. A valuable diamond ring, with the cypher of Madame de Rosenheim's name, was wrapt in a bill of exchange of the value of two thousand florins. D'Alonville was sensible of that delicacy with which the Baroness had at one paid the debt of gratitude that she believed was due to him, and supplied his necessities. Conscious that those necessities were owing neither to vices or follies of his own, and believing that to such a woman as Madame de Rosenheim he might be obliged without shame, he thought not of returning a present so useful, and which relieved him from the painful apprehension of being reduced to degrading exigencies in a strange land, or of being compelled to accept pecuniary assistance from his countrymen, so little able to spare it. In leaving Vienna, he hardly knew why he had preferred so long a journey through Germany, rather than adhering to his original plan of returning into France; but undecided and unadvised, his wavering resolution had been influenced by the earnestness with which de Touranges had solicited him to join the Abbé and himself in their journey to Berlin, and afterwards determined by the serious manner in which the Abbé de St. Remi had exhorted him to accompany the Marquis, even adding, when they were for a moment alone, that it would be of the most essential service to his old friend; and hinting that the circumstances of de Touranges, reduced as their were, would easily admit of his making to the Chevalier D'Alonville the difference of expence, certainly very considerable, between this journey, and what he had slightly spoken of as his intended route. D'Alonville had, however, declined any assistance of that sort, assuring the Abbé that he should not have occasion for it. This was in fact true, as far as related to his traveling expences. He had more than sufficient to carry him to Berlin; and what was to become of him afterwards he had not yet steadily reflected. The friendly present of the Baroness de Rosenheim put an end to all anxiety of that sort; and far as such a circumstance could alleviate that pain of heart which he had for many months sustained, he became more easy, and having now nothing to hope from the friendship towards which he had so fondly looked, (since he dared not even write to thank the Baroness of her present) nor any thing to fear for the immediate necessaries of life, his solicitude was of course decreased, and though he was not happier, he was more tranquil.
This was a fortunate circumstance for the Abbé de St. Remi, who after an hours absence came back into the room where D'Alonville waited for him to partake the slender supper they had bespoke, with a countenance which so forcibly expressed uneasiness, that D'Alonville eagerly enquired the cause. "Ah! my dear Sir," said the Abbé, with a deep sigh, "this poor friend of ours breaks my heart. In the severe trial under which it is the will of heaven that I should suffer in common with the whole body of French clergy, I have never yet resigned my fortitude as an individual; but the sight of de Touranges, while his mind seems every moment likely to lose its balance; while I see him now on the verge of frenzy, and now of suicide, would be so afflicting to me, that I know not if I should undertake to endure it at all, but for the assistance I hope for from you. "There are times," added he, in a tone yet more melancholy, "when I seem to have lost all the influence which my long attachment to him, and the sincere affection he knows I bear him, had given me over his mind. His situation is indeed afflicting; but it is the trying scenes of adversity that a spirit like his ought to exert itself an inferior mind might find in unworthy dejection, but of the Marquis de Touranges should rise superior to the events of life. Religion, alone my dear Chevalier; religion alone can enable any of us to do this. Yet my friend, once so well instructed in his , has trusted rather to that fallacious, that pernicious philosophy which has undone us all; and alas! what does it do to console him in this hour of bitterness?"
"I have hardly acquaintance enough with the Marquis de Tourange's affairs since we last parted," said D'Alonville, "to know why he feels in the present moment more severe affliction than so many thousand others, who are like him driven from their possessions and their country, and have in the course of those convulsions that have distracted that country, lost some of their dearest friends by death, and have seen others estranged from them by the accursed spirit of the party, or the allurements of ambition or avarice. In these misfortunes, the most dreadful perhaps that humanity can suffer, every native of France who has refused to join in the system now called republican, must, more or less, have partaken.
Every man bears his share as he can. Perhaps that of our friend may be rendered less supportable than that of the generality, by some circumstances to which I am a stranger, and which may well excuse that acute sensibility that you lament for otherwise, from what I have formerly known of Touranges, he must be greatly changed if he now shrinks from the common lot, without common fortitude."
"All is by comparison, Chevalier," answered St. Remi. "You have, in common with thousands, abandoned your country, and seen your fairest hopes of returning thither baffled; you have lost an excellent father, and you have seen your brother disgrace the name he has quitted; all these are great and severe afflictions, but they are less grievous, because you know their extent. Alas! de Touranges knows not the worst that may have befallen him, yet he knows of calamities greater even than yours."
"You have excited at once my concern and my curiosity," said D'Alonville.
"Perhaps then," resumed the Abbé, "you do not know that Madame de Touranges, the mother of our friend, was among the unfortunate prisoners of the second of September. She was an attendant on the female part of the royal family—that was her only crime. Dropping with the blood of her fellow prisoners, she twice saw the murderous dagger of the assassins at her throat, and twice she was saved as it were by miracle. By the mockery of a trial, in which she was acquitted with the same caprice that had condemned numberless other equally innocent, she was released, and under the protection of a tradesman who had received many favors from her family, she was carried more dead than alive to her house—her house was deserted; for her servants, fearing to share her fate, had quitted it, when they heard she was imprisoned. Heart struck, the unhappy Madame de Touranges now entreated her conductor not to leave her alone, exposed to the fury of ruffians, whom a desire of vengeance, or of plunder, might engage to seek her in her house and destroy her: but when the man enquired what he could do to secure her safety, or whither he should conduct her, she knew not what to answer. Her first idea was to go to a country house of her son's near Orly, four leagues from Paris, where the young Marquise de Touranges, near the time of her delivery, had for some days expected her; but the barriers were shut, and so strictly guarded, that to execute this was impossible, at least at that time. To find shelter in a convent, where she had many friends, and where she had occasionally resided, was the next hope she formed; but the person in whom she was obliged to confide, declared to her he believed that at the present juncture, any other place was more secure than a religious society, since against those, the popular vengeance was directed.—In this destracting debate so much time was wasted, without her being able to form any resolution, that her protector, who was a municipal officer, told her with great concern, that it would be impossible for him to stay with her, and hardly knowing what she did, she entreated him to afford her the protection of his house, till she would find some asylum more permanent. To this the man agreed—she put her house with all its valuable contents into his power, and by favor of the night went with him to his own house in Rue Columbier, where she remained several days, and then, when after those dreadful massacres which have filled every heart with terror and abhorrence, the general alarm had somewhat subsided, and the barriers were less strictly guarded, her humane host (who with his wife and family had showed her all the attention in their power) conducted her in a disguise, but not without considerable hazard to himself, to the villa near Orly, where she hoped to have found her daughter-in-law, and to have consulted with her on the means of securing their mutual safety. Alas! on her arriving a Beaurepaille near Orly, she found it deserted; only one of the tenants and his wife were in it, who informed Madame de Touranges, that the young Marquis had been so much alarmed on hearing of what had passed at Paris, that notwithstanding the extreme danger of undertaking a journey in such a situation, she had immediately dismissed all her servants but her own maid and one valet, and had taken post for Mante—where, the man who gave this account heard, she was stopped by the municipal guard: but he knew no more; nor could the unfortunate Madame de Touranges obtain any other intelligence.—Partly in the hope of overtaking her daughter, and partly with a view to her own safety, the elder Marquise de Touranges followed the same route, and wrote to her son from Mante, where it was said the younger lady had been arrested. This appeared not to have been true; but it was too certain that from thence she could not be traced. My poor friend has received no other letter from his mother, nor has he ever since heard of his wife. He has written he has sent a servant bribed by almost half he saved, to under take a perilous research after these two ladies, but hitherto with out success; and he would have returned at the most imminent hazard of his life, for it is certain that he is so well known that is is impossible he could escape, had not the command he held rendered it for some time impossible; and since the retreat of the army, my earnest exhortations with held him. I have represented to him the great improbability of his finding his mother and his wife, and if he found them, the impossibility of his affording them any protection.—Ah! it is far more probable that he would perish in the attempt, and draw down on these unhappy women severer calamities than they have yet experienced. It is possible they may have escaped from France, under the protection of an uncle of the younger lady's, who about the same time disappeared from the neighbourhood of Rouen, and is known to have proposed seeking an asylum in Holland or England. A nobleman of the same name, as what he has been said to have assumed, is at Berlin; and on this slender hope, aided by the conviction that by returning to France he should throw away a life that may yet be useful to them, I have prevailed upon his to begin this journey; but I now doubt whether he will ever complete it. Tormented incessantly with the most dreadful fears for the fate of his wife, his infant, and his mother, he is now half resolved to execute his first resolution, and to rush upon certain destruction by returning to France; and now he is tempted by the corroding anguish that preys upon his heart to put an end to his life and sufferings together. Unhappily he has been but to conversant with those pernicious broachers of what is falsely called Philosophy, who have for these last twenty years been fashionable; and when I recall to his mind the precept I once inculcated, and as I fondly hoped with so much success, I am answered by a quotation from Rousseau, or from some German writer whose works he admires. However I am not discouraged, and I hope much from a temper which, though not without faults, has many perfections.—I hope more from that high sense of honor that he possesses, and which surely must make him consider, that his quitting life, while his religion, his country, and his family demand it, would be an act of cowardice as unworthy his personal character as of the great men from whom he derives his descent; which is indeed as illustrious as that of any man in France."
The Abbé de St. Remi here ceased to speak; and D'Alonville, impressed with the deepest concern for his unhappy friend, whose misfortunes he allowed to be greater than his own, could only assure the Abbé, that what little he could do, during their journey, to soothe a heart thus torn with the most afflicting uncertainties, he would most cheerfully endeavour to do. The Abbé than gave him some hints of the sort of conversation he wished him to hold with de Touranges, and they soon after parted for the night, being early the next morning to set out on their second days journey towards Prague.