Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

122

The Duke of Orleans. self, who, I have no doubt, would repeat it to you, unless he might think it dangerous to do so, in the present position of affairs. The story is this:

“Robespierre, at the very outset, even on the first creation of the Constituent Assembly, directed his attention to the Duke of Orleans, and sought to make him King. But, in proportion as the revolution was consolidated, the Duke lost the advantages of his position. He had not the energy requisite for seizing the chances which presented them selves, and turning them to the best account. He, therefore, was thrust back and lost in the crowd, whilst Robespierre daily gained ground in the public opinion. The consequence was what was naturally to be expected; namely: the importance of the Duke declined, and he was no longer regarded as the leader of a party.

“The King's trial did a great deal of injury to the Duke; whilst, on the contrary, Robespierre gained, at that time, a vast accession of popularity, which he shared with Marat. To make the Prince a King, a president, or a chief of any kind, in France, was a thing no longer thought of. Nevertheless, many continued attached to him, and, as it was possible that his name might yet be serviceable, his co-operation was not to be despised. It was even probable that the Robespierrists, if united with the Orleanists, would acquire the greater ascendancy, inasmuch as all the distinguished generals of that period were inclined to side with the Duke.

“After shrewdly considering the circumstances which I have explained, Robespierre conceived his plan. A constitution was to be given to France, and two presidents were to be established; one for the war department or for foreign affairs, the other for the civil or hoine department. The first of these two posts, was to be assigned to the man who should be chosen by the majority of the people; and the second, to be filled by Robespierre. But, with the view of consolidating this arrangement, and of blending the interests of these two chiefs imposed on the Republic, Robespierre, by virtue of a pretension equally insane and arrogant, demanded as a pledge, the hand of the Princess, the sister of the Duke of Chartres. This was his ultimutum.

The Duke of Orleans.

123

“This proposition was broached by Couthon. The Duke of Orleans required a few days to reflect upon it. He im. mediately dispatched a confidential person to his eldest son with the circumstance. There is every reason to believe that the Duke de Chartres returned a negative

answer.

60

“Dumouriez, who was of course consulted, had also formed his plan, which this proposition was calculated to thwart. He hoped to conduct his aid-de-camp to the throne of Louis XVI. by another path. On the day appointed, the Duke of Orleans sent for Couthon, and told him, with affected chagrin, that his daughter's inclinations were opposed to the marriage, and, that, moreover, it would be dangerous to think of it before the execution of the plan in which he was so deeply interested, The Prince concluded by observing, that the constitution must first be proposed, then accepted, and that every thing else would become easy.

“This was a refusal; and Robespierre was furiously offended. However, as he saw that his fortune was secure, if connected with that of the Orleans branch of royalty, he made a new effort. He knew that I was on a footing of intimacy with the Prince, and he sent for me. He alleged that the Prince himself had been the first to express a wish for the alliance; and he commissioned me to point out to him the advantageous results of a consent, and the danger of a refusal. I was to commence with promises, and to end with threats.

“I acquitted myself of this unpleasant errand; though not to the satisfaction of Robespierre. The Duke of Orleans did not take much pains to conceal from me his unconquerable repugnance to his proposed son-in-law. On this occasion, he behaved as became a Prince of the blood. He turned a deaf ear to all considerations, advantageous or otherwise, which I submitted to him. When I informed Robespierre of the result of my mission, he became furiously enraged, and vowed to avenge the affront by the destruction of all the royal family-an object to which he thenceforth devoted himself. It is known how he constrained Dumouriez to raise the mask, and how he forced the Duke de Chartres to seek refuge in the ranks of the

[blocks in formation]

enemy, whilst measures were taken at home to arrest his father.

“After the Duke Orleans was conducted to Marseilles, Robespierre signified to him that his fate might yet be arrested'if he would retract his refusal to the proposed marriage. The Prince's reply was again in the negative. Then, the vengeance of Robespierre knew no bounds, and he resolved to hurry the death of the man whom he wished to make his father-in-law. When the Duke of Orleans was conducted to Paris to undergo the sentence of execution, I was commissioned to convey to him a final proposal; and I solemnly protest, before God and man, that if, at the moment when the charrette which conveyed him to the scaffold halted on the Place du Palais-Royal, the Prince had manifested any inclination to yield his consent, the execution would not have taken place. The fact is, that every arrangement had been made for a temporary insurrection, to afford the means of saving him. This was the cause of the mysterious delay of nearly an hour, in the advancement of the fatal charrette. But his Royal Highness, who manifested so much firmness throughout his trial, gave no sign of acquiescence, and Robespierre suffered him to mount the scaffold.

“Such," pursued Cambacérès, "is the story which I have heard related by Tallien. I believe it to be strictly true, with the exception, perhaps, of that which relates to the scheme for rescuing the Prince. That would have exposed Robespierre to great peril; and he was too much of a poltroon to hazard his safety so far." To the above observations of Prince Cambacérès, I

may add, that a few days after he had related the story to me, I spoke of it to Tallien. The latter positively declared it to be true, and his declaration was made in the presence of witnesses.

[ocr errors]

a

125

CHAPTER IV.

The Duke of Otranto-Police disclosures- A lady of quality in the

pay of the police-Snare laid to entrap the Polignacs-A gang of thieves betrayed- Love and Police--A mysterious billet-Fouché's rendezvous—The discreet porter-Discovery of murders committed by the Countess Polvère-Poison and somnambulismThe double lady, an optical phenomenon—The general and the Pilgrim--The brigands and the crucifix--Singular vision of Louis-Sebastian Mercier- Apparition seen by Napoleon and Josephine.

was gay

I MET the Duke of Otranto only twice or thrice during my visits to Prince Cambacérès in 1814. He and satirical, and he ridiculed, with unsparing severity the conduct of the public men of the time. But, on this latter subject, all his friends expressed themselves with equal freedom. I was frequently astonished to hear these men of the Empire relate, without reserve, the secret and even dangerous anecdotes of the era they had just closed. I should have expected they would have been more guarded. One might also have imagined the restoration had been separated by the lapse of a century from the Empire and the Republic, and that all the actors and witnesses of their anecdotes were no more; whilst, on the contrary, they were all living and on terms of intimacy with them.

The Duke of Otranto, however, who did not consider his career at an end, was somewhat more reserved than the others: but even he related many facts which, had I been in his place, I should have kept to myself. Among this number is the following. I give it in Fouché's own

[blocks in formation]

words, merely suppressing the names, which the narrator did not think it necessary to conceal.

"In the exercise of my official duties, I gave audiences of various kinds: I had even several places out of my hotel, where I received those timid persons, who were alarmed at the name of the police, though they had no objection to accept its pay. At these places, I often had interviews with persons, male and female, of different ages and conditions. Some came on foot, others in their car. riages; some disguised, and others in their own characters. On one occasion, when I was at my little political establishment, in the Rue Saint-Louis, then called the Rue de Turenne, a lady was announced.

A young and pretty female presented herself. I received her with all possible politeness. She gave me ber name; and I then recollected that I knew something,—I may say a good deal-of her. Her mother, (or as she was styled her aunt,) a lady of quality, had been a pensioner of mine since a very remote period. She had been well known in the government offices since the time of M. de Mbut at that period she performed other functions besides supplying information to the police.

“Her pretty niece, now deputed to me, commenced by narrating her history. Young as she was, she had suffered numerous misfortunes, for you know that all the spies of our police, are the most unfortunate set of people in the world: in short, the young lady had her sorrows and her wants, and no fortune. Her aunt had assured her that I would treat her with all the kindness of a father; and, in return, she promised that I should know all her secrets, and be made acquainted with all her friends. She received numerous visitors, among whom were imprudent young men, and elderly gentlemen, wanting in reserve. She mentioned to me five or six houses of the old and new régimes, into which I had never yet been able to introduce one of my agents; and to which she promised to open for me a channel of access.

“Our bargain was speedily concluded:five hundred francs per month, and a thousand francs at the expiration of a certain number of years, when my young beauty should have acquired sufficient credit and experience.

[ocr errors]

a

« ZurückWeiter »