Front Page Titles (by Subject) FRENCH WINES AND POLITICS. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 4
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FRENCH WINES AND POLITICS. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 4 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 4.
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FRENCH WINES AND POLITICS.
It was on a glorious afternoon in July, 1788, that an Englishman, named Steele, landed on the banks of the Garonne, a few miles south of Bordeaux, whence he had come up in a boat on an excursion of part business, part pleasure. Steele was settled as a factor at Bordeaux, and his business was to purchase wines from the growers, and ship them to his employers in England. His occupation had brought him acquainted with almost every vine-grower within fifty leagues of Bordeaux; and in the case of one of these, Antoine Lnyon, the acquaintance had ripened into a friendship. Antoine was part owner of some vineyards on the western bank of the Garonne, one of which produced claret of a singular'y, fine quality,—too good to command an advantageous sale at Paris, where second and third-rate wines are in nearly equal esteem with the first. The produce of this small and rich vineyard was therefore set apart for English sale, and had been bargained for by the house which Steele represented, and the terms agreed upon for the vintage of the five next seasons. Other vineyards belonging to the same parties touched upon this peculiarly favoured one; but not all the care and pains that could be taken availed to make their produce better than second or third rate. Their aspect was a little more to the east and less to the south; they were not so perfectly sheltered behind; and no art could temper their soil to the exact point of perfection enjoyed by La Haute Favorite, as this distinguished vineyard was called. Their produce was, however, as valuable as that of most of the estates around, and was in good esteem at Paris, where Antoine's partner, his brother Charles, was settled as a wine-merchant; and where he bestowed as much pains on the maturing of the stock in his cellars as Antoine did on its first ripening in the form of grapes, or their friend Steele on the processes of fining, racking, and mixing, which were carried on at his employers' depôt at Bordeaux. Much care and skill were required in all these departments of business; and the young men were exemplary in both, pursuing their occupation as a matter of taste as well as of necessity. Steele watched the thermometer in his cellars as carefully as Antoine observed winds and clouds; and their common interest in the welfare of Favorite quickened their friendship, in one way among many, by occasioning more frequent meetings than, they would otherwise have thought practicable. Many a trip to Bordeaux did Antoine contrive to ascertain the effects of heat or cold on the wines in their third or fourth season; or to give the alarm if he heard rumours of buildings being pulled down or erected so near the premises as to have any influence over the temperature within: and during the summer, Steele was wont to go up the river on Saturdays, and spend the Sunday with his friend Antoine for the avowed purpose of paying his devoirs to La Favorite.—There was much to tempt him to these excursions, if wine had made no part of his interest, for a fairer territory than that through which the Garonne held its course was seldom seen. There were harvests of a more picturesque growth than even those which embellished the vineyards. Interspersed with the meadows which sloped down to the river, were groves of olives and forests of chestnuts, and in due season, the almond trees put forth their pink blossoms amidst the dark shadows of the evergreen woods. Boats heavily laden with the merchandise of the Levant, brought hither by means of the grand Languedoc canal, passed down the blue and brimming river, or returned, borne rapidly on the tide, and empty of all but the boatmen in their red jackets, whose snatches of song reached the shore on the fragrant breeze. The cottages of the peasantry were indeed few, and comfortless in appearance; but the chateaux of the gentry arose here and there, not half buried in woods, like English mansions, but conspicuous on terraces, and rendered in some degree imposing by the appliances of art, which did not, however, in the eye of the Englishman, compensate for the natural attractions which a fine taste would have gathered round them. Even stone balustrades and fountains, and artificial terraces, however, as long as they were intermixed with corn-fields and olive groves, had charms for one whose residence was commonly in the city; and in process of time, he began to contemplate the chateau of the marquis de Thou, which commanded the vicinity of Antoine's residence, with something of the admiration, though with nothing of the awe, with which it was regarded by the peasantry round.
Whether this admiration was increased or lessened by the glimpses he occasionally obtained of its inhabitants, he could himself have hardly determined. The first time he saw the marquis he was moved to laughter; but then the marquis was alone (except the laquais in his rear) sitting bolt upright on his horse, with his enormous qucue reaching down to the little skirts of his coat, and his large light blue eyes and pursed-up mouth giving a ludicrous mixture of vacancy and solemnity to his countenance. But when the marquis de Thou was seen parading the terrace with his beautiful daughter, the lady Alice, by his side, or following the sports of the field with a train of the noblesse, assembled in all the grandeur of feudal array, he who looked insignificant in his individuality gathered some advantage from the grace or splendour around him. He was regarded as the father and protector of the fair creature who seemed to tread on air within the vast circumference of her hoop, and whose eyes shone forth from beneath her enormous headdress like glow-worms in a thicket; and again, the marquis was the host of the wealthy and the gay who held sway in the land which was for ever boasting its own likeness to Paradise: so that, in time, the marquis became mixed up with his connexions even in the mind of the Englishman; and instead of laughing, Steele learned to uncover and bow low at the approach of the great man, in the same manner as Antoine. If he had known as much as the natives of the territory of certain deeds which were done, and certain customs which were prevalent there, his English heart might have forbidden his raising his hand to his head in token of respect; but though he disliked the French peasantry, he was not fully aware how many of their bad qualities were directly attributable to the influence of the order of which the marquis de Thou was one of the representatives.
On the present occasion, Antoine awaited on the bank the landing of his friend.
“Ah ha!” cried the Frenchman, as soon as he could make himself heard; “you look up into our blue sky with the same admiration as when you first saw it, four seasons ago. Well; even Bordeaux has its smoke, and now and then a sea haze.”
“So thick an one this morning,” replied Steele, “that I could have fancied myself in an English port.”
“Do the captains foretell a change of wind?” inquired Antoine. “I rather apprehend one; and it is a pity that Favorite should risk losing a particle of her beauty. Come and see her,—as bright as a May morning; as rich and mellow as an autumn noon. It would grieve my soul if an unkind wind should hurt her; but there are signs of a change.”
The young men turned their steps towards the vineyards, instead of to Antoine's dwelling, as Steele needed no refreshment but that of seeing how his dearly-beloved vines flourished, and enjoying the beautiful walk which led to the enclosures. On this occasion, he looked about him more than usual as he passed, as the peasantry were abroad, and evidently in a state of excitement and uneasiness. One and another stopped the young men to ask if they knew what direction the hunt had taken, and whether it could be conjectured how long a chase the boar might cause the gentry. Steele now learned for the first time, how eminently a boar hunt was an occasion of terror and hardship to the country people. He saw them mount the highest trees to look out, and lay their ears to the ground to detect the distant tread of horses. He heard them mutter prayers that their fences might remain unbroken, and their crops untrodden.
“I should not have thought your peasants could be so anxious about their little harvests,” he observed to Antoine. “Judging from the state of their plots of land, I should suppose them careless about their tillage. How weedy this field is! And the hay in that meadow was, as I remember, not cut for weeks after the proper time.”
“It is no fault of theirs,” replied Antoine.” The law forbids hoeing and weeding, lest the young partridges should be hurt; and the hay must not be cut before a certain day, let the season be what it will, lest the game should be deprived of shelter. Many crops are thus spoiled.”
“What tyranny!” exclaimed the Englishman. “But some fault seems still to remain with the cultivators. They do not use half the manure at their disposal, while their land evidently wants it much. Yonder field is an instance.”
“Certain sorts of manure are thought to give an unpleasant flavour to the birds which subsist on the grain which springs from them,” replied Antoine. “Such manure is not allowed to be used.”
On Steele's exclaiming again that such prohibitions were too arbitrary to be endured, Antoine laughed, and wondered what he would say to certain other regulations, in comparison with which these were trifles. What did he think of the lot of those who were sent to the galleys for having entered or approached the groves where the wild pigeons of the marquis were appointed to breed undisturbed; or of such as were ruined by being taken from their tillage to make for him ornamental roads which led nowhere; or by the fines which they had to pay in commutation of the service of keeping the frogs quiet by night? On one side the chateau, a marsh extended for some distance, and its frogs greatly annoyed a former marquis by their croaking. His peasantry were employed to beat the ponds. By degrees, as the nuisance decreased, this service was commuted for a fine,—and a very oppressive one it was found at this day. Antoine was proceeding to describe another grievance of great magnitude, when his description was superseded by an example.
The young men were now in a chestnut grove, within which the distant sounds of the hunt were beginning to be heard. A figure of a peasant crossed the glades at intervals, and an occasional voice hailed them from overhead, where lookers out were perched on the loftiest trees to watch what course the devastation of the boar and its hunters would take. After a few moments of quiet, a cry burst forth, and was echoed from mouth to mouth through the wood, a heavy plunging tread was heard, and a rushing and crashing in the thicket, which warned Steele to fly to the protection of the largest trunk at hand, while Antoine climbed a tree as nimbly as a squirrel. The ferocious, clumsy animal immediately appeared, its small eyes red and flaming, its coarse hide bristling, and its terrific tusks looking as if they could plough up the very ground over which it rushed headlong. The moment the danger was past, Antoine descended, and followed at full speed to see the issue of the chase; Steele keeping up with his companion as well as he could, but not without some qualms lest the beast should be met at the extremity of the wood, and driven back upon his steps. The hunt was a little too late, however, to accomplish this manoeuvre, and Steele began to feel himself somewhat more comfortable, when a cry of horror from Antoine, who was a little way in advance, renewed all his fears.
“O, Favorite! O La Haute Favorite!” cried he. “She is spoiled,—she will be wholly desolated by the monster and the hunters!” And poor Antoine threw himself down at the foot of a tree, and would look no more. His companion saw one horseman after another leap the fence which had been kept in such perfect repair, watched them wheeling round and round among the choice vines, which they must be treading like so much common grass, and finally follow the boar out at the opposite side, while the servants who attended in the rear wantonly rode over the same ground, when they might just as easily have kept the road. In a great passion, Steele flew to warn, and threaten, and scold; but before he had time to commit himself, Antoine was at hand to interpose, and silence the indignant Englishman.
“I cannot conceive what you mean, Antoine,” cried Steele, the moment they had the place to themselves. “You flung yourself upon the ground in as great an agony as if your bride had been snatched from you; and presently you come to speak these rascals as fair as if they had done you a favour!”
“It is the only way to keep what we have left,” replied Antoine, mournfully. “There is no use, but much peril, in complaint. Redress there is none; and ill-will towards the lord's pleasure is resented more deeply and lastingly than injury to his property. You may rob his chateau of its plate, and be more easily forgiven than for repining at anything which happens in the course of his sports.”
Steele was ready to burst with indignation against the people which permitted such usages to endure. He was answered by a reference to the cruel old forest laws of England, and certain national blemishes of an analogous character which still remained; and the friends were in danger of quarrelling, for the first time, when they remembered that it would be more to the purpose to contemplate the present than the past and the absent, and to help one another under the vexatious event which had befallen them.
It was mournful to look around, and see what had been done within a few minutes;—the clean soil trodden and strewed, the props thrown down, the laden branches snapped off, the ripening fruit crushed and scattered, and the whole laid open to intruders; whether men to steal, or troops of deer to browze. If, by any exertion, these intruders could be kept out, there was hope that some, even a considerable portion, of the expected vintage might be saved, as some rows of vines had not been touched, and others had fallen merely from their supports being removed. Antoine set off in search of labourers. Not one would follow him till the issue of the hunt was known, and it became certain whose fields would be devastated before the sun went down, and whose not; but when the boar's head was at length carried towards the chateau, with the usual honours, and the proud train returned to their stately festivities, a gang of peasants, safe for this bout, set to work, under Antoine and Steele, to stop up the fences till they could be properly repaired; while their less fortunate neighbours hid themselves to groan over the destroyed harvests which were their only hope; —hid themselves, because if their own little children had spoken of their grief, the galleys would infallibly be their destination ere long. Neither those who chaunted over their work, however, nor those who brooded over wrongs within, nor the two young men who toiled, went home, and retired to rest in gloomy silence, anticipated what would be their relative position at the same hour the next evening. Nothing could now appear more certain to Antoine than that he and his brother had sustained a great loss in the destruction of half the crop of their best vineyard, or to Steele than that it would be a misfortune to his employers to be disappointed of half the quantity of that superlative wine which they were to have on favourable terms, and might sell at almost any price they might choose to set upon it: yet another turn of fortune happened within a few hours which promised to do more than repair the pecuniary damage, though it still remained to be lamented that La Haute Favorite should have been exposed to wanton devastation.
The next day was the day of the extraordinary hurricane which spread affright through various regions of France, where there was want and woe enough before to shake the courage and perplex the judgment of rulers, and to appal the hearts of the ruled. The timid had long been inquiring how the national burdens were to be borne for the future, and the popular discontents much longer soothed. When this dreadful tempest came, extinguishing the light of day like an eclipse, changing the aspect of the scenery like an earthquake, and convulsing the atmosphere like a hurricane, mere timidity became deepened into a superstitious horror, and the powers of hell were thought to be let loose against the devoted land. Few could wonder much at this who knew the people in their state of ignorance and hardship, and who witnessed the ravages of the storm.
The morning had risen fair and bright, though cold, from the change of wind which Antoine had predicted. The clouds soon began to gather, with an appearance of unusual blackness; but this did not prevent the country people from setting out for church, and making their way thither in defiance of the rising blasts. When assembled, however, they found it perilous to remain under the shelter of a roof which threatened to fall in upon them; and they rushed out into the road, where, carefully avoiding the neighbourhood of trees, they supported one another during the dreadful hour that the storm lasted. Cries of grief and despair broke from them at every step as they returned homewards. Drifts of hail stopped up their path. The corn-fields were one vast morass. The almond groves were level with the ground; and of the chestnut woods nothing remained but an assemblage of bare poles. The more exposed vineyards were so many quagmires, and many dwellings were mere heaps of ruins. All who witnessed were horror-struck at the conviction of general, immediate, pressing want; and the more thoughtful glanced forwards in idea to the number of seasons that must pass away before all this damage could be repaired. Not a few, in the midst of their own distress, however, jested on the fate of the marquis's partridges, and consoled one another with the certainty that it would be long before the lord's game could trouble them again.
As for Antoine, he hurried past his ruined garden to La Favorite, gloomily followed by the Englishman, who could not be comforted by his companion's suggestion, that, at the worst, the soil would be finely manured by its produce being beaten into it. This was not exactly the object for which Steele had anticipated the fine crop would be used, and he could not, so rapidly as a Frenchman, acquiesce in so complete a change of purposes. It would be difficult to say which was the most astonished and the most joyful when they found their beloved Favorite smiling amidst the general devastation, and scarcely more injured than when they had left her the night before. Sheltered by the hill behind, and by a wood on the side whence the hurricane approached, she had escaped its worst fury; and a few torn branches, a few scattered hailstones, were the only witnesses of the storm which had passed over her.
“My beauty! My beloved!” exclaimed Antoine; “though man and beast have dared to insult thee, the elements have known how to respect thy beauty. They just paid thee a gentle homage as they passed, and left thee serene and verdant, while all besides is prostrated before them. My homage shall restore the few charms that have been defaced.”
And, somewhat to Steele's surprise, Antoine began the homage he spoke of, reverentially lifting the trailing branches, coaxing the battered bunches of grapes, and restoring props with a sort of joyful solemnity, as if rendering service to one who could appreciate his devotion. The cooler Englishman meanwhile looked abroad into the neighbouring vineyards, and saw with concern that the losses of Antoine and his brother must be great. Antoine would scarcely allow this, however, not only because the safety of Favorite had filled him with joy, but because he believed that his fortunes would be rather amended than the contrary by what had happened.
“How should that be?” inquired Steele. “The enormous rise in value of the produce of this vineyard will not benefit you, but my employers, as our terms are fixed for five years to come. How can you gain by being deprived of the rest of your vintage?”
“We shall gain by others being deprived of theirs Vast labour will be required to render these lands productive once more, and the price of wines will therefore be much raised.”
“But you will have to employ and pay for this labour as well as others.”
“True; but meanwhile, we have a large stock of wine at Paris and Bordeaux. For some little time there has been no demand; for the country is troubled, and no one will buy more than cannot be avoided. This has made Charles uneasy, and he has often lately complained of the largeness of our stock. Now that there will be a failure in the supply of wines, our stock will be in request, and at such prices as shall pay all the labour of repairs in our vineyards, and leave no small advantage besides. And then,—how our grounds are manured! What crops they will yield!”
“Aye; but when?—You never will see the dark side of an affair, Antoine. It will be three or four years before yon quagmires can become a firm soil, full of well-settled and bearing vines.”
“Meantime, things will become more tranquil at Paris, perhaps, so that people may enjoy their wine as formerly.”
“Some persons,” observed Steele, “would repine at the terms we have fixed beyond recall for the produce of Favorite; but I hear no complaints from you of the large profits which will be made by my employers.”
“Where would be the use?” replied Antoine. “Since the bargain is, as you say, beyond recall, it is no longer my affair. On the contrary, I congratulate your gentlemen with all my heart. —There is but one thing that I would suggest;— that if their gains prove great, they should purchase the blessing of heaven on them by devoting some small portion to the peasants here who are ruined by the same cause which brings your friends prosperity.”
“There will no doubt be a general subscription,” observed Steele; “and it is fitting that those foreigners should give who will profit by the disasters of your country.”
“If your gentlemen,” replied Antoine, “will do it in the form of remitting a portion of Favorite's wealth, they will add grace to their bounty. How graceful will it be in this, our beauty, to thank heaven for having spared her charms by giving in alms a portion of her dowry!”
“Will your people distinguish, think you,” asked Steele, laughing, “between alms issuing from an English merchant's pocket, in his own name and in the name of a personified vineyard?”
Antoine warmly replied that no people on earth had so nice a sense of the morally graceful and sublime as the French; and offered a wager that in the straightforward case, plain thanks in prose would be all that Messrs. Mason and Co. would receive; while, if the moral grace he recommended were put into the act, La Haute Favorite would be celebrated in song under many a clump of elms.
“Meanwhile,” said Steele, “what measures will you take about your private affairs, and how can I help you?”
“I will this day write to Charles tidings of what has happened. To-morrow I will see what portion of the crops out of this enclosure can be saved. The produce must be housed at Bordeaux, and no more transported to Paris this year.—You can aid me no otherwise than in the care of Favorite, and in soothing the poor whom I dread to meet on my way home. Exhort them, as I ever do, to make the best of inevitable evils.”
“Your example will do more than my exhortations. But what is left to make the best of?”
“The marquis and his daughter. They can no longer be a torment, and may be a help. The new works, for which he oppressed the people, are destroyed. His pigeons are blown away, and his partridges are drowned; and even the frogs may be found to be eternally silenced by this excessive beating of their ponds: while still the people have an equitable claim for food. Let us go and comfort them thus.”
And the good-natured Antoine carried his cheerful countenance among the shivering and dismayed peasantry who were waiting for advice and guidance, and led them to the chateau to ask for relief.
The marquis laid his hand upon his heart, and the lady Alice took trinkets from her hair to give to the hungry people before her, who were loud in their praises of her condescension; though, to be sure, as trinkets could not be eaten, and there was nothing eatable for them to be exchanged against, they only served at present to hush little crying babies for a minute or two. In time it was clearly conveyed to the lady that a more effectual measure would be to order the housekeeper to distribute the contents of the larder among the hungry; and to the gentleman, that now was the occasion for his steward to unlock the granary. These stores being soon exhausted, and no more being at once procurable, from the whole neighbouring country having been laid waste, the cottagers were obliged to subsist themselves as well as they could on boiled acorns, stewed nettles, and on the lord's frogs; a race which seemed destined to extermination, man and the elements having apparently combined against them.
As many of the sufferers as yet survive look back upon that dreadful time with a horror which is not lessened even by the political horrors which ensued. Throughout Guienne, the Orleannois, and other provinces, not a score of revolutions could efface the recollections and traditions of the hurricane of July, 1788. Perhaps it may be still a subject of dispute a century hence whether it was charged, in addition to the natural agents of destruction, with a special message to warn the French nation of their approaching social convulsion. Superstition has not yet been abolished in France, any more than in some other countries which have suffered less deplorably from its sway.
SIGNS OF THE TIME.
Charles Luyon was wont to hasten home at dinner-time with as much cheerfulness in his countenance as alacrity in his gait. He always had a smile ready when his timid wife looked anxiously in his face, and generally some tidings which were not bad, when her aged father, M. Raucourt, asked his invariable question,—“What news, Charles?” Times were now, however, altering so speedily that it was evident that Charles must vary his entré. His smile he was likely enough to preserve, happen what might; but in the article of news he began to be perplexed; for whatever was now stirring was of a kind with which it was painful to confuse and trouble a very old man, who never went abroad, but yet managed to know something of what was going on by fixing his seat constantly at the window, and using his eyes, which were less infirm than his understanding. The children too, who were old enough to be inquisitive, began to be very pertinacious in their questions why their walks were circumscribed, and what was the meaning of various strange sights and sounds which they met at every turn. In satisfying them why the drums beat, and why orators talked so loud in the mobs, Charles never used the word riot,—much less rebellion, or revolution, either of which might have been fatal to his wife's peace; for she had been bred a royalist by her father, and had a perfect horror of even a disrespectful word against the royal family or the noblesse. What Charles was in politics, she could never tell. He seemed to adopt no party, to talk sensibly on what took place before his eyes, and (judging' by what had already come to pass) to prophecy clearly respecting the future. He pointed out to her that the people were starving, and of course disaffected; but he did not say where the blame rested, contenting himself with hoping the best, as he did on all occasions.
On the day that he received the tidings of the ravages of the storm in Guienne, Marguerite did, for once, perceive a slight shade on her husband's brow. The family were standing at the window, beside the old man's easy chair, eagerly gazing into the street, which was filled from end to end with a mob. The aspect of the people was terrific, and their clamour, compounded of the shrill voices of the fishwomen and the more deep-toned yells of haggard and half-famished men, was deafening. The old gentleman looked full of glee, for he had contrived to persuade himself that all this was rejoicing for some royal festival. The wiser children looked in their mother's face for an explanation; but she could attend to nothing else when she saw her husband enter.
“Thank God, Charles, you are home! How did you get in?”
“I have been in this half hour.'
“And shut up by yourself? There is something the matter, Charles.”
Charles gave in brief the story of the storm, which included the tidings that certain olive and almond groves, her own property, were utterly destroyed.
“Charles, Charles,” interrupted the old man, as soon as the mob had passed; “what news to-day?”
“I am afraid what you have just seen tells only too plainly, sir. The people are gone to the palace to vociferate for bread.”
“Well, well, fashions change,” observed M. Raucourt. “In my days the king gave away wine instead of bread.”
“If he did so now, sir, it would be a good thing for my trade. It would empty my cellars to supply such a crowd as has just gone by.”
“Does not your wine sell, this year?”
“Not very well, sir. People buy little of anything at present; but better times will certainly come.”
“But, papa, why do not all these people buy bread, if they want it so very much?” asked Julien.
“Because there is very little to be bought; and that little is too dear for poor people to buy.”
“So they want the king to buy it for them?”
“Yes; but the king says he has no money. He is borrowing some, however, and I hope the people will soon be relieved, somehow or other.”
“Who lends the king money, papa?”
“I am going to lend him some; and so will verybody else that has any.”
Little Pauline thought it would be the better and quicker way for her papa to buy the bread himself for the poor, instead of lending money to the king to do so. She was told that perhaps the people might begin to love the king again if he tried to relieve them; and that his majesty would be much pleased at this, for they had not been at all fond of him lately. This news set Marguerite sighing, and the children thinking what they had that they could lend the king. Grandpapa was consulted, while his son and daughter retired from the window to read Antoine's letter. M. Raucourt thought the king would not wish for Julien's bird-organ, as he often heard finer music than it could make, and it would now buy very little bread; but why it would buy so little, he could not tell. He recommended Pauline's making her offering to the queen;—that beautiful, graceful lady that every Frenchman worshipped when she became his queen, and whom every Frenchman would mourn in the dust when the time must come for her to die. The old man was entering upon his favourite long story of the queen's entry into her capital, when Pauline stopped him with an enquiry whether this beautiful lady would like to have her silk-worms, and how much bread they would buy. As soon as grandpapa could speak for laughing, he told the child that the queen carried more silk on her head at that moment than these worms would spin in a hundred years. The little dog Joli, with his collar and silver bell, was next proposed, and thought more eligible. Joli was called, and looked for in vain under sofa, and chairs, and behind mamma's harp. While Pauline went in search of him, Julien interrupted papa to know why his bird-organ would buy very little bread, when it had once cost so much money.
“Money enough, papa, to buy many loaves of bread.”
“Yes, my dear; because the men who made that organ ate up several loaves of bread while they were at work upon it; and it was necessary to pay themselves for that bread, as well as for the wood, and the steel, and the brass, and the wear of their tools.”
“Then would not people eat as much bread if they made another bird-organ to-day?”
“Yes; and such an organ would cost me twice as much money as I gave for yours last year. It would buy only the same number of loaves, however, because each loaf costs twice as much money as it used to do.”
“But grandpapa says my organ will buy very little bread.”
“True; because it was made when bread was cheap; and an organ made to-day would be made when bread is very dear. I gave the organmaker money enough to buy twelve loaves; and now the same money would buy only six loaves.”
“And perhaps six loaves would not be enough for the people while they were making the organ?”
“Certainly not. They must have twelve; and so I should have to pay twice as much for another organ made to-day as you could sell yours for, supposing it as good as new.”
“But why is not there more bread, papa? I should like that there should be so much that I might give the people twenty-four loaves when I give the king my organ.”
“When that time comes, my dear, the people will not want to beg bread, and you shall have a better present to offer at court.—But, do you know, Julien, there is going to be less bread than ever, I am afraid.”
Marguerite drew her little son to her, and described to him the state of the peasantry round uncle Antoine's vineyards; and how grandpapa's olives were all blown down, and everything eatable destroyed, except what had hitherto been considered food for swine.
“One woman,” she continued, “offered a comfortable coat of her husband's to several shivering people who would have liked it very much; but they could not give so much as a single handful of barley for it. There were some who would have given a whole field for a sack of wheat; but they could not get it.”
“One miserly person,” observed Charles, “happened to save a small stock of cabbages, of which he was willing to sell three. He was offered a blanket, and would not take it; and then a pretty crucifix; and then a clock——”
“But perhaps he did not want any of these things.?”
“Neither could he be said to want what he took at last. When he found that the highest price was offered that he was likely to get, he accepted it; and it was a diamond pin, given by lady Alice de Thou to a destitute family.”
“Was it like the diamond in mamma's watch?”
“Much larger. It was so valuable that, a month ago, it would have bought uncle Antoine's best vineyard.—It bought only three cabbages now, because the people must have cabbages and did not want diamonds.”
“Then the very poor people pay much more than the rich, I suppose? The poorer they are, the more they pay?”
“Not when there is enough of what they want. The baker over the way knows that if he charged a poor man too high, the man would go to some other baker to buy; so they keep their prices pretty equal. But as soon as there is too little of what everybody wants, every one is eager to get his share, and promises more than his neighbour; till, as we see, a diamond pin may be given for three cabbages. There is too little corn in France now; and that is the reason why we give more for it than will pay the baker, and the miller, and the farmer, and his labourers for what it cost them to prepare it for us.”
“The same will be the case with your papa's wine,” added Marguerite. “He charged yesterday as much as it had cost him to cultivate the ground, and ripen the wine, and pay for having it brought here, and for the use of his cellars, and a certain sum over for us to live upon. After to-day, everybody will know how the storm has ruined the vineyards; every one will be afraid that there will not be wine enough, and they will offer more and more for it, till—”
“Till papa is rich enough to take Pauline and me to Versailles, to see the court.”
Charles told how much money he should want to get his vineyards into repair again, and what high wages he must pay the country people, while provisions continued as dear as at present. —Marguerite meanwhile sighed, and observed that there was little pleasure now in going to Versailles, to hear people, even of the better classes, criticise the expensiveness of the queen's dress, and the haughtiness of her air, as often as she appeared.
Pauline now burst into the room in a state of wonder and consternation. She had not been able to find Joli anywhere about the house, and on employing the servants in the search, had recovered her favourite in a somewhat different condition from that in which she had last seen him. He was found crouching in the street, just outside the door, no longer the beautiful animal, with a silky white coat, enamelled collar and silver bell, but actually dyed, the hind part red, the fore part blue, with a stripe of white left in the middle. Instead of the collar, were bands of ribbon of the same three colours. The poor animal and its mistress seemed equally terrified, and both perhaps felt themselves insulted when everybody laughed. Pauline cried, and Joli whined.
“Is he hurt, my love?” inquired mamma.
Julien waved his handkerchief, and Joli jumped and snapped at it as usual; and even Pauline laughed through her tears, when she saw the gaudy little creature frisking about in masquerade.
“Since he is safe,” said Charles, “never mind the collar and bell. We will get another when times are better, and there are fewer thieves about.”
“There is something worse than theft here,” observed Marguerite, sadly. “I abhor those colours.”
“Then let us wash them off, if we can; and mind, Pauline, if you wish your dog to be safe, you must keep him within doors till his coat is perfectly white again.”
The washing availed little, as the dog was not besmeared but dyed. To get rid of as much red and blue as possible, mamma cut off the new collar, and gave Pauline a piece of white satin ribbon. Grandpapa helped the child to tie it on, and sent her also for a white lily,—his favourite flower, —and fastened it where the bell had been; and then Joli looked something like a royalist dog again.
“I do wonder, Charles,” said his wife, while this was doing, “that you go on always talking of better times coming, and of the fine things that are to happen by and by. You have done so ever since I knew you; ever since——”
“Yes, love, ever since the days when you were so very sure that your father would never approve me; that my business would never flourish; that, for one reason or another, we should never come together.”
“Ah! I was not a cool judge in that case.”
“Nor I, I am sure, my dear.”
“You seldom are, if there is any room at all for hope. Plunge you into an abyss of distress, and you are the calmest of judges. I would trust you to find your way in utter darkness; but the least glimmering you take for daylight. At this very moment, when you know that all affairs have been looking more and more gloomy for these ten years past; when the people are starving and rebellious, when your trade is almost annihilated, and my dowry destroyed, with that of thousands of your neighbours, you still talk of the good times that are coming”
“You think this very senseless, my love, I dare say?”
“It is very provoking, Charles. At first it was always said in the spring that things would be better in the autumn; and in the autumn, that all would come right in the spring. Now, you have somewhat extended your hope: it is either next year, or by and by, or hereafter; but still you go on hoping, when everybody else is preparing.”
“Cannot one hope and prepare at the same time?” asked Charles. “It seems to me that it is for want of this that so much evil now threatens us. The court goes on hoping without making any preparation; and the people, having no hope from the present system, are preparing to overthrow it too completely and too suddenly.”
“Mercy!” cried Marguerite; “what will become of us?”
“We shall live to grow wise in the experience of a state of transition, or die, leaving this wisdom to be inherited by others. In either case, the wisdom will remain; and the world (including our children) will be the better for it. Meanwhile, there is dinner waiting below for those who are hungry. Do not let the thoughts of to-morrow spoil the comfort of to-day.”
Before the day was over, however, its comfort was spoiled, and even Charles was compelled to look anxiously to the morrow. After dinner, a shriek of anguish was heard from the children. They had forgotten to secure Joli; and he was found hung up on the next lamp-post, strangled in his new white collar, and the lily stuck insultingly in his mouth. There was no use now in blaming the folly and carelessness which had occasioned tile catastrophe. The only thing to be done was to impress upon the entire household the necessity of parading no more lilies, and avoiding all ornaments of white, red, or blue.
THE TEMPER OF THE TIME.
The stagnation of trade was now a serious evil to Charles, not only as it occasioned his capital to be locked up, and his income to be impaired, nor because he was of so active a temperament that nothing troubled him like the having no business to do,—but because those were the safest amidst the troubles of the times who were supposed to be fully occupied in their private concerns. There was no lack of interest, indeed, for the most restless seeker of excitement; and Charles might have busied himself from morning to night of every day in tracking the progress of the public discontent, if such had been the species of employment he had desired or approved. He might, like other people, have shouted the praises of Necker in every street and square. He might have amused himself with watching with how many different airs the passengers on the Pont Neuf submitted to bow uncovered before the statue of Henry IV., under the penalty of having squibs let off in their faces. He might have witnessed the burning in effigy of obnoxious ministers, and have stood by the great fire into which the king's decrees for suspending the parliament were cast, and have listened, through the live-long day, to the harangues of popular orators, or joined in the midnight processions by which the repose of all quiet citizens was disturbed. But Charles did not see that such attendance on his part could do any good at present, however the case might hereafter be altered. Whether or not he was turning over in his mind plans for his conduct when the time should come for him to act, he now appeared to direct his attention to private affairs, and talked more of wine and olives than of political matters.
He had been accustomed to furnish a large proportion of the home supply of olives and almonds for which there was a demand in Paris, from the produce of the estates of his wife and father-in-law; and now he had applications, day after day, for fruits which he might have sold at a high price, while scarcely a customer came for wine. He had already invested the little floating capital he could spare from the restoration of his vineyards in fruits from Italy and the Levant, which his brother purchased for him as they came up the great canal and the Garonne, on their way to Bordeaux. He now began to wish that he could exchange a part of his large stock of wine for fruits. He knew that wines would rise enormously in price, as soon as the demand should revive; but fruits had already risen enormously, and he wished to turn some of his capital into money by their means. It was easy to do this by extending his transactions with Steele, who purchased fruit in large quantities at Bordeaux to send to England. The demand for fruit in London being at present insignificant in comparison with that for claret, and the direct reverse being the case at Paris, it was Steele's interest to transmit more wine and less fruit, and Charles's to take fruit in exchange for his wine. It was therefore settled that, in addition to their standing bargain for first-rate wine, Steele should have a large choice of second-rate claret, in payment for chestnuts from Spain, oranges and citrons from the Madeiras, olives from the Levant, and almonds from Italy. The terms of exchange were the only difficulty.
Neither Steele nor Charles were speculators, in the common sense of the term, They were prudent men of business, attached to one line of occupation, and in no particular hurry to be richer than everybody else. They now, however, found themselves obliged to speculate, and became more fully aware than they had been before that all trading for purposes of sale is, in fact, speculation. It is necessary for traders not only to take into account all the past and present circumstances which affect the value of the article in which they deal, but to look forward to such as may influence its sale. Their success depends on the foresight which they have exercised, and the sagacity with which they have calculated: in other words, on their skill in speculation. When they extend their views to a further extent than they can command, and found their calculations on contingencies, they become gamesters of that class which is held in horror under the name of speculators: and hence arises a somewhat indistinct dread and dislike of all speculation; while the fact is, no exchange whatever could go on without more or less real speculation. The farmer must speculate on the seasons; the manufacturer on tastes and fashions, and on the supply of raw material; the merchant must speculate on war and peace, and all domestic and much foreign policy. In ordinary times, Charles must speculate on the increase or decline of the taste for claret, or of the number of claret-drinkers in Paris; and now, a new and wide field of calculation was opened before him, on which he must enter if he meant to prosecute his business at all.
From the time that the brothers had entered into business till now, there had been established a tolerably steady rate of understood value, at which goods had been exchanged for one another. There had been occasional and slight variations, according to seasons, and other fluctuating circumstances; so that four pipes of wine might at one time exchange for the same quantity of fruit as three and a half would buy at another; but the circumstances which determined these variations in value being usually foreseen by all parties concerned, their vigilance prevented any very sudden and perplexing convulsions in trade. As long as there were average seasons, an average supply of food, an average quantity of labour to be had, wages and profits (on which price depends) could be calculated, and relied on for remaining nearly at the average rate. But now, there had been both natural and political disasters, whose consequences defied all calculation. There was an over-supply of labour,—as far as the number of labourers went; for thousands of the peasantry had been stripped of all they had, and rendered dependent on neighbouring capitalists for employment and support. At the same time, food was dreadfully deficient, and therefore enormously dear; so that to what price labour would rise, in spite of the over-supply, it was impossible to guess.—The same cause rendered the amount of profits uncertain. Unless it could be settled how much the labourers would appropriate, it must continue unsettled how much would remain over for the capitalist,—even if it could be ascertained how extensive would be the demand for the article. This, again, was doubtful, from the uncertainty of political affairs, which impaired the security of property, and stopped up the channels of mutual exchange. Thus, not only was the permanent original element of exchangeable value,—cost of production,—rendered incalculable, in the case both of wine and fruits, but all the causes which occasion temporary fluctuations were violently at work; and it required a clear head and a strong heart to anticipate and rely upon their issues. Steele's part was the less perplexing of the two. He knew no more than Charles, it is true, how the sudden rise in the value of labour, from the scarcity of food, would affect the price of the stock laid in before labour became so dear; and he could not therefore judge of the probable amount of Charles's profits; but on the head of his employers' profits he felt very secure. The English market was steady: the demand could be nearly estimated, and if it was pretty sure to be good with an abundant supply of wine in the market, it was certain to be very brisk as soon as the supply was known to be deficient. Though, therefore, he might ask less than he need in exchange for his fruit, there was every probability of his gaining more than the usual profit on the wine thus purchased. —Charles, on the other hand, had not only to discover what expense his brother and other vine-growers were at in maintaining labourers, and how much of this was to be charged by tacit agreement upon their present stock, and the same facts with regard to the fruit; but to speculate on the ability and disposition of the people of Paris to buy either wine or fruit, and how much the demand for the one was likely to fall short of, or exceed, the demand for the other.— The result was that the two parties to the bargain fixed upon an exchange which appeared likely to be mutually advantageous, but which proved the value of their commodities to have deviated widely from the ordinary proportion. Setting off an equal expense of labour, and an equal amount of profit, on each side, fifty chests of fruit (from almonds and citrons down to chestnuts) would exchange for a pipe of claret, in ordinary times. Now, twenty chests were all that such a pipe would buy; and yet Charles believed he had made a good bargain, as the demand of thirsty orators for juicy fruits, and of loungers in the streets for chestnuts, was extraordinarily great, while wine was, just then, little in request. His wife, knowing that he had lately been rather pressed for money, watched with interest the process by which it began once more to flow in. By half emptying a cellar in Bordeaux, fruit was made to arrive in Paris by waggon loads, and these were presently converted into cash. But there was one point on which she was not satisfied.
“I see,” said she, “the convenience to us and to the Englishmen of our mutual exchange. It is really charming; as welcome as the traffic between the first maker of weapons and the hunter, when the one had more bows and fishlines than he could use, and the other more venison and trout than he could eat while they were good. But, Charles, are you either of you just in taking advantage of the vengeance of heaven, he to enrich himself, and you to repair your losses? Ought you not to sell wine at the price it professed to bear in your cellars before the hurricane happened? And why is Italian fruit dear, when in Italy there has been no storm?”
“If we sold our goods at last year's prices,” replied Charles, “all our wine and our fruit would be exhausted long before we should have a further supply. Is it not better that they should bear such a price as will make people sparing in their use till we have once more an abundance?”
“And is this the reason why there are granaries not yet exhausted, amidst the cries of the people for bread?”
“It is; and if bread had borne its usual price all this time, there would now be absolute famine in every street of Paris. If the people understood this, they would not storm the flour mills, and throw hundreds of sacks into the Seine, in their rage against the owners. These owners, by causing a gradual distribution, are the best friends of those who are their own bitter enemies; — who waste bread now, because they were not permitted to waste it before.”
“But why should the corn-owners be enriched by scarcity of bread, and you by the destruction of vineyards? You tell me that your gains by this storm will nearly compensate the losses it has cost you. Is this fair?”
“Perfectly so. You know that the value of every thing that is exchanged depends on the labour required to produce it.”
“Yes, yes: and therefore the wine that is to be grown in your desolated vineyards will justly be dear, because much and dear labour will be needed to restore your estates to fertility. But I speak of your present stock, prepared when labour was not particularly high priced, and when only the ordinary quantity of it was wanted.”
“The plain fact is, that labour is now very dear, everywhere; my cellar-full of it, as well as that which is now active in La Favorite. You will hardly wish, my dear, that I should present the public with a portion of it, in the present state of my affairs. I am not exactly in a condition to give away my substance unnecessarily; especially to buyers of wine, who are, for the most part, richer than myself. If harps were suddenly to become doubled in value, you would not sell yours for what you gave for it, would you?”
“No; harp-buyers would be better able to give the market-price than I to do without it.
“Yet we have not considered that your case would be stronger still if it was necessary for you to buy another harp immediately, at the advanced price. Such is my case. I sell my cellar-full of labour in order to purchase a further supply at the present high price. Since I must buy, and must pay dear for what I buy, would it not be folly to sell the same article cheap?”
“The same article! I do not understand you. You would be wrong to hire yourself out for the money wages of a year ago:—to give the strength of your arm for what would buy much less bread: but——”
“But the wine in my cellars and the strength of my arm are equally labour, possessed by me. You may call the one primary, and the other secondary, if you like; but they are equally labour. Yes: all the capital we have,—whether the furniture of this room, or your olive presses, or my wine, is hoarded labour: the labour of the work-people from whom we purchased it.”
“That is curious. Then the price depends upon the labour——O no, there are your profits to be considered. The price depends upon the cost of production; which includes your capital as well as your men's labour.”
“Call it all labour at once, if you like. Profits are the recompense of labour as much as wages: wages of primary, and profits of secondary or hoarded labour; whichever you please to call it.”
“Then why have you been perplexing yourself all this time about this exchange of goods with Steele? Cannot you reckon easily enough the present value of the labour contained in a pipe of wine? and will not this serve as a perfect measure?”
“Nothing ever served as a perfect measure of value yet; or ever will, in my opinion,” replied Charles. “Labour regulates the relative value of Steele's fruit and my wine: but it can never measure the one against the other, or both against houses, or furniture, or money, or any other commodity. Do not you see that, while labour varies as it does, it can never serve as a measure?”
“To be sure, it is very different in its value this winter from what it was the last.”
“Suppose our milk-woman exchanged a quart of cream daily for a pint of coffee, at the coffeeshop opposite; and that the quart and pint pots grew larger or smaller according as the air was damp or dry. These pots would regulate the quantity of cream and coffee; but it would be absurd to call them measures, while the quantity they yield is incessantly varying.”
“Labour is affected by the seasons, I know; and it seems as if it must always be so, and as if there could therefore never be a fixed measure of value.”
“Not only does primary labour produce more at some times, and under some circumstances, than others, but it is impossible to tell beforehand what will be the return to secondary labour; and from this it follows that the shares of the capitalist and the labourer rise and fall against one another, so that neither can be depended upon for steadiness.”
“Well: I suppose we can do without a fixed measure of value, since we cannot get one; but it does seem as if it would be convenient to know always exactly how much food and clothing one might have in exchange for so much money.”
“I am afraid it would be as mischievous in one way as having no regulator would be in another.”
“O, if there were no regulator, men would snatch from one another like wild beasts; and they would soon be in a very beast-like state as to property. Food for the hour would be all any one would think of, if the chances were that he would get nothing by his labour, or be unable to keep what he might obtain.”
“On the other hand, if there were an unvarying measure, men would be a wholly different race from what they are created to be. There is no anticipating the consequences of withdrawing all the discipline by which their faculties are exercised, sharpened, and strengthened. The very supposition is absurd, however, for it includes the absence of all human vicissitudes. Before there could be a true measure of the relative value of human possessions, man must have power to keep the whole surface of the globe in a state of equal fertility, to regulate the sunshine and the rain, and to ordain all who are born to have an equal share of strength, both of limbs and faculties. All lives must also be of the same length, and even sickness would affect his measure. No: that degree of sagacity which can abstract averages is enough of a guide for practical purposes, while it affords a fine exercise for the intellect and the moral nature of man.”
Marguerite shook her head mournfully, asking how much the moral nature of their neighbours was likely to be benefited by the present uncertainty of affairs.
“Infinitely more than we can estimate,” replied Charles, eagerly. “I see every day, not only splendid instances of intellectual effort, applied to the most important departments of social philosophy, but moral struggles and selfsacrifices which dispose me more than ever to bow the knee to human nature.”
“And, as usual, you overlook whatever would not please you. You hear the patriotic harangues of our new mob orators, but not the abominable commentaries of those who stand at your elbow. You join in the shouts with which the national colours are hailed as often as they appear, but are not aware how the white cockade is trodden under foot. You are so taken up with making your obeisance to the parliament you think so virtuous, that you disregard the cruel irreverence with which our anointed sovereigns are blasphemed. This is not just, Charles; it is foolish; and, what is worse, it is disloyal.”
“Nay, my love ——”
“It is not enough that, by your way of regarding public affairs, you amuse my father, and tranquillize me, and encourage in our children a temper like your own. All this is well in ordinary times: but these are days for higher objects and a more intrepid conduct.”
Charles looked steadily at his wife, but she would not yet let him speak. She went on,—
“These are days when the true should pray day and night for vengeance on the false, instead of excusing them: when loyalty should weep in dark corners, since it cannot show its face in the daylight without being profaned. These are days when our children should see a solemn sadness in our countenances; and if they ask why, they should be told in mournful mystery what sympathy is due to suffering royalty.”
“And not to a suffering nation, Marguerite? Is there to be no pride in intrepid patriotism? No joy in public virtue? Shall the birth of liberty be looked upon as an evil omen? If the king had chosen to stand its sponsor, the whole of our mighty people might have peaceably rejoiced together. His disowning it is no reason why others should not hail its advent. His choosing the part of Herod is reason enough why there should be priests waiting and watching in the temple.”
“You are speaking treason!” cried the terrified Marguerite.
“By no means. I am ready to struggle for the king and the throne till death; but it must be for a wise king, and a throne founded in justice. As it is, all things are made to bear two aspects, and it is too much to require all to perceive only one. A forcible division has been made between the past and the future, and no wonder that some incline to look forward, while others persist in a reverted attitude.”
“Ah! how will you reconcile duties in this perverse state of affairs?”
“Very easily. When I am in the mob, I refer the patriotic sentiments of the orators to the new era of freedom, and pity the indecent violence of the hearers as the result of their prolonged subjugation. When heads are uncovered before La Fayette, my heart glows as in the very presence of liberty; when the queen is insulted in the streets of her capital by the refuse of her own sex, I sigh over the mischiefs the oppression of ages has wrought, but still hope that the day of their decline has arrived.”
“And what when Orleans sneaks away from the rabble he has maddened? What when every lamp-post in the Place de Grêve bears its strangled victim?”
“I see in one the monstrous offspring of a deformed and an unformed system. Such a birth can take place but once, and its life must be as brief through want of vigour, as it is hateful from its ugliness. The practice of slaughter too belongs to the old time. The more degraded slaves are, the more certain is it that their emancipation will be signalized by murder.”
“Why then not control, or at least resist them? Is it not dastardly to sit smiling at home, while the loyal and the noble——”
Charles lifted up his finger in token of silence, and rose from his seat, saying,
“Your reproaches impel me to a confidence with which I did not intend to disturb your tranquillity. Follow me.”
Marguerite did so, suspecting that she might soon wish to retract some things which she had said. Her husband led her to his wine-cellars, which were at the back of the house, separated from it by a small court, from which there was an opening through a wide gateway into the street. The few servants who remained at this slack time on the premises were employed about the fruit-store. The keys of the wine-cellars were kept by a confidential clerk, who was always on the spot, and was the only person besides Charles who now ever entered the place.
“Remember,” said Charles to his wife, as he put the key into the first lock; “remember that you have brought this disclosure upon yourself. This will enable you to bear it well. The best thing we can hope is that you may have to bear it long. If calamity should shortly release you from apprehension, you will see that the hopefulness you complain of in me does not arise from levity. Pierre, bring the lantern, and lock us in.”
Marguerite felt half-stifled between her fear of what was to come next, and the close air of the cellars. Her husband held up the light, and she saw that the door had been newly plated with iron. The next thing she was shown was a long train of gunpowder winding among the stores of wine and brandy.
“O, Charles!” she cried; “are you going to blow us up?”
“Not ourselves, or the house either,” he replied. “You see here is not enough to do any great mischief;—only enough to bring down the ceiling upon my wine-casks, and spoil the wine. There are no buildings over this cellar, you know; so there is no danger to human life.”
He then explained that, finding how invariably the worst excesses of the mob were to be traced to their being plied with drink, it had occurred to him to engage all the wine-merchants of Paris in an agreement to refuse, on some pretence or other, to sell wine or spirits to any but private gentlemen who wanted it for their own consumption. Some agreed, and others did not; and these latter, when they had sold all their stock, and could, from the scarcity, get no more, had maliciously whispered in the mobs the secret with which they had been entrusted. One after another of the merchants, knowing the danger to which they were exposed, had fallen off from the agreement; and Charles, whose stock was the largest now remaining in the city, was left almost alone in his determination to refuse the means of intoxicating the mob. He was aware that his wine was longed for, and his life threatened. He could not remove his stock to a distance, for his premises were evidently watched by spies. He had reason to believe that, on the first occasion when the people were to be excited to an extraordinary act of violence, they were to be brought hither to burst open his stores, and be plied with brandy and wine. He did not choose to be thus made the means of promoting riot and murder, and determined on blowing up his stock, if matters came to extremity. On the first alarm of the approach of a mob, he should fire the train, and bring down the roof; making a pit of what was now level ground. Or, if he should be absent, Pierre knew how to do it.
“But how?” asked Marguerite, with as much voice as she had left. “Must it not be fatal to the one who fires?”
“I trust not,” he replied; “though, if it were, my purpose would stand. It is better to sacrifice one life thus, than to make murderous fiends of many thousands. But, look here, this is our contrivance.”
And he showed her how a very small trap-door had been made of one of the stones in the pavement above, through which a light might be let down immediately upon the tram, and from any distance, if the line were of sufficient length.
“It is but little that a quiet citizen can do in times when men of a different make are sure to gain the ascendency,” observed Charles: “but no one is absolved from doing what he can. I am no orator to rouse the people to patriotism, or to soothe their madness; but here I have power in having something like a monopoly of the poison which helps to madden them; and it shall be kept from inflaming their brains, whether they tear me limb from limb, or compel me to drown myself in my own wine, or let me live till the days when they shall thank me for crossing their will.”
Marguerite's terror was aggravated by a sense of shame for having failed to anticipate her husband's heroism, and being now unable to share it. Her thoughts were ready to veer any way in hope of escape, rather than anchor themselves upon her husband's determination, and await the event. No wonder, since she had so much at stake, and was a very simpleton in political matters. She had all possible fears, and no wishes. A miserable state to be in, in such times!
Could not the whole family remove? Could not her husband, at least, slip away by night? Must they remain in the neighbourhood of gunpowder, and in daily expectation of the mob?— actually within hearing of the hated drums?
They must; her husband replied. Any attempt to fly, or to alter their manner of living, would be immediately detected, and would bring a worse destruction than that which they might possibly escape by remaining. Had not Marguerite observed spies about the house?
O yes: every day since poor Joli was found hanged. That was a sad piece of carelessness. Charles thought so too, and even with more reason than his wife. He knew that the dressing up of that dog was set down in the list of his sins against his country. If it had taken place eighteen months later, it would have brought upon him an immediate sentence of death: but matters not having yet gone so far as they were destined to proceed, the fact was only recorded against him.
“Let us go,” said Marguerite, faintly, when she found her husband bent on adhering to his plans, for reasons which she could not gainsay. “I cannot bear the air of this place.”
“We will go presently, love,” replied Charles.
“The first moment that I see you look like yourself, I will call to Pierre to unlock the door. Meanwhile, here is a seat; and I will give you air and something to revive you.”
Having seated her where a breath of fresh air from the little trap-door might blow upon her face, he brought a flask of rich wine, in a full glass of which he pledged her, assuring her, with a smile, that it did not yet taste of gunpowder. His pledge was,—
“Marguerite, my wife,—life and safety to ourselves and our household! If not these,—at least the peace of our enlightened and steadfast will!—Will you not pledge me?”
She bowed her head upon his shoulder, and wept her shame at being unworthy of him,— unfit to live in such times.
“Then preserve yourself, love, to live in better times. They will come; they must come; and steady hopefulness will be our best security till they arrive.”
Marguerite so far succeeded in her endeavour to adopt her husband's principle, that she returned with a smile the searching gaze which Pierre fixed upon her as she issued from the cellar: but her countenance fell at the first words with which he answered her intimation that she now knew the great secret, and would guard it carefully.
“Alas! Madame. I fear it has ceased to be a secret——That is,” he added, changing his tone when he perceived her alarm,—“our men yonder cannot but observe how carefully we keep the place locked, and how many customers we send away; and nothing escapes suspicion in these times. But your having been down is a happy circumstance, Madame; especially as you emerge with an air so charmingly serene.”
This hint to look composed was not lost upon the lady, who tripped across the court with a demeanour of assumed gaiety. It presently vanished; and she looked with astonishment on her husband when at play with the children after dinner. It rent her heart to hear her father inquire perpetually how early in the spring they should set out for Guienne, that he might delight himself in his beloved olive-groves once more, with the children by his side: but Charles answered as if there had still been olive-groves; and as if the family were at liberty to go whither they pleased in their beautiful country. When, at intervals, she saw him whipping his little girl's wooden horse, and practising battledore with his young son, laughing all the while as merrily as either, she could scarcely believe him to be the same who had so lately solemnly pledged her over a train of gunpowder laid by his own resolute hands.
DEEDS OF THE TIME.
M. Raucourt had abundance of leisure to repeat his question about journeying southwards, and to describe to his grandchildren the wealth of fruitgrounds that they would inherit from him. Month after month, as the days grew longer, and the weather became hotter, he told them that, when spring came, they should go with him to groves where pink blossoms came out before the green leaves, and where the young oranges grew more golden amidst the verdure as the season drew on.
“But, grandpapa,” objected Julien, “the spring is going away very fast already.”
“Ah! well, then, we shall be too late for the almond blossoms, but the oranges and the grapes will be all the more beautiful.”
“But,” observed Pauline, when two more months had passed away, “the vintage will be all over now before we can get there, mamma says.”
“Well, my dear, but there is a spring every year, and I am talking of next spring.”
And so the matter was settled for this year. Marguerite began to hope that the affair of the cellars would be so likewise, as Charles had of late been less importuned to sell, and there had been no fresh evidences, amidst the increasing discontents of the people, that he was held in suspicion. There was even a hope of removing a large part of his stock openly and safely. Steele wanted more wine, and Antoine, having none left at Bordeaux, referred him to his brother; and the Englishman arrived in Paris to see whether he could enter into another negociation with the house with which he had already dealt so extensively. He took up his abode in Charles's house, and consulted with him, and also with some of the authorities of the city, as to the best mode of removing his purchases, without exciting the rage of the mob, who by this time had taken upon themselves to decide the right and wrong of all matters that passed before their eyes, whether of the nature of public or private business. The magistrates, who politicly adopted the tone of the people as often as they could, sighed over the anomaly of a foreigner purchasing wine in Paris, while there was too little left for Frenchmen; and Steele wondered as emphatically at the state of affairs which obliged two merchants to call in the interference of the magistracy to repel that of the mob, while they settled their private bargains. Marguerite thought little of the one anomaly or the other, in her strong wish to have her husband's cellars emptied at all events. The greatest happiness she could imagine was that of helping him and Pierre to sweep away the gunpowder, and throw open the doors of the vacant place to any one who chose to enter. There was much to be done, however, before they could arrive at this fortunate issue.
One day, while Steele's business was pending, a carriage drove up to the door, with considerable state, and the Marquis de Thou, having ascertained that the wine-merchant was at home, alighted, and requested to speak with him on business. While Charles waited on him, Marguerite anxiously inquired of Steele respecting the marquis's politics; for she apprehended a snare in every transaction. She thought it strange that so stout an old royalist should have any dealings with her husband, and was not comforted by what she learned from Steele: namely, that being forced by the hatred of his country neighbours to leave his chateau in Guienne, and take refuge in Paris in the middle of summer, he seemed disposed to trim between the two parties, and was therefore likely to be a dangerous person to have dealings with. Immediately on his arrival, he had contrived to place his daughter in the queen's train, while he kept upon terms with the duke of Orleans. Pleading to himself, and bidding lady Alice plead to the queen, if called upon, his old companionship with Orleans, he did much of the duke's dirty work, very unconsciously, very complacently, and with the comfortable conviction that his loyalty remained unblemished, while he attended no public meetings, and managed to be within the palace walls whenever a popular movement was likely to take place. While Steele was explaining what was reported of the marquis at Bordeaux, Charles appeared.
“The marquis wants to make large purchases of wine,” he said. “Do you conceive he can have occasion for a fourth part of my stock for his own use?”
“His chateau is shut up,” replied Steele; “and he is not occupying his hotel in Paris. Depend upon it, he is shopping for Orleans, as usual.”
“He shall not have enough to intoxicate a single bravo with,” cried Charles. “Come with me, Steele, and find some objection to every sample. Claim as much as you please, and disgust him with as much more as you can.”
Pierre was called in to help, and among the three, all as solemn as himself, the marquis was more eminently bamboozled than he had ever been before in his life; which is saying a great deal. He protested every sample to be better than the last, whatever might have been mixed with it by Pierre in the fetching. He made half a hundred low bows when Steele claimed all that was tolerable: and declared his admiration of Charles's magnanimity in pointing out the defects of his own commodity. The civility of M. Pierre also in vowing that the marquis should have no wine but the best, which was all, unhappily, sold already, was worthy of much acknowledgment. Being under promise, however, to purchase such and such quantities of wine, he must waive their polite scruples, and obviate all others by referring M. Charles Luyon to the most wealthy nobleman in the kingdom for payment. This avowal decided the matter. Charles shirked the marquis all the more speedily for his having owned that he came from the Duke of Orleans, and the carriage conveyed away the messenger without his errand.
From day to day other customers came: but, as all might be traced as instruments of the duke, they were all dismissed in the same way as the marquis. Charles was convinced that some popular commotion was at hand. He perceived that the truly patriotic movers in the revolution were more and more hated by Orleans, as his purposes degenerated more and more from the purity of theirs; and he could not restrain his indignation at the efforts that were made to infatuate and brutalize the people, that they might disgrace or interrupt the measures of the enlightened of their leaders, and bring down a nation worthy of freedom to bow the knee to one who nourished the passions of a tyrant in the coward heart of a slave. “He shall not madden the people with my wine. Whatever they do shall be done in a state of sanity, as far as I can contribute thereto,“was still Charles's resolution; and he declined prices on which the hand of many a brother in trade would have closed without a question. He had too humble an idea of his own consequence to adopt his wife's opinion that it was designed to attach him to the Orleans party by making him the creditor of its chief. She was confirmed in her notion, however, by a very disagreeable circumstance, —the appearance of Orleans himself;—to purchase fruit, as he declared.
From fruit the negociation presently turned to wine, as Charles expected; and for which he had prepared himself with a somewhat desperate intent. Knowing the faint heart which his new customer hid under his impudent address, he thought he might calculate on the effect which would be produced by a sight of his underground preparations; and he accordingly requested his Grace, with a compliment to his well-known condescension, to enter the cellar. As soon as they were fairly in, he called to Pierre to be very careful of the lantern, as a single spark might be fatal; invited the duke, unless he objected to approach so near to the magazine, to inspect the date of a certain curious old wine; begged to go first among the fireworks for fear of an accidental explosion, and so forth; expatiating con amore on his commodity, in the intervals.
“Bless my soul, M. Luyon!” cried the duke, “what can you mean by making a fortress of your cellars? It is dangerous to set foot in them, by your own account.”
“Only to those who have no business here,” replied Charles. “My man and I can tread in security.”
And he coolly gave his reasons for rendering his wine inaccessible; pointing out no party, but merely with a reference to the perpetual danger of disturbance in the present times.
“But it is absolutely a fortress,” repeated the duke. “Your door is massive. Is there no way of escape?——I mean, no other entrance?”
“None whatever,” replied Charles; and at this moment, Pierre, having set down the lantern, slammed the plated door, and barred and cross-barred it with a diligence which the guest by no means approved.
“A fortress is perfectly harmless when in friendly hands, and unless attacked,” observed Charles. “Here are no weapons of offence, you observe; and it is far from being my interest to blow up my stock, unless driven to it.”
“Or even then,” argued the duke. “Supposing your premises were attacked,—an idle anticipation;—but supposing they were, it would answer better to yon to have them stripped than destroyed.”
“To my pocket, doubtless,” answered Charles, occupying himself with opening a flask; “but not to my conscience. If by my means a mob, or any individual of a mob, were to be incited to party violence,—if I were so treacherous as to allow their impulses of patriotism to be corrupted into licentiousness,—I should feel the manliness within me melting away. I should start at shadows for the rest of my days. No, sir; perish my possessions, rather than they should go to corrupt public virtue.—Taste this, I advise you, my lord duke.”
“Do not you think the air rather close here?” asked Orleans, in his smoothest manner. “Are not the fumes of this wine——”
“And of the gunpowder, my lord? They are no doubt oppressive to those who are unused to them. Open the door, Pierre.”
The duke found hm faculty of taste more to be relied upon in the open air; and took his stand accordingly in the portal, where he stood negociating and gossiping for an unconscionable time, till first one or two people appeared in the court, then more, and more still, and in an instant the well-known drum was heard close by, and the shouts of a rabble which poured in without the slightest warning. Orleans looked as if he was going to be very angry; but Charles had no time to parley with his hypocrisy.
It was too late to fasten the portal on the outside, and run to the house. Pierre's motion was to pull the duke with them into the cellar; but his master forbade. He thrust Orleans out of the portal, calling out,
“see, we carry a light in with us; and remember you tread on hollow ground,”—and retreated, not allowing even his faithful Pierre to enter the place of danger with him. He locked, bolted, barred and double barred the door, went and placed the lantern close by the train, looked to his matches and tinder, and then sat down, with folded arms, to await the issue of the expected siege. He was fully resolved to sacrifice his life and property rather than be aiding and abetting with Orleans in giving a licentious character to the great act (whatever it might be) which the people were evidently contemplating. The more he had thought of the events of the preceding day, when arms had been seized and cannon laid hold of by the people, the more convinced he had been that the present would not pass away without being signalized by some extraordinary deed, and the more resolutely determined he felt to use such power as he had, for the safety and honour of the state. The fierce yells of the mob outside had no effect but to increase his courage, as they served to justify his object to himself; and as he looked through the dim vault, from the further end of which came the dull echo of the blows upon the door, as he observed that the one feeble light did not so much as flicker in the socket while all was tumult outside, he felt a thrilling consciousness of power which was not gloomy, though it was fearful, and might involve his own destruction. Whether it would involve any other life, he had considered much and long; he believed not; or that if one or a few should be injured by the slight explosion which would effect his purpose, this would be a less evil than would be perpetrated by a drunken mob in possession of such means of destruction as they had seized the day before.
One circumstance nearly unnerved him. He had prevented Pierre from entering with him, under the idea of saving his life from the peril in which his own was placed; but the sudden outcry which presently arose, the oaths evidently directed at an individual, the cries of shrill female voices,—“To the lamp-post with him!”— agonized Charles with the idea that the vengeance of the mob for his opposition was to fall upon his unfortunate servant. He felt a momentary impulse to throw open the door and take all the consequences, the first of which would undoubtedly be that he would be taken to the lamp-post,——
“Not instead of Pierre, but with him,” he thought, however, in another moment. “No. I cannot save him; so I will persevere. And may heaven hold me guiltless of his blood; for I meant well towards him!—But what now?—What a silence!—Have they sent for fire to smoke me out? I will throw up a thicker smoke presently, if that he it.—O, what a horrible cry! What can have put them in a new rage?”
If Charles could have looked through the thick walls of his vault, he would have seen that which might well have called down an immediate sentence of death on all his household; that which added new horrors to his wife's suspense, and increased the agony of poor Pierre, standing as he was in the grasp of two of the enemy, and assured by the fish-women about him that he was to be hanged as soon as they could find a cord. He forgot his own situation for a moment when he looked up to the balcony, and saw the deplorable mistake which was likely to prove the destruction of the whole family. Nobody within doors had thought of M. Raucourt, whom no event was now ever known to bring from his easy chair at the front window. He was left alone while the back of the house was being barricaded with all speed, and messengers put out upon the roof to find their way, if possible, to the authorities; or at least to make signals for assistance. But the children came in a state of amazement to grandpapa, and the shouts reached even his dull ear, and recalled the associations which in the old royalist were always the first to be awakened. He had no other idea than that the people were hailing the royal family, and he resolved not to be behind others in his duty. He sent Pauline for the white cockade he had given her, tottered to his chamber, got out, under a new impulse of strength, upon the balcony, and waved his white favour. It was this which had silenced the mob with astonishment; and in the depth of this silence, the feeble, cracked voice of the old man was heard trying to shout “Vive le Roi!”
The horrible burst of passion which followed was not directed against him. The helplessness of his attitude as he stood supporting himself with both hands, and the gleam of foolish pleasure which came over his countenance, showed his real state; and even the lowest of the mob did not yet make war against dotards. It was because his act was supposed to betoken the politics of the family that it excited such an outcry; and there seemed some reason for Pierre's fears that the very house would be presently levelled with the ground. It made his heart sick within him to see the old man smiling and bowing, and trying to induce the shrinking children to come and stand beside him, and resisting his wretched daughter's attempts to withdraw him. Pierre struggled fiercely, but in vain; he implored, more humbly than he would have stooped to do for his own life, to be allowed two minutes' speech to the people. He met only threats and laughter. The threats mattered little to a man who expected to be hanged in a few minutes, but the laughter stung him to the soul. He cursed himself for the folly of having appealed to those who could mock the innocence of dotage and childhood, and disregard the agony of a woman: and he recalled the words in which he had at first spoken to them as the French people.
Pierre was right. These were no sample of the French people who had begun to cast off the yoke of tyranny. These were a portion of the brutalized class who, in using the word tyranny, thought only of the difference between suffering and inflicting it: who, when they talked of liberty, asked for license to plunder palaces and riot in wine-cellars. These were, in short, the Orleans mob, and not the real authors of the political changes now taking place. They aided these changes at the time, indeed, by testifying to the degree of oppression which the lower orders had till now suffered; and they furnish, to this day and for ever, an instructive commentary upon these changes, in as far as they exhibit the operation of despotism in preparing its own downfall by at once brutalizing and exasperating its victims. But still these were perfectly distinct from the true protectors of liberty, the wise and steady opponents of despotism. These last were very differently employed this morning, and tidings of their doings came just in time to preserve Charlea and his family.
The children had already been sent away by the roof, in charge of the servants, and Marguerite had sat down alone beside the chair of her father, (whom it was impossible to remove, and whom she would not leave,) when sounds reached her which gave her back a little of the hope she had wholly surrendered. It was not the approach of soldiers, nor the potential voices of magistrates, nor any of the welcome intimations of help at hand which conclude a riot and disperse a rabble in an orderly country, and under ordinary circumstances. Neither soldiers nor magistrates could be depended upon, or had any power in Paris at this time but that which the outrageous mob chose to allow them. Marguerite knew this so well, that, though she took all precautions in sending for aid, she expected none but that which might arise from accident. Such a diversion of the people's rage as actually happened was beyond her hopes.
While her father was still talking about the king, and she was holding him down in his chair, in opposition to his complaints of not being allowed to go to the window to pay his duty, the fearful sound of the tocsin was heard above all the uproar in the court and street. One cry seemed to come on the four winds,—“To the Bastille! to the Bastille!” At first confused and reiterated, the clangor and the shout echoed noisily from street to street, from steeple to steeple. Presently the cry became more concentrated, as if the city sent up but one mighty voice. Marguerite sank down on her knees, overcome with the hope of deliverance for her husband; but the mob did not yet cease to batter the door which shielded him, and the fierce women cried out that they would not be decoyed away by a false alarm. Alter a few more moments came the booming of cannon on the ear, and a pause followed in the court. Again it came, and again, and the windows rattled, and there was in the intervals quiet enough for the rushing of a steady stream of people to be heard from the streets, from whom arose, in alternation with silence, the deep and steady cry, “To the Bastille!” The mob in the court mixed with this stream, eager to learn what new scene was to be enacted, what better hope of plunder was presented than that afforded by the stores of an obstinate and insignificant wine-merchant, who had already caused them more trouble than he and his goods were worth. They looked round for a signal from their leader, but Orleans had disappeared some time before, not choosing to be held responsible for the violence to which he had tempted his followers. They went to look for him at the Bastille, where he was indeed present, to help, as usual, to disgrace a work set on foot by better men.
As soon as the court was empty, Marguerite flew to release her husband. Charles was listening intently to ascertain whether this hush was a treacherous calm, or whether he was indeed safe for the present, when he felt a breath of fresh air, and saw a glimmer of daylight fall into the midst of the vault, and heard a faint voice calling to him,—
“Come out, love! If you are safe, all is safe.”
Not all, Charles remembered, when he had time to think of any one but his wife. Before he even went to seek his children, and to recal the servants, he ascertained that Pierre had disappeared, and hurried out to learn his fate, bending his steps to the Place de Grêve, where he feared he was most likely to find his faithful servant, dead or alive. He found two bodies hanging, and cries of murderous exultation, which made his blood run cold, still echoing through the place; but Pierre was nowhere to be seen, and the bodies were those of soldiers. He saw more victims brought to the foot of the lampposts; but they came from the direction of the Bastille, and were evidently members of the invalid garrison. Through some unseen influence exerted in the crowd, these men were spared, which gave Charles the hope that Pierre, if yet living, would escape. In fact, he was safe enough, being at this moment employed in drawing the people to the attack upon that gloomy fortress, which was regarded with more detestation by Frenchmen than if it had been a pest-house. When Pierre had by his energy sufficiently attested his good citizenship to be allowed to depart whither he would, he ran homewards met his master in search of him, embraced the children, kissed Marguerite's hand, and hastened back again to assist the siege, as if nothing had happened to himself that morning. Charles did the same, having persuaded his wife that he should be safer before the Bastille than at home, and left her in the protection of Steele, who had returned from his fruitless errand to the magistrates: fruitless, because they could listen to no petitions for private succour while the grand work of the demolition of the statefortress was going on under their sanction, and the control of their forces.
Steele had no more idea of remaining with the women and children on such an occasion, than his friend Charles. As soon as he had persuaded Marguerite to lie down, and had seen grandpapa and the children at play together again, and called in two stout porters of the establishment to keep watch below, he also disappeared. Often and vehemently did he protest in after years that he would not for any consideration have been absent from that siege; and of all his possessions, none were so valued by him as a link of the chain from which one of the captives had been released by Steele's own hands; which link the Englishman carried about him to the day of his death.
While Marguerite slept, through pure exhaustion, occasionally starting at the sound of cannon, or scared with visions of the horrible faces she had seen in the court so lately, her husband was actively disproving, to as many as might observe him, his being a royalist. He lent a helping hand to one work after another; now assisting in letting down the drawbridges successively; now in hauling forward the cannon; now in demolishing the guard-houses; now in foreign an entrance into the gloomy place itself; and finally, shouting for the release of the prisoners. Everything was forgotten but the work before his eyes: hours flew like minutes, amidst the intenseness of the occupation; and yet, if his thoughts reverted for a moment to the events of the morning, they seemed of ancient date,—as if he had lived a lifetime in this one day.
The spectacles of a lifetime were indeed to be beheld within the compass of this one scene. The most vivid emotions to which all ranks and all ages are subject were here in full play: all the various grouping which life affords was here presented; the entire elements of the scenery of human character were here congregated in infinite and magnificent combinations. The appeals to eye and ear alone were of unprecedented force; those addressed to the spirit equalled in stimulus the devotion of Leonidas in his defile, and excelled in pathos the meditation of Marius among more extensive ruins than those which were now tumbling around. From the heights of the fortress might be seen a heaving ocean of upturned faces, when the breeze dispersed at intervals the clouds of smoke which veiled the sun, and gave a dun and murky hue to whatever lay beneath. If a flood of sunshine now and then poured in to make a hundred thousand weapons glitter over the heads of the crowd, the black row of cannon belched forth their red fires to extinguish the purer light. The foremost of the people, with glaring eyes, and blackened and grinning faces, looked scarcely human, in their excess of eagerness, activity, and strength. Yet more terrific were the sounds: the clang of the tocsin at regular intervals the shouts of the besiegers, the shrieks of the wounded, the roar of the fire which was consuming the guard-houses, the crash of the ruins falling on all sides, a heavy splash in the moat from time to time, as some one was toppled from the ramparts to be smothered in its mud,— and above all these, the triumphant cries of victory and liberty achieved,—these were enough to dizzy weak brains, and give inspiration to strong ones. Here were also the terrors which sooner or later chill the marrow of despotism, and the stern joy with which its retribution fires the heart of the patriot. Here were the servants of tyranny quailing before the glance of the people; kneeling soldiers craving mercy of mechanics, of women, of some of every class whom, in the execution of their fancied duty, they had outraged. Here were men shrinking from violence with a craven horror, and women driven by a sense of wrong to show how disgusting physical courage may be made. Here were also sons led on to the attack by their hitherto anxious fathers; husbands thrust forward into danger by their wives; and little children upreared by their mothers amidst the fire and smoke, to take one last look of the hated edifice which was soon to be levelled with the ground. The towers of palaces might be seen afar, where princes were quaking at this final assurance of the downfall of their despotic sway, knowing that the assumed sanctity of royalty was being wafted away with every puff of smoke which spread itself over the sky, and their irresponsibility melting in fires lighted by the hands which they had vainly attempted to fetter, and blown by the breath which they had imagined they could stilie. They had denied the birth of that liberty whose baptism in fire and in blood was now being celebrated in a many-voiced chaunt with which the earth should ring for centuries. Some from other lands were already present to hear and join in it; some free Britons to aid, some wondering slaves of other despots to slmk homewards with whispered tidings of its import; for from that day to this, the history of the fall of the Bastille has been told as a secret in the vineyards of Portugal, and among the groves of Spam, and in the patriotic conclaves of the youth of Italy, while it has been loudly and joyfully proclaimed from one end to the other of Great Britain, till her lisping children are familiar with the tale.
The congregation would not have been complete without the presence of another class of witnesses whose very existence will perhaps be matter of incredulity in some future age of the world;—that class which man has taken upon himself to institute, and which will one day rise up against him in judgment of his abused power. There were captives present in this scene of lawless freedom,—or rather of freedom above the law. They were there, first trembling before the assailants, and then marvelling at the treatment they received, as the kid would marvel at being dandled by the lion. So it appeared to be with most of them, while one or two caught the tone of popular triumph before the doors of their cells were opened, and others received their deliverance in a manner that rent the heart of the deliverers.
When the capture of the place was complete, and its defenders had been carried off, some to be sacrificed for the sins of the government, and others to meet with mercy, Charles pressed forward, with a multitude of companions, to release the captives. It was hard labour to pull the clenched doors from their staples and hinges; and in some cases it was found easier to effect the work in a yet more irregular manner: as in one to which Steele called Charles's attention when they accidentally met in the centre of the fortress, where the light of day, however, streamed upon them through the demolished roof. Steele's face was working in strong emotion, and he appeared speechless while he seized his friend an the arm, and drew him to gaze on what made his heart's blood boil. Steele pointed through a breach in the enormous wall, whose thickness shut out all sound from the inmate of the dungeon it inclosed; and there, with eyes drooped before the unwonted light,—a light which, however, only half displayed the squalid sickness of his countenance, sat one who seemed to take no heed of any human presence, His expanded nostrils and half-opened mouth seemed to betoken that there had been passion and expectation within him; but the apathy and despondency of his attitude exhibited a strange contradiction to these evidences. When the first face appeared through the opening, he fumbled uneasily with his hands in his coarse dungeon dress; and when he was hailed, more and more loudly, under the idea that he was deaf, his beard was seen to stir upon his breast, and his lips to move, as if he was attempting in vain to articulate a sound. The endeavour presently ceased, though voice after voice was heard in importunity, — sometimes endearing, sometimes rallying, —that he would rise and help to free himself. It was a work of time to make a breach large enough to admit his deliverers; and at last, just before the first of them clambered in, the captive uplifted his broken and unmodulated voice in a few words, one or two of which Steele recognized to be English.
“O! he is a Briton!” cried he, clenching his hands above his head in the extremity of passion; and, staggering against the wall, he uttered a deep curse on the tyranny by which a countryman had been goaded into madness far from his own land, and from all who could know or avenge his state. Again and again he looked; again and again he withdrew, unable to bear the alternating aspects of idiotcy and gibbering madness. At last, he made trial of a new kind of stimulus; leaning through the breach, and calling to the captive,—
“O come, and take the hand of a brother once more! Look up, and tell us that your deliverers arc welcome! Let it be crime, or let it be misery that has stricken you so deeply, the last day of your dungeon life is over. Come, and hear about England! Come and feel the fresh air——”
The prisoner here shivered, as if already chilled by the air of a warm July day. Encouraged by this sign of attention, Steele went on.
“Only tell us whom you fear, and we will carry you far from them. Only name those you love, and I will get you tidings of them. Come and help us to free yourself and others; for you know more of the secrets of this horrible place than we.”
He would not move, however; and when they got to him, they found that he was chained by the middle to the wall behind him, It was impossible to learn from him his name, alleged offence, or period of imprisonment.
It was not till the Count de Solages was also liberated that it was ascertained that his name was White; that he had been confined for some unknown offence for many years in the castle of Vincennes, whence he was removed, in company with the count, to the Bastille, seven years before.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF BARGAINING.
The people carried away all the prisoners on their shoulders, intending to make them tell their stories in the coffee-houses of Paris; but Steele could not bear to see his countryman,—such a mere wreek of humanity as he was,—thus exhibited. He thankfully accepted his friend Charles's invitation to bring him first to his house, and try whether the intellects of the sufferer could be restored by any method of treatment—treatment which was more likely to be efficacious if administered by one who could speak his own language than by strangers. Fired as Steele had been in the achievement of the great work of the day, he now left the completion of it to others. While the mayor and executive were sending forth their popular decrees,—while the king was informed for the first time that his realm was in a state of revolution,—while the helpless ministry looked in one another's dismayed faces,—while the city architects were employed under a regular commission to make a perfect blank where the Bastille had stood, Steele was watching over his released countryman, fondly hoping that he traced an hourly growing resemblance to manhood, not only in external appearance, but in thought and action. He tried to make him vary his posture, and to walk;—an exercise to which he was as much averse as one who has taken laudanum. The next thing was to induce him to speak, which proved less difficult, provided he was permitted to mix up French and English after his own fashion. There was sometimes more and sometimes less sense in what he said, and it was occasionally interrupted by fits of impotent passion, for which no immediate cause could be assigned. These, however, came on only after his new way of life had continued for some time, and were indeed stages in the growth of the unmanageable madness which sent him, after all remedial means had been tried, to end his days in the lunatic asylum at Charenton.
Before these had become terrifying to Charles's children, they did not shrink from talking to him, and were encouraged to do so, as he spoke more, and more sensibly to them than to any one else.
“Why are you so very fond of water, I wonder?” exclaimed Julien, one day, laughing, when White held out his hand to snatch some which looked cool and clear in the boy's hand. “0 yes, you may have it. I can get plenty more. Why do you want so much water?”
“I drink water. And my rat—Where is my rat?”
None of the family could make out why he looked about him for a rat: but Steele's conjecture was that such an animal might have found its way out of the moat of the prison into the cell where no other living thing could enter but the silent turnkey. On inquiry, this was found to be the case; and the circumstances were touching in the extreme to those who had never known what it was to want such a resource. It was observed that White was as greedy of bread as of water, though not always for the purpose of eating it. Nothing could tempt him from it when there was any in the room; and whatever was offered in exchange for a crust, however delicate to the taste, or glittering to the eye, was rejected. “Bread, bread. Water, water,” was for ever his cry.
“He likes to play on my bird-organ,” observed Julien, “and I told him he might keep it: but he thrust it back upon me for a piece of bread. He sold it much cheaper, papa,—for far less bread,—than the people that made it. I think that is very silly.”
“It depends upon the value he puts upon what he has in exchange,” answered papa.
“Well, you told me how much bread was worth this organ; and it was much more than I gave him.”
“Yes; but you might happen to be shut up, as he has been, where one loaf of bread would be more useful to you than ten such at home.”
“Why more useful? I can but eat bread anywhere.”
“Yes; you can give it away,” interposed mamma. “If you were shut up for several years in a silent and nearly dark place, where nobody ever came to you, and were to hear a noise one day, and to see something moving, and to find out that it was a rat which had made its way to your cell; and if you wished that the rat should come again, and learn to know you, and feed tamely out of your hand, would you not desire to have some food to give it?”
“O yes: I would give it part of my dinner.”
“But if you had very little dinner, scarcely enough to satisfy your own hunger, you would buy more bread for your rat if you could. If your jailer asked you much more than the bread would be worth out of prison, you would give it him rather than your rat should not come and play with you. You would pay him first all your copper, and then all your silver, and then all your gold.”
“Yes, because I could not play with money so pleasantly as with a live animal, and there would be nothing else that I could buy in such a place. I had rather have the company of my rat than a pocket full of gold.”
“So White thought,” observed Marguerite, “and he gave the turnkey every thing he had left for bread, till his buttons, and his pencil case, and even his watch were all gone. It was a long time before he could bring himself to part with his watch; for the moving of the wheels was something to look at, and the ticking kept his ears awake, and made him feel less desolate: but when it came to giving up his watch or his rat, he thought he could least spare his live companion: so he carefully observed for some time the shifting of the glimmering light upon the wall, as the the morning passed into noon, and noon into afternoon and evening, and then he thought this sort of dial might serve him instead of a watch, and he gave it to the turnkey on condition of having an ounce more bread every day for a year.”
“He must have been pleased to have made his bargain for a whole year.”
“His pleasure lasted a very short while. The turnkey came earlier than usual one day when the rat was there, and twisted its neck before White could stop him.”
Juhen stamped with grief and anger when he heard this; but presently supposed the turnkey was honest enough to restore the watch. Charles shook his head in answer, and told his little son that poor White had been quite crazy since that day, and had talked about nothing but a rat, and shown no desire for any thing but bread and water since, though it was six years ago that his misfortune had happened.
“Did you ever hear of paying for water, Julien; or for air?”
No: Julien thought that God had given both so freely that it would be a sin to sell them. His father thought this not a good reason; for it seemed to him fair that men should buy and sell whenever one wanted something that another person had too much of; as much air and water as corn and flax, which were also given by God.
“Ah, but, papa, it costs men a great deal of trouble to prepare corn and flax.”
“True; and now you have hit upon the right reason. If corn and flax grew of themselves on land which belonged to nobody, would you pay for them, or just gather them without paying?”
“I should be very silly to pay when I might have them without.”
“So I think: but would corn and flax be less valuable then than now, when we have to pay very dear for them?”
“The corn would be just as good to eat, and the flax to make linen of: but they would not to change away.”
“No more than the air, which is very useful in breathing, or water which we could not do without, and which yet would be a very poor thing to carry to market. Now, would you call water a valuable thing or not, Julien?”
“No, not at all, because it will buy nothing ——O yes, but it is though; because we could not do without it.—Mamma, is water valuable or not?”
“Very valuable in use, but not usually in exchange. When things are valuable in exchange, it is either because they cost labour before they could be used, or because they are very scarce.”
“So,” observed Charles, “if a mine should ever be dug so deep that the air is not fresh at the bottom where the miners work, the owner of the mine would be very glad to buy air of any one who could convey it down by a machine. Such an one would be wise to charge so much a gallon for the fresh air he supplied, to pay for the labour and expense of his machine, and for the trouble of working it.”
Marguerite then mentioned that she once staid in a small country town during a drought. There was no reservoir of water, and all the pumps and cisterns were dry. The poor people went out by night into the neighbouring country, and watched the springs; and any one who was fortunate enough to obtain a gallon of fresh water was well paid for it. The price rose every day, till at last one woman gave a calf for a pailfull of water, hoping to save her cow, it being certain that both must die without this supply.
“And did she save her cow?”
“Yes. While the woman was anxiously sitting up in bed, planning what she should change away next, she fancied there was a different feel in the air; and on looking out of the window, she found the sky covered with black clouds; and before morning, the trade in water was over. There was nobody to give a doit for a cistern-full.”
“It was just so with me,” observed Charles, “when I was besieged in the cellar. I was parched with thirst, and would have given a pipe of my best wine to any one who would have let me down a quart of water through the trapdoor. Three hours after, I myself threw hundreds of gallons on the fire at the guard houses, when the order was given to take them down in an orderly way; and I did not consider such use of the water any waste. So much for the value which is given by scarcity.”
“But, papa, though things are more valuable to people when there is a scarcity of them, the people are less rich than they were before. That seems to me very odd.”
“Because you have been accustomed to consider value and wealth as the same things, which they are not. Our wealth consists in whatever is valuable in use as well as in exchange. Owing to the storm of last year, I have less wealth in my possession now than I had then, though what I have may, perhaps, exchange for more wealth still I have as much furniture, and as many clothes and luxuries, and as much money; but I have fewer growing vines, and much less wine. If I were to use up my own grapes and wine instead of selling them, they would last a much shorter time than my stock of the former year would have lasted. So I have less wealth in possession. But the value of wine has risen so high, in consequence of scarcity, that I can get as much now of other things in exchange for a pint, as I could, fourteen months ago, in exchange for a gallon.”
“But that is partly because the wine is older. Mr. Steele is very particular about the wine being old, and he pays you much more, he told me, the longer it has been kept.”
“And it is very fair he should, for reasons which you can hardly understand yet.”
“Try him,” said Marguerite.
“It is impossible, my dear. I refer to the charges I am at for the rent of my cellar, the wear of my casks, and the loss of interest upon the capital locked up in the wine. All this must be paid out of the improvement in the quality of the article; and all this, Julien mutt wait a few years to understand.
“Now tell me, my boy, whether you think it a good thing or not that there should be a scarcity of wine?”
“Why, papa, as we do not want to drink all you have ourselves, and as people will give you as much for it as they would for twice as much, I do not think it signifies to you; but it must be a bad tiling for the people of Paris that there is so little wine to be had. At least you said so about the bread.”
“But if my wine should be as dear next year, and I should have no more losses from storms, and no more expense than in common years, in growing my wine, would the high price be a good thing for me or not?”
“It would be good for you, and bad for your customers; only I think they would not give you so much for your wine. They would remember that there had been no more storms, and they would find people that had cheaper wine to sell, and then they would leave off buying of you.”
“And they would be very right, if there was anybody to sell cheaper; as there would be, if labourers had less wages, and so made it less expensive to grow and prepare wine. But if some way was found of making more wine than ever, in a cheaper way than ever, who would be the better for that?”
“The people that buy of you, because I suppose you would let them have it cheaper.”
“And papa too,” said Marguerite, “for many people would buy wine who cannot afford it now.”
“Therefore,” concluded Charles, “a high exchangeable value is not at all a good thing for everybody, though it may be for a time to some few. Aud a low exchangeable value is a very good tiling to everybody, if it arises from the only cause which can render it permanent,—a diminution of the cost of production.”
“But if this happened with every article,” pursued Marguerite, “there would be an end of the cheapness, though not of the plenty. As many of one thing would exchange for a certain number of other things as before.”
“True; but less labour would purchase them all; and this is the grand consideration. As less labour will now purchase a deal table than was once necessary to procure a rough hewn log in its place, less labour still may hereafter buy a mahogany one; and this is a desirable thing for the purchasers of tables, and no less for the makers, who will then sell a hundred times the number they can dispose of now.”
The Parisians soon after showed that they knew little of the resources on which the supply of the wants of the state should depend, by having recourse to a measure which, however popular, was one of great folly;—folly to be exceeded only by an act of the populace which took place nearly at the same time.
The coffers of the government had long been empty. Loans of almost every kind, and under every species of pretence, had been raised upon the suffering nation, some of which proved failures in their primary object, while others, however great the proceeds in amount, seemed to be exhausted with somewhat the same speed as water that is poured into a sieve. Never money went away so fast before; and whilst the government was dismayed at its magic property of disappearance, the people grew more and more angry at what they thought the extravagance of their rulers. Neither of them took into the account the scarcity of most of the necessaries of life, and both regarded money as having the same value as ever,—as being, in itself, the thing required to supply the necessities of the state. To both it was equally inconceivable why, if so much had defrayed such and such expenses in former years, double the sum would go no way at all at present. The ministers and the court could only tremble at the necessity of owning the truth, while the people raged, and could be appeased only by court largesses for the relief of the starving: which largesses went as little way when they had changed hands as before. Neither party suspected that money, although scarce, had be come very cheap through the still greater scarcity of other things; and in the absence of this necessary knowledge, everybody was eager about gold and silver.
The National Assembly had tried all means, first by themselves, and then with the assistance of Necker, to raise a supply, without which the affairs of the state could not, they believed, proceed; and all in vain. Then Necker had leave given him to pursue his own methods; and, popular as he was, no one had a doubt that he would succeed. But he failed, though he issued the most tempting proposals; offered the high est interest that ever was heard of, even in such an emergency; and exerted his utmost personal influence in favour of the loan. The subscription was not half filled: the reason of which was that many had no money, having spent it all in buying necessaries; and as many in France as had taken their money (much of it had gone into other countries) expected to want it themselves for the same purposes, or had not confidence enough in the stability of the government to take it for a creditor. So the king's horses went on to eat borrowed hay or to want it; and the king's servants to clamour for their wages; and the king's tradesmen to decline orders on one pretence or another; and the police threatened to leave the home minister to keep order by him self; and state couriers went unwillingly forth on their journies; and business lagged in every department of the administration.
At this moment, it entered some wise head that, if people would not lend money, they might lend or give something else; not corn or hay, or any of the necessaries of life; for every one knew there was still less of these things than of money; but gold and silver in any form. It would have been hard to say what lasting good this could do amidst the impossibility of procuring the necessaries of which gold and silver are only the re presentatives: but no matter for that. Nobody was asked to explain the affair, and apparently none troubled themselves to think about it; so delighted were all with the new notion of giving away trinkets to save the state. The idea of a patriotic contribution was charming,—a contribution in which almost everybody could join; women and children, and persons of many degrees below the class of capitalists. The court joined: the gentlemen sacrificing nearly half their watches and seals, and the ladies adopting simplicity as a fashion, and sending away the jewellery they could not wear as Arcadian shepherd esses and Sicilian nymphs. The Assembly fol lowed, every member thereof stooping down at the same moment to strip his shoes of their buckles, so that their act of patriotic devotion made really a very fine show. This gave the signal to the whole country, and all France was forthwith unbuckled in respect of the feet. She became also quakerlike as to the hands, for not a maiden but took out her lover's hair from his parting gift, and flung the ring into the lap of the nation; not a wife that did not part with the token of her wifehood in the cause. Pecks of gold rings, bushels of silver buckles, with huge store of other baubles, were at once in the possession of the state; and the people no longer doubted that all would henceforth be well.
And what was really the event?—The gold answered the same purpose as it does when a basin full of it coined stands on the banker's counter during a run. It satisfied the ignorant that all must be safe where there is so much wealth actually before one's eyes. It hushed the clamours of the people for a little while; and made the servants of the government willing to go on somewhat longer upon credit; so that more industry and briskness prevailed for a time, at the risk of ultimate disappointment, and an aggravation of popular fury,—now diverted but not dispersed. A mob went about to levy these voluntary offerings, an act ludicrously inconsistent with their next proceeding; if, indeed, any of the events of this extraordinary time could be regarded as ludicrous.
They called at Charles's house among others, whence, as it happened, no such offerings had yet gone forth. Charles had resisted Pauline's wish to lend the queen her thimble, and Julien's offer to pay his first tax with the silver-tipped riding-whip grandpapa had given him. Neither would he allow Marguerite's few ornaments, all keepsakes, to be thrown away in any such manner. He would give the coat off his back to the state, he said, when it could do any service: but the proposed gifts could only help to make jewellery a drug, without supplying one more person with bread, or lessening by so much as one scruple the burdens of the state. He was disposed to be vexed when he came home one day, and found a short allowance of spoons at the dinner-table, the clock on the mantel-piece gone, and his wife as destitute of external ornament as any Areadian shepherdess at Versailles. He laughed, however, at his wife's apologies for having made a voluntary offering against her own will as well as his, and hoped that she would be as little the worse as the state would be the better for the sacrifice. Goldsmiths and jewellers of enterprise and capital would profit by the fancy, he observed, if nobody else did; and the many losers might find some comfort in sympathy with the very few winners.
The people, meanwhile, were bitterly com plaining of famine, and the more gold was carried to the treasury, the more bread was bought up before the eyes of those who were deprived of it from its increased price. It mattered not that some was given away in charity by the king, and more, to suit his own purposes, by the duke of Orleans; the people were rendered unable to purchase it, and furnished with the plea of want, wherewith to make the streets of Paris echo. It would have been better to have let the exchange of wedding rings for bread be made without the interposition of the king or his ministers, even without taking into consideration the events which followed. A report was soon industriously spread that the bread furnished by court charity was of a bad quality. It was believed, like every thing that was then said against the court; and the consequence was that an anomalous and me laneholy sight was seen by as many as walked in the city. Clamorous, starving crowds be sieged the bakers' shops, and carried off all the bread from their ovens, all the flour from their bins; while the discontented among the mob politicians of the Orleans faction were on the way to snatch the food from the mouths of the hungry and throw it into the river, and to cut the sacks, and mix the flour with the puddles of the streets. Want and waste, faction and delusion were here seen in their direct extremes.
At this time, Charles and Marguerite did not allow their children to go out under any guardianship but that of their father, as it was impossible to foresee what might happen in the streets before they could get home again. They were as safe as any count be at such a time; — safer than the few who ventured abroad in carriages at the risk of insult wherever they turned; safer than the sordidly fed and clad, who were seized upon by the agents of faction to augment their mobs, and be made the instruments of violence under the penalty of suffering it themselves. The parents and children were also safer together than separate; as a domestic party, abroad to take the air, presented as unsuspicious a group, and one as likely to pass unnoticed, as could well be imagined. Yet they had their occasional alarms; and when there was no cause to fear for themselves, were too often grieved and shocked at what they beheld inflicted on others.
“O papa!” cried Julien, one day, as they were walking; “what are they doing at Maigrot's shop? I do believe the crowd is coming there next.”
Maigrot was a baker, well known to Charles's family, and much beloved by the children, on account of the little hot cakes which seemed to be always ready to pop out of the oven and into their mouths, when they went with the servant to deliver orders or pay bills.
Instead of his usual smiling face, Maigrot was now seen in a state of desperate anxiety, as well as could be judged from the glimpse of him at his door, trying first to slip out, and then to force his way between the two men who were evidently placed at the entrance as guards till the mob should come up. Foiled in his attempt, Maigrot disappeared, and Charles thought that it might depend on whether there was a way of exit at the back of the house, whether his head would presently be carried on a pike, between two loaves of his own bread, or whether he would be kneading and baking in peace ten years hence. There seemed to be just time to run and give a word of advice to whomsoever might be waiting in the shop, and Charles ran forward to do so. He was prevented entering; but seeing Maigrot's wife sinking and trembling behind the counter, and looking absolutely incapable of any resolution whatever, he called out to her to assist in emptying the flour bins and distributing the bread, and to fear nothing, and all would be well. The woman tossed off a glass of water which stood beside her, and rallied for the effort. In such effort lay the only resource of sufferers under violence in those days; for the magistracy were unable to afford assistance; or, if able, were not to be depended on. The shop was presently emptied and gutted, and its stock car tied away, without, however, being in this instance preceded by the horrible display of a human head. Maigrot had escaped and actually joined in with the mob in time to see his own flour cast into the Seine. Nobody thought more of the baker, and he took advantage of this disregard to learn a great deal of his own doings which he did not know before. He now overheard that his flour was mixed with hurtful ingredients by order of his customer, the king; that an inferior kind was sold at high prices as the best; and that there were stores of meal concealed somewhere about his premises, to victual the soldiers who were to be brought to rule the city, and give the king his own way. All this was news to Maigrot, who was compelled to listen to these false Loods in silence: more fortunate than many who had lost their lives as well as their good name under similar charges. A defender sprang up, however, when he least expected it.
Charles and his little son could not help following to look on, when the mob proceeded with the flour down to the river. They stood on the outskirts of the crowd, watching sack after sack as, with hoarse shouts, it was heaved into the water so as to make the heaviest splash possible. A new amusement presently occurred to some of the leaders; that of testing the political opinions of the passers by the judgment they should pronounce on the quality of the flour. Those who declared it good must, of course, be parasites of the court; those who made mouths at it were the friends of the people; and the moment this point was settled, every gazer from a distance was hauled to the water's edge to undergo the test; every approaching carriage was waylaid and stopped, and its inmates brought on the shoulders of the mob. Of course, all gave judgment on the same side;—a thing likely to happen without much dishonesty, when the raw flour was crammed into the mouth by foul and sometimes bloody hands. It would have been difficult to pronounce it very good under such circumstances of administration.
Among the most piteous looking of those under test was the marquis de Thou, who was taken from a non-descript sort of carriage, on his way, as he vowed, to the duke of Orleans, but certainly attended by more than one servant of the royal household. While prosecuting his explanations with gesture and grimace, uplifted as he was above the crowd, he looked so like a monkey riding a bear that a universal shout of mockery arose. He was lowered for a moment, out of sight; and the laugh rose louder than ever when be reappeared, held at arms' length by a hundred hands, powdered all over like a miller. His position made the judgment he had to give all the more difficult, for it enabled him to perceive the royal servants watching him on one side, the duke of Orleans and some of his fiercest followers on another, and the pitiless mob around.
“Ah! it is very, very good food for the poor, without doubt,” he declared, while in full view of the court party, and with his mouth stuffed with a compound which had just been taken from a puddle underfoot. “Very fine nourishment for a good king to buy dear, and give away to a hungry people.—Ah! no more,— no more, I pray you! I shall presently dine, and it is enough. I cannot praise it more than I have done.—Ah! but” (seeing the duke frowning) “I do not say but it may be a little sour,— and somewhat bitter,—yes, O yes, and gritty,— and, O do not murder me, and I will also say hurtful.—And poisonous? Yes, no doubt it is poisonous,—clearly poisonous.—But, how bountiful of the king to think of how the poor should be fed!”
The marquis might think himself fortunate in getting off with a ducking in the yeasty flood, into which he was let down astride on a flour sack. While sneaking away through the crowd, after shaking his dripping queue, and drawing a long breath, he encountered Charles, whom he immediately recognised, and with inconsiderate selfishness, exposed to the notice of the crowd by his appeal.
“Ah, my friend, here is a condition I am in! For our old friendship's sake,—for the sake of our vicinity in Guienne, aid me!”
“Do not answer him. Take no notice,” whispered Maigrot from behind; “'tis as much as your life is worth.”
But Charles could not be inhuman. He gave the old man his arm to conduct him to the carriage which he intended to order to his own house. Before he had well turned his back, however, a piercing shriek from Julien made him look round. The mob were about to carry the boy towards the sacks.
“Do not be alarmed, my dear,” said he. “Taste the flour, and say whether you think it good; and I will come to you in a moment to do the same.”
Julien shrieked no more, but he looked ruefully in his father's face, when Charles returned. As soon as he had gulped down his share and could speak, he said he had never tasted raw flour before, but it was not so good as the hot cakes that were made of it sometimes.—The boy escaped with being only laughed at.—His father's turn came next.
Charles stipulated, when laid hold of, to be allowed to feed himself, and refused laughingly to taste what came out of the puddle till his neighbours should have separated the mud from the flour. With a very oracular look, he then proceeded from sack to sack, tasting and pronouncing, apparently unmoved by the speculations he heard going on all round him as to whether he was a royalist from about the court, or a spy from Versailles, or only an ignorant stranger from the provinces. When he had apparently made up his mind, he began a sort of conversation with those nearest to him, which he exalted by degrees into a speech.
“When I,” he observed, “I, the very first, opened a prisoner's cell in the Bastille—”
He was interrupted by loud cheers from all who heard; and this drew the attention of more.
“— I found,” continued Charles, “a mess of wholesome food in that horrible place. Every other kind of poison was there,—the poison of damps and a close atmosphere; the poison of inactivity which brings on disease and death; the poison of cruelty by which all the kindly feelings are turned into bitterness in the soul of the oppressed; and the poison of hopelessness, by which the currents of life are chilled, and the heart of the captive is sunk within him till he dies. All these poisons we found in every cell; but to all their inmates was denied that quicker poison which would have been welcome to end their woes. Some, we know, have lived thirtyfive years under this slow death, while a very small mixture of drugs with their bread would have released them in fewer hours. That this quicker method was ever used, we have no proof; that it was not used in the case of those whom we released, we know, not by their state of health alone; for that, alas! was not to be boasted of;—but by the experience of some of us. When we were heated with toil and choked with dust, we drank the draughts which the prisoners left untasted in their cells. When a way was made among the ruins, women came to see what a work their husbands had achieved; and when their children craved food, rather than return home before all was finished, they gave their little ones the bread which the captives had loathed. Many thus ate and drank; and I appeal to you whether any evil came of that day; whether the sleep of the next night was not sound as became the rest which succeeds to an heroic effort. No one was poisoned with the food then provided by the government; and yet that horrible dungeon was the place, if there be any, for poison to do its work. And if not attempted there, will it be here? Here, where there are a million of eyes on the watch to detect treasons against the people? Here, where there are hundreds of thousands of defenders of the public safety? No, fellow citizens: this is not the kind of treason which is meditated against us. There are none that dare practise so directly on your lives. But there is a treason no less fatal, though more disguised, which is even at this moment in operation against you. You ask me two questions; — whether this food is of a bad quality; — and whether you are not half starved; and both these evils you ascribe to your rulers. —To the first I answer, that this food is, to the best of my judgment, good; and, whether good or bad, that the government has nothing to do with it, since it forms no part of the stores that the king has bought up for distribution. It is flour of the same harvest, the same field, the same mill, the same bin, that I and mine have been supplied from; and it has nourished me well for the work I have had to do; for letting in the light of day upon the foulest dungeon that ever deformed the earth,—for watching over those who have been released from it,—for attending to the proceedings of the Assembly, —for meditating by might and consulting by day how the rights of the people may best be attained and secured. Keep the same food to strengthen you for the same purposes. Do not forget your other complaint;—that you are starving: and remember that however much this may be owing to the misrule and courtly extravagance you denounce, the grievance will not be removed by your feeding the fishes with that which your children are craving. I spoke of another kind of treason than that which you suspect, and I see about me too many tokens of its existence;—the treason which would not poison but starve you.
“Of the motives of this treason I have nothing to say, for I am wholly ignorant of them. I only insist that there can be no truly patriotic aim under the project of depriving you of the food which is at best but scantily supplied. Do you find in the most plentiful seasons that we have corn enough to make sport with in the river? Are your houses even then so filled with grain that, after feeding your children and domestic animals, you have enough left for the cels of the Seine? Is it to give you this oversupply that the peasantry of the provinces live under roofs of rushes, and couch upon beds of straw? Tell me,—is there ill the happiest of times such a superfluity that no Frenchman has a want or wish for more?”
Furious cries of denial rose from all sides, joined with curses upon the government which year by year, by its extravagance, snatched the hard-earned bread from the labourer's hands.
“This is all true,” replied Charles, “and is in course of being reformed: but when did even a tyrannical government inflict upon you such evils as you are this day inflicting upon your selves? When has it robbed the shops of one of the most useful class of men among you, and carried away boat-loads of the food for which thousands are pining, and destroyed your means of life before your eyes? A worse enemy than even a weak king and a licentious court is making sport of your miseries, and overwhelming you with such as cannot be repaired. Yes! let it not hurt your pride to hear of woes that cannot be repaired; for even the power of the sovereign people is not unlimited, great as you have proved it to be. You have abolished servile parliaments, and obtained a virtuous assembly of representatives. You have swept away the stronghold of oppression, and can tread with free steps the turf from which its very foundations have been extracted. You have rejected a constitution which was all insufficient warrant for your liberties, and are in the way to obtain universal assent to that noble Declaration of Rights which shall become the social contract of every civilized nation.—All these things, and others which would have been called impossibilities ten years ago, you have achieved. But there are impossibilities remaining which more truly deserve the name. You cannot prevent multitudes dying when famine is in the land; you cannot call up a new harvest before the seed has sprouted; you cannot insist upon supplies from other lands which are already drained. You can waste your resources, but you cannot recall them. With however much pride or levity you may at this hour fling away the staff' of your life, you cannot retard the day when you will sink for want of it,—when you will kneel in the mud by the brink of this very current, and crave the waters to give up what you have buried in them, or to drown your miseries with your life. —Will you suffer yourselves thus to be made sport of? Will you permit yourselves to be goaded into madness, in order that you may be ready for madmen's deeds? ' Will you throw away what is in your own hands, that others may reduce you to crave the small pittance which will remain in theirs? Those who have incited you to the deeds of this day take very good care that all our granaries shall not be emptied. They reserve a few, that you . at length,—when all their schemes are ripe,—be their tools through your literal dependance on them for bread.—Disappoint this plot as far as you can. It is now too late to keep plenty in your own hands; but baffle the approaches of famine to the last moment; for with hunger comes slavery; or, if you will not have slavery, death; and in either case, your country must surrender your services at the very moment when she wants them most.—Where is the patriotism of bringing things to this pass?— Where also is the justice of condemning unheard so useful a class of men as those from whom you have taken their property without accusation, and, in many cases, their lives, on nothing better than suspicion of their having communicated with the court?—We must respect rights, as well as frame a Declaration of them. We must cherish the innocent and useful of society, if we wish to restrain those who are neither the one nor the other. Let there be a contrast between the oppressors and the friends of the people. Let tyrants tremble, while industrious citizens dwell in peace.”
It was now easy to wind up the discourse to the point contemplated. Charles proposed that Maigrot should be permitted, under proper guardianship, to bake a provision of loaves out of this very flour; and if they proved good, that all that remained of his property should be restored to him. The crowd rather relished the idea of waiting the operation, in full prospect of a batch of hot rolls gratis as the result, and the proposal was received with acclamations.— Charles immediately singled out Maigrot, as he stood on the outskirts of the mob, requested him to lead the way homewards, put a loaf into each arm of his little son, swung a sack of flour on his own shoulders, and headed the most singular of all the extraordinary processions which attracted the gaze of Paris in those times.
The duke of Orleans made no opposition. He saw that the game was up for this day, and departed in an opposite direction, having no particular wish to hear the verdict which he knew would be passed upon the bread, or to witness the exultation of the baker.—Before night, Maigrot not only felt his head safe upon his shoulders, but was the most eminent baker in Paris; and, if he had but had any flour remaining, might have boasted such a business as he had tilt now never thought of aspiring to.
The endeavours of individuals like Charles to make the people wise were of little avail, how ever successful at the moment, in opposition to influences of a different character which were perpetually at work upon the mob of Paris. The obstinacy of the king in refusing to sign the declaration of rights, the imbecility of the ministry, the arts and clamours of the leaders of different parties, and, above all, the destitution of which they took advantage, overcame all principles of subordination, all sentiments of loyalty, and filled the people with a rage which rendered them as blind to their own interests as unjust towards those of the ranks above them. Riot and waste spread and grew from day to day, and the wise saw no more prospect of relief than the foolish of danger.
The king had been told, on the day the Bastille was taken, that his capital was in a state of revolution; but, nearly three months afterwards, he was still wondering what the event might mean; talking over with the queen the kindnesses he had always intended showing to his people, and assuring the people's parliament that the best thing he could do for them was to preserve his dignity and prerogative. He could still at Versailles ride abroad unmolested in the mornings, feast his body-guard in the middle of the day, and look on while the ladies of the court were dancing in the evening, and sleep the whole night without hearing the drums and larums which kept all Paris awake; and could not therefore believe that all would not come right, when the people should have been persuaded of the atrocious unreasonableness of the Declaration they wanted him to sign. When he heard that they drowned their flour in hatred of him, he did all he could think of in ordering that more should be given them; and when the queen discovered that which every one would have kept from her,—that she was hated,—she curled her proud lip, and reared her graceful head, and thought that the citizens must be ignorant indeed if they fancied they could understand her springs of action, or believed that they could intimidate her. With the dauphin at her knee, she expatiated to the ladies of her court on the misfortune of kings and queens having any connexion at all with the people beneath them, whom it was at all times difficult to manage, and who might, as now, cause serious trouble, and interfere materially with the peace of royalty. She had at that moment little idea how the peace of royalty was to be invaded this very day.
A murmur of horror and looks of dismay penetrated even into the presence of her majesty, when tidings arrived of the approach of an army of women from Paris.
“Of women!” cried the gouvernance of the dauphin. “Is it because they can crave bread with a shriller wail?”
“Of women!” exclaimed the lady Alice de Thou. “They come to plead for the rights of their children. I remember when they brought the little ones in their arms after the storm, and we gave them all we had.”
“Of women!” said the queen, thoughtfully. Then, with fire in her eyes, she continued, looking steadfastly on the trembling chamberlain who brought the news, “Since they are women, it is my head they want. Is it not so? Speak. Are they not come for me?”
As soon as the chamberlain could speak, he muttered that he feared they were indeed not women, but ruffians in disguise.
“Aye, just so,” observed the queen. “Their womanhood is emblematical; and the hint of their purpose is not lost upon me. I hope they are indeed men, and can handle arms. I would take my death more willingly, being shot at as a mark, than being torn to pieces by the foul hands of the rabble. A death-blow from afar rather than a touch from any one of them!”
All present, except the chamberlain, were loud in their protestations against the possibility of any such danger. It was inconceivable; it was barbarous; it was horrific; it was a thing unheard of; in short, it was absolutely inconceivable. The chamberlain mournfully admitted that the whole was indeed inconceivable to all who had not witnessed the procession, like a troop of furies from the regions below, taking their way through every savage district on the earth, and swelling their ranks with all that could be gathered up of hideous and corrupt. That her majesty's sacred person should fall into such hands——
All now began to urge flight, and the queen was for a moment disposed to listen; but finding that the king was out shooting, had been sent for, and was expected every instant, she resolved to wait his arrival, and then it was too late. The poissardes, real and pretended, had by that time rushed into the place, filled the streets, stopped up the avenue, and taken up a position of control in the Chamber of Assembly. The king reached the palace through a back entrance, in safety, but it was in vain to think of leaving it again.
A hasty council was summoned, consisting of the royal family, and a few confidential servants, whose attachment to the persons of majesty might set against the enervating terror which had seized upon the ministers, and prevented their exerting any influence over these new and appalling circumstances. Within the circle, rapid consultation went on in low voices, while some kept watch at the doors. When discussing the necessity of signing the declaration of rights, —which was one of the demands of the mob without,—the queen's manner and tone were perceived suddenly to change, and she appeared to make light of the danger under which even her spirit had quailed but just before.
“Be careful;” she whispered to the person next her. “There is a creature of the duke of Orleans in the room. I wonder how he got in.”
The lady Alice, who was watching her, followed the glance of her eye, and saw that it rested on one whom she little expected to see.
“Madam!” she exclaimed, “it is my father!”
“Yes, my child; come to share your loyalty, now that the women below have made him afraid. If the palace is stormed, he must find a refuge once more under the Orleans provisioncarts, which are, i suppose, in waiting, as usual. We must give him no news to carry; and Alice, as soon as he is gone, I must have your head-dress to wear, as the best protection while your father points the way to us. I would not, however, be so cruel, my child, as to deck you with mine. You would lose your pretty head in a trice, and then the marquis would altogether go from us. It is through you that we are still favoured with his countenance occasionally.”
Alice's tearful eves had besought mercy for her parent long before the queen seemed disposed to yield it. While the adherence of the noblesse to the royal cause was regarded as a matter of course, and therefore not rewarded with extraordinary gratitude, all symptoms of halting or deflection were observed with scorn, and commented on without reserve by the haughty woman who regarded her rank and empire as natural, instead of conventional, and would as soon have dreamed of being denied the use of her limbs and senses as the privileges of royalty.
It was through her influence that the king refused to sign the declaration till the last moment,—when he was compelled to do so at a tremendous sacrifice of regal dignity;—at the bidding, namely, of twelve poissardes who forced their way into the presence with the deputies from the Assembly, and under the compulsion of threats of what might be expected from the army of eighteen thousand men who had marched from Paris during the afternoon, under the enforced command of Lafayette.
Never was anything beheld more dreary than the aspect, more disgusting than the incidents of this day and night. The skies frowned upon the scene, and wind and rain added to the difficulty of what was achieved, and the horror of what was witnessed. The deputies and their attendants, the poissardes, appeared in the king's presence, covered with mud and drenched with ram; the House of Assembly was crowded with women, who came in for shelter, taking their seats, among the members, now eating and drinking, and now lifting up an outcry to drown the voice of all unpopular deputy; the fires of the bivouacs in the streets were quenched with torrents of rain, again and again, and the peaceable inhabitants were in fear of being compelled at length to throw open their gates to the rabble. The leading figure of the mob, however, had a peculiar reason for disliking the weather, as he took care to show everybody. He was a gaunt looking ruffian, with a high pointed cap, and grotesque garb, well armed, but especially proud of an axe which he carried, ready for immediate use at the slightest hint from the leaders of the mob. With all his fear,—the only fear he seemed capable of,—that it should be rusted with the wet, and he thus delayed in his vocation, he could not refrain from brandishing it over his head, and displaying it in sight of the sentinels, and such of the body-guards as looked out now and then from the palace. This ruffian took his stand immediately under the king's window, prepared a cannon as a convenient block, and wanted impatiently for victims. He could not be persuaded to quit his post for shelter; but he did once step aside for brandy. On his return, he found two poissardes sitting astride on his cannon, face to face, tossing off their drams, and devouring the rations which their prompting demon had taken care to provide. The executioner warned them off, and prevailed by the offer of a better seat within five minutes. A hint was enough to show them his meaning. He just pointed towards an approaching group, consisting of an unfortunate soldier with whom some of the mob had picked a quarrel as he was going to his post for the night,— and his captors. The victim looked dogged. He saw the cold metal block on which the axe was presently to ring his death-stroke: he saw the fidgetty executioner, and the fierce women, gathering round, munching their suppers as if his life-blood was the draught they looked for to wash down the last mouthful he saw that no help was within reach or call. He saw all this, and seemed disposed to take quietly, though sullenly, what was inevitable. He stood firm while they pulled off his stock; he moved forwards when they pushed him; he kneeled when they pressed upon his shoulders; but some impatience in their manner of doing so excited his passions in a moment to their utmost strength. Before they could keep him down, he was not only on his feet again, but bounding high in the air, grappling with the executioner for the axe, kicking, trampling, buffeting all who laid hands on him, and creating a hubbub which brought the king to the window above, and conveyed to the senses of the ladies a knowledge of what was passing. It was a short struggle; but a struggle it was to the last, and force alone could subdue the victim. One virago clutched the hair of his head, and others held down his feet. When his blood flowed on the ground, and mixed with the puddles of rain, one or two stooped down to see how the eyes rolled and the nostrils yet quivered, while, on the other side the block, the executioner, mindful of his promise, tossed the headless body to a little distance, so that his friends might sit on it to finish their meal, What are the invisible issues of life there was no one present to think, during the whole scene, unless the victim himself might have been conscious of his thoughts darting that way; but such was the visible issue of a life which a stupendous and delicate natural apparatus had been appointed to create, sustain, and develop. It had originated in the deepest passions of human nature; been maintained by appliances, both natural and moral, which the keenest powers can barely recognize, and not estimate; and developed for objects of which man has only the remotest ken. Such was the visible issue of this mighty series of operations. That the handy work of Providence should ever have been thus crushed, and its mysteries thus boldly made sport of, may in time appear as incredible as it would now seem that children had ever been encouraged to pull planets from their spheres in mockery, and quench the milky way,—supposing, such power to have been left in their hands. In the latter case, who would be answerable for the profanation ? Surely those who taught mockery in the place of reverence. Who then was answerable in the former case? Those who made the perpetrators ignorant through oppression, and savage by misrule. The responsibilities of a certain order through many centuries were called to judgment during the brief period before us; and the sentence of condemnation not only went forth on the four winds to the farthest corners of the globe, but shall be repeated down to those remote ages when it shall be forgotten on earth, though recorded in heaven, that man ever shed the blood of man.
One or two more such murders on the cannon and at the palace gates had not the effect of alarming the court or the really patriotic leaders of the people so far as to keep them on the watch through the night. The king believed that all was safe when he had given the signature which it was the professed object of the expedition to obtain. The queen was assured by Lafayette that the people were wearied, and that nothing was to be apprehended till morning; and the general himself reposed in his hotel in full confidence of the security of all parties. All were not, however, thus satisfied. Some of the deputies refused to withdraw from their chamber; and while all was sleep and silence in the palace, except where some watchful ear caught the soft tread of the sentinels in the corridors, and the pattering of the rain without, and at intervals, some tidings from the passing gust, of revelry in the streets,—while armed ruffians sang their songs, or snored in their dreams round the watch-fires where the shrill-voiced poissardes were broiling their rations, or heating their strong liquors,—a few of the wiser deputies sat, each in his place, with folded arms, and in perfect silence, while the light of a single lamp fell on their uncovered heads and thoughtful countenances, and foresight was invisibly presenting to each pictures of that which was about to befall their monarchy and themselves. Revellers, legislators, and sentinels were not the only ones who watched. One or two, who did not partake the general's confidence in the people thus strangely congregated, wandered from watch-fire to watch-fire, and about the precincts of the palace, to be in readiness to warn Lafayette of the first symptoms of movement.
Among these was Charles, whose anxiety had been awakened by the aspect of Paris after the departure of the army for Versailles. It was well known that Lafayette's generalship on this occasion was enforced; and not all the apparatus of triumph amidst which the troops marched out, —not all the drumming, and military music, and display of flags amidst the rain, and echo of shouting heard above the strong winds, could remove the impression of the hollowness of all this rejoicing,—the desperation of this defiance. When the sights and sounds were gone, a deep gloom settled down upon Paris. The shops were shut, the streets were silent, except where the waggons, laden with meat, bread, and brandy, converged towards the Versailles road, or where groups of two or three observers whispered their anticipations to each other, mindful of none but political storms, and questioning only whether the sun of royalty would not this night have a crimson setting, to rise upon their state no more.
Charles had been among these observers, and the tidings he brought home made his wife anxious to depart from this revolutionary city, and take refuge in their country possessions. She would be ready to go at any moment, she declared, and when would there be so favourable a time as when the place was half emptied of its inhabitants, the police otherwise engaged than in watching the proceedings of private individuals, and all fear at an end of any attack upon the wine-stores? Charles was half disposed to listen to the scheme, though his views of what was likely to happen differed as widely from his wife's as the prevailing tone of mind by which they were influenced. Marguerite feared the worst: her husband hoped all might yet be well, and thought it, at all events, a good thing that something decided must arise out of the present crisis. He determined to follow the march to Versailles, and to return as soon as he could anticipate the event, to bid Marguerite stay and make herself easy, or to carry her, her father and children into Guienne. While she was packing up the few necessaries she meant to take with her, and persuading all the household but her self to go early to rest, Charles was reconnoitring the proceedings of such as were preparing a terrible retribution for those under whose tyranny they had suffered.
He was no spy; being devoted to no party, and acting for his own honest purposes; and he therefore used no concealment. He conversed with the riotous poissardes on public injuries, conferred with the deputies on public order, injuries, and exchanged a few words with the sentinels on the probability of an attack on the palace in the morning. The horrible threats breathed over the fires against the queen, the brutal exultation which appeared through mysterious and slang expressions respecting the royal household, made him wonder at the apparent defencelessness of the palace. He was by no means satisfied that all was safe till morning, and said so to a little muffled up man whom he found standing in the shadow, close by the great iron gates. He could not make out whether this man was a mere looker on, like himself, or a watch appointed by either party.
“Is it your own choice to be out to-night, sir; or are you occupying a post? Because, in the first case I would direct you where you might see more of the state of things than here; and, in the other, I would strongly recommend your appealing to the general for support.”
“Alas! yes. I am sent hither,” replied the quavering voice of the muffled up person. “None would willingly be abroad this night, and all my desire is to be left unobserved in this shadow at present;—unless, indeed, some friend should pass who might protect me, and from whom I might learn that which I am sent to ascertain.—You seem, sir, to be an orderly, honest man. Can you tell me whether the duke,—whether Orleans is at hand?”
“Orleans being the most honest and orderly of men, hey, marquis?” said Charles, laughing. “So you are sent out by lady Alice for tidings, and you wait here for them till Orleans passes by—Is it not so?”
“Ah! what can I do? These canaille will smother me again with flour, or drag me to the cold cannon;” and here the little man shivered, and his teeth chattered. “Do but bring me to Orleans, my good' sir, or get me a re-entrance into the palace, and I will—I will—This, morning air is so raw! and I am—I am—not fit for enterprise.”
Charles fully agreed with him; but having no interest to get a royal spy housed before his errand was done, he could only tell him that, to the best of his belief, Orleans was lingering about the road between Versailles and Paris, or hanging somewhere on the outskirts of the encampment to witness the issue, without being implicated.
“Ah! how he is happy in comparison with me!” cried the poor marquis. “I have never, sir, meddled with politics——”
“Further than as all the noblesse have operated,” interrupted Charles. “I mean in stimulating the people to meddle with politics. You have wrought at second hand, marquis, hitherto. Now is your time for taking your part finally, and acting in it,”
“Alas! what evils come of any one interfering in such affairs but ministers and deputies! Let them act, and let us be neutral. This is all I ask.”
“Aye, but, marquis, it is too late to ask this; because there has been great mistake about what is, and what is not, being neutral. I dare say you believed yourself neutral when you lay sleeping in bed, while your peasantry were keeping the frogs quiet in your ponds. I dare say you had no thought of politics in your boar hunts, or when three fathers of families were sent to the galleys for alarming the lady Alice's brooding doves. Yet you were all the while——”
The marquis's light blue eyes were now seen by the lamp light to be opened upon Charles with such an expression of vacant wonderment that it was plain there was no use in proceeding. He evidently had yet to learn the true province of politics; and, for his part, he thought the merchant must have drunk a little too deep in his own wine, to be talking of peasants and pigeons in connexion with an insurrection in Paris.—He would never have had courage to leave his nook by himself; but now that he had met a face that he knew, it required more courage to remain there by himself, and he therefore hooked Charles by the arm, and said he would be wholly guided by him. Charles would rather have dispensed with his attachment, but could not shake off the old man into darkness and helplessness, if he himself preferred venturing into the light of the watch-fires, and upon the threshold of Lafayette's lodging, whither he was warned he would be conveyed.
If the marquis had carried a bold front, nothing would have happened to him, any more than to his companion; but his slouched hat, halting gait, and shrinking deportment at once drew attention upon him. The consequence was that he heard double the number of threats, and imprecations ten times more horrid than had met Charles's ears before. If he had now regained entrance into the palace, he could have told that which would have made even the queen's fiery blood run cold, and have given the whole household a foretaste of worse horrors than even those of the ensuing day.
When they had arrived at the last of the line of fires, the marquis believed his purgatory to be nearly over, and indulged himself in a few ejaculations of thankfulness on the occasion. He was overheard, seized, dragged to the light, his coat torn open, and his hat pushed back. The queue looked suspicious; the manner of speech, mixed up, as even these people could perceive, of high breeding and imbecility, gave assurance that he was a court adherent; to which there was to be opposed only his own and Charles's assurance that he was a companion and friend of Orleans. The knot of drinkers hesitated whether to cut off his head or let him go, and the marquis stood panting with open lips and closed teeth, when an amiable creature, partly masculine in her attire, and wholly so in her address, proposed a half measure.
“If he is one of them,” she observed, “we shall find him again in the palace presently; so let us mark him.”
With the word, she seized the poor man's nose with the left hand, a burning stick with the right, and branded his forehead with a cross; then pushed him away, and turned to Charles, offering to drink to him in his own liquor, the choicest in Paris, if Orleans said true. She pointed at the same time to a waggon near, on which, to his amazement, Charles saw piled wine-casks with his own mark, and brandy-bottles sealed with his own seal.
Perceiving at a glance that his cellars must have been forced since he left home, and that all further resistance would be useless, he determined to yield to his wife's desire to quit Paris; and he hastened to discharge his duty of rousing and warning the general, before turning his back on this scene of disorder.
Lafayette was up in a moment, and, though still trusting in the peaceable disposition of the people, dressed himself hastily, that he might be among them by daybreak. Before he could leave his hotel, however, warning sounds came from the direction of the palace, and messengers succeeded one another rapidly, stating that an attack was being made on the great iron gates, that blood had already been shed, and that the lives of the, whole royal family seemed to be at the people's mercy. The general threw himself upon a horse which happened to be standing saddled below, and galloped off, before Charles could recommend the marquis de Thou to his protection, should he happen to find him in the hands of the populace. His own anxiety to get home was such as ill to brook any delay, and to admit little other interest of any kind; but chance threw him once more in the path of the old man.
As he was making the best of his way towards the Paris road, stemming the tide of people that was rushing towards the palace, he was suddenly jostled and thrown down by an impulse in the contrary direction. Nor was he the only one. Many were bruised, some trampled, while a fugitive burst through the throng, followed by a knot of pursuers, who overthrew all that came in their way, while their mingled curses and laughter contrasted strangely with the panting cry of the pursued. Some cried out that it was the king; others uttered imprecations against him as one of the hated guards; while Charles saw, amidst his tattered, seared, and helpless condition, that it was no other than the poor marquis. His desperation gave the hunted man strength to clear the mob, and to fly some way beyond, till he reached the trees of the avenue, where there was an end of his safety unless some better aid was brought him than his own failing strength. His enemies dogged him, surrounded him;— some brandishing pitchforks, others large knives, and not a few firing off their muskets to give a new impulse to his terror. This sight was intolerable to Charles, who saw in such cruelty none of the palliations which he had admitted in the case of some former acts of violence. Forgetting all but what was before his eyes, he snatched a pike, threw himself in front of the pursuit, reached the victim just as he fell exhausted at the foot of a tree, and stood astride over him, with one hand in an attitude of defence, while the other beckoned to the people to listen. He shouted amid the din, and the few words which were heard by those nearest to him served his purpose of diverting their thoughts from immediate murder. He told them that, in the name of the marquis's tenantry, he demand ed that the marquis should be placed in the custody of the Assembly of deputies, to answer for an infringement of the new laws by which the property of the peasantry was protected. He told them that the general was gone to the palace, to mediate between the queen and the poissardes, and as it would be a pity that those who heard him should be absent from so interesting a spectacle, he and one or two more would take charge of the criminal, and convey him before the sitting deputies. A well-timed roll of the drums and discharge of musketry confirmed his appeal, and drew away his auditors, so that in a few moments, when the last lingerers had gratified themselves with pricking their victim a little with the points of their various weapons, Charles found himself alone with the almost lifeless old man.
On hearing that his further existence probably depended on his reaching the assembly while the mob was engaged elsewhere, the marquis made an effort to rise and walk, and found himself so much less hurt than frightened that he accomplished the transit with small difficulty. Such a deplorable object was never before presented to the Assembly, at least under the title of a marquis. He had scarcely a shred of clothing under the soldier's cloak which Charles had borrowed from a sentinel at the door. His powdered hair was dripping with rain, and his face smeared with blood. He wept bitterly; murmuring, in the tones of a woman, his wonder as to what he could have ever done to offend the people, and how the world could have grown so cruel and ungrateful. The Assembly had little leisure at this time, and were glad to accept Charles's offer of conveying the prisoner away, and his guarantee that the marquis should set out for his estate in the provinces without delay, and not return till the troubles of the capital were at an end. The marquis was little disposed to make opposition.
“Take me away,” he said, “though I only fly from one doom to another. You say my tenants are enraged against me; and I say that they will drink my blood. The vile are sovereigns in these days, and the noble have the knife at their throats, from day to day. O, if they had killed me under the tree, it would have been over; but now it is still to come. O save me! Do not leave me! Make me your servant. Employ me as you will; but do not let them kill me!”
Charles recommended that the old man should in fact travel into Guienne as his servant, and take possession of his chateau or not, according to the apparent disposition of the peasantry when they should arrive.—Not a moment was to be lost in proceeding to Paris, if the departure of the family was to take place while the populace and the troops were engaged at Versailles, and the whole attention of the magistracy was directed upon what was passing there.
An empty cart was found in which to stow the marquis, while his protector walked by its side. They left behind them the most fearful spectacles of that day,—the murder of some of the guards, the narrow escape of the queen, the brutal joy of the mob at the enforced consent of the royal family to be conveyed to Paris, and the beginning of that dreadful march itself, as anomalous, as disgusting, as any spectacle that was ever presented as a pageant. But, one circumstance which signalized that march, they were also witnesses to. Half-way between Versailles and Paris, on a mound planted with trees, a figure was seen, moving behind the stems, and peeping forth at every sound of wheels or footsteps. It was Orleans, who had stationed himself here to watch the issue of his plot,—the return of the expedition, with the bodies of his royal cousins, dead or alive.
With some difficulty, he was persuaded to come down and speak to his humble servant the marquis ; and when he did greet him, it was with something very like a smile at his crest-fallen appearance, and querulous complainings.
“My good friend, these are strange times,” he observed. “I should think your valet has hardly had time to attend to you this morning. However, you will find plenty unoccupied at Paris to renew your powder.—O, you wish to go at once, and shoot on your own territory. Well; perhaps you are wise, since our kind of shooting here is not exactly to your taste. You must take care, however; for I hear that more bullets fly from behind the hedges there than in the open fields. Farewell, my dear sir, for I see your companion is impatient. He wants to be keeping guard over his wine-cellars. I wish him an ample fortune out of the wines therein contained at this moment.”
Charles's impatience was not only on account of his own affairs. He distrusted Orleans so far as to be vexed that the marquis whispered to him their plan of escape. There was no particular sign of interest in the duke's countenance at the relation; and it only remained to be hoped that no harm would come of this unnecessary confidence. The marquis was far from thinking it unnecessary, as a word from the duke would procure passports for the whole family. This word Orleans was prevailed upon to write, and furnished with it, the marquis poured out his gratitude more vehemently than, but a few months before, before would have supposed possible; and then bade his vehicle proceed, watching from a distance how the duke once more passed the enclosure, and took his station among the trees as before.
The cellars were found to be indeed more than half emptied; and of the casks that remained, one or two were staved, to drown the gunpowder and other combustibles. No attack had been made upon the house, and Marguerite had sufficiently got the better of her terrors, to be ready for' immediate departure. No obstacle arose, and Steele, with Pierre under him, consented to remain in charge of the property till Charles could return, after having deposited his family in security.
The marquis made a rather singular-looking valet, with a manner alternating between superciliousness and awkward deference,—a strutting gait when he forgot what he was about, and a cringing one when he happened to cast a glance upon his dress. He passed muster very well, however, as a battered old soldier turned valet; his strut passing for regimental paces, and his cringe being ascribed to the honourable wounds he was supposed to bear. M. Raucourt took off the attention of all who might be disposed to make remarks, by telling every body that he was going to see his olive groves. The party travelled with more speed than the dismal procession from Versailles; so that before the royal family was mournfully ushered into the Hotel de Ville at dusk, Charles and his household were some leagues on their journey southwards.
UPSHOT OF FEUDALISM.
The hopeful disposition of both Charles and Antoine was remarkable at all times, and in whatever society they were. When they were together, it became well nigh excessive, and occasioned no little amusement to their friends in happy times, and much sighing from the apprehensive Marguerite in such evil days as they were now fallen upon. Each excited the other to perceive bright specks on the dark horizon, aud neither would lag behind the other in discerning cause for encouragement, and in pointing out that, as good had issued from apparent evil in some former analogous instance, it would be a sin to doubt that the same thing might happen again. Marguerite was almost offended that, while she looked tremblingly around as the dancing waters of the Garonne first flashed upon their sight under the gleam of an October sun, her husband encouraged the joyous gestures of the children standing on his knee, and burst out singing one of the popular provincial airs to which the banks of that river so often echo. But when Antoine came forth to meet them as they alighted, in high spirits, though he had actually nothing good to tell them, however disposed to hope for everything blissful, Marguerite turned from him to her father, as the most reasonable personage of the two.
Antoine was beginning a laugh at his brother's first choice of the luxury of a valet, but checked himself instantly on hearing who it was, and wherefore.
“Do you suppose tie may safely dress himself, and appear to arrive at his chateau to-morrow?”
“Why, scarcely yet, perhaps,” replied Antoine, gravely. “The peasantry are in an uncomfortable, irascible state, and the poor man would hardly have fair play among them; but it cannot last long, and then we shall have him trampling our crops again as solemnly as ever; perched, like a wax figure, on horseback, and utterly unable to comprehend such a thing as a curse against himself; or to bestow a thought as to whose ground he is trespassing upon.”
“Let us hope he has learned more consideration by his misfortunes,” said Charles. “At any rate, he may yet learn it by using his eyes and ears in the interval between this hour and his restoration to his honours and privileges,— which I suppose will happen by the time he has learned to tie his own queue according to his own fancy. Meanwhile, how is Favorite?”
“O, our beauty! She has rather languished this season; but she will be all the more brilliant next year; for two bad seasons give a pretty fair security that the third will be good. It is as if the steam of blood had come from your city, Charles, like a blight, and shrivelled her swelling fruit. The crisis is come, you say. There will soon be no more blood, and wine will gush instead. Yes, yes, next season all will be well.”
“But our peasant neighbours, Antoine. Has their condition improved as you were confident it would?”
“How should it yet? the time is not come. They have not vet got over the scarcity of last year. But the woodcocks will soon be here; and the lady Alice's doves multiply all the faster now they are left to themselves; and in the spring, there will be a greater resource of cattle, and of their milk; and the bad seasons have not destroyed our fish. We are planning to get larger and larger supplies from Bordeaux, as well as to send out more boats upon the river.”
“Corn is too dear, at present, I suppose, for the poor, if indeed, you have enough for the rich?”
“We are all somewhat better off in that respect than we were; but a great part of the discontent arises from the incessant changes in the value of whatever we get to eat, as long as the supply is turned out of its usual course. When we can no longer depend on an article whose supply is usually pretty regular, and its price not very variable, we are subject to a perpetual rise and fall which we cannot calculate, and which brings disappointments to the people which they are ill able to bear.”
“How do you mean? I thought our poor helped out their subsistence by nettle broth and frog stew; and for these, I suppose, they pay neither labour nor money?”
“No; but they must have something in addition. Presently it will be woodcocks—the most uncertain article of food that can be. If there should be a fine flight of them to be had for the killing, labour will become cheaper to us capitalists, while the labourers will be better rewarded: that is, it will cost us less to feed our labourers, while they will get more food for an equal quantity of labour. This, while it lasts, lessens the cost of production, and if it went on a whole year, would cheapen our corn considerably next harvest. But the resource lasts a very short time, and the reduction of the price of corn, therefore, is only of that temporary kind which proceeds from a relaxation of demand. Before the people well understand how this is, the cattle begin to come in from the woods,—more numerous than ever, from so much arable land having, since the storm, yielded a kind of rude pasture. This is a some what less uncertain resource than the woodcocks, and lowers the value of corn for a longer period. What I want, to fill up the intervals of these uncertain supplies, is a permanent provision of fish.”
“How strangely the values of things are turned topsy-turvy!” exclaimed Charles. “Time was when our peasantry would no more have thought of dining off woodcocks than I of giving my servants a daily dessert of pine-apples. Dainty game of that sort is commonly thought to rise in value with the progress of improvement.”
“And so it does; and that it now exchanges for less either of money or bread, than the commonest sorts of meat did three years ago, is a proof that our condition has gone back instead of improving. It is a proof that the produce of our toil is scantier than it was; that the produce which we cannot command—that which comes and goes without our will and pleasure—exchanges for less when there are more to demand it.”
“We may say the same of cattle.”
“Just at present; because our cattle is for the most part wild, having got abroad into the woods at the time of the hurricane. But when we have collected our flocks and herds again, and can attend to their breeding, so as to proportion the supply to the demand, we shall find their value permanently depend, like that of the crops with which they will then be fed, on the cost of production.”
“Of course, if they feed on crops grown for their use. At present, when they pasture them-selves on land which would otherwise lie waste, they are cheap when there happens to be, a sufficient supply of fish and woodcocks, because there is little cost of production;—no rent, little capital, and less labour. Any sudden rise of value proceeds from a temporary increase of demand. It is to equalize the demand for butcher's meat, that I and some of my neighbours want to procure a regular supply of fish.”
“Yet fish is an article whose value rises with the progress of improvement. It must do so in proportion as more labour is required to procure an equal supply for an extended market. As years pass on, Antoine. we shall have to fit out more boats for the river, and to build them larger, and man them better, as we have to send them out farther. But then there will be more of other things to give in exchange for fish.”
“True; but at present we cannot give our fishermen what they think a fair premium upon their cost of production, because our cost of production, the cost of the labour we give in exchange, is extraordinarily high.”
“Do they complain of the price you give?”
“Very much, but that cannot be helped. We complained of their social price in old days,—of having to pay, not only the profits and wages necessary to procure the article, but the market dues, which were very oppressive. They answered that they did not pocket the dues, and could not help the high price. Now they complain that (the dues being lately remitted) they cannot even secure their natural price,—that is, a reasonable profit in addition to the cost of the labour.”
“If they cannot do this, why do they supply you? They will not surely go on furnishing the market with fish at prime cost.”
“Certainly not, for any length of time; but, till the woodcocks come, they must submit to wear out their boats a little, without an equivalent, looking forward to the time when we may again afford them a fair market price,—which will, by that time, be a money price; for then we shall be able to get out of our present inconvenient state of barter, and the coin which has disappeared will have found its way back.”
“Meanwhile, the people, you say, are discontented as much at the fluctuations in their affairs as at their absolute want of many comforts.”
“Yes; we hear perpetual complaints that no man can now calculate how much his labour is worth. So many hours' work will one week bring him two good meals, and at another, not half an one. If they go into the woods for game, so many head may to-day exchange for a coat,—to-morrow for a house.”
“Much of this hap-hazard must also be owing to the uncertainty of public affairs. If we could but foresee whether we really have arrived at the crisis,—whether trade will probably flow into its natural channels again after a certain fixed period, our condition would immediately improve. There is no other such effectual regulator of price as clear anticipation, because it enables us to calculate the ultimate cost of production, on which exchangeable value finally depends.”
Antoine observed, in a low voice, that the most suffering of his poor neighbours had lately begun to indulge in a new sort of anticipation. They had been told,— and nobody was aware whence the report arose, that there was a room full of coin in the chateau of the marquis de Thou. Their own coin had somehow gone away from them, and they fancied that, if they could but get any instead of it, all their woes would immediately cease. Antoine had reason to believe that the chateau would soon be attacked, unless some means of undeceiving the poor creatures could be discovered.
The brothers comforted themselves, according to their wont, that such means could not fail soon to present themselves. It was impossible that so gross an error could long subsist. Their confidence did not make them the less watchful to aid the enlightenment of the people around them; for their hopefulness was of that kind which stimulates instead of superseding exertion. La Favorite experienced this; for, amidst all their hopes of what her beauty would be next year, they toiled to repair her losses and renovate her vegetative forces. Charles could not have brought himself to return to Paris till this was done, even if he had been satisfied to leave Marguerite in charge of the marquis.
This gentleman chose soon to free the family from his presence, against their advice; even in the face of their strong remonstrances. Like many who are deficient in physical courage and mental strength, he was rash and obstinate. As soon as he had recovered from his astonishment at not being killed on the day of his arrival, he began to be certain that there was no further danger, and, blind to the manifold tokens of his extreme unpopularity, which might have greeted his senses and understanding at any hour of any day, he determined on secretly quitting his disguise, without troubling his kind friends to reason any further with him. One morning, accordingly, his valet's dress was found on the floor of his chamber, and on his table, a note of ample, though haughty thanks to his preservers; and by noon, the marquis's old steed, bearing a rider whose skirts, blue eyes, and entire deportment could not be mistaken, was seen to trample new ploughed fields, and give promise of riding over heedless children, as before.
The last thing that entered the old man's head was altering his modes of procedure in any one respect. He could not escort lady Alice, because she was not there; but he paced the terrace, in an afternoon, with his head half turned, as if he saw her ghost beside him. He could not lead a long train of hunters, because some of them were in Austria, some in England, and one or two already laid headless in a bloody grave; but he galloped forth on the same routes, making the most of the two or three servants who followed him still, and returning in state to sit solitary at the head of a long table, and toast his own loyal sentiments. What was worse,—he trampled his poor neighbours when they came in his way, and overlooked them when they did not, as if he had never been branded by a poissarde, or hunted in the avenue at Versailles.
All this, it may be supposed, soon came to an end,—and by means which proved the error of the popular belief about the chamber full of gold at the chateau. Out of pure humanity, Charles repeatedly vanquished his resentment at the marquis's supercilious treatment of him, and offered warnings of the blackening gloom which settled in the faces of the peasantry when the little great man came in sight; but the marquis had got it into his head that Charles had an interest in frightening him. He thought he had been more frightened than most men al ready, and wisely determined to be so no more. He bowed, laid his hand on his heart, disengaged his rein from the friendly grasp, and passed on.
“My hopefulness is nothing to his, Marguerite, after all,” observed Charles. “You say I hope against hope. He hopes against reason. The difference is that the one hope will vanish when most wanted, and the other, I trust, never wear out.”
One night, when there was no moon,—one of the longest winter nights,—no moon was wanted for a space of some miles on the banks of the Garonne. Instead of the boats sailing black in the silver beam, they passed crimson in the fiery glare. The sheeted snow glittered and sparkled as if it had been noon instead of midnight: the groves dropped their melted burden, and stood stiff and stark in wintry bareness, stripped of the feathery lightness in which they had risen against the evening sky. Cries which ill beseem the hour of sleep roused the night-birds, and volumes of red smoke spread themselves abroad to eclipse the stars. Charles's steps were directed towards the chateau before he had received any notice, but from his own apprehensions, whence the fire proceeded which had scared his children from their beds. He arrived in the court-yard,—not in time to save the marquis, but to speak with him once more.
The old man was bound to the balustrade of his own terrace; and an executioner stood beside him with an upraised and gleaming sword. His appearance was much what it had been on a nearly similar occasion before. He attempted to spring forward, and a gleam of hope shot across his countenance when the brothers appeared: but there was a something in their faces which checked the emotion, and his jaw dropped once more.
All efforts, all stratagems were vain. The people declared themselves unpitying to tyrants, and resolved to do away with despotism in their quarter of the land, in like manner with their brethren in Paris. Five minutes for preparation was all they would allow, and even Charles at length despaired of further favour. He approached the victim with a calm and serious countenance. The old man looked up.
“Is there no hope?”
“There is always hope. Let us hope that in another state we shall better know how to love and forgive one another. Here, we have a poor understanding of this; but even here we can forgive. They will not now forgive you; but you will leave them that which will make them do so hereafter. Leave them your pardon.”
“O, Alice,—my daughter! Not if they murder Alice.”
“They shall not. I promise you——”
“But I did not expect this,” uttered the shivering prisoner. “I went to bed——”
“Then collect yourself now. A few minutes' resolution.—One effort at calmness——”
“But is there no hope?”
“None whatever. Settle your mind to your fate. There is only misery in struggling against it.”
“I will. I will. Only stay by me.”
“What a confidence for such a moment!” thought Charles, as he saw the tractable expression which the countenance assumed. It was some comfort, however, that there was any confidence which could give decency to his dying deportment.
The people around grew impatient. The executioner lifted his sword. The victim looked up at it, half fearfully, half meekly, like a penitent child at the impending rod. He fell, without a sign or a cry; and at the moment, the flames burst forth from the lower windows, as if to lick up, in as summary a vengeance as they had been guilty of, the perpetrators of this murder. All rushed from the terrace, with a yell of consternation, leaving the body alone, its unclosed eyes shining in the glare, as if gazing unmoved on that violence which could no longer reach it in the shape of injury.—When the gust fell, and the flames retired some space, the ruffian who held the sword returned to the place of execution, severed the head, tossed the body into the flames, and returned with his trophy to the cheering mob.
There was nothing for Charles and Antoine to stay for. They could neither save property, nor prevent crime. There was no purpose to be answered by an attempt to do the first; for the lady Alice could never return hither, or probably find any corner of her native land in which to dwell in peace. Any endeavour to check the people's rage would only have brought on more murders. It was better that they should occupy themselves with destroying inanimate things than have their wrath directed upon human objects. The brothers therefore left them endeavouring to discover the treasure-chamber, and paced silently homewards, trying whether, after such a spectacle, as this, their hopefulness could get the better of their heart-sickness.
Marguerite began to think that she and her family had better have staid in Paris, since violence as foul as any there, with less chance of redress, took place in the country. But as there were fewer marked for destruction in a thinly peopled than in a crowded district, the work of horror was sooner over; and within a few weeks, all was quiet around her dwelling. No judicial inquiry whatever mad made into the fate of the marquis; and night after night, ominous gleams were seen from afar, marking where life and property were being offered up in expiation of former tyranny. When every neighbouring chateau that was empty had been sealed up and guarded by the people from being entered by its owners; and when every inhabited one had been dismantled or converted into a pile of blackened ruins, there was a truce. The gentry sighed over the abolition of feudalism; the peasantry gloried in the destruction of the aristocracy; and both, looking no farther than their own borders, supposed that all was over, and the state of the country,—miserable as it was,— settled.
Charles and his brother knew too well what was passing in Paris to acquiesce in this belief; but they were glad of the good effects it seemed to produce in quieting the minds, and therefore fixing the outward circumstances of their neighbours. People went about their regular business once more, prices grew steady in the markets, and the mysterious, dishonest sort of bargaining which had gone on immediately after the destruction of the chateaux, was seen no more. No golden timepieces now passed from hand to hand, in exchange for the coarsest articles of clothing or furniture; and if polished tables, or morsels of curious old china were seen here and there in the hovels of half-starved peasants, they were not put up for sale, and did not answer the purpose 'of further perplexing the values of things. Seeing that Marguerite began to feel pretty much at her ease once more, going to rest without presentiments of being roused by fire, and venturing, with only the children, to transact her necessary purchases among the peasantry, Charles began to try whether he could make anything of his business at Paris; and set out, in order that he might be on the spot to take advantage of the first symptoms of tranquillity to meet the demand which would then certainly arise.
He went to Paris before winter was quite over; and found more promise of a settlement of public affairs than at any time since the commencement of the revolution. Yet he would not hear of his family joining him, till it should be known whether or not king, parliament, and people would cordially agree in the new constitution which was then in preparation. When there was not only a promise of this, but all arts and artificers were actually put in requisition to render the spectacle of taking the oath as magnificent as the occasion required, there was no further pretence for Charles's prudence to interfere with the hopefulness which now seemed rational enough. He sent a summons to Marguerite to return and witness the festival from which her loyalty and his patriotism might derive equal gratification. But Marguerite was detained in the country by her father's illness,— his last; and the children were deprived of the power of saying afterwards that they had witnessed in Paris the transactions of that day which was regarded at the time as the most remarkable in the annals of France.
That day, the 14th of July, 1790, was appointed to be a high festival throughout the kingdom: Charles passed it in the Champ de Mars; Marguerite by the dying bed of her father; the children, under the guardianship of their uncle Antoine, among the rejoicing peasantry; and Steele, who had returned to Bordeaux when Charles settled himself again in Paris, took the opportunity of visiting La Haute Favorite for the first time after so many vicissitudes.
It seemed to them all a strange,—to the superstitious among them, an ominous circumstance that they should be thus separated on the occasion when all were called upon to recognize the social agreement under which they and their successors were to live.
A gleam of the afternoon sun shone in upon the face of Marguerite's father as he dozed, and made him turn restlessly on his couch. His daughter hastened to shut it out, and the movement awoke him.
“One is fit only for the grave,” he said, “when the light which shines on all above it becomes painful.”
“Father! you are better,” said Marguerite, turning round astonished.
“No,” said he, faintly, “not better. I can not bear this light,—or this heat,—or—but no matter; it will presently be over.: But where is Charles .
“He will be here very soon; but it is only two days since you became worse; and there has been no time for him to come yet. To-day he is waiting upon the king, and next he will wait on you.”
“On the king!” and the old man was roused at once. “And all the people? I fancied they had left off their duty. Who waits upon the king?”
“The whole nation,” Marguerite replied, sighing to herself, nation,”however, over her own view of the matter—that the king was, in fact, waiting upon the nation. She proceeded to tell what was doing in Paris, and remarked that she hoped they had finer weather there than here, where it had been a day of continued rain, till the gleam came which had wakened her father.
M. Raucourt was too ignorant of the events of the last two years to be able to comprehend the present proceeding. He could not see what the people had to do with the constitution; but laid the blame on his own weak brain, when assured that the loyal men of France were all consenting to the measure. Other tokens of ignorance were much more affecting to his daughter. He wished to be raised in bed, so that he might see his olive woods in the evening glow. They were no longer there, and his attention must be diverted to something else. He wished to behold the marquis de Thou passing the house for his daily ride.—The bones of him he asked for were mouldering under the ruins of his own abode.— “At least,” said M. Raucourt, “let me be carried to the window, that I may see the chateau. It looks so finely on the terrace! and it is so long since I saw it!”—Grass was growing on its hearths, and the peasants' children were playing hide and seek among its roofless halls.
“You have not asked for the children,” said Marguerite. “If you are so strong this after noon, perhaps you can bear to speak to them.” And they were sent for, and presently made their appearance from the river-side, full of what they had been seeing and doing. They told how one cannon was fired when the hour struck at which the royal procession was to set out, and another when the whole array was to be formed in the Champ de Mars, and others to represent the taking of the oath by the king, by the representatives of the parliament, and by Lafayette in the name of the people.
“And what is all this for?” asked the old man. “It is a beautiful spectacle, no doubt; but there were no such things in my time as the king and the people swearing at the same altar.”
“The people make the king swear, and some of them do not think he likes it,”—observed Julien, unmindful of his mother's signs. Pauline went on,
“No more than he liked being brought prisoner from Versailles, and having his guards' heads cut off.”
The little girl was terrified at the effect of her words. She in vain attempted to make up for them by saying that the king and queen were very well now; and that the people did not expect to be starved any more, and that every body was to be very happy after this day. The loyal old man said he should never be happy any more; and groaned and wept himself into a state of exhaustion from which he did not revive, though he lived two or three days longer.
“I wish,—I wish—” sobbed poor Pauline, “that the people had never meddled with the king——”
“Or the king with the people,” said Julien, “for that was the beginning of it all.”
“I am sure so do I,” said Marguerite, sighing. “It is little comfort to say, as Antoine does, that the world cannot roll on without crushing somebody.”
“If that somebody puts himself in the way, uncle said,” observed Julien.
“Everybody has been in the way, I think, my dear. All France is crushed.”
“Not quite, mamma. Uncle Antoine and Mr. Steele are sitting between the two big vines, and they say that everybody will be buying wine now that buying and selling are going to begin again.”
It was very true that the young men were enjoying their favourite retreat to the utmost; gilding it with the sunshine of their expectations, and making it as musical with the voice of hope as with the gay songs which were wafted from the revellers below.
They were not a little pleased when their anticipations were countenanced by a letter from Charles which reached his wife on the day of her father's death, and was not the less in accordance with her feelings for having been written before tidings of the old man's illness had reached Paris, and being, as usual, hopeful and happy.
“I have written to Antoine,” he said, “to urge all care in the approaching vintage, and all dispatch in the management of our immediate business. Good days are coming at last, unless despotism should bring on itself a new punishment, and rouse once more the spirit of faction, which has been laid to rest this day by that powerful spell, the voice of a united nation. It would astonish you to see how commercial confidence has already revived; and, as a consequence, how the values of all things are becoming fixed; and, again, as a consequence of this, how the intercourses of society are facilitated, and its peace promoted. It was the perception and anticipation of this which to me constituted the chief pleasure of the magnificent solemnity of this day. It was a grand thing to behold the national altar in the midst of an amphitheatre filled with countless thousands; but it was a grander to remember that these thousands were only the representatives of multitudes more who were on tiptoe on all our hills, in all our valleys, watching and listening for the token that they may trust one another once more, and exchange, for their mutual good, the fruits of their toil. It was touching to see the battalion of children,— ‘the hope of the nation,’ —coming forward to remind the state that it sways the fate of a future age; but it was more touching to think of our own little ones, and to believe that, by the present act, the reward of the social virtues we try to teach them is secured to them,—It was imputing to see one golden flood of light gush from a parting cloud, giving an aspect of blessing to what had before been stormy; but it was as an analogy that it struck us ail, and impelled us to send up a shout like the homage of worshippers of the sun. Has not a light broken through the dreariness of our political tempests? There may be,—let us hope there will be, from this day, order in the elements of our social state. Let but all preserve the faith they have sworn, and there will be no more sporting with life and property, no absurd playing with baubles while there is a craving for bread, no ruin to the industrious, and sudden wealth to such as speculate on national distress. We may once more estimate the labour of our peasantry, and the value of our own resources, and fix and receive the due reward of each. We may reach that high point of national prosperity in which the ascertainment and due recompense of industry involve each other; when the values of things become calculable, and mutual confidence has a solid basis.—I do not say that this prosperity will come, but I hope it will; and if all others have the same hope, it certainly will. It may be that the sovereign will lose his confidence, and go back. It may be that the parliament or the people will do the same; and then may follow worse miseries than we have yet known. But if they see how much social confidence has to do with social prosperity, they will refuse to disturb the tranquillity which has been this day established.
“And now, however you may sigh or smile a the spirit of hope which is in me and Antoine, what say you to it in the case of a nation? Are not its commercial exchanges a most important branch of its intercourses? Must not those exchanges be regulated by some principle of value, instead of being the sport of caprice? Is not that principle the due and equable recompense of labour, or (in business-like terms) the cost of production? Is not this recompense secured by the natural workings of interests—and can these interests work naturally without an anticipation of recompense—that is, without hope, inspiring confidence? Depend upon it, hope is not only the indispensable stimulus of individual action, but the elastic pressure by which society is surrounded and held together. Great is the crime of those who injure it; and especially heinous will be the first trespass on public confidence of any who have been in the Champ de Mars this day. As that which is national springs from that which is individual, I will add that Antoine and Steele are patriotic if they exult in the ripening beauties of Favorite; and if you would be patriotic too, gladden yourself with the promise of our children, and tell me, when we meet, that you trust with me that all will be well both with oar wines and our politics.”
Summary of Principles illustrated in this Volume.
There are two kinds of Value: value in use, and value in exchange.
Articles of the greatest value in use may have none in exchange; as they may be enjoyed without labour; and it is labour which confers Exchangeable Value.
This is not the less true for capital as well as labour being employed in production; for capital is hoarded labour.
When equal quantities of any two articles require an equal amount of labour to produce them, they exchange exactly against one another. If one requires more labour than the other, a smaller quantity of the one exchanges against a larger quantity of the other.
If it were otherwise, no one would bestow a larger quantity of labour for a less return; and the article requiring the most labour would cease to be produced.
Exchangeable value, therefore, naturally depends on cost of production.
Naturally, but not universally; for there are influences which cause temporary variations in exchangeable value.
These are, whatever circumstances affect demand and supply.
But these can act only temporarily; because the demand of any procurable article creates supply; and the factitious value conferred by scarcity soon has an end.
When this end has arrived, cost of production again determines exchangeable value.
Its doing so may, therefore, stand as a general rule.
Though labour, immediate and hoarded, is the regulator, it is not the measure of exchangeable value: for the sufficient reason, that labour itself is perpetually varying in quality and quantity, from there being no fixed proportion between immediate and hoarded labour.
Since labour, the primary regulator, cannot serve as a measure of exchangeable value, none of the products of labour can serve as such a measure.
There is, therefore, no measure of exchangeable value.
Such a measure is not needed; as a due regulation of the supply of labour, and the allowance of free scope to the principle of competition ensure sufficient stability of exchangeable value for all practical purposes.
In these requisites are included security of property, and freedom of exchange, to which political tranquillity and legislative impartiality are essential.
Price is the exponent of exchangeable value.
Natural or necessary price, — regulated by cost of production,—includes the wages of the labourer, and the profits of the capitalist.
Market price varies from natural price with variations of demand and supply, and in proportion to the oppressiveness of public burdens and commercial restrictions.
The more nearly and permanently market prices approach natural prices, the more prosperous is the state of commerce; and the two most essential requisites to this prosperity are social tranquillity and legislative impartiality.
london: printed by william clowks, Stamford Street.