Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

6

[ocr errors]

replaced by a gentleman. He complained bitterly of the change.

* The brigand,' said Minnie, 'was his slave, the gentleman had a will of his own.'

How did M. de La Fayette,' I asked Madame de Beaumont, 'bear his five years' imprisonment at Olmütz?'

His health,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'was good, but the miseries of his country and the sufferings of his wife made him very unhappy. When my grandmother came to him, it was two days before she had strength to tell him that all his and her family had perished. I was once at Olmütz, and saw the one room which they had inhabited. It was damp and dark. She asked to be allowed to leave it for a time for better medical treatment and change of air. It was granted only on the condition that she should never return.

She refused. The rheumatic attacks which the state of the prison had produced, continued and increased : she was hopelessly ill when they were released—and died soon afterwards. The sense of wrong aggravated their sufferings, for their imprisonment was a gross and wanton violation of all law, international and municipal. My grandfather was not an Austrian subject; he had committed no offence against Austria. She seized him simply because he was a liberal, because his principles had made him the enemy of tyranny in America and in France; and because his birth and talents and reputa

• M. de La Fayette was Madame de Beaumont's grandfather.—ED.

1

1861.]

Power of La Fayette.

249

tion gave him influence. It was one of the brutal stupid acts of individual cruelty which characterise the Austrian despotism, and have done more to ruin it than a wider oppression—such a one, for instance, as ours, more mischievous, but more intelligent,—would have done.'

'Freedom,' said Ampère, 'was offered to him on the mere condition of his not serving in the French army. At that time the Jacobins would have guillotined him, the Royalists would have forced duel after duel on him till they had killed him. It seemed impossible that he should ever be able to draw his sword for France.

In fact he never was able. America offered him an asylum, honours, land, everything that could console an exile. But he refused to give up the chance, remote as it was, of being useful to his country, and remained a prisoner till he was delivered by Napoleon.'

"He firmly believed,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'that if the Royal Family would have taken refuge with his army in 1791 he could have saved them, and probably the Monarchy. His army was then in his hands, a few months after the Jacobins had corrupted it.'

'Two men,' said Ampère, · Mirabeau and La Fayette, could have saved the Monarchy, and were anxious to do

But neither the King nor the Queen would trust them.

* Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette are among the historical personages who have most influenced the destinies of the world. His dulness, torpidity and indecision, and her frivolity, narrow-minded prejudices and

[ocr errors]

SO.

a

suspiciousness, are among the causes of our present calamities. They are among the causes of a stạte of things which has inflicted on us, and threatens to inflict on all Europe, the worst of all Governments-democratic despotism. A Government in which two wills only prevail—that of the ignorant, envious, ambitious, aggressive multitude, and that of the despot who, whatever be his natural disposition, is soon turned, by the intoxication of flattery and of universal power, into a capricious, fantastic, selfish participator in the worst passions of the worst portion of his subjects.'

'Such a Government,' I said, 'may be called an antiaristocracy. It excludes from power all those who are fit to exercise it.'

* The consequence,' said Beaumont, “is, that the qualities which fit men for power not being demanded, are not supplied. Our young men have no political knowledge or public spirit. Those who have a taste for the sciences cultivated in the military schools enter the army. The rest learn nothing.'

•What do they do?' I asked.

*How they pass their time,' said Madame de Beaumont, “is a puzzle to me. They do not read, they do not go into society-I believe that they smoke and play at dominos, and ride and bet at steeple-chases.

Those who are on home service in the army are not much better. The time not spent in the routine of their profession is sluggishly and viciously wasted. Algeria has been a God-send to us.

There our young men have real duties to perform, and real dangers to

6

1861.]

Family Life in France.

251

provide against and to encounter. My son, who left St. Cyr only eighteen months ago, is stationed at Thebessa, 300 miles in the interior. He belongs to a bureau arabe, consisting of a captain, a lieutenant, and himself, and about forty spahis. He has to act as a judge, as an engineer, to settle the frontier between the province of Constantine and Tunis—in short, to be one of a small ruling aristocracy. This is the school which has furnished, and is furnishing, our best generals and administrators.'

We talked of the interior of French families.

• The ties of relationship,' I said, 'seem to be stronger with you than they are with us. Cousinship with you is a strong bond, with us it is a weak one.'

'The habit of living together,' said Beaumont, 'has perhaps much to do with the strength of our feelings of consanguinity. Our life is patriarchal. Grandfather, father, and grandson are often under the same roof. At the Grangel thirty of the family were sometimes assembled at dinner. With you, the sons go off, form separate establishments, see little of their parents, still less of their cousins, and become comparatively indifferent to them.'

'I remember,' I said, 'the case of an heir apparent of seventy ; his father was ninety-five. One day the young man was very grumpy. They tried to find out what was the matter with him ; at last he broke out, “Everybody's father dies except mine."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

An acquaintance of mine,' said Beaumont, 'not a son, but a son-in-law, complained equally of the pertinacious longevity of his father-in-law. “Je n'ai pas cru," he said, “en me mariant, que j'épousais la fille du Père Eternel.” Your primogeniture,' he continued, 'must be a great source of unfilial feelings. The eldest son of one of your great families is in the position of the heir apparent to a throne. His father's death is to give him suddenly rank, power, and wealth ; and we know that royal heirs apparent are seldom affectionate sons.

With us the fortunes are much smaller, they are equally divided, and the rank that descends to the son is nothing.'

•What regulates,' I asked, 'the descent of titles ?'

It is ill regulated,' said Beaumont. "Titles are now of such little value that scarcely anyone troubles himself to lay down rules about them.

'In general, however, it is said, that all the sons of dukes and of marquises are counts. The sons of counts in some families all take the title of Count. There are, perhaps, thirty Beaumonts. Some call themselves marquises, some counts, some barons. I am, I believe, the only one of the family who has assumed no title. Alexis de Tocqueville took none, but his elder brother, during his father's life, called himself vicomte and his younger brother baron. Probably Alexis ought then to have called himself chevalier, and, on his father's death, baron. But, I repeat, the matter is too unimportant to be subject to any settled rules. Ancient

« НазадПродовжити »