Зображення сторінки

as may be the opinions of the politics of M. de Lafayette, all Europe, I believe, concur in admiration of the character and conduct of his virtuous and heroic wife. Indeed, nothing since my arrival has so sensibly gratified me, from without, as this visit.

Madame Lafayette is the daughter of the ci-devant Due d'Ayen, and consequently niece of Madame de Tessé, the Duc's sister. She was married to M. de Lafayette when she was only seventeen years of age. By some cold, or mismanagement, and total want of exercise in the prison of Olmutz, some huinour has fallen into one of her ancles, that, though it does not make her absolutely lame, causes walking to be so painful and difficult to her that she moves as little as possible, and is always obliged to have a stool for her foot. She now resides with M. Lafayette and their three children entirely in the country, at a chateau which has descended to her since the revolutionary horrors and therefore has not been confiscated, called La Grange. They never come to Paris but upon business of positive necessity. She had arrived only this morning on a visit to her aunt, Madame de Tessé, to make some preparations for the approaching marriage of her only son.

Her youngest daughter, Mademoiselle de Lafayette, accompanied her. She is a blooining young creature of English fairness--as we English choose to say-with a bright native colour, and beautiful light hair; otherwise with but indifferent features, and not handsome; yet her air, though modest even to the extreme that borders upon bashfulness, is distinguished, and speaks her to be both sensible and well brought up.

Madame de Lafayette, also, is by no means hand,

some ; but has eyes so expressive, so large, and so speaking, that it is not easy to criticise her other features, for it is almost impossible to look at them. Her manner is calm and mild, yet noble. She is respected even by surrounding infidels for her genuine piety, which, in the true character of true religion, is severe only for herself, lenient and cheerful for all others. I do not say this from what I could see in the hour she was so good as to pass with me, but from all I have heard.

I regretted extremely that M. d'Arblay was not within, as Madame Lafayette is most deservedly one of the beings he reveres, and as he has the happiness to be enlisted amongst those who are honoured with her regard.

She warmly invited me to La Grange, and requested me to name an early day for passing some time there. I proposed that it might be after the marriage had taken place, as till then all foreign people or subjects might be obtrusive. She paused a moment, and then said, “ Après ?--c'est vrai !—we could then more completely enjoy Madame d'Arblay's society; for we must now have continual interruptions, surrounded as we are by workmen, goods, chattels, and preparations ; so that there would be a nail to hammer between almost every word : and yet, as we are going to Auvergne, after the ceremony, it will be so long before a meeting may be arranged, that I believe the less time lost the better.”

I knew M. d'Arblay desired this acquaintance for me too earnestly to offer any opposition; and I was too much charmed with its opening to make any myself : it was therefore determined we should go the following week to La Grange.

(May 5.) Again a full day. M. d'Arblay had procured us three tickets for entering the apartments at the Tuileries to see the parade of General Hulin, now high in actual rank and service, but who had been a sous-officier under M. d'Arblay's command ; our third ticket was for Madame d'Henin, who had never been to this sight---nor, indeed,, more than twice to any spectacle since her return to France—till my arrival; but she is so obliging and good as to accept, nay to seck, every thing that can amuse, of which I can profit. We breakfasted with her early, and were appointed to join the party of M. le Prince de Beauveau, who had a General in his carriage, through whose aid and instructions we hoped to cscape all difficulties.

Accordingly the coach in which they went was desired to stop at Madame d'Henin's door, so as to let us get into our fiacre, and follow it straight. This was done, and our precursor stopped at the gate leading to the garden of the Tuileries. The De Beauveaus, Mademoiselle de Mortemar, and their attending General, alighted, and we followed their example and joined them, which was no sooner done than their General, at the sight of M. d'Arblay, suddenly drew back from conducting Madame de Beauveau, and flew up to him. They had been ancient camarades, but had not met since M. d'A.'s emigration.

The crowd was great, but civil and well dressed; and we met with no impediment till we came to the great entrance. Alas, I had sad recollections of sad readings in mounting the steps ! We had great difficulty, notwithstanding our tickets, in making our way-I mean Madame d'Henin and ourselves, for Madame de Beauveau and Mademoiselle de Mortemar having an

officer in the existing military to aid them, were admitted and helped by all the attendants; and so forwarded that we wholly lost sight of them, till we arrived, long after, in the apartment destined for the exhibition. This, however, was so crowded that every place at the windows for seeing the parade was taken, and the row formed opposite to see the First Consul as he passes through the room to take horse, was so thick and threefold filled, that not a possibility existed of even a passing peep. Madame d'Henin would have retired, but as the whole scene was new and curious to me, I prevailed with her to stay, that I might view a little of the costume of the company; though I was sorry I detained her, when I saw her perturbed spirits from the recollections which, I am sure, pressed upon her on re-entering this palace: and that her sorrows were only subdued by her personal indignation, which was unconscious, but yet very prominent, to find herself included in the mass of the crowd in being refused all place and distinction, where, heretofore, she was amongst the first for every sort of courtesy. Nothing of this, however, was said; and you may believe my pity for her was equally unuttered.

We seated ourselves now, hopeless of any other amusement than seeing the uniforms of the passing officers, and the light drapery of the stationary ladies, which, by the way, is not by any means so notorious nor so common as has been represented ; on the contrary, there are far more who are decent enough to attract no attention, than who are fashionable enough to call for it.

During this interval M. d'Arblay found means, by a ticket lent him by M. de Narbonne, to enter the next

apartment, and there to state our distress, not in vain, to General Hulin; and presently he returned, accompanied by this officer, who is, I fancy, at least seven feet high, and was dressed in one of the most showy uniforms I ever saw. M. d'Arblay introduced me to him. He expressed his pleasure in seeing the wife of his old comrade, and taking my hand, caused all the crowd to make way, and conducted me into the apartment adjoining to that where the First Consul receives the ambassadors, with a flourish of manners so fully displaying power as well as courtesy, that I felt as if in the hands of one of the seven champions who meant to mow down all before him, should any impious elf dare dispute his right to give me liberty, or to show me honour.

He put me into the first place in the apartment which was sacred to general officers, and as many ladies as could be accommodated in two rows only at the windows. M. d'Arblay, under the sanction of his big friend, followed with Madame d'Henin; and we had the pleasure of rejoining Madame de Beauveau and Mademoiselle de Mortemar, who were at the same windows, through the exertions of General Songis.

The scene now, with regard to all that was present, was splendidly gay and highly animating. The room was full, but not crowded, with officers of rank in sumptuous rather than rich uniforms, and exhibiting a martial air that became their attire, which, however, generally speaking, was too gorgeous to be noble.

Our window was that next to the consular apartment, in which Bonaparte was holding a levee, and it was close to the steps ascending to it; by which means we saw all the forms of the various exits and entrances, and

« НазадПродовжити »