Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

had opportunity to examine every dress and every countenance that passed and repassed.

This was highly amusing, I might say historic, where the past history and the present office were known.

Sundry footmen of the First Consul, in very fine liveries, were attending to bring or arrange chairs for whoever required them; various peace-officers, superbly begilt, paraded occasionally up and down the chamber, to keep the ladies to their windows and the gentlemen to their ranks, so as to preserve the passage or lane through which the First Consul was to walk upon his entrance, clear and open; and several gentlemanlike looking persons, whom in former times I should have supposed pages of the back stairs, dressed in black, with gold chains hanging round their necks, and medallions pending from them, seemed to have the charge of the door itself, leading immediately to the audience chamber of the First Consul.

But what was most prominent in commanding notice, was the array of the aides-de-camp of Bonaparte, which was so almost furiously striking, that all other vestments, even the most gaudy, appeared suddenly under a gloomy cloud when contrasted with its brightness. We were long viewing them before we could discover what they were to represent, my three lady companions being as new to this scene as myself; but afterwards M. d'Arblay starting forward to speak to one of them, brought him across the lane to me, and said “General Lauriston.”

His kind and faithful friendship to M. d'Arblay, so amiably manifested upon his late splendid embassy to England, made me see him with great pleasure. It was of course but for a moment, as he was amongst

those who had most business upon their hands. General d'Hennezel also came to me for a few minutes, and three or four others, whom M. d'Arblay named, but whom I have forgotten. Indeed, I was amazed at the number of old friends by whom he was recognised, and touched far more than I can express, to see him in his old coat and complete undress, accosted by his fine (former) brethren, in all their new and beautiful costume, with an eagerness of regard that, resulting from first impulse, proved their judgment, or rather knowledge of his merits, more forcibly than any professions, however warm, could have done. He was indeed, after the aides-de-camp, the most striking figure in the apartment, from contrasting as much with the general herd by being the plainest and worst dressed, as they did by being the gayest and most showy.

General Lauriston is a very handsome man, and of a very pleasing and amiable countenance; and his manly air carried off the frippery of his trappings, so as to make them appear almost to advantage.

While this variety of attire, of carriage, and of physiognomy amused us in facing the passage prepared for the First Consul, we were occupied, whenever we turned round, by seeing from the window the garden of the Tuileries filling with troops.

In the first row of females at the window where we stood, were three ladies who, by my speaking English with Mademoiselle de Mortemar and Madame de Beauveau, discovered my country, and, as I have since heard, gathered my name; and here I blush to own how unlike was the result to what one of this nation might have experienced from a similar discovery in England; for the moment it was buzzed « c'est une

étrangère, c'est une Anglaise,every one tried to place, to oblige, and to assist me, and yet no one looked curious, or stared at me. 'Ah, my dear Padre, do you not a little fear, in a contrasted situation, no one would have tried to place, oblige, or assist, yet every one would have looked curious and stared ? Well, there are virtues as well as defects of all classes ; and John Bull can fight so good a battle for his share of the former, that he need not be utterly cast down in acknowledging now and then a few of the latter.

The best view from the window to see the marching forwards of the troops was now bestowed upon me, and I vainly offered it to the ladies of my own party, to whom the whole of the sight was as new as to myself. The three unknown ladies began conversing with me, and, after a little general talk, one of them with sudden importance of manner, in a tone slow but energetic, said,

“Avez-vous vu, Madame, le Premier Consul?" “ Pas encore, Madame."

“C'est sans doute ce que vous souhaitez le plus, Madame?''

"Oui, Madame.”

“ Voulez-vous le voir parfaitement bien, et tout à fait à votre aise ?”

“Je le désire beaucoup, Madame."

She then told me to keep my eyes constantly upon her, and not an instant lose sight of her movements; and to suffer no head, in the press that would ensue when the First Consul appeared, to intervene between

“ Faites comme cela, Madame," continued she; “et vous le verrez bien, bien ; car," added she, solemnly,

[ocr errors]

VOL. VI.

х

"and putting her hand on her breast -"moi-je vais lui parler !”

I was very much surprised, indeed, and could only conclude I was speaking to a wife, sister, or cousin at least, of one of the other consuls, or of some favourite minister. “ Et lui, Madame, il me répondra; vous l'entendrez parler, Madame, oui, vous l'entendrez ! car il est bon, bon !-bon homme tout à fait et affable ! O affable ! oui, vous l'entendrez parler.”

I thanked her very much, but it was difficult to express as much satisfaction as she displayed herself. You may suppose, however, how curious I felt for such a conversation, and how scrupulously I followed her injunctions of watching her motions. A little squat good-humoured lady, with yellow flowers over a mob cap upon her hair ; who had little sunken eyes, concise nose, and a mouth so extended by perpetual smiling, that, hardly leaving an inch for the cheek, it ran nearly into the ear, on my other side now demanded my attention also, and told me she came regularly every month to the great review, that she might always bring some friend who wanted to see it. I found by this she was a person of some power, some influence, at least, and not entirely averse to having it known. She was extremely civil to me; but as my other friend had promised me so singular a regale, I had not much voluntary time to spare for her ; this, however, appeared to be no impediment to that she was so obliging as to determine to bestow upon me, and she talked on, satisfied with my acquiescence to her civility, till a sort of bustle just before us making me look a little sharp, she cried

Vous le voyez, Madame! "

“Qui?” exclaimed I, “ Le Premier Consul?”

“Mais non!-pas encore ;-mais-ce-ce monsieur là!"

I looked at her to see whom I was to remark, and her eyes led me to a tall, large figure, with a broad gold-laced hat, who was clearing the lane which some of the company had infringed, with a stentorian voice, and an air and manner of such authority as a chief constable might exert in an English riot.

Oui, Madame,” I answered, not conceiving why I was to look at him; "je le vois ce Monsieur ; il est bien grand !”

Oui, Madame,” replied she, with a yet widened smile, and a look of lively satisfaction ; " il est bien grand! Vous le voyez bien ?"

« Mais oui : et il est très bien mis !" "Oui sûrement! vous êtes sûre que vous le voyez? "

“Bien sûre, Madame,-mais, il a un air d'autorité, il me semble.”

* Oui, Madame; et bientôt, il ira dans l'autre appartement! il verra le premier Consul!”

“O, fort bien !” cried I, quite at a loss what she meant me to understand, till at last, fixing first him, and then me, she expressively said

Madame, c'est mon mari!” The grin now was distended to the very utmost limits of the stretched lips, and the complacency of her countenance forcibly said, “What do you think of me now?” My countenance, however, was far more clever than my head, if it made her any answer. But, in the plenitude of her own admiration of a gentleman who seemed privileged to speak roughly, and push violently whoever, by a single inch, passed a given

« НазадПродовжити »