Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

operations, nobly rejecting every prudential consideration, came and resided in the apartments over this cellar, of which premises the prisoners' confederates had contrived to possess themselves, and they were consequently completely at their disposal.

As Mademoiselle D- was young and attractive, the other lodgers in the mansion attributed to her alone the frequent visits of Charles l'Oiseau. The lovers of romantic adventure will perceive that here is plot involved within plot, and sufficient elements of confusion to form a Spanish comedy

Everything for some time seemed to proceed favourably, and the hopes of the incarcerated rose correspondingly. No one unconnected with the scheme, residing in the house, had any suspicions of the undermining that was thus actively going forward. Miss D-- also brought with her an amiable little child, only seven years of age, who was so well tutored that, instead of betraying the secret, she was in the habit of continually beating a little drum, with which she drowned the noise made by the work of excavation.

Hitherto M. l'Oiseau had alone worked upon this hole, and, as he had now laboured a considerable time, he began to fear, very naturally, that

a

[ocr errors]

he had commenced and driven forward his operations much too deeply in the earth; it was therefore necessary that the wall should be sounded, and, for this purpose, an experienced mason was requisite. Madame de T. who seems, after all, to have acted as the tutelary genius of this escapade, undertook to procure one—an office as delicate as it was dangerous, in times when suspicion was so active, and death so closely attendant on suspicion. She succeeded, and not only brought him, but engaged to detain him in the cellar until all the prisoners had effected their liberation, which was to take place on that

on that very day. No sooner was this worthy artificer conveyed into the cellar, and instructed as to the nature of his services, than he immediately perceived that he was to be made the instrument to assist some of the victims of the government. However, he proceeded without hesitation, and he only stipulated with the parties employing him in this hazardous business, that, if he were arrested, care should be taken of his poor children.

All this must strike every one, that the disaffection to the then government must have been though secret from terror, as general, we may add, as just. Multitudes were willing to thwart its projects, or deal out to it some blow, providing there was the probability only of impunity.

It was the concealed labours of the many against the despotism of the few. In this view we cannot look upon the exertions of those thus aiding persons who had so recently been in arms against their country to escape, in the light either of traitors or unpatriotic conspirators.

The mason laboured, and found that the excavation had reached from the cellar to the wall of the garden of the Temple; but instead of finding it to be too low, it proved to be too high. The perforation of this wall commenced, and every stone was removed with the greatest precaution but in vain! The hopes of months were frustrated in a moment! The last stones rolled outwards into the garden of the Temple, and fell at the feet of the sentinel. The alarm was sounded, the guard arrived, and, in a moment, all was discovered. Very fortunately, the friends of the prisoners had just time to escape, and not one of them was taken.

They had provided for all conjunctures, and had so well arranged their measures, that, when the commissaries of the Bureau Central came to examine the cellar and the rooms above them, they found only a few pieces of furniture, trunks filled with logs of wood and hay, and some hats decorated with the tri-coloured cockade, for the use of those who had intended their escape, as they had in their possession only black ones.

After this tantalising failure, when everything seemed so auspicious, and everything had been so admirably conducted, Sir Sidney Smith wrote to Madame de T. to console both her and her young friend. Indeed, the latter needed

, every sympathy, for his misery was nearly insupportable at this bitter frustration of his welldevised scheme.

Sir Sidney and his companions were in no manner depressed in spirits by this defeat, but were continually contriving some new scheme for their freedom. Defeat will only discourage weak minds; and the reader must have already discovered that there was very little of weakness in the mind of our hero. These manifold machinations did not escape the notice of the keeper ; but his principal prisoner cared so little about his suspicions, that he was frequently so frank as to acknowledge that there was good cause for them.

This prince of jailers seems to have met this frankness with a corresponding openness, for he often said, “ Commodore, your friends are desirous of liberating you, and they only do their duty; I also am doing mine in watching you more narrowly."

Though this keeper was a man of the sternest severity in act, yet, in manner, he never departed from the rules of civility and politeness. He

was the preux chevalier of jailers. He treated all his captives with as much kindness as his sense of duty permitted him to show them, and even piqued himself upon his generosity. Various and very tempting proposals were made to him, but he indignantly rejected them all, and merely responded to them by watching his charge the more closely. He had very nice notions of honour, and though he thought himself too humble himself to boast of them, he expected and respected them in others.

One day, as Sir Sidney was dining with him, this keeper perceived that his guest regarded an open window in the room with all the wistful attention of one long imprisoned. Now this window opened on the street, and the gaze gave the keeper so much uneasiness, that it highly amused the commodore. However, not wishing to give the good man who behaved so well to him too long a probation, he said to him, laughing, " I know what you are thinking of; but fear not. It is now three o'clock. I will make a truce with you till midnight; and I give you my word of honour, until that time, even were the doors open, I would not escape. When that hour is passed, my promise is at an end, and we are enemies again.”

Sir," said he, your word is a safer bond

[ocr errors]

66

« AnteriorContinua »