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CHAPTER VI
The Chateau de Plauzat—Varennes—Increasing danger—Decided to emigrate—Triumphal progress of La Fayette—The farewell of the Duchesse d’Ayen—Paris—Rosalie—A last mass—Escape to England.
Capital letter P

PAULINE was so ill after this that her husband took her and their remaining child to Aix-les-Bains, and then to their chateau of Plauzat in Auvergne, a curious, picturesque building, part of which dated from the twelfth or thirteenth century, which dominated the little town of the same name, and was surrounded by the most beautiful country.

Hearing that the peasants, still attached to them, and untouched by revolutionary ideas, were about to receive them in the old way, with cross and banner and the ringing of the bells, they thought it better to arrive in the middle of the night, but the first thing in the morning the chateau was surrounded by the people, who were eager to see them.

In this remote and delightful home they decided to stay for the present, and Pauline as usual spent much of her time looking after and helping the peasants, who followed her with their blessings as she went about.

[220]

They also made expeditions to several other castles in the neighbourhood, which belonged to the family, amongst others that of Beaune and the ancient castle of Montagu.

Plauzat was a stately and comfortable, besides being a picturesque abode, with its immense hall hung with crimson damask and family portraits, out of which opened Pauline’s great bedroom, the walls of which were covered with blue and white tapestry worked by M. de Montagu’s grandmother, Laure de Fitzjames, grand-daughter of James II. of England.

The months they spent there were the last of the old life. The vintage went on merrily, the peasants danced before the chateau, little Noémi played with the children, M. de Montagu rode about his farms, meeting and consulting with other owners of neighbouring chateaux, and the news from Paris grew worse and worse. The Duc d’Ayen was safe, he had been denounced but had escaped to Switzerland, and was living at Lausanne, where Pauline had been to see him from Aix.

The Comtes de Provence and d’Artois and their wives had got safely over the frontier to Brussels, but the news of the flight and capture of the King, Queen and royal family, came upon them like a thunderbolt. Again it was probable that the fiasco was caused by Louis XVI. Not only had he deferred the flight till it was nearly impossible to accomplish it, but he persisted in their all going together, instead of allowing the party to be divided; if he had consented to which, some of them at least might have been saved. It does not seem really at [221] all impossible that the Dauphin might have been smuggled out of the kingdom, but their being so many diminished fearfully their chance of escape. Then he kept the carriage waiting for an hour or more when every moment was precious. The whole thing was mismanaged. The time necessary for the journey had been miscalculated. Goguelat went round a longer way with his hussars; they ought to have been at a certain place to meet the royal family, who, when they arrived at the place appointed, found no one. After the arrest at Varennes a message might have been sent to M. Bouillé, who was waiting further on, and would have arrived in time to deliver them. Such, at any rate, was the opinion of persons who had every opportunity of judging of this calamitous failure. [80] Madame Elizabeth, who might have been in security with her sister at the court of Turin, where their aunts had safely arrived, had stayed to share the captivity and death of the King and Queen.

Nothing could be worse or more threatening. Revolutionary orators came down to Plauzat and soon the whole aspect of the place was changed. Peasants who before wanted to harness themselves to draw their carriage, now passed with their hats on singing ?a ira. Chateaux began to be burnt in the neighbourhood, revolutionary clubs were formed, municipalities and gardes-nationales were organised, and although the greater number of [222] their people would not join in them; cries of “à la lanterne” were heard among the hedges and vine-yards as they walked out, from those concealed, but as yet fearing to show themselves.

This perilous state of affairs added to a letter Pauline received from her cousin, the Comtesse d’Escars, who had arrived at Aix-la-Chapelle, had seen M. de Beaune there, and heard him speak with bitterness and grief of his son’s obstinacy, which he declared was breaking his heart, at length induced him to yield to his father’s commands and his wife’s entreaties. He consented to emigrate, but stipulated that they should go to England, not to Coblentz, and went to Paris to see what arrangements he could make for that purpose. While he was away La Fayette and his wife passed through the country, receiving an ovation at every village through which they passed. The King had accepted the constitution, and La Fayette had resigned the command of the National Guard and was retiring with his family to his estates at Chavaniac, declaring and thinking that the Revolution was at an end.

How it was possible, amidst the horrors and excesses going on throughout the land, to have such a delusion was incredible to Pauline; but the credulous infatuation of her husband was shared by Adrienne, who was delighted to get away from public life into the country, and proposed that they should stop with her sister on the way.

But Pauline knew well enough that the Vicomte de Beaune would never tolerate the presence of La Fayette in his house, nor forgive her if she received them there. Having explained this to her [223] sister, she met her secretly at a little roadside inn where she knew they would stop to change horses.

She found La Fayette as usual very affectionate to her, very much opposed to their emigrating, quite confident in the virtues of the mob, who were burning, robbing, and murdering all over the country, and whose idol he still was.

The interview was short and sad; the sisters promised to write frequently, and parted with many tears. Adrienne proceeding on her triumphal progress to establish herself with her husband and children at Chavaniac, Pauline to wait in loneliness and terror at Plauzat for the return of her husband, making preparations to escape with him and their child at the earliest opportunity. But one unspeakable happiness and comfort was given to Pauline before she went forth into exile. The Duchesse d’Ayen came to stay with her for a fortnight on her way to see Adrienne at Chavaniac.

It was a time never to be forgotten by Pauline; through all the troubled, stormy years of her after life, the peaceful, holy recollections of that solemn intercourse remained deeply impressed upon her.

On those wild autumn days she would sit in the great tapestried room working while her mother read and discoursed to her of the great truths of religion, the power and mercy of God, and the faith and courage which alone could support them amidst the trials and perils gathering around them; of the sufferings and victories of the saints and martyrs; of the swiftly passing trials and shadows of this world, the glory and immortality of the life beyond. And Pauline hung upon her mother’s words, for [224] she knew that they might be the last she would ever hear from that beloved voice, and her courage failed when she tried to tell her of her approaching exile. Mme. d’Ayen would every now and then address her counsels and instructions to the little grand-daughter who adored her; and the mother and daughter would unite their prayers amidst the rushing of the tempests or the clamours of the Jacobin club set up close to the chateau. All around was changed and terrible; they thought anxiously of those absent, and looked sadly at the church where they no longer went, as the curé was assermenté; and as the time drew near for her mother’s departure Pauline continually resolved to tell her of her own, but she could never bring herself to do so.

At last the day arrived; the Duchess was to start at ten o’clock. Pauline persuaded her to stay till twelve and breakfast with her. She forced herself to be calm, but all the morning her eyes followed her mother about as she came and went and helped her pack, listening to every sound of her voice, gazing as if to impress her face upon her memory, for she had been seized with a presentiment that she should see her no more. She pretended to eat, but could touch nothing, and then, thankful that her mother did not know of the long separation before them, went down to the carriage with her arm in hers. She held up her child for a last kiss, and then stood watching the carriage as it bore her mother out of her sight for ever in this world.

Then she fled to her own room and gave way [225] to her grief, and to the forebodings which filled her mind, and still hung over her like a cloud, during the preparations and journey to Paris, where M. de Montagu soon wrote for his wife and child to join him without delay.

On arriving at Paris she found to her great sorrow that her eldest sister was away. Rosalie de Grammont was there but was ill and suffering, expecting her confinement. Pauline wanted to stay with her till it was over, but Rosalie said that emigration was becoming more difficult and dangerous every day, that those who were going had no time to lose, and that she would not hear of Pauline’s running any additional risk by delaying her journey for a single day.

It was fixed, therefore, for the 8th of December; Rosalie helped her sister with all the necessary purchases and packing, so that the servants might not discover where she was going, and, on the morning of the day before their parting, the two sisters went at the break of day through the falling snow to receive the Communion at a secret Oratory, going a long way round for fear their footprints in the snow should betray them. The day was spent in finishing their preparations, and after her child was in bed Pauline wrote her farewell to her mother and eldest sister. The night was far advanced when the letters were finished, and her eyes still bore traces of tears when, before morning dawned, she rose and prepared to start.

Rosalie arrived, her pelisse all covered with snow; the wind raged and it was bitterly cold. Pauline gave her sister the letters for the Duchesse d’Ayen [226] and Vicomtesse de Noailles, neither of whom she was ever to see again, awoke her child who was astonished to be taken up and dressed by candle-light, and gave her to M. de Montagu, who took her to the carriage, and then came back and, saying “Everything is ready,” pressed the hand of his sister-in-law without any further leave taking than if they were going into the country, as the servants were standing about.

Mme. de Grammont wished him “bon voyage,” and then drew her sister back to the fire for a few last words.

“Are you sure you have forgotten nothing? Have you got your diamonds?”

“No; what is the good? I shall not wear them. We are not going to a fête.”

“My poor dear, that’s all the more reason,” said Rosalie. “Of course you must take them.”

Pauline understood, fetched her jewel-case, hid it under her cloak, and sending away her two maids, threw herself into her sister’s arms. Rosalie clung to her in a passion of tears and sobs, they exchanged a lock of their hair, and Pauline, tearing herself away, hurried to the carriage in which her husband and child were waiting.

They reached Calais on the evening of the day following, and the same night embarked for England.


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