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CHAPTER VIII
Illness—Leaves Switzerland with Mme. de Tessé—They settle near Altona—Hears of Rosalie’s safety—Life on the farm—Release of Adrienne—Her visit—Farm of Ploen—Peaceful life there—Rosalie and Adrienne—Birth of Pauline’s son—He and her other children live—Release of La Fayette—Their visit to Ploen—Meeting of Adrienne, Pauline, and Rosalie at the Hague.
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THIS fearful shock brought on so violent an attack of illness that Pauline’s friends feared for her reason. Her aunt nursed her with the deepest affection, her husband arrived to comfort her with his love and sympathy, and the anxiety about Rosalie gave her a new object of interest. The Duke went to see the Princesse de Broglie, who had just come to the neighbourhood from France; she knew nothing; but a smuggler was found who knew all the paths of the Jura, and who was willing to go to Franche Comté, promising not to return without knowing the fate of Mme. de Grammont.

The government of Fribourg had begun to annoy Mme. de Tessé about her niece, objecting to her receiving her, and Pauline thought it best to go for a time to Constance. While she was [249] there the smuggler returned, having discovered Mme. de Grammont, who was safe in Franche Comté, and had with her the children of the Vicomtesse de Noailles and their faithful tutor. She had written to her father and sister on handkerchiefs sewn inside the smuggler’s waistcoat, and was thankful to find they were alive; but she could not, as they begged her to do, get out of France just then, as her husband was not sufficiently recovered from an illness to undertake a journey.

Mme. de Tessé, alarmed by the conduct of the government of Fribourg, sold her property there, and resolved to go far north, as the French armies seemed to be spreading all over central and southern Europe.

The little party left Lowemberg at five o’clock one morning before there was much light, except the reflections from the snow upon the mountains; spent a few days at Berne, and went on to Schaffhausen, where M. de Montagu met them, and took his wife to Constance to say goodbye to the La Salle. She stayed four days, and then rejoined her aunt, and went on to Ulm and Nuremberg, where her husband had to leave her, and return to Constance. The rest proceeded to Erfurt, spent a month there among many old friends who had taken refuge in that quiet, ancient town. Finally they crossed the Elbe and arrived at Altona, where in Danish territory they hoped to be able to live in peace and security.

They found a farm, settled themselves in it, and after a time M. de Montagu was added to the household, [250] for he came to see his wife, and their joy at meeting so touched Mme. de Tessé, that she said he had better stay altogether.

For with care and good management she contrived to live simply, but quite comfortably. Not that farming or life in the depth of the country were at all her fancy; no, what she liked was a town and a salon frequented by clever, amusing people of the world whose conversation she could enjoy. But she knew well enough that if she settled in a town and had a salon, before very long she would be nearly ruined, whereas at her farm she found no difficulty in supporting herself and those dependent upon her, and helping many others besides.

As to Pauline, she spent her whole time in working for and visiting those unfortunate emigrés within reach who were in poverty and distress.

Not far from them she found Mme. Le Rebours, whose husband had persisted in going to France, and had been guillotined. She and her family, amongst whom was the brave, devout spirit, were overjoyed to meet her again.

She was happier now than she had been for a long time; she heard every now and then from her father and Rosalie, her husband was with her, and her love for the aunt, who was their good angel, ever increased. But still the terrible death of her mother, sister, and grandmother cast its shadow over her life, added to which was her uncertainty about Adrienne.

Whatever may be said for or against emigration, one thing is apparent—those who emigrated early [251] saved not only their lives, but, if they were commonly prudent, part of their property also. Those who emigrated late saved their lives, but lost all their property; while those who remained, or returned, were most likely to lose their liberty, if not their lives.

If the King had taken the opportunity on the night of the banquet at Versailles, gained the coast, and escaped to England, he would have saved himself and his family from misery and destruction, as his brothers did.

In Pauline’s family those who, like herself and those about her, got out of the country, were safe from everything but the poverty caused partly by their own improvidence. But of those who remained there was scarcely one who escaped death or the horrors of a revolutionary prison. Only M. and Mme. de Grammont had managed to keep quiet in a distant part of the country, and, of course, at the peril of their lives.

At last a letter came to say that Adrienne was free. She had been the last to be released from Plessis after the death of Robespierre had, to a great extent, stopped the slaughter and opened the prisons. Her captivity had lasted from October, 1793, till February, 1795; and now, very soon after her letter, Adrienne arrived with her two young daughters at Altona.

The two sisters had not met since the interview at the inn during the triumphal progress of the La Fayette. It was a mercy that Pauline had not believed in their Utopia nor taken their advice. Even now Adrienne was only exchanging one [252] prison for another, for she was shortly going to Austria to obtain leave to share that of La Fayette.

Long and touching were the conversations and confidences of the sisters when they were alone together.

Overcome with emotion at first they looked at each other in silence; then, in a voice broken with sobs, Pauline asked, “Did you see them?”

“I had not that happiness,” replied Adrienne.

But she knew all the details of their fate; she had seen M. Grelet and Father Carrichon, who had gone to the scaffold first with their great uncle and aunt, de Mouchy, then with her grandmother, mother, and sister. In the prison of Plessis she had found her cousin, the Duchesse de Duras, daughter of the de Mouchy, and they had consoled each other under the awful calamity that each had undergone. Only a few days more and the Noailles would have been, like their uncle, the Marquis de Noailles, youngest brother of the Duc d’Ayen, saved by the death of Robespierre. The Duchesse de Duras was at once liberated with the rest; but the spite and hatred of Legendre, governor of Plessis, against the very name of La Fayette, caused Adrienne to be detained until the exertions of Mme. de Duras procured her freedom.

She sent her boy to America under the name of Motier, to be brought up under the care of Washington, and then went to Auvergne to see her old aunt, fetch her daughters, and settle her affairs; she had borrowed some money from the Minister of the United States and some diamonds from Rosalie, and had bought back her husband’s chateau [253] of Chavaniac with the help of the aunt who had brought him up, and who remained there.

She met her daughters in a mountain village near Clermont, and the deep, fervent joy of their restoration to each other out of the shadow of death was increased by finding that the priest had just ventured to reopen the village church, where on the next day, Sunday, they again attended mass in that secluded place, and where Virginie, the younger girl, made her first Communion. And she had seen Rosalie, for Mme. de Grammont heard of her sister’s release, and resolved to join her. Having very little money, and travelling by public conveyances being still unsafe, taking her diamonds she rode a mule with her three children in paniers, and her husband walking by her side. Thus they journeyed by steep mountain paths, or country lanes, but always by the most secluded ways possible. When they reached Paris, Adrienne was gone, but they resumed their primitive travelling, followed her to Auvergne, and came up with her at the little town of Brionde.

Adrienne had brought Pauline a copy of their mother’s will, and, not being an emigrée, had taken possession of the castle and estate of Lagrange, left to herself. She only spent a short time at Altona, and started for Austria.

Her farm near the Baltic did not altogether satisfy Mme. de Tessé, and before long they again moved, to be in the neighbourhood of a residence she had heard of, and hoped to get after a time.

It was by the lake of Ploen, and they were obliged to pass the winter at the little town of that name, for it was October when the cavalcade arrived—M. and [254] Mme. de Tessé, the Montagu, the de Mun, and the priests, to whom another had been added.

There Pauline had a son, and to her great joy he and the children she afterwards had lived to grow up. The farm Mme. de Tessé wished for was called Wittmold, and lay at the other side of the lake upon a plain covered with pasture and ponds, as far as the eye could reach. The house stood on a promontory jutting out into the lake, and was surrounded by fields, apple trees, and pine woods. They crossed the lake in boats, and established themselves there. They could live almost entirely upon the produce of the place, for there was plenty of game, plenty of fish in the lake: the dairy farm paid extremely well, the pasture produced rich, delicious milk; they had a hundred and twenty cows, and made enormous quantities of butter, which they sold at Hamburg. It was pleasant enough in the summer, but in winter the lake was frozen, the roads covered with snow, and the cold wind from the Baltic raved round the house. However, they were thankful for the shelter of a home that most of their friends would have envied, and they lived peacefully there for four years, during which Pauline organised and carried on a great work of charity which, with the assistance of one or two influential friends, soon spread all over Europe. It was a kind of society with branches in different countries, to collect subscriptions for the relief of the French exiles, and it involved an enormous amount of letter-writing, for, if the subscriptions poured into Wittmold, so did letters of entreaty, appealing for help. But Pauline was indefatigable not only in allotting the different sums of money, [255] but in finding employment, placing young girls as governesses, selling drawings and needlework, &c.

M. de Beaune paid them one or two visits, and in October, 1797, La Fayette, his wife, and daughters, were released from captivity, and arrived at Wittmold with his two faithful aides-de-camp. The brother of one, the Comte de Latour-Maubourg, soon after married Anastasie, his eldest daughter.

Pauline heard the trumpet of the postilion in the little town, and hurried across the lake to meet them. They all crossed in a procession of little boats to the other shore, where Mme. de Tessé was waiting for them.

La Fayette was still an exile. Too Jacobin for Austria, too royalist for France, he took a place near Wittmold. The wedding of his eldest daughter took place the following May, and a few days afterwards a daughter was born to Pauline and christened Stéphanie.

Mme. de Tessé, who knew nothing about a sick room, was very anxious and busy, and insisted on helping to nurse Pauline. In spite of her free-thinking professions, she would be observed to make the sign of the cross behind the curtain of the bed. She made various mistakes, and in her haste poured a bottle of eau de Cologne instead of water over the head of the new-born infant.

Georges de la Fayette, now nineteen, came over from America, and arrived at Wittmold, to the delight of the little colony, after his long separation from his family, and his return was the great event of the winter and the delight of his mother.

But the sufferings of the last seven years had [256] terribly injured Adrienne’s health, and it was not till she had a little recovered that La Fayette moved, with all his family, to Viane, a small Dutch town near Utrecht, where they settled for a time to watch the course of events.

It was necessary to settle the succession to the estates of the Duchesse d’Ayen, and it was impossible to arrange this without the meeting of the family. The Vicomte de Noailles was in America, the Marquis de Thésan in Germany, Mme. de Montagu was on the list of emigrées, and could not enter France. Her part of the inheritance had been confiscated, but M. Bertémy, the old family lawyer, had bought and transferred it to the rest of the family, to be given her in better times.

It was decided that the three sisters should meet at Viane, where Pauline and her husband went, with post-horses provided by Mme. de Tessé. It was eight years since Pauline and Rosalie had met, and Pauline said it was a foretaste of Heaven.

They all boarded at the La Fayette, but as they were very poor there was very little to eat. They would dine upon ?ufs à la neige, and spend the evening without a fire, wrapped in fur cloaks to keep out the cold of the early spring. M. de Montagu always had declared he had only had one good dinner in Holland, and that was one night when he dined with General Van Ryssel.

Mme. d’Ayen had left property in the department of Seine-et-Marne to the children of the Vicomtesse de Noailles, the estate and castle of Lagrange to Mme. La Fayette, an estate between Lagrange and [257] Fontenay to the daughter of Mme. de Thésan, the old castle and lands of Fontenay to Mme. de Montagu, and an estate called Tingri to Mme. de Grammont.

But as long as Pauline remained on the list of emigrées the affairs could not be wound up.

Before parting, after a month spent together, the three sisters composed a beautiful litany to be said by them in remembrance of their mother, sister, and grandmother. It opened with that sublime passage of scripture beginning with the words, “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God; there shall no torment touch them.”

Reluctantly they separated in May, Pauline returning to Wittmold with more luggage than she brought from there, namely, a large box of clothes from America, a present from George de la Fayette to the emigrés at Wittmold, and a trunk full of clothes belonging to M. de Beaune, which Mme. de la Fayette had found and brought from Auvergne, and which, though they were somewhat old-fashioned, he was delighted to get.


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