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CHAPTER VI
“Robespierre is dead!”— Notre Dame de Thermidor—End of the Terror—The prisons open—Decline of Tallien’s power—Barras—Napoleon—“Notre Dame de Septembre!”—M. Ouvrard—Separates from Tallien—He goes to Egypt—Consul in Spain—Dies in Paris—Térèzia stays in Paris—Ingratitude of some she had saved—Marries the Prince de Chimay—Conclusion.
Capital letter R

ROBESPIERRE was dead, and Tallien, for the time, reigned in his stead; and with him and over him, Térèzia, or, as she may be called, Mme. Tallien, for although Tallien before spoke of her as his wife, it was only after the 9th Thermidor that some sort of marriage ceremony was performed. But the name she now received, amongst the acclamation of the populace, was “Notre Dame de Thermidor.” For it was she who had brought about the deliverance of that day; for her and by her the Terror had been broken up; and although the Thermidoriens, led by Tallien, Barras and Fréron, had re-established or continued the Comité de Salut Public, the greater number of the blood-stained tyrants who ruled the Revolution still remained, and many horrors and tyrannies for some time longer went on; still there was at once an enormous difference. The revolutionary gang had, of course, [336] not altered its nature, those of whom it was composed were the same, cruel, remorseless, and steeped in crimes; but however much they wished it they could not continue to carry on the terrorism against which the anger of the populace was now aroused.

The people had had enough; they were tired of blood and murder. Even before Thermidor they had begun to murmur as the cars of victims passed through the streets; a reaction had begun.

The prisons were thrown open, the Directoire was far milder than the Convention, pardons were obtained in numbers, especially by Térèzia, who, when she could not succeed in saving persons in danger in any other way, had often risked her own safety to help and conceal them.

Paris seemed to be awaking into life again; the streets were more animated, the people to be seen in them were more numerous and did not all look either brutal or terror-stricken. Art, literature, and social gaiety began to revive.

One of the odious, inevitable republican fêtes was, of course, given to celebrate the events of Thermidor. Mme. Tallien opened a salon, where, as in the others then existing, the strange, uncouth figures of the sans-culottes mingled with others whose appearance and manners showed that they were renegades and traitors to their own order and blood.

Conspicuous amongst these was Barras, who, though his hands were deeply dyed in the blood of the Terror, belonged to one of the noblest families in Provence.

[337]

“Noble comme un Barras,” was, in fact, a common saying of the country.

His was the leading salon of Paris at that time, and Mme. Tallien was the presiding genius there. Music, dancing, and gambling were again the rage, the women called themselves by mythological names and wore costumes so scanty and transparent that they were scarcely any use either for warmth or decency; marriages, celebrated by a civic functionary, were not considered binding, and were frequently and quickly followed by divorce. Society, if such it could be called, was a wild revel of disorder, licence, debauchery, and corruption; while over all hung, like a cloud, the gloomy figures of Billaud-Varennes, Collot d’Herbois, Barère, and their Jacobin followers, ready at any moment to bring back the Terror.

So it was on a volcano that they feasted and sang and danced and made love, and Térèzia was the life and soul of the pandemonium which had taken the place of the graceful, polished, cultivated society of the ancien régime.

Her first care had been to release from the Carmes her fellow-prisoners, Joséphine de Beauharnais and Mme. d’Aiguillon, who now formed an intimate part of her society and that of Barras. To them also came Mme. de Stael, wife of the Swedish Ambassador, the beautiful Mme. Regnault-de-Saint-Jean-d’Angely, Mme. Cambys, and many others thankful to escape from the shadows of prison and death to the light of liberty and pleasure. The restraints of religion and morality were, of course, non-existent; liaisons and [338] licence were the order of the day, and Térèzia was not likely to be an exception to the general custom. She had, besides her daughter by Tallien, other children, who, as no other name belonged to them, were called Cabarrus. And her being or calling herself Tallien’s wife was no reason why she should renounce her natural right to love any one else where, when, and as often as she pleased.

And Barras pleased her. His distinguished appearance and manners contrasted with those of her present surroundings, and recalled the days when she lived amongst people who were polite and well-bred, knew how to talk and eat and enter a drawing-room, and behave when they were in it; and who wore proper clothes and did not call each other “citoyen,” or any other ridiculous names, and conversation was delightful, and scenes and memories of blood and horror unknown. It may well have been at this time that she began to yearn after that former existence she had been so rashly eager to throw away.

Her love for Tallien was beginning to wane. It had never been more than a mad passion, aroused by excitement, romance, and the strange circumstances which threw them into each other’s way; and kept alive by vanity, interest, gratitude, and perhaps above all by success. She wanted Tallien to be a great power, a great man; and she was beginning to see that he was nothing of the sort. If, when Robespierre fell, instead of helping to set up a government composed of other men, he had seized the reins himself, she would have supported him heart and soul, shared his power, ambition, [339] and danger, and probably her admiration and pride might have preserved her love for him. But Tallien had not the power to play such a part; he had neither brains nor character to sway the minds of men and hold their wills in bondage to his own. And now he was in a position which in any line of life surely bars the way to success: he was neither one thing or the other.

Between him and the royalists were the September massacres, rivers of blood, crimes and blasphemies without end.

Between him and the Jacobins, the death of Robespierre and the destruction of the Montagne.

And he saw that his influence was declining and with it the love of the woman to whom he was still devoted.

Of course there were disputes and jealousies as time went on. It is of Tallien that is told the story of his complaint to his wife—

“Tu ne me tutoies plus!” and of her answer—

“Eh bien! va-t-en.”

Their first house in Paris was a sort of imitation cottage, after the execrable taste of the day, in the Champs-Elysées, from which they moved into a h?tel in the rue de la Victoire, which was for some time the resort of all the chiefs of their political party, and the scene of constant contention between the Thermidoriens and the remnants of the Montagne. The discussions were generally political, and often violent; they would have been abhorrent to the well-bred society of former days.

Barras was the leading spirit in this society, and for some time he was at Térèzia’s feet. But if [340] Tallien was not a great man, neither was Barras; amongst all the unscrupulous ruffians of the revolutionary party there did not appear to be one superior enough to his fellows to command or lead them.

And yet there was one: “a young, pale, sickly-looking Italian,” who lived in a third-rate inn, wore a shabby uniform, and frequented the parties of Barras and the rest. He was not a conspicuous figure nor a particularly honoured guest; his military career had been apparently ruined by the spite of his enemies; he seemed to have no money, no connections, and no prospects. But in a few years all of them—all France and nearly all Europe—were at his feet, for it was Napoleon Buonaparte.
NAPOLEON

His career, however, was even now beginning; and not long after Térèzia, in the height of her beauty and power with Paris at her feet, rejected his love-making but accepted his friendship, he was sent to Italy and began the series of triumphs which were to raise him to the throne of France.

As time went on Térèzia found that her influence as well as that of Tallien was rapidly declining. Her salon was not at all likely to last long. Those of the court and of society before the Revolution had been of an entirely different order; held by women who, besides their beauty or other attractions, were in an assured position, surrounded by well-known connections and friends, forming an intimate society sure to be met at their houses, and always ready to carry on conversation, avoid all topics likely to give offence, and make themselves generally agreeable. Nobody was admitted there who [341] was not accustomed to the usages of the world or who would interfere with the harmony and general tone of the house. People went there, not to engage in political discussions or to make love to their hostess, but to spend a pleasant evening and meet the friends they knew and liked. These salons continued to be frequented by their usual guests year after year without any more change than the lapse of time inevitably brings.

Laure Permon, Duchesse d’Abrantès, than whom no one was a better judge of these matters, observes—

“To ‘receive’ is to have an open house, where one can go every evening with the certainty of finding it lighted up and inhabited, the host ready to receive one with pleasure and courtesy. For that, it is not an absolute necessity to have a superior intellect, to descend from Charlemagne, or to possess two hundred thousand livres de rentes; but it is absolutely necessary to have knowledge of the world and cultivation, qualities which everybody does not possess.”

The sort of people who frequented the salon of Mme. Tallien had no such ideas. They were a miscellaneous horde collected from the most opposite sources, many of whom were strangers to each other or disliked and feared each other, and who went there for different reasons. When Tallien became less powerful her salon became less and less full; when men ceased to be in love with her they left off going there.

The infatuation of Barras for her began also to cool. He left off going to her as at one time to [342] consult her about everything. If he wished to see her, or she to see him, she must go to him at the Luxembourg.

And step by step she was drawing away from the Revolution. She had had enough of it, and she began to feel that disgust and horror were taking the place of the frantic admiration she had entertained for it in former years. And the finishing stroke was put by hearing herself called, as she walked with Tallien in Cours la Reine one evening, “Notre Dame de Septembre.”

Tallien heard it too, and it was like a blow to him. Do and say what he might, he could never shake off the stain of the September massacres, and time only increased the horror with which they were regarded.

The name, applied to Térèzia, was a cruel injustice, and, with the ingratitude so often to be met with, now that she was less powerful and people were not in need of her protection, they forgot or neglected or slandered her, and that accursed name was frequently to be heard.

In her altered state of mind Tallien was associated with all the horrors she longed to forget, and she began to wish to free herself from a marriage which in her eyes was only a contract entered into for mutual convenience, to be ended when no longer desirable.

Tallien had saved her life twice, and she had given him her youth and beauty and fortune; she probably thought they were quits. Her connection with him had lasted five years, and now her passion both for him and for the Revolution had burnt [343] itself out, she was in all the splendour of her beauty and not more than five-and-twenty years old. Most of her life lay before her.

If she no longer cared for Barras nor he for her, there were plenty of others ready to worship her. M. Ouvrard, a millionaire who was under an obligation to her, heard her complain that she had no garden worth calling one. Some days later he called for her in his carriage, and took her to the door of a luxurious h?tel in the rue de Babylone. Giving her a gold key, he bade her open the door, and when she had given vent to her raptures over the sumptuous rooms and shady garden, he told her that her servants had already arrived; she was at home—all was hers.

Tallien had no wish to separate from Térèzia. He cared more for her than she for him, but he saw that her love was gone; he had failed with her as with everything else. He submitted, and begged to be allowed to accompany Napoleon to Egypt, why, no one could understand, unless he feared he might share the fate of Billaud-Varennes, Collot d’Herbois, Barère, and other of his regicide friends, meditating at Cayenne upon the result of the Revolution. [108]

Térèzia remained at Paris, which was soon transformed by the wonderful genius who rose to supreme power upon the ruins of the chimeras with which she and her friends had deluded themselves. The men of the Revolution, regicides and murderers, fled from the country. Napoleon was an enemy of a different kind from Louis XVI., and [344] he was now the idol of the people. His strong hand held the reins of government, his mighty genius dominated the nation and led their armies to victory; the fierce, unruly populace quailed before him. He scorned the mob and hated the Revolution.

“Saturday—of Messidor!” he exclaimed, when ordering the Moniteur to be dated on a certain day. “We shall be laughed at! But I will do away with the Messidor! I will efface all the inventions of the Jacobins!” [109]

Barras fled to Brussels; Tallien, his part played out and his power and position gone, returned to France, the last link broken between him and Térèzia. He did not wish for a divorce, but he was obliged to consent to one. And he had himself been one of its most fervent advocates.

Napoleon gave him a consulship at Alicante, where he spent some years. Before he went, Ouvrard offered him the cottage in the Champs-Elysées and a pension of twelve thousand francs, which he refused with indignation. He was again a journalist, and would live by his pen.

He returned to Paris when he left Spain, and lived there, poor, sickly, and forgotten by all but Térèzia, then Princess de Chimay. She was nearly his only friend. She visited him often, and though he would never take money from her, she persuaded him to accept a refuge in the house in the Champs-Elysées called the Chaumière, their first dwelling in Paris.

For some years Térèzia continued to live at Paris, [345] where she had witnessed so many transformations and passed through the extremes of prosperity and adversity.

Many friends were about her; her beauty and fascination were as remarkable as ever. From numbers of people she met with the affection and gratitude which, however they might deplore and disapprove of the laxity of her morals, no one who was not altogether contemptible would fail to render to a woman who had saved their life or the lives of those they loved.

Others there were who showed the basest ingratitude. The Marquise de —— had been saved by Mme. Tallien, and hidden for three weeks in her boudoir. Not even her maid knew of her presence there. Térèzia herself not only brought her food and waited upon her, but obtained her pardon and got part of her fortune restored to her. For some time she appeared very grateful, and as long as Tallien was powerful she came constantly to see Térèzia, often asking for fresh favours.

When Tallien had fallen and Napoleon was supreme she ceased to go near her.

A man of her acquaintance, disgusted by her conduct, remarked one day—

“Mme. Tallien is indignant at your ingratitude; she saved your life, and I advise you to go and see her.”

To which she replied, “Comment donc! I have a horror of ingratitude. Of course I intend to go and see her. I owe her a great deal, and I will prove it by doing so. But you understand that I am obliged to consider appearances for the sake of my [346] family, and her reputation forces me to show a reserve which I regret. If you will ask her when I shall find her alone I shall go and see her at once.”

“Tell her,” said Mme. Tallien, “that I am désolée not to be able to receive her, but I am never alone, because I am always surrounded by those to whom I have had the happiness to be of use.”

Mme. de Boufflers, Mme. de Sabran, and their families, on the other hand, were always assiduous in their attentions to her, and would refuse other invitations to go to her.

Joséphine, now the wife of Napoleon, and head of society in Paris, had not forgotten her, and was anxious to receive her at court, but this Napoleon would not allow, greatly to the disappointment and sorrow of them both.

Joséphine cried and entreated in vain, pointing out the ingratitude he was forcing her to display; but though he always retained his private friendship for Térèzia, he told Joséphine that only respectable women could be received by the wife of the First Consul.

In 1805 she again married, and this time her husband was in every respect the incarnation of all that she had hitherto opposed and objected to.

A royalist, an emigré, a Prince; but the only man she never ceased to love, and of whom she said, “He was her true husband.”

Joseph, Comte de Caraman, who soon after their marriage became Prince de Chimay, was the third son of the Duc de Caraman, Governor of Provence. He emigrated with the Princes, and, being an excellent musician, gained his living by his violin. He [347] established himself at Hamburg, and there gave lessons.

After the Revolution he returned with the other emigrés, and soon after received the inheritance of his uncle, the fourteenth Prince de Chimay, and of the Holy Roman Empire and Grandee of Spain.

They went to live at the ancient castle of Chimay, [110] where they led an intellectual and splendid life, surrounded by the great artists, musicians, and literary men of the day, and by many devoted friends. They spent their winters in Brussels, but a bitter drop in Térèzia’s cup of happiness was the absolute refusal of the King and Queen to receive her at court. The Prince, who was the King’s Chamberlain, had to go without her.

He always adored her, saying she was the good genius of his house. They passed their lives happily together until her death, which took place at Chimay in January, 1835, surrounded by her children, whom she adored. They had several besides her former ones, whom she neither concealed nor separated from.

Tallien’s daughter, one of whose names was “Thermidor,” married a Narbonne-Pelet. Another daughter, the Marquise de Hallay, inherited her beauty, and was an extraordinary likeness of herself. One of her sons, Dr. Edouard Cabarrus, was with her amongst the rest when she died, and the last words she spoke to her children were in the soft caressing Spanish of her early youth.


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